Black Dynamite

(2009) dir: Scott Sanders; w/ Michael Jai White (also script), Tommy Davidson, Salli Richardson-Whitfield. A tidbit o’ skin; no gore.

Mr. Black Dynamite (apparently his real name) must get drugs off the streets, fight an evil plot to hit black men where it will hurt the most, battle the evil master, etc., etc., etc. Usually billed as a “tribute” to the old blaxploitation flicks, what this really looks like is an attempt at a modern remake of the Dolemite flicks. (Okay, White’s Kung Fu is better, but he still ain’t got nothing on Rudy.) It is one of those goofy movies that just tries too hard to be goofy. Still, they throw enough crazy shit at the screen that some of it is bound to work. It almost certainly plays best to those who have watched the real blaxploitation films far too often.

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Blue Demon

(2004) writ, prod & dir: Dan Grodnik; w/ Dedee Pfeiffer, Randall Batinkoff, Danny Woodburn, Jeff Fahey. No skin; almost no gore.

Here we are again at that secret government project involving genetically engineered super-sharks. Of course, the sharks prove too much to handle, but this time the west coast is only vaguely threatened by a few cheap CG sharks. This flick can only be summed up as Dorky – like that kid in school who was actually convinced he was funny. They do straight-up formula and try to make up for their weak budget and anemic script by forcing in a little campy humor. That only multiplies the dorkiness. This is the sort of movie that doesn’t even look good through beer-goggles. I’ll give a tip of the hat to the cast; they do struggle gamely to entertain the audience, but I’m afraid they just don’t have the chops to rescue this twaddle.

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Living Doll

(1990) dir: Peter Litten & George Dugdale; w/ Mark Jax, Gary Martin, Katie Orgill, (Eartha Kitt bit). Some skin; a little gore.
Ah, yes… the unhinged med student who clings to the decaying corpse of his dead dream-girl — well, even in such a small sub-genre, there are bound to be a few misses. Despite decent production values and quite a good cast, this one falls flat due to an overdose of padding and a paucity of plot — very little actually happens and much of what does is entirely predictable. The flick does have its moments, to be sure, but they sink beneath the dullness of the rest of the movie.

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Sharknado

(2013 ) dir: Anthony C. Ferrante; w/ Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, Cassie Scerbo, Jaason Simmons. No skin; a little gore.
Freak weather scoops up sharks (apparently of every species around the planet) and dumps them on California. They mix together the lamest clichés of the Disaster-movie with the lamest clichés of the Critter-flick, the sound recording sucks, and the special effects are weak. They approximate action with really tight edits and shaky camera work. They approximate plot with really tight edits and shaky camera work. The flick’s only saving grace is its sheer enthusiasm. It just gets dumber by the second, but at least it never slows down. There are hurricanes and tornadoes and floods and exploding cars. There are biting sharks and flying sharks and exploding sharks. They fight sharks with shotguns and chainsaws and helicopters and bombs and… more exploding cars. Regrettably, the filmmakers survived it all. There is some fun to be had here (at their expense), but a little brain lubrication would certainly help.

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The Sorrow and the Pity

(1969 – France) dir: Marcel Ophuls. Documentary
A somewhat inflammatory documentary about the real experience of France under the Nazi occupation, centering on the town of Clermont. It consists almost entirely of interviews with the participants — soldiers of both sides, resistance fighters, politicians, and even collaborators. At four hours long, it is a little punishing, but not for its length. The picture it paints is an ugly one… the extraordinary degree of collaboration, divisions among the various factions of the resistance, the complicity of the Vichy government in the persecution of Jews, and more. Small wonder that it was controversial in France; broadcasters there refused to show it. But it is an important record of what can happen to ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. It ain’t pretty.

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Daughters of Darkness

(1971 – Be/Fr/Ger – aka Les Levres Rouges) dir: Harry Kümel; w/ Delphine Seyrig, John Karlen, Danielle Ouimet, Andrea Rau. Some skin; no gore.
Countess Bathory is still around and shows up at a swank hotel looking for her next youth treatment. At first, this looks like we’re going to get a stylish and artsy, but formulaic, take on the sexy vampire shtick. But then it starts to show some nicely nasty, dark twists and turns. Sadly, the filmmakers had disposed of such frivolities as ‘plot’ and all those ideas go unused; essentially nothing more than red herrings. And so we plod on (so very slowly) until we get to the predictably vacuous ending. Okay, the flick looks good and Seyrig almost makes it worth our time, but it’s still just a braindead collage of scenes. Really, these people could have spent the time to give us a documentary on the sex lives of flounders – it would certainly have had a better story and probably been more erotic. Yeesh.

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The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu

(2009) dir: Henry Saine; w/ Kyle Davis, Devin McGinn (writer/producer), Barak Hardley. No skin, mild gore.

Some middle-class loser turns out to be the last heir of H.P.L. and now it’s his job to save the planet from eternal ickyness. Okay, it is cute and quite well crafted, but it’s a bit of an inchoate beast and only loosely connected to the Cthulhu mythos. There are some mostly unrelated bits in here that seem to be made for an actual horror flick, but they are spliced into a script that wobbles unevenly between nerd-gags and juvenile off-color sex jokes. The film is at least partially saved by a lot of good talent at work. For me, that wasn’t enough to keep it from being predictable and tiresome, but it doesn’t stink and I can see why some folks like it.

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