Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dee Carplane! Dee Carplane, Boss!

Even the world's most ironically well-known secret agent can't escape a good shortening here at the Deadly Doll's House. Best of all, today's 007-centric theme just can't be contained. Over at From The Depths of DVD Hell, the one and only Elwood Jones has dug up Indonesia's most valued cultural export: 2'9 Weng Weng in the ingeniously titled For Your Height Only.

I know! I almost can't believe it either! This is a wonderful world indeed.

But before you go digging into the underworld for Elwood's thoughts, let's start with the classy swagger of the always politically correct original Bond in The Man With the Golden Gun.

Quick Plot: Lounging comfortably on a private island with his lady, little person assistant, golden gun, and third nipple close by, the world's most expensive assassin aims his sights on the world's most sexually transmitted disease-riddled secret agent. 

Lord Summerile, meet Bond...James Bond.

The Man Who Would Be Count Dooku plays Scaramanga, the titular bad guy with a hunger for some mechanical doohickey that will produce expensive solar powered energy. Or something, I really never understand the actual details involved in the Bond villains' plans. The general gist is typically the same: colorful villain wants to increase personal power and/or income with dastardly plan involving high-tech gadget. Bond tries to stop this from happening while maintaining a healthy sex life and cramming in two sips of martinis a day. An exciting car/foot/plane/carplane chase goes on a few minutes too long. Villain captures Bond and sets up an elaborate yet easily foiled death plan. Bond shags whatever female is closest by and credits send us a titular hint about what wacky adventure he'll end up in next.

I don't mean to sound critical, because though I've only begun experiencing it this year, I rather enjoy Bond cinema. Knowing the formula is half of the fun, especially to see how the zeitgeist of whatever time period the film was made would (and still does) help to fill in the recipe (blacksploitation in Live and Let Die, martial arts here, for example). In this past year, I've watched my first five Bond films and while none are inching their way up my best-of list, all have given me a highly enjoyable time...even if every single one went on 10 minutes too long.

(I'm guessing most of Bond's audience doesn't mind part of the running length)

I come at Bond less intrigued by the machines than by the camp, which explains why I would have such fun with The Man With the Golden Gun. Often considered one of the worst Bond films, The Man With the Golden Gun makes a few unforgivable errors--saddling Lee with a dull takeover plan even he doesn't seem to understand or having the usually charming Moore channel Sean Connery's more misogynist leanings, to name a few--but...but...well, there's no easy way to say this:

Herve Villechaize IS dressed to kill.

Yes, I'm elated to be able to cover a Bond film for The Shortening, but I'm also just excited to have such a ridiculous character to enjoy. As Oddjob and later, Jaws have taught us, it's often the henchman who make a good (or memorable) Bond film. Director Guy Hamilton doesn't necessarily get the most out of the superb-on-paper pairing of the majestically towering Christopher Lee and the petite-but-plotting Villechaize, but both actors seem to be having fun, and for me at least, it translated well.

Not ‘well’ as in ‘good movie.’ Pff. You came to the wrong place if that’s what you expect from a film that makes me giggle. For some Bond fans, the word "carplane" is akin to a bruise. For someone like me, it's as delicious as a cheddar and monterey jack coated nacho.

High Points
Christopher Lee is in this movie. Now even when he's introduced with a closeup displaying a fake third nipple, the mere fact that CHRISTOPHER LEE IS IN THIS MOVIE will always qualify it as a high point

Low Points
The nature of Bond films is that there will always be certain tropes that age out of taste. Naturally, The Man With the Golden Gun is full of them, from Moore uncomfortably slapping a woman for information to the racist sheriff from Live and Let Die tossing out the term 'pointy brownheads' with more ease than Bond at a speed-dating event

Lessons Learned
In some cultures, a third nipple is a sign of sexual prowess

Never make a bargain with a wealthy white British man in a boat

Golden bullets make lucky belly rings

Much like a baseball playing monkey's farts, cars that can make 360º turns mid-air sound an awful lot like a good old-fashioned slide whistle

The Short Facts of Life
According to Herve Villechaize.'s IMDB trivia page, the actor once "shared a room" with Matthew Bright. Yes, THE Matthew Bright who directed the dwarfs-have-big-hearts cult classic Tiptoes

Mind =

Bond fans probably dislike The Man With the Golden Gun because, you know, it's not that good. People like me, on the other hand, who generally measure Bond cinema by how many people get eaten by sharks might find themselves having a surprisingly good time. No, people are sadly NOT eaten by sharks in this outing, but we are treated to Christopher Lee speaking, carplanes flying, and Asian schoolgirls asskicking. Make no mistake: this is lower tier Bond to be sure, but sometimes, fun things come in small suitcases.

Just ask Matthew Bright's former roommate.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Horrible Non-Horror! Pinocchio

I'm in a bit of a bind here, and it's a sad, sad place to be. Ever since I spent a chilly December night watching a chirpy voiced CGI nutcracker battle John Turturo dressed as a cross between Andy Warhol and an SS officer, in a world where big songs ended with a shark being electrocuted and Nathan Lane sang a song about the theory of relativity (because he was playing Albert Einstein).

Yes, you might say The Nutcracker In 3D kind of ruined me from ever experiencing anything as batship insane again.

Still, the Oscar winner's big budget Italian production (with a chunk of that change going to paying big-name salaries for the English dubbing) was so infamous a flop that it just had to land here in February's Salute Your Shorties, even though part of the film's biggest problem is that the title character is actually a full-grown man of average height.

Quick Plot: In a world where animals speak and children look like grownups but grownups act like children--

Yes, I'm already lost right there with you. Why do children look like grownups? Well obviously, because Roberto Benigni is hellbent on pulling a Paul Reubens and decided to give his audience a disclaimer in terms of its logistics within the universe. No, it doesn't make sense, nor does the etherealish conversation between an old man and the Blue Fairy about how, and I quote, "time doesn't exist, but now it's time to go since it's getting late." 

But...but...if time doesn't exist, how can you run out of it?

I need Nathan Lane in here with a physics lesson, stat!

Anyway, prologue aside, one day in this magical land built on a soundstage, a magical butterfly tips over a magical log and a magical carpenter makes a magical boy out of it.


The only problem is that the boy is, to be frank, an asshole. I'd use harsher words, but I'm a lady, even if my cat toys say otherwise.

Available made-to-order here!

But he's just a kid! A MAGICAL kid, you say in Pinocchio's defense. Allow me then to describe this MAGICAL KID's first course of action upon animation: 

-Pinocchio trashes his kind but poor father's workshop, doing his best to break everything in sight
-Pinocchio runs to the streets to knock over fruit and vegetable peddlers' crates of goods
-Pinocchio steals the cane from a crippled old man
-Pinocchio uses the cane he stole from a crippled old man to chase a cat

-Pinocchio picks up the lids of garbage pails and clangs them together loudly
-Pinocchio tears down a clothes line
-Pinocchio scares a horse

-Pinocchio shakes a tree full of birds
-Pinocchio destroys a carton of wine. OF WINE

-Pinocchio shoots JFK

Fine, I'll admit I made up the last one, but I'm sure that was next on his list. My point is that Begnini's Pinocchio is a worthless, mean, destructive character who seems to try his hardest to make the audience wish for his death, only to then have the film tease us time and time again by putting him in scenario after scenario where he could and SHOULD die, then cruelly twisting the knife by giving him a second and third and ninetieth chance at a life he doesn't deserve.

I hated this thing.

Pinocchio has always been a tricky yet fascinating story because the very nature of its titular hero is to be naughty and make the wrong decisions. It's this boyish lack of compassion that sends the character down the rabbit hole of street crime, donkey transformations, and whale digestion, only to eventually overcome it all by learning to love and respect the father who had sacrificed so much for him. Yes, all that does indeed happen in Benigni's version, but does it have to be so insufferable?

Take, for example, Pinocchio s relationship with a talking cricket, voiced here by John Cleese. As soon as it starts talking, Pinocchio tries with all his might to crush the darn thing with his hands. In other words, Pinocchio TRIES TO MURDER THE CRICKET. That's bad, but you know what's worse? The fact that the Breckin Meyer voiced Pinocchio then asks Mr. Cleese "Has anyone ever told you your voice is REALLY annoying?"

At this point, what can a blogger do but sit back and sigh?

Pinocchio is a rather joyless film about a rather awful character, one who acknowledges that everything would be, and I quote, "a million times better if I were dead." And yet, SPOILER ALERT, he doesn't die. Not after he cons the Blue Fairy into giving him candy. Not after he ends up in prison and forms a weirdly homoerotic bond between a young lollipop fetishist. Not when he's dangled before a puppeteer giant with a hearty appetite for sort-of-puppet-boys. Not when he ends up in Funforeverland (seriously) and gets turned into a donkey later exploited at a circus by a ringmaster voiced by Regis Philbman.Now when he's thrown into the water to drown or forced into hard labor on a farm. He just...keeps...going.

This is a trying film, one that challenges its viewers--who in fairness, were supposed to be under the age of 10--to a game of endurance. I am one of those film nonsnobs who finds Life Is Beautiful a rather sweet and touching endeavor despite historiographical rewrites by contemporary society. I went into Pinocchio knowing that it had an ugly reputation, but not quite knowing why. 5 minutes into the film, that was cleared up.

There's something inherently sweet about how Benigni makes a film, always utilizing his wife and attacking his subject matter with his full heart. The problem with Pinocchio is that the film is nowhere near as charming as Benigni thinks it (or himself) is. The fantasy world is flat and ugly. The dialogue is rarely clever. Sure, the English dubbing feels (most likely) far more awkward and clunky than the original Italian, but that doesn't fix a script. Some sequences are too dark for kids, yet the entire tone feels shouted out as if aimed at a romper room. But what really dooms Pinocchio is Benigni himself, his natural innocence weirdly obscured by his decision to play a man-child. There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING lovable (or likable, or mildly tolerable) about his Pinocchio  He's selfish, mean, uncaring, lying, and until the last 3 minutes of the film, simply a terrible human being. I don't know about you, but typically those kinds of characters do not endear me to their films.

High Points
I appreciate any film made in modern times that has the courage to go for something whimsical. Fantasies are not an easy sell, so just taking that chance is something

Low Points
Except when the something is Roberto Benigni's Pinocchio

Lessons Learned
The best way to get an unruly child to take his medicine is to call in creepy bunny children pallbearers

When giants get emotional, they tend to sneeze

Tangerine lollipops are the best

Randomly Creepy Scene If Left To Analysis
We all know that the Little Boy Playland (or Funforeverland, which I kind of want to visit on the name alone) is a trickster little village where young males are transformed into donkeys. What Pinocchio does, however, is include a beyond creepy sequence where a band of wealthy middle-age men come to tour its sale items, evaluating the sleeping boys mid-donkeyization with leering comments like “look at that pretty little muzzle!” and “this one looks built for hard labor.”

White slavery never looked so adorable.

Bad movie enthusiasts certainly owe it to themselves to tackle this Razzie darling. While the film is rather obnoxious, it's never really dull, meaning a masochist could certainly do worse things with his or her time. Netflix defaults to sending you the English language version, though the Italian original is also available. I doubt THAT disc includes the bonus feature where celebrities like Cheech Marin and Kevin James discuss the act of dubbing, so perhaps you want to choose wisely...especially for the brilliant cut of a baggy-eyed Breckin Meyer explaining how this was the hardest gig he'd ever had, immediately followed by John Cleese asserting how he essentially recorded his audio while doing his taxes because it was that easy. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Icky & Gross, Just Like a Goober

We came so close.

Following years of Blood Dolls and Dangerous Worry Dolls and Doll Graveyard, it seemed like 2013's Shortening was finally going to bypass the endless ouvre of Charles Band. As much as the man has had his name as producer on some of cinema's greatest vertically challenged hits (Dolls, Troll), his full-out directorial efforts generally leave something to be desired, primarily, the very idea OF effort. 

Hey, if I could make a killer doll movie with the same amount of work it takes to cook a burrito, I'd have 35 credited to my name too.

Goobers came my way via my esteemed colleague and pal, T.L. Bugg, the keeper of the splendiforous blog, The Lightning Bug's Lair. Considering this is the man I once made watch The Nutcracker In 3D, it's only fair that he eventually pay me back with the kind of cheapie kids movie that feels akin to a flea bite. 

Quick Plot: A boy named Tommy starts a new job working on a children's show about a wacky sea captain and his band of ugly puppets. Little does he know, the ugly puppets (seriously: they're hideous) are actually alien slaves to a cruel alien queen named Mara (one name, "like Roseanne") who's returning to earth to claim them. Meanwhile, Tommy decides to investigate the ugly puppet mystery while his female costar chides him for being unprofessional.

Let's get one thing out of the way: the puppets are positively disgusting.

There's Squigby, whose name sounds like what you'd call the geeky dirty kid at summer camp

Esmerelda, who constantly moans as if dubbing a softcore porn

And Blop, whose name and appearance suggests the thing that happens when you sit on a toilet

It all makes perfect sense for a kids movie, right?

Ever buy a Barbie wannabe from a dollar store? They're dolls that hold a vague resemblance to Mattel's famous blond, except the construction seems to be made from the kind of plastic packaging that holds Barbies in place in boxes. Their legs are hollow, arms only move up and down, and faces seems as if they were made by photocopying the blueprints for a more expensive toy, then morphing it over a bouncy ball and adding a nose. The point is, they’re cheap and ugly...much like everything about Goobers.

This is not to say the movie is completely without fun. As Queen Mara and her evil henchman, Caroline Ambrose and Sam Zeller make a campy pair who have no shame going for the broad humor. The younger actors are passable, even when they’re stuck interacting with some of the ugliest art projects ever assembled for the camera. For whatever reason, there’s a subplot involving Tommy’s dad having a baseball card collecting addiction, which seems strange even for 1997, but if it helps Band achieve a 75 minute running length, I guess that’s all that really matters.

High Points
While none give Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards-level performances, the young cast is sufficiently tolerable with material that isn’t always up to par

Low Points
Much like the similarly clueless Kazaam, Goobers seems to have no idea what kind of stories kids actually want to watch. Whereas Shaquille O’Neal’s genie had to battle evil concert bootleggers, the major climax of Goobers relies on reading the fine print of contract negotiations

Lessons Learned
For a child actor, nothing is more horrifying than the Big P

Chekhov’s Law of Baseball Cards: If you feature a rare one, you best have an ugly poop-looking puppet destroy it

Superior beings fart a lot

Goobers (aka Mystery Monsters) is streaming on Netflix, which is the only way you should watch it. Fans of Charles Band’s style (i.e., cheap production values, grotesque little things, and scant running length) will find this a minor dose of something new, as he uses his quick tricks for a so-called kids film.

It just happens to involve a dose of torture. 

And LOTS of farting.