Sunday, December 30, 2007


Cult Video
Slogan: Primitive Paradise

"This is a complete disaster!" roared my friend Pat, the noted cinéaste. "Haven't they ever heard of rubber monster heads?" No, inflatable breasts were more the order of the day in this flimsy tale about interstellar bimbos shipwrecked on an island brothel and forced to dance, dance, dance to some very bad stock music. In the old days, Pat explained, when exploitation was exploitation and breasts were breasts, "they would have had a couple of catfights, and feigned bondage, great monsters..." Pat's reverie was interrupted by some frank nudity. "That's a little on the raw side," he noted. "That's a little more than you usually see in one of these things." But times have changed, and "these things" now involve more "erotic" interludes than fake aliens. Another change was evident when director Ellen Cabot's credit finally rolled by. "There's the reason," Pat harumphed. "Look: produced by a woman, directed by a woman, line producer -- a woman. Probably a eunuch, the guy who wrote it," he snorted. While I tried to find some merit in the fetching blonde's saucy portrayal of a confused space being, Pat dismissed the entire endeavor: "A new low." Well, Pat has higher standards than I do. FREEZE-FRAME.


"Catfight!" I called out to Pat, who had repaired to his computer to troll the 'Net for nudes. "Let me get my glasses," he replied. But he never returned. A shame, because this Shannon Tweed vehicle features many of Pat's favorite cinematic staples: In addition to the rasslin' ladies, there's not one but two men on fire and -- surprise! -- crazy Nazis! And in the form of Lance Henriksen, who was born to embody pure evil, they don't get much crazier. While Lance works to unleash a flesh-eating biological weapon that has lain dormant since World War II, plucky Shannon is trying to heal some family wounds. "Where were you when I really needed a big sister?" demands the striking Jayne Hettmeyer, convincing as Shannon's little (in age only) sister. Everyone gets trapped in an art gallery, which means that paint brushes become weapons. How postmodern! But at the end of the day, Shannon can still pack a punch. Where was she when I needed a big sister? PLAY.

Xenon Entertainment
Slogan: 24 Hours. 98 Degrees. 200,000 Black College Students.

"Beach be all covered wit' honeys." "They be gettin' they freak on." It would be easier to confirm the truth of these statements if the cameraman shooting the random footage of bikinis and biceps at the annual "Freaknik" in Daytona Beach, Fla., had been within at least walking distance of the boardwalk. As it is, the bulk of this film comprises telephoto shots of distant crowds. And of the same motel room filled with either the two guys or the two gals who are so desperate to hook up. (Hey, aren't you in the same room?) The story is nicely summed up in the line "Fuck the cars, whores, fame -- it's not about that." Well, maybe it should have been about that. Sadly, the great black spring break movie has yet to be made. If this is not quite as classic [sic] as Where the Boys Are, it is at least as good [sic] as Where the Boys Are, 1984. That really stank, and nobody got they freak on. EJECT.


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences routinely rewards actors brave enough to portray drooling loonies. (Seven of the last 10 best actor, and three of the last 10 best actress, awards were for roles involving afflictions.) That being the case, this sequel to Posse is so loaded with nutballs that it should garner a hatful of Oscars, especially for René Auberjonois' sensitive portrayal of Dustin Hoffman's Rain Man. I would like to suggest some kind of award to writer/producer/star Mario Van Peebles for spending the first 15 minutes wearing only tar and feathers. Ouch. This being "A Film by Jean-Marc Vallée," it is a very European western -- not much shoot-'em-up, but lots of yaketa-yaketa and extreme emoting. A kind of King of Hearts meets The Magnificent Seven at Cuckoo's Nest. But a western it is, and the sight and sound of horsemen thundering over a distant hill remain exciting. PAUSE.

Division X FILMS
Slogan: Some Places You Can Get Anything You Want...Except the Truth.

"I make films nobody sees," says Bill Henderson, playing a director in this "A Bill Henderson Film," directed by Bill Henderson. Because, explains Bill Henderson, "everybody likes happy endings. That's not life that I know." I can live without happy endings, but I really like endings that make some kind of sense. This film doesn't end. It stops. Before it does we get to watch David Carradine mistreat women in between a lot of second-unit footage of Las Vegas neon. I predict nobody will see this film. EJECT.

New Horizons
Slogan: The Cruise of the Millennium Just Changed Course.

Corbin Bernsen has now dragged wife Amanda Pays into his direct-to-video career hell. Interestingly, they never share a scene together. Lord, first Bruce and Demi, now this! On a luxury "starcruise to the Moon," the guests may partake of virtual reality pills, which provide the only scenes away from the exceptionally low-budget sets. When Corbin attempts to commandeer the ship and rob the passengers, the captain shouts, "Step away from the laptop," the portable computer apparently controlling the entire spaceship. The heist stalls, leaving us time to hear all the stories of the surviving passengers. Hollywood, we have a problem. EJECT.

Slogan: Five Days That Changed the Course of Television

The slogan is blatantly false, but when the squarest man in America, Mike Douglas, booked the hippest, John Lennon, to co-host his tepid afternoon talk show for a week in February 1972, it was certainly unexpected. The Generation Gap was still being fully enforced, on both sides, when Douglas called a video détente. In these ironic (post-ironic?) times, when the president of the United States plays saxophone with a talk-show band and discusses his underwear on MTV, there is no parallel to be drawn, no analogy to convey how surreal this week of must-be-seen-to-be-believed TV was at the time. It was a head-scratcher then; it is a head-scratcher now. So Lennon jams with his idol Chuck Berry on "Johnny B. Goode," and Mike sings "I Whistle a Happy Tune" and smiles like an indulgent uncle as Yoko promotes macrobiotics to the Swanson-TV-dinner crowd. Rhino has released all five shows. Buy them, watch them, and then explain them to me. PLAY.

Sterling Home Entertainment
Slogan: The Only Way to Trap a Serial Killer is to Know What He Feels, What He Thinks, and When He'll Strike Again.

"I understand if you're famous in California, you can get away with murder," says a Scottish cop to "Charles" Sheen, star of this "An Albert Pyun Film." Murder yes, public buffoonery, no. Maybe this film set Charlie off. Maybe he couldn't get out of character -- a surly, scowling character who is very hard to sympathize with, always drinking and taking pills. "What a bad example he's setting for all America," said my friend Patty. "He looks bad. And he's all in blue." Yes, the color scheme is morose, but then Charlie must get into the mind of a serial killer, who in the end doesn't have much of a mind. But there are also the pleasant greens of Scotland to look at, and everyone but Charlie speaks with those cute accents. Charlie mumbles. "It should be noted," noted Patty, "that this was a movie that was not fast-forwarded." PAUSE.

Toasted Films
Slogan: Being a Single Woman in the Nineties Is One Thing. Being a Single Woman in Her Thirties Is Another...

The box proclaims this to be "A Paul Tarantino Film," perhaps in hopes that people will gloss over the first name in a rush for some quirky, trash-talking, bravura filmmaking. They will get instead a faux documentary on "the dilemma of single women in the '90s" with a bunch of second-tier comedians (Dana Gould, Taylor Negron, Kathy Griffin, Ryan Stiles, Chris Hardwick, Julia Sweeney) riffing loosely on relationships. "Dave, this is another really bad movie," Patty said sternly, grabbing the remote. I would have kept watching, really. But, well, she was right. EJECT.

Slogan: Marty and Carol Are Two People Who Are Very Good at Being Very Bad.

And so we put on this "A Michael Oblowitz Film" starring Billy Zane, Gina Gershon, and Twin Peak's Laura Palmer, Sheryl Lee. And it started promisingly: snazzy credits, spiffy '50s noir design, cool-jazz soundtrack. But it's based on a Jim Thompson story, which means that ugly stuff happens and we are left to root for no one. Except, surprisingly, for Rue McClanahan. "She's a talented actress, when she's quiet," Patty said. Yes, but she became loud; everyone became loud. As if they forgot there was a story and started going through acting exercises for an audition in Hell. "What time is it?" asked Patty, when the movie finally ended. "I'm really tired. This is really hard work." Hey, her work was done; she could go home. I had to decipher my notes. I can just make out this: EJECT.

Next month: You know, for kids.

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