Movie Review: ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES!

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attack of the killer tomatoesNAI Entertainment
1978
PG

“We have convince the little housewife out there that the tomato that ate the family pet is not dangerous!”

 

For years, I’ve been seeking out this particular no-budget ultra cheese fest that is Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes!. Ever since spying the old VHS cover at the local Applause Video store back in the 1980s, and repeatedly being denied a rental by the parents (despite the PG rating). Yeah, I had an interesting childhood, there. Anyway, that title stuck in my head for years, kept fresh–no pun intended–with spinoff sequels and a short-lived cartoon series. I even watched the first sequel, Return Of The Killer Tomatoes, a few years ago on Netflix. But it was the original ultra low-budget horror/sci-fi/comedy/musical from 1978 that was my holy grail, the one I wanted to watch, simply out of sheer morbid curiosity. Finally, it was recently that I was able to watch this elusive flick by way of Amazon streaming. So, I giddily settled down and prepared for the worst.

I have to admit, even I was barely prepared for what transpired. Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes! is a level of bad that will leave you wide-eyed and jaw-agape with trying to decipher what just happened.

The story involves a sudden uprising of attacks made by tomatoes. It’s right there in the title. As the American government tries to calm down a panicking citizenry, a team of specialists is put together to stop the tomato uprising. The plot thins as they try to infiltrate the tomato hordes, and uncover a conspiracy behind everything that’s happening. There’s also a news reporter hounding the crack team. Nothing seems to stop these tomatoes…nothing, except a certain hit pop song that is so terrible, even the sheet music will cause them to give up and die.

Watching this movie was almost a spiritual experience. Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes is a bad movie. And it knows that, and gives zero cares anyway. The acting is bad, the jokes are cringe-worthy, the songs even more so, and the editing and story will confuse you more often than not. When the end credits roll, you will be left with more questions than you came in with, along with a strange tingly sensation that is the signal that your brain gave up partway through and started playing Minecraft over in the corner while you inexplicably continued to watch it to the end. In short, Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes is so bad, everyone needs to watch it. Behold, the epitome of so-bad-its-good cinema. Throw it on some night with friends, along with various tomato-themed items for the full effect. You’re welcome.

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Movie Review: TERMINATOR Genisys

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terminator genisysParamount Pictures
2015
PG-13

“Just make sure you show up. I don’t want to have to steal someone’s pants again.”

In the war of man against machine, Sgt. Kyle Reese is sent back to 1984 by resistance leader John Connor to protect his young mother, Sarah Connor. However, this time unexpected events have altered the past and threaten the future for all mankind. Now Reese must join forces with Sarah and her Guardian to save the world and stop the next evolution of Terminators.

So, here we are, with a fifth installment in the franchise that will not die, this one titled Terminator Genisys. And why is Genesis spelled with a “Y”, you may ask? I have no earthly idea. Because poor literacy is kewl, I guess. All apologies to Linkara, there. This time around, there’s more time travel shenanigans, more Ah-nold, more Terminators, and more headaches.

When this particular Terminator sequel came out, the outcry against this was rather loud, with proclamations of this being the very worst in the series, and that this is the movie that will finally kill the franchise dead. Which is funny, because I remember the same outcry done with both Terminator III: Rise Of The Machines, and then for Terminator: Salvation. But, I digress. What I found interesting was how they managed to write in the former Governator explaining how his aged visage got that way. Hint: Bio-SCIENCE! Anyway, the movie…

We begin things off in THE FUTURE, where we get a flashback of one Kyle Reese’s childhood in the machine war-ravaged land, being rescued by a very not Christian Bale-looking John Connor. Flash forward a bit, and we see a much more grown-up Reese accompanying Connor in his final push against the Machines and take down the A.I. Big Brain itself, resulting in the freedom of mankind once more. They succeed, but not before Skynet sends back a T-800 series you may be familiar with to terminate one Sarah Connor in 1984. So, of course, John Connor sends Kyle Reese back to that year, but before Reese blips off to THE PAST, he witnesses a much more advanced T-5000 series Terminator kill Connor. Reese then finds himself in the first Terminator movie…kinda…only he’s now being chased by a T-1000, until he’s picked up by a much more badass-than-expected Sarah Connor in a van and makes a getaway. Seems that the first T-800 was already taken out by Miss Connor and “Pops”, a similar T-800 sent back when she was 9 years old to protect her growing up.

Yeah, you might want to grab some headache medicine about now. Things are gonna get even more brain-hurty.

After your usual comedy of misunderstandings between Reese and Pops, they manage to off the T-1000 with an acid bath, and then show off their own home-made time machine they probably cobbled together from an article from Popular Mechanics or something. Sarah wants to fast forward to 1997, the original year when Skynet gains sentience and kicks off the Armageddon that nearly wipes out mankind, and take care of the problem at the root. Kyle at least is geeky enough to realize that the time stream has been altered, and the future might not be the future they would originally expect. Oh, and Kyle’s getting messages from his younger self that technically never existed. Yet. You thought I was kidding bout the headache medicine, didn’t you?

So, Kyle and Sarah decide to jump further ahead to 2017, completely surpassing whatever year Terminator III took place in, because why would you want to reference that movie? They show up neekid in the middle of a busy highway in San Francisco, missing a pickup by Pops by that much, and are taken into custody, because you just can’t wander around the streets of San Francisco all nakie nowadays. This isn’t the 60s, you know. There, they learn of the new way Skynet is going to come alive and take control of the world’s interwebs: Genisys, which is a hot new up-coming app that was created by the kid of that guy who was killed helping destroy the Cyberdyne offices back in Terminator 2. It’s supposed to link everything, and make everything something-something, Millennials like it. Of course, they manage to break out of their handcuffs, where they are then rescued by John Connor.

I’m going to pause once again to let you take another pull from whatever it is you’re using to maintain your mental stability, here. Go on, I’ll wait. Good? Let’s proceed, then…

It turns out, though, that this is the John Connor that was supposedly killed in THE FUTURE! that Kyle witnessed before going off to THE PAST!, only instead Connor has been taken over by Skynet directly by way of millions upon millions of nanobots. So then, Pops finally shows up, they manage to get away due to magnets (how do they work? Sorry…couldn’t resist), and Pops takes them to another super-secret base he set up while waiting for Kyle and Sarah to show up in THE FUT…er, THE PRESENT! Doesn’t have quite the same ring, here. Anyway, they make a bunch of bombs and load up a bunch of weapons and ammo, take off in a stolen school bus, battles the T-3000 (Connor, in case you were wondering), makes it to the Cyberdyne headquarters, fights the T-3000 a bunch more, they set up bombs, the AI messes with their heads, Pops looks like he was taken out, it looks like they may have lost but BOOM! they actually win at the last minute. Pops comes back with some upgrades that will make you groan, Future Kyle meets Present Kyle, all without ripping the fabric of space and time somehow, and everyone goes off to live happily ever after. Then a mid-credit sequel bait scene, and The End. For now.

The thing about being a fan of time travel movies and stories, is there’s a tendency to try and make sense of the “science” part of the “fiction”. I’m not even going to try to organize my thoughts enough to even begin to explain, but needless to say Terminator: Genisys has quite a few holes in it. They’re relatively entertaining holes, but holes none-the-less.

As to the charge that this movie ruined the franchise? I would have to say “no”. It did, however, try really, really hard to reboot the franchise, and came up really, really short by doing so. So now we have a Sarah Connor who was raised by the T-800 Ah-nuld model since a girl, which was never really explained who sent that one back to do so. Maybe that was a point that was going to be explored in a possible sequel, but that’s not going to happen now. So, I’m going to call it now: It was an old and curmudgeon-y Edward Furlong who sent it back. No reason. You can’t prove it wasn’t.

The parts that were recreated from the first movie I thought were done really well, and as an action movie in and of itself, Terminator: Genisys succeeds greatly. It’s just that the plot was expecting too much in the Suspension Of Disbelief area, that I had to pause more than once to make sense of things. And I’m rather good at picking up on wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimy things like that. Co’mon, you didn’t think I would go without at least one Doctor Who reference, did you?

Overall, I think Terminator: Genisys is worth checking out as a budget rental, or free streaming on Amazon or whatever service you have. It’s not terrible, but the first two Terminator movies are in no danger of being usurped as the best of the franchise any time soon.

Movie Review: BLADE RUNNER 2049

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blade runner 2049Columbia Pictures
2017
R

“All the courage in the world cannot alter fact.”

Officer K, a new blade runner for the Los Angeles Police Department, unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. His discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard, a former blade runner who’s been missing for 30 years.

The original 1982 cult sci-fi classic Blade Runner is one of those movies that everyone talks about, even when they’ve never seen the movie itself. I know you posers exist. Even you out there that claim to have read the “book” (air-quotes due to the fact that it really barely qualifies as a novella in length). Not that I’m not a poser myself…I have gone for a while knowing about the existence and relative importance of Blade Runner without having seen the movie. It’s the movie that inspired countless sound samplings in numerous German industrial bands, after all. What started off as a box-office bomb has become a cultural icon.

All that to lead into this review of the long-time gestating sequel, Blade Runner 2049. And I must make mention that, while this review isn’t going to be posted until immediately after the Halloween’ing season on my blog, I am writing this pretty much immediately after having watching it with the other Exalted Geeks. I did, however, already post the pubcast of our thoughts on that movie, so at least there was that. Which is to say, by now most of you who were going to watch Blade Runner 2049 probably have already done so; but regardless, spoilers be ahead, brave reader.

Picking up 30 years after the events in the first movie, we follow a Replicant Blade Runner (that’s not a spoiler, that’s actually addressed within the first ten minutes or so in the movie) on a routine mission to retire a rogue Replicant model. During that mission, he stumbles upon the remains of what may be human bones, but may not be, which leads to an even deeper mystery involving Replicants who can supposedly reproduce, in which the Replicant Blade Runner (let’s call him “Joe”…because he does so later on) into seeking out the former Blade Runner Richard Deckard, who’s been hiding out in the nuclear wasteland of Las Vegas (symbolism?), to find out who the offspring of a human and replicant pairing has produced 30 years ago. The guy who owns the corporation that builds the Replicants also wants to find out who this person is, but not for very nice reasons. Oh, and there’s also a side love story between Joe and his holographic girlfriend. I wish I was making that up.

Obviously, the one big concern going into this new Blade Runner was, will it hold up to the scrutiny of all Nerdom? Will it continue on in the grand tradition of mind-blowing science fiction, complete with a complex story that continues on with honoring the original yet telling its own unique self-contained tale, along with some mind-melting and gorgeous visuals? Something that begs to be watched multiple times, and yet still managing to get something new out of it with every viewing? Or, will it go the more accessible route, and make a 21st Century sequel that foregoes everything that made the original such a beloved cult classic, and just go with what they think would make it all kewl and stuff…namely, another action sci-fi flick with lots of ‘splosions and fights between the robots and humans, and ham-fisted fan service type cameos and references.

Well, let me go ahead and assure you, brave reader, that this movie is the former kind of sequel. One that manages to tell its own engaging story, yet remains in the world that was built before. This movie is gorgeous. It’s well-acted, well-written, well-shot and overall well-made all together. It’s a long movie, yes, but it’s very engaging. There is a lot to take in with this movie, which makes me want to take in multiple viewings, maybe even owning it when it comes out on DVD. One of these days I’m going to have to suck it up and get a BluRay player, but for now, DVD suits me just fine, really.

The one complaint I did have is a minor one: At several points, there’s a very loud bass boom that hits unannounced. I understand the use of audio as a way to enhance the viewing experience, but maybe it was the quality of the theater speakers, but every time it hit, I wished I brought earplugs. Otherwise, though, I hasten to call this a perfect movie, but compared with the rest of the year, Blade Runner 2049 certainly has taken the top spot in best movies I’ve seen thus far this year. Highly recommending that you see this in the theaters (trusting it’s still around by the time this gets posted in the first of November, mind) for the full-on experience.

HALLOWEEN’ING Day 21: The Rocky Horror Picture Show

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halloween'ing 2017
rocky horror picture show
This movie. This movie, right here. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is one of those rite of passage movies that you are required to watch, at least once, late at night, preferably with friends who have seen it hundreds of times and will not only sing along to the music, but will flawlessly act out the scenes in front of you.

The plot of the movie…isn’t that important. Yeah, it’s about a clean-cut couple who are stranded one night in a castle inhabited by a sweet transvestite from Transsexual Transylvania and his minions, and the musical wackiness that does ensue. But trust me, if you try and think about things, it’s just going to lead to a world of hurt. It’s best to just let the movie happen, and then try to sort things out after.

The ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW

::END TRANSMISSION::

Movie Review: CHOPPING MALL

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Movie Review CHOPPING MALLLionsgate Home Entertainment
1986
R

“I’m just not used to being chased around a mall in the middle of the night by killer robots.”

Some people will kill for a bargain…and at the Park Plaza Mall they do! Here, you can shop til you drop…dead! High tech robots equipped with state of the art security devices have been recruited as the new mechanical “night watchmen” for the Park Plaza Mall. When a jolting bolt of lightning short circuits the main computer control, the robots turn into “killbots”…on the loose after unsuspecting shoppers! Four couples are trying to make it after-hours in a mattress store. They make it all right…in the morgue! At Park Plaza, you can save on everything but your life!

Look at that DVD back-cover blurb up there. Just…gaze upon it. That, my fellow cinema fiends, is rampant abuse of the exclamation point right there. And to use them pared off with attempts to sound like Tales From The Crypt bon mots…they make me cringe. Also, this may be the first time I used “bon mot” in a sentence of any kind. But I digress.

Chopping Mall is a movie from the mid-1980s that poses the question: What if Short Circuit was a slasher horror flick, instead of a whimsical sci-fi family adventure? I mean, sure, you could argue that Chopping Mall came out a mere two months before Short Circuit and thus this would be a moot point, but let’s get real here. Chopping Mall is for those wishing Short Circuit had a body count and even goofier main characters. As a matter of fact, Chopping Mall was originally released under the title Killbots, which would have been far more on point with the plot of the movie, but was changed to the current name when it was re-released.

So, after a brief scene at a demonstration of the high-tech security bots, we’re introduced to the horny 20-somethings that work at various shops at the local mall. One of them is the son of the guy who owns the mattress store, and he and his buddies decide to bring in their respective girlfriends and have a product testing party after hours. This just also happens to be the same night that the fancy-schmancy security bots at the mall got shocked by a power surge due to an electrical storm outside, and they all surpass the Three Laws and begin killing all humans. So now, long after all the other smarter humans have left the mall and the kill bots have been deployed, the only live bodies left are those horny 20-somethings, and now it’s a matter of survival trying to get out of a mall that’s been put in lockdown, while being stalked by the three security robots. Things don’t go well.

First thing I really need to point out here, is that, for a movie titled Chopping Mall, there is absolutely zero actual chopping. Oh, there’s plenty of electrocuting, stabbing, choking and being shot at by lazer blasts (seriously), but absolutely no chopping whatsoever. I have to say, I am very disappointed, movie. You promise chopping, and then fail to deliver said chopping. I don’t care if it was the alternate title choice, the video cover promised chopping, I expect chopping. That said, Chopping Mall was a nice bit of cheesy 80s-tastic fun. The script itself oozed dated 80s pop culture, right down to the use of the words “bodacious” and “to the max”. The effects were delightfully low-budget, and things get so over-the-top you have to really check your brain in at the door and just sit back and enjoy the wackiness.

Misnomer title aside, Chopping Mall was a lot of unintentional fun to sit through. Easily making my list of So Bad It’s Good movies you need to watch and rip on with friends one night.

Movie Review: WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

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war for the planet of the apes20th Century Fox
2017
PG-13

“I did not start this war. I offered you peace. I showed you mercy. But now you’re here. To finish us off…for good.”

Caesar and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless colonel. After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both their species and the future of the planet.

So, here we are now, with what I’m assuming is the final Planet Of The Apes prequels. It’s been a rather interesting journey, one that was surprisingly very good as an overall bunch of movies that took the concept of the classic original and managed to build up the mythos of how it all started without making it suck. I was rather anxious to see this installment, as things were going to come to a head, and anything with “War” in the title is expected to be awesome in and of itself. Oh, and something about finishing up Caesar’s story arc. Anyway, was War Of The Planet Of The Apes worth the wait? I’ll get to that, but first…

In the third of the (so far) trilogy in the Planet Of The Apes prequels, most of humanity has succumbed to the Simian Flu pandemic, and now the intelligent apes and the remaining humans live in peace and harmony with one another, bringing about a post-industrial utopia. I almost managed to type that all out with a straight face, there. Juuuuust kidding. Instead, while the apes are just trying to go on with their lives, they just can’t seem to stop being pestered by us humans, always sending in heavily armed military types to wipe out the apes with weapons and stuff. Caesar, the ape that was named after a salad and was raised by James Franco (and also the leader of the apes or something), experiences a particularly bloody battle that sees casualties on both human and apes sides, and decides to send a message back to the leader of the human military in the form of four of his soldiers, not dead and in one piece, back with the message of “would you lighten up, man?” However, this particular colonel (who is just named “The Colonel” here) happens to take his leadership inspiration from Colonel Kurtz, as in he’s rather bat-guano insane and will not stop at anything to wipe out the apes and preserve the human race, and goes in that night to assassinate Caesar in his sleep. Only, he didn’t really get Caesar, but he did kill his wife and son. This, of course, kicks off Caesar’s epic journey to find and confront The Colonel, giving all the other apes a chance to escape to beyond the mountains for a more peaceful settlement in the desert lands. Along the way, Caesar and the three other apes that wouldn’t take no for an answer with tagging along make some rather disconcerting discoveries, one of which involves the gradual devolving of the humans to a more primitive state. By the time they catch up to the army of The Colonel, it looks very dark and grim for the apes, and Caesar has to confront, not only his human enemy, but also his own heart of darkness. See what I did there?

I’m just going to come out and say it: War For The Planet Of The Apes is the best movie out of the three prequels that were produced. This movie is dark, it’s complected, and has so much going for it beyond just a bunch of apes thinks they’re people and start their own society. That reference up there to The Heart of Darkness wasn’t just a throwaway thing (although, there is a blatant Apocalypse Now reference in the movie itself that had me groan a bit, but it’s near the end so it’s okay). The story manages to bring a depth to all of the characters, both ape and human, so that neither side is a mere caricature of Good or Evil, but you can actually understand the struggles on both sides, so there’s no clear-cut villain or hero. Woody Harrelson was fantastic as The Colonel, keeping from going completely over-the-top and managing to make the character chilling as well as commanding. The battle scenes were very much intense and gritty–make no mistake, this is a war movie, like Full Metal Jacket or Platoon, and by the time the movie ends there’s a sense of melancholy mixed in with the hope for the new dawn that breaks.

If it sounds like I’m gushing over a simple little sci-fi flick about talking apes…well, I’m sorry you missed the point of the series. The original Planet Of The Apes was great subversive sci-fi, and these prequels went along way to keep the spirit of the originals. If you’re avoiding War For The Planet Of The Apes because all you’ve seen was that Tim Burton 2001 remake, then you’re missing out completely. Highly recommended.

Movie Review: LIFE

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lifeColumbia Pictures
2017
R

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are on the cutting edge of one of the most important discoveries in human history: the first evidence of extraterrestrial life on Mars. As members of the crew conduct their research, the rapidly evolving life-form proves far more intelligent and terrifying than anyone could have imagined.

I grew up being a space science nerd at a very young age. I remember being fascinated with space and space travel since before Kindergarten. My parents maintained an ongoing subscription to Discover magazine for several years for me (it had the most pictures and stuff), as well as encouraged me to learn more about this area of study as much as they could. Of course, this just fed into my growing love of the science fiction genre, especially with movies. Which is to say, sooner or later it was inevitable that I would get around to watching the latest Alien rip-off, Life.

Okay okay okay, maybe “rip-off” is the wrong word to use, here. I mean, on the surface, the premise of Life (which, sadly, does not involve shots of the nummy cereal food) seems pretty similar, with some modifications: a bunch of scientists on the International Space Station discovers microscopic life within a soil sample taken from a Mars expedition, they manage to revive said life and watch in fascination as the space amoeba grows from microscopic to a CGI blob-ish thing. Eventually, one of the scientists decides to zap the alien blob because science, which annoys the blob–which was named Calvin by the scientists, by the way, like how you name a goldfish–leading to it somehow kicking the butt of the scientist and escaping its enclosure, and managing to kill a couple other scientists before getting out of the lab. Also, whenever Calvin eats something, it (he?) gets bigger. Naturally. Soon, the surviving scientists find themselves trying their darndest to survive and not get eaten, while the damage to the space station mounts along with the body count. Soon, it’s down to two remaining scientists, who hatch a plan to lure Calvin into one of the escape pods and blast him back out into deep space. Only, this involves one of the scientists to be inside with Calvin and manually override the preset controls to get it to not land on earth, while the other scientist escapes on the other pod to get back to Earth and warn everyone of a potential threat. We then end on a twist that everyone saw coming the moment the solution was mentioned. The end.

Life, as a science fiction movie, is fine. It’s well-shot, well acted and manages to get some effective claustrophobic thrills out of a story that is rather cookie-cutter. Again, I refer back to the comparisons to the movie Alien that everyone seemed to be making, and there’s some point to that; after watching Life, I personally like to think that this was more a prequel to the movie The Blob, mainly due to how Calvin ate and metabolized everything. And while we’re on the topic of Calvin, I have to say that the “monster Calvin” effects were kind of…off. He came off as kind of an underwater fern thing rather than a space monster. But, in the end, while I saw the ending coming, I was pleased with the standard dun-dun-duuuuun ending they went with.

Overall, I get the nagging feeling that Life would have worked better as an episode of the revival-era Outer Limits television show, rather than a full-length movie. The movie does try to get that hard sci-fi cred with how they approach the science part of the fiction; by the time the ending credits roll, though, I wasn’t really craving more beyond that. Worth a rental, at least.

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