About This Blog

A place to find my reviews not featured on epinions.com or horror-asylum.com, as well as opinions and lists on everything from movies to TV to music. It's all about me! Send hate mail to vegie18th@hotmail.com or just leave a comment beneath the posts. Review grading system assumes C+ is somewhere in the vicinity of a Passing grade or minor fail.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Review: Galaxy Quest

Although the title TV show was cancelled in 1982, the stars of the once hit show still eke out a living by making appearances at conventions where they generally lament their current situ, as well as complain about the enormous ego of the show’s ‘star’ Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen clearly playing William Shatner). Shakespearean actor Alexander Dane (Alan Rickman), for instance, feels physically sick at the mere thought of being asked to repeat his character’s stupid catch phrase, let alone being depressed by his inability to land any other gigs. At one such convention, Nesmith is approached by goofy-looking sorts claiming to be an alien race called Thermians (who look a bit like Romulans). Nesmith brushes them off as annoying fans, but it turns out that the Thermians (led by an irritating Enrico Colantoni) are real aliens, who somehow mistake transmissions of “Galaxy Quest” for real historical documents from Earth (people don’t tell lies where they’re from), and have thus come to request the help of the crew to thwart an evil, reptilian-looking warlord named Sarris (well played by Robin Sachs). Nesmith and the other actors are soon transported to a working replica of the ship from their show, and must pretend to be their characters to fight a very real threat. Unfortunately, Sarris, whilst no genius, is more intelligent than the Thermians and quickly realises that the galactic heroes he’s faced with are mere actors. Sigourney Weaver plays Gwen DeMarco, whose character on the show was merely the token female whose sole job was to repeat commands given by the ship’s computer...a talking computer. Daryl Mitchell hilariously plays the film’s Wesley Crusher, a supposed boy genius (now grown up, obviously), who ends up being an offensive, panicky African-American caricature (hopefully intentional). Tony Shalhoub and Sam Rockwell round out the crew as respectively the Tech Sergeant (i.e. The ‘Scotty’ role), and the token ‘red shirt’ character, a guy who played a cameo role on the series and spends the entire film worried that he’s expendable. The fact that in recent years he’s been acting as a convention organiser just makes the character even funnier.

Writers Robert Gordon and David Howard must be big “Three Amigos!” fans in addition to “Star Trek”, and this sense of plagiarism (or to be more charitable, familiarity) is the only thing preventing an otherwise fun flick from being truly memorable. It’s almost the exact same damn plot, just set in space, and with silent cinema replaced by TV space opera. Mind you, it was probably inevitable that we’d get a sci-fi version of “Three Amigos!” given that underrated comedy was a satire of “The Magnificent Seven”/“The Seven Samurai”, which in turn was made into a space saga by producer Roger Corman in the delightful “Battle Beyond the Stars”.

The satire is clever (if not gut-busting), the cast is fun (especially Rickman, Rockwell, and Mitchell), and the special FX still hold up pretty well in 2012 for this 1999 sci-fi comedy from director Dean Parisot (“Home Fries”, of all things). Usually visual FX from the 90s tend to have dated by now (look at most of those VR-inspired films like “Freejack”), but this, “The Matrix”, and a select few others still hold up pretty well. The names Stan Winston (“Aliens”, “Predator”, “Terminator 2: Judgement Day”) and ILM (George Lucas’ FX company) attached to the film are little surprise to me. The film actually works pretty well as a space adventure, instead of just being a straight-up joke-after-joke send-up. It ain’t no “Three Amigos!” if you ask me (and not nearly as funny as the German sci-fi parody “Dreamship Surprise- Period 1”, either) but it’ll do nicely. In fact, I’m surprised it didn’t spawn any sequels. Was it a box-office dud? I don’t remember it tanking spectacularly.

There’s lots of fun little touches, like Rickman’s Leonard Nimoy-esque character lamenting having to repeat the same damn catch phrase (he’s clearly no longer enjoying life), Rockwell as the guy who would be a ‘Red Shirt’ if this were truly “Star Trek” (Trekkies will love a gag at the end about him that will go over everyone else’s heads), Weaver realising that her character served an idiotic purpose on the show but by god she’s gonna do it anyway when called upon to do so in real-life, and a fun role for Justin Long (in his film debut) as a fan geek who actually gets to help out at one point. I’m not sure if he’s a Mac kid or a PC kid, though. I actually really liked Long’s character in this because in a way, he’s almost a rebuttal to Shatner’s ‘Get a Life!’ sketch on “SNL” all those years ago. Don’t piss off the fans, you just might need them one day (Well, maybe not in aiding against an alien threat, but still. Be nice to your fans, they’re the reason why you are who you are or were who you were). Personally I wish Allen played his character as more Shatner than Allen (why not cast Kevin Pollak? Or any of the millions of other comedians who could mimic The Shat Man?), but he’s still OK.

It’s an amusing and entertaining film (especially for Trekkies), but nothing brilliant, and certainly nothing original. Having a race of benevolent aliens who all speak like Milton from “Office Space” probably wasn’t a good idea, either. 

Rating: B-

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Review: Beyond Mombasa

Cornel Wilde plays a hard-drinking, somewhat selfish American in Africa searching for the killers of his brother, who may have met foul play, whether it be at the hands of the legendary native tribe of ‘Leopard Men’, indulging in black magic and the like or something a little more simple, like a business deal gone wrong. Ron Randell is chief suspect numero uno, as the business partner of the brother, whilst joining Wilde are Donna Reed as a pretty anthropologist, and Leo Genn as her genial missionary uncle. Christopher Lee plays a famed white hunter who also joins the group on their expedition.

Not bad 1956 George Marshall (“Destry Rides Again”, “How the West Was Won”) adventure set in Africa is fairly typical stuff but a dated and transparent plot involving ‘Leopard Men’, and a seriously unpleasant characterisation by Wilde in the supposed hero role, leave a bad taste in the mouth. Wilde is seriously rude and unlikeable for the most part.

Some of the action is quite exciting, Reed is always a pleasure, and a young Lee steals the show as a charismatic French (er. French..ish) hunter, one of his rare non-villain roles, and one of his best early roles. Genn is solid for the most part, but his big scene at the end is sheer lunacy.

Racially it’s a bit on the nose, as many of these films with tribal characters tend to be. Then again, it’s not really my kind of film, so perhaps I’m not the best judge. Nice work by cinematographer Freddie Young (“Ivanhoe”, “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Lust for Life”), though, with plenty of wildlife on display. The screenplay is by Richard English (The John Wayne vehicle “Big Jim McLain”) and Gene Levitt (“Foreign Intrigue”, with Robert Mitchum), from a story by James Eastwood. It’s worth a look for Christopher Lee completists and safari movie enthusiasts.

Rating: C+

Review: Bridesmaids

Kristen Wiig’s lifelong bestie Maya Rudolph is getting married, and as Maid of Honour, Wiig wants to give her the best celebration ever. Unfortunately, Rudolph has recently become friendly with Rose Byrne, which proves a threat not only to Wiig’s celebratory plans for Rudolph, but their relationship itself. A rather sad game of one-up(wo)manship between insecure Wiig and wealthy, type-A personality Byrne begins. Meanwhile, Wiig has other problems. She lives with two fat, lazy Brits (Matt Lucas and Rebel Wilson) who invade her privacy. Her bakery went kaput. And she recently ended her shallow relationship with stud Jon Hamm. She has become interested in nice guy Irish cop Chris O’Dowd, but with everything else going on, she inadvertently starts to neglect him. Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper, and Wendi McLendon-Covey play the other bridesmaids, Jill Clayburgh makes her last film appearance as Wiig’s mother, and Franklyn Ajaye is Rudolph’s dad.

Directed by Paul Feig (who comes from a background on TV shows like “Arrested Development” and “The Office”), produced by Judd Apatow (of “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and “Superbad” fame), but more importantly the brainchild of writers Kristen Wiig (who also stars) and Annie Mumolo, this 2011 comedy has been seen by many as the female version of “The Hangover”. Is that meant to be a good thing, though? The good news is that unlike “The Hangover”, I laughed more than once here. The bad news is, I didn’t laugh consistently, and the film is hit-and-miss overall, not to mention way overlong. And just because girls can appear in a gross-out comedy, doesn’t mean they necessarily should or need to.

I’m absolutely appalled that this film garnered Oscar noms for Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress (Melissa McCarthy), because the characters are underwritten (especially the supporting cast) and often overplayed (especially the two leads). They’re also largely unlikeable (especially the two leads). Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph (daughter of the late Minnie Ripperton, of ‘Loving You’ infamy) give off the vibe of being very comfortable around one another, but for me it was less the characters being lifelong friends and more the actresses being long-time peers and admirers of each other’s talents. “SNL” alum both, their performances here don’t really convince as real characters so much as they give off “SNL”-sketch quality performances (Rudolph in particular is so amateurish that she ruins even the dramatic scenes). That’s simply not good enough for a film that runs over two hours, especially when there’s not much depth in the screenplay backing them up. Wiig’s funniest moment involves a toast/speech that turns into a desperate and pathetic game of one-upwomanship between Wiig and Rose Byrne, before finally reaching its hilarious height involving a rendition of ‘That’s What Friends Are For’. But neither Wiig nor Rudolph’s characters are actually all that sympathetic. The former is self-absorbed and frankly pathetic (her drunk act on a plane is stupid and embarrassing, not funny), and the latter is often insensitive (and poops in a wedding dress, I might add). I mean, who allows someone they barely know (Byrne) to take over the job of organiser that Rudolph’s supposed lifelong BFF, Wiig clearly wanted? Why would she allow Byrne into the Bridal Party at all? I don’t care who she’s related to, it just didn’t seem believable to me, let alone make Rudolph sympathetic. TV actress McCarthy is certainly memorable, but as much as she is largely responsible for some of the biggest laughs in the film (gross as those gags may be, like the food poisoning scene), she’s in some of the least funny moments too. A little of her goes a long, long way because funny or not, the character is pretty disgusting and unpleasant to have around. Aussie Rose Byrne, meanwhile, is pretty good in a fairly stock-standard role. She’s definitely got charisma and good looks, but this role isn’t going to do much for her, really.

As for the other two bridesmaids played by Ellie Kemper and Wendi McLendon-Covey...well, they have one character between them. McLendon-Covey plays the cynical, middle-aged housewife and mother, but I have no idea what character trait Kemper was meant to have, she was just kinda ‘there’. Clearly Wiig, Mumolo, and director Feig couldn’t give a crap about anyone else in the film, instead let’s just throw in a supposedly wacky (i.e. Completely unfunny) sex scene for Wiig and Don Draper. Fine, then why not delete these extraneous characters altogether? Or better yet, put more focus into making the leads likeable and realistic. The film is already overpopulated and undernourished as it is. Irish actor Chris O’Dowd is as likeable as ever as the romantic interest of the film, in fact he’s the most likeable presence in the entire film and the least caricatured. Speaking of caricatured, I can’t say I’m even remotely a fan of Matt Lucas or Aussie comedienne Rebel Wilson, but playing stereotypical fat, lazy poms here, they’re more peculiar than funny. They’re both pretty well-known and respected comics (not by me, though), so I think a lot of their fans will be disappointed with how tiny and pointless their roles are. And why is the multi-talented Franklyn Ajaye given almost nothing to do as Rudolph’s cheap dad? Huge waste there.

I get that that this film isn’t for me. I’m sure lots of women will love singing along to the (fucking terrible) Wilson Phillips song over the end credits (The band actually appear earlier in the film too). Good for you. Have fun with it, even if I find it somewhat odd that women really want to see a gross-out film made for them (It was pretty popular in cinemas, presumably with women). Perhaps the gross-out stuff added to a normal chick flick scenario was meant to combine to create the perfect date movie. I dunno. I just found the film seriously uneven in the humour department, underwhelming and unpleasant in the character department, and not much better in terms of story or originality. There are moments, but not enough to make it anything more than watchable for me. I guess Wiig just isn’t Tina Fey. This film’s not very good, but it’s a step up from “The Hangover”.

Rating: C+

Monday, July 2, 2012

10 Worst Music Videos of All-Time

We all have our own favourite music videos, at least those of us born around or after the MTV era. Whether it’s Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal”, Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer”, or The Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” (to name my three personal favourite videos), I could go on and on about the subject. But being the sick bastard I am, I sometimes get more personal delight in talking about the crappy videos. Admit it, you do too. I guess my fascination with bad movies spills over into other forms of media. So here I present to you in reverse order, the absolute crappiest music videos I’ve ever seen. Feel free to disagree or mock me. Actually, don’t mock me, you’ll hurt my feelings. You don’t want to see a grown man cry do you?

Dishonourable Mention:

Invisible Man- Queen

Freddy Mercury plays the invisible man who turns up in a young boy’s bedroom. Need I go on? Worst song of Queen’s otherwise stellar career, by the way.

10. Safety Dance- Men Without Hats

Midgets, renaissance fairs, incompetent dancing, all put together in a clip that, like the song, makes no damn sense whatsoever.

9. Private Eyes- Hall and Oates

The song is awful, but watching Hall and Oates mug for the camera, pretending to be super-cool detectives just proves how square they really are. Dated as hell, just like all their other stuff, only moreso. It’s so uncool that your dad thinks it’s awesome.

8. Dancing in the Street- Mick Jagger and David Bowie

Jagger and Bowie uncomfortably bop and bounce around so rapidly and manic that you'd swear they were dropping speedballs in between takes. Hilarious, but oh-so wrong. Forget Don McLean, or Buddy Holly, this was when the music died, folks. Drugs are bad, m’kay?

7. Great Southern Land- Icehouse

It’s almost treasonous for me to piss all over this Aussie rock ‘classic’, but I’ve gotta say, I’ve not had much use for Icehouse outside of their “Man of Colours” album. Here. Iva Davies thinks he's David Bowie, circa "Ashes to Ashes". He's not. Seriously, the film clip is almost a total rip-off.

6. Dirrty- Xtina Aguilera

Skanky is more like it. Sweaty, slutty, grotty, and horrible. Xtina spitting is just foul and unladylike. Yuck. I’m surprised people didn’t contract VD after watching this.

5. The Final Frontier- Iron Maiden

I love Iron Maiden, but when I saw them careening around in a space ship I wanted to hurl myself out of my bedroom window. And I'm a paraplegic. This is the kind of crap you expect from Europe, but Maiden? A little piece of me died when I first saw this.

4. Say Say Say- Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson

The only good things about this song are the parts sung by Michael Jackson. There is nothing, however, even remotely commendable about the self-indulgent clip with Paul (and Linda of course) playing a Depression Era huckster of magic potions, whilst MJ makes goo-goo eyes at his own sister LaToya! Eeeeewwwwwww.

3. Wuthering Heights- Kate Bush

Kate Bush dancing and draped in some godawful sheer outfit, lost in her own bizarro world...I don't know what the hell the lyrics are, let alone what the clip is all about. I don't think I even want to know.

2. We Built This City- Starship

The lyrics are bad enough ('Marconi plays the mamba'? What the fuck does that mean?), but whenever I see that statue of Abraham Lincoln come to life to fist pump and mouth 'Rock and rollllll!' a little piece of me dies inside. Indicative of the worst of the MTV era.

1. Coming Up- Paul McCartney & Wings

This clip just shits me. It's so egotistical, with McCartney doppelgangers playing each of the instruments, and only one other person is the band, Linda McCartney. Their seriously irritating mugging for the camera (Paul’s always been a ham, but Linda looks especially uncomfortable, don’t you think?) makes it even more annoying and unbearable. "I Am the Walrus" was bad (Suck it, it was!), but this is just plain bloody annoying.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Review: Kiss of the Vampire

Mortal Katherine Hawkes falls for vampire Daniel Goddard, and his brethren (principally Gary Daniels, of all people) are fearful of exposure, but Goddard is seriously contemplating having himself ‘cured’ of vampirism so he can truly be with Hawkes. Meanwhile, Hawkes’ scientist father (Nick Jameson) has hooked up with a nasty secretive corporation headed by Eric Etabari, who is searching for the key to immortality. Throw in a vampire hunter (Matthias Hues), a dwarf (Phil Fondacaro), and small roles for recognisable faces like Costas Mandylor and Martin Kove (as stereotypical thugs), and you’ve got one bizarre and terrible film.

Directed by Joe Tornatore (“Demon Keeper” with Edward Albert Jr., and Dirk Benedict) and scripted by lead actress Katherine Hawkes, this 2009 vampire film is dull, incoherent, and poorly made on just about every level I can think of. And what’s up with the C-grade action cast (Daniels, Hues, Kove)? So horribly made and lame that it looks like an EI Cinema/ Seduction Cinema flick without the sex and violence, begging the question of why even bother? Or maybe it was more like a circa 1992 Full Moon film, and not one of the cool ones with the puppets or naked chicks.

I could barely follow the film’s story (Who were these people? Has anyone here ever heard of a plot set-up?), it seemed to be going nowhere in a hurry, and it all just plain sucks. Vampires feeding as a pack? I don’t think so, that seems much more like lycanthrope behaviour to me, or dopey extras from a Michael Jackson video at least. Is there really that much blood to spread around?

There was simply no reason for me to care about any of this cheap, incoherent nonsense (it’s almost as if they want it to make no sense, because the story could conceivably make sense with a little more effort). In a horribly acted film (everyone seemed to be talking like there was a throat lozenge shortage on set!), Hawkes probably fares worst of all (her reaction to seeing a real vampire is abysmally, inappropriately nonchalant but in-keeping with the rest of the terrible actors here), in one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen in my entire life. And I’ve probably seen at least twice as many films as you have. Shockingly, Eurotrash martial arts staple Hues fares best here (He sorta looks like the Fabio of the Martial Arts film genre). Hues has improved as an actor, but not enough to prevent the dialogue from sucking donkey’s balls. It’s also a shame that he’s using a crossbow here instead of his fists and feet. Yes, I know he’s a vampire hunter but it just further proves the fact that this is just so stupid and wrong. Fellow C-grade arse-kicker Daniels has always fared better in roles with little dialogue, and here he’s just terrible. And no, we do not get a Hues vs. Daniels showdown, in yet another ‘Why bother, then?’ moment in a film full of them. Diminutive Fondacaro, meanwhile makes the big mistake of actually trying to seriously act, and fails epically (Dare I suggest he’s better suited to gimmicky ‘small’ roles? Yes, I did just go there and I feel terrible about it!). I honestly can’t believe the director would’ve been happy with the terrible work these actors do here, some of whom should know better (I’m looking squarely at you Martin Kove and Costas Mandylor!).

The cheap-arse music score by Gordon McGhie seems like something you’d find in a Z-grade horror film (as do the FX, some of the dumbest, cheapest work I’ve seen in any movie ever!), despite the film’s softcore-porn, action/cop movie cast, and just reiterates what a terrible, confused and incompetent film this is. One of the worst I’ve seen in a long time, and not in a good way, and one of the worst films I’ve seen that boasts a ‘name’ cast. I’d call it a cheap “Blade” knockoff, but that would imply more action than this stinker delivers. It’s so bad that if it were made by Edward D. Wood Jr., even he’d disown it! Hell, Alan Smithee would even use a pseudonym (Thank you, I’m here all night). And while I’m in a hyperbolic mood, the film closes with the worst end credits song I have ever heard, bar none!

Rating: F