Sunday, November 27, 2011

FRIGHT NIGHT: It Didn't Mean to Suck, but It Did


 
In the original Fright Night there are some bad things.  William Ragsdale’s Charlie Brewster is pretty much a frantic asshole especially to his friend Evil Ed.  Over the years I accepted Chris Sarandon’s Jerry Dandridge and always thought he could’ve been scarier, but the fact that he wasn’t was part of the appeal because vampires were supposed to be scary monsters.  But with all the bad, the good outweighed everything else.  Roddy McDowall’s Peter Vincent brings so much heart and soul (even when he watches Evil Ed die) that makes you attached enough to care about these people surviving a horror flick.  Now, there’s Fright Night Las Vegas.  There are a few good things, but the bad far outweighs any good.    

 
I guess what bugs me the most is that it hardly feels like this has any personality.  It feels like a standard genre piece with no mounting conflict.  It’s just like things happen for the sake of happening because they have the structure of the original to tell them basically what to do.  For most of the film it does feel like there are a couple scenes that aren’t in the first.  And the tone is different in the sense it does try to be scary, but honestly are we really afraid of vampires?  Especially, blatant CGI-mouthed vampires?  If you are then you have every reason to be scared because Colin Farrel does have that child molester vibe that’s needed for this and pulls it off well.  

 
What probably could’ve been cut out was the Peter Vincent character.  There is nothing interesting or appealing about David Tennet’s character unless you just want to watch Dr. Who in a horror flick, but really why would Charlie Brewster need to visit Peter Vincent in the first place if he was doing his own research anyway?  So, why would he try to go and visit him to ask him how to kill a vampire?  It kind of works in the original on account that William Ragsdale played it as more frantic and na├»ve.  And if you’re trying to do a scarier and “smarter” Fright Night why would a big-ass Vegas celebrity give a shit about some kid?  The only real piece of information that Peter Vincent provides is the alter that Jerry Dandrich has stashed in his house which leads him to believe Jerry is a 400 year-old warrior vampire—and a shitty one at that if he’s hunting teenagers.   The reason the Peter and Charlie pairing works in the original is for one Roddy McDowall’s Peter Vincent is a failing local celebrity on late night public television show airing old horror flicks and needs the money.  So, he helps him at first just for the cash and then he realizes he’s in over his head then Peter must now fight the good fight no matter how frightened he is.  It’s true that David Tennet’s Peter Vincent is coward as well, but there is like no life to him.  He’s a superficial celebrity with an even less interesting base character.  There’s no sense of build to really get invested in him and would’ve been best if during all Charlie’s “porn” research he just came across these Mediterranean vampires in some old book.  It would’ve eliminated the half-assed shoehorning of David Tennet.  

 
Is it fair to compare two movies made 28 years apart?  Well, when Hollywood is asking for what few dollars we have in a shitty economy then I shouldn’t have to see a shittier version of the same movie.  I should just see a brand-new shitty movie that way I wouldn’t feel so ripped off. 



And for those interested in the original...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

WONDER WOMAN: Amazonian Fail

  Well, this is as bad as it looks and as you’ve heard.  Wonder Woman has no secret identity, but is the big boss of a company that manufactures Wonder Woman merchandise and everyone knows she’s a superhero.  Wonder Woman is a mixed up character.  She doesn’t want to make an action figure who sells her “tits and ass” as she puts it, but in the next scene not only does she wear the outfit, but says to some dude who won’t let her in a door, “Do you like my outfit?  It opens doors for me.”  Let’s not also forget that Diana Themyscira (the bosslady of this company) also designed this outfit.  And Adrianne Palicki is just plain horrible in this.  The only time she’s actually comfortable is when she’s playing another character named Diana Prince which makes no sense if she’s already Wonder Woman and Diana Themyscira.  She plays Wonder Woman as an angry bitch and totally unlikable.  I was kind of okay with that in the Nathan Fillion Wonder Woman because she was a consistent character, but this was a total missed mark because it seems like a full-on identity crisis—especially so for someone concerned about image.  Perhaps it was just the way it was performed, but it came off all wrong.   But to give an actor three roles to play may be a bit much at once especially when none of the characters are clearly thought out.

  Then there’s the action stuff.   It’s hit and miss.  The action is sped up sometimes and looks about as cheesey as the Six Million Dollar Man bionic sound, but we’re not supposed to think it’s kitsch. Then there’s the bracelets and bullets stuff which actually looked a little cool, but maybe after so much lameness that it just came off as the only awesome thing in the entire run.   But then there’s some weird stuff.  There’s a moment during the action where she graphically impales a security guard in the throat with a metal pipe.  Albeit he was shooting at her, but that’s kind of his job as an armed guard.  It’s not like he was a goon or a henchman.   In the Wonder Woman 2009 cartoon, that might be acceptable because that Wonder Woman was new to the way things go, but this one is supposed to be more responsible and have a greater understanding of not just killing random working class dudes.

It’s either that David E. Kelley hated the fact that this could’ve been his cash cow and tried to sabotage it or he really doesn’t know anything about how to make a show like this work.  I’ve never seen his shows, but I was a huge fan of Lake Placid.  But it seems that anything that carries with it so much weight and history either calls for complete and utter faithfulness to the source material or full-on re-envisioning.  Sometimes it hits, but this fails on 95% of its fronts.

In the meantime, while Hollywood tries to figure things out, this is the only Wonder Woman that matters until a new one comes along.



Monday, June 27, 2011

INSIDIOUS: A Full-on Creature Creamertorium



I'd been really annoyed with horror movies as of late.  For the longest time there were so many horror movies that didn't actually get the ball rolling until nearly an hour into the film and most of those were like only 90 minutes.  Much like Drag Me to Hell, this at least makes no bones about letting you know what kind of film it is or even allowing you to see the face of some malevolent creature.  Many horror movies seem to have characters that exist as if the genre had never been invented.  It's like it's not part of their pop culture so the movie itself is treated as if you don't know anything about what you're about to watch.  Then there's the other side of the coin where you have characters that are horrorholics, but still make the same dumbass mistakes.  This at the very least assumes you know what kind of movie you're watching and a little something about it.  It doesn't fuck around with you by watching doors open close without a reason.  From the opening shot you know there's something fucked up sitting around and waiting. This something fucked up is what I like to call Tim Burton with a flashlight.


While this follows all the conventions of a horror flick it still manages to keep things happening all the time.  You may not know all the reasons, but at least you're not bored.  And that's the trick.  Just have more of the creepout moments and spookout happen in more rapid succession instead of lingering on characters that we may not have time to care about in a 90-minute flick anyway.  And that's what I hate about where modern horror was going for a while there.  The time spent on attempting to make you care for characters that could be murdered.  Most of the characters that occupy movies and the actors that play them are typically dull and uninteresting people to appeal to a wider audience.  And it's certainly true here.  At least you have Lin Shaye and Patrick Wilson, but you already know these actors and they're likable from other things you've seen.  But of course, the real star of the show here is James Wan and all the creatures.  But still.  Don't ask me what Darth Maul was doing here.  I guess this is where The Force shat his ass out. 


You know who else is in this?  Barbara Hershey.  Not the Academy Award nominated actress, but the one who was ecto-raped in The Entity and is geekly famous for that.  Well, that and being Naveen Andrews sugar mama.  But for the most part everyone else knows her as the Oscar-bate actress from Hoosiers, The Natural and Hannah and Her Sisters.  Watching her back in a genre flick was actually quite interesting.  She helps serve a lot to one of the many creatures in one of her anecdotes about a creature in the corner of her grandson's room. 


But this flick is not without problems.  There are moments where it's already established that the mom believes that there is at least one entity in the house, but when a child starts screaming, she doesn’t run or come to the aid as quickly as you would think.  And it’s not like she’s scared.  It’s more like, “Hey, I wonder what my kid is screaming at.  I hope it’s not that creepy-ass voice on the baby monitor or my kid falling off a ladder in the attic and landing himself in a coma.”  Many of the characters are in fact cutouts because what’s not import are the characters but the array of monsters, ghosts, beasts or whatever.  And the biggest problem of the movie is when Lin Shaye arrives on the scene a la Zelda Rubinstein in Poltergeist about 45 minutes into the flick and then proceeds to establish the mythology of the ghosts and what she calls The Further which is a dimension where all ghosts like to party and shit.  Once she explains all the physics and how things work, you immediately know how the movie is going to end and what this is all about.  I don’t expect to be fooled by a film’s twist ending.  In fact, many of them are actually figured out beat for beat mainly because we’ve been down this road in countless stories.  But if your movie is going to end on a twist that you can see five miles out, you might as well add another 10 minutes to deal with it.  Otherwise it feels like the writer said, “Hey, I’ve got 90 pages and a lot of shit so far.  Page 90.  Fade out.”  Sorry, Leigh Whannel.  You needed another 10 pages.  You didn’t have to put a pretty, little bow on it, but you didn’t have up look like you just up and quit.  However, at least it wasn’t the other side of the coin where NOTHING fucking happens and then you’re forced into a shitty twist ending. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

THE CRACKERJACKS




I had just finished a 104-page draft of my latest action story which started with the basic idea of bounty hunter chicks who blow a lot of shit up. Typically, what starts out as something that simple and I start reading, researching and mapping out a plot, it usually evolves into something more complex. As a spec writer, it seems like we have to worry much more about character, structure and plot than what we finally see as a final product in movies these days. It’s not that everything out of Hollywood sucks, but scripts usually devolve into something more simplistic to appeal to a mass audience. I suppose it also helps that they have the millions of dollars in their arsenal and the external gimmick of action and effects will supersede everything that spec writers have to prove they can do on the page. It’s not like I don’t like simple action movies, but it just better be one kickass action flick if the structure and everything else is going to suffer.

The tough part about writing an action script and trying to make it look exciting on the page is that you don’t have the visceral imagery to pull you in. Most of the time you have to pull back on how it would actually be shot or seen so you can minimize black pages because at this point in screenwriting you have to appease the readers who theoretically should be concerned about the basic 3-act structure because much of the time their knowledge on that is only limited to the Syd Field’s Screenplay 101 paradigm to every dotted I and crossed T. Unless we’re producing and directing our own projects, the struggle of a spec writer is writing something that can get past those underpaid readers. So, in some ways you have to convince them you know what you’re doing with the first page.  


The plus side is that I can write whatever the fuck I want and the way I want.

[ This was a like to download the first 30 pages, but since I'm redrafting the script, it's no longer available.  Sorry, but will repost soon. ]

The Crackerjacks. At one time this was called The Collision Twins because originally it was about two women who were so similar in behavior and dialogue that they would seemingly be best friends, but just couldn’t stand each other at all and fumble through the plot. As a conceit as a spec writer I then realized that when readers would read the dialogue one of the responses I could get, “The dialogue between the two women are too similar that they seem like twins.” So, I did the buddy thing and decided to differentiate them in ways to make them separate entities. This also expanded my plot and more characters were added. With a wide array of characters who were all the best at what they do, the story became about all of them—the crackerjacks.

The Heroes:

Caroline Gravenhurst. She was an ex-CID special agent who had been unjustly blamed for a slush fund conspiracy that got her kicked out of the military along with the resident villains (Uncle Brickface and Buck Naked) based on the false testimony of Colonel Charles Bruckner. The only line of work that she could remotely find that had anything to do with law was a fugitive recovery agent where she did well for herself.

Sheena Bruckner. Originally named Betty Bruckner, but because of my disdain for Betty Draper on Mad Men, I changed it. So, you may see in my Facebook page a lot of art where Sheena is called Betty. But in the end, the script calls for her to be named Sheena. Anyway, she’s ex-Army Colonel Charles Bruckner’s daughter who has gotten mixed up in Whitley Bruckner’s (her brother) bail fiasco that was supposed to be kept out of the press, but when Caroline is hired to track down Whitley Bruckner, Sheena is a step ahead to try and keep her brother out of jail. Then Whitley goes missing Caroline and Sheena are forced together to track him down before the likes of Uncle Brickface gets to him.

Brunt Tabernacle. The young rookie who was originally used to communicate to the audience how the bounty hunting game works, but he became more useful as the plot started to develop.

The Villains:

Uncle Brickface. Uncle Brickface was a character I wrote about before back in 1999 in a script called The Flies of MegaWatt Lounge, but I’ve retired that script as I realized it needed a major re-write especially how my writing style changed not to mention so many movies have come out that have either have completely similar scenes like the freeway chase in The Matrix Reloaded or the basic plots. He was a gangster who had stolen a lot of money from gangsters to become this criminal mastermind to rule all over other criminal entities. He’s not much different here this time around either. Only he’s stealing money from government slush funds to go after a corrupt colonel who used these funds for his illegal purposes.

Buck Naked. He was originally a subordinate character to Uncle Brickface, but as his character fleshed out he became much more of a reluctant villain as his family is held hostage to hunt down the son of the colonel that burned Uncle Brickface.

Versus. She evolved as well. She was originally a sniper that accompanied Buck Naked and would take out undesirables from a distance if Buck Naked ever gave a certain signal. But then working her into the plot became much harder because of page count, I kept her close to Uncle Brickface’s security team.

Stuff I Read and Researched While Preparing to Write The Crackerjacks

I read Modern Bounty Hunting by Rex Venator and You Can Run But You Can’t Hide by Duane “Dog” Chapman. The Helicopter Pilot's Companion: A Manual for Helicopter Enthusiasts by Helen Krasner, Principles of Helicopter Flight by W. J. Wagtendonk and much of my research was done through articles on certain subjects online. I watched Family Bonds and a lot of Dog the Bounty Hunter. Also watched a lot of strange CID investigation videos that I happened to acquire while visiting their official website. 


Saturday, March 06, 2010

STEPFATHER '09: Terry O'Quinn's Legendary Performances Didn't Need a Nip/Tuck




In the early 70's John List shot his mother, wife and 3 kids in the backs of their heads.  I guess the oldest son was at a game or something, so he made himself lunch, drove out and picked up his son, brought him back to the house and then shot him in the back of the head as well.  And then after his son "twitched" he shot him 10 more times.  Then he informed everyone that the family would be out of town for a long time and he just ran off and sprouted up in several different states all over the US.  The bodies weren’t found for about a month.  This inspired crime novelist Donald E. Westlake (The Hot Rock, The Hunter , aka Point Blank with Lee Marvin, The Outfit, Drowned Hopes, etc.) to write a short story and screenplay that would be made into a 1987 movie called The Stepfather starring Terry O’Quinn.
When The Stepfather franchise began, it was right around the time when slasher films were out staying their welcome and something like this was a welcome change.  I think I watched them all if there were only 3 of them (the third one minus Terry O'Quinn, but plus Priscilla Barnes) and they pretty much degraded in quality over the years.  But now with the epic Hollywood movement of non-stop remakes and shit, here's The Stepfather 2009 which starts out just like the first film--totally inspired by the images of the John List case and then just turns into dull a domestic drama.  I say drama because there’s nothing really horrific or thrilling about this.  It’s basically about a seemingly nice guy who enters a family’s life and is hiding something.  That something of course is a mass murder, but for the stretch of the movie it’s just about a man trying to get along with the family, but not really succeeding.  A lot of the movie veers off with a young teen couple who listen to would-be cool music to appeal to the kids in the audience much like Disturbia and lessening the tension of the thriller.  I mean, that’s what I’m paying to see—the thriller not kids listening to music.
It’s hard to say where this went down.  The script, the director or the producers with too much input.  JS Cardone actually wrote one of my favorite horror movies of 2001 called The Foresaken and it would seem like he would be a good choice for this.  But then he goes ahead and starts doing what he did with the Prom Night remake and that’s spending too much time trying to apply some sort of likability to the young cast which almost always chews up an hour of screen time (or 75 pages of screenplay)—a trend I’m disliking more and more over time.  But just because they have young, pretty faces, doesn’t mean they’re engaging for that hour.  At least have the plot cooking along to at least negotiate around the potential of having uninteresting actors.  In this case, it’s not so much that the actors aren’t interesting, but they’re given very little to do.  They mostly sit around in a pool, kiss each another and say stuff like, “Don’t you think my stepdad’s a little strange?”  I’m sorry, you just can’t build tension sitting in a pool, sucking face unless said stepdad is tossing in buckets of starving piranhas and pouring sulfuric acid on your fingertips to prevent them from climbing out.  That said, the pool is well shot.  And that brings me to something else.
Yes, the movie is well shot.  They got a decent DP for this.  But a well shot movie is just the beginning.  Interweaving even a half-decent plot isn’t all that easy, but at least keeping the tone and pace of the film should be priority.  That is, of course, if the pacing is designed for teens that like to order pizza during the second act and only tune in at the last 10 minutes when people start screaming, then yes, it’s perfectly paced.  But I for one actually like to watch movies.  Like most people, I’m not often fooled by the outcome, but I do like to see how things progress dramatically.  As much as I loved Terry O’Quinn’s performances in the franchise, at least there was something always moving along. The performance and the evolving story was just a cohesive meld.  Dylan Walsh, whom I always remember as the dude with Amy the talking gorilla in Congo, does an okay job, but I think would’ve only benefitted with more mounting incidences along the way. 
So, should you watch The Stepfather 2009?  Well, if you liked When  a Stranger Calls with Camilla Belle and Prom Night ‘08, then you will love the shit out of The Stepfather



Trailer for the 1987 Original

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

PG-PORN: The Motherfucking Deluxe Edition!

Here is the run of 2008 and 2009's PG-Porn along with the IGN and uncensored episodes (which you may need to be logged into YouTube for) along with selected YouTube behind-the-scenes from James's Channel and from Spike's PG-Porn behind-the-scenes tab.  I did the titles on all of them except for High Poon.

Spike.com/pgporn Episodes:

These are the ones that were filtered through Spike's censors, but there are some great episodes here like the one with Alan Tudyk in High Poon (another favorite).


PG PORN: Nailing Your Wife







Helpful Bus (Censored Version)




The IGN run. These were two episodes that started after the premiere of Nailing Your Wife, but before they started to air on Spike. A Very Peanus Christmas is probably absolute favorite of the bunch. I love them all, but I dig Christmas the most.




The Uncensored Episodes:


You may have to sign in to YouTube to watch the uncensored episodes. Otherwise, you've already seen Helpful Bus above with some low-calorie censorship.



This was not only censored to shit, but was also taken down from Spike.com. I think James made the choice to take it down rather than to have it chopped up.



Behind the Scenes from James's Channel:

James Gunn and Michael Rosenbaum


James Gunn and Michael Rosenbaum's Horsecock


On the set of Helpful Bus


Aria Giovanni watches herself on PG-Porn



Behind the Scenes from Spike.com:


Go behind the scenes with Serenity's Alan Tudyk and Belladonna in the latest episode of James Gunn's PG Porn.


Ride along with James Gunn and Bree Olson in an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at Helpful Bus.


Sasha Grey sits down with PG Porn creator James Gunn to talk about what it was like to work on "Roadside Ass-sistance."


Get an exclusive look at Sasha Grey on the set of James Gunn's PG Porn.


Get an exclusive look at the voluptuous Aria Giovanni behind the scenes of PG Porn.


James Gunn works his magic behind the scenes of PG Porn.


Nathan Fillion prepares to nail Aria Giovanni in an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at PG Porn.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Long Beach Flood 2010

Just recently, last summer actually, I returned to Long Beach to visit where I grew up. Took nearly 300 pix of where I hung out, went to school and eventually blogged about it. Long Beach: Returning to Willmore City After 18 Years. The name Willmore City comes from William E. Willmore's failed farm community that would later become Long Beach.

All this week, SoCal has three storms coming in. Yesterday was the second with a tornado warning and the YouTubing started. A third one is on the way. Good luck to all my brohams in LBC.

Forgive some of these videos. I tried to pick short ones. I realize this isn't as tragic as say the war in Iraq, Haiti or all the other shit in the world, but this is a place where I grew up. I know these streets where these videos were taken. Even my old street Roswell and high school fell victim to the flood.

Here's one of a bag lady floating through the water.


Here's one of a dude canoeing through the streets.


Parking garage flooding


River flow of someone's apartment complex


A dude stops to show us how the flood as affected some.


My favorite place to eat, Casa Sanchez, was flooded.


Here are more pix from the street I grew up on. Once again, good luck out there.

http://www.lbreport.com/news/jan10/tornado.htm
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