Will Edwards, John P. Baniqued, Shae Wilhite. Directed by Kelly Schwarze. Available on DVD at vdefilms.com.
Three laid-off board-game designers create a national controversy when they come up with a new game based around ethnic stereotypes. That’s the rather loaded premise of You People (also the name of the board game), the new feature from veteran local filmmaker Kelly Schwarze. But despite the potential for shock and satire, You People has very little of either. Its social commentary is weak, and the story is more about the clichéd corrupting power of wealth and success than it is about racial tensions or freedom of speech. Will Edwards is appealing as the everyman main character, who just wants to have a normal life doing what he loves, and the acting overall is solid. Schwarze has continued to develop as a filmmaker, and technically, You People is his most assured work yet. But increased confidence behind the camera isn’t enough to make up for the lackluster story and toothless humor.
ASTRO-ZOMBIES M3: CLONED
Donna Hamblin, Fletcher Sharp, Scott Blacksher. Directed by Ted V. Mikels. Available on DVD from various outlets including Amazon and oldies.com.
Ted V. Mikels is a B-movie legend who’s been churning out schlock since the 1960s, and he’s become sort of a Vegas filmmaking institution since moving here in 1986. Astro-Zombies M3: Cloned is the second sequel to Mikels’ 1968 cult classic The Astro-Zombies (after Mark of the Astro-Zombies in 2002), and it’s every bit as cheesy and endearingly nonsensical as the original tale of genetically engineered killing machines. Mikels is a little more self-consciously campy these days, and Cloned has some moments of intentional humor, but mostly it’s an incomprehensible mishmash of sci-fi and horror, with questionable acting and bargain-basement special effects. Mikels even throws in characters from another of his well-known films, 1972’s The Doll Squad, and the whole thing runs out of steam about halfway through. For genuine fans of terrible movies, though, Mikels remains the gold standard.
RUNNING 4 PRESIDENT
Griffin Stanton-Ameisen, John E. Carson, Liana Alexandra. Directed by Marko Sakren. Available on DVD at r4pmovie.com.
Running 4 President has a perfect Hollywood-style high concept: Two slackers desperate to save their failing oxygen-bar business launch a fake political party to drum up publicity, but their grassroots movement becomes a national sensation. Throw Jack Black and Paul Rudd in there and you’ll get an instant studio greenlight, but director and co-writer Marko Sakren stumbles too much with his version of the story. Stars Griffin Stanton-Ameisen and John E. Carson are naturally funny and have great chemistry, but the plotting is confused and full of holes, the editing is choppy and disjointed, and there are far too many scenes featuring static images and voice-over, as if Sakren is making up for a lack of firsthand footage. Sakren goes for buddy comedy and a little romance over political commentary, which is fine, but much of Running 4 President seems like a missed opportunity. Maybe Sakren can start over and pitch it to Hollywood.