Thursday, April 30, 2009

SUPERGUY: BEHIND THE CAPE

SUPER POWER GAINED FROM WATCHING THIS MOVIE: The Ability To Alter Reality Through The Magic Of Photoshop

THE CARD:

A dopey aw-shucks Godling; his alchy Dad; his raspy voiced Mom; his MILF sister; the triumph of Fake Jay Leno, Fake Larry King, and Fake Barbara Walters; and the most realistic and economic display of superpowers bestowed upon humankind since my last honeymoon.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Superguy has been protecting the Earth from wildfires, earthquakes, plane accidents, and hysterical women since the 1970s, and in this scorching documentary film his origin is exposed, his importance to the world is demonstrated, and his impact on all of our lives is dissected and laid out for all to see. He came from meager beginnings in small town America, grew up suddenly manifesting extraordinary powers, donned a costume to become a caped savior, and built a corporate empire based on his persona which is beloved across the globe. But his mission and his success have come with a price. As his heroic deeds expand, he is depended upon more and more, and when he fails, he fails spectacularly. People look up to him, worship him, and go insane trying to be like him. His larger than life role has alienated him from family, friends, and romance, and consequently he yearns for a normal life that he can never have. Despite being a friend to all of mankind, he is the loneliest man on the planet. This documentary peels off the layers of the icon in spandex, revealing this superhuman’s all-too human problems and the results are heartbreaking, amusing, and frightening at the same time.

THE FINISHER:

Superguy: Behind the Cape is a fairly well done mockumentary depicting the hypothesis of a superhero existing in the real world. Although not a laugh-out-loud chucklefest, the film does a fine job laying the sociological aspects of the premise with believable talking heads, family members, persons in the streets, and Superguy himself. Writers Bill Lae and Mark Teague do a good job replicating the gobbledygook of pop psychologists and so-called experts yet still manage to bring their points about super-heroism and stardom across with connotations of the absurdity that a completely “good” hero can exist in our corporate-controlled media-driven fame-seeking society. The low budget effects are done well enough to keep the basis of the film satirical and believable, if a bit outlandish. There are a few weaknesses such as the journalist/TV anchor people sequences, a couple of comical sequences involving his costume designer, and what he does in his spare time that are less compelling. While not so much an examination of a comic book superhero, Superguy manages to explore the pitfalls of superstardom, hero worship, fanaticism, and the subtle cynicism that rules our age that perhaps will never enable our society to trust a man dressed in tights and a cape or wearing a mask.

Um, yeah I wouldn’t know anything about that.

Peasants.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

GAGAMBOY (2004)

SUPER POWER GAINED FROM WATCHING THIS MOVIE: The Ability To Be Friendly in Your Neighborhood, Become A Wall-Crawler, Sense Like A Spider, And Crap On Copyright.

THE CARD:

The Filipino Peter Parker pimpin' Popsicles; sticky pot humping; pumpkin spooge; more tranny jokes than Jaye Davidson's 12th birthday; a roach sammich; a baffling John Holmes reference; Manila's chinless wonder; super-villainy by Kafka; the Mighty Choc Nut and Wee Wee; and the number one reason Stan Lee will spin in his grave – some day.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Irritating nerd Junie (Vhong Navarro) is a hapless ice cream vendor servicing the greater Acmeville area in the Philippines. His chief rival in the Popsicle business and his love for cutie Liani (Aubrey Miles) is the mustached and spiky-haired Dodoy (Jay Manolo). Junie is a chronic nice guy who gives free treats to the poor kids, but he’s also a bumbling idiot who can’t work up the nerve to proclaim his love for the lopsided-boobed Liani. Taking advantage of Junie’s incompetence, Dodoy squeezes into his territory and tempts her with flowers and fine furnishings. Meanwhile, a dump truck of nuclear waste that looks suspiciously like melted Halloween wax is dumped in the slums where a plucky spider and a nasty cockroach become infused with radiation. Junie is at the end of his ropes, out of a job, mourning his parents, and losing his girl. But with radioactive poisoning comes radioactive responsibility as he accidentally swallows the spider and is imbued with spectacular agility, fighting skill, and goop-spurting abilities that don’t involve … uh nevermind. With a renewed sense of confidence, Junie becomes Gagamboy (Spiderboy), protector of Acmeville, its poor, its downtrodden, its cross-dressed. Dodoy has a similar encounter with the radioactive cockroach and after he’s ingested the nasty bug (man, times are tough), he becomes Ipisman, half-man, half-roach, all dork. He leads a merry band of thugs and shakes things up in Acmeville including kidnapping Liani from possibly the most upsetting beauty contest in history. The final stage is set for a confrontation between these two nemeses, and nothing short of a tsunami or the almighty Weng-Weng (a REAL Filipino superhero), will stand in their way.

THE FINISHER:

If you like movies that display the intricate artistry of cinematography and set design, present the heights and depths of emotion through crafted performance, and resound with a visceral statement about the human condition, please by no means continue to read this. Gagamboy is a head-scratching oddity, a slapstick mish-mash of a cheap kung fu flick, marginal superhero action and cross-dressing burlesque. It’s also a radioactive barrel full of cheesy breezy culturally specific wackiness that probably played well in Manila, but not so much at Casa Tremendo. The movie is played for laughs primed with silly mugging at the camera, goofy dancing, and face-palming stupid physical gags. It very much feels like a live action cartoon in the spirit of the old Warner Brothers Looney Tunes, only they forgot to include actual entertainment. I don’t know, maybe it’s the cultural differences between Filipino and Tremendo, but the film’s lame attempts at madcap humor were inane and mostly insufferable. The storyline, when they stick to it and not veer off into some gag or strange tranny reference, is basic good versus evil and the romantic subplot is basic nice guy versus slimy jerk. The CG is fairly OK for a low budget project like this, but pretty much forgettable. Gagamboy is one of those movies you uncover and say to yourself, “Wow, I’ve seen the Turkish Spiderman, now I can see the Filipino Spiderman. Bad Movie Night, here I come!”, but then you actually watch it, hate yourself, and regret ever clicking on that Netflix link or liking bad movies. For a much more enriching experience, stick to the Japanese Spiderman live action show or dust off those old videotapes of the Electric Company.

Monday, April 27, 2009

SPECIAL (2006)

SUPERPOWER GAINED FROM WATCHING MOVIE: The Ability To Ask My Doctor About My Crushing Depression, Heartache, and Mild Gas

THE CARD:

He is Rappaport, the Wonder Geek Twins, Melanie Tillis, Dickhead Harry Dresden, Kenny Blankenship in the flesh, the only Meter Maid in the world who’s not a creepy prick, and Medicating the Superman Delusion.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Les (Michael Rappaport) is a lonely parking enforcement stuck in a humdrum life with no real purpose and multiple dead ends. His only friends are two brothers Joey (Josh Peck) and Everett (Robert Baker), a couple of jerky pothead comic book store clerks who share Les’ passion for superheroes. Seeking answers and something to fill the void in his life, Les enrolls in an experimental therapy program for the chronically depressed. Dr. Dobson (Jack Kehler) prescribes him a new drug called “Special”, a revolutionary antidepressant that’s been wildly successful in clinical testing. Les takes the pills and shortly thereafter experiences amazing side effects including the power of flight, teleportation, telepathy, and time travel. The problem is, these abilities exist only in his head. A completely deluded Les then quits his job, puts on a costume with the “Special” logo on his back, and wanders the night fighting crime. He saves his romantic interest Maggie (Alexandra Holden), a local cashier at a market, from an attempted robbery but even this act of bravery hasn’t allowed him to build up the nerve to actually talk to her. Time goes on and his behavior gets more erratic as he tackles people in convenience stores he believes are “thinking” about crimes without actually committing them. This draws the attention of the police, a concerned and guilt-ridden Dr. Dobson, and the evil Exiler brothers Jonas (Paul Blackthorne) and Ted (Ian Bohen) who are corporate owners of the Special drug hoping for a big sale to a pharmaceutical giant and can’t stand the negative publicity Les’ antics are attracting. But despite help from his friends and Maggie, Les continues his heroic battle against super-villainy in his brain and he’s rapidly becoming a liability for the Exilers, an endearment for Maggie, and a life-threatening danger to himself and the color of the sky in his world.

THE FINISHER:

Despite a lackluster ending, Special lives up to its name as a subtle, well-shot, and finely structured low budget comedy about loneliness, desperation, and the inner superhero waiting to burst from within all of us. Don’t expect a dreary sobfest or rollicking laugh-a-minute good time, though. The movie is simple and moves at its own pace while building up a unique visual style with clever effects depicting Les’ “powers” and does a pretty good job of making us care about his plight through his assured but distressed narration. Rappaport, who in the past was known to overplay flamboyant or aggressive roles, pulls off a sympathetic and touching portrayal of what could have become a loathsome loser in search of a clue and a life. It’s not a simple thing to create a character that we can laugh at, sympathize and perhaps empathize at the same time but Rappaport almost makes it look easy. And because we see what he is seeing when he performs the super-heroics in his head, we are intimately drawn into his world of fabulous four-color illusion. The rest of the cast does a good job to support Les in his pursuit for hallucinatory justice, particularly Blackthorn as the heavy, but it’s Holden as the love interest who brings out the real emotion in Les, particularly when they discover that they both share the same feeling of being an outsider. Just like Les, Special strives to do its best despite its limitations and results in a poignant little movie about the unexpected strength of humanity at its lowest point.

Especially if you’re doped out on goofballs.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

THE DEAD ONE (2007)

SUPER POWER GAINED FROM WATCHING THIS MOVIE: The Ability To Remember Ashton Kutcher's Phone Number “Just In Case”

THE CARD:

A trip to Mexi-Crow, Beany Drago, Fez of the Living Dead, anti-Aztec Cheez Whiz, Sister Conchita Bucka-Wow-Wow, A Funny-Accented Mamacita Worth Resurrecting For, Like Water for Voice-Over, Lou Dobbs' Worst Nightmare, and deh be Mexi-spooks heah!

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Two Mexican illegal aliens traverse the scorching desert to reach America, one an decrepit old man (Billy Drago) and the other a young boy named Diego. The old guy spins a tale about the Aztec legend of the Sixth Sun, a period in the future in which the Aztecs will return and seek vengeance for their genocide at the hands of the Spanish conquistadors. He then informs Diego that he is the “chosen one”, the one who will one day bring the Sixth Sun to pass and destroy those who have desecrated the Aztec empire. He then cuts a symbol into his hand in a weird impromptu blood ceremony. Years later, Diego (Wilmer Valderrama) is all grown-up and living in East L.A. with his cute girlfriend Maria (Angie Cepeda) his Jewish homie Zak (Joel Moore). He is also haunted by mysterious visions, a ghostly voice (Alfonso Arau), and constant rain that seems to follow him around. He and Maria set up a date for Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), the Mexican festival that honors the dead from October 31st to November 2nd. He dresses up in a mariachi outfit and appropriate skull face paint, but he gets into an accident on the way over to meet Maria. He awakens completely disoriented and walks over to a cemetery to watch his own memorial ceremony in progress and quickly learns he's been dead for a year. Called El Muerto, he is taken in by Aparicio (Tony Plana), the cemetery caretaker who witnesses Diego's powers of resurrecting the dead, near invincibility, super strength, and permanent ghostly white face. As Diego struggles to understand what's happened to him, a dark force is beginning to envelop him and those that he loves. The evil manifests itself as the old man who has returned to force Diego to sacrifice Maria to initiate the first phase of the Sixth Sun. But El Muerto refuses and angers the hoary Aztec gods how are just itching to carve up some Spanish ass for what they did to their spread. So Diego will need to grow an undead pair, ditch the Fez cute/dumb mugging, and kick some vengeful indigenous anti-imperialist ass.

THE FINISHER:

The Dead One is based on a comic book by Javier Hernandez who wrote, drew, reproduced and probably self-distributed it as well. I presume the book captured the imagination of TV star Valderrama for its unique take on a Hispanic superhero with an origin deeply rooted in Mexican cultural tradition. And although the effort is admirable, the movie falls flat mostly due to a modest budget, a weak story, and an underused though stellar supporting cast. The first hour of the film is spent on Valderrama's agonizing over his transformation and coming to grips with his destiny, which unfortunately looks a lot like constipation. Consequently, little time is spent on character development and fleshing out the relationships between the principals, two elements of storytelling that low budget movies can afford. Another opportunity squandered is the underlying social commentary that I'm sure the comic book does a better job at addressing. The background mythology of the Aztecs is pretty much glossed over and presented here instead as generic evil voodoo bullshit. And lastly, the look of El Muerto leaves a lot to be desired. It's just Valderrama in discount Halloween make-up. But what they did do right in lieu of no budget for special effects is cast Billy Drago. That guy shows up as a hideous ghoul. It's hard to hate or be harsh or crap on The Dead One because the goal of creating a believable Hispanic hero isn't quite on any big Hollywood studio to-do list, a fact that's unfathomable to yours truly. Unfortunately, the movie falls victim to a lack of focus, super low budget, and not enough Mexican zombies.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

THE PHANTOM (1996)

SUPER POWER GAINED FROM WATCHING THIS MOVIE: The Ability To Wear A Skintight Outfit That Doesn't Expose Your Veiny Junk

THE CARD:

The hilarity of child abuse, Dexter's Dad the white slaver, a slumming Number Six, Prince of the Shitty, the original pre-Xanax Buffy, Catherine Zeta-Cheeseball, a slitherly Shang Tsung, the Phantom peeper, a smoke-free Skull Cave, more That Guys than a Hollywood deli lunch counter, and the hypnotic power of Billy Zane's sucked-in abs.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Back in the pre-sexy non-Somali pirate days, a young boy on a ship witnesses his father’s murder by said non-sexy pirates of the Sheng Brotherhood. He escapes their wrath and washes up on the shores of the African land of Bengala where he is raised by the local natives. The tribesmen take the boy’s arrival as a sign from their god, so he is trained to become the land’s protector – The Phantom (aka The Ghost Who Walks), a masked mystery man with amazing abilities and a dedication to preserving his homeland. Flash forward 400 years, the legacy of the Phantom continues with his descendent Kit Walker (Billy Zane) who fights off treasure seekers and kidnappers including tough thug Quill (James Remar). Walker’s compatriots include plucky Asian kid Zak (Chatpong “Jim” Petchlor), token Asian servant whose name I don’t remember, and faithful pet wolf Devil. Quill is searching for ancient artifacts called The Skulls of Togando that will aid his New York crime boss Xander Drax (Treat Williams) attain mystical powers to expand his enterprise across the world. New York anti-socialite Diana Palmer (Kristy Swanson) arrives on the island to investigate the goings-on for her uncle’s newspaper but is kidnapped by Drax’s henchwoman Sala (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Wacky chases involving sea planes, horses, and the Phantom’s crotch ensue but Quill and Sala manage to steal two of the three skulls and return to New York. There, the Phantom battles Drax’s henchmen, discovers Drax’s evil plot, and plays hopscotch with New York City taxicabs. Drax and his peeps return to Bengala to find the final skull with Phantom and Diana hot on their tail. They all encounter the fearsome Sheng Brotherhood led by Kabai Sengh (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) and all hell breaks loose on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride where bored men told this tale.

THE FINISHER:

The Phantom was created seventy years ago as a comic strip by Lee Falk, one of the most prolific comic book writers of all time. One could argue that his creation gave birth to the genre of the pulp superhero as he was one of the first to wear tights and a mask. Since then, there have been comic books, a movie serial, and two animated TV shows featuring the adventures of the Ghost Who Walks. And in the wake of 1989’s Batman, Hollywood struggled to ignite a similar movie franchise to appease the superhero-hungry movie audience. What they came up with are mostly bombs including 1991’s The Rocketeer and 1994’s The Shadow, both set in roughly the same time period as 1996’s The Phantom, a confused jumble of a movie that never really satisfies. (As an aside, I really like The Rocketeer). The film tries to reproduce and update the free-spirited adventure of movie serials while presenting an alternative to the dark sets and atmosphere of Batman with campy characters (Williams is hammed to the hilt as Drax), Indiana Jones-esque action, and a super duper keen do-gooder hero. But the characters are never fleshed out and the story is uninteresting. Plus, the origin of the Phantom is not clarified enough to allow you to give a shit about him or his cause. Swanson sleepwalks through her role as the spunky female lead and as Zane’s love interest resulting in below zero chemistry between the two. On the other hand, Zane is a total pro. He approaches everything he does with his own touch and infectious personality, from his heel role in Titanic to his charismatic demon in Demon Knight to the direct-to-DVD crap he’s unfortunately consigned to nowadays. I don’t understand why he’s not a bigger star. He’s a little odd looking (the pencil-thin eyebrows are distracting) but no more strange than say Val Kilmer. It’s possible that Zane was made to be a bad guy, making the transition to hero extraordinarily difficult. The ugly oozes a strange dark magnetism, the kind of shadowy back alley charm that would make you give up your only kid or drop your granny’s drawers. Although he constantly gets work, it’s a shame we don’t see him more in big releases and I wonder if we ever will see him as the big star he really should be. Anyway, The Phantom is a lame attempt to capture the spirit of a time long gone, and instead of wide-eyed youngsters cheering the seats, you have a wide-mouthed dorky blogger yawning on his couch.

Friday, April 24, 2009

COMIC BOOK PAJAMA PARTY (2004)

SUPERPOWER GAINED FROM WATCHING MOVIE: The Ability To Finally Approach That Cute Nerd Girl At Meltdown Comics

THE CARD:

Sexy Geeks in the City.

THE ANGLE:

This documentary film studies a varied group of women who get together in a comic book store, talk about their favorite superheroes and comic titles, and congregate later for an evening of brownies, Twister, and geeky talk while their male mouth-breathing cohorts gasp in wonder at their very presence.

Nerds.

THE FINISHER:

As more superhero and comic book-based movies dominate the world’s multiplexes, TV screens and cultural discourse, the clichĂ© of the comic book nerd as a hump-backed, greasy-haired, socially inept male denizen of a suburban basement rapidly becomes a sorely tired stereotype of the past. In this new age of acceptance, we now have hump-backed, greasy-haired, socially inept female denizens of suburban basements. Naw, just joshing. They live on the ground floor. No, really – contrary to the belief of certain Tremendo fans out there (you know who you are) – more women than ever are into comic books, to say nothing of science fiction, horror, animation, and other geeky pursuits. Maybe they’ve always been there and are now just bursting through the acid-free Mylar closet, proudly proclaiming their nerdity and showing off their geek pallor. Well regardless, I’m glad to see them and welcome them with open arms, especially at conventions decked out in Wonder Woman or Vampirella costumes. Ah, my pig-itude is showing. Comic Book Pajama Party is not fetish porn or a San Francisco bookstore theme. It’s a simple look into the lives and interactions of several women who happen to enjoy comic books. The women range in backgrounds, sizes, and tastes but all fundamentally appreciate the comic book medium and as demonstrated by their enthusiasm, love it. In their geeky sleepover, they cover topics from the fixation of the female form in horror and superhero books to the best Sailor Moon character to the impact of comics in their own lives and loves. The conversations are by no means groundbreaking or intrinsically revealing, but they do demonstrate how geek knows no gender boundaries. Hell, even the blatantly sexist crap has a few female fans. The doc was shot on a very low budget and the main problems with the film have to do with its very amateurish feel and poor sound editing. But it’s been five years since the release of Comic Book Pajama Party and the number of women and girls into comics and all manner of geekery has expanded exponentially. Don’t believe me? Just visit our expert friends at PinkRayGun.com. This one-stop shop for comic book, movie, TV reviews, interviews, opinion, features, and online comics is created, written, and operated by some of the most talented geeky ladies on the web today. (An d a few token dudes for geeky measure). It really is a cool site and is Tremendo-Approved.

To my pals at PinkRayGun, consider yourself plugged.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

MERCURY MAN (2006)

SUPERPOWER GAINED FROM WATCHING MOVIE: The Ability To Jab With My Thighs.

THE CARD:

Lucha-Spidey, the Thai Michelle Yee-oww!, Osama Bin Mopey, Triumph of the Whitey Bilkers, evil Americans and their lust for cheap trinkets, the frostiest hotty since my third wife, the kung fu chick was a dude, dubbing by my drunk college roommates, and one night in Bangkok and the world’s your Marvel comic rip-off.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

A little boy in Cambodia (let’s call him ‘Chuckles’ – sorry, didn’t get the name) has amazing psychic powers which he uses for street cons and to manipulate the minds of his lessers. One day, a gang of thugs kidnaps Chuckles and whisks him away to a lighthouse fortress in Thailand. Meanwhile, Chan (Wasan Khantaau) is a strong-willed but careless firefighter trying to be a hero and helping his fellow man by not appearing in a charity calendar. He is a super-fighter with remarkable martial arts skills but he thinks with his heart before his head which lands him in hot water with management. So a team of thuggish ninjas, who are probably aligned with the kidnappers, infiltrate a prison, incite a riot, start a fire, and release terrorist Osama Ali (Arnon Saisangchan), their boss and spiritual leader. Chan and his crew are dispatched and he arrives just in time to delay the breakout but is stabbed with an amulet which melts into this body and merges with his blood. The baddies make their escape long enough to tell Osama’s backstory which details the origin of his animosity towards America and its allies. Cue Bush montage, then follow with long, awkwardly worded speeches ill-suited for a comic book movie about being Muslim, killing kids, and making sacrifices. Squirm at will. Bad guys arrive at their lair where Chuckles is hooked up to a machine for some unknown purpose. Reuniting with his bad ass henchwoman Arena (Metinee Kingpayome), Osama lays out his plan for a devastating assault on American interests but needs the boy, another amulet, and the power flowing in Chan’s blood. With the help of amulet guardian Purima (Jinvipa Kheawkunya), Chan recuperates while his kung-fu tranny sister Grace (Parinya Jaroenphonand) and his doting Mom struggle to understand what's going on. The amulet has granted him startling agility, the ability to channel heat, and the power to control energy. He becomes the masked hero Mercury Man and makes a name for himself stopping crime and saving people from disaster. He and Purima make pursuing Osama their mission and nothing looks to stop them. But Osama’s minions are on to Mercury Man and have discovered his weakness. And Osama will get his revenge which, like the real Osama, will somehow involve perverting his faith, talking tough into an Eighties VHS camera, and wearing chanklas.

THE FINISHER:

The creative forces behind this Thai superhero movie also produced the awesome Ong-Bak, a martial arts film starring the astounding Tony Jaa. And it's the fight choreography and stuntwork that make Mercury Man, which I happened to stumble across, worth watching. But the superhero stuff? Not so much. Although you’ll find plenty of Spiderman references (even MM’s costume – a mix of Venom and Rayo de Jalisco), the movie looks and feels more like a slightly above average kung-fu flick. The first half of the film is muddled in an over-complicated plot, the psychic kid storyline is lost somewhere in the middle only to tagged on at the end, and the whole holy war spiel comes off as contrived, slapped-together, and silly. But this is a movie about a guy whose powers are derived from jewelry so you shouldn’t expect a biting political satire. There’s a hilarious scene where Arena, the henchwoman, explains Osama’s motives using religious, political, and cultural references almost legitimately. Mercury Man, upon hearing this, says, “I don’t understand” and then tilts his head like a befuddled puppy dog. But when Arena explains the mystical hoo-ha, magical stuff, and the power of the amulet, MM is ready for action! Well, maybe I should blame the hysterical dubbing, but nonethelessm the script is unintentionally hilarious. But as the story clods along, the awkwardness is broken up by pretty good fighting scenes, but nothing even close to extraordinary as Ong-bak. As a martial arts superhero Mercury Man gets a degree; but as a breakthrough epic, Mercury Man can’t get past the freezing point.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (2007)

SUPERPOWER GAINED FROM WATCHING MOVIE: The Ability To Scream “Cowabunga, Dude!” And Not Get Punched In The Face

THE CARD:

Picard the Mr. Incredible Clone, Buffy the Turtle Wrangler, Morpheus the Voice Over, Zowie Ziyi the Yum Yum, Akiro the Ratty Sensei, Human Torch was denied a bank loan and had to do this movie, a perfect recipe for Turtle Thanksgiving (4 turtles), and a Rapidly-Middle-Aging-Sick-And-Tired- Of-This-CGI-Cartoon-Crap-Masked-Mutant Movie Blogger.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

America’s favorite awesome quartet and lunchbox theme the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) have broken up after defeating their arch nemesis Shredder. Spiritual leader Splinter (Mako) meditates, contemplates the universe in silence, and watches soap operas. Brainy Donatello works phone tech support and wards off phone sex pedophiles. Moody Raphael dons an armored suit and dispenses his own dark brand of justice on the streets of New York as the vigilante Nightwatcher. Surfer dude Michelangelo does kids’ parties, eats pizza, and I’m pretty sure drops ‘shrooms. And troubled leader Leonardo haunts the jungles of South America protecting a village from marauders while trying to find himself. Friends April (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Casey (Chris Evans) helplessly look on, but a new threat to the world will bring them together and force them to settle their differences and find purpose once again. Winters (Patrick Stewart) is a powerful businessman with a mysterious past. He is thousands of years old having gained immense power from a portal opened to another dimension. This breach between realities gave him immortality but cost him his powerful generals who were turned to stone. The opened portal also allowed thirteen monsters to enter our world and they have been creating havoc ever since. With the unwitting help of April and wily ninja Karai (Ziyi Zhang), Winters has resurrected his minions to hunt down the monsters for some secret purpose. But now the generals have turned on him and have their own plan that contradicts their master’s. So our four wisecracking karate turtles have to set aside their differences and unite once more to save the world and allow me to jack up the price of my TMNT tube socks and banana huggers on eBay.

THE FINISHER:

I never got into the whole TMNT craze when back in its heyday these four lovable Renaissance terrapins ruled comics, Saturday morning TV, and toys. I just didn’t get the appeal or the concept, and I’m a dork who collects Porky Pig and lucha libre toys. But I guess the notion of butt-kicking wise-ass reptiles speaks to someone, hell - millions of someones - and the thing blew through the roof. This newest computer animated version reintroduces the TMNT team at a more mature level with a fairly fresh degree of angst. Donatello and Michelangelo have let themselves drift into a humdrum workaday mindless routine. Rafael is struggling to deal with his anger at being ignored, underestimated and misunderstood. Leonardo is a distressed soul who is seeking redemption and forges a new spiritual path for himself. Jesus Christ, they are fucking turtles. But they kick ass most of the time and manage to whittle away ninety minutes entertainingly. Lacking the visual pizazz of a Pixar flick, the animation is nonetheless fairly polished and at times stunning. The fight scene between Leonardo and Rafael in the rain is spectacularly rendered and textured and without a doubt the best sequence in the film. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is action-packed, mayhem-fueled, and fanboy-satisfied for that mutated turtle lover in you.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

BLACK SUPAMAN (2008)

SUPERPOWER GAINED FROM WATCHING MOVIE: The Ability To Set Your People Back 200 Years In Less Than 90 Minutes.

THE CARD:

Master P-U, The Yakov Smirnoff of Africa, Bad Santa’s Bad Help, Sassy Grannies Gettin’ Some, Klinger in the da ‘hood, Busta Keaton, 420 24-7, film editing by Commodore 64, and the new trend in alternative sentencing: make a dumb video.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Bernard (Master P) is a disillusioned homie getting laid but not getting paid in the New Orleans of 2069 which coincidently looks a lot like 1992 Inglewood. Out of a job and purpose in life, Bernard is hassled by his grumpy dope-smoking Dad, an annoying cross-dressing crackhead, and neighborhood bully Jaw Breaker (Ce Ce McCowen) while obsessing over booty-licious journalist Laura Lane (Claudia Jordan). As he sees his town crumbling from crime and bad joint-smoking manners, Bernard decides he needs to do something positive in life. So in lieu of volunteer work or college, he turns to urban vigilantism. The crackhead gives him a suit and some pot that when smoked correctly grants him invincibility, flying powers, and the ability to pronounce “er” correctly. So Black Supaman hips and hops around his hood stopping crime, entertaining the kids, getting his grandma laid, perpetuating stereotypes, checking out girls’ butts, and getting high. Mr. King, I present to you your Dream.

THE FINISHER:

Rapper Master P has succeeded in ruining many of my interests over the years. First, he destroyed music by merely existing. Then, he took on the monumental task of making pro wrestling look stupid by forming the No Limit Soldiers, a stable of poor excuses for hip-hop wrestlers that crapped on the already poop-filled WCW in the late 90s. Now he devastates superhero movie with this shot-on-video, barely decipherable, and completely brain-meltingly stupid Black Supaman. Basically a series of ghetto shtick, pot gags, and “Aw daaaaaamn!” jokes, the “movie” is a seventy-minute mess. Constant rap background music makes it impossible to understand the actors in the few scenes where they are even equipped for sound. The editing was supervised by Ray Charles. The script was written in a Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffle napkin – and that’s the seventh draft. The misleading description of the film states that Black Supaman was set in New Orleans in the future, a setting ripe for a satirical farce. But then you realize that the man behind the camera is inexperienced, over-the-hill, and mediocre rapper Master P. There’s really nothing more that can be said about this insulting, brainless, and not even funny-bad waste of time. Oh, and the movie is not very good either.

Monday, April 20, 2009

ZEBRAMAN (2005)

SUPERPOWER GAINED FROM WATCHING MOVIE: The Ability To Be Continually Surprised By The Crazed Weirdness Of Those Wacky Japanese

THE CARD:

A Striped Superhero from the wacky, warped, and wicked mind of Miike, a Crabby Head that’s not Andy Rooney, Mighty Pant-Filling Pooper Rangers, Agent STD, Lime Jelly Babies, Paging Dr. Gori & the Faithful Karos, Tons of Nickelodeon Slime, a blobby villain that’s not Peter Ustinov, possibly the best catchphrase ever, and Hello ZebraNurse!

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

School supervisor Shin'ichi Ichikawa (Sho Aikawa) gets no respect. His students hate him. His wife and daughter ignore him. His son has lost complete faith in him. And perhaps with good reason because Shin’ichi is a rather unexciting, insecure, and all-round inadequate kind of guy. While his teen daughter is out catting around, his son weeps and mopes, and his wife whores, he spends his evenings sewing together an elaborate costume based on a Japanese TV superhero known as “Zebraman”. He then prances around his room like a sad little monkey and pretends he’s Earth’s protector. Everyone laughs at him behind his back and co-workers are starting to wonder if he’s cracking up. One day he meets a little boy in a wheelchair who is new to the school and is taken under Shin’ichi’s care. The little boy shares the same wonder and excitement over Zebraman as he does, and Shin’ichi feels like he’s found a kindred spirit who doesn’t vomit or shit their pants at the sight of him. Meanwhile, the Japanese Department of Defense sends two agents (one has crabs) to Shin’ichi’s town to investigate a recent string of killings perpetrated by a murderer who may be extraterrestrial in origin. Shin’ichi’s friendship for the boy intensifies as does his feelings for the boy’s single Mom. Bolstered by the boy’s faith in him, Shin’ichi dons the black and white stripped costume and roams the night in search of the killer. When he stumbles across him, he’s a crab-headed creature with immense powers and ninja scissor fighting abilities. But Shin’ichi discovers that he too has incredible abilities such as a powerful horse-like back kick and the devastating Zebra Bomb finishing move. Zebraman conquers his foe, but his problems are only beginning. While trying to find out how he gained his powers, Shin’ichi uncovers a vast alien conspiracy that’s gooier than the bottom of a nine-year-old’s movie theater seat. What’s more - he also finds a mysterious script from the old show that eerily mirrors his own life in detail. And this episode's storyline has a sad ending in store for the boy, for Zebraman, and for all of wherever prefecture these jokers live.

THE FINISHER:

There are few filmmakers working today that are as prolific as Japan’s Takashi Miike. There are even fewer that are as unique in signature and style. And there are even fewer fewer as completely weird, whacked out, and crazier than a geisha house bedbug. His long list of films reflects his interest in the ultra-violent and sexual, the practice of visual agitation, pitch black comedy, and the absurd insanities of being. Plus, he is one kooky fried egg. In the mid-2000s, Miike took a brief respite from such visceral fare as Ichi the Killer and Gozu and made a couple of kid-friendly films: The Great Yokai War (recommended) and Zebraman, a satirical, bizarre, and ultimately fond reflection of Japanese TV action heroes such as Ultraman and Kamen Rider. The movie is part 70s spot-on tokusatsu spoof, part schoolhouse drama, and part surreal satire. And although it (like most Japanese cinema) drags, the movie also works as a parody of American superhero movies as Miike pokes fun at the genre’s structural pitfalls, childish and simpleminded premises, and the childish sexual fantasies of the genre’s adult followers. But the movie also appears to embrace what it’s mocking as the story evolves into an affirmation of the hero’s faith in his dreams and the belief others have transposed upon him. And there’s lot of green slime. Kids love that shit. Kids and adult will also love the smash-bang final boss fight in the end, making it impossible not to root for Shin’ichi and his delusion come to life. Zebraman drools with irony while remaining frenetically ludicrous, more fun than a barrel of goop, and gloriously super-happy ichiban, America-san.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

THE SPECIALS (2000)

SUPER POWER GAINED FROM WATCHING THIS MOVIE: The Ability To Write A Review About A Movie Called ‘The Specials’ And Not Make A Single Reetner Joke

THE CARD:

An uptight Sandman, an indestructible American Maya, a Kennedy with blue balls, that lovable potato-eating prick Sam Seaborn, Office Pam, Sabrina Witch, and Deep Space Leeta cameos, a long-awaited Kip Winger reference, a tubby genius, a power-smothering soccer mom, a blobby alien, a dimwitted titan, the director’s house in Silverlake, the sheer journalistic greatness of Johnny Mountain, and a quirky good time with the middle class of the superpowers.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

The Specials are America’s middle-tier superhero team. Their roster includes laser-shooting leader Strobe (Thomas Haden Church), dura-skinned Ms. Invincible (Paget Brewster), shrinking Minute (‘my-noot’) Man (James Gunn), the charismatic bug Weevil (Rob Lowe), energy-bursting and perpetually horny Amok (Jamie Kennedy), bitter bitch Deadly Girl (Judy Greer), suffocating mother Power Chick (Kelly Coffield), goofy-morphing-E.T. Alien Orphan (Sean Gunn), newbie egg-laying Nightbird (Jordan Ladd), not-as-weak-as-his-namesake U.S. Bill (Mike Schwartz), the eight-bodied one-mind VIII, and tubby genius Mr. Smart (Jim Zuvelic). They are called when a flock of full-bowled seagulls threatens your houseboat, when a gang of septuagenarians bogarts the soup bar at Luby’s, or when the vice president gets kidnapped. They are the oddballs of super-powered herodom, but their time in the limelight is coming, in the form of the Academy Awards for superheroes: action figures! But inter-personal issues put a strain on the team: Strobe is so self-absorbed he ignores the need of his compatriots; Weevil is being wooed by a rival superteam while secretly banging Ms. Invincible; rehabilitated Amok is contemplating a return to evil deeds, U.S. Bill can’t find his own ass, Deadly Girl and Minute Man are in denial over their feelings for each other, and shy new member Nightbird is disillusioned by the pettiness of her childhood heroes. But plastic, multi-articulated redemption is coming, but unfortunately their shining moment is fleeting as the toy company releases an inaccurate, monstrous, and not very play-friendly version of our favorite atomic dorks. The team breaks up, the future dims, and who knows if they will ever muster the courage to save the Earth from poopy birds, hungry Grandpas, and Joe Biden.

THE FINISHER:

Released a year after the affable and very similar Mystery Men, The Specials is a lighthearted, amusing, and low-budget look at the normal lives of average, everyday super-powered people. There are no world-ending conspiracies, no malevolent villains to conquer, and no money to spend on special effects. And this lack of comic book movie staples certainly works to the movie’s advantage, as we take a look into not only the world of dysfunctional superheroes, but also emotionally inept human beings who have to get beyond their quirks and hang-ups and function as a team. Sounds like any day at Tremendo HQ I can tell you. Due to its short running time, story structure, and look, the movie most of the time feels like a TV show pilot which minus the f-bombs and c-words might have actually worked. Well, unless it’s a Fox sitcom. Writer James Gunn, a rumored comic book geek, fashions some appealing and comical characters, carefully crafts them from superhero archetypes and transforms them into real people, the kind you probably hang out with, commiserate with, and call your friends. Strobe is the clueless egotist, Weevil is the self-serving egotist, Ms. Indestructible is the miserable spouse, Deadly Girl is the depressed misanthropist, Minute Man is everyone’s doormat, Amok is not trusted and therefore dismissed, U.S. Bill is the unintentional comedy relief, Mr. Smart’s intellect creates more problems than it solves, Power Chick and Alien Orphan are a misfit family, and Nightbird is the self-doubting ingĂ©nue. Yup, sounds like my kind of crowd. Plus there's a really clever character called VIII who could have had a movie all its own. I'll let you judge for yourself. The actors, particularly the women, all turn in good performances and even though the laughs aren’t exactly volleyed, each of the actors does a good job switching from wacky to sincere at the appropriate times. The Specials is indeed a special thing – an independent genre movie with a campy spirit, down-to-Earth chuckles, and a welcomed respite from high-budgeted smash-pow headaches.

Friday, April 17, 2009

THE GUYVER (1991)

SUPER POWER GAINED FROM WATCHING THIS MOVIE: The Ability To Watch A Live Action Anime Movie And Not Go Into Seizures

THE CARD:

Luke PaycheckSeeker, the towering acting talent of Jimmie “J.J.” Walker, Guy who kinda looks like Drop Johnson, Michael “Effing” Berryman, a unfortunately fully-clothed Linnea Quigley cameo, a buggy Dr. Carl Hill, a serious lack of tentacle copulation, and War of the Guys in Rubber Suits, Battle Sports Mascot Royale, Mighty Dorky Power Dweebs aka ... ah well... you get the gist.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

An awkwardly worded text scroll prologue sets us up the proceedings in a nutshell: eons ago, aliens arrived on Earth and genetically altered humans to use them as weapons to be ruled by some cosmic doofus called the Zoalord, who has now risen to power as Fulton Balcus (David Gale), CEO of mega-corporation Chronos. Apparently all humans can transform into gooey and monstrous creatures with fantastic powers, drooling chins, and zippers down our spine. However, a piece of alien technology that enables a powerful weapon called The Guyver, the ultimate human/alien soldier, is missing. Balcus and his hammy minions Lisker (Michael Berryman), Striker (Jimmie Walker) and Ramsey (Peter Spellos) rough-up and murder scientist Segawa (Grag Paik) who knows where this device might be found. But the villains fail and retreat to their slimey lair and leave CIA agent Max Reed (Mark Hamill), who was supposed to meet Segawa and trade info, hanging. Max locates Segawa’s daughter Mizky (Vivian Wu) and informs her of the news leaving mulleted kung-fu wannabe and Mizky-wooer Sean Barker (Jack Armstrong) hanging. While Mizky and Max go on a quest to seek the killers, Sean literally stumbles upon the Guyver and transforms into an Ultraman-ish cyborg hero, kicks multi-ethnic street gang ass, and jumps around a lot. The Zoalord scuzzballs catch up with Sean and pretty much lay him to waste, but they have sorely underestimated the power of the Guyver and have not seen the last of him, a tragic fact that Richard Dean Anderson can surely attest.

THE FINISHER:

The Guyver is an adaptation of a Japanese comic book or manga that was released in a time when Japanese fantasy and animation or anime was just crossing over into widespread popularity in the late 80s/early 90s. Unfortunately, the movie, a silly but entertaining monster fest, didn’t jibe with audiences and never found a stride despite a couple of sequels that were released later. The story meanders and is filled with ridiculous dialogue and awkward direction, but the real standout are the impressive creature effects by Screaming Mad George and Steve Wang. The stuntmen move fluidly in these elaborate costumes that are highly detailed and feature some nice details to satisfy the effects geek in you. Plus there are pretty cool transformation scenes with the bad guy and Hamill as a giant crab/cockroach/thingy that are definite highlights. But there’s not much more than that. Leads Armstrong is as vanilla as they come and Wu is just a giant-gremlin chased screechy damsel in distress. But Gale is bombastically wonderful as the vile Balcus, Berryman chomps on scenery like his Hills Have Eyes alter ego, and Hamill is his usual post-Star Wars crabby self - and that's a good thing. So, Tremendites and Tremendoids, if you pick this flick up some Saturday night, set phasers to “brain cell kill”, forget your Zoalord ancestry, and just have a good time.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

JUSTICE LEAGUE: STARCROSSED (2004)

SUPER POWER GAINED FROM WATCHING THIS MOVIE: The Ability To Steal The Girlfriend Of A Winged Dude Who Clucks And Lays Grenades

THE CARD:

Hawkgirl with jungle fever; a Green Lantern brother with a taste for bird; selfish martyr Bat; Big Blue Boy Scout Supes; Woman Woman and her usual ass-kicking hotness; wisecrack in a Flash; my second favorite Martian; an Mexican Thanagarian Cuckold; Kragger the Discount Stereo Hawkdude; the curious absence of a Winger soundrack, and the niftiest love triangle of super powers since Krushev’s crush on Jackie Kennedy’s bath slippers.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

The Justice League (Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Martian Manhunter, Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkgirl) contend with a terrorist threat against Washington, D.C. and as the rest of the team patrol the area, Green Lantern and Hawkgirl share a little snuggle time as their burgeoning romance intensifies. But the dating bliss is interrupted when what was first thought to be a domestic threat turns out to be a Thanagarian warship arriving on Earth with dire news for its inhabitants. The Thanagarians are Hawkgirl’s people and their leader reveals to the U.N. that Hawkgirl was sent to Earth years ago to study its people, security, and culture to prepare it for involvement in a centuries-old Thanagarian cosmic war. But it’s all a ruse. The Thanagarians, led by Hawkgirl’s old buff Hawk-Squeeze, mean to use Earth as a strategic chain of planets to infiltrate their enemy’s heavily shielded space. And that means the Earth will be destroyed when their attack is ready. To make matters even worse, Hawk-Squeeze is still in love with Hawkgirl and poor ol’ Green Lantern is tossed to the side. When the League uncovers the Thanagarian plot, they attempt to thwart the Hawks’ plans but are easily defeated as the Thanagarians knew in advance each hero’s weakness based on information gleaned from Hawkgirl. The Thanagarians then establish permanent martial law across the planet as they build their huge super-weapon and imprison the League in energy cages. But a million tricky turkeys with Kryptonite cannons and right-wing ideals can’t match the can-do attitude of Earth’s super friends. The JL will have to figure out how to escape birdy prison, foil this insidious plot, and deal with the greatest betrayal they’ve ever faced since the unfortunate Aquaman/Shamu incident.

THE FINISHER:

Justice League: Starcrossed is a direct to video movie based on the hit Cartoon Network series that rejuvenated the former Superfriends hero team from DC Comics. The film is part of a renaissance of sorts for DC animated portrayals outside the comics that started with the excellent Batman: The Animated Series in the early 90s. The Batman show was followed up by a Superman show, a popular Teen Titans cartoon, and then a first-rate Justice League series that has gone through several changes in line-up, title, and format. But what all the series share in common is exceptional writing and plotting with admirable voice performances worthy of the legacy of each classic character. Gone are the stiff and simplistic (but fondly remembered) stories and moralizing of the old Superfriends. The new Justice League series storylines were more epic in scope, more socially relevant, and more faithful to the spirit of the characters and the world they inhabit. The animation, pacing, and action are all top notch. to boot. The creative people behind recent DC animation are presenting stories that are usually eons beyond the live action crap that costs millions (Dark Knight excepted, of course). Justice League: Starcrossed is a rousing adventure, rich with characterizations, conflict, and yeah a little emotion, that offers plenty to keep kids’ attention as well as pleasing aspects for the parent and unjaded non-sarcastic comic book nerd alike.

Um, yeah. Good luck finding one of those.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

CATWOMAN (2004)

SUPER POWER GAINED FROM WATCHING THIS MOVIE: The Inability To Refuse A Big Paycheck For An Awful Movie Following An Oscar Win

THE CARD:

Writhey CGI Berries; GTA: Cat City, Your One-Stop Shop for Superpowers: The Dump; Ben Bratt the Big Tamale, kitty-cat kung-fu, Six Feet Blunder, tubby Lois Griffith, the world's worst Ferris wheel, stunts by the Cirque de So-lazy, a Jaguar butt-bump, and far too many pussy jokes to mention here. Ahem.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Patience (Halle Berry) is a struggling designer working for a cosmetics corporation that mistreats, exploits, and works her like a dog. But Patience bears her namesake and pushes on, trying to impress her shithead bosses while yucking it up with commiserating pal Sally (Alex Borstein) and being harassed by her rude biker neighbors. Toss in sexy Latino cop Tom Lone (Benjamin Bratt) after her kit 'n kaboodle and Patience's life looks like a full and frequently visited litter box. Laurel Hedare (Sharon Stone) is the evil head of said corporation which is on the brink of creating a groundbreaking new facial treatment that will rejuvenate old skin, but unfortunately it carries an inconvenient side effect: painful death. Well, death if not purchased and used regularly and in great quantities which is guaranteed to keep the company rolling in the dough. One night, Patience accidentally stumbles across the truth about the product and she is summarily dispatched down an industrial waste drain. But a mystical stray cat with a magic necklace saves her from the brink of death and grants her powers found in any common house tabby: night vision, unnatural dexterity, and the ability to slam dunk. Under the tutelage of mysterious cat-lady Ophelia (Frances Conroy), Patience becomes Catwoman, defender of the innocent, righter of wrongs, and licker of greased-up abs. By day she pursues a romantic liaison with Detective Lone and at night she tries to bring down Hedare and her insidious plans. But Hedare frames her for the murder of her husband, the CEO, and Catwoman has to step up her game plan, sabotage Hedare's empire, and eat lots of lasagna.

THE FINISHER:

I really feel that there's nothing more I can add to what's already been said and written about the awfulness of Halle Berry's Catwoman, a silly, embarrassing, and ridiculous reboot of the thieving feline comic book character. But, what the hell, I’ll say it anyway – Catwoman once again adds fuel to the fire regarding the wide speculation that Hollywood hates us. And I’m not just talking about comic book fans. Hollywood, as seen through the eyes of Catwoman director Pintof, despises moviegoers everywhere. It abhors our very being, spits in the face of our common sense, and pulls its shorts to its knees, squats, and curls a stinky brown one out of its fetid stinkhole and plops it right smack dab onto our intellect. Hollywood is a gigantic laughing evil Mardi Gras clown head spewing snakes and fiery lizards out its gaping nostrils while Pintof gleeful pulls at its hair like a mad puppeteer and masturbates ferociously to the tune of our suffering and the ringing of cash registers. With that out of the way, I’ve got to issue a newsflash and state that Berry is one hellacious looking broad. But not even her willowy body, supple breasts, and silken skin can save the utter unpleasantness of this movie which has got to be one of the dumbest, sloppiest, and dunderheaded pieces of tripe I’ve seen in a while. The makers of the film waste a perfect opportunity to bring a rebellious but realistically empowered female comic character to life and instead squander it away with supernatural mumbo jumbo and insipid action. Superficial and one-dimensional, Catwoman looks like something eked out in a marketing meeting where dimwit producers hashed a deal to attract boys with boobs and girls with costumes and make-up (the main plot does concern an evil cosmetics company) and created something of epically bad and unfortunately forgettable proportions. The ending does set up future adventures which will never come as the flick bombed, but if they do, I’ll pass. I prefer my catwomen batshit crazy.

Monday, April 13, 2009

GENERATION X (1996)

SUPER POWER GAINED FROM WATCHING THIS MOVIE: The Ability To Channel The Rubberfaced Hamminess Of Jim Carrey And Somehow Get Away With It.

THE CARD:

Max Headroom the Mutant Mutilator; a busterific Emma Frost; Groundskeeper Banshee; Angelo Stretcho the Mexi-Melt; a not-so cherry Jubilee; a discount Cyclops; Mighty Morphin' Blackies, a body-shamed Buffy, and Nightmare on 21 Mutie Street.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Evil Dr. Tresh (Matt Frewer) is conducting experiments on super-powered teenagers for a nameless company, but he is thwarted by the government which learns that his lab specimens are in violation of the Mutant Registration Act. Tresh is kicked out of the corporation and nearly ruined but five years later, he's back to his old tricks hunting down teens with special powers for some arcane purpose. Meanwhile, the mystical Emma Frost (Finola Hughes) and the Scottish loudmouth Banshee (Jeremy Ratchford), members of the Xavier School for the Gifted, recruit and/or rescue troubled teenaged mutants including a sarcastic light and fire emitting Jubilee (Heather McComb) and Angelo (Agustin Rodriguez), an Eric Estrada-esque homey with stretching powers. They meet up with their teammates at the Xavier School which include X-ray-eyed Kurt (Randel Slavin), indestructible Mondo (Bumper Robinson), super-powered wonder M (Amarilis), and vaguely powered Buff (Suzanne Harris). Jubilee and Angelo quickly learn that most of the team is made of outsiders with their own unique brand of cynicism, distrust of authority, and prick-itude. The team struggles to get along, attempts to learn the ins and outs of the Cerebro computer system, and fights with the local townies fearful of the mutie freaks. Angelo, aka “Skin”, learns the secrets of Cerebro and taps into a machine that allows users to manipulate and enter other people’s dreams. This creates a security gap that Tresh uses to infiltrate the team’s dreams like a TV movie Freddy Krueger in order to get even with Frost after she narked on him and to capture mutants’ ability to control minds to mass market corporate crap. So in the end, Generation X has to get their self-involved keisters in gear, pop their zits, put down the Mountain Dew, and confront Tresh in the dreamworld to save the world from an overacting future zombie doing shtick from The Mask.

THE FINISHER:

Marvel Comics’ attempts to bring their characters to live action TV over the years have been mixed (Spider Man), depressing (Incredible Hulk) and downright dull (Dr. Strange). And before the big budget extravaganzas of the X-men trilogy, they tried to bring the beloved mutants to life with Generation X, one of multiple spin-offs of the popular X-men comics that tried to embody the pop sociological and corporate marketing tag’s spirit. In the comics, the Gen-X team was created as an antithesis to the X-men - somber, moody, and cynical heroes caught in a world that doesn’t want them with powers they never asked for, in other words – they were irritating Emos. The comic ran for a couple of years under one creative team, but when that team left, the series floundered and eventually was cancelled. So it’s kind of mild surprise that Generation X made it to screens before X-men, and what’s equally mildly unsurprising is that this TV movie isn’t very good. The team is made of cookie-cutter teen characters, each with their own bland brand of mall-bred angst, which made for mutant-powered boredom. The Saturday morning TV set design and routine camerawork make an episode of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers look like a Zhang Yimou period piece. Frewer hams it up with the force of my eight-year-old nephew high on Froot Loops and crank. The rest of the adult cast are stilted and look uncomfortable and there’s only Hughes’ average cleavage to distract us from cheesey superhero theatrics. Although some of the teen actors such as McComb and Rodriguez approach the material with some interest, the rest of the cast of can’t quite rise above the teen soap opera level that the script is mired. It’s a head-scratcher to realize that this unexciting movie was directed by veteran Jack Sholder (the crackingly good The Hidden, the underrated thriller Alone in the Dark), as the film bursts on the screen with all the energy of a tubby comic book nerd strung out on Now ‘n Laters. Generation X doesn’t come close to capturing the atmosphere of mid-90s superheroics, nor was it meant to in many respects because like its namesake, it doesn’t even try.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

ULTRACHRIST! (2003)

SUPER POWER GAINED FROM WATCHING THIS MOVIE: The Ability to Heal the Blind, Walk on Water, and Resurrect Twenty-Year-Old Jokes.

THE CARD:

A dim Savior of Man, the Lord God – Insurance Agent, Lex Luthor - Son of the Devil, Tubby Angel, Alex Reiger the Bloodsucker, some un-Christian Terminator and Robocop references, a Mickey D-loving and piggy-porking Hitler, lots of lesbo, finger-banging, and bleeding jokes, and God's VHS camera.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

New York, the present day. Like a Godsend Kyle Reese, the good Lord Jesus Christ emerges from a glowing orb in an empty tenement buck naked. He wanders frantically looking for a swaddling tunic and chanklas but has to settle for a smoking jacket and Nikes. Unfortunately, none of the jaded citizens of the Big Apple recognizes the Lamb of God , despite his snappy new wardrobe from the Buffalo Exchange. With the help of a hapless savvy marketer and a ditzy but well-meaning seamstress named Molly, Jesus dons the spandex tights and re-brands himself as a superhero to spread his ministry upon the weary modern world as UltraChrist!(hyuk!). The Mighty Messiah hits the streets and stops crimes, spreads the good word, terrifies children and the elderly, and multiplies cans of tuna. Unfortunately, UltraChrist is disillusioned by the overly complex nature of these strange times, with the hippity-hopping, and the iPodding, and the waterboarding. Meanwhile, as Molly tries to get into Christ's tights, a couple of Jewy angels noshing on pizza pie are visited by God who's upset at His son's wacky antics on Earth. God commands the Archangel Ira (hyuk!) to track down Jesus and talk him out of his new persona. Also standing in UltraChrist's way is the Antichrist in the form of Parks Commissioner A.C. Meany who sends an agent to thwart our water-walking hero. After being foiled left and right with the help of Ira, Meany resurrects history's greatest villains: Nixon, Dracula, Hitler, and Jim Morrison (hyuk!). As the fiendish five-some plot hellish havoc, UltraChrist and Molly discuss hair conditioner and fall in love. And so some wacky stuff happens – Jesus is seduced by a hooker and an ancient dominatrix, Ira admits an affair with the not-so Virgin Mary, and Jim Morrison gets high. And in the final battle to win over the world, UltraChrist holds a benefit concert to be broadcast worldwide, only to be fooled into the ultimate steel cage match for the fate of mankind: UltraChrist vs. Richard Nixon! Hyuk!

THE FINISHER:

Religious parodies always trod a dangerous ground, and not just socially and politically, but also comedically. Some of the worst ones sink to simplistic levels of meaningless blasphemy with no satirical bite or insight. And the Jesus “Blank” ridicule shtick was tiresome back when it reached its apex a few years ago with the likes of Zombie Jesus, Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter, and The Passion of the Christ. But UltraChrist!, a low budget religious superhero parody that never really gains a full head of steam, is at least the most humorous I've seen, and it's fun-loving attitude is at time infectious. This is mostly due to the comedic talent of UltraChrist himself, Jonathan C. Green, a fine craftsman of dopey double-takes and messianic mugging. Plus the script, though plodding at times for time filler, is pretty darn witty, mixing in one-liners with religion and philosophy jokes. UltraChrist! is less concerned with blasphemy and focuses on delivering laughs with lighthearted camp and fully offensive fervor. But I wouldn't expect to find this DVD in any humor-impaired right-winger's Easter basket today.

And on that note ...


HAPPY EASTER!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

WONDER WOMAN (2009)

SUPER POWER GAINED FROM WATCHING THIS MOVIE: The Ability to Pop One From Watching Cartoons

THE CARD:

The Greek god from U.N.C.L.E., Felicity the Ass-kicker, a former Browncoat turned cartoon jet pilot, Maya bakes Wonder Babies on the beach, Doc Ock playing for the other team, Bender the Demon Thug, and the return of the original warrior princess and sexiest butt-kicking Super Friend.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

The warrior women Amazons, led by Hippolyta (Virginia Madsen), make war with the monstrous armies led by Ares (Alfred Molina), the God of War. When Hippolyta defeats him, the goddess Hera (Marg Helgenberger) gifts her and her people with eternal life on a paradisiacal island where, to the objections of Zeus (David McCallum), must keep Ares imprisoned. Centuries pass and Hippolyta wants a kid and in the absence of sperm banks and turkey basters, she magically molds a child from clay and lightning. That child grows up to be Diana, princess of the Amazons, and as the years pass the young woman yearns to leave her island and explore the world of the outside, specifically the modern world of man. Her mother and compatriots Artemis (Rosario Dawson), Persephone (Vicki Lewis), and Alexa (Tara Strong) try to dissuade her, citing the inherit evil of men. But the modern world drops in on the Amazons in the form of Steve Trevor (Nathan Fillion), a jet pilot who is shot down over the island, and he develops an instant attraction to our buxom superheroine-to-be. Diana has made her choice: she wants to leave the island, but first she must win a competition to demonstrate her warrior skill and courage. This leaves enough distraction for the treacherous Persephone to release Ares from his prison and wreak havoc upon the new world. Diana kicks ass and wins the competition and so she and Steve depart paradise in her invisible jet to search for Ares. Meanwhile, Ares has infiltrated the lair of Hades (Oliver Platt) in the hopes that his Uncle of the Underworld can help restore his powers. The pair strike an insidious deal with one another which enables Ares to launch a Cheney-esque level of hellish war upon Washington, D.C. While Diana adjusts to men’s lies, seduction, and body odor, Ares’ armies converge on the capitol and play kickball with Lincoln’s head. In the final showdown, Diana confronts the full force of Ares’ evil – a world erupted in war and destruction – and when it’s all over, Wonder Woman will realize that it only marginally came close to that of the exiting administration.

THE FINISHER:

Wonder Woman, the original queen of the superheroes, has had a tough time of it in adaptations outside of the comics. In the 1974 Wonder Woman TV movie, she played by Kathie Lee Crosby and was an ordinary spy hunter fighting Mr. Roarke. In the Superfriends cartoon, she was a dull automaton who swung her rope and played second fiddle to Bats and Supes. In the 70s TV show, she was a sexy Nazi smasher in the first season, only to become a run-of-the-mill action figure in subsequent seasons when the show switched networks. But in this latest DC Universe direct DVD release, Wonder Woman is a strong, self-assured, and heroic figure of evil-god-ass kicking power, courage, and truth to oneself. This is the Wonder Woman I personally have longed to see portrayed, not only a symbol of female empowerment, but a character that embodies the best qualities of superheroism while not sounding corny, sentimental, or patronizing. Sure this may sound simple or old fashioned, but really, haven’t we had enough of the angsty, flawed, ultra-violent, self-loathing hero for once? The movie is well-written, paced, and plotted, as have all these releases been in recent years. The voice actors were all really good, particularly Russell and Fillion who enjoy an almost Leia/Solo type of wisecracking romance. Molina and Madsen in particular take what could have been bland dialogue and make something special and epic out of it. And although the animation wasn’t groundbreaking, there’s plenty of exciting action and fight scenes that approach cinematic quality. My only quibble with this film, as with both Marvel and DC’s direct to video releases, is that they’re too short. Is there a specific reason they all clock in at less than eighty minutes? This version of the Amazing Amazon lays the groundwork for future adventures and as long they maintain the level of wittiness, epic feel, and action-packed superheroics as this offering, Wonder Woman will keep shining, dispensing justice, and giving all a stiffy.

Friday, April 10, 2009

ZOOM: ACADEMY FOR SUPERHEROES (2006)

SUPER POWER GAINED FROM WATCHING THIS MOVIE: The Ability To Scream, Vomit, And Cry At The Same Time

THE CARD: Tool Allen, Friendless Nerd Monica, Inviso-Douche, Rip Torn to Shreds, Johnny 2.5, senile Clark Griswold, a Visine-impaired Troy-Bolton-Bot, Tubby McBlubber the Fatty Fat, Princess Power Punch, a Mopey Psychic Psychotic, a magical Squiggy cameo, the soul-searing suckiness of Smashmouth, and a Sky High School Musickal.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Captain Zoom (Tim Allen) is a super-powered speedster who was once a member of the secret teenage hero group Zenith Team. His teammate and brother Concussion (Kevin Zegers), was tainted by a government treatment called Gamma 13 that was meant to enhance his powers but instead turned him into a homicidal maniac. After wiping out most of his Zenith teammates, Concussion was imprisoned in another dimension while the surviving Zoom was consigned to a normal life in anonymity with his powers depleted. Twenty years later, Concussion is breaking through the dimensional barrier back to Earth for revenge against government handler General Larraby (Rip Torn), super scientist Dr. Grant (Chevy Chase), and his brother Zoom. Sounds good so far, right? Well, things get shitty faster than Zoom’s B.M. The Zenith Program is reactivated and led by Larraby, Grant, and geeky Zoom-obsessed Dr. Holloway (Courtney Cox). Their mission is to recruit a new generation of teen heroes to protect the planet from Concussion like some kind of global biker helmet and bring back Zoom to help train them. But their job will be made tougher by the fact that Zoom is a burnt out and bitter jerk, still ticked off at the government for corrupting his brother, destroying his life as a hero, and canceling his sitcom. Regardless, Zenith scours suburbs and malls everywhere, holds a superhero audition, and after eliminating the minorities (no, I’m not kidding), assembles the whitest super-powered kids you’ll know: invisible guy Houdini (Michael Cassidy), psychic girl Wonder (Kate Mara), stretchy Mega-Boy (Spencer Breslin), and super-strong cutie Princess (Ryan Newman). Eventually, Zoom bothers to show up and tells the kids basically to give it up and never trust anyone. But with the help of the Roswell flying saucer, a clunky soda-pop chugging robot, finely crafted fart and booger jokes, Chevy Chase abuse, and about a billion training montages to the tune of the shittiest pop music outside Disney Radio, the teammates eventually come together to learn a little something about love, leadership, family, and kicking the crap out of Zac Efron clones.

THE FINISHER:

Along with Sky High, Zoom was one of two teenage superhero comedies to be released within a relatively close period of time of each other in 2006. To my recollection, Sky High did a tad bit better at the box office and will probably be best remembered as the slightly better of the two but still not very good. And this mild praise comes with good reason because Zoom is a miserable piece of shit which looks, feels, and hurts like it was shot in 2-3 days and directed with the stylistic panache of a dead mule with arthritis that isn’t very bright. I can’t tell how many brain cells were ritually murdered by the 90 minutes of pure cranial melting stupidity this movie inflicted but it’s probably somewhere in the neighborhood of how much whore money Allen earned from this son of a bitch. Allen can’t be bothered to learn his lines and shows up wearily and seemingly forced in each scene with little to nothing to offer but a few Tool Time, Toy Story, and other 15-year-old references belched out his goateed smirk. The rest of the cast looks uneasy and embarrassed and just wants to get the hell out of this thing as soon as possible. Torn shows up, yells, and then leaves. Chase does some physical comedy bits, it’s no fun to know that he’s not doing the stunts, getting hurt, and popping pills again. Cox is adorable as the nerdy Holloway, but even her appeal can’t escape the gravity of formulaic suck. The rest of the kid actors are, well, kid actors with no real special distinguishing charms to overcome the dopey dialogue and utter lack of motivation. The only possible exception is rising child star Newman, whose mega-strong cutie pie made for a few cute bits about little girls and their head-shakingly precious princess fixations. The movie is entirely predictable, standard, and so damned silly that it’s hard to believe that even the most droop-foreheaded, knuckle-dragging, tard Twittering mallrat would find this a distraction from their MySpaces, video games, green apple gum, and sticker calendars. But Zoom is fresh, hip, and happening if you happen to live in a place where fresh, hip, and happening is having Tim Allen squeeze into a banana-hugging body suit and tell man jokes, parenting stories, and Richard Karn anecdotes.

And that place (drumroll) would be Hell. Ruuf, roof...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

CONFESSIONS OF A SUPERHERO (2007)

SUPER POWER GAINED FROM WATCHING MOVIE: The Ability To Never Move to L.A. To Become An Actor, Even If I Already Live There.

THE CARD:

A Superman in need of a sandwich; a Wonder Woman in denial; her uber-douchebag husband; a whiny Marilyn Monroe; a pissy fibbin' Batman; hobo Hulk; the most uncomfortable shrink session since my last marriage; and about fifty reasons never to walk a Hollywood sidewalk ever again.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

When in Hollywood, visit the world famous Hollywood Boulevard where you will be treated to a spectacle of grown men and women dressed as superhero characters for your amusement, picture taking, and pocket change. Superman (Christopher Dennis) may or may not be the son of actress Sandy Dennis, but he sure has a peculiar obsession with his comic book hero, which he uses to wallpaper his apartment. Batman (Maxwell Allen) is a tightly wound scooter rider who, much like the Caped Crusader, has an anger problem and a fantasy-filled past. Oh, and he looks like George Clooney, a fact that he will never let you forget, especially if you want to. Wonder Woman (Jennifer Wenger) is a cute and curvy wannabe actress with an insufferable dick for a husband, making an already difficult life decision to pursue acting a billion times harder. The Hulk (Joseph McQueen) is a former homeless drifter who came to Hollywood for the fame, money, and dirty blankets. These are the men and woman who saunter up and down the illustrious avenue of broken dreams in search of a way to be recognized, a way to be remembered, and a way to pay their gas bill. Their stories are unforgettable and are brought to life through the magic of the documentary in which a person picks up a camera, points and shoots, and works for tips.

THE FINISHER:

OK, it's no big secret that I live in Hollywood, a mere four blocks from Mann's Chinese Theater. Each day when I take my morning constitution up and down the famed boulevard, I witness firsthand a motley crew of costumed creative folk greeting the tourists, lighting up cherubic faces with delight, and generating dozens of smiles. But just past the whorehouse is the celebrated movie theater where a bunch of smelly unemployed actors and borderline mental cases don colorful costumes and take pictures with shlubs for some coin. The lives of said characters are rigorously recounted in the startling documentary Confessions of a Superhero, a chronicle of dead or dying dreams, a inside look at the high price of unattained fame, and a spooky tale actors tell their actor kids at night to warn them of the consequences of not keeping up with their Adler breathing techniques. Director Matt Ogens captures a tiny snapshot of this phenomenon by focusing on Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Hulk, a nutty foursome with some serious issues and fascinating personas that exceed the wonder of the very characters they are portraying. Ogens expertly and non-obtrusively peels the psychological layers of these people to get at the heart of their psychosis, whether it be obsession, anger, fame, or a simple desire to be remembered. At times, it's hilarious and heartbreaking at once, but the film's tone does not judge or mock these people, but rather dissects their dreams and lays them out for the viewer to come their own conclusions. Sad, crazy, or wonderful? The movie isn't another mean-spirited freak show, nor is it a depressing and morbid portrait of desperation and failure. Confessions of a Superhero is an evocative look at another type of Hollywood dream machine, a street where dreams go to die, if only to take on another form.

P.S. With the exception of Wonder Woman, I have seen all these guys on Hollywood Blvd at one point or another. Hulk has seen better days. I saw Batman sipping from a soda can a tourist discarded. And Superman is still a nice guy, and he really loves Whoppers.

Monday, April 6, 2009

HULK VS. (2009)

SUPER POWER GAINED FROM WATCHING MOVIE: TREMENDO SMASH!

THE CARD:

A sullen Norse God of Thunder; the Defenders of Asgard's Renaissance Fair; a supremely pissed-off indestructible Canadian that's not Bryan Adams; and a big green monstrous menace that's not the federal deficit.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Hulk vs. Thor

The mighty Thor, protector and favorite son of Asgard, has successfully shielded his land from demon and troll attacks with his mythical hammer Mjolnir for centuries. Loki, his brother and greatest enemy, seeks out Bruce Banner (aka The Hulk) on Midgard (aka Earth), to use him as a weapon in his latest attack against Asgard. Meanwhile, Thor contemplates his role as guardian and questions the neverending cycle of violence that plagues his realm and perhaps contemplates a final solution. Loki and the sorceress Enchantress magically separate Banner from the Hulk and conjure a spell that places Hulk under the control of Loki. The Hulk then lumbers angrily towards the gates of Asgard where he kicks the crap out of the first line of defense Volstagg, Fandral, Hogun, and Balder The Brave. Thor and Hulk then have it out in an epic battle that leaves the Norse god decimated, but Loki's grip over the Hulk finally dissipates. This leaves the Hulk an even greater threat as an out of control monster with his eyes set on destroying Asgard and the resting place of Thor's father Odin. To stop the Hulk, Thor and Loki must travel to the underworld to retrieve the spirit of Banner and meld him back into the body of the out of control Hulk. And if this uneasy partnership fails, it may mean an even worse fate than death.

Hulk vs. Wolverine

Department H, Canada’s secret government agency, deploys Wolverine on an urgent mission to stop the Hulk who has been destroying towns in the Canadian forest. After an epic encounter with the Hulk, Wolverine realizes that the Hulk wasn't rampaging; he was running away from a team of super-powered hitmen including the bestial Sabretooth, the tentacled Omega Red, the ticked-off Lady Deathstrike, and the wisecracking Deadpool. The super villains work for the secret Weapon X program that long ago kidnapped Wolverine/Logan, wiped out his memories, and surgically inserted an adamantium endo-skeleton in his body, including his retractable claws. Captured by the Weapon X team and their leader, The Professor, Wolverine has to escape the massive Weapon X facility, find Banner, and reawaken the Hulk to engage Weapon X team in a Canuckian battle for the ages.

THE FINISHER:

Marvel Comics has a pretty good thing going with their Animation division's growing catalog of direct-to-DVD releases (Doctor Strange, The Invincible Iron Man, Ultimate Avengers). Their latest offering pits everyone's big ugly green guy against two of his greatest foes in two forty-minute films. The Wolverine segment appeared to be the most complete and fully realized as it directly references Wolfie's first encounter with the Hulk in the comics back in 1974. The Thor segment, though playing a little loosey goosey with the myths, feels the most epic and consequently unfulfilled, and might have worked better with a longer running time to flesh out all the relationships between the warring gods and goddesses. The tone and style of both pieces is centrally concerned with typical Hulk-like action – lots of skyward punches, lots of smashing, and lots of extreme anger. And the Hulk isn't the real star in either episodes. He's either the underestimated pawn or a misunderstood monster, and subsequently the stories focus more on the worlds of Wolverine and Thor, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The animation is fine and nothing out of the ordinary, like anything you'd see on Cartoon Network albeit a bit bloodier. The real pleasure is the good writing found in both segments, where I found a mixture of fan boy appeasing, solid character development, and some good humor. Marvel Animation next offering will be Wolverine and the X-men, and let's hope they can keep the nerds and/or vengeful production people from leaking that one on the internet.