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Monsters in the Woods

bannerpdMV5BNjU2OTA3NDM0NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjkyNTA1Nw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,777,1000_AL_Monsters in the woods starts off playing to the stereotypes hard. A couple going at it in a tent are murdered bloodily by a masked killer. But almost immediately they turn the tables and go meta, revealing that this is actually a scene in a horror movie being filmed.

I was surprised to see the familiar face of Glenn Plummer. He’s a marvelous actor that I remember fondly frm Strange Days, Showgirls and even a spot on the fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He plays angry well. He’s got a powerful personality and is such a good actor that I wonder why exactly he’s in this movie. But he seriously lends some credibility to what is otherwise a very cheap looking film.

There’s a lot of footage that is all over the place, but it’s trying to be found footage, done as the behind the scenes documentary on this movie set (I use the term “set” lightly since we’re in the woods). The first act drags as they go through the more technical aspects of movie making and set politics.

Right around the thirty minuet mark, the first body shows up, but it’s apropos of nothing as we’ve been given no context. Are  the woods haunted? Is there a psycho crew member (It IS a colorful bunch). The whole “Camera shakes and drops” followed by a dead body dropping into frame gag gets old really quick.

Ultimately it’s attempt to switch between meta and Found Footage detracts from what might be a decent film. Put it on in the background and do something else. It’s not bad, but it dosen’t exactly stand out.

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781

essentialPosting the best strips from the series, in order from the beginning.

Every Wednesday and Friday

Roller Blade Warriors

franchisebannerMV5BMjI0MjE1NTgzMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTI4NTYyMQ@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Roller Blade Warriors start out promising enough, with the familiar nuns on horseback, engaging in sword fights using their trusted katanas (an upgrade from the butterfly knives of the previous film). It’s overdubbed by a David Carradine clone, but soon plunges us into the same incomprehensible post-apocalyptic imagery. It’s factories juxtaposed with tuxedos and human sacrifice. A monster lurches out of the smoke and it looks like the hand puppet from the first roller blade has grown up. The monster can only be appeased though, by feeding him a real woman – and in this bleak future, those are in short supply.

There are actually some clever innovations this time round. The nuns ride a jury rigged bike with wind sales, and we see roving bands of gangs, such as the one that’s feeding the monster and it gives us a greater look at the broken down society (Something that was images.jpgmissing in the previous film). Both the dialogue and sound have improved as well. We’ve moved past the awful dubbing, and while the dialogue remains ridiculous, it’s not quite as over the top. They’ve gotten rid of most of the kings English, though it still seeps in from time to time. What is still over the top though, is the score. For this entry they decided on a bouncy, goofy, Benny Hill sort of background music that gives this a really strange feel. They frequently switch over 2 to chord synth cues, but that goofy music comes in so often that it just breaks me out of the film and reminds me how ridiculous (Indeed there are frequent slap fights that remind me of the three stooges) this all is.

The girl in the nuns charge is kidnapped to be delivered to the monster in the stacks, and adventure ensues.

Everything about this production has improved, which is really cool to see. Director Donald Jackson has got some resources this time around and grown as a filmmaker making this film index.jpgalmost passable despite being ludicrous… but pretty well suited for late night cable and direct to video.

A third direct sequel to this film was planned, but ultimately scrapped. Still you can’t keep a good man down, and Jackson would be teaming up with Zen filmmaker Scott Shaw to create a whole series of spinoff sequels set in this same universe.

More on that next time

OddMall : Expedition Elsewhere 2019

I’m still in winter con hibernation, but on a whim I decided to start getting warmed up for convention season when I noticed Oddmall was happening. Lydia was still hacking from the flu, but I asked Maddie if she’d like to go (and give Lydia a break from Maddie 51993393_2341953092515767_7807918435781836800_ngetting on her sick nerves) and what she’d like to wear. We both pulled out some old costumes. Slimer and Jigglypuff hadn’t been out since 2016, and off we went to Oddmall.

In the costume contest, Slimer found himself facing down Jeannie. The Emcee, a goblin named Gandersnatch tried to figure out how we should compete. A voice from the audience yelled “mud wrestling!” which would have made for the best costume contest ever.

Maddie was entranced by all the interesting wares. She dug through pokemon, and browsed pixel art. The polished rocks at the new age and jewelry booths caught her eyes (She’s been collecting interesting stones since she was small) and even pondered over an Eevee drink coaster. The plushie pigs were her 52842294_2341952889182454_4034371035783495680_nfavorite, but out of her price range. She was delighted to find Miyazaki dust and soot sprites that she recognized from Spirited away and Totoro and dumped her con allowance into it.

It was a nice afternoon and Maddie said she was having the time of her life  hanging out at the bazaar, as we ease our way into the 2019 con season.

 

782

essentialPosting the best strips from the series, in order from the beginning.

Every Wednesday and Friday

The Roller Blade Franchise

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vlcsnap-2018-12-04-10h05m19s033You may remember me doing an article last year on a film called “Roller Blade”. It was the surprise feature screened at the Cedar Lee and it seared my eyes out of their sockets with it’s absurdity.

I had to know more. I needed to understand how such a thing could be made in the first place, much less spawn sequels.

Yes, sequels. Roller Blade ended with a title card promising a sequel which I was assured existed. That was it, I had to know more. A quick check of IMDB showed that not only was there a sequel, there were several…but it gets confusing from there on out and it’s hard to tell what is what. We’ll get to that in a moment, but first let’s do a quick recap of the lunacy that is Roller Blade. (for a more in depth review, hit the previous article on the subject here; https://argocitycomics.wordpress.com/2018/12/04/roller-blade/)

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In a post apocalyptic future a group of nuns in red and blue KKK robes do battle in the wastelands wearing roller skates and carrying butterfly knives. Led by Mother Speed and occasionally assisted by Marshall Goodman, they struggle against the gangs of punks on skateboards (because roller skates would be too establishment I suppose) and the minions of El Santo’s evil twin and his demonic hand puppet who live in the acid factory.

There. You’re caught up.

So what happened to RB2 : Holy Roller? I can’t be sure. Donald Jackson, the director and guiding force behind all the Roller Blade films,  passed away back in 2003 so he’s unavailable for comment, but some interviews do remain. He was known as the Ed wood of the video age, and watching his films it’s easy to tell why.  Roller Blade, made on 16mm film for about $5000 was absolutely a success. Jackson had been working for Roger Corman’s New World Pictures at the time in various capacities. They had acquired his movie “I like to Hurt people”, a wrestling documentary for fifty thousand dollars which financed his way to Hollywood. He parlayed that relationship into other work for New World, operating cameras. While he was making contacts with folks like Fred Olen Ray (Who’s son and girlfriend would both end up in Roller Blade) and James Cameron, “I Like to Hurt People” had made New World half a million dollars. Through these kind of contacts he managed to convince New World to pick the film up for distribution. When they came to him asking if he had anything else in the works, he quickly cut together a three minuet trailer to screen for the execs. They watched it in silence and then stared at Jackson, his heart lodged in his throat. Mentally the execs did their calculations. Finally one announced that they could probably move 10,000 units which would turn a profit. This occurred at a time when the video market was just beginning to take off. Roller Blade was hyped by New World as, “The First Straight to Video Feature Film”. They took out full color ads in Billboard magazine and advertised the movie in Variety – all common for a theatrical film, but at the time completely unheard of promotion for a video release. Roller Blade made them over one million dollars. New World was still a player in 1989 when the next film was made, but MV5BMjI0MjE1NTgzMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTI4NTYyMQ@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_they weren’t a part of it. While they did fund Jackson’s next film “Hell Comes to Frogtown”, the experience was marked by constant creative differences between Jackson and the studio.

“After Roller Blade made them a million dollars I didn’t have to even show a trailer for the next film. I only had to say one word; ‘Frogtown’. They said okay and gave me a million and a half dollars.”

The increased budget and addition of star power  was given in exchange for a great deal of Jackson’s creative control, and by the end, he never wanted to work with them again. He would later talk about the experience in interviews;

“I am a very hands on Director. The downfall of the relationship all stared at one point, the first day of shooting, when they had an art director creating one of the sets. When he finished, I checked it out and it all look too clean and pretty to be a part of the film. I told him about it, but he didn’t listen. He had all the arrogance of an art director and felt he had to answer to no one. So, when he stormed off of the set, I got a few can of spray paint and went and spray painted graffiti on the wall of the set. When he came back, he freaked out. He complained to the powers at New World and they had a talk with me. They told me, “Everybody has their job on a studio film. Yours is to direct the actors.” So, that was the beginning of the end.”

To complicate matters further, New World was beginning to run into financial difficulties and after striking 2000 prints of “Hell Comes to Frogtown”, the film still ended up going direct to video. When it came time to return to the Roller Blade series, Jackson was on his own. The concept of Holy Roller (More a place holder title than anything) no longer appealed to him. The concept had moved on and would now become Roller Blade Warriors.

The good news is Roller Blade Warriors was actually a better film than Roller Blade. It looks like there was enough money to invest in something better than a consumer grade camera and someone learned how to use a boom mic. There’s not really a lot of information on this film though, and Jackson doesn’t speak a lot about it in interviews – it’s always much more about his later movies, the ones that were index.jpgmore experimental.  He explains the move from knives to swords as part of his affection for Kurosawa  films.

“This was very intentional. Sergio Leone and Akira Kurosawa are two of my biggest influences. As we filmed the entire movie in a very spacious outdoor environment, I was allowed to pay tribute to these two directors and add my own style to the mix.”

An example of that style involves a story about how half way through Roller Blade Warriors, Jackson ripped up the script and winged it through the rest of production, foreshadowing his future film methods. Nevertheless, it’s possibly the best entry in the series. Roller Blade Warriors was successful enough to get a Roller Blade 3 green lit.

It’s at this point that things begin to get weird. Jackson hooked up with actor/musician/academic Scott Shaw during the preproduction of Roller Blade 3. The production was already in chaos, with one of Jackson’s crew interfering, staging a coup and stealing the investor. Eventually the production fell apart. However Shaw was still on board and Jackson was able to secure $30,000 for the two of them to create a pair of sidequels, set in the same universe but more far removed from Mother Speed and her convent.  In imagesinterviews he made it clear that was the intent from the beginning.

“What Scott Shaw and I did with Roller Blade Seven (and the Return of the Roller Blade Seven, filmed at the same time). Though the movie was based on the same premise, it was time to take the concept to the next level — which we did.”

That next level would be what Scott Shaw would dub “Zen Film making. A method of making film without scripts. You came up with a concept, ran the camera and filmed what ever happened next. Shaw recalls the moment he coined the term –

“We were in the office, discussing the results of the previous weeks endeavor. Don was fuming as he often did. Blaming others, as he almost always did. We decide that we needed to let go of all the structure and throw all of the plans that we had for the film out the window and just go out there and film. It was then and there that I came up with the title, Zen Filmmaking. “Let’s just be Zen. This is Zen. This is Zen Filmmaking.”

Sometimes there would be some guidance needed. words and phrases would be drawn from one of Shaw’s books Essence and Time, to keep the vision consistent.

“Whenever someone wanted some dialogue to memorize we would give them the two indexbooks by Scott… These books were made up of Spiritual Aphorism. So, this really kept the film focused on the spiritual essence of life — which is really what I wanted.”

In addition to the new film making style, there would also be technical advances –

“We also invented a new type of cinematography, in association with this film, known as, “The Roller-cam.” This is where we had a masterful skater film many scenes while skating around the actors using my Bolex. This gives the film a very spiritual sense of nonstop movement.”

“The way these character developed is the essence of Zen Filmmaking. We never had any plans for any of these character. In fact, just the opposite. We gave the people a little guidance and they did the rest.”

index3.jpgFor instance, “The costume for the character Fukasai Ninja was just something our art director, Mark Richardson had lying around. He tuned it up a little bit to better fit the movie — so an actor could roller skate in it. And, bam, the character became a big part of the film.”

Shaw for his part has contended that he was ill used in the making of these films, never taking a salary because of the low budget, but increasingly asked to do more and more including casting, production and music.

“Don suggested I go and set up the fights. I figured I had some time so I was first working with the girl and her opponent. Maybe ten minutes into the session Don walks up, “Okay, let’s shoot.” But…Here’s the thing, Don didn’t even care that the people weren’t ready. All he cared about was getting something/anything on film. So, all of those one-on-one fights you see in the film were choreographed on the spot. I told them do this or do that, and that was that.”

index2Shaw claims this caused a break with Jackson (which is odd considering IMDB still shows them making movies together untill Johnson’s death) and he claims, Don said on the way to his deathbed, “I really want to apologize for what happen to you on Roller Blade Seven.”. When he passed, Jackson turned over all his film rights to Shaw.

The next part is where things get tricky, because the bad feelings and politics didn’t end with that. There was interest in another entry, but both films were so highly stylized and non-linear that there was difficulty finding funding or distribution. This is when the the executive producer, Tanya York decided to take things into her own hands, editing both movies into one feature and re-releasing it under the name “Legend of the Roller Blade Seven”.  It makes a certain amount of sense. Both RB7 and the Return are short films, clocking in under 90 minuets and incorporating a lot of re-used footage. However, the re-edit was in violation of York’s contract and alienated both Jackson and Shaw. Shaw took the film index.jpgback and re-edited it himself, releasing it again under the title “Hawk, Warrior of the Wheelzone”. To make things more confusing, Shaw offers Lite versions of the films, unseen scene versions and his own Zen documentary on Roller Blade 3, the movie that never was. (Shaw by the way, seems somewhat disconnected from the reality of what things actually cost, offering each of these films for $25 on DVD – plus shipping. You can also get his autograph for a mere $125 on Band Camp)

For our purposes, We’ll be watching and reviewing only the “official” films and not Tanya York ‘s remix. This isn’t Blade Runner, and apocryphal mix tapes just muddy the waters further.

Stay tuned.

Quotes taken from the documentary “Donald G. Jackson : Confessions”, “The Roller Blade Seven: The Story of the Production” by Scott Shaw, originally published on Blogspot.com and “Donald G. Jackson; The Final Interview” Originally published in Trash Times, Issue #13

 

780

essentialPosting the best strips from the series, in order from the beginning.

Every Wednesday and Friday

Daredevil vs the Punisher

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Bonus shot- Sinestro also beating the tar out of Daredevil…poor Nick takes a lot of abuse at my hands…..

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Extra bonus of the “Deadpool ruins everything catagory…..

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Discovery – the first quarter

tvindex2Is it just me or is Discovery in full damage control mode now?

I suppose I shouldn’t be criticizing this. I’m actually watching Discovery fix a lot of my problems with the show, but these are a lot of things that shouldn’t have been issues in the first place.

I’m genuinely surprised at how much I like Captain Pike in this series. I never particularly cared for him in TOS and I haven’t exactly been dying for a Pike series, nevertheless Anson Mount seems to pull the role off well. It’s big shoes he has to fill. I really dug Jason Isaacs. Mount’s compassionate yet firm performance is an interesting contrast to Isaacs’ duplicitous, edgy Captian Lorca. I still miss him, but Pike is a good replacement. His command to replace all the holographic communicators on the ship with analog on-screen ones (because they are supposedly more secure) is however, a sloppy fix to my (and other’s) complaints about the use of technology that shouldn’t exist at this point in index3the timeline yet. We’re seeing a lot of this kind of quick patch-and-fix method.

Pike’s not the only classic Trek character being brought in though. In addition to Spock (Who, four episodes in, we still haven’t seen – and that’s probably a good thing. It builds suspense), episode four also brings in Majel Barett’s first officer character from “The Cage”, this time pleasantly played by an unrecognizable Rebecca Romijn (actually, I like her version better than Majel’s. She’s more likable – and cool that she vanishes into the role. I can’t believe I didn’t know that was her!) for a quick pop-in cameo at the beginning of the episode. It’s another example of nostalgia overkill. I swear, the Star Trek Writer’s have been trying to make something of this character for at least the last thirty years. There’s something of an obsession here. I’m not convinced that fandom is really dying for a “Number One” story, but Discovery is still trying to pull in that pre-trek crew and any familiar face they imagescan (Please don’t bring back Harry Mudd btw. Rainn Wilson was wholly unlikable – which completely misses the point of Harry)

Speaking of familiar faces, the Klingons look a hundred percent better in this series. They are transitioning them over to what is more recognizable by growing their hair out and dressing them in more leather, less bone and resin. I see a lot of forehead ridges being sculpted differently to. They’ve explained it as a story point, that the empire shifted once L’Rell took it over at the end of the last season. The Klingons are growing their hair out now. It’s a nice try. A little late – those drastic changes to the Klingons were a major sore point to a lot of Trekkers. Had they gone with this mix, a sort of evolved Klingon makeup, I think people would have accepted it a lot more readily – even been excited about it. You’ll never convince me that this evolution however, was images2the intent from the beginning though.

It’s actually the NEW faces that seems to really work for me. I’ve never been a real fan of Tig Notaro’s comedy, but man does she fit right in here as a recently rescued engineer from the shipwreck on a wayward astroid. I’d actually really like to see her replace Anthony Rapp as chief engineer. It’s not that Rapp has done anything wrong, it’s just that Notaro is that much better. I love watching her and Rapp verbally spar and would really dig seeing that kind of chemistry with a Captian. She absolutely feels like the McCoy of the group, and that’s something we’ve needed in this series. It brings into sharp focus just how sterile the interpersonal relationships have been on index.jpgDiscovery.

One of the things that impressed me about watching Tig and Rapp fight was the subject matter, a discussion of old reliable methods – Dilithium Crystals and Duck Tape, versus new tech – that is, the Spore Drive. This is the kind of social commentary that Star Trek has usually done well. It’s metaphor for Liberal vs. Conservative thinking and it hits both sides of an issue. It’s not the in-your-face SJW rhetoric that has taken over Doctor Who. I know Discovery has occasionally come under criticize for that same “Woke” attitude, but I don’t see it here nearly as much as I do in say, the abysmal last few seasons of Supergirl. I think we’re more sensitive to it in this day and age where it oversaturates too much of indexgenre TV. Discovery actually could be commended for dialing it back to traditional levels.

So the real question for me is whether this season is better than last. It feels very similar, but with a lot of Tig’s duck tape trying to patch over the leaks in the series. It’s not like the real jump in quality we saw between the first season of TNG and the third. Then again, I don’t think Discovery is really as weak a show as TNG was during those first two seasons. However it also doesn’t have the goodwill That TNG derived frm being a return to weekly television after eighteen years (the animated series notwithstanding) off the air. TNG also didn’t have the responsibility of being the flagship for both a new network AND platform hanging around it’s neck like an albatross. Discovery’s mandate to launch CBS All Access has created an uncomfortable relationship between series and studio. The subscriber base for All Access has plateaued, and that puts Discovery in jeopardy. Had it been on a traditional network – even a index4premium cable one, that might not have been the case. Shows like Doctor Who and Game of Thrones thrive on their networks, largely because the infrastructure has been build and the general public have already accepted the platform. Discovery lacks that, and to put the burden on it’s shoulders is somewhat unfair. Star Trek is durable, but history shows us this is a losing bet. Star Trek II (the aborted TV series) failed to launch a paramount network. Voyager was moderately more sucessful, but wasn’t enough to create a sustainable network and UPN is now no more than a memory. I fear we’re watching that same scenario lay out now. CBS’s attitude is somewhere around “Wait and see” though insiders are saying CBS is abandoning Discovery and focusing on their Picard series (Not sure what that means for the black ops spin off that was suosed to feature Michelle Yeoh’s Georgiou). I think that’s a shame, because there’s plenty good here. I’d like to see more…but I’m not convinced we’re going to.

Cinema Wasteland Retro Movie THIS WEEKEND!

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Seriously, we had a blast last time! This is a great B-Movie event, with cartoons, shorts, trailers and a couple of oddball films I know I’VE never seen before!

WHEN:
February 9th, 2019.
Doors open at 6:00pm and the show will begin at 7:00pm.

WHERE:
Berea Elks Lodge #1815
626 North Rocky River Dr.
Berea, OH. 44017

Off I-71 and I-480 just a mile or so past Cleveland Hopkins Airport and one mile South of the IX Center.
FREE PARKING – Behind the building there is a fenced off parking lot. Park behind the fence in the lot.

ADMISSION:
Admission is $5.00 (Cash Only)

Bottled water, pop, popcorn and assorted munchies will be available during show time for $1 each. *No outside food/beverages (Cash Only)