Shark Side of the Moon (2022)

Originals. Every streaming platform feels the need to put them out right now, it seems. But a free streaming platform like Tubi? Okay, I’m worried. You have to think about the economics of this all: they’re giving away their content, after all, and they already have one of the largest and most diverse catalogs in […]

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Them! (1954)

I’d almost forgotten. I’ll admit it’s been a long time since I last saw Them!, but you think I’d have remembered. But then, it seems to be something that happens with the great classics — even if it is just an incredible classic of the Fifties genre of giant monster movies: We keep forgetting just […]

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Saturnalia (2022)

Look, I’ll admit it. I love everything Joshua Kennedy does. More than that, I know if I watch his latest film, I’m going to have a great time. It’s not that his films are as polished and perfect as that absolutely overblown blockbuster superhero flick you can watch at the theater in Dolby Atmos™.  It’s […]

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Adrenalin: Fear the Rush (1996)

If there is one great truth about the film industry that you need to remember, it is that there is always someone out there who will go out of his way to mess up a perfectly good film.

Now, if you’ve missed that, you need only look at all the director’s cuts out there, often for films which did badly in the theaters, but which their directors still believed in (just to name a few, Ultraviolet, The Chronicles of Riddick and, of course, the Snyder Cut).  Or you could go out and buy the Criterion collection version of Brazil and watch the so-called “Love conquers all” cut, which, fortunately, was only shown on television.

Now I mention this because Adrenalin: Fear the Rush usually gets appalling reviews from the critics.

So it shocked me a bit to find a review from The Schlock Pit which called this film by direct-to-video auteur Albert Pyun “A Superlative Surge of Pyun.”

I know, some of you are thinking, there’s always someone who loves a film, no matter how bad it is (although sometimes I suspect that person may be the director’s mother).  However, there’s a lot more going on here than that.

The basics are simple enough.  Pyun, working from his own script, shot a taut, nearly documentary-style thriller, following a team of cops through a maze of streets, tunnels and crumbling buildings, in an attempt to stop a deadly serial killer who doesn’t seem all that human.

The problem was that Dimension Films had the contract to distribute the film, so their head, Bob Weinstein, shot new footage which didn’t match the original, slapped new music on it, cut over half an hour from the original film and crammed it all together into a nearly incomprehensible mess.

This is the film the critics hate.  And frankly, I have no intention of seeing it.

Not ever.

But it isn’t the only version that’s out there.

Pyun has talked about releasing his director’s cut, but, frankly, I doubt if we’ll ever see it, particularly now that he is desperately ill.

However, there is another.

The Euro version of the film is twenty minutes longer and has very little of Bob Weinstein’s new footage.  It doesn’t entirely match Albert’s original intent for the film.

But it is awfully close.

Now I need to point out that it wouldn’t exactly be a shock if Pyun had made a terrible film.  He’s had a fascinating career of making endless direct to video films for very little money.  And some of them, like Heatseeker (1995) are seriously bad.

But then, if someone hires a director to turn a kickboxing tournament in Manila into a movie, then I doubt if even Orson Welles could have done much with it.

And certainly a lot of Albert’s many post-apocalpytic or kickboxing films are a bit…uninspired.

But at his best, in films like Dollman (1991) or Omega Doom (1996), he brought something interesting and unexpected into his work that lifts them above the endless herd of Nineties vintage robotic kickboxers, post-Apocalyptic nomads and French speaking martial artists.

And then there are a few — only a few, mind you — like Deceit (1992) or Invasion, or The Interrogation of Cheryl Cooper (2014), which are bold filmic experiments of the sort that you’d normally expect from some film student or Indie director.

It’s a strange, one of a kind career.  And he deserves a lot more respect than he usually gets.

This time around, Natasha Henstridge, trying to build a post-Species career for herself, stars as a rookie cop in a broken down world who only signed up in the hopes of getting her son safely across the border and into the what is supposedly future Boston.  One suspects this mostly came from the Weinstein version, but it is handled nicely enough.

Only, when she and her partner (played by Xavier Declie not long before he didn’t become a major kickboxing action star) go to check up on another police patrol which ran into trouble, they find lots of dead cops and a killer who moves ridiculously fast.

Another team, led by Christopher Lambert, arrives to assist, but things go from bad to even worse when they corner the mysterious suspect in an old prison.

But what none of them realize is that there is another team after him, a squad of hazmat suited special forces soldiers who have to stop the killer before he becomes infectious with a disease which might destroy what’s left of this horrible world…

Now I need to point out that there are very few answers here.  If you aren’t happy unless your science fiction painstakingly explains every detail you will not like Adrenalin: Fear the Rush.  There are a lot of hints about who and what the killer is — but they are never explained to us in much detail, and we know the leader of the Hazmat team is lying and can’t beleive everything he tells us.

But you really don’t need to know any of this.  Although the film does gradually release a series of hints and shocking revelations.

Not that they explain much.

Instead, this is an intense, brutal film, in which our desperate team pushes its way deep and deeper into the mess, with tight intense shots and the great widescreen cinematography that Pyun and his regular DP, George Mooradian, always insisted upon.  It’s a dark thrill ride, where danger can leap out unexpected from any murky corner, and the most frightening moment comes when we realize that there is someone standing perfectly still next to another character.

Although those eyes and teeth are pretty creepy.

For those who enjoy a good action movie as much as they enjoy mystery or horror, Adrenalin: Fear the Rush deserves a look.

But only if you can find the Euro cut.

You know, the one that’s an hour and a half long?…

Buy from Amazon (Region 2 of the 90 minute Euro version — paid link):

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Annihilator (1986)

It’s such a good start. Cue the nervous, jangly, Jan Hammer-esque score and the flashy, MTV-inspired Miami Vice-style editing, as (apparently) dozens of cop cars chase a man in a big, Eighties sedan. Not that we have any idea who this guy is, or why the police are after him. He gets a girl to […]

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Moonfall (2022)

This is an utterly absurd and ridiculous movie. But you knew that already. I mean, a disaster movie about a space mission to stop the moon from falling onto the Earth.  You don’t get more absurd than that. Now, if you had any doubts about its absurdity, even after such a description, you need only […]

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Zipang [Jipangu] (1990)

Honorable Mention As I’ve noted before, the Heisei era at Toho, starting with the release of Godzilla 1985, was a rather strange time for Toho’s Tokusatsu films, one where it felt as if they were desperately trying to figure out what they were doing.  After all, they started the era with the return of the […]

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Speed Racer (2008)

Speed Racer isn’t a movie.

It’s more like getting buried alive under a mountain of neon-colored cotton candy.

I like it.

There.  I said it.

Yes, I know Speed Racer gets a lot of hate.  It’s an overblown, over produced, over-the-top, over colorful, utterly silly, hyperactive, non-stop assault on the senses, with a goofy, sweet, family-friendly simplistic good vs. evil plot that you can’t find outside of a children’s TV show.

I like it.

Speed Racer is probably the greatest guilty pleasure film ever made.  It refuses to follow any of the normal cinematic editing rules, preferring weird montages of rotating heads; obvious wipe cuts of the sort which haven’t been seen since the thirties; multiple digital image layers like a TV news show; hyper colorful, digitally enhanced location shots; old black and white film used in deliberately anachronistic ways; children’s drawings animated and brought to life; and whatever other madness the Wachowskis felt like throwing into the mix.

I honestly have no idea how something this stupidly awesome ever got made.  I mean, here’s a movie that cost $120 Million, and it features a cute kid playing pranks with the help of his Chimpanzee pal; Ninjas; cars doing Martial Arts moves; deadly Piranhas; bizarre Japanese kid’s cartoons; and even John Goodman (as Pop Racer) tossing Ninjas around with his Graeco-Roman Wrestling skills.

I mean, seriously, were there any adults involved in this production at all?

Look, I know the critics hated this one, that it flopped badly at the box office, and that the Studio lost $100 million on it.  I know that.  But that doesn’t change the fact that I just put this one in our DVD player and had my whole family on their feet and cheering as Speed passes his final opponent and roars across the finish line.  It is that sort of strangely old-fashioned hero story, wrapped in this absurd, epilepsy-inducing, insanely edited and lethally colorful package, the kind of film which leaves you cheering — and laughing hysterically at how silly and stupid it is, like the ridiculous way the shields installed on the Mach 5’s hubcaps work in the big cross-country race, or the series of zebras on the walls of the big race which we instantly recognize as the sort of zoetrope drawings which appear to be running if you spin the drum at the right speed.

Or race past them fast enough.

Although one of my favorite moments will probably escape most viewers as it is both quick — and a touch subtle (a strange thing to find in a film which seems to lack anything remotely resembling subtlety).  When the Mach 6 skids into the finish line, we get a quick glimpse of its underside, only it looks completely different from the previous glimpses we’ve had of it.

Instead, it is nearly flat, with a few molded-in features, and a big screw in the middle of the car…

Just like a Hot Wheels car.

The key here is to shut your brain off and just enjoy the film for what it is.  Don’t keep reminding yourself of how silly and stupid it all is, just let yourself be a little kid again, bathed in the pale glow of the cathode ray tube, jumping up and down as Speed and his family triumph once again.

Just make sure you have plenty of neon colored popcorn.

And maybe a little cotton candy…

Buy from Amazon (paid link):

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Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

As I’ve noted before, I think that the original Ghostbusters was an incredible fluke. For starters, I’d be hard pressed to name a single one of Ivan Reitman’s films that was even half as good.  Or a quarter, for that matter.  Of the many films Harold Ramis wrote only Groundhog Day was better — and […]

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