Who’s Who: Doctor Who The Movie (1996)

I’m still not sure why I added 1996’s TV movie version of Doctor Who featuring the one and only appearance of the 8th Doctor played by Paul McGann. For all intents and purposes, it’s a stand alone installment that doesn’t really matter. The long running BBC sci-fi series had been cancelled in 1989 and this was the first (failed) attempt to bring the Doctor back to the hearts and minds of his British fans, as well as viewers of American television. A joint venture between the BBC and Fox, the TV movie happened to air against the very last episode of Roseanne and did not to well in the States. It would be another nine years until the Doctor actually made his triumphant–and ultimately successful–return to TV (which I’ve reviewed the first, second, third, fourth and fifth seasons, still haven’t caught the sixth yet).

I guess I just like oddities and this definitely fits that role. The movie actually fits in with the overall continuity as it begins with the last appearance of the 7th Doctor played by Sylvester McCoy. The Doc winds up in the States, get’s shot by gang members, gets taken to a hospital, dies and then regenerates as McGann, not knowing who he is. Meanwhile, the Master who’s supposed to be dead breaks out of his sorta-jail, turns into a clear, liquid snake thing that winds up taking over Eric Roberts like the weird worm in Jason Goes To Hell. From there there’s a bit of romance between the Doctor and a doctor, something about a millennium clock that’s bad (I honestly missed a few of the finer details thanks to a screaming 12 week old) and the eventual throw down between the two Time Lords.

Overall, it’s not a bad entry in the history of Doctor Who. It’s nowhere near the best representation of what the property can achieve, but I would guess it’s not the worst either. For what it’s worth, the only original Who I’ve seen was on the first disc of The Beginning DVD. Roberts really gets into playing a villain which is fun to watch, but might be a little too over the top for some. I dug it. The one inescapable element of the movie I could not ignore, though, was how much it looks like a 90s Fox TV movie or series. It just reeks of things like Mutant X, Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Generation X. Even with some great sets and fairly good special effects, there’s something very distinctly 90s about the proceedings. I think it might have something to do with the type of film used? Whatever the reason, there’s an overt artificiality that gets to me.

Anyway, I like checking out the history of Doctor Who, especially an odditiy like this. I think one of the reasons I decided to watch this particular disc is because I didn’t really need to know a lot going in. By the way, even if you’re not interested in checking out the film itself, I recommend getting this disc from Netflix because it includes a documentary about the seven year journey from the end of the original series to the making of this movie. It’s pretty epic and probably more interesting than the movie itself.

Also, a quick question: does anyone know why only some of the Doctor Who material is available to watch instantly on Netflix? Only a handful of serials are on there from the first three Doctors. I want to slowly work my way through the whole series, but not if I have to spend so many of my disc rentals on it. By the way, if you’re like me and are looking for a proper list of all the Doctor Who serials in order with links to DVDs on Netflix, go here. It’s a wonderful list and super helpful.

Best Double Feature Ever: Expendables & Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010)

How weird is it that on April 17th of last year, I wrote a post about how excited I was about Expendables and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and now, lots and lots of months later, I got to see both flicks in the theater on the same day? At least sort of weird.

I actually cleared my work schedule earlier this week so I could go see Expendables at the first showing in my town. It was the 11:20 show at the Destinta and I had an amazing time. The movie, which combines all the best action stars ever (okay, maybe there were a few folks not in the movie, but there’s never been a movie with this many of them) as a team of mercenaries doing jobs. The actual Expendables consist of Sylvester Stallone, Jason Stahtham, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Terry Crews and Dolph Lundgren. They’re going up against a drug kingpin (played by David Zayas of Dexter fame!) who’s working with Eric Roberts who has Steve Austin as a body guard. Stallone got the job from Bruce Willis when Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t want the job. Oh and Mickey Rourke used to be an Expendable but he retired. I think that covers everyone.

I’m not going to get into the plot too much because, let’s be honest, who cares? If you haven’t seen the movie what you’re wondering is “Is it a solid action movie or a bunch of old men playing war?” It’s a solid action movie. Period. I had a ridiculous amount of fun sitting in the theater watching the flick. There’s all kinds of cheesy one-liners (to be expected), awesome team-ups and fights I never expected to see (seeing Stallone and Statham pall around is like a dream come true) and, as I hope you were expecting, tons of blood, explosions, punches, bullets, knives and body slams (not in a cheesy “hey look we’ve got wrestlers in the movie!” way, but it a way that makes sense).

Speaking of the fighting, I really like how each guy has his own specialties and sticks to them for the most part. Li’s obviously the martial artist, but Statham’s got moves of his own mixing knife and gun play. Stallone uses an array of weapons, Lundgren uses his caveman bulk and Couture just kicks ass. It’s fantastic. I will say that the fight scenes get a little shaky/jumpy, but I just kind of opened my eyes real wide and absorbed as much as I could. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything, but I still want to watch the movie again so I can absorb even more of it.

It’s funny because a few years ago the ToyFare guys and I created a group called The Manly Men of Action which was a generational grouping of action heroes starring Arnold, Dolph, Stallone and Bruce as the 80s team. We also dreamed up groups from the 60s and 70s, skipped the 90s and went on to the 00s which was the whole plot of the first story (check out some rad wallpapers here). So, it’s pretty awesome that Stallone reads ToyFare and turned our idea into a movie, but would it have been so bad to ask us to cameo? Just saying. Oh, also, the movie hints at a long history for this team and previous incarnations and I would be completely down for sequels and prequels and comic book adaptations and an animated series and anything else.

I was actually less excited about Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, but that’s only because my love of 80s action movies goes back further and is much deeper than my love of Scott Pilgrim. In fact, I’m not that huge a fan of the series and haven’t even read the last installment yet. I was really more excited to see what director Edgar Wright would do with the source material and how he would bring a comic book aesthetic to film. And he did it using some crazy jump cuts, lots of sound onomatopoeia on screen, lifting elements from Bryan Lee O’Malley’s panels and creating some truly epic fight scenes.

The story, as most of you probably know, is about clueless Canadian loser Scott Pilgrim falling in love with Ramona Flowers and having to defeat her seven evil exes to be with her. Like aside, the fights are numerous as are the video game references (coins fall from defeated enemies, weapons appear from seemingly nowhere and people glow red when they’re close to death). But I wonder if that makes the movie a little too inside baseball for your average viewer. I went with the missus to see the flick and she hasn’t read the books nor did she play Nintendo much as a kid, so a lot of the elements I was laughing at along with my fellow audience members (there were actually more people at the mid day Expendables than the 7:50pm Scott) went right over her head. She said she dug it and I asked her to write a post about it, but we’ll see.

But, you might be saying, “Who cares what the newbies think, if they don’t get it, screw ’em.” Okay, fair enough, I guess. But, from a business standpoint, you’ve got to imagine that people like me were already pretty much guaranteed to see the movie, but people like her (norms as I call ’em) aren’t. If she goes to work and tells her friends she didn’t really get it, then they might not go. What I’m saying is that it might have made a little sense to explain some of the video game elements earlier in the movie so that EVERYONE gets the gag. There’s even a scene where Scott and his then-girlfriend Knives play a Dance Dance Revolution-type fighting game, but if the elements were foreshadowed there, I didn’t notice. I was just watching the crazy game.

Another complaint–though a minor one–I had while watching the movie is that sometimes, the fight scenes seemed a little stagey, like Michael Cera (playing Scott) was responding to the next move in the series of moves before the attack was coming. It’s a minor complaint because, frankly, the fight scenes mostly moved pretty quickly, but I definitely got that vibe a few times which was a bummer.

Speaking of Cera, I really had my reservations about him playing Scott in the movie. Like I said, I’m not a die hard fan of the books, but in them, the character is kind of an infuriatingly dull loveable loser who just doesn’t understand most of what’s going on around him, while Cera’s awkward movie persona didn’t really jive with that. I’m still not 100% sure on it, as the movie sometimes felt wobbly as far as Scott’s characterization, but that’s how things were in the book. You really like him one moment, then he does something stupid and you want to give him a wedgie. Overall, I dug his casting and everyone else, so good on Wright and Company for that.

Two more quick complaint and this one actually goes back to the books. First off, like in the first volume, I think it takes too long for the rules of the world to get established. You go from normal people to crazy superhero/video game fights in the blink of an eye without much of a warning. The other problem is that the books felt like they were running out of steam and rushed towards the last couple volumes (I can’t speak to the 6th volume). I mean, come on, two of the exes are twins? I guess it’s not necesarrily a bad thing that we spend time with the character of Scott before he and Ramona start dating, but some of the exes just feel rushed.

Okay, enough bitching. The effects are awesome as is the music. I think I might actually go out and buy the soundtrack (though as a music geek I’ve got to call bullshit that Scott can afford one of the most expensive basses around–the kind you have to call Musician’s Friend just to get the price off–and Steven gets such a good sound out of an acoustic that doesn’t look to have a pick up anywhere inside it). I LOVE the bass battle.

All in all the movie’s a lot of fun (at least for 20-something dudes) and, from what I can remember, follows the comics pretty well (though I wonder if deviating a little more might have helped make the story more accessible to non geeks). Anyway, if I had to choose one movie between Scott and Expendables to see again this weekend, I would definitely go with Expendables. I walked out of that movie just feeling awesome all over, but I’m really glad I got to see both movies in the theaters on opening day. I haven’t done that for just one movie in quite a while!

Live Blogging Best of the Best (1989)

One time in high school my group of friends rented a cabin in a place called Maumee Bay State Park. We did this on a number of occasions, so I’m not sure exactly when this happened, but we were up pretty late watching Best of the Best 3, making strange comparisons between the main character and Chad Mikrut‘s dad (like Chuck Norris-isms). Suddenly, the power went out and we were all a little freaked out because we were kind of in the middle of nowhere with one dad (not Chad’s) and no weapons. Being the horror fan I was, I used my knowledge to freak my friends out. Eventually the power came back on and none of us were killed. With that kind of memory attached the the third Best of the Best movie, I had high hopes for the original.

Unfortunately, this flick isn’t good for any of the reasons it’s supposed to. I was hoping for a pretty badass action movie and instead got one of the slowest in history. But, on the plus side, it stars Eric Roberts, James Earl Jones and Chris Penn. Without further ado, let’s get into this. The movie’s about Eric Roberts who gets picked to join a team of fighters who are facing off against the North Koreans in some kind of championship. Jones is the trainer (along with, gasp, a woman!). Roberts is the main characters and Penn’s one of the other fighters. We also have Phillip Rhee as Tommy Lee, the fighter with a sex tape (or a shadowy past, I can’t remember).

*Is that Hobie? [Nope, it’s not Baywatch’s Jeremy Jackson, but Edan Gross, who plays Roberts’ kid.]

*Eric Roberts looks the freakin’ same! [I only really remember him from Heroes, but he hasn’t changed much.]

*What the hell is James Earl Jones doing in this movie? [You’re DARTH VADER!]

*Chris Penn as a fighter? [I’ve only ever seen Penn in Reservoir Dogs and Stasky and Hutch, so seeing him kick ass was kind of a surprise.]

*There’s an ass-kicking team? [The whole plot of the movie centers around these guys getting picked and trained to fight. Not really sure why, but there’s medals involved.]

*The Buddhist guy looks familiar. [Because he played Andrew on Touched By An Angel, one of my mom’s favorite shows.]

*I love the fighting nerd. [He’s their tech guy and has video and stats on every fighter in the world. Old computers make me giggle.]

*Uh oh, bar fight incoming. [For once I was right. This is the last actual fight until the end of the movie…sigh.]

*”I want him, I want his balls.” [Said by the antagonist in the bar fight, hilarious.]

*A girl’s joining the team? No way! Whew, just as a trainer. Look out boys!

*Holy jeez, dual training montages.

*Ha, young Ahmad Rashad as a sportscaster.

*This movie’s kinda boring isn’t it? You get some cool scenes in the beginning then a bunch of training and drama and now finally the ultimate tournament.

*James Earl Jones Invoked the title!!!

*Finally, the tournament.

*Sonny’s not looking so good, loses. [The guy who played Sonny, one of the five on the team, never acted again, huh.]

*Virgil (the Buddhist) probably gonna win, uh, oh, he’s looking like a punk. He loses!

*Now Chris Penn has to win, otherwise they’re out of it, right? A demonstration of strength decides it. Whoever breaks the most bricks. Aw, he freakin’ lost!

*Oh, total points decide the winner, thanks Ahmad. They probably should have made that clear int he beginning. Well, they might have and I missed it.

*Roberts’ moves look really slow, he just seems to hit hard. A martial arts master would whoop him silly.

*”I’m gonna take your head off.” [I assume Roberts said this to his opponent, but I really don’t remember.]

*”Pop it, pop it, pop it!” [Haha, I think James Earl Jones says this to someone, but I can’t remember!]

*Ahmad keeps staring right at the camera, which makes sense because he’s commentating, but it looks weird.

*Haha, Roberts beats that guy with one arm after getting hurt. Still, should have been more badass.

*Holy shit, Kane Hodder’s in this as Burt, one of the guys in the bar fight. Thanks IMDb!

*Ooh, big showdown, one-eye vs. Tommy. [I didn’t take notes during the middle of the movie, but Tommy’s brother was killed by this one eyed dude in a tourney. Tommy was afraid to unleash his full power because he didn’t want to hurt anyone. Or something. Whatever, now they’re fighting.]

*Tommy needs to stop being such a bitch.

*Even this feels slow and it’s supposed to be the big one.

*Berserker rage!!! That’s what you get one-eye!

*One-eye looks like a zombie.

*I don’t think James Earl Jones REALLY wanted him not to kill that guy. A brief “no” and a headshake don’t make me think you’re serious.

*They f**king lost? Stupid movie.

*Tommy was in all the BOTB flicks, even directed the last two. [More IMDb facts while the movie’s wrapping up.]

*Gag, one-eye apologizes and then “offers himself as your brother.” Blarg. Kick his head off! Did a dude actually write this movie?

*Now they’re all giving the Americans their medals? This is stupid.

*Roberts’ kid is the voice of flounder.

So, I can’t really recommend BOTB for anything other than a potential drunken marathon of all four films with plenty of MST3K or Manly Movie Night-style jokes tossed out.

If you’re still looking for a good, rad movie, I’ve got to offer caution and instead recommend you watch the following clips. That’s all you need. First up, the bar fight.