Vicious (2016)

Roxy is an exotic dancer is stalked by a man who won’t leave her alone until she agrees to stop being a dancer, which causes her to lose everything in her life that she ever cared about. Pretty much every man — with the possible exception of the bouncer — is a horrible person and our heroine has to figure out a way to simply survive.

I expected this movie to be a quick and cheap stripper movie and ended up watching a movie that was well directed and filmed that built some genuine tension throughout. Writer/director Jason Rosenblatt has been making shorts since this movie, but I’m really interested in his next full-length attempt.

Check it out for yourself and see a film that tells the story of the control of dancers on stage and the control that men try to exert upon them.

You can watch this on Tubi or order it from Wild Eye Releasing.

LEE MAJORS WEEK: Almosting It (2016)

“A dissatisfied twentysomething seeks life and relationship advice from a retirement home playboy played by Lee Majors, with mixed results.”

I mean, when you put it that way, you know I’m going to watch your movie.

Writer, director and lead actor William von Tagen made this auteur project. It’s the story of Ralph, a nursing home worker who dreams of being a science fiction writer.

Beyond Majors, the film also features Annie Bulow, Jessica Sulikowski, Bailey Heesch, Cassandra Lewis, Jane Merrow (who played Irina Leonova, a Soviet officer and scientist who was a love interest for Steve Austin on three episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man), Jennifer Levy, Jake Koeppl and Terry Kaiser, who the normal world knows as Bernie from Weekend at Bernie’s but you and I know as Dr. Wachtenstein from Tammy and the T-Rex and Count Spretzle from Mannequin Two: On the Move.

Really, Majors and Kaiser are the best things in this movie, but it does have some unexpected twists and it’s not the worst independent film I’ve seen about finding yourself in your late twenties.

You can watch this on Tubi.

LEE MAJORS WEEK: Wild Bill Hickok: Swift Justice (2016)

Shot where the TV series Dry Creek was made, Wild Bill Swift Justice is a retelling of the tale of Wild Bill Hickok. Hickok has settled down as a lawman in a small town, but now Marcus Roby and his gang threaten to destroy everything.

This is the second time this week that a bunch of actors that I loved starred in a movie that I hated for every second they weren’t on screen. I mean, Lee Majors and Martin Cove are in this movie and I still disliked it. That has to be some kind of feat.

Also — Jeff Fahey is on the poster and doesn’t list this on his IMDB. When Fahey doesn’t want anything to do with your movie, you know that you have a real problem.

Honestly, this movie had the production values of a 1990’s VCA Western adult film with none of the payoff. That sounds like a compliment but I assure you that it is not.

You can watch this on Tubi.

LEE MAJORS WEEK: Jean (2016)

Sure, the IMDB description says, “A young girl and her dog make a daring journey into the wilderness where she discovers the true meaning of nature, sacrifice and life.”

The truth is that this movie feels like it was shot cinéma vérité style, with no one cluing the grandfather that he was in an actual movie as he rants and raves. He also has flashbacks to when he was young and was in a gang that continually yells, “The strength of the wolf is the pack! The strength of the pack is the wolf!”

Also, this is a family-friendly movie that features a young girl nearly dying and a dog being bitten by a snake not just once, but twice and the second time, we know it’s coming which makes seeing a gorgeous animal brought low twice as painful.

Then, after we go through a journey through the desert that feels like we just did it ourselves, the film becomes about a prom and Jean’s date’s sister fixing her up in what should be Pretty Woman style mirth but ends up feeling like the central relationship in Bound if you know what I’m talking about — and as the great man says — and I think you do.

Wait, I can hear you wondering, “Where is Lee Majors?”

He plays a rock.

I’m not joking, Majors is the voice of a Spiritual Stone that ends up fixing everything. I have no idea who wants to see a movie where a young girl nearly loses her dog, goes to the prom, loses her grandfather and there’s a rock with the same voice as Steve Austin.

But man, I’m glad I saw it, because the scene still makes me laugh just remembering it.

You can watch this on Tubi. And you totally should, but you know, do all the drugs first.

KAIJU DAY MARATHON: Daikaiju Mono (2016)

EDITOR’S NOTE: As we work on Godzilla vs. Kong movies all day, we wanted to bring back this pro wrestling versus giant monsters movie, which stars New Japan Pro Wrestling champion Kota Ibushi and wrestling and MMA legend Minoru Suzuki. It originally ran on October 7, 2019. Kaze ni nare!

Japan is in a mess to say the least. The weather is all screwed up, volcanoes have stopped erupting, there are too many virgins and that can only mean one thing — a giant monster named Mono is on the loose.

Disgraced scientist and Sailor Moon cosplayer Doctor Totaro Saigo has a special formula that can transform anyone — even the lowly assistant Nitta — to become a gigantic super soldier ready to take on even the largest of kaiju.

Syuusuke Saito plays Nitta before the transformation. He’s Kyoryu Black from Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger, if you watch Japanese sentai shows (think Power Rangers). Once he transforms, he becomes Kota Ibushi, current New Japan Pro Wrestling star who started his career in the DDT promotion, or Dramatic Dream Team. If you like just plain strange things to happen in your pro wrestling, I’d advise you to check them out. For example, Ibushi once had a series of matches with Yoshihiko, an inflatable doll.

The movie begins as the SpiritSpots.com team visits Specter Pass, where eyewitnesses have reported strange lights. After urinating on a special idol, Professor Nindo Izumi appears to warn them of the danger that this area of Japan presents. They don’t listen and are all killed one by one, just like a slasher movie.

The next day, Nitta and Professor Saigo’s daughter Miwa discover the Juganda, a prehistoric flower that’s based on the Juran from Ultra Q and an egg that contains the key to Setupp X Cells, which Saigo believes are the key to jump-starting the next stage of human evolution.

Meanwhile, at Mount Myojin, the kaiju Mono emerges before a crowd of soldiers and monster rights protestors, who it promptly devours. That’s when Saigo uses Nitta’s love for his daughter to convince him to take the Steupp X Cells and put on a pair of magical briefs that change size as he grows. After nearly three minutes of pro wrestling mayhem, Mono retreats and Nitta retains his sexy new body.

Nitta becomes a big celebrity called “The Great Giant” and is chased by a mysterious girl named Lisa who only wants his magical size-changing underwear. Miwa grows depressed and Mono grows stronger thanks to a second egg and her newfound poison fog power. Luckily, Saigo has even better Setupp X Cells and Izumi has trained Nitta to even be able to stop the flow of waterfalls.

However, even Lisa coming back to the good side and Miwa getting back Nitta’s special briefs isn’t enough. Saigo must inject Nitta with evil cells that transform him into Japanese legend Minoru Suzuki, the most intimidating pro wrestler perhaps ever. He basically annihilates the monster, who it turns out is really an old woman.

Ibushi isn’t alone in having matches with strange opponents. Suzuki has had a several years-long feud with Mecha Mummy. One of their matches involved an extended sequence where they became friends and went fishing before hatred overcame their truce. The strange thing is, Suzuki was the co-founder of Pancrase, one of the first MMA groups in the world. Despite most of their matches not always being 100% real, he has the reputation of being one of the best fighters in all of Japan. He was also the motion actor for King in the video game Tekken.

Your sense of humor may vary, as this is very much in the vein of the Airplanemovies, but all about Japanese monster movies, to the point that even scenes from Frankenstein Conquers the World get referenced. It also helps to know a little about Japanese pro wrestling, as Professor Saigo is so out of touch he only knows Giant Baba’s moves, which aren’t as dangerous as the modern powerbombs and top rope — err, top of the building — Phoenix Splashes that Nitta uses on Mono.

My subtitles and the English track on this film were absolutely different, which was kind of great, as they each added their own unique commentary to this completely out there movie. There’s even a scene that shows that training to battle a giant monster is just like getting ready for a boxing match like Rocky! Even the original Ultraman star Sandayu Dokumamushi shows up at the end to save the day!

There’s actually precedent for this movie, believe it or not. In 2004, The Calamari Wrestler featured Osamu Nishimura as a pro wrestler who becomes a giant squid and does battle with wrestlers Akira Nogami.

You can buy this from Sentai Filmworks.

Sadako vs. Kayako (2016)

You have to give it to Japanese filmmakers, who are unafraid to mash up franchises and give people what they want. And this was a big deal, combining the  Ju-on (The Grudge for Americans) and the Ring franchises.

The promotion for this movie was insane, with a Twitter contest between Sadako or Kayako to pick Japan’s favorite horror icon, with Sadako winning. Then, there was a press conference where Sadako, Kayako and Toshio attended and never broken character, which is awesome. This was followed by the characters interrupting a baseball game between the Nippon-Ham Fighters and the Yakult Swallows.

I mean, there was even a collaboration with Sanrio’s Hello Kitty for this film. That’s saying something.

The craziness starts when a social worker comes to do a wellness check on an elderly patient, who of course has a VCR that is still playing the infamous tape from Ringu. As if to answer, “Who still needs a VCR in 2016?” the player is sold to a shop, where it ends up in the hands of college kids Yuri Kurahashi and Natsumi Ueno, who want to use it to transfer Natsumi’s parents’ wedding tape to DVD.

However, the cursed tape has now evolved, with better-looking footage, an urban building instead of the traditional well and now, only two days for the curse. As the phone rings, Sadako shows up.

The girls go to their professor, an expert on urban legends, who instead of helping them wants to see Sadako for himself. He watches the tape and brings in an exorcist, who is boiled alive by. the vengeful ghost, who also murders the teacher. Before the exorcist dies, she tells the girls that only the psychic Keizo Tokiwa can save them.

Natsumi blames Yuri for her curse and begins to upload the tape to the internet, hoping to somehow pass the curse away from herself. Keizo soon arrives, accompanied by the blind psychic Tamao, and informs them only by pitting Sadako against Kayako Saeki can they all survive. Meanwhile, Natsumi, who has been trying to kill herself, is hung by Sadako.

Meanwhile, the haunted Saeki house has shown up in a new neighborhood and Toshio has been snapping the necks of bullies and dads.

As for that whole put the ghosts against each other plan goes, it backfires not once but twice, as the vengeful ghosts combine to create one unstoppable entity called Sadakaya. It has the body of Yuri, the appearance of Sadako and moves like both spirits, all with the death rattle of Kayako.

While not anywhere nearly as good as the original franchises by themselves, this is pretty much big budget fan service. It takes a long time to get there, but I had a ton of fun watching it. Not bad for a movie that started off as an April Fool’s Day joke, huh?

Still, nothing in this is quite as good as this theater etiquette video, right?

You can watch this on Shudder.

Frankenstein Created Bikers (2016)

The sequel to Dear God No takes the insanity of that film and goes beyond the limit to create a movie that pretty much takes every taboo and shoves it in your face to smell and taste it. It’s not for everyone — neither was the first film — but it’s an absolute thrill for those who are ready for it.

Jett has been resurrected from beyond the grave, but is now addicted to the substance that brought him and his gang back. Now, they’re forced to capture cryptids and be the errand boys for the Nazi scientists that hold the keys to keeping them all alive. Now, with every gang in the world — including Val, a one-eyed mankiller played by Tristan Risk — after him, as well as bounty hunters, a chainsaw-wielding priest, rival gangs and topless masked exotic dancers — nobody is getting out alive.

This goes a bit too long at 2 hours and 5 minutes, but that’s really my only complaint. There’s something here to excite and offend everyone, sometimes at the same time. And hey — Darcy the Mail Girl dances on stage at one point.

There’s enough in here for about ten movies, so if they ever make a third one, I have no idea what’s next. I enjoyed the journey that all of the gang took on this one, but this definitely feels like the end. Then again, they all got killed last time, too, as must happen in all good biker movies. No matter what happens, if there is a sequel, I’ll definitely be there for it. Probably drinking beer the whole time again, too.

After all, the world needs more perverted biker movies filled with drugs, mutilation, nudity, sex, gore, Bigfoot and one-eyed murder machines, right?

Sing Street (2016)

Before becoming a writer and director, John Carney played for the Irish band The Frames. In fact, the lead singer of that band, Glen Hansard, starred in Carney’s best-known film, 2007’s Once alongside his partner in the band Swell Season, Markéta Irglová. Made on a budget of around $150,000, it ended up earning $23.3 million worldwide. an Oscar for the song “Falling Slowly” and the admiration of Steven Spielberg, who said, “Once gave me enough inspiration to last the rest of the year.”

Carney replied, “In the end of the day, he’s just a man with a beard.”

Sing Street tells the story of Conor “Cosmo” Lawlor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), whose family is struggling so much that he’s forced to go shoeless at school when they can’t afford the proper ones for his uniform. He’s bullied day in and day out, but soon meets Darren, who becomes his manager, and Eamon (Mark McKenna), who can play any instrument. Initially, the idea of a band is just a way to win over Ralphina (Lucy Boynton, who will soon play Marianna Faithfull in Faithfull), who wants to be a model.

Soon, though, the band becomes a driving force in their lives and even allows for their bully to have a place to belong. It also allows him to bond with his borther Brendan, who teaches him what music should mean in your life.

The close of this film has always made me wonder if everything — please, don’t let me spoil it for you, so stop reading if you haven’t seen it — from the gym sequence to Cosmo and Ralphina sailing away is all just a dream sequence from a music video.

Carney hsa said, “Well, I don’t see it just as a happy romantic ending. I think that’s the tone of the piece, but I think it’s more like… they’re setting off together, that’s true, but I wouldn’t say that’s some huge relationship that’s going to last forever. They’re kids. I sort of hope the scene at the end would look a little like a fantasy sequence. You’re supposed to wonder where the reality ends and the pop video begins. But people are actually taking it very seriously, and people are presuming it’s fully real, which is interesting. That wasn’t the intention.”

If you grew up in the 80’s and dreamed that a girl would fall for you because you were on the verge of becoming a music video star, then this movie will warm your heart. Like all the best films, I wish that it was real.

Hitchhiking to the Edge of Sanity (2016)

Two Kansas college kids — photographer Steve Ewert and writer Dick Russell — had traveled across Europe looking for a place to belong and having adventures. They went to de Charles De Gaulle’s funeral at Notre Dame, met famous artists, almost got arrested in Amsterdam and had two cars stolen. But their real adventure wouldn’t begin until they hitchhiked 2,700 miles across the Sahara Desert.

Told in the actual voices of Ewert and Russell — and directed by Scott Petersen — this movie tells how they went from Algeria to Ghana, as well as all of the incredible moments in-between. Could they remain friends? Would they be able to get a story out of this? And how does one stay alive when their driver is a Dutch revolutionary given to crashing his van into sand dunes just for a laugh?

We are living in a time much like the upheaval the protagonists of this story lived through. Their experiences should serve to educate, inform and even entertain us.

You can learn more about this movie at the official site. It’s now available on Amazon Prime and will be coming to Tubi this fall.

DISCLAIMER: We were sent this film by its PR company. That has no impact on our review.

Invasion Earth (2016)

Eight young addicts attend an experimental group therapy run by self-help guru Doctor Carson. This will keep them out of prison, which a TV reporter sees as a scam. She tries to expose the group but just as this UK movie sets itself up as a thriller, it shifts into science fiction as an alien invasion throws the entire plot into pure chaos. I mean, they do warn us at the beginning that those alien ships are showing up in three months!

You know how you wait for the entire running time of The Alpha Incident for something otherworldly to happen? This is close to that, but not as well made. That said, it has a great poster going for it.

Director Steven M. Smith has tons of direct to streaming videos in production, so good for him for hustling. This isn’t bad and there’s some promise, so here’s hoping I like his next effort even more.

This movie will be released on demand and on DVD August 4 from Midnight Releasing, who were nice enough to send us a review copy.