Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Remembered Filmography Tuesday



NOTE: The following is part of the Bizarro Blogathon at the Lazy Eye Theatre.

Greetings from Bizarro-World! Me am not Bizzaro-Derek #1, from cube-shaped planet Bizzaro-World! Me and writing in blog-o-cube on series of tubes which nobody uses to write in blog that is not about movies. So, for blog not about movies, only makes sense to talk about some of me favorite movies of all time!

Me hate movies, me hate so few movies so little that it am easy for me to defend all of them. Me will watch great movies, and me will try to typically find something redeeming in them. Me am something of “glass half-empty” chalk-skinned monstrosity. Also am decidedly less eloquent than other bizarros. This am because of my lessons from Bizarro-World’s greatest rhetoricians: Bizarro-Paris Hilton and Bizarro-Lindsay Lohan.


(If am wished to talk about probably favorite movie, me might have selected Paris Hilton-vehicle “The Hottie and the Nottie” which looks like it is the best movie ever made. But, since me want to see it so much, me planning on always seeing it.)

But, to talk about one of me favorite movies of all time, it should have two things: it should be a movie that I never wanted to see, and it should not let me down in such a colossal way that I am not disappointed that I wasted perhaps months looking forward to its release.


This am my choice for discussion: Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace (Lucas, 1999.) Me HATE Star Wars. Me hate Star Wars so much since me am little. Me hate Jedi Knights, me hate Lightsabers, me hate starship battles. Me especially hate the Wookiee holiday of Lifeday, as practiced in the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special (the last appearance of hated characted Boba Fett.)

Me had some reservations: George Lucas, after all, poorly regarded director and architect of the Star Wars franchise with no money and no success. He directed and wrote second and third Star Wars, which are genuinely the worst two of the six movies.

Like all other Star Wars movies, Phantom Menace is absolutely chock-full of redeeming value. Here am five most favoritest moments:

1) Amount of Things That Happened

So much happened in this movie. There am no pod races, geopolitical diplomacy, and not one star ship battle. That am almost too much for one movie. This is why Phantom Menace had to be made. So much relevant things happened that other parts of prequels and old trilogy did not make sense without knowing it.

2) Dialogue

Bizarro-George Lucas’ greatest strengths are his ability to write dialogue and direct actors. As Bizarro-Harrison Ford famously noted before fading to obscurity, “You can’t write lines like this, but you certainly can say it.” So it make no sense how good dialogue is. All dialogue full of emotion and drama and gravitas, it is definitely not ham-handed or wooden. Characters all fully-realized, and even most minor characters like Queen Amidala and Obi-Wan Kenobi feel like real people and not just loosely-connected series of plot devices. Me am of opinion that Star Wars prequels, for this reason, would not be improved if George Lucas had allowed outside help to write or direct them.

3) “And, as a child, I built C3PO!”/”Midiclorians…”

This Robot Chicken am totally inaccurate about how much sense this made. From least favorite scene that me never memorized.

4) CGI Yoda

In prequel movies, character of Yoda was a puppet, unlike earlier movies where was not a puppet. However, like all the puppets, since the actors were able to interact with them, were much more believable than using outdated computer generated imagery. This helped preserve suspension of disbelief. This made prequel Star Wars less about a series of special effects and more about story and “power of myth” that George Lucas am never mentioning.


See? Puppet Yoda clearly inferior to CGI Yoda.

5) Jar Jar Binks

To quote Bizarro-Peter Griffin, “That am not good old-fashioned racism.” Jar Jar Binks is a well-loved character, perhaps best loved character in Star Wars movies. Me need to say much more about how much he am not racist caricature, and how prequel trilogy could have been one movie and been much worse.

Unfortunately, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith sucked SO badly it ruined whole franchise for me.

Me am love other movies too, like Battlefield Earth, Gigli, Dumb and Dumberer: When Harold Met Lloyd, Norbit, and Sherlock: Undercover Dog. Me feel exact opposite feeling of wanting to jab out eyes with fork while watching.

That am beginning of blog! Never read blog again because me no talk about nothing else! Hello!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Forgotten Filmography Friday 14

Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak on a Plane
(dir. Scott Thomas, 2007)
New Line Pictures
Summary: Zombies on a plane. Zombies. Plane. Take Snakes on a Plane, remove Samuel L. Jackson and the snakes he’s just about had it with, and add zombies. You’re more or less there.

My screenwriter friends in Santa Barbara were quite obsessed with zombies. Quite a few film geeks I know love their George Romero films, or 28 Days Later, or many of the other zombie classics. My favorite of Showtime’s Masters of Horror series is the Joe Dante-directed episode “Homcoming” in which dead veterans rise from the grave in order to vote against the unseen President who sends us to war. And my favorite half of Grindhouse was the Robert Rodriguez-penned Planet Terror

So, before we get into the meat of it, is this a good zombie movie?


I actually think so.

This is not a good movie in the traditional sense. It will not redefine a good zombie movie the way 28 Days Later did, for example. But, as a zombie movie, it is a resounding success.

We have the set-up for all the resolutions in the first ten minutes. All the basics trappings are set up, every little set-up dangled up to be gnawed apart later.


For what really is “zombie Snakes on a Plane,” this film is quite enjoyable and quite suspenseful. It’s a good idea, well-written, well executed, decent acting. The zombie effects are great.


And it’s scary too.

My one major complaint is that we don’t see zombies for about 40 minutes, and in a movie about plane zombies, I hope to see the walking dead within the first 30 minutes, tops.

So, keeping in mind its nature, I’d recommend Flight of the Living Dead, especially for zombie movie fans. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a lot of fun. B+.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Forgotten Filmography Friday 13

Chilly Dogs (dir. Bob Spiers, 2001)
GET Entertainment
Summary: Snow Dogs with White People. Wait, read on.

Ok, listen to this: somebody who has no place going to Alaska inherits land there and goes for the adventure of a lifetime, he falls in love, and goes on a dog race. Does this sound remotely familiar? It should. It’s the plot to one of the last thrashes of Cuba Gooding Jr.’s legitimate Oscar-winning film career, Snow Dogs (he later went on to further sabotage himself with duds like Radio, The Fighting Temptations, and What Love Is.)

This is not Snow Dogs. Snow Dogs is Shakespeare next to this polished frozen dog turd. But further to my chagrin, this movie came out a month before Snow Dogs, which leads me to believe one of two possible conclusions:
1) Two people had the same awful idea (possible).
2) Somebody heard about Snow Dogs and tried to produce the exact same story (more probable.)

Here’s an interview with “star” Skeet Ulrich (the film was released in Europe as Kevin of the North):

Leslie Nielsen, and Natasha “Species” Henstridge round out this cast of people who were once relevant.


Kevin starts from scenic Canoga Park (two towns away from beautiful Van Nuys, CA, where I grew up,) to Alaska. This movie has the laughs literally coming at a snail’s pace (1 mm/second, if Wikipedia’s to be trusted.) Everyone is literally phoning this in.

Leslie Nielsen is trying to find a treasure map owned by Kevin’s grandfather. There’s a dog race, a love triangle, some dog pee, everything here is so by the book it makes me want to scream, or yawn.

The one saving grace of this film is a presence of bulldog (albeit an American, and not a British, Bulldog.) Bulldogs, if you were not aware, are ridiculously adorable, because they are simultaneously tough and tiny yet seem to not be aware of how tiny they are (some chihuahuas are cute for this exact reason.) They also look happy all the time. Here is a video of one eating a watermelon.

See? Isn't that adorable?

In conclusion, bulldogs are perhaps the best breed of dog because...wait, what was I talking about? Anyway, pass on this movie, it’s not worth watching, and barely even worth writing about. But it was better than Sherlock: Undercover Dog. D+.

Friday, June 6, 2008

It Came From Forgotten Filmography Friday 12


Sherlock: Undercover Dog (dir. Richard Harding Gardner, 1994)
Columbia Tristar Pictures
Synopsis: Two kids help talking dog detective save his master and stop smugglers on Catalina Island.

Warning: It’s rated PG for “comic criminal elements and for some mild language.” My issues with the MPAA aside…what?! Comic criminal elements? When is that PG worthy?

My first issue is with the title itself. Sherlock: Undercover Dog. The dog is undercover. What is he posing as? Somebody else’s dog? I much rather prefer the UK Title “Sherlock Bones: Ace Detective.” That at least a pun.

Billy talks to things that don’t talk, thus the irony when he find a dog who can talk. This dog has an eyepatch no less. He’s also British. And a detective. For some reason this is all very boring.

The score is arguably the worst score ever scored. The direction reminds me overwhelmingly of an episode of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, or its spinoff V.R. Troopers (which also, may I add, had a talking dog.) This general poorness includes the framing, the “wacky” use of sped-up footage to inspire “comedy.” However, it is a blissfully short 78 minutes, so the director is not trying to torture his audience (although this got an MPAA rating, which suggests it got some theatrical distribution.)

Even at 78 minutes this is too long. I’ll use the IMDB plot summary, after fixing up the spelling and grammar errors: “Billy, 10, a dreamer, wants to be taken seriously so he can live with his toy-designer father on Catalina Island. Billy's plans get seriously spoilt when Sherlock, a talking police dog, demands his help to rescue his police detective handler kidnapped by smugglers. But Sherlock likes to keep his talking a closely guarded secret. So now no one will take Billy seriously until he rescues the kidnapped detective and catches the smugglers...”

Does he catch the smugglers? Does anything funny happen? Does anything remotely entertaining happen? Does anyone deserve to watch this movie? The answers are, in order: yes, no, no, and possibly prison inmates but that would constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

For the record, the funniest thing about this movie is the IMDB FAQ:

“Does Sherlock Bones have any catchphrases?
He sure does - its ‘I no talk to people.’

Are there any plans for a sequel?
At present it does not look likely that a sequel will be produced.

What happened to the dog that portrayed Sherlock Bones?
Though not confirmed, it is widely believed that the thespianic dog unfortunately passed away some years ago.”

There’s some friends who learn to get along to help Sherlock Bones, a love interest between the dad and the vet. Wacky police officers. Wacky smugglers in wacky clothes that might have been fashionable in 1992 (we’re talking like rainbow-colored lycra.) And…yeah, is there a stronger way to say “do not ever watch this movie?” Other than “do not ever watch this movie?” Do not watch this movie.

Tune in next week when I review “Undercover Boy.” F-.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Screenwriting 101: Diary of a Spec Script Part 1

For the next few weeks at least, I’m going to chronicle my own attempt to write a new spec screenplay. This will be my sixth feature I’ve written, although there are two, maybe three of those that are third or later drafts, and I would actually consider showing to an agent.

One thing worth noting is that these are the methods I’ve come up with after a lot of writing, and it’s primarily something that works for me. You’ll have to work on developing your own methods, but maybe what I do can give you an idea towards what to do.

First I need an idea. I’ve been thinking lately about the way the internet is, how people build entirely new and different lives in cyberspace, especially in those fan communities where people pretend to be something totally different from reality (like MMORPGs, or Second Life, or so on.) So I want to take that a step further: in the future, where virtual reality holds sway, people can live entirely different lives online, being whatever they want to be. That’s an idea.

An important question. How do I feel about this? That will help me figure out my tone and my theme. To be honest, while some elements of this can be fun, I think it’s really ridiculous. The tone I want to go for is absurd, ridiculous, and bizarre. I want to go for such audacious things in the online world (machine gun-wielding monkeys riding dinosaurs, etc.) and juxtapose that with very mundane things in the real world.

But where’s my story in this?

This is an important question to ask. You can’t go half-cocked into a screenplay not knowing what the story is or else you’ll meander and end up cutting a bunch of pages in rewriting. So, what is my “A” story, the main arc?

With this idea, of people being able to communicate across continents, a love story seems interesting: between two people who know each other well online, but might not even know they exist in the real world. I like that idea, but it doesn’t fit in with the audacity idea I had before, but I like it. I’ll keep that in mind for my “B” story. Subplots are nice, a few of them can help pad around another story and address your theme. And I can’t just have samurai fighting the entire Soviet army for the whole movie.

Now that I have a sense of my basic plot (absurd online action juxtaposed with mundane reality in a world where people waste countless hours in virtual reality) I have to ask: what is my theme. I seem to have a stance on technology here. The sentence in my head that jumped out to me was: “Technology is bringing us together even as it’s pulling us apart.” I like that. It’s a good theme. I put it on a sticky note on my laptop.

Now that that’s out of the way, I have a rough idea of what I want to do and my theme, I want to come up with a logline, which is good way to condense what you’re after. This is what I first wrote, which is a little long:

In the future, people live entire double lives online, lost in a virtual reality of their own making. Leroy Jenkins is one man who dedicates his life to the Virtual World, living in a realm of audacity and bizarreness even as his own life is full of boring mundaneness. Leroy wins a special competition in Virtual World, getting to playtest Virtual World 2.0. But when the process malfunctions, Leroy finds the virtual world and his virtual persona invading reality.

But I’m not using this as a pitch, it’s just for my own use. And you can see how the idea developed even in the last few minutes of me thinking about it. That sounds like a lot of fun to write and it’d be a great movie.

Next week, I outline and start coming up with my opening. Good writing!