December 21, 2012

The Incredible Melting Man (1977)

HIS NAME WAS DENNIS, and he was my best friend in 3rd grade.

One Monday morning, Dennis couldn’t wait to tell me about a movie he saw over the weekend: a horror flick called The Incredible Melting Man, about an astronaut named Steve West (Alex Rebar) who comes back from space after flying through the rings of Saturn, causing his body and mind to disintegrate, making him kill.

I had seen ads for The Incredible Melting Man in the paper, and the shot of the man’s decomposing face terrified me. But Dennis proceeded to tell me all the details about the film, from the melting man’s goriest kills to his ooey, gooey demise.

It sounded like the greatest film ever made.

Over the years, I began to hear just how wrong I was. The Incredible Melting Man is panned in virtually every review you read. It even got the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment in 1996. But it still gnawed at me that I hadn’t seen this film for myself. So recently I decided to try and watch it through the eyes of a third grader, and see if it would have been cool to my inner 9-year-old.

Dennis better pray I never see him at a high school reunion.

The Incredible Melting Man is excruciatingly bad. Less than ten minutes in, the cheesiness envelops you, much like the gelatinous goo swallowing up West, our tragic hero turned mindless monster. When he’s not busy ripping people apart, West spends a lot of time wandering across hillsides, sometimes with a beautiful sunset behind him.

The acting in The Incredible Melting Man alternates between wooden and melodramatic. As Dr. Ted Nelson, the man trying to track down West, Burr DeBenning is dreadful. He looks clammy and emaciated, and delivers every line like he was told his dog died just before writer/director William Sachs yelled “Action!”

Sachs’ script doesn’t help matters. Here are a few doozies from the dialogue:

“Steve escaped.”
“He what?”
“Did you get some crackers?”

“You mean he’s radioactive?”
“Just a little bit.”

“Don’t call me baby.”
“Ok, sorry, honey.”

The Incredible Melting Man’s score by Arlon Ober sounds like something from a ‘70s cop drama – right down to the dramatic “DUM-dum-dummm” when something “shocking” happens. The only reason, if any, to sit through the film is to witness the early work of Oscar-winning special effects legend Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London).

Contrary to what I thought of Dennis’ word-of-mouth review, The Incredible Melting Man is not great. It’s not good. It’s just bad. It’s not even “so bad it’s good.” There are no scares. No suspense. Like the melting man himself, the film aimlessly lumbers from one scene to the next until it mercifully ends.

Is it suitable for your kids?
The Incredible Melting Man is rated R, and for good reason:
Violence/Scariness: A nurse’s mutilated face is shown. The melting man tears off a victim’s head off-screen, then we see it tossed into a river, where it cracks open on a rock like a melon (the victim’s bloody, headless corpse appears in a later shot). The melting man rips apart and dines on an elderly couple. There are several scenes of the melting man, well, melting – all gooey with random body parts falling off. A potential victim chops off the melting man’s arm with a meat cleaver. A sheriff repeatedly shoots the melting man, who shows his appreciation by tossing the sheriff onto high voltage power lines, frying him. A major character is shot in the head. The melting man’s final demise is a gooey, crunchy mess.
Sex/Nudity: A model gets topless at a photo shoot in the woods.
Smoking: Three kids share a cigarette behind a house.

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
Unless she’s got a soft spot for low-budget horror cheese, highly unlikely. The Incredible Melting Man is a bloody, gooey affair with little redeeming value.

But wait – there’s more!
Act now and get your very own Incredible Melting Mandle, made by Stexe of Futurechimp:

The Incredible Melting Man
* Director: William Sachs
* Screenwriter: William Sachs
* Stars: Alex Rebar, Burr DeBenning, Myron Healey, Michael Alldredge
* MPAA Rating: R

Rent The Incredible Melting Man from Netflix >>

December 14, 2012

Win a Blu-ray Combo Pack of The Dark Knight Rises or Magic Mike!

JUST IN TIME FOR THE HOLIDAYS: You could win a Blu-ray Combo Pack (Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy) of The Dark Knight Rises or Magic Mike!

How to Enter:
Comment on this post by December 19, 2012. I will then pick one comment at random and post the winner. (The winner will have to e-mail me their mailing address to receive their prize.)

  • You must have a link to your e-mail address on your Blogger profile page. If not, you must provide your e-mail address in your comment.
  • Prize is available to United States mailing addresses only. (No P.O. boxes.)
  • Winning prize title will be chosen at random.

After you comment, try the Warner Brothers Happy Holidays App, featuring some classic and new movies out on Blu-ray - including The Dark Knight Rises, Magic Mike, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, and Blade Runner - as well as fun, interactive features such as:
  • Holiday Movie Challenge - Are you a true cinephile? Keep your movie skills sharp with this quick quiz.
  • Decode-A-Scene Game - Can you figure out what movie scene is slowly being decoded? The sooner you figure it out, the more points you earn!
  • Holiday Survival Guide - Throw an epic holiday party this season with these tips that will make you look like a total holiday master.
Happy holidays from FilmFather -- and thanks for playing!

December 11, 2012

Gummibar: The Yummy Gummy Search for Santa (2012)

APPARENTLY I’M NOT HIP to what’s, uh, hip in the world of online videos.

Turns out there’s this dancing fella from Germany called Gummibar, who’s racked up tens of millions of hits on YouTube with his infectious series of techno, Autotuned dance songs like this:

After dozens of videos with song topics ranging from soccer to love to bubble baths, Gummibar’s next step was obvious: his own Christmas movie.

In Gummibar: The Yummy Gummy Search for Santa, after Santa is kidnapped by Allen the alien, Gummy and his friends – Harry the chameleon, Vampiro the bat, and Calla the cat – jump into action to rescue him to keep Christmas on schedule. (They take the group’s jet plane, because of course they have one.)


Look, anyone who willingly watches this movie isn’t looking for high art. Taking that into consideration, Gummibar: The Yummy Gummy Search for Santa is a harmless, entertaining way to pass an hour with your kids if you’re snowed in or they’re warming up from playing outside. It has good-enough animation (Harry the chameleon’s independent eye movements are a nice touch) and eye-rolling punchlines your kids will eat up. It also has a sense of self-awareness (someone calls Gummy a “famous dancing green confectionary from the Internet”) and passing references to Die Hard 2, The Wizard of Oz, Jerry Maguire, Chinatown, Titanic, and Top Gun.

Gummibar: TYGSS also features several musical numbers (yes, Gummy does his signature tune), including songs as part of a dance-off between Gummy and Allen for possession of Santa – though someone should have told directors Jurgen Korduletsch and Bernie Denk that when it comes to Gummy’s song “Nuki Nuki” (German for “pacifier”), the term “nookie” means something entirely different in America. Lyrics like “How I love my nuki” and “My nuki never leaves my mouth” take on a whole new unintended meaning…

At times it may feel like a glorified TV special, but Gummibar: The Yummy Gummy Search for Santa is passable fun for your family Christmas viewing – though it may take a team of specialists to remove the green guy’s songs from your head.


What did FilmBoy and Jack-Jack think?
FilmBoy liked Gummibar: The Yummy Gummy Search for Santa, but it was Jack-Jack who loved it. He laughed out loud at many jokes, and could barely stay in his seat during much of the action.

Is it suitable for your kids?
Gummibar: The Yummy Gummy Search for Santa is unrated, but features some mild rude humor: Santa lets out a quick fart squeezing into a chimney, says “my butt hurts” after landing on his rear, then shows a little “plumber’s crack” while bending over to pick up presents. In other areas: Alan the alien does kidnap Santa, but it’s never shown as malevolent; Calla gives Vampiro a quick kiss under a mistletoe.

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
Depending on her mindset going in, she’ll most likely feel that Gummibar: The Yummy Gummy Search for Santa is either very disposable or somewhat annoying. She could probably find better ways to spend her time…and worse ones, to be fair.

Hey family, Santa here.
Y'know, there's this service called a chimney sweep?!

Gummibar: The Yummy Gummy Search for Santa
* Directors: Jurgen Korduletsch, Bernie Denk
* Screenwriters: Jurgen Korduletsch, Bernie Denk
* Stars: Sonja Ball, Rick Jones, Bruce Dinsmore, Mike Paterson
* MPAA Rating: N/A

Rent Gummibar: The Yummy Gummy Search for Santa from Netflix >>

December 4, 2012

Elf-Man (2012)

PICTURE THIS: an independent, family-friendly holiday movie from the creators of horror films such as House, Scarecrows, and Children of the Corn V – and featuring one of the stars of MTV’s Jackass?

Elf-Man tells the story of the Harper family – scientist dad Eric (The Facts of Life’s Mackenzie Astin), son Ryan (Blake Kaiser), daughter Kasey (Carly Robell), and visiting Gramma (Marty Terry) – who are about to celebrate their first Christmas without their mom, who recently died. After dad invents a powerful energy-conserving device on Christmas Eve, he steps out to run an errand and is abducted by a trio of bumbling kidnappers, led by Jeffrey Combs (of the ‘80s horror classic Re-Animator), who want Dad’s new invention for themselves.

Meanwhile, as Gramma puts the kids to bed, Santa and his sleigh arrive on the rooftop, accompanied by a pair of elves. To make Kasey’s Christmas wish for a happy family come true, he leaves behind one of his elves (Jason “Wee Man” Acuña) to help find Dad. Will the elf lose faith in himself, or will he find his true powers to become a real superhero?

Despite backgrounds in horror, Elf-Man director Ethan Wiley and co-writer Richard Jeffries do a commendable job of creating a balance in tone for kids and adults. They also successfully capture the idyllic setting of Christmas in a small town (Jeffries’ hometown of Frederick, MD), enhanced by the heartwarming score by Joseph Bauer.

That’s not to say Elf-Man is all warm and fuzzies. There’s plenty of action and hijinks to keep the film moving, including the antics of the kids, the elf, and the trio of goofy kidnappers – resulting in laugh-out-loud moments such as a funny homage to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly and a running joke of people mistaking the elf for a troll, a hobbit, a leprechaun, and an Oompa-Loompa.

After the elf lets the kids down by not bringing their dad home, he get a firm talking-to by Dad’s female companion Amy (Mirrely Taylor) as she hands him a superhero suit made by the kids. He then transforms into Elf-Man (play along), pushing his elfin magic to the limit to stop the bad guys, bring back Dad’s invention, and create the happy family Christmas that Kasey asked for in her wish.

Some leaps in logic and continuity in Elf-Man may frustrate grown-ups, but kids won’t care or notice. And the acting range of Acuña and the kids is a bit limited compared to the experienced cast. But Elf-Man is fun family viewing and a nice detour from (or addition to?) the standard Christmas favorites we watch every year.


What did FilmBoy and Jack-Jack think?
They both really enjoyed Elf-Man, laughing often at the stupidity of the kidnappers and rooting against them. Though when Dad and Amy share a mistletoe kiss, FilmBoy deadpanned, “I hate this movie.”

Is it suitable for your kids?
Elf-Man is not rated, but was given the “Family Approved” seal by The Dove Foundation.
Mild Rude Humor: Elf-Man handles a “pooper scooper” for Santa’s reindeer; one of the reindeer farts. Elf-Man belches loudly in the film’s finale.
Violence/Scariness: Dad is held captive by the three kidnappers; they tie him up and put duct tape over his mouth. Kasey cries in bed about her deceased mom, which may be upsetting to some younger children.
Language: Mild name-calling, such as “idiot” and pea-brain.”
Adult Situations: Dad and Amy share a romantic kiss.
Drugs/Alcohol: A man at a bar appears a bit inebriated.

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
Elf-Man can be fun holiday viewing for the whole family, FilmMother included…though I don’t know how she’ll feel about yet another family film featuring a dead mom (i.e. Finding Nemo, Bambi, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs).

Hold still…I’m just gonna take a little off the top…
* Director: Ethan Wiley
* Screenwriters: Richard Jefferies, Ethan Wiley
* Stars: Blake Kaiser, Carly Robell, Jason “Wee Man” Acuña, Jeffrey Combs, Mackenzie Astin, Mirelly Taylor
* MPAA Rating: N/A

Rent Elf-Man from Netflix >>

November 28, 2012

The Expendables 2 (2012)

IF YOU TOLD ME 20 YEARS AGO that Rambo, John McClane, and The Terminator were in the same movie, I would’ve pulled a muscle in my sprint to buy a ticket. But now that the men behind those three action icons have finally joined forces in this year’s The Expendables 2, the experience is hollow, anti-climactic, and two decades too late.

Not that Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger share equal screen time. Like the 2010 original Expendables, this is Stallone’s show, with Bruce and Arnold in supporting roles (though larger than their opening-and-gone appearances in the first film). Here, Stallone’s Barney Ross leads the same team of mercenaries – Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, and Terry Crews – plus two new team members: young sniper Billy (Liam Hemsworth) and weapons specialist Maggie (Nan Yu).

The Expendables 2 opens with a spectacular attack and rescue sequence (despite cheesy CGI blood sprays and poor ADR). This ultimately leads Ross and his team to bad guy Vilain, played by Jean-Claude Van Damme, who’d be more intimidating if you could understand half of what he’s saying. Vilain and his small army plan to steal stockpiles of plutonium from an abandoned Russian mine and sell to the highest bidder, but not before Vilain kills one of Ross’ men. Judging from the pecking order of the cast, you can probably guess who it is (rhymes with “Shmemsworth”).

No one’s looking for high art in the Expendables films or the blow-‘em-ups of yesteryear they hope to emulate. But The Expendables 2 is dumb and ridiculous even by ‘80s standards. Cheesy one-liners elicit more groans than laughs, there are hackneyed references to the stars’ classic action characters and their catchphrases, and every other scene seems to be our heroes walking in slow motion to the “dum-da-da-dum” score by Bryan Tyler.

Essentially, The Expendables 2 is an exercise in missed opportunities. Li disappears after the opening sequence, Mickey Rourke (who had the most poignant scene in the original) does not appear, Van Damme and Lundgren never square off in a possible Universal Soldier rematch, and Chuck Norris’ cameo is pointless and uninspired (he’s basically the Mighty Eagle to the Expendables’ Angry Birds).

And yet again, not one member of Ross’ original team (despite the overwhelming odds) is killed or even seriously injured. Stallone and co-screenwriter Richard Wenk could have really upped the audience involvement by bumping off someone like Statham, Li, Lundgren, Couture, or Crews and made us thirsty for Van Damme’s blood. We can only hope that if the rumored Expendables 3 happens, Stallone and the filmmakers will take a chance and show just how expendable these kill-‘em-all characters truly are.


Is it suitable for your kids?
The Expendables 2 is rated R for “strong bloody violence throughout,” and they ain’t kidding: shootings, beatings, stabbings, dismemberments, and immolation, to name a few. In addition, many, many things – from bridges to tanks to planes to buildings – are blown up, crashed, or demolished. Strangely, there is very mild use of profanities (though one use of “retard”).

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
Highly, highly unlikely. Between the awful dialogue, bloody violence, and aged action stars, I think she’ll feel that what’s not expendable is 103 minutes of her life to sit through this.

Yay, we won! Orange whips on me!

The Expendables 2
* Director: Simon West
* Screenwriters: Richard Wenk, Sylvester Stallone
* Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth, Scott Adkins, Yu Nan
* MPAA Rating: R (strong bloody violence throughout)

Rent The Expendables 2 from Netflix >>

November 13, 2012

Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

WHAT IF YOU WORKED at the same job for 30 years, with no change in your routine or position, and no acknowledgement from your co-workers – ever? Would you look to break free and find a better life?

That’s the premise of Wreck-It Ralph, Disney’s 52nd animated feature film. Tired of smashing buildings for 30 years as the bad guy in the arcade game Fix-It Felix, Jr., Ralph (John C. Reilly) leaves and explores other games in his arcade, in search of being a hero. After stealing the medal from the first-person shoot-‘em-up Hero’s Duty, Ralph frantically escapes and lands in the racing game Sugar Rush, with Felix (Jack McBrayer) and Hero’s Duty’s Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch) in hot pursuit.

Gamers from Generation X and younger will drool over the abundance of game titles and characters that pop up in the first act of Wreck-It Ralph, especially during the 30-year time lapse of Ralph’s arcade (titles go buzzing by) and the early scenes of Game Central Station, where characters from arcade games old and new cross paths on their way home from work.

What’s largely missing from the second act of Wreck-It Ralph is what Pixar seems to have sucked from Disney’s films over the last two decades: character development. For quite a while, the film is largely plot-driven, as we sit back and watch Ralph jump around the various video game worlds and meet all walks of digitized life, including Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), a glitchy little girl from Sugar Rush who has dreams of being a racing champion. As two kindred misfits, she and Ralph make a deal to help each other get what they want, and the action continues…

…until the third act, which begins with Ralph doing something that seems devastatingly cruel to Vanellope, yet makes us leap to where we should be in terms of caring for the characters. We hope Ralph will learn the truth about Sugar Rush’s mysterious past and help Vanellope achieve her dreams before the finale, which culminates in a one-two punch of a fantastic car race (including a huge reveal of the film’s true villain) coupled with the impending destruction of Sugar Rush from a horde of giant cyber-bugs Ralph accidentally brought in from Hero’s Duty.

Looking back on all the buzz that preceded Wreck-It Ralph’s release, there was no way for it to live up to the hype. But it still delivers in terms of pure entertainment. Some name-calling and poop jokes aside, it’s hopefully another solid step in Disney’s emergence from Pixar’s shadow and back to the quality animated storytelling they hinted at with Bolt a few years back.


What did FilmBoy and Jack-Jack think?
FilmBoy loved Wreck-It Ralph – he and I couldn’t stop talking about it as we left the theater. His affection for video games and their characters surely played a part. Jack-Jack thought the film was “weird,” but couldn’t elaborate. The plot details and continuous action may have been a lot for him to process as a 6-year-old.

Is it suitable for your kids?
Wreck-It Ralph is rated PG for “some rude humor and mild action violence.”
Violence/Scariness: Heavily armed soldiers shoot at giant cyber-bugs, some of which grow machine gun arms and shoot (no one is hurt). A character comically pulls a zombie's heart out of his chest, then puts it back. In another comic scene, Calhoun punches Felix several times, giving him black eyes, broken teeth, and bruises (they heal immediately when he touches his face with his magic hammer). In a brief flashback, a character is eaten by an alien bug. Calhoun and Ralph occasionally punch others and destroy their surroundings. Vanellope drives her car into a wall and comically spits out a tooth (no blood). Mean girls tear apart Vanellope’s car, which Ralph helps rebuild but then destroys himself because he’s told that racing it could kill her (she sobs and calls him names). The film’s villain makes a final appearance in a mutated form that could be scary to young children. A little girl transforms into a princess and tells other girls they will be executed for being mean; she then says it was a joke. There’s talk about characters dying permanently outside of their own video games; a few scenes show characters in life-threatening situations.
Language: There’s frequent use of insults and name-calling, including “I hate you," "shut your chew hole," "pussy willows," "doody," "numbskull," “moron,” “idiot,” “dumb,” “stupid,” “diaper-baby,” “stinky brain,” and my personal favorite, “Miss Fartfeathers.” Rude humor includes mentions of “puke,” “butt load,” and a running joke about Hero’s Duty (as in “doody.”).
Alcohol: A character pours himself a martini. A scene takes place in a game called Tapper, in which characters drink root beer from beer mugs. Characters are also briefly seen drinking at a dance party.
Adult situations: Two characters exchange a passionate kiss in two different scenes.

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
Even if she’s not a serious gamer, she’ll love Wreck-It Ralph: endearing characters on a fantastic adventure, with several tender moments served up along the way. (Also, Disney, if you’re reading this: My wife said she would love to play the game Sugar Rush for real. Get on that, please.)

In one of these hands, I’ve got Q*Bert.
Go ahead…guess.

Wreck-It Ralph
* Directors: Rich Moore
* Screenwriters: Phil Johnston, Jennifer Lee
* Stars: John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Sarah Silverman
* MPAA Rating: PG

Rent Wreck-It Ralph from Netflix >>

November 12, 2012

Westworld (1973)

MENTION THE NAME “MICHAEL CRICHTON,” and most people think of the best-selling author of thrillers such as The Andromeda Strain, Congo, Disclosure, and Rising Sun.

But in the early 1970s – after witnessing the animatronic people at Disneyland’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride – Crichton wrote and directed his feature-film debut, Westworld.

In the near-future of Westworld, people can spend $1,000 a day to visit Delos, an adult-themed amusement park where guests live out their wildest fantasies. Comprised of three worlds (Medieval World, Roman World, and Westworld), Delos is inhabited by robots who look, act, sound, and even bleed just like the human guests. Like Disney World, Delos is supported by an elaborate underground control center, where a staff of technicians controls the robots and the scenarios, and provides repair to robots damaged in the action taking place.

It’s Westworld where our leading men are headed: manly man John (James Brolin) and nebbish Peter (Richard Benjamin). Once they arrive, the two have lots of fun with saloon whiskey, loose women, bar fights, and jailbreaks. They even engage in shootouts, often with a steely-eyed troublemaker dressed in black (Yul Brynner). Everything’s good-time, rootin’-tootin’ fun – until the robots start malfunctioning and killing the guests.

Throughout Westworld, Crichton teases at the potential breakdown of the Delos parks: the supervisor (Alan Oppenheimer) voices his concern, a malfunctioning robo-rattlesnake bites John, and a Medieval World wench (Anne Randall) refuses a guest’s seduction. These minor glitches soon develop into to deadly attacks on the guests, with a fatal swordfight in Medieval World, a violent riot in Roman World, and Brynner’s gunslinger coldly gunning down a Westworld guest.

While Brynner is in Westworld for less than half its running time, his robotic gunslinger steals the film. In an homage to his character from The Magnificent Seven (he even wears the same outfit), Brynner portrays the perfect blend of ice-cold killer and calculating humanoid, with a piercing stare made extra chilling by Brynner sporting light-reflecting contact lenses.

After shooting one of our leading men dead, Westworld’s gunslinger methodically pursues the survivor through all three Delos parks – thumbs hooked in his gun belt, eyes fixed on his target, and using thermal vision (shown in POV) more than a decade before Predator.

Yes, Westworld has its plot holes, it dips into camp on occasion, and a lot of the dialogue (especially between Brolin and Benjamin) is disposable. But it’s still a very entertaining film that’s essentially the blueprint for Crichton’s more ambitious themepark-run-amok story: his 1990 novel Jurassic Park.


Is it suitable for your kids?
Westworld is rated PG, though if it was released today it may have been PG-13.
Violence/Scariness: Several people and robots are shot or stabbed, with blood pouring from the wounds; a robot is set on fire and fully engulfed in flames; John and Peter shoot a robotic rattlesnake; the Delos technicians suffocate after the park’s breakdown cuts off their air supply.
Sex/Nudity: John and Peter sleep with robot hookers at the saloon; one of the hookers is shown topless from the back.
Profanity/Language: Two occurrences of “God damn it.”

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
Westworld feels like a film you’d enjoy by yourself, with friends, or possibly with your tween or teen son. Unless your FilmMother is a sci-fi fan, or a Crichton fan who wants to see his filmmaking debut, I’m guessing she’ll pass.

Boy, have we got a vacation for YOU!

* Director: Michael Crichton
* Screenwriter: Michael Crichton
* Stars: Richard Benjamin, James Brolin, Yul Brynner, Dick Van Patten, Alan Oppenheimer
* MPAA Rating: PG

Rent Westworld from Netflix >>


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