Film Review: Savage Beach (1989)

Release Date: October, 1989
Directed by: Andy Sidaris
Written by: Andy Sidaris
Music by: Gary Stockdale
Cast: Dona Speir, Hope Marie Carlton, John Aprea, Bruce Penhall, Al Leong, James Lew, Andy Sedaris (uncredited)

Malibu Bay Films, 92 Minutes

Review:

“The cancer clutches ever tighter at my heart.” – Admiral Kenji Inada

This is the fourth movie in the twelve film Triple B Series by director, Andy Sidaris. While I enjoyed the first three quite a bit, by this point, I feel like these movies are losing steam.

Savage Beach is just more of the same but it also lacks the energy and charming amusement that made the first three films so enjoyable.

Now I still like this picture for the most part but it has more working against it than for it and it’s the first movie in the series to feel that way to me.

This is simply a movie about taking scantily clad (and sometimes naked) hot chicks, giving them guns and giving them stuff to shoot at or blow up.

We’re reunited with the same female duo that has been featured in the previous two movies but without the film’s trailer pointing that out, I either wouldn’t have noticed or cared. These movies are full of so many generic Playmate types that they all just blend together in my brain.

Overall, this is lacking in action when compared to the earlier movies and it all seems a bit pointless.

If I’m being honest, as much as I like Malibu Express and Hard Ticket to Hawaii, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get through all twelve of these films when I’m only at the fourth one and it feels extremely derivative and kind of boring, even with boobs and explosions.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: the other 11 films in the Triple B Series by Andy Sidaris, as well as the American films of Amir Shervan.

Documentary Review: Citizenfour (2014)

Release Date: October 10th, 2014 (New York Film Festival)
Directed by: Laura Poitras
Cast: Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, William Binney, Jacob Applebaum, Ewen MacAskill

HBO Films, Participant Media, Praxis Films, Radius-TWC, 113 Minutes

Review:

For those who don’t already know the story of Edward Snowden, this does a good job of laying out all the facts and events that led to the situation he finds himself in, today.

While millions of people want him to get a presidential pardon, which I agree with, I think it’s important for those who don’t really know his story to actually learn about it because so many seem to easily accept the “traitor” label that’s been applied to him by those in the former Obama Administration.

What’s best about this, is that it actually stars Snowden. The cameras follow him, as he traverses through the muck while trying to get all the secrets he’s discovered out there.

Additionally, this features those who helped Snowden leak his secrets.

For the most part, this was really good and it makes its point well.

There’s not much to say about the contents of the film, as people really should watch it play out for themselves.

It’s well presented and it at least gives Snowden a voice.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other films on cypherpunk culture, specifically on hacking and leaking. I’ve reviewed many, here.

Film Review: Almost an Angel (1990)

Release Date: December 19th, 1990
Directed by: John Cornell
Written by: Paul Hogan
Music by: Maurice Jones
Cast: Paul Hogan, Elias Koteas, Linda Kozlowski, Doreen Lang, Douglas Seale, David Alan Grier, Larry Miller, Charlton Heston (cameo)

Ironbark Films, Paramount Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“From time to time, worthy people are chosen to be Angels of Mercy. But these are difficult times, Mr Dean. In this century you’re the first scumbag we’ve sent back.” – God

As enjoyable as Crocodile Dundee and Crocodile Dundee II were, Paul Hogan was never able to replicate that success in the United States again. Which kind of sucks, as I’ve always loved the guy and his sense of humor.

Like his Dundee movies, this one also featured his real life wife, Linda Kozlowski. Granted, they met on the set of the first Dundee movie and married after but she was always a presence in Hogan’s films, which I’m actually fine with, as she does a decent job onscreen and has solid chemistry with Hogan.

This movie also stars Elias Koteas, fresh off of his role as Casey Jones in the original live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In this, he plays a handicapped guy that Hogan’s Terry Dean befriends.

The plot sees master thief and cool gadget maker Terry Dean get released from prison. He immediately goes back to his criminal ways and robs banks dressed as Willie Nelson and Rod Stewart. However, after meeting God (played by Charlton Heston), he is made an angel in training. He has one last chance to do something right with his life and if he succeeds, he’ll be a full-fledged angel and earn his wings.

Sadly, most of the movie is kind of slow and boring. There are a few good, comedy sequences, like when Dean convinces drug dealers outside of a youth center that they pissed off the local mob or when he does his Rod Stewart and Willie Nelson schticks. However, most of the film is dry and you never really know what the point of anything is, other than Dean needs to become a legit angel for some reason that doesn’t even seem that important.

I like Paul Hogan and he’s a charming guy. That’s still apparent in this movie. However, this just doesn’t connect with the viewer in the same way that the first two Dundee movies did. And I guess that’s fine because those are classics to some degree and Hogan definitely left his mark.

I can imagine that Hogan didn’t want to just play Mick Dundee for the rest of his life and that’s understandable. I just don’t think that this film really maximized his talent and didn’t do him any favors in trying to transcend his greatest role.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the Crocodile Dundee movies.

Film Review: The Hidden (1987)

Release Date: October 30th, 1987
Directed by: Jack Sholder
Written by: Bob Hunt
Music by: Michael Convertino
Cast: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Nouri, Richard Brooks, Claudia Christian, Chris Mulkey, William Boyett, Clu Gulager, Ed O’Ross, Danny Trejo, Lin Shaye, Robert Shaye (uncredited)

Heron Communications, Mega Entertainment, New Line Cinema, 97 Minutes

Review:

“No one deserves to die like that. I don’t care what the man’s done.” – Doctor, “He killed twelve people, wounded twenty three more, stole six cars, most of them Ferraris. Robbed eight banks, six supermarkets, four jewelery stores and a candy shop. Six of the ones he killed he carved up with a butcher knife. Two of them were kids. He did all that in two weeks. If anyone deserves to go that way, it sure in the hell was him.” – Det. Cliff Willis

I recently found out about this movie, which kind of sucks, as I was robbed of its greatness, as a kid. I would’ve loved the hell out of this movie back then but it’s also kind of cool discovering it 33 years later and seeing it for the first time.

One thing that immediately struck me about the plot is that it’s essentially the same idea that was used in that ’90s Denzel Washington film Fallen. In that film, Denzel fights a demon serial killer that changes bodies. In this film, it’s an alien and he isn’t so much a serial killer as he is just an asshole that takes what he wants and kills those in his way, sometimes just for fun. Regardless, it seems like Fallen stole this movie’s concept.

That being said, I like this a lot more than Fallen and it has similar vibes to They Live, I Come In Peace and even the comedy zombie movie Dead Heat. Other than They Live, this movie is better than those others. I’d also say that it’s pretty close in quality to They Live and frankly, this should probably be held in much higher regard than it is.

Watching this, I also have to wonder if it was a favorite movie of David Lynch. It stars Kyle MacLachlan, as an FBI agent, which he would be most famous for playing again in Lynch’s Twin Peaks, just a few years later. Additionally, Lynch tapped into the cast of this film for other roles in Twin Peaks. Plus, Michael Nouri’s role in this film plays like it was used as a template for Miguel Ferrer’s character in Twin Peaks. Additionally, seeing MacLachlan play an agent in this makes it hard not to draw allusions to his role as Cooper in Twin Peaks. However, in this film, there’s a twist where you discover that he’s not exactly who he appears to be. Granted, I figured out that twist pretty damn quickly.

I really liked the story in this film, its progression, the constantly changing villain (especially, when it was Claudia Christian) and the big finale that starts with a violent shootout in the police station’s jail.

More than anything, I loved the practical special effects. Especially, in regards to the alien creature, whose first appearance was kind of shocking and terrifying. I can’t imagine how it caught people off guard in the theater who saw this on a whim, not knowing until that exact moment that this was a sci-fi/horror picture and not just some B-movie action flick.

The Hidden is an underrated gem. I dug the hell out of it and will probably watch it again in the near future. It features one of my favorite Kyle MacLachlan performances of all-time and he’s an actor that’s been a favorite of mine for years.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: They Live, Fallen, Dead Heat, I Come In Peace and Alien Nation all immediately come to mind.

Film Review: The Last Man on Earth (1964)

Also known as: I Am Legend, The Naked Terror (working titles), The Damned Walk at Midnight (alternative title)
Release Date: May 6th, 1964
Directed by: Sidney Salkow, Ubaldo B. Ragona
Written by: Logan Swanson, William F. Leicester, Furio M. Monetti, Ubaldo B. Ragona
Based on: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Music by: Paul Sawtell, Bert Shefter
Cast: Vincent Price, Franca Bettoia, Emma Danieli, Giacomo Rossi Stuart

Associated Producers (API), Produzioni La Regina, 86 Minutes

Review:

“Another day to live through. Better get started.” – Robert Morgan

When I was a kid, this was a movie that bored me to tears. I didn’t revisit it again for decades because I thought it was so drab and slow. However, I wanted to give it a fair shot and this time around, I liked it a lot. 

I guess my memories of it weren’t all that accurate either, as I just remembered the scenes of Vincent Price driving around with bodies everywhere and then spending all his time reinforcing his house and lying around on the couch as zombie vampires called his name from outside. All these things do happen, however there is much more to the picture.

We do get flashbacks to the time before the virus completely wrecked the planet. We see Price as a scientist who has a hard time believing what’s happening because it’s… well, so unbelievable. After spending so much time with Price alone, these flashback scenes are a welcome sight, as we get to see him interact with human beings again. All the slow, monotonous stuff served a real purpose with the narrative and tone of the film. Like Price, you yearn for more humans and when you get them, you feel that emotional effect.

Apparently, this film was supposed to be produced and shot by Hammer Films. For whatever reason, that didn’t happen and production moved to an Italian company. They were able to lock down Vincent Price and frankly, despite my poor taste as a kid, the end result is something incredibly worthwhile.

This film also features one of Price’s best performances, which is very reserved and somber. Price acts very much in contrast to what most people remember him for, which was his flamboyant and energetic characters. Seeing Price play his role this way, also adds to the emotional effect of the picture. I’ve seen enough of Price to understand his range and this wasn’t the first or last time he played a softer, more subdued character, but this story might make it his best version of that.

The Last Man On Earth is a film that most horror historians look at really fondly. I had a bad take on it for years and I’m glad that I decided to give it a chance. After seeing it now, I feel like maybe I never finished it, as a kid, as all I remembered from it was the stuff that happened in the first act.

I certainly didn’t remember the ending, which is quite impactful.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: early zombie films, as well as other films based off of this story like The Omega Man and I Am Legend.

Film Review: Boiler Room (2000)

Release Date: January 30th, 2000 (Sundance)
Directed by: Ben Younger
Written by: Ben Younger
Music by: The Angel
Cast: Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Nia Long, Nicky Katt, Scott Caan, Ben Affleck, Ron Rifkin, Jamie Kennedy, Taylor Nichols, Bill Sage, Tom Everett Scott, Anson Mount, Kirk Acevado, Desmond Harrington (uncredited)

Team Todd, New Line Cinema, 120 Minutes

Review:

“[to the new recruits] And there is no such thing as a no sale call. A sale is made on every call you make. Either you sell the client some stock or he sells you a reason he can’t. Either way a sale is made, the only question is who is gonna close? You or him? Now be relentless, that’s it, I’m done.” – Jim Young

For years, until there was actually a second Wall Street movie, I saw this as that film’s spiritual successor. Which is also sort of fitting as the characters in this movie worship the Gordon Gekko character from Wall Street.

I actually still view this as a spiritual sequel, however, as it’s very apparent that it was strongly influenced by Wall Street and also because it is a motion picture of quality. While it might not live up to Wall Street or Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, it’s still damn good and at least in the same orbit as those movies.

The plot of the film is intriguing and it sucks you in from the get go. It’s about a smart, savvy college dropout who goes from running an illegal casino in his house to being one of the top brokers at a really young, lucrative and questionable brokerage firm.

Over the course of the movie, we see Giovanni Ribisi’s Seth Davis go from being a slightly timid rookie to a confident and smart salesman to being swarmed with immense guilt when he realizes that he has completely fucking people out of their life savings to reluctant antihero that tried to fix some of the damage he caused while taking the firm down.

I can’t quite call Seth Davis a hero, as it took his father disowning him and the FBI pinching him to get him to actually change his tune. It’s hard to tell if he would’ve arrived to a better place on his own but, at least he tried to undo some of his wreckage.

Beyond Ribisi, this is a film that is loaded with a lot of the up and coming male talent of the day. Vin Diesel and Nicky Katt really stick out and Ben Affleck’s performance is great, even if his scenes are few and his role feels more like a beefed up cameo.

I really loved the music in this film, as it’s full of east coast hip-hop of the early to mid-’90s, which has always been my favorite kind of hip-hop. It may be slightly dated for this 2000 film but it worked for me, as I started to ignore more mainstream rap music around 1998.

Anyway, this is a superb finance thriller. It has stood up to the test of time in the same way that Wall Street has. If you like these sort of movies but have slept on Boiler Room the last two decades, you should check it out.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other finance industry thrillers like Wall Street, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, The Big Short, Rogue Trader, etc.

Film Review: Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha’ Hood (2003)

Also known as: Leprechaun 6, Leprechaun 6: Back In Da Hood (working titles), Leprechaun 6: Back to Tha’ Hood (alternative title)
Release Date: December 30th, 2003
Directed by: Steven Ayromlooi
Written by: Steven Ayromlooi
Based on: characters by Mark Jones
Music by: Michael Whittaker
Cast: Warwick Davis, Tangi Miller, Laz Alonso, Page Kennedy, Sherrie Jackson, Donzaleigh Abernathy, Keesha Sharp, Sticky Fingaz, Shiek Mahmud-Bey

Lions Gate Entertainment, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t you presume to tell me right from wrong. You compromised all you believed in once you got the gold, just like all those before you. Your kind is weak, and will always give in to your selfish yearnings.” – Leprechaun

So I was not looking forward to watching this after reviewing the previous film in the original Leprechaun film series. However, I was pleasantly surprised and this somewhat redeemed the series and at least brought it back to the quality level of the first three movies.

That’s not necessarily high quality but they’re at least pretty palatable for horror fans that like the occasional laugh.

The five previous films were made by Trimark but this one was made by Lions Gate, who ended up absorbing Trimark after the atrocious fifth picture. With that, I feel like Lions Gate wanted to salvage this series and make a decent sequel.

I feel like they succeeded, even though this ended up being the last installment of the original string of films. They’d be rebooted later, twice, but no one cared either time because without Warwick Davis, you don’t have the Leprechaun.

Anyway, this film was actually funnier and the jokes mostly landed. Also, it felt a bit more grounded, as the Leprechaun can’t just summon any random spell for plot convenience, essentially being omnipotent.

It’s not specifically shown or stated that the Leprechaun’s magic has limitations in this film but he seems severely powered down and acts more like a supernaturally strong slasher when he kills. He almost feels like a miniature, festive Jason Voorhees with the ability to teleport.

Another thing Lions Gate did was that they updated the Leprechaun’s look. And they did a good job, as he looks a lot cooler, menacing and more serious in this installment.

Additionally, compared to the previous movie, the cast in this one was a lot more likable. I especially loved Page Kennedy in this, as he made me smile every damn time he was onscreen. He has tremendous charisma and even though he’s had a pretty good career since 2003, more people should hire him.

My only big gripe about the movie was the the Leprechaun’s death scene was heinously weak. Especially considering that this is his final sendoff.

Still, this fixed the damage created by the two previous chapters in Warwick Davis’ six-film Leprechaun run.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Leprechaun movies starring Warwick Davis.

Documentary Review: Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain (2018)

Also known as: Decentralized: The Story of Blockchain (working title)
Release Date: October 26th, 2018 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Alex Winter
Written by: Alex Winter
Music by: Bill Laswell
Cast: Rosario Dawson (narrator), Alex Winter (interviewer), various

SingularDTV, Futurism Studios, Breaker, 84 Minutes

Review:

After watching Alex Winter’s documentary Deep Web, I was left wanting more. He followed that one up a few years later with this, which covers similar topics but with the majority of its focus on blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.

What I liked most about this film is that it describes these complex things and ideas really damn well. It makes this somewhat palatable for the layman.

Also, this interviews several people who know what they’re talking about while also featuring comments from many of blockchain and crypto’s detractors along with some great rebuttals.

A big part of the documentary follows the story of Lauri Love, a British hacker and activist that was wanted by the United States for alleged activities as a member of the hacker collective Anonymous. His story is really damn interesting and the film does a solid job of telling it.

If you have an interest in this stuff and haven’t seen this documentary, you should probably check it out. Alex Winter does great work and presents these subjects well.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about cypherpunk stuff like blockchain, cryptocurrency, hacking, etc. Especially, those by Alex Winter.

Film Review: Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982)

Release Date: May 4th, 1982 (USA Film Festival)
Directed by: Carl Reiner
Written by: Carl Reiner, George Gipe, Steve Martin
Music by: Miklos Rozsa, Steve Goodman
Cast: Steve Martin, Rachel Ward, Reni Santoni, Carl Reiner, George Gaynes

Aspen Film Society, Universal Pictures, 88 Minutes

Review:

“I hadn’t seen a body put together like that since I’d solved the case of the Murdered Girl with the Big Tits.” – Rigby Reardon

How is it that this film has existed for nearly forty years but I hadn’t even known of its existence until more recently. Maybe I saw it in video stores, as a kid, and it just didn’t jump out at me. However, being a lover of Steve Martin and classic film-noir, this felt like it could be something that was right up my alley.

In short, it most certainly was and I liked this movie a lot. However, it’s far from perfect and I think that its constant reliance on old film footage that features old film stars was really overused, even if that was the creative direction of the picture.

I loved seeing Steve Martin interact with the greatest stars of the silver screen and I certainly love that Humphrey Bogart’s version of Philip Marlowe was a big part of the story. However, some scenes came off a bit clunky and unnatural. But I guess it’s hard trying to make this feel more organic when Martin rarely has another actor to actually banter with. It’s hard reading a scene as it plays out and nailing that comedic timing.

Still, a lot of the jokes and one-liners in this movie were hilarious and Martin was the real high point of the film, making this much greater than it would’ve otherwise been.

The film looked stupendous, though, and Carl Reiner did a hell of a job behind the camera and managing the overall aesthetic of the picture. It matched with the classic film-noir clips quite well and in modern HD, this really looks crisp and pristine.

All in all, this was a weird but entertaining experiment. I can see why it might not have connected with mainstream audiences in 1982 and fell down most people’s memory holes but it still features a fantastic, memorable performance by Steve Martin in his prime.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Steve Martin comedies of the ’80s and early ’90s.