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

 
HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY!
 

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!

March 6, 2011

Leprechaun 2

 
St. Paddy’s is coming up, and what better way to celebrate than with the Leprechaun series?

You may notice that I’ve skipped the original movie and gone straight to #2. The captioning got messed up on my Leprechaun copy, so my tribute to Jennifer Aniston’s original nose will have to wait. But the rest of the movies offer plenty to rip apart.


Plot Summary

Leprechaun (Warwick Davis) hasn’t had any in 1,000 years. (Really? There aren’t any fairy hookers in Ireland?) So when he hits his 1,000th birthday, he’s looking forward to claiming a lovely lass as his bride. The lass’ father, William O’Day, foils Leprechaun, and Leprechaun curses the family. On his 2,000th birthday, Leprechaun will claim O’Day’s descendant as his bride.

Fast forward to present-day LA, where the lovely Bridget (Shevonne Durkin) resides. Leprechaun drools over her assets and snatches her. Can Bridget’s would-be boyfriend, Cody (Charlie Heath), and his uncle (Sandy Baron) save her from the randy green critter?

Nutrition Facts

Vitamin B-Acting: 90%

This is not a series known for restrained acting.

It’s a tough call whether Sandy Baron, as drunky Uncle Morty, or Warwick Davis serves up more ham. The best scenes occur when the two of them are in the same room and feed off each other’s hamminess. 

Morty gains the advantage over Leprechaun in an argument about Irish vs. American whiskey.

Charlie Heath and Shevonne Durkin make a game attempt at ham, but they never had a chance against Baron and Davis.

One warning: if you hate grating voices, Leprechaun will drive you bonkers. (That settles it—I’m keeping Guinness close at hand while watching the other movies.)

Vitamin B-SFX: 30%

Nothing particularly cheesy, pretty standard SFX.

There is some gore—such as pulling out a gold tooth and biting someone’s finger off—but the goriest scene occurs largely off camera. Guys, be careful nuzzling into a woman’s chest. You never know when those lovely boobs might be disguised as a pair of spinning blades.

(I confess I’m a bit biased rating this installment’s special effects—I’m all too aware of what’s coming in Leprechaun 4…)

Vitamin Fun: 70%

Sandy Baron and the randy leprechaun plotline go a long way to making this movie bearable for those with a sense of humor.

I also enjoyed the “Darkside Tours” bit (Darkside is a schlocky tour of LA “death houses” run by Morty). The writers clearly enjoyed poking fun at LA’s tourist traps. Darkside Tours reminded me very much of Chicago’s “Untouchable Tours,” which consists of a black school bus taking tourists to the locations of notorious mobster hangouts and horrific crimes. Naturally, most of these places were destroyed long ago, so the tour guides have to resort to the same hokey showmanship that Cody and Morty display in the movie.

Sugar: 0%

Somehow, I really can’t pity Leprechaun for his inability to get laid. 

I feel your pain, Bridget...

Plot Fiber: 20%

My recollection of this series is that the writers change the leprechaun mythology at will to best accommodate whatever plot twists they desire. In the first movie, the plot made a big deal out of four-leaf clovers, which have the same effects on leprechauns as kryptonite did on Superman. In Leprechaun 2, four-leaf clovers are forgotten in favor of wrought iron, presumably because wrought iron offers more fun possibilities for killer weapons than wimpy four-leaf clovers.

For someone who is supposed to be so wily, the Leprechaun is a huge idiot. At the movie’s beginning, he right out tells William O’Day how to save his daughter from being claimed as Leprechaun’s bride. The ring Leprechaun binds around Bridget’s neck is impenetrable…until she picks one freaking rod out of the ring, which makes the whole thing fall apart. Sloppy, Leprechaun, very sloppy. Tsk tsk. 

Though he does have a cool kart.

And seriously, are there no fairy hookers in Ireland?

February 13, 2011

The Order

 
What happens when the cast and crew of A Knight’s Tale dump their sense of fun, and attempt to make a meaningful horror flick concerning religion? Without the assistance of a Queen soundtrack?

God help those who view the final product.

Plot Summary

What the DVD Cover Promises: “For centuries, a secret Order of priests has existed within the Church. A renegade priest, Father Alex Bernier (Heath Ledger), is sent to Rome to investigate the mysterious death of one of the Order’s most revered members. Following a series of strangely similar killings, Bernier launches an investigation that forces him to confront unimaginable evil and the terrifying knowledge that there is a fate worse than death.”

The Reality:
“For centuries, a secret Order of priests has existed within the Church, but that doesn’t matter. The brooding Father Bernier goes to Rome after the obviously evil Cardinal Driscoll (Peter Weller—hereafter referred to as “Cardinal Robocop” in this review) asks Alex to investigate his mentor’s death. Some awful thing is about to happen in the Catholic Church, but the only thing that truly matters is whether Alex should sleep with his girlfriend, Mara (Shannyn Sossamon). A mysterious figure called the Sin Eater (Benno Furmann) finally convinces Alex to f*** Mara. Cardinal Robocop does not pull out any cool weaponry and dies a lame death. The promised battle with the evil, corrupt Catholic Church never materializes. In the end, viewers learn that Sin Eating actually looks like a pretty neat profession, despite the script’s paltry attempts to convince them that it’s a ‘fate worse than death.’”

(Well, I THINK that’s what the movie meant by ‘fate worse than death.’ It wasn’t entirely clear.)

Nutrition Facts

Vitamin B-Acting: 40%


Acting is the least of this movie’s problems—the script bears 90% of the responsibility for this movie’s B-ness. That said, the movie features three of the principals from A Knight’s Tale—Ledger, Sossamon, and Mark Addy. All three essentially play the same characters they did in A Knight’s Tale, except on depressants.

Reminiscing about Merry Olde England

Ledger is the hero trying to find his place in the world, Sossamon plays the hot romantic interest, and Addy plays the practical-minded sidekick. Onscreen, they look as if director Brian Helgeland told them, “This is a DEAD SERIOUS flick. This is MEANINGFUL shit we’re dealing with, man.” I would have laughed silly at the actors’ seriousness if I hadn’t been so bored with the “Should I sleep with my GF or not?” subplot.

Vitamin B-SFX: 20%


The special effects are decent in this movie. Fascinating, I never knew that sins took the form of evil jellyfish...

Vitamin Fun: 30%


At least 45 minutes of the movie went to the “Will they **** or not” subplot, thus squeezing out anything that might have been truly exciting, such as a midair shoot-out with Cardinal Robocop inside St. Peter’s.

"I told Helgeland we needed guns, but does he listen? No."

This is the sort of broody, unscary “horror” movie that TV stations show at 4 am when they need to fill up their schedules.

Sugar: 10%

I sure didn’t care about Alex’s spiritual struggle with his girlfriend, or his path to becoming a Sin Eater.

Plot Fiber: 20%


The script insists that a lot of things matter, but they don’t really. For instance, in the beginning we’re set up to expect a big battle with the Catholic Church. However, Alex’s struggles are largely personal, and don’t affect the Church. Even Cardinal Robocop’s fate seems to have no effect on the Church. The Sin Eater’s very presence is supposed to be terrible for the Church, but once again, it does not matter.

Speaking of the Sin Eater, I mentioned earlier the script’s assertion that to be a Sin Eater is worse than death. Let me explain why this is not so, according to what I saw in the film:

1) Sin Eaters are filthy rich and can do anything they want.

2) Sin Eaters are not immortal, but do not age and can quit when they want to.

3) Absorbing the sins doesn’t really do anything to the Sin Eater.


When performing the ceremony, the sin jellyfish enters the Sin Eater and gets absorbed into the S.E.’s body.

No comment...

Benno Furmann tells the audience that this process entails taking on all the awful burdens of the sin(s), but so far as I can see, absorbing a sin jellyfish gives you fantastic skin and turns you into a sharp dresser. If I could figure out how to bottle sin jellyfish, I’d become a millionaire overnight. (Hey, maybe that explains the Sin Eater’s wealth…)

"Those jellyfish are better than Botox. 500 years old and not a single line." 
Supplements

Pseudoscience Pill: N/A

Political Pill: N/A


Yes, the movie does bash the Catholic Church. But it does so in such a generic, limp fashion that I’d feel ridiculous for attaching any true political significance to this idiotic movie.

January 30, 2011

Mega Python vs. Gatoroid


Well, if your goal in life was to watch two ex-idols duke it out in skimpy, wet dresses, this is the flick for you.

For the rest of us who don’t care so much about the Tiffany/Debbie schtick, there are fabulously fake giant gators and pythons, and a plot full of WTFery.

Plot Summary

Nikki Riley (Debbie Gibson), who is supposedly a herpetologist, “rescues” snakes from illegal breeders and releases them into the Everglades. The pythons grow to B-movie-monster size and start eating all the gators. Ranger Terry O’Hara (Tiffany) pumps dead chickens full of steroids and feeds them to the gators, so they will also grow to certified B-movie-monster size and eat the pythons. Then it’s pythons vs. gators vs. humans! Oh, and Nikki and Terry catfight a lot. 


Nutrition Facts

Vitamin B-Acting: 90%


Tiffany and Debbie don’t hold back in their manufactured onscreen rivalry. Their sneers, pouts and snarls convey a sensitivity to the nuances of human emotion that is impossible for anybody other than Syfy Original Movie veterans to replicate. Bravo, Tiffany and Debbie! 


An accurate portrayal of rangers' uniforms
 

A. Martinez, in the role of Native American herpetologist Diego Ortiz, does a perfect imitation of a stone statue throughout the movie. His calmness stuns the viewer, particularly while he watches his fellow human beings disappear down the maws of giant snakes.

I’d also like to give a shout-out to Kathryn Joosten, who played Angie the tough old lady ranger. I was quite sorry to see Angie die—but clearly she had to be punished for revealing any vestige of common sense.

Former Monkee Mickey Dolenz also makes a cameo in the flick. I must say, I could really get into watching B-movie monsters taking a bite out of these ex-idols.

Vitamin B-SFX: 90%

The gators, in particular, look faker and faker as the movie goes on. By the movie’s end, they were hardly recognizable as gators in certain scenes. I think these gators may well take the prize as the worst gator SFX in a Syfy Original Movie. That’s saying a lot, considering there are at least a dozen other gator-related Syfy Original Movies…

Hey, the pythons look fake too—don’t get me wrong. But these pythons are better done than the gators, and the pythons in this movie are on par with the SFX snakes from other Syfy Original Movies.

Darn, I really have spent too much of my life watching Syfy Original Movies.

Anyway, there’s a fun bit in the movie when the beasties invade Miami (looks more like a Hollywood backlot to me). A snake attacks a blimp with the Asylum logo on it—Asylum, of course, is the studio that made the movie. 



I also enjoyed the moment when a commuter train goes right into a snake’s gullet. After riding the Washington DC Metro regularly for two years, I wouldn’t be so surprised if that started happening on the Red Line.

Vitamin Fun: 80%


I’d say the second half is the most enjoyable, because that’s when Nikki and Terry really go at each other’s throats, and the SFX degrades steadily. But the plot WTFery (the details will come soon) remains consistent throughout the film.

Sugar: 0%


You know it’s a true, 100% certified Syfy Original Movie when even the death scenes of important characters have no emotional impact whatsoever. (No, I’m not saying who dies.) 


NOO! Not the DOG!
Plot Fiber: 0%

First, no herpetologist in his/her right mind would ever think that releasing more pythons into the Florida wilderness was “right” or “natural,” as Nikki loudly insists during the entire movie. I have nothing against snakes—after all, I actually agreed to let my college roommate keep a pet snake in our dorm room. Florida has such a serious problem with snakes in the Everglades, though, that it really does flout reason to have a herpetologist actively releasing more snakes into the wild. (I also watch too much “Animal Cops: Miami.”) The python-gator problem is real—for more background, take a look here. (Warning—not for the squeamish)

It also makes zero sense that an Everglades ranger would automatically think that fighting giant snakes with giant gators was the way to go. Of course, this movie’s entire raison d’etre is for Tiffany and Debbie to constantly fight onscreen, and logic is not conducive to a good fight. 


Supplements

Since the movie focuses so much on the faux Tiffany-Debbie rivalry, the pseudoscience and political pills don’t have any real effect on the plot. This movie regurgitates the pseudoscience of Mega Piranha, when pseudoscience does appear at all.

January 23, 2011

Coming Next...

Hello folks,

I'd planned to put up a review today, but I am under the weather (been watching too much Bird Flu Horror lately, I guess). The review will go up in a few days when I'm well enough to edit out the illness-induced gibberish.


But exciting news...the newest Syfy Original schlockfest, Mega Python vs. Gatoroid, is coming this Saturday! And I will watch and review it, of course! So mark it on your calendars--January 29, at 9 pm EST!

January 9, 2011

The Cat from Outer Space


(Or, Le Chat Qui Vient de L'Espace)
 

Yet another Christmas gift from my loving relatives—thanks, Mom! The Cat from Outer Space was one of my favorite movies when I was a wee sprite. It is a strange experience to watch an old favorite from childhood as an adult—usually I end up wondering how I managed to escape therapy. The Disney live-action “classics” were always corny, but Cat from Outer Space stands out for its sheer stupidity. It also promotes gambling as a cure-all for financial problems.
 

Plot Summary

Zunar J5, later renamed Jake, has to make an emergency landing on Earth. Jake possesses a collar that allows him to communicate with humans, and move things with the power of his mind. Jake then enlists the help of Frank, a physicist, and his friends to get enough gold to power his ship. Meanwhile, an enigmatic criminal named Mr. Olympus wants to get his hands on Jake’s collar, so he can use its powers to become filthy rich. Meanwhile, the military is trying to find Jake, and they act like complete idiots.

 

Nutrition Facts

Vitamin B-Acting: 80%


M*A*S*H fans will immediately recognize Harry Morgan and McLean Stevenson. Morgan plays General Stilton, who hates Russkies, Italians and intellectuals. Did you know that “IQs”—people like physicists, engineers and biologists—spend all their time on tennis courts? Neither did I, until Stilton enlightened me (“Get them IQs off their tennis courts!!!”).  

Stevenson plays Dr. Link, a scientist with a massive gambling addiction. At least 30-40 minutes of this 104-minute film is devoted to gambling: football, basketball, horse racing, and billiards. We also learn that using a magical feline to change the outcome of games to win bets is perfectly fine. Nothing but wholesome life lessons from Disney, yes sir! 
 
Never hide the fact that you're cheating--take pride in it!
Another familiar face is Roddy McDowall, who plays a spy for the mysterious Mr. Olympus. Mr. Olympus is best described as a Brigham Young lookalike in a black leather jacket. Mr. Olympus actually has a cave lair, and travels in a sleek black limousine with a vase of bright red tulips inside. Dr. Link gives us the only clue to Mr. Olympus’ identity: he’s a “power-crazed creep.” Frankly, all that’s missing is Mr. Bigglesworth.
 

In the final analysis, Jake the cat easily gives the best performance in this entire film—sleek, understated and elegant.

Vitamin B-SFX: 75%

 

Typical example of radioactive green
We are talking 1978 here, so the special effects are very dated by today’s standards. The colors of choice for any glowing effects are radioactive green, and a cross between Pepto-Bismol pink and fuchsia (“puchsia”?). The effects really don’t matter much—the cartoonish acting and forced script steal all of the limelight. 
 
Vitamin Fun: 60%


Juste ciel!

 

Well, you can stand this movie if:
 

A) You watch it with English captions and French subtitles on at the same time, as I did. The French adds a touch of class that the movie otherwise lacks.
 

B) You assume that Jake is thinking the following: “Note to self: Enslave all humans as revenge for being forced to wear this incredibly gauche collar.”

"Oh, and annihilate all dogs, too."
Sugar: 5%

This being a Disney flick, we have to sit through the inevitable romance between Jake’s helper, Frank, and the fashion-challenged token female scientist, Liz. (The ‘70s truly were a terrible fashion era.) Romance also ensues between Liz’s cat Lucybelle and Jake.


Plot Fiber: 0%


This 0% rating should be self-explanatory by now.

 

Supplements 
 

Pseudoscience Pill: 50%

Likelihood of choking: 100%

“You know where it’s really at, Jake? Electromagnetism.”


I had to laugh at that line—it sounds so much like the famous plastics line from The Graduate. But that line does sum up the “science” in the film pretty well. Frank and the other scientists read through a list of scientific terms in the first 20 minutes (“gamma rays, radio waves, electromagnetic spectrum, Van Allen belt…”), and then move on to gambling for the next 40 minutes.


At one point Frank mentions the “primal mainstream,” where apparently all the rays on the electromagnetic spectrum mingle happily, on different frequencies.


The primal mainstream will make you FLY...in more ways than one.
My first thought on seeing “primal mainstream” was “HIPPIE ALERT!” Jake’s collar taps into the “primal mainstream,” thus allowing Jake to talk to humans, fly around and do anything he wants.

Yeah right.


Political Pill: 40%


Likelihood of choking: 100%
The Cold War and Mafia references made by General Stilton are particularly charming nowadays, but the best moment of all comes at the end of the film.


We find out that Jake has applied for American citizenship. The judge has Jake recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and during the Pledge, Jake makes the judge float. Is this some grand message about patriotism being pushed by Disney? Or is Jake merely betraying his secret plot to take over the world?

January 3, 2011

Golden Trailer Hitchies

Well, it looks like Vitamin B-Movies has been nominated for a Golden Trailer Hitchie award! (Check out all the other cool nominees!) Thanks, Lost Highway! 

But what I really want to know is: do any of the prizes consist of a leg lamp like the one from "A Christmas Story"? A girl can dream, right? 

In other news, I've been slacking off on the posts due to having to rein in my vicious 50-Foot Santa. (I knocked him senseless with stale Xmas cookies.) The good news is that I will have another post up soon--this time on an old childhood favorite. Even Disney is not safe from Vitamin B-Movie! HA HA HAAA

Tune in this weekend to discover which movie is getting the Nutrition Facts treatment!