Friday, May 31, 2013

Worth Mentioning - Hyperdrive to Nowhere

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Cody tells of killers, captives, The Rock, Diesel, and Van Damme.


Daria and Tisa, the bikini top and loincloth-clad slave girls of the title, have been thrown into solitary confinement aboard the spaceship that's escorting them to whatever sort of servitude they're being forced into, but being chained to the floor of this small room has only put them in position to pull off one of the easiest escapes from captivity in history. Through sheer will and determination, Daria is able to bust her chain, and then aid Tisa in doing the same to hers. They steal a lifeboat shuttle and blast off into space, soon coming across a planetoid from which a beacon is being transmitted with landing coordinates. As they near the planetoid's atmosphere, their craft is caught in a beam that pulls them down to the surface, forcing them to crashland on the edge of a tropical island.

In the jungle, the women find a large fortress, long ago abandoned by the space pirates who built it and now inhabited by a man named Zed and his hulking robot servants. Daria and Tisa aren't Zed's only guests, there are also survivors of another spaceship wreck staying in the fortress, brother and sister Rik and Shala. There used to be more people there, but they have gone missing... and it doesn't take long for the crash survivors to figure out the fact that they're not really guests, they are Zed's prisoners.

Zed is obsessed with hunting. He sleeps all day and hunts all night. The walls of the fortress are lined with all sorts of weaponry, the place decorated with the taxidermied bodies of the many varieties of big game alien species he's killed. In his private chamber, he keeps his most prized trophies, the heads of the game he most enjoys hunting: humans. He intends to add Daria, Tisa, Rik, and Shala's heads to his collection very soon. He will set them loose in the jungle and track them down as they try to avoid boobytraps and the alien-mutant-cyborg and green-blooded ghouls that reside in a nearby temple.

Writer/director Ken Dixon's film is an adaptation of Richard Connell's popular 1924 short story The Most Dangerous Game, put into a futuristic space setting and populated with scantily clad women. I wasn't expecting much from Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity when I started watching it, but it quickly drew me in, and by the time the end credits were rolling I was truly impressed. For the type of movie that it is, it's very well made. Dixon knew what he was doing when putting together this low budget sci-fi exploitation flick, he kept the tone light and fun, he kept the pace moving quickly through the 74 minute running time, and he kept his female characters in as little clothes as possible.

In fact, the actresses - Elizabeth Kaitan (her last name spelled Cayton here) of Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (which was directed by this film's creature designer, John Carl Beuchler), and most of the Vice Academy sequels as Daria, Cindy Beal as Tisa, and scream queen Brinke Stevens as Shala - are only fully clothed for one scene, a dinner scene in which they wear dresses. For the rest of the film they're either in the slave girl bikinis, lingerie, or nude. They look great, no matter what they're wearing or aren't.

This is the type of movie that laughs at its own absurdity along with the audience, and Dixon wrote in a lot of good, goofy lines and scenes. For example, as Zed's captives are planning an escape from his fortress, Daria asks Rik, "Have you got a knife?" Rik responds with a confident tone while underselling the large knife he pulls out, "Only this." Daria is unimpressed, shrugging, "It'll have to do." None of this is to be taken seriously.

On the floor of the U.S. Senate in 1992, Senator Jesse Helms called the film out as being indecent. Here on Life Between Frames today, I deem it to be a whole lot of fun.

THE CALL (2013)

A serial killer has been stalking the streets of Los Angeles and its suburbs, targeting teenage girls of a certain type. His latest victim of choice is Casey, who has all the makings of the traditional horror movie final girl; a virginal good girl who can't even bring herself to say a word as harsh as "bitch".

The killer captures Casey in a mall parking garage and stuffs her into the trunk of a car, where she'll spend the majority of the movie. While she's being driven to certain torturous death, Casey manages to get a call in to 911. The operator who handles her call is a woman named Jordan, who is very shaken up and emotionally invested in the situation because she had a traumatic experience months earlier when she was on the line with one of the killer's previous victims as they were being attacked and even exchanged words with the killer.

Much of the running time deals with Casey's attempts to escape from the trunk, trying to draw attention from other cars on the road in any way possible, while Jordan tries to gather enough information to identify the vehicle and figure out its location, the police desperately trying to track the killer down and save Casey's life. The cell phone Casey is using is a disposable one, so it's not as simple as just tracking its GPS signal. I hadn't read any reviews of the movie, hadn't seen the trailer, hadn't seen any images from it other than shots of Jordan sitting at her work station, so I had no idea what would happen or where things were going. I was totally riveted throughout.

Directed by Brad Anderson (Session 9), The Call is a very entertaining thriller, with great performances by Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin (who gets major cool points from me for the horror fandom she displays in interviews) in the lead roles and some good work from actors in supporting roles that I don't want to specify because the best way to watch the movie is to be as in the dark about everything as I was.



The career of screenwriter David S. Goyer, who would go on to become a big name in Hollywood, working on projects like the Blade trilogy, Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, the upcoming Man of Steel, etc., began here. Death Warrant was the first screenplay Goyer ever sold and got produced, written when he was still attending college.

Bloodsport/Kickboxer/Lionheart star Jean-Claude Van Damme plays Québécois mountie Louis Burke, whose partner is among the victims of a serial killer called The Sandman (played by the wonderfully named actor Patrick Kilpatrick). As the movie begins, Burke has tracked The Sandman down to Los Angeles, and when he catches up to the knife-wielding maniac he avenges his partner by pumping several bullets into him.

Burke established a good working relationship with the L.A.P.D. during the Sandman situation, so sixteen months later city officials call him back to L.A. to offer him a special assignment. Several inmates have turned up dead under mysterious circumstances at the Harrison State Prison, so Burke is tasked with going undercover as a prisoner serving time for armed robbery to see if he can find out what's going on. Since he's a cop from a different country, there's no danger that the criminals he's locked up with will recognize him.

Some of the convicts, including Robert Guillaume in a memorably likeable role, do help Burke with his investigation, and he's aided from outside the walls by Cynthia Gibb as lawyer Amanda Beckett, who poses as his wife, and teenage computer whiz Tisdale (Joshua Miller of Class of 1999, among other things), who Beckett hires to hack into the prison's computer system and search through its records. A self-professed "computer cowboy", Tisdale hopes to have his skills rewarded with some older woman nookie, but Beckett is saving her nookie for conjugal visits with Burke.

Burke's investigation is hindered by dirty guards (led by Trancers 1 and 2's Art LaFleur) and jailhouse scuffles with inmates like Die Hard's Al Leong, but his team's efforts soon threaten to reveal a web of corruption and a black market organ harvesting operation. A desperate, villainous official arranges for a prisoner who will cause some major trouble for Burke to be transferred to Harrison: the still alive and bloodthirsty Sandman.

Death Warrant is at times very close to being a Van Damme horror movie, which means it was right up my alley when it came out. I had seen Van Damme's previous movies and thought they were pretty cool, and now he had made one in which he goes up against a seemingly unstoppable slasher? To paraphrase an already over-quoted line from Django Unchained, "Van Damme, you had my curiosity, but now you have my attention." I watched the movie, rented on VHS, when I was seven years old, and that was the only time I had seen it before revisiting it recently. In 1991, I thought it was awesome. I didn't find it quite as good in 2013, but there was enough silly fun to it that it still made for an enjoyable watch.

FURIOUS 6 (2013)

Following the events of Fast Five and the fat stacks of cash they walked away with, the crew of streetracing outlaws that we've been following through the Fast & Furious franchise, headed up by Vin Diesel's Dominic Toretto and Paul Walker's Brian O'Conner, have (for the most part) retired from the criminal life and settled down, some of them starting families.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's federal agent character Luke Hobbs, who was out to jail the group in the previous film before he ultimately sided with them, pulls them back into action by coming to them for help. A gang of criminals headed by a man named Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), has been making vehicular assaults on military convoys to steal the components needed to assemble a potentially devastating tech device. It's a "it takes a thief to catch a thief" situation, and our outside-the-law heroes agree to help Hobbs in exchange for full pardons and a chance to find out why Dom's former girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is riding with Shaw's crew and, even more importantly, how the hell she's still alive when the character was killed off in the fourth film with a (closed casket) funeral and everything.

This scenario provides all the vehicular action viewers have come to expect from the series, with some of the biggest setpieces and most ridiculous, physics and reality defying stunts yet. Shaw tears through the streets of London in a modified racecar with a front designed to send the cars it hits flipping out of the way like cows in front of a train, a chase sequence involves a tank cold-bloodedly mowing down innocent motorists, people engage in fistfights on top of cars dangling from a plane... It's insane, mindless, and quite entertaining.

The franchise really comes full circle with this one, it could all end here and be nicely wrapped up, if it weren't for a mid-credits tease that makes me want to see part 7 right now.

My viewing of Furious 6 was my third trip to the drive-in this month, as a drive-in seemed like the perfect venue to see it at. The place was packed.

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