Friday, July 31, 2015

Plumbers Don't Wear Ties (1994)

Back in the 1990's, CD technology had started to come into play, but before a lot of the more iconic consoles for it came about, companies experimented with Full Motion Video, resulting in a large variety of games, of wildly differing quality. Some were really good, others were decent but flawed, while many were terrible! One such game, released for the 3DO console is not only considered by far to be the worst FMV game, but to be one of the worst video games period!...

John and Jane are two random people who meet one day by chance, just as their respective parents are hounding them to find someone to date. While they don't hit it off at first, they soon get caught up in a nasty predicament when Jane's new boss tries to sexually assault her

Plumbers Don't Wear Ties is supposedly an FMV game, although that's false advertising at play. While the intro is in video, the rest of the game is in slideshow format! This makes no sense given that other 3DO games were completely able to produce great stuff like the high-quality Wing Commander games.  Things quickly get worse when you realize just how bad the game is! First of all, it's basically a dating sim, but not only is its quality as such a game extremely simple and lacklustre, to the most barebones degree, but you wouldn't even know it is a video game, as the first ten plus minutes are devoted to the lead characters getting lectured by their parents!

As a game, this is wretched, but as a movie? Oh yeah, it's just as bad. This is as little a movie as it is a game, with zero motion, mediocre to terrible acting, and a crap story.  Just following the main plot is annoying enough, but practically every other choice leads to some interminably long scenes. When just watching the main story, it's terrible, but it's over in just over half-an-hour,

Even worse are the weird things the game does, like having opening credits set to stock images of cars put through various filters, while painfully obviously cropped pictures of pandas are superimposed of John sleeping. Then there are the parts when the obnoxious main narrator is wearing a chicken mask and the picture is upside down. What the hell?!

The score too seems entirely made up of cheap and chintzy stock tunes! Most are crap, but a couple are ok, particularly the closing theme, which sounds alright. Nothing special, but serviceable.

Plumbers Don't Wear Ties is such a bizarrely terrible game and movie that it seems like it might actually be heavily Dadaistic. Think about it, despite having full well the ability to create full motion video, the game deliberately eschews that to instead go for the cheapest alternative. Instead of real/legitimate title cars and credits, it goes for overly shoddy MS Paint stuff, while the opening credits are made up of such obvious stock images that there's not even any attempt to hide the different bordering, and low zoomed-in quality. There are bloopers and mistakes kept in. When the narrator is applauded by the audience, there are dogs howling and clapping. The game makes many deliberate attempts to insult the audience/player on and on, even chiding you for your low score despite you doing everything right and getting a high one, and even the title Plumbers Don't Wear Ties is a lie, as the lead character John does wear a tie. All throughout the game, it seriously does come across like some Dada art project. Unlucky of course that I happen to find Dada to be some stupid fucking shit when done poorly, which is too much of the damn time! I mean, come on! Is it too hard a feat to make something Dada without being a mean-spirited dickhead?!

So, with all this in mind, do I actually think any of this arty presentation is intentional? Oh, hell no! That goes without saying! The game is a stupid, unforgivable failure, and I don't think for one moment that it was ever meant as anything other than a dumb, immature comedy made by a couple of idiots with only basic knowledge of coding, and an especially vulnerable industry licensing system.

So, that's Plumbers Don't wear Ties. It's hilariously terrible, and I recommend watching the Angry Video Game Nerd review to get the full experience of insanity without having to actually watch the 'game'...

A Bucket of Blood (1959)

Along with Little Shop of Horrors, Bucket of Blood is a collaboration between B-Movie king Roger Corman, and screenwriter Charles B. Griffith. It's got a popular reputation. so I was eager to buy it. But was I impressed?...

Walter Paisley is a lowly waiter working at the Yellow Door cafe, a popular beatnik hangout. Walter is inspired by the artistic scene to create his own creations, particularly so he can belong with the other patrons, who otherwise don't pay him any notice. When trying to make a clay sculpture, Walter accidentally kills his landlady's cat, and to kill two birds with one stone, he hides the body by encasing it in clay, creating a 'fantastically lifelike' work of 'art' in the progress. The 'sculpture' impresses those at the Yellow Door, leading Walter to try and make more. He's soon interrupted by an undercover policeman, who saw Walter inadvertently take drugs from a woman. The cop demands he come to the police station, and Walter kills the man in a panic, leaving him in a more desperate situation, but with something else to turn into art...

I unfortunately didn't get off to a good start with Bucket of Blood, and that's largely because I had heard what a great comedy this way, and I felt let down. It also didn't help that the dialogue is a struggle to hear (perhaps the film has since been remastered, but if so, then I don't own such a version). This film certainly isn't bad, although the pacing is a but glacial at times (which is surprising for an only hour-long movie), but I didn't find that it tried to be funny all that often, and it instead seemed to be played rather straight. The scene with the cat's death also didn't help my perception of this not being very funny. I had this exact same reaction to Little Shop of Horrors when I was a kid. I just didn't see how it was a comedy. It wasn't that I found it unfunny, but rather I simply couldn't see the humour, aside from one or two random scenes. Of course, it's been years since I've seen the original Little Shop of Horrors, and I've always assumed that I was just too much of a stupid kid at the time to see the humour, but given my reaction to Bucket of Blood, I'm not so sure. I own Little Shop (albeit once again on a semi-crummy public domain DVD), so I'll get back to you on that at a later date.

There is some humour though, in the form of Maxwell, the pretentious beat poet, whose 'works of art' are highly amusing! "Life is an obscure hobo, bumming a ride on the omnibus of art", and "What is not creation is Graham's crackers.". I also liked when there's that guy at the art club singing his ballad about a murderer after Walter has killed the cop.

The story to Bucket of Blood is similar to House of Wax in its focus of using encased corpses as works of art, but is largely quite different, due to the setting and characters. It's decently written, but there is one pretty dumb thing about it-Corpses smell really bad! Walter's hoax would be uncovered instantly because of that alone. Then there's also the fact that to put enough clay over someone to hide that they're a corpse would be too much to make a mold of them, while if you are, then the layer would be too thin, and could be easily scratched away. In fact, that actually happens at the end!

Also annoying is that for the longest time, I was under the impression that Carla and Leonard are a married couple. It was because they're always with each-other, yet apparently they're not, as I realized when Walter tried going out on a date with her.

The effects in A Bucket of Blood are ok for such a cheap movie, but the sculptures don't look very convincing, and the final shot really doesn't work. It should've been of this 'certain character' covered in plaster themselves, but it just looks like they've got a tiny bit of make-up on, and that's it, which kills the scene to the point where even Dick Miller has been quoted as disliking how said scene was handled for that very reason.

The acting here is a high point. It's great seeing Dick Miller in a leading role, and he carries the movie really well, playing the role of the 'pathetic' wannabe artist and murderer Walter superbly! The rest of the cast is decent, with Julian Burton being particularly amusing as Maxwell.

I didn't enjoy A Bucket of Blood all that much, but I still recommend it. Maybe you'll enjoy the film more than I did. And maybe you might find a better print of the movie to watch too. Good luck!...

Blank Posts

Hi all. I suppose you're wondering why all the sudden blank posts? Well that's because I've been too busy and distracted to write anything for the blog this month, but I didn't want to go another month with no reviews, so I pre-published those posts before the clock ticked 12:00 and a new month rolled in, and I'll fill them all in with actual reviews tomorrow.

Dream Demon (1988)

Newlywed Diane has been suffering from bizarre nightmares lately, and they seem linked to her new house. Together with a young American tourist, Jenny, she sets out to discover what's going on, all while the dreams get worse, and start effecting reality around them...

Dream Demon is an effective little horror movie. It doesn't go for obvious shocks, and keeps jump-scares to an absolute minimum. There's never any filler either. The pacing moves at a decent rate, never interrupting the very interesting plot with dull moments of characters drinking coffee in real time or endless driving.

Unfortunately, this also means there's no room for investigation or exposition, as the movie is just one spooky scene after another. The driving force behind the supernatural goings-on is never explained, and it just ends once Jenny remembers her past. Then the movie just stops, with only the barest of resolutions. Still, it's a happy enough ending, which is good, as I don't like depressing conclusions. I'm not sure about the very end though. It's an oddly upbeat conclusion for two certain characters, and while some might feel that robs the movie of a lot of the horror it had, I feel that it makes sense in context, given that the supernatural dreams might have been a positive force after all (although they have a hell of a way of showing it). Clearly the title of 'Dream Demon' is a total misnomer!

One scene of note is the hilarious opening. I'm not sure if it was meant to be funny, but it is regardless, not out of a so-bad-it's-good nature, but because it's so out-of-nowhere and amusing!

Unlike in other dream horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street, it's never clear when the two leads are or aren't dreaming, with freaky stuff sometimes happening when they were awake, or the reality of the dreams sometimes lasting for quite a while before we transition back to the real world (or do we?), leading to a nicely disorienting effect.

The main characters in Dream Demon are a likable duo. They're also smart and proactive! They show the sense to not only arm themselves for when they fall asleep, but to also bring along a camera, to document evidence of the melding of dream and reality.

I really like the scene where Diane saves the ghostly little girl away from a burning room, and the now-unconscious girl starts decomposing in her arms. Despite the ghoulish sight, Diana keeps carrying the girl up the stairs, which I felt made her more endearing. It shows her characters' strength, and willingness to get this girl out of the nightmarish environment, even if it is already too late (it isn't).

The acting is quite good! There are no bad performances, and while Timothy Spall and ='s characters seem to be nothing more than a couple of grossly unlikable dicks, they soon end up with more to do. Kathleen Wilhoite is a genuinely good actress (a fact that some detractors have a hard time accepting), while I found Jemma Redgrave surprisingly likable, considering I'm normally not much of a fan (although to be fair, much of the reason I don't like her much can probably be traced to the often terrible writing and characterisation of recent Doctor Who, where I know her from).

The effects here are decent. The violence and make-up is a bit goofy, yeah, but not bad. The location work and lighting is really good, too!

The score to Dream Demon is great stuff, with many different tracks providing a neat and ooky atmosphere!

Dream Demon proves that it's more than possible to make a freaky horror movie about dreams and not have it be in any way derivative of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Quite an accomplishment! Maybe someday such a fact will be enough of a given people don't even have to mention it...

Vitamin (2014)

As an Australian, you'd be right to assume that I watch a lot of foreign movies, and with subtitles too. However, until a few months ago, I'd never seen a Lebanese movie before. That changed while on the flight from Europe back to Australia (by way of Pearl Forrester's dominion), when I saw new comedy Vitamin...

Now, unfortunately, the only reason I saw this movie in English was because it was playing on the Middle Eastern flight I was on. I don't know if Vitamin is out on any DVD yet, let alone English. But then again, if it is going to get an English release, it'll undoubtedly be courtesy of Australia, because man we're awesome at providing foreign releases!...However, until that day comes, or at least until the day IMDb actually bothers to list character names on its entry of the movie, I'll have to use placeholder names in this review for Vitamin's characters, as you can bet your ass I don't remember them four months after seeing the film.

Scientist Lady is a young woman living in a small country town in Lebanon. It's a place that really has seen better days, and its prosperity has long since dwindled. Scientist Lady and her two best friends, Lady, and Ditzy Socialite Lady, are bored senseless by the town, and wish to move, but are still stuck there, for one reason or another, be it a mother to take care of, overbearing parents, and just plain lack of cash. However, things change when the women learn of a criminal shipment of what they believe to be money passing near the town. They disguise themselves, and hold up the van, stealing the contents, which they soon learn to be crates of Viagra. While angry at first, they soon realize they can sell the pills, and hide them in an old well. However, a sudden rain storm comes in one day, dissolving the Viagra, and tainting the town's water supply, turning everyone in it from weary and tired people to wild and uninhibited. Matters are further complicated by the arrival of two private detectives, each of whom develop feelings for the women they're unknowingly after. As if that wasn't bad enough, the criminals in charge of the shipment, as well as another group of gangsters, come into the town, wanting what's theirs...

This is a fun movie. It's a comedy, but has some well-handled dramatic moments too, but never overly so. It always keeps a consistent tone. I really appreciate the presence of multiple strong and diverse female characters, as this is a Middle Eastern movie. I don't know what Lebanon's like, but even if it is all good over there, it's still good for that whole region in general to have a movie like this.

Overall, the movie presents a tale of the relationship of old and new cultures, and how people can better their community, which is a nice sentiment.

The characters are a mixed bag, but mostly good. The lead is both adorable, talented, and conniving, and carries the film well. Then there's the third of the team-While she may be a ditzy socialite, she comes across as genuinely nice and likeable, and never vindictive, bitchy, or negatively conceited, like so many characters with this archetype are. As for the middle gal of the trio...err...she exists. She's a pretty unremarkable character, which nothing really distinctive or memorable about her, not helped by the large chunks of the movie where she's absent. Not bad by any means, but could've been better.

Now onto the two male leads-The private eyes. They're well-written, and play well off of each-other. Both play straight man to each-other's more goofy moments, and vice-versa, which works really well. I also really liked their character arcs, especially concerning their job.

The acting here is good. A few performances here and there aren't all that great, mainly due to the over-the-top nature of some characters not working as much as others, particularly the annoying husband-and-wife duo.

Now onto the other problems, of which there aren't many. The tone can be a little awkward at times, especially the resolution, which is pretty bloodthirsty for a happy comedy.

Despite those issues, Vitamin is a pretty nice movie, and I'm glad to have seen it. Here's hoping that the next time I do, it won't be when I'm short on 30 hours of sleep, and stuck in a crammed-as-sardines plane...

Comic Recommendations and Reviews

300th Review: Dairy of a Madman (1963)

It's my 300th review, everyone!...And I had totally forgotten, and thus hadn't planned anything out to review ahead of time. Whoops. Thankfully the movie I'm looking at for my 300th review (which was an immutable one for reasons explained here), stars Vincent Price, which is makes it a worthy pick for this milestone, I suppose...

Simon Cordier is a magistrate in 1800's era France, and has just arranged for a man convicted of numerous murders to be executed. Just before dying, though, the man pleads wth Cordier to believe that he was being controlled by a malevolent being. Cordier is disbelieving, but soon finds himself being haunted by an unexplainable presence. Chalking it up to stress, Cordier decides with the help of a doctor that he needs to break away from his lonely and secluded lifestyle, and so he takes back up his old hobby of sculpting, even finding a beautiful model in a woman named Odette. Soon, however, the evil presence known as the Horla takes control of Cordier, compelling him to kill...

Adapted from Guy de Maupaussant's short story The Horla, a progenitor for the Cthulhu Mythos, Diary of a Madman is watchable, but not very good.

The biggest problem with this movie is that it doesn't live up to its potential in any way! It could have told a really interesting story, with Lovecraftian themes, but instead, there's very little plot concerning the Horla, and are large stretches where he doesn't even appear!

The film is pretty inconsistent too, concerning its antagonist. For a start, is the Horla a physical being or not? If he's just invisible, but has a corporeal presence, why doesn't Cordier just sock him one? Secondly, the Horla speaks accusingly to Cordier about him being evil, and how he must pay for his crime, yet makes him commit vicious murders, and other acts of evil.

None of the characters in this movie are all that likable. Simon is, but can't help but be controlled by the Horla and murder people, while Odette is a cheating goldigger, and her husband Paul is a dick.

I've never read the short story this is based on, but apparently Diary of a Madman isn't regarded as a very good adaptation. It's tolerable enough for the most part, but then comes the last 20 minutes, which show that the power of a cross is enough to break the Horla's spell. Cosmic Horror fans as well as Guy de Maupassant himself can't be very happy at this development, given that it's entirely contrary to the idea in this genre of fiction that humanity is powerless against vast cosmic forces beyond its control.

The look of this movie is pretty stiff. It's almost entirely set indoors, in dull drawing rooms, and the scenes outside are almost always really obviously on indoor sets. It's annoying! Could they not have actually filmed in a cemetery? They could've at least built a small fake one outdoors, to at least get the sky looking convincing!

There's barely any violence here, and what there is is pretty lame, especially given how a newspaper describes the murder in the following scene! The head hidden in clay looks good though, and is a nice reveal.

The acting in Diary of a Madman is passable. Vincent Price is obviously good as the protagonist, but he doesn't get much to work with (until the climax, that is), while the rest of the cast are decent. The guy voicing the Horla is ok, but he's not particularly intimidating, and the performance seemingly isn't as good as it could have been. Originally, the director Reginald Le Borg wanted the Horla's voice to be distorted, but producer Edward Small instead wanted the voice to sound normal. That's a shame, as this antagonist would feel so much more alien and Lovecraftian had the voice been distorted. One final thing to note is how amusingly American France is in this movie.

To finish, Diary of a Madman is an ok movie, but nothing great, and I don't recommend it...

Bravoman: Super Unequaled Hero of Excellence (2013-2014) and Wonder Momo (2014)

A few years back, website Shiftylook was hired by games company Namco Bandai to produce webcomics for them for obscure characters, in the hopes of increasing their popularity, and leading to wider avenues for them, such as new games. The two most popular of these efforts are Bravoman, and Wonder Momo. Both are irreverent takes on their original games, which were brutally difficult, and barely remembered titles from the late 80's. Unfortunately, due to crappy business management, which led to a series of unwise decisions, Shiftylook has ceased to exist, even to the point where its website has shut down permanently, and its dozens of series and hundreds of comic strips are completely lost to the world for the foreseeable future (minus a couple of print volumes). Worse still, the Bravoman game the comic's popularity spawned was just a crappy mobile game apparently rife with bugs. How terrible! Shouldn't at least keeping up the website be a priority? Otherwise they spent their money and have literally nothing to show from it. Well, enough of that. Before Shiftylook's complete termination, the other project the webcomics produced were a bundle of webtoons, with two based on Bravoman and Wonder Momo, respectively, that I'll be looking at today...

Bravoman: Super Unequaled Hero of Excellence

Bravoman is a regular guy gifted with the powers of stretchiness and submarine transformation by Alphaman, an alien from the planet Alpha. Together, the two fight crime wherever it may be, from the maniacal threats of the evil Doctor Bomb, to robot clone armies, giant death robots, Capricorn sea serpents, zombie cowboys, as well as unwanted crushes from murderous ninja princesses. All n a day's work for Bravoman, Super Unequaled Hero of Excellence!...

This series doesn't get off to the best of starts with the first episode, which, while not bad, isn't particularly funny. Following then, however, things immediately pick up, with a series of highly entertaining five-minute shorts. The series is a goofy and self-aware take on superhero tropes, and it works.

There are plenty of fourth-wall breaking jokes, which can be hit or miss. They get creative at times, but they can also get a bit tiresome with their overuse. Thankfully they never feel really unwelcome, and even if they're not as successful, they never bomb.

The rest of the comedy in the show is pretty funny. Nothing hysterical, but it'll likely always bring a smile to your face. Especially funny is the one episode which is one big faux 'previously on' segment, full of totally absurd hijinks.

The characters are all over-the-top, all with their own unique characteristics, from the positive Bravoman, the wise and kinda-sarcastic 'true hero' sidekick Alphaman, English-challenged villain Doctor Bomb, psychotic yandere Waya Hime, the 'dark opposite vigilante' Anti-Bravoman, who never seems to get the better end of things, and others, some one-shot, others recurring, like Wonder Momo, and Bravo Woman, who's a gruff, take-no-nonsense badass.

The voice acting is all really good, with talented people like Rob Paulsen, Romi Dames, Jennifer Hale, and Dee Bradley Baker, who turn in great performances all-round.

Bravoman's animation is really good. It's always fluid, and has many really well-handled moments for a webseries. A professionally done webseries of course, but still nowhere near the budgetary levels of TV stuff. Budget, in fact, plays into quite a few jokes, such as glorious offscreen battles, or joining forces with a novel solution to defeating the villain.

Likewise, the score is great too! We've got really good music althroughout, particularly the ending theme, which is a rockin' tune! The opening theme, sung by Rob Paulsen himself, is an amusing little ditty, while the series as a whole ends on a really great song over genuine ending credits, which brings a sense of emotion. The lyrics of the song aren't exactly the greatest, but that chord that plays as the camera zooms out over the city and into the stars is a really lovely way to end the series, on a triumphant and happy-melancholy note.

It's a shame that there are so few episodes of Bravoman, and it's highly doubtful that we'll ever get more. At least we can be thankful that what we got was largely a highly entertaining superhero comedy fest well worth remembering!...

Wonder Momo

Momoko is a regular klutzy teenage girl in Japan, who is suddenly gifted mysterious powers by an alien to transform into Wonder Momo. With these newfound powers, she must fight the evil Warudemon aliens before they can successfully conquer Earth...

To start, Wonder Momo is incredibly funny! Not only does it parody multiple anime conventions very well, but it also delivers a perfectly genuine anime in its own right too!

The parodies are dead on, down to the battle music, generic disposable monster armies, those flowery-written opening tunes with somewhat mangled English, the ditzy lead, the fan-service, and more.

Unfortunately those glowing positives really only apply to the first episode. The rest suffer from a few problems. They're certainly not bad, but as the show is played so straight, despite its inherent sillinesss, there's not that much room for jokes.

Wonder Momo's main problem is that the show is played so straight that its running time holds it back! With Bravoman, the short length is acceptable as it's just a series of comedy shorts, whereas Wonder Momo tells an actual ongoing narrative, and so 5 minutes feels way too short. The episodes tend to end very abruptly, and they don't get across or develop nearly as much as they should. For example, it isn't until Episode 4 of 5 when we finally learn what's even going on. And then the series ends on a cliffhanger, basically at the 25 minute mark, way before it could even truly begin. The characters also get the short end of the stick, being very underdeveloped.

Given the whole upskirt aspect that made the original Wonder Momo game infamous in the first place, and that this is sort-of a comedy, you'd expect a load of fanservice to be on display here, but the show has a surprisingly small amount of it.

One big positive (to really only the first episode, once again) is that the show has an extremely positive body image message. Momoko is a swimsuit model, and it's a job she really enjoys, wanting to become famous for it. At no point is there any shaming for her being a skimpy model, and Momoko is always glad when people recognize her from those magazines rather than embarrassed or ashamed.

The animation is pretty good, although the faces can look a bit odd at times.

The score to Wonder Momo is decent, with a fun and 80's-tastic battle theme, and a nice opening and ending song. Unfortunately there's a new ending theme for each episode. Not only was the first one fine enough on its own, but the rest aren't as good, some being repetitive and rather dull.

I highly recommend Wonder Momo's first episode, but nothing more. It's sadly a complete failure. It was too short, and finished way too soon. They might as well have done absolutely nothing...