Sunday, July 22, 2012

Review: The Fantastic Four (1994)

Credentials: 20%, Certified rotten ( / 3.9 out of 10 (

Plot: It all starts with two allegedly college-aged scientist types doing a little experiment into some sort of cosmic energy event thing. Naturally, the experiment goes horribly wrong and one of the not-so young youths winds up dead. A few years and a whole bunch of gray hair later, the surviving scientist, Dr. Reed Richards (Alex Hyde-White), decides to take a second crack at the experiment that killed his friend. So he recruits three new friends to help him out. Naturally, the experiment goes horribly wrong again--- is he a worse scientist or friend, I can’t decide--- only this time no one ends up dead. Instead, Richards and his three pals all end up with superhuman powers. On top of that, turns out the first experiment may not have been as lethal as once thought, and Richards’ old friend, Victor Von Doom (Joseph Culp), is alive and annoyed. With a name like that, who could blame him?

Why it stinks: Unless your movie is called “Apocalypse Now,” it’s a horrible sign if the story going on behind the camera rivals the one unfolding in front of it.
                Let’s flash back to the early 90’s shall we? Constantin Film Produktion is in trouble. See, the company owns the rights to make a film version of Marvel’s “Fantastic Four” comic book series, but it’s up against a deadline. If it doesn’t start production on a film post haste, it loses the rights and someone else can snatch them up and make the movie.
                So, Constantin hatches a plan to make sure it doesn’t lose the rights: The company decides to make a virtually no-budget “Fantastic Four” movie and just never release it. Hide it away under the stairs like a dark-haired boy with a lightning bolt-shaped scar.
The company hires low-budget maestro Roger Corman to orchestrate the project, a bunch of no-name actors to star in it, and goes to work.
Here’s the catch. According to Marvel head honcho Stan Lee, Constantin never told the actors or crew members about the plan. So everyone went to the set each day, blissfully unaware no one would ever see the results of their hard work. Several of the actors even went to comic conventions to promote the movie.
Once filming wrapped, Constatin buried the movie and 11 years later the company got to make the multimillion dollar, “real” version starring Jessica Alba and Chris Evans, and its sequel “Rise of the Silver Surfer.”
And it all comes back to this super cheap, super crappy movie no one was ever supposed to see, but now we can thanks to the wonders of the internet.
As for the movie, “Fantastic Four” just doesn’t work with a low budget. There are just too many complicated visual effects. Between Dr. Richards stretching his limbs like Stretch Armstrong, the Human Torch controlling fire, the Invisible Woman’s ability to become invisible… (duh) everything just looks embarrassing.
You can’t really blame the effects department, they were just up against it. That’s too big of an order to fill without the coin to back it up.
One thing we can blame them for is the look of the Thing, the member of Richards’ crew who turns into a sort of rock-skinned, golem creature. His makeup and prosthetics actually look OK all things considered. Problem is, his head is clearly shaped like a certain part of the male anatomy. Kind of distracting. Maybe it was just me.
The less said about the repulsive blue and white costumes our heroes don when they become the Fantastic Four, the better.
The dialogue is equally as embarrassing, but screenwriters Craig J. Nevius and Kevin Rock don’t get a pass. It doesn’t take a million dollar budget to realize having two characters' mom say something like: “There they are, the Fantastic Four” is really cheesy.
Also, was the subplot involving the jewel-stealing leprechaun really necessary? Because you’d think Dr. Doom would be enough of a villain to carry a picture. Apparently not though since they had to shoe horn in that guy and his band of sewer dwellers. It’s like the filmmakers stuck some deleted scenes from the first “Leprechaun” into their movie just to see if anyone would notice.
All of the romance in the movie, and there’s a lot, is some combination of creepy, weird and forced. In the case of the Thing, all three.
The fight scenes are all undone by the same lack of an effects budget we talked about earlier.
One the bright side, there’s some occasional humor to be found, some of it intentional, the vast majority accidental. Still, a laugh’s a laugh. 

Worst of the worst

Spoiler Alert: A lot to choose from, but I’m going to pick the wedding that occurs near the end of the movie. The Invisible Woman is about to marry the reverse skunk-haired Dr. Richards. As is customary, she wears a wedding dress. What do the three male members of the Fantastic Four wear, including the groom? Their ugly blue superhero costumes! To a G’D wedding!


Video Evidence

             There you have it. "The Fantastic Four.” Bumblebee tuna.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Review: Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Credentials: 33%, Certified Rotten ( / 4.0 out of 10 (

Plot: A crazy guy clutching a Halloween mask shows up in a small town medical clinic babbling that everyone is doomed, strange men are trying to kill him and so forth. Lucky for the crazy guy, he’s under the watchful eye of deadbeat dad, cardboard box impersonator and our hero, Dr. Challis (Tom Atkins). Naturally, within minutes of his arrival, the crazy guy ends up dead right along with the guy who killed him. Whoops. So, Dr. C. ditches that scene--- and his lame-o kids--- and heads out on the road with the dead crazy guy’s daughter, Ellie (Stacey Nelkin), to get to the bottom of this wonderful mystery. Being the class act that he is, Challis waits nearly a full two days before making sweet, sweet love to the grieving daughter. Soon, the pair uncover a sinister plot involving (in no particular order) killer Halloween masks, stolen Stonehenge rocks, and a grating TV commercial that may also be a killer. Where the fork is Michael?

Why it stinks: You know how everyone complains that Hollywood has no original ideas left, that it always opts for the quick and easy payday instead of actually putting any sort of thought or effort in?
                Well, you whiners can thank “Halloween III: Season of the Witch” for that.
                “Halloween” creators John Carpenter and Debra Hill didn’t want to churn out a repetitive string of increasingly violent and cheesy sequels all featuring Michael Myers hacking babysitters into little bitty bits (Which ended up happening anyway). 

                So, they tried to turn the franchise into a sort of seasonal “Twilight Zone,” telling new weird and scary stories every year, and send Michael off to an early retirement.
                They tried something new and different and it blew up in their faces. “Halloween III” is widely reviled as one of the worst in a sorta mostly bad franchise.
                Now some will tell you, that all the “H3” hate stems from the title. People get disappointed when you sell them a “Halloween” movie without Michael Myers. It’s like promising steak and delivering ice cream. Those folks say the movie would have received a warmer reception had it just been called “Season of the Witch,” and stood on its own two legs (Though, I’m sure Nic Cage might have something to say about that).

                Those people are sadly wrong. “H3” is just way too boring to be misunderstood.
                The so-called mystery our hero and his lady friend are trying to solve? Meh. Not much of a mystery for us or them. Everyone seems to figure out what’s going on (the masks are dangerous) and who’s responsible (the company that made the masks, duh) pretty easily.
                Maybe because the movie insisted on playing that freaking commercial jingle every five minutes like clockwork. Kind of gave it away.  

                The only real unknown was why a company would want to make killer Halloween masks. When you do find out, you’ll probably wish the movie hadn’t bothered. Let’s just say druids are involved somehow. Always druids.
                And can we talk about the way the masks kill people? I won't go into details, but holy lord. Someone was compensated American dollars for scribbling that gibberish on a page. There’s really hope for us all. You know what would have been scarier… or better? Anything. Anything at all. If the masks had killed people by forcing them to dance an endless Irish jig, it would have been better. 

                Lastly, the cast. We already discussed how neither of our leads is particularly likeable or interesting. The rest of the cast is mostly filled out by a bunch of one-note-joke side characters who exist solely to be killed off. Nothing memorable from the lot of them, save for another top notch diabolical performance by Dan O'Herlihy (he plays joke store mogul Conal Cochran).
            Worst of the worst

            Need I say more?

            Let that be a lesson to you kiddies. Risks are for losers. Bumblebee tuna.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

News: Trolls to conquer big screen

Well, I’m a little late on this, but what the hey? Bad news is bad news, even if it is a few days stale.
                Last week, Dreamworks announced it had offered Jason Schwartzman the lead voice role in their next animation project.
                What’s so bad about that? Dreamworks is no Pixar, but it does fine work. And the hipster kids seem to get a kick out of that scruffy scallywag Schwartzman. Again, I ask you, what’s not to like about this pairing?
                The upcoming Dreamworks animated project in question is “Trolls.”
                No, not those trolls.
                These trolls. You know, the ones with the plastic jewel on their tummy’s and the tuft of brightly colored hair that people were oddly into about two decades ago?

 Yeah, those things. Definitely time to tap into that goldmine.
Anyway, Schwartzman will be joining a cast that already includes the awesomely talented Chloe Grace Moretz, who’s already locked into the female voice lead for some godforsaken reason.
It seems lessons weren’t learned after the disaster that was “Battleship.” Hollywood continues to prattle along with the confused notion that people WANT toys and games from their past plastered across giant screens, and those same people are willing to pay upwards of $12 a ticket just for the privilege.
Please America, ignore Schwartzman’s hipster charms. Avoid “Trolls.” Don’t give Hollywood a reason to make a Mouse Trap movie. My soul couldn’t handle that kind of assault.
Source: MSNBC

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Review: Piranha 3DD

Credentials: 14%, Certified Rotten ( / 4.3 out of 10 ( / 24 out of 100 (

Plot: So there’s this water park run by a douchebag (David Koechner, dude has been so typecast) where the lifeguards aren’t just lifeguards, but strippers, as well! For some reason, this is also a water park where families like to hang out. Dunno. Anyway, the prehistoric, carnivorous fishies from part one eventually show up and crash opening day, eating a bunch of people and whatnot. There’s A TON of other stuff going on: the douche bag’s step daughter (Danielle Panabaker) is involved in a massively uninteresting love triangle, her best friend (Katrina Bowden) is somehow struggling to get a guy, any guy, to have sex with her (really dunno), there’s some conspiracy thing involving the local police, etc. It’s all going on, but it’s not worth our time or attention… whoops. Let’s move on.

Why it stinks: Damn you, “Pirahna 3DD.” Damn you.
                Damn you for making me say this: I miss Alexandre Aja.

                Aja. My archnemesis. The director of duds such as “The Hills Have Eyes” and “Haute Tension” (if you’re pretentious). He also lucked into making the shockingly entertaining “Piranha 3D.” Sure, it could have been better (put Eli Roth behind the camera for starters), but still I had fun with it.
                Now, after seeing the Aja-less sequel, I really miss that crazy, French son of a gun, because “Piranha 3DD” awful.
                I guess it should have been pretty obvious from the title and casting decisions (Hasselhoff and Busey in the same movie?), but "P3DD" is trying really, really hard to be a screwy horror comedy.
                 Trouble is, once you start burning that many calories trying to make people laugh, usually the opposite starts to happen. There's still a good deal of nudity, blood and guts, it's just not as much fun this time around.
                Now look, I know Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan are the writers-du-jour of the horror genre nowadays, given the success they had keeping the “Saw” franchise afloat and profitable for seven films despite the fact its star madman died in part three.
            The two are good, sometimes very good (“Saw 6”), at what they do, but they aren’t comedy writers. They're totally out of their element writing "P3DD." They try to recreate the slapstick, over-the-top spirit of the original, but end up rehashing a bunch of tired gags and adding some sad attempts at humor of their own.
That leaves noted hack and replacement director John Gulager (“Feast”) to rely on so-so (at best) comedy actors and a fistful of C-list cameos to do all the heavy-lifting.
             I mean, for the love of god, J.D.’s future son from “Scrubs” has a STARRING role in this movie. Starring! I spent 20 minutes trying to figure out how I knew him, then I remembered this:

             And for shame, “Piranha 3DD.” You took the lovely and lovable Katrina Bowden and saddled her with the most useless and nonsensical storyline in the movie.
Spoiler Alert, here people. Be warned.
Am I to honestly believe that a piranha swam up her lady parts, lived inside her for several days and then emerged right while she was about to have sex with a guy? And that she was totally unharmed by any part of this experience?
End spoiler.
That’s really stupid.
See, the first “Piranha” was mostly entertaining stupid, the sequel is just stupid stupid.
I’ve already discussed the needlessly busy storyline, but my god. There’s so much going on and none of it is interesting. As a result, all of the piranha action gets crammed in near the end. And when the fish finally attack, it hardly lives up to the part one massacre. It’s all just very blah. Not fun, not squirm-inducing. Just there, happening.
Despite the fact that it’s grossy overwritten, “Piranha 3DD” lays claim to a cool 96 minute run time. Allegedly. The movie is really only 70 minutes long, with some unfunny bloopers and an equally unfunny fake commercial slowing down the end credits, adding on nearly 26 minutes!
70 minutes. Glad I skipped this one in theaters. 

Worst of the worst

See: Spoilers above. That scene had my cursor careening towards the stop button. 

Gulager, Melton, Dunstan. Congrats. You’ve made me appreciate Alexandre Aja. I’m not sure how to handle this. Maybe I’ll make like Sam Jackson at the end of “Pulp Fiction.” Wander the countryside, have adventures.
Or maybe I’ll just re-watch the last 20 minutes of “Haute Tension” and get my mind right.
Bumblebee tuna.