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Strange British charity
I, too, caught this on the USA Network in the late 1980's. I believe The Grand Knockout Tournament was held yearly; not sure if it still is. And, I think USA carried one more installment of this, after which, it was never seen again.
Decidedly, one of the oddest charity events ever televised. Not that the charity was odd, but, the games the celebrities played for their perspective teams. In one, someone dressed as a jester has to cross a pole suspended over water while opposing team members dressed as royalty toss fake food at him in an attempt to prevent him from crossing. Another event has players from one team dressed as vegetables while the other chases after them in an attempt to remove their costumes and toss them into a gigantic soup pot.
All in all, it was a whole lot of fun. Very strange, but, a lot of British humor is to be expected that way. And, since it was all for charity, I say let the grand knocking out commence!
I think it's quite a good sequel.
A lot of people don't like this picture, but, I think it works. It is helmed by a strong cast of principle performers and carried off by a unique twist on the sequel impetus. The idea is fairly original, as opposed to the usual: for this story, one would normally expect they'd just focus on another group of survivors and how they get out. Instead of dealing with people wanting to get out, the plot is spurred on by people wanting to get IN. Then, ironically, they become trapped and become the people who have to get out, along with some of those aforementioned survivors to keep with tradition. I also have to give the film credit for that little bits of continuity, like Linda's body is still lying near the entrance of the ship the crew uses, the same hole the original movie's survivors escaped from. In the end, the movie isn't as bad as it is often called.
Not as bad as I expected.
While not the best G.I. Joe I've ever seen (As someone who grew up on the original 1980's cartoon to eventually meet some of its original stars.) I was pleasantly surprised by how well it does work. I expected it to focus entirely on Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow as too much of Joe has focused on martial arts and ninjas over recent years. Thankfully, that's shelved as a small part of this movie.
They wisely brought back onboard one of the men integral to 1980's G.I. Joe history as the writer. Larry Hama, writer of about 90% of the original Marvel G.I. Joe series, as well as having input on both the toy file cards and into the original cartoon series, brings a lot of the old series back with him. And, while I'd have preferred a more direct old Joe continuation, this new vision of it could have been worse. Hama wisely sticks with one basic element: Cobra's latest world control plot. This time, it's a combination of virtually remote controlled war vehicles and an army of new robot soldiers, updated Battle Android Troopers (B.A.T.s)
CGI could have been better, but, I've seen worse. While the voice cast is sans anyone from the original series, it does provide some past links with G.I. Joe cartoon history. A handful of the actors from the 2nd animated series, released by DIC, and some from the G.I. Joe: Extreme abortion are back. Scott McNeil as Destro, though, is the only one who is back as a character he had previously. Other nice touches are peppered throughout for old Joe fans. B.A.T.s were, either positively or negatively, a constant element in the 2nd season of the old show, and in a few scenes, bars of the original G.I. Joe cartoon theme appear. I think you'll find "he'll fight for freedom, wherever there is trouble" in key points.
All in all, I've spent a worse of my life before, and, was quite surprised by how well it does turn out. "YOUR CRACKERS, COBRA COMMANDER!"
The Hellstrom Chronicle (1971)
Now, this is the way to make a documentary!
For 10 plus years, "The Hellstrom Chronicle" was regularly plugged into the 2am/4am movie slot on a local station in the middle 80's through 90's. Too bad it couldn't get more coverage, because this is how a documentary should be made.
The problem with documentaries is if you focus too much on the clinical data, it becomes dry. If yo try to interject drama into it, you run the risk of sending up the piece, into parody or even farce. Hellstrom interjects just the right amount of fiction, in the form of Lawrence Pressman, that links the documentary portions at a pace that keeps it from losing one's interest. It's obvious that "Dr." Hellstrom, a fictitious entomologist, is paranoid that insects will take over the world through their superiority over men. The most interesting thing, though, is he may very well be right! If the insect world footage has any say in how future matters may turn out, it will.
Of particular interest is the portion of the footage devoted to the driver ants. As has been quoted in other reviews, this is a prime example of "How DID they film that?!" documentary in motion. It's an inspiration out of "Leinengen Vs. The Ants," only it's real!
If you can find this "movie," give it a roll. Expand your mind a bit with some facts, while at the same time, become entertained by Dr. Hellstrom... even if he isn't a real doctor, but, he plays one on TV! (Actually, he did! Pressman went on to play one on Doogie Howser, M.D.)
Ah, glad to see this show is still remembered.
The premise is simple: take a movie, probably within the public domain or has a lot of copyright problems and can be obtained cheaply, trim it down to half an hour and dub in new lines. It's not a new premise, so, its success rests on the quality of the writing. And, Mad Movies certainly succeeded!
Back in my Beta days, I wore my tapes to death with repeats. The only episode I nearly completely (Missing credits.) have transfered to VHS was, thankfully, what is probably the best: "Night Of The Living Dead." ("I'll hide in the trash!") There was also some old cowboy movie that was interrupted intermittently by a song of praise for a jelly sandwich and a fresh rhubarb pie. ("Lost my sandwich, jelly sandwich, now a sad guy am I!") from its cast, including the lead horse. I think there was also a rif on some Carmen Miranda movie. Unfortunately, it's hard to review a series like this, because it depends on actually hearing the gags. Thus, you must see the episodes, which are probably locked in TV Land's vaults somewhere, never to be seen again.
The show aired on Nick@Nite, Sunday, around 10 PM or 10:30, for only a year. A few years later, I believe the L.A. Connection made Blobbermouth, where they spoofed the entire original "The Blob" for theatrical release, but, I've not seen it. After that, the Mad Movies concept and the L.A. Connection appeared to have just disappeared.
Mad Movies should appeal to fans of other similarly themed shows like: Dynaman, Samurai Pizza Cats, and Tokyo Pig.
Fractured Flickers (1963)
I really miss this show!
I caught this little gem very briefly on Ha!, what would become Comedy Central, in the early 1990's, weekly at the ungodly hour of 2 AM on Mondays. But, I made sure to watch it as long as they showed it. Which wasn't long, but, I still remember it today.
If you're familiar with What's Up Tiger Lily, Dynaman, Samurai Pizza Cats, Kung Pow: Enter The Fist, or Tokyo Pig, the premise will be familiar. They take old silent pictures and recut them for comedic effect, with new soundtracks provided by some of the best voice actors of all time. Even the series host was one. In the final analysis, a show such as this must rest on whether the scripts are funny. And, with writers from such shows as Rocky And Bullwinkle and Get Smart, it succeeds. Thankfully, I was able to tape some of my favorite shorts when Ha reran them. Mine are the same as most everyone else who remembers this series: the one about Zorro, the one with the Applegate murders, with an unlikely list of suspects, including a monkey and a surprised and infuriated looking Hans Conreid.
So, it's hard to find, but, if you know someone who has these, beg, borrow, or steal their tapes. You can sure do worse with 30 minutes of your time, by far!
SPOILER!! Saw this on Sci-Fi Channel as Gunhed. And, even though it is Japanese, I saw it "translated" into English; still makes no sense. I've nothing against mindless fluff films, but even check your brain in at the door movies go SOMEWHERE. This picture had me saying outloud "What's the point?!" multiple times.
It starts off with a decent enough premise. In the near future, technology is worth more than gold, so, a group of scavengers are trying to loot an industrial complex on an old island for any left over tech. However, this island is home to a vast computer that had tried to wage war on man some years earlier, and, it's still active. But, any semblence to sense at that point disappears.
In short order, most of the scavengers are killed off in one sitting, leaving only one man and woman. They soon discover a female commando, apparently part of a previously briefly discussed conflict against this computer. They also discover a girl and apparently someone named 11. They eventually find some sort of control room with a vat of green goo and some sort of data crystal. The surviving female scavenger somehow falls into the goo and becomes physically absorbed into a robot whose only function is to roam around the movie and occassionally harass the cast. People get separated by the robot, who takes the data crystal and stabs it through its hand. Okay... from there, we cut to the one remaining free main cast member and the girl who find the remains of a Gunhed, apparently a form of artifically intelligent tank.
They get it working in time to discover the computer has to cycle its energy supply soon, which will basically turn the complex into a nuclear reactor. So, in their attempt to escape, somehow the girl reaches apparatus to drop various bombs all over the place which destroys part of "the city." They escape this and try to find some chemical coolant to stop the reactor process. They have 10 minutes to do this, but, this 10 minutes stretches out over 30 minutes of the film. Meanwhile, 11's mouth starts glowing orange and she locks up the female commando to go to the green goo room and meet the robot. The commando escapes and follows 11 while Gunhed takes on a defense robot called Aerobot. While Gunhed keeps Aerobot busy, our male hero sneaks by and discovers everyone else in the green goo room. The female absorbed into the green goo robot still has a hand grenade with her, so, she detonates it, destroying the robot. The female commando gives our male hero the data crystal, or whatever it is. It could even be the TexMexium, a weird metal that lets computers mentally control humans, as briefly described in the film's opening text.
Out of nowhere, a 10 second self destruct sequence activates. Now, remember, the 10 minutes we had before the reactor started was NEVER resolved, and, now, we have this self destruct to deal with. Gunhed activates its rockets and crashes into a wall, promptly stating, "I can only hold off the self destruct sequence for 15 minutes this way." HOW?! Crashing into a wall will delay a 10 second destruct sequence somehow by 15 minutes? With the counter delayed at 3, our remaining cast escapes the island. This 15 minutes go by in under 1 minute of film time. A mystery plane escapes the island before it explodes. It receives a transmission from the Gunhed that the Gunhed batallion completed its mission. THE END
I dare ANYONE to try and make any sense out of that... The effects by Toho are quite fine, especially by late 80's standards, and even foreshadow the trend the Godzilla pictures would later take on. Reminded me most of Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah (1991). But, while giant robot movies don't require a tighlty intricate script to work, they must STILL possess the barest modicum of logic. Gunhed, the movie, must have fallen into that same vat of green goo mentioned earlier this the review. In the end, a waste of 90 odd minutes.
Kidô butôden G Gundam (1994)
Supporting cast just manages to save this show from its star
To start off, an overview of the program. In an alternate, future Earth, colonies have spread throughout the solar system. Every four years, a grand tournament is held between fighters piloting giant robot weapons called Gundams. The fighter that wins, his represented nation controls the rest of the colonies until the next tournament. Enter Domon, representing Neo-Japan, first looking for his missing brother, but eventually becomes involved in a fight to save the universe when others behind the scenes of the tournament make their own plans for the outcome.
And, it is Domon, the lead character, who brings this show almost grinding to a halt. Rarely has such a flat central character carried a program. He wins 99.9% of his fights simply because he is the main character. The writers pull off the most unbelievable excuses to make sure he wins, if they even bother to do that! Sometimes, they just have Domon win for no real reason at all. As a martial artist, his character takes the stance that "he can only communicate with his fists." Well, what a great rationalization for violence, eh? And, strangely enough, everyone around him just accepts and believes this! Add to this several sub-plots involving him that are rather blatantly obvious: the mystery of the fighter Schwarz Bruder (Anyone with a German 1 high school level of the language can guess who he really is.) what happened to his father, and the unexpected love story that develops in the last few episodes, and, we really come to care less about whatever happens to Domon by the end. We know he'll win before he even enters a fight, so, there's no sense of tension.
That having been said, the supporting cast of characters is quite a surprise. Save for a couple, most have believable motivations. Argo fights to free his friends wrongfully imprisoned because of what he's done stands out, even though this plot element isn't touched that heavily upon. Even a minor character, who only appears a couple of times, becomes important and interesting when it is learned his wife was killed accidentally involving Argo. He blames the Russian for her death when, actually, he had been trying to save her at the time. The current colonial leader, Wong, is manipulating the tournament so his nation can rule for all time by resurrecting an all powerful Gundam. Domon's teacher, Master, is using Wong to get the Gundam for himself because he's become mad with the belief that the Earth must be saved from mankind itself. Even George, whose reason for fighting is one of the less creative ones, to battle for the honor of his country, is carried off better than the star's.
In the end, the smaller stories do manage to save this series from its bland central focuses. The idea of giant robots battling for a specific purpose beyond war is also a refreshing take on the past Gundam shows. Not the best action cartoon ever, but, better than some Gundam series. Definitely a show that is better than its main character.
Phase IV (1974)
More of an essay than a story, but still recommended viewing
Phase IV is not your average movie experience. Definitely not for everyone, so, see it if you get the chance (Last I saw it was a 1997 airing on The Sci-Fi Channel.) and decide if it's for you.
It's even hard to generalize WHAT the movie is about. On the surface, a colony of ants has gained a heightened level of intelligence and has apparently decided to drive out the local people. A group of surviving scientists, who were examining the ant phenomenon, rescue a wandering woman, and they become "trapped" in the "laboratory." The lead researcher then goes nutters over trying to determine what the ants are doing and getting nowhere because, well, ants and humans just aren't natural conversationalists. And the story ends... well, it just ends. What did the ants want? Did they take over the woman's body at the end? Did they the one surviving scientist, or, did he "join" them, just come to reason with them, what? Plus, what ARE the other three "Phases?"
Now, I first saw this film on Beta in 1985 and on VHS many time since, the last being the aforementioned 1997 airing. I've read the reviews here, and, WHERE are people getting the alien intelligence taking over the ants from?! I've been watching this movie for 15 plus years, and, I can't recall any aliens mentioned. An alien influence on the ants WOULD make a bit more sensical motivation for the ants, but, I don't recall this stated even as a theory anywhere in the movie. I welcome anyone to e-mail me and let me know where it is in the film, because, I may have just failed to catch it.
So, why would I recommend it? This movie manages to effectively pull you into the story without any of the excess baggage one would expect from a nature gets its revenge picture. No drawn out "battle" sequences, like "Empire Of The Ants." The event has happened, so, there's no need to express it with cheap special effects. The story hinges instead on the aftermath, how people deal with it, the scientific community's response, all the time presenting a prevailing air of mystery as to why the ants did it. The casual viewer will be disappointed by its rather quizzical ending because it doesn't "resolve" the question of what the ants want or were doing in a clean cut package. In fact, it doesn't GIVE an answer. It opens up the floor to debate, so to speak, where your own questions about it allow you to formulate your own "message" from the ending. Can we live with the ants? Can the ants live with us? Do either sides want to?
Many would also find this film boring because of the lack of "action" sequences until the end, pretty much summed up when the nutter scientist is consumed in a pit of ants. Instead, the film builds up suspense with effective small shots of the ants themselves. Ants moving through technical equipment to "sabotage" it. Ants moving through their tunnels, reflecting a genuine "sinister" sense, a sort of "What are they planning, if anything?" atmosphere. Ants moving over furniture, people. Nothing over done with an army of ants crawling all over the place, people screaming as they drown in a flood of insects (Save the one scientist, I suppose.) It doesn't dumb itself down with exploitive action sequences.
In the end, the film doesn't insult a viewer's intelligence. IF someone doesn't get anything out of about it, the film just lets them be. For others, it opens up the floor with unresolved questions, but, does not hinge on them, like so many cop out endings. You're left to reach your own conclusions, but not as a crutch, to avoid having to write an ending or a low budget, etc.
An interesting film if you can ever find it. If you do, watch it and decide for yourself. It's one of the few movies made that lets you choose whether to like it or not, and goes along with that.
I cannot contain my disdain any longer
After a recent showing on Sci-Fi reminded me of just how much I hated this movie when it first came out on video, I thought I'd vent my frustration with a review.
Stay away from this one! While an attempt was at least made to return to the horror aspects of the horror-comedy "Return Of The Living Dead," the result is simply a mess. Even barring the about 10 complete screenplay rewrites and the 20 different special effects teams, they still didn't get it right. They can't decide whether zombies eat human flesh or brains, despite the fact is told at the beginning they eat brains. After becoming a zombie, Julie complains she can't feel her flesh, yet, complains of near constant pain from not eating human bits. The whole silliness of inserting sharp objects into her body is merely an excuse to appeal to the self mutilation and piercing fetishists, who were a small minority at the time. Cops indescriminantly shoot at escaping vehicles even when it's just a robbery call, and, even shoot a wounded man in the back when he opens the door, calling for their help. And the whole "We love each other so we belong in Hell because Hell is now the cool thing" motif is just plain annoying.
The sad thing is there are things to potentially like in this story. A real reason offered for eating brains, the attempt to revitalize zombies as Army bio-weapons, the cyborg Riverman zombie. Even some good actors like James Callahan and Sarah Douglas, who even manage to eclipse the bad acting of Kent McCord. But, what is entirely unforgivable, especially given what was already stated in the previous paragraph, is how there is absolutely no moral consequence given to any actions in this movie. The guy who revives his girlfriend, the aforementioned Julie, from the dead doesn't even give a second thought before doing it. When she is revived and wants to kill and eat people, all she does is blame him for reviving her, he who in turn merely yells at her for being unappreciative. As she goes and eating and/or killing and eating people, all he does is scream her name, ocassionally smacking her. She kills Riverman, who helped find Julie and save her boyfriend, too, and, the guy doesn't even seem phased. He just screams her name again, like she's supposed to know it's bad merely from that and stop. Everything seems to be justified merely because they love each other. To Hell, and by the end of the film they mean that expressively literally, with everyone and everything else. Even if it means absolute destruction.
Very few redeeming qualities, which are utterly swept aside by how many detestable elements this film had. And, now, they're making a Part Four even after this debacle?!