Friday, October 31, 2008
Of course this was before corporations plunked down billions in marketing ads to convince us that these older formats were crap. Still it took a while for the average Joe and Jane Consumer to take the bait. Betamax was supposedly superior to VHS. It's tapes were smaller, the video quality better, but it didn't allow us to record and didn't allow for the same length (time wise) of movies as did VHS. So it died. Then along came Laserdisc, DVDs lumberjack grandpapa, alas the discs were too bulky and it cost too much. So it, too, got tossed onto the heap of discarded consumer tech along with 8-track tapes and phonographs.
But, for a while, before we realized how horrible the video quality of VHS was, we actually had it pretty good. There were mom and pop video stores everywhere. The titles available on VHS were an eclectic mix of public domain classics, studio blockbusters (and misfires), and, thanks to the camcorder there was even ultra low budget shot on video flicks. Didn't like the selection in your corner video store? You could always go visit your friend across town and check out the stores in their neighborhood.
Then came the retail chains. The major retail chains squeezed the life out of the mom and pop video store forcing them all out of business. Alas, now that they are the only game in town, these chain stores offer little more than mass marketed mediocrity. Sure they sometimes have DVDs at great budget bargain bin prices. But the problem is they literally dump these DVDs into a bin. That's not just disrespecting the product that's disrespecting the customer. What these stores are telling you is they view you as pigs and the product is slop. So, go ahead, dig on into that bin piggy.
Funny thing is we actually have less of a selection on DVD than we did on VHS. Our choices have literally dwindled down to the same handful of regurgitated Hollywood titles carried by every chain store. And don't even ask about imports. These stores wont even special order domestic releases!
Which leaves online vendors. Alas the lumbering leviathan retail chains hinder the availability and accessibility of these sorts of titles. Without access to these titles on legit DVD we can't buy them. If indie labels and Z-budget studios can't get their DVDs stocked they can't sell them, thus they can't make money, which means the legit DVDs quickly go OOP. Thus even online vendors wont have them.
So what's a person to do? When all else fails they'll likely end up at the site of a gray market "collector video" vendor, if only because these sites will be the only one's to pop up in a search for certain rare OOP titles.
Alas, too often, the prices are way more than the cost of the legit DVD. And what are you getting for your money? Is it a rip of a DVD or a one-off dub from a VHS recording burned to budget media DVDr? There's just no way to know. And don't expect to get a decent case with cover art! You'll be lucky to get a jewel case with that DVDr.
Alas, for too many titles, this may seem like the only option if you want to see the movie before you die. And why? Because the retail chains are acting like thugs, refusing to carry certain titles while filling their shelf space with the same tired old mass produced crap. What's worse these mass market retail chains are a pirate's best friend. Without their virtual monopoly of the market, controlling what gets stocked and for how long, thus creating the perfect cesspool in which bottom feeders thrive, there would be no gray market video.
What can we do? Well for starters we can try to: Complain to our congressman. Complain to the MPAA. Complain to our local TV station. Complain to the management of the retail chain and ask that our titles/product gets stocked. . .
Alas talking to the in-store management of a retail store is like trying to get a earthworm to sit up and beg for a doggy treat, they just don't seem to care. Sadly I speak from personal experience. They'll blame the lack of decent stock on everything but their own incompetence. The most used excuse is the store only carries what they are sent and they have no control over what they get sent. If you try to point out the in-store computers and ask about ordering such items what invariably happens is the manager suddenly "remembers" they have something to do, whereupon they disappear.
And you wonder why the economy is in the state it's in?
I've walked in a certain bookstore chain that carries DVDs, CDs, and even recently renovated their in-store 'café'- if they'd only put that money into STOCKING their shelves!!!!- with a 30% coupon in my pocket and left, empty handed, so many times that it's not funny. For instance to this day I have NEVER seen a single DVD of HUNDRA in a brick and mortar store. Even the aforementioned chain, which has in-store computers and claims they can order stuff for you, couldn't get it. Of course it wasn't their fault. (Is it ever?) But then I've heard so many excuses over the years from them I've given up trying. It's never their fault it's their vendor, the product is on back order, the movie wasn't released yet (total BS on that), or the movie wasn't available because it'd gone OOP or been cancelled (again total BS) or. . .
This is our retail industry? I have money in my pocket and you're giving me excuses rather than product? It's bad enough the people hired to walk the aisles don't have clue one about what's in the store, much less knowledge about the section they are hired to patrol. They're just bodies filling space. And don't ever dare ask them any probing questions that require them to do something so radical as think!
So, as you enjoy your treats this Halloween, think long and hard about which stores you want to support. Because odds are you're not just getting the short end of the stick you're getting tricked.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
That, my friends, happened to me recently. The movie? The movie was Teknolust. But the joke was on me. You see I had no idea I felt this way about the movie. No joke. I was happy having forgotten ever suffering through any portion of this miserable scat. This movie was so awful that. . . Well this was my reaction to a post about it in a movie forum recently: "Having giant bug eyed demonoid alien nazi hell spawn inject the festering puss from the anus of a dead chupacabras filled with fecal ecoli bacteria directly into your eyeballs would be better than watching this!"
Needless to say I did not realize what a psyche scarring experience this movie had been. Someone mentioned this movie and a hate bomb that this celluloid charlatan injected into my subconscious like a fifth column sapper went off. The director of this instant brain mash took what sounded like an awesome premise, the sort of premise that an Al Adamson would have run wild with and made a phenomenal piece of low budget exploitation sleaze or Roger Corman would have run through his cheeze grater camp factory and produced titillating but fun trash, and turned it into tedious soul sucking feckless insipidity.
What makes it all the worse is the movie stars Tilda Swinton (Female Perversions) who seems a rather decent actress, which makes one wonder what possessed her to star in this. Probably it was the idea of exercising her acting ability by playing four distinct roles, each being offshoot reflections of the same central character. That's right she plays the main character and her three clones.
Sounds like a promising science fiction movie so far, right?
That's what I thought, too. Alas this is not science fiction. Rather this plays out like an exploration of neurosis masked by some confused radical agenda masquerading as science fiction. The key character is so wrapped up in her personal psychosis that subjective reality seems to have become little more than a papier-mâché caricature. Too afraid to venture out into the real world for fear of tearing the paper she creates a virtual kindergarten fantasy world within the confined laboratory of her bewilderment.
Enter the clones, each being a clichéd representation of various fixations, none of which are very interesting nor entertainingly explored. Then again I'm not sure this movie was ever meant to be entertaining. (Thus my comparisson to Roger Corman and Al Adamson above are probably unfair. They, at least, were trying to produce entertainment.) It's obviously a "message" sort of movie. That message being: Women are awesome and ultra kewl leet! Men are vile creatures to be despised and pitied! GRRL POWER!!!
But what really annoys me isn't that this was a propaganda movie about an -ism dressed up in the garb of genre cinema. The director merely took the best tricks of the exploitation trade, namely fooling the audience with a sham shell game to lure in the punters. No, that's not what bothers me. What annoys me is this was such a tediously repulsive bore that the mere memory of it, low these many years later, fills me with the hatred of a thousand dying suns. If that's what the director was going for then good on her she worked her black magic ninja mind-fu with her movie. Now, please, let's not ever speak of this movie again.
PSST. Curious if the movie is really all that bad or wondering if I was just having a bad day when I saw it? You can buy it at Amazon and judge for yourself:
Monday, October 20, 2008
If the total lack of forum postings about this movie immediately after it's airing are any indication I may be the only person who tuned in- or at least is willing to admit doing so- to watch this. Are we seeing some sort of fallout from the director's dismal Catwoman (2004)? I doubt it. Then again Sci-Fi didn't exactly give this much promo time either. So did you miss anything? Yes and no. Like most sciffy original movies Fire & Ice had it's good points and it's bad. Veterans of sciffy's original movitrocities will know what the bad was. If this describes you there's no real need to read further, unless you're morbidly curious.
The Story - Clichéd yet amusing claptrap. King has daughter but no sons. The only child, Ms. Princess, grows up with the father doting over her and treating her like the son he never had. Princess is thus very headstrong. She rides horses, wears pants, carries a dagger, and does all those other things only "boys" are supposed to do. Then, one day, suddenly, out of nowhere, a "fire dragon" appears to threaten the kingdom. The King does little more than watch impotently from his ivory tower expressing hollow platitudes and talking endlessly about what might-possibly-could-maybe-perhaps be done with his advisor while the dragon devastates the countryside. The daughter, being willful and obstinate, not to mention a sneaky eavesdropper, heads off, on her own against her father's wishes of course, to find a former knight who is supposed to be the only person alive ever to slay a dragon and bring him back to save the Princessdom, er, the realm. So begins this strange not quite epic tale of almost high fantasy.
The Cast - Amy Acker, who plays a proto-feminist tom-boy princess; Tom Wisdom, an actor whose IMDB picture looks like a morph between a young Brad Pitt and Keanu Reeves; John Rhys-Davies, the inimitable Gimli himself; Arnold "Imhotep" Vosloo, as the princess' father; and Oana Pellea, an Romanian born actress with a hauntingly wicked pic up at IMDB as the princess' mother. Anyhow that's the main cast.
The Movie - Fire & Ice was a lot better than I expected it to be. The characters were entertaining to watch, if not very remarkable, and I really enjoyed the first hour even if it was a bit dawdling in the plot setup and the CGI creature FX were disappointing. Alas for all it's potential Fire & Ice is sadly still a "Sci-Fi Original" and the one thing sciffy is really good at is producing CG infested misfires that come close, but never quite manage, to rise above clichéd mediocrity. Yet Fire & Ice came close, oh so very close. .
Until we reached the second hour midpoint. That's when the movie's lack of forward momentum and attempts to create action through faux drama via quick cuts back and forth between chit-chat, characters traveling (briefly) across scenic landscapes, and flash peeks of a CGI manta bleching flames swimming across the sky started to slowly wear down my interest until, finally, with roughly 38 minutes left I had an interruption and discovered that I just didn't care anymore and returned only to turn the TV off and let the movie finishing recording in a darkened room. That I made a DVDr to get screen caps demonstrates that I do no feel the movie is a total waste. I guess my expectations, seeing that Vosloo and Davies were in this, were set a little too high.
It was actually kind of sad because John Rhys Davies, once he was finally introduced, had some great one liners and rejoinders. His character was fun and endearing. His presence in this feature almost made up for the CGI "dragons" but I have to admit that seeing one within the first ten or so minutes gave me serious doubts about whether to waste a minute more on this movie. Honestly I only stuck around to see what role Mr. Davies had, sadly it was a supporting role so he didn't have enough screen time to save this.
Tangents - I wouldn't be surprised if sciffy lost half it's audience when that CGI critter appeared. What's the problem? Well with safe search on this is the first image that Google's image search popped up when searching keyword "dragon" . .
That's a "fantasy wallpaper" called "black dragon" from this site. (Warning. Site may contain non-work safe ads.) You can see the entire first page of hits for yourself. Those are dragons. Pick a page at random and you'll see more of the same. Now if you input the words "manta ray" this is the first image from Google. .
Which, as you can see from the first page of images, is actually a pic found on multiple sites. And here's what Google returns for "devil ray" (again first pic). .
See the problem?
Assessment - When dealing with fantasy there's a certain range of expectations, not the least of which is that if you are going to call your monsters dragons that they are going to look like, well, DRAGONS! Even Dragon Wars managed to have it's beasties look like dragons, albeit oriental dragons, but the things in this movie?
NOT dragons. Bizarro world elementals, maybe, a bargain basement budget studio getting creative with stock CGI templates, perhaps, but that is not the dragon of traditional fantasy myth or literature. It's not the sort of dragon genre artists like Frank Frazetta, Boris Vallejo, or anyone else for that matter has ever drawn. This movie thus fails to meet basic genre criteria, cheats it's audience, and falls short of being traditional genre fantasy.
However that would not necessarily be a bad thing IF this "outside the box" approach had been executed well. Sadly what Fire & Ice was attempting, in my opinion, is to present an non-traditional fantasy re-interpretation of what a dragon is. Alas their efforts were a total misfire. The critter is presented too early, almost as if the CGI department is backhanding the audience while sneering their contempt of the genre and those who care for it. I do not believe this was the case, but then I continued to watch the movie and saw the scene where there was a bit of discussion about the dragons- described in very uncharacteristic terms- and feel this was just poorly plotted and/or executed. There should have been build up, a bit of back story or something, prior to the reveal. Some groundwork, such as that atypical explanation of dragon kind, to prepare the audience for the fact this is going to present non-traditional dragons before that ridiculous manta-ray rendering with attached dragon skull head would have been nice.
The anticipation going in was for dragons. Fans of the genre all know what a dragon looks like. Every fantasy artist knows what a dragon looks like. Sadly this movie does NOT deliver proper dragons. That is probably going to rankle quite a few people, and rightly so. And you just can't do that, especially not when you've got the albatross of being a "Sci-Fi Original" movie hanging around your neck. On the up side Fire & Ice was by far better than Odysseus and the Isle of the Mists, which misfired several degrees worse than this production.
How annoying is that? Three paragraphs just "assessing" the silly looking CGI "dragons". It's not even that the CGI is poorly done, it's actually pretty decent, rather it's the rendered depiction looks so wrong it's irritating. Apparently far more so than I realized when I first sat down to type up this review. And that says it all. .
Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Alas I stumbled onto Fire & Ice: The Dragon Chronicles being on, tonight at 9 PM EST on the Sci-Fi Channel, while watching Sanctuary on Friday. (Which stars Amanda Tapping and her talents are better used in this than they were in Stargate Atlantis BTW. Alas it's too much like the X-Files meets Special Unit 2, sans the humor, which is exactly the problem with Fringe.) The promo for Fire & Ice showed the CGI dragons, which are laughably absurd. But this being sciffy we all knew that already.
Also appearing are Amy Acke and Arnold Vosloo. Alas as my DirecTV receiver only gives me roughly a 48 hour window into what's about to air that means I literally did NOT know about this until late last night and as I've been experiencing connectivity issues- none of which are helped by sciffy turning the portal to their site into one massive advert for the video game Dead Space, thus forcing those of us with iffy connections to wait in Limbo until we can bypass that garbage, then wait in the foyer to Hell as their orgy of ungodly flash loads- meaning this heads up may be a bit late for some. So sorry for the lack of a sciffy link but their site is so overdone with pointless flash that finding specific information on anything is like trying to wade through a sewer during a storm surge looking for a gold ring in a bubbling froth of turds. For those who miss it I will try to have a review up by Monday.
Official Site: http://www.fireandice.ro/
IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1135493/
Friday, October 10, 2008
Format Viewed: DVD (Purchased at a Flea Market.)
Premise: Depressed painter finds a sickly mermaid in the sewer and takes her back to his apartment to "paint her forever" with revoltingly unpleasant results.
The Reality: The movie seems to be an exploration of a artist's journey into madness, which serves as the backdrop (and excuse) for extreme gore effects. The dialogue is minimal. The movie, which runs for 57 minutes from title roll to credit scrawl, plays out like an extended, if laboriously slow, Twilight Zone episode. Alas the movie is really just an excuse to show grotesque puss filled pustules squirting revolting viscous multicolored fluids, something which could have been accomplished in half the time with twice the impact.
The Story: A lonely depressed Japanese painter, who may have just lost his wife, that regularly goes down into the sewer to paint the disgusting detritus and cast-off refuse of society discovers a mermaid during one of his sketching excursions. Being an artist he is immediately mesmerized by her beauty and sets out to sketch her, until she moans in pain and reveals a mass of tumorous polyps infecting her side. The man, taking pity on the mermaid, sees this as the perfect excuse to take the new object of his artistic fantasies back to his apartment where he orders a brand new bathtub for her and begins to paint her. Things go abruptly downhill from here.
Video/Sound Quality: Acceptable. This was obviously shot on video and there are times the source is betrayed by video artifacts, otherwise a well presented DVD.
Extras: This DVD was a double feature and included trailers for other Guinea Pig features and still galleries.
Verdict/Analysis: Before the current torture porn phenomenon there was the Guinea Pig series. The Guinea Pig films have achieved some minor notoriety thus this was an very unexpected Flea Market find indeed. This particular entry in the series explores the selfish selflessness of the artistic mind, wherein daylight reality and nocturnal fantasy merge to the point of becoming indistinguishable. Mermaid in a Manhole is thus the sort of movie that has to be experienced first hand. Yet, a word of caution, this movie is not for the squeamish. This is a movie produced by gore hounds for gore hounds therefore it is more disgusting than shocking with lots of colorful gore FX mixed with some blood. Suggested viewing for hardgore fans of the macabre and bizarre. You have been warned.
Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Format Viewed: VHS (Purchased at a Flea Market.)
Premise: In a post-apocalyptic future dystopia some sort of plague or virus or something renders people (Sex Negatives) impotent, or rather physiologically disinclined to having sex. Those whose bodies are capable (Sex Positives), whether or not they are willing, are required by law to perform live sex shows for those who can't. Café Flesh is one of the clubs where these stage shows take place.
How do we know Café Flesh takes place in a post-apocalyptic future world? Well there's the door to the club. .
It's large and round like a bank vault door. And when the doorman (an Igor in-training) opens it a smoky mist roils in from outside. .
There's also a character or two with what could be radiation sores on their face. .
The Reality: Virtually the entire movie takes place inside the titular club where jaded patrons sit, watching impotently, the various vignettes unfold on stage thus making Café Flesh something of a surreal anti-porn porn movie with pretentious psychotropic art house delusions. .
The Plot: The premise, as outlined in the opening narration, paints this as being the usual sort of post-apocalyptic bleak future world. Yet the actual story that unfolds on screen defies genre expectations. Not to repeat myself but, honestly, those used to high octane Mad Max clones will be disappointed as Cafe Flesh really is simply a bizarre movie with art house pretensions. .
Could it have been better? Perhaps. Then again the same can be said of many low budget sci-horror movies of the period. Despite the short running time, and the fact this is an "adult" feature, this is one strangely fascinating flick. .
While it never becomes gibberingly incoherent Cafe Flesh nevertheless has the feel of a film that began with a threadbare concept whose details were hastily revised and hashed out during principle shooting and post. For instance one thing that is hard not to notice are the stage shows. They are all performance art pieces. From the start you are assailed with weirdness. .
How bizarre is it? Well there's three men in diapers in the background. A woman sits in a recliner. Suddenly, from out of the darkness, comes a guy wearing white tights, a rat mask and tail carrying milk who then proceeds to dance around and 'seduce' the woman. .
Verdict: For a Flea Market find this was not half bad. However this being an "adult" movie my expectations going in were pretty low. But if you ignore that aspect of the film this plays out like a post-modern parable. Alas it also comes close to breaking down as it's internal suspension of logic falters and totally bursts the bubble well before the final scene. But that may have been intentional as the final scene ends rather abruptly, as if the director either just gave up and decided to call it quits or is asking the audience to decide for themselves whether any of what they just watched meant anything at all. Definitely not for everyone. Even hardcore (no pun intended) fans of post-apocalypse movies may want to think twice about renting this one.
All this while the man-babies look on. Very odd. Disturbing even. But what does this have to do with anything? Perhaps nothing, perhaps everything. The survivors are merely going through the motions of living, thus it is an effectively bleak representation of life in a post apocalyptic world. As each stage show gets progressively more surrealistic and bizarre the movie draws you into it's absurdity until it's strange incongruous crudity crescendos with a rather abrupt conclusion.