Ghoulies IV (1994)

ghoulies4_3Starring Peter Liapis, Barbara Alyn Woods, Stacie Randall, Raquel Krelle, Bobby Di Cicco, Tony Cox, Arturo Gil

Directed by Jim Wynorski

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:
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On the B-movie scale:
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Many moons and black magic spells ago, I reviewed the first three films in the Ghoulies franchise. I purposely chose to avoid Part 4, based on my highly negative reaction to the third film and the bothersome idea that the ghoulies of Ghoulies IV were actually dudes in suits and not puppets. Five years of writing for Silver Emulsion has cured my brain towards B-Movies far more than I could have ever imagined, so I felt it was finally time to take on Ghoulies IV. I even re-watched the other Ghoulies films in preparation and didn’t completely hate Ghoulies III! (It’s still shitty, but I was able to have fun with it this time.)

Even with these multiple years of thick B-Movie watching under my belt, I still entered Ghoulies IV with trepidation. The first two films in the franchise hold a special place in my heart as they were somewhat responsible for sending me down this B-Movie path, and I feared that Ghoulies IV would further trash the Ghoulies name as the third film had. But then the film opened with an explosion that ripping a door from its hinges, thru which a leather-clad buxom female emerged, and within a matter of moments she’s thrown a ninja star into the forehead of a well-meaning security guard. I was instantly won over — explosions and ninja stars are a quick way to my heart — and I am pleased to report that the rest of the movie continued this trend of tightly packed B-Movie thrills.

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Oz: The Great and Powerful (2013)

ozgreatandpowerfulStarring James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff, Bill Cobbs, Joey King, Tony Cox, Stephen R. Hart, Abigail Spencer

Directed by Sam Raimi

Expectations: None. I would never willingly choose to watch this, even if Sam Raimi made it.

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A Sam Raimi fan would hope that if he actually wanted to remake Army of Darkness, he’d at least do so interestingly. It’s a bit of a stretch to call Oz: The Great and Powerful an Army of Darkness remake, but there are way too many parallels between the stories to ignore. I have to wonder if these elements existed in the script prior to Raimi getting the job, or if they tailored the film to his perceived strengths; I imagine some executive yelling at a cowering assistant, “Get me Raimi! He knows fish-out-of-water stories!” Raimi’s strengths, if you were going by this movie, are first-person shots of stuff flying directly into the camera, coaxing horrible performances out of his actors, an ability to craft fun “getting stuff ready for the battle” montages, and short snap zooms (as opposed to the more prevalent long snap zoom that you might see in a Shaw Brothers movie, or more recently Django Unchained). That’s about all the Raimi directorial stamp there is on this bombastic, overstuffed mainstream offering. And yeah, I realize that this is for kids, but that doesn’t excuse it from being horrible.

Oz: The Great and Powerful is not based on any previous work, instead drawing elements and inspiration from the books of L. Frank Baum to create something of a prequel that never existed to The Wizard of Oz. We follow Oscar as he rides a tornado into Oz, finding himself smack dab in the midst of the fantastic world of Oz. Aspects of this story sort of fly in the face of what happened in the original film too, so purists will want to turn their brains off completely (or better yet, watch something else). Also, Disney doesn’t own the rights to the iconic 1939 film version of The Wizard of Oz, so they are legally forbidden from directly referencing the events of that movie or using any similar designs. This is arguably a moot point, as the designs they ended up with for the Emerald City looked close enough for me to believe that they were the same city. The rest of Oz… not so much, but when you’re making an over-the-top fantasy film in 2013, that is to be expected.

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Mini-Review: Valet Girls (1987)

Starring Meri Marshall, April Stewart, Mary Kohnert, Jack DeLeon, Jon Sharp, Patricia Scott Michel, Michael Karm, Steve Lyon, Randy Vasquez, Stuart Fratkin, Tony Cox

Directed by Rafal Zielinski

Expectations: Low. I don’t even know what to expect.

On the general scale:
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On the B-Movie scale:
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Welcome back to the screwball 80s sex comedy, courtesy of director Rafal Zielinski, the man who brought the world the Screwballs series and one of the final Empire films, Spellcaster. Y’know those pool party scenes that are inevitably in every 80s comedy? String three of them back-to-back and you’ve got Valet Girls! Surprisingly enough though, Valet Girls is much more female-positive than you’d expect from the genre, even if the whole movie is basically old men trying to hook up with eighteen-year-old girls casting couch style.

Lucy & Rosalind are a pair of girls looking for their big break, but so far, all they’re doing is parking cars for the Valet Girls company. They’re forced to wear lace stockings for the job, but they’re good sports about it and don’t take no shit from anyone. One day they catch wind that a big record producer is going to be at a party at Dirk Zebra’s house in Beverly Hills, so they drive over there after work post-haste. This leads into the first of the three pool party scenes.

Thankfully the comedy here is actually funny, which is always nice, but never taken for granted when viewing older “comedy” films. This is definitely one of those raunchy 80s comedies that laid it all out on the table: from cocaine to topless girls to dildo jokes, Valet Girls has it all. Consequentially the film seems a lot more timeless than it should because of the recent return of the raunchy comedy, although stupid shit like The Hangover would never dare have this many titties in it for fear of alienating the prospective female audience. This is a big part of the charm of Valet Girls, it is what it is, it doesn’t apologize and it’s a lot of fun for it. Also, at its heart the film has a strong female empowerment vibe which I enjoyed a lot, with the main girls throwing everything back into the misogynist’s faces and by the end, getting the ultimate revenge on the main offenders.

Valet Girls is not without its faults though, as there’s only so much pool party you can pack into one movie without it getting somewhat boring. It’s still rather successful for what it is though, and I had a good time watching it. This is sugary 80s bubblegum, and for my money, this is a million times better than the much more popular and well-known movie Valet Girls apes its title from, Valley Girl.

Next week, it’s the start of the 2nd Annual Horrific October! It’s all kickin’ off with the off-shoot entry into the Subspecies series, 1997’s Vampire Journals!

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