Saturday, January 31, 2015

Flashback gaming systems, yes, but what about a Flashback vintage computer system?

Have you seen, or have, one of the Flashback gaming systems emulating the old Atari 2600, ColecoVision, IntelliVision and Sega Genesis game systems complete with games?

There is a certain novelty, and for the older crowd (sorry geezers :p ), nostalgia in these Flashback systems. Not only is the initial cost lower than the original systems cost, but they come loaded with the games you had to buy individually when they were new. Of course with any emulation there is a degree of success and failure in capturing the original game. For those who played the original games (a.k.a. geezer geeks), I think the disappointment is higher as they have the original experience to compare it to whereas those of us who either have not had the system before or are not old enough to remember them, the emulations good or bad can be quite enjoyable.

I sometimes look around at older vintage computer systems. I was looking on eBay at Atari XLs, Commodore 64s, TRS-80s, Radio Shack Color Computers (CoCo), Timex Sinclairs, and the list goes on and on. It struck me that the technology to emulate the old gaming systems could probably be used to emulate the old computer systems as well.

Could you imagine a box barely bigger than a modern netbook complete with a Commodore 64 or Atari XL system including a built-in keyboard and many of the programs and games that were available for that system? And like the original systems and the Flashback systems all you need to do is plug it into your TV set.

The question, though, is would such a thing as a Flashback computer system sell? 

Compared to buying vintage computers on eBay it would be a fraction of the price as well require a fraction of the space to set it up. I would certainly be interested in one myself, for each system emulated. Of course, like the Flashback game systems, it would only be for fun. But then what is the purpose of buying vintage computer systems other than for fun or collecting them?

What do you think and what vintage computer system would you like to see as a Flashback computer?

Toxic Fletch

Friday, January 30, 2015

Movie Review: Just Before Dawn (1981)

Just Before Dawn (1981) - USA - Horror - Rated R
Directed by Jeff Lieberman
Starring Deborah Benson, Gregg Henry, Chris Lemmon, Jamie Rose, Ralph Seymour, Katie Powell, George Kennedy, Mike Kellin, John Hunsaker, Hap Oslund, Barbara Spencer, Charles Bartlett

A backwoods slasher film with excellent characterizations that is not only a good slasher movie but a good movie period.

Warren has acquired some property, effectively a mountain way off anybody's beaten path except the few who make it their home, and for whom a deed means nothing. He and four friends, including his girlfriend Connie, trek to the mountain despite a forest ranger's warnings and that of a frightened hunter who tells them of a demon who is after him. They take the hunter's warning's as the delusion of a drunk. There may be no demon in the woods, but there is somebody, and the campers are just his latest prey.

Just Before Dawn works on several levels, of course not the least of which is the scenic backdrop having filmed on location in Oregon with the majestic green of the woods, the placid clarity of lakes in echoing hollows, the roar of sparkling waterfalls amid the sounds of nature. Yet among the serenity of nature lurks predators and prey, and not necessarily of the four-legged variety. Even in the wilds of nature man is his own greatest enemy, even as the result of the evil he has done to his own.

The 5 campers are a well integrated mix, both working off of each other and lighting a fuse for a transformation taking place which is the best feature of the film. George Kennedy is a welcome presence as the forest ranger who would rather be sitting at home working on his botany but his sense of duty won't let him, and his under-played demeanor hits just the right note.

The most beautiful part of the film is Deborah Benson's role as Connie. Her character is reserved at first. Reserved is an easy thing to over-play, but under her reserved stature is a confidence that just needs the right spark to pull it out. Jamie Rose's character of Megan lights the fuse with her contrast in a character who is the first one to strike up a dance when the music plays, or the first one to go skinny dipping when the chance presents itself.

The outdoors play an important role in Connie's transformation. Our homes are closed up. We dress by acceptable dress codes (eh...most of us). But in the outdoors nature is open and free, and so becomes Connie as her hair comes down, she goes from the conservative khaki's to wearing the short shorts Megan let her have. Her blouse is tied up around her bare waist now rather than tucked into her pants. She is a part of nature, and as a part of nature she must fight to survive. In her performance as Connie and in her character's transformation and literal knock-down drag-out fight with the killer, Deborah Benson may well be the sexiest woman in any slasher movie.

Another transformation that takes place is that of Gregg Henry's character. Unlike many who feel his character becomes a coward, I feel that his character becomes unsettled, effectively losing his security blanket, so to speak, which is his friends. He falls into a state of denial. For example when the tent falls down, he blames it on being poorly erected in the first place. He constantly talks as though talking is some kind of mojo that will keep bad things away. Not unlike many of us when we are scared we will rationalize things away, and sound, even the sound of our voices, will make thing go away, we hope.

Just Before Dawn is not Friday the 13th, Wrong Turn, or any of a slew of other slasher flicks that throw out 2 dimensional cardboard characters to be slayed by a killer. It is a movie first, a story of survival and transformation, and it happens to have a backwoods killer in it. Watching slasher movies is about like panning for gold, you're there to have fun and don't expect to actually find gold. But once in a while a brilliant nugget shows up in your pan. Just Before Dawn is one of those few nuggets.

My Rating: 5 Fingers!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Movie Review: Red Alert (1977)

Red Alert (1977) - USA - Thriller - Not Rated (TV Movie)
Directed by William Hale
Starring William Devane, Michael Brandon, Adrienne Barbeau, Ralph Waite, David Hayward, M. Emmet Walsh, Jim Siedow

A fantastic and tense thriller pitting human against computer, and ultimately against human, in the face of a potential nuclear meltdown.

At a Minnesota nuclear reactor a leak is detected by a safeguard remote computer which results in trapping technicians in the containment building resulting in their deaths. Two investigators are brought in and discover things don't quite fit with what the computer Proteus is reporting which pits them against a by-the-book bureaucrat following procedure to the letter. What is reported by the Proteus computer as human error resulting in the malfunction may well have been a cleverly devised plan that will result in a nuclear disaster at the hands of the computer, unless the investigators can figure it out, much to the irritation of the bureaucrat who has faith in the infallibility of the computer.

Devane and Brandon play two very human investigators butting heads with the by-the-book Ralph Waite. The more passionate Brandon tempered by the more pragmatic Devane gives a balance to their investigation as they confront the possibility of a very human saboteur, played by Jim Siedow (of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre fame). Though the emotional turmoil and depression having led a man to this point in life is nothing they can or will make an excuse for, their ability to connect and understand a man gone off the deep end gives them an edge in preventing a tragedy versus a safeguard system which only can see things in numbers and logical steps, even if illogic set those steps into motion.

The performances in this are above par. Often I have read reviews stating something like "really good for a TV movie", but frankly I think TV movies average better overall and that's an unfair statement to make. And even at that, Red Alert is above the average TV movie. Waite does a great job as a inflexible man trying to hold to his faith in something, not because he has to be right but because he believes it is the right thing to do and he believes in going by the book. Devane's down to earth characterization provides a release valve for the audience, a security blanket if you will, as he stands up to Waite's character and questions his inflexible safeguards. Brandon's character may even be more complex as being a family man he has to downplay his emotions while still being a family man worried about his family in the face of a catastrophe.

The edge of your seat climax of Red Alert is one of those classic moments in film, or at least it should be. The seconds tick down in the face of a public panic and a control center rendered helpless as two average men, not superheroes or guys with fantastic backgrounds but two regular guys, are all that stand in the way of a potential disaster.

My Rating: 5 Fingers!

It's a true crime this movie has not been released on DVD. You can get Red Alert on VHS

Friday, January 23, 2015

Movie Review: Tender Loving Care (1973)

Tender Loving Care (1973) - USA - Drama - Rated R
Directed by Don Edmonds
Starring Donna Young (as Donna Desmond), Marilyn Joi (as Anita King), Michael Asher, Lauren Simon (as Leah Simon), John Daniels, Tony Mumolo, Josh Taylor (as Tim Taylor), George Buck Flower, Kathy Hilton

A soap opera plot involving nurses and doctors, drugs, extortion, and slappy gangsters offers plenty of skin to get through the occasional slowness of the film to make for an entertaining movie.

Karen is new in town. She's a nurse and just starting at the hospital where she meets and rooms with two other nurses. Between the three of them one will get involved with a doctor she has the hots for even though he is married to his profession, one will have to deal with a boxer whose medical condition will end his fighting career, and one will be dragged into her boyfriend's drug addiction with a by-product of extortion and murder. They will also encounter gangster, philandering guys who want to hook them up with other women, and tragedy.

Tender Loving Care is a short movie at 72 minutes, and despite that it does have an occasional drag, but not too many and the skin content is much better than the more successful nurses drive-in movies of the 70s that Julie Corman produced. Of what I have seen of the Corman produced nurses movies, Tender Loving Care has a stronger story that moves along with few glitches. What glitches there are is in the department of acting capability and silliness in some characters.

Of the three primary actresses, of course that would be the nurses, Donna Young's performance, even though she is the top billed of this movie (as Donna Desmond), is the weakest. She is not the least experienced of the cast, but most of her previous efforts were in x-rated movies where acting was not a prerequisite. For most of the movie she is fine in her performance but in at least two scenes she is stretching her ability as an actress.

Marilyn Joi, the most experienced of the three primary actresses and very probably under-credited on IMDB due to acting under so many pseudonyms (Anita King in this one), gives an expected good performance that is above the means of this film. Lauren Simon also turns in a good performance as the put upon girlfriend of a drug addicted doctor, not only having to deal with his mood swings but having to deal with covering up for him even facing extortion for sex. And of course George Buck Flower delivers a good performance as a lecherous hospital orderly as does John Daniels as a troubled young man facing the end of his boxing career.

There are weak performances in this, as in many low budget r-rated sex movies of the 70s, but the weakest are the gangsters. It seemed about standard in a lot of 70s drive-in fare to have slappy gangsters (humorously portrayed as idiots) whether it was a comedy or drama as this is. It makes me think that casting directors had special audition lines for bad actors called 'gangster auditions'; I don't think these guys had to stand in line for very long. ;)

I would normally review a sex movie, even though it is r-rated, on my Sex and Blood Show blog. This movie has only seen the the light of day on an Embassy Home Entertainment VHS release in 1986, which is difficult to find and expensive if you can, and an even more difficult to find DVD release, which I suspect is nothing more than a VHS master put on DVD, but I don't know for sure. I have the VHS but it is old and not worth even trying to do screen caps from it. Being I use screencaps from the movie I review on the Sex and Blood Show blog and don't have any, I decided to put the review here.

Actual reviews of this movie are also difficult to find. IMDB has two reviews on this movie's page, at complete opposite ends of the spectrum, and most other sites that even list a review for the movie are junk seo listings with no more than a basic informational listing of the director, stars, and running time of the movie. The standard description given for this movie is "Teenage nurses give love therapy. Lots of action when they try to straighten out the corrupt hospital staff" which is inaccurate as they are definitely not teens and no more than two of the hospital staff are portrayed in a negative light, and it certainly is not the hospital at fault.

My Rating: 3 Fingers. This has more to offer in terms of a coherent story and nudity than a lot of the other nurses movies of the same time, and in only 72 minutes it provides an entertaining watch if a hospital drama liberally sprinkled with sex is your type of movie.

The image I am using is a tamer newspaper ad for the movie I found at

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Living in a Geek's Paradise: The Early 80s have been alive in the early 80s. Okay, I was, being I was born in 1980, but by alive I mean having been old enough to have experienced and enjoyed it. Of course the 1980s had its own problems as any decade did. 

The American public was scammed with a bullshit trickle-down economics policy about giving free money to the excessively rich and it would supposedly trickle down to all classes. More honest economists would have called it the shit-down theory, based on an old philosophy/joke (the two terms are almost interchangeable) about three tiers of pigs with each successive level down living off the shit of the upper tier, or in this case the upper class.

Idealistically the middle tier/middle class of pigs would benefit the most as the upper tier would be the most wasteful. Well, that was the theory the public bought but the reality is the upper tier is the greediest and will find any way possible to keep resources flowing up, and this scam on America set in motion an increasing devide between the upper and middle class and paved the way for the eventual eroding away of the middle class putting us in the economic shithole we are trying to dig ourselves out of today.

The other side of that though, long term effects aside, is the American public who bought into the scam was throwing money away right and left in what became the decade of excess. If there was a way to repackage and sell it, it would be done. How many times can you play the same video game with the name and a few graphics changed before you realize it's the same thing? What about the same movie with a masked guy carrying a butcher knife while killing off half-naked young women and stupid jocks before you realize it's the same movie? Well the public was too busy being in the grips of this bullshit scam and didn't care if it was the same movie and the same video game because the slight differences and thinking they would always be able to afford it was just too much of a temptation, and too much fun to be had.

As a result of the excessive ways people lived and spent money the shelves at the stores were filled with video game systems, and shortly emptied, and hundreds of games to play on them. Slasher movies were all the rage and every holiday, special event, and weekend had a new one. VCRs were a status symbol and with so many making their way into American homes, it became a logical extension that those same homes would want to rent videos for them and video stores were popping up all over the place with some towns having one almost at every corner and in every shopping center.

With the epic movie having gone out by the 1960s and the 70s seeing the advent of the blockbuster movie with disaster and science fiction themes advertising various A-list stars with their pictures plastered all over the movie posters , the early 80s saw the beginning of mega-sequel franchise movies, obviously spurned on by the Airport movies of the 70s and fueled by Steven Spielberg in the 80s, and even bigger budget blockbusters, and even more low budget horror, comedy, and import movies.crowding theaters.

And what about computers? Home computers, far from what we know them as today, were flooding the market. Texas Instruments, Timex-Sinclair, Atari, Radio Shack, and of course the Commodore computers, especially the Commodore 64, among other computer companies including IBM and Apple were competing to see who would be the dominant company to get into homes. Even video game consoles were getting into the home computer game with Magnavox's Odyssey 2, Coleco Adam, and extensions for other game systems to give them some home computing capability.

Outside of technology was a true geek's passion...gaming! Dungeons & Dragons, Runequest, Call of Cthulhu, Traveller, these were just a few of the roleplaying games filling the shelves at the gameshop. It was the time, and last gasp of Metagaming and what was a fad in gaming known as minigames, microgames and pocketgames. Steve Jackson separated from Metagaming in the late 70s and started his own company, starting with games in that microgame format (Illuminat, Car Wars, Ogre) and eventually coming around to develop his own house roleplaying sytem, GURPS.

So what is this about a geek's paradise?

I have a habit, some would say a bad habit, of collecting things from the early 80s. I still have an older TV set with a picture tube and built in video cassette player. VHS tapes which were once all the rage can now be bought for a dollar or less. With multi-feature DVDs and few if any movies having been released on VHS for quite a few years now, for some it might seem pointless, but I also collect those old slasher movies from the 80s, some which have not made it to DVD yet, and still enjoy watching them.

And beyond those slasher movies, the 80s saw a lot of sleaze make its way through the video stores. Import and American independent movies from the 70s were being remarketed to a newer audience. Some of those VHS movies were put out in what was known as Big Box VHS, and talk about some sleazy cover art on those boxes. I saw a few of those boxes several years ago and got some, but they have been a rarity as of late.

Of course there are all kinds of computer games available with advanced graphics, and many even available online for free. There is a degree of fun though in playing an old Atari game on an old TV set...maybe for only a few of us. I do have one of these Atari Flashback systems that includes like 75 Atari games built-in and wireless controllers, plus it will also accept original Atari controllers. It's retro, yes, but fun, and it olny cost less than $40 which is nothing compared to what the basic system cost years ago. And I even have a Sinclair 1000 computer complete with a whopping built-in memory of 2K; though that's mostly just to have as it serves little purpose.

Games are fun, and especially when you can sit around a table to play them with friends. Those old roleplaying games from the 80s still have lots of life in them. I have several, and though there are newer roleplaying games out, why the hell would I want to spend $50-100 on a game? And why would I want to sit at home alone and play games with other people online? I'm not unsociable and it's a lot more fun, to me, to game in person.

It may have been a decade of excesses in the 80s, people falling for a bullshit scam to give money to the rich, but it did produce a lot of waste, and today that waste can be had for a fraction of the cost, even when adjusted for inflation, of what it was then, and a lot of it is still viable and fun. Hey, something good might as well have come out of that time.

Even today I am looking at more of those Flashback systems. Did you know they have them in ColecoVision and IntelliVision version? Not only that, but they also have a Sega Genesis version that not only has built-in games but can also takes the old Sega Genesis game carts, provided your old carts still work as old electronics do degrade. The Sega Genesis though is a bit recent for me as I'm into more of the early 80s arcade and console games.

Maybe I didn't experience the early 80s firsthand, but there was a lot of fun to be had. If you are a geek and enjoy retro stuff, the early 80s was a time of excess and waste and plenty of it is still available as original or even re-purposed today, amking for a retro themed geek's paradise to be had. I'm sure enjoying the leftovers today....even if it does seem weird to a few people. :p

Toxic Fletch

Relive or Experience the Geek Side of the 80s for the First Time

Check out the different Flashback Game Consoles with Atari GamesIntelliVisionColecoVision and Sega Genesis

Check out these former sleazy Big Box VHS classics now on DVD: Caged WomenFamous T & AWhite SlaveBlood of 1000 VirginsSS Hell Camp and Savage Island

Read about the home video games of the time in Classic Home Video Games 1972 to 1984

Play your DVDs and old VHS tapes on a Combo VHS/DVD Player

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Movie Review: The Rock (1996)

The Rock (1996) - USA - Action - Rated R
Directed by Michael Bay
Starring Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage, Ed Harris, John Spencer, David Morse, William Forsythe, Michael Biehn, Vanessa Marcil, John C. McGinley, Tony Todd

An adrenaline pumped adventure flick fueled with one-liners and over-the-top action is a lot of fun even if it was directed by the forgettable Michael Bay.

A group of renegade soldiers and mercenaries steal a deadly VX toxin with a mass delivery system then take over Alcatraz Island and hold the tourists hostage. The leader of this group is a marine general who has become disillusioned with the government's failure to pay benefits to families of soldiers killed in covert ops and he is threatening to launch warheads filled with the toxin against San Francisco unless the governement meets his demands.

The government contacts a biochemist with the FBI who would be able to disable the warheads, but they need somebody who knows Alcatraz well enough to get inside. As it turns out, a man did escape from Alacatraz and has been kept in a different maximum security prison since. They need him to break back into Alcatraz, even if what they offer for exchange is a lie.

The Rock, despite being over 2 hours long, does not take a moment to slow down from beginning to end. Of course there are personal moments in the film to build character development, but the movie still speeds along like a freight train out of control and does it well without derailing. It keeps tension going by having conflicts within each group, the good guys and the bad guys, with sometimes no easy way to determine exactly who is who as our protagonists have to deal with an underhanded governement agent and the antagonists have a redeemable mission, though soiled by their unforgivable terrorist plot which causes conflict among their own.

Michael Bay directs this, and despite his movies being like video games that are easily forgettable 5 minutes after they are done, The Rock does deliver and is a fun ride, even if it is forgettable about 15 minutes after it is seen. Seriously, the only thing that sticks with me about this movie is the line "Welcome to the Rock."

My Rating: 3 Fingers, which for a Michael Bay film is high for me.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Movie Review: $5 a Day (2008)

$5 a Day (2008) - USA - Comedy Drama - Rated PG-13
Directed by Nigel Cole
Starring Christopher Walken, Alessandro Nivola, Sharon Stone, Dean Cain, Peter Coyote, Amanda Peet, Luis Avalos

A light and tender comedy about an estranged con artist father and son connecting that also successfully connects with the viewer.

Flynn works as a health inspector in Los Angeles when he is contacted by his father who he has not seen in years, and does not want to see so he refuses his father's request to see him. So his father ends up getting him fired from his job due to an undisclosed criminal record, which he got as a result of his father, and his relationship with his girlfriend breaks up. Reluctantly he goes to see his father in Atlantic city where he still lives like a conman finding ways to live a comfortable life paying little or nothing. His father tells him he has cancer and this sets them off on a road trip in a promotional car with advertising all over it, getting free birthday dinners at restaurants due to a collection of fake IDs his father has, and staying the night in demos and open houses they find via real estate listings. His father is still a conman, and this makes Flynn wonder if he is trying to con his way into his heart while the two try to reconnect with the past and present together.

$5 a Day is part comedy, part drama and part road movie, and all a different kind of movie. Christopher Walken is naturally great in a role again, this time playing a meddlesome father who seems to be so caught up in his conning and scheming that it may well be the only way he knows how to show love too. Alessandro Nivola as his son strikes the right cord of being annoyed, pissed off, and yet has a begrudging love for a man he is never sure is conning him or not.

This movie provides laughs and tears. The ending, without giving anything away, is so appropriate for how we have come to know these two men and will leave you wiping a tear while having a good laugh at the same time. Walken may be pulling cons in the movie but the movie is no con job, but the genuine article.

My Rating: 4 Fingers.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Movie Review: The Quick and the Dead (1995)

The Quick and the Dead (1995) - USA - Western - Rated R
Directed by Sam Raimi
Starring Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobin Bell, Keith David, Lance Henriksen, Pat Hingle, Gary Sinise

A mix of spaghetti western and cartoonish action does not gel well but it is hard not to look.

A female, and sexy as hell, gunslinger enters a shooting contest in a small shanty town run by a corrupt mayor. She has a past agenda with this mayor who was, and still is, a criminal, that he does not know about while he has an agenda with a minister who used to ride with him as a criminal but has since mended his ways and given up gunfighting. The mayor has something to prove with the minister, a young gunslinger is out to get the respect of the mayor whom he believes is his father, and the woman is out to kill the mayor for a past criminal activity while the town is filled with gunslingers out to win a prize in a last man standing shooting contest.

For me the biggest failure of The Quick and the Dead was in trying to contemporize it into something more modern. It has a plot, barely, from any average spaghetti western, but then throw in gunfighting scenes and action that would be more at home in a cartoon, or perhaps in Army of Darkness or Evil Dead 2, and they do not fit well together. They are actually rather grating together as the story is dreary and tries to be serious while the absurd action has, for example, someone not realizing they've been shot until they see the sun shining a spot in their own shadow through the lethal buttlet hole in their chest.

Despite elements of this film being like fingernails on a chalkboard, they do successfully tell a somewhat compelling if basic story, and the action does keep the movie mostly moving enough to distract one from its flaws. It's kind of like a car wreck that you can't help looking at.

My Rating: 3 Fingers. I really can't recommend it, but it still is entertaining enough to pass the time.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Movie Review: Humanoids from the Deep (1980)

Humanoids from the Deep (1980) - USA - Horror - Rated R
Directed by Barbara Peeters
Doug McClure, Ann Turkel, Vic Morrow, Cindy Weintraub

Rather a mix of Boggy Creek and Jaws stills work as an entertaining movie despite a disappointing creature costume.

A small fishing village dependent on the salmon fishing for their income is in the process of working up a deal with a biotech company promising to increase not only the number of salmon but also the size of the salmon. Strange events start to happen involving dogs being killed, young women being attacked and raped on the beaches by what appears to be fishmen and disappearing, and a scientist who seems to not be surprised by the incidents and is not quite letting on about what she knows.

Being a Roger Corman production, there are several things one can expect which include a basic storyline that will run under 80 minutes and be simple enough not to get anybody lost, a few actual stars in the cast, and a smattering of sleaze here and there. Humanoids from the Deep does not disappoint as all three elements are there.

The story is not unlike a Jaws clone or any nature gone wild story. We are introduced to the characters early, their conflicts, and then the initial threat emerges but still keeps from revealing too much of the creatures. That said, it doesn't take long for the creatures to be revealed leaving their origin to be the real monster of the story, and their ultimate purpose to breed with human females.

The story works and keeps a good pace. There are conflicts between characters with Vic Morrow providing most of it playing a bigot with an axe to grind with a Native American trying to put a stop to the town's plan for genetically enhancing fish production. And of course Roger Corman throws in some nice sleaze which he apparently added after the fact much to the surprise of the director. The sleaze is a nice touch though as a credit to the movie it works with or without the additional sleaze.

The creature costumes are another story as it does mostly look ridiculous. There are some close-ups that are of a better looking costume, and it looked to me as though the latter sleaze scenes used a different and more effective creature design. Rob Bottin designed the outfits, though my guess would be that he had to deal with budget constraints as he is the craftsman behind the creature designs in John Carpenter's The Thing and the more recent Mighty Joe Young. Despite the creature design lacking, the movie has enough to offer and moves well enough to work and be a fun movie.

My Rating: 3 Fingers

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Movie Review: Retroactive (1997)

Retroactive (1997) - USA - Sci-Fi - Rated R
Directed by Louis Morneau
Starring James Belushi, Kylie Travis, Shannon Whirry, Frank Whaley, Jesse Borrego, M. Emmet Walsh, Sherman Howard, Roger Clinton

High octane action combined with the twists of a sci-fi plot and one sexy, badass lady adds up to one fun and exciting ride of a movie.

Karen, a police psychologist taking time off after a hostage crisis gone bad, has a breakdown on a lonely Texas road and is picked up by a man and his wife. It doesn't take long for this man to go from being an obnoxious, sexist bigot to a full-blown psychopath as, due to an arguement, he murders his wife and tries to kill Karen, but she gets away by running into a secret complex in the desert which houses a scientist and a time machine he is working on. Karen ends up running into the time machine by accident as a test in under way and is sent back in time to to point she was originally picked up by the man and his wife. She has an opportunity to correct what has happened, but her interference may well make things worse.

Retroactive is a story about an all too common wish many of us have probably had, and that is if given the chance to correct a mistake or bad decision we made in the past, could we or would we?

At the core of this movie is two things: providing a reason to want to correct the past, and providing an antagonist who is so bad of a person that it gives even more reason to want to correct the past. Shannon Whirry gives an excellent performance as the abused and demure wife giving that reason to want to correct the past and James Belushi is super bad as Frank who deserves no better demise than to be put through a time machine and killed over and over again.

Central to the story is the character of Karen played by Kylie Travis. Dressed in a tight all black outfit, she is sexy, and her character is tough as nails who has no problem going toe to toe with a man which makes her even sexier.

The story builds as it introduces the characters, then takes off like a rocket. Car chases and shootouts are the order of the day as Karen goes through the time machine multiple times, each time with a different result and also giving the audience plenty of action as the story moves along with different twists, at breakneck speed, and you may even feel like ducking.

My Rating: 5 Fingers! I obsessed about whether to give it 4 or 5 fingers, but I have watched this movie several times and despite that it is never a drag.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Movie Review: Alone in the Dark (1982)

Alone in the Dark (1982) - USA - Horror - Rated R
Directed by Jack Sholder
Starring Jack Palance, Donald Pleasence, Martin Landau, Dwight Schultz, Erland van Lidth, Deborah Hedwall, and The Sic F*cks as themselves

A different kind of slasher flick that has fun with multiple killers terrorizing a family isolated during a power outage.

A new psychiatrist arrives at the Haven mental hospital run by an unorthodox psychiatrist who at times seems as crazy as the patients. There is also a special third floor of the hospital inhabited by four hardcase patients who all have developed a paranoia about the new doctor having killed their old doctor and is out to kill them. But the new doctor is safe as the third floor is a lockdown floor protected by electric locks. That is, until a power outage sets them free and four psychopaths are on the loose and gunning for the new doctor and his family.

Alone in the Dark is definitely a different kind of slasher flick. There are no masked killers in this, but instead there are four would be killers on the loose, and perhaps their masks really are what each of them are capable of. A preacher who sets churches on fire unfortunately while people are in them, a 400 pound child molester with the mentality and temper of a child, a war vet who pretty much sees life as having to defend his space and knowing the way out, and a mysterious killer known as Bleeder who never shows his face to others and got his nickname from getting a nosebleed after he kills someone.

Unlike the usual mindless inhabitants of most any slasher flick, the would be victims are a family and some friends who are in the unfortunate path of a paranoid delusion of four killers on the loose. These characters are well developed and not cardboard ducks to be knocked off by the killers. And with a cast like this, perhaps slumming a bit for the time it was, they have a lot of fun with chewing the scenery and it works well for this kind of movie.

Fraught with tension and scares, Alone in the Dark is an enjoyable ride. The performances are very entertaining, and special mention to Erland van Lidth whose childlike performance makes his character that much more real and threatening. With additional surprises, especially in a twist ending, this is a movie that delivers on the goods.

A special note about Bleeder and the hockey mask: Alone in the Dark was made before Friday the 13th Part 3, but not realeased until several months after it. It may seem like Bleeder wearing a hockey mask in one scene was a rip-off of Friday the 13th, but in actuality it was not as Bleeder wore the mask first, and the opposite may well be true as a member of the crew of Alone in the Dark subsequently worked on Friday the 13th Part 3.

My Rating: 4 Fingers. This is a little longer than my usual review, but this is also among my favorite horror movies and I let my enthusiasm run amok.

*I wrote this review before I realized how expensive the DVD is. Obviously the price has gone up since I got mine several years ago. If you want to check it out you can get the DVD here. As much as I enjoy this movie, it is not worth $30+ dollars for a DVD. Perhaps wait for prices to drop or for a Blu-ray release.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Movie Review: Motel Hell (1980)

Motel Hell (1980) - USA - Horror - Rated R
Directed by Kevin Connor
Stars Rory Calhoun, Paul Linke, Nancy Parsons, Nina Axelrod, Wolfman Jack, Elaine Joyce, John Ratzenberger

A movie that truly and successfully 'serves' up an odd dish of humor and horror, perhaps with an even odder mix of characters.

Vincent Smith is the small town owner of the Motel Hello and somewhat of a product celebrity as he makes and packages his own meats under his Farmer Vincent brand which brings tourists seeking out his meats, and provides him with a very special ingredient he uses for his meats. You see, in order to cut costs and remain competitive, Vincent uses people as one of his ingredients in his meats, and while procuring more stock early one morning, one of his would be victims is a pretty young woman he immediately has a soft spot for and ends up nursing her back to health. Well this new lady also catches the eye of his younger brother, also the sheriff of this one-horse small town, and the competition between the two brothers over her puts Vincent's secret at risk of being discovered and creates a friction between the two brothers.

Though Motel Hell is essentially a horror movie, it is also a black comedy. Paul Linke is humorous as the small town sheriff, and only in a town like this could his character become a police officer. Rory Calhoun does a fantastic job of wearing two faces as Vincent: that of an easy going farmer who injects bits of humor into his antics in acquiring and tending for his 'livestock', and yet he has an intense, frightening side that reminds us this is a horror movie too.

Motel Hell is not your typical movie as it does not easily fit into a general category. It has strong comical elements, strong horror elements, and it is quite satirical as it has influences from various 70s horror themed movies that one could look upon it as wrapping up the 70s horror scene just before the slasher craze took off. Motel Hell succeeds in telling a story, developing its characters, and very well at that even if it occasionally drags a tiny bit due to that, and gives us a chuckle, a scare or two, a classic chainsaw duel, and one of the funniest lines ever uttered by a dying character in a movie.

My Rating: 4 Fingers

Friday, January 2, 2015

Is a printed movie guide too much anymore?

Ever since the early 2000s, one by one the video/movie/DVD review guides have been dropping off like flies. The DVD and Video Guide by Mick Martin and Marsha Porter saw its last printing for the 2007 calendar year. Halliwell's and Time Out have since both bowed out of a printed movie guide. And 2014 saw the last of Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide being published (the 2015 edition).

The reason for the demise of the printed movie guide is simply the internet. With laptops, tablets and smartphones having easy access to sites like IMDB and any of the ever increasing multitude of blogs where everybody and their brother reviews movies, information on any movie is a click away without having to thumb through a guide, and this information is essentially free, if you don't mind being bombarded with ads.

But is it just the availability of movie reviews online that has doomed the movie review guide or perhaps something else? That something else being how we rent and watch movies.

The movie review guides' heyday was also the day of the video rental store when we would consult our trusty books about the movies available on the shelves to be rented. Those brick and mortar stores with very few exceptions are gone now and renting movies has moved online in the form of streaming movies and out of red vending machines where we shop for groceries or pull into a drive-thru for a burger and a movie rental.

The death of the printed movie review guide is probably not so much the availability of movie review sites online as it is the availability of movies online. Now you can read reviews right from the sites where you get your movies. If you're going to be using your internet connection to get the movie in the first place, it would seem a lot more convenient to also read movie reviews the same way rather than having to pull out a separate guide for your movie reviews.

And one thing the movie reviews online offer that Roger Ebert, Leonard Maltin and other movie critics did not in their movie review guides, just that. Their movie review guides offered opinions from a limited or even single source where online you can get reviews on the very site you get your movies and other sites from a variety of people from everyday folk like your friends and family to even professionally written reviews, the type you'd expect to find in a newspaper.

Is the printed movie review guide dead? Well, not according to VideoHound who still publishes their Movie Retriever video guide. But then if you've read their reviews I would have to say yes.

At least a general full-coverage guide is becoming more improbable year by year. VideoHound's guide alone could be used to deflect bullets it is so thick, yet the reviews near require using a magnifying glass to read them. In the 90s a general coverage movie review guide was reasonable in its size, but 20 years of movies since, and not to mention even more older movies seeing the light of day on DVD and Blu-ray and trying to cover all movies available on some form of media for rent or purchase becomes unwieldy.

Now a genre specific movie guide, that might be a different story. Of course that type of guide is more aimed at a movie fan than the general viewer. Zombie movies, horror movies, sci-fi movies, euro-westerns, post-apocalyptic movies are just a sampling of specific guides to these genres and more being currently published. Leonard Maltin even split up his guide into a Classic Movie Guide and a modern movies guide. In retrospect that was a smart decision as even if he has stopped publishing his yearly guide his classic movies guide is not going to go out of date.

Why even bother with a printed movie guide?

Well, for the same reason that many people bother with any printed book, because sometimes you just want to thumb through a book rather than look it up online. A movie guide can be thumbed through to reveal new treasures. Food for thought if you're a reviewer, movies you haven't seen and would not have thought of looking up online if you're a watcher. Now that's where the internet has become unwieldy, is the inability to thumb through IMDB or another site and casually come across a movie that might interest you. It only takes a few minutes with a book what would take hours or days online.

Toxic Fletch