Category Archives: Movies

Goonies never say “die”. Or “crap”. Or “dang”: Mickey Matson and the Copperhead Treasure

Oh my God, you guys. I never in a million years expected to be saying this, but you need to see this Harold Cronk film.

Christopher Lloyd is in exactly one scene, and it's a flashback

Christopher Lloyd is in exactly one scene, and it’s a flashback

You might know Harold Cronk for the gobsmackingly awful God’s Not Dead series. Turns out that he makes other kinds of movies as well (The only religious element to the film is that one of the leads crosses herself at two points. And even that seems like an awfully Catholic thing for the God’s Not Dead guy.). I’d kinda love to talk about this movie at length, but I’m still processing.

The long and short of it is: this movie is incredible.

Incredible doesn’t actually mean “good”. This movie is not good. But it is bad in a way I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. Let me give you a brief explanation of this movie:

The Adventures of Mickey Matson and the Copperhead Treasure (“The Adventures of” was added at the suggestion of Wal-Mart, who believed it would help sales if it were filed closer to the front alphabetically) is a family-friendly adventure movie about a couple of tweens who are sent on a quest to recover the three elements which power an ancient Egyptian alchemy machine and protect them from a group of Confederate revivalists who want to use it to fund the conquest of the modern United States by the Confederacy. In Michigan. And also this has something to do with bulldozing the hero’s hometown. Featuring cameos by Christopher Lloyd and Ernie Hudson.

You heard me. It’s basically Indiana Jones crossed with The Goonies crossed with National Treasure. Versus the Confederacy.

Also, no one’s allowed to say anything even close to a “naughty” word. So the tough, streetwise girl from the Big City uses “crackin'” as an expletive, and the redneck Fratelli Brothers stand-ins torture a black man without ever once giving any hint that race has anything to do with it. And despite the occasional pretense of someone being in actual danger, the worst violence we see is two old men boxing and a bit of shin-kicking (In scenes where a kick to the happysacks would really be more appropriate). And the Coast Guard drives in at the end to round up the bad guys.

If this doesn’t sound amazing to you, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.

Like I said, this is a bad movie. I mean, terrible. But that’s the weird thing. The dialogue is terrible. The acting is terrible. The cinematography is terrible, full of shots from weird angles with bad lighting and way too many close-ups. The whole thing looks like it was shot on a smartphone camera.

But, and I realize this is hard to explain, that’s all that’s wrong with the movie. The movie is perfectly fine on a conceptual level. The plot is mostly solid (There’s one or two weak spots, but nothing even on the level of, “Why the hell don’t they get the Eagles to take them to Mount Doom?”) with all its reveals well set-up ahead of time. The pacing is excellent. The story is just the right amount of outlandish fantasy for the sort of traditional Kid-Adventure movie I grew up on. The jokes fall flat, but the structural humor mostly works. There’s only one CGI effect, and, it’s not even that bad.

It’s like everything went just right with this movie’s creation up until the moment they actually started production. I’ve never seen anything like that. Most movies that are trainwrecks in practice are also flawed straight down to the concept, or have any semblance of coherence stripped away by eleventh-hour rewrites and desperate editing.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie go wrong in this way before: you could to a scene-for-scene remake of this movie and end up with a masterpiece. Or at least, the kind of movie a middle-aged man reminisces fondly about thirty years later.

So you know what, watch this space some time in 2046 to see what Dylan thinks of it.

Downfall 2: Hitler Boogaloo (The Michael Moriartython Finale: Hitler Meets Christ)

Professor MoriartyAhem.

Professor MoriartyExcuse me?

Professor MoriartyHello?

What? Huh? Oh. You.

Professor Moriarty Yes, me.

Go away.

Professor Moriarty It’s just that–

Go away. I’m not doing it.

Professor Moriarty It’s just that I’ve been waiting out here since Thanksgiving. And it got very cold. And then hot. And it rained. Several times. And also you moved.

Any several of which you could have taken to indicate that I wasn’t going to do it and your services were no longer required.

Professor Moriarty Oh come along now. Your Michael Moriarty-thon was going so well! You were just about to review that domestic drama about divorce!

Michael Moriarty: Man of ACTION!Oh, yes, there’s comedy gold. A cheap knock-off of Kramer vs Kramer

Professor Moriarty And the one about the haunted high-rise! Or that one with Sonny Bono and the girl from Seinfeld!

Troll? Everyone and their brother’s reviewed Troll. It’s not even the really exciting one.

Professor Moriarty Yes, but Michael Moriarty plays a man named Harry Potter! Think of the jokes you could make.

I don’t care. I’m not doing it.

Professor Moriarty And then the big reveal at the end with me!

Yes, yes, I was going to review one last movie and then have it turn out that you, Professor MoriartyProfessor Moriarty, had found a way to channel energy from internet reviews about anyone else who was named “Moriarty”, and we’d have to fight and there would be a big climactic battle which would end with my house blowing up, this being the in-character explanation for why I moved.

Professor Moriarty It would have been fantastic!

It would have been a shameless rip-off of The Spoony Experiment. But it doesn’t matter now. I’m not doing it.

Professor Moriarty But why not?

This movie, man. This movie did it. I can’t go on, not with this movie in my way.

Professor Moriarty Bah! What could one single movie do that would break you so profoundly that you couldn’t continue on?

This movie, man. This movie. After this movie, there’s no horror you could unleash on me. This is it, man. This movie broke me.

Professor Moriarty No! I will not have it! I shall not be bested by a mere movie! Come! Show me this movie! It shall fall before my great intellect!

Your funeral, man. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Professor Moriarty What is this film that has you cowering in your underwear, wrapped in a security blanket?

Dude! You didn’t need to tell the audience that!

Anyway, so far in the Michael Moriartython, we’ve limited ourselves to Michael Moriarty’s acting roles. But what happens when you put a pen in his hand? The answer is three words that will strike a cold chill into the heart of the heartiest of men. You have been warned.

Hitler Meets Christ
Directed by Brendan Keown
Starring Wyatt Page
And Michael Moriarty as Hitler

Based on the play Hitler Meets Christ at the Port Authority Bus TerminalThe first thing you’ll notice about this movie is that it’s based on a play, with the somewhat more verbose title “Hitler Meets Christ at the Port Authority Bus Terminal”.

Professor Moriarty The second thing you’ll notice is that — Oh dear God, he also wrote the music? This is going to hurt, isn’t it?

I warned you. Now, you may be a little confused here as we fade in on the man of inaction, because this film was shot entirely in Black-and-White.

Professor Moriarty Oh, that’s a common trick when the filmmaker wants to seem “artsy”.

Except here, it’s actually foreshadowing, because this film is going to suck so hard on your will to live, that after it’s over, your entire life will seem bleak and gray as well.

Our.. Hero? Villain? Victim? I give up.But more seriously, I think maybe the reason it’s in black and white is because Michael Moriarty was harboring delusions that he could pass this movie off as a sequel to Schindler’s List.

Professor Moriarty Who’s this hobo? I thought you said that Moriarty was playing Hitler.

That’s Hitler. Hitler is depicted in this movie as a homeless person. That’s because in Canada, all homeless people are secretly the wandering spirits of twentieth-century fascists. The last time you were in Ontario, that guy in the plaid shirt you gave a cup of coffee to? Generalissimo Francisco Franco.

Hobo Hitler and a bored-looking middle aged gentleman are having a casual conversation about the pending end-of-days that feel very much like Michael Moriarty wrote this entire movie as a response to having read Waiting for Godot and thinking “You know what’s wrong with this play? Too subtle. I mean, why don’t they just come out and say that Godot is God?”

Professor Moriarty Why does Hitler have a terrible fake Bronx accent?

Just roll with it. At least Michael Moriarty isn’t doing his folksy southern drawl.

Hitler makes a big point of playfully saying “No” to Jesus over and over again, just to prove he can, then he gets distracted by incoherent whispering which I think is meant to be his conscience in his mind, but it is equally valid to assume it is the PA system in the bus terminal.

Outside, Hitler tells Jesus that he’d originally thought it was Jesus who had inspired him. Jesus is a little hurt — not that Hitler thought that, but that he’d stopped thinking that. Just because of that whole “defeat” thing. Jesus points out that taking over the world is a kind of outlandish plan.

Hitler insists that wanting to take over the world was a “lie, a fabrication, propaganda,” and that he didn’t really want to take over the world “not even the teeniest tiniest little bit,” (Hitler kind of babbles like a small child who has been dropped). “I simply wanted to give my country a little room, a little breathing space, and what do I get for it? Stuck in Vancouver with you.” Then he complains, “Why couldn’t it have been Einstein? I knew they’d send me a Jew, but why not a smart Jew like Marx?” Jesus throws in “Or a funny Jew like Marx!” Which is one of two intentional laughs you are liable to get out of this movie, so I hope you were paying attention. Hitler does a little bit of rhetorical gymnastics to make fun of Karl Marx, and ends with a little straight-up antisemitism, because we are getting dangerously close to depicting Hitler as a sort of mildly-amusing mildly-profound Cloud-cuckoolander type, the way homeless people with a mild mental illness are usually portrayed in movies when they’re main characters. And if you ever find yourself watching a movie about Hitler, and you find yourself going “Awww. He’s not so bad,” the filmmaker should just stop, and consider going into another profession, like anchor for Fox News.

Hitler salutesJesus explains about omnipresence, and how he’s not just hanging out in Vancouver with Hitler, but he’s also in Moscow and Berlin and Hell and Heaven. Hitler asks whether they are presently in Heaven or Hell, and Jesus says “both,” which Hitler doesn’t like, and goes on a rant against symbolism, which he punctuated with some Nazi salutes, followed by Even Hitler thinks you're a dick.giving Jesus the finger, Even Hitler thinks you're a dick.a bronx cheer, and Even Hitler thinks you're a dick.miming masturbation. He then does a funny dance, and falls down. I assume this scene is an homage to the “religion” scene in Wizards. He sits down next to Jesus on a park bench and releases I do have a picture, but at this rate, the entire review is just going to be a bunch of pictures of Hitler making rude gestures. Because that is a good 2/3 of the moviean enormous fart. Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest and most popular villain in human history!

Hitler then changes the subject to his own death. His ultimate revenge, he says, is that eventually, despite Jesus’s best laid plans, he will utterly cease to be, and then someone else will come along who is even worse, and people will forget all about him and stop using him as the measuring stick for human evil. Then church bells start ringing and he makes funny faces.

Funny faces

But Jesus notices and points out a hint of doubt in Hitler’s tone, and tells Hitler that this means that deep down, he knows that nothing in all of creation will ever be more evil than Nazis. Hitler insists otherwise, but Jesus just chuckles condescendingly.

Professor Moriarty I say, is this Michael Moriarty chap pro-Hitler?

Not in the slightest, from what I can tell

Professor Moriarty I mention, because this Hitler chap seems like rather a sad and tragic figure, while this Jesus fellow seems like a smug bastard.

Well, I’m given to understand that Jesus’s parents weren’t married, but still. The whole “Jesus is a smug git,” thing is actually a common theme among a certain segment of christians. They tend to be smug gits themselves, and are naturally drawn toward a perspective on Jesus that validates their own smug gittedness.

Back at a bus terminal, Hitler complains about how anyone who rides the bus is either unemployed or as close to it as makes no odds. And you should remember that the next time you poo-pooh public transit. If you think poorly of people who ride the bus, you’re thinking like Hitler.

Hitler suggests that Jesus give all the poor people a plane ticket to Rome, so they can hang out in the Vatican, but Jesus, who for predictable reasons shares the author’s view on the papacy, explains that the Vatican is not fond of Jesus, and never invites him round for tea. This gives Hitler pause for thought.

Jesus goes on to talk at some length about how much less attractive he and his mother are than they appear in the Pieta, having been working class peasants, and how angry she’d been at having her son nailed to a cross. Hitler thinks that being murderous with rage at having your child tortured and executed while a mocking crowd looks on is quite a reasonable response, but that’s because he’s evil. Jesus prefers Michaelangelo’s version. He also recounts how he was thrown out of St. Peter’s for trying to stay past closing time. Hitler suggests that it was that kind of respect for the rules, even in the face of tossing Jesus out of your basillica, that resulted in some of his best Nazis being Christians.

Jesus namechecks Dorothy Day, who once turned the whole ‘Render unto Caesar’ thing moot by saying “Once you’ve rendered unto God that which is God’s, there shouldn’t be anything left to render unto Caesar.” I’m frankly a little surprised, given Moriarty’s depiction of Jesus so far, that he’d namecheck a prominent christian communist like that.

See, back in the first half of the 20th century, it was starting to look like the christians were going to throw in with the communists, what with the whole “everyone is equal” stuff and the whole “Hey, wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t exploit the hell out of the poor in order to create vast disparities of wealth,” thing. Fortunately for all of us, christians got past this, and found a way to interpret “Give everything you have to the poor or you’re going to hell,” to mean “Toss a buck in the collection plate every Sunday and it’s okay to vote against a living wage. It’s not like the poor deserve things like food and medicine. Fuck them. Fuck them hard.”

Again, Moriarty senses that he may have made Hitler a bit too sympathetic, and has Hitler start tossing the word “Faggot” around like it’s going out of style. Jesus attributes Hitler’s hate-filled ass-millnery to a lack of self-love. Hitler calls God a faggot. And then he takes a leak while Jesus watches and giggles.

Jesus is giggling because it’s Easter, not because he’s tickled by watching Hitler piss, he explains. Hitler finds six bucks on the street and uses it to buy a pack of smokes. Then, he explains that he only continues to exist so long as people remember him, and he is looking forward to people finally forgetting about him. Jesus says he’ll miss him. Hitler finds that unbelievable, and uses this as a segue to bitch about how much he hates Neo-Nazis, who he thinks are a bunch of whiny, unkempt sissies.

The subject of people remembering him finally brings Hitler around to the Holocaust. He complains that the Jews are “lousy winners,” as, having beaten him fair and square, foiling his attempt to exterminate them, they keep bringing the Holocaust up whenever they get the chance, thus refreshing the memory of Hitler and keeping him in his current form of conscious existence.

Jesus one-ups Hitler by pointing out that he personally has been conscious (this being the metaphysical state you’re in when someone thinks about you) for two thousand years, and that Hitler should stop whining.

Professor Moriarty So the take-home message here is that whenever you think about someone who has died, you summon them into existence in the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Vancouver?

Yes.

Professor Moriarty Surprisingly, that explains a lot.

And now we get to the big central moral message of this whole thing. Now, if you were hoping this would be a big profound statement that would justify everything that has happened so far, then you missed the bit at the beginning of this review where I was curled up in a ball crying.

Hitler longs for the peaceful oblivion of death, which is denied him because he cannot sleep so long as anyone remember him. However, death never sleeps, therefore, because he can not sleep, Hitler is death*Note: This does not actually make logical sense. Likewise, Jesus can bring Hitler the oblivion he so desperately seeks, but is prevented from doing so because Hitler is death*Note: This does not actually make logical sense. However, Jesus also cannot sleep, therefore Jesus is also death*Note: This does not actually make logical sense. Thus, Hitler and Jesus are death to each other*Note: This does not actually make logical sense. Therefore, Hitler and Jesus should logically kill each other*Note: This does not actually make logical sense, but they can not do so because they are both death themselves, and therefore do not know how to die*Note: This does not actually make logical sense, because if death knew how to die, there would be no death*Note: This does not actually make logical sense. QED*Note: Q does not actually ED. Understand? Too fucking bad.

Jesus then follows this up with another bombshell: Though Hitler wants to kill Jesus, he can’t, as Jesus is death and can not die. Jesus likewise can not kill Hitler, but he doesn’t want to.

Professor Moriarty Ah, yes, standard theology thing. Jesus is all forgiving and loves Hitler anyway even though he’s terrible. Heard it a million times before.

No, actually, Jesus doesn’t want to kill Hitler because Jesus is so damned mad at Hitler that he wants to watch Hitler suffer.

Professor Moriarty Oh. That’s a bit ugly.

But not surprising, except maybe that someone would be so forthright about it. But this is Hitler Meets Christ, and if your brain hasn’t bled out your ears yet, you haven’t been paying attention. Because unlike, say, mainstream american fundamentalist evangelical christiantity, Jesus doesn’t want Hitler to suffer “forever and ever”, but only for “as long as it takes for you to learn how to die. Because when you learn how to die, you will die, and death dies with you.”

Hitler, presumably using that cosmic knowledge you get when you die, works out that this means that God set him up, and Oh, it's supposed to be HITLER!wipes some dirt on his lip to make a little Hitler moustache, and starts bitching about how he never should have attacked Russia. And then he wanders off on a tangent about goosestepping into Paris and forcing the Mona Lisa to pleasure him orally. He’s given Jesus the slip for the moment, and complains that he should have tried starting his own religion, this having worked out better for Jesus, in terms of the percentage of the world population kneeling to himA unit known in the trade as the “centizod”. He also complains about how everyone betrayed him, and how Jesus was lucky to just have the one Judas. But he starts hearing voices again and runs off.

We rejoin Jesus, who is in a theater, Yes, reallywatching porn. Hitler, meanwhile, goes to church to beg God to let him die. Jesus shows up and tells Hitler where he’s been, putting on his best Creepy Perv Jesus!Creepy Pervert face. Hitler asks if it was hardcore, and Jesus excitedly says that yes, yes it was. Jesus loves porn, ladies and gentlemen.

But the porn was not all sunshine for Jesus: he explains that the performers had no sense of the fact that what they were doing was obscene and a violation of God’s laws, and therefore there was no real joy in it. According to Moriarty’s Jesus, God often breaks His own rules (I’m guessing he means miracles here), but He always enjoys it, because he understands the laws He’s breaking. So sex is only fun if you understand why it’s Wrong and Shameful and Sinful.

I am totally outsourcing my Pervy Jesus captions now. Sorry. I have my limits.Which is the most sex-positive sex-negative position I think I’ve ever heard. Jesus also describes innocence as a “Maidenhead that can grow back,” which grosses Hitler out. And just in case you haven’t been rendered entirely impotent by the thought of Jesus watching hardcore porn, he goes on explain that, though he doesn’t have sex personally, whenever a woman follows Him, he rewards them by secretly restoring their innocence, which in turn makes it easier for them to comeHis words, which Hitler will call him on later.. And he calls Hitler a prude.

So Hitler takes Jesus back to his hovel and shows Him his porn collection, then says several of George Carlin’s words. And, because it’s been
almost a whole three seconds since Jesus creeped us out, he explains that his experience of being in heaven as a state of perpetual orgasm. Which if it didn’t creep you out enough, he follows up by reminding Hitler of those 75 centizods he’s got.

Professor Moriarty I don’t follow — Oh dear. It’s a fellatio joke isn’t it?

Yeah. Jesus just intimated that he’s being continuously felated by christendom.

Hitler tries to take a dump, but is constipated. This feels important, though I don’t know why. Like Estragon having a bladder infection in Godot.

Hitler goes to church again to pray for annihilation, and this leads us into act 2….

Continue reading

Not just an actor, but a well-rounded person (Moontrap)

Hello and welcome to another exciting episode of A Mind Occasionally Voyaging, and this week, we’re going to look at an actually good movie for once. Yes, we’ll be taking some time off from me making fun of bad movies to make fun of a good movie, and for that, we’ll be watching–




[Devastator]: DEVASTATOR! DESTROY!

Devastator? What are you doing down here?

DE:I AM DECEPTICON!

Riiiight. So, um. I thought Leah said she didn’t want you hanging out down here.

DE:DESTROY AUTOBOTS?

No. Bad Devastator. No destroy Autobots. Sheesh. You’ve got six brains in there, I would not expect you to be the Inspirationally Disadvantaged Decepticon.

DE:I say! You don't have to get personal about it. And I don't find jokes about the mentally handicapped very funny

Devastator? You can talk like a normal person? And, since this is in writing and no one can contradict me, you talk with the voice of Johnathan Harris?

DE:Just because one is proportioned in a manner reminiscent of G. beringei, one is not obliged to display reduced intellectual capacity. That the thing I do in movies, that's called acting. You may have heard of it?

Um. Okay. So, what brings you out here today?

DE:My good man, I was given to understand that you intended on viewing some sort of cinematic endeavour.

As a matter of fact, I was, Devastator. I take it you are interested in joining me? I’ve always wanted a Robot Friend to Help Me Keep My Sanity.

DE:A Robot Friend? Really? In case you hadn't noticed, I'm a ten story-tall killing machine with a cement mixer for a mouth. I think you'll find that "robot friend" is rather outside my repetoir.

Not friends then. Of course. But you do want to watch the movie with me?

DE:That was the general idea, yes. So, what is it that we're watching this fine afternoon?

Well, I was thinking about watching the highly anticipated and well-received blockbuster–

DE:Does it have robots?

Um. You see, no. Actually, I was going to watch–

DE:Because I was so hoping that some robotic-americans might be represented in this feature

Well you see, I was going to watch–

DE:Do you have some sort of issue with robot actors?

No, it’s just that I wanted to watch–

DE:DEVASTATOR! DESTROY AUTOBOTS!

Okay, okay, fine. We’ll watch a movie with robots. I’m sure I can find a good movie with robots. We could watch Star Wars. No, wait. Everyone’s reviewed Star Wars. And the Star Wars fanboys will roast me alive if they catch me saying something unkind about it. We could watch– um… Uh…

DE:DESTROY!

Um… How about– No, that wasn’t a robot. Or maybe– Oh fuck it, we’re watching Moontrap.

DVD CoverMoontrap
dir. Robert Dyke
Starring Walter Koenig and Bruce Campbell

So, about (holy crap I am old) twenty years ago or so, me and dad went to the rental store, and I saw a VHS tape with box-art very much like you will see over to the side, only in the proper proportions and without the ‘shopped in DVD symbol. And yes, that is exactly how Walter Koenig was credited on the box art. In fact, on the back cover of the box, he’s also credited as “Walter Koenig of Star Trek”, as in “Astronaut Jason Grant (WALTER KOENIG of STAR TREK) travels to the moon…” This movie had an official tagline of “For Fourteen Thousand Years, it waited…”, but I believe that in most promotional material, the tagline was given as “It’s got that guy who said ‘nuclear wessels’ on Star Trek!”.

So of course, we had to rent it. I was excited. This was pretty much at the height of the phase in my life where I was nuts for space exploration (Sorry, that’s “Exploration… IN SPACE!”). Subscriber to Odyssey magazine, favorite movie Space Camp (Hey! That’s a movie with a robot in it, can I review that? DE:DEVASTATOR! DESTROY JINX!), even had Space Shuttle wallpaper (Which is still hanging in my childhood bedroom to this very day), so we had a movie about space, and we had Walter Koenig (of STAR TREK) — and remember, I was only ten or eleven at the time, so it was still something I didn’t quite comprehend that Walter Koenig-the-actor and Pavel Checkov-the-character were two different people. I mean, yes, on paper, I understood this, but the idea that one actor could play many completely different and unrelated characters? That was heavy stuff, man. And it had Robots! And SPACE! It was going to be PURE AWESOME, or so I thought. It turns out I was largely mistaken. Some twenty years later on, the only awesome thing I recall is something entirely unrelated to anything I have said before. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

You may notice who the box cover does not mention. Namely, one Bruce Campbell, who I gather is an acting person of some sort. I will confess that, in 1990, when I last saw this film, I would not have recognized Bruce Campbell by name, nor, I think, by anything else. But it occurs to me that this must be a fairly un-Bruce-Campbellian role he plays, because, for the life of me, I had absolutely no idea he was in this film until the moment that I looked up its IMDB page to find out who the director was.

Bruce CampbellWhat I am getting at here is that the stars of this movie are “Walter Koenig of Star Trek” and “Bruce Campbell of The Evil Dead”, and when it came time to make the poster, they sat down and thought, “Hey, who should get billing on the poster?” and the answer was “We ought to give it to Walter. Oh, but make sure you mention that he was in Star Trek. People might not know who he is.” Bruce doesn’t get credit on the front, and on the back, he’s only identified as “Bruce Campbell” — no need to shout “Hey, we got Ash From Evil Dead!” Given the choice between one of the most famous cult-movie-actors of all time, and Walter Koenig, they decided that for the cover of this VHS, they wanted The guy whose name had to be qualified with an explanation of who the hell he was.




[Devastator]: I AM DEVASTATOR!

Yes yes, and I am Iron Man.

DE:I AM DECEPTICON

And I am the Walrus, Goo goo ga-joob. Anyway, our movie opens with a title card giving the date as July 20, 1969, and then we cut to some grainy, badly distorted newsreel footage of Buzz Aldrin stepping down from the Eagle, saying “It’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind*”

First Steps on the moon
Sidebar: Whenever you see footage of the first steps on the moon, you’re almost always seeing Buzz Aldrin, not Neil Armstrong. That scene pictured at the right, and the one you’re imagining in your head. The audio doesn’t go with the video. Armstrong came out and stepped onto the moon first. Which means that he was the one holding the camera

Also, the reason the footage is so shitty is not for effect; NASA lost the original tapes of the landing, and through the 80s and 90s, every time you saw a clip of the moon landing, it looked like this, a second- or third- gen off-air copy of the footage sent out to the TV affiliates for broadcast. Fortunately, last year, a team of dedicated restoration experts were able to reconstruct the footage using the latest video restoration techniques. We are given to understand that their next assignment is to restore episode 4 of Doctor Who: The Tenth Planet.

RobotAs Buzz and Neil goof around on the lunar surface, we’re treated to a burrowing effect on the moon, which culminates in some kind of robot head popping out of the lunar soil, and watching via Video Toaster Vision as the LEM blasts off from the surface and returns to space. In real life, this happened about a day after the landing, not forty-five seconds. I assume he just wanted to give them a copy of The Watchtower.

We then cut back to credits, which are overlaid with the voice of a radio DJ announcing that we are now in the far-off year of 1990, where he’s about to interview our hero, Jason Grant (WALTER KOENIG of STAR TREK), who immediately says “You guys must be as bored as I am.”shuttle

DE:Life imitates art, I imagine.

Now now, Devastator, you’ve seen that there’s a robot and everything. Surely a bit of suspense is acceptable?

DE:DEVASTATOR!

Jason Grant (WALTER KOENIG of STAR TREK) whines about how routine and repetitive Space Travel has become, and then talks about golf and the weather, and bitches about his terrible view. Of SPACE. Let me remind you, this entire sequence has been done to a screen which is blank but for the credits. In fact, did someone forget to actually film a movie? Did they burn their whole budget on that one robot shot and the rest of the film will just be dialogue over the end credits?

Jason (WALTER KOENIG of STAR TREK) complains that he’s been on this job for too long and is now bored with it. Also, he’s only TWO WEEKS from retirement, and then he’s going to go buy that boat he’s always wanted. At four minutes in, the interview gives way to Big Important Space Music, and we finally have a title card:

Title card


The music has an orgasm or something and turns into what would have happened if the Star Trek The Next Generation theme had a child with a cheap whore who liked to hum the theme from Superman, and we get a shot of the space shuttle doing pointless barrel rolls in space, as Jason (WALTER KOENIG of STAR TREK) narrates: “The Final Frontier (awkward pause) The Space Shuttle Camelot journies (awkward pause) into the void, braving dark depths of the universe,” and goes on a bit like this until some Paramount lawers file an injunction. Again, life imitates art, because Bruce Campbell is asleep. The premise here is that in the far-off year of 1990, shuttle missions are routine and very boring, because the shuttle is sent up all the time to do all the shit-work in space (Sorry. That’s “shit-work IN SPACE!”). Because this movie was made in 1989, just two years after the Challenger disaster, and the writers hadn’t yet realized that manned space-flight was going to find a way to become even more boring than their predictions.

Jason (WALTER KOENIG of STAR TREK) wakes up Bruce Campbell and they enjoy a tedious scene of lighthearted banter whose major plot points are: 1. They Are Old. (Which is hilarious given how young they are in this movie, compared to, well, how they look some twenty years on.), and 2. Bruce Campbell’s fighter pilot callsign was “The Penetrator”. Which is what I will call him from now on.

Alien ShipA few meaningless blips on their BBC micro indicate to Jason (WALTER KOENIG of STAR TREK) and The Penetrator that there’s a quarter-mile Weird Thing in nearby space. They scan it (Space shuttles have scanners?) and it produces a fake 3D wireframe of what is quite clearly a space ship out of a cheap 80’s sci-fi movie. Jason (of STAR COMMAND) decides to pull up close and take some pictures. The ship is in a decaying orbit, and NASA asks them to hop over to the ship to have a looksee. As Jason (WALTER KOENIG of STAR TREK) flies over in a space suit, The Penetrator checks the radiation sensors (Space shuttles have radiation sensors?) Jason (WALTER KOENIG of STAR TREK) sees some writing on the ship which he describes as “Strange heiroglyphics”, unlike the orginary hieroglyphics they normally find on alien ships. He also finds some kind of egg and decides to keep it. But as he turns to depart, he finds a mummified humanoid corpse. Rather than react, we just cut to the shuttle landing.


SantaThough it sounds ridiculous, NASA’s chief expert in ancient alien artefacts, Santa, confirms via Carbon-14 dating that the corpse is 14,000 years old, and came from the moon (I was not aware that carbon dating could identify things as lunar in origin). However, the asshome guy from Washington (Which will serve him fine as a name, since I can’t be bothered to recall it) derides Carbon-14 dating as “Only a theory!” and calls Santa’s analysis “cockamaime”, and thinks that this is all part of some elaborate stunt to increase NASA’s budget.Fickle! Yes. He’s accusing them of fabricating an egg made of alien alloy, an ancient, dessicated corpse, and lots of pictures and scanner data of an alien ship, in order to get their funding increased. Santa is so offended by this attack on his professionalism that they’re all forced to go get some coffee and leave the mystery egg unattended so that no one will see it when it opens up and disgorges a tiny little robot similar in design to the one from the pre-credit sequence. Only this one has RAPE TENTACLES which it uses to break the window to the room it’s in, and prompt the computer to show us some animated sequences explaining what the analysis had turned up. The computer reads, in a very mildly flanged voice, so we know it’s a computer, that the body is a 14,000 year old human, and it reconstructs a photorealistic image of what he looked like alive, and it reconstructs a photorealistic image of what his space suit would have looked like (Sort of like a red Lego-Person), what his ship looked like (Same picture as before), and its probable origin, “Earth’s Moon”, which is I assume how talking NASA computers of the early 90s referred to the moon. It also knows exactly where on the moon the ship came from. (Protip: When setting your movie in the future to justify the advanced technology, choose a date more than 1 year in the future of when the movie is scheduled for release)

robotComputer screen


NASA soldiersMeanwhile, inside an elevator approximately the same size as my house, Jason (WALTER KOENIG of STAR TREK), Santa, and The Penetrator try to talk The Douchebag From DC into letting them pull the last Saturn 5 out of storage and take it to the moon. In the unattended and unmonitored lab room, the robot uses its rape tentacles to rip down a ceiling lamp and spot-welds it into a deadly claw. DC Ass Guy is unconvinced, until The Penetrator reminds him that two years from now, in 1992, the Soviet Union has scheduled to make their first manned lunar landing. The Soviet Union. In 1992. I’m starting to wonder if this movie was actually filmed, like, in 1984 or something and sat on the shelf for a while before it was released. It would make a lot more sense that way.

Downstairs, someone finally notices that the lab has been blown up and the mummy is missing. But since she’s a doudy-looking woman, she is instantly killed by the erector-set robot. Upstairs, The Penetrator gets angry at the coffee machine, and wishes it harm in a foreshadowy way. Downstairs, the NASA branch of the SS turns up, heavily armed and wearing creepy black uniforms and train conductors’ hats. They then immediately leave, and we cut back to The Penetrator, who judo-kicks the coffee machine into submission. The soldiers run by him on their way to the basement… Because the break room is between the lab you need to take the giant elevator to reach and the basement, though the evil erector set robot did not have to go past our heroes to get there… (Shakes head) Anyway, the Stormtroopers end up in NASA’s OSHA non-compliant industrial manufacturing plant basement, and stand in formation, being all scared, while an unseen something watches them using the same Video Toaster vision as before. When Santa, The Penetrator, and Jason (WALTER KOENIG of STAR TREK) arrive, we finally get to see this menace from space…


robotThe soldiers prepare to shoot it, but Santa steps out in front of them, and insists that it’s incredibly unlikely that an advanced alien intelligence should be hostile, and they could learn much from it, and he goes and walks toward the robot with open arms, proclaiming peace and asking to establish contact and reading from the psalms. As you know, me=huge War of the Worlds fan, so I had my expectations for what was going to happen next. To my surprise, the robot doesn’t vaporize Santa, but merely wings him, causing Santa to just wheel around and shout “Get the son of a bitch!” santaEveryone starts shooting, including DC Douche Guy (So, what, they just let anyone bring a gun to NASA?) but the robot retaliates by shooting lightning bolts at the stormtroopers while sort of, um, flailing randomly because this robot has very limited mobility. Jason (WALTER KOENIG of STAR TREK) climbs up into the giant-size ventilation ducts above NASA’s basement, in order to crawl close to the robot from above. The robot seems to understand that something’s going down, because it Video Toastr Vision locks-on to the sprinkler pipes above itself, but does not doe anythign about them. Jason (WALTER KOENIG of STAR TREK) shoots down from above and cracks open the egg, which made up the bulk of the robot’s head.

With many good men dead, and Santa badly injured, we cut to the sterile inside of a futuristic 1990 home, where a young boy reads comics while someone off-screen makes sex-noises. We pan over to find Jason (WKoST) doing push-ups. Some dialogue passes between Jason (WKoST) and his son, the purpose of which is to mention that Jason (WKoST) has a son and is divorced. And apparently lives on the set of 2001 a Space Odyssey. A phone call comes in from The Penetrator, and Jason (WKoST) has to go rescue him from a strip club with a rotating sattellite dish on the roof (Because it’s the Future). The Penetrator had lured Jason (WKoST) here to celebrate, as the word has just come down that their moon mission has been green-lit.


Lunar LanderAnd then they’re on the moon. Just like that. This movie fucking hates segues. Skipping all those potentially exciting scenes of take-off, model shots of an Apollo spacecraft, and the excitement of landing, we just cut straight to Jason (WALTER KOENIG of STAR TREK) jumping around on the moon in what is obviously not lunar gravity, acting like an idiot until he literally falls on his ass. As Teh Penetrator and Jason (WKoST) goof off, another one of them rape tentacle robots surfaces, notices them, then looks over and finds the LEM. It burrows up close, then tentacle-rapes the lander.

Jason (WALTER KOENIG of STAR TREK) calls up the orbiter, and complains that he’s forgotten to bring the frisbee that his son (who I do not believe has a name) gave him. He claims it would have flown for miles, this disc whose flying properties are based on the way its shape leverages air resistance, in the airless environment. They stop to change the tire on the rover when they notice a giant space-ship-city sort of thing built into the side of a hill on the moon.alien base They pull up to explore, and take out their moon-guns, pausing to reflect on the moral suckiness of bringing guns to the moon.


Inside the alien base, they a preserved human woman, and accidentally wake her up. She immediately grabs The Penetrator’s space gun, then collapses. The astronauts take off their space helmets, as she’s just demonstrated that the atmosphere is breathable, and manageto get her to identify herself as Mira Sorvino. She finds a bracelet on a skeleton nearby and indicates sadness. Jason (WALTER KOENIG of STAR TREK) and The Penetrator get a call from the command module, because one of those robocop robots has just stolen their LEM.LEM stolen This causes all the systems on the LEM to fail, except for Jason (WKoST)’s “special package”. The astronauts wonder what to do about Mira Sorvino, but she, who dpoes not speak a word of english, intuits what’s going on, and takes out an ancient legoman space suit and puts it on. Just before they can leave, however, the lights o out and a killer spider robot drops from the ceiling. Jason of Star Command and The Penetrator kill it with their space guns. They drive back to the landing site while the guy back in the command module expositions a little to NASA. Jason (WALTER KOENIG of STAR TREK) and The Penetrator exposition a little about the robots, who I think are called “Helium”, because I am having a hard time making out Mira Sorvino’s dialogue. Only she knows what they are, and cantell them once they teach her English, which she doesn’t speak, despite the fact that she seems to understand everything they say, such as when they started speculating about how to get her out of the base without a suit, or when Jason (WALTER KOENIG of STAR TREK) asked “What the hell was that?” about the Robot Spider. At any rate, they find their LEM missing, and set off to follow the robot tracks across the moon. They eventually come to an alien space ship which is just starting to fire up its engines. Jason (WALTER KOENIG of STAR TREK) decides that this is what the Helium have been doing for the past 14,000 years: working on building this space ship (Must have been a government project). He tells The Penetrator to stay behind and watch his back, to which Bruce Campbell responds, “My ass!” and insists on going with him. They decide to partner up and work together, when another Robocop robot pops out of the ground and tries to kill The Penetrator. Fortunately, Mira Sorvino picks up Jason (WALTER KOENIG of STAR TREK)’s dropped Space Gun and throws it to him, allowing him to dispatch Robocop. The Penetrator explains “Back on Earth, we’d say you just saved my ass.” I assume this is intended to convey that The Penetrator has a thing about ass. Also, I am not sure why they would say it back on earth, but not here on the moon. “You have just saved one of our earth asses,” I suppose.


I wish I could quit youThis is, of course, a cue for another Robocop to show up and throw The Penetrator into the side of a mountain. Jason (WALTER KOENIG of STAR TREK) narrowly manages to dispatch it, but it’s too late for The Penetrator, with whom he has to share a tender moment as he dies painfully. Meanwhile, something shoots the command module, causing it too to crash, killing the pilot, which would have more impact if I could even remember his name.

Yeeeeeeeeeeeeaaah!” style=”float:right” />The Penetrator manages to stay alive just a few more moments so that he can get off one last one-liner: “(Cough) Just remember one thing… Take no shit from the machine.”

DE:Cretin. Take no shit from a the machine indeed! Entirely out of line.

Thanks for your input, Devastator. I guess this movie isn’t quite what you had in mind, what with all the robot deaths?

DE:Oh, that's to be expected. I gather this is some sort of horror movie in space, right? So, we'll see lots of innocent robots die in horrible ways, until the climactic scene, where the one robot who happens to be a virgin manages to defeat the evil serial-murdering human, and staggers away from the moon, shell-shocked by the traumatic experience but somehow stronger as a person.


iglooYeaaaaah…. So… Anyway, Jason (WALTER KOENIG of STAR TREK) mopes around for a bit, then goes back to their broken down rover and retrieves a backpack which instantaneously and off-camera inflates into an igloo. They climb inside, remove their helmets, and Jason (WALTER KOENIG of STAR TREK) spends the next five minutes complaining. He berates himself for beign too old and too uncool and for getting his crew killed and for the fact that he never should have tried to “go up against” that ship (I don’t know what the hell he’s talking about here, since they stopped the second they saw the ship and were attacked while they were just talking about attacking it, not actually going after it. And he whines about being stuck on the moon, and having woken Mira Sorvino up just so she could die with him, and then something happens which is the one thing about this movie I still remembered some twenty years later.

You see, I was eleven at the time. And my dad would rent all sorts of movies through the eighties and such, and I don’t recall my parents ever making a conscious effort to filter which movies I was allowed to see. But maybe they did and I just don’t recall, or maybe previously it just always happened that I was distracted or fell asleep before the relevant bits, or maybe it’s just that I was very young and the brain didn’t process. I don’t know really. What I do know is that in the next few seconds, my eleven year old brain took in something it had never comprehended before:
(After the jump…)

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Zeroes and Ones

I just saw a teaser trailer for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
I don’t know anything about this movie, other than the fact that it involves a girl with a dragon tattoo, but at the end of the trailer, after the bit where they show you the illegible list of people involved in the film, it cuts to a prompt that says “wasp>”. An unseen typist types “run /ASPHYXIA.sys”. This causes some kind of Unixish kernel panic announcement (it mentions a Darwin kernel. I’ve never seen a Mac kernel panic in console mode, so I can’t say if it’s legit or not). This gives way to an NT-style Blue Screen of Death. Finally, the BSOD text disappears leaving only a blinking cursor on a blue background. The cursor beeps as it blinks.
It is 2010. Surely, someone in Hollywood has seen an actual computer at some point in their life by now. No?

You sunk my giant vulture! (The Giant Claw)

Hey all. I’d been hoping to make my eschatological reviews come a little faster these days, but as it turns out, I actually work for a living and am increasingly unwilling to commit the time to watch anything so long as a movie and give it my full attention and snark. I’m going to buckle down and turn that around, but don’t expect me to stick to anything like a schedule just yet.
In my unwillingness to commit to a whole movie, I’ve been watching a lot of short web originals, getting all caught up on the works of the folks over at Channel Awesome, the YouTube series “Is it a Good Idea To Microwave This?“, and the collected works of Cinemassacre.com, home of The Angry Video Game Nerd.
Now, some Halloween or other, James Rolfe, who in real life is an actual person who does things other than swearing at video games which are almost as old as he is, did a top ten list of the best giant monster movies. I was pretty well familiar with everything on the list — giant monster is really just a supergenre of giant robot, and you know how I feel about giant robots — but there was one movie there which I’d never heard of: a movie that earned a place of honor in the list for the sheer craptacularity of the monster’s design, and the strange habit the film has of comparing the creature to a battleship. So, I sought this movie out, and I’m about to watch it, and you’re coming with me.
The Giant Claw
1957
dir. Fred F. Sears
We open with a globe spinning in some smoke. Some might think this is meant to actually be an FX shot of the earth in space, but I am fairly sure that even in 1957, they knew that the map lines were not visible from space.

RADAR!A narrator drones on for a bit about SCIENCE! and TECHNOLOGY! and shows us a radar installation to prove he means it. I do not think this has anything to do with the story, but it’s hard to make a feature length film out of five minutes of Giant Vulture footage.
These radar operators are concerned, because Radar tells them that their test plane is at 9,000 feet, but the pilot’s altimeter says 10,000. This is quickly ascribed to the fact that they’ve let a WOMAN be involved in the complex mathematical calculations needed to make Radar work.

Casual Misogyny Count: 1


They order Mitch The Pilot to perform some maneuver, which triggers ominous music as he… buzzes the radar base. I guess this was meant to be a cat scare? Anyway, the stunt spooks Miss Caldwell, prompting the Manly Radar Men to exchange a quick, knowing look that basically shouts “Women. Typical.”
Casual Misogyny Count: 2


Miss Caldwell, being Just A Dame, thought that pilots weren’t allowed to do that, and the Radar men explain that, while Air Force pilots aren’t allowed to do that, Mitch is actually an Electrical Engineer, with no flight training to speak of, which makes it okay. Miss Caldwell bizarrely suggests that Mitch needs to be spanked like a three year old, but as she’s Just A Woman, she neglects that the radio is still on, he hears her, and suggests that a spanking is just the sort of action he’s into.

CMC: 3
I have a feeling you’re going to be seeing this picture a lot



Battleship Analogy Count: 1At this point, the narrator takes over, explaining, “A Radar officer. A mathematician and systems analyst. A Radar operator. A couple of plotters. People doing a job well, efficiently. Serious, having fun. Doing a job. Situation, normal for the moment.” Then, he bizarrely launches into a weather report, having found this film so boring that he’s forgotten that he isn’t just reading the news: “Date, the 17th of the month. Sky cloudy, overcast. Visibility limited. Time, 1332 hours. A significant moment in history. A moment when an electronics engineer named Mitchell MacAfee saw something in the sky.” And we see Mitch react with dull surprise as something blurry flies by his plane. Instead of having this exciting scene acted out, the narrator just tells us what’s happening as we watch the actors wordlessly react. As Mitch turns his plane, the unidentified flying object turns too, and the narrator, for the first of several times, pulls out an analogy to explain how big this thing is: “Something, he didn’t know what, but something as big as a battleship had just flown over and past him.”

Battleship Analogy Count: 2They scramble interceptors, but don’t find anything. Which causes the radar officer to declare Mitch to be a liar, and threatens to have him arrested and ruin his career. Thanks to Mitch’s “joke” — which the officer is implacably convinced is what it was — not only didn’t they find what he saw, but one of their planes vanished. So clearly, there was NOTHING OUT THERE and Mitch was LYING, LYING I TELL YOU. Mitch maintains his honesty while the officer gets a phone call, and Miss Caldwell warns Mitch that he’s “Already caused enough trouble with his flying battleship nonsense.” The call, however, exonerates Mitch, as a passenger jet has just gone missing shortly after the pilot radioed in about a UFO. So now he believes Mitch entirely.
Fickle!Mitch and the Girl take a flight back to New York, but the Weather Started Getting Rough — which surpises Mitch because he “Thought the poop on the weather was we’d have it soft all the way to New York.” This film seems weirdly weather-obsessed. Their flight, Zebra Love 759 (By the way, “Zebra Love” is my favorite Equinesploitation hero), moves to a higher altitude to avoid the storm, but this runs them afoul of the invisible-to-radar flying battleship thing. Battleship Analogy Count: 3The pilot calls in a UFO, but is then incapacitated when the ship is harshly buffetted despite the instruments not registering “a hatful of wind” (This movie has no idea how metaphors work), and the plane crashes. As it turns out, if your plane goes into a nose dive from 12,000 feet, you won’t be hurt on the landing even if you’re not strapped in, and will be in fine condition to run from the plane before it explodes about 40 seconds after impact. Mitch blames the crash on “A Flying battleship that wasn’t there,” just to put Miss Caldwell in her place for doubting him. So you know what that means…

Casual Misogyny Count: 4


A painful French Canadian Trapper stereotype rescues them and offers them some of his moonshine to occupy them until the Mounties arrive. Miss Caldwell, who really should get off her high horse, explains that their plane collided with Battleship Analogy Count: 4“Nothing so domestic as a flying saucer, officer; just a flying battleship,” along with a pointed look to Mitch to indicate that, because, as a woman, she is the Designated Idiot of this movie, she still doesn’t believe him. He then gets an angry phone call from the general, leading Miss Caldwell to remind him that, “Flying battleship, pink elephant, same difference.” (I am not going to bother showing the counter again), and Mitch angrily points out that he only said that it looked like a battleship, not that it was a battleship. Which would entirely justify him, except that we’re eventually going to see this thing.
The unheard General accuses Mitch of having crashed a plane and badly injured the pilot as a joke. Fortunately, Pierre’s applejack calms Mitch down before he says something impolitic. Pierre goes out to check the animals, but then screams and has to be rescued. He wakes up screaming about the carcagne, the French Canadian equivalent of a Banshee — fortunately, both Mitch and Miss Caldwell dimly remember obscure bits of French Canadian folklore. But the plane is there for our American heroes, so they leave Pierre to cry himself to sleep, somehow failing to notice that in the matte painting of Pierre’s backyard is a clawprint the size of a battleship’s foot if a battleship had feet like a chicken.
Casual Misogyny Count: 5


On the plane, Mitch notices that Miss Caldwell is asleep, and so decides to take advantage of her. I swear to God I am not making this up. She wakes up with his tongue down her throat and decides that she’s okay with that, because, after all, she is a woman, and can not resist a man of Mitch’s undoubtable charms. They have a weird talk about baseball which is meant to be an analogy for them hooking up, and she tells him in no uncertain terms that he is not going to get any farther than second base, but since this movie thinks that a giant bird is kinda like a battleship, for all I can tell, they’re using “second base” here to mean a threesome. When she says something about having to follow the “pattern” (First the minor league, then the majors. Again, maybe this means he needs to actually woo her before he can stick his tongue down her throat, or maybe he means that he needs to give her a reach-around. God only knows), though, Mitch gets as confused about the metaphor as I am, and starts mumbling “pattern” to himself over and over. He suddenly demands she give him an orthographic map, and she gives him… A mercator map.

Mercator != Orthographic
I’m guessing he just picked a random word he knew went with “map”

He marks some ENTIRELY RANDOM spots on the map, and then draws a spiral through them, which “proves” that the UFO is working to “a perfect pattern in time and distance!” . Again, she taunts him that to fly that distance in that time would take the speed of a… FLYING BATTLESHIP Battleship Analogy Count: 5 She taunts him for thinking something so silly as that the sudden rash of now five crashed airplanes, each of which was linked to a UFO sighting, could possibly be anything more than coincidence. Yeah! What a maroon!
Mitch concedes that he’s being foolish, and they go back to making out. I don’t think this merits a ring of the Casual Misogyny Counter bell, though, just because it seems less like him taking advantage of her womanish weakness and more like her trying to shut him up.
Battleship Analogy Count: 6 As they play tonsil hockey, the narrator cuts in with a new weather report: Partly cloudy with a chance of battleship. As a recovery team flies to the site of Mitch’s latest crash, the pilot spots a swift-moving fuzzy blur, this time making weird monkey noises. Unfortunately, the narrator ruins the surprise by telling the audience that the pilot radios in the report of the UFO (we see the pilot do this, but do not hear what he says. Instead, the narrator just tells us): A bird as big as a battleship was about to attack the plane. And it is here, dear readers, that we finally get our first look at the monster:




The bird eats the plane, then, just to be contrary, also gobbles up the parachuting survivors. Or, rather, the bird bits the toy plane, and then an unconvincing process shot of the bird flies up behind an actor hanging from the ceiling.
The next morning, Mitch gets woken up early by an air force officer, as the general wants him. Mitch cautions the officer to “Keep your shirt on, I’ll go put my pants on,” and then shows his random spiral drawing on a DEFINITELY NOT ORTHOGRAPHIC map to the general.
Battleship Analogy Count: 7 The general tells Mitch about two more crashes which (surprise surprise) fit his pattern perfectly, though he still refers to the whole idea as some kind of crazy joke Mitch is pulling on them — he puts enough disbelief in the word “theorhetical” in front of “pattern” when he says it with enough force that you can hear the scare quotes around it. The general explains that the pilot had described the UFO as “a bird… as big as a battleship!” Mitch scoffs at the very idea, which seems small of Mitch. The general asks Mitch’s opinion as an electronics expert on the feasibility of a bird as big as a battleship, because this is a 50s monster movie, and one SCIENCEtm is very much like another.

My favorite instance of the Very 50s Attitude Toward Science was from the classic Twilight Zone episode “Little Girl Lost”. In this episode, parents wake up in the middle of the night to find their young daughter missing. Now, it turns out that she fell through a freak tear in the fabric of space and time into the FOURTH DIMENSION, so in retrospect, they mde the right move, but there, at that first moment of waking up and finding your child missing, what was their reaction? Dad immediately, without even thinking about it, says, “I’ll call Ted: he’s a scientist, he’ll know what to do!”

The general realizes that of all the men who have seen the bird, only Mitch is still alive — which, Mitch realizes, “Makes me the chief cook and bottle-washer of the birdwatching society,” because no one in this movie has the slightest idea how to construct anything resembling a cogent metaphor. But Mitch didn’t get a good look at the thing, and wishes he had a camera. This makes Miss Caldwell — who I think might be named “Sally”, and will proceed from that hypothesis because I am getting tired of typing out “Miss Caldwell” — remember that they used balloon-mounted cameras to calibrate their radar for the curvature of the earth, and therefore might have gotten a picture of this giant bird. But what really interests me in this scene is this:

Look in the background
Can’t make it out? Here’s a close-up:
Holy crap!
I’m not just imagining this, right? That’s the Starship Enterprise, mounted on the general’s bookshelf. Compare:
2009 Enterprise

They bring in the film from the camera balloons, and see… Nothing. And then… Nothing… And then… A tiny little bird. And then… The same bird, closer. And then… HOLY SHIT IT’S A GIANT VULTURE COMING RIGHT FOR US.
I plan to make this joke a lot too.The general freaks the hell out and passes the buck along to his superior general. His superior general, using the wisdom accumulated from his decades of experience, looks at the film and concludes: “Yep, it’s a bird all right.” He then yells at Mitch for the fact that it’s impossible for something to be invisible to Radar (Radar is a blameless, holy creature), and Mitch gets defensive. But the previous General tells him to calm down, because no one’s accusing him of anything. Except for the entire movie thus far, in which they were. General #2 then gives General #1 a hug. No, Really.

Incidentally, out the general’s window is a matte painting of the Capitol building to esablish that these events take place in Washington DC. Now, I know a thing or two about parallax and perspective geometry, and I think I can safely say based on the visual evidence that the General’s office is on the third or fourth floor of the Ulysses S Grant memorial. Which is a statue.
The general turns on the radio so that our heroes can hear the full force of the USA kill the bird, which they will obviously do with ease, because, after all, it’s just a big bird. One of tie pilots catches sight of the thing and comments, “I’ll never call my mother-in-law an old crow again!”

Casual Misogyny Count: 6


Some air force stock footage on 8mm film flies unrelated maneuvers, intercut with a model shot of a large bird eating toy planes, because the bird is, of course, immune to bullets. The falling toy plane turns into stock footage of a plane crash, and then the bird swoops in to finish off the survivor. Expect it to take another hour or so before they work out that the bird is actively targeting anyone who’s ever seen it, and that this killing spree is all targeted around catching Mitch. The pilot reports that, “It’s like going after a battleship with a slingshot,” Battleship analogy count: 8. which is The first time that this simile has made any sense at all The bird turns more toys into stock footage, and finally kills the pilot we’ve been listening to on the radio. The general laments: “Machine guns, cannons, rockets, nothing touched it!” Why does that sound familiar?



But this movie is no War of the Worlds. General #1 starts to crack up, and General #2 becomes defensive, and Mitch has to reassure them that he’s not talking shit about the air force, and that just because they had a bad time of it, it doesn’t mean their mommies don’t still love them. Fortunately, they get a call from Scientiststm, who think they have something. General #2 explains that he’s given the order to nuke the bird if it turns up anwhere where the fallout won’t be a problem (This is the fifties, when it was common knowledge that as long as you weren’t killed in the blast itself, and you took a really thorough shower afterwards, there was no lasting harm done from exposure to radioactive fallout.). Mitch apologizes for ever having doubted the military superiority of the US Air Force. General Number 2 hugs him and asks him to keep climbing on their backs. Nope. Still not making this up.
Wish I could quit you too.We then cut to a place of SCIENCEtm, where someone’s fifth grade diorama of the Bohr model of the atom is used to explain that atomic weapons are awesome. A scientist explains that while it is widely believed that all atoms are alike, but this is not true: the theory of electrodynamics says that all of nature must be symmetrical, and therefore there must be atoms where the nucleus is negative and the electrons are positive — ANTI-MATTER, and SCIENCEtm has proven that this must be the case, not on earth, but on alien planets elsewhere in the universe. And, quite naturally, anti-mater is invisible to radar. .
Even our heroes aren’t quite so stupid as to think that this makes sense — the Bird should have exploded when it touched the bullets or ate the planes. But, the scientist assures them, the bird itself isn’t made of antimatter, but it radiates an invisible shield made of anti-matter. So that bit about other planets and galaxies made of anti-matter? ENTIRELY POINTLESS. Also, why does this sound familiar?



I’m starting to suspect that this movie is just a cheaper version of War of the Worlds with the word “Martian” crossed out and “Big Bird” pencilled in.

s/martian/big bird/g


The bird can also clearly open its antimatter screen to use its claws and beak as weapons. Because, I guess, the antimatter screen it projects which annihilates any matter with which it comes in contact isn’t good enough as a weapon. The scientist assures them that this is not just a theory, like evolution or the female orgasm, but is scientific fact, evidenced by the pile of debris left over when he tries — as a last resort — to analyze a shed feather from the bird in an ELECTRONIC ANALYZER. Since the feather (“We call it a feather, we don’t really know what it is, just what it looks like.”) contains no known element or compound, analyzing it caused an explosion. Because that’s what happens when you analyze something unknown. But anyway, this proves that the bird is an alien, and also all that bullshit about antimatter, and that the bird comes from a “God-forsaken anti-matter galaxy, billions of miles from earth. Not a theory, folks, scientific fact. Incidentally, during this scene, you can clearly see the shadow of General #1 picking his nose from off-screen. I won’t post a screen shot.
General #2 is going to do everything he can, but, unfortunately, “The last time I talked to a chaplain, there wasn’t any telephone line to the one and only place where we can get the help we need.” Because religious pluralism is for commies. So the general calls the next best person, after God: the secretary of defense. The narrator chips in and recaps that Mitch is the only person to have seen the bird and survived, and that “Among those who knew of it, its existence was a closely guarded secret.” Among those who did not know of it, it was common knowledge. But all that changed when the bird “revealed itself” (eew) to the public at large, and “Complacency turned into panic.” I am fairly sure that their actions so far do not really fit the usual definition of “complacency”, but still.
To demonstrate this, we show some people in swimsuits at a pool in California, who look up in terror to see… a blurry dark blob. They react with horror. Given that for the first half of this movie, they’ve indicated that the bird works to a very precise pattern moving radially outward from a point which appears to be somewhere in Greenland, it strikes me as unlikely that “every corner of the globe” would be unable to look up without catching TEH TERRORZ. It also strikes me that this scene was probably meant to titillate, but the women in 50’s bathing costumes does nothing for me. Well, maybe a little. Also, the bird is so blurry that the whole film seems to have gone astigmatic.
The vaguely blur-shaped bird terrorizes stock footage of London, stock footage of 1920s New York, and stock footage of a World War I battlefield trench. Sally brings over some calculations that she spent all night running through the “calculating machine”, and this pleases Mitch, but she’s disappointed that he does not reward her with a kiss until prompted.
Casual Misogyny Count: 7


Mitch has been working on a crazy and unlikely possibility that might kill the bird, but Sally has had the foresight to follow up with Pierre, and has found out about the giant clawprint we saw half an hour ago. They realize that the “only possible explanation” is that the bird is building a nest. This makes Mitch realize… something, but he keeps insisting that he’ll explain later while he calls the general. The narrator, in the form of a radio announcer, explains that atomic weapons have proven useless against the bird, and all planes have been grounded, leading the bird to resort to ground attacks and an “orgy of destruction” to feed (“Does it eat, as we understand the word?”) — this involves it chasing stock footage of people running away, cattle stampedes, and cars driving off cliffs and exploding. The governments of the world have all declared martial law, declared a Blitz-style blackout and banned all non-essential transportation.
With the entire world cowering, the bird shows up… RIGHT OUTSIDE MITCH’S WINDOW. Mitch and Sally travel by plane and then by three different kinds of stock footage helicopter out to Pierre’s farm, where they take some guns in hope of shooting the bird’s eggs before the can hatch and the human race is really hosed. We’re treated to an interminable “Walking around looking for the nest” scene No one will be seated.. They find it, but mommy is there. Pierre wets them and runs away like the cowardly Frenchman he is (Battleship counter: 8 Misogyny Counter: 7. Offensive Cultural Stereotype Counter: 1) leaving Sally and Mitch to shoot the eggs on their own. Based on the relative size of the bird, these rifles put holes in the eggs approximately the size of a smallish television. This makes momma bird angry, and she uses her antimatter power and giant claws to… drop tree branches on them. And then she chases down Pierre and kills him for being a little bitch. Mitch explains that they’ll need to send out search parties to find any other eggs, and then glibly steals Pierre’s car. Unfortunately, a bunch of roudy Teenagers run them off the road while acting like jackasses because they ain’t afraid of no bird. Also, they repeatedly call Mitch “Daddy-O”. Because disobeying your elders merits death, the bird grabs them. And rather than eating the car, it just drops it again, letting it fall into the anti-matter shield and explode. Two of the teens managed to jump clear before it was too late, and survive, narrowly, though I don’t think they’ll ever be seen again. Sally contemplates their bottle of booze as if it is of keen importance.
The next day, Mitch pitches his new exciting idea, involving SCIENCEtm: One of the newest discoveries in science is the “Mu Masonic Atom With A hydrogen Nucleus”, which I believe is the secret society responsible for the treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence. I had a look in Wikipedia to determine how much of this speech was gibberish, and the answer is either “all of it”, or “This topic is so complex that I can’t even work out enough of the vocabulary to google the right thing. Also, I think this may predate the standardization of the terminology. Muonic atoms, which seem to be what he’s talking about, are hydrogen atoms which have a negatively charged Muon where a normal atom would have an electron. Because muons are heavier than electrons, Muonic atoms are smaller than ordinary atoms (In Bohr-world, the heavier muon orbits closer to the nucleus than an electron would. In a quantum world, it has a smaller “ground state waveform”, which means the same thing, only with an added “But electrons don’t really orbit the nucleus like a planet around a sun” at the end). That much is actual science, and I could understand. The next bit, according to Mitch, is “Because the (sic) mesic atom is so small, it can pass through the atom’s electromagnetic defenses and fuse to the nucleus” of either matter or antimatter. Close as I can tell, that doesn’t make any sense. The closest thing I can find is that Muonium (which is the opposite of a muonic atom: a positively charged Muon nucleus with an electron in orbit) can form compounds with normal atoms the same way hydrogen would. But that doesn’t seem useful. Anyway, the upshot of all this is that (a) if you shoot a stream of freemasons at the bird, it will neutralize its crunchy antimatter shell, leaving the bird defenseless except for its razor-sharp talons, beak capable of crushing a jet plane, and feathers which explode under mass spectroscopy. Also, (B), I now know more about subatomic particles than I did when I woke up.
This will allow them to attack the bird by throwing kitchen sinks at it. The general is excited, but settles for a hearty handshake instead of hugging Mitch again. Sally and the Scientist both suggest that this plan is a miracle. You know, I wasn’t especially bothered with George Pal implied at the end of War of the Worlds that the Martians’ vulerability to bacteria was the result of divine intervention. But this is just getting to me.
As they struggle to produce “mesic atoms” in quantity and with lifespans measurable in more than a microsecond, the bird attacks a model train, and carries it off like a string of sausages. Then Mitch accidentally blows himself up.
When Mitch wakes up, they all tell him that they’re giving up and that he did all he could. But Mitch insists that he actually got the thing working — they’d had the polarity reversed. And blew himself up on purpose. The general is ecstatic, and Mitch asks him to go get his pants so they can go.


Pants-Related Delay. Mitch needs a “calculator” for the plane crew. Since this is 1957, a “calculator” is a person who calculates, not a device. But plainly, Sally can’t go with them, as she is only a woman (This one does not count, because the general has no qualms about sending her. I’m going to be generous and suppose that Mitch doesn’t want Sally there because she’s his girlfriend, not because she’s a girl.


They’re forced to launch early, because the bird has been sighted doing this movie’s big VFX shot:

Really

The bird pecks the top off of the paper mache model of the Empire State Buidling, then takes to the air, chasing people across a wide open grassy field in the center of Manhattan. The bird takes a bite out of the UN building, but since it’s above the 9th floor, no one cares. . This causes unrelated stock footage of explosions to play. The Muon-armed plane approaches and the bird gives chase. Stock footage of ground batteries shoot at it, despite the fact that bullets are still useless against it, and we see the same shot of a radar tower as in the first scene. The bird clips the top of a pair of towers that I don’t recognize (The film is too early for it to be the WTC, but I somehow doubt this scene will ever air on TV again), and then — HOLY SHIT:


Isn’t that building supposed to be in San Francisco? Anyway, just as the bird catches up with them, Mitch finishes wiring up the device and fires a few film scratches at the bird. Smoke billows up from somewhere offscreen, as opposed to, like, emanating from the area around the bird, and they take this to mean that the bird is now vulnerable. The generals fire some rockets, the bird falls from the sky, one of the generals shouts, “We got it!” Mitch and Sally kiss, and The movie just ends. No explanation. No closure. No giant vulture soup. No giant vulture sandwiches. Just “The End.”
So that’s The Giant Claw. I won’t swear that it’s the most ridiculous giant movie monster out there, but it is certainly… The most shameless attempt to repurpose an early draft of the script to War of the Worlds. Shame on you, Fred Sears. I leave you with this parting shot, a last look at the slowly sinking beast…

Stephanie Meyer, give vampires back their balls.

This movie.
This phenomenon.
It fucking blows.
Twilight
You’re not going to get my usual detailed recap, because this movie just fucking sucks and I feel bad for just watching it. But I know I should watch the whole thing so that I am properly qualified when I go off on insane rants elsewhere on the internet about how much this movie sucks. So you’re just going to get some highlights.
Below the fold…

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To Boldly Go…

Star Trek
2009
Directed by JJ Abrams
Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Bruce Greenwood, Eric Bana
And Karl Urban as Doctor Leonard McCoy
This movie is very good. It is very very good. Infact, this movie is not simply a very good Star Trek movie, it is a very good movie.
The first great thing about this movie was the four teenagers sitting behind us. In the half hour before the film started, they talked at length about which films they think were most popular for having sex in the theater (Rocky Horror Picture Show), and how she didn’t mind who he told about them having sex with each other, but he did mind who she told`. Also, apparently Lisa Hanover (not her real name) is such a giant slut that she agreed to have sex with Billy Gweebinski (not his real name) for fifteen dollars even though he’s totally filthy and a loser. Also, Ms. Hanover got in trouble at school for letting two guys suck on her breasts after a basketball game. Also, both the girls liked Cloverfield, and one of the guys always lost at Gay Chicken, which I gather is when two guys go in to make out, and the first one to bail out loses. The last one to bail out, of course, is branded gay.
The cast is pretty much excellent. I don’t think anyone ever questioned that Quinto would be awesome as Spock. As McCoy, Urban looks the part and sounds the part, but I will concede that for much of the film, he seems to be, well, “McCoying it up”. More like someone doing a McCoy impression instead of actually playing McCoy. I’d expected not to like Chris Pine as Kirk, but he really does pull it off. I’d been suffering from visions of a “Totally Awesome” Kirk tryng to be all hip and streetwise. Thankfully, it was not to be. The only thing I really missed — and this is really the script’s fault and not Pine’s — is that we never get to hear him give one of those classic Kirk Speeches, with Kirk telling… us… that… the indomitable human spirit… yearns to be… FREE! or something.
I was going to say that Zoe Saldana varied the most radically from her predecessor as Nyota (Yes, it’s canon now) Uhura, but then I realized that Uhura never really had any sort of characterization worth speaking of before. So yeah. she differs a lot in that. Anton Yelchin is basically a non-character as Chekov. John Cho’s is competent as Sulu, but nothing to write home about. The biggest disappointment in the cast, for me. is Simon Pegg. I know most people liked him, but I think they’re confusing liking Simon Pegg as a comic actor and liking Simon Pegg as Scotty. Pegg’s Scotty — I will not mince words about this — is The Comic Relief Character. He’s a joke. Scotty should not be a joke.
But for my money, the real surprising role, was the one I didn’t really go in with any preconceptions about: Bruce Greenwood as Captain Pike. He’s basically Dad for the Enterprise crew, and he really ties the film together.
Watching Star Trek get the Crisis on Infinite Earths treatment is something which has sort of affected me at a weird emotional level. Even though Trek doesn’t speak to me the way it used to, it’s something sort of foundational to my brand of geekery. One of those things which was supposed to always be there. It’s the sci fi geek’s equivalent of mom remarrying.
Anyway, it’s visually stunning, it’s got a coherent plot, it respects its roots, and it makes Star Trek all shiny and new.
And to say more, would be spoilers…

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I don’t like jokes based on bodily fluids, excretions, or secretions.

Poop, urine, spit, semen, vomit. Not a big fan. Don’t like fart jokes either.
The reason I mention it is that the inclusion of some vomit-based humor is the only thing I have to say against Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
2008
Michael Cera and Kat Dennings
Based on the book by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
I would have said that this is the most unexpected reboot of the The Thin Man franchise I could have imagined, but (a) hardly anyone would get it, and (2) It’s not true. Nick and Norah has been at the edge of my radar for a while now, because Amazon thinks it’s a book I’m liable to like. And despite the fact that Amazon’s collaborative filtering has decided that I’m a teenage heroin-addicted lesbian spy with a cutting fetish, they often cough up entirely reasonable suggestions for books I might like.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that this is far and away the best movie I have seen in a very long time. Now, the last film I got dragged out to the theaters for was The House Bunny (Leah has a friend who was in desperate need of a schlocky feel-good movie. Any movie where the first 200 minutes are set in the Playboy Mansion and filled with playboy bunnies and that’s the boring part is not going to fare well with me. Also, they took a sweet old man, one of my personal heroes and made him cry), so I am willing to concede that my judgment might be impaired. But it was just so unspeakably refreshing to watch a movie whose plot doesn’t hinge on major characters who we are supposed to care about and respect as people acting so stupid as to imply that they are developmentally challenged (Seriously? You think that murdering your boss by throwing a bus full of screaming children at him is a good way to introduce the public to your new budget-priced weapons platform? I’m looking at you, Obidiah Stane. And no, Harry, the fact that someone was curt with you at lunch doesn’t mean that in spite of the evidence of the past six years, all your friends don’t care about you and don’t trust you.) People act stupid, sure, but they act believably stupid, and even then, that’s not what’s driving the plot.
Nick and Norah is the story of two young people who are way hipper than you or I will ever be, who pretty much know from the moment they meet that they would go pretty well together, and just have to get their individual acts together so they can get on with that. Which basically means that it’s like Questionable Content if Jeph didn’t have to keep it going for more than two hours and could just jump straight to the climactic bits. It is also a lot like Go, which is one of my favorite movies, but without the tedious “And now that you’ve started to care about these characters and situations, let’s just change the subject entirely.” It also reminds me quite a bit of Adventures in Babysitting for reasons I’m not entirely sure of. Possibly the aspect of it being structured a bit like an Epic — a sort of Jason and The Argonauts-style Quest Through Interesting Lands Where Most of The Good Bits Are Things Unrelated To The Goal That They Just Happen Upon On The Way, only with teenagers in a big city instead of Greeks in the Aegean.
Anyway, I’ve complained many times about how movies try to substitute surprise for actual quality. Nick and Norah isn’t a movie that hinges on anything being unexpected. I sorted out most of the plot about five to ten minutes in, and it didn’t make the movie any worse. As such, “spoilers” may be an inappropriate thing to call the revelations in my detailed analysis. But for those who might be more sensitive to such things, hit the jump…

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I AM IRON MAN

So close as I can tell, Hollywood doesn’t really like doing superhero movies. Back when I reviewed Transformers, and, for that matter, back when I reviewed Knight Rider, I pointed out that the Transformers and KITT both came off more as props than as characters. What Hollywood is interested in is characters and situations, and superheroism is really just a category of special effect. Consider a movie about two former lovers who meet again in the midst of dangerous circumstances, and there’s a corporate sellout who is antagonistic. This movie has special effects. Now, if those special effects are a dude in tights flying, the movie is Superman Returns. If the effects are a tornado, it’s Twister. Okay, that’s not the best example, but you get the idea. Far as Hollywood is concerned, superheroism isn’t what the story is about; it’s just a framing device for the special effects. (Now, this can be contrasted with the martial arts genre, as I’ve also seen The Forbidden Kingdom recently. There’s a movie where being capable of chi-magic is not simply a prop, but is really what the story is all about. Now, I thought it felt a bit silly, but maybe that’s just because I’ve been trained by Hollywood) They don’t want you to think in terms of “It’s a movie about a giant monster” or “It’s a movie about giant robots” or “It’s a show about a talking car.” Cloverfield was a movie about young, frightened people surviving a disaster in New York, and it had a giant monster in it. Transformers is a movie about a dorky boy and a hot girl surviving a disaster in middle America, and it has giant robots in it. Knight Rider is a story about a reckless womanizer learning responsibility while protecting a former lover from evil mercenaries, and it’s got a talking car in it.
Iron Man is a story about a hard-drinking, womanizing arms-manufacturer, who is forced to come to terms with the fact that there are indeed negative repercussions to selling dearly weapons after he is gravely wounded. And it’s got a flying armored war-suit in it.
Iron Man
2008, Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Bridges
Anyway, hit the jump for the spoilers, but even if you don’t, if you’ve somehow managed to avoid knowing this: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, STAY UNTIL THE END OF THE CREDITS.

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One Ford Can Make A Difference

If you know me — and given the size of my audience, you almost certainly do — you may know that over the years, from time to time, and precipitated by anything in particular, I will suddenly become obsessed with Knight Rider for a while.
In case you somehow don’t recall this show, it was about David Hasslehoff and an indestructible Trans Am played by William Daniels, who at the time was famous for having played John Adams in 1776 and for being one of the doctors on Saint Elsewhere, but who, if you’re too young to remember Knight Rider, you probably know as the guy who played Mr. Feeny on Boy Meets World. Also, the car could jump. This was incredibly cool, and we totally did not mind that some times when the car jumped into the air it was clearly a toy car being tossed over an H-O scale model, because it was the eighties and you could do that sort of thing.
In case you somehow didn’t know this next bit, a couple of weeks ago, NBC, which has recently resurrected the corpses of such popular properties-as-old-as-I-am as Battlestar Galactica and The Bionic Woman aired a backdoor pilot movie for a revival of Knight Rider.
If you know me, or you’ve been actually reading the article so far, you may be surprised to learn that I somehow managed to delay gratification and have only just watched Knight Rider last night.
Well, see, Leah got aggravated at her landlord, and decided to move. And since she wanted to watch it with me, being a caring and considerate boyfriend, waited until she had at least gotten the TV hooked up in her new place.
So, here we go:
Knight Rider
2008
Justin Bruening
Val Kilmer
Executive Summary: Apparently, there is a company called “Ford” which makes automobiles. These automobiles are available for purchase from many fine retailers, and include both high-performance muscle cars, and sensible and luxurious yet economical models.
Commentary: Knight Rider fans know that after the pilot episode of the original 1982 series, KITT was never referred to as a “Trans Am” again, only as a “Black T-Top” (For those of you who don’t know this either, a T-top is a car whose roof is made of two removable panels with a structural beam between them. Not quite as cool as a convertible, but a bit more structurally sound).
According to legend, and as any fan will tell you (One of the major league Knight Rider Geeks even gets to say this as if it’s fact on the Knight Rider Season 1 bonus featurette), this is because Pontiac dealers got “annoyed” at people coming in and asking to buy “The Knight Rider Car”. Because people coming in and wanting to buy something is such an annoyance. This legend is really a bit of a corruption of the truth of the matter: dealers weren’t annoyed: executives were worried. Specifically, they were worried about the liability if someone got themselves killed trying one of the stunts they’d seen in the show. The name shift was mandated by the desire to be able to maintain, if needs be, an official policy of “The car in that show is not a Pontiac: it is an entirely fictional vehicle which, in its fictional world, is completely custom made. It just happens that this fictional vehicle looks like a Pontiac, and also we made the prop, but KITT is no more a Trans Am than Sean Connery is a British secret agent.”
Ford, it seems, has no such misgivings. Aside from the advertising blitz (The only way you can tell, on cursory examination, that it’s a commercial and not the show is the absence of the channel bug), the Knight Industries Three Thousand bears all its original markings, and every time the scene transitions to KITT, it does so by fading to one of the Mustang Cobra (KITT is not actually a Cobra per se, but I may call him that because Ford used to make a car called the Mustang Cobra which is basically the same sort of car as this is. KITT is a Shelby Mustang GT. “Shelby” here means that Ford went hired Carol Shelby to do his thing to the Mustang. Carol Shelby is a racecar designer who car companies occasionally hire to take their muscle cars and make them even cooler. He takes the car apart and studies every feature and calculates the optimal set of modifications. No one knows why he does this, however, because his next step is invariable “stick in the biggest engine we can find and slap a picture of a snake on it.” Carol Shelby’s real skill lies, at least in part, in being able to work out how to fit a V-8 into a car that is much too small to hold one. His first such outing was to stick a V-8 in a British AC, producing the “AC Cobra”. He went on to design other cars with snake emblems on them, such as the Dodge Viper and a boatload of Mustang-based cars, some of which were called “Mustang Cobras” and some of which were called “Shelby GTs”) emblems on the vehicle. And they are not shy about showing these cars do unsafe things (this was one of the major failings of the previous Knight outing).
This is the fourth attempt to revive the Knight Rider franchise. The fact that even if you do remember Knight Rider, odds are you don’t remember that this isn’t the first revival attempt speaks to the success of these attempts. The first, a straightforward “reunion” movie, Knight Rider 2000 reunited KITT and Michael in the then-still-a-bit-off year 2000, where Dan Quayle is president, guns are illegal, and criminals are frozen using cryogenics. The role of KITT was played by a red custom-made car, which Knight Rider fans will tell you is a Dodge Stealth, but this is about as accurate as saying that a wooden chair is really a tree: the car was an entirely custom body dropped onto the frame and inner workings of a Dodge Stealth. In later years, it was given a police siren and black-and-white paintjob and occasionally turns up as a futuristic police car in cheaper sci-fi, such as Power Rangers Time Force.
Despite having an awesome theme tune by Jan Hammer, and featuring a very funny gag involving James Doohan, the revival went nowhere. Also, the car couldn’t jump (It could drive on water, which they thought was nearly as impressive and didn’t risk damaging their one-of-a-kind prop car. It probably was more impressive if you didn’t remember that the original series had already given KITT a Jesus-mode back in the second season).
So, a few years later, they tried again, as part of a syndication package, either the one that brought us Babylon 5 and no other successful shows, or the one that brought us Hercules The Legendary Journeys and no other successful shows, with a pilot movie called Knight Rider 2010. This time, any connection to the original series was entirely implicit. Rumors have it that they were intending to expand on the connections if they went to series, but they didn’t. Set in a Road Warrior post-apocalypse (Thanks to the Mad Max series, everyone who makes movies has an implicit understanding that, for no reason that needs to be explained, no matter how unlikely it may seem, if civilization collapses, the entire world will look like the Australian Outback), some guy who may or may not have turned out to be Michael Knight’s son if they’d gone to series armors a classic car and sticks a magic crystal containing the disembodied mind of his dead girlfriend in it, and goes off to fight injustice in the form of a sort of urban assault vehichle made out of a crashed Stealth Fighter. No. Really. I kinda suspect that the original script for this movie has “Mad Max The Series” crossed out and “Knight Rider” penciled in.
The third, and most successful — but also the one that evoked the most ire — actually went to series. This was Team Knight Rider, following a sentai-ish team of five drivers driving three Fords and two really ugly custom motorcycles which could merge to form Voltron. This aired in the syndication package that is “the other one” of the two I mentioned above. The cars weren’t all that impressive, largely due to the budget. Knight Rider fans are pretty rabid in their love of Pontiacs. Also, the show suffered in spades from trying-hard-to-be-cool. It lasted a whole season, just long enough to show us a stand in playing Michael Knight, David McCallum playing the Evil Overlord, and a metal ball playing KITT. Anyway, a lot of fans actually claimed that the show’s producers secretly hated Glen Larson and had intentionally set out to make a bad show in order to tarnish his legacy. I told you Knight Rider fans were a bit nuts.
Anyway, now that you’re caught up, I’ll head on to the spoilers.
But I find myself wondering: what is it about the Knight Rider franchise that makes people keep wanting to revive it — and revive it even though there’s never been any precedent for a Knight Rider revival succeeding?

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