Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Few Ideas for Your Own Summer Fest!

 Greetings, gang; the Cap'n is working furiously on putting together his own virtual Summer Fest - in the absence of a real one - and coordinating with a few regular readers to contribute reviews of their own. I want everybody to be able to join in this year, in their own way. Below you'll find a list of a few possible "themes" you can mix and match from. Watch one, watch two, watch them all! If you feel like you want to add something to the conversation, send me a comment or email and I'll spotlight you in your own "Guest Blogger" post.

 Here are a few possibilities:

 Summer Camp Gone Awry
 Friday the 13th
 The Burning
 Sleepaway Camp
 Cheerleader Camp

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part II
Wrong Turn
Just Before Dawn
The Hills Have Eyes 
The Final Terror

Vintage Schlock-o-rama-rama
Bride of the Monster
Creature from the Haunted Sea
I Was a Teenage Werewolf
Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter
Werewolves on Wheels

Newer Schlock-o-rama-rama
Slime City Massacre
Street Trash
Class of Nuke 'em High
Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers
Wild Zero

It Rocks, Heads Roll

Slaughterhouse Rock
Rock 'n Roll Nightmare
Hard Rock Zombies
Black Roses
Phantom of the Paradise

Halloween, The Latter Sequels
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers
Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers
Halloween H20
Halloween: Resurrection

Remakes That Are Better Than They Should Be
Piranha 3D
The Hills Have Eyes
Dawn of the Dead
The Thing
Halloween II

Horror Spoofs, Good and Bad
Saturday the 14th
The House of Long Shadows
Nightmare Sisters
April Fool's Day

Slasher Films on VHS
House of Death
Graduation Day
Bloody Birthday
Microwave Massacre
Scared to Death

What the Hell Was That?
Cellar Dweller
Animals, Insects, and other Creepy Crawlies
The Uncanny
Bug (1975)
The Boogens

The New, the Worthwhile
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Video Daily Double: The Musical!

 Greetings, automobile fanatics! The Cap'n is back with another Video Daily Double for your educational joy! We're going to wrap up our "car coverage" of industrial sales films this week, and if you thought last week's "A Touch of Magic" was wild, wait till you see today's Chevrolet sales film!

 I can't wait any longer, on to the films! Buy cars!!!


Our first film, Gasoline for Everybody, is brought to you by the Ethyl Corporation, and explains how gasoline gets to you so that you can fill your tank. And you should, because driving is important!

Our second film is a Chevrolet Sales Convention Musical. I can't make this kind of stuff up, even if I tried. Just watch it.

Makes you want to get out there and buy a Chevrolet, doesn't it? Yes it does!

 We'll be back next week with more sales films, but not cars. Maybe we'll revisit automobiles later this summer...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Retro Review: Cap'n Howdy's Four Favorite Summer Fest Moments

 After getting the bad news out of the way, let's move on to happier times, shall we? After last year's Horror Fest: A People's History, wherein the Cap'n collected memories from folks who attended the first seven Horror / Summer Fests, I thought that to follow it up with my own favorite moments.

 Summer Fest was always designed to be more on the "fun" side: we'd watch horror comedies, focus less on being scared than being entertained, intentionally or otherwise. The atmosphere at Summer Fest is designed to be looser, less regimented. I like to put a list of movies out there, and adhere to it slightly - that way, you never know what you're going to see on a given night, which gives you incentive to come every day of the fest.

 It's traditionally where we'll try out some kind of new "gimmick": field trips, 3D, guest bloggers, or one of the five moments listed below (that happened after the oral history came into being). They slowly transformed from being all night affairs to include afternoon mini-marathons, as was the case at Summer Fest 3. Listed below, in no particular order, are four memories from Summer Fests 1-3 that stick with me. Many of them are film related, and even the one that isn't directly tied to a movie is an experience I'll never forget (or live down).

4. The First Field Trip - What often gets lost when discussing The Happening's role as our first "field trip" screening was the film that followed it when we got back to The Apartment of Solitude: Plan 9 from Outer Space. The experience of watching The Happening was a jovial one, save for one major issue - the air conditioning was so loud that half of the group couldn't hear the film. While that may sound like a godsend, considering how bad The Happening is, it doesn't help convey just how awful the film is without the wooden line delivery.

 Most of the negative reaction to The Happening comes (I think) from the second time I screened it, during Horror Fest III - it was an unannounced surprise, following the already bad Paul Lynde Halloween Special, and being exposed to something so terrible less than six months later was a bit cruel. That said, I think that during Summer Fest 2, following The Happening with Plan 9 from Outer Space gives you a much better idea of how the Cap'n views M. Night Shyamalan's "B-Movie." The idea was to convey a disasterpiece in its classic and modern forms, and had I not dropped The Happening in out of context four months later, it might not be as infamous as it is now.

 Or not.

 3. Late Nights / Early Mornings - What sticks with me about the first Summer Fest, beyond The Happening, was that it was the last time we consistently watched movies from dusk till dawn. I have vivid memories of being half-awake, watching Shark Attack 3: Megalodon and Friday the 13th Part 2 with Neil and the Cranpire at six in the morning. We'd nod off a little, wake up, nudge each other to catch some unforgettable moment (and there are many in Shark Attack 3), and then try to go on as long as we could before passing out as the sun came up.

 As I get older, it gets harder and harder to stay up all night, and we usually peter out somewhere between two and four a.m., and agree to regroup the following afternoon. During Summer Fest 3, we actually started Saturday at 2 in the afternoon, watching a quadruple feature of Phantasm III, Cheerleader Camp, The Gate, and Thankskilling, then took a dinner break (more on that next) and continued well into the night. Alas, the Cap'n and compatriots aren't as young as we used to be, and no amount of caffeine has been able to alter our curmudgeonly ways. Before too long, I'll be hosting Horror Fest Early Bird Specials, so we can all be in bed by 9. In that respect, it's nice to look back at those barely awake moments of shocks and laughs, aided by sleep deprivation.

 2. The Great McGangbang Experiment - Okay, so I don't think I gave her proper credit at the time, but the Rianimator (and at the time, Dominator) brought the concept of the McGangbang to my attention during Summer Fest 3. They insisted we read an article from about "food for failures," which was so funny that their insistence we try the McDonalds catastrophe seemed like a great idea. There were a handful of intrepid McTaste Testers, and after the matinee feature, we went to get the necessary materials to rock a McGangbang.

 I mentioned this in the original coverage (which has pictures), but the unholy combination of cheeseburger and McChicken sandwich wasn't all that bad. At first. The combination worked, in some illogical way, until your stomach caught wind of what was going on upstairs. Then rebellion began, and with the exception of our intrepid junior Summer Fest attendee, Chris, everyone who finished their McGangbang spent the next two hours in their own personal digestive hell. We had an extra one, thanks to a snafu about who was going to pick them up, but none of the people who arrived after the challenge wanted any part of it, mostly because they could see how miserable we were.

Luckily, iron stomach Chris took the last one home, secretly hoping that we could try the Taco Bell variation some time soon. It's the first food challenge we've ever had at a horror fest (if you don't count trying to drink Bud Light with Clamato or our Wild Irish Rose mixed beverages a challenge), and I don't know if there will ever be another one. If so, it would have a lot to live up to.

 1. Discovery, discovery, discovery - I'm not even sure where to start with this one. My main goal with the Blogorium is to expose people to films they've never heard of or have never considered before. Horror and Summer Fests are an opportunity to move beyond just writing about it and to actually watch those movies with and audience. Sometimes, it may be a film we've seen before that takes on a life of its own (like the Night of the Lepus screening at Summer Fest 1 that became a twenty person version of Mystery Science Theater 3000), but more often it's about films that I've heard of and save for a fest, often without watching them myself. Better still are movies that someone brings to a fest that knock everybody off of their feet.

 I mention Blood Car and Terrorvision a lot on the Blogorium, but would have never known they existed without Neil and Dr. Tom (respectively) bringing them to my attention. That they stand out at their respective fests (Summer Fests 1 and 2) is saying something, considering just how many great movies played those weekends, but it's so. I'd also like to highlight Teeth, The Giant Claw, Fido, Hillbillys in a Haunted House, Death Bed: The Bed That Eats, ThanksKilling, Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, Drag Me to Hell, and Basket Case, which I hadn't seen to that point. The lost, forgotten, and obscure gems are what keep these festivals interesting to me, or we'd just watch our favorite horror movies over and over again (which we sometimes do).

 In that spirit, if there's a Summer Fest this year, I have many films that I'd never heard of prior to 2011 that should be fun to watch, including The Boogens, Abby, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde, Rubber, Bug, and From Hell It Came that should provide hours of enjoyment. I also have ideas for new "theme" nights, although they might be split up over the next few years, devoted to blaxploitation films, animals gone wild films, and marathons based on actors from Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and Doctor Who (would you believe that I'm working on finding horror movies for as many of the twelve doctors as I can?).

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Bloodied, 800lb Gorilla in the Room...

 Long time Blogorium readers (in all of its forms) have probably noticed that the Cap'n has been very quiet about something I'm usually hyping like crazy this time of year: Summer Fest. In fact, this week should be the ramp up to Summer Fest 4: Cap'n Howdy vs. Giant Sharktopus, with lots of details about the schedule, where Summer Fest is going to be this year, and the "theme" nights I teased in the spring.

(Newer readers might want to check here for a full history of Summer Fests, coverage of films, and photos of previous horror / comedy marathons)

 The lack of Summer Fest coverage has been the source of some questions, and I'm afraid that the news I have isn't going to ease concerns. Because of work and scheduling issues, Summer Fest 4 isn't happening this weekend. We're going to be missing our 4th of July holiday weekend marathon because I'll be working all of the weekend and can't devote the kind of attention that I'd like to.

 It's a shame, because I'm not exaggerating when I say that I have one of my favorite line-ups ever for this year. What I hope to do is to put off Summer Fest until later into July or August, when things might be a little less crazy. In the meantime, I'll be putting up lists of possible marathons you, the reader, can have at home. If you want to try one out, write up the films you watch, and send them to the Cap'n, I'll be happy to post them as part of Summer Fest coverage.

Stay tuned for some suggestions, and I'll try (on a limited scale) to provide some reviews of horror and horror comedies during the week and over the weekend when possible. I have a stockpile of rare, obscure, and forgotten horror flicks from the 1980s, as well as a handful of titles I've been longing to share on the Blogorium.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Falking Shame Trailer Sunday

Murder, Inc.

The Great Race

Machine Gun McCain

A Woman Under the Influence

Murder By Death

Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin)

The Princess Bride


Friday, June 24, 2011

What the Hell Week: Sucker Punch

 One of the most overused terms to deride a movie is to call it "masturbatory" - it's a quick and easy way to dismiss the filmmaker for dwelling in their obsessions while ignoring anything else in the movie. I've probably used it before (I can't remember off the top of my head where) and the Cap'n sees it all the time on the internet, where reviews are as numerous as websites devoted to fetishes. Why that comparison? Because as much as I'd like to find anything else to say about Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch, invariably I'm left with a list of fetishes on display; PG-13 porn for geeks.

Baby Doll (Emily Browning) and her sister (Frederique De Raucourt) are left alone with their abusive Stepfather (Gerard Plunkett) when their mother dies. While trying to save her sister from the loathsome guardian, Baby Doll accidentally kills her sister and is sent to an asylum. Her Stepfather bribes Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac) in order to ensure Baby Doll receives a lobotomy when the Doctor (Jon Hamm) arrives in five days. Under the care of Doctor Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino), Baby Doll imagines the asylum is instead the "Club," where she dances for male clients, as well as other seductive techniques. Baby Doll discovers her dance transfixes men, and she hatches a scheme to escape. In order to find five items needed to be free, Baby Doll enlists the help of fellow dancers / inmates Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), and Amber (Jamie Chung), who assist her in separate fantasy world under the tutelage of the Wise Man (Scott Glenn). Can Baby Doll and the others find the five items and escape before the Doctor / High Roller comes to claim her?

 The Russian doll approach to Snyder's story serves little purpose, because the further removed from the reality of the asylum we get, the less invested we become in the peril for Baby Doll and the other girls. Fights with Giant Samurai wielding Gatling guns or Steampunk German Zombies are devoid of the peril we need to feel because the audience knows this is just the fantasy world Baby Doll escapes to while she's dancing in another fantasy world to avoid dealing with reality. There's no sense of tension, no concern for her well being because WE KNOW SHE'S NOT REALLY THERE. Imagine if every action set-piece in... let's say, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, took place while Sarah Connor was dreaming in her cell. After the first one, the dream where Kyle Reese comes back and she escapes and is nuked, we'd lose any and all interest in the jeopardy she faced. The first one only works because we don't realize it's a dream, but Snyder shows his audience up front this is all make-believe. None of it is happening and has minimal bearing on reality.

 I have some inkling why Snyder decides not to show Baby Doll's dance in the "Club" reality: the descriptions of what she does would certainly rob him of a PG-13 rating, but that's not what I suspect is going on. The real problem with Sucker Punch is that these fantasy breaks happen to fulfill a particular kind of geek fetish, one that Snyder must have as much as the audience the film was designed for: hot chicks kung-fu fighting monsters. Sucker Punch is one excuse after another to put swords and guns in the hands of scantily clad women and turn them loose against geeky enemies, like robots and samurai and dragons. If you get your kicks watching Catholic school girls with thigh high boots bloodlessly chopping up bad guys, good news; Sucker Punch has it in spades.

 And when they aren't doing flips that conveniently provide upskirt shots, Snyder finds other ways to engage your libido in a theatrically friendly way: like girls in their PJ's in the rain? How about ballerina strippers? Sexy nurses? Fishnet stockings and lace armbands? Pigtails? Leather bustiers?Yup. Please don't buy into the argument that this film is in any way "female empowerment." Just because all of the men in the film (save for Scott Glenn's "mentor" character) are lecherous pigs doesn't mean that the girls are suddenly "empowered" while wearing clothes designed to get fanboys all hot. It's a hollow sentiment, one designed by Snyder and others to dodge the "objectification of women" argument. The men are pigs, the women are objects, and the only thing important is that the ladies look "cool" while they look good for the predominantly adolescent male audience.

 So, does it look "cool"? I guess, but what's the point to all of it? The action sequences don't serve the narrative in any way - they're just there to look "cool" and enable Snyder to get all of his fetishes in one place. I haven't mentioned the music yet, in part because I was trying to forget the awful covers of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These)," "White Rabbit," and "Where is My Mind." They exist to underscore otherwise arbitrary decisions (like the white rabbit painted on a robot) and only reminded me of Moulin Rouge, which Tuesday's Retro Review makes clear is a bad thing.

 I'll go this far: Zack Snyder, who has to this point adapted or remade his way into geek cinephiles' hearts (Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchmen, Legend of the Guardians), at least tried to make a film not based on something else. While I don't love Watchmen or 300, I do like Dawn of the Dead, and I have to give Snyder credit for wanting to make a film wholly of his own. Think of Sucker Punch as Snyder's Inception; it's a big risk in a culture that likes recycled everything, and as much as Christopher Nolan succeeded, Snyder did not. Yet. I suspect Sucker Punch will be very popular on DVD and Blu-Ray, where it has an extra 18 minutes in an "extended cut."

 Now, I won't be watching that cut, but if you're inclined to watch vapid, monotone acting coming from dead eyed Emily Browning, as long as you can see her panties once every six minutes, then a longer cut that jumps from PG-13 to R will be right up your alley. Me? I was bored at the one hour mark, and Sucker Punch never won me back. While I give Snyder credit for not adapting something else, it doesn't mean that being original and failing is any better than recycling successfully.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

What the Hell Week: X-Men Origins - Wolverine

 It only seems fair that if I'm going to put aside avoiding films because of reputation that I check out X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I know it's not necessary to have seen it before watching X-Men: First Class, but "what the hell"? I mean, I watched X-Men, which is an okay movie; I watched X2, which is one of the better comic book movies out there in terms of doing the series justice AND being entertaining without being stupid; I even watched X-Men: The Last Stand against my better instincts. I was well aware that Brett Ratner was no Bryan Singer*, or even a Matthew Vaughn**. I didn't enjoy The Last Stand, I don't really like most of X-Men, but I do still watch X2, in part because Hugh Jackman finally cuts loose and embodies Wolverine. Did he carry that over to a movie that showcases the injury regenerating, adamantium clawed, Canadian berserker? Let's find out...

 James Logan (Hugh Jackman) and Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber) are brothers and mutants, able to heal and live unnaturally long lives. Oh, and they have claws - Logan's are in his hands and Victor's are his fingernails. During the opening credits we see them fighting side by side through every major war since that Civil one (even though they're Canadian), and Logan becomes increasingly worried by Victor's bloodlust. The brothers are recruited by Major William Stryker (Danny Huston) to join Team X - an elite squad of mutants including Wade "Deadpool" Williams (Ryan Reynolds), John "Kestrel" Wraith (, Fred "Blob" Dukes (Kevin Durand), Chris "Bolt" Bradley (Dominic Monaghan), and Agent Zero (Daniel Henney). Their increasingly violent tactics causes Logan to leave, but when Victor kills his wife (Lynn Collins), Stryker offers to make James the ultimate killing machine. What the newly rebranded Wolverine doesn't know is that Stryker has been experimenting on other mutants, and may have plans for a few familiar faces from other X-films...

I had to look a number of the corresponding character names up, especially the mutants, because Origins doesn't bother mentioning them more than once, and usually in passing. Forgive me for not being as on top of the X-Verse as the Cap'n maybe should be (I read a lot of X-Men and Uncanny X-Men in middle and high school, through The Age of Apocalypse, and then the first run of Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men), but I only half recognized most of the characters not named Deadpool in Stryker's team. It might have helped knowing that one of the characters would be The Blob if I'd caught his name earlier in the film, but then I guess we wouldn't get that ridiculous boxing scene...

I will confess that I'm not an expert on Wolverine (he was never my favorite X-character), but the movie plays fast and loose with some of his origin, mixing and matching from different stories, and making a few up along the way. This is the case when it comes to finding explanations for Jackman's wardrobe and vehicle choices in the (chronologically) later X-films. That said, there's not much of a point to a lot of mutant appearances in Origins (Gambit, I'm looking at you), other than to cram in a few "fan favorites" and pad the running time.

Okay, so the dialogue isn't very good. The special effects are awful (especially Logan's claws, bone or adamantium). The film introduces waaaaayyy too many mutant characters in the interest of cramming as many cameos in as possible. There are no less than three times when the camera is pointed down at Logan (child or adult) as he looks to the heavens and screams / growls. The "Ma and Pa Kent" style couple that give Wolverine clothes and feed him after the "Weapon X" sequence is silly, and not because of the lame comic relief attached to Logan's terrible looking claws (I really can't stress how bad they look. We're talking Playstation One graphics quality rendering here).

The biggest problem is that Origins totally wastes Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool. Not putting the mask on? I'll let that slide, because he's still the same chatterbox in the beginning. One could argue that Reynolds is really just playing the same character he did in Blade: Trinity, and I wouldn't debate that. But rendering Wade Williams into a mute, indistinguishable mish-mash of mutant powers so that Wolverine and Sabretooth can fight him atop one of the cooling towers of Three Mile Island (and maybe cause the "incident"?) is unforgivable. It's foolish for a number of reasons and smacks of desperation on the part of "how do we end this?"

 If I understand X-Men: First Class, it doesn't even matter that Origins hits the "reset" button on Wolverine at the end of the film, because chronologically this film couldn't happen. Including a teenage-d Emma Frost in Origins when January Jones plays her ten to twenty years earlier in First Class doesn't make sense, and if the time line is supposed to make any sense, Cyclops would have to be in his mid-forties by the time X-Men happens***. At best, I guess we could consider this film to be one of Marvel's "What If...?"'s.

That said, I don't quite understand why people hate this movie so much. It's not nearly as bad as I'd been led to believe. Director Gavin Hood does a serviceable job with Origins: it's not his fault that David Benioff and Skip Woods wrote such lousy dialogue. The action scenes are reasonably comprehensible, even if the visual effects are (again) cut rate for a major motion picture. Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, and Danny Huston give it their all, which helps balance out's wooden line delivery. I came in thinking I was going to get Elektra bad, or Green Lantern bad. X-Men Origins: Wolverine isn't even close to Ghost Rider or Blade: Trinity, which are so terrible they transcend into another level of entertainment.

 Sure, Origins isn't a great movie, and it's just barely a good one, but if I only compared it to X-Men: The Last Stand, at least it's eye-rolling moments are better presented than "I'm the Juggernaut, bitch!" I was expecting "unwatchable" and ended up with "overcrowded." The film tries to do too much, fit too much into what could (and should) be a simple story of rival brothers. If you want to complain about Deadpool... well, that's pretty indefensible. The final fight is one of the dumber comic book moments I can think of, and if the film disappointed audiences expecting more, then I suppose I can understand that.

 For me? The level of venom towards this film seems like it would be better directed at Spider-Man 3, or The Fantastic Four movies (which I sometimes hear defended). X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a pretty weak movie, but not the trainwreck I was prepared for. It's certainly watchable in a way that X-Men: The Last Stand isn't, and I've had people telling me for five years that movie was better than I thought it was. I'll count this as at least a pleasant surprise in "What the Hell" week.

* Then again, Bryan Singer was no Bryan Singer with Superman Returns.
** Mind you, I only enjoy ONE of Vaughn's films, Layer Cake, which is why I've hesitated on X-Men: First Class
*** If you go by the comics, this actually would make sense, but James Marsden was 27 when he made X-Men.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I Was Going to Give You a Video Daily Double, but Now I'm Thinking "What the Hell."

 No, I'm kidding. I promised a Video Daily Double to break the week up, and I shall deliver. It just so happens that I found two very interesting sales videos that make it all worthwhile. We're still in automobiles mode, so today we're going to look at a promotional films from the 1950s and 60s. In fact, had I seen the first film last week, I'd have put it up then. Seriously, it's a hoot.

On with the educating!

But wait! It is "What the Hell" week, so first I'm going to share a music video with you. You'll find it... appropriate.


Our first film, A Touch of Magic, is from General Motors, and I have to say that I'm not exactly sure what it is they want me to buy, but I'll take two.

Our second film, Speaking of Rubber, isn't just about tires. But it is partially about tires, so it counts.

 Until next week!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Retro What the Hell Week: Moulin Rouge

 Welcome to day two of What the Hell week, where the Cap'n is exploring movies he had otherwise planned to skip out on, but is instead saying "why not?" and giving them a shot. For more details, please take a look at yesterday's review of Saw 3D.


 Today's trip to "What the Hell" land is a little bit different, in that Retro Reviews necessitate the Cap'n having already seen the film in question. Lucky for all of us, I've seen a number of films that would, at first, seem uncharacteristic of a "Cap'n Howdy kind of movie": America's Sweethearts, Bridget Jones's Diary, What Dreams May Come, Bring It On, Pay It Forward, The Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps, and practically any Disney movie you can think of*.

 One component of my movie-viewing experience that I often under represent on the Blogorium is musicals. That's right, musicals: call it carryover from all the Disney films or a byproduct of being on and off stage during middle and high school, but I know my way around quite a few musicals and I enjoy even more than that. The Sound of Music? There's a copy of it behind me. Oklahoma? Oh, I know how many people hate the movie, but not me. The Music Man? Yep, fan. How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying? I used to have the DVD. Meet Me in St. Louis? West Side Story? South Pacific? For Me and My Gal? Singin' in the Rain? Oliver? Brigadoon? Annie? Chicago? Yes indeed. Don't even get me started on The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I even watched Paint Your Wagon**...

 From time to time I've reviewed one or two more recent musicals, like Repo! The Genetic Opera or Hedwig and the Angry Inch (appreciated, if disliked the former and am constantly impressed by the latter), but for the life of me I still can't really explain why I went to see Moulin Rouge in the theatre. I'm hoping a colleague of mine who reads this might help jog my memory in the comments, because I am not a Baz Luhrmann fan, and on the surface there is very little about the film that be very appealing, even in 2001.

 I've been trying to rationalize it to myself beyond the fact that we saw just about everything that came out, from Ghosts of Mars to Planet of the Apes to Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back to Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. I was a big fan of Ewan MacGregor's going back to Trainspotting, and I had enjoyed Nicole Kidman in Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut (and would later that summer in The Others), but my brief love affair with Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet crashed and burned after trying to watch the spastic, ADD-edited cut and paste approach to Shakespeare on VHS. It's more apocryphal than anything, but the CD that Luhrmann released with "Everbody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)" that was falsely attributed to Kurt Vonnegut really irritated me.

 Maybe I bought into the idea that Moulin Rouge's use of existing pop songs as a musical foundation was okay because, well, Singin' in the Rain did it too. In fact, many of the studio musicals released in the 30s and 40s relied on songs people already knew, so I can see a younger version of the Cap'n drinking that Kool Aid, being lured in by the presence of David Bowie, Beck, Ozzy Osbourne, and Kylie Minogue in addition to lyrical mashups of songs from the 70s and 80s performed by actors I didn't really knew sang.

 But I also knew what Baz Luhrmann's style was: over-the-top, loud, rapid, and obnoxious. Nothing in the advertising for Moulin Rouge suggested anything different that an abrasive musical version of Romeo + Juliet. And guess what? It wasn't!

 To this day I still meet people who love Moulin Rouge, and I kind of understand why, because I almost caved in while watching the film. The first hour or so is such a sensory overload for your eyes and ears that eventually you just collapse and let the movie continue throttling along, bombarding you at every opportunity with noise and distracting editing. Had it not been for one song, I might have convinced myself that instead of being exhausted by Moulin Rouge, I actually liked it. But then "Like a Virgin" happened.

 It aims for high camp. but is so obvious in its execution that it pulled me out of the daze of Luhrmann's audiovisual assault and turned me against the film once and for all, never to return. The way that he appropriates the idea of a "drag show" performance of Madonna minus the drag, almost to say "Oh look at how clever I am! They're still dressed up and butchy but they're singing 'Like a Virgin!' What Juxtaposition!" just killed it for me, and the laziness behind appropriating existing songs was apparent.

My central problem with Moulin Rouge is not so much Luhrmann's style - something I already knew annoyed me - but that the fact that the musical doesn't do anything new with the songs. They use them in exactly the fashion you'd expect them to be used in and nothing more. There's a faux-camp quality to most of the songs, from "The Sound of Music" to "Lady Marmalade" that accentuates the hyper-aggressive editing, but in the end the film is all noise and no substance. There's nothing memorable to me about the film in a positive way. I remember plenty of moments I disliked, if not outright hated, but there's nothing Moulin Rouge does that dozens of other musicals don't do better. So what's the point?

 Which brings me back around to the question: why did I see Moulin Rouge? It's out of character for me, even in a time in my life when I happily went to see Hannibal and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. In the rare instance I tried to revisit the film, to understand why I or anyone else found something appealing, I end up turning Moulin Rouge off after ten minutes. Without fail. I never watched Luhrmann's Australia and have no interest in his The Great Gatsby in 3D. Maybe I had a "What the Hell" moment in the summer of 2001; the moment was fleeting, and I cannot say it was beneficial.

*Except Condorman. I have never seen Condorman, even though I kind of want to.
 ** That is, by the way, not an endorsement of Paint Your Wagon. If you don't believe me, see how far you can get into the three hour mess that is the film.

Monday, June 20, 2011

What the Hell Week: Saw 3D

 Welcome to "What the Hell" week, a series of reviews devoted to films that I hadn't planned on ever seeing, but oh well, why not? I just said "what the hell" and am going to take a look at a few flicks that didn't seem like something I'd want to watch. For those of you hoping for those flicks to have the words "Avatar" or "Twilight" in them, I'm sorry to disappoint - that's not happening. Tomorrow's Retro Review is also a "What the Hell" as in "what the hell was I thinking?," and other than a brief stop for a Video Daily Double on Wednesday, I'll be in "adventurous" mode until Sunday.


 Let me get something straight here: there are people that not only watched, but LIKED all seven Saw movies? In particular, there are people who felt that Saw 3D was a fitting close to the series? I know at least two people who have seen and have begged me to watch the films after I abandoned the Saw franchise halfway through Saw III, but both of them claim that the movies get so "stupid" that I'd enjoy them on that level. As I just said, my history with the Saw films is truncated: I kinda liked the first film, less and less on repeated viewings, I hated Saw II, and couldn't get more than twenty minutes into Saw III before I turned it off. I never entertained watching IV, V, or VI, despite attempts to include them in Horror Fests or just for my own amusement. I had no plans to watch Saw 3D, but in the spirit of this theme week, "What the Hell?"

  Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) is hard at work as Jigsaw (Tobin Bell)'s successor, and has his sights set on Jill Tuck (Betsy Russell) -Jigsaw's widow - who tried to kill him with one of her husband's traps. When Jill turns herself in to Detective Matt Gibson (Chad Donella), who has been hunting Hoffman, the killer sets his sights on Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flannery), a survivor of one of Jigsaw's traps, now doing the talk show circuit with his book Survive. The only problem is that Bobby Dagen was never in one of Jigsaw's games, and his attempt to cash in raised the ire of the original moral murderer. Hoffman sets up a real game for Bobby, one designed to test his willpower and see if he can truly call himself a "survivor." Meanwhile, Gibson is drawing ever closer to Hoffman, or is it the other way around?

It's probably worth noting that the title of the film is not Saw VII, but Saw 3D (although I saw it in 2D) - the title on the home video Blu-Ray and DVD may say "Saw: The Final Chapter," but the on-screen title is Saw 3D. Secretly I'd hoped that instead of the seventh entry into what sounds like a hopelessly convoluted series, I would instead see a remake of Saw III, but with 3D gimmickry. Boy howdy do I bet that would have bristled these alleged Saw "fans." Alas, that's not the case, but in for a penny, in for a pound. What the hell, right? I already started watching it...

And what the hell indeed, because not only was it really, really easy to pick up on plot developments in the three-and-a-half films I skipped, but for a film that seems to bring things "full circle," Saw 3D more or less just borrows plot elements from earlier Saw films wholesale: the ending comes directly from Saw II, where a heretofore unknown accomplice of Jigsaw turns up to thwart the plans of a main character, and then locks him in the room from the first film, there's the beginning of Saw III, where a character we assumed was doomed escapes from said room and finds a way to figure into the series again, and another series of non-existent "flashbacks" used to ret-con the series disguised as "revelation" (this I understand figures prominently into Saw IV, V, and VI).

 In the meantime, nothing else has changed whatsoever - the film opens with a kill that has nothing to do with the story, but exists to keep the bored gorehounds that flock to see these films drunk with bloodlust so that writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan (Feast, The Collector) can dither around with the plot until the next bloody set-piece. Director Kevin Greutert graduated from Saw editor to Saw director with the sixth and seventh entries of the franchise, and if he was asked to make every room look over-cluttered and interchangeable so that things like a sense of geography were irrelevant, then job well done.

 I don't know whether to blame Greutert, Melton, Dunstan or the actors for the terrible dialogue: one the one hand, someone had to write garbage like "these are my scars... 'cause our minds will heal, but these scars will never go away. These scars shan't be a symbol of shame... they should be worn as a badge of courage," but frequently the delivery is so awful that it does no favors to the screenwriters. Chad Donella's Gibson is so terrible that every scene he has with Betsy Russell (Cheerleader Camp) is laugh out loud funny. I don't think that was the intention. Even Tobin Bell is terrible in his manufactured flashback to connect John Kramer / Jigsaw to Bobby Dagen.

 Special mention goes out to Cary Elwes, who (SPOILER, but like I really care at this point) returns to the role of Dr. Lawrence Gordon, someone I think we all assumed died at the end of Saw, but it turns out didn't. Mostly he growls and grumbles, and really seems pointless in the film until it's time for his not-at-all-surprising "twist" - something you should be able to figure out just by knowing that Dr. Gordon didn't die. If it's that hard to figure out, go back up three paragraphs or think carefully about how Saw II ended.

 Saw 3D makes the critical mistake of being more interested in the cat-and-mouse games between Hoffman and the police than the grand guignol murder set-pieces, so to justify the film's existence for gore obsessed fans and the extra five bucks for 3D glasses, Greutert and the writers shoehorn in some more mostly unrelated "games" with characters that have no bearing on the story itself. The series set the precedent of an opening kill, and Saw 3D's involves a love triangle, a blade see-saw (of sorts) and a reverse pendulum. What I'll give Greutert credit for is putting the trap in full view of passers-by: the trap is in a glass box in the middle of downtown wherever they shot this*, which is a pleasant change of pace from "dingy room," the setting for every other kill in the series. It actually lends a slight sense of tension to the inevitable bloodbath as people begin to panic outside of the trap (even if most of them do nothing to help).

On the other hand, the creative team is so strapped for kills that they include a white supremacist group (led by Linkin Park's Chester Bennington) in a garage "game" so they can quickly rip the skin off of one person's back, run a tire through another's head, rip a man's jaw and arms off, and pulverize the final victim, all in the name of finding a way to get Hoffman from outside of the police station to inside. When you realize that all of that effort went into switching bodies in a bag, the effort seems a little ridiculous, and on top of that, Hoffman also went out of his way to make sure that IF Gibson figured out where he was that a turret machine gun would (SPOILER) kill him and destroy the fake Jigsaw lair.

 The coup-de-grace, however, is not even the Bobby Dagen "game," which has the weakest kills by far (including one that's almost identical to a trap from Saw II), but the fact that in order to squeeze one more drop of blood out of this turnip, the writers create a dream sequence in order to kill Jill off twice in the same movie. The contraption used for the dream sequence feels like a mandate from the studio for one more 3D shot, because there's no reason it would exist in the movie otherwise.

 (for the record, it's easy to see where the 3D would be in the film, even in 2D, and I have to say that it wouldn't be worth the extra cash to me: it mostly consisted of guts, keys, and a hacksaw being flung at the camera)

It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that if the Cap'n didn't mind missing three and a half Saw movies that I'd probably hate Saw 3D, but the series continued success has perplexed me. As someone watching from the outside, I had initially planned to just sit out the whole thing and be happy in ignorance, but at least now I can say that I KNOW I didn't miss anything skipping the middle entries**. Under normal circumstances, this would be a So You Won't Have To, but the whole point of "What the Hell" week is to look at movies that people saw so that I wouldn't have to. I'm doing it anyway, but there's always a chance of a pleasant surprise to come, right?

A final note: while Lionsgate, the creative team, and anybody involved with the sequels swears there won't be a Saw VIII, original creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell have indicated that they would like to come back and "close out" the franchise once and for all. I mention this because later this week I'll be taking a look at one of their non-Saw films, Insidious, but also to indicate that it doesn't matter how terrible a sequel gets, how limply it moves to tie itself with A Nightmare on Elm Street for number of entries, or how inexplicable its popularity is***; there will always be room for one more crappy sequel as long as there's money to be made.

* Toronto, but the film's police station is identified as "Metropolitan Police Station" on the sign, so who knows where they want you to think this crap takes place.
** It was explained to me that Saw 3D was "as stupid" as IV, V, and VI, so I feel confident that I understand what I didn't see.
*** Seriously, if someone would like to explain to me why you keep watching these movies, I'd love to hear it. The "mythology" of the films is constantly being revised because the formula of the sequels are stale and interchangeable, the kills aren't really that impressive, and the acting is borderline amateur hour.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Those 80s Horror Movies I Mentioned Last Night Trailer Sunday

Funeral Home

Strange Behavior

Bloody Moon

A Night to Dismember

Scared to Death

Blood Beach


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Let the Blogorium Speak for Itself...?

 Hrm. The Cap'n doesn't really have a review today. I thought I might, but over the last two days I watched Halloween II with Rob Zombie's commentary track and the group commentary for Trick 'R Treat. I've toyed with the idea of doing write-ups of commentary tracks, as they seem to be the least accessed feature on nearly every DVD and Blu-Ray release. For some reason, it never seems as interesting to write about them as it does to listen to them. Appropriately, many directors, writers, producers, and actors feel like it's not as interesting to listen to them talk about a film when you can let the film speak for itself. Steven Spielberg doesn't record commentary tracks for just that reason, along with David Lynch and the Coen brothers*.

  Part of the appeal of a "Rogue Commentary Track" is that it would allow people who have a marginal history with the film, but who appreciate something about the film, to speak at length about what they take away from it without forcing people to pay anything. If it ever happens, that is. I certainly don't have the equipment to make that happen, but I do know a number of well versed cinephiles who could sit down and provide insightful and entertaining tracks for films that go underrepresented. It's the technical end that's hanging that idea up, and the scheduling; there's rarely time that everyone could get together.

 Well, let's try to make something out of this commentary-centric Saturday. Trick 'R Treat was fun to watch (virtually) with the director, editor, composer, producer, and storyboard artist, and I picked up a few more connective tidbits that I hadn't caught yet. The film really does reward multiple viewings, because it is packed with overlapping character moments. I honestly had no idea that Brian Cox wanted Mr. Kreeg to look like John Carpenter, but it's actually a clever nod that I can see during his segment.

 After listening to the Halloween II "Unrated Director's Cut" commentary, it's clear that two things dominated the making of the film: the decreasing budget / schedule and the editing. Zombie is clearly frustrated that a number of sequences were hampered by schedule cuts, including the Phantom Jam (which was supposed to take four days to shoot but was shortened to one night), and while he feels the film suffers from the shortcuts they had to take, he's reasonably satisfied with the director's cut.

 I'm happy that I found a copy of the Theatrical Cut (available in Canada, but I'm not sure if it is here in the US), because based on Zombie's description of what was cut, alterations made to existing footage, and his feelings about the changes, that unlike many "director's cuts," this is a radically different version of the film. Tonally the films sound quite different: the relationship between Laurie and Annie is less antagonistic, Michael's visions are more ambiguous, and the ending heads in a different direction. Zombie is happier with his cut of the film (available on Blu-Ray), but I think being able to watch both will be a valuable point of comparison. There's also a commentary on that DVD, and I wonder if it's also distinct from the director's cut, as it would be difficult to simply cut out many of the descriptions of what differs.

 All of this may seem irrelevant to many of you, as I understand that people really seem to hate Halloween II. As someone who really hated Halloween, I find it odd that people were less interested in seeing Zombie go off in his own direction with the sequel, and it makes me wonder what exactly it was that you all liked about the 2007 remake. Aside from the hospital dream sequence, Zombie makes no effort to stick to remake "rules," and while it may have problems, I think that Halloween II works as a sequel, and considering that the original Halloween II is a mess of sloppy plot points, needless coincidences, and stupid characters, I'm going to give the edge to Rob.

 Oh well. That seemed more interesting to write than it probably was to read for you. I'll see what I can do to rectify that in the coming days. I have found more than a dozen horror films from the 1980s that I've never heard of before that seem like they'll be fun to review. Until then...

* With the notable exception of The Man Who Wasn't There, which is a low-key affair featuring Joel, Ethan, and Billy Bob Thornton, where they impart a number of interesting details along with what may or may not be a whole bunch of trickery about the film. It depends on whether you trust the mercurial Coens or academics, who claim to have "figured them out" without actually knowing them.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Blogorium Review: Ride, Rise, Roar

 Approaching my review for Ride, Rise, Roar, a documentary / performance film for David Byrne, I find myself constantly trying to avoid comparing the film to Jonathan Demme's Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense. On one level, it just isn't fair to Ride Rise Roar to be held to that kind of standard; if you've never seen Stop Making Sense, it is arguably one of the best concert films ever made. Demme's shot composition, camerawork, and editing not only complement the music, but elevate it.

 I'm trying to give Ride Rise Roar the benefit of the doubt and treat David Hillman Curtis' film as something not trying to be like Stop Making Sense, even if the comparisons come easily and frequently.

The film begins with an interpretation of "Once in a Lifetime" that is baffling on two levels: 1) it seems as though Byrne is trying to keep himself interested in a song he's no doubt sung to death, but the choice he makes (to pose the lyrics as a series of flat, disinterested questions) is immediately off-putting. This is compounded by 2) the presence of interpretive dancers, who seem to be doing whatever they feel like without any connection to the music. Since Byrne doesn't seem to be very interested in "Once in a Lifetime," I can't honestly say one part is more distracting than the other, but it's an odd way to start a movie, and not "good" odd.

Fortunately, the interview footage that follows provides some context: while wrapping up mixing on Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, Byrne's collaboration with Brian Eno, the singer / songwriter accepted a series of tour dates. In order to keep things fresh, Byrne reached out to a number of choreographers (Annie-B Parson, Sonya Robbins, Layla Childs, and Noémie Lafrance) to create a free flowing, interpretive combination of modern dance and pop music. He also requested they find non-professionals (?) and prohibited them from learning any particular routine, instead preferring they find the "right" movements as the song progressed. By mimicking each other, they would create a complementary visual element to the music.

 And that might work, if the staging weren't so claustrophobic: Byrne is playing in front of a full band with back-up singers perhaps five feet behind him. His dancers don't have much room, and on top of that, he chose to narrow down the number to three (Lily Baldwin, Natalie Kuhn, and Stephen Reker), which further underwhelms whatever it was he had in mind. When Byrne is engaged with the dances, there's a sort of symmetry, but more often than not the staging is two on one side and one on the other with Byrne in the middle. It may just be the way that Curtis shoots the performance, but the end result is often flat and disengaged, which seems to be the opposite of what David Byrne had in mind. It's not until the dancers bring the back-up singers into the choreography of "I Zimbra" that the film has any sense of life.

Ride, Rise, Roar also settles quickly into a repetitive motion of performance - interview (black and white) - performance (color), sometimes interspersing the live show with rehearsal footage (also black and white) but otherwise sticks with what works. I hate to even bring this up, but the way Curtis covers the live performance, it's often unclear that there IS an audience, especially early in the film. If I hadn't eventually seen the heads of  the crowd, I was inclined to believe that parts the film were simply stage rehearsal being passed off as "concert documentary." There's no sense of performance, which once again brings me back to Stop Making Sense. There's a kinetic energy to that footage, something lacking in Ride, Rise, Roar, despite the animated vocal delivery from Byrne, that just doesn't make sense.

 I'm almost positive that someone with a better background in dance would find Ride, Rise, Roar more interesting than I did. It pains me to say that, as a huge fan of David Byrne (both with the Heads and also solo), but the film struggles to stay interesting as it slogs along. There's a discussion of how Byrne and Eno worked together on the album that should be more engaging than it is. It's also fair to mention that the dancers will also arbitrarily disappear during the show without the explanations typically lavished elsewhere during interviews.

On an intellectual level, I know it isn't fair, but watching Ride, Rise, Roar and not making mental comparisons to Stop Making Sense is going to be difficult for anyone interested in watching this film. It only compounds Ride, Rise, Roar's existing problems in that not only are you watching a movie that isn't very engaging, but it reminds you of the film about roughly the same subject that is exactly the opposite experience. Even in attempting to disassociate one from the other, I found myself bored during Ride, Rise, Roar, and that's the biggest shame of it all.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Drive Happy with Today's Video Daily Double

 Welcome back to another exciting, entertaining, educational Video Daily Double. Today we're dipping back into the vehicular well, but instead of focusing on the person behind the wheel, we'll look at specific information ABOUT cars. It's part of our "industrial" series of VDDs, which will continue into the summer, and provides us an inside look at how corporations presented information to each other and to the public.


Our first film, Around the Corner, is one of the oldest films the Cap'n found, and is designed to explain to manufacturers in 1937 why Differential Steering was the way of the future:

Our second film, Styling and the Experimental Car, is Ford's industrial film about the development of a car you might have heard of: The Mustang.

See you next week!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Retro Review: Halloween: H20 and Resurrection

 Originally, I had planned a Retro Review for Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, but  after doing some cursory research on the film I realized that I don't remember Halloween 6 at all. I saw it once, in the fall of 1995, and was surprised to discover Paul Rudd played Tommy Doyle in the film. Until I watch The Curse of Michael Myers again (or can locate the "Producer's Cut" mentioned online), there's really no point in revisiting a film I can't recall.

 Which brings me to Halloween: H20 and Halloween Resurrection, two movies I've barely seen again since the first time I watched them. They did, however, leave a greater impression on my mind than Donald Pleasance's final film appearance, and since I enjoy one of them more than anyone else seems to and really hate the other one, it's fitting to comment on the close of the pre-remake sequels to John Carpenter's Halloween. This one-two punch will leave the Cap'n with only Halloween 3, 5, and 6 to cover in the Blogorium*.

For those of you looking for a series recap, here's one in 60 words or less: Michael Myers kills his family, goes to a sanitarium under the care of Doctor Loomis, escapes, tries to kill Laurie Strode, fails, tries again, is replaced by an evil toy mask manufacturer, returns, tries to kill Laurie's niece Jamie, fails, tries again, fails, tries again, succeeds, but is then foiled by Loomis and a grown up Tommy Doyle**.

 Then there was a three year break, leading us to 1998, twenty years after the first Halloween. We move from Haddonfield, Illinois to somewhere in Northern California, where Keri Tate (Jamie Lee Curtis) is the dean of a private school with her son John (Josh Hartnett) and boyfriend Will (Adam Arkin). The funniest thing is that Keri Tate is a dead-ringer for Laurie Strode, and we discover that (SPOILER ALERT) she IS Laurie Strode. Laurie faked her death to keep Michael from chasing her (which is good, because Michael instead decided to wipe out the rest of her blood relations), and she'd been pretty successful avoiding (SPOILER ALERT AGAIN) her brother for the last twenty years. That is, until Doctor Loomis (the late Donald Pleasance, heard in narration) dies and Michael just happens to find his house and discover exactly where Laurie is. He also kills some kid (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) with an ice skate.

 Anyway, school's out for fall break(?) and Laurie's colleague Norma Watson (Janet Leigh, who is Jamie Lee Curtis' mother, which is technically a SPOILER for family tree detectives. I won't spoil that her father is Tony Curtis. Oh, crap) drives off in a car that looks a lot like Marion Crane (Janet Leigh)'s car from Psycho***. Michael begins stalking the campus, killing off students dumb enough to watch Scream 2 (gee, I wonder why? We'll get to that in a second...), and John and Molly (Michelle Williams) find the bodies and become "next" on the kill list. Unless Laurie, Will, and security guard Ronny (L.L. Cool J) can stop Michael.

 Why am I being so glib about H20? Well, the more I think about the film - based on a treatment by Scream co-creator Kevin Williamson - the stupider it seems. It's funny, because I guess I overlooked how stupid and obvious these references were when I was 19 (something the people who saw it with me did not), and the Cap'n instead focused on the Laurie Strode / Michael Myers story line. To be fair, that is the only thing H20 has going for it: the film decides to pretend that Halloween 4, 5, and 6 never happened****, which you can debate the relative merits of, I guess, in order to focus on the lethal sibling rivalry. The ending, where (SPOILER ALERT) Laurie decapitates an ambulance driver Michael's head is still a satisfying close to their story, one that the following film manages to ruin in the first five minutes.

 It's worth noting that even at the time we were impressed that L.L. Cool J took five or six rounds to the chest from a revolver and walked away at the end of the film. I don't remember if they said he was wearing a vest, but why would a prep school security officer need to?

Anyway, back to the way that Resurrection mangles everything, even making people who didn't like H20 say "well, at least that one didn't kill Laurie Strode." Oh, (SPOILER ALERT). Yeah, in addition to retrofitting H20 so that Michael somehow does a switcheroo with an ambulance driver before Laurie can lop his head off with an axe, they leap forward in time to an asylum where Laurie's been locked up, waiting for Michael to wander in unabated. Sure enough, they tangle, she tries to kill him (hanging? maybe?) but he stabs her or something and she falls from the roof of the asylum in what is the least effective death of a Final Girl since Jason Vorhees followed Alice Hardy back to town for some apartment complex murderin'.

But wait! That's the BEGINNING of Halloween: Resurrection, a movie that gets EVEN WORSE before Busta Rhymes drops some Kung Fu on Michael Myers. That does happen, by the way, and you don't need a SPOILER ALERT because we both know you don't have to watch this film.

So what, pray tell, could the plot of the 8th Halloween film be if the villain kills the Final Girl in the opening of the film? How about a webcam reality show about some stupid contestants wandering around the Myers house? Sound good? Freddie Harris (Busta Rhymes) and Nora Winston (Tyra Banks) sure thought so, and their web company, DangerTainment, is sponsoring this MTV's Fear knock-off. A group of college students (including Katee Sackhoff, Sean Patrick Thomas, and Thomas Ian Nichols) who "won" the chance to be on this show, wander around the house looking for clues about Michael Myers. Want to guess who has nowhere else to go after he killed his sister? Want to guess who isn't happy to find people in his childhood home? Want to place bets on whether a charred Michael Myers opens his eye for the final stinger in this turdstorm of a sequel?

The 19 year-old Cap'n may have been kind to H20, but the 23 year-old knew he hated Resurrection well before the halfway point. I remember not liking Halloween 6, but that's not as clear to me as the hatred for the last gasp of the Halloween franchise after Miramax squeezed everything left out in 2002. In retrospect, had I watched Resurrection again before Rob Zombie's Halloween, I might have been kinder, even with all of the idiotic "I'm gonna skullfuck you" dialogue. It's like the Weinstein brothers perceived a certain formula from H20 (a handful of "hot" young actors from better movies*****, a popular rapper, some referential dialogue, and whatever the newest fad was) and recycled it into a crappier version, a xerox of Kevin Williamson's already growing stale pop culture screenplays.

 Halloween: Resurrection is what people are complaining about when they talk about how awful sequels are, and devoid of the one consistent narrative thread between the first seven films (okay, six, since Halloween III isn't about Michael or his family tree), there's nothing worth investing your time in. I honestly can't say I've seen a moment of the film since we saw it on the big screen, and I know I've watched parts of H20 on cable. If one was on, the other one must have been at some point. After part 8, there was a five year layover, and then Zombie took over. At the time I write this, Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer (My Bloody Valentine 3-D, Drive Angry) have pitched a Halloween 3D to the Weinsteins that they may eventually get to after rebooting Hellraiser (you read that right), but for now, at least I can say that Rob Zombie's Halloween 2, for as many detractors as it has, is a MUCH better movie than Halloween Resurrection, and it's probably better than H20. Now who would've thought I'd ever say that?

*For write-ups of Halloween (kind of), Halloween II, Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers, Halloween the Remake and Halloween 2 the Remake, follow the respective links.
** This much I gathered from IMDB's coverage of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.
*** SPOILER: It IS Marion Crane's car from Psycho.
**** In the interest of fairness, Williamson's original draft did include 4,5, and 6 as continuity, and writers Robert Zappia and Matt Greenberg wisely dropped the subplot.
**** And by that I mean American Pie and Save the Last Dance, and eventually Sackhoff would be in Battlestar Galactica but I'm not giving Bob and Harvey any credit for that one...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

As Seen on TV This Weekend Trailer Sunday

Trees Lounge


Queen of Outer Space



Jumpin' Jack Flash

Bloodrayne: The Third Reich*

* Watching this trailer, it's abundantly clear that Blubberella is supposed to be a parody. Since the cast, locations, and some lines of dialogue are the same... ugh.

Friday, June 10, 2011

So You Won't Have To: Blubberella

 For some reason, I decided to break the "no Uwe Boll" pact with myself. It's not the first time I've tried - as a fan of Jason Statham and Ron Perlman, I made it less than twenty minutes into In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, but I never bothered with House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, Bloodrayne, Postal, Far Cry, or any other garbage I'm forgetting. I'm not interested in Dr. Uwe Boll, his propensity for boxing internet critics, or the fact that he genuinely could care less that his video game adaptations are consistently derided by just about everyone. Even people I know who like one or two of Boll's films can't be bothered to watch more than two.

So why start with Blubberella? Let's call the "trainwreck" effect. If you're not familiar with the concept of Blubberella, let's take a moment to look at the trailer.

You might understand how the Cap'n could think that Blubberella was maybe not actually a real movie. The film was allegedly shot simultaneously with (and is supposedly a parody of) Boll's Bloodrayne: The Third Reich, which gave him an excuse to use all of his Nazi uniforms, locations... well, I'm not going to lie to you. I'll never watch Bloodrayne: The Third Reich, so this is going to remain conjecture until someone else does and comments.

Instead, let's focus on Blubberella, which is (sadly) a real movie, albeit barely. The film is self described as a "comedy," but I didn't laugh once. If you find a litany of "jokes" about fat people, interspersed with anti-Semitic and homophobic references, followed by even more fat jokes punctuated with intentional anachronisms funny, you might not hate Blubberella. But let's be real, folks: I'm reviewing this to answer any lingering curiosity you had about this film. A film that features a morbidly obese "heroine" who is constantly ridiculed by other characters and the director.

 Instead of devoting paragraphs to tearing this film apart, let's save all of us some time and let images from Blubberella tell you everything you need to know:



 Get the idea? What that doesn't convey is the pointless dialogue or "comedic" sound effects (for example, when Blubberella pulls a roll of bread out of her coat, Boll uses a slide whistle! Hilarious!) Scenes don't so much end as they simply fade out in mid-sentence, and if the dated cell phone gags don't get you, perhaps the "Clapper" joke will. There are pot shots at movie critics, lazy pop culture references (including Precious - yes, that's what the above photo is).Boll even uses a music cue that rips off Europe's "The Final Countdown."

To compensate for this (I guess), Boll decides to make fun of the movie he's making while he's making it, by having characters say "Now, despite my inability to carry a scene," "the following scene is really boring," and so on. If we're meant to excuse a horrible movie because the director admits it's horrible, then I must have missed that part of parody protocol. Blubberella is more Meet the Spartans than Top Secret, but without the simple competency one needs to construct a film. It's a collage of scenes that barely have anything to do with each other, that begin and end for no apparent reason, and tend to resemble cutaways from Family Guy strung together for 83 minutes. When all else fails, Boll trots himself out on camera dressed as Hitler, then plays board games and has a heart to heart with Blubberella. It's just embarrassing.

 As usual, Clint Howard sums up Blubberella with a line from the film: "That's not extraordinary, that's bullshit!"

 Bonus picture: