Friday, November 10, 2017
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
Friday, October 10, 2014
Oh Marvel, you're so skilled at making "Huge Announcements" that really don't say anything we didn't know already since the last "Huge Announcement" and yet, somehow, still effectively getting us all worked up like we learned some big revelation anyway. If only our politicians could deliver behind their slick talk the way you consistently do.
I say we do away with the dated and proven useless concept of "presidents" and just put S.H.I.E.L.D. in charge of the country, which would mean the U.S. would be represented on the world stage by Nick Fury and Agent Phil Coulson,
arguably the coolest, no-nonsense, black dude/white dude one-two-punch that the country has to offer. We could cut the entire military by up to 3/4 (and even then, they'd be relegated to rescuing cats out of trees)
and use the defense budget to fund the antics of The Avengers.
|...and that's just the Movie team. If we assembled the whole team, in all its glory, |
we'd have an unstoppable, albeit completely bizarre fighting force.
Who'd ever dream of getting in our shit?
Hell, who would WANT to?
You'd have whole cells of terrorist organizations just laying down their weapons and begging Thor to take a picture with them to show their wives.
Some psychopath, who wants to show his undying affection for Jodie Foster
(Do obsessed crazies still threaten lives for Jodie Foster?
Ok, for consistency's sake,
let's just say it's
pulls out an assault rifle in the middle of a mall. It looks like he's about to write her a love letter in the middle of the food court, using only the blood of innocent Christmas shoppers, when...
** SHHHH-THWAPP!! **
Agent Clint Barton's been following your boy around for weeks, waiting for him to make his move... and guess what?
Now the dude's walking around, bleeding, with a vibranium-tipped, mind-control arrow sticking out of his neck, compliments of Hawkeye, who made the shot from a rooftop three blocks away, just to do it.
Dude even had to shoot another arrow right before that one, with a little arm on it, to hold the door open.
I'm just saying, ya'll, is it a prerequisite that the Secretary Of Defense be some stuffy old
George-C.-Scott-ala-Dr.-Strangelove looking motherfucker that just makes the rest of the world wanna come at us every time he opens
his big, fat warmongering jowls or can we just stop lying to ourselves and universally agree that Tony Stark is the man for the job?
|Can you even start to comprehend the astronomical jump in C-SPAN's ratings?|
...What was I talking about again?
Oh yeah. It's New York Comicon weekend and Robert Downey Jr. dropped mad hints this week that Marvel was gonna drop mad hints this weekend about the next two phases of the MCU master plan and that's obviously got me a little bit excited. To be perfectly honest, I'm betting it's gonna be something we all already knew, but like I said, they just have this way of making even old news sound like some glorious revelation and before anyone has a chance to say, "Hey, wait. They already told us that a few months ago." they'll have that triumphant Avengers theme cranked and the whole cast will be holding hands, raised over their heads in heroic solidarity and all the nerds who were in attendance will cheer wildly, many of them shedding tears of rapturous elation while us nerds at home, watching it all second-hand on youtube, trying to make out who's who in the half-inch slit of video (cause you know the one asshole who was able to sneak an I-Phone out and film the whole thing, is also the one asshole who doesn't know to hold the stupid thing horizontally) clutch ourselves tightly as a wave of chills passes through our bodies only to crash against the rocks of realization: I just sat through an hour of Joss Whedon, Kevin Feige and all of the Avengers cast who cared to show up, take turns congratulating each other for being so awesome, reveal absolutely nothing, disguised as ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING and bow dramatically while the rest of us dashed off to the internet to be the first to report that they said nothing new but it was "totally badass". That's right. You heard it here first... and now, the actual news:
Why Marvel Teaser Announcement Game Changer
Peace... or the extreme lack there-of,
Friday, May 16, 2014
*don't worry, baby. this'll be over before you know it and you won't feel a thing*
It's no secret that I'm a HUGE fan... Scratch that... nerd for the Marvel movie universe. I've watched them all several times, minus The Incredible Hulk, which I still liked and all, but I'm also one of those 3 or 4 people who really loved Ang Lee's HULK,
-the first episode of my podcast, Poxyclypse Movie Night, is dedicated to this movie. End of shameless plug-
I didn't care for the idea of rebooting it or the decision to replace Eric Bana with Edward Norton.
He did a fine job but remember, these are the rantings of a nerd. I DID like the couple of tie-ins that were sprinkled in to connect it to The Avengers later on, but, all in all, it could've easily been a sequel to the first one. It even picks up where that one left off, but they washed over all those events in the opening credits to show the audience that, yes, this was, in fact, a reboot.
This ain't about that.
I just got finished watching IronMan again (it's been a couple years on that one) and it was cool to be reminded that Tony Stark wasn't always a badass superhero. When he's first introduced, he's a billionaire playboy, weapons designer. He's a rockstar to the military and a target for liberal journalists wanting to make a name for themselves by attacking him with embarrassing questions about his work. In the example of this we're given, he deals with the problem by sleeping with the journalist.
He's THAT dude, and you can see it in his eyes. He is aware of his surroundings the way a pop star is aware. He knows all eyes are on him. He knows where the cameras are. He knows where the pretty girls are. He knows who wants to fuck him and who wants to fuck with him. He knows that wherever he goes, there will be people who's best interest is to not let anything happen to him and he behaves as such.
We all know what happens to him and how, by the end of the movie, he's somewhat of a changed man. He's still every bit the rockstar (you HAVE to be one to stand in front of an important press conference and announce that you are IronMan) but he's vowed to stop manufacturing weapons and dedicate his life to helping the world instead of arming it. There's a seriousness in his eyes that didn't exist before. He's aware of one more thing than before: accountability.
But that's all within the first film. The second one is good enough, but doesn't feel as important in the way of progressing the character.
By the third film, we've now had the first Avengers team-up and Tony's eyes are the eyes of a completely different person.
The schmuck who once knew he could say anything to anyone and somebody else would be happy to put out the fire has given way to the hero who intercepted a nuclear warhead aimed at the heart of New York City and guided it through a wormhole and into an alien mothership, essentially ending a full-scale invasion.
He has looked into the abyss and just barely returned. He now has anxiety attacks and dreams nightly of that glimpse into another dimension. He knows that he escaped only through sheer luck, unconsciously falling back through the opening at the exact moment that it was closing. One second later and he would've been trapped on the other side, never to be seen again, dying in the vacuum of space, countless light years from home.
He is not a god of Asgard.
He is not a gamma-ray mutation.
He is not a genetically enhanced supersoldier.
He's a super smart rich guy who built a technological marvel that he uses to combat those who would threaten the world he feels responsible for... and Pepper Potts. You want a heat-seeking missile up your ass, all you gotta do is mess with Pepper.
That's all. No big secret reveal. It's just one of many tiny details that keeps me enthralled by this universe.
I read a few random comics as a kid, but having very limited exposure to them, by the time I was in a position where I could possibly start to keep up, it seemed like such a daunting undertaking that I never did. Where to start? There were already an infinite number of stories, characters, continuing plot lines, cross-overs... You name it.
I skimmed the surface with the cartoons, a graphic novel compilation here and there and, finally, the movies. I've heard some complaints from fanboys about inconsistencies and omissions but ignorance is bliss and I have become a fanboy myself. These are my stories.
There are some slight inconsistencies just within the movie universe as well. I don't care. The big picture is like one epic saga with no end in sight and I'm giddily along for the ride.
The Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. tv series serves as a smart, fun wrap-around to this universe and has solidified Agent Phil Coulson as one of the most interesting characters in these stories and it's a thrill to go back and rediscover his ever-present participation in all of this; even more so than Nick Fury.
There I go, wandering off the subject again, in a driveling fanboy haze. What was I even getting at here?
Oh yeah. Tony Stark.
In The Avengers, he's at the top of his game. He knows who's watching and he knows they all know what he's capable of. He's surrounded by the closest thing he has to peers and facing the biggest, most profound threat that humanity has yet to face. He's sticking his chest out and doing what he does best... with style.
In IronMan 3, he is at first weary and somewhat shaken by the experiences of his previous outing and finally, humbled by a seemingly unstoppable force that gains the upper hand through his own arrogance.
All of these developments are illustrated perfectly, in an arc that began in 2008 (as far as Tony's story goes, anyway) and continues to grow with another installment coming in May of 2015. I, for one, will be eagerly awaiting it's arrival, to see where this universe will take me next.
Peace, or the extreme lack there-of,
Friday, April 4, 2014
The 3D summer.
I was 10-years-old that year and somehow was able to catch Jaws 3D, Amityvile 3D, Friday The 13th (What can I say? It was a lot easier for a kid to get into rated-R movies back then) , Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn and, by far the most memorable…
SPACEHUNTER: ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE.
I typed that in all caps so you could better hear the dramatic echo behind each of those beautiful, generic, self-explanatory words.
Who's the hero here? SPACEHUNTER (I didn't say to stop hearing the echoes yet).
What's it about? ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE!
Let's do the math. I'm 10. It's the same summer as Return Of The Jedi, the conclusion to an obsession of mine (and most American boys my age) that had begun 5 years prior. A couple years before that was my introduction to The Road Warrior (Mad Max 2, if you lived anywhere else in the world) and I was working my way through every Italian rip-off of that concept I could get my hands on (2019: After The Fall Of New York being the standout). SPACEHUNTER was specially built with me in mind.
After repeat viewings, I grew to appreciate the elements of The Road Warrior that make it a great film, but as a kid, taking it all in for the first time, it was the vehicles. They LOOKED like cars and trucks and motorcycles of the apocalypse. Flame-throwers, harpoons, sheets of rusted tin and makeshift roll-bars fastened to Frankensteined dune buggies, jeeps and hot rods, racing through the barren desert in pursuit of Max's Interceptor made a tremendous impact on my impressionable imagination and, in one way or another, I've been thinking about those images ever since. Spacehunter takes many visual queues from the first two Mad Max films, in terms of the vehicles, costumes and even the way the desert itself is depicted, without ever directly copying the designs or mimicking strictly for recognition's sake. It even introduces a caged, trap-laden gauntlet, complete with acid pools, razor wire, broken glass, spiked pits and swinging blades, that spectators can climb for a better view of the carnage at their own risk; more extreme, but not totally unlike Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, which came 2 years later. The influences are obvious, but to write it off as a copycat, cashing in on the success of The Road Warrior and Star Wars is just lazy and dismissive. While elements of both are glaringly evident throughout, it always maintains its own identity.
And, on the topic of identity…
Who's the coolest, most memorable character ever to emerge from the Star Wars universe? If you answered anyone other than Han Solo, you're absolutely incorrect. One of my biggest problems (but, by far, not the only one) with the Star Wars prequels is that there's no Han Solo character. No rogue. Everyone is either good guys or bad guys, and they're all single-minded in their respective alignments. They're also very bland, humorless and forgettable. Has any self-respecting kid ever said, "You got to be Eeth Koth last time. It's my turn!"?
|Eeth Koth |
Little boys in the ground zero demographic carpet bombing that was Star Wars fought over who got to be Solo when it was time to play. We wanted to be as cool in every way as the Devil-May-Care smuggler whose ship never quite ran the way it should, but always pulled through in the clutch; who carried a price on his head so large, every bounty hunter in the galaxy wanted a piece of him. He was quick to point a blaster at your ribs under the table and his co-pilot was an intimidating 8-foot-tall bear/dog guy who everybody understood, even though he only spoke in barks and grunts. He referred to the main protagonist in the movie as "Kid" and "Farmboy" and punked him out every chance he got. Luke Skywalker may have been the fish-out-of-water character intended to be the audience's avatar, but by the end of movie #1, a good cross-section of us had shifted our empathies over to Solo. Add to that, the fact that we were made to cry for him in the second film, then witness his rescue and return to cynical glory in the third, and it was a sealed deal. Luke went from humble farmboy to disciplined Jedi… Han went from kickass space-pirate to rebel commander AND he got the girl in the end.
Why are we still talking about characters from other movies? Sorry, I totally forgot what this was…
Oh yeah. Han Solo. For a lazerbrain, the guy rules and in the summer of '83, EVERYBODY knew it. The writers of SPACEHUNTER: ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE sure knew it. Wolff, the tentative "spacehunter" in question, is written as Han Solo to the Nth-degree. Critics of the film and the character are quick to point this out as a flaw and a cheap device. To a kid who dedicates a generous portion of his leisure time to personally furthering the exploits of the care-free scoundrel, this was less of a flaw and more of a selling point.
Wolff (Peter Strauss) is a salvage operator, bouncing around the galaxy, dodging the law, his ex-wife and responsibility in general, who'd rather spend money on nightgowns for Chalmers (Andrea Marcovicci), his sexy and tough engineer android, than on frivolous things like engine maintenance and the like.
|"...And the award for 'Sexiest Android Legs In A Feature Film' goes to..."|
He travels to Terra XI in search of three hot chicks, who look like they were coming from a WhiteSnake video shoot when their luxury space cruiser was destroyed by "an unexpected condensation of molten gasses".
Having crash-landed their escape pod on the planet below, they are almost immediately snatched by some scary locals on a sail-powered train.
By the time Wolff and Chalmers catch up to the train, they're already locked in a fierce battle with a group of "Zoners", who grab the girls and fly off on "Vultures" (jet-propelled hang-gliders). One of the dying "Scavs" tells Wolff that the zoners are taking the girls to "Overdog" Mcnab (Michael Ironside, feasting majestically on whatever scenery will fit into his steel-toothed maw), a doctor sent to fight the plague gripping the planet, who instead runs it like a vicious gangster.
|Michael Ironside. No makeup required.|
Now, that's a whole lotta quotation marks in one paragraph, and no, none of those goofy space words are crucial to the plot, but I'm pointing them out anyway, because to me, they're a big part of the charm of this movie.
Scavs, Zoners, mega-credits (later, abbreviated to just "megs"), Earther… The film has its own lingo, but it never stops to explain any of it outside of the context of how its being used. It makes Terra XI and this whole universe all the more lived-in. We're never told flat-out, why the people of this planet (mostly Scavs and Zoners) dislike Earthers, but it becomes apparent that this is a colonized world, abandoned and avoided once the plague broke out.
|What 10-year-old boy wouldn't fantasize about showing up to school in one of THESE?|
Wolff returns to his "scrambler", an armored all-terrain vehicle, to find Chalmers, critically damaged in the firefight. After lamenting the loss of "the best damn model they ever put out", he activates a self-destruct mechanism that melts down her remains and is on his way. Their relationship, though never discussed beyond one line hinting that she can never get things fixed on the ship because he's always "interrupting" her, is established enough in her minimal screen time that we can feel the slight sadness he feels, along with a certain detachment, given that she was, after all, only a mechanical object.
Trekking along through the wastes, theme music heroically marching along beside him, he meets Nikki (Molly Ringwald), or Nikki The Twister, as she refers to herself, when she attempts to steal the scrambler. Ringwald was only 14 at the time, but it's my favorite performance of hers ever.
She's an Earther who was orphaned when her "medical" parents were taken by the plague and has been surviving as a filthy, matted-haired scav in their run down home. Nikki is the comic relief and the obvious relatable character for kids in the audience, but she's no Jar Jar Binks, coming across as a useful character and part of the story where HE seemed to be there only 'cause Lucas couldn't think of a more logical way to get that scary old dude voted as emperor (What did Jar Jar contribute to the rest of the trilogy? He's hardly even in 'em). She's seen the captured Earth girls go flying by and strikes up a bargain with Wolff: "So, if you take me wheeling and give me some nibbles, I'll track you to 'em." . She convinces him that without her help, he wouldn't find them in a "millonium" and would probably end up being "spewered" by the chemists so they "bone out" on the road together. Her dialogue is a smart-alecky mix of the planet's dialect and just plain ole' Earth speak, however mis-worded and mispronounced. When Wolff stops to cook hot dogs, Nikki is disgusted for the obvious misunderstanding and the joke would be groan educing in other cases, but she sounds genuinely confused and it's consistent with who she is.
Everything about her character could've misfired. When Wolff wakes up in his sleeping bag to find she has snuck in beside him during the night, her stink is so repulsive that he drags her out to a small pond and throws her in, first washing her then forcing her to wash herself. It's never awkward or rapey.
There are several moments throughout SPACEHUNTER (hunter…ter…er…) where Nikki lets on that she's becoming attached to Wolff, even a little sweet on him, maybe. At the very least, she fancies herself his partner. 50/50. Wolff definitely sees this and never shows signs of warming up to her, even though he assumes more and more of a parental role as they travel on. I'm not saying it's what I would do, but the dude did just lose his sexbot and there doesn't seem to be any law out in this end of the galaxy to frown on some 30-something-year-old, interstellar garbageman with a plucky, teenage girlfriend. He never even asks her name, only learning it when she insists on telling him while she "brainworks" him. It is a conversation that ends with him making it explicitly clear that they are, indeed, NOT partners.
|Washington's SpacePlow is already busted up in this shot. I can't find a better shot of it online and ain't trying to get a screen-cap from my dirty old VHS. Just take my word for it. It's badass.|
Not even dry from the bath, a tankish, tractor/truck kind of creation chugs into their campsite, driven by Washington (Ernie Hudson). He and Wolff trained for military service together before Wolf (who surprisingly, doesn't respond well to authority) boned out. Now, Washington is head of the entire Terra sector, and, this being his jurisdiction, is headed for The Zone to rescue the girls and get the reward. He offers Wolff a small cut of the 3,000 and his answer is an incapacitated vehicle and a swim to find his gun.
|"That's a big Twinkie."|
The plot bounces along episodically from here, with Wolff and Nikki getting in and out of adventures on their way into The Zone.
In all this time, the Three Earth Girls have arrived at the lair of The Overdog and are presented to him, while he breathes heavily and repeatedly says, "Yes…yes…yessss…" until they're properly creeped the hell out. Ironside really doesn't get a whole lot of screen time, but still leaves a considerable impression. He spends most of the film attached to a mechanical crane that maneuvers him around his lair, probably cause he couldn't possibly support the heavy, robotic body armor and two giant, steel claws that he so gloriously waves about. He is the very definition of "villainous", growling all his lines through a menacing smirk, accentuated by his over-sized metal teeth. His skin is pale and diseased, pulled back in places to reveal metal plating, embedded either as armor or part of some make-shift enhancement he has performed on himself. It's never made absolutely clear what his plans are for the girls, but we are told it will make him stronger and leave them in ruin. Oh, and he's put off by scars and missing limbs, so there's that…
After narrowly escaping an ambush by ravenous bat mutants (who, my cousin always described as "little Jabba The Hutts", which is, surprisingly, not entirely inaccurate),
|"Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink..."|
The conversation is cut short and the decision is made for them when they are all driven from the site by a band of deformed children; victims of the Overdog's chemists. They're in "The Zone" now, where, it seems, most people are pathetic, downtrodden mutants and scavs. You've seen 'em. They're the typical extras in this type of cinematic apocalyptic setting. Dressed in rags and blood-soaked bandages, either cowering in corners or glaring maniacally. They're easy, random set dressing and functional. They sell the image and The Zone is filled with them.
|I miss matt paintings in sci/fi movies.|
It's a short jaunt from here to Overdog's lair, where our heroes are able to sneak in, undetected among the rabble of filthy scavs, who are being entertained by throwing unlucky prisoners into "The Maze", the treacherous gauntlet I mentioned earlier. Wolff makes Nicky wait in a parked vehicle, but her character compels her to go wandering around on her own and she's quickly captured and brought to Overdog, who like her… likes her for The Maze.
Washington is ready to give up on her and haul ass with the Earth girls and collect his 3,000 megs, but Wolff is willing to jeopardize the reward to rescue the little "pain in the ass". He snakes his way through the spectators, firing his blaster into The Maze, sabotaging traps and opening up her path.
Nicky defeats The Maze and her prize is to be held captive by Overdog, who puts her in his "fusion tube", absorbing her lifeforce. Ironside is glorious here, monologuing about taking her energy and how powerful he is. He is interrupted by Wolff, who comes barreling in, taking out his henchmen and sprinting straight at him while Overdog fires mini-rockets from his giant, metallic claws. This all looks incredibly heroic and badass, but ultimately just leads to Overdog grabbing Wolff in a giant, metal claw Vulcan nerve pinch and pinning him down, all the while explaining further about how mean and powerful he is.
Wolff grabs Nicky, Washington bursts through the wall in his tank/tractor/truck/snowplow contraption and they ride off to glory as the whole lair comes crumbling down and the soundtrack marches off triumphantly behind them! What more could you ask for? The miniature effects here are pretty impressive and are a lot more convincing than a lot of comparable scenes done in CGI. There's a satisfying sense of weight to the collapsing, exploding cliff-side HQ, complete with our heroes in the foreground, driving off in Washington's beast of a getaway vehicle.
It is a battle well-won and, back at Wolff's ship, there is much triumphant laughter and celebration between Wolff, Washington, the hot Earther chicks and even the chump scavs who have finally warmed up to Wolff and the gang now that they've proven themselves by defeating Overdog (plus, they don't want to look like assholes in front of the Earth girls by dissing their saviors). Everyone's yucking it up and having a gay old time except for Nicky, who's getting her meager possessions together in preparation to walk back to her… home?
Did I mention I love the lingo in this film?
So, there you have it. That's SPACEHUNTER: ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE (are your ears ringing from the echoes yet?) in all its 31-year-old glory. I hesitated to use this movie as an entry in the BAD MEANING GOOD blog, but, the truth is, besides my rose-colored glasses, this movie is widely considered a "bad" movie. Even long-time fans of it usually refer to it as a guilty pleasure or just a nostalgic gem from their childhood, albeit horribly dated and cheesy. The script isn't especially clever or self-aware, but it's not dumb and it never, ever insults the audience. The characters are, for the most part, pretty cut & dry, two-dimensional representations of the usual suspects found in a story like this, yet they are still good, memorable characters. There's no genre-busting twist that'll make you rethink outerspace adventures in a whole new light, but, if you're along for the ride, it's a guaranteed good time. The special effects won't melt your brain or show you something you've never seen before, however, they're extremely well crafted and consistent. They're the kind of effects I'll use as an example when I'm talking about the believability of practical over CGI. Even the weakest visuals in this movie feel like they really exist in the universe we're seeing. There's more than one convenient plot device that only serves to get our heroes in and out of fantastical predicaments. Yet still, I can revisit Wolff and the gang all these years later and still get swept up in the action every time. It feels genuine. Maybe it wouldn't have ever been made if not for the success of Star Wars and The Road Warrior, but that doesn't take away from the fact that it works on its own.
The cast give it their all and no one's just phoning it in for a check (standouts are Ironside and Ringwald. As a kid, I remembered both of them from this film on).
The score, by Elmer Bernstein is pretty much what you'd expect from an early 80's sci/fi romp. Big, heroic marches and creepy, tension-buiding strings. If you hate this kind of soundtrack, Spacehunter isn't gonna convert you, but it is well done and sticks with you afterwards. Fans of Ghostbusters will definitely recognize similar strains that Bernstein obviously carried over from this film and recreated in that one...
...and that's not the only Ghostbusters connection. I've already mentioned Ernie Hudson's Washington character being alot like Winston Zedemore. The late, great Harold Ramis was an executive producer and also can be heard in the first scene as the voice on Wolff's answering machine and Ivan Reitman (director of Ghostbusters) was a producer here.
I'm obviously dating myself, reminiscing about pretending to be Han Solo and Wolff (I probably just called him Spacehunter back then) and going into the impact The Road Warrior had on my childhood and whatnot, so I might as well take the plunge and use that classic old fart mainstay:
They Just Don't Make 'Em Like That Anymore.
And, while I hate old dudes who say shit like that as a way to avoid trying to understand or give credit to anything new or, simply, to make themselves feel superior to younger audiences by discounting anything created after whatever year they've decided is the cut-off for worthwhile entertainment, this is a very true statement in the case of Spacehunter: Adventures In The Forbidden Zone (...Zone...zone...zone...last time, i swear). I'm not some elitist old genre snob who can't appreciate new movies and the technology used to make them. I've embraced CG as any other art medium. In the proper hands, it can be magical. In less respectable hands, it's a lazy way to distract from lack of story and rehashed ideas. The same can be said for effects throughout the history of cinema. The fact remains, Spacehunter is from an era of practical effects, on-set stuntwork and a more light-hearted approach to sci/fi that you just don't see very much of today without it being outright farce.
Some of the newer Marvel films capture this spirit (thank you Marvel, for not trying to Christopher Nolan-ize all your characters the way DC has. It makes me happy to see the overwhelmingly positive response to this. People notice, even if they don't know they notice), I find, and it's refreshing to see, in an age when most mainstream genre films are ultra-serious, with brooding protagonists or they strive to be hyper-realistic to the point of being boring and unimaginative (besides the afore-mentioned farces, which aren't intentional as, say, Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, Sleeper or Dark Star, but rather, just disposable one-weekend insults ala' Battleship or the Transformers saga).
My next blog entry will be about this sad trend and the audiences who crave it over fun, imagination, fantasy and escapism. I'm not saying realism and more somber works shouldn't exist. My tastes run a little darker than most, actually. It just distresses me that more and more, this has become the criteria for what is considered quality and the audience is becoming increasingly boring because of it. Is it intentional or is it just supply and demand? Is it yet another volley in the ongoing War On Imagination that I've been ranting about for over a decade? Am I such a hopeless conspiracy nut that I'm accusing greedy, slimeball movie execs of accepting Illuminati kickbacks to purposely atrophy the imagination of mainstream movie, television and music audiences? Possibly, but probably not... But it is fun to say real fast (try it. it hurts). Am I looking way too far into something no one else takes seriously but me? How serious do I take it and can I be trusted? Am I a sleeper agent, planted by Adam Sandler and Michael Bay to spy on myself and sabotage any progress I make toward making the world NOT boring anymore? Does my paranoia have no limits?
Until next time...True Beliebers (see? How can I trust myself?)
Peace...or the extreme lack there-of,
Monday, November 25, 2013
ROBOT MONSTER 3D (1953)
Cosmic Ray Calcinator Beams?
Giant, stock footage dinosaurs?
A diabolical Gorilla Man?
Looks like this could only be… Robot Monster!!
This isn't an especially obscure film, and I'm not exactly breaking new ground
by pointing it out as a movie that's so bad it's good.
The reason I wanted to discuss this particular movie is the fact that it's widely known as
"ONE OF THE WORST MOVIES OF ALL TIME"!
But does it really still deserve that title after all these years?
Has NO ONE made a film superior in its inferiority than the 1953 anti-classic, Robot Monster?
That statement just seems a little dated in a decade that brought us American Pie
number whatever-they're-on-by-now or those teenage dance battle movies.
Back then you had to film a guy in a gorilla suit with a fishbowl on his head to make a bad movie.
It took some effort.
You had to kidnap Santa Clause or splice in scenes of a deceased actor, giving him top billing…
you had to be creative to be bad.
Nowadays, the bigger your budget, the more likely your Battleship's gonna sink.
(get it? like that movie…? Battleship…? Yeah, I never saw it either.)
That's got a lot to do with my interest in "bad" movies and why I can watch them over and over,
while your average "good" movie (let's say, Dances With Wolves, for example) I can barely finish once…
if I ever muster up the patience to get to them at all (Yes, my respectable film-watching friends,
I promise to sit through The King's Speech some day. I just gotta finish my never-ending
Italian Mad Max rip-off marathon first, ok?).
There's a reason why Zombie 3 is funny and re-watchable,
while World War Z can tell a mostly similar story,
only to have it come out bland and uninteresting.
There's a reason why this:
will always trump this:
What exactly is that, anyway?
So, without any further unnecessary explanation,
indulge me, if you will, while I… explinate (?)…
why Robot Monster 3D is NOT one of the worst movies of all time,
and is, in fact, the BEST movie ever made…
ok, that might be a bit much…
It's a beautiful morning in Bronson Canyon:
home to such classic film and t.v. sets as
Gunsmoke, Star Trek, Batman, Rawhide and… Star Trek
just to name a few,
and after a short dirt-nap in the comfy rock pile,
young Johnny goes peaking around in a nearby cave,
only to discover RO-MAN and his fiendish bubble machine,
who uses his cosmic ray calcinator beam to unleash unstoppable stock footage
from One Million B.C. and The Lost Continent
to wipe out all but 8 humans in a matter of seconds.
We only see some of this happen,
when RO-MAN shows the 6 survivors an instant replay on their magic projector screen
(that somehow works, even though they have chosen to seek safety
in a roofless pile of rubble right around the corner from RO-MAN'S cave).
It's ok, cause he can't detect them on account of the electric fence
they've installed around the perimeter.
RO-MAN is a one man pre-emptive strike against the HU-MANS,
who have grown too intelligent and must be wiped out.
Seeing how the entire eradication of the human race
is carried out in a matter of seconds, one might wonder if that assessment was based more on paranoia
than scientific research, or how this everyday family survived the attack… outside!
The short answer is:
The professor has injected them all with a serum that makes them immune to death rays…
I'm guessing he threw this miracle vaccine together in the seconds it took to kill EVERYTHING
or he would have injected more people with it. That, or he just didn't really care for anybody else anyway.
Where were we?
So, RO-MAN is trying to convince the survivors to give up
and accept a "peaceful surrender death" as opposed to a "painful resistance death".
He's a pretty reasonable guy.
Especially, given that he's under the constant scrutiny of The Great Guidance
who has given him "till the Planet Earth revolves once more"
to take out these pesky HU-MANS.
The humans, because they need things to do, have a communicator that broke during the attacks
and now can only be repaired by Alice if they want to talk to the guys in the Space Platform…
and she gives it her best, in true A-Team montage style,
but even after two days of randomly turning screws and fighting off despair and weariness,
It doesn't matter anyway cause RO-MAN destroys the Space Platform in the very next scene.
The space "Platform" is actually more of a rocket flying around in circles, carried by a giant, human hand.
Or maybe we're not supposed to see the hand. I'm not sure.
He then reports that HU-MAN 7 and 8 are gone,
which leads to a powerful brooding sequence by the professor,
who decides to contact RO-MAN and introduce the family to him
(to put a HU-MAN face on the carnage) while they all taunt him for some reason.
Then, in a twist worthy of Shamalan, RO-MAN sees Alice and falls instantly in love with her
making him question his RO-SENSIBILITIES.
He decides that if there's to be any sort of truce, the negotiation will be with
"The One Called Alice", basically asking her on a date.
To the entire family's astonishment, Alice agrees to this.
Upset about her decision, Roy pressures her into marriage.
(Hey, I wouldn't let the very last kinda hot, dumb chick on Earth
slip right through my fingers at the charms of
a guy in a gorilla suit who's "boyfriend resume" includes
"resurrected dinosaurs and crushed all humanity, at the same time.")
They immediately throw an impromptu wedding and everyone is joyous,
forgetting the dire circumstances that brought this occasion up, much less
the absurdity of the whole idea in the first place.
RO-MAN goes for a long walk in all directions
(bad editing or an example of his omnipotent power? You decide),
when he runs into little Johnny.
He attempts to Death Ray ole Johnny
who tells him all about the vaccine he and the family have taken and
all but draws him a map to their camp…
if you wanna call the rubble pile they're hanging out in a "camp".
Next, RO-MAN runs up on little Carla and, after a clumsy struggle,
Her last words are: "My daddy won't let you hurt me!"
Your daddy seemed ok with letting you wander around the post-apocalyptic wasteland, I wouldn't put all my beans in Daddy's basket just yet.
Ro-Man is quick to report his victory over little girls to the Great Guidance.
He also adds that perhaps it would be best to keep one HU-MAN specimen alive.
I wonder which one he's got in mind?
Meanwhile, on a romantic honeymoon, only a couple yards away from RO-MAN HQ…
Alice and Roy are obliviously making out in the bushes when their nemesis happens upon them
and instigates yet another clumsy struggle.
It's the epic,
confrontation we've all been waiting for and it does not disappoint (or impress)!
They both were asking for it in their own way.
She knows The Big Guy's got the hots for her.
Roy knows he's no match for a Gorilla man from space.
Both know they're goofing around right outside his cave.
Maw and Professor find Little Carla's lifeless body and emote accordingly.
At the funeral, the Professor offers these haunting words of wisdom to the grieving Johnny…
"No regrets, Johnny, we enjoyed her as long as she was with us, and now, somehow, we have to find a way to live without her."
They immediately get over the deaths of Carla and Roy and get straight to their Independence Day-like Plan,
with Johnny being the jet flown by Randy Quaid, while Maw and The Professor get to be Will Smith and BrundleFly.
After some "Me-Time", RO-MAN is tying up his blushing bride so she won't run off
while he negotiates with the remaining HU-MANS.
Then he cops a feel and gives her a good conking on the head just to shut her nagging pie-hole.
They agree to meet in "The Ravine" when "The Sun Passes Over The Mountains",
then, just as he gets rid of one nuisance and gets back to his prize,
The Great Guidance calls up to remind him that he's a failure.
[Responses like this do very little to support his case…]
("Yes…to be like the HU-MAN. To laugh, feel, want… why are these things not in the plan?")
Double G ain't trying to hear all this trifling and lays down the brass tax…
forcing Ro-Man to ponder over the concepts of "MUST" and "CAN NOT".
"I cannot, and yet I must. How do you calculate that?
At what point on the graph do 'must' and 'cannot' meet?
Yet I must. But I cannot"
There's an absurd theme of existentialism at work in our suddenly sympathetic antagonist,
and it's part of what makes Robot Monster not just another bad Guy-In-A-Gorilla-Suit movie.
In a somber scene, the HU-MANS wish Little Johnny well, hand him a Star Trek phaser
and leave him alone in "The Ravine" while they make their way to RO-Man's layer.
Great Guidance keeps badgering RO-RO to get it over with and snuff the chick,
but this just throws the Big Guy into the eternal conundrum of "Must" and "Can Not".
"I must, but I cannot. Great Guidance, I cannot kill the girl… but I will kill the boy. Al-ice, do not hate me - I must!"
When it comes to killing Johnny, it's not as difficult an idea.
He lumbers off menacingly after the boy, while Mom and Professor rush in to untie Alice.
It's the ole' "Statue Of Liberty" Play!
The Malachi Crunch!
The Velociraptor Fake-Out!
The climactic uh… "battle" between Johnny and Ro-Man is a breathless roller-coaster
of unbearable white-knuckle tension as…
Ro-Man… "kills" Johnny to death but Great Guidance is all out of patience
and sends out the lightning and the dinosaurs and the "CYCLOTRONIC VIBRATIONS"
to "SMASH THE PLANET EARTH OUT OF THE UNIVERSE"!
Even RO gotta go.
And, just when you're starting to get overwhelmed by the sheer doom and apocalyptic terror,
we see Roy, very much alive and carrying Johnny who, we now learn, fell down and bumped his head
and dreamed the whole thing.
Johnny looks mostly disappointed that Carla's not dead, but he finally agrees to "PLAY HOUSE"
with her when they get home.
The ladies, who didn't already know the professor and Roy in this reality,
invite the handsome strangers to join them in living happily ever after.
OK, so upon further analysis, maybe Robot Monster actually ISN'T the "best movie ever made"
and maybe I'm just that guy who always says that about whatever he happens to be watching at the time,
but the point is:
It's just so much more interesting to watch this train-wreck of a film unfold, zits and all,
and be able to SEE that real people attempted to make a REAL movie (albeit, a ridiculous one)
as opposed to sitting through some generic Hollywood "blockbuster", starring models pretending to be actors,
that looks suspiciously like it was just randomly created by some automated Action-Movie Program
based on pre-determined calculations of things that are instantly pleasing to the lowest common denominator.
Sounds like snobbery just for the sake of disagreeing with the mass movie going public at large?
It FEELS like it, a little bit.
Believe me, I wish I could look past the annoying crash-boom-bang of the average Michael Bay film,
[Seems wrong referring to Transformers 2 as a "film" ]
bypass my bullshit filter and just let a popcorn movie be a popcorn movie,
but there's always a pop-song or a product placement or an annoying, soap opera-grade actor-person
or disingenuous, button-pushing sentiment for characters who were never successfully introduced,
much less worthy of the sympathy of the intended audience.
There's ALWAYS a love interest and there's ALWAYS an idiotic, wise-cracking comic relief guy.
If he's white, he's a stoner/surfer "dude" and if he's black, he's one of the Wayans brothers.
There's an infamous rumor about Phil Tucker, the director of Robot Monster,
attempting suicide in the aftermath of the film's universally poor reception.
This may or may not be an exaggeration. He DID try to off himself, but there were other factors involved
that may have had a much heavier impact than his movie having bombed.
That's not what's important here.
The important thing is that history remembers Robot Monster.
The image of RO-MAN carrying Alice off to his Bronson Canyon lair
has become iconic in representing 50's sci/fi monster movies.
It has developed a strong cult following over the years, both in its original form
and the now-classic episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
58 years ago, Phil Tucker set out to make a sci/fi thriller that tapped into its audiences fear
of nuclear holocaust, invaders from outer space and… dinosaurs (?).
4 Days and $16,000 later, he unwittingly made a fondly remembered, absurd comedy.
The several-hundred-million dollar, disposable, interchangeable, cash-in epics of the last 10 years are already forgotten and out-dated by the time their inferior sequels are even in the can,
yet they are viewed by modern audiences as the pentacle of filmmaking,
the top rung in the evolutionary ladder of visual storytelling.
I guess we'll have to wait until 58 years from now to see if that really is the case
or if we're actually living in the cinematic dark ages.
A time when more movies were being produced than ever before,
but only a handful worth remembering.
Peace… Or the extreme lack there-of,