Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Monster Island (2004)

Okay, first of all, let me just tell you that this movie sucked.

It should be avoided at all costs.

It was called "Monster Island" and I couldn't watch more than about half -- even WITH the giant bugs.

The plot consisted of a bunch of kids on a tropical island for a weekend with... Carmen Electra... (they won a contest).

Turns out the island was an atomic research center way back when, and there's a bunch of REALLY BIG insects wandering around. And a Gill-Man or two.

So Carmen gets kidnapped by a giant flying ant, which takes her to it's nest so she can (gulp) ...sing... to the ant-enslaved natives there to keep them happy. Yeah.

A few of the kids go off to rescue her and various shenanigans ensue.

The bugs were done with stop-motion animation and not too badly, but the plot and acting were done using real live people -- and quite badly, I fear. I really did turn it off halfway through.

Which is saying something, because I've sat through movies like "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" and "Cat-Women of the Moon" (though I'm not proud of it).

In it's defense, the movie was obviously made for laughs and didn't take itself seriously at all. Maybe I just wasn't in a laugh-ey mood that night.

But I'd only give this


Sunday, December 16, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth (2006)


Global warming is the increase in the average temperature of the Earth's near-surface air and oceans in recent decades and its projected continuation.

-- Wikipedia

“You look at that river gently flowing by. You notice the leaves rustling with the wind. You hear the birds; you hear the tree frogs. In the distance you hear a cow. You feel the grass. The mud gives a little bit on the river bank. It’s quiet; it’s peaceful. And all of a sudden, it’s a gear shift inside you. And it’s like taking a deep breath and going, 'Oh yeah, I forgot about this'.”

It's what Al Gore says during his narration of the film's introduction. And it's exactly the way I feel each time I walk in the mountains above the Salt Lake valley, or sit in a natural hot spring with the sunrise filling up the sky. I love the beautiful places of our planet, the peaceful places.

So I was pretty alarmed when I heard some of the global warming related facts and figures this film puts out:
  • The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last 30 years.
  • Malaria has spread to higher altitudes in places like the Colombian Andes, 7,000 feet above sea level.
  • The flow of ice from glaciers in Greenland has more than doubled over the past decade.
  • At least 279 species of plants and animals are already responding to global warming, moving closer to the poles.
  • Deaths from global warming will double in just 25 years -- to 300,000 people a year.
  • Global sea levels could rise by more than 20 feet with the loss of shelf ice in Greenland and Antarctica, devastating coastal areas worldwide.
  • Heat waves will be more frequent and more intense.
  • Droughts and wildfires will occur more often.
  • The Arctic Ocean could be ice free in summer by 2050.
  • More than a million species worldwide could be driven to extinction by 2050.
I know, the film and Mr. Gore both have their critics. And I know some of the film's figures are arguable. But to me, that's like arguing whether the rock-slide coming at you is made of granite or sandstone.

Who cares? Just get out from under the slide!

Anyway, this film kicked my butt and actually made me change some of the things I do (or don't do) as a result of watching it.

There are a ton of simple changes we can make to help cool things back down:

Replace a regular incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb (cfl) -- CFLs use 60% less energy than a regular bulb. This simple switch will save about 300 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. If every family in the U.S. made the switch, we’d reduce carbon dioxide by more than 90 billion pounds! You can purchase CFLs online from the Energy Federation.

Move your thermostat down 2° in winter and up 2° in summer -- Almost half of the energy we use in our homes goes to heating and cooling. You could save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year with this simple adjustment. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy has more tips for saving energy on heating and cooling.

Clean or replace filters on your furnace and air conditioner -- Cleaning a dirty air filter can save 350 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

Install a programmable thermostat -- Programmable thermostats will automatically lower the heat or air conditioning at night and raise them again in the morning. They can save you $100 a year on your energy bill.

Choose energy efficient appliances when making new purchases -- Look for the Energy Star label on new appliances to choose the most efficient models. If each household in the U.S. replaced its existing appliances with the most efficient models available, we’d eliminate 175 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year!

...and about thirty more ideas on the film's website.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Ice Spiders (2007)

"Ice Spiders" was oh such a little gem of a B-Movie.

There's a secret government lab (near a fictional Utah ski resort in a fictional Utah county) where giant spiders are being bred for their spider silk. In spite of the team of military guys assigned to keep the spiders locked up, there is an accident and the spiders (GASP) escape.

So the spiders make their way to the ski resort where some Olympic hopefuls are training. Lucky for them, Olympic has-been, "Dash" Dashiell just happens to be working at this particular ski resort.

Not only was Dash almost on the Olympic team a few years back, he also spent a few years as a Marine -- which totally helps when you're trying not to get eaten by giant mutated spiders.

There was a giant Black Widow, jumping spider and four other ones (whose types I don't remember), but they were all quite colorful and each had their own (killer) personality.

The movie is listed as "Horror", but it wasn’t really "scary" scary -- more "fun" scary. It was, however, a totally entertaining flick. A little bad acting and a few plot holes, but those things are to be expected in these kinds of movies. A definite recommend for Giant-Insects-On-The-Loose buffs.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Yo-Yo Girl Cop [Sukeban Deka: Kōdo Nēmu = Asamiya Saki] (2006)

So I rented this movie for laughs. It's a Japanese film, but was released in the U.S. as "YO-YO GIRL COP".

Now, when I see a DVD on the shelf called Yo-Yo Girl Cop, with a cute girl standing in front of a huge explosion on the cover, I have to pick it up for a look-see.

Reading the back cover... yada yada... teenage girl... yada yada... undercover... yada yada... high school terrorists... yada yada... high tech steel yo-yo... Okay I'm sold. I rented it.

But you gotta understand, a title like this one has on the cover is really laughable, so I was expecting a reallllly baaaad movie. (For reasons unclear, I happen to enjoy many really bad movies.)

I watched it. And I liked it.

Sure, the idea of a girl going up against machine-gun toting thugs with nothing but a yo-yo for a weapon -- and totally kicking their butts -- weighs in a little thin on the reality scales. But putting that aside, it was a cool movie -- just the right amount of action and humor and drama, and the cast was pretty solid.

Plot-line goes like this: Bad-Girl "K" is recruited by a clandestine police organization and forced (her mom's being held in prison) to try and stop a plot by student radicals to create anarchy in Japan. Armed with a hi-tech steel yo-yo, and a codename (Asamiya Saki), she infiltrates an elite high school to find the terrorists, but then finds an even MORE sinister plan is about to unfold (Dunt Dunt Duuunnnnnt!).

So after watching and (surprisingly) enjoying the movie, I watched the "making of" featurette and found out the character has been around for 20 years and has quite a following in Japan. (!) There was an 80s TV series, a couple of 90s films and now this latest movie.

The REAL name of the movie is "Sukeban Deka: Codename = Asamiya Saki", which translates (roughly) to "Delinquent Detective: Codename = Asamiya Saki" (not YO-YO GIRL COP, for crying out loud!).

So now I kinda want to see the original(s).


Friday, December 7, 2007

Blacula (1972) & Scream Blacula Scream (1973)

This film's been rattling around in my head for a long time. I was only five in 1972, when it came out in theaters--and I'm sure my mom wouldn't have let me see it then even if I'd asked. (Not that I had much interest in vampires then.)

But being a kid who enjoyed the weird/offbeat, references to the film would sometimes show up in books I was reading (I read a lot of books about movie monsters).

Anyway, it came out on DVD a few years ago. And when I saw it for rent recently, all those old book references came flooding right back. So I rented it.

It's a Blaxploitation film and the plot centers around an 18th century, European-educated, African prince named Mamuwalde. In 1780, the prince and his wife pay a visit to... Count Dracula... in an effort to convince him to use his political clout to lobby against the African slave trade.

But the Count, being an evil vampire (and a racist as well), just chomps on Mamuwalde's neck and turns him into a vampire too. Then, to be especially nasty, Dracula locks the Prince in a coffin (so he'll forever thirst for blood but never actually get any) and then seals he and his wife in an airtight (she suffocates) room forever .

At least, until 1972, when a couple of interior decorators from L.A. buy Count Dracula's estate (including the locked coffin) and have it transported to the states. Then (duh!) they OPEN the coffin.

Now, none of the Blaxploitation films (or any of the exploitation style films for that matter) were known for their, uh, quality screenplays and A-list actors. And this is no exception: it's kind of a silly story with a lot of actors delivering silly lines.


What DOES raise this one above the crowd is the performance given by the actor playing Mamuwalde, William Marshall. Marshall was a classically trained stage actor and (!) opera singer, with a downright commanding physical presence and a powerful baritone voice.

And the man could ACT. I know this because he singlehandedly takes a laughable role in a laughable film and makes something a bit (dare I say?) noble out of it. He really just saves the film.

The film also happens to be the first time a vampire was portrayed as a conflicted character--Mamuwalde's a good guy and would like nothing better than to settle back into life as a human being. But the old blood-lust won't let him.

The film inspired a sequel (Scream Blacula Scream) that, like most sequels, didn't quite live up to it's source material. But Marshall's performance there was just as good.

Both films are available on DVD (I think even in a twin-pack!) and they're worth your time. Well, they were worth mine, I guess that's all I can really say. So I'm sayin' it.


Monday, December 3, 2007

Mandibles (2003) by Jeff Strand


I don't know what the psychological ramifications of it are, but I just love a good "Nature Runs Amok" story. There's something about people fighting for their lives against "mutated beasts, carnivorous insects, and normally harmless animals or plants turned into cold-blooded killers" that makes me smile. The only thing maybe a little funner is people fighting for their lives against evil menacing malfunctioning robots or cyborgs.

Anyway, the menacers in this novel are ants. Big angry aggressive stinging ants. And when I say big, I mean the littlest ones are 2 to 3 inches long and go up from there. (Think rat, wolf and living room couch in terms of size.)

I had a hard time categorizing this book. It's a little bit horror and a little bit science fiction and more than a little bit comedic. It's the same kind of novel that "An American Werewolf in London" is movie, if that tells you anything. (So maybe "Comedic Horror" or "Horrific Comedy".)

The plot boils down to a bunch of extremely large and vicious red fire ants on the loose in Tampa, Florida, and the folks who aren't quickly devoured have to figure out how to stop them before the entire city is overrun by the beasties. Much adventure ensues as our heroes work to figure out what's going on and then put a stop to it. And almost everyone you'd expect to make it to the end of the book alive, does.


At any rate, I quite liked it. Of course, I'd like pretty much any book with a plot like this, no matter the quality level. But this one was actually pretty readable.

Here's a couple of alternative covers for the book:

It was written by Jeff Strand. You can see he leans toward the comedic side of things by looking at the titles of some of his other novels:

How to Rescue a Dead Princess
Casket For Sale (Only Used Once)
Single White Psychopath Seeks Same