Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My Psychic Nutritionist Put Me Back On The Couch

Superman III – Review Redux

I know now why I hate this movie so much. I’ve watched it so many times over the years and just accepted that it sucked. It sucked because Richard Pryor was sadly miscast. It sucked because the humor was aimed at the pre-school level. It sucked because the villain is a lame retread of Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor. It sucked. It sucked. It sucked.

But most of all, it sucked because it wasn't about anything. It had NO story to tell. It had a lot of plot. It had several action scenes. But when you add them all together, they meant absolutely nothing.

In Superman: The Movie, aside from the great origin story, Superman romances Lois Lane for the first time, while Lex Luthor plots to essentially create a whole new west coast of the United States (Lexifornia?) with the help of some nukes. When Lex’s plot goes into full swing, Superman has his hands full trying to put everything right and save as many people as he can. But even a Superman can’t save everyone, now he must decide whether to disobey his Kryptonian father’s edict that he never interfere in human history. Conflict and drama!

In Superman II, Lois finally learns Clark’s secret but to be with her Clark has to give up being Superman forever. Meanwhile, Kryptonian exiles General Zod and his posse show up and decide to make Earth a new Krypton, with themselves as absolute rulers. What can a powerless Clark do now? More conflict and drama! (Yes, Superman II is ultimately undone by having part of the film be by Richard Donner's hand and part remade by Richard Lester, but that's a debate for another review.)

What is Superman III about? The Clark/Lois/Superman triangle is given a rest this time out, and Lois is only given a brief cameo. Lana Lang is the new love interest for Clark, but they have an instant mutual attraction, so there’s no conflict there. Town drunk Brad is after Lana, but she fends him off easily, and with nothing to keep her and her weird son in Smallville, Lana quickly and easily makes the move to Metropolis. There’s no conflict between Lana and Brad, or between Brad and Clark for Lana’s affections.

When Superman is infected by the Camel Cigarettes-brand kryptonite he’s turned into a jerk who sleeps with Robert Vaughn’s buxom blond gf, pops a hole in an oil tanker and straightens the Leaning Tower. He’s later shown in a bar getting drunk and pinging peanuts so hard they hit bottles like bullets. There’s a brief Daily Planet headline shown once that announces to the world that Superman is now a Superjerk, but so what? Superman should have become EVIL. He should have become another General Zod out to rule the world. Instead he’s merely a prick who can’t hold his liquor, and he's a bit of a prankster. What’s next tagging moving subway cars? Big effing deal. The sequence in the junkyard when Superjerk fights Clark Kent really doesn’t add up to much because there wasn’t anything there in the movie to begin with! (The poor schmuck vendor at the Leaning Tower had more conflict that Superman, having his whole business turned upside down (or just straightened out).)

A better writer would have made Superman III about something. Clark would have had to compete with Brad for Lana’s affections. Brad wouldn’t be a drunk (why was he one anyway?); he would be a really nice guy, just like Clark, to make Lana’s decision more difficult. (But as Clark will always be Superman, in the end he would want Lana to be happy and he’d have to let her go. Loneliness is a price Superman has to pay to be who he is.) When Superman is infected by the synthetic kryptonite, he’d want to rule the world - he’d take over Metropolis to start. He would make the people worship him. The gods of old were always demanding tribute from the people; evil Superman would be no different. When – if – evil Superman saves someone, he’d make them pay him for his services; if they resist, he’d take what he wants anyway. He’d humiliate people, he’d make them grovel, like Zod did (maybe he'd "parole" Non and, especially, Ursa to be his sidekicks). The people would hate him, and when he fights off the effects of the kryptonite, Superman would have to withstand the slings and arrows of misfortune and do what he does best, and get the people to love him again.

More than any other film in the series, Superman III feels like a comic book or cartoon, in that the character is simply presented with an obstacle and he has to overcome it. That’s it. There’s nothing at stake emotionally for the characters; they have nothing to gain or lose personally. Watch a Filmation Superman cartoon from the 1960s on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean. They are all the same: evil scientist/alien/supervillain wants to rule/destroy Metropolis/the world/the earth with bombs/destructo-ray/aludium-pew-36-explosive-space-modulator (also, they usually kidnap Lois/Jimmy/Perry), and Superman has to save Lois/Jimmy/Perry and stop the threat. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Superman didn’t have a story arc in Superman III. Richard Pryor’s character Gus Gorman had the story arc. He started as an unemployed guy, became a master computer programmer (yeah, back in ’83 they thought programmers were just like computer operators!), went to work for the bad guy, came up with the Office Space accounting scheme, created the synthetic kryptonite, designed the supercomputer (that looked like the 1960s Batman TV show's Batcave on steroids), learned the error of his ways, and helped save Superman and the world.

Superman III should have been titled Gus Gorman: The Movie.

Monday, March 30, 2009


Superman III (1983)

This movie almost makes you hate the character of Superman. It's that bad.

Richard Pryor as Gus Gorman mugs and mumbles and quivers his way through the whole movie. It’s an embarrassing performance; one that makes you just cringe. His scenes might make a four year old laugh, provided that four year old hadn’t been exposed to, well, much of anything. (I also think the George Lucas of ROTJ and the Prequel Trilogy would find Pryor’s scenes funny. His one criticism would be they should add some poo jokes.)

The characters of Lois, Jimmy and Perry White are all hollow versions of themselves, with nothing to do (the "Jingo Game" - I mean really). Even the Daily Planet, which bustled with life and energy in Superman I is oddly silent. Robert Vaughn does his usual Robert Vaughn impression (watch the BBC series Hustle to see Vaughn in top form). Pam Stephenson is no Valerie Perrine. Annette O’Toole is a ray of sunshine as Lana Lang. It was nice to see her continue her Superman association when she was cast in the TV series Smallville.

Christopher Reeve is still good as Superman and Clark, and does his darnedest to make this movie fly, but even he couldn’t succeed. There's just too much dead weight around him. It’s too bad his last big budget turn as Superman was this dreck (Superman IV was made by the Cannon Group, famous for low budget crap like Missing in Action I thru XXXIV.)

That long ass opening sequence, with its Rube Goldberg quality, is totally out of place here – the humor is all very obvious, silly and, frankly, childish (which sums up the whole movie). I was half expecting Inspector Clouseau to pop up.

More than British director Richard Lester, I blame producers Alexander (who looks like one of the Guardians of Oa*) and Ilya Salkind – this is the Superman movie they always wanted to make - they no longer had to battle American director Richard Donner, who kept swatting down their wrong-headed ideas - and it sucks.

* Google it.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Battlestar Galactica, the Best Science Fiction Series EVER

I just (finally!) watched the Battlestar Galactica series finale online. (Boy, the Kleenex couldn't be yanked outta the box quick enough!)

To series writing mastermind Ronald D. Moore, Exec. Producer David Eick, and the cast and crew of Battlestar Galactica, I say thank you for an incredible, simply incredible, four year journey.

I know I will wear out the DVD box sets of the entire series over the years as I watch this show again and again.

So say we all.

ps: I must say, having Dr. Zee from Galactica: 1980 be the mastermind behind the whole thing was a stroke of genius!

This Turkey Ain't For Thanksgiving

The good, and slightly demented, folks at twichtfilm.net have posted this gem of an item. http://twitchfilm.net/site/view/turkish-rambo-coming-to-dvd-april-24th#extended

That's right, its the Turkish Rambo rip-off called Rampage! Just as Sly Stallone's career has gotten a second (or is it third) wind with Rocky Balboa and Rambo, fate (or a sly producer) saw fit to subject American audiences to this Turkish dreck. From the guys who vomited up Turkish Star Wars comes Rampage, aka Turkish Rambo, starring a set of steroided muscles, a headband and some roasted meat. (Make sure you watch that trailer.)

It's worth a rental just for the hilarious RPG (that's Rocket Propelled Grenade) shots alone!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Major Movie Motion on Major Matt Mason

Tom Hanks is returning to space! http://movies.msn.com/movies/article.aspx?news=358681

Hanks, a veteran of the Ron Howard/Brian Grazer space program (Apollo 13) and also a WWII veteran of Normandy (Saving Private Ryan) is set to play stalwart astronaut “Major Matt Mason,” in a movie of the same name.

Based on the beloved Mattel Toy series from the 1960s called “Man in Space,” Major Matt Mason (you have to say his whole name, kids!) was one of those early action figures where rubber was poured onto a wire frame skeleton, so you could BEND the guy every which way, which was awesome until you bent it so much it BROKE which was a major bummer for Major Matt Mason because who wants to play with an action figure with a severe handicap that he can’t even hold up his gun or whatever.

When that happened, Major Matt Mason quickly became a victim of the Opto-men, strange beings from INSIDE THE SUN, who were able to SET FIRE TO AND MELT THEIR PREY where they stood (ok, so it was just a magnifying glass on a really sunny day).

They better give Major Matt Mason a Space Crawler in this movie or the Opto-men might have to visit the theater....

Houston, We Have An Odor Problem

According to this news article http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/090326-sts119-space-smell.html, space “smells funny.”

Astronauts on both the shuttle and international space station have reported smelling this space funk which reminds them of ozone, or perhaps a Hot Pocket cooked too long in the microwave.

Filmmaker Stanley Kubrick was such a stickler for realism when he made 2001: A Space Odyssey, consulting with such companies as Boeing and McDonnell Douglas. Well, it looks like he should also have touched base with Febreze and Air Wick, too.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It's Raining (Tiny, Purple) Men

So I just watched the famous 1980s film about a little man from another planet who falls in love with an earthling and wants to take them away from it all. Of course I’m talking about Purple Rain.

Don’t tell me Purple Rain isn’t science fiction! Have you seen it? The bizarre costumes and make up? The weird characters (Morris Day and his flunky Jerome)? The strange vehicles (Prince’s purple motorcycle, the yellow Lincoln Continental)? The unearthly locations (Minneapolis)? See what I mean, pure science fiction!

And that isn’t even taking into account the star of the thing, Mr. Androgyny, Prince. A tiny man who wears white puffy shirts that would make Seinfeld envious, and enough leather and studs to open his own Mad Max apparel store. A man who wears giant round sunglasses whose lenses are each as big as Captain America’s shield. A man who gave purple its due as a color, long before Barney the Dinosaur.

The plot is your basic musician’s bio-pic story: a talented kid (that’s what he’s called here, Kid) with a shitty life, in this case a physically abusive ex-Mod Squader father (Clarence Williams, III), sees his music as his ticket out of Smallville to the Big Time. Into his life drops the yin to his yang (the Dippity to his Do), in the form of the super-cute, and science fictionally-named!, Apollonia. She’s very pretty – her costumes show off her ample chesticles – but not a great actress. She’s not god awful, but merely serviceable. Her little dance group Apollonia 6 presages the Pussycat Dolls, with its mix of lingerie, singing and gyrations.

Morris Day plays a buffoon named, what else, Morris. It’s almost like he was dropped in from another movie; his comedy was that broad. And when he gets into an Abbott and Costello “Who’s on first” type routine with his dopey sidekick Jerome, it just about stops the movie.

Now, I was around in the 80s, but I don’t remember seeing so many people sporting poofy mullets and wearing eye shadow and mascara. It’s like the movie Liquid Sky vomited all over this one.

I love Prince’s early music, which is primarily why I got the movie to finally watch it. This movie is full of his classics. But as an actor here, I think he pretty much stinks. He has two facial expressions: a slight smile and a sorta frown. And he often casts his eyes down, which is something George Clooney was famous for early in his career, before director David O. Russell browbeat it out of him while making the film Three Kings. Prince’s speaking voice is very small and slight; it’s like he’s afraid to be heard.

But when he’s on stage performing: OMG! He’s sexy, magnetic, dangerous, ferocious. If he could somehow have tapped his stage performance while he was off stage, I think he could have been brilliant.

The movie Purple Rain was co-written by William Blinn, creator of the 1970s TV buddy cop classic, Starsky and Hutch. I don't know about you, but I think Starsky would rock the poofy mullet, and Hutch would so don the leather and studs. And they’d both wear the Captain America shield sunglasses.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Run Silent, Run Deep

Star Trek. I haven’t watched it since the late 80s. It’s been Remastered. Now it’s being Re-viewed.

“Balance of Terror”

The Enterprise faces off against an old enemy they’ve never seen face-to-face. This is a good ‘un, full of great character bits, action, the introduction of the Romulans, and good old fashioned bigotry, courtesy of guest character Mr. Stiles.

I wonder how many classic submarine movies director Vincent McEveety watched to prepare for helming this episode with its classic cat-and-mouse spaceship pursuit sequences. They may not be on the level of The Hunt for Red October, but they still hold up quite well today. The new CGI sequences stuck pretty close to the original visuals, but with a nice new shot of the top of the Romulan vessel rimmed by light.

Following the early show bible closely, Kirk has his moment of doubt about his command decisions and their repercussions not only for his ship, but for the whole galaxy should war break out between Earth and the Romulans. It’s fun to note that this early in the show’s run the “United Federation of Planets” hadn’t been coined, so the war was fought between Earth and the Romulans, and the outposts that line the Neutral Zone are Earth Outposts. Dr. McCoy doesn’t have much to do in this episode, but he does get to have a nice chat with Kirk during his moment of doubt. McCoy gives him some good advice: whatever you decide, make sure that decision doesn’t destroy Jim Kirk (and who you are). Words to live by.

This episode also has a few things that only appear here, for the sake of the story, and nowhere else. For starters, once Kirk gives the order to fire phasers, Mr. Sulu has to relay that down to the phaser control room, where one guy pushes buttons at one console, then another guy across the room hits another button and actually fires the phasers! That’s fucking crazy, they’d be dead three times over by the time all that relaying is done! In all other episodes, Kirk shouts “Fire” and Sulu pulls the trigger. Simple and effective. But they had to have a scene where Spock rescues Mr. Bigot (Stiles) so this convoluted method was devised. The other goofy bit was the phaser control thing that shorts out under Spock’s desk, so that he has to “get under the hood” to repair it. First of all that’s a Scotty thing, but again there had to be a moment where Mr. Bigot really, really gets pissed at Spock, even thinking he might be a traitor, so they quickly manufactured a reason, so we get Spock rooting around with cables and circuits. But the episode moves quickly enough that you don’t think about it so much.

And I have to say that this episode contains my favorite scene in all of Star Trek. At the end, Kirk comforts Angela, the girl who was to be married at the beginning (her husband-to-be was the ship's only fatality in the battle with the Romulan ship). After she exits the chapel, Kirk waits a moment then he leaves too, and the camera follows him as he walks down the corridor, heading back to the bridge, as various crew people dart around him. The look on William Shatner’s face is a study in concentration and thoughtfulness: Kirk and his ship have just been put through the wringer, but now it’s back to business as usual…which will often involve being put through the wringer again. Love that moment.

Disclaimer: Star Trek is Copyright 2009 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is implied.

Thanks to Trekcore.com for the Star Trek screencaps.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Go Ahead, Write My Day

My friend D sent this link, an interview with writer/director John Milius. http://www.cnn.com/2009/SHOWBIZ/Movies/03/09/john.milius.movies/index.html

Milius has had a hand in writing not only great movies like Dirty Harry, Jaws and Apocalypse Now, but also crazy 80s genre-gems as Conan the Barbarian and Red Dawn as well.

That being the case, I present the writing career of John Milius in less than one minute:

"Wolverines! I love the smell of napalm in the morning. I know what you're thinking. Charlie don't surf! I'll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went in the water; 316 men come out and the sharks took the rest. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: What is best in life? To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women."

Irritation Age

Long story short: I don't have cable TV and I have watched all previous seasons of Battlestar Galactica on "DVD," as the kids call it. They released the first half of their final season (4.0) just before they started airing the second half on television. Seeing as how this is the series finale of one of the best shows EVER to be created by man (or Cylon) I started watching 4.5 episodes online at Hulu.com. They posted the first six or so episodes the next day after their Friday broadcast. Cool.

But then for some whackass reason Hulu posted the remaining handful of episodes EIGHT DAYS LATER! Whose bright idea was that? This is the INTERNET AGE, people. The YOUTUBE AGE. The DIGITAL AGE. Eight days? Why not eight months, or eight years? This is the Age where some dude gets tasered and it's posted online IMMEDIATELY for all the world to see. But apparently it's still 1998 at Hulu - at least sometimes - and at many sites. (And I have to sit through the same ads for the eight day episodes as for the next day episodes.)

I'm going to have to carefully navigate through and around sites with BSG series finale spoilers for eight days - and I visit a lot of sites that mention this show. Then once I've watched the finale next weekend I have to go back to those sites and dig for their articles on this final episode. Egads, what a mess.

It would be one thing to post online all their episodes a set amount of time after TV broadcast, but to change that mid-stream makes no sense - you've hooked me, now you're just frakking with me. Hulu, you are run by Cylons, aren't you?

This is a case of someone seriously falling on their asses, either at parent company Universal which produces BSG, or at Hulu.com. Or both.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Bad Cartoons From 20 Million Miles in Outer Space

* Guess what movie THAT is from!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Can't Start A Fire

Eragon (2006)

"May The Dragon Be With You."

Here’s the story of Eragon: Young farm boy Luke Skywalker, sorry Eragon, is raised by his Uncle Owen, sorry Garrow. After his uncle is killed by Darth Vader’s, sorry Durza’s, stormtroopers, sorry Ra’zacs, he meets up with old Ben Kenobi, sorry Brom, who once was a Jedi Knight, sorry, Dragon Rider, who trains Eragon as he takes him to the Rebellion, sorry the Varden, who are fighting the evil Emperor Palpatine, sorry King Galbatorix. The Jedi Knights, sorry Dragon Riders, wield the power of the Force, sorry Magic.

As you can see, this is one sorry movie. Eragon is based on the book of the same name, famously, or rather infamously, written by Christopher Paolini when he was just 16 years old. The book was originally self-published by Paolini’s parents, but then it was picked up by a major publisher and became a surprise best seller, perhaps because dumb kids like to read too. I’ll give some credit to Paolini: a lot of thought was put into Eragon - mostly in coming up with new names for people, places and things that he read about in all the major fantasy novels, like Lord of the Rings and Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Riders of Pern series, and movies like Star Wars. He must have burned out the search and replace feature on several word processor programs.

The movie appears to follow the source novel very closely. That’s why I was bored to death. All this has been done before and been done better. This story follows the heroic fantasy template so closely you can see the template edges on screen.

No one in the cast stands out. John Malkovich plays the evil King Galbatorix as if he’s irritated that he was just woken up from a nice nap. Ed Speleers as Eragon is a good looking young man, but that's all he brings to the role. (Say what you will about Mark Hamill’s somewhat whiny performance as Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars, but at least he had energy and enthusiasm.) Jeremy Irons was a great actor in the 1980’s. Here, as Brom the mentor, he just collects a paycheck. Robert Carlysle looks to have had the most fun as Durza, probably because he got to chew the scenary while wearing greasy-looking, gnarly teeth and sporting funky latex makeup scars on his face.

The film’s production design looks like most of these fantasy films do, with its pseudo-ancient English look of cloaks, swords and chain-mail, and castles, etc. Absolutely nothing new or cool on that front. The mountainous scenery was apparently shot in Hungary and it is pretty to look at, and not as overshot as New Zealand after the LOTR trilogy and two Narnia films (not to mention the Hercules and Xena tv series).

A special mention has to be made of the names concocted for this mess. Galbatorix? Murtagh? Urgals? Alagaesia? None of the names ring "true" - they just sound silly and amateurish.

The film was directed by former ILM visual effects supervisor Stefan Fangmeir, with visual effects handled by ILM and Weta (Peter Jackson’s company that did LOTR). That means all the scenes with Saphira the dragon are top notch – she looks real enough. But the action scenes are the usual loopy, hyperkinetic mess found in most movies today. Very few people can conceive and direct really thrilling, and memorable, action sequences: Steven Spielberg, James Cameron and Martin Campbell are among them.

These types of stories are the backbone of fantasy fiction, they’re told over and over again. There’s nothing wrong with that, but they have to be retold with some new angle, either one of story or of character. The “new angle” with Eragon is simply that the author was a 16 year old boy who copied his favorite stories.

And that is not a reason to buy a book or watch a movie.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Spock Makes Sexy Time

Star Trek. I haven’t watched it since the late 80s. It’s been Remastered. Now it’s being Re-viewed.
Except this week, I didn't have a chance to watch it, but here's some photoshopped pics anyway.

“Amok Time”

Disclaimer: Star Trek is Copyright 2009 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is implied.

Thanks to Trekcore.com for the Star Trek screencaps.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Knock, Knock

Let the Right One In (2008)

Yumpin’ yimmeny, dere is vampyres in der town, ya.

When you think of all things Swedish, vampires aren’t normally at the top of the list. That all changes after watching this movie. It’s been called the anti-Twilight, but other than both films involving vampires and being adapted from novels, that’s where the similarities end.

Let The Right One In centers on 12 year old Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) a child of divorced parents who is constantly bullied at school. Into his life walks Eli (Lina Leandersson; voice dubbed by Elif Ceylan) another 12 year old with a secret – she’s a vampire. They are drawn to each other by their shared loneliness during a cold Stockholm winter in the early 1980s.

I won’t drone on about the plot, needless to say when you are bullied at school and make friends with a vampire, that issue will be addressed. But it’s not merely My Bodyguard with a vampire (although I’m surprised Hollywood hasn’t done that idea yet); this movie is much too smart to go that simple a route.

The two young lead actors are outstanding. You really feel Oskar’s pain at being bullied, and wish that he could stand up to them. When Oskar and Eli connect over a Rubik’s Cube it is sweet and touching. And when Eli does what all vampires must you feel sorry for her, rather than repulsed – she is only doing what she must to live.

This movie is full of little details, like Eli’s old caretaker covering up the windows immediately after they move into the apartment next to Oskar, and Eli’s odd-sounding stomach growls when she gets hungry. And she’s not hungry for chocolate, as Oskar discovers at one point. Another detail lies in the great cinematography, most notably with what is kept in focus and what is allowed to be lost in a blur.

Any film featuring vampires will be classified as a horror movie, but that’s pigeonholing this film. The vampire elements are treated very realistically – no shape-shifting into bats or changing into mist here. In fact, if you removed the vampire aspects you would still have an outstanding film; one that looks at innocence, loneliness, revenge and violence.

I like the fact that it’s not an American film, set in L.A. or New York, but a European film set in a small Swedish suburb. It’s refreshing to watch a non-American movie that’s not totally foreign (you hear me weird French movies?), but still different. I guess it’s a cultural thing. There are only a few movies set in winter or snowy climes where I got a genuine chill (in a good way) while watching it – John Carpenter’s The Thing and Fargo are on that list, and now so is this film. One other thing: when we popped in the DVD its apparent default is the English-dubbed version, where all the kids sound like they’re dubbed by women (like in Japanese monster movies). DO NOT watch it this way, but switch to Swedish language with English subtitles.

Wait for a cold, snowy night if possible and let this movie in.

Ps: There is an American remake planned for a 2010 release (by the director of Cloverfield). Goddamn movie companies want to wring every last penny out of any and every idea. There is NO WAY an American remake will be as good as the Swedish original. Current American sensibilities will only neuter this great little story.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Regular or Extra Crispy?

The Amazing Colossal Bad Cartoon From Outer Space

Friday, March 13, 2009

No Snap, No Crackle, Just POP

When Bad Cartoons From Outer Space Collide

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Where Are We Headed, Lex

"North, Miss Teschmacher. North!"

(road trip. brb)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Jazzin for Blue Gene

Bad Cartoons From Outer Space and The Bikini Machine

Monday, March 9, 2009

Hammer Time!

Star Trek. I haven’t watched it since the late 80s. It’s been Remastered. Now it’s being Re-viewed.

“The City on the Edge of Forever”

McCoy changes history and Kirk fears he must sacrifice the woman he loves to set things right. Meanwhile, Spock plays Marconi. All thanks to writer Harlan Ellison (with a major re-write by Gene Roddenberry and D.C. Fontana to fit into where the series was, and had become, by the end of season one).

“City” is often given the number one slot on lists of best Star Trek episodes. I’m not a huge fan of lists, but this one definitely is a classic, loaded with drama, humor, and even tragedy. It has a great sci-fi premise, with the Enterprise encountering “waves of time displacement” emanating from an unknown planet. On that planet is the nifty-looking, ancient Guardian of Forever (bombastically voiced by Bart LaRue) which sends our heroes back in time. “City” also boasts perhaps the best Captain Kirk romance ever, with Joan Collins as the far-seeing samaritan Edith Keeler.

I much prefer my Kirk/space babe romances like this one. It develops over time and you can see why Kirk would fall for Edith – she’s smart, beautiful, giving, intuitive, ahead of her time - and not like in “Requiem for Methuselah,” where Kirk falls madly and hopelessly in love with Reyna the robo-chick in a quick THREE HOURS after a game of pool.

“City” has several memorable lines, including this one when Edith confronts Kirk and Spock:

Edith; “You know how out of place you are around here.”
Spock: “Where would you estimate we belong, Miss Keeler?”
Edith (to Spock): “You? At his side, as if you've always been there and always will.”

That’s a great analysis of the Spock/Kirk relationship.

Spock delivers one of the funnier lines after Edith gets a peek at the crazy radio tube gizmo, complete with Jacob’s Ladder, he’s created to work with his tricorder. “I am endeavoring, ma'am, to construct a mnemonic memory circuit using stone knives and bearskins.”

There are a couple of really downbeat moments in this episode. After McCoy jumps through the Guardian, Kirk and the landing party discover that their history has changed and they are now all alone on the planet -- no Enterprise orbiting overhead, no Federation, no Earth as they know it. Kirk looks up and the camera pans with him to end on the stars. They are marooned in time as well as space. Bummer! Kirk and Spock decide to go after McCoy to set time right, and Kirk tells Scotty “when you think you've waited long enough, each of you will have to try it. Even if you fail, at least you'll be alive in some past world somewhere.” ‘Nother bummer! And that ending! Major bummer! (I’m not even gonna go into it as I don’t want my tears to short out my laptop.)

The Guardian of Forever is one of the coolest ideas in Star Trek/science fiction: an ancient time doorway that is both (and neither) machine and being. It tells Kirk that it has waited on the planet surface “Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born” for it to be asked a question. That’s a long time! The design is simple and elegant, a large, oval, stone “donut” shape that lights from within, prehistoric and modern at the same time - a Matt Jefferies homerun. Why they never made a toy playset out of it is beyond me.

One goofy thing has always stood out for me: when Uhura is walking around the ruins as they are searching for the drugged out McCoy, she’s looking UP (at the stars?) and not looking down around at the ruins, with all its many nooks and crannies (in fact McCoy pops up from behind a rock just after she walks by). Way to search, Uhura!

Disclaimer: Star Trek is Copyright 2009 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is implied.

Thanks to Trekcore.com for the Star Trek screencaps.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Cut-n-Paste Fu

Ninja Squad (1987)

How have I lived this long, and seen so many other movies, but never seen a Godfrey Ho movie? Some quick checking on Wikipedia and IMDb tells me that Ho is a Z-grade movie “auteur” – he buys ultra-cheap chop-socky movies from places like the Philippines, Hong Kong and Thailand, then shoots new scenes with Caucasian actors (for easier selling in overseas markets), often using former B-movie actor Richard Harrison. Oh, and according to Wiki, 40 of his films contain the word “ninja” in the title. Once Ho’s cut-and-pasted his movie together, he completely re-dubs it, supposedly to make it more coherent, but I ain’t buying that. Ho’s dubbing could go up against that of any old Godzilla movie or cheesy Hong Kong kung fu flick and win hands down. It’s that bad and that wacky, with a panoply of accents, deliveries and inflections.

Here’s the plot, not that you were that interested, or that it really even matters here: Billy, who is Thai, but has an Aussie accent, has returned to his shit-hole Thai slum home after spending time at Ninja School with Gordon the Ninja Master (Richard Harrison). (“Ninja School?” Is that a four-year university or a community college, and what sort of SATs do you need to get in?) The shots at ninja school are among the new footage as they are often done in long shots at different locations (with different film stocks and lighting!) so you can’t see the actors faces, or when they shoot closer in, the actors’ faces are covered by their ninja hoodies. Billy’s bombed out-looking concrete shit-hole is being overrun by gangs. Billy kicks their asses, so they kill his mom and kidnap his sister. Apparently the gang works for Ivan the Red, a rival ninja to Gordon the Master. I say apparently because I really couldn’t be bothered to fully follow the plot of this dim-witted thing.

Gordon the Ninja Master wears a partially-padded white and purple get up. And his headband reads, “Ninja” so you KNOW he’s the real deal. In fact, ALL the ninjas wear headbands that read, “Ninja.” (Was there a sale on these things?) Ivan the Red is kind of a misnomer as his ninja jammies are red and gold. The gold, being the accent color, has a pronounced sparkle to it, leading me to believe he cannibalized his old Ice Capades uniform to make it. Ninjas are supposed to be stealthy, which is why they normally wear black, but as all the ninjas in this movie wear bright colors, it leads me to believe they were designed to attack during Mardi Gras, or some other brightly colored parade or event.

The movie follows Billy in Thailand, then occasionally cuts to Gordon alone elsewhere getting “messages” in the form of various colored headbands that Ivan the Red sends him to indicate he’s whacked some other day-glo ninja (Gordon’s old students, I guess) in the movie’s other newly filmed sequences. SPOILER: It ends in the stupidest way possible with Billy dying in his Thai shit-hole and Gordon fighting and killing Ivan, then Gordon does a back flip and disappears into thin air. W.T.F.

That wacky dubbing I mentioned earlier? Well, here’s a sample: Billy’s Thai girlfriend, who like the rest of the lot, has an American accent, tells him, “I don’t think that your ninja skills are going to help you find a job.” Sound career advice there. The girl’s Caucasian “dad,” who is sort of a police captain trying to fight off the gangs, has these lines: “What’s the sense of getting new men? They all come from college these days. They can’t fight; all they can do is write reports.” Here’s the greatest line in the whole thing, transcribed as best as I can, “spoken” to Billy in a breathless manner by a woman after her purse has been snatched by the gang: “Over there please somebody robbed me over there if you could help me I’d appreciate over there they just took my bag please help me please.” And she says this in a Southern accent that sounds like it was coached by Foghorn Leghorn.

I’ll leave you with this nugget: a squad is at least two people acting as a team or unit. A police squad car is manned by two cops. An army squad can as small as two soliders. In “Ninja Squad” we never see Billy and Gordon fight together (they only trained together at ninja school). So we have a Ninja Squad that is not even a squad. And that’s the beauty of Godfrey Ho, master of the Z-movie.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The Bad Cartoon From Outer Space With A Million Eyes

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Smell You Later!

A brand new Star Trek movie is coming out in May, and what else could that mean but new Star Trek-themed colognes! http://trekmovie.com/2009/03/04/trek-spring-collection-preview-first-look-at-genki-star-trek-fragrances/#comment-1592645 (Thanks to my friends D for the heads up on the link, and D & B for suggesting I post this.)

Yes, you too can smell like a Trekkie who just splashed on some cologne to cover up the funk after spending three days walking all over a Howard Johnson's hotel while attending a Star Trek convention. If you're feeling dangerous, and a bit like sleeveless, teeth-gnashing Captain Kirk in "Mirror, Mirror" dab on some Tiberius. If you sense a fatal attraction - in more ways than one - put on a touch of Red Shirt. And if you're just feeling flat out horny, bath in a little Pon Farr, and make those seven seconds seem like seven years.

Seeing as how we here at Bad News From Outer Space are fans of the Big Trek, we've decided to concoct our own line of Star Trek-themed fragrances:

Tribble - "A little makes a lot (happen)."
PhasHer - "The cologne for stunning women."
Matter (for men) and Anti-matter (for women) - "Get together and cause an explosion."
Hailing Frequency – “Keeps all channels open.”
Photon Torpedo – “Obliterate any resistance she has to your charms.” (Warning: contains gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), aka the Date Rape Drug)
Gorn – “Reptilian. Rubbery. Clumsy. Need we say more?”

And don't forget to use Turbo Shaft translatex condoms and have some Jefferies Lube personal tube lubricant on hand for those most intimate moments, when you, what else, Boldy Go Where No Man Has Gone Before.

Available at fine gas station mini-marts across the galaxy.


Bad Cartoons From Black Hole Outer Space

Monday, March 2, 2009

Master of Puppets

Star Trek. I haven’t watched it since the late 80s. It’s been Remastered. Now it’s being Re-viewed.

“Return to Tomorrow”

TeeVee Guide logline: “Kirk, Spock and guest babe Diana Muldaur have their bodies taken over by alien beach balls in an outer space version of bunraku theater.”

The aliens, lead by Sargon, want to borrow the Enterprise crewmen’s bodies that they might use them to build android bodies to house their noncorporeal consciousnesses. Well, the idea looked good on paper, right? Of course no good deed goes undone on Star Trek and alien Henoch, in Spock’s body, not only plants the seed of doubt in Thalassa, Sargon's gal pal, that living in androids will suck asteroids, he irrigates the land, then crop dusts that sucker. (Guessing Henoch was a farmer in his previous job.) Don’t worry boys and girls, Kirk and Sargon save the day.

This must have been a fun one for the actors, having to play their characters as though possessed by alien intelligences. William Shatner gets the first scene showing how Sargon intends to take over their bodies, and it is a bit over the top. At the start of the “possession” scene, he’s hunched over and it looks like he’s going to launch into some kind of interpretive dance routine. Martha Graham, watch out. Leonard Nimoy gets to smile and laugh and flirt as Spock never could. Spock would occasionally do some of these things in roughly the first half dozen episodes, before Nimoy and the writers nailed the character, so this could be construed as a look at the Spock that might have been. Diana Muldaur, guesting as Dr. Ann Mulhall, literally lets her hair down when she is taken over by Thalassa.

This episode takes place on the Enterprise and one planet-bound set, so there's not much new as far as visual effects from the CBS Digital team.

This episode has Kirk’s famous “risk is our business” speech, which I happen to dig. If you’re ever in doubt about trying something new or potentially risky, give this speech a listen. It just might give you that extra little push you need.

Disclaimer: Star Trek is Copyright 2009 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is implied.

Thanks to Trekcore.com for the Star Trek screencaps.

Humpty Dance

Abbott and Costello Meet The Bad Cartoons From Outer Space

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Wo befindet sich die toilette, bitte?

Continuing my effort to watch every weird-ass movie in the L.A. Library catalog.

Zombie Nation (2004)

We’ve finally done it here at BNFOS Headquarters. We’ve hit rock bottom as far as video crap. This movie does the classic bait and switch as far as DVD cover to actual subject matter. The front and back cover shows a white-eyed zombie chick all chalky gray, with an air of J-Horror about her. The zombie chicks in this movie look NOTHING like that, instead they simply walk around with “raccoon eyes” essentially looking like goth girls from the neck up.

The writer/director is Ulli Lommel, apparently famous for directing The Boogeyman (1980), and for working with Andy Warhol. This shitsterspiece ™ was shot on video tape, not Hi Def (and it wasn’t even given a film look in post production).

Our story concerns psycho cop Joe Singer, who has serious mommy issues, who kidnaps random young women around Los Angeles only to kill them after he’s too impotent to rape them.

Want to know how cheap a production this was? Their L.A. beat cops wear generic black shirts and pants as uniforms (you can tell they just aren’t authentic) and they drive around in an unmarked police car that doesn’t have the built-in radio and computer that all cop cars have. But the absolute best part, and one of the cheapest moves I have ever seen in a film, is that the “police precinct” was shot in a warehouse – a warehouse with no windows, bare concrete floors and walls, and large exposed pipes running horizontally five feet off the ground. They threw up a few cubicle partitions, but they aren’t fooling anyone. Their boss (they never really called him lieutenant or captain, just boss) has a large vertical pipe array with several gauges in a corner of his “office,” which also featured a movie light on a tripod and a gong. Yes, a gong.

The cast is bad, with several standouts. The guy playing Joe Singer is a German actor named Gunter Ziegler. Why have your character say that he was raised as a boy in Alabama when he does it in a noticeably non-Southern German accent? Ziegler is terribly wooden, from his speech to his mannerisms. He’s like the Deutschland version of William Shatner (post-Star Trek, pre-Denny Crane). Singer’s young partner has a pregnant girlfriend who looks and acts more like the kid’s mother. (Don’t cast your friend’s friends, kids.) One of the early female abductees, who tried hard to hide her European accent, pronounced every line like this: “Why. Are. You. Doing. This?” “Where. Are. You. Taking. Me?” “What. Is. Happening. Here?” Apparently when they swtiched to euros in Germany, they also gave up using contractions. Herr Direktor even gives himself the last actor credit in the long-ass opening titles: "and Ulli Lommel." That is an honorific usually reserved for a name actor, so we know how highly Lommel the director thinks of Lommel the actor. He plays a weirdo doctor whose lines consist of repeating over and over "Is it safe?" (changing the emphasis each time). Lommel stole this line from Olivier's Nazi dentist in Marathon Man.

As I mentioned before the zombie effects consist of just putting mascara around the girls’ eyes. Yeah, scary, right? Also, for girls who have come back from the dead, their clothes are all fresh and clean. Apparently, there is dry cleaning in Zombieland. There is some gore but it’s all poorly done. What happened to good old-fashioned low budget gore? Where are the next generation of Tom Savinis and KNBs?

Oh, and one last example of how completely stupid and inept this production is: when veteran cop Joe Singer attempts to slap the handcuffs on one of the girls he grasps each end of one bracelet with the big meaty fingers of BOTH HIS HANDS and tries to get it to lock together. Handcuffs are designed so you can use one hand to slap/lock them on a suspect. It's obvious our veteran cop has never seen a pair of handcuffs before in his life, let alone used one!

If there were an Oscars for Shitty Movies, Zombie Nation would be a contender to sweep all the major categories. Then they'd have to sweep their warehouse set floors.


Quarantine (2008)

Warning: SPOILERS in this review

This is a remake of a 2007 low-budget Spanish film called REC. The plot is simple: a news reporter and her cameraman shadow some Los Angeles firemen for the night, riding along as they answer a call for paramedic assistance at an apartment complex. The whole movie is presented from the point of view of the news cameraman. (So, yes, there is a bit of The Blair Witch Project shaky cam here.)

This is one dumb ass movie. And I mean DUMB ASS. I know a certain amount of leeway needs to be given to horror movies, but this one used my entire year’s supply. I’m now all out of leeway. Due to the nature of the film, the characters are more like sketches than fully drawn out people, which is fine. Angela the reporter has the most screen time and personality and is shown interviewing the firemen and touring the firehouse before they get the call and all ride out. It’s what they do in the thick of things that makes them all morons.

Firstly the fireman Jake (Jay Hernandez of Hostel fame) and the policeman (Columbus Short) have NO IDEA how firemen and policemen act in tense situations. They were laughably bad. Short plays the worst cop I have ever seen (was this his first day - the actor and the character?). He apparently has no police training whatsoever. At one point, they leave one fireman to watch old, foaming-at-the-mouth-with-blood-all-over-her Mrs. Espinoza, who just bit a cop on the neck. They’re in the lobby for a skant few minutes when that fireman is thrown over the second floor railing, slamming into the floor. Jake and the cop rush over and look at the man as if he wasn’t just thrown over the railing by a rabid old lady. I can see Jake focusing on tending to his buddy, but the cop just sits there with a stupid look on his face. He’s quick to draw his weapon on the apartment residents when they are peppering him with questions, but when a fireman is thrown down a few floors it just doesn’t get his attention that they are in a dangerous situation.

This movie goes out of its way to do the dumb or stupid thing, because its writers and director are idiots. The authorities seal off the building and take their sweet damn time in informing the cops and firemen they know are in the building of the situation. Why would they keep them in the dark? EVERYTHING the authorities do makes matters worse for the people trapped in the apartment. They jam the cell phones (why?) and, get this, they even turn off the power to the whole building. What possible reason would there be for the Centers For Disease Control and the cops to do that? THERE IS NONE! They very simply could have established that it was an old building experiencing electrical problems, or perhaps L.A. was having one of its famous rolling blackouts. Just a little thought on the filmmakers part would have gone a long way in this piece of shit.

This is the type of movie where the filmmakers do things because they think it will be cool, even if it makes not a lick of sense. Mrs. Espinoza is shot three times in the chest by the cop. She is DEAD. So of course when other people start getting the super-rabies, they're running around and end up back in her apartment, and her body is gone. Oh, she’s still alive. Creepy, right? No, not creepy. Stupid. When the power is shut off, no one attempts to get flashlights or candles (they’re apparently happy with the cameraman’s camera light and the cop’s one flashlight), they just sit around bitching. When they see the results of the super-rabies on several people - the viciousness and murderous ferocity - they make NO attempt to arm themselves with knives, bats, something, anything to use as a weapon. This movie is chock full of “Why are they doing THAT?” moments. Overflowing in fact. They didn’t have to spend any more money or time to correct these glaring inaccuracies, just some common sense, which seems to be the first thing eradicated by the super-rabies virus.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to order some more leeway.