Blast Vegas – Please Please Please

Blast Vegas is currently available on instant Netflix

Blast Vegas (2013) – Not rated

While celebrating in Las Vegas during spring break, a group of college kids disturbs an Egyptian relic, inadvertently stirring up an ancient curse that unleashes a devastating windstorm on the city. Can they find a way to stop the destruction?”
One-Line Review (stolen from ‘Bobby’ on Netflix): Malcolm really is in the Middle…of a very bad film.
I understand Asylum trying to trick people by releasing Sherlock Holmes to DVD right before Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes opens. I also understand opening up their American Warships against Battleship and Atlantic Rim against Pacific Rim to siphon off some of that blockbuster money. I really don’t get why they would rush out an Egyptian curse/environmental disaster film and name it Blast Vegas to compete with Last Vegas, a comedy about several 60-somethings having a bachelor party in Vegas.
So I already have a rather low opinion of the film before it has even started. I start up Blast Vegas and do a double take when I see the first two actors. Is that? Nah. Wait it is – directors John Landis (American Werewolf in London, Blues Brothers) and Joe Dante (Gremlins, Matinee). It is funny to see the hosts of Trailers from Hell together and I can only conclude that they happened to be in the same city or owed someone a favor.
Well, that was it. The highlight of the film occurs in the opening minutes and I’ve just spoiled it for you. You no longer have to watch this pile of celluloid trash. You are quite welcome. After the credits, the bros show up. Frankie Muniz standing in between a couple of fraternity looking dudes. Unfortunately Malcolm looks a little too old to be with them but Muniz has to eat and I suppose this is better than the convention circuit.
The CGI is all over the map. The storm doesn’t look bad at all but it also doesn’t look like it interacts with the city. The tiger is laughably bad and at one point I thought he was going to pimp Frosted Flakes but at least he is better than the snake.
Acting is simply dreadful. Barry Bostwick appears as a washed up, possibly talentless singer. I’ll try to refrain from being mean but what happens to actors like Bostwick and Muniz when they stop doing Asylum-type pictures? Is that the last stop? I will say that they are better than the cast of bodies/storm fodder that surround them.

An American Werewolf in London

An American Werewolf in London is currently available on instant Netflix.

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

“After surviving a vicious werewolf attack that left his friend dead, an American backpacker in London becomes a murderous werewolf himself. Prowling the streets of London, he learns that his living-dead victims will wander in limbo until he’s dead.”

“Have you tried talking to a corpse? It’s boring. “

Hot off the twin successes of Animal House and The Blues Brothers, writer/director John Landis was finally able to get his werewolf project approved. Studio executives naturally wanted Landis to again cast John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd but Landis instead cast relative unknowns David Naughton and Griffin Dunne.

The cast is fantastic. David Naughton, at the time famous for being the face of Dr. Pepper, does a wonderful job handling the humor and pathos as our victim/werewolf David Kessler. Jenny Agutter is marvelously sexy as David’s nurse Alex Price. Griffin Dunne still manages to steal the show from both of them as David’s best friend Jack.

The score by Elmer Bernstein is effective but almost non-existent. This is due in part to Landis’ decision to use Bad Moon Rising and multiple versions of Blue Moon in the soundtrack. The licensed songs fit the quirky nature of the movie quite well.

Makeup special effects, not just limited to a werewolf, finally got their due with An American Werewolf in London. Rick Baker won the first ever Best Makeup Oscar in 1982 for his work on this film. He would go on to win again for Harry and the Hendersons (1987), Ed Wood (1994), The Nutty Professor (1996), Men in Black (1997), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), and The Wolfman (2010). He was nominated five other times as well.

The storyline is all over the map and the entire plot can easily be summed up in two sentences, albeit with spoilers. In spite of this, Landis’ script is able to mine the subject for a fantastic amount of humor without the film being a comedy, a true friendship, a sexual tryst that feels real, fantastic special effects, some scares, and a marvelous dream sequence.

Michael Jackson was so enamored of this film that he hired Landis to direct his Thriller video, Elmer Bernstein to do the incidental music, and Rick Baker to do the makeup effects. The Thriller video is also amazing and features a voiceover by Vincent Price.

People Watch:  John Landis does a cameo as the man being smashed into a window. He also did some of the stunts for the movie. Frank (Yoda) Oz has a small part as Mr. Collins and, as a result, Miss Piggy and Kermit also appear in the movie (as themselves).

Remake-itis: In 1997, director Anthony Waller and three writers tried to repeat Landis’ directing and writing success and made An American Werewolf in Paris. It was not a successful effort.

Machete Maidens Unleashed!

Machete Maidens Unleashed! (2010) – Not rated but lots of nudity and gore.

In the 1970s and ’80s, makers of exploitation films loved to shoot in the Philippines, which offered gorgeous scenery, beautiful extras and cheap fun in the sun for the crew. This intriguing documentary examines the real face of Hollywood in Manila. Directors such as Roger Corman and Eddie Romero shot in the Southeast Asian nation, and their movies overflowed with sex, gore and action. Plentiful movie clips and in-depth interviews are featured.

“I wasn’t supposed to be a karate-kicking stewardess”

“They wanted love. He gave them terror and death.”

Mark Hartley follows up his terrific Not Quite Hollywood: The Untold Story of Ozploitation with what is essentially the same film. He takes his proven formula and moves his story from Australia to The Philippines. That sounds lazy but it’s actually wonderful.

Hartley intersperses great well-chosen clips with interviews from both people who worked on the films and experienced directors and writers like John Landis, Joe Dante, Allan Arkush, and Brian Trenchard Smith. If you notice that that is the crew from Trailers from Hell, that is not a surprise. If you don’t then you should go to Trailers from Hell and watch a few. They post vintage trailers with new commentary every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Hartley covers the films in a mostly sequential manner, clustering some films together for topic sake. A lot of the film is taken up with New World Pictures and Roger Corman, which is understandable given his sheer volume. There are innumerable shots of quaint 70s gore, naked breasts, and real death-defying stunts.

Machete Maidens Unleashed covers the filming of Apocalypse Now. Martin Sheen’s heart attack, Marlon Brando’s weight issues, fights with the military and a typhoon were only some of the problems encountered by Francis Ford Coppola.

The only reason that I consider Not Quite Hollywood the better film is because the Australian exploitation films are more recognizable than the Philippine ones.

People Watch: Keep watching through the credits for a lot of fascinating interview bits.