Film Review: Young Mr. Jazz (1919)

Release Date: April 20th, 1919
Directed by: Hal Roach
Cast: Harold Lloyd, ‘Snub’ Pollard. Bebe Daniels

Robin Films, 10 Minutes

Review:

Hal Roach may best be known as the producer of the Laurel and Hardy and Our Gang (The Little Rascals) comedy film series. However, before all that, he directed some short silent comedies in the 1910s and 1920s. Young Mr. Jazz is probably one of the most well-known.

The film is quick and simple but it is really amusing. It is only ten minutes but it uses that time wisely and gives us a fun and energetic look at the popular culture of Roach’s era.

The plot sees a young couple running away from the girl’s father in their car. The car breaks down in front of a dance hall. The establishment is run by crooks, which leads to the couple trying to stay one step ahead of the girl’s father while also evading the criminal element in the club that is trying to swindle them for all that they have.

It’s a cute and fast paced movie. While it obviously feels dated, it’s 99 years-old, the humor still works and the picture is quite hilarious.

The film stars Harold Lloyd, who was a pretty prolific actor in these sort of films and a regular collaborator with Roach. Lloyd would also go on to direct and produce like Roach and he carved out a nice place as one of the comedic giants of his day, alongside Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

The collaborative efforts of Roach and Lloyd were pretty influential on comedy as a whole and they really helped set the stage for what would come after.

If you want to get into either the work of Roach or Lloyd, this is a good place to start and it is a short and sweet sample of what the two greats could do.

Film Review: The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies (1964)

Also known as: Diabolical Dr. Voodoo, The Incredibly Mixed Up Zombie, Cabaret der Zombies (Germany), The Incredibly Strange Creatures, Teenage Psycho Meets Bloody Mary (reissue title)
Release Date: February 10th, 1964 (Biddeford, Maine)
Directed by: Ray Dennis Steckler
Written by: Gene Pollock, Robert Silliphant, E. M. Kevke
Music by: Andre Brummer, Libby Quinn
Cast: Cash Flagg, Carolyn Brandt, Brett O’Hara, Atlas King, Sharon Walsh, Madison Clarke

Fairway International Pictures, 82 Minutes

Review:

“We’ve got twenty beautiful girls and only ten beautiful costumes!” – Barker

My god, man… this is one of the worst films that I have ever seen!

I’m not really sure what the hell happened in the elapsed time of me watching this film. There’s scantily clad girls dancing, a weird psychic lady with an unattractive mole and just some bizarre shit.

I feel like I got sucked into one of the long and drawn out hypnosis moments in the film because I blacked out for an unknown amount of time, only to wake up covered in blood and bird feathers. I don’t think it was effective hypnosis though, I just think it unlocked some insane part of my brain due to how absolutely atrocious this psychotic shit festival was.

This was featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. While I love that show, this is beneath them. Yes… something is beneath MST3K! In fact, I’m kind of mad at them for even resurrecting this pile of Sasquatch dung. It could have died a long time ago but they immortalized it.

There isn’t much to say about this other than to warn people away. But maybe I’ll use the time to list out five things that would be a better use of your time than watching this.

***Disclaimer: DO NOT actually do anything from this list. I am not responsible for you being a moron without a brain. So if you do these things and want to sue someone, sue your parents for raising a fuck up.***

  1. See how many pennies you can fit in your mouth.
  2. Throw darts at your foot.
  3. Kick a beehive and wait around for a second.
  4. Get ink for your quill by squeezing it out of a live octopus.
  5. Tell Brock Lesnar “wrestling is fake” to his face.

This thing really is friggin’ dreadful. That being said, it has to be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer. And the results read, “Type 6 Stool: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool.”

Film Review: The Last Dragon (1985)

Also known as: Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon
Release Date: March 22nd, 1985
Directed by: Michael Schultz
Written by: Louis Venosta
Music by: Bruce Miller, Misha Segal
Cast: Taimak, Julius J. Carry III, Chris Murney, Leo O’Brien, Faith Prince, Glen Eaton, Vanity, Mike Starr, Ernie Reyes Jr., Keshia Knight Pulliam, Jim Moody, Esther Marrow, Chazz Palminteri, William H. Macy, Carl Anthony Payne II, Ron Van Clief (uncredited)

Motown Productions, TriStar Pictures, 107 Minutes

Review:

“I’m gonna get you, Leroy, because I am the Shogun! I will not rest until everybody knows the Shogun is the master!” – Sho’nuff

The Last Dragon is a weird enigma and frankly, there is nothing else quite like it.

The story is about a boy named Leroy and how he becomes a kung fu master. His friends and students call him Bruce Leroy and there is a good amount of old Bruce Lee movie footage thrown into the picture for good measure. Between this and No Retreat, No Surrender, Bruceploitation was still alive and well more than a decade after the man’s death.

Leroy draws the ire of an evil kung fu badass named Sho’Nuff, who is played by the immensely awesome Julius Carry, who I would become a lifelong fan of after his role on the underappreciated television series, Brisco County, Jr. In fact, regardless of Carry being the badass bad guy, I love this movie mostly because of him and the very young Ernie Reyes Jr.

The two main stars of the picture are Taimak as Bruce Leroy and the ’80s pop star Vanity as Laura, who was essentially like an old school MTV VJ. You also get small roles from William H. Macy, Chazz Palminteri, Mike Starr and two of The Cosby Show‘s kids: Keshia Knight Pulliam and Carl Anthony Payne II. Legit martial arts star Ron Van Clief handled the fight choreography and had a small uncredited role.

While this isn’t a musical, it is a film that is very music heavy. One of the villains is an evil music producer that wants his girlfriend to become a massive star. In fact, I thought her song was pretty good within the context of the movie but Vanity seemed to be completely disinterested in it, which made the villain lash out and become even more villainous. Honestly, the bad song wasn’t really that different than most of the mid-’80s pop that fills the movie. Had she just played the music video, she could have saved herself and her friends a lot of stress.

The thing that makes The Last Dragon so unique is that it is a weird mix of kung fu, ’80s music, teen comedy and is a visual explosion of over the top ’80s style. The film almost feels like a fantasy that takes place in a world similar to ours but much cooler, where everything is accented by neon lights and chrome.

The Last Dragon is a pretty cool experience but it feels pretty dated. It probably isn’t everyone’s cup of tea in the modern era but for fans of ’80s cheese, it’s a nice cornucopia of ’80s style, music and humor. Plus, it is just a cool movie that’s a whole lot of fun.

Film Review: Juice (1992)

Also known as: Angel Town 2 (Europe video title)
Release Date: January 17th, 1992
Directed by: Ernest R. Dickerson
Written by: Ernest R. Dickerson, Gerard Brown
Music by: Hank Shocklee and The Bomb Squad
Cast: Omar Epps, Tupac Shakur, Jermaine Hopkins, Khalil Kain, Cindy Herron, Vincent Laresca, Samuel L. Jackson, George O. Gore II, Fab 5 Freddy, Doctor Dre, Ed Lover, Donald Faison, Oran “Juice” Jones, Special Ed, EPMD (Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith)

Island World, Paramount Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“You gotta snap some collars and let them motherfuckers know you here to take them out anytime you feel like it! You gotta get the ground beneath your feet, partner, get the wind behind your back and go out in a blaze if you got to! Otherwise you ain’t shit! You might as well be dead your damn self!” – Bishop

Any film that opens with a Rakim song is going to get me pumped up. Juice opens up with the best Rakim song, so I was hooked right away.

Truth be told, this was a favorite film of mine during my middle school years. It came out at the very beginning of the black film movement that happened in the ’90s. This, along with New Jack CityBoyz N The Hood and Menace II Society made a huge cultural impact and for good reason.

Watching it now, I do notice some of the weaknesses of the film, which weren’t as apparent in my younger days.

A big part of the narrative towards the end of the movie has to do with how the gun crazy Bishop (Shakur) is pinning his killings and crimes on his ex-best friend Q (Epps). While Bishop gets his just desserts and Q survives, it’s left unknown what the outcome really was. Was Q in trouble? Would he still be punished for these crimes? Or would his other friend Steel, who survived an attempt on his life, be able to save his friend. While Steel mentions that Bishop is setting up Q to a nurse that is their friend, you don’t know if he survives his trip to the ER. I guess it is to be assumed that it worked out okay but after Bishop’s death, the film ends abruptly.

Another issue I have with the narrative, is that it doesn’t really develop Bishop’s power trip enough. Sure, having a gun is power but it is pretty one-dimensional in how it is handled. Also, the group of friends, who skip school and steal records, still feel like decent kids. The plot shifting to them all of a sudden deciding to rob a corner store just happens out of nowhere.

Still, shaky narrative aside, the film is an adrenaline rush, especially over the course of the last act.

It is well acted by all important parties in the film. Epps and Shakur are pretty exceptional and both men were incredibly young in this. In fact, this was what brought Tupac into the mainstream for most people. He was given an opportunity, ran with it and did great.

The film is very stylistic and represents early ’90s east coast hip-hop well. There are also cameos from several known rappers and hip-hop personalities besides Tupac: Queen Latifah, Treach, Special Ed, EPMD and from Yo! MTV Raps, Ed Lover, Doctor Dre and Fab 5 Freddy. You also get to see Samuel Jackson in an early role, just before he broke out as a star in 1994’s Pulp Fiction.

I also love that they focused a lot on Q’s quest to make it as a respected DJ in the super competitive New York City landscape. The movie does a good job of showcasing what DJ battles were like at the time, when DJs still mixed manually and didn’t have computers and gadgets to make their lives infinitely easier.

Juice is gritty and has a strong feeling of realism to it. Plus, it has a lot of energy and a great soundtrack.

Documentary Review: Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013)

Release Date: May 18th, 2013 (Cannes)
Directed by: Frank Pavich
Music by: Kurt Stenzel

City Film, Snowfort Pictures, Sony Pictures Classics, 90 Minutes

Review:

While this movie does shit all over the David Lynch adaptation, I won’t let me personal feelings on the matter get in the way of enjoying this documentary and experiencing the vision that Alejandro Jodorowsky had for Frank Herbert’s Dune.

The guy certainly has a gift for creativity and an interesting vision and his Dune certainly would have been an incredibly unique experience that could have beat Star Wars to the cultural phenomenon punch and actually have been the trendsetter for big blockbusters to come.

However, this is one of those things that probably looks a lot cooler on paper and I can’t blame Hollywood for not making it. It’s bizarre and I just don’t see how it would have connected with the general public. Sure, art house film lovers would have probably ate it up but there’s no way that this bizarre movie would have captured audiences’ attention like Star Wars did.

The problem I have with it, is what Jodorowsky loves about it. It is his vision and really, a bastardization of Frank Herbert’s iconic science fiction novel, which is considered by many to be a sci-fi bible.

Jodorowsky could make his own sci-fi epic with as different as this film would have been from its source material. While the Lynch adaptation was ruined by producers, at least it had the story mostly right and his visual work is still what I see in my head when I read any Dune book. And Lynch’s creation certainly fits the tone much better.

Jodorowsky is in love with himself and his ideas. The guy is a bit off of his rocker and incredibly self-absorbed. He even compared what he was doing to Herbert’s work to raping your wife on your wedding night… but raping her with love. I’m serious, that’s how he saw this project.

Frankly, Lynch’s film was far from perfect but I’m glad that we got that version instead. Even if Lynch has disowned it since it came out.

As a documentary, this was really interesting, especially for fans of Dune and the fact that this was almost made in the early ’70s. If anything, it is cool hearing the tale of how this insane picture almost happened and how all the key players came together, one of which was Salvador Dali.

The Quintessential Christmas Mixtape

I worked in a mall for more years than I care to remember. Therefore, traditional Christmas music gives me the feeling of dread and terror. I can’t stand it and I have never recovered. Especially, that damned Chipmunks song.

That being said, I figured that I would compose a list of Christmas songs that are better than the redundant shit you hear blasting through the mall, as you and other evil shoppers try to kill each other over NutriBullets and toilet seat covers.

Here is my Chipmunk free list.

1. “Merry Muthafuckin’ Xmas” by Eazy-E
2. “Stripper Christmas Summer Weekend” by GWAR
3. “Santa Claus, Go Straight To the Ghetto” by James Brown
4. “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues with Kristy MacColl
5. “King Night” by Salem
6. “Christmas In Hollis” by Run DMC
7. “Last Christmas” by Wham!
8. “Back Door Santa” by Clarence Carter
9. “Christmas Was Better In the 80s” by The Futureheads
10. “Father Christmas” by The Kinks
11. “It Doesn’t Often Snow on Christmas” by Pet Shop Boys
12. “A Wonderful Christmas Time” by Paul McCartney and Wings
13. “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” by Twisted Sister
14. “Sleigh Ride” by TLC
15. “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses
16. “Christmas Rappin'” by Kurtis Blow
17. “Black Xmas” by Venom
18. “Ghostface X-Mas” by Ghostface Killah
19. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” by Dio
20. “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)” by The Darkness
21. “Santa’s Got a Muthafuckin’ Uzi” by Mr. Lif
22. “Santa Claws Is Coming to Town” by Alice Cooper
23. “Run, Run Rudolph” by Lemmy Kilmister, Billy Gibbons and Dave Grohl
24. “Millie Pulled A Pistol On Santa” by De La Soul
25. “Viking Christmas” by Amon Amarth

Film Review: Convoy (1978)

Release Date: June 28th, 1978
Directed by: Sam Peckinpah
Written by: B. W. L. Norton
Based on: the song “Convoy” by C. W. McCall
Music by: Chip Davis, C. W. McCall
Cast: Kris Kristofferson, Ali McGraw, Ernest Borgnine, Burt Young, Franklyn Ajaye

EMI Films, United Artists, 112 Minutes

Review:

“Piss on you, and piss on your law.” – Rubber Duck

Convoy came out during the heyday of car and trucker movies. While it isn’t as remembered as the iconic Smokey and the Bandit, I think that it is a better movie. It’s less comedic and more serious and therefore, not as marketable as Smokey but it has something to say, where Smokey was just a fun time.

While we don’t have Burt Reynolds or the always great Jerry Reed, we do get Kris Kristofferson playing a badass trucker with a trucker army. We also get Ernest Borgnine as a sheriff so evil he would probably frighten Jackie Gleason’s Buford T. Justice. Plus, Burt Young is also in this and I have to say, it is my favorite role he’s ever had after Paulie from the Rocky movies.

I would have to say that this probably popularized the use of CB radio outisde of the trucker community. It showed it as a cool sort of trucker subculture thing where everyone talked shit and had cool nicknames like “Rubber Duck”, “Love Machine” a.k.a. “Pig Pen”, “Spider Mike”, “Widow Woman”, “Big Nasty”, “Pack Rat”, “Cottonmouth”, “Old Iguana”, “Lizard Tongue”, “White Rat”, etc. I had friends well into the ’90s who were still using CB radios as their form of social media back before the Internet was bigger than AIM and Geocities communities.

Convoy follows Kristofferson’s Rubber Duck and his trucker buddies, who get harassed, entrapped and bullied by a crooked sheriff (Borgnine) and his cronies. The sheriff is literally mad with power but is always upstaged by the truckers he has targeted. Things escalate, the truckers take a stand against the crooked lawmen and we get a socially and politically conscious movie. However, Rubber Duck doesn’t even really know what he wants or even what to say when he becomes a leader to a growing convoy of pissed off truckers.

This is a film that’s message is very much a reflection of 1970s America, where we were in a sort of cultural limbo where authority wasn’t to be trusted and society started to question itself. This was just after Nixon and the Vietnam war and major racial tensions accented by riots and police brutality. But the film, like society, had no real answer for any of it. It shows us a group of people who are just sick of it all and pretty much say “fuck it.”

It’s funny though, because we do live in a world where people once again worship the police and the military. Sure, America is socially and politically segmented and not everyone blindly swallows the propaganda but films like this are a reminder that maybe we should question what the majority just accepts without any real thought. Or maybe I am seeing Convoy as a much deeper film than it was really intended to be but I don’t think so. Unfortunately, it is a message that seems lost today but should resonate just as loudly with police brutality being in the media so much more and with the countless wars we keep getting involved in.

But however you feel about these issues, this film does tap into that sentiment and when compared to Smokey and the Bandit or those other fun trucker and car movies of the ’70s, Convoy has something more to offer and is a more important film, even if a solution seems lost.