Sunday, November 18, 2018

Scenes From a Marriage: Part 12

MARY: (Returning from the grocery store) We're going to have a delicious dinner on Thanksgiving.

SCOTT: I'm looking forward to it.

MARY: And it's a 10 pound turkey so we're gonna have another delicious dinner on, uh ... What do you call the day after Thanksgiving?

SCOTT: I think it's called Kickboxing Day


MARY: We'll go with that.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Post-Friday Beast Blogging: The "Sound the All Clear!" Edition

SHADOW: Is the election over? Is it safe to come out?

MOONDOGGIE: A lady on the TV said Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez can't afford to rent an apartment before her Congressional salary kicks in, and I just want her to know there's always room for a firebrand young Socialist under my dining chair dust ruffle! Because Solidarity and Shared Snuggle-Space are the watchwords of Fabianism!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

It's The Slumgullion Halloween Horror Show!

Scott and Jeff see the new Halloween (2018) movie on opposite sides of the country, but they come together to completely disagree about it. Then it's Compare & Contrast Day, as they watch two different versions of the same mid-century Italian horror film. Jeff sits through the American release, Atom Age Vampire, while Scott subjects himself to the complete European cut, entitled Seddok, The Heir of Satan. They learn that sometimes more is less, but less is more confusing.

Friday, October 19, 2018

A Lobster Pinched Tom Hardy's Winky!

In honor of the first woman Doctor, Jeff and Scott recruit expert woman Mary C to give the woman's point of view on womaning. Then they try to figure out why Venom sucked so bad, and why they loved it so much.

It's The Woman Who Fell to Earth versus The Parasite That Fell to Earth, so grab your headphones and your umbrella and listen to things go SPLAT!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Nazis -- On Ice!

By Hank Parmer

The Frozen Dead (1966)

In the decades after WWII, fictional plots to revive the Third Reich were a pop culture staple. Some of these, like The Quiller Memorandum (1966) made for decent thrillers, and at least the genre went out on a fairly high note with The Boys from Brazil (1978). But the idea that somewhere Hitler's surviving henchmen were still secretly planning a comeback also spawned several lesser cinematic efforts during the mid-20th Century, some of them -- like The Madmen of Mandoras (AKA They Saved Hitler's Brain) and The Yesterday Machine -- extremely lesser.

Even though the title sounds like it could be the name of a stoner cover band from the Great White North, or a Disney sequel gone hideously wrong, The Frozen Dead is a cut above those last two films. But that's setting the bar so low a flatworm would be hard pressed to limbo under it.

The movie certainly has all the right ingredients for a cheese-fest: Walk-in freezers full of Nazis; botched experiments on human guinea pigs; a head kept alive in a box. All this, and a well-known leading man of the 1940s and 50s discovering his talent doesn't extend to faking an accent. At least they can sincerely say it wasn't typecasting, when they tapped Dana Andrews to play a Nazi expatriate and mad scientist.

Andrews had turned in some fine performances in The Best Years of Our Lives, Laura and The Oxbow Incident. And it took some guts for such a reputedly straight arrow to do that cameo as a corrupt Air Force general, in the criminally underrated The Loved One. By the mid-Sixties, though, age and alcoholism had restricted the range of roles he was being offered.

The Frozen Dead opens on a promisingly eerie note, with a half moon riding high above the treetops in the inky night sky. The silence is broken by an anguished cry, a low moan rising to an inhuman howl.

Could this mean a rare demi-werewolf is prowling about? No, it's just one of a half-dozen guys clad in the soiled, tattered remnants of Wehrmacht and SS uniforms. An individual in civilian attire smacks the noisy one repeatedly across the face with the butt of his whip, until he stops howling.

Worst. Theme. Spa. Ever.

Twitching, gibbering and groaning, the group shuffles across the lawn of a country estate. I do believe these guys aren't quite right in the head; one of them is even in handcuffs. Finished with their walkies, their attendant, Karl Essen, shoves and flogs the loonies through a wrought iron gate and down some steps, while Joseph the butler watches impassively from a second-story window.

In his basement bunker -- er, laboratory, Dr. Norberg (Dana Andrews, and I'm telling you right now there will be no O. J. Simpson/Police Squad riffs) establishes his scientific bona fides by fiddling with some equipment. He's joined by Karl for a round of "Who can recite the most awkward expository dialog?"

General Lubeck is dropping by. And he's unusually late, a whole ten minutes! While they wait, Norberg is thawing out another subject, who's been frozen for the last twenty years. I dunno, you could be looking at substantial freezer burn with this one. Wait a second: 1965 minus 20 -- I think these chaps might be up to something dubious, possibly involving Germans and the end of World War II. 
Clean 'em up a bit and stick some MAGA hats on them, and these Nazi loons would fit right in at one of our home-grown fascist rallies. In more ways than one
It's a tough call, but Dana Andrews ekes out a win in the dueling exposition with extra points awarded for his completely unconvincing accent. Be that as it may, the Herr Doktor isn't overly optimistic about his chances for reviving this one with his wits intact, considering how the last seven subjects turned out. Oh, I get it: Those are the whacked-out wretches we saw at the beginning. Although Norberg really shouldn't be such a Gloomy Gus: Clean 'em up a bit and stick some MAGA hats on them, and these Nazi loons would fit right in at one of our home-grown fascist rallies. In more ways than one.

But there were only six of those guys. Who's number seven? Fortunately, this considerate scriptwriter immediately relieves us of any anxiety on that score, when Karl objects that Joseph the butler was a semi-success. Sure -- as long as you overlook the fact he's now a creepy mute.

Norberg is suspicious about the timing of the General's visit. He coolly informs Karl he's known all along that ever since he was assigned to the doctor at the end of the war, his assistant has been snitching on him to their higher-ups in the Party. Still, he's annoyed at Karl for going behind his back to the general and telling him they're ready.

But meanwhile, they have a body to reanimate. Norberg orders Karl to fetch Muller from the freezer and hook him up to the apparatus.

Three little maids from schooool!

If you look closely, you can see these frozen Nazis are being held upright by calipers, with the  points jammed into their ears. Looks pretty painful for those extras.

General Lubeck (Karel Stepanek -- a Czech actor who at the time was the go-to guy for portraying high-ranking Nazi officers, such as the fanatical Admiral Lutjens in Sink the Bismarck) arrives, with his gaunt, quietly intimidating companion, Dr. Tirpitz. The two are shown down to the cellar lab by Norberg's zombie-fied retainer.

Lubeck reveals why this demonstration is so important: There are over fifteen hundred of the Nazi elite, quick-frozen at the end of the war and stashed away in Germany, France and even Egypt, just waiting to be thawed out and reanimated so they can get back to conquering the world. (It must have been the B-list Nazis who wound up taking the rap at Nuremberg.)

Considering it's taken the Herr Doktor all of two decades to get to this point, this willingness to stick with the project shows a remarkable degree of patience on the part of his masters, a quality you rarely associate with National Socialist big-wigs. The electricity bill alone for all those freezers must be astronomical! Especially the ones in Egypt.

And another thing: Why do these crypto-Nazi schemes to resurrect the Third Reich always sound as if they were devised by the Underpants Gnomes? Seriously, what does this fiendish plan amount to:

1. Defrost 1500+ elite Nazis
2. ????
3. World Conquest!

It's not like I'm expecting the general to provide a detailed scenario (although, given this script, it's not outside the bounds of possibility) but you have to wonder how effective these revenants will be. Even assuming the Herr Doktor ultimately works the kinks out and they'll be capable of more advanced tasks than sitting in a closet and drooling into a shoe, the guys will have quite a bit of catching up on current events to do. And then there's the inevitable jealousy and back-biting from the conspirators who haven't been on ice for the last twenty years.

Friday, October 5, 2018

You Might Already Be An Idiot! I Mean...Winner!

Somehow I've gotten on the National Rifle Association's mailing list, which is evidently a pretty easy thing to do; in fact, it took no effort on my part whatsoever. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and was struck by a stray missive fired off by Wayne LaPierre (literally, "Wayne the Peter"), who was furiously exercising Amendment Number One because he loves Number Two.
This has been the toughest year that gun owners have ever faced. 
I understand gun victims also had occasion for complaint this year, but hey, they got what they had coming (bullets, apparently).
Radical gun-hating extremists have called us vile names
But names can never hurt you, Wayne! Okay, theoretically I suppose they could hurt your feelings, if you ever decided to develop any, but let's not get lost in wild hypotheticals. 
But rather than take the easy path and give up the fight, you've stood tall with me and the NRA every step of the way. 
Wayne's made-up version of me sounds so cool and heroic I almost hate to break it to him...
And as an extra way to thank you for your extraordinary commitment to freedom, I'd like to invite you to enter for YOUR chance to WIN in our NRA Banned Guns Giveaway!
NOTE: Guns not actually banned outside fever dreams and fundraising letters.
That's right. While Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are trying to ban our guns, NRA is giving guns away – 12 world-class firearms that are sure to turn heads at the range and become the pride of any gun owner's collection.
This is a bit like those old entry packets Publishers Clearing House used to send, the ones with Ed McMahon's face declaring "You May Already Be a Winner!" You might, I suppose, although opening that envelope was far more likely to net you a paper cut than a million dollars. By the same token, Wayne (standing in for Ed's disembodied head) is offering me a chance to increase my chance of accidental death 7 times!
Entering is fast and easy. You can enter to win just one of these great guns, two guns, or even all 12 guns – the choice is yours.
Only you know how tired you are of living. Or how scared you are of dying. That's why we recommend use of the patented Old Man River Scale®.

The great thing about this metric -- from Wayne's perspective, at least -- is that whenever the slider reaches 75% on either side of the scale, you're more likely to buy a gun.
No contribution is necessary to enter, however "with the most critical mid-term elections of our lives less than seven weeks away, NRA needs your support more than ever before."
NRA went on a bit of a spree in 2016, spending $54.4 million on Republican candidates and dropping over $31 million on Trump, but apparently from an insufficient height. And for whatever mysterious, ultimately unknowable reason (the black guy is gone) the NRA has fearmongered to diminishing returns these past two years, with member dues "plummeting".

And it's probably worse than reported, because I suspect (based on purely anecdotal, but extremely irritating information) that a lot of the "Life Members" on the NRA's roster are in fact participating under false pretenses, because they're dead.

After his father -- a Life Member of the NRA -- passed away, my step-brother Miles asked that Dad's membership be cancelled, by which he meant "stop sending all these goddamn fundraising letters because you're not getting another dime out of anyone in this house! In fact, I go to the trouble of writing 'Forget It' and sending back the enclosed envelope just so you get charged for the postage!"

Despite this air-tight reasoning NRA refused to comply, implicitly laying perpetual claim to any soul who signs their book (which now that I think about it is exactly how Satan acts in any film or story where someone makes a deal with the Devil, then gets cold feet). And you can see their point, because donations to the NRA depend on results, results depend on influence, and raw political muscle depends on sheer numbers, so naturally they'll do anything to inflate their rolls, even if the actual breakdown is something like "1.8 million Active Members; 2.2 million Auxiliary Members; 2.3 million Horizontal Members".
If they win, Schumer and Pelosi will move forward with an extremist anti-gun agenda that will rip the heart right out of our Second Amendment rights – including gun registration and gun-owner licensing… 
JAMES MADISON: "When we said 'a well-regulated militia', we didn't mean go crazy and have, like, paperwork..."
The NRA is working 24/7 to get our message to gun-owning voters and STOP a gun-ban takeover of Congress. But to continue reaching out to American gun owners until the moment the polls close, we need your immediate financial support.
No, no, no, you've got this extortion thing all wrong! You don't say "I'm going to be a personal nuisance to you for the next 30 days, and I need your money to pull it off!" You say you'll do all that stuff "unless you pay me!" Hearing that you're planning to hassle me from now until Election Day and then every day thereafter because when have you ever stopped ever, whether I give you money or not so I might as well give you money, does not properly incentivize me, Wayne! I realize that's how negotiations work in The Art of the Deal, but here in the non-ghostwritten world, you gotta give Daddy a little something if you want that sugar.
That's why – even though it's not required and won't increase your chances of winning – I'm asking you to contribute $5 to NRA for each of the guns you enter to win in our giveaway.
See, that's exactly what I told you not to do, Wayne. It's almost like, despite all the times I've stood tall with you and not taken the easy way, you don't really respect me.
Please enter today for your chance to win – and to help stop a gun-ban landslide on Election Day that could cost us our FREEDOM!

ALEX TREBEK: Returning champion, Scott Clevenger.

SCOTT: What is "Things Ted Nugent would say while free-styling during a duet with Stevie Nicks"?
Thanks again for standing with me every single day of this fight.
I will stand by you as I have always stood by you, Wayne. Which is to say, slightly off to the left, wearing an expression of studied innocence and an "I'm With Stupid" t-shirt.

Post-Friday Beast Blogging: The "Protecting Muh IP" Edition

SHADOW: What am I doin'? Ohhh, just chillin'. What about you?

MOONDOGGIE: Contemplating a lawsuit, 'cause I invented chilling!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

It's Like a Lifetime TV Movie With Muff

This episode we watch The Predator (don't we have enough of those in Congress, do we really need them in our multiplexes?) and The House With a Clock in Its Walls (at least according to Zillow), and try to decide if this much "meh!" is the byproduct of an industrial accident, or whether it's cooked up deliberately in mobile Meh! Labs by renegade high school chemistry teachers.

Then they tackle the Unknown Movie Challenge -- Strip Nude For Your Killer -- and are forced to turn in their Man Cards and burn their Italian bun-huggers, much like women incinerated their brassieres during the height of Second Wave Feminism.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Rave at Pump #12!

I suppose this happens to everyone from time to time, but living in Hollywood, it seems to happen to me all the time. You know the feeling: you just need ten gallons of Regular, a caffeine-free Diet Dr Pepper, and a box of Twizzlers, but while you're fumbling for your debit card a rave breaks out in front of the mini-mart, and the next thing you know, you're waking up disoriented in the Cool Tent.

Post-Friday Beast Blogging: The Happy Caturday Edition

SHADOW: Can you believe it? According to Twitter it's "Caturday", or some such bullshi--

MOONDOGGIE: What? It's Caturday?! I better get up and start bringin' the kawaii, or I'll get totally stiffed by Japanese YouTubers! Again!

SHADOW: No, honey, stay in bed...

MOONDOGGIE: We're on top of the couch.

SHADOW: Stay...on couch.

MOONDOGGIE: But Caturday--!!

SHADOW: Don't be fooled by the hype, Orange Guy. It's just another made-up Hallmark holiday like Boss's Day, or World Nutella Day, or German Apples Day--

MOONDOGGIE: Don't you be dissing Tag des Deutschen Apfels! 
SHADOW:  Um. Sorry...?

MOONDOGGIE: If the Germans hear about your potty mouth, they might refuse to honor my gift card to Wienerwald!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Happy Birthday, Sheri!

Hello, old friends.

I've been meaning to come in and dust this place off for awhile now, but I see we're well past that point and nothing short of a good sandblasting will do, followed by a vigorous scrub-down with whatever combination of bleach and acid they use to cleanse murder scenes. It's not 100% effective, but it'll make that cheap Tallahassee motel room presentable enough that the lingering smell might be mistaken for mildew in the air conditioner and the Rorschach-like blood spatters might just be part of the wallpaper pattern. Probably. Anyway, the place rents by the hour so it's not like any phantom odors will have time to permeate your sportswear, especially if you're a Republican state legislator just looking to get your winky dinked on your lunch hour.

There're a lot of things I feel I ought to be writing about lately, but rather than inspiring, the news has been suffocating me, much like that Glad™brand amniotic sac that traps Sean Connery in Zardoz, and unlike him I lack the talent to act my way out of it (also I'm having second thoughts about people seeing me in thigh-high boots and a crimson diaper).

However, I have news of my own to share. Some of it's bad, but I'm going to put all that unhappy stuff aside and for now, accentuate the positive. Today (okay, yesterday, but I started this post on September 12th in good faith, fully intending to finish it before midnight, but they're painting the doors and hallways in our apartment building and I had to flee the neighborhood because the smell was giving me a horrible headache) is the birthday of Sheri Zollinger, co-author of Better Living Through Bad Movies, "Our Hostess" as Doghouse Riley always used to call her, founder of World O' Crap, and the person who has probably made me laugh more and harder than anyone else on Earth.

Sadly for the blogosphere, Sheri (whose health has been fragile for many years now) shifted her energies from gentle lampoonery of right wing idiots to rescuing dogs and cats and helping disadvantaged people in her community. But then, the blogosphere isn't doing all that well itself lately, so who gives a damn what it thinks? The days when blogs could have banded together, achieved self-awareness, and seized control of civilization like Colossus: The Forbin Project are long gone, and if any artificial construct is going to subdue humanity, it's probably some yet-to-be-written, yet soon-to-be-viral tweet about farts.

Imagine a tweet farting in a face. Forever.

Well, that's Trump's America, but as promised, we're not here to piss and moan about the bad stuff. We're here to celebrate the birth of America's wittiest writer (yes, I said it, and I'll fight anyone who sez different).  As someone who ought to know once said (I think it was Thers, pinch-hitting for Atrios on Eschaton), "S.z. basically invented left snark", and if that's not true, then everything is an alternative fact. Waking up each day and reading her posts was pretty much the reason I bothered to get up at all during the Bush Administration, and writing a book with her was the single most joyous experience of my professional career (and I've written several movies about fish!).

So in honor of her many hilarious posts about Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, Pastor J. Grant Swank, Family Circus, Doug Giles, and Meghan Cox Gurdon (America's Worst Mother [© Tbogg] before Sarah Palin arrived on the scene), please join me -- if you're still out there -- in wishing s.z. a very happy birthday.

But wait! What would a Wo'C birthday party be without prunes?

What does this crisp, fresh salad cause a man to change his mind about? Let's read on...
Stew 4 prunes for each person. Pit the prunes and stuff with cottage cheese.
So I'm guessing that any "meat and potatoes" men who were considering self-harm will look at this recipe and decide to dispense with half-measures and just skip straight to the suicide.
Place two donuts on a lettuce leaf, fill the donut centers with cottage cheese and then top each donut with a stuffed prune.
And thus the Krispy Kreme empire fell, when the Germanic leader Odoacer showed up at the gates of Rome in drag and bearing this refreshing summer dish while pretending to be a lady from the Welcome Wagon.
Place two whole pitted prunes beside the donuts.
Because as long as you're going to commit a felony, you might as well compound it. Anyway, at least we can rest assured that this thing can't get any worse.
Serve with mayonnaise.
I stand corrected.

Okay, now please join me in wishing--

Wait.  Sorry. First we need to comb the deserts of Utah for a...
Sexy Birthday Lizard!

Yes, it's the Long-nosed Leopard Lizard. I know they're more common at birthday parties than a balloon-twistin' clown, but after all, there's a difference between a cliche and a tradition.

Okay...Now please join me in wishing Sheri the loveliest of natal anniversaries. And may all the love and self-sacrifice she has offered to homeless animals and infirm neighbors over the years redound to her a thousandfold.

Happy birthday, Sheri.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Episode 50 and The Return of Larry Blamire!

Grab a glass and join in, because it's our half-centennial episode and this time we've got a special guest: writer-director Larry Blamire, who sits down to talk about his new book of Western horror stories, More Tales of the Callamo Mountains, his upcoming book Great Scott! Rare Imaginary Comic Book Covers, and a multitude of other weird angles, tangents, and asides. Then it's time for the Unknown Movie Challenge, as we volley opinions about the unjustly neglected Val Guest classic Jigsaw (1962).

P.S. For more Larry Blamire, check out the following:

Larry on Twitter
On Facebook
On Amazon
His Books and Plays

Monday, July 23, 2018

Episode 49! Areolas of the Undead!

Angry Star Wars fans want to remake The Last Jedi, so Jeff and Scott accommodate them by doing a dramatic reading of the Angry Fans' manifesto, then hastily remaking a bunch of classic films, using modern tropes, techniques, and technologies (Lawrence of Arabia moves a lot faster when everyone's riding around the desert in those Landmasters from Damnation Alley). Finally, it's a quick detour to Jurassic World enroute to our final destination, The Playgirls and the Vampire, a 1960 Italian import that supplied mid-Century America with it's Minimum Daily Adult Requirement of imported nipples.

Here's the trailer:

And here's the new episode. Enjoy!

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


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--


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.


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" T-shirts 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 Patriot 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's 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."

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Post-Friday Beast Blogging: The Dynamic Duo Edition

MOONDOGGIE: I'll save you! Old...chum...!

SHADOW: He's dreaming he's Batman again.

MOONDOGGIE: If I could only...reach my...utility belt...!

SHADOW: I keep hoping I'll show up in his dream as Catwoman, but since he obviously thinks he's the '66 Batman, all that sexual tension probably wouldn't go anywhere. Sigh.

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Slumgullion #47: HELP! (Not The Beatles One)

The boss is out of town, it's the end of the world, and we've gone CRAZY! Jeff has returned from the Upside-Down with eerie, unearthly powers of hypocrisy! Scott is being pants'd by his TV! The New Movie Crew has that monkeypox from Outbreak! And Thanos has gotten ahold of the Nintendo Power Glove, and he's bedazzling the crap out of it!

Join us, won't you?

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Happy Mother's Day!

By Bill S.

It's Mother's Day, and if you're lucky enough to have a mom you love, don't hesitate to tell her today, and every day.

And be grateful you didn't get saddled any of these moms...

Worst TV Moms

Bonnie Plunkett (Allison Janney) on "Mom" Made Edina Monsoon look like Donna Stone.
"Kids need their space. Take it from me."
"Is that why I never saw you my entire sophomore year?"

Jenny MacArthur (Kate Aselton) on "The League". 

On a show in which everyone cursed enough to make a sailor blush, she had the foulest mouth of anyone, a habit her daughter picked up. But maybe the worst of her (many) transgressions was faking breast cancer to get out of a bake sale...without letting her daughter in on the ruse.

Bev Harris (Estelle Parsons) on "Roseanne" In the series' original run, she was an overbearing, crazy old lady. Now in the reboot, she's older and crazier, much like the show's star.


Missy Armitage (Catherine Keener) in Get Out (2017). She's such a gracious hostess, inviting her daughter's boyfriends to share a cup of tea...

Halley (Bria Vinaite) in The Florida Project (2017). Hey, it's not like she turned tricks in front of her daughter -- she sent the kid into the bathroom.
LaVona Golden (Allison Janney) in I, Tonya (2017). 

Sheesh, and you thought Mama Rose was a pushy stage mother. As far as we know, Rose never made June continue performing after she peed herself.

(For more examples of terrible movie and TV motherhood, be sure to check out my previous Mother's Day columns: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Days of Pant Past

Hollywood Boulevard at Whitley, 1986

Occasionally I like to look back at my neighborhood, to the days when Fashion was a price. Not at a "discount", oh no, but for a price, and that price was a human life. It's just as well the the joint next door was called "Reflections", because it behooved the prospective shopper to pause and consider: Would you kill for a fashionable pant? Granted, it was the Reagan Administration, and human life was cheap, nevertheless, what profit a man to gain the latest Pant, and lose his immortal soul? But that was the Boulevard in the mid-80s, when many a wide-eyed innocent breezed into the Pant Station, only to emerge a different person. A person who has not only bought a spectacularly fashionable Stretch-Stirrup or Parachute Pant, but has also faced the fact that -- like John Huston in Chinatown -- at the right time and the right place, they're capable of anything.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Post-Friday Beast Blogging: The "Do You MIND?" Edition

SHADOW: Please go away, we're having Spoon Time. And if you don't mind, I've been waiting allllll week for this.

MOONDOGGIE: Is this a bad time? Should we maybe spoon later...?


Monday, April 16, 2018

Beast Blogging: The "Moondoggie's Drag Race" Edition

Moondoggie found a plastic shopping bag, and as a lifelong West Hollywood (adjacent) resident, decided to get Glam with it:
MOONDOGGIE: Shadow! Shadow! Who am I?

SHADOW: The light of my life, the fire of my loins--

MOONDOGGIE: Meryl Streep in The French Lieutenant's Woman! Get it?

SHADOW: Hey, cool! Let me in there, I'll do Jeremy Irons...

MOONDOGGIE: No! This is my drag show!

Then -- predictably -- it all went to hell:

MOONDOGGIE: Damn the Glam! Why can't I resist it?