Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers The Movie (1995)

The new Power Rangers movie is coming out, but some of you kiddos out there might not know there was already 1995.

Basically, at the height of the show's popularity, the Powers That Be (no relation to the Power Rangers) decided to put together a big screen episode of the show. As such, it doesn't disrupt the show's status-quo and adds a tertiary villain that the Rangers could defeat without turning the popular show on it's head.

The movie's villain (Ivan Ooze) captures the show's villains in a snowglobe. 

(For those that don't know, the Power Rangers show is basically "built" from footage of the heroes suited-up and shot for a Japanese show. That footage was then added to segments with the American actors.)

These parts...

...added to these parts...

...came together to make this.

The movie doesn't work that way though. Instead, it's all original footage. So, with that sort of freedom, you'd expect some risks to be taken with the story. Not so much. Instead, the first act finds a giant purple egg unearthed at a construction site...hatching the movie's villain, Ivan Ooze.

Trivia: same actor who played Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark

Soon after, Ooze puts the main villains on hold (in that snowglobe) and proceeds to enact his plan (based on the plot of The Stuff) to conquer humanity. He gives away his Ooze, which people eat and it mind-controls them. Don't think about it too much. The plot doesn't deserve that much contemplation.

The Ooze also makes people who eat it wear purple, for some reason.

In the end, the Rangers must fight the ultimate battle as Ivan Ooze transforms into "Terrible Mid-90s CGI Effects."

That's a fight that no one wins.

While the special effects of the film are cringe-worthy, this movie is at least faithful to the series. After all, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was a show that embraced (and still embraces) its own cheesiness. In fact, the 1995 movie is basically a longer version of one of the episodes (which were known for their "creative" storylines). Apparently, the same can't really be said for the 2017 version.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

King Kong (1976)

With the impending release of Kong: Skull Island, I thought it might be fun to take a look at previous Giant Ape movies. Obviously, I've previously covered King Kong Escapes, and the original King Kong (1933) is a classic that everyone should just go and watch. On the other hand, this 1976 remake isn't remembered as widely as the movie that inspired it, so I wanted to see why.

It can't be the cast (R to L: Auberjonois, Lange, Bridges, Grodin, and Lauter)

This King Kong (1976) attempts what the other two versions do not. It's an update set in contemporary (at the time) New York City. Subtle changes to the story result, while still keeping things on the tracks that the original set. For example, the reason for going to the island is to discover oil deposits...

...a fitting topic in the 70s

Another difference is that the Jack Driscoll character (the ship's first mate in the original 1933 movie, and a playwright in the 2005 version) is a paleoanthropologist named Jack Prescott (played by Jeff Bridges).

His beard-game got a lot stronger by the time he was in Lebowski

Finally, Kong's final battle takes place on the Twin Towers, and not on the Empire State Building. Obviously, there are some historical reverberations to this decision since 9/11.

For whatever reason, the focus of many of these Ape Movies is on the technology used to bring the ape to life. It was the same for Peter Jackson's 2005 version as well as this movie. Part of that is squarely on the fact that we've seen this story before. The audience shouldn't be terribly surprised that a Giant Ape shows up, is brought to New York to be exploited, and then dies tragically. Hopefully, Kong: Skull Island will shift this focus by shaping a new story around the giant creature.

The first movie (1933) awed audiences with its stop-motion animation. Peter Jackson's movie (2005) wowed with CGI. In the middle of those, this film won an Academy Award for special effects, but those effects haven't all aged terribly well.

For example...

Some are just your "typical 70s-era effects"
While others (that 2nd shot) are just cringe-worthy

Overall, the story is presented with heart (thanks, in large part to Jessica Lange's performance) which is slightly more than Peter Jackson's version can boast. And despite any aging special effects, it's still watchable all these years later.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Monsters (TV Series) Season 1 (1988) Part 2

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 (second half of the) first season. Brief reviews of the first half of season one can be found here.

Episode 13 - Glim-Glim

Three survivors of a city-wide plague are trapped in a library with an alien creature. When the young daughter of one of the survivors befriends the alien, the two men are forced to confront the creature.

Guest Starring: Jenna Von Oy! (Six from "Blossom")

Monster: Glim-Glim

(but really, the people are the actual Monsters)

A standard "humans letting their anger get in the way of their humanity" story. There's even a Christmas message at the end of this one, in case you need to be bashed over the head with the symbolism.

Episode 14 - Parents From Space

An adopted girl gets every 80s foster kid's wish when her mean, adoptive mother and father are possessed by aliens.

Guest Starring: Frank Gorshin! (The Riddler!)

Monster: The Aliens

Again though, it's really the people of the story (the foster parents)

Why were there so many orphan stories in the 80s? This episode is pretty kid friendly and almost gives off a twisted Punky Brewster/Diff'rent Strokes vibe with the aliens as the kindly benefactors to the little girl.

Episode 15 - The Mother's Instinct

The abusive son-in-law of a gardening, wheelchair-bound old lady discovers that she's concocted an energy drink that super-charges human strength..from melons. He wants to sell it, but his mother in-law refuses to give up the recipe. He decides to steal the melons, but the giant worms that feed on the melons have other ideas.

Guest Starring: This guy's unibrow!

Monster: The Worms

The abusive husband is the real monster here as the series solidly establishes a trend that will continue throughout. Humans are the ones to be feared, and sometimes the "monsters" actually save the day.

Episode 16 - Their Divided Self

A pair of conjoined brothers, famous for their work in showbiz, get a visit from a psychiatrist to help them work through their relationship issues. They finally come to terms when they agree on the murder of the psychiatrist.

Guest Starring: Rich Hall

Monster: The Brothers

A terrible and boring episode. It's like sitting in as two equally annoying brothers squabble through petty differences. This is definitely the worst episode so far.

Episode 17 - Taps

A dancer poisons her tap-dancing partner so that she can get out of a contract and move on to bigger things. When she dismembers his body, she discovers that his passion for dancing didn't die with him.

Guest Starring: Puns

"You always said I'd be a hack actress, but all I really need are some good parts."

Monster: The tap-dancing half-leg (that somehow sews itself onto the woman)

This episode is like Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart...but with a tapping leg instead of a heart under the floorboards. Credit for the attempt, at least.

Episode 18 - The Match Game

Four teens spend the night in an abandoned mansion to tell a scary story. Each has a match, and as the match burns, they tell their part of the story. When the match goes out, the next person in the circle takes up the story. Unfortunately for the teens, their story comes true.

Guest Starring: Tori Spelling!

Monster: Herbert Waverly

A toned-down version of the "teens tempting the fates" trope of 80s horror movies. A lot of build up, then a lot of screaming when the monster finally shows up. Tori Spelling's screaming face gets crushed into goo, so that's pretty worthwhile. Plus, I'm kind of a sucker for the whole "stories that become real" thing, so thumbs up.

Episode 19 - Rain Dance

A couple procures native trinkets (both real and fake) for their own personal gain come across a statue with mystical powers. The statue brings rain, but it must take a life to do so.

Monster: God of Death Statue

Fairly standard "Monster in the house" story without anything to defy expectation or earn any interest from the viewer. Not even a guest star to liven things up.

Episode 20 - The Cocoon

A woman with amnesia after a car accident meets with a psychic at the behest of a detective. The psychic discovers that the amnesiac woman is actually some kind of creature that spins a cocoon around herself and her lovers to consume them in order to stay young.

Guest Starring: Billy Drago

Monster: The Amnesiac

Besides the overly long PG-13 sex scene in the middle of this episode, it moves pretty fast and keeps you guessing long enough to make things interesting.

Episode 21 - All in a Day's Work

When a man's doppelganger (here, someone's evil copycat inhabited by a demon) taunts him, he seeks the help of a woman familiar with magical spells. The woman must call upon the help of her own demon before the doppelganger takes her son.

Guest Starring: Adrienne Barbeau!

Monster: Dramon the Demon

A solid episode that works in large part due to Barbeau's interactions with the demons. Everything else is just window dressing.

Episode 22 - Satan in the Suburbs

A struggling writer who runs an unsuccessful cookie company gets a visit from a devil. But the devil doesn't want her soul; he wants her to ghost write his memoirs. The devil even gives the writer (and her son) the powers of a demon in the process.

Guest Starring: Christopher Noth (dun dun)

Monster: Suburban Satan

After that last episode with Barbeau, the series definitely couldn't move on to another strong one. Instead, we get something with the tone of Episode 5's My Zombie Lover, but a lot less endearing. Noth is an annoying devil, and the struggling mom writer is too.

Episode 23 - Mannikins of Horror

A former doctor committed to "perpetual care" in a mental health facility performs surgeries on small, anatomically correct clay figures. When the facility's director decides that the clay is having a detrimental effect on the doctor's mental state, the clay figures fight back.

Monster: Clay Figures

With some great stop-motion work and one of the best endings in Season 1, this episode really shows what Monsters is capable of when it's firing on all cylinders.

Episode 24 - La Strega

A man attempts to kill the owner of a dress shop on the grounds that she's a witch who cursed his mother to die. The witch turns the tables on him though, and he must decide whether to follow through with his plan, or reassess the story his mother told him.

Guest Starring: Linda Blair!

Monster: La Strega (witch)

An overly drawn out and boring episode that tosses in the slightest hint of Rashomon with no positive effect whatsoever. A sad ending to Season 1, especially after the strength of the previous episode.