Over the Edge

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Last Updated on Friday, 24 July 2015 07:00

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Mad Max

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Last Updated on Friday, 15 May 2015 22:26

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Up in Smoke

up-in-smoke-reviewUp in Smoke (1978)   Paramount Pictures/Comedy   RT: 85 minutes   Rated R (language, nudity, sexual content/references, pervasive drug use and humor)   Director: Lou Adler   Screenplay: Tommy Chong and Richard “Cheech” Marin   Music: Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar, John Beug and Lou Lombardo   Cinematography: Gene Polito   Release date: September 15, 1978 (US)   Cast: Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, Strother Martin, Edie Adams, Stacy Keach, Tom Skerritt, Zane Buzby, Louisa Moritz, Mills Watson, Karl Johnson, Rick Beckner, June Fairchild, Val Avery, Rainbeaux Smith, Rodney Bingenheimer.   Box Office: $44.3 million (US)    

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Up in Smoke, the first movie to feature the comedy team of Cheech & Chong, is a stoner classic! I’ve been a fan since I first discovered them in ’79 when I heard the “Earache My Eye” routine on Dr. Demento’s late night radio program. I bought the soundtrack to this movie and immediately fell in love with their brand of drug humor. Naturally, I wasn’t allowed to see their movies at the time. My dad referred to them as “creeps”. I didn’t get to see Up in Smoke until April ’83 when I stayed home from school specifically so I could watch it one morning while Dad was at work. It was every bit as good as I had been hearing from my friends for years. As far as film debuts go, this is one of the best! Directed by Lou Adler (executive producer of The Rocky Horror Picture Show), it’s a laid back, free-flowing affair about the misadventures of a couple of stoners searching for the perfect high.

Last Updated on Sunday, 05 January 2014 21:40

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Earth Girls Are Easy

earth-girls-are-easy-revEarth Girls Are Easy  (1988)    Vestron Pictures/Comedy-Sci-Fi-Musical    RT: 100 minutes    Rated PG (mild sexual innuendo and references)    Director: Julien Temple    Screenplay: Julie Brown, Charlie Coffey and Terrence E. McNally    Music: Nile Rodgers    Cinematography: Oliver Stapleton    Release date: May 12, 1989 (US)    Cast: Geena Davis, Jeff Goldblum, Jim Carrey, Damon Wayans, Julie Brown, Charles Rocket, Michael McKean, Larry Linville, Rick Overton, Angelyne.    Box Office: $3.9 million (US)

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When choosing a movie to watch, you really have to keep an open mind or else run the risk of subsisting on a steady diet of Bergman and Godard.  Even the biggest cinephile would go mental after a while. I’ve always been attracted to movies with goofy titles like The One-Armed Executioner, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Surf Nazis Must Die, Surf Ninjas and (my fave!) The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies. As much as I love and appreciate quality film, I can’t resist any title at which others scoff. Naturally, I was instantly drawn to Earth Girls Are Easy, a goofball sci-fi-comedy-musical set in 1980s Southern California, the place on Earth that most resembles another planet. Those of a certain age know it as the birthplace of that now-extinct species commonly known as the “valley girl”.

Last Updated on Sunday, 11 January 2015 20:32

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Skatetown U.S.A.

SkatetownUSA-reviewSkatetown U.S.A. (1979)   Columbia Pictures/Comedy   RT: 98 minutes   Rated PG (language, skimpy outfits, drug humor)   Director: William A. Levey   Screenplay: Nick Castle   Music: Miles Goodman   Cinematography: Donald M. Morgan   Release date: October 1979 (US)   Cast: Scott Baio, Flip Wilson, Greg Bradford, Maureen McCormick, Patrick Swayze, Ron Palillo, Billy Barty, Ruth Buzzi, Lenny Bari, Katherine Kelly Lang, Murray Langston (aka The Unknown Comic), Denny Johnston, Judy Landers, Joe E. Ross, Vic Dunlop, Sydney Lassick, Bill Kirchenbauer, Dorothy Stratten, David Landsberg, Dave Mason, Leonard Barr.   Box Office: $2.3 million (US)    

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I lucked out in finding a copy of Skatetown U.S.A. as it’s never been made available on video or DVD. I remember watching some of it on cable TV at my girlfriend’s house when I was 13, but I don’t recall it being shown on any of the cable channels since ’81. Now I can scratch it off my list of “Lost Movies”. It’s not great, but it is a fun trip back to the short-lived roller disco craze of ’79. It’s one of three movies- Roller Boogie (1979) and Xanadu (1980)- that tried in vain to cash in on a fad that lasted a few short months before dying a quick death. I’m not knocking it, I happen to like the aforementioned two movies, but Skatetown U.S.A. definitely belongs in a time capsule. It’s a true cult film! It all starts with the wild fashions- the colorful outfits, the feathered hair-dos, the sparkle and glitter and the bared chests. Next, you have a soundtrack that sounds like one of those compilation CDs (“Disco Hits of the 70s- Vol. 3”) that you pick up for a few bucks at Wal-Mart. You know the ones I’m talking about, they contain all the staple hits of the disco era- “Boogie Wonderland” (Earth, Wind and Fire), “Boogie Nights” (Heatwave), “Shake Your Body” (The Jacksons) and “Born to Be Alive” (Patrick Hernandez), just to name a few.

Last Updated on Friday, 03 January 2014 22:17

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Carlito's Way

carlitos-way-revCarlito’s Way  (1993)    Universal Pictures/Drama-Action    RT: 144 minutes    Rated R (pervasive language, strong violence, nudity, sexual content, drugs)    Director: Brian De Palma    Screenplay: David Koepp    Music: Patrick Doyle    Cinematography: Stephen H. Burum    Release date: November 3, 1993 (US)    Cast: Al Pacino, Sean Penn, Penelope Ann Miller, John Leguizamo, Ingrid Rogers, Luis Guzman, James Rebhorn, Joseph Siravo, Viggo Mortensen, Richard Foronjy, Jorge Porcel, Frank Minucci, Adrian Pasdar, John Augustin Ortiz, Angel Salazar, Rick Aviles.    Box Office: $36.9 million (US)/$63.8 million (World)

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 I suppose the comparisons to the previous Pacino-De Palma collaboration Scarface (1983) are inevitable, but it isn’t completely accurate. Carlito’s Way is a gangster movie of a different color. I knew it was going to be great. It’s one of the few times I’ve seen audiences applaud a trailer. It happened at the pre-release screening of the Jean-Claude Van Damme actioner Hard Target that August. It was a very riveting two-and-a-half minutes. I could only imagine that the actual movie would be as cool. Carlito’s Way didn’t go over as well as Scarface did the previous decade and I understand why. It’s a much darker movie. Whereas Scarface was an all-out gangster flick, De Palma’s newer movie was more of a film noir piece. Tony Montana was a coked-up megalomaniac while Carlito Brigante was a gangster trying to go straight. He’s a more complex character than Montana. I think audiences were looking for a de facto Scarface sequel. I had a feeling that wouldn’t be the case.

Last Updated on Monday, 08 December 2014 22:13

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Bad Milo!

bad-milo-reviewBad Milo! (2013)   Magnet Releasing/Horror-Comedy   RT: 84 minutes   Rated R (bloody comic horror violence, crude humor, language, some sexual content)   Director: Jacob Vaughan   Screenplay: Benjamin Hayes and Jacob Vaughan   Music: Ted Masur   Cinematography: James Laxton   Release date: October 4, 2013 (US, VOD)   Cast: Ken Marino, Gillian Jacobs, Mary Kay Place, Patrick Warburton, Peter Stormare, Stephen Root, Toby Huss, Erik Charles Nielsen, Kumail Nanjiani, Steve Zissis.    

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Bad Milo! is an instant cult classic! It’s a throwback to the goofy, low budget horror movies of the 70s and 80s like It’s Alive, Basket Case, Brain Damage and pretty much anything from Troma Films. It will also never be accused of having any degree of subtlety, so I’ll follow suit and tell you what Bad Milo! is about. It’s about a monster that comes out of some guy’s butt and kills people that make his life miserable. Obviously, it’s a physical manifestation of his repressed rage. Anybody who’s seen David Cronenberg’s The Brood (1979) knows exactly what I’m talking about. Those creatures were pretty nasty and so is Milo, but he’s kind of cute at the same time. Yes, Bad Milo! is every bit as absurd as it sounds, but it’s supposed to be. It’s a deliberately absurdist take on the types of movies that used to fill slots on triple bills at sleazy, grimy theaters on New York’s 42nd Street. As you can see, I’m a fan of Bad Milo!

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 November 2013 20:41

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Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

Faster-Pussycat-Kill-revFaster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)   Eve Productions/Action-Comedy   RT: 83 minutes   No MPAA Rating (violence, sexual innuendo)   Director: Russ Meyer   Screenplay: Jack Moran and Russ Meyer   Music: Paul Sawtell   Cinematography: Walter Schenk   Release date: August 6, 1965 (US)   Cast: Tura Satana, Haji, Lori Williams, Susan Bernard, Stuart Lancaster, Paul Trinka, Dennis Busch, Ray Barlow, Mickey Foxx, John Furlong (narrator).   Box Office: $36,122 (US)

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In order to fully understand and appreciate a Russ Meyer (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls) movie, it’s important to know that they’re all about the same thing. Women with big breasts! That’s it. Everything else- plot, acting, narrative, dialogue, writing and production values- is secondary and that’s even attributing too much importance to these non-essential elements. That brings us to his 1965 action opus Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! which features a trio of go-go dancers on a weekend long crime spree. I first saw this one when it was rereleased in April ’95 to arthouse theaters around the country. I found it shocking and not for the reasons you might think. There’s not a single bit of nudity in it. That is, Meyer doesn’t treat us to gratuitous shots of the actress’ boobs or butts. By today’s standards (almost 50 years later), FPKK! is actually fairly tame. A few shots of the ladies’ backs and a bit of making out ….. that’s it.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 June 2014 21:05

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Fritz the Cat

fritz-the-cat-reviewFritz the Cat (1972)   Cinemation Industries/Comedy   RT: 78 minutes   Rated X (language, graphic violence, nudity, strong sexual content, drugs, adult content)   Director: Ralph Bakshi   Screenplay: Ralph Bakshi   Music: Ed Bogas and Ray Shanklin   Cinematography: Ted Bemiller and Gene Borghi   Release date: April 12, 1972 (US)   Cast: Skip Hinnant, Rosetta LeNoire, John McCurry, Judy Engles, Phil Seuling, Ralph Bakshi, Mary Dean, Charles Spidar.   Box Office: $25 million (US)    

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Based on Robert Crumb’s underground comic, Fritz the Cat is definitely a unique animal. It’s the first X-rated carton ever which brings to mind a funny story an old friend once told me about her mother trying to take her and her siblings to see it when they were kids. She couldn’t understand for the life of her why the theater wouldn’t let kids in to see a cute carton about a cat. Just imagine if they had gotten in; Mom sure would have had some explaining to do. Basically, it’s a satirical look at the counterculture of the mid-60s with anthropomorphic animals standing in for humans. For example, the cops depicted in the movie are pigs and black people are represented by crows. Okay, I realize how offensive that sounds, but Crumb didn’t give a damn about things like that. His work was never meant to have mass appeal, hence the term “underground comic”. Fritz the Cat is very much a product of its time. In other words, this thing is dated! But I think it holds up surprisingly well, especially for those with some idea of how things were in the era depicted. I’m too young to have lived through most of it (I was born in 1967), but I’ve done quite a bit of reading on the subject. I love the music of the time and have always thought of myself as a born-too-late hippie.

Last Updated on Sunday, 03 November 2013 23:26

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