Friday, May 31, 2013

Lazy Cover Art: Slasher Film Extravaganza

When you see so many films, it's hard not to notice trends.  One of them I've felt like addressing is a trend in Slasher Film covers.  Let's start off with Urban Legend 2, a film that totally needed to be made.
Seems simple enough.  How about the third film- which has completely abandoned the serial killer concept- to see if there is something in common?
Speaking of third films in the series (although this one has a Zombie Fisherman), here's yet another familiar poster.
Leave it to David DeCoteau to rip off this familiar idea for a Slasher film of his own.
 But wait- there's more.

For his 1313 series, he ripped it off AGAIN.  Dull surprise.
One more for the road- a 2012 Slasher film that benefits from an extra-nightmare-inducing mask.  Yikes.
The next time you and your friends stand together in a line, look behind you.  There's a 99% chance that a masked killer is behind you.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Previously in Black: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

Can we all just agree that we didn't all see this movie when it first came out?  With the $1 Billion and counting success of Iron Man 3, a lot more attention is suddenly being paid to the first pairing of Robert Downey Jr and Shane Black.  The film- Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.  For those of you who don't know all about him, here's some quick info on Shane Black.  For many years, Black was just a Screenwriter, the faceless voice behind such films as Lethal Weapon, The Monster Squad and Last Action Hero.  Black has always seemed to have an ironic sensibility and a desire to mess with cliches.  A lot of his works have been deconstructions of tropes and ideals of Writing.  The title of this film reflects this, as Kiss Kiss, Bang is a sardonic summary of what Action Film Scripts (like Black wrote) are.  The film is about Downey Jr ending up in Hollywood due to a series of bizarre circumstances and stumbling across a mystery involving a lady from his past.  The whole thing is somewhat lamp shaded by the fictitious crime stories about Johnny Gossamer that him and the woman love.  That's just a taste of the Meta styling of this film.  If you're a fan of Downey Jr in the role of Tony Stark, this role is a bit different, while still managing to strike many familiar notes.  To give you a MOSTLY SPOILER-free look at this *now* Cult Classic, read on...
After a cold open that will make more sense later, we meet Downey Jr as Harry Lockhart, who is going to be Narrating this tale of just one year prior.  When your Narrator tells you that he's your Narrator, you just might be Meta!
Lockhart is a petty thief in New York who flees a robbery gone awry and runs right into an Open Audition.  His real emotions over what just happened convince the people that he's 'a Method Actor.'  You're going to Hollywood, dawg!
At a bar, he meets Harmony Lane, who he eventually recognizes as a girl from his past.  Harry the Narrator then apologizes for 'being a bad Narrator,' but also says that we should have figured out that the Intro was important.

Meta Burn!
Lockhart is sent out with 'Gay Perry' (Val Kilmer), a P.I. who is supposed to Tutor him for the part.  Unfortunately, their 'average stake-out' turns them into witnesses to a Murder.  Uh oh.
This is a Shane Black film, so, naturally, it's set at Christmas.

Seriously, Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight, this film and Iron Man 3 are all set around this holiday.  Weird, right?
As Perry, Lane and Lockhart get deeper into this case involving a dead sister, two missing bodies and a lot of money, things get dangerous.  Who could be behind it?
The answer(s) is/are a bit weird.  Naturally, I won't SPOIL this reveal in any way.  I'm a dick/hero like that.
Instead, I'll give you a quick look at this super META moment from the ending scene.  Awesome.
 Oh and for all of you who don't find Downey Jr's sardonic persona funny, here's one for you.  The End.
Honestly, I don't have a lot left to say.  Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is a funny movie.  It's just that simple.  Granted- humor is subjective.  After all, about five people seem to find Tim & Eric funny.  That said, most of the film is built around Robert Downey Jr's sardonic banter.  This same banter was in The Avengers (over $1 billion gross) and the Iron Man trilogy (nearly $2 billion gross in total), so it seems to be pretty popular.  The film's charms may not work on everyone, but they certainly did on me.  I would love to see more films narrated by Robert Downey Jr- provided that his lines were written by either Shane Black or Joss Whedon. It's one of those films where its relative obscurity works in its favor- an argument hard to make if you're one of the people who funded it, mind you.  If you still haven't tracked down this film, do yourself a favor and do it.  Given how well Iron Man 3 has done, you'll want to hurry before everyone and their mother sees it first.  Take us away, shot with zero context...
Up next, another Remake of a Classic film.  When in doubt, give it to a bunch of Englishmen with $20,000.  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My Crazy Youth: That Time The G.I. Joe Team Went to Ancient Greece!

I often wonder why I ended up the way I do.  How can I rent both The Master and a shitty-looking Remake of Night of the Living Dead in the same week?  How can my Instant Queue hold both Zapped and Metropolis Restored?  How can I own The Corpse Grinders II (don't ask) and The Prestige?  Well, the answer lies in my youth.

I was raised on crazy-ass TV Shows and Cartoons.  I stumbled across this one, which just happens to be a perfect example...
Yes, this is what it sounds like.  While doing battle with Cobra, the G.I. Joes are sent back in time...when someone shoots a golden coil that falls out of a space ship.  No, really.
The Episode goes really over-board less than 10 minutes in with this part where Sgt. Slaughter can translate Ancient Greek...
How can he possibly do this?  It's simple (in that it's really, really silly)...
To pile on the hilarity, some of the Joes get confused for Greek Deities/Gods.  Lifeline is Asclepius, while Sgt. Slaughter is...
Of course he is.

Trapped in Ancient Greece as well, Cobra says '^$%# causality!' and goes after some fuel for their vehicles, which I'm sure is easy to make in this time.
Slaughter, meanwhile, gets separated on the journey and takes part in one of Hercules' famous Trials.  How this relates to the Jason and the Argonauts parallel they're going for is anyone's guess.  On the plus side, Slaughter just drowned a whole bunch of cattle!
The Joes rally their forces once again and manage to shoot the coil again, which, naturally transports them back to the Present, but doesn't take the Greeks with them.  That all makes sense,
The aliens come back and reclaim the coil aka their Hyperdrive.  They apparently talk telepathically, but all of the Joes can hear them too,, science again?  Thus ends this crazy adventure of the G.I. Joes!
Seriously, what kind of drugs were people on in the '80s?  Whatever they were, they really need to share them!  This is the kind of crazy that you normally only see in Japan.  In fact, they pretty much did this same premise and called it G.I. Samurai.  This takes the cake though, since they managed to work in Time Travel and space aliens.  They get bonus points for time-traveling to Ancient Greece while not even being remotely close to it!  Seriously, they're fighting over the Suez Canal and just kind of land on a Greek Isle!  Never mind that the whole thing rests on 1) random aliens appearing 2) a single laser ripping open their ship 3) said laser cutting right into where their hyper-drive coil is kept 4) somehow loosing said coil from the ship and causing it to fall 5) the coil falling onto a random Greek isle and not being damaged 6) a Cobra laser hitting it and 7) said laser somehow ripping a hole in the time-space continuum.  I hope Neil Degrasse Tyson never reads this!  The whole thing is ridiculous and silly.  Never mind Sgt. Slaughter speaking Ancient Greek, how come Augeus just starts conversing to him in English?  It's obviously a story conceit, but I'm just amazed that their is no Sci-Fi explanation for it.  Would that be too silly even for you?  As a fun side note, Hercules left the Voyage of Jason & The Argonauts when his young, male 'companion' Hylas went missing.  What does that say about Slaughter if they're being accurate.  Regardless, you owe it to yourself to check out this (and other) bizarre, acid-trip episodes of G.I. Joe.
Next up, Spider-Man fights an obscure villain whose origin is 'crazied' up for a cartoon.  This thing just gets stranger and stranger!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Soldier On: G.I. Joe- The Movie

Yo Nostalgia!  As a kid growing up in the '80s, I watched all of the usual fare- He-Man, G.I. Joe and Thundercats.  That was, of course, in addition to crazier fare like Centurions, Defenders of the Earth and Thundarr the Barbarian.  To be honest with you, however, G.I. Joe: The Movie is a bit hazy for me.  Granted- I was three years old when the film was released on VHS, so I could have seen it and just not managed to maintain all of my memories.  Watching it later as a teenager is more memorable and I recall the film being good, but kind of weird.  Watching it recently as an adult (if you insist that I am one), it is really weird, but still good in a lot of ways.  If you don't know what G.I. Joe is, here's the basic summary: G.I. Joe fights Cobra.  What you do need to know is that Cobra dealt with their hundreds and hundreds of losses by creating a new leader- Serpentor.  He was created at the beginning of the second Season from the DNA mix of several famous Leaders and Generals (Atilla the Hun, Napoleon, etc) Sergeant Slaughter.  From the beginning of his introduction in the show, the Wrestler/Character has been portrayed as some sort of Superman, in contrast to everyone else...who are all elite fighting machines of the military.  You'll see more of that later too.  The plot of this film gets really, really crazy early on and just never looks back.  Unlike Transformers: The Movie (which was in production at the same time, but came out first), this film does not set up the next Season of the show, as there isn't one.  To find out if you should be sad or not about this film being bumped from a Theatrical release, read on...
The film's famous opening is just as awesome and goofy as ever.  Cobra tries to blow up the Statue of Liberty with a single bomb, but gets stopped while some awesome music plays.

It's also important to note how major characters like Snake Eyes look cool here...but do nothing later.  Sigh.
Cobra Commander and Serpentor are in a power struggle over Cobra.  If this feels familiar, then you've watched Transformers.

A mysterious woman with snake weapons shows up and tells them that they have to do a big heist to impress her master.
The Deus Ex Machina of the, Movie is the Broadcast Energy Transmitter, a device which apparently sends electricity across the air to provide energy for homes.

No, they don't explain how this works or how this wouldn't just give everyone Cancer.
Before I get to the extra silly part of the plot, let's take a quick aside for the 'Introduce New Characters/Toys' to buy.  I can't wait to watch you on the show...or never again.  At least Jynx would show up in G.I. Joe Retaliation, some 27 years later.
Okay, so here goes: they go to Cobra-La.  Just breath that in for a minute.

Basically, Cobra-La is a land ruled by Snake People who just to rule the World.  They used Sci-Fi stuff to teach Mindbender how to make Serpentor (no, really), since Cobra Commander had failed them.  Speaking of which...
Cobra Commander is a Snake Person.  Just...just accept this.

To be fair, they never showed his face, avoiding a Retcon...but this still feels silly.  Nobody EVER saw his face and went 'HOLY SHIT- WHAT ARE YOU?!?!?!?'
The film finally introduces Slaughter, who's musculature puts The Ultimate Warrior to shame.  I'd show a picture of Slaughter's paunchy physique and mostly-bald head, but that would just seem petty.

Anyhow, he is training EVEN MORE new recruits for the mission...who will disappear after this.  One of them didn't even get an Action Figure until 2010.
Cobra-La has a silly plan involving shooting 'energy' (just the vague kind) into space to activate pods that will unleash spores that will devolve us into Apes.  No, really.

Duke takes a snake/spear for this brother-in-law (read: definitely not Rodimus Prime) and seems to die.  Due to the feedback on Optimus Prime's death, he's just in a coma.  Yeah, a coma.
The Joes save the day, defeating the monsters/army of Cobra-La, while all of the villains escape.  I can't wait to see them get their revenge...never.  The End (for real).
This is a weird way to end things.  I'm sure that the intent was to actually keep things going here (see Lord Zed on Power Rangers), but that didn't happen.  Rather than being a stepping stone for a Season that is only remembered by the die-hard fans (kind of like Seasons 7-10 of TMNT), it just kind of ends the whole thing.  I certainly don't hate it, but it's still odd.  While the introduction of Cobra-La, mutants, Cobra Commander's past and giant monsters comes the #%^@ out of nowhere, it does make the whole thing seem big.  The biggest problem to me is the same one with the Transformers cartoon film- ignoring the past to push the future.  Yes, both shows were mostly giant commercials, but kids like myself got into them.  This film has nowhere near the body count of that famously-traumatic film, but, instead, makes them just feel unimportant.  Snake Eyes, for one, does nothing of note here.  He doesn't need a scene to make him seem bad-ass, but why not give him one anyways?  He's still your most iconic character, as the awkward re-shuffling of Cast Members in the live-action films has taught us.  Scarlet can die/leave off-camera, but Snake Eyes ain't going anywhere!  As a side-note, Roadblock rhymes Dolemite-style in this film- where was that Rock?  The film is still a Cult Classic to me, as it just goes all-out on the crazy.  The Joes fight giant Freudian worms (see below) after all.  If you loved the show as a kid, you really need to re-watch this bizarre wrap-up to this big part of your childhood.  Yo Joe!
Next up, a film that not many people saw originally, but now they want to pretend like they did.  Kiss Kiss your ignorance of this film good-bye.  Stay tuned...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

'70s Trash: H.G. Wells' The Shape of Things to Come

A Sci-Fi Classic from the man who brought you Frogs.  Okay, maybe 'classic' is not the right word.  To begin with, this film has pretty much nothing to do with the story.  Mind you, the book is not exactly the most famous work of Fiction of the last century or anything, so a lot of you may not realize it.  From what I understand, the film pretty much just uses some of the names from the book, but that's it.  The film was made in 1979, so you can probably guess what inspired the film's release.  Yes, it was the classic 1977 film ABBA: The Movie.  No, it was obviously Star Wars.  What does the Director of The Littlest Hobo(totally real BTW) bring to the table?  Well, for starters, there's Jack Palance as the villain.  If you've seen Hawk the Slayer, you'd know that he's great at that.  If you've seen him in Alone in the Dark (the Slasher film, not the Uwe Boll one), you'd realize how good he is at this.  If you've remember him as Kaleel on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, then you'd...probably be my Dad.  The film features Palance as Omus, a man with a plan and a robot army at his command.  He wants to conquer New Washington, one of the few remaining human settlements around.  Can he be stopped?  To find out whether Ovals are the dominant Shapes of Things to Come, read on...
Text Crawls- don't you miss them?  Oh and it's the tomorrow after tomorrow.  Just so you know.
The humans are settled on Delta-3, which appears to be next to Epcot.  It's the most boring place on Earth (when you're 12, at least).
Palance- who's not nearly in this film enough- wants to take over their Kingdom.  He has a robot army at his behest, which I'm mostly mentioning as an excuse to use the word 'behest.'  It's a fun word AND it makes me sound smart.
This 1979 film has one major thing in common with Star Trek: The Motion Picture (released the same year): a love of showing ships just sort of floating.  This film seems to have about 1/10 of the budget of that film, so it's not quite as interesting (which isn't saying much).
A group of scientists are stuck on a nearby planet, but find that Palance's robots don't want to make peace.  Not to SPOIL things too much, but their outfits are all red.  You do the math.
I don't actually have a reason to show this picture, but look at it and tell me that I really need one.  Awesome!
Omus has a super-deadly weapon: a shiny Disco ball that makes loud, silly noises.  Feel the...terror?  Oh and the way that he's immune to its effects is by wearing...
 This helmet.  Just...look at that.

His plans are spoiled by our heroes, a teleporting robot and a lot of moxy.  Seriously, the robot can do what he calls a Bi-Locational Transportation (or BLT).  Ha ha ha.
With the day saved, our heroes fly off into space.  Please ignore the seam in the background wall of 'space' in order to truly enjoy this effect.  The End.
It's a big, silly mess of a film.  It's really not terrible, but there's not enough interesting stuff.  A lot of the film is just ships floating around in space.  Seriously, there is a lot of that.  Watching the film in a Blu-Ray Player and on a HDTV is an interesting experience, as it desperately tries to Up-Convert this thing.  The result is that it alternately looks decent and terrible.  The prop stuff- like the ships and planets- look super-fake (which they make in SD too), while the footage of live Actors looks pretty good.  It's certainly not the best use for my HDTV, that's for sure.  As far as the film itself, it's got a decent-enough story to it.  The robots are goofy fun and there's a pretty good amount of action in it.  If you're a fan of Sci-Fi and haven't seen this film, it's worth a look.  It's by no means perfect, but is worth at least one viewing.  If you don't like Sci-Fi, it's a harder recommendation.  If nothing else, you can play a game I call Spot the Smudge(s) on the Print...
Next up, I celebrate Memorial Day with some Real American Heroes.  Yo Direct-to-Video Action!  Stay tuned...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Impossibly-Familiar Cover Art: Hard Ride to Hell

It could be said that there is a shortage of good ideas.  When it comes to Cover Art, that's still true.

2010's Hard Ride to Hell seems to be a blatant rip-off/Remake of Race with the Devil.  Let's check out the cover...
Why does this feel so familiar?  Maybe it has to do with a 2009 Horror film about Hell...
This is actually funny if you just picture the guy on Hard Ride's cover being pushed down just to the right or left of Drag Me's heroine.  Maybe they're talking or something.

By the way, how are the demonic hands coming from above?  Weird, right?