About This Blog

A place to find my reviews not featured on epinions.com or horror-asylum.com, as well as opinions and lists on everything from movies to TV to music. It's all about me! Send hate mail to vegie18th@hotmail.com or just leave a comment beneath the posts. Review grading system assumes C+ is somewhere in the vicinity of a Passing grade or minor fail.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Review: Underworld USA

It doesn’t surprise me that Martin Scorsese is a fan of cult filmmaker Sam Fuller (“The Big Red One”, “The Deadly Trackers”), with this surprisingly mature 1961 crime-drama starting off a little like the early scenes in “Goodfellas”. Played as an adult by Cliff Robertson (interestingly nonchalant about his actions, but perhaps a little too All-American looking for the role), Tolly is a former street hoodlum who catches a glimpse of his father’s murderers, resorts to petty crime and is thrown in jail, where he passes the time thinking of revenge. Robert Emhardt, an undervalued character actor wonderfully portrays the Sydney Greenstreet-ish crime boss (who was not, in fact, one of the men who killed Robertson’s father) who is outwardly respectable, stealing the film. Richard Rust is positively chilling as one of Emhardt’s chief enforcers (and one of the murderers), and Beatrice Kay is top-notch as the moll/girlfriend of Robertson’s father, who looks out for him as much as she can. Dolores Dorn plays ‘Cuddles’ the gangster’s moll whom Robertson might be falling for. Larry Gates plays the federal agent Robertson is also manipulating, in scenes all-too reminiscent of crime melodramas of the time (one of the few debits of an otherwise very different crime flick for the time, refreshing, in fact).


Superb black and white cinematography by Hal Mohr (“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, “Phantom of the Opera”, “The Walking Dead”), with the initial murder-through-silhouette a particular standout. This is B-grade noir, but a pretty good one at that. Screenplay by the director, this one’s worth seeking out, especially for noir fans or Sam Fuller completists.


Rating: B-

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Review: Ghost Shark

A supposedly dead shark has somehow (via some kind of mystical cave!) been transformed into a ‘ghost shark’ and terrorises a nearby town due to its ability to exist in any form of water, and it starts scaring children and tearing limbs. Even though it’s a ghost. Yeah. Lucky Johnson plays the shonky local mayor, Mackenzie Rosman is one of several teens trying to survive, and Richard Moll plays a seriously cantankerous town loony who actually knows a thing or two about the shark and the cave it sprouted from.


Directed by Griff Furst, I have no idea whether this 2013 SyFy schlockfest is better or worse than the infamous “Sharknado” (and comparisons are unavoidable), but I have to admit, it’s considerably more ‘fun’. On what level that fun is, well...that’s debatable I guess, but at least the film seems a bit more self-aware than the rather more po-faced “Sharknado”.


It’s certainly a better-looking movie than “Sharknado”, as cinematographer Andrew Strahorn doesn’t appear to be shooting things through the bottom of a dirty, bog-infested thunderbox. So there’s that. Composer Andrew Morgan Smith also deserves credit for giving us a reasonable facsimile of John “Jaws” Williams. I guess you could say the film is better ‘bad movie’ fun than “Sharknado”, it’s stupid as hell and has a lot more gore in particular. But I’m not entirely certain that it’s firmly planted in the ‘bad movie’ category, either. There’s a brilliant bit involving a severed head and a beer bottle. Meanwhile, I believe the bad movie formula goes something like: Fat kid + slip ‘n’ slide + ghost shark= hilarity. What, killing kids isn’t funny? Well maybe not to you it isn’t. Weirdo. So whilst this might be a bit hard to grade, it’s quite a lot of fun to watch. I mean, the scene where the ghost shark (which looks absolutely appalling, by the way) gets into a water cooler and leads to a guy getting ripped in half might even rival Ian Ziering and his chainsaw in “Sharknado”.


None of the actors are terribly good per se (and the usually hot Mackenzie Rosman looks pale and sickly here), but veteran Richard Moll is definitely the standout. Is he any good? No, but he is very loud and enjoyably hammy. If you think about the plot, it’s actually quite similar to the original “Nightmare on Elm Street”, except with a ghost shark. There’s even a bathtub scene here. Also, for any Aussie readers out there, don’t you think that given the ghost shark’s preferred method of attack resembles a football tackle, it could play Second Row for Cronulla? Fun times.


Honestly, if they had gone the “Piranha 3D” route and added a healthy dose of sleaze, this could’ve had a chance of being ‘cheesy fun’ instead of ‘bad movie’ fun (Yes, there is a clear difference between cheesy and bad). As is, it dips its toes into the former category, and far moreso than “Sharknado” did, but never quite firmly planting its feet in that category. It does have an actor named Han Soto, though, and if that’s not the coolest name for an actor, I dunno what is.


Look, this isn’t a good film, it’s also too self-aware to be a terrible one, and in fact, it sometimes comes across as a fun B-movie. Most importantly, though, it’s really watchable, whatever category you try to slot it in, and that definitely puts it ahead of “Sharknado”. Make of that whatever you will, in terms of a recommendation. My head hurts just thinking about such matters. The screenplay by Paul A. Birkett (“Arachnoquake”, “Alien Tornado”) is from a story by Furst and Eric Forsberg (“Mega Piranha”, “Arachnoquake”, “Snakes on a Train”).


Rating: F (for fun?)