Friday, October 7, 2016

Movie Review: The Majorettes (1987)

The Majorettes (1987) - USA - Horror - Rated R
Directed by Bill Hinzman
Starring Kevin Kindlin, Terrie Godfrey, Mark V. Jevicky, Denise Huot, Carl Hetrick, Russell Streiner

Starts off as a standard slasher flick but plot twists make it a more interesting movie, unfortunately marred by poor production.

The pretty, baton twirling majorettes for a high school marching band are being stalked and killed by someone in a camouflage hood and fatigues, a nurse caregiver has sinister plans for the elderly woman in her charge while a drug dealing gang has a score to settle with a quarterback. All of these stories are connected.

The Majorettes is based on the novel of the same name written by John Russo, who also wrote the screenplay, produced this movie, and even has a bit part in it as a coroner. Russo was co-writer of the original Night of the Living Dead and has been a successful independent filmmaker, writer and influence on other filmmakers since. Others from the original Pittsburgh zombies associated with this movie include Bill Hinzman, the first zombie seen in Night of the Living Dead, and Russel Streiner, Johnny in Night of the Living Dead. Bill Hinzman both directed and edited The Majorettes.

The Majorettes is a different kind of slasher movie. It starts off in the same vein as others of the subgenre, a masked killer stalks and kills people, in this case the majorettes of the high school marching band, but then it goes off on its own into an interesting twist that changes the direction of the movie, and to some degree turns it into an action/revenge movie. Overall this would be a good thing, and interesting, but it is brought down by poor production.

Audio in this movie is its biggest downfall. Too many scenes are using obvious omnidirectional mikes, or a poor audio tech, which not only pick up the foreground audio intended but also every bit of background noise. Even if the background noise is not distinct, there is still hiss and hum mixed in with the audio. This is not consistent throughout the movie as there are scenes with excellent audio, but just too many scenes where it is either difficult to make out what someone is saying or distracting, and often both.

Bill Hinzman directed and edited this movie. Both are its strong points, the story as well. Hinzman keeps the storline moving in a coherent arc. There are well done scenes, such as the first appearance of the killer which is impressive, that keep the tension up. 

Unfortunately other than the direction and editing there is little consistency to the production. Poor audio, dim night scenes on some occasions, and amateurish acting all hurt the movie overall. With better production this could have been something to recommend, but it's too much work on the viewer's part to enjoy the movie rather than where the work should have been done, on the production part rather than going on the cheap.

My Rating: 2 Fingers

You can find the full movie on YouTube

Toxic Fletch

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Living or Dead: Barney Miller

Barney Miller was a TV show which ran from 1974 to 1982 about the antics of the police of the 12th Precinct station and the criminals and inhabitants of the 12th Precinct who passed through there.

This is a list of regular cast members and prominent recurring guest stars, with their current status as living or dead.

Capt. Barney Miller - Hal Linden (Living)
Det. Stan 'Wojo' Wojciehowicz - Max Gail (Living)
Det. Ron Harris - Ron Glass (Died November 25, 2016 at age 71)
Det. Sgt. Arthur Dietrich - Steve Landesberg (Died December 20, 2010 at age 74)
Officer Carl Levitt - Ron Carey (Died January 16, 2007 at age 71)
Det. Sgt. Nick Yemana - Jack Soo (Died January 11, 1979 at age 61)*1
Inspector Frank Luger - James Gregory (Died September 16, 2002 at age 90)
Det. Phil Fish - Abe Vigoda (Died January 26, 2016 at age 94)*2
Mrs. Elizabeth (Liz) Miller - Barbara Barrie (Living)
Det. Sgt. Chano Amenguale - Gregory Sierra (Living)*3
Lt Ben Scanlon (Internal Affairs) - George Murdock (Died April 30, 2012 at age 81)
Marty Morrison - Jack DeLeon (Died October 16, 2006 at age 81)
Darryl Driscoll - Ray Stewart (Living)
Ray Brewer - John Dullaghan (Died January 18, 2009 at age 78)
Mrs. Bernice Fish - Florence Stanley (Died October 3, 2003 at age 79)
Det. Janice Wentworth - Linda Lavin (Living)
Bruno Bender - Stanley Brock (Died January 25, 1991 at age 59)
Arnold Ripner - Alex Henteloff (Living)

*1 Jack Soo, born Goro Suzuki, died during the 5th year of the show. In an unusual move for any show then or now, the producers and cast of the show did a special tribute episode to the memory of Jack Soo that aired as the last episode of that season.

*2 Abe Vigoda took in stride mistaken reports of his untimely death in the 70s and 80s. So much so that premature reports of his death became an ongoing joke, such as David Letterman conducting a seance on his show to contact the spirit of Abe Vigoda only to be interrupted by the very much living Abe Vigoda telling Letterman that he's not dead. There was even a website you could check to see if Abe Vigoda was living or dead. Sadly Abe Vigoda passed away this year.

*3 Though Gregory Sierra is known for playing characters like his character of Chano on Barney Miller who speaks with a thick accent, the accent is part of his acting as he was born in New York City and in real life speaks with no such accent.

Toxic Fletch

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Movie Review: Rush Week (1989)

Rush Week (1989) - USA - Horror - Unrated
Directed by Bob Bralver
Starring Pamela Ludwig, Dean Hamilton, Roy Thinnes, Donald Grant, Courtney Gebhart, John Donovan, Gregg Allman, Kathleen Kinmont

It's Animal House meets The House on Sorority Row in a well paced and produced slasher flick.

Toni, a journalism major, has just transferred to Tambers College and her first assignment for the college paper is to cover rush week, not something she would prefer to write about. Overhearing a conversation about a missing female student, she noses around to find out if there is a story, despite being put off by the dean and others telling her there is no story that the girl just took off and didn't tell anyone. But she is obviously stepping on someone's toes as she receives strange messages via computer while a cloaked, labris (double-edged axe) wielding figure continues killing college girls.

For those looking for a bloody mayhem type of slasher movie along the lines of Friday the 13th, you are not going to find that in Rush Week as the kill count is low and the movie plays more like a detective story combined with a college hijinx movie.

In addition to the underlying story of Toni searching for a killer, there is a secondary story revolving around the BDB (Beta Delta Beta) House fraternity, a group of pranksters and sleazebags just reinstated after having been shut down the previous year. These two running plotlines are not unrelated, but they do also provide a good pacing for the movie as it moves between a slasher thriller and a fraternity comedy.

What impressed me about Rush Week was the quality of the audio, and I mean on the production end, and the camerawork. The audio is well done with solid dialogue and even nuances as trivial as the crushing of a beer can not being overlooked. The photography uses tight framing, and very much to their credit uses natural lens distortion and perspective to create mood. The night shots are also all well lit, and distinctively night, shot with muted colors, near black & white, while still maintaining detail.

What didn't impress me with Rush Week was the 80s insensitivity. Par for course in an 80s fraternity movie there is likely going to be a derogatory reference to gays. Rush Week goes beyond that by having a fraternity rival to BDB, the Gamma Alpha Epsilon House, regular referred to as the GAE House and pranks are pulled on them which center around homosexuality.

Aside from the gay insensitivity issue, which as I previously stated is par for course in some 80s movies, Rush Week is entertaining with good pacing, playing the slasher theme as a detective story, having plenty of humor with the college fraternity part of the story, and of course with a story that is part slasher movie and part frat movie there has to be boobs, and there are!

An interesting footnote is this movie also is the first acting gig for Gregg Allman, the musician, though in only two scenes and with nothing much to say.

My Rating: 3 Fingers

You can find the full movie on YouTube

Toxic Fletch

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Movie Review: Blood Frenzy (1987)

Blood Frenzy (1987) - USA - Horror - NR
Directed by Hal Freeman
Starring Wendy MacDonald, Tony Montero, Lisa Loring, Lisa Savage, Hank Garrett

At a minimum a slasher movie needs a group of actors willing to play victims and a plot any 5 year old can figure out. That minimum is all this bland entry in the slasher subgenre succeeds in accomplishing, other than having two stars from 60s TV sitcoms on-board.

A psychiatrist takes a group of her patients to a secluded spot in the desert for group encounter therapy. Unfortunately for them, and perhaps for the viewing audience too, someone starts killing off members of the group. Could it be one of them? Is there something in someone's past that has come back to haunt them? Are these questions more entertaining than the movie?

An opening flashback sequence, an RV ride into the desert, right off the bat we can see this movie is going places we've all seen before in horror movies. The only thing Blood Frenzy adds is having Lisa Loring (Wednesday from The Addams Family TV show) and Hank Garrett (Nicholson from Car 54, Where Are You?, the TV show) along for the ride.

Most of the acting in this is amateurish at best, save for Wendy MacDonald and Lisa Savage who both do a good job. Lisa Loring's performance belongs in the over-actors' hall of fame. I got the impression they may have shot this in sequence as most of the performances improve as the movie advances. On the other hand the dialogue from the start comes off like one-liners from beer can koozies, and I can't help but feel the writer and producer of this are no strangers to beer can koozies.

The only possible reasons to see this would be if you are a fan of gruesome neck slashing scenes, which seems to be the only special effect the crew knew how to do, or for Lisa Loring's over-acting. Even with the inclusion of a character who is a nymphomaniac, there is no nudity in this movie other than a drunk falling off a toilet, and that's something I would have been happy to not have seen.

My Rating: I give it a finger!

If you really want to see this, you can find the full movie on YouTube.

Monday, September 19, 2016

First Thoughts on Kevin Can Wait

Being more of a movie fan whose television watching consists mostly of 70s and 80s TV reruns, if I get into something current on television it is either through word-of-mouth or channel surfing and finding something interesting to watch. Having watched some CBS show that must have been so interesting that I don't even remember which show it was, learning that Kevin James is coming back to series television with a new show is the first time in years I have looked forward to a TV show.

I like Kevin James as an actor for several reasons. Of course he is funny and does a lot of physical comedy, but he can also be touching and sympathetic in his performance, not coming off like someone who is interested in delivering the laugh while not caring whether they offended their audience. Along the same lines he is, in my opinion, a family-friendly presence among a dying breed in the world of entertainment. His movies are among the few I wouldn't hesitate to put on the TV when family and friends of all ages are around. I can't say the same for a lot of fare that's on TV at any time of the day.

I also cannot give a fair assessment of his new show from one episode. Positive or negative, one episode does not make a series and it takes a few episodes to get a feel for a show's staying power. Additionally as I had seen the CBS preview show hosted by Kevin James as well several promos for the show, I had seen much of this first episode already, and really want to kick myself for not allowing myself an undiluted first experience.

The premise of the show is Kevin plays...uhm...a guy named Kevin. He has just retired from the police force and is looking forward to his retirement "me" time, spending more time with his family and doing all those macho guy-things with his retired buddies.


Enter his eldest daughter who not only shows up with her boyfriend from college to introduce him to dad for the first time, but she also drops the bombshell that they are engaged. Oh, and there is a cherry on top as well: she is dropping out of college to support him while he is developing his "app" that will be the next big thing.

Yes, the boyfriend, though a nice guy who does care about Kevin's daughter, is a geek, and not the sports loving, beer swilling, macho kind of guy dad would like to hang out with, and frankly dad doesn't like the guy for that very reason. But Kevin does have a soft spot, and his daughter, her dreams, what makes her happy and, yes, even if that includes a boyfriend dad can't hang with, are more important than his plans for retirement.

Hence, Kevin Can Wait to enjoy his retirement plans while he lets his daughter and his soon to be son-in-law move into his home so she can continue with school. Naturally there are going to be adjustments, and potential entertainment value in those adjustments.

This first episode, though spoiled through my own fault of watching previews and promos, did offer quite a few chuckles still. It's much of the same character he played in Kings of Queens, but with three kids this time around and certainly different challenges as he has to be even more responsible, an entertaining choir in itself as Kevin James often and well portrays a 12 year boy trapped in an adult body.

No previews for me before next week's episode. The show looks promising so far. The pilot was solidly written. Kevin James' real life brother, Gary Valentine, is a part of the cast, as well a few familiar faces from shows and movies he has done. One of the advantages James has with bringing his friends along is they always seem to have fun together and that fun element spills into the audience. With the potential fun factor of Kevin James and friends, a fresh approach for him playing a father in an overall different situation, and so far some solid writing, it looks hopeful for another hit series for Kevin James.

Toxic Fletch

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Is Blake Lively Being Slandered?

Right up front, I would say she is being slandered.

Page Six and other News Boobs picking up the story are reporting that Blake Lively refused to uncross her legs while sitting in the front row of a Michael Kors fashion show, even after be told to do so by the chairman of the fashion show.

Can you just feel the misogyny in this?

Oh, wait. The part about it being for the photographers so the attendees legs don't get in the way of their shots, well, that would explain it, right?

That's bunk!

Oh, it's for the photographers alright. But it's not for the reason the News Boobs are reporting. There are many, and I mean many shots from the fashion show with Blake Lively in the background. Page Six spins this as Blake Lively being lucky enough to sit in the front row, when in actuality the fashion show is lucky enough to have Blake Lively sitting in the front row, and the photographers are clearly taking advantage of it as there are even shots of Blake Lively with only a part of the runway model showing. But in those shots, Blake Lively is sitting with her legs crossed.

In body language, crossed legs means one of two things. One is a defensive posture, the same as crossing your arms, but that's not what is at issue here. The other is it represents an in-change posture, and that is looked upon as masculine. Blake Lively's posture just simply wasn't compliant, as apparently sexist News Boobs and others think a woman should be.

Blake Lively is certainly being slandered, in my opinion, for not being "in her place", as some would like to think a woman should be. The photographers certainly weren't hurt by her crossed legs as evidenced by all the photographs taken of the beautiful woman.

Yeah, suck on that, Page Six.

*Unlike the News Boobs at Page Six and other outlets reporting this story of earth-shattering importance in the scope of world events (it's sarcasm!), I am not representing this as anything other than being my opinion.

Aww..thankya...aww tahkya very mush!

Toxic Fletch has left the building.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Movie Review: Piranha 3D (2010)

Piranha 3D (2010) - USA - SciFi Horror Exploitation - Rated R
Directed by Alexandre Aja
Starring Elisabeth Shue, Steven R. McQueen, Jessica Szohr, Adam Scott, Kelly Brook, Riley Steele, Jerry O'Connell, Ving Rhames, Christopher Lloyd, Richard Dreyfuss

An absolutely degrading piece of trash that has been called Girls Gone Wild with fish and I find that to be insulting to Girls Gone Wild videos.

Ancient piranha are released from an underwater lake by a tremor then eat people. I kid you not, this is all the plot there is to this movie.

Utter misogynistic pointless trash is all this movie is. I don't think it is possible to be any more misogynistic than to make a movie where women serve only two purposes: to show their tits or be fish food. Sure, Elisabeth Shue is in this as the chief of police, or something like that, but being a token gender rub in a piece of trash like this is nothing to be proud of; I mean talk about slumming! If the utter misogyny is not blatant enough; the scene where Jerry O'Connell's character, after watching a naked model torn to pieces by piranha before turning on him, sadly informs his now only friend as he lay dying that the fish got his penis...oh the tragedy! Yeah, women being eaten by fish is nothing compared to a man losing his penis (I'm being sarcastic).

And let's talk about Jerry O'Connell some more. I can only imagine the director before each take screaming "lights, camera, HISTRIONICS"! Jerry O'Connell's character only exists in one mode throughout the entire movie and this is as an overly-obnoxious, loud, sleazy salesman type. He cannot possibly die fast enough in this to satifisfy the audience and yet his character continues through the movie like someone who just won't stop running their fingernails down a chalkboard.

The only performance in this movie worthy of note is that of Jessica Szohr who also has one of the hottest kissing scenes in any movie. That's the only nugget of gold unfortunately buried beneath a huge steaming pile of...well, you get the picture.

My Rating: I give it a finger...held high!

If you are an utter masochist who takes pleasure in whipping yourself into pain, then you might want to check out this trash on Blu-ray, DVD or Instant Video

Monday, January 25, 2016

Movie Review: Too Late the Hero (1970)

Too Late the Hero (1970) - USA - Action War Movie - Rated GP (i.e. PG)
Directed by Robert Aldritch
Starring Cliff Robertson, Michael Caine, Ian Bannen, Harry Andrew, Ronald Fraser, Denholm Elliot, Ken Takakura, Henry Fonda

An entertaining enough war movie but its confused Vietnam era anti-war message ruffles the wrong feathers, being this movie is set during Wold War 2 in the Pacific Theater.

American G.I. Lt Lawson is a Japanese translator who has successfully avoided combat and is about to go on leave when he is instead sent to help a group of British commandos in the Pacific. The British co-occupy an island with a Japanese outpost which keeps tabs on allied ships and broadcasts an "all's well" radio signal nightly. The success of an American naval plan depends on that "all's well" signal being broadcast and the Japanese navy not being informed of their maneuvers otherwise. It is up to Lawson and the British commandos to cross a dangerous open field where they will be fired on by Japanese gunners, penetrate the jungle, broadcast a fake "all's well" signal (hence, the reason for Lawson being there), destroy the transmitter and return. Easier said than done.

As a war movie, Too Late the Hero hits its mark with action, timing, and even suspense enough to be entertaining. The problem with it, that I found, is the allied commandos are constantly bickering with each other to the point they could be heard for miles, but especially the allies come off as backstabbing and even cowardly in contrast with the Japanese. In one instance an allied soldier shoots a Japanese officer in a blind ambush after the Japanese officer has opted out of shooting a captured allied soldier because it would be barbaric, but apparently not too barbaric for an allied soldier?

This movie was made during the Vietnam War and would have been better, with its anti-war message, to have been based during that war rather than imposing that message on a war in which the allies basically fought to no less than save the world from tyranny. It's like imposing an anti-gun message in a movie where a woman defends herself from a rapist by shooting him and making her look like the bad guy. O.o

Aside from its confused message and flaws such as the ridiculous open field across which allied soldiers must run against a barrage of enemy gunfire in order to get to the jungle or back from it, Too Late the Hero does succeed in providing enough to be entertaining for the war movie lover, though anybody else might be left scratching their head in confusion as to who the good guys are.

My Rating: 3 Fingers

Get Too Late the Hero on DVD

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Movie Review: Lost After Dark (2015)

Lost After Dark (2015) - Canada - Horror - Rated R
Directed by Ian Kessner
Starring Elise Gatien, Jesse Camacho, Kendra Leigh Timmins, Justin Kelly, Eve Harlow, Stephan James, Lanie McAuley, Alexander Calvert, David Lipper, Sarah Fisher, Mark Wiebe, Robert Patrick

A retro slasher flick set in the 80s succeeds in having the look and feel of a genuine 80s slasher flick with some creative touches to boot.

Adrienne and her fellow high school friends are sneaking off for the weekend to use her father's cabin for some fun and sex. They steal a school bus during a high school dance and make their way toward the cabin but run out of gas. Finding an old abandoned house that looks like it belongs in a horror movie provides a place for them to stay, but they soon discover this book can be judged by its cover as they are being stalked by a killer.

If someone didn't know better, barring recognizing any of the actors, it would appear this movie were an actual 80s slasher movie. The music, the vehicles used, Adrienne's home, the school, even down to the black guy wearing a comb in his 'fro, they paid attention to a lot of detail to make it look genuine. They even throw in occasional scratches on the film, lens flare, and a burnout for that authentic look.

The story is not any different from a hundred slasher movies from the 80s. A group of teenagers are out at night on their way to party and have sex and instead run into a killer whose family tree most likely has never branched. The story itself is also the weakest part of the movie as, with any 80s slasher flick, it takes its time getting to the eventual killings.

There are several creative touches to this. Don't get comfortable with thinking you know who the protagonist of the story is. The first kill is an absolute shock you will not see coming, and at that point anyone is fair game as the next victim. In addition to the burnout I mentioned before they use another glitch in the movie which actually allows them to introduce a plot twist.

A not so creative touch, like so many horror and especially slasher movies, is this one takes place entirely at night and some scenes can be a little on the dark side. I watched the movie from a DVD on my laptop which could account for some of the scenes being a little difficult to make out. Watching it on a TV screen is advised over a laptop.

Robert Patrick adds a bit of humor by playing the typical 80s Vietnam vet turned gung ho teacher, in this case it's gung ho vice-principal, and he has fun chewing the scenery with this character interestingly named Mr. Cunningham or Mr. C. Most of the rest of the characters are stereotypical for the time period as well.

A bit of warning for anybody who is disturbed by animal cruelty scenes, this may be one you want to skip. The scene does not show anything, so there is no actual animal cruelty, but it is implied and brutal at that, and probably will stick with you during the rest of the movie.

My Rating: 4 Fingers

Get Lost After Dark on Blu-ray, DVD or Instant Video

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Movie Review: Nightmare Man (2006)

Nightmare Man (2006) - USA - Horror - Rated R
Directed by Rolfe Kanefsky
Starring Tiffany Shepis, Blythe Metz, Luciano Szafir, and special appearance by Richard Moll

A seemingly mediocre slasher flick suddenly takes a turn for the weird and not in a good way.

After receiving a tribal fertility mask in the mail somehow hoping it will help rekindle the romance in her marriage, Ellen instead finds herself terrorized by the mask. While being taken to a mental hospital by her husband to help with her problems of being driven crazy by a demon wearing the mask in her dreams, the car runs out of gas as Ellen finds herself alone waiting for her husband to return with gas. The demon manifests itself in human form and chases her through the woods trying to kill her. She is saved by a group of people vacationing at a home in the woods, but the group now finds themselves both in possession of a seemingly insane guest and a killer on the outside trying to get in.

Although there seems to be an interesting premise to start with the potential for having the viewer wondering whether the events are actually happening or the product of Ellen's mind, the film soon becomes predictable and it doesn't take a 5th grader to figure out who is responsible. However, after two-thirds into the movie it takes a freaky turn outside of slasherdom that I sure didn't see coming, and it's not a turn for the better. Let's just say it's Monty Pythonish as though the writer was stuck for a way to end this and improvised, grossly.

Technically there are many flaws with the production of the movie. The opening credits and some digital effects through the movie are well done, but this movie has the all too common problem of many movies which take place at night and that is poor lighting; at times it is difficult to tell what is taking place due to the darkness of a scene. Consistency is a problem such as exterior shots of the house always show it well lit while interior shots convey that all the lights have been turned off. The actors are competent, eh...mostly, but the script abandons them at times such as when friends are killed off, those surviving don't seem to be too emotionally affected.

With its predictability early on, despite any flaws, it was on its way to being a mediocre at best slasher flick. If it had stuck with that I actually might have rated it a finger higher, but the sudden plot twist out of left field sank my opinion of the movie even lower. I've really got to stop reading the positive reviews on DVD cases as this was definitely not up the promise of those reviews.

My Rating: 2 Fingers

Get Nightmare Man on DVD or Instant Video