More Dystopian Cinema

Love him or hate him, Donald Trump has irrevocably altered the American political landscape. That can clearly be seen in two new low-budget horror films, Roger Corman’s “Death Race 2050” and Greg McLean’s “The Belko Experiment.” Although neither of these films is a cinematic masterpiece, they are both worth seeing because they perfectly show the fractured political landscape America is in right now.

“Death Race 2050” shows how we live in a very violent society presided over by a very strange man (Malcolm McDowell at his most outrisageous) who resembles Donald Trump. In the society portrayed in the film, nothing seems to matter except getting good kills. The film brings back the Frankenstein driver character from “Death Race 2000” as well as the dystopian future where nothing matters except hedonism and violence. The film attempts to make its low budget a virtue with deliberately cheesy special FX, but the concept of a deadly car chase is what works particularly well here. The point seems to be that our society is headed in a more nihilistic direction, and it is a point I do not disagree with. The film is new to DVD and Blu ray and is streaming on Netflix.

“The Belko Experiment,” which just opened in theaters., is written and produced by James Gunn, who gave us “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Slither.” The director gave us the “Wolf Creek” films. This film is about American employees at a corporation in Colombia who get locked into their workplace and forced into the ultimate corundum: kill or die. The film is about how the previously friendly employees at the corporation deal with the fact that to survive, they will apparently have to kill each other. This film is more disturbing than most horror films because:

1. The reasons for this deadly corporate psychological experiment are never explained.
2. The most likeable characters generally die first. I particularly felt bad for the black security guard who ends up getting killed for doing his job of holding onto the keys to the armory. Rarely have I seen a more likeable character bite the dust in a horror film.

This film will be criticized for being too cynical and having no apparent point, but in fact it shows the arbitrary divisions that are springing up between us in America right now, and how violence is being shown as a solution to our problems in some parts of our society. If you doubt this, look at the vitriol on both sides of the political aisle right now. This film shows us that we need to be careful before signing our rights away to a corporation (or, for that matter, the government) because the people in charge cannot be trusted.

These films will be regarded as exploitative trash by most people, but I found them to be well worth watching. They both show the consequences of a violence-obsessed society. I recommend them as good beer-drinking drive-in movies and as food for thought. Until next time… –CoolAC

America Needs Steele Justice

This film gets three out of four grenades. Steele Justice is a great Rambo and Missing in Action rip-off.  It is a must-see for every Vietnam action film buff. Martin Kove stars (the Cobra Kai karate instructor from the Karate Kid I and III) as a vet who has never gotten over Nam’. He reencounters the General who ran his POW camp again, who has since become a drug lord. This element adds a trashy Scarface 80s cliché element, enhancing the film.

Kove lacks any really convincing karate moves. Never-the-lesshe does have a badass air to his persona, especially how he manages to wear a nose bandage for most of the film. He treats his women really badly, darkly and comically unable to decide whether to bother saving his wife from the drug lords.

Ironically, Kove has a Vietnamese friend. This is probably in order to avoid the type of controversies the Year of the Dragon encountered at the time with some Asian communities. Its hard to say. Perhaps his friendship was more sincere.  Kove shows his soft side when his Vietnamese buddy dies at the hands of the kingpins, whereupon Kove befriends the  daughter and demonstrates some sincerity.

The highlight of the film is when he shows up (suicidal) to a drug deal gone wrong with a military vehicle and a Gatling gun, and wreaks havoc and destruction upon the enemy. On a side-note, Bernie Casie and Ronny Cox play policemen with their thumbs up their asses.

Sometimes when the law doesn’t care and the bad guys are winning all too often – there must be Steele Justice!!

 

Logan’s Fun

*Trailer was too ISIS-y for me. I dissent. 3 Year old girls should not be encouraged to leap around with metal claws, slicing necks. Nor can they physically do so. To think they could is too much of a stretch. – Deplorable Steve

Ok, so the third and final “Wolverine” movie, and how does it stack up?  Well, it’s a damn sight better than “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and “The Wolverine,” not to mention the atrocious “X-Men Apocalypse.”  The best thing about it is how it takes place in a plausible future world where the last surviving X-men are struggling to take it day by day.  Logan and Professor X, played very well by Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, are off the grid and disinterested in the world until Xavier senses a young girl mutant who may be key to mankind’s and mutant-kind’s survival.  They also discover an organization that has used mutant experimentation for extremely nefarious ends, and only they (or really only Logan) can prevent a catastrophe.

Let me be clear about something: this is the greatest Wolverine movie of all time.  Jackman gives a persistently top-drawer performance as the burned-out but not yet down for the count Logan.  We feel his pain and his sadness at the way the world has turned out.  He and Stewart have great chemistry and seem more Shakespearian than Marvel-ian.  I also liked how the film combines elements of futurism, neo noir-ism, and especially the western, with “Shane” being explicitly referenced.  There is no CGI in this film, and it resembles “Unforgiven” more than it does the Marvel canon.

 These attributes, along with a clever gimmick that I won’t reveal involving the villain’s experiments, are enough to make Logan a good film.  But it misses greatness because it spends too much time pleasing the fans.  We don’t need the decapitations and heavy gore because they don’t further the story and remind us that it’s just a movie.  And we REALLY don’t need the teaser for a new “Deadpool” film before this one starts which made me think I’d paid to see the wrong movie.  The movie is also too long at 2 hours and 21 minutes. All in all, though, “Logan” is worth the admission price, as it gives us a better Wolverine story than we’ve seen before, as well as approximating a real movie rather than comic book crap.  I’d say if this looks like your kind of thing, go for it; it’s smart enough and done with gusto. -CoolAC
 

Lifetime Achievement Award : Ted Prior

About two years ago a film buff friend of mine gave me “Deadly Prey” on Blu ray for my birthday. I had never heard of it but I watched it immediately and was very impressed. “Deadly Prey” is the best “Rambo” rip-off ever made, and also probably the best Bad Action film of all time.

The plot is about a super-ripped Vietnam Vet (played by Ted Prior, director David A. Prior’s brother) who is kidnapped while taking out the garbage. He ends up at a remote facility where he and other “contestants” are being hunted down and killed and must kill in response or die! One of the people in charge of this “game” is his old drill sergeant. And eventually the Vet’s family finds him.

That’s all the plot this movie has. Basically it is scene after scene of people getting killed in the goofiest ways possible, including grenades, knives, leeches, hand-to-hand combat by the always shirtless Ted Prior. So many people die (basically everyone except the hero!) that the film becomes a kind of Zen experience that you just have to kind of roll with. Just when you think it can’t get any crazier, the movie concludes with a scalping. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a scalping on-screen.

Basically, “Deadly Prey” is a much more fun version of “Missing in Action 2” and the later “Hard Target.” The somewhat poor picture and sound quality on the Blu-ray enhance the experience. This film is cheap but hilarious and action packed! The director also made a film called “Kill Zone” which is almost the same thing and also entertaining. Some of the many works of the director include “Killer Workout” and the long-awaited 2013 sequel “Deadliest Prey,” also starring Ted Prior. Both of these are available on Blu-ray. Sadly, David A. Prior died in 2015. Because his movies are so much fun, I am giving him a Groin.com lifetime achievement award, in honor of his ability to make Great Trash. If you like Bad Action, check out these films!

Groin Academy Awards

Here are our choices for 2017:

Best actor: Jeffrey Dean Morgan Desierto

Best supporting actor: Jeremy Irons High-Rise

Best film: Desierto

Best actress: Helen Mirren Eye in the Sky

Best supporting actress: Rachel Weisz The Lobster

Best cinematography: The Shallows

Best screenplay: The Lobster

Best score: James Horner Magnificent Seven

Best director: Ben Wheatley High-Rise

No Cure For Wellness

No doubt you’ve heard a lot about the new movie “Split” with James McAvoy and how scary it is, and that is indeed an excellent film. But what about the OTHER great horror film out right now, “A Cure For Wellness”? The title is so strange and the marketing is so inept that I had no idea that it was even a horror film. But it is, and despite a plethora of Stupid Horror Film Decisions made by the protagonist, it is one of the best of the last few years.

The film follows a New York stockbroker (played by Dane DaHaan) who is sent by a top corporation to find out what happened to an executive who is at a wellness center in the Swiss Alps. This place is so secluded and so ornate that it seems weirdly inviting, but there are many problems with it, the most significant being that once you are there, you can never leave. Other problems include: 1. Dentistry that makes “Marathon Man” look progressive. 2. Septic tank therapy (remember “Altered States”?) 3. Eels everywhere, including the bathtub… Basically, this 146-minute film by Gore Verbinski (“The Ring,” “The Lone Ranger,” the first 3 “Pirates” films) is a cross between “The Wicker Man,” “Shutter Island,” “The Shining,” “Eyes Wide Shut,” “Crimson Peak,” and Stuart Gordon’s “Castle Freak.” Don’t leave early or you’ll miss an ending that might make Clive Barker and the late Ken Russell blush.

Jason Isaacs is serviceable as the villain, but Mia Goth (from “The Nymphomaniac Vol. 1”) steals the show as the fragile and frail but emotional and extremely sexy damsel in distress. Like last year’s “The Witch,” this film takes standard horror tropes in exciting new directions. Don’t miss it if you like intense horror; this film really scared me! –A.C.

Big Little Lies – A Monterey Thriller

Brand new HBO series Big Little Lies premiered tonight. No it’s not about CNN’s Fake News. The show, a naturalistic coastal version of a murder mystery, features big stars like Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman. What peaks my interest is not that it has elements of a police procedural thriller, as many shows do, but rather the way in which it uses its setting in Monterey to it’s advantage. This series was shot in the area that John Steinbeck wrote about and lived in because it is so beautiful. Salvador Dali also lived there. His paintings featured the landscapes of the area. Big Little Lies has  some shots featuring gorgeous panoramic views of nature. The director of this film, John Mark Valee, did Dallas Buyers Club and Wild previously.

The sets are shadowy. The women are beach blondes. And there are more women stars than normal on this show. With any luck, odds are they will all be grabbing hair and ripping each others throats out by season’s end. Maybe things have changed to where the beach isn’t the fun buoyant place it used to be in the 80s and 90s. Some signs of liberal irony are present. The main characters’ little 6 year old kid is being accused of ‘bullying’ in the school. Personally, I live pretty close to Monterey. From experience I know that these towns really do have all these blondes. The retro furniture and upper middle class thing seem fitting. The lighting is perfect on this show to set the dreary mood. But I would say that the actual people who live on the coast are not melancholy like the characters on the show. Rather they are fairly merry even when complaining.

Not a whole lot was revealed on the premiere episode tonight. From upcoming trailers its is clear that families are in turmoil , and people will die ( possibly from love triangles) . If you are a fan of murder mysteries, or a fan of naturalistic directing styles I would recommend this very cinematic show. It has some of the best shots and lighting I have seen this year. Hopefully it will head down a darkened path as things unfold.

Gold

First off, you are probably expecting a review of the new Matthew McConaughey movie “Gold,” but, well, Homey don’t play that…this is about the unheralded 1974 Roger Moore exploitation film. Set at a South Africa gold mine, the film’s about a conspiracy by the owners of the mine to cause the mine to drill a hole in the mine and flood it, making money off the rise in oil futures. To do this, they bring in Roger Moore as the new general manager, hoping his inexperience and naivety will make him an easy fall guy when their plans come to fruition. They didn’t count on his bullheaded courage, however, and he ends up saving the mine instead of destroying it.

This film is underrated and only showed at drive-ins as part of a double bill in America and is now a public domain DVD. Right off the bat, it opens with a great title song as the letters G-O-L-D flash on the screen. Indeed, Elmer Bernstein’s music is top-notch. Then we see that the film not only has Moore and Susannah York but also stars Oscar winners John Guilgud (from “Arthur) and Ray Milland. Moore is the man in this movie, rescuing miners and bedding married York. He is a man of suave sophistication and fierce resolve. Between the extramarital affair and the exploitation of South African men, this film is hilariously amoral. The reason I enjoy this film so much is that it is a product of a bygone era. No longer can films be so carelessly exploitative and get away with it. Also, “Gold” is from some of the better Bond filmmakers, including Peter Hunt, director of “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) and John Glen (director of 5 good Bond films including “License to Kill”).

In short, “Gold” is a gem, a silly drive-in classic. Watch for it in the bargain bin DVD section and stay tuned for more reviews soon!

Who Will Survive?

Inspired by the heights of our New Years’ Eve VHS Marathon featuring such classics as “Wheels of Terror,” Deplorable Steve and I decided to continue our VHS marathon with “Massive Retaliation,” a 1984 movie about the dangers of nuclear war. As a fan of such films as “Threads,” “Testament,” and “The Day After,” this film was impossible for me to resist. Comparing this film to the other three, how does it stack up?

Well, the setup for all four films is much the same. In all of these films, a nuclear war is imminent, and people prepare. In this one, a group of survivalist families retreat to their bunkers while waiting for other family members, such as Jason Gedrick (from “Iron Eagle” and “The Heavenly Kid”) to arrive. Because of the seriousness of the situation and the graphic nature of the similar TV movies, we anticipate mass nuclear carnage but this flick goes in a different direction. It’s about how nuclear tensions lead to violence. We know we are in heady territory when Bobcat Golthwait, in his first “serious” role, appears and gets in a violent standoff with the other survivalists.

Another memorable thing about this movie is how it shows 1980’s nuclear tensions. But this film’s main strength and weakness are the same: because the nuclear crisis is evaded, the film is to be commended for avoiding cliché but called to the carpet for not being serious or gory enough. It’s not a bad little movie, but it doesn’t live up to the video box. Then again, what could?

Failed Utopia Cinema

At a time where many on the left are spinning doomsday scenarios as Trump gets inaugurated, it is useful to remember that a liberal utopian fantasy can be just as dangerous, if not more, than conservative ideas taken to their extreme. By looking at the real-life inspired film “Patty Hearst” from 1988 and the fictional but still relevant 1986 film “The Mosquito Coast,” we can see how radical leftism, rather than leading to a glorious utopia, instead leads to shattered dreams and chaos.

“Patty Hearst,’ for example, shows us the lengths that radical leftists, in this case the Symbionese Liberation Army (or S.L.A.), will go to indoctrinate someone into their group fantasy, or cult. Patty Heart is a nice, conservative woman going to U.C. Berkeley who is kidnapped, blindfolded, and then tormented and indoctrinated for months. She is repeatedly raped and loses all connection to the world. Once she loses her sense of identity, she becomes an ideal candidate to be indoctrinated into beliefs and fantasies of equality that she does not share, in part because the alternative is death. She becomes a puppet for a radical leftist organization and assists in robbing banks. It is only when she leaves this radical group and is arrested that she regains some semblance of herself. She ends up (probably unfairly) in jail but has regained her identity.

patty

“The Mosquito Coast,” on the other hand, is about a brilliant but mentally ill inventor named Allie Fox (played by Harrison Ford) who believes that society is on the verge of ruin. Tired of the rat race, he takes his wife and children to the fringes of Africa, where his invention leads to a utopian existence for a time. He scorns religion and believes not only that he is his own man but that everyone else should follow his beliefs. Unfortunately things go wrong and his deteriorating mental state makes it impossible for him to adjust. He tells lies to keep his fantasies going and he ends up dead.

mosquito

Basically, one can see facets of Obama in both characters. Like Patty Hearst, he has been indoctrinated into a rigid left-wing cult that believes in bringing down the elite and making everyone “equal.” And like Allie Fox, he is clinging to his left-wing ideals long after it should be obvious that they do not work. The S.L.A. would applaud his open-borders and universal requirement of health care for every American. And Allie Fox would applaud his scorn of basic Christian values in favor of an “I am right, dammit!’ approach.

We thought we were getting a pragmatist and we ended up getting a radical ideologue, Thanks, Obama! Check out these two movies to see where things went wrong. And remember, the road to radicalism begins with good intentions, so stay vigilant!