Friday, September 28, 2007

Camera Obscura - Zombies A-Go-Go!; New TV Shows; Making 'Robot Chicken'

Can a world where zombie movies are tops in America's box office be all bad?

And as far as last week's third Resident Evil movie go, I loved this review, which includes this sentence (a gem among many):

I eagerly await a sequel in which Milla Jovovich's clone army encounters a battalion of genetically modified Asia Argentos, and life as we know it ends in a maelstrom of bee-stung lips, crazy eyes, and runway hair-pulling. Until then, this'll do."

RE3's director Russell Mulcahy is tackling vampires next, "Zen and the Art of Slaying Vampires". Seems that focusing on your Zen meditation will help a vamp stave off the cravings of blood lust. Yeah. Meditation, that's the ticket.

And a few words here about Mulcahy, an Australian who deserves at least one historical distinction: he was the director of the very first video aired by MTV, "Video Killed the Radio Star." And after he conquered MTV with his award-winning vids for Duran Duran, AC-DC, Billy Joel and others, he went to the movies. His feature film "Highlander" birthed a franchise of movies and a TV show, all of which still endure. And I was always rather fond of his very first movie, an 80s cult classic called "Razorback."

"Razorback" is the story of a rampaging wild pig who turns the dusty Outback into a "Jaws" movie. it even had an animatronic pig costing a quarter of a million bucks which was so lame it made it onto the screen for about one second. Still, what is impressive is the 'razor'-thin plot and budget which Mulcahy deftly handled with fierce editing to make a very decent B-movie.

Some of Mulcahy's other movies of note include an almost-good adaptation of "The Shadow", and a very odd TV adaptation of Jules Verne's "Mysterious Island" with Patrick Stewart as the legendary Captain Nemo. Except of course this Nemo seems to be suffering from PMS or something.

Meanwhile, back to the Zombies.

A direct-to-DVD release is out called "Flight of the Living Dead," a shameless mixture of "Snakes On A Plane" and famished, angry walking dead. Again, this review has all the details (like a review of the movie might actually have any value), and this sentence too:

'Flight of the Living Dead' is a dumb movie -- it makes 'Shaun of the Dead' look like 'The Godfather' in comparison, and you should expect your eyes to get a workout from frequent rolling. However, with the right group of people at the right time, it can be fun -- at least invite a bunch of friends over if you rent the DVD."


I selflessly waded deep into some of the new Fall TV schedule and viewed some new offerings, and many of them will likely not last a full season. Although since shows run on such oddly truncated formats these days, a six-week run might be considered wildly successful.

Anyway, some thoughts on what I did watch:

"Chuck" on NBC, Mondays: Wow, how long did it take to settle on the characters name? At least it wasn't Bob. The set-up in this action-comedy is that nerdy Chuck gets an email from an-old-pal-now-CIA-agent named Bryce which somehow downloads the entire NSA and CIA database of info into his brain, which he can recall, though Chuck is not sure how he recalls the info. A sexy blonde female agent comes to his aid, and a mean male agent seeks to kill him since he knows so much, and in the end, they all decide to work together. There was some snappy dialog and some funny scenes, and they did pass on some other names for the show, like "The Man With A Spy Database For A Brain" and "Mission: Accomplished!" I'll watch the show again, but I doubt they can stretch this one into a hit.

"Reaper" on CW, Tuesdays: Oh, if I could have a dollar for every show now which is first pitched as "It's like 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer' with ....". This is a wry and dry comedy about another nerdy slacker whose parents sold his soul to the Devil, but only by accident. The scene when Dad recounted the event to his son was nicely droll and funny. And casting actor Ray Wise as Satan was a fine choice. Satan wants to use young Sam as a bounty hunter to return souls who have escaped Hell, and if he chooses not to go along, then Satan will take his Mom to Hell instead. I laughed often watching this one and the set-up has many possibilities, of course. Ray Wise makes it all work as the charming and deadly Dark Father, and there was plenty of creepy familial sub-text here. Will it last? Well, it's on the CW network, where shows exist and fade with only a rare handful of viewers even aware there is a network called CW.

"The Bionic Woman" on NBC Wednesdays, repeats on SCI-FI on Friday: Ratings for the Pilot Episode were large, so it may be in place through the Spring of 2008. And nothing, really, I could say here would sway you to watch this if you were not so inclined to begin with. I confess I am embarrassed to admit I watched it, and even kinda liked it. The word 'bionic' just doesn't make much sense these days.

"Life" on NBC Wednesdays: The best show I saw all week, which likely means it won't last. It has a quality and a style more akin to a series you might find on HBO or some other cable network, and maybe one of them will pick it up if it dies out on network. The story centers on a cop, Charlie Crews, framed and wrongly imprisoned for 12 years. His release settlement included the provision he be allowed to work as a cop again. A highly distracted and most perceptive detective, he invokes a Zen attitude, has a vast amount of wealth from his wrongful incarceration and was quite funny and eerie all at once. The story will drift into corruption within the police department which led him go to jail, and since this one is so hard to briefly summarize in a tag line, has lots of brains and terrific writing and acting. So I expect it to disappear fast.


Wired magazine has a photo-essay on the making of the hit show "Robot Chicken" on Adult Swim. If you aren't watching this show, I'll bet cash money you'll own the DVDs soon. Eclectic, loaded with pop culture satire and rapid fire pacing, the show a pleasure to watch again and again. Playing with toys and adding the crazy dialog and action which all kids naturally add on their own, this show is more fun than humans usually get on television. Check out the Wired story here.


A brand new trailer for the movie "The Mist", based on a fantastic Steven King short story and adapted for the big screen by Frank Daranbont is the MUST-SEE trailer of the week. It has an excellent cast and looks darn-near perfect, in my opinion.


An underground classic, tagged as The Maddest Story Ever Told, airs at 2 a.m. tonite - or early Saturday morning, that is - on Turner Classic Movies. "Spider Baby" sat on the shelf for years before getting a release in 1968. A comedy-horror story of an awfully strange family and their efforts to stay together, the movie is legendary for many reasons. Lon Chaney, Jr is here and so is a very, very young Sid Haig who plays the youngest family member who suffers the most from the family's genetic curse.

One review notes: it is "a television sit-com directed by Luis Bunel".

Chaney sings the movie's theme song, which includes such lines as:

Sit around the fire with the cup of brew
A fiend and a werewolf on each side of you

This cannibal orgy is strange to behold

And the maddest story ever told


  1. carpenterjd3:07 PM

    I must say that I was very pleased with "Reaper" and with "Life". I found two new shows to watch (one helmed by Kevin Smith) and I hope they last long enough to to at least warrant a future DVD collection.
    Great Post.

  2. Oh, how I love Cinema Obscura