American Bandits: Frank and Jesse James (2010)

Jesse James (George Stults) and his brother Frank (Tim Abell) have emerged from a robbery gone wrong and Jesse is healing up with the help of Carrie (Siri Baruc) and Mary (Lauren Eckstrom). They don’t know that Marhsall Kane (Peter Fonda, who started his career making low budget Roger Corman films and fits in just fine here) is coming after them as well as his men making a play for the money and leaving the brothers in the cold.

How do you feel about day for night? Do you love it? Would you be happy just to have Jeffrey Combs show up for a little bit? Will you watch every western there is? Are you a fan of Fred Olen Ray or perhaps writing an entire week of a web site about his movies?

There’s still someone on IMDB that’s calling out the historical and weapon accuracy of Ray’s movies, such as how the movie is set in the 1860s and civilians are carrying Colt Model 1873 Single Action Army revolvers — which weren’t available to the general population until 1875 or later — and none of the guns recoil when they’re shot. I appreciate the writer’s attention to detail and invite them to write for the site.

You can watch this on Tubi.

 

Watch the series: Wild Things (2004, 2005, 2010)

Editor’s note: To check out Wild Things, click here.

Wild Things 2 (2004): Directed by Jack Perez (Unauthorized: The Mary Kay Letourneau StoryUnauthorized: Brady Bunch – The Final Days) and written by Ross Helford (who also wrote the Sniper sequels) and Andy Hurst (who wrote the sequel to Single White Female), this movie does credit Stephen Peters for characters, but there’s not a single continuing character. In fact, it’s pretty much the same story and a very similar threesome scene, which you’ll soon discover just might be the defining moment of any movie called Wild Things.

Brittney Havers (Susan Ward) is a wealthy Florida high school senior who has list her mother to a car crash on Gator Alley — where she was presumably devoured by alligators — and her stepfather Niles Dunlap (Anthony Denison, who was Joey Buttafucco in The Amy Fisher Story, the Drew Barrymore one) has just died when his private plane went down. She’s about to earn a small amount of money each year until she’s done with college and then $25,000 a year, with the rest of the will — $70 million dollars worth — going to an heir if they can be found. That heir ends up being one of her classmates, Maya King (Leila Arcieri).

We soon see Brittney, Maya and the DNA test doctor all having some MFF action, which clues us in that this is all a ruse. Insurance investigator Terence Bridge (Isaiah Washington) thinks that it’s a scam too, as Dunlap once had scarlet fever and was possibly sterile. That means the DNA doctor is a crocodile meal and then, well, the twists and turns start to add up. Dead people are alive, partners get double-crossed, people on the side of the law aren’t and there’s even an open ending that makes you think that the backstabbing hasn’t stopped.

Imagine if they just redid the first one, had no major stars, still had the threesome scene and shot it like a prime time soap opera. That’s kind of a success in my book.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Wild Things: Diamonds in the Rough (2005): I love when a movie can be sold just on the title and doesn’t need to be tied into anything in any of the other movies in the series. So here we go. Another Wild Things, this one directed by Jay Lowi (Tangled) from a script by Andy Hurst and Ross Helfer, the same guys who wrote the last one.

Marie Clifton was given two diamonds — the “mother and daughter” — in her mother’s will, but her step-father Jay Clifton (Brad Johnson, who was in Nam Angels and was also a former Marlboro Man) has changed the will because he wants them for himself.

Meanwhile, there’s a sex ed seminar at school with Dr. Chad Johnson and probation officer Kristen Richards (Dina Meyer, once Batgirl on Birds of Prey as well as roles in D-ToxStarship Troopers and Saw), who reveals that she was the victim of a sex crime when she was in high school, which totally shuts down the raucous senior audience.

Now here’s where the Wild Things drama comes in: Marie has a swim meet and her stepfather meets towel girl Elena Sandoval (Sanda McCoy, who was in the secret Porky’s movie Porky’s: Pimpin’ Pee Wee), who he invites to Marie’s eighteenth birthday party. The girls do not get along — that’s putting it mildly — so Jay takes her to one of his construction sites and you know what happens next allegedly. Now, Detective Michael Morrison (Linden Ashby) and Richards are on the case, along with Dr. Johnson, who is to examine Elena.

If you’re wondering how long it takes until Marie, Elena and the doctor are all reenacting scenes from You, Me and Dupree, it’s about as long as it takes to read this sentence.

But man, the twists and turns of this one are so plentiful that they take one of the things that worked so well in the original movie and show how it all came together over the credits. And for some reason, the good guys actually come out on top in this one.

How much sex, illegitimate children, gator eating and swamp chases can one small Florida town have? Well, they made four movies out of this. There’s your answer. This one has the sense to just go wild — no pun intended.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Wild Things: Foursome (2010): Each Wild Things movie seems like a remake of sorts. This installment has Andy Hurst, who wrote the second and third, directing and a script by Howard Zemski and Monty Featherstone, the team who wrote Sharkman.

The major difference is that this time, we’re talking about twenty-year-olds and not high schoolers. Carson Wheetly (Ashley Parker Angel, who was in O-Town) is the rich and spoiled son of NASCAR car racer Ted Wheetly (Cameron Daddo). He thinks his dad may have killed his mother, but first, let’s get to this movie’s other main difference.

Whereas every Wild Things is built around a threesome, this one goes one better and has, as the title spoils for you, a foursome between Carson, his girlfriend Rachel Thomas (Marnette Patterson), Brandi Cox (Jillian Murray, Cabin Fever 3: Patient Zero) and Linda Dobson (Jessie Nickson).

Within a few days of that MFFF miracle — surely Carson is some level of science fiction character or at least a former boy band member — his father dies in a car crash that Bruno Mattei’s some Days of Thunder footage. That death is suspicious, so Detective Frank Walker (John Schneider, who may know a thing or two about car crashes) starts to investigate just as the will is announced, which states that Carson cannot inherit his father’s money and estate until he turns thirty or marries.

That means a quick marriage to Rachel, but they had a deal with everyone in the foursome, so Brandi and Linda seem to be dead meat, except that Rachel and Brandi are also working together to kill Carson. Once the girls end up — spoiler warning — using sex to kill Carson, they start conspiring to keep making love and attempting to murder one another.

This is the sort of movie that keeps the twists coming after the credits roll. All I have to say is keep your eye on lawyer George Stuben (Ethan Smith).

I miss the swamps of the other movies, but appreciate that this one is all about death and sex, which let’s face it, all giallo should be. It doesn’t get to that level, as it needs more fashion and better music, but it certainly has the sleaze — well, homogenized 2000s sleaze — going for it.

I kind of wish there was a fifth movie just to see if they’d get a fiveway into it.

Consider Tubi the Wild Things network, because they have every one of these movies.

 

Come una crisalide (2010)

Symphony In Blood Red was directed by Luigi Pastore, best known for Violent Shit: The Movie, and written by Antonio Tentori, who worked on A Cat In the Brain and Demonia for Fulci; Frankenstein 2000 for D’Amato; Segreti di donnaThe Jail: The Women’s HellIsland of the Living Dead and Zombies: The Beginning for Mattei; Dracula 3D for Argento and wrote modern Italian horror like CatacombaVirus: Extreme Contamination and Flesh Contagium.

Not only do you get a Claudio Simonetti score, you also get him on stage with his band Daemonia. And you get to watch a serial killer unleash his hatred on men and women alike as they have a rampage fueled by the effects of Sergio Stivaletti. While so much has been made of its Argento inspiration, it feels more like a slasher film than an arty psychosexual thriller.

Then again — it does start with a quote right out of Tenebre.

When a patient is told that they must go back to a clinic instead of being allowed to be free, they murder their therapist and start killing anyone and everyone they can. We hear from the killer throughout the movie as they narrate the killings and explain the reasons why they kill. One of the issues I have with newer giallo is that they attempt to claim the influence, have a few shots that reference the old films and then forget the elements that make the finest examples work: a protagonist forced to investigate the killings, a murderer motivated by past trauma, artistic death scenes, gorgeous people and high fashion.

I dug the Greek chorus priest puppets and the film’s grubbiness, but I’d say this is for giallo obsessives only. And that’s fine — we always find what we’re looking for.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 23: Jonah Hex (2010)

Jonah Hex was written — and was intended to be directed — by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. who made both Crank movies, Gamer and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Creative differences with Warner Brothers caused them to leave the directing to Jimmy Hayward, who had only made Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! before this. He was replaced by Francis Lawrence (I Am LegendConstantine) on the reshoots.

Josh Brolin, who played Jonah Hex, told the Nerdist, “Oh, Jonah Hex, hated it. Hated it. The experience of making it — that would have been a better movie based on what we did. As opposed to what ended up happening to it, which is going back and reshooting 66 pages in 12 days and that being…

Listen, I understand it’s financiers, you’re trying to save their money and it becomes a financial thing, but if — there’s this thing called revenge trading. And I’m disciplined enough to know you never do it. But with Jonah Hex, if I had $5 million — which is always how I saw that movie. I remember when I was talking to Warner Bros. about doing that movie, High Plains Drifter is what I put on the TV, I said, “That’s what I wanna do.” I would do that movie still. If I ever had the balls to spend $5 million, which I don’t, I would do that movie, ’cause that’s the version of that movie that would have been successful, for sure. And it didn’t need to cost anything more than $8-$10 million.”

Look, I get it. Jonah Hex is a character that appeals to me, but I am not the audience you make $80 million dollar movies for.

Created by writer John Albano and artist Tony DeZuniga, Hex was abused by his father, sold as a slave to Native Americans, accepted and then abandoned by his tribe and finally joined the South in the Civil War before losing faith in their battle for independence when he saw that the black experience was the same as the slavery of his childhood. He attempted to surrender to the North and was used to kill all of his old regiment, which branded him as a villain to both sides of the war, just as he reconnected with his tribe and ended up being branded with the Mark of the Demon when the chief scarred his face with a heated tomahawk for defending himself in battle and killing that chief’s son. He then becomes a bounty hunter — and goes into the future after the end of the world for some time — and then there’s this movie, which for some reason adds occult powers to the character, as he can now speak to the dead.

The movie changes the origin to have Hex as a Confederate cavalryman who refuses an order from Turnbull to burn down a hospital and then kills Turnbull’s son in self-defense. Years later, Turnbull kills Hex’s family and brands his face. Native Americans revive Jonah with mystic powers and when he thinks his enemy has died in a fire, he becomes a bounty hunter. However, Turnbull has survived and is planning to destroy the U.S. with a nation killing weapon designed by Eli Whitney.

There’s a great cast here. John Malkovich is Turnbull, his main assistant Burke is Michael Fassbender and Will Arnett, Michael Shannon and Aidan Quinn are all decent in this. Megan Fox pehaps has a horrible accent, but she does some nice stunts and looks the part.

The movie is just 80 minutes and feels barely put together, rushed to meet a release date more than if the movie was done. It’s a real shame, because the idea of the movie is good and if given to the Italian Western style movie that it should have been, it could have been so much better. Not every comic book movie should be a blockbuster.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 16: The Runaways (2010)

Based on the book Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway by the band’s lead vocalist Cherie Currie, I thought this movie just wouldn’t work, but it had to age before I watched it. Post-Twilight it felt like sacrilege to have Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett, but now it feels right.

Director Floria Sigismondi made the music videos for “The Beautiful People” by Marilyn Manson, “Obstacle 1” by Interpol and multiple videos for Bowie and Sigur Ros, so she understands rock and roll. And while this movie moves pretty quick through the history of the band, she succeeded in her goal of making it a coming of age story more than a biography. I really like the look of the film as well, as it moves from a colorful world to darkness by the end with each major moment having a slightly different look that never distracts from the whole of the movie.

Cherie Currie praised Dakota Fanning for her performance in the film, but obviously realized that so much of the book wouldn’t be filmed. She said, “My book is the real story. This is just a lighter kind of flash of what The Runaways were for a specific amount of time. How do you possibly take two and a half years and make it a film that’s an hour and a half, and make it even closely touch what was truly going on?”

As for Joan Jett, she felt that it captured 1970s Los Angeles.

Along with Stella Maeve as Sandy West, Scout Taylor-Compton as Lita Ford and Alia Shawkat as Robin Robins (Jacqueline Fuchs would not allow her name or image to be used in the movie), the girls start the film in the shadow of Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon), who sees himself as the creative force behind the band, which may be true at first, but so many of his mental games just end up destroying what he’s started.

It’s not perfect, but if it allows one person to discover the real music, isn’t that a great thing?

Kyonyū doragon: Onsen zonbi vs sutorippaa 5 (2010)

At the unsuccessful gentlemen’s club Paradise Ikagawa Theatre, there’s Ginko, as well a goth girl named Maria who likes slicing herself and reading occult books, as well as Lena (Sola Aoi, one of the most famous AV idols of the 2000), who can tell you fortune and Darna, who just wants to see her family.

The girls get invited to perform at a neighboring spa whose owner recently committed suicide, which makes this immediately sound like a bad idea, as well as the fact that they’re shamed into using the back door. Lena gets drunk and sleeps with the wrong man, which upsets Ginko, and their fight ends up revealing a Well of Spirits where Darna finds money and Maria finds a very Sam Raimi-like Book of the Dead, but none of the spells work. Except that suddenly, all of the sushi starts coming back to life.

Soon, zombies have taken over the streets of Ikagawa and Maria has become their queen through a combination of candy and flashing them her breasts. I mean, say what you will about insane Japanese movies, but this is how every goth girl I’ve ever met got me to do things I wouldn’t do for millions of dollars.

This was based on the manga Kyonyû doragon and is just as ridiculous as it sounds.

And yes, I totally watched a movie called Big Tits Dragon: Hot Spring Zombie Vs. Stripper 5.

Bloodline: Vengeance From Beyond (2010)

Fifteen years ago, Sandra lost her twin sister Giulia in the woods — they have twin telepathy — but after Sandra steps into a bear trap, Giulia is killed by a serial killer named The Surgeon. Years later, he kills himself and takes away any chance that Sandra would ever be reunited with her sibling when he killed himself and took his secrets with him.

Now, she’s a reporter and her partner Marco joins her as they shoot a behind the scenes feature of Klaus Kinki’s latest adult film, which just so happens to be shot at the mansion that once belonged to The Surgeon.

Sandra feels that this will be a way to get over her sister’s death, Marco discovers that he may have a future in porn and oh yeah, the murders start all over again. And perhaps Sandra keeps seeing her sister’s ghost. Then Sandra finds Giulia’s body. So yes, The Surgeon may be back, but now his victims come back from the dead.

Is the movie just an adult film? Or has Kinki decided to start making snuff? Is Giulia’s ghost on her sister’s side? How did The Surgeon survive? Or is it a copycat? Man, a lot of questions!

A post-Filmirage Italian movie that feels like it belongs in the 80s in the best of ways, this even has gore from Sergio Stivaletti and music from Claudio Simonetti and this all pleases me. My quest to find horror made in this century from Italy continues!

SLASHER MONTH: Black Rat (2010)

Directed by Kenta Fukasaku, the son of Battle Royale director Kinji Fukasaku, this movie starts with a girl named Asuka wearing a rat mask and committing suicide by leaping off the roof of her school. 49 days later, a note brings her classmates together to be confronted by what seems to be her ghost.

But who does the mask belong to? Can it belong to more than one person? And will any of the students survive to see the next school bell?

I have to say, I’ve never seen a more adorable killer, a girl who loved to smile and who now leaves stickers and smiley faces on her revenge notes. Also, killing someone who doesn’t get a perfect score in karaoke is totally the modus operandi of a Japanese schoolgirl slasher.

It’s only 76 minutes long, which if you ask me, is the perfect length for a movie like this. Also, more scooters should blow up in films.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Tron: Legacy (2010)

One of the few things that never rang true to me about Tron was that Flynn ends up as a CEO. Luckily, Tron: Legacy fixed that by telling us what happened next, all while keeping up the Tron legacy of being a hyped big deal and then not being seen by anyone except those that it was intended for before becoming a cult film that few talk about — if a $170 million movie can be a cult movie, that is.

Screenwriter Adam Horowitz, who wrote the story along with Edward Kitsistold, told Collider, “For us, it was if we’re going to revisit this movie and try to take it forward, we’re the children of Tron. We grew up on it. It informed us. It really helped shape us and get us excited about the possibilities of technology and film and all that stuff. It’s one of the reasons we’re doing what we’re doing – so in that way its like how can we approach this movie in a way that as writers we have an emotional entry point ourselves.”

The writers and director Joseph Kosinski — who made the Gears of War “Mad World” commercial and who will also direct the sequel to Top Gun — had to answer this question: ” In a post-Matrix world, how do you go back to the world of Tron?”

Where the first film glorified the world inside a computer, this film went in a different direction. To wit: finding the humanity that lives within a digital world.

I love that the first hints of this film appeared when tokens to Flynn’s Arcade were sent out and a site claimed that Kevin Flynn is alive, even though he has been missing since 1989. At San Diego Comic Con, a real Flynn’s was open and a rebooted light cycle was on display. I couldn’t wait until this film debuted with all this hype.

Twenty years after Flynn disappeared, his son Sam is ENCOM’s primary shareholder and he uses whatever power he has by releasing the company’s signature operating system online for free. Even though ENCOM executive Alan Bradley — who is Tron in the other world — approves of this, Sam is arrested.

A pager sends Sam a message to visit the dusty old Flynn’s Arcade, where he’s blasted into the video game grid just like his father. This brings him into conflict with the new MCP named Clu, as well as meeting his father’s apprentice Quorra.

I’m easy to please when it comes to Tron. All I needed was to see Daft Punk — who composed the score — show up as the DJs at the End of Line Club, the same place where original Tron creator and director Steven Lisberger appears as a bartender named Shaddix. And I adore that this movie ends with the digital world coming into our own, while lamenting that this is where the story — for now — ends.

SHARK WEAK: Sharktopus (2010)

Yes, this is just the first in the Sharktopus saga, followed by Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda and Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf, all produced by Roger Corman for SyFy.

In Caribbean folklore, the Lusca is a type of sea monster said to exist near Andros, an island in the Bahamas, that is half dragon, half octopus. That’s what inspired S-11, an intelligent shark with the arms of an octopus because, well, science. The science of Dr. Nathan Sands, who is played by Eric Roberts, so instantly this movie has won me over.

This is also a shark with a computer brain and no sense of paternal love, so you know that it’s going to make a meal of the man who once contended for Oscars and now appears in every streaming movie released that Nicholas Cage refuses.

Sharktopus was directed by Declan O’Brien, who made the sequels for The Marine, Wrong Turn and Joy Ride.

Speaking of science, Sharktopus has tentacles instead of fins. So how does it get thrust in the water (also, I have no idea what Sharktopus’ pronouns are, my apologies)? After all, octopi — thanks to an intrepid IMDB user for pointing this out — use the siphon under their heads to push themselves through the ocean. Also, sharks — contrary to the psychic monster in Jaws: The Revenge — cannot make barking noises. They also have gills to breathe underwater, but Sharkopus spends most of its time on land.

You can watch this on Tubi.