Q: The Winged Serpent Is Awesome

Q The Winged Serpent Last fall a buddy of mine sent a few Blu-rays he got through his work my way. I’m always super appreciative when people do nice things like this because, unless I hit a really good sale, I’m probably not going to get my hands on a great many things. In that package was a little movie called Q: The Winged Serpent directed by Larry Cohen (It’s Alive) and starring Michael Moriarty (Troll), Richard Roundtree (Shaft) and David Carradine (Kill Bill). I was sold solely on Moriarty’s involvement who I had just seen in The Stuff and, as it just so happens, that film was also directed by Cohen, so I guess they bring out the best in each other because I love both of these movies, like hard.

Here’s the basics, as best I can remember them. People in New York City are dying and going missing. The police don’t know why, but it’s because there’s a giant flying monster eating them. Moriarty plays a wheelman dragged into pulling a jewelry heist that goes south. On the run, he winds up in the top Chrysler Building  which just so happens to be the monster’s nest. Meawhile detectives played by Roundtree and Carradine are trying to figure out what’s going on. In the process, Carradine becomes convinced that it’s not only a big monster, but also the reincarnation of the Aztec god Quetzlcoatl.

One of the many elements I love about this film is the fact that Moriarty’s character is so important to how this story plays out. This isn’t the story of a down on his luck hero finding the threat to the city and bringing it to the attention of the authorities. Instead, Moriarty uses the monster to take care of two guys trying to shake him down and he only tells anyone in the local government about what’s going on until after he’s made a deal to get a huge pile of money and pardons for all crimes, even the ones the NYPD might not know about (a “Nixon-like pardon” he says). Since he’s a sneaky, shifty dude, the movie goes places it wouldn’t if this were a more typical Hollywood tale.

For his part, Moriarty really carries this movie. He pulls off this oddly alluring synthesis of charming, down-on-his-luck and  bad that works so damn well. You might like him because he can play the piano so causally, but then you hate how he treats his long-suffering girlfriend. Then, at just the right point, he reveals a piece of his personal history that doesn’t excuse his behavior, but might explain it. That’s another major plus for this film, Cohen reveals bits and pieces of Moriarty’s character when they’re necessary, not before. In that way, it’s a really great example of delving out information at just the right time.

It might sound like I’m going overboard about this strange monster movie from the early 80s and maybe I am, but I still think it’s got a lot of greatness held within. However, it’s not perfect. The special effects don’t look so hot these days. From animated shadows to poorly composited images, there’s a lot for the modern eye to pick apart, but for me that was all part of the film’s charm. It did the best it could at the time and probably looked pretty darn impressive in 1982. I thought the actual Q monster looked pretty solid when it was on screen and there were plenty of dizzying aerial shots of NYC (maybe too many) that acted as monster perspective shots.

Now that I think about it, I think I might like this movie because it’s a combination of two of my favorite films without directly ripping them off. On one hand, all the perspective stuff reflect’s John Carpenter’s Halloween where he puts us in the killer’s perspective for chunks of time. Since we’re dealing with POV on a completely different level, it doesn’t feel like a direct lift. On the other hand, there’s a lot of “you don’t get to see the monster JUST yet” elements taken from Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. Around the time I watched Q, I heard a lot of people saying that the latest Godzilla  was like Jaws in the city, but it’s a dynamic that worked well given the setting and time of this film.

Also, like both of those admittedly much better films, Q also makes the locale a huge part of the film. Cohen and company made such good use of the Big Apple that it practically oozes all over ever frame. Obviously, the Chrysler Building plays a huge part in the proceedings, though how accurate the film is or whether they actually filmed inside, I don’t know, but those swooping arial shots also firmly cement the fact that we’re dealing with NYC. There’s even a scene shot at Columbia which I only knew because I’m familiar with another film that made such good use of New York City, Ghostbusters.

At the end of the day, Q: The Winged Serpent benefits from a great many positive notes. Moriarty is stellar, Carradine and Roundtree are great, the setting is perfect, the story works specifically because of the characters involved, the monster looks pretty good and presents a definitely threat and it’s got a pretty well thought out mythology. For all those reasons and more, I fully recommend checking this movie out.

Live Blogging: Crank High Voltage (2009)

Continuing the Crank fun from the other day and to show my support for tonight’s Manly Movie Night I’ll be missing, here’s my live blog of Crank’s sequel Crank: High Voltage. I was super jealous of Sean when he got to see this flick in theaters and blogged about it. Sean had this to say earlier this year: “Like an unholy cross between Chuck Norris’s Invasion U.S.A., Troma, and Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, the movie was wildly and needlessly experimental, and was offensive even to me at times, and had no redeeming social value whatsoever except to punch you in the face repeatedly with a fist made of entertainment. I’d be amazed all over again if I see a movie I enjoy more than this one for the rest of the year.” I would honestly count this as one of the best action movies of all time and it’s ability to top its predecessor, which was already an impressively over the top movie is, well, just plain amazing.

The plot of this one is that Chev Chelios fell out of the helicopter, but they grabbed his body right away and kept him alive for 3 months before opening him up to harvest his organs. They get his heart and replace it with a robot one, but it isn’t until he overhears them talking about cutting of his penis that he freaks out and kicks ass. Amy Smart and Dwight Yoakam return in their same roles and Efren Ramirez plays his character from the first movie’s brother Venus. Now, instead of needing adrenaline to stay alive, Chev has to shock his robot heart to keep it charged. As you can imagine, it’s amazing.

Again spoilers follow and I highly encourage you to see this movie as soon as possible. It just came out on DVD last week or the week before. It’s simply amazing. Well, here we go.

*Love that 8-bit credits.

*This is like watching Star Wars or Lord of the Rings back to back, but way cooler.

*News guy calls events of the first movie “implausible” – no kidding.

*Oh man, that dude puts ashes in Chev’s open chest cavity. That’s cold.

*He’s awake during the surgery!!!

*”The famous Chelios heart” – subtitle, dude’s so rad his HEART is famous.

*Where did she shove that pencil? Not cool.

*He dips the shotgun in tar and sticks it up the dude’s ass–that’s what you get bad guy!

*I like that he basically figures out the catch to survival on his own in both movies.

*”Jesus H. Chelios” – needs to be on a T-shirt.

*Nice film strip-like fake heart explanation from Yoakam.

*Oh man, his battery is already messed up after skidding.

*I don’t think any movie star runs more than Statham.

*I love seeing the Social Club get emptied from the outside, that’s a great touch. One man goes in (Chev) and everyone else flies out!

*There’s Corey Haim…in a strip club, did he even know this was a movie? He’s wearing a Nice Jugs t-shirt with pictures of milk jugs. Classy.

*Strippers with guns, it’s like Sin City with implant jokes.

*Haha, the cops tazed him, not good for them.

*They finally explained that he’s been gone for three months, love the phone message explanation.

*”Is Doc Miles gonna have to choke a bitch?” – nice one Dwight!

*Nice porn star cameos in the porn strike scene.

*Free style walking ball smash!

*Dog shock collar and the dog bits the cops junk, heh, nice.

*Kaylo’s brother Venus has tourettes, that should be interesting.

*He’s dry humping an old lady and she’s loving it!

*The soundtrack is brilliant, Tarantin-esque.

*People love watching people have sex in various positions on a race track.

*Smart’s way too turned on by seeing horse penis.

*”Well, you ain’t no Ralph Macchio yourself Chev” – Venus.

*Gotta love a good man vs. car chase.

*They just made the heart transplant nonsense make sense. Impressive.

*Best in-car shootout ever.

*Dude just cut off his own nipples, squirm-o-ramma.

*Love seeing Haim get the hammer dropped on him by Smart after sucking.

*The shrink totally wants to bang the orderly from the first one…heh, sucks to be him.

*What the? It’s like Godzilla under the power lines!!!

*Interesting talk show-style flashback to Chev as a kid with his mom complete with “he’s a bad kid” clips. His mom looks an awful lot like Amy Smart.

*That’s a lot of balls, but nicely followed by lots of boobs and butts.

*Floating robot head villain from the first movie AND his brother is The Ferret AND Ferret’s beating Chev with a cat-o-nine-tails.

*Venus FINALLY kicks ass and with nun-chucks no less.

*Crazy awesome multi-group shoot out and fight scene!!!

*Chev’s literally on fire and kicking ass, damn, even his face. GET SOME WATER!

*Watch through the credits as they actually end the story there and then do some fun out takes and whatnot.

"Look, Another Girl Fight Season Finale"

The above quote was straight from my lovely wife’s mouth as we watched the last episode of the third season of Alias. If you could somehow throw the word “crying” in there it would completely sum up my thoughts on this show. Season 3 really seemed to rehash a lot of previous ideas from the show (a man being betrayed by his spy wife, distrust in the organization, lying to loved ones, bad guys who just won’t die, incredibly sloppy spy stuff and crying. Lots of crying from our bad ass heroine.

The funny thing, though, is that I kind of liked these storylines better than those from the previous seasons. Maybe it’s that I knew what I was getting into when we started. Maybe it’s because the few people whose opinions I’ve heard said it was supposed to get so much worse this season, I’m not sure. I actually enjoyed this season more what with all the Rambaldi stuff taking center stage and twins and other family members coming to light. It’s not a great show, but the ticks seemed to be less (or at least less obvious) and you can see where shows like Lost and Fringe may have had their earliest seeds.

The most impressive element of this show, by far, has been the crazy amount of high quality guest stars they were able to pull in. Here’s a fairly completely list from Season 3: Scott Adsit, Djimon Hounsou, Bradley Cooper (he came back!), Richard Roundtree (seriously, Shaft is following me), David Cronenberg, Terry O’Quinn (he also came back!), Quentin Tarantino (also came back!), Isabella Rossellini (yeesh), Vivica A. Fox, Ricky Gervais (of original Office fame and general awesomeness), Raymond J. Barry, Peggy Lipton (Julie from The Mod Squad and Norma Jennings from Twin Peaks) and David Carradine (another returner). That’s a pretty impressive roster, especially when you consider that many of them made appearances in multiple episodes.

So, I’m curious to see how Season 4 and 5 go. I know there’s a twin or something. And a baby. But, since my expectations are pretty low, so I can’t really get TOO disappointed.

Riding Hella Dirty: A Hell Ride (2008) Review

2008-11-07
4:53:29 am

Here’s what you need to ask yourself to figure out if you’d like Hell Ride. Do you like Quentin Tarantino and the movies that he likes? Does the idea of a movie with Larry Bishop, Michael Madsen, Vinnie Jones, David Carradine and Dennis Hopper sound awesome? Does the idea of amoral bikers doing whatever they want wherever they want bother you? If the answers were yes, YES and hell no, then Hell Ride is the movie for you.

It’s by no means a great movie, but writer, director, lead and classic motorcycle movie dude Larry Bishop definitely loves what he’s doing and it permeates the film. Everyone involved really feels like they’re having fun, even when spouting off some fairly ridiculous dialogue (the fire for sex metaphor goes on WAY too long).

There’s a cool back story to this movie that’s related in the behind the scenes featurette on the DVD. Not surprisingly, Quentin is a big fan of Larry Bishop’s biker flicks and told him it’s his destiny to make the best biker flick of all time. Having not seen any of the others, I can’t compare, but it’s a cool backstory. Bishop picked up the proposition and ran with it. And I’ve got to give it to the guy for getting a very impressive cast together. Aside from the guys mentioned above, there are about 100 sexy ladies and Eric Balfour who some of you might remember as Jesse from the first few episodes of Buffy.

The plots probably a little more complex than it needs to be with plenty of flashbacks and all that, but it ends up working int he end and would probably have made a lot more sense if I wasn’t so tired when I started watching it last night.

So here’s the deal, Bishop leads a gang with Madsen and Balfour as his numbers one and two. Hopper’s a part of their crew too. Bishop and his boys run up against another gang with Carradine as the head and Vinnie Jones as the street leader (or something like that). Bishop’s character is also trying to make good on a promise he made to a woman who got killed 30 years ago.

I’ll be honest, I missed a lot of the plot and got the basics from the extra features on the DVD which was helpful, but I still really enjoyed the movie. There’s a lot of just dudes being badass which I appreciate. You definitely won’t see another movie like this. I was also impressed with the age of the leads. Not counting the women, you’ve got Bishop whose birthday isn’t posted on IMDb, but he was making biker movies in the 70s (he’s also Rat Packer Larry Bishop’s kid!), Madsen is 51, Jones is 43, Balfour’s the baby at 31 while Carradine and Hopper are both 72. You probably won’t get a cast like that in any other movie this year. And man, they’re all bad dudes in this flick. And not just cool, but morally all over the place.

Madsen does his usual thing. Hopper’s actually less crazy than you’d expect if you’ve seen some of his other weirder work like that nutty Crow sequel he was in where he played a gangsta pimp. What happened to that guy? Carradine gets kind of a different role than he has in Quentin’s movies. And Balfour does a great job as the new kid who’s having fun but also working hard to prove himself. And they all look great together on screen, almost like a superhero team.

It’s fun stuff. Not brilliant film making, but definitely a freaking fun movie.

Sometimes They Come Back for a Death Race…2000

2008-08-12
3:55:02 am

Okay, so I’m CLEARLY reaching for a title on this one. Probably because the two flicks I watched have little-to-nothing to do with each other. They were the Steven King-based TV movie Sometimes They Come Back and the Roger Corman, soon-to-be-remade Death Race 2000.

Sometimes They Come Back (1991)

Written by Stephen King, Lawrence Konner & Mark Rosenthal (Beverly Hillbillies, Superman IV)

Directed by Tom McLoughlin (Jason Live, Freddy’s Nightmares & the Friday the 13th series)

Starring Animal House’s Tim Matheson and a bunch of other people I didn’t recognize

I’m going to keep these two review brief, so here goes. The basic story is that Matheson’s brother was killed by some greasers back in the day, but now he’s moved back to his home town (a common thing in King’s work that I’ve read). He’s a teacher and it turns out that the ghosts of the greasers (they were killed when a train ran over them after they killed his brother) show up in his class room. He understandably goes a bit crazy as these dead kids threaten him and his family.

When I grabbed this DVD I didn’t realize it was a TV movie, I was just looking for another movie to check off in my copy of Creature Features by John Stanley (the best horror/sci-fi/fantasy book in my book, too bad there hasn’t been an update since 1999/2000). I was a little bummed that there wouldn’t be any gore or over the top violence, but I’ll tell you what, it was a pretty creepy little movie. All of the actors I’ve never heard of did a good job of coveying the creepiness of the situation, especially Matheson (who I’ve obviously heard of). It was nice to see him playing against type.

Anyway, these are the types of stories that freak me out the most; the kind where something really bad and crazy is happening to you, but it’s so crazy and bad that no one will believe you. How do you function in life if your parents/wife/friends/family don’t believe you’re going through these terrible things? Beats me, that’s why everyone should set up a code word for when they’re being extra serious.

Anyway, good on everyone involved for treating me to a surprisingly good and creepy movie about the undead (even if the are over-the-top greasers). The real clincher for me was the fact that Matheson actually inadvertently killed the guys, adding an added layer of guilt and weirdness to everything. That and the scene where Matheson gets to talk to his dead brother’s ghost. It’s pretty intense, but maybe I’m just a big softy.

You know who’s not a softy? Roger Corman.

Death Race 2000 (1975)

Written by Ib Melchior (original story), Robert Thom (the awful Bloody Mama) & Charles B. Griffith (the fantastic Buckets of Blood)

Starring David Carradine, Sylvester Stallone and others

In the future, there’s this race about death where you get points by killing people. Um…that’s about all these is to the plot of this Roger Corman-produced flick. David Carradine stars as Frankenstein, a driver who’s supposedly had most of his limbs broken, smashed and then replaced, but still looks just like the dude from Kung Fu. Stallone’s in it too as a crazy, Tommy gun-toting driver.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t really pay much attention to the plot of this flick (something I don’t think would bother Corman). There’s a subplot about people who are against the race because of its ties to the government, so they help by adding more explosions. There is a pretty good fist fight between Carradine and Stallone, with Carradine winning (as you would expect as this predates Rocky).

Basically, the cars are cool and you can tell they’re really traveling as fast as they seem. There’s lots of explosions, people getting hit and blown up. It’s great stuff. Plus it’s around an hour and a half, so you don’t have to put too much time into what’s basically another death-as-sport metaphor flicks. Though unlike Rollerball or Running Man, I gotta admit, Death Race had a lot more satire and chuckle-worthy moments (like the government constantly blaming the French for all the bad in the world and the lady commentator being called Grace Pander). Oh, there’s also a lot of hot 70s chicks who don’t always wear there clothes, so, you know, bonus if you’re into that. Oh, plus I get to check it off in my Creature Features. I’m really just a simple creature folks.