Monday, September 30, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Seventy-three - Nude Nuns With Big Guns, "What a disturbing hybrid..."

...of grindhouse and soft-core porn.

No, seriously, that's what this film is, a movie that couldn't decide whether it was a skinemax "fapper of the week" or a revenge exploitation flick.

Set in the generic desert towns of southwest America where the only businesses appear to be drugs, the clergy, and the sex trade (and are all one and the same), Nude Nuns tells the story of a psychopathic lesbian nun who was been pushed over the edge thanks to all of the sexual and physical abuse she has endured at the hands of corrupt Catholic priests who are in collusion with some Sons of Anarchy wannabes.

It seems as if every priest and monk, even up to the diocese cardinal, himself, is a button-man or don in an organized crime ring that uses subservient nuns clothed only in their coifs (meaning they are, of course, nude from the neck down) to package and smuggle bricks of cocaine. Who buys these packs of uncut Lik-M-Aid is beyond me as I cannot recall a single exchange of anything besides the drugs and women that pass between the Clergy and the Gang every other scene.

For the most part, the movie is just an excuse to go from nude scene to nude scene as every woman in the film is either on display for all to see, raped, or murdered for the lamest of reasons (or, all of the above). Every girl is a lesbian until she wants dick... and, even if she doesn't, a penis is usually forced upon her.

I hate to say it, but this has to be the single most misogynistic film I have ever seen and there's barely any comeuppance for the perpetrators in comparison to the sheer amount of raping and pillaging that they do. What little revenge there is to be found barely makes a dent in the karmic backlog that Chavo and his compatriots owe the universe.

To be honest, the only positive I can find in the film, aside from the occasional grindhouse video effects such as artistic color saturation and comic book transitions, is the wailing sax soundtrack that makes up about roughly half of the score. It reminds me of Angelo Badalamenti's work in Twin Peaks and Lost Highway... all raw arpeggios and vicious chord structure.

I wouldn't be surprised to find out that there's a "European Cut" that's even more graphic as its almost shot like the vanilla, pay cable version of 90's era action erotica where they could but shift the camera a few feet and turn it into straight up rape porn. As it stands, the film is unrated (and, no doubt, would've garnered an NC-17 or X rating had they submitted it) for graphic violence, nudity, and strong sexual content.

In the end, I cannot forgive the massive amounts of gratuitous rape in this film. It's a touchy enough subject to have in film in the first place... but here it's apparently used to titillate and that I just cannot condone.

Stay away, folks... stay far, far away.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Seventy-two - The Emperor's New Groove, "Kronk, your antics make life worth living sometimes."

When The Emperor's New Groove came out, I remember a lot of folks lambasting it as just another example of the decline of Disney's animation studio from its heyday in the late 80's/early 90's after the Second Renaissance that included The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King. Maybe it was a hostility towards all the fourth wall breaking, or just David Spade in particular... or, perhaps, it was just the general lack of awe-inspiring visuals or catchy musical sequences.

In any case, The Emperor's New Groove was a break from Disney's typical routine and, for that, got a lot of criticism. Personally, though, while I can see the validity of their complaints, there's just this bouncy humor that pervades the entirety of the film that really, really makes me happy... mostly coming at the hands of Chaotic Neutral henchmen, Kronk (Patrick Warburton).

That's not to say that David Spade, the intended star of the show as the Emperor Kuzco, isn't funny... but there are times that his self-absorbed sarcasm rubs the wrong way, whereas pretty much everything that comes out of Kronk's mouth (or, from his kitchen) is delicious.

While co-star John Goodman never really distinguishes himself as a voice actor here, playing the goody two-shoes Pacha (I think Wendi Malick does a much more interesting turn as his wife, Chicha), Eartha Kitt actually does a bangup job as the villainous Yzma, a wretched crone of an enchantress with eyes on the throne. It's actually rather sad that they didn't have her do a musical number as her voice just screams sultry and wicked.

As far as the story goes, it's just your typical buddy/chase flick as Kuzco and Pacha try and get back to civilization whilst bonding with each other and trying to avoid/thwart Yzma and Kronk. No real big surprise there. I was actually hoping that, in the absence of BOTH Kuzco and Yzma, that the people of the empire would attempt some sort of "majority rule" collective, but nope... civilization operates normally while the dueling heads of state, well, duel.

It's weird, The Emperor's New Groove really doesn't have your standard Disney polish and signaled a temporary halt to the trope of every entry being a romantic musical (a halt which led directly to the pulp adventure Atlantis: The Lost Empire), but it also wasn't "nails on the chalkboard" bad like the straight-to-DVD features that Disney was pumping out in the 90's, either. It's quaint and mostly fun... just not a grand Disney Epic, like most folks were used to back then.

I particularly loved (along with Kronk) all the tiny jokes like the Jaguar cub, the rollercoaster voice over, and the map lines... but really, the star of the show was Kronk. I don't think that the movie would've survived without his offbeat humor (and metahumor). Whether it was his obsessive homemaking, arguing with his dueling consciences, or squirrel translation, Patrick Warburton created a character that transcending the possible mediocrity of the film.

The main draw was him... everything else was just a supporting bonus. I mean, they turned Earth Kitt into a freaking cat and didn't even have her purr! Sacrilege!

I can definitely recommend The Emperor's New Groove, just be advised that it's all about the humor... the story, art, and music are all just meh.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Seventy-one - Comic Book Men: Season 1, Episode 1, "When Pawn Stars Meets Middle Aged Geeks"

If you've read my previous entries concerning Geek Godfather, Kevin Smith, you'll know that my feelings for him are complex... but, generally, favor in the positive directions of my heart.

I've been staying away from Comic Book Men because I was afraid it was just going to be another cheesy faux-reality show in the vein of Duck Dynasty or Pawn Stars where the drama is pre-packaged and its main draw is making fun of both its hosts and single-episode walk-ons (aka - customers/suckers).

Sadly, it looks like I was right to be cautious, as it is exactly what I thought it would be, with one very tiny difference... there actually are moments from the podcasts that include the infamous Kevin Smith. For the grand majority of the show, though, it really is a geek version of Pawn Stars and Smith is entirely absent as the actual comic shop in Jersey that is the setting of the show (Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash) is manned by an intentionally quirky crew of mostly geek everymen.

Aside from Smith, the only other familiar face is that of Walt Flanagan. Not that I have anything against the rest of the crew. In fact, I feel like I know them as I've lived and worked with people exactly like them... and I'm probably exactly like a certain personality (I'll let you guess who).

What I do have a problem with, though, are the parade of wannabe geek money-makers who bring their assorted tchotchkes and memorabilia in the vain hopes that they'll get their opening offer (never going to happen) or perhaps settle after a little dithering (still never going to happen... mostly). Whether its the vintage Thor poster, the Chuckie doll, or the Dawn of the Dead photos, it all feels like so much mercenary silliness.

I much rather would have preferred just a televised version of the podcast in its entirety. For a little bit, the show delivers on that as there are moments where it's all the guys around a broadcast booth with the man himself but, other than that, Smith isn't involved at all... and that's a disappointment. I realize that the podcasts get more than a little vulgar, but I think it would be much more entertaining just to hear their stories at the roundtable week after week instead of seeing Pawn Stars: Jersey Geeks.

As always, I'll give it one or two more episodes (perhaps not for the blog) to see if it improves, but I'm not holding any real hope that its format will change to something more palatable to me. For those who like this sort of thing, it's probably a winner, but I'm not one of them.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Friday, September 27, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Seventy - Room 237, "Genocide, Minotaurs, and... Faked Moon Landings?"

There's just something about The Shining that is systematically and overwhelmingly frightening. Acting, Cinematography, Sound, Mood... it truly is a masterpiece of psychological horror... and it's due purely to the efforts of Stanley Kubrick.

Room 237 is a testament to the film's lasting value, taking interviews from obsessive scholars who have analyzed the crap out of the movie, finding references and making leaps of logic and imagination that can be both believable and utterly ridiculous depending on your particular perspective.

If nothing else, these folks and their fanatical devotion to the tricks and references that Kubrick may or may not have inserted into the film has made for a fascinating documentary.

From that opening moments where scenes from other Kubrick films are used to dramatize the narrative of the interviewees, to the first time that opening helicopter shot swoops over the Colorado landscape and the title crawls, the feeling of empathy for the speakers coupled with remembered terror creates an instant connection between subject and audience.

It's actually rather amazing the level of detail that Kubrick put into the film and interesting how many of those details that people have picked up on, even if some of the theories seem a bit out there (faked moon landings, anyone?). I was particularly impressed by the map animations that demonstrated the architecture tricks that showed how unreliable and tricksy the hotel (or the force haunting it) was.

I also want to call attention to the other films that are used for footage that I mentioned earlier. A lot of Kubrick films are used, particularly Eyes Wide Shut, but there's also footage from films like Dario Argento's Demons, which adds a delicious bit of metahumor due to the fact that the cinema goers featured in those scenes eventually fell pray to their own film's ghosts. Both funny and referential, those dramatization moments for the voice over also lend a natural air to the anecdotes.

Things get a little freaky when one of the subjects talks about their experimental project of showing the film both forwards and backwards at the same time and all the little Dark Side of the Moon/Wizard of Oz coincidences that crop up in in terms of convenient framing mash-ups. While it's hard to imagine that it was intentional (like the wacky conspiracy theories), it's still an interesting way to watch.

From a filmmaker's perspective, Room 237 is a must see for students and film lovers. As a basic documentary, I think it would easily be compelling for a general audience, it's just that high quality in terms of pacing and editing. I would certainly recommend it to all viewers who have reached the age of reason.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Sixty-nine - MLP:FiM: Season 3, Episode 9, "Baby Applejack? Hnnnngggghhhh!"

Wow, it's amazing how busy a day can get when you're least expecting it. I've cut dozens of shows, worked on NaNoWriMo prep, corralled two different local programs (though most of that was hands off), and still managed to find time to skip lunch *insert stomach grumbles here*. That said, I picked today to be a Free Day... anything I wanted to see, regardless of how recently I've watched just that.

The result? PONIES!

Today's episode is the season 3, Applejack-centered, story about her attempts to put on the best family reunion possible for all of her extended relations... everything from horrendously long and complicated obstacle courses to industrial sized fried food operations to extreeeeeeeeeme hayrides.

It must be hard for the writers to put together an episode, purely with Applejack in mind, that has her overcoming some personal flaw. On the whole, she's really the only member of the Mane 6 who has it all pretty much together and rarely worries about things unless she needs to. You're typical "older sister" type, she's hardworking, loyal, and honest to a fault. Heck, they had to invent an excuse to have her run away in season two by making her too ashamed that she failed to help the town all on her own.


They pretty much had to do the same thing here, making her act out of character, becoming overbearing and obsessive almost overnight. But, I suppose it's all good, though, as it's a rare thing to have a completely AJ-focused episode. "You take what you can get," is what I'm saying.

Plus, despite its main character acting a bit against type, there are some really poignant moments in the episode. We get to see two shooting stars in reference to her absent (possibly dead) parents, Granny Smith gives herself a very temporary facelift (which makes her look like a very cute filly), and there is a short flashback scene that shows an infant Applejack that is all but sure to give anyone who watches a cuteness overload heart attack.

Sure, since it's an Apple Family Reunion, Babs (along with her terrible accent) makes a guest appearance, but she's not as annoying as she was in her intro episode "Babs Seed" and there are plenty of Background Ponies around, like Fiddlesticks and Turnip Truck, to make me smile.

I guess I have two regrets. First is that the climax song is rather uninspired and boring. I was hoping for more, perhaps something breaking the country genre, but oh well... at least it was over fast. Second is that there aren't more cameos from the Mane 6 (+ Spike)... though, those that do make an appearance are pretty funny and cute. Personally, my favorite was AJ using Spike as a BIC lighter. Freaking. Hilarious.

Overall, despite its flaws, this episode of MLP:FiM is full of enough smiles and squees to make any Brony or Pegasister happy... and it certainly made my busy day end on a delightful note.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Sixty-eight - Land Girls, Episode 1, "Classism, racism, upstairs, downstairs, blimey... what a mess."

It appears, due to the fact that I have watched and enjoyed Call the Midwife, that I'm to be suggested every period BBC series in existence. There's Foyle's War, Bomb Girls, and now... Land Girls.

It's not so bad, really, the suggestions or the show, but the former can get tiresome when you're looking for variety and the latter? Well, let's just say that Land Girls doesn't exactly start with a quality flourish. About the only thing that seems to sit well are the music and the costumes.

For one thing, there's the forced conflict over the racism angle as one of the leads almost instantly befriends some African-American soldiers only to constantly get them in trouble with the racist sergeant who dutifully enforces the segregation codes... even though they're in rural England and it's horribly wrong, no matter how historically accurate. It just feels like it's played for cheap points.

Then there's the same girl who manages to get sweet-talked into dropping her knickers to the very GI who ratted out her black friends to the MPs... and only comes to realize his duplicity when she sees him snogging another pretty young thing.

Moving onto another annoying character, there's the sophisticated priss who not only complains about every single aspect of farm life in the Women's Land Army, but manages to begin tempting the Lord of the Manor into possible wickedness, much to the dismay of the prim and proper Lady Hoxley.

Oiy ve... save me from forced melodrama.

I think what bothers me the most is the sheer obvious ploy that the lusty GI throws in the path of young Bea and the sweet nothings he whispers to have his way with her... and how she's instantly preggers because of it.

On the whole, Land Girls is nowhere near the quality of Call the Midwife... be it in story, dialogue, character, or structure. I mean, seriously, they end on a cliffhanger that isn't even resolved on the next episode (I watched the first five minutes), but don't mind the showrunners as they charge right into another cheap crisis.

I think I'll give it one more episode to shape up, but I can't rightly say that I'm happy with the series so far... aside from the wonderful soundtrack that has me wishing I was playing Fallout 3 or New Vegas instead of watching four vulnerable stereotypes be taken advantage of by the Gentry, the Americans, and each other.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Sixty-seven - Prophets of Science Fiction: Robert Heinlein, "Fascism, Communism, Revolution... but barely a mention of Free Love!"

As promised, I came back to The Science Channel's Prophets of Science Fiction in order to hear what they had to say about my favorite Sci-Fi author, Robert Heinlein. After the silly docudramas intercut with scientist and author interviews that they did on Phillip K. Dick that I watched a while ago, I wasn't sure that I really wanted to see how they treated him... but a promise is a promise.

I think that it is safe to say that they definitely toned down the community theater inbetweeners, focusing more on the works themselves, along with small animations of their book covers and the predicted technologies found within their pages. Honestly, the episode was so much better for it... but still not great.

While it does jump back and forth a little in his personal history in covering the inventions and emerging technologies that he dreamt up, for the most part the episode is a chronological look at both his work and his life, going from a jobless veteran just before the second world war to one of the most celebrated science fiction writers of the century.

I find it interesting that the origin story the episode weaves fails to mention that the story he wrote for his first contest was actually sold to a different magazine, but it's a half hour show and they were more worried, I think, about the future tech in his full-sized novels than a short story.

Also, while I understand the point of the series is to show how prescient authors and creators can be when it comes to their fictions becoming future's reality, I still wish there was more time spent on the meaning of the works themselves as opposed to the dream science that happened to come true years later. They barely covered the interpersonal and societal issues that Heinlein put forth in his books even while acknowledging that he was at the forefront of Social Sci-Fi.

Heck, they didn't even touch his later novels like Time Enough for Love and To Sail Beyond The Sunset.

But, it is their show, after all... and, while it's sort of entertaining to see the tech made real, watching the prototype moon habitats be credited to Heinlein is a bit of a conceptual betrayal of his work. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress didn't feature inflatable shelters... everyone lived underground in tunnels. They would've been better off to talk about the computer work and the sentient AI, Mike, or the rail gun mass driver catapult.

Oh well.

The show is bare bones and disappointing, though not as much as the previous episode I've watched for the blog. I'd say, at best, it's something for middle and high school literature teachers to throw on when there's a substitute. As for true fans of either the author or the genre, I wouldn't recommend it.

One good thing, though... it gave me the name of one of Heinlein's novels that I'd never heard of. I'll have to head on down to the library and check it out (if they have it).

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Monday, September 23, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Sixty-six - Better Off Ted: Season 1, Episode 4, "Racism is Over, Everybody!"

It really is such a shame that Better Off Ted didn't last longer than it did (one and a half seasons), as it had just the right amount of farcical cynicism to make me laugh out loud while still being pointed and poignant.

And, I know this is sacrilege to some folks, but I much prefer Portia de Rossi's performance of Veronica here than her role on Arrested Development as a Bluth.

The main issue in this episode is the fact that Lem (Malcolm Barrett)... and every other Black employee of Veridian Dynamics... are trapped in rooms, thoroughly dehydrated, and left in the dark as Veridian's new energy efficient motion sensors cannot see Black people. Literally. Veronica does her best to remind Ted (Jay Harrington) that it still sees Hispanics, Asians, Pacific-Islanders, and Jews, but, as usual, intentionally misses the point.

It's great to see Lem work through his social anxiety trying to confront the higher ups in corporate (Veronica included), even if his efforts to bring attention to the problem causes Veridian to kludge things up by first creating segregated facilities followed by an exponentially expensive solution that requires hiring White people to follow Black employees. Sure, their answer to that problem is to hire more Black employees instead of Hispanics, Asians, Pacific-Islanders, and/or Jews to fix it instead of the endless cycle they come up with... but, when you type it out like that, it seems just as Swiftian as it really is.

The side plot involves Ted first hating, then liking, then hating Linda's new/old boyfriend whom she instantly got back together with after Ted told her that they (Ted and Linda, I mean... not Linda and the Ex) couldn't be together the episode previous. It's a sweetly irrational Catch-22 and their on-again/mostly-off-again relationship was the stuff of Sam and Diane, and one of the primary reasons that I miss the series (they had great chemistry together... but so did everyone on the show).

Eventually, both plots resolve with the slow, romantic burn back on, as hinted by the longing looks both Ted and Linda give each other's retreating forms, and a return to the corporate status quo with the old motion detection system, finally letting everyone... no matter their skin color... slave away for their ever important corporate masters (who make at least three times what everyone else does).

Ah, not-so-subtle jabs at the inequities of multinational corporations, how you amuse and simultaneously sadden me.

As usual, the Veridian Dynamics fake commercial lampoons the main plot with intentional irony as the company pats itself on the back for its assumed diversty, despite the fact that most of their employee shots are of small groups of White people. I find these thirty second fauxmercials to often be the highlight of the episodes and work well to paint the mood of the show in all its Orwellian delusions.

Wait... Jonathan Swift and George Orwell? Two literary references in one post? I've got to wrap things up before I go too far and turn this into a dissertation.

Like I mentioned before, Better Off Ted was a delightfully funny, subversive show that reminds me of M*A*S*H without the laugh track or horrors of war to remind us of our humanity. Still, Ted, et al., manage to do it quite well... only with genetically engineered, glow in the dark squirrels (though, not in this episode). I just wish it had lasted longer, obviously.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Sixty-five - The Man With One Red Shoe, "It's SO ridiculous, that I can ALMOST actually believe it"

The Cold War was a golden age for both spy dramas and comedies... and a reality where the truth seemed, sometimes, stranger than fiction... so much so that it could totally be plausible for rogue factions of the CIA to be playing these sorts of games in order to resolve a power struggle.

I'm speaking, of course, of the antics of Dabney Coleman and Charles Durning in the film (which is a remake of a french piece), one an ambitious field leader gunning for the Director's position that the other holds. Both men have loyal agents on their side and both men play fast and loose with the lives of the little people, more worried about their own power than the greater good.

While shows like The West Wing prefer to inspire with the idea that government workers serve at the will of the President to make the world a better place... a real Camelot mentality... the 80's were full of cynical films like this where it was all about "I've got mine, Jack."

As a vehicle for Tom Hanks, it's safe to say that he has better titles under his belt, both before and since. He plays the eponymous Man with the One Red Shoe whom Ed Herrmann (as the assistant to Durning's CIA Director) randomly picks out of a crowd to send Coleman's crew on a wild goose chase after. Hanks' Richard Drew is a violinist having a reluctant affair with his best friend's (Jim Belushi) wife (Carrie Fisher) (the sort of thing you could get away with in, say, France), who finds himself drawn to Lori Singer's secret agent who is trying to covertly steal whatever it is they think he might be hiding being the spy that he really isn't.

What follows from the premise is an unhappy comedy of errors where Hanks unintentionally outwits the efforts of the crack CIA squad shadowing his every move. Not only that, but he manages to avoid Jim Belushi's jealous rage through more mishaps that make Belushi's character, Morris, feel as if he's hallucinating dead bodies everywhere.

It's hard to believe Lori Singer's portrayal as a gung-ho honey trap who falls for her mark. Her acting is never convincing and she basically feels like she was cast as a substitute for Daryl Hannah as her look screams that the director was going for the exact same box office magic as Splash, trying to steal thunder from Ron Howard.

That's not to say that there aren't a few interesting shots. While, overall, the cinematography is rote and occasionally goofy, there are moments at the beginning when Ed Herrmann is searching the airport for his patsy that are actually a little inspired. They quickly fall to the wayside in favor of cheap production work, though.

I think that my biggest disappointment, though, is the cameo of David Ogden Stiers as the conductor of Hanks' orchestra. I love the man to death and he has serious presence... it's just such a shame that he is only in this one scene. The movie could've stood to have a few recurring characters like him to offer balance to the increasing surreal antics of the two CIA teams.

As movies go, The Man With One Red Shoe is a cheap Saturday matinee at best, only really worth seeing if you're working through Hanks' film catalog. I'd say skip it... and check out the original: The Tall, Blonde Man With One Black Shoe!

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Sixty-four - I'm Reed Fish, "but who cares, really?"

Okay, so I was mining the Suggestions Queue for quirky romantic comedies and happened upon a films I'd never heard of before called I'm Reed Fish. I probably wouldn't have watched it purely for Jay Baruchel as, not that I hate the guy, but his attempts at leading man material the past few years have been a bit disappointing (see: The Sorcerer's Apprentice and She's Out of My League). Honestly, the only thing I have truly enjoyed from him in recent memory was How to Train Your Dragon.

That being said, what hooked me was the fact that sharing the lead with him, supposedly, was Alexis Bledel. As a card carrying fanboy of Gilmore Girls, I was instantly sold... then I found out she's not so much a co-lead as supporting love interest.

Curse you, Movie Posters and your lying ways!

You see, the film is about Jay's main character, the eponymous Reed Fish, and how his life is supposedly thrown into turmoil when his childhood best friend/soul mate (who is NOT Alexis Bledel) returns to their small town and throws his heart out of whack. Reed is already engaged and about to be married (yes, TO Alexis Bledel), but he very obviously has cold feet and they argue about the most mundane things... like asparagus.

Anyways, long story spoilerifically short, Reed manages to alienate both the women in his life and pretty much ends up the butt of all the anger in his town as folks are jealous and gleefully wrathful that he seemingly had it all with one gal... then ruined it attempting (and failing) to get the other.

On top of that, there's this whole undercurrent of "living up to one's father" but that angle is corrupted by the fact that Reed's father killed himself, his wife, and his son's fiance's mother in a drunk driving collision... and Reed is trying to emulate him for some reason? Wha-huh?

But, wait! There's more!

About a half an hour into the picture, we're treated to the revelation that we're not actually watching Reed Fish's fall from grace... we're watching a movie WITHIN a movie about Reed Fish's yadda, yadda, yadda, and not only are Alexis Bledel and Schuyler Fisk (odd name, cute actress) actors in the meta-film, you're not sure until the end which one of them is playing the fake version of the "real life" mysterious girl whom Reed invited to the screening... the woman he REALLY loves.

The premise, itself, is one giant tease that awkwardly provides the framework for a long series of shots of Jay Baruchel looking depressed or goofy or mildly annoyed with his character's small town life. To be honest, it mostly leaves me cold and I find myself disappointed overall.

With that in mind, I do want to point out the good bits. Katey Sagal does well in her maternal role as the mayor, Maureen, though there really isn't enough of her for it to help the overall film... and I'm always happy to see DJ Qualls get work, even if he has the range of a thimble.

On the whole, though, I think the film is too scattered and awkward to be much of anything quality and its advertising (the blue poster that is on Netflix) is deceptive. It really felt like a waste of time.

I would almost say it was an admirable failure, as the meta device of the movie screening is an interesting concept, but it was so shoddily executed that it actually lost points for the film. Props for the attempt, at least, though.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Friday, September 20, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Sixty-three - The A-Team: Season 1, Pilot, "Hurray for 80's Stunt Shows!"

I grew up on the A-Team... and MacGyver and The Fall Guy. To a kid like me, who didn't get the cheese factor inherent to the genre, Hannibal & Co. were the epitome of cool. Adventurous, ex-Army mercenaries wronged by their government, helping the little people and kicking generic bad guy butt!

Freaking awesome!

I think that I can safely say that I never saw the pilot, though. Why do I say that? Because I have absolutely no idea who that dark haired cherub is playing Face. The Face that I remember was always performed by Dirk Benedict. Here in the pilot, he's played by some bloke named Tim Dunigan. Now, it's not that Dunigan does a terrible job... his effete Hollywood Producer alias is both offensive and believable... it's just that Dirk will always be Face.

At least for the television series.

Really, everyone in the movie was great in their respective roles, but that's another post altogether.

This pilot, though. Man, was I young and immature for liking this series. It has all the terrible gaffes that were endemic of television back then. Ridiculous stunts that make no sense, casual racism that isn't called out, disdain for the mentally ill, and your basic ethnic stereotypes.

I think the most egregious example of shoddy stunt editing was during the second chase scene where we're introduced to Hannibal, Face, and B.A.. They force a squad car off the road on a Roman Movie Set and it goes flying off a ramp... in a Forest Set that is an obviously different scene all together. I get that it could've been from the same series of stunts, just an earlier or later portion of it, but there's no way the foliage they crash through was on that Roman set as we see the whole street section the first time they pass it.

As for the racism? The Mexican banditos actually aren't the worst example... though I did expect them to do the "we don't need no stinkin' badges" routine just for kicks. No, the award for "Most Racist Caricature" goes to George Peppard's Hannibal... who pulls a Mickey Rooney with cheap makeup and acts the surly old Chinese fixer.

I mean wow... just wow. Sure, it was a different time, but it's hard to forgive.

The story, itself, is forgettable. A reporter is kidnapped by generic Mexican revolutionaries who are funded by gangster pot farmers who are terrorizing a town and the old reporter's young protege (who happens to be a hot chick) hires the A-Team to get him out. Cue two-part pilot episode.

I think, really, the only standouts for the whole thing are Dwight Schultz... as corny as his "Howling Mad" routine is, I'll always love Broccoli... and a small muscle role for whom MST3K fans would recognize as Vadinho from Puma-Man! Other than that, coupled with the absence of Dirk Benedict, there's very little to love about the pilot for The A-Team.

And I'm beginning to worry that the same could be said for the whole series... that my memory of it was glossed over by the haze of nostalgia. We'll see, I suppose, as I'll give it at least a few more episodes, just not in the near future. I need to wash the taste of this out of my mouth.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Sixty-two - Hellraiser, "We have SUCH sights to show you."

It's hard to argue the value of a cult icon such as Pinhead. He's become the inspiration for countless horror writers and artists and is instantly recognizable for the sado-sexual menace that he and his fellow Cenobites represent, culling pleasure from ultimate suffering. The first in a long series of films, the original Hellraiser rates among the highest, its sequels having dropped off majorly in quality after Hellraiser II: Hellbound.

A rather self-contained film, Hellraiser sports a small cast of unknowns and D-listers who fill out the Cotton family tree. There's Frank, whom we're introduced to first, who acquires the mysterious Puzzle Box from your stereotypical Oriental Mystic Shopkeeper. He uses the box and is instantly taken by the Cenobites. From there we're shown the unhappy marriage of Frank's brother, Larry, who is married to Julia. Unknown to Larry, Frank and Julia were lovers and would be again, as Larry's blood partially resurrects Frank. Julia, enthralled by her skinless lover, brings Frank victims to drain to regenerate him further, until Larry's daughter discovers the gory details and accidentally summons the Cenobites... who want them all!

Hellraiser is definitely a picture that captured the imagination of movie-goers. While its effects are rough by today's standards, at the time they were tremendously creative and frightening. Even now, despite my lack of suspension of disbelief, I can respect them for what they are... especially that initial regeneration sequence which is a combination of reverse motion and clever puppetry.

I also want to praise Clive Barker for the design of the cenobites. Most movie monsters of the era were hulking monoliths hidden behind masks. Here, Clive took several different striking concepts towards prosthetics and makeup to create terrifying visages of torture demons like Pinhead, Butterball, and Chatterer. Conceptually, he also breaks the mold by including an aggressive female Cenobite who is just as threatening as her male counterparts. Sin knows no gender lines here and I find that right proper.

Now, all of this praise shouldn't belie the fact that there's some serious cheese that holds the movie down. Effects aside, pretty much any scene with the movie's innocent, Kristy... from her work at the pet store to her courtship with her fashion disaster boyfriend... well, right up until she's confronted by the supernatural elements of the film, she's a mess of a character.

Similarly, while Frank and Julia's tawdry affair and the lengths that Julia goes to in order to bring him back are damned compelling, Julia's actual marriage is a laughable sham, both in terms of the lack of actual chemistry and the overall storyline. Add to that the silly sex fiend victims that she brings back to the love nest to be consumed by Frank, it's often hard to take the good portions of the movie seriously.

Overall, though, for all its faults, Hellraiser is an excellent horror film... and one of Clive Barker's best. It reminds me of Fulci and Argento, but with a very serious, mainstream slant. Brave, but still sticking to its genre roots. Honestly, it's a must for any horror fan and, while it might not scare as well as it used to in comparison to today's standards, I'd add it to any movie-goer's standard film education.

One final note, I just wanted to mention how far reaching Hellraiser and it's Cenobites are, showing up in homage in the manga Berserk. It is so very obvious that Miura drew inspiration from the Cenobites in creating the Godhand of the Apostles.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~