Friday, November 30, 2012

The Cinema File #48: "For A Good Time Call" Review

Women are and can be very funny. Jerry Lewis and those who have made arguments along the lines that women are inherently unfunny are wrong. There are many examples that disprove blah blah blah, Tiny Fey, blah blah Amy Pohler, etc, etc, and there's no need to truck with that nonsense any further. I just wanted to get all that out of the way before I talk about how soul achingly unfunny this movie written by women and starring women is. I did not laugh once during the entire length of For A Good Time Call, and I'm pretty sure the relative configuration of my genitalia had nothing to do with it.

For A Good Time Call follows the exploits of two twenty somethings living together who start out as enemies forced to share an apartment, only to bond over their mutual empowerment achieved through becoming professional phone sex operators. That sentence hurt me. Maybe being a man, its not my place to presume what women might find offensive, but I have to say I nonetheless felt just a little bit icky watching a movie whose happy ending is predicated on the notion that both of these women found themselves as a result of men paying them to talk sexy while they masturbate. I know that's part of the joke, but still,,,eww. That's not a knock on phone sex operators, or any part of the sex industry by the way, which I place no judgement on whatsoever. Its just that even with the noblest intent, even if you look on the brightest side of it and think about all the lonely people who are helped by it through the infusion of even false intimacy into their lives, there is an inescapable hollowness that always comes with the commercialization of sex, be it in porn or phone sex. Ignore it if it is uncomfortable, fine, but don't twist it and pretend its some sort of calling. Its just skeevey, and its not nearly as inherently funny a concept as this movie seems to think it is.

The Idiot Box: Buffy The Vampire Slayer Retrospective - Season One

Joss Whedon's breakthrough series Buffy the Vampire Slayer lasted for seven seasons across two networks, doing for the teenage demographic what The X-Files did for adults only a few years before. It established a pattern that has been followed by countless shows since, essentially providing the blueprint for long running series like Smallville and Supernatural, as well as newcomer Arrow, and pretty much half the CW line-up as it stands today. Based on the considerably shittier movie of the same name, so poorly made that it's writer reportedly cried during the premiere, its one of the seminal shows of my young life that inspired me to want to write for television. Granted, half a dozen amateur pilot scripts later and I'm still just a shlub with a blog, but I thought if there was any show I should start with for my planned series of TV retrospectives, this was a natural introductory point.

Season One - (Second) First Impressions

It sounds weird to say after such a laudatory set up, but if I had to be honest right out of the gate about my feelings coming back to this show after so many years away, my first thought is that I cannot believe how terrible the majority of these first season episodes are compared to the show in its prime. Granted, a lot of really great shows have really bad first seasons, and this being a shorter season than most due to being a mid-season replacement means there was even less time to find their sea legs in time for the finale. But still...damn is this some bad television. This show almost rivals Star Trek: The Next Generation in terms of the chasm in quality between season one and the seasons to come. When it was airing for the first time, I didn't get into the show until season three, and I honestly don't know if I would have stuck with it had I started watching from the beginning.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

From The Idea Hole: High Midnight

On a recent episode of my podcast, The Dirty Sons of Pitches, my co-hosts (and also friends I guess) and I took on the challenge of coming up with a new twist on the classic Universal Horror Monsters just in time for Halloween, which is to say several weeks before, but in the same month. A regular feature on our show is something called Pitch Redemption, where we go back to older episodes and try to come up with a better idea for a pitch theme where we weren't necessarily happy with what we threw out the first time, and today's trip down the Idea Hole (thankfully not in 3D) is in the spirit of that retrospective notion. As you no doubt remember from that podcast that I assume you listen to religiously, I pitched a number of projects including a post apocalyptic monster mash up, a monster support group comedy, and two TV shows, one involving a town full of Mr. Hyde style split personalities, and the other a teen drama about mopey high school Frankenstein monsters. That last one is actually a lot better than it sounds, I assure you. The point is, since then, I've come up with another idea that I'm beginning to like more and more, and its a movie, or possibly a series, called High Midnight.

It suddenly dawned on me while randomly perusing Wikipedia that several of the classic Universal Monster stories either take place or are inspired by stories that take place at sometime plausibly close to the Old West, just not in America. The novel Dracula and the movie The Wolf Man both take place just at the end of the 19th century, and the excavation of King Tut's tomb that inspired the Mummy series only a little more than a decade later. The novel for Frankenstein takes place 100 years earlier if not longer, some undefined time in the 18th century if I recall, but even then, a corpse'll keep that long for story purposes. The only one that doesn't fit is The Creature From The Black Lagoon, created from nuclear testing that didn't exist at the time, but we can even fudge that and say the Gillman was older than once thought and the nuclear origin was a misattribution. The point is, if there was ever a time and place both plausible enough historically and interesting enough for a knock down drag out fight between the big five, its the Weird Wild West. I know they've done individual monsters in that setting before to varying degrees of success, but I don't think anyone has tried to throw them all into the Western genre at once. Or at the very least, I'm assuming they haven't so this blog post will be relevant anyway.

Still More Videogames I'd Like To See Made Into Movies (And How I'd Make Them)

Welcome back to another edition of me not wanting to risk watching another movie today as bad as The Odd Life Of Timothy Green, otherwise known as Videogames I'd Like To See Made Into Movies (And How I'd Make Them). Last time, we talked about classic Sega Genesis/Master System games and the movie ideas they inspired, and since I've arbitrarily decided to go through this series in order of the consoles I owned as a kid, next up is a leap ahead to the original Playstation.

1: Tecmo's Deceptions: Invitation To Darkness

The story of a man who sells his soul to Satan to escape death and becomes the unseen master of a demonically powered mansion filled with traps and assorted horrors. I never got too far into this game, but played it enough to want to see it played out in a feature film. The cool part about the game from what I remember is that it was the first game I ever played that had what we now think of as morality systems. Before Bioshock and Infamous, this was a game where the victims who entered the house may be criminals or murderers themselves, or just as easily could be innocent people, and you had the choice whether to kill them or let them go. I never got far enough into it to know this, but evidently you could also turn the corpses of your victims into Frankenmonsters to do your bidding. I'd see it as a standard haunted house movie, but with the murderous caretaker as the protagonist, a sympathetic villain who we explore psychologically as he struggles with the decision of whether to take the souls of those who come to his door, each death chipping away at his humanity even as he tries to shed the yoke of the Devil's hold on him. The main guests would be your typical horror movie backpacking teenagers just looking for a place to stay for the night, who invariably must avoid deadly traps and an army of monsters created from the previous guests.

2: Thrill Kill

A game supposedly so controversial that it was never officially released, only playable via bootlegged disc. A fighting game taking the anything goes mentality of Mortal Kombat and taking it to its furthest extreme, going out of their way to offend as much as possible. The basic plot is that a group of dead sinners, the souls of murderers and maniacs given new monstrous forms that reflect their depravity in life, fight a tournament in Hell for the chance to be reincarnated on Earth. I'd switch it up a bit and have the tournament take place on Earth, with the participants in human form but manifesting demonic powers as they fight to the death, the last man standing getting to stay alive and out of Hell. We'd follow the two least villainous characters as our protagonists, Oddball, a serial killer profiler struggling with his own psychopathy, and Violet Boregard, a contortionist and rape victim turned revenge killer. The villains would eventually unite under the dominance of the most visible bad guy from the game, the dominatrix Belladonna. Do it as gritty and stylish as possible, a cross between Mortal Kombat and Se7en. Maybe even get David Fincher to direct. Incedently, now that I see the word, I'm surprised Mortal Kombat never used Mentality along with Fatality and Babality. They could have been really witty or subtle death scenes that you'd have to think about for a while.

The Cinema File #47: "The Odd Life Of Timothy Green" Review

"If this boy can have leaves on his ankle, then we can make a pencil out of leaves. Let's get back to work!" - Actual line from this motherfucking movie.

I want to scream "Fuck This Movie!" at the top of my lungs, but for me to do that, it would presuppose that The Odd Life Of Timothy Green actually is a movie, and I'm fairly certain that this is not the case. Movies, at least I'm pretty sure based on prior experience, have a point. They have characters that things happen to, things to which they react in ways that illuminate who they are. People change and grow as events unfold and the intersection of personality, history, and causality forges something at least barely resembling a story. This is a movie. The Odd Life Of Timothy Green is something entirely different. I don't exactly know what, but whatever it is, the one thing I'm certain about is that it is by far the completest complete piece of shit I have seen all year.

The frame story of this movie-ish thing follows Jennifer Garner and the guy who plays her husband whose name I can't bring myself to care about looking up as they interview with an adoption agency, post magical experience. Here they tell the story of their time with Timothy, a boy they inadvertently summoned to life by writing down all the qualities they wanted in a son and burying them in a box in the backyard after finding out they couldn't have kids. They've learned from this experience that they want to adopt, because learning that you can't have kids wasn't enough to make this a viable alternative; they needed a magical fucking leaf child to brighten their lives before they could possibly even consider raising a child that came out of someone else's vagina. Seriously, in a world where thousands upon thousands of orphans live without parents, why is infertility always this crushing, end of the world thing? I get that it's hard, but if you want a kid, there are fucking options!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Cinema File #46: "The Hole in 3D" Review

Whereupon even one of my favorite directors falls to the siren song of filming in 3D, and churns out possibly the worst movie of his career (and after Looney Toons Back In Action, that's saying something).

The Hole in 3D was filmed a couple of years ago, but only just released on DVD from what I can tell, and since I don't remember it ever coming to a theater near me, this was the first chance I had to see it. Joe Dante has always been one of my filmmaking idols, with an odd, off kilter sensibility always blending comedy, horror, science fiction, and fantasy into unique and usually very fun original movies. He makes the kind of movies that I hope to make some day, with an almost child-like imagination that inspired me to want to inspire kids like me. That is to say, he used to do that. Outside of the two arguably best entries in the recent Masters of Horror anthology series, the last Joe Dante film I really enjoyed was 1998's Small Soldiers, and even then it felt a bit hollow compared to his earlier works. The Hole 3D, unfortunately, is not a return to form, and in fact might just be his lowest point.

The Hole follows two young siblings moving into a new house who discover the titular orifice in their basement, which when opened releases creatures that take the form of the worst fears of anyone who looks down into it. Given the young protagonists, one would expect Dante to establish a more whimsical tone in keeping with some of his more kid friendly work like Explorers or Eerie, Indiana, but instead he makes the odd choice of establishing no consistent tone whatsoever. Some moments are lighthearted fantasy, others are dark and twisted with imagery right out of a Japanese ghost kid movie, and neither feels authentic as the movie bounces from one to the other. It would help if any of the characters acted like they cared about anything that was going on around them, but they are so blaise or just plain wooden so much of the time that I can't invest in their experience once the story picks up in the second and third acts. Characters take far too long to admit what they know to be supernatural occurrances happening all around them, and fail to get on the same page until long after reason dictates they would have, leading them to delay action and place themselves in further danger only because the plot demands that they not act more rationally.

The Cinema File #45: "The Three Stooges" Review

I've never been a fan of the Three Stooges. Accuse me of being the proud owner of a vagina if you must, but I just don't get why its supposed to be funny after the tenth or so eye poke. Give me the Marx Bros. or Hope and Crosby over this juvenile crap any day as far as I'm concerned. I don't know if my lack of love for the classic comic trio made me more or less inclined to give the latest Farrelly Brothers movie a fair shake, but while I can say that it isn't nearly as painfully bad as I was expecting it to be, I can't say there's much of anything here to recommend that's actually good either.

I'm reminded of that weird Laurel and Hardy remake with Gailard Sartain and Bronson Pinchot, and the out cry over trying to recreate such beloved performances with modern actors, and I can imagine the distaste I would feel if they did try that with, say the Marx Bros, so I get the instant aversion to this film from die hard fans. And yet, its clear from the outset that the Farrelly's are at least trying to give us a loving tribute of something that they care a great deal about and that obviously influenced them a great deal. If you can say anything good about The Three Stooges, it is a passion project, with very little about it that struck me as a crass attempt to milk modern money out of an old franchise.

The Cinema File #44: "Battleship" Review

In the first five minutes of Battleship, an astronomer mentions that if aliens ever came to Earth, that it would be like Christopher Columbus and the Indians, only with us as the Indians. This is obviously reminiscent of the quote by famous astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. The thing is, through this entire movie, I couldn't remember when Stephen Hawking said that, and I could have sworn it was relatively recently, to the point where I was actually starting to think that Stephen Hawking, one of the smartest men on the planet, stole a line from Battleship. Obviously, he did not. That quote is from 2010, and I don't know if the shock from that misunderstanding just distracted me from the bad things in this movie everyone's talking about, but all in all, I actually thought Battleship was mostly entertaining, and certainly above average for this kind of usually "brainless" action sci-fi flick.

On my podcast, The Dirty Sons of Pitches, I once ironically proclaimed that based solely on the premise and the presence of Liam Neeson fighting aliens, that Battleship was poised to be the best movie of the year, if not of all time. It is not quite that, and there are definitely a lot of things that you can nitpick to death about it in an effort to be just like all your friends and pretend to hate this movie whether you really do or not, but in a world where Independence Day is considered a modern classic, if only in the "Shut Your Brain Off" school of cinema, then Battleship deserves its place in that curriculum as well. Yes its light on plot and the parts that aren't about blowing shit up are pretty much by the numbers, guy meets girl, learns something about himself pablum, but even then, there was just enough ingenuity in the action and effects work, and just enough relatability in the more human moments, that I was never bored, and never angered by any inconsistency or example of trite execution.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Cinema File #43: "Grabbers" Review

Drunken Irishmen versus bloodsucking tentacle monsters from space. Otherwise known as what every movie should be about!

Grabbers follows the titular creatures, a mass of writhing tentacles, razor sharp teeth, and a long prehensile tongue, as a mating pair descend on a small coastal Irish village to breed and wreak havoc upon the delightfully crotchety populace. This movie feels like a creature feature from the 80's or 90's in the best way, a tribute to the oddball horror comedies I grew up with like Gremlins, Arachnophobia, or even Killer Klowns From Outer Space. Though a bit slow to get going, once it does, it just keeps building as the monsters become braver and a storm gives them the opportunity to place the town under siege.

As I said, the lead up is a bit long, and we don't get a lot of the monster mayhem until almost forty minutes in beyond fleeting glimpses, but even then, I can't say Grabbers was ever outright boring. The characters are all charming eventually if not right away, and what we do get of the creatures slowly sneaking inland is clever. Our first indication past the teaser is a beach filled with dead whales, and a scene where an unseen grabber attacks a family using one of it's previous victims as literal bait, dangling it in front of their door like a fishing line, is legitimately chilling, though it indicated a human level of intelligence that I wish would have been seen more later on. Instead, the monster is basically just a savage animal after this point.

Yet More Videogames I'd Like To See Made Into Movies (And How I'd Make Them)

Welcome back to part two, or possibly part four depending on how you count, of my impromptu series of blog posts that are slightly easier to write because I don't have to watch any movies or think hard about shit, otherwise known as Video games I'd Like To See Made Into Movies (And How I'd Make Them). This time I'll be taking games from the Sega Genesis, otherwise known as the Mega Drive if you don't live in America. A brief note, given the era of these games and when I initially played them, keep in mind that unless otherwise stated, I'm envisioning these as cheapo 90's movies ala the heyday of video game adaptations, designed to fit in with the likes of Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Double Dragon, and Super Mario Bros.

1: Altered Beast

A simple classic story of two shape shifting and I'm pretty sure undead brothers (?) trying to save their girlfriend (?) from an evil wizard. The ancient Greek setting allows for a lot of weird magicy shit to blend together, not to mention Werewolves/bears/tigers/dragons/etc vs. zombies. Still, I'd go epic with this, something in the vein of the recent Clash of the Titans remake or Immortals, except, you know, not as shitty as the recent Clash of the Titans remake or Immortals. If I remember correctly, all the bosses in this game were just different forms of the one bad guy, which removes the need most video game movies have of either ignoring the multiple villains in favor of one, or trying to cram them all in, and sets up an ending that could rise to a bad ass bloody tribute to the Merlin vs. Mad Madame Mim fight from The Sword In The Stone. Though if they were gonna do this, I'd say invert the order of them so the freaky head throwing boss from level one is the last thing they fight, instead of that bitch Rhino.

2: The Streets Of Rage Trilogy

When I say trilogy, of course I mean one movie that encompasses the story of all three games, because its not like the storyline for each game was so in depth as to require three whole movies to re-tell it. Maybe two movies, just to save some of the weirder characters from the third game like the cyborg doctor and the kangaroo. Still, its a story right out of 90's straight to video action awesome, with the last honest cops in a city owned by the criminal syndicate of Mr. X quitting the corrupt police force to take the law into their own hands and punch electric dominatrices in the face, with their roller skating little brother. And their kangaroo. You even have a couple of characters you can start out as villains and have turn to the side of good in the Bruce Lee-esque Shiva and the horribly offensive flaming homosexual stereotype Ash, two bad guys that become secret playable characters in the game. Because of course you have to include the character so controversial they left him out of the U.S. release. Next thing, you're gonna tell me we can't have kangaroos and children punching dominatrices in the face.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Cinema File #42: "Journey 2 - The Mysterious Island" Review

Why do actors I like always insist on being in movies I hate? Damn you Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, damn you and your bouncy pectoral muscles!

I've mentioned my aversion to 3D in the past, so you can imagine my level of distaste for movies like Journey 2, which seem to exist solely for the purposes of wacky in your face 3D action scenes. My biggest problem isn't even the glasses, or the higher priced ticket, or even the overall unnecessary addition of a 3rd dimension to a medium that already has the illusion of depth. My biggest problem is the audacity and short sightedness of creating a movie designed to only be relevant in theaters in the age of home entertainment. Let's face it, 3D television is not becoming ubiquitous, and that's regardless of whether or not the whole 3D fad ultimately passes in the next few years. To make a movie that can only be enjoyed with 3D glasses in a theater, as if the majority of viewings aren't going to be at home on mostly 2D screens, is just dickish. And trust me, while I didn't see this in 3D, that's clearly where all the money went. I don't know if it was worth it, but there's certainly nothing else to enjoy about Journey fucking 2.

The Cinema File #41: "The Selling" Review

If your going to make an indie film, trust me, ghosts are always a better hook than butter.

A lot of the movies I review on this site are pretty low brow, if not simply low class, and no more low than the Straight to DVD fare I watch in between the major releases. That's not to say they are bad, just dirty. FDR: American Badass had me in stitches, but then I recognize that my sense of humor is in line with the dark twisted mindset that birthed a movie about a werewolf hunting Roosevelt. My point is, in light of this, and in light of my own preferences, its always surprising to come across a movie that seems to consciously and deliberately avoid going down those dark paths.

The Selling is a movie about murder, hauntings, blood dripping walls, demons, and ritual sacrifice, and its also the most upbeat, wholesome, and good natured comedy I've seen all year that didn't have the Tooth Fairy in it as a major character. The story is simple and more clever in execution than you would think, about two real estate agents who wind up forced into the position of selling a house they quickly learn is haunted, with 12 ghosts doing everything they can to warn them off, as well as any prospective buyers. The only reason I even watched this movie is because FDR himself, Barry Bostwick is in it for a cameo as an exorcist, but the tone of that film and this one is practically the difference between night and day.

The Cinema File #40: "Butter" Review

I suppose Rise of the Guardians probably would have been better for a milestone 40th review than an obscure indie comedy about butter carving Iowans, but what can I say, I don't plan these out that well.

So I just saw, Butter, a movie that was evidently filmed last year that I've heard about for a while, but only just now got the chance to sit down and watch. It follows several characters, only a few of whom are actually interesting and/or matter to the story, who come together around their state's annual butter sculpture carving competition. Tonally, it's sort of a poor man's version of Alexander Payne's Election with a lot more "Red-Staters are lame" jokes and some increasingly unnecessary raunch thrown in for good measure. In case you didn't hear my anguished sigh just from reading that sentence, allow me to reiterate textually...

*Anguished Sigh*

Alright then. The story is pretty rote once it gets going, and so the best way to view this movie, and thus to review it, is through an examination of the characters. And boy are they trying really hard to convince me how quirky they are. Jennifer Garner put on her best Sarah Palin impression, or is it Michelle Bachmann? It works for a bit, then gets increasingly more grating as the movie goes on. She's basically the paradox of the conservative independent woman, fiercely committed to her own ambition through being arm candy for her regionally famous husband, until the tensions of her marriage give way and she forces herself to go at it alone (it being carving butter, naturally). They try to redeem her somewhat in the end with a brief moment where she reveals at least that she is cognizant of how hollow her life is, but its so unearned as to be mostly just insulting.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Even More Videogames I'd Like To See Made Into Movies (And How I'd Make Them)

I've talked about this topic before, and its also a recurring theme on my podcast, the Dirty Sons of Pitches, and every time I think of a few video game to movie adaptations, I always realizes that I have way more than can or should fit into any one article, so I figured, why not make it a running series. I think I'll go console by console at first, throwing out five to ten ideas for each one, and then go back as needed whenever I come up with a few more good ones I've missed. First up, the first video game console I ever owned - the NES:

1: Base Wars 

I'm not typically a fan of sports movies, mostly because I'm not a big fan of sports, mostly because I sit around and play video games all day (and watch Vamps). The one sports game I did always enjoy was a baseball game for the original Nintendo called Base Wars, because unlike every other baseball game ever made, it did away with all that stupid shit like famous players and humans running around bases, and replaced them with kick ass robots beating the shit out of each other. I would envision the Base Wars movie as the hard R baseball equivalent of Real Steel, following a human talent scout who looks for new robots for a down and out team of misfit droids. You can throw in all the normal tropes of a baseball movie, the hotshot prodigy pitcher/hitter, the crabby coach, the sappy nostalgia and bullshit reverence for the honor and history of the game, but do it all with robots that kill each other to get on base as a parody of the genre as insane as the original game was.

2: Excite Bike

Another NES favorite of mine, with a simple gimmick of motorbike racing and no real plot to speak of. So how would I adapt it? Well, you'd have to make a lot of shit up for one thing, but still stay true to the spirit of the game, and so I'd take inspiration from the best aspect of the original game, the create your own track system, where the player could add their own hills and ramps and so forth for custom levels. I'd set it in the future and give it a sort of Hunger Games twist, where riders are forced to participate in a game that continues until only one racer has survived. The trick, the audience at home designs the track in real time, constantly causing it to shift as the riders traverse it, adding and replacing various hazards and death traps along the way specifically to kill them.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Cinema File #39: "Rise Of The Guardians" Review

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is the 2012 blockbuster with 'Rise' in the title that ISN'T a huge disappointment.

I have to say, the past few months have been quite good for animation buffs such as myself. From the frenetically entertaining Hotel Transylvania to the superbly morbid Paranorman, and finally to the heartwarming hero's journey of Wreak It Ralph just earlier this month, I'm almost tempted to start throwing out words like 'renaissance'. Admittedly, the lackluster failure of Brave had me a bit worried at first, but after this lot, I can't complain. There was one more animated movie due out this year that I was anticipating, and it had an unexpectedly high standard to meet after so many great late editions, and I'm happy to report that Rise of the Guardians more than exceeded those expectations.

I'll get to the story in a moment, but first I need to mention that this movie is by far the most visually exciting film I've seen all year, if not in several years. I try not to use the word 'beautiful' too much (or maybe I use it all the time and just don't notice), but this movie is just that from beginning to end. Every character design, movement, location, and action set piece is simply breathtaking and better than anything I've seen in a long time. As always, I didn't see this in 3D, and I almost want to say that I really should have, but paradoxically, I think the amazing look of this movie in good old fashioned 2D (or at least as 2D as you can get with a CG movie) almost illustrates just how useless the medium of 3D is. If you need 3D to become immersed in the world of this movie, than you're already blind, and I don't think the third dimension is going to do much good.

The Cinema File #38: "Poolboy - Drowning Out The Fury" Review

Not sure if this counts as a third superhero review, but for my money, Kevin Sorbo kicks ass with or without a cape.

A little while ago I reviewed a movie called FDR: American Badass, which based on every other movie I've seen that tries to win me over with a goofy title, I expected to suck incredible amounts of ass. To my surprise and appreciation, the film was in fact quite good, a madcap throwback to the Zucker/Abrams movies of my youth with a filthy South Parkian edge, and it even held up upon an initial re-watch. It was so good in fact, that I decided to do a little research and find out what other movies this studio and this writer have made, to see if there were any other hidden gems I'd missed out on. In my search, I discovered that the actor who played my least favorite character in FDR was actually the writer, and had written at least one other movie that I had immediate access to via Netflix streaming, which is the subject of today's review.

Poolboy: Drowning Out The Fury is a fake lost classic from 1990, supposedly never released until now, complete with color commentary from the insane eye-patch wearing director St. James St. James. The film within the film, a sequel to a fake film that was never fake released, follows a grizzled Vietnam vet (played by Kevin Sorbo playing actor Jan Van Hammer, playing Poolboy) who returns to America with a dream of starting a pool cleaning business, only to find that the Mexicans have taken over the industry, forcing him to take bloody justice into his own hands. If you've ever seen the British series Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, its basically the same idea, only using the purposely bad production to poke fun at action movies from the 80's and 90's instead of horror television. On that note, the movie is set up much like FDR: American Badass in terms of intentionally bad sets and special effects, though now done for a story specific reason, with actors being so bad that they continually read their stage directions as dialogue by accident.

From The Idea Hole - Yet More Christmas Edition!: Saving Santa

Now that Thanksgiving is over and we're heading into the Christmas part of this never ending Holiday Season, I thought I'd use this opportunity to throw out one more idea for a Christmas themed property, in this case an ongoing comic book series about the tendency  for this particular holiday to come under siege. The following is just every idea that came to mind from the initial premise in the three hours or so I was thinking about it, in no real particular order.

It seems like every other movie about Christmas seems to be about someone needing to save it, whether its Ernest, The Heat Miser, or even Santa's own brother Fred. That, and of course the War on Christmas. You'd think someone would see this pattern and figure out some sort of system for dealing with this shit before it gets to the night of and we're relying on the Hey Vern guy. That's the premise of my series, and it's called -

Saving Santa

In a world where the fate of Christmas is constantly under threat, needing to be saved at the last minute so that Santa's annual sleigh-ride goes off without a hitch, an elite team of Holiday-themed misfit superheroes has been assembled to protect the season by any means necessary.

Suggested Taglines:

Meet The New Soldiers In The War On Christmas

or, alternatively,

Tis The Season, Motherfuckers

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Cinema File #37: "Superheroes" Review

I was initially hesitant to review a documentary, because so much of how I judge movies comes from an analysis of narrative and character, and with something like HBO's Superheroes, its hard for me to talk about real people and their real lives as if they are just characters in a movie, and subject to the same criticisms. That being said, if there was any documentary that I think works for this, its this one. Superheroes is all about people play acting and pretending, most with it would seem respectable motives, and while I'd guess that the initial impulse would be to see these people as figures of mockery and derision, I couldn't help feeling that despite the silly costumes, they might just have the right idea.

Superheroes follows the lives of several ordinary people who have been inspired for various reasons to go out on their own or in groups to make their hometowns just a little bit better, donning costumes and alternate identities and fashioning themselves real-life superheroes. We start with Mr. Xtreme, a man who the movie seems to want me to laugh at if not outright pity as we see him in his messy little apartment, watching the Power Rangers and beating up on his man-shaped punching bag Bob, and while I can see the humor in it, I felt a little queasy watching the somewhat mean spirited tone the movie sets up.

The Cinema File #36: "Alter Egos" Review

After my recent vampire obsession, I thought I'd indulge in one of my other passions for the next set of movie reviews, with a look at two recent straight to DVD superhero movies. First up, an examination of super heroic identity crises - Alter Egos.

Comedic deconstructions of the superhero genre can be sort of hit and miss. One of my favorite superhero movies of the modern era is a little known satire called The Specials, about a team of superheroes on their day off; it's subtle, short on special effects, and just a great character piece starring Thomas Hayden Church before everyone knew how awesome he was. And yet, ten years later, the same writer James Gunn tackled the same subject with Rainn Wilson in Super, and apart from an engaging villain in Kevin Bacon, it really missed the mark for me. It seems a lot of movies follow this latter example of late, with Woody Harrelson's Defendor and Michael Rappaport's Special all taking the tack of the superhero as crazy person, which makes sense, given how insane one must have to be to put on a costume and fight crime, but also rings hollow for me, because of how much the little kid in me always wanted this kind of thing to work out in the real world. I want to embrace the insanity of superheroes, not step away from it and constantly point out how it would never work that way in real life. It's why the movie Kick Ass works so well for me, because it takes on that cynicism head on and plays at validating it, only to cast it aside by the end with a rocket launcher to Mark Strong's face. Today's film Alter Egos, while eschewing the hyper violence of Michael Vaughn's film, is a respectful tribute to comic book superheroes, poking fun at the absurdity of the idea while still maintaining a love for the kind of material that inspired it.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

From The Idea Hole - Fun And Games Edition: Lair, Cartel, Mad World, and Creature Shop

I was walking through the toy aisle at Big Lots this morning, killing time waiting for the Chinese Buffet to open for my annual Thanksgiving tradition of gorging and self-pity, and I found myself lamenting the current state of toys and games for kids. I don't know if its just the flawed tint of nostalgia, that the past looks better because only the best shit survives and all the middling crap is forgotten, but I can't help but think that toys were just better when I was a kid. I've railed against this impulse before on this blog, and I'm almost certain this is just a function of my not being in a position to know what's good from what's bad, but it made me kind of sad nonetheless. As I leafed through the Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides action figures, noting no Captain Jack Sparrows, but a number of Penelope Cruz dolls and one nameless Spanish Soldier, I felt like Tom Hanks in Big, in the board meeting, wondering what kid would want to play with this boring crap. More to the point, it reminded me of a few ideas I've had over the years for board games and toy lines that will never be produced.

The Cinema File #35: "Thankskilling 3" Review

I thought I'd gotten far enough away from Breaking Wind to take on another impossibly bad movie, I just didn't realize it would be so soon.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody. I hope you enjoyed your time with your family and or friends, and or sad drunken stupor if you have no family and or friends. I spent my Thanksgiving waiting for a ride to a movie that never came, and watching the worst straight to DVD feature I've seen since, well, early this week. In defense of Thankskilling 3, it is clear from the outset that unlike some other movies I've watched lately, this one is actually trying to be bad. That being said, that's not a fucking worthy endeavor, and you don't get points for accomplishing your goal if your goal was to shit all over my day with your unbearable movie.

The Cinema File #34: "Vamps" Review

Alright, it's entirely possible that Breaking Wind, Part 1 has completely destroyed my ability to fairly judge a mediocre film. I know I've said that shit before, but seriously, I have looked into the abyss, and it has changed me. I fear my taste in movies might have shifted, as one's hair might shift to white upon staring into the face of a Lovecraftian God. Case in point, I just watched Amy Heckerling's Vamps, a story about vampire single girls played by Alicia Silverstone and The B I'm not supposed to trust from Apartment 23...and I actually kind of liked it.

Vamps follows the nightly exploits of two vampiress best friends who struggle to balance love, work, and unlife as perpetual twenty somethings while dealing with psychotic vampire lords, diminutive monster hunters, and their ever present craving for human blood. This might be really sexist, but when I saw the set up for this movie, my first thought was that it was kind of sad to see Alicia Silverstone, now a much older actress than she was in the last good Heckerling movie that made her famous, paired up with Krysten Ritter, who seems poised to assume the mantle of the latest young hot female movie star, as if they're both equally relevant.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Cinema File #33: "The Thompsons" Review

This is getting ridiculous. The vampires in this movie are so not vampires, I almost feel like I need to find another movie to round out the freaking trilogy I'm doing!

I'd never heard of The Thompsons before I watched it, so I didn't know that it was actually a sequel to another movie called The Hamiltons, which obviously I still haven't seen. Both movies were independent productions written by the same people and evidently the main cast has all returned, and its possible that certain problems I have with the story are the result of my not seeing the previous installment, so bear with me on this one. Still, the movie is fairly self contained to the point where I would not have known of the previous film had I not done any research after watching it.

The Thompsons follows the titular vampire family, changing their names from the Hamiltons after the death of their parents and the events of the previous film to hide out from the cops. They're wanted for murder following a daylight robbery gone wrong that left their youngest sibling slowly dying from a gunshot wound to the chest. When it comes to what a vampire is supposed to be, there are at least three things wrong with that set up, and herein lies my first problem with this movie. Again, maybe it was explained better in the first one, though given my position on this subject, I doubt they could have done so in a way that would have satisfied me at least, but yet again, we have a movie that tells me it has vampires in it, and then gives me something completely different. 

The Cinema File #32: "The Harsh Light Of Day" Review

Well, its got vampires, and its not a Twilight parody, so there's that at least.

This is the first of three vampire-centric movies I intend to review in succession for this site in the coming days, in an attempt to cleanse my palette after the soul crushing experience that was Breaking Wind, Part 1. I haven't watched the other two movies yet, so I don't know quite how I'm going to feel by the end of this, though I can't imagine it will be any worse than I felt at the start. As for today's film, I have to say that while it has its flaws, mostly on the directorial side, I think I'm off to a pretty good start so far.

The Harsh Light Of Day is an independent British import about a man who seeks out supernatural powers to heal his paralyzed body and take revenge on the men who crippled him and murdered the woman he loves. Its a great concept first of all, basically Death Wish with vampires but with a lot more depth than that simplistic construction implies, and from a story perspective its handled very well. The movie throws us right in following the brutal assault and then builds with an ominous tone as you watch the main character realize what he's becoming after an ambiguous deal with a mysterious stranger. Once he's fully on board with everything, the final act has his mission coming to a somewhat anti-climactic, but mostly satisfying conclusion.

The Cinema File #31: "Breaking Wind, Part 1" Review

Okay, I'm officially starting to regret this "straight to DVD schlock" niche I've been building.

Now to be fair, I'm probably not the best guy to review a straight to DVD parody of the second to last Twilight movie, since I haven't actually seen the second to last Twilight movie, or any of them past the first one for that matter. That being said, the producers of Breaking Wind, Part 1 have seen fit to release this one just in time for Breaking Dawn Part 2, so I don't think it really matters that much. Besides, parody movies like this in the Epic Movie mold tend to stick to stuff you'd know, or could figure out, from the trailers anyway. Then again, that presupposes that I'm able to understand anything going on in this movie, let alone discern any logic to it, and really, I can't. I don't think that has anything to do with my at best casual understanding of Twilight, and everything to do with the undeniable shittiness of this movie.

I was initially hesitant to review this, because I didn't think there was a lot I could feasibly say about it other than coming up with different adjectives for "really bad", but then I realized, if I refuse to review it on those grounds, then this movie wins. To be so bad as to literally defy description so that you won't have any context with which to prejudge it might be this movie's only shot at roping in people to watch it. So far this year, my benchmark for shitty movies has been Arachnoquake, the SyFy Channel Original Movie where fucking Neelix from Voyager was the best part. The thing about that movie was, at least there was a best part! Breaking Wind is an inexorable void of suck the likes of which ye have never seen. Concepts like good and bad, best and worst, simply get lost in the mists of time as seconds turn into minutes, then minutes turn into hours, until you realize that its over, and this horrible, horrible thing just actually happened to you.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Worst Thing I've Ever Written: The Eric Clapton Sketch

I used to be the co-writer of a local live sketch comedy show called Livestock Columbus. You can still find some of the sketches on Youtube, though it was somewhat of a short run due to the troupe losing their lease on the stage, and some of the financial backers evidentally turning out to be in some kind of a cult, bent on using the show in their recruitment drive. All told, I wrote about twenty or so sketches, only about a handful of which were actually performed over the three weeks in which I was a contributor. The other writer and I are working on turning the funniest stuff to come out of this project into a sketch movie of some kind sometime down the road, assuming the Upcoming Movie 43 doesn't steal all the thunder away from the concept.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because last night I was working on ideas for the sketch movie in my head, and I was suddenly reminded of the one sketch I wrote for this show that was so bad that I didn't even bother submitting it for review. Don't get me wrong, I thought it was pretty funny myself, but it was in so much bad taste that even I was ashamed of myself. Keep in mind, my other sketches were about a Gay Frankenstien's Monster, a pedophilic Boogeyman, Bigfoot masturbating, A statue of Tom Hanks dying of AIDS, Willy Wonka murdering children, and Q from James Bond sticking gadgets up his ass, so when I say this was in bad taste, I mean this was really something foul.

The set up for the sketch was the idea that famous singer song writer Eric Clapton was inspired to write the song Tears In Heaven after his infant son fell out of an open window. We establish this in the first few lines as Clapton is basking in the morose success of that single, and suddenly finds himself developing writer's block. The realization slowly dawns on him as it does the audience that the only way he can now become inspired to write any music is through the act of throwing babies out of windows, which he then proceeds to do several times throughout the sketch, after which he starts writing famous songs like Change The World.

At some point, his manager will be talking to him, and notices that he's taken up baby sitting, and casually mentions that this fact reminds him of all the recent baby snatchings going around town. Eventually the truth comes out, and the manager is the incredulous straight man as Clapton, now a mad baby killing supervillain, details his evil deeds. I don't remember a lot of the dialogue, though the one joke I thought particularly amusing was that Clapton used his baby throwing method to inspire him to release his MTV Unplugged version of Layla as a single, to much success. Naturally, the manager protests, saying that even if he accepted the premise of needing to throw babies out of windows to inspire original music, surely this did not need to happen to inspire the re-release of a song already produced.

As I said, this was probably the most horrible idea I ever had for a sketch, and I think I was wise to hide it away so no self respecting sketch show audience might see it. Still, I want this blog to be representative of all my stupid shit, even the stuff I don't necessarily like, so I thought I would share it here. Maybe I'll clean it up and submit it for the movie. I don't know.

Versus #1: "The Time Traveler's Tumble In Toon Town" Doc Brown Vs. Judge Doom

I've reviewed a couple of Vs. movies lately, and it inspired me to introduce a new segment that I've been planning to do for a while now. It's called Versus (naturally) and the idea is a twist on the old comic book arguments about who would win between this or that superhero if they ever got into a fight, but focused instead on classic (or sometimes not so classic) cinematic characters, specifically those played by the same actor. Basically, we take two characters from two different films that were played by the same person, and have some sort of similarity or thematic link that would make a fight between them interesting, posit a scenario in which their two worlds might crossover, and then hash out the details to figure out who would come out on top in a fight to the death.

First up, something I sort of inadvertently alluded to in another post, and the match up that made me want to do this in the first place, a face-off between two seminal fixtures of my childhood that each inspired me in their own way, one to dream of what might be, and the other to fear members of the judicial system, both played by oddball character actor Christopher Lloyd. That's right, it's -
Back To The Future's Doctor Emmett Brown 
Who Framed Roger Rabbit's Judge Doom

Monday, November 19, 2012

From The Idea Hole: They!

Watching the lackluster post-apocalyptic non-thriller "The Day," my biggest complaint about the film was that the threat these people were running from doesn't even show up until a half hour in, and when it does, there's absolutely no explanation for who or what these monstrous humans are. In short, its a post-apocalyptic movie without a clearly defined apocalypse, where just "something" happened and now "some people" are after our heroes. It's uninspiring execution inadvertantly inspired me to come up with what I think is a fairly solid parody of this genre, a movie I'm calling, simply: They!

The basic idea is the same set up as "The Day" with a small group of survivors on the run from something implied to be menacing, but instead of half heartedly revealing the threat against them and failing to provide enough detail, we embrace the ambiguity in a way the producers of "The Day" didn't have the balls to do, by never even revealing the threat in the first place. At all. The characters all talk about how scared they are of getting found and how hopeless their situation is, but we never see the other side of it. The invasion still happens, we still see them making their last stand and fending off some murderous something, but even then, we never see it. They see it coming for them, but we never do.

I'm thinking this would work well as a found footage movie the more I think about it. The shaky cam inherent to that genre is perfect for maintaining a sense of something there that we don't quite see. The trick would be in the dialogue. They would all have to talk about the situation in such a way that they all understand the situation they are in, but never reference it directly for the audience's benefit. I would milk the character development for all its worth, introducing flashbacks for each character that detail what their lives were like just before the mysterious event, each one ending with an incredibly, purposely vague shocking moment that sets them on their path.

I imagine a lot of the movie would just be reaction shots of the characters looking at really horrifying shit just off screen or off in the distance, when they're not running for their lives from...something. I see a fight scene in my head where the main guy grapples with an unseen something, and we only see his half of the fight as he swings wildly at his opponent just out of frame. Then maybe a final futile promise of a reveal when he pulls a mask off the thing (again, from off screen), and looks shocked and wide eyed, suddenly recognizing that this thing is in fact...and then we cut to black. Because fuck you audience, you don't need to know any of that shit.

It's called They, and its about them as they do whatever it is that they do. Oscar please.

The Cinema File #30: "Strippers Vs. Werewolves" Review

See, its funny 'cause two things that shouldn't be fighting each other are in fact fighting one another. Its a thing Vs. another thing, where neither thing is relevant to the other thing! Get it?...Ugh.

So I'm watching Cockneys Vs. Zombies right? And I'm pleasantly surprised by the result, and as I'm uploading my review to my sister site Picture Show Pundits, tediously plugging in the information about the movie from, I notice that Alan Dale, the delightful old codger from this movie, was also in another movie this year with the same Something Vs. Something title scheme where a group thought to be strange or inherently amusing does battle against a supernatural force. And so, fool that I am, I track down this movie, thinking the actor connection must be some indication of its shared quality. I was wrong, and now I am lost, adrift in the sea of ball-sucking terrible-ness that is Strippers Vs. Werewolves.

The story follows a group of strippers who fight werewolves. I'm not trying to be clever there, that's really the whole fucking movie. A werewolf attacks a stripper during a dance, the stripper accidentally kills him in self defense, blood feud ensues. Apparently its based on a comic book, and I know this both because the opening credits say it, and because the movie employs this godawful multi-panel visual style that I suppose was meant to give it a comic book feel, but just makes it an ugly distracting mess.

The Cinema File #29: "Frankenweenie" Review

 In a year with one of the best stop motion animated films of the last ten years, I can't help but wonder if Frankenweenie suffers from coming out just a little bit too late.

I've got a poster of Paranorman up on my wall (Thanks Eric!). As I've said before on this blog, it's still my favorite movie this year, which is saying something, considering this is also the year we finally got a good Spiderman movie, a good Judge Dredd movie, and Ben Affleck's masterpiece Argo. And then, a few months after Paranorman came along, we got Frankenweenie, the latest animated feature by Tim Burton, adapted and expanded from his short film of the same name. Frankenweenie is by no means a bad movie, but I don't think its possible to come away from it without feeling like the animated baton was out there, waiting to be passed, and this movie just couldn't quite reach it.

The story follows a boy who uses arcane kid science and the frequent lightning storms that plague his neighborhood to bring his recently dead dog back to life. That sounds like a description that a hack might end with the phrase "and wackiness ensues," but the first problem I see with Frankenweenie is that not much of anything really ensues after the initial resurrection occurs. The plot of the short film is expanded using young Victor's classmates, who steal the secret to bring their own pets back to life, with disastrous results for the town. The climactic chaos is fun to a point and a nice tribute to the classic universal horror monsters, but when it comes to the (sort of) title character of the movie, the dog, there's not really a whole lot going on. He runs around and does dog stuff, and then comes in at the end to save the day. Maybe that's all you need, but it seems like the concept of an undead patchwork dog has more potential than this.

The Cinema File #28: "Dark Shadows" Review

Weirdly enough, when you say the name of this movie three times, Beetlejuice still appears, but instead of scaring humans, he just cockslaps you in the face.

I've always had a love/hate relationship with Tim Burton, though in the last decade or so, its fallen a lot farther onto the hate side of that line. Still, despite his recent rash of remakes and re-imaginings, applying the time tested Burton style to properties that don't need it and are lesser for it, you can't deny the man's talent and vision when it does work. Granted, it hasn't really worked since the late 90's, but I really can't turn my back on the guy who gave us Beetlejuice completely, and I'm always looking forward to the Tim Burton movie that recaptures that playful and original Burton spirit that I used to so enjoy.

Dark Shadows is not this movie. Holy fucking shit balls is Dark Shadows not this movie. I can't quite say that its the worst movie I've seen all year, because I did sit through Arachnoquake, but it might just be the worst one I saw in theaters (even if the chasm of lost potential led me to be more disappointed in The Avengers). If you haven't seen it or seen the soap opera upon which it was based (both versions of which are available on Netflix I believe) Dark Shadows follows the Collins family living in a dilapidated mansion, dwelling in their faded relevance until they are joined by their vampiric ancestor Barnabas, who makes it his mission to reclaim his clan's former glory. Its a solid premise that falters in execution, setting up several characters that should by all rights be fun and interesting, but fail to encourage even the slightest bit of enjoyment.

The Cinema File #27: "The Day" Review

A group of five survivors in a post-apocalyptic near future fend for their lives against...some guys I guess.

I haven't done any research on the production background of this movie to know why the WWE is handling the distribution rights, despite it having no wrestlers and nothing to do with professional wrestling, but the confusion elicited from that one title card was quickly superseded by an even greater sense of disorientation as I watched this drab exercise in action sadness play out, never knowing exactly why I was supposed to give a shit. It isn't a total failure mind you, the main cast is generally good at conveying the hopelessness of the situation, there's at least one twist that genuinely surprised me, and the action is decent when you can see it, but overall, I'm still struggling to figure out what the point was of what I just watched.

The story, to the extent that one exists, follows five people brought together by the common tragedy of some completely unexplained apocalypse, as they hole up inside a farmhouse and make a last stand against a small army of bloodthirsty cannibals. To say that a little more backstory would have been nice is a gross understatement here. We're just thrown into this mess with no context, forced to piece together the specifics as we go, but its so frustrating that by the time the action ramps up and I might have been interested and engaged, I'm already too pissed off by the movie to latch onto it. It feels like the sequel to a movie I never saw, and maybe it was a good one, but I'd really like to know what led to all of this before I can start watching the continued saga of the guy from Lost and the twin brother of Smallville's Jimmy Olsen.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Cinema File #26: "Cockneys Vs. Zombies" Review

After FDR Vs. Werewolves, I think this is just about right.

The Zombie genre has had its ups and downs of late, reaching a new height of interest in recent years, only to suffer a well-deserved backlash due to over exposure. With the exception of The Walking Dead which has seemed to regain its footing after a rocky second season, pretty much anything you see with zombies nowadays just feels like more of the same. It doesn't help that every schlocky film crew in the world has a new gimmick they want to throw out to try to make these classic movie monsters relevant. Hell, we even did it on the second episode of our podcast. Despite the over-saturation and well past hip sell by date, I'm still pulling for a zombie movie that thrills me again. To be honest, part of that is self-serving, as I recently co-wrote a zombie related television pilot I'm trying to get produced, so anything that keeps the undead trend alive a little longer is something I can appreciate. Cockneys Vs. Zombies is no revelation when it comes to zombie movies. It doesn't re-invent the zombie wheel or bring all that much new to a genre that sorely needs it. That being said, I enjoyed myself quite a bit, and came away from it feeling like the effort was well worth my time.

The story follows two groups struggling to survive a zombie apocalypse in the East End of London, a team of sympathetic would-be bank robbers at one end of town, and the delightfully crotchety old timers of an old folks home at the other. The plague is unleashed when an ancient crypt sealed away by King Charles II is opened in the present day by some construction workers, and as is typical, it spreads within hours, descending the city into chaos. The plot beats are all fairly predictable once the main characters realize their predicament, being forced to find shelter and ammo and eventually coming together and searching for an escape route. As I said, its nothing new, but at the same time, it does it right, and keeps things moving at a pace where I never got bored even if I've seen this same story played out a million times before.

The Cinema File #25: "FDR: American Badass" Review

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter proved that one joke involving a former president in an action context could not sustain a movie, and now FDR: American Badass, has disproved that notion all over again, with a passion.

Teddy Roosevelt gets a lot of play nowadays for his satirically bad ass presence, almost rivaling Honest Abe in terms of automatic comedic potential. And yet, I would always argue that his much more successful relative, liberal scion FDR, deserves as much if not more street cred in the kick ass department (you know, without literally being able to kick anyone). So when I came across this movie, my heart leapt. Great comic actor and master of the distinguished goofball Barry Bostwick playing my favorite U.S. president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in his secret war against Nazi werewolves? I honestly don't think there was ever a chance that this movie would exist and I wouldn't watch it. Just the title alone made me smile for an hour, even if a tiny voice in the back of my mind told me there was no way it was going to live up to the idealized movie I was already building in my head. And yet, it did. Almost completely. Though there are a few rough spots where the super quick, anything goes comedy either goes too far or just falls flat, those points pale in comparison to the vast majority of moments that had me howling throughout.

Ordinarily, I feel like to get a concept like this right, you have to play it straight. For the joke to work, the world has to be taken as seriously as possible so that the absurdity of it is exemplified. That being said, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter did at least that perfectly, and yet it failed miserably at being entertaining even a little bit. This movie breaks that rule in the first five minutes and just launches into wall to wall comic insanity, and it grabbed me right away and didn't let go. For a good 45 minutes, pretty much every joke landed for me, and even when some things started to become gratuitous or downright crass, there was always something great just around the corner to bring my spirits back up.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

From The Idea Hole: Angel City and Xenoworld

Speaking of Power Rangers, a few months ago on my podcast, the Dirty Sons of Pitches, my friends and I pitched gritty reboots of classic kids shows, and nerd that I am, I pitched an updated take on my Mighty Morphin former heroes. The basic idea was to tell the story as if it took place in the real world, and from the perspective of the townspeople of Angel Grove, not the superheroes. Giant monsters would bound through town destroying buildings and stomping on people, and we'd all just live in abject fear until this mysterious force that we have no way of relying on comes to save us. Every week would be a new 9/11, but with robots, and we'd just get used to it and live on with our lives. A few months later on a different show, my colleague Eric pitched a realistic take on Pokemon and how the inclusion of little super powered monsters would really effect society and geopolitics. I liked both of these ideas and thought that they were sufficiently different from their source inspiration, so eventually I thought of a way to divorce them from the shows that inspired them, to come up with two original properties. The first I envision as a movie, the other as a series.

1: Angel City - The giants have invaded, but always one at a time for some reason (which I'd have to think would be a plot point, so far I'm thinking its just one entity re-incarnated over and over again, trying to reclaim its land Ancient Indian Burial Ground style). Anyway, the constant presence of giant monsters has split America into two factions, those that desire safety by living below in vast underground cities, and those who wish to risk life above, fortifying their homes and creating massive defense systems (read: giant robots) to protect themselves. Both sides develop in different ways culturally and vie for infrastructure space, generally antagonistic to each other, though largely leaving each other alone. The story would be sort of a cross worlds romance with a woman from the topside (dubbed Uptown) and a man from below (Downtown) meeting and falling in love despite their preconceived notions about one another, and in the process learning the secret of the giants and possibly saving the world.

The man would be a stifled, boring sort who works at a dead end job and has very little passion in his life, until he meets a free spirited young woman when a giant robot crashes through the ground, temporarily joining the two worlds. This is the first time he's seen the sun with his own eyes. She in turn is brave by necessity, but can't settle down, because she's lived through the destruction of her environment so much that she sees everything as transitional and has no sense of stability. The idea obviously would be that the massive battles would eventually fall away into the background to make way for the human drama.

2: Xenoworld - I think the best way to do this would be a live action series with CGI monsters. The idea is its our world as it is now, except that maybe ten years ago, a crashed alien ship was discovered with an ark aboard carrying the DNA of hundreds of different breeds of creatures that can be reconstituted at the push of a button. Now these creatures, called Xenos and seemingly programmed to help humans, have become ingrained in our society, trained as pets and to use their super abilities to aid in various well suited tasks. Unfortunately, the exploitation of these animals has led to some disturbing trends. Many are left abandoned and go ferel, breeding in the wild, and others are used for illegal underground fighting rings. In a nod to Digimon, Xenos have the ability to merge with humans, giving them their powers, which one can do if licensed for a particular job (a city worker maintaining the city's power grid with an electrical controlling Xeno for example), but this is also used by criminals, and in another tier of superhuman underground cage fighting.

The story would follow the leader of a government taskforce assigned to monitor and police Xeno activity. He would be a guy who is naturally skeptical and suspicious of aliens, but reluctantly gets one for his son as a pet, without realizing that his son intends to train it to fight in the illegal tournaments. Also I have to think the presence of the Xenos was a prelude for an intended invasion, which would set up a mythology going forward. And maybe he's eventually forced to bond with a Xeno by his superiors, introducing the idea that letting one into your body can be addictive and change you psychologically. Basically a live action, gritty version of Pokemon for adults. If that's not a Syfy channel original series waiting to happen, I don't know what is.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fuck Your Childhood: How Everything You Think Was Good Is Actually Terrible

I haven't done one yet, but one of the regular segments I have planned for this blog is a retrospective series similar to my obscure movie franchise analyses, only for TV shows, where I watch or in most cases re-watch the entire series of a show and examine the entire story from beginning to end. I just finished up Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I'm about half way through Babylon Five, and at some point the first two installments of this series covering those shows will be up soon, but that's not what today's article is about. Today's post is about the reason I haven't done this yet, and the reason why I almost gave up writing on the internet completely.

Before I had this blog, I wrote for another site, called Picture Show Pundits. Technically, I still do, or at least I will, as soon as I get off my ass and start porting over some of the relevant content from this site over to that one. A lot of my first published articles here were actually re-published from there. Anyway, if you go to that site now (it's on the side panel) and go to my column, you'll find that as of 11/17/2012, I haven't done much in a while. You'll also find THIS LINK. Go ahead and read over that bit of glorious hubris, then come back. I'll wait.

Done? Good. See, I had this idea to go back to my childhood and re-watch a show I hadn't seen since I was a kid, and see how well it held up. The choice was a no-brainer, as there was no single half hour of television I embraced more as a wee lad than Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. I was all ready to go, Netflix queued up (because they have every episode for some reason), genuinely excited at the prospects of this experiment. I got about five episodes in before I gave up.

The Cinema File #24: "Elf Man" Review

Merry Fucking Christmas everybody. Merry Fucking Christmas indeed.

I'm not sure what the proper term is. I always say Midget, but I know that's not politically correct. Then again, I've always thought Little Person sounded really condescending too. Well, I suppose when your lead actor is literally billed as Wee Man, the distinction is academic.

So...I just watched Elf Man, the story of a Christmas Elf who uses his Christmas powers to become a superhero. Why I did this, no man can say, but the upshot is that I can now tell you whether its worth watching, because, you know, just seeing the poster and reading that last sentence clearly doesn't tell you everything you need to know. Okay, to say that this movie is really bad and you don't want to see it is ultimately kind of unfair. Chances are, you weren't gonna see this movie, if you even heard of it at all. The only reason I even bothered was because I saw that Jeffrey Combs, one of my favorite actors mostly known for his work in horror and science fiction, played the villain. No, Elf Man isn't worth the effort, but it's not like anyone was expecting it to be.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Cinema File #23: "Dredd" Review

(A Brief Programming Note: Originally I had intended to do a little mini series here with a trilogy of comic book movie reviews, the second one being Amazing Spiderman, but upon re-watching the film, my glowing opinion hasn't changed much from my first viewing, and I feel I can't write that review without repeating myself. If you haven't listened to the podcast in the previous link, I highly recommend it. It's probably my favorite episode, and encapsulates both my opinion, and I think the general arguments both for and against the movie fairly well. Anyway, on with Dredd.)

I'm at best a casual fan of 2000 AD, the British sci fi comic magazine from which Judge Dredd originates. I can't claim the same sort of geek appreciation or knowledge of canon that I can for say, Spiderman, or even Batman. Coincidentally, my introduction to the character was through a series of Judge Dredd/Batman crossovers that eventually led me to track down some of the original stories, but I am by no means an expert on Judge Dredd history. That being said, I think I know enough to know a good Judge Dredd movie when I see one, and this latest effort, a much needed reboot after the campy Stallone version from the 90's, seems pretty solid to me.

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