Patch Town (2014) In this imaginative low budget fantasy from director/co-writer Craig Goodwill (based on his short film from 2011), people born from cabbages are transformed into dolls (due to probably copyright infringement, Cabbage Patch Kids are never expressly mentioned, but the comparison is unmistakable). When their owners tire of them, they go back to their factory of origin, where the dolls are transformed back into people, as laborers for an oppressive, totalitarian corporation, led by Yuri (Julian Richings). Jon (Rob Ramsay) remembers his past as a little girl’s doll, plotting his escape in a quest to find her again. He’s joined by Sly (Suresh John), his wife Mary (Stephanie Pitsiladis), and their adopted baby daughter. Goodwill blends fairy tale elements, music, and dystopian themes to create a one-of-a-kind experience. I’m not sure who’s the intended audience, but I admired the effort to make something that’s obviously not by committee.
Rating: 3 ½ stars. Available on DVD and Amazon Prime
Big Bad Mama (1974) Angie Dickinson stars in this Roger Corman-produced/Steve Carver-directed Depression-era action/comedy as Wilma McClatchie. Along with her two daughters, she embarks on a crime spree from East Texas (which looks suspiciously like Southern California) to Southern California. She’s joined by bank robber Fred Diller (Tom Skerritt) and William J. Baxter (William Shatner), an oily con man (Shatner reminds us of two things he should never attempt: Southern accents or sex scenes). It’s a good-natured drive-in fare that never takes itself too seriously. Filled with ample amounts of sex, action and comedy, Big Bad Mama delivers on its modest aims. Since it’s a Corman production, watch for some of his regulars, including Dick Miller and Paul Bartel.
Rating: 3 stars. Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Amazon Prime
Into the Night (1985) John Landis’ comedy/intrigue hybrid is short on laughs or thrills, but it has its moments. Jeff Goldblum plays Ed Okin, an aerospace engineer with insomnia and an existential crisis. He goes on a late-night drive to get away from his cheating wife, and crosses paths with Diana (Michelle Pfeiffer), a young woman with a shady past. In true femme fatale fashion, she’s on the run, with stolen emeralds in tow. Ed unwisely chooses to help her out, and becomes entangled with the same people who aim to kill her (including a ruthless killer, played by David Bowie). Into the Night’s greatest claim to fame is the amazing number of cameos (Landis must have phoned everyone he knew in the business), including famous directors and industry professionals (Roger Vadim, Rick Baker and Jim Henson – the list goes on). Unfortunately, the numerous appearances only serve to reveal the film’s biggest weakness; the material is stretched too thin, without enough story to sustain momentum over its nearly two-hour runtime. Between the cameos and the continuous gallery of memorable L.A. locations, there’s enough to keep the viewer somewhat occupied, but given the assembly of talent, it could have been so much better.
Rating: 3 stars. Available on DVD
Liquid Sky (1982) Tiny invisible aliens in a tiny flying saucer arrive in New York City, and set up base on top of a penthouse apartment. They watch over Margaret, played by Ann Carlisle, who appears in a second role as Jimmy, a junkie fashion model. There’s also a German scientist (Otto von Wernherr) tracking the aliens, who reminded me vaguely of Werner Herzog. Meanwhile, anyone who attempts to have sex with Margaret dies, courtesy of the aliens that feed off endogenous opiates in her brain. The film is a brightly colored, incoherent, plotless mess. It seems to be saying something about the New York art scene, but what it is, I have no idea.
Rating: 2 ½ stars. Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Amazon Prime