Archives for June 2010 | Varied Celluloid

Archive for June, 2010

Galaxy of Terror Review

Posted by Josh Samford On June - 30 - 2010
Ahh! Sorry folks, I meant to post this up last week but unfortunately I had so much stuff going on that I couldn’t get to it. I’ll make up for it though! I should have the review for Forbidden World up very soon! Also, take a look at the website because things they are a-changing up around here!

The Plot: When a spacestation is picked up on the radar and is found to be entirely lifeless, another group of space pioneers are sent out to find any possible survivors and bring them back. As one could possibly guess at this point, things don’t run so smooth once the ship lands on this desolate landscape. In the midst of this giant rubble covered planet is a massive pyramid shaped object that has some form of mystic power. The group slowly starts to dwindle down as each and every member has their own nightmares and worst fears come to life. The group quickly splits in parts, as their squad leader goes on a power trip and all logic seems to be fleeting. Will this group learn to pair up and not let their fears get the better of them, or will these nightmarish creatures take them all?





CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

Galaxy of Terror

Posted by Josh Samford On June - 30 - 2010
The Plot: When a spacestation is picked up on the radar and is found to be entirely lifeless, another group of space pioneers are sent out to find any possible survivors and bring them back. As one could possibly guess at this point, things don’t run so smooth once the ship lands on this desolate landscape. In the midst of this giant rubble covered planet is a massive pyramid shaped object that has some form of mystic power. The group slowly starts to dwindle down as each and every member has their own nightmares and worst fears come to life. The group quickly splits in parts, as their squad leader goes on a power trip and all logic seems to be fleeting. Will this group learn to pair up and not let their fears get the better of them, or will these nightmarish creatures take them all?



The Review
Roger Corman, even if you’re unable to say a positive word about the man in general discussion, the least you can say is that the man knew how to spot talent. His low budget productions came about in a time where Hollywood executives, who of course still operate the same way, were more interested in hiring proven talent and dependable filmmakers with track records. Getting a break in the business in the age before the internet proved to be even more difficult, but Corman always proved to be open minded about the filmmakers he would bring in for his productions. There are numerous stories about the man going to film schools and hiring on young crew members fresh from college and sending them on their way into fabulous careers. James Cameron is only one of many young talents that he helped along the way. Galaxy of Terror illustrates just what was so great about Corman’s particular style of guerrilla filmmaking. Sure, Galaxy of Terror doesn’t prove to be much more than a ripoff of Alien but it has a couple of very distinct qualities that helps to separate it from the pack. First, there’s the cast! What a cast it is, a veritable who’s who of character actors, including the likes of Robert Englund, Sid Haig, Ray Walston, Grace Zabriskie and Erin Moran of all people! So, you take that cast and then you counter in the fact that this is also a surprisingly gory horror movie taking place in space… oh, and there’s also a little scene where a young woman is raped by a maggot.

Yes, you read that right. Your eyes have not deceived you. A maggot rapes a woman in this picture. This isn’t your regular household maggot mind you. The anatomy simply wouldn’t work! Being a Corman production we know that bigger is better, so imagine your garden variety maggot and then blow him up to roughly fifteen feet long and about six foot thick and you have a good start. Although I would like to think that I, as a film reviewer and commentator, would be far removed from the type of author who tries to sell a movie based solely on any kind of shock element… but I truly am not that mature. Having not seen Galaxy of Terror beforehand, I did not know going into this movie that it would A) be so violent and B) feature a maggot-rape scene. So imagine my shock, bewilderment and downright juvenile entertainment at these two discoveries when screening the movie! By all standards I don’t think anyone is going to argue that Galaxy of Terror is a fantastic piece of science fiction. The characters are paper thin even for a project like this, with much of the film dedicated to showing that these “astronauts” have the ability explain complicated sounding materials and machines to one another. So, the gore must have come from the fact that this movie obviously needed a little something special going for it. It shoots for the lowest common denominator in that respect, but for myself as a viewer I some times enjoy seeing how far the spiral can go. Galaxy of Terror is a throwback to a different time and a different element. There were many prudes still around, but Roger Corman didn’t care and he knew that people would have no other reaction to hearing about a maggot-rape scene than to say “where can I see this?” and that is part of what makes the man brilliant.

There’s no getting past it, Galaxy of Terror has ‘b-movie’ written on it from the jump. The dialogue is at times utterly atrocious and no matter the considerable talent level of this cast, they find it tough bringing much of it to life. Thankfully we as the audience can gather a few smirks from some of these gems. Shot on a shoe-string budget that is well covered on the documentary accompanying the Shout Factory DVD, that certain level of goofiness found in the film is understandable and with viewers like myself – it is actually enjoyed! The attempts at creating a gimmick for each character is cheesy enough in itself, but I still have a soft spot for that kind of cheap attempt at endearing a character to the audience. It doesn’t work for every film, but in older movies with a more naive tone I find that it can be charming to a degree. I particularly enjoyed Sid Haig whose character has the most gimmicks going for him. He plays his role entirely mute and has only one line during the course of the entire production, but he still manages to really stick out despite this. His use of two highly ineffective throwing stars, made out of crystal and over a foot long, is another great attribute that causes him to stick out like a sore thumb. Ridiculous? Sure! That is the name of the game however when you’re trying to appeal to this type of demographic. If it were not for the massive amounts of violence, Galaxy of Terror could very well play to children!

Yet that violence is what makes Galaxy of Terror the project that it is and it was. Featuring dismemberments, intestines, head explosions and an incredibly campy vibe – this movie proves itself as a horror movie despite its science fiction introduction. There is one scene involving a piece of glass being shoved beneath one character’s skin that even managed to make me hiss a little! While making the movie’s ‘monsters’ appear different to each character, the film finds a way to kill off many members of the crew in bizarre and highly different fashions. This idea would later be re-appropriated in the movie Sphere which one can’t help think of while watching. Although that movie attacked similar ideas in a different manner, I can’t help but wonder if the original author ever at one point stumbled upon some drive-in that featured a showing of Galaxy of Terror and later had visions dancing in his mind!

The Trivia
  • Many of the walls throughout the ship sequences are actually decorated with styrofoam cases from various McDonald’s burgers and products. Production members would actually raid the local McDonald’s dumpster when supplies were low.

  • James Cameron worked as second unit director for Galaxy of Terror and some of the crew later went on to work with him on Aliens.

  • Sid Haig came up with the idea to play the role mute, due mainly to the dialogue not fitting the character that he thought was established in the script.


  • The Conclusion
    While it may not be a classic in either the science fiction or horror genre, there are certain moments that immediately stand out in Galaxy of Terror. While I think many viewers will be surprised by the carnage, I hope that my ranting and raving over the gore hasn’t given off the wrong impression for the film. Believe me, if you are a horror fan you have likely seen far gorier than this. Still, for a Corman production and for a movie feature Joanie from Happy Days one can’t help but be stunned by the level of violence found here. I recommend it for horror or scifi junkies, especially those looking for a quick piece of escapist entertainment. The Shout Factory disc should prove very hard to pass up!



    High Kick Girl! Review

    Posted by Josh Samford On June - 22 - 2010
    Back once again with a review! Sorry, I meant to get something up on the site last week but I simply didn’t have a great deal of time on my hands! Regardless, here we are and I am covering the Karate kickin’, skirt wearin’ piece of celluloid known as High Kick Girl! Like it or lump it, it’s definitely a cult item that is for sure!

    The Plot: Kei Tsuchiya is a brown belt in Karate (played by Rina Takeda, a legitimate karate black belt) but that is only because of how incredibly harsh her master is when it comes handing out belts. Tsuchiya’s skills are truly at the black belt level and to prove this she goes from one karate school to the next in order to challenge their masters. When she wins, she collects their black belts. After collecting nearly all the belts that she can, Tsuchiya begins to search out more exciting endeavors. Her master, Sensei Matsumura, is a master of the art who looks to teach young Tsuchiya that fighting is not the necessary thing to do and that real karate is learned through the repetition of forms and finding inner solitude. The young girl however is still spoiled by her own power and looks to join up, or challenge, a group of young martial artists named The Destroyers. However, as she soon discovers, this group isn’t the type of people she would hope to associate with and they actually have some history with her master Matsumura.


    CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

    High Kick Girl!

    Posted by Josh Samford On June - 22 - 2010
    The Plot: Kei Tsuchiya is a brown belt in Karate (played by Rina Takeda, a legitimate karate black belt) but that is only because of how incredibly harsh her master is when it comes handing out belts. Tsuchiya’s skills are truly at the black belt level and to prove this she goes from one karate school to the next in order to challenge their masters. When she wins, she collects their black belts. After collecting nearly all the belts that she can, Tsuchiya begins to search out more exciting endeavors. Her master, Sensei Matsumura, is a master of the art who looks to teach young Tsuchiya that fighting is not the necessary thing to do and that real karate is learned through the repetition of forms and finding inner solitude. The young girl however is still spoiled by her own power and looks to join up, or challenge, a group of young martial artists named The Destroyers. However, as she soon discovers, this group isn’t the type of people she would hope to associate with and they actually have some history with her master Matsumura.



    The Review
    If you read the front page of this site, you know that I had been excited about this project since first seeing its trailer. I am a fan of mixed martial arts and K1 kickboxing, so I know just how spectacular the “high kick” can be as a offensive technique. I also know that it is rare that we see extremely cute Japanese girls laying a cinematic beating on dozens of grown men. So, knowing Rina Takeda’s background as a legitimate martial artist, I had high hopes for High Kick Girl. While I am not here to rain on anyone’s parade and say that it is a severe disappointment, I will instead simply say that it is an entertaining b-movie that shows areas of promise but simply fails to make good. Light on plot or narrative and high on fight scenes, High Kick Girl is the big dumb karate movie embodied, in one easy to swallow eighty minute caplet. Although it at times has delusions of grandeur, it unfortunately never succeeds at stepping up to become a legitimate threat to the few martial talents that are producing phenomenal films (Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung, Tony Jaa) at a top level.

    Making good on the limitations of the V-Cinema (Japanese straight to video productions) marketplace, director Fuyuhiko Nishi manages to create a karate feature that is equally a cinematic spawn from the work of Sonny Chiba and also an odd mix of several popular concepts floating around in the cinematic martial art world. The first incredibly noticeable aspect of the fight choreography is the impact that is made on the actors. In traditional action choreography the fight sequences have always been staged in a manner where the actors pull their punches back within inches of their opponent and the camera is stationed in a position that just misses the gap between fist and face. However, since the rise of Ong Bak: Muay Thai Warrior and the rise of Thai action cinema, a new style of fight choreography has entered into the market place. The punches that are thrown aren’t legitimately as powerful as they possibly could be, but the difference here is that the blows actually connect with their opponents. This stylized form of combat has actually been popular within Japan for many years in their “Puro” form of professional wrestling and Jackie Chan has also been known to feature some brutal connecting shots in his Hong Kong film work (although not in quite as brutal of a fashion). Once again, the blows are not as powerful as they could be, but they are strong enough to look both painful and real. I can only assume that Ong Bak was more than likely the genesis of the fight sequences throughout High Kick Girl, but who is to say?

    I don’t think you could make a film that is more obviously a coming out party for any particular talent. Rina Takeda is given a tremendous opportunity as she is pampered and given such a tailored role. The character of Kei Tsuchiya is not an incredibly diverse or difficult role to pull off, but I was shocked at the level of arrogance the young actress/athlete had to pull off. This type of role is not uncommon in Kung Fu cinema, where more times than not the lead character is a young hustler trying to get over on a few hoodlums (Dirty Ho, Knockabout) but to see a female pulling off the role is something different to say the least. This proved to be an interesting choice, because one figures since this is her breakout performance and debut the producers would go for an instantly more likeable character. However, instead we have to slowly buy into this young woman and invest more of our time in her character. How is the young actress in her role? Truthfully she seems a little wooden in the part. However, the fight sequences are of course where she shines and in that regard she is exceptional. The fight sequences, especially those involving the young actress, are done quite well in their unrepentant brutality. Focusing mainly on kicks (duh), there are a tremendous variety of foot-level assaults. Front kicks, spinning back kicks, axe kicks and any variation of the roundhouse that you could possibly imagine is thrown about during this incredibly short feature.

    Fight scenes and interesting choices do not a good movie make though! High Kick Girl is about as corny and cheesy as most casual movie goers would expect it to be. Where I had hoped it would be “cutesy” on the worst side, it is instead a cadre of action film cliches and ridiculously clunky character motivations. Skipping first gear entirely, the movie begins with its pace set to “uber”. Where this would normally be a positive for any action title, we unfortunately miss out on so much character motivation and background. Funny moments pop up throughout the picture as we discover that this group The Destroyers have been looking for Matsumura for years, but according to everything that we have seen so far he has been running a dojo in Japan under the same name. When you claim that you have been searching for someone for years, doesn’t that imply that they have at least been hiding? Or does it imply that you are so inept in your searching that you didn’t bother to look in a phone book for “Matsumura – Karate Master”. This is the vague introduction that we have to this elite squad of killers. This is also the END of all character background because we are never truly clued into the reason that this group is out to kill Matsumura. This could be spawned from the fact that this is a V-Cinema title and everything in that industry is ruled by the sequel. So I have a good feeling that this absolutely necessary bit of character motivation was left out for a reason.

    The final thing I feel I should mention harkens back to the fight scenes again. This doesn’t have anything to do with the fight choreography mind you, but the choices made by the director. For one… the use of slow motion. Clocking in at just eighty minutes worth of film time, and that is generous and not deducting credits, there is no need to have as much slow motion as there is in this film. I will concede that the use of ambient music (which is likely the second best thing about the movie, behind the fight choreography) during these slow motion sequences creates a very interesting texture. However, this is a big dumb action picture for crying out loud! The second incredibly annoying recurring aspect of the movie is the use of repeated footage. Jackie Chan is the godfather of this, but when Jackie Chan showed us three different shots of himself falling off the side of a building and through three pieces of cloth in Project A he did so showing us the incredible danger of the stunt. High Kick Girl repeats almost every single “painful” looking shot and in slow-as-dirt-motion. If you cut the repeated shots out and you remove the slow motion, we may very well be talking about a one hour long movie.

    The Conclusion
    The film does a good job at explaining the tenants of Karate and Rina Takeda actually interests me as a future martial arts film star. However, High Kick Girl has some real problems. For those itching to see some cute girls kicking so high that we see their panties, then this will already be on your top ten list. For everyone else, take it with a grain of salt. It isn’t a particularly great piece of cinema and its nowhere near being a action classic. It is a moderately entertaining time and I’m glad that I have seen it. I give it a solid three out of five. It hovers above average, due mainly to the few flares that separate it from the rest of the cinematic world.



    Mister Scarface Review

    Posted by Josh Samford On June - 3 - 2010
    Hey everybody, back with an update for you. My review of the Fernando Di Leo classic Mister Scarface! An Italian crime classic and one extremely fun flick! Read on and enjoy!

    The Plot: Tony (Harry Baer) is a small time collector for a gambling outfit who uses both his wits as well as his tremendous fighting abilities to get the job done. While working one night he sees young Rick (Al Cliver) being beaten by his mafia boss Scarface (Jack Palance). He helps Rick back to his place and the two become fast friends. At work Tony is given the opportunity to make a huge play for his outfit by collecting a gambling debt worth three million lira from Scarface himself. Tony and Rick come up with a genius scam that works and allows the two to skim an extra eight million lira just for themselves. Unfortunately Scarface is far more powerful than these small time hoods and now Rick and Tony will have to hide out and ultimately fight back against Scarface and his army of mafia goons. What follows is an Italian crime film like no other!




    CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

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    Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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