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October 18, 2017

Cinema Head Cheese: Podshort! - Fuller House: Season 3 Part 1 (Netflix, 2017)

Kevin reviews the first half of the third season of the Netflix family favorite.

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Movie Review: Dead Ant (2017)

Directed by Ron Carlson

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

What happened when the Pink Panther stepped on an anthill? Dead ant, dead ant, dead ant, dead ant, dead ant ... The characters in Dead Ant miss this obvious and very old joke but they do manage to cough up every other joke every which way.

“Sonic Grave,” a long-in-the-tooth Hollywood hair band with one hit to their name head out to Joshua Tree before hitting the comeback trail before playing the “Nochella Festival,” (group manager Danny, played by Tom Arnold explains that he couldn’t swing the band into Coachella). Seeking musical inspiration of the chemical persuasion, they score some mescaline from Native American fruit stand operator Bigfoot (Michael Horse) who warns them is that they disrespect the land that they will be dealt with most severely. Our group gobbles the drugs underneath the desert skies, and the band’s roadie takes a wicked whizz on a fire ant. Bad move! The ants confront our heroes the following morning, progressively growing in size after each setback. Will Sonic Grave make it to the Nochella Festival with an army of pissed-upon and very pissed off giant fire ants on their tail? Well, what do you think?

Writer-director Ron Carlson mixes in some Fifties sci-fi, specifically Them! (1954), tosses in a lot of This is Spinal Tap (1984), lots of bad jokes told exceptionally well and a parade of blink-and-you’ll miss them one-liners. All of the performances are over-the-top, the special effects aren’t really all that special befitting a film of this sort and the hysteria is nonstop. There have been countless spoofs of creaky sci-fi horror films before, a genre unto itself, but it’s to director Carlson’s credit that he maintains a consistent tone. The narrative spends a great deal of time in a claustrophobic setting as the characters try to stave off the ant onslaught in a locked trailer, and there a lot of grim surprises along the way. One character’s grim fate pays direct tribute to Night of the Living Dead (1968), but the audience isn’t allowed to take it seriously for one moment, largely thanks to Arnold’s quick quips. “I paid you the ultimate compliment that you can make to a woman, that you had balls!” he bellows at one point. This is just one of many several spouted in many scenes.

(It’s probably not giving too much away that one of the plot’s major points is lifted entirely from Tim Burton’s largely misunderstood Mars Attacks! (1996), but great art is never inspired – it is directly stolen.) Reminiscent of the early work of director Peter Jackson, Dead Ant brought back pleasant memories of the New Zealand gore comedy Black Sheep (2006),m wherein genetically modified sheep begin disemboweling the denizens of a sleepy farm town. Dead Ant will be lighting up lots of film festivals this autumn, and you would be remiss to miss it. Tongue firmly in cheek, its high-energy fun all the way through.

Dead Ant is screening at the Another Hole in the Head Film Festival in San Francisco, Saturday, October 28 at 7 p.m. and if you are nearby you should most definitely check it out. Read all about it by going here.


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October 14, 2017

Movie Review: Psycho Cop Returns (1993)


Directed By Rif Coogan (Adam Rifkin)

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

 Several years ago an aspiring filmmaker approached me with his latest opus, an apocalyptic zombie comedy featuring a tough-talking gumshoe. Slipping the disc into my entertainment system, the project was as good as it sounded. Billing itself as horror, the two-hour plus feature relied on long passages of dialogue, under-lit photography that faded away into total darkness for extended periods, gags that weren’t funny, characters who ware annoying – and zombies who showed up ten minutes prior to the ending – before the film ended promising a “Part 2.” Hesitant to review the project as I didn’t want to discourage young filmmakers, I let the auteur to-be know about my concerns and how I couldn’t recommend his film. His reply tipped his hand: “It’s a grindhouse movie! It’s supposed to be terribly done!”  

Stop that right there, mister. Grindhouse and exploitation movies are by and large quickly and inexpensively made, but a good deal of thought and time goes into them. There are usually made by seasoned professional or young filmmakers out to make a name for themselves, and they come to the ring with good intentions. Anyone who enters a project with a deliberately dumbed-down attitude – acting as if the film at hand is beneath them and will wink broadly at the audience to underscore the fact defeats his purpose and insults his audience.

These thoughts came to mind while watching Adam Rifkin’s – hiding under the nom de plume of “Rif Coogan,” Psycho Cope Returns. Don’t get me wrong, this is actually a sprightly and entertaining exploitation film. To wit, a group of yuppie nerds plan on a totally rad bachelor party after hours in their office building. It’s their rotten luck that Officer Joe Vickers (Robert R. Shafer), serial killer and satanic cop overhears their plans at a nearby coffee shop. In short order, Vickers follows the hapless office drones back to their building and makes short work of the partygoers. A trio of strippers arrive, the security officer is paid off, the booze is broken out and the party begins. Things go from bad to worse, as Vickers stalks his prey and people start getting offed. The actors are hammy, the jokes are funny, the girls are pretty, the violence is shocking – everyone has a good time regardless.

A late-to-the-party slasher that delivers, Psycho Cop Returns arrived as the Friday the 13th series was sufficiently neutered by this point, and the Nightmare on Elm Street series began cloaking its violence in surrealistic dream and fantasy sequences. Psycho Cop Returns plays its kills with gusto, with lots and lots of Ragu Sauce on display.

However – as the commentary track on this Vinegar Syndrome Blu-Ray DVD release reveals, as moderated by Elijah Drenner and director “Rif Coogan” – aka Adam Rifkin, the parties involved thought they were “slumming.” Having met Rifkin in person, I can vouch that he is a nice guy, but his commentary track goes at length about how he thought this film would hurt his vaunted career if the truth ever came out.   

Let’s back up here. Rifkin’s career is marked with lots of kooky and idiosyncratic projects, but one would hesitate calling them either “mainstream” or “good.” Rifkin’s first film The Dark Backward (1989), starring Judd Nelson as a benighted nightclub comedian who begins to get serious attention after a third arm begins growing out of his back is distinguished as a comedy bereft of humor. The Nutty Nut (1992), his follow-up feature, was a likewise laugh-deprived feature that wasn’t awarded a theatrical release.

From the artful, such as Night at the Golden Eagle (2001) to mainstream dreck as Dog Years (2017), Rifkin’s film are at best a mediocre lot. To talk down to his audience in such a fashion o this track leaves a lingering disappointment.

Extras on the Vinegar Syndrome release include the making-of documentary “Habeas Corpus" with comments from Rifkin, writer Dan Povenmire, editor Peter Schink and actors Shafer, Dougal, Sweitzer, Vallelonga, Alexander and Good. In a separate feature, effects artist Mike Tristano talks about the practical effects in “The Victims of Vickers” (9:32).

Bottom line, the feature’s fine, but some of the participants need to acknowledge the work of their forebears and eat a bit of the ol’ humble pie.

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October 4, 2017

Cinema Head Cheese: Podshort! - Big Mouth: Season 1 (Netflix, 2017)

Kevin reviews the animated series about kids dealing with puberty starring and co-created by Nick Kroll.

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October 1, 2017

Cinema Head Cheese: Podshort! - The LEGO Ninjago Movie (2017)

Kevin reviews the third film in the LEGO movie franchise.

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September 26, 2017

Cinema Head Cheese: Podshort! - One Mississippi: Seasons 1-2 (Amazon, 2015-2017)

Kevin reviews the first two seasons of the comedic drama series loosely based on the life of comedian Tig Notaro.

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September 23, 2017

Cinema Head Cheese: The Podcast! #146 - Greg Sestero and The Disaster Artist

As The Disaster Artist trailer was just released, Kevin Moyers shares an old interview with Greg Sestero about his book The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room. They discuss what it's like to tour with Tommy Wiseau, writing and touring for a book and Greg's upcoming projects.

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September 19, 2017

Cinema Head Cheese: Podshort! - American Vandal: Season 1 (Funny or Die/Netflix, 2017)

Along with a high school documentary crew who will stop at nothing to get the real story, Kevin Moyers asks #WhoDrewTheDicks?

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September 16, 2017

Cinema Head Cheese: Podshort! - TrollHunters: Part 1 (DreamWorks/Netflix, 2016)

The first part of Guillermo del Toro's Netflix action fantasy series is reviewed by Kevin Moyers.

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September 12, 2017

Cinema Head Cheese: Podshort! - Ozark: Season 1 (Netflix, 2017)

Kevin Moyers digs into the deep dark series about a family tapped in a money laundering scheme set in a popular vacation destination.

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September 9, 2017

Cinema Head Cheese: Podshort! - The Tick: Episodes 1-6 (Amazon, 2017)

Kevin Moyers reviews the second live-action version of a classically absurd superhero story.

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September 7, 2017

Movie Review: Hold Your Breath (2012)


Someone needs to improve this Invisalign design that allows the wearer to drink alcohol while they’re in…

Hold Your Breath opens with a flashback in 1956 where the preacher-turned-serial killer (huh?) is about to be executed. Dietrich Van Klaus (evil German…how original) blathers on with some bullshit exposition from the Bible, gouges out his own eye, kills a guard, then they finally strap him down and throw the switch. 

*yawn* Edward DeLacroix’s death was much worse. Just saying.

We move on to the present day where a group of twenty-somethings are getting together for a camping weekend. (and OMG the girls are like soooo annoying. Like HIIIIIII!!) On the way to the campsite they pass a graveyard and Jerry (the blonde annoying girl) freaks the fuck out trying to get everyone to hold their breaths as the car passes because OMG THAT’S WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO IF YOU DON’T WANT TO GET POSSESSED. GAAAAWD!

September 5, 2017

Cinema Head Cheese: Podshort! - Death Note (Netflix, 2017)

Kevin Moyers reviews the American live action remake of an anime favorite about a kid with a notebook that kills.

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September 3, 2017

Cinema Head Cheese: Podshort! - Netflix Comedy Specials (Netflix, 2017)

Kevin Moyers recommends three new comedy specials from Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, Joe Mande, and Ryan Hamilton.

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September 1, 2017

Movie Review: Double Exposure (1983)

Directed by William Byron Hillman


Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

“You want me to stick my head in a fucking trash bag?”

Adrian (Michael Callan) is a nudie photographer whose exciting lifestyle hides lots and lots of personal problems. Plagued by nightmares where he brutally murders his models, he is led to believe that he may be performing them unconsciously during blackouts when some of his subjects start turning up dead. Seeking help from a psychiatrist, Adrian express his concerns to Dr. Frank Curtis (Seymour Cassel) in a starkly appointed office dominated by a naked muscleman statue. In the meantime, two very unconvincing undercover police officers Fontain (Pamela Hensley) and Buckhold (David Young) try to make sense of all the bodies piling up. Adrian has a fling with flirty blonde Mindy (Joanna Pettet). In one incomprehensible scene, Adrian is seen drowning a model in a swimming pool after she refuses to let go of the swimming pool net he’s wielding to push her under the water. Could Adrian’s former stuntman brother and real-life double amputee James Stacy be involved somehow? Growing ever more disjointed and choppy, the film grinds to a most unconvincing twist ending.

August 31, 2017

Cinema Head Cheese: Podshort! - Defenders (Marvel/Netflix, 2017)

Kevin digs into the superhero team up we've all been waiting for as Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist come together in Netflix's Defenders.

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August 25, 2017

Movie Review: Blue Money (1971)

Directed by Alain-Patrick Chappuis

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Things are going great guns for transplanted French-Canadian Jim (played by writer-director Alain Patrick). His work-is-play lifestyle as the director of hardcore porno films provides a comfortable lifestyle for himself, his easygoing hippie wife (Barbara Mills) and baby daughter. When he isn’t training his camera on copulating couples, he roars around in his sports car and tools about on his yacht in a California coastal town. Things are great, really great. So great, that things get pretty uneventful. Jim enjoys a fling with a pretty model, but his wife is okay with it. Scumbag distributors play money games with him and his friends, but they usually pony up. His terribly chic friends lay around, smoke some grass and offer latitudes up about the “New Morality.” Jim walks here, walks there, shoots some porn, and then takes his shirt off to show off his suntan. He and his friends sit around and talk some more. By this point, the punters lured into the theater with promises of an expose on the pornographic film business are looking at their watches and wondering if they still have time to take advantage of the lunch special across the street. The sex on display is disappointingly soft-core and far too brief. Talk, talk, talk, Jim takes off his shirt again. Is something going to happen?

August 19, 2017

Book Review: My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf (2012)

Growing up in Chicago in the 1980s and 1990s, I heard a lot about serial killers and mass murderers. John Wayne Gacy and Richard Speck were from Chicago, and they were both executed for their horrendous crimes. We were also affected by another bizarre killer at that time. He wasn't from Chicago, but he often traveled there, and some of his victims were part of the Chicago gay scene. I am speaking of Milwaukee's cannibal killer, Jeffrey Dahmer.

Dahmer was a strange case. When an intended victim escaped and led police to his apartment, what was discovered was a nightmare that Wes Craven couldn't imagine. A refrigerator full of human remains was only the tip of the iceberg. Dahmer had a long and unnerving history. My Friend Dahmer dips into the early part, up until his first killing. How do we know it's accurate? It's written by one of his high school friends.

August 17, 2017

Movie Review: A Touch of Genie (1974)

Directed by Joe Sarno                                

Nebbish Melvin Finkelfarb’s (Doug Stone) life revolves around to tending to his Antique/Junk shop, being berated by his yenta mother (Ultramax) and sneaking off to Times Square to catch the latest skin flicks. Finding a discarded vase in an alleyway, Melvin “rubs” it in an intimate manner and out pops a sprightly female genie (Chris Jordan) who grants him five wishes. Melvin’s wishes are to take the male roles in various hot sex scenes with his favorite adult actors and actresses. This is represented by such skin flick regulars as Harry Reems, Marc Stevens, Eric Edwards and plain Jane Tina Russell boffing away on a $1.98 harem set. All well and good, but these scenes are interrupted with Melvin’s mother barging her way in to join in the action! Paging Dr. Freud? All’s well that ends well.

As Joe Sarno and Doris Wishman scholar Michael Bowen points out in his interview included on this Vinegar Syndrome DVD and Blu-Ray combo, A Touch of Genie was Sarno’s second reluctant attempt at hardcore – and it shows it. Many cast and crew members hide behind pseudonyms and the actors doing the “comedic” scenes are kept separate from the actors getting to the nitty-gritty (with the exception of Ultramax and Russell, who appears briefly as a strait-laced virgin). Bowen also rightly points out that A Touch of Genie is self-reflexive on the porn genre in general, where those stuck in undeclared celibacy live vicariously through the actors on the Blue Screen.

August 15, 2017

Movie Review: The Hearse (1980)

Directed by George Bowers                        

Jane (Trish Van Devere) decides to chuck her job in the city to move to her late aunt’s isolated mansion in the country.  Perhaps it wasn’t the best decision, as the townspeople are unexpectedly unfriendly and on top of everything else are as RUDE as FUCK. When they aren’t openly sneering at her at the country store, they pop up unexpectedly – without knocking the door or calling ahead or anything – right dab in her house! Jump scare. The reason for all the antipathy becomes obvious later on. It seems like her aunt was a devil worshiper who romantically took up with a black-clad no-goodnik and made the local area highly uncomfortable. According to local old soak Walter Pritchard (Joseph Cotton, who probably did a little too much research for this role) claims that Jane’s aunt, following her funeral was carried away in a hearse that spontaneously combusted – her aunt’s remains never found. Jane begins an affair with the vaporous, mysterious Tom Sullivan (David Gautreaux) who lacks a vampire cape to make his intentions even more obvious. Oh, yes, it’s called The Hearse – Jane has a bunch of nightmares involving a ghostly chauffeur (Dominic Barto) chasing her about in an old Packard, but it doesn’t really add up to much.

In the Eighties, when I made it my business to see every last horror movie on VHS, I never was in a rush to see The Hearse. Finally catching up to it now, thanks to Vinegar Syndrome, I can see why. It confirmed my suspicions that it was just a blatant rip-off of Dan Curtis’ Burnt Offerings (1976) that likewise had a ghostly chauffeur (Anthony James). The chauffeur in The Hearse, Barto, is bigger, beefier, but not the slightest bit scary. Whereas James creepy, grinning specter chilled spines, Barto imposes a physical menace but is as frightening as a second-string football player on a bender. Even worse, The Hearse skates around the devil worshipping angle with a few read-aloud diary entries but no tangible dread. While beautifully photographed by Mori Kawa, the film’s main setting is brightly lit and Country Corny. One hopes that Jane will stumble into a dark alcove full of pentagrams and occult kitsch – but no luck. Even the overly serious, overbearing The Blackcoats Daughter (2015) threw the audience a bone in this respect. The closest The Hearse gets to this is a mist-laden nightmare sequence in a funeral home that is over far too soon.