Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Svengoolie Revue: Child's Play

This week, Svengoolie hosted the iconic 1980's killer-doll movie, "Child's Play"! It follows the escapades of a psychopath, Charles Lee Ray, who is shot by a police officer and uses black magic to put his soul into a talking "Good Guy" doll. The doll is then given by an unsuspecting mother to her son for his birthday, and the evil that is Chucky is unleashed on the world...or, more specifically, Chicago. Yes, the movie was shot right here in Chicago. I recognized a lot of the local landmarks.

The kid, Andy, is the first one to find out that Chucky is really alive, but for some strange reason nobody believes him. Then his mother discovers that Chucky has been talking for several days without any batteries. That scene was CREEPY--I am SO glad that all of my old talking toys found their way out of the house some time ago. Johnny and I had this Furby (remember Furbies?) that would not shut up, so we had to take the batteries out. Anyway, now the mom believes her son, so it's up to her to convince the handsome cop that Charles Lee Ray is still "alive," though not in the same form. The cop is played by Chris Sarandon, in a non-villain role for once; he was also Prince Humperdinck in "The Princess Bride" and the incompetent vampire in "Fright Night" (I wanted to like that movie, I really did).

"Child's Play" is, without a doubt, the creepiest movie I've ever seen on Svengoolie's show. In fact, it's one of the creepiest movies I've ever seen, period, second only to "The Ring." Interesting how someone who loved playing with dolls and still loves watching movies would be terrified by movies about evil dolls and killer video tapes. Actually, I probably found Child's Play so creepy BECAUSE I remember spending so much time playing with dolls as a kid. It's scary because I can relate to it, and I can imagine how freaked out I would've been (and still would be) if one of my talking toys kept talking after I took the batteries out.

"We toys can see EVERYTHING...so play nice." <---Random Toy Story moment

The first half hour or so is not that creepy; Chucky's first kill had me laughing at how unlikely it was. He knocks a woman on the head with a doll-sized hammer; she staggers backwards across an entire room and falls out of a (closed) window to the ground three stories below. And then the kid is implicated because of some footprints in some flour that was spilled on the counter. One of the sub-plots is that Andy wants anything and everything related to the "Good Guys," including the slippers that the dolls wear. They have the same tread. Aside from the fact that a two-foot doll has sneaker tread, didn't anyone check to see if the "small" footprints were too small to be Andy's? I've never seen a doll that wore a size 7 shoe; even the "life-size" dolls have proportionally small feet. If Chucky were an evil clown doll, maybe I could see it then.

But once Andy's mother discovers that he was right about Chucky all along, things start moving. And they don't stop. Charles Lee Ray must've had some powerful voodoo magic, because the doll was dismembered, shot, burned, decapitated, and shot again (it even bled, because it had developed a human heart) and STILL wasn't frickin' dead.

Odd fact: Chucky's full name is based on the names of famous serial killers: Charles Manson, Lee Harvey Oswald, and James Earl Ray.

Svengoolie song: the song was based around "Luck Be A Lady" and was called "Chuck seize a lady." Quite clever. And the puns continued in Sven's bit where he advertised several fake spin-offs of the Chucky doll, including the Groundhog Day Chucky (Ground Chuck), Catholic Chucky (Nun-Chuck), cross-dressing Chucky (Chicky), and Packers Fan Chucky (Chucky Cheese, complete with the cheesehead hat). Oh, and of course we can't forget The Exorcist Chucky, Up-Chuck. *flings rubber chickens* (Whenever Svengoolie makes a particularly bad joke, he is pelted with rubber chickens. Don't ask me how, don't ask me why.)

"Child's Play" inspired 4 sequels, none of which I plan to watch. I think one movie is all the Chucky I can handle (but honestly, by the time you get to something like "Seed of Chucky," you've got to figure that they're running out of ideas just a bit). Next week's serving of Svengoolie is "The Deadly Mantis." It's one he's done several times before, so I don't know if I'll tune in or not.

Should have another Star Trek review today or tomorrow. Also, look for our next episode of Video Revue soon: Video Revue in 3-D!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Podcast?? What podcast?

Remember back in January, when I said two shows every month? Remember how long that lasted? Even though this has become one show every two months, we have returned at last with our take on 3rd Rock from the Sun, in our first-ever Laff Track episode! You can download from Podshow or on iTunes!

Coming soon: our blog review of "Monsters vs. Aliens"!

Monday, March 23, 2009

The "Son of the Blob" song!

Here's the Svengoolie version of "Barbara Ann" written for "Son of the Blob." Honestly, I think the lyrics in this song are much more original than the Beach Boys version.

Side note: my next-door neighbor has worked with the guy playing piano (Doug Scharf, better known on the show as Doug Graves).

Svengoolie revue: The Blob!

This week I'm debuting a new feature on the blog. If you've listened to our podcast, I'm sure you've heard me talk about Svengoolie. He's a local legend in Chicago, and he hosts the Saturday late-night movie on one of the local stations. They do a lot of horror and sci-fi, mostly classic movies and classically bad movies (a few years ago he actually did "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians"! I kid you not). I always watch, so I figured I should start reviewing them here.

This week's offering: The Blob, from 1958, starring "Steven" McQueen! This was the last time he was billed as Steven instead of Steve. Anyway, the movie begins with an asteroid landing in the middle of the woods. An old man comes to investigate, and finds this thing that looks almost like an egg. He cracks it open, and this goopy stuff comes out and immediately attacks his arm. The old man is found shortly after by a pair of teenagers, who take him to the local doctor.

The movie is very slow to begin with, but once it gets going things move pretty fast. The goopy stuff keeps growing, until the old man is devoured. The doctor's lovely assistant is next, followed by the doctor. The teens see something through the window, but the police have trouble believing that the doctor was attacked by some sort of monster. Especially when the kids telling the story are the same young whippersnappers who are always drag-racing and causing a ruckus (don't you just love the fifties?). It also doesn't help that after devouring the people, the Blob just kind of rolled off and disappeared.

Of course, the blob turns up again. This time it's large enough to scare an entire movie theater full of teenagers (and, for some odd reason, another old man...I never did understand why he was at the movies in the middle of the night) out into the street. Our hero and heroine are trapped by the Blob, which by this point is large enough to cover an entire building. They discover that it doesn't like cold, so the police (who by this point finally believe them) gather up as many CO2 fire extinguishers as they can to freeze the Blob and rescue the people inside.

Essentially, "The Blob" is about a ball of goo from outer space that wobbles around and eats people...kind of like a psychopathic version of flubber. There were some neat shots--the Blob oozing into the movie theater was pretty cool--but overall this movie is bad. It's bad in a fun way, though. I particularly enjoyed the opening song, written by none other than Burt Bacharach (click to watch it on Youtube). Terrifying, no?

Beware of the Blob!

Svengoolie also does little skits during breaks in the movie, similar to the MST3K host segments, including a song every week. He re-writes the words to a well-known song so that it fits with the movie, and they're hilarious. This week there were actually two songs. The first host segment was a classic Sven bit from some years ago when he ran the sequel to "The Blob," and the song was "Blob of Red" to the tune of the Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann." It was very clever. For the new song, he capitalized on the fact that the main actress was also on "The Andy Griffith Show" and so he set words to the Andy Griffith theme about how "the Blob town's just like Mayberry."

Coming next week: Child's Play! Probably the most recent, "mainstream" horror movie they've done, at least since I started watching 4 or 5 years ago.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Star Trek Initiation: Mudd's Women

Hoo boy. This episode was strange from beginning to end. It begins as the Enterprise attempts to communicate with an unidentified ship. Said ship takes off running and flies right into an asteroid belt. In order to protect the other ship, Captain Kirk orders the Enterprise's deflector shields to surround it. This puts their own ship in danger, and all but one of the ship's lithium crystals (the power supply) are burned out. Then the other ship is struck by an asteroid, so they beam aboard "Mr. Walsh" and his crew-slash-cargo: three beautiful women. They head for a planet with lithium miners to repair the ship.

The male crew members find themselves inexplicably drawn to the women (surprise, surprise). Mr. Walsh, who dresses like a pirate pimp with a cowboy hat, is clearly hiding something. Actually, it turns out that he's hiding quite a lot, beginning with his real name (his name is actually Mudd!). This was the first appearance of the ship's lie detector computer, which I found highly amusing. I don't know that I'd call the computer a "character" but it was one of my favorite scenes in this episode. Also, I found the conversation between Kirk and Bones highly amusing for no apparent reason. They clearly didn't understand their attraction to the women at all. And Spock just kind of stared at them without saying anything.

They arrive at the planet with the lithium miners. Conveniently, there are three single, lonely men for the three single, beautiful women. The head miner tells Kirk that they will exchange the lithium crystals for the women and to have the charges against Mudd dropped. Kirk tells them, "No deal."

"All right, Captain Kirk, the banker has offered you six lithium crystals for the woman holding your case. What do you say? Deal or no deal?"

The focus of this episode was the women. They're all dressed like intergalactic runway models, but Mudd says they're moving to another planet to find pioneer husbands. These ladies are about as far from Little House on the Prairie as you could possibly imagine. They also refuse to be examined by the doctor, and apparently need to take some sort of pill to remain beautiful. In the end we find out that they are taking the illegal Venus drugs, which make women more womanly and men more manly. Apparently they share a common ingredient with Corn Flakes. One of the women runs off and one of the miners sees her true face. She gives him this whole speech about how he's attracted to a lie and swallows one of the pills in front of him. She turns beautiful again, and then we find out that the pills were replaced with colored gelatin.

That's one hell of a placebo effect. Highly illogical.

In the words of Mister Spock, this episode was "a most annoying, unusual affair. I'm glad it's over." But never fear. This was the first episode of Star Trek that I actively disliked, and I realize I can't love every single episode of any TV show (even the ones that get canceled after one season). Incidentally, CBS has a long-running history of picking up unusual shows and then canceling them when they don't catch on right away. Star Trek, which is iconic among sci-fi fans, only managed to stay on the air for three years. CBS also tried to cancel "The Twilight Zone" (which is still my favorite sci-fi show of all time) before it had even run for a full season.

-If my choices for being a wife are "cook, and sew, and cry" or be "vain, selfish, and useless" can I pick none of the above? Please??
-Honestly, this entire episode's attitude towards women bugged me.
-Unintentionally funny line: "Are you wearing some unusual perfume? Or something radioactive?" Oh yes, you noticed my new Eau de Plutonium. Do you like it?
-There was a poll on the TV.com Star Trek forum about whether Kirk or Spock was more attractive. It was pretty close, but the last time I checked, Spock was in the lead. Honestly, I think they're absolutely right. I like Spock. Maybe it's because I can't look at Kirk without seeing William Shatner as the "Priceline Negotiator," but I do think Spock is kinda cute.
-Next week I will be on spring break, so I'm going to catch up as much as I can on Star Trek. I apologize for the lack of updates lately, but I'm glad at least one person is still reading. This one's for you, Rob!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Movie Revue: Coraline

This movie is the story of a girl who reluctantly moves to a new town and discovers that there are hidden dangers and a deadly secret...on a completely unrelated note, the Twilight DVD hits stores this Saturday.

After her parents move her across the country, Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning) thinks her life couldn't be worse: her friends are hundreds of miles away, her new neighbors can't get her name right (they all call her Caroline), and her parents have no time for her. Everything changes when she discovers the tiny door hidden behind some wallpaper. Late at night, the door opens into a passage into an alternate reality, where life is just like Coraline wishes it would be...at first. It's populated by Other versions of her family and neighbors, who all have buttons for eyes and aren't as benign as they first appear.

This movie is based on a book by Neil Gaiman, who is known for writing creepy, disturbing children's literature. He's fantastic. The movie stayed fairly close to the book, though Coraline's new neighbor Wybie was added in to the mix. I absolutely loved the movie. First off, the animation was phenomenal. I've been a fan of the Real-D animation since it was first used, and "Coraline" is a prime example of how it can make a great movie excellent. I knew enough about the story that I could focus on the details a little. For example,the passage between the real world and the Other world changes. The first few times when Coraline goes through, it's colorful and bright and looks...squishy, almost. Once she discovers the horrible secret, the passage is hard and gray and filled with spiderwebs and bones. The voicework is fantastic, and the story kept Johnny guessing (I'd already read the book, which kept me guessing, but then I knew how the movie would end).

Overall: 5/5 stars!

Friday, March 13, 2009

I'm Not Edward Cullen: A Song

The Nerdfighters strike again! I do believe they've just written the Twihard theme song. And upon listening to the song, I have determined that they have actually read the books (and not just seen the movie). I have to give them props for that--there's a difference between a parody from a fan and a parody from a non-fan. I love fan parodies, because we all need to be able to laugh at ourselves. Parodies done by non-fans come off as mocking and belittling, but fan parodies are more, "Yes, I know it's stupid, but don't we love it anyway?"

So watch the video, and DFTBA!

(For all you non-Nerdfighters, that stands for "Don't Forget To Be Awesome").

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I Know (A Song in Ten Words)

This song is made of awesome. Hank Green sings a song that contains only ten words, in various combinations. If you like this, check out his CD on iTunes. Unfortunately, this song is NOT on the CD, but many others are, including the "Obama Llama" song. I must find this video and post it also.

Last week, I became a Nerdfighter. Nerdfighters, for those of you who don't know, are followers of Hank and John Green, two brothers who decided to spend an entire year communicating only through video blogs. Their experiment ended a year ago, but they're still vlogging away.

Subscribe to them: www.youtube.com/users/vlogbrothers

Monday, March 9, 2009

TV show revue: Castle

Anybody who's been reading this blog for a while knows the kind of shows I like: anything involving a supernatural element. Unfortunately, unless the ratings are through the roof, those kinds of shows tend to get canceled (see "Moonlight" or "Pushing Daisies" or "Kyle XY"). They're full of expensive special effects and aimed at a core of dedicated, borderline-psychotic fans.

So I have tried branching out and finding shows that are more realistic than fantasy. From this, I have decided that I like the "crime" genre. You get crime-solving doctors (Diagnosis Murder), crime-solving psychics (Medium), crime-solving fake psychics (Psych!), crime-solving former cops with OCD (Monk), and, of course, crime-solving vampires (Forever Knight, Angel, Blood Ties, AND Moonlight). And now, ABC has a new crime drama called "Castle" about a crime-solving mystery novelist.

I read about this show in the TV guide, and decided to watch it for one reason: Nathan Fillion. Also known as "Captain Hammer" from last summer's "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog." It's kind of sad that almost every show I watch, I began watching because of some actor connected to Joss Whedon (Evil Genius).

But, as it turns out, "Castle" is a good show. The pilot episode was tonight, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It begins with two murders that appear to be copied from the mystery novels of Rick Castle (Fillion). He is called by the police as a consultant, and teams up with Detective Beckett. She happens to be a (closet) fan of Castle's books, but she can't stand him in person. Which, of course, means they will probably hook up before the first season ends.

Anyway, it appears that the killer wasn't very smooth: they find a fan letter with his prints all over it, and evidence in his apartment. But something doesn't seem right to Castle, who insists that it wouldn't make a very good story. And, as the prime suspect was arrested before the show was half over, you can guess who's right.

The writing in this show is excellent, and Castle and Becket have a great chemistry. Other highlights include Castle's mother, who walks off with every scene she's in, and his teenage daughter. I will definitely be tuning in next week!

Oh, and my other favorite non-fantasy show: "Leverage." It has officially been granted a second season! The first season finished a couple weeks ago, and I cannot WAIT for season 2...which happens to be this summer (when I will be in my cable-less house, and not my college dorm). But that's what iTunes is for. Or Hulu (which will forever be known in my house as "eat-your-brain-dot-com").

One final note: I heart Stephen Colbert.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Star Trek Initiation: "The Enemy Within"

Wow, almost 2 weeks without any posting! I would like to apologize to my readers (all 3 of you) for the lack of updates. My life has kind of exploded, and I'm trying very hard not to fall behind in any of my classes. Which also explains the lack of podcasts. We recorded a show, we really did. Then we have to edit it. And then there was a thing with my computer and I think I lost the file, so we're just going to re-record the show. Whenever we have time.

I did manage to watch the next episode of Star Trek, however. This was an interesting episode. I've noticed that there's sort of a formula: each episode presents two problems simultaneously, and one problem prevents the other from being solved. Also, the piece of equipment that is most needed will undoubtedly be broken or malfunctioning.

This episode begins as the crew is visiting a planet that becomes terribly cold once its sun sets. They beam aboard a little animal; the species is never identified, but it was clearly played by a dog who could handle a costume. Once the dog beams aboard, another identical dog appears a few minutes later. They figure out that the dog wasn't so much duplicated as split, into a "good" half and an "evil" half. Unfortunately, they don't figure this out until after the same thing happens to Kirk.

It is immediately obvious that Evil Kirk should not be allowed to run around; he attempts to rape Yeoman Janice in a scene that was incredibly uncomfortable for me, as a woman, to watch. She manages to get away from him by scratching his face. I was hoping she'd get a good kick in, or punch him in the face, but she did manage to escape without physical harm.

Unfortunately, Good Kirk is not much help. It turns out that the decision-making skills that make him such a good captain ended up with Evil Kirk. It's an interesting idea, that we need both halves to make us complete, and that what is "evil" if left unchecked can also be very beneficial. Also, Good Kirk ended up with all of the bravery, while Evil Kirk was almost a coward. Which, I suppose, makes sense.

After the doctor and Spock figure out what happened, they decide that it is unsafe to beam up Sulu and the rest of the crew still down on the planet's surface. Unfortunately, the transporter must be repaired before nightfall, or Sulu and Co. will freeze to death.

Understatement of the week:
"Tonight it gets down to 120 degrees below zero."
"That's nippy."

They figure out just in time how to fix things (beam both halves down together, and then when they beam back up they should recombine--I forget how that was supposed to work). They test it out on the dog-creature thing. Good news: one dog beams back. Bad news: it's dead. Good Kirk can't decide whether he should make the attempt or not. He finally does, and of course it works, just in time to save Sulu and Co. from the icy jaws of death.

-Evil dog-thing: If I had to wear that fuzzy, one-horned getup, I'd be mad too.
-I wonder how long it takes Yeoman Janice to do her hair in the morning. It looks great, but that is one complicated hairdo.
-For a man, Evil Kirk is surprisingly adept at applying concealer...
-Sulu asks more than once for some coffee to try and keep warm. Why didn't they beam any down? Or at least hats and mittens!
-Sulu is surprisingly good-natured for a man with real danger of freezing to death.