Friday, September 4, 2015

Forgotten Flix: Something Wicked This Way Comes

Why not go from a fake '80s Film to a real one?  Today's Film is Something Wicked This Way Comes, the 1983 Film that was a big part of Disney *briefly* being bankrupt.  It isn't totally to blame, as other financial losses like The Black Hole and Tron hurt them too.  In this case, the Film cost $18 million in 1983 Dollars- do the Math, Internet- and only made $8 million.  Hell, the reshoots that the Studio demanded cost $5 million.  You still can't top stuff like Gigli's opening-weekend gross barely matching its 2 Stars' paycheck or Brad Pitt's Indy Film about Jesse James only pulling in $20 million...which was also his paycheck for the Film.  Back to Disney, we forget how much money they lose on Films sometimes.  They had to cheat a little and rely on worldwide grosses to make any money (and still barely any) on stuff like John Carter and The Lone Ranger.  Even then, you are relying upon the same kind of Hollywood Math that claims that Forrest Gump is still financially 'in the red' (in order to not pay the Author his cut).  In contrast, some Films like Mars Needs Moms still officially lost over $100 million!  We just forget all that when stuff like Frozen nets them at least $2 billion- with who knows how much else in Marketing.  Back to this Film though, the Story behind the Scenes is that the original Story's Author- Ray Bradbury- wrote a Script and the Studio made all sorts of changes.  Was anyone happy with the final product?  The Film is about a slice of Americana that gets corrupted by vague evil and vice.  Can childhood innocence save the day?  To find out, read on...
In a town that makes the place in Pleasantville look like Harlem, all is well.
Our young heroes have no real problems.  The biggest one: the old Dad (Jason Robards) that one has.  Oh the...humanity?
When a Circus comes to Town, people in the Town start to change.  Is it for the better?
While nothing explicit happens, good luck getting a Scene like this in a Disney Film today.
It turns out that the man behind it all- Mr. G.M. Dark (Jonathan Pryce)- is giving people what they want, but with a typical twist.

To see this done more recently, watch Rick & Morty.  The Episode- 'Something Ricked This Way Comes!'
The wishes are giving him some sort of power.  That can't be good, right?  Nah.
When Robards won't turn over the kids- who know his secret- he starts ripping pages out of the book of Robards' life...or something.  It is a neat scene...even if it doesn't make much sense.
Robards ends up in the Hall of Mirrors from Conan the Destroyer while trying to stop Mr. Dark.  Can it be done?
In the End, Dark is stopped, the situation is reversed and Robards learns to accept being old.  Hurray for that, I guess.  The End.
Damn slow, but not that bad.  The big problem here is that this one is a hard sell.  It is nostalgic, but dark.  It is slow-paced, but tries to seem dramatic.  It is for children, but tries to talk about the problem of aging.  This Film has some neat ideas, but can't really live up to its ideas.  You can do alot with the Story here.  This Movie tries to make use of them- showing someone getting their Youth, for example- but fails to stay interesting.  It really is the turgid pace that dooms this one.  It takes so long to get going that it is just hard to be all that invested.  It really needs something exciting to happen early on to make the later pay-off worthwhile.  As it is, you have to be pretty forgiving to make it through this one to get to the good stuff.  It isn't great...but it deserves a bit better than the obscurity it currently resides in.  Let's borrow some Tron imagery (since that worked out so well)...
Next up, I cover a recent Film that is all sorts of freaky.  I'm not really sure what the message is, but it damn sure is strange!  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

New Flix: Lost After Dark (2014)

Are you ready for some retro?  Today's Film is Lost After Dark, a 2014 Horror Film that apes the style of a 1980s Horror Film.  Yes, the Grindhouse trend refuses to die.  Do we still care?  The question is simple: is this a good Slasher that acts retro or just a novelty act?  The Story involves a bunch of Teens that sneak off to Party.  Shockingly, they go to a murder house.  Can we get around to labeling those by now?  Get to work on that, Congress!  In the mean-time, let's take a SPOILER-free look at this one to see how it turned out...
After the standard Horror Movie Opening Kill, we meet our heroes in the wacky year of 1984.
A group of teens steal a Bus to drive off to a Hunting Lodge for a weekend of drugs, drinking and, well, you know.

When the Bus inevitably breaks down, they end up at this creepy Cabin.  Sure- why not stay?!?
In typical fashion, the group is full of criss-crossed romance, tension and stereotypes.  'Natch.
As they split up to chat and, well, you know, evil lurks.  What kind of evil?
The 'Killer Cannibal in the Woods' kind of evil, of course.  Who wins the Pool this Round?
I won't SPOIL this one, so you're just going to see for yourself if this one has any twists and turns...
I was hoping for a little more, but this is still pretty good.  For better or worse, this one wears its 'Retro' label proudly.  They play this one pretty straight.  On the plus side, they don't try to make it into a Comedy!  If you like these kinds of Films, this sure is one of them.  If you don't, it sure is one of them.  To be fair, it does play with the Casting a bit and not all of the Characters are as awful as they may seem.  Characters are actually kind of likable here.  That said, the Movie steals some Plot ideas, iconic imagery and the vibe of many other Films.  It is up to you whether or not you consider them to be thefts or Homages.  As a whole, I liked it.  It didn't do things too differently and that's alright.  I'm still not sure if the guys behind this should be Remaking my precious Waxwork though (as rumors say)...
Next up, I change things up and look at an old Film that nearly killed a major Studio.  It isn't so much Wicked as unmarketable.  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Moon Over Miami: Puppet Master X- Axis Rising

I eagerly await the 3 people who will disagree with me.  Today's Film is Puppet Master X- Axis Rising, a Film which is somehow the 10th Film even though the last one was too.  I don't expect logic in a Series in which the 7th Film is actually first in Chronological Order.  As a bonus, that one apparently isn't Canon anymore- okay.  It has been years since I did one of these Films, even though I literally own all of them- save this one.  Can you blame me?  In the previous Film, Nazis came for Toulon's formula to make Puppets come to life, but he killed himself (in the first Scene of the 1st Film).  Shortly after that, some other guy found it and ended up fighting the Axis.  Those evil Krauts, Japs and Italians (not featured) wanted to stop our efforts in WWII- in 1939.  Yes, before we fought the War, they wanted to stop us from fighting the War!  My head!  That Film ended with a Cliffhanger of sorts as Tunneler (the one with a drill on his head) is stolen by the fake-Chinese-but-actually-Japanese-lady (played by a Chinese Lady!!!!) at the end.  What will our Heroes do?  Will this fit into the Continuity even slightly?  To find out, read on...
The evil Japanese Lady- Recast for this Cameo- gives Tunneler (which she stole) to the Nazis and doesn't play a part anymore.  You can't handle Nazis and evil Japanese Spies, audience!
Our Heroes- now with  both Recast- talk about what they need to do.

Kudos for pointing out that calling the Japanese person a 'Dragon Lady' is wrong.  Lack of kudos for making that a meaningless point with her not being important anymore.
The evil SS Girlfriend offends her boyfriend enough that he kills her!  He presses the kidnapped Austrian Scientist to revive her...but it fails.  Plan B!
In keeping with Full Moon's cultural sensitivity, here is another evil Puppet- Kamikaze.

Stay classy.
With the Ninja puppet (new Doll #17) gone, they make Gunslinger to help even the odds.

Of course, Toulon used this same doll in 1941 Germany (while ALIVE!!!), so how the hell does this work?
Here's where this Film really fails.  We see the Puppets do battle as the Climax begins...and we never see the resolution.  How do you screw something like this up?
Since I don't care about SPOILERS in this instance, we see the evil Nazi get killed by the Puppets...
...and Kamikaze blows up, after spending over half the Film running around like he was about to.
In the aftermath, our dumb heroes let the Austrian Scientist go free...but he takes a vial of the Formula with him.  To be continued (as an insult to Continuity)?  The End.
This is about as bad as I expected.  It has been awhile since I watched one of these Films and they, as a whole, just don't work for me anymore.  It feels weird to say this, but the early Films actually had (generally) better effects.  There seemed to be very little (good) effort to actually use the Puppets as, well, Puppets.  They barely move and shake the things around in this Film.  It is almost like they don't want to use the Puppets, but also can't help but use the Puppets.  If they don't care, why should I?  I should also note that the man behind Full Moon is the Director here.  Is it weird that I almost miss David DeCoteau?  Yes, he makes those 1313 Films, but also Directed the best Film in this Franchise.  The closest thing we get is the new Star being from a 1313 Film already.  The Recasting and Continuity issues- Why does our Hero have a house now?  How did the other Puppets un-kidnap themselves?- are just the icing dollops on this disappointing Cake.  Sadly, this Cake isn't a lie- it just sucks.  On the plus side, here is this one shot that would never be put in by David DeCoteau...
Next up, a modern Horror Film that seeks to be retro.  Is Cabin in the Woods a Genre now?  Stay tuned...

Monday, August 31, 2015

Wan and Cheese: The Conjuring

Am I ready to possibly offend all of the online Horror Critics out there?  Today's Film is The Conjuring, a 2013 Film by Internet Darling James Wan.  I guess if you make enough Saw Films, we have to like you.  So how does he follow up the Insidious Films?  By basically just kind of making another one- that's how!  I suppose I can't blame the guy, but this isn't exactly a big step forward.  It is still about an evil Spirit (or two) haunting a house with a nice Family in it and some Experts come to help them.  The difference- this one is 'based on a true Story.'  Well, the people's names sure are the same.  This Story involves the Warrens, who are most famous for writing about the so-called Amityville Horror.  Show of hands for who believes any of that Story?  I thought so.  Naturally, I'm a bit skeptical since the idea here is that this big-time 'true Story' happened, but they kept it secret.  Really- the Warrens kept a Story about how they battled Demons secret?  Really?  Another difference here is that Leigh Whannel is nowhere to be seen.  Oh darn, my least Favorite part of the Insidious Films is gone?  Say it ain't so!  Will this oh-so-familiar tale finally be the one to truly impress me or will I continue to say 'Meh?'  To find out (without major SPOILERS, so relax), read on...
The Warrens wrote 6 Books, but they kept this Story 'locked away?'  Right...
This is the tale of a young family- with 5 daughters- who moves to a new House, but weird stuff starts to happen.

You know the drill- creaking doors, mysterious sounds and the clocks stop.  How original.
The Conjuring would just like to take a minute to remind you of Poltergeist.  That is all.
Lili Taylor- who should be familiar with this after 1999's The Haunting- is targeted by the spirit more overtly than anyone.  Why?
The woman finally calls the Warrens (with their own B-Plot to get this Film to 90 minutes) and they discover that that House is mega-haunted.  It is almost comical the degree that this placed is haunted.
The Conjuring would like to remind you that Annabelle is apparently scary and totally important to this Plot.  It isn't...but it would just like to justify the spin-off that would come next year (and be Directed by the man behind Mortal Kombat: Annihilation).

Hurray for Corporate Synergy over Art!
The Warrens investigate the House and try to find what they can do to cleanse it.  They...

Hey, don't even pretend to go Found Footage on me, Movie!  Not cool.
Things escalate at the House as the Warrens start to get close to the truth.  Mind you, the Comic Relief replacements for Whannell and Angus Sampson are so insufferable that they may be the real target.
 Can the Warrens save the day or does this ghost story have an unhappy Ending?  To find out, watch the Film already.  The End.
I'm sorry, but I don't really get the mega-hype here.  Don't get me wrong- it isn't a bad Movie.  It has some good moments, is pretty well-acted and has some good (sometimes low-key) Special Effects.  The problem: it just didn't feel like anything all that special.  I just watched 2 James Wan Films like this.  Admittedly, the Plot doesn't take ridiculous turns like Insidious: Chapter 2, but it still quite similar.  The differences are really pretty minor and that is kind of disappointing.  While there are some good visuals here, they aren't all that different from anything you've seen somewhere else.  I suppose you could argue that THIS version of those cliches/Tropes is the best one (but I'm not).  The Conjuring just didn't do anything unique enough to really 'click' for me.  Bring it on, Internet- I can take it.  Speaking of which, is it wrong to point out how flattering the Casting of Ed Warren was here?  I mean, do you see the likeness?
Next up, a Film that nobody is going to get bothered by me going after.  I suppose I can't put off this Charles Band Film any longer.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Twin Piqued: Variations on Relations

Even though it is Sunday, the adventures still continue in...
This week, people plot, people investigate and one man dies!
Important Stuff
- Donna continues to press her Parents on their Ben Horne connection.

- Pete, Harry and Catherine manage to open Eckhardt's Puzzle Box, but aren't sure what is inside.
- Many people sign up for the Miss Twin Peaks Pageant, including Nadine.  Gotta love her!

- In Owl Cave, the gang discovers some weird drawings.  Elsewhere, Windom speaks of the White and Black Lodges.
- In a Comedy Subplot, Dick teaches people how to be a Sommelier.  They did this on Parks & Recreation like 20 years later.

- Teen Witch asks her Mayor Husband to rig the Miss Twin Peaks Pageant, but he refuses.

- Romance blooms between Cooper and Graham, but they are being watched by Windom.  Uh oh.
- In spite of a pep talk from Cooper, Billy Zane leaves Town after getting an unseen message.

- Cooper learns of the Poems delivered from Windom to the ladies of the Town.

- In his biggest move yet, Windom Earle kills Ted Raimi (who hasn't?!?) and delivers him as a message.
Theme(s)
The unofficial Title of this Episode speaks on it, but the key Theme here is Love.

- Donna investigates whether it exists between her Mother and Ben.
- Mike and Bobby discuss his romance with Nadine, which the latter doesn't want to know more about!
- Speaking of Bobby, Shelly makes out with Gordon in front of him!
- Lastly, Cooper and Graham seem to be kindred spirits.  Love is beautiful!
Love is doomed, right?
Weird Moment(s)
This one is an easy one- even with a dash of Nadine and an Andy scene- and it it Gordon.

To make this Scene super-silly, he talks normally to Shelly, shouts at everyone and then makes out with Shelly...after explaining what he is doing to Bobby...and going back to it again.  Glorious.
Not alot of forward progress, but still good.  Some of the mystical stuff is a bit cryptic here, but I'm still curious to see where it goes.  The Character Moments are still what keep me hooked though.  Cooper and Graham's relationship seems doomed (given the Show), but you hope that it will survive.  Seeing Ben Horne now fight against Ghostwood and try to redeem himself is interesting.  Gordon Cole is...well, just bizarre fun.  As unclear as his end goal seems, watching Windom Earle work is fun.  Plus, seeing all of the build-up to the Miss Twin Peaks Pageant makes for a fun diversion from all of the scheming and murder.  This is the 'bad part of the Show,' huh?  To each his own, I guess.  Even knowing what I know, I'm going to keep with this one to see how the whole thing plays out.  Since her run on the Show appears to be fully over, let's see what the future held for Josie...
Next week, the plans of many continue to move to a head.  Will someone Cooper knows die next?  See you then...