The Stuff (1985)

Starring Michael Moriarty, Andrea Marcovicci, Garrett Morris, Paul Sorvino, Scott Bloom, Danny Aiello, Patrick O’Neal, James Dixon, Alexander Scourby, Russell Nype

Directed by Larry Cohen

Expectations: High. I’ve heard many good things for many years.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:

As soon as I saw an old man scoop up a handful of bubbling white foam and immediately taste it, I knew I’d enjoy The Stuff. This is literally the first scene in the movie and it immediately sets the ridiculous, hilarious tone that fills the entire film. Simply put, The Stuff is one of the most consistently entertaining ’80s B-Movies I’ve seen in a while, successfully pulling off a horror/comedy/corporate espionage/social satire/action hybrid, and the finale contains gigantic, fiery explosions. The Stuff is just as intoxicating and additive as the stuff in the film that causes all the trouble.

So as I mentioned before, an old man finds some bubbling white goo coming out of the ground and once he determines that it’s pretty damn tasty, he immediately commercializes it and starts a nationwide food revolution. The Stuff sweeps the nation with a catchy ad campaign and soon the American people are eating nothing but the stuff. No one knows exactly what it is (it’s a secret formula!), but they know they want it all the time. But not everyone is taken in by the craze, so it’s up to our heroes to work together and save the day. Just watch the movie, because no sentence I can construct will be as funny and as entertaining as watching the movie.

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Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death (1989)

Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death (1989)
AKA Piranha Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death, Jungle Heat

Starring Shannon Tweed, Bill Maher, Karen M. Waldron, Adrienne Barbeau, Brett Stimely, Barry Primus, Jim McKrell, Paul Ross, Vicky Varner, Alan David Gelman

Directed by J.F. Lawton (as J.D. Athens)

Expectations: Low, but I hope it lives up to the comedy of its name.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:

With a name like Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death, you pretty much know what you’re getting. The film delivers everything it promises except the death, but that’s ok because there’s always the ever-present threat just looming around the corner. What I didn’t expect was a satire of political and pop culture of the late ’80s, or a comedy remake of Apocalypse Now with elements of Indiana Jones and 2001 thrown in for good measure. It’s a wild concoction to be sure, and one that only a select crowd will be able to enjoy.

Feminism professor Shannon Tweed is recruited by a couple of Army men to venture into the uncharted avocado jungle that covers a good portion of California’s east side. Her mission is to find out what happened to Dr. Kurtz, a noted feminist author and thinker who was sent into the jungle to make contact with the Piranha tribe of cannibal women and stop them from killing and eating anyone who comes to pick an avocado. Why is this important, you ask? Well these days the avocado isn’t such a big deal, but in 1989 the world hinged on avocados, and with a shortage in America, the Soviet Union was quickly broadening the avocado gap.

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Mini-Review: Hollywood Shuffle (1987)

Starring Robert Townsend, Anne-Marie Johnson, Craigus R. Johnson, Helen Martin, Starletta DuPois, David McKnight, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Lou B. Washington, Brad Sanders, John Witherspoon, Eugene Robert Glazer, Lisa Mende, Dom Irrera

Directed by Robert Townsend

Expectations: Moderate, I know next to nothing about it.

Hollywood Shuffle may be nearly twenty-five years old, but its themes and points remain valid in today’s Hollywood climate, something both distressing and impressive at the same time. Robert Townsend crafts the well-told tale of Bobby Taylor, an aspiring actor stuck in a dead-end job at the Winky Dinky Dog, and the struggles he faces while trying to land his first big acting role. The struggle is the emotional heart of Hollywood Shuffle and will resonate well with anyone who’s ever had big dreams to do something spectacular.

This heart is counterpointed with biting, witty criticism of the entertainment industry in the form of Bobby’s daydreams, beautifully played out on-screen for everyone to enjoy. These sequences are also the film’s shining, hilarious moments and arrived to me completely unexpected. I have a strong love for this type of dreamy satire, so when the first dream began for the Black Acting School, I knew I was in for a real treat. The film also has quality moments of drama, with one monologue from the barber nearly bringing me to tears.

Hollywood Shuffle‘s behind-the-scenes story is just as interesting as the filmed one too. Made for a budget of $100,000, mostly funded with credit cards by Robert Townshend himself, the film is a pure labor of love and it’s evident right from the first frame. The blood, sweat and tears that went into the project are palpable and anyone who’s ever thought about the state of black actors in Hollywood will find a lot to ponder and enjoy in Hollywood Shuffle.

I’m sad to say that the themes of Hollywood Shuffle aren’t stuck in the 80s time frame. Sure things have gotten better, but we still don’t have many black actors fronting huge Hollywood productions. I’m still waiting for a major studio to put a black actor into a superhero role, something I’ve been dying to see for years now. Fuck the die-hard fanboys, an African-American Spider-Man or Thor would be fucking awesome. Or Batman? Or any superhero really. To say that they were created white and should remain that way forever is narrow-minded thinking. They were created white in a time when everything was created white and because so many people have this rose-colored nostalgia for the past, we continue to remain shackled to these bullshit ideals. C’mon, Hollywood! Break the mold and take a chance. Give actors from all ethnicities real shots at some high-quality, meaty roles! Diversity is your friend.

I’ve gotta give it up to Top 10 Films and their list of the Top 10 Low Budget Films of All Time for making me aware of this movie. Check out the list, it’s a good one.

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