Monday, June 30, 2014

'90s Trash?: The Lawnmower Man

Welcome to the future (of 22 years ago)!  This is The Lawnmower Man, the feature film adaptation of a Stephen King Story.  Well, that's not really true.  It is the feature film adaptation of THE TITLE OF a Stephen King Story.  The lesson learned: Stephen King will flat out sue you if you try to lie to people like that.  So is the film bad for this (pretty major) slight?  Well, yes and no.  The film is very memorable to alot of people, so that is one point for it.  It is also notable for its major use of CG imagery in a time where it was still in its infancy (or at least adolescence).  While 1993's Jurassic Park is most remembered for making Special Effects a spectacle, this film made use of fully-CG models and imagery a year earlier.  This is Brett Leonard's 'baby,' as he would prove his interest in this kind of thing by also making Virtuosity.  He would also later make Highlander: The Source, so bear that in mind too.  The film tells the tale of Jobe, a man with a less-than-high-IQ, and Pierce Brosnan, as a man with a VR Machine.  After experiments gone awry, Pierce does work on the titular character and gets results.  Can he control his experiment or are we all doomed?  To find out, read on...
A group of people are experimenting VR Training on a monkey,  They train him/her to kill targets and it shockingly backfires!  Say whaaaa?!?
We then meet Jobe, who works for some guy and mows lawns.  This is about the only thing that the film has to do with the Story.  More on that later this week...

Jobe proves to be pliable and willing to play games, so he becomes Pierce's new, private test subject.
Jobe and the neighbor boy play the VR Games, while Jobe also gets some crazy drugs and VR Stimulation to increase his intelligence.  Is that a good thing?
His persona changes and he proves to be smarter than even Pierce.  The power starts to go to his head.
On top of that, he ups the drugs and stimulation, giving him all sorts of powers that don't make a whole lot of sense.  He manages to blow his new girlfriend's mind- pretty much literally.

CG Sex?  Ew?
Now pretty much evil, he gets revenge on the people that previously were shown being mean to him.  That's why I'm nice to everyone- you never know!
With his inexplicable ability to alter reality going more to his head, he tries to reach transcendence online.  Brosnan goes in to stop him, but doesn't do to well.  Subtle imagery for the win!
They seemingly trap Jobe in the Internet and blow up the Lab, putting an end to that Model.
However, he actually escaped through a digital back-door and is now going to assault the world!

Well, until the actual end of the film, where this gets completely-ignored.  Doh!  The End.
Everything cool is just kind of silly now.  In defense of the film, the CG Effects don't really look bad.  They are giant, jagged pixels, but there is some clear work put into them.  This feels like the film that Brett Leonard- who previously made The Dead Pit- really wanted to make.  As such, it is hard to fault this 'labor of love' too much.  Having said that, it is still goofy and ridiculous at times.  Jobe goes all 'Flowers for Algernon' and suddenly becomes evil.  Does that mean that Stephen Hawking was planning to conquer the world before the disease affected him?  We lucked out, I guess.  The timing of this review is coincidental, but it does remind me a bit of the Trailers I have seen for that film Lucy coming out soon.  It is just as goofy.  As far as the Acting goes, I have no complaints.  Nobody necessarily delivers a standout performance, but they all worked for me.  Does the film live up to its reputation?  For all of the good and bad reasons, I would say 'yes.'  It isn't really 90s Trash- that's saved for the Sequel.  Keep an eye out for future Breaking Bad (and Stephen King TV Adaptation) Star Dean Norris...
Next up, the Sequel that tries to bigger, badder and crazier.  Unfortunately, it turns out to be goofier, stupider and Matt Frewer-ier.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Quick (Old) Review: Batman- Mystery of the Batwoman

While I catch up on my actual Film reviews, here's some more wheat-like filler in the form of another Quick Review.  This time, it is an oft-overlooked Animated Film made in the early days of the DTV Market...
The spark for me seeing this one was the passing of Efrem Zimbalist Jr recently.  To people my age, he's most recognizable as the voice of Alfred on Batman: The Animated Series.  This carried over to the other DC Animated Shows, a Videogame and a movie.  The last of which is this 2003 film.

Here's an overview...

A new vigilante called Batwoman (no relation to the many Comic Book Versions) is in town and plays by her own rules.  One rule she breaks- she fires a (laser) gun.
In Gotham, Penguin (now voiced by the one-time Martian Manhunter David Ogden-Stiers) and Rupert Thorne (in his first and only New Adventures appearance) are making some sort of arms deal.  They don't like the added interference.
Batman- as Bruce Wayne- has a few suspects to be Batwoman and investigates them in his own sort of way.
With the escalation of heroes in the area and damage to their property, the pair call in outside help: Bane.

I know that I'm in the minority here, but I like 'Gimp Suit' Bane.  It works for me somehow more than the Luchador look.
Batwoman is captured during another mission and it looks like Batman & Robin must save the day.

Who is Batwoman?  Who survives?  To find out, watch this movie already!
Nah nah nah nah nah- Batwoman!  As a DC Animated film, I think this one still holds up.  I speak about it like it is 100 years old, but, to be fair, 10 years in the Animated World is a life-time!  It has taken that long to get a Finding Nemo and Incredibles sequel even talked about.  This isn't Marvel, so let's avoid Disney talk.  As a fan of the original DC Shows, I was wary of this for awhile.  It serves as a bridge between shows that didn't necessarily need one.  As best I can tell, it follows the last Animated series (plus the tie-ins), but also comes before the dark ending to the Bat-Family lore shown in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.  As I said, its place in history is not THAT important.  It also serves to remind you of all the weird stop-start points in DC Animated (e.c. the Justice League flash-forward in 'Epilogue' and the flashback to Batman Beyond in the same Episode).  What is different here is some of the Casting.  They didn't get Paul Williams back as Penguin (they had a reason), but just about everyone else is back.  I should also note that this film implies the beginning of a Batman/Batgirl relationship that...I don't exactly remember coming up.  All I could think during the Scene in question is 'Why is Batgirl hitting on Bruce?  This is a bit creepy.'  Aside from that weirdness, I liked pretty much everything else here.  The Action, Art Design and Story were all good.  For a film aimed at younger viewers, the titular mystery of the Batwoman('s identity) is played well.  They don't cheat, but it is also not super-obvious at first.  If you like the more recent works and the Show (in any of its 12 incarnations), you should check this one out.  It is a bit over-looked (mostly due to it being associated with the subpar Superman: Brainiac Attacks film from 2006) in my opinion.  If nothing else, check out this beautiful cliff mesa off the coast of Gotham...
As the middle step from Animated feature (Mask of the Phantasm & Deep Freeze) and the modern DTV Film (Son of Batman, Batman: Red Hood), this holds a unique place in cinematic history.  That's something, right?

Back to normal reviews shortly...

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Quick Review: Knights of Badassdom

Are you sad that Community is no more?  Are you upset that you have to wait for the next Season of Game of Thrones?  Well, if you fit into either category (or both), then I have the film for you...
I actually watched this awhile ago, liked it a bit and took a bunch of Screencaps.  I promptly forgot about it for awhile, so here it is.

Knights is all about LARPing.
As you can see, 'Tyrion' is here playing a guy who drags his friend- the one in the shiny armor- out to get over a break-up.  Also in the Cast...
'Abed' from Community (who does have a real name, I know).  He's not a huge part of it, but it is nice to see him.

Unfortunately, something real bad and evil gets summoned and our heroes are in danger.
Can the creature- who's look I won't SPOIL too much- be too powerful? 
Or will the power of magical rock save the day?  You probably know, but it is still worth seeing it go go down.  The End.
Can this tide you over until the Dragons return?  Having seen this film back  awhile ago, it is good to know that I still remember it well.  It is a bit slow going at first, but it is at least setting up the environment.  If you don't know about LARPing, it is a good thing.  If you do, it does at least give you some goofy humor.  The set-up is a bit silly- involving a magic book being used for seemingly-fake magic-  but it fits the silly tone of the whole thing.  This is not Lord of the Rings.  This is not even the Ralph Bakshi Animated Lord of the Rings cartoon.  It is, however, slightly more serious than the Disney Return of the King movie.  The Acting here ranges from amusing to so-so.  Not everyone here gives a stand-out performance, but nobody really disappoints either.  I'm curious to see if more comes of this, as the Ending sets up future adventures.  If you like to see people have fun with Fantasy (without really mocking it), I really recommend this one.  If you have no interest in Monsters or LARPing, then you're not going to care.  If you're still not sure, here is 'That Guy From Every Aaron Sorkin Project' about to be killed...
Not the best or most groundbreaking film, but still quite fun.  It has a nice Tenacious D&D feel!

WTF Lost in Translation Cover Art: Puppet Master- The Legacy

I wasn't looking for this...but I have to use it.

While looking for some images on Google to spruce up my 'review' of the almost-entirely-clip-show Puppet Master film, I found this French/French Canadian poster for the film...
Do you see what the problem is?

Well, if you don't, here's an unused Poster for another Full Moon film- made a bit later- to help solve this riddle for you...
As has been documented online by now, The Gingerdead Man was going to be CG at one point.  They changed their mind (and shockingly made it a puppet).

In spite of that, someone stuck his mug on a Poster for a different film entirely.  Say it with me...

What.  The.  Hell?!?

Friday, June 27, 2014

70s Class: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

It is about time that I continue to watch this 'series' in the most random of orders.  True story- the first full-length Body Snatchers film I saw was The Asylum's Invasion of the Pod People.  No, really.  Mind you, I had seen parts of the first two movies through the years, but never watched them in one sitting.  After that, I moved to...the 1993 Remake, since it was hard to find for a long time.  It is not great.  While I still have yet to see the Original film (which I will rectify shortly) or the 2007 Remake (less of a priority), I thought it was time to get around to the most revered Remake.  After all, I do own it (as part of a 3-Disc Set with Alien and Lifeforce...for some reason).  What do you need to know?  Pods from Outer Space are here and the human race is going to be replaced.  Will we go down without a fight?  No way- we have...2 Health Inspectors, a Shrink and Jeff Goldblum on our side.  We might be boned, folks.  To find out what happens, read on...
Say what you will about how great a tool CG can be, but look at stuff like this.  It was made on the cheap in 1978 (back when computers were HUGE).  The early forms of the aliens are literally drops of viscous fluid bought for $5.

See- you do learn some neat things listening to Commentary Tracks.
Our heroine (Brooke Adams) is the first to get close to the alien invaders when her boyfriend...Art Hindle (?!?) is taken over.

While the withering husks from the 1993 Version look neat, I admire the subtlety of how we just see Art sweeping up his old body in a dust pan the next morning.  It is elegant in a way if you think about it.
What is also a neat touch is seeing this one guy (in the blue coat) suddenly running down the street and being pursued by some people.  They don't highlight or change the music for this bit- it just happens.
In arguably the best Cameo of all-time, the late Kevin McCarthy runs up to warn our heroes, only to be killed by Pod People moments later.

It is a great reference to the Original, while also feeling like a part of the Story.  It is a tricky balance to achieve, but they did it.
As things escalate and nobody believes our heroes (since their evidence keeps going missing), they find a friend in Leonard Nimoy and his weird leather glove.

Naturally, he turns out be evil.  Even before he played this role twice in three years (2009's Land of the Lost and 2011's Transformers: Dark of the Moon), he was doing it back in 1978.  Weird typecasting.
As freaky as the 1993's Effects are, the ones here in the Garden Scene are freaky too.  Ew.
All hope seems lost when they are captured.  This leads to the other reason that Nimoy is here: to deliver the back-story for the aliens in a sophisticated manner.

After all, this is the man who made Bilbo Baggins seem...okay, I can't finish that sentence.
This is Man-Faced Dog.  He will be in your nightmares for the next week.  He says 'Hi.'
Let it also be said that this is one of the best and most effective Twist Endings of all-time.  It is not a cheat, but it still shocks.  Even thirty-six years and millions of views later, it still rocks.  The End.
Even after all this time, it still rocks.  I have watched films from pretty much every Decade (even this Melies film to cover the 1890s) and each one is notable in some way.  Films from the 1960s are trippy and/or Slapstick, while films from the 1990s feature Vanilla Ice/Andrew 'Dice' Clay.  In that way the 1970s Films are generally slower-paced and more subtle (except for Peckinpah).  For many of those films then, the audience is more limited than it should be.  Us youngsters want quicker results sometimes and can't get into many Classics for that reason.  Having said that, I can't imagine that there are alot of people who can't get into this one.  Right off the bat, you get (subtle) tension and it only builds from there.  It is still not 'fast paced' by today's standards, but you connect with the Characters quickly.  Speaking of Characters, how come I never saw Art Hindle in a film before Offspring, but now I just keep running into him randomly in films?  What are the odds of that?!?  I honestly have no real complaints about the film.  It is funny to see Jeff Goldblum playing the same Character in 1978 that he still basically plays now.  One thing to watch is how Donald Sutherland does all of his Stunts near the End, apparently almost getting burned badly in the process!  I also love the Soundtrack, especially the part where it goes from joyous to sad when the Plot changes in a Scene.  If you still haven't seen this film Classic, do it already!  If you have, see it again.  Remember, Robert Duvall is watching...
Next up, I take a two-part look at films about mowing.  I'm sure there must be more to this if they made two films about it.  Stay tuned...

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mondo Trivia: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

While checking out the Menu on the DVD for Invasion of the Body Snatchers, I paid little attention to the random images on it.  This is what it looks like...
The key thing is the shot of the woman in the lower left of the picture.  While this is a bit of a SPOILER to the film (as the shot is taken from over an hour into the film), it is also not how it looks in the film.

Well, here is the explanation...

In the Theatrical Version, the Pod version of Barbara Bach's character is naked, as it hasn't taken her clothes and made the switch yet.  However, they shot the same post-transformation bits in an alternate form for television...
So yeah, they used a shot that is NOT even from the movie you are about to see.

It would be one thing if the Scenes were on the DVD, but I didn't see them anywhere.  Confusing right?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Rare Flix: BloodTide

An obscure flick in need of a visual upgrade.  Today's film is BloodTide, a fairly-forgotten film from 1982 with an odd, ensemble Cast.  The film comes to us from the man behind Island of Death and the Writer of Scarecrows.  It features the Stars of The Karate Kid (made 2 years later), Conan the Barbarian and Zoltan...Hound of Dracula.  Again- kind of a mixed bag there.  The film clearly features the same location as Island, which is, well, an Island in Greece.  That's Nico for you.  In the film, a young couple goes looking for the man's sister and finds her on a tiny island.  They also discover that the place is very secretive and is clearly hiding something.  It has a sort of Lovecraft vibe to it, but not too much is really done with it.  Can this random Cast come together to make a memorable film?  To find out, read on...
As the Credits roll, our young couple head to the Island.  Kove's missing sister is supposed to be there, but there's no reason that they can't have fun on the way.
One thing that is hard to get past is the piss-poor VHS-quality Rip on the DVD.  This is especially notable early on in this scene with bad lighting to begin with.  Just...just try to look at this.
Movin on...the pair find the sister, but she is a bit...well, out of it.  She has 'gone native' just a bit.
The pair meet another couple- a ditzy blonde and...Darth Vader('s voice)!

James Earl Jones plays a treasure seeker that is looking for some gold coins in the nearby water.
The secretive town- shown to be involved in some sort of ritual in the beginning- finally cracks down on them and says that they can't leave.  They are led by Jose Ferrer, because that is someone who totally looks Greek.

Can it be racist if a Greek guy wrote it?  Maybe just a little.
After getting a tease of some footage of the mysterious creature, we get...P.O.V. footage of it, blood in the water and her hand as she dies.

Oh, you tease- you Jaws-ripping off tease.
After some random, fairly-dull build up, the sister gets back to her work of uncovering some ancient art.  She finds proof that they have been worshipping some sort of sea monster.  I'd make that face too.
Later on, the two remaining ladies- the girlfriend and the sister- are set up to be sacrificed.  Kove and Jones show up to save them, but the latter is attacked by the beast.

Enjoy the only shot of the creature's 'head' in the film.  It took about 10 tries to get this millisecond sighting for you.  Enjoy, Internet.
In a noble (or dumb) moment, Jones sets off some dynamite he has with him to kill the beast (and himself).

In the aftermath, Kove leaves with the two ladies and dumps the coins back into the sea.  The End.
A lot of promise, but not a lot of results.  This movie is a real shame to watch- it could have been great.  The plot has a secretive Cult, a sea monster and hot babes on an island.  What could go wrong?  Well, there is pretty much no monster.  In theory, it is out there.  It apparently kills two people (three if you count Jones), but you never see it.  I almost wonder if this was just a matter of Budget.  We get all of the build-up, but no real pay-off.  I will see if I can find some answers on this one.  In defense of the film, the Acting is good and I liked the overall atmosphere.  As you watch the film waiting for the monster, it is enjoyable.  It is nothing special, but far better some dreck I have seen.  It is still nothing all that special.  As a wannabe Film Historian, it is neat to see a pre-Karate Kid Martin Kove and Jones playing a normal role in the same year he was Thulsa Doom in Conan the Barbarian.  As a fan of good movies, it is just kind of sad to see what made it into the film and what didn't.  In fact, let me highlight just how this film has been treated in the ensuing years.  This is a picture of the DVD itself in all of its allegedly-gold 'glory.'
Next up, I tackle a film classic and proof that not all Remakes suck.  Go to sleep, lose your soul, join the evil collective.  Stay tuned...