Sunday, January 31, 2016

Superman (1987)

Superman battles villains amidst confusing dance sequences in this Bollywood film fashioned from chunks of the film Superman: The Movie starring Christopher Reeve.

A rickety tin-foil spacecraft carrying a baby lands on earth, and a couple takes the baby for a ride. Meanwhile the film crew's light reflector is visible in the car's window. A truck catches a flat, and the boy lifts it, then he break dances to Michael Jackson's Beat It.

Years pass. The now adult costume-less Superman runs near a speeding train and keeps up with it through the magic of forced perspective, then everyone dances by a fire and camera shadows. A bunch of movie happens, and the Fortress Of Solitude is created from parts of the original Superman movie. Christopher Reeve and Marlon Brando do not appear.

After a musical interlude, a man has stomach distress aboard an airplane which causes badly-edited laughter and hysteria amongst the passengers. Men with guns hijack the plane. With the help of more borrowed movie chunks, Superman comes to the rescue of the badly superimposed plane, where one shot of the interior of the plane has windows and in another shot it doesn't. Then Supes walks underneath the moving plane where it's daylight, while within the cockpit it's dark.  Then there's a terrific battle, and by 'terrific' I mean 'awkwardly choreographed and confusing'.

Suddenly, women wearing t-shirts that say 'Superdad' on them battle some men. I'm not sure why. After a high-speed chase between a Corvair and a motorcycle, Supes leaves a woman at the mercy of three threatening men as he goes and takes a leak behind a tree. Sometime later, Supes is in a building where day and night seems to be haphazard and random, and it explodes, then there's another musical number.

Supes displays one of his many superpowers, which is the ability to fill a basket with bread at the wave of his hand. Then a helicopter crashes a few times. A woman gets kicked, then there's another terrific battle amongst cardboard boxes. Don't worry, there's another musical number.

Utilizing obviously different film stock of chunks of the 1978 film of Superman starring Christopher Reeve, distracting comic relief, not-especially-special special effects, haphazard editing, and an abundance of unbuttoned shirts, this Bollywood adaptation of the Superman story is too long at over 2 hours, and it's very boring. Fans of continuity errors will find much to be thrilled about in this less-than-thrilling Superman story, and it's mildly recommended if you like stuff that sucks.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Aliens From Outer Space: UFO Landings, Crashes, And Retrievals

Normally, I would start my review with a brief synopsis of the film. I'm not certain Aliens From Outer Space exactly qualifies as a film. It almost certainly doesn't qualify as a motion picture, as the definition of a motion picture is 'pictures that move'. Aliens From Outer Space is 240 minutes of mostly static photographs with voiceover narration, occasionally broken up by news clips or shaky home video footage, so it would probably qualify as a very lengthy filmstrip.

The narrator stumbles over words, often mispronouncing them, which thankfully breaks up the monotony. Stories of UFO sightings blend into one another in a sort of opaque UFO word stew, and I'm not certain, but I think the narrator accidentally reads a page of script twice. During a retelling of the infamous Phoenix Lights sighting, the screen is black except for 4 white dots for several minutes. A generic guitar soundtrack plays periodically, and it's so bland and nondescript, the filmmakers could have left it out without anyone noticing. Exhaustive investigation into the capabilities of commercially available latex balloons to lift a roadside flare (Spoiler alert: They can't) seems to be filmed in someone's garage. A bit of footage is inexpertly edited, and when the footage abruptly ends, it seems as though the narrator is surprised by this, stops for a moment, and then keeps on reading. I often forgot I was watching a film.

Did I mention Aliens From Outer Space is 240 minutes? Excruciatingly boring, I fell asleep several times during the film. Featuring very little supposed UFO footage for a film of this length, Aliens From Outer Space is akin to a Powerpoint presentation.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Hangar 10

Three metal detector enthusiasts hunting for gold near the location of the infamous Rendelsham Forest UFO Incident stumble upon evidence of more unexplained activity in this found-footage horror film. Featuring shaky cam, metal detecting, a dead squirrel with flies crawling out of its mouth, out-of-focus harmonica playing, flashlight-lit walks through the forest, and a tedious love triangle, Hangar 10 is another found-footage film of bickering people in the midst of some paranormal happenings.

After finding a fence topped with barbed wire, with an enormous hole cut in it, the trio climbs through it into certain, predictable peril. Then there are close-up interviews with flashlight a la The Blair Witch Project. After some deer noises and a loud warbling, they see a light in the distance. The next morning, their car is gone, which of course means more walking through the forest, no cell phone coverage, and more bickering amidst nausea cam.

In a derelict brick building, they find a camera with photos of dead horses whose bodies are covered with unexplained growths, some dangling chunks of meat, and snapshots of the group as they slept in their car. Suddenly, at the 40 minute mark, there's some pretty good footage of unexplained lights dancing in ominous storm clouds overhead. Then there are more lights in the trees, a foggy airfare base, and squawking birds sitting in a barren tree. It's fairly tedious. After some running, screaming, and more nausea cam, the film enigmatically ends, and not a moment too soon.

Hangar 10 is another of those found-footage horror films borrowing liberally from The Blair Witch Project. It has an intriguing premise based on the real-life Rendelsham Forest UFO Incident, and it's not bad to look at when the camera is still. It's rarely still. Hangar 10 isn't great, but I wouldn't stop you from watching it.

Friday, January 22, 2016

7 Below

Ving Rhames stars in this horror film, and meanwhile, Val Kilmer occasionally whimpers.

One hundred years ago, on a dark and stormy night, a child murders a family. Then 6 awful people take an awkward ride in a van where they bicker amongst each other as they try to explain their character's motivations. It's not very interesting.

After they nearly collide with a ghost, the driver of the van is killed, leaving the rest of the characters completely insufferable. Val Kilmer wears a ponytail, drinks fruit punch, hits on a female gas station attendant although his wife is in the van, and gives off a creepy vibe. Ving gives the stranded motorists a lift back to his ominous, secluded house and no one seems to be concerned that their screams will go unheard. Someone gives some dodgy medical advice, and then Ving looks at his antique pocket watch and says, "Storm's approaching" as though it's a new Apple product that gives steampunk weather predictions.

The gas station attendant's car ironically runs out of gas. With help from her future love interest, she looks under the hood, and the two discuss how ironic the scene is, talk about how looking under the hood is pointless, and keep doing that exact thing for an uncomfortable period of time. The road that is the only escape route from Ving's murder-y bed and breakfast is unconvincingly blocked by some branches because it's in the script. The female cast changes clothes, once due to Val's fruit punch and again for some dodgy reincarnation.

Suddenly, Val ends up conveniently and suspiciously dead, and not a moment too soon. Everyone is only briefly hysterical, then there's more dodgy medical advice. Ving's truck ends up getting its wires unconvincingly cut. Val's body gets taken to the barn, but you know very good and well Val would never be lugged about like a sack of potatoes. It's probably a stand-in getting paid far, far less. Val's probably at the craft services table sipping another fruit punch or something. A radio announcer explains that the area is under a tornado watch, and it's as though no one in the film has ever experienced one. A coin is tossed to see who sleeps with the gas station attendant, and it's exactly what it sounds like. More movie happens, and characters are bumped off. Characters get separated in the woods as though they've never seen a horror film. The movie ends in a less-than-surprising way, and I couldn't have been more relieved.

Predictable, cliched, and not particularly frightening, 7 Below features some reincarnation elements, some ghost elements, and some slasher elements. Borrowing from the folkloric legend of hitch-hiking spirits like Resurrection Mary, only it's unclear which character is supposed to be Mary. 7 Below features cruddy effects, bad makeup, a terrible screenplay, an ominous zucchini, and Val Kilmer.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Ghosts Of The Underground

The rumors of reported hauntings in London's subway system are examined in this paranormal documentary. Featuring well-shot interviews presented in a calm, matter-of-fact way, eerie shots of empty, after-hours stations devoid of commuters, and footage of dimly lit, drafty service tunnels, Ghosts Of The Underground creates an unsettling atmosphere from the beginning of the film. Two workers, both of whom worked in Kennington Loop (where supposedly more sightings occur than any other), tell the same story, edited seamlessly together. It's then revealed the men hadn't met and the experiences happened 4 years apart, one of whom never returned to his post. For the skeptics, a healthy dose of debunking is employed, where an expert using sound equipment investigates infrasound, which are very low frequencies unable to be heard by human ears. 95 dB could cause unease, and areas of the underground fall within that range. For the less skeptical, spooky tales of uncoffined burial pits which were exhumed in the creation of portions of the Tube and containing 8 bodies per cubic meter, the story of an employee delaying the train for an apparition holding an antiquated Tilly lamp, the recounting of the crash in 1958 which killed 10 people, and the telling of the tragic stampede during the 1950s where 173 people, mostly women and children, were crushed to death, is enough to make one's blood run cold. A surprisingly chilling paranormal documentary, I really enjoyed Ghosts Of The Underground.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Haunting Of Fox Hollow Farm

The paranormal investigation of the infamous farm owned by alleged serial killer Herb Baumeister, where 5000 human bone fragments were unearthed, is examined in this documentary. Disjointed and gimmicky, The Haunting Of Fox Hollow Farm quickly cuts from one image to the next, one interview after another. Intercutting TV news clips, talking-head interviews, second-hand storytelling, and input from psychics and paranormal investigators, the presentation of information makes it difficult to discern what is fact and what is conjecture. Featuring such evidence as images of rippling water from the indoor pool where some victims were killed which allegedly contain the visions of ghosts, various EVPs, murky night-vision footage, and results from ground penetrating radar, the legends surrounding the farm are compelling, but the editing is breathlessly paced, making the film a confusing jumble. Even with the lurid story of the I-70 Killer as backdrop for a Ghosthunters-type investigation, The Haunting Of Fox Hollow Farm will disappoint both those interested in the grisly careers of serial killers and fans of ghost hunting programs.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Justice, My Foot!

A period screwball martial arts comedy from Stephen Chow, Justice, My Foot! is the story of a couple fighting the justice system with leaping, flying, twirling kung fu action. Someone loses a dog, then gets bitten in the ass. Not by a dog, by a person. The wife kicks a cow, then jumps over tofu. Someone falls into an absurdly large pile of dung, then it's off to the graveyard. Then a stand-in says, 'I'm a stand-in'. Then there's some zaniness involving a dead child, frogs, and a broken ladder.

Someone mops, then someone washes their feet with free tea. A woman gets 'punched in the goodies'.  A woman's second brother falls off a cliff, then she immediately gives birth. She immediately hangs herself, but is saved at the last moment. After the husband falls asleep at the shrine of his dead parents, he wake up to find he's dressed in women's clothing. Then someone wearing a fringe-y red hat farts and says, 'Cool'.

The wife gets smacked in the face 30 times with a stick, then the feng shui of an archway is questioned. Then someone complains that their line was stolen. Someone whips a flute out of their dress, and a game of mahjong is upset.

Several lengthy, complicated court cases are held, and the film sort of ends with a windswept, high-flying sequence of martial arts. The wife's water breaks during the battle, and she gives birth amidst brightly colored umbrellas.

Justice, My Foot! is a madcap, confusing action film where many of the jokes fall flat due to translation problems. It's well-shot, with beautiful cinematography. There's an abundance of dick jokes, durian jokes, breast milk jokes, soup jokes, and let's not forget, a character named Ah Fuk. It's a humorous film from the Shaw Brothers studios.

Monday, January 11, 2016

How To Smell A Rose: A Visit With Ricky Leacock In Normandy

The life and career of documentary filmmaker Richard Leacock is examined in this documentary.

Watching over him as he chops endives, arranges cheese on a board, prepares a cassoulet, and stuffs lamb with garlic, fellow documentarian Les Blank films Leacock discussing the films he was involved in, and the spontaneity of film making. Leacock's fascination with the magic captured in tiny scenes of real people doing real things, is illustrated with footage of a woman exercising a white pony while driving a motorized cart, a city bus unable to make a tight turn because of a parked motorcycle, and Japanese tourists attempting to use a payphone.

He also worked with D. A. Pennebaker and the Maysles brothers, invented a portable synch-sound camera, and believed that film would eventually be made by amateurs.

The footage of cooking cuts through the dryness of the rest of the film, and brief clips of films including The Louisiana Story and Monterey Pop help illuminate a quiet director/photographer. It's an interesting tribute to both late film-makers.

The Milpitas Monster

A monster born from garbage menaces a town in this extremely low-budget horror film created by teenagers. A hobo fishing down at the 'Sludge Lagoons' inadvertently awakens a monster, and you can tell he's a hobo because of the jacket with the big patches sown on it. Meanwhile, people complain about tumor-ridden fish, stinky water, and stinky mud. Suddenly, there's a musical montage with trash cans, and someone gets harassed by a stop-motion, poorly-lit, and inexpertly animated monster with wings that looks remarkably similar to the cryptid Mothman. Hoodlums steal a container of sulfur from the high school, then everyone goes to the carnival. After the local 'ice cream restaurant' explodes, everyone gets mail. The locals demonstrate with picket signs because their trashcans have disappeared, and due to the pressure, the mayor holds an emergency task force meeting to get to the bottom of the trash can crisis. The mayor orders a device called the Odorola, which is really just a rotary-dial phone in a heavy-duty suitcase. The suitcase is painted yellow, so it looks a little less like a suitcase. Lots of movie happens, then the movie ends in a LOL-inducing fashion as the monster climbs a metal scaffold while the townsfolk detonates dynamite beneath it, causing it to topple off a cliff. The winged monster seemingly forgets it has wings, and plummets to its demise. Part King Kong, part Mothman, part Creeping Terror, The Milpitas Monster is thoroughly terrible, and it's mildly recommended if you like stuff that sucks.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Voynich Code

The history of the mysterious manuscript is examined in this documentary. Arcane and alchemical, the enigmatic book The Voynich Manuscript contains drawings of exotic plants, zoetrope-like illustrations, and what could be considered early magnifications, amongst other optical effects. 200 pages of parchment with no errors from the 1500s, the book's secrets still haven't been decoded. If you're looking for answers to questions raised by this quizzical book, you won't find them in this documentary, but it might send you down an interesting Wikipedia-hole. I found myself looking up cypher techniques such as the Cardan Grille, which surprisingly enough, isn't a delicious as it sounds.

Curse Of The Axe

The mystery of how a 16th-century wrought iron axe-head ended up in a Pre-Contact Huron village is examined in this documentary narrated by The Band's Robbie Robertson.

A farmer's field awash in colorful flags, each marking a spot where an ancient artifact was found, illustrates the magnitude of the archaeological dig. Using the darkened earth where wooden postholes once stood, the team enters the coordinates for each spot into a computer program, and the village starts to take shape. Surrounded by a wooden palisade, several longhouses were built within, each about 100 feet long. Sifting through the dirt that was once the floors of these longhouses, stone axes, bone tools, and a small chunk of wrought iron were discovered, although contact with Europeans wouldn't happen for another century in this village in Ontario. If buried in a private place, this rusted piece of iron could be seen as evil. During the Dark Times of 1450, there were wars between tribes, which explains the discovery of a broken piece of human skull, a headless figure carved into it, fashioned into a macabre rattle. Through exchange with these warring tribes, the enigmatic piece of iron could have made its way into the woods of Canada.

Dry, repetitive, informative, and academic, Curse Of The Axe dwells mostly on the scientific aspects of the iron axe head, and less on a supposed curse, so those looking for disembodied, levitating axes dismembering their enemies should probably hunt elsewhere.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Invincible Shaolin

Rival schools are pitted against each other in this Shaw Brothers martial arts film. Sticks and swords are wielded, fighters perform acrobatics and tumbling, and someone's ribs burst through their chest. A tragedy unfolds, and fruit is peddled. Someone does finger pushups over an open well with a large stone on their back, trying not to break eggs, and someone has tofu struggles. Featuring a very long training sequence, Invincible Shaolin is talky and straightforward, without a lot of the Shaw Brothers' wackiness, unfortunately. The fast-paced, furious finale, with elegant, leaping kung fu, is beautifully choreographed, with much bamboo chopping and brick smashing.


A familial intervention goes awry in this sci-fi/horror film. A veteran suffering from PTSD shoots an unseen predator in the woods after his dog is killed, and bickering siblings travel to stage an intervention with him. In the isolated house on the shore of a picturesque lake, windows and doors are covered in aluminum foil. Holes in the foil cause beams of sunlight to cut through the gloomy interior of the cluttered house. In the back room of the house, there's a door with two large padlocks on it. Something is in the basement. The brother pulled his own tooth because he believed it had a tracking device in it. He opens his military jacket to reveal he's covered in infected scratches. In a long dialogue piece, the siblings bicker, setting up the plot in a frantic narrative. Compelling acting and good pacing keeps the scene from becoming dull. Tense music, quick editing, decent special effects, and exciting, sweeping handheld camerawork create an effectively paranoid atmosphere, plus Vincent Price makes an appropriate cameo as his film The Last Man On Earth plays on a TV in the background. I enjoyed Pod, and found it to be reminiscent of The X-Files.