Fish-Flavored Baseball Bat

It's a John Cleese reference.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

VHS Vednesday: Bloody New Year

BLOODY NEW YEAR (1987). Directed by Norman J. Warren. Starring Suzy Aitchison, Mark Powley, and Catherine Roman.

And what better title to close out "VHS Vednesday" for 2008?
Actually, the British horror flick Bloody New Year starts off far from being actually takes place in the middle of summer, as a group of high-spirited youths are enjoying themselves at a seaside amusement park. The fun times take a turn for the worse when they run afoul of a trio of denim-jacketed hooligans who begin harassing them. A chase ensues, and soon the teens make their escape in a small boat, eventually arriving at a small island resort hotel. Exploring the hotel, they find no sign of any residents, though the building is well-maintained...and decorated for a New Year's celebration.
Unnoticed by our heroes, several small anomalies occur around them...the pages of a magazine flip themselves back into place, a snooker table resets itself, etc. The oddness culminates in the hotel screening room, when a Rudolf Valentino-style shiek suddenly emerges from the screen and strangles one of the teens. Now the chaos truly begins, as the kids struggle to survive and figure out what's going on (but mostly survive). To make matters worse, the thugs from the funfair have arrived on the island as well, and they have no interest in joining forces with the heroes against a common enemy.
The movie probably would have been more effective had screenwriter Frazer Pearce simply gone with a purely supernatural explanation for the weird goings-on, but instead, he concocts a pseudo-scientific technobabble premise, involving a crashed plane carrying experimental equipment that somehow ruptured the fabric of time and reality. The time-warp aspect might explain why everything "resets" itself and why people come back from the dead, but what does that have to do with table surfaces turning into shambling monsters? Apparently, "ruptured reality" is a convenient catch-all for "anything can happen." It's as vaguely-defined and all-encompassing as the Scarlet Witch's powers at her deus ex machinest.
Director Norman J. Warren is notorious for some of the most gruesome horror movies to come out of Great Britain, though I only know his other works (Satan's Slave; Alien Prey; Inseminoid) by reputation. Bloody New Year has its share of gory moments, ranging from severed limbs to a man's head being twisted 720 degrees (that's right--not one, but two complete rotations), but being simultaneously over-the-top and unconvincing, these effects are more likely to inspire amusement than disgust. Bloody New Year turned out to be Warren's cinematic swan song, although there's always the possibility of a comeback...
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
The cast consists almost entirely of young newcomers, only two of whom (Suzy Aitchison and Mark Powley) have gone on to substantial careers (both working primarily in television). Can't imagine either of them are too proud of this. And if the eldest of the three goons looks familiar, you may have seen actor/stuntman Steve Emerson in one of the more memorable scenes from Shaun of the Dead--he's the zombie bartender that gets beaten with pool cues to the strains of Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now."
And while we're on the subject of music, enjoy the catchy Bloody New Year theme song from Cry No More:
Happy (but hopefully not bloody) new year!


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I just had to pass this along: From Dana and Chris (of the Dad's Garage nonsemble), a holiday message gone awry.

(Not safe for family viewing, but possibly the best thing that's ever happened to that song...)

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

VHS Vednesday: To All a Goodnight

TO ALL A GOODNIGHT (1980). Directed by David Hess. Starring Jennifer Runyon, Forrest Swanson, and Linda Gentile.

It's Christmas Eve! And, true to my skewed perspective of how to celebrate the holiday, I'll be reviewing one of the many Christmas-themed horror movies that the '80s produced. (Seriously, what was UP with that decade?)
To All a Goodnight starts off with one of the most popular cliches of the slasher movie: the prank gone horribly wrong. How many cinematic killers might have led normal lives if they hadn't been traumatized by a practical joke with unforseen consequences, either to themselves (Terror Train, Slaughter High) or somebody close to them (Prom Night)? In this case, a young sorority pledge falls to her death while being chased through the house in a hazing ritual. Sure enough, two years later, the sorority is being forced to pay the price. To make sure we get the point, we are shown a framed photo of the dead girl and a flashback to her fatal fall as we see the killer's hands beginning their preparations...just in case we couldn't figure out the motivation on our own.
The killer strikes during the Christmas vacation, when most of the students have gone home and there's a more manageable number of victims to pick off. There's just a few students, their boyfriends, the cook, and the gardener...and a psycho in a Santa Claus outfit. The movie goes pretty slowly until the murders actually begin, and from there...well, it still goes pretty slowly, as there are quite a few lulls between the attacks.
The characters are among the stupidest ever seen in a slasher movie...and considering the average level of intelligence of most such characters, THAT'S saying something! When one body is finally found, they do at least have the brains to call the police...and yet, they still can't make the connection between the murder and their other friends' disappearances. They still insist that the others are just off fooling around somewhere, and dismiss the concerns of the one person who speculates that maybe, just maybe, the killer might have gotten them as well. At this point, you'll be rooting for the killer to remove these people from the gene pool.
Unlike most of the other Christmas-themed slashers, there's no real explanation for the killer's Santa Claus outfit. The maniac in Silent Night, Deadly Night wore one because he was traumatized by his parents' murder by a robber disguised as a street-corner Santa. The killer in Christmas Evil was obsessed with Christmas and wanted to be Santa. But this reason, really. Just shrug your shoulders and accept it.
To All a Goodnight was the only directorial effort from actor David Hess (notorious as the loathsome murderer in Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left). It's difficult to judge his skill as a director...he's crafted a few effective scenes, but he seems to have been unaware of the importance of proper lighting. (Whether that can be blamed on him, the cinematographer, or a simple lack of funds, who can say?)
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
Most of the cast had little or no other film experience, either before or after this picture. The one notable exception is the heroine, Jennifer Runyon, who went from this to Charles in Charge (among other film and TV credits, but that's probably her most familiar role).

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

What I Sang 12/17

From last night's "Christmas Formal Karaoke":

"Snow Miser/Heat Miser" (as a duet with Cyborg).

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

VHS Vednesday: Icebreaker

ICEBREAKER (2000). Directed by David Giancola. Starring Sean Astin, Bruce Campbell, and Stacy Keach.

Well, considering the time of the season, how about a nice snowbound action movie? Icebreaker makes no effort to hide the fact that it's a Die Hard rip-off, and as such, it's indistinguishable from any number of Die Hard clones (none of them a match for the original). This time, it's set in a ski resort, where we meet our ski-patrol hero Matt (Sean Astin). As the movie begins, Matt's biggest problem is trying to win the approval of his fiancee's stern father (Stacy Keach), but soon finds his personal issues overshadowed by the arrival of a ruthless terrorist (a shaven-headed Bruce Campbell), who has taken over the resort to retrieve a crash-landed shipment of stolen plutonium. To make matters even more desperate, our villain is not only evil, but also terminally ill, so he has nothing to lose. The movie proceeds through its predictable paces, delivering nothing more nor less than what is expected.
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
As much as I like Sean Astin, he's at his best in supporting roles...he appears totally lost as an action star. Indeed, Matt is one of the more ineffective heroes of this genre...on more than one occasion, he has to be saved by the unexpected intervention of another character. Stacy Keach does what he can with his thinly-written grumpy dad character, but there's not much that CAN be done with it. Unsurprisingly, the movie is stolen by Bruce Campbell, though his performance here is a bit different from his usual fare. Campbell eschews his trademark tongue-in-cheek attitude, playing the character more-or-less straight (though he does have some glib moments, his humor here is more sly than broad). He's no Alan Rickman...but he IS Bruce Campbell.


Monday, December 15, 2008

A Quick Green Lantern Question

A thought that just occurred to me:

Has there ever been a Green Lantern story, either in the Silver Age or later, that dealt with the idea of a GL candidate being found who had all the necessary qualifications...but couldn't actually use the ring because his/her/its body was yellow? (Yes, I suppose that could be gotten around by wearing different-colored clothing, but that would still probably mean that any exposed areas would still be unprotected by the ring.)

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Friday, December 12, 2008


A picture is worth a thousand words.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

What I Sang 12/10

Last night's offerings for the holiday season:

"Another Rock & Roll Christmas" by Gary Glitter.
"You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" by Thurl Ravenscroft.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

VHS Vednesday: Crossworlds

CROSSWORLDS (1996). Directed by Krishna Rao. Starring Josh Charles, Rutger Hauer, and Andrea Roth.

Feeling about as much like a Full Moon picture without actually being from Full Moon, Crossworlds follows a by-the-numbers mythic quest as a young man named Joseph (Josh Charles), living an unremarkable boring life, is suddenly plunged into worlds beyond his understanding after encountering a mysterious beautiful woman (Andrea Roth) and an enigmatic mentor (Rutger Hauer). Joseph learns that he holds the key to interdimensional travel, in the form of a crystal pendant left to him by his father. Now, it's up to him to keep the crystal out of the hands of evil and reclaim his destiny. In other words, pretty much your archetypal Joseph Campbell hero's it a coincidence that our hero's name is Joseph?
Crossworlds is perfectly generic in almost all respects...decently executed and acted, but virtually indistinguishable from any number of straight-to-video fantasy epics, neither good enough to linger in the memory nor bad enough to be campy fun.
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
Perhaps the most entertaining scene occurs before any of the fantasy elements come into the story...take a look at the party scene in which stick-in-the-mud Joseph is encouraged to cut loose by his boorish pal, played by none other than Jack Black (fairly early in his career). It's basically the same rowdy-boy act that he's done so many times, but's Jack Black!


Sunday, December 07, 2008

That Aquaman Has Some Mouth on Him

Last night, I caught the opening night of Chick & Boozy's Holiday Cruise, the midnight holiday show at Dad's Garage Theatre, featuring the return of Chick Starley (washed-up '70s action star) and Boozy the Imp (boozy imp).

The premise (as much as this cavalcade of chaos can be said to have a premise) is that we, the audience, are viewing Chick & Boozy's variety show on the cruise ship USS Tooter II, as our hosts bring us a motley assortment of acts. As a self-professed comic geek, the highlight for me was the presentation of Aquaman as an obscenity-spewing stand-up comic. Arthur, I never knew you had it in you...
There will be two more performances in the coming weeks (Dec. 13 and 20), and each one will be a little different, though I assume the basic acts will be more or less the same. In addition to the comedy stylings of Aquaman, other standout bits include the astounding magic act of Johnny Toast and his Lovely Assistant Eve (rockin' the Zatanna look), an audience-participation round of Match Game, a nauseating holiday recipe from Paula Dean, and Mike Schatz (of Aqua Teen Hunger Force) doing a musical number as John Denver, back from the dead to share an unspeakably filthy song.
Not for the faint-hearted or easily offended (as you might have guessed), but the laughs keep coming and the alcohol flows like eggnog.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

VHS Vednesday: Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling So Sad

OH DAD, POOR DAD, MAMA'S HUNG YOU IN THE CLOSET AND I'M FEELING SO SAD (1967). Directed by Richard Quine. Starring Rosalind Russell, Robert Morse, and Jonathan Winters.

Long title, truncated review.
Oh Dad, Poor Dad... is one of those cases where the filmmakers were going for outlandishness for its own sake, piling one bit of wackiness on top of another until it collapses under its own whimsy. A small seaside resort greets their new guest, the incredibly wealthy and domineering Madame Rosepettle (Rosalind Russell), who has arrived with her spineless son Jonathan (Robert Morse)...and a coffin containing the preserved body of her late husband (Jonathan Winters). Nobody thinks this is odd (or perhaps they don't dare comment on it). As Jonathan attracts the attention of a curious young woman (Barbara Harris), Madam Rosepettle sets her sights on a new potential husband (Hugh Griffith) to add to her fortune. Zaniness ensues.
After the initial shooting, the studio found the movie to be such a jumbled mess that they attempted to tie it together with voice-over narration from beyond by Jonathan Winters, adding an introductory scene with Winters as an angel being fitted with his wings to explain/justify this conceit. It didn't help much.
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
As distinguished as all the cast members are, none of them have any reason to be proud of this movie. Rosalind Russell's character comes across as an over-the-top exaggeration of her famous "Auntie Mame" role, minus that character's positive qualities. Robert Morse essays the same naive-youth character he had played so well in The Loved One, but the role of Jonathan is a blank slate that gives him nothing to work with. Hugh Griffith is reduced to little more than looking befuddled. Only Jonathan Winters' mocking narration, by acknowledging the movie's lack of sense, manages to salvage a bit of...well, "dignity" is perhaps too strong a word...


Monday, December 01, 2008

Just a Quick Thought

Something that just occurred to me: I've really enjoyed the "comebacks" in recent years of some comics writers from the 1970s. I loved Bruce Jones' Hulk and was thrilled to see an old favorite of mine become a hot property (although I felt he did lose steam later in his Hulk run, and I've been disappointed by his subsequent DC work--but I still stand by my initial excitement). Cary Bates' "True Believers" has been a lot of fun so far.

With these creators' return to the medium, I was struck by the memory of another long-absent writer I'd love to see make a comeback...

Steve Skeates.

Somebody make this man an offer. Please?