The Un-Titled Movie Podcast With Ron & Craig #15: The Frighteners

the frighteners nostalgia movie podcast

On this week’s episode of The Un-Titled Movie Podcast With Ron & Craig, we continue ScOctober: The Reckoning with Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners. We watch one of the most WTF flicks we’ve ever done on the show and lose our minds with anger as we try to understand what the hell we’re watching! It’s a very “You got your jelly in my peanut butter! You got your peanut butter in my jelly!” situation…except instead of delicious sandwich spreads, we’re watching someone try to combine a zany Tim Burton flick with an epic Robert Zemeckis movie, with mass killings and post-mortem sexual assault! It’s a real treat for the eyes and the soul. By “treat’’ I mean “I wanted to hide under the bed and sob whilst angrily punching a Japanese love-pillow with Kickboxer-style glass fists the entire time I was watching it because I found it so confusing and so scattershot in its delivery”. Yeah as you can tell, I really dug this movie! Is it the movie’s fault though? Or was I just mislead by the marketing when I was a kiddo?  The world may never know, and I will never know if I would’ve enjoyed this flick more if I didn’t think that it was a laugh-out-loud horror-comedy that would harken back to the days of Ghostbusters and Back To The Future, only to be shocked and annoyed by the ghost-rape, cult references, and complete lack of anything funny after the first fifteen minutes…did I mention the mass-killing?

Anyhow, the point is that I didn’t really enjoy this movie the first time I saw it and disliked it even more on my most recent viewing, and that might be the marketing’s fault, because you never get another chance to create and fulfill the expectations of a first viewing. This has happened to me before, more than once, with the most ready example being The Way Of The Gun.

Let’s start off by saying this: I dig the hell out of The Way Of The Gun. It’s written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, Mission Impossible: Fallout, and you know, winning a friggin’ Academy Award), it’s got some sweet Benicio Del Toro action, James Caan, Taye Diggs, Juliette Lewis, and is the only reason I began to realize that Ryan Phillipe is talented. It’s also a damned poem of a movie that features cool dialogue, great music, and is all slick and tone and mood. It’s like a lesson in cool, I heart it. However, I didn’t at first, and that’s why my friends and I walked out of the theatre the first time I tried to watch it. Yeah that’s right, I walked out of a movie; something I’d never done before and I haven’t done since. I saw Master Of Disguise and The Last Jedi in the theatre and got all the way through; I was that serious, and it’s all the marketing’s fault.

I remember it like it was yesterday, the trailers that were blasted all over MTV in the weeks before its release. They featured rock music (Incubus, when I liked Incubus…like way more than anyone should like Incubus), comedy beats (Ryan Phillipe jumping into the empty fountain and getting hurt), and a ton of action. Plus, it’s a movie called The Way of The Gun, it had to be an action-comedy! It was going to be huge! I bought tickets in advance! I made my friends all come with me because it looked like literally the best thing ever!

We got the theatre and I was shocked at how empty it was. It was the old Bayside Quad on Bell Boulevard in Queens (New York), and I had expected such a small theater to be packed to the gills with people waiting to enjoy the next 48hrs, Midnight Run, or Beverly Hills Cop; the second coming of Point Break or Die Hard. Nevertheless, I munched some popcorn and waited to have my life changed.

Thirty minutes later I was walking to the car, having left an empty theater because my friends and I hadn’t signed up for this “slow burn” crap. I didn’t know what I was seeing because I was so ill-prepared for the film I was being shown. How could I appreciate something so nuanced and deliberate when I was being told I was going to watch a shoot-em-up with laugh out loud moments? I didn’t watch the movie all the way through until a couple of years later, and didn’t really fully appreciate it until a couple of years and a few re-watches after that. It was a tragedy of cinematic enjoyment, and it’s one of my strongest memories of advertising setting me up for failure…at least when it comes to movies; the toy companies were running this gambit on me for years when I was a kid; so much so that they created laws against certain types of false advertising to protect my generation from being swindled.

There’s been plenty of other instances where movie marketing tricked me into watching something for the wrong reasons. Anyone remember Find Me Guilty? It was marketed as a comedy about a whacky mobster who (*record scratch*) defends himself in court! There was going to be My Cousin Vinny style courtroom hijinks, Italian stereotypes, and a boat load of cliché jokes about pasta and meatballs and grandma’s sauce. Even the box for the DVD had Vin Diesel shrugging his shoulders at the viewer while a bunch of Mafiasos in loud suits made funny faces in the background. I rented it ready to enjoy two hours of goofy lasagna jokes, but what I got was a serious courtroom drama! I hated it! It’s got some solid reviews on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, so it’s probably not bad for what it is, but it was a terrible comedy and that’s what I signed up for. This was a legit flick with big stars too, not some Asylum Production called The Quick And The Angry about race cars, it was directed by the guy who made friggin’ Serpico! I expect some honesty in the marketing!

Unfortunately, even as trailers have become something you look up on YouTube after reading a blog post about a movie you hears about on a website a year before, video stores have ceased to exist, and DVD covers only exist in Walmarts and Amazon fulfillment centers, the trend of lying to the audience through film marketing continues. Whether it’s the thumbnail on Netflix pretending that Bruce Willis is in more than five minutes of some cop-flick that actually stars a lesser-known Wahlberg, or a trailer showing the only funny parts of Steve Carrell movie that’s actually super-depressing (I’m making these examples up, but I’m sure there’s some accidental accuracy in them), the marketing departments for most film releases could care less about giving us an accurate depiction of what movie we are getting ourselves into. Some would say that you can’t blame them because it’s their job to show us only the best from what they’re promoting. Others would say that I’m a moron who expects trailers that say “This movie sucks and you shouldn’t watch it because it’s not going to give you what you’re looking for”. I say screw all of that. If a movie sucks and someone pays you to show that it doesn’t, show me a trailer with only the good parts, sure, but show me a trailer that’s at least honest about what genre of film we’re watching. If you can only afford to have John Malkovich on set for two days, put his name on the poster, but at least put “And Featuring” before his name so I know that he’s not running the show. You don’t have to judge the quality of the movie for me, I can do that for myself, just don’t lie to me! Don’t give me false expectations, and maybe I won’t hate your movie when it doesn’t reach those expectations. Most people decide on what to watch from a check on Rotten Tomatoes, so it’s not doing you any favors to have  bunch of negative reviews floating around because you promised comedy but delivered tragedy.

I have plenty of other gripes to make about trailers, but I will save those for another day. For now, just remember that you’re probably better off going into a movie having only read the logline and knowing if you enjoy the work of the people involved. Try it sometime, you can’t be let down if you don’t really have expectations. End Rant.

 

BONUS Random Train of Thought:

“The Lesser Known Wahlbergs” sounds like the name of a band that would sing the track from the trailer for a movie starring Rachel Leigh Cook and Giovanni Ribisi as teenagers who work in a supermarket and have a quirky romance during a summer power outage that traps them in the store.

I just remembered whilst writing this that in Gone In 60 Seconds there’s a character named ”Freb”. Chi McBride is also in that flick, hence the train of thought.  So yeah, Freb…welcome to the early 2000s.

Also, whenever I think of the name ”McBride” I think of Marty’s boss mispronouncing his name in Back To The Future 2 and Sab Shimono trying to say “McBride Trail” in The Big Hit

We will be covering The Big Hit someday. Screw you, I love that movie.

Finally, Sab Shimono was in Gung-Ho¸and I’ve heard people say that said movie is racist. While it’s not the most culturally sensitive thing ever created, I have to argue and always will say that it’s not at all racist against its Japanese characters. Instead, at least through my current lens (30 years after the fact), I see it as more of a comment on how crappy Americans can be at allowing outsiders to assimilate into their culture. Anyhow, I dig that movie, and the final message is that we can all learn from each other, if it takes an exaggerated group of Japanese men soaking in a lake and George Wendt being an ugly American to get there…so be it.

The Un-Titled Movie Podcast With Ron & Craig #14: The Monster Squad

monster squad podcast

On this week’s episode of The Un-Titled Movie Podcast With Ron & Craig, we rock until we drop when we watch The Monster Squad! Yes folks, we’re kicking off ScOctober (all the good names were taken already, screw you) by talking about our favorite kids movie that was clearly made for adults! We talk about Wolfman’s moon cycle, Gill-Man’s day job, and Dracula’s stench! It’s a joy for all the senses! It’s a movie where kids curse! It’s The Monster Squad!!

So yeah, this a movie in which little kids curse, “Wayne” from The Wonder Years is forced to eat floor candy, and Dracula calls a five-year old girl a bitch. Yup, we re-watched and discussed The Monster Squad for your enjoyment, and obviously had a great time doing it. It’s a dope movie, one that succeeds despite its flaws, is still funny in spite of its less-than-sensitive dialogue, and still feels fresh even after its style has been aped countless times since its release. However, it’s also one that is constantly under threat of being ruined with a remake or an unnecessary sequel. So, as is the custom here at the Un-Titled Blog, I’m going to protect it from a bad sequel by hastily throwing together an idea for my own bad sequel!  Here we go folks, it’s time for The Monster Squad Blew It!

Our story picks up in the present day, as the remaining members of the team come back to their home town for Horace’s funeral. The actor unfortunately passed away in real life, so let’s not bother recasting and instead make him the catalyst that brings the team back together. Sean is a a divorced writer, Patrick is a happily married business-type, Eugene and Pheobe are married to each other and are both career military, and Rudy is a townie bartender with an estranged daughter. Since surprisingly few witnesses survived the original monster attack, the story became an urban legend and the gang never really got a ton of credit for saving the world. In fact, Sean sold the story as his first screenplay and that’s actually contributed to no one believing that it actually happened, with the town becoming a tourist destination for years, consistently being visited by fans of The Monster Squad and its schlocky sequels. The simple setup of a funeral for a friend (not the Superman story-line) gets everyone together for a semi-awkward reunion, as the team actually has remained in close contact via phone and social media, but are all clearly hiding things from each other. Also, “Fat Kid” Horace grew up to be a fitness guru and died making love to a bunch of models during a celebration for his saving a bunch of puppies from a fire…what, he deserves it.

The actual story kicks off when unbeknownst to the team, the preacher at the funeral reads a passage from Van Helsing’s diary (which everyone believed to have been destroyed, but Sean had actually kept to use for inspiration for his screenplays, and which the preacher ends up with through some sort of hi-jinx) that re-opens to gates of Limbo! We’re treated to a scene in which the squad awkwardly listens to the “sermon” with confusion in their eyes, wondering where they’ve heard it before and why the weather is getting so crazy. The gates open to release not only Dracula ( who flies out in bat-form), but a horde of scary minions, the squad’s old pal Frankenstein, and Van Helsing himself! The horde overruns the squad, destroy Van Helsing’s diary, and begin to lay siege to the town; which has lost almost all power (including vehicles) due to some kind of mystical EMP.

Now we’ve got the stage set for what is essentially The Monster Squad and Van Helsing versus a small apocalypse, as the team attempts to find a way to flat out destroy Dracula instead of opening the gates again. It’s actually a smaller story than the original, as Eugene and Pheobe call the invasion into their contacts, only to realize that the government won’t be able to come in and take out the threat for hours. Instead of saving the entire world, the squad is trying to save their hometown and everyone in it (all of their families, including Rudy’s estranged daughter and ex-wife), with Sean being the only one without any children, having his now police commissioner father as his only family other than Pheobe.

With no power, limited resources, a ton of people to protect, and two 200 year-olds on their side, The Monster Squad McGuffin and wise-crack their way to victory. The little details can get filled in later, but I like to imagine that Pheobe gets some big moments as an adult, Rudy gets his groove back,  and  Sean has some strong moments with his dad before pops ultimately sacrifices himself alongside Van Helsing in order to save the day.

Is it perfect? No.

Are there plot holes? For sure.

Do I care? Not at all.

Would I watch it? You’re damned right I would.

After all,  I’m in the god-damned club aren’t I?

The Un-Titled Movie Podcast With Ron & Craig #13: Bloodsport (With A Bonus Blog!)

nostalgia movie podcast

On this week’s episode, we talk about the 1988 martial arts classic Bloodsport. This is the movie that started it all for mixed martial arts, Van Damme, and for our very own Craig! The amount of kicks our beloved co-host took to the face in tribute to this flick is astounding! So on this episode we find out how this flick came together, how Van Damme got his start, and how weirdly obsessed the boys are with a movie that features Ogre from Revenge Of The Nerds almost getting killed by friggin’ Bolo!  Also this week we try to give you a little more bang for your buck, so scroll down for a little side rant about why we need more Bloodsport in or lives!

Did you scroll? I hope so, because I have a point to make!

So, as I was sitting down to post this show, I was thinking about what else I could possibly want to say in my companion blog. After all, I rambled on like a jag-goon for most of the episode. Then I saw a commercial for the latest thing from the people behind the The Purge franchise and got hit with an important realization: the world needs more Bloodsport. Now I have no problem with The Purge  existing, I’m sure that it’s fine content for its target audience; it’s just that I’m not that audience, and there’s a lot of people like me out there who are tired of everything being so damned dark. Just…so…dark. So nihilistic. So ugly. I get it, the world is a bad place and we need to confront the blah blah blah blah I WANT TO CHEER FOR SOMETHING! I know that the world can suck, my family split up when I was a kid and my father was sick and then dead before my nineteenth birthday. I’ve experienced pain, loss, rejection, being poor, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and most other garbage feelings one can have. I’m not bragging by any means, nor am I trying to get emo street cred; everyone’s pain is theirs and no one’s is greater or less than. I’m just saying that I don’t want to lose faith in humanity every time I put on the damn television. So I want more Bloodsport. Why? Because I’m not too old for cartoons, but most cartoons are too young for me.

In our upcoming episode about The Monster Squad, we get into the idea of making grown-up movies for kids, and how great and timeless they can be. Well we need to also appreciate the flip-side of this: kids movies for adults. Bloodsport is a friggin’ cartoon for adults; where the hero is perfect, the sidekick is loyal, the bad guy is evil, and there’s really no in between. The good guy gets the girl, overcomes the odds to win, and his friend that he’s avenging turns out to be just fine. I like to even think that the bad guy serves some time for the murder he committed and then lives a reformed and happy life doing youth outreach. Maybe his “young boy” (it’s a Japanese pro-wrestling term for a young wrestler in training, put your keyboards down) is his son and they bond, or maybe it’s his damned lover and they open a gym together; I don’t care who they are to each other, so long as everyone is friggin’ happy in the end and Stan Bush plays over the credits. I want to smile at my movies, or at least know that there’s a steady stream of movies out there ready to make me smile!

So yeah, I want there to be more Bloodsport in this world, and don’t tell me that it’s violent and bad for me. I was raised by a retired marine, a speech therapist, the race track, and action movies; I turned out fine. Not only that, but I’m moral as all hell because I don’t want to let fictional Frank Dux or Major McCoy down. Maybe Red Weddings and Conjuring’s and Jigsaws are bad for people on a deeper level, but who cares, it entertains people, let em’ have it. It just doesn’t entertain me, I want to have heroes. I want my sports bloody, my forces delta-ed, my dragons entered or last, and my Vans to be Dammed. The world needs rain, but the world needs football too. End Rant.

Some Links to get you more into the truth behind Bloodsport:

Senzo Tanaka was a real guy?

History Vs. Hollywood: Bloodsport

A great write-up from Uproxx on the controversy behind the movie