Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz!

Finally, the Cap'n has come back to talk about something worthwhile! Oh sure, dissecting a two-and-a-half minute advertisement for a movie I'm not going to watch anyway was fun, but now it's time to stop the childishness and talk about something you might actually care about.

Yes, dear reader(s), I speak of The Wizard of Oz on Blu-Freaking-Ray High Definition!

Even a day later, after dousing my eyes in red and green Krueger-ness, I'm still boggled by how wonderful it looks. Even the sepia toned beginning and (spoiler!) ending are as impressive as those new-fangled movies you keep buying.

Well, not you, Mr. Not-Going-to-Adopt-Blu-Ray-for-Price-and/or-Personal-Reasons, but certainly for everyone who asks me "why bother mastering old movies for HD? they always look like crap, right?"

Wrong. If Casablanca didn't prove them wrong, if The Third Man didn't wear them down, The Seventh Seal didn't hush them good, and The Adventures of Robin Hood didn't shoot that argument right into the gutter, Oz will. The Wizard of Oz makes The Adventures of Robin Hood look like a warm-up for High Def.

I guess this isn't going to mean anything to you if you aren't already inclined to watch The Wizard of Oz, but the Cap'n is. Beneath my horror loving exterior, I can be a down right softie, and while I wasn't even planning on watching the whole movie before reporting, I couldn't turn it off.

The Wizard of Oz is designed in such a way that you very easily fall into the story without losing interest: the opening section in Kansas dispenses with all the necessary foreshadowing and character introduction quickly, split right down the middle with "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", and before you know it, you're hanging on to see this bland middle-America turn technicolor trip-out.

Similarly, although I really thought it would take longer, the Munchkin sequence is over and Dorothy has the Ruby slippers and is following the Yellow Brick Road. The pacing isn't breakneck, but you've met the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion (with a song apiece) in short order, and they're a poppy field away from the Emerald City.

I gave a cursory thought to doing some homework, only to realize "I'm halfway through the movie already" and decided to just finish it off. I"m still not sure how it is the last fifty minutes go by faster than the first, but there goes the Wizard, floating off in his balloon and Glinda the good witch was back to tell Dorothy she could go home all along.

One digression: I don't know how I always forget this, but The Wizard (and the movie) certainly does a disservice to the Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin Man (and the kids at home) by not imparting the "you had a heart/brains/courage all along" speech. Instead, he suggests that what's more important that Hearts, Brains, and Courage are the trinkets that make them clear to others (a diploma, a medal, and a heart clock). I'm serious!

To be fair, it makes the Futurama spoof even funnier, because I could almost hear the Wizard say "You don't need courage when you've got... a GUN!" to the Cowardly Lion. I guess that I want to believe the movie is less superficial in that one regard, so I conveniently forget it and replace it with a trope from every other kids' book.

But enough about the movie. If you like it (as I do) then you want to know how it holds up to that ten year old dvd you've got, or that... uh, three year old(?) two-or-three disc set you have.

The answer is: pretty damn well. There are clips from the oldest of the versions (seen in any extra featuring the voice of Angela Lansbury), and the difference is astounding. Even the fancy re-mastered newer dvd doesn't sport the clarity and depth of picture quality this Blu Ray does. The poppy field is an excellent example, both before and after the snow fall. I was rather surprised how easy it was to tell one flower apart from the other, even when staring at hundreds of like-colored plants. The evil forest that Dorothy and company tread through is more ominous, and for some reason, an especially cheesy shot of flying monkeys dazzles.

I don't mean to be rude to The Adventures of Robin Hood, but The Wizard of Oz really blows it out of the water when it comes to seeing early color films in High Definition. I've seen newer movies with robust color palettes that don't sparkle like Oz does. If this is what Warners is planning on doing with all their catalog titles, count me in. I expect that Oz and the in-production-at-the-same-time Gone with the Wind are their way of announcing "old movies can look great too!"

And they're right. This wasn't the first time I've sat down with Oz and stuck around until the end, and having seen it like I did yesterday, it won't be the last time either. For a 7o year-old movie, you'd hardly be able to tell...

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While this isn't Oz related, I thought I'd share that 1986's Labyrinth looks pretty damned good in its own right on Blu Ray. I haven't seen The Dark Crystal yet, but I expect similar results.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Heads or Tails...

I'm not normally one to turn away attention from the Blogorium, but if anonymous commenters are going to take me to task for things I didn't say about Roman Polanski yesterday, then by all means find somewhere else to make your point. Just because I find the timing of the arrest very odd doesn't mean I don't think he is guilty of something he plead guilty to or that he should be given a free pass or whatever else it is you're conflating with what I actually wrote. Sorry, this is a limited readership blog for the moment and you're not going to make a splash here.

If the extradition happens and Polanski returns to the U.S., of course I expect him to go to trial for skipping out on his sentencing. It was a shitty, stupid, cowardly thing to do. I stand by my point that this could have happened any time in the last 32 years by any number of means, so it's not like this is a "sudden break" that allowed the Los Angeles DA's office to arrest him. So yeah, I find that odd that so much ado is being made of "finally" catching Roman Polanski.

But I'm not in the mood to keep dragging this out, so I'm going to let the quarter decide what the Cap'n is talking about tonight.

Heads, I talk about The Wizard of Oz on Blu Ray.

Tails, I talk about the new A Nightmare on Elm Street trailer.

Toss that coin!

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Dammit. Tails. Okay, we'll talk about The Wizard of Oz tomorrow. Despite all intentions just to check the BD out, I ended up watching the entire movie. Again. It happens to me just about every time I start watching The Wizard of Oz, but with added incentive this time.

BUT we're not talking about that. I left it up to chance, stuck to my word, so we're talking about a different child molester tonight: Freddy Krueger.

That's right, the "Bastard Son of a Hundred Maniacs" is back, this time with a great big "FROM PRODUCER MICHAEL BAY" slapped in front of the title. You know how I feel about Platinum Dunes, but in the interest of covering what's current and because of A Nightmare on Elm Street's place among my horror favorites, let's take a look at the trailer, shall we?

(please forgive the embedding that pushes into the poll, links, and other info. I don't know how to keep it from doing that)




Okay, so let's start with positives, since I'm not on record as being a Platinum Dunes "Fan":

- I really like some of the dream imagery here. The snow (or is it ash?) and boiler room footage looks really good, and I like that the dreams seem to be more practical effects than cgi. Despite the wild possibilities afforded by digital effects, what makes the dreams so disturbing in the first film is that they seem real (at first) and the reality becomes perverted and frightening. So good on that, assuming that's the trend of the movie (and not simply because no FX work was done in time for the SDCC trailer).

- There's not a ton of Freddy in the trailer, but Jackie Earle Haley seems sufficiently creepy in that final moment. I'll take creepy Freddy over jokester Freddy, at least if this is a remake / reboot. The burn makeup is... interesting. I don't know how I feel about that yet.

- I'm very intrigued by this suggestion that maybe Freddy was innocent when the families burned him alive. It's certainly a different take than the sociopath version of Freddy that was always guilty and continued punishing in the afterlife. This sort of take gives a different kind of credence to Krueger taking revenge, even if it is a little obvious in the "generic plot type" department.

- The production design and cinematography in the opening shots looked great. I'd forgotten, partly because of how it changed in the sequels (particularly Freddy's Dead and Freddy vs Jason), about the abandoned factory that plays such a huge role in Nightmare 2 and, I guess 3. It's still a little slick and Texas Chainsaw Massacre-y, but I'm at least interested in seeing what director Samuel Bayer brings to the visual palette.

- Clancy Brown! Always a plus. Am I hoping too much that he plays the John Saxon role of Nancy's father in this iteration?

Alas, there are negatives, and kinda substantial ones.

- None of the kids made any impression at all. In fact, were it not for something I'm going to mention next, I couldn't tell you who was supposed to be Nancy and who was supposed to be Tina. Or which one was the Johnny Depp character or Tina's boyfriend. That's not a good thing when setting up this trailer.

- Instead, the trailer focuses on iconography, and unfortunately that includes some direct lifts of shots from the original Nightmare. While I dug most of the new dream imagery, all of a sudden you'd get "oh! it's the bathtub shot!" or "hey! it's the scene where Tina dies!", and it took me out of the trailer.

Suddenly I wasn't watching a new take on the story; I was watching shots that immediately drew comparisons to A Nightmare on Elm Street. There's the suggestion of the jail "hanging" scene, but with the jump rope girls inserted into the dream, and a really worrisome shot that reminded me of the worst part of Nightmare 2: the pool scene.

The "references" didn't really work in Shit Coffin, er, Friday the 13th, or Texas Chainsaw Massacre for that matter. In some ways, I wish they'd just drop trying to remind audiences "hey! you've seen this and remember it! we invite you to compare our version to the one you love before you've even seen it!" and work on successfully adapting the iconography of Freddy and the dreams into a newer context.

In all honesty, I'd say that I would be willing to watch a new Nightmare on Elm Street film, as long as it wasn't trying to BE A Nightmare on Elm Street. There's plenty of territory you can still explore with Freddy, the dreams, the parents, and the children without making implicit claims that this version is superior - and simultaneously beholden - to a film we're already familiar with.

But then again, that's been my fundamental problem with most of these remakes. If they aren't trying to be slavishly loyal to the source material, they're being slapdash and lazy with the references (see Friday the 13th). Even when the remake is different enough that it can almost exist on its own (Texas Chainsaw, for example), they have to throw in the "saw dance" to remind us that we're not watching a different take on the same story.

It's going to strike you as strange to hear me say I kinda liked the trailer. Given the track record of Platinum Dunes, I doubt I'll like the movie, but this was a promising first impression.

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Tomorrow: The Wizard of Oz, proving once again that the guy who told me "they shouldn't bother making 'old movies' on Blu Ray" was out of his mind.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Wanted and Desired indeed.

I have to say that this sudden arrest of Roman Polanski in Switzerland strikes me as odd. I'm not trying to diminish the fact that Polanski committed a crime in 1977 and then bailed to France, but why now? It's not as though he's been hiding out somewhere; Roman Polanski has been living in plain sight for the last 32 years, and everyone knew exactly where he was. It's highly doubtful to me that this is the first time the director left France in three decades, so what prompted this?

Are they looking to drag Polanski into court and create another Phil Spector-like criminal flogging? After thirty years, the article indicates that even Polanski's thirteen-year-old victim wants this to be over and done with, and not necessarily by means of extraditing him and dragging him back to America. It makes a person wonder if Hollywood was really welcoming Polanski back with the Oscar for The Pianist, or if that was a botched "sting" operation.

The timing of this confuses me, as does the desire to perpetuate "celebrity justice". Polanski pled guilty, skipped town, and I don't see a huge trial coming out of this. This is not Robert Blake, Phil Spector, OJ Simpson, or Michael Jackson caliber. There's an entire generation of cinephiles who don't know the details of why the director of Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby, A Knife in the Water, Death and the Maiden, and Frantic lives in self-imposed exile. I'd be surprised if they even remember the Sharon Tate murders.

I was already planning on showing Repulsion at Horror Fest this year, but maybe I'll throw in The Fearless Vampire Killers and Rosemary's Baby while I'm at it. Let justice be served, but maybe we can hope for a good explanation why now and not any time prior to this.

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Well, that had me in a bit of a tizzy, so that's most of what I've got for today. Your thoughts would be welcome.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Trailer Sunday or Bust!


An American Werewolf in London


Hollywood or Bust


The Bride Wore Black


Rampo Noir


The Night Walker


Richard III


Over the Top

Saturday, September 26, 2009

To tell the truth...

I don't even know what to talk about after Boss and Teenage Mother. After a one-two punch like that, there's nothing I could watch, no development I could raise angst for. So the Cap'n spent most of the day doing homework and finishing season three of Dexter.

Season four starts tomorrow, but I won't be watching it. As stupid as this sounds for a movie fanatic to say, I'm getting rid of cable. And the DVR, and the stored movies and "record all", and the On Demand. I weighed the pros and cons of having it, and it boils down to a simple fact: I already don't have enough time to watch the hundreds of movies at the apartment. I have three Netflix movies that I haven't watched since I lived three houses away. I spend most of my time reading and writing for school, and when I did watch the fancy digital cable, it was a distraction.

The DVR was nice, I guess, but it became another method of piling on. I had another pile of movies and tv shows eating up space that I wasn't going to get to any time soon. Other than Lost, Doctor Who, and Weeds, I don't keep up with shows. I'm horrible about that, and the same goes with movies. How did I really expect to add more tv to the plate? By the time I get around to Bored to Death or Curb Your Enthusiasm, they'll be out on dvd. It just doesn't make sense right now to have cable with any amenities. So I cut it off.

I can still keep up with tv shows, but now at a less break-neck pace. Now I can finish watching The Office and Dollhouse, start Fringe, Battlestar Galactica, The Wire, Six Feet Under, Mad Men, True Blood, Pushing Daisies, and The Mighty Boosh, but at my own pace. Not worrying so much about when the next episode airs. Not hurrying to catch up before the season premiere. By the time I'm done with those, the new season of Dexter will be in stores.

The other big perk is no more idle channel surfing. From here on out, if I turn the tv on, it's with a specific purpose. I'll be watching something I want to watch, that I made time to watch, and that I can write about. So you get more content and less excuses.

For a while there, I thought it would be worth keeping just for all the movies available. The truth was that with so many options, nothing ends up being what I'd watch. There were at least 30 channels devoted to nothing but movies, and I watched maybe four movies in the two months I had service. The math just doesn't work. Does it mean I'll miss being able to watch Schindler's List and Clean, Shaven in HD? Maybe. Was it the right thing to do for now? Definitely.

So far, the only thing I miss is not having a clock in the living room.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Blogorium Review: Exploit-o-Rama Double Feature


Tonight we watched a double bill of infamous exploitation flicks: Boss Ni- well, you get the idea, and Teenage Mother, along with a host of other trailers for various genre-ploitation. Neither movie was what I expected, and at least one has a wildly misleading trailer.

Let's start with Fred "The Hammer" Williamson's Boss. Yeah, Boss will suffice. That's not the title of the movie, or the song in the movie, or even what anyone calls Williamson in the movie, but I just don't feel like getting banned for writing the whole title out. I think you can guess what the rest of it is, and that is actually the title of the film.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the "n" word is uttered at least 150 times by pretty much every character in the film. In theory, Boss is some kind of redemptive blaxploitation film, where the empowered black men take it to whitey, but the reality is far from it. "Boss" (Williamson) and his partner Amos (D'Urville Martin) are bounty hunters in the old west who, by increasingly ridiculous circumstances, come to be the Sheriff and Deputy of a small town.

Normally I'd expect a "stick it to the man" attitude, and while there's some of that, Williamson (who wrote the script) unfortunately makes the protagonists exceedingly sketchy. Boss and Amos arrest people for the sole intention of fleecing them for money, and by the end of the film they're indirectly responsible for ruining the town right before they leave. All to catch Jed Clayton (William Smith), which they sorta kinda do.

Of course, this is the same movie that has two Mexican characters named Margarita and Pancho. It also features one of the worst performances from Vampirella's Barbara Leigh, and is offensive in pretty much every possible way. Boss is, at least, exactly what it advertises itself as, with the exception of being the rare blaxploitation film that makes people look worse.

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Teenage Mother, on the other hand, is nothing like the trailer leads you to believe. In fact, I'd say 70% of the footage of Arlene Sue in the trailer is nowhere to be found in the movie, including the pictures of her all knocked up. Arlene Sue is a total prude in the movie, and spends most of her time nagging her boyfriend about paying attention to her. The ad misrepresents the "a little bit pregnant" scene to the point where it implies the exact opposite of what happens in the film.

Most of Teenage Mother's 69-minute running time is devoted to padding: there's a really long dance scene, a really long drag racing scene, lots of people wandering around in school hallways, and a subplot that eats up most of the movie. There is no turning "brother against brother", since Arlene Sue's boyfriend doesn't like Mr. Butt-Chin in the first place. Instead, Butt-Chin tries selling drugs to students, hangs out in an auto scrap yard with some random guy, and tries to rape his Swedish sex-ed teacher while his girlfriend gets high in their truck.

Here's what makes the failed "rape" scene so incredibly sketchy: the sex-ed teacher, upon being rescued, pretends nothing even happened. Of course, nothing in that plot thread (about the teacher's "radical" sex-ed program) makes any sense as it stands, but that particular scene just strikes a sour note. It's not like she pretends to enjoy having her shirt ripped open, but when Coach Fred Willard arrives to help she says "nothing happened. I tripped and fell, that's all", even though she's in the Boiler Room for no reason.

Meanwhile, Arlene Sue sneaks off with the truck driver because she's "running away", even though she then runs into Butt-Chin at the truck stop and goes to the drive-in with the gang. What exactly the gang "got even" for is up to speculation, but all that really happens is Butt-Chin and Arlene Sue's boyfriend fight again.

What I will say Teenage Mother has going for it are extras who clearly don't know what to do on camera. The Ginger Kid in the sex-ed class and the Scrawny Gay Dude at the dance club keep looking into the camera of talking to people in the crew, and it's kind of hilarious.



Alas, Fred Willard doesn't have much to do. Mostly he stands around and wears a suit or a red sweatsuit. It's a waste of comic genius, if you ask me...

And then there's the actual reason Teenage Mother is designed for "select audiences". Let me just say this: an actual birth scene would be one thing. An instructional video on using newly developed forceps to pull the baby out by its head is something entirely different. We were all simultaneously disgusted and yet couldn't turn away. Okay, that's a lie. Many of us turned away at various points. For the first time ever, I'm glad I don't have a larger TV screen...

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So yeah, I don't think we're ever going to look at Teenage Mother again the same way, and those of us who saw Boss are... not going to talk about it. Yeah, that's about right. Exploitative, misleading, and clinical. That covers it. I wouldn't say I regret seeing either of them, but boy howdy was it not what I was expecting.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Short Attention Span Blogging

Before we start, I have a public service announcement for Major Tom:

The Estate of Ingmar Bergman is up for sale.

Verily, it can be yours, sir, if the price is right.

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If I could keep from passing out between finishing class and writing these here blogs, I would review Observe and Report, the new joint from Jody Hill (The Foot Fist Way, Eastbound and Down). I understand it to be a remake of Paul Blart: Mall Cop, which makes it like the fastest turnaround from original to remake I can think of, but feel free to correct the Cap'n on that. I'm pretty sure I heard that somewhere. Or made it up. Same difference.

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This weekend, your choices are a) see Teenage Mother here with the Cap'n, or b) See Fame with nobody else at your local multiplex. You have no other options, so if you aren't here tomorrow night, I'm just going to assume you wanted to see the remake of a movie you didn't want to see on home video for almost thirty years.

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Speaking of "see on home video", if you can think of any more VHS horror movies that want to join Terrorvision at Horror Fest, just drop the Cap'n a line.

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Finally, I'm not going to say anything about Stan Helsing. The trailer speaks loudly for itself, and what it says isn't very promising:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Just a little bit of everything.

I really, really don't know what to make of this news about David Cronenberg being directly involved (including writing and directing) the remake of the remake of The Fly. Until more concrete details emerge, I'm not even sure that this is true. It could just be one of those nutty internet rumors that catches on like a wildfire.

For anyone who doesn't know the history of The Fly, the obviously strange part is that David Cronenberg directed the 1986 remake of the film. Recently, he's been involved in overseeing the operatic version with Howard Shore. Will the movie be based on that? Is it really another remake or is Cronenberg looking to explore something different with familiar territory. Instead of disease, could this new iteration be a meditation on body modification?

And, does this mean Viggo could be the next Brundlefly?

Some of these ideas are fascinating, even though I can't reconcile this with the direction Cronenberg's been pushing. His body fascination has become less fantastic in the last ten years (certainly since eXistenZ) so this would be a curious return to form and literally a return to his older work. Weird.

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warning: Trek-related dorkness ahead. Skip to the bottom if you want to retain your "cool" points.

Going back and looking at the four Star Trek: The Next Generation movies, I realized that unlike the Original Series movies, I don't think I've really watched most of them all the way through since the first time. I'm positive I didn't watch Insurrection again, because I really didn't like it when I saw it on the big screen. It's an elongated episode of the show.

Nemesis was something I saw on tv years ago, really hated, and would occasionally stop for when it was on tv (again), mostly to shake my head in disbelief. Take your pick, but between the dune buggy sequence and B4, I can't take that movie seriously.

That leaves us with Generations and First Contact, both of which I enjoy. I did sit down a year or two ago and watch Generations for the first time in ten years or so, and found it to be better than I remembered it being. The Kirk stuff is still silly, including the horseback riding sequence, and Data's emotion chip is a little grating on the scientific outpost, but overall it's not bad for an "odd number" Trek movie. I remember being impressed that they pulled some loose threads from the series (particularly the Klingon political power struggle) and integrated them into the story.

First Contact... I'm still not sure I've seen it all the way through since watching it (presumably) on the big screen. The movie is on TV regularly, so bits and pieces of it are like an old glove (the fight with the Borg on the Enterprise's hull, for example), but I'm not convinced that I've seen it more than once. I remember liking it, and I could tell you bits and pieces if the story, but that's about it.

It feels a little silly to even be going back over them, since I'm probably never going to revisit Insurrection and I doubt that the allure of seeing Nemesis in its proper aspect ratio is really going to be reason to dive back into that underwhelming mess. As it stands, the Next Generation movies are at best one and a half out of four in the good to suck ratio. I can't give Generations a full-on pass. It's like Star Trek III: The Search for Spock: better than you might remember it being but not great.

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The boxed set also has what could be the worst "Extras" disc of either series. The Original Series movies had a "Captain's Summit", where Whoopi Goldberg sat down with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Patrick Stewart, and Johnathan Frakes for and hour or so. It's full of half finished stories, jokes, and is very loose in terms of structure.

The Next Generation box has a disc with a handful of short featurettes, most of which I'll never watch again. There's a twelve minute walk through of the different versions of the Enterprise with one conceptual artist talking about them as you watch CGI versions of each ship and periodically footage from its corresponding movie.

There are three (count 'em) three pieces about the Vegas Hilton's Star Trek Experience, which ended last year. If you ever wanted to meet the actors and actresses who played characters you didn't know existed with tourist-attraction level makeup and then follow them on their last day of work ever, you're in luck. Not only do they get the longest featurette (30 minutes) on the entire disc, but both Experience attractions, Borg Invasion 4-D and Klingon Encounter, are shown in videotaped walkthrough, so you know what you missed by not going.

The best piece is a really brief overview of Trek villains from all the movies, despite the fact that the only talking heads are Nicholas Meyer (director of Wrath of Khan and Undiscovered Country) and the writers of the new Star Trek movie. There's an even shorter piece called "I Love the Star Trek Movies" that has maybe six people (all of whom worked on the shows or movies) giving really broad overviews. Finally, if you want to call it an "extra", there's a little map of the Trek galaxy where you can click on corresponding planets for a one minute clip about the plot of each film. To say it's disappointing is a massive understatement.

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Finally, the TNG box brings along another one of my favorite dvd misnomers: the technically true but mostly misleading "Over _ Hours of Extras!" promise.

Lately, the number is usually 5, leading you to believe that a dvd that can only hold 4 hours (at maximum) of presentable material is somehow magically pushing even further into original content created for home entertainment.

The trick here is that every single one of these advertisements is counting the length of the movie TWICE when there's a commentary track. Even though you're watching the movie again, it's new because someone is talking over the soundtrack. Personally, I think that's a little misleading. Yes, it is a supplement, but counting the full length of the movie as another extra is kind of cheating.

By that rationale, we could take The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King extended edition (which clocks in a roughly four and a half hours), and take the aggregate time of the four commentary tracks (roughly eighteen hours) plus the two appendices (about six to six and a half hours) and say that one movie has "Over 24 Hours of Bonus Material!" Technically, that's true. What I'm not telling you is that most of that Bonus Material involves you watching the movie again four times.

The "Truth" About Teenage Mother

Now that Teenage Mother finally arrived, I think setting up a time for everybody to come over and watch it is in order. I'm leaning in the direction of this weekend, but will test those waters tomorrow between test taking and assorted school-related junk.

If you're wondering, the Cap'n is keeping his promise not to watch the movie before everyone else does. That did not stop me from reading another review and learning a few things I did not know about the movie, neither of which were covered in the Amazon synopsis posted previously:

- Star Arlene Sue Farber ("she's a very healthy girl") was also in The French Connection and I Drink Your Blood.

- There's a "twist" ending. Okay, it's not a twist so much as... well, get your popcorn ready.

- We all know that lady on the left, but who's that fella on the right?


That's right, folks! It's Fred Willard!!!!

Teenage Mother?! Whaaaa Happened?

- This line from the IMDB review made me laugh so hard I had to share it:

"There are no motorcycles in this film. until the very very end just before the curtains meet."

part of this is the context of the rest of the review, which you really might want to consider reading before you come over. Or not. It's up to you. I'm glad I know but am simultaneously filled with curiosity and dread.

Actually, since I'm putting the poster up anyway, you'll be able to figure it out. It's only RIGHT ABOVE THE TITLE:


Like I said, get your popcorn ready! This weekend: Teenage Mother! 9 Months of Trouble! Best Trailer Ever!


* by the way, I love the tagline "She did her homework in parked cars!"

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Voting is the Hardest Part...

Or it will be, anyway. So far we have 11 really good choices for "Fan's Night" with another two (Feast and Teeth at the moment) joining the list. I did a quick check of the list of movies left to go, and there are 31 left to vote on. Initially, I was going to drop a few of those, but we have some twisted voter out there who loves to vote for the worst possible choices.

Speaking of which, kudos to you, futility voter. I'm not 100% sure who you are, but your voting indicates that every movie that all other H-Fest attendees hated were your favorites. Or maybe you're just the ironic advocate of what I'd call "The Worst Horror Fest Ever".

Whatever you're up to, it's amusing me, so I'll fore go dropping things like Night of the Living Dead 3-D, The Ruins, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. Otherwise you'd have nothing to vote for!

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Back to the "Hardest Part": The next official voting brackets (beginning in October) are going to be a little bit different. I'll be putting two of the current favorites head-to-head, and you can only vote for one. Unless, of course, you don't want to take any breaks and want to try to watch 18 movies straight through*. Trust me, while the choosing is going to be tough, it's going to be a great night of movies one way or the other.

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By the way, the field trip choice is 99% Zombieland. The new trailer sold me on it.





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postscript: okay, it's clear that the Cap'n fell asleep, woke up late, and didn't have anything to write about. Tomorrow will have something to do with actual movies and not Horror Fest stuff most of you could have guessed about. But seriously, kudos to that sick bastard voting for shitty movies. I hope you don't win, because I'm not showing "that movie" again, but I admire your quixotic quest to represent crap.




* I'm game.

Sent to me from a local Target:


Which kind soul out there in blogoland wants to bust out this prisoner and reunite him with his brother, Shecky?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Another Trailer Sunday in Paradise


Les Enfants Terribles


Driven to Kill


Three Kings


The Goose and the Gander


Blood Dolls


The Ten

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Blogorium Review: Tyson

Folks, there was a point in time where I never thought I'd get this review done. I watched the movie twice, read a whole host of reviews (positive and negative), and just could not find anything original or insightful to add. But I think that despite that, and regardless of what you may think of Mike Tyson as a boxer, as a tabloid figure, or as a human being, this documentary is worth watching.

The title could not be more apropos: from beginning to end, Tyson is one man's story, told by him in the way he sees fit. Director James Toback chose to interview no one else. Any other "talking head" footage comes from vintage sources. This is Mike Tyson telling his story in a way that he feels you haven't heard.

I would be inclined to shy away from calling it a documentary, but Mike Tyson isn't afraid to talk about the (lots of) bad that makes up most of his professional life. To hear him tell it, "Iron" Mike was a fat kid in the projects who got tired of being picked on and turned to crime. A chance encounter with boxer Bobby Stewart in juvenile sent Mike on a different path, one away from crime and towards fighting in the ring. He was successful, but lost his way when his trainer, Cus D'Amato, died.

Tyson kept fighting because that's what he knew to do; that's what Cus trained him to be the best at. He unified the titles, was at the top of the world, and it crumbled. But Mike Tyson doesn't shy away from the crumbling. He talks about womanizing, his hazardous professional and personal relationships, and becoming lazy in the ring. Tyson himself gives us blow by blow accounts of the Buster Douglas fight and the first two Holyfield fights, the point where he truly "lost it" in the minds of boxing fans.

And to my surprise, much of the blame Tyson has lies squarely on his shoulders. Yes, he pushes some of it off on his upbringing, and some of it on the death of D'Amato, but more often than not, when Mike Tyson has a fall, he admits it is his fault. Even when he's genuinely angry at someone, like Don King, he confesses that the public beating outside hotel was something that shouldn't have happened.

Tyson only remains vigilant in defense of his rape conviction. He contends that he was unfairly imprisoned and that it turned him against humanity. His conversion to Islam was initially a violent reaction against perceived enemies, but further introspection seems to have softened his position. I love that the Maori tattoo on his face was originally going to be hearts.

But then, that's why Tyson is so fascinating. Toback, a long time friend of Mike Tyson's, allows his subject to open up and reveal things about himself that many of us (including Mike) didn't know. Little verbal slips, like a discussion of the countries he visited when famous but never being able to go visit Mandela in South Africa because "parole makes traveling difficult", come out unrehearsed. This is a documentary that seems to unfold in front of you, even if you know Tyson's career trajectory in its entirety.

For that, and for the perplexing, self-contradicting, and totally magnetic figure at the center, I'm recommending you watch this. It may not change your opinion of Mike Tyson as a boxer, but it is an intriguing portrait of the man most of us know the lurid side of.

Friday, September 18, 2009

My Own Private Top Ten

I spend a bit of time over at the website for The Criterion Collection, mostly checking up on new releases and periodically reading their blog, On Five. One of the sidebars that I find most interesting is their "Top Ten" lists, wherein they ask various filmmakers, authors, artists, actors, comedians, and musicians to provide their own personal Top Ten Criterion films. While nobody from Criterion is going to ask Cap'n Howdy to do his, I thought I would anyway, with an extra five for good measure.

This list is prefaced by a caveat: I've intentionally left off some of my very favorite films that are in the Collection in order to do something different. Instead of favorites, I decided to focus on films that surprised me, inspired me in some way, or that changed the way I'd thought about the movie beforehand. It may not be your "Top Ten" (*ahem* Fifteen) list, but for those reasons, it is for me. They are, as usual, in no particular order.

1. Robinson Crusoe on Mars - An odd choice, but one that's near and dear to my heart. Many years before Criterion released this, my father mentioned it to me in passing as one of those "if you ever find this movie...", as he'd seen it as a teenager and loved it. The movie is very silly, but it made his day when I gave him his own Spine Numbered copy for his birthday last year.

2. Harlan County, U.S.A. - Truly a great documentary; one that drops you right in the middle of a Kentucky coal miners' strike and Duke Power. In a world of overtly propagandist "documentaries", it was refreshing to see one that felt so raw and immediate.

3. Brazil - I liked Brazil, but always took it for granted until I saw Criterion's three-disc set. After watching (and later, reading) The Battle of Brazil and the "Love Conquers All" cut, it's a small wonder Terry Gilliam ever got his dystopian vision to audiences.

4. La Haine - Until I saw La Haine, I wondered what the hype about Matthieu Kassovitz was as a director. Once you've seen his stunning debut film, everything since feels a bit compromised. La Haine is the French equivalent to Do the Right Thing, a simmering pot of rage just waiting to boil over, and it feels real and improvised, even as Kassovitz punctuates the story with stylistic editing.

5. Ace in the Hole - I'd seen Double Indemnity, and I'd seen Sunset Boulevard: Billy Wilder's ultimate Film Noir and his first dissection of the subgenre. What I had not seen, however, was Wilder's final statement on Noir, at the end of the cycle. A critique of media obsession well before its time with a swing-for-the-fences performance by Kirk Douglas, Ace in the Hole is a worthy closing to Wilder's Film Noir trilogy.

6. Carnival of Souls - For a long time, it was Night of the Living Dead and nothing else for me. Romero owned the sixties for independent horror as far as I was concerned, above and beyond even what Roger Corman and Vincent Price were doing with Poe. That was until I sat down and watched the director's cut of Herk Harvey's Carnival of Souls. Six years before Living Dead, Harvey created an atmospheric walking nightmare that preceded David Lynch by a decade. Don't let the "public domain" fool you; Carnival of Souls is the real deal.

7. F for Fake - Orson Welles, late in his career, makes a partly illusory documentary about forgery and magic that dares you to separate fact from fiction. He's still as good as he ever was and F for Fake is the maestro having a little fun, with us and at our expense.

8. Videodrome - It may just be that I didn't take the subversive elements of the film as seriously in high school. Watching it again, there's a lot to be said about the body, the taboo, and obsession that I gravitated to watching Criterion's excellent two-disc set. Oh, and I love the packaging.

9 . M - If you want to see sound used masterfully at a time when many directors were still fumbling around with the technology, look no further than Fritz Lang's M.

10. Permanent Vacation - This is actually an extra on Stranger Than Paradise. The movie is Jim Jarmusch's first feature, an odd-yssey through New York that's equal parts Catcher in the Rye and Alice in Wonderland. In many ways, it presupposes the structure of Richard Linklater's Slacker, although I enjoyed Permanent Vacation more. I was pleasantly surprised to find a "first" film that holds together and isn't mired in pretentiousness.

bonus five, with less chatter.

11. Night and the City - Richard Widmark may be the quintessential "Noir" type: looking perpetually beaten down by life, desperate for just one more shot, and always falls hard. The wrestling scheme is a good one, but nothing in Noir is good forever.

12. Do the Right Thing - I own a Blu-Ray copy, which has almost all of the extras, but I won't part ways with my Criterion set. This movie dares you to watch it and not feel something. I lose every time.

13. Equinox - For a movie riddled with odd pacing, weird plot holes, and awkward dialogue, I still enjoy revisiting the film debut of FX legend Dennis Muren. Having the recut, strangely exploitative Jack Woods version of the film is an interesting study in "what the audience wants." Oh, and watch this and then The Evil Dead; notice any similarities?

14. Simon of the Desert - Luis Buñuel's short about ascetic Saint Simon, who waits atop a pillar for six years, six months, and six days, all to prove he is devoted to God. At the bottom of the pillar is Silvia Pinal, the sexiest devil this side of Bedazzled, tempting and taunting Simon at every turn. For a "period" piece, I was surprised at how modern Buñuel's mini-movie felt, and the ending was quite out of the blue, if strangely familiar.

15. Dazed and Confused - A favorite in high school, I'd spent many years away from Richard Linklater's second film, assuming it would hold up once I'd "outgrown" it. Criterion's two disc set was a revelation; not only was Dazed as fun as I remembered it being, but something resonated in a way it hadn't when I was younger. Each time I've revisited Dazed and Confused since, I notice something that I missed and appreciate the movie a little more than the last.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My Favorite DVD Misnomer: "UNRATED!"

Today, while feeling wonky and woozy, the Cap'n got to thinking about one of my favorite lies perpetrated by marketing departments: that any movie slapped with an "UNRATED" automatically means that a normally lackluster film is suddenly scandalous.

The lie is hidden in plain sight on almost every dvd cover. If you look at the bottom of every "special features" box, you'll notice a disclaimer that says "special features have not been rated." And the reason why is that the studios don't have to; MPAA submission is only required for films entering theatrical distribution. Because they're counting on you not knowing that, it's easy to trick people into thinking that releasing an "unrated" version of the film is something totally forbidden.

And sometimes they aren't totally lying. Frequently horror movies released in "unrated" cuts (say Land of the Dead) do restore some violence and gore. This is not always the norm, of course. Sometimes, the horror films pull a fast one on you too: the "unrated" director's cuts of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, 1408, and A Haunting in Connecticut don't actually add any scares to the movies. 1408 changes the film to a much darker ending, but the first 80 minutes are exactly the same.

On the other hand, the studios got a little too excited about this and would slap the "unrated" tag on movies that don't make sense, like Remember the Titans. Worse still, they'll wildly mislead people with movies like Coyote Ugly, which are "unrated" because two or three minutes of character development were re-inserted. Of course, marketing is counting on people assuming (not unreasonably) that "unrated" = nudity.

Running time can often cue you into just how "unrated" these cuts are. Judd Apatow and Apatow-related comedies tend to reincorporate significant footage into the film, although it's questionable how risque the extra fifteen minutes are. For the most part, "unrated" cuts of movies are usually two to five minutes longer and impact the story in no way.

My favorite, however, are the Saw films. If you've looked at the "unrated" versions of Saw, Saw II, and I believe Saw III, all of the cuts are actually shorter than the theatrical versions. Whether they just removed some cut-aways from gore or wisely cut some of the terrible acting out, I don't know.

At any rate, many of you are wise to this already, but it frequently drives me crazy to see movies marketed as "unrated" when you could make that argument about ANY film on dvd (studios usually just keep the rating on there out of courtesy). If "unrated" meant what studio marketing wanted us to think it did, I'm willing to bet more retail outlets would refuse to carry those discs. That's why NC-17 and "UNRATED" have the reputation they do theatrically: most of the time, no theatre will play those movies. Don't get duped into believing just any old movie in an "Extended, Unrated" cut is anything more than technically accurate. What it actually means and what you think it means are two very different things.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Nappy Time is the Happy Time

Sorry for the slowness in updating today, gang. My cold has moved into the "you're better off sleeping phase," so I've been in and out of consciousness, often leaving things on while passed out. I don't know how many times I tried to watch Racket Girls on MST3K before I finally realized it wasn't going to happen.

I have sincere doubts about keeping this blog coherent if I go on much longer, so instead I'll give you this video daily double. It's from the same person who made that 1950s Ghostbusters trailer, but this time both fake trailers look like they could actually be the same movie, especially Charlton Heston as Indiana Jones, circa 1951. See for yourself:



The second faux-trailer is for James Stewart as Forrest Gump. I think you'll find it works quite well.



And on that, note, I'm going back to la-la land. I'm hoping this breaks by tomorrow so I can watch something and tell you about it, or maybe make it through a whole post. We'll see when we get there.

Oh, and keep voting! Three way ties are uncouth!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Phantasm II review followup: Region 1 release

I've noticed that a lot of folks have been directed to the Blogorium in search of a proper review of Phantasm II. Odds are you were looking for a review of the newly arrived Region 1 disc (out today), and my review of the Region 2 disc was less than helpful.

Let it be known that the Cap'n took your concerns to heart and decided to check out Universal's release of Phantasm II, and I will be happy to let you know what $14.99 will get you in order to complete the collection.

The first thing you should know is that since Universal released this disc, and not Anchor Bay, you're not getting any extras with the movie. Notice that they dumped it the same day as repackaged editions of Wes Craven and John Carpenter Universal releases (including They Live, The Serpent and the Rainbow, Shocker, Village of the Damned, and The People Under the Stairs). For some reason, if the movie isn't The Thing or one of the Universal Classic Monster movies, it's not going to get much more than the trailer. Phantasm II is no exception.

Accordingly, nothing from the region 2 disc (the commentary, convention footage, or TV spots) are on this disc. However, if you're just looking for Phantasm II itself, you're in pretty good shape. Universal released an anamorphic widescreen transfer (1.85:1) of the movie, and while it's hard to do an apples to apples comparison between a region free player and an upconverted PS3 picture, I didn't notice too many radical differences.

There's some really heavy grain near the beginning, especially when the Tall Man's hearse pulls up to Michael's house, but things settle down and the movie looks pretty good, considering that there was likely no remastering done here. Phantasm II is still perfectly watchable, and I'm not going to complain about having a copy I can show at anybody's house.

Still, I'm not parting ways with my Region 2 disc any time soon. The commentary track with Don Coscarelli, Reggie Bannister, and Angus Scrimm is sorely missed on the Region 1 disc. On the other hand, for most people, this is as good as you're going to get Phantasm II stateside, and at least now you'll have all four films together. The price isn't unreasonable (after all, that's what I, III, and IV cost to buy) and I'm sure you can get it for around $10 online.

I hope that's helpful. As long as you know you're getting what Universal considers to be a "lesser" title, and to not expect much more than the movie, then Phantasm II is worth picking up. If you've never seen it, this is ideally the way for you to watch the film, and cheaper than importing a UK disc.

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When I say Universal's "lesser" titles, I mean in comparison to the comparably packed An American Werewolf in London: Full Moon Edition dvd or Blu Ray. For obvious reasons I picked up the BD and while the image can frequently be "Ghostbusters" level grainy, it does look much better than the older dvd. I haven't dived into the 97 minute documentary about the movie, but I'll let you know when I have.

Universal kinda half-assed it with the Army of Darkness "Screwhead" Edition on Blu-Ray, including a U-Control picture-in-picture that consists of "Production Photos." The only thing that really separates it from the HD-DVD version is the inclusion of a new interview with KNB's Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger that's a variation on "The Men Who Made the Army" featurette from the old Anchor Bay disc. Still, it is in high definition and there is some new information. They were also kind enough to include the trailer and the "Alternate Ending" (but not the Director's Cut or any of the deleted scenes), so you're getting a mixed bag, dvd and BD-wise.

Now that Universal has the rights again, I'm sure there's another Army of Darkness disc looming in the wings, considering that Anchor Bay's Boomstick Edition and the Bootleg Cut are out of print. So unless you just want a nice looking copy of the theatrical cut of Army of Darkness (which is what most people prefer, I realize), you might want to wait and see what's coming in a year or so.

Finally, who would have thought that Child's Play would look so good on Blu Ray? And if that's not enough, even though the BD disc has all of the extras, MGM/Fox kindly included a dvd copy of the Chucky's 20th Birthday Edition so that you can watch that with a regular player. This bucks their trend of putting BD/dvd combos out where the Blu Ray disc has jack shit on it and the dvd has all of the extras (like Walking Tall, The Graduate, and Road House).


Oh, the new poll is up. I think you have until Thursday night.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Midnight Movie Breakdown

The Cap'n is feeling a lot under the weather this evening, so I'm going to keep this short. Of course, if I nod off in the middle of writing this, the only way you'd know is that it won't appear for a few more hours. Anyway...

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One of the things I forgot to mention in my Haunted World of El Superbeasto write-up was that using it as a good example for my anthropology project collapsed as soon as we sat down. I deliberately chose the midnight showing over the 10 o'clock because midnight audiences have a different vibe about them, as anyone who attends "early" showings or The Rocky Horror Picture Show can attest. I thought this would be no different, but what I discovered instead surprised me.

Other than the people I dragged with me to see El Superbeasto, there were two people in the theatre. That's actually less of a turnout than when I saw Last Action Hero on opening day. In that case, it was maybe ten people. Five people for a late night showing of an animated Rob Zombie joint tells me one of two things were going on:

1. Everyone who would have seen it stayed home because the dvd is coming out next week. Maybe it wasn't worth paying for the ticket and popcorn and everything else for an 80-something minute movie when you can get it for $15 on the 22nd. It was also on a Saturday night, was really only advertised on the internet, and there were no signs in the theatre.

2. This is just speculation, but maybe the poor box office showings for Halloween 2 signal a backlash against Mr. Zombie. I haven't seen Halloween 2, but the impression I got from reviews is that people are pretty evenly split between loving it and hating it. I didn't get much in-between, although I hear what people hated was exactly why I wanted to see it (ghost mom). It's possible that people who saw Halloween 2 were pissed off and didn't want to see an animated enactment of all of Zombie's exploitation fetishes. This might work out in his favor though, since I could see a crowd turning against El Superbeasto upon first viewing. I really do think this is the kind of toon you need to let sink in before you render judgment.

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Either way, I doubt the Carousel made much money off of 5 people by staying open an extra two hours or so. Then again, those geniuses are showing The Room soon, and that's just a waste of time and money for anyone willing to pay for it. I saw it for free (or parts of it, until most of us got bored and Cranpire skipped around), and can honestly say I'll never pay for that experience.

Not to pick a fight with the programmer of these movies, but I couldn't help but notice Shark Attack 3: Megalodon is in the Carousel's horror festival. Had we not already seen it during Horror Fest two years ago and weren't planning on watching it again this year, I might think about seeing it. Maybe you can show Blood Car next...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Everybody do the Trailer Sunday!


Elevator to the Gallows


Happy Birthday to Me


Pitfall


Battle in Outer Space


The Last Voyage


I was a Teenage Werewolf


Antichrist

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Blogorium Review: Rob Zombie's The Haunted World of El Superbeasto

Okay, let's get this out of the way right now: The Haunted World of El Superbeasto is not what you would call a "good" movie. It is a sporadically entertaining movie, one that is frequently funny (and intentionally so), but it can also be trying for a first time viewing. I would not recommend watching this alone, and I'll explain why directly.

While Rob Zombie's animated opus (three years or so in the making) doesn't come out on dvd until Tuesday, the Carousel was having two special showings tonight, one at 10pm and one at midnight. Because I didn't want to go alone, I dragged Barrett and Nathan along, and I'm glad I did. If I'd watched this movie by myself, it's very likely I'd be dwelling on all of the things I hated, rather than remembering what works.

The film, in essence, involves luchadore/lothario El Superbeasto (Tom Papa), his sister Suzi-X (Sherri Moon Zombie), and her robot Murray (Brian Posehn) trying to stop Dr. Satan (Paul Giamatti) from marrying stripper Velvet Von Black (Rosario Dawson). Also there are a bunch of incidental miscreants who float in and out of the story, not limited to werewolves, vampires, brides of Frankenstein, mermen, talking gorillas, and Nazis.

I think it's quite fair to describe Superbeasto as the animation aesthetic of Ren and Stimpy coupled with the sensibility of Fritz the Cat. There's almost non-stop animated nudity, various implied and explicit sexual references, reasonably gratuitous violence and gore, and plenty of profanity and illicit behavior coming from pretty much every direction. Strangely, this doesn't always work, partly because the film is frequently coupled with a "wink wink, get it audience?" attitude, largely on the part of El Superbeasto.

Fans of Dead & Breakfast (which I think is just Cranpire) will be happy to know that The Haunted World of El Superbeasto is peppered with songs that describe, facilitate, and mock the action. These are the high point of the movie, particularly the "Cat Fight" song near the end, although I'm also fond of the "Nazis on Motorcycles" song. They're written and performed by Hard 'n Phirm, a group made comprised of Zombie collaborator Chris Hardwick and Mike Phirman, and I can honestly say they kept me interested in the film.

Admittedly, when we started talking about the movie, there are a number of other jokes that really work amidst many that don't. There's a character that, for pretty much no reason, shoots rats out of his asshole that doesn't sound funny until you see it happen. The movie operates largely on Fritz the Cat and Ren and Stimpy logic, which is to say that lots of odd plot ends appear and are mostly forgotten or are answered in really bizarre ways (like the cat El Superbeasto stuffs in his pants at the beginning of the movie).

The trailer gives you some idea of the cast, but the end credits really surprised me just how many recognizable names are all over this film. In addition to reuniting The Devil's Rejects (Sherri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley, Sid Haig, and even Ken Foree), El Superbeasto brings back Tura Satana to play Faster Pussycat, Kill Kill's Varla forty years later. You can also find the voices of Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants), Rob Paulsen (Pinky and the Brain), Dee Wallace, Clint Howard, John DiMaggio (Futurama), Larraine Newman, Harland Williams, Daniel Roebuck, Cassandra Peterson (Elvira), and Danny Trejo. To be perfectly honest, I only caught about half of those during the movie.

I'd be lying if I said I don't want to watch it again, as I sense a second viewing will increase the parts I liked and smooth over the parts I didn't. The Haunted World of El Superbeasto is very likely to end up as an "After Hours" Horror Fest film; many of you wouldn't like how wantonly offensive the film is, and others of you might just hate it on principle. However, after dark, with a few colds ones in you, El Superbeasto may be exactly the 80 minutes you need to bridge creepy movies.

Consider The Haunted World of Superbeasto a recommended, but expect some rough patches and watch it with like-minded friends.

Friday, September 11, 2009

This time it's just Plan 9, but you get the idea...

I watched the trailer for the remake of Plan 9 from Outer Space, if only because I wrote about what a ridiculous idea it seemed like in the waning days of the blogorium at Myspace.

After watching the trailer, I'm pretty sure my snap judgment was spot on. But don't take my word for it, watch it yourself:

Plan 9 Teaser Trailer from Darkstone Entertainment on Vimeo.




at the time, the Cap'n said:

So maybe this is exactly what Plan 9 from Outer Space needs to be in order not to be the punching bag it has been for the last 50 years. There's only one problem, really: no one was ever asking for a "serious" take on Plan 9 from Outer Space.

There are (literally) hundreds of awful to unwatchable movies released every year, so it takes a special kind of bad to make history. Ed Wood has the distinction of at least three movies so bad they transcend the crap you can find in cut out bins everywhere.Along with Plan 9, I'd put Bride of the Monster and Glen... Or Glenda? in that category. Why? Because Wood brought a special kind of ineptitude to his films.

There's a sense of trying for epic scope and "spectacle" in the story and failing on every possible level. Plan 9 from Outer Space is the culmination of this, where Wood finally captures lightning in a bottle for all the wrong reasons.It isn't just the pie-tin UFO's with visible strings, or the amateur acting and cardboard sets. It's also the stock footage of Bela Lugosi and his "looks nothing like him" double, the boneheaded narration; everything you saw in Tim Burton's Ed Wood about Plan 9 is true, and yet, it's compellingly bad.

Strip all of that away, and try to make a serious story about aliens coming to Earth and raising the dead in order to conquer humanity, and you have every zombie movie ever, but with UFO's. It's kind of like saying "Ghoulies would be better if we just got rid of the stupid jokes and made it a straight horror movie"; the premise just doesn't float.

Now I don't know about you folks, but when I watched that trailer, there was nothing that said "This is Plan 9 from Outer Space", aside from the lifted audio from the original film. The only thing I saw was another low budgeted zombie movie and some kind of space rock thing near the very end.

Apparently the latest attempt to sell this movie is to say that Plan 9 from Outer Space was one of the first "zombie" movies, although you could really debate that. Yes, technically the aliens are raising the dead to attack the police, but I don't recall Vampira, Tor Johnson, or Bela Lugosi's stand-in doing much more than rigidly walking around and grabbing people.

But okay, let's accept the premise that this Plan 9 from Outer Space is a zombie movie. A serious, not campy zombie movie with some aliens that is "character driven", as the film's website insists Plan 9 will be. I ask again, does anybody want to see that? I don't honestly know how many people actually watch the Ed Wood original (most probably just watch Ed Wood), but I can't think of any of you that would be interested in that. It's like Tommy Wiseau deciding that he should remake Beastmaster, but this time remove any of the accidentally campy elements and take everything seriously. I mean, the last time I checked, those were the reasons I watch Beastmaster.

Actually, Tommy Wiseau, if you're still reading this blog: please remake Beastmaster. Please.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Five Movies: MST3K Edition

In honor of finally completing my MST3K dvd collection (at least until volume XVI comes out in December), I thought I would share with you my five favorite movies that Joel, Mike, and the bots have given the once over to. Appropriately, let's start with one of my very favorites and newly announced boxed set movies:

1. Warrior of the Lost World - The general awfulness of a movie being riffed on is often not enough to sustain an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. There has to be something compelling enough in the film to keep you watching while the jokes cascade over your lowered expectations. Warrior of the Lost World is just such a movie: it's a Spaghetti Post-Apocalyptic film starring Robert Ginty (The Exterminator), Fred "The Hammer" Williamson, Donald Pleasance, and Persis "Star Trek: The Boring Picture" Khambata.

The movie itself has something to do with Ginty tooling around on a talking motorcycle and getting his ass kicked by people. Then, for reasons I can't remember, he's recruited into helping take down the evil government run by Pleasance, and there's some huge truck thing called Megaweapon. Megaweapon was kinda-sorta ripped off in Paul W.S. Anderson's Death Race sequelmake last year, but the original is once again much cooler. Or stupider looking.

Warrior of the Lost World features Joel, Servo, and Crow in rare form. Jokes range from a running gag about no one being able to remember Robert Ginty's name (including a host segment where Megaweapon calls in and say "Ah geez guys. I mean, we always just called him 'The Paper Chase' guy." The episode also features this classic line: "This fall on NBC - Black Nazi, White Ninja, and the Beige Brigade."

2. Pod People - This Spanish ripoff of E.T. has all of the inane things that Steven Spielberg's adorable alien does with none of the budget or effects work. Instead, Pod People has Trumpy, a doofy looking alien with the body of a gorilla and the face of an anteater with human eyes. Trumpy mostly sucks up peanuts and does dumb tricks for the kid who finds him, causing variations of the phrase "Trumpy, you are magic!" Meanwhile, Trumpy's brother is killing poachers in the woods. This is a kids movie, I think.

My favorite moment from MST3K's Pod People treatment is a running gag early in the film that takes the goo Trump hatches from and turns it into Smuckers commercials. Pod People is currently available in Volume 2 of the dvds.

3. Laserblast - This is actually the last episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 to air on Comedy Central, as well as the last time Dr. Forrester or original Crow appeared on the show. The movie itself is about this slacker who has a girlfriend that he doesn't seem to interested in. Instead, he tools around in his van and feels unappreciated, at least until this green alien is killed by two E.T. looking-bastards. Loser guy finds the green dude's laser arm piece, turns green himself, and starts killing just about everybody he comes into contact with, even if it's just Roddy McDowall.

While the host segments are more consistent (in part because of the uncertainty that the show was moving to Sci-Fi or coming back at all), Laserblast has a lot going for it in the post-Joel era. Mike gets ribbed a lot by the bots for tooling around and taking bong hits (Crow and Servo frequently ask if Loser guy's tooling around "brings back any memories?" for Mike), and much ado is made about the fact that Leonard Maltin gave Laserblast three and a half stars. During the credits, Mike and the bots read a list of movies that Laserblast is "better than", according to Maltin.

Also, the two aliens that hunt down and *spoiler* abruptly kill Loser guy get me every time. They have this ridiculous, high pitched yap that just makes me laugh when I hear it. The film / episode is available on the 20th Anniversary Edition boxed set.

4. Santa Claus - Not to be mistaken with Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, which is also excellent, Santa Claus is a Mexican production about Old Saint Nicholas facing off against the Devil to win the affection of children. No, seriously. Satan is frequently being thwarted by Santa Claus, according to this movie. It's nearly incomprehensible thanks to the dubbing, but is surreal in a way that keeps you watching.

To be honest, it's been such a long time since I've seen it (my VHS copy is pretty worn out) that I can't point to specific riffing, but MST3K does just a good job (maybe better) with Santa Claus as it does the Martian variation. This should be available on Volume XVI.

5. Werewolf - I started watching the show on the Sci-Fi Channel when it moved, but as the air time kept jumping, I found myself drifting away from MST3K during those last three years or so. It may have also been that I never warmed to the dynamic of Mike, New Crow, and Normal Servo, nor was I immensely fond of Pearl Forrester, Bobo, and Brain Guy, but I've always regarded the Sci-Fi era of Mystery Science Theater as "less than."

Boy howdy, did Werewolf correct that judgment. For a late-era episode, Werewolf is firing on all cylinders. As they moved to Sci-Fi, the movies available to them became increasingly more recent and much, much shittier. Werewolf doesn't make much sense to begin with, but after the film starts introducing bizarre characters that have little-to-nothing to do with the plot (and who disappear for long stretches of time), the end result is a film ripe for riffing. The transformations are laughable at best, and I'm still not sure I can explain the plot development about two thirds of the way in, or what it has to do with the end of the movie.

Mike, Servo, and New Crow (look, he says "I'm different!" in the opening credits. I can call him what I want!) really let Werewolf have it. I guess late in the show's run they became obsessed with Martin Sheen's brother, Joe Estevez, and ran several movies featuring the Roger Clinton of the Sheen/Estevez family. He's not in Werewolf to the degree he appears in, say, Soultaker, but he overacts just as hard. Also, I have to point out the host segment song "Where, oh Werewolf", which reminded me of the olden days and songs like "A Patrick Swayze Christmas."

Werewolf is also on the 20th Anniversary Edition.


I hope no one took great offense that I left off Manos, The Hands of Fate, Mitchell, or Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. I love them too, but everybody knows about those episodes. I thought it would be better to share some old favorites and newer discoveries here. While it's not on dvd (and may never be), I'm also fond of Attack of the Eye Creatures, as well as Ed Wood's Bride of the Monster. The Beginning of the End, which is unfortunately out of print, is another fine episode, as are The Killer Shrews, Tormented, and the likely to never materialize Gamera run of episodes.

Also of note, with varying degrees of find-ability are I Was a Teenage Werewolf (with Michael Landon), Eegah!, Teenagers from Outer Space, Terror from the Year 5000, Prince of Space, Cave Dwellers, Parts: The Clonus Horror, The Amazing Colossal Man, Revenge of the Creature (sequel to Creature from the Black Lagoon), and Last of the Wild Horses, which features TV's Frank and Dr. Forrester from a mirror universe watching the "experiment." Speaking of which, Gypsy appears in theatre during Viking Women vs the Sea Serpent, which is also a very good one.

For a pretty good list of episodes, click here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Come on, "The Giant Claw"!

You're so close to making the cut! If two more people voted for you, the Cap'n would have to throw this into triple over time September madness. And believe you me, I'd do it.

Incidentally, if you're the person who voted for Horror of the Blood Monsters, I salute you. I'm glad you lost, because we're not going to try to watch it (and fail) for the third time. You could tell me that the movie starts spitting out $100 bills after the 30-minute mark and I still wouldn't subject myself of others to Vampire Men of the Lost World. That movie is designed for one purpose only: to chase away stragglers at a party.

But kudos to you for voting for it. You're one sick puppy, and I respect that.

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I've noticed when something that has cultural significance happens, I tend to ignore it. It isn't that I didn't notice them or that I'm being a contrarian for not mentioning current events; it's more that I think about it and then realize there's something I'd rather write about. Seriously.

Today, I'm breaking that trend in order to point out something that (at least) I hadn't heard anything about. As it's Beatles day (or "sold out everywhere I looked day"), it occurred to me that amidst all of this marketing blitz, no one seems to care that A Hard Day's Night turned 45 last month. August 11th, to be specific.

Beyond the fact that today marks the first major Beatles release since the Anthologies came out a decade ago, I included A Hard Day's Night in the list of "movies I thought would be in High Definition before Lord of Illusions" because it just makes sense. There's absolutely no reason not to release A Hard Day's Night and Help! on Blu Ray at the same time the remastered cds and boxed sets come out.

Not only is it nice synchronicity with Beatles related merchandise, but there's an anniversary related excuse to put out a "new" edition of each movie in a separate format to entice audiophiles and cinephiles into dropping some extra cash. While I'm certain the color palette of Help! would look great in HD, I'm willing to bet a nice, crisp black and white transfer for A Hard Day's Night would be just what the doctor ordered. But instead the world gets a video game. Silly.

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I'm tempted to drop $6.99 on an HD On Demand viewing of I Sell the Dead. The film stars Dominic Monaghan, Ron Perlman, and Angus Scrimm, and is the tale of a career grave robber (Monaghan) confessing his crimes before execution. It turns out that grave robbers have to deal with zombies, vampires, ghouls, and even aliens!(?) If you haven't heard of the movie, don't be surprised; it's in very limited release, has no indication of when (if?) a dvd is coming, but reviews are pretty good. I Sell the Dead has been favorably compared to Creepshow and EC Comics, so it might be worth seven dollars to check it out.