Friday, April 21, 2017

And Then This Happened... Reptilicus

You know how it is. You go to the beach with that special someone. You do your best to impress, and stay calm after you see them in a swimsuit. But nothing goes right. First the water is too darn cold to swim in. Second the sand is too darn hot to walk on barefoot. The sand fleas are biting and someone's dog does their business upwind of your blanket.

Oh, and some idiot at a nearby lab grows a giant, slime-spewing, prehistoric, reptile that gets loose and starts rampaging across the beach. What a lousy day! I think it may be time for a caption for that moment.

And then this happened...


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

MST3K - Season 11 Overview

It took a massive Kickstarter campaign, the enthusiasm and guidance of Joel Hodgson and a collection of some of the brightest and best comedy writers and performers, but the impossible happened. Mystery Science Theater 3000 returned from the grave. In April of 2017, a new season was created and unleashed on the world via Netflix for new and old fans to enjoy.

Of course things were a bit different this time around. There was a new host, Jonah Heston who became our human trapped by a new mad scientist, Kinga Forrester. Crow, Tom Servo, Gypsy and Cambot all returned but with new performers (and voices). The show balanced this new crew with a faithful attempt to capture the feel and tone of the original series. The special effects were low budget, the host segments were a mix of corny and silly with a dash of song. The riffing managed to span a wide range of topics and generations while keeping things family friendly and fun.

The result was an impressive return that managed to do exactly what the show always did, expose the viewer to unfortunate films and provide plenty of laughs. The films selected for this season run the gamut from giant rubber monsters, 80's fantasy cheese, 70's Star Wars ripoffs and even a disaster movie. All the films are in color and widescreen and no short subjects were tackled. But all in all, the movies are some of the most entertaining yet and the crew does a fine job with them.
  • 1101 - Reptilicus
  • 1102 - Cry Wilderness
  • 1103 - The Time Travelers
  • 1104 - Avalanche
  • 1105 - The Beast of Hollow Mountain
  • 1106 - Starcrash
  • 1107 - The Land that Time Forgot
  • 1108 - The Loves of Hercules
  • 1109 - Yongary - The Monster from the Deep
  • 1110 - Wizards of the Lost Kingdom
  • 1111 - Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II
  • 1112 - Carnival Magic
  • 1113 - The Christmas that Almost Wasn't
  • 1114 - At Earth's Core

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Neon Demon (2016)

Introduction:

So this movie got a lot of bad reviews when it came out. I remember a particular reviewer I usually trust saying it was the worst movie the year and that it made him physically ill. Of course, that got my attention. Not the physically ill part, but the vehemence he leveled at the film. He did the same thing to David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, and I love that movie. So I think it was time for me to visit The Neon Demon.

Summary:

Jesse (Elle Fanning) comes to Los Angeles to launch her modeling career. She stays at a seedy motel managed by an unhinged Hank (Keanu Reeves in a wonderfully odd performance). Her friend Dean (Karl Glusman) takes some photos to get her portfolio started. Soon she is discovered and starts to climb the ladder of success.

She meets Ruby (Jena Malone) a makeup artist to takes a shine to her and wants to be her BFF. But other models see Jesse as a real threat to their careers. She’s too popular, too beautiful and too pure. Something has to be done. As Jesse continues on her journey, success creates its own dangers. Before long the Neon Demon is staring out of the mirror back at Jesse, and everything changes.

Good Points:
  • Jaw dropping use of color to create dreamlike visuals you won’t forget
  • Some brave and disturbing performances especially from Fanning and Malone
  • A wonderful score by Cliff Martinez that puts you into the glittering world

Bad Points:
  • The overall message and themes are familiar ones
  • The plot is very simple and straightforward – the execution isn’t
  • Has a few scenes meant to shock and disturb - deeply

Overall:

Um yeah this movie is not for everyone. If you appreciate David Lynch and movies like Enemy or Perfect Blue than this may be something you’ll appreciate. It is a movie crafted with amazing visuals, sound and music exploring the themes of obsession with beauty and how vanity ultimately corrupts and consumes. Not new ideas and the plot is pretty obvious. But the way the story is told, the way it creeps under your skin, the way is entrances and horrifies all at once impressed me. Style over substance, yeah. Will some see at as pretentious, oh hell yes. But I loved every neon lit, blood dripping minute of it.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 5
Sound: 5
Acting: 4
Script: 3
Music: 5
Direction: 5
Entertainment: 4
Total: 4

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.


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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Score Sample: Neon Demon (2016)

You probably weren't expecting this. Two score sample in a single week, I'm a mad man! But I watched this movie recently and was struck by the score. I enjoy a good bit of electronic music, and Cliff Martinez's work for Neon Demon really worked wonderfully in the film. I was surprised how it also made for a good isolated listening experience. He uses some retro sounding synths creating the kind of thing you expect to hear in a chilled out 1980s cyberpunk bar somewhere.

Winding Refn was going for a movie that focused on mood and themes for the Neon Demon and he relies heavily on the score to create that mood. The music reminds me of a combination of John Carpenter and Vangelis with a bit of Giorgio Moroder in there. It has a cold beauty that gets dark and mysterious at times. Really fits the film and helps build the atmosphere, especially combined with the long takes and scenes with almost no dialogue.  The title track will give you a taste of the score, so take the trip with the Neon Demon composed by Cliff Martinez.


Friday, April 7, 2017

Score Sample: Twin Peaks (1990)

I don't share nearly enough jazzy music on this blog. But I do enjoy the occasional jazzy film score. I think I owe that appreciation of jazzy scores enjoying the music from the television series Twin Peaks. I haven't blogged much about my fandom of David Lynch, but yeah, I pretty much love everything he's directed. I even find merit in his flawed take on Dune.

One of the key elements of any David Lynch production is the creation of mood. With Twin Peaks Lynch brought along his frequent musical collaborator Angelo Badalamenti. The sound they created for the show was a mix of 50's rockabilly, smooth jazz, dream pop, and eerie synths. Nothing else quite sounds like the musical world of Twin Peaks, and if you've ever watched a few episodes of the show, you'll know it when you hear it.

I'm going to avoid the obvious cuts from the show and share one of my favorite tracks, which makes its dreamlike appearance in the third episode of the series. It focuses more on the jazzy end of the score. Enjoy The Dance of the Dream Man from Twin Peaks by Angelo Badalamenti.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Top Ten MST3K Movies on Netflix (as of March 2017)

Yeah this is an oddly specific list, but I figured I'd get the word out there. Netflix is going to unleash the new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 in April. To prep you for it, they've got their hands on 20 episodes of show spanning the second season on Comedy Central to the tenth season on Sci-fi channel.

There ares some really good ones on there, and if you haven't had a chance to check them out, I can give you a recommendation on my ten favorite episodes from this group. I'll rank the remaining 10 as well. I have reviews for a good portion of most of these, but if you'd like further details, feel free to contact me and I'll put a review in the queue for you!

As with anything else MST3K, my personal preferences for cheesy movies influences my picks. I love bad 80s sci-fi and fantasy films. So you'll certainly seen a lean in that direction. And just because I have more Mike episodes on this list just means they don't have some of my favorite Joel episodes like Cave Dwellers, MitchelFugitive Alien and Time of the Apes.

Runners Up

20. Horrors of Spider Island
19. Sidehackers
18. Future War
17. Catalina Caper
16. Teenagers from Outer Space
15. Zombie Nightmare
14. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
13. Laserblast
12. Eegah
11. Hercules Against the Moonmen

Top Ten
10. Werewolf
This episode from the Sci-fi channel era is one of the few 1990s movies they tackled. Not that it makes it any better or worse, just an observation. Archeologists discover a skeleton of a native american werewolf. Some poor schmo gets scratched by the bone and there is a werewolf on the rampage! For some reason, no one able to pronounce the word "werewolf" the same. Yuri's hair changes in each new scene. You've got hilarious werewolf makeup/suits/effects. Then there is an Yosemite Sam guy who lives in the house. This horror movie isn't scary but hilariously incompetent. Mike and the bots have a blast with it. This one is a Halloween staple at my house.

9. The Giant Gila Monster
Don Sullivan! Don't know who Don Sullivan is? Well you will after this hit giant lizard film. Well "hit" is a strong word. It's a hit for MST3K fans for sure. You've got a teen hero who is a mechanic and hot rodder. When a giant gila monster starts devouring folks, he works with the sheriff (who has no jurisdiction over anything according to this movie) to find and stop the beast. There are silly songs, people putting their knees up on things and of course the hilarious "monster" who is just a monster because they put him on a model train set. Joel and bots provide some excellent dialogue for the creature and sing whenever they sing, whenever they sing, whenever they SING!

8. Merlin's Mystical Shop of Wonders
Oh this movie. And it is only a movie in a the loosest sense of the word. It is actually a bunch of cobbled together short films and other footage to pass itself off as a movie. The basic story is that Ernest Borgnine is telling his grandson stories about Merlin the magician. But these stories are hideous! Cat and dogs are murdered. People explode. A kid appears to be stuck in 1983, but the first story clearly happens in the late 80s! Merlin shows people a picture of his little monkey. Toys kill people. A demon speaks from a minor And there is a very angry psychic! Mike and the bots have a great time with all the insanity on display. My favorite episode from season ten.

7. Manos: The Hands of Fate
Infamous. Has been called one of the worst films of all time. It is not hard to see why. Attempting to be a horror film, but creepy for all the wrong reasons. The film follows a family lost in Texas and encountering a mysterious house. When they ask for shelter for the night the strange and hilarious Torgo (and his HUGE HUGE knees) stammers that "the master won't be pleased". Soon enough you find out what The Master is, and there are women wandering around in white gowns, and Torgo paws at people in a creepy manner and a little girl is probably traumatized after filming this. Joel and the bots give us a master class in riffing a z-grade movie, but you may need to shower after watching this one.

6. Time Chasers
Inspired by Back the Future more than H.G. Wells this movie follows an amateur scientist who makes a time machine out of a small plane. But soon evil forces lead by a huge corporation (that appears to be in a mall or library) attempt to take the time machine and use it as a weapon. Our hero must travel to the future and the past to try to stop them. You get revolutionary war reenactments, future mall action, a guy in a pink suit, a chase between a bike and a car, and of course lots of our hero's chin which is very prominent. Part of the 3 part 80s sci-fi punch at the end of season eight, Mike and the bots deliver the comedy with this one.

5. Pod People
I love this horrible horrible movie. Another one that doesn't know what the hell it is trying to do. One moment you have a cute kid meeting a friendly alien, E.T. style. Next you have a teen pop band being slapped to death by a less then friendly alien, becoming a feeble slasher movie of sorts. There are also egg poachers, and a grumpy guy who drinks a metric ton of alcohol, not mention unbelievable visual effects as Trumpy (the alien star) does "magic things". You get the hit single "Idiot Control Now" and did I mention everyone is dubbed and the movie is edited by a spastic box turtle? No. Well, there I just did. A real classic of the series with Joel and the bots knocking it out of the park early in season three.

4. Puma Man
So many super hero films, so little time. But Mike and the bots found this wonderfully bad movie about a paleontologist who gets a suit from an Aztec priest and becomes the Puma Man. This means he can see in red vision, jump around on trampolines hidden behind objects, claw threw tin foil, and "fly" like he's dangling from wires attached from his rear end. And the music, dear sweet Muses, the music is so so bad. Donald Pleasance plays the villain and wears some super funky 70s disco outfits. There are some masks and alien overlords and... look, just watch Puma Man. It will change your life. Mike and the bots unleash the riffs and this movie earns each one.

3. Jack Frost
Mystery Science Theater 3000 tackled their share of dubbed films over the years, but the fantasy films from Russia are some of my favorites. This one takes the cake in my book. It is essentially a bunch of Russian fairy tales and fables thrown into a blender, set on high speed and then dumped all over the screen. It is bright, colorful, energetic and completely bonkers. There is a young man who turns into a bear headed creature. There is the cutest little girl in all of Russia tormented by a wicked stepmother and stepsister. There are magical mushroom wizards. There is a pig sled. A man obsessed with goose livers and of course Jack Frost, who looks like Santa Claus in blue and the ability to coat everything with ice and snow. Mike and the bots are hand again to give this movie the riffing treatment. The movie is so much goofy fun, and the riffing works perfectly with it. A favorite winter time treat.

2. I Accuse My Parents
I would never have thought that a silly melodrama about a young man who somehow gets involved in organized crime would become one of my favorite episodes of all time. But here it is. This morality tale follows Jimmy ("don't forget he's kind of stupid, Joel") who is neglected by his parents, even when he wins an essay contest. He ends up selling shoes to a lovely lounge singer and falling for her. Trouble is, she is dating a crime boss. The crime boss hires Jimmy to "run shadowy errands" and it all goes wrong. The movie isn't horrible, with solid acting and camera work. No it is the story and dialogue that is so silly. Joel and the bots just run with it and it works beautifully. You also get them riffing a short film on farming, which is as odd as it sounds. This is an endlessly quotable episode and one that we often return to when we've had a bad day. It never fails to make us laugh or just sing along with the songs.

1. Space Mutiny
Cheesy 80s sci-fi with no budget, hilarious acting and one of the most idiotic screenplays I've ever seen put to film. Yes! Sign me up! The Southern Sun is traveling through space to find a new world to colonize. But angry, grumpy people on board are sick of space travel and want to join forces with space pirates (I think, it is all very unclear). What I do know is that there is a mutiny in space. Laser guns are shot, people fall off railings, lots of 80s "future" outfits are worn, our muscly hero blows lines and shouts in a high pitch scream, the villain chews so much scenery he's nearly foaming at the mouth. You get some alien women dancing in a shadowy room. There is a sequence in a club that will leave you speechless. And the car chase. Yes a car chase on a space ship. The movie feels like it is gift wrapping the riffs for Mike and the bots. So bad was never so good.

Friday, March 17, 2017

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Introduction:

When I watched Cloverfield back in 2008 I didn’t say “Wow that was great. It really needs a sequel.” Luckily this movie isn’t a sequel to the previous film. Instead it tells a very different type of story that may be linked to the events in the previous film. Instead of people in terror of a giant mutated rampaging monster, you have people in terror of a giant rampaging John Goodman.

Summary:

Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) gets into a car accident and is knocked unconscious. When she comes to, she finds herself completely unfamiliar place, not a hospital, but what looks like a bunker or bomb shelter with very thick walls and full air filtering system.

Turns out this bunker is owned by Howard (John Goodman) who tells Michelle that some kind of horrible event has occurred above ground contaminating everything. He found her on the side of the road and brought her to safety. Along with Howard is Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) a young man who seems to be hiding something. It becomes apparent to Michelle that Howard may be unstable and could be lying to her. She has to decide to either believe this stranger, or to attempt to make a break for freedom into a world that may be in the midst of apocalypse.

Good Points:
  • Masterfully guides the viewer along a very tense journey
  • Some top notch acting that pulls you into the story
  • A bang up score by Bear McCreary 

Bad Points:
  • Expecting over the top visual effects and massive destruction – you’ll be disappointed.
  • Takes place almost entirely in one location that could bore some viewers
  • The movie climaxes perfectly and then there is the epilogue… yeah that was odd

Overall:

If you enjoy a good solid thriller that focuses on tension and acting than you can’t go wrong here. The concept is pretty simple, but the cast and direction keep things moving briskly and intensely. McCreary’s score supports the film wonderfully. The only misstep is the epilogue that will really rub some viewers the wrong way. Probably the best thriller I’ve seen since GrandPiano, but this one has a much different feel.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 5
Sound: 4
Acting: 5
Script: 4
Music: 5
Direction: 4
Entertainment: 5
Total:  5

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.


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