Thursday, April 29, 2010

Random Movie: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

I would have to say my first real viewing of anything Freddy related, other than brief snippets, was Dream Warriors. I vividly remember fighting my brother for the VCR rights to record the horribly-tv-edited version while he wanted to record wrestling. That resulted in the VCR being thrown down the stairs and a hole being kicked into a door. Was it worth it? Fuck yea! At that time (I was probably about eight or so), Freddy was still savage, gruesome, deadly, and appeared in good (relatively speaking of course) movies.

This installment is more or less the true sequel to the original. Certain things were different from Freddy’s inception but the story line actually progressed instead of stalling out like Kristen running in that goop while trying to escape Freddy. Here we get a little more backstory on his origins but the pleasant thing was they did not seemed to be shoe-horned in by studio dictation into an already completed story line. These plots points added nicely to the overall mythos of Freddy but more as complimentary facts rather than a main plot-line as some sequels in other franchises had done.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Random Movie: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)

If Chris Nolan ever needed to be consulted on a franchise, it was right after the original Nightmare on Elm Street. Granted, he may not have been up to the task at the time but he like few other directors know how to make a follow-up film to a highly regarded sequel, not by making a carbon-copy of it, but by expanding upon its original characters, story-lines, and plots. Sadly, A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge did none of that.

It is almost as if New Line took a page from the Exorcist II fiasco of jettisoning everything effective from the first movie for the sequel. We replace Nancy with a whiny bitch, even though he does scream like a girl. Rather than focusing on developing the characters and humanizing them to make their inevitable deaths have an impact, we have a half dozen or so lazily-written characters with almost no defining characteristics. And most importantly, instead of a definitive motive for Freddy to avenge his death by striking back at the loved ones of those who killed him, we have random possessions to kill these totally worthless characters.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Random Movie: Flesh Freaks (2000)

Written by: PBF

I am going to warn you. This is possibly the worst movie you will ever see. I realize that I may have said that about a couple of other films. Forget about those. THIS IS POSSIBLY THE WORST MOVIE YOU WILL EVER SEE.

So, college student goes to Belize for archeological dig that last through the summer. Dead body is discovered. Dead body comes to life. Kills everyone but the college student. College student comes back to college. Dead bodies come back to life and kill people at the college. Fairly simple. And yet so much damage to my soul was done.

Where do I even begin with this? Well, the acting is just horrible. And not charming horrible like kids in an elementary school production about the first Thanksgiving. Horrible like genocide, or when a child is kidnapped. We here at Movie Scum, have better production values than this film. This is as low budget as it gets. The directing is ungodly. There were these really odd stretches of what looked like a show on Animal Planet. Just inserted into a narrated flashback, we would see close ups of bugs, monkeys, fish, and for some reason a domesticated dog. This happened several times. The special effects were special not in the sense that they were good, but rather in the sense that they were retarded. I think there was a zombie with his shirt tucked into his jeans. Also another zombie appeared to be colored with black crayon on his face, but not very well. He looked like someone in blackface that walked through a lawn sprinkler and the make up ran a bit. Then there was the college that had a total of 6 students, 4 of which were main characters, 2 were background. There were only 2 professors. So I am to believe these kids are at this huge university that was as vacant as MySpace. The music was repetitive and the audio was crap. Sometimes the actors would talk too much in to the mic, sometimes I could not hear them at all. At various spots you can hear the wind blowing in to the mic. I mean really hear it loudly. There were awful scene transitions, pointless “art” shots, and at one point I could not see one of the characters because the shot was too dark. I could just go on and on; I have barely even scratched the surface.

I am all for watching horrible movies for a laugh, but this movie will just piss you off. I know some young kid probably poured his heart, soul and about $28 in to this, but it is fucking crap.

Random Movie: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Here we are less than a week away from the release of the latest part of my childhood to be repackaged and resold to me. Rest assured, I will be there to see Nightmare 2010 on opening day but let us forget about that for now as I cannot say I have high hopes for it. Instead, just like every other horror and/or movie related website, I will revisit the original films and see how they hold up … or don’t.

It is quite astonishing that Wes Craven was able to create such an iconic character with a budget reportedly of less than $2 million. Equally amazing is that through the various production and financial issues, the original Nightmare on Elm Street still remains as a highly regarded tentpole in the slasher subgenre twenty five years later along with the Halloween and Friday the 13th franchises. I would argue the Nightmare series did not fair as well as the Myers and Voorhees based ones due to studio interference and rushing production to maximize revenues at the expense of the stories themselves.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Random Movie: Critters (1986)

Written by: PBF

I really like it when I revisit a movie that I have not seen in some time and it turns out to be actually good. Not just nostalgic good, but genuinely good. Such is the case with Critters. It was not the cheese ball horror flick I apparently erroneously remembered.

We start off in space where a group of prisoners called Krites are being transported to a prison asteroid. Something goes awry and the Krites steal a ship and escape. Two space bounty hunters are commissioned to find them. The Krites land in rural Kansas and the bounty hunters follow them there. We meet the Browns, your typical family with Dad Jay, Mom Helen, and brother and sister Brad and April. Brad and April get on each others nerves as brothers and sisters usually do, and Brad tends to misbehave a bit. April is a hormone engulfed teen who just wants to bang her boyfriend Steve (a young Billy Zane) in the hay. This invasion of Krites serves as the event that will remind them of how important it is to love each other, and be nice. Aw.

This movie is actually quite well done. There are a lot of things that I really liked about it. Right off, I liked the choice to have Mom, Dad and Brad all meet the Krites at the same time, rather than Brad, the mischievous young boy see them and then have to spend 45 minutes of the movie convincing his parents that they are real. Also, once they do meet them, that’s it. The pace is pretty steady the rest of the film. There isn’t a lot of choppiness and unimportant plot development.

Rather, we see the Krites and the Browns, then we see the bounty hunters trying to track them. The time we spend in each is just long enough; the switch does not get repetitious and yet does not leave you needing to see more of either. In fact, the running time of this film is damn near perfect at 82 minutes. We get in to the action fairly early, so it is a quality 82 minutes.

Also, the acting is decent. Part of a lot of 80’s horror film charm is the lackluster acting, but I submit that good acting is just as effective. Dee Wallace, 80’s staple, plays Mom. Scott Grimes, who spent 6 years on E.R. was Brad. Lin Shaye, whom I assume is in some sort of love tryst with Bobby and Peter Farrelly, having appeared in a bunch of their films, is even good as Sally. I also enjoyed that humor was not over used in the film. The tendency to fill a horror movie (and really, horror is used loosely to categorize this film) script with dumb jokes was rampant back in the 80’s. The humor in this was understated and actually clever at times. One of the Krites finds and plays with an E.T. doll, then eats it (Dee Wallace was in E.T. ). Also, I found it hysterical that the Sheriff, a very often used character in these type of films, was absolutely useless and did nothing to help anyone. Not that he was unwilling, he was just inept.

I did have to nitpick a bit and find some things that I felt were odd. For example, the Krites did not speak English and we saw subtitles when they would speak (except when one of them said “Uh oh,” which I guess is spoken the same in any language in the universe). However, the bounty hunters spoke English (even before they got to Earth). Also, the bounty hunters could take the form of any human that they saw. One of them picked Johnny Steele, a popular singer, which in my opinion would be a bad choice for trying to blend in. This may however not have been the intent as they spent their time on Earth in their space clothes and the other bounty hunter would change in to someone that was well known in the town (a cop, the Reverend, the drunk Charlie). Also, the very end was a bit if a stretch. However, these really detracted very little from the overall experience. I was quite pleased in revisiting this film. It is not a typical horror movie that will scare you by any means, but it does not cheapen itself by trying to make it a goofy comedy with elements of horror. It takes itself just seriously enough to be believable. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. Definitely a great little film.

So why is the movie called Critters, and not Krites? As Brad is talking to the bounty hunters (who as far as he knows at that point are Johnny Steele and Charlie) he refers to the Krites as critters. The bounty hunters ask where the Krites are. Brad does not understand, so they use his own term and call them critters.

I Pay Money for This! Top 9 Annoyances about DVDs

I love DVDs. Right after high school, I was buying at least a half dozen a week if not more. Yet there are several things that just pluck my nerves. This list is not in any particular order and certainly not inclusive. I am quite sure there could be a revisit to this topic eventually.

9. “Large Screen” Releases
Essentially, these are films originally in a larger aspect ration, usually 2.40:1, that are cropped during a certain group of scenes. Not only do I despise not watching movies in their original ratios, the way this was handled for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was quite poor, and I’m not only referring to the movie itself. The jump back and forth between scenes (and even different shots within the same scene) is quite jarring. I know a normal movie-goer might not notice but it is rather annoying regardless.

8. Delayed Releases
Now that Netflix and Redbox have caved to several studios’ demands to withhold new releases for almost a month after they hit DVD, the only way to see The Blind Side, Sherlock Holmes, and now Avatar on DVD is to either buy them outright or go to Blockbuster (and who really wants to do that) only to get a stripped down version lacking any extras. Not only does that make things more difficult for us at Movie Scum, Inc. to keep up with the newest films, regular consumers who might be looking for the latest generic rom-com from these studios in their normal venues might get discouraged and give up. Or if they are tech savvy enough, they will just download it illegally.

7. Cheaper DVD Cases
Back in the day, I could not stand those Warner cardboard cases but at least they fell relatively sturdy even if they just fell apart ten years later. Now, the latest trend is to take a regular case with a nice, happy recycle sign where the insert (remember those?) used to go. Allegedly, these are better for the environment as they use less plastic but every time I go to remove a disc, I feel like the whole case will either break in half or break the disc in the process of getting it out. Give me that extra three slivers of plastic back and go plant a tree or something to feel better.

6. Unskippable Previews
When I sat down to watch Sherlock Holmes, I was treated to at least eight to ten previews of some sort. They were mostly movie trailers with a few video game previews and even a non-smoking ad. The problem was the next chapter option was disabled and the only way to skip through was to fast forward. As every other preview started a new chapter which you had to then hit fast forward again, this was quite an arduous task that took about five minutes to get to the actual menu itself. So, for all the trailers and the mind-boggling thought involved, the menu did not even have a scene selection option. What the hell?

5. Stupid Floating Heads vs. Original Poster Art
There has been much written on this in other venues but it is still irritating when a perfectly good (and appropriate to the film) theatrical poster is jettisoned for the DVD release because it is not as flashy. I quite enjoy most all of the Nightmare on Elm Street series poster art (even for the crap ones) but for the single DVD releases, these awesome posters were replaced by the always popular floating heads and bad photoshop backgrounds. The same thing happened to the James Bond re-re-releases some time ago. I shudder to think of what an awesome, minimalist poster like The Thing would look like if released today.

4. Lackluster Collections
To mention the Sherlock Holmes DVD yet again, there was in one of the aforementioned trailers a collection of all of Clint Eastwood’s Warner Brothers films which actually looked quite good and thorough. However, most DVD collections leave much to be desired. This could be for a number of different reasons — lack of competing studio cooperation, lack of behind-the-scenes involvement, etc. — but most give you the same movies you can buy separately but with an additional disc for extras not available otherwise. So, you can buy all the films (including the ones you don’t want or already have) just for the bonus or miss out. And even worse, they are not “complete” collections which leave out the good stuff. I have yet to see any deleted scenes from the original Nightmare on Elm Street other than an Anchor Bay VHS from about fifteen years ago even after two collection releases and a standalone special edition. Not to mention that it took Paramount three tries (one single disc, one collection, subsequent “special-er” editions) to get decent releases of the Friday the 13th series.

3. Stupid “Special Edition” Names
I guess when you release the same movie countless times, there has to be a way to differentiate between each. Most of these DVD nomenclatures attempt to tie into the movie but, seriously? Pretty in Pink: Everything’s Duckie Edition; Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (Those Aren’t Pillows Edition); 13 Going on 30: Fun & Flirty Edition. Whatever happened to just plain old Special or Ultimate Edition? Check here for some special edition names that may or may not come to fruition.

2. Rerelease Hell
You know that little movie Avatar that is being released on DVD this week? Can’t wait to see the quadrillion dollar grossing picture in lackluster at home 3D? Ah, you’re going to have to wait as that is being withheld for another version down the line. At least (some) consumers had the knowledge going in that a better version was coming out but what about the other films that are released almost bare with the intention to release a better version down the line. Studios are all about cashing in on popular franchises so it makes sense from their end to release whatever they can as fast as they can but for those fans who want, I dunno, promised special director’s cuts or more in-depth special features, they have to either be patient and wait for the in-the-pipeline better release or buy two versions of the same movie.

1. Same Movie, Three Different DVDs
The trend used to be different version for full-screen n00bs and widescreen which made it hell to receive a DVD as a gift from someone who does not know different. While that still happens, there are now separate releases for theatrical version, bare-bones uncut version with digital version, uncut version with special features, theatrical version full screen with a commentary only available on that disc. If you want to have everything available, you have to buy at minimum two discs, if not more! Whatever happened to that awesome seemless branching thing that DVDs were advertised with back in the day to allow different versions on the same disc? Is it really that much easier to have eight different SKUs for the same movie? Damn all that.

Post-publish addendum:
Dear Disney,
Remember all of those DVDs you released in your first year or two that are non-anamorphic, bare bones releases? If you can’t at least go back and add in a commentary or something, at least clean it up so a VHS bootleg copy doesn’t look better than your product.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Make This Movie: Yo Gabba Gabba

In case you were unfamiliar with it, Yo Gabba Gabba is a pretty crazy looking pre-K show on Nickelodeon. It features five characters who are toys that come to live when DJ Lance Rock places them into their playset/whatever. Thereafter ensues a bunch of singing, dancing, and lessons for our youngest members of society. I started watching this as my 3-year-old was quite picky in her television tastes and would only sit still in front of this (she has since “graduated” to Dora but I sincerely recommend DO NOT make a Dora movie).

So, why would I want to see a movie based on a kid’s TV program? Simple. Intertwined with the moral stories about eating vegetables and cleaning up are some pretty funny occurrences, interesting guest stars, and trippy graphics. Surely you’ve seen the Kia commercial with the Sock Puppet and Muno (that’s the big red Cyclops thing) bowling and getting tattoos. I would imagine the plot would go in the direction of the characters are lost in the real world, they try to fit in but fail miserably, and there is a nice lady that helps reunite them with DJ Lance. Watch the embedded video below and tell me you would not pay money to see that happen on a city street with people standing around thinking “WTF!” This only scratches the surface of why Yo Gabba Gabba is so awesome.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Random Movie: Better Off Dead (1985)

Now I can cross another classic teen 80s movie off my list. For this, The Breakfast Club, and others, it was not as though I was actively trying not to see them. My younger days normally reserved for mostly harmless fare like this was instead spent watching 70s and 80s horror and action movies instead. Yes, I saw the entire franchises of Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and even Maniac Cop before getting around to some of the more relatable films of my generation. So sue me. I now have seen it.

I would imagine that everyone else has seen Better Off Dead so I will keep the synopsis short. Lane Meyer is for the most part a typical adolescent. He has really random daydreams, a crazy family, and a typical teen's awkwardness. After meeting Tina, err Beth, he seems to be on a straight path up the popularity ladder in high school. When she dumps him for a 23-year-old-looking-professional-skier-turned-high-school-student, Lane is downtrodden enough that he attempts to kill himself. Fortunately for Lane, he is quite bad at offing himself even with the help of his friends and family. This leads to a turn in his luck, meeting an exchange student, getting a kick-ass car, beating the cocky jock at his own game, and redeeming his meaningless life. It's every kid's fantasy.

Apparently, this film was not very well received when it debuted. From a low box office take to negative reviews back in the day, it has now become an iconic teen movie much like the aforementioned Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Even having never seen the film before, I was still aware of its presence and even its influence in subsequent films like the recent Hot Tub Time Machine and the spoof Not Another Teen Movie. I can fully agree with the current sentiment that this is a masterpiece of a film. Instead of deriving comedy from standard teenage film means, Better Off Dead takes a more absurdist approach to everyday living. This is the kind of life that you thought you had in retrospect with a gelatinous pile of crap crawling off your dinner plate, the teacher you hated taking out your ex, and getting your face inverted by embarrassing a popular cheerleader. I can safely say none of these things happened to me as a child but I would probably want to kill myself as well if they had. Other than the basic plot I did not know that the film's title actually referenced the characters desire to commit suicide. It seems a rather odd plot point and one I hazard would not find its way into a mainstream teen movie today.

Even twenty years ago, Cusack can play comedy very well. Just like his character in Hot Tub , Lane is the seemingly normal kid in abnormal situations. His straight-forwardness to the events unfolding is quite brilliant. There is a rumor/fact/whatever that Cusack hates this movie which I find deplorable if that is the case. The other central members of the cast are excellent in selling the abundance of crazy shit that happens. And this movie even has Dan Schneider, creator of TV's iCarly! I do not think I can look at that show the same after seeing the nasal spray-snorting Ricky.

Random Movie: Phantasm IV: OblIVion (1998)

Written by: PBF

The most important thing that I learned from Phantasm IV, is that being an ice cream man is a trade. Whatever you have to tell yourself, Reggie.

Phantasm IV picks up at the end of part 3. Reggie was being held up in the air by dozens of spheres by the Tall Man. The Tall Man releases him, telling him that there is a final game to play. We get some flashbacks as Mike is driving somewhere and as Reggie is driving somewhere. Jody (Mike’s dead/alive/sphere brother) shows up and tells Reggie that he is going to get Mike. Reggie doesn’t want to have anything to do with this, and even tells Jody that he is done with the whole thing. In his defense, I would be tired of it too, having just come out of part 3. After an encounter with an undead cop, Reggie decides to take Jody’s advice and head south west. Mike ends up in Death Valley and wanders through time trying to find out where the Tall Man came from and how he can stop him. You’ll be happy to know that Reggie still manages to find a lone woman that he can try to bang, as he did in the other films.

So, the good thing about this movie, is that it has very little comic elements to it compared to the last one, and that right there is keeping it from being categorized as “crap.” It actually was somewhat reminiscent of the first. Part of this may be due to the fact that while making this film, apparently a large amount of unused footage from the first one was found. Thus, the flashbacks and dream sequences were literally flashbacks. I really liked that. The action in this however was rather slow, and that coupled with the apparent inability of everyone in these movies to improve as actors caused me to be bored a lot. The writing was a lot better. One of my favorite lines in the film came from the Tall Man, “No you may not take your own life. That is my domain exclusively.” This film purposely ends on a vague note, leaving the viewer wondering if the entire series was a dream, a hallucination, did it really happen and did we just travel through various points in time? Whatever the answer is, that is up to you. This is where the use of the old footage from the first film was awesome. You sort of get lost with the characters as they dream (or whatever they are doing). I kind of almost wish that parts 2 and 3 never existed, and that the 1st and the 4th ones were the only ones that were made.

So at least the franchise did not end that badly. It redeemed itself somewhat. Apparently, there was a 5th one that was in the works, but it may have been shelved. I think that was the better decision. This film wraps the series up very nicely, by letting you decide what the hell happened, not just in this installment, but in the series all together.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Munchkin Coroner Dies. Punk Swindler Succumbs to Cancer

Meinhardt Raabe, the Munckin Coroner that pronounced the Wicked Witch of the West dead with the following lines:

As coroner, I must aver
I thoroughly examined her
And she’s not only merely dead,
She’s really, most sincerely dead!
He died today of a heart attack. He was the last surviving cast member of the entire film with any significant dialogue.

Malcom McLaren, manager of the punk band Sex Pistols also died, after battling cancer. He left us yesterday, April 8th. McClaren appeared in The Great Rock and Roll Swindle and The Filth and the Fury, both films by Julien Temple, thus securing my ability to make a post about him on am movie website. McLaren, formed the pistols as a “product” that he would use to make a significant amount of money. Often times, the band would actually be paid to leave their current record label due to their drunken anti-establishment (mostly just drunken) acts. McClaren also formed Bow Wow Wow, managed the Clash for a bit, and produced television shows and artwork. This is merely a slice of what his body of work includes.

Random Movie: A Serious Man (2009)

Written by: PBF

What a surprise, I am reviewing a Coen Brothers’ (Joel and Ethan) movie. The hell you say! Movie Scum is nothing, if not consistent.

A Serious Man is a glimpse in to Larry Gopnick’s ever unraveling life. As of late, he has been plagued with quite unpleasant yet sometimes amusing (to us) events and he is struggling to figure out “what’s going on.” This is a re-telling of the story of Job, set in the 1960’s. Job’s faith is tested through a series of events (stemmed from a wager between God and the Devil) and though he may question why he is being tested, his faith remains intact. You will need to watch the film to see how Larry fairs.

In the library of Coen films that exists, I have seen much better. The film is still “good” in the sense that the acting was extraordinary and the story was very interesting. But somehow, these did not mix together into a what should have been an awesome picture (despite the Best Picture nomination). I think the film was directed well, as are most if not all Coen Brothers movies. I think the script was lacking. It just was not interesting enough to me. There was simply too much middle of the story. I would call it a trainwreck, but a trainwreck would be more interesting. This was like hour 2-3 of a 4 hour train ride though the midwest. I can’t say that I did not connect with the character, because I did, but the story was just not executed that well. You could argue that this may be the directors’ fault as opposed to the writers’, but that would ultimately be moot as they are the same. The standard Coen-isms are there, like excellent use of music and the very effective use of pauses. In fact, in every Cohen Brothers movie, their use of silence and quick cuts after a facial expressions is quite consistently effective. This is in stark contrast to say, a Mamet film in which there is sometimes an actor that has no grasphold of how he writes and struggles with his alarmingly realistic dialogue. Coen Brothers films are quite well cast in that regard.

A film, at it’s core, is a script. You can direct the shit out of it, but if the events themselves are not that interesting, it is only going to be so good. Do not get me wrong, there is a lot to like about this film. But unfortunately for me, the uninteresting script counterbalances all of those things almost evenly.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Random Movie: Cocaine Angel (2006)

Written by: PBF

Rule of thumb when making a film about drug addicts: I have to care about someone for it to work. I don’t really have to like them or feel sorry for them, but I should not feel indifferent toward them.

Cocaine Angel has us following Scott, who is a drug addict, as he wanders around town looking for Mary and drugs. We basically are thrown into his life, stay for a spell and watch him (though a very shaky camera) interact with a few characters (all addicts, with the exception of his ex-wife and daughter), and then taken back out of it. It really is no different from the dozens of other movies that exist about this subject.

The last point in the above paragraph is part of the reason that I didn’t really care for this film. It does nothing to distinguish itself in a sea of addict movies. Another reason that I did not like it is because I didn’t care about anyone. Not even Scott’s daughter. The acting was certainly not good enough for me to be anything but indifferent. All these people could have lived, died, got clean, I don’t care. I also didn’t like the attempts at humor. Every so often Scott would give himself pep talks in the mirror to try and figure out a situation. I could see that this was an attempt at character development, but it just did not work. Also, Scott has a pretty bad abscess on his foot and he doesn’t wear a shoe. So occasionally someone will ask what is wrong with his foot, and he supplies a different and (I assume) an attempted humorous response. After watching this film, I checked out some message boards, and posters were using words like “mesmerizing” to describe it. I found it to be the complete opposite. I was just distracted by the sloppy pace. There was this weird pattern of normal scenes alternating with scenes of action that had music playing for a minute or two. This pattern lasted for pretty much the entire film and made it hard to keep focused. This film really could have been a bit slicker.

I appreciate the indie spirit of this film, but drug addiction is a topic that needs to be addressed with some depth and feeling. Two things that did not exist in this film. You do not need a huge budget for that. I would pass on this film.