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B-Movie Reviews
Joe Bob Briggs

The Official Home of America's Drive-In Movie Critic Extraordinaire

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Return of the Living Dead Part II (1988)

Last week I was in New York City again, doing research on geek liberals, and I went down to 42nd Street and Times Square to check for slime and found out there’s a full-scale Communist Assault going on, with three of the finest exploitation moviehouses in American about to be condemned, closed up, rebuilt by guys that wear goat beards and wire-rim glasses, and given to gay symphony organizations to make 300 bad PBS specials a year.

 

The lead Communist is Tony Randall, who came up with this plan where the city of New York is taking away the theaters from their rightful owners, including the one that’s been showin “Three Giant Kung Fu Hits” for the last 10 years.  The city says they’re condemned, but they don’t tear em down.  They give em to lesbian ballet companies to put on shows called Asphalt: A Retrospective.

This kinda thing couldn’t have happened in the golden days of The Deuce.  On the day that MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY premiered, they had to bring in mounted police to control the line that went around the block.  If you’d walked up to those people and said, “Hey, Mayor Koch says you shouldn’t be watchin this stuff.  You need to be attending plays about Vietnam veterans that yell at their mothers all the time and then commit suicide”–if you’d told those people that, I’ll tell you what would of happened.  You would of had some Bernhard Goetz Treatment on every wheelchair-basketball theater company in New York.

But they have been having these hearings for several months now, where Tony Randall comes and talks about the “cultural zone” he’s gonna create where the great 42nd Street theaters used to be, and where Mary Tyler Moore comes and talks about how she just loves Times Square and how she’d like to go on taking people’s money forever for the Broadway shows she puts on about middle-aged women whining at one another, and usually the New York subscribers to the Joe Bob Briggs newsletter show up and sit on the back row and try to get the chairman of the committee to listen to their statistical comparisons of (a) how many people go to those theaters to see SLAVE GIRLS FROM BEYOND INFINITY and (b) how many people would go to those theaters to see an Iranian acrobatic troupe perform the love theme from DAS BOOT.  You see, the numbers are on our side.

Anyhow, the owners of all the great theaters on The Duece have found a way to fox Tony the Wimp and his tutti-frutti friends.  Since all the old Times Square theaters were built by George M. Cohan and Flo Ziegfeld, the owners have been applying for “historic building” status.  This means that, from now on, the city can’t mess with em.  Koch did get three of em already, though, which means we’re gonna have the “cultural zone” side-by–side right next to the drive-in zone and so we’ll have a chance to see just exactly which form of entertainment the American public really wants.  We got the movies waitin.  Bring on your best North Korean Hand-Puppet Street Mime Midge Music.  We’ll win.

Speaking of zombies on Broadway, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART II came out a few days back and had James Karen and Thom Matthews robbing a cemetery in one of the first scenes–even though the already got turned into brain-eating zombies in Part One.  You know, it’s this kind of stuff that makes you not trust the movies anymore, like they hired the guys and then said, “Whoops!  You know what?  The story doesn’t make sense!” but then decided, “Oh well, nobody’ll notice.”  We noticed.  These guys can’t get zombified.  They already got zombified.  It’s like casting John Wayne and Liberace in a 1988 movie.  It wouldn’t be a pretty sight, would it?

Anyhow, what happened is that evidently three or four cans of teh secret zombie gas survived the nuclear explosion at the end of Part One, and now some Bozo Army truck drivers bounce a can of it into a suburb where some little kids open it up and watch it seep into the cemetery, where zombies claw their way up through the dirt and start demanding brain salads.  The only people that can stop the world from being taken over are a 12-year-old, his aerobic-leotard sister, and, of course, a cable TV installer.  Their plan–lure the zombies to an electric power plant by leaving a trail of cow brains, then hose em down, hit the juice, and barbecue em from the gizzards out.

The question you got to ask yourself in any good zombie movie, though, is, “What kills the zombies?”  In NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, the only thing that’ll kill em is a gunshot to the brain.  In THE EVIL DEAD, you got to have total dismemberment–arms, legs, head, everything.  And I only got one thing to say about these latest zombies–total dismemberment doesn’t work.  You ever try to kill a snake with a hatchet?  That’s what it’s like.

Zombie-rama.  No breasts. (New disturbing trend in horror flicks.)  16 dead bodies.  27 undead bodies.  Head-hacking.  Heads roll.  Hands roll.  Fingers roll. Zombie aerobics..  Multiple brain eating.  Spike through zombie heart.  Shotgun to the zombie face.  First recorded instance of someone’s face being punched out—literally.  Gratuitous aerobics.  Gratuitous pet-eating.  Screwdriver through the ear Fu.  Screwdriver to the throat Fu.  Drive-In Academy Award nomination for Suzanne Snyder, for excellent whining, right up until the moment her brains are chewed up by her boyfriend, and for saying “Joey, I’m not into dead guys”; Philip Bruns, as Doc Mandel, for diagnosing two zombies as having “chronic intractable rigor mortis”; Thor Van Lingen, as Bill the child zombie, for saying “You told, you told, now you die like me”; and Marsha Dietlein, as the Jamie Lee Curtis Survivor, for saying “they’re ugly and they’re dirty and they’re dumb and I don’t even care if the are dead, they’re not touching me.”

Three stars.  Joe Bob says check it out.

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Immortal Combat (1994)

Listen up, hon.

Whoops! I called you HON.

I do this a lot.

I say “hon” so much to women that I probably qualify for some kind of Clarence Thomas scholarship to Bob Roberts University.

Actually, I have to say, I’ve never had a single woman get mad at me for callin’ her “hon,” and I’ve said it to THOUSANDS.

What’s the deal here? Shouldn’t I have at least 37 lawsuits filed against me by now? Shouldn’t I at least get sent to Vassar Sensitivity Training or something?

How can I say “hon” with impunity?

Now I admit, I’ve never tried it out on a 300-pound lesbian bodybuilder, but if I ever MET a 300-pound lesbian bodybuilder, I’m SURE that at some point in the conversation I WOULD call her “hon.”

I can’t help it. I’ve done it all my life. It’s a family thing. It’s a Texas thing. I’ve never been around people who DIDN’T call one another “hon.”

But it’s one of those words that’s being PHASED OUT.

By the time I’m 70, there will be people who will be absolutely APPALLED that I still say “hon.” I mean, there are people who are appalled NOW, but they’re not numerous enough yet. When I’m 70, I’ll be an example of What’s Wrong With This Country. It’s all those Old Guys Who Still Say “Hon.”

The closest I ever got to real trouble is one time when I called Linda Blair “hon” on TV. She acted a little surprised, then CALLED ME “HON” RIGHT BACK!

I think the whole “hon” thing is overrated, myself.

“Hon” is not a putdown, hon.

“Hon” is an American tradition of saying to a woman, “I like you. YOU’RE OKAY.” Just like you say “bud” when you talk to a guy.

Am I the only person who knows these things?

This one I am NOT givin up. The only person I won’t be calling “hon” is an actress I sometimes work with. And the only reason I don’t call HER “hon” is that her name . . . is Honey.

After all, she might get offended. She might think I was SHORTENING HER NAME.

And speaking of women you don’t wanna mess with, Meg Foster is back, she of the cold green eyes and the attitude, scariest woman in the movies. How many movies has she made where she controls an army on a remote island where she’s plotting to take over the world? This time it’s the old story of the ancient Mayan secret of chasing men through the woods until an incredible amount of adrenalin is shooting through their bodies, killing them, injecting them with cortisone and stuffing a plant down their throats, and turning them into unkillable warriors. By the time the movie starts, Meg has already gathered up an army of these Mayan Steroid Monsters, but what she doesn’t count on is Rowdy Roddy Piper and doing body slams on em.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, but Piper is the ONLY ex-pro wrestler who can actually act–as Hulk Hogan has proven time after time–and this time he plays a cop who teams up with a grief-stricken Japanese samurai patrolman who accidentally shot his wife to death but lived to fire again, and once he gets to Meg Foster’s island, he teams up with fearless reporter Kim Morgan Greene, who wears a lot of expensive short skirts and stands around the jungle while stuff blows up.

Unfortunately, Meg has captured the most notorious serial killer in history, killed him, shot him up with Mayan steroids, and turned him loose.

Fortunately, he looks like a pro wrestler.

Yes. That’s right. The final scene is just like Wrestlemania VI, but with a lot more full-body impalements and exploding character actors.

Thirty dead bodies. Two breasts. Neck-snapping. Killer Chippendale dancer. Head-butting. Throwing stars to the forehead. Dart to the head. Throat-ripping. Flaming Mayan (it’s not a cocktail). Fifteen Kung Fu scenes. Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Meg Foster, as the cold-blooded mad archeologist, for saying “When I close my eyes all men are the same”; Roddy Piper, as the goofball cop, for saying “There is no jurisdiction when it comes to a killer, Captain”; Kim Morgan Greene, as the frigid reporter, for saying “In the future, I’d appreciate you staying out of my business”; Woon, as the ultimate Mayan kung-fu filler, for being named Woon; and Sonny “J.J.” Chiba, as the Japanese samurai cop, for speaking no English but not letting that stop him from doing long scenes of English dialogue, including the line “I love you, but I am a warrior.”

Three stars.

Joe Bob says check it out.

 

 

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Rescue Me (1992)

I’ve been reading this best-seller called “Secrets of Seduction: How To Be the Best Lover Your Woman Ever Had,” which right away gets depressing, because it implies that, if you’re reading the book, you already HAVE a woman. Don’t they realize that only LONELY GUYS read books like this?

Anyhow, it’s by this woman named Brenda Venus, which I don’t know about you, but the name sounds like somebody who works with a snake in the Trocadero Lounge in Reno.

But she describes herself as an “actress/dancer/model”–a triple threat–who lives in Beverly Hills and was once “a close friend and confidante of Henry Miller in his later years.” If you know what she means, and I think you do.

Okay. I read the whole dang thing. And here’s my observation about ALL books like this, but especially THIS one.

First of all, it’s too dang much to remember. How can you keep 150 rules in your head? And even if you could, they’re all OPPOSITES.

On one page she tells us dunderhead guys to ALWAYS be perfectly groomed, because there’s nothing that’s more of a turn-off to a woman than a stinkmeister. She says buy those little electric doohickeys that you stick in your nose and ears. She goes into armpits, shaving, hair, cologne–the whole nine yards.

And then, 50 pages later, she says NEVER BE TOO CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR APPEARANCE. There’s nothing that’s more of a turn-off to a woman than a guy looking in the mirror and caring what he looks like.

Well, WHICH IS IT, honey?

Another thing she says is, “Never ask permission.” Women don’t like mealy-mouthed weenies mooning around em, waiting for a signal to start kissing.

And then, 50 pages later, she says, “Never do anything until you’re absolutely certain it’s what a woman wants.” But don’t ASK for this information. In other words, you’re supposed to pick it up from her musky scent or something.

To which I say, what if you’re just stupid? What if you go sniff sniff sniff, look into her eyes, and CHOOSE THE WRONG DANG THING? What do you do? Say “Oh, sorry, I thought you were asking me to ravish you. In retrospect, I can see that was the signal to take you out for a ravioli dinner.”

And the book is FULL of this stuff. Send gifts, but don’t send too many gifts. Send flowers, but don’t KEEP sending flowers. Always compliment her outfit, but NEVER say anything you don’t mean. (What if her outfit sucks?) Whenever you’re having dinner, always give her your complete undivided attention, but never STARE at her. (Now I’ll be a basket case: “Whoops! Better change eye position here. She might think I’m STARING.”) Always “act like it’s the first time,” but “be in control.” (Evidently it’s been YEARS since this woman had a “first time.” “Control” is not a word you normally associate with “first time.”)

And my favorite–if she screams at you, it’s because of a hundred things you’ve ALREADY done leading up to the time she screams at you. My question: Why didn’t you scream on the first 99 instead of waiting to nuke me?

In other words, way too complicated for me. If I REALLY started thinking about this stuff, it would be a full-time job.

That’s the point, isn’t it?

A full-time job.

Brenda, you sneaky rascal you.

And speaking of women who know how to wrap you into a pretzel without you ever figuring it out, Ami Dolenz is the star of “Rescue Me,” and this little gal (what is she? four-foot-seven?) is making a whole new B-movie career out of playing the smart-mouth little rich-girl bitch princess. In this flick she’s a cheerleader Prairie Queen at a Nebraska high school who drives the yearbook photographer and school nerd Stephen Dorff crazy every time he sees her. In fact, he starts following her around, taking her picture all the time, until he accidentally gets photos of her being kidnapped by a couple of Beavis-and-Butthead crooks, and pretty soon he’s driving cross-country on a motorcycle with grizzled Vietnam vet Michael Dudikoff, stopping at whorehouses to Grow Up, exchanging a whole lot of gunfire, and basically doing the “Thelma & Louise” thing but without any women along to SCREW IT UP.

The great thing about watching MEN in a road picture is that you know they might do many things, but they would NEVER drive into the Grand Canyon.

It’s a really decent one–kind of an action/adventure/comedy/teen nookie/road movie with a few crying scenes tossed in.

Three dead bodies. One chemistry-lab fire. Four shootouts. One motor vehicle chase, with crash. Gratuitous pep rally. Gratuitous Dee Wallace-Stone. Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Ami Dolenz, as the kidnapped cheerleader, for saying “My father will pay a lot for me–he owns the bank” and “So what kind of car do you drive?”; Michael Dudikoff, in one of his best performances, as the Nam vet who says “Now you kissed a girl, kid–the rest is all downhill”; Peter DeLuise, as the dimwit kidnapper who explains why he has an unconscious woman over his shoulder by saying “She just got Rolfed”; Kimberly Kates, as the hooker with a heart of lust, who says “I like watching a man eat good”; and Stephen Dorff, as the yearbook photographer who says “I know exactly who I am! I’m the geek who’s gotten straight A’s since the third grade who still can’t get a girl to kiss him!”

Four stars.

Joe Bob says check it out.

 

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Repossessed (1990)

Since it’s turkey-hunting season again, I know I’m gonna get major flack from Wanda Bodine as soon as I whip out the old full-choke twelve-gauge, jump into a camouflage jumpsuit, and put on my hat with the little ear flaps.

For the last three, four years, Wanda’s been on this animal-rights binge which includes TURKEYS. Like they’re not gonna die anyway! Like the zoos of America are gonna close because there aren’t enough TURKEYS to look at!

I told her, “Wanda, there is nothing strange or perverted about blowing the head off a gobbler and splattering a little turkey flesh on a tree trunk. The whole country was founded on this principle. The Pilgrims did it.”

But she won’t listen. She thinks a human being with a twelve-gauge shotgun has an ADVANTAGE over a turkey. And I’ve told her, “Wanda, there’s more turkeys that escape than there are getting wasted. We only kill the stupid ones. It’s important that the stupid turkeys die. Darwin said so.”

But you can’t use logic on this woman. So this year I’m gonna set down the complete rules and procedures of turkey hunting so that all you un-American Pilgrim-haters can understand.

1) We don’t chase down the turkeys. No man could move that fast while luggin a beer chest. We sit in a hollowed-out tree log with bushes on our head, and we make a female turkey noise with a little reedy rubber gizmo that sounds like a fat man blowing his nose. If you’re a male turkey, this sounds like a female turkey is saying, “Hey, Rambo, wanna party?” When you hear a gobble, that means a tom turkey is answering back, “I’m gonna clean your transmission, honey”–and, as soon as he gets close to you, you unload both barrels of buckshot and watch him crumple to the earth and bleed to death. In other words, it’s like working Times Square.

2) But let’s say you don’t want a tom turkey. You want a female. Most females are smarter than the males, so about the only ones you have a chance with are the jail-bait female turkeys, the ones that were hatched this spring. You can buy a honker called a “Kee Kee Run” that will make em think they’re going to an M.C. Hammer concert. Sometimes ten or twenty of em will run up to you together, like you’re the New Kids on the Block road manager. You can kill a lot more of these, because they’re smaller. We professional turkey hunters call this the Roman Polanski Technique.

3) But the true turkey-hunting experts want to get old gobblers, the ones that are so old they don’t mate anymore, and so you don’t have a chance using the singles-bar line. They’re just like human old people, though. All they wanna do is sit around and talk to other old turkeys and complain about their children. So what do you do? You make these HORRIBLE yelping sounds, which is what old gobblers sound like when they’re whining, and makes the elderly turkeys think YOU are an elderly turkey, too, and so you MIGHT be willing to listen to him. You’re making these noises that, to the turkey, sound like, “Have I told you about my kidney problem?” And so they slowly wander over to you, but they’re ornery. They don’t trust you. You’ve got to keep talking forever–and it’s worth it, because they’re the biggest turkeys you can kill. And so you throw in stuff like “There hasn’t been any decent music since Tommy Dorsey died,” and “That Sid Caesar–now THERE was a comedian.” And pretty soon the turkey comes over to bore you–only, as soon as he does, he gets three tons of shotgun pellets in his cute little elderly Mr. Grandpa Turkey face.

And Wanda thinks this is cruel to animals.

This is an ART FORM.

And speaking of huge turkeys, “Repossessed” sounded like a great idea: Leslie Nielsen performs an exorcism on Linda Blair. But it’s one of those deals that can’t decide whether it wants to be a pure-dee “Naked Gun” ripoff, with 9,000 sight gags, or have a real honest-to-God comedy plot, and so it’s neither fish nor fowl, turkey nor carp. It’s got some horse laughs in it, but you keep going “Shouldn’t I be laughing again by now?”

I don’t wanna be TOO hard on it, though, because Linda Blair IS the ultimate drive-in star of the eighties. As rassling announcer Gene Okerlund says, “Nice breasts, but a face I wouldn’t wanna wipe my feet on.” (Actually, he doesn’t say breasts. He doesn’t say atomic duffel bags, either, but he should have.)

Actually, even when Linda Blair is spewing vomit all over her family, like she is in this movie, she gets more attention from red-blooded American males than Playboy Playmates do. Whenever we wanna pump up the ratings on my cable show, we show a Linda Blair movie. I’m not kidding. Something about that East German shot-putter look that just drives the guys WILD. For once in my life I’m stumped. I can’t figure it out.

Four breasts. Chunk spewing. Poodle dog ground up in a tree-branch compactor. Fire-breathing. One motor vehicle chase. 745 sight gags. Evian holy water. Gratuitous rap song. Gratuitous Wally George. Gratuitous Jack Lalanne. A 54 on the Vomit Meter. Split pea soup Fu. Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Anthony Starke, as the Catholic priest who motivates himself by reading “Believe in Yourself, by Charles Manson”; Bob Logan, the same writer and director who made that timeless video classic “Up Your Alley,” for having the courage to put an Oliver North joke in a 1990 movie; Leslie Nielsen, as Father Mayii, for saying “Luke, remember, when you fall on your face you’re still moving forward”; and, of course, Linda, for caking on the cracked-skin makeup, ratting her hair, puckering up again after all these years, turning herself into a giant ice-cream cone and screaming “Lick me! Lick me!” What an actress.

Two and a half stars. Joe Bob says check it out.

 

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The Relic (1997)

I have this friend named Lana-better known as Lana Banana to her 70 million girlfriends-who never has mastered parallel parking but still considers herself the expert on every topic since the invention of the travel version of Scrabble.

But when you ask her HOW she knows something is true, it’s always because of a story from her personal life that happened in 1973 and requires 45 minutes to tell.

For example. You might just say something harmless, like, “Isn’t it funny the way wives just hate it when their husbands talk to pretty women at parties?”

And suddenly Lana is all over the topic. “That’s not the way my relationship with Sven works at all. I think it’s natural that women are attracted to him, but it doesn’t threaten me because we know each other so well.”

Well, hon, that’s GREAT and everything, but that was NOT the topic.

Or you might say, “Most people who grew up in the ’70s really hate disco now, but teen-agers are into it.”

And Lana jumps up and says, “I have this friend Natalie who graduated high school in 1980, and she still organizes disco parties for the people who worked on the school paper together.”

And she sorta sits there, like, “Wasn’t that an amazing story?”

And you’re thinking, “Is there more?”

But that’s THE WHOLE STORY. In other words, it’s an important story because it happened to her. So after a while, you realize that she’s not having a conversation-she’s having a permanent personal therapy session that YOU’RE INVITED TO, whether you wanna be or not.

If you say, “My whole family was killed in a car accident last week,” Lana Banana is gonna say something like: “I have a car. It’s a 1993 Lexus.” Or, if she’s listening ESPECIALLY close that day, she might say, “Nobody in my family has been seriously hurt in a car accident, because my mom always insisted on seat belts and air bags.”

But what’s really amazing is that she believes she’s giving out SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION. Every time she says, “I knew this guy that I met at a deli in Boulder, Colo., and he told me that all Iranian men fantasize about having big blond girlfriends,” she thinks she’s just come up with a citation out of the Encyclopedia Britannica. She thinks she’s actually PASSING ON KNOWLEDGE.

Sometimes it’ll just pop up out of the blue. She’ll say, “My sister and I really love each other.” And you’re thinking, “Yeah?” And she says, “We’re really close.” And you’re going: “Good. You’re close.” And she says, “One time at the mall a woman saw us together and thought we must be best friends instead of sisters.”

And so I’m tempted to say, “I have a sister.” But I know what she’d say. She’d say, “I have a sister and a brother and a mother and a father and three grandparents still living.”

I don’t know why I’m talking about this. I think it’s because I’m trying to decide whether to execute her or not.

And speaking of rampaging subhuman genetic mutations, this week’s flick is “The Relic,” which is just about theTALKIEST horror movie ever made. I counted nine separate discussions of genetic DNA, including one in the last 20 minutes when the giant half-beetle/half-lizard galloping humanoid has already eaten most of the supporting cast and is closing in on Penelope Ann Miller.

This is one of those Snappy Patter movies. Everybody talks in Snappy Patter. The cops bark Snappy Patter at one another. The scientists in the Chicago natural history museum talk in nerdy Snappy Patter. Even the mayor has his own form of obscene Snappy Patter. These are Clever People. Cool People. Excuse me while I barf all over a polo shirt.

The idea is that a big-deal anthropologist goes down to Brazil and drinks some jungle acid with the Amazon Indians, and pretty soon he gets turned into either a reptile or an insect or a fungus or SOMETHING, and then an empty ship turns up on Lake Michigan with a bunch of gooey bodies inside. And Tom Sizemore, as the tough snappy-pattered police lieutenant, finds out that all the bodies have the rear part of their brains eaten away because the creature feeds on the hypothalamus gland. The reason I remember it’s the hypothalamus gland is that they refer to the hypothalamus gland about 97 times before the movie is over. “Hmmmmm…missing hypothalamus? I thought so.”

Meanwhile, down at the museum, Penelope Ann Miller just wants to do her molecular biology projects in peace. She really doesn’t have time for a 3-ton jungle creature to go galumphing through the museum cocktail party, eating extras and slurping stuff out of their cranial cavities.

The only reason the movie exists really is so we can see the last half hour of Stan Winston special effects, with this toothy. crab-headed Lollapalooza Lizard partying through Chi-town. Will we be forced to watch another hour of poorly lit scenes featuring cops with flashlights leading tuxedoed guests through sewer tunnels in a vain effort to escape, or will Penelope Ann be able to do the proper computer work in time to figure out What It Is and How To Kill It? While we’re waiting to find out, a wheelchair-bound James Whitmore, as the crusty old museum curator, becomes Hamburger Helper while grinning ear to ear at the majestic sociological implications of it all.

They actually tried to make a horror movie with a goldurn MESSAGE. Please. Don’t let it happen again.

Seventeen dead bodies. One dead dog. No breasts. (Shame on you, Penelope Ann.)
Jungle drugfest.
Security-guard-chomping. Flesh-eating beetles. Brain-sucking. Slimy beetle-smashing. Headless-body iron-spike impalement.
Multiple decapitations. Giant-lizard face-licking. Exploding creature.
Gratuitous Linda Hunt.
Heads roll.
Fungus fu.

Drive-In Academy Award nominations for…

Chi Muoi Lo, as the oily museum researcher who steals other people’s grant money.

Tom Sizemore, as the wisecracking detective who sizes up a crime scene and orders “a full splatter pack.”

And Penelope Ann Miller, as the feisty little molecular biologist who really CARES ABOUT PEOPLE.

Two stars.

Joe Bob says check it out.

 

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