Saturday, November 5, 2016

Doctor Strange (1978)

Front of the VHS copy, (also maybe an ad for a key party).

For those who don't know, Dr. Strange is generally known as a surgeon who loses the use of his hands in a car accident. After that, he seeks out and masters the art of magic. That seems to be what the Marvel movie is about.

But in this 1978 TV-movie version, Dr. Strange is a psychiatrist who shrugs his way into the ultimate sorcerer-battle with Morgan Le Fay.

Better known as Lucille Bluth from Arrested Development.

The first third of the movie shows Le Fay's pursuit of the Old Sorcerer Supreme at the behest of her master. Somehow, she decides that the best course of action is to hypnotize an attractive woman to make her toss the Old Sorcerer off a bridge.

Turns out the old coot is pretty resilient and survives the fall. A short time later, Dr. Strange is treating the attractive woman who tossed the Old Guy off the bridge for amnesia. This is how Dr. Strange and the Old Sorcerer Supreme are brought together. Finally. Half-way through the movie.

Old Sorcerer meets 70s Mustache Sorcerer

The Old Guy sends his mustachioed apprentice into the Fourth Dimension to retrieve the attractive girl, but also to teach him a lesson about his powers and astral projection.

While ripping off Stanley Kubrick at the same time.

Unlike Roger Corman's Fantastic Four, this movie isn't really ridiculous enough to be entertaining for the sake of its ridiculousness. Mostly it's a struggle for the viewer to make it past the first hour where none of this bullshit makes any sense and into the last thirty minutes where some shit finally happens.

The whole thing is clearly an attempt to mimic the success of  the Bill Bixby Incredible Hulk show, but without the Hulk showing up to make things even barely interesting. It's part 70's hospital procedural (think Emergency!), mixed with the spicy twinge of magical undercurrent.


If you're really into boring TV-movies, Doctor Strange (1978) is available through Amazon.

It used to be widely available on YouTube, but apparently Marvel doesn't want people to easily access evidence that it was once whoring itself out like a crack addict looking for the next fix.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Shin Godzilla (2016)

To be fair, I've only just seen this film in the theater (literally, moments ago), and I tend to watch the movies I review multiple times to get it right.

With that disclaimer in mind, take the following as "notes" instead of a full-fledged review:

First and foremost, this movie is CLEARLY trolling anyone who watched Godzilla (2014) and complained about how little screen-time Godzilla had. The "giant monster time" of the movie is pretty minuscule, almost to the point of non-existence in its 120 minute running time.

That doesn't mean that the movie is without tension, action, and intensity. It does have all of those things. Just not in the way that you'd expect of a "traditional" Godzilla film. Thankfully, this Godzilla movie is not trying to be an incoherent Transformers film. If you want those, you know where to find them.

Shin Godzilla also nails the basic element of a heartfelt Godzilla film that knows its roots. It definitely has a message. All those scenes of boardrooms filled with government officials negotiating between other government officials and government officials negotiating with officials who then negotiate with (well, you get the point) is making a social commentary. Just like Gojira (1954) did.

Lastly, this new Godzilla (because, yet again, it's not connected to any previous incarnation) is a destructive beast. The devastation is vast and has a real impact on the human characters in the film. The actual impact on human lives is arguably more heart-felt than in the American (2014) film. But that's something to be addressed upon further viewing...

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Monsters (TV Series) Season 1 (1988) Part 1

Horror anthologies used to be all the rage. Tales from the Crypt, Tales from the Darkside, and Friday the 13th The Series were just a few. My favorite was always Monsters, which aired on USA Network on Saturday nights just before USA Up All Night's comedian-hosted B-Movie. As a kid, it didn't get much better, or rather you'll see in my reviews. This series was enjoyable, but not "good" television. So it felt perfect here! A couple of years ago (2014), the series was released on DVD for the first time. Below, you'll find a brief review of each episode of the first season.

Episode 1 - The Feverman

The first episode of the series is about a father who brings his feverish, dying daughter to a "Feverman." Fevermen apparently attack a physical manifestation of the fever. The father's skeptical doctor comes along and ends up taking over the mantle of the Feverman.

Guest Starring: That guy who was in The Man from UNCLE (David McCallum)

Monster: The Fever

A pretty good episode with a nice twist and an ugly monster. Simple and straight-forward outside of the bit about Fevermen.

Episode 2 - Holly's House

An animatronic puppet (Holly) is the star of a kiddie show. When her creator/puppeteer gets pregnant by the show's co-star, Holly seeks to regain her status as the center of attention, even if it means murder.

Guest Starring: Some weird, duck-looking mascot creature

Monster: Holly

A decent episode that is fairly predictable and stars a Monster in name only. Your level of fright will probably be dependent on weirded out you are by animatronic puppets.

Episode 3 - New York Honey

A couple in a New York high-rise discover that their upstairs neighbor is breeding a special kind of honeybee. The honey turns the couple on, but the Queen Bee eventually snuff them both out.

Guest Starring: This guy chewing every bit of scenery

Monster: The Queen Bee

A mediocre episode that relies too heavily on a split-second reveal of the Queen. Her status as "monster" in any real capacity happens completely off-screen. Even her murder of the "guy chewing every bit of scenery" at the end of the episode.

Episode 4 - The Vampire Hunter

A young woman approaches a Vampire Hunter and his apprentice to help with her brother, whom she suspects of being a vampire. Turns out, she tricks the apprentice into his doom. Later, the Vampire Hunter shows up and the young woman must save him.

Guest Starring: Robert "Assignment: Earth" Lansing

Monster: The Vampire

Dipping into the "classic monsters" does nothing for this episode. It doesn't give the Vampire Hunter enough of a personality, and the actor playing the Vampire isn't convincingly frightening nor charismatic.

Episode 5 - My Zombie Lover

On the night of the yearly zombie-hunt, a suburban family plans to go out and join the fun. Their daughter, however, stays home to study but is interrupted by an old flame. A dead, old flame. The two bond, but eventually his true nature comes out.

Guest Starring: Vanessa Huxtable! (Tempestt Bledsoe)

Monster: Zombie (Brian?)/The Family (because they suggest the zombies can eat their kid)

A fantastic episode that plays as a suburban family sitcom while non-chalantly mixing in zombies and a zombie-hunt. This is an episode where Monsters knows what it is and what it's doing.

Episode 6 - Where's the Rest of Me?

A transplant doctor (that's a thing, right?) invites his former patients to his home. It's at this home where he keeps the guy that gave them their "donated" body parts in the basement barely alive using some super-special serum stuff. The victim awakens and begins taking back the body parts he unwillingly donated.

Guest Starting: Meatloaf!

Monster: Adam the Donor

A hammy episode with a monster who "slurps" his knees, eyes, and vocal chords back into his body. Mostly tries to be a "creature in the house" tension-builder, but since all the people killed are terrible and they all die in rather bland ways, it's not even enjoyable on that level.

Episode 7 - The Legacy

A writer takes up residence in the former house of a legendary, dead actor. When he discovers the actor's make-up kit, he must struggle with its power to draw out the madness within him.

Guest Starring: This writer who we're supposed to believe could get this girl

Monster: Fulton Pierce (the previously mentioned actor)

Another episode that attempts some leverage on the concept of classic monsters. The actor here (Fulton Pierce) is clearly meant to be a fictional stand-in for a Vincent Price or Boris Karloff. It's a hard sell since he doesn't speak. The person with the most lines in the episode (the writer) is pretty insufferable throughout.

Episode 8 - Sleeping Dragon

An archaeologist brings a find that he believes to be alien in nature to a professor and his daughter to examine in their lab. A Dino-alien emerges and the three must fight it with only a laser-pointer (sorry, "laser drill") and a broken window.

Guest Starring: A poor man's Linda Hamilton (Beth Toussaint)

Monster: Dino-alien

They kept the light on him low for a reason.

Another attempt at the "creature in the house" trope, but with a lot more exposition as the professor's daughter and the archaeologist attempt to explain why a Dino-alien thing exists. This episode tries to steal some ideas from The Thing, but only makes itself worse by the comparison.

Episode 9 - Pool Sharks

A pool shark plays a vampiress for the highest stakes possible, his life. Turns out, she killed his brother, so she's playing for a pretty high "stake" herself.

Guest Starring: Crocodile Dundee's doorman (Irving Metzman)

Monster: The Vampiress

This second attempt at including a vampire in the series is a much better story than the first with a bit of a twist to it. Another example of the Monsters series keeping things small and relying on the writing to do most of the heavy lifting. This episode doesn't even have much in the way of creature effects, and after that last episode that went heavy on the "Dino-alien," it is much better for it.

Episode 10 - Pillow Talk

A famous writer brings women home to his bed - so the bed can eat them. The bed is actually an ancient creature that communicates with the writer through his dreams. When the writer brings a romance author home she steals one of his manuscripts before he can feed her to the bed. He goes to her place to retrieve the manuscript and discovers his situation might not be so unique after all.

Guest Starring: John Diehl ("Stripes")

Monster: The bed and the fridge

Another off-the-wall episode that shows what this series can be when it doesn't try to be something else. It's a silly premise, but the show fully commits. Definitely one of the more interesting episodes.

Episode 11 - Rouse Him Not

A painter rents a house in the country where a demon is sealed in the basement floor. Legend has it, he was killed years earlier for practicing witchcraft, and a stranger appears to help the painter with this problem she's unaware of.

Guest Starring: (Saturday Night Live's) Lorraine Newman!

Co-Guest Starring: That one guy with the eye-patch from Airwolf!

Monster: The Demon

The only decent thing about this episode is the ten seconds you get of the Geraldo Rivera lookalike fence with a demon in a dark basement. Another attempt to keep the mediocre monster in the dark to hide its flaws. I'm sensing a trend...

Episode 12 - Fools' Gold

Construction workers stumble on a Troll's stash of gold. Trolls don't like it when people mess with their gold. And just like on the internet, only one thing can kill a troll...sunlight.

Guest Starring: Construction workers?

Monster: The Troll

How we all feel when watching this episode.

This episode keeps up the trend from a few others where lore or legend attempt to add weight to the monsters on display. Ultimately, it doesn't work very well since we don't know about the characters the Troll is trying to kill, so we don't really care if he succeeds or not. The monster itself is a concept that's been done in other movies (offhand, um...Troll and Troll 2); put a little person in a costume and have them chase people around. Not the strongest finish for the first half of Season 1.

We'll see how the second half of Monsters (TV Series) Season 1 goes in Part 2...