Sunday, January 31, 2010

At Least Use The Starship Song

I saw Mannequin in the theater.

They are going to reboot this film. It better have Johnathan Silverman in it. For as you can see, the first one had Andrew McCarthy, and the second had Terry Kiser. So, in order to complete the Triumvirate, a reboot, remake or sequel, it must have Johnathan Silverman. Sadly, I do not think it will. Instead, it will apparently star Zac Efron. I assume that this will mean it will be some kind of gay musical, that pre-teens will rush to see. If it is, I demand that they use "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" by Starship, which basically melted the cheese that was the first film.

If you haven't seen this movie, first, you should thank what ever deity you throw money at on your day of worship. Second, here's the basic story. Kim Cattrall is an ancient Egyptian who is cursed and turned in to a Mannequin and ends up in the future (1987) and can only come to life when Johnathan (coincidence?) Switcher is around. They work together to make the department store that Switcher works in the most successful in town. Brilliant.

I should be furious at this, but after thinking about it, it could be worse. They could remake it instead of reboot it, which would involve trying to recast the un-recastable. There is absolutely no way that anyone other than Meshach Taylor could play Hollywood. It would be a crime against humanity to have someone other than Estelle Getty play Ms. Timkin. And if anyone ever dares to recast any role played by Andrew McCarthy, they should be stoned to death. That being said, I am glad that it is a reboot, and cannot wait until they hip it up, and make a then irrelevant movie even more irrelevant to the young people, who will rub themselves to the thought of Zac Effron. You know what would be really funny? Have Kim Catrall play the mannequin again.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Best Scene: Maniac Cop 2

I was going to write a random review of Maniac Cop 2, but I figured why bother? Most people probably have never even heard of it nor will ever see the series even though it features such talent as Bruce Campbell, Robert Davi, and Tom Atkins. As I previously noted, there is no North American DVD release which is rather bothersome considering the lesser-known DTV sequel Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence has a shiny disc dedicated to it. But in the end, this is not a good movie. It has its moments but here is hands-down the best sequence in the film.

Now, I may get around to writing a full review but I would have to start with the first movie. Use this to tide you over in the meantime.

Friday, January 29, 2010

News Roundup: Week of 1/29/10

George Lucas' CG Fairy Musical Mystery: Our Theories
Will someone please take George Lucas' power and money away? For the sake for all that is holy ...

OMFG #2: Lionsgate Throws Violent Blow at Paramount: 'Saw' vs 'Paranormal Activity'... IT'S ON!
With the whole Leno/Conan thing out of the way, its time for Paramount and Lionsgate to battle via their competing horror franchises as well as torn directors.

The Sam Worthington Project Du Jour Is...DRACULA??
Sam Worthington as a vampire that actually kills people and who doesn't sparkle or mope. This could be a good thing.

DreamWorks to Show How Babies Eat, Sleep, Poop
More proof that Hollywood is plumb out of ideas.

Here Come More GREMLINS!?
I'm not sure what upsets me more: there will be another Gremlins movie or that it will be needlessly in 3D.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bernie Returns? PBF is Going to be Mad

Now, there are not very many details at this point so it is possible that this is just an empty threat from Hollywood, but Moviehole states Bernie Lomax may be resurrected to then die and pretend to be alive in a remake to PBF's beloved ultimate comfort movie Weekend at Bernie's. Could this be the chance for Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman to relive their fame and recover their fortune from the original film? Or will we have to suffer with actors lacking in the charisma to pull off the absurd plot of the film? So many questions, so little answers. Perhaps there can be a double feature between this and the remake of Mannequin as two movies which shouldn't have been made the first time, let alone remade.

Avatar: Unfortunate Victim of the Titanic Effect

As you might have already heard, Avatar has smashed box office records, overtaking Titanic with a current worldwide gross of $1.8 billion as of this post. As it currently enjoys an 82% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the perceived experience of seeing Avatar in an 3D screening has seemingly overpowered some of the reported flaws of the film. Even if you actively try, you won't get far on any movie site or blog without mention of the film. I even sat through a 43 minute promotion of the film on Bones, one of my favorite television shows. Yet, in spite of the good reviews and constant promotion, I have no desire to see it.

Now, I can understand its importance in the film-making industry both in critical terms and in the pop culture zeitgeist. James Cameron is an excellent director who has managed to again create a film that is appealing to many demographics of movie-goers, making the film a must-see just to be current with the times. His use of the 3D effects to create the fictional world of Pandora has been lauded as the best aspect of the film and groundbreaking for the use of CGI in film. Even though its been said by many, including our own Digger, that the plot of the film is flimsy, a mere mashup of previous films, it obviously has not hurt the film financially.

So why don't I want to see this film, likely one that will be referenced and copied for years to come? Having heard so much positive about the movie over the past several weeks, I am almost positive if I see it, the over hyped film would fall flat especially with the numerous shortcomings I have read about. While I knew of a new Cameron movie prior to its release, I did not have a concept of the story or concept until the aforementioned Bones episode. As such I was not awaiting its release breathlessly as I was with Dark Knight and that has translated to a total sense of apathy about the movie, even a month after its release.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Random Movie: Hatchet (2006)

Adam Green sure has been busy lately between the premiere of his newest film Frozen at Sundance this week as well as wrapping up filming of Hatchet 2, the sequel of today's random entry. When Hatchet first surfaced a few years ago, the biggest draw for me was the marketing for the film as a sort of callback to old-school 80s horror movies. No one (at least no one who is a friend of mine) can argue the greatness of all the cheesy, splatter-filled slasher movies of the 80s. In this manner, Hatchet somewhat succeeds as a "lost movie" from the bygone pinnacle of slasher flicks.

In the film, our heroes' venture out into a Louisiana swamp for a scary boat ride turns frighteningly real after running across Victor Crowley, a local legend who tragically died as a boy and now seeks to apparently create a bunch of amputees. The basic plot, and even backstory of Crowley, seems largely cribbed from the sub-genre classics with a deformed kid who is bullied constantly and dies at the hands of negligence. In some movies, the blatant homages would be enraging but not here. Green knows what this film owes to its predecessors and even offers cameos from genre vets of Tony Todd, Robert England, and even Kane Hodder, playing ol' Hatchet-face himself. The good thing is while the concept is similar to thousands of other movies, the execution is well-played to differentiate itself.

Unlike the source films, there was actually thought put into the casting of our leads with decent actors who can drive the story but coerce you to care whether they live or die. Joel David Moore, a hot commodity these days, was excellent as the heartbroken and socially awkward loser Ben. Deon Richmond is playing basically the same character from Scream 3 but that's cool as he was pretty funny in both. Even the final girl, Tamara Feldman is quite good as the tough chick and the damsel, depending on what was needed. We even had one of the lesser known Murray brothers!

Movie Scum Episode #7

As PBF is taking an Amish vacation for the next thirteen hours, allow me to present to you this week's episode of Movie Scum with Dana Carvey.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Random Movie: The Faculty (1998)

The mid-nineties were an interesting time to be a horror fan. Since the old franchise favorites of Freddy and Jason were long gone with Michael Myers soon following, they were replaced by direct-to-video nonsense and faux-horror such as Hideaway or The Island of Dr. Moreau. Then came along Kevin Williamson, a guy who could write a decent screenplay full of homages to past genre staples complete with clever dialogue. After exploding in Hollywood with Scream, Williamson took his talents and tweeked them over and over, resulting in films like The Faculty.

At its core, this should not be a good movie. It was stacked with current and future WB and pop culture stars, featured established actors for a bit of gravitas, and almost blatantly ripped off countless other alien invasion films from many decades before. Add to this formula a fairly well established director, an eclectic mix of music, and a corporate sponsorship with accompanying commercials, you've got yourself a blockbuster going! Now, it may seem that I dislike this movie, but be aware: I do not.

The plot is just simple enough not to lose any of the ADHD-afflicted members of the audience with an alien being attempting to take control of a small Midwestern town beginning with the local high school. Our ragtag team of unlikely friends band together to try to stop the impending invasion and wrestle control back from the extraterrestrial hell-bent on taking over Earth. Consider it The Breakfast Club meets Alien with a random dash of other horror and sci-fi conventions and you have the basic premise.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What Constitutes a Spoiler?

A few episodes ago on the awesome Movie Scum video series we discussed anti-feel-good movies. One of the films that came up was the 2004 remake Dawn of the Dead where I pretty much gave away the ending, saying "Sorry if you haven't seen it, the movie's been out for five years." While we typically try to avoid important plot developments in the reviews that we write, shouldn't there be an agreed upon statute of limitations for what is considered a spoiler?

While I was stalking the message boards for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, one of the posts was about the death of a fairly important character to the franchise. Admittedly, this character's name was in the title of the post but one of the responses left me absolutely baffled.
Usually such a post would contain the word SPOILER in the title, so as not to give the plot away for people who have not yet seen the movie, like me....
Now, ignoring the fact that the movie is over twenty years old at this point, why would someone who has yet to see a film go to a board specifically for the discussion of that movie and get pissed that a plot point is discussed? By the same argument, to protect the stupid, should every movie, either new release or fifty-year-old classic have spoiler alerts for every minute detail? While I may be guilty of trolling boards for films (or even TV shows) I haven't seen, I don't get pissed because IT'S MY OWN DAMN FAULT!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Unsung Heroes: Joe Estevez

Ever since Mystery Science Theater 3000 made a triumphant return, I have been devouring as many episodes as I can stand. Last night, I indulged in a hapless film about a werewolf, quite originally titled Werewolf, and saw a quasi-familiar name pop up in the opening credits: Joe Estevez.

As Mike and the 'bots made a quip about Charlie's uncle being the biggest star in the film, I thought it was just an odd coincidence, not knowing there is an untapped wealth of Estevezes lurking around Hollywood. In Joe's case, I was astonished that he has been featured in close to two hundred films and none of which I have ever seen or even heard of. In fact, the only recognizable title on his resume was Apocolyse Now where he did uncredited voice-over work.

I guess just like any other family, you have those with talent and achievement and others who get parts because they look like a haggard Martin Sheen at a fraction of the cost. Its sad that Joe has remained off the radar for those who do not comb through the direct-to-video bins o' shlock. Can't his own brother or even his nephews throw him a bit role to get him in the limelight? An actor cannot rely on cheesy movies alone since MST3K is unable to give any more promotion or residuals.

Regardless, I'll be pulling for you Joe!

Music Scum

By Luis Fernández García - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.1 es,

There has been many a movie based on the lives and careers of musicians and bands. More recently, The Runaways (about the band of the same name with Joan Jett and Lita Ford), Notorious (Notorious B.I.G.), What We Do is Secret (Germs). There are also some classics such as La Bamba (Ritchie Valens), Selena (Selena Quintanilla-Perez), Amadeus (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri) just to name a small few to demonstrate the broad range of musicians immortalized on film. On the flip side of this, there quite a bit of stories yet to be told with a well produced/directed/acted film. Because I am bored, I have compiled a small list of artists' stories that I would like to see dramatized.

1. Ian MacKaye and the D.C. Hardcore scene. A movie about this could show the formation of possibly hundreds of bands that were a result of this scene or people involved in it. With Ian MacKay alone, you have Minor Threat, Fugazi, Teen Idles, Pailhead, Embrace and The Evens. Ian MacKaye's Dischord record label put out some of the best music ever. We could see the origins of Henry Rollins's music career, the first Emo band Rites of Spring, and many many other important events and people in music history.

2. Wu-Tang Clan. There is a documentary out there and a dramatic film "in the works," but let's get it done already. The Wu-Tang Clan has been around and revered long enough for a film to have already been made about them. I imagine the casting would be rough, finding 9 actors to play them, as I would only assume that they would have equal screen time. You would also have to cast Cappadonna, who "replaced" the late ODB while he was incarcerated. A lot of the Clan's group albums as well as solo albums are some of the best rap/hip hop albums out there and most of the Clan has have quite successful solo careers.

3. Seattle Grunge Scene. While there is a movie by Gus Van Sant called Last Days, that may or may not be based on Kurt Cobain (look at a poster for it), I would like to see a film based on the band and that whole scene in general. Like the D.C. Hardcore scene, the Seattle scene was filled with musicians that band hopped, filled in for each other and seemed like a huge group of friends all jamming with each other rather than competing bands. We would see bands like Melvins, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, Green River, Mother Love Bone, Pearl Jam and many other in this film. While I may disagree with the constant dissection and sub-categorization of music, especially spawned from the "Alternative" sub type, the fact remains that Nirvana is credited with causing a movement. I think it would make for an interesting study of how music was for the people involved in it prior to Smells Like Teen Spirit and then after. Some people became famous, while others remained underground.

4. Mötley Crüe. Sure. Go ahead and laugh. But this movie would have it all. Sex, drugs, lead singer killing someone in a car accident. I mean, these fucking guys INJECTED liquor. Read that sentence again. It doesn't say ingested. INJECTED. Into their veins. Nikki Sixx and Ozzy Osbourne had a contest to see who to perform the sickest act! Are you kidding me?! Supposedly, The Dirt, based on the book, will be out in 2011, so hopefully it will satisfy my desire to see famous people destroy themselves.

5. Vanilla Ice. On second thought, no.

As a side note to this article, I was discussing the movie Last Days with Puck and our friend Phil, and his suggestion of a plot line of a film about Kurt Cobain was as follows: "Aaahhh, I'm singing, aaah, my stomach hurts, aaaah my wife's a whore, aaaaah, boom."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Movie Scum Episode #6!

MacGyver was a show on ABC starring Richard Dean Anderson. He could make a bomb out of a toothpick, a coffee filter and dreams.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Skin That Smoke Wagon! Top 9 Movie Fire-Arms

In the real world, guns are dangerous, deadly devices that should always be handled with care and respect. In movies, however, guns are awesome! Even more awesome are the futuristic guns that only exist in frantic, action-packed movie fire fights. Here are my top 9 favorite fictional fire-arms.

9. Blamethrower (Mystery Men)
The only non-lethal gun on the list, this bazooka-esque heavy weapon, designed and built by Doc Heller, fires an invisible beam that causes groups of enemies to become very angry with one another, rendering them combat-ineffective.

8. M41a Pulse Rifle (Aliens)
Arguably the most versatile weapon in the space marine arsenal, this gun combines the automatic fire of the M1A1 Thompson with an under-slung pump-action SPAS12 shotgun, loaded in the film with small grenades.

7. Samaritan (Hellboy)
A big demon that hunts other big demons needs an edge, and Hellboy's massive revolver fits the bill. Not only is the gun itself made from mystical materials (wood from the true cross, blessed silver, etc.) but chambers four huge rounds with specific designs to harm supernatural monster types.

6. Proton Pack (Ghostbusters)
Sure, bustin' makes you feel good, but the long term health effects of carrying around an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on your back have yet to be documented. What ever you do with it, don't cross the streams.

5. Noisy Cricket (Men In Black)
A deceptively tiny side-arm with a lot of gusto. Presumably reverse-engineered from alien technology, this weapon fires a focused sonic wave that blasts through any targets and knocks its user on his ass. Do not discharge in view of the public.

4. Railgun with X-Ray Scope (Eraser)
As if a rifle that uses electromagnetic coils to propel a projectile at mach seven isn't deadly enough, this version includes a targeting system capable of scanning through walls to kill people more effectively.

3. Cobra Assault Cannon (RoboCop)
Built on the same frame as the real life Barret M82A1 .50 BMG, OCP's state-of-the-art anti-vehicle weapon fires high-explosive rounds able to obliterate the otherwise bad-ass ED-209 in a single shot.

2. Zorg model ZF-1 (The Fifth Element)
Three thousand round magazine, adjustable handle, undetectable by X-Ray, includes rocket launcher, net launcher, arrow launcher, with exploding or poisonous arrow-heads, flamethrower, ice-cube cryo-blast system, need I go on?

1. Smart Gun (Runaway)
The only thing more frightening than Gene Simmons without his KISS make-up is a pistol that fires tiny, explosive rockets capable or tracking a target down where ever he or she tries to run or hide. It's the ultimate one shot kill.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Be Ready to Jump

When the FOX network was just a little girl, she had a delightful program that I rather enjoyed called 21 Jump Street. Stephen J. Cannell was such a genius. If you are only a casual fan of Johnny Depp, or are just not familar with this part of his resume, do yourself a favor and check out a few episodes. But try to remember it took place in the late 80's and early 90's. While he had already been in A Nightmare on Elm Street and a few other things, if you look at his resume, he career pretty much took off after Jump Street. This show was about some cops that looked young enough to pass as a high school students, so they would go undercover and form friendships with troubled youths and tear those friendships in to pieces by revealing that they were cops, and arresting them or their friends. They would tackle serious issues like drug use, AIDS, depression, and others. Fairly often there would be a PSA style message after the show, presented by the actors, ala G.I. Joe. I was a pretty big fan of this show. I remember the episode Orpheus 3.3, in which Johnny Depp's character, Tom Hanson and his girlfriend Amy are in a convenience store that gets robbed and Amy get shot and killed. Hanson becomes consumed with guilt, thinking that he should have been able to do something. He watches and re watches the surveillance video of the shooting over and over, and isolates the incident down to 3.3 seconds. Clearly deranged, he starts figuring out all the things that one can do in that same amount of time, such as how many times you can ring a doorbell, opening beer cans, etc.

So, PBF, what in the hell does any of this have to do with Movie Scum? Well, jackass, there is a film version planned. Jonah Hill is apparently writing and producing it, and is so adamant about doing it his way, he has stated that he will walk if they do not let him. Accroding to Hill, "[Audiences are] not expecting what it's going to be. It's not a parody of the show. I'm not playing Johnny Depp's character… It's a group of people that go back to high school to deal with a drug problem. To deal with crime in high school." That doesn't sound too surprising, does it? "It's a funny movie with a lot of great action and a real story. I've been saying that it's like a John Hughes movie with Bad Boys style action."

If in fact, it is not a parody, I am good with that. Jonah Hill? Uh, I guess I am not that worried. I mean, I don't know if he can write, but he sure is funny. Just don't be in it, Jonah. That would be inappropriate. And I swear to God, if Richard Grieco is in it, hostages will be taken.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Movie Scum Episode #5!

Sadly, I ruin the ending. Try to ignore that part.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Most Jarring Recasts

I'm sure you've all been victim to the recast monster. It takes no mercy for greed, on-screen sheninigans, or scheduling conflicts. It has no reason, no sense of remorse, or even common sense. It is willing to break your suspension of disbelief and continuity just for fun. Here are just a few random recastings that I though of which make little to no sense.

Victoria - Twilight series
Perhaps the most recent of these offenses is Bryce Dallas Howard taking over for Rachelle Lefevre in the third of the Twilight series. The official reason was cited as scheduling conflicts. Obviously having not seen the upcoming Eclipse, I cannot pass judgment on the new interpretation of the Victoria character, but the filmmakers should have exercised a bit more caution when dealing with riled-up 14-year-olds and Twi-moms. They seem to take this stuff seriously.

Kristen - Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3 & Part 4
From what I can gather, Patricia Arquette was unable to return to the role of Kristen for Nightmare 4 due to pregnancy. A valid reason but that doesn't make the shift any less jarring, especially considering they were able to bring back Joey and Kincaid with the same actors. It would be one thing if the whole bunch was recast like the Griswald kids, but having two of the three return is a bit awkward.

Jack Ryan - Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games & Sum of All Fears
Jack Ryan is a rather popular character in the paperback world having been featured in twelve novels by Tom Clancy. Yet we have only four movies over the course of twelve years played by three different actors. The constant changing of James Bond seems to actually help the series reinvent itself. While Jack Ryan could have (or possibly still) become as household as Jason Bourne, he is not an established cinematic character and thus, the series suffers from the constant delays and turnover.

George McFly - Back to the Future series
Originally portrayed by Crispin Glover, subsequent sequels in the series used a different actor for the character of Marty's father. There are conflicting stories about why the character was recast from the favorite "creative differences" to Glover requesting an unreasonable sum of money to reprise the role. As such, the character was killed off in the sequel and barely featured in the third, minimizing what was an integral part of the series. While the stories make Glover rather buffoon-ish for not returning, the producers dealt with it in an interesting way, hiding the replacement actor behind make-up or creative camera angles.

Jamie Lloyd - Halloween 4, Part 5, & Part 6
This is the recast which pissed me off the most as the lovely Danielle Harris was kicked to the curb for a cheaper replacement, only to have the character killed off in the first ten minutes of the film. Actually, I might have been more pissed to see such a beloved character played by the same actress meet such a fate. Perhaps the producers were attempting to do us a favor to distract us from the sheer awfullness of the film. But I'm still pissed about it.

I could go on all day but I will stop here. What are some other recasts, good or bad, that caught you off guard?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Reduce, Reuse, Remake!

It's no secret that Hollywood producers are scared to death of original ideas. One just has to look at the past decade of films to see that most big budget movies released in theaters are adaptations of existing stories (novels, short stories, and most recently, comic books) or sequels of successful and some not-so successful films. (seriously, Jumper 2?) But now, we are living in the age of the remake, and it pisses me off to no end. Why adapt or continue a good story when you can just take a preexisting movie and re-shoot it? There's already a built-in audience that loves the property, and that audience doesn't have to be worried about coping with new ideas or unexpected plot twists. Just look at the release line-up for 2010 and 2011. It's packed full of “new” movies that are remakes of classics, remakes of foreign films, and, most absurdly, remakes of remakes.

I'll forgive that some older movies like Fritz Lang's Metropolis from 1927 might benefit from a modern retelling. Even some not-so-old movies like Flash Gordon from 1980 could look good with a current generation face-lift, maybe. But almost all of these upcoming remakes just make my blood boil.

Horror movies seem to have some kind of remake bull's eye on them. George A. Romero's The Crazies and Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street both have remakes slated to hit theaters early this year, and John Carpenter is next on the chopping block, with The Thing and They Live scheduled for updated bastardizations in 2011. Come on, guys, The Thing IS a remake. I think the world will be just fine without that CG abomination. Even worse than that is Hollywood's apparent need to make English speaking versions of perfectly great foreign films, specifically The Orphanage and Let the Right One In, that were released just TWO YEARS AGO! And this is just the baby-toe of the hideously rehashed cinematic iceberg that's in store for us in the near future. The Blob, Poltergeist, Logan's Run, Short Circuit, Sunset Boulevard, Suspiria, Highlander, The Karate Kid, Footloose, An American Werewolf in London, Billy Jack, Red Dawn, Total Recall, Hard Boiled, Akira, Scanners, Barbarella, Revenge of the Nerds, The Fly, The Host, Dune, Sharky's Machine, Rosemary's Baby... Do you think that's enough?!

The worst, by far, is a movie scheduled for release this year called The King of Kong. If you can believe this, it's a scripted remake of a documentary that came out in 2007 about two men fighting for the Donkey Kong high score world record. I own the documentary on DVD, and it is awesome, but this remaking a documentary idea is just surreal. What does anyone hope to accomplish by remaking a documentary?

Friday, January 8, 2010

News Roundup: Week of 1/8/10

TWISTER 2: Twistin' The Night Away?!?!?
This is a movie that would work well in 3D. While the original was certainly not the pinnacle of disaster movies, it was rather fun. I support this.

'Zombieland' Scribes to Tackle 'G.I. Joe' Sequel?
While PBF may have disappoved of their previous cinematic entry, the positives of Zombieland may give these guys yet another chance.

'District 9' Prequel is Possible
As prequels generally are not that interesting, if this has a good mix of the initial human/alien integration and how things lead to the events of District 9, it might make for a good film ... or a really bad cash-in.

'The Thing' Prequel Begins Lensing This March
I will fully admit that The Thing is not a perfect movie, but it was damn fine but I cannot see how a remake will add anything to the excellence of its predecessor. Actually, the fact that there is going to be a remake of a remake of a remake is rather funny.

I Love It When a Plan Comes Together

Just a quick post to show you this.

And the 3D Train Keeps Chugging Along

The collective filmgeeks of the world cheered when it was announced that Darren Aronofsky would be helming a remake of 1987's RoboCop as an attempt to breathe life into this once great franchise which has fallen mightily. However, the production company's financial woes not only have resulted in the film being pushed back but may even cost the world a semi-decent remake of a beloved film.

The near-defunct MGM has dictated to Aronofsky that the reboot shall be made in 3D or else. Having a scant, but still highly lauded, number of titles to his name, Aronofsky does not seem to be a guy to make a movie for the money. As such, the presumed director is more than willing to walk as opposed to making a movie he does not want to.

As I have previously asked, what is the big f-in deal with movies in 3D? Sure, it may work for gimmicky horror movies like My Bloody Valentine or Friday the 13th Part III with axes and eyeballs careening toward the audience, but short of the totally immersed effect of a film like Avatar, it does not add to the film as a whole, it only makes it look more ridiculous when 3D falls out of fad again.

Please MGM, let this movie be made but get your grubby, plagiarist fingers out of the pie. I will be highly pissed should the remake of Robocop fall into the same claptrap of teenage stars, gimmicky effects, and generally crappiness that have befallen so many other remakes in the past ten years.

Random Movie: Avatar (2009)

No one can deny that the trucker turned film-maker James Cameron has been one of Hollywood's biggest movers and shakers of the last several decades. Movies like Aliens, The Abyss, and Terminator 2 have not only cemented Cameron's name in the halls of movie history, but were also big parts of my childhood, shaping my expectations of how amazing a science fiction film could be.

After a twelve year hiatus and some deep sea documentaries, Cameron returns to the director's chair for his new sci-fi opus, Avatar. The story is fairly simple. A paraplegic space marine named Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is dispatched to the alien world of Pandora, where a corporate mining operation is trying to gather a rare and expensive mineral ore. The planet is filled with giant, aggressive creatures, chief among these being an intelligent tribal culture called the Na'vi. To avoid violence, the company's scientists, headed by Doctor Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) have engineered several avatar bodies, which look like the 14 foot tall natives and are remotely piloted by humans via a complex electronic interface. Jake Sully has been brought onto the project to control the avatar intended for his now dead twin brother. Apparently, some kind of genetic compatibility is required between avatar and pilot and Jake is the closest genetic match available. There mission is to infiltrate the Na'vi tribe and peacefully convince them to relocate away from their giant tree village as it sits on a monstrous deposit of the priceless metal. Jake's avatar meets the tribe's resident warrior princess Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and is accepted into the Na'vi tribe where he learns of their ways and their connection to the planet. (This does bring up one of the more aggravating elements of the film where the Na'vi can plug their brains into the planet's various flora and fauna through nerves in their hair. Taking the idea that these people have a spiritual connection with nature, then making it literal seems childish.) Eventually, when the peace talks break down, Jake has to choose between completing his mission or defending the Na'vi against the corporations fierce mercenary army gunning to wipe them all out. (Although Jake's major motivation throughout the film seems to be getting some blue alien pussy.)

The movie's main appeal is in its costly and well crafted visual presentation. I saw the movie in 3-D and seeing it in this format adds to the film's immersive atmosphere. Surprisingly, it has none of the gimmicky “throwing objects at the audience” moments that one might expect. The film does have a running time of well over two hours, so some people, myself included, will have an eye-trickery induced headache by the time the credits roll, if not before. I wouldn't call any of the singular special effects used throughout the movie innovative or ground-breaking, as rendered CG environments, creatures, vehicles, and motion-captured characters have all been used in movies since the mid-90's. What is ground-breaking is the way all of these elements are integrated together to create a striking and memorable visual whole. All of the Na'vi acting and creature riding and battle scenes play out seamlessly. As for the non-visual elements, well... Sam Worthington is passable as the story's protagonist but his performance never really got me cheering for his character, but that may be the screen-writer's fault. The stand out performances are defiantly Sigourney Weaver, being a sci-fi heroine veteran, and a surprisingly moving Zoe Saldana in her motion capture performance of Neytiri, the blue cat-people equivalent of Pocahontas. (fortunately, she never breaks into a musical number) All of the other supporting characters are remarkably one-dimensional, my cheesy favorites being Stephen Lang (you might remember him as Ike Clanton from 1993's Tombstone) playing a blood thirsty mercenary Colonel who might as well have been named Duke Nukem, and Giovanni Ribisi playing pretty much the exact same corporate douche bag that Paul Reiser portrayed in Aliens. I also have to mention Michelle Rodriguez, here playing the same hard-nosed chick that she's played in almost every movie she's ever been in, and it's getting old.

Some people have complained about the story being weak or that its just a rehash of Dances with Wolves or Ferngully, and yes, the plot is paper-thin, but my biggest gripe with this production is the disappointingly lackluster musical score. Composer James Horner really dropped the ball on this one. At no point is there a memorable lick or theme that a grand, sweeping, epic movie like this really needs to compliment the scope of the action that is being shown on screen. James Cameron really should have spent an extra million dollars to get John Williams on this project. Overall this movie is, at the very least, great to look at, but a few things like the score, the uninspired writing, and the ham-fisted environmental and anti-imperialist messages really hold it down from being a timeless classic. It's not the herald of a new era in film-making that the advertisements promised, and certainly not as good as some of the other movies on James Cameron's resume.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Random Movie: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)

This movie is a piece of shit. I am actually angry at it. I am angry that it looked at me in the face, and had the balls to fucking show me the things it showed me. You want to know where I rank this movie in it's genre? In the same bracket as Super Mario Bros. and Street Fighter. Not the animated Street Fighter; the live action one. The one where Guile, an American, is played by a Belgian who can barely speak English.

Here's the skinny on the plot of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: There are warheads that have nanomites in them. Nanomites eat metal (and everything else, but emphasis was placed on the eating of metal). They also can do other things, such as reconstruct faces and push the venom of a cobra right back out of a person's arm. They can also be used in mind control. Anyway, Duke and Ripcord have them, Baroness tries to steal them, G.I. Joe saves Duke and Ripcord and the warheads, Baroness and Storm Shadow, et al successfully steal them. There you go. Cobra has not officially formed as a "unit" at this point, like G.I. Joe has, but all they key players are there.

G.I. Joe storyline aside, this movie is just horrible. Really bad acting. I mean REALLY bad. Dennis Quaid must have smelled like brie after filming his scenes. Some of the action sequences were alright, I guess, but mostly they were a horrible mess, some way too long, and completely implausible. The film reeked of standard cheesey action movie formula, what with the needless "funny" lines, such as when the Baroness just shot a machine gun to clear out an area, forces a woman off an elevator and then says, "Nice shoes." In fact, she gets the award for character with the worst lines. Right after a huge crash, she crawls out and says, "Next time, I drive." There is the obligatory evil villain sharing his plans with the good guy that has been captured but that he will fail to kill. There is also exposition, casually detailed in akwardly placed dialogue. Can't forget the montage of people being trained while a stupid song plays (Bang a Gong by T-Rex). There is a long list of things that are wrong factually and in regard to continuity. Too many to list. In lieu of that, here is a small list of things that I hate about it:

1. Rip Cord makes mention of Kung Fu grip
2. Hawk says, "Knowing is half the battle."
3. Rex says, "This guy is a real American hero."
4. When Baroness and Storm Shadow steal the warheads, Hawk presses an alarm button on his desk. The other Joes are hanging out, chillin', and when it goes off, someone yells, "Cobra has the warheads!" Are you fucking kidding me? They made an alarm specifically for that?
5. Baroness has no accent.
6. There is a flashback for every fucking character. Fortunately most of them knew each other somehow, so they combined multiple charcaters' into one.
7. The casting. Oh my God, the casting.
8. The obvious open door for a sequel, meaning that while I make an hourly wage, there will be rain forests slaughtered to write the paychecks of those involved in another one of these fucking things. I provide more entertainment than this movie.

I don't really understand why this movie is rated PG-13 and not R. There is a lot of on screen killing and language. There is honestly not one good thing about this movie. Skip it.

Random Move: Up (2009)

In an effort to distract my daughter from wanting to watch Curious George (and I must admit, I wanted to see it as well) I put the movie Up on. She has seen it many times, but I had never. I am normally not a fan of Disney movies, or animated movies in general (despite my affections for TV shows like Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Ren and Stimpy, Invader Zim and others), but having watched Wall-E with my daughter, I have since changed that. I have assumed it is because both these films are Pixar, and from what I understand, they have an excellent track record.

Up is the story of Carl Fredericksen, a 78 year old (voiced by Ed Asner), as he tries to make it to Paradise Falls, an adventure planned with his wife before she died, and ultimately having it's roots in his childhood. They were obsessed with exploring new places and with an explorer named Charles Muntz (voiced by Christopher Plummer). To accomplish this, he flies his house, which is where he met his late wife in childhood, powered by balloons, to South America. Much to his chagrin, Russell, a boy scout in uniform has accompanied him. He was looking for a non existent bird that Carl told him to find, so that he could earn his last merit badge for assisting and elderly person. They land on the wrong side of Paradise Falls and have to walk to it, lugging the house with them. The run across a bird (which Russell thinks is a "Snipe," the kind of bird he was originally looking for) and name her Kevin, and a dog named Doug that has a collar that translates what he is saying in to English (and other languages for that matter).

This film is really well done. First off, Ed Asner is great. He just delivers his lines with perfection as an old man trying to fulfill his promise to his late wife, Ellie. He lives in the only house left on a block that is being commercialized by a construction company and refuses to sell the house, as it is the home he met Ellie in, and also where they lived. Very often he is downtrodden and morose, but he can also delivier the comedic lines with no problem. Visually the movie is quite stunning as well, but honestly, it is really a fine film just by movie standards alone. The dialogue is quite clever. Carl: "...with no rap music or flashdancing." Doug: "I just met you and I love you." He also says, "Point!" when he is trying to get you to look at something. The film takes you on quite an emotional journey. In fact, so much so, that I question the target demoraphic. The montage that shows Carl growing up and going through life with Ellie and her ultimate passing, is actually quite heartbreaking. Throughout the movie, he often sits in his chair, and stares at hers, which is now empty. He crosses his heart, indicating that he will make it to Paradise Falls, as they often dreamed, and even had a jar full of money to help fund. I feel that this may be a tad too adult for a child my daughter's age, who may have questioned what happened when she first watched it (I was not there), and then resulted in a talk about death. Another thing that impressed me about it, is that the characters are pulling a house by a hose, that is floating in the sky. It's quite absurd. Yet you really do not think about that during the action of the film. It actually, is quite believeable in the context of the story, and very neccessary for the plot. I found myself laughing outloud a few times. Especially at Doug. He, and the other dogs, will stop what they are saying and yell, "Squirrel!" whenever they see one, consistent with a dog's short attention span. He speaks very matter of factly, "I will get it and bring it back to you!" as I imagine a dog would speak if it could. I also like how the "evil" dogs keep referring to Russell as the "small mailman." There are some issues with the movie that irk my OCD. When Carl is looking through pictures of He and Ellie, there are some that are in their house, or on a picninc, where they are completely in frame, and I assume by themselves. In the montage, there was never any one else in it except them (execpt at at the wedding or at the doctor's office when we learn Ellie cannot have children), so I question who would have taken those pictures. They did not seem to spend any time with friends or family. Also, I have major issues in any scene of any movie where there is a target in plain sight, unobscured, yet the team of people shooting at it for half an hour, cannot seem to hit it. This occured when Russell was hanging in the sky on the hose, and 3 dogs were flying planes (and apparently reciting dialogue from Star Wars, however calling themselves grey squadron rather than red squadron. dogs are colorblind) trying to shoot him. Yes, I know, it is a cartoon, and I should get over it. I did.

Up is just a really well put together film, animated or not. It is quite superior to many live action pieces of crap that are out there. In all aspects. And beginning to end. You bond and care for the characters, you may even find yourself on the edge of your seat once or twice, you may cry, and you surely will laugh. Definitely recommend seeing this movie, especially if you do not normally watch animated films.

Random Movie: Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus (2009)

The word “versus” is usually reserved for boxing matches, Supreme Court cases, and film titles that begin with the name Godzilla or Gamera. I imagine that this film was intended to entertain the same head space as other giant monster classics, but Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus falls short of even that minimalistic criteria.

This flick comes to us curtsey of The Asylum, a direct-to-DVD company with a rather dubious track record. Mostly, they make cheaply and horribly produced movies with titles suspiciously similar to big-budget blockbusters. Such movies include Transmorphers, Death Racers, Sunday School Musical, and The Day the Earth Stopped, most likely hoping that confused consumers hunting for the latest releases will buy their movies by accident. I'm almost amazed by a company who's marketing strategy seems to have been devised by some giant, carnivorous plant. But I'm not talking about those flicks, I'm talking about a movie with a plot and production values that are laughable even by B-movie standards. The story, if you can call it that, centers around an oceanic researcher named Emma (Deborah Gibson) who is looking way worse in this movie than an otherwise attractive 39-year-old woman should. On an unauthorized expedition, Emma witnesses our titular shark and octopus escaping from within a frozen glacier due to a separate but equally unauthorized military sonar experiment. Apparently, these two behemoths have survived, frozen in this icy prison, for several million years. Of course, no one believes her claims until the two titans start their respective rampages, attacking oil refineries and the like. This includes a side-splittingly hilarious scene where the mega shark leaps several thousand feet from the water to attack a jet-liner in mid flight.

Eventually, the military takes Emma into custody and transports her to some kind of factory or water treatment plant, that is supposed to pass for an Air Force Base, to devise a plan to destroy both monsters. There she meets Alan (Lorenzo Lamas) and I'm not sure if he has any actual military rank, but he does fill the role of ass-hole government stooge for this picture. (Come on, Lorenzo, I thought you were a renegade.) The military is, of course, completely unable to harm either creature with conventional weapons and it's up to the scientists to lure the shark and octopus toward one another so they can kill each other, reaffirming the theory that the only thing capable of killing a giant monster is another giant monster. The second half of the movie is composed almost entirely of unconvincing CG effects that would have been laughed out of a Play Station game, and scenes of scientists and officers yelling at one another across big tables.

This movie fails on every front, acting, writing, special effects, but at least, in it's own terrible way, it's consistent. Even the otherwise boring scenes of people doing nothing besides talking and arguing strategies are lifted by awful performances and some howlingly bad dialogue. If you can stomach some really bad movies or take any kind of masochistic satisfaction in sitting through a cinematic train-wreck, then give Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus a watch. You won't be disappointed, well, you will be disappointed, but that's kind of the point.

Random Movie: The Thing (1982)

Surprisingly, I had been missing out on John Carpenter's The Thing until a few years ago when a friend of mine turned me on to it. I thought it was a very effective movie and the DVD was great, featuring commentary by Carpenter and Kurt Russell as well as an in depth documentary on the making of the film. Sadly, my original DVD was not anamorphic so I had no desire to watch the film in recent years until I upgraded my disc to the re-release from a few years back. For some reason, I didn't remember much from the film so it was almost like watching it for the first time all over again.

A loose remake of the 1951 film The Thing from Another World, Carpenter's version puts us in the middle of an Antartic research team who uncover a monstrous alien who has already devastated another research camp. As the being infiltrates the tight group of men, it takes their appearance and mannerisms leading them to doubt as to who is human and who is not. It is a very simplistic story, one which has been ripped off (or maybe its an homage depending on where you stand) by other films and even TV series.

It works so well because it is very well-produced (one of Carpenter's best in my opinion) and has a great confined atmosphere of dread. It is really not a scary movie. It has a few jumps but more importantly, it has a palpable tension especially as the characters start putting the pieces together and figuring out that something is not right.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Movie Scum Episode #4 is on YouTube!

Our favorite things to say: "Indeed." "In that same vein." "Fair enough." "Ultimately."

If it will not play, click the HQ button.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Random Movie: The Hangover (2009)

Las Vegas. Muse for many a film maker. From the not so good, to The Hangover. I assumed that this film would be some kind of hybrid of Dude, Where's My Car? and Very Bad Things. It surely, is not. Because it was actually funny.

Basically we have 4 guys going to Vegas for a blowout before Doug (Justin Bartha) gets married. Doug's character is pretty much irrelevant to this review, as they lose him, and spent the mojority of the movie trying to find him while piecing together the events of the previous night, which they all cannot remember. You have Stu (Ed Helms), who basically freaks out at everything, as he is very tightly wound around his girlfriend's (Rachel Harris) vagina and does not wish to upset her. Also, there is Phil (Bradley Cooper, dreamboat), who apparently is a dirtbag to all the women in the film, but is oddly the most level headed and calm in most of the chaos that is going on. Finally there is, Alan (Zach Galifinakis, Fat Jesus, not Phat Jesus) who is just a slight bit odd, and possibly a retard (emphasis on "tard"). With all your hilarious character defects in place and someone to offset them, the movie can begin.

What I liked about this movie, was when everyone wakes up in the hotel room the morning after, there is all kinds of lunacy happening. A tiger, a chicken, a smoking chair, a baby. My first thought was, "this movie will never successfully explain all of this to me in a plausible fashion." But it actually does, and without even being that outlandish. Let me just say, as every other review does, the chicken is never explained, so I will just assume it is a comedy device. I mean, as we all know, chickens = comedy gold. I did have a couple of questions, such as, if they did not remember last night, then how did they remember where Mike Tyson lived? Also, why take the raw meat in to the bathroom and then shut yourself in? Why not just throw it in there and get out? On the whole, though, the movie is pretty decent. Once the funny starts, it stays funny the whole time. The process of discovering what happened last night was actually well done too. One thing carries you into the next, maybe pausing for a few moments to get some comedy in there. This easily could have gone on for way too long, but I feel like the length of the film is quite perfect, and it ends the search for Doug in the right spot. Zach Galifinakis pretty much stole the movie, from the way he stands with his hand on his hip, to his matter of fact delivery of his quirky dialogue ("Is there a payphone bank? Buncha payphones? Business.").

This really is a decent comedy, and the style of comedy runs the full spectrum, from physical (naked guy jumping on people), to foul language (females saying "suck my dick" always makes me laugh), even muscial, as the Dan Band plays the wedding at the end, and I am convinced that they should be in every wedding scene in every movie that has one. I think that some people may think this movie is much funnier than it actually is, but you can certainly do very much worse. I definitely recommend it.

Random Movie: Paranormal Activity (2007)

Hollywood is a funny animal. Film studios are willing to drop millions of dollars on movies with horrible movies starring big actors, big gambles that may or may not pay off, and run of the mill sequels that have little redeeming cinematic value but are a sure win at the box office. Yet a movie like Paranormal Activity comes along and flounders for years on the festival circuit (hence the 2007 production year) before finally being picked up and begrudgingly released to theaters throughout the country.

If you follow movies at all, you know the gist of the story. Our couple, Micah and Katie, have been noticing some strange activity in their home. Tech geek Micah decides to get a camera to not only annoy the hell out of Katie in the bathroom but to capture any evidence of the strange occurrences. As the entire film takes place inside the house, mostly with just Micah and Katie, we are confined with them as the incidents occur more frequently and more violently leading to many scenes and images that will undoubtedly be etched into my vapid mind for some time to come.

Now, this film is very polarizing. Even before its wide release, for as many supporters of the film there were as many detractors. As any movie can be viewed in a million different ways by a million different people, my opinion should not shape yours. Movies are special in that each person comes away with their own take with no single opinion exactly the same. But ... this was quite possibly one of the most disturbing movies I have ever seen.