Editor’s note: Trevor Chamberlain and I go way back. He and I met in Sophomore English class and he introduced me to Reservoir Dogs and La Femme Nikita. In some ways, he’s an important component of how I got to this point. We also spent a lot of time shooting the shit about comic books. These days, I write about movies and Trevor makes them. He also makes the annual pilgrimage to San Diego for Comic Con where it was said that this year he won tickets to a screening of Scott Pilgrim and wound up high fiving Edgar Wright so hard that his hand fell off. Honestly, I don’t think that last part is true but when I found out that he was going to see Scott Pilgrim it took me about five minutes to press gang him into service for Cinema S and boldly demanded that he review the movie. I’m fucking dying to see this flick and I am very literally green with envy so without further adieu, here’s a review of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World by Trevor Chamberlain.
If you love comic books…. I mean REALLY love comic books. Then you are most likely a Scott Pilgrim. The same goes if you are a movie geek, an LP collector, and especially if you’re all three (like most of us). It’s a fate that you simply must accept. Though, please keep in mind that Scott Pilgrim wins in the end. Hey! I didn’t spoil anything here. Once you’ll see the movie, you will understand. Edgar Wright’s (BBC’s Spaced, Hot Fuzz) insane smorgasbord of all things “nerd” is both the film he has been working towards his entire short career and the film we have been waiting most of our cardboard comic box existences for. Go ahead and dare your friends who’ve seen it to spoil it for you. There is nothing to spoil. This film is about the experience of it. And what an experience Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is.
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Back in the day, my friends and I used to frequent this dumpy video store in Dover, New Hampshire for their horror section. They seemed to have a distinct lack of mainstream stuff and an overabundance of the cheapest garbage around. We binged on shockfests like the Shocking Asia series and Fulci flicks but the one that kept us coming back again and again, until one of us eventually just stole the fucking thing, was a no-budget cheapie called Attack of the Killer Refrigerator. The premise was that some guy’s fridge is forcibly de-iced during a raucous party and the following day it takes revenge by attacking everyone foolish enough to go for a snack. At one point, the refrigerator breathes fire and then charges across the room at its victim, some dude clearly behind it pushing it on wheels. It was a staggering feat of bullshit. A movie that should not, under any circumstances, exist. It is the worst movie I’ve ever seen and a film that leaves people with the impression that I’ve made it all up. I assure you, this picture is real.
Bad movies that are fun to watch are hard to come by these days. There’s a new school of bad movie that shoots for a couple of targets. It’s either a reasonably budgeted picture with some hipster asshole in the director’s chair pushing the bad taste envelope so that they can crank out some kind of exploitation homage or it’s produced by a company like The Asylum where they honestly don’t give a fuck about the movie that’s made as long as it looks something like a movie in general release so that fucktards will get confused at the Red Box and accidentally rent what they think is a first-run feature. The real folk-art/art brut filmmaking is practically a dead creature. The prohibitive cost of filmmaking in the past made it so that you had to be some kind of 8mm weirdo working with Baltimore junkies and drag queens to shock the system but the cost of making movies is dropping rapidly and we’re starting to see a sort of resurgence of bad ideas from people who probably should have stuck to their day jobs of selling software or selling leather jackets imported from Korea. Easy ownership of prosumer film gear is making it so that anyone who wants to can make a movie and with The Room blowing minds with its staggering volume of badness, it opened the door for James Nguyen’s Birdemic: Shock and Terror to step into the arena. I’m usually the mouthy one. The guy with a thousand words to spare on any topic but I am speechless right now. I just don’t know how to begin to tackle Birdemic. I can’t believe what I’ve just seen.
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My dad is responsible for much of my obsession with movies. He was the one who occupied me with Escape From New York while he did some post-production work, even though he denies this story. More than that, though, I had a taste for trash long before I’d seen that movie. No. My father’s movie influence comes in the form of a taste for the golden age of Hollywood. Pictures from the 30′s and 40′s are his bag, man, and as a result, they became my bag. As much as The Marx Brothers and as much as the musicals, my Dad loves serials and I took an instant liking to them. As videotape made the move from a rental item to a purchase item, some of the first properties to make the move to home video shelves were collections of matinee serials and a whole bunch of these turned up at my house. My particular favorites of the bunch were The Mysterious Doctor Satan, whose serials featured the exploits of a hero in a three piece suit and a shitty piece of fabric draped over his head, fighting a really crappy robot, and Radar Men From The Moon, which featured a lot of really ambitious special effects (though, that’s not saying much) and a dude with a bullet helmet that flew around with a jetpack. This was the first of the Commando Cody serials and they were the shit. Nearly every episode ended the same way. The hero’s car, with the hero in it, plunged over a cliff, or so it seemed. The following episode always cleared this up by showing that he narrowly escapes a fiery death by leaping to safety at the last minute. How this never got old is a mystery to me.
It’s no secret that I’m a giant fan of comics but I’ve never read a single issue of The Rocketeer. Even back when the movie came out and I was at the height of my super hero craze. The books were indies and not in publication at the time and anyway, I had no interest in throwback books at the time, I really only gave a shit about Wolverine. What a fool I was. These days, The Rocketeer is exactly the kind of comic I want to read. I don’t know what that says about me but I like to think that it means that maturity has brough a certain aged sophistication to my tastes in pulp. I also find myself reading Marvel books from the 70′s with a renewed appreciation that I didn’t have back in the day. So it was this revelation that I needed to read The Rocketeer coupled with an aborted plan to make a Rocketeer Halloween costume this year (the fucking thing would cost $2000 on the low end) that I felt like I needed to watch the movie. After all, it had been 19 years since I’d last seen it and I didn’t remember a damn thing about it.
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In case you need to know how many ways that Halloween set the pace for the American slasher movie, consider how common it was for your average slasher movie, circa 1982, to be set on some kind of holiday. I guess we can argue that Black Christmas (Review) was there first with this idea but I never really considered that one a slasher. It’s missing some key ingredients, mostly due in part to it being the first of its kind. If anything, it’s a Canuxploitation variant of the giallo. But I digress. There are a couple of key holidays that, for some reason, have gone without the slasher treatment and I’m stumped as to why that is. Thanksgiving got Rothed in the fake trailers portion of Grindhouse and to this day it remains untouched by the slasher paradigm. The other notable exception, until 1997, was Independence Day. For some reason, the Fourth of July has remained off-limits to horror filmmakers for whatever reason. Jaws is set on the 4th but the date is incidental. It never becomes the focal point of the movie. Rather, a gigantic fucking robot shark does.
Today, you’ll no doubt be too busy to chill and read a review of a trashy horrror movie, what with all the barbecue you’ll be eating, beer you’ll be drinking and fireworks you’ll be watching and if I had my way, I’d be watching a motherfucking marathon of The Twilight Zone but someone over at, ahem, SyFy decided that The Zone was old-school and Greatest American Hero was a more appropriate for a Fourth Of July marathon, a show that no one remembers save for the fucking theme song. SyFy can eat cocks. Here’s a review of Uncle Sam.
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You can probably tell that I watch a lot of movies and because of the context of this site I tend to see a rather large amount of the same kind of movie. There’s a lot of overlap there and you tend to see the same themes visited over and over again. That’s fine, too. I just happen to love watching horror and sci-fi movies and since I’m getting most of these flicks for free these days, I can’t really complain. Not to pat myself on the back too hard but being a celebrated movie blogger has its perks. The downside to this is that I feel like I’ve seen the same movie about a thousand times and I’m often obligated to review these pictures because of my personal code that if I ask for a copy of a review screener, I have to review it.
Such is the case with Salvage. I saw the solicitation come in and I asked for a copy to review based on the admittedly vague synopsis that came with the press release. It sounded fairly original. What I discovered upon viewing it was that I had actually seen Salvage many times over. Not literally, of course. I’m talking about in the metaphorical way that the plot is very familiar and that I’ve seen a lot of these kinds of movies before. It has all the necessary ingredients to be any given siege movie. But here’s the rub, Salvage is actually pretty cool.
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Nobody ever asks me about The Delta Force. If there was one thing I wish more people asked me about, it’s that movie. I love it. I rank it pretty high among my favorite 80′s action movies, actually. I’m not even a Chuck Norris fan, either. Go ahead, get the Norris jokes out of your system now. That shit stopped being funny around the time Chuck started talking to media seriously about secession and being the President of the sovereign Republic of Texas. Who knew the karate kicking Texas Ranger was also crazy as hell? It sure caught me by surprise. Setting that aside, though, The Delta Force has a lot going for it. Among that wave of baroque, jingoistic action movies from the time, The Delta Force has the advantage of being ripped from the headlines and around the time it went into production, airline hijackings and hostages in the Middle East was on everybody’s mind. I mean, John Rambo parachutes into the jungle looking for POWs and finds that the last vestiges of the Viet Cong are still hiding out in the canopy, backed by commie Soviets? How the fuck am I supposed to take that seriously? I know, I know, Rambo: First Blood Part 2, was also kinda sorta ripped from the headlines, but that’s another story for another time. It also benefits from having a killer cast featuring Cannon favorite, Martin Balsam, Bo Svenson and Lee Fucking Marvin in his last performance before his death in 1987. Sure, he looks kind of confused on the poster and his bazooka is going off randomly to his left but you have to take my word for it. He’s just as awesome in The Delta Force as he is in The Dirty Dozen!
Nobody did these super flag waving flicks quite like The Cannon Group, either. For the sake of argument, let’s forget all the shit they did like The Apple and Breakin’ 2 and think about the sheer volume of Reagan-era republican balls that this production company celebrated. You’d think the White House was personally sending Cannon checks to make the most basic yay-America boo-everybody else movies possible and none of them spoke as loudly as The Delta Force. I’ll tell you why: The Cannon Group was headed up by producers Manahem Golan and Yoram Globus, a pair of Israeli filmmakers who were Roger Corman graduates with a serious mad-on for Arabic aggression toward Israel and Jews in general. Because of this, The Delta Force keeps one foot in a disturbing place juxtaposing the real-world horror of Islamic terrorism with motorcycles that launch mini-rockets from the handle bars. Dig?
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Fewer directors are as notorious or maligned as Uwe Boll, a man so in love with his own incompetence that he challenges his critics to actual physical fights… and wins. His entire career is defined by a series of movies based on video games and not even good video games. His exceptionally terrible movies are based on games that review only slightly better than his movies. Everybody hates this guy. He’s frequently compared to the legendary director Ed Wood and it actually makes sense if you look at the comparison beyond the obvious observation that they both made and make really bad movies. Ed Wood loved film and loved making film. So does Boll. It just so happens that the end-product of their toils is such garbage. Boll gets away with flop after flop because of how film investing works in Germany. It’s basically a tax shelter. Until they changed the laws in 2005, investing in movies that were intended to fail splendidly, you could invest in a movie, write it off 100% on your taxes and government incentives gave you half your money back. You can see the appeal of film investing in Germany, can’t you? You can also borrow the money to invest from a bank. Sort of makes me wish I’d invested in Bloodrayne now that I understand how it works.
So here’s Boll’s latest, based on the Bally Midway arcade classic where three giant monsters run wild on American cities, smashing buildings, destroying tanks and eating screaming women who fling themselves from open windows.
Actually, I’m being told that this Rampage is not that game. It would seem that Uwe Boll’s Rampage is, in fact, an entirely original work and has nothing to do with video games or giant monsters. I apologize. I was confused. Apparently I’m still confused because I could swear those title cards said that this movie was produced, written and directed by Uwe Boll and somehow I’m about to embark on a really positive review of it. How the fuck did that happen?
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I didn’t think it was humanly possible for a movie to piss me off more than Bitch Slap (Review) did. Obviously I hadn’t seen Hard Ride To Hell yet. I really like biker flicks and I especially like those 70′s flavored flicks that invoke those dark age fears of witchcraft and Satan. Put them together and you got your bikers in my satanism, or you got your satanism in my bikers. Either way, the combination is a deviant union of awesome that produced really sweet Satanic bikers flicks like Race With The Devil and Psychomania. But that was then and this is now and my main criticism of Bitch Slap was the forced nostalgia bit. It seemed like no one on the Bitch Slap production crew had ever seen an actual grindy exploitation movie but they’d watched Boondock Saints about a million times. Simply put, I’m fucking sick to death of these exploitation cover bands producing these one-note throwbacks.
I’ll keep this one short because there’s really not much to talk about. Usually I love ragging on a bad movie but I’ve been seeing a lot of this worthless garbage lately and someone has to pay. It is shocking to me that genuinely good independent filmmaking has such a hard time getting distribution. I know a number of filmmakers responsible for original genre movies that are fun to watch and genuinely inventive but time and time again, they struggle in the bowels of small-time boutique distribution, counting on sales at horror conventions and advertising in small rags like Phantom of the Videoscope and Screem while borderline plagiarized dog shit like Hard Ride To Hell skates to global distribution deals. It’s a shame, it’s a sin and it should be punishable by law.
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I don’t do kung fu flicks here enough. For reasons unknown to me, I’m largely known as a horror blogger and I tend to moan endlessly about being pigeonholed when this is brought to my attention but I’m actually a fan of all sorts of exploitation. I am, in fact, as versed in the ways of Hong Kong film culture as I am with horror. I love this shit! I even trained for several years in a Wah Lum Pai kwoon, a flavor of northern kung fu with a hangup on preying mantis style. Eventually I got hurt during training and now in my mid-30′s, I have the back of an 80 year old man. I can still kick your ass, though.
There’s really nothing finer than a Shaw Brothers kung fu movie. There are so many of these fucking things, too. The Shaws are the most prolific production company in Hong Kong. They’re primarily known for their martial arts movies but kicking things off in 1930, they had their hands in a lot of the genres, having produced some musicals and comedies and occasionally dabbling in Western filmmaking with Cleopatra Jones sequels and exploiting the popularity of Japanese tokusatsu with their own franchise, Inframan. It’s fairly obvious, though, that the true Shaw Brothers legacy is their martial arts movies having established a strong pattern of wuxia flicks that bounced back and forth between serious dynasty period dramas and ridiculously awesome asian exploitations like Five Elements Ninja. Seemed like 1978 was a big year for The Shaws. That very year we got their flagship kung fu flick, The 5 Deadly Venoms. The same year, the same director turned out Invincible Shaolin and that’s a really cool thing.
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There’s really something powerful to being party to a television show that sparks a low-level cultural revolution. From the dawn of the medium, we’ve been given some shows that really set the pace for the American consciousness. We got stuff like The Honeymooners, I Love Lucy, The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, The Simpsons, The X-Files, Seinfeld and with the passing of this final season of LOST, we can now add another name to the pantheon of television avatars. For six seasons, LOST brought its A-game and introduced an entirely unexplored, extremely risky proposition to a medium that has traditionally played it safe with serialized storytelling. We were introduced to a winding, labyrinthine narrative that required a certain kind of devotion that no other TV show had ever commanded. Its primary selling point was an enduring, ceaseless mystery that kept a firm iron grasp on everyone who dared to venture down the rabbit hole. Not since the cliff hanger mystery of ‘Who shot J.R.’ had we been so captivated by the mystery of who might occupy the coffin at the close of Season 4. At its peak, LOST suggested a massive plan with a certain end-game in mind and had everyone who watched it reading hardcore weirdo literature, exploring philosophies foreign and familiar and forming their own theories as to just what the hell was going on on The Island. LOST also managed to bridge the science fiction gap with a well-orchestrated series of relationship dramas and a cast of characters that mattered to the audience. Character deaths had actual dramatic weight and the on-again-off-again nature of their romances factored heavily into the proceedings. LOST, miraculously, managed to be everything to everyone — So how did it wind up dropping the ball so spectacularly in its final movement?
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