Friday, October 07, 2005

The (cough) Night Stalker...

Joe Bannerman sent me this review link:

I haven't seen the new show yet, and I doubt I'll bother. After all, there are a slew of actually good genre shows on this year.

Here's what I don't understand, though. The reason you use an established title is to associate a new work with something that's been done before. In this case, a TV show that lasted 20 episodes thirty years ago. In other words, the title will mean pretty much nothing to the vast majority of under-35 viewers. To people of the correct age, for most it will mean little or nothing--after all, if a huge audience had watched the original show, then it would have lasted longer than one year. (Along with the two previous TV movies.)

In the end, you end up with the farily small subset of people who were fans of the show in its original run, and a much smaller group who became fans of it in reruns. And these...are the ones most likely to be completely pissed off at the liberties taken with the original series.

If you're smart, you'll take a bad/mediocre show and actually improve upon it. Battlestar Galatica certainly falls into this catagory. Even a good/great show can be improved, as arguably Star Trek was by Star Trek: The Next Generation.

What seems unwise is to take a show that attracted a certain fanbase, and then remove/tamper with everything that was beloved about it.

What really annoys is this: They could have fixed many of problems by merely making the show about Kolchak's son. Then he's a fresh character entirely, and the comparisons don't even really come into play. (And yes, Kolchak didn't have a son back in the day, but he was a player, and one could easily have popped up.)

Expect this to be off the air well before it hits 20 episodes, and expect far fewer people to remember it, much less with fondness, 30 years hence.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

It Came from Netflix! Mosquito Man

Well, you can imagine my reaction (on top of the fact that I was watching a movie called “Mosquito Man”) when the first thing I see upon starting the disc was the NuImage logo. At that point, I felt the crushing inevitability of the phrase ‘Mosquito Man sucks’ popping up in the review, which naturally filled me with self-loathing.

Weirdly, though, the film didn’t suck. Huh. I mean, we’re obviously not talking Citizen Kane here, but strangely enough, the film pretty much delivered about as good a fulfillment of its title as one could reasonably expect.

So, anyway, we inauspiciously begin by heavily ripping off Mimic. A mosquito-borne virus is killing zillions of people, and scientist Jennifer Allen is attempting to genetically engineer a mosquito that will for some reason replace the bad mosquitoes…well, it didn’t make such sense. Mimic, frankly, covered this ground a lot more intelligently.

So the eee-vil head of her team, so is only interested in profits (sigh), brings in a death row inmate to covertly conduct human testing upon. Is that ever a good idea? He escapes, and several gunfights ensue, and in a resultant explosion he is caught in a radioactive cloud of genetically altered mosquito guts.

Here the film begins to rip off Cronenberg’s The Fly…wait, I’m not making this sound very good, am I? Despite my earlier assurances. (And I haven’t even mentioned that the hero is played by Corin “Raging Sharks” Nemec yet, although to be fair he’s a lot better here than in that ‘movie.’)

So what makes this a surprisingly decent Man-Mosquito movie, in my opinion? Well, following this point we get a whole hell of a lot of monster action. Since Mansquito (the alternate title, and a much funnier one) is a guy in a suit, it doesn’t cost much extra to feature him a lot. In fact, probably because the suit is pretty nifty, they perhaps feature him a little too much. That may just be my old school preference for mood, however, and modern audience members probably don’t mind the constant monster close-ups.

Anyway, Mansquito kills about a thousand people in this movie, and several in spectacularly gory fashion, so if that’s your bag you’ll definitely dig this. Of course, an old hand like Roger Corman would have thrown in some gratuitous naked boobies, too, but except on that front this is everything a low budget video rental can be expected to deliver.

There are some bits too unbelievable even for a movie like this, though. First of all, Mansquito is bulletproof for some reason (??), probably just because they wanted him to slaughter like three dozen wildly firing cops, as he indeed does late in the picture. Second, and even more goofily, he eventually manifests wings and flies around. Uh, yeah, well, if actual mosquitoes were six feet tall and weighed over two hundred pounds, they wouldn’t fly either.

Still and all, worth a look, despite the dumb parts. Next week, meanwhile, sees the Shark Man movie Hammerhead coming out.

Good times.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Nipsy Russell, RIP

Mr. Russell was famed, don't you know,
for appearing on every game show.
He'd daily dispurse,
some whimsical verse,
then help win his partner some dough.

It Came From Netflix! Long Weekend

My notes on this will be brief, as it’s one of those films that can’t be discussed much without diminishing it for potential viewers. Basically, Long Weekend is a standard ‘70s eco-horror flick. Except for the fact that it doesn’t suck. In fact, it’s pretty damn good. I’d never heard of the film before, so here’s another one to mark up for DVD.

The films it most reminded me of were Frogs (one of those ‘suck’ movies I was talking about) and the recent Open Water. An Australian couple heads to a remote beach for a weekend camping holiday. Their marriage, we soon see, is in severe straits. Eventually we learn why, and the reasons do have thematic relevance to their larger situation. However, the important point is that the film very ably captures a relationship swinging between occasionally flaring but ultimately dying love and a pervasively growing hate.

As with Frogs (and the even lamer Day of the Animals), this is a Nature’s Revenge film. The couple both individually commit various acts of environmental depravation, and its definitely to the film’s advantage that none of these are in any way outsized: Tossing empty bottles and trash around; a profligate use of bug spray; shooting or even just disturbing the peace of animals. The editing makes it clear that Nature is tiring of Man’s self-importance, and there’s a background thread indicating that the phenomenon isn’t localized.

With only two main characters, this can’t be a body count movie (like Frogs, etc.). Instead, it’s the sort of film interested in establishing a feeling of sustained, profound dread. Caught up in their own personal travails, and each pursuing their own agendas, neither husband nor wife is able to pick up on the increasingly obvious clues that their presence isn’t wanted. When either is on the verge of doing so, the other generally attempts to use this moment to their own advantage, and thus their focus is spitefully returned to each other rather than their increasingly hostile surroundings.

There is a nice irony involved in how they eventually end up, and I’d like to go into that more, but again don’t want to risk diminishing a film I strongly recommend people hunt down and watch. Tech credits are good all around, with decent direction, extremely good acting from the two leads, and especially the editing and sound work used to make the proceedings quite creepy.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Great deal on MGM Midnight Movie DVDs...

and others. has a slew of $15 DVDs on sale 2 for $15. Now, you don't expect to pay list price for DVDs, but still that's half off. And if you buy three or more DVDs, the shipping is free.

The Midnight Movie DVDs, moreover, are the double feature ones. Therefore, $15 will buy you four movies, and the MGM DVDs tend to feature extremely good transfers, in widescreen where appropriate.

A nice sale. Sadly, I own all the ones I want already. Add Dagon to your list if you don't own it already.

A handful of $20 titles are also available for $11. This includes Orca.

On DVD this week (10/04/05)...

Time to open your wallets. (All quoted prices are rounded off, based on Web availablity; check DVD Price for the best deals.) It’s an especially rich week for box sets.

The TV show of the week is the long-awaited appearance of the complete 20 episode run of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, the only good thing likely to come out of the show’s currently running ‘remake.’ Apparently they didn’t bother doing much either to clean up the show’s appearance or in way of extras, but still and essential purchase. $30.

Another must buy (or at least rental) is the first season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which is sort of the anti-matter version of Jabootu’s favorite TV show, The Hitchhiker. You’ll get over 11 viewing material for a nifty $30.

Other shows this week include Bob Newhart Show S2; Butterflies S2 (Britcom); Drawn Together S1; Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1981); Stargate SG-1 S8, and Wild Palms (Oliver Stone mini-series).

The movie selection of the week is The Val Lewton Collection, featuring nine of classic horror films from producer Lewton, and directed by the likes of Robert Wise and Jacques Tourneur. These include Cat People, Curse of the Cat People, Isle of the Dead, I Walked with a Zombie, Body Snatcher, Bedlam, The Leopard Man, The Ghost Ship and The Seventh Victim. The films are also available separately (some on double feature DVDs), but why bother? For less than $45 bucks—check Amazon, and with free shipping to boot—you get nine movies and a slew of extras as well.

Aside from the Hitchcock TV show box set mentioned above, this week also provides, for under $90, the Alfred Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection, collecting 14 of the Master’s most notable films: Saboteur, Shadow of a Doubt, Rope, Rear Window, The Trouble with Harry, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Vertigo, Psycho, The Birds, Marnie, Torn Curtain, Topaz, Frenzy and Family Plot. These are great individual discs, but the same ones previously released before. Therefore, anyone who’s bought some of them earlier—I own five of them—is out of luck. Great set, though.

Alien Apocalypse stars Bruce Campbell, and that will be enough for many people to know. $8.

Babes of the Night collects four previously available Full Moon soft-core horror schlock films; The Huntress, Forbidden Zone: Alien Abduction, Cemetery High and The Occultist. $20.

The Best of Abbott & Costello 4 is another cheap set of Bud and Lou’s filmography. $20 or less will get you Abbot and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops, Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, The World of Abbot and Costello (compilation movie), Abbott and Costello Meet Jerry Seinfeld (TV tribute), Abbott and Costello Meet the Monsters (documentary).

Billion Dollar Brain is the third and last (until some TV films in the ‘90s, anyway) of the Michael Caine Harry Palmer spy movies. It’s a pretty hilarious flick about an insane right-wing Texas millionaire (Ed Begley) plotting to start WWIII, and was directed in a predictably hallucinogenic style by Ken Russell. This killed the series, but The Ipcress File and Funeral in Berlin are well worth searching out.

Body Parts is another ‘80s slasher flick. $10.

Bounty Huntress, Bounty Huntress II and Body Huntress: Undercover are apparently three soft-core action flicks, only one of which features a bounty huntress. Each runs about $6-7.

Casket of Death is another set collecting previously released Full Moon movies. This one features Vampire Journal, Killjoy, Witchhouse and The Horrible Dr. Bones. $20.

The middling Disney classic Cinderella reaches DVD today on a spiffy two-disc set. Under $20.

The computer run amok classic Demon Seed impregnates shelves today. Under $15.

The campy Hammer misfire Dracula A.D. 1972 rises from the grave. Under $15.

The ‘80s The Fly and The Fly II are now available on 2-disc special edition sets, which are supposedly pretty fabulous. $15.

The Fog also receives another, remastered edition $10.

If you ever wanted to see a made for TV reinterpretation of Journey to the Center of the Earth starring Kathy Ireland and Emo Philips (really) and directed by Albert Pyun, here’s your chance! $10.

The top-notch suspenser The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, starring a young Jodie Foster and a somewhat older Martin Sheen moves in for about $10.

Longhair of Death isn’t about hippies, but is a standard Euro-horror flick about a revenge-seeking witch, starring Barbara Steele. $10.

The Man with Nine Lives is one of those seldom seen Boris Karloff/Columbia Mad Scientist films, and thus highly recommended. $10.

The Man with the Screaming Brain is Bruce Campbell’s latest attempt to force a cult movie. $10.

Monster High is a jokey ‘80s monster/comedy crapfest. Should that be your bag. $10.

Mortuary Academy is another horror-tinged comedy, but stars Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov. $10.

The New Kids is an ur-‘80s psycho JD flick starring James Spader, Eric Stoltz and Lori Laughlin. From the director of Friday the 13th. $10.

Ranking high on this week’s must-buy list is Night of the Lepus, the infamous Killer Giant Bunny movie. Actually, it’s a generic, boring Killer Whatzit movie, only about Giant Killer Bunnies. I mean…damn. Stars Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh and DeForest Kelly (!). $15.

Private Parts
is another authentic cult classic black comedy directed by Paul Bartel. You can’t go wrong there. Under $15.

Rites of Frankenstein is another Jess Franco film. Be warned. Under $15.

Robot Jox is the live-action Giant Robot flick from Stuart Gordon. $10.

Sci-Fi Horror brings together Full Moon’s Kraa! the Sea Monster, Killer Eye, Murdercycle and Zarkorr the Invader. $20.

Slab of Horror similarly collects Castle Freak, Retro Puppet Master, Sideshow and Creepazoids, the last of which stars Linnea Quigley and thus, presumably, her breasts. $20.

The Spiral Staircase is an old-school suspenser of the Had She But Known variety. $10.

A Stranger is Watching is another ‘80s psycho flick. $10.

Torture Garden is one of those Amicus ‘70s horror anthology deals, starring Peter Cushing, Denholm Elliot, Jack Palance and a hilariously overacting Burgess Meredith. Not great, but worth a look.

The Tunnel is a West German film about some folks attempting to escape from East Germany during the Cold War. Odd how this didn’t get the friendly buzz that pro-Communist stuff like El Postino, Good Bye, Lenin! and Motorcycle Diaries received. Definitely worth a rental. $20. See with East/West for a good double bill.

Cult classic The Warriors is out via a “Ultimate Director’s Cut.” Under $15.

The Witch is more Euro gothic horror. $10.

Hollywood doesn't get it, Part #389723498723497...

The Oct 10th issue of Time Magazine has a very brief "First Look" at Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction. The subtitle must be referring to the producers. Really, this is up there in the Obvious Bad Idea department with that atrocious looking Steve Martin Pink Panther remake.

Basic Instinct was a (as people often forget) pretty decent, if sleazy, movie made by a director, Paul Verhoeven, just starting to slightly slack off his prime of RoboCop and Total Recall. After the cataclysmic Showgirls, he failed to rebound with Starship Troopers and Hollow Man, and just now is filming his first film in six years.

Aside from Verhoeven, BI boasted Michael Douglas at the peak of his star power, and more importantly the first mass media glimpse of a celebrity hoo-haw. However, thanks to the Internet, celebrity hoo-haws are now all over the place. Plus, Ms. Stone is now 47, and while it is for some reason considered by many to be retrograde to say so, the number of horny viewers hoping for a good look at a (admittedly well-preserved) 47 year-old woman is probably limited. Meanwhile, a number of Brit co-stars have been brought in, presumably to class up the joint, which in itself is pretty hilarious. In any case, I doubt if male lead David Morrissey will prove an able fill-in for Douglas.

Then there's the fact that the Erotic Thriller genre, as a theatrical movement, all but died after the huge success of Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct. (Although it launched a seeming thousand Shannon Whirrey DTV movies.) Madonna's hilarious Body of Evidence is only the most obvious example. However, it's instructive to note that even the 'appeal' of seeing an America's Sweetheart like Meg Ryan do the naked nasty wasn't enough to rouse any interest in 2003's In the Cut.

This is clearly why Hollywood's can barely be effectively parodied, the making of a sequel to a 12 year old erotic thriller starring a nobody and a woman eight years away from getting her AARP card.