Thursday, January 31, 2013

DTV Crap: Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island

Are there no new ideas out there?  Today's film is Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island, a 2010 film that got a 2012 DVD release.  Gee, why did they decide to do that?  Oh right- The Rock's film came out that year and did surprisingly-well.  So what, if anything, does this film bring to the table that's different.  For one, the giant animals are gone.  To be fair, they don't appear to actually be in the book.  That said, they're in the famous film with Harryhausen's effects, as well as numerous other ones.  They're actually even a big part in the Disney film (which is somehow a sequel to Journey to the Center of the Earth- don't ask), but don't show up here.  They may not be Canon, but we all expect it- dammit.  The movie has no real Stars in it, save for Lochlyn Munro.  So, in other words, there are no Stars.  I hope you never read this, Lochlyn.  The story keeps the same basic formula, but takes a weird turn about thirty minutes in.  I won't SPOIL it...until I do it later in the review.  To see how to make your film turn really weird, read on...
A group of people are being taken to a prison in the Civil War.  Naturally, the only other Actor that I recognized is killed off.  So, the point of him was, what exactly?
They escape in a hot air balloon, but end up going through...whatever the hell that thing is.  It can't be good.
 So, after killing off another character senselessly and having our heroes meander around, they screw things up by having this happen...
As it turns out, the titular Island is a massive time portal dumping station.  Oh and there's a giant squid...for some reason.
When hope seems lost for our characters (including two people from 2012- thanks, ADR), white Captain Nemo shows up with a static gun.

Of course, his presence is ruined by the implication that he took a row boat back to the island...the same one that the guy just got killed in.  Logic!
Nemo explains via narration over his flashback footage.  Kudos to them for using the son of the actor playing Nemo to play him in this.  Of course, he's also the Director of the film so...he was hanging around.

Long story short: Nemo made a time-machine, but an inconvenient squid attack made it create a hole in the time-space continuum aka The Bermuda Triangle.  No, really.
In a story featuring Nemo, it actually comes down to Munro to come up with an escape plan.  Mind you, his plan is 'get away in a balloon,' but it's more than the famous inventor can come up with.
Speaking of which, he dies of Consumption.  Oh the tragedy.  Godspeed, old man who ripped open time itself and killed most of our friends!  Godspeed!
I won't SPOIL the ending too much other than to say these two things.  One- don't expect much of the build-up to lead to anything.  Two- don't expect closure.  The End.
I was expecting something, but not this.  So yeah, what was the point of 'updating' this story.  What impact does it really have to feature two characters from the Present in this tale set in the 19th Century?  Since they have no practical skills, it mostly just serves to set up this one scene where they explain that there is a Black President in their time.  Seriously, that's about it.  The one lady has a romantic sub-plot with a Soldier but that, well, you'll see what happens to him below.  Most of these Characters really don't have much in the way of characterization either.  The racist guy gets killed without learning a lesson, while Munro mostly just reacts to everything around him.  This is more like a plot idea that gets vaguely-filled in.  It sounds weird to say this, but not much happens in a film about people trapped in a time vacuum with a Giant Squid, Captain Nemo and killer Cannibals that Totally Are Not Nemo's Former Crew.  It's oddly lacking in events.  I suppose I harbor some resentment for this film removing Giant Chickens, Crabs and/or Bees from the film.  Bees- My God...I miss them.  This film barely even makes use of the Giant Squid, as it mostly just flails aimlessly during the Finale to no avail.  Oh the drama.  While I won't say the film is terrible, I'd qualify it as underwhelming.  That's even after they steal this iconic shot from Cannibal Holocaust...
Next up, February begins with a wacky 1980's gem.  When you're in love, you'll blow as many hookers as it takes to get your lady back!  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Baby Got Deadly!: The Suckling

For once, Maynard and I really agree on a movie.  Today's film is The Suckling, a film reviewed by my Austrian friend in conjunction with Dumpster Baby.  I gave him the latter film for Project Terrible and he added a review of the former to compare it.  His review made me curious, so I said 'Screw it- I'll watch it.'  Well, he didn't lead me wrong in this case.  The film is a tale as old as time- aborted fetus gets dumped into toxic waste and becomes a monster.  Who hasn't seen that movie, right?  All kidding aside, this obscure little gem is good if you like B-Movies and aren't easily offended.  Besides the titular monster, the story also features murder, deviant sexual acts (implied, anyways) and hookers.  If you like B-Movies and aren't named Rand Paul, you should at least consider watching this film.  To give you some reasons why, I'll just have to encourage you to read on...
After some over-dramatic title cards, we see a somewhat-crazy woman in a Hospital.  One Doctor explains to another that she was the lone survivor of a horrible event, leading to the film proper...
Our heroine is a 'teenager' whose boyfriend takes her to an Abortion Clinic, which is also a Brothel.  Man, times are tough in Mississippi, huh?

That has been your Political Joke for the Month.  Moving on...
After the act is done, the baby is dumped into the Sewer.  On top of being an Abortion Clinic/Brothel, the place also dumps Toxic Waste in the back.  How do you pass inspection?!?
Faster than you might think, the fetus becomes a giant monster and prepares to get revenge for his early eviction.
While our heroine recovers from the operation, the creature blocks all of the doors and windows in the building with, um, this stuff.  Don't ask how it works, because I've got nothing.
What's worse- the creature even kills a young Neil DeGrasse Tyson!  This also serves as yet another Deep Blue Sea Moment.  I should probably do more of those, huh?
In spite of giant, killer creature attacking them, our heroes still act like jerks to each other.  One guy makes himself the defacto leader and shoots on hooker.  Apparently she had metal in her skull, given the sparks that came out there.
The rest of the film is basically this awesome-looking monster killing these people.  All of this is a lead up to a strange ending.
I won't SPOIL it for you, but it involves a shrinking monster, this puppet and a bizarre wrap-up with the 'woman in the hospital' story.  It's...weird.  The End.
Well, it doesn't suck.  Getting that obvious pun out of the way, let me say a bit more.  For all of its cheapness, I liked this movie.  Two words: practical effects.  Granted, not all of them were perfect, but I like how they used what they had.  Everything that happens, happens on-screen and without computers.  Yes, this film was made in 1990- a time when those effects were expensive and not widely-available.  Yes, they probably would have used them if they could.  They didn't though, so I prefer to focus on that.  The Story is silly, the Acting is not all that great and the whole thing doesn't look all that expensive.  Even so, I had fun with this movie that took a concept that few would tackle and said 'Screw it- let's have fun!'  Is it in good taste?  Of course not.  If you want to watch a film about this subject, you are someone who is not afraid of something controversial.  If you're up for something strange, obscure and in bad taste, give this one a look.  You may not enjoy it as much as I did...but I don't really give a shit.  Take us away, bulletproof walls...
Next up, an old story and a film tossed out onto DVD to make a quick buck.  With a classic tale...and Lochlyn Munro, you know that it won't be pretty.  Stay tuned...

*Extra Review*: Bob Also Hates Actium Maximus

* Editor: Bob had so much to say that he suggested that I post it as a review.  Why not? *

This was amazing. I knew going into this (since we'd tried and failed to get through it before) that it would be horrid, but never in a million years did I expect it to be this horrid.

This is unquestionably one of the worst films ever made. I'm not going to say the worst because that encourages the universe to prove me wrong, and because opinions vary on just what makes a film the absolute worst just like they vary on what makes one the absolute best, so there's no clear answer. But this is definitely right down there in the bottom of the garbage dump.

Like Al said, everything about this was awful. The writing, the acting, the special effects...the music was tolerable at least, but usually poorly chosen for the scene, so even it had severe missteps. Al went over the general stuff, so let me call out a few major elements.

1. The dinosaur fights consist entirely of two or more puppets kind of shuffling around and then waving their heads nowhere even remotely near the other puppets. It's impossible to tell what's going on or even what the filmmakers thought should be going on. These take up a huge amount of film time, by the way.

2. The dialogue for the various alien species is all or mostly actually spoken in English, but with awful vocal transforms and filters put over the voice acting so it sounds like aliens from Star Wars if they spoke while vomiting. It's hilariously obvious that it's being spoken in English, but somehow still manages to be unintelligible about 75% of the time. However, to make sure you have no chance of figuring out the plot, the film only includes subtitles sometimes. In fact, the subtitles normally show up when the dialog is actually understandable, and go away when you'd actually need them. Oddly, there's even one subtitle that says "uninterpretable" or something to that effect. I formed a theory that the subtitles were actually put in by Troma or some other group, rather than the filmmakers, without access to the script--doing their best guess, basically. That's the only way I can figure out that this would have happened.

3. About halfway through the film, the "hero" of sorts--the guy going to look for dinosaurs--finds a spaceship that the locals think is an alien god. He goes exploring with his buddies and waxes philosophical in a spacey, dazed kind of way about religion and such, and explores the ship at length, even though it has nothing to do with his mission. Then, near the end of the film, he finally finishes exploring the ship, and just gives up on it and goes back to his actual mission. The film narration even characterizes it that way. It's basically the film flat-out saying "we deliberately wasted your time with something utterly unrelated to the plot for about a fifth of the movie."
4. As Al said, nothing that sounds remotely interesting is ever shown. There's tons of narration and/or planning scenes about the evil dictator robo-thing's battles against some kind of psychic high priest adversary or something, and people are constantly coming to report to the dictator about how some plan of his or another failed, but we are never--never--shown any of the actual action. We don't even see any of the rebels except for like twice--once a brief shot of a couple of them burning themselves in protest, and then once at the end with one swooping in for an assassination attempt. Which is a shame, because rebels against an evil overlord would be heroes for the film, which are otherwise kind of totally absent.

5. Holy crap does this film ever throw a metric ton of history at you. It's like if Peter Jackson had started out the Lord of the Rings film series by showing you the entirety of The Silm...

No...no, I'm sorry, that would still provide the opportunity to be a good film, if an odd choice to start out. Let me rephrase. This is like if Peter Jackson started out the Lord of the Rings film series by taking a handheld video camera and filming mostly static, quickly-made models of generic fantasy locations while an actor he hired for the day and didn't give any prep time read passages from The Silmarillion that had been auto-translated from English to Spanish to Japanese to Dutch and back to English, just to make sure any trace of Tolkien's writing talent had been eliminated so there was no way the audience could be entertained. It is all world setup. And that would still be better because Tolkien's world and lore are good.

There is no real story here. It is all an elaborate, lovingly detailed description of the world, past events, and political powers, with tons of made-up words without any context. "Opening Text Scroll: The Movie."

6. So you get through all this...you watch all this crap...and you're wondering--just wondering, because the film's been going on for a while and it sure doesn't seem to be going anywhere--how long is left in the film. You move the mouse to get the timer to show up, and notice that there are five minutes left. Nothing's happened at all in the film, really, and there's five minutes left. Wow. Just wow. Obviously, this is going to suck majorly. There's no possible way anything good can come of it. But even so, when the end comes, you're astonished.

"To Be Continued."

I about fell down dead right there. That nearly killed me.

The filmmakers had the nerve--the absolute, unlimited nerve to create one of the single worst films in the entire world and assumefrom the start that they were going to be able to continue it.

Here's a request for aspiring filmmakers out there.

Don't. Assume. There. Will. Be. A. Sequel.

You can leave things open to an extent at film's end, if you want to chance it or if, like this, you're planning for it to be a show pilot. But the story within this particular film or episode should feel complete. I should be able to watch your film and feel like I got an actual ending and a sense of closure.

Yes, there are some films that get a free pass: the aforementioned Lord of the Rings films, for one, because they were based on a book trilogy to begin with. But even some of the greatest film series--say, the original Star Wars trilogy--have a clear ending at the end of their first film. If the Death Star had blown up and Luke and company went to celebrate, and that was it, that would have still felt complete.

When you make it big, you can break whatever rules you want, but until then, obey this: even if you intend a film to start a series, write it to be self-sufficient. Do not assume from the start you'll be able to ever make another one. I'm not saying this because I think your story is necessarily going to suck--especially not as mightily as this one did--but because there's nothing I find sadder than a story without an ending. Look at other TV show pilots, for instance. White Collar. Burn Notice. Leverage. Eureka. They all set things up to continue, sure, but each of those had a story for the episode that was entirely contained within that episode and featured a clear ending. There was something that gave you closure. If that was all you saw, you got a sense of an ending that would work.

This movie broke that rule utterly. And that--above the horrid concept, the lack of a hero, the terrible voice effects, the abandonment of the plot, the lack of any actual events...above all of that--that is the worst sin this commits. It failed to have an ending.

Never. Ever. Do. That. Please.

Actium Maximus was one of the worst films I have ever seen, and I've seen quite a number of very, very bad films (not as many as Al, of course, but "thanks" to him I'm amassing quite a record myself). It is not in any way worth watching, and I'm going to start pretending I didn't waste my time doing so right...now.

IwasplayingSkyrimIwasplayingSkyrimIwasplayingSkyrimIwasplayingSkyrimIwasplayingSkyrim...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

2,000th Post Celebration: Actium Maximus- War of the Alien Dinosaurs

I've made a terrible mistake.  After 1,999 Posts, I have finally bitten the bullet on one of the worst pieces of shit ever made.  This film stands strongly beside such films as Jaws in Japan, Hobgoblins 2, Good-Bye Uncle Tom and Traces of Death.  The film- Actium Maximus: War of the Alien Dinosaurs.  Using the rule of 'silly title = bad film' (usually), you know that you can't expect anything good.  Well, it's worse than you could ever imagine.  This film fails in pretty much ever major way.  Cinematography- yes.  Writing- yes.  Special Effects- BIG YES.  This is essentially Mark Hicks' big, epic film....but it's all set-up.  This may or may not have been a Pilot for a TV Show.  Regardless of what it may have been planned, it makes for an awful film being given a terrible ending (more on that later).  In hindsight, I 'planned' this well, as I reviewed an Australian film that I love for my 1,999th Post and am now covering a shit Australian film.  The 'story' is all about the Actium Maximus...or is it about the leader of the planet battling a mostly-unseen resistance...or is it about his assistant going to a different planet to get some new alien dinosaurs.  Unfortunately, the answer is 'yes' to all of them.  I blame Bob for convincing me to torture myself with this film instead of doing something like 2010: The Year We Make Contact.  His penance was watching it with me.  I'll let him say his peace on the film in the Comments. For now, enjoy my pain and read on...
The film builds up to the initial reveal of the titular Alien Dinosaurs (even if they are actually excised from the Title- see above).  Are you ready?
Oh dear God- my eyes!  This...this is what you went with?  Really?
Oh wow- you got it even worse.  What's next- visible strings?

SPOILER Alert: there are LOTS of visible strings too.
Our villain is this Dalek-lite thing that runs the Planet, but faces resistance from some calamari-looking aliens. At least, they keep telling us that they do.
Who's our hero?  If you guessed 'nobody,' then you'd be right.

Instead of that, there's this guy going to an alien planet to retrieve some more creatures.  Oh and this lady who was apparently added to the shot in Post-Production.  Why?  It's one of the few real sets!!!
The whole 'aliens are trying to kill the villain' plot finally has some merit when one manages to shoot and...um, wound it.  It doesn't die, but uses it as an excuse to kill more of them.

Nah, just kidding.  Instead, they just TELL US that it's doing that.  Tell, don't show?
I'd like to just stop this Review cold to randomly show you some of the cheap, model sets.  Why not?  They do it in the actual film, after all!!!
The film's two plots drag on for a while, before both reaching dramatic points.  The people looking for a new alien dinosaur get confronted by one...and just kind of stand there in fright.  Meanwhile, on Actium, another calamari-looking alien goes to attack the villain.  Naturally, this leads to...
...a cliffhanger ending?  Are you kidding me?!?!?!?
Allow me to sum up my feelings on this decision by Mark Hicks properly.  The End.
This is an insult to the word 'film.'  Let it first be said that I don't attack Mark Hicks for trying to make a film. I welcome people to try and make their own films, especially if they consider it to be their magnum opus.  While every one won't end up being like Kubrick or Spielberg's first films (for example), they will at least be their own.  That said- I wish Mark Hicks had not made Actium Maximus: War of the Alien Dinosaurs.  The reason is simple: he didn't make a film.  He seemingly-raised a small amount of money to basically make a book disguised as a film.  So much of the 'film's' run-time is built around just telling us the history of Actium ad nauseum.  If you want to do that, make a book!  As for the rest of it, it's two disparate stories that, again, would be fine as a book.  The split-narrative would be more acceptable if it was simply Chapters.  In a film, it comes off as needlessly-confusing for a film that already makes little sense.  Obviously the Special Effects would not be a huge deal if this were a Book too.  In a film, you need a lot of money to make all of this stuff 'come to life.'  He doesn't have that and he doesn't achieve that.  This is what I call the Tim Burton Problem, only on a very small scale.  Because of his success, Tim Burton appears to have no oversight on his films, leading to numerous issues with Writing, Pointless Scenes and a bit of Nepotism.  Mark Hicks plays a number of roles in the film and, as such, has nobody overseeing the production and second-guessing his choices.  The best thing I can say about this 'film' is that it has some good Music.  While it's generally entirely wrong for the scene in which it is placed, it is good at times.  Seriously, that's it.  In 1,000 posts, I've gone from the infamous (and flawed) Faces of Death to Actium Maximus.  Where will the next 1,000 take me?
Up next, I cover a film suggested to me via Project Terrible.  Surprisingly enough, I kind of dig it (in a weird way).  Stay tuned...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Wackumentary: Cane Toads- An Unnatural History

How have I ignored this film for so long?  Cane Toads: An Unnatural History is a wacky Documentary from the '80's that has lasted as a Cult Film for years.  You haven't seen it?  What's the matter with you?!?  Go see it already- I'll be here.  After all, I am static text on a screen.  You could leave at any time and I'd have no idea.  Oh God, I'm sooo alone!!!!  Anyhow, this Documentary is about how the infamous Cane Toad has permeated the Queensland area over the last several Decades and done irreparable harm.  Rather than being a dour film a la An Inconvenient Truth (as referenced in Birdemic), this is a bizarre and wacky tale.  It's funnier and freakier than it has any right to be.  Part of why it works so well is that I don't think that they were trying to be funny- they just are.  Since it's a Documentary with a minor narrative structure, this won't be a normal review.  Think of this is a Best of Sampler/Teaser for the film proper.  Seriously, go see it.  OBEY ME!  Read on...
In a lovely little burg called Queensland, Australia, the Cane Toad is practically King.  A big, ugly, poison-emitting King, mind you.
 Some people don't like them too much.  For example, this guy swerves to and fro across the road to run over as many as possible.  Sorry, PETA!
 Not everyone hates them.  Cute kid.  Ugly toad.  I smell a sitcom!

Tanya and the Toad will be back after these Commercials!
...and we're back.  We're back just in time to...watch a Cane Toad hump a dead female toad in the middle of the road.  Hey player, don't let your partner having her upper half as roadkill put a kibosh on your romance!
As you can see, the toads were aplenty back in the old days.  The plan was to have them kill some bugs that were ruining the crops.  Let's just say that it didn't work out.
 In one of my favorite bits, this guy gets interviewed in his garden and talks about how he loves the cane toads.  He's so deadpan about it that he really appears to be saying it under duress.

Please help him- the cane toads have a gun!
I leave you with this one lasting message: once a cane toad grabs you, they never let go.  Watch your backs! The End.
Seriously, go see this movie already!  Cane Toads is a freaky and funny film about Nature.  Even if you don't watch Nature Documentaries all that much (like me), you need to see this.  It's still on Netflix after all of this time, so don't be left out.  The Director has gone on to make a bunch of Nature Documentaries and eventually made a follow-up to this film- Cane Toads: The Conquest- in 3-D, no less!  It's hard to truly explain why this film is so great...which is why it's so great.  That make sense?  It has so many bizarre intangibles that I just love it.  All of the Interviews, for example, are done directly into camera.  All of the people are wacky in their own sort of way.  My favorite is, of course, the guy who appears to be held hostage by the cane toads, but you'll pick out your own.  Not to repeat myself too much, but go see this movie.  After you do, you'll sound just like me and say this to all of your friends.  Do it now before the cane toads get you.  Oh my God- they're outside your house!
Up next, I celebrate 2,000 posts with a film so bad that I wouldn't subject anyone else to it.  After such 'gems' as Traces of Death and Men Behind The Sun 4, what could possibly be the film?  Stay tuned...

Friday, January 25, 2013

Project Terrible 9: Cathy's Curse

You're going to have to do better than that, Maynard!  Today's film is Cathy's Curse, an obscure 1978 movie courtesy of Maynard Morrisey (of his titular Horror Diary).  The print of this film comes from a website called Archive.org and appears to be what happens when you rip a VHS copy to a WORSE VHS tape & THEN put it online.  I can see why he gave it to me.  You see, last Round I gave him a movie called The Bermuda Triangle.  Bob can attest to how bad this movie is, as he watched with me- only we had the benefit of Rifftrax to make it more bearable.  In that film (made in 1978), the main villain is a little girl who finds an old doll and uses her new powers for evil.  In the movie (also made in 1978), the main villain is Cathy, a little girl who gets an old doll and uses her new powers for evil.  That is quite the similarity, right?  Thought you'd give me a taste of my own medicine, huh?  Well, unfortunately for you, Curse is not nearly as bad as Triangle.  For one thing, it doesn't have a ten-minute scene of scuba-diving and shark-killing that serves no purpose.  It's still kind of shit, but it has enough moments that made me laugh (for all of the wrong reasons) to make me not really hate it all that much.  It's just an inept film that has not been well-preserved.  To see if your definition of Terrible is different from mine, read on...
After an awkwardly-placed Card tells us that the Mother left with one daughter while the husband was away, the film tells us that exact thing.  Thanks, repetition repetition.
Driving off with his daughter Cathy, the guy gets in a car crash while avoiding an animal.  Damn you, animals!
 Thankfully the Cards only show up a couple more times.  Seriously, I'm supposed to read this?!?
Years later at the new house, Cathy wanders into the Attic, only to get possessed by the evil spirit of her Aunt.  This is why you give those away to Goodwill!  Let some other family get possessed- screw 'em.
Being possessed by an evil spirit gives you the ability telekinesis and the ability to blow up vases.  That's...good for you, honey.
Using her doll- a key part of the possession, apparently- she begins to kill people, scare others off or make her mother go crazy.  Still better than those evil Teddy Ruxpin dolls!
Whenever the spirit uses its powers, the painting's eyes light up.  Thanks, random bulbs behind the painting!
As the climax nears, the body count rises and the father FINALLY figures out what's going on.  I suppose if I saw a little girl with a Freddy Kreuger face, I'd take the hint.
In a surprisingly-easy Climax, the Mother pulls the doll's eyes out, which manages to kill it and undo the curse.  Yippee!  Hurray!  Hurray Beer!  The End.
I've watched worse movies intentionally.  The plot of this movie is silly and is mostly explained to us at the beginnings.  Seriously, that Card tells us that the Mother ran off.  I'd complain about that idea alone, but then they have the little girl say it too.  This is why dissolves were created, guys!  Obviously, the film's biggest problem is the print.  Granted- I can't blame the filmmakers for what happened to the finished product over the last thirty-odd years.  That said....wow, this one looks bad.  The only film that I can think of with a worse print is probably The Dragon Lives Again.  At least that film wasn't permanently-brown though.  Hell, the print that looks the most like this is Nosferatu- a film made in 1929!  As for the actual film, it's full of hilariously-dumb dialogue, really silly scares and possibly the worst husband this side of *insert The Good Wife joke here*.  He never believes his wife and she constantly suffers for it.  I'd almost like to see Cathy's Curse 2, even if it was just a ten-minute short set a month later where she finally divorces his ass!  As a whole, this is recommended for bad movie fans, but that's about it.  On the plus side, they didn't kill any dogs in this..oh crap...
Next up, I finally take a look at one of the most twisted Documentaries ever.  If you ever wanted to see cute girls with toads, you're in luck!  Stay tuned...