Note: In the days since Scott and Jeff recorded this retrospective, we have lost George Michael, Watership Down author Richard Adams, Carrie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds. This episode is respectfully dedicated to their memory.
Note 2: This episode is completely unedited.
Note 3: This episode contains several very important announcements.
The 2016 Jon Swift Roundup is live, featuring the best blog posts of the year, chosen by the bloggers themselves (well of course they'd think these were the best published this year. But hey, it's the Age of Trump now, so conflict of interest no longer exists). All thanks to Batocchio for keeping the tradition, and the memory of Reasonable Conservative Jon Swift, alive.
Check it out when you have a few moments, because there's some great stuff on display this year (and also one of our posts, but that's just there for scale, or contrast, or something).
Merry Christmas, guys. As longtime readers know, we've got a tradition around here of writing up really horrible holiday movies, but this year I thought we'd try something a little more multimedia. Since I'm fortunate enough to have access to the very talented John Szura and Blanche Ramirez, who narrate the audiobook version of Better Living Through Bad Movies, I wanted to give everyone a preview of the new volume (Better Living Through Bad Movies II: The Sequelizer [coming soon]).
And what better film to begin with than that quintessential Christmas classic, It's A Wonderful Life. Now some people may disagree with this choice, and I won't argue that it's well made and well acted, but once you stop taking the movie at face value, you realize that far from simple selfless folk brimming with small town virtues and the milk of human kindness, every character in this picture is a raging ego beast who will happily cut a bitch to get what they want. Except for George, who's such a pathetic masochist that porn actors in a German fetish video would decline to pee on him because he just seems too needy.
Hope you enjoy.
And check this space in coming days for big news about the podcast.
Tired of hearing your racist uncle pontificate over the giblets then holiday? Then plug in your earbuds and settle back with some baby blue milk and cookies for a highly Star Warsy episode of The Slumgullion. This time Jeff and Scott are joined by the New Movie Crew (i.e., Mary and the Voices of the Better Living Through Bad Movie: The Audiobook, John and Blanche) for a cheerful, no-spoilers-barred autopsy of Rogue One.
[Note: This show was recorded before Carrie Fisher's recent health problems, and there's one, maybe two jokes in there we'd really appreciate if you'd overlook. Thanks.]
And check back later today for our Annual World O' Crap Bad Christmas Movie Spectacular.
The planet Mars has long been a source of fascination for me. When I was a young boy, it was one of the two other worlds in our solar system where scientists thought life more advanced than a bacterium or virus might exist. For some reason, the Jurassic swamps and planet-covering oceans of science-fictional Venus never appealed to my youthful imagination the way that Mars did, with its canals and ice caps and mysterious features that seemed to change with its seasons. It was a frequent setting for my daydreams of being a fearless space explorer.
I was a sucker for any story featuring the Red Planet. So it was inevitable that sooner or later I'd latch onto Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars series. The first one I read -- okay, devoured was The Mastermind of Mars. The story had everything needed to enthrall my ten year old self: a mad scientist swapping subjects' brains for fun and profit, a ferocious four-armed giant white ape who's had half a human cerebrum plopped into his skull, flying battleships, radium pistols, desperate swordplay and fantastic adventures on an alien world. Over the next few years, it was a frabjous day indeed when I came across one of these novels in the shop where my eldest brother bought his pipe tobacco. He would take me along to get me out of my parents' hair, since the place also sold used paperbacks, making it a little slice of heaven to my geeky SF-craving self.
At that age, of course, it's easy to ignore the fact that the author kept recycling pretty much the same plot: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy fights his way across a planet of weird aliens and gruesome monsters to rescue girl. Though my tastes may have become a bit more refined since those days, I revisit the novels every few years, because despite their creaky pulp fiction tropes they're still colorful, wildly imaginative and just plain fun.
Burroughs romantic vision of the Red Planet -- or "Barsoom" as it's known to its inhabitants -- with its ancient, highly advanced science, strange peoples and bizarre fauna, its magnificent ruined cities and dead sea bottoms covered in ocher moss was a hit with the public when the first novel in the series (which was also Burroughs' first novel) was serialized as "Under the Moons of Mars" in Argosy magazine in 1912. Published in book form as A Princess of Mars, this was followed by eleven more adventures, the last of them written in the late 1940s. The series remains a major influence on science fiction, although some hairsplitting types prefer to call this genre "science fantasy".
Obviously, the sets and effects required to bring this world to life on the silver screen make it a daunting proposition. With Burroughs' enthusiastic support, Bob Clampett -- yes, *that* Bob Clampett -- tried unsuccessfully to sell MGM on the idea of a series of animated shorts back in 1936. It took Disney almost 25 years to finally get their 2012 version of that first novel off the ground.
Given the deep hurting I experienced reviewing those two crap-stravaganzas from the Larry Buchanan of our time, Mark Atkins -- Jack the Giant Killer and P-51 Dragon Fighter -- you can imagine it was a real WTF moment for me to discover that three years before the Disney flick this auteur du merde got a chance to apply his Reverse Midas touch to the same story. Straight to video, and without crediting Burroughs. Which shows considerable chutzpah, considering Atkins' screenplay utilizes major elements of the plot, characters, incidents and (until they changed it in later releases to John Carter of Mars) even gets its freaking title from the book. (They attempt to weasel out of this by crediting Edgar on the DVD cover.)
The really odd thing about this piece of crap is that it follows the original novel rather more closely than the Disney film did. Not that that lessens the pain, but it does mean that for once Atkins had a story which doesn't seem to have been written by trolls. Naturally his stab at adapting it into a screenplay will fail miserably, but I have to say it has a surprisingly coherent plot -- for a Mark Atkins joint.
As so often happens with an Atkins film, it appears to have been cobbled together hastily in order to leech off a much bigger-budgeted production: 2009's Avatar -- which was also clearly inspired by Burroughs' novel. I can almost admire Atkins' temerity in tackling this project: With the resources and talent he would bring to bear, it was the cinematic equivalent of setting out to raft the Colorado on a pool float, with a 2-liter bottle of Big K Cola and a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos for provisions. And ended just about as well.
So on with the show:
Princess of Mars (2009)
Directed by: Mark Atkins
Screenplay by: Mark Atkins
Director of Photography: Mark Atkins
Edited by: Mark Atkins
(We are so boned.)
John Carter -- beefcake model, soap opera stiff and Trump fanboy Antonio Sabato, Jr. -- is a Special Forces guy in Afghanistan. While on a mission to put a stop to some opium smugglers (the CIA hates freelancers) he's betrayed by his contact, Sarka the tea seller. Severely wounded, he wakes up in an Army field hospital. An officer tells him he's so messed up he's not likely to survive the night.
However, there is an experimental procedure they can try. According to him, all the data needed to reconstruct Carter's body atom-by-atom resides on this 16 gigabyte USB flash drive. Riiiight .... That's one hell of a data compression algorithm they've got there. It's fortunate they won't have to dedicate much file space for this actor's talent.
Keith is in entrenched writer's block mode, the kind where tangible
ideas are reduced to a Jello-O salad that refuses to firm up under
refrigeration. Like the screenplay for Ridley Scott's "Prometheus."
As a holiday shout-out, let me share some photos from 2016. The brain may not work quite well, but can still snap a shutter.
To quote Steve Colbert: "May your winter feast be an orgy of delight to everyone!"
SHADOW:I've got a naughty little secret. And it's big, and orange, and...a butt.
MOONDOGGIE: Why hasn't anyone put this face on a coin yet? I ask you!...Look at this face! I'm already sort of penny-colored, and your useless Lincoln face money would totally increase in value because every coin would suddenly become collectible! It's a foolproof plan to make all Americans zillionaires, assuming they have a jar of pennies on their dresser.
Or maybe a medal! But a fancy one, like the Croix de Chat, or the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Delicious Treats! C'mon!
Today is the natal anniversary of our old friend Carl (alias Actor212), working thespian, thoughtful writer, and comic commenter par excellence. Carl can be found many places -- in the laughter of little children, in the gentleness of animals, in various filmed segments on Saturday Night Live, in his own blog Simply Left Behind, and in our comment threads, which he has been bedazzling with the Ronco Rhinestone & Stud Setter of his mind since Dinah Shore Ruled the Earth, if I may borrow a title from Christopher Durang and Wendy Wasserstein. And why not? They're New Yorkish, and so is Carl, for he is a man who has traveled every inch of every borough that isn't Staten Island by bicycle.
And not only is Carl warm, witty, and frighteningly huge, he's also kind enough to celebrate his birthday on or about the date of the Hollywood Christmas Parade, so I've got something to write about besides what a great guy he is. And he is, don't mistake me -- I'm not just saying that because he could snap me in half like a balsa wood kite stave.
Anyway, I did what I usually do every holiday season: wandered around the staging area of the parade and looked at half-flaccid balloons, then got the hell out before the paraders started parading. But by taking a few photos and placing them in cunning proximity to the first two paragraphs of this post, I can make it seem like we went to the trouble of throwing a parade in honor of Carl's birthday! (Shhh! Nobody tell him! I'm hoping if I can get the hang of this fake news thing, I can land a highly paid journalism gig with a Macedonian teenager.)
Things were getting rambunctious even before the event started, with a gassy penguin saluting Gumby's ass. Now I'm no expert, but Gumby has always struck me as having rather a flat ass, rather than a Dat Azz!, but to each his own.
It's Clifford, the Big Red Hindenberg!
Overly zealous members of the military shout "hoo-rah!" and force the pirate balloon to drop and give them twenty.
A CDC Rapid Response Team is dispatched to treat and quarantine a group of young women suffering from a sudden outbreak of kawaii.
Clifford viewed from the perspective of the setting sun, and through the local eyesore Mary has dubbed "the Migraine Monument".
And finally, even if your legs are oddly deflated, that's no reason you can't still ogle Gumby's disappointingly concave ass.
But enough of the brobdingnagian effigies looming over Hollywood Boulevard, let's serve the cheesecake!
Loretta Young in Play-Girl (1932) "She wanted love in the worst way--and she got it!"
Sadly, this photo seems to have driven our Sexy Birthday Lizard to a somewhat inappropriate response...
Dude! Stay in your lane, please.
And please join me, won't you, in wishing Carl a very happy birthday.