BURBANK - How can the Razzies blow it so hard this year? The same goes to numerous critics across the country that post their worst of the year lists. How can so many give Dark Shadows a pass for badness? If ever there was a film that screamed for a torch and pitchfork gathering it’s Tim Burton’s craptacular attempt to turn the beloved Gothic ’70s Soap Opera into a kitsch soaked 21st Century movie.
How bad is this film? Producer Richard D. Zanuck and actor Jonathan Frid (the original Barabas Collins in the TV series that had a cameo in the film) lost their will to live. The only way this film could be worse is if it was called Tyler Perry’s Dark Shadows. But Tim Burton did an amazingly horrible job all on his own yet he missed out on the Razzie for directing. John Putch must have stolen it for Viewers Shrugged: They Made a Part II?
Sure the Razzies had to nominated the disaster of The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure. That’s going to be taught in film schools about delusional independent productions. Adam Sandler needed to get a return with That’s My Boy even if it can’t hope to top the badness bar set by Jack & Jill. Battleship was dumb action at its crass product promotion worst. But the last Twilight installment is just lame compared to the painful vampire action of Dark Shadows Eddie Murphy’s lukewarm A Thousand Words should have been tossed in recycling and forgotten. What’s important is that none of these films were as completely worthless as Dark Shadows. None of them wasted the talent of Jackie Earle Haley and Johnny Depp finally coming together.
I’m still putting down my money on Tyler Perry winning both the Actor and Actress awards. The good news is that at least one biological woman will win an awards since none of the Supporting Actress nominees are hiding their candy. I’m rooting for Brooklyn Decker so that Dan Patrick will have to comfort her. But who will comfort me for having sat through the DVD of Dark Shadows? Tim Burton owes me 113 minutes of his life. He better plan on dropping by the house so he can watch me put fresh top soil on my Irises. I’ll even give him free popcorn and a lawn chair. He’s going to sit next to my mom so she can tell him, “The Story About the Time This Thing Happened That You Should Remember.” It’s a classic.
Count me in with the people disturbed that the History Channel has kicked Olivia Black off Pawn Stars because she’s a Suicide Girl. History Channel calls the show Pawn Stars since it’s a play on Porn Stars. But when a minor worker has posed nude online, the TV executives treat it as a massive scandal. Here’s a little question to the fine upstanding people at the History Channel, did you know that the biggest star of cable whose wedding was a ratings bonanza on E! was in a full out sex tape? And she made it with a guy who would go onto have a hit series on VH1. Kim Kardashian had some of the lamest sex in the history of amateur videos. Yet that didn’t’ stop middle America from blindly following her fake wedding.
There’s a report that Rick Harrison has told her that she’s not fired from working at the store which is good to know he’s not throwing her under the bus. Olivia needs to return to the show otherwise Chumlee only gets to flirt with the Old Man. That’s not fun.
THE FACE WORTH A TRILLION DOLLARS
Please sign my White House petition demanding that the Trillion Dollar Coin features Henry Winkler on the head and a Shark on the tail. wh.gov/PXO0
I’d be remiss without reminding you that Winkler’s in the new season of Arrested Development that will be on Netflix Streaming starting in May. All 14 episodes will pop up at once so you can use your 30 day free trial to see them for free.
The Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis collects three X-rated titles from near the end of the legendary director’s career. Lewis was known for making Blood Feast and Two Thousand Maniacs (which inspired the band Ten Thousand Maniacs). But he had a sensitive side. Not all that sensitive. He just knew that in the late ’60s and early ’70s downtown skanky theaters ran X-rated content. Just look at the marquees in any shot of Times Square from that era. They weren’t running Disney fare around the clock. Ecstasies of Women is a classic softcore title about a bachelor party. The action opens at a Los Angeles strip club. A group of pals get to hear the soon to be married guy tells stories of seducing women and bringing them back to his houseboat to seal the deal. He gets more action on water than Quincy, Sonny Crockett and Admiral Nimitz combined. The bachelor party ends up on the waves with a few of the dancers. Linda and Abilene is an erotic Western. The story is a lady who wants to settle in the west, but ends up going south with a female bartender. Highlights include a cowboy who during his sex scene won’t pull down his jeans or take off his boots. This wasn’t taken from an episode of Gunsmoke. What makes this movie historic is the location. Lewis booked the Spahn Ranch while the Manson family was living there. Charlie and the gang don’t pop into the action. Black Love is a hardcore educational film. There’s an uncomfortable hilarity as the narrator attempts give a sense of purpose for filming people hooking up. During one scene they have a group of people dancing. Halfway through the scene, they get them to lose their tops to give the audience a sense that all these people aren’t the same. Was this ever an issue? While the other two titles are softcore, Black Love is a hard X. The state of sexploitation had changed at this point so that audiences in the grindhouses weren’t satisfied with guys wearing their jeans during frisky business. It’s a relief that these three films have been found so that all of Hershell Gordon Lewis’ cinematic legacy can be found on home video. The folks at Vinegar Syndrome did an amazing job with the 1080p transfers to make each film look better than when they ran in theaters.
I’m excited that the guys at Vinegar Syndrome have entered into the world of Blu-rays and DVDs. We’ve entered a sad period of time where studios are getting more into streaming their property. They have two DVD Drive-In Collection coming out on Feb. 12. The double features of Expectations/Confessions and Savage Water/Death by Invitation will take you back the days of cinema heard through crummy speakers hanging on the car window. What really excites me is their just announced Blu-ray of The Telephone Book. This is the greatest X-rated Comedy in the history of Cinema. It should be treated as the vault release of 2013. I raved about it when Cinema Overdrive showed it and you can now see the only X-rated film that features the stars of Star Trek, The Fugitive, Prizzi’s Honor and the voice of Ma Bell. There shall be more raves when they schedule a date. You must see this film.
Branded dares to combine advertising, monsters and rituals in one truly messed up movie. Ed Stoppard (Brideshead Revisited) is a Russian working at an advertising firm in Moscow. His boss is Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development) is happy to bring his niece (Eyes Wide Shut’s Leelee Sobieski) over to help out. What he doesn’t expect is Ed and Leelee hooking up in a very public place. This rift cause Jeffrey to cease their partnership and send Leelee back to the States. In his despair Ed heads to the countryside to perform a strange cow sacrifice ritual that won’t be spoiled. After this religious moment, Ed sees how brands are living entities that feed off people. They’re giant CGI monsters that refuse to be stopped and battle each other. It’s an acid trip moment. Instead of merely going insane with such visions, Ed puts this knowledge to use as he rebuilds his business and gets rid of the competition. It’s like How to Get Ahead In Advertising and They Live with Russian influences. The Seventh Seal’s Max von Sydow plays a marketing guru who figures out a ploy on how to sell being fat is good to burger eaters. The bonus feature is the directors and writers on a commentary track. A rather fine cast for a bizarre film about Madison Avenue in Moscow.
The Possession is best described as an Old Testament version of The Exorcist. The movie opens with some good old fashion demons gone wild action. An old lady wants to destroy a mysterious antique box covered in Hebrew words. But before she can bring the hammer down, she’s tossed around and killed by an invisible force. Leave to somebody to decide that instead of dumping the box in the garbage, they put it in a yard sale. This is where the daughter of Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen and Magic City) and Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer) gets a hankering for it. Dad buys it for his little angel. Turns out the sweet antique makes noises and things get really weird when the girl opens it up. Like a really bad episode of The Antiques Roadshow, dad discovers what he bought was a dybbuk box. This rare item is used to store demons. Now the evil demon from the box is taking over his daughter. He has to seek a Jewish version of Max von Sydnow to clean up the yard sale mess. Playing that role is rapper Matisyahu. Morgan looks good at the concerned father who doesn’t want his little girl turning into a demon. There’s some good stomach twisting scenes involving eyeballs and throats. The bonus features include commentary tracks from the director and writers. A short feature delves into dybbuk boxes and why it’s not a good idea to collect them. The Blu-ray comes with codes so you can download a digital copy from iTunes and access an Ultraviolet version.
Dredd is very surprising action film. At first you wonder what’s the point in a new version of Judge Dredd? Is the comic book making a big comeback at Second Foundation? What could possibly make this worthy of a reboot? Right off the bat the new movie scores points for removing Sylvester Stallone and Rob Schneider from the screen. Amazing how a little Rob can reduce the macho levels to critical lows. Karl Urban (Bones in the latest Star Trek movie) fills the facially thankless role of Dredd. He lets his unshaven jaw control the pace of the film. His law enforcement officer of the future acts as cop, lawyer, judge and executioner to speed up the legal process. He seems to love the executioner part the most. He gets teamed up with a psychic partner (Juno’s Olivia Thrilby) to bust a ganglord controlling a massive apartment building. They are trapped Inside the building after the blast doors are sealed. The structure becomes a shooting gallery as the henchmen go full force at Dredd and his partner. There’s a lot of renovation when the gang blows apart walls in their hunt. Flock swears this might be the best use of 3-D in a recent movie since it’s there to create depth in the environment and not just throw crap in your face. The South African sun adds a glimmer to the exterior moments. If you’re a fan of action films, this new Dredd is the real deal since it’s Rob Schneider-free. The Blu-ray lets you choose between regular or 3-D. They also have it set up for a Digital copy and Ultraviolet. You’ll never dread missing out on Dredd.
The Seven-Per-Cent Solution puts Sherlock Holmes in rehab. This cult favorite film focuses on the Holmes addiction to cocaine. Dr. Watson (Robert Duvall) becomes worried about how blotto Holmes (Excalibur’s Nicol Williamson) has become. It’s screwing up their work. So he stages the ultimate intervention with Sigmund Freud (Little Miss Sunshine’s Alan Arkin) supervising. Can the sleuth kick his habit? Freud uses hypnosis which unravels a few mysteries inside the man. Things get weird when the detox gets interrupted by a kidnapping. Holmes swears Professor Moriarty (Laurence Olivier) is involved, but the Professor might not be the criminal mastermind suggested by the drugged up genius. It does a fine job looking at the legendary detective as a troubled soul. Director Herbert Ross had previously explored the mythology of Bogart in Woody Allen’s Play It Again, Sam. The bonus feature is an interview with writer Nicholas Meyer. He’s best known for saving Star Trek as the director of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He wrote the novel and script for The Seven-Per-Cent Solution which deserves its cult following among those who want a bit of grit on their version of Sherlock Holmes.
Death Race 3: Inferno is the best of the Death Race 2000 reboots. This one seems most attached to the spirit of the Roger Corman - Paul Bartel original. No longer is the concept of murderous race confined to a prison yard. Frankenstein (Hellboy II’s Luke Goss) is back with his crew including Danny Trejo (the Gary Cole of the Tattoo World). He only has one more race to win to gain his freedom. But before the flag comes down, Ving Rhames loses control of his empire to Dougray Scott (the man who could have been Hugh Jackman). Dougray dreams of turning Death Race into a worldwide event at various other prisons. But he needs his superstar in the form of Frankenstein. He transports the man, his crew and car to a prison down in South Africa. The new rules of the event has them go cross country and throw quiet little villages. There’s plenty of metal carnage as the armed cars collide in the desert. Frankenstein must come up with a way to win not only the race, but his promised freedom. The stunts are exciting. There’s even women fighting it out for the chance to be the co-pilot. This deserves to be seen on a large screen TV with the volume cranked up so your neighbors fear you’ve gone into the Death Race business. The Blu-ray features the R-rated version and the unrated cut. Why would anyone want to watch the R-rated cut? You want the high octane of Danny Trejo. The bonus features include a director’s commentary, deleted scenes, the original opening (which isn’t as good as the one they used) and a making of documentary. Along with the Blu-ray, they’ve included the DVD, a copy you can download off iTunes and an access to the UltraViolet version. This means you can watch it on your own cross country trip.
Perry Mason: Season 8, Volume 2 wraps up the penultimate season of the seminal legal TV show. “The Case of the Golden Venom” brings a widow to the office on a secret mission. She wants Perry to quietly investigate how her son died. What hampers her is a clause in her husband’s will to disinherit her if she looks into the son’s death. Since she hires Perry, more bodies follow her son to the grave. Noah Berry Jr. (The Rockford File) might be in jeopardy. “The Case of the Feather Cloak” takes Perry (Raymond Burr) and Paul Drake (William Hopper) to Hawaii to look into a real estate deal. But they stumble into a homicide case involving a spearfishing gun. Keye Luke (Big Trouble In Little China) gets dragged into the case. “The Case of the Lover’s Gambler” puts Garry Collins (The Sixth Sense) on the DA staff of Hamilton Burger (William Tallman). He gets too close on a case and Burger wants to pull him. Fay Wray (King Kong) plays Gary’s mother. “The Case of the Murderous Mermaid” makes a swimming stunt go wrong. “The Case of the Careless Kitten” makes Perry ponder who doesn’t want to kill each other in a screwed up family. The death of a family cat seems to hold the clue. Allan Melvin (The Brady Bunch’s Sam the Butcher) slices into the action. “The Case of the Duplicate Case” features a married woman with plenty of boyfriends and little business ethics. “The Case of the Grinning Gorilla” gives Della Street (Barbara Hale) a dead man’s sports stuff. Victor Buono (Batman’s King Tut) wants to buy the stuff for his boss. There’s a gorilla drawn into the intrigue, but it’s not played by Gavin MacLeod (The Love Boat). “The Case of the Mischievous Doll” starts with a woman demanding Perry take a good look at her because he might have to identify him soon. Turns out she needs Perry’s help soon. The wrap up to season 8 works fine. There’s only one last year to come out on DVD. That’s the year Richard Anderson (Oscar Goldman on The Six Million Dollar Man) joins the police force. The bonus feature is a short ad starring Burr about Law Day. Hug a lawyer for Perry.
The Other Dream Team reminds us that there was more to the ‘92 Olympics than watching Michael Jordan hide a non-Nike logo on his uniform. The media latched onto the NBA Superstars including Larry Bird and Magic Johnson coming together to reinstate America’s domination on the hardcourt. But this wasn’t the real story coming out of Barcelona. When the Soviets won the gold in ‘88, the stars of the team weren’t Russians. Sarunas Marciulionis and Arvydas Sabonis were from Lithuania. When the USSR fell apart, they were finally given a chance to represent their true country. But it wasn’t going to be easy since they didn’t have cash to put together a team and send it to the games. Instead of just giving up, they got funding from the oddest of sources. They didn’t get sponsorship from a sneaker company. They found their help from the Grateful Dead. They would go to Barcelona with one major goal: Beat Russia. The Other Dream Team does an amazing job at putting sports, politics and tie-dyed uniforms into perspective. These weren’t multi-millionaires taking the court to expand their brand. These were men showing to the world that they were now free and ready to posterize the Russians. This is the perfect documentary for anyone who needs to know that it’s not just a game. Bonus features include a Q&A session with director Marius A. Markevicius and Producer Jon Weinbach. They also contribute a commentary track to elaborate more on the team.
The inbetweeners Movie is the big wrap up for the English TV series (not to be confused with the version that aired on MTV). The four pals have graduated from school and are ready to celebrate. They go to the ultimate decadence location: the Greek Isles. They dream of partying down like the kids in a Blur video. Days on the beach and nights covered in foam at various bars. Naturally when they dream so big, they come crashing down. Turns out their hotel is a dump. They get fooled into entering the most boring of nightclubs. Things aren’t looking good until they meet some interested girls. But are things really going to work out for them on this vacation to manhood? The movie works without being a fanatic about The Inbetweeners series. The jokes aren’t completely aimed at the devoted. Who can’t relate to a less than advertised holiday trip? The film is Rated R so you get a little bit more than what you’d see on BBCAmerica. Bonus features include an interview and a commentary track with the cast. They have their own working vacation stories to share.
The Goode Family: The Complete Series was Mike Judge’s ill-fated primetime animation series that seemed to give the hippie teacher from Beavis and Butthead a starring role. After having a long running success with King of the Hill, Judge went from Walmart to Whole Foods for his latest subject. The Goode Family are doing their hardest to become the poster family for The Last Whole Earth Catalog. It’s tough to keep up with being right and proper in the world since there’s always that outside chance that you’re being duped by a business with false claims. Like when you go to Whole Foods and pick up the California mix of frozen veggies and discover the food is from China. Were you really doing good for the world? Mr. Goode (voiced by Mike Judge) lives in fear of making the wrong step as he maintains a devote liberal lifestyle. Their eldest son was their attempt to adopt a baby from South Africa. What they didn’t expect was a white South African baby. But they do their best to raise the child as if he was a Mandela. They also have a dog they’re raising vegan. This doesn’t do well for the pet who decides to supplement his “morally right” dog food with local animals. There is plenty of comedy in a world where you living in fear of being seen with the wrong kind of shopping bag. The show was rather good, but it’s hard to see that it could possibly last 13 seasons like King of the Hill. They did properly hire Brian Doyle-Murray (The Cream of the Murray Boys) to play Goode’s grandfather who thinks his son is a jerk for not enjoying a life of fried food and SUVs. Laraine Newman (original Not Ready for Primetime Player on Saturday Night Live) also provides a few voices. The Bonus features include commentaries on a few episodes and deleted scenes that are mostly abandoned in the pencil test phase. Judge sounds like he wished The Goode Family to return, but these 13 episodes pretty much take these characters as far as they need to go as leading figures.
Anger Management: Season One proves that you can go completely off your rocker and have good things happen. Charlie Sheen was sick of working on Two and a Half Men. Sure the show was pulling in high ratings, but he was turning into a lovable primetime character. How could the man best known for lost weekends with porn stars stay in such a role? He didn’t and America had to put up with the soap opera between him and Chuck Lorre for way too long. Charlie came out the best with Tiger Blood and Winning being better catch phrases than anything written for him on Two and a Half Men. After the split, Charlie wasn’t alienated by Hollywood. He immediately snagged a deal to adapt the movie Anger Management into a sitcom. Why not play up Charlie’s best traits in a TV show. He’s a man who is trying his hardest not to go nuts and beat people senseless. The character of Charlie Goodson is crafted to Sheen’s self-image. He’s an ex-baseball player whose temper tantrum ended his major league baseball career really quick. His girlfriend (Selma Blair) is also his therapist. His daughter (Daniela Bobadilla) is entering that dangerous age. His ex-wife (Shawnee Smith) dates guys that upset him. His favorite bartender is Brett Butler, who’s own on set antic made her a bit of a problem. His dad Martin Sheen plays his TV dad. It’s all in Charlie’s universe. While the show claims to be based on the Jack Nicholson movie, there’s no way to escape the influence of The Bob Newhart Show. Charlie has his cast of characters arrive for group therapy at both his office and a nearby prison. The difference is that we never thought Bob would sucker punch Jerry the Dentist. The first season is only 10 episodes, but FX announced they’ll be making 90 episodes over the next 2 years. It’s best to do things fast when you get Charlie interested in the project. The bonus features include an interview with Charlie where he expresses joy at the change of scenery. There’s also a gag reel to demonstrate how tensions aren’t built up.
Power Rangers Samurai: A Team Divided, Volume 3 brings the worst fear to the kids. One of them is under the control of Nighlok Madimot in “I’ve Got a Spell on Blue.” He’s forced to turn against his fellow Rangers. Can they fight him without injuring their friend? “Forest for the Trees” discovers that a few Zords can be combined to form a Battlewing. But jealousy crops up as they shuffle for objects. They are becoming selfish. “Test of the Leader” makes Bulk and Spike battle Moogers. Is Bulk now the world’s oldest teenager now that Dick Clark is gone? “Jayden’s Challenge” makes the member leave the team thinking it would make them safer. But he does need their help since there’s no escape from Moogers. Bonus features include an interview with the cast and a Dubstep video. Power Rangers are going Dubstep on your earholes.
Power Rangers Super Samurai: Rise of the Bullzooka, Volume 3 is the series that comes after Power Rangers Samurai. The four episodes here amps up the action and the color. “Runaway Spike” has the wannebe ranger studying under Bulk. Trouble is the rent is overdue and he needs a real job. However his failure at work leads to his best encounter with a ranger. Will he get his dream fulfilled? “The Strange Case of the Munchies” isn’t the devious. The kids learn that looking tough doesn’t really make you that tough. “A Sticky Situation” delves into how if certain members work together, they can be twice as strong in battle. “Trust Me” sends the Rangers to an island to hunt down Nighloks. Will this be a painful journey? It’s four episodes of team building and Nighlok slaying.
Counterpunch is a true story of a boxer wanting to claim the Golden Gloves in Miami. Emilio (Alvardo Orlando) finds his life inside the ring except he still lacks the focus to be great. He has to work out his demons so that he can find himself when the bell rings. Danny Trejo (Death Race 3) is the mentor character giving the proper advice so the kid doesn’t get completely knocked out. Steven Bauer (Scarface) also provides inspiration although not in the same way. Emilio’s struggle is good and gritty. I like that they didn’t try to make this story too big. There’s an immediacy to the ring being in a tight space with a small crowd rooting on the action. It’s good underdog boxing tale that doesn’t throw in the towel.
Compliance is a great hideous tale of what can truly go wrong while working a McJob. Off the bat, director Craig Zobel and I were classmate at the North Carolina School of the Arts. Those who follow the column will realize I’m not a homer for all my classmates’ movies or their performances. Compliance is one of those rare classmate films that make me proud. It explores the phenomena of strangers calling fast food places claiming to be cops and getting store managers to violate their employees. In the movie it’s Ann Dowd (Marley & Me) in a career making performance as the manager of a chicken joint that’s having a rough night. She’s under pressure after a cooler has been left open and the bacon went bad. There’s rumors that corporate will have a secret customer visiting. Then she gets a phone call from a cop investigating an employee stealing money from a customer. The suspect is the sweet Dreama Walker (Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23). The cop doesn’t want to come down without proof and he instructs Dowd to strip down the girl to cavity search her. Will Dowd follow a mysterious voice? The film creates just the right crucible heat to justify the complete loss of logic while Walker is secured in the backroom. This is a workplace horror story worthy of scaring anyone from feeling secure in the world of fast food. High school counselors should use this DVD as a scared straight program for slacker students. What are the odds that your boss won’t follow orders to be a good corporate player? Zobel has stepped up his game from Great World of Sound. We should hopefully have an interview with him in the next Party Favors column. Get the DVD so you won’t feel like we spoiled the film in our conversation.
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