Battle Earth (2012)

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There seems very little point attempting to do an actual review of this film. The video cover (seen above) entices you with what looks like a city-based aliens vs. soldiers shoot-em-up, and the title makes you think of “Battle: Los Angeles”, a high-budget film released around the same time. What it actually delivers is yet another in the sub-genre readers of the ISCFC will know and hate, the “people walking through the woods” movie, with occasionally glimpsed Cthulhu-lite aliens firing stupid lasers.

You can have fun trying to figure out how the film got made – best option, a semi-pro group of paintballers or Airsoft guys decided to write a film so they could star in it and feel like they’d achieved something (the weirdly slavish devotion to correct military tactics sort of bears this out). Perhaps a group of Canadians decided to redress the balance when it comes to the nationality of alien-fighting soldiers. If you read this, see the film and have your own ideas, leave em in the comments.

To quickly recap – an ambulance driver is in a crappy relationship, and then some aliens attack. 6 months later, he’s the medic with a group of soldiers that get trapped behind enemy lines, communication lines down, and have to protect MacGuffin-In-A-Box, which is an alien brain or egg or some such nonsense.

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There’s a grand total of one half-decent actor in this movie, and that guy sadly isn’t the star. After a house at the beginning of the film, we see no human structures again, because people will charge you to film in buildings, but if you wander out into the woods, you’re fine.

It’s not so much rotten as it is truly, completely, pointless. None of the people involved in the film seem to have any aptitude or desire for this line of work, and the director also wrote, produced, edited, and did the special effects, when he really should have stuck to the one of those five jobs he was any good at.

So here’s why I bothered writing this, after seeing this terrible, worthless movie. If you’ve collected $50,000 (a rough guess), and want to make a sci-fi film, why give that money to a bunch of non-actors without a scrap of charisma between them? Why not just find some college improv comedy troupe, ask “can you make a sci-fi film for this much money?” and give it to the first group of people who say yes? If you’re doubting it can be done, The Second City (Chicago’s famed comedy group) made the brilliant and satirical “The Monitors” in 1969; and Olde English made “The Exquisite Corpse Project” a few years ago.

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But there are people out there who would love to make a movie, and even if they failed, the failure would be more interesting than this piece of bland nothingness. I can’t even call this a failure, because it doesn’t appear like the people who made it tried in any appreciable way. That it has one interesting bit – the opening scene, set to a relaxation tape voiceover – makes it even more frustrating.

Watch literally anything else.

Rating: thumbs down

Youtube Film Club – Hollywood Cop (1987)

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If you’re a lover of weird low budget cinema, then chances are you’ll have happened upon “Samurai Cop” on your travels. It’s staggeringly incompetent but rewatchable, often hilarious even if not deliberately, and 25 years after it was made a sequel is in the works, thanks to most of the cast still being alive and not famous enough to warrant a decent payday.

“Hollywood Cop” is from the same writer / director, Amir Shervan, made a couple of years before “Samurai Cop”. If you were wondering what that later film would look like with even less in the way of technical competence, then watch it and rejoin me for a spoiler-filled review.

The big debate over the first few minutes, as a group of henchmen attempted to out-evil each other, was whether one of the henchmen looked like a small Andre The Giant or a large Eric Bogosian. Ultimately, we were both right, I think. They’re told by boss Feliciano (James “son of Robert” Mitchum) to go and kidnap a kid because the kid’s dad owes them $6 million. And they really go all out on the evil front while they do it too, these are some henchmen who thoroughly enjoy their work.

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Enough of these guys for the moment, though, we need to deal with the Hollywood Cop himself, John “Turky” Turquoise III. Imagine the Stallon character Cobra, give him blond hair…and you’ve pretty much got it. He doesn’t play by the rules! His captain can’t control his thirst for justice by any means necessary! To hammer the point home, he finds a rape in progress and rather than wait for backup, he strolls in and starts killing. Two really weird things about this scene – the rape is really shown in an unpleasant amount of detail, including full nudity (female only, of course); and when the father of the raped daughter catches up to her assailant during the melee and chase, rather than hand him over to the waiting police, he chops the rapist’s head off.

Amir Shervan, as you may have guessed from the name, is Iranian, and the family that Turky tried to rescue was Iranian too. So, when a guy cuts a rapist’s head off and says “this is how we do justice”, you can be fairly sure he’s speaking the exact thoughts of the director. Aside from their horrible treatment, it’s sort of nice to see people from that part of the world who aren’t villains.

There’s a heck of a lot of stupidity to enjoy in this film. There’s the foul mouths of most of the main cast – Turky’s captain swears with every other word, and Turky himself almost keeps up. He gets the best line in the movie, too, while trying to talk the Iranian dad out of his plan of retribution – “Listen mister, I know this guy just fucked your wife, but he’s our prisoner now” (this line is closely followed by the Captain’s incomprehensible “You’ll make the word failure a bad name”). There’s the entirely unnecessary oil wrestling scene, where Turky’s partner strips down to his skimpy underwear and fights two ladies. There’s the way the kidnapped kid escapes ludicrously easily, with the help of the kidnappers’ dog, a doberman who seems to understand English perfectly well. There’s the worst father-son reunion perhaps in the entire history of cinema. There’s the way the entire movie could be read as an advert for tight jeans. The way that Turky completely ignores that the $6 million is the proceeds of a crime.

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One character arc in particular needs breaking down. After beating up a bunch of people and threatening some other criminals, they find out where the missing Dad is, who apparently has the money to pay off the kidnappers. As the camera pans across his garden (which is just a normal suburban garden, oddly) we see tons of semi-clad women dancing around for his sole pleasure. Then, after he’s beaten up a bit and persuaded to help get the kid back, he starts talking to the kid about how he left the mother because he had incurable cancer. What? And how did he pay for those dancing women (he doesn’t have the $6 mill and never spent any of it)?

I think this film will entertain you. But, I would remiss if I didn’t relate some of its flaws. The dog dies, for one. I’m a firm believer in spoiling this sort of thing, because there’s no need for it and it doesn’t have any bearing on the plot. Some of the fight scenes just go on for ever. The kid is a rotten actor, and his mother seems like she’s doing an advert for washing powder at all times. Every time someone turns their head away from the camera, their dialogue is dubbed, like the Shervan hadn’t finished the script by the time he was filming.

I feel like I haven’t scratched the surface of this wonderful, terrible, stupid, hilarious film. I haven’t mentioned the police station, or how Rebecca (the mother of the kidnapped son) finds Turky and gets him to help her. It feels like it was made by someone who doesn’t really understand how the world works, and those sort of films are always really entertaining.

Rating: thumbs up

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(PS- credit to http://theggtmc.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/hollywood-cop-1987.html for the pictures, I tried to do some screengrabs but this guy made some excellent juxtapositions)

Invasion of the Pod People (2007)

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Our great work is to catalogue and review all the films of The Asylum, and sometimes that involves leaving the budgets and moderately famous actors behind and delving back in time, to days when owning a good camera or some lights were mere pipe dreams for our friends. It feels strange to say such a thing about 2007.

This is a mockbuster for a Nicole Kidman / Daniel Craig film called “The Invasion”, which must have sank without a trace because I’d honestly never heard of it – I just assumed they were doing famous sci-fi stories. If you’ve seen any of the previous versions of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” or read the books which follow a similar plotline, you won’t need me to fill you in on too much.

The flavour of this film is the fashion world. Melissa has some unspecified job at a fashion agency, which appears to have its offices in an attic, stuffed full of huge metal pipes. She wakes up to see thousands of meteors falling but then the rest of humanity just sort of goes about its day. Despite one news report referring to many deaths, no-one seems bothered and their lives seem entirely unaffected. Ah well. Anyway, Melissa is trying to secure the services of world-famous but super-unpleasant model Taylor (Shaley Scott, “Transmorphers” alumnus), and begins to smell a rat when Taylor suddenly changes her personality and signs with them; all tied into the new “trendy” plants people are receiving as gifts, which look like nothing more than a large chunk of ginger shoved in a pot.

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A fortunate / unfortunate side effect of having your body replaced by an alien (who keeps all your memories, for some reason) is you become a lesbian. There’s what amounts to an orgy scene about halfway through, surprisingly rude for the normally chaste Asylum. Melissa, despite having a boyfriend she’s desperately trying to keep at the beginning, happily goes along with this and has sex with her female boss, after watching the models writhe around on the sofa together for a few minutes. I suppose they used that scene to sell it overseas? Who knows.

There’s a whisper of a good idea here. At the beginning of the film, all the women are in problematic relationships with men, and being killed and replaced by an alien “liberates” them. But then men start getting pod-personed too, and if there was ever an interesting idea buried in here that wasn’t a coincidence, it presumably got taken out a few rewrites ago.

They also got lucky with their casting. ISCFC favourite Sarah Lieving shows once again she’s too good for this sort of thing, same for Danae Nason as Melissa’s work colleague. Melissa herself, Erica Roby, is not that great, but she’s now working in reality TV and is probably quite happy to have left stuff like this behind.

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Sadly, the casting is the last bright spark, and now onto the traditional Asylum-bashing. There are too many stupid people in this – stop being so trusting! Oh, and the ending doesn’t really make any sense, if you think about it for more than the filmmakers did (10 seconds or so). The sound in this film is absolutely hideous – whatever mic they used picked up sound from everywhere, so you’ll have a quiet office scene with the clank of industrial machinery loudly accompanying them, or a scene in a park where the nearby road is almost louder than the dialogue. Like most early-ish Asylum films, it’s unbearably slow too, and looks like it was shot on VHS tape.

This is definitely more “Transmorphers” than it is “Sharknado”. I would guess the Asylum would rather forget this period and move on to the relatively star-studded, fun films of the last few years. Bear in mind I said “relatively”. I’ve not lost my mind yet.

Rating: thumbs down

The Crown and the Dragon (2013)

The Crown and the Dragon (2013)

“The Crown And The Dragon” is the second Kickstartered film we’ve covered on this site – the first being the truly rotten “Zombie Hunter”. The trend is for films which are already mostly / entirely finished to raise money this way, presumably to offset the piracy which has hugely affected the profit of low-budget cinema. So it might seem a bit cheeky, but we all only have ourselves to blame. Or maybe these films didn’t deserve to get made in the first place?

There’s prophecies, and dragons, and beautiful maidens, and all that good stuff. There’s a MacGuffin in the shape of Artifact X, a horn which can kill dragons; the film takes place in the kingdom of Deira, a backwater of the Vitalion Empire – filmed in Ireland, which looks fantastic and does a lot of the heavy lifting for the film itself. But I digress.

Elenn, a beautiful but snooty young noblewoman, is helping her Aunt deliver half the magic horn to a secret coronation of some bloke who’s going to save the Deiran people. The aunt dies but Elenn hires Aedin, a smuggler, to take her the rest of the way. There is absolutely no chemistry between the two of them, but unless you’re very new to fiction, you’ll be able to figure out exactly where their relationship is going.

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You’ll also be able to figure out the entirety of the plot, pretty much. So, a lot of your enjoyment of this will depend on how much you like completely predictable sword-and-sorcery films, and if you do then you’re probably going to be able to ignore a lot of the other stuff I’m going to talk about. But I can’t! If I was all “yeah, it’s alright if you’re into that sort of thing” I wouldn’t get paid the big reviewing bucks (earnings so far: £0).

It feels like the second episode of a TV series. Everyone is really bothered about stuff which we don’t know about, like succession and land and magic. I wasn’t all that surprised that it’s a sequel to a film called “Dawn of the Dragonslayer”, part of the “Paladin” cycle apparently (although they share few / no cast members). Perhaps I ought to have watched that first?

The main problem with this film is a complete lack of attention to detail. I’ll give low-budget films a lot of leeway, but when you have a character get dunked in mud, who walks around filthy for a few minutes, then in the next scene is clean again, then the scene after that dirty, then clean, you have to wonder if anyone watched this between the first edit and its release.

The scenery appears to come at random, too – so they’ll be walking through a forest then they’re on a beach then on a long moor then back to a beach. For all I know, that may have been the effect they were going for, but it’s a bit on the offputting side; plus, the music never really matches the action on screen, either, except for one or two brief comedic scenes. Elenn is to become the dragon-slaying paladin, and they make a bit of fuss of her being halfway through the spell, needing help, etc…unless they left her completing the process on the cutting room floor, I’m stumped as to what happened.

Talking of comedy, this film tries to insert a bit of levity from time to time, giving most of these scenes to Elenn, played by Amy De Bhrun. She’s the strong link of the cast, without a doubt, and has a great look for a fantasy princess, but she’s not enough to make up for everyone else. The camera also seems to really like her, and my best guess was that someone involved in the making of this was desperate to see her naked, but De Bhrun kept refusing. She’s in a few love scenes, has to take off her clothes to dry them, and at one point is part of some ritual where she has to have symbols drawn on her naked body. Apologies if I’m misrepresenting anyone here, but you watch it and tell me what your take on it is.

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Another aspect of no-one really checking on filming too much is the repeated use of open doors to drive the plot along. Elenn is getting a bath and Aedin happens to be walking past and gets a full frontal view; several plans are overheard because people insist on having secret conversations with the door wide open. Perhaps, as the old saying goes, they all were born in a barn. My review notes were a little less kind – “learn to close a door you idiots” was what I wrote.

What you expect to be the big ending of the film – the thing they were on their way to do when the film started – isn’t, as the film ends before that happens. Odd choice, I suppose, even if they try to cover for it.

This film isn’t terrible. It’s mostly shot beautifully, and the crow-monster-thing is genuinely great and quite frightening. The cast try their hardest, even if there’s a few charisma vacuums among them. It’s just let down time and again by its production. The terribly predictable story, the enormous and easily preventable continuity errors, the non-ending…these are all things that have nothing to do with the budget of the film.

Rating: thumbs down

Cannibal Girls (1973)

Now that is a great tagline

Now that is a great tagline

This is a film where just wondering how on earth it ever came to be is almost as much fun as the film itself. Ivan Reitman has directed some of the best comedies ever (“Meatballs”, “Stripes”, and the two “Ghostbusters” films, to name a few) and stars Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin were, two years after this film, cast members on “SCTV”, one of the best sketch-comedy shows of all time. It’s a weird little low-budget slasher film that predates “Halloween”, “Friday The 13th”, even “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, and the dialogue is almost entirely improvised. Sound interesting so far?

Levy and Martin are Clifford and Gloria, a new couple who are driving for a weekend getaway and are a bit lost. Once you’ve got over the shock of seeing the genial old man from the “American Pie” movies as a young hippy, with an outstanding curly mass of hair (the “jewfro”, as it’s known by my Jewish wife), you can settle into the storyline, which involves them sort-of breaking down in a small town which definitely has an odd secret or two. They’re told an urban legend by the manager of the B&B they find, about a mysterious man and his three “wives”, who eat people and apparently never ever get sick. The house in the legend is in reality a restaurant, and the guy who runs the restaurant is a very strange man, and has three beautiful assistants…

Symbolism? What's that?

Symbolism? What’s that?

Apparently, Eugene Levy met Ivan Reitman at film school, and this was their second film together (both Levy and Martin had a small part in Reitman’s first film, “Foxy Lady”). Although Reitman is credited as one of the writers, there’s a “disclaimer” during the opening credits that the dialogue was actually improvised by the cast, even though I’m guessing they’d finished the improv by the time they were filmed – it’s really really well done, either way. That people who’d clearly already trained in improvisation would choose to make what is, to all intents and purposes, a straight-ahead slasher film is a puzzler, especially as both director and stars would stick to comedy from this moment on, pretty much exclusively for the rest of their careers. I mean, there’s funny stuff in this film, but it’s much more a straight horror than it is a parody of that genre – at least partly because the genre didn’t really exist at the time.

Once the idea wandered across my mind, it was impossible to shake – this film is the unholy offspring of “Manos: The Hands Of Fate” and “Troll 2”. You’ve got a naive couple wandering down the wrong path; a weirdly charismatic but super-evil father figure to a house full of oddballs; they share very strong similarities when it comes to the ending, town full of people who are in on it…you can describe this film completely just by referencing two of the worst films ever made.

The improv nature of it lends it that unusual flavour, but their discipline means the film never feels too baggy. It’s not perfect, by any stretch – like so many horror films, it relies on people being trusting to the point of stupidity to get them into position – but it’s good enough to be viewed and enjoyed not just as one of the great modern cinematic oddities (although it’s definitely that as well).

Rating: thumbs up

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I only hear Owen Wilson’s voice in my nightmares…

“Being in a bathtub with Jackie Chan, I don’t know, it has a way of bonding you I’ll tell you that.”
– Owen Wilson

There’s an aspect of my new job that I quite like. A couple of afternoons each week I get to watch movies. In the last couple of weeks I’ve seen drab TV movies on Channel 5 like ‘Black Widow’ starring Elizabeth Berkley and ‘Murder 101: The Locked Room Mystery’ starring Dick Van Dyke, his son and his grandson. But the two films I’d like to talk about star Owen Wilson, the charming wonky nosed American everyman.

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Owen Wilson is lovable, laidback and dare I say lazy actor. His easy going effortless persona allows him to coast through films. I think this is a gift and a curse. He gets work, he can serve up the same old shtick, but he never goes out of second gear. I suppose thus far this has prevented him from ever reaching a level of award winning acting greatness. Though this may pan out to be a piece that criticizes Wilson, it has to be said that I have enjoyed several film’s that he’s been in such as ‘Midnight in Paris’, ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’ and ‘Wedding Crashers’.

When Robin Williams tragically died, a few glowing tributes highlighted his voice work in Disney’s ‘Aladdin’. It is a performance that has obviously taken even greater significance, and given the amount of animated and live action films featuring CGI characters that are consistently churned out, it should be highlighted for actors as how to do the perfect voice-over. Owen Wilson provides the voice for the title character in ‘Marmaduke’, the live action story of a troublesome lanky Great Dane who moves to California. He performs like he’s still waiting for his morning coffee. There’s no spirit or joy in his voice.

Now usually I love a good dog movie, be it ‘Homeward Bound’, ‘Lassie’, ‘All Dogs Go to Heaven’ or ‘Scooby-Doo’, but ‘Marmaduke’ stinks, and it’s largely due to Wilson, and a shitty script. Yes, it’s a kid’s film, so you can put away the critical scalpel to an extent, but you wouldn’t even want your children to sit through this.

Marmaduke Trailer

It’s his voice. I don’t know perhaps his boyish tussled blonde locks, and forgivable smirk usually distracts me from paying much attention to Wilson’s drawl. Voice alone, Wilson is bland, and doesn’t convince as a clumsy Great Dane. I suppose Wilson could’ve played the Father of the Winslow family who own Marmaduke, but that role is occupied by the forgettable Lee Pace.

As Marmaduke Wilson narrates the film, and dominates the dialogue. The trouble with this is that it isn’t a film solely about the animals, as it also tries to tie in the Winslow family’s struggle to adapt to life in California. I suppose this is an attempt to differentiate itself from a film like ‘Marley & Me’, which also starred Owen Wilson. A better balance might’ve been for ‘Marmaduke’ to be a bit like a modern version of ‘Beethoven’.

‘Marmaduke’ was part of an Owen Wilson double bill on Film Four. The second film was ‘Drillbit Taylor’, directed by Steven Brill, whose work includes the unholy trio of ‘Mr Deeds’, ‘Without a Paddle’ and ‘Movie 43’. It was bound to be awful wasn’t it? But then you delve further with who else was involved – the film was produced by Judd Apatow, co-written by Seth Rogan and the late great John Hughes came up with the original concept for the film. Hang on a minute, why wasn’t this film a success?

Drillbit Taylor Trailer

Arguably the fault lies again with Wilson and his performance as the most ridiculous representation of a homeless man in film history. It’s almost offensive. Wilson makes homelessness look easy, he showers on the beach, gets a steady amount of cash from drivers stuck in morning rush hour traffic and drifts by effortlessly. Drillbit is hired by a couple of high school kids who are being bullied to be their bodyguard; somehow he ends up posing as a substitute teacher. Nobody raises an eyebrow. The film doesn’t veer much from the high school nerd gains revenge over bully trope.

Over the course of those three hours, the combined effect of sitting through ‘Marmaduke’ and ‘Drillbit Taylor’, I’ve grown to despise Owen Wilson’s voice. I can hear it now. He’s laughing, a cool guffaw. He knows it doesn’t matter what I think.

– RJW

They Came Together (2014)

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I think David Wain is great. He’s been involved in tons of hilarious things – “Stella”, “Wainy Days”, and “Childrens Hospital”, to name a few. Of his directing work, I love “Role Models” and think “Wet Hot American Summer” and “The Ten” had brilliant moments, so I’m right in the target audience for this. With him, Michael Showalter as co-writer, and a cast crammed with America’s best comic talent, it could not tick any more pre-viewing boxes.

At about the twenty minute mark, I paused this, turned to my wife and said “do they need to beat every single joke into the ground?” If you wanted to, you could stop reading there and you’d have all the information you need. The gist of it is, Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler are a couple, relating the story of how they became so to their friends Ellie Kemper and Bill Hader. They mention how it’s like a bad romcom and refer to themselves as those clichés – she works in a charming little sweet shop, and he works for CSR, the world’s biggest sweet conglomerate, and their story has every single roadblock and wacky misadventure you’ve ever seen in a rom-com. And I mean every one.

The cast list is absolutely amazing. Aside from the four of them, we have Max Greenfield, Jason Mantzoukas, Ed Helms, Cobie Smulders, and Christopher Meloni; Michael Shannon, Adam Scott and Jeffrey Dean Morgan have blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cameos, and Kenan Thompson, Ken Marino and Michaela Watkins pop in too. Among many others. That is close to a comedy dream team, and they all give it their best. Which is why the fact the material gives them no laughs at all is so incredibly disappointing.

A character commenting on the action as it’s going on can work, I think. I feel like it works better when there’s only one or maybe two people behaving like that; when you’ve got the entirety of the cast telling the viewer about the romcom cliché they’re working with at that moment, all the damn time, it becomes so tiring that it eventually just turns into white noise. And there’s a lot of times when that is the only joke, so great swathes of the film go by and I’m sat there in stony-faced silence. Add that to the fact that they’re mocking those romcom clichés at the same time as using them, and you’re left wondering just what exactly the point of this is.

If this entire film had been done, exactly the same, by a slightly less well-known cast and had been written / directed by Friedberg and Setzer (the guys behind all those awful genre spoof movies) then you can absolutely guarantee it would have been slammed by the critics. Yet the entire cast and crew coast on their accumulated goodwill, and a film which my wife didn’t laugh at once and I laughed maybe three times at gets great ratings (currently 69% on Rotten Tomatoes).

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It treats its “hilarious” observations as if it’s the first film to ever poke fun at rom-coms, when “Annie Hall” and “When Harry Met Sally…” (to name but two) have a lot more to say about the genre itself, operating from inside it, than this does. It seems to think that just noticing a cliché is enough, that you don’t need to bother with funny material or doing something original with the cliché or anything like that. It seems so weird to waste an amazing cast on something like this. It’s almost as if they don’t think you’ll get it, so keep reminding you you’re watching a parody every ten seconds or so.

There are a few good bits, and non-coincidentally they’re when they go off-book and just try to make something funny. Rudd’s encounter with his grandmother and Christopher Meloni’s extended bit about soiling his superhero outfit are fantastic, because they’re not trying to be incredibly tired parodies, and have no-one in them saying out loud “look at this romcom cliché, look at it, this is why you should laugh”.

This film drags. I paused it for a cup of tea, thinking I had maybe 10 minutes to go and it was barely half over. The incessant reminding you’re watching a parody, rather than just doing the parodying, isn’t a good idea for a decently paced film it seems. Wain and some of the cast of this are involved in “Childrens Hospital”, the hilarious Adult Swim parody of hospital dramas. Those shows come in, minus adverts, at 11 minutes and are just about perfect. This film, at 83 minutes that feels like 150, ought to have been a great deal shorter. The blame on this one has to go on Wain (as director / co-writer) and Showalter as the other co-writer, I’m afraid.

Rating: thumbs down

 

Alien Private Eye (1987)

Alien Private Eye poster

This film starts off with a puzzler – just who’s holding the gun in that poster? – and keeps getting weirder. You’ll be inclined to mock it at the beginning, but it sort of manages to win you over by the end – a singular vision, for sure (written, directed, produced, edited and cast by “Viktor”) that is technically incompetent but has a good heart.

This film is just the most 80s thing. Firstly, it’s only available on VHS, so you’re taken right back to the days of slightly fuzzy images that occasionally get interrupted by static, thanks to dirt on the tape heads. Secondly, star Lemro (Nikki Fastinelli, in his only film role – he’s described as a woman on IMDB too) dresses in white leather with the biggest shoulders and a jaunty hat – I think an image is in order, because it will do more than my clumsy words could:

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Lemro, just strolling down the street looking magnificent, helps out Rene, a woman who’s being assaulted by a gang of thugs. He does what we’d all do – rescues her, takes her to his place, starts dancing in the middle of the lounge, suggests they go out dancing, takes her out to a club, fights off another group of thugs who want to abduct her, then takes her back to his house and has sex with her, all while keeping his hat on.

Halfway through the sex, though, the wonderfully quiet and slow-moving sex, she takes his hat off and discovers that Lemro is an alien! She doesn’t seem to mind at the time, although Lemro falls for Rene and she says later with a straight face “I don’t think I could ever be involved with an alien”. But Lemro doesn’t have too much time to mourn his own broken heart, as he’s a private eye and is whisked up into a case involving a couple of FBI agents from his home planet (which I thought was called Stits, but is actually Styx) and a black circular device which contains the recipe for the most potent designer drug in the galaxy, Soma.

This is a film of baffling choices. The choice of the director to use no lighting at all is perhaps paramount (see below), so unless it’s a bright sunny day the action can look like one small light chasing another small light across blackness. Even when the scene is supposed to be set in a hospital, perhaps the brightest-lit places on earth! The male alien FBI guy does his entire part as a weird Peter Lorre impression…during the gunfights, most of the people seem to be aiming at random, like one guy who sweeps his gun across a room, at one point definitely aiming at his friend who just walked out of shot to get into cover…the choice of Lemro as a name unlikely to raise a puzzled eyebrow…the way the main bad guy has a tiny picture of Hitler on his wall, which he prays to…the sudden appearance of a magic space gun at the end of the film, never even hinted at up to that point…the lack of any real worthwhile differences between humans and aliens…

This is a real scene from the movie. £100000 if you can figure out what's going on

This is a real scene from the movie. £100000 if you can figure out what’s going on

I could go on and on, because this is a film rich with oddity. Kilgore, the main bad guy, is amazing; and it’s his pushing of the super-addictive and super-deadly drug soma on both Lemro and Rene’s brother that provides what is really the main plot of the movie – the actual big ending fight feels completely tacked on, like the director wanted the real ending to be the two of them beating their drug addiction together. So much time is spent on this getting clean, at such a late stage of the movie, that you can’t really draw any other conclusion.

You may think, from this review, that I thought the movie sucked. And you’d be right, but something weird happens during the course of it. It worms its way into your heart and wins you over. Viktor is Vic Rubenfeld, whose sole other credit is as executive producer on a long-running TV show a decade after this. There’s a story I’d like to hear…but as he does so many different jobs in this movie, the singularity of his vision comes shining through, a la Tommy Wiseau all those years later. I really, thoroughly enjoyed this film, every bit of it. It has so much stuff in it – just listing the different genres it dips its toe in should illustrate that. Street vigilante; dancing; aliens on Earth; softcore porn; martial arts; drug “message”; lone gunman against the bad guys. Get ready for a good time, because if you have any love for Z-grade movies in your heart, then you’re going to have a hell of a time with this.

Rating: thumbs up

 

PS. This is another one for the “misleading tag line” files. The picture up there says “nothing on Earth could compare to the Hell he left behind”, yet, when asked to describe Stits by Rene, makes it sound like a really beautiful place. Lemro is just an inter-galactic playboy!