Ray Harryhausen 1920 – 2013

Master of special effects Ray Harryhausen passed away today at age 92.

I grew up watching the fantasy and science fiction movies that he poured his heart and soul into and admired his work a great deal. There is no doubt he helped shape my love of the genres that I enjoy the most.  He was a one man special effects shop who made everything he worked on a little more magical.

R.I.P. Ray and thank you for all of the great memories and inspiration.

RH

Movie Review – The Car

1977 Universal Pictures

GP Alert

The CarStraight from Hell’s body shop comes The Car!

I have to admit to being a serious junky when it comes to certain cheesy 1970’s and 1980’s horror and science fiction movies. I know they’re bad but I can’t help but loving them. It’s an addiction I can live with and I will happily feed it as long as I live. The Car is one of those movies that I just love. I first saw this movie on HBO and I must have watched it about twenty times or more. Even as a child I knew it was goofy but I didn’t care. To this day no matter what anyone says I will defend the entertainment value of this movie to the bitter end!

The Car is set in a small town out in the middle of the desert that becomes the target of a mysterious car that has a nasty habit of running over people. After two bicyclist and a hitchhiker are ruthlessly mowed down the police lock down the area in an attempt to trap the perpetrator and stop the vehicular homicide. What they didn’t count on is the fact the car has no driver and ordinary laws of psychics don’t seem to apply this hellish creation.

The Car is an easy movie to describe, it’s Jaws with a car. The Car is structured very much like Jaws and feels like Jaws just without the quality writing, acting, directing, and all that other silly stuff. Basically it’s a lame ripoff that happens to be a lot of fun.

There is nothing too complex about this movie. There’s a killer car on the loose and the law must find a way to stop it before it kills again. The plot is simple, the characters are simple, and that’s about it. There is some attempt to give depth to a few of the characters with a couple of subplots but it doesn’t really work all that well. The dialogue is atrocious at times and some of the camera angles and use of sped up footage are bizarre to say the least. But it doesn’t matter the Car is the star and the rest is just a bunch of filler. The existence of this car is never explained. Why it attacks this small town is a mystery. It’s just a good excuse to drive a cool car around and destroy things. Can’t ask for more than that in this kind of movie except maybe for some gratuitous nudity.

The good:

The title character. The menacing monstrous beast of a car built specially for the movie is one of my favorite four wheeled creations of all time. A heavily modified 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III black coupe with no door handles, a lowered roof, one way windows, and a car horn straight from the depths of Hades.

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I love how the car just appears out of the desert and starts going crazy on this small town.

I love the music score by Leonard Rosenman.

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Kim Richards is so damn cute.

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Holy smokes! I never had any teachers like this.

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Or this!

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There are some cool locations in The Car.

dvd_snapshot_00.41.43_[2013.05.06_16.36.21] The not so good:

I can understand speeding up the footage of the car seeing as it has supernatural abilities but why speed up the footage of the police cars and motorcycle? There is a whole sequence where all the driving footage is sped up and it just looks goofy especially the footage of James Brolin on his motorcycle.

Random thoughts and observations:

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Not too many movies start off with a quote from the Satanic Bible.

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These two are equivalent to the first victim of the shark in Jaws.

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Filmed in CarVision!

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Uh oh, could be trouble. Quick duck and cover!

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Students practice marching at a fairground. This is the Jaws beach scene…

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…complete with a policeman keeping an eye out for the car.

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Not doing a very good job of it either. What’s the sun gleaming off from out in the desert? Hmmmmmm…

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The car even gets a shark fin sticking out of the water scene.

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The car is kept obscured by dust or only the front end is shown in the first half of the movie.

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The big reveal of the car forty six minutes into the movie. Too bad the nimrods who created the trailer showed the car in all its glory.

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Not something you want to see when you take a corner…

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…or when you turn around in your locked garage.

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“Wade I think I hear the car!”
That thing she’s holding is called a telephone kids!

During the end credits there is footage of the car riding through the deserted streets of a larger city. Was there a sequel planned at some point?

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The Car 2: Car in the City

Star Trek: The Motion Picture The Exciting Cut

Although I enjoy Star Trek: The Motion Picture I have to admit it’s slower than death. I re-edited the movie and trimmed the excess bloat making it much more streamlined and exciting. So without further ado here is my Exciting Cut.

Movie Review – Snow White and the Huntsman

2012 Universal Pictures

Two and Half Star

Snow WhiteSnow White and the Huntsman continues the current Hollywood trend of putting a new spin on a classic story this time obviously retelling the tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

As the movie begins we are introduced to King Magnus and Queen Eleanor, rulers off the kingdom of Tabor who have just had a daughter that they cruelly name Snow White. Everyone in the kingdom loves the kind and gentle little Snow and everything is good in Tabor. Soon evil things are afoot when the Queen dies and the kingdom comes under attack from an army of soldiers that appear to made of glass. After the glass men are defeated a beautiful woman, supposedly a captive of the evil soldiers, wins the kings heart and becomes the new queen. Queen Ravenna, showing her true colors,  kills the king on their wedding night and locks Snow White in the castle tower. She then begins a reign of terror and brutality over Tabor. The land and people suffer greatly until Snow White escapes and offers hope and salvation to the wounded land and oppressed citizens.

Snow White and the Huntsman is an odd duck. Using the basic story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as the foundation for the story would have been okay if the screenplay had used more of the elements of the original tale. Unfortunately it doesn’t flesh the story out very well or add anything that really stands out. There is not much of the original story intact in this version. The plot is here but not much is done with the rest of the story beyond the basic outline. I’m not quite sure why they just didn’t tell an all new story and dispense with the need to throw in a reference here and there to the source material but oh well, that’s Hollywood for you. The characters are never anything but one dimensional caricatures. I didn’t really give a damn about any of them except maybe for Ravenna’s brother and he’s a villain. I kept wishing he would just kill his sister, get out of this movie, and go find a better life for himself (starting off with a good haircut).

This is a movie of missed opportunities that despite its shortcomings is worth a rental if only for the terrific production values,  solid effects, and well done costume and set design.

The good:

The Dark Forest is impressively brought to life by the effects crew. Nasty place I say. On the whole this is a good looking movie.

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Snow White and the Huntsman is a visually dynamic movie.

Dwarves

The dwarfs are likable characters.

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Kristen Stewart has gorgeous eyes and at times looks quite beautiful.

Charlize Theron looks stunning as Ravenna and her costumes are beautifully designed..

Queen

The not so good:

I don’t find Kristen Stewart to be a very interesting actress. I watched the first Twilight movie on a weekend when pay channels were free on my cable provider. I had heard nothing good about it and I wanted to see if it was as bad as everyone was saying. I found it to be a mediocre movie at best.  I have since watched all but the last movie during more free weekends and found them to be challenged in the quality department as well.

Anyway since every element of the Twilight movies are sub par I thought maybe my opinion of Ms. Stewart may have been clouded by the atrociousness of the whole “saga” so I endeavored to put any negative thoughts aside and give her a chance as Snow White. My opinion of her is no different after watching this movie. To me she is like an empty shell walking through every scene she appears in. She comes across as totally ambivalent and cold towards anything and everything and radiates all the charm and energy of a spent light bulb. I simply do not see the appeal.  She appears to be in a constant state of lethargic anxiety if that makes any sense.

Snow

Okay now open your mouth and stare blankly. Good, good.

Snow III

Okay now open your mouth and stare blankly. Good, good.

Snow II

Okay now open your mouth and stare blankly. Good, good.

Stewart looks ludicrous in armor riding at the front of her army. She is far too fragile looking and unenergetic to be a plausible driving force. Her character didn’t seem cut out for fighting in the first place so placing her in this position is not a very believable plot element.

Snow V

Snort, giggle, hee hee. Sorry I don’t buy Snow’s sudden conversion into Xena at the end. She would be dead in two seconds.

The character of the Queen is not that interesting. She is a shallow bitch that appears to hate everything. Why she even wants to be the ruler of the kingdom is beyond me seeing as she gets no pleasure from anything. There is no aspect of her personality that begs for even a smidgeon of sympathy. I simply found her pathetic. Her brother was a far more interesting character who unfortunately was not developed to the full extent.

What was the point of the Huntsman character? He was an unlikable drunk who only seemed to be around to plant the kiss on Bland White’s lips. I think I would have combined the Huntsman and William characters together instead of trying to create another lame triangle.

Huntsman

Combine these two characters and you would have one strong character instead of two weak characters.

William

If one more movie uses the whole generic prophecy story line crap again I am going to open a can of major whoop ass.  Does every hero have to be “The One”?  Can anyone in Hollywood think of anything different than a chosen character who is prophesied to destroy evil yadda yadda yadda blah blah blah.

I like Bob Hoskins but his character was a bit off-kilter and creepy in this movie.

Random thoughts and observations:

Is White Snow’s middle name or is White her last name?

No one seems to refer to Snow White by her given name. It’s almost like they were trying to distance themselves from the fact that they based this movie on the Snow White mythos. Also maybe they realized how stupid it sounds to go around calling someone Snow White.

As you watch this movie pay close attention to the English accents of Stewart and Theron. They both say or shout “Fatha”, “Daughta”, “Brotha”, and similar words quite a bit.  It’s like they tweaked the screenplay to give them an easier time with the accents.

Movie Review – Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

1984 Paramount Pictures

Two Stars

Friday the 13th Part 4

Another year and another Friday the 13th movie this time without the extra dimension that part 3 included, back to regular old 2D this time around. As any fan of the series can tell you this wasn’t exactly the final chapter they kind of kept going after this and didn’t stop for quite awhile. Didn’t seem to bother anyone all that much that we were all lied to and told this was it no more Friday the 13th movies after this one. It’s almost like the title was just some gimmicky promotional stunt to get people into the theater. No movie studio would ever sink so low as that would they?

The “Final” Chapter of the epic Friday the 13th opus begins at the house last seen in Part 3. Jason is apparently dead and is hauled away to the morgue at the local hospital. Death is never quite permanent when old hockey head is involved and soon he’s  on the loose again looking for love in all the wrong places. He of course winds up on a collision course with a group of stupid horny teenagers and a man seeking vengeance against Jason for killing his sister. This revenge minded fellow intends on taking Jason down once and for all and putting an end to the mindless killing and mindless movies at the same time! Boy did he ever fail.

Part 4 was the first Friday the 13th movie I saw in the theater. I was too young to see the previous movies, although to be honest that didn’t stop me from seeing other R rated movies in the theater I guess I just never bothered with the first three Friday the 13th movies. I have to say this is not my favorite entry, it lacks some of the fun of the previous movie and takes itself too seriously. I just plain don’t  like most of the characters and I don’t particularly care for the overall tone of this movie for some reason, it feels kind of sleazy to me. It’s not like the other movies in the series are that brilliant this one just bothered me.

On a more positive note the music is still sufficiently creepy and special makeup pioneer Tom Savini returned to create some truly nasty makeup effects. The gore factor is definitely turned up a notch in this installment.

Not the greatest but not the worst in the series. In my opinion the Friday the 13th franchise started its downward slide with this movie and never quite recaptured the fun. Oh well it’s not like I was expecting much in the first place.

The good:

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She’s incredibly cute.

The makeup effects are particularly gruesome this time thanks to Tom Savini.

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Ouch!

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Double ouch!

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This effect elicited a great reaction from the audience as Jason’s head slid down the machete.

The not so good:

Holy shit are the characters lame in this movie. I know Friday the 13th is not known for its amazing writing and award winning acting but damn. Teddy and Jimmy are the most annoying of the bunch.

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The single most annoying character in any Friday the 13th movie.

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Followed closely by Crispin Glover’s character.

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Miss sweeter than sugar is way too serious.

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This is the worst outfit in any Friday the 13th.

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I hate the use of identical twins in entertainment. What a boring gimmick.

The mighty Jason hunter should have made a better showing but he’s as big a dweeb as everyone else in this movie.

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What a dork this guy is. He comes to Crystal Lake to avenge the death of his sister. Jason wrecks all his equipment and then kills him with a garden claw while mister mighty does nothing to try to stop Jason from cultivating his torso.

Amazing movie sequences #4: The incredible all knowing Jason!

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Jason cleaves Crispin in the kitchen…

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…then for some reason goes outside the house and climbs up to a second story window…

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…just in time to fling one of the slutbag twins out the window…

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…and onto a car that has extremely explosive windows. The twin put on some flesh tone tights before her fall.

Random thoughts and observations:

Tom Savini reportedly agreed to do the makeup effects on this movie so he could kill the character he helped create. Jason unfortunately didn’t stay dead long.

The original idea for the ending was to have Jason get his head trapped in a  microwave and have it go splat. I am glad they didn’t go with that concept.

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I used to play Zaxxon on my Colecovision.

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Suddenly a man appeared above the lake suspended by wires and with an arrow sticking out of his crotch. Weird.

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Nice plastic hammer.

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This is the only Friday the 13th movie to film at a location used in the previous movie.

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This really should have been the last movie in the series. Jason was hacked to pieces at the end not to mention this is probably the weakest of the movies up to this point…but it made money and money talks.

The evolution of Jason: 

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From this…

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…to this. Must be something in the water.

The Best and Worst Movie and TV Cars (ATV’s and Motorcycles Too)

Writing my review of Mad Max got me thinking about movie and TV cars and that of course led me to write up a list of my favorite and least favorite fantastical road and off road vehicles of all time. So here is that list. These are ordered by the release date of the movie or TV show.

The best:

66 Batmobile

The Batmobile created by George Barris in 1965 for the super campy 1966 to 1968 TV series. Awesome car despite the fact it would probably suck to drive in the rain.

Death Race 2000 II

The Gator Car or The Monster from the 1975 cult movie Death Race 2000. Cheesy as hell but I love the look.

The Car

The big bad-ass killer car from the 1977 movie The Car. Not a terrific movie but I just love the mean look of this beast. Also built by George Barris.

Landmaster

The 10 ton + Landmaster built by Jefferies Automotive for the 1977 movie Damnation Alley. It’s big, it’s ugly, and it’s awesome.

Corvette Summer

Made for the 1978 movie Corvette Summer this is a Corvette Stingray with modified bodywork, custom paint job, and with right hand steering.  I realize this is not from one of my favorite genres but I just love this car!

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The beaten Pursuit Special from 1982’s Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior. I love how it looked in the original movie but the extra juice tanks on the back and the battered look just add to the character.

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The Spinner from the 1982 masterpiece Blade Runner. A very cool flying car, not quite as nice as The Jetson’s flying cars but pretty close.

89 Batmobile

The super cool Batmobile from Tim Burton’s visually amazing 1989 Batman. Looks great, too bad it could only go 35 MPH.

The worst:

Paris

The spiny VW Bug from the 1974 movie The Cars That Ate Paris. Terrible movie and silly car.

The butt ugly solar car from the 1977 Logan's Run TV series. I loved this thing when I was a kid. Now not so much.

The butt ugly solar car from the 1977 Logan’s Run TV series. I loved this thing when I was a kid, not so much now.

Galactica 1980

The goofy flying motorcycles from the horrendous TV series Galactica 1980.

Megaforce

1982’s Megaforce featured every possible variation of badly designed vehicle whether it was a dune buggy, motorcycle, etc. Nothing scares a villain like permed rejects from Dance Fever wearing gold spandex and driving fruity weapons of mass destruction.

Black Moon Rising

The prototype super car from the 1986 movie Black Moon Rising. Looks like it got ironed. The title is the best part of the movie.

The Wraith

The unimpressive car from the terrible but very entertaining 1986 move The Wraith (or Wraith The). Stupid fun movie but the car never did anything for me…

...this may have had something to do with the fact Sherilyn Fenn was in the movie and the car was pushed out of my mind.

…this may have something to do with the fact Sherilyn Fenn was in the movie and the car was pushed out of my mind for some strange reason.

BF Batmobile

The tacky, cheesy, tasteless, and utterly stupid pimped out Batmobile from the sometimes entertaining 1995 movie Batman Forever. This thing makes my stomach churn.

Nemo Car

Last but not least is Captain Nemo’s gaudy car from 2003’s The League of Somewhat Above Average Gentlemen. Not too ostentatious at all.

Movie Review – Time Bandits

1981 Handmade Films

Three and Half Star

Time Bandits

“Mom…Dad…it’s Evil, don’t touch it.” – Kevin

 

Terry Gilliam, member of Monty Python and creator of the wacky animation sequences on that show, has directed some truly inspired and totally bizarre movies over the years. Time Bandits was his third major directorial effort after co-directing the brilliant Monty Python and the Holy Grail and going solo on the not so brilliant but still entertaining Jabberwocky.

Time Bandits tells the story of a young lad in England named Kevin who gets caught up in the strange shenanigans of a group of little people that have stolen a wondrous map from The Supreme Being. This map shows the locations of doorways that allow one to travel through time and space. It seems these doorways were a leftover from when the universe was built being a rush job and all. These thieves are planning to use the map to plunder the greatest treasures throughout the ages and have decided to let Kevin tag along on their morally questionable and  not so legal adventures. Meanwhile The Supreme Being is pursuing them to get his map back and Evil himself is looking to get his hands on the map so he can escape his imprisonment in the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness and take over the universe with his superior knowledge of car phones and digital watches.

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The doors are not necessarily in the best locations.

Nice and straightforward story huh? Not much about Gilliam’s movie are very straightforward and when he is on his game he makes great movies. For Time Bandits Gilliam was not quite at the top of his game but he still scores quite often throughout the movie. There are a couple of dead spots where the movie grinds to a halt but it gets going again pretty quickly. There are odd characters and concepts popping up everywhere and it’s all great fun. The cast is good and the photography, music, and special effects are not so shabby either. There are a few sequences where the lack of a bigger budget are evident but it doesn’t detract from the fun at all.

This was the first movie in Gilliam’s “Trilogy of Imagination”. Time Bandits was followed by the absolutely extraordinary Brazil and fun if meandering The Adventures of the Baron Munchhausen. I would recommend all these movies to anyone who enjoys quirky and imaginative fantasies.

The good:

The cast is terrific from the lead characters all the way down.

The band of mighty thieves.

The band of mighty thieves.

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David Warner is awesome in the role of Evil. I always enjoy his performances.

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Michael Palin and Shelly Duvall are funny as hell as Vincent and Pansy, two lovers with the knack for being interrupted by the thieves no matter what era they’re in.

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Ralph Richardson as the well dressed Supreme Being.

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The Supreme Being in scary mode.

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John Cleese as the absurdly dressed Robin Hood.

As is the case with most of Gilliam’s movies the visuals are amazing and off the wall.dvd_snapshot_01.18.32_[2013.04.13_20.35.57]dvd_snapshot_01.39.19_[2013.04.14_15.29.01]dvd_snapshot_01.38.54_[2013.04.14_15.28.41]

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The map is cool. I liked it so much I got one to hang on the wall in my office!

The Map

Mine’s a little cleaner.

The not so good:

The movie really gets slow when the gang is having dinner with Napoleon.

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God is this scene slow.

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This scene is pretty dull as well.

In the pan and scan format of this movie you can see the floor of the filming stage in this scene.

In the pan and scan format of the movie you can see the floor of the filming stage in this scene.

Random thoughts and observations:

The end of this movie is totally demented and one of my favorite movie endings of all time. Here it is along with the end credits featuring a song by the late great George Harrison: