Uncle Jasper reviews: Madman (1982)

Starring Gaylen Ross, Tony Fish, Harriet Bass, Seth Jones, Jan Claire, Jimmy Steele, Carl Fredericks, Paul Ehlers

Directed By Joe Giannone


Forced to live in the shadow of Friday the 13th since its original release in 1982, it only takes one viewing to realize that Madman is hands-down the superior film. Not to brazenly shit on the legendary long-running horror franchise, but there is a reason this obscure slasher film was gobbled up on DVD and went quickly out of print when Anchor Bay took a chance on its re-release a few years back. The same can’t be said for Friday the 13th which still waddles away, buried deep in the $5 DVD bin at your local Wal-Mart™.

Popping this disc in instantly takes me back in time to the horror aisles of old mom and pop run video rental shops of the 1980s. Gone were the wall-to-wall piles of new releases that are found in most present day franchises. Hidden behind the sun-faded Freddy Krueger cutouts and below the thumb-tacked Toxic Avenger poster with its curling edges and scotch-tape repaired tears would lay rows upon rows of obscure, low-budget horror films. They were propped up meticulously in their shiny cellophane wrappers with that block of foam jammed inside the box to keep it from flattening. Every Friday visit to the rental store was like a treasure hunt. My dad would carefully float down the aisles grabbing pretty much anything that looked at least somewhat interesting. We would take home stacks of long forgotten classics like Chopping Mall, C.H.U.D., Night of the Demons, and Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2. Some of these films would be deemed worthy of second or third rentals. But I don’t think my dad rented any film as much as Madman, which probably saw more time playing inside our top-loading VCR than it did sitting on that shelf in the video store.

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Mini-Review: This Film is Not Yet Rated (2006)

Starring Kirby Dick, Jack Valenti, Kimberly Peirce, Alison Anders, John Waters, Becky Altringer

Directed by Kirby Dick

Expectations: Medium.


This Film is Not Yet Rated looks to pull the tablecloth out from under the MPAA and expose their asinine film rating system. I am the choir this film is preaching to, I’ve been the guy complaining about the stupidity of the rating system for years. Therefore, this film didn’t teach me anything new, but it does entertain for the most part. If you haven’t noticed, films are rated arbitrarily and more for sexual content than for violence. This speaks to our generally conservative and sometimes backwards culture, where violence is more okay than sex for kids to see.

This film is great for the uninitiated to see the rating practices of the MPAA. The film and its director, Kirby Dick, are a bit extreme in their methods of obtaining the information for the film, resulting in something that will play well to people of like minds, but won’t necessarily sway combative viewers. It reminds me of Michael Moore’s films in this way, albeit a lot less well-made. It is interesting but a bit too long, check this one out if you’re in the mood for a bit of investigative journalism.

Like Stars on Earth (2007)

Like Stars on Earth [Taare Zameen Par (तारे ज़मीन पर)] (2007)

Starring Darsheel Safary, Aamir Khan, Tisca Chopra, Vipin Sharma, Sachet Engineer, Tanay Chheda, M.K. Raina

Directed by Aamir Khan

Expectations: Moderate.


I’ve had this DVD sitting on my shelf for about two months. I kept putting it off because of its long runtime (165 min.) but when I finally put it in I found myself pleasantly surprised. The film slowly builds, introducing you to its world and by the end I was in love. It is incredibly multi-faceted but never feels stretched or forced. At its heart it is an uplifting drama, but it’s also a musical that features sequences of claymation, traditional animation and even a bit of 3d animation.

The film seeks to tell the story of Ishaan, a young boy who is having trouble keeping himself focused in school. He tends to look out the window and daydream more than actually study. He is an imaginative boy and the many forms of animation and art impart this to the viewer. The film reflects the colorful Indian culture beautifully, from flowing fabrics to intense watercolor paintings. Overall, the film is well-shot and nice to look at. There isn’t anything about the cinematography that stands out all that much, but it does have a general high quality.

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Shutter Island (2010)

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Max von Sydow, Jackie Earle Haley, Ted Levine, John Carroll Lynch, Elias Koteas, Patricia Clarkson

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Expectations: High.


Scorsese’s first film back after winning Best Picture and Director for The Departed is Shutter Island, an adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s novel of the same name. Much as I’d like not to say it, Scorsese’s best films are behind him but Shutter Island is still leagues better than your traditional mainstream fare. His last truly great film in my eyes was Kundun, a long 13 years ago, and while Shutter Island doesn’t even come close to its level, it shows that he still holds the power to make a good film.

The story follows Teddy Daniels, a U.S. Marshall from Boston played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and his partner (Mark Ruffalo) as they make their way to Ashecliff Hospital. Their case is to find Rachel Solando, a patient that somehow escaped from her cell and has gone missing. I will leave it at that as a good portion of the fun comes from unraveling the mystery.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: The Super Inframan (1975)

The Super Inframan [中國超人] (1975)
AKA Infra-Man

Starring Danny Lee, Terry Lau Wai-Yue, Wang Hsieh, Lin Wen-Wei, Bruce Le

Directed By Hua Shan


LASERS! EXPLOSIONS! PEW, PEW, PEW!!!!!

This is a definite oddity in the Shaw Brothers catalogue. Every now and then the Shaw Studios would greenlight a project that had absolutely nothing to do with flying swordsmen, Shaolin monks, or rival kung fu schools. It didn’t happen often, but when it did the results were almost always amusing. You have unforgettable gems like their attempt at remaking King Kong with 1977’s Mighty Peking Man (expect a review of that one in the near future) and their genuinely twisted foray into the world of horror films with 1975’s Black Magic.

The Super Inframan stands right alongside those wacky classics in what would be the first Chinese superhero film. Viewers will instantly recognize the inspiration drawn from old-school Japanese tokusatsu heroes like Ultraman in this one. You have epileptic-inducing transformation sequences, anatomically implausible rubber monsters, loads of ’70s transistor-laden techno babble, and lasers… a whole shitload of lasers. But this being a Shaw Bros. film you get the added bonus of Tang Chia-choreographed kung fu fights, which although far from his best work, are actually the best you’ll probably see by a bunch of guys in 100-pound rubber monster suits.

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The Magic Blade (1976)

The Magic Blade [天涯明月刀] (1976)

Starring Ti Lung, Lo Lieh, Ku Feng, Tang Ching, Ching Li, Lily Li Li-Li, Fan Mei-Sheng, Chan Shen

Directed by Chor Yuen

Expectations: High.


My expectations for this were just soaring after watching Shaolin Intruders. The two films have absolutely nothing to do with each other except that they’re both Shaw Bros. pictures and Tang Chia choreographed the fights, but you could connect most any Shaw Bros. film with that logic. Needless to say, I was let down. The Magic Blade is an interesting movie as it doesn’t really contain a magic blade. You might expect there to be one in a film titled The Magic Blade, but not in this film. There is the rather neato blade that Ti Lung uses throughout the film, but magic isn’t exactly the adjective I’d use to describe it. It’s on a harness attached to his arm that allows it to spin when he wants it to, but it isn’t really used all that much in the film so don’t get too worked up about it. This is possible magic blade candidate number one. Number two is where I’m placing my money though, as the film revolves around everyone trying to get a hold of it. The weapon in question is the mysterious Peacock Dart, a weapon so powerful that — well, I’ll let them explain it.

“The Dart when hurled, emits mysterious and beautiful rays, and the victim dies in a mysterious way.”

“And no one is immune to it.”

After which the dart is thrown, resulting in multiple explosions of light and smoke that very conveniently kill only the hero’s enemies. No one is immune to movie logic either I guess. Anyway I don’t mean to complain, that shit was fun to watch.

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Dolls (1987)

Starring Stephen Lee, Guy Rolfe, Hilary Mason, Ian Patrick Williams, Carolyn Purdy Gordon, Cassie Stuart, Bunty Bailey, Carrie Lorraine

Directed by Stuart Gordon

Expectations: Low. I didn’t know this was Empire International before I started watching it, otherwise I would have expected more initially.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:
threestar


With Dolls, I’m continuing my trek through the Empire International/Full Moon catalog. My girlfriend, after watching Ghoulies with me, felt a strong urge to re-watch this film which she had seen as a kid. As the credits began to roll and I saw Empire and Charles Band’s name, I immediately knew why she was compelled to re-watch Dolls. The power of the Full Moon had struck once again and she was powerless to do anything but watch this again. On the strength of Ghoulies I knew that I wanted to watch more of these films, but I had not expected Dolls to be one of them. I love it when a plan comes together. I happened to post my review of Ghoulies last Tuesday and now with this on Tuesday, I’m thinking of making every Tuesday for a while dedicated to Empire International or Full Moon films. I was trying to think of a snappy name for the day, but all I could come up with was Terror Tuesdays or Tuesday Trash. If anyone can think of something cool, let me know. Anyway, look forward to more of Charles Band’s brand of horror.

Dolls does not live up to the bar that Ghoulies set in my head. I still enjoyed this a great deal, it’s just not nearly as well made or fun as Ghoulies was. With that out of the way, let’s get down to business. Dolls opens with a girl named Judy riding in a car with her dad and stepmother. The parents here are downright evil and verbally abusive to little Judy. While a normal, well-adjusted person might be offended by their insults, I simply thought to myself, “Hmm, I hope they’re doing what I think they’re doing… setting these bastards up for some seriously gratifying death scenes!” The car breaks down and they all start hoofing it down the road in the pouring rain.

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