We briefly touched upon this feature film writing and directing debut by Scott D. Rosenbaum during our tribute week of reviews to the works of Mark L. Lester and his 2010 rock flick, Groupie.
The connection came courtesy of Tayrn Manning, who stars in this indie rock flick alongside the always awesome Peter Fonda (of Easy Rider; here, he is the wise ex-rocker, natch), along with Jason Ritter (the son of Three’s Company John, as the troubled rocker) and Lucas Haas (of Last Days, here as the intrepid journalist).
The inclusion of Fonda is no accident: This is a “road movie” where the legends of the “27 Club” meets Eddie and the Cruisers — only with a dramatic arc and production quality that rises it to the level of Almost Famous (based on the downfall of Humble Pie) and British-made Still Crazy (based on the ’80s Animals reunion) — in tale about a a gothic-rocker (with a heavy Cobain influence) whose sophomore album for his band The Lost Soulz flops; he returns to his hometown to make amends (i.e., suck up) with the incognito-music teacher responsible for writing the songs for the first album.
Lead actors Kevin Zegers (Damian Daalgard in TV’s Gossip Girl and Mel in AMC’s Fear of the Walking Dead) and Jason Ritter star and provide the vocals to the original songs “Turn Me On,” “Sweet Rock Candy,” “Without You,” and “Lonely Planet Boy.” The soundtrack also features atmospheric songs by Nirvana, Aerosmith, Violent Femmes, and Jane’s Addiction. Both are stunning in their dual-duties.
The script displays Rosenbaum’s keen knowledge of the Grateful Dead: Lukas Haas portrays a rock journalist named “Clifton Hanger,” which was the name late Grateful Dead keyboardist Brent Myland used when checking into hotels. Peter Fonda appears as road manager “August West,” which is a character in the Grateful Dead song, “Wharf Rat.” Making his acting debut: blues great Pinetop Perkins.
You can also find this in the overseas marketplace under the title, Coda, which also serves as the title for the 2005 short film in which this is based. Sorry, no freebies on this one, kids. You can check it out as a VOD on Amazon Prime (where it pulls 4 to 5 stars and a 91% approval), Apple iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, and You Tube Movies.
Yes, somehow I am on my sixth Saw movie in the same day. Seriously, people, I’ve made it through all The Howling films, The Twilight Saga and numerous Jess Franco movies, but nothing has tested my resolve quite like these movies.
Kevin Greutert made his debut directing this and would also made the next film, Saw 3D — yes, I understand that that would be the seventh film and not the third, but when you have more sequels in front of the name of your name than most studios release in a year, you don’t care about things like that.
Greutert will not be returning for Saw IX in 2020, the first time in the series that he’s not had any involvement in since the franchise began in 2004.
Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) has become Jigsaw and unlike his mentor, he has no compassion toward his victims. I mean, Jigsaw also cut off the feet and heads of his victims, but come on, he kind of loved them, right?
Of course, he has one more test for Hoffman, which ends up locking his head in a reverse bear trap, thanks to his wife Jill Tuck (Betsey Russell). Of course he escapes. How would we have Saw Whatever Number afterward? I fully realize Tobin Bell’s character died movies ago and he keeps showing up as well.
They gave this movie $11 million in budget and it turned out $68.2 million worldwide. It’s the same model studios have always used with genre films. They’re movies that they don’t like to talk about, but they provide the fuel that allows them to make the movies that they want the world to really know about.
That said, of all of these movies, I liked this one, as it puts Jigsaw against people who prey on their fellow humans, taking out a predatory insurance company. Where can they go after this? Well, we have two movies left this week — and of course, another Saw coming later this year — so we’ll find out.
Written by Eric Bress (Final Destination 2) and directed by David R. Ellis (who also worked on that film, as well as Snakes On a Plane), this was both the best performing and worst-reviewed of all the Final Destination films. Instead of being called Final Destination 4, they were with a name that made it seem like it may not be a sequel, which it isn’t.
Eight years after the disasters of Flight 180, the Route 23 pileup and the Devil’s Flight, a group of teens are at the McKinley Speedway when one of them has a premonition. You may have a similar one if you’ve seen even one of these films.
This one adds 3D to the equation, which really would have made more sense in the third movie. Tony Todd’s absence in this movie really takes things down. At least the opening credits replaying all of the kills from the last three movies is pretty cool.
Like all of the films in the series, there are references to horror actors and directors. The first movie used Lon Chaney, George Waggner, Tod Browning, F.W. Murnau, Max Schreck, Val Lewton, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Don Siegel and Alfred Hitchcock. The second had names that paid tribute to Roger Corman, John Carpenter and Robert Dix. And in the third, Benjamin Christensen, Edgar G. Ulmer, Herschell Gordon Lewis, George A. Romero, Robert Wise, Karl Freund and Victor Halperin. Seeing as how they used up nearly everyone across three previous films, this one pays tribute to Dan O’Bannon, Sean S. Cunningham, Andy Milligan and Jim Wynorski.
I can also tell you that the movie in this movie, Love Lies Dying, is really the end of The Long Kiss Goodnight with music from Dark City.
How does one get the werewolf fever? What are the symptoms? Is there testing for it? Should we wear a face mask around those that have it? These are all important questions, so I’ll give you one answer: do not eat any werewolf meat.
Donny the delivery boy is the low man on the Kingburger Drive-In totem pole. Yet when he’s bit by a strange animal while out delivering burgers, he finally has a chance at revenge.
Look, you’re only going to give an hour of your life to watch Brian and Mark Singleton’s labor of lupine love. Brian wrote and directed it, while Mark produced it and plays Ronny, Donny and the Werewolf. How can he fight himself? Well, you’ll just have to watch this.
The Kingburger Drive-In is an actual drive-thru restaurant in Renfrew, Ontario. It might not have a website or Facebook page, but it does have a 4.8 out of 5 score on Facebook and 4.5 on Google reviews, so they must be pretty decent. I mean, just watching this, I could see how those kids on the way to the Grand Canyon were dying to, pardon the pun, wolf down some of those burgers.
New Hampshire’s Brett Piper is a self-made screenwriter, director, and special effects artist who shoots most of his films in Pennsylvania, most notably in the western and northwestern counties of Cambria and Tioga County. He’s also a self-professed purveyor of “schlock” who eschews modern CGI for “old school” special effects, such as matte paintings, miniatures, and stop-motion animation.
And we, the staff of B&S About Movies, love Piper for it: For if Piper had been around during the regional era of Drive-in exploitation, we’d be warmed by the crackle of a speaker hanging on our car window. We’d rent every one of his VHS ditties from the ‘80s home video shelves, warmed by the cathode ray tube’s glow.
Piper’s resume is extensive, there’s a lot to watch: he’s directed 18 films, wrote 19, and created special effects for 22 films—for his own films as well as the films of his frequent brothers-in-arms collaborators, Mark and John Polonia (Empire of the Apes).
So if you’re nostalgic for the works of Ray Harryhausen, but burnt out on repeat viewings of that stop-motion master’s works; if you’re burnt out on today’s green-motion tracking and After Effects computer-animated extravaganzas; if you want aliens cast well-made masks and full-body suits and actors emoting alongside in-camera effects, then the films of Brett Piper are just what the VOD streaming doctor ordered.
Ice up that Orange Crush and defoil that burger . . . five, four, three, two, one!
Movie 1: Queen Crab (2015)
We’ll start off our Friday Brett Piper festival with my favorite of his films: one with best character development, acting, and special effects—and one that we have not yet reviewed at B&S About Movies. While there’s a soupçon of Ray Harryhausen in the crab pot (ugh, sorry!), this is a full-on Bert I. Gordon homage to his (very loose) 1976 H.G Wells adaptation of Food of the Gods (with an honorable mention to the Robert Lansing-starring Island Claw from 1980).
What causes the crab to go “gigantic”? A little girl brings home Pee-wee, a baby pet crab from the lake behind her house—and feeds it grapes infused with her daddy-scientist’s plant growth hormone. After her parents die in a freak lab explosion and she’s adopted by her uncle-sheriff, Melissa grows up into a tough-as-nails teenager, aka Queen Crab, who serves as protector to Pee-wee and her clan of babies—complete with a psychic link. Shotguns n’ rednecks, tanks n’ planes (well, one of each) ensues as the misunderstood crustacean who, like King Kong before her, didn’t ask for any of this sci-fi ruckus.
And speaking of misunderstood: There’s poor little Melissa, stuck in the middle of the sticks of Crabbe County with no friends and parents that constantly bicker and ignore her. She’s practically a latchkey kid with only a crab as her friend. So, do we root for the crab? Damn straight. Kick ass, Pee-wee, for Melissa is Queen in this neck of the Pennsylvanian countryside.
When a TV producer’s (Piper acting-mainstay, ‘80s metal drummer-cum-actor Steve Diasparra; also of Amityville Death House, Amityville Exorcism, and Amityville Island*) career disintegrates on live TV when his report on a legendary backwoods demon haunting Pennsylvania’s Pine Creek Gorge is exposed as a fraud, he’s hell bent on redemption. When he convinces a cable TV mogul to back his quest, Mickey O’Hara heads back into the swamps with a sexy TV personality. Only, this time, there’s no need to “fake it” as the gooey, tentacled Muckman shows up—and he’s not only got the love jones for film crew member Billie Mulligan, Mucky’s brought along a tentacle sidekick of the Queen Crab variety.
Just a good ‘ol fashioned, campy monster romp from the analog days of old.
You can watch this as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTV.
The snack bar is open . . .Intermission!
Thank you, Vinegar Syndrome for honoring the works of Brett Piper! Now back to the show!
Have you ever wondered what would happen if Bert I. Gordon produced a Ray Harryhausen-directed mockbuster of Independence Day? Well, wonder no more with Brett Piper’s most recent, eighteenth and best-produced film of his resume. And, bonus: we also get a throwback to all of our beloved ‘80s Italian apocalypse flicks** in the bargin!
Blake is the resident Trash-cum-Parsifal (known your ‘80s apoc heroes!) who teams with Kay, a radiant, supermodel bow-hunter, to help a crusty elder scientist discover the key to save the Earth from the invading alien hoards and their otherworldly “hunting dogs” in the form of giant, stout lizards.
A fun, something fresh and new watch filled with the nostalgia that we love in our films.
You can watch Outpost Earth as a with-ads-stream on You Tube.
We confessed our perpetual love for this debut feature film from Brett Piper during our two-week December Star Wars blowout*ˣ in commemoration of the release of Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker.
Pipers’s Star Wars-inspired take-off of Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island—by way of Ray Harryhausen’s classic 1961 film of the same name—concerns a “wretched hive of scum and villainy” band of mercenaries crash landing on an uncharted planet after a space battle. Adopting a jungle girl into their fold, they battle prehistoric snails and dragons as they make their way into a final showdown with the planet’s ancient ruler: a super-intelligent computer ˣ*.
The bottom line: Brett Piper overflows with that same Tommy Wiseau-heart (The Room) and John Howard-tenacity (Spine) as he gives us a special, endearing quality with his films that’s absent from most—if not all—major studio offerings.
So strap on the popcorn bucket and ice up the Dr. Pepper and Doc Brown back to the Drive-In ‘70s with one of the greats of the retro-cinema. Keep ’em coming, Brett. We love ’em!
* We went nuts on Amityville and all of its sequels, rip-offs, and sidequels, etc. back in February with our “Exploring: Amityville” featurette. Uh, Sam? You’re the resident Amityville authority in this neck of Allegheny County. Time to get crackin’ on the newest, latest entry in the series: Amityville Island . . . and Amityville Hex, Witches of Amityville Academy, Amityville 1974, and Amityville Vibrator.
** Be sure to join us for our two-part September blowout as we explored the Italian and Philippine apocalypse of the ‘80s with our “Atomic Dust Bin” featurettes.
Finally, eight years after The Fast and The Furious we get a direct sequel. This time, Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) must work together again to avenge the murder of Toretto’s lover Letty Ortiz (Rodriguez) and apprehend drug lord Arturo Braga (John Ortiz).
It’s rare that a series of movies finally finds itself in the fourth installment, much less gets that many chances. But here you go — these movies really start becoming beloved right here.
Sung Kang shows up as Han Lue, Dominic’s right-hand man, bridging the last Japanese side of the franchise, while also introducing Gal Gadot as Gisele Yashar, a liaison for the evil Braga. Laz Alonso also shows up as Fenix Calderon, Braga’s right-hand man who murders Letty and sets this whole movie’s story arc in motion.
This movie paved the way — pardon the road pun — for the other movies in this series. In fact, it outgrossed The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift in its first weekend.
Of course, Letty wouldn’t stay gone long. But we’ll get to that soon enough.
I’ve seen giallo from all over the world, but this would be the first Hong Kong version I’ve ever seen. It was created by Julien Carbon and Laurent Courtiaud, whose Black Mask 2: City of Masks I had seen, but had not prepared me for this delicious offering.
It features Hong Kong starlet Carrie Ng (Naked Killer, Sex and Zen), who practically smolders the screen as Carrie Chan, a woman devoted to the sexual release of death and using her jade talons to render flesh into works of art.
During the reign of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, a torturer invented a special drug that paralyzed muscles yet increased the sensitivity of nerve endings. Sometimes he used this for erotic pleasures, but mostly it was used to extract pain from his victims. Yet he always wondered what the drug would be like for his own use, so he killed himself under its influence.
Now, the jade skull that contains this rare substance has been found by Catherine Trinquier (Frederique Bel, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec) and she sees it as a way to gain a fortune after murdering a lover to acquire this treasure.
Meanwhile, the demonic Carrie is staging a play all about the famed executioner while conducting her own psycho-sexual experimentations of pain and pleasure.
Known as Red Nights in the Western world, this movie has no slavish devotion to the 1970’s giallo style while somehow feeling that it could rightly take its place within it, uniting the world of the exploitation anti-heroines like Olga and Ilsa while at the same time dipping a green clawed digit into the respective private parts of the best parts of the works of Martino and Franco, pausing for a moment to be bathed in the lights of Argento and basking in the sounds of a Morricone.
There are moments when I was worried that this film would descend into the depths of torture porn, but it righted itself many times. This is why I watch films, to discover new and delirious highs. Consider this a must-watch.
Jouko Ahola, who was the World’s Strongest Man for 1997 and 1999, is Jacob van Oppen, a pro wrestler who is filled with unending rage that can only be sated by the song “Lili Mateen.” He’s managed by Prince Orsini, who has been taking him on a tour of small South American towns, doing shoot matches against local toughmen. Now, their journey has taken them to Santa Maria.
This town is starved for entertainment and strangely ready for this match, working with the duo to find a suitable opponent. The town’s newspaper thinks they know the secret to defeating this unbeatable pair, however.
This is an odd film, as it’s hard to place where the story takes place and even what year it’s happening in. I love the days of carnival wrestling, when worked and non-worked matches made money for fighters.
Whatever fighter can last three rounds with Oppen will win a thousand dollars. Yet he’s flat broke, seems sick and can’t stop coughing. How will he be able to defeat a local hero at this rate?
It’s easy to make fun of the guys in this movie who are making $20 a show struggling to matter as pro wrestlers, much less grapplers for God. Except, well, I know one of them. I trained at the Dory Funk Jr. dojo with Jason Jett, one of the main characters in this, and he’s a forthright guy who was a solid hand in the ring and good at putting a match together.
This movie makes me admit the real truth of wrestling. The biggest marks aren’t those in the seats, but in the ring. Most of never realize that we will never get anywhere. We’d never work this hard at any other job for this much money or this little respect.
So when I hear Rob Vaughn — the guy who is the top star and owner of the Christian Wrestling Federation — saying that changes are coming or hurdles need to be cleared but the big time is close, I’ve heard this same story with a slightly different script but the same overall meaning so many times that it kind of made my heart hurt a bit. That’s because I was only talked to about money and heart and how much better it was with the old crew and didn’t have to deal with the neverending war between the forces of Satan and God for my wrestling soul.
Seriously: everything bad that happens to the CWF is Satan’s fault. Trust me, Satan loves wrestling, even when guys that start off as untrained backyard wrestlers happen upon a great gimmick and start using God as the ultimate program.
There are some really interesting moments here, like where the wrestler Apocalpyse talks about his wife leaving him in the hospital as he lies there as a potential quadroplegic or when the others all discuss Rob’s indiscretions. I nearly wanted to yell at the scren that these moments deserved more of a follow-up than nearly all of the movie.
By the way, if you’re shocked by the amount of religious and diversity intolerance in this movie, let me remind you that this is a movie about religious pro wrestlers. That said, I’ve met all manner of guys in the wrestling game that have political and sexual affiliations all over the place. These would not be those people.
I used to wrestle on shows with a guy who was a preacher and he’d always yell at me about my gimmick, which is pretty much me being a1970’s occult bad guy from a horror movie. I patiently listened and then asked, “What good is having only good people in wrestling if there isn’t someone like me to give you a foil to glorify God against?”
If the Lifetime cable channel decided to make a zombie movie, it would be this low-budget attempt at grafting Danny Boyle’s post-apocalyptic zombie film 28 Days Later (2002) with Oliver Stone’s Talk Radio (1998).
“Hey, wait a minute . . . dude, I know this movie . . . but Dead Air? Is this an alternate title for the Canadian horror film Pontypool (2008)?
That film—and if you’re into radio station zombies, it is clearly the better film (and not by much, to be honest)—starred Steven McHattie (Crown and Anchor, Watchmen). This one reteams Bill Moseley and Patricia Tallman from Tom Savini’s 1990 Night of the Living Dead remake—which was used as a major selling point to sucker us into renting this dead bore. (They’re a bickering divorced couple who still work together as a host and producer team.)
As with Pontypool, a Los Angeles late-night talk show host, Logan Burnhardt (Bill Moseley), and his production team are trapped inside a radio station during a zombie outbreak—this one instigated by a terrorist attack of “dirty bombs” ignited at major sporting events across the United States. Burnhardt’s crew stays on the air and takes calls and feeds information to listeners as the chaos unfolds. Then the terrorist responsible for the L.A bomb hijacks Burnhardt’s show to feed false information to the listeners and “stoke the fires of hatred.”
Lost somewhere in the dead boredom is a “message” about mob mentality and xenophobia, but by that point in the film, you just don’t care about the political propaganda Dead Air is selling. There’s no suspense or thrills. No threat of terror. No fear of violence. Not even a soupçon of horror. The “zombies” are nothing more than a bunch of flailing, petulant children from Central Casting, utterly devoid of violence and gore, with a splash of stage blood on their kissers sent on their way to run and growl. They’re actually not even zombies; they’re just human versions of rabid dogs prone to violence from the bomb’s toxins.
And the equipment in that radio studio! Logan Burnhardt is supposedly the #1 syndicated late-night talk host in the nation broadcasting from Los Angeles, the #2 rated media market in the country—and the studio is equipped with a recording studio audio mixing board as an on-air board? A reel-to-reel deck set on a counter top? This is 2009! All radio stations—especially in the major markets—converted to digital platforms and ditched analog recording over 15 years ago.
But it’s cool, Bill. We know it’s not your fault and we still love you.
Dead Air isn’t incompetent. It’s not awful in a George Romero Italian-green grease paint rip-off zombie kind of way. All of the various film disciplines have checked off all the right boxes. But that’s just it. It’s just “box checking” and everything is flat. It just lays there—and zombies can’t rest. They can never rest. They need to be on the move. But, one must consider that $500,000 budget the film was up against—and you can only do so much with a half million. So the question is: Will your passion for Bill’s work or your passion for cheesy, b-horror films from the video fringe give this a pass. But it’s Bill, right? You can check it out for free on You Tube.
About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S Movies.