Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Misleading Titles Week: Lady Terminator

Welcome back to Misleading Title Week. Thought we jump away from action genre for a bit as that has been done to death. This one seems a bit sci-fi fantasy meets action. Okay not a huge leap from it but more like a mild hop. Now for those of you that are familiar with this blog, you know I have sat through some horror flicks that have turned my stomach left, right and down the middle. In the latter sixties to the early seventies it seems to be a common re-occuring theme of attaching the word lady to titled characters of pre-existance. Lady Frankenstein, Lady Dracula, Lady Vengeance, Lady Blood, Lady Vampire, Lady Stay Dead... okay the last one doesn't work as well but my point is cashing on a popular theme by simply putting "Lady" in front of your title does not automatically give you a subgenre. This is Lady Terminator.

Those aren't Betty Davis eyes!

Hailing from Indonesia and sporting alternative titles such as: Shooting Star, Nasty Hunter, Terminator Woman and my personal favorite, The Revenge of the South Seas Queen you already get the vibe that we are not in for a moving pictures treat but more of a long, dull ride at the county fair. Our film opens with some psuedo-quasi Japanese folklore about a South Seas Queen who lures men to her castle, seduces them and then Death by Snu Snu! That's right, she boinks them to death and it is fairly bloody and a fair degree of nudity right from the get go. Well it is nice to see a film so honest they know their demographic.

She takes on a new lover that looks like a hybrid of Peter Coyote and Eric Roberts so it really is a 50/50 way his career will go. He takes away the queen's magic power by removing a fricking snake from her lady bits. How she stored that, what she was feeding it and why was that ever necessary to know is beyond me. I really could have lived without knowing this and I suspect now so could have you. The queen vows vengeance announcing she will come back into the future to slay her lover's great, great grandchild... unlike killing him outright like she did with all her other lovers and just jump cut teleports away. 100 years into THE FUTURE!!!!... we get a visit from the Queen in the form of her loveliness popping out of the waters in the sea after her spirit or essence takes over a young anthropologist student. With zombie, vampire and now evil spirits I have come to one conclusion. Avoid being an anthropologist! With taglines like: First She Mates, then she Terminates... we are in for a cinematic wonder.

Wow that is some serious decompression sex right there.

I'd give you names and movie titles of which the actors been in but truth be told I don't know anyone in this movie. This crapfest claims to be shot in Indonesia and completely throws me off why we combine an interesting mythos with Cameron's Terminator? Why not Ridley Scott's Legend? At least you have some Sci-fi Fantasy going there.

The English dubbing is so painful to hear as there is next to no emotional range in the actors' voices. Seriously, it feels like I am watching Resident Evil the video game. Any minute I was expecting "Snake" the mullet wearing cop to say "Jill Sandwich or Master of Unlocking"... you know, all the classic lines. Loved how he just happen to have in his UNLOCKED car, a fully automatic M-16 sitting on the seat. Dude I have had tape and CD decks that don't last long in certain neighborhoods.

So towards to 20 minute mark of the movie, the queen returns in the guise of an actress that walks like she is either cramping or trying to keep from pooping her taunt black leather pants. One minute she has the normal walk of a seductive woman and the next she is stiff and moves with the grace of Robocop. Shot for shot on an even smaller shoe string budget, the film attempts to duplicate Arnold's cold and methodical killer from shooting up the night club to driving recklessly on the freeway with explosives. With topless meditation scenes and hard hitting action sequences I'm starting to wonder has the movie lost sight of its main objective?

I really tried to think of anything good to say about this movie... um eventually it ends and the beginning's title font was nice.

Kyle Reese is Mullet Man!!

Misleading Title Week

Good day and hello. This week I wanted to focus on film titles of which the movie is most predominately known as but are the most baffling or misleading. This ranges from anything of foreign development trying to score a re-release, better DVD quality or typical production hype for a collection of DVDs and Blu-Ray. This commonly happens when the titles operate on a similar theme or genre. Films that fell under public domain or foreign release end up smack dab into a collection of 10 to 100 movies at a time.

Hell even Sauruman doesn't know which Dracula this is.

What happens is frequently these collections are barely altered, cleaned up or given better sound and video life. As a rule you will see the working title in the title cards, the film has more grain than a field of wheat and the sound is mono or a faint stereo. The average movie viewer may end up paying for this film more than 3 or possibly 5 times with these box sets.

What is most perplexing is the need to alter the original title or even the working title that often to secure yet another release that frankly looks worse than the previous ones. My personal favorite is when the film is released several times in a year under alternative titles, box sets and new cover art only to reveal.... SAME CRAPPY MOVIE...

This week seems aptly named as we call this week Misleading Title Week. Be informed. Share and enjoy!

Sheesh, the mast she is in front of isn't as wooden as her acting.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

700th Blog!! Weird West Week: The Shadow of Chikara

Salutations youngins and welcome back for Day 4 of Weird West Week. Well we have had vampires, weeping women, monstrous gunslingers and even a dinosaur so what could possibly be next? How about we journey to Arkansas (only watching the film.. kind of a weird state) towards the last days of the Civil War, when one of the confederates knows he is not gonna make it so he tells two of his buddies of a mound of rocks that may be a treasure in the makings. This is The Shadow of Chikara a.k.a. Curse of Demon Mountain a.k.a. Demon Mountain a.k.a. The Ballad of Virgil Cane a.k.a. Thunder Mountain a.k.a. Wishbone Cutter a.k.a. Shadow Mountain.

Damn Yankees took all our bacon!!

Former Confederate Captain Wishbone Cutter (Joe Don Baker of Lancer, Wild Rover, Walking Tall, Mitchell, The Pack, To Kill a Cop, Fletch, The Living Daylights, In the Heat of the Night and GoldenEye) Irish Indian Half Moon O' Brian (Joy N. Houck Jr of Night of Bloody Horror, Creature from Black Lake, The Brain Machine and Down by Law) and mellow geologist Amos Raymond (Ted Neely of Jesus Christ Superstar, A Perfect Couple, Hard Country, Summer Camp Nightmare, Of Mice and Men and Django Unchained) decide to journey the remote regions of the Arkansas wilderness. Hopefully they avoid a collection of grossly disfigured inbred cannibalistic mountain men similar to the villains of Wrong Turn.

Rough mountain terrain moves deep into the cave their late compatriot described and discover a cache of diamonds. Wealth beyond their wildest dreams and thus far no disturbing hillbilly melee weapon wielding psychos. Then Moon recounts of a tale he has heard of demons that guard a sacred mountain and realizes it may possibly be this mountain (NOW A WARNING??!!!). Warnings aside the threesome collect as many rocks as possible but still light enough to move around the treacherous underfoot when they encounter a battered woman who claims to be the lone survivor of a vicious Indian attack. As shell shocked as she is, she tells the fellas her name is Drucilla Wilcox (Sondra Locke of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Every Which Way is Loose, Sudden Impact, Ratboy and Clean and Narrow). Wishbone less than thrilled a damn woman (his words!) is along to get in the way and may make a play for their treasure reluctantly deals with her joining the party. Methinks he is just bitter because Amos and Moon are vastly prettier than he and more likely to get the girl.

So... live around here?

The long trek back the Untouchable Trio Plus One are ambushed and confused to what is laying these onslaught of attacks. Roving band of Apaches?? The moonshiners from Deliverance? Demons watching over their sacred mountain? The answers to these questions begin to frighten the hell out of them as they become scared, paranoid and loaded with firearms. Will they strike it rich only to die for their uncovered funds? Will life be more important than the diamonds? Why does Wishbone look like Meatloaf?

A few comments on the flick now. Factually speaking diamonds were not discovered in the hills of Arkansas until 1906, 41 years AFTER the Civil War and the use of dynamite for mountaineers, farmers and railroad workers won't happen until two years after the film's set timeline because Sweden hadn't developed it yet. Aside from these mildly interesting facts, this has all the hallmarks of a 70's slow build-up Horror movie. The gradual and meticulous tone that says something spooky is on the rise but we have no idea when the trap is sprung. Painfully staked with an excellent mood altering musical score this film is low key and definitely worthy of the term Ghost Story of the Old West.

The cast is superb, the film has a fair degree of violence for PG which would be bumped to R these days and the setting has a good creep factor. Frankly this is a forgotten gem that deserves a good DVD release. The copy I saw was grainy as hell, recorded in Technicolor and mono so adjust your speakers accordingly. Curiously enough, our director/writer Earl E. Smith also created The Legend of Boggy Creek, The Town That Dreaded Sundown (Original 1976 version) and Sudden Impact. Folks I am 4 for 4 this week and loving it!!! Easiest copy to find is the title Curse of Demon Mountain.

So I'm too doughy to be the Lone Ranger?  Damn.

Weird West Week: The Beast of Hollow Mountain

Welcome back lil' doggies to Day 3 of Weird West Week. Boy howdy this one is a bit of the strange but well keeping into the theme of the week, our story involves an American cowboy tending a ranch out in the Mexican territory. A wretched hive of scum and villainy(just kidding) as several of his cows have gone missing. Leading a team of cowboys to investigate it all seems to connect to an unexplored mountain said to be cursed according to the local villagers. This is The Beast of Hollow Mountain.

Hmm think Speilberg went a little cheap this time.

Cowboy/ranchman Jimmy Ryan (Guy Madison of Red Snow [1952], The Last Frontier, On the Threshold of Space, The Hard Man, Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, Gunmen of Rio Grande and Five for Revenge) finds himself in quite the pickle as his livestock has gone missing with huge, massive tracks leading away from the granging area. With a posse of 4, Ryan leads the investigation following a path of destruction that leads to Hollow Mountain alongside the swamps that interconnects the land. While checking on the cattle, ranch hand Fellipe (Carlos Rivas of Bonanaza, True Grit, The Undefeated, Topaz, Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, The New Adventures of Zorror and Mi vida loca) tells Ryan the tales of the land of a strange beast said to reside in the valley and returns to reek havoc on the lands until its blood-lust is sated.

As they head back they see another ranch as a pack of dumb preteens toss fire crackers spooking horses and cause the ranch owner Pancho (Pascual Garcia Pena of Hidden Paradise, El Zorro vengador, House of the Frights, Los parranderos, Bring Me the Vampire, las mascara de jade, Youth Without Law and The Bandits) to be thrown from his horse and drug in front of his son Panchito (Mario Navarro of The Road of Life, The Black Scorpion, Villa!!, Bolero inmortal and The Magnificent Seven) aiding him from getting bounced around all the terrain.

I bemused by this plucky stranger.

Immediately falling for Don Pedro's daughter Sarita (Patricia Medina of Stranger at My Door, Miami Expose, Zorror, Count Your Blessings, Latitude Zero and Timber Tramps) and is disturbed to find out an wealthy, loathsome ranch owner is chasing after Sarita offering to watch over her father's ranch in return for her hand in marriage and told Jimmy to go back to Texas to ranch.

With the constant squabbling from Enrique the rancher (Eduardo Noriega of Deadly Reef, Mad Drivers, Mojados, Guyana: Cult of the Damned, El hombre sin miedo and Zorro: The Gay Blade) and Jimmy it is getting so the tension is so thick you could cut it with a knife. Pancho decides to continue looking for the lost cattle, tells Panchito to let Jimmy know where he went into the swamp if he does not return by dusk. A loud roar terrifies Pancho and something attacks him.

Fearing the worse, the fellas watch after Panchito before he drops him off to Don Pedro's home and leaves to see off his cattle for shipment. Panchito escapes the house and heads back to the swamps to find his father. Ryan, Enrique and a few others go out to find the boy and encounter a large reptile of prehistoric standing. The Allosaurus proceeds to chase down the horse riders and all hell breaks loose. Can the cowboys stop this massive monster? Will Panchito be saved?

A few points of interest in our movie. Practical effects artist Willis H. O'Brien developed the stop motion creature making it about two feet high and full articulated in over 50 points allowing the creature to move about, clamp his jaws and breathe heavily with an air compression tube.

This is the first film to use stop motion animation with the anamorphic lens or Cinemascope and in Technicolor as well. It has been shot in both Spanish and English with Guy Madison dubbed as his Spanish was barely passible. Aside from a bit of the slapstick drunk antics, this had all the Western themes of fist fights, gunplay and a serious vibe to this monster movie. 3 for 3 this week.

Why yes I am incredibly handsome and rugged.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Weird West Week: Curse of the Undead

Welcome back you cattle rustlers to Day 2 of Weird West Week. Yeah I should stop attempting the Old West speak. Today's endeavor brings us to 1880 in a remote town on a series of Universal sound stages, a virulent disease seems to be affecting the townsfolk's' young girls as they waste away. Dr. Carter has been tending these girls as best as humanly possible but there is no rational explanation. This is Curse of the Undead.

Mind yourself, son.  Good manners means less holes in the body.

Doctor John Carter (John Hoyt of Operation C.I.A., 120' Clock High, Gunpoint, Duel at Diablo, The Big Valley, The Virginian and Return to Peyton Place) and his nurse/daughter Dolores (Kathleen Crowley of Target Earth, Wesward Ho, the Wagons!, The Rebel Set and Downhill Racer) are perplexed at this viral infection, why does it afflict the young and why only the girls? Attending the patients hour at a time, some have died in their sleep when another patient Cora look as though she will pull through it, The Carters have some breakfast and a break from this nightly vigil when they hear a muffled scream from Cora's bedroom. Rushing to get there only to find Cora slumped on her bed, her window open and she is quite dead. Preacher Young (Eric Fleming of Conquest of Space, Queen of Outer Space, Rawhide and The Glass Bottom Boat) prays for the girl's soul when he notices two neat holes in her neck. Prickly heat no doubt.

Doctor Carter makes his way back to his ranch when son Tim (Jimmy Murphy of Mister Roberts, Crashing Las Vegas, Looking for Danger and The Last American Hero) has had nothing but problems from nearby neighbor Buffer (Bruce Gordon of Behind Closed Doors,The Untouchables, Tower of London, Peyton Place and Piranha) trying to steal/ruin/terrorize them off their land to add to his own. Rather than letting Tim just give him the business with a .45 Peacemaker, Doctor Carter suggests talking to the Sheriff about it. While this goes on a mysterious black clad stranger moseys into town with a chiseled jaw and ice in his veins.

Daddy, you missed your turn.   

True to his word the Sheriff (Edward Binns of 12 Angry Men, North by Northwest, Judd for the Defense, It Takes a Thief, Lovin' Molly, Patton, Diary of the Dead and The Verdict) gives Buffer an earful, belts one of his loud mouthed gunfighters and even smoothly draws his hogleg aimed at Buffer's belly waiting for him to draw his own horse pistol. Buffer comes across as the man that buys a gun arm or backshoots a man and just makes nice with the sheriff. The doc makes his way back to the ranch but seems to be asleep at the reigns when he falls limp from the momentum of the coach (buckboard I think)coming to a halt. Tim convinced it was Buffer goes for revenge. Meanwhile the stranger goes for a light nap... in Doctor Carter's coffin. Hmm, interesting.

Tim topped off with enough whiskey can't see straight loses to the gunfight with Buffer. With two funerals and beloved family gone Dolores prints up wanted posters for Tim's killer, the stranger snags one. Couple of Buffer's boys attempt to shoot the stranger when he causally draws his piece and shoots one of them in the hand. The gunhand swears he shot the stranger right in the belly. Dolores meets with the stranger known as Drake Robey (Michael Pate of Hondo, Julius Caesar, The Court Jester, Matlock Police, Death of a Soldier and A Dangerous Life) who is more than eager to take out Buffer but shys away from crucifixes, mirrors and daylight. What does this gunfighter get out of helping a grief-stricken woman? Will there be more deaths to follow?

A few notes of interest at this time. I just realized that the Preacher is Trail boss Gil from Rawhide.

With the mono sound, black and white cinematography and haunting musical score, this fairly fasted paced Western is is clever, well-written and the performances are pretty impressive. Feels like a 50's Western with a hint of horror. Fleming's preacher is cunning and wily about his opposition and must save his town. Yet what of the gunfighter? With his need for Karmic balance, one could argue that he wishes to good as much as what his nature will allow. Coming under 79 minutes this was a decent film and I am damn glad I picked it on a whim.   

Timmy, you've been drinking again.  Honey, take it easy.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Weird West Week: El grito de la muerte

Alright you bunch of yeller belly sissies welcome to Day 1 of Weird West Week! Not sure why I went with that as my opening invite but greetings nevertheless. We journey deep into Mexico with the possibility of La Llorona (The Weeping Woman) and the presence of Vampires?? This is El grito de la muerte a.k.a. Scream of Death a.k.a. The Living Coffin.

Amy Winehouse??

A young cowboy Gaston (Gaston Santos of Swamp of the Lost Souls, The Black Pit of Dr. M, Los diablos del terror, Una bala es mi testigo and The Young and Beautiful Ones) and his partner ride out a great distance to a hacienda to deliver a message for one of the residents. The eldest matron informs Gaston he can wait in their expansive drawing room with a grandfather clock with a Bowie knife drove into it. When asking the maid why that was done, she simply says it wards off the dead.

Yeah that's not ominous at all. Conferring with Maria (Maria Duval of Raffles, 800 Leagues Over the Amazon, Two Disobedient Sons, The Young and Beautiful Ones, Santo Versus the Vampire Women, Gabino Barrera, Juan Colorado and House of Women) about a carving of unknown stone of a weeping woman. Maria explains that a duplicate carving was given to the doctor in town and sends Gaston and buddy on his way. Dona Maria the matron seems to check on these existing tombs under the hacienda as they have set an alarm system in case of grave robbers..? Auntie has a fit and flops to the floor when Maria reveals she removed the blade from the clock. It is up to one of the ranch hands Lencho to ride like the wind and get the doctor... only be shot by a stranger with a rifle. Gaston and traveling buddy find Lencho fallen from his horse and they scoop him up to head to town.

Look, our GPS is trashed, are we anywhere near Rio Lobo?

Later on a soundstage Gaston and still unnamed partner find this quaint little town has been all but abandoned. There is no work to be found and the town is in the grip of fear of a legend of a Weeping Woman crying out for the loss of her children and reeking horrible destruction and vengeance on anyone to dare interrupt her grieving. So of course the town doctor is an alcoholic and with the speed and urgency of a chronically depressed sloth they go to leave when one of the punks that shot Lencho insists they stay at the bar at gunpoint. These folk are really serious about their tequila. After a music-less fistfight that went on for 3 minutes it is my thinking that Lencho bled out and died and this fist fight was so poorly choreographed you could tell the fists weren't coming anywhere near the actors' heads at all.

A thought occurred to me though, where are the fricking vampires??? Half hour into the movie and nothing but mild exposition on Aunt Loopy's fear of death being made into a forever being and young Gaston being a Marshall from the States who has no authority whatsoever in these fair parts. The doctor (Antonio Raxel of Mother's Day, La familia, Los problemas de mama, Eye for an Eye, Chico Ramos and Coronation) treats Lencho's gun wound then gives a rousing bit of exposition on the late mistress of the ranch and how they were to be married and blah blah blah. The Doctor (no, not those 13 men), Gaston and now finally named Coyote Loco (Pedro de Aguillon of Desert Tigers, My Parents Are Divorced, Los diablos del terror, Una bala es mi testigo, El seite de copas and Punos de Roca) ride out through the swamp to the hacienda. With the blade out of the clock Maria's aunt is throttled and lightly clawed to death. The bellowing of the Weeping Woman is heard throughout the hacienda as the servants are terrified and looking for salvation. Can Gaston and comic relief Coyote assist? Will the doctor be sober enough to help?

A few thoughts on the movie. Overall the production is decent, the actors are capable but the story drags a bit in parts. Writer/director Fernando Mendez used elements of the legend of the weeping woman intermixed with vampirism and a bit too much comedic pratfalls but bottom line is the film is actually good. The story just takes some coaxing and for God's sake do NOT put on the English dubbing for this flick and just read the subtitles. The person dubbing for Maria sounds positively mannish. That was a serious baritone for a girl of no more than 18.

Aunty Em!!

Weird West Week

Howdy pardners and welcome to the week!! Now you cowpokes and tenderfoots must be a wonderin' whats a goin'on and well lemme tell ya it is a doozy. Okay let me get away from that form of lingo before it drives me plum loco. I have found a subgenre residing in horror that has existed since the 1926 silent film Haunted Range about a cowboy attempting to solve the murder of his father at the hands of a ghostly apparition known only as The Black Rider.

Jurassic Park Mexico had some setbacks.

This subgenre has been referenced as Weird West, Spaghetti Horror or Western Horrors. Ghost stories, werewolves, vampires and ghouls roaming about. Some demonic and satanic angles and forces of darkness tackling remote towns with little to no law enforcement or even a competent priest to ward off the evils.

This of course falls back to campfire stories of terror told around the trail blazing tales. It hails from anything to the H.P. Lovecraft stories, legends of mythological creatures such as the Chupucabra, ghouls, spectres and demons being raised from the pit. So we shall gaze into Weird West Week and see how these ranch hands, men of God and outlaws deal with the realms of the unknown and the mess it entitles.

Meatloaf of the Old West!!!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Season One Shows: The Crazy Ones

Welcome back readers to Day 5 of Season One Shows. Yeah I am going to make it a priority if a day in the week is skipped we get the full 5 days. Betcha weren't expecting that level of dedication, were ya? Aside from a few lapsed weeks it is clearly time to buckle down with the write ups and give you the info and humor in one delightful package. This next show I speak of I enjoyed immensely due to the pairing of its lead actors the late Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar as a father daughter dynamic as well as business partners. This is The Crazy Ones.

Three bean burrito has its revenge!

Created and produced by writer/producer David E. Kelley (L.A. Law, Doogie Howser, M.D., Picket Fences, Lake Placid, Snoops, Chicago Hope,Ally McBeal and The Practice) comes an advertisement agency in Chicago actually shot in Chicago, ran by Simon Roberts (Robin Williams of Mork & Mindy, Moscow on the Hudson, The Fisher King, Hook, Aladdin, The Birdcage, Good Will Hunting, Happy Feet, Night at the Museum and The Big Wedding), a child with ADD in a man's body with his bizarre outlook on life brings the goods to the clients every time in spite of his unorthodox methods and unpredictable behavior would have gotten him fired ten times over. I am talking blacklisted from the gig, thank God he is the boss.

Where are his pants? Laura, stop looking.

His polar opposite, partner, VP and daughter Syndey (Sarah Michelle Gellar of Swans Crossing, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Scream 2, Simply Irresistible, The Grudge, Call of the Dead video game, All My Children, Ringer and Robot Chicken) is diligent,ambitious and focused as she has put her name and credibility on each and every client trying to appease them and at the same time hold on to her dignity. When she is not parenting her father, she is in awe of his genius. Along with our twosome is the talented and charismatic copywriter Zach Cropper (James Wolk of Front of the Class, Solving Charlie, You Again, Lone Star, Always Woodstock, Mad Men and You Must Be Joking), wisecracking and in the same mindset as his insane boss with rapid fire riffs that everyday is fun coming to work.

Well-spoken,smart but lacking full confidence in himself, art director Andrew Keanelly (Hamish Linklater of Gideon's Crossing, American Dreams, Fantastic Four, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Battleship, 42, The Newsroom and Magic in the Moonlight) who aches for Simon's approval and crushes adorably for Sydney so that you hope he just mans up and actively pursues her. Lovely and deviously brilliant assistant Lauren Slotsky (Amanda Setton of What Happens in Vegas, One Life to Live, Gossip Girl, The Mindy Project, Black Dog, Red Dog and Hawaii Five-0) navigating through the insanity that is her office pool but manages to have a rapier wit and the tongue to skewer with.

Unfortunately not every scintillating idea is in the budget, enter Accounts manager and business partner Gordon Lewis (Brad Garrett of Hercules, Mad Jack the Pirate, Superman: The Animated Series, Everyone Loves Raymond, 'Til Death and Ratatouille) a shaved Sasquatch of a man whose size is easily matched by his volume but his husband loves him so.

A few comments now on the series that could have been.

Taking it back to an old school approach of one camera shooting to that of the Dick Van Dyke Show or Mary Tyler Moore breathes a hint of nostalgia and wonder into a show. So why did this show go belly up? Eyes bigger than the stomach with the budget? This was Sarah Michelle Gellar's fourth TV series and Williams hadn't been on the small screen in almost 31 years as a lead character. This show delivered the goods combining drama and comedy. The cast blended so well but especially Williams and Gellar. You'd swear she called his daughter for pointers to get better insight. This had the same vibes as Newsroom and definitely deserved more airtime and love. Granted I could not see how it would continue with Robin. 22 episodes of delight, debauchery and devilishly clever writing. Give it a binge watch folks. You won't be disappointed.

It's a trick.  Get an ax.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Season One Shows: Gang Related

Welcome back readers and we are off to Day 4 of Season One Shows. To detract from our usual steady diet of sci-fi and moderately interesting dramas, how about we go full on into a cop drama dealing with gang activity? Yes, the warm environment of Gang Task Force... where you can find a kid in a dumpster... with his throat slit... or more holes in him than a politician's promises. With such a gritty take on the ends and outs of gang life we better have a gruff kid from the streets all grown up to lead us into the stories. This is Gang Related.

Fine, no one likes my coffee. I get it.

Surprisingly enough this is shot in L.A. As we explore the professional and personal lives of the members of Gang Task Force we find they will go head to head with the most notorious of street scum bringing them down and downtown for booking. Yeah, sorry if I went a bit Dragnet on you there. Let's look at the cast, shall we?

Our main protagonist is Detective Ryan Lopez (Ramon Rodriguez of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Bella, Day Break, The Wire, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 and Battle Los Angeles)... we know this because we get an intro narrative that he is this man and this is his story. Apparently raised by another family after his parents died and watched over by the Los Angelicos gang, our young man trained in several martial arts, fluent in multiple dialects and sciences until a bat came crashing in his window and he... oh crap that's Bruce Wayne. Ahem, Ryan became a cop and works undercover to protect his adopted family of Colombian gang/syndicate  but that bat story was working. With gang ties and being police he walks the tightrope between both worlds.

Sorry, there's a bee circling my head.

Leading this collection of hard asses is Sam Chapel (Terry O' Quinn of The Stepfather, Black Widow, The Rocketeer, The X-Files, Millennium, JAG, Alias, Lost and Hawaii Five-0)
veteran cop that may bend the rules to get justice, his daughter ADA (Assistant District Attorney)Jessica Chapel (Shantel VanSanten of The Open Door, Remembrance, In My Pocket, One Tree Hill, Something Wicked and The Messengers) and Ryan's girlfriend... akward...
DEA agent Cassius Green (RZA of Wu-Tang, Be Cool, The Box, American Gangster, Repo Men, The Next Three Days and G.I. Joe: Retaliation) now Ryan's partner. FBI agent Tae Kim (Sung Kang of Mystery Men, Forbidden Warrior, Live Free or Die Hard, War, Fast & Furious, Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6) and his ICE partner Veronica Dotsen (Inbar Lavi of Crash, Street Kings 2: Motor City, Getting That Girl, For the Love of Money, Underemployed and The Last Ship)

Working with the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) this multi-departmental task force has a lot of resources, boots on the pavement and hard hitting go-getters for the job. Not sure why we can properly fund our actual agencies as well as the fictitious ones but I move on. With each episode developed we learn about every member of the task force and the reasons behind why they are there. In short, we have a lot of broken people that this is the only way of mending... aside from that whole vigilante idea but again must let it go. Ryan's story is a bit darker as he is playing double agent for his gang's leader Javier Acosta (Cliff Curtis of Virus, Six Days Seven Nights, Three Kings, Bringing Out the Dead, Blow, Live Free or Die Hard and Last Knights) who engineered the idea in the first place placing the young man he considers a son in mortal danger for more than a decade. What is to become of Ryan? Whose side is he truly on?

A quick sum-up of the series now. The writing is sound, the characters are flushed out and the cinematography alone was excellent. This is very much a character driven series with back stories that are dark and some provide hope. Created by writer/producer Chris Morgan (Cellular, Wanted, Fast & Furious, Fast Five and 47 Ronin) you get a feel that The Wire was a real impact to this writing but with the added bonus that we are intrigued by the character either side of the fence. 

 Sadly this was place in FOX rather than HBO or Showtime to give the streets the vulgarity and violence level needed to carry the show. So blown away by Cliff Curtis' charisma as the gang leader that you can easily see why he calls the shots. Terry O' Quinn does not disappoint either. The downside is the criminals are being revered as rebel outlaws similar to Robin Hood and does not provide the proper scope showing that deep down they flaunt the law and kill anyone that doesn't agree with that outlook on life. Still it gives as good as The Departed and The Shield did and was deemed unworthy of another season, let alone a continuation? What utter crap, Fox.

Actually you are unlucky my chick's here.  Black Widow Style.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Season One Shows: Almost Human

Ah sci-fi cyberpunk. I will never tire of it in whatever form of media. Welcome back to Day 3 of Season One Shows. Not certain what it is about a sci-fi crime drama but it doesn't seem to get the love to last more than a handful of episodes. With the establishment of the evolution of technology and not enough morality to combat it cyber augmentation for limbs, bones and organs giving humans near immortality and enhanced, speed, agility and strength. To battle this, the police forms the necessary addition to the force. A combat android. This is Almost Human.

Okay buddy, here's your sex robot and he's fully capable in multiple techniques.

The year is 2048 and the full creation of mega corporations, fringe gangs, cyberpunks, combat droids, matrix hackers and hired guns roam the streets. Genetic manipulations, surgerical augments and cyberlink to the hypernet.

Similar to the worlds created by Issac Asimnov, Phillip K. Dick, William Gibson, William Shatner and such kindred worlds we follow Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban of Xena: Warrior Princess, Ghost Ship, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Bourne Supremacy, The Chronicles of Riddick, Doom, RED and Dredd) a cop that commanded a squad two years prior to raid a vicious gang known only as The Syndicate but were outnumbered, outmaneuvered and outgunned. Kennex tried to save his partner's life but the android officer attached to Kennex's command drug him out instead of his partner due to the survival expectancy was higher for Kennex.

17 months later Kennex wakes from a coma to find he has a cybernetic leg to replace the damaged one and enormous gaps in his memory. Once released, Kennex chose to go to the black market and have his memory hacked to recall anything of that night, The Syndicate and how it all went horribly wrong, coupled with the fact his girlfriend Anna (Mekia Cox of I Kissed a Vampire, 90210, Crazy, Stupid, Love., Undercovers, Mob City and After Dark) had left him.

You broke our spoon quickly... No cuddling anymore?

Back in the world, Kennex has been brought to active duty by his superior Captain Maladonado (Lili Taylor of Mystic Pizza, Say Anything..., Arizona Dream, Ready to Wear, Four Rooms, The Haunting, High Fidelity and Six Feet Under) who teams him with an identical logic based android MX-43 android as his partner/back-up. The MX-43 records Kennex's actions and deems he must alert the captain of his behavior so Kennex "accidentally" released him out of the moving vehicle. Given this loss of hardware, Kennex is issued an older model android call a DRN unit that is as close to humanity as possible. Called Dorian (Michael Ealy of Bad Company, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Sleeper Cell, Seven Pounds, The Good Wife, Underworld: Awakening and About Last Night), Kennex notes Dorian exhibits a unique personality, wit and even hints of sarcasm. Can these two be able to work together in spite of their differences? Is a budding bud cop story arc possible in this distant future?

A few comments about the show now. Reminiscent of shows like Alien Nation, Tek War and Total Recall 2070, this show has all the hallmarks human drama, humor, suspense and mystery. Giving the feel of a timeline all its own using slang, concepts and attitudes mirror the early 1990s and the current time. With a hybrid of CGI and prosthetic makeup this series gives sci-fi effects combined with cop drama/mystery. A nice use of narrative gives you almost a detective pulp novel from the 1930s with a view of a technophobe unable to fully except the new world and prefer simpler times.

I especially liked the Detective Valerie Stahl (Minka Kelly of Devil's Highway, State's Evidence, The Kingdom, Friday Night Lights, The Roommate, Charlie's Angels and The World Made Straight) character do to the genetic engineered creation. Unlike the Eugenics War characters of Star Trek like Khan, this young woman is sharp, keen and capable that moves with the grace of a dancer but the attitude of a warrior. Why would she ever go into law enforcement is as baffling as it is to her species of human known as Chromes. I assume that is based of the flawless skin aspect.

Writer J. H. Wyman (The Mexican, Keen Eddie, 13 Graves, Fringe, Dead Man Down and Warriors) working with along writer/director/producer J.J. Abrams (Regarding Henry, Armageddon, Joy Ride, Felicity, Mission: Impossible III, Alias, Lost and Undercovers) they manage to create a world with hope in sight versus the typical dystopian and bleak futures to the like of Minority Report or Bladerunner.

J. J. Abrams personally recommended Karl Urban for Kennex's role after working with him on Star Trek and Star Trek Into the Darkness. Not a bad plug there, huh?
I'll avenge you, man... guess I should have backed up better.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Season One Shows: Freaks and Geeks

Salutations strange ones! Bow before me!! Oh crap, sorry that was part of my world domination speech. Welcome readers to Day 2 of Season One Shows. Yesterday was put to a grinding halt as I had a house guest over. My brother whom I had not seen in quite a few years and it was a pleasant surprise. Thank God I vacuum and dust on a weekly basis or it would looked wrecked in here. Continuing our week we go to a little story of the madcap life of high school years. The jocks and cheerleaders, the folks that balanced in the middle, the cliques and various outcasts. No matter the new generation this dynamic still holds true. Our story more or less revolves around the Weir family as they have had a death in the family that effected the household but life must go on. This is Freaks and Geeks.

Four beers away from a stomach pump! WOOOOO!

Created from the slightly askew mind of Paul Feig (The TV Wheel, Life Sold Separately, I Am David, Spy and current revamped Ghostbusters script) our show is about high school years, its struggles in social arc and how each of our character fall into a certain quantification. The year is 1980 in William McKinley High School in Chippewa Michigan.

Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini of Dead Man on Campus, Guys Like Us, Boy Meets World, Scooby-Doo, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, Brokeback Mountain, ER, Return and Lollipop Chainsaw) a mathlete that has lost her way in view of life and death and hooks up with the down and outers (stoners, rockers and wasteoids) while her brother Sam (John Francis Daley of The Kennedys, Boston Public, The Geena Davis Show, Bones, Horrible Bosses and Dude Bro Party Massacre III) starts his first year of freshman Hell. Alas neither siblings are not alone in this experience as each of them have attached themselves to their fringe groups.

Of the Freaks alumni we have moody but sensitive Daniel Desario (James Franco of James Dean, Spider-Man, Blind Spot, Tristan + Isolde, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3, Pineapple Express, Date Night, General Hospital, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, This Is the End and The Interview), goofy Ken Miller (Seth Rogen of Donnie Darko, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, The Green Hornet, This Is the End and The Interview), freakishly tall Nick Andopolis (Jason Segal of SLC Punk!, Slackers, Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Despicable Me, Bad Teacher, The Muppets and Sex Tape) and dark, bitchy blonde Kim Kelly (Busy Phillips of Dawson's Creek, Love, Inc., ER, Made of Honor, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Jason Nash Is Married and Cougar Town) Between the fellas rousting the geeks and trying to put together a rock band they are roaming the halls.

Nerd mating dance or seizure? Only you can decide.

A collective of geeks trio consisting of Sam and his buddies Neal Schweiber (Samm Levine of Not Another Teen Movie, After School Special, Club Dread, Inglourious Basterds, Vamped Out, Miss Dial, Do No Harm, Selfie and The Night Is Young) and Bill Havershack (Martin Starr of Roswell, Stealing Harvard, Revelations, Knocked Up, Superbad, The Incredible Hulk, Party Down, Burning Love and NTSF:SD:SUV). With all the popular hurdles in life with underage drinking, student driving, smoking in the boy's room, the existence of VHS pornography, cutting class, the dreaded crushes, fake I.D.s and the constant upheaval of hormones, it is easy to understand how this show had an appeal when the DVD collection came out but I am still baffled to why it didn't click with the 1999-2000 crowd when it was on NBC.

Now a few fun filled bits of trivia, facts and afterthoughts.

With eighteen shows successfully in the can I am confused how the ratings were so bad. Did the viewers have horrific flashbacks to wedgies, swirlies and being cramped in a locker upside down and naked? Amusing how a cult following occurred seven years after its cancellation and is still running strong and several of its child actors have now be shuttled into successful TV as well as film careers.

Still love the fact that their evil coach was none other than Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson of April Fool's Day, Back to the Future, Action Jackson, Back to the Future II, Back to the Future III, High Strung, Batman: The Animated Series, Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger, Born to Be Wild and Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom) and your science teacher is Doctor Forrester (Writer/actor Trace Beaulieu of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, With or Without You, Mr. B's Lost Shorts, Darkstar: The Interactive Movie, America's Funniest Home Videos and Cinematic Titanic) written by a former MST3K alumni J. Elvis Weinstein. One of the Radio Shack salesman played by Joel Hodgeson of MST3K's Joel Robinson and for all you Babylon 5 fans, Bill Haverchuck's mom, Gloria was none other than Claudia Christian. Was this show entertaining for all? Did it simply not connect with the hearts and minds of others? No one can truly answer this question to my satisfaction.

Think my buzz just kicked in.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Season One Show: Firefly

Dàjiā hǎo! Welcome to Season One Shows' Day One and yes I thought it only proper to get this ball rolling with one of the most talked about, beloved and thoroughly aggravating shows that Fox has ever cancelled. While House went kicked, punched and eye gouged the shark, this show got one season while the creator's main show and its spin-off were also being handled. Showing life in a frontiersman's setting across planets, cattle rustlers and criminals of the like not see in this here 'verse. This is Firefly.

Open the pod bay door, Joss.

Created by writer/director/producer Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Toy Story, Angel, Alien: Ressurection, Speed, Dollhouse, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and The Avengers) and set 500 years into the future, the Earth's resources, natural splendor and living conditions are done. Humanity leaves its cradle of civilization in search of new planets to live and prosper. Core planets are guarded, protected and shielded by an assortment of laws and regulations by the Alliance, while the outer rim planets are handled by cattle ranchers, pioneers and tradesmen that can be sacked, bushwhacked and paddywhacked at any time. These are the non-allied worlds. Soon after the push to space, the Alliance wished to add even more planets under the yoke of their rule and the non-allied worlds rose up in a intergalactic civil war broke out. With more tech, manpower and resources the Alliance finally broke the Independents and proceeded to continue to carve up space.

For former Independant or "Browncoat" Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion of Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Justice League, Drive, Desperate Housewives, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog and Castle) being a criminal means taking risks so his ship can stay flying, sticking it to the Alliance and making a life for himself and his crew. Deft but goofy pilot Wash (Alan Tudyk of of Patch Adams, A Knight's Tale, Ice Age, I, Robot, Serenity, Young Justice and Newsreaders), his second-in-command Zoe (Gina Torres of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Cleopatra 2525, Angel, Justice League, Standoff and Suits), his hard headed bad ass desperado Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin of Predator 2, Wyatt Earp, The Cape, The X-Files, Stargate SG-1, Angel, Evil Eyes, Jackie Chan Adventures, Chuck and The Last Ship) and plunky engineer Kaylee (Jewel Staite of Space Cases, Flash Forward, Just Deal, Firefly, Stargate: Atlantis, The L.A. Complex and The Killing). Between ferrying legitmate cargo and taking on passengers, the thefts are always paying better but the law is always around, criminals looking to screw them out of their hard earn coin and a myriad of psychotic cannibalistic men and women known as Reavers take to the skies as well.

Dinner with all the trimmings.

Hard to sneak about and be viewed as respectable but licensed companion Inara Serra (Morena Baccarin of Roger Dodger, Still Life, Serenity, Justice League, Stargate SG-1, Stolen, V, Back in the Day, Son of Batman, The Flash and Gotham) gives them credibilty on the core worlds as well as picking up fares such as: holy man Shepard Book (Ron Glass of The Streets of San Francisco, Barney Miller, Crash, The New Odd Couple, Back in Business, Serenity, All Grown Up and Lakeview Terrace) and Doctor Simon Tam (Sean Maher of Party of Five, The $Treet, Firefly, Serenity, Much Ado About Nothing, Arrow and Son of Batman). Events unfold and Doctor Tam is revealed to be a wanted fugitive for rescuing his sister River (Summer Glau of Angel, Firefly, Serenity, The Unit, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, Knights of Badassdom, Arrow and Sequestered) from an Alliance research and development program.

Is this more than Reynolds bargained for? Can the crew and passengers co-exist peacefully? Is there a reward for the brother sister duo?

A quick few bits on the show now. Mutant Enemy Productions released this show in September 20, 2002 with the set of Serenity, the ship being as much as a character as the cast given she was split level and built full-scale across two sound stages for upper deck, lower deck, shuttle docking bay and holding bay and all sets were connected. The Alliance officer and solider uniforms were leftover armor and suits from Starship Troopers. Every scene in space did not have sound effects as it would be in real life as SPACE IS A VACUUM... of course the background music was still played but hey there is only so much realism.

Fox aired the episodes out of chronological order primarily because the pilot was deemed too long and less hard hitting as its second episode, "The Train Job". One of the first TV sci-fi shows to be exclusive without extra-terrestrial life it made certain that the two predominate powers and language would be English and Mandarin Chinese (which allowed swearing to get around the censors).

A clever story line allowing 8 main characters to be properly developed, giving them hurdles in life, put in real life scenarios as much as fictitious ones. Would it held up in another season or even 2? That has been the subject of many debates. In this humble reviewer's eyes, I feel we could have explored more of each crew members' back-story with the bonus of who they were to where will they go from here. With the completion of Serenity, many questions were answered and it did put a nice cap on a few issues. Is a sequel in the works to this day? Only Whedon knows.

Feel like a trap?