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October 17, 2008

Red Mike Goes to the Movies +Spoilers+
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:17 PM * 120 comments

Today I went to the video rental store (First Run Video, in the Walker House on Main Street, Colebrook). I walked to the Horror section, closed my eyes, spun around, reached out and touched … UNEARTHED. (“The wrath of 900 years is about to awake.”)

This is apparently part of the After Dark HorrorFest 8 Films to Die For series.

So settle back, kiddies. I haven’t seen this film, or heard of it. Instead, watch along with me as a Making Light reader who is prepared to handle the worst that life can hand you. You have your go bag. Let’s go!

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

Continued below the cut.

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS


Popping popcorn. (Kettle corn! Yum!) Ejected my copy (one of A Whole Lot) of Obsession, the anti-Islamic propaganda film that was mailed in mass quantities to every registered voter in every swing state a couple of weeks ago (more on this in another post).

Racking up the video. Let’s go!

(Scary copyright warning)

Preview for The Eye (Jessica Alba). Promotion for Fear.net. Promotion for HorrorFest 2007. “Each year there are movies produced that are never seen by the public. Their content is considered too graphic, too shocking, to be seen by general audiences….” Or too lousy to turn a buck in theaters, but might as well be released direct to video….

Trailer for Wristcutters: A Love Story. Looks pretty good. “Life sucks. Love survives.”

Okay, done with the trailers. Main feature!

Only actors names I recognize in the titles are M. C. Gainey and Russell Means.

4:32. The titles are over. Extreme closups of someone turning on a water spigot during a lightning storm. The hose is leaky. (Making Light readers will know to inspect their hoses regularly, and replace leaky hoses. They’re likely to fail at inopportune times.)

The title sequence ends with someone (face has been concealed throughout) racking a shotgun and walking off-screen.

From there — we’re in a diner somewhere in the Southwest. A nice waitress is filling someone’s thermos with coffee, and talking with the guy about his dogs. A thermos of coffee is a good thing. But not much good against dehydration.

6:23 The guy is a truck driver. Big point made of his tee-shirt (that had better be important later). He’s heading out … uh oh! Something scuttled across the road (it’s dark!) and looks like he crashed. But he (like all Making Light readers) was wearing his seat belt. I sure hope he’s okay.

8:55 Uh oh. Looks like the fuel truck (which our guy was driving) has blown up. A Black Dude from Detroit in a Fancy Car has arrived at Russell Means’ gas station with the news. Russell is there with his beautiful young Native American female scientist relative (you can tell she’s a scientist because she has a microscope). No gas available at the gas station.

Making Light readers who know that Half A Tank Is Empty will be okay, because they already refueled.

Not that having all the gas in the world would have helped. The truck crash caused a power outage. And we’ve just met a beautiful young lady, prancing around in her undies. Turns out she’s the sheriff. And turns out she prefers mixing vodka with her orange juice for breakfast. Making Light readers will have their battery-operated radios, and their flashlights. And they know that alcohol and disaster don’t mix.

If this young lady could hear the background music, she’d know to switch from vodka to water.

13:43. Gee, the Southwest sure is pretty. The sheriff made it out to the crash site. We’ve met her deputy. There’s a Weird Guy with Facial Tattoos watching them with binoculars.

Sheriff isn’t wearing her hat. She should watch out for sunstroke.

17:17 The sheriff has gone to the Beautiful Young Native American’s Laboratory to ask what the strange biological sample she got from behind the truck’s grille is. The scientist says that she can’t be very helpful… at the best she can tell the species. Russell Means shows up to deliver some ancient wisdom. Sheriff gets a radio call that a wolf has eaten someone’s cattle. She heads out without buckling her seatbelt. She will not come to a good end.

(The twenty-minute mark is when the First Horror arrives in most horror movies. All foreboding up to then. I’ll keep you posted.)

20:25 Right on time! The truck driver is dead and the guy with the facial tats is performing a field-expedient autopsy on him with a Bowie knife. They guy’s guts are full of wiggling little hooked-headed worms!

(There’s also a dead cow. Oh, and we’ve just met Two Blonde Bimbos who are Lost.)

If they were Making Light readers they’d have maps and compasses. And GPS navigators.

22:41 Uh oh! A farmer has been dragged off camera! Crunching noises! Blood! And he wasn’t using the Buddy System, so no one will raise the alarm!

The bimbos (and a male hitchhiker who could get a job as a male model any time he wants) have arrived at Russell Means’ gas station. Meanwhile, the sheriff is in town, listening to the locals complain about the Wolf Problem.

27:40 And now it’s night. And the Sheriff is out at Russell Means’ gas station, where he is delivering more Ancient Wisdom. “My people do not look at it as ‘making a pot.’ To us, it is as serious as life.” Oh, and the road will be open sometime tomorrow. (What’s the matter with those guys? The road wasn’t all that badly blocked to start with. And where’s the guys from the power company? It’s only one pole.)

I sure hope there’s some gratuitous female nudity. Just sayin’.

Uh-oh! The Indian Scientist Chick has applied a dye to the sample that attaches to the DNA of any life form from any of the five kingdoms, but this sample from the truck … it doesn’t attach to it! This is “a bona fide unnatural life form!”

The tavern-keeper lady has just discovered that two of her customers have been horribly murdered. She knows right what to do: She hides behind the bar, takes a flashlight, puts it under her chin, and shines it upward. Planning to scare off the evil murderer, no doubt. Calling 9-1-1 does not cross her mind.

33:41. Tavern-lady is horribly killed (or we presume so) off-screen. She had a shotgun. She didn’t take a defensible position and wait. And since she didn’t call 9-1-1 (or make use of the CB radio in her tavern) no one knows that she was even in trouble. Making Light readers know to keep comms open, and let people know where you are and what’s going on.

40:47 The guy with the facial tats showed up and had a long conversation with Russell Means, in Indian, without subtitles, which I think is cheating. And now Blonde Bimbo #1 has been horribly murdered (without even taking off her shirt). Russell Means has also been Horribly Murdered (I guess they couldn’t afford him for the whole movie). His gas station is burning down (apparently he stored a lot of gasoline on the inside) and right now Blonde Bimbo #2, Handsome Hitchhiker, the Drunken Sheriff, and the Beautiful Scientist have escaped in the Blondes’ Pickup Truck. We’ve seen the monster: It looks like a combination of Gorgo and a Praying Mantis. These folks are using good Making Light decisions: If you don’t understand what’s happening, back off until you do understand.

Oh, yeah, and the Black Dude is with them. Bet he doesn’t get to see the final credits.

The Sheriff is tearing up her shirt to make a bandage for her leg. There’s some hope of Entertainment Value yet. If she’d had a proper first aid kit she wouldn’t have had to do that. But what’s this? The pickup truck has just had a mechanical breakdown!

45:17 Remember the deputy? He’s just been Horribly Killed just as he was about to find the Dead Farmer from 22:41

Plucky Sheriff (who apparently has a Dark Secret in her past) and her party head out on foot. They approach a camp….

It’s the camp of the guy with the facial tats (whose name, apparently, is Kyle). He isn’t there. But there is the opening to a cave, so our heroes decide to go spelunking. The Beautiful Young Scientist informs them that this is an ancient burial ground.

Spelunking, at night, without equipment, without anyone knowing where they are … bad idea.

Kyle (or maybe it’s Cale) just showed up with a shotgun. “University said I was crazy … they stripped my funding … but I was right!”

Blonde Bimbo #2 has been bitten by a rattlesnake while reaching into a hole between two rocks. In the desert. At night.

We now know what the monster is: A biological probe sent by an advanced civilization to gather DNA. But! Kyle (or Cale) knows what to do! He’ll make a poison to stop it. But he needs the help of the Beautiful Young Scientist to do it. The “Oh, Come On!” factor is getting high. Making Light readers would have long-since decamped.

At the 1:03:26 point, Bimbo #2, the Black Dude (who was shot by Kyle for reasons that I still don’t fully understand; fortunately it was only a flesh wound), and the Beautiful Scientist have decamped in Kyle’s SUV. Kyle (who managed to manufacture the poison, but threw away the dart gun for reasons that I absolutely don’t understand) and the Drunken Sheriff are still running around the caves, as is the monster. The Handsome Hitchhiker has been Horribly Killed.

You have to be kidding! The SUV has just run out of gas!

Fortunately, in sight of Rob Horn’s ranch. Rob is the guy who had the “wolf trouble” back in the first reel. Oh — I was mistaken. The drunken sheriff is with this group. The Hot Chick who’s still back in the cave is the Beautiful Young Native American Scientist.

1:10:57 Oh noes! Everyone at Rob Horn’s Ranch is dead, Horribly Killed and Mutiliated, except for colorful ol’ Western Rancher Rob (played by M. C. Gainey, who’s been doing business at that stand for a long time). Meanwhile, back at the cave, the Beautiful Young Scientist, with aid of a handy Geiger counter, discovers that uranium is the catalyst that makes the poison work. By great good luck the rocks here are full of uranium.

Making Light readers would probably not have a Geiger counter. It’s heavy, expensive, and single-purpose. (We would, however, know how to make a field-expedient cloud chamber, should the need arise.)

By great good luck, the sheriff is able to take the battery from the out-of-gas SUV and put it in the old farm truck of Rob’s that hasn’t been driven in a year (and therefore its battery is dead).

Meanwhile, by even greater good luck, the Beautiful Young Scientist has a complete uranium extraction plant in her lab back at Russell Means’ Gas Station. And by still greater good luck, it didn’t burn down when the gas station burned. How exactly they got there, I don’t know. All the vehicles are accounted for, and are somewhere else, and I got the impression that the camp was driving distance but not walking distance from the gas station.

1:18:27 Told ya that the Black Guy wouldn’t get to see the final credits! Oh, and Rob is dead too (off camera). But Bimbo and Sheriff are alive, got the other vehicle working, and are driving off!

Our Intrepid Scientist is getting uranium by using an angle grinder on a chunk of uranium ore. Who knew it was so easy?

1:28:58. That’s it! Barely feature length. Kyle is Horribly Killed. Drunken sheriff is Horribly Killed (but not before she can inject uranium into the creature, destroying it). Blonde Bimbo (who is All Better, since Kyle thoughtfully had some anti-venom in a cooler at his camp) and Beautiful Scientist drive off into the dawn. Neither one says “This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” though that would improve the movie immensely. No one at all whipped off her shirt (though that would have improved the movie even more).

A great deal took place in the dark, which made the special effects budget smaller.

And that’s the end. Roll the credits. One beast (with some additional inexplicable spider-beasts, probably there because spider-beasts were so much fun in Cloverfield), a good deal of blood, no breasts, no car chases.

Red Mike says “Maybe a different movie next time. This one … well, direct to DVD.”

Goodness. No wonder I had such trouble telling the characters apart. We had characters named Kale, Kelly, Caya, Charlie, Curtis, and Carla.

END

Comments on Red Mike Goes to the Movies +Spoilers+:
#1 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2008, 09:32 PM:

What's the spoiler -- there is no main feature?

#2 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2008, 09:42 PM:

Um...are you liveblogging this thing or am I missing something?

#3 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2008, 09:45 PM:

Liveblogging a movie. I suppose I've had worse ideas.

#4 ::: Avedaggio ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2008, 09:46 PM:

like liveblogging paint dry? Or you could liveblog my worthless German class.

#5 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2008, 10:52 PM:

Avedaggio--our newly painted bedroom is almost dry; thank you for asking . . . updates later.

#6 ::: Zak ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2008, 11:17 PM:

The university was funding shotguns?

#7 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2008, 11:17 PM:

My husband has a penchant for Made for SciFi Channel movies on the weekends. This is like any random Sunday afternoon at our house. Except that it's better than Stan Lee's Harpies (my personal nadir for all things SciFi Channel).

You may commence to pity me now...

#8 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2008, 11:56 PM:

Paint almost dry . . .

#9 ::: Zak ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 12:14 AM:

I'm pretty sure that the safety warning label that comes attached to most uranium ore says that turning it into a particulate is contraindicated for women who are pregnant, might be pregnant or considering becoming pregnant as well as persons in good health who are interested in continuing good health.

#10 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 12:25 AM:

#9
Yeah, my physics teacher made us handle the pitchblende with tongs.

#11 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 12:46 AM:

But what happens next?

Did Jim get called out on an ambulance run? Will we have to wait while his interestingly-mauled neighbor gets taken down to Dartmouth?

#12 ::: Zak ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 12:57 AM:

I very sincerely hope this is what happens next.

All to often it is not.

#13 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 02:59 AM:

Meanwhile, by even greater good luck, the Beautiful Young Scientist has a complete uranium extraction plant in her lab back at Russell Means’ Gas Station.

I see this as the caption to a New Yorker or XKCD cartoon only a scant handful of people Got, but all of them have it hanging where they can see it from their computers.

#14 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 03:02 AM:

A poster inspired by an idea which Charlie Stross had, which amounted to a zombie version of the movie Dog Soldiers (trailer on YouTube).

Unfortunately, there's a bit of a shortage of gratuitous female nudity.

#15 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 03:08 AM:

Meanwhile, by even greater good luck, the Beautiful Young Scientist has a complete uranium extraction plant in her lab back at Russell Means’ Gas Station.

I see this as the caption to a New Yorker or XKCD cartoon only a scant handful of people Got, but all of them have it hanging where they can see it from their computers.

#16 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 03:21 AM:

yikes. Sorry about the double post.

#17 ::: Zarquon ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 04:28 AM:

Instead of watching paint dry, why not renovate? (via James Nicoll)

#18 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 07:13 AM:

To fill you in on a bit more of the plot:

The guy with tats on his face was digging in the Indian Burial Ground (never a good idea). He disturbed the Monster, which then went out gathering DNA samples in a particularly gruesome manner.

But by reading the petroglyphs on the walls in that cave, the guy (and the Beautiful Young Native American Scientist) figure out that the Native Americans all that time ago were faced by the same creature and stopped it by poisoning it with Native Plants and Minerals.

Which leads to the entire uranium thing.

#19 ::: janeyolen ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 07:22 AM:

I have always loved Red Mike's movie reviews. They are MUCH better thank watching paint dry. And you can quote me on that.

Jane

#20 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 08:05 AM:

the strange biological sample she got from behind the truck’s grille

To the Truck's Grill,
You swerve.
We serve
Nothing but roadkill.

#21 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 08:52 AM:

I think Red Mike should get a Macarthur Grant for watching movies for the Rest of Us.

I think Russell Means should have a better agent.

#22 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 08:59 AM:

I'd like to recommend "George and the Dragon".

I suspect that, after seeing the script, someone went ohmygod and decided they wouldn't play it straight.

”You’ll take the egg. I’ll rescue the princess.”
#23 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 09:52 AM:

Serge #22: The thing is, Serge, when I think of George and the Dragon, that film is by no means the first thing that comes to mind, if you see what I mean.

#24 ::: Mark Wise ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 10:03 AM:

The liveblogging made me wonder whatever happened to John Bloom and his admiration of enormous talents.

This, apparently. And this. I still miss these, though.

#25 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 10:06 AM:

Wristcutters is one of my favorite recent movies. It's a sunny, optimistic movie set in a crappy afterlife populated entirely by suicides. The soundtrack is great, and halfway through Tom Waits shows up.

I love horror movies but haven't rented many of the "Eight Films to Die For" series (which at this point seems to include at least 16 movies, the way the Hitchhiker's Guide trilogy runs to five volumes). Most of them look like the kind of teenagers-and-gore movies I loathe. The one I have seen, and can recommend, is Reincarnation. Like most of the recent Japanese imports it keeps the gore relatively low, and it's a reasonably smart movie that doesn't feel the need to explain everything immediately--although the plot does all make sense in the end. It's sort of entertaining reading the reviews on Amazon, which are all over the place--I think many of the people who bought it must have expected something more like Unearthed.

#26 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 10:54 AM:

Fragano @ 23... Piper Perabo is a tad cuter.

#27 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 02:36 PM:

Serge #26: Just a tad.

#28 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 02:40 PM:

I don't suppose they discussed whether to siphon gas out of the farm truck instead of taking the battery out of the SUV?
But now I really want to know what the petroglyph is for uranium.
-Barbara

#29 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 03:10 PM:

I remember the Bad Film Festival they had at Oberlin once:

You got a buck back for each one you sat through.

Plan Nine From Outer Space
Invasion of the Bee Girls
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
They Saved Hitler's Brain

#30 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 03:16 PM:

I think you have a lot of faith on Making Light readers, Jim. I don't think I ever inspected a hosepipe in my life. I do always wear my seatbelt, though.

#31 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 03:32 PM:

Wesley @ 25 ("I love horror movies but haven't rented many of the "Eight Films to Die For" series (which at this point seems to include at least 16 movies, the way the Hitchhiker's Guide trilogy runs to five volumes"): That's because it's a yearly occurrence tied to Horrorfest, and began in 2006.

So they're actually up to 24.

Besides that, you're largely right about the content, it seems (link to Wikipedia article on the series).

#32 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 03:47 PM:

That film fest needed to have, "The Green Slime" in it.

Even with some serious necking I/we weren't able to sit through more than half of it; and we had no place to continue the necking when we left.

#33 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 04:50 PM:

Has anybody ever seen 1978's Starcrash? Caroline Munro as space adventuress Stella Star, Marjoe Gortner as her faithful sidekick, David Hasselhof as the Emperor's son... What more could one ask for?

#34 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 05:40 PM:

"40:47 The guy with the facial tats showed up and had a long conversation with Russell Means, in Indian, without subtitles, which I think is cheating."

Making Light readers, if they've read Andre Norton juveniles, would at least be able to recognize "Hosteen".

#35 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 05:43 PM:

Serge @ 33: I'm afraid I have seen Starcrash. It was one of the worst movies thrown together by producers who thought they could repeat the success of Star Wars simply by having a spaceship in the movie, without need for niceties such as decent actors, scripts, or effects.

#36 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 06:18 PM:

#33 Serge: Has anybody ever seen 1978's Starcrash?

Why yes! As a matter of fact I have. Saw that on shipboard one night. (Being in the Fleet means you see every lousy movie made in a given year.) In the days before VHS and DVD, if a movie was an unwatchable dog it was still Good Enough for Sailors, so the studio could make at least some money on it.

#37 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 06:22 PM:

Allan Beatty @ 35.. Lots of people that year misunderstood why Star Wars had been a success. I'd include George Lucas in that list, but we won't get into that. There was the dreadful Message from Space, Japan's very own attempt, which had the 'originality' of involving mystical peach pits. As for decent actors, Starcrash had Christopher Plummer as the Emperor, for crying out loud. That was not the high point of his career.

#38 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 06:27 PM:

40:47 The guy with the facial tats showed up and had a long conversation with Russell Means, in Indian, without subtitles, which I think is cheating.

This brings to mind the version of the screenplay for My Little Chickadee that W.C. Fields went over with a sledgehammer: it's in "W.C. Fields: By Himself." The studio sent him a script that featured five minutes of Mae West speaking to a war party in Choctaw. "Bring out your rubber-tired hearses for that one."

#39 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 06:28 PM:

Wristcutters is very good. basic premise: when you commit suicide, you go to Arizona where everything is pretty crappy and you have to work lousy jobs. A guy decides to set off on a pointless trip to find the girlfriend, who he has heard killed herself after he did. He gets a dead Russian musician to drive him because he has a car (with a black hole under the passenger seat). Along the way run into a girl who claims she didn't kill herself and would like a ride to go find whomever it is who runs this afterlife. Then they nearly run over Tom Waits.

It's quite a lot of fun and very well acted.

#40 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 06:47 PM:

Jim Macdonald @ 36... Good Enough for Sailors

If ever I come across that endorsement, I'll know to run the other way.

#41 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 07:05 PM:

mention of Starcrash made me remember: once upon a time I saw a really cool website which was detailed descriptions and photos of all the special effects and other props of Space 1999 because they were being sold at auction, but I am not finding this site now and it may not still exist.

Highlights:
One object has an entire sheet of letraset on it, looking like its labelling.
The flying-over-a-moonscape effect was achieved by rotating a barrel-shaped model of the moonscape.

#42 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 07:43 PM:

Eric Nelson @ 41... rotating a barrel-shaped model of the moonscape

Whatever works, eh?

Sometimes, I wonder if CGI's limitless possibilities have taken the awe out of SFnal visuals. On the other hand, it means you finally get to see them fully realized, for example Iron Man duking it out with a giant robot. On the other other hand, you get people who think that storytelling won't matter if you throw enough stuff at the viewers and, yes, van Helsing is what I'm referring to.

#43 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 08:01 PM:

Ohmighod, omighod Green Slime*! The Green Slime! I haven't thought of that for years and years and … curse you! <holds head, tries to think of fuzzy kitties, happy bushwalks, good dinners> Another reason that 1968 was such an "interesting" year in my young life.

Serge #37, peach pits and Christopher Plummer — ooh! Watch out for threads crossing.

* Aka† The Battle of Space Station Gamma, Battle Beyond the Stars and assorted variations.
† Should lower-case acronymns take caps at the start of a sentence?

#44 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 08:02 PM:

Gosh, Unearthed is on SciFi tonight at 9:00 ET.

Coincidence? You be the judge!

#45 ::: Carol Maltby ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 08:02 PM:

Those hungering to see the Unearthed and further liveblog it will find it on the Sci-fi channel at 9PM Eastern tonight.

Erik #41:

Are you maybe thinking of the Profiles in History auction house? They offer some magnificent relics of science fiction film and TV history periodically.

Erik, I hadn't realized this was you! Somehow I'd assumed you spelled your name with a C. (I'm an old friend of Erik's mom, and one of my daughters was born on his birthday).

Carol (of Wild Vine)

#46 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 08:14 PM:

mez @ 43... peach pits and Christopher Plummer — ooh! Watch out for threads crossing

More like a horrible train wreck.

#47 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 08:22 PM:

About the Skiffy Channel's serving of the finest that Cinéma has to offer... Sometimes one should not assume that it'll be crap. A few weeks ago, they aired yet another dragon movie, this one with Roswell's Jason Behr, and I dismissed it. I caught the end of it though and found it rather good, partly because the dragons were of the Asian variety. It was definitely better that the network's Dungeons & Dragons 2.

#48 ::: Carol Maltby ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 08:23 PM:

Xopher and I both posted at 8:02 that the movie was playing on the Sci-Fi Channel tonight.

Coincidence? You be the judge!

#49 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 08:53 PM:

Serge, #42: Sometimes, I wonder if CGI's limitless possibilities have taken the awe out of SFnal visuals.

Often when I watch pre-CGI movies, I find myself thinking how attractive, or even just delightfully strange-looking, the special effects are. I don't notice that nearly as often when I'm watching modern movies. Sometimes I wonder whether the limitations of earlier eras sometimes helped push visuals that might otherwise have been easy cliches into the unexpected.

#50 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 09:05 PM:

Mez @43, Serge @46 — Don't cross the streams!

#51 ::: Marc Moskowitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 09:12 PM:

Serge @47,
Dungeons & Dragons 2 was much better than Dungeons & Dragons 1. Which I saw in the theatre.

And how can you hate a movie that contains the sentence "you have transgressed into the necropolis of Klex the Malign"?

#52 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 09:17 PM:

I have long thought that the rise of CGI has taken a lot of the Gosh Wow How Did They Do That? out of movie viewing.

For example, in Scanners, we go from a guy who is clearly alive and talking and real, to having his head explode on-camera, without a cut.

For me, it's taken some of the wonder out ... the knowledge that some lunatic actually did that. See, for example, the bridge jump from The Man With the Golden Gun (1974).

#53 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 10:06 PM:

Zak @6: My dad had a university-research-funded shotgun, once. He was using it as part of a study of airflow over jet-engine turbine blades.

So, a tricky bit on turbine blades is that there are rows that move, in between ones that don't move, and the moving ones move at supersonic speeds and thus cause shock waves that affect the downstream ones that aren't moving. And setting up sets of turbine blades moving at supersonic speeds in a university research lab is just a little bit out of budget -- not to mention that a lot of what you want to know for testing a computer simulation is "what does a single shock wave do?" The solution my dad came up with was to set up a stationary set of turbine blades in a wind tunnel, set up the shotgun pointing into the side of the wind tunnel a bit upstream, and fire a blank into the wind tunnel while it was running. The blast wave from the shotgun was a quite nice facsimile of the shock wave off of an upstream turbine blade.

It was also useful for a prop at the end of conference talks. "I'll be glad to answer any questions. My grad student [holding the shotgun] will answer any nasty questions."

#54 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 11:30 PM:

Has Making Light hosted a discussion of constructing a field-expedient cloud chamber, that I missed?

I'm thinking about different radiation detectors that one could make. Maybe a cloud chamber is the easiest. Quantitative measurement would be difficult, though.

One does, as I learned shortly before the sixth grade science fair, have to get one's mom to drive all over the city looking for a source of dry ice.

If the horror-movie cast happens to include me, they're in luck. I usually carry an electroscope-type pocket dosimeter, and it's always charged.

(If the Beast gets me early in the film, check the right front pants pocket of the corpse.)

#55 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 11:39 PM:

On second thought, I vote for the spinthariscope. Zinc sulfide, a microscope, and darkness. See Genuine Atoms Split to Smithereens. Other examples.

Dosimeters are still better, if you happen to own one. Size and shape of a pen. Keep 'em charged every month or two, or keep a charger unit handy.

#56 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 11:40 PM:

Field-expedient cloud chamber:

Needed: shot glass.
High-proof vodka
Rubber balloon
Rubber band
Dry ice
Light source

Pour a shot of vodka. Drink it. Do not wipe out glass. Put rubber balloon tightly across mouth of glass, fixing it in place with rubber band. Set glass on block of dry ice. Shine light through side. Pull up on rubber sheet to lower pressure in the shot glass. Observe tracks in the cloud.

#57 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 11:51 PM:

Jim #52:

For example, in Scanners, we go from a guy who is clearly alive and talking and real, to having his head explode on-camera, without a cut.

Are you thinking of bald, mustachioed Louis Del Grande, star and co-creator of the wonderful yet obscure Canadian SF series Seeing Things? He appears briefly in Scanners before he explodes.

#58 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2008, 05:03 AM:

That would indeed be Louis Del Grande, and a lovely bit of Movie Magic it is.

#59 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2008, 07:00 AM:

56: This week on "Particle Physics MacGyver" -- Mac has to improvise a cyclotron with nothing more than a car battery, an obsolete refrigerator, three gallons of antifreeze, some duct tape, a lava lamp and a bucket of fried chicken...

#60 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2008, 07:59 AM:

Then, in the movie Fury, it was John Cassavetes who had the honor of exploding - after Amy Irving kisses him. I guess that's a more pleasant way to go than having Michael Ironside sit next to you.

#61 ::: Nangleator ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2008, 09:44 AM:

No horror movie effects have exceeded Alien, John Carpenter's The Thing or The Exorcist for me. CGI has absolutely hurt that part of the experience where you say, "How did they do that?" or "That was so dangerous!"

In fact, I commonly attribute actual, impressive stunts to CGI trickery now, and only feel respect after I've watched a "making of" clip.

On Red Mike's reviews, I regularly read the Starship Troopers review, which in a large way recoups the negative entertainment experience of that cinematic middle finger to my hero. My disappointment was particularly bitter due to the fact that the CGI competence with which the movie was made could have been applied to making the movie *correctly.* And that couldn't have been done before CGI.

I love to watch the efforts I see on Sci-Fi, both for the b-movie joy and for the craptacular special effects. (There's even some rare moments of great work there, but that usually doesn't detract from the entertainment value.)

(I'm a CGI professional, but I don't work in movies or TV.)

#62 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2008, 09:50 AM:

Nangleator @ 61... that couldn't have been done before CGI

That was my other point about CGI. Without it, I doubt that there'd have been a revival of Doctor Who, or that there'd be a Eureka to make me smile just from thinking about it.

You win some.
You lose some.

#63 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2008, 10:39 AM:

#59: Actually, all he needed was the bucket of fried chicken; but, as the other things were right there, he thought he might as well use them.

#65 ::: Nangleator ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2008, 11:29 AM:

Serge @62, yes there are definite benefits! Things are possible now that never were before. With some effort I can produce shots far superior to the best ones from Star Wars, Ep. 4. I can and have created Star Trek (TOS) shots from scratch within a work day. (It was a parody.)

And I'm no artistic genius. I can't draw a squiggly line.

The wretched quality of some of the monsters I've seen lately is mystifying. Only a ridiculously short schedule can be the excuse for that. Budget CAN'T be the excuse. Google Zbrush and find a gallery to see what hobbyists are doodling around with these days.

#66 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2008, 11:34 AM:

Nangleator 61: I love to watch the efforts I see on Sci-Fi, both for the b-movie joy and for the craptacular special effects. (There's even some rare moments of great work there, but that usually doesn't detract from the entertainment value.)

While Fire and Ice was the usual SciFi crapfest (though it did have Amy Acker in it), I must say I loved the dragon effects. The Fire Dragon looked like a manta ray (with a viper's head) sculpted out of burning embers. I got a rare goshwow from that! The Ice Dragon was the same shape, but appeared to be sculpted from snow-swept stone.

It was a thin, obvious, stupid story, and Amy Acker and Tom Wisdom were both wasted on it (and no, I don't mean they were drunk during filming, though who could blame them if they were?), but the draconic effects were A+ in my book.

#67 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2008, 11:40 AM:

Nangleator @ 65... The wretched quality of some of the monsters I've seen lately is mystifying

One does wonder about thw yo-yoing quality.

By the way, regarding CGI vs pre-CGI... One only has to look at Star Wars in both versions. The 1977 had one shot I always thought was neat, that of the camera looking up at a stormtrooper astride a big lizard. It was brief, and a still shot, but it was quite evocative. Jump forward to 1997, and we get that same scene showing the lizard sluggishly creeping away, and that probably was done this way because Lucas wanted to show off.

#68 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2008, 12:43 PM:

What Marc @ #51 said. I was actually kind of disappointed, having promised my teenaged daughters a train wreck on the basis of D&D1 (which I also saw in the theater).

James McDonald @ #52, if you ever, ever get the chance to see this, don't miss it! (My question to the filmmakers at the screening I attended: "Where were your PARENTS??")

Bill Higgins @ #54, pieces of unexposed film? Of course, by the time you get a reading, it's too late.

Marginally on-topic: stuntwork fans might enjoy "Double Dare", the documentary about stuntwomen Jeannie Epper (Wonder Woman) and Zoe Bell (Xena, Kill Bill ).

#69 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2008, 12:50 PM:

Lila and Marc... D&D1 was worse than D&D2? I must confess to not having seen D&D1, but wasn't Jeremy Irons in it? All right, he also was in the recent remake of Time Machine and that was a terrible disappointment, but that's because I wanted to see the crabs coming out of the sea in Earth's very far future.

#70 ::: Scott Francis ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2008, 02:21 PM:

Jeremy Irons was indeed in D&D1 but not even that was enough to save it, despite him chewing scenery like there was no tomorrow.

Strangely enough, Richard O'Brien and Tom Baker are in it as well, although you have to be alert and squint a bit.

#71 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2008, 02:25 PM:

Serge #37:

"Mystical peach pits"? Please elaborate. I don't care if it's a spoiler, and I'm fairly certain the rest of this scurvy crew don't either.

#72 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2008, 02:49 PM:

Serge: yes, much to my surprise it totally was. The heroes were less obnoxious, the dialogue was less cringeworthy, there were a couple of not-bad battles, and I didn't check my watch nearly as often.

Whereas in D&D 1 the only shred of enjoyment was provided by a rather nice black and gold doublet hanging on the wall in the background of one scene. You may think I'm kidding, but I'm not.

(Well, okay, I suppose you could say something for the villain's glowing blue lipstick, but shrieks of disbelieving laughter aren't actually *enjoyment* per se.)

#73 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2008, 02:50 PM:

joann @ 71.. Any spoiling that could have happened to Message from Space occured the moment it lit up the silver screen in 1978. If I remember correctly, there is this peaceful planet that a mean race of aliens is picking on. The local wise guy... I mean, the local wise man decides to send mystical peach pits out into the Universe, where they will home in on good guys who'll come to their rescue. Those turn out to all be on Earth, and include Vic Morrow and a bunch of young Japanese flying hotrodders. There's also a sailing ship in space too, and a cute robot, and a battle inside a trench that contains the weak point of the bad guys's planet, which the latter had conveniently brought close to Earth by lighting up some giant rockets.

#74 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2008, 02:53 PM:

Lila @ 72... the only shred of enjoyment was provided by a rather nice black and gold doublet hanging on the wall

You make it sound like Cocteau's Dungeons and Dragons.

#75 ::: harthad ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2008, 03:22 PM:

Serge @ 73:

...the local wise man decides to send mystical peach pits out into the Universe, where they will home in on good guys who'll come to their rescue.

Why do the peach pits need to be rescued? I envision the aliens wielding a high-power cobbler death ray. You'd think the pits would be in no specific danger, though.

I know I really shouldn't ask, but I just have to: How did the peach pits become mystical? Are the peaches mystical too? Clearly these are not your usual stone fruits. If only my local farmers' market had these Mystical Homing Peaches of Universal Goodness-Seeking...

#76 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2008, 04:43 PM:

Are you sure they weren't plum stones?

#77 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2008, 05:05 PM:

harthad @ 75... Why do the peach pits need to be rescued?

Because they're being chased by a guy in drag?

In this Star Wars take-off, the peaceful planet of Jillucia has been nearly wiped out by the Gavanas, whose leader takes orders from his mother (played by comic actor Eisei Amamoto in drag) rather than the Emperor. King Kaiba sends out eight Liabe holy seeds, each to be received by a chosen one to defend the Gavanas. Each recipient, ranging from hardened General Garuda to Gavana Prince Hans to young Terrans Meia, Kido, and Aaron all have different reactions to being chosen.
#78 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2008, 06:44 PM:

Ahh, its gotten onto special effects. I don't like horror films, I'm too nice and can have nightmares.
But what I see is that many effects things look much more real, even when done using small models with odd backgrounds than pure CGI. Maybe the CGI is good enough these days that you don't notice, but a lot of the older stuff just lookds wrong to me, 2 dimensional and lacking texture, whereas models, however odd looking, look far more real.

#79 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2008, 10:52 PM:

Speaking of Cheap Effects: There was The Sword and the Sorcerer (a movie best known for the single most astounding crucifixion scene in motion picture history), which was apparently filmed inside a motel somewhere; the exteriors were provided by panning a camera across a tourist poster of Istanbul.

(In that crucifixion scene: Our hero is being crucified at the Villain's Feast (sort of like a combination of an unusual centerpiece and the floor show). The hero is so tough that he manages to pull the nails our of the wood by pure strength of arms-and-shoulders, then, using the nails protruding from the backs of his fists as brass knuckles, punching his way out of the room.)

(I told you it was astounding.)

As Variety said:

Combine beaucoup gore and an atrocity-a-minute action edited in fastpace style. Then, toss in a scantily clad cast of none-too- talented performers mouthing dimwitted dialog and garnish with a touch of medieval gibberish. The result would be something resembling The Sword and the Sorcerer.

The plot is needlessly complicated by a truly lackluster script. Stripped to essentials, which the cast often does in this pseudo epic, Sword is about the retaking by a group of rag-tag medievalists of a once peaceable kingdom sadistically ruled by an evil knight named Cromwell.

Lee Horsley grins a lot as the leader of the rebels, who turns out to be the long-banished son of the old and virtuous king. Simon MacCorkindale grimaces a good deal as a royal pretender.

For trivia fans, Nina Van Pallandt plays the good queen who's dispatched quickly and mercifully since her performance is nothing to boast of.

Joe Bob liked it better:

Numero three-o, last but not least, the re-release of the season, you saw it last year but you couldn't wait for more. "The Sword and the Sorcerer." We're talking rape. We're talking pillage. We're talking Barbarian City. Highlights: This conqueror guy named Cromwell goes to the end of the world to meet this slime glopola man, but when he gets there he says, "How do we know a toad like you even has the power to aid us?" And the slime glopola man calls this girl into the room and concentrates really hard and makes her heart rip out of her chest by ESP. Later this Nautilus guy named Lee Horsley rescues a bimbo who's about to be raped by some drunks. Then she says, "Is your sword for hire?" and he gets this look on his face like, "I hope so." Same old story: she wants him to get her brother out of prison. He says, "OK, but he gets one night in the sack for that. So the rest of the movie is this guy going through dungeons and getting tortured and being in a rat stampeded and getting knocked in the moat and watching this girl get her tongue cut out and seeing a guy get crucified and fight off some snakes--and for what? One night with this bimbo? Not logical. One star off for that.

At least 90 corpses. Mucho snakes. Heads roll. Minimal kung fu. one beast. No motor vehicles. Magician guy with orange fingernails. Three stars.

#80 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2008, 11:06 PM:

Jim Macdonald @ 79... Hah! I saw 1980's Hawk the Slayer and live to tell the tale.

Hawk the Slayer, after seeing both his father and bride die at the hands of his malevolent brother, Voltan, sets out for revenge and the chance to live up to his title. Tooling himself up with the "mind-sword" and recruiting a motley band of warriors: a giant, a dwarf, a one-armed man with a machine-crossbow and an elf with the fastest bow in the land; Hawk leads the battle against Voltan to free the land from the forces of evil and avenge his loved ones.
#81 ::: Pete Darby ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2008, 04:05 AM:

Serge:

Bilbo Bagshot: I was like you once. Blonde hair. Scraggly little beard. Childlike ears. Full of beans, and spunk. I let my principles get in the way of things. I once punched a bloke out once for saying Hawk the Slayer was rubbish.
Tim: Good for you.
Bilbo Bagshot: Yeah, thanks. But that's not the point, Tim. The point is I was defending the fantasy genre with terminal intensity, when what I should have said was "Dad, you're right - but let's give Krull a try, and we'll discuss it later."

I love Spaced.

#82 ::: Nangleator ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2008, 09:06 AM:

Krull...

Not bad enough to be a good B-movie treat, not good enough to recommend...

Still, I have to give them props for doing that well. The worst thing I can say about it is the bloke has to jump through hoops to get his death frisbee, then hardly uses it at all.

#83 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2008, 10:25 AM:

Hah! I see your "Hawk the Slayer" and raise you "Ator the Fighting Eagle", with a giant spider I myself could have improved upon, using only gaff tape and garbage bags.

#84 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2008, 10:31 AM:

Lila @ 83... Is "Ator the Fighting Eagle" the one where the evil wizard turns his very ugly henchman into the beautiful princess, and the henchman/princess then gets into some heavy petting with Ator until the latter sees what's between her legs?

(I guess the wizard must have been using a cheapo shapeshifting spell.)

#85 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2008, 01:17 PM:

For those interested in trivia: The actual definition of "B-movie." It's the film that's the designated second feature of a double feature.

(On its initial release, Bonnie and Clyde was a B movie.)

#86 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2008, 01:22 PM:

Ah, so a Z-movie is one that should be shown only as the last part of a 26-ple feature (i.e. not at all, or only as part of a 26-film decreasing-in-quality marathon)?

#87 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2008, 05:45 PM:

Serge @ 33

What more could one ask for?

One could ask for less, but one might just get Ice Pirates, in which Robert Urich sends up Han Solo, and almost loses his 'nads for it. On the other hand, it did have Anjelica Houston, Ron Perlman, and John Carradine, so maybe ... but, no.

James D. Macdonald @ 36

And if it can't pass muster as Good Enough for Sailors, they show it to the Army. I will never forgive one buddy of mine who insisted we not take an evening pass in romantic East New Jersey and instead see the movie show at the base: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Should have been called, "Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right".

#88 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2008, 05:55 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 87... I prefer not thinking about Ice Pirates, this in spite of Angelica Huston being in it.

#89 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2008, 06:47 PM:

Nangleator @ 61

CGI has been very good for something totally outside of special effects: animation. At least in the hands of the animators at Pixar; I won't dignify what Dreamworks does by calling it animation.

Not only would animation be impossibly expensive without CGI, there are a lot of things that just wouldn't be done as well because of the control the designer, the character-rigger and the animator have over movement and shading.

But, once again, if there's no story, it doesn't matter how great the technology is. What makes Pixar's movies work is that everything is in the service of the story and the characterization.

#90 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2008, 07:45 PM:

Xopher@86 - By that standard, you'd have to sit through 16,871 other movies to see an XXX porno. Which might not be a bad thing, really.

#91 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2008, 07:45 PM:

I managed to make it through Ice Pirates to the point where the heroes' ship was invaded by small creatures of a kind called, taken individually, a "herpy." The plural being "herpies," or perhaps "herpes." So their ship had herpes.

The actors were profoundly, visibly uncomfortable. They seemed unable to act, or even display any emotion at all beyond deep embarrassment. I could read their thoughts in their expressions: "Space herpes? Is this what my career has come to?" The scene as written was lowbrow comedy, but it felt like somebody's marriage had just fallen apart at a party, and no one knew where to look.

I had to stop the DVD; it was too painful to watch.

#92 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2008, 07:50 PM:

Bruce Cohen, #89: Not only would animation be impossibly expensive without CGI, there are a lot of things that just wouldn't be done as well because of the control the designer, the character-rigger and the animator have over movement and shading.

Designers and animators have equally good control over movement and shading in traditional animation.

#93 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2008, 08:03 PM:

Nangleator @#82: Yeah, Krull's on my all-time worst list, from when the double suns rise over the landscape (without casting double shadows), all the way to the finale where The Heroes use marriage-magic as an offensive weapon.

#94 ::: Nangleator ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2008, 09:02 PM:

David @93, oh yeah, marriage-magic. Heh. I forgot that.

Wesley @92, 3D animation can output many, *many* channels of bitmap information for each frame so the compositor or editor can endlessly tweak the look of each element by balancing the strength of all those channels. The level of control is surprising. (I have to bite my tongue a little in saying this, but...) This is way better than doing it right in the first place.

Regarding Ice Pirates... You have to take it in the right spirit. My first experience with the film was: "...the frick?! Oh. Okay, now I get it." Then loud guffaws from then on. Of course, I wouldn't want anyone to see me enjoying that sort of thing!

#95 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2008, 09:35 PM:

Serge @ #84, that may have happened, but if it did I've blocked it out.

Anyone for "The Beastmaster"? It actually has a good monster in it (wraps you in its skin-covered wings and digests you instantly except for your belt buckle), but I couldn't take it seriously after seeing the hero born from a cow and the tiger painted black with (apparently) shoe polish.

#96 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2008, 10:15 PM:

Well, heck. Anyone remember Megaforce?

"Are you man enough for Megaforce?"

No, I'm too much man. And, frankly, so is my wife.

#97 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2008, 10:55 PM:

Jim @ 79:

Re: The Sword and the Sorcerer - They're making a sequel. Really.

#98 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2008, 10:56 PM:

Nangleator, #94: 3D animation can output many, *many* channels of bitmap information for each frame so the compositor or editor can endlessly tweak the look of each element by balancing the strength of all those channels. The level of control is surprising. (I have to bite my tongue a little in saying this, but...) This is way better than doing it right in the first place.

I have three disconnected arguments about this.

1. I'm an amateur cartoonist rather than an animator, so I'm not speaking from authority, but... I think you're underestimating the control a good artist, working by hand, has over his or her work. It really is just as good as the control CG animators have over theirs--not because the traditional artist always does it right in the first place (although it's a joy when that happens), but because it's possible to rework a drawing until it looks right (or, in my case, as close to right as I have the skills to take it), just as it's possible to tweak the settings in 3D animation.

2. That said, it's always better to do it right in the first place. At the very least, it's faster.

3. CG animation's easy corrections are only an advantage if the animation actually needs to be computer generated in the first place. CG animation, traditional animation, and stop-motion animation have different aesthetics, and a lot of traditional animation (whether entirely hand-drawn or computer assisted) couldn't be done CG-style without losing something in translation--I can't imagine a Pixar version of The Triplets of Belleville, for instance. And just as CGI films can do things traditional animation can't, traditional animation can do things that wouldn't work in CG.

#99 ::: Pete Darby ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2008, 05:41 AM:

Supporting Wesley: I've always been utterly charmed with the way that Pixar more than happily use what appears to be more traditional animation* in their title sequences, and sometimes inside the films (Jessie's montage in Toy Story II).

The titles of Monsters Inc** are as beautiful a tribute to 1950-60's animation as you'll find. The Incredibles titles are iconic.

And the Woody's Round Up sequence in Toy Story II blows my mind. Did they actually make the puppets and film them, or render it all? I can't tell!

Though Gerry Anderson should have collected on some Four Feather Falls royalties right there...

*I've no doubt that they are composed as much on computer as the rest of the films, but I mean "not in the simulated 3d of the rest of the film".

** Which children and non-US citizens universally render as Monster Sink.

#100 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2008, 06:11 AM:

Jim @ 96... "Are you man enough for Megaforce?"

Was that Barry Bostwick in spandex tights and with a big hairdo? I skipped that one, but I do remember the poster.

#101 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2008, 06:19 AM:

Lila @ 95... Anyone for "The Beastmaster"?

I've seen worse. That includes the movie's other half of the double bill. Yes, kids, they still had double bills in 1982, but it's no wonder that they died, considering that the other movie was Scott Baio's Zapped. I seem to remember that Scott, after smoking some pot, acquired telekinetic powers that he used to pop the high school bimbo's bra open. It was on the last day of Chicon II and I kept wishing I had instead gone to see Road Warrior instead.

#102 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2008, 08:51 AM:

I liked Krull. We even had the Atari game.

Beastmaster was the first PG-13 movie I ever saw. The only part I remember was the bit with the clothes-stealing ferrets. ('82? Really? Ok, so I was only 8.) It's before I really had opinions on movies, and also somehow I've completely conflated it with Ladyhawke, which... yeah, is a little strange.

(I also couldn't tell you the plot of Star Wars. I saw all three movies in the theater, and the first one came out when I was... 2? 3? Whatever. Somehow seeing them before I understood "plot" broke my ability to ever figure it out, even though I've seen them literally dozens of times since then. Even the Ewok movie.) (Not dozens for the Ewok movie. More times than I'd care to admit, though, including once dubbed into German.)

#103 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2008, 09:04 AM:

Cat Meadors... I rather liked "LadyHawke" myself, in spite of Matthew Broderick. Having Leo McKern in a movie is a mark in its favor, especially if he plays a lapsed monk.

#104 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2008, 10:43 AM:

87: I will never forgive one buddy of mine who insisted we not take an evening pass in romantic East New Jersey and instead see the movie show at the base: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

What?? That's a great film! A classic!

the finale where The Heroes use marriage-magic as an offensive weapon.

-- Marriage as an offensive weapon? That's ridiculous!
-- Clearly, you've never met my wife.
(rimshot)

#105 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2008, 11:18 AM:

Serge (103), Cat Meadors (102): I didn't read Cat as saying she disliked Ladyhawke, just that conflating it with Beastmaster was rather odd. I'm very fond of Ladyhawke myself. But I rather like Matthew Broderick.

#106 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2008, 11:28 AM:

Matthew Broderick needed a better dialect coach. Also they have a total eclipse of the sun happening the day after a full moon, which means they're not living in any world I've ever been to.

The dialog is stilted, the plot is lame, Rutger Hauer is no better than he ever is, and Michelle Pfeiffer...

...well, Michelle Pfeiffer is sublime. She always is. Gotta give you Michelle Pfeiffer. (Mouse asks her "Are you flesh or spirit?" and she answers "I am sorrow," which is lame, but she makes it heartbreaking. I love Michelle Pfeiffer.)

#107 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2008, 11:48 AM:

It was magic. :)

#108 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2008, 11:56 AM:

Imperius: I fully expect to meet you at the Pearly Gates, little thief, and don't you dare disappoint me.
Phillipe: I'll meet you there, Father... even if I have to pick the lock.

#109 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2008, 12:32 PM:

Serge @100 -- Barry Bostwick in tights and a big hairdo -- I think someone else had the big hairdo, but ISTR that Bostwick showed rather a lot of thigh in Lexx.

#110 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2008, 11:54 PM:

I like Broderick, Hauer is ok (and really nice guy. I met him when I was a studio projectionist [a job which had lots of interesting moments>. Very much aware that he's just a guy with an easier job than most, in a lot of ways).

Pfieffer... is hit or miss with me.

But it's a swell movie, and I recall going... "That's Rumpole!" to myself. The moon, enh... I've seen a lot worse in movies.

#111 ::: Pete Darby ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2008, 07:18 AM:

"You have been sent to me by GOD!"
"Pardon me, sir, but I talk to God all the time, and he never mentioned you..."

#112 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2008, 07:49 AM:

I liked pretty much everyone in Ladyhawke. I even liked the main villain, and the way the actor (John Wood) seemed to half-sing some of his lines, to the point where I've kept my eyes open for him in other movies over the years.

(As for Matthew Broderick and dialect coaches: well, I don't recall that anyone had a French accent in that movie, despite all the French names, so I'm not sure what the problem is...)


Phillipe: We can't eat this bird!
Imperius: What? Oh, God, is it Lent again already?


#113 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2008, 09:33 AM:

Xopher @ 106: Gotta give you Michelle Pfeiffer.

And I will accept her, with profound gratitude.

#114 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2008, 09:44 AM:

Debbie @ 109... Bostwick showed rather a lot of thigh in Lexx

...and in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

#115 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2008, 09:49 AM:

Meanwhile, besides cheesy movies ("The worst we can find! La-la-la!")... I'll be seeing Milk unless it gets trashed, but I don't see why it should be. And there is also Quantum of Solace, which I've heard will be preceded by the coming attraction for JJ Abrams's Star Trek.

#116 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2008, 10:12 AM:

Wesley @ 98

I agree completely with your point 3. In fact, The Triplets of Belleville used at least 3 different animation techniques for different effects: traditional cel, 2D CGI, and 3D CGI. It's just that there's a lot of snark back and forth between, say, stop-motion and CGI animators about how the others' technique is immoral, illegal, and fattening*.

I happen to have a great fondness for silhouette animation, which can be done by hand or CG, and for stop-motion, for which CG is overkill at best. But I like good CGI, and I think it brings things to the party that are hard to do with other techniques. So you use what works for you and what works for the story.

* Henry Selick's remarks about the shark scene in James and the Giant Peach are an example. To hear him tell it, he used CGI for the sharks to make the point that it is a noxious and evil technique.

#117 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2008, 10:47 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 116... he used CGI for the sharks to make the point that it is a noxious and evil technique

It's interesting that the remake of Mighty Joe Young, which used CGI, had a cameo by Ray Harryhausen, the champion of stop-motion.

#118 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2008, 11:29 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 116: I happen to have a great fondness for [...] stop-motion, for which CG is overkill at best.

Depends on circumstances. The CGI'd bunnies floating weightless in the BunVac 6000 in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit worked pretty well, and that would have been hard to do anywhere near as well just using the usual Plasticene.

#119 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2008, 07:49 PM:

Bruce Cohen, #116: I happen to have a great fondness for silhouette animation, which can be done by hand or CG, and for stop-motion, for which CG is overkill at best. But I like good CGI, and I think it brings things to the party that are hard to do with other techniques. So you use what works for you and what works for the story.

Everything has its uses, which was the point I really wanted to make--I felt as though it was being suggested that CG was an improvement on hand-drawn animation, rather than a new and different technique.

I think the biggest difference between stop motion and 3D CGI is stop motion's subconscious sense of the uncanny--those are inanimate objects on the screen, and they're moving. Which makes it perfect for Jan Svankmajer and the Quay brothers.

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