Bargain Bin(ge): MovieStop

MovieStop has got to be my favorite location for digging up DVDs. It doesn’t have the local charm of a lot of places, but they make up with it with their massive stock. I’m never quite sure what I’ve going to find in a MovieStop, but I always know that I am going to dig up something excellent / obscure (and that I’m not going to injure my wallet in the process).

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As you might gather, MovieStop is essentially a GameStop for movies. It was, in fact,  previously run under the same company, but has since branched out into independent operations. And personally, I’d say the service you find at MovieStops is far and away better than what you would find at your average GameStop.

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Based out of Atlanta, the company has already done a lot of expanding in the Southeast. I have actually been to just about every MovieStop in the region through my travels, and they have been pretty consistently impressive. Currently, they are still only operating out of 10 states, but I have seen (and heard) every indication that further expansion is just around the corner.

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Ever since I have been going to my local MovieStop in Huntsville, AL, they have been running a bargain bin sale: movies on the rack are 2.99, and ‘buy one get one free’. Rarely can one find a better deal than that. I have picked up a ton of features for this blog through that sale alone, and have quite the impressive backlog because of it.  (Also, MovieStops consistently have used BibleMan DVDs in stock. Except for the Huntsville, AL one, because I bought them all)

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Last but not least, MovieStop stores are almost always pretty. Most DVD spots are usually run down and dingy, sometimes even located next to sex shops…
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…or tagged as a juggalo hangouts.

store4So, MovieStops kind of nicely break up the typical pattern.  They even go above and beyond on some of the design and frills in the stores:

moviestop5 moviestop7So, if you are ever traveling through (or live in) an area with a MovieStop, I highly recommend checking them out. They are not all equal in quality (the Tuscaloosa, AL one is particularly disappointing), but in general they are great places to find movies: obscure foreign films, classic B-movies, indies from the 90s, current Blu-ray releases, and just about anything else you might be looking for.

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Bargain Bin(ge): McKay’s Used Books

I love covering the many movies I dig up at bargain bins around the country, but I don’t often spotlight the bargain locations themselves. So, here are a few photos from one of my favorite spots: McKay’s.

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McKay’s is a small chain of cavernous used media stores, located throughout Tennessee. As you can see from the following photos from their Nashville location, their bargain bins are literally giant, re-purposed laundry bins.

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Their prices are reasonable even on non-bargain items, and they have just about everything under the sun: movies, music, games, books, audiobooks, comics, etc. I will say that it definitely leans for quantity over quality in most departments, but it is great for finding things you may not have seen or heard of before.

Last but certainly not least, the Nashville McKay’s has the most excellent, adorable coffee chop I have ever seen parked out front. I mean, just look at it.

mckay5If you happen to find yourself in Knoxville, Nashville, or Chattanooga, I highly suggest taking some time to see what you can dig up in a McKay’s. You are sure to find something.

Bargain Bin(ge), June 2014

Howdy loyal readers! Unfortunately, I’m going to have to take some time off from the blog over the next couple of weeks due to a bunch of work conferences and a cross-country move. I’m going to try to keep putting out a couple of IMDb Bottom 100 entries weekly through the end of July before I get cooking daily again.

In the meantime, here is another quick sampling of features I’ve dug out of bargain bins in recent months. We have a DeCoteau version of “The Wolf of Wall Street” from 2002, a notorious Ted V. Mikels flick about cat food, Roddy Piper in an urban dystopia, old Dolph Lundgren doing something involving casinos, and more! Check them out!

Snowbeast (1977)

Galaxina

Laser Mission

Paper Dragons

Wolves of Wall Street

Jungleground

The Corpse Grinders

Missionary Man

 

IMDb Bottom 100: Die Hard Dracula

Die Hard Dracula

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“Die Hard Dracula” is an incompetently made movie on every level. The editing is jerky and feels devoid of continuity, the writing is bizarrely inconsistent in tone, the costumes and makeup are ridiculous, the effects are garbage, and all of the acting is either cartoonishly over-the-top or non-existent.

An interesting thing I noticed from digging around on the web is that “Die Hard Dracula” is clearly one of those movies that no one knew how to market (and not just because it is horrible). If you look at any of the posters or covers for the movie, they all portray a typical vampire horror movie. However, the tone of the movie is oddly light-hearted, and at times is a full-on spoof of “Dracula” and vampire movies in general.

diehard9At the same time, it doesn’t go quite so far as to be a “comedy”, so it would be deceptive to market it as such without acknowledging the attempt at horror. I’ve noticed this same trend with other movies that mix styles (whether they are good or not). It is difficult to easily pitch or sell something that has both genuine horror and comedy elements. In this case it didn’t matter all too much, because the movie is astoundingly horrible all-around and fails to blend the genres successfully. However, this problem does affect good horror-comedy movies of recent years like “Cabin in the Woods” and “Drag Me to Hell”.

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Managed to drag both Joss Whedon and Sam Raimi into this.

I can’t say for sure, but some of the comedic moments in “Die Hard Dracula” seem forced enough that they might have been added in after the fact, perhaps once everyone realized how bad the final product was going to be. In particular, the ending feels very unnatural, jarring, and improvised. Then again, most of the movie feels oddly edited and confusing, so the ending almost blends in. I’m not sure if this is a case where the sudden, whiplash-inducing tone shifts between horror and comedy were intended from the original script, or if they are the results of a flubbed attempt to salvage/redirect the movie. In any case, the writing and editing crash together to turn the film into a complete cinematic wreck. Even if all other elements were average or better, this film would have been a failure due to those aspects alone. Fancy trim on a poorly constructed house isn’t going to make for a good home, after all. Unfortunately for the film, not even the trim-work looks good in this mess.

If you are going to make any kind of horror movie, you absolutely must be able to do makeup and practical effects (unless your name is Uli Lommel and you don’t have standards). “Die Hard Dracula” not only has horrible makeup on Dracula, but it fails to be even remotely consistent with his appearance. The closest thing I can liken Dracula’s ever-changing appearance to is how Jason changes his appearance under the hockey mask from one “Friday the 13th” movie to the next.

diehard1 diehard2 diehard3 diehard4As you should probably expect, the acting in this movie is generally horrible. There is one notable exception: Bruce Glover (“Diamonds Are Forever”) plays Dr. Van Helsing, and is the one saving grace of the movie. He chews the scenery like he is sucking life force out of the props, and actually makes the movie watchable while he is on screen. His performance is perhaps the only reason I might consider recommending this movie. He is at the very least a breath of fresh air next to the fellow playing Dracula. Ugh.

I have really only scratched the surface of the landfill of garbage that is this movie. There are flying special effects worthy of “Pumaman”, and a flying coffin sequence that will make you cringe. Dracula even shoots lightning out of his hands like Emperor Palpatine at one point for some reason.

You may notice that I have managed to avoid the plot of this movie so far. That was quite intentional. Honestly, there isn’t an easy way to sum it up sensibly. There is a young man who watches his girlfriend instantly drown in a water skiing accident, after which he goes backpacking in Europe to grieve. He makes a vague wish upon a star that resurrects a drowned woman in eastern Europe. Meanwhile, Dracula exists and starts creeping out the drowned woman’s town. Protagonist-man shows up in the town while back-packing, falls in love with the formerly drowned woman, and volunteers to help Van Helsing kill the local vampire menace. Shenanigans ensue as Van Helsing repeatedly fails to vanquish the vampire to comedic effect. Ultimately, Dracula turns everyone into vampires and they live happily ever after for eternity.

 

It is all pretty much nonsense.

The thing that really gets me about this movie is that I can’t decide if I hate it or love it. It is incompetent on every possible level, and fails miserably at everything it sets out to do. The pacing slows down quite a bit, and there isn’t much entertainment value to be had, but I can’t help but enjoy it in retrospect. I feel similar about this movie as I do about “Leonard Part 6” I suppose: it is a rare case where I enjoy a failed comedy, in just how miserably it fails to be comedic. I also just love Bruce Glover’s performance, which is probably the tipping point for me. I definitely recommend checking out the trailer above: if that seems like something you might enjoy, then check it out.

IMDb Bottom 100: Zaat

Zaat

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“Zaat” is a movie about a mad scientist who turns himself into a human-catfish hybrid, and then terrorizes a town. He kidnaps and performs experiments on people until he is discovered and defeated. That premise sounds vastly much more interesting than this movie actually is. Generally, most of the movie is a man in a bad monster suit stumbling around blindly, occasionally carrying people around or fiddling with machinery . There’s also some lovely stock footage of fish with hilariously over-the-top voice over.

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This pretty much covers everything

One thing I will say is that watching a catfish-man walking around with a giant syringe and trying to do science is pretty enjoyable. Just watching him shamble about in general and kidnap people is delightfully ridiculous given the suit’s limited range of motion…for the first few minutes. After that, the movie gets pretty unbearably monotonous and repetitive. The pacing moves along about as quickly as a catfish on dry land.

zaat2Some people regard this as a titan of bad movies, but I just don’t see it. It has gained a cult following since being featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 as “Blood Waters of Dr. Z”, and to be fair, the riff is quite good. However, I just don’t think the movie itself has much entertainment value. There is some miserable acting, horrible props and effects, outstandingly boring cinematography, and plenty of general incompetence, but most of it doesn’t make for laughs. I did get some chuckles out of the generally clumsy suit, but that was about it. The folks at RedLetterMedia disagree, and seem to get a real kick out of this flick:

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AYL1uH0C.x?p=1 width=”720″ height=”433″]

I can see why some people enjoy this film, so I can give it a very light recommendation. It doesn’t do much for me, but I think enough bad movie fans have enjoyed it that it is worth giving a shot. I can definitely recommend the MST3k riff, or at least the highlights. That way you will get all of the shambling monster and stock footage without all of the droning in between.

 

 

IMDb Bottom 100: Friday the 13th (Parts V and VIII)

Happy Friday the 13th everybody! To celebrate the occasion, I have a double feature of two IMDb Bottom 100 alumni from the infamous “Friday the 13th” franchise. There’s also a Stanley Cup Final game tonight, so you should dig out your hockey masks either way.

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Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning

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“Friday the 13th: Part V” is probably the most intensely reviled of all of the “Friday the 13th” movies. “Part V” has even been ignored in the continuity of the subsequent films in the franchise. There are a lot of reasons why this film ultimately failed so spectacularly, but the most famous reason is related to a key aspect of the previous movie, “Part IV: The Final Chapter”: Jason was killed in the end, and is actually still dead for once.

That’s right: Jason, the iconic hockey-masked star of the franchise, is not in “Part V”. Instead, the killings are being perpetrated by a copycat, whose identity is withheld until the end of the movie.

It plays out like a particularly dark episode of Scooby-Doo. In the end, the dude under the mask is “the one guy from earlier”

Most fans of the franchise felt quite cheated by the absence of Jason, particularly due to the heavy implications from the promotional materials that the super-zombie would be returning.

friday3The problems don’t end with just Jason’s absence and the deceptive marketing. Rumor has it that the MPAA ratings board was lax with their judgements on “The Final Chapter” due to their belief that it would, indeed, be the concluding movie in the franchise. When “A New Beginning” came up for review, evidently the ratings board was harsher than ever. In order to avoid a NC-17 (and the significant hindrance that brings to distribution and box office revenues), massive cuts had to be made to any graphic scenes. The results of this are a number of off-screen deaths, minimized gore effects, and an overall underwhelming “Friday the 13th” experience in the violence department, which did not go over well with franchise fans.

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This is as bloody as the movie gets

Alas, there are even more issues with “Part V”. The soundtrack elects to use “updated” 80s style pop music instead of the traditional horror music you might expect. The characters are mostly shallow caricatures and stereotypes (more-so than usual), and comic-relief comes in the form of unexpected and unnecessary poop jokes. There also isn’t a true protagonist, as Tommy (a character returning from “Part IV”) is absent from most of the movie, and acts as the primary red herring for the audience. Because of this lack of focus, the audience doesn’t get enough time with any characters to form emotional connections, and thus the story doesn’t have any sense of gravity. When a character dies, the audience needs to feel a sense of loss. In this movie, the lack of character depth means that effect doesn’t happen.

While “Friday the 13th: Part V” has plenty of problems and is a long way from being good, I feel like it doesn’t deserve all of the ire that it gets. It seems to me that it spurned the fan base, but mostly in a way that was outside of the film-makers control (the ratings cuts and the deceptive marketing). I personally think that using a Jason copycat is a pretty interesting concept that could have panned out better. It played with the established mythos of the franchise, which is a cool way to mix things up in a formula that was on the verge of going stale.

Still, this is widely regarded as the worst movie in the franchise, and I agree that it is certainly a heavy contender for that title. The other most common candidate for that claim (outside of the semi-parody “Jason X”) is…

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

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Much like “Part V”, “Part VIII” drew an immense amount of ire from franchise fans and general audiences alike for its deceptive marketing. The movie known as “Jason Takes Manhattan” in fact mostly takes place on a cruise ship, and is primarily filmed in Canada. That wouldn’t be such a huge deal if the film’s marketing didn’t look like this:

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To say the least, the marketing didn’t do the movie any favors with audiences.

Personally, I like the idea of relocating Jason to mix the movies up a bit. And honestly, a cruise ship works splendidly for the “Friday the 13th” formula: you have a large group of people who are isolated from society, and prone to all sorts of youthful shenanigans. I’m actually quite curious if this setting clicked with the writer more-so than having Jason wander the streets of the Big Apple, which is pretty far outside of his usual style. My guess is that the script needed a reason for Jason to be in New York, and the ship was intended initially as just a story mechanism, maybe with just a kill or two. I’m willing to wager that the urban setting caused a lot of problems for the Jason formula, so the writer ultimately relegated the NYC portion of the story to what is essentially an extended chase scene.

friday14 friday19Once again, there are a lot of issues with “Part VIII” that go beyond the deceptive marketing. The protagonist has a number of hallucinations of Jason as a child, which are never fully explained. She is also afraid of water due to a traumatic experience at Crystal Lake as a young child, which is implied to have been Jason attempting to drown her, despite that not being Jason’s M.O. Further, the New York sewers are conveniently filled with a toxic waste that melts skin, which is used to defeat Jason at the end of the movie. During that death sequence, Jason’s under-mask makeup is absolutely miserable when compared to previous films, and worse yet, he somehow reverts to his child-form after being thoroughly melted by the toxic sludge. Even worse yet, the child-form of Jason looks almost nothing like the previous depictions of his younger self. These are all generally small things, but the missed details stack up eventually. Also, a character has a fist-fight with Jason. I still can’t decide whether that was dumb or amazing.

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“So…we’re going with that?”
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You can guess how well this goes

In general, “Jason Takes Manhattan” is primarily a victim of fan rage at the deceptive marketing for the movie. The film is technically better than “A New Beginning” in my opinion, but a long way off from being good. Yet, once again, I feel like it gets far more loathing than it really deserves. With both of these movies, the filmmakers took risks to mix up a formula that was wearing thin. They didn’t wind up panning out, but I can’t help but appreciate the creative efforts in both of these movies. Personally, I think I like both of them more than “Part VII”, which features a telekinetic psychic who battles Jason with her superpowers. That movie, while probably more competent than either of these, is just damn stupid.

Unless you are dedicated to watching the entire “Friday the 13th” franchise, both “Part V” and “Part VIII” are totally skippable. If you are curious, I recommend just looking up the highlights from each. “Part VII”, however, is a bizarre love-hate experience that i can definitely recommend to bad movie fans.

IMDb Bottom 100: The Hottie and The Nottie

The Hottie and The Nottie

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“The Hottie and The Nottie” has been sitting at the bottom of the IMDb Bottom 100 for quite some time. If it weren’t for the current “Gunday” situation, it would still be holding the #1 spot. Given that this is a Paris Hilton movie, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect out of this thing content-wise. However, I was curious going in as to how this movie compares to her other (many) appearances in the list, such as “Pledge This” and “The Hillz”. Oddly, I didn’t find this movie to be dramatically worse than those in any way.

Of course, the message in this movie is abysmal. Essentially, it is an “Ugly Duckling” tale that reinforces the idea that a character/person does not have value until/unless they are attractive. It also presents the audience with one of the most unintentionally reprehensible protagonists I’ve seen in a movie: the writers don’t seem to realize that they have crafted a complete scumbag of a character, and assumes the audience is on board with him throughout the movie.

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Despite the fact that they are standing on a boat, I am very much not on board with either of these characters.

The plot follows a guy (Joel David Moore, the fellow on the right above) who is attempting to land the girl of his (primary school) dreams, who is played by Paris Hilton. He is hindered by the fact that she has a protective, unattractive best friend, and by the mostly unaddressed fact that he compulsively lies constantly about everything. The plot wants us to believe that only one of those is a real obstacle. In any case, he spends a significant portion of the movie being grossed out by the unrealistically enhanced ugly friend while trying to scheme ways to dispose of her, all while continuing to lie his way into a pseudo-relationship with the Paris Hilton character.

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They go pretty unnecessarily above and beyond with the practical effects

The plot takes the predictable “Ugly Duckling” turn when the ugly friend has cosmetic/dental surgery, after which the lead suddenly realizes he prefers her to Paris Hilton’s character. Instead of having to deal with a realistic comeuppance for the shit he pulls throughout the movie, he pretty much gets exactly what he wants. I basically finished the movie by declaring: “What a fuckhead”.

hottie_and_the_nottie2All of that said, this movie’s failings were mostly limited to the writing and the makeup. I don’t recall any massive technical errors, like the sound editing and cinematography wackiness of “Pledge This!”.  As I mention in the video review, if this movie is put on mute without subtitles, most of the problems disappear (outside of what story you can pull from the visuals). Then again, I’m also definitely not re-watching this. “Pledge This!” had a couple of pure “WTF is happening?” moments to make it bizarrely entertaining in bursts, but “The Hottie and The Nottie” is devoid of any of that. All of the “humor” falls flat (as you would expect), Paris Hilton can’t act (as you should know), and the story is as sick as it is cliche. All of the mild technical competence behind the scenes can’t make up for the atrocious writing here, so even though this is technically a better crafted movie than “Pledge This!”, I’m tempted to say that “Pledge This!” is more watchable overall.

Still, I don’t think this deserves the top slot in an accurate Bottom 100 movies list. It was hard to sit through, but no more difficult than any of the “Movie Movies”, and it is certainly not as incompetently made as “The Maize” or “Birdemic”. I’m honestly not sure how this movie specifically drew the ire of the IMDb voters: while the writing and the story are abysmal, nothing made this movie stand out to me among the other IMDb Bottom 100 comedies. It certainly isn’t anywhere near being good, and I am definitely not recommending it, but I can’t help but disagree with the IMDb voting herd on this one. In my opinion, there is another Paris Hilton movie that deserves that kind of ire, but I’ll get to “The Hillz” later.

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All of the incompetence of “Birdemic” combined with the loathesomeness of “The Hottie and The Nottie” and “Pledge This”