Archive for June, 2011

Quick Cuts: OVERRATED OR UNDERRATED? (Part 3 of 3)

Posted in 2011, Aliens, Giant Monsters, JJ Abrams, Michael Arruda Reviews, Overrated or Underrated?, Quick Cuts with tags , , , , , on June 30, 2011 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS: THE OVERRATED OR UNDERRATED GAME (ANSWER 3)
(Quick Cuts created by Michael Arruda)

With the recent release of SUPER 8, the new alien movie from director J.J. Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg, we’re going to play a game of “Overrated/Underrated.”

Are the following overrated or underrated?

1. Steven Spielberg
2. J.J. Abrams
3. ET, the Extraterrestrial
4. The Cloverfield Monster

***

ANSWER # 3

MICHAEL ARRUDA answers:

1. Steven Spielberg

I’d have to say that Spielberg is actually Underrated.

 I know, I give him a hard time on this Web site, and deservedly so, because his over-the-top sugary style irritates me.  That being said, the man is a tremendous filmmaker, responsible for some of the most memorable movies ever made, JAWS (1975), RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981), JURASSIC PARK (1993) and SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993), to name just a few.

I’ve always thought critics have been unfairly harsh on him, and he often doesn’t get the credit he deserves, as if because he’s “Steven Spielberg” he’s held to a higher standard.  For example, I really liked his WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005) remake, yet the film was largely panned by critics.  Sure, it has its flaws, but it provided a lot of thrills and better than average entertainment.

So, because Spielberg doesn’t always get the credit he deserves, I say he’s underrated.

The multi-talented JJ Abrams

2. J.J. Abrams

Underrated.

Why?  One word: LOST.  Why isn’t this guy a household name yet?

A typical sappy moment with Spielberg's E.T.

3. ET, the Extraterrestrial

Overrated.

Everyone and their grandmother loved him in 1982, and they continue to love him today.  Why?  I’ve never understood the attraction.  Is he sweet and cuddly?  Nope.  On the contrary, he’s hideous!  I’ve always thought he should be living in a garbage can as Oscar the Grouch’s next door neighbor.

Allegedly doctored photo of the Cloverfield Monster attacking New York. Is it real?

4. The Cloverfield Monster

Underrated.

The Cloverfield Monster is a terrific movie monster.  I expected this creature to achieve icon status, to be up there with Godzilla and King Kong.  Yet, there’s been hardly any buzz about this monster since the film left theaters in 2008.  Cloverfield Monster, where are you?

—END—

Transmissions to Earth: THREE ON A MEATHOOK (1973)

Posted in 1970s Movies, 2011, 70s Horror, Campy Movies, Cannibalism, Family Secrets, Gore!, Grindhouse, LL Soares Reviews, Low Budget Movies, Madness, Psychos, Trasmissions to Earth, Weird Movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 29, 2011 by knifefighter

TRANSMISSIONS TO EARTH: THREE ON A MEATHOOK (1973)
By L.L. Soares

"No Admittance During the Last Ten Minutes of This Movie"

Poor Billy Townsend. He’s just a young guy who wants to find a girlfriend and have a normal life. But his Dad won’t let him.

There are low-budget films, but 1973’s THREE ON A MEATHOOK looks so low-budget at times that it looks like someone’s home movies. Despite this, it’s still able to tell a story (a quality not all horror movies today can boast) and I have to admit, it’s downright funny at times (although unintentionally so).

The movie begins like a hundred other horror movies from the 70s. Four girls go to an island for a fun weekend, and their car breaks down in the middle of the woods, and night is falling. A kid in a truck named Billy (James Pickett) happens by and tells them he can’t fix their car, but they’re welcome to come stay at his house overnight until the local garage opens up in the morning. A crack of thunder convinces the girls to take him up on his offer. Besides, he’s a cute young guy. What harm can there be in staying at his house?

When they get to Billy’s house, the boy’s father (Charles Kissinger) demands that he “get upstairs” where the man lectures his son about “You know what happens when you’re around girls!” And Billy denying it and saying it’s not true.

"Not for the Bloody Mary for Lunch Bunch!"

The girls settle into their rooms and Billy brings a blanket and a pillow out to the shed outside. And then, something awful happens. Someone kills all the girls! The sexy blonde, taking a bath, gets stabbed. The other three girls get blown away by a shotgun. The next morning, Pa yells at Billy about “Look what you done!” but Billy has no memory of doing anything. As far as he knows, he was out in the shed, sleeping peacefully. But he goes inside and sees the horrible ways the girls were murdered and he’s dumbfounded by it all.

“You go into town and get some supplies, go see a movie, and I’ll take care of things here,” Pa says, assuring poor Billy that everything is going to be all right.

Billy goes to town, where he sees THE GRADUATE (1967) and then goes to a bar where he sits alone and drinks a lot. Then we see over 10 minutes of a band called American Xpress playing cheesy 70s rock onstage with occasional quick flashes back to Billy drinking.

A waitress named Sherry (Sherry Steiner) takes pity on him and asks what’s bothering him. He won’t tell her, but it’s obvious he’s a troubled lad. When he drinks too much and almost gets hauled away to the drunk tank by the police, Sherry takes him back to her place instead. He wakes up naked and asks her if they “did it,” but she assures him they didn’t. They spend the rest of the day together, and Billy thinks he’s falling in love.

He tells her about his farm and Sherry asks if she can come visit him the following Sunday. “I’ve never been on a farm before.” Billy says yes and then goes back home.

Okay, here’s where the questions start. Billy just brought four girls home and they were killed horribly. And this girl he likes asks to come over a week later and he says “Yeah, okay!” What’s up with that? You’d think he would be terrified to bring any more girls home, especially ones he likes. Is this kid an idiot?

Pa Townshend isn’t too happy to hear there are more visitors coming, and he tries to talk Billy out of it, but Billy won’t hear of it. During the week, Billy does his chores, and sometimes Pa goes into a shed he has padlocked (Billy never goes in there). Pa also is a “good cook” according to Billy and makes some very tasty “veal” dish.

Sherry comes out to visit the following Sunday. She brings her friend Becky (Madelyn Buzzard) with her. The three of them play in the cornfield and when Sherry and Billy get some time alone, they really seem to be falling for each other. Of course, something horrible happens that night, and the “secret” of the Townsend farm is revealed.

Only someone with a single-digit I.Q. wouldn’t see where this one was going early on. It’s pretty clear who the killer is from the get-go. And his reason for killing is pretty goofy. The ending to this one will at least make you laugh out loud.

With really fake-looking gore effects and mostly bad acting (there are even a few instances where the screen just goes blank for no reason), THREE ON THE MEATHOOK has one of those great grindhouse titles that is better than the actual movie. This one was written and directed by William Girdler, who went on to make such camp classics as the demonic-possession flick, ABBY (1974), the JAWS-on-land horror rip-off GRIZZLY (1976) and the goofy movie version of Graham Masterton’s Native American spirit-possession story, THE MANITOU (1978), all of which are worthy of being reviewed for this column at some point. He even directed the great Pam Grier in 1975’s  SHEBA, BABY!

"Don't Lose Your Head!" An example of the cutting-edge effects in 1973's THREE ON A MEATHOOK!

THREE ON A MEATHOOK is one of those movies that is so bad, you’ll be glad you saw it. Now let’s have some of that meat Pa’s been cooking. I hear it’s very tasting stuff.

© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares

Pickin’ The Carcass: THE LOST TRIBE (2010)

Posted in 2011, Cannibals, DVD Review, Horror, Michael Arruda Reviews, Pickin' the Carcass with tags , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2011 by knifefighter

PICKIN’ THE CARCASS:  THE LOST TRIBE (2010)
By Michael Arruda

 

If only they could tell a story……

The horror movie, THE LOST TRIBE (2010), is a classic example of a well-made movie done in by the fact that the folks who made it seem to have no idea how to tell a story.  That would be director Roel Reine and screenwriter Mark E. Davidson.  At least the film looks good, and there are some decent scenes in the film, so Reine can direct, but the story—and I’m not talking plot here because the plot isn’t half bad—I’m talking about the telling of the story.  It’s here where the film fails, and it’s not alone.

See, I’ve seen this problem before.  I’ve seen it a lot, actually.  For some reason, many of the low budget direct-to-DVD horror movies I’ve watched in the past few years suffer from this same phenomenon.  Weird.

Years ago, low budget filmmakers faced obstacles such as bad acting, grade-Z production values,  fake cardboard sets, and embarrassing special effects, but for the most part these old movies got the narrative right.  They could tell a story.  It might not have been a very believable story, but it made sense from beginning to end.

THE LOST TRIBE looks great, has decent acting, and has really good make-up/special effects, yet it can’t tell a story to save its life.  Where have all the writers gone?

If I sound frustrated, I am.  I’m tired of watching movies that don’t make sense, when all it would take is a little bit of writing, and everything would be better, and I’d end up liking the movie.

In THE LOST TRIBE, there’s this group of friends on a small boat on their way to conduct a business deal when they rescue a terrified drowning man.  The man warns them to get out of the area, but since they’re on their way to their business deal, they’re not interested in turning back.  So, the guy takes matters into his own hands and attempts to turn the boat around on his own, but it turns out he has no idea what he’s doing, and the boat crashes.  Oops!  He dies in the crash, too.  Double oops!  The group of friends survives, however, and they find themselves stranded on a seemingly deserted island.

Of course, the island isn’t deserted.  It’s inhabited by the “lost tribe,” a clan of humanoid cannibals, not the kind of people you want to share an island with.

Now, this lost tribe is actually pretty darn scary, so much so that it’s a crying shame we don’t know more about them.  They look frightening, and they also seem to be related to the Predators from the PREDATOR movies, as they share the same kind of vision, seeing people through their body heat.

I don’t really know if this tribe has alien DNA or not.  Why don’t I know this?  You got it.  Poor storytelling.  What I do know is that the Catholic Church feels threatened by the tribe, evidently because they’re afraid of the truth being taught about evolution, which is funny because in real life the Catholic Church doesn’t oppose evolution.  In the movie, the church is so threatened by these creatures that they send an assassin, Gallo (Lance Henriksen), to eliminate the scientists who’ve been on the island studying the tribe.  When Gallo finishes with the scientists, he turns his attention to the group of castaways.  So, not only do our folks from the boat need to worry about cannibalistic humanoid ape-men, but also an unscrupulous assassin with an aggressive trigger finger.

The castaways don’t stand a chance, and within no time, both threats make quick work of them, leaving only one survivor, Anna (Emily Foxler).  After all that has come before, the fact that Anna can singlehandedly survive against the cannibal creatures for the final third of the movie is difficult to swallow, as is the entire movie.

THE LOST TRIBE has some genuine frightening moments.  The scenes of cannibalism are grisly and not for the squeamish.  There’s also a powerful scene where Anna finds her dying lover – half his upper body is missing, having been gnawed on by the cannibals— and he begs her to kill him.  It’s a truly powerful moment in the film, very emotional and disturbing, and it’s the best scene in the movie.

But in spite of this, I didn’t like THE LOST TRIBE at all, and it comes back to the lack of storytelling.  Why is that so difficult?

For instance, if you’re going to hire a name actor like Lance Henriksen, why waste the guy’s few scenes by having them make no sense?  His character’s initial meeting with the Catholic Church is quick and without details, and later his kill scenes are so fast they make the bullets flying from his gun seem slow.  And why do the scientists have to be killed?  Why not attempt to quiet them by other means?  For that matter, why do the castaways have to be killed?  And how about some more details about the lost tribe itself?  Just who the hell are these creatures?  Where did they come from?  And how have they remained hidden all this time?

I have lots of guesses to these questions, but why should I have to guess?  What the heck kind of a story is that?  A poorly written one!

If THE LOST TRIBE could tell any kind of a story, we’d be talking about a pretty good horror movie.  It’s got good acting, scary cannibal creatures, a good amount of scary, disturbing scenes, but none of it falls into place, none of it makes sense.  There’s a beginning—a group of friends crash in a boat; a middle— they’re eaten by cannibal creatures; and an end—one last friend must fight off creatures. But without any decent exposition, none of it is satisfying.  It’s just a long superficial bore, with as much depth as a beach at low tide.

THE LOST TRIBE should stay lost.

—END—

© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda

BAD TEACHER

Posted in 2011, Cinema Knife Fights, Comedies, Hot Chick Movies, LL Soares Reviews, R-Rated Comedy, Sexy Stars with tags , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2011 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: BAD TEACHER (2011)
By L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: The teacher’s lounge of a typical American middle school. A PRINCIPAL, a short, wiry man with glasses, is standing before the group of teachers, giving them a pep talk for the day to come. The teachers include an overweight woman (TEACHER 1), a muscular ex-football player (TEACHER 2) and a peppy young go-getter (TEACHER 3) who can’t sit still. There are other teachers, but the rest are a bunch of faceless idiots.)

PRINCIPAL: And so I zipped up my pants. And she said, “So when is Christmas, already?”

(The entire room explodes with laughter)

(L.L. SOARES enters the room, looking confused)

PRINCIPAL: May I help you, sir?

LS: Is this the teacher’s lounge? I was supposed to meet Michael Arruda here, to review a movie.

PRINCIPAL: Mr. Arruda has been sent to the high school across the street. He was needed there. So you’re the other substitute teacher, huh?

LS: Me? Naw, I ain’t no teacher. I’m just here to talk about the movie, BAD TEACHER, that’s all.

TEACHER 1: BAD TEACHER? That sounds horrible!

TEACHER 2: As if the teaching profession doesn’t have enough obstacles. Low pay, long hours, unruly kids. Now we have to deal with bad P.R. in the shape of a movie “comedy” making fun of us.

TEACHER 3: This is unacceptable.

LS: Calm down, people. It’s only a movie. And I didn’t make the damn thing. I’m just here to review it.

PRINCIPAL: Well, as I told you, Mr. Arruda has been sent off. You’ll have to do this one by yourself.

LS: Err, okay.

PRINCIPAL: Okay? What are you waiting for? We don’t have all day. We’ve got classes to teach. If you’re going to review this BAD TEACHER movie, you had best do it quickly.

(PRINCIPAL moves out of the way and ushers LS to the front of the room. The TEACHERS watch with rapt attention)

TEACHER 3: Well? Cat got your tongue?

LS: Cool your jets. I just never spoke in front of a roomful of teachers before, that’s all.

TEACHER 1: We’ll be grading you, you know.

TEACHER 2: So far, I’m not impressed. Stand up straight! Stop slouching.

LS: Yeah, yeah.

So BAD TEACHER stars Cameron Diaz as this mean lady who got into teaching because she wanted summers off and short hours and she wanted to put as little work into it as possible.  She just took the job to kill time before her big wedding to a rich guy who will be her sugar daddy for the rest of her life.

TEACHER 1: What the heck kind of attitude is that? Teaching isn’t an easy profession!

TEACHER 2:  “As little work as possible?” What’s that about? A teacher’s work is never done! I’m gonna beat you up after school!

TEACHER 3: I’m sorry, I just find this review deplorable. If I had to grade it right now, I’d give him an “F.”

LS: C’mon, you guys. Gimme a chance here! I just started talking.

PRINCIPAL: Now, now, people. Give the gentleman a chance here. Don’t be so quick to judge!

LS: Thank you.

PRINCIPAL: Although, I’m not very impressed, either. Get on with it.

LS: Yeah, sure. So her fiancée, Mr. Moneybags, decides to break it off before the ceremony. He has figured out she’s only in it for his moolah (with the help of his annoying mother), and he’s appalled that she really isn’t even interested in his constant talk of opera. She was just humoring him to get to his cash.

TEACHER 1: I love opera.

TEACHER 3: Me, too. Like WEST SIDE STORY and THE SOUND OF MUSIC.

TEACHER 1: No, that’s not opera. Those are musicals!

TEACHER 3: It’s not very nice to contradict a person.

PRINCIPAL: Ladies, ladies! We have a guest here.

LS: So, without a walking ATM to marry, poor Elizabeth Halsey (Diaz’s character) has to go back to teaching for real, to support herself. She’s horrified by this turn of events, but is hell-bent on finding another rich guy to hook on to. She decides the reason why she can’t keep a man is because she needs bigger boobs. So she looks into getting breast implants. But she can’t afford it, so she comes up with all kinds of schemes to get the money.

These include a car wash for the 7th graders, where she shows up in short-shorts and a skimpy top and “washes cars,” as the kids’ fathers look on, drooling.

TEACHER 1: That sounds like god-awful behavior.

TEACHER 3: Abominable!

TEACHER 2: I dunno, this movie suddenly sounds kind of good to me.  (Flexes his muscles)

LS: When a new substitute teacher shows up, Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), it turns out he’s the heir to a fancy watch company, and he may just be the man of Elizabeth’s dreams.

PRINCIPAL: You know, you look a little like Justin Timberlake yourself, young man.

LS: Why thank you!

PRINCIPAL: If he lost all his hair and put on another 200 pounds.

TEACHER 1: And if his face got stuck in a lawn mower!

(The TEACHERS erupt with laughter)

LS: That’s not very nice.

PRINCIPAL: Life can’t always be a bowl of cherries, young man. You should have learned that as a youngster.

LS: Yeah, yeah. So bitchy Elizabeth Halsey suddenly becomes all nice and perky, trying to get herself a new sugar daddy. But Scott is very square, and annoyingly upbeat. They don’t have a lot in common, except he has access to a lot of money, and Elizabeth wants some.

There are some other teachers in Elizabeth’s orbit. One is Lynn Davies (Phyllis Smith, who some people will recognize as Phyllis from the NBC series, THE OFFICE), who is sad and overweight and who latches on to Elizabeth, trying to be her friend. Instead, Elizabeth bosses her around, telling her to do things like smoke pot and approach men in a bar. The thing is, Phyllis seems to like hanging around with Elizabeth.

TEACHER 1: She sounds like a lovely character.

LS: There’s also Russell Gettis (Jason Segel), who has the hots for Elizabeth, and they flirt, but she won’t give him a chance because he’s a struggling gym teacher who doesn’t have the big payday she’s looking for. Even though she won’t give him the time of day, he’s rather “earthy” and much more like her, personality-wise, than the other teachers.

TEACHER 2: Hey, I’m a gym teacher, too. Do you think Cameron Diaz would like me?

LS: I doubt it. There’s also Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch), the hyperactive teacher across the hall from Elizabeth, who starts out trying to be Elizabeth’s friend, but who turns into her arch-nemesis. Amy is the kind of teacher who likes to role-play and dress up in costumes and do “zany things” to keep the kids interested and learning. Where Amy is perky and upbeat, Elizabeth is lazy and mean. Amy starts to try to look into some of the more shady things Elizabeth has been up to, in an attempt to get her fired.

TEACHER 3: Amy Squirrel? What a funny name. But she sounds like a wonderful, motivated teacher!

LS: Yeah, yeah. So Elizabeth finds out that if her class gets the best test scores in the school on the upcoming state exams, she can win a bonus that will pay for her implants, and hopefully make Scott hers. So she suddenly stops showing movies every day and instead starts drilling her kids, getting them ready to win her that bonus. She even cooks up a scheme to steal the test answers from a goofy state official, Carl Halabi (the funny Thomas Lennon, who is probably best known as Lt. Dangle on the Comedy Central show RENO 911).

So does Elizabeth get her boobs and the dim bulb substitute teacher? Or does she have a change of heart and stop her gold-digging ways to try and find a real relationship,  not based on the size of a man’s wallet?

Well, this is a big, Hollywood movie. So what do you think?

TEACHER 1: I don’t have a clue.

TEACHER 3: Me, neither. Although this movie suddenly sounds very romantic to me!

LS: I actually liked BAD TEACHER. It wasn’t great, but it was a nice enough diversion. I liked Cameron Diaz in this role, and I like it when she does comedy.  Elizabeth Halsey is mean and superficial, and she’s the exact opposite of the super-sweet character Diaz played in one of her biggest movies, THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY (1998).

She’s still hot, and she’s funny playing a mean character. I just wish she had been even meaner and more, well, bad!

The rest of the cast is actually pretty good. I didn’t care for Justin Timberlake’s “Gee Gosh Golly” character that much, but he plays the role well enough. Phyllis Smith is very funny, and I always enjoy an appearance by Jason Segel. He’s one of the best things in the movie. And John Michael Higgins as Principal Snur is also very good. But, aside from Diaz, the best character here is Lucy Punch as Amy Squirrel. She’s a decent nemesis and brings a lot of energy to her performance. I thought she was pretty funny.

There’s also a subplot about one of the kids being shy and unpopular and not knowing how to talk to the girl he has a crush on. At one point Diaz’s character gives him some pointers. But for the most part, the kids aren’t all that interesting, except for Kaitlyn Dever as goody-two-shoes Sasha Abernathy (Dever has also been very good as the girl Loretta on the FX series, JUSTIFIED, this season).

The direction by Jake Kasdan is serviceable enough. This isn’t a great movie, but it’s okay. And the script by Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg has its moments. But, for an R-rated comedy, BAD TEACHER seemed to be holding back, to me. This movie never really go far enough. Here, it seems like they’re playing it safe. Never going far enough to really shock anyone. And for that reason, it’s not as funny as it could have been. I give it two and a half knives. It’s a fun movie, and certainly not horrible. But it could have been so much funnier.

PRINCIPAL: So that’s it? That’s all you’ve got?

LS: Yeah, I guess I’m done.

TEACHER 1: What a horrible review. You’re an awful man!

TEACHER 2: Yeah, I don’t like him at all.

TEACHER 3: Yeah, let’s escort him off school property, already!

PRINCIPAL: Well, we gave you your chance, but it doesn’t seem like you’ve made any friends here. I think you should go.

LS: But I gave you an honest review. Isn’t that worth anything?

PRINCIPAL: Actually, no. It’s pretty worthless.

TEACHERS: OFF WITH HIS HEAD!

PRINCIPAL: They’re getting unruly. I really suggest you leave.

LS: Okay, okay. (leaves the room to hoots and boos)

PRINCIPAL: I thought he’d never leave.

TEACHER 1: Me, neither.

(They all huddle toward a closet, where the PRINCIPAL opens the door, to reveal MICHAEL ARRUDA, tied up to a chair and looking terrified)

PRINCIPAL: And now, staff, I will teach you how to properly discipline a bad student.

TEACHER 1 (licks her lips): Yes, please show us, Mr. Snoodle.

TEACHER 2: And don’t’ leave anything out. I’m taking notes.

(TEACHER 3 faints from the excitement)

-THE END-

© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares

L.L. Soares gives BAD TEACHER 2 and a half knives!

Michael Arruda has mysteriously disappeared this week. If you find him, please let us know.

Quick Cuts: OVERRATED OR UNDERRATED? (Part 2 of 3)

Posted in 2011, Aliens, Giant Monsters, JJ Abrams, LL Soares Reviews, Overrated or Underrated?, Quick Cuts, Steven Spielberg with tags , , , , , , , on June 24, 2011 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS: THE OVERRATED OR UNDERRATED GAME (ANSWER 2)
(Quick Cuts created by Michael Arruda)

With the recent release of SUPER 8, the new alien movie from director J.J. Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg, we’re going to play a game of “Overrated/Underrated.”

Are the following overrated or underrated?

1. Steven Spielberg
2. J.J. Abrams
3. ET, the Extraterrestrial
4. The Cloverfield Monster

***

ANSWER # 2

LL SOARES answers:

People are still afraid to go in the water, thanks to JAWS (1975).

1. Steven Spielberg

Very Overrated. Hey, I like some of his movies. DUEL (1971) was a terrific debut. JAWS (1975) was great and still holds up quite well, mechanical shark and all. It’s still the one movie that comes to mind first when I think about summertime. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977) and JURASSIC PARK (1993) had some good moments. I even like EMPIRE OF THE SUN (1987) and the first part of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998).

So I don’t hate the guy. But people treat him like some cinematic deity, and I just don’t see it. He’s not consistently good. For every good movie, he has two or three bad ones, or boring ones. To me, he just isn’t in the same league as masters like Kubrick, Peckinpah and Hitchcock.

And he has a sentimental streak a mile long. It’s actually ruined some of his movies that could have been a lot better.

2. J.J. Abrams

I’ve been a fan of most projects he’s been involved with, so I’d have to say Underrated. But that’s bound to change eventually.

I actually liked his reboot of STAR TREK (2009) I didn’t think it was the best thing since sliced bread like a lot of people, but it was a fun way to recharge the series. SUPER 8, despite its flaws, was pretty enjoyable. And I’ve been a fan of his TV work for a while now, especially LOST.

Alien Pals: E.T. and Michael Jackson. Visitors from outer space.

3. ET, the Extraterrestrial

Overrated.

Too cute. Too sentimental. Too nauseating. Spielberg tried to do something different by making a movie about an alien monster who was NICE. Not necessarily a bad idea in theory—look at a classic like the original THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, (1951) where a good alien tries to save us from ourselves—but in Spielberg’s hands it’s pure fructose corn syrup. I saw this when it first came out, as a kid, and soon after the dentist said I had three cavities. Give me those murderous, crazy-as-hell alien monsters over E.T. any day.

Also, the effects were awful. E.T. looks like a stiff, plastic puppet. Or a giant bobble-head.  He couldn’t even walk right. This was cutting-edge technology in 1982? What did they spend, like ten bucks on this guy?

Eeegah! It's the CLOVERFIELD MONSTER!


4. The Cloverfield Monster

Underrated.

I liked this monster a lot, even though they didn’t show him enough in the movie. I can’t wait til he takes on King Kong and Godzilla. We want more CLOVERFIELD!

—END—

Suburban Grindhouse Memories: THE BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET (1984)

Posted in 2011, Aliens, Cult Movies, Dark Comedies, Low Budget Movies, Nick Cato Reviews, Science Fiction, Suburban Grindhouse Memories with tags , , , , , , , on June 23, 2011 by knifefighter

Suburban Grindhouse Memories: THE BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET (1984)
A Parable in the Hood!
By Nick Cato

John Sayles is a man of many talents.  He was the screenwriter for the original PIRAHNA (1978), ALLIGATOR (1980) and BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980).  He also had bit parts as an actor in these films, and is (probably) best known among horror fans as the screenwriter for THE HOWLING (1981).  This one-man movie machine has also written film soundtracks, has edited and done various crew work on countless films (Editor’s Note: and he’s directed 17 films so far).  But I believe one little gem he directed in 1984 is his masterpiece…and the audience I saw THE BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET with on opening night would agree.

In the lily-white neighborhoods where the few suburban grindhouses I often mention in this column once stood, you hardly saw patrons who were not of a Caucasian background.  These theaters were usually packed with white middle-class guidos (yes, the same types you see today on shows like THE JERSEY SHORE), many who would leave screenings before certain films even reached their halfway point.  Thankfully—on occasion—I’d meet up with a few people who were serious about film.  Imagine my surprise when an African-American couple sat down in front of me at the (now defunct) Amboy Twin Cinema, arguably the first black couple ever to set foot in a theater on this side of Staten Island.  And when they heard my friend and me discussing director John Sayles before the film began, they both turned around and joined in our conversation.  It was amazing—here were two people the rest of the theater were looking at, daring them to stare back, and I was having a fantastic film chat with them as the trailers began to unreel (we even spoke for about an hour afterwards out front).  Guidos and racists be damned!  This was one of the most beautiful experiences I ever had in a movie theater—and to make matters better, the film we were about to see couldn’t have been better on this particular evening.

THE BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET reminded me of Nicolas Roeg’s THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (1976), only nowhere near as strange.  A mute black man with strange-looking feet (played by Joe Morton, who delivers a truly fantastic performance here) crash lands in Harlem in a small space ship.  Despite being black and in Harlem, it quickly becomes apparent this guy isn’t on his home turf.  Most of the film deals with The Brother adjusting to his new surroundings, and despite the fact he’s from another planet, there’s so much dark humor here you quickly forget this is technically a sci-fi movie.  Despite The Brother not being able to talk, we learn he has escaped his home planet where he was a slave.  Two “men in black” type guys (both white—one played by Sayles) trail him to earth, but The Brother makes so many friends (in unique ways), that those who are affected by him help keep him safe from his would-be captors.

Sayles shot this on a miniscule budget, but the story makes up for any lack of special effects (one of The Brother’s powers is the ability to remove one of his eyes and use it as a “video camera” of sorts, as well as an E.T.-like touch that is able to fix all kinds of equipment).  While Sayles gets his points on illegal immigration and slavery across, the quirky characters The Brother meets help the film’s underlying messages go down smooth and not preachy.  This is one of those films that’s hard to describe: while it has gained a cult audience over the years, and it does have its own vibe, it’s not as dark or depressing as most cult films tend to be…and I remember leaving the theater refreshed and in an unusually good mood.  Best of all, my two new friends were glad they made the trek to this white theater to see the film, and they couldn’t stop laughing when I told them how many times I had been the only white guy at a Times Square horror or sci-fi flick…

With a nice brawl with the men in black toward the end and plenty of witty dialogue and scenarios, THE BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET was one of those rare gems that I’ve never forgotten…and which continues to impress most who view it today on DVD.  Definitely seek it out.

© Copyright 2011 by Nick Cato

The Brother (Joe Morton) and his other-worldly dogs.


Quick Cuts: OVERRATED OR UNDERRATED? (Part 1 of 3)

Posted in 2011, Aliens, Daniel Keohane Reviews, Giant Monsters, JJ Abrams, Overrated or Underrated?, Quick Cuts, Steven Spielberg with tags , , , , , on June 22, 2011 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS: THE OVERRATED OR UNDERRATED GAME (ANSWER 1)
(Quick Cuts created by Michael Arruda)

With the recent release of SUPER 8, the new alien movie from director J.J. Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg, we’re going to play a game of “Overrated/Underrated.”

Are the following overrated or underrated?

1. Steven Spielberg
2. J.J. Abrams
3. ET, the Extraterrestrial
4. The Cloverfield Monster

***

ANSWER # 1

DAN KEOHANE:


1. Steven Spielberg

Neither.

Spielberg is raised high on a pedestal of directors/producers and rightly so. The guy has a vision and has the resources to back them up.

2. J.J. Abrams

Underrated, only in that he is not as well known as he will be.

Those of us who’ve been captivated by the guy’s work since ALIAS hold him in high regard, but now the rest of the world is catching up to us.

Where the hell are my Reese's Pieces?


3. ET, the Extraterrestrial

Overrated.

Granted it’s a good movie, very cute, and the first half of the film is very excellent, very Spielberg, but overall a bit too long and syrupy… siruppy… mooshy.

4. The Cloverfield Monster

Underrated.

I LOVE this monster. Thought it was a brilliant creation. I did NOT care, however, for yet another movie where they thought the giant monster wasn’t enough and had to put little monsters in as well (a la GODZILLA (1998) and  a la JURASSIC PARK (1993) – the one time it DID work).

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