Blastfighter, Lamberto Bava (as John Old Jr.), 1984, USA (Italy)

Blastfighter, Lamberto Bava (as John Old Jr.), 1984, USA (Italy)

When you look at the majority of movies, the titles vary from good to bad, but usually have something to do with the plot, dialog, character names, or even locations. Blastfighter goes way beyond that. It is no spoiler to say that the “blastfighter” is a gun. We are introduced to this special gun about two minutes into the film. After that, we simply wait around for the blastfighter to be put to good use. There is no ambiguity, no baited breath suspense, just somewhat impatient waiting. The problem is that the title of the film IS the film. The plot is essentially Behold Blastfighter, Blast you Blastfighter, and Coup de Blastfighter. Did I just spoil the movie? No. I have only reiterated what the first five minutes will reveal anyhow. So, was Blastfighter any good? Well, in accordance with some random critic that they put on the DVD sleeve, it is “one of the best action movies of the 80’s!” So, there is that. I am unsure of whether that particular critic had seen any other action movie from the 80’s at all, but hey, maybe?

The cinematography is OK. I wasn’t effected by it much good or bad, except for the parts that were a bit too dark, but that only happened during the climax, not during a part that mattered!The directing… Well, riddle me this: Why would a director choose a stage name instead of his/her own name while making “The best film of their career,” in accordance with Quentin Tarantino? I am going to venture to guess that it is because at least in the directors eyes, it was not actually his best work ever! The editing (along with directing) had two big issues. One was that the film seemed to repeat itself thematically over and over. Escaping into the wilderness… Escaping into the wilderness again, oh, and again… Exploding car, exploding car… exploding car… I am not sure how many cars explode in this film, but Michael Bay would be proud! Then the tone. Left alone, the tone was actually relatively even. But if we accidentally think for just one second about it, then it becomes problematic. Consider hootin’ and hollerin’ hillbillies a huntin’ and chillin’. Then consider those same hillbillies hootin’, hollerin’, and huntin’ HUMANS! All the while joking with each other, even after they become the hunted!? There is simply something very very wrong with this idea. Oddly enough, the acting in itself wasn’t completely horrible, in fact, pretty straightforward for the most part. The story was about a good man in various unjust situations. It also involved friends and family and how they all interrelated. It is also a moral dilemma about right and wrong. All of which are big problems for this film because guns (the blastfighter) don’t care about any of that! They just want to be used in spectacular fashion. Ultimately that is precisely where the movie goes wrong. The audience simply wants to see the real main character, “The Blastfighter,” in action. All the rest is sort of dull and frankly a bit off color. This is a bad movie with a couple of half interesting moments. Thus I rate this film 1 ½ stars for being just over the truly bad line and in that questionable zone in between.

This movie is quite non-sexual. There is an interrupted rape scene, interrupted way before anything exploitative happens, and there is a killing of a woman in lingerie that seems to be the requisite; Subparagraph C: All Italian films of the 80’s must have at least one killing of a woman in some sort of lingerie in order to be considered in the group “Italian movies from the 80’s.” Other than that, mainly a bunch of dudes running around in the woods shootin’ stuff! 0 on the kink scale.

Space Mutiny, David Winters and Neal Sundstrom, 1988, South Africa (USA).

Space Mutiny, David Winters and Neal Sundstrom, 1988, South Africa (USA).

Hmm. Well, I figured I had just sat through one of the all time greats, the best way to counteract such a feat would be to sit through one of the all time (so called) worse movies ever made. But there is a fly in the ointment here, this is supremely entertaining precisely because of its poor production values. This movie is so bad on so many levels that it boggles the mind. This movie recalls all those oxymorons that don’t fit anywhere else, such as horribly awesome or terribly great. Maybe my favorite thing about this movie is it doesn’t try to be bad, it just is.

The cinematography is OK, but the sets and the effects are head scratching. Many people remarked on the “bad” special effects, but I counter with the idea that there may not have been enough special effects. When people are “blown up,” and fall by doing choreographed (step 1, step 2, step 3) jumps they should have maybe skewed the camera or I don’t know… used some special effect or something? How then does such bad special effect work make me want to show all my friends the “space cart” chase scenes? The movie uses two directors, and they are likely fast friends, because I get the feeling they went out drinking a lot and never quite got sober enough to figure out what they were doing during the production. The editing… I mean there was an editor I think? Surely someone was “on call” if anything seemed to need editing… Someone had to edit here and there in order to mess up the editing, so there is that… I thought that maybe the acting was OK and the screenplay was bad, or maybe the acting wasn’t so good and the screenplay wasn’t so good either, but most likely the acting was really bad and the screenplay was really bad as well. The basic “main” storyline was simple and actually didn’t leave too much in question. Everything around the main story was convoluted, made little or no sense, and I just don’t know about that? This movie has earned one of my awards. This film holds a special place of honor for me in the category “Worst movies that I will most certainly watch again.” I have a running list of films that may be great, or at least superb, that I cannot bear to watch again as they are just too painful for one reason or another, but I never thought I might wish or feel compelled to make a list of bad movies that I can’t wait to see again, or go so far as to show my friends or recommend?. So, with an honorary award, I rate this film 1 star for being really really bad. I should give it even less, but it is just too damn fun.

The future… Yep. For some reason the future holds a high place for leotards and form fitting clothing. Many movies seem to indicate that in the future this sort of eye candy is just a matter of course. Now I, for one, would be pretty much OK with that, so yay future! Aside from that there is the “pilot” who is a beefcake type dude, and the random party scenes taken out of 80’s workout videos! If you are really really kinky, there are frozen dudes in speedos in one scene, which explains the recruiting process of the bad guys… And there is the witch ladies that do like rituals and stuff all the while in bodysuits with generous chunks missing… and seem to do some sort of psyonic seduction stuff. There is some vanilla “love making” scenes and a check out my ass scene that causes one to ponder tastefulness. Ah, such is the nature of the license a bad film has… I will go with 1 ½ on the kink scale.

8 ½, Federico Fellini, 1963, Italy.

8 ½, Federico Fellini, 1963, Italy.
When I was younger I was a cyclist. I rode every day for over 20 years, with the occasional break for snow and sickness. As a consequence, I was quite fit, in fact very fit indeed. I rode with quite good riders with a couple of local “pros” and one who actually was on a Belgian professional team. I was not the fastest or best, but not for lack of skill or fitness. It comes down to genetic makeup, and how our bodies respond to high levels of lactic acid. So maybe my legs are a bit short and I didn’t have quite the right ratio of fast and slow twitch muscle fibers to be a professional. In pseudo medical terms, when my heart-rate was maxed out, the local pros had a bit more to give, the Belgian racer had one more internal “gear,” so he blew everybody away, and the professionals that ride (for instance) in the Tour de France have yet another gear over him! So when we watch bicycle races on TV or even real life, and imagine we could do that maybe (given time to be fit like that etc. ) we may actually be incorrect. We would have to have the requisite body genetics first. It is no wonder why cycling is rife with drug abuse as this genetic issue cannot be “made up!” It is simply a gift, and when used well, it creates a bit of magic.
Why start a film review with this diatribe on cyclist fitness levels? Well, it is appropriate here. It is likely true that people who would bother to read film reviews like this one are also likely to at the very least fantasize about making their own films. Some do make films, and some will. But just like the cyclist watching the Tour de France, it is an illusion to imagine we can make a film like this. The word “Masterwork” is overused in our culture today, more of a marketers pipe dream then a reality most of the time. Yet here, it is the only proper word to use to describe it. This is a masterwork from Federico Fellini. It is so exquisite in its detail and complexity as to be nearly impossible to grasp. I want everyone who reads this to imagine being given the task to write the screenplay for this movie. Where do you even begin? How do you even write a treatment on this film? And we can cheat, it is already done! I don’t imagine too many filmmakers, even given the genetic structure to do it, would have the nerve to pitch this idea today… That is sad actually.
So lets talk about this movie.
This movie is said to be “The greatest film about films ever made.” (From the Criterion cover) and maybe it is, but it isn’t really about film after all, but about life and all its complexities.
I was more than a bit intimidated by its 138 minute run time and left it on the shelf for a long time because of it. When I watched it I found it to be not nearly that long mentally, although it does run that time on the clock. Perhaps it is because the first thing I noted was how it is made up of a thousand small stories with “payoffs” coming within a few scenes, as opposed to (just say) a mystery movie that gives the clues throughout the story until the final reveal which is its only payoff. There is a flow to it that you find yourself following along, and caring to continue. I found a rather profound irony in that I was beginning to wonder how it was going to end, as the counter was getting up there and I couldn’t imagine a resolution. It suddenly occurred to me that that was precisely the main characters problem as well, among a myriad of others! It wasn’t some sort of gimmick, it just naturally puts you there, worried for the film within the film and the film itself. The film is a blend of fantasy and reality, with the reality often played as farcical melodrama.Yet, even in the fantasy sequences, it is so poignant that at times it is as true to life as any moment we will ever see. There is a religious element that is a good example of this. The film calls it an “Italian catholic consciousness.” and plays it out (in part) as a melodramatic form of flashback dream and yet it touches on truths of catholic consciousness that certainly cross the Italian border!
The cinematography is clear and crisp, camera movements and any effects used efficiently and when necessary, you don’t really think much on it actually. So while this is good in a “not at all irritating” way, on the whole it doesn’t blow you away with visual beauty. (With strong exceptions!). The direction is master class and the editing keeps the story pacing well, tonal values in check, and it flows more or less in a linear way. The acting is compelling, yet somewhat hard to define as the surreal and the real seem to blend and flow at times so you may be thinking something is melodramatic yet it is sensible for the scene. The most basic storyline is easy to follow, but it is a bit player to the multiple small story lines throughout, it is a true privlidge and delight to see this film… Is there anything to complain about? Well, there is something that I would pick on, if only because I have been picked on for it so many times: When I write essays or term papers and the like, they usually have great ambition. So while many are struggling to find that 1500th word, I am struggling to figure out how to condense it a bit, maybe use single space instead of double to make it seem a bit shorter… So I have been told that I should keep it a bit less ambitious, no need to write a book. This movie touches on so many things on so many levels that even though it is done remarkably well, it is really really ambitious! It probably would still have a similarly deep impact had it been done more simply… although we will never know and frankly, we are probably better off for it. I am going to rate this movie 4 stars because it deserves and earns it. I don’t know if on a highly personal level it reaches quite there, maybe three and a half, but I am trying to keep my ratings objective.
This movie has plenty of women in various states of dress and undress, and it does explore many aspects of sexual dynamics between men and women, yet it isn’t out to exploit or give any cheap thrills. I suppose there are scenes, and both male and female actresses, that are easy on the eyes, and there is not that “Hollywood” mysterious absence of sexuality which is a thorn in my side… There are some lovely filmed scenes that are worth seeing. I will go with a 1 ½ on the kink scale

Snow Sharks, Scott Wheeler, 2013, USA.

Snow Sharks, Scott Wheeler, 2013, USA.
Having managed to choke down Sand Sharks, I felt that there are a couple other “sharks in uncommon waters” movies that I aught to see. Probably not my best idea ever. Imagine if there existed a plausibility chart for movie plots that are not even remotely plausible. The base starting point would simply be “implausible.” The other end of the scale is something hard to explain in words, like building your castle on sand, then building an entire city on top of that. This film, for example, could have easily started with someone thinking up the idea; “What if we had some hot chick in a bikini suddenly eaten by a shark… in the snow!?” All they have to do is come up with a reason for the shark to be in a snowy mountain range… and a hot chick in a bikini also in the snowy mountains for some reason… and they settled for a plot-point that is so far off the charts that it wouldn’t work as a graphic novel story. The implausible/ improbable part isn’t that sharks are in the snow, after all it is frozen water! Or even that the filmmakers went for the Indian spirit vengence theme, which has some underlying probability for many spiritual people. Thus while mildly implausible, it does not go without acceptance. But… they stepped off the reservation when the spirit gods conjured up not some great wolf or bear demon, not even some elk with sharpened hooves demon, or a really really evil squirrel, all of which could easily dwell in such woodlands (and actually be familiar to the Indian gods!) NO. The filmmakers went with sharks. Back in the day (when slaughtering Indian tribes was still the “in” thing to do) It was fairly unlikely that the Indians were heading off to the coast for a bit of sea, sun and sand, so we have to go as far as to assume most of the tribe (or even more so the spirit gods of the mountains) would not actually know what a shark was or looked like, or perhaps even have a conceptual idea of a shark really. None the less by now most are saying “Yeah, but the movie is about sharks, not enchanted woodland creatures.” Right. But the sharks aren’t the problem. The whole Indian spirit god thing is the problem. I suppose IF you wanted Indian spirit gods (of the mountains!) in your movie then they should generally not take the form of sharks or even hardcore mean spirited blue whales.
Ok. So how to resolve the plot “problem?” I might imagine some elaborate marine life aquarium in the mountains where the underfed angry sharks breech the wall of the pool they are in and learn how to swim through the snow, grab a bite to eat, and head back to the pool, no muss, no fuss! [MY IDEA FIRST, I got dibbs on it!]
If you don’t like my mountainside aquarium idea, how about a super secret government shark experiment developing cold weather sharks that breath on land, but have to have water like substances to “swim” in? A super secret plane crashes super secretly and releases some of the experimental sharks into the mountainside where they happily swim around in the snow seeking out fresh meat and having super secret experimental shark babies? Yeah, as completely whacked as my two ideas are, both are somehow more sensible then the Indian spirit god conjured killer shark thing! Anyhooo…
The cinematography is decent, although spotty with some lighting issues here and there, and with some “Baywatch” moments, those scenes that just sort of show up that have nothing to do with the actual plot but show something “interesting.” The special effects are both quite nice and completely bogus. It doesn’t really matter as the whole film has such an impossible suspension of disbelief element (the plausibility chart). I had a problem with the directing in that the characters change roles, with the “good guys” doing some bad things (like a good guy punching a girl in the face?) and the bad guys doing the right thing (Why didn’t you tell me there was this problem? (as if he would not have been morally corrupt the whole movie!)) Then there is the always irritating disappearing character element, where certain characters just disappear from the film after a while so who knows what happened to them? The characters themselves, as the actors portray them, are often mildly creepy (in a date rapey sort of way), with a hint of dipshit. They didn’t really have much to work with, but its not a good resume film anyway. The story is bad, done lower middling, with a side order of “its a movie called Snow Sharks! What did you expect?” So mixed all together, it is pretty awful. If I give it half a star it would indicates that it is so bad that nobody should ever see it, which is almost a tad unfair… because it has tiny moments of relative interest, and it is not intended to be serious from the get go. I will give this film 1 star for being as bad as bad can be without slipping into utter oblivion!
I like looking at girls in bikinis. There are actually a few girls in bikinis and various other form fitting outfits. However, unlike most spring break type movies, that promise in dialog, trailer, and cover art to have some sort of bikini contest or extended “Baywatch” eye candy moments, this movie has none. (The Baywatch moment has to do with snowmobile racing) It has a few really quick snippets of eye candy (yes, even for the girls!) but just doesn’t live up to the bikini contest hardcore spring break thing. Gotta go with being somewhat disappointed with that. ½ on the kink scale for just too little to go around to quite capture our attention.

Sand Sharks, Mark Atkins, 2011, USA.

 

Sand Sharks, Mark Atkins, 2011, USA.

Just for a second here I need to clamor up on my soapbox… OK. For all of you who poo poo’d this film and gave it really bad reviews while ripping it apart; This is a movie called SAND SHARKS! The cover art features a hot chick with bad special effects blood smeared on her as she stands waiting to be apparently eaten by a giant shark swimming at her through the sand… WTF did you expect!? OK. Coming down now. I have stated at length in other reviews here that not all films were destined to be four star material from the start. Some movies, like this one, are clearly made to be fun, tongue in cheek, and deliberately cheesy. I am as gullible as they get under normal everyday circumstances, but even I get the idea this wasn’t going to be JAWS for the 2010’s. Anyway, it is pretty much the best movie ever made regarding prehistoric man eating sharks that live in the sand, so there is something! The cinematography is generally good, with more or less bad special effects. The directing was linear, with a head scratching back story that may or may not have made much sense. It didn’t really have to make sense and perhaps we were done a favor as the pace was not hurt by a very typical phenomenon which is; Many movies (that take themselves more seriously) spend too long on backstory before getting to the “good stuff.” Perhaps “good stuff” is a bit of a stretch here anyway… The acting was spotty, with normal moments peppered with silliness and purpose built melodrama. I don’t think the actors are actually bad or amateurish, just in a silly movie. The story was so unbelievable that we automatically suspend our disbelief and just go with it. Bonus for the dialog about someones brother “still making those stupid shark movies?” I love when movies that know they are bad simply admit it on screen! So while I can’t exactly recommend this film to anyone in particular, or anyone not particular, but I may accept that it is so bad that it is OK. Thus instead of a one star straight up bad, I will give it a 1 ½ star not for everyone (kind of bad).

One might assume that there would be lots of eye candy or cheap exploitative thrills to be found in a movie called Sand Sharks. While there is indeed some eye candy, it never ventures past rated G stuff, although that in itself is not particularly bad. There is sexual innuendo in the dialog here and there, and it is fairly adult oriented. The problem here is that a movie of this (rather low) caliber should thrive on the exploitation, it is one of the essential elements of B movies. Because it does not, it will never become a cult classic. Roger Corman made B movies in the “old days,” and carefully mixed bits of sleaze, raunch, and exploitation in B movie plot-lines, with the result of many of his films becoming cult classics. Think of it this way, a couple of friends are talking and one asks if the other if Sand Sharks was any good? The answer would likely be “not really.” And that would be the end of it right there. Those B movies that push the taste barrier in some sexual way may get the response “not really,” followed by a “but, you should see the scene where…” That moment… that extra thought, is precisely what makes the difference between cult status and forgotten. The best part about this thought is that there are many people who would disagree, perhaps even as they are backing up their hard drives and transferring all those Baywatch episodes, of course because the “plots” are so compelling! Anyhow, back to this film. The sexuality was not a complete no show, but not much of a show in the end. I am going to knock a half star off the kink score because I think it could easily have thrown in a bit more, to the point of thinking it had to work hard not to! ½ on the kink scale.

 

A Dangerous Method, David Cronenberg, 2011, Canada.

 

A Dangerous Method, David Cronenberg, 2011, Canada.

There is a lot to be said about this movie. The hard thing is that those things come from all around the spectrum. For example, while it is certainly a mature film, it is of the grown up cerebral type, not the sexual or violent, which will divide the hardcore David Cronenberg fans. It has also been called a thriller, yet this film lacks both the suspense and the action, thus misses the mark completely. I don’t think that the director intended this to be a thriller, and blame the marketing people for pushing that agenda. The movie actually is a biographical drama. My personal problem with it is that it is only a snippet of a very interesting persons life, like if it were about a sports hero and only covered the events leading up to and throughout one particular game. Ultimately it is a deep and quiet character study which my mind found compelling, yet I know way too many film fans that will likely find it boring.

The cinematography is well lit and clear with no quirky camera tricks, with only a bit of CGI background stuff, as it didn’t need much in the way of special effects. The acting is quite good, having a little knowledge of both the “real life” characters of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud the main male roles seemed to play very sensibly and likely true to the real people. This is by far David Cronenberg’s most down to earth and straightforward work. No veering off the reservation in this film. Honestly, I think it would actually be funny if someone were to see this film first in the David Cronenberg library, then start watching Videodrome or Shivers, hell, even A History of Violence… Yeah, thats gonna leave a mark! (SO for those of you paying attention, if you have NOT seen other David Cronenberg films, Dead Ringers may not be a film to watch with Grandma!). The film is very consistent in tone and pace, and while I really do believe some will tune out due to the academic story-line, others will find it quite interesting. To reiterate, my only problem was that it only really spoke of a small (albeit important!) part of Carl Jung’s life. If someone watches this film as THE story of his life it would be a huge disservice to a remarkable human being. However, it is extremely well done and interesting for that bit of his biographical life. I am also quite aware that it is a movie, not a mini series and could not be 17 hours long! I rate this film 3 stars because it is surely good. I do think a few “normal” Cronenberg fans, and a large number of “Where are the superheros and explosions?” crowd will underrate it. Yet, if it could have shown a bit more of why Carl Jung remains famous on his own accord I may have rated it even higher!

Before all of you hardcore David Cronenberg fans lament the loss of his brand of weird, while this film does remain viewable to those with somewhat weakened constitution, it is none the less NOT void of anything interesting to the more “specialized interest” crowd. There is a couple of rather explicit sex scenes (with Keira Knightley!) being spanked, one with her tied doggy style to a bed while being spanked with a belt! All tastefully done in only a way David Cronenberg could do it! Much of the film’s dialog is academically sexual, considering it features Sigmund Freud, and revisits some interesting questions about human sexuality and fidelity in general. I give this film 2 on the kink scale.

 

Un Chien Andalou, Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali, 1929, France. (some strong language!)

Un Chien Andalou, Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali, 1929, France. (some strong language!)

Every once and a while I will see a movie that is so rich in symbolism and insanity that I am profoundly affected. This short film is certainly rich in both symbolism and insanity, but the affect was more… Well, I wouldn’t be surprised if the dubious American expression “What the Fuck?” wasn’t coined soon after this films American release. More or less the whole time I was watching I was thinking things like “Whaaat the fuuuck is with the meat pianos?” and “Whaaat the fuuuck is with the arm pit hair mouth?” To make matters much much more interesting, or disturbing in equal doses, would be how or why this particular film has become an absolute must in the academic/critical film world. It is actually one of the most famous bits of film ever committed to celluloid. What the Fuck indeed… Now the actual filmmakers, both Bunuel and Dali considered this to be way out of control and an experiment in the absurd. How or why it was so well received was beyond them, and even disappointed Salvador Dali because it didn’t cause a riot! The great thing about a film like this is it really allows me to have some glee in the knowledge that there are many people throughout the years that felt it did actually have profound meaning and deep rich symbolism, while the filmmakers intended it to be absurdist. I like to call this phenomenon “Growing its own legs.” So they made this nonsensical film, and it has managed to grow its own legs well beyond any conceivable measure.

The cinematography is certainly ambitious, with special effects that are both excellent and some that are hokey. The film is a bit too bizarre to really “rate” the editing and directing. The acting is as strange as the rest of the film, varying between creepy and camp with varying states of kinda normal inbetween. The story is sort of a love triangle thing with taboo and denial mixed in, perhaps a tragedy or an insane drama of sorts. I guess it is really up to the viewer. Now some people will eat this up like candy, loving the weirdness and the surrealism straight from the minds of true masters… Some will be so deeply offended by the utter insanity on display that they will risk breaking their own TV screens throwing stuff at the film. I kind of felt like perhaps there are some interesting things within the film, symbolism and camera tricks to note, even just to say “OK, been there, done that,” has a bit of a satisfying affect. I can’t recommend it but I can’t dismiss it either, so I will rate this film 2 stars. It is just short enough to not get bored with, and just too weird to really connect with.

One of the interesting things about this film is that it was full of sexual symbolism. There are crossdressing scenes, S&M themed scenes, near sexual assaults, groping complete with nudity, religious denial… Even Salvador Dali as a priest! I don’t even know what to say about the missing mouth that gets armpit hair?! I will give this film an honorary 2 on the kink scale, but its pretty damn strange!