Review: Nightmare at Noon (1988)

Home, James

So, if good guys wear black, I guess, uh…

NAN.BR.Cover.72dpiWhile it’s absolutely packed to the hilt with stunts, thrills, and explosions galore (and how!), Nico Mastorakis’ 1988 flick Nightmare at Noon isn’t exactly the brain food of action movies. In fact, if you go in expecting even a decent plot to speak of, your brain may beat you somewhat senseless about two minutes in and turn itself off so it can enjoy the wild ride without you gargling on about what small amount of plot there is. Basically, if you miss the opening credits, there goes the story, and there’s not much there to begin with (and even less if you’re looking).

All you need to know is a secret scientific agency (or not so secret, as they roll around in two black custom vans with their agency’s name on them!) has chosen a small US town to experiment with some nefarious goings-on and it’s up to a handful of gun-totin’ tourists and local heroes to make things right.  So you get Wings Hauser, Bo Hopkins, and Kimberly Beck starring with George Kennedy and Kimberly Ross versus that town full of newly green-blooded raging townspeople and a bunch of well-armed bad guys. A strangely silent Brion James kicks the flick off as the mysterious Albino, but despite all his evil machinations, his total lack of dialog actually hurts the film despite the nearly non-stop action that follows. I gather he was paid enough for bleaching his hair and wearing some contact lenses to make him look albino and decided to charge by the word for dialog or something?

(Thanks, ScreamFactoryTV!)

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Trouble (Living With It)

(Thanks, Thomas Barnett!)

So, the latest advice from the government is more or less let your abuser move right on it and sure, too many of you will possibly suffer the negative consequences. But hey, we’ll tell you you’re 99% safe and the economy is more important than staying alive because you can’t live without a little sacrifice. Or a lot of little sacrifices that add up to be a lot more. Maybe. My head hurts at all this sheer negligence going on, especially when a more urgent and actually powerful federal response would have worked better from the outset, but nope. It’s been hands off and putting people who have no scientific knowledge or care to grasp it “in charge” of not keeping millions of others safe. plus muzzling or talking over the science-minded folks when they speak out publicly, along with promoting the brick-headed, stubborn ones who are afraid of rocking a slowly sinking boat and its erratic Captain Queeg.

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Random Film of the Week: Shin Godzilla

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They’re going to have a meeting about having a meeting, most likely.

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Sometimes, a kick to the Shin works.

Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi’s Shin Godzilla is, for all intents and purposes, more of a grand live action anime because it translates much of its visual style and energy rather successfully from some of both of its creators’ previous well-known animated works. It’s also a sly poke at Japanese government bureaucracy where every decision has to go up a few ladders and lengthy meetings are constantly being held even as a horrific, mutating monster makes its radioactive presence known.

As a reboot of the classic franchise it works excellently in delivering a new and more terrifying Godzilla that mutates from a googly-eyed giant, arm-less gilled beast that flops and slides along because its body can’t hold it up, to a 400-foot tall nuclear blasting fiend that requires a lengthy cooldown after it uses its powers. This isn’t a Godzilla who’s a kid-friendly lizard who punches other monsters in the face and goofs around. Nope, the film takes it back to the more horror-laced 1954 original in terms of tone, laying on a modern plot where every decision made needs discussion and division heads and other leaders change into fancy jumpsuit ensembles just to look official while executive orders are issued.

(Thanks, Funimation!)

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(Not So) Random Film of the Week: The Omen (1977)

“Never work with children or animals.” – W.C. Fields

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Hell is other people, indeed…

Now, I’m quite sure Gregory Peck very likely wasn’t thinking of this well-aged quote while shooting The Omen, but I get a chuckle out of maybe thinking he was because he surely goes through all nine circles of Hollywood hell in dealing with his demon-bred son with the quirky birthmark (Harvey Spencer Stephens) and a couple of dogs that get to attack him (and his stunt double) with relish (or whatever it is dogs use as a condiment. Maybe… Chow Chow Picalilli?).

If his character had lived to be in the inevitable and somewhat silly (but still kind of scary) sequel, Damien: Omen II, I’m sure he would have also wanted to kill a few mockingbirds (a murder of crows, if you will) if one of them had ever decided to give him the old “good luck” airdrop plop, but (uh, spoiler alert?). he doesn’t live to see that happen (end spoiler). I’d make an Atticus F(l)nch joke here. but I don’t want to push my luck.

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“Isn’t he a little angel?” Uh, not really. You’ll see…

Then again, there’s an air of bleak inevitability in Richard Donner’s film that pervades every frame and it’s not hard to see from the opening titles onward that Jerry Goldsmith’s sole Oscar winning score (more on that later) was predicting some very bad things to come. I was too young to see this back in 1976, but I recall a schoolmate telling me his parents took their four kids to see it and they were all traumatized to some extent, but it was all they talked about for weeks.  As the family was pretty religious, my guess now is that was one surefire (heh) way of keeping them in church.

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(Not So) Random Film of the Week: No Blade of Grass

no blade of grassSo, I lost a coin toss with myself a few days ago and ended up watching a pretty dark film from the lower end of the bucket list. Reasons, I guess. I also guess I should put a trigger warning here, as this one’s something else.

Grim meets garish (plus tax where applicable) in Cornel Wilde’s 1970 apocalyptic survival shocker No Blade of Grass, which is very likely not a film you want to see if you’re holed up in quarantine for a spell. Then again, it’s a film that’s brutal to watch under any circumstances, with its kind of timely by today’s calendar plot and Wilde’s decision to linger on some scenes that are a bit too exploitative and counteract whatever strong ecological message he was trying to send.

Then again, the source material wasn’t exactly a pleasant story either. Still, Wilde (who co-wrote, directed, and produced the film) gets his powerful message across from the opening moments, using a sledgehammer of assorted mostly stock imagery of polluted water, air and land, plus what seems to be clips of a dying emaciated child to let you know business is meant in all that intensity of the opening moments. I think there was a nuclear explosion in there somewhere as well, but I might have been busy trying to find my jaw, which was under the sofa when it fell off and rolled under it. I need to vacuum more, it seems, as my chin was a bit dusty when I located it. Uh, so mind-blowing and downbeat opening, plus a reach for a finger pistol depressing tune (sung by Roger Whittaker!) as a main title? Check.

(Thanks, The Film Archives!)

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Life is Sweet (Trick or Treat 2)

Okay, things are back to normal… well, the internet works much better today, I mean. I need to catch up on a few too many reviews, but first, some brain draining to take care of. It helps me in these crazy times. This will be another TO BE CONTINUED entry, thanks to a bit of stream of consciousness working itself into this post, but I think we’ll be done by the third one.

Maybe.

(Thanks. Cuerva!)

I don’t swim at all not because I’m lazy or never had the opportunity to learn. When I was about 7 or 8, the parents sent us to summer camp and maybe ten minutes into the very first day there, one of the counselors decided to grab some frightened kid from the back of a group of kids who’d never seen a lake up close before and toss him into it. There’s nothing like taking in the sights while airborne and screaming, then the shock of cold water hitting your body (or your body hitting the water at speed) and seeing fish swim away along with a few water snakes. And man, those assorted pebbles and rocks on the bottom of the lake? I was getting a geology lesson and learning about a small selection of sea life while sinking like a proverbial stone. Ah, memories!

To be fair, I didn’t even know snakes could live in water until that point and I would have been surprised at that if I wasn’t busy drowning. At some point, I was fished out by a bunch of councilors after they saw I didn’t surface (my bad! I didn’t read the instructions on swimming before I got on the non-air conditioned hot as hell yellow school bus, and by the way, there were NO instructions). But it also seemed that no one was stepping up to get me to a hospital or medically treated for swallowing all that lake water. I know I was out for a bit, as I woke up with a crowd of worried camp counselors staring down at me and all that water I guess was coughed up and I can recall a bunch of kids with big wide eyes gathered nearby. We hadn’t even been assigned cabins when this happened, so they all had nowhere to go.

I was a pre-Jason Vorehees victim of kid-neglecting teens, I guess. I think I need revenge, or an appropriate trailer:

(Thanks, YouTube Movies!)

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Frogs (Trick or Treat 1)

(Thanks, Burbanked!)

I rather liked science class as lot as a kid despite running into a few bumps in the road, literal warts and all. I recall almost no one wanting to dissect those pickled frogs that the teacher placed on each lab table one fine day, save for two guys in the back (why are the shady ones always in the back and equipped with sharp knives now?) who I guess either turned out later to be really good doctors or even better serial killers later on in life. That and there were a couple of too gleeful girls who obviously didn’t believe that kissing a very dead frog would generate a very dead prince or a live one, for that matter. They just wanted to gross out those that spied them doing it, Ewww.

The more amusing thing here was those girls otherwise hated the class except for this one time and a few other incidents where mayhem was a potential outcome. There was the one time they (about a year later), along with one of the two boys from the back ‘accidentally’ created ammonia gas in the lab that cleared the whole floor, eventually leading to school being dismissed for the day, whee. Uh, don’t try that trick at home, by the way. It’ll the be the perfect cure for everything that ails you with the very obnoxious little side effect of a bit of invisible but acrid smelling poisonous death (and neither a fine nor noble death at that).

(Thanks. Henridellik!)

Eventually, during the two days, I caved into the learning process and with a fellow equally skittish student (we were all paired up in the class – less dead frogs means a sharing moment for all), we took the plunge. Yes, I thought of all those company-farmed frogs taking a plunge one fine day for a final swim they didn’t know would have them a few hundred miles away dead, well-preserved and soon to be splayed out like ghastly centerfolds courtesy of class-provided scissors and scalpels. My partner in (non) crime was a girl who mentioned before we cut into the preserved formerly ribbiting animal that she had frog once for dinner and yes, it tasted like chicken.

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The Missing, The Mail, And The .19 Pork Chop

Well, Hi There.

If asked how I’m doing, I’d say I’m more very much more annoyed these days than usual, but I’m still breathing, which is a hard realization to work around with all this dice throwing going on by the political machine in spots. “Roll your dice, move your mice!” Yes, it’s hard to dance around the elephant in the room, but after seeing EMS pop by the building a few too many times over the months, plus a growing amount of undelivered mail sitting downstairs, it’s been a bit too joyless around here. Well, until I found out that the mail carrier who regularly did the job perfectly was off taking care of his parents for a spell and the person now doing his job was pretty much rushing it by what it seems was sticking the mail in whatever mailbox was laid eyes on and getting the hell out of the building as fast as possible.

Boo, Sir, Ma’am, or otherwise. At least I got to play mailman for an hour or so by dropping off some bills and letters to their correct apartments later, as did a few others who got someone else’s correspondence. Now, I’m a fan of the post office normally, but not when an employee does this to everyone’s mail on the route. Whatever miserable death count I was grimly thinking of was chopped down considerably by some mislaid mail, but that was a merely a small decline in the joylessness. One bit of a laugh came when I deposited some bills at one apartment and the guy who lived there opened the door, saw he had bills and let out a deadpan “Wow. Gee, Thanks.” he really didn’t mean.

Hey, don’t shoot (a mean glare at) me – I’m only the messenger.

(Thanks, MyMotownTunes0815007!)

Still, a few neighbors have gone and left the building (is that literally or figuratively? I forget!*), so that’s a painful fact to work with. Even though we weren’t close, a chat in the elevator, a wave and smile at the right time, or some weird conversation about ice cream are all memory banked and filed for future use now. Processing is different for all of us, but I’d say similar in how we hold onto that past. Presently I’m back and forth on a few things relevant and not so, but I try not to go under the waves more than necessary, as madness stalks that dark, dank alley and that’s a total drowning pool.

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Random Film of the Week: The Sailor Who Fell With Grace From The Sea (1976)

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Just another day at the beach…

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This isn’t Altman’s Popeye, to say the least.

I first saw this film on network TV some decades ago and don’t remember much except that I later realized it was edited within an inch of its life, as when I saw it the next time in my teens on cable, the film had a load of stuff I missed plus stuff I understood better, but still missed because of the TV version’s heavy censoring. That said, I’m gathering that over that first network airing, the nudity was chopped out as much as possible and anything overtly sexual didn’t make the cut except for brief flashes. As for violence, I remember the infamous scene with the cat (more on that below) was also chopped down, but you still got the idea of how horrifying it was.

Anyway, flash forward to seeing the film again recently, and while The Sailor Who Fell With Grace From The Sea is both beautiful to look and quite haunting, it’s also going to be for some viewers (as I found out when I recommended it to some friends), a “pretty repellent film” when all is said and done. Two tastes that don’t taste great together for some, but at least the tagline on the poster is quite applicable. It’s got memorable performances, lovely cinematography, direction, and so forth and so on, so I can’t and won’t complain about any of that. I think the issue with some viewers is with the original Yukio Mishima story it was based on and the film not changing its tone into a more kinder one, although it shifts what some say are morally questionable characters and plot to a breezy, stunning English seaside setting instead of its original Yokohama location. But this wasn’t meant to be a film that bent itself to a particular set of generic movie rules.

(Thanks, MADWORLD1247!)

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Video Store Action Heroes: Streets of Fire (1984)

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Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) and two of The Attackers, about to get attacked (and lose, badly).

Video Store Action Heroes - Banner 9 finalIt’s that time again, folks. You’re likely trapped inside like me for a spell, so I have your attention (at least for a few minutes before you try and sneak out). Say, look what the cat dragged in after a bit of a hiatus. This post is hopefully, virus-free and entertaining (or at the very least, one of those).

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When I first saw Walter Hill’s “Rock & Roll Fable” Streets of Fire way back in 1984, I can honestly say that I really didn’t like it much. Yet, there was a certain “je ne sais pas quoi” about it that made it quite magnetic. I went back at least four or five times to see it afterward probably in the hope it would get better with each viewing and even saw it a few more times on cable over the decades. Despite the ridiculously simple comic book style plot and one-note characters, the film’s super stylish looks combined with the genre and 1950’s/1980’s era blending made for a unique visual experience. Storytelling? Eh, there’s not so much to be thrilled over. Personally, I feel the film hasn’t aged well, original to modern cult following aside. But at least it gets straight to the action stuff if you just want that and well, you get your money’s worth if you go in totally blind expecting exactly what’s onscreen.

Plot-wise, it’s all this and no more, but I’m going to over-explain a tad here: During a concert in her hometown, singer Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) is kidnapped by a biker gang and held hostage in another part of a fictional city.  A fan (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) calls in her tough guy ex-soldier brother Tom Cody (Michael Paré), who was previously romantically involved with Ellen, to go rescue her. He initially turns down the request, but (duh!), why else would he make the long trip back home? He ends up teaming up with Ellen’s new and wealthy jerk boyfriend/manager (Rick Moranis) and another ex-soldier he meets in a dive bar (Amy Madigan), and for a $10,000 fee, rescues Ellen, who thinks Tom only saved her for the money.

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Duck Tales! Ooo woo ooooo!!!

That mostly turns out to be false, and Tom later takes on the gang leader Raven Shaddock (Willem Dafoe, in too small of a role for a film’s main villain) in a fight with custom made sledgehammers where the outcome is more predictable than you’d think. While the end result is beautifully stylish and super easy to follow, for my tastes it’s too basic of a plot with no surprises or big twists. While the film packs in a lot of flash and neon-soaked noir-ishness, it ends up being up far too predictable despite that flashiness that it’s a bit disappointing.

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