The High Five Episode 40 – Toy Movies

On this week’s episode, I’m running down some of the most interesting films based on toy lines, most of which began when I was a kid! Along the way, I recount my personal history with the toys as well as the movies and even give some history as we go. For sources I used the He-Man, Transformers, G.I. Joe and Barbie episodes of the excellent Toys That Made Us series on Netflix as well as some real life books: The Official 30th Anniversary Salute To GI Joe 1964-1994 by Vince Santelmo and The Art Of He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe by Tim and Steve Seeley.

Here’s a fan reconstruction of the Universal Conan show that got Gary Goddard the job directing Masters Of The Universe!

As always, you can email me at high5tj at gmail.com or follow me on Twitter and Instagram. Also feel free to subscribe to my YouTube Channel!

Halloween Scene: Friday The 13th (2009) & Jason Goes To Hell (1993)

friday the 13th poster 2009 For the most part, when it comes to remakes of prominent 80s slasher films from the past decade or so, I’m not a fan. I really disliked Rob Zombie’s Halloween and wasn’t a fan of the Platinum Dunes version of Texas Chainsaw Massacre (though I kind of liked TCM: Beginning, so go figure). It’s not so much that I can’t believe my beloved crazy murderers are getting updated or changed, it’s that there should be certain parameters that get addressed and ideas hit in any given property or franchise otherwise you’re dealing with a completely different thing. I fully understand that that’s exactly what an old fuddy duddy would say, so I guess that’s where I’m at.

Even with all that said, I actually liked the 2009 reboot of Jason Voorheese in Friday The 13th. The movie acted as more of a remake of the first three films from the original series with nods to Mrs. Voorheese being a maniac, Jason killing while wearing some funky headgear and him finally grabbing the hockey mask. The film doesn’t actually involve any campers which is a bit of a bummer, but this holds with reality better than the original films when you think about it. Who’s going to keep opening camps on a lake where a madman has created his own private hunting grounds? Those elements were still in the film, though, in the form of the abandoned camp.

It’s buildings like these where Jason has made his home. He’s basically been living in the woods for 20 years on his own, killing and maiming as he sees fit. His warped mind is reflected in the home he’s made for himself which looks like what you’d expect from a hulking man with the emotional capacity of an 8 year old (who also happens to murder people).

And boy, does he murder a lot of people. There are actually two sets of victims in this film, the first is basically pre-credits fodder who show the audience what Jason is capable of and then the second that’s staying at a rich asshole’s parents’ cabin near Crystal Lake. Meanwhile, Jared Padalecki’s traveling around trying to find his sister who was one of the women from the first batch. As you’d expect, they run afoul of Jason and he starts picking them off one by one, utilizing his trademark machete as well as a bow and arrow and a few other tools he finds nearby.

The movie’s nowhere near perfect, though. It definitely follows that late 80s slasher trend that was continued throughout most of these 00s remakes where the soon-to-be victims are all either complete asshats or, at the very least, unlikeable caricatures of stereotypes. This movie’s got the drug obsessed potheads, the jerky rich guys, the girl who sleeps with the guy as soon as his girlfriend leaves the room and the unfortunate nice girl who gets swept up in all this madness. The general idea behind creating characters like this is that audiences won’t mind seeing jerks get iced. There’s a bit of truth to that, but many horror fans would argue that it’s far more interesting to see characters we like in danger than ones we could care less about.

Still, this is a slick looking horror film with a super-intimidating actor under the Jason mask plus a story that mostly makes sense within its own rules. Some characters make wildly stupid decisions, but that’s to be expected when they’re drunk, post-coital, high or on the run from a maniac the size of a redwood. While the movie doesn’t necessarily add anything but slickness to the Friday the 13th franchise, I also don’t think it detracts like the Halloween remake did.

I would like to pose a question to my fellow Jason fans that gets into spoiler territory for this film as well as the original, so if you haven’t seen them you might want to move on. What did you think of the very end where Jason pops out of the water to grab the survivors? Personally, I’m on the fence. On one hand, I like the homage to the original, but it also felt really forced. We spent this whole time dealing with what seemed like a very human villain and then he comes back with this supernatural craziness? If they wanted to go with this kind of ending, maybe it would have been wise to avoid a wood chipper as a means of stopping him. How does he come back from that with his head intact? If it’s a dream, like some of the other water pop-outs, it’s not my bag.

jason_goes_to_hell In the process of watching all the F13 films, I of course returned to the one I liked the least, Jason Goes To Hell. This is one of those cases where I remembered not liking the film and read my old review which was overly negative, but couldn’t remember any specifics aside from the fact that they got rid of Jason and used a worm-thing to transfer evil from one body to the next.

Maybe I’m in a much different place mentally these days or maybe a complete lack of expectations made for a better viewing experience, but I like this movie more this time around. I mean, it’s not great (or even all the way good), but it’s not as terrible as my memory told me it was. There are three main problems with this film: it shouldn’t be a Jason movie, the directing is wonky and the casting was bad.

If this was simply a supernatural slasher movie about an evil transported from body to body in search of a perfect specimen, it’d actually be pretty cool. But when you take one of the most iconic killers of all time and remove him from all but two big chunks of the film, you’re not really making a new Friday the 13th movie.

As far as the directing goes, I don’t think this needs much explanation. Some elements of this film are just dumb. But, even if they weren’t there are some supremely strange choices. Jessica returns to her house to find her mom’s co-worker (and a childhood friend, possibly) cleaning her dead mom’s blood out of the carpet. This scene isn’t necessarily acted poorly, but it is staged in a supremely strange manner. These two old friends start catching up (not weird) about five yards from the gigantic blood stain (weird). Oh, also, the friend doesn’t know about Jessica’s baby even though she spent a lot of time with the kid’s grandma AND knows the father. That just doesn’t make sense.

It’s not easy separating the acting choices with the directing ones in this film. Everyone related to Ma, the diner owner, is awful. They’re poorly constructed characters performed in this ridiculous, over-the-top manner that made me bristle. On the other hand, you’ve got Steven Williams as the bounty hunter who somehow knows EVERYTHING about Jason and yet has never killed the maniac himself. This guy thinks he’s so Eastwood it’s annoying. You don’t need to growl everything to let us know you’re a badass.

And yet, I can’t completely write this movie off. Like I said, it’s an interesting story. Plus, the special effects are pretty great at times. The part where that guy basically melts was pretty gross and that little Jason monster made me cringe.  At the end of the day, this could have been a better movie with a few changes or maybe another pass or two in the editing/writing phase.

Veronica Mars Is Awesome (2004-2007)

Man, you guys, I love when I wind up really liking a show I didn’t think I could even get through. I had heard good things about Veronica Mars, but thanks to a general dislike of things other people get SUPER excited about and a growing dislike of Kristen Bell, I wasn’t super interested. But, pretty much anything showing up on Netflix Instant gains my attention. One day I was feeling curious and the missus and I were in need of a new show to watch, so we jumped in and wound up devouring most of the series in a pretty short amount of time (we started right before she gave birth to our daughter and wound up finishing the other day).

My dislike of Kristen Bell stems less from a dislike of her as a person and more so the characters she’s played in movies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Couples Retreat and Burlesque (where the young-looking 30 year old actress hilariously played a washed up veteran dancer, a role that should have gone to someone older or more broke looking than Ms. Bell). She was really good at playing assholes to the point where I couldn’t really see myself liking her in a different role (I must have forgotten her in Fanboys). Thankfully, it turns out she’s a pretty damn great actress and the role of Veronica Mars seems absolutely tailor made for her and suits her perfectly.

The general idea behind VM is that Veronica works for her dad’s private investigative firm. The cases she handles, though, usually involve students at her high school and later college asking her for help to figure something out while overarching mysteries play out over the whole season. The first season revolves around Veronica trying to figure out who killed her best friend Lilly (can’t tell you how disappointed I was when I discovered that the beautiful Amanda Seyfried was on the show, but playing a dead girl who spent a good deal of her on-screen time in weirdly lit dream sequences or with gaping head wounds). The second season focuses on the murder of several students who were on a bus that crashed into the ocean. The third actually finished up it’s overarching story early on, but most of it dealt with a serial rapist at the college Veronica (and many of her high school friends) wound up attending.

When I asked my buddy Ben Morse about the series–he was a big fan when it was actually on–he said that the first season was an incredibly tight season of television with a fantastic mystery and then the quality kind of went down from there. I actually really dug all the seasons. Some of the mysteries-of-the-week might not have been quite as interesting as the other, but I thought that overall the writing and acting were of a surprisingly excellent level.

I’d like to give whoever casted this show a hug because he or she did such an amazing job. Bell is perfect as Veronica, starting off hard and jaded thanks to her fall from grace, but eventually getting more comfortable. At the same time, she’s a real ass-kicker who doesn’t let anyone give her shit. That’s a great character and one you don’t see often, especially in such a likable package. You really want to hang out with her, but also stay on her good side. I also loved her dad, Keith Mars, played by Enrico Colantoni. He walks that tightrope between dad who lets his daughter work cases for him and bulldog. He doesn’t look like the most threatening dude in the world, but there are times where he really puts the screws to someone and you can’t help but cheer. Her friends Mac (Tina Majorino), Wallace (Percy Daggs III) and Weevil (Francis Capra) are all pretty good at their roles. Her one time boyfriend Duncan (Teddy Dunn) was a bit wooden, but lowered expectations actually lead to some really surprising moments from him. Background character Dick (Ryan Hansen) is this amazing example of a rich kid who truly doesn’t seem to have a care, worry or thought in his head beyond getting laid or drunk…until the end. Most impressive, though, for me was Jason Dohring as Logan. He starts off as this total asshole, but has the biggest progression as far as character goes from the beginning of the series to the end becoming something of a tragic hero by the end. Dohring has a great skill for conveying a lot with a little look or nod and saying nothing. I was most impressed by him and think he should be a pretty big star.

The series also sported some great guest stars like Harry Hamlin as Logan’s dad, Charisma Carpenter as Dick’s step mom and Paul Rudd as a washed up 90s rocker, but they weren’t all gold. Lisa Rinna–who played Hamlin’s wife on the show and does the same in real life too–was absolutely atrocious. She couldn’t even convincingly act like she was listening to people in the same scene as her like a human does. Blech. Luckily, she’s not in the show for very wrong. To give you an idea of how bad she is, I’d rather Paris Hilton had stuck around for more than her two episodes as a high schooler (snicker) than watch Rinna on the screen. But, hey, no show is perfect and Hamlin wound up murdering his role, so it’s an okay tit for tat.

Another problem with the series is that it doesn’t have a real ending. There’s a last episode and lots of hints throughout the final season that might lead towards Veronica’s future with the FBI, but there’s not a real finale, even with a last episode filled with familiar faces. From what I’ve read, the show never really had a solid foundation with it’s network and didn’t really garner a huge number of viewers. As such, they didn’t know if they’d get renewed for a next season. Turns out they didn’t. Had VMars been one season and ended thusly, I think it could be off putting for future viewings, but with a solid three seasons, it’s less of a negative mark for me.

Which brings me to my last point, I really want to watch Veronica Mars again. Not in the near future, but I want to see how it holds up the second time around when I know all the big reveals and whether the hints and clues of the actual killers/criminals are there from the beginning. This is actually a lot different than most mystery-of-the-week type shows for me. I used to watch CSI all the time, but I don’t have a desire to go back and watch that again. Or even a show I like a lot like Bones. The overarching stuff there tends to be relationship-based, which Veronica definitely has, but those long-reaching season-long mysteries add an extra layer to the series that will probably bring me back to it somewhere in the future. Highly recommended!