Invasion of the Bee Girls

JULIE ZORN:  All right, you might as well know. We went to dinner at the Flamingo Bar and Grill. And by about 10:00 we were playing footsies under the table and having dessert like the good old days. And then we went to the hotel.  And then it happened.

AGENT AGAR: What happened?

JULIE ZORN:  We balled, and we balled, and we balled until he dropped dead.

AGENT AGAR:Touché. Let's go to lunch!

It took me a while to scrub my mind after the rape-fest that was Nude Nuns with Big Guns, and yet for some reason, I still wanted to dive right back into a sexploitation flick. Maybe I just wanted to see one done right. Who knows?

Maybe I just like boobs. Yeah, it's probably that.

Moving along.

Mixing Mad Science and Sex is never a bad thing in my book. What could go wrong?  I mean other than creating an army of sex-crazed killer bee-women. Psychotic sex-crazed-Stepford's aside, you've got nothing to worry about. Following a formula startlingly similar to a sexualized version of Jaws (1975), the film's story unfolds as a group of horny scientists are killed through "sexual exhaustion" until a curfew and forced abstinence is put in place. However, much like for Sarah Palin's children, the abstinence plan works about as well as you would think and the deaths continue until the movie switches gears into a classic 1950's monster movie complete with radiation and mutant bees.

And boobs.

Unlike our previously mentioned heavily armed Catholics, the film's level of misogyny never really rises above the traditional pat on the head of the self-assured male, who is then promptly seduced and killed by a killer bee-woman. Sure, the women here (either innocent and ignorant or seductive and murderous) are nothing more than sex objects, but that's the entire point; what with scenes carefully lit to hide the face but reveal the breasts and buttocks. It's easy to see what the main selling point of the film was (hint: It's not the compound EYES).

But is it any fun?

And the answer is absolutely.

From the opening notes of the insect-rific fa-la-la score by Charles Bernstein, to the closing momentous destruction of the film's doomsday device, there is never a moment where you won't marvel at the cheap 70's take on a b-grade sci-fi monster flick.

Besides, there's bees and boobs.

Resident Evil: Extinction

When one gets to the third film of what could be a horror/sci-fi trilogy, certain gimmicks have to be introduced.  These include but are not limited to: the end of the world (the risk of or the actual), deserts or cute critters of some sort.  Not to be outdone, director Russell Mulcahy chocks Resident Evil: Extinction with all three!

The world is good and properly screwed by this third installment and Alice (Milla Jovovich) has taken up Leonard Smalls’ (Randall “Tex” Cobb in Raising Arizona (1987)) mantle as “the lone biker of the apocalypse.”  Hiding from the evil Umbrella Corporation for fear of their turning her into a weapon, hiding from her friends for fear that they will be used against her by Umbrella and hiding from the hordes of zombies, because, well, they smell bad, Alice is wandering around directionless.  Much like this movie.

It’s difficult to determine whether or not the lack of direction helps or hurts this movie.  If it were on purpose, Mulcahy may have been showing through the film the terror and nothingness that awaits us poor survivors of the zombie apocalypse: a life of scrounging for food and praying that there will be a point to any of it.  On the other hand, if it were not on purpose, it just goes to show that the filmmakers had no idea what to do with this installment and said “Screw it, put ‘em in the desert and release the crows!”  I go back and forth.

Don’t misunderstand, Extinction has a lot going for it, not the least of which is the sexiest pile of corpses I’ve ever seen. (Yeah, I said it.  Find a cuter corpse pit and we’ll talk.)  Building off the ending of Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004), Alice has gone full-Tetsuo (Akira 1988).  These powers come in hand when Claire Redfield’s (Ali Larter) convoy of survivors is attacked by a murder of zombie crows.  That’s right, zombie crows.  In one of the most metal moments in film history, Alice destroys them using her brain and fire.

Also, helping the film are above average zombie make-up and a heaping helping of Day of the Dead (1985) references.  After five years, the zombies are looking a little worse for wear and the effects team did a wonderful job of showing that decomposing flesh and the sun do not mix.  Meanwhile, Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen) works in an underground Umbrella facility with the foolish notion of domesticating the zombies into a viable workforce.  Care to guess how that goes?

Like most third films, Extinction does not stand well on its own.  However, within the series, it is not a bad installment and sets up a great ending that does actually continue into the fourth installment.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse

In order to make a good horror movie sequel, the filmmakers must abide certain rules and conventions.  None of which are more important than the underlying rule: More.  And with More comes the equally important: Bigger.   Happily, for action/horror junkies like myself, Alexander Witt understood these rules and delivered the wonderfully over-the-top Resident Evil: Apocalypse.

Picking up from before the previous installment left off, Witt shows the audience how the Umbrella Corporation’s T-Virus spread and devastated Raccoon City leading up to Resident Evil’s (2002) climactic cliffhanger.  Joining (the finally named onscreen) Alice (Milla Jovovich) are a motley crew of actors that continue the first film’s tradition of English people pretending to be American including Sienna Guillory doing a disturbingly-accurate Jill Valentine impression, Oded Fehr being the man, Thomas Kretschman from the five year period in which he was the ONLY working creepy German in film, and Zach Ward playing a Russian…  Riiiiiight.

Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to rescue Umbrella scientist, Charles Ashford’s (Jared Harris) daughter from the quarantined Raccoon City, kill as many zombies as possible in the process, evade and/or stop Nemesis, a monosyllabic hulking monster who uses a minigun but only when he’s tired of using his rocket launcher, and, just so things are not too easy, escape an impending nuclear missile strike.

Witt and screenwriter/producer Paul W.S. Anderson like to pack as much as humanly possible into a sequel.  Luckily, they have more money to do so than the first film and they waste not one penny.  Right from the beginning, the scale of this sequel dwarfs the first film by focusing on an entire town, using primarily exterior shots to contrast the claustrophobic Hive, and inundates the audience with large action sequences.  Within the first eleven minutes, we get car crashes, zombie executions and delightfully ridiculous helicopter stunts.

And all that’s before Alice destroys three Licker monsters in a church with a motorcycle, bullets and sheer badassery.  Upping the ante from merely being tough, Alice now officially has superpowers!  You see the T-Virus, which at least kills everything and at most turns every human it infects into a hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength, simply made Alice hotter, better, faster, and stronger.  One could cry foul but this clearly falls under the “ What’s Good for the Goose is not Good for the Main Character” clause of science fiction/horror writing.

Aside from the larger scale of the film, Resident Evil: Apocalypse exceeds as a sequel for its greater sense of fun, for lack of a better word.  Resident Evil was a very “serious” movie.  Apocalypse on the other hand cannot take itself too seriously if only because at different points Alice runs down a building with no thought to gravity and feels conflicted about destroying a her friend who has now mutated into a horrible creature.  It’s silly and Witt embraces this aspect by giving us gallows humor, creepy zombie children eating a grown woman, Grand Theft Auto references, and, because you’ve been good little boys and girls, Zombie Strippers.

Resident Evil

Remember the days before Alien vs. Predator (2004) premiered in theaters?  You know, the days when it was not a requirement to hate Paul W.S. Anderson; but rather, a life choice similar in gravity to deciding one’s career, underwear preference and toilet paper roll position.  Once again, we here at the Cavalcade of Schlock ask you to journey with us back to simpler times when all we knew from Anderson was the terrifying Event Horizon (1997) and the greatest Enter the Dragon (1973) remake, Mortal Kombat (1996) and take a look at the first installment of the Resident Evil series.

Milla Jovovich stars as the aptly unnamed, amnesiac protagonist, an employee of the evil Umbrella Corporation (Traveler’s Insurance, I’m looking at you!), the world’s leading developer for all things technological, pharmaceutical and Frankensteinian.  Jovovich is a security operative stuck dealing with hordes of zombies after a botched theft of Umbrella’s T-Virus and an artificial intelligence-controlled security system kill everyone in Umbrella’s underground lab.  Luckily, Jovovich is not alone.  Joining her amidst an assortment of cookie-cutter paramilitary types are the always-annoying Michelle Rodriguez and the always under-used Colin Salmon.

Anderson does an excellent job of getting the action started early and maintaining that momentum throughout the course of the film.  (Also, starting with a semi-nude Jovovich doesn’t hurt.)  However, Anderson is hindered by a low-budget.  Get ready for a lot of shots that either look like the interior of every office building in which you have ever worked or else some unidentifiable void.  What should be atmospheric and/or a creepy technological installation comes across at best Syfy Saturday fodder and at worst an Uwe Boll film.  Compare this with Return of the Living Dead 4: Necropolis (2005) and tell me if there’s much of a difference.

While the action is fairly non-stop, the bulk of the action is based around classics of  video game logic: the “go here to get something over there working,”  the “find the artifact,” and the old standby “OHMYGOD WHY WON’T YOU DIE?”  Adding to the video-game-en-scène are a heavily techno-inspired Marilyn Manson soundtrack, awkward/fixed camera angles, random piano blares, and frequent looks at the “map screen.”  While these may seem like detractors, I found these homages enriched the film if only because Anderson did not randomly inject actual screen shots of the game into the film like other German-directed video game films (House of the Dead (2003))

My only real complaint is that 90% of the film is not scary.  If you have seen any zombie movie before, you’ve seen all the scares, jumps, and pop outs in this film.

[SPOILER] However, the ending sequence from the exit of the Hive to the final shot are truly scary.  If only because the sequence pops out of nowhere and tonally feels like nothing else in the film. [END SPOILER]

But, if you’re looking for a soild horror/action film, you could do worse than join the world's skinniest action star for 90 minutes of zombie ass-kicking.  That and the end shot is absolute gold.

Chopping Mall

Gentle readers, it's time to discuss a sad, sad truth: God hates you. Now, you may try to argue that God gave humans free will, dominion over all we survey, and, most importantly, life. However, you fail to notice that God is trying to kill life on the planet. Consider lightning. Possibly God's most “metal” creation since, well, metal. Lightning can incinerate the living and bring inanimate things to life like Frankenstein's Monster, Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)), sea monkeys, and robots. And what do these all have in common? They all want to kill humans! Especially the sea monkeys. They're just biding their time. As we learned in the seminal work on artificial intelligence, Short Circuit (1986), without the calming influence of Ally Sheedy, lightning-infected robots will rampage and destroy all living things. Such is the case with the security droids in Jim Wynorski's Chopping Mall.

Continuing the 80's trend of placing the plot of a slasher movie in new and exciting venues, three young, nubile couples hang out in the local mall after hours to have a pastel and big hair orgy in the furniture department. The mall has recently upgraded its security system with the installation of three security robots that resemble the bastard children of the Daleks and Vishnu. Unfortunately for our lovers, lightning has struck the mall and set the robots on a kill-crazy rampage. Locked in the mall, the the couples attempt to destroy the robots and survive until the doors open in the morning.

One of the real treats of the film is the cast. It's essentially the lost and found of 80's schlock cinema; featuring Russell Todd from Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)Kelli Maroney from Night of the Comet (1984)Dick Miller from Gremlins (1984) and everything else, a blink and you'll miss it cameo from Rodney Eastman from A Nightmare on Elm St. 3: The Dream Warriors (1987)Mary Woronov from Death Race 2000 (1975), Gerrit Graham from Child's Play 2 (1990) and one of the greatest scream queens: Barbara Crampton. And where there's Barbara Crampton, there's gratuitous nudity!

And what goes better with gratuitous nudity than gratuitous violence? These robots pull no punches as they deliver possibly the best head explosion since Scanners (1981). I give the teens credit as they also take the fight to the robots in an attempt to survive the night.

This movie was nothing but action and cheesy acting. I loved it. While the running time comes in on the shorter side, this movie would pair up nicely with any other slasher of the era and, in particular, I got a distinct Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1998) vibe.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

If you’ve stumbled onto this website by accident and have somehow been unable to pick up on the obvious, we here at the Cavalcade love a bad movie.  In fact, we meet every month to just rip a movie apart for four hours.  It’s surprisingly cathartic.  In 2009, when director Michael Bay unleashed the cinematic equivalent of the baby from Eraserhead (1977) known as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (RotF), we started chomping at the bit for the third installment.  The third movie in any Sci-Fi/Fantasy series is always the worst and considering just how awful RotF was, DotM would probably be the worst movie since Ed Wood conned his way onto a film set.  So you can imagine our surprise when we report that DotM is actually….good?

Years have past since the events of RotF and the Autobots and Sam (Shia Labeouf) are busy trying to make their way in the world.   However, since something has to happen or there is no movie (and even worse, no merchandising rights) the Decepticons start playing their old tricks again, revealing a secret withheld from the Autobots.  As it turns out, the entire space race was actually to find a crashed Autobot ship on the moon; as opposed to the betterment of mankind (and the crushing of Communism).  This sets off a chain of events that could legitimately end world.  I cannot go into further details for fear of revealing spoilers as there is so much plot in this movie.

If you’ve just finished laughing hysterically, I will say it again: there is an actual plot in a Transformers movie directed by Michael Bay.  I would not have believed it had I not seen it myself; but I did and I do.  Granted, it is a “We have to prevent DOOM!” plot, but it is solid. A leads to B, which in turn leads to C-as opposed to RotF: wherein A lead to B lead to HIDEOUS RACISM and testicle jokes.  It is almost as if Bay and the writers watched RotF, made notes as to where they went wrong and did the exact opposite for DotM.  This includes keeping the story moving forward at all times, explaining what the hell is going on, presenting the Transformers as actual characters, balancing the action and the talking, and cutting any and all superfluous characters.

This leads into an even scarier admission: I even enjoyed the humans in this film.  Whereas in the previous installments everyone was basically a caricature, here they are characters.  Sam Witwicky is dealing with trying to get his first job out of college, and speaking as someone looking for work in this economy, I can identify with this character.  Bay gives every character on screen something real to do that advances the story, even the previously annoying Wheelie and Brains.

Make no mistake: this is still a Michael Bay film.  There are more than enough explosions, boobs, slow motion, low angles, and military advertising for the film to meet Mr. Bay’s demands that “everything be awesome!”  However, he also decided to make his most solid picture since The Rock (1996), and for that we reluctantly thank him for making a movie that we will only be able to make fun of half as much as we had hoped.

Priest 3D

I've been wracking my brain for a few days now to figure out a way to start a review of Priest 3D. Do I start with a quick breakdown of the plot? Essentially a post-apocalyptic take on John Wayne's The Searchers with the Priests as the Cowboys and mutant vampires as the Indians, the film centers on one such Priest (Paul Bettany) whose niece is abducted by vampires, causing him to set out across the wasteland, seeing to her rescue. He does so against the wishes of the Ministry, headed up by Monsignor Orelas (Christopher Plummer, who is either hurting for work or seriously slumming in this picture). Apparently the vampire menace has been put down, and any hint to the contrary is a threat to the totalitarian protective construct that the church has built.

Wackiness and Violence ensue, eventually leading to another group of priests (led by Maggie Q) being sent to bring back our protagonist, by any means necessary. Before long they run into the evil Priest/Vampire hybrid, Black Hat (played rather lethargically by Karl Urban), who wants to tear down the church... or something. To be honest, by the time they got to his motivation for anything, I wasn't really paying attention anymore.

Of course, the above breakdown pretends that the plot makes any kind of sense, which it doesn't. This film isn't only bad, it's AGGRESSIVELY bad. It's the kind of movie that comes into your house at night, steals your babies, and returns them to you as mindless zombies whose only purpose is to churn out money to see movies this. Freakin'. Bad.
Not even fun enough to mock, the film's pacing was set to fast-forward so you couldn't digest any of the scenery (recycled from a dozen other post-apocalyptic films), the characters (two-dimensional is actually adding an extra dimension), the monsters (badly recycled from the crappy vampires in "I Am Legend"), or the afore-mentioned threadbare plot. The movie never lingers on any particular element long enough for you to care, and as such, boredom quickly settles in. The one interesting aspect, that of the dictatorial Church of the Cyberpunk Jesus, is glazed over 4 minutes.

Well, at least the action's good, right? Sadly, no. Suffering from the same pacing problems as the rest of the picture, the action sequences are slap-dashedly thrown together so that you can't tell what's going on with the exception of a couple of "gee-whiz this was shot in 3D" moments.

As it's based on a Manga, I can only suppose that there is a better story to be had here, and it's a shame that the setting that could have been interesting wasn't used to better effect. Really, there's nobody to which I'd recommend this movie. It's terrible to sit through on your own (as I did), and the choice of action-packed vamp flicks for a Cavalcade has much better choices, the Blade Trilogy for starters. The first two for quality entertainment, and the last one for something to rip to shreds with friends.

Wraith, The

If you are frequenting this website, there is a strong possibility that you have seen The Crow (1994)Brandon Lee’s final picture about one man raining supernatural vengeance upon those that so thoroughly wronged himself and his girlfriend.  The Crow takes itself very seriously almost to the point of turning into an emo-filled parade.  However, if you’re less of a Hot Topic person and more of a Dick’s Sporting Goods guy, you may want to watch Mike Marvin’s The Wraith, the story of Charlie Sheen raining supernatural vengeance upon those that wronged him…..with car racing.

Packard Walsh (Nick Cassavetes) and his gang of “road pirates” (an actual term used in the film) stalk the highways of Arizona, strong-arming unwilling muscle car drivers into racing for pink slips and then chopping up the cars to sell the parts on the black market.  The gang comes across as The New Kids on the Block equivalent of black marketeering.  There is the leader (Packard), the preppy one Minty, the nerdy one (Rughead played by the one, the only Clint Howard), the gay one (Oggie), the redneck one (Gutterboy), and the so-addicted-to-drugs-he-snorts-transmission-fluid one (Skank).  Their hideout/garage looks like the modern version of The Monkees’ old house adorned with neon and even sporting a pinball machine!

Packard’s frustrated.  Sheriff Loomis (Randy Quaid) is giving his gang a hard time just because of all the violence and destruction they cause.  The woman he loves (Sherilynn Fenn) will not put out no matter how many people he bludgeons to prove his undying love to her.  And now, this kid on a motorcycle (Charlie Sheen) has ridden into town to steal his thunder.  What’s a road pirate to do?

What does this have to do with Charlie Sheen wreaking his supernatural vengeance?  Well, not a lot which is why the narrative is so confusing.  Charlie Sheen is in the film for maybe 15 minutes all told and his scenes involve either him spouting philosophical nonsense that would even make Kwai Chang Caine grimace or taking Sherilynn Fenn’s bathing suit off.   For all intents and purposes, Packard is the main character of the story of a ghost coming back from the dead to get revenge on Packard.  Now, this would not be a downside if this were an extended episode of Tales from the Crypt.  However, in an 80s movie that plays out more like Better Off Dead (1985) with race cars, it gets a little confusing as to for whom the audience is meant to root.

These are all the questions that will bother you if you can make it past the fact the plot is there only to service a 90 minute car commercial.  And what fancy cars they are!  The titular Wraith drives a one of a kind “Turbo Interceptor,” which comes across as the most interesting character in the film.  Which, for the NASCAR crowd, will show that Mike Marvin was not a bad filmmaker, but was actually ahead of his time.

Predators

I suppose it’s a sign of the times that instead of a highly trained and diverse team of American special operations troops we have a motley crew of killers from around the globe in Nimród Antal’s Predators.

The story suffers from the same problem that most franchises these days have: it’s a really awesome piece of fan fiction. I found myself wondering how good this movie could have been if they’d have just said “Predator inspired us,” but went further in other directions.

Adrien Brody plays the grizzled main character, who we meet in mid-air as he plummets toward an unknown jungle. He and his full-auto-shotgun cross paths with six other internationally known types of bad-asses, like a member of the Yakuza, a Spetznaz soldier, an Israeli sniper and others who were all deposited the same way. Then there’s Topher Grace. Grace’s presence leads to several fish out of water jokes and the most dramatically brain-dead twist since it turned out Harry J. Lennix was behind it all in Dollhouse.

The plot is the Schwarzenegger original turned up to 11. Brody and his Testosterone Team are being hunted by god knows what only now it’s on a whole other planet, which would have been revealed in the movie with a neat skyline shot had they not given it away in the previews two months before the release of the film.

And then they get hunted some more. That’s pretty much it. There are hints, provided in the form of a Laurence Fishburne cameo, that there is some sort of war going on between two separate Predator races, but it adds almost nothing to the plot. Fishburne does have fun as a sort of human answer to the Bald Headed Bear to the Predator’s John Candy in The Great Outdoors , but that joy is short lived as the movie is intent on hinting that man is the real monster despite the fact that these people were kidnapped by aliens.

I hate to come across as a jingoistic when it comes to alien cultures, but you know what? If you are going to abduct people from our planet for sport hunting, well you had best be prepared for me to not care how “evil” the people you are hunting are. Up with the Humans!

The movie gets a lot right, including building tension like the original and having some of those really nasty “These people are being hunted!” moments, but it actually feels hamstrung by the Predator premise.

Let’s think a minute on action movies. You find an excuse to blow things up and shoot and things, and you build a narrative around it. Predator was cool precisely because we had never seen anything like it, and the tension comes from people having no clue what the hell the Predator actually is. After one hard sequel and two spin-offs, we know what the hell a Predator is so now the only surprise is how the predator kills people. That sounds a lot like an intergalactic slasher franchise, which Jason X already did and while it was terrible, it was at least fun.

Forgotten, The

The Forgotten asks a very important question: What if there were aliens who had no concept of science, yet had the technology to do what they please?

Julianne Moore plays Telly Paretta, a woman mourning the loss of her son who died in a plane crash. Gary Sinise plays her therapist, and he can't shake his villain voice.

Then suddenly everyone starts forgetting she had a kid. Then she can't find any pictures of him. Then Sinise tells her he's been gradually working toward telling her that it was all in her head.

Did I mention my hero Dominic West is in this movie?  He plays Ash, a guy Paretta met at their children's funeral, which he also does not remember. He plays the character as a drunk, because hey, if you have a strength.  .  .

He doesn't remember his daughter or Paretta's son, so he calls the cops to take her away. The cops pass Paretta off to a pair of feds, one of whom is another alum of The Wire: Robert Wisdom.

Ash suddenly remembers everything, races down to the street and busts Paretta out the car and the pair bolt. They wander around for awhile, while the Feds attempt to help the aliens do whatever it is they want to do  and it turns out that yes, extraterrestrials took their kids. Roughly half the cast as well, just gets yanked up into the sky whenever the get too close to the conspiracy. No exaggeration on my part either. People start talking about the conspiracy and then they are yanked into the sky via an invisible bungee cord.

No one remembers any of this... except Moore.

Moore is an outstanding actor, and plays this whole drama out with such gravitas that the stupid twists are like a spork in the eye.

Of course, it turns out the aliens have been experimenting with humans to see if they can wipe people's memories and understand human bonding. The movie also falls into the the classic "Puny Human Fallacy" of the Sci-Fi Bad-B movies-with A-list Actors and effects. As a matter of fact, the further down the Fallacy trap during said scramble as  rabbit we follow him down the hole...into a cave...with alien super-tech. Which leads us to the next logic flaw.

If these aliens have all this technology, what good does psychologically torturing humans actually do them? Sounds like those Nazi experimentsSpace Nazis! The alien scientist, played by wonderful supporting actor Linus Roache, says the entire thing is an experiment, and if Paretta doesn't forget her son, the experiment fails.

Brief aside about science and experiments: an experiment does not fail if you don't get the result you were looking for. It's an experiment. The result always teaches you something! Unless it's political science.

This is movie is so overwrought and self-consciously serious that it begs to be mocked. It's like that one kid in middle-school that read Nietzsche and thought they'd figured it all out. In addition, it's trying so hard to fit the conventions of multiple genres (Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller), it doesn't manage to work on any level. I'm not really sure what other movie takes itself so painfully serious that could go with it, outside of Mother Night with Nick Nolte as a Nazi.