December 22, 2011

The Green Slime (1969)

WATCHING BAD MOVIES CAN BE FUN. If a movie has the right combination of poor elements, it can be a blast to sit through. (I taught Dash about this with Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.)

So when I saw that the long-heralded bad movie The Green Slime was airing on Turner Classic Movies (on the heels of a remastered DVD last year), I decided to see if it was possible to have a good time with this supposedly horrible flick.

With a giant asteroid heading toward Earth, a group of astronauts led by Commanders Jack Rankin (Robert Horton) and Vince Elliott (Richard Jaeckel) disembark from a nearby space station to blow it up (sound familiar?). The mission is successful, but they return to the station unknowingly bringing back a gooey green substance that mutates into one-eyed tentacled monsters that feed off electricity. Soon the station is crawling with them, and members of the station’s staff are being zapped by the giant creatures.


The Green Slime opens with an effective, mysterious shot of space – one that’s immediately marred as an obviously miniature space station comes into frame, orbiting in fits and starts as if the effects person who's spinning it is getting a wrist cramp.

Things don’t get any better from there. The film’s first 30 minutes, focusing on the destruction of the asteroid threatening Earth, features long stretches of dead silence as our heroes make their journey. No dialogue, no sound effects, not even a musical score. This is probably why I fell asleep three different times trying to get past this opening sequence.

Things go from painfully dull to laughably bad once the asteroid is destroyed. The biggest offender is the film’s special effects, including:
  • Set pieces that often make The Green Slime feel like a Godzilla movie without Godzilla
  • Rocket ships that look like something from a kid’s backyard launcher, or maybe the old Thunderbirds show
  • Our heroes “floating” in space, obviously suspended by wires
  • The titular green slime – gooey blobs brought to life by air bladders and the type of reverse film effect usually reserved for such high art as the Purina Cat Chow commercials
When we finally see the creatures that are spawned by the green slime, they’re revealed to be rubber-suited, hulking green beings who walk upright, have wavy tentacles and a giant red eye, and sound like baby ducklings stuck in an echo chamber.

If the effects aren’t bad enough to torpedo The Green Slime, other aspects of the film provide additional ammo to sink it:
  • A ridiculous script with lines like, “Since that’s the way it is, let’s be sure that’s the way it is.”
  • Random goofs, such as a gaping wound in Jack’s arm that mysteriously disappears (or rapidly heals) by the next scene later in the day
  • Realizing they can’t shoot the aliens for fear of their spilled blood turning into more aliens, the crew resorts to – I’m not making this up – shoving hospital beds at the creatures and throwing helmets at them. (After that, they break out the heavy artillery: flashlights and flood lamps.)
The Green Slime was shot in Tokyo by Japanese director Kinji Fukasaku, who knew very little English and relied on a translator to give direction (many of the extras were American GIs from local military bases). It’s hard to believe he would go from directing this debacle to helming the Japanese sequences of the highly acclaimed Pearl Harbor film Tora! Tora! Tora! the very next year, after legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa was fired. Fukasaku also went on to direct the cult classic (and precursor to The Hunger Games) Battle Royale.

There are good bad movies, and there are bad bad movies. Despite occasional moments of cheese-tastic hilarity, The Green Slime lands largely in the latter category.

Is it suitable for your kids?
The Green Slime is rated G, but it’s a “’60s G” in that the newly created MPAA was less scrutinous about questionable content in its all-ages G rating. Several men are electrocuted to death by the alien creatures; one man falls to his demise, his head splatting blood on impact; and we see the tattered, electrocuted body of one victim. There are also a few profanities, including several “hells” and “bitch” (as in “complain”). Tweens and older is probably the appropriate age.

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
Highly doubtful. Even if she’s into watching bad movies for fun, there are better choices than The Green Slime.

Fall in love with the groovy, out-of-place, deliciously awful theme song:

The Green Slime
* Director: Kinji Fukasaku
* Screenwriters: Bill Finger, Tom Rowe, Charles Sinclair
* Stars: Robert Horton, Richard Jaeckel, Luciana Paluzzi, Bud Widom, Ted Gunther
* MPAA Rating: G

December 14, 2011

Win a prize pack from the new movie
Alvin and The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked!

YOU COULD WIN a prize pack courtesy of the new movie Alvin and The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked!

The vacationing Chipmunks and Chipettes are turning a luxury cruise liner into their personal playground, until they become "chipwrecked" on a remote island. As the 'Munks and Chipettes scheme to find their way home, they accidentally discover their new turf is not as deserted as it seems. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked is rated G (fun for the whole family) and is in theaters nationwide this Friday, December 16th.

One winner will receive:
  • $25 Fandango Gift Card
  • Alvin and The Chipmunks and Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel on DVD

How to Enter:
Comment on this post by December 29, 2011. I will then pick one comment at random and post the winner soon after. (The winner will have to e-mail me their mailing address to receive their prize pack.)

  • 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 pack is available to United States mailing addresses only.
Good luck!

December 8, 2011

L.A. Confidential (1997)

IF SOMEONE TOLD YOU they were making a movie about police corruption in 1950s Los Angeles, starring two unknown Australian actors, and directed by the guy who did The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, would you believe it would win two Oscars and turn out to be one of the best films ever made?

Against the background of 1950s Los Angeles, L.A. Confidential intertwines stories of police corruption, the battle for control of the L.A. underworld, a mass shooting in a late-night café, and a pimp who has his prostitutes surgically altered to look like famous Hollywood starlets.


It shouldn’t have worked. A period piece, two virtually unknown foreigners as the leads, and half a dozen plotlines running concurrently over a span of nearly two and a half hours. Yet L.A. Confidential is one of those rare instances when all the elements come together to create, without hyperbole, a modern masterpiece.

From the performances of the actors (perfectly cast by the legendary Mali Finn), to director Curtis Hanson’s vision of the L.A. of yesteryear (he’s a lifelong Angelino), to the Oscar-winning script by Hanson and Brian Helgeland (brilliantly pared down and adapted from James Ellroy’s mammoth book), to the infectious soundtrack (mixing standards and Jerry Goldsmith’s score), to Ruth Myers’ costume design, all the pieces of L.A. Confidential connect masterfully into one perfect, ambitious puzzle.

In terms of the performances: Yes, Kim Basinger’s Oscar-winning performance as high-end call girl Lynn Bracken is good and worthy of recognition, but it’s hardly the best performance. It doesn’t even come in second or third. She’s trumped by a top-tier ensemble cast that includes:
  • Russell Crowe, whose brutish Bud White has a deep-rooted issue with criminals who abuse women
  • Guy Pearce as clean-cut Edmund Exley, who won’t step outside the law to deliver justice, but learns how to work the system
  • James Cromwell as police captain Dudley Smith, who questions Exley’s abilities to go above the law to stop criminals and get confessions
  • Kevin Spacey as slick detective Jack Vincennes, who thoroughly enjoys his gig as advisor on Badge of Honor, the hottest cop show on TV
  • Danny DeVito as Sid Hudgens, publisher of the scandal magazine Hush-Hush, who’s always looking for an angle or scoop
  • David Straithairn as Pierce M. Patchett, a respected businessman and philanthropist who also employs prostitutes who are “cut” to look like movie stars
With L.A. Confidential, Hanson perfectly captures the dichotomy of Los Angeles that exists to this day: The idea of image versus reality. The glitter and fame of Hollywood that masks the city’s seedy, violent underbelly. And a supposedly honorable police force that’s mired in corruption, racism, and brutality. (The fact that Hanson opens and closes the film with Johnny Mercer’s “Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive” is no accident.) It’s a world where polar opposites join forces to help each other’s cases and uncover awful truths – and where one cop sworn to serve and protect turns out to be a callous, cold-hearted criminal behind the very crimes and corruption our anti-heroes are investigating. It all culminates in a final shootout that’s a master class in choreography and editing.

L.A. Confidential is one of those films that requires a second viewing to catch everything you missed, but it’s hardly a chore to do so. Character nuances become more noticeable, the narration and multiple storylines flow together better, and terrific instances of foreshadowing are much more appreciated.

Kevin Spacey has said that if L.A. Confidential hadn’t been released the same year as Titanic, it would have won the Oscar for Best Picture. Off the record, and on the QT: He’s absolutely right.

Is it suitable for your kids?
Despite being set in a time when movies were largely free of inappropriate material, L.A. Confidential has plenty of content not meant for all audiences. There are scenes of brief nudity, discussions of drug use, graphically violent footage of mob hits, and more than a dozen people dying by bloody shootings. There’s also frequent adult language, plus occasional glances at vintage nudie and S&M magazines. High school kids and older is probably the benchmark to use when deciding if L.A. Confidential is suitable for your kids.

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
Factoring in its subject matter, nearly all-male cast, and police procedural setting, I’d gamble that L.A. Confidential is more for dads. In fact, it should be required viewing for all dads who love movies.

L.A. Confidential
* Director: Curtis Hanson
* Screenwriters: Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgeland
* Stars: Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, James Cromwell
* MPAA Rating: R

Rent L.A. Confidential from Netflix >>


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