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“Fallen Kingdom” packs action, lacks in science

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25 years ago, audiences entered Jurassic Park. A wonderful summer blockbuster that pushed the boundaries of special effects and made dinosaur movies worth while. Since then, the park has eroded into Jurassic World, a new attraction that met its end at the guise of not a runaway dinosaur, but mixed reception. For me personally, I didn’t mind Jurassic World considering the amount of destruction and chaos I paid my movie ticket for. This time, the park is completely gone in Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom and all we are left with is the promise of what’s to come. But is it enough to sustain for popcorn entertainment? Many are going to disagree, but I think it does in some way.

On Isla Nublar, it is revealed the park was built on an active volcano that will cause imminent extinction to all of the dinosaurs on the island (for those questioning Site B, apparently they moved a bunch of them over to Nublar. I question if that was a good idea…) Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) return to the island to rescue a bunch of the prehistoric beasts, despite U.S. Senate ruling in favor of letting the creatures perish. They are grouped with a batch of people set to get the dinosaurs off the island, but things take a turn when our leads find something sinister is at play.

Fallen Kingdom is structured with the park’s demise in the first half while the other half focuses on the fate of the dinosaurs. Viewers going into this might be letdown by the constant claustrophobic feel of the final hour, but oddly, I thought it was fine. It was a nice change of pace from the previous movies where these creatures roam free and cause mayhem. Now, they are out of their primitive habitat where one simple action could unleash them to the entire world to run around in. There is some relevance to Pandora’s Box as these prehistoric monsters are contained in one place with the knowing tension that one loose dinosaur could set forth Ian Malcom’s chaos theory.

Replacing Colin Trevorrow for the director’s chair is J. A. Bayona (A Monster Calls and The Orphanage). Reasonably, he does a good job here as we go from one action set piece to the next. There is a slick pace that never feels slowed down or even too fast. One minute, the island is destroyed in a fury of lava and ash and then we get a dinosaur version of M*A*S*H* as our heroes need to perform a blood transfusion on one of the creatures.  It’s clear Bayona really likes to soak us in the horror with some intense scenes that will keep viewers on the edge. He really knows how to raise the stakes in the visual department, especially during the scenes in a lock-tight mansion.

Those bummed out by the CGI in the first film will be pleased to know there is some use of practical effects at play here. However, it is only when they are usable for certain scenes like when a character needs to interact. The CGI in those scenes are thankfully minimal, save for some extra eye movement and some small color touch-ups. There is better coordination between effect and actor here as the two blend rather well at times.

However, despite Bayona’s directing, there are aspects of Fallen Kingdom that feel weaken and that is mainly in the science. First off, there seems to be a never-ending interest in making more genetic raptors. This leads me to question exactly why chose this species time and time again. Are there any other creatures you could use at all?

Second, and I will be light on this as it is a spoiler, just how far can the cloning techniques really go in this universe? I won’t say too much, but there is a certain twist near the end that shows the science in this movie seems unlimited, or hints at it. Honestly, I felt it was a pointless tidbit that could have been easily removed from the picture and nothing would be lost.

The only element were Fallen Kingdom stands for me is in the entertainment. There are some really cool set-pieces and scary images that will certain leave a bit of an impact. The volcano explosion is clearly the centerpiece of the whole feature and is every second intense as well as fun. The final moments in the mansion are well-done and are packed with a lot of suspense. Then again, I am a sucker for movies like Congo or Waterworld where the enjoyment is in the silly yet action-packed moments.

Not everyone is going to like this one, but I’d say it was worth the admission alone, at least for me. Is it a perfect movie? No. Is it a good sequel? Well, its better than Jurassic World in certain areas. Does it make the power and beauty of Jurassic Park? Not so. Jurassic Park was lightening in a bottle. It can never be duplicated no matter what you. Fallen Kingdom goes in a completely different direction that has its share of good moments and some flaws that almost ruin the fun. However, I feel the thrills and creatures are enough to keep my summer blockbuster thirst full for a little while. Not a perfect movie all around, but certainly NOT the worst. And believe me, I’ve seen Alien: Covenant and Terminator Genisys. I know what true disappointment is like…

Drive-In Mutants Radio Theater – Agent Shade In At Midnight, The Mummy Stalks The Passenger Car – Act 1

Introducing, The Drive In Mutants Radio Theater! An all-new anthology podcast play series full of comedy, fantasy, mystery and horror. Join us if you will, for the first adventure of Agent Shade as our fellow detective goes undercover at a party on a train. There, you will find an archaeologist who discovered a lost mummy princess and made a lot of enemies in the process. But no sooner does the sarcophagus open, the bodies start to drop one by one….

CAST OF MUTANTS FOR THIS PLAY
Morgan Leger
Colin Servo
Michael D. Kimpton
Cody Kluesner
Kathy Kennedy
Daniel Swallow
*STAR*
Daniel Beaulac
James Sullivan

 

The Drive-In Mutants Radio Theater – Agent Shade (Teaser)

Coming soon to Manic-Expression.com and BlockbusterChronicles.Wordpress.Com, comes an all new series of murder, mystery, comedy and horror…and it all goes to your ear.

This Sunday, June 17th, prepare yourself to enter into a new world as the Drive-In Mutants brings you the first adventure of Agent Shade, a detective that is half human and half of…what ever he is….

Horror-Wood Blog-a-thon: Spongebob Squarepants – The Legend of Boo-kini Bottom

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1033445-first-look-spongebob-squarepants-gets-stop-motion-treatmentWe had some very lackluster Halloween specials this year. Michael Jackson’s Halloween proved to be one of the most head-scratching in years while SNL’s The David S. Pumpkins Halloween Special didn’t really do much for viewers (personally, I thought it was ok.) But between these two, how come no one is talking about the recent Spongebob Squarepants Halloween special? Yeah, of all the things to come out this month, how is it that Nickelodeon’s cartoon about a sea sponge actually got it right? It’s full of Halloween imagery, surrounds itself on the spooky holiday and its all made with stop-motion animation…well, partly, but we’ll get to that.

SpongeBobBookiniBottom03Spongebob (voice by Tom Kenny) is not a fan of being scared and likes to make merry on the holiday, not understanding the true meaning completely. His buddy neighbor Patrick Star (a starfish voiced by Bill Fragerbakke) manages him to confuse him into thinking the scariness of the holiday is meant to be taken funny. They visit a couple of haunted houses and it causes Spongebob to feel more comfortable with the new found philosophy while laughing all the way. However, the Flying Dutchman (voiced by a hilarious Brian Doyle-Murray) thinks otherwise as he plans to scare the giggly sponge by any means necessary.

Tom+Kenny+Nickelodeon+SpongeBob+SquarePants+7_NXI8OzDB8lI just want to get this out of the way, I friggin’ love the stop-motion animation here. I loved this animation as a kid and I’m still fascinated by it to this day. The studio Screen Novelties, who also did the Christmas special in 2012, do a great job bringing these characters to a three-dimensional state while also fitting in with the nonsensical tone of the show. CGI animation would have been too easy to use as the animation here has a strange charm to it. The animators even go as far to match the strangeness of jokes like a close-up of Patrick’s teeth or the movement of certain characters. I’d arguable say the show’s concept and animation style are an odd match for the two.

Stop-motion itself was always a laborious process, but it really pays off in the end. There’s behind the scenes videos out there showcasing how difficult the animation is while also being a marvel. The sets on the Flying Dutchman’s ship are great to look at and it’s cool to see the undersea world of Bikini Bottom turned into a full dimensional place. Also, there are times when they don’t use animation. Sometimes, they will use live-puppetry for certain effects which is kind of neat. There’s a good mix of hand puppets and wire marionettes which have this near creepy vibe to them. Even famed animator Sally Cruikshank provides a great piece, known for her psychedelically surreal pieces like her short Quasi at the Quackeradero.

1c277-the-scare-song-spongebob-squarepants-the-legend-of-boo-kini-bottom-halloween-stop-motion-animation-special-nickelodeon-nick-sbsp_2The best highlight for me is easily the “Scare Song” sequence. The Dutchman takes Spongbob and Patrick on this creepy ride which is almost adjacent to Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion. There’s puppet ghosts everywhere, strange creatures running about and at one point, our heroes get launched into a pinball machine. It just literally screams out Halloween every time I see it.

The message of Boo-kini Bottom is that’s its ok to be scared, even when you don’t like it. This comes in very well near the final third and it works well to its advantage. So at least kids will be ok with a nice message about the holiday. For adults, there’s plenty of good visuals and funny jokes along the way. Part of me wishes it was a little longer, but it still has a lot of rewatch value for the 24 mins we get. If your not a fan of the show, that’s fine, but I still recommend checking it out for the technical craft. I honestly can’t think of another modern Halloween special like this. It shows how fun Halloween can be while also presenting some nice tricks and treats.

Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon: Lifeforce

913id0tbail_sl1500Tobe Hooper is one of the most interesting horror movie directors. He knew how to get that really gritty and dirty feel with his movies like in his famous entry, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Since then, most of his movies have been laid in a middle ground of absurdity or be moderately scary. Lifeforce, on the other hand, is so out there that it’s a wonder to know Hooper was behind it. This one is a testament to his style of taking a B-movie premise and just flying with it.

The story has so many tone shifts that the entertaining value really comes from how many movie tones it channels. First, it concerns a group of astronauts, aboard a space station called the Churchill, who find a floating craft holding a bunch of well-preserved alien, yet human looking bodies in suspended animation. Three of them are taken aboard and then the astronauts go missing. After the Churchill crashes, a rescue mission finds the alien bodies in tack and takes them in at a research center.

lifeforce-naked-aliens-astronauts-containment-shipFrom there, the movie kicks into full gear becoming a part-zombie and part-vampire feature. One of the creatures awakens and starts draining the life energy from scientists. The more life energy it consumes, the younger these creatures get. If the creatures can’t find a fresh host, they explode into a matter of dust. The special effects are highly commendable as one corpse-looking body rejuvenates into a naked woman played by Mathilda May.

primary_lifeforce-500pixIn regards to these alien creatures, I guess the correct term to use here is “space vampires.” The scary thing about these monsters is how they have little to no weaknesses outside of killing the head vampire. Lifeforce takes on a lot of the original tropes and cliches of vampire movie mythology, while adding some “fresh blood” to it. Unfortunately, Lifeforce was greatly re-edited in America to avoid any connection to the blood sucking creatures for some weird reason. Thankfully, the International cut restores a great bulk of the vampire references and is currently available in all home media releases.

There is an interesting idea here I really like where one of the Churchill astronauts, played by Steve Railsback, turns up alive and has a strange connection to the head space vampire. Apparently, he has a physic link that causes him to lose control and be used as a Renfield-like ploy. This is handled in a more erotic manner where the guy is seduced to the dark side, while he struggles to fight against the creatures. You can’t tell if he is with the humans or trying to help the space vampires.

r127There is one scene I have to bring up, because it must be seen to be believed. Patrick Stewart plays the manager of a psychiatric hospital and has the alien trapped in his body. At one point, they hypnotize the alien inside him to talk and he causes the astronaut to make their bond “stronger” by kissing him. Let THAT sink in. Captain Picard of Star Trek: The Next Generation has a kissing scene with an actor who played Charles Manson in a 1976 TV miniseries called Helter Skelter. It’s a surreal moment. Again, this too was changed in the US theatrical cut, so it looks like the tortured man is kissing the head vampire instead. This is why I prefer the International cut more when it comes to a movie like this.

Lifeforce-space-vampireThe final third of Lifeforce is just downright insane. After channeling Alien with the outer space scenes to a little of The Terminator, everything just goes out of control as it becomes an doomsday apocalypse movie. The alien gets loose and starts affecting everyone in London. Left and right, pedestrians get their lives drain out of them while the movie turns into a zombie movie on acid. It just comes out of nowhere and rockets into an epic finale.

lf4There is nothing else I can say. Lifeforce must be seen to believed. Even Leonard Maltin was speechless giving it a mild recommendation for it’s crazy detours. I do agree with him on how this movie jumps from many different film tones and that’s where most of its charm comes from. It keeps you wondering what direction it will take not knowing how bonkers it will become by the final reel. It maybe inconsistent with the tone its going for, but it results in a lot of entertaining vaule.

Do Uncle Morgan a favor. Buy this movie, invite a lot of friends over for Halloween night, order some pizza, play the full International cut of Lifeforce and get ready for one wild night with space vampires and bewildered viewers. It will make for a great evening full of “what the $%*# am I watching?!?” God…I love this movie…

 

Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon: Tales from the Crypt Duology (Demon Knight and Bordello of Blood)

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MV5BNGM3N2VmNDQtNWMwNC00MDI5LThhNzYtNTlkZjkwZTJlNTRjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTQxNzMzNDI@._V1_SY1000_SX683_AL_Tales from the Crypt was a breakthrough on cable television for ramping up the gore and sex. Based on the infamous EC Comics, it was perfectly cartoony without overstaying the fun. The anthology show was a runaway hit on HBO and made the Cryptkeeper (voiced by John Kassir) an iconic image on 1990s cable television. The property was perfect ripping for a theatrical franchise, but where to start? Previous incarnations like Creepshow, a 1972 British adaptation and its follow-up The Vault of Horror were rooted in being an anthology themed feature. You would get a magnitude of stories for the price of one. It was a nice little concept that fits within the show.

Instead, the decision was to make a trilogy of movies that would have been a nice Halloween staple. Not a bad idea, but what made the show perfect already was how much it could host in 30 minutes. Being an anthology series itself, the series had the power to host a variety of tales with the Cryptkeeper book-ending each one. You could practically do a marathon of the show’s episodes and it would still qualify as a feature. On top of that, producers Joel Silver and his crew had a hard time trying to find a script perfect for the first film. Original suggestions From Dusk Till Dawn and Peter Jacksons’ The Frightners  found better life as stand-alone movies or just felt too good to be qualified as a Tales from the Crypt feature. Eventually, a script arrived at Silver’s way which executives thought had more potential to use, which to an extent I agree.

billyzanetalesfromthecrypt-1024x576Demon Knight has these qualities as a drifter (William Sadler) is on the run from a demonic entity known as the Collector (Billy Zane). The drifter ends up at a boarding house where he fights to help everyone survive the night as the Collector arrives to take back a certain item he carries. There’s demonic possessions, an army of monsters that invade the house and plenty of gloppy special effects to keep anyone entertained. Everything about this entry is just plain fun. The premise is a little more complex than a normal Tales from the Crypt episode, but it does work. The concept of demons fits in with the show’s horror aspect and pushes the boundaries further delivering something fun and scary.

Everything going into this movie just works. The performances from people like William Sadler and Jada Pinkett Smith are perfect for this story as they tread a line between campy and dark horror. Even Billy Zane is having a blast playing the villain who can be funny and terrifying at the same time.Once in a while, you get a goofy performance from someone like Dick Miller as one of the residents, but I feel they are there to lighten the tone considering it tackles a subject few horror movies do. To give a broader idea of what i’m talking about, think Exorcist if it was more comic book in tone.

demon-knight-tales-from-the-crypt-blu-rayWhile Demon Knight is not a masterpiece, it’s basic popcorn entertainment for the Halloween season. Take what makes the Evil Dead series fun and give it a darker spin. The bookend segments with the Cryptkeeper are also funny too as we see the ghoulish host trying to direct his first movie. There is a moment where they use CGI at one point to make it look like he’s a full bodied character and it looks really bad. Thankfully, he remains the animatronic puppet we know and come to love. It clearly sets up the tone and what kind of fun viewers will have.

If one were to watch the end credits of Demon Knight, a small teaser appears at the end for an upcoming installment called Dead Easy (it also went by the title Fat Tuesday.) It was supposed to follow afterwards, but sadly the movie never got made. From what I heard, the plot dealt with zombies in modern New Orleans, but there were some problems getting it off the ground. There’s two productions stories I keep hearing on why it got never got made. One suggests they kept rewriting the script to a point it felt less comedic and more horror orientated. According to the Bordello of Blood audio commentary with screenwriter and producer A. L. Katz, another reason is that the executives at Universal Studios felt it was a little “un-PC” and pulled the plug at the very last minute.

Bordello-of-bloodRegardless, I do know that Bordello of Blood was made with only one option; to keep Robert Zemeckis with Universal Studios. Universal executives were afraid to loose one of their big names to then new Dreamworks Studios and asked if there anything they could do for him. Zemeckis pulled out a script from his college days and asked for it to be made into a full-length feature. The rest was cinematic disastrous history.

The plot centers around a funeral home disguised as a brothel homing a bunch of sultry vampires. They get sent new visitors every night for a little feast and fun of their own. Right off the bat, you can tell this is something written by a guy from his college days. Points for creativity, but why hide a secret bordello at a funeral home? There’s something about it’s placement that just feels weird.

Take From Dusk Till Dawn, a movie that came out the same year as Bordello. It had a brothel set in the middle of nowhere, so there was no communication close by. When the vampires came out, you felt trapped in this place with next to no available help. Here, it’s deep near a forest and close to a local city where folks can seek for assistance. That is something one lady does (Erika Eleniak) as she reluctantly hires a P.I. (Dennis Miller) when the police are no help.

tales-from-the-crypt-bordello-of-blood-blu-ray-review-530x298Now, every Tales form the Crypt story will have that one standout celebrity who will drive the whole plot in an enjoying experience. In this case, we don’t get that. Miller feels disinterested while Eleniak takes things too seriously. Oddly the worst of the two is Dennis Miller who surfs through with one-liners and doesn’t really care about how he acts.

There is where some of that “behind the scenes” destruction plays in. Dennis Miller was hired on as suggested by Joel Silver who saw some potential in him, Miller refused at first, until they offered him a million dollar paycheck. He didn’t like the script, never got along with anyone and constantly ad-libbed his lines. A good amount of his improvised lines ended up rewriting over a lot of written material that shared connections to the plot. Now, actors who shared scenes with him were confused, because they had lines in connection to what was written in the script when he was going completely off-script. In short, Dennis Miller just didn’t care.

3162030205001_4620591615001_bordelloofbloodNobody had a good time making this movie. It was only created for the sake of studio power and that was all. The only two who appear to be giving a care are Corey Feldmen as one of the first victims and Angie Everhart as the head of the vampires. They seem to be more relaxed and know what kind of movie they are in. It’s a shame, because everyone else looks so lost or acts like they are trying to sabotage the production so they can get out.

The only time Bordello ever comes alive is during the last third. It doesn’t save the movie entirely, but when you have characters attacking vampires with super soakers full of holy water, what is there to complain about? I just wish the whole movie was as fun as that last third. It even gets worse when Miller quips, “it feels like I’m in a bad episode of Tales from the Crypt” and no one cuts the line out. Even the Cryptkeeper segments are lazy as ever recycling a routine from The Assassin episode where he plays “Rock, Paper Scissors” with a mummy. It only goes to show you just how much “care” there was during production.

There is a third movie that got made called Ritual, but it was released only to home video in 2006 and bears no connection to the proposed trilogy. I’ve only seen the Cryptkeeper segments and they are dead unfunny. The puppet looks not as slick as the previous versions and the jokes are just lame as the corpsey host cracks on about sex appeal and Jamaican stereotypes.

To think, a would be trilogy got derailed by the disastrous Bordello. I feel bad nothing else was done with this franchise outside of some Saturday Morning TV shows. With the endless possibilities, I’d say its time to resurrect this as not a TV show, but maybe a reboot film series. As old Cryptie once said, “At first you don’t succeed, die and die again!”

tales-moviesHowever, I do recommend getting both movies on the Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release. Both films have been given the right amount of attention and detail when it comes to their video transfers and great amount of bonus material. Scream Factory is a horror division of the Shout Factory, who also deliver the goods on pop culture shows like Mystery Science Theater 3000 and too many to count. Both Blu-rays contain documentaries detailing the production and creation of this short-lived franchise. I even would go as far to say Bordello is worth getting alone just to hear the terrible production stories. At least it shows there are some folks out there who care about the  treatment of certain “cult classics.”

Horror-Wood Blog-a-thon: Monster High (1989)

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MV5BMTM1NzQ2NzQyMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzE1ODgyMQ@@._V1_You know the movie you are about to see will be bad when you can’t find any behind the scenes trivia on it. Further more, its worse when you can’t find any information on whether this was released to theaters or straight to home video. At this point, it doesn’t matter. Because when you have a movie like Monster High, you start to question what kind of viewers it was made for. Was the target audience for those who likes dumb teen comedies or really bad movies? Because this one tries way too hard to be jokey and dumb, when it should have just focused on being a movie.

So here is the plot. Two bald-headed aliens, with the voice of Fred Figglehorn, steal a doomsday device and escape to Earth. The device is shaped like a basketball and inside is a living embodiment of destruction named Mr. Doomsday. The captive being bursts out of its prison and causes havoc at a local high school. He does so by transforming mundane things into monsters and killing hot teenagers who think less with their brain and more with…their libido or something.

21761378_1003196899783661_2058030782406136781_nAnd that’s really about as stupid and basic as it gets. I wouldn’t mind its stupidity if it wasn’t for a lot of things. The whole tone is trying to be self-aware like Airplane! or The Naked Gun, but here is this is what made THOSE movies work. The Zucker Brothers take the most mundane and silly of situations and play them up as epic action scenes. If there was any “winking to the viewers,” we would be lost on the joke. Here, everyone is over the top and hamming it up to where it comes off as annoying.

Even the jokes are by far the worse. Something simple as “waking up from bad dream” is used constantly to where it doesn’t feel not funny anymore. They keep repeating previous gags to the point there is no reason for it to exist, while some are the most bizarre. Highlights include a nerd playing a computer game where he’s a space penis shooting at Christianity crosses, aliens rapping about female genitalia, a gargoyle brought to life and rages about his tiny member, a gremlin-like monster birthed from a dead teenager’s shoes, Mr. Armageddon taking a long time to unzip his fly and that’s only a fraction. There is a golden rule I go by certain comedies where if I laugh less than three times, then I decree the humor is flat. And honestly, I don’t even remember if I did laugh at all in this one.

monsterhigh1Even the movie itself thinks the audience is dumb enough not to understand what is going on. There’s moments where we cut back to this alien who is the ruler of the universe and is watching the movie with us while having sex with his secretary. However, the most baffling of all is the inclusion of a narrator. I’m not making this up. They have a narrator talk over certain scenes to clearly spell out what is going on when we already know what is happening. It will speak over character dialogue and silent moments when its clearly not needed. What’s the point of telling us what is happening when we already can see it?

I almost feel like I’m watching a movie made for the Playboy channel considering the low budget and the way its shot feels like one. With all the constant sex jokes, I’m just expecting someone to erupt into an orgy with the dumpster bin of sex humor here. There is nothing original or anything delightful about it. There’s a juvenile sense which gets really irritating.

monsterhigh4Oh and guess how the day is saved? Everyone gets together and has a big basketball game which determines the fate of the world. There’s no new twists, nothing to keep it fresh or original and even the main characters cheat their way to win. Though I admit, I do remembering laughing at one joke during the climax and its when the lead character makes his final shot into the hoop. The ball keeps rotating around for a good 5 minutes as other characters look on in disbelief. At least that was kind of funny, but it’s not enough to save this movie.

After watching this travesty, I have a small appreciation for Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzerberg. I’m not saying their movies are good, but at least there are times when I can see they were trying to make jokes or do something.  Monster High doesn’t even attempt a good laugh at all. It’s shot clumsy, edited clumsy and the plot is everywhere. It is without a doubt, one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen and that’s saying a lot. Sad seeing how it came on a DVD 4 pack with The Craft, the original Fright Night and Brainscan. Why must these three other suffer with the inclusion of this crap Hollywood calls a movie? Even if you like bad movies, don’t even bother or think about this one. Why waste your time with a failed exercise in horror and humor when you can seek elsewhere?

Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon: Transylvania 6-5000

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1260873565I really want to say Transylvania 6-5000 is smart and clever, but there are too many cons that hold me back from doing so. The concept is something I can get behind. A bunch of “monsters” are sighted in this Transylvanian village and two tabloid reporters are sent to make a cheesy report about it. I like the idea of how its taking the famed monsters and turning the mythos on its head. However, once the movie is over, I can’t help but realize there is a lot of room for improvements here and there. And I mean a lot…

Let me talk about the pros first, because there is some good stuff which makes the experience redeemable. Jeff Goldblum and Ed Begley Jr. are not too bad as the reporters. They can have a funny moment once in a while and surprisingly have good chemistry. While its not too iconic like Abbott and Costello, they still try to make the material they are given usable for laughs.

Even some of the side characters are memorable, too. I still remember how crass their boss (Normal Fell) is and how much he expresses his love for “crap” news. The first scene he is in clearly sets the tone for how much it doesn’t care what damage it does to the monster mythology like calling the Frankenstein monster “Frankenstein.”  Jeffery Jones plays the mayor and, as always, he will give a fun performance no matter what he’s in.

eb1873f9043e9f756a817ca7df27193ePerhaps the ones I remember more are the butler Fejos (Seinfeld‘s Michael Richards) and the servants (Carol Kane and famed voice actor John Byner). Fejos is always showing off his comedic shtick even when its not needed. One minute, he’s using fake legs for a door injury, riding on a kiddie ride for no reason or playing around with puppets. The character is unpredictable. I also like the two servants, because both actors have a lot of funny scenes like trying to one up each other. Its such an odd pairing to have Kane and Byner, yet something just works so well with those two.

Another good thing is some of the funny set pieces. There’s a hilarious highlight where the reporters go to a local hotel and one of them asks if they have seen the Frankenstein monster. The attendants take this as a joke and keep riffing on how they believe in monsters. It’s the best laugh in the whole feature, aside from comedy 101 with Micheal Richards. There’s other little scenes here and there which are funny too. But not as big of a belly laugh as two reporters getting awkward laughs from an entire hotel staff.

And from there, it all goes downhill. What doesn’t work for me is the rest of the movie. It takes about an entire hour, until something interesting happens. And because of that, a lot of our attention is on Goldblum and Begley Jr’s characters. It’s sad because even some of the material they are given is not enough to work with. There’s drawn out moments where they look about the castle or try to figure out what is real. And for the most part, the movie just drags.

transylvania_6-5000_5Afterwards, the plot kicks back into gear when we are introduced to a mad scientist, played by Joseph Bologna, who is keeping a bunch of “monsters” with him for experimentation…or that’s how it seems. It’s a very funny performance as Bolonga switches between a kind and caring man to a ranting lunatic. What makes this a negative is how we have to wait so long for a kooky character to be introduced to finally break up the clutter. We spend so much time with the reporters to a point even their material gets sort of thin.

There’s also some jokes that don’t seem to work or have a bizarre setup. For example, there is this fortune teller that recites lines from the original Wolf Man, who ends her routine by “going to rest” and whacking her head on the table leaving a big hole. It’s amusing at first, but then the joke gets tiring when we see it again and get the idea this is part of her shtick. It doesn’t really make much sense outside of the painful thought of why this woman doesn’t have a concussion yet. There’s even a brief moment when someone who looks like the Wolf Man calls Goldblum a “communist” for no reason. It just comes out of blue.

But the biggest thing that really ruins for it for me is the ending. I won’t spoil a whole lot, but I get the joke. These outcasts who look like monsters are not really monsters and the doctor has been trying to cure them this entire time to be normal. It’s not bad, but its executed in this really lame way. Wouldn’t it be more funnier if they were real monsters instead of people who look like them?

MSDTRSI EC005Sure, it does lead into a funny gag where Begley Jr. tries to manipulate an angry mob by acting as different mob members. But, it just becomes a disappointing conclusion to know the monsters are not real and it’s all one big misconception. Again, that joke can work, but it’s not done right. I feel the idea of revealing the Wolf Man as a really harry guy or the Frankenstein monster is just literally stitched back up together. However, there’s a lot of lost comedic potential here. Even a young Geena Davis sporting a skimpy outfit and acting as a vampire is not enough to save it.

On the whole, I’m not too disappointed in Transylvania 6-5000, but I do wish it could have been better. Occasionally, there is a very funny and quotable line along with a humorous scene or two. But I feel so much of the enjoyment rides on just how you view the way it concludes. Do you feel it needs a big Scooby-Doo ending or would it be funnier if they didn’t take this safe road? I can’t say for sure this is looked at too negatively and it does have a cult following. Heck, this movie was a small hit at the box office, despite some harsh reviews including an infamous one by Leonard Maltin. This is another case of watch and judge for yourself. Some of it does work, but I feel a great bulk of the movie lags under how it treats the concept. And if you want a true monster mash-up,stay tuned Halloween day for a special review on that.

Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark

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Elvira-Blu-ray-007Monster movie hosts are hard to come by, but their legacy lives on. The tradition of late night television were a ghoulish figure would riff on the absurdity being seen is a dying art on the small screen. In my opinion, there are three recognizable figures that have kept this tradition alive. There’s Joe Bob Briggs of TNT MonsterVision and Joe Bob’s Drive In, Svengoolie (who is still active as of this article) and lastly you have Elvira.

Cassandra Peterson’s TV persona which consists of a low-cut dress, tall beehive hairdo and Valley girl style talk was no doubt a runaway hit. No one could expect this horror host to skyrocket from obscure figure to a brand name every household knows. Her face and big…uhhh, popularity dominated the 1980s and well throughout the 1990s. There were trading cards, comic books, action figures, dolls and even a pinball machine, too. The last thing one would expect from all this is a cinematic adaptation based on the character. And as expected, there is.

1988’s Elvira, Mistress of the Dark is something that’s worth seeing, than actually reading a review about. To describe this feature, I would have to talk about every scene and what happens. There is a plot…well, many to be exact, as the story bounces between a loose thread of scenes tied to a “fish out of water” story-line. But is it enough to hold a character that says one-liners and ghoulish puns? For what it’s worth, I actually think so.

downloadAfter quitting her job due to a perv boss, the hostess is at least delighted to learn one of her relatives died and left a great inheritance in Massachusetts. She travels far, but disappointed to find all she gets is an old home, and pet poodle that can shape shift and a spell book mistaken as a cookbook. The reason for her disappointment is that Elvira hoped to create her own stage show in Las Vegas, but doesn’t have enough funds. Instead of fulfilling the dream, she is stuck with some ancient artifacts with not much use, expect living in the old house.

From there, the rest of the plot is very loose and kind of all over the map. One minute, she is trying to fit in with the locals, gets better accepted by the teenagers of the town, is the envy of  a town moral goodie (played by Edie McClurg of John Hughes movie cameo fame), a warlock (W. Morgan Sheppard) who is after her inheritance and that’s just scraping the surface. There’s so many loose threads that I’m tempted to say this works against the film’s favor. However, while it doesn’t get too complex, you do wonder how a movie can juggle so much weight and still feel simplistic.

MSDELMI EC009In all honesty, I’m fine with movies like this. As long as there are some things anchoring the plot together, I can at least say there is some form of a story going on. Many big screen adaptations like Coneheads or The Flintstones have used this method of story telling which gives a laid back feel or ends up running all over the map. With Mistress of the Dark, I don’t think the movie is that chaotic as those two examples. I’d really compare it more to Wayne’s World. You have a one-note sketch that is well-done and entertaining, but the universe around the character(s) is explored more. They feel less like a couch potato, and it’s interesting to see how they would act in the real world.

The idea of Elvira trying to fit in a small Massachusetts town works in its own way. I’m not saying this because I live near Boston or anything. But for a state that is “head over heels” with things like witchcraft and local legends, it does make sense for this kind of character to enter in a town still stuck on old-fashioned beliefs. The concept of a character out of place with a bright and vibrant town is cliche, but it works in the movie’s favor. You do get to see Elvira try and connect with the locals, despite being turned a blind eye for …well, mostly her looks…which is weird, because why would someone- then again, it was the 1980s and some parents were uptight about sex appeal, so I can let it pass by a hair.

MSDELMI EC012For 90 minutes of your time, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark packs a lot to keep you entertained. There’s some hilarious set pieces like a sabotaged stage-show, cheap monster effects, an origin story of Elvira that is interesting, a climatic duel with an evil warlock, a grand Las Vegas finale and that’s just scraping the surface. I think the reason this movie didn’t do well at the box office (and with certain critics) was how loose the story was. It’s the only element I can see being a problem with some viewers, but certain comedies like Caddyshack and Anchorman have used this way of story-telling before. There are elements that do keep the plot tied together like a hilarious performance by Edie McClurg as the “town moral” who schemes to run Elvira out of town. If you go in with an open mind and leave your brain at the door (surgically), you will be in for a good time.

Also, for a movie based on a famous monster movie host, who knew it could work? At this day in age, how come we don’t see more like this? Heck, I propose an Avengers-style that crosses many horrors hosts together. Wouldn’t that be a box office treat? You could have a league where Joe Bob Briggs is the Nick Fury, Elvira pulling off some “killer moves,” Svengoolie with a bow that shoots flaming rubber chickens and perhaps a “Son of” Zacherley, The Cool Ghoul. Sounds absurd, but I’d pay good money to see it.

Horror-Wood Blog-a-thon: Stranger Things (Season 1)

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Stranger Things court NetflixOf all the TV shows that have debuted in recent years, nothing has compared to how much appreciation Stranger Things has gotten. Created by the Duffer Brothers, this grand throwback to everything 1980s feels more a time capsule of the decade. Coming from someone who is an easy prey for 1980s era movies, this series channels every 1980s pop culture trope/reference in existence and somehow weaves perfectly them together. One minute, it feels like Steven Spielberg is directing it, then it pulls something supernatural from a Stephen King story or includes teen drama from a John Hughes movie. For a series that offers so much, I didn’t think all these plot lines would somehow be tied together.

tumblr_inline_oac2ra1nhr1t6ym0o_1280Everything is centered on the disappearance of a kid named Will (Noah Schnapp) whose very vanishing triggers a domino effect of story. One minute, his mother (Winona Ryder) thinks found a way to communicate with her son through electricity, then suddenly the local police chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) uncovers a bizarre conspiracy linked to Will’s disappearance. Even thought it all sounds complex on paper, this whole thing is easy to follow as we jump from one character to the next. Each plot thread either adds more clues to the odd things happening in town or helps the viewer get more acquainted with the people in the area.

boys-and-eleven-radio-roomThings get more complicated when a group of Will’s friends find a girl named “Eleven” (chilling performance by Millie Bobby Brown) who has telekinetic powers beyond belief and may hold the key to finding their missing friend Will. As expected, this is where most of the Spielberg-E.T. cliches kick in with the creature being hidden in the house as the thing tries to understand the world outside. But, there comes a set of fresh elements to keep it interesting. For one, Eleven looks like a normal girl and has the opportunity to hide within society. It gives the character more open freedom to act among people which is kind of a scary thought. Imagine if Carrie had the chance to mingle in a modern high school and you didn’t know she had these powerful abilities like channeling other worlds or destroying things with her mind. How would a normal human being be able to know she has the will to bend reality when they look like a normal person?

The John Hughes elements are centered around one of the boy’s sisters (Natalia Dyer) who pines for the hot jock and, you can sort of see where it goes. In laws of predictability, there is an outcast of some form she feels bad for, but believes he deserves help and it causes her boyfriend to act like a complete jerk about it-Again, you can clearly see where it goes. However, what you don’t except is the jock to actually turn around and even be some form of help at the end. At one point, he becomes useful in a fight against this bizarre monster near the climax and it shows that maybe he’s not that bad as you think.

21-stranger-things-steve-nancy.w1200.h630That’s what I love the most about this series. It keeps adding all these twists and turns keeping you second guessing about what’s coming next. For every new turn in the story, you just can’t help but wonder how it will all end. Even with things like the “big bad government agents,” which is a tiring cliche, Stranger Things knows how to use this well by showing how more devious they can be. Not since E.T. have I felt this trope can really pose as a huge threat. These are people that will do anything to keep a huge secret, even if it means faking a death or holding a family hostage.

There’s so much more I wish I could talk about, but it’s best for you to see Stranger Things for yourself. With season 2 around the corner, now would be a good time to catch up and see what everyone’s been praising about. For an 8 episode season, it’s really worth your time, If you like small tows with big mysteries like Twin Peaks or throwbacks like Super 8, this is worth the nostalgia trip. I’d go into deeper detail on why so much of it succeeds, but then I would have to ruin a good bulk of the plot your meant to discover. The best I can say is for anyone who grew up on a childhood diet of Spielberg, John Carpenter and Joe Dante with a small pinch of Stephen King’s writing, this is for the older crowd who grew up on those elements.

Stranger Things VHS Blu Ray DVD1On a side note, I should bring to light of the show’s recent Blu-Ray/DVD release. Target held an exclusive “special collector’s” edition where the packaging resembles an old VHS tape. Once the slipcover is removed, the discs are housed in a container that resembles a VHS tape with a “Be Kind Rewind” sticker for added nostalgia. It’s a nifty idea, but there is one major drawback. All you get is the entire first season on both Blu-ray and DVD in a fancy packaging…and that’s it. No audio commentaries from the Duffer Brothers, additional supplements or even a single behind the scenes featurette.

Stranger Things VHS Blu Ray DVD2Fans might be disappointed in the lack of extra material, but at least the first season can be seen in some physical form outside of the digital medium. The other additional plus is for people who don’t have Netflix can actually check this series out. Well for $24.99, it’s not a bad deal seeing this form of packaging is perfect for a show like this. However, it leaves you feeling there should be more to explore after binge watching a show like this. Considering there will be 3 more seasons (including the next one coming this Halloween) afterwards, it leaves one to wonder if there will be this “complete series” release. For now, I’m pleased to had this one in my collection, but this show deserves much better when housed in a grand box like this.