Saturday, May 26, 2012
Ask any kid today what a midnight movie is and they have no clue. The closest thing they have to one is the early opening of the most recent blockbuster film at midnight on Thursday night/Friday morning. They've never seen a movie that was specifically targeted for a midnight audience or one that ended up so. Midnight movies were the forerunner of cult classics and most of them became labeled as such. I think that's a sad thing for this generation. Midnight movies weren't just about seeing some truly original, sometimes twisted, sometimes ingenious films, it was about sitting in a darkened theater with a group of the most unusual people watching those films. Proof positive of this was THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (which I'll write about another time).
With the recent release to blu-ray of WIZARDS, I thought it was time to mention the Midnight Movie. As with the category of films I review now and then called Man Movies, I might have to revisit some of the classic Midnight Movies here as well like DAWN OF THE DEAD, DAY OF THE DEAD, REEFER MADNESS, MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, THE GROOVE TUBE, KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE and a few others. But on to WIZARDS.
If you don't know who Ralph Bakshi is then look into it. In a world where the only animated offerings we had for years was the Disney Studio, Bakshi shook up the status quo by taking animated offerings and making them for adults. While he started by working at the studio that made Mighty Mouse, he went on to notorious fame when he animated the underground comic FRITZ THE CAT. This celebration of all things counter culture from the sixties was rated X and included animated animals having sex and doing drugs. Bakshi then went on to make numerous other projects and is probably noted for being the first person to attempt to bring the LORD OF THE RINGS stories to the screen with his animated adaptation of the first book and half the second. But before that he made WIZARDS which gave him enough clout to do so.
WIZARDS tells the story of a post-apocalyptic Earth where man has used as many weapons as he had at his disposal to try and obliterate himself from the face of the Earth. With the destruction having disposed of so many, the older generations of fairies, elves and goblins rose once more to cover the planet. The most popular fairy goes to her home and gives birth to two brothers; one named Avatar is a delight in his mother's eyes, a magical wizard filled with goodness. The other brother, Blackwolf, is the exact opposite, a wizard who finds amusement in torturing animals and paying little mind to his mother.
With the passing of their mother, Blackwolf decides it is time to attack and attempt to rule the entire planet. A battle rages for days with Avatar overpowering Blackwolf and casting him to the forbidden lands. So opens the film which then brings us to the present with Avatar instructing Elinore, the fairy princess and daughter of the mayor. At the same time Blackwolf, having had his armies pressed back on more than one occasion has found a new secret weapon.
Digging beneath the fetid plains of the land he rules Blackwolf has discovered old technology, including the propaganda films of Hitler. Whereas his defeats in the past were the result of his goblins and trolls unable to focus on their tasks at hand, he uses this new tool to organized them and attack the elves and fairies. Initiating the attack he sends out three assassins, the worst of the lot a being called Nekron 99.
Nekron 99 finds his way to Avatar and attacks, killing the mayor in the process. One of the leaders of the elves, Weehawk, was trying to stop him but failed. He tells Avatar about what is going on and the three set out, along with a rehabilitated Nekron now called Peace, to find Blackwolf and end his attempt at tyrannizing the world for good.
The battle between good and evil, the face off between magic and technology, makes for an amazing original story. Bakshi not only invites us into another world, he makes it one that is a feast for the eyes. Combining the standard 2 dimensional animation of the past with rotoscoping backgrounds to make bold and powerful statements about propaganda, Bakshi created a new format of storytelling with this film.
In the extras here Bakshi tells about wanting to make a film for kids that didn't talk down to them the way he felt Disney films did. While true in some forms there will be parents afraid of letting their children see the bloodshed or nubile fairies that Bakshi fills the screen with. Then again perhaps today's children won't find either so shocking with the sights they see on screen these days. Still, I would recommend parents watch the film before showing it to their kids.
I was stunned by how beautiful this film looked and at the amount of humor as well as solid storytelling it displayed. It brought back fond memories of seeing it for the first time at a midnight screening. While most movie goers to these late shows went wasted to trip out on what the screen had to offer, I'd go straight to enjoy the film. The movie holds up well after all these years and is worth watching. I would highly recommend this as a blu-ray that should be included on your shelf.
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Jon Voight has been a major league actor for most of his life. Having taken a stand to make it known his conservative viewpoints, it's rare that we have the chance to see him in films these days which is sad when you think back to the tremendous performances he's given in the past. Fortunately there are still a few people who will hire him such as the makers of the film BEYOND.
Voight stars as John Koski, a police detective whose specialty lies in finding abducted children in Anchorage, Alaska. I know, I wondered just how many of those there would be as well but I was willing to go along with the idea. Koski is a haunted man whose dedication is grounded in guilt at having not been able to find the first missing child in his career long ago. Flashbacks throughout the film show him remembering this case and his failure to find the perpetrator.
As the film opens we see Koski capturing the most recent abductor, or I should say killing him. Koski isn't one to let the law handle cases like this and his penchant for terminating these child abductors with extreme prejudice may make him popular with the victims parents but not with all law enforcement officials. Koski's commander Dermot Mulroney reprimands him but at the same time retains him on the force. All that changes rapidly.
One night a young girl is kidnapped, the daughter of a woman named Sarah (Teri Polo) and sister of the police chief. Suddenly Mulroney's character has a change of heart, bringing Koski in on the case and telling him to do everything possible to bring the little girl home.
As Koski begins sifting through the clues he discovers that Sarah and her husband are having a rough spot and are possibly on the verge of a divorce. Looking into the husband's financial situation does little more than make him a viable suspect.
Another twist is added when Sarah's babysitter Megan (Skyler Shaye) brings in a friend of the family, a psychic who hosts his own show on the local cable access TV station. The question rises as he begins using his abilities are they real or is he planning on milking Sarah and her husband for whatever money he can make? Koski is certain that it's all a scam but at the same time has dreams of his own that make him wonder if these abilities are real or not.
The detective and the psychic sift through clues, sometimes together and sometimes apart, both with the goal of saving the little girl before any harm comes to her. I'm certain some will figure out who the kidnapper is along the way but for myself, it caught me off guard until near the end of the film.
The movie looks fantastic with some breathtaking scenery and a bird's eye view of Alaska now and then. The production values are top of the line and the musical score is more deserving of a major league motion picture as opposed to this small film. And yet at the same time while I enjoyed the movie and thought it was well made it felt like a small film. Something, I'm not quite sure what, just doesn't get it over the hump of being a great movie.
Voight and the rest of the cast do an amazing job. I was stunned when I discovered Voight was 73. You'd never guess by watching him in this film. His character may be near retirement but he still has a few tricks up his sleeve that aid him in capturing the worst of bad guys, child predators.
For a nice movie to watch at home this one will fit the bill. It offers entertainment, a nice mystery and offers enough clues that you may discover the identity of the kidnapper before Voight and company do. It may not be a movie you'll want to watch over and over again, but for a night's rental it will do just fine.
Trust me; in my 54 years on this planet I've watched some pretty dumb movies. I've watched tons of bad movies as well. But in watching all of those movies I've never been angered while watching them. Until now.
TIM AND ERIC'S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE is from the "creative" minds of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, the duo responsible for the TV show TIM AND ERIC'S AWESOME SHOW. I've never seen that show and if this movie is anything like it I hope to never come across even while channel surfing. It truly is that bad.
The movie has one, note I said one, good joke. When it opens the movie begins by showing the movie that Tim and Eric have made for their investors. The funny joke revolves around the fact that the movie has numerous production companies that are responsible for it being made. I for one have grown tired of movies made by up to 6 different film companies who all get credit with long logo displays before the movie even starts. This send up just felt right. And that's it. That's as funny as it gets and it never does anything funny after that.
It turns out that the billion dollars the duo was given to make the movie they spent on total body make overs and to fund their spiritual guru. In return they've made a 3 minute movie starring a Johnny Depp look-alike that doesn't even come close. The company that funded the film tells them to return the money or they'll have them tossed into jail.
While watching TV the pair see an ad (starring an unfunny Will Ferrell) that says they can make a billion dollars just by coming down and managing the Swallow Valley Mall. After giving up their guru, returning to their old looks and hiking the 200 miles the Swallow Valley, they agree to take on the mall, a place that looks like it was used as the set for one of those post-apocalyptic films complete with burning barrels and derelicts everywhere.
Of course the chances of making a billion dollars are non-existent but these two clowns have no idea. They seriously believe they can make it happen. Once they take on the job we're given vignettes involving the various stores in the mall including a sword store where they owner treats everyone like dirt because the town pays him not to sell swords to anyone. Another lengthy and boring sequence offers a self help leader of a "church" trying to help people find their schrimm. Later on we discover that to do so (as Eric finds out) it involves stripping down to your underwear, getting into a tub and having four young boys have the squirts on you. If defecating is your cup of tea you might enjoy this film. For most of us there is no humor found in this.
There isn't much use in describing the rest of the movie. Of course you know that a face off with the evil corporation bad guys who want their money back and our "heroes" is bound to happen but by that time who cares?
The most amazing thing about this film is the number of name actors who appear. Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Zach Galifiankis, Bob Odenkirk, Wil Forte from SNL, Robert Loggia, William Atherton and Erica Durance are just a few. No, not major names but actors one would think would want to perhaps protect their reputations. Then again my guess is they did it thinking it would be hip to be in a Tim and Eric movie. After all, these are those types of creators that only those in the know can love and appreciate.
For me the lamest excuse I can hear from someone is "you just don't get it". People who use this excuse often have a hard time explaining what "it" is. It's never a case where it can be explained and you can then have a chance at understanding what "it" is. Instead, it becomes a catch all phrase that says "you're too stupid to understand even though I can't explain it". It's like looking at a 2 inch dot on a 5 foot white background and seeing that the artist intended something deep. This is pretentious crap and those who spout that line have little to offer. They just want to be considered deeper than they are when in truth they offer the most shallow views around.
Many will come to the defense of this film and attempt to explain how artistic it is or how hilarious it really is...if you only understood what they creators were trying to say. And you must be stupid if you don't get "it"...even if "it" can't be explained by those who think you're the stupid one for not knowing what "it" is.
So why did this film make me angry? Several reasons. One is knowing that there are tons of movies in development hell that aren't being made while crap like this is. Another is realizing that movies like this can be made with tons of money involved (not near the billion the storyline would have you believe) while knowing that almost anyone in the world could come up with something offering more substance and laughs. Lastly it made me angry because I had just lost 93 minutes of my life watching the film knowing that I could never get them back.
Eddie Murphy once said a movie he made was so bad he would offer a refund to anyone who went to see it. The makers of this film should do that one better. They should pay everyone who watches this film a dollar for every minute that they had to endure. Perhaps then it would actually be a billion dollar movie. I myself would settle for them never making another movie again.
This movie is so bad that I can't bring myself to offer you the chance to click and order it. It truly is that bad.
If you've never seen THE WICKER MAN I would suggest you do so before watching this film. I was never a big fan of the original film but would at least give it credit for attempting to make something original in the world of horror as well as offering some solid storytelling while doing so. All the things that make that movie memorable serve to show how bad this film is.
THE WICKER TREE takes the same story, kind of, and adds a new twist to it. While the original film focused around a Christian policeman coming to a secluded island in England to try and search for a missing girl only to discover that the island was inhabited by pagans out to find a sacrifice, that all gets tossed aside here. Instead we have two young American Christians who are on a journey to preach the word of God. The young girl was a hot teen sensation who changed her ways and now preaches while singing country music. Can you say stereotype?
Along with her fiancé they head to a small village in Scotland to preach the word (oddly enough I've rarely heard of missionary work in Scotland) and display their promise rings while doing so. Given moments alone they're tempted to have at it but hold off and keep their promise. Well, at least to each other. The young man falls for a temptress from the manor and loses his ring in the process, all within minutes of seeing her skinny dipping form.
Anything that made the original film work is tossed aside here. It feels as if the intent of the film is to ridicule Christians more than create a work of horror. From beginning to end I found nothing the least bit scary here whereas the original film had a sort of odd feeling to it that made you think. This doesn't do that at all.
All characters here seem like cardboard cut outs with acting skills in some that fit that format. The decent actors seem wasted here and a cameo appearance by Christopher Lee (who was in the original film) is a waste. This movie offers little wit, little humor, no scares and worst of all is boring from start to finish.
As I said earlier you might want to seek out the original film when it comes to this title. The remake is nothing more than an excuse for someone to get a paycheck while riding on the coattails of the original.
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One thing that you should all know when it comes to watching and writing about movies: there are huge numbers of films released straight to DVD each year that fill the shelves and kiosk of rental spaces that are complete and utter wastes of your time. Please, allow me to steer you clear of some of these. I'm not talking about major releases that are just worthless movies but stuff that is so bad that they never even make it to a theater with the exception of some dive in the worst spot in town. That being said lets take a look at SNOW WHITE: A DEADLY SUMMER.
First off the use of the name Snow White is bogus here. There are no dwarves or magic apples nor Prince Charmings here. Instead we have a troubled teen who is revolting against her father who has just remarried after the death of her mother. With her latest bit of trouble his new wife convinces him that it's time to get tough and to send her to a boot camp for troubled teens.
The girl goes but soon discovers that there's more going on here than the parents of these teens know. One girl went missing never to show again. But the worst thing that these teens must endure is actually the man who runs the place and his attempt at acting. It is beyond sub par.
As the kids are forced to do various tasks they do accomplish one thing well like those in charge. Their clothes never seem to truly get dirty. If they had only been this way at home perhaps their parents wouldn't have sent them here in the first place!
I could offer you a spoiler about what finally happens in the end here but why bother because if you waste your time and money on renting this one let alone buying it, then you deserve everything you get. It truly is that bad.
Here are a couple of other clues as to how bad the movie is. Eric Roberts plays the father. Roberts' career has had so many good and bad roles you never quite know what to expect. Expect the worst here. And the woman he married to recover from the death of his late wife? Maureen McCormick. Yes, Marsha Brady herself is the conniving woman who wants the teen gone and talks to her mirror...or is she just talking to herself and is mad?
The movie is directed by David DeCoteau, famous for films like SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA, CREEPOZOIDS, PUPPETMASTER 3, BEACH BABES FROM BEYOND and three more Puppetmaster sequels. Here's a scary thought: each of those movies was wonderful compared to this one. Avoid it at all costs.
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