Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Invasion

By the time The Invasion was conceived, it was already apparent that things needed to change for Doctor Who. Ratings were down and the show was still struggling with a variety of problems behind the scenes. Patrick Troughton had grown tired of the show's grueling production schedule and it had been announced that season six would be his last season as the Doctor. The Invasion was an attempt to establish a new format for Doctor Who. For starters, the serial introduced Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart's UNIT military organization. The Brigadier had previously been seen in The Web of Fear when he was still a Colonel. Now, having "moved up in the world," the Brigadier was the leader of a fancy, high-tech military group tasked with investigating and engaging paranormal and/or extra-terrestrial threats. The show's aim was to provide the Doctor with an Earth-based support system. And having the show film on location in contemporary settings helped stretch its already meager budget. Had The Invasion been a failure, the producers would have probably tried another strategy. Instead, because of the higher audience feedback scores, The Invasion became the template for the Third Doctor's era. Beyond that, the serial is also notable for the iconic image of the Cybermen marching in front of St. Paul's Cathedral and possibly my favorite of the Cybermen's many designs.

Rating: Brigadier, you don't, by any chance, know where I can find a canoe?%

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Mind Robber

The Mind Robber is an odd duck. Much like the holodeck episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, it's essentially science-fiction via fantasy. At the end of the previous serial, our heroes find themselves in the path of a volcanic eruption. In their haste to escape, Jamie forces the Doctor to use an "emergency unit" which moves the TARDIS outside of the time/space dimension. Once they've landed, the Doctor and his companions initially find themselves in an empty void. One by one, the crew are tempted into venturing outside into the unknown. Soon enough, they discover that they've been transported to a realm populated by characters from popular fiction and creatures from myth. Eventually the Doctor realizes the he and his friends are being tested by some mysterious central power.

Apparently The Mind Robber was not particularly well received in its day. Some felt that it was too light and childish. That reaction is understandable when you remember that, despite being a program for children, this was still a show where people were killed in almost every episode. The Mind Robber seems to be received much more favorably now, simply because it is such a diversion from the standard Doctor Who story of the time. The main cast are all in fine form here. Zoe gets plenty of opportunities to unleash her terrific scream. She also spends the entire serial wearing a sparkly cat suit. I'll refrain from making any lecherous comments about said cat suit, unlike nearly everyone who is interviewed on The Mind Robber DVD's special features. Jamie is briefly replaced by another actor for two episodes after the actor, Frazer Hines, got chicken pox. The fantastical nature of the story allowed the show's writers and producers to work in a quick fix that didn't put too much of a strain on the plot. More noticeably, due to the production issues surrounding The Dominators, was that The Mind Robber had to be stretched out from four episodes to five. And while this resulted in shorter individual episodes overall, it did give us one of the best opening episodes to a serial since The Space Museum.

Rating: It's only the unknown that worries me%

Monday, December 25, 2017

Die Hard 2

Every year more and more people think they're being clever when they tell you that the original Die Hard is their favorite Christmas movie. Don't get me wrong, the first Die Hard is a fantastic movie and, yes, it is set at Christmas time but, for my money, Die Hard 2 is the better Christmas movie. I can watch Die Hard at any point of the year but when the Christmas season is upon us I tend to reach for Die Hard 2. I think it has the distinct advantage when it comes to the setting. Die Hard takes place in California while Die Hard 2 takes place in Virginia during bad weather. It has snow and snowmobiles and pointy icicles that you can jam into a terrorist's eye. I'm just saying John McClane never killed anyone with a palm tree. And sure, Reginald VelJohnson is criminally underused in Die Hard 2, but the movie almost makes up for it with the rest of the cast. You got Dennis Franz, William Sadler, Franco Nero, John Amos, Fred Thompson, Robert Patrick and Colm Meaney. That's a murderers' row of character actors. So next year when some smug douche or some snarky listicle tries to convince you to rewatch Die Hard for Christmas, consider Die Hard 2, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Rating: 75%

(Image from IMDB)

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Wish for Wings That Work

Being that I'm a million years old, I can remember the mostly bygone era of the newspaper comic strip. Some of these strips were so popular that they managed to spin off into other avenues of entertainment, like Peanuts and Garfield and Ziggy. Some of these spin offs proved to be valuable extensions of their respective brands, while others did not. Case in point: Opus n' Bill in A Wish for Wings That Work, an animated Christmas Special based on characters from Bloom County and Outland. I never read Bloom County or Outland, they were among the group of comic strips, like Doonesbury, that had no immediate appeal to me. I would see them in the comics section and think, "These aren't for me. Let's see what Calvin and Hobbes are up to." This is all been a really long winded way to say that I didn't care for this special. I'm not sure if it was trying to appeal to kids or adults. Either way, it wasn't for me.

Rating: Uncredited Voice Work from Robin Williams%

(Image from amazon.com)

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Yogi Bear's All Star Comedy Christmas Caper

Huckleberry Hound and a gaggle of Hanna-Barbera's biggest names drive out to Jellystone Park to visit Yogi and Boo-Boo for Christmas but, wouldn't you know it, Yogi and Boo-Boo have stowed away on a bus headed for the Big City so that they can visit all of their friends. On the run from Ranger Smith, the police and some guys with nets, Yogi and Boo-Boo pose as a department store Santa and an elf. Soon enough, they meet Judy Jones. Little Judy is sad because all see wants for Christmas is a Father who'll spend some time with her (Daddy didn't give attention). Yogi, not realizing some people get a little uptight when you take an unaccompanied minor out of a department store, takes Judy to the park for a picnic. What follows is a city-wide manhunt for Yogi and Boo-Boo, who are believed to be kidnappers. Also, for some reason there's a cameo from Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble where they beat up Snagglepuss in a sort-of charity scam.

Rating: A Picnic in the Park%

(Image from animatedviews.com)

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Twelve Lies of Christmas

I bought the Woody Woodpecker and Friends Holiday Favorites DVD thinking it would feature some classic Woody Woodpecker cartoons from a bygone era. Instead it's got a couple of episodes of The New Woody Woodpecker Show from the late 90s/early 2000s. Boo-urns. There's also a few old theatrical shorts on there, but a bunch of them don't even feature Woody Woodpecker or Chilly Willy or any of those other Walter Lantz characters that I can barely give two shits about. Being up against a self-imposed deadline, I opted to watch "The Twelve Lies of Christmas," an episode of the aforementioned New Woody Woodpecker Show. Bore-ring. Sure, it's got Billy West and Mark Hamill doing some of the voices, but that's about all it's got going for it. Plot-wise, it's basically a riff on Rashomon, with a bunch of characters arguing about which one of them was responsible for saving Santa from some kidnappers the previous year. Fuck you, Woody Woodpecker and Friends Holiday Favorites DVD, you piece of shit.

Rating: Too Harsh?%

(Image from tvshowsondvd.com)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Very Murray Christmas

Your enjoyment of A Very Murray Christmas will depend on how much you enjoy hearing Bill Murray sing. Because that's pretty much the whole special. It's a fairly quiet, but thankfully not maudlin, special. Bill Murray and Paul Shaffer are supposed to be doing a live Christmas Special at a classy hotel in front of an audience packed with celebrities, except a massive snowstorm has caused them all to cancel. Without a show to do, Bill and Paul retire to the bar where they knock out a few Christmas songs with the staff and other hotel guests. There's even a dream sequence, after Bill does a few too many shots, where we get to see George Clooney and Miley Cyrus belt out some tunes on a sound stage with a full band backing them up.

Rating: Chris Rock in a Festive Sweater%

(Image from Wikipedia)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Very Merry Cricket

A Very Merry Cricket isn't the easiest thing to explain. For starters, it's a sequel to an animated adaptation of the children's book The Cricket in Times Square. Both specials were made by Chuck Jones, the Looney Tunes guy. You may also remember his work on another Christmas Special How the Grinch Stole Christmas. From what I can gather, in the first special a Connecticut cricket named Chester ends up in New York and eventually becomes famous for his ability to play music. In this follow-up, Chester's old pals Harry and Tucker go to Connecticut to bring Chester back to New York so that he can play for the city folk and remind them to be kind to one another, or something like that. There really isn't a whole lot that happens during the special. It's definitely worth a watch if you're animation fan though. A lot of the animation is of the Looney Tunes variety (including some voice work from Mel Blanc) but it's combined with some distorted city imagery and grotesquely painted backgrounds that reminded me a lot of the work of Ralph Bakshi.

Rating: A One Cat Open Sleigh%

(Image from firstanimationart.com)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas

There were a lot of "Very Special Episodes" of Community, including quite a few "Very Special" Seasonal episodes, but for my money, "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" might be the best one. Abed, who already lived his life as though he were in a TV show, wakes up to find that he and his friends have become stop motion animated characters, not unlike those found in old-timey Christmas Specials. In the canon of the show, no one has actually been transformed into a silicon doll on a ball and socket armature. We, the audience, are merely being treated to a glimpse inside Abed's delusions. And what wonderful Christmassy delusions they are. Despite the best efforts of a Psychology Professor played by John Oliver, Abed takes everyone on a journey to find the "true meaning of Christmas." Will there be singing? Yes. Will everyone learn a valuable lesson? That's less clear. Will there be some jokes at the expense of Lost? You better believe it.

Rating: Christmas Pterodactyl%

(Image from Wikipedia)

Monday, December 18, 2017

Jack Frost

I love old Rankin/Bass Christmas Specials and I will never hold an absence of logic against them. And yet, having just said that, I don't think Jack Frost makes a whole lot of sense. In the Special, which essentially attempts to explain Groundhog Day by way of an origin story for the Groundhog's shadow, Jack Frost is temporarily turned into a human so that he might attempt to woo a woman and gain her hand in marriage. The problem is, he takes his eye off the prize halfway through the Special and transforms back into a winter sprite so that he can keep a Cossack and his army of robots cooped up in a castle for six weeks. In his absence, the young woman falls in love with a Knight in Golden Armor and Jack resigns himself to being a winter sprite forever. It's kinda like a more Christmassy version of Beetlejuice.

Rating: Ice Money%

(Image from pinterest.ca)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire

Even though I stopped watching The Simpsons regularly many years ago, I'll always have some affection and nostalgia for the show's early years. I can still remember the show's early rise to popularity and ubiquity. It all began with "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire," the first full length episode to air after the characters were spun off of The Tracy Ullman Show. Watching the episode now, after so many years, I was reminded of how the show tapped into the working class themes of sitcoms like Roseanne. And how they were able to point out and subvert so many TV cliches. Despite being a little rough around the edges, The Simpsons first episode still has some charm.  

Rating: Rubber Pork Chop%

(Image from noiselesschatter.com)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

'Tis the Season to Be Smurfy

Despite having grown up in an era when the Smurfs had considerable cultural cachet, I'm far from a Smurfs aficionado (a Smurfionado?). Every time I revisit the Smurfs' canon I seem to encounter characters that I have absolutely no memory of. Wild Smurf? Sassette? Grandpa Smurf? Who are these Smurfs? Sure, like most Smurfs, their names pretty much tell you everything you need to know about them but I was still kinda holding out for some of the Smurfs that I remember to get some time in the spotlight. And while Brainy and Hefty get a few moments to shine, Papa Smurf is practically MIA for the bulk of this special's run time. And, once again, Gargamel is nowhere to be found. What the Smurf? 

Rating: Half a bushel of Smurfberries%

(Image from beyondrudolph.wordpress.com)

Friday, December 15, 2017

A Very Sunny Christmas

It's Christmas Eve and the gang down at Paddy's Bar are trying to recapture the old Christmas spirit. Dennis and Dee attempt to get revenge on Frank by concocting an elaborate scheme loosely based on A Christmas Carol. Meanwhile, Charlie and Mack uncover some painful childhood memories. There's even a claymation hallucination, wherein the gang dismembers Frank while a pantsless elf looks on. If you've ever felt like your Christmas celebrations were missing the sight of Danny DeVito naked and sweaty, then A Very Sunny Christmas is just the thing you've been looking for.

Rating: Throwing rocks at trains%

(Image from itsalwayssunny.wikia.com)

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2

Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 is barely a movie. The first third of the picture is dominated by "flashbacks" to sequences from the first film. The filmmakers probably could have gotten away with recycling that much footage from the first movie if they could have come up with a better framing device for justification. Instead, we got the brother of the first film's protagonist recounting events that he was barely present for and/or could not have known about. Then we're treated to some new flashbacks concerning his own violent misadventures. And sure, the "garbage day" meme was fun but it's something you're better off watching on youtube devoid of context.

Rating: 16%

(Image from sbccfilmreviews.org)

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Girl With All The Gifts

A young girl born a zombie helps lead a platoon of soldiers and mean scientists across Zombie England, one of those constant locations for horror flicks these days. Anyway, I don't like fast zombies but the kid angle of the whole thing is pretty well done.

RATING: 70%

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Halloween

Are you kidding me? It's fucking great. How have we not reviewed this movie before? If you haven't seen it in a while, do yourself a favor and watch it again. It totally holds up. And if you've never seen it before, what the fuck are you doing reading this? Go watch this movie. Go on, git!

Rating: 99.9%

(Image from moviepilot.com)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Raw

A vegetarian freshman gets majorly hazed at one of those super prestigious veterinary schools you're always hearing about, and after she is forced to eat a pickled rabbit kidney she basically goes hog wild for meat of the human variety.

RATING: 89%

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Scream 4

Most of the meta chatter in Scream 4 is about remakes. It makes sense, given that horror movies were in a serious remake rut at the time of Scream 4's release. And while the movie keeps telling us that it's a remake, it actually turns out to be a much better concluding chapter for the Scream series than Scream 3 ever was. Every surviving character returns except for Sidney's father, who never really made much of an impact in the series and only ever appeared briefly in parts 1 and 3. The story does a good job of showing us what's happened to these characters in the ten years since their last brush with death. It's a good send-off for the series and I sincerely hope that it's the final chapter.

Rating: 66%

(Image from collider.com)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Darling

You ever see one of those movies that it's totally obvious that the people making it thought it was brilliant? This is one of those. A woman babysits a haunted house but it's very scary according to the loud violin score and literally nothing else that happens in the movie.

RATING: 8%

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Scream 3

One of the things that always bothered me about Scream 3 was that a lot of it was centered around the production of Stab 3. In Scream 2, they had only just released the first Stab film. So we're just supposed to accept that another Stab film has come and gone, depicting the events of the previous Scream film? Stab gave Scream 2 the opportunity for some meta commentary on slasher films and the success of the original Scream. Stab 3 and the hijinks in this movie mostly transform Scream 3 into a parody. Also, in light of recent events and allegations, it seems pretty gross to have plot elements pertaining to a young woman being sexually abused by a Hollywood producer being used as the backstory for the latest killer.

Rating: 59%

(Image from scream.wikia.com)

Saturday, October 21, 2017

It Follows

A unique horror movie about an STD (sexually transmitted demon) who stalks you at the speed of walk after you catch him and then eventually tries to kill you. It looks great and sounds great, but to me it just wasn't... scary? Points for being a Michigan movie though.

RATING: 77%

Friday, October 20, 2017

Scream 2

Scream 2 was released almost one year to the day after the original Scream and it shows. It seems to have been made to capitalize on all of the elements of the original that surprised audiences and critics, while failing to deliver on some of the aspects that made the original so good. The humor is amped up and the cast features even more hip, young television actors. It's also very meta, with the characters recognizing and pontificating on the fact that they're in a sequel. Moreover, it features commentary on the success of the original film with the introduction of the film-within-the-film, Stab, which dramatizes the events of the first film. It fails to deliver a story on par with the original, recycling the framework from the first film without injecting enough original content.

Rating: 65%

(Image from ca.movieposter.com)

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Scream

I've mentioned Scream many times on this site. It's a movie that was responsible for reviving the horror genre in the 1990s and launching a wave of imitators. It was the Pulp Fiction of horror movies, if you will. It holds up pretty well today but it has definitely begun to show it's age. The hairstyles and fashions in the film stand out now, what with it being almost twenty years old. And you have to remind yourself that almost no one owned a cellphone at the time, because that's literally a plot point in the movie. I particularly enjoyed watching the movie again recently because I forgot just how awesome Sidney Prescott was, she had plenty of 90s sass and humor along with the strength to kick a little ass when confronted with a jerk in a Halloween costume. It was also enjoyable to be reminded of all of the little plot details around the edges of the film. You remember the teens and the rules and the iconic costumes, but you forget that a lot of the movie was about the main character coming to terms with her mother's death and the reality of her mother's sordid past. Also, the motivation of the killers (spoiler alert?) reads like something you'd see on a Men's Rights Activism message board nowadays, so you're happy to see them get killed at the end.

Rating: 85%

(Image from scream.wikia.com)

Drácula

There was a brief period of time when it was cheaper to shoot a movie multiple times in multiple languages rather than to dub a single film into another language for a foreign territory. That's how we ended up with a version of Dracula shot on the same sets as the Bela Lugosi version only with a different cast speaking in Spanish. It's almost the exact same movie, except for a few different camera setups, some slinkier costumes for the ladies, and a couple of scenes that got mentioned but not shown in the English language version. Some hipsters might try to convince you that this version is better than the Bela Lugosi version but they're full of shit. The truth is, they're both good. The Spanish language version is actually a great companion piece to the English language version. It might even be fun to see the two versions spliced together.

Rating: Muy bien%

(Image from pinterest.ca)

Tusk

A podcast jerk travels to the depths of Manitoba for a story and winds up being turned into a walrus by a lonely old crazyman. This isn't as good as Smith's previous horror entry, Red State, but it's still weird and broken in the same good way. It coulda been about 15% better if Johnny Depp's part was cut down to a couple minutes.

RATING: 58%

Monday, October 16, 2017

Get Out

A black guy (well, I mean a guy who just so happens to be black) goes with his girlfriend to meet her white family (well, I mean her family that just so happens to be white) and things end up getting a little creepy. You know, body snatchers style not to get too spoilery.

RATING: 91%

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Under The Shadow

This is a great movie set in Tehran during the Iran-Iraq war. A woman whose husband gets deployed at the front line is left alone with her daughter, but after an unexploded missile hits their apartment building things start getting freaky. Actually, I guess the missile hitting the building is freaky too. There might be Djinn or there might be brain whatsits, but it's very very tense either way!

RATING: 85%

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Invitation

I've been to some awkward dinner parties in my life but this takes the cake!

RATING: 67%

Friday, October 13, 2017

mother!

In this movie, which seems pretty mundane at first, a couple adjusts to life in a real fixer-upper while the husband guy tries to write. He invites in some unexpected guests who smoke and throw parties without asking and also puke naked into toilets. It's a pretty straightforward flick for a long time, but of course Aronofsky gonna Aronofsky, so the last twenty minutes will probably fuck you up but good.

RATING: 77%

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Evil Bong

I really don't think I need to explain anything here.

RATING: 16%

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Final Destination 5

Who know a franchise's fifth entry could be its best? A bus full of business colleagues are taking a trip when one of them has a vision of a terrrrible bridge collapse. He convinces them all to run off the bridge and waddaya know, it collapses. The death scenes in this one are especially creative, featuring a gymnasticking, a Buddhaing, *and* a LASIKing.

RATING: 71%