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The Satan Bug (1965)

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With all the recent talk of nuclear destruction, it's easy to forget the many ways we can destroy the human race without the benefit of someone pushing a big red button.  In fact, the fact that it is humans with families manning those buttons that have many times saved us from accidental destruction.

But what if a determined maniac (or group of maniacs) got their hands on something much more subtle than a nuclear weapon?  Truth is, there are a lot of diseases that we pat ourselves on the back for eradicating sitting on ice in various places around the world and it is the height of naivety to believe it hasn't crossed someone's mind on how to turn it into a weapon.

And what if someone with the resources to do so got their hands on that weapon?  That is the scenario we are confronted with in The Satan Bug.

At a remote California research facility called Station Three, Dr. Baxter (Henry Beckman) has created a new weaponized strain they nickname the Satan Bug.  An airborne vi…

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

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"The third one is always the worst."  Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) makes this comment after seeing Return of the Jedi and the conversation turns to which Star Wars movie (as of 1983) was the best.  It's also a not-so-subtle swipe at X-Men: Last Stand, the disappointing third chapter that wrapped up the original set of X-Men movies.  I wonder if Bryan Singer knew what he was doling out with X-Men: Apocalypse, or if that line is just a case of unintentional irony.

Not that this movie is as bad as Last Stand.  On the contrary, it is still entertaining, but it caps off a series of films that redeemed the entire franchise.  The DC comic movies have largely been garbage, the main Marvel Universe is stuck in a rut even if some of the films do have quality elements, but X-Men, until this movie, was able to do much more with its material.

En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac) is worshiped as a god in Egypt, along with his four compatriots.  With the aid of a pyramid using some sort of sun po…

Nightcrawler (2014)

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More and more it seems that movies with lower budgets are turning toward horror.  I know there is still a large soft-core porn market as well, but that has existed forever, and probably will as long as Cinemax and direct-to-video (or, in the modern sense, direct-to-streaming) is there to carry it.  Horror is typically where it is at in any medium if you want to do something relatively on the cheap and get some attention.

This is a rather recent phenomena, as exploitation films tended to be largely action-based in the past.  I can understand why they are not these days.  Budgets are typically too high, and many of the typical topics are now multi-season series on FX or Netflix.  No matter how much inspiration you take from The Wild Angels, Hell's Angels or even Born Losers, your biker film is still going to be compared to Sons of Anarchy.

It is with great surprise (and happiness) that there is still room for something like Nightcrawler.  

Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a reclu…

Forbidden World (1982)

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1980 brought us the sequel to the original Star Wars, after three years of everyone trying to ride its back to success.  The Italians pushed out Starcrash, Roger Corman himself followed suit with Battle Beyond the Stars and, for one season before they unwisely decided to ground things on Earth, Battlestar Galactica brought us an entertaining take intertwined with Mormon mythology.

Still, The Empire Strikes Back reminded everyone that there was nothing to beat the original short of expanding on it.  The good thing about both the good and bad ripoffs was that it kept Star Wars alive during a period where cable was in its infancy and VCRs were still a rich man's toy.  So, space cowboys and cute robots for all!

Of course, there was another surprise science fiction hit, also made on a relatively shoestring budget, that featured neither of these.  Instead, it was a haunted house floating in space with a slimy rape metaphor stalking the crew and H.R. Giger inspired sets.  That movie was…

Conan the Barbarian (1982)

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Everyone has to start somewhere.  For Arnold Schwarzenegger... well, it wasn't here.  It was a horrible comedy called Hercules in New York where they dubbed another actor over him to hide his accent and called him Arnold Strong.  That could have been all she wrote for the Austrian bodybuilder's acting career, save for seven years later he became a bit of a star due to the documentary Pumping Iron.

After bit parts and some television appearances, he finally got his break playing the title character of Conan the Barbarian.  The Conan stories, as envisioned by Robert E. Howard, took place in the Antediluvian world of around 10000 B.C., thus making his accent a non-issue.  It also helped that Oliver Stone's script did not contain a huge amount of dialogue for any of the characters.

Young Conan (Jorge Sanz) lives in a northern village, where he learns about swordmaking from his father (William Smith).  One day his village is invaded by warriors led by Thulsa Doom (James Earl …

Battle in Outer Space (1960)

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Toho Studios is largely known for monster movies, specifically Godzilla and all his brethren.  These are the movies that got played constantly when I was a kid on Saturday mornings.  Yes, I watched some cartoons, but the highlight of the day was seeing a giant lizard stomp all over Tokyo.

While the original Gojira and a few of its immediate sequels were serious (as well as some of the other members of the menagerie), they got sillier as the 1960s went on.  Silly even to the point that most of the other output of Toho, including their go-to director, Ishiro Honda, was largely forgotten.

Big monsters may be one thing, but Toho made some good sci-fi films as well and, while I hate to admit it, they were ahead of Hollywood for a period when it came to special effects.  It's no surprise they decided to do an all-out effects movie like Battle in Outer Space.

In the near future an international space station is attacked by alien saucers, who then proceed to cause mayhem on earth by demo…

Circle of Iron (1978)

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In the 1960s Bruce Lee was on the cusp of stardom.  Unfortunately, he had been working in the United States and trying to break into Hollywood which at the time was finally willing to break certain racial barriers.  In typical Hollywood form, that meant one particular race, and Mr. Lee didn't count.  Still, he persevered.

Circle of Iron was conceived as not just a martial arts film, but one that explored the philosophy of martial arts.  It had plenty of action and adventure, but ultimately had a lesson at its heart.  Lee wrote early drafts of the script, hoping to have Steve McQueen star in the lead.  McQueen was not willing to make Lee a star on his coattails, so James Coburn was the next choice.  Typical Hollywood situation arose, the script ended up in development hell, and the movie never surfaced.  By the time Lee had the influence to revive it and make it happen he had passed away.

I didn't know this about the movie when I started watching it, so when I started seeing ac…