Saturday, January 31, 2015

Zoned Out: Examination Day

After last week's silly Segment, let's take a more dark trip to...
In this Segment, a test in the future proves to be quite serious...
It is this kid's birthday!  Congratulations, buddy!
He lives in the very Blade Runner-looking future.
Tomorrow, he is going to be eligible to take a test to determine his place in society. Go Dauntless!
The Parents seemed really nervous that night and all throughout the day as they awaited news.
The reason for their nervousness becomes clear when they get the news together later that day.

As it turns out, their son tested *too well.*  His results were outside the top percentile and he is being 'put down!'  Damn!  The End.
That's cold!  This one is interesting for being short, bleak and sci-fi.  The condensed runtime doesn't give you much time to ponder too much about the society.  You see what you need to see and know what you need to know.  It certainly helps in this tale.  The build-up is short, but nice.  You wonder in the early parts why the family wants to give the kid a toy and don't want him to study the night before.  You wonder what their priorities are.  When you see the Ending, it all makes sense.  They know how smart he is and are worried that he'll test too high. Their work doesn't pay off though, unfortunately for all of them.  You do have to wonder why the system works the way it does.  Mind you, the Segment ends right there, so they don't really want you to.  I almost skipped this one, but read Commenters for this Series talk about how dark this one was.  They weren't kidding!  In spite of that, let's leave on a happier note.  You know how this is the future?  If you have any doubts, notice that everything is now in squares!
Next week, we learn why you should never pick up hitchhikers.  Unlike in Porn, they aren't always hot blondes with nymphomania.  See you then...

Ghost Crap?: The Ouija Experiment

It is not as infamous as the 2014 Film, but is it as bad?  Full disclosure: I haven't seen Ouija.  Do you think I would pay to see that shit in Theaters?  Let's be honest though: do I need to?  It is a Ouija Board-based Film in 2014.  Speaking of which, I just watched a Ouija Board-based Film in 2015...although it came out in 2011.  Netflix recently added it to Streaming, showing that they are as devious about getting notice as I am.  Yeah, I'm doing this for very overt reasons.  So this is The Ouija Experiment- what's it all about?  Read the title- duh.  Alright, alright.  A bunch of people decide to experiment to see if a Ouija Board works and document it for YouTube.  Things go awry during the first attempt, leading to some unwelcome company for our heroes.  Will they survive?  As dumb as this is, I won't SPOIL it completely, so just relax.  This is on Netflix to make you think of the other Film, so let's see if the comparison works out in their favor...
Five folks- including one couple and two siblings- get together to film an experiment about whether or not a Ouija Board works.
Unfortunately for them, some personal strife surfaces and messes up the attempt.

Aside from just messing up the attempt, it also made them not follow one of the key rules.  Uh oh.
Found Footage Trope #37- Expert on the matter consulted once as an exposition dump, but never helpful.  Just like in Sinister, this one appears only via Skype.

On the plus side, this lady is definitely cuter than Vincent D'onofrio.
On the second attempt, a similar thing happens and one of them takes the board away.  Should they be scared?
You may or may not be depending on how scary 3 minutes of creaky sounds and a sudden Ghost pop-up are to you.  I wasn't, but I'm clearly not the demographic by now.
I won't SPOIL the 3rd Act too much.  I will say that they play with the 'Footage Checking' Trope in a kind of dumb, but unique way.  There's also an odd break from the whole formula...but that's all I'll say.

To find out how this all ends, watch the Movie.  It's on Streaming, so click away.  The End.
After Devil's Due, this looks competent, at least.  Someone recently asked me why I continue to willingly watch these Found Footage Films when I'm clearly not a big fan.  The answer- I want them to be good.  The basis of this whole Genre is Cannibal Holocaust (though they deny it) and I really like that Film.  Every once in a while, a good one- Trollhunter- comes out and I think 'This could work, if they actually try.'  Did they?  Well, it is never as bad as some of the worst FF Films out there, but it does so little new.  Even the stuff that it kind of gets right- like the Ghost appearances- feel mostly hollow, due to a lack of filter or effect.  Mind you, seeing a small child suddenly appear is weird, but seeing one that is transparent or glowing can be scary.  They get a little of that at the End parts, although their method is nothing new.  I should note two things.  First, this was Written and Directed by Israel Luna, who's only previous work I've covered is Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives.  Second- there is a Sequel set for release this Year.  Ultimately, this feels like a competent first attempt at doing this kind of Film and it could get better.  It could also just suck, but my standards are so low after just watching Devil's Due.  Decide amongst yourselves.  Oh and to save Maynard the trouble, this was apparently released in Europe as a different title (I can only guess why)...
Next up, I revisit a 20+ year-old Film to prepare for a new one.  To answer the Title question- Robert Z'Dar would be responsible for Genocide.  Stay tuned...

Friday, January 30, 2015

That Guy!: Sven-Ole Thorsen

Have you ever kept seeing an Actor in stuff and think 'Who is that guy?'

I sure do.  I think that alot.

Well, let me help you out with that this once (and more if this works out).  Do you know This Guy?
He's Sven-Ole Thorsen.

He has been in alot of Movies.  He is in pretty much every Schwarzenegger Film.  I checked...
He never really got any major lines or anything- he was just, well, beef to appear.  The high point is probably in Running Man (first pic), where he plays a guy named 'Sven.'  I'd guess that it was so that he would react when people talk to him.

I kid, I kid (a little).  Why the love though?
Let's just say that they go back a long way.

The high and low point of Sven's Career is probably his only real Leading Role.  Unfortunately, it is in...
...Abraxas: Guardian of the Universe!  He's the villain who faces off with Jesse Ventura (his Co-Star in Running Man) as an evil alien guy (or something).  It isn't good.

He was in Gladiator though.
To be clear: I'm not knocking the guy.  He's Danish, so there was obviously a language/culture barrier.  He's had a long Career, so no jokes on my part can take that way from him.

He was, and is, a big, burly guy who just happens to be random Thugs or Henchman in stuff.

Unless you have never watched an Action Film in your entire life, you are almost guaranteed to see one of his Films (even if you don't catch him).

Do you have a 'That Guy!' you want highlighted?  Leave a comment and we'll see what happens.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Recent Flix: Tusk (2014)

At long last, I cover a new Kevin Smith Film.  I've missed his last few- everything since Clerks 2-, so I was overdue.  I will get around to Red State later.  In the meantime, here is his latest work.  Inspired by a Podcast (much like Citizen Kane), the Film is Tusk.  The Plot is simple: creepy guy wants to make people into a Walrus.  I know, I know- so cliche!  This is certainly a weird Story.  The Film got alot of mixed Reviews and I know one Austrian that didn't like it.  Of course, I like Kevin Smith- and own most of his Films-, so I may be less impartial than others.  The question is this: did Smith make a funny Horror Film or a scary Comedy?  The answer is not 100% clear, to be honest.  Just like Bobcat Goldthwait, Smith seems like he was forced to make a Horror Film- see Willow Creek- to stay in the market.  His Film was kind of in the same boat as far as quality and tone too, come to think of it.  Is this a funny success or a scary failure?  To find out (with minimal SPOILERS), read on...
This is our Hero.  He does a funny Podcast.

His trip to interview a Viral Video Star takes a dark detour, so now he needs a new Story.
As luck would have it, he finds a solicitation for a guy promising strange Stories in exchange for room/board.
After some back-and-forth (and a Story about Hemingway), the man's motives become more clear.
Our hero is now trapped with the man and he learns that the once-nice man wants to experiment...
He calls for help, but his girlfriend and co-Host are not available.  He doesn't try to text though, which I can guess you can excuse due to his level of fright.
The man plans to experiment with our Hero in a twisted way.  As hard as it is, I will not reveal any of the real juicy visuals.  I'm a dick like that.
Our hero's friends arrive in Canada and don't get alot of help.  The rescue all hinges upon a quirky Detective, since I guess the Star of Due South was away.

Anybody?  Due South?  It was a good Show, you know!
I won't SPOIL any more of the 3rd Act out of respect for the Film.  That or I'm just a tease.

I will just say that things get weird and bloody.  The End.
I can see what people have been saying about this one.  The tone is a bit tricky to get a handle on.  I think that problem may have struck Mr. Smith as well.  I will say this: he did Write, Direct and Edit this one.  I won't question his ability to make a Film in general, mind you- as he has been doing it for 20 years now- but I will say that more than one creative voice is good to have.  As a barely-seen Writer, I get the appeal of doing it all yourself.  You have a vision and you don't want anyone screwing it up.  That said, professional Editors are in high demand for good reason.  What the Film does well is give you freaky moments, followed by quirky moments and then back again.  The balance is something that you will either love or hate.  It is the curse of doing a Horror-Comedy.  I think he gets it mostly right here.  I wasn't as fond of the Inspector bits as Smith clearly was, but they aren't the bulk of the Film.  For all the crap the Film got about being out of touch as far as Canadians go, I think that everyone gets a bit of an absurdist spin.  If they were the only ones, I'd get it.  The make-up work and design is the real draw here.  Let me assure you: it is freaky.  For me, it was disturbing and certain worth seeing the Film for.  If you are a squeamish, this may not be for you at times.  If you like your Horror to be straight as an arrow, this definitely is not for you.  It is a weird, bizarre Film that sort of touches upon both sides of the spectrum.  Fun Fact: both of these young ladies are related to people in the Film...
Next up, I cover a 2011 Film as a way to cash in on the DVD release of a 2014 Film.  Can one Film about a Toy be better than another?  Stay tuned...

Project Terrible Returns- By Demand!

Oh yeah, this is back!

Project Terrible is all about dishing out bad movies and receiving (hopefully less) bad movies in return.  Are your picks worse than theirs?

In this epic Round, the whole Gang is back!

What kind of stuff will you see?  It will include Films like...

- Death Racers
- Mongolian Death Worm
- Dating a Zombie
- Movie 43
- Dream Warrior
- Creature From the Haunted Sea
- Succubus: Hellbent
- Rollergator
- Total Retribution
- Transcendence

As you can see, we have an interesting mix of Films this Round.  It should keep everyone on their toes.

The fun should begin right around March, so mark your Calendars!  Enjoy our pain!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Project Terrible: Detention (2011)

Closing up this round of Project Terrible, and I guess I caused trouble in class, because teacher Al sent me to...

...yeah, that joke was lame, but it's better than this film.

Detention is a slasher flick (kind of) about a group of unlikable people who get chased and killed by another unlikable person while the audience sits there being bored. So basically a pretty standard slasher flick. You may have guessed that I don't like slasher flicks.

What makes Detention different is that it uses a lot of cute little style touches, like characters breaking the fourth wall and interacting with text that appears on the screen.

Okay, that's not quite fair. There's something else that makes Detention different, but I'll get to it later.

Can I just let my sometime Project Terrible buddy Maynard take this one? No? Dang.

Okay, let me just say this. I had to try twice to get through this thing. The first time I quit watching after the first scene. It was that annoying. The first scene is a fourth-wall-breaking lecture from a self-proclaimed...

Anyway, she lectures the viewer on being...what she is...for a while and how to be popular and all that sort of stuff. It features shots of her younger brother using the toilet and wonderful advice like...


Yeah. Anyway, it all comes to a close with the movie's killer showing up in her apartment, cutting her throat so that she's gagging on her own blood, and then chucking her out the window...which causes her to scream loud and clear the whole way down.

With a slashed throat.

Screw this movie.

Oh, look, the second part of the movie opens up in the same fashion! This time, it's a mopey girl breaking the fourth wall.

At this point I was fearing this was a more stylish version of, say, Kill the Scream Queen or Ulli Lommel's Black Dahlia. I could not put up with another rinse-and-repeat horror movie, so I had to walk away for a week or so.

Fortunately it isn't quite that.

It actually has a plot, and...

I GET IT ALREADY! You like putting words on the screen! Seriously, it's like every 30 seconds or less with this stuff! It could be funny if it were occasional, maybe, but it happens all the time and it's just irritating as all heck!

I am going to say there are points where I actually love the effect. For one thing, the opening credits are really stylish and nicely done--going around the school halls in a very freeform manner, with the camera following different students as they pick up or interact with different objects...and each object has one of the cast or crew's names on it. Clever. Less clever is the fact that one of the first ones comes from a guy totally unrealistically punching a big crack in the wall in the shape of someone's name, but the overall gimmick is sound. It's just that the film wears out its welcome with this stuff before it even reaches the opening credits!

So like I was saying, there is a plot, and...

...and it involves vomiting. Joy.

Okay, so the movie follows Riley--a depressed, suicidal vegetarian girl with an injured foot--and Clapton--a smallish skateboarder (vomiting up above) who is competing with the school bully over the affections of the school's new head cheerleader (since the previous head cheerleader, she of the acronym above, is now dead).

There are good points to this movie. The acting is actually outright good. No joke. These folks are spot on with nailing their characters, even though I hate every single character. I can't say it feels natural, because the movie just doesn't do natural, but they feel right for the roles regardless. Filming and direction are also top-notch. This is a well-made film with a lot of style.

The problem is that it has absolutely no idea what it wants to be. We've got the slasher plot. We've got Riley and Clapton's troubles that are...roughly...more like standard teen drama. We've got all the crazy text and fourth wall stuff. We've got a giant bear mascot statue that magnetically attracts objects in the hall because, apparently, someone built "organic superconduction magnets" into it.

No, really.

So what the heck is going on in this film? Well, I'll get to that in a minute...

And it has title cards. Because I love those.

Look, here's the thing. This movie could be funny, and at times it actually is quite funny (I got some giggles out of an early-film cheerleading bit that had some pretty good rapid-fire interplay between the coach, the newly-crowned head cheerleader, and Riley in a bear mascot outfit). The problem is that it's so self-aware that it seems...smug, if that makes any sense. For every time it makes the viewer laugh, there are at least three or four more that it basically seems to be laughing at its own stupid, unfunny jokes or throwing text up on the screen and saying, "Look...look how oh-so-clever I am. You couldn't possibly be this clever."

There are also the moments--increasing as the film goes on--where the movie is just being weird for the sake of weirdness, such as the aforementioned magnetic mascot statue or a scene in which Riley, a vegetarian, debates a teen who lectures her on not being sympathetic enough to animals, and explains he's more sympathetic because he only eats baby animals since they haven't lived as long.

I'll let that sink in.

Oh, and the jock has fly blood. That makes sense. He also was forced to wear a TV on his hand to cover up a burned and mutated hand when he was a kid,

Well, because the movie doesn't know that "weird" does not automatically equal "funny," mostly.

We also get the characters texting to one another while we see the floating conversations near them. This does predate Non-Stop, but the latter did it much better. Especially since the conversations actually made sense.
Midway through the film, Riley attempts suicide and then inexplicably decides, nah, she wants to live...once she's already hanging by her neck...and is attacked by the film's slasher...who she manages to fight while, I say again, she is hanging herself. Not exactly going to be an intimidating killer, here, huh?

Said killer is, by the way, based off of a movie-within-the-movie called Cinderhella II. It's basically Saw with the villain being a slighted former prom queen or some such.

At a certain point it becomes pretty pointless to discuss the plot, as it just becomes...kind of a sketch comedy thing without the laughs? Basically it devolves into presentation after presentation of character back stories (with title cards aplenty), sometimes just after we've first met them. This includes:

  • The aforementioned football player with fly blood
  • A student who has been in detention for 19 years (and apparently never aged during that time, though I don't know if the movie even means for that to be the case or not)
  • The head cheerleader having swapped minds with her mom's 1992 self to win a dance contest
  • The principal having fallen in love with said mind-swapped girl in the past when he was in high school and, having been rejected, having built a bomb which only succeeded in damaging his face
  • The stuffed bear mascot actually being a live time-traveling bear who was kidnapped by aliens
No, really.

Yup, that happened.

There's little point in discussing the film's's a mishmash of every different concept they could throw in. It starts as a slasher film parody, but then turns into some sort of convoluted mess of strange sci-fi concepts mixed in with the slasher concept and the entire world in danger and all sorts of strange things. It sounds like it should be funny, at least in a ridiculous way, and sometimes it is...but all too often it seems far, far too full of itself or intent on just throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. It wastes a lot of time on things that don't seem to have much to do with anything, 

I don't have much more to say. This film is a mess. It's a well-produced, well-acted mess, but it's a mess. It is a slightly better mess than, say, The Starving Games, but only because it actually bothers to have a plot...of sorts...and at least tries (and fails) to tie everything together. It is catastrophically stupid, though, regardless.

Let's just say that the film gets dumber as it goes on, the ending involves yet more time travel, the villain is offed in a spectacularly silly fashion (apparently you can't let go of an axe, either that or he's made of metal), and while the acting remains surprisingly strong and there are some funny one-liners, the majority of the film's humor falls flat because it is too busy laughing at itself to even try to make sense or actually be clever.

I'm done discussing this. I hate this film. Terrible film, bad comedy, not recommended. See you next round.

Rare Import Flix: Santo and The Treasure of Dracula

Stop me if you've heard this one.  In today's Film, a Masked Wrestler builds a Time Machine to help find some ancient treasure.  As it turns out, the Treasure belongs to Count Dracula.  I know- this Plot again!  The Film in question is Santo En El Tesoro De Dracula- at least in Spanish.  This is one that I have tried to find for a long time.  When I joined Netflix nearly 10 years ago, I added a whole bunch of Films to my Saved Queue- which was for Films with no set release times.  As of today, it is still not available from this service.  I had to think outside the box, so my Version was apparently aired on TV in Mexico.  I was going to make this work- dammit!  So let me backtrack a bit and touch upon El Santo.  I've discussed him in the past, so I'll be brief.  Much like how The Rock had crossover success from Pro-Wrestling, so did Santo.  The difference: Santo always played some idealized version of himself.  The man famously never unmasked and is allegedly buried in his mask.  Mind you, Bela Lugosi is often mentioned as being buried in his Dracula cape, while Criswell is also often mentioned as wearing it in Night of the Ghouls- a Film made after Lugosi's death!  Urban Legends are fun.  So, as mentioned before, Santo invents a time-machine and this makes him run afoul of Dracula.  Need I say more?  Since I think so, let me prove it...
El Santo here made a Time Machine.  It is just something that happened, apparently.
He needs a young person- preferably a woman- to use the machine.  It appears to work like in Quantum Leap- although this has a head-start on the Show by over a decade.

To be fair, I'm pretty sure Rene Cardona (Sr) was actually just ripping of The Time Tunnel.
The time they send her to has a big problem: Dracula.

Is he doing a Robichet?
Did I mention that this is a bit of an Exploitation Film at times?  Well, if not, it is.

On the plus side, I can scratch 'See Dracula interact with Mexican Strippers' from my Bucket List.
They do some odd things with the lore here, but that is kind of expected.  If you do Dracula without messing with the lore, you aren't trying!

He's repulsed by Mistletoe and appears to entrance this lady with his smoke (or worse).
Unbeknownst to them, they are being watched by a mysterious man in a hood.  Why is he hiding his identity from his own lackey?  Why is he hiding his identity from his son...who knows who he is?
Around the halfway point, they bring the lady back to the present- to save her life.

They retrieve Dracula's necklace to help find his treasure, but are cornered by the villain.  They obvious bargain.  This is an El Santo Film after all...
After almost zero interaction between Santo and Drac, they get caught by him...or do they?
They defeat the monster and save the day, but seem pretty pessimistic about it  The End.
After all this time, it is...alright.  To be fair, I didn't expect this to be Citizen Kane.  I have seen El Santo before, so I knew what to expect.  The best thing: the goofy Plot.  El Santo makes a Time Machine, but sends a lady right into Dracula's arms.  What are the odds?  Why is Dracula in Mexico?  Why does he have a stash of Treasure from Transylvania with him?  So weird.  So fun.  The worst part: the lack of pay-off.  You have Dracula.  You have El Santo.  Why don't they fight?  All I can figure is that they hired a real Actor to play 'Dracula' and not a Wrestler.  On top of that, we have a different Villain in the form of an evil Scientist.  Did we need this?  It feels like Doctor Dracula, although he is in the Film too long to be a later addition like he was in that.  Having a second Villain is weird.  This should have been El Santo wrestling Dracula in his cave- but with a ring- for the fate of his friend's daughter.  As it is, it is fun, but not up to what it should be.  On the plus side, Santo's friend is a pimp...
Next up, a 2014 Film from a Director I really like.  With a strange Plot, does it suck or poke?  Stay tuned...