The Gratuitous B-Movie Column 12.3.12 Issue #236: The Three Movie Mini-Review Edition
Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz on 12.03.2012
Mini-reviews for Looper (2012), Red Dawn (2012), and Love at the Christmas Table (2012), plus a Big Question, three batches of Things to Watch Out For This Week, a new B-Movie Babe, a new Douchebag of the Week, and more!
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #236: The Three Mini-Movie Review Edition
Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never been threatened by a lion carrying a chainsaw, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number two hundred and thirty-six, I'm going to do something a little different. Instead of doing one longish movie review I'm going to do "mini-reviews" of three different movies: Looper, the sci-fi flick starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt; Red Dawn, the recent beleaguered remake starring Chris Hemsworth; and Love at the Christmas Table, a recent TV movie for the Lifetime network produced by the fine folks at The Asylum.
Beware, there are potential spoilers in the following mini-reviews. And there are no rundowns (I didn't take notes while watching). Sorry for the disappointment. Ha.
Looper, written and directed by Rian Johnson, isn't a great movie. It's an interesting movie, an engrossing movie, sure, but it isn't the instant classic sci-fi movie that it's been made out to be. It's a little too pretentious for its own good, and it starts to go off the rails towards the end. I know that the central question of the movie is "Should a person from the future travel back to the past to kill a person who turns out to be a murdering psychopath in the future?" and we're supposed to wonder if it's a good idea, in the long run, to prevent violence with violence (it's like the old revenge question: when does it stop?). However, after seeing what the future psychopath The Rainmaker is capable of, the big philosophical question of "should I do it?" becomes moot. Of course Old Joe, played by Bruce Willis, should kill The Rainmaker when The Rainmaker is a child, preventing him from destroying the future.
I mean, we get to see what The Rainmaker is capable of in the future. He can destroy large tracts of land with his mind. His mind is a massive telekinetic weapon. As a child, The Rainmaker, Cid (Pierce Gagnon), can levitate people and things with his mind and destroy things on a relatively large scale. He can't level a city quite yet, but he can cause massive amounts of damage just by getting angry. If Old Joe kills him, there's a small chance that the future will be an okay place. Granted, it could be even worse without Cid there (another uber evil kid with massive telekinetic abilities could show up), but a fifty-fifty chance of a "better" future is better than one that's guaranteed to be horrendous.
Is it awful when Old Joe goes and kills those other two kids, engaging in the ultimate Kim Richards? Of course it is. But since evil people are destroyed all the time, I seriously doubt anyone is going to care in the future if those other two kids are dead. Of course, someone related to those kids could swear revenge on someone, etc., but what are the odds of that particular revenge seeker being a telekinetic monster?
I also have a hard time believing that Gordon-Levitt's Joe wouldn't join in with his old self in wiping that kid off the face of the Earth, especially after witnessing, up close, what Cid is capable of. Sure, he won't get the life he wants to have in Beijing and all that, the thing he was sort of working towards while working as the Looper mob hit man, after killing the Rainmaker as a child, but, again, after watching Cid in action how could he kill himself? Why wouldn't he just run up to and shoot that kid? It just makes no sense to me.
And what about the whole "multiple timelines, multiple possible futures" thing that's brought up right after Young Joe shoots Old Joe, lives his thirty years, then decides to "change his own future?" I mean, is that why Old Joe told his young self, and maybe the audience, not to think about the ins and outs of time travel and how it works because we'll be here for an hour drawing maps on the napkins?
I think the movie would have been more successful if the whole telekinesis thing had been left out and Cid was just a future mob boss. If Cid was just a kid with a sadistic streak (you know, dog killing as a kid and beating the crap out of kids his own age just for the hell of it) the ending might make a little more sense and be easier to accept. Maybe.
I do want to applaud Johnson for creating a sci-fi world that's fun to look at. I loved how the main characters, the Loopers, aren't all concerned with discussing the past and what happened to America in the middle of the 21st century. Why is the money Chinese? Why is Beijing the major world city that everyone wants to go to? It just is. And the movie doesn't marvel at its own technology. There aren't any scenes where the movie stops so the audience can get a good look at the flying motorcycle or the shiny buildings or whatever. And I also want to applaud Johnson for making Jeff Daniels wear that pajama robe thing. It almost seems like a joke. Is that what people from the further future actually wear? Is he fucking with us?
There's also that incredibly disturbing sex scene between Gordon-Levitt and Piper Perabo's Suzie. I don't think I've ever felt more uncomfortable watching nudity than in that scene. What happened to Suzie's breasts?
I didn't like the guns the mob henchmen used. The blunderbuss gun, fine, but the big handguns the other henchmen used were just ridiculous. The flying motorcycle thing was cool, though. And am I the only one who thought that the movie was overly loud? It seemed like every gunshot, explosion, etc was excessively loud. Did I end up seeing the movie in a theatre with messed up sound?
Despite my issues with his character, Gordon-Levitt does a good job playing Bruce Willis, and Bruce Willis does a good job playing an old man. And Daniels is just awesome as Abe. And I also want to call attention to Tracie Thoms, who plays the diner waitress Beatrix. She does a fine job with her limited screen time. Why isn't she getting more movie work? Did Death Proof ruin her career? I don't get it.
Looper is definitely worth checking out. Just don't expect to be blown away by it. It's a good movie, but it's nothing all that special.
Red Dawn (2012)
The biggest problem with the Red Dawn remake, directed by Dan Bradley, is that it doesn't make any sense. It's a movie about an invasion of the United States by North Korea, one of the poorest countries in the world. Yes, the North Koreans may have a large army (the movie claims it has, I believe, the fourth largest army in the world), but where did they get the hardware and vehicles to travel across the Pacific Ocean and, well, attack the U.S.? Wouldn't the NK's need aircraft carriers, massive warships, etc to establish a kind of base camp in maybe Hawaii before moving forward to the continental U.S.? Did the evil Russians provide the North Koreans with that stuff? And if the Russians did, where the hell did they get the stuff for the North Koreans to use? Don't the Russians take over the U.S. east coast? The Russians actually had enough war and invading shit for themselves and the North Koreans? The movie never attempts to explain any of this stuff. We're just supposed to accept what's happening and deal with it. That explanation might work in a zombie movie, but in an alien invasion movie (and that's what Red Dawn, at its core, basically is), there has to be a point in the movie where shit gets explained. Nothing is explained.
But what about the ominous opening titles sequence, where North Korea is, for some reason, considered a major world power? I actually laughed out loud when, during the news report about the Asian Pacific nations joining forces to condemn whatever plays, the North Korean flag is raised alongside the other flags. I'm supposed to crap my pants because the North Koreans have joined up with those other countries? Who gives a shit if North Korea joins anything? They're poor. They can't feed their own people. They have to depend on China for just about everything. How are they a major threat to anything outside of Japan or South Korea? And even if the United States is deep in debt and stretched thing militarily around the world because of ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, did the United States suddenly stop spending oodles of money on its own military? Did the defense budget suddenly dwindle? How could America suddenly become so defenseless? The movie never explains any of this stuff (and, no, the Tanner fireside speech doesn't count here because even that speech doesn't go far enough. Where the hell did the NK's get an EMP weapon like that?).
Now, if you just ignore that stuff and get caught up in the exploits of badass Marine Jed Eckert (Chris "Thor" Hemsworth) and his ragtag group of young freedom fighters known as The Wolverines, the movie becomes very watchable. I had a blast watching Jed, his brother Matt (Josh Peck), and the others (Tom Cruise's son Connor is one of them) waste North Korean soldiers willy nilly, blow stuff up with skateboard bombs, and cause massive destruction. I loved watching North Korean bad guy Captain Cho (Will Yun Lee) refuse to make facial expressions as he was getting his ass kicked. And it was hysterical watching Jeffrey Dean Morgan play Powers Boothe (and JDM does a good job at it). That kind of stuff the movie excels at. But once you start to think about what's happening the movie becomes annoying. How could this even happen?
I want to commend director Bradley for downplaying the ultra right wing hooey that plagued the original. I love John Milius' Red Dawn as much as the next movie nerd, but the remake doesn't contain a "get the list of gun owners from the sporting good store" scene, which is just fine with me (I always wondered why that scene was in the movie outside of Milius' gun nuttery. We can't have gun control because one day a completely implausible invasion of the United States by Communists might happen? Did the definition of "implausible" change?). And there isn't as much misogyny in the remake, which is fine. I don't have a problem with outright misogyny in a movie (it's a movie, get over yourself), but I'm just glad I didn't have to live through a "Red Dawn is sexist" media controversy. I hate those things.
The action scenes that make up the bulk of the movie aren't as well staged as they probably should be. There are too many "shaky cam" moments and it's difficult to see what's happening most of the time. But because the Wolverines are so likeable the motion sickness isn't that big of a deal. Although, you'd think that a guy like Bradley, who has been doing stunts for years (he was the stunt coordinator on Trancers, A Nightmare on Elm Street part 2: Freddy's Revenge, Re-Animator, three Bourne movies, plus he played Jason Voorhees for a scene or two in Friday the 13th part VI: Jason Lives), would want his action scenes to play out naturally and be relatively easy to watch. Why is everything so difficult to see?
The scene where Pete (Steve Lenz) explodes is a crowd pleaser (I laughed because that prick deserved it). And the ending, where the American crowd rushes onto the football field/internment camp shouting "Wolverines!" gets your blood pumping. And the moment Jed gets shot in the head just rips your heart out. You know it's going to happen at some point. You know Jed is going to die, either by the hand of a North Korean soldier or by accident. But still, when it happens, your jaw drops. You don't want to accept it. Hemsworth, man. In an action movie you don't want to see him die.
I hope that this flick's eventual DVD release explains how changing the villains from the Chinese to the North Koreans changed the movie as a whole (how did the Russian spetsnaz blue beret guy figure prominently when it was the Chinese?). Are there scenes missing that help explain stuff? I'd also like to know how the bankruptcy of MGM altered the movie outside of its theatrical release. Why is the Red Dawn remake the movie it is?
All in all, Red Dawn the remake is a fun movie. Just don't think about the premise too much. You'll get pissed off.
Love at the Christmas Table (2012)
Love at the Christmas Table is one of the best Christmas TV movies I've ever seen. Produced by the fine folks at The Asylum (home of the "mockbuster) and aired on Lifetime, the movie stars Danica McKellar and Dustin Milligan as young people who, over the course of two decades, spend just about every Christmas Eve together. We watch their budding friendship start as children at the kids table and progress with each Christmas Eve up until the point Milligan's Sam asks McKellar's Kat to marry him. There's no real plot, which is kind of risky for TV Christmas movies (I've seen just about every Christmas movie both Hallmark and Lifetime have and almost all of them have some kind of plot). Instead, the movie allows us to watch these two people grow to love one another. It's amazing.
Of course, the movie wouldn't work without the obvious chemistry between McKellar and Milligan. McKellar, good old Winnie Cooper herself, is fun to look at and just comes off as a nice person (she's very difficult to dislike), and Milligan has an easy charm that makes him, well, not annoying. Even when he shows up with another girl, clearly breaking Kat's heart, you still like him. Kat and Sam belong together. You know that before they do. They're perfect for one another, but at the same time they're not perfect people. They're going to make mistakes. And that's what Sam does when he brings that British girl with him to Christmas Eve dinner.
And Kat's decision not to go to dinner that one year, faking an illness, was her big mistake. So what if she's annoyed with Sam and is having emotional issues? You're supposed to be together! I didn't quite understand what the big deal was, though, with Kat's occupation in town. Why was that such a big deal? I can't even remember what she did for a living. She owned a small factory or something, didn't she?
The great Lea Thompson shows up throughout the movie and does a fine job (that drink she makes in the study is nasty looking), and Alexandra Paul is in a few scenes for some reason (I can't remember who she is in the movie. Was she an aunt or someone's mother?). But the movie belongs to McKellar and Milligan. They are the show and they work well together. Kudos to The Asylum, Lifetime, and director Rachel Goldenberg for making a great, unique Christmas movie. Everyone deserves a gold star for this.
Be on the lookout for Love at the Christmas Table. It'll be on several more times this month before Christmas, and I'm sure it'll be on every future Christmas from here on in. It's a modern classic and definitely deserves to be seen. I love this movie. I really do.
See Love at the Christmas Table as soon as you can. See it, see it, see it.
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: The Facebook Page!
Please check out The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Facebook page, which can be seen here. There's not much there at the moment, but, as time goes by, expect to see daily questions and musings and other B-movie hooey. And it would be cool if you "liked" it, too.
- The Dark Knight Rises: For me, this is the best of the Nolan Batman movies. It's too long, and, like all of the Nolan Batman movies, I have issues with it, but it's more "comic booky" than the other two movies and that's cool with me. I'm actually looking forward to seeing this again. "I am Gotham's reckoning." Ha.
- Silent Night: This is the remake of the classic Silent Night Deadly Night. Malcolm McDowell, Donal Logue, Jaime King, and Brendan Fehr are all in it. The trailer is awesome, and the DVD cover is hysterically cool. A demented killer Santa Claus wielding a flamethrower? How could I pass that up?
- V/H/S: This is the "found footage" anthology movie that was all the talk in low budget horror movie nerd circles a few months ago. It did get a small theatrical release, and I believe it did play on Video On Demand. It looks pretty good, and, hey, if they're going to make a sequel, it must have some value, right? Can't wait.
- Cagney & Lacey: The Complete Series: This classic 1980's cop show featuring the great Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless as two bad ass female detectives isn't on TV as much as it should be. I mean, with all of the cable and satellite channels we all have now, you'd think this show would be on at least three of them. It isn't. And that's just stupid. Definitely worth getting if you're looking for a good, old show to watch when you don't have anything else to do. And Martin fucking Kove is in it. That's always a plus.
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column B-Movie Theme of the Week
And now, the weekly Fearnet update
Fearnet, the only free all horror/thriller On Demand TV network features uncut, uncensored horror flicks from the past and present 24 hours a day, seven days a week, pretty much any time you freaking want them (as long as you still have power, that is). The channel also has behind-the-scenes stuff, trailers, and other cool hooey for you to check out. Check your local cable listings for availability (According to the Fearnetwebsite more and more Time Warner and Cox Cable areas are getting the channel. Be sure to go here to see if Fearnet is coming to your area).
Fearnet also exists as a regular old TV channel. This Fearnet airs horror movies roughly twenty one hours a day (there is a block of infomercials in the morning, usually from 6-9am est). The movies shown do have "commercial breaks" in them, similar to the breaks that currently appear on IFC, but the movies are uncut (blood and boobs and cursing are all intact).
Fearnet's website, fearnet.com, offers free movies, interviews, news, and other behind-the-scenes horror movie nerd stuff, too. The classic The Gate was on the site last week. Is it still there? Check and see).
The website also features Post Mortem with Mick Garris, a nifty interview show where big, fat Stephen King's favorite director talks with genre legends like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Roger Corman, and others. It's definitely worth your time.
If you're a Facebook nerd (and, really, today, who isn't?) you can check out the Fearnet fans Facebook page, which can be seen here. There are plenty of people out there interested in Fearnet. Join them. And, as always, thanks to both Mark Lindsey and Mathew Hirsch for info regarding the Fearnet fan movement.
The Big Question: Who drives the mobile lab truck on Knight Rider?
I recently found out that the classic 1980s TV show Knight Rider is on the cable channel G4 during the week, from 11am -1pm est, so I've been watching it when I can. I saw a few season 4 episodes the other day and found out, for the first time, that the season 4 character RC (Peter Parros) drove the F.L.A.G. mobile command center. I don't know how I missed that particular character distinction, but I always thought he was just some young guy that both Devon and Bonnie took under their wing. I had no idea he was the truck driver. So, after watching the episode where the great Robert Englund plays a guy sabotaging a movie set, I wondered out loud "Who the hell drove the Knight Rider semi truck in the other seasons?"
I mean, RC wasn't driving the truck during the first season, or the second or third. And I don't remember the camera ever focusing on the driver at any point during seasons 1-3. So, who the hell was driving it? Just some random guy, some random F.L.A.G. henchman? Maybe some sort of KITT style artificial intelligence type deal? Or was that an unimportant detail that no one on the Knight Rider staff back in the 1980's bothered with?
And why didn't the Highway Patrol ever pull over the F.L.A.G. truck over, especially after Michael Knight drove KITT into the trailer while in motion? I mean, isn't that incredibly unsafe to do in the middle of a busy road? Or did the truck get a pass because, well, it's from the Foundation for Law And Government?
Anyone know the answer to any of these questions? Any Knight Rider nerds out there with the inside dope on this stuff? Because this is the kind of thing that, with the right conditions, could keep you up at night. I mean, really, who the hell was driving that truck before RC? Who?
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column B-Movie Babe of the Week: Danica McKellar
Things to Watch Out For This Week: Part 2
- Blood Beat: I have never heard of this movie, but based on its entry on amazon and what I've managed to find on imdb.com, this is a mega low budget movie from 1983 and is apparently about a woman being attacked in the woods by the ghost of a samurai at Christmas. Or something. The trailer is pretty messed up, too. Why isn't this movie more well known? You'd think a movie about a samurai ghost attacking a woman in the woods at Christmas would be a weird beard "must see."
- Tell No One: I guess this is a newer DVD edition of this particular movie as it came out in 2006 and features Kristin Scott Thomas and is based on a novel by the Harlan Coben. I mean, how could a movie from 2006, with this pedigree, have not been on DVD until now? Seems implausible.
- A Vampire's Tale: The great Doug Bradley, Pinhead hisself, is in this thing, so right there it becomes automatic viewing. And any movie featuring a vampire cowboy is definitely worth checking out as, at least, a rental.
- Roy Rogers: King of the Cowboys: This is a two disc set featuring five of the "King of the Cowboys"'s classic B-movie westerns plus 10 episodes of Rogers' old thirty minute show. The Encore Westerns channel has this stuff on every now and then, and that's cool and all, but that's not the same as having a DVD set sitting on your DVD shelf. Great stuff. I just wish the set had some special features on it. I mean, come on, it's Roy Rogers. I think he deserves a little more than a cool tin carrying case.
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Douchebag of the Week
This week, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Douchebag of the Week goes to Washington Post op-ed writer and Fox News Channel pundit android Charles Krauthammer, for his spectacular hypocrisy when it comes to the whole "Susan Rice is unfit to be the new Secretary of State" thing that's consuming the political discussion at the moment. For some reason Chuck is seen as a political authority of sorts, an old sage that you go to to get the best analysis because he's seen it all, he's done it all, and he's got his shit together. Of course, if you're a news watcher who enjoys paying attention you'd know that Chuck is a movement right winger, a lunatic conservative psychopath of the highest order (the only thing he was "right" about was Sarah Palin, but then he kissed her ass several times, too, so he wasn't that right about her). You don't expect him to be truthful about anything. But this Susan Rice thing, as documented by the fine folks at Media Matters, is just amazing. Go ahead and read what Media Matters has uncovered and ask yourself if this whole thing isn't just total bullshit.
How can anyone now take this guy, or the whole ultra right wing media machine, seriously? How?
And then there's Lindsay Lohan, for refusing to just go away. It's pretty obvious at this point that she's a hopeless case, someone who needs to step away from the spotlight for a decade or so and go do something else. Maybe she needs to go to school overseas somewhere, or start up a charity that takes up all of her free time. The celebrity media would still try to track her down and take her picture and whatnot, but if she was engaged in activities that weren't snarky fodder for the scandal sheets the celebrity media would get tired of her and focus on someone else. But is Lohan going to do that?
Of course not. No, she's still going to be there, front and center. And this "new" story where she might go to jail again for assault or for violating her parole or whatever the fuck it is, we're not going to be able to get away from it. It will be everywhere. And that's just bullshit.
But Lindsay was set up! And people are just jealous of her success! Don't be a hater!"
Please, people, go fuck yourselves. Help make this gross, puffy faced (what's the deal with that? Did she have a botched face lift?) sad sack of a woman go away. She can come back in ten or fifteen years after finding Jesus or whatever. I think the world would appreciate that. I know I would.
"This is James Long reporting, Lindsay Lohan just took a shit on the street! Details next..."
And finally there's the news media, for reporting on the Lindsay Lohan story as if it's actual news. It isn't. It's celebrity news, sure. I fully expect Entertainment Tonight and the E! Channel to go whole hog on this "story" along with the scandal sheet tabloids and whatnot. And, sure, the occasional gossip story on the Today show wouldn't be a big deal (something that gets play in the third hour would be fine). But the whole show? Really? There's nothing else going on in the world, nothing at all?
Please, for the love of God, just stop this madness. Please.
NASCAR and Indycar thoughts
So, of course, I missed the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship banquet show on Speed last Friday night. I had planned on watching most of it, just to see if show host Howie Mandel would bomb or not, plus I wanted to see how "Roger Penske" centric it would be. Anyone out there get a chance to watch the show?
The big news in NASCAR at the moment is the official announcement that the Camping World Trucks Series would race on dirt for the first time in 2013. Tony Stewart's Eldora Speedway is set to host the Trucks at the end of July on the Wednesday before the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis. Specific details about the race, such as race distance, qualifying procedure, changes to the truck body, tires, etc, have not been announced, although I'd imagine that both Stewart and NASCAR want to get as much info as possible out as soon as possible. I have weird feeling that either a majority of the truck owners are going to balk at running the event, or NASCAR is going to get cold feet about doing the race because of "technical issues." I wouldn't be surprised, either, if the event ends up being a non-points race or some bullshit like that.
I would like to know if NASCAR expects the trucks to slide in the corners like a dirt modified or late model, or if NASCAR expects the trucks to run dirt similar to the way ARCA races on dirt. It would be so damn cool if NASCAR could figure out how to get the trucks to pitch it into the corner, but I have a feeling that, in the end, if the race actually happens, it will all be about not running as hard into the corners because no one wants to slide. It'll also be interesting to see how many Cup guys attempt to make the race, or if "dirt track ringers" are brought in for the race.
The other sort of big story in NASCAR is Roger Penske's offer to provide a car for Tony Stewart for the 2012 Indy 500. Stewart will probably say "no" because he's busy with his NASCAR operation, plus Stewart has said on numerous occasions that you "just can't show up and expect to run well. You have to be in the car with the team for at least a few races before Indy." It would be cool, though, to see Stewart make an attempt to qualify for the 500. It would certainly add another level of exposure to the event since NASCAR is essentially racing, in the broad sense, in America.
Not much going on in Indycar at the moment. Hitachi, which was one of Ryan Briscoe's main sponsors this past year at Penske, will be on tax cheat Helio Castroneves' car in 2013, which doesn't bode well for Briscoe's future at Penske. If Briscoe does leave, will Penske try to run a third car with someone else behind the wheel? Who has money right now?
Things to Watch Out For This Week: Part 3
- Reel Evil: This appears to be some kind of low budget "found footage" movie. I'm usually not a fan of this particular kind of horror movie, but since the fine folks at Full Moon Features are releasing it I'm interested to see how they handle the subject matter. The trailer is kind of cool, too. Everything in it looks weird.
- Lorenzo & Monica: This is some sort of mega low budget action crime drama deal. The fine folks at the Maverick Entertainment Group are releasing it, so we could be looking at a potential mega low budget classic or an excruciating bore. I think this flick is easily worth a rental.
- Santa Claus Conquers the Martians: Remastered Edition: This goofy B-movie classic is hysterical. It also has a catchy theme song. Those two attributes make this former late night staple a must have on DVD. Although I think it's high time someone puts out a Criterion Collection style edition of this movie. The movie deserves it.
Well, I think that'll be about it for this issue. B-movies rule, always remember that.
If there's anything you want to see reviewed here in this column, feel free to offer a comment below or send me an e-mail. I'm always on the lookout for new stuff to watch.
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