June 12, 2011

Almighty Thor (2011)

Hello everybody, I'm back! Sorry for the delay in posting--I started a new job recently and didn't have the strength to sit through b-movies. We shall start off the summer with a Syfy offering--Almighty Thor

Syfy had already made Thor, Hammer of the Gods, so I was curious to see how this second Thor would compare. Final verdict: Almighty Thor stinks way more than Thor, Hammer of the Gods. Read on...

Plot Summary

The evil Loki (Richard Grieco) wants the Hammer of Invincibility so he can take over Asgard, which is somehow connected to modern-day LA. Odin (Kevin Nash) hides the hammer in the World Tree's heart. His son Thor (Cody Deal) must retrieve the hammer before Loki can get his black-gloved hands on it. A Valkyrie named Jarnsaxa (Patricia Velasquez, in an inspired bit of bad casting) helps fend off Loki's minions while Thor searches for the hammer. Yes, it's true--Thor must go to LA to find the right portal into the World Tree's heart. Sadly, the script offered no rationale for putting the portal in LA. I would have really, really liked to hear that explanation.

Nutrition Facts

Vitamin B-Acting: 100%

All three leads--Thor, Loki and Jarnsaxa--contributed to the high rating in their own unique ways. 

Cody Deal cannot act, though he is marginally more believable in the role of Thor than Zachary Ty Bryan was, just based on looks alone. Deal's acting consists of two settings: 1) pouty teenage boy, and 2) slack-jawed, bored teenage boy. Though Deal is actually in his 20s, he captured teenage ennui and the slouched posture perfectly. So many times Thor looked as if he would rather be listening to his iPod than to Jarnsaxa's nagging.

Richard Grieco's Loki is a combination of a pasty-white Ben Stiller and an evil Luke Skywalker with the requisite overacting and spiky black armor. 

"Come to the Dark Side!"

Plus, he carries around a fake femur with a magic crystal attached, called "The Bone of Urrl."

Ah, the dirty jokes inspired by that bone...

Now we come to Patricia Velasquez. It is odd to see a Venezuelan play a Valkyrie, but her thick Spanish accent is what made her casting really jarring. Normally my hearing impairment makes it harder to detect accents, but even I couldn't miss Velasquez's accent. Oh, and she can't act either. 

"Kill the WABBIT!"

Vitamin B-SFX: 85%

The special effects follow the classically cheap, fake Syfy template--explosions and flames obviously superimposed on the scene, the "blue/green=good, red=evil" color scheme, and superimposed monsters with stiff-legged, jerky movements.

But what sets Almighty Thor apart from many other Syfy Original Movies are the "artsy" touches. Two of the best examples:

1) Thor fights a knight in slow-motion. Occasionally the scene switches to choppy slow-mo, as opposed to regular slo-mo. Thor defeats the knight, and rain falls in poetic slow-mo as he savors his victory. Enough slow-mo already!  

High Art Example #1

2) When Odin and Thor talk to the Norns (kind of like the Scandinavian Fates), the Norns are taped in sepia tones with wobbly, blurred camera shots. If the crew was trying to make the Norns look high, they certainly succeeded. 

High Art Example #2

Vitamin Fun: 40%

The movie drags plenty, but the level of bad acting and the size of the plot holes should help hecklers stay awake.

Sugar: 0.1%

The romance between Thor and Jarnsaxa comes out of nowhere about 3/4 of the way into the movie, and the "it's in the script" feeling is hilariously overpowering. Jarnsaxa and Thor do not make a convincing couple.

Plot Fiber: 0%

It would be easier to just list some of the most glaring plot/continuity holes, so here we go:

1) Thor's brother, Baldir, manages to pull out a double-headed pike that pierced his aorta. Very impressive, considering that sort of injury kills within a minute or two at the most.

2) As Odin lays dying from a wound Loki inflicted, he tells Thor where to find the Hammer. Why doesn't Loki just eavesdrop instead of making a big production out of following Thor around LA?

3) Speaking of dying, if Loki was never "alive" and therefore cannot die, why isn't the same true for Odin?

4) The biggest plot hole of all--the LA element. When Jarnsaxa whisks Thor to LA, the sudden switch from medieval-ish Asgard to the smog-wreathed skyscrapers of LA has no effect on Thor. He remains as bored as ever, even when he's exposed to novelties like guns. Shouldn't he at least be choking on the smog? 

From this...

...to this. No problem!

April 29, 2011

Godspell (1973)

The programming over Easter weekend featured the old standbys, like Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments (never mind that Passover is a Jewish holiday), but some unusual options appeared as well. Apparently Die Hard is now an Easter movie. Perhaps the logic went as thus:

Die Hard is a Christmas movie.
Easter is a holiday, like Christmas. 
Therefore, Die Hard is also an Easter movie. 

The damn egg hunts get harder every year.

TCM, for its part, decided to feature Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell during the primetime slots on the night of Easter Sunday. Clearly someone has a sense of humor at TCM—though I will say that both movies make more theological sense as Easter selections than The Ten Commandments. Just barely. I had wanted to see Godspell for years after reading about it in the Golden Turkey Awards. When I saw it…well, read on.

Plot Summary

Jesus Christ (Victor Garber) prances about NYC in an afro and seriously creepy makeup with his “apostles.” 

In repertory theater style, Christ and the apostles act out various stories from the Gospel of Matthew, including the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, and others, which I can’t remember now despite nine years in a Catholic school...

Nutrition Facts

Vitamin B-Acting: 100%

The entire movie comes off as a very bad repertory theater production. The ham jumps off the charts—overexaggerated expressions and gestures, stilted delivery, even rolling eyes. It gave me flashbacks of the touring theater groups that would sometimes visit my school. We had to sit through idiotic plays that shoved morals down our throats. The acting level in the movie was exactly the same as in those horrible plays.
Vitamin B-SFX: 80%

The SFX is almost nonexistent, but surely the giant mass of evil trash bags and recycled goods that served as the Pharisee qualifies for a high rating.

Vitamin Fun: 75%

The movie has so many ridiculous, laugh-out-loud moments. The hideous clothing! Victor Garber’s afro! The Holy Macrame Bra of Damascus! (Antioch already has the Holy Hand Grenade.) The unhindered expression of ART and LOVE and PEACE—with rainbows prominently featured! 

While watching, I got the feeling that my dear departed grandmother might have disapproved of this movie’s ‘60s sensibilities. She probably would have made my father and his siblings watch The Ten Commandments instead…again. Or Ben-Hur, or The Sound of Music.

But I digress. The numerous boring stretches and repetitive lyrics brought down the fun rating. After the actors sang “Prepare ye the way of the Lord” for the 15th time in a row (really), I was ready for them to move on. Most of the songs kill at least five minutes of movie time just by repeating the same lines ad nauseam.

Then there’s the whole repertory theater feel. The movie often seems to think its audience consists of children, and frankly, this movie would be an insult to the intelligence of children.

Sugar: 80%

The treacly, feel-good kind. You’re more likely to die from laughing than from choking on the sugar, though.

Plot Fiber: N/A

I’m not going to argue with the Bible. But I will say this: if Jesus Christ had looked like Victor Garber in this movie, Christianity would not have survived.

Yes, that is a heart on his forehead.

April 9, 2011

Attack of the Puppet People (1958)

If I had to describe this film in one sentence at gunpoint, I would say that it is the perverted great-uncle of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. But that comparison doesn’t adequately convey how disappointing this movie is. “Attack of the Puppet People” was clearly the name the studio cooked up in a desperate attempt to attract moviegoers. This movie does not contain puppet people. There is no attack. The snarling dog so prominently featured on the movie poster turns out to be totally lame. (It’s not even the same dog from the movie.) For that matter, there are no "doll dwarfs" or "crushing giant beasts," as per the byline from the poster. Or even big shiny knives.

Plot Summary

A dollmaker named Franz (John Hoyt) went nuts after his wife left him. (Don’t they all.) Since then, Franz uses a ray gun to shrink his secretaries, mailmen, salesmen, etc. into living dolls—think Barbie and Ken-sized creatures. 

When he’s not busy watching the “dolls” dance or holding creepy conversations with a little girl, Franz keeps the dolls in a state of suspended animation inside glass containers. (You kind of have to wonder what else he’s made the dolls do.) 

"Now let's spice things up a little..."

Two of the dolls, Sally (June Kenny) and Bob (John Agar), decide to break free from the maniac’s grip. Will their ant buddy save them from the giant evil scorpion? (Oh, sorry, got mixed up with Honey, I Shrunk the Kids for a second.)

Nutrition Facts

Vitamin B-Acting: 30%

The acting is pretty mediocre overall, with no particularly atrocious performances. (Except for the little girl, who was a classic obnoxious child actor.) But John Hoyt did a fair job of portraying a psychotic old man who is just one step away from full-blown serial killing. Or child molestation, in the little girl’s case.

Vitamin B-SFX: 80%

The movie came out in 1958, and I strongly suspect the effects looked dated and cheap even back then. The “giant” fire hydrant and scenery that appear when the “dolls” wander NYC’s streets are very fake. One can see where the photographic backdrops of NYC streets meets the studio floor. 

Featuring the floor of Studio 10!

The “dog attack” scene basically consists of Sally and Bob superimposed on footage of a snarling, barking dog. A giant box stands between them and the dog—the dog doesn’t even get really close to them. The Rottweiler (or Doberman?) on the movie poster was much more convincing, and it’s just a freakin’ drawing. 
They don't exactly seem terrified, do they?

The moviemakers avoided showing the actual shrinking procedure—they just give us shots of the ray gun, interspersed with droning sounds and bright lights. This ray gun looks a lot like the one in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and a few of the “scientific” principles touted in both movies are similar. I can’t find any evidence that Honey paid homage to Puppet People in this respect, though (or else just “borrowed” the gun design).

Vitamin Fun: 60%

Despite the uncomfortable pedophilic moments, the hokiness of the movie makes for good heckle fuel.

Sugar: 10%

All of that 10% comes from the cloying performance of the little girl.

On a different note entirely, this movie never made me wish that I hadn’t popped off my Barbies’ heads when I was a little girl.

Plot Fiber: 5%

Imagine if the climactic scene between Buffalo Bill and Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs had gone like so:

Clarice: “FBI. Your murderin’ days are over!”
Bill: “Damn! Hey, can I at least keep the girl who’s in my pit o’ death right now?”  
Clarice: “No.”
Bill: “Oh, damn!”
Bill lets Clarice lead the senator’s daughter outside to safety. Then he feeds Precious some Bacon Bits. 

"Then Daddy's widdle baby can have a bubble bath!"

Anticlimactic, right?

The “climax” of Puppet People feels exactly the same way. Franz returns to his apartment after losing the “dolls.” Sally, now back to full human size, confronts him. Franz begs her not to leave him. She tells him that she’s going to the police, and walks out. And Franz LETS HER GO. No fight, not even any yelling. That’s IT. The film ends with Franz just staring at the door after Sally leaves. What a total gyp.

March 26, 2011

Night of the Lepus (1972)

Today we have a guest reviewer, Ralph the Killer Rabbit. He kindly offered to give us his unique perspective on Night of the Lepus:

All humans think bunnies are cute. This makes it extremely hard for a killer rabbit (Lepus homicidilis) to gain any respect. (Of course, looking like the average pet store bunny doesn’t help, even if we do sport sharp fangs and glowing red eyes.) But the U.S. killer rabbit population has never recovered from the insult that is Night of the Lepus.  

For ten generations now, we have cursed this film for turning us into laughingstocks.

Thanks to that film, humans now believe that:

Killer rabbits are the size of elephants.
If we really were that huge, we would have been hunted to extinction by now. Our small size enables us to kill quietly and quickly. My personal preference is for Chihuahuas and dachshunds—I’ve always been a dog rabbit, whereas my sisters generally prefer cats. Occasionally we band together to take down a small child.

Killer rabbits growl, snarl and roar. Bah! We move through grass as silently as a lioness moves through the savanna. Stealth is a predator’s best friend.
We have wimpy buck teeth that are usually covered in fake froth or bright orange, ketchupy “blood.”

Buck teeth disappeared long ago in Lepus homicidilis. Fangs make for much more efficient killing weapons. Which brings me to the next point...

Killer rabbits are undisciplined, wasteful predators.
The film depicts the rabbits as taking one bite out of a human, or crushing the human and leaving them otherwise untouched. A real killer rabbit would never let a bonanza like a full-grown human go to waste. Just like any real predator, we make sure to eat all the good bits—the internal organs, muscles, etc. Additionally, our mothers train us from birth in the arts of hunting and killing. Any kit that cannot hunt is immediately eaten by its littermates.
Thank you, Ralph! Now, the facts in a nutshell:

Nutrition Facts:

Vitamin B-Acting: 50%

Janet Leigh stars, and “Bones” McCoy makes a cameo. Most of the time the actors appear to be even more bored than the audience.

Vitamin B-SFX: 100%

As our friend Ralph has already mentioned, the blood effects are hilariously inept. The attempt to make the rabbits frightening by blowing up their size and using slo-mo/goofy camera angles fails, to say the least.

Vitamin Fun: 70%

“There is a herd of killer rabbits headed this way!” That’s really all you need to know.

Sugar: 0%

Plot Fiber: 0% 

The other version of the movie poster is also excellent--enjoy!


March 17, 2011

Leprechaun 3


This is the lamest movie in the entire Leprechaun series. The most terrifying things in the film are the hair and clothing, and we get not one, but TWO leprechauns spewing verses for 90 minutes.

Plot Summary

The Leprechaun (Warwick Davis) winds up in Vegas.
Through the typical it’s-in-the-script contrivances, a college boy, Scott (John Gatins) comes into the possession of Leprechaun’s golden shilling. Scott wins a fortune at the casinos thanks to the shilling, but Leprechaun wants it back. During a fight, Scott accidentally absorbs some of Leprechaun’s blood, and starts transforming into a Leprechaun. Can Scott and the buxom Tammy (Lee Armstrong) stop Leprechaun’s magic before Scott completes his transformation and is sentenced to a lifetime of hitting on women with dirty poetry?

Nutrition Facts

Vitamin B-Acting: 70%

The bad acting is more painful to watch and less fun in this installment, particularly by John Gatins. Actually, I had to feel sorry for the guy, considering he had to subject himself to repeating limericks like: 

There once was a lady of Totten
Whose tastes grew perverted and rotten.
She cared not for steaks
Or for pastries and cakes
But lived upon penis au gratin.


(Survival Tip: Keeping track of all the famous old dirty limericks that appear will make the movie more bearable—and it makes a natural drinking game!)

Lee Armstrong and the other actors don’t shirk on their bad acting, either. The Great Fazio, a hack magician played by John DeMita, and Loretta (Caroline Williams) are the best worst actors in this film. DeMita has no talent whatsoever, and Williams clearly was just having fun playing up her trashy character. 

Not as trashy as leopard print, but close, very close.

Vitamin B-SFX: 60%

The SFX looks cheap, and seems outdated even by 1995 standards, when this movie was released. The exploding fat suit is incredibly fake-looking. The killer sex robot is weirdly disappointing—that was the best Leprechaun could cook up? A relatively basic robot with a set of fake boobs taped to its chest?

At least we see some of the real things...

Vitamin Fun: 40%

The incessant rhyming got on my nerves, so down the rating goes. If it wasn't obvious by now, I hated this movie. I will give the writers their due—Vegas is a perfect setting for Leprechaun, and they certainly milked the setting for all it was worth.

Sugar: 0%

Why am I even bothering with this category for the Leprechaun series?

Plot Fiber: 20%

As usual, there are many, many problems with the script. However, I think it’s a better use of my time to conserve my Plot Fiber processing for Leprechaun 4 and 5. Those will be real challenges. Now I’m off to finish watching the first season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex!