October Positivity: The Pretender (dir by Dave Christiano)

The 1987 film, The Pretender, invites us to meet Keith!

As played by Mark Rose, Keith is a typical high school student.  He has a job delivering pizzas.  He likes to hang out with his friends.  He likes to smoke.  He likes to drink.  He takes football a little bit too seriously.  And, most of all, Keith wants to get laid.

However, almost all of the girls at his high school have gone out with Keith and are tired of him.  At least, that’s the way that Keith and his friends explain it.  (Considering how unappealing Keith is, I think he might be giving himself a little bit too much credit.)  Though his friends insist that “Robin Williams” is the hottest girl in school, Keith sets his sights on Dana (Crystal Robbins).  Everyone wants to date Dana but everyone also knows that Dana is ultra-religious.

So, quicker than you can say Dangerous Liaisons or Cruel Intentions or even The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, Keith decides to pretend that he’s become ultra-religious as well!  Keith announces to everyone that he’s met that he became a Christian over the summer.  Keith even fools the leader of the school’s Christians, Frank (Dan Addington).  Keith reads the Bible.  Keith memorizes verses.  Keith goes to church.  And soon, Keith is kind of dating Dana!

Now, if you’re expecting me to say that all of this means that Keith actually becomes a Christian …. well, you’re wrong.  This is a film from the Christiano Brothers and a major theme running through almost all of their films is that most people who claim to be a Christian actually aren’t.  Indeed, the major Christiano theme always seems to be that you should trust no one.  That’s the case with Keith, who comes across as being something of a sociopath, a southwestern Patrick Bateman.  Keith is such a liar that he even convinces another friend of his to start a fight with Frank so that Keith can step in and protect Frank.  Keith may say that he’s all about Jesus but he’s still getting into fights on the football field and threatening kids in class.  Speaking of class, I’m a little bit curious about just what exactly Keith’s grades look like.  He spends so much time setting up fake confrontations and hiring people to lie for him, you have to kind of wonder if he actually has any time left for studying.  Those lies aren’t going to get you into SMU, Keith!  Eventually, much like Valmont, Keith is on the verge of getting what he wants from Dana but don’t worry!  Keith’s not a slick as he thinks he is.

The film is a definite time capsule, full of 80s styles, 80s haircuts, and 80s attitudes.  The grainy cinematography gives the film almost a documentary feel and, as a Southwesterner, it’s always nice when I get to watch a film where everyone has the same accent that I do.  That said, it’s a pretty silly film.  The problem is that Keith’s plan is so obvious that you actually kind of lose respect for Frank and Dana when they don’t immediately see through him.  This is one of those films where things happen not because they make sense but because the film needs them to happen in order to make a bigger point.  Still, the film ends on a slightly upbeat note, suggesting that redemption is available to even sociopaths, like these three toadsuckers below.

Lisa Marie’s Week In Television: 10/2/22 — 10/8/22

Here’s some thoughts on what I watched this week!

Abbott Elementary (Wednesday Night, ABC)

Oh Lord, the Story Samurais.  Seriously, I’ve known people just like that.  I was cringing for them through the entire episode.  Ava continues to be the best character on the show.

The Amazing Race (Wednesday Night, CBS)

I wrote about the latest episode of The Amazing Race here.

Atlanta (Thursday Night, FX)

This week’s episode dealt with an enigmatic entertainment mogul known as Kirkwood Chocolate, who was a prolific and popular creator of melodramatic dramas and broad comedies.  Everyone on the show acknowledged that Mr. Chocolate’s shows were not necessarily good but they also wanted to support black art.  Mr. Chocolate, himself, turned out to be a somewhat crazed megalomaniac who also claimed to have no control over his shows.  Lottie briefly became Mr. Chocolate’s biggest star.  It was a funny and thought-provoking episode and it made no attempt to hide that Kirkwood Chocolate was basically Tyler Perry.

Bachelor In Paradise (Monday and Tuesday Nights, ABC)

I just watched it for the scenery.  It is kind of interesting that everyone who has been eliminated so far came from Clayton’s season.  It’s like someone put a curse on that season and the people involved will never find peace.

Beyond The Headlines (Sunday Morning, Lifetime)

This was a one-hour discussion of the Gabby Petito case, which Lifetime aired as a companion to The Gabby Petito Story.

East New York (Sunday Night, CBS)

On Sunday, I watched the first episode of CBS’s newest cop show, East New York.  The main reason that I watched it was because I had been inundated for commercials for the show while I was watching Big Brother last month.  Much as I was expecting, East New York turned out to be a middling cop show, one that tried to walk the fine line between back the blue and defund the police.  It didn’t really work but it was nice to see that the show had good roles for Richard Kind and Jimmy Smits.

Ghosts (Thursday Night, CBS)

Sam started a podcast about Hetty’s murder but, in order to get funding, she had to accept the eccentric and creepy Todd Pearlman as a co-host.  This episode wasn’t quite as funny as the season premiere but it did set up what I assume will be this season’s major storyline.

Hell’s Kitchen (Thursday Night, FOX)

Someone finally tried to serve raw chicken.  It’s not really Hell’s Kitchen until that happens.

Inspector Lewis (YouTube)

I watched the end of the 8th series on Tuesday.  Robbie was upset because one of his old cases was being reopened.  I was upset because Hathaway had a truly terrible haircut.  Hopefully, that’ll be corrected next week.

Interview With A Vampire (Sunday, AMC)

I watched the premiere on Monday and I was bored out of my mind.

Law & Order (Thursday Night, NBC)

Anti-Asian hate crimes have been on the rise in New York City so, of course, Law & Order decided to do an episode about it in which they blamed it all on a generic right-wing gun nut who was upset over COVID.  The U.S. government wanted to prosecute the criminal but they also wanted to see the death penalty.  “I don’t know if I can set my personal beliefs aside,” Price said.  When has Price ever been able to set aside his personal beliefs?  Seriously, we’re only to seasons into this season and I’m already sick of Price talking about his personal beliefs.

Law & Order: Organized Crime (Thursday Night, NBC)

I did watch Organized Crime but seriously, don’t even ask me what happened on this week’s episode.  I got bored and kind of zoned out.  All I know is that Stabler needs to relax.  Maybe try yoga or something.

Law & Order: SVU (Thursday Night, NBC)

SVU took a heavy-handed swipe at influencer culture this week.  It was a bit of a generic story but the episode was somewhat redeemed by Killi Giddish’s performance as Amanda Rollins, who is still struggling to put being shot behind her.

Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butt-Head (Paramount Plus)

Never will I forget the horror of Beavis putting on Yoga pants.  The season came to an end this week with an appropriately hilarious episode.  First, Beavis and Butt-Head were thrilled to discover their employer reserved the right to refuse service to customers who created an unsafe work environment.  And then Beavis decided that he would “look really sexy” in yoga pants.  Needless to say it didn’t go well.  As for the overall season, I liked it.  I perhaps would have done a bit less with Old Beavis and Old Butt-Head but otherwise, this was a really funny and sharply satiric show.

Night Flight (NightFlight+)

I watched two episodes of this old 80s show on Friday night.  One dealt with songs about drugs.  The other was a profile of Depeche Mode.

The Real Love Boat (Wednesday Night, CBS)

Basically, this is just Paradise Hotel on a boat.  Who knows?  Maybe everyone will find love before the season ends.

So Help Me Todd (Wednesday Night, CBS)

This is a new show about a lawyer and her son, the private investigator.  Guess what the son’s name is!  CBS advertised the Hell out of this during Big Brother, so I watched the first episode when it was re-aired on Sunday.  It was not quite as bad as I was expecting but it’s still very much a middle-of-the-road, safe to watch with your middle-aged relatives sort of show.  Marcia Gay Harden plays the lawyer and it’s nice to see her playing someone who isn’t a half-crazed victim for once.

Survivor (Wednesday Night, CBS)

I wrote about the latest episode of Survivor here.

Talking Dead (Sunday Night, AMC)

I still like Talking Dead but it’s hard not to feel that everything that can be said about The Walking Dead already has been said.  Even Chris Hardwicke seemed to be kind of bored with it all.

The Walking Dead (Sunday Night, AMC)

The Walking Dead returned with a boring episode.  Let’s hope things pick up next week.

AMV of the Day: This Is Halloween (Blood-C)

As the first full week of Horrorthon comes to an end, let us celebrate with an AMV of the Day!

Anime: Blood-C

Song: This is Halloween (performed by Marilyn Manson)

Creator: WOTundPANZER (please subscribe to this creator’s channel)

Past AMVs of the Day

Congratulations the Seattle Mariners On The Best Comeback of The Postseason!

Congratulations to the Seattle Mariners, who pulled off one of the most amazing comebacks that I’ve ever seen and defeated the Blue Jays in the Wild Card!  Starting with the sixth inning, the Mariners went from being behind seven runs to winning the game by 10 runs to 9!  This is one of those games that reminds me of why I love baseball!

The Mariners are going to be playing the Astros in the Divisional Series.  I’m a Texan so I’ll have to cheer for the Astros but that doesn’t make me any less proud of the Mariners!

Also, congrats to the Phillies and the Guardians.  The Guardians defeated the Rays 1-0 and are now moving on to play the Yankees in the Divisional.  The Phillies defeated the Cardinals by 2-0 and will now move on to play the Braves.  That just leaves one more Wild Card game for tomorrow, between the Mets and the Padres.  Whichever team wins will face the Dodgers in the Divisional playoffs.

Congratulations to all the advancing teams!

Horror on TV: Ghost Story 1.8 “House of Evil” (dir by Daryl Duke)

Tonight’s episode of Ghost Story is full of stars!

Evil grandpa comes to visit his family and, with the help of voodoo cookies (you read that right), he tries to manipulate his deaf and mute granddaughter into helping him kill everyone!  Grandpa is played by Melvyn Douglas.  His granddaughter is played by Jodie Foster!  And the script was written by none other than Robert Bloch and Richard Matheson!

This episode originally aired on November 10th, 1972.

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: House of The Dead (dir by Uwe Boll)

You know things are going to be bad when the 2003 video game adaptation House of the Dead opens with a lengthy narration in which we’re told exactly who is going to die in the film and who is going to live. Narration is usually a bad sign, in general. Narration that gives away a huge chunk of the plot during the opening five minutes is even worse.

Things get worse when we’re told that a bunch of college students need to find a boat so that they can attend the “rave of the century,” which is being held on an isolated island. (The island, by the way, is known as the Island of the Dead but no one seems to be that concerned by the name.) From what we see of the greatest rave of all time, it apparently involves one stage, two speakers, and exactly 8 people dancing. The dancers are often shot in slow motion, which I guess is meant to make them look like they’re having more fun than they actually are. Myself, I’m wondering why anyone would hold the “rave of the century” on an island that no one can find. According to the banner above the stage, the whole thing is being sponsored by Sega, the company behind the House of the Dead video game that gave this movie its name.

Things quickly go downhill once the zombies show up and start killing everyone. It doesn’t take long for most of the disposable characters to get killed. The majority of the film is made up of people either running through the forest or hiding in a house or a boat. Because none of the characters really have any personality, you’re never quite sure who anyone is. Their deaths don’t really register because it never seems as if they were living to begin with. Watching the film, it’s hard not to feel that everyone on the island is a member of the living dead. It’s just that some of them haven’t realized it yet.

As mentioned above, House of the Dead is based on a video game and, frequently, the action is punctuated with heavily pixelated scenes that have been lifted straight from the game. On the one hand, you have to admire the film for being honest about what it is. On the other hand, you have to regret that the film itself is never as much fun as the game probably is.

House of the Dead was one of several video game adaptations that German director Uwe Boll was responsible for in the early aughts. Up until he retired from the film industry, it was regularly argued by online film critics that Boll was the world’s worst director. Boll responded to the criticism by challenging his most vehement critics to a boxing match. A few of the critics accepted the challenge and Boll actually did fight them, knocking all of them out. I imagine that’s probably every filmmaker’s secret fantasy.

Myself, I will say that I don’t think Boll is the worst director in the world. He’s not particularly good but there are worst directors out there. That said, House of the Dead is pretty bad. The dialogue is leaden, the characters are bland, and even the intentional attempts at humor fall flat. Seventeen years after it was first released, it still pretty much represents the nadir of video game adaptations.

Anyway, the main lesson of this film is …. well, I don’t think there really is a lesson to be found, other than that it might be a good idea to take names seriously. I mean, Island of the Dead? Can anyone really be surprised that the zombies showed up?

Attack of the 50 Foot Camgirl (2022, directed by Jim Wynorski)

Beverly Wood (Ivy Smith) is a professional social media influencer whose ego is almost as big as her following.  She’s referred to as being “#BigBitch” for a reason.  Her manager, Bradley (Eli Cirino), is always looking for new ways to promote Beverly and now products for her to endorse.  However, Bradley is also a no-good cheater who is seeing Beverly’s assistant, Fuschia (Christine Nguyen), on the side.  When eating a new, scientifically-modified brand of hot dog causes Beverly to grew to 50 feet tall, she sets out for revenge, just like in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.  This time, though, the romantic rival also grows to 50 feet tall and the movie ends with a Godzilla vs. King Kong-style battle over a bunch of miniature buildings.

This is the latest remake of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, without any of that film’s subversive subtext and, unfortunately, without any actresses as memorable as Allison Hayes and Yvette Vickers.  It’s a Jim Wynorski joint so you know what you’re going to get, which is lots of nudity, stiff acting, cheap special effects, and a nonstop stream of dad jokes that are more likely to make you groan than laugh.  (If you think hashtag is the funniest words this side of Poughkeepsie, you might chuckle once or twice.)  Ivy Smith even makes out with the film’s token sexy scientist (played by Lisa London) for no reason other than the fact that Wynorski knows his audience.  There’s nothing challenging or surprising about Attack of the 50 Foot Camgirl.  It’s a very unambitious film.  At the same time, Wynorski’s style is so self-aware and good-natured that the movie is still more likable than most of the other direct-to-video schlock that ends up streaming for free online.  It may be a dumb movie but it is smart enough not to take itself seriously.  The film both begins and ends with two giant women have a kaiju-style battle and destroying several miniature buildings.  That tells you all you need to know about both the film and whether or not you’ll enjoy it.

Game Review: Under the Bridge (2022, Samantha Kahn)

You are a monster.

The humans have wiped out most of your species.  Your life in the forest has been upended by their intrusiveness and their violence.  But there is a bridge, one that leads into a nearby village.  The bridge looks like a good place to live and to feast.  Even monsters need to eat and with villagers constantly traveling from one side of the bridge to the other, the bridge is the perfect place for you to hunt.

This is a Twine game that tells the familiar story of the Troll Under The Bridge from the point of view of the troll.  You have many reasons for not trusting human.  You also need to eat.  When the humans try to cross your bridge, will you allow them to pass or will you confront and maybe even eat them?  The decision is yours but every decision comes with consequences,

I liked Under The Bridge.  It was well-written and it featured memorable but non-intrusive visuals and audio that truly made you feel as if you were hiding underneath that bridge and waiting for the sounds of possible prey.  There’s a number of different endings so this is a game that can be replayed several different times.  Considering that so many Twine games seem to lead to the same ending regardless of the choices you make, I appreciated that your choices actually meant something in Under The Bridge.

Play Under the Bridge.

Retro Television Review: California Dreams 1.11 “They Shoot Videos, Don’t They?” and 1.12 “The Time”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Saturdays, I will be reviewing California Dreams, which ran on NBC from 1992 to 1996.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

The story of California’s blandest garage band continues.  Last week was all about Tiffani getting mad at her mom and surfing.  What will this week be about?

Let’s just lie here in the sun until these dreams are done.  Actually, how do those lyrics go?  I don’t really feel like relistening to theme song to find out.

Episode 1.11 “They Shoot Videos, Don’t They?”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on November 21st, 1992)

Remember Randi-Jo?  Randi-Jo was Matt’s girlfriend.  She was incredibly boring but so was Matt.  On the show, Randi-Jo appeared in the pilot and then she appeared in the 3rd episode and then she vanished and the viewers even saw Matt dating (or at least trying to date) other women.

In episode 11, Randi-Jo suddenly shows up again!  She and Matt are so in love that she gets upset when Matt is supposed to be kissed by a girl in a music video that the Dreams is filming for a music video contest.  Randi-Jo ends up dumping Matt’s boring ass and Matt gets all mopey and writes a depressing song.  The Dreams then go on to film a music video that looks like every student film ever made.  Check out that dark lighting!  Check out that emotional close-up!  It looks like every bad indie film to ever come out of Austin.

This episode might have been better if Matt and Randi-Jo weren’t such boring characters and if maybe Matt was a little bit less whiny.  (“I just need to be alone, okay?”  Shut up, Matt.)  We do get watch the process by which Matt turns heartbreak into a song and it’s not very impressive.  (“Maybe I’m crazy,” Matt sings and I have to admit that I kind of groaned at the realization that Matt Garrison was essentially a 16 year-old version of Michael Bolton.)  To be honest, though, Randi-Jo was being a bit unreasonable.  People kiss in music videos.  Calm down.

Episode 1.12 “The Time”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on November 28th, 1992)

The Dreams need a tour bus so that they can get to a show that’s several miles away.  Sly buys an old VW van, one that is covered with 60s era graffiti and bumper stickers about making love and not war.  Jenny freaks out when she finds a Partridge Family cassette in the van.  I don’t blame her.

Jenny has other problems, though.  She’s gotten back together with her jerky ex-boyfriend, Eric.  Eric is charming but self-centered and he doesn’t believe in the Dreams!  Soon, Jenny is blowing off rehearsals and actually having a life separate from hanging out with her brother’s band.  However, Eric soon proves himself to still be a cad and Jenny returns to the band.  Yay, I guess.

This one was okay, if just because every woman has known and dated someone like Eric and it’s good to be reminded that we deserve better.  Plus, Jenny got to star in her own black-and-white music video, which was far superior to the video that Matt starred in with his little break-up song.

These two episodes left me feeling mellow.

Horror Scenes That I Love: The Gas Pump Disaster From Night of the Living Dead

I remember the first time that I ever watched the original Night of the Living Dead, I was really stunned and, to be honest, quite upset by the death of Tom and Judy.  They were so likable and earnest that I guess I naturally assumed that they would survive or, at the very least, they wouldn’t die in such a pointless manner.  But, ultimately, that’s what made Night of the Living Dead such a frightening film.  It didn’t matter who you were or what you’re intentions were.  The Dead were going to kill you and then they were going to eat you.

Honestly, everyone should have just stayed in the cellar.