Saturday, January 30, 2016

1998: The Year We Make Mediocrity Part I-The Worst

While working on the My Favorite Era series, I decided to toss in some top 10 lists from 1995 and beyond. To put it mildly, I think those pieces stink like a poorly ventilated bathroom. Starting with this post, I'll be looking at 1995-1999 (not really interested in tackling the last fifteen years though those posts were bad as well); the good, bad and ugly of the last half of the 90's.

We begin with 1998. I was in college, my spirits were high (until I realized I'd been using my bank account incorrectly) and so was my income until the aforementioned lesson in proper money management.

I've written about years in film before but for some reason, 1998 is one that just fascinates me. Maybe its my affinity for crappy films, maybe I'm just weird or it could be I'm hard up for material and will willingly recycle material from the past that I thought was crap the first time around.

Speaking of crap, let's start with the three worst of the year. No formal reviews here (or for the other installments of this series and the other four years that will be covered), more a series of thoughts about the films and related items.

It really says something when I, a person more than willing to admit I consider a really notorious flop is sort of fun to watch (see Hudson Hawk), but this one is just plain awful in every way,. Wasting the talents of Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman and Sean Connery, this adaptation of the 60's TV series is a baffling bore. It's never a good sign when a film is dumped in the middle of August and not screened for critics, even moreso when the original running time was 135 minutes the final release runs about 89. About the only fun thing about this is that you can totally screw with your friends by inviting them over to watch The Avengers and then whipping this turd out on them. Just make sure you have the good one handy, otherwise you're likely to be in need of some stitches.

In all honesty, the first time I saw this one I actually didn't mind it that much. It's just as big and dumb as the last movie on this list, but it at least has one or two mildly okay things going for it. The special effects are better and... Actually, that's about it because this one is just stupid eye candy in the worst way. The humor is bad, the directing is, well it's Michael Bay so you know establishing shots are gonna be shaky at best. Bruce Willis is himself, not even going to mention Affleck and to be honest, the thing I hate most about this one is that that damn Aerosmith song at the end was played endlessly at my work for a while.

Ending things off, we have the big letdown of the year. Literally. Godzilla is one of the more overblown, empty, soulless movies I've ever seen. Listless acting, murky special effects-Generally it's a bad sign when you have so little faith in your f/x team you set most of the monster scenes in pouring rain. Godzilla 1998 makes one long for the worst of the 60's and 70's films. At least the folks making those gave a crap. Even if this had been just a giant monster movies without the Godzilla branding, it would still be a bad movie.

Stay tuned for part 2!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

VHS Memories XXXX: Special Interest

Just some random oddness for a lazy Saturday afternoon.  Welcome back into the video store of my mind.

While there were always the usual standby sections at the video store (action, horror, comedy, the adult section if nobody was looking), it was generally fun to take a chance in the special interest section.  Because really, what's cheaper?  Gambling on a possible waste of time that can easily be resolved by watching The Evil Dead and Death Wish 3 again, or going to Vegas?

This is mostly Star Trek stuff with some bloopers and some bits about some other sci-fi TV shows.  Basically your typical release from Simitar Video.  Cheap, dodgy picture and about as satisfying as hearing someone talk about eating a tasty meal.

Or maybe you're in the mood for some good old fashioned wrasslin'!

 We got mid 80's WWF!

 Late 80's WWF!

 Late 80's NWA!

 Or maybe disappointing yet at the time popular late 90's WCW is more your speed.

Or perhaps you just want to watch some old footage from the last company in the 80's the WWF crushed like a grape, the AWA!

Blooper tapes were generally good for a quick viewing with some brews and maybe a joint or two.  The beer is because late night viewing requires it.  The pot?  How the hell else are you going to find trucks crashing to the tune of wacky music and sound effects funny?  If you were sober, you probably wouldn't be watching monster truck footage in the first place!

The late 80's were a good time for the NBA and thanks to the fine folks at CBS/Fox Home Video, they let loose with a deluge of videos.  This is probably the best known, outside of the countless Lakers championship season tapes, Michael Jordan highlight reels and other assorted things.

 Fox also released the TV Pilot for that awful Spider-Man TV series from the late 70's.  Amazing?  Not really, no.

Ah, the simple joy of sitting on your ass watching cartoons.  Goofy sound f/x; funny animals, the most famous giant monster in film history stomping a beloved Disney character flat.  Good times.

This one is pretty solid as far as rock concert movies go.  It's not quite Pink Floyd's The Wall (that's more of a real movie whereas this just has weird interludes), but it's fairly solid.

Let's move on to some stuff that requires at least a case of beer, a start time no earlier than 11 pm and possibly some recreational pot.

This was a breast judging contest complete with celebrity panel.  Not really much I can say past that.  It sort of speaks for itself.

60 minutes of nonstop late 80's computer animation.  For when the monster truck bloopers become too banal.  to be fair, this is an award winning documentary but if you're watching it you're either a huge computer nerd or a stoner.

UFO documentaries are always good for a laugh or two.  I'll get more into that at a later date.

This is a pretty solid trailer compilation from Charles Band's Wizard Video.  Gore, nudity, violence, this one is quite the show.

Probably the ultimate midnight video rental.  This was a notorious documentary ostensibly about death and dying but really, it was pure exploitation in the purest sense.  Successful too.  It even generated several sequels.

Now all of the tapes seen so far are more or less late night viewing.  Either that or afternoon viewing when the parents are out of the house.  But for our last two titles, we'll be going a little more tasteful.  Something more innocuous.

You can go for class.

You can go for culture...

Or you could just get a 'workout' watching a Jane Fonda exercise tape!  Oh yes, I am going to hell for this one!

Workout videos had many things in common but a big one was that if you were a dude buying one, saying you were getting it for your mom as a birthday gift actually made it worse than if you just admitted what you were really gonna use it for.

Yeah, I'm a bad person.  At least I admit it!  I should probably try to balance things out a little, though.  Shouldn't I?

Let's see, already did the Linnea Quigley workout tape which actually would make this even worse so that's out.

Rock Video Girls documentaries?   No, that honestly makes the Linnea Quigley thing look like an episode of Touched by an Angel.

Ah, I've got it!

Gotta say, Jane rocks the workout gear better than Richard Simmons.  If nothing else, she doesn't wear alarmingly short shorts, make you listen to disco and cry incessantly while making a flaming ass of herself.  They both have good legs, though.

Once again, yes.  I am a bad person.

That's all for now, until next time...

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Get Carter (1971)

We kick off the movie section of this series with this grim and gritty British thriller from 1971. Michael Caine plays Jack Carter, a thoroughly cold and vicious London mobster out for revenge when his brother is killed in Newcastle.  Caine is top notch here, giving a cold, menacing performance totally free of his usual charm which is replaced by his great talent for every now and then looking like Satan from certain angles.  Seriously, we'll be looking at more of the man's work in this series and it will pop up again.

Get Carter is directed quite well by Mike Hodges who eschews the rather scenic London in favor of grim and dreary Newcastle.  There is quite a bit of violence on display and it is shot in a terse, bluint manner like the rest of the film.  As noted, the film is Michael Caine's through and through.  He plays Carter with no remorse or regrets and simply gives you a truly creepy sociopath who you have to root for because everyone else in the film is even worse (a relatively standard 70's trope as we will see).

The plot is fairly straightforward with some twists here and there (the big twist is a nasty one and is the only time Caine allows Carter to show any sort of emotion besides anger or coldness) and while some characrer actors like Ian Hendry and Britt Ekland (she has a phone sex scene with Caine that is just wrong on so many levels) have their moments, Caine dominates here and the film is all the better for it.  Really, the only flaw is that the film may do the slow burn routine just a little too long but that's about it.

Get Carter is a  brutal, nasty little crime flick that is worth seeing, if only once.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Esoterica XIII: The Blog Awakens

Kicking off the new year (to say nothing of a new series for the blog) in style with some old school Star Wars (original trilogy only) odds and ends.

First off, let's get the obligatory VHS scans out of the way.

Love this VHS ad for Jedi.

Had this one when I was a kid.

Now we get to the good stuff.  Can''t go wrong with this trio of novels.  Been a while since I read them but they're damn fine rainy day reads.

The Falcon is quite simply my favorite space ship design.  Never had this toy when I was a kid but I snagged a model kit a year or two back and it now sits proudly on my office area.

I'll be getting into Howard the Duck more as this series goes on but for now, just let the simple beautiful madness of this cash-in worm its way into your brain.

While you;'re at it. check out some early Marvel Star Wars comics and try to guess exactly what illicit substance was being passed around the Marvel bullpen at the time the story was green lit.  Seriously, the stuff immediately following the adaptation of the first film up to the time The Empire Strikes Back was releases is some of the most entertainingly gonzo stuff you will ever see in the Star Wars universe.

Finally, since this is a series that will have a heavy 70's focus, I have to share the hit disco version of the Star Wars theme. It's just awesome.

That's all for now, stay tuned for more.

Art, Commerce and Everything in Between: 1967-1979

I've already covered my favorite stretch of time in cinema (1975-1994) fairly extensively but of course, there is more to the world of cinema than just a twenty year stretch of time obsessed over for two years by a smart ass internet reviewer.  In 1967, the renaissance began in movies with the release of Bonnie and Clyde and others.

While there have always been great movies (even an off year like 1991 had some absolute gems as I showed last year), the late sixties and seventies gave way to a new breed of daring filmmakers.  Guys like Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg began long and prosperous careers while others like William Friedkin and Francis Ford Coppola kicked off artistically relevant but not always financially successful careers, though they had their fair share.

This series will not be simply an overview of the great stuff that came out during this era.  After all, is there really anything new for me to say about Taxi Driver or Bonnie and Clyde?  Probably not.  While I will cover some of the better known movies from this period, I will also delve deep into the murky second and third tiers.  After all, a cheeseburger from the local diner can be just as rewarding an experience as a gourmet meal at an expensive restaurant.

I will also divert from the usual movie route and delve into some of the more esoteric pop culture items from the period.  UFOs, Bigfoot, that sort of thing.

Also, there will might be some overlap with the previous series but I will try not to let it happen too often.  The group tag for them will be '70's series'.  Stay tuned for the first entry.

About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.