Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Iron Men (2006)

Director: Steve Della Casa

Starring: Carlo Verdone, Enrico Lucherini, Carlo Lizzani, Citto Maselli, Rosalba Neri & Mimmo Palmara

More Info: Romancinemafest (including trailer)

Plot: A documentary chronicling the Italian peplum / sword and sandal genre, exploring the rise of the "strong man", the directors and various actresses who would make the genre popular worldwide. Includes interviews with Carlo Verdone, Enrico Lucherini, Carlo Lizzani, Citto Maselli, Rosalba Neri & Mimmo Palmara, and clips of Steve Reeves, Gordon Mitchell, Gordon Scott, Riccardo Freda, Sergio Corbucci, Vittorio Cottafavi and others.

My Rating: 7/10

Would I watch it again? Yeahhhhh

Since I was a kid I've loved the Italian Sword & Sandal epics like HERCULES (1958). They're goofy fun. S&S films typically don't take themselves seriously and they're usually a fun way to piss away an hour and a half on a lazy weekend afternoon. I've got a gazillion of these things and I'm stunned that since I started this blog in October of '07, I haven't watched a single one. So what better way to kick off this genre here than to watch a newly acquired documentary on the subject.

Hellllooooooooooo there!

As a documentary on the Peplum/Sword & Sandal genre, this fails. Why? Well, they do give you a brief history lesson on how these came to be but after the worldwide breakout success of HERCULES in '58 with Steve Reeves, they veer off from the rest of the genre's history and give us some interviews with a few film makers and stars of the genre.

What you end up getting, though, is lots of anecdotes from those where were there as well as a great deal of footage from a documentary/propaganda piece from the late 50s/early 60s and that's it. But what fun that is.

The lowdown on the genre is this. “Sword & Sandal” (or what the Italians called "Peplum") refers to a genre of adventure films dealing largely with ancient Roman & Greek history and mythology. The majority of these films were made between 1958 and 1965 and often featured a muscular male in the lead role. The Italians, known for piggy-backing onto a hit film and exploiting its genre to death, hit the big time in 1958 with the Steve Reeves international blockbuster, HERCULES (LE FATICHE DI ERCOLE). Following its success, the Italian film industry cranked out dozens of these epic-scaled fantasy/action films over the next several years.

Many of these films relied on well-known historical heroes like Hercules to sell their stories. Others included Samson, Goliath, Maciste, Ursus, and Ulysses. Other subjects included biblical epics and that universal staple of excitement, gladiators.

Steve Reeves is certainly the biggest and best-known of this genre's stars. Mark Forest, Mickey Hargitay, Reg Park, Kirk Morris, Brad Harris, Dan Vadis, Gordon Scott, Gordon Mitchell, Reg Lewis, Ed Fury and Alan Steel are a few of the headliners who made names for themselves starring in these oft-silly action films.

IRON MEN is less a documentary than a pastiche of tales from a cinematic era long gone. Don't expect to learn much but if you're a fan of the genre you will enjoy it as a sort of "walk down memory lane". Plus it's funny seeing Steeve Reeves with a shirt on.

Shaolin Soccer (2001)

Director: Stephen Chow

Starring: Stephen Chow

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: Kick some grass!

Plot: A young Shaolin follower reunites with his discouraged brothers to form a soccer team using their martial art skills to their advantage.

My Rating: 8/10

Would I watch it again? Yeah, in like about two weeks!

I remember seeing Chow's KUNG FU HUSTLE during its theatrical release in 2005 and having an absolute blast. It was funny in so many different ways and it was loaded with action with some great kung fu. That was my, like many, introduction to Stephen Chow. I soon heard that SHAOLIN SOCCER had come before it and was even better. It's been 4 years since KFH, and I've forgotten some of it, but I can say that SS is definitely as good or better.

I don't care for sports movies. They've been done to death. A shitty team of misfits or has-beens train to beat their rival in the "big game" and usually win. The kids over at SOUTH PARK nailed it with the 2006, season 10 episode called, 'Stanley's Cup'. Go to and watch it for free. That stale formula kept me from seeing this all these years. HOLYFUCKINGSHIT! What a great movie!!!

It's funny as hell. It's dorky as hell. The CGI is painfully obvious but it doesn't matter. It's got heart without beating you over the head with it. You care about the characters. They're really likable. It covers some of the conventions of underdog sports films but then it does so many different and refreshing things with them that you don't care about it.

DO NOT WATCH THE DUBBED VERSION. I've heard it's horrible in comparison.

I could go on gushing about this all day long. Beware of the Miramax release. It's only 85 minutes. I didn't know this was a cut version. That's the one I watched. The non-Miramax bastards release runs 112 minutes. I'll have my hands on a copy very soon and I will definitely be watching this again, catching every little thing that gets thrown at me and this time, there'll be an extra 27 minutes to savor. I'm sure it'll blow my pants off...again!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (2007)

Director: Jon Knautz

Starring: Robert England, Canadians

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: ...I used to be a plumber

Plot: As a child Jack Brooks witnessed the brutal murder of his family. Now a young man he struggles with a pestering girlfriend, therapy sessions that resolve nothing, and night classes that barely hold his interest. After unleashing an ancient curse, Jack's Professor undergoes a transformation into something not quite human, and Jack is forced to confront some old demons... along with a few new ones.

My Rating: 7

Would I watch it again? You bet, eh!

If you're a fan of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead films, particularly the first two, then you're going to dig this fun Canadian entry into the comedy horror genre, eh.

You want something different? Something that's entertaining, fresh and far away from Hollywood? Here ya go, eh. This thing's pretty damn funny and, for the most part, keeps your attention with some howlingly funny laugh-out-loud moments mixed with blood.

Robert Englund's the only name attached to the picture and he's obviously having a great time. But it's first-time-in-a-feature actor, Trevor Matthews as the title character with anger issues, that steals the show. He's hysterical and nails the part to the back wall. The scene when we first see him with the counselor had me laughing so hard that 2, maybe 3 drops of pee came out. Scout's honor. Fucking hysterical! If you can find clips of this guy going batshit, watch 'em!

"I had to go to fucking Wal-Mart to get a fucking toaster!"

Considering the minuscule budget I assume they were working on, the special effects are really good. And it was cool that there was no CGI. And if I remember right (it's only been a couple of days) there's some fun stop motion animation thrown into the mix. I dig practical effects and it was great to see them used. Yeah, it's a man in a rubber suit but who cares? It's fun and there's plenty of blood and guts for us gore-hounds out there.

Then there's the music. Ryan Shore's score IS REALLY GOOD. In fact, it's too good. It sounds like it should be for a film with four times the budget and action. You'll know what I mean when you see it 'cause I know you're going to rush out and get it now, right? 'Turns out he's the saxophonist for Matchbox 20. Neat.

I'm always hammering on about how so many movies are too long. Well, that's the case here but it's a little different. Usually it seems like a director couldn't excise a scene here and there for the sake of pacing because they're so married to it. Here, I got the feeling that writer/director Jon Knautz let a lot of scenes go on far too long. You know, 15 seconds here, 40 seconds there. It adds up after a while. It's only 85 minutes but it felt like, unless there was something cool or funny to slap back in, it needed a few minutes trimmed to tighten it up. This was most apparent in Englund's scenes. I figure his salary was the most expensive item in the budget and if you've got him you'd better use him. After all, most people will probably watch this only because HE'S in it, right? So rather than trim many of his scenes (and he does get a good deal of screen time, btw) for the sake of the film, let's give this dog his bone. But, hey, what the fuck do I know, right? I'm just a dork sitting here writing about shit that someone else made without my help.

This guy's a hoot. "Oooh. Ten dollars..."

JB:MS is one of those films that comes along without really anything new to add but it gives you a good feeling that there are people out there, new film makers, that have a vision and good ideas that need to be nourished. This is Knautz's first feature film. I'm looking forward to the next one. There is a sequel listed on IMDB with 2010 date but there's no information and no one attached to it. Let's hope Hollywood's not getting involved. Give this guy some more money and let's see what he can do with it because he's proven he's better at than a some A-list directors with $100 million plus. I'm talking to you, Michael Bay.

Lady Snowblood (1973)

Director: Toshiya Fujita

Starring: Meiko Kaji

More Info: IMDB

Plot: Yuki's family is nearly wiped out before she is born due to the machinations of a band of criminals. These criminals kidnap and brutalize her mother but leave her alive. Later her mother ends up in prison with only revenge to keep her alive. She creates an instrument for this revenge by purposefully getting pregnant. Though she dies in childbirth, she makes sure that the child will be raised as an assassin to kill the criminals who destroyed her family. Young Yuki never knows the love of a family but only killing and revenge.

My Rating: 9

Would I watch it again? Is watching a Japanese broad run around for 97 minutes killing folks with a samurai sword hot as hell?

Did you read the plot outline? It's pretty fucked up. This is one of the best of the Pinky Violence (PV may refer to the films set in modern day but I'd still consider it one 'cause it's got a badass chick on a revenge kick to the death) films out there. WOW WOW WOW!

You wanna see where Tarantino got his inspiration for KILL BILL from? Most of it is in this picture. He used the opening song, some dialogue, characters and some shots. But all of that doesn't matter. What matters is that we have this film to view for ourselves and it's a masterpiece.

The plot is so thick with revenge that you can break a knife cutting it. The arterial blood sprays are abundant and the little twists we get are fun, believable and welcome because with each one introduced you know it's going to have to make the film longer. And that's a good thing 'cause I didn't want this one to end. I can't wait to watch the freakin' sequel.

Unlike a lot of these types of films from Japan there's no nudity. No big deal. Just an observation. But they make up for it with tanker trucks full of blood. It's like watching the sun gently rise in the morning over a golf course when suddenly, for as far as you can see, the sprinklers come on and do their work. It gets on the camera, the walls, everywhere. Nice.

Here's a neat little scene where Yuki (Lady Snowblood) removes this cat's hands...

So what that QT stole bits from this. If you watch enough movies you'll see all kinds of things he's borrowed from. At least he's really good at it. I've always heard that if you're going to steal, steal from the best...and of this type of film, it's probably the best of its kind.

Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Director: Nicholas Meyer

Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Ricardo Montalban and all the rest

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: At the end of the universe lies the beginning of vengeance.

Plot: Admiral Kirk's midlife crisis is interrupted by the return of an old enemy looking for revenge and a potentially destructive device.

My Rating: 9.5/10

Would I watch it again? Hell, yeah!

After the snoozefest that was STAR TREK 1: TMP Paramount studios had better have come up with something that MOVED otherwise they would have killed the burgeoning franchise. And boy, oh boy did they come up with something good. We've all seen this. If you haven't, stop breathing. This is one of the absolute best space action movies ever!

James Horner's score is fantastic and it's one of the most played scores in my collection. Having said that, Horner pisses me off to no end on his blatant plagiarism of not only other composers but himself. So you think ST2's music is original? Listen to what he did two years earlier in BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS! (listen to the very end)

That's just the main title. Track down and listen to the soundtrack. It'll make you face hurt because he uses a lot of it in ST2, ST3 and ALIENS to name a few. He's a talented guy, but it's just his talent is thinner than Kate Moss after a nasty bout with the shits.

Jackie Chan over here's got his two tickets for the Gun Show!

Ricardo Montalban and his big 'ole titties!

"He tasks me -- and I'll have him. I'll chase him 'round the moons of Nibia and 'round the Antares maelstrom and 'round perdition's flames before I give him up."

Shatner hasn't been better. There aren't many people like Montalban that can ham it up toe-to-toe with Shatner and he pulls it off beautifully. Everyone else is great. DeForest Kelley gets off lots of great looks and lines. Shatner's emotional buildup to the quintessential moment in the film when he yells, "KHAAAAAAAAN" is fucking priceless.


I still get choked up somethin' fierce when Spock's dying and again when Kirk says at his funeral, "Of my friend, I can only say this: of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most... human." I'm a mess when he trips up just before he says "human." That's right, I'm a space pussy. Like you don't get all teary-eyed when that scene comes on. Screw you.

I remember when I was a kid being devastated seeing Han Solo frozen in EMPIRE and then two years later seeing Spock snuff it. I was an adolescent mess. I got better.


So why a 9.5 and not a solid 10? This is why.

WHAT...THE...FUCK? You don't put current fashion trends in a futuristic movie. In a few years they'll be more dated than Courtney Love during grade school. He's never going to get space laid wearing his sweater like that. Besides, WHO THE FUCK NEEDS A SWEATER IN SPACE?!?!

I watch this probably once every two years or so which isn't often enough. It's just so much fun. Too bad the series went steadily downhill from here. Sigh.