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15 reviews in total 
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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Hard to like, 1 March 2009

This show is random to levels that, on a slow day, are excessive. The pop-culture references and spastic interludes of sex and violence feel very much as though someone has taken the "Family Guy" bag of tricks and distilled it down to its primal, chaotic core.

Seen through the eyes of a cyborg chicken strapped to a chair, the show is what the chicken sees: surreal programming on television with television that frequently changes, hopping from the Care Bears to George Bush to Star Wars and back. The whole thing feels like an incredibly weak effort, and the style is just too welcoming to escape. Don't like what you're working on? Change the channel.

Fifteen minutes of this feels like an hour of life thrown away, all the way from the opening credits to the wretched cover version of "The Gonk" at the end. Never in my life did I think music sung by chickens would get old.

Cyclone (1987)
8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
So bad. So wonderfully, wonderfully bad., 17 December 2008

Rarely does one find a movie so bad that it achieves the often-sought paradigm of having so little redeeming value that that alone makes it worth watching. "Cyclone," I am happy to report, is such a film.

I knew I was in for something good as soon as I found the videotape. I am at least its fourth owner: It has a "Used Movie Sale! $9.95" sticker on the front, and a yard-sale sticker for one dollar. I picked it up at a thrift store for fifty cents.

The Used Movie Sale! sticker covers much of the front cover artwork, meaning that what I see is a truly odd blended still of the front of the Cyclone super bike, a car flipping over on fire, and Heather Thomas, wearing Flouncy Eighties Hair with her mouth open in an expression that says, "I 'ave a 'ooth ache." I saw that and thought, "All RIGHT." The case, honestly, was enough ("with nowhere to turn and no one to trust, Teri is plunged headlong into a maze of danger and deceit"), but I surprised myself by actually getting around to watching it. I always make time for the really bad films. That "Fight Club" tape can wait.

Meet Teri. Teri is a stunningly well-crafted character, as we can tell from her introduction, in which she and her friend do exercises that highlight her breasts and, later, her legwarmers. Then Teri goes off to hook up with her boyfriend for the evening that goes horribly wrong. Before she knows it, Teri is driven "straight into a web of deadly double-crosses in CYCLONE." The VHS box tells it like it is.

Left out of the box summary - perhaps out of some faint hope that actual copies of this film would be sold - is how awful the acting is. It might have been just me, but I kept thinking I could read the characters' thoughts through their eyes. "This is dumb," thinks Heather Thomas. "I know," thinks Bad Guy with Too-Wide Mouth.

A driving force (no pun intended) for the second half of this epic picture are the car chases. Those were actually pretty good, although I'm inclined that gasoline doesn't need coaching on how to explode. What really impressed me is that, in all the chases, the streets were pretty much empty. It's like there are only twenty people in this huge city.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Gee Wilikers! I have to see this movie!" The sad thing, though, is that you can't find it. Oh no. "Cyclone" is a film that finds YOU. Just wait. Some day - perhaps during lunch, perhaps late in the evening, perhaps "when military scientist Jeffery Combs ('Re-Animator')is murdered by hired assassins" - you will hear the rustle of legwarmers, and know that it is time.

Blindness (2008)
13 out of 27 people found the following review useful:
Awesomely Disturbing, 7 October 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I conditionally recommend this film to anyone interested, with the "condition" being that you should know you will probably leave troubled. I never saw a movie that made my want to cry and throw up at the same time before.

The basic premise of the film is actually explained pretty thoroughly in the trailers. A man suddenly goes blind. He then gives it to his wife, the eye doctor he goes to see, and the "helping" hand who gives him a ride home and then steals his car. "Who steals from a blind man?" he asks. As it turns out, everybody.

I'm big on plague fiction, and what separates "Blindness" from anything else I've ever seen or read before is the fact that a quarantine actually goes into effect immediately as the authorities buy time in a fruitless search for a cure. The quarantine is what makes this movie a different masterpiece: there are the well, and there are the infected. And people will do anything to avoid crossing over.

This movie has a lot of very good motifs - most of them involving "washing out" the image to affect the creeping nature of the "white sickness" - but my favorite was the videotape. When the infected are first brought to the decaying mental asylum where the bulk of the film is set, they are shown a video from the health ministry, where a man endlessly repeats the rules of the place. This is in itself a statement, as one of the characters notes: who shows a videotape to blind people? As more and more of the freshly blind are added to the building and the situation deteriorates, the video follows suit. A forgotten aspect of the analog age is that the more you play a videotape, the faster you wear it out. After a while, hitches turn up in the sound and the picture starts to jump. By the time the internalized system of government has imploded and the "King of Ward Three" shoots out the master TV set, the tape has decayed so far that someone watching (or hearing) it for the first time would have a hard time making any sense of it. But, by then, it doesn't really matter. And so the unseen, stricken image plays out without sound to an unseeing audience.

I liked the characterization of the people in the film. The asylum is run from the inside because people on the outside are so afraid of being struck blind that they won't go inside for anything. When several people are shot by the edgy guards, "the shovel that you requested" is thrown over the barbed wire to the inmates, who now outnumber the rationed meals. The internal, microcosmic hell of the asylum simply outpaces the external collapse of civilization. The two briefly cross paths when the guards run out of meals for those inside.

The trivia section says the the National Federation for the Blind decried this film, and, intrigued, I looked up their press release on the NFB website. Their complaint, in a sentence, is that "Blind people in this film are portrayed as incompetent, filthy, vicious, and depraved." I agree with this conclusion, but not the road that led to it. To me, the movie evoked with disturbing clarity something I've known on an intellectual level since I took a class on the Holocaust: Inside each human being are the seeds of great or horrible things. The blind people here are not portrayed as filthy because they are blind; they are portrayed that way because they have lost sight. Let me explain.

This is a world populated by people newly made blind - they feel the same way as a bunch of people who don't know each other would feel in a locked room when the lights went out. The familiar becomes alien; the new becomes terrifying. As civilization shuts down and the veneers of society rub off, people lose their identities and become good, bad, or - and I liked that this was not discluded - stuck in the middle. The eye doctor who treats the initial patient is a good person, more or less, but lacks moral courage to do the right thing when someone HAS to. That job falls to his wife.

The NFB says that "She is portrayed as physically, mentally, and morally superior to the others because she still has her sight." She is shown as more able because she has her sight, but no intrinsic moral superiority is assigned to her simply because she has sight. Instead, she enters the rarefied air of decision in isolation: since she can see and others can't, she becomes something like a superhero, part and parcel of the moral solitude experienced by the superheroes in the movies of this last decade. Speaking of which, I will admit it's a little disturbing that the one originally blind person shown in the movie - who is indeed called a superhero by the King of Ward Three - is working for the bad guys. I have to wonder what the movie would have been like if the heroine had also been blind from birth. I think that would have also made for an interesting, very interesting movie - but that's hypothetical. THIS film, as it is, is a masterpiece of style, substance and message.

And what is the message? I would say that it's a study in human nature, and an excellent one at that. I sincerely hope that this movie does nothing to the detriment of those without sight, because that isn't what it's about. It's a simple question, written in blood: How human are YOU when the essentials of your life are taken away?

Gigli (2003)
4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
A study in "bad", 15 August 2008

I remember the day in 2003 after this movie came out. My father and I were watching television early on a Saturday morning, and some sort of all-purpose newscast brought up "Gigli," which had apparently imploded following one night of screening. When the film finally turned up on videocassette at a thrift store for fifty cents five years later, I decided I would take the plunge.

I had a hard time telling what was funny because it was funny, and what was supposed to be dramatic and turned out funny because it was bad, and what was supposed to be funny but turned out bad because it was bad. The plot - following two "contractors" and the mentally retarded man they kidnap - takes place primarily indoors, with a healthy mix of driving scenes that seem to inexplicably seem to loop back to the same house each time. Christopher Walken and Al Pachino both appear for one scene each, then vanish - giving the film an Alice-in-Wonderland feel, as if the whole thing was written by somebody running a fever of 102.

Maybe it was.

What I will say for "Gigli" was that it is watchable. It's not something I'd pay more than fifty cents to see, but was watchable. This sets it apart from a lot of the other bad movies I've seen - or, for that matter, some of the allegedly good ones. The worst movie I ever saw was called "Breaking the Waves." Yes, I know the rest of you liked it, but I didn't. Sometimes quality and watchability are at odds - and here, a bad movie was watchable. Despite the incredibly bad... everything, I never actually felt compelled to turn the TV off.

In my opinion, this was a bad movie. A really, REALLY bad movie. But it never really crossed the line from "awful" to "unbearable." So yeah, watch it if you get the chance. But don't tell anybody you did.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Good Lord! (of the deep), 25 June 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Curiously, the experience that led me to this movie is almost exactly the same as that of another reviewer, Zorin-2, who sent his brother to buy a used copy from the video store. I did exactly the same thing (although I went to the video store myself) and even payed the same about ($5). However, I fully admit to walking into the trap of my own free will.

Let me explain.

The video store in my home town has been in business since the early 1980s (and even had Betamax tapes for awhile). Their VHS selection is comprised largely of arcane films that I had never heard of and, when I looked the titles up, found to be out of print. These were the films whose box cover art had been bleached down to blue and gray by a quarter century of sun exposure. They had "Solarbabies," "Dracula 3000" and "Warbus." And so, on that fateful day I found they were selling their videotapes, I knew it was time to move. And I picked up "Lords of the Deep."

They'd already sold "Warbus."

This movie is bad. This movie is so bad I'm honestly surprised it never got turned into an episode of "Mystery Science Theatre 3000." I mean, come on. When the aliens tell Claire that they've fled a dead planet only to end up on another world on the same condition, was anyone else thinking, "Sucks for you!" It all but writes itself! To call the acting here 'limited' would be an injustice to the actors, because they HAVE range, but have no control over it. Watch the deranged Commander Dobler shift from authoritarian puppetmaster to squawking manager to comforting paternal figure to obsequious lackey and then back to puppetmaster again! Watch Claire neglect lab protocol and then ignore her own personal safety! Watch everyone rock back and forth during the "earthquakes"! Oh, and let's not forget to credit the set and props people. The alien creatures look NOTHING AT ALL like they were carved out of Styrofoam, and the "weapons" that seem to shoot sparks or something would be excellent for lighting barbecues. Special credit to whoever designed the Martel jumpsuits all the characters wear. Never in a million years would I have thought to sew large flannel patches onto my shoulders to spice my clothing up.

So, yeah. This was a bad movie. It did indeed enter the zone of being so bad it's good, but it's not so awful it's hilarious. The film doesn't really leave much room for a sequel, but I think a prequel set five or six months earlier, in deep sea team training, would be interesting. They could call it "Everybody Loves Dobler."

8 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
A Flawed Work of Genius, 22 June 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Every story has two halves: the material, and the way the teller tells it. In this case, though the end product was impressive, the Discovery Channel oversold this production to a point that bordered on inadvertent desecration. The storytelling itself was, all in all, very good (the fact that all the viewers know the ending is something that really couldn't be helped). However, I think the emphasis the Discovery people placed on the program's HD nature was silly. Most of the footage consists of either grainy, spotty film, or first generation video telefeeds that are so primitive I found myself impressed that they could work at all. The people of Earth were awed to see the twitchy, flickering image of Neil Armstrong on the moon in 1969. The "HD" billing the program got is something I can only attribute to the consumer zeitgeist of modern America.

The second (and worse) mistake the Discovery Channel made was to air ads for the miniseries DURING the series BEFORE it had ended. I can't say why, but that really %*&&ed me off. Maybe it's just because I'd like to really bathe in the majesty of human existence for just a MOMENT without someone using it as a tool to sell me something. Yes, it's very nice that the single greatest artifact of human effort is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray at a discounted price. Get stuffed.

And yet, marketing flaws aside, it really is an awesome story, and the people who made it did it well. I really was, as I had been promised, shown things I'd never seen before. I watched Richard Nixon talk to Niel Armstrong. I watched men use hardware supplies to innovate their way out of carbon dioxide poisoning. I watched the Challenger and the Columbia come down in chunks. I watched the Earth rise up from beyond the horizon of the Moon.

I'm still amazed that this was all so recent that the principle characters are still alive, and to hear them talk was to feel the power. Niel Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin and the first President Bush and scores more spoke into the cameras of what they had seen, or done, or helped with. I actually realized that "the Establishment," as our rigidly organized government and its projects are often cynically called, was capable of miracles of its own.

Bon voyage.

More fun than finding a dollar bill in the street!, 2 August 2007

Told from inside the brain of a man who seems quite cartoonish even in the live action scenes, a the anthropomorphic cartoon incarnation of the man's candlestick telephone ends up in hospital from all the abuse he gives it.

With the exception of an unfortunate racist caricature (the black zookeeper) there is nothing about this film I don't like. The production values are good, the woe-begotten phone is an empathetic creature, and the various aspects of the technology - the man struggling to remember the number he's dialing and holding the phone away to his chest when he talks - do evoke similar problems in the cell phone age (as the previous commenter noted, this film does have a strikingly modern feel). In fact, one line in the cue-card dialog bears a striking resemblance to a certain telephone commercial. Can you guess which one? Check your answer at, where the film (which they affirm is in the public domain) can be downloaded for free. Now all I have to do is find a song that syncs to it.

Ice Spiders (2007) (TV)
61 out of 81 people found the following review useful:
Without question the most gloriously awful movie I've ever had the honor of seeing, 10 June 2007

And, if you don't mind my saying so, I've been around. I've seen the legendary "Plan 9 From Outer Space," as well as a whole host of network TV films ("Locusts," "Vampire Bats," "Category 6," "Category 7," "Fatal Contact," whatever the sequel to "10.5" was called) and I stand here before you today to say that cable proves that you don't have to be a venerable broadcast giant to really, really stink.

The plot of the movie is that some government scientists engineer giant spiders in order to harvest their silk for Department of Defense purposes. The only problem is that one of the scientists tampers with the experiment, the spiders get out, and it's up to a fleet of B-actors to stop them or flap on the ground in a spot where a giant spider will later be edited in killing them trying.

This movie enters a qualitative threshold that I did not know could exist. You see, once a film reaches a certain level of "awful," the people involved start to notice (as evidenced by the tongue-in-cheek extra-low budget Adult Swim shows "Saul of the Mole Men" and "Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job"). Somehow, the cast of Ice Spiders was unaware of the lousiness of the film they were making. The only kind of television I've ever seen in my life - which has probably been shortened substantially by the cumulative doses of TV movies I've had over the years - that could rival "Ice Spiders" for quality are commercials made by regional furniture dealerships. Speaking of commercials, kudos to Orkin for their advertising during the world premier of this "film." The computer effects appear to have been designed with software from the 1980s, the acting is beyond awful - and I mean that seriously; some of this comes off like the actors were cold-reading the script - and the overall premise defies description. Thank God I taped it, because somehow I just know that this film can only be enhanced by VHS static lines.

16 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
Thinking about the good old days, 12 May 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There was a time – and it wasn't all that long ago, really – that Family Guy charmed me. It's an animated sitcom about a moronic but lovable fat man, his wife, his talking dog and his kids. It originally ran from 1999 to 2002, and when I discovered in on Adult Swim (Cartoon Network's late-night programming block, for both of you who didn't know) in 2003, it had already gone out of production and into syndication. I'm sorry it didn't end there.

I, personally, think the show has run aground. I won't get into a detailed analysis of the cast beforehand – if you can't sum up Family Guy in one sentence you won't be able to sum it up in ten pages – and will instead harp on everything about it I don't like. That's not to say I never liked Family Guy, and that's not to say I won't like it again. But there are some serious issues that really need to be dealt with.

1. Cut the Cutaways. Family Guy has a tradition of cutaways. They usually start when protagonist Peter Griffin or one of the other characters says "Hey, remember that time we (something)?" The show will then cut to that moment for about ten seconds. There used to be a couple of these per episode, and they used to be fairly funny. Now the show is overwhelmed with cutaways. In one fourth season episode, "The Father, The Son and the Holy Fonz" (which was about Peter founding his own church around The Fonz from Happy Days) I counted thirteen. That's not counting the point where Stewie Griffin asks the viewer to change the channel to ABC for five seconds to see Desperate Housewives, which airs the same time on Sundays. That joke sort of works at the right time (9PM on Sundays), but falls flat everywhere else. Just like the rest Family Guy. And since I brought up Stewie,

2. Make Stewie Griffin a mad scientist again. In the first three seasons, Stewie was a half-baked evil genius who, on one occasion used a Speak-n-Spell as a component in a weather-changing device. I used to love the weird stuff he'd build. In the later episodes, that personality has been shelved in place of showing him trying to be an angry, confused socialite, who does stupid things like pimp his Big Wheel. It's just dumb.

3. Be rid of the monologue stall. Family Guy has devised a little something I like to call the 'monologue stall,' in which one character will just stand there and talk about absolutely nothing for an inordinately long amount of time, yep, just standing there, talking, with nowhere to go with this thought, nowhere at all, nope, hey, remember that time we—" I hate the monologue stall! I hate it! I hate it hate it hate it!

4. Ease off the cultural references. Just like the cutaways, Family Guy has always used random cultural references (Peewee's Playhouse, Pinocchio, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Jaws, The Brady Bunch, Back to the Future, Spider-man, Happy Days, innumerable television commercials, etc, etc, all thrown in at totally random times), and just like the cutaways, it's a habit that's fast becoming an addiction. In ten years, nobody's going to understand any of it because they never saw that particular show or movie or television commercial. Our children are going to look at Family Guy the way we look at 8-track tapes. Bank on it.

5. Get the voices right. I've never been able to shake the feeling that the woman who does the voice of Lois Griffin, Peter's wife, kind of forgot how between season three and season four. Even worse is that creepy, soft-spoken southern voice used by multiple characters (including a random cutaway to Jaws 5, where it is spoken by the shark).

6. Stage a massive "1984"-style cover-up to deny American Dad! ever existed. At the same time as Family Guy returned to the airwaves, Seth MacFarlane's new show, American Dad! arrived. I watched about six episodes before realizing that it was a failure, and a couple more before deciding it was a disgusting, vulgar piece of trash that was all the worse because this was supposed to be the creator's triumphant return. I mean, here's a guy who fought tooth and nail for two and a half years to be back on TV, and they let him, and he comes up with this! It's a show about a dimwitted CIA agent, his son, his captive space alien (who gets his son pregnant), his daughter, his wife, and his goldfish, who has the brain of a German and has the hots for the wife. Two and a half years. He had a two-and-a-half year gap between shows, and he came back with that.

I'm not as bitter as I sound. I miss the old episodes, where there were only three or four cutaways and nobody had yet considered having people just talk and talk and talk. Family Guy is drowning in a vat of totally pointless random cultural nods and weighed down by a set of scripts that are increasingly stupid. I actually turned Family Guy off for the first time in my life ten minutes into a world premiere of an episode that had Stewie assaulting Brian because he didn't pay his gambling debt. When I checked the article on that particular episode, it claimed it was a cultural reference to The Sopranos. Screw that. It's the death of a decent show; it's just nobody knows it yet. The show's theme song was always a little tongue-in-cheek, but now it's utterly opposed to the program that runs after it:

It seems today,

That all you see

Is violence in movies

And sex on TV;

Lucky there's a Family Guy…

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Man, I wish the series had more episodes like this one, 27 February 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've watched too much anime in my life, and I've noticed that "InuYasha" managed to avoid the usual action-series trap of twenty-episode battle arcs by trying to space out the plot with fluff episodes like this one.

Shippo receives, as the title says, An Angry Challenge, from the last surviving member of the Thunder Clan that was otherwise destroyed in one of the really early episodes where the plot was still in motion. However, it turns out the challenger is a preschool-aged child named Souten. (Incidentally, I can't help but wonder if that name was supposed to be a reference to Kagome's kid brother Souta).

Souten is aided by a small, androgynous dragon that looks to be a refugee from the first generation of Looney Tunes. (You know; the ones where the cars all have starter cranks and Gabby the Goat was still in rotation. Heck, maybe HE ended up getting a gig as an InuYasha villain). These two are by far the most enjoyable transient villains I've seen in the series since Yura of the Hair back in episode three. It's really beautiful watching this kid and his- Er, her pet outwit the series' protagonists.

The first two anime I was introduced to were Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z (I used to watch them on Toonami back around the time the millennium rolled over) and they both succumbed to the phenomenon of the Neverending Plot Arc. The series would start out strong - a new character each episode, powers revealed, friends made - and by the time the thirtieth episode rolled around, the series would be five episodes deep into some battle with some villain that I really didn't care about anymore. I generalize, of course, but it's true - the same thing happens in Yu Yu Hakusho, and I fear it's happening in Bleach...

InuYasha escaped this with spacer episodes like this one, where everyone just leans back and relaxes. Nothing major happens, and, to quote Martha Stewart, it's a good thing. This episode is basically an after-dinner mint, and I congratulate it on its insignificance. After the ghastly horrors and claustrophobic overtones of the previous episode, this was a fine choice. How utterly glorious to watch children do battle by drawing insulting pictures of each other (they were slightly lost on me because I'm the last person in the Western Hemisphere with a black and white television set, but still).

In summary, it's a farce. Or, as Shippo puts it, "This is stupid. I'm going home."

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