Thursday, 29 September 2011

Cleavagefield (2009)

Director Jim Wynorski, many years ago, used to direct quality schlock and provided genre fans with the dubious classic killer robot flick, Chopping Mall. Nowadays, he still directs schlock but he's amassed a HUGE number of softcore movies in his filmography. Many of them also have fantastic titles. The Da Vinci Coed, The Hills Have Thighs, The Devil Wears Nada. As a sucker for a good pun, I love these titles even though I have no interest in the kind of movies that they're attached to. Occasionally, however, I just have to watch some parody to see if it can possibly live up to such a title. Cleavagefield is one example, I just couldn't resist myself from wanting to see a film with such a superb title.

The movie begins with a woman running round a street corner to hide from a monster that looks a bit like Godzilla. That's the CARTOON Godzilla. The creature moves unconvincingly forward, looking for all the world like a novelty balloon, and then the camera moves in to focus on the fearful woman's breasts. From then on we get a succession of sex scenes, intersperesed with a number of "real footage" moments. All of the sex is raunchy but soft (plenty of female nudity while erections are kept hidden away) and there's no denying that most of the women onscreen are very attractive though I don't know who any of them are. Honest.
About twenty minutes into the movie, mass destruction occurs. Which means we get a lot of dodgy computer effects, the return of that laughable monster and shots of women runnin in panic while making sure they jiggle in all the right places. Once a safe haven is found then more sex can be had. And, of course, the cameraman can always reminisce about the great recording he made in Hawaii with two giggly blonde women who were able to pleasure each other by writhing naked against each other, sometimes facing in opposite directions. Back out on the streets, the women are slimed by the monster but it's okay because they spot a nearby massage parlour to hide in. To hide and shower in. To hide and shower and find ways to say "I lesbian you" in. You can imagine how the rest of the movie plays out. It's all pretty much the same.
And then there's the soundtrack that features songs with the astounding lyrics "I need your love, I've got to have it" and, instant classic status assured, "pussy pussy bang bang".

Of course, the acting is pretty dire but everyone is full of good humour and goes along with the silliness of it all. Tallulah Blankhead is the woman who gets the initial attention but then it's Brandee Schaefer (aka Brandin Rackley) who is the nominal lead. Amy Ried co-stars alongside buxom Rebecca Love, lucky cameraman Frankie Cullen, Lucia Santos, Julie K. Smith (playing the typical unprofessional doctor who often appears in this type of thing) and Davina Murphy and Dallas Lowe as those giggling blondes. There are some other men onscreen but I doubt that the target audience will be interested in learning their names.

The script is actually fitfully amusing and throws in some random quips as well as poking fun at itself. For this particular subgenre, this actually has a wit that almost makes the whole thing closer to something altogether passable. Almost.

It is what it is. Those seeking fun with plenty of screentime for busty, naked women may enjoy it or they may seek out some stronger material. It's a mixture of naughty and sweet that works surprisingly well.


Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Exit Wounds (2001)

Steven Seagal is a goodie but he’s the bad kind of goodie who always goes off on his own and busts heads before thinking of the repercussions. For example, saving the Vice President by throwing him into a river isn’t really what anyone wants to see in the newspapers. Which is why Seagal is sent to a different precinct, somewhere a bit rougher where he can go through the fun of being the new guy again. DMX is a baddie but he’s a good kind of baddie, perhaps. He doesn’t seem to want to kill anyone and just wants to be left to buy his drugs in peace. Perhaps. The two men find themselves in a situation that involves a LOT of heroin and a LOT of corrupt cops. Oh, and a lot of great supporting actors.

Exit Wounds is a lot of fun. The script has a lot of humour throughout and the action beats are numerous and consistently entertaining. Andrzej Bartkowiak directs with a great energy, grounding things so that each fight move packs a punch but also adding an occasional over the top move just to make things cool.

Seagal plays the same kind of character he plays in almost every movie, he’s a cop with an attitude who just wants to get the bad guys, but he also goes along with the humour and this puts him in a much better light than usual (especially in a scene where he’s sent along to an anger management group). DMX does okay onscreen but I can never seriously evaluate the acting of someone who has named themselves after some kind of computer cable (?!?!?). Elsewhere, we get treated to a fantastic and eclectic cast. Isaiah Washington, Michael Jai White, Anthony Anderson, Bill Duke, Jill Hennessy, Tom Arnold, Eva Mendes and the ever-brilliant Bruce McGill. Something to please everyone, surely.

With a lively soundtrack and some great exchanges between Seagal and whoever he deigns to share the screen with at the time, this film remains one of many simple pleasures. The plot throws in a few big twists that nobody should be shocked by but, first and foremost, it sets out to keep you entertained from beginning to end. And it absolutely succeeds.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Spies Like Us (1985)

When Spies Like Us first came out I remember that I rented it numerous times, running home with that chunky VHS box in my pre-teen hands and looking forward each time to the antics of Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase sparking off each other onscreen. And then I was always disappointed by the slow build-up and the flat patches in between the decent moments of comedy, even at that early age.

So it's no surprise to learn that the film turns out to be just the same nowadays as it seemed way back then. The story is a simple one. Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd are two government employees who think that they're being given a chance to be spies when, in actual fact, they're nothing more than decoys while the valued spies get on with their duties. This leads to numerous situations in which our inept leads find themselves way out of their depth and with their lives on the line.

Based on a screenplay by Dan Aykroyd, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, Spies Like Us is clearly inspired by the Bing Crosby/Bob Hope "Road" movies and works well as a tribute. Chevy Chase is the fast-talking, bumbling half of the duo while Aykroyd is actually pretty smart and simply unequipped for a mission which the two men have not been expected to complete in any event.

Director John Landis paces things almost exactly as he paced Trading Places, except this time around there are less big laughs in the comedic moments and so the movie feels slower and "flabbier" despite a runtime of just over 100 minutes. Highlights include a selection of scenes showing our duo going through intense training, a sequence in which the two try to pass themselves off as doctors and a finale that features the funktastic sound of "Soul Finger".

Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd play to their strengths, you'll know already if you love or hate them, and the rest of the cast includes such luminaries as Steve Forrest, Donna Dixon, Bruce Davison, Bernie Casey, Frank Oz and, as this is a Landis movie, a number of cameos from the likes of Terry Gilliam, Ray Harryhausen, Joel Coen, Sam Raimi and many others.

Oh, and to end on a little bit of trivia, the "see you next Wednesday" that was a Landis trademark in many of his movies is seen on an army-related poster in the office of Colonel Rhumbus (played by Casey).

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Grave Encounters (2011)

Another entry in the increasingly popular mockumentary/found footage subgenre of films, Grave Encounters is an enjoyable and entertaining effort from “The Vicious Brothers” that ultimately starts to lose steam quickly when things become nothing more than one jump scare after another.

The premise is fantastic. ‘Grave Encounters’ is a mainstream, safe TV show in which the presenters turn up to investigate haunted places and try to pick up on any psychic vibes they may stumble across. Yep, it’s a ‘Most Haunted’ kind of show. Things start to take a turn for the genuinely spooky when host Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson) and the rest of the team lock themselves in Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital for the night. The important thing is to keep the cameras rolling to pick up the good stuff. Until it becomes clear that the important thing is to somehow survive the night and make it out alive.

This movie has three big plus points going for it. First of all, the concept is great and actually lends plausibility to the fact that cameras would still be rolling in this type of situation. Secondly, the jump scares ARE good. It’s just a shame that the movie becomes nothing more than a series of them. Thirdly, the acting from everyone concerned is just fine. Sean Rogerson is believable enough as the cynical, fed-up host who enjoys the thought of something actually being caught on tape for the show and then eventually just wants to get the hell out. Mackenzie Gray is amusing as “psychic” Houston Gray, especially in the early scenes showing just how he comes about his astonishing information. Juan Riedinger (as tech guy, Matt), Ashleigh Gryzko (Sasha the supernatural “expert”) and Merwin Mondesir (as cameraman T.C.) make up the quintet and do okay, though they’re somewhat hampered by the script.

This is a very enjoyable, and at times accomplished, debut from The Vicious Brothers but there’s no denying the numerous flaws that drag the movie down to something that just manages to stay above average. A poor ending doesn’t help and it’s a shame that something that had so much potential is instead a wasted opportunity. I certainly recommend it, regardless, to those wanting a few frights with the lights off.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The Patriot (1998)

Based loosely on a novel, "The Last Canadian", by William Heine, The Patriot starts off as something quite unique for a Steven Seagal movie. Well, actually, that's not true. It starts off with the usual preposterous mix of gravitas and wisdom that ol' woodenhead always tries to give himself but then it turns into a killer virus movie. What the hell?

Seagal is a wise cowpoke who can heal animals with his wonderful selection of homemade remedies but, wouldn’t you just know it, he can also apply those healing hands to people too, making him a very popular doctor in his town. When a killer virus is released in the town (the kind of nasty stuff that Seagal worked with in the past before arguing with his superiors and trying to have a quiet life) then it soon becomes clear that one man may be the best hope to find a cure. And, somehow, his young daughter is keeping the germs at bay, making herself valuable to the baddies who released the virus without realising that the antidote didn’t work.

Seeing Seagal as a man of medicine is a bizarre experience. You initially wonder just what the hell he’s playing at before thinking that other action stars try to stretch themselves so why can’t Seagal . . . . . . . . . before returning to the main thought of “what the hell is he playing at?”

Thankfully, this doctor is just as handy with his fists as he is with a petri dish and microscope. There are only one or two action sequences throughout the movie but they’re not too bad. They’re certainly a lot better than the scenes showing Seagal to be a wise, mystical and benevolent healer of those around him. And better than most of the scenes between Seagal and the young girl playing his daughter (Camilla Belle, all too believable as a young Seagalina thanks to her wooden acting and expressionless face).

This is a movie that just shouldn’t be any good at all but somehow provides a lot of unintentional laughs and simple entertainment in places. The cast are mostly unknowns so there’s no added reason to watch this unless you want to see a movie in which Seagal sticks a spike IN SOMEONE’S HEAD one moment before smiling at his daughter while flowers fall around them the next. You think I’m joking? Watch this for yourself and enjoy. Hell, I admit that I was intermittently entertained but perhaps not in the way that director Dean Semler intended.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995)

It was inevitable really, a sequel to the biggest hit that Steven Seagal ever had. The plot this time sees ex-SEAL Casey Ryback (Seagal) taking a train journey with his niece (Katherine Heigl before she shed her puppy fat and became too good for this kind of stuff – ironic considering that this movie and Bride Of Chucky are two of the more watchable films that she’s starred in). Unfortunately for everyone on the train, it is about to be commandeered by some very bad men (led by Eric Bogosian) who want to make ridiculously large sums of money by causing ridiculously large amounts of damage. It’s up to our hero chef to save the day once more.

Geoff Murphy directs this sequel, from a script written by Richard Hatem and Matt Reeves (yes, THAT Matt Reeves), and he often hits all the right buttons. The whole thing is ludicrously unbelievable but nobody stands around and pretends that they’re partaking in something by Shakespeare. Special effects are okay, though inconsistent, but people punch, kick and shoot each other convincingly enough and that’s the most important thing to get right in a film of this type.

Seagal provides his usual, limited, range of expressions, Eric Bogosian has a blast as the smartass bad guy and Katherine Heigl gets put in peril because she’s the niece of Ryback. Elsewhere, we get decent supporting turns from Morris Chestnut (he’s the nervy sidekick this time and he’s okay but, let’s face it, he’s no Erika Eleniak), Everett McGill is a tough baddie who relishes the challenge of facing up to Ryback and Peter Greene points a gun and shouts at people. There’s also a small amount of screentime for Brenda Bakke, who doesn’t get to do all that much but I have a soft spot for her and just thought I’d sneak her name in here.

Slap-happy chop-socky goodness, a train racing towards danger and a quip or two to accompany each major death – it all adds up to a sequel that will please fans of the first movie even if it’s all forgotten about a few days later.