Around the World in 80 Days (2004)

Starring Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Cécile De France, Jim Broadbent, Karen Mok, Ewen Bremner, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sammo Hung, Violet Pan Ying-Zi, Daniel Wu, Kengo Watanabe, Maggie Q, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Rob Schneider, John Cleese, Will Forte, Kathy Bates, Robert Fyfe, Ian McNeice, David Ryall, Roger Hammond, Adam Godley

Directed by Frank Coraci

Expectations: Low, but it has Jackie and an Arnold cameo, so…


I haven’t seen the 1956 version of Around the World in 80 Days since I was a kid, but my initial feeling was that it didn’t seem like something that lends itself to Jackie Chan. But this new version isn’t so much a remake as it is a complete fantasy/steampunk re-imagining with Jackie Chan’s style in mind from the genesis. A new sub-plot focuses on bringing Jackie’s talents to the forefront, and while it definitely isn’t the most inspired story line, it’s more than enough to entertain and justify the stunts and fights we all look for in a Jackie movie. Fans of the novel and the classic, Oscar-winning film will likely be disappointed by this re-telling, but I feel like fans of Jackie might really enjoy themselves if they click with the film’s comedic style (which probably skews a bit younger than Jackie’s other US films). I know I did, and to be honest I was expecting a total stinker!

Passepartout (Jackie Chan) robs a precious Jade Buddha from the Bank of England and is in need of shelter. He finds it with Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan), an inventor with a rich, creative mind for science. Fogg lacks much life experience “outside the lab,” though, rarely venturing from his home. One of the few places he frequents is the Royal Academy of Science, where he’s regularly laughed at and thought of as an eccentric thinker who lacks the practicality to be useful to the field of science. In a bid to rid themselves of him, the head of the academy, Lord Kelvin (Jim Broadbent), bets Fogg that his calculation of being able to circumnavigate the world in 80 days is incorrect. The stakes are immense: if Fogg wins, he becomes head of the academy, but if he loses he must give up inventing for the rest of his life. Oh, and a bunch of henchmen are in pursuit of Jackie and his Jade Buddha the whole time, further complicating their travels.

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Virgins of the Seven Seas (1974)

VirginsoftheSevenSeas_1Virgins of the Seven Seas [洋妓, Karate, Küsse, blonde Katzen] (1974)
AKA The Bod Squad, Enter the Seven Virgins, Foreign Prostitutes

Starring Sonja Jeannine, Diana Drube, Gillian Bray, Tamara Elliot, Deborah Ralls, Yueh Hua, Lau Wai-Ling, Wang Hsieh, Helen Ko, Li Min-Lang, Kong Yeung, Wang Han-Chen, Law Hon, Chan Lap-Ban, Chu Yau-Ko, Sai Gwa-Pau, Aai Dung-Gwa

Directed by Ernst Hofbauer & Kuei Chih-Hung

Expectations: Low. I’m expecting something trashy.

On the general scale:
twostar

On the B-movie scale:
threehalfstar


In addition to being the year of newfound freedom, 1974 was the year that the Shaw Brothers invested heavily in partnering up with other international studios to co-produce films. They had done a few films like this scattered throughout the years (their first being the 1961 comedy The Three Ladies of Hong Kong, produced with Toho), but there were seven co-productions in 1974 alone! I imagine they had hopes of reaching new markets with these films, perhaps in an attempt to replicate what Golden Harvest & Warner Bros. had done with Enter the Dragon. Virgins of the Seven Seas is the second Shaw co-production I’ve seen, and it also holds the distinction of being the trashiest Shaw Brothers film I’ve seen yet. And to be honest, I don’t know that I expect any future film to unseat it!

The film features a simple tale of human trafficking and revenge, but mostly it features a lot of nudity. These poor actresses spend almost the entire film topless, tied up or having simulated attempted rapes inflicted upon them; I can’t imagine it was a great filmmaking experience for them. But these are the sacrifices you have to make when filming a movie about five German women kidnapped by pirates who learn kung fu and take revenge on their captors. The film is not shy about being as trashy as it wants to be, but I must admit that the nearly non-stop nudity does give the film a quality of reality that it would not otherwise have. Is it gratuitous? Of course, but because of the gratuity and the relentless aggression of the villains, the women’s fear and vulnerability never left my mind. The film is an exploitation sex comedy with kung fu, so it’s about as far from a message movie as you can get, but regardless it made me reckon with the horrors of human trafficking and the the victims of the sex trade in a heightened, visceral manner.

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Stephen reviews: Ghost in the Shell (1995)

ghostintheshell_1Ghost in the Shell [攻殻機動隊 Kōkaku Kidōtai] (1995)
AKA Armored Riot Police

Starring Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Ohtsuka, Iemasa Kayumi, Kōichi Yamadera, Yutaka Nakano, Tamio Ohki

Directed by Mamoru Oshii


It’s hard to imagine Ghost in the Shell as old. But here it is, nearly 20 years later, and the film still feels unrelentingly futuristic, far more than other science fiction films of the time like Total Recall, or even The Matrix which this film inspired. It probably has to do with Masamune Shirow, the series’s original creator, being so in touch with computer technology and engineering. Ghost in the Shell doesn’t just feel futuristic; it feels very real and absolutely believable. And that’s what makes it all the more frightening.

It isn’t a horror film by any means, but the concept of getting brainwashed by a computer hacker is scary as hell. We like to think of our souls, our personal identity, as something beyond the ability of others to touch, but not in this film. This is a future where your memories can be rewritten at any time, and “ghost hacking” is as common as computer viruses are today. For my money, that is far more frightening than any boogeyman jumping out of the shadows.

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Cinderella (1977)

cinderella_1977_poster_01Cinderella (1977)
AKA Cinderella: The Movie, The Other Cinderella

Starring Cheryl Smith, Yana Nirvana, Marilyn Corwin, Jennifer Doyle, Sy Richardson, Brett Smiley, Kirk Scott, Boris Moris, Pamela Stonebrook

Directed by Michael Pataki

Expectations: Very low.

On the general scale:
onehalfstar

On the B-movie scale:
threestar


[As a slight disclaimer to those who might be interested in seeking this one out and laughing at its absurdity fresh and untainted: I suggest doing so before reading the review. This movie is such that I found it hard not to reveal many of the ways it takes license with the classic tale, and that’s pretty much the whole enchilada with this one. So you’ve been warned!]

Against all odds, Cinderella, the ’70s softcore version of the fairy tale produced by Charles Band, is a memorable, enjoyable experience. I’ve purposefully held back on reviewing this and a few other films in the Band lineup, thinking that they’d be hard to get through (or perhaps impenetrable, to use a dick joke in the spirit of this movie). I also couldn’t imagine the idea that a softcore musical would be any good, but now I see the error in my thinking. Not only was it good, it was a “snapping” good time. And up front I should mention that “good” is most definitely a subjective term here, as I imagine most people would find this largely stupid and pointless.

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Test Tube Teens from the Year 2000 (1994)

8z3GQPbcCZgypBV3PYeVxBOXDmbTest Tube Teens from the Year 2000 (1994)
AKA Virgin Hunters

Starring Morgan Fairchild, Ian Abercrombie, Brian Bremer, Christopher Wolf, Sara Suzanne Brown, Michele Matheson, Don Dowe, Tamara Tohill, Laurel Wiley, Robin Joi Brown

Directed by David DeCoteau

Expectations: Pretty low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


From the risque, James Bond-inspired opening titles, to the striptease dream sequence about 30 seconds into the film, you might guess that Test Tube Teens from the Year 2000 is more softcore than sci-fi comedy, and you wouldn’t be totally wrong. Full Moon had an off-shoot company called Surrender Cinema that traded solely in late-night fare for Cinemax and the like (and this film was released by its predecessor company, Torchlight Entertainment), but despite what the jazzy porno music might make you think, this is actually a real movie. Well, one with a few gratuitous, lengthy softcore sex scenes, that is. I had previously removed the softcore films from this series as they don’t offer much traditional movie content, but Test Tube Teens from the Year 2000 is definitely a worthwhile film for review.

The film opens in the year 2019, as a group of teenagers (all born in the year 2000, get it?) do their best to pay attention to their history teacher’s propaganda about how the corporation always knows best and stuff like that. But Vin can’t focus on his studies because the girl in the row in front of him has an ass that just won’t quit. He can’t stop looking at it, and he begins to fantasize about her slowly stripping for him and asking him if he likes what he sees. This leads us into the necessary component to any great sci-fi story: the reveal of what defines the world. In this version of 2019, all sex, as well as lustful thoughts, have been outlawed and all reproduction is performed via test tubes.

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Tourist Trap (1979)

Starring Chuck Connors, Jocelyn Jones, Jon Van Ness, Robin Sherwood, Tanya Roberts, Dawn Jeffory, Keith McDermott, Shailar Coby

Directed by David Schmoeller

Expectations: Pretty high, actually. This poster is pretty damn good.

On the general scale:

On the B-Movie scale:


Tourist Trap is an interesting movie in that it’s both boring and oddly enchanting, daring you to close your eyes and not be haunted by the creepy mannequins with the mouths that open too wide which populate the more tense moments of the film. It’s a hard film to rate because I genuinely enjoyed and got a lot of entertainment out of it, but it’s almost completely devoid of plot and what is there is pretty obvious right from the get go to anyone even remotely familiar with horror films.

The film opens with a guy rolling a tire down a dirt road. He’s hot, tired and obviously a long way from home. He finds a gas station/restaurant and goes inside seeking some help with his tire. No one is around, but he hears something that makes him check out the backroom. He approaches the figure laying in the bed and it quickly springs up to surprise him. It’s just a mannequin, but when the guy turns to leave the room, the door slams shut and everything starts to go completely apeshit. Windows shut without anyone near them, chairs rattle, mannequins burst forth from closet doors. He’s eventually killed by a hurtling lead pipe that pins him to the door he’s been desperately trying to claw his way out of the entire scene. And this is only the beginning of the nightmare for this guy and his friends…

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Blackenstein [The Black Frankenstein] (1973)

Blackenstein [The Black Frankenstein] (1973)
AKA Black Frankenstein, Return of Blackenstein, Blackstein

Starring John Hart, Ivory Stone, Joe De Sue, Roosevelt Jackson

Directed By William A. Levey


After the runaway success of Blacula, it was only a matter of time before other studios would attempt to cash in on the blaxploitation/horror sub-genre. The most obvious attempt was 1973’s Blackenstein, a movie that takes everything Blacula did right and throws it completely out the window.

When Vietnam Vet Eddie Turner (Joe De Sue) loses all of his limbs from a land mine, his fiancée Dr. Walker consults her old teacher, mad scientist Dr. Stein (John Hart) for help. Dr. Stein attempts to attach new limbs to Eddie, and all is going according to plan. But when his assistant, Malcomb professes his love for Dr. Walker and is rejected, he secretly switches the bottles of DNA solution out of spite. The unbalanced solution is injected into Eddie, mutating him into Blackenstein, a hideous (?) monster who escapes the laboratory every night, limping around Los Angeles like a 93-year-old woman, killing random strangers by ripping out their intestines.

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