Super (2010)

Judges say: meh, it's not that bad. 6.5 for effort.
Judges say: meh, it’s not that bad. 6.5 for effort.

Now we come to Super, written and directed by James Gunn. A “dark comedy” apparently full of stunning, satirical insight. Or so you’d think if you believe what you read. I believe in using past experience as a guide. Some people might consider that an inexcusable bias…but some people need to check the tree in their own eye before they start bitching about the splinters in mine. And experience told me to stay the hell away from James Gunn after 2004’s Dawn of the Dead remake, which he wrote. No, I haven’t forgotten. Yes, I’m still holding that against him. Is that fair…? Probably not. But it’s not about what’s fair: it’s about what I want.

I wanted a cast of characters I could give a crap about, but Dawn of the Dead‘s bunch felt more like the subjects of someone’s half-assed social experiment. We were so far removed from them the script had to work overtime to characterize them through clunky, expository dialogue (the laziest kind of characterization around…apart from voice-over narration). So I went into Super with serious trepidation. I don’t watch The Office, so Rainn Wilson held no appeal for me. And sure, Ellen Page was in Inception…but before that, she played Shadowcat in X-Men: The Last Stand. Liv Tyler is…Liv Tyler. And Kevin Bacon is in serious danger of being typecast as The Villain.

Still, the things that annoyed me about Super have proved to be crowd-pleasing. So I once again get to be the asshole in the room who made the mistake of reading comic books back in the 1990s, when Super‘s pet issues were common storytelling currency and everybody took a whack at them (with a pipe wrench) sooner or later. I’ve seen this movie called “perhaps the definitive take on self-reflexive superheroes,” once again revealing film critic’s monumental ignorance of pretty much everything that doesn’t involve a current celebrity. Continue reading Super (2010)

Defendor (2009)

"Did I leave the gas on...?"
“Did I leave the gas on…?”

There are a lot of mentally unstable superheros out there. Most realize Batman wouldn’t be half the goddamn Batman he is if he weren’t a little bit (or a lot, depending who’s writing him) crazy. But Bruce Wayne’s only the most famous example, and at least he knows who and what the hell he is (again, depending on the writer). Heroes like Rose/Thorn or Moon Knight, who actually are dealing with multiple personality disorders, have been hanging around since the 70s, never popular enough to attract any real attention.

Looks like Defendor‘s joined their ranks. I only heard about it two weeks ago though the good graces of After Movie Diner host Jon Cross. I guess it fell through the cracks a weak Terminator sequel, weaker Star Trek reboot, and Bayformers 2 left in the floor of 2009. I missed this “sharp suberversion of Nolan’s Batman reboots…” whatever the hell that means. Who said that, anyway…? Now Magazine…? Well, what the fuck do they know? Are they going to namedrop Rose/Thorn? Or Moon Knight? I don’t think so.

Comic book knowledge allows me to go into these DIY superhero movies with the proper air of critical suspicion. Who’s this Peter Stebbings, I thought going into Defendor, playing in our sandbox? What, this is his first time in the director’s chair? Well, at least he wrote the script. What else did he write…a PG-13 Rom Com from 2008? Aww, hell… Continue reading Defendor (2009)

Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The Romans (1965)

By Chad Denton

As soon as the TARDIS lands, it falls over in a pit. Next time we see the crew the Doctor and Ian are in a Roman villa dressed in togas and eating grapes while reclining on sofas. They’ve been resting in a small village miles away from Rome for more than a month and telling the locals that they are “villa-setting” for a Roman general off on campaign in Gaul. On their way to the village marketplace, Vicki complains to Barbara about the lack of adventure, but Barbara advises her to be thankful for the vacation. Unfortunately, they are spotted by two slave traders, Didius and Sevcheria. They assume from eavesdropping on their conversation that Barbara and Vicki are Britons and thus superb candidates for slavery. The Doctor decides to head off to explore Rome and invites the bored Vicki to accompany him, but, irritated at Ian and Barbara, tells them that if they want to go to Rome they can go themselves. That night Sevcheria and Didius invade the villa and abduct Ian and Barbara. Continue reading Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The Romans (1965)

ThanksKilling (2009)

He'd be showing us some leg...if he had any.
He’d be showing us some leg…if he had any.

(Originally published November 26, 2010…but why fight the inevitable?)

Intentionally bad movies are still bad. Setting out to make crap is only going to win you friends among a small community culturally dead assholes who prattle away about bad movies through this “series of tubes.” And even we’re starting to drown under an annual deluge of cheeky bad movies made by and for and people who’ve spent their lives watching seriously bad movies. Movies from an age that ThanksKilling wants to hearken back to with all its pint-sized, syrup-filled heart. Why else would it open with a gratuitous titty shot?

These days, most of the self-consciously bad Bad Movies are mainstream Hollywood afflictions with big names and deep pockets to shepherd them through the culture industry’s means of production. ThanksKilling is the opposite: a self-financed, $3500 self-conscious Bad Movie shot in Licking County, Ohio by the Buckeye State’s native son Jordan Downey. I hadn’t even heard of ThanksKilling until my good friends at the Bad Movie Message Board mentioned its existence. Thanks, you guys. I was worried about what to do for the holiday. Continue reading ThanksKilling (2009)

Them! (1954)

"Excuse me, ma'am? I believe I should've taken that left turn at Albuquerque."
“Excuse me, ma’am? I believe I should’ve taken that left turn at Albuquerque.”

Some giant monster movies you watch once and never think about again. Then there are the monster movies you pass down to your children. My parents passed Them! down to me around the time they passed down The Thing from Another World and War of the Worlds, praising it as an original masterpiece of daikaiju movie making…which is funny, since Them! started out as a good way for Warner Brothers to cash in on that other original masterpiece of daikaiju movie making, 1953’s Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. Not a rip-off exactly…more like a thematic reprise, packaging the same complex of societal fears into a new model for a new year. Works for the car companies.

3D was all the rage at the time as theaters continued to hemorrhage audiences to a new and uncomfortably profitable home-entertainment medium. Warners originally concieved Them! as a widescreen 3D monster mash in Sylvia Plath-annoying technicolor, set in the already colorful deserts of California (standing in for the just as colorful deserts of New Mexico). A mechanical failure somewhere inside the 3D camera’s bowels nixed that plan and the movie’s budget with one very fortunate accident. Frankly, I can’t imagine Them! as anything other than a black and white picture with 1.37 : 1 aspect ratio.

The DVD releases has since lovingly restored its original red and blue, drop-shadowed title card. That, and a few shots designed to wag something (like a giant ant’s antenna) in the audience’s face, are the only remaining signs of Them!-That-Might’ve-Been. Read enough reviews of Them!-That-Is and you’ll come across a lot of praise for this film’s “documentary feeling.” I doubt it’d garner such accolades if it were in color…then again, maybe so…it would still hold your hand and lead you in, careful to take itself seriously. This movie is a granite idol, meeting your snickers with a stone face. It’s an almost perfect monster movie.

Almost. Continue reading Them! (1954)

Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The Rescue (1965)

by Chad Denton

When the TARDIS next lands, the Doctor mistakenly asks for Susan to open the doors, causing Barbara and Ian to feel sorry for him. Outside the Doctor recognizes their surroundings as the planet Dido, which he had visited once before. While the Doctor stays behind, Ian and Barbara move on, coming across a city that appears to be in ruins. Before they can investigate further, they come across a being called the Koquillon, who traps Ian, the Doctor, and the TARDIS by using some sort of weapon to create an explosion and then shoves Barbara off a cliff. The Doctor identifies the Koquillons as the natives of the planet, but is confused at the hostile reception Ian and Barbara received since the Koquillons have a very hospitable and peaceful culture. Meanwhile Barbara is rescued by Vicki, whose ship crashed on Dido months ago. The only other survivor besides Vicki is a man named Bennett, whose injuries keep him bedridden. Vicki explains that it’s the 25th century and that the same Koquillon Barbara encountered has been keeping them prisoner, threatening that if they stray far from the ship the other Koquillons will kill them, just like they, according to Bennett, killed the other crew members. Their only hope is a rescue ship that is supposed to arrive soon. Vicki’s father, who was moving with Vicki to another world after the death of Vicki’s mother, was among those who died. Continue reading Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The Rescue (1965)

Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)

Was a time, in the mid-90s, when I never thought I'd see this image in anything other than trade paperback collections. Progress?
Was a time, in the mid-90s, when I never thought I’d see this image in anything other than trade paperback collections.

Robin, the Boy Wonder, is one of the most controversial characters in superhero comics. First debuting in 1940 as a transparent attempt to (what else?) attract new readers, he immediately became a popular and enduring staple of the Batman mythos despite inspiring decade’s worth of Gay Panic, humorous or otherwise. The general populous conceives Robin as an eternal twelve year-old, jumping around rooftops when he should be doing his homework. But who can concentrate on algebra when Killer Croc’s out killing mobsters in a bid to take over Gotham City’s underworld? What kid wouldn’t want to live over the Batcave?

Thankfully, comic book Robin’s been allowed to grow up. By the late 70s, his civilian identity, Dick Grayson, had graduated high school and moved off to college. As Robin, he’d assumed command of the Justice League’s youth brigade, the Teen Titans, and helped save the world on numerous occasions. By 1983, he’d all but disappeared from Gotham, necessitating a new youngster fill his little green boots.

Enter Jason “Oh my God” Todd. As in “Oh my God, Bruce, I can not believe you took this kid under your wing.” First conceived as a transparent replacement for Dick Grayson (how transparent? Well, Jason was also a second generation circus acrobat whose parents also happened to catch their death from Crime), Jason suffered a lot in the great continuity rewrite of 1986, Crisis on Infinite Earths. When the multiverse finally stabilized, Jason was reborn as a street urchin, orphaned by Crime and taken in by Batman after Bruce caught him trying to steal tires…off the Batmobile…yeah… Continue reading Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)

Trash Culture’s Ninja Turtles Rip-offs, Case Study #3: Battletoads

by Chad Denton

Technically Battletoads counts as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles knock-off, but still it’s one that managed to become something entirely in its own right. Battletoads is rightly remembered as one of the best games in the history of the Nintendo Entertainment System, a game that starts off as a slightly off-kilter beat-’em up but then goes through an amazing array of stages and challenges that made it feel like at least several different good (if hard as hell) games in one. It says a lot about the quality and creativity of the game that it’s considered a classic in spite of the fact that it’s so frustrating it tests the limits of human reaction times, as anyone who survived the obstacle course race levels can tell you.

Continue reading Trash Culture’s Ninja Turtles Rip-offs, Case Study #3: Battletoads

All-Star Superman (2011)


Every once in a not-so-great while, comic book companies decide to annihilate decades of established continuity and set their famous characters back to Year Zero in the name of attracting new readers. Such publicity stunts will inevitably antagonize existing fans whose bad word of mouth will (theoretically) scare away those coveted new readers. So it was that, sometime around 1998, Scottish comics writer Grant Morrison teamed up with other Big Name writers Mark Waid, Mark Millar and Tom Peyer to pitch a complete revamp of Superman.

“We believe that the four of us understand the new face of Superman: a forward-looking, intelligent, enthusiastic hero retooled to address the challenges of the next thousand years.  The ultimate American icon revitalized for the new millennium as an aspirational figure, a role model for 21st Century global humanity.

“The Superman relaunch we’re selling bucks the trend of sweeping aside the work done by those who came immediately before.  Unlike the ‘cosmic reset’ revamps all too prevalent in current comics, our New Superman approach is an honest attempt to synthesize the best of all previous eras.  Our intention is to honor each of Superman’s various interpretations and to use internal story logic as our launching pad for a re-imagined, streamlined 21st century Man of Steel.” Continue reading All-Star Superman (2011)