Category Archives: camp

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance ~ I’m in the minority. I’m one of the few people on Earth, other than Nicholas Cage, who liked the first Ghost Rider movie. There are folks who hate Cage, folks who disliked the mixing and matching of different Riders in it, and the campiness of it. I thought it worked. There was an earnestness that I liked, and honestly I’m not that well versed in GR continuity to argue those points. But I liked it.

When I heard Cage was making another one, I was pleased and couldn’t wait to see it. I mean, really, how bad could it be? Now months later I finally get to see it on DVD. Wow. I was wrong.

There are moments of animation throughout that have promise, but they are only moments and soon replaced by the plodding terrible acting of Cage and the rest of the cast. He can be good, but here he’s just phoning it in, long distance from a bad cell. Wow. Even terrific actors like Idris Elba and okay actors like Christopher Lambert are pulled down into this vortex of stink.

Even the special effect of a skull on fire is done badly here. Visually at least, this should have been as stunning as the first. The script is by David S. Goyer, so this is another craptacular for him to notch on his belt. When he’s good, he’s good, but when Goyer is bad… man oh man, is he bad. Avoid this flick.

The Initiation of Sarah 2006

The Initiation of Sarah ~ The original came at the tail end of the great ABC telemovies of the 1970s. In it, Kay Lenz, who I always mixed up with Susan Dey, plays the Carrie part in this Carrie rip-off. Morgan Fairchild is chief tormentor and Shelley Winters the witchy housemother mentor. There were a few of these Carrie wannabes in the 1970s, The Spell with Susan Meyers from “James at 15” was another, that aped the mousy scapegoat girl, who also happens to have telekinetic powers, flipping out in her tormentors. Sarah took place at a college sorority as opposed to high school.

The 2006 version is a re-imagining of the 1978 movie of the week done for, believe it or not, the ABC Family Channel. Well, at least they’re keeping it in the ‘family.’ Yeah, I know, sorry. Here, Morgan Fairchild returns as the snooty mom of two girls about to enter college, and join her old exclusive sorority. Lindsay, played by a post-“Firefly” Summer Glau and mousey cutter Sarah played by Mika Boorem of Blue Crush, are, as one would expect, polar opposites.

It is essentially the same story, with a decidedly non-fun Jennifer Tilly in the Shelley Winters role, but it has become unnecessarily complicated, almost as if someone was watching nothing but “Buffy” and old soap operas for a couple weeks straight. The warring sororities are the guardians of good and evil, people pretend to be other people to sleep with them, and it gets worse from there.

I wanted to like this one, I really did. It could have been the good old campy fun the original was but just took itself too seriously, and too much ABC Family as well, adding a crapload of teenage melodrama to the mix. Avoid and look for the original.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? ~ This 1962 campy horror classic from director Robert Aldrich is immortal in the annals of Hollywood. It’s been quoted, parodied (my fave a bit for the MTV Video Awards with Madonna and Courtney Love), remade (one with the Redgrave sisters in 1991, best avoided), shown in revival houses for decades, re-enacted on stage, and is the only pairing of two of the greatest and most infamous Oscar-winning actresses of all time. This film is legend.

Rumors of a Joan Crawford/Bette Davis feud had been fueled for decades by publicists and tabloid journalists so this feature with both of them, in antagonistic roles made for lots of press, even with both actresses in the twilight of their careers. Both had been making B-grade horror flicks of a fashion so a teaming in this manner seemed right. And additionally, both women had a reputation for sometimes taking roles over the top, so a story in which over the top was the rule was indeed perfect.

In the film, alcoholic former child actress Jane Hudson takes care of her paraplegic celebrated actress sister Blanche Hudson. Jane does so because she believes she’s the one who crippled her sister in a long ago accident that ended both their careers. Now years later with the advent of television, Blanche’s movies are getting a bit of a revival, causing jealousy and insanity in Jane. The fun and campy horror only begins there.

Despite the over the top acting of both ladies, it is Bette that rises to the top as the superior actress. While Joan just does a parody of her best melodramatic roles, Bette rocks the screen with what could be camp, but more often than not shows as true performance as a woman snapping from a psychotic break.

Of course, despite the two women involved, the point is not the acting, but the fun of these two trapped on the same screen. This is almost as good as Dracula vs. Frankenstein or King Kong vs. Godzilla. Sometimes Joan’s passive/aggressive technique is every bit as nasty as Bette’s straight out hostility. Truly a battle of giants, this is a fight that must be seen.

Victor Buono stands out from the rest of the small cast, spotlighting his mild-mannered persona as opposed to his frequently seen villainous side. Director Robert Aldritch wisely chose, at Bette Davis’ insistence, that the film be shot in black and white, adding to the horrific atmosphere.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, for both good and bad, is one of my favorite movies. I love it as the quirky horror it was meant to be, and I also love it as the camp comedy it has become over the years. It is my second favorite to MST3K to after The Rocky Horror Picture Show and before the also Joan Crawford themed Mommy Dearest. I love it, and watch it whenever I see that it’s on. Recommended.

Quickies 7-15-2010

Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes ~ This campy comedic superhero film is badly acted and directed, in an almost unintended Rocky Horror or Lost Skeleton of Cadavra way, but its script and heart are in the right place. If you rent it, stay with it. The most intriguing part of the flick is its gay-centric cast and community, a trick that really works well, and doesn’t overpower the rest of the movie. Look for fun cameos by Noel Neill, Lou Ferrigno and Nichelle Nichols as well as Marv Wolfman and Len Wein. Tom Tangen is hilarious as multiple characters, writer Vincent J. Roth is charming in the title role, and do not miss the costume party. This is a lot more fun than it at first seems, check it out.

Empire Records ~ This cult favorite pseudo-remake of FM, only at a record store instead of a radio station, is a pleasant surprise. While painfully predictable, it’s also a lot of fun and has a killer soundtrack. Great Gwar cameo and bonus, Renee Zellweger not only sings, but her eyes are open for most of the movie.

Pirate Radio ~ Great sixties soundtrack, but wow, not a great movie at all. It also has a terrific cast, most of which is wasted here. I think this is the first Richard Curtis flick that I haven’t liked. I guess everyone misses sometimes.

Franklyn ~ Really? Darkman meets Dark City with just a touch of Repo! The Genetic Opera thrown in for good measure – really? This is what you were shooting for? This is pretty, this is stunning, but it is very much style over substance. There were whole sequences that were so boring that I fell asleep. It’s a steampunk Tim Burton wannabe visual overdose without much story to support it. Eye candy, but that’s all.

Killers ~ This one was quite a surprise for me. I was fully expecting a mindless romantic comedy here. I don’t like Ashton Kutcher and as I don’t watch “Grey’s Anatomy,” I have no point of reference for Katherine Heigl. She was painfully adequate for 27 Dresses but that called for that type of performance. But Killers, other than being a bit more predictable than I would have liked plotwise, is a lot of fun. I really enjoyed this romantic dark comedy with a twist. And director Robert Luketic should definitely be plugged in to work on the Bond films because he has the eye needed. Recommended.

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Now That’s Eurovision

After dreary ballad after dreary ballad, finally The Netherlands offer something more in the spirit of past Eurovision Song Contests. Their entry for this year is the quirky and catchy “Ik Ben Verliefd (Sha-la-lie)” by seventeen year-old Sieneke.

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Not the Zsazsa You Think…

Zsazsa Zaturnnah Ze Moveeh ~ Take colorful Filipino comic book superheroics, Bollywood and Broadway musical sensibilities and a gender-bending hero/heroine – and mix well, and you’ll get this movie version of Carlo Vergara’s Zsazsa Zaturnnah.

The secret origin of Zsazsa is one unique in all of comics – meek crossdressing beautician Ada eats a space rock, a big space rock, and becomes the superpowered and female Zsazsa Zaturnnah. It’s even more disturbing than you think, especially the eating the space rock part.

My favorite part is where Zsazsa gets served by the Queen of the dayglo Amazonistas and they have a dance off, I mean, fight, and keep fighting, and dancing, and singing. And apparently the Amazonistas (think Spice Girls from hell) come from the planet where 300 was filmed. Their battle scenes are like the Power Rangers on acid at Wigstock, and that’s a good thing.

There are also zombies and a giant frog, as if the Amazonistas weren’t enough. It’s crazy good fabulous fun, and you won’t believe your eyes, or ears.

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Super Heroes Who Are Super

A week ago I saw simply the coolest show a comic geek could hope to see live. Presented by Plays & Players this was just amazing fun. Here’s how they describe it:

Super heroes brought to life before your very eyes! Word-for-word staged readings of classic comic books featuring some of Philadelphia’s finest actors. Will Spider-Man save the day? Will the Hulk smash? Will this description get you to come to our performances? Find out! With a relaxed atmosphere that includes drinks being served from the neighboring Quig’s Pub, audiences get an opportunity to interact with the artists and embrace their inner (or outer) comic book geek.

The show we saw featured a live reading in costume of Green Lantern #13, “Duel of the Super-Heroes,” guest-starring the Flash. Patrons were mostly dressed in comic book related t-shirts and were talking in the lobby and the bar about the previous night’s “Smallville” and the Wonder Twins – a real geek audience, but still quirky cool. There were also an equal amount of folks talking about “William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead,” another Plays & Players show from earlier in the year. Word of mouth must have been mighty though as there was only single seats and standing room only.

The words were played straight for the most part with hand gestures and facial expressions doing the rest via puns, camp and innuendo. Much like the 1960s “Batman” TV series this was a wonderful experience on more than one level. The narrator was a melodramatic marvel and the telepathic aliens almost made me wet myself. I loved this, and will be back. The next show is December 12th.

The previous month’s shows featured Spider-Man, the Punisher and Wonder Woman, and who knows who will appear next, but we’ll find out as the show is scheduled through to June. For more details, click here.

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Boy Meets Turtle

Gamera the Brave ~ Boy meets turtle. Boy feeds turtle. Turtle grows. No, really, turtle really freakin’ grows. Monster attacks Japan. Turtle fights monster, saves Japan. Boy (and Japan) happy. That could be it, but there’s a lot more to it.

Gamera the Brave, or Chiisaki yusha-tachi: Gamera as it is known in its native land, is not your average Gamera movie despite the above description. It was marketed as a children’s film, which it most certainly is – like the original Gamera film series of the 1960s but unlike the more violent and dark 1990s flicks. Except for the opening few moments which harken back a vague memory of Gamera fighting several Gaos, this is pretty much all kids fare – and it’s delightful stuff.

The little boy Toru finds his pet turtle Toto is a little more interesting than most other turtles, flying and spitting fireballs. This secret he shares with his best friend, little girl next store Mai. It’s just fun. And it’s not annoying. As any Kaiju fan will tell you when they hear a kid is involved in the plot of the movie, he’s going to be annoying – especially if it’s a Gamera flick. Not the case here at all.

This could easily be an afterschool special with a bit of kaiju eiga nudge-nudge thrown in. It does eventually turn into a Gamera movie though, so take heart, fans of the spinning flame-spitting turtle – you won’t be disappointed. There’s even a Guiron reference that is in there just to make the fanboys grin. Fun is what the kids’ part of this flick, as well as the adults’ part, is all about.

When bad monster Jidas shows up, we see that the special effects are cutting edge, at least as far as the genre goes. Toto plays Gamera (although I wish they would have kept his original roar) and takes on Jidas, a prehistoric spiked iguana-like kaiju with a mutant tongue – don’t ask. The fights that ensue are spectacular, and that is the reason I like kaiju eiga, but I gotta tell you – as engaging as the monster battles are, the relationship between little Toru and little Toto is moreso.

I waited months for this on NetFlix, and it was worth the wait. Fun for the kids, fun for the monster fans, fun for the adults, just fun.

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Camp Taters

The Spirit on TV

The Spirit ~ No, this is not the 2009 film where Frank Miller killed Will Eisner a second time, this is the 1987 ABC telemovie and pilot featuring Sam J. Jones (Flash Gordon) in the title role. Word is that Eisner himself nixed the series because he hated this version so much, and only allowed it to be aired once due to contract restrictions.

It is however available on YouTube, which is where I recently saw it. I’m ashamed to admit it, but when this originally aired, I didn’t know who the Spirit was. I know, for shame.

The TV movie isn’t really that bad when viewed in comparison to Miller’s travesty. It is camp in a way that fans of the 1966 “Batman” series could appreciate, only less humor and more bad sets and acting. It is still an enjoyable watch, and eons better than what Miller did. At least Jones dresses like the Spirit. Shame there wasn’t a series, had I been aware, I would have watched.

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