Quick Takes: Nightmare City, Your Highness, The Foot Fist Way

nightmare-city-poster-161Nightmare City [Incubo Sulla Cittá Contaminata] (1980)
AKA City of the Walking Dead

fourstar

Starring Hugo Stiglitz, Laura Trotter, Maria Rosaria Omaggio, Francisco Rabal, Sonia Viviani, Eduardo Fajardo, Stefania D’Amario, Ugo Bologna
Directed by Umberto Lenzi

I’ve had Nightmare City on my radar for a while, but the arrival of Tom Savini’s crowdfunded remake-to-be gave me that extra little push in the right direction. Simply put, Nightmare City is a fuckin’ blast. I’ve always been a firm supporter of traditional, walking zombies, with the focus on the incessant nature of the never-tiring horde instead of the more immediate threat that running zombies deliver. But Nightmare City, the first film to use running zombies, proved to me that they can be just as fun, if not more. Director Umberto Lenzi crafts a film with scene after scene of pure balls-out madness, and the way it all bursts forth and inundates the unsuspecting viewer is incredible fun. One moment I was in tense apprehension for what might be behind that aircraft door, and then WHAM! A fucking horde of mud-faced, bloodthirsty fiends runs out, and the rest of the movie never lets up. The running zombies work here because Lenzi still embraces the overwhelming nature of the horde, while also delivering more fun than I think I’ve ever had with a zombie movie. It’s firmly a B-Movie, though, so many will scoff at its low-budget FX, but I say fuck all that and just have a good time with it!

yourhighness_1Your Highness (2011)
threestar

Starring Danny McBride, James Franco, Rasmus Hardiker, Natalie Portman, Toby Jones, Justin Theroux, Zooey Deschanel, Charles Dance, Damian Lewis
Directed by David Gordon Green

Not sure how to review this one because it’s the kind of movie you pretty much know how you’ll feel about it before you watch it. If you liked Eastbound & Down and you’ve come on a quest for more Danny McBride to put in your head, Your Highness is a hoot. It helps if you also have an affinity for ’80s movies, specifically ’80s fantasy flicks like Beastmaster or Conan the Barbarian. If you’re not that person, I can’t imagine this being anything close to entertaining. But for me, I’m firmly in the first group, so I really enjoyed seeing Danny McBride in a fantasy setting. The ’80s-style CG lightning was also a quick way to my heart, but I think the perverted, Yoda-like Wise Wizard, brought to life by a puppet, really sealed the deal. Where a lot of ’80s throwbacks just feel like modern movies, Your Highness actually gets the spirit of ’80s sword-and-sorcery movies down pat, and it’s got more than its share of hilarity if you’re in the right frame of mind.

foot_fist_way_xlgThe Foot Fist Way (2006)
threestar

Starring Danny McBride, Mary Jane Bostic, Ben Best, Spencer Moreno, Carlos Lopez, Jody Hill, Ken Aguilar, Collette Wolfe
Directed by Jody Hill

Your Highness got me in the mood for some more Danny McBride, which naturally led me to The Foot Fist Way. McBride plays a Tae Kwon Do instructor that is every bit the foul-mouthed blowhard you’d expect him to be. The character is not as defined as McBride’s Kenny Powers role on Eastbound & Down, but you can clearly see the beginnings of that idea in The Foot Fist Way. Fans will definitely enjoy this one, but as this is the roughest of the McBride films, it’s not one to show everybody. Of course, I love me some martial arts, so the parody of that environment and the characters that inhabit it hit very solidly with me.

Quick Takes: Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Disorderlies, The Happening

Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)

Starring Leslie Nielsen, Mel Brooks, Peter MacNicol, Steven Weber, Amy Yasbeck, Lysette Anthony, Harvey Korman, Anne Bancroft
Directed by Mel Brooks

Actually, he’s more just getting along than loving it. I was expecting Dracula to get all Liberace on life, but alas this is a rather pedestrian re-telling of the Dracula tale and not the flamboyant re-imagining I hoped for. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. On the contrary, I’m enough of a Dracula fan to get a kick out of the places where the kicks were intended. The blood gushing gag was my favorite, as it satisfied my gorehound thirst as well as my funny bone. A very minor Brooks work, and presumably his final film unless he’s preparing a comeback, Dracula: Dead and Loving It is just OK.

Disorderlies (1987)

Starring Mark Morales, Darren Robinson, Damon Wimbley, Ralph Bellamy, Anthony Geary, Tony Plana, Marco Rodríguez, Helen Reddy, Troy Beyer
Directed by Michael Schultz

Disorderlies is an astoundingly subtle take on race and class in 1980s, both of which went completely over my head as a kid focusing on the rap antics of three of hip-hop’s heaviest dudes. Oh ok, Disorderlies may not plumb the depths of social commentary and it’s technically not a very good movie, but if you’re in the right mindset, it’s a fantastically fun 80s comedy and I had an absolute blast watching it. When I was a young kid, I had an unhealthy fascination with seeing this movie and when I finally saw it, I loved it. I haven’t seen it since that fateful day in the late 80s, and while it isn’t the laugh riot I remember it being, it’s still pretty damn funny. I just can’t help but laugh when Buff and Kool drive a cop car from the back set with coat hangers. It’s like The Three Stooges for the 80s, complete with the accompanying sound FX and prat falls.

The Happening (2008)

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo, Ashlyn Sanchez, Betty Buckley, Spencer Breslin, Robert Bailey, Jr., Frank Collison, Victoria Clark, Jeremy Strong
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

The Happening is a big-budget B-movie and nothing more, so like many B-movies, it never quite reaches the heights it sets out for. It’s a poorly acted, poorly directed, poorly written piece of trash moviemaking, but I honestly enjoyed it overall. I can dig the environmental theme, but I take issue with one key moment at the end that shows Shyamalan doesn’t really understand or subscribe to the theories he’s trying to enlighten others with here. Perhaps this moment is yet another comment on society, but if that’s the case, it’s poorly executed. Still though, it’s trashy fun and the R Rating helps sell the apocalypse pretty well. If you enjoy paranoia B-Movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Happening is a fair, but stupid, entry into the genre. Watch out for Mark Wahlberg’s dialogue with the potted plant, it’s a high point and I can only wonder what everyone on set thought about the state of their careers in that moment.

(500) Days of Summer (2009)

Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Chloë Moretz, Geoffrey Arend, Matthew Gray Gubler, Clark Gregg, Rachel Boston, Minka Kelly, Maile Flanagan, Patricia Belcher, Richard McGonagle

Directed by Marc Webb

Expectations: Extremely low.


This movie was better than I expected. It wasn’t great, but it had its moments. It’s one of those movies that people like to call “a cute little movie.” It tells the story of Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a greeting card writer, who believes that one day he will meet his soul mate. Enter Summer (Zooey Deschanel). But as the opening narration states, this isn’t a love story. It’s also not really a comedy. It’s more of a drama than the ad campaigns would have you believe.

The films unravels in a non-linear way, which I almost always feel is a clever device used to make a boring story more palatable. In this case it mostly works, but at only 97 minutes, it still feels really long. That is not to say that it’s uninteresting, just that some of the scenes could have been more engaging. The film is also an incredibly mainstream looking movie for an independent film. Tons of over-the-shoulder dialogue shots and close-ups. It’s not without innovation though. There are a few great ideas in the movie that are executed with perfection. Spoiling them would be just rotten of me, so I’ll just say that one of them involves the main character looking into a mirrored surface and seeing a very clever reflection. There’s also a fantastic split-screen scene involving expectations. I’ll leave it at that.

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