Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here, on the IndyBlog.
Shout! Factory has entered the multiple-movie DVD market that outfits like Mill Creek and Echo Bridge have been dominated as of late, and boy, does it do so with a bang! Shout!'s Action-Packed Movie Marathon is a B-movie fan’s wet dream, featuring four long-sought-after titles on two discs, all to be watched in one marathon viewing, of course. On the first disc is a Fred Olen Ray double-feature of Cyclone, starring ’80s sex bomb Heather Thomas as the protector of a futuristic, highly classified motorcycle, and Alienator, starring 8’0s hunk Jan-Michael Vincent as a no-nonsense space general who sends a towering female bodybuilder to Earth to track down a deadly criminal. As fun as those are, the real treats are on the second disc, starting off with Gary Busey in the redneck revenge thriller Eye of the Tiger — and yes, it’s based on the song by Survivor. Finally, there’s the trashy exploitation flick Exterminator 2, with Robert Ginty returning as the flamethrowing ex-Vietnam vet who cleans the streets of Mario Van Peebles and his cult of dangerous punks. It’s eight hours of pure garbagey fun.
From the makers of The Last Exorcism comes the first found-footage Frankenstein movie, The Frankenstein Theory. And like The Last Exorcism, it’s exceedingly stupid, but quite a bit of fun. The idea of the movie is that the story of Frankenstein was actually based on the experiments of Venkenheim, a revolutionary scientist who was ostracized for his theories of reanimation (and whose premise was stolen by Mary Shelley). His descendant, Professor John Venkenheim, has rediscovered his theories and sets off with a documentary film crew to the Arctic, where he believes the real creature to be living. Tracking unexplained murders and caribou migratory patterns, the team does come face-to-face with the monster in a brutally tense game of cat-and-mouse. While the ending is a bit unsatisfying, the adventure there is a lot of fun, and I think that’s because the movie takes itself so seriously, even in the face of this idiotic premise. No Theory, it’s a fact: This Frankenstein is alive and well.
When I think of great names for fictional action heroes, I think of rugged dudes with names like Jet Tannenhauser or Brick Mantooth. But Lyle Swann? Nope, never. And that’s just the tip of the unlikely spear that is the crazy 1982 time-traveling-western-motorcycle-actioner Timerider, produced by former Monkee Mike Nesmith and financed with his Liquid Paper inheritance. The disheveled Fred Ward is the aforementioned Swann, the world’s greatest off-road racer who is accidentally zapped to 1877 when his motorcycle zooms across a secret government time-travel experiment. As soon as Swann hits Old Mexico, he gets into the bad graces of a gang of cutthroat outlaws, led by the criminally underrated Peter Coyote. Of course, this entire time, Swann has no idea he’s even in the past, even when people think he’s a demon on a mechanical horse. With more comical anachronisms and incestuous plot revelations than a 100 Back to the Futures, Timerider is a sci-fi trek that was, no pun intended, way ahead of its time.
I know that clowns are supposed to be this terrifying horror trope, but let’s face it: Most modern-day attempts to demonize the painted dopes are laughably bad. The last scary clown I can even remember was Pennywise in It, and that was a cheap made-for-TV movie from more than 20 years ago. Since then, it’s just a bargain-basement way to knock off teens quicker than backwoods hillbillies or shambling zombies. The latest culprit is Stitches, a thoroughly unlikeable Irish import that tries to be a ready-made cult film, but will be than likely be ready-made for the $5 bin at Wal-Mart. A dirty, degenerate clown is accidentally killed at a birthday party, and a cult of clowns resurrects him in a bid for big-shoed revenge. Desperately clinging to the thin line of horror and comedy, Stitches never really achieves either. It's the cinematic equivalent of the hobo clown that gets kicked in the face by an angry bull at a rodeo, and about half as fun to watch.
Is there really anyone among us who doesn’t enjoy the wise-cracking antics of the MST3K crew? In Shout! Factory’s 26th (!) volume of their four-disc collections of some of the beloved series’ most requested episodes; they prove that they haven’t been padding them the higher they get up in number. Featuring Mike, Joel and the bots’ classic snipes on such films as the Bert I. Gordon sword-and-sorcery cheapie The Magic Sword; supermodel Kathy Ireland as a beleaguered surfer girl in Alien from L.A.; the Italian 007 rip-off Danger!! Death Ray; and, of course, the John Agar underground adventure The Mole People, these titles are packed with more laughs per minute than any other comedy available on the market. It’s a true testament to the enduring popularity and legacy of this show, and how we need it back on the air more than ever. But, seeing as how that’ll never happen, just sign me up for Volume 27, please.
When a softball-sized fragment of dark matter rips a hole straight through the Earth and causes the planet to stop rotating, it could only mean one thing: You’re watching a made-for-SyFy movie! According to top scientists, when the Earth stops rotating, it will cause catastrophic solar flares that will slash cars in half and incinerate crooked government agents. It’s up to one of the good agents and a scientist to find another scientist who, many years back, built a machine that could jump-start the Earth in such a predicament as this. Along the way, the good agent’s computer hacker kid and his girlfriend help, especially when it comes to those shadowy government types that want to relocate only the desirables to the few remaining strips of land that will survive. It’s goofy, it’s dumb, it’s fun — it’s a SyFy movie. And that’s probably the best thing you could say about it.
I never watched The Sopranos, so the hubbub over James Gandolfini is completely lost on me. As a matter of fact, for a number of years I confused him with Michael Chiklis, from The Shield. Because of this, I pretty much had a completely fresh slate about the man going into the tepid drama Down the Shore. As a matter of fact, I actually found him the weakest part of the picture, with his characterization of the sheltered Jersey Shore amusement park operator kind of flat and blasé. He’s continually outshone by French actor Edoardo Costa, as his late sister’s husband who has come from France to help Gandolfini run the amusement park. Because the filmmakers were unsure that that was interesting enough, they added plenty of secrets and intrigue about shocking events that occurred many years ago to spice things up. It was an unnecessary plot point, wherein the relationship between these two men should’ve been the whole movie.
For this week’s zombie movie, we have the decidedly Canadian flick 13 Eerie. And, like most weeks' zombie movies, it’s truly offers nothing new or exciting to the genre. But, hey, at least it’s a watchable way to kill about 87 minutes. A group of forensic undergrads, doing fieldwork with real bodies on a remote stretch of land, find their corpses getting up and walking around and biting off their extremities. How did this happen? Well, the area also happens to an abandoned research facility where the government was testing illegal biological weapons on convicted criminals. The zombies are a nice change of pace — they’re obvious rubber-suited stuntmen — but at least they try to inject personality into them, which is more than I can say for the interchangeable CW-ready cast. They fall, they scream, they die. You rent, you watch, you try to stay awake, you smile and shrug. Entertainment that’s as disposable as the cast.