Saturday, September 25, 2010

S03E03 - Pod People


Near a remote house up in the mountains, an alien crashes into the ground and brings with her a nest of eggs. All but one egg is destroyed by a poacher, prompting the mother alien to go on a rampage. A young boy from the nearby house investigates the crash site and finds the egg, which he brings home. The egg hatches into an alien that the boy tries to raise out of sight from his mother and uncle. But the mother alien is still looking for revenge, whether it's against poachers, band members camping in the mountains for the weekend, or the secluded home's inhabitants.

Movie Review

Originally a Spanish film called Los Nuevos Extraterrestres, this quirky little film was meant to be an evil alien flick when it was first conceived. But thanks to the recent success of the movie E.T., several major changes were made to mimic the latter film's friendly alien meeting a young boy. The result is an uneven and convoluted mess that has no idea what it's trying to be and fails to tell a coherent story.

As in Gamera before it (Kenny!), the biggest problem with this film is with the scenes of the young boy who befriends the recently hatched alien. The scenes with the boy are obviously shoehorned in to get that E.T. vibe, and they come across as uninteresting and saccharine as a result (the boy's terrible dub voice doesn't help matters either). If the whole point of the film were the boy looking after the child alien, then it wouldn't be so bad, but that's certainly not the case here. Instead, they come across as gimmicky and unnecessary, meant only to show a young boy interact with a "cute" alien that can do bizarre things. The scenes go for enchanting but end up being annoying.

The rest of the movie doesn't fare better. While the boy-alien scenes are meant to be some kind of sweet friendship story, the rest of the film plays out like a bad movie monster flick in which the mother of the child alien hunts down other humans who destroyed her eggs. The tone of these scenes clashes painfully with the boy/child alien segments, giving the impression that at least two different movies are running simultaneously.

The characters in this mishmash don't help matters. Outside the annoying kid, the other human characters are composed of the kid's family, a few poachers, and members of a band on a camping trip. The band members' part of the movie appears to be the primary set of scenes (or at least before the E.T.-esque scenes were forced in), and yet they are some of the most underdeveloped characters in the film, mostly because there are so many of them. One by one they die throughout the movie, and their lasting impression goes no farther than Band Member #. The only two band members who survive by film's end is one of the thoroughly unmemorable female members and the main singer who, by all accounts, is an asshole with no character development (meaning he remains an asshole at the end. Our hero!).

Story failure and underdeveloped characters aside, another fault of the movie is its score. Unlike the generic and haphazard orchestral scores of other terrible movies, Pod People goes for a "spiritual" vibe by using generic New Age music. And I'm not talking about Yanni-type New Age (despite what Joel says); I'm talking about 2002-type New Age, the kind where random keys and long-held notes are the norm. It's so bad that it's enough to put people to sleep, if the boring film plot didn't do that already.

If there's one thing that this movie didn't botch, it was the least in the sense that they don't look like obvious rubber suits. Sure, the aliens do look silly in that they appear as bipedal anteaters, but they're convincing enough.

The movie obviously fails in its bid to become the next E.T. or even the dreadful Mac and Me, thanks to a schizophrenic script, uninteresting characters, and snore-inducing music. Some enjoyment might be derived from some of the film's cheese, if one can stay awake long enough to see if.

MST3K Review

Continuing the streak of fantastic episodes, Joel and the bots hit another home run with Pod People. Some some scenes are tighter than others, the overall episode is well written with some excellent riffs, managing to overcome the sleep-inducing pacing of the film. The highlight of the riffing is undoubtedly Crow's impression of the eponymous character from The Elephant Man for the child alien, using it to brilliant comic effect. And thanks to the lack of Kenny, this movie immediately jumps to the best episode of the third season so far.

Stinger Review

Was there any other choice but this one? In a scene near the beginning of the movie, after a song had been recorded in the studio, a studio man asks the singer what he thought of the session. The singer smiles and holds up the okay sign, before frowning and uttering, "It's stinks." It's so delightfully goofy because it seems like it's trying to be a defining moment in the film. Well, it certainly became a catchphrase, but not in the way the film makers originally intended.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

S03E02 - Gamera


While trying to cross American airspace with nuclear payloads, Soviet bombers are shot down by American fighter planes and crash into the ice below. The resulting nuclear explosions awakens a monstrous and giant turtle called Gamera, who destroys a Japanese research ship before heading to Japan and beginning a rampage of destruction. The world's scientists try to figure out a way of combating this terrible threat before all of the world succumbs to Gamera's wrath.

Movie Review

In response to the enormous success of Toho's Godzilla franchise, Japanese movie company Daiei created a kaiju monster franchise to call their own. That monster was Gamera, the giant monster turtle. Okay, not the most threatening monster around (no matter how much the University of Maryland wants us to "fear the turtle"), but the actual Gamera monster is pretty well designed. Such a shame that Gamera's first, self-titled film couldn't say the same.

This film is bad. Bad, bad, bad. And the worst thing is that it didn't have to turn out that way. The overall story of Gamera is actually fairly generic: monster is awoken by atomic blast, goes on rampage in Tokyo. Pretty standard stuff as far as monster films go. It's also given one of those terrible dubs that Japanese live-action films always seem to get, though it's certainly not the absolute worst. The production values? Not bad, especially for the 1960s. No, these factors aren't what make this film so wretched. One factor and one factor alone pushes this movie from mediocre to atrocious.


Holy hell, Kenny is the worst character this side of the protagonist in Moon Zero Two. In fact, he's even worse in that he is completely unnecessary and horrendously annoying. If he is the reason that kaiju films often include superfluous kids in their productions, then Gamera deserves all the scorn it can receive. This little brat destroys the film from the inside out, taking the film's potential to be decent and turning it in the direction of loathsome. Yes, he is that bad.

I mean, for starters, the kid is utterly retarded. He happens to be a lover of turtles, which marks one of the film's most ridiculous coincidences. His home is attacked by the giant turtle Gamera, and instead of staying with his family, he runs to the top of a damned lighthouse, which gets pulverized by Gamera. But the giant turtle, in its worst moment in the film, saves Kenny from death (why he does this is never explained). After that, Kenny thinks Gamera is a "friend of children" and spends the rest of the movie pining after the turtle, claiming that he is not bad all while Gamera kills thousands during his rampage on Tokyo. And his tendency to insert himself in every important moment is eye-clawingly horrid. Kenny should not be encouraged for his behavior, he should be smacked upside the head! Repeatedly!

Sadly, Kenny is not the only annoying character in this film (though none can leap over the high bar that Kenny has set). After Gamera attacks a Japanese research ship (and kills everyone on board, Kenny!), the three crew surviving crew members who were off the ship at the time - a professor, his daughter, and a reporter - spend the rest of the movie wandering around like blank-eyed mannequins rather than characters. The professor is a generic "science" professor whose expertise is never revealed, but because he survived Gamera's first attack he is considered a leading authority on the monster and is able to command Japan's army. His daughter is the Japanese stereotype of a submissive woman who does absolutely nothing but look pretty and cast her eyes down when she's shy. And the reporter is an irritating bozo who only follows the other two around because he's smitten with the daughter in the film's required forced romance.

Outside of these characters, there really isn't that much else to find at fault with Gamera...well, okay, perhaps just one. Gamera the creature is actually a fairly well designed monster for the most part...except for one thing. When he flies, he does is in the most ridiculous way possible: he fires jet engine-like fire bursts out of his shell's leg holes and spins around like a Frisbee. Putting aside kaiju film's tendencies for occasional silliness...who ever thought this would be a good idea?

Really, I wouldn't have hated Gamera with a fiery passion if it weren't for Kenny. If he were excised from the film, it would be upgraded from the atrocious mess it is now to a standard mediocre mess. But with the little brat, this movie is one of the most irritating shown on MST3K thus far.

MST3K Review

Thankfully, though, Joel and the bots put up with Kenny and his antics well enough to eviscerate this film to hell and back. The riffs were sharp and merciless with great timing from beginning to end. There was even a bit of self-referential humor when, while Gamera is being shot into space by a rocket, the bots taunt Joel with the MST3K theme song. A thoroughly enjoyable episode that's a definite high point of season three so far.

Stinger Review

I'm sooooooo glad that they chose not to go with any of Kenny's idiocy for the stinger (can you tell I hate Kenny yet?). Instead they went with a weird moment near the film's end when an Eskimo bids farewell to the film's protagonists. The way the poorly dubbed Eskimo utters "bye" so awkwardly and then stares off into space like he did something wrong is just beautifully bizarre.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

S03E01 - Cave Dwellers


Long ago, during ancient and barbaric times, a mystic discovered a great power source that can be used as a terrible weapon if it should ever all into the wrong hands. Before he can properly deal with it, a savage army led by a ruthless warlord invades his castle. The mystic sends his daughter in search of Ator, a great warrior whom the mystic had tutored years ago. Now Ator, his trusty companion, and his mentor's daughter must set out to save the mystic before the power source is found by the warlord.

Movie Review

After watching this piece of dreck, Joel and the bots proclaim it to be the worst movie that the Mads have ever shown the SOL crew. Personally, I don't agree that it is that big of a cinematic abortion, not when train wrecks like The Mad Monster, Robot Monster, and King Dinosaur exist. Still, Cave Dwellers is a treasure trove of stock fantasy cliches and tropes, all made worse by some lazy story writing and lazier production values.

The second of a trilogy of films made to capitalize on the success of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Conan films, Cave Dwellers is pretty much a standard run of the mill sword and sorcery flick with no attempt to be clever or interesting. Laziness permeates every frame of this movie, from the set pieces to the performances to the writing. Even the film title itself is a lazy name, as the titular cave dwellers are even barely in the movie all that much (of course, one can blame the English adapters of this Italian film for changing Ator l'invincibile's original name). And that laziness also extends to several poor shots in which modern things like sunglasses, handrails, and and tire tracks can easily be seen in such an "ancient" time.

Perhaps the most grating moments in this film, outside of the aforementioned laziness, are the performances, especially the mystic and the warlord who capture him. They both seem to have gone to the William Shatner School of Acting and continuously...punctuate their speaking with...pauses that sense at all. One person talking like this is enough, but two is just aggravating. The other characters just give bland performances typically seen in low budget fantasy flicks, meaning they're not worth discussing in the slightest.

Then there's the story, which is laughably bad. The MacGuffin of the story, the Nexus (that terrible power source) is barely even mentioned in the movie except in the beginning and at the end, and even at the end it might as well have never even existed. A brief but poorly written flashback describes Ator's previous movie, and after that it's off to the races of the cliche fantasy epic travel sequence, in which Ator must travel from his cave "at the ends of the earth" to the mystic's castle to save his mentor. Somehow the film glosses over the fact that the daughter arrives at Ator's cave fairly quickly and yet the journey back to the castle takes much longer, even going through a lengthy cave (with cave dwellers, even!) and through a snake cult's territory. It's more or less Robot Holocast Syndrome: journeys between two points differ greatly depending on who goes on them.

Despite the obvious low budget of this sword and sorcery flick, there are some decent moments here and there. The most memorable was when Ator was fighting a giant snake that looked fairly believable, though the poor lighting likely contributed to the effect. But there are also dozens of incredibly silly moments, like when Ator leaps from behind a rock and somehow creates an explosion at his feet. Also the warlord's evil magician claims to be all powerful, but the movie never makes clear exactly what his spell does (only that he did it, which we never really see). And then there's the hang glider...a bloody modern hang glider in ancient times. And could the film makers have at least tried to keep things consistent by not adding what look like samurai warriors into the battles?

So again, Joel and the bots are entitled to their opinion, but Cave Dwellers is nowhere near the worst movie they have ever seen. It's not quite as entertaining as the goofy Robot Holocaust and is plagued by generic decisions everywhere, but it still has its moments and is very watchable in its own way.

MST3K Review

After the bad taste of the second season finale, the Best Brains crew returns with a much better effort for the start of the third season. A lot of strong riffs were found in this one, and the watchability of the movie also contributed to the enjoyment factor. I honestly don't know why the movie scarred the SOL inhabitants so badly, but as the theme song says, it's just a show, I should really just relax.

Stinger Review

"Thong...the fish is ready." Perhaps not the most thrilling or memorable of stingers, but still quite a goofy moment in the show, especially with the way that Ator moves when he speaks. Interestingly enough, unless a cut was made that I'm not aware of, the stinger merged two scenes (Ator's speaking of the line and his companion Thong fishing in the river) that weren't together before. Personally, I don't see the need for it, since Ator's line was silly enough to carry the stinger; no need to end it with Thong grabbing fish with his bare hands.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

S02E13 - Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster


When a ship is lost at sea during a storm, one of the passengers' brother refuses to believe he is dead and steals a yacht with two of his friends and a bank robber to search for him. On the way, the ship is destroyed and finds itself on an island controlled by a renegade military outfit that is enslaving a local tribe to manufacture heavy water. The island is also guarded by a giant shrimp monster that prowls its waters. As the stranded group plots to save the islanders and destroy the army, they also discover a familiar face sleeping on the island: Godzilla.

Movie Review

Finally, after so many anti-nuclear screed films, we get a movie that, while involving nuclear weapons in some way, isn't trying to hit us over the head with how terrible nuclear weapons are. The downside? Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster is an absolute garbage of a film with none of the charm of the previous MST3K'd Godzilla flick.

I've said for many previous MST3K films that the plot is a convoluted mess, but this film really tries to push that idea to new heights. Sure, the film isn't entirely incomprehensible, but it has no idea what it wants to be. Is it a Godzilla movie, or is it a movie about four schmucks rescuing islanders from an enslaving evil army? The contrast between the two plot threads is jarring, and the lack of any coherency makes this movie a chore to sit through.

The film isn't even much of a Godzilla movie, really. I mean, sure, it stars the big guy and all, but he plays a bit part compared to the dull island rescue plot involving a secret evil army and tribal natives that worship the giant moth Mothra. Unlike Godzilla vs. Megalon, where the whole point of the story was for Godzilla to save the world from Megalon's destruction, Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster really only lets Godzilla fight a giant shrimp monster whose presence is superfluous at best. Oh, and he does end up fighting the evil army, but the focus remains firmly on the four mainlanders and their mission to rescue the islanders. Godzilla just happened to be in the neighborhood. As a result, Godzilla's fights are meh at best, with none of the enjoyable goofiness of the previous film's major monster brawl. Oh, it was satisfying to see Godzilla rip the claws off the giant shrimp, but outside of that it was a bunch of close camera shots and flailing arms that make for a pretty unexciting fight.

As for the human characters, the one pro that can be stated is that there are no annoying children, unlike the wretchedly dubbed boy in the previous film. Still, that doesn't mean the adults in this flick fare that much better. Too many "main" characters appear in this movie, and they're given very little time to actually act or grow as characters. This wouldn't be too much of a problem in a Godzilla flick if, you know, Godzilla was actually the focus of the movie, but since the big guy isn't, then our protagonists are screwed from the get-go. And adding additional protagonists along the way only muddles matters even more.

And the story itself is a garbled piece of throat phlegm, filled with dozens of ideas that would likely make awesome plots by themselves but make a rotten soup when forced together like in this movie. Everything from the missing brother subplot to the evil army making heavy water to the giant shrimp patrolling the island waters to the tribe that happens to worship Mothra just falls together into an unsatisfying stew of a story. Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster was, apparently, originally meant as a vehicle for King Kong rather than Godzilla (which certainly explains the tacky scene of the great lizard becoming smitten with one of the tribal women), which explains the level of quality they were shooting for in this movie if they were that disinterested in adjusting the plot.

In all, a completely unsatisfying Godzilla movie and a terrible movie in general. It's not completely unwatchable, but it's not memorable, either.

MST3K Review

It seems that having two Godzilla movies back to back was not a good idea, because Joel and the bots sounded drained of wittiness in this flick. All of the awesome lines in the previous movie were missing from this one, resulting in a few lull stretches and not as many great riffs. Definitely not the worst episode in the series, but not a memorable one, either.

Stinger Review

And to punctuate the blandness of this episode, we get the series' worst stinger so far. A bunch of islanders suddenly kneeling down and bowing? How is this supposed to be bizarre? Granted, there don't appear to be that many stinger-esque moments in this flick, but surely they could've picked something better than this one. Terrible, terrible choice to end the second season.