Sunday, December 30, 2007


Slogan: "...and introducing Gillian 'X-Files' Anderson"

Almost an hour into this tiredly talky Southern Gothic drama, Agent Scully unbuttons her blouse. Those gone giggly at that thought are advised to go to alt.binaries.nude.celebrities rather than to the video store. The freshest thing about this "A Film by L.A. Puopolo," made in 1992 but just now released to cash in on X-Files mania, is that it was shot in Southern Virginia. At the beginning of the tape, Mr. A Film By says with a straight face that Anderson agreed to the nudity because it was so important to the story, blah, blah, blah. Uh-uh. It's gratuitous, irrelevant, and not particularly invigorating, if you know what I mean. EJECT.

Slogan: "It's Time to Prey."

After-the-fact explanations only work if what's being explained has been set up beforehand. For instance, it's no good telling us that the monster from Saturn is controlling all the coeds from, as the box puts it, "the depths of an all girls college" via fragments of the meteor he arrived in, which they are now wearing as jewelry, if we have not seen any of this jewelry—or very much of the coeds—until the gals suddenly appear and begin turning into killer zombies. But that's the least of the problems with this "A Paul Matthews Film," where characters change personality from one line to the next. Nice bas-relief creature on the box. No relief inside. EJECT.

Vidmark [CC]
Slogan: "One Small Step for Man...One Giant Leap of Terror."

Warwick Davis plays the title role with appropriate gusto, though as my friend O'Leary pointed out with no small indignation, "It's not even an Irish accent!" As this is "A Film by Brian Trenchard-Smith," a charge of British imperialism may be in order. But Trenchard-Smith makes enough hay out of this intrinsically nonsensical concept to almost deserve the possessory title. The script is wry, the acting decent, the production values creatively attractive, and Davis blows up real good—many times. And Guy Siner out-Ottos Otto Preminger as a part machine/part man. Or vice versa. PLAY.

Slogan: "Rest in...Beast."

Moving the werewolf myth from eastern Europe to southwestern America and transposing it into Navaho lore is a good idea; hiring the Greater Flagstaff Remedial Theater Auxiliary to perform and buying the monster suit in the Halloween aisle at CVS are not. The box for this "A Tony Zarindast Production" is 3-D. The film barely approaches 1. The transformation scene is hammy, even by 1910 standards, coming off as some kind of interpretive werewolf dance. Creepy Richard Lynch picks up another check, but Charlie and Emilio's uncle Joe Estevez, in the Maria Ouspenskaya role, sums it up nicely for a fellow "Native American" in this exchange: "How bad is it?" "Bad." "How bad?" "Bad bad." EJECT.

Slogan: "Two Cops, Under Cover, Under Fire, Going Down."

"We didn't go all the way, but—somehow—you went further than any man. Ever. You were perfect." "It was wild. Perfect." "I feel like...the ocean. Like nothing. Nothing that has ever mattered to me should matter." "Yeah. Yeah." And fade the lights out. Cut to another bondage scene. That strange deadpan interlude between Michael Paré and a woman who may not be a woman only hints at the overwrought dialogue in this "A Film by Rod Hewitt" about vice cops sinking lower into slime. I liked it, then I hated it, then I liked it again. But it's got Pam Grier and a refreshingly dark and unexpected ending, so I won't hate it too much. PAUSE.

Tai Seng
Slogan: "If You're an Undercover Cop, You Go Deep...or You Get DEAD."

The nice thing about watching Chinese action movies is that they don't have distracting, big-ego Hollywood stars in them and you haven't heard how "difficult" they were to make on Entertainment Tonight. But they generally deliver the same Hollywood goods—and much faster. This gun-socky epic distills the entire two-plus hours that was Donnie Brasco in its first 10 minutes. Then we move on to several other plots, all of which can be explained in one subtitle: "Human relationships can be very scary." The fight scenes nearly out-Woo Woo—a guy in flames trading punches is particularly insane. But I worry that Hong Kong is copying Tinseltown too closely when a subtitle flashes, "Fuck you, motherfucker." What poor soul had to translate that? PLAY.

Tai Seng
Slogan: "From Hong Kong's most extravagant director, Tsui Hark, comes the most fantastic adventure and fantasy romance story ever filmed!"

"That's the secret," says a narcotized creep in Strip Search. "There is no rhyme. There is no reason." Certainly this historical adventure tale has almost no reference points for Westerners. For example, the scene where one fighter massages another to "bring his veins into unison"—what's that about? But as a Fantasia-style spectacle, Zu is darn entertaining. There are vast fighting armies, each decked out in different primary colors, and there are underground fireworks, and everyone flies: the Evil Disciples, the Blood Demons, the Blood Crows, and what I took to be an Attack Tablecloth. But that's not the most fantastic thing. A guy actually uses his eyebrows as weapons. And his mustache. I said, a guy actually uses his eyebrows as weapons. And his mustache. But there is also some insightful dialogue: "You women have nothing better to do than to hide here and make up these ridiculous rules," snorts a disgruntled Disciple (or maybe a Blood Demon). Hey, isn't that what being a woman is all about? I say set the kids down in front of this one and have them explain it. PLAY.

Next: Battle of the Erotic Thriller Queens!

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