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Superguy: Behind the Cape (2000)
Post-9/11 Look at Superheroes?
As with a lot of people on this board, I discovered this DVD at Wal-Mart. Realizing that all kinds of things could go wrong, particularly since it was clearly going to be a low budget thing, I bought it in the remote chance that they would actually do the concept right. Happily they did.
Possible spoilers: The disc has copyright dates of 2000 and 2004 but the IMDb date of 2002 seems more accurate: people jumping off of buildings, successful terrorist attacks on American soil, the impotency of the superhero to solve all real life problems... the film very much feels like how superheroes were perceived even by many comic book readers right after 9/11.
To that end I don't necessarily agree with all the film's conclusions (I think the concept of the superhero as metaphor for aspiring for something greater is stronger than the filmmakers give it credit for) but the fact that a low budget film warrants analysis in terms of both the hero archetype and as a metaphor for 9/11 is very impressive.
If you want to take a chance on any $5 DVD at Wal-Mart or similar store, I'd make it this one.
The Singing Detective (1986)
A Great Series, Now Out on DVD
I discovered this at my local library and it is truly one of the all time great TV shows. A complex plot that rewards viewers' patience. Great performances, particularly by Gambon. Thus far the movie hasn't been released nationwide so I can't speak for the quality, but even if it proves to be terrible, at least it appears to have paved the way for the DVD version, which I pretty much expected when I learned of the film. This series deserves to be better known world-wide than it is, and hopefully the DVD set (which includes a director/producer Commentary track for every episode, specials on Dennis Potter, etc.) will make the series better known to people.
Deserves Serious Study
Anyone with a strong stomach who is interested in filmmaking and/or who is considering taking part in a Troma film should view this movie, which can be found on the Terror Firmer DVD.
This film pulls no punches on the rigours of making a Troma movie, showing it to be a job that you have to really want to be a part of to take part in. Director Lloyd Kaufman is not always portrayed in the most positive light, often yelling at people on both sides of the camera. It really shows that Troma may make comedic movies, but it takes the filmmaking process very seriously.
As with Terror Firmer itself, the documentary has male and female frontal nudity, fake excrement, etc. so it is not for the faint of heart. But if you can handle strong material, you'll be rewarded with an honest look at the world of filmmaking, Troma style.
The Midnight Special (1972)
Review of Andy Kaufman Episode
The only episode I've seen of this is the Andy Kaufman episode which aired January 23, 1981, and which is out on DVD (Sony Music). This review thus reflects that episode and not the series as a whole.
There are two aspects to this special: a stage show with the usual Andy Kaufman antics (including the use of Tony Clifton) and behind the scenes material.
It's hard to know how seriously to take the behind the scenes material, as Kaufman is pretty poker-faced when he's playing a prank, and as it refers to Kaufman's wrestling career which (in terms of his feud with Jerry Lawyer) has been confirmed to be an elaborate hoax. Of course that makes the material more edgy because you don't know to what extent you're getting into the mind of one of the most fascinating entertainers ever and to what extent he's pulling your leg.
The stage material is pretty typical for Kaufman, which still means it's a lot of fun and offbeat.
The episode is a worthwhile addition to the collection of any fan of the performer.
Captain America (1966)
Range of Materials Covered
It would be pointless for me to do a long review of this show because I've already reviewed Marvel Superheroes, and my review of the blanket title will mostly suffice for this show. What makes this one very slightly different is that episodes cover not only Cap's solo series (both "present day" and World War II) but also the Avengers when he was leading Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and Scarlet Witch. Beyond that, the same unintentionally funny animation and sound effects as the rest of the original Marvel Superheroes line.
Some Unintentional Humour Value
Not as funny as the 1966 cartoon, this TV movie still has its moments.
SPOILERS: Miguel is said to be a master of disguise, but as far as can be told this is only so that Christopher Lee, who is decidedly not hispanic, could play someone called Miguel. The scientists test Miguel's aging serum on a cat, but can't seem to find a test subject for the antidote (the cat, perhaps?). Plus great 1970s TV sound effects. And the opening scene with the purse snatcher is pure cornball.
A downside for both people trying to take it serious and those who are not is that Steve Rogers doesn't appear enough as Cap. On the other hand it must be conceded that the TV movie does have a very catchy theme tune.
For people looking for the unintentional laughs, this one is best viewed with another person. For people wanting a solid Cap tale that's true to the source material and can be taken seriously...stick with the comics; the definitive TV or movie Cap adventure has yet to be told.
Captain America (1990)
I rented this for 50c+tax Canadian and more or less got my money's worth, but really a few cents more might have tipped the scales. This film felt pretty lifeless and most of it has faded from memory beyond bits and pieces such as:
SPOILERS (next two paragraphs): A perhaps too actively involved President (though not as bad as Independence Day on that score), Cap going into suspended animation in his first time out (at least a few battles would have made him seem the legendary figure he's supposed to be), and a costume that somehow looks weaker than the 1970s TV movie costumes despite being more faithful in design.
I did like the romance aspect as far as it went, but according to a magazine article (probably Comics Scene), test audiences got it cut out because they didn't want Cap to be too involved with an older woman, even if she was his girlfriend before the suspended animation.
Mildly interesting to watch if you're really curious to see it, but you can do a lot better even if you stick to the superheroes.
Decent Time Passer/Quasi-Bond Film
This film features the adventures of Ian Fleming, the real life spy who wrote the original James Bond novels.
This film plays vaguely like a Bond movie, though with more realism and less action. It does have the same sort of flirtatious attitude to it, though. This makes the film a rather interesting curiousity piece for Bond fans.
Lots of allusions to Bond, not just direct references, hinting that a number of things in Fleming's life got put into the novels. I'm not sure about the accuracy of these allusions, but they do enhance the film. And one death in the film affectedly more emotionally than the vast majority of Bond movie deaths.
It is a bit dry at times, and does have a bit of a TV movie feel to it. That said, overall I was pleasantly surprised, and this is certainly above average for a TV movie. Bond completists should definitely check this one out.
The Marvel Super Heroes (1966)
Bad Animation + Goofy Sound Effects = Great Fun
I'm a huge superhero fan but in recent years have come to be able to poke gentle fun at my interests. The entire Marvel superheroes line is great for that because of the unintentional humour involved. 1960s Marvel, while groundbreaking has always had its goofy side, and these cartoons only heighten these elements. First of all, they take comic book artwork (which was often solid enough on its own) and animate it minimally in extremely silly looking ways (often repeating the same effects over and over during an episode). They they add in often funny sunny sound effects. These are heightened by the fact that onomatopoeia sometimes appears on the screen, and it more often than not fails to match the sounds you're hearing. Finally since story material is swiped from different comics, you get stuff like Iron Man or Doctor Doom's armour changing appearance back and forth at random. Great unintentionally humourous fun for any superhero fan who does not take him/herself too serious.
One final mention: some collections of Marvel material, including but not limited to material from this series, have an advertisement for Marvel collections with the most bored sounding announcer you'll ever hear talking about how you'll be thrilled by these exciting adventures and so on. This monotone delivery of supposedly thrilling material is worth seeking out in its own right.
Ever Loving Bad Theme Song
I've reviewed the stylistic elements of the Marvel Superheroes cartoons (which are all pretty interchangeable between the various series)under the blanket title and won't rehash those here. I will say that this show has some of the strangest theme songs you'll ever hear, very bright and sunny for a show about a rampaging monster. And while the Thing may be ever loving, that description doesn't quite fit the Hulk so well.