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

Resident Evil Finale Slays

Ok, let’s get this out of the way… most video game movies suck. “Assassin’s Creed” is terrible. Both “Hitman” movies are disappointing. The “Street Fighter” movies are bad. This is all the more reason to give a small expression of gratitude to the “Resident Evil” series since, while they are perhaps not the best movies, are consistently entertaining.

We here at the Groin.com staff did not watch the Super Bowl because we can’t stand the New England Patriots and overhyped media events. In protest, we went to see “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” instead. How is it? Well, I actually really liked it. The film is non-stop action and gore and there is at least an attempt at a coherent plot. Basically, Milla Jovovich as Alice has 48 hours to save what’s left of the world. In order to accomplish this goal, she will have to overcome zombies, demons, dragons, monsters, mutants, clones, evil computers, and lasers, The production values are really high and the pace is brutal. The biggest argument in favor of this series though is Milla’s ability to convince us she can kick serious ass, coupled with director Paul W.S. Anderson’s sense of humor. He knows this isn’t Shakespeare, so he keeps the schlock coming with a wink and a smile. It’s really a blessed relief to the audience as opposed to, say, the awfulness of Uwe Boll’s films or the inflated, dim seriousness of “Assassin’s Creed.”

 

The series also deserves credit for starting out (in 2002) before zombies became popular, and for introducing the concept of the fast-moving zombie. Will this be the final chapter? Hard to say, but this has been a surprisingly cool series, much better than “Underworld.” Be sure to catch this flick before it leaves theaters; it’s bloody good!  –CoolAC

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?

Young Pope Rules

pope2

After the success of “Westworld” I was intrigued to see where HBO would go next. “The Young Pope” is probably less commercial but may end up being even better. The show is about a very flamboyant new American Pope who may be bisexual and agnostic. Jude Law is outstanding in this role in the first episode. Diane Keaton is promising as the nun and his most trusted advisor who brought him up after his parents died in his youth. The viewer is left wondering why his character was chosen to be pope, as well as what role and motivation Keaton’s character had in actualizing Law’s ascent to the papacy.

pope

This show has some very memorable moments such as imagined speeches that the Pope gives where he tells the crowds who came to see him to do whatever the hell they want. He appears to be conflicted about what message he wants to give his followers. The director has a sly way of showing that the personal interest of the ruler pope is not what is similarly in the best interest of his followers.

What makes the Young Pope so interesting is that it is very unpredictable. The viewer has no way of knowing his intentions. What is clear is that he is highly ambitious, cunning, and ruthless. He smokes cigarettes, and crosses over taboo subjects in his conversations and in his daydreams. There are hints of a dark past.

It will be fascinating to see if this show generates controversy in America. Will this show’s cynical take on the Pope amuse or repel audiences? Well, it amused me and held me in thrall. I think this kind of intelligent entertainment is what we need right now in the wake of our political landscape being so dumbed-down and partisan. “The Young Pope” is not for everyone, but it is a must for the thoughtful viewer. This show airs new episodes Sunday and Monday nights on HBO.

young

Bye Bye Man : TeenieSlayer

bye

I went to check out this flick because the trailer made it look like a cool rip-off of the 90’s classic Candyman. Knew there was a chance that there would be a bunch of annoying teens at the theatre because this film is only PG-13. So while standing in line there were a bunch of 14 year olds buying tickets in big groups ahead of us, one after the next. The film was pretty basic, a boogieman of sorts exists, who shows up and kills you when you become aware of his existence. Well actually he gets you to kill yourself and anyone else who knows by causing hallucinations. The Bye Bye Man appears as a tall skinny mute albino demon looking type thing and he has a burley hell-dog that munches on you after you perish. That part is pretty effective, and the visuals are good.

bye1

And a lot of people die in this film (for a PG-13).

The down side of this film are that there is no character development. The main character’s only personality is that he wears different punk rock t-shirts everyday. The Bye Bye Man is killing teen after teen, and for better or worse, the viewer is indifferent to their plight since they are just another pretty face. Another minus is that the crowd of pubescent teens are talking over this film about the various 9th grade parties going on later that night, complete with their puberty fantasies , while the movie is playing. I would recommend going to see this film after curfew so that you don’t have to deal with annoying teens. The lady from the Matrix has a small part as detective, which is well acted. The acting in the flashback scenes was a bit weak though.

Some might say that the film fails to give an explanation for the Bye Bye Man’s origin. I think its good that it avoids that cliché. The film is from a pretty acclaimed director. And its pretty good overall for a teeny bopper film. It could have been better had it been rated R and took more time with character development and took itself more seriously, because the villain is horrific.

Plan 9 From Underworld

underworldbwposter

 

The “Underworld” series is really something. It has great action and special FX and terrible scripts. The new installment, “Underworld: Blood Wars,” finds the heroine played by Kate Beckinsale once again in the middle of the war between vampires and Lycans, or werewolves. Her character is really hot and apparently cannot be killed and is a Death Dealer. Charles Dance (from “The Golden Child” and “Alien 3”) is also in the movie as the heroine’s (I think)grandfather, and he hams it up in fine Christopher Lee fashion. He’s a great actor and has helped save many a genre film. However, most of the acting and literally the entire script is bad. All this business about Lycans and Death Dealers is beyond me to explain, but what’s good about this movie and the series is the action and set design. I did feel like I was in another world, albeit a world without character development.

To say this film is ridiculous is a grave understatement; there is so much sneering and so many double-crosses that the film becomes a parody of itself. Beckinsale doesn’t act; she just poses. Many of the actors appear to be posing for a Calvin Klein commercial, in fact. And yet despite all this, I LIKED this flick. It’s like a Hammer film crossed with Clive Barker’s “Nightbreed” on crack. It aims for a sort of “Empire Strikes Back” kind of feeling, and it doesn’t totally fail. It earns its R rating with massive bloodshed and lots of sexual innuendo. And it doesn’t seem TOO much like a video game. The series also beat “Twilight” and “The Daybreakers” to the screen, so it was passably original. If the scripts had ever been any good, this could’ve been the greatest horror series ever. As it is, it is one of my leading guilty pleasure. You have to put your brain on hold, but if you do, “Underworld: Blood Wars” is good fun. I would compare it to the 90s sci-fi epic “Waterworld” in that regard.

NYE VHS Apocalypse

vhs-007

Tired of streaming? Sick of Redbox? Try something different! Have a VHS marathon! That’s what the staff of Groin decided to do NYE. And we decided to also get really drunk since conspiracy sites had told us that a comet was scheduled to hit the Earth that night, and we were expecting a Night of the Comet like event. So we decided to ask the people under the stairs to look through our dusty, secret hidden crate and dig out the appropriate VHS tapes to mark the occasion.

I was slowly coming to grips with my dastardly fate (I hate it when comets wipe out the Earth!), which surely awaited me and all of society…. This New Year’s Eve and Day, I did exactly that. With quality fine spirits  in both hands, I watched numerous VHS tapes in hope of dredging up that ’80’s and ’90’s nostalgia of watching films late at night on VHS. I figured you only live once and this is the way to go! There’s no living for tomorrow baby! You got to live for today!

vhs-009

So I started with a Charles Band double feature: “Meridian: Kiss of the Beast” and “Crash and Burn.”

vhs-003

“Meridian” is a hard-R take on “Beauty and the Beast” starring Sherilyn Fenn as a woman who returns to her ancestor’s castle in Italy, and is promptly romanced by two twins, one of whom turns into a beast during sex. This movie is surprisingly good because director Band has filmed it well and with plenty of atmosphere on location, and also because Fenn spends about 20 minutes of the movie naked. I had no idea fairy tales could be so steamy! I definitely recommend this film to anyone looking for a sexy movie or a new take on the fairy tale.

vhs-005

“Crash and Burn,” also directed by Band, is a post-apocalypse science-fiction film in the tradition of “Hardware.” It is set in the early 2000’s, where the ozone layer has destroyed the atmosphere and the economy has collapsed. Corporations rule everything, and at a remote outpost, a group of about six people, led by Megan Ward, are doing battle with a psychopathic android, played by Bill Mosely. It turns out the only way this menacing killer can be stopped is by reviving a dormant giant robot to do battle with it. This is not a great movie, as it’s slow in places, but it has good special effects and gratuitous nudity. Both “Meridian” and “Crash and Burn” are Full Moon Productions, so the VHS tapes include behind-the-scenes footage and ads for other Full Moon films and products.

vhs-002

I finished my drunken New Year’s celebration off with “Wheels of Terror,” a rip-off of “Duel” and “The Car” about Joanna Cassidy (from “Blade Runner”) and her daughter being menaced by a black Dodge Charger. Inside the car is a child molester and murderer, who we never see, and Joanna Cassidy drives a school bus of scared children after the driver because her daughter is in the Charger and must be saved. This one is kind of silly and corny in some ways, but it is well filmed by Christopher Cain, who directed “Young Guns,” and I found myself getting involved despite myself.

All in all, I was very happy that my home planet (Earth) was not hit by a comet this NYE. At the same time I feel more and more inspired every day to dig through my large VHS collection and find some treasures to speak about! -CoolAC

Incarnate is Hokey Fun

incarnate-new-poster

Sometimes when I’m bored, I don’t want to see an Oscar winner, or even a well-composed film. Sometimes, I’m in the mood for a lowest-common-denominator horror film. A sensitive close-encounter sci-fi film? Nope. A moving war epic about a pacifist? Try again. Aaron Eckhart in a wheelchair battling demons? Sounds great!

“Incarnate” is indeed about a wheelchair-bound man who works as an exorcist. The thing is, though, rather than using prayer and holy water, he enters the subconscious of the possessed and saves them by helping them escape the demons with their mind. The twist is that he doesn’t really care about the people he helps; instead, he wants to get back at the demon who killed his wife and daughter and left him in a wheelchair.

Are you following any of this? It doesn’t matter. “Incarnate” is a sublimely bad movie, rather than a run-of-the-mill bore. Aaron Eckhart is a great actor who will someday get the praise he deserves, but, for now, he’s turning films like this and “I, Frankenstein” into must-see bad movie classics. His nonchalance when confronting demons is classic. The fact that he is in a wheelchair because of a demon named Maggie is perfect. The 11-year old he is helping is a mean demon himself; this movie does have a (small) body count. In short, if you have refined tastes and require that the films you watch are of high quality, skip this film. But if you enjoy Aaron Eckhart and cheap but fun films about demonic possession, check this flick out. It’s bad but tons of fun! –CoolAC

Arrival: Giger meets Kubrick

arrival-2016-film-trailerAliens in cinema have been pretty standard the last couple of years; they invade, we respond, there’s a battle, patriotic music swells, audience falls asleep. “Arrival” sort of belongs to the Hollywood template, but it is also excitingly different. Amy Adams plays a linguist who is brought in by the government to translate alien communication from one of about a dozen UFO’s that have landed around the world. Together with a theoretical physicist played by Jeremy Renner, she must figure out what the aliens want before time runs out and we attack them in fear. The film is interesting because it shows how we might realistically respond to an alien visit, and also the process involved in trying to communicate with them. It takes “Close Encounters” to the next level. Also, the design of the aliens, which I won’t reveal here, is quite fascinating and different from what we normally get. A twist ending also makes things very interesting and makes the film a good one for repeat viewing. On the minus side, the film is slow-paced and sappy at times, and Forest Whitaker is woefully underused. Overall, however, “Arrival” is very cool and highly recommended. It’ll make you rethink your stance on ET’s.

Westworld – Episodes 2 and 3

We’ve now had three episodes of “Westworld,” and it is turning into an excellent Philip K. Dick-ian nightmare of a show. We are now seeing a dichotomy between humans who are curious about the androids and treat them humanely, and humans who want to exploit them for profit, sexual gratification, or indulging whatever sick violent fantasies they might have. Anthony Hopkins’s character seems kind and grandfatherly at first glance but by the end of the third episode his insistence that the robots have no human qualities seems quite sinister. For example, his order that the androids should not be covered when they’re nude is disturbing.

Evan Rachel Wood’s character has become interesting with her “Alice in Wonderland”-type storyline. She is seeking to become “real” by having new experiences. How this ties in with Ed Harris’ Man in Black will be interesting to see. Her character arc seems to tie in with Illuminati rites, which is very unusual for this sort of show. Will she turn on her creators as she discovers her plight?

The end of the third episode is really amazing where the scientists discover the android immolating himself and, by implication, his followers in brutal fashion with a boulder. Why would an android do this? It will be interesting to find out.

It was really fascinating watching the back-stories for the androids being created. This is way beyond anything in the original film by Michael Crichton, which was basically a western with a sci-fi twist. Here we see how everything works, which will bore some but not me.

Thandie Newton’s character as the whore who is failing at seducing the customers and may be destroyed because of it is the show’s major flaw. I do not understand where they are going with her role and it seems sexist.

Jeffrey Wright’s character is finally coming into focus and he is looking like the protagonist of the show. He has much more scientific curiosity than Hopkins’s character does and we will see if that leads to good or ill. He has a very strong character arc and I have always felt he is an underrated actor. Will he find the redemption he seeks for having lost his son?

Finally, this business about Hopkins’s deceased and more scientifically curious partner Arnold is potentially a barnburner. Why are the androids apparently having conversations with him? Where will this lead? Is Arnold’s hypothesis that the androids can be human correct and, if so, what will the consequences be?

If you can’t tell already, this show has the potential to be much better than “Game of Thrones.” Whereas that show seems to be slickly packaged sex and violence, this one is promising to explore serious moral and scientific issues while still providing lots of sex and violence. For that reason, I am recommending the show to everyone and plan to watch and cover the entire first season. Sexbot fans unite! -CoolAC

westworld3