Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Plan 9 From Outer Space... in 3D!!!

Film: Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) Director:...Image via Wikipedia
CRISWELL PREDICTS!! I predict education will be given to children through the television screen, no personal teachers, but there will be a warden on duty to see that one hundred percent interest is sustained. Later, education-memory pills will help give you all of the education you can possibly use.
- Jerome King Criswell

Now here's an interesting development in the gradual market saturation of 3D films in both the theater and now on DVD/Blu-Ray. It seems like the studios have been going out of their way to force 3D graphics into every mini-epic and pseudo-blockbuster hitting the screens over the past year. Well, they've finally gone ahead and started cranking out crappy movies in 3D as well. No, I don't mean Clash of the Titans. We're talking really crappy. No, I'm still not talking about Clash of the Titans.

It turns out that the minds behind the 3D technology at PassmoreLab , the “World’s Largest 3D Content Provider,” have decided to showcase proprietary conversion technology by releasing a 3D version of one of the worst films ever produced, Ed Wood's seminal cult classic Plan 9 From Outer Space. Using the print restored and colorized by Legend Films in 2006, they will be going through the film frame-by-frame and converting Wood's error-riddled smörgåsbord of shoddy filmmaking into glorious high-resolution 3D entertainment.

This seems to be a follow-up to their 3D conversion of the original Night of the Living Dead, which leads me to believe that they are practicing their handiwork on public domain films in order to showcase the capabilities of their process with as little overhead has possible. No complaints here, as long as they keep picking high-profile films that are entertaining to watch with or without the funny glasses. Personally, I'm looking forward to seeing Tor Johnson's arms stretching out past the screen in my direction. Beats giant Smurfs with arrows any day of the week.
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Podcast #16 - The A-Team, Drive-Ins, and Dog Owners

Yes, the MovieSucktastic podcast is back on schedule, after an extended hiatus so Scott could (unsuccessfully) attempt to track down co-host Joey, who was abducted last month by militant Avatar fanatic in retaliation for his past anti-Avatar reviews.

But the hunt is over now, and Scott is back in action and well into the MovieScottastic swing of things with his full-on review of The A-Team, which he screened at Becky's Drive-In. This, of course, also leads to a brief rant about moviegoers and drive-in moviegoers, and their never ending quest to ruin the movie-going experience for the general public. Here's a quick preview: what do you do when a crying baby isn't loud enough to disrupt the film? Bring the dogs along as well, of course.

So tune in and check out the latest on the A-Team, as well as Scott's opinion on the film's lack of a Mr. T cameo. I pity the fool who doesn't listen to the latest episode, either at iTunes, Podcast Alley, Podcast.com or MovieSucktastic.com. Current plans for the next episode include reviews of Killers, The Human Centipede, and Deadtime Stories..

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Butcher Knives & Body Counts

Head on over to the Official Author Website of S. Michael Wilson and check out the cover for the upcoming anthology Butcher Knives & Body Counts: Essays on the Formula, Frights, and Fun of the Slasher Filmdue out in October from Dark Scribe Pressfeaturing work from over seventy authors, including your beloved MovieSucktastic co-host Scott!
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Movie Review: The A-Team

A-Team movie - TitleImage by Daniel Semper via Flickr
TV Show Adaptations have been the theatrical kiss of death for a long time now. Not because the idea of taking an old beloved television series and modernizing it in a feature film isn't a plausible idea, but because the studios almost always drop the ball. Most of the time, they play the revival for comic effect instead of nostalgic revival, like The Dukes of HazardStarsky and Hutch and Charlie's Angels. When they occasionally do take the update seriously, like Miami Vice, The Mod Squad and Swat, it turns out that no one really wanted one in the first place. Then you have just flat out cinematic abortions like The Avengers, Bewitched, Mission Impossible and Wild Wild West. Classic-cartoons-turned-live-action-films like Fat Albert, Scooby Doo, Inspector Gadget, Josie and the Pussycats and The Flintstones populate their own private level of Hell.

So when do the studios get it right? Not very often, I'm afraid. But in the case of The A-Team, a generation's favorite soldiers of fortune have escaped the land of fond childhood memories unscathed. Of course, if anybody could do it, it would have to be these guys. Hell, they escaped a federal prison using garbage bags and hair dryers. Take that, MacGyver.

From the opening scene, you know you are in good hands with this modern revision of America's favorite wrongfully imprisoned special forces soldiers turned vigilantes on the run. The film's (and main character's) introduction is stylistic, endearing, and undeniably cool. There is no attempt to mimic or mock the original show's style, which keeps it from falling into the realm of intentional camp, but it still manages to convey that childish joy and wonder that went along with watching the A-Team improvise their way through adventure after adventure. This is just as much an achievement of the actors as it is the filmmakers; much like J.J. Abrams' Star Trek reboot, the emphasis isn't on mimicking the original actors, but making the characters their own. This is especially an achievement for Quinton Jackson, who wound up with the task of filling Mr. T's combat boots as B.A. Baracus. The end result is that you don't feel like you are watching actors reprising old characters, but the characters themselves, and that's the hardest part of this kind of cultural adaptation. They even manage to squeeze the original theme-song in without making it feel campy. Now that's an achievement.

Size and scope are the most noticeable difference between the movie and the original TV show. Like any low-budget prime-time series, The A-Team filled most of its action sequences with air mortars, car flips, and stunt men pinwheeling through the air from fake explosions. Compare that to the film's budget of $110 Million, and suddenly you go from air mortars to exploding CGI tankers and high-speed chase sequences with helicopters and fighter drones. This kind of over-the-top spectacle threatens to overwhelm the film's modest origins at times (especially during the climactic ending), but the superb acting and sharp dialogue help anchor the film in its nostalgic roots. Combining nostalgia with modernization is hard, especially when dealing with a show as iconic as The A-Team. Let's face it, how many TV shows can you name from just hearing someone hum the first four notes of the theme song?

It also helps that the screenwriters know how to do a proper villain. A lot of action films these days (since the 90s, actually) make it a habit of presenting dark, foreboding bad guys who smirk maliciously and kill puppies every ten minutes just to remind everyone how evil they are. This is far from the case with The A-Team; Patrick Wilson and Brian Bloom are given dark characters with personalities that make them as entertaining and fun to watch as the heroes. They do just as much wisecracking as the good guys, and manage to keep plot-forwarding scenes from feeling like mere pauses between action sequences. They're so fun and colorful, you wouldn't mind seeing them team up in a spin-off show (maybe they could run a day-care center together and solve crimes at night?). The rapid-fire banter throughout the film elevates this feeling, and often the dialogue actually increases the tempo of an action sequence instead of slowing it down.

The real kick in the pants is that The A-Team hit the screens only a month or so after the abysmal MacGruber. Side-by-side, these are the perfect Goofus and Gallant of adapting 80s TV shows. On one hand, you have people unwilling to seriously tackle an iconic prime-time show, so the instead do a mock-parody-spoof and tank the whole thing. On the other hand, The A-Team is modernized, taken seriously enough to not mock itself self-consciously, and manages to make an entertaining action film that retains the charm and appeal of the original series. You see, that's how it's done.

The biggest complaint I probably have regarding the film is the lack of a Mr. T cameo. An after-credits sequence features Bradley Cooper and Shartlo Copley bumping into Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz (the original Face and Murdock), but Mr. T and George Peppard were conspicuously absent. Peppard's reluctance to appear is understandable, considering he'e been dead for fifteen years now. So what's Mr. T's excuse? Seems he doesn't approve of the show being remade into a violent, racier PG-13 action film. It is usually comforting to know that some things never change, but I don't know how comforting it is that Mr. T still conducts his personal and business life in the same cartoonish black-and-white moralistic grandstanding that predominated his act when he appointed himself Protector and Mentor of All Children in the 80s. I could understand if he simply didn't want anything to do with the movie, but then he has to throw out the rationalization that he was afraid that if made a cameo, the filmmakers would try to use his name to sell the film. The last time I checked, the only thing his image was being used to hawk was Snickers Bars and Video Games, which is a far leap from the moral Mr. T of the 80s that preached the importance of eating healthy and outdoor activities to children.

But that little bit of unpleasantness aside, The A-Team is a resounding success. Sure, some people might feel the need to nitpick some of the action sequences as unrealistic and far-fetched (This Summer, you will believe a man can fly a tank...), but those that do are missing the big picture. Remember the garbage bags and hair dryers? That's right. It isn't about the realism or probability, it's all about the plan. In this case, the plan truly came together, and (sorry, but I must) I love it when a plan comes together.

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Movie Review: The Human Centipede (First Sequence)

Promotional poster for The Human Centipede (Fi...Image via Wikipedia
When The Human Centipede by Tom Six was first recommended to me, I was sure that it was a joke. "No, really. What's it about?" It is the kind of plot that is almost too ridiculous to comprehend. Can you really make an entire film around... that?

Yes, you can. Of course, just because you CAN do something, doesn't mean that you SHOULD. But they did anyway, and the result is one of the most grotesquely hilarious films I have seen in years.

There is no denying that this is a bad movie. This is the kind of movie that serves as the poster child for trash cinema. The next time some politician or infotainment host decides to raise the battle cry against the disgusting horror films corrupting America's youth, they will no doubt be waving around the DVD case of The Human Centipede as they scream for strict censorship laws. I don't even think I'll blame them when they do: this is not the kind of film you watch if you aren't into these kinds of films. This isn't even the kind of film that you admit to being into. I hate to throw the phrase "guilty pleasure" around with reckless abandon, but in the case of The Human Centipede, I think it is more than justified. This film is the dirty little secret you only admit watching and enjoying to those sick, twisted individuals that share your bizarre taste in cinema.

The plot is incomprehensible as it is simple. Doctor Heiter is a medical professional with a burning passion for experimental surgery, a very unpleasant bedside manner, and a skull way to large for the rest of his head. Famous for successfully separating conjoined and Siamese twins, the good doctor is now obsessed with joining things together. Heartbroken from the death of his freshly-joined three dobermans (his "Beloved Three-Dog), Heiter desides to step things up a notch and join three humans. This becomes possible when two teenage twits on a European vacation get a flat tire and stumble upon the anal-retentive (in more ways than one) mad doctor. They are the perfect victims: it is hard to feel much sympathy when the girls stumble upon a creepy German doctor with a bulging cranium and pictures of deformed fetuses on the walls, then gladly accet when he tells them to sit and offers them drinks. Two glasses of Rohypnol water and one dart-gunned Japanese drifter later, and all of the ingredients for a Human Centipede are ready and waiting. Let the good times roll.

How does he join them? I thought you 'd never ask. His brainstorm involves crippling the knees so the three can't stand up, and then surgically connecting all three people ass-to-mouth, creating a conjoined monstrosity with one continuous gastronomic passageway. That's probably the nicest way to put it. If you are having a hard time grasping the concept, fear not; the good doctor explains it all in great detail to his helpless victims, including visual aids shown on an overhead projector. Personally, I thought he would have done a better job with a PowerPoint presentation.

If this sounds like a spoiler, it really isn't. The revelation of this creation doesn't mark a climactic ending, but merely kicks off the second act. Your reaction will probably be like mine; a quick glance at a watch, followed by the dim realization that there is still an hour of this to go. This is where the film pays off, as we get to watch Heiter actually interacting with his new creation with the mixed emotions of affection and frustration you would expect from a new pet owner with irrational expectations and a monstrously skin-stretching skull. I'm not kidding, his head is huge. It actually distracts from the Human Centipede. Dieter Laser, the man behind the freakish head, makes the movie. His emotional outbursts, creepy delivery and crazed expressions  never fail to delight, and there isn't a moment that you don't believe in the character. When Dr. Heiter actually weeped at the unveiling of his creation, I couldn't help get a little teary-eyed myself. My favorite part is when he takes the Human Centipede out on the lawn for training. I'm sure it will be yours as well.

The genius behind The Human Centipede is that it is not overly graphic. You'll probably see more blood and gore on an episode of Grey's Anatomy, speaking of abominations of nature. What sets this film apart is the human cruelty and anguish of the mad doctor's victims, who are quite conscious and alert throughout the entire film, even if only one of them is able to speak after the first act. The film isn't shocking as much as it is disturbing, and it gets even more disturbing when you find yourself laughing at it. Yes, this is the kind of film that actually makes you feel dirty for watching. That's what horror films used to feel like. I kinda enjoy that.

This is not the kind of film that many will feel comfortable recommending to friends or family members, but just remember, it is all in the interest of science! Plus, The Human Centipede is also a great educational experience for the young ones; before your family viewing, quiz your children as to which part of the Human Centipede they would prefer being. After the film, compare their choices with the inherent realities displayed throughout the story. This is not only a great example of critical thought, but also teaches the lesson of being careful what you wish for.

Speaking of Careful Wishes, I should probably point out that a sequel, The Human Centipede (The Full Sequence) is due out next year.
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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Guest Review - The Wolfman (2010)

Lon Chaney, Jr. in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf ManImage via Wikipedia
THE WOLFMAN (2010) on DVD Review
by friend of MovieSucktastic Don Smith

In the 1941 movie THE WOLF MAN, Lon Chaney, Jr. stood out as an original creature in Universal Studio’s Monster Movie pantheon. He went toe-to-toe with the likes of Frankenstein’s monster and Dracula, two characters that have long been in the public psyche thanks to their respected books by Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker.

Chaney’s continuous, almost overbearing, pathos was heart-wrenching. All they had to do was put him in full make up & hair and say, “Lon, go do you best impression of a german shepherd!” and he stole the show.

However, the 1941 film had two glaring problems:

First, the werewolf that bit Lawrence Talbot (Chaney) was an actual trained wolf (supposedly Bela Lugosi in animal form). The question then arises, “Why didn’t Talbot turn into that style of wolf?”

If he had, the movie would not have had the longevity it still does today.

Second, anytime the wolf-man would attack some poor schmoe wandering the moors on a full moon at one in the morning, the victim looked as if he only had ketchup spread about the mouth and forehead.

The other characters stood around and would breathlessly say, “That looks ghastly!”

No it didn’t.

It looked like some poor schmoe who had been wandering the moors on a full moon at one in the morning with ketchup spread about the mouth and forehead.

But still, the 1941 movie THE WOLF MAN was a fun, fun movie.

Fast forward to 2010 and Benicio Del Toro’s version of THE WOLFMAN (note the lack of space in the title) hits the theaters. It cleared up the two biggest problems from the first.

Del Toro’s version of Talbot was attacked by a similar wolf-man and thus turning Del Toro into a wolf-man.

Also, the gore was just fun and awesome.

If a person were to turn into a six to seven foot tall grizzly bear-like thing and attacked friends and neighbors, it would not be pretty.

Go ask Timothy Treadwell.

This is not a perfect movie. Anthony Hopkins, who plays Talbot’s crazy father, is not allowed to shine as much as he could have (but in his brief scenes he does). Same thing with Hugo Weaving. Weaving, who was phenomenal in V FOR VENDETTA, is more or less window dressing in this film.

The relationship between Del Toro and Gwen (Emily Blunt) is forced and Del Toro’s acting is straight out of Keanu “Whoa!” Reeves’ book.

But where director Joe Johnston succeeded was in bringing back the “wolfman” style werewolf into fashion. For years, the werewolf movie genre had been dominated by the “dog-headed man” (see any of the UNDERWORLD movies, VAN HELSING or the even underrated and awesome DOG SOLDIERS).

Johnston created a wonderful atmosphere of late 19th century England that could easily rival (my other favorite film of the last year) SHERLOCK HOLMES.

Considering this movie had its flaws, Johnston did direct THE ROCKETEER, OCTOBER SKY and the underrated JURASSIC PARK III, so I am looking forward to his CAPTAIN AMERICA.

THE WOLFMAN was just good old fashioned Hollywood monster movie fun. After having seen it in the theater, it was why I went out and bought it the first day it was available on DVD.

So should you.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Guillermo del Toro Drops Hobbits

Guillermo del Toro noted that John Howe's illu...Image via Wikipedia

While there is no doubt that MGM's current financial difficulties are a leading reason for the delays, you have to wonder if the recent track records of Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro are also responsible for giving the studio heads reason to pause the massive production of the two-part film adaptation of The Hobbit.

Not nearly enough people hated Jackson's King Kong remake as much as I did, but his adaptation of The Lovely Bones failed to gain any real audience acclaim, even among fans of the book, and was one of the less successful Oscar nominated films of the past year. Guillermo, on the other hand, continues to please art-house theater crowds, yet continually fails to bring in major receipts or reviews on his wide-release box office fair.

Add all of this to the tepid turnout for the latest batch of CGI epics to hit the theaters this year, and it is looking more and more likely that MGM just doesn't trust Jackson and del Toro to deliver any major box office cash on the backs of J.R.R Tolkien's Hobbits.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost
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