Blaxploitation Month Part One

December 21st, 2012

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We're changing up the format for the next couple of shows for our two-part Blaxploitation Month, where we'll learn the ins and outs of a genre that doesn't get as much respect as it should, via two double-features. For starters, two unsung classics, and I'm not being sarcastic. Black Caesar, a remake of the old gangster film Little Caesar, is a dark story about a shoeshine boy who grows up to control all the crime in New York City, just in time to screw over all his friends and lose everything. We'll contrast that pessimism with Trouble Man, the story of a badass-for-hire so cool, we wonder why anyone has even heard of Shaft.

Fire and Ice (1983)

December 7th, 2012

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PLOT SYNPOSIS: Evil mama's boy Nekron attempts to destroy the kingdom of Firekeep by covering prehistoric Earth with ice. Conan-clone Larn saves the kidnapped Princess Teegra and fights Nekron and his minions, with the help of mysterious badass Darkwolf. If you've made it all the way to this sentence, you are a nerd.

PREPARE YOURSELF FOR: The rotoscoped animation and fantasy subject matter are kind of reminiscent of Heavy Metal, but don't let that get your hopes up for violence and nudity.

The Heavenly Kid (1985)

November 23rd, 2012

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PLOT SYNPOSIS: Fonzie-style cool guy Bobby (Perfect Tommy from Buckaroo Banzai) drag races a romantic rival (Neidermeyer) for the affections of his girlfriend (Malcolm in the Middle's mom), but winds up driving off a cliff. In a purgatory that looks suspiciously like Atlanta's MARTA system, Bobby meets spirit guide Rafferty (the star of Empty Nest), who informs him that he must return to earth as guardian angel to a teenager (I got nothin') who can't figure out how to get himself laid. 

PREPARE YOURSELF FOR: A rockin' soundtrack that does a great job of using lyrics to describe the action on the screen. There's even an "Axel F" soundalike thrown in there for some reason.

The Last Starfighter (1984)

November 9th, 2012

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PLOT SYNPOSIS: Trailer park teen Alex Rogan's plan to go to use his brain and go to college is derailed, first by a loan rejection, and then by his own arcade game skills. Alex's high score on a misallocated 3D vector cabinet called Starfighter attracts the attention of its alien inventor. Whisked away from his devoted girlfriend and temporarily replaced with a sarcastic beta-unit simuloid, Alex is recruited into an armada of space combatants, the rest of whom are all immediately vaporized by the traitorous Xur on behalf of the Ko-Dan Empire. People actually like this movie.

FAMOUS FOR: The feeling of nostalgia it seems to engender in people of a certain age. This is perhaps the only movie that suggests, without a trace of irony, that your video game skills can be appreciated by your elders and can lead to a magical future of greatness and achievement, in space, with lasers. Even The Wizard wasn't this rapturous towards gamers.

PREPARE YOURSELF FOR: Corniness, or as they called it then, "sincerity." Specifically, the scene where -- after a fiery explosion destroys the simuloid double, and simultaneously a faraway space battle rages -- Alex's girlfriend looks up into the night sky and declares, in a total non-sequitur: "I love you, Alex Rogan."

Please join us in welcoming Julia back to the show. This is her punishment for putting The Last Starfighter on our list.

Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965)

October 26th, 2012

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PLOT SYNPOSIS: Near the end of World War II, Nazis obtain the immortal heart of Frankenstein['s monster] and send it to their allies in Hiroshima -- just in time for a fateful atomic blast. Fifteen years later, scientists discover a feral boy who they believe is Frankenstein['s monster], regenerated from the lost heart; his disembodied limbs are ambulatory, and protein makes him huge. Meanwhile, a gigantic underground creature that everyone calls Baragon wreaks havoc across rural Japan.

FAMOUS FOR: Being one of the kookier films in the Kaiju genre, and from original Gojira director¬†Ishirō Honda no less. A giant monster is portrayed by an actor not wearing a rubber suit, which is somehow a great deal more disconcerting. And then there's that ending.

PREPARE YOURSELF FOR: Frankenstein's hideous, horrible face. His mouth is always slightly open and his tongue seems swollen, pressed against his upper lip. It's really gross. I'd also say prepare yourself for the ending, but nothing can prepare you for the ending.

NOTE! We didn't realize this at the time, but we watched the international cut of the film. If you watch the Japanese or American cut, you'll wonder why we thought the ending was batshit insane. So don't make that mistake. Also of interest: we are joined once again by Andrew's brother James, as excellent a podcasting guesthost as ever there was.

Crossroads (1986)

October 12th, 2012

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PLOT SYNPOSIS: Blues-loving Julliard guitar student Ralph Macchio, in search of a long-lost Robert Johnson track that was supposedly recorded but never released, tracks down presumed-dead bluesman Willie Brown (played by Joe Seneca). Brown, aka Blind Dog, agrees to teach the missing song to Macchio, suddenly aka Lightning Boy, in exchange for a trip to a certain Mississippi crossroads.

FAMOUS FOR: Steve Vai's guitar badassery, whether he's providing the classically-trained sounds of Lightning Boy or shredding in his own role as a Satanically-empowered guitar deulist in the film's big final confrontation. Macchio, for his part, really does look like he could be playing guitar.

PREPARE YOURSELF FOR: The long, fairly dull journey that preceeds said final confrontation. There's even a fairly pathetic romantic interlude with a young runaway who helps wealthy white boy Macchio learn the true meaning of the blues (because as we all know, it's not the technique, but the depression).

Le Trou (1960)

September 28th, 2012

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PLOT SYNPOSIS: In a Parisian prison, the introduction of a new cellmate threatens to derail the carefully-planned escape attempt of a close-knit group of prisoners. The film stars one of the actual conspirators from the real-life escape attempt on which the plot is based.

FAMOUS FOR: ...actually, I'm not sure if you could call this one "famous." It's universally well-regarded, but that's only among people who've seen it. Hoity-toity French New Wave movies with sparse dialogue don't exactly light up internet message boards. We put it on our list because it's so obscure that we had barely heard of it, yet it seems to have all the elements of a movie we expect to adore.

PREPARE YOURSELF FOR: What we've termed "demolition porn." If you don't think you'll be able to sit quietly for ten minutes while watching men take turns destroying concrete with makeshift tools, then perhaps this is not the movie for you. Don't take that as a criticism of the film, though. I'm criticizing you. Go watch a Zack Snyder movie, asshole.

The Swinging Cheerleaders (1974)

September 14th, 2012

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PLOT SYNPOSIS: An ultra-feminist budding journalist with an irrational hatred of bras joins the Mesa State cheerleading squad in order to get the big scoop about how shallow cheerleaders and jocks are. Instead, she falls for the studly quarterback, kind-of befriends the other cheerleaders, and uncovers a point-shaving scheme. 

FAMOUS FOR: Just being a piece of shit. Chris lumped this in with our other candidate movies after seeing it on a number of "worst ever" lists. About a month ago we started seriously considering taking it off the list altogether, because it just looks absolutely worthless. The Omagahedron had other plans.

PREPARE YOURSELF FOR: An uneven narrative experience. Is this a comedy, or is it dead serious? Is it sexy, or is sex a very bad thing? Are feminists silly, or is it true that large-breasted cheerleaders should not wear bras, ever? Get ready for an ending that poses more questions than it answers.

Lady Terminator (1989)

August 30th, 2012

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PLOT SYNPOSIS: Some time ago, an Indonesian folklore mainstay called the Queen of the Southern Sea vowed revenge on the descendant of the one man who was able to capture the eels that come out of her vagina. In the present, she possesses the body of an innocent anthropologist. Now an indestructible killing machine, the anthropologist doesn't feel pity or remorse, and she absolutely will not stop, etc. etc.

FAMOUS FOR: I may have glossed over the concept of "vagina eels" just now. To reiterate: sex with the Queen of the Southern Sea and/or her Lady Terminator guise generally ends with the male's genitals being eaten by eels that hide in her vagina, while blood sprays all over his face. Often the male looks perturbed or uncomfortable during this process.

PREPARE YOURSELF FOR: A much more faithful adaptation of the Schwarzenegger original than the first fifteen minutes would suggest. Just about every scene you remember is represented as Lady Terminator -- who first shows up completely naked, encountering leather-clad hooligans -- hunts Indonesian Sarah Connor from nightclub to police station to abandoned factory.

This time around we get a much-needed assist from Andrew's brother James, whose pop culture knowledge rivals our own, but whose ability to access that knowledge in a timely fashion is quite a bit superior.

Forbidden Planet (1956)

August 17th, 2012

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PLOT SYNPOSIS: The valiant Commander John J. Adams (Leslie Nielsen, oddly enough) leads his spaceship crew to the planet Altair IV, to learn what became of an earlier expedition. (One lesson sci-fi has taught us: don't go checking to see what happened to your earlier expeditions.) He finds that only linguist Dr. Morbius remains, along with his toothsome daughter and extremely handy robot, as everyone else on the planet was destroyed by a monster. It all seems connected to the fate of an advanced civilization that thrived on Altair IV eons ago...

FAMOUS FOR: Robby the Robot, a sci-fi icon whose Wikipedia page is longer than some U.S. presidents, and I don't mean that as a slight to Wikipedia. Robby later appeared in , well, a lot of things, like some great Twilight Zone episodes, and apparently Earth Girls Are Easy.

PREPARE YOURSELF FOR: Surprisingly excellent special effects, particularly a couple of scenes that incorporate Disney-outsourced animation. Also, prepare yourself for a film that doesn't suck, for once. Hey, even we need a break from the crappy movies, now and then.