Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Escape from L.A.

Watched June 8, 2013

Starring: Kurt Russell, Steve Buscemi, Georges Corraface, Stacy Keach, Pam Grier.

After some terrible earthquakes and flooding in the late 1990's, LA breaks off from the continental US and turns into a island. There is a conservative uprising with the the president revoking term limits and the US becomes a extremist conservative state. Instead of like in Escape from New York, where Manhattan island is turned into a penal colony, all sorts of miscreants are now sent to the island of LA. The president's daughter, Utopia (A.J. Langer) while on airforce 3 steals a top secret briefcase and takes it to LA, where she hooks up with Cuervo (Georges Corraface) a radical who want to use it to attack the US. It is now the year 2013, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is once again hired by the government to go in and retrieve, not the president this time, but the briefcase. He is given an 8 hour time limit by infecting him with a secret disease that only they have the antidote to, so he got to hussle before he dies in there. The government plays it like they finally captured Snake and are just dumping him in LA, like they do to everyone who breaks the strict morality code.

 Since this movie was made in the mid-90's, Snake is given a terrible CG single person submarine which he uses to arrive on the island. It's also supposed to be the way he gets off the island once he's done but it falls into the water instead of staying docked on the beach. He immediately meets some surfers, including Peter Fonda and they all know the legend of Snake Plissken. Off he goes on his completely ridiculous mission that is really a serious of strange interactions and battles. Of course my favorite part is Bruce Campbell as the General Plastic Surgeon of LA, who's face is a grotesque mash up of all the common procedures like a super straight nose, naturally killer chin and huge cheek implants.

Everyone is contantly shooting at Snake while recognizing him, but he barely gets a scratch. He meets up with Map to the Stars Eddie (Steve Buscemi) who you think is just trying to help him get around but ends up double crossing him. Snake finds Cuervo but is captured and forced to play basketball for his life. Snake is the first person to win this full court shot challenge, but Cuervo tries to kill him anyway. Snake manages to get the briefcase that contains the micro CD that the president wants back. The micro CD contains the world codes to activate specific satellites that can knock out the power to any country. There is also a world code that would trigger the shut down of the entire world. 

After some more crazy things like hang gliding on the Santa Ana winds and surfing the canyons on an aftershock tsunami, Snake manages to steal a helicopter. He grabs Utopia, the briefcase and makes it to the mainland just in time for the virus they gave him to completely take hold. The virus was a ruse though, it was the run of the mill flu.  The president and his men are waiting there and they retrieve the briefcase and shoot Snake, but Snake was using special holographic technology they had given him to trick them. He then takes the real disc and uses it to shut down the entire world so everyone gets a fresh start. I guess he then had to find a nice tree to hide under as he got over his flu symptoms.

By no means does this movie compare with Escape from New York, but it's some silly fun. The tone is all over the place, with serious stuff tempered by some goofy moments. The soundtrack features then popular hard rock from bands I thought sucked in high school like Stabbing Westward, Gravity Kills, and Tool along with some strange western tinged songs that give it a future western vibe.  The CGI looks terribly dated, but the other special effects hold up pretty well. It is definitely a sequel in repeating the plot of the first but not making a progressive strides to let it stand apart. It was fun to coincidentally watch it in the year that it's supposed to take place, I should keep an eye out for that with more future past movies.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sometimes They Come Back...Again

Watched June 2, 2013

Starring: Michael Gross, Alexis Arquette, Hilary Swank, Jennifer Elise Cox

While I was in Portland a lot of the movies I picked up are sequels, but I feel often it doesn't really matter if you've seen the original to have fun with the sequel. I'll be putting that to the test and hopefully it won't be ruining the VHS movies for me. If anything it should make me want to watch the original since the first one is usually the best. I haven't seen Sometimes They Come Back, but based on some minor IMDB research the future star power seems to reside in the sequel. After watching it, that isn't saying much.

It begins with an old lady washing her dishes basically in the dark. She cuts her hand washing a knife and when she goes to get the band-aids off the very stop shelf she falls off a rickety stool and hits her head on an iron pig. The old woman's son, Jon (Michael Gross) comes with his teen daughter Michelle (Hilary Swank) to take care of the funeral and clean up the house. It turns out that when Jon was a kid, his older sister Lisa started dating a greaser named Tony (Alexis Arquette.) Jon got a bad feeling about Tony, especially since Tony was always taking his sister to a creepy cave/electrical transformer station to make out, and then some. One of those nights, Tony wasn't just making the moves on Lisa, he was performing a ritual using Lisa to turn him and his cronies into immortal demons. Jon interrupted them during their ritual, supposedly killing them through electrocution, but also killing Lisa in the process. Well, now they're back and they need to complete the ritual using Jon's daughter Michelle.

This is where the movie really turned into a bummer for me and made it pretty blah. While explaining what previously happened they also explained what needs to happen, so now I'm just waiting for those things to happen and they do. All the mystery and suspense is taken out of the story. Alexis Arquette plays Tony but it appears that Tony is supposed to have some sort of sex appeal to the young girls in town and he doesn't. This is also before Alexis fully transitioned from living as a man to living as a women. Either way, the casting is kinda off for me if Tony is supposed to be a hunky but sinister guy, but is really just a weird dude. Both Alexis and Hilary do have some huge front teeth, so maybe that's the big attraction.

There are some awesome death scenes, one is the mentally challenged guy who mows everyone lawn is pulled underground by some grass tentacles then run over by his own lawnmower. Jules (Jennifer Elise Cox) is a psychic teen who makes friend with Michelle, but is then Gambit-style cut to death with her own deck of tarot cards. I did hope she was going to make it to the end.

There is a priest in town that was aware of the first time that Jon tried to get rid of the demons, he's the guy that explains the plot to everyone. He also has a great holy book that explains what can be done to stop the demons. In the book there is an illustration of a false prophet needs to cut off a finger, and it shows the tip of a middle finger being chopped off. The priest thinks he's the false prophet and completely cuts off his thumb to try to stop the demon ritual. This doesn't work and the priest dies. Of all the digits you could cut off to stop some demons at bay, why would you choose the thumb? For me that the most important digit to keep, that's what lets us grab things. Then when it finally comes down to it Jon cuts off the exact same thumb, but luckily this time it works and the demons are expelled and Michelle is saved from being a sacrifice. Still, cut off a pinky if you need to cut of a finger is my motto.

The first movie is based on the concept or characters from the Stephen King story Sometimes They Come Back. I could easily see the interest in the first telling of the story, or in the detailed reading of this in story version, it doesn't come across well as a video. The special effects were good especially in a time when CGI was becoming the norm even for straight to video releases like this one. Nonetheless I don't think I'll be keeping this one as part of the permanent collection, it just doesn't have anything endearing that I haven't seen somewhere else.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Watched May 24, 2013

Starring: John Heard, Daniel Stern, Kim Greist, Christopher Curry

Yet another movie that I have stared at the cover a million times in the past and never actually wached. I even had used the term C.H.U.D. when talking about gross people, well I finally got around to watching it and it's a pretty solid horror movie.

George (John Heard) is a photographer who's been doing a story on a group of homeless people that have been living under the streets in abandoned subway tunnels. Just as George is trying to finish up with his photos to give to the journalist he has a hard time tracking down his subjects. A.J. (Daniel Stern) runs a local soup kitchen and he regularly feeds the same group of people who live in the tunnels and also becomes worried when he no longer sees them coming in. One of the homeless tunnel dwelling women is arrested for trying to take a police officer's gun. She is one of George's subjects, so she calls him to bail her out. She tries to explain why she needs the gun, there is something strange happening in the tunnels and she needs it for protection. She's been seeing mysterious monsters in the tunnels and one attacked her husband. George and A.J. become aware that they've been trying to help the same group of people. They go down to the tunnels together and find remnants from EPA testing, like a mysterious boot and a geiger counter. The police don't seem to care much, but George's photos show some disturbing images. Then A.J. sees one of the C.H.U.D.'s (Cannabalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers.)  The C.H.U.D.'s have been eating some of the homeless people that live in the tunnels, but they've also been capturing people off the street. 

George and A.J. find out that there has been toxic waste being improperly dumped into the tunnels for years and that's what's mutated people to create the C.H.U.D.'s They discover that it's all been a coverup by one of the city officials in trying to get rid of waste. He decides to trap anyone and any C.H.U.D. underground and use gas to blow them up. Except George and A.J. are still in the underground tunnels. Lauren (Kim Greist), George's live-in model girlfriend helps them escape from the tunnels before the gas explodes, supposedly killing all the C.H.U.D.'s.

The tunnels that are supposedly underground are pretty well lit, but I have to say that's better than not being to see anything at all. The special effects on the C.H.U.D.'s is great, they have creepy glowing eyes and gross fang teeth. It was very enjoyable and I look forward to keeping it in my collection.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Howling

Watched May 26, 2013

Starring: Dee Wallace, Patrick Macnee, Dennis Dugan, Christopher Stone.

Karen White (Dee Wallace) is a news reporter who has been getting creepy phone calls from a mysterious man for some time. The News channel she works for has set up a sting to lure this guy out, but he'll only meet Karen alone in a peepshow booth. While Karen watches a terrible rape film, the mysterious man appears and freaks Karen out, at the last moment the cops that were supposed to be closely watching Karen show up and shoot the man. They think that they've killed him but later at the morgue they realize his body has disappeared.

Karen is completely traumatized by the event and her near death experience that she can no longer do her news reporting job. She begins to see a therapist Dr. Waggner (Patrick Macnee) who ends up recommending a retreat in the woods to deal with her trauma. Karen takes her gross husband Chris (Dennis Dugan) and his blond mustache along. The retreat is filled with all sorts of weirdos who swear by Dr. Waggner's treatment. Karen spends most of the time during the retreat running around at night and finding strange things like decapitated cows. Chris is lured by a woman at the retreat who turns out the be a werewolf and they have gross werewolf sex. It turns out that the man Karen was trying to capture, Eddie (Robert Picardo) was actually trying to tell her about this den of werewolves, not murder her.  Everyone at the retreat is a werewolf. As Karen escapes with her co-worker who comes to rescue her, she it bitten. At the end she is reading the news again, looking like a human. Onscreen she announces that she has changed into something unbelievable and the whole world sees her transform as it was the only way to let the world know that werewolves are real.

The werewolf special effects are great. It begins really well and is especially terrifying because of the creepy rape film she is shown. I can't say she's the best reporter, but she does try and she defends herself pretty well. Luckily she has some scooby gang co-workers who figure out the werewolf situation while she's at the retreat. There is an amazing occult store in the movie that just happens to have a big box of silver bullets along with all sorts of information on shape shifters. I would shop there in a second if it really existed.

I did pick up the sequel to this movie as well, so we'll have to see what happens in the second one.