Sunday, October 31, 2010

He's Coming For You!

Another Halloween treat on tap for you, the great undead funk band Here Come the Mummies performing "Attack of the Weiner Man" on the always awesome Bob and Tom Show.

Dig those mummified horns, man.

Trick and Treat

As the great orator Porky Pig once uttered, "Happy Halloween, you thing from another world, you!"

Here's a look at Star Trek's one and only - and thank goodness and Gorns for that - Halloween episode, "Catspaw." So load up on the candy corn, gummi worms and Snickers Bars and check out the Halloween shenanigans of Capt. Kirk and company as they go up against the goofiest pipe cleaner aliens you will ever see.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dig it.

Disclaimer: Star Trek is Copyright 2010 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is implied. Screencaps from

Warm up to this solid little thriller

Frozen (2010)

Alfred Hitchcock did it with Lifeboat and Vincenzo Natali with Cube. What these two directors did is set their stories in one very confined space (a lifeboat in the former and a cube-like prison in the latter). Now, writer/director Adam Green sets his story in the great snowy outdoors, but confines his main characters – a trio of college kids on a weekend getaway – to a ski lift chair 40 feet above the ground.

What could have been merely a “stunt” or "high concept" movie turns out to be a solid little thriller, thanks to the time spent at the beginning getting to know our heroes: Kevin Zegers as Dan, Emma Bell as his new girlfriend Parker, and Shawn (Iceman in the X-Men movies) Ashmore as Dan’s best bud Joe.

They not annoying jerks as is often the case with 20-somethings in horror/thrillers, but regular people, especially Joe, who meets a cute co-ed on the slopes and even gets her number, which he tries not to forget even when things go bad. Our trio wanted to make one last run down the slopes before it shuts down for the night, but through a series of believable mishaps, they get stuck halfway up the mountain. They don’t descend into Lord of the Flies territory, but the guys and girl start sniping at one another in a believable fashion; their attempts to extricate themselves from their harrowing predicament are also quiet plausible.

One thing the movie gets right is to increase the problems for the trio. The filmmakers don't simply confine them to the stuck chair lift; Green throws in frostbite scares, a storm, hungry wolves, steel cables which will shred your hands, and more; the tension increases as we go along, which is something the recent film Monsters desperately needed (that movie was simply "stuck in a chair lift").

For a lower budgeted movie, they made sure they got a decent camera/equipment package, including a crane to swoop around the chairlift (shot on a real mountainside), so if our characters cannot move, at least the camera can. The performances are mostly solid, with Ashmore being the standout of the three, and Bell being the weakest.

I have yet to see Adam Green’s other films, primarily Hatchet and the just-released Hatchet II, but if he brings the same creativity, fun and energy to those films as he did to Frozen, then they herald the arrival of a talented new filmmaker to the tired Hollywood scene.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Keep This Nightmare Off Your Street - and TV Screens

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Freddy Krueger (referred to as “Fred Krueger” in the movie) returns in a wasteful, useless remake. THANKS MICHAEL BAY!

This is the kind of production that gives remakes/reboots a bad name. As in the original 1984 Nightmare, Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley) is not a wisecracking goofball (that came in the later sequels and TV series), but rather a more sinister figure. The make up looks more like a real burn victim’s than the plastic pizza face worn by original Freddy Robert Englund.

This movie features many of the original film’s more famous beats or set pieces: the bladed-glove in the tub, the girl being flung up the walls of her bedroom, and Freddy’s face peering out from the wallpaper. These nods only made me appreciate the low budget, pre-CGI-era original. For example, the wallpaper was made of latex in 1984, now it’s all just obvious digital effects. Since the characters use cell phones, they didn’t try to recreate the memorable scene where the phone’s mouthpiece becomes Freddy’s lecherous tongue.

The cast is uniformly unmemorable, with actors Rooney Mara (taking over for Heather Langenkamp), Kyle Gallner, Kellan Lutz (one of those high school kids who looks 30 yrs old), and Thomas Dekker turning in forgettable performances. Mara appears in The Social Network and the upcoming remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She has a presence that is not fully utilized here; she’s the best thing in the movie, but that’s damning it with faint praise. I blame writers Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer, director Samuel Bayer (a music vid director making his feature film debut) and producer Bay (who has already crapped on/out the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, and Hills Have Eyes reboot movies). Haley was an inspired choice for Krueger but since they do nothing new with the character or this story, what is the point?

Another thing that truly stuck out is the movie’s principal dream/nightmare location of a rusting industrial factory is spectacularly unimaginative, especially in the same year that saw the release of Inception, another movie dealing with dreams. The “steam and flame” (thanks, Roger Ebert) factory setting in the ’84 Nightmare could be forgiven as it was a low budget effort. But 26 years later, it’s pathetic to do a remake and set it in the same goofy setting, which every other low budget (and big budget) shoot ‘em up has used as a location (see Terminator 1 and 2, Cobra, Space Mutiny, and every other Golan-Globus cheapie action pic). The scenes of a hellish Los Angeles in the movie Constantine would seem to be more appropriate for a true nightmare. Oh, well, there’s always the obligatory Nightmare sequel…

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Non Event

Any of you been watching The Event, the much hyped (perhaps over hyped) new NBC series? I’ve watched the first three episodes and I am so far extremely not impressed.

After watching the pilot episodes of Lost, Heroes and FlashForward, I was instantly hooked on those shows. Those characters (except for Joseph Fiennes and his goofy Drinky the Crow FBI agent) and those particular stories had me glued to the tube (at least until Heroes seriously went bad in the second season onward, and Lost was spinning its wheels from the middle of season two to mid season three). The Event, which deals with non-terrestrial people (are they alien, or what?) and a conspiracy (or two) involving our government simply hasn’t popped for me.

None of the actors or characters seems to stand out. Lead Jason Ritter is like any other handsome young actor. His presence and his character have elicited a big “so what” shrug so far. His gf, played by Sarah Roehmer, is pretty but not much else (remember how you first felt about Evangeline Lilly in that first season of Lost?). Blair Underwood - who has honestly never impressed me - as the Prez doesn’t seem the least bit presidential (see Dennis Haysbert on 24 for someone with presidential presence).

I’m just waiting for something to happen. Even the big moment (I won’t spoil it here) at the end of the first episode wasn’t as cool as it should have been. Perhaps it is the characters, or perhaps the odd storytelling method of constantly flash-backing that left me cold. Sure I wanted to know what happened and how it happened but I wasn't pulled into the story.

With its flat cast and unengaging storyline, I don’t think The Event will last long enough for them to reveal what the Event is.

Here there be Monsters

Monsters (2010)

I recently watched through VOD (Video-On-Demand) the long-anticipated movie Monsters, from first time writer/director Gareth Edwards. The film is due in theaters on October 29, 2010.

Edwards set blogs ablaze the last several months with clips of his first feature film and the knowledge that he was doing it all for a budget around $15,000, making him the 21st century’s new Robert Rodriguez (Edwards also served as credited production designer, cinematographer and visual effects supervisor).

With fingers crossed we sat down to watch this film, the story of a man and a woman forced to trek across Central America and Mexico – an area infested with dangerous alien creatures - to make their way back home to the United States. Call it Planes, Trains and Automobiles Meets The Mist (By Way of Cloverfield).

A prologue tells us that we discovered life in our solar system, but when we sent a space probe to collect samples and return to Earth, it broke up over Central America and the alien life forms started to spread, not just outward, covering the area, but upward as well: they appear to be 200 feet tall fully grown.

The story follows a photographer, Kaulder (Scoot McNairy), who is still trying to get that one great shot of the creatures that will win him the cover of a major magazine and propel him to the big leagues. He’s forced by the owner of the magazine he works for to play chaperone for the boss’s daughter, Sam (Whitney Able). His new assignment: get her out of Central America and safely back to the U.S.

For $15,000 this is an outstanding film; it looks good, sounds good and the visual effects – apparently created with off the shelf software (Adobe AfterEffects, etc) on a standard pc – are amazing. But the story is flat and the characters not defined enough.

In Monsters, the adversities the couple faces always seem to be on the same level, perhaps due to the low budget. Instead of building to a boiling point the movie just keeps a slow simmer and never gets any hotter. When their plans for Sam to take a ferry boat home collapse, they are forced to travel by car through the infected zone. But this is where the movie trips up. They build up the zone as so dangerous nobody can make it through. However the movie goes out of its way to paint a “life goes on” picture – even though there are giant monsters lumbering about behind hundred foot tall fences and fighter jets and helicopters constantly streaking across the skies, people will be people, so you have to have a roof over your head, you gotta feed your kids, there are still festivals to put on and attend - you have to mourn the dead, but still celebrate life.

I come back to Planes, Trains and Automobiles: each calamity forced those characters to further bang their heads together and examine their lives. It wasn’t enough that they had to share a single bed in a motel room, but then that room was broken into and they had their cash and credit cards stolen (which figures into a later scene). And then of course, they wake up the next morning in each other’s arms (one of the most famous scenes in modern comedy history).

It’s not much of a spoiler but at the end Kaulder and Sam have feelings for each other, but this story didn’t justify how they got there. Kaulder never really stood up and did anything heroic – he didn’t grab a gun and start shooting the monsters when their mercenary guides were killed. He didn’t have any special knowledge or know how that got them out of a tight jam. They were just a passive couple on a somewhat dangerous journey together.

This is a movie that wannabe (and veteran) filmmakers should watch for the technical aspects. I absolutely applaud Gareth Edwards and his two-man crew on what they were able to accomplish (I imagine 15 grand doesn't even cover lunch for a day on a Michael Bay picture). But the simple fact of the matter is you would need to look elsewhere for a more compelling story.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Disclaimer: Star Trek is Copyright 2010 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is implied. Screencaps from