Film Review: Doctor Who: The Five Doctors (1983)

Release Date: November 23rd, 1983
Directed by: Peter Moffatt, John Nathan-Turner, Richard Martin, Pennant Roberts
Written by: Terrance Dicks, Terry Nation, Douglas Adams
Music by: Peter Howell
Cast: Peter Davison, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Richard Hurndall, Tom Baker (cameo), William Hartnell (archive footage), Anthony Ainley, Janet Fielding, Mark Strickson, Carole Ann Ford, Nicholas Courtney, Elisabeth Sladen, Lalla Ward (cameo)

Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), 90 Minutes (television), 102 Minutes (extended edition)

Review:

“A cosmos without the Doctor scarcely bears thinking about.” – The Master

While this was not a theatrical movie, it was a feature length special episode of Doctor Who and treated like a feature length production when it came out. It was created to celebrate the show’s twentieth anniversary and for only the second time in history, it teamed up multiple incarnations of the Doctor. This was also the biggest Doctor team up of all-time.

I want to treat all these feature length special episodes as films as opposed to just episodes mixed into the long running show. There are several of these and I want to review them separately, as their own bodies of work.

I was fortunate enough to see this one on the big screen, courtesy of RiffTrax. Now while it was a riffed version with hilarious commentary from some of the former cast members of the original Mystery Science Theater 3000, it was still an amazing experience seeing classic Doctor Who on a thirty foot screen. Especially a story that featured five Doctors.

While this isn’t particularly great as a film on its own, it fits beautifully within the Doctor Who mythos and is one of my favorite Doctor Who stories of all-time. Sure, it really only features three actual Doctors, as the First Doctor is not portrayed by William Hartnell, except in the intro as archive footage, and the Fourth Doctor really just has a brief one scene cameo and is really left out of the story. But all five of the Doctors are represented in some fashion.

The bulk of the acting duties falls on Davison (the Fifth), Pertwee (the Third), Troughton (the Second), Hurndall (as the new version of the First), Ainley (The Master), as well as some of the Doctor’s most famous companions: the Brigadier, Sarah Jane, Susan Foreman, Tegan and Turlough. Lalla Ward’s Romana II also cameos alongside Baker’s Fourth Doctor.

The story is a bit strange but that’s sort of the norm for old school Doctor Who, back in the days before the franchise had any female fans. But any excuse to bring multiple Doctors into an adventure, always works for me. Essentially, there is a big conspiracy and all the Doctors have to work together in order to save themselves. Each Doctor also has a companion from their runs as the character.

The special effects are on par with what was the standard for television show. It is low budget British television science fiction, so one has to sort of look passed the imperfections and hokiness and fill in the blanks with their imagination a bit. But this is always what I loved about classic Who. As a kid, it introduced cool concepts, with cheesy effects and it made my imagination run wild.

This story also features the Cybermen, a Dalek, the Time Lords and the super dangerous Raston Warrior Robot, who is a dude in a silver leotard and helmet that dances around, teleports and shoots spears.

The Five Doctors is far from perfect but it is a hell of a lot of fun for those who are fans of the original Doctor Who series, way before the 2005 revival. This is also my favorite of the multiple Doctor stories.

Film Review: RiffTrax Live: Summer Shorts Beach Party (2017)

Release Date: June 15th, 2017
Written by: Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, Bill Corbett, Bridget Nelson, Mary Jo Pehl, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, Paul F. Tompkins
Cast: Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, Bill Corbett, Bridget Nelson, Mary Jo Pehl, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, Paul F. Tompkins

RiffTrax, 120 Minutes

Review:

While this isn’t a typical movie in a movie format, I did see it theatrically, as it was intended, and I had a damn fine time.

Unlike most of the RiffTrax Live events, this one wasn’t about featuring a single motion picture. This event showcased a series of educational shorts.

For fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000, riffing on educational shorts is a long and celebrated tradition by these guys. Back then, shorts were used to fill up the two-hour time slot if the featured movie wasn’t long enough. MST3K often times used low budget B-movies from yesteryear. Usually those movies have much shorter running times so the space on the show had to be filled. This RiffTrax special honored that part of their legacy.

This show also was a MST3K reunion of sorts, as it didn’t just feature Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett but it included Trace Beaulieu, Frank Contiff, Mary Jo Pehl and Bridget Nelson. Comedian Paul F. Tompkins also showed up for this riffing extravaganza.

The shorts Ricky Raccoon Shows the Way and Rhythmic Ball Skills were riffed by the normal team of Mr. Nelson, Murphy and Corbett. Office Etiquette was handled by Beaulieu and Contiff while The Griper was riffed by Pehl and Mrs. Nelson. A Touch of Magic was presented by Paul F. Tompkins, as well as Mr. Nelson, Murphy and Corbett. The final and most bizarre short of the seven featured was The Baggs, which was riffed by the entire cast.

Before the big finale, which was The Baggs, they showed a cool clip reel of the best of the 300-plus other shorts they have riffed over the years.

I really enjoyed this style of RiffTrax event, even more so than them just riffing on a movie. The two hours flew by and I found myself laughing a lot more than I do with typical theatrical comedies. The theater I was at wasn’t packed but the people there were really enjoying themselves and letting loose. It was the best theatergoing experience I have had in years.

Ultimately, I hope they do more events like this. It was a blast and I’m even considering going back to catch the encore in a few days.

Film Review: Mothra (1961)

Also known as: Mosura (Japan)
Release Date: June 30th, 1961 (Japan)
Directed by: Ishirō Honda
Written by: Shinichi Sekizawa
Based on: a story in Asahi Shimbun by Shinichiro Nakamura, Takehiko Fukunaga, Yoshie Hotta
Music by: Yuji Koseki
Cast: Frankie Sakai, Hiroshi Koizumi, Kyoko Kagawa, The Peanuts, Ken Uehara, Takashi Shimura, Akihiko Hirata

Toho, 101 Minutes

Review:

Mothra is the most famous Toho kaiju after Godzilla. Even though he started out in this film, his very own movie, it was probably a nobrainer to bring him into the larger Godzilla mythos. But before all that, there was Mothra and frankly, it was great revisiting this monster in his debut solo flick.

In a change of pace, Mothra’s introduction is due to people messing with his island. He doesn’t come to Japan because he’s just some rampaging beast. A bunch of jerks stole the Shobijin, who are two miniature female twins from Infant Island. Mothra crashes Japan to find the Shobijin and to return them to their home.

The special effects are amazingly handled by Eiji Tsuburaya. The miniatures were great and the heat ray trucks were a prototype for the maser weapon trucks that would be used throughout Godzilla films forever after this movie.

Mothra, as a creature, was the most beautiful and ornate kaiju of his day. Tsuburaya pulled off the creature effects superbly and the art department did a fine job in decorating the monster.

It is more fun to see Mothra rough it up with other monsters but even though he is the only creature in this film, it still plays well. It is similar to Rodan in that it didn’t need to rely on other kaiju to be a success and to leave a mark on the genre.

To this day, Mothra is still incredibly popular. A version of the creature also had its own trilogy in the late 1990s, after popping up in that era’s Godzilla movies.

Mothra will probably just always be around. In fact, Mothra’s first American incarnation is coming in Legendary Pictures’ upcoming Godzilla 2.

As for Mothra, the movie, if you are a kaiju fan, this is a must-see.

Film Review: Miami Connection (1987)

Release Date: August 26th, 1988 (Central Florida theatrical run), December 11th, 2012 (re-release)
Directed by: Y.K. Kim
Written by: Joseph Diamond, Richard Park, Y.K. Kim
Music by: Jon McCallum
Cast: Y.K. Kim, Vincent Hirsch, William Ergle, Siyung Jo, Kathie Collier, Joseph Diamond, Maurice Smith, Angelo Janotti

P.J.K. Group, Drafthouse Films, 83 Minutes

Review:

Why this film never got real distribution in the 1980s is beyond me. Y.K. Kim, the director and star of the film, almost bankrupted himself making this picture. Distributors, at the time, laughed at him and told him to throw his work away because it was trash. While it had a small three week run in Orlando, Daytona and Melbourne, Florida, it wasn’t until an employee of Alamo Drafthouse theaters bought this, sight unseen on eBay in 2012, that the film got real recognition.

Alamo Drafthouse put this film out through their distribution company Drafthouse Films. Since that time, people have seen it, it has been riffed on the big screen by RiffTrax and it has gained a big cult following. After breaking himself financially and after decades of his film being lost seemingly forever, Y.K. Kim got to see all that hard work finally pay off.

Miami Connection is a film that would have blown my mind, had I seen it in the 80s. While I could see it not doing well theatrically, it would have been huge on the rental market. It is a film that is superior to most of the low budget pictures trying to capitalize on the martial arts fandom that existed in huge numbers, at the time.

While the acting in Miami Connection leaves a lot to be desired, it is a perfect mix of martial arts, pop music, friendship and fucking ninjas! Yes, ninjas! Ninjas make everything better. Ninjas can make a turkey sandwich turn into a 36 oz. tomahawk ribeye.

The action in this film is better than great. It certainly surpasses what was the norm in 1987. It is heavy on the Tae Kwon Do, which featured a lot of amazing looking kicks. Again, it is heavy on ninjas. In fact, the big grand finale that pits our heroes against a gang of ninjas in the Florida swamps is so damn good that it makes solid 80s action films feel pretty mediocre by comparison.

The story isn’t even important here. Hell, the story is pretty bad and incredibly cheesy. But it does serve the purpose of making this group of friends a bad ass pop band that kills ninjas on the reg. So maybe the story is actually friggin’ amazing!

The absolute best thing about this movie is the music. It is ahead of its time. You see, it is 80s synth tunes but it sounds more like one of these modern retro DJs that uses modern technology to create throwback 80s instrumental jams. It sounds like something Kavinsky would make now. What that means, is that it has a strong 80s flair but there is something about it that makes it more refined and almost modern.

Look, you’re probably going to love this film or hate it. If you hate it, you probably aren’t all that cool, to be honest and I don’t want your film recommendations.

Also, the Maurice Smith in this picture is the same Maurice Smith that was a pretty good MMA fighter in the 90s and early 00s.

Film Review: Samurai Cop (1991)

Also known as: Le Samurai de L.A. (Canada)
Release Date: November 1st, 1991
Directed by: Amir Shervan
Written by: Amir Shervan
Music by: Alan DerMarderosian
Cast: Robert Z’Dar, Mathew Karedas (billed as Matt Hannon), Mark Frazer, Gerald Okamura

Hollywood Royal Pictures, Demel International Corporation, Cinema Epoch, 96 Minutes

Review:

I got the pleasure of seeing Samurai Cop on the big screen courtesy of RiffTrax. While I have seen the film before, it’s been at least ten years and I needed a refresher. Besides, who wouldn’t want to see this incredible motion picture blasted onto a screen thirty feet tall? Sure, it was a direct-to-video movie in 1991 but this film deserves a presentation much larger than a 24 inch Curtis-Mathes tube television bought on lay-a-way in 1986!

The film stars Robert Z’Dar, the guy who played the title character in Maniac Cop and its sequels. He’s not the samurai cop though, he is an evil samurai out to kill the samurai cop played by Matt Hannon. This is actually one of my favorite Z’Dar roles of all-time and it is worth mentioning that Hannon is totally awesome, as well.

But it doesn’t stop there. Hannon’s cop partner is played by Mark Frazer, who gives some of the best facial reactions of any character from any film, ever. Hannon and Frazer also had a really good chemistry working within the buddy cop formula. It was like watching an infinitely more hilarious version of Riggs and Murtaugh from the Lethal Weapon film series.

Other highlights were the crime boss Fuj Fujiyama played by Cranston Komuro and the gay Costa Rican waiter played by Joselito Rescober.

Also, the score is great. It sounds like music ripped from an old Nintendo game.

The film follows Joe, the samurai cop, as he comes to L.A. from San Diego in an effort to take down the evil Katana gang led by Fujiyama. That’s really all you need to know about the story. The rest of the film is full of action, violence, dismembered limbs and fantastic, bad ass yet comedic characters who all do a perfect job playing off of one another. This looked like a really fun film to be a part of.

While the movie isn’t necessarily categorized as a comedy, it is. It plays like a parody of the buddy cop films of the 1980s, even though it is also its own thing. It hits all the required aspects of those films and even throws in the popular foreign villain formula. In this case, the Japanese, who were some of the most popular villains in action films, at that time.

Samurai Cop is a non-stop romp of tough as nails, comical awesomeness. Is it a great masterpiece of a film? No. But you’ll never have this much fun watching The Shawshank Redemption.

Film Review: Time Chasers (1994)

Also known as: Tangents
Release Date: March 17th, 1994
Directed by: David Giancola
Written by: David Giancola
Music by: Alice Damon Kinzie, Bill Kinzie
Cast: Matthew Bruch, Bonnie Pritchard, Peter Harrington, George Woodard

Edgewood Studios, 89 Minutes

Review:

Time Chasers was one of those films that actually wasn’t that old when it appeared on Mystery Science Theater 3000. It was released in 1994 but the film looks like a poorly made student film from the mid-1980s. In fact, the fashion and the world around the characters feels more like the 80s than the 90s. The film was shot entirely in Vermont, however, so maybe that state is a decade behind, culturally speaking.

This is a film that is several notches below mediocre. It is boring, fairly nonsensical and just plain stupid.

The hero, an amateur pilot, is able to time travel using a Commodore 64 and his airplane. For some dumb reason, he wants to impress a corporation with his “scientific breakthrough”. Of course, the corporation wants to harness this power for nefarious reasons. Then a bunch of dumber shit happens until the film finally ends. But not until the hero has second thoughts and throws his time traveling floppy disk in the trash bin.

Cheesy dumb pictures can be a lot of fun. This one isn’t. There is nothing endearing about it. You never once feel a shred of appreciation for the craft of the filmmakers. Time Chasers is a grind to get through. It is a worse grind than that 90s MTV dance show with Eric Nies called Grind.

It plays like a video made by the Vermont tourism board in an effort to showcase their beautiful landscapes. It works effectively for that but is bogged down by all the stupid shit around it. So I guess the only positive to come out of Time Chasers is seeing how lush and scenic Vermont is.

This movie is just horrible. You should probably ignore it unless you’re a Mystery Science Theater 3000 completist.

Film Review: Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)

Release Date: November 15th, 1966
Directed by: Harold P. Warren
Written by: Harold P. Warren
Music by: Russ Huddleston, Robert Smith Jr.
Cast: Tom Neyman, John Reynolds, Diane Mahree, Harold P. Warren

Sun City Films, Emerson Film Enterprises, 70 Minutes

Review:

“Every frame of this movie looks like someone’s last known photo.” – Joel, Mystery Science Theater 3000

With all these reviews I’ve written and all the films featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 that I have covered, I hadn’t yet gotten to the film that was the focal point of the most popular MST3K episode ever. But alas, here we are and I am finally reviewing the infamous and godawful Manos: The Hands of Fate.

The reason I hadn’t gotten to this yet is because the film is such a damn bore to get through. The commentary on MST3K makes it watchable to a point but even then, this is just a dreadful experience in every way. But never has a film deserved more ridicule than this piece of painful bloody excrement.

You see, I like many bad movies. Many of them are likable for their flaws. Ed Wood’s films, for instance, are damn near lovable because they have heart and charm in spite of their defects. Plus they have an interesting cast of characters. Manos has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. None.

The story sees a man, a woman and their child stop off at some country shack that is a hotel or something. It is run by a weird guy named Torgo, who looks after the place for “the Master”. Then this “Master” wakes up and a bunch of weird nonsensical shit happens and his brides wrestle around in togas in an effort to win his favor. Torgo pervs out on the wife, the husband is a wimp and the daughter is completely useless. There really isn’t much else going on but somehow the film is 70 minutes long.

Manos: The Hands of Fate is an ugly film visually and audibly. The cinematography doesn’t exist in any coherent way. The lighting is also horrendous. The costumes are worse than those at a Halloween party around a hobo fire. The soundtrack is irritating and shrill. The film’s overall audio sounds like lines spoken through two tin cans connected by a string. The picture is a technical marvel of shitastic proportions.

The acting and writing are even worse. I don’t think there was a script for this movie. I feel like the actors were handed a single index card with a few bullet points jotted down and that’s all they had.

For some reason, there are people that like this film because it is shit. I don’t trust those people. Again, I love a lot of bad movies but the ones I love have things to love about them whether it is Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space or Tommy Wiseau’s The Room or hell… even Jaws: The Revenge.

Manos is hands down one of the worst films I have ever seen. It fails in every possible way. Watching a rat in a glue trap trying to survive by munching on its own feces is a more worthwhile experience.