Sunday, October 21, 2018

Junta Juleil's Culture Shock: 10 Year Anniversary

On October 21, 2008, I posted a capsule review of a mediocre movie called STAR CRYSTAL, and Junta Juleil's Culture Shock was born.

I'd been writing joke reviews of paracinematic gems (i.e., the "so-bad-it's-good" genre) on Netflix, and when they tanked their community, I figured I'd give my reviews a more permanent home. I was also looking for a free publicity outlet for a one-act play I'd written that was showing in the East Village as part of a double-feature called SOMETHING WEIRD IN THE RED ROOM. Ten years later, I've published nearly 800 film, TV, book, commercial, beverage, food, and music reviews and basically morphed this thing into a bizarro shrine to the likes of John Carpenter, Charles Bronson, Cannon Films, Michael Ironside, Rutger Hauer, Stephen King, Clu Gulager, Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Jean-Claude Van Damme, among others.

While my initial enthusiasm (when I began, I was posting a review every day) has waned by necessity as I devote my energy to other, generally more serious projects, I always enjoy returning to this blog and using it as an outlet for my more eccentric, irreverent passions. As such, I wanted to thank my many friends, readers, and supporters (more than a few of you lay claim to all three titles), and a few of you have been there from the very beginning. [To call out a handful by name, a sincere thanks to J.D., Zack R, Mike B, Sci-Fi Fanatic, "AnonyMike," "gweeps," Jack T, John G, Cannon, Guy R, Christopher B, "skeelo," Daniel W, Giuseppe B, "Henry Swanson's Glasses," Francisco G, Dustin C, Jason, Buck A, "Chicken's Good," Phil H, Mario A, Maurice M, "Tempest," and so many others who have been supportive over the years, adding your own observations, offering kind words, and in some instances furnishing me with copies of impossible-to-find movies!]

It's been a long, strange trip on this site, from my guide to Melancholy Horror to my John Carpenter fanfiction to my deep dive into Japanese aftershave commercials starring Charles Bronson to my secret theory that HOUSE PARTY is a David Lynch homage to when I determined the extent to which Robert Mitchum gives a damn to my multi-part treatise on John Carpenter's little-known rock album to when I examined the hidden terrors of THE LETTER PEOPLE to when I read the novelization of HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH to when I found the missing link between Andrew Lloyd Webber's CATS and TOTAL RECALL to when I wrote reviews in fake Fat Boys lyrics or faux-Edgar Allan Poe verse to my claim that PRETTY WOMAN is a remake of CROCODILE DUNDEE. For those who are newer to the site, I thought I'd compile something of a "History of Junta Juleil," or at least a Junta Juleil's Greatest Hits––my favorite (or most ridiculous) pieces of work from over the years (ranked in no particular order):

Film Review: MOONWALKER (1988, Jerry Kramer, Colin Chivers, & Jim Blashfield)
"'Thank you, Michael!' they squeak from melancholy throats but it's not over till it's over and Michael comes back and takes them to a concert where he performs 'Come Together' which was a song by the Beatles, you remember who the Beatles are, don't you?, and Sean Lennon righteously shakes glowsticks in time with the music and then there are three sets of closing credits because a lot of people worked on this movie and it goes on for about six minutes, and there is African folk music and some outtakes from 'Smooth Criminal' and then finally Michael winks at us, a knowing wink, because we know the secret now, the secret that he is a robot and the world is safe now because Pesci was exploded, safe from bugs and drugs, bugs and drugs and whatever else, forever and amen, the end."

BLOODSPORT (1988, Newt Arnold)
"The Kumite (the secret fighting tournament in question) is full-contact, and BLOODSPORT never lets you forget it. "Full-contact" must be uttered on several dozen occasions: "Aren't you a little young for full-contact?" "It's full-contact." "Kumite is a full-contact event." "You sure you up for full-contact?" And then, just before the tournament begins, our heroes are reminded "Remember, this is full-contact!" As if they might say at this point in the game––wait, this is full-WHAT? I'm outta here!"

Film Review: MOONRAKER (1979, Lewis Gilbert)
"James Bond blasts his motorized gondola out of the Venetian canals and onto a main thoroughfare, rapidly inflating a bottom panel that transforms the vessel into a hovercraft. He then gallivants about the streets of Venice, wearing a "I say, what are you looking at, good sir?" expression upon his smug face. This prompts a pigeon to do a show-stopping double-take, achieved through a forward-reverse-forward motion effect. This is one of the ballsiest, most wonderfully inane gags to appear in any movie, James Bond or otherwise.  Its sheer lameness is such that it goes through the rabbit hole and back again, trampling your logic centers until you have no choice but to admit its brilliance."

"A work of lunatic, corporate-funded camp, the likes of which I've never seen before.  It's like if Paul Verhoeven did a remake of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, or as if Lucio Fulci directed THE FIRM.  It is a movie so spectacularly awful and so splendidly sure of itself that it transcends kitsch:  it is 'kitschscendent.'"

Film Review: THIS WOMAN IS DANGEROUS (1952, Felix Feist)
"I think it's safe to say that even Bob Mitchum would look more at home in the kitchen, tossing on an apron and cooking up a storm. Look at the utterly macabre, alien glare with which Joan Crawford regards her child co-star. Is she visualizing another dismemberment? Is she just looking for an excuse? Perhaps a wire-hanger left carelessly on the countertop? A wire-hanger left by a little girl who's clearly asking for a cudgeling? Later on, the girl remarks 'Your salad dressing was wonderful!' Seriously? Isn't it just olive oil, maybe some lemon, a touch of pepper if we're lucky? But nevermind. I'd rather not go on the record as criticizing Ms. Crawford's kitchen prowess."

Book Review: SPLINTER OF THE MIND'S EYE (1978, Alan Dean Foster)
"Darth Vader is a total perv.  I guess the dude's always been into leather and bondage and asphyxiation and could definitely fit in with the gas mask fetishists. Maybe this whole time his cape has really been just one big handkerchief indicating what sorts of scenes he's into. Anywho, in SPLINTER OF THE MIND'S EYE, while fighting Princess Leia, Vader actually says the following:
'Foolish infant.  The Force is with me, not you.'  But, he [Vader] shrugged amiably, 'we will see.'  He assumed a position of readiness.  'Come, girl-woman... amuse me.'"
Film Review: CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980, Lucio Fulci) 
"So we build to a finale where our heroes must face off against the undead priest and his bevy of zombie-maggot-ghouls.  Our hero grabs a giant wooden crucifix to do battle.  He has to stake him like a vampire, I guess. Then––I swear––he stakes the priest in the nuts. Right in the nuts. It's very clear.  That ain't the heart. You can't deny that the priest is being staked in his undead nuts. But why?"

Music Review: FREDDY'S GREATEST HITS (1987, The Elm Street Group)
"The intro is evocative. Vibes. Drum machine. Synthesized bells. That weird electronic keyboard that sounds like kittens mewing. It's's reassuring. Almost hopeful. But sad, too. This is Freddy pouring his heart out- letting you know what it's like to be him. He doesn't have to tell you how he feels––he lets you feel how he feels."

Film Review: HALLOWEEN (1978, John Carpenter) 
"P.J. Soles is a goddamn blast. From Riff Randell in ROCK N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL to Norma in CARRIE, she playfully and lovably embodies every scrappy gal from the 1970s and succeeds in absconding with every scene she appears in.  In her final bit, her fate is sealed when she asks her bespectacled boyfriend for a beer, again and again and again. Thanks to her, the "boyfriend who steps out to grab a beer and never comes back" has become a stock figure in horror film.  It's truly a cautionary tale, and has stopped many a beer-fetching dead in its tracks."

Film Review: TITANIC (1997, James Cameron)
"As 'Caledon Hockley,' the moneyed gadabout in pursuit of villainy and a loveless marriage to Kate Winslet, Billy Zane gives one of the bitchiest, most cattily malevolent performances ever to grace a mainstream film that didn't star Joan Crawford or Faye Dunaway. Here he is using the whites of Kate's eyes to admire his own reflection. I dare you to prove me wrong."

Music Review: BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986, The Coupe de Villes)
"John Carpenter's behavior becomes increasingly erratic, and his personality appears to become fused with that of Lo Pan himself. Nobody seems to care much because he starts rocking out harder than ever."

Film Review: COBRA (1986, George P. Cosmatos & Sylvester Stallone)  
"I often think of Golan-Globus films as dingy VHS classicks for the discerning B-movie lover, but in fact they were major motion pictures, in every sense of the word.  COBRA had a $15.6 million opening weekend (which was the largest of the year at that point in 1986), and played in 2,131 theaters nationwide, which was the all-time record up to that point. Just think about that for a minute. At that point, if I'm understanding this correctly, in all of motion picture history, from 1894 to 1986, from GONE WITH THE WIND to BEN-HUR to STAR WARS to E.T. to JAWS, COBRA was the most widely distributed new release. COBRA was king. All hail, King Cobra!"

Film Review: LIONHEART (1990, Sheldon Lettich)
"Some films are more important than mere "films." ROSETTA gave the minimum wage to children in Belgium. THE THIN BLUE LINE helped free a man from prison. HARLAN COUNTY, USA led to better conditions in Kentucky coal mines. LIONHEART, too, is more than just a movie. It boldly dared to expose the dangerous, yuppie-kumite full-contact street-fighting circuit that plagued America's upscale parking garages, health clubs, and private pools until 1990."

Film Review: PURPLE RAIN (1984, Albert Magnoli)
"The Purple'd Prince of Paisley Park demands your attention. And until you give it to him, he's just gonna be over here, off to the side, quietly revving his Hondamatic and letting the fog machines do all the work.  If you leave him alone too long, though, he might pull out this guy, this little conical puppet guy here, and then he'll start throwing his voice and weirding everybody out, so let's not let it come to that, okay?"

Film Review: RENT-A-COP (1987, Jerry London)
"James Remar (Ajax in THE WARRIORS, Harry Morgan on DEXTER) is kinda doing an 'evil Swayze' routine. We see his stone cold killer doin' his thing for half the movie, and then WHAM––out of nowhere he's doing a half-naked super-sweaty solo dance number! His character name is then revealed to be 'Dancer.' Even for an 80's movie, this is insane."

Film Review: NINJA III: THE DOMINATION (1984, Sam Firstenberg) 
"I can't decide whether this is: A. The worst advertisement for V8 Juice ever committed to film, B. An ill-advised homage to the FLASHDANCE "bucket of water" scene, or C. An earnest attempt to merge food and lovemaking that's a little more IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES than 9 1/2 WEEKS."

Film Review: SLUGS––THE MOVIE (1988, Juan Piquer Simón)
"He makes a mad leap for the windowsill. We should be with him 100%. Who cares what kind of a douchebomb he is, we have to identify with him at a moment like this, right? ....Right? So he jumps for the window with both hands... and, junk hangin' out and everything, does a naked belly flop into the jaws of a thousand mutant slugs. This could be the realization of Heinz Kohut's worst nightmare: the death of empathy, and the final victory of narcissism. Because, at best, we're crossing our legs here and feeling pretty good that our junk is not being devoured by said slugs; and at worst, we're laughing our asses off. It's not the slugs that have brought out the worst in us, we have brought out the worst in the slugs."

Film Review: FOR Y'UR HEIGHT ONLY (1981, Eddie Nicart)
"He's made a monkey out of the forces of evil, he's as slippery as an eel!" A hanky saves Weng from a poison gas attack. He leaps from a skyscraper, using an umbrella as a parachute. He checks himself out in a mirror and waves at the devilishly handsome man he sees within. There's x-ray glasses, elaborate neck scarves, pie fights, knee trips, zip lines off Ferris Wheels, and a shirtless Weng Weng sex scene, which is nothing but utterly macabre. "Bare your bod!" All of this is accompanied by straight-up purloined John Barry 'James Bond' music (and a healthy dose of muffled basement disco on the side)."

"Most of the show is Laurence Harvey and Ernie Borgnine slowly walking back from a terrible frame with legitimately pissed off expressions on their faces while Jed Allan mutters, 'He was putting a little too much tug in there!' or 'He couldn't really get behind that one, could he?' Why didn't the producers let them get in a practice round or two first?  Were they really that afraid they'd have to give away a free pair of pants?"

Television Review: THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (2005, John Putch)
"There may be no Borgnine this time around, but there is an annoying kid with a video camera.
How is that a trade-off? Why you gotta do that, Hallmark POSEIDON ADVENTURE? Haven't we suffered enough already? Everybody hates that device in a movie when somebody whips out a video camera and then we see 'Video POV' ––generally just the •REC logo slapped on the image, which doesn't actually look like any real camcorder's viewfinder anyway. Also, everybody hates annoying kids. So the combination of the two is certainly volatile. You played with fire, Hallmark POSEIDON ADVENTURE. You played with fire, and you got burned."

Film Review: THE 5,000 FINGERS OF DR. T (1953, Roy Rowland) 
"The result is a labyrinthine nightmare that must have scarred many minds over the years, young and old. Its plot is nearly like a Kafka fairy tale––an evil piano teacher, "Dr. Terwilliker," a.k.a., "Dr. T," is obsessed with making young boys practice the piano, and in his bondage-obssessed dystopian-fantasia-world fortress (called the "Happy Fingers Institute"), he plans to capture 500 boys (hence 5,000 fingers), strip them of their identity, and force them to play a giant piano in his... basement, I guess?"

Film Review: BARB WIRE (1996, David Hogan)
"BARB WIRE is legitimately a retelling of CASABLANCA, and it's more faithful to the source material than 90% of remakes.  It's possible that Gus Van Sant's shot-for-shot remake of PSYCHO is less faithful.  Although, in this version, Pamela Anderson is Humphrey Bogart, and Temuera Morrison––apparently best known for playing Boba Fett's clone-dad or whatever in the STAR WARS prequels––is Ingrid Bergman."

Film Review: COMMANDO (1985, Mark L. Lester)
"Even for the film fan who has seen it all, there's something sincerely uncanny about Bill Duke's deadpan stare. Most of filmdom's great psychos––from Lon Chaney to Dwight Frye to Anthony Perkins to Crispin Glover––have an active glint in their eye, a quivering eyebrow, a narrowed eyelid. Not Bill Duke. Bill Duke looks into your soul, confident that neither he nor you even have one. Then he says that he likes the price of your Cadillac and runs you down with it."

Film Review: COLLISION COURSE (1989, Lewis Teague)  
"Chris Sarandon's sort of phonin' it in, but every once in a while he does something fantastic, like beating a man about the head and neck with a napkin."

Film Review: THE FORCE WITHIN (1993, Richard E. Brooks)  
"There's lots of eyebrow indicating, which is to be expected in this genre. The audio frequently drops out, mid-dialogue. There is an almost avant-garde element to the plot's construction, which seems designed to lack momentum of any kind. There's also a nice scene when Steel attacks some of his backstabbing associates at a birthday party."

Film Review: BLOODSPORT 4: THE DARK KUMITE (1999, Elvis Restaino)  
"It feels less like a movie and more like the solution to an equation that disproves the existence of the universe.  I think that a "Dark Kumite" must be sort of like "dark matter" in that it cannot be seen or proved or easily understood, but that the foundation of the cosmos just might depend on it being held in check.  For many, watching BLOODSPORT 4 is simply Too Much To Take, like spending time in Orwell's "Room 101" or fully contemplating the mysteries of Cthulhu or looking too deeply into Nietzsche's Abyss. All I can say as a word of warning is, "Take Heed, My Friends."  But I might as well just tell you not to stick the Q-tip all the way into your ear canal; you're probably just going to do it anyway."

Film Review: MURPHY'S LAW (1986, J. Lee Thompson)
"Lemme lay it out for ya. Charles Bronson is Jack Murphy. He's one tough cop, but his wife left 'im. He's subsequently been hittin' the bottle a little too much. A bottle of Frangelico, to be precise. Well, that's actually just in one scene, but I'm forced to assume that whenever I see him with a flask, he is knockin' back some of the rich, Hazelnutty delights that Frangelico offers the discerning dessert liqueur aficionado."

Commercial Review: LABATT MAXIMUM ICE (1993, Michael Ironside) 
"EXT––SCOTTISH CLIFF- NIGHT. Waves crash, lightning flashes in the darkness. You can almost feel the icy spray of seawater, feel the cold chill of the ocean wind. Ministry’s “New World Order” begins to blast away. A long-haired figure, his robe fluttering in the wind, pivots toward us––this is perhaps the most evocative opening two seconds of a beer commercial that the world has ever seen. In fact, this is not just a commercial––it's a thirty second movie."

Film Review: A VIEW TO A KILL (1985, John Glen)
"WATCH!  Grace Jones force-eject some poor sap from a zeppelin with extreme prejudice! SEE!  Grace Jones evolve hairstyles and make more costume changes than at one of her concerts (once per song, by my reckoning). GAZE UPON! Grace Jones clawing and fighting her way through an assortment of action scenarios, relentless as a Terminator, and then some! BEHOLD!  Grace Jones base-jumping off the Eiffel Tower as some perturbed guy tries to chase her. Who is that guy, anyway? I've already forgotten. Isn't this film part of a larger series?"

Film Review: LOOSE CANNONS (1990, Bob Clark)
"Maybe the cannons are loose, not because they're a hot-doggin' cop and his mentally ill partner; maybe they're loose because the cannons are fleeting, life is fleeting, the cannons are slip, slipping away."

Film Review: THE HITCHER (1986, Robert Harmon)
"THE HITCHER flirts with genius... then it blows up some helicopters. It's as if John Woo remade THE WRONG MAN. But, in a way, that's why I like it. It's a paranoid western, a Hitchcockian road movie, a highway slasher, and a balls-out shoot 'em up...  Rutger Hauer is so deeply entrenched in the character, that he knows which buttons to press to make C. Thomas actually uncomfortable. C. Thomas knows that a hateful yet passionate kiss is not is the script, but when somebody as absolutely committed as Rutger is around, da script don't mean shit."

Book Procurement Review: ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA (2009, My Living Room)
"Remember him? He had a report due on space. Then he found himself swimming in a veritable font of information. Almost too much. So much, that if you'll recall, he actually received a B+ on that famous report on space. It was too long, too professional, too above and beyond the call of duty, that his teachers couldn't even handle it. I, however, had need for all the help I could get. So, while a couple of friends were visiting, I popped in the old VHS I keep all of my Encyclopedia Britannica commercials on, and gave it a whirl."

Film Review: CONGO (1995, Frank Marshall)
"1995 was a magical year. The stars aligned. You see, in 1993, Michael Crichton's JURASSIC PARK was a runaway hit. In 1994, Crichton's ER took television by storm. Also in 1994, THE LION KING became the highest-grossing animated film of all time.  Therefore, a Michael Crichton action-adventure piece, featuring a character named "Dr. Ross" (though here, it's Laura Linney, not George Clooney), involving prehistoric creatures and African wildlife should have been the blockbuster of the year... Yes, indeed, the stars aligned on behalf of CONGO. But they did not create box office gold. No, they aligned to give us a cyborg gorilla named "Amy" who wears a No Fear backpack. And I'm more than okay with that."

Film Review: SAVE ME (1994, Alan Roberts)
"I can’t decide if post-L.A. LAW Hamlin is the poor man’s Lorenzo Lamas, or if post-FALCON CREST Lorenzo Lamas is the poor man’s Harry Hamlin. I imagine, ultimately, history will resolve this quandary, but in the meantime, let me tell you- only one of these men was in SNAKE EATER."

Film Review: BATMAN RETURNS (1992, Tim Burton)
"A whirlwind, three-ring circus of Neo-Gothic exuberance and German Expressionistic mayhem, Tim Burton's BATMAN RETURNS is, for my money, the finest of all the BATMAN films and a last great gasp of Classic Hollywood artistry lurking in the shape of a playfully subversive superhero movie (set at Christmastime). It's a movie so delightfully insane and packed to the gills with chaotic performances and sheer spectacle that afterward you might even overlook specific details that would be unforgettable in a different film, like Vincent Schiavelli commandeering a life-sized toy choo-choo train of kidnapping and child murder, or a mangy poodle wielding a grenade, or a circus strongman beating the devil out of a Salvation Army Santa Claus with a Rosebud sled."

 Film Review: DEAD MAN (1995, Jim Jarmusch)
"You could call it 'the ERASERHEAD of Westerns,' or perhaps 'Franz Kafka-by-way-of John Ford,' or maybe 'an Ansel Adams horror movie.'  It shuns Western nostalgia and renounces Hollywood aesthetics. It's tangibly authentic and usually frightening.  A collage of dirty, vintage Americana set to squealing Neil Young soundscapes.  A movie of dark textures, of grease and grit and gristle, of cesspools and ink wells and open wounds, of smoke and gears and timber and bone."

Film Review: BOB ROBERTS (1992, Tim Robbins) 
"Essentially, Bob Roberts' candidacy begins as a joke, builds momentum, balloons to a size that the responsibly rational can no longer ignore, and ends in a dark, dark place––far darker than most satirical comedy dares to go. As usual, the true horror is in the way these Fascist tendencies mushroom and flourish among the mob, like a night-flowering vine, or at least like an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE."

Film Review: MATINEE (1993, Joe Dante)
"I was immediately drawn to the film's layered nostalgia and infectious sense of harmless fun; it's a paean to dedicated showmanship in a scary world. Probably not before or since has a movie so thoroughly and tenderly explored the life-affirming thrill and ultimate social value of horror cinema––it's about taking yourself (and perhaps a date) to the Lovecraftian brink and back again in a safe, controlled environment; to forget, even for eighty minutes, the considerably less exhilarating, quotidian terrors that linger beyond the limits of the screen."

Film Review: XXX (2002, Rob Cohen)
"I have no idea if I would have liked this as much if I'd seen it when it came out in 2002, but XXX has aged like a fine wine.  Or at least like a wine in comic strip that's served in a bottle marked 'XXX.'"



Mike Bradley said...

Hear, hear! And many thanks to you for providing me so much amusement (and genuine knowledge!) over the years. Time flies! As I've moved from my "underemployed slacker" phase to my more time-consuming "middle-aged librarian" phase, I know I don't comment as much as I should these days, but rest assured I still read every post. Your blog truly brings me a lot of joy, and I really appreciate it. Here's to another 10 years!

Cannon Kruk said...

Memories ...Bloodsport, Loose Cannons, General Katana doing beer commercials, the motherlovin' Coupe de Villes. All things Carpenter, really. And Cannon Films and Chuck Norris and some other stuff. Maybe all the stuff. Kirk wearing a 'Go Climb a Rock' t-shirt and, from way back when I posted under a different account (Space Cadet), screencaps of the movie Cocktail taken from a trailer for the movie Cocktail, as taken from a VHS copy of Turner & Hooch. I remember that. That is a thing that I remember—a permanent section in the backroom filing cabinet of my mind. Forever.

And you know what, Gill? The bar is still open. It's still open.

ARW said...

Three cheers! Now is this the part where we get nostalgic and link to our own favorite posts? I'd single out your encomium to the environmentalist-slash-drunk-college-sophomore Jacques Cousteau:

Sean Gill said...

Thanks, bud, that really means a lot––and of course! It's been a long journey indeed and I've always appreciated your comments and movie recs over the years.

Why, thank you. And now you're gonna make me misty-eyed over 'Go Climb a Rock' t-shirts. And, hell yes, the bar is still open, my friend!

Thank you––and thanks for submitting one of your favorites. Hard to believe I wrote that nearly ten years ago. Looking back now on work I did as a young man, I wonder if I was too hard on ol' Jacques. At least this blog didn't accidentally kill any whales!

Jack Thursby said...

Still reading Sean. Congrats on the 10 year birthday. Please keep going.

Sean Gill said...


Thanks, man! And I do intend to keep going (albeit at the same, slower pace of the past few years).

Maurice Mickelwhite said...

Ten years! Congratulations and job well done sir, job well done.

Sean Gill said...

Thanks, Maurice!

jocko botsi said...

No idea how I missed this post, but congrats on 10 years, this is a great blog and you've always picked fun movies to write about. Really enjoy your perspective.

Sean Gill said...


Thanks for the kind words!