HDTGM Triple Feature: Jingle All The Way (1996), Street Fighter (1994) & Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (1992)

jingle all the way poster One of the highlights of my podcast-listening week is seeing a new episode of How Did This Get Made pop up. I’m a huge fan of this show about wacky movies hosted by Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas. Sometimes I watch the movie before the episode goes live, sometimes I’m pretty familiar with them already and other times, I just go along for the ride and check it out later. In the past few weeks, I’ve actually watched a trio of films inspired by the podcast and figured I’d group them all together. I also just realized that these three movies feature three of my favorite action stars, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Sylvester Stallone in some of their most bonkers movies ever.

The gang covered the Arnold Schwarzenegger/Sinbad holiday comedy Jingle All The Way on their first Christmas episode back in 2011. I watched this one a few weeks back, but thankfully took notes to help jog my memory. The movie finds workaholic dad Schwarzenegger going crazy trying to find an action figure for his son, played by future Anakin Skywalker Jake Lloyd. Sinbad moves in an out of the movie doing the same thing. Meanwhile, it seems like Phil Hartmann is moving in on Arnie’s wife Rita Wilson and this is all leading towards a huge holiday parade in what’s supposed to be a snow-covered town, but is clearly a side street in LA in the spring.

I thought I had this movie figured out for the first 20 minutes or so. That part is basically a movie for kids with over-the-top, cartoony style gags. Heck, there’s all kinds of talk in the first 10 minutes that set up the entire film (toy, parade, snow, etc.). Cool, I got it, let’s roll. And then things start getting weird and dark. The whole Hartman thing was pretty crazy, plus Sinbad is a nutso postal worker (remember when that was a thing?) who actually hands a cop a bomb that explodes! Luckily, he’s okay because he’s apparently facing off against the Road Runner. The whole thing culminates in a big parade where Arnie dresses up as the action figure hero and has a pretty epic fight with Sinbad. I feel like I could use the word “bonkers” to describe roughly everything in this movie. I wound up watching the end with my kid and I’m pretty sure she didn’t pick up on any of the insanity, so maybe you can get away with this one with a tyke if you have one. Maybe just cover their eyes when Arnie punches a reindeer in the face. That might be damaging.

Before moving on, if you’re looking for any kind of message, don’t. The obvious and seemingly intended point is that commercialism is not the point of Christmas, but that being with people is. And yet, the ENTIRE MOVIE is actually about commercialism, getting things, taking them away from other people and keeping them. You can’t just tack on a nice moment from Lloyd at the end and flip the whole script, you know? Ah well, moving on…

street-fighter-the-movie-poster This spring, HDTGM covered one of the greatest bad video game movies around when they did Street Fighter starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Raul Julia, Ming-Na Wen (who’s as wooden here as she is on S.H.I.E.L.D., zing!), Kylie Minogue and Miguel A. Núñez Jr. who was in both Return Of The Living Dead AND Friday The 13th: A New Beginning. I’ve probably only played a Street Fighter game for about an hour in my whole life and know next to nothing about the franchise, but it’s still clear from watching this movie that the writers didn’t really care about any of that as far as plot goes and instead decided to just shoehorn in nods to the games.

Basically, Julia plays a guy who wants to not so much rule the world, but his own country. JCVD isn’t down with that, especially after Julia captures one of his pals. Thankfully, JCVD leads some kind of UN-type military group that wears bright blue camouflage for no reason. I honestly can’t remember many of the details beyond that because every single character in this movie is lying about what they want or why they’re there. So many of them switch sides that you practically need a score card. Actually, that’s an overstatement as the good guys are clearly good and the bad guys, well, usually wear masks, hats or have crazy blades on their hands.

The funny thing about this movie is that, I was pretty sure I’d seen this back in my high school days or maybe when I lived with my buddy Rickey and we watched a ton of JCVD movies. When I went to Netflix to give it watch, I laughed because it asked if I wanted to watch again and the screen capture was of the end credits. Guys, I can’t stay away from a good-bad JCVD movie and this is one of the best-worst. If you do watch this movie, please do yourself a favor and listen to the episode. They point out so many awesome bits of craziness that I kind of want to listen to it again right now.

stop or my mom will shoot I realized yesterday that Netflix Instant is about to cut a ton of titles on January 1st. Turns out there are 25 of those soon-to-be-gone flicks in my queue so I figured I’d watch a few when I can. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot popped out from the batch because of one thing: How Did This Get Made (episode 61 to be exact). Since Lu had laid claim to the big TV, I actually broke out the Kindle Fire and watched that way which worked pretty well.

Sylvester Stallone plays a supercop in this one whose mom — Estelle Getty — comes for a visit only to witness a murder that she teams up with her son to solve. This movie is so all-over-the-place that it’s really hard to get a handle on. It starts off with a solid action scene which eventually leads into an airport scene where a group of stewardesses comment on his physique based on pictures — many of them baby pics — that Estelle showed them. One of them even says something about him being attractive in a diaper which is just so weird and gross that it’s hard to handle. In fact, there’s a lot of awkward sex jokes that leave you off balance.

Keeping you further off balance is a scene where Estelle — who is super annoying in that way that moms of this time were on TV and film — actually washes his gun with soap and water in the sink. Up to that point she was just overbearing, but at this point she’s dumb verging on insane. That gets compounded by the fact that she brought an entire suitcase of canned pineapple as well as another one with cleaning products. That’s obviously pre-intense airline security, but I’m fairly certain you can make something terrible with at least one of those cases.

Oh, I forgot to mention that his house is kind of crazy too. He’s got a ton of random stuff all over the place from a ceramic pumpkin and a rubber ducky to a bunch of board games and a tiny red gumball machine. And there’s a dream sequence where Stallone’s in a diaper. And Estelle Getty shoots a guy. And there’s a henchman thrown out a window. And, and, and. None of this is actually about story so much as the crazytown things thrown in to launch an admittedly silly plot over-the-top into bonkersville.

Again, do yourself the service of listening to this episode if you decided to watch the movie (or even if you don’t, it’s that good). They point out a lot of the elements I noticed but also so many more. And remember, while you’re watching this one, remind yourself that Stallone has an Oscar for writing.

The Music Box: Human Nature By America (1998)

America Human Nature

Picking one disc out of a box and giving it an uninformed listen!

I haven’t had the best luck with The Music Box selections. Schleprock was pretty mundane pop punk and Joseph Arthur’s And The Thieves Are Gone… wasn’t my thing, but I did really enjoy Gas Giants. This week’s selection, though, was straight-up awful. I don’t think I’ve ever cringed or wrinkled my nose so much while listening to a record ever. In fact, I probably would have just called it quits with this one, thrown the CD away and moved on, but I wanted to keep the column going for this week, so here we go.

As with all the other posts so far, I didn’t do any research before listening to this record which might be the most “adult contemporary” thing of all time. I knew the name America and after a song or two, realized it was probably the “A Horse With No Name,” band, but didn’t confirm that to be the case until I looked them up on Wikipedia. Even with that classic song in the past, I couldn’t enjoy this record in the present.

Maybe it’s because this is just not my kind of music, but I could not escape the idea that this record was one of two things: one, a bad attempt to copy some kind of new wave folk formula to get Baby Boomers grooving or, two, an incredibly sincere, yet clueless attempt. I kept thinking of David Brent from the original Office. He really thinks he’s doing great things, but it’s clear to the audience that he is not. There was just something about this collection of songs that felt a little too put-on and manufactured, but I can’t quite place why and I’m not listening again without a good reason (ie a paycheck).

Most of the slow burn, jangly nonsense could be written off as a once-prominent band growing old with their audience, but then you get to “Hidden Talent” and things get super creepy. Two lines into the song, one of my musical sins gets committed when an adult man refers to anyone but his daughter as “little girl.” It’s sung in that Michael McDonald-ish, easily mocked kind of voice that usually devolves into throaty “Bur bur bur bur-bur-bur-bur” any time you do an impression of it. So that tipped me off to some grossness, which made me look up the lyrics.

A basic listen might indicate that this is just a guy trying to tell a young lady that she’s got a lot of potential she just hasn’t tapped yet, but I’m thinking this song is about a creepy old dude who wants to tap a young lady, revealing her true sex potential in the sweaty process. It goes from “I’m just trying to make you understand/All the ways you can affect this man” in the first verse to “Hidden talent (hidden talent, yeah)/Affair without warning/Hidden talent, mmm (mmm).”

Seriously, there’s no other way to read this song’s intent. Had that “little girl” portion been excised from the proceedings — as it should have been — I would have gotten a less intense predatory vibe. If this song is just a guy singing to a lady his own age, it’s not so bad, but you’re primed for an age discrepancy right from the beginning and just when you think it might be more of a mentor-y song, then you get “affair without warning.”

Alright, I’m done thinking about this record for the rest of forever.

Picking Up The 52 – Everything Else

As I said over in my more in-depth reviews of DC’s relaunch titles Huntress, Batwing, Hawk & Dove and Deathstroke #1s, I came upon a stack of books from the relaunch and read them in the order they were piled in. I was going to spread these reviews out a bit longer, but first I got a little behind in posting and then I got my hands on even more comics I want to talk about, so let’s get these out of the way, shall we. Overall, I’m still not sure how successful the issues I read were at either roping in new readers with familiar stories or  giving existing fans interesting things to sink their teeth into. I found myself really enjoying the weirder books, things like Deathstroke or Frankenstein or Justice League Dark, basically books that could be taken out of DC, tweaked here and there and feel like new, original creator owned concepts. There are a few revisions of existing franchises that I liked and one particular one that failed. If you’re curious to see what I thought in a few sentences for each issue, read on! Continue reading Picking Up The 52 – Everything Else

Awesome Poster, Terrible Movie: R.O.T.O.R. (1988)

The whole point of a movie poster is to get you to watch the flick. That might be the most obvious statement I’ve ever written and while that job morseo goes to trailers nowadays, the one place the poster still rules is on Netflix Instant. I comb through the crappy sci-fi and horror movies and often just add whatever looks interesting/strange/weird/worthwhile. That’s what I did with R.O.T.O.R. How could I not? Just look at how rad that poster is! Compare that to what you see in the trailer below.

This flick doesn’t cross over from “bad” to “so-bad-it’s-good” territory even with the goofy stop motion video that shows how great the robotics work or the wise-cracking robot who talks in a robot voice and looks like Robbie the Robot’s underdeveloped cousin even though the same company created a completely human-looking and -sounding robot. R.O.T.O.R. probably would have been better with a bunch of friends and beers, but alone on the couch it was a disappointment on all fronts.

Book Vs. Movie: I, Robot

Man, I, Robot is bad. I’m speaking of the 2004 movie starring Will Smith and directed by Alex Proyas, not the book which I liked even if it had a few flaws, as I talked about already. It’s kind of funny that my big complaint about the short stories by Isaac Asimov that make up the book were based on characterization because that was my biggest problem with the filmed version. Even funnier is that the film couldn’t nail the character of Dr. Susan Calvin who could be summed up in a few words: cold, calculating scientist. Bridget Moynahan’s interpretation of the character loses her cool so early on that she essentially becomes the damsel in distress, which is about as boring of a character as you can get.

The real problem with the movie is Will Smith. He’s ridiculously annoying in the movie as robot-hating cop Del Spooner (what a terrible name) as he spouts off awful dialog like “You have so got to die.” That kind of stuff works for younger actors, but Smith was roughly 34 when he shot this movie. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Will Smith hater. I loved Fresh Prince, Independence Day and the Bad Boys flicks, but I, Robot smacks of an older actor not understanding what he’s really good at. One-liners aside, he’s just a generally unlikable character and doesn’t really give us much to latch onto aside from having a bummer of an experience that lost him an arm and resulted in the death of a little girl. Boo hoo, you don’t have to be a dick to everyone.

Smith and Moynahan aside, I really liked the rest of the cast. Bruce Greenwood, Chi McBride, Shia LaBeouf, James Cromwell and Alan Tudyk providing the voice and mannerisms for suspected murdering robot Sonny all do a great job, but even their greatness can’t make the two stars actually shine. In fact, their goodness really highlights how bad Smith and Moynahan are.

I guess I should talk about the plot. Cromwell plays a scientist who was supposedly murdered by robot Sonny. Smith’s on the case, but everyone, including his boss McBride, thinks he’s crazy because of the Three Laws of Robotics. Unconvinced, Smith keeps pushing which leads him to Greenwood’s robot-making company U.S. Robotics which employs Moynahan. As he keeps investigating, Smith uncovers a group of robots ready willing and able to hurt humans. The script was originally written as a completely different story, but got reformatted first to fit in with the Asimov mythology and then again for Smith specifically. I’d be curious to see how the original script compared and how many supposedly awesome moments added in by that last revision.

I don’t want this review to be completely negative, though. I found the movie to be generally boring and not super interesting, but there were some interesting moments. The overall plot was interesting and could have been, but wasn’t, set in Asimov’s world. Effects-wise, Sonny looks kind of amazing and when the robots fight each other, they don’t seem like people in robot suits fighting. On the other hand, the CGI doesn’t look great when too many robots are together. The one on one robot fight towards the end looked great, but the big battle at the storage units just seemed too fake.

You’ll notice I’m not complaining about how far away from Asimov’s book the movie is, most notably that it’s set on an Earth that has robots walking around (they were banned from being used on Earth in the books). I can understand not being able to make a movie based on the entire book. It would have been crazy expensive, though according to Wikipedia Harlan Ellison tried in the late 70s. Deemed too costly, the movie was shelved but the script was eventually published as I, Robot: The Illustrated Screenplay in 1994. I definitely want to check that out. I even like the idea of making a movie that would fit in with Asimov’s stories even if it didn’t directly draw from one of the actual stories, but that’s not what this is. Maybe someone with vision and some clout will come along and work their magic. I won’t be holding by breath.


Quitting Time: Mirror’s Edge (2008)

Wow, I think I’m about to get into Spider-Man 2 territory here because, like with that movie, I find myself absolutely hating something that the general public seems to love. I remember hearing pretty stellar reviews for Mirror’s Edge when it came out. I believe the Totally Rad Show guys didn’t completely like it, but I’d have to dig back to find out (that’s one of the problems to being so late to the game with 360 games, the positive, of course, is that I get them on the cheap). Even now, the game has a 79 on Metacritic, though I think it as higher.

For anyone who might not know, the game has you running around a futuristic city. I didn’t follow the storyline whatsoever, so I can’t say whether it was any good or not, but something bad goes down and you’re running for your life. The concept is right up my alley: parkour through a futuristic city with all kinds of acrobatics, with some fighting and gunplay thrown in. It sounded like a great game with a fun concept. It turned out to be a boring and ridiculously frustrating game that made me throw down my controller in frustration a number of times, giving up completely yesterday.

Allow me to elaborate. The game sounds like you’ll be free running throughout the city with a full range of control and plenty of options on where to go and what to jump off. In actuality, there’s only one way to go about the game’s missions and those ways are rife with death, frustration and huge question marks. I can’t tell you how many times I had to look up video walkthroughs on YouTube to understand what the hell I was supposed to do. Now, I’m not against games being difficult, but there’s a kind of difficult that I like and another that just leads to frustration. With a game like Skate 2, it sometimes took me a hundred attempts to do something, but I know that it’s something I need to get better at and can eventually improve on. With Mirror’s Edge, it felt like such nit picky bullshit that kept leading to my death. Also, you’ve got to realize that this isn’t an open world that you get to hang out in like Crackdown or Spider-Man 2. There’s only one way to do everything and if you can’t get it, you’re dead.

In addition to the boring level designs and lack of freedom, the control design is pretty boring. Basically, one button makes you jump, another makes you slide and another makes you punch. For some reason these controls don’t fit the usual pattern. At first it seemed kind of cool, but then I was wondering why I was bothering with this nonsense, especially since you don’t have much actual control over your character. Hell, you can’t even move while in the air. Also, you can hit a button to let you know where you’re supposed to go, but instead of making an on-screen arrow you can follow or just glancing that direction slightly, it makes you physically turn. So, if you’re running and you tap the button to see where the hell you’re supposed to go, it can send you flying off an edge. Great.

This also relates to the fighting and shooting mechanics of the game, which also suck. I get that you’re supposed to be this fast woman who avoids fighting and killing, but that doesn’t mean the controls need to be so crummy. You’re supposed to string together jumps and slides to take out these dudes with machine guns, which works when you’re facing one guy, but doesn’t when you’re trying to go up against a series of guys with guns. Then, once you have the gun, you slow down, your aim isn’t great and it doesn’t feel like something you’re actually supposed to be doing, which is bullshit because there are times when you absolutely have to blast people away so they don’t kill you first.

I thought I could muscle through the game because, from what I’ve heard, it’s not very long. I got partway through the 7th chapter I believe and actually threw my controller on the ground and said “That’s it, I’m done.” A big part of that was the fact that the save game thing didn’t seem to work that well. I’d get through a really hard bit, save and then the next day I’d have to go through the bullshit again.

I really wish this game had been created by Black Box, the people who did Skate 2 (and 3 which I want to pick up). Hell, I’d be okay if they just wanted to make a parkour game exactly like one of the Skate games. Give me an open map I can use to teleport, a series of challenges I can get to whenever I want, the ability to feel like an actual human being while moving through the air and the ability to leave a marker that I can go back to if things go bad and I’d be a happy camper. Please, someone make THAT game because this one is terrible.

Drive-In CouchFest: Twister’s Revenge (1987)

Wow, I figured the movies in this Drive In Movie Classics 50-pack would be obscure, but I didn’t think they’d be SO obscure that I wouldn’t be able to find poster art for them online. Instead, I had to settle for the title image as it appeared onscreen. And, hey, there’s a reason Twister’s Revenge is obscure, it’s pretty stupid. And by stupid I mean in two ways: the movie is full of stupid characters and the script doesn’t really make any sense.

Here’s the plot. Three goobers are in a mechanic’s shop when they hear a guy come in and tell the owner (not one of the three goobers) that he’s got a brand new monster truck which operates on computers. They decide to steal the computers and fence them. Turns out that the guy–wearing the cowboy hat above–just sits in the cab while his fiance actually controls the truck using the computers. Now, at first it just seems like this is just a giant remote controlled car, but as it turns out it’s like the Knightrider or monster trucks (whose name is Mr. Twister by the way). We only find that out after a failed attempt to steal the computers make the goobers change their plans from robbery to kidnapping and ransom after the heroes get married. Jesus, I can’t believe how much detail I have to get into to explain this movie.

After the bad guys kidnap the girl, it’s up to the cowboy and the truck to get her back. The result is a ridiculous series of shotgun battles and scenes of people being chased by Mr. Twister like he’s a slasher (and for some reason can’t catch up to a person running and stumbling through an open, though hilly, field). I got confused for a few minutes because I wasn’t sure if the truck was running on its own or if the guy was in. Either way, why is the truck chasing down the dumbest of the goobers girlfriend? She didn’t do anything but love an idiot.

Anyway, like I said, it kind of drags on, but Mr. Twister wrecks a bunch of shit and eventually the good guy saves the girl, but only after the bad guys get their hands on a tank and a weirdly slow and surprisingly uninteresting chase scene follows.

Okay, so like I said this movie’s crazy. For some reason the bad guys keep the girl in what looks like an underground cavern with dynamite…and a coffee maker? Okay. Then, in the middle of the movie, there’s a pointless scene in a bar with a large woman dressed in spandex singing with two similarly clad back-up singers and a very new wave band clearly not playing the music that was in the movie. Which reminds me, the movie looks about as good as the screencaps which is fine, but the sound actually skips like a scratched CD or poorly transferred MP3, which gets really annoying. Oh, yeah, this also pops up in the club scene for absolutely no reason and is never referred to before or after.

So all in all, Twister’s Revenge is not a good movie. It’s a very bad movie, but it’s fun. Definitely worth watching if you’re a fan of the so-bad-it’s-good school of thought or with a bunch of friends and some beers. How can you not love a movie with an outhouse dubbed “Shit House.” And yes, that’s the dumbest of the goobers and yes, he jumps into the outhouse in order to avoid Twister’s revenge to the results you’d imagine.

Score: So bad it’s good. Way WAY better than The Devil With Seven Faces.