Rifftrax: Plan 9 From Outer Space

New from The Movie Snob

Rifftrax: Plan 9 From Outer Space. Well, you loyal readers may be getting a bit tired of seeing reviews about Mystery Science Theater: 3000 and MST3K spinoffs. Unfortunately, Rifftrax is just such a spin-off. Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy of MST3K have a business called Rifftrax that does exactly what MST3K used to do, and they have a website where you can download or order DVDs of their riffs on movies such as Reefer Madness and House on Haunted Hill. Recently they did one of those deals where they performed their show live in one venue (in Nashville, TN as it happened) and simulcast it to theaters across the country (including a few in Dallas) through fathomevents.com. I will say, it was much cheaper than seeing the Joel Robinson crew do their show live here in Dallas, but the immediacy in the live show did add something to the presentation. Anyway, the Rifftrax crew did the infamous Ed Wood movie Plan 9 From Outer Space, preceded by the short Flying Stewardess. They were very funny, and the evening was marred only by a few technical glitches during the short. If you liked MST3K and get the chance to see the Rifftrax crew in action, I do recommend it.

Beer review: 55 Select

From The Bleacher Bum

Budweiser 55 Select: The “King of Beers” is trying to position itself as the king of healthy drinking with the release of 55 Select. 55 represents the number of calories per 12 ounces. I picked up a six pack this weekend for a taste test. I truly liked it. The beer is smooth; tastes like beer; has no after-taste; not filling; and tastes better the colder it gets. Budweiser succeeded where MGD 64 didn’t.

Bleacher Bum Grading Scale: Homerun, Triple, Double, Single, Strikeout

Grade: Double

Drag Me to Hell

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Drag Me to Hell (B-). I enjoyed director Sam Raimi’s movies Evil Dead and Army of Darkness (especially the latter), so I gladly paid my $1.25 to see this movie at a local cheap cinema. I guess it was about what I should have expected, although I had no idea Oscar nominee Adriana Barraza (Babel) was in it. Young, fresh-faced Alison Lohman (Big Fish) plays Christine Brown, a loan officer who’s angling for a promotion. To show her toughness, she denies an extension to a hideous old gypsy woman whose home is being foreclosed upon. This sets a dire chain of events in motion as the gypsy attacks Christine in the parking garage after work and puts a terrible curse on her. The curse manifests itself in a series of creepy and disgusting supernatural assaults on the hapless Christine. Her bland boyfriend and a friendly psychic try to help her, but will she succeed in breaking the curse before she is . . . dragged to Hell??? It’s reasonably scary and unreasonably gross, so don’t say you weren’t warned!

28 Up

From The Movie Snob

28 Up (B+). The other night, the Borg Queen and I took advantage of her Netflix subscription to watch the next installment of this British documentary series. This one was filmed in the mid-1980s, and the 14 kids the director has been revisiting every seven years are now 28 — good and grown up. Two of them, including the Alex P. Keaton wanna-be, refused to participate this time around. Of those who did participate, almost all of them are married, and most of them seem to be pretty happy with their lives. Of course, director Michael Apted (The World Is Not Enough) tries to provoke the ones who came from the lower classes by repeatedly asking if they’re satisfied or if they feel they’ve missed out on opportunities others have had. One of the girls from the lower classes bursts out, “Well, I never really think about it except when you come around every seven years!” or something like that. Anyway, it’s good to see that even the poorer kids seem to have pretty decent lives. There is one sad exception. A little boy who was very cute and happy at age seven and who seemed much sadder at age 14 is kind of a drifter at age 28, and he seems pretty clearly to suffer from some sort of mental illness. He is a sad case, and I hope he got suitable treatment after this installment was filmed.

District 9

Comic Book Guy contributes a movie review

District 9

For those of you who don’t know the plot outline, here’s the synopsis: aliens arrive on planet earth, not to conquer or eradicate the human race, but as refugees. The aliens, called “prawns,” are segregated into a ghetto (District 9), where they are kept separate from humans, ostensibly for the safety of both man and alien. A large multinational corporation is put in charge of policing the aliens and relocating them from District 9 to District 10. Mayhem ensues.

This is classic science fiction fare, full of archetypical images and plot devices. Giant spaceships (think Independence Day – okay, maybe not a classic but you can trace it back to Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End”), one man and one alien’s journey of discovery together (think Enemy Mine – okay, that’s not a classic either but it’s an archetype nonetheless), cool alien bio-technology coveted by large evil corporation (think Alien and Aliens– now those are classics) and a healthy serving of the not so thinly veiled allegory (think half the Star Trek TOS you’ve ever seen). The list could go on. Despite the heavy use of these things, or perhaps because of them, the film works. Shot as part quasi-documentary, the plot unfolds quickly and engages the viewer. The use of unknown actors and the lack of “star” talent give the film a certain authenticity that it would certainly lack if say, Brad Pitt, was cast in the lead. Likewise, the use of special effects enhances the movie as opposed to being the reason for the movie. This is not Transformers II, although the film does shift into action adventure mode for the last 30 minutes or so. Don’t worry. It works.

The film does provide food for thought. It touches on a lot of issues: racism, illegal aliens (literally), civil rights, xenophobia, corporate malfeasance, medical experimentation, man’s inhumanity, and exploitation of the disadvantaged. It’s all there and more. Set in South Africa, the film obviously brings to mind the apartheid regime that once ruled that country but it also echoes our own segregated past and the horror of the Nazis’ Final Solution. It’s easy to mistreat the prawn – they aren’t human. But what does that say about us?

One word of warning. The R rating is well deserved. There’s some ugly, graphic violence and plenty of F-bombs. Even so, this movie is solid. I give it an “A.” Best sci-fi or action film of the season.

G.I. Joe

The Bleacher Bum makes the call

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra – First, this was my favorite cartoon as kid, and the only cartoon I really ever watched. Second, it is impossible to see the previews of this live-action version or read the reviews and go into the theater with high expectations.

This movie is another clear example of what the summer blockbuster has become – not a movie, but a marketable franchise. It rated PG-13, it is a trilogy, it has a video game, it has action figures, it will have some special DVD, and it has tons and tons of C.G.I. What it doesn’t have is a good script, good direction, or good acting. It does have its moments: the fight between Baroness (Sienna Miller, who is actually really good and smoking hot) and Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), the Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow fight, and it does stick to the comic book storyline. Don’t go see this.

Bleacher Bum Grading Scale: Homerun, Triple, Double, Single, Strikeout

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: Should be graded a Single, but Sienna Miller stretches it into a Double

The Hurt Locker

A new movie review from The Movie Snob

The Hurt Locker (A-). This is the first movie about the Iraq War that I have seen, and it is a good one. The setting is Baghdad, 2004. Our protagonist is Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters), whose specialty is defusing bombs. He’s very good at his work, but he’s reckless and occasionally disregards protocol. This tends to make nuts the two other soldiers whose main job is to protect him from snipers as he goes about his deadly business. There’s no axe to grind on display here; the camera is “embedded” in the unit, and it simply shows what these men see and experience as they regularly risk death in a hostile and alien land. It plays like a very intense documentary, except in a small handful of scenes in which big-name actors unexpectedly show up and, truthfully, kind of break the mood. I like Ralph Fiennes (The Reader), Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential), and Evangeline Lilly (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) as much as the next person, but their appearances didn’t help the cinema verite feel.