Return of Godzilla/Godzilla 1985!

Return of Godzilla/Godzilla 1985 ~ 1984, Koji Hashimoto (Japan)/1985 R.J. Kizer (USA)


After a nine year break, Toho returns with a full on reboot of the Godzilla franchise that ignores a whopping twenty years worth of movie continuity, which isn’t a problem, because ignoring continuity is something Toho has always been excellent at anyway. This time around, we acknowledge only 1954’s Gojira as cannon, and begin with a brand new storyline which would later become known as the Heisei series. Because we’ve taken thirty or so movies and completely thrown them in the trash, we’ve erased Godzilla’s transformation into the grumbling, heroic Guardian monster he had grown into in his later films, and so the monster we see now is again painted more as a horrible, planet-wide menace that must be destroyed. This movie is super, super grim, and when you look at our last dozen outings with Big G, this couldn’t be a more different experience. At the same time, however, because this is still an accurate continuation of the original Godzilla concept, and because previous films have also proven that there is enough room within the Godzilla format for more than one idea, this dramatic shift in tone does not make Return of Godzilla feel like an illegitimate sequel. It still works just fine.

THE PLOT~ Thirty years after the original Godzilla monster attacked Japan and was subsequently destroyed, a second, identical monster surfaces in the Pacific Ocean and starts smashing boasts and killing people. Japan becomes aware of the situation almost immediately, but chooses to suppress this information for fear of causing unnecessary panic amongst the already tense Global Political Stage. Soon, however, they have no choice, as Godzilla strikes down a Soviet Nuclear Submarine and causes a heated international incident. Assuming that only the United States could have been behind the attack on their submarine, the Soviet Union threatens to escalate this situation to full scale nuclear warfare, and Japan is forced to announce the existence of Godzilla as a means of diffusing the situation. This only brings Japan’s government new pressures from both the Americans and the Russians in regards to how to handle this big green bastard and his boat smashin’ ways, and everybody gets super stressed out. The rest of the picture balances Japan’s war with Godzilla and their deep seeded abhorrence of Nuclear weapons with cold war tensions and international bickering, making this film an effective means of addressing where the Nuclear Discussion had moved to in the mid 1980’s. That feels pretty appropriate, given Godzilla’s atomic bomb history, but we also see a lot of Godzilla thrashing about and being shot at, so don’t worry about spending too much time watching old dudes in suits yell at each other.

In terms of our human characters, we have several, but holy shit, who cares? They’re all fine, I guess, but we don’t really care about them all that much. Be honest, we almost never do.

I think Toho kind of assumed that since the later Godzilla films had become so popular with a younger audience, that these kids had now grown up, and were ready for a Godzilla film more their speed, and that’s fair enough. What Return/1985 does best is that it stays true to the concept behind the original Gojira film, while at the same time making it current to the early 80’s, and that’s cool. It’s all about nuclear war, how devastating it can be, what it means for humanity to now possesses this power, and above all, how we can work to avoid using nuclear weapons ever again. As I said before, I think this is a logical place for this franchise to go, and I think they’ve done it pretty well. The tense atmosphere of the Cold War is certainly captured effectively, and the seriousness with which nuclear warfare, and even Godzilla himself, are handled gives the movie a much less schlocky feel. I think it’s entertaining enough, even without another monster for Godzilla to wail on, but if I’m wrong on that, audiences won’t have long to wait for a return to the Monsters V. Monster format, cuz Godzilla Vs. Biolante is just around the corner.



Like Gojira in 1954, Return of Godzilla was also re-edited for American audiences to include footage of white people, because no one knows what would happen if Americans had to watch a movie without white people in it, and for sure, nobody wants to find out. In the case of the original film, the American version became known as Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and in the case of Return of Godzilla, the American version is called Godzilla 1985. In both cases, the special Caucasian-ified American version features celebrated actor Raymond Burr as a journalist named Steve Martin, but to what degree this new footage is imposed on the original, and what effect that has on the film as a whole, could not be more different in Godzilla 1985 than it was in King of the Monsters. We do lose some of the nuclear paranoia, but we still fair MUCH better this time around.

While still a classic film, Godzilla: King of the Monsters was clearly inferior to it’s Japanese sibling, which already had excellent characters and compelling drama BEFORE we crammed in a bunch of white folks. In that case, the addition of Raymond Burr’s character only distanced the audience from the real story, and that softened the film’s impact a great deal. With Godzilla 1985, though, I don’t think this is the case at all. This time around we still spend ample time in Japan with our original characters, and their stories and relationships are not so badly cheated in the same way. Additionally, Raymond Burr adds a special connection to the first film, even if he wasn’t in Gojira we know he was in King of the Monsters, and his character is very well written and acted this time around. The best thing this Westernized version does, however, is that it expands Godzilla’s presence to a global level much better than the Japanese one does. In this version, the Americans learn about Godzilla much sooner, and we come to learn that they are every bit as stressed out about it as the Japanese are, which really elevates the tension. I may be committing some weird form of Godzilla treason here, but I actually like the American version better for exactly these reasons. And Burr is kicking out the Jams, too.

Regardless of which version you see, however, this is a nice entry in the series, and a great way to jumpstart a new slew of giant, monster clobbering adventures. Many of the effects have not held up well for their age, but they shouldn’t slow you down too much, it’s still plenty enjoyable for the seasoned Toho fan.


GZ backGZ next


Maximum Overdrive~ 1986, Stephen King, USA

maximum overdrive

“If you want something done right… You gotta do it yourself…”

And so goes the memorable and woefully confrontational advertising campaign for Stephen King’s directorial debut; Maximum Overdrive. Apparently dissatisfied with how his work has been handled in the past, King has taken matters into his own hands… His horribly, horribly incapable hands.

THE PLOT: Due to a bizarre astrological occurrence, all machines on the planet Earth gain sentience and unite to destroy humanity, even though most of them wouldn’t really be able to do anything. A band of survivors takes shelter in a roadside diner called The Dixie Boy, and begin their fight for survival. This is a movie where a soda machine and a steam-roller are equally lethal, and where a semi-truck looks exactly like The Green Goblin for no reason at all. Maximum Overdrive is stupid… and it doesn’t make any sense.

The trailer is a good place to start on this. First beef; if we can’t keep him seated in front of a typewriter or laptop, can we at least keep him BEHIND a camera? Because, damn, homeboy looks like a cross-eyed denizen of that village The Grinch used to terrorize.

Maximum 2

Stephen King; bumpkin exile from Whoville?

Secondly, hear that quasi-John Carpenter-esque music in there? Sounds creepy, huh? Building tension pretty good! Really fits the vibe… Well, apparently whoever cut that trailer together is a better director than Stephen King, because that shit isn’t in the movie. The soundtrack for Maximum Overdrive comes to us courtesy of Australian rock gods AC/DC. ACDC-LIVE2


I wish to be clear;  I love AC/DC… And you might love your car, but you probably want it parked in your driveway and not at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Even great things need to be kept where they belong. Sadly, AC/DC does not belong in this movie, and they are not doing Maximum Overdrive any favors… In fact, their high energy brand of hard rock is borderline uplifting, and not at all scary.

There is one sequence in particular where a little boy rides his bike through a neighborhood shortly after it’s been hit by the robo-jihad. It’s a beautiful neighborhood, nice houses, nice yards, tons of corpses all over the place. The juxtaposition packs a punch, and the scene being viewed by a lone child, desperately searching for survivors from the seat of his ten speed is also pretty damn heavy. It could have been extraordinary, the kind of thing you see on “Best of” lists twenty years later, except that the rockin’ soundtrack drags you the opposite direction. So, you’re like, “oh, wow, this is kinda brutal. This is almost scary- Oh, no, wait-ACDC 2SHOOK ME ALLLLLLL NIGHT LONG!!!! YEAAAAH WHOOOO!!!!”

The rest of the movie doesn’t fare much better. Perhaps the use of AC/DC music suits Stephen King’s vision. I’m willing to believe that his taste in cinema runs decidedly more campy and “Tales From The Crypt“-ish than his writing. Tonally, Maximum Overdrive has a lot less in common with The Shinning than it does with George Romero’s Creepshow; another comic book camp-fest to which Stephen King also contributed… So it would make sense if this was just the kind of movie that Stephen King wanted to see… But damn, he really threw down the gauntlet in that trailer, so no matter what we can’t cut him slack if this thing sucks.

Here are some other interesting points to address;

The plot holes in this movie are huge, glaring, and constant- oh wait,acdc-04-12-09YEEEAAHHH!!!! WHOOOOO!!!! DONE DIRT CHEAP!!!!!

Sorry- The music is seriously distracting. Anyway; plot holes; Where’s the cut off? A bike apparently doesn’t qualify as the kind of machine that can go all Christine on us, so perhaps they have to be electric, or gas fueled, or something? How does a pinball machine crack it’s own glass? How does an arcade machine blast somebody with lightning? How come Curtis and Connie’s car doesn’t turn against them when they’re on the run from all those killer semi trucks? Why don’t the machines just kill us all with nuclear weapons instead of trying to run us all over individually? I imagine there would be a lot more Skynet type stuff in the mix here, but this feels more like a garage door on the fritz than anything else. Also, at the end of the film, a caption informs us that a Russian “satellite” encounters a UFO hiding in the cosmic dust around Earth and takes it out with a missile or space laser or something. So, how? Why isn’t that Russian Satellite just raining death missiles down on we humans below? The aliens don’t control the satellite? Also, won’t the aliens just come back? How many humans did they kill, versus how many aliens were on board that space ship? Certainly these aliens know that you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs. Maximum Overdrive doesn’t gel, and if it don’t gel, it ain’t Jello.

The funniest scene in the damn movie takes place early on in the game room of the Dixie Boy. You see, when the machines first start acting out against their oppressors, most people simply interpret their attempts at murder to be a malfunction of some kind. As you would expect, the people of Earth are reluctant to jump to the conclusion that all of our machines now literally have a mind of their own and are trying to kill us… All except for one dude, who immediately knows what’s going on, THIS guy:

black guy thief

This is the first person on Earth to get it. For most people, if you were to walk into a room of arcade games, and they were all freaking out, you’d think, “This room sucks. These games are all broken. This is annoying. I’m leaving this room.” And then you would. Not this guy. He understands what’s going on, and interprets the electronic boops and flashing lights to be intelligent, and also disrespectful… and he takes it personally.  His reaction to this electronic sass is the funniest part of the movie, but sadly, he doesn’t make it out of the room alive… Or without embodying hurtful racial stereotypes. 1986! He would have been a better main character.

Another interesting point; This is Curtis.

curtis weakHe’s a total nerd. Cowardly, weak, just a damp little wuss. Now, let’s look at Curtis after 24 hours in Maximum Overdrive world.

curtis die hard 2Damn! Suddenly he’s Bruce Willis in Die Hard! Seriously, what the hell happened!? Maximum Overdrive will turn your life around and transform you into a bad ass in a matter of hours. I think it might actually be a good thing. It’s probably all the AC/DC that does it. We should probably be hoping for a Maximum Overdrive type situation to happen in real life. We’d all be so awesome.

Underneath all off this, there is something endearing and very “80’s precious” about Maximum Overdrive, and it’s fun enough. It’s little wonder so many people have a lot of affection it, even if it can’t be called a good movie by really any stretch of the imagination. Somehow, in the face of all the stupid, Stephen King’s first major motion picture manages to be watchable, and probably pretty close to how he wanted it.

That having been said, as far as Stephen King motion picture adaptations go, it sucks out loud, so go figure.



HARD ROCK ZOMBIES ~ 1985, Krishna Shaw, USA


Oh my goodness. If I could remake any movie that I wanted to, I would choose to remake Hard Rock zombies. This thing is pretty wild.

The movie follows the exploits of what we are supposed to accept is a talented, up and coming hard rock band. Of course, just look at them and you’ll see immediately that our main characters are actually a profoundly lackluster 80’s pop metal band with no future at all. The band (Do they even have a name?) is fronted by a dude who looks like Frank Zappa’s Turkish stunt double, and he rocks about as hard as Neil Diamond’s mom. This doesn’t really matter, though. The movie is bonkers.


That’s him.

So, our guys pull their gross van into a backwoods town somewhere where they are inexplicably scheduled to play a show, and they then proceed to get down to the business of cutting loose- hard. Apparently, they compensate for their lack of a street team by spreading word of mouth via their too-cool-for-school attitude. Naturally, the eleven people in town under the age of 65 love it, and the remainder of the town’s populace grumps their asses off until they can’t stand it anymore, at which point our guys are jailed and told to leave town asap. Who booked these guys here and why? Never fear, however, our band (Let’s call them Stink) is next invited to bunk at a nearby mansion, where they can finally count on a little American, Small Town Hospitality. Hospitality administered by who else, but Hitler, who secretly lives here with his weird, freak children, and a now Werewolf-ized Eva Braun. No idea why this is part of Hard Rock Zombies, but that’s all in there. Naturally, Hitler and co. have taken in our friends with the intention of murdering them, which they do, but not before Turkish Frank Zappa (his real name escapes me, I promise it’s not important) begins laying ground work with a local girl who is clearly super, super under age, and creepily gives her a cassette tape to play in the event of their demise. What great timing! The cassette tape contains a recording of a bass riff based upon the mad writings of Abdul Alhazred or something, and apparently brings people back from the dead.

So, our hard rocking band of gross losers and potential statutory rapists returns from the dead to groove off in the direction of Casa De Hitler for revenge, and I’m serious when I describe their method of locomotion as “grooving.” Afterwards,  they go right back to trying to make it as a crappy 80’s rock band, leavings Noweheresville, USA infested with murderous zombies, including a now Zombified Hitler. The townsfolk then go about the task of trying to rid themselves of the undead, mostly in pretty wacky ways. Around this time I realized the movie was supposed to be funny, which is always a let down.

How the movie ends is something I have chosen to keep to myself, even though I’ve already spilled the beans on 99% of the movie without so much as a “spoiler alert,” but what you need to know is this; Hard Rock Zombies is freaking nuts. It’s really, really crappy, and the funniest parts of the movie are inadvertent. Getting your hands on a copy is easy, but the DVD currently in circulation has a pretty shabby print, which leaves the third act of the film a murky, dark mess of visual confusion. Who knows, maybe it was shot that way, or perhaps it’s some kind of day-for-night shooting gone horribly over-board. Anyway, the movie deserves a better release, but I recommend people watch it, because it’s pretty funny.



Deadly Friend ~ 1986, Wes Craven, USA



















For most horror enthusiasts, the name Wes Craven is spoken with an air of reverence. After all, this is the man who gave us classics, like Nightmare on Elm Street, Last House on the Left, and The Hills Have Eyes, but it’s time for some inconvenient truth, friends; this man’s body of work is not all slam dunks. No, Wes Craven is also responsible for more than a few serious pieces of shit. And with that….

Deadly Friend follows Paul, the new kid, having just moved into town with his parents, and his big, stupid robot, BB.

BB Mows the Lawn

Yeah, the movie is mostly about a robot. I know the trailer did not prepare you for that… But it is. Anyway! Paul designed, programmed and built BB, because this was the 80’s, and in the 80’s any 11 year old with glasses and a tree fort was more than capable of building a laser, a spaceship, or a fully functioning android. Physically, BB looks like your typical Johnny 5/Wall*E type robot, but his temperament is much nastier. He also has a bizarre way of speaking which, to pretty much anyone living or dead, seems puzzlingly out of character for a damn robot. He mostly communicates in a series of raspy utterances and snickers, like how an evil baby caveman might have spoken. Actually, he sounds a lot like the Gremlins do, as well. Really, I have to assume that the people who made this movie didn’t actually understand what a robot was.

So, soon after arriving in town, Paul and BB make some friends, including a local girl named Samantha, whom Paul, of course, has the hots for. Samantha comes from an abusive home… “How abusive is it?” Well, it’s so abusive that her dad murders her. Paul is crushed, Samantha was his friend, and easily the most attractive girl to ever just accept that his best pal is a four ton boxy robot caveman baby of his own design. Knowing that only his keen teen intellect can reverse the brain death and decay Samantha’s lifeless corpse has suffered through being dead for hours upon hours, Paul, who doesn’t understand hubris, breaks into the morgue and implants BB’s robot circuit boards onto her brain. There should have never been any question as to if this was going to work, because of course it does, Samantha is back and the same as she ever was, save for the fact that she is now BB in Samantha’s body, and she now kills people. One of the people she kills is that cranky old monster from The Goonies, and it is, unquestionably, the one cool moment in the entire movie. Here it is, so you don’t have to sit through the rest of this dud.

If you feel hesitant to suspend your disbelief enough to accept what I’ve described above, then Deadly Friend is indeed nothing you want to tangle with, because it only get’s worse from there. The film ends with a new, more humanoid BB tearing out from inside Samantha’s empty corpse, because somehow the tiny slab of silicon and copper stuck onto her brain managed to reconstitute her entire body into some sort of terminator exoskeleton or something. It’s really hard to imagine that there was a time in man’s history when the concept of robotics was so badly misunderstood by anyone,  and I feel confident stating that Deadly Friend is not proof of ignorance, it’s proof of stupidity.

So, Deadly Friend really, really sucks. The story is unforgivably stupid, and reliant on concepts that only a child would accept, but with subject matter far out of the range of what is appropriate for a child. The production is adequate, but who cares how well Deadly Friend is made, it’s DEADLY FRIEND! You can follow the recipe perfectly, but if the dish you’re crafting is dog feces soup, no one will compliment your cooking. The truth is, Deadly Friend is only worth seeing if you’re the kind of person who enjoys the DIY MST3K movie experience, as I do. If that’s what you want, here it is, it will suit you nicely. Even so, the move isn’t very likable, so I am forced to grade it harshly.

Also noteworthy; the theme song that plays over the credits. It’s just spooky tones, funky bass lines, and voices saying “BB!” Over and over. Did these people really think that the new, franchise spawning horror icon of American Cinema was going to be this lame droid? Clearly, the studio didn’t, because if you watched the trailer above, you’ll see that any reference to BB or robots is missing altogether. That’s the case with most of the press materials I’ve dug up in researching this film. Pretty funny. “Robot? What robot? Listen, just go see the movie.”


more movies


OVER THE TOP~ Menahem Golan, 1987, USA


Over The Top tells the story of Lincoln Hawk (played by Sylvester Stallone,) a trucker on a quest to win a world championship arm wrestling tournament, and in the process, reconcile his relationship with his son, whom he abandoned the shit out of a decade prior. Along the way, Hawk must contend with cartoonish arm wrestling thugs, as well as his wealthy and corrupt father in law, played by suitably cranky old Robert Loggia, who uses his vast fortune to attempt to bully Hawk into handing over custody of his son. With mounting money problems, Hawk sees the World Championship as his only opportunity to turn it all around.  So, in summation, what the hell?

What the hell, indeed.

Now, Lincoln Hawk isn’t the biggest guy on the arm wrestling circuit- but he’s the one to beat. Why? Because he’s invincible. He’s a hard working, honest trucker with a super patriotic name, and he exists in a Sylvester Stallone movie. His coming was foretold by Teddy Roosevelt a thousand years before dinosaurs, and any who dare challenge him do so only to face their destruction, set to a rousing Kenny Loggins theme song. The 80’s were a different time.

So… Pros and cons.. Deal with this truth torpedo; this film’s production is fantastic. It’s very well made, the art department is kicking ass, and the photography in particular stands out as being excellent. We all know the situation at hand, however. This film was never going to be judged based on production value unless said production value was horrible. Over The Top is a damn 80’s movie about arm wrestling with Sylvester Stallone, people have already decided how they feel about it just based on that information alone… and mostly, that’s fair enough. I do have one criticism that I think is worth talking about, however. The film is even more two dimensional than you might expect- here’s a good guy, here’s a bad guy, no grey area whatsoever, even where it logically should exist. The narrative demands that the viewer just gloss right over anything that might cast Lincoln Hawk in a bad light, and there’s a lot to gloss over… For instance, why did he abandon his wife and son? “Who cares, he had a good reason, moving on!” That’s literally all the film wants to say about that topic, his “good reason” is never explored or revealed. I feel like that’s kind of important, and that’s the sort of added dimension that could really flesh this movie out… However, the only “fleshing out” that happens in Over the Top is the added flesh on screen you get when two sweaty dudes pop off their dirty, sleeveless t shirts in preparation for some man on man arm wrestling. Again- the 80’s, it was almost a different world.

No matter what the consensus may be, at the very least we now have an 80’s movie about professional arm wrestling, a movie where a grown man with a bleach blond mullet declares, very matter-of-factly that he is “The Smasher,” without a hint of shame, and where Stallone lifts weights while driving a semi truck.  No one can take that away from us… So breathe easy. I think probably everyone should see Over The Top. Actually, I need to rephrase that… NO ONE should see Over The Top, but everyone needs to have already seen it, like, years ago. When you were young. This needs to be at the base of your pyramid, but too far towards the top and your structural integrity will suffer, or you’ll reject the film altogether.



Ninja Turtles….

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ~ 2014, Johnathan Liebsman, USA


When I went to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I knew that it was going to be terrible… But the fact is, I could never be prepared for it to suck this badly, or in this way. I’m not even sure I can voice this clearly, but let’s give it a shot…

To be clear, I was among the many, many jaded former fans who were repulsed by early screen shots of the new Ninja Turtles, given that they are so damn hideous, but honestly, we have bigger problems. If the worst thing this movie had in it were lips and nostrils and an over the top pile of knives called “The Shredder,” I would have felt way better walking out of that theater. Now, after seeing the movie, I could not care less how the Turtles look. Who, to put it plainly, gives a shit? Did you see that film?! Don’t. If I listed what was wrong with this movie, the Turtle’s redesign wouldn’t even crack the top 5,000 flaws hammered into your brain and soul throughout the unmercifully lengthy run time of this satanic hog-orgy. I’ve already decided I was going to use much more R rated language to describe this, I can’t feel like I’ve been honest if I keep this PG-13.

So, the first thing wrong here is that this is, more than probably, the least engaging movie I have ever sat through. Is a Michael Bay movie funny? No, no it isn’t, but you at least can see and understand where the “jokes” are. Typically, these movies are made to be very bland, very universal, and very unobjectionable, so you get the same kind of humor that you might hear at a family reunion. No, it’s not really funny, but the jokes are easily spotted and if you don’t have a bad attitude you can understand why other people are laughing, and maybe even fake it yourself. That’s not happening here. From the beginning, I found myself confused by how flat, dis-interesting, unngaging and bland (even for this kind of film) the language, characterization and humor was. This isn’t a Michael Bay movie, it’s a Johnathan Liebsman movie, which is basically Michael Bay Jr… And you can feel it. This is what happens when you accept something so profoundly lackluster and insulting as Michael Bay, eventually they even water THAT down, and you get THIS. The writing is just embarrassing.

DEVIL’S ADVOCATE:  Let’s try to help this movie… SOMETIMES the Turtles are funny enough. Everything else isn’t even one dimensional. Is zero dimensional even a thing? I feel like this proves that it can be, under extreme circumstances.

About the Turtles… Remember the turtles of yesteryear? Well, forget them, because evidently they were too boring, so they’re gone. These are basically The Hulk, with a shell. They’re fucking bullet proof. “Only their shells are bullet proof!” So? Nobody seems to be able to hit the rest of their bodies, so in effect, bullet proof. Also, they have super strength. Why? Because clearly that’s the only way a movie can be entertaining. Remember when you’ve seen entertaining movies before and the characters weren’t super strong, or bullet proof, or eight foot tall monsters? Michel Bay doesn’t remember that, not at all. The degree of scrutiny applied to this movie’s script while in development had to be bellow kindergarten level. What is a table read like when Michael Bay is your producer? I imagine he stands the entire time, guzzling vitamin supplements, ceaselessly curling a ten pound weight and shouting things like “AWW, TIGHT, BRA, THAT’S HELLA FUNNY.” Also, he’s probably chewing gum and is definitely not paying attention. America is an overly-medicated society, but Michael Bay proves that adult attention deficit disorder is a real thing.

Here’s an interesting point we should talk about- at a time when a black Captain America, a black Flash, and a female Thor are making headlines, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles seems to be trying deliberately to go the other way. This movie is WHITE. It feels like they wanted as few non-whites in it as possible. Two asians, no ninjas, anything non-Caucasian is limited to only the minimum allowable number of token minorities. The Foot Clan you know and love from prior Ninja Turtle adventures is now just a terrorist group, they carry guns and have no idea what the hell karate is. Splinter is now Tony Shalhoub, definitely not Japanese, and he learned the martial arts from a book he found in the trash, and then he taught the turtles. Here, go find a “teach yourself kung-fu” book and try to teach yourself. Then, challenge a traditionally taught martial arts novice- just make sure your will is in order beforehand because he/she is going to stomp the shit out of you so hard you will actually disappear from the memory of the universe, you will simply cease to be, because the idea that you can train yourself and others from a book with absolutely no instruction and then possess any level of proficiency is so stupid that I am insulted it was even considered for inclusion here.

AND THE SHREDDER…. The entire movie, Shredder is such an afterthought, he amounts to nothing more than a thug, and absolutely not the film’s real villain. The really bad guy in this movie is Eric Sacks, played by William Fichtner. Throughout the movie, I constantly felt like some secret regarding The Shredder was only moments away from being revealed, but then it never happened, Shredder is never adequately explored, and his role and inclusion feels murky and unfinished. In fact, the movie clearly seems to be heading for the reveal that Eric Sacks is in fact The Shredder, but it then establishes that he isn’t. The truth is that there is more going on here than the uniformed might think, and this ties into my point above about a lack of diversity. I guarantee, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that initially, William Fichtner’s character Eric Sacks WAS going to end up being The Shredder. Part of how I know this, is because in early interviews, multiple cast and crew members, Fichtner himself among them, it was confirmed that William Fichtner WAS The Shredder. “Eric Sacks” even sounds like an appropriately Anglo-Saxonized version of “Oroku Saki,” the Shredder’s name in traditional Ninja Turtles cannon. However, after this word came out, fan backlash kicked in, mostly to the tune of “Wait, the Shredder is some white guy? Why? Why are there no Asians in your damn karate movie, Michael Bay?!” Shortly after this, reshoots commence, and suddenly, William Fichtner isn’t the Shredder anymore, and instead there is a super tacked on, badly smoothed out Shredder character crammed into the film, and the hope is that we just buy it and don’t notice. Nice try, Michael Bay, but not everybody can be a white guy.

Maybe the worst part of this shit show is Megan Fox’s April O’Neil. Now, Megan Fox isn’t a great actor, but the problems we have here are not her fault- this comes right down to the writers. April O’Neil is the central character in this film, and there is a predictably generic “it’s a small world” attempt to tie her in to the Turtles origins by placing her in the laboratory where they (and the newly white Splinter) were created, by her father, when she was a child. That would MAYBE fly, if the movie didn’t also want her to be a sleuthy, gum-shoe style reporter who would constantly work to unravel the mystery of who, what, and how these mysterious turtles could possibly exist. The key to a good mystery isn’t having your detective slowly piece together “Oh, yeah, I remember now, it was because of me!” It just can’t be both. April O’Neil can’t logically be involved in the way that she was with the turtles origin and still constantly struggle to piece together the very origin she was a part of, it’s just not good writing. Even worse, after she remembers, she just forgets again and Splinter has to re-explain what she just pieced together. Basically, the Megan Fox April O’Neil has a severe learning disability. That’s the only way her character’s actions makes any kind of sense at all.

So, there is, out there, a desire to just be happy and enjoy this movie, and this is wrong. If you want to argue with the overwhelmingly negative critical consensus that this movie is horse shit incarnate, then you’re wrong, and you should feel deep, deep shame. Let’s look at some of these arguments:

  • It’s a Kid’s Movie! : So what?! I’ve seen kid’s movies before, they don’t have to suck like this. That is not an excuse for this sham.
  • “I just want to enjoy my Ninja Turtles!” : Hey, bud, I liked the Ninja Turtles too, but it’s not enough for something to just be called The Ninja Turtles. It also has to NOT suck really hard. Here, do you like Spaghetti? If I feed you vomit and garbage but it’s called Spaghetti, are you going to get mad at people who act like your “spaghetti” is gross? Logic doesn’t follow, friend, you’re eating garbage and vomit. That’s what this movie is.
  • “You’re just mad because it’s different!” : Yes, exactly, I’m mad because it’s different in one key way, before, it wasn’t really, really, really horrible, and now it is. That’s a change that I do not support.
  • The old Ninja Turtles was dumb, too!: It wasn’t this dumb, and you know it. We all know it.

I’m just sick to my stomach thinking about this.




The Fantastic Four~ 1994/never, Oley Sassone, USA

In 1994, B-Movie titan Roger Corman served as executive producer on an ultra low budget big screen adaptation of Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four. The film was so bad that it was never released. This is currently the best Fantastic Four movie ever made.

Ffmovie1994I’m serious.

There are differing accounts of why this film never saw the light of day. Some, Stan Lee among them, state that the film was made by the producers in an attempt to avoid losing the rights to the franchise, and that the studio who created it had no intention of ever releasing it. Others say that Marvel purchased the rights to the film before it’s release and buried it, for fear that such an epic direct to video dud could harm the brand and stymy future Marvel films. I guess that was probably a good call. The market is saturated with super hero movies now, even if one bombs audiences are comfortable enough with the concept that a reboot before the dust settles doesn’t confuse anyone, but back then, the idea of a Comic Book Movie was a more fragile thing. This may have caused some problems in 1994.

Even though it never saw a proper release, bootleg copies of the film are easily obtained online, or in shady tape trading circles like the one Nick Cage goes to in 8MM (This is where I got my copy), and if you manage to get your hands on this thing you’ll quickly understand why a 1994 Marvel would want to disassociate themselves with this cheeseball nightmare. Why they didn’t do the same thing with the 2005 adaptation remains a mystery.

 The movie follows the comics quite faithfully, to a fault, in fact. While The Fantastic Four remains one of American comics greatest treasures, significant liberties need to be taken to adapt it for film. For instance, a scientist taking his friends into outer space only to ruin their lives by getting them blasted with space radiation screams “criminal negligence” to the litigation rich sensibilities of today’s audience, but apparently this was all cool back in the 60’s. That’s what happens in The Fantastic Four. Reed Richards, big deal science man, takes his girlfriend, her little brother, and his pal Ben into space and then destroys their lives forever by making monsters of them all. We end up with:

  • Mr. Fantastic, who is able to stretch his body like a rubber band, but unable to ever find a practical application for such an ability (The newer movies also seemed to have a hard time making this super power seem cool. I don’t know what the damn problem is, Disney/Pixar’s The Incredibles managed to pull it off pretty well.),
  • The Thing, who looks like a Ninja Turtle, sounds like Patrick from Spongebob and hates life more than Biocop
  • Invisible Woman who I guess can probably turn invisible
  • and the Human Torch, with the power of Earth’s most punchable face. The actor who plays the Human Torch seems to be trying to portray some manner of bleach blonde Corey Haim/Joey Lawrence fushion. He nails it, and you’re going to hate him.

Also in the movie; Doctor Doom, a weird underground thief dude who is probably based on the Moleman, and set designs worthy of the Adam West Batman TV series. Holy shit this movie is campy. And bad. Really, this this isn’t the movie the franchise deserved… But it happened. let’s not be Stalinist about this, the movie exists and is real, and the fact of the matter is, it’s kinda fun. Yes, it sucks like Satan’s Maelstrom, but I think even mainstream America no longer demands that something not be stupid in order for it to be enjoyable. Quite the opposite, all of our most popular stuff is stupid as hell.  We appreciate our campy nonsense these days, and I think that, as a people, we are now ready for 1994’s The Fantastic Four. Sadly, rumor has it all original prints of the film have been destroyed, making a proper release all but impossible. A true shame, because I think that 20 years in exile is enough, The Fantastic Four doesn’t hurt anymore.


more movies

Human Centipede II!

Human Centipede II: Full Sequence~ 2011, Tom Six, USA, The Netherlands



Human Centipede II had some big, gross shoes to fill. It’s predecessor, Human Centipede: First Sequence had enjoyed an unexpected level of success. For the sequel, writer/director Tom Six has the intimidating task of trying to out do his wildly popular film, and he mostly fails.

On some levels, this film is incredibly daring, and at least a little bit brilliant. By far, the greatest thing about this film is how outside the box it is as a sequel; in Human Centipede II, the preceding film is only a movie. In other words, the two do not take place in the same fictional universe. Therefore, the implication is that while the first film was only a movie,  this second installment takes place in the real world… Like, where you and I live. Well, where you live. This is a very abstract way to follow up a popular film, possibly borrowing from Wes Craven’s New Nightmare a little bit, but unlike New Nightmare, Human Centipede II is incredibly stylized, looking more like Eraserhead than the Human Centipede. The statement that “This is reality, and it’s infinitely more bleak and unnerving than fiction” is well captured, and in reality, this is the only thing about Human Centipede II that I really enjoyed. This concept is not limited only to the visual aesthetic, in fact every aspect of the film’s presentation is fuming with dark, nihilistic grief, filth, and misery, like the key party Edgar Allan Poe, Aleister Crowley and the dead members of Mayhem are probably throwing in Nifelheim right now. Human Centipede II is the ugliest movie I’ve ever seen, in every way. Our central character, Martin (somehow both protagonist and antagonist), is a squat, bug eyed mute who we are told is “retarded,” and is also obsessed with Human Centipede. He’s deeply motivated to create his own Human Centipede in real life, and that’s just what he does, much more successfully than the first film’s mad doctor, none the less. And he’s no highly functional smooth criminal, Martin is a bumbling piece of trash that does a terrible job every step of the way, but it doesn’t matter because he almost never comes up against any form of resistance. Almost anyone should have been able to put a swift end to his filthy machinations with little to no effort, but no one ever does. Martin is like some kind of cartoon sloth who is somehow able to carry out the most brutal atrocities known to Dutch culture, but couldn’t successfully purchase a pair of shoes if his life depended on it. It’s like the movie wants us all to know that horrible, terrible things are completely inevitable, and that every aspect of existence is hideous and dirty. Well, that’s what I got out of the film, at least.

I’m not sure that it’s fair to say that Human Centipede II is a bad movie just because it’s unpleasant to watch, but luckily that battle can be fought another day because the film suffers from enough unrelated detriments to render that discussion relatively unimportant. It’s clear that Six’s real intention here was to out do himself on shock value above all else, and to do this he mostly just makes the movie as gross as possible. Human Centipede II is poopier, rape-ier, pervier, and gorier than it’s predecessor by a long shot… And it’s just terrible. It just doesn’t add to the enjoyability of the film in any way, shape, or form, in fact, it’s a massive blow to the integrity of the piece. It’s beyond cheapened, and the filth doesn’t even feel artfully presented, it’s just gross for gross’ sake, and that’s all. Tom Six wanted to outdo himself. He wanted anyone who watched Human Centipede and shrugged it off as “not that hardcore” to quiver in shock at the terrible production he hath wrought. Well, we’ve seen it now, Mr. Six, and yeah, that was horrendously unpleasant. What of it?

There are lots of films out there right now pushing the bar for shock value, and some of them don’t actually suck. Why not watch them instead? Human Centipede II is a trip you really don’t need to take, so I would recommend that it be avoided.

According to IMDB, the third Human Centipede film has completed production. Hooray.


Howard The Duck!

Howard The Duck~ 1986, Willard Huyck, USA

Howard the duck

Howard the Duck is a film about an anthropomorphic duck from another planet who is accidentally brought to Earth where he befriends a young woman and sets off on a 1980’s movie adventure. It was produced by George Lucas, based on a Marvel Comics character, and is famously remembered as an enormous flop, as well as one of the worst movies of all time. Time to drop the bomb on you; it’s not that bad!

I mean, yes, it’s bad… It’s hard to be objective about a movie with this kind of reputation and almost thirty years worth of baggage attached to it, but Howard the Duck is consistently listed as one of the worst movies of all time, and this, absolutely, is undeserved. The Michael Bay Transformers films are all worse, as are all of the Resident Evil movies. Avatar was worse! Without question each summer the studios churn out at least one action stuffed popcorn film that is worse than Howard the Duck, so for poor Howard, I think the time has come for his name to be cleared.

Howard The Duck does have problems. It’s too long, almost two hours.  It’s incredibly cheesey, and so, so 80’s, although at this point something like that is as likely to draw an audience as it is to repel one. How can we vilify Howard for being dumb and 80’s when that’s exactly why we love Big Trouble In Little China so much? Is there good 80’s stupid and bad 80’s stupid? I say no. All 80’s stupid is beautiful.

Another major failing of Howard the Duck? It’s a terrible adaptation of the source material, and is not very funny. The comic book garnered it’s cult following for it’s insight, it’s witty satire and it’s social commentary, as well as for the absurdities that talking alien ducks generate. The film has some of the absurdities down pat, but the satire has all been traded for bird puns, and not very good ones. Rolling Stone Magazine has become Rolling Egg, Raiders of the Lost Ark is Breeders of the Lost Stork… Stuff like that. I mean, Rolling Egg? Wouldn’t Crowing Stone have been better? Just off the top of my head. The humor just isn’t there like it needs to be, 90% of the jokes are some variation of “Howard is a duck, you guys!” over and over. Every now and again something legitimately funny happens, but only when the film chooses to focus more on the connection between the characters instead of harping on the obvious absurdities of the situation.

Maybe the biggest thing Howard the Duck has working against it is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be. It’s much too adult to be a children’s movie, and at the same time too childish to be for adults. The damn thing is rated PG, but is full of sexual themes and adult content, including boner jokes, and duck nudity. I’m not kidding, there is frontal female duck nudity in this movie. Duck boobs. What was going on back in 1986?!!? Then there is the much maligned romantic and sexual relationship hinted at between Howard and human Lea Thompson. I mean, I’m not being too puritanical about this, am I? It’s creepy.

The truth is that the kind of Howard the Duck movie that needed to be made in 1986 was never going to happen, it would have required subversive, anti-Hollywood sensibilities like those found in Frank Hennenlotter, Peter Jackson, or even Sam Raimi, and back then nobody was going to give that kind of director the money needed for this kind of project. Peter Jackson hadn’t even released Bad Taste yet. Hollywood wasn’t ready to gamble like that, we would have been better off had we just waited.

But we didn’t, and it’s no great tragedy. Howard The Duck is kinda fun! It’s meant to be lighthearted and goofy, and really, it is. George Lucas’ name being attached to the project may have brought on the high expectations that ultimately doomed the film to critical ire, but it also brought along with it top notch special effects and an incredible art and sound department. The cast is also mostly pretty good, with the one exception of Tim Robbins, who is way over the top. None of the reasons to hate this movie hold up, hindsight has shown us this, and in the last thirty years we have suffered through much worse with giant, brainless smiles on our dumb faces. How many Mission Impossible movies are there now?!? Do you know how much money X-Men Origins: Wolverine made? Or the Twilight franchise?!?!?!

Doesn’t Howard deserve some love, after all this time?


Avia Vampire Hunter!

Avia Vampire Hunter ~ 2005, Leon Hunter, USA


WHOA!! Talk about slumming it… This is a grotesquely incompetent production. Let’s start at the beginning… So, I have no idea how this movie wound up at the top of my Netflix queue. It somehow arrived at my house unannounced, and I have no memory of having ever heard of it before. All in all, I am beginning to suspect paranormal intervention. Then I watched it. Wow. This thing is an epic turkey.
Avia Vampire Hunter is a remarkably boring and generic story about a woman who has devoted her life to hunting vampires because they “killed her baby.” …Okay? Mostly, her hunting amounts to wandering around parks and neighborhoods wearing budget conscious Matrix cosplay and carrying a ninja sword she bought of Amazon for 60 dollars. Sometimes she finds cheap, plastic skulls or other Halloween Store decorations laying around. On rare occasions she might use her flashlight. Every once in a while she manages, somehow, to find vampires, and then she kills them in a clumsy, slowly acted, badly choreographed fit of bellow average ninja fury. Your neighbor kids are probably making a movie that will surpass this in quality as we speak. Also, she apparently falls in love with a cop pretty much instantly early on in the movie, and at some point the movie tries to establish some sort of tension by floating the idea that maybe Avia is actually crazy and vampires don’t exist. That subplot remains very brutally underdeveloped.
There are a couple points we should probably talk about individually here. Let’s break it down:

  • MUSIC ~ First and foremost, Avia Vampire Hunter has the most hilariously inept use of score that I’ve ever seen in a movie. Yes, including Birdemic. This one wins out over Birdemic in this category. The music sounds like the editor clearly just bought a ton of public domain (I hope) music by different composers and jammed it in there with all the grace and subtly of an occupied porta-potty tumbling end-over-end down a long staircase. There is a valiant, if not completely insane effort to add suspense to scenes of Avia wandering about mindlessly by using the most suspenseful music available to man. The end result is equally comedic and pitiful. Who did this, and how is it that they didn’t know better?
  • VAMPIRES ~ This is the closest I can come to actually complimenting this shambling ambulance crash of movie- some of the vampires are creative looking. Others look like your typical mall goths. There is some variety here, but for some reason there is included in this film a vampire troop decked out in bloody blindfolds with Rick James hair and long sticks stuck onto their fingers (I think they’re supposed to be finger nails.) I don’t know why these are in the movie, or why they have bloody blindfolds, or really anything else about them, but in this sea of mediocrity and recycled cliches, these stand apart as slightly more imaginative, so I thought they deserved a mention, whatever the hell they are.
  • ROMANTIC SUBPLOT ~ The romance between Avia and Lieutenant Whocares (May not be his actual name- I don’t remember, and it’s just not worth a trip to IMDB to find out) is handled so, so terribly. They basically fall in love immediately despite their every interaction feeling skeezy and bleached of any form of humanity whatsoever. Toward the end of the film What’s-His-Name is informed that Avia might be insane, and finds himself under pressure to arrest her for murdering humans who she believes to be vampires (The movie never clarifies if she really is crazy or not)… When I say “put under pressure,” he’s not really put under any sort of pressure at all. Some guy just mentions it to him the same way a frat boy might say “Stay away from that chick, bro, she’s bad news.” This seems like it’s going to be a major plot point, but then he really doesn’t do anything. He acts like he has to, and then he just doesn’t. One gets the impression that writer/director Leon Hunter clearly tried really, really hard with this movie, even if his effort was totally fruitless, so this feels like a weird thing to establish and then completely fail to explore. Are we supposed to accept that Detective Whocares just decides to take her word for it? This is all part of the staggering stupidity with which Avia Vampire Hunter is so generously endowed. Also, it’s really hard to critique Avia Vampire Hunter without launching personal attacks against it’s director, come to find out. I’m trying, though.
  • TONE ~ This is the most damaging quality found in the fibers of Avia Vampire Hunter. It takes itself really, really seriously. If Leon Hunter had his way, this would not be a fun popcorn flick, this would be a heavy, emotional action piece which volleys between deep canyons of human drama and exciting sequences of sword play and horror. Frequently we are treated to scenes which are meant to show case the talents of our lead actress as she grapples with her inner demons in a struggle as heated and desperate as any Rick James vampire battle ever could be. Of course, no one in this movie can act, so in the end we would have been treated to a better acting tour de force had Hunter just filmed some shoes or a can of tomato sauce for a while. Really anything would have been better. Avia just looks like an idiot trying to wrap her mind around some simple concept she just saw on Sesame Street, but this movie so badly wants for her to be Meryl Streep yanking at your heartstrings like crazy. For all it’s effort, none of what Avia Vampire Hunter tries to do in establishing emotion lands at all, and the movie ends up being less authentic or emotionally hard hitting than say, Ernest Goes to Camp, or a McDonald’s commercial. That wouldn’t matter, but the effort is so apparent that this failure feels particularly devastating.

In closing, Avia Vampire Hunter is unforgivably terrible. Everything about it sucks. One time my mom accidentally filmed the inside of her pocket with her cell phone while she walked around the grocery store, and she asked me to help her delete it. I did, but before I removed this footage from her cellular device I was treated to a movie which bests Avia Vampire Hunter on every conceivable plane of human accomplishment.

Special note, this movie is still better than Sucker Punch.