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Slither (2006)

poster 70x100 Slither nl nieuw 5.inddIf you’ve seen Night of the Creeps (1986) (and if you haven’t, you really should) then you know the plot of Slither. An alien comes to Earth via meteorite and takes over the first human who comes upon it. Eventually the alien spawns slug-like minions who roam the countryside, taking over any mammal it encounters and it’s up to the film’s heroes to figure out how to take them all out to save the world.

Prior to this year I had only seen Slither once and I remembered liking it quite a bit.

Upon re-watching, I’ll update that opinion to – I still like it, but not as much as I used to.

For one thing, I remember Nathan Fillion being in it a lot more than he actually is and I didn’t remember how low-key he plays the part. I had completely forgotten Elizabeth Banks is in it and that she’s pretty much the main character. I’m not saying that’s a problem – I like Elizabeth Banks – but I just forgot. Probably because I have Fillion-blindness – if Nathan Fillion is in it, that’s what I remember.

Sue me. I like Captain Tightpants.

The main thing I had forgotten though is that early in the film there’s a rape scene and later an attempted rape. Yeah, I know, it’s an alien transferring its slimy critters to incubate in another host and yeah, you could technically call the face-huggers in the Alien franchise rapists because they’re doing the same thing.

However, in Slither the incubation scenes are done with phallic appendages and it always involves a woman flat on her back, pinned down by her attacker. In the first scene, the woman even flails about rhythmically while alien-infested Michael Rooker sits by looking as if he’s really enjoying it. I admit to being hyper-sensitive to rape scenes so it left me uncomfortable for the rest of the movie.

However, Greg Henry is still a hoot as Mayor Jack MacReady and his over-the-top temper tantrum concerning some missing Mr. Pibb is a highlight of the film.

I can understand. Mr. Pibb is ‘da bomb.

Overall it’s an entertaining little creature feature with a nice sense of humor and heavy-handed with the gore effects. For some that’s a plus, for others a minus. It’s all a matter of taste.

You’ll Find Out (1940)

You'll Find Out PosterA Halloween tradition in our household is the viewing of classic horror-comedies including the likes of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) and Hold that Ghost (1941).

Last year we added to our collection with the purchase of You’ll Find Out (1940) which stars not one, not two, but three classic horror film stars – Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre.

However, the real star of the film is the now nearly-forgotten band leader Kay Kyser and his group, the Kay Kyser Band. Kyser was famous for his radio show “Kollege of Musical Knowledge” and the film actually starts with a radio broadcast of the show.

In the movie, Kyser’s band is hired to play at the 21st birthday party of the girlfriend of Kyser’s agent, Chuck Deems (Dennis O’Keefe.) It becomes clear quite early on that someone is trying to kill birthday girl Janis (Helen Parrish) and it’s up to Kay and the gang to figure this whole thing out.

The movie is full of self-aware corny jokes, over-acting, Scooby-doo type shenanigans and even a dog in a wig. Nevertheless, the séance scenes are genuinely creepy, the cast is enjoyable and it moves along at a nice pace. The character of Ish Kabibble (M.A. Bogue) is on-screen just a little too much considering how unfunny he is, but he was apparently quite popular at the time.

As for the main attraction for modern film-lovers, Boris Karloff is slimily sinister, Peter Lorre is apathetically aloof and Bela Lugosi creepily charming. All three of them are a delight to watch and one of the funnier conceits of the film is that no one suspects Lorre and Karloff of evil-doings until the last five minutes of the film.

If you’re a fan of these types of movies I highly recommend you try this one out. It’s a hoot and even has several very catchy musical numbers.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

shaun-of-the-dead-poster A movie that is both a spoof and a gushing love letter to zombie films (in particular the George Romero series), Shaun of the Dead is a genius mixture of comedy and horror with witty writing, interesting characters and several moments of true heart.

Every time I watch this movie I catch more references and more echoes. A lengthy guidebook could be written to point out all of the references this movie makes to past horror films and Simon Pegg/Edgar Wright/Nick Frost projects. But amazingly enough, you don’t have to have any familiarity with those past films and projects to truly enjoy this movie.

This movie follows the exploits of every-man Shaun. We find that he has little to no ambition at work, he takes his relationship with his girlfriend Liz for granted, and he enables his best friend Ed to the detriment of himself and those around them.

When his girlfriend Liz finally dumps him after breaking a promise (although it’s not entirely his fault) Shaun has a drunken night out with Ed but afterwards decides that it’s time to get his life together, including paying more attention to his mother and fixing his relationship with Liz.

However, circumstances get in the way and after an oblivious walk through a zombie-infested Crouch End, Shaun, along with Ed finally realize that life has had a bit of an odd turn.

Although his plans rarely pan out, Shaun is able to gather his mother, Ed, Liz and a few of her friends and get them to the relative safety of their favorite pub – where all hell breaks loose.

This movie is funny, scary, contains some impressive character growth considering just how much is going on and is one of the best out there of any genre.

Highly recommended. If you haven’t seen this one or it’s been a while, get it now!

The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967)

The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967)They say humor is subjective. The film The Fearless Vampire Killers proves the point.

The Plot: Professor Abronsius (Jack MacGowran) and his assistant Alfred (Roman Polanski) have traveled to Transylvania in search of vampires. As luck would have it, a local vampire raids the inn they are staying at and snatches the first pretty girl he finds, Sarah Shagal (Sharon Tate), who is the daughter of the inn keeper (Alfie Bass).

After some convoluted shenanigans they end up at the vampire’s castle, run around like a couple of idiots, come face to face with about two dozen vampires and fail to dispatch even one of them. They do escape, believing they have at least rescued Sarah from a vampiric fate, but it turns out that she’s already one of the undead and in the closing moments of the film, the narrator informs us that this leads to the spread of vampirism throughout the world.

———-

This movie isn’t all bad or unfunny. The scene where Alfred, in an attempt to escape from a vampire, runs in a complete circle to end up right back in front of the blood-sucker is pretty damn funny. There are a few one-liners that are humorous and once they get to the castle, the pace picks up and it at least becomes watchable.

However, my problems with the movie outweigh its appealing aspects greatly. The humor is uneven and often just doesn’t work, the female characters are treated as nothing but sex objects and there’s even a gay vampire who is feared more for his sexuality than the fact that he’s a blood-sucking fiend.

I could go on about what doesn’t work about this movie but I honestly don’t want to expound the effort on a film I will never watch again – except for maybe a YouTube clip of Alfred’s run around the castle, as you can see below (starting at 3:50).

I am aware that many people love this film and find it hilarious. Like I said before, humor is subjective and if you can get past the blatant sexism and mild homophobia, be my guest and check it out.

What I’m Watching, May 2011

What I'm Watching, May 2011

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, we don’t have cable and we live too far out in the country to pick up any digital signals with our antennae, even with a converter box. So, we watch things on video and through Netflix instant streaming. (The instant streaming is awesome, by the way. It’s no extra cost to us and we can finally watch shows we missed.)

So, here’s a list of TV shows I’ve been watching in the past few months

  • That 70’s Show
    We watched the first few seasons of this show when it originally aired and liked it well enough. We moved a few years into its run and since we couldn’t get Fox to come in at our new house, we never watched it again. So, when we saw it was on Netflix instant streaming, we put it on the queue. 

    It’s not the best or most original situation comedy, but it was enjoyable enough and despite some pretty bad acting (especially in the beginning) there were some very memorable characters.

    We watched it all the way through to its last season. It had its ups and downs but pretty much kept a consistent quality throughout. Losing its two most popular teen characters in the last season did hurt it a bit but not as much as I expected.

  • Bones
    When this procedural show premiered, neither my husband nor I had much interest. I’m not a big fan of procedural shows unless there’s a nice twist or interesting characters (i.e. “Castle”) and my husband is not a big fan of David Boreanaz. 

    However, I kept hearing good things about the show and how well Boreanaz was doing (I do like him and have always found him quite charming despite the husband’s sometimes-intense dislike) so I tried out an episode on Hulu. I watched a few more and decided it was a show that I would like to try. I also thought that it was something the husband would like as well if he could get over his Boreanaz-hate.

    I finally convinced him and it didn’t take long for us both to become hooked. It’s a procedural but mixes the approaches of other crime-fighting shows. While “Castle” focuses on motive and “CSI” focuses on forensics, “Bones” focuses on both. Temperance Brennan, a forensic anthropologist, finds the physical evidence while FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth focuses on the heart of the matter (murder).

    The other characters that assist Brennan are just as (and sometimes more) interesting as the two leads. We’re both eagerly waiting for the next season of the show to become available.

  • Flash Forward
    My husband writes a DVD Review column and he received the first half of this show’s one and only season for review on DVD so we checked it out. 

    The premise was very intriguing – everyone in the world blacks out at exactly the same time for a few minutes and sees the future for a specific date and time.

    The show focuses on the FBI agents in charge of investigating the incident, how it came about, who’s responsible and how to prevent future blackouts.

    I’m not sure that it deserved future seasons but I liked it well enough to finish the program. It’s not going to go on any of my favorites list but I don’t regret spending the time to watch it.

  • Monty Python’s Flying Circus
    I’ve been a fan of the Monty Python group since my college roommate introduced me to them in the early 1990s. They had my heart the second the Frenchmen flung the cow over the castle wall. 

    However, I had never seen the original “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” television program and that’s just inexcusable.

    So, we’ve been watching these sporadically over the last few months. Like any other sketch comedy some skits are good, some not so good, but more often than not these guys have me cracking up at the silliest things.

  • The Office
    I like Steve Carell. Some of his movies are shit (excuse my bluntness, but they are – Almighty Evan, anyone? Ugh.) but I like Carell despite some of his career choices. I honestly find him very sexy. 

    I had heard of “The Office,” of course, and knew that it was very popular but I never had the chance to watch it. Netflix has it available on instant streaming so we gave it a try.

    Ugh. That first season was so bleah. It wasn’t awful but neither I nor my husband could figure out what the big deal was. What is so funny about a man making a fool of himself and his subordinates making faces at a camera?

    But, we stuck it out and continued to season 2. (Fortunately, season 1 was very short). Starting with the very first episode of season 2 it all seemed to click and we’ve been hooked ever since. The characters started doing more than making ‘isn’t this guy an idiot?’ faces at the camera and became defined characters with their own strengths and flaws which, in turn, made Michael Scott (Carell) more tolerable.

    And not only is it freakin’ funny, it has a lot of heart without being sentimental. There’s always at least one moment in each episode that’s a bit touching and it never seems forced or unrealistic.

  • Party Down
    We checked this show out because of who created it and some of the cast members. We loved, loved, loved “Veronica Mars” and “Party Down” was co-created by Rob Thomas, the brains behind “Mars.” 

    It starred Ryan Hansen from VM along with several other actors that we like (Martin Starr, Jane Lynch, Adam Scott, Ken Marino and Lizzy Caplan) so we decided to check it out.

    It’s not great, but it has some truly funny moments. It follows the (almost always pathetic) lives of a group of caterers and the hijinks that ensue at their various jobs around Los Angeles.

    It’s not a laugh-out-loud type of comedy but it can be quiet entertaining.

  • Penn & Teller’s Bullshit
    I’ve only seen a few episodes but so far I’m liking this one. Penn Gillette can be rather acerbic, but he seems to be honest and fair when he tears certain things down such as the Boys Scouts, the Obesity epidemic and Prostitution. 

    It certainly helps that more often than not, I agree with them 100 percent.

  • Phineas and Ferb
    I’ve written about this show on this blog already, but I have to mention it again. 

    Pure Awesomeness. (Yes, I meant to capitalize both words.)

  • The Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
    Being fans of the original films (I don’t even hate the third) this was a no-brainer. Closely following the film’s continuity, this show covers the time between the second and third films following the adventures of Sarah Connor, her son John, another Terminator sent from the future to protect them and John’s uncle also sent from the future to help. 

    What I particularly like about this show is that it shows how John Connor turned into the hero that we all know he is to become. I like him on this show much more than any of the movies in which he appeared.

    (NOTE: I have not seen the fourth movie yet, with Christian Bale. That’s on our list and we plan to see it after we’re done with the series.)

We have recently (last night, actually) started watching “Primeval” but I’m not sure if I like it yet or not. The premise is interesting but so far, I don’t like the characters very much. They’re all very cliche right now but I’m hoping that will change soon.

New Entertainment Discoveries

When we moved to Maine, the husband and I decided not to get cable. This was before the digital conversion so when the weather was right we could sometimes get the three major networks to come in, but this was rare and it was always static-y. After the conversion, and even with a digital converter, the only station we could get was Public Television.

The point to this rambling is that we don’t keep up with new programming. If we hear about interesting shows we’ll wait for the DVDs and rent them through Netflix. So, even if we do like ‘new’ stuff we’re always at least a year behind everyone else. Now that we have Netflix streaming it’s easier, but we’re always somewhat behind.

In the past few months I’ve discovered a couple of shows of which I now consider myself a big fan.

Community

We actually checked out one episode of this online shortly after it aired – the Paintball episode – and while we found the plethora of pop-culture references amusing, we didn’t really see why the show was getting so much buzz. It seemed pretty typical.

But, we decided to give it another go and rented the DVDs through Netflix.

So, yeah, those pop-culture references are great – especially since they reference things older than 10 years – but it’s really the characters that make this show so good. I have my favorites, but there isn’t a character I don’t like and that’s pretty amazing for me since the core cast is so large and some of those characters can be really irritating. I admit that I can be pretty judgmental with fictional characters (see my previous post about Amy Pond and don’t even get me started on Tasha Yar) but the writers of Community have, so far, been able to make these deeply flawed characters likable.

This time when we got to the Paintball episode (which is late in the season) it was hilarious because I knew the characters and their dialogue had a context past the obvious pop-culture references.

Phineas & Ferb

I had heard of this Disney-Channel cartoon in passing but didn’t pay it much mind. The only Disney cartoon I can remember really liking was Kim Possible and new cartoons for kids just don’t interest me much. From what little I’ve seen they all seem to rely on crude and really stupid humor and I have always hated insulting childrens’ entertainment.

The only reason I even tried Phineas & Ferb was because I read that Michael J. Fox would be doing a voice for the cartoon in its upcoming season. I knew that I would at least be watching that episode and I knew that Netflix had it available for streaming so I decided to watch a few episodes to see what it was all about.

Premise: There’s 104 days of summer vacation and Phineas & Ferb are determined to savor each day to the fullest. The boys – step-brothers – are probably around 10 years old (I don’t remember ever hearing a definite age). They have a teenage sister, Candace, whose main goal in life is to ‘bust’ her brothers and get them in trouble with their parents. This never happens because as soon as their mother glances into the back yard (or wherever their project of the day happens to be) all evidence of the boys’ shenanigans are gone.

After I watched the first episode, which consisted of two stories, I was glad to see that it lacked the bodily-functions humor and that the main characters were smart and creative but I didn’t really see anything special. Even the fact that their pet duck-billed platypus was a secret agent spy didn’t really intrigue me all that much.

But I watched another episode, with two more stories. Candace started to annoy me and I figured this would be my last episode to watch. It seemed to be falling into a formula that would get old fast and even though I really did appreciate the premise I didn’t want to see the same thing over and over again.

But then, the formula was shaken up. A song was added. It was funnier. I watched another episode. The formula was altered – just a bit – and it got even more amusing. And this just kept on going.

I’m almost done with season 1 and I absolutely adore this show.  It’s a celebration of imagination, ingenuity, intelligence, acceptance and all without an ounce of saccharin. The overall formula is still there but someone on the writing staff realized that doing the same thing over and over will not hold anyone’s attention anymore, not even kids (maybe especially kids). The small, subtle tweaks to this formula keep it interesting. The in-jokes aren’t necessary to enjoy the show but make it hilarious for those keeping up.

But I think my favorite thing about the show is the fact that Phineas  & Ferb don’t have an ounce of malice in them. They aren’t doing these experiments and projects behind their parents backs. They aren’t doing anything to break the rules – they’re just trying to have fun and always invite everyone else to join in, even Candace. I can’t remember any fictional characters who are just so ‘nice’ without being insufferable goody-goods or just too sweet to tolerate.

If I had kids, this would be required viewing.

The art of silent comedy

From the 6th season episode “Three Valentines” from the situation comedy “Frasier.”

Featuring David Hyde Pierce

“Stealthy as a socialist, it slithers up our shores…”

Reefer Madness Poster

Reefer Madness The Movie Musical Poster

Not really a Halloween movie, but continuing with our recent theme of the dangers of ignorance, we recently rented Reefer Madness The Movie Musical (2005) through Netflix.

I’ve been meaning to see this movie ever since I heard about it. First of all, it’s a musical – not too many of those being made anymore. Second, it features Alan Cumming and Steven Weber, two actors I really like. And although I didn’t even know who she was when I first heard about this movie, we also rented it for Kristen Bell.

I know acting in and of itself is an art form but I always have even more respect for actors who can do something else – especially singing and even more dancing. We had heard Bell sing a few times on Veronica Mars but only briefly but I could tell she was good. Reefer Madness certainly proved this.

A parody remake of the famous 1937 propaganda film of the same name, Reefer Madness the Movie Musical is a message movie about a message movie. I’ve never partaken in any illegal drug and have never really wanted to but even I know that the ‘dangers’ of marijuana are terribly exaggerated and always have been. The original film depicted all the terrible things that could happen if children get hooked on ‘the stuff’ and this musical depicts just how ridiculous believing this nonsense truly is.

The production values of this movie are top notch, the performances spectacular and the songs are – well, they’re pretty good. There a few stand-out numbers such as “Little Mary Sunshine” but in all honesty the songs are adequate at best. However, the staging of the songs is fantastic and make all of them something to look forward to.

And, personally, I think the songs would have worked better if they had been written in the 30’s/40’s style, but that’s my personal preference in music anyway, so take that observation with a grain of salt.

I highly recommend this movie even if you’re not musical buff. The comedy and absurdity of the entire situation is worth it.

Purchase Reefer Madness – The Movie Musical

And, here are a few visual highlights:

William Randolph Hearst is his Hero

William Randolph Hearst is his Hero (Alan Cumming)

Mary Lane, the picture of good ol' U.S. of A wholesomeness

Mary Lane, the picture of good ol' U.S. of A wholesomeness (Kristen Bell)

Amy Spanger as Sally

Amy Spanger as Sally

No, Mary Lane, don't do it!

No, Mary Lane, don't do it! (Kristen Bell with John Kassir)

The Effects of the Reefer

The Effects of the Reefer (Kristen Bell and John Kassir)

Hip Jesus

The hippest Jesus I've ever seen (Robert Torti)