Friday, July 13, 2018

Gosar the Gosarian

"By the way I'm a dentist. I read body language very, very well. And I can tell you're lying, Agent Strzok, because now I'm reading your MIND, using Dental Telepathy...!"

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Happy National Kitten Day!

Well, even though they're no longer kittens, and certainly no Brett Kavanaugh, I would like to formally nominate the cats for Supreme Kitty of the United States!

Moondoggie 2007

Shadow 2015

Today

Your National Kitten Council recommends you snuggle kittens at least three times a day.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Ninjas and Kaiju and Samurai, Oh My!


By Hank Parmer

The Magic Serpent (1966)

After slogging through so many cinematic train wrecks for you guys, I've decided it's time for a bit of a change. The Magic Serpent differs from my typical review fare because for once, this is a film I like. Mostly because it never pretends to be anything other than a gloriously bonkers mashup of kaiju and samurai flick, with a generous side of sorcerous shenanigans.

If you were a fan of MST3K in its early years, you're already well acquainted with how downright loopy Japanese giant monster films can be, from such choice selections as Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster -- i.e. an enormous lobster -- and Godzilla vs. Megalon -- that is, a cockroach the size of a skyscraper, unleashed upon an unsuspecting world by the secret undersea kingdom of Seatopia.

But what really drove the point home was the deep dive Joel and the 'Bots took into the entire first Gamera series. For example, there's nothing like the sight of a five thousand ton, rocket-powered flying turtle doing a gymnastic routine on the five-kiloton-turtle-sized horizontal bar -- which brain-eating alien hotties have thoughtfully installed in their city beforehand -- to make the Western viewer conclude that the Land of the Rising Sun's approach to fantasy can be ... well, different.

The Magic Serpent (a.k.a. Kairyu Daikessen: "Mystic Dragons' Great Decisive Battle") debuted over a decade after the Big G. emerged from Tokyo Bay, in that somber, almost documentary-style first entry in the Toho series. (If you've never seen the original film, instead of the Americanized release starring Raymond Burr, you really should check it out sometime. I was lucky enough to catch it on the big screen in its 50th anniversary re-issue, and I have to tell you I was floored by how much better the original was than that staple of mid-20th-Century afternoon and late night TV.)

By the mid-Sixties, Toho Studios had accumulated quite the stable of giant monsters. Beginning with his second movie, Godzilla Raids Again, Gojira was joined by the likes of Anguirus, Rodan, Varan, Manda, Mothra and (my favorite) Ghidorah the Three-Headed Space Monster a.k.a. Monster Zero. So it was only natural other studios would be eager to get their own piece of that sweet kaiju action. Unlike the Gamera series, though, most of these were imitative one-offs like Monster from a Prehistoric Planet; Gappa, the Triphibian Monster; and the superbly screwy The X from Outer Space.

Sooner or later, given the popularity of both giant monster films and the even more ubiquitous samurai epics, someone was bound to try out kaiju in a medieval Japanese setting. And in fact, 1966 was also the year Daiei, the same outfit who gave us Gamera, kicked off its Daimajin series, starring a huge stone idol that comes to life in the last act and saves his oppressed worshipers by squishing the bad guys like bugs. (Think of it as a Japanese version of the Golem.)

The Magic Serpent, on the other hand, is a Toei concoction. The name may not ring a bell, but these are the people who had previously brought us such immortal classics as Prince of Space and Invasion of the Neptune Men, and, in the near future, would partner with MGM to produce that legendarily cheesy alien infestation flick, The Green Slime.

This was Toei's first color film, though sadly, my copy is badly faded. It was also their second picture in a widescreen format. Unfortunately, this print is the American International TV version. And forget about pan-and-scan: They simply cropped the edges, so often you'll see only a sliver of a character who ought to be in the scene.

Yet even in this washed-out and mutilated version, it's obvious Toei decided to pull out all the stops.

They certainly don't waste any time getting down to business, as a gaggle of ninjas poke their heads over a wall and immediately launch a night attack on a castle sited on a high bluff overlooking a lake. Using enough pyrotechnics to satisfy even Big Jim McBob and Billy Sol Hurok, castle guards are blowed up real good and slaughtered right and left by the ninjas.

Lord Ogata and his wife are awakened by the commotion. When his chief vassal, Yuki Daijo, appears, the daimyo demands to know what's going on. Yuki tells Ogata he's been betrayed by someone close to him. Real close. Like, standing in front of him right now.

Ogata lunges for his sword, but before he can draw it from its scabbard, he's slit up a treat by his treacherous servant. His wife tries to run for help, but she's impaled through the shoji by Yuki's ally, wicked sorcerer Orochi-Maru.

There's still one prospective victim unaccounted for, though: Lord Ogata's son, Ikazuchi-Maru. (Since I don't want to take up the space required to explain what's up with that "Maru" suffix, I encourage any reader who has some time on their hands and a yen for philological trivia to look it up. What's important is this doesn't mean he's related to the bad guy.)

While the castle burns behind them, some loyal retainers spirit the young boy to safety in a boat. Ikazuchi-Maru thinks the conflagration makes the castle look pretty, all lit up like a lantern. Which is a line that -- assuming the dubbing is a more or less accurate translation -- is actually both poignant and believable, coming from a child his age.

Pretty much your standard set-up for a dispossessed-heir-seeks-revenge adventure, right? It seems as if they're in the clear, but the lake begins to bubble and seethe. Up pops a very large and very traditional-looking oriental dragon, who is in fact our naughty wizard. ("Orochi-Maru" can be translated as "demon serpent".)

"Help me, Rocky! I seem to be a sea serpent!"

The fearsome beast overturns their boat, drowning everyone except Ikazuchi-Maru. Orochi-Maru the were-dragon is poised to finish the job, as the boy clings desperately to the bottom of the overturned skiff. Then a huge eagle appears.

It swoops down and nicks the dragon on the forehead. I know cuts to the head tend to bleed freely, but in this case the red stuff positively sprays. This critter really ought to have his blood pressure checked.

The bird rescues the child -- at least, let's hope that's what it has in mind -- and wings away with Ikazuchi-Maru dangling from its claws.

"I hope you don't mind if I make another stop at Mt. Doom ..."

Fast forward fourteen years. Fortunately, Ikazuchi-Maru wasn't eaten, but has instead grown into a strapping young lad. Out for his daily jog down the precipitous side of a ravine, with no warning at all, throwing knives come at him from out of nowhere. He narrowly avoids them, but then he staggers and topples back out of sight behind a low rise. Flames shoot up from behind the hillock -- so the guy was highly flammable?

A white-haired, luxuriantly bearded elder flies down from the top of the ravine and peers into the blaze. But not so fast: Tricky Ikazuchi-Maru sneaks up behind the geezer and puts one of those throwing knives to his throat.

The wizard, Dojin Hiki, is pleased: He congratulates Ikazuchi-Maru on finishing his training. Now, declares the Master, the boy is ready to go out into the world and make a name for himself. Dojin Hiki surprises the graduate, though, when he mentions he had another student. But this one went to the Dark Side. (He never visits, he doesn't call or write -- not even a postcard!) His mentor refuses to sully his lips with the nogoodnik's name.

Ikazuchi-Maru bounds off to the forest to gather some herbs for their farewell dinner. After he departs, the Master suddenly whirls around and chucks his staff at the cliff face. It buries half its length in the (dirt? really soft rock?) for a moment, then returns to the wizard's hand. After a dramatic pause, the spot where his staff struck the cliff crumbles away; a ninja emerges -- but keels right over.

The Master grumbles that lately these guys are getting to be real pests. And you know what they say: For every one you see ...

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Papa Don't Preach


By Bill S.

It's once again Father's Day, that time when fondly remember our dad, if we're lucky enough to have fond memories of our dad. We can take comfort in knowing they're nothing like these guys--

WORST TV DADS

Modesto Cunanan (Jon Jon Briones) on "American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace" Who could possibly be more creepy and gross than spree killer Andrew Cunanan? Only his father, who, according to this series, played a big role in molding Andrew into the monster he became.

Kevin MacArthur (Stephen Rannazzisi) and Andre Nowzick (Paul Scheer) on "The League".

The MacArthurs are both terrible parents-for instance, they send their kids to Sunday as "free day care". Jenny made last month's list of terrible TV moms, and Kevin makes our list of terrible dads for, among other things, inviting the kid who's been taunting his daughter with bullying insults over the house. Not to resolve the bullying problem, but to learn some choice insults he can use on his friends.

As for Andre, sometimes, a picture's worth a thousand words...


He doesn't become a father until the final season, when he begins dating Pete's ex-wife. They have a baby, Andre Jr. (or, as Andre insists on calling him,"The Deuce"). It becomes obvious to everyone (except Andre), that Pete is actually the biological father, and when (in a "flash-forward" sequence) Junior learns the truth on his 18th birthday, he reacts the way any kid would to the news that Andre's not his dad: overjoyed, he flees the house immediately.

WORST MOVIE DADS

J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) in All the Money In the World (2017). 


When his grandson is kidnapped, Getty is reluctant to pay the ransom, because, he says, he doesn't want to set a precedent that could lead to more kidnappings. Which might be true, but it seems a more likely reason is that he's a miserly, penny-pinching bastard. When his daughter-in-law, desperate to raise the money, tries to sell a gift he'd given her (which he told her was a valuable antique) she discovers it's virtually worthless. 

Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford) in Get Out (2017) 


His wife Missy made last month's list of terrible moms, and Dean makes this month's list of bad fathers. If his efforts to welcome his daughter's black boyfriend into the home seems forced and insincere, it's probably because mad scientists aren't known for their social skills.

Max (Edward Herrmann) in The Lost Boys (1987) 


Father to a brood of rowdy (if hunky) teen vampires, Max courts single mom Lucy Emerson, hoping to merge the families to create, in the words of Edgar Frog, "The Blood Sucking Brady Bunch'. Which, now that I think about it, would actually have been awesome.

Finally, to sing us out, here's Malcolm Gets, as Gordo in "A New Brain", recalling a tale of his terrible dad:

Happy Father's Day Everyone!

(For more examples of terrible movie and TV fathers, check out my previous columns! 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

No! Trump Walked Right Into Kim's Trap!

I'll admit, I didn't closely follow the recent U.S./North Korean summit (although it lasted only a few hours, so I'm not sure they actually reached the "summit"; it seems more like they got to the mountain, looked up at the cloud-wreathed peak, and Trump said "screw it" and just bought one of those "I Went to the Summit and All I Got Was This Lousy Denuclearization Agreement" from the gift shop). I did see where the President[sic] unilaterally surrendered our right to conduct military exercises with South Korea, which seems like a stupid and dangerous concession to make, until you read the fine print and realize that in exchange he got in on the ground floor of the Pyongyang Secrets®, The People's Most Luxurious All-Inclusive, Adults Only, Clothing Optional Beach Resort.

Still, with force readiness degraded and our allies fuming, it seems like we're getting closer to the postbellum nightmare of 2012's Red Dawn, which saw Chinese invaders morphing, Power Rangers-style, into North Koreans, and then ruthlessly despoiling our supply of both domestic and imported hunks.

And since I'm stuck at the Portland, Oregon airport right now, it seems the perfect time to dip into the archives and exhume this old chestnut. Enjoy!


Our aim at World O' Crap has always been entertainment, not education, and yet -- as humanity seems to teeter on the edge of a precipice -- it is useful to recall that George Bernard Shaw believed great art not only could, but indeed must, be didactic. Which brings me to Red Dawn. Not, not that one, the other one. 
When Sheri and I wrote Better Living Through Bad Movies, we climaxed the whole thing with a chapter on Red Dawn, that 1984 paean to Reagan-era priapism, in which an armada of Russians, Cubans, and Nicaraguans subdue the United States.  The vaunted U.S. military proves useless, undoubtedly due to budget cuts, leaving the task of repulsing the invaders to a rag-tag band of American teenagers. But even they are woefully ill-equipped, and for much of the movie can only respond to Russian artillery fire with nocturnal emissions.
When it came time to release the audiobook version, we added some bonus features, including a review of the 2012 remake of Red Dawn, because it operated from an even more ludicrous premise:  that the United States gets bullied and geo-politically pants'd by North Korea.
I don't know, it seemed hilarious last year. But since satire has now become current events, we better prepare by taking this peek at Kim Jong-un's battle plan.
First, however, a bit of background:
In 2009 MGM remade Red Dawn, replacing Patrick Swayze with Chris Hemsworth, and the defunct Soviet Union with the People’s Republic of China. But the studio had financial problems, and then a change of heart about offending the world’s second largest market for movies, so the picture sat on the shelf for three years. Eventually they used dubbing and digital effects to change the villain, and now instead of China, the United States gets invaded and conquered by…North Korea. Which has an interesting effect on the narrative; I mean Red Dawn has always been a David and Goliath story, but in this version, we’re the guy who gets hit in the head with a rock.
Red Dawn (2012)
Director by Dan Bradley
Written by Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore, based on the 1984 screenplay by John Milius and Kevin Reynolds

Global tensions are high; the American military is deployed to hot spots all over the world, leaving the homeland undefended; and North Korean is threatening to destroy our entire country. Granted, that feels a bit like getting the hem of your Wranglers gnawed on by a teacup Chihuahua, but as various panicky cable news anchors remind us, North Korea is the fourth largest army in the world, behind the Peoples Liberation Army of China, the U.S. Army, the KISS Army, and Armie Hammer.

We're watching a high school football game in Spokane, where Chris Hemsworth, a marine on leave from Iraq, has come to watch his brother, Josh Peck, lead the Wolverines to defeat. Later, Chris goes to a bar, where he gets hit on by Adrianne Palicki (from – oddly enough – Friday Night Lights) whose idea of a saucy pick-up line is to remind Chris that he used to babysit her, and that he has a dead mom. And while we can’t see his crotch in this shot, Chris’s eyes tell us that with her clumsy attempt at flirtation, Adrianne has just committed an act of premeditated bonercide.

There's a blackout, and everybody goes home. The next day, Chris and Josh awaken to see the sky filled with computer generated North Koreans. They jump in their Dodge truck and run into a bunch of stuff, until they literally run into their Dad, who's a cop. He repeatedly orders them to "get to the cabin!", which I like to think is the movie's subtle way of telling us, "if you have to see a Chris Hemsworth film, why don't you go watch Cabin in the Woods instead?" 

You know what? I think the movie’s right. What do you say we turn this crap off right now and head for Redbox. Who's with me?!

No one?  Fine...

You know, sometimes I think you people want me to suffer.

Josh insists they pick up his hot blonde girlfriend, but when they get to her house they find the Korean invaders are rounding up all the cheerleaders. So they drive off in a screaming panic, in the process collecting a convoy of soon-to-be-recognizable actors (that other Josh from Hunger Games), already forgotten legacy-celebrities (Connor Cruise, adopted son of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman), a trigger-happy, argumentative dick named Pete who -- I'm calling it now -- will betray our heroes to the North Koreans before long; plus Adrianne, some male models for cannon fodder, and a pretty Latina named Julie, because even though it's wartime there are still labor laws, and somebody will eventually have to spell Adrianne on the vagina shift.

The next day, Chris and Josh go look at the town while their voices – dubbed in post production when the studio decided they couldn’t make the bad guys Chinese -- assure us the thought of North Korea conquering the west coast is crazy! But so crazy it just might work! Then they go back to the cabin and find that Pete has stolen all their breakfast cereal and betrayed them to the Koreans. Even worse, our designated villain, Captain Cho, has captured Connor Cruise's dad, the mayor, and Chris and Josh's dad, the cop. The mayor takes a bullhorn and tries to lure the boys out of the woods, but Cop Dad, who's playing the Harry Dean Stanton role, points at Cho and commands the boys to "go to war with this piece for shit!"

Cho looks at one of his soldiers with an expression that seems to say, "Did this bitch really just call me a piece of shit?"  The soldier gives him a nod that says "you know it, girlfriend", and Cho pulls his pistol and recreates that famous photo of the Saigon police chief shooting a Vietcong in the head. So I guess it takes being invaded by North Koreans to make North Americans empathize with the North Vietnamese.

The next day, Chris's truck is bogged down in a creek bed. All the characters get out and push, but the wheels just spin uselessly in the mud, which is a pretty good visual metaphor for the plot. Since nobody's going anywhere they decide to kill time with an argument. Hunger Games wants to go home to his parents until Adrianne says, Oh. Hey. I forgot to tell you, they're dead. Chris gives a speech about how they're going to fight and become fleas; and while they may only be larvae now, if they work hard they will soon pupate and become parasites who will make the big dog that is North Korea feel itchy. Which is all well and good, but I kind of liked it in the first film when they cried "Wolverines!", and I'm not sure it'll have the same effect when they thrust their AR-15s skyward and shout "Fleas!"

Ready for a training montage? Wait, there's more: ready for the World's Dullest Training Montage? Okay then, let's join the Fleas as they take shorthand, learn to parallel park, and roll around in leaf mold. After thirty-four seconds of boot camp, they start ambushing Korean soldiers and stealing their lunch money. But Hunger Games pukes while corpse-robbing, so Chris and Josh make him shoot a deer and drink its blood, because when remaking even a stupid movie, filmmakers should try to honor its legacy and its fans by including the stupidest part. But they do update the moment for a modern audience, because this time the sacred act of communion between hunter and prey turns out to be a frat-style prank. I'm surprised they didn't hand him a Sharpie and make him draw a dick on the dead deer's forehead.

The Fleas go on the offensive, bombing the Koreans with explosive skateboards and commandeering sliced turkey from Subway. But Josh can't stop lurking around Cheerleader Concentration Camp to peep on his imprisoned girlfriend. Chris tells him he’s endangering the Fleas, but Josh has an idea for how to end the war, and it’s a plan that does the impossible: it’s vague and incredibly complicated at the same time.

But the Fleas seem to know what they're doing, and what they're doing is failing, because in the middle of it Josh spots his girlfriend and runs off to save her. The one Latino flea doesn’t get any lines but he does get killed, and Chris sustains a wound that requires him to take off his shirt and get stitched up without anesthetic, because he got his Patrick Swayze movies mixed up and thought he was in a remake of ROAD HOUSE.

Girlfriend tells them a Russian spetznaz unit has been brought in to handle the Fleas, because that's what happened in the first movie. Then a North Korean general arrives to shout at Captain Cho, but because the characters were originally Chinese and the dialogue has been dubbed into Korean, everyone is subtitled and still out of sync. It may be the best thing in the movie, and after the General storms out, Cho and his aide exchange fraught looks that seem to say, "Did you understand a word he just said?" "No, I don't even understand what I’m saying."

Three Marines show up, led by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who's pulled the Power Boothe shift, and explains the plot: the North Koreans destroyed our electrical grid and communications with an EMP, which allowed them to conquer the entire West Coast, because our morale plummeted without access to Internet porn and Pokemon Go. But Captain Cho keeps a radio-telephone in a suitcase, and if the Fleas can steal it, they’ll win the war. Which seems stupid, but I assume everyone agreed to the rules before they started, so whatever.

They sneak into the Police Department, steal the radio, and Chris shoots Cho in the face. They go back to the hideout to celebrate, but the Koreans interrupt Miller Time by shooting Chris in the back. Seeing his brother's brains spattered all over the six pack changes Josh, and he immediately turns into the greatest guerrilla general since Ho Chi Minh. He leads the Fleas to safety in a Country Squire station wagon, then goes on a grand tour of occupied America, making speeches and recruiting Scabies, Crotch Crabs, Deer Ticks -- a whole army of patriotic parasites. The End.

So what is this version of Red Dawn trying to tell us? Well, we think it offers an important lesson about bullying. Suppose a classmate was intimidating your child on the playground. You could complain to the school, give your kid a few self-defense pointers, or do what we’d do and show them Red Dawn, which demonstrates that while anyone can be bullied, anyone can also be a bully.

Even America, the world’s richest nation, can be successfully beaten up by one of the world’s poorest. So the moral of the story is, if you see a poor person, punch them hard, then run away. And by teaching this lesson to children, it also teaches us, as adults, that it’s probably a good thing we don’t have children.

Additionally, Red Dawn illustrates the rule that casting a hunky but unknown Australian in your movie won’t help get it released; but if you let him ripen on the shelf for three years, he’ll turn into Thor. Or he’ll get black and squishy like an avocado, in which case you should just put your film in a Cuisinart and make guacamole (serves 6 to 8 persons, bores 10 to 12).

Perhaps the biggest difference between the Red Dawns is that the 1984 film was very concerned about guns, and the temperature of the hands that held them. But that’s a quaint artifact from a less heavily armed period in America’s history, when sweet old granny’s still kept cut-glass dishes full of ribbon candy on their coffee tables instead of bowls of bullets. 

In the 2012 Red Dawn, guns are abundant, but patriots freak the hell out because the North Koreans turned off their wifi. And unlike Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen, who spent much of their movie hijacking ammo and AK-47s and fighting a guerilla war against the Soviets, Chris and the Fleas lay down their lives to get the one working electronic device that will finally allow them to check in on Grindr.

This reflects an important change not only in social values, but military tactics, and if this trend continues, the next war will dispense with tanks, aircraft, and infantry, and be fought virtually, and by proxy. So start training up those Pokémon now.

For me, though, the main lesson we can take from the Red Dawn remake is that Yes, It Can Happen Here. If Kim Jong-un precedes his invasion by knocking out Twitter, Trump will be effectively muzzled, unable to communicate with his generals, or tweet excuses to his followers about how this whole invasion thing is the Democrats fault, and have you tried the chocolate cake?

So get used to being run by Poppin Fresh with a flattop, America.
(Sure, he may kill you, but if you press his belly, he giggles!)

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Episode 48! Babylon 5! Deadpool 2! Solo 1...and Done

Jeff and Scott have come not to praise Deadpool 2 but to...Well, actually to praise it, but they get distracted by the release of Babylon 5 on Amazon Prime (which sounds like we're stuck in yet another stupid Star Trek timeline), and the Shakespeare in the Park production of Pirates of Penzance, starring Kevin Kline, Linda Rondstadt, and Rex Smith as Street Hawk!

Then it's on to the mean streets of Corellia (A Quinn Martin Production) for Solo: A Star Wars Story:

Saturday, May 26, 2018

'Wisk Gets Out Ring-Around-The-White-Collar-Crime!

[Stolen from Sheri's Facebook page]:

My recap of the commericals I just watched.

Uber: "Hi, I'm the chairman of Uber. You might have heard that we suck, and we used to suck, but my Dad always taught me not to suck, so now we won't. Give us money."

Facebook: "We used to be about ranking college coeds. And then we were about keeping in touch with friends and other people you like. And then we were about trying to one-up people you tolerate. Then came the click-bait, the fake news, us selling your data to people who used it to influence elections, and us becoming a plague on all humanity. But since we got caught, we are working on returning Facebook back to its true purpose: ranking college coeds."

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