Thursday, January 29, 2015

Runaway (Michael Crichton, 1984)

It's easy to sit back and laugh at bold predictions that fail to materialize in works of speculative science fiction that came out thirty years ago. However, just because evil bastards who look like Gene Simmons from KISS aren't running around stealing microchips with the help of an army of robot spiders doesn't mean the premise of Runaway is that far-fetched. Sure, the film, written and directed by Michael Crichton, might come across as a little hokey, but it pretty much predicts humanities over-dependence on technology. Of course, you still might say that the idea of a robot cooking you dinner is something straight out of The Jetsons. So while the aesthetics are a tad off, the theory the film puts forth is eerily accurate. Though, I have to wonder, who's designing these robots? I mean, why are so many of them malfunctioning? Actually, they're not just malfunctioning, they're hurting people. Don't believe me, just ask Kirstie Alley's jet black pantyhose-ensnared thighs, as they just got zapped by a burst of electricity that came from her 577 Sentry (a glorified paper shredder on wheels).

Don't look at me like that. You didn't think I purposely went out of my way to watch a movie that stars Tom Selleck, did you? C'mon, man, you know me better than that. All it took for this film to pique my interest was the sight of Kirstie Alley looking all business-like in her blouse, belt, skirt, hose and heels ensemble. It also helped that I liked Michael Crichton's previous film, Looker, which starred Albert Finney and Susan Dey.

Unfortunately, Tom Selleck is no Albert Finney. I know, that's my second dig at Mr. Selleck, but simply put, he just not that good in this. You would think he'd be perfect as a cop. But he's not merely a cop, he's a cop who's in charge of pacifying "runaway" robots. And I didn't buy for a second that Tom Selleck knew anything about robots.

No, what this film needs an actor like, oh, let's say, Harrison Ford or Peter Weller. Or better yet, turn it into a Hong Kong set Category III flick called "RoboCops" (with, of course, Danny Lee in the Tom Selleck role and Anthony Wong as the villain). But then again, every film in existence would be better off if it was remade as a Hong Kong set Category III flick. Seriously, think of a film. It doesn't matter, just pick one. Okay, now imagine it took place in Hong Kong circa 1991-94. Pretty awesome, eh?

Okay, let's get things back on track. First off, the poster for this movie lied to me. Not once does Jack Ramsay (Tom Selleck) hold the cool futuristic pistol that fires mini-heat seeking missiles.

Most cops have to deal with the dregs of society on a daily basis, but Jack Ramsay is in charge of tracking down and disabling wonky robots.

On the day he's assigned a new partner, Jack gets a call about a 7799 Pest Controller (your standard agricultural model) that's running amuck in a corn field. Wait is it "amuck" or "amok"?

Ah, who gives a shit. Check out the gams on Ramsay's new partner. I bet you're wondering how I knew her gams were worth checking out, you know, because she's wearing a pair of standard issue lady police pants (which are infamous for dampening lady-based legginess). Well, that's just it, she wasn't wearing lady police pants, she was wearing a lady police skirt. Nothing too short, but short enough to get a good idea what she had going on gam-wise.

At any rate, Ramsay's new partner is a failed dancer named Thompson (Cynthia Rhodes)–which is apt since Cynthia is best known for being a dancer. After a couple of mild hiccups, Ramsay and Thompson manage to wrangle the wayward robot. It's no wonder it malfunctioned the way it did, it's CPU was an 8088. Am I right, fellas?

The next call the robot police get is a 709, which, according to Marvin (Stan Shaw), is when a robots kills someone. It would seem that a model 912 stabbed to death two people and threatening to kill a baby with a hand gun.

Arriving at the scene (a quiet suburban street), Ramsay asks them to prep a "floater" (a drone) to send in the house, so that he may access the situation. Deciding that the only option is to go inside himself, Ramsay dons his trusty electromagnetic scatter suit and prepares to face down the killer robot.

Despite a few minor glitches, Ramsay emerges from the house a hero. I have to say, this particular sequence  is pretty gripping stuff. Granted, Tom Selleck looked ridiculous in his electromagnetic scatter suit  (even the name is giggle worthy), but the scene is kinda cool. Oh, and you know something sinister is afoot when we see Gene Simmons' Luther lurking in the crowd that has gathered to watch Ramsay do his thing.

And wouldn't you know it, Luther was the one who planted the "non-standard chip" inside the model 912 that made it go nuts. Meaning, this was no runaway, this was murder.

The non-standard chips are highly sought after by Luther, who wants to sell them to terrorists (nice guy). And when we meet him again, he's shaking down an employee at Vectrocon Security Systems for a butt-load of these non-standard chips. Unsatisfied with merely attaining more non-standard chips, Luther wants the templates that will allow him to produce more. And it looks like, judging by the way dispatches one Vectrocon stooge with a bunch of robot spiders and another (Chris Mulkey from The Hidden) with a gun that fires heat-seeking missiles, he'll do just about anything to acquire them.

While investigating the Vectrocon connection, Ramsay comes face-to-face with the shapely splendour that Kirstie Alley circa 1984. Playing a Vectrocon employee named "Jackie," Kirstie, it would seem, is having a little trouble with her 577 Sentry (it keeps zapping her black pantyhose-adorned thighs). Luckily for her, Ramsay and Thompson are currently in the building.

I liked how when Thompson offers to get Ramsay's electromagnetic scatter suit from the car, he says no. Now, before you accuse Ramsay of being careless. It should be noted that Ramsay doesn't want to look like a total dork in front of Jackie. Yes, even a seasoned professional like Ramsay is willing forgo safety in order to impress an attractive woman. And it looks like, much to Thompson's chagrin, Ramsay's gamble is paying off, as Jackie's pussy is clearly pulsating at a magnum-infused rate of speed. (Huh?) She totally wants to fuck him. (Oh.)

Even though the script seems to favour the pairing of Ramsay and Thompson, I thought Ramsay and Jackie produced more heat.

Speaking of pairing things, if I had to pair Runaway with any other film, I would go with Black Moon Rising. Think about it, both film's feature tons of newfangled gadgetry, yet no attempt whatsoever is made to make their respective worlds seem futuristic. Though, in terms of quality, I have to give Black Moon Rising a slight edge. It's simple, really, Tommy Lee Jones is a better actor than Tom Selleck. That being said, Runaway has robot spiders and Kirstie Alley in black pantyhose going for it. So, yeah.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Totally Fucked Up (Gregg Araki, 1993)

Since I'm a bad boy who doesn't play by the motherfuckin' rules (that's right, I said doesn't), it only makes sense that I watch the first chapter of Gregg Araki's Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy last. And to the surprise of virtually no-one, this chapter is loaded with teen angst and plenty of butt-fucking. Presented as "fifteen random celluloid fragments," Totally Fucked Up (a.k.a. Totally F***ed Up) is a cautionary tale about the dangers that can arise when you let a guy sporting a My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult t-shirt into your heart. Don't get me wrong, I love their early stuff (Confessions of a Knife... is the shit), but this guy is wearing a My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult t-shirt that features artwork from the "Kooler Than Jesus" 12" single. In other words, run, James Duval, run! Take your racially ambiguous ass and get the hell away from him. He's going to hurt you!!!! Wow, see how easy that was? That's what's so great about the film's in Gregg Araki's Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy, I'm able to relate to just about anything that transpires onscreen. What I think I'm trying to say is, they're clearly made by someone who is cool. And by "cool," I mean they like industrial music, they aren't afraid of sex and they have a sly sense of humour.

Sure, you're thinking to yourself, lot's of other directors have sex scenes and sly humour peppered throughout their movies. Yeah, I suppose they do. But do they like industrial music? Let me answer that question for ya: They don't. Or, if they do, they don't show it. Well, Gregg Araki definitely shows it.

The only director that I'm aware of to acknowledge of the existence of industrial and shoegazer music simultaneously, it's obvious that Gregg Araki loves music, as his films, particularly the one's in the Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy, are stuffed to the gills with songs.

Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with either of these music scenes will recognize songs by Coil, Red House Painters, Numb, Pale Saints, The Wolfgang Press, Ministry, 16 Volt, Unrest, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, Ride and His Name Is Alive.

If being cutting edge when it comes to music wasn't enough, Gregg Araki also manages to predict the rise of self-absorption. To be fair, people have always been self-absorbed. However, since the dawn of the video camera, the self-absorbed have started to document their lives for all to see. And Gregg Araki captures this burgeoning phenomenon by having one of his characters film himself for some kind of video diary. While what he's doing might not seem de rigueur in the early 1990s, millions are partaking in this sort of behaviour as we speak.

Everything from the purchasing of food, to the eating of food, to the shitting of food is recorded for posterity.

In a not-so shocking twist, James Duval, who plays an eighteen year-old named Andy, starts off the movie by saying, "I guess you could say I'm totally fucked up" (all these movies start off this way).

Introduced via video confessional, we also meet Tommy (Roko Belic), Deric (Lance May), Steven (Gilbert Luna), the maker of these videos, and gal pals Michelle (Susan Behshid) Patricia (Jenee Gill), who are bored and disenfranchised.

While it was difficult for me to relate to the feeling of disenfranchisement the characters experience throughout this film (since they don't like disco, Joan Crawford or drag balls, they feel cut off from the majority of the gay population), the way teenage boredom is depicted, however, was spot-on, as I, too, remember wasting an entire summer standing around in front of a convenience store; after they told us to scram, we'd usually head over to a nearby parking garage.

Speaking of which, one of the parking garage hang out scenes in this movie features the best use of a My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult song, "The Devil Does Drugs," in motion picture history.

Anyway, these video confessions deal with a variety of topics. While I can't remember everything they talked about, I do recall sex being a major topic of conversation.

After enduring seven "random celluloid fragments" (one that includes the gang playing Heartthrob: The Dream Date Game until two in the morning), the film finally gets around to introducing its narrative drive. Taking place near the twenty-five minute mark, things get somewhat conventional when Andy is approached by Ian. (Oh, no, not the guy in the Kooler Than Jesus t-shirt?) Yep. (This isn't going to end well.) Breaking the ice by discussing their mutual love for Ministry, the two hit it off. As expected, they end up kissing in a–you guessed it–parking garage.

In the film's most adorable moment, Andy can be seen later that evening staring at a scrap of paper with Ian's phone number on it with a gleeful smirk on his face. (That's weird, I didn't notice the gleeful smirk, as I was too busy admiring the living fuck out of that kick ass Front 242 poster on his bedroom wall.) Well, that's where you I are different, as I was able to notice the gleeful smirk and admire the Front 242 poster on his wall. Multitasking, FTW!!!

Of course, his playful smirk soon turns to one of abject horror, when Andy finds out that Ian (Alan Boyce) isn't exactly a nice guy. To make matters even more dramatic, the relationship between Deric and Steven begins to fall apart and Tommy gets kicked out of his house.

It's true, I was somewhat disappointed by the film's overly serious tone; Totally Fucked Up doesn't have the same whimsical feel that The Doom Generation and Nowhere do. That being said, if you look closely, you'll see brief flourishes of whimsy transpire in unexpected places.

Take the scene where Andy goes to Ian's apartment (the dreaded pop-in). As he's walking up the stairs, we see a blue-haired punk princess dragging the body of a man wearing nothing but tightie-whities down a flight of stairs. In true Gregg Araki fashion, no explanation is given as to what is exactly is going on here. If you keep an eye out for these wacky touches, you should be able to swallow the film's more earnest moments.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Perdita Durango (Álex de la Iglesia, 1997)

Despite having a lead character who sports what I consider to be one of the greatest haircuts of all-time and opening with a shot of Rosie Perez's booty in all its mid-90s glory, I was still on the fence about Perdita Durango (a.k.a. Dance with the Devil), Álex de la Iglesia's raucous road movie about, well... I'll get to that in a minute. Then something occurred that caused me to sit up and take notice. No, not the scene where Harley Cross briefly recalls the time he lost his virginity to a rotund woman with an profound pair of sagittally symmetrical indentations on her lower back (pound that chaste cock into the ground, you chunky harlot, you... pound it!). I'm talking about the face Javier Bardem makes while listening "Spanish Flea" by Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass. I know, that's a weird thing to get excited about it, especially in a movie where James Gandolfini gets hit by a car not once, but twice. But what I can say? I'm sucker for scenes in movies that feature demented psychopaths with kick-ass haircuts making funny faces while listening to jazzy pop music as two blubbering blonde gringos cower in the backseat of said demented psychopath's car.

The mechanics surrounding how those blubbering blonde gringos ended up in the back of the car belonging to Romeo Dolorosa (Javier Bardem) is somewhat complicated, yet, it's also pretty straightforward at the same time.

If you were to tell me that the reason Romeo and Perdita Durango (Rosie Perez) plucked Duane (Harley Cross) and Estelle (Aimee Graham) off the streets of Juárez was for cannibal-related purposes, I would say that, yes, that's "pretty straightforward."

However, if you were to add the fact that both Romeo and Perdita develop crushes on Duane and Estelle (who are as white as their names imply), I would have no choice but to declare their particular situation "somewhat complicated."

Yet another movie that has cast some serious doubts on my previous claims about being alive during 1990s (I have no idea how I missed this film), Perdita Durango is one of the most well-made pieces of trash cinema I've ever had to pleasure to witness. I mean, check out that aerial shot of all those cars waiting at that Mexico-U.S.A. border crossing. The last film I saw with aerial photography this good would have to be Cavegirl. What I'm trying to say in my own clumsy way is that, I don't usually get to see films that sport complicated aerial photography. Seriously, it was like something out of a Michael Bay movie.

Later that night, near that very border crossing, Romeo spots Perdita Durango's reflection in the Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass compact disc he is currently holding. As Romeo approaches Perdita Durango, who is enjoying a cool beverage, I thought to myself: Nothing good can come from talking to a man with a haircut like that.

Short in the front and long in the back (with the sides shaved), Romeo's haircut is a force of nature in this film.

As she proves in the film's opening scene, Perdita Durango isn't the kind of woman you simply walk up and start a conversation with (earlier in the film, she shuts down the pedestrian advances of a lumpy gringo in an airport lounge). But, as we all know, judging by his haircut and his crazed demeanour, Romeo is no lumpy gringo. In other words, I think these two were made for each other.

When he's not taking the time to inspect the breasts of attractive bank tellers in the middle of a bank robbery, or having exuberant sexual intercourse with Perdita Durango on a rickety old bed (there's no way that bed can handle the Latin-tinged thrusts Romeo's workmanlike pelvis puts out there on a regular basis), Romeo conducts bizarre "voodoo style" rituals for tourists and superstitious locals.

Usually involving blood-spitting and bongo music, the first show of this type we see is well-attended, and... Wait a minute, who's that in that back with the video camera? Why, it's Willie Dumas (James Gandolfini), an officer with the DEA.

It would seem that the DEA want to bust Romeo for a series of drug-related offenses. Only problem being, they can never seem to catch him in the act. We're clued in early on as to why this could be, when we see Romeo employ a magic necklace to great effect to pass through customs unmolested. Except, he wasn't trying to smuggle drugs into the U.S., he was trying to smuggle a dead body; one that we later see him use in his "voodoo style" ritual show.

Figuring he can get to Romeo through Perdita Durango, James Gandolfini follows her around town. While an excellent plan on paper, James Gandolfini clearly forgot about the importance of looking both ways before crossing the street. Now, it might not sound like it, but the sight of James Gandolfini getting hit by a car is one of the funniest scenes in the movie. I don't want to over-analyze the reasons why I thought the sight of James Gandolfini's body crashing into the windshield of a speeding automobile was funny. But I will say this, the bulk of the humour came as a direct result of the arrogant air that floated around James Gandolfini's nimbus just before he started to cross the street.

At around this point in film we're introduced to Duane and Estelle, two relatively clean cut American teens. While their introduction seems unrelated to the Romeo and Perdita Durango saga, as we'll soon find out, their respective lives will soon intersect something fierce.

Blessed with some downtime before they do a job for a gangster named Santo (Don Stroud)–a job that has them transporting a trucked filled with frozen human embryos–Romeo and Perdita Durango decide to kidnap a couple of gringos to use in their next "voodoo style" ritual. And wouldn't you know it, they pluck a couple of blonde gringos named Duane and Estelle.

Even though it's best known as the song that appears at the end of Flirting with Disaster, I thought the way "Camel Walk" by Southern Culture on the Skids used in this film was more appropriate. You wouldn't think the same could said for "Spanish Flea" by Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass, but, as I stated earlier, the sight of Javier Bardem dancing–whilst in the seated position–to this particular ditty is awesome.

Will Duane and Estelle be able to survive their insane road trip with Romeo and Perdita Durango? Will James Gandolfini remember to look both ways before crossing the street? Who's to say? Of course, I realize I'm the one "to say." But I feel like I've already said too much.

Boasting not one, but two shoot outs (three, if you include the finale), a sexy Mexican stoner chick with killer thighs who doesn't "get" anime, Mascaras de la Lucha Libre, a gruesome death involving a bottle, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, an Ava Gardner assisted blow job, Alex Cox as an annoying DEA agent and a scene where a man over fifty-five uses an Abflex while watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Perdita Durango is a first-rate crime movie with darkly comedic overtones.