Transformations (1988)

Transformations-1Transformations (1988)
AKA Alien Transformations

Starring Rex Smith, Lisa Langlois, Patrick Macnee, Christopher Neame, Michael Hennessy, Cec Verrell, Benito Stefanelli, Donald Hodson, Pamela Prati, Ann Margaret Hughes, Loredana Romito

Directed by Jay Kamen

Expectations: Moderate, but it’s ’80s so it’ll have cool FX work, right?

On the general scale:
onestar

On the B-movie scale:
threestar


I often say, “The future is now,” because I’m so amazed with technology and how different things have become since my youth. But now I feel cheated because in the version of the future shown in Transformations, everyone drinks out of glasses with neato twisty straws built into them. It’s really quite impressive, but like any great advancement for humanity such as this, we must also deal with the ever increasing dangers of the world. And in this version of the future, humanity’s greatest threat is a ferocious alien demon STD that transforms its host into a gooey, hairy monstrosity that conveniently has the power to transform itself into an object of desire to lure its next victim into bed.

This is exactly what happens to our main character, a rollicking space smuggler named Han Solo Wolfgang Shadduck (Rex Smith), but you can call him Wolf. He’s been flying around the galaxy alone for far too long, and it’s his birthday. His friends from Earth have sent a video message and apparently planted a present on-board before he left. They won’t tell him where it is, instead they just scream “TREASURE HUNT!” and laugh. So when a beautiful woman appears at his cabin door, he assumes she’s his StripperGram present, ignoring all logic and assuming she’s been hiding in a cargo locker surviving on nutritional paste all this time. But whatever, this is a horror movie, and what’s a horror movie without a dumb character doing something dumb to allow the audience to have some horrific fun?

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Dr. Moreau’s House of Pain (2004)

drmoreau_1Starring John Patrick Jordan, Jessica Lancaster, Jacob Witkin, Peter Donald Badalamenti II, Lorielle New, Ling Aum, B.J. Smith, Debra Mayer, Laura Petersen

Directed by Charles Band

Expectations: Moderate.

On the general scale:
onestar

On the B-movie scale:
twohalfstar


H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau is a classic of horror literature. It’s been adapted into many film versions, starting all the way back in 1913 with The Island of Terror. But for fans looking for stories that go beyond the scope of the original novel, your options are far more limited. Enter Dr. Moreau’s House of Pain, a sequel of sorts to the original novel, telling the story of how the good doctor set up shop in a Hollywood mansion in the 1940s after leaving his island behind. Oh, what’s that? Dr. Moreau died in the novel? Oh… well… uh… no he didn’t!

Dr. Moreau’s House of Pain opens with boxer Eric Carson (John Patrick Jordan), journalist Mary Anne (Debra Mayer), and their friend Judith (Jessica Lancaster) in a car talking about how Eric’s brother Roy has gone missing. He frequented the bar they’re parked in front of, so I guess the plan is to go in and gather information. I don’t know, I wasn’t paying attention. I know, I know, the movie just started and my attention shouldn’t be wavering, but hear me out. Eric is played by the same guy that plays the lead in the Evil Bong films, so all I could do was theorize about how this 1940s John Patrick Jordan was somehow the grandfather of Evil Bong‘s Larnell. Which then led me down the mental path of trying to connect the creepy kids show host Hambo, who is featured in most of Full Moon’s recent films, and surmising that he could actually be one of Moreau’s creations. Perhaps the next Evil Bong sequel will also be a sequel to this film!

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Alien Arsenal (1999)

alienarsenal_6Alien Arsenal (1999)
AKA Alien Weapons

Starring Josh Hammond, Danielle Hoover, Michele Nordin, Krisztián Kovács, Jerrod Cornish, William Vogt, Riley Smith, Dominic Catrambone, Stephanie Mennella, Chris Olivero, Robert Donavan, Brenda Blondell

Directed by David DeCoteau

Expectations: Moderate.

On the general scale:
twohalfstar

On the B-movie scale:
threestar


Pretty boys in their underwear with varying levels of acting quality? Must be time for another David DeCoteau film! Alien Arsenal is a loose remake of Laserblast, one of my favorite Full Moon films. Generally I’m against remakes, but Laserblast is the kind of movie that could definitely use some improvement. Don’t get me wrong, I love it just how it is, but it’s the ultimate “Let’s roll with this movie’s inherent shittiness and have a good time” movie. Sure, Laserblast has a massive amount of slo-mo explosions LASERBLASTS, blowing up everything from popcorn machines to bullies driving hot rods, but you have to wade through a river of shit to get to them.

For the most part, Alien Arsenal does a good job of taking Laserblast and applying a plot to the general premise. That’s right, Laserblast is largely a plotless film, strung together by nothing more than teenage rage and fiery explosions. Alien Arsenal retains the premise of a bullied teen acquiring an alien weapon, but the whys and the hows are much more than, “He finds it in the desert.”

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Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

mad_max_fury_road_Starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Josh Helman, Nathan Jones, Zoë Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton, John Howard, Richard Carter, Iota, Angus Sampson, Jennifer Hagan, Megan Gale, Melissa Jaffer

Directed by George Miller

Expectations: Initially nothing, then moderate after I saw the 1st trailer, then the hype dropped and my expectations ballooned to astronomical proportions.

fourstar


HHHHHHOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLYYYYYY FFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCKKKKKK! The idea of trying to write something relatively coherent after experiencing Mad Max: Fury Road is straight-up ludicrous. While watching it I kept thinking to myself, “This is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.” I know that sounds ridiculously hyperbolic, but it’s true. So what more do I have to say? GO SEE IT IN THE THEATERS! Of course, there’s lots more to say, but that’s the only thing you need to hear if you haven’t seen it yet. Just see it, then we’ll talk.

[Deep breath.]

OK, I can do this.

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Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)

madmax3_1Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
AKA Mad Max 3

Starring Mel Gibson, Tina Turner, Angelo Rossitto, Angry Anderson, Helen Buday, Tom Jennings, Robert Grubb, Paul Larsson, Bruce Spence, Adam Cockburn, Frank Thring, Edwin Hodgeman, Rod Zuanic

Directed by George Miller & George Ogilvie

Expectations: Vroom?

threehalfstar


Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is the much-maligned entry of the Mad Max trilogy, and I had only seen it once in my teenage years prior to this re-watch. Back then, I expected it to be Road Warrior 2, and when it wasn’t I called it a shitty movie. I guess it’s fair to assume that a sequel would somewhat resemble the films that came before it, but in this particular case it’s the wrong way to come at Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome because there’s virtually no way to enjoy it if you do so. But when considered on its own, and as a continuation of the wasteland and the societal issues built up in the previous films, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is a fantastic sequel.

This one is far more story-driven than the other films, making it a more traditional film in a very non-traditional franchise (and thus probably causing more people to be perturbed). Anyway, we open with Max making his way across the great desert via camel-drawn wagon. He gets robbed by a huckster pilot (who is totally not the Gyrocopter pilot from Road Warrior even though they’re both played by Bruce Spence), so Max continues on his way to Barter Town on foot. Once there Max attracts the attention of the town’s leader, Aunty Entity (Tina Turner), who decides to use his talents for her own purposes.

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The Road Warrior (1981)

madmax2_1The Road Warrior (1981)
AKA Mad Max 2

Starring Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Michael Preston, Max Phipps, Vernon Wells, Kjell Nilsson, Emil Minty, Virginia Hey, William Zappa, Arkie Whiteley, Steve J. Spears

Directed by George Miller

Expectations: Vroom! Vroom!

threehalfstar


The Road Warrior is not a direct sequel to Mad Max, instead it jumps forward a number of years to present a much more advanced version of the wasteland. This is never expressly stated, but it’s really the only way to explain why the two films are so aesthetically different. Anyway, The Road Warrior is an incredible film, and much different than its predecessor. Director George Miller proved on Mad Max that he had a punk spirit that was willing to tell his story without adhering to traditional filmmaking rules, and here on The Road Warrior the same spirit is in evidence (both in visual design and storytelling).

At this stage, society as we know it is completely gone. Gasoline is far more precious than it was in Mad Max and the bandits have also become much more insane, embracing their law of chaos. The bandits dress like scavenger punks, wearing leather chaps, football pads and whatever the hell else they found that looked suitably badass. Their leader is a huge guy in a hockey mask named Humungus, a name both fitting for his stature and for the bandits’ outlook on life. They don’t have time to waste on bullshit; this guy’s humongous so his name will be Humungus!

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Mad Max (1979)

mad_max_ver2Starring Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Steve Bisley, Tim Burns, Roger Ward, Lisa Aldenhoven, David Bracks, Bertrand Cadart, David Cameron, Robina Chaffey

Directed by George Miller

Expectations: Vroom!

threehalfstar


Ever since I first watched Mad Max as a teenager, I’ve harbored a serious love for it. The opening chase is probably one of my all-time favorite opening sequences. While going about my day, I will often randomly recall the moment when the car crashes through the trailer and smile to myself; it’s one of those small pieces of film on my mental highlight reel (along with other gems like the head explosion at the beginning of Dawn of the Dead). But even though I watched Mad Max many times during those years, enough to sear this moment into my brain, I went into this re-watch not recalling much of anything specific except that.

Max is a cop for MFP (which does not stand for Mother Fuckers Protectin’ like you might expect), and MFP is one of the last shreds of ordered society left in the world. Max and his few compatriots do their best to enforce the law, but it’s like fighting an ocean wave; it’s coming through you no matter how hard you struggle against it. Chaos is taking hold over Australia, with no remedy in sight. The MFP is a dying breed in a land that has moved on.

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