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28.5.09

Candy Von Dewd and the Girls from Latexploitia (2002)



Director: Jacques Boyreau
Starring: Kate Birrell, Jacques Boyreau, Pandemonium
Unrated Running time: 55 minutes
Released by Alpha Video


The plot: a haggard crew of male space explorers, whose testicles are shrinking more and more each moment, travel the galaxy in search of fertile women to spawn with in order to save the human race. They land on a planet they believe to be rife with breedable lasses, and get more than they bargained for. It's loaded with babes, alright -- but the horny spacemen find themselves smack in the middle of a turf war between two warring factions of hotties. Their only hope is to call upon Candy Von Dewd, a voluptuous superheroine who spends much of her screeentime writhing around in painfully tight latex outfits.

The plot of Candy Von Dewd and the Girls of Latexploitia of no importance whatsoever. This isn't as much a movie as it is like a sci-fi/fetish themed party that most of us will never be cool enough to get invited to. And a pretty wild party it is -- full of gorgeous women dancing, play fighting, and posing in latex outfits, while psychedelic visuals do their best to put the viewer into a trance state. It's an impressive production that looks like what you'd get if a box full of radioactive sex toys exploded in an LSD laboratory. There's too much humor for the film to become pretentious, and at 55 minutes it's too short to become tedious. It's not for all tastes, but for anyone who likes the idea of "Girls Gone Wild in Outer Space", Candy Von Dewd and the Girls of Latexploitia might be right up your alley. And besides, who doesn't want to see ladies in skimpy latex outfits cavorting around a basement set full of fireworks and glow-in-the-dark props? Nobody, that's who!

Don't think, just go with it.

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27.5.09

Dirty Little Billy (1972)


Director: Stan Dragoti
Starring: Michael J. Pollard, Lee Purcell, Richard Evans, Charles Aidman
Rated R Running time: 93 minutes
No DVD release at this time


Young William Bonney (Michael J. Pollard) steps off a train from New York City and sees a wasteland: Coffeyville, Kansas. Streets of mud and flat, barren land stretching as far as the eye can see. With an epidemic threatening to wipe out their closest neighbors, Coffeyville hopes that an influx of refugees will give their little town an economic boost so they can afford their very own Sheriff, a mayor, and all the things a legitimate town ought to have. Billy's family have come here to carve out a meaningful existence as farmers, which couldn't be a more alien way of life for the shiftless young man. He doesn't know how to hunt, he doesn't know how to fish, and his first attempt at working a plow ends with him being dragged face first across a field. What Billy is good at are the kind of things that decent, respectable people frown upon: cards and petty theft. Billy is miserable with life in this new place, and his stepfather tells him that if he doesn't like it, he is free to leave. So Billy obliges, and ends up crossing paths with a slightly unhinged outlaw named Goldie (Richard Evans). Goldie has taken over a local saloon, for no other reason than the fact that he's got a gun and he's not afraid to use it. Everyone in town is terrified of Goldie, but not Billy. The gun, the utter disregard for law and order, and the power that Goldie possesses over the townsfolk mesmerizes the young thief, and Billy goes to great lengths to work his way into Goldie's world. Goldie seems to like the idea of having someone around that looks up to him, and begins teaching Billy the ways of outlaw existence. Goldie's woman, an attractive prostitute named Berle (Lee Purcell), isn't happy about this arrangement, but rather than receive a smacking around from Goldie, she keeps her protestations to a minimum. She eventually warms to the young thief, and a ragged little family is born. However, the bandit lifestyle has its downsides, and it isn't long before a deadly situation arises that transforms William Bonney into the larger than life figure known as "Billy the Kid."

Western purists will likely shake their heads in disgust over the film's portrayal of the legendary outlaw. Billy the Kid has been portrayed in many different ways -- sociopathic killer, misguided and misunderstood teenage bandit, and even as a Robin Hood-style figure possessing a warped sense of decency. In Dragoti's film, the tag line sums it up perfectly -- "Billy the Kid was a punk". A sniveling, scheming, smartass kid with a chip on his shoulder and a hatred for anything resembling honest work, this Billy is light years away from what audiences were accustomed to seeing. It's an oddly appropriate starring vehicle for Michael J. Pollard whose performance is very . . . well . . . Michael J. Pollardesque. Pollard's unconventional appearance and quirky mannerisms will likely be off-putting to folks more accustomed to the old uber-macho Western stereotypes, but here he is perfectly matched to material which re-imagines history and injects it with a heavy dose of bawdy humor. The rest of the cast is loaded with soon-to-be stars (Gary Busey, an uncredited Nick Nolte. and TV staple Dick Van Patten), and a virtual who's who of veteran character actors (Charles Aidman, Willard Sage, Ed Lauter, Mills Watson, and many others). I could have sworn that I spotted Brion James in a few scenes, but he was not credited and it was impossible to tell for certain given the murky quality of the bootleg I viewed. As bad as the picture quality was, Ralph Woolsey's cinematography still manages to be quite impressive -- perfectly capturing a dirty, violent place full of dirty, violent people. It's hard to believe that this film was directed by Stan Dragoti, whose other films include Necessary Roughness and She's Out of Control. I think it's fair to say that Dirty Little Billy is far and away his best work.

Not a masterpiece, but an interesting and engaging slice of 70's cinema. Can someone please tell me why this is not on DVD?

26.5.09

The Tracey Fragments (2007)




Director: Bruce McDonald
Starring: Ellen Page, Ari Cohen, Erin McMurtry
Rated R Running time: 77 minutes
Released by Thinkfilm




Told in its entirety using splitscreen techniques, Bruce McDonald's The Tracey Fragments is a strong contender for the title of "Most Agonizingly Pretentious Film of the Decade." Hipster star of the moment Ellen Page is Tracey Berkowitz, a mentally damaged teen who leaves her cartoonishly shitty home in order to find her missing younger brother. Along the way she suffers from your typical teenage romantic delusions, relives various high school torments, and reflects on just how badly her equally nutty parents have screwed her up. The Tracey Fragments is the kind of self-absorbed exercise you would expect from a high-strung art school queen, not a veteran filmmaker like McDonald. McDonald's films are usually challenging to the sensibilities of the more mainstream viewing audience, but this time around he tests the patience of even the most adventurous filmgoer by happily sacrificing substance for style. The aforementioned spiltscreen usage, a meandering indie rock soundtrack, lots of stagy fourth wall-breaking monologues from Page, and a non-linear storyline are just ploys to convince a hipster audience that what they are seeing is "groundbreaking" or "edgy", and to ignore the fact that there isn't an interesting story to be found here.

24.5.09

Death Valley (2004)



aka Mojave

Director: David Kebo, Rudi Liden
Starring: Eric Christian Olsen, Dash Mihok, Rider Strong, Vince Vieluf, Genevieve Cortese
Rated R Running time: 95 minutes
Released by Allumination

An ethnically diverse group of friends from Los Angeles venture deep into the Mojave desert to attend a secret rave. They eat mescaline, trip out, dance to obnoxious music, have emotional breakdowns, and hook up with a high school girl. Morning rolls around and the partiers decide to let the drugs wear off before they begin their long ride back to the city. We know that they're making a big mistake because we've already seen that the area is crawling with racist, meth-addicted thugs. What happens next? You got it -- they run afoul of a gang of racist, meth-addicted thugs on motorbikes. Will the dainty city slickers be able to get in touch with their more primitive side in order to defeat the bloodthirsty desert rats?

You betcha.

Death Valley
is a bland mishmash of The Hills Have Eyes (sans radioactive mutants) and Deliverance (sans intelligent screenwriting and masterful performances), with a little Wolf Creek (sans the nihilistic tone) thrown in for good measure. The film takes itself very seriously -- so seriously that it refuses to be any fun at all. We spend the first half of the film getting into the characters minds and learning about their problems, presumably to make us care about them when they run into the dirtbike riding maniacs in the second half. While Eric Christian Olsen is sympathetic as the film's reluctant hero and Rider Strong is excellent as the weasley rich kid out to save his own skin, it doesn't really work, as all attempts at creating emotional depth go out the window as soon as the film's villains appear. For all of their raping and pillaging, the gang comes off as slightly less threatening than the Sweathogs from "Welcome Back, Kotter." They mug for the camera, they giggle, they make wonky faces in the background while their leader (Dash Mihok) listlessly delivers motivational speeches about their loyalty to each other. What you end up with is a movie with the different personalities; one is a melodramatic tale of twentysomethings trying to discover who they really are, the other is a disposable action/revenge thriller with laughable villains and underwhelming thrills. Directors Kebo and Liden get points for trying to make something a little deeper than your average low budget revenge thriller, but the two sides simply don't mesh the way they would have liked. When the end comes, we should be reveling in non-stop carnage as the murderous punks are sliced and diced in a variety of crowd pleasing ways. Unfortunately, it all ends with a loud blah, with the thugs getting their comeuppance in the usual predictable ways. This is where a bucketload of ultra-violence could have salvaged the film, but the makers chose to play it safe. It's a serious movie, remember?

You've seen this all before. There really isn't anything that makes Death Valley stand out amongst its peers in the "survival horror" genre. It's not nasty enough, exciting enough, or interesting enough to recommend. The best thing I can say about it is that it's not awful. It's fine for watching on cable on a lazy day when you wish to shut off your brain, but plunk down any money for it.