Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thunder Alley (J. S. Cardone, 1985)

Even though there are subtle hints that punk and new wave exist in the world depicted in Thunder Alley. It's safe to say that bland, middle of the road rock music is the dominating force. Call it the macho version of Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains, call it the eyeliner-free version Breaking Glass, I'd even go as far as to call it the winklepicker-less Scenes From the Goldmine. Anyway, call it what you will, this movie, directed J.S. Cardone, might lack the visual flair of the flicks I just mentioned. But it's still a pretty good rise, fall, and then rise again redemption-heavy '80s rock movie. Sure, the movie's band, Magic, doesn't have a synth player, but... Wait a minute, they do have a synth player. In fact, he's using a Yamaha DX7. I think the reason I thought Magic didn't have anyone on keyboards was because the first few songs I heard of theirs seemed to be devoid of synths (which annoyed me like you wouldn't believe). Or maybe the synths were just drowned out by the bands obnoxiously straight-forward guitar rock sound. Either way, their soon-to-be drug addicted synth player can definitely be heard during the songs they play while touring the dive bar circuit. Only problem being, the quality of his keyboard playing begins to suffer as the band starts to gain traction. Why, you ask? Um, it's simple, really, he's addicted to drugs. I know, you're thinking to yourself, his substance abuse problem shouldn't effect his playing. Granted, it might ruin his life in other ways. But I think most people agree, drugs make you a better musician.

While that might seem like a controversial statement. Think about all the great albums in your record collection. Do you think they were made by people who weren't high on cocaine? I don't think so.

I think the reason the drugs had a negative effect on Magic's keyboard player was because he was, well, a keyboard player. Falling over guitar amps in a foggy haze or pounding maniacally on a drum-kit are synonymous with drug-fueled rock stardom. On other hand, keyboard players need to remain focused. Seriously, has a rock keyboard player ever died of a drug overdose? (I recall the touring keyboardist for the Smashing Pumpkins dying of a heroin overdose back in the 1990s.) Okay, that's one. That being said, it's still not that common.

Another factor, of course, was the anti-drug hysteria that was sweeping America at the time. And this hysteria was reflected on the big screen in the form of plot lines that featured illegal drugs as the primary antagonist.

A holdover from the hedonistic 1970s, drugs, like, heroin and cocaine, were viewed as the worst, most evil things in the universe.

As per usual, women and the morbidly obese are to blame for the drug addiction that threatens to cut Magic's meteoric rise off at the knees. You see, the woman typically gets the drug from the morbidly obese individual, who, in turn, passes the drugs onto unsuspecting rock stars in training. It should be noted that the woman uses the confines of her silky vagina as a lure as well. And who among us can resist the confines of a silky vagina?

Uh, I'll tell you who can. Richie (Roger Wilson), that's who. The guitarist and occasional frontman for Magic is offered a tasty slice of chlorine-soaked pussy at a pool party (hence, it being chlorine-soaked), but turns it down. Partly because he's currently "seeing" the Phoebe Cates-esque Beth (Jill Schoelen), the counter-woman at the local sundae stand. But mainly because she looks like trouble.

In case you're wondering, the reason I called Richie the ""occasional" frontman of Magic is because Skip (played by the always awesome Leif Garrett) is supposed to be the bands frontman. Their rivalry, intensified by the fact that Skip didn't want Richie to join the band, is what drives the plot in the early going. However, once Skip realizes that Richie is a major talent, he puts his jealous feelings aside and begrudgingly accepts Richie into the fold. I mean, if Benjamin Orr and Ric Ocasek of The Cars could share singing duties back in the '70s and '80s, why can't Magic?

At first, Donnie (Scott McGinnis), the band's keyboard player/chief songwriter, and the reason Richie became a member in the first place, reaps much pleasure from the fact Skip is constantly irritated by Richie's presence. This backfires big time when Donnie starts to resent Richie. And, you guessed it, Donnie resorts to drugs and guilt-free groupie poontang (ignoring his soda jerk/new wave girlfriend in the process) to dull the pain.

While a lot of the bands success can be attributed to Richie's guitar playing and songwriting prowess, you shouldn't discount the advantages that come with having Clancy Brown as your road manager. Don't believe me, just ask the club owner who tries to pay the band with a cheque. Not only did Clancy cause  him to piss his pants, they got paid in cash, yo.

What I think I'm trying to say is, Clancy Brown is a bad-ass. (Duh, squared!) Yeah, I know. It should go without saying. But I don't think I've ever reviewed a Clancy Brown film on here.

At any rate, you're probably wondering about the fashion in Thunder Alley. Well, I can tell you this, it's not all blue denim and white t-shirts paired with sneakers. In fact, if you look closely, you can spot the odd punk here and there.

Watch when Richie and Donnie are walking through an alleyway ("Thunder Alley," perhaps?) on their way to The Palace (the exalted concert venue that looms large throughout the movie), you can see a couple of punk chicks leaning against a wall.

As for new wave duds, both Carol Kottenbrook (who works at The Palace) and Cynthia Eilbacher (Donnie's girlfriend) wear short skirts with studded belts and funky sleeveless tops.

While not as flashy as the movies I mentioned earlier (Breaking Glass, for example), Thunder Alley is still a solid '80s rock movie. If you liked Eddie and the Cruisers, you should definitely check it out.

In case you're wondering, "Can't You Feel My Heartbeat" is my favourite Magic song. Oh, and special thanks to chyneaze for recommending this movie.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Tangerine (Sean Baker, 2015)

My expectations going into Tangerine were, I have to admit, kind of low. Preparing myself for what was surely going to be ninety straight minutes of life-affirming, humour-challenged, Sundance-approved twaddle, I folded my beautiful arms and said: Bring it. Huh? Why were my expectations so low? Oh, it's because so-called indie movies seem to have lost their edge in recent years. And in the case of this film, I was anticipating yet another movie about people who don't spend the bulk of their day turning tricks, doing drugs and riding public transit. (Don't tell me, the characters in Tangerine do all three of these things?) You got that right. Granted, they don't do all three at the same time. Nevertheless, the amount of relief I felt the second I discovered Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and Alexandra (Mya Taylor) were sex workers struggling to survive on the sun-baked, tangerine-coloured (hence the film's title... I think) streets of Hollywood was astronomical. Of course, I realize that there have been countless movies made about sex workers over the years. But I think most people will agree that you probably haven't seen a hooker movie like this before. First things first, look at the leads. That's right, they ain't white. Every other hooker movie I can think of, at least the one's I've reviewed, always feature white prostitutes (Angel and Hanna D. are two that immediately come to mind). Sure, some of them feature black or Asian women. But they're never more than "the white lead's friend" (Streetwalkin') or worse, ethnic window dressing (Vice Squad). So, you could say, that the film, co-written and directed by Sean Baker (Greg the Bunny), is revolutionary.

However, it's not pompous tripe. It's dirty, cheap and the lead characters aren't always likable. I know, how can someone as winsome as Sin-Dee be not likable? Um, she drags (by the hair) a fellow streetwalker across town simply to make a dramatic point to Chester (James Ransone), her boyfriend/pimp. Yes, I understand the boyfriend/pimp needed to be taught a lesson, but that poor woman was basically flung to-and-fro like a rag-doll for a huge chunk of the movie.

In the grand tradition of other single-night/single day in L.A. movies (Miracle Mile, Modern Girls, Into the Night and The Night Before - the Keanu Reeves one), Tangerine depicts the city as a dangerous place filled with desperate people living on the fringes of society. Or maybe I thought it was dangerous because I'm deathly afraid of the sun (the giant ass sphere of hot plasma is so motherfuckin' bright in this movie). Either way, I found the scummy realism of the street scenes to be quite appealing.

It also helped that Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor were not only believable as best friends, but believable as the kind of sex workers who hang out at donut shops; there's nothing phony about their depiction of bottom tier whoredom.

The plot basically goes like this: While a newly reunited Sin-Dee and Alexandra (the former just got released from prison) are chatting at their favourite donut shop, Alexandra accidentally lets slip that Chester, Sin-Dee's boyfriend/pimp, has been cheating on her with a sex worker whose name begins with the letter 'D.'

As you might expect, Sin-Dee is furious, and embarks on an exhaustive search for this D-woman that takes her all across beautiful downtown, I'm guessing, West Hollywood. That being said, while her search might be "exhaustive," that doesn't prevent her for supporting Alexandra, who has a singing gig booked later in the evening. Did I mention it's Christmas Eve? Anyway, seeing Sin-Dee multi-task (supporting her friend and getting back at Chester simultaneously) was mildly inspirational.

In order to keep things interesting, we're introduced to Razmik (Karren Karagulian), an Armenian cab driver with a thing for a certain type of prostitute. (He likes black chicks?) Yeah, um, uh.... I guess you could say that. Anyway, when he discovers that the sex worker, played by Ana Foxx (Black Girl Gloryholes 12), he just picked up is lacking in one crucial area, he goes looking for Alexandra, who isn't... lacking (their car wash hook-up is strangely romantic).

After much poking around, Sin-Dee finally finds the D-woman, a scrawny blonde afab named Dinah (Mickey O'Hagen), and sets in motion her plan to confront Chester, her, like I said, boyfriend/pimp... (Wait a second. Her pimp's name is Chester?) I know, what kind of name is that for a pimp? I don't know if this was done on purpose or not, but it was so sad to see Sin-Dee, who is pretty much the cutest person, like, ever (she puts on a one-woman adorable clinic while sitting on a bus stop bench), wasting her time on that Chester asshole.

Women who can rock white cut-off jean shorts with black hole-ridden pantyhose don't date guys named Chester. At least they don't on my watch. Then again, judging by the men who populate this film's glaring (seriously, I grew to appreciate shade even more after watching this film) universe, her choices are rather limited.

I know I was hard on Sin-Dee earlier for her harsh treatment of Dinah, but I did tear up a little bit when Sin-Dee takes a moment to fix Dinah's makeup. Call me a total sap, but the lighting, the music, and the overall temperament of the scene acted as sort of tonic for me, as it briefly reminded me that hos, and people in general, should be nicer to one another.

Despite its gritty exterior, Tangerine is clearly a film, even though it pains me to say so, that is on the cusp of being life affirming. It's true, things get somewhat ridiculous when Razmik's mother-in-law shows up at the donut shop (the scene is like a Three's Company episode... one, mind you, that was directed by John Waters), but not even that can ruin the core of this movie. Which is, the friendship between Sin-Dee and Alexandra. Beautiful, touching, funny and vital as fuck, I kind of loved this movie. Oh, and, yes, it was apparently shot on an iPhone.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Goth (Brad Sykes, 2003)

On the third occasion when Goth introduces herself to a Goth couple by saying, "Hi. I'm Goth," and the Goth couple respond, "So are we," I threw my hands up in mock surrender. Meaning, despite this films numerous flaws, I can't stay mad at a film that is this Goth. I know, you're thinking to yourself: Oh, Yum-Yum. You of all people should know that this film, written and directed by Brad Sykes, isn't Goth. For starters, it's directed by a guy named "Brad" (the least Goth name, like, ever). I see where you're coming from, my black clad friend. But I've recently decided that labels like, "Goth" and "Industrial" and others like, "Mathcore," "Liberal" and "Aggrotech" are pretty much meaningless. Seriously, what is Goth? Well, according Goth (Phoebe Dollar), the lead character in the aptly named Goth, in order to be truly Goth, you need to follow the three rules of Goth. Since there might be a handful of you out there who don't know what these rules are, I'll go ahead and list them. And they are: 1. Embrace the darkness. 2. Kill your fears. And 3. Live for death. Follow these three simple rules and you'll be well on your way to being a better Goth in no time. Of course, it doesn't hurt that to have a kind of "Goth Whisperer" to help guide you on your journey to becoming the Goth you've always wanted to be. Personally, I want to be a skinny-armed Goth princess... but that's, um, a different kettle of onion rings all-together.

Just for the record, I've never heard of any these so-called "Goth rules." Maybe because I never had a "Goth Whisperer." But did I really need one? I mean, I own Christian Death's first two albums and "First and Last and Always" by The Sisters of Mercy for criminy's sake. In other words, what else do I need? Okay, owning a pair of pointy buckle boots would be a start. But other than that...

According to Goth, Goth is more about attitude than fashion and music. Actually, she seems also to think that sex, drugs and murder are the keys to being Goth. And she foists this sinful trifecta into the PVC-slathered laps of two Goth posers named Crissy (Laura Reilly) and Boone (Dave Stann) at a Goth concert.

I will say this about Goth's approach to Goth, it re-injects an aspect of danger into the Goth subculture. Hampered by the barf-inducing whimsy of some of Tim Burton's lame-ass movies and the Evanescencification of the scene in general, I think Goth has lost its way in recent years. While I think stabbing people with knives is totally uncool, I think drug abuse and kinky sex are acceptable... in moderation of course.

Personally, I think Goths should subsist on a steady diet of Coil albums and the films of Rinse Dream. But that's just me.

Meeting, like I said, Crissy (black lip stick/purple streak in her hair) and Boone (black lipstick/mesh tank top), at a Goth club, Goth offers to give the couple a sneak preview of new drug called "White Light." While waiting for Goth to show up with the drugs she promised, Crissy and Boone are confronted behind the club by a couple of muggers. Not to worry, though, Goth makes short work of the muggers just as they were about to rape Crissy (they switched from being muggers to rapists when they realized they didn't have any money).

In case you're wondering, Goth is wearing black boots, a red leather skirt and a black PVC top. She also has a funky forehead tattoo and the word "Goth" tattooed on her chest. And she made "short work" of the muggers/rapists by employing the three Goth rules I mentioned earlier. I can't believe owning a pair of pointy buckle shoes and/or boots isn't one of the rules. Weird. But then again, I don't think pointy shoes and/or boots would have helped Goth against the muggers/rapists.

After doing a couple of lines of White Light, Crissy and Boone wake up in the back of Goth's van. Adorned with skulls, red lights and Goth band flyers, Crissy and Boone are obviously still trippin' balls something fierce.

Oh, and when Crissy is reluctant to snort the White Light, Goth throws this gem her way: "I thought you were Goth." Actually, that line sums up this movie in a nutshell. The whole movie is basically Goth telling Crissy and Boone they're not Goth if they don't do what she says.

You can't really blame her for thinking that way. Other than Siouxsie Sioux and Rozz Williams, I don't think there's ever been anyone more Goth than Phoebe Dollar. You can complain about this film's low budget and suspect acting as much as you want, but there's no way you can deny that Phoebe Dollar isn't Goth. Hell, she oozes Goth from every orifice (eww).

Having to settle with seeing her languish in dinky roles in movies like, Werewolf in a Women's Prison and Rat Scratch Fever, I was pleased to finally see that a movie that allowed Phoebe Dollar to display her talent as an actress. She utters the bulk of the film's dialogue and is on screen pretty much the whole time. So, if you're like me, and desperately need more Phoebe Dollar in your life, Goth is the movie for you.

The film itself isn't that bad, either. The soundtrack is wall-to-wall industrial rock and the score features pounding synths of the creepy variety. The gore is okay (the members of an indoor heterosexual hootenanny spit copious amounts of blood after being repeatedly stabbed with a knife wielded by a Goth). They mention the word "Goth" at least fifty times. And the chubby redhead Boone is "forced" to bone during the massage parlor scene was sexy as hell (she was wearing a PVC garter belt!!!!).

Though, I have to wonder: Who was driving Goth's van? They never reveal who the driver was. Wouldn't it have been cool if, say, Robert Smith was the one driving. Or maybe Peter Murphy. Or Andrew Eldritch. Or... well, you get the idea. Oooh, Patricia Morrison and David Vanian! Anyway, talk about a missed opportunity.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Violence and Flesh (Alfredo Sternheim, 1981)

Don't you just hate it when a movie doesn't list the names of actors and the roles they play? Well, that's exactly what Violence and Flesh (Violência na Carne) does and I'm not too happy about it. Sure, I might have been able to piece it all together if I was at all familiar with Brazilian celebrities from the late 1970s/early '80s. But I'm not. So, that means I'm going to have to give names to the eleven or so characters who populate this film's cramped universe. The first six characters we meet are a trio of criminals, who, from the looks of it, just broke out of prison and/or robbed a bank, and two lesbians and their lean live-in boy-toy. Now, the lean live-in boy-toy is going to be called just that, "Lean Live-in Boy-Toy." Did you just ask, why? Okay, well. Um. He's lean, oh, man, is he ever lean. He's a boy. And he lives in a house with two lesbians (I'll explain the "toy" part later on, if there's time). At any rate, instead calling the lesbians, long-haired lesbian and short-haired lesbian, I've decided to call the long-haired lesbian, "Staunch Lesbian," 'cause she seems more invested in her Samba-soaked brand of lesbianism, and the short-haired lesbian, "Reluctant Lesbian," 'cause she comes across a tad less, oh, how should I put this... (Less dykey?) Um, no. Well, yes. I was thinking more along the lines of "less lesbiany." Either way. Now, where was I? Ah, yes. When the film opens, the Staunch Lesbian and the Reluctant Lesbian are smooshing their tan-line adorned bodies against one another for strictly orgasm-related purposes, while the Lean Live-in Boy-Toy is doing Brazilian yoga on the beach.

Meanwhile, the aforementioned trio of crooks are planning their getaway. Since they set their getaway car on fire (with one of their partners in crime in it), they need to find a new set of wheels. And they find some when they steal the car belonging Hand Wound McGillicuddy. What's that? Why did I call him that? Let's see. He sports a hand wound throughout the film and I like the name "McGillicuddy." It's that simple.

As for the criminals themselves. This was a little more complicated. I was going to name their idealistic leader, "Reluctant Rapist." But I don't think that properly reflects his character. No, I'm thinking that the leader of this band of misfits and ne'er–do–wells should be called the "Doomed Dreamer." Mainly because he desperately wants Brazil to be better country. But forces beyond his control seem determined not to allow this happen.

The other two were easy to name, as they wear their heinousness on their sleeves. While the Doomed Dreamer is a complex idealist with a conscience, Redneck Raúl and Brazilian Peter Lorre are pretty much rapists and murderers. Though to fair, Brazilian Peter Lorre does take a moment, in-between raping the Lean Live-in Boy-Toy, to talk about his mother, which was on the cusp of being touching and junk. However, make no mistake, these two are the worst humanity has to offer.

As bad luck would have it, the Doomed Dreamer, Redneck Raúl and Brazilian Peter Lorre (with Hand Wound McGillicuddy in tow) show up at the door of the Staunch and Reluctant Lesbians. In an act selflessness, the Lean Live-in Boy-Toy tells the Lesbians to hide before the crooks come bursting in. Unfortunately, their ruse doesn't last long, as Brazilian Peter Lorre eventually finds the lesbians hiding in a closet.

The reason the fugitives decide to hold up at this particular beach house is because they're expecting a boat to come ashore that will hopefully whisk them away to freedom.

Since you can't really have a home invasion with only six characters (well, I suppose you could...), we're introduced to three more. Two women and a man, the women are both actresses, both brunette and both possess shapely booties. That being said, they do have distinctive personalities. I've chosen to call brunette #1 "Juanita Stockholm" because she falls in love with the Doomed Dreamer.

As for brunette #2. I was going call her Miss Yellow Dress, for obvious reasons. But then she goes ahead and changes into a tight pair of white satin disco pants midway through the movie. So, yeah. How 'bout this, I'll call her Miss Yellow Dress. But just remember that she changes into a pair of tight white satin disco pants later on.

Did anyone else let out an audible gasp when it's revealed that the yellow dress that Miss Yellow Dress is wearing is actually two pieces? Call me, oh, I don't know, fashionably challenged, but I could have sworn that it was one piece. As per usual, I kept imagining what I would look like in the dress. Despite the fact that yellow isn't my colour (even though marigold, butterscotch and canary are in right now), I decided... (What about the guy the actresses was with?)

Who? (You mentioned a man.) Oh, him. Fuck that guy. (I agree. But still, you should name him.) Okay, fine. The guy traveling with Juanita Stockholm and Miss Yellow Dress is "Johnny Not Raped."

Now, let's get back to that dress, shall we? Can you believe it wasn't one piece? I mean, I was, like, whoa. I did not see that coming. (Why is he called, "Johnny Not Raped"?) Well, if you must know. All the guy does for the entire movie is whine and complain, yet he's the only one who isn't assaulted. Hell, even Hand Wound McGillicuddy is shot in the hand, and he's forced to watch his beloved boy-toy raped by Brazilian Peter Lorre.

And get this, Johnny Not Raped has the nerve to blame Miss Yellow Dress for being raped. I know, what an asshole. Men who blame women for being raped are pure scum. So, fuck you, Johnny Not Raped. You worthless piece of shit.

Does Hand Wound McGillicuddy blame Lean Live-in Boy-Toy for his rape? Of course he doesn't.

Goddamn it! Just thinking about Johnny Not Raped is making my blood boil.

Yeah, I know. I should reserve some vitriol for Redneck Raúl and Brazilian Peter Lorre. But those two are unabashed low-lifes. In that, I expect them to be cruel and heartless. Johnny Not Raped, on the other hand, is supposed to be a good guy. Ahhhhh! This movie is so awesome, yet so awful at the same time.

Speaking of awful, Redneck Raúl and Juanita Stockholm prove once and for all that overalls look terrible on both men and women equally. Unless you're pitching hay, I don't want to see you in overalls. Wait. Six on Blossom can wear 'em. But that's it! No more overalls in non-farm, non-Blossom environments.

In conclusion (yeah, I'm afraid I'm done writing about this movie), Violence and Flesh is an excellent slab of Brazilian exploitation. Sure, it's basically a home invasion flick. But it's got enough unique flourishes to make it worthwhile. I'd recommend watching it alongside the sleaze-tastic Bare Behind Bars. Which is not only one of the best women in prison films ever made, it's Brazilian as well. Oh, and since there are no clips or trailers for this film on youtube (which is odd, as I thought everything was on youtube), I've decided to embed this clip from Bare Behind Bars instead. Edit: The entire thing can be found here.