November 21, 2010

Village of the Giants

I was in the mood for an anti-establishment movie, and I didn't feel like sitting through an endless movie like Billy Jack (though it holds a dear place in my B-movie heart).  So I decided to try a movie I'd never seen before. Let's just say that the image of a tiny man clinging to a woman's bikini top really tells you everything you need to know about this film's sophistication and grooviness.

Plot Summary

Genius (Ron Howard), a science wunderkind, accidentally invents “goo,” which turns anything that eats it into a giant. Fred (Beau Bridges) and his Groovy Crew of teenagers hear of the goo. They steal it and eat it, turn into giants, and proceed to take over tiny Hainesville. The Groovy Crew punishes the adults for their establishment, anti-hip ways. In the end, Genius discovers the antidote, the Groovy Crew flees, and Hainesville is happy and establishment once again.

Vitamin B-Acting: 70%

The actors don’t take this movie seriously--like that would even be possible. Even the little Ron Howard is in on the joke. This adds a nice easy feeling to the movie. I’ll freely admit that Genius was my favorite character—nerdy redheads with glasses rule!
If only I could spout random chemical formulas as easily as Genius does...

"Aw, it was nothing! You just need some H2ONaClAuHeNAlCW."

The other highlight of the movie is watching a 24-year-old Beau Bridges strut around in a bright red toga and diaper. That alone makes the movie totally worth an hour and 20 minutes of anybody’s time. 
Of course they had giant sewing kits on hand. (Beau Bridges is at the left)

Vitamin B-SFX: 100%

A giant orange cat.
Giant ducks grooving to the Beau Brummels' "Woman."

Need I say any more?

Okay, okay, there is more. It goes without saying that nowadays the SFX in this movie is extremely dated--the movie came out in 1965. The moviemakers obviously superimposed “giant” beings onto the movie, and the effect is hilarious every single time.

The “capture” of Fred by the townspeople epitomizes the cheesiness of the special effects. The townspeople lure Fred out onto the streets. Then they zip around him in hot rods and muscle cars—my favorite was a neon yellow banana-shaped car with a surfboard. Meanwhile, someone offset feebly lobs ropes at Fred, who obliges by wrapping a few ropes around his body. The camera switches back and forth between a shot of Fred’s upper body and the cars zipping around, probably so they could avoid trying to edit the giant Fred into the overall scene. The best of all is that Fred could easily just stomp on the cars and people, but he doesn’t—he literally lies down and lets them “rope” him.

Vitamin Fun: 90%

It’s SO GROOVY, man! Between the far-out SFX and the corny 60s music, you’ll have a ball. (Though I could have done without listening to all of “Woman” two times.)

Groovy Near Eastern-type statues included.
Sugar: 0%

There is no sugar—only GOO, magnificent GOO!

Plot Fiber: 0%

There are so many ways to rip apart the plot holes in this movie, but I’m not going to bother this time. The movie doesn’t give a fig about science or logic. It just wants to make a “statement” about how dictatorial The Man is…in theory. I’m positive, though, that its primary reasons for existence were to provide a cheap vehicle (or hot rod, as the case may be) for sexual entendres, and to give teens a chance to make out at the drive-in.

November 14, 2010

"The Lord of the Rings"

Relax, it's the 1978 Ralph Bakshi version, not the Peter Jackson trilogy. (And in case you're wondering, the DVD cover for the Bakshi version really did put quotation marks around the title. I think it's quite fitting, personally.) 

Overcompensating much, Gandalf?

Since the last Harry Potter movie is coming out next weekend (well, the first part anyway), I thought I'd mark the occasion by reviewing an "epic" movie for this post.   

Since this is an animated film, I've substituted the "Vitamin B-SFX" category with "Strangimation."

Plot Summary

Have you really not heard of Lord of the Rings by now? 

Okay, here's the plot: Frodo the Hobbit comes into possession of an all-powerful, evil Ring. The Dark Lord Sauron wants the Ring back so he can take over Middle Earth. Frodo must travel to Sauron's land, Mordor, and destroy the Ring by throwing it into the fires of Mount Doom. Frodo has only a small company of Hobbits, Elves and Men to help him through the journey. 

Nutrition Facts

Strangimation: 100%

Bakshi relied on Rotoscoping, a method of drawing animation over live-action film. The combination of light and heavy Rotoscoping was an intriguing premise, but it did not serve Lord of the Rings well. It’s not just that the animation method LOOKS strange, but Bakshi made a lot of stylistic decisions that were just plain odd.

For instance, the animation of the main characters switches back and forth between light and heavy Rotoscoping. There’s no good reason for the switcheroos. It’s also more confusing, because when the characters are in heavy Rotoscope form, it’s much harder to tell them apart and they melt into the background. 

Gandalf--light Rotoscoping on left, heavy Rotoscoping on the right 
Another example of heavy Rotoscoping--from left to right: Gimli, Legolas, and one of the Hobbits

The Rotoscoped characters in this film often don’t look like they’re part of the environment. There are several moments when lightly Rotoscoped characters appear to be floating in midair, as though someone just Photoshopped them onto the background.

The Ringwraiths caught in a Photoshop moment

Enough of generalities—let’s look at specific instances of heavy Rotoscoping problems.

The Orcs always appear in heavy Rotoscoped form, and always with hilarious effect. They usually have bright red eyes and fake fangs drawn on top of the Rotoscoping: 

Because the heavy Rotoscoping is so faithful to the live-action contours, you can clearly see that the actors are wearing pig and gorilla masks.

But the most priceless heavy Rotoscoping moment of all is the Balrog. It consists of a half-naked man wearing a lion’s head, flimsy Halloween bat wings, and bedroom slippers:


The heavy Rotoscoping is not to blame for all the bizarre aspects of the animation in this movie, though. The light Rotoscoping characters give us plenty to mock, as well.

Give me Viggo Mortensen any day.
In general, the characters are always moving, and their contours seem to shift constantly. I found their eyes particularly distracting--in the beginning of the film, their pupils seem to shrink and grow. The constant movement makes it feel as if you're watching a quivering mass of Jell-O blobs at times.

The Ringwraiths look like Jawas, with their brown robes and glowing red eyes. Interestingly, they also appear to be wearing slacks and leather shoes under their robes, as if they took off five minutes from work to film.

A really, really lost Jawa.

My personal favorite: Boromir the Viking, in a MINISKIRT!

"But I NEED the Ring to complete my look!"

Finally, we get treated to several light shows from the wizards and elves, including one that was apparently created by a disco ball. The wizards and elves also enjoy shooting lame sparks of colorful lightning from their hands for no reason.   

Drugs had to be involved somehow.

Vitamin Fun: 80%

Plenty of WTF to keep snarkers occupied! Good thing, too, since this movie goes on for almost 2 ½ hours.

Sugar: 0%

Plot Fiber: 20%

Bakshi tried to do the impossible—cram in material from two long, dense books (Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers). As a result, this version has a very choppy, episodic feel, especially during the last half. Character development is nonexistent. If you’ve never read the books or watched the Peter Jackson movies, you’re likely to have trouble figuring out why certain things happen or characters behave the way they do. 

I only know the story from the Peter Jackson movies--I never got beyond Fellowship of the Ring in the book series. For extensive details on the adaptation problems and the soundtrack issues, check out this review.

A Ringwraith in one of the more LSD-inspired scenes.

November 7, 2010

Omen Series Recap

Hello readers! 

The reviews will be back to normal next weekend. My work blew up this weekend (yes, I have a job--I don't just sit around watching B-movies 24/7, though I sometimes wish I could), and the Syfy movie I was thinking of reviewing turned out to be a little too competent to qualify for the blog. 

On the bright side, Syfy is having a Shark Movie Day today, including Sharktopus! If you have some time this afternoon, check it out!

Without further ado, here's a recap of the gloriously stinky Omen series...

5. The Omen (1976)
4. The Omen (2006)
3. The Omen III: The Final Conflict
2. Damien: Omen II

And the winner is...

The clowns and New Age put this one on top.


4-5. Sam Neill/Asia Vieira (tie)
3. Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick
2. Harvey Stephens

And the winner is....

Jonathan Scott-Taylor, AKA "Desolate One, Jr."


The Omen (1976): Beheaded by glass plate truck
Damien: Omen II: Sliced in half by Elevator of Doom
Omen III: The Final Conflict: The super-elaborate gun suicide setup, dreamed up by a Rottweiler
Omen IV: The Awakening: Beaned by Hell's Wrecking Ball
The Omen (2006): Death by excessive symbolism

The stupidest of all: Elevator of Doom


The Omen (1976): Rottweilers
Damien: Omen II: Raven
Omen III: The Final Conflict: Nothing in particular
Omen IV: The Awakening: Upside-down crosses
The Omen (2006): The color red

The most overused of all: Omen IV, for the upside-down crosses

"Thank you for tuning into the Omen series on Vitamin B-Movies!"