Uncle Jasper reviews: Santo vs. the Martian Invasion (1967)

Santo vs. the Martian Invasion [Santo vs. La Invasión de los Marcianos] (1967)

Starring Santo, Wolf Ruvinskis, El Nazi, Beny Galán, Ham Lee, Eduardo Bonada, Antonio Montoro, Maura Monti, Eva Norvind, Belinda Corel, Manuel Zozaya

Directed By Alfredo B. Crevenna

It’s been a few months since we last followed our pal Santo, The Man in the Silver Mask on another lucha libre fightin’, convertible cruisin’ adventure down those mean streets of Mexico. While Santo vs. the Martian Invasion doesn’t reach the bizarre, hair-raising spectacle of Santo and Blue Demon vs. the Monsters, it comes pretty damn close. It is fairly faithful to the traditional formula as far as these films go, with its steady stream of ambushes and ridiculous scenarios to coax the bad guys into the ring. But this is Santo we’re dealing with here, and you probably wouldn’t be interested if things were any different.

The Martian invasion of the film’s title isn’t so much an invasion as it is a loose get-together. The Invaders are a paltry group of four shirtless guys decked out in silver capes and screaming-blonde Fabio wigs and four curvy Latina sex-bombs in matching silver corsages. Driven by their extraterrestrial Marxist agenda and out of fear of mankind’s tinkering with the atomic bomb they sabotage prime-time television and broadcast their commands for human beings to make peace with one another, or face a sudden, mass disintegration by the Astral Eye.

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Mini-Review: Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Starring Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas

Directed by Tim Burton

Expectations: Extremely low.

I normally would have avoided this but for some unexplained reason I decided to give it a go. I’m a fan of the original Alice story and I was curious to see how Tim Burton would film it, but the ridiculous amount of CG told me to steer clear. Burton’s later work for me has been fairly hit or miss, so I didn’t go into this with any expectations that I would enjoy this at any meaningful level. Like many things that your intuition tells you to avoid, Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is definitely one to go into treading lightly.

I was intrigued quite a bit by the opening 40 minutes or so. It was paced well and it was interesting to see how the older Alice reacted to the various things in Wonderland. The CG work is actually pretty good and lends the film an animated quality. That’s not to say that it isn’t excessive though. Virtually everything in the film is CG, including the horses that characters ride upon. Surprisingly the computer imagery is not my main beef with the film though. It’s Burton’s complete lack of emotion or energy with this film. If there’s ever been a guy that needs to take a few years off and reconnect with his passion, it’s Burton and this should be Exhibit A. It’s lifeless and the plethora of CG doesn’t help. No thanks.

Oh, and it has what is probably Danny Elfman’s most tired, boring, passionless score as well. Maybe they were going for passionless as a motif?

Uncle Jasper reviews: Bucktown (1975)

Starring Fred Williamson, Pam Grier, Thalmus Rasulala, Tony King, Bernie Hamilton, Art Lund, Tierre Turner, Carl Weathers

Directed By Arthur Marks

On paper Bucktown seems like a blaxploitation fan’s dream come true. Fred Williamson, Pam Grier and seasoned genre filmmaker Arthur Marks on all accounts should make for a potent combination. Maybe I expected too much from that stockpile of talent, because unfortunately the film ends up being merely adequate in large part due to the silly ass plot that would be feasible in maybe the Holy Crusades or Feudal Japan, but not so much in 1970s Missouri.

The action begins when Duke (Fred Williamson) steps off a train in Bucktown, Missouri to claim his recently deceased brother’s estate, which includes his flashy red-light district nightclub. Told that he must stay in town 60 days before the estate can be properly turned over, Duke decides to wait and tend to the business before selling it. All is not well in Bucktown however, as Duke soon finds out. The entire municipality is being strong-armed by a gang of corrupt police officers who extort cash from local businesses, solicit prostitutes, and participate in illegal gambling rings. Not to mention that they are racist as fuck. Seriously, even by typical genre standards these guys hurl out the most hateful, redneck slurs this side of the battle of Gettysburg.

Continue reading Uncle Jasper reviews: Bucktown (1975) →

Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988)

Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988)
AKA Transmutations, The Hunter

Starring Roddy Piper, Sandahl Bergman, Cec Verrell, William Smith, Rory Calhoun

Directed by Donald G. Jackson & R.J. Kizer

Expectations: High. With a name like Hell Comes to Frogtown, it has to be good.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:

The term cult classic gets thrown around a lot, but more often than not, the films referenced just don’t deserve the moniker. Hell Comes to Frogtown, however, is a true cult classic. Starring Rowdy Roddy Piper and Valeria from Conan the Barbarian, Sandahl Bergman, the film plays out like a wild, testosterone-fueled, post-apocalyptic male fantasy. It never betrays its B-movie roots or pretends to be something other than super-fun trash. Instead directors Donald G. Jackson and R.J. Kizer put the pedal to the metal and go full-bore into the oblivion of Frogtown.

Roddy Piper plays Sam Hell, a man with a high sperm count in a very infertile world. The governmental department Med-Tech places a C4-laced chastity belt on Hell and contracts him to enter Frogtown and save a group of nubile women taken hostage by the Frog leader, Commander Toty (pronounced Toady…get it? He’s a frog!). Along for the ride are Spangle (Sandahl Bergman) and Centinella (Cec Verrell), a pair of Med-Tech operatives tasked with keeping Sam Hell safe and ready to procreate.

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Zone Troopers (1985)

Starring Tim Thomerson, Timothy Van Patten, Art LaFleur, Biff Manard, William Paulson

Directed by Danny Bilson

Expectations: Pretty high. This is cheesy ’80s Sci-Fi. I’m gonna like it.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:

Going into Zone Troopers I knew three things. I knew it was set during World War II, that there were crash-landed aliens, and that I was gonna love it. My information was correct and the film did not disappoint. Over the opening credits we are treated to Glenn Miller’s In the Mood, one of the most iconic and well-known swing songs of the era. It seems like an easy and somewhat lazy choice here, but as we’re going for instant time recognition, there’s nothing like In the Mood to sell the ’40s. As the song ends the screen irises out, revealing a full-color science fiction magazine called Fantastic Fiction in the hands of Joey (Timothy Van Patten), a young Army private with wonder in his eyes. Another soldier, Mittens (Art LaFleur), wants to read Joey’s other book, “the one with the blonde dames from space,” but Joey traded it for a pack of Luckies. Yep, this is World War II alright.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Combat Shock (1986)

Combat Shock (1986)
AKA American Nightmare

Starring Rick Giovinazzo, Veronica Stork, Mitch Maglio, Asaph Livni, Nick Nasta, Michael Tierno, Leo Lunney

Directed By Buddy Giovinazzo

Wow. Now this is just some dismal shit. I have just made it through Buddy Giovinazzo’s low budget gritfest, Combat Shock and I feel very fortunate that I am not on Prozac or prone to manic bouts of depression. The results could be devastating. Pound for pound you will be hard pressed to find a film more unflinchingly brutal and uncompromising in its depiction of a troubled mind teetering precariously on the brink of madness than you will here. If you thought your life was bad, just wait until you walk a mile in the shoes of Frankie Dunlan. This poor man has more shit on his plate than a tapeworm-infected bulimic at Hometown Buffet.

The obvious inspiration here is Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. The film doesn’t even pretend to disguise this fact. Certain situations and even wardrobe choices are lifted directly from that film. But after one viewing of this film Travis Bickle himself would have had an epiphany and realized he didn’t have it so bad. He probably would have turned himself right around and started a flower garden while huddling down with some chamomile tea and season 1 of Dora the Explorer. Not to downplay Taxi Driver, it’s one of my all-time favorite films. But if I had seen Combat Shock at the same time as Scorsese’s film there is no question which one would have had the greater lasting impact.

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Mini-Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo [Män som hatar kvinnor] (2009)

Starring Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Lena Endre, Peter Haber, Sven-Bertil Taube, Henrik Vanger, Peter Andersson, Ingvar Hirdwall, Marika Lagercrantz, Björn Granath

Directed by Niels Arden Oplev

Expectations: High. I’d heard nothing but heaps of gushing praise.

Is this the most overrated movie of 2009? No, it’s not quite at Avatar level here, but it is pretty thick. I didn’t hate this movie, it’s just that I honestly didn’t see a lot to get particularly excited about. Despite its interesting story, the film is a painful two-and-a-half hour slog through rape, revenge and murder. It’s definitely well shot and well acted, but it just takes so damn long to get anywhere that any suspense or tension is gone long before it has any real chance at an impact. There’s a fairly graphic rape scene that serves next to no purpose other than to set up a vice versa revenge rape a few minutes later. So there’s about 30 minutes of runtime devoted solely to setting up the fact that our main character is a girl that doesn’t take any shit. I LOVE revenge movies, they are my total bread and butter, but these scenes were just glorified torture porn. Director Oplev could have learned a lot from Taken. Liam Neeson is set up as a complete and absolute badass in one scene, and if memory serves, its done and over in less than five minutes.

I realize this makes me sound like a dude with attention deficit disorder that’s just itching for something to explode, but that’s simply not the case. Great, slow-burn movies are some of the best the cinema has to offer. In order for them to work though, you have to be connected to the characters you are traveling with, and herein lies another flaw of the film. I don’t care about anyone in this movie. The title character is essentially just supporting Michael Nyqvist in her own film, and Nyqvist’s character has got to be a front-runner in the “Most Boring Lead Character of the 2000s” race. This is all quite frustrating, as there are some killer moments peppered throughout the film that just don’t get the chance to shine they deserve. I wouldn’t recommend watching this, but as almost every other review I’ve seen is overwhelmingly positive, I’d say that if you are greatly interested or a fan of the book, you might be better off judging for yourself or trusting someone else’s opinion on this one.

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