Posts Tagged ‘Cheap Cinema’

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“Manos” The Hands of Fate (1966/ Dir. Harold P. Warren) MST3K Episode 24, Season 4, January 30, 1993

When I do reviews of movies that were on MST3K, I get a copy of the movie on its own. No bots, no mads, not a single luxury. Now, I do that for a couple of reasons, the first of which is that I want to watch the movie on its own dubious merits. Once you watch the movie with the bots, you’re watching an episode of the TV show. Second, if you watch a TV broadcast, things may have to be cut for TV standards. Movies can be cut for both time and content, meaning that you might not get the whole movie on the show. Even if you have the whole movie, you’re still breaking up the flow for the commercial breaks and host segments. So I don’t review the episodes, I review the movie clean, or as clean as the DVDs I get will allow. I mention all of this because this movie is down right infamous, there are people who can’t even watch the MST3K episode, so this is heroic in the eyes of some.

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Okay, so when I first heard the concept of Brick, I was not a fan. Oh goodie, I thought, a Film Noir set in a high school. There will be teens in fedoras and talking fast like their trying to be Jimmy Cagney, despite the fact that Cagney never made a film noir because he was too big a star to be in those b movies. To be perfectly frank, I was expecting a high school version of Bugsy Malone, complete withy pie shooting machine guns. However, I heard some things and someone sent me the movie as a gift and I had to watch it then. So I watched it and was pleased to discover that my fears were misplaced. This wasn’t a bunch of teenagers playing at film noir, it was film noir playing with a bunch of teenagers. That probably sounds like I said the same thing, but it’s the difference of “I mean what I say is the same thing as I say what I mean.” If you get my drift. To put it in a short, declarative sentence: These guys got what film noir means rather than just trying to ape what it looks like.

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The Fearless Hyena (1979/ Goodyear Movie Company/ Dir. Jackie Chan)

Really? All the movies I’ve reviewed and this is the first Jackie Chan movie? Huh, that’s odd. This is as good a place as any to start with Chan. As far as I’m able to tell, this is Chan’s first directorial effort, even though Kenneth Tsang helped out. The thing is, this is a really cheap movie. Really cheap. You know how Shaw Brothers movies tend to look like a poor man’s version of old Hollywood movies? No? Do we need a Shaw Brothers primer? Okay, note to self, review a Shaw Brothers classic sometime. Let me break it down quickly. A lot of the Shaw’s movies were studio bound in a way that soap operas would find embarrassing. I’ve seen Shaw films that have almost no exterior shots, despite the fact that much of the movie ostensibly takes place outside. One Armed Swordsman comes to mind. The Shaws did build a backlot, and used it to great effect, but many movies still have a great deal of indoor studio shooting. The reason I bring this up is that things like Fearless Hyena didn’t have as much money as a Shaw production. That’s my point. They’re not even as expensive as a poor man’s knock-off. However, along with more exterior shoots (the forest is CHEAP!) there is also a bit more soul here. Chan and company are working their butts off to produce a new kind of kung fu movie. It worked too, this movie even supplanted Chan’s break-out film Drunken Master as the highest grossing movie in Hong Kong.

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The Great Train Robbery (1903/Edison Studios/Dir. Edwin S. Porter)

Made in 1903, this is possibly the earliest western movie, although even the director of this movie would disagree with that statement. Not important, but he thought another movie was the first western, however I don’t think it was a proper narrative film like this is. See, before this time, most movies were just an event. Not even a series of events but a single scene with the camera simple pointed at whatever was happening. The earliest movies are quite frankly, dull. Unless you’re a movie nerd, or a history nerd, most of the “first” movies in history hold little to no interest because they were primarily just pointing a camera at a city street and capturing what was there. This was back in the day when simply seeing a picture move was enough to get riled up over. Now it’s true that there were movies with plot and editing and before this, but The Great Train Robbery was the first one to really bring everything together in a way that made it a big hit. One might say that this one proved there was something to this whole movie making thing. If you’re able, go out and buy Edison – The Invention of the Movies, which is where my copy of the movie comes from. If you get other versions, you may not get some of the brilliant use of colors that this one has.

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Desperado (1995/ Columbia Pictures/ Dir. Robert Rodriguez)

This is an interesting mixture of both varieties of movie that were popular during the mid nineties. Desperado straddles the line between two-fisted action and independent/foreign art house style films. I’m not joking about that second part either, there are a lot of shots and ideas that are far more familiar to the art house scene rather than the action movie of the time. In many ways it feels like it has more in common with the art house, particularly since there was a flavor for low-budget Latin movies at the time this came out. This movie was also like another kind of import, that being the Hong Kong Heroic bloodshed, however as this connection is more obvious I won’t dwell on it.

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Movie Review: Mean Guns


Mean Guns (1997/ Dir. Albert Pyun)

We haven’t talked about a good old fashioned bad movie in a while, and this is close to as bad as they come while still being enjoyable. Oh yes, this movie is enjoyable, but it’s terrible. You don’t watch it for the fine performances or the sparkling dialogue, you watch it because you’re fascinated that this sort of thing got made despite the fact that clearly no one much cared about the end product. It’s also interesting to see how far some people have fallen. This was shown as an HBO original movie, and it’s not even a very good one, but it has some names that people would recognize like Ice T and Christopher Lambert. They’re okay in this movie, but they cover the range of performances for actors who are just picking up a paycheck. Ice is chewing the scenery and Lambert is half asleep. Still, the movie is fun, but for all the wrong reasons.

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TV Review: Tales from the Darkside “Seasons of Belief”

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Tales from the Darkside: Seasons of Belief (Season 3, Episode 11; First Broadcast December 29, 1986; Laurel Productions; Dir. Michael Mc Dowell)

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What say we get this VEWPRF season started off right? What better way to get a season started than with an episode of my favorite TV show? That’s right, I’ve got a holiday episode of Tales from the Darkside and I’m not afraid to review it! Like so many other Darkside episodes, this one is based on a short story. This time it’s based on a short story by Michael Bishop a Locus and Nebula Award winning writer. The screen play was written by Michael McDowell who also directed the episode. McDowell is also the man who created Beetlejuice as well as wrote some two dozen books. So what I’m saying is, in this episode, we’re in good hands. Unlike some holiday episodes, this will be a joy to watch. And with that, I just guaranteed you won’t even read past the opening paragraph, didn’t I? Look, I like some things, okay? I try to review things I think I’ll enjoy. Of course, since my program is being handed to me by forces I don’t really understand, it might be crap. I can’t see that happening since at worst a Darkside episode is just dull, but it might. C’mon! Read on and see what happens!

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