Archive for the Hot Chick Movies Category

SPRING BREAKERS (2013)

Posted in 2013, All-Star Casts, Bikini Girls, Compelling Cinema, Controverisal Films, Crime Films, Exploitation Films, Femme Fatales, Gangsters!, Hot Chick Movies, Independent Cinema, James Franco, Just Plain Fun, LL Soares Reviews, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , , , , on March 26, 2013 by knifefighter

SPRING BREAKERS (2013)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

Spring-Breakers-International-Movie-Poster

If you think this is going to be just another Spring Break teen sex comedy, then you are in for a surprise. SPRING BREAKERS is another kind of animal altogether, and it’s the kind of pop/art hybrid that will be playing at your local arthouse theater, as well as the nearby multiplex. The arthouse crowd will have some idea what they’re in for, as soon as they see the director’s name, Harmony Korine. The multiplex audience will have no clue, and might just get their heads blown.

So who is Harmoney Korine, you ask? Well, when he was 19, he wrote the screenplay for the movie KIDS (1995), still probably the most notorious project he’s been associated with. But he went on to become a director in his own right, with weirdo masterpieces under his belt like 1997’s GUMMO and 1999’s JULIEN DONKEY-BOY, two movies that will seriously screw with your head. The last movie of his I saw in a theater was 2007’s MISTER LONELY, which is about a Michael Jackson impersonator who goes to live on an island populated by nothing but celebrity impersonators, and there’s Werner Herzog as a skydiving priest. I think there were five people in the audience when I saw it. In contrast, the theater was pretty packed when I saw SPRING BREAKERS.

SPRING BREAKERS is an underground film with above-ground stars, and what an interesting collection of celebs we have.

The movie begins with four girls wanting to go to Spring Break and escape from their boring lives as hard-working college students, but they don’t have enough money for the trip. Fed up with being deprived of fun, Candy (Vanessa Hudgens, who your kids might know from Disney fare like 2006’s HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL and the TV series THE SUITE LIFE OF ZACK AND CODY), Brit (Ashley Benson, currently playing Hanna on the ABC FAMILY series PRETTY LITTLE LIARS)  and Cotty (Rachel Korine, who also happens to be Mrs. Harmony Korine, and who was in the previously mentioned MISTER LONELY, among other films), decide they are going to Florida for the time of their lives, no matter what. So they don some ski masks and rob the local chicken shack, armed with a realistic looking water pistol and a heavy duty hammer. They get enough money for the trip, and bring their virginal friend Faith (Selena Gomez, another Disney star, from the series THE WIZARDS OF WAVERLY PLACE) along for the ride. Faith is sweet and religious and doesn’t seem like the other girls at all, but she goes along for the ride, even after she finds out how they got the money.

Once in sunny Florida, the girls go wild, and then some, everyone but Faith, who has some naïve idea of this being a chance to bond with her girlfriends, when the others are just thinking about drugs and sex and booze.

The stars of SPRING BREAKERS (from left to rigth) Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine and Vanessa Hudgens (standing). Behind them, James Franco.

The stars of SPRING BREAKERS (from left to rigth) Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine and Vanessa Hudgens (standing). Behind them, James Franco.

When a particularly out-of-control party they are at gets busted by the cops, the girls end up in jail. Without money for bail, they are rescued by a rapper, drug dealer, and gun hoarder named Alien (James Franco, who we saw just a couple of weeks ago as OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL). With his corn rows, tattoos and mouth grille, Franco is a force of nature here, and steals every scene he is in.

Alien (“My real name is Al, but I’m out of this world”) is so much the polar opposite of OZ that it’s amazing this is the same guy, and yet Franco works his magic without having to try. Just what does he want in return for springing these cute college girls from the hoosegow? Well, Faith gets so scared thinking about that one that she takes the next bus home (no big loss, since she was the least interesting girl anyway), and the other three find that chicken shack robbery to be just the start of their life of crime, as they take part in a violent crime spree, this time with Alien leading the way.

SPRING BREAKERS is chock full of bikinis, bongs and guns. There’s also lots of Spring Break nudity (although  Rachel Korine is the only one of the main girls to really let it all hang out), and violence. So if you go into the theater expecting to just see some typical drunken behavior, you’re going to be in for a surprise.

Korine’s direction (he also wrote the screenplay) is all quirky and cool, shooting some scenes in slow-motion with musical accompaniment by Skrillex (along with Cliff Martinez, they did the soundtrack). Mainstream audiences might be scratching their heads by the time the end credits roll, but I was completely hypnotized by this one. As a long time Korine fan, I would have seen this one anyway, but the added pleasure of a rip-roaring, bigger than life James Franco, and good performances by the girls, just multiplies the pleasures.

spring-breakers-movie-poster

The girls turn in good performances. I really liked Rachel Korine a lot  as Cotty, the most uninhibited one of the group, and Ashley Benson and Vanessa Hudgens turn in super-intense performances as the two most violent ones, a dynamic duo who even scare Franco in one scene. (Hudgens may have gained fame on the Disney Channel, but she was also in the controversial movie THIRTEEN in 2003 and was in the slightly edgy but ultimately disappointing SUCKER PUNCH in 2011. So she’s not completely new to this “edgy” thing.  As for Benson, she’s my favorite of the female leads here, hands down).

By the time Alien starts taking the girls on missions to rob other college kids at gunpoint (and a wedding!), and Alien’s arch-enemy Archie (Gucci Mane) feels he needs to put Alien in his place and starts some violence that needs payback, we have reached the point of no return, and the drunken parties have become a faint memory, replaced by the barrel of an AK-47.

One especially fun (and demented) scene features the three bad girls in pink ski masks singing along with Alien (who is playing piano beside his swimming pool) as they do a group rendition of Britney Spears’ song “Everytime.”

If the Disney girls climbed aboard this project to change their images, they succeeded,  and Harmony Korine succeeded in churning out his first potential hit with mainstream audiences since he wrote KIDS back in the 90s. And like KIDSSPRING BREAKERS will probably seem like a horror flick to some parents (especially of daughters), a nightmare about what could happen during those Spring Break vacations.

SPRING BREAKERS is big and loud and out of control. And I found myself really digging it. In fact, this might just be my favorite movie of 2013 so far.

I give it three and a half knives.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives SPRING BREAKERS ~three and a half knives.

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UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING

Posted in 2012, 3-D, Cinema Knife Fights, Hot Chick Movies, Just Plain Bad, Vampires, Werewolves with tags , , , , , on January 23, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING (2012)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(The Scene: An Expo inside a huge conference building, demonstrating the latest in 3D technology. The room is full to capacity.)

LEAD ENGINEER: Ladies and gentlemen, prepare yourself to be wowed. This is truly a historic day. I present to you the newest phase in 3D entertainment. Watch. (Points towards movie screen behind him. Aims remote control device at his laptop.)

(Voice from behind the screen—a man crying out— “Get away from there! What are you doing? Wait— no. No! NO!!!)

(A screaming man bursts through the screen, obviously having been thrown against his will. The audience gasps, and the man lands in the lap of a beautiful woman in the first row. The man quickly stops screaming.)

(L.L. SOARES and MICHAEL ARRUDA step through the huge rip in the screen, dragging a wheeled cart full of cream pies, which they promptly throw at the LEAD ENGINEER and his associates.)

L.L. SOARES (to audience): Yep, folks, the latest in 3D technology! So life-like you’ll swear it’s real! Impressive, ain’t it?

MICHAEL ARRUDA (to audience): Aren’t you glad you’re finding this out now, before you have to shell out the big bucks at the movies?

LEAD ENGINEER (wiping cream pie from his face): Not funny!

MA: Neither is paying extra for 3D.

LS: Stop ripping us off!

(Audience applauds)

MA: Nicely said. Let’s go review our movie. (They leave Expo and head out onto the street.)

LS: I’m surprised you didn’t pick some futuristic setting of our review of today’s movie, UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING (2012).

MA: That was one of the problems I had with the movie. The setting wasn’t all that vivid. In fact, I hardly remember it. These city streets will suit us just fine.

So, today we’re reviewing UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING, the fourth movie in the UNDERWORLD sa—series, (Yikes, I almost said “saga.”) chronicling the latest adventures of the vampire warrior Selene (Kate Beckinsale), as she continues her fight against both werewolves and humans.

When this one begins, Selene has been frozen inside a huge laboratory in a state of suspended animation for the past twelve years. She’s being studied by a group of scientists led by Dr. Jacob Lane (Stephen Rea). Of course, if she were to remain in a frozen state, we wouldn’t have a movie, and so she awakens, kills a bunch of humans, and promptly escapes.

LS: Actually, this one begins with a future where humans have finally discovered that werewolves and vampires exist after the first three movies, and have been steadily exterminating them. So the vampires fight the werewolves, and both of them fight the humans armed with “ultra-violet and silver” weapons. Then it goes into the whole “suspended animation” storyline.

MA: So, yes, even after 12 years of suspended animation, Selene wakes up to find that the secret battle between vampires and werewolves is still going on, even though the humans deny they still exist. Secret battle? These creatures have been battling for centuries and humans have never seen them until now? That’s because, in this series, humans must be blind. Carnage is everywhere, but no one notices anything.

(In an alley behind them, a werewolf mauls a screaming man, unnoticed by MA & LS.)

Anyway, the plot point in this movie is Selene discovers she has a daughter, Eve (India Eisley), a vampire/werewolf hybrid, who also escaped from Dr. Lane’s lab. In fact, it was Eve who awakened Selene from her frozen beauty sleep. Selene must protect her hybrid daughter from werewolves who want to kill her, humans who want to study her, and other vampires who want to give her up to get the werewolves and humans off their backs. What’s a vampire mom to do? Well, this vampire mom’s answer to everything is to shoot everybody in her way, which is entertaining for about one or two action scenes, but for an entire movie? I don’t think so.

I didn’t like UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING at all. To be honest, I’m amazed that an action movie can be this boring. I mean, we’re rivaling TWILIGHT boredom here. I know why that series is boring. Nothing happens in it. But here, we have a lot of action scenes, so how can that be dull?

LS: I was wondering that myself. This movie is about 90% action, and yet I still had to pinch myself a few times to stay awake. What is your theory, oh Jedi?

MA: I think it’s because the actions scenes aren’t imaginative. There’s nothing cinematic about them. As I watch Selene battle werewolves and men in body armor, I feel as if I’m watching a video game. That gets old real fast.

LS: I don’t know what it is. I normally love vampires and werewolves. But in these movies, I just couldn’t care less. Here are a few signs I noticed about when a movie with vampires and werewolves suck:

1)      When the vampires and werewolves are rival gangs always fighting each other. Whenever you see this in a movie, run. It means there’s no horror aspect involved and what you’re watching is just a glorified gang movie, and not necessarily a good one. (And just guess who the “Bloods “are in this gang war?)

MA: I agree. I’ve yet to see a vampire gang vs. werewolf gang storyline I haven’t hated.

LS: 2) Whenever you see a movie where werewolves are referred to as “Lycans,” run the other way. They do this in the TWILIGHT SAGA too. It’s become a trendy nickname for werewolves in all of the worst movies. Obviously short for lycanthropes, the first time I remember hearing it was back when role-playing games were all the rage. And that’s part of the problem. As you noted, these kinds of movies seem more like video games than movies. Screw lame-ass Lycans – I want my werewolves back!

MA: The movie also tells a boring story. The whole rival gang thing again. Vampires vs. werewolves vs. humans. Who cares!

(A vampire and a werewolf step out in front of MA & LS.)

VAMPIRE: We care!

WEREWOLF: Why don’t you care? Audiences love vampires and werewolves! What the hell is wrong with you guys?

MA: That’s a big part of the problem. Vampires and werewolves make up so much of movie history. You guys have a lot to live up to, and you’re just not doing it.

WEREWOLF: Why not?

LS (to WEREWOLF): Part of the problem is you look like a 3D Scooby Doo, you goober!

WEREWOLF: Hey! I thought we looked scary in this movie.

LS: Well, at least you’re not just oversized animated wolves like in the TWILIGHT movies. At least you look like a cross between wolf and human – the way friggin werewolves SHOULD look. But you’re still pretty hokey and not very scary-looking. Let’s face it, in the UNDERWORLD movies, the werewolves still look incredibly fake.

MA: A bigger part is your writers aren’t giving you anything memorable to do, other than fight, fight, and fight. Yawn!

VAMPIRE: How sad.

LS: Now get out of our way. We have a movie to review. (Vampire and werewolf sadly walk away, hanging their heads in shame.)

MA: As I was saying, it’s a boring story. If you’re going to tell a story about these creatures, can you at least make it interesting? Give us some memorable characters, some decent motivations, something that will enable the movie to make an impression.

LS: Which brings to mind the HBO series TRUE BLOOD. This show is also about vampires and werewolves (and lots of other supernatural creatures), and yet it doesn’t suck. Why? Well, a big part of it is that we have memorable characters. We have believable motivations. We have three-dimensional people here, who we care about. TRUE BLOOD is the exact opposite of crap like TWILIGHT and the UNDERWORLD movies.

MA: What do we know about Selene? She likes to kill. She was in love with a werewolf hybrid. She has a daughter who she fights to protect. Okay, this isn’t bad. We know a little bit about her, but it’s not enough to make her interesting. Why does she like to kill? Is she sadistic? Wronged? She’s fighting to protect her daughter. Why? Because that’s what all mothers do? She seems pretty happy running around blowing away werewolves and humans with guns. Why would she want a teenage girl following her around?

LS: Her motivations are clearer if you’ve seen the other movies, but not by much. For me, the worst aspect of the UNDERWORLD films is that I like Kate Beckinsdale a lot. She first caught my eye back in 1998 in Whit Stillman’s indie drama, THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO. I think she’s hot as hell. I think she’s a good actress. The idea of her being the star of a horror movie should fill me with joy. But it doesn’t. Because these movies are so damn AWFUL. There’s just something about poor Kate that doesn’t work in horror movies. Remember, she was also in the 2004 special effects crapfest, VAN HELSING (which you just know would have been a 3D crapfest if it came out today). Wait, let me rephrase that. For some reason, there’s something about Kate that doesn’t work in BAD horror movies, and unfortunately that’s the only kind she gets to star in. And as long as the UNDERWORLD movies continue to rake in the dough, that’s not going to change anytime soon.

Kate Beckinsdale could easily have been one of my favorite actresses. She’s the complete package. But her movie choices have been abysmal. And every time I see an UNDERWORLD movie, I curse the direction her career has gone in.

MA: Wow, you must really like her.

LS (wipes a tear from his eye): It’s a sad business, I tell you.

MA: And why does Dr. Jacob Lane keep Selene and other vampires frozen for more than a decade? Why is he studying them? He’s looking for a cure? For what? Shouldn’t he be in DAYBREAKERS (2009) then? Why not just kill the vampires? Why not go into private practice?

LS: Because Dr. Lane has a secret. And it’s such a pulse-pounding, shocking secret that it has us on the edges of our seats……NOT. I won’t reveal the secret here, but most viewers will see it coming a mile away, and it sucks. Stephen Rea was another actor with a brilliant future ahead of him. This is the same guy who starred in indie classics like THE CRYING GAME (1992) and the underrated THE BUTCHER BOY (1997). A real actor’s actor. And now he’s in dreck like this. Hell, he was even in a very good werewolf movie once – Neil Jordan’s 1984 flick, THE COMPANY OF WOLVES. It’s just too sad to see such talented people reduced to such garbage!

MA: The other characters, including young Eve, Selena’s daughter, I just didn’t care about. And the werewolves and vampires, they’re like the Storm troopers in the STAR WARS movies. They’re there just to be killed.

LS: I actually liked Eve. She’s not very well-developed as a character, either, but when she gets mad she turns into something that looks an awful lot like “Demon Bobby” from the 1977 TV-movie, DEAD OF NIGHT (Mark Onspaugh reviewed that one last August). I thought it was kind of cool she didn’t become just another CGI werewolf.

India Eisley as Eve in UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING

"Demon" Bobby from the 1977 TV-movie DEAD OF NIGHT!

SEPARATED AT BIRTH?

MA: As you would expect, the 3D effects add nothing to this one other than a few extra dollars to the admission price. Sure, the movie looks good in 3D, but you know what? It would have looked just as nice in 2D.

LS: Dude, you saw it in just 3D? Lucky you. The best showing time-wise for me was an IMAX 3D version. Cost me $18!!

MA: Wow. I thought I had it bad!

LS: Did it look good? Yeah, sometimes. The 3D effects weren’t always evident – let’s face it, the 3D in this movie sucks – but it was on a nice big screen with Dolby sound. I’m sure that made me hate it a little bit less – but it wasn’t worth the outrageous effin’ price. Because a turd covered with bright lights and whistles is still, unfortunately…..a turd.

MA: I also wasn’t impressed by the special effects. The werewolves are nothing to write home about. Yes, I agree that they are better than what we’ve been seeing in TWILIGHT, but that’s not saying much. CGI werewolves look like cartoons.

LS: Yep. Although I have to say one thing here. There is a scene toward the end where Selene is up against a gigantic werewolf, and even though the monster looks fake as hell, I kind of enjoyed that battle. Maybe it’s the IMAX talking, but that scene rose above the rest for me.

MA: Yeah, that was a decent battle, but by that point in the movie I was scraping the bottom of my popcorn bag in search of un-popped kernels.

LS: And at the same time as that fight, the cool-looking “Monster Eve” gets to fight with Rea’s character (who has since revealed his shocking secret). I dunno, that whole sequence was the only time in the movie when I felt I was even close to enjoying myself.

(A GROUP OF TOURISTS approach MA and LS, taking pictures. One of them steps up close to them)

TOURIST 1: Yes, these are the two guys who jumped out of that 3D movie back at the Expo! They still look so life-like. I feel like I could reach out and touch them!

LS (slaps her hand away): Keep your paws off us, you damn dirty ape!

TOURIST 1: I’m not an ape! What is he talking about?

TOURIST 2: Bad acting, that’s what I say.

(LS and MA start throwing pies at them again, and they run away)

MA: UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING was directed by Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein. It took two people to direct this movie?? Are you kidding me? Even better, it took four people to write it. The screenplay was written by Len Wiseman, John Hlavin, J. Michael Straczynski, and Allison Burnett. Wiseman has lots of experience on this entire series, because he directed the first two movies in this series and received story credit for all four of them. That’s nothing to be proud of, let me tell you!

LS: Oh my God. J. Michael Straczynski helped write this? He actually has some talent. How the hell did he get suckered into this thing?

MA: I hadn’t seen any of the movies in this series until last week, when I rented the first UNDERWORLD (2003) to try to get a flavor for the series. That flavor was boredom. The first movie was also an uncreative snooze-fest. I’m almost insulted by the lack of imagination that goes into these movies.

LS: Lucky you. You only watched one other movie. I’ve seen all of the movies in this series. I guess I just always end up having to review them for some reason. And they all suck. They’re all boring. They all blur together and congeal like a giant blob of boring mucus. And I keep tricking myself when a new one comes out. I tell myself – hey, Kate Beckinsdale is in it. She gets to wear a form-hugging latex bodysuit. She’s one of the most beautiful actresses out there. How bad can the movie be? I always forget how bad the previous ones were and go anyway, and I am always disappointed. It’s just a revolving door of shame.

MA: Yep, the only redeeming value to UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING is that Kate Beckinsale is hot in her shiny costume. She’s got that Emma Peel thing from the THE AVENGERS – 1960s British TV-show going for her. She’s VERY easy on the eyes. Of course, everything in this movie is CGI created, so who’s to say we’re even looking at her real body? They just could have tacked her head onto an animated one. The things you think about when you’re bored in the movie theater!

LS: And, let me make another comment here. There is a scene where Kate escapes from a chamber where she’s been frozen for 12 years. She’s naked. She slithers out from a frosted up glass tube (frosted, so we can’t see anything worthwhile) to fall onto a floor covered in icy mist. In other words, she’s nude, but we don’t get to see anything! I’m not saying she has to show us the goods. But these movies are so friggin bad, it would have at least been a nice treat to see something that would have redeemed the ticket price! Throw us a friggin bone at least for sitting through this crap!

MA: So, yeah, Beckinsale is hot in this one, but she was actually so much better in CONTRABAND (2012) which I saw last week. That was a movie where she was actually allowed to act. Here, she just looks good and struts around shooting werewolves. But even her hot gun-carrying strut grows annoying after a while.

And I agree with you that Stephen Rea, an excellent actor, is completely wasted here as Dr. Jacob Lane, as well. It’s a dull role, and even someone with the talents of Rea can’t do anything with it. Nobody else in the cast did anything for me, as they all played like cardboard video game characters.

UNDERWOLD: AWAKENING is mind-numbing. I give it one knife, and it gets one knife as opposed to 0 knives because Beckinsale looks so good, and I don’t mean that to be a sexist comment. Her Selene is attractive and for a short while she’s fun to watch, but not for an entire movie with nothing else to offer. As both an action movie and a horror movie, UNDERWOLD: AWAKENING is an epic fail.

LS (imitating MA’s voice): “Beckinsdale looks so good, and I don’t mean that to be a sexist comment.” Look at you—Mr. Politically Correct. I’m not ashamed to say it’s not a sexist comment—it’s a friggin true comment.

MA: I agree it’s a true comment. I just don’t want to sound like I’m saying Beckinsale is only good because she’s hot. Although it doesn’t hurt that she is! (laughs).

LS: And—surprise! —I gave it the same rating. For the exact same reason. Kate is the only thing to recommend about this movie, and even that is self-defeating – because if people go see this movie for Kate, it will make money, and she will be condemned to make more bad movies that are beneath her considerable talents!

I also give it, one solitary knife.

One more thing. Sitting in the theater, watching this one in 3D and IMAX, it reminded me of the last time I’d seen an IMAX/3D flick, the last RESIDENT EVIL movie, RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE (2010). And it amazes me that the more I think about it, the more it seems like it’s the same exact series. They both feature hot chicks shooting guns (in Jovovich’s case, it’s her indestructible character, Alice). They both have awful scripts and seem more like video games than movies. And both that last RESIDENT EVIL movie and this new UNDERWORLD movie end at a point where we are forced to endure the damned TO BE CONTINUED moment, where it’s clear the whole movie has just been setting us up for the next sequel. We’re like a room full of suckers playing the “find the ball under the cup” shell game, and wondering why we keep losing.

The only difference is, the RESIDENT EVIL movies are actually a tiny bit more fun, and I don’t hate them as much. But really, these are the same exact thing, except in UNDERWORLD it’s vampires and werewolves and in RESIDENT EVIL it’s zombies and the mysterious Umbrella Corp.

Which leads into the revelation that the next RESIDENT EVIL movie will be coming out this year as well. It’s just déjà vu all over again.

MA: Yeah, and as if to rub it in, the theater played the trailer for the next RESIDENT EVIL movie before the new UNDERWORLD movie started. Lardy-flippin-dah! Though I agree with you that the last RESIDENT EVIL movie was better than this movie.

Well, that’s it for now. See you next time here at Cinema Knife Fight!

LS: And remember, an inflated ticket price is a terrible thing to waste.

-END-

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING ~ 1 knife!

LL Soares also gives UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING ~ 1 knife!

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou: SATAN IN HIGH HEELS (1962)

Posted in 60s Movies, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Campy Movies, Hot Chick Movies, Melodrama, William Carl Articles with tags , , , , , , on November 10, 2011 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

William D. Carl

This week’s feature presentation:

SATAN IN HIGH HEELS (1962)

Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made.  If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it.   Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open.  Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes.

“They all went where the heat was hottest!” read the tagline for 1962s fabulously trashy musical/comedy/noir/sex/drama SATAN IN HIGH HEELS.  For the early Sixties, this really was pretty hot stuff, although it’s surprising just how entertaining this grindhouse classic truly is.  Chock full of wild and steamy situations and hateful dialogue and (gasp) good acting, this one screams to be rediscovered by someone like Quentin Tarantino, and rereleased upon an unsuspecting public.

Grayson Hall (as "Pepe") admires her newest singer, Stacey Kane (Meg Myles).

Our story opens on a cut-rate carnival, Stacey Kane is a burlesque dancer played by the pneumatic Meg Myles (COOGAN’S BLUFF-1968, and she had roles on SEARCH FOR TOMORROW, ALL MY CHILDREN, and THE GUIDING LIGHT—quite the soap opera diva).  Stacey lethargically bumps and grinds in front of a leering crowd of men, thrusting out her torpedoes.  She returns to her trailer to find her no-good drug dealer ex-boyfriend lurking, after getting out of prison.  He tells her how he’s given up the dope just for her, and he has nine hundred dollars a magazine paid him for “a piece about junkies,” plus he has a taxi waiting to take them to New York.  Being the sweetheart she is, Stacey promptly steals the money as well as his cab and leaves him high and dry.

Once in New York, she seduces the guy in the seat next to her on the plane, and he gets her an audition at a nightclub called Pepe’s, owned by, who else, “Pepe”—played by Grayson Hall, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role in 1964’s NIGHT OF THE IGUANA, but is probably better known as Dr. Julia Hoffman on DARK SHADOWS.  Here, as Pepe, she’s a predatory lesbian (was there any other kind in 1962?) and she gives Stacey the once-over, then the job, as a singer at her fancy night club after her torch song audition.  Hall plays Pepe as a butch, bossy-pants wearing men’s suits and chain smoking.  And who is that answering the phone at the club and accompanying on piano, but blond and handsome Paul, played in fey/gay mode by Del Tenney, who stopped acting and produced/directed exploitation greats I EAT YOUR SKIN and THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH (both 1964).  After Stacey’s audition, an onlooker, Arnold Kenyon, played by Mike Keene (Dr. Norman Prescott on SEA HUNT) asks if Stacey is available later that day.  She replies she is available “all day . . . and all night.”  Kenyon is the owner of the club and has an odd relationship with manager Pepe.  With no place to stay, what’s a predatory lesbian to do but offer Stacey her own apartment to live in, and Stacey is willing and able to shack up with her Sapphic supervisor.  So let the flirting and innuendo begin!  Pepe says, “Sleep’s a waste of time.”

Stacey Kane will turn on you when you least expect it!

Arnold ditches his wife, under the spell of Stacey Kane, but even though she has a fling with him, she’s much more interested in his son and heir, Larry, played by scrawny Robert Yuro (SHAKIEST GUN IN THE WEST – 1968, and a dead ringer for Humphrey Bogart).  Enter Stacey’s rival, the gorgeous but terrible actress, Sabrina, sort of playing herself.  Sabrina was an awful actress; she wasn’t hired for her thespian skills, but for her 41-inch bustline.  She was known as “Britain’s Jayne Mansfield,” and she does look great in her hourglass dresses accompanied by her white greyhounds.

In her debut at Pepe’s, Stacey wears an S&M corset, thigh-high boots, and a riding crop.  She proceeds to belt out a wild song while whipping and taunting all the men in the audience.  “I’ll beat you, mistreat you, till you quiver and quail.  The female of the species, much more deadly than the male!”  It’s a crazed scene, dripping with suggestion, and Myles dives into it full force, lashing out at paying customers and gyrating like her carny days are coming back.

Stacey goes after Larry, but Pepe disapproves.

Stacey: I need fresh air . . . and a man.

Pepe: Larry isn’t a man.

Stacey: Then, I’ll make him one.

Arnold dates Stacey, Larry dates Stacey, Pepe exchanges lustful glances with Stacey, and Stacey just loves Stacey, even taking time out to have a nude swim in the woods, which probably raised a few eyebrows in 1962.  And then, the drug dealer boyfriend reappears with a switchblade to get what’s owed him.  This isn’t gonna end well.

SATAN IN HIGH HEELS is a fun romp as written by John Chapman and Harold Bonnett and briskly directed by Jerald Intrator (STRIPORAMA-1953, ORGY AT LIL’S PLACE-1963).  The black and white cinematography is crisp and full of appropriate shadows.  Other than the abysmal (but hot) Sabrina, the cast is quite good.  Tenney vamps it up in full-on queen mode (Stacey calls him ‘Paullette’), and Grayson Hall is quite wonderful, dropping double entendres faster than she can light her cigarettes.

Pepe: This is my last season.  I’m buying a rocking chair and keeping a cat.

Sabrina (enters in low cut gown): Hello, Pepe!

Pepe: I’ve changed my mind.  Who wants a cat?

But the acting prize goes to the wonderful Meg Myles, who really puts her all into the role of Stacey Kane.  With her long hair displayed in at least ten different hair-dos, she’s sexy, funny, and a sheer delight as the bad girl who uses everybody to further her own career.  She makes wicked look like a hell of a lot of fun!  Thank you, Ms. Myles!

SATAN IN HIGH HEELS soundtrack album by Mundell Lowe

And the music calls out for a special mention.  This is easily one of the best jazz scores ever produced.  I even own it on a CD.  The be-bop was scored by famed jazz guitarist Mundell Lowe, who also did the scores for BILLY JACK (1971) and Woody Allen’s EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX, BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK (1972).  Lowe worked with greats like Sarah Vaughan, Peggy Lee, Charlie Parker and Carmen McCrae, as well as touring with the Andre Previn Trio.  This is one of my favorite scores ever, bouncy be-bop and slinky stripper themes featuring blaring trumpets, xylophones, and great ensemble sax work.  For a sample, watch the opening credits here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IktXk2PhwMk.  You won’t regret it.

SATAN IN HIGH HEELS is a well-made exploitation melodrama that will make you “quiver and quail.”  It’s fast moving and deserves to be better known, as does Meg Myles.

It gets three and a half predatory lesbians out of four.

I got my copy from the good folks at Something Weird Video.

© Copyright 2011 by William D. Carl

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou: WONDER WOMEN (1973)

Posted in 1970s Movies, 2011, Action Movies, B-Movies, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Campy Movies, Drive-in Movies, Hot Chick Movies, Kung Fu!, Low Budget Movies, William Carl Articles with tags , , , , , on September 29, 2011 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

William D. Carl

This Week’s Feature Presentation:

WONDER WOMEN (1973)

Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made . If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it .  Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open . Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes.

What do you get when you take Nancy Kwan, the lead actress from the classic musical FLOWER DRUM SONG (1961) and THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG (1960), Ross Hagen, the lead actor of such marvels as SUPERCOCK (1975)(it’s about a rooster, now get your mind out of the gutter!) and AVENGING ANGEL (1985), toss in great exploitation actress Roberta Collins from CAGED HEAT (1974) and EATEN ALIVE (1977) with a little Sid Haig, that stalwart character actor who’s illuminated movies from SPIDER BABY (1968) and FOXY BROWN (1974) to this year’s swamp non-epic CREATURE (2011) along with Vic Diaz, who was probably in every movie ever filmed in the Philippines, such as VAMPIRE HOOKERS (1978) and PROJECT:KILL (1976)?  What happens when you feature a story full of bikini clad women, muscular jocks, a basement of mutants, mad scientists, and film it in the Philippines by Robert Vincent O’Neill, who helmed the 1970 classic BLOOD MANIA and drive-in staple ANGEL (1984)?  Well, you get WONDER WOMEN (1973) aka THE DEADLY AND THE BEAUTIFUL, a real mess of a movie that, nonetheless, is never, not even for one second, boring . This mish-mash of genres is proof positive that anyone could make any old movie they wanted in the early 1970s and somehow get the son-of-a-gun distributed.

When our story begins, we see a James Bond-type sequence with three topless women doing water ballet in colored water while other beauties practice their kung-fu in miniskirts or fill syringes . After a brief battle, the kung-fu ladies kick the topless synchronized swimmers unconscious and inject them with something . Next, we’re watching a polo match, and the same hot women shoot one player, pull another man off his horse and pummel him, and drive a car onto the polo fields and haul the bodies into it . Next, a lone black man playing basketball is surrounded by the same racially diverse team of beauties who shoot him with a dart gun . This is all before the credits, folks!  My curiosity has been piqued .

After the credits during a crowded jai-alai game (!), the star player is jock-napped by the women who kill a cop to steal a car and the unconscious man . They toss him into a coffin and gas him, loading him into a hearse marked Chapel By The Sea . Cue groovy wah-wah guitar and theme song (“We are Wonder Women, yes we are . Got that super power…Wonder Women!”)  The girls strip their groovy duds and don mourning dresses and veils . They take him to an island fortress where mad scientist Dr. Tsu (Nancy Kwan) is performing surgery in head to toe shower curtain plastic . Dr. Tsu is snatching the healthiest men around and transplanting their organs into rich, ugly people through her slimy, yet debonair lawyer and accountant Gregorious (Sid Haig) . They are aiming to make a fortune by planting the mega-rich Mr. Paulson’s brain in the jock’s body.

Nancy Kwan is the villainous Dr. Tsu in WONDER WOMEN!

Arriving on a jet plane is Mike Harber (Hagen), who rocks a great disco white suit . His cab driver is Vic Diaz, ubiquitous star of over 110 movies made in the Philippines, and he is just as sweaty and smarmy as ever . Harber is being offered ten thousand dollars by Lloyd’s of London to find the missing jai-alai player .

Meanwhile, Dr. Tsu’s henchwomen bicker amongst themselves, play chess, shoot guns, and play with their ‘toys:’ the muscular, hot men they’ve kidnapped . Sometimes, they go to Dr. Tsu’s shiny, color-flashing laboratory, chock full of things that light up and go beep beep boop boop, and they have brain sex . Attached to machines, they enjoy the sensations of sex without all that messy emotional aftertaste .

Harber visits Won Ton Charlie at the Chinese City of Death (I can’t make this stuff up!) . He is sent by Won Ton to No No the Fisherman at the local cockfighting ring, where we are privileged to witness a real sickening cockfight . In slow motion, nonetheless!  This is just after Harber is attacked by men with guns riding on mopeds with sidecars . Once again, people, I just can’t make this stuff up.

One of the Wonder Women, the gorgeous Maria De Aragon (BLOOD MANIA-1970; she was also Greedo, the would-be assassin in STAR WARS-1977) seduces Harber, and then points a gun at him . He knocks it out of her hand and they proceed to destroy the entire hotel room brawling with some of the hokiest martial arts moves ever . I mean, she really beats him up, slamming him through coffee tables and walls . It’s a hilarious scene, and it continues as he chases her through the streets of Manila . Keep an eye on the people on the streets . Obviously, they didn’t warn anyone that a movie was being shot or get permits or anything . Half the people look bemused and the other half watch with shocked wide-open mouths . And what the heck was that shot of the eel squiggling down the sidewalk?  Or that long parade of motorcycles and sidecars?  They hop into little tiny jeep taxis and have a medium speed car chase all over the city, complete with cars going into fruit stands and a flipping ox cart getting sideswiped!  Let’s not mention the 70s porn music that plays behind the mayhem.

Maria DeAragon kicks butt in WONDER WOMEN!

Of course, our hero drives her into a lake where she gets wet . And of course, she leads him back to the island fortress of Dr. Tsu (Gee, this sounds a lot like a Jess Franco flick.)  She gives him the slip, informing Tsu that he’s on the island . Dozens, maybe hundreds, of hot girls in mini-skirts with giant machine guns are unleashed to find Harber and bring him back . Now, we get the long gun battle through the jungles, but Harber’s a real manly stud and the girls can’t shoot for crap, so it’s up to Maria de Aragon to bring him to Dr. Tsu’s table where she’s eating fiery volcano soup . Really.

She shows him her Simon-esque lab, her vaults of organs, and her mutants in cells in the basement . Tsu explains, “I call this one Tyrannosaurus Rex, after the dinosaur, to remind me that evolution also made mistakes.”   The make-up on these monsters looks like something out of an R. Crumb cartoon, and some are just rubber masks. One tall guy has a blinking light bulb on top of his head encased in a plastic dome!  After all this, Dr. Tsu hooks up Harber to have brain sex with her . Wearing crazy Lite-Bright covered head-pieces, they hilariously emote ecstasy while lying back in red bean bag chairs and never touching!  Oh yeah, that’s hot.

The mutants break loose . Explosions happen . Gunfights start again . And, yes, there is a catfight .

Mmmmmm. Brain sex via electrodes in WONDER WOMEN (1973)!

Kwan plays it all straight, but Haig really seems to be having a great time portraying someone suave and intelligent with just a bit of swish in his mannerisms . I’m so used to seeing him play psycho rednecks, it was nice to see him in such a different kind of part . Ross Hagen was also the producer of this miracle of trash cinema, and he handles the role just fine . With his sun-tanned to leather skin and his gravelly voice, he seems like a second string Lee Marvin . Roberta Collins is also just fine, sniping and bitching with the other girls or pretending to know kung-fu . She really is quite stunning, as is Maria De Aragon, as are all the women at the fortress . It’s enough to maintain the attention of any red blooded heterosexual male.

The costumes are a riot and make this worth a rental by themselves . During surgery, Dr. Tsu and her nurses wear head-to-foot plastic suits loaded down with zippers . The women often sport bat-wing sleeves and color-coordinated mini-dresses . There’s a LOT of hair, either long past the shoulders or in gigantic afros .

WONDER WOMEN is truly a wonder of exploitation cinema . Full of brain transplants, mutants, hot girls with guns and knee-high boots, some nudity, clumsy kung-fu, sexual innuendo, slumming actors, a Thomas Crowne chess scene rip-off, car chases, bike chases, foot chases, animal cruelty, and more action than would normally fit in ten movies – it really is one of a kind. And somehow, the damn thing’s rated PG!  Now, I’m not saying it’s a good or well-made film, but it sure as hell entertains!

I saw my copy on a SOMETHING WEIRD DVR .

I give WONDER WOMEN three moped sidecars out of four.

© Copyright 2011 by William D. Carl

Suburban Grindhouse Memories: LADY TERMINATOR!

Posted in 2011, 80s Horror, Action Movies, Cult Movies, Cyborgs, Exploitation Films, Grindhouse, Hot Chick Movies, Nick Cato Reviews, Suburban Grindhouse Memories with tags , , , , , on September 8, 2011 by knifefighter

SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE MEMORIES
“She Mates . . . Then She TERMINATES!
By Nick Cato


June, 1989. I see an ad in the NY Daily News for what promises to be a real wild one. I venture out of the safety of my suburban neighborhood (alone) and hit the still-sleazy pre-Guiliani Times Square for what would be my final visit to the famed area before it was cleansed a few years later. Getting off the train around 36th Street, I see a HUGE billboard poster for LADY TERMINATOR, and attempted to peel it off. No luck. I was offered weed and other substances at least five times during my eight-block trek uptown to the theater. One guy claimed to have switchblades. I kept walking, keeping my eyes straight ahead, hoping I made it to the theater in one piece.

MAN, do I miss the old NYC.

LADY TERMINATOR played solo, a rarity for a Times Square feature at that time. I attended an afternoon showing, and the place had at least a dozen people in attendance…yet I was thrilled about ten minutes into the film when screams and comments were flying as loudly as any midnight screening of ROCKY HORROR could hope for.

Check out the plot of this Indonesian import: An anthropology student named Tania Wilson (played by the beautiful Barbara Ann Constable in her ONLY credited role) becomes possessed by some ancient queen—while exploring her underwater lair. In a surreal/dream-like sequence, Tania finds herself swimming one second then tied to a huge bed the next. An eel-like creature wiggles up the sheets and into her vagina, causing her to become possessed. She soon emerges on shore (stark naked) and interrupts a lame drinking party where she wastes a couple of losers. After taking one of their leather jackets (yeah, this follows THE TERMINATOR (1984) quite closely at this point), she begins an all-out attack that’d make Hurricane Irene green with envy. While it’s never clear why this ancient sea witch is bent on revenge, the audience (and I) really didn’t care. Tania (aka the LADY TERMINATOR) goes TOTALLY BALISTIC, creating a body count ten miles high via machine guns and a couple of brutal sex scenes (Remember the tag line: “She mates…then she TERMINATES!” One blurb that lives up to its promise).

Why this woman is turned into a cyborg-type revenge creature by an ANCIENT sea witch is anyone’s guess, but that’s not even a quarter of a quarter of the flaws in this insanely ridiculous action romp. And when Tania starts her killing spree, you’ll either overlook these flaws, ride with it and have the greatest time of your trash film life, or shut the DVD off and continue to be a dullard (This film is actually playing in NYC at a rare screening in a couple of weeks—I’m freaking out that I can’t attend— hence the inspiration for this week’s column).

What put the crowd into a screaming frenzy were several repeated scenes, especially one of Tania spraying a group of military men with machine gun fire: that had to be shown at least five times. I’m guessing this saved the film crew from having to shoot from different angles? Either way, this is the type of thing that makes “so-bad-they’re-good” movies memorable.

I’m a big fan of the original TERMINATOR. BUT, I can sit through LADY TERMINATOR a thousand more times without being bored, as it contains more car chases, explosions, gore, violence, nudity and sheer insanity than a dozen low budget rip-offs combined. (It should be noted that star Barbara Ann Constable is also credited as doing the make-up for the film, too).

The most amazing aspect of LADY TERMINATOR is it’s ability to entertain to the CORE, despite a plot that’s all over the place (or not even there, depending on who you talk to), dialogue that’s beyond inept, and question after question after question and confusion on top of confusion. SOMEHOW this pile of Indonesian trash WORKS. It’s a true miracle of low-budget filmmaking that I’ve been contemplating for the past twenty-two years, made worse by my second viewing via a VHS screening in the early 90s.

I think I’m finally ready to seek this out on DVD…although when I do it’ll be hard not to toss it in the DVD player for weekly viewings.

LADY TERMINATOR was one of the greatest exploitation films I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing on the big screen with my fellow Noo Yawk trash hounds at the near-end of the GENUINE grindhouse era.

I think I’m gonna go cry now…

© Copyright 2011 by Nick Cato

LADY TERMINATOR (Barbara Ann Constable) begins her body count that makes the original TERMINATOR look like an episode of SESAME STREET!

Suburban Grindhouse Memories: LUNCH WAGON (1981)

Posted in 2011, Exploitation Films, Hot Chick Movies, Nick Cato Reviews, R-Rated Comedy, Suburban Grindhouse Memories with tags , , , , , on August 25, 2011 by knifefighter

SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE MEMORIES
30 Years Ago: Hormones and Whoremoans…
By Nick Cato

 

September, 1981: after having enjoyed screenings of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 and a re-release of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) only a few weeks earlier, it was time to take a break from the gore and scares.  Along comes a sex comedy titled LUNCH WAGON, with its enticing poster and newspaper ad (enticing for a bunch of thirteen year-old boys, anyway) nearly DARING us to try and get in without adult accompaniment.  And thanks to Staten Island’s Amboy Twin Cinema (who let ANYONE in, so long as they had CA$H), my buddies and I waltzed right in and were set for who-knew-what (remember this was a full year before the sex comedy craze that came after PORKY’S and FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH were released).  If not for the Amboy Twin Cinema (that has long since been replaced by a Perkins Restaurant), I wouldn’t have seen half the films I write about in this bi-weekly column.  Man do I miss that place!

Two girls (played by Pamela Jean Bryant and Roseann Katon, both with impressive exploitation film credits) are roommates who also happen to be auto mechanics (!).  They’re sick and tired of their sleazy boss spying on them as they dress for work (because, as you know, all female mechanics get undressed AT the garage), and when they confront him about their crappy salary and a host of other issues, the guy flips out and fires them.  Aggravated, our two lovely ladies stop for lunch at a local lunch wagon (owned by Dick Van Patten, who goes unaccredited here although there’s two other Van Pattens with higher billing) and, after a talk about their future, manage to buy the lunch wagon off of Van Patten and start their own business.  Realizing neither one of them can cook, they get their friend Diedre (played by Amazonia blonde Candy Moore, the woman who modeled for the cover of the classic album CANDY-O by THE CARS) then set up shop by a local construction site, where the girls start to get hit on by the workers and their business starts to take off.  Deidre is the funniest of the group: she has a thing for short, dorky guys, and manages to control them like a dominatrix in the sack…

While the boobage wasn’t as high as our young perverted minds were hoping for (nor the laughs for that matter), we were treated to a surprise—another unaccredited appearance by a band called TERRI AND THE ROUGH RIDERS.  One of the two songs they perform was quite catchy, and a few weeks after seeing the film I found a 12” single with said song (‘Mental Hopscotch’) by a band called MISSING PERSONS, and sure enough, it was the same band.  I’m assuming MOST of LUNCH WAGON’s budget went to paying this up-and-coming new wave act.  The band was made up of three members and two actors, one who our girl Diedre ends up dating in the film.

Despite the rockin’ tunes and cute cast (who call their lunch wagon “Love Bites”), the film doesn’t work too well as a comedy, and after a recent re-viewing, it doesn’t even hold up good as a teenage T&A feature, either.  And yet for some reason I still can’t figure out, it’s quite entertaining.  The screenwriter tried to deliver a bit of a story: a rival lunch wagon sets up shop near the same construction site, and of course it turns out to be a front for a bunch of jewel thieves.  Even with the added gangster goofballs, LUNCH WAGON only offers an occasional chuckle and an even rarer flash of flesh.  With everything it has going against it, the film is still worth it for the horrendous spandex outfits every female character seems to walk around in (which drew howls from the crowd, even in 1981), the great soundtrack, and it’s overall positive vibe: here’s a trio of girls with (seemingly) no future, making the best out of life by serving sandwiches at a construction site!  If that doesn’t make you feel better about your own mundane existence I don’t know what will…

The déjà-vu I felt while watching this the first time in 1981 must’ve been due to the aforementioned female cast, who had previously starred in exploitation and horror epics such as H.O.T.S. (1979), DON’T ANSWER THE PHONE (1980), THE SWINGING CHEERLEADERS (1974), and even DEATH RACE 2000 (1975).  In researching this article, I discovered the beautiful Pamela Jean Bryant had just passed away in 2010, which added a sad undertone to my recent viewing.

If you want to taste a pre-PORKY’S sex comedy that’s easy on the comedy and the sex but big on horrible fashion and kick-ass music, give LUNCH WAGON a try.  (The film was also seen on late night cable TV under the title LUNCH WAGON GIRLS, and was released in Germany as HAMBURGER GIRLS).

Suddenly I’m in the mood for ham and Swiss on rye…

© Copyright 2011 by Nick Cato

The late great PAMELA JEAN BRYANT (the blonde in the white top), ROSEANN KATON (center), and Amazonian beauty CANDY MOORE are the LUNCH WAGON GIRLS

TRANSFORMERS: DARK SIDE OF THE MOON

Posted in 2011, 3-D, Action Movies, Blockbusters, CGI, Cinema Knife Fights, Daniel Keohane Reviews, Hot Chick Movies, Michael Arruda Reviews, ROBOTS!, Sequels with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2011 by knifefighter

(Editor’s note: Listen to Pink Floyd’s album The Dark Side of the Moon” while you’re reading this, for an extra kick.)

 CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON (2011)
By Michael Arruda and (special guest star) Dan Keohane

 

(The Scene: The interior of an office building. MICHAEL ARRUDA is seated at a table when suddenly the building begins to tilt dramatically, and people and objects begin to slide past MA, who remains calmly seated. One of the people grabs onto the table and manages to take a seat across from MA. It is DAN KEOHANE).

MA: Hey, Dan. Glad you could join me.

DK: No problem. (Brushing himself off) Thanks for giving me such a dramatic entrance.

MA: Well, this is one of the more dramatic scenes from TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON, and I thought it would be a cool way to start our review. Besides, I thought you’d get a kick out of sliding down a tilting building.

DK: Well, when you know it’s fake, it’s all in good fun.

MA (looks uneasily at camera, and then over DK’s shoulder as two screaming people slide through a broken window into oblivion.) Yeah, fake. Anyway, ready to start our review?
DK: Yep.

MA: Welcome folks to another edition of Cinema Knife Fight. Today I’m joined by Dan Keohane, who’s filling in for L.L. Soares today (who’s gone to Norway to get us the lowdown on TROLLHUNTER), and we’ll be reviewing the new Transformers movie, TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON (2011).

I’ll say right off the bat that I had zero expectations for this one, other than I expected not to like it, but for the most part, I was entertained and felt like I got my money’s worth.

DK: Well, almost. Linda wanted to see the 3D version so I relented, being the chivalrous chap I am. Until the movie was about to start and she realized we were seeing TRANSFORMERS and not GREEN LANTERN (2011) as she’d thought. But, we already had the glasses and the popcorn, so we stayed. Good thing, too, otherwise this review would have been pretty confusing.

MA: Chivalrous? Sounds like you pulled a fast one. “Sure, honey, let’s go see (covers mouth with his hand) Trans-gree- lan-mers. Yeah, the 3D one.”

DK: I saw the first TRANSFORMERS movie at the drive-in a few years back and was pleasantly surprised, so I figured I would be entertained at the very least with this one (caveat, never saw the second one). If you came for alien robot monsters destroying things and CGI effects on steroids, then yeah, I guess it delivered.

MA: TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON, the third film in the TRANSFORMERS movie series by Michael Bay, gets its name from its opening sequences, in which we learn that a Transformers ship crash-landed on the dark side of the moon, and this ship was discovered by the astronauts on the Apollo 11 mission. And the reason we have never gone back to the moon is because of the manipulations of evil Transformers here on earth who don’t want us going back. Until now. And this sets up the rest of the movie’s plot, as we switch to present day.

DK: I have to reluctantly toss in here that it was pretty entertaining how they messed with history like this, mixing footage from the original NASA moon landing with pretend stuff. They even had astronaut Buzz Aldrin in a cameo explaining the cover up. That was cute. Anyway, carry on….

MA: Yeah, the opening grabbed my interest, too. I liked the whole “dark side of the moon” bit, the whole NASA conspiracy, the “real” reason we got involved in the space race. I thought this was fun, and a strong way to open the movie. I also liked the way they did the historical footage, the mixture of actual JFK footage, for example, mixed in with new footage with an actor playing JFK. These opening scenes worked.

DK: Though they could have gotten better actors, or better makeup for the ones playing the presidents.

MA: Once we switch to present day, we meet up with Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) the young hero from the previous TRANSFORMERS movies. Sam is living with a new gorgeous babe Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) as he’s broken up with babe Megan Fox from the previous TRANSFORMERS movies. Gee, this guy has it rough! Sam is out of a job, and he’s depressed and frustrated about this, and during his job search he gets to utter one of the better lines of the movie, “I’ve saved the world twice, and I still can’t find a job!”

DK: Yeah, he had some cool lines. Hell, this movie was littered with clever lines. By the humans. The robots were annoying, but I jump ahead.

MA: Sam does find a job, working in the mailroom for a company run by an eccentric crackpot Bruce Brazos (John Malkovich). Malkovich is hilarious here and in top form. It’s too bad this character isn’t in the movie more. At this new job, Sam meets another crackpot Jerry Wang (Ken Jeong, basically doing a watered down variation of his Mr. Chow character from THE HANGOVER movies) who tells Sam of a conspiracy by the evil Decepticons that involves the dark side of the moon.

(VOICE from somewhere off to the right)

VOICE: Did someone mention Chow?

MA: Before Sam can learn more, Wang is sent hurtling by a Decepticon through his office window, falling to his death on the street below.

(On cue, a man hurtles past them and crashes through a window. He shrieks as he falls to the ground.)

DK (nodding approvingly): Very realistic. Well done.

MA: Yes— we —strive for realism here.

So, Sam decides to seek out answers, and he soon hooks up with old friends like former agent Simmons (John Turturo), and Autobots Bumblebee and Optimus Prime. However, he also has to deal with Secretary of Defense Charlotte Mearing (Frances McDormand), who, in a realistic turn, wants Sam to have no part in the operation since he’s a civilian who—in spite of his past—has no business working with the government at this level.

DK: I was SO psyched to see McDormand and Malkovich in this film. Both were terrific, and I agree, the film would have done well to have more Malkovich in it. I can never have enough of him.

MA: It turns out that on the dark side of the moon is the famed autobot Sentinel Prime (Leonard Nimoy), and Optimus Prime must revive him so they can defeat the evil Decepticons once and for all. Of course, once Sentinel Prime is revived, there’s a twist in the story, which all leads to the ultimate battle between good transformers and bad transformers, with the humans in the middle. If I said this wasn’t predictable I’d be lying.

DK: Yeah… (cough…) I saw that coming too… yeah, I really did, sort of…. Nimoy had some cute lines as well, homage’s to his Spock character throughout.

MA: TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON provides decent entertainment for 2/3 of its excruciatingly long running time of 157 minutes. Yes, this movie failed on the “butt comfort” meter. I was in pain by the end!

DK: Have to agree there. This movie was WAY too long. “Butt” seriously, what do you expect? They give someone like director Michael Bay a gabillion dollars and tell him to go ahead and do whatever the hell he wants. You get an exhausting two and a half hour movie with so much friggin’ violence, I actually checked the marquee to see if it was rated R. Nope, PG-13.

MA: You thought it was really violent? Either I’m getting desensitized, or you haven’t seen too many violent R-rated movies lately. I didn’t find it violent at all.

DK: Well, I was watching it with the idea that it’s kind of supposed to be aimed at kids. Wrong assumption I think, but in that light, it’s pretty intense. For an action film over all, not too bad.

MA: I have to give credit to Bay and screenwriter Ehren Kruger. They filled this movie with likeable characters who really held my interest for most of this movie, before it turns its attention to the Autobots and Decepticons. If this movie hadn’t been about Transformers, I would have loved it! But it could have been much worse. It could have been one of those colossal special effects bores, where there are no characters to speak of. This is not the case. The human element of this movie is very good.

DK: Yes! I really enjoyed the cast (most of them). I actually said at one point that this would have been a far better movie if they had fewer Transformers in it. At least, give them fewer lines. Actually, thinking about it now, the filmmakers seemed to do just that. Over such a long stretch of film, the Transformers themselves had very few speaking parts. In a way, I think Bay pulled a fast one on the producers and used their money to film quite a stunning alien invasion movie by writing the Autobots and Decepticons (man, those are the dumbest names—obviously I was never much a fan of the cartoon) just enough to get his paycheck.

MA: As I started to say before, I really liked the characters in this movie. Shia LaBeouf makes for a very likeable young hero as Sam. I think that of the three TRANSFORMER movies, this was probably his best performance.

DK: Agreed. LaBeouf was good. He plays his character straight, and his frustration with his job situation and girlfriend issues was well done.

MA: Speaking of best performances, John Turturo delivered the best performance in the movie as former agent Simmons, still interested in alien conspiracies, and as eccentric as ever. He was my favorite character by far, and although he is in the movie for a decent amount of time, I wish he had been in it more.

DK: Yeah, he was good, but I have to disagree. Along with Malkovich, my favorite was Alan Tudyk’s portrayal of Dutch. Tudyk (FIREFLY, DEATH AT A FUNERAL) has to be one of the funniest actors around. His fake German accent (and I think he tried to make it as bad as possible) and bizarrely out-of-place scene in a Russian bar was absolutely hilarious.

MA: Yeah, that was a good scene, but I still like Turturo better. His performance intrigued me more, while Tudyk just made me laugh.

Patrick Dempsey makes a good villain, as he plays Dylan, Carly’s boss, who at first just seems to be a weasel for putting the moves on another man’s girlfriend, but as the story unfolds, he’s up to things far more sinister.

Frances McDormand, as you would expect, is very good as Secretary of Defense Mearing. John Malkovich is hilarious as Bruce Brazos, Sam’s weird boss. While Malkovich is terrific, sadly the role is a thankless one and is nothing more than an extended cameo, since Bruce disappears for the entire second half of the film, which is too bad, because he’s a hoot.

Kevin Dunn and Julie White return as Sam’s parents, and I found them much less annoying in this movie than in the previous ones, mostly because their screen time has been greatly reduced. However, that being said, the brief scenes they share with Sam are excellent. Ken Jeong is also on hand as the outrageous Jerry Wang. Again, Jeong pretty much reprises his Mr. Chow shenanigans from THE HANGOVER movies, though here he’s giving us the PG-13 version.

VOICE: Did someone mention Chow?

(Mr. Chow is slowly crawling toward them, through the debris, when he loses his grip and slides through the window again, with a scream)

DK: Yea, the guy is a scene-stealer, especially in the bathroom scene (of course), but the actor seems grossly pigeon-holed into this kind of role. Like you say, though, every actor in this film, from the soldier grunts to Jeoong’s psycho-scientist, gave 110% to their roles. Everyone seemed to be having a BLAST making this movie.

(On cue, there is a huge explosion outside.)

DK: Even the sound effects seem real.

(Behind DK, blood spatters a glass window.)

MA (winces): Where was I?

DK: The cast.

MA: Yes, this is a veteran cast that does not disappoint. To Michael Bay and Ehren Kruger’s credit, they really stock this film with likeable characters. The problem is eventually they all take a back seat to the Transformers, which I find silly and boring.

DK: Me too. Visually, they were stunning to watch (because of the very cool CGI, NOT because of the 3D glasses).

MA: What would have made this movie succeed at a higher level, would have been including more of these characters at the end of this movie. During the final battle, Sam and Carly are pretty much the only main characters directly involved. Had John Turturo, Frances McDormand and John Malkovich also been there in on the action, we’d be talking about a much more entertaining movie.

DK: I have to disagree there. The soldiers (Josh Duhamel and Lester Speight, to name just two) were the main characters in the second half of the movie.

MA: I know. That’s why I didn’t like the second half as much, because I didn’t like these characters as much, nor did I consider them main characters.

DK: Well, the soldiers are involved at the end because, once the bad alien robots take over Chicago, it becomes a war movie. Sam and his always-stainless Stepford girlfriend were simply the visual constants running among the cast. For a war movie, it was pretty awesome to watch.

MA: Speaking of Stepford girlfriends, one cast member who doesn’t fare as well is Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, as Sam’s beautiful girlfriend Carly. Yes, she’s absolutely stunning and beautiful, but she’s also strictly eye candy here. Not that her acting was necessarily bad, because it wasn’t. She’s fine. She’s just rather dull, and if not for her beauty, we wouldn’t be talking about her. Another gripe, though not her fault, is during the film’s climactic battle, she’s running around in heels!

DK: Listen, this movie is geared to guys of our generation who watched the original cartoon (me being the exception), but it’s also aimed at teenage boys. Whiteley’s Carly is not a real character in any sense of the word. In fact, if we want to add any depth to the plot—just for kicks, because Bay and company had no intention to have this be the case—Carly is not real, she’s a figment of Sam’s imagination, a wish fulfillment of a young boy in a man’s body. Why else could she have been in a war zone for so long, in a building which was crushed and destroyed, tossed out a window, nearly crushed by a hundred blocks of concrete and a bus, and yet not have one stain or blemish on her flimsy outfit? Because she’s not real. Did you ever wonder why no one ever spoke to her except Sam and the bad guy (and, being the Bad Guy, he uses Sam’s delusions against him!). Actually, that’s quite clever. I’m a clever guy, did you know that?

MA: Well, you heard it here first, folks, on Cinema Knife Fight, the truth behind Carly’s character! Pretty neat theory. I don’t buy it, but it’s a fun theory. I mean, I think John Malkovich’s character talks to her at one point, doesn’t he? As does John Turturro’s character, and Frances McDormand— okay, toss out that theory!

There’s also a veteran cast voicing the Transformers. Peter Cullen returns once more as the voice of Optimus Prime. Cullen has voiced Optimus in all three movies, and also did back in the animated cartoon series from the 1980s. Cullen is also the voice of Eeyore from the WINNIE THE POOH cartoons.

DK: Really? I like Eeyore. He’s funny.

(Eeyore goes sliding past them.)

EEYORE: These things always happen to me.

(EEYORE slides off the edge of the building.)

DK: Was that—?

MA: Nah!

Hugo Weaving voices the villainous Megatron— we’ll be seeing Weaving soon as The Red Skull in CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER and Sentinel Prime is voiced by Leonard Nimoy, which opens the door for a bunch of STAR TREK in-jokes in the movie, as Dan mentioned way up at the beginning of this review. At one point, Mr. Spock is seen on TV in a STAR TREK episode, and as Sentinel Prime, Nimoy gets to deliver one of his more famous lines from the STAR TREK movie series, from STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982).

So, it’s quite the cast, and that took me quite a long time to get through. Nearly 157 minutes!

DK: I had to go pee at one point. That’s a long movie.

MA: I enjoyed the screenplay by Ehren Kruger. The first half of the movie was very witty and good for some laughs, and Kruger did a nice job creating a bunch of likeable characters.

Even director Michael Bay gets some high marks for this one. The movie looks great, the action scenes are decent and entertaining, and for the most part they don’t go on too long.

DK: Yes, visually this movie was amazing and the scenes were short enough to not drag on. It’s just that there were so many of them.

MA: I loved the sequence in the tilting office building. It was completely unbelievable, but it was still fun!

DK: Totally over the top, but a hoot to watch.

MA: I saw the movie in 3D, too, though I knew I was going to see TRANSFORMERS and not GREEN LANTERN, and once again—so much so, I’m growing tired of saying so—the 3D failed to impress. It added nothing to the movie. In fact, again, midway through, I forgot I was even watching it in 3D. So, if you have the choice, save your money and see it in 2D. I didn’t really have the choice, because the 2D version was playing only once and at an oddball time, compared to the two convenient showings of the 3D version.

DK: Definitely, yes. The 3D is pointless here. Actually, one of theaters in Worcester had more showings of the 2D version than the 3D, which tells me even the theaters are growing weary of this gimmick.

MA: So, what’s wrong with TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON? The biggest thing wrong with it is it’s about TRANSFORMERS. I mean, regardless of the humongous budget, the impressive special effects and the veteran cast, this is, after all, just a big-budget big-screen kids’ movie about giant robots. It’s difficult to take this film seriously, and I certainly can’t classify it as satisfying adult entertainment.

Sure, this movie is probably the darkest of the series, but how dark can a TRANSFORMERS movie be? You know Megatron is not about to mercilessly murder our young heroes. Sure, he’s going to try but—I mean, it’s Scooby Doo stuff! Megatron would have taken over the world, if not for “those meddling kids!”

Lastly, the relationship between Sam and Carly is a microcosm for what’s lacking in these TRANSFORMERS movies. Sam is desperately in love with Carly, so much so, we’re supposed to believe he’d go to the ends of the earth and risk his life to save hers. Really? Why does he love her so much? Is it because she’s absolutely beautiful? Is that why he loves her? Because she’s an incredibly hot babe? It must be, because they share no on-screen chemistry. Nothing we see them do convinces us they’re in love. Their relationship is eye candy without depth, and that is the central problem with this movie.

You want me to care deeply? To really care about what’s going on? Then give me real characters, real relationships that I can believe in, give me a reason why two young people love each other so much, and I’ll return to your movie series time and time again, because I’ll care about your characters and won’t sleep unless I know what’s happened to them. If this were the case, then we’d be talking about raising TRANSFORMERS up a few notches.

DK: Okay, you just spent WAY too much time talking about Sam and Carly. Their relationship is merely there to serve as wish fulfillment for teenage boys. Period. And to show the mental delusions of Sam, who has suffered such serious post-traumatic stress from saving the world, that he invented a new girlfriend.

MA: I disagree. Sam is driven in this movie by his “love” for Carly. I’m simply saying I didn’t find this “love” believable, and had I found it believable, I would have liked this movie more.

DK: No, the driving force behind the character Sam is to keep moving before the clowns in the walls can get him and eat him up.

MA: Oka-ay.

TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON could have been much worse. As it stands, it’s a fairly entertaining movie that’s got enjoyable characters, a humorous script, decent action sequences and eye-popping special effects, but at the end of the day, it’s all fluff, the stuff that 10-year-old boys dream about. I give it two and a half knives.

DK: One point to make, and worth seeing, if you take a 10-year-old boy to this movie, keep one thing in mind: it’s pretty violent. You see innocent people in the streets of Chicago blown to pieces over and over again. Two of the good Transformers die pretty horrible deaths, one execution-style. It might actually be too traumatic a movie for kids under 10. Seriously.

MA (laughing): Seriously? I mean, there’s no blood in these scenes at all. I wouldn’t classify them as violent. However, the film is rated PG-13, so parents probably shouldn’t be taking their 10 year-olds in the first place!

DK: Trying to take what little kids will think (which isn’t hard, being a dad myself) into account, I thought the Chicago invasion and liberation section of the movie (the last third) kicked major butt. And the Transformers spoke very little, which helped a lot. And it could have been a shorter film, I agree. But despite all the money, all the special effects and all the cool actors, well, I kind of wished we’d gone to see GREEN LANTERN instead, because I didn’t enjoy this one much.

MA: Actually, GREEN LANTERN was worse! The characters in this movie were much more entertaining than the characters in GREEN LANTERN.

DK: But dinner was good afterwards (at least until the police called because, unbeknownst to me, I knocked over my neighbor’s mailbox on the way to the movies—but that’s another story for another time). I give it two knives.

MA: Well, that about wraps things up here. Thanks again, Dan, for filling in for L.L. today.

DK: Happy to do it. It was fun. Speaking of fun, now I can ride the slide.

MA: Excuse me?

(DK lets go of his chair and slides down the tilted building towards the edge.)

MA: No, Dan, wait!

DK: Geronimo!!! (DK slides off the edge of the building.)

MA: That’s not good.

(Cell phone rings. MA answers it.)

MA: Hey, L.L.! Yeah, we’re just finishing up now. Dan? Oh, he’s—he’s not here right now. He’s—

well, how do I put this?

(Suddenly DK flies into view outside window and gives MA a thumbs-up while in midair.)

DK: Trampoline! I’m okay! (DK falls out of sight once again.)

MA: He just had so much fun he had to go off and jump around some. You know Dan. Oh yeah, I’m sure he’ll be back to do this again sometime. (DK flies by again, dancing with Eeyore.) I hope.

—END—

© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda and Daniel G. Keohane

Michael Arruda  gives TRANSFORMERS: DARK SIDE OF THE MOON –  2 and a half knives!

Dan Keohane gives TRANSFORMERS: DARK SIDE OF THE MOON – 2  knives!