Film Review: Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)

Also known as: Fanatismo (Italy – alternative title), Voodoo (Greece – alternative title), Paperino (France – alternative title)
Release Date: September 29th, 1972 (Italy)
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Written by: Lucio Fulci, Roberto Gianviti, Gianfranco Clerici
Music by: Riz Ortolani
Cast: Florinda Bolkan, Barbara Bouchet, Tomas Milian, Irene Papas, Marc Porel, Georges Wilson

Medusa Distribuzione, 105 Minutes

Review:

“Which would you prefer, a kiss or money?” – Patrizia

This isn’t a giallo that I had seen but being that I like the films I’ve seen from Lucio Fulci, I really had to give this a watch. And man, I’m glad I did, as it is a damn good motion picture and possibly Fulci’s best out of the movies I’ve seen.

It does what the best giallos do and that’s tapping into a noir structured narrative with a grittier, harder edge and elements of horror. Fulci would go on to be one of the best Italian horror directors and this film really shows the guy experimenting with his stylized violence and fairly gory practical effects.

What I liked best about the film is that even if you figure out who the killer is early on, which I did, the movie still throws so many curveballs that the reveal doesn’t matter as much as the journey. This is well structured and well written with several layers that enrich the the larger story and give it a lot of depth.

There’s a lot to take away from this movie and a lot of prime meat to chew on.

I don’t want to get too much into the plot, as I don’t want to spoil anything. However, it does do a lot of taboo things that are designed to make you feel uncomfortable. But it’s those moments of discomfort that really show you how great of a visual storyteller that Fulci is. He conveys pretty stark messages in his moving imagery and not much has to be explained. That’s real talent, especially when compared to many of the films today, which insult their audience’s intelligence and have to spell out everything and usually more than once.

The cinematography is superb, as were the locations used in the film. As an American watching this, it feels otherworldly or like it is set in a time much earlier than when it actually takes place.

The musical score by Riz Ortolani is also one of my favorites of his that I’ve heard. The music really gives a major assist to the visuals and they work in harmony like a perfect marriage: conveying emotion, tone and texture.

Plus, the acting is great. It’s hard not to crush on Barbara Bouchet, let’s be honest, but man, she’s so damn good in this. But then, so is Tomas Milian, who I mostly know from the spaghetti westerns he did in the ’60s and ’70s. They had real chemistry together and both of them enhanced each other’s performances. It’s a pairing I wish I could’ve seen more of in other films.

All in all, this may be the best of Fulci’s pictures that I’ve seen and it makes me want to delve headfirst into his other giallo offerings.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other giallo films, primarily those by Fucli, Argento and Bava.

Film Review: Troop Beverly Hills (1989)

Also known as: Be Prepared (working title)
Release Date: March 24th, 1989
Directed by: Jeff Kanew
Written by: Pamela Norris, Margaret Grieco Oberman, Ava Ostern Fries
Music by: Randy Edelman
Cast: Shelley Long, Craig T. Nelson, Betty Thomas, Mary Gross, Stephanie Beacham, Karen Kopins, Jenny Lewis, Emily Schulman, Carla Gugino, Kellie Martin, Tasha Scott, Ami Foster, Audra Lindley, Tori Spelling, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (cameo), Frankie Avalon (cameo), Dr. Joyce Brothers (cameo), Robin Leach (cameo), Cheech Marin (cameo), Ted McGinley (cameo), Pia Zadora (cameo) 

Fries Entertainment, Weintraub Entertainment Group, 105 Minutes

Review:

“Her recommendations for a campsite were totally unsuitable. There were no outlets. And there was dirt, and bugs, and… and it rains there. So anyway, we’ve found a place that’s much more us: the Beverly Hills Hotel.” – Phyllis Nefler

Troop Beverly Hills is the most Shelley Long movie ever made.

What I mean by that is that the film really showcases all of her strengths without even giving her the opportunity to possibly show any flaws. But I’ve always liked Shelley Long and this is the one film, above all others, that made me enjoy her most. And that’s not to take away from her greatest role of all-time, as Diane on Cheers. But as far as film goes, I would call this one her best.

The biggest reason is that she is the star of this picture and while I don’t think that it was written with her specifically in mind, she takes on the material like it’s hers, jumps in the deep end of the pool without a care in the world and gives the audience her great wit and electric charm. It’s impossible not to like her in this, despite her starting out in the film as a super rich housewife addicted to shopping and with no other real ambitions in life. Long makes it work.

I also love that Craig T. Nelson essentially just plays Craig T. Nelson and thus, allows Long to shine as the focal point of the picture. I don’t know if it was intentional or not but Nelson plays this without ego and is only there to help give Long’s character depth and ultimately, he gives her a secondary goal, which is to rekindle their failing marriage.

When I was a kid, I loved this movie. I didn’t care that it was about a bunch of girls in a scout troop. It was relatable to most kids and since I was a boy that was into scouting, I dug that this sort of existed in that world. Plus, all the young girls in this were solid, fun characters that didn’t just need adult guidance and life experience but they also served to be emotional support for Shelley Long and her own issues.

Also, as a kid, I liked the adult parts of the story, as it did a good job of making its point.

That point is that we can’t just coast through life regardless of how easy it may be for some of us. We’ve got to get off our asses, find what makes us happy and work towards it. We all need a purpose.

Troop Beverly Hills teaches its audience that you have to work through your issues, try new things and push yourself out of your comfort zone. And while the movie probably doesn’t need to be looked at that deeply, these things are there and it makes it a better movie because of them.

This isn’t a throwaway mindless comedy. Some probably see it that way but it’s positive, kind of uplifting and it has a lighthearted charm that goes beyond just Shelley Long’s performance.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Big Girls Don’t Cry… They Get Even and Ladybugs.

Documentary Review: The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior (2005)

Release Date: September 25th, 2005
Directed by: Kevin Dunn
Music by: Jim Johnston
Cast: Ultimate Warrior (archive footage), Vince McMahon, Triple H, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, Eric Bischoff, Adam “Edge” Copeland, Ted DiBiase, Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Chris Jericho, Jim Johnston, Jerry “The King” Lawler, Steve Lombardi, “Mean” Gene Okerlund, Bruce Prichard, Sgt. Slaughter, Jim Ross

WWE, 90 Minutes

Review:

“He was probably too stupid to know where he was from! Either that, or someone paid him to keep it quiet. ‘Here’s 50 bucks, don’t say you’re from Pittsburg!'” – Bobby “The Brain” Heenan [on the Warrior hailing from “Parts Unknown”]

This was a controversial documentary from a pop-culture standpoint and it is one that the WWE sort of wishes they had never made because it’s sentiment doesn’t paint one of its most popular legends in a very positive light. But I guess Vince McMahon had thin skin and a bug up his ass in 2005, which suddenly went away around 2014 when he put the Ultimate Warrior in his Hall of Fame.

That being said, when you watch The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior, it actually isn’t that bad and it’s not as heavy on the bashing as one would expect based off of the historical hype surrounding it.

I did see this back in 2005 but I hadn’t really watched it since. Back then, most of the information and stories about the Ultimate Warrior were already public knowledge. What made this interesting, though, is that the stories were now told by several of his former peers, colleagues and bosses.

This is kind of a disjointed production, however, as it spends a lot of time building up the man and his career. It takes digs and soft jabs throughout but it does convey his impact on the wrestling world. In a way, this is one part career retrospective and one part tabloid.

The tabloid parts of the film surround the stories about controversy, scandal and the Ultimate Warrior just being a general douche to most people.

Was he a likable guy? Probably not. Did he do some stupid shit that was only done to serve his own ego and self-interest? Absolutely. But does he deserve the condemnation that this documentary tried so hard to manufacture? Probably not.

The thing is, this was made with a very clear agenda in mind. Hell, the agenda is in the title. So it’s kind of hard to take this too seriously, as the WWE has a track record of re-shaping history to suit Vince McMahon’s wishes. I’m not saying that people are outright lying but if you have 90 minutes of a dozen or more people sharing their worst experiences with someone, you can paint anyone out to look like a total piece of shit.

Still, this is mostly entertaining and it allowed some other legends to blow off some steam. However, it’s hardly a clear or accurate picture of who the Ultimate Warrior really was at his core.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other ’00s WWE documentaries.

*since a trailer is no longer available, here’s an insane Ultimate Warrior promo.

Film Review: Scare Package (2019)

Release Date: October 4th, 2019 (Spain – Sitges Film Festival)
Directed by: Courtney Andujar, Hillary Andujar, Anthony Cousins, Emily Hagins, Aaron B. Koontz, Chris McInroy, Noah Segan, Baron Vaughn
Written by: Courtney Andujar, Hillary Andujar, Anthony Cousins, Emily Hagins, Aaron B. Koontz, Chris McInroy, Noah Segan, Baron Vaughn, Cameron Burns, Ben Fee, Frank Garcia-Hejl, John Karsko
Music by: Alex Cuervo
Cast: Jeremy King, Noah Segan, Toni Trucks, Chase Williamson, Baron Vaughn, Zoe Graham, Byron Brown, Chelsey Grant, Luxy Banner, Josephine McAdam, Aaron D. Alexander, Allan McLeod, Jocelyn DeBoer, Melanie Minichino, Jonathan Fernandez, Dustin Rhodes, Haley Alea Erickson, Jon Michael Simpson, Mac Blake, Hawn Tran, Frank Garcia-Hejl, Justin Maina, Gabrielle Maiden

Paper Street Pictures, 103 Minutes

Review:

Well, the poster is cool.

However, it also says that this film has seven directors when, in fact, it has eight.

Maybe that’s the problem with it.

This is basically a movie made by a committee and when that happens, you’re rarely, if ever, given a motion picture that has any sort of cohesion or heart.

Also, this is an anthology but unlike most horror anthologies, this isn’t made up of three or four stories, it’s made up of seven. Yes, seven! There are more than a half dozen stories crammed into just 103 minutes.

The weird thing, is even though they average out to a scant running time, most of them feel too long. That could be due to the fact that this is a rather boring movie in spite of it having so much in it.

Apart from all that, though, the film has a self-aware snarkiness about it that’s fairly off putting and lame. It’s like this film is constantly winking at the camera to make sure that you’re aware that none of it should be taken seriously and that it’s just taking the piss out of itself by using material and concepts that have been used a dozen times over and more competently.

The acting is about on par with the rest of the film’s quality and no one is all that believable. I think that’s the fault of this film’s eight directors and twelve writers, though. There just isn’t enough time to care about the plot, the characters or the total package.

Now all of these stories come together in the end but the movie is nowhere near as clever as it believes itself to be.

This is the Twitter of anthology horror movies, as each segment is about the length of a tweet and the whole movie plays like a Twitter thread where it is hard to communicate depth, tone, proper context and nuance. But those that spend too much time on social media will probably dig this because of that.

I was bored watching this and frankly, I’m bored writing about it.

In the end, just skip this. You probably have some chore you’ve been putting off that would bring you more enjoyment.

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: other shitty and “clever” modern horror flicks.

Film Review: Hogzilla (2014)

Release Date: December 15th, 2014
Directed by: Diane Jacques
Written by: Diane Jacques, Beatrice Moon, Todd M. Webster
Cast: Joe Bob Briggs, William A. Butland, Zachary Dubale, Justin Kane, Joey Malone, Meredith Martin, John Pagnam, Tomey Sellars, Wade White

90 Minutes

Review:

I’ve heard the legend of this film’s existence for far too long. I wasn’t even sure if it was real and if it was, whether or not it was actually completed.

That being said, my only real interest in it was due to the fact that horror host icon Joe Bob Briggs was in it and it was about a giant killer hog. I like giant killer hog movies and there aren’t enough of them and frankly, none of the ones that do exist are all that good.

Well, this one may actually be the worst one I’ve seen. Also, the poster is a lie, as there aren’t a bunch of gun toting hotties in the movie. It’s just a pretty mundane group of normies with no real skills whatsoever. One of them is a Marine, I guess, but you only really know that because he wears camo pants and a very clean t-shirt that says “Marines” on it.

The great Joe Bob is in this and while his scenes are just about the only watchable ones in the film, I guess he’s a ghost or something because he just fades away at the end.

I don’t know, this just sucked. I had hoped it was going to be that type of film that was so shitty it was entertaining and amusing but it was so boring, drab and incompetent that it was a real bore to sit through.

It also sucks as it was filmed in Florida, not too far away from me, and I like killer animal horror from my neck of the woods.

Well, I guess I can claim that I’ve seen it now and that I can verify its existence but it didn’t make me a better person or teach me any worthwhile lessons that I could pass on to someone else’s kids.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: other extremely low budget killer animal horror movies.

Comic Review: Iron Man: Demon In A Bottle

Published: March 3rd, 2010
Written by: Bob Layton, David Michelinie
Art by: Carmine Infantino, Bob Layton, John Romita Jr.

Marvel Comics, 167 Pages

Review:

This collection of Demon In A Bottle was a pretty cool read. However, people have referenced the story for years and truthfully, it’s not a big arc like many insinuate or imagine. In fact, this covers multiple arcs but each has a common thread and that’s Tony Stark’s fall into alcoholism.

Ultimately, this ends with him overcoming his demons and trying to fix the damage he’s caused, rebuilding himself into who Iron Man needs to be.

It’s also important to mention that this debuted the long-time Iron Man villain, Justin Hammer. Hammer was created as a character similar to Tony Stark but one who stayed on a dark path. He was also deliberately made to look like Peter Cushing and in this story, John Romita Jr. and Bob Layton did a stellar job of conveying that.

The story also features the Avengers, Namor and a slew of C-list villains that Hammer employs in an effort to overwhelm Iron Man. Overall, this is just as action-packed and exciting as it is dramatic and full of real human trauma and emotion.

While it’s not my favorite classic Iron Man story (or stories), it is a very important piece of the character’s history and served to build up his character in a pretty dynamic way. It does what most modern mainstream comics don’t do and that’s showing weakness in a hero.

In fact, this is about a hero’s journey and personal evolution, which is something that was lost in the storytelling art of superhero comics. Hell, it’s been lost in most mainstream media, as we constantly get characters that are made to be perfect and “special” without faults or real struggle.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Iron Man stories of the ’80s, most notably the Armor Wars saga.

Film Review: Escape From the Planet of the Apes (1971)

Also known as: Secret of the Planet of the Apes (working title)
Release Date: May 26th, 1971 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Don Taylor
Written by: Paul Dehn
Based on: characters by Peter Boulle
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Bradford Dillman, Natalie Trundy, Eric Braeden, Sal Mineo, Ricardo Montalban, M. Emmet Walsh, Charlton Heston (archive footage)

Twentieth Century Fox, APJAC Productions, 98 Minutes

Review:

“They became alert to the concept of slavery. And, as their numbers grew, to slavery’s antidote which, of course, is unity. At first, they began assembling in small groups. They learned the art of corporate and militant action. They learned to refuse. At first, they just grunted their refusal. But then, on an historic day, which is commemorated by my species and fully documented in the sacred scrolls, there came Aldo. He did not grunt. He articulated. He spoke a word which had been spoken to him time without number by humans. He said ‘No.’ So that’s how it all started.” – Cornelius

I guess I remembered the beginning of this film wrong, as I said in my review of the previous one that the ending kind of didn’t leave it open for the films after it. However, this one starts off in what was then modern times. From memory, I thought that the apes in the picture went back in time at some point midway through the story but they actually start off in 1970s America.

Anyway, it’s been a few decades since I’ve seen this one and memories can do weird things, especially when one has spent a lot of the time between the memory and now, experimenting with several vices. Don’t worry, I barely party anymore because getting old makes you more chill and because amateurs at the local bars and opium dens is a deterrent.

I really dug the hell out of this film though and revisiting it was certainly a worthwhile and entertaining experience. As of now, this is my favorite film of the lot. While I see the first chapter as a better motion picture, overall, I found this one to be more entertaining and more effective at making its point, using the bigotry between apes and humans as a metaphor for xenophobia.

I was also really glad to see Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter move into the main focus of the story, as their arrival on Earth sets in motion a hope for unity but ultimately leads to fear overcoming the masses and eventual tragedy.

Due to the time travel element, this sets the stage for its sequels and it also makes the whole series a time loop. Honestly, after this sets in motion the events that cause the creation of the ape world from the first film, you can watch the five movies in a constant loop or start with whichever chapter you want and then loop back around to it. It’s a pretty unique thing and it’s one of the many factors that make the original Planet of the Apes franchise really damn cool.

The acting in this is also really good and it’s certainly a step up from the second, fairly mundane movie. I’d say the acting is on the same level as the original but with McDowall and Hunter doing most of the heavy lifting, that shouldn’t be a surprise.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the four other Planet of the Apes movies from the original run, as well as the television show from the ’70s.

Film Review: In Search of the Castaways (1962)

Release Date: November 14th, 1962 (London premiere)
Directed by: Robert Stevenson
Written by: Lowell S. Hawley
Based on: In Search of the Castaways by Jules Verna
Music by: William Alwyn, Muir Mathieson, Richard Sherman, Robert Sherman
Cast: Hayley Mills, Maurice Chevalier, George Sanders, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Keith Hamshere, Jack Gwillim, Wilfrid Brambell, Michael Anderson Jr., Antonio Cifariello

Walt Disney Productions, Buena Vista Distribution, 98 Minutes

Review:

“I don’t know which is worse, by George: having you so happy you sing all the time, or so glum you won’t even talk. “The ombu tree is gorgeous. Enjoy it!” Huh!” – Lord Glenarvan

While these kids today won’t have the attention span for this movie, it’s still one of the greatest family adventure films of all-time!

Sure, you may disagree, but you’re wrong.

This was made by Disney at the height of their live-action adventure epics. It also starred one of their most bankable stars, at the height of her young career: Hayley Mills.

In Search of the Castaways was also an adaptation of a Jules Verne novel and while it might not be as well known as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World In 80 Days or Journey to the Center of the Earth, it is still a grand adventure of the highest and most exciting caliber.

Disney did a fine job in creating this motion picture and despite a few spots with wonky effects, it is one of the best effects blockbusters of its era. Sure, some of it looks dated but there’s also a certain appeal to it. And frankly, none of it breaks the movie or ruins the magic. In fact, it adds an extra level of charm and for fans of classic filmmaking, it’s just cool to experience on the screen.

This is one of those larger-than-life classic films that I wish I could’ve seen on the big screen but it predates me by a few decades. Unfortunately, I’ve never caught it playing anywhere but that’s probably because it’s a fairly forgotten movie. Hell, it isn’t even streaming on Disney’s own streaming service, Disney+.

Honestly, it’s a film that deserves more love. From start-to-finish it is energetic and fun. You’ll like most of the characters, even if the French guy can sometimes grate on the nerves with his singing and goofiness. But for something that is only 98 minutes, the picture covers a lot of ground, goes to a lot of exotic locations and constantly pushes these characters into new situations to overcome.

The core of the story is about two kids looking for their father who is missing somewhere in the world. They’re not immediately sure where but they set off on a long journey, trying to find answers to their father’s whereabouts.

I’m actually kind of surprised that Disney hasn’t tried to reboot this movie yet. I mean, they probably will at some point because original ideas in Hollywood are like trying to catch a leprechaun. However, it’d be damn hard for a modern version of this story to have the same sort of cinematic magic.

All in all, this is just an amusing and lovable picture. It’s a sort of perfect storm of several important factors just coming together and gelling the right way: a Jules Verne story, Disney’s blockbuster filmmaking style and Hayley Mills in her prime. 

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other Jules Verne adaptations of the ’50s & ’60s, as well as other Disney Hayley Mills movies and other Disney adventure films of the time.