Tuesday, August 14, 2018

I Don't Like Hanging Out With Nerds

...or, "How Time Corrupted the Nerds."

I remember being a kid in the late 90s and early '00s and getting picked on for being something of a nerd. It was already starting to turn over, though, with the culture becoming more and more mainstream the older I got. It wasn't like I got beat up for liking Batman. I got made fun of here and there and sometimes, occasionally, it was because I had some sort of nerdy stuff around, but more often than not it was just because kids are fucking rude and they would grasp for any straw. So maybe I'm not the be all, end all of experience here, but I'm doing this anyway just because I'd love to say that being a nerd doesn't seem like all that proud of a thing now.

Honestly, I don't even like hanging out with nerds anymore. I think too often, that turns into a pissing contest of purity. You say you like a thing and then some idiot has to chime in with “YEAH BUT DID YOU SEE THIS OTHER THING? IF NOT THEN I JUST DON'T SEE HOW YOU'RE A REAL FAN!” And it's like, Jesus, turn it down, buddy. It's just a movie. Not like we're at the Conference of Nations here. If I like a thing, that just means I like it. Not looking to join the fucking debate team here.

And in recent years, with the ballooning of Marvel, Star Wars and Disney into a grotesque blob devouring everything in sight, it's hard to be sympathetic to this kind of aggro fan posturing. It's cool to like the stuff, I've enjoyed some of it, but at some point you're also basically getting pumped up and angry defending the 1% of entertainment. You're basically like “don't be so mean to this untouchable billionaire behemoth!” This especially applies to Star Wars. Jesus, the bitching I've heard and read about these new movies, you'd think they had paid for these people's housing and food needs for years.

That isn't even the worst of it. You hear worse things from women who try to enter the nerd kingdom's gates. Awful tales of sexism. And I'm glad I don't have to suffer the annoyances of any minority trying to wade into the public discourse. Just look at any time Marvel or DC tries to introduce a new incarnation of a character who's black or a woman or gay. Online, things have gotten perilously toxic at times, such as the 'Gamergate' fiasco that really showed how awful and toxic these people were, sending death threats, screaming misogynist garbage.

Nerds got to the top and then proceeded to act like the exact people they hated, discriminating and pushing people around. One thing nerds love is a quote from a nerdy movie used in some other context. So for me this whole thing is like when Harvey Dent said, “You either die, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” The whole predicament is basically the story of so many “I'll show them” nerd fantasies. We all had 'em, the whole idea of “they're making fun of me now but I'll get rich and punish them someday,” but it's become a reality for some people. There's a NYT editorial that goes into this with more finesse than I could, about people like Elon Musk. There's a dark side to every kind of person, and any ideal is somewhat corruptible, unfortunately.

I get how it happens. Nerd-dom is basically just liking something in a real, intense way. You don't just watch or read or play the thing passively, but actively consume, sucking up every morsel of information like Kirby from Smash Brothers (see, another reference). A lot of the time, that kind of devotion comes with a loneliness or something missing in real life, and a lot of young teenagers have that because life is tough to put together when you have almost no autonomy. But most of us grow out of that and become productive and well-rounded adults, to some extent anyway.

But some people don't grow out of it, and that portion seemed to grow more vocal as the internet got bigger. They turned their loneliness and social ineptitude into a weapon. Who knew how they'd gotten there? They just never seemed to click with real life. Never fit in. I guess we used to laugh at people like this for being fat Star Trek cosplayers who lived in their mom's basement. Now, I guess they're the same people, except they're angrier through a lot of time spent behind a screen reading conspiracy theories and getting angry at 'PC culture' for leaving them stranded in the dust. But the world has never been totally fair and at some level, if you're born into a first-world country to a family with money to afford the internet for you to read those conspiracy theories, you have to take some responsibility.

So I barely ever even refer to myself as a nerd. I enjoy a lot of 'nerd media' and don't care if people know it, but I stop short at calling myself one. I don't like the context anymore. I think it's given birth to some toxic shit.

And honestly, with the proliferation and mainstreaming of nerd culture, what do bullies even make fun of kids in school for anymore? Is it back to race, socioeconomic class, the simpler stuff of days of yore? I dunno.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Fantastic Four (2015)

The creation of new Fantastic Four films is like some sort of mind-bending thriller plot where they do the same thing over and over again in some bizarre torture-loop. Like, when they become aware of the awful hell they've been subjected to, a switch is flipped and then it's like 'go back to the start, make another origin story, show again how they got their powers. You won't remember any of this when it's over.' Then the screams are drowned out by forcefully canned, "triumphant" opening credits music and the sound of Reed Richards trying to coerce his friends into space again.

This one is the worst one. And probably one of the worst superhero movies ever made at that. Josh Trank, who made the excellent Chronicle, directed this, which is a shame as he deserved more than the studio meddling he got here.

Director: Josh Trank
Starring: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan

Co-written with Tony.

I mean, hell, it's barely even a superhero flick to begin with. Calling it a movie is even a bit of a stretch. You start off with like, 20 minutes of Reed Richards as a kid. Apparently he's a creepy little fuck in this who spends all his time making a doorway to another dimension. I love how even the teacher in his class is sarcastic at him and doesn't even support him a little bit. Dude, you're teaching 5th graders, quit acting like you're Simon fucking Cowell, you weirdo.

But to be fair, Reed is the kind of kid who waits in a car at night like a horror movie villain outside the junkyard, where his classmate Ben lives. Ben, being a total idiot, apparently considers this to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. They begin that night using parts from the junkyard to make Reed's science thingy.

Oh and Ben, by the way, is apparently just bullied by his big brother, who says “It's clobberin' time” to him as he's hitting him. That's where that catchphrase came from, kids!

Reed and Ben then go back to Reed's garage and put the finishing touches on the whole dimensional gateway machine that every kid had in their garage back in the 90s – oh the nostalgia. I love that there's really no explanation of why he wanted to make this or, really, what it even does. He could be trying to become the new Adolph Hitler for all Ben knows. Maybe the door to dimensions opens up the door to the DC Film Universe, which would at least explain why this sucks so bad.

Oh, and they shut off power in the entire neighborhood. You would think this would be enough for people to ask questions as to what he was doing. Or for his parents to keep a closer eye on him from then on to make sure he doesn't burn down the house or isn't torturing anybody in their garage. This could almost be an interesting plot point or character moment... WHICH IS WHY WE THEN SKIP SEVEN YEARS AHEAD!

Yup. Seven year skip just out of nowhere. Reed is now closer to college and still making the same dumb dimension door thing, and Ben is still helping, because why would anything change in your life in the most formative years of said life? Everything always remains the same during that time of your life.

Incidentally, a dimensional door, huh? I guess this is how Stranger Things happened... either that, or it's just bland chopped-up sci fi cliché stew, delivered lukewarm, and with a few mysterious hairs in it that make you question whether you're hungry at all.

There's a scene where Victor Von Doom, who is portrayed here as a greasy neckbeard weirdo with a fascination with Sue Storm, and the other dudes all decide to go into the door and fuck around in the other dimension. It goes horribly and they blow everything up. All hail white dude mediocrity, right? I love that they don't even bring Sue with them, but she gets hit by radiation anyway even just sitting back in the regular world. I'd be so pissed. I'd be like 'goddammit, motherfuckers.'

Most of the rest of this sinks into an insufferable muck of boring crap. It's trying to be all dark and “mature,” in the way that only a kid listening to Nine Inch Nails and death metal while mad at their mom at age 15 can be. I guess director Josh Trank had this whole vision that was ruined due to re-shoots, since honestly, all art is always improved by constant last minute tinkering by guys who wear sandals with socks. YOU KNOW BEST, CORPORATIONS!

But it really just comes off as silly. They have a bunch of scenes with them strapped to tables in dark, creepy lab rooms with scientist guys in dark glasses not answering their question. It's like if Stephen King wrote a Firestarter spec script while drunk off his ass. How do you like these scenes for your kids, parents? Don't you love that the happy-go-lucky Fantastic Four have been turned into this vague, dark pile of bullshit? Wasn't THIS how you always pictured these iconic heroes?!

Then they just skip ahead a year again without really exploring the characters or the world. This whole movie is like they just filmed the Wikipedia summary of a plot. There's really just zero character development. They don't bother to explore even the littlest parts of who these people are or why we should care. I know that's like expecting a McDonalds to carry high-class cuisine at this point, but eh fuck it, I'm already critiquing everything else anyway.

They find Victor Von Doom in the other dimension, who got lost there before. He's now turned into some kind of weird fantasy monster, like a shitty D&D creature made by the kid your mom forced you to play with because he didn't have anyone else. He comes back and tries to, I dunno, destroy the world or something? He says some vague things about 'sucking the world into his own dimension and making a new dimension.' This is all a bunch of gobbledegook and the kind of thing a 10 year old would find too lame to even play with his action figures.

They beat him, I guess, and they're really only acting as a whole team for like, what, 10 minutes of the super goofy, lame CGI-fest climax? Otherwise, this isn't a Fantastic Four movie. It's a 'random dark action movie where people have strange, silly powers for no reason.' Hooray for that? Meh.

This movie sucks and anyone who likes it, I strongly think is a foreign agent against their own government. Be suspicious of them.

Pictures copyright of their original owners, we don't own them.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

47 Meters Down (2017)

47 Meters Down is yet another 'shark horror movie,' and I should be annoyed with them by now. But honestly, there's something strangely endearing about the optimism here, of people thinking they can still do better than Jaws after all these years without massively changing up the formula.

To be fair, this does offer a different take on a shark movie. In this one, they're trapped underwater in a shark cage and are running out of oxygen surrounded by bloodthirsty, serial-killer-ish sharks, each ready to devour them whole. But strangely, they barely even do too much with THAT concept. It's a weird waste of potential. "Here's an original idea," I can imagine these writers saying, "now, just fart out a script. I am gonna take a nap."

Director: Johannes Roberts
Starring: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt

Co-written with Michelle.

This starts off with our main characters Kate and Lisa, on vacation at a ritzy, gorgeous looking beach in Mexico. There are several pointless but nice-looking scenes that end very quickly, looking less like a horror movie and more like a travel agency's commercial. Or a hotel's commercial. Whatever it is, you know looking like a commercial is very much against what most horror movies should be about. Hint, guys – they're supposed to make you want to stay AWAY from places.

I guess we find out that Lisa's long-term boyfriend Stuart has just dumped her and that's at least partly why they're vacationing. They talk about how he got bored and left... I guess he had the attention span of a tiny baby. Did you try waving car keys in front of his face? Also, it's weird that they have all these short, pointless scenes and are just now dumping this on us. What prevented them from just opening with it? Maybe the contract for the cinematographer included 'must film footage that looks identical to a travel commercial in case this horror movie thing doesn't work out.'

Then they meet some guys late at night at a bar, partying and stuff, and the guys invite them to go shark diving the next day. As far as the movie shows, they barely exchange two words before agreeing to this. Later on, we see that Kate, the younger sister, is super adventurous and has a penchant for doing crazy stuff. I guess in this movie, that means she just agrees to whatever the weird guys in the bar invite her to do. Good thing she didn't talk to the OTHER guy at that bar who wanted her to play Russian Roulette. Or the third guy who was just a fucking rapist.

The next day they all go do exactly that, shark diving. There are a few scenes where the crew on the boat seems slightly suspicious and weird, like maybe they'll do something creepy and horror movie-ish. Nope. It's just a normal shark diving trip, with all the lack of regulations or rules that an off-the-beaten-path beach in Mexico promises... this movie just has such a lack of any imagination. It's barely even trying to tell a story. We were just waiting for something super creepy to happen, like right before the girls went under, one of the guys leans over and whispers that they've been stalking the girls for weeks. But nope. I guess that was too much to ask. Or, really, anything remotely interesting.

I'll throw the movie a bone here: it's pretty cool when they actually get underwater. It's a dark, isolated and gloomy setting. There isn't much else quite like it for horror. Most movies would wimp out and set a lot of it above the water, but this one, to what little credit I can give it, creates a definite mood by setting the entirety of the movie way deep down underwater.

Too bad they barely make use of it! There's very little in the way of scares. Most of this is just them talking in frantic tones about how to escape. There's a few scenes of very mild suspense that might make a nursing home grandma who's never seen a horror movie jump. Otherwise it's all a big old flatline. Like oh, really, they want to get out of the ocean? Tell us more, Shakespeare. Regale us with these mindblowing concepts.

They don't utilize the setting very well and there's maybe one scene where they go off and explore the darker parts of the ocean in any way. The sharks are bad at being serial killers and don't sneak up on them well or provide much tension either. Maybe they should've looked this up on WikiHow. Overall this is a limp tension-free slog much like the feeling of a deflated balloon.

They start running out of oxygen, though much later than I had thought. They get in touch with the douchebag who got them down there to begin with, who sends down some new tanks. The problem is, because they've been down there so long, they might start to hallucinate. Now, this was the point where I thought things might finally get cool and interesting. Here was an opportunity for the movie to truly show off its creativity and put in some badass, insane hallucinations under the fucking water...

Nope! That doesn't happen. Instead, Kate gets attacked by a shark and then Lisa manages to get free from the bars of the cage pinning her leg down and save Kate. Then the both of them ascend from the water on their own – which was really an option the whole time and I'm not sure why they didn't just try it even in spite of the danger...

...then it turns out all of THAT was all a hallucination and they WEREN'T saved! But don't worry, the national guard was coming down right at that time and saves them for really real.

Wow. That is some weak ass “horror.” You had the option to have fucking hallucinations under water and you did jack squat with it. This should have been a fucking freak circus like the climax of The Shining set underwater, with hallucinations used to their full effect and escalating until the characters lost their mind. I wanted to see the darkest recesses of their psychology. I wanted to see gore-streaked apparitions and creepy figures lurking in the shadows of the sea.

But nope. Nothing. There's no imagination here. This kind of stuff is the reason why nobody ever took horror seriously for years in the 2000s. All in all, I recommend just going diving in open water with sharks rather than watching this silly stuff. I'm gonna go watch Jaws again instead.

Image copyright of its original owners, we don't own it.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Hereditary (2018)

Hereditary got a lot of press early on as one of the scariest, most intense films in a long time, and it's actually all true. This debut film from director Ari Aster is seriously something else, a brutal, hypnotic concoction of terror and grief.

Director: Ari Aster
Starring: Toni Collette, Alex Wolff

This isn't the spoiler part of this review, so I'll just say the way Aster put these scenes together, attaching such weight to every glimpse into the macabre, every bizarre gross-out scene, makes this a very different experience from others of its kind. The things he chooses to linger on are horrific and impactful, and the scares that come out of nowhere truly feel surprising. Even when it's doing things you expect from a horror movie, they just feel fresh and new again, done with this caliber of directing. There are some horrifying images here, some scenes that just hit you where you live. But I couldn't look away.

This was billed as a horror movie that's also a family drama, and there's a fair bit of that. The acting is very good. Toni Collette delivers an incredible performance, throwing everything she has into it, and Alex Wolff as the son, Peter, is just great. Even the father character, played by Gabriel Byrne, manages to be engaging despite being given comparably less to work with. There aren't very many other characters in this, as in many horror movies, and so it's hyper-focused on this family as they deal with the grief of losing first their grandmother and then the little sister, Charlie, in a gruesome accident. You've seen stories about dysfunctional families before, with secret resentments coming out, and so on, and this movie does what you expect, with perhaps more bile and fury than usual for a horror film's dramatic parts.

The quality of the acting, and the way the movie just keeps throwing stuff at you, gives this the weight of the world. It's in the way the movie shows you the darkness and then just holds your head down in it. Most horror movies like this would usually have treated the darkness like a quick gimmick or a joke, just quickly flashing something scary and then cutting away, often playing with expectations by showing that the eerie jump scare was just, like, a cat moving too fast. But Hereditary dwells in darkness and stays there. It's in the magnitude of it.

In the end, the story becomes a more conventional horror tale despite the claims in early reviews that this was something truly different. But it does add a lot of texture and nuance to the film and makes it more of a relatable, human experience. Horror is best when you care about the characters, and the levels of grief here make the movie a more whole experience than just another empty jump-scare fest. When traumatic things happen to Peter, the cries of Alex Wolff, the fear on his face, make it real and make it stick with you. A lot of horror films can't achieve this so well.

A lot of this would play almost like a fan-fiction pandering to horror fans, if it wasn't so well done. There were so many years when we got nothing but dime-a-dozen flicks, and it's why I made this blog in the first place, to lampoon those terrible films. To get something like this just has every single good thing about the genre, turned up to 11, from eerie supernatural whispers in the beginning to outright screaming Satanic horror and hellfire at its climax, feels like a reward for sitting through all of that dreck. From its drama you also get a bunch of really good scares, just over-served to you for two goddamned hours. It's too much, it's excessive, but man is it glorious. I couldn't get enough.

Okay. So I think that's enough with the non-spoiler part. I actually wanted to talk about some other stuff. SPOILERS from here on out!

What eventually unfolds is a kind of Rosemary's Baby-esque conspiracy involving cult members and a demon king, who Peter is revealed to be at the end, the entire movie basically being the build-up to his initiation and change into this hellish entity from mythology. It's been done before, though not always with this level of ominous atmosphere. But it had the intended effect, and was executed with proper intrigue and coiling suspense and confusion.

I think it's important that we're getting new stories like Rosemary's Baby. That film was of undeniable quality. But in this new era of #MeToo, I think a lot of people are really being hit with the full force of how little we actually need pieces of shit like Roman Polanski in the popular lexicon. Enjoying works by people like him now feels guilty and odd, and even if that isn't the case for you, there are so many other, new quality artists out there you could be partaking in instead. Hereditary offers a well-done take on the Rosemary's Baby formula, with similar quality of suspense and drama, a family being torn apart by grief carrying the same kind of weight as Rosemary's motherly anguish over her unborn child.

Another one is Karyn Kusama's “Her Only Living Son,” a short film, and part of the XX anthology that came out last year. That one was even closer to Rosemary's Baby, with a story about a mother losing control of her son as he wants to live with his “father,” who ends up being Satan.

Both of these are seriously good entries into the horror genre, and they serve as ways to almost "repurpose" the good things about Rosemary's Baby. It is a primarily symbolic thing. It would've been interesting if they hadn't done it this way, and instead gone all the way with a non-supernatural kind of story, relying solely on the decay of a family as a way to bolster horror. But it went with a traditional story and did that better than anybody has in decades. I'm not sure if anyone would really try something so conceptual like a whole horror movie just being a family drama. I hope someone does, but I haven't seen that kind of thing yet as of right now.

But it's great that we're getting some new blood infused into horror, which for so long has been a kind of archaic old boys' club where the classics are lionized and everything newer is looked at with the “not as good” skepticism, even though for years now we've been getting plenty of amazing entries that are easily as good as many classics. Some people will always have that kind of "nothing can ever top the classics" mentality. But for everyone else, Hereditary is the most recent new film that absolutely fucking nails what it wants to do.

I walked out of the theater at 2:30 a.m. Saturday feeling like I'd just gone through a legit ordeal. I felt like there were dark, bizarre things in the world and like I had just come out of some parallel dimension. Those are whimsical and fantastical feelings, but if a piece of art isn't affecting you in some similar way, what really is the point?

Image copyright of its original owners, I don't own it.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Truth or Dare (2018)

Well, I can't even say they've reached the bottom of the barrel for horror movies yet with a stupid plot about the game Truth or Dare. Because the moment I say that, we'll get a totally serious movie based on Hungry Hungry Hippos or Pogs, and then that will be the new bar for the barrel's bottom. But what I can tell you is that this movie is seriously rotten from the inside out.

Director: Jeff Wadlow
Starring: Lucy Hale, Violett Beane

Co-written with Michelle.

Truth or Dare, if you haven't seen the absolutely bonkers trailers that have been out for months, is about a bunch of kids who go to Mexico and contract a deadly spiritual curse that forces them to play the game Truth or Dare forever until they all die. Personally I would've rather had an STD.

It starts out with a bunch of models for a fancy skin cream solution – oh, I'm sorry, did I say that? I meant our main characters. Seriously, they look like they just came out of a fucking factory line for a commercial, only to be stuffed back in the box after it's over. Was there something wrong with having them look like they had ever been out of a locked laboratory room, or do physical imperfections scare Blumhouse Pictures more than anything?

They're all going to Mexico for Spring Break, and the biggest hurdle they had was convincing their Habitat for Humanity-loving friend Olivia to go, as she wanted to go build houses and other boring, stupid shit. What a dork! So they cancelled her trip to do that and instead now force her to go to Mexico. I guess they promise to help her out later, but eh, I wouldn't trust these people further than I could throw them.

In Mexico, you get some dumb shots of them partying and stuff. You know, the best part of any horror movie; the meaningless shots of hot people having fun. Truly essential. Olivia meets this guy Carter, who entices her to get all her friends to follow him to a creepy abandoned church in the middle of the fucking night for vague reasons. Honestly, my biggest question is how this girl made it to college if she was dumb enough to do this, because literally no sane person would meet some dude sitting alone at a bar, get an invite to come to some desolate broken-down-ass church at 2 a.m., and then think 'sounds like a fun vacation!' Even the most low-standards, base-level people would start to shy away from you if you suggested leaving the fucking bar.

But nope, they play Truth or Dare sitting in this filthy fucking hovel, like a bunch of idiots with no imagination. It's about what you'd expect, some lap dances and make-out scenes and other nonsense. But then Carter surprises them by saying he wanted to lure them all there to trap them in the supernatural curse and FORCE them to play! What a weirdo. Gee, it sure is bizarre that this stuff happens when you follow creepy strangers in the middle of the night.

I guess the rule is that if they DON'T do their truth or dare, they die. So it's kind of like It Follows, except it's terrible. When possessed by the game, the characters' faces turn into demonic, cartoonish Joker-ish grins, which is never explained and has no function outside of looking kinda spooky if you're under 15. I guess that's a weak nitpick. But I dunno, it's weird and doesn't make sense and the movie sucks overall, anyway.

So then they all go home and everything seems to be getting back to normal. Only then, they start seeing creepy things like 'Truth or Dare' etched into desks, fliers and even Olivia's car! She finally chooses truth, and ends up blurting out in the library that Markie, her best friend, has been cheating on her boyfriend. Wow, what a great scare – bullshit teeny-bopper drama! That's scarier than anything.

So from here on out, you get a bunch of just plain goofy scenes. The most annoying guy in the group gets dared to take his dick out at a bar. When he doesn't, the game kills him by making him fall off a pool table and break his neck! An equivalent punishment, at last!

Another guy, a gay dude, picks 'truth' and is forced to come out to his strict conservative father. Apparently it goes pretty well and things are alright. Wow. What a nuanced and surprisingly level-headed plot choice for a movie like this. I sure hope it doesn't get ruined later.

A few more of them die – this one guy, who seemed to be doing an Anthony Jeselnik impression, lies to his grad school interview about selling pills, so he then has to stab his eye out I guess.

And the great bitter rivalry between former best friends Olivia and Markie continues – oh the humanity! Markie gets dared to break Olivia's hand, I suppose. She does it when Olivia makes a crack about her dad, who committed suicide recently. This plotline, by the way, is just dropped randomly in our laps, like a piece of dried up dog shit.

Eventually they try and figure out what's going on. I can't imagine why; they've all been having such fun playing! They track down this girl who was dared to light a woman on fire earlier in the movie. I guess she was now dared to murder Olivia. I love the variety in the dares. Some people are dared to show their dick, while others are dared to murder people! Totally makes sense!

If you can believe it, the last 30 minutes actually try to get serious on you and start foisting a bunch of ludicrously over-dramatic plots. Like remember that plot about the gay kid coming out to his father? Well, it turns out the game dares that kid to steal his father's police gun and make him beg on his knees! And then the other cop comes and shoots the kid, thinking the dad is in trouble! Wow. With the current climate of police in this country, I'm glad this movie is bringing a sensible take on the issue.

Then we find out that Olivia actually had seen Markie's father right before he killed himself! And he tried to have sex with her and probably actually raped her! And she then told him he'd be better off if he died!

Movie, you know, it's not good to pretend you're something else than what you are. You're trying to shoehorn in these ultra-serious tragic plots, when really you're the kind of movie people watch when drunk off their asses at 2 a.m. while eating Cheetos. You're background noise. You're really not a serious film.

The climax is an over-long, ridiculous sequence involving a Mexican curse that “summoned” the game in the form of a demon. They find this out by going to visit a stereotypical old Mexican ex-nun now living secluded in the desert, a stereotype so cliche and redundant it almost feels new again. But instead it's just kinda racist hack-work. Then they learn they have to cut out that guy Carter's tongue from the beginning of the movie to stop the demon. This is so ridiculous that even the characters openly admit they have no clue how it's going to work.

I guess they try to, but the game, being a little bitch, cheats and makes them accidentally kill Carter instead. Then Olivia and Markie are forced to keep playing, so they broadcast a Youtube and make the entire world play, thus enacting Armageddon basically. I always knew the end times would come as a result of hot coeds and Youtube videos.

Truth or Dare is a garbage fire of a movie, and I DARE all of you to buy the DVDs and burn them in a mass grave. Am I doing it right?

Image copyright of its original owners, we don't own it.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Fantastic Four (Unreleased, 1994)

With the impending release of Marvel's gargantuan Infinity War spectacle, it's kind of hard to believe there was a time when superhero movies weren't these million-dollar blockbuster productions with huge actors signed on for years at a time. But there was! And while the Tim Burton Batman and the 70s Superman were viable successes, they were outliers and didn't blow up into a huge trend like we have now. The Fantastic Four from 1994 is a film that was never even released and can be legally watched on YouTube just like you're searching for a Kendrick Lamar video or something. And it's, uh, really something.

Director: Oley Sassone
Starring: Alex Hyde-White, Rebecca Staub, Jay Underwood

Co-written with Nathan.

The history behind this thing is that, apparently, Executive Producer Bernd Eichenger wanted to retain the rights to the characters before they expired, so he had to have this at the 11th hour in 1994. So he teamed up with famous producer and director Roger Corman and they ended up putting this movie together, full of a bunch of actors you've never heard of.

It wasn't required that it would be released, just that it existed. And though some people like Stan Lee claimed it was never intended to be released, Eichenger and Corman denied that and claimed that it was. But if you believe the myth, essentially, this is an entire movie with a full cast and crew made just so some guy could make other Fantastic Four movies. Wow. If you ever needed a reason to feel worthless... there you go.

The thing is, it's not even too bad of a movie! Sure, the budget looks pretty low and the effects are goofy as fuck, but it wasn't like this was the top of the crop in terms of that for 1994. The acting isn't bad at all and the story is honestly pretty standard for these kinds of movies.

You get Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom, the latter of whom surely had the most punchable name in school and got beat up all the time, driving him to science. They try this wacky experiment as a comet is passing by, but I guess their numbers were off and Victor gets horribly burned and electrocuted. Whoops! I hope the kid from Species III still gets to do his stupid experiments and the science lab isn't a martyr to this cause now.

Years later, Reed recruits these two random people who lived near him, Sue and Johnny Storm, to go into space and try to do the experiment again. Because they would totally let him do this after his first experiment left one guy maimed. How did he even get to do this at all? What coke-addled executive let this yoohoo go into space again? And it just makes sense to take two random, un-trained people in space, because why would I want ASTRONAUTS going on my super cool science mission? Fuck expertise! Give me amateurs!

But it doesn't work, because a hideously deformed man wearing a monocle and a fedora, called The Jeweler, breaks in and steals their magic jewel thing from the spaceship, which was apparently the only thing keeping them from being fried and their genes rearranged. He replaces it with a replica of the same jewel, you know, just the kind of thing you carry around!

So then they get shot out of the sky and crash-land in a random field, somehow coming out mostly unscathed and with no major injuries. They did get superpowers though, which Reed is mostly nonplussed about. He's just like “yeah, whatever, guess we'll see what happens.” Never even an iota of concern even as the other three are all freaking out. I guess the thought of taking Sue to bed is his main concern.

They get taken in by a lab run by Dr. Doom, who sits on a throne surrounded by flaming pyres and speaks in constant community-college-Shakespearean tones. It's pretty goddamn silly. It's obviously Victor, who was presumed dead by Reed but apparently spent his time after being burned turning into a supervillain with his whole lab and trying to blow stuff up. But Reed didn't know. It's crazy to me that these guys were friends and then after the accident, he's just like nah, I'm not telling anyone where I am, WORLD DOMINATION TIME!

Meanwhile, the Jeweler guy plots to kidnap this blind girl, because I guess he's so delusional that he thinks the reason he can't get a date is because of his looks. How silly! It's because of his shitty personality. I can't even believe they're doing a 'kidnapped woman forced to be a bride' plot. What is this, the fucking 1960s? They do it later with Dr. Doom, too. It's like why not make the same dumb, cliché mistake twice in a row?

And it's so surreal every time this Jeweler character is on screen, because the music gets all campy-goth-style like a musical and he talks like an even worse Shakespeare imitator than Doom does. It's really like they took this character out of a whole different movie and put him in this.

Ben gets mad and ends up leaving, fearing he'll never fit in, as back in the 90s, giant orange rock men just weren't accepted by society. He just kind of wanders the city and it doesn't take long for him to run into the Jeweler's weird underground society of deformed-looking people, feeling that this is the only way I guess. My favorite part is that the others don't even try to find him. They're in the middle of making up a name for themselves, the Fantastic Four, and making costumes! But finding one of their actual team members that make up the 'Four'? Nah, fuck that! Who cares if we have to turn it into 'Fantastic Three' and spend money doing that?

Through some more convoluted events, they find The Thing and then end up fighting Dr. Doom. Doom fires a laser to destroy New York City, motivated no doubt by its obscene rent prices. Johnny does the whole Human Torch thing and the CGI here is actually gorgeous in how silly it is – it turns basically into an early computer game animation, and it looks amazingly silly. But it is a bit endearing. I bet they put as much work into this as people nowadays do on Marvel movies.

Okay. That might not be true. But I'm sure it's true compared to the writing in a DC movie.

That's Fantastic Four, ending with a shot of all of them coming out of a church after a wedding – they're all married now! Or maybe just Reed and Sue. Oh, and Ben and the blind girl he saved from Doom/Jeweler, too. Because I guess saving a girl means she is yours as a prize! People can be prizes! Isn't that great?

That's the movie though. It's silly, it's utterly ridiculous, the budget was clearly low... but it ain't bad. I've seen worse. I mean, most of this is pretty average so far as writing goes. It may be full of cliches and dated bullshit, but I'll take it over any non-Wonder Woman DCEU flick any day.

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Species III (2004)

It's been a few years since I did a Species review. After I did the last one, way back in 2015, my entire life changed and I didn't get around to doing the third one. But fortunately I still had this lying around! So that's great and it makes up for all the other things that have happened between then and now. I thought about saying this was just how long it took for me to work up the nerve to review another Species movie. But the truth is that this was destined to happen. It has to happen.

Director: Brad Turner
Starring: Robin Dunne, Robert Knepper, Sunny Mabrey

Co-written with Colin.

This one starts out with a truck ride with a dying Eve from the other movies. She has a baby before she dies, which the driver goes rogue and steals for unknown reasons, fleeing into the woods as the military pursues him. Apparently he's good at hiding, because they don't catch him.

Then, at an unspecified later time, a cocky college science lab geek is showing people around his fancy lab, talking about mumbo jumbo and science that nobody cares about. Something about a power plant? Who knows. He questions his professor, who is the same guy who ran away from that truck and I guess is now working at a college? I dunno. The professor, aggravated at the kid's science projects, tells him that “who are you to decide who lives and dies?” Which, you know, is just how professors are; constantly wanting to crush the spirits of their students, subjugating them to their will.

Then that kid, Dean, finds out his science projects have been cancelled by the college dean, who proclaims that he can “do whatever he wants” and acts about as insane and power-hungry as a third world dictator. Is every faculty member at this fucking college an egomaniac seeking validation for their shriveled soul?

Meanwhile, college professor/military truck driver, whose name is apparently Abbott, on the run is actually hiding the alien at his house, who is a little girl right now obsessed with Red Lobster. Literally, they show a Red Lobster commercial on TV and the professor dude, I guess, has to go spend his hard earned money on fucking lobster for this alien brat, as if he just has money falling out his GODDAMN EARS!

I guess Abbott is approached later by the other alien who'd been in the truck, who has now grown up to look like a bloated Comic Con attendee with a swollen head. The alien tells him he's a halfbreed and, as such, is dying. And that there are others like him out there. This prompts Abbott to want to save these aliens... for some goddamn reason. Weren't they killing people in the other movies? Oh well. Anything to distract from actual HUMAN causes he could more easily be helping, right?

Meanwhile the girl alien grows up into a gorgeous woman, physically perfect in every way of course. I guess she's like the last true full-breed alien, or some shit like that. Hmm. The only perfect specimen to this movie is white, blonde people. Where have I heard that before? Nah, probably nothing important.

If that troubling allusion isn't your cup of tea, how about the series' tried and true theme of the aliens being sex toys? I mean, the alien girl in this never grows up past her early 20s with a flawless body, even though the aliens are supposed to like, keep growing at a very fast rate. Eve, from the other movies, was always physically perfect and young, too. I'm SURE there's a reason for this that isn't sex appeal! I'm sure it's a deeply entrenched plot point.

The dean of the school shows up at Abbott's house, for some reason having access to get in, and finds the alien chick, naked of course. He abandons every other reason he came there when she seems to want to have sex with him. I guess it's not suspicious at all if some random woman answers the door at a house you're going to and tries to have sex. I'm sure that'll end up fine... actually she kills him, which is fine as he was an asinine character.

I love that Abbott's reaction is just to shrug and be like “he had it coming” to the dean's death. Oh really? Tell us more about who ELSE deserves to die, crazy professor man. How did you even get this job anyway? Weren't you on the run from the US government? I guess the college just doesn't have very high standards.

I guess somewhere else in the movie's rolls of corpulent fat, we get one of the other half-breed aliens trying to fuck everyone to stay alive. So we get scenes of this physically perfect brunette woman wearing very scant clothes going around to have sex with dirty losers at biker bars and such. This is totally a legit plot point. It's not at all a thinly veiled way for the writer to get out his own fantasies about what women should do to regular average Joes. NO. THIS IS A REAL PLOT THREAD DONE FOR STORY AND NOT SHAMELESS NUDITY. WHY WOULD ANYONE THINK OTHERWISE???

Like I'd love to get a window into some of these actress's stories. I bet she held a dream deep inside her heart for years to be an actor. Ever since she was a child, she'd wanted to be one. In school she was in all the productions, every play, working her way up to a starring role. A Midsummer Night's Dream, in middle school. Then in high school she was in A Streetcar Named Desire, playing the Stella role, and all her friends and family came out and it was the greatest night of her life. I bet she wanted to be an actor because it gave her the opportunity to explore the richness of life and the complex minds of other people and various characters. I bet she wanted to become famous and one day inspire OTHER little girls like she once had been, showing them that with hard work and determination, THEY TOO can do anything they want...

Anyway, then she landed her first “big role” and it was for this, and the director told her to take her clothes off and pretend to fuck some hairy guy in a gas station bathroom. Such is life I guess. Fucking tragic.

Oh, and somewhere in all this, Abbott dies – what a tragedy that this ridiculous character is gone. Eh, fuck it, sarcasm's a bit passe anyway.

The roommate of the main dude gets involved, because apparently he REALLY wanted to be a character too even this late in the film. He gets suckered in by this other alien chick, who ends up kidnapping him and making him do some science mumbo jumbo for her, I guess trying to further the species with more science – honestly, the science here matters almost none at all and it's pointless to explain it.

Fortunately, though, the heroes get there – well, it's just the main kid Dean and this random-ass detective who's done nothing all movie. The final battle scene is somewhere between a Star Wars and Terminator ripoff with the scenery. I guess it's OK since nobody associated with those franchises knew Species existed at this point...

Man these Species movies are just exhausting and hilarious. It's horrible filmmaking but it's also funny to watch and even funnier to make fun OF. They fill me with such complex emotions. And for as bad as they are, you have to give these movies credit for finding a way to basically make pornography marketable as a legitimate horror movie not found in some special interest section. They hid it in plain sight! It's genius!

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