There’s this idea going around on Vulgar Auteurism Twitter that some godforsaken JCVD/Dolph Lundgren action series got revived in the 2010s by the son of the director of Timecop, starring the 12th-billed actor in Expendables 2, as a straight-to-video 3D (?) fifth sequel shot entirely in nondescript strip-mall locations, and it was actually great. Still buzzed off The Doom Generation, I watched it to set the record straight, and it was actually great.

Not a normal DTV sequel – dank Damon Packard vibes, the scenes linger weirdly, the strobe effects more intense. Apparently I was supposed to watch Regeneration first to make any sense out of this. Scott Adkins’ family is killed in first-person oner-cam by culty home invaders. Evil plumber Magnus is freed by Dolph Lundgren in a red Mario hat, prompting a strobey JCVD appearance in a strip club bathroom and a full-house slaughter. Scott Adkins finally comes alive and destroys the plumber, then meets mystery woman Mariah Bonner and another Scott Adkins who works for JCVD, and learns we’re all clones who never had families. Murderous rages are flown into, everyone dies.

Daniel Goldhaber decodes it: “A movie about a man trapped inside of a genre movie, programmed with a stock motivation.” More from Josephine and Josh.

More wide-ranging than Boys State, the governor race not the only thing going. Conservative girl Emily is the star (has she mentioned she’s conservative?), decisively losing the governor race then quickly putting together an article about the differences in funding, prestige, and programming between Girls and Boys State, and winning a scholarship. Complaints in the air that the boys have triple the budget, participation from elected officials, and more discussion of real issues. Nisha doesn’t get a supreme court seat, so becomes the judge of a lower court that sends a case on forced pre-abortion counseling to the supreme, where Tochi is the DA arguing the state’s opinion while believing the opposite. It’s all super slick and heartwarming – they had so many cameras running. Production company Concordia worked on some of the big T/F titles: Time, Bisbee 17, Bloody Nose. We stayed for the Q&A, with three Missouri-based subjects in attendance. Rae Fitzgerald played too softly for a noisy noontime crowd, even with her rhythm section.

David Ehrlich in Indiewire:

The closer Girls State gets toward its climactic elections, the more it confronts the same patriarchal bias and performative empowerment that might have girl-bossed the life out of a lesser film (although this one still plays a particular Taylor Swift song over its end credits). And the more it confronts the role those phenomena manage to play on the university campus where the Boys and Girls State programs are being held at the same time for the first time in Missouri history (but still completely separate from one another in order to avoid sins of the flesh and whatnot), the more frighteningly it reflects a near-future — or now present — in which political agency is just something young women get to pretend they have if there’s room in the budget for a bit of make-believe.

With the frantic pace of the first film and my useless writeup, I worried we wouldn’t know what’s going on in this movie. But it’s just Spider-man, dealing with his usual Spider-man teenage problems while also trying to prove himself to the interdimensional society of Spider-men who say Miles only became a Spider-man through infinite improbability when a spider from Universe 42 warped into his version of New York. Attempts to save the universes from a Jason Schwartzman-voiced Watchmen-looking portal beast, then the movie cuts off before the next battle, Miles and his buddies facing off against an Evil Miles who became Venom The Prowler. Looks somewhat less splendid and amazing than the first movie because we made the mistake of skipping it in theaters and watching at home.

Hey, about a month ago we hit our 4000th post, big congrats to us! That drum roll means we’ve got a winner. If you’re the fifth reader, or any reader at all, welcome to my top ten. I’d like to thank our sponsor, but we haven’t got a sponsor. Not if you were the last blog on earth.

Sammo Hung and his girl flee from her wicked brother into a spooky coffin house, where they’re menaced by a hopping vampire who just wants to smoke opium with them. You hire Ricky Lau after he’s made four consecutive Mr. Vampire movies, you get hopping vampires. This turns out to be Sammo’s dream, and in waking life the brother is friendly Little Hoi (Aspirin thief of Yes, Madam!). But all is not fine and dandy, since the girl’s rednosed dad is angry after Sammo fights an impertinent teahouse customer who uses mad monkey kung fu via his magician buddy. Sammo needs cash to make things right in order to marry Mimi Kung (Chow Yun-Fat’s wife in Office) but ends up getting tangled in ghost drama.

Master, Sammo, Little Hoi:

Not a continuation of the first Encounter from a decade earlier, but why did I write that it was my first Sammo Hung movie when I’d written about at least two others previously? Ghost Hung (Wong Man-Gwan of Prison on Fire) tries to help steal vases from Teahouse Sze (Andrew Lam of Sammo’s problematic Pantyhose Hero), but Sammo’s master Lam Ching-Ying (also the Mr. Vampire master) doesn’t like him hanging around ghosts and attacks her with his yin-yang yo-yo pokeball. This should all be leading up to a master magicians duel like in the first movie, but when it arrives they’re not even in the same space, a psychic battle across town, which is less immediately satisfying than the first movie’s courtyard tower firefight. Sammo spends some time with his soul in a pig. There’s a really unconvincing swordfight against menacing dogs. Kung-fu with explosive gas-filled mummies is more like it. Movie ends on a dick-sucking joke, perfect.

Sze, Evil Master, monkey:

I wasn’t sure about this one, been too long since I’ve seen it. It’s the one where the zombies start learning, the gruesome makeup effects are better than ever, but we’re in the hands of paranoid racist military goons and overall it’s a bummer movie – that circus elevator music from Dawn wouldn’t fly here.

Nice fakeout for Dawn fans, opening with four all-new people in a chopper. Our main girl is Sarah, whose main man Miguel is starting to lose his mind in the underground zombie containment facility. Lead military guy is also gone over the edge, starts killing scientists. Meanwhile the heart of the movie is Dr. “Frankenstein” Logan and his pet zombie Bub – they’re both very good if we could only tune out everyone else.

Dying Miguel lets the Z horde into the facility, Sarah and a couple others escape yet again by chopper, and the only “survivor” on the ground is Bub. Logan/Frankenstein was also in The Crazies, Miguel in Monkey Shines, Sarah’s drunk friend Bill in the Coen True Grit, chopper pilot John in Amateur and The Horror Show, and lead asshole Rhodes in Wishmaster.

Of Romero’s Dead movies I’ve only seen Land in theaters, so after watching Night in the best edition I’ve ever seen, I figure why not follow up with the others. This opens with real chaos in a TV studio, then the weatherman takes his girl Fran and two cops Ken Foree and Roger in the weather chopper and get the hell out of there. Despite the zombie apocalypse Romero wants to be utopian: when another cop at the station is being racist and violent, other cops kill him before he can shoot more civilians.

After setting up in the mall storeroom they go on risky missions to enforce their position. Blocking the main entrances with trucks, Roger has an unpleasant close-up encounter with a Z and goes kill-happy then gets bitten twice. The TV couple toughens up and learns to shoot, and while he’s teaching Fran to fly the chopper Tom Savini spots them and gathers his biker raider crew to take the mall. Flyboy is enraged that they’re stealing what he stole and starts shooting. Ken takes out Savini and they’re winning against the bikers, but the Zs have overrun the mall again and they swarm Flyboy in an elevator.

News team in red:

Cops in blue:

Besides all the action we get some good comic moments – I liked Flyboy checking the price of a jacket then putting it back on the rack – and the music is often pointedly ridiculous. Lonely despair is also addressed – the chopper lessons were an attempt to break free from their shut-in depression, and Ken considers suicide before joining Fran in the chopper at the last second. All lead actors were solid. I’ve recently seen Ken in Lords of Salem… Flyboy went on to Basket Case 2, Roger did Knightriders and the Dawn remake, and Fran did Creepshow and Madman.

Either the pre-credits scene was filmed by the Manos second unit or this is gonna be a baaaad movie. Chris has been hit in the face by a molten meteorite and isn’t feeling too well… meanwhile, Dr. Q is mad that the money men won’t fund his moon base, so he goes driving and just finds a moon base out in the desert (this influenced everything from Contact to Moonbase 8). After watching this guy grouse through the first Quatermass movie, I’m perversely following his adventures in order to get to the higher-rated third one. Val Guest, who is still not Val Lewton, somehow made four other films in the under-two years between Quatermasses, including They Can’t Hang Me (which is not The Man They Could Not Hang).

Sub-assistant Marsh (Stepford Wives director Bryan Forbes) gets face-impregnated by a meteor-egg, and everyone scoops up the deadly meteorites with their bare hands to investigate. Inspector John Longden (an early Hitchcock regular) pawns them off on a senator, then they bounce to a reporter (Sid James of The Lavender Hill Mob) – most of the movie is watching an impassioned person trying to convince a skeptical Brit about a crazy alien conspiracy. Finally they start blowing up domes and a giant blobby beast (it means to win Wimbledon) lumbers after them, until they blow it up, too.

Follows through nicely on its opening Psycho reference, not just a fakeout joke. Appalling CG is something I’m getting used to this month after Final Destination 4. But oh no, the first scene was a first-person murder fantasy by an ugly doll, and this is a meta making-of a Chucky movie. Jennifer Tilly as herself: “I’m an oscar nominee for god’s sake and now I’m fucking a puppet.”

Young Seed is trans, feat. a nice Glen or Glenda reference, and voiced by Pippin himself. Cool-looking movie with good dollwork, but Bride hit the horror-comedy sweet spot and this one is just cheesy. John Waters plays the paparazzo stalking Tilly, whom the adult dolls are trying to knock up, while their messed-up doll-baby protects/threatens them. Feels like a lot of British people were in this. Seed finally boxing-helenas Chucky’s limbs before beheading him, but let’s see, Chuck will be back – Curse comes next, then Cult, then I am not watching the TV series.

Funny how this keeps happening but only to groups of 18 year olds. Opening setpiece here is a racetrack pileup that explodes into the stands. Our precog final-boy is darkhaired Nick (Bobby Campo, also star of a starvation deathmatch thing) with redhead gf Lori (Shantel VanSanten, went on to star in an Oregonian ghost movie), and their buddies: darkhair Janet (Haley Webb, who went on to Blonde) and cocky Hunt (Nick Zano also of a Joy Ride sequel). As per the formula, the kids also rope in a few randos from the first scene: ally security guard Mykelti Williamson (Don King in Ali), uninterested tampon mom Krista Allen (of Henry Rollins monster movie Feast), hapless mechanic Andrew Fiscella (of some Abel Ferrara movies), and antagonist nazi Justin Welborn (The Signal).

come on now:

That’s a lotta people, so let’s start killing ’em off. Nick dreams the deaths in advance, first as the lower-mid-tier CG opening scene and subsequently via appallingly-CG symbolic visions (“it seemed real,” he says after one of those). Mom catches a lawnmower-propelled rock to the face and the mechanic is jet propelled through a chainlink fence. They rescue Janet from being carwashed to death and George from suiciding, while Hunt gets his guts sucked out by a pool. After looking up the plots of the previous films they celebrate having broken the chain, but with a half hour of movie still remaining, uh oh. I don’t get how some cowboy surviving the crash then re-dying in hospital means they’re all in danger again, but now Nick has to save his friends from an exploding movie theater while fighting off a sentient nailgun… then they’re all simply smashed to death by a runaway truck. Good pacing, one long death premonition. Between parts 2 and 4, Ellis made Snakes on a Plane. The DP also did Trick ‘r Treat and the last three Resident Evil sequels, clearly a cool guy.

the moment I realized this must’ve been released in 3D: