What a day. I was moving on something or other from the moment I got up in the morning. I topped it off with a shift at the store where I endured all sorts of low treatment at the hands of short-tempered, small-minded imbeciles. And through it all, as with every day, there is a film narrative that goes along with it. Salvation would not come in the form of a comedy classic, nor a summer blockbuster, but through stop-motion aliens and a young man who discovered…. THE POWER!
DAY 8 – JANUARY 8, 2013
THE PRODUCERS (1968) – Though he was already a respected comedian and writer, this is the film that put Mel Brooks on the map. An unscrupulous producer teams up with a nebbish accountant with a scheme to oversell a play doomed to failure. When they discover a musical that praises Adolf Hitler, they think they’ve struck it rich.
Zero Mostel, one of the greats in my opinion, is fantastic as the slimeball producer, who at this point is forced to sleep with little old ladies for money. The film is funny for sure, and at the time of release, this was crazy, scathing stuff. The film still makes me laugh. I enjoy laughing at Mostel, Gene Wilder and Dick Shawn, just as I still love ogling when Lee Meredith goes to “work.” But what was once a farce at times plays far too loud and manic for my tastes at the moment. I know it’s heresy to say such things, but I slightly prefer the musical remake. I know, I know… ★★½ (out of ★★★★)
THE LAST AIRBENDER (2011) – M. Night Shyamalan adapts the Nickelodeon cartoon for the big screen. It’s an epic adventure where the world is divided into different kingdoms, each with certain people who can bend the elements to their will. When two youngsters from the Water Kingdom think they’ve discovered the Avatar – one who can bend all four elements – they must help him master his gifts and unite all the kingdoms.
Though no stranger to blockbusters, Shyamalan was an odd choice to helm a fantasy adventure. His films after all are usually stepped in character-driven fantasy or horror. With THE LAST AIRBENDER, we see why. I am no fan of the cartoon, but surely it deserved better than this. The film is poorly shot, and Shyamalan’s earnest attempts to shoot many action sequences with a single master shot don’t come off right. The script, also by Shyamalan, is truly horrible, with groan-worthy dialogue and plot holes you could drive a truck through. And then there’s the acting. There is not a single performance in this entire film that rates above bad. Of the ensemble, only humorist Aasif Mandvi approaches some level of respectability, playing against type here. The acting from the heroes, especially Noah Ringer as the Avatar himself, is truly atrocious. The film is poorly paced, rushing from one half-hearted plot point to the next – the result of squeezing what was reportedly a whole season of the show into a 103 minute running time. This is an unspeakably terrible film. Our own Austin Kennedy seems to like it, so I’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t respond. ★ (out of ★★★★)
LASERBLAST (1978) – By this point in my day, I had endured all sorts of torture. Customers at the store who deserved a punch in the throat more than any assistance whatsoever. By the time I got home for the night, I felt pretty low, lower than anyone should ever be made to feel. It was time for something drastic. It was time for the world of exploitation and the indelible mark of Charles Band.
LASERBLAST is an old favorite from my childhood. It involves a bullied teenage boy who discovers an alien weapon. A crystal embeds itself in his chest and at certain points the alien presence emerges, turning him into a green demon with a giant laser for an arm. Just the thing to get back at the people who have wronged him. The film blends the sci-fi craze big in the mid-1970s with the thematic material of CARRIE. It’s cathartic, if perhaps a bit too downbeat at times.
As a kid, this film was my first exposure to producer Charles Band, though I didn’t realize it yet. If by some cruel trick of fate, you don’t know the name Charles Band, you certainly know his work. A few years later, I went to see METALSTORM: THE DESTRUCTION OF JARED-SYN, a sci-fi adventure that boasted its Super-Vision 3-D credentials. Band directed that one, as he has dozens of other films. I began to look for the Band name in the credits of films from then on out. He became of figure, like Roger Corman, Fred Olen Ray and the like that I could always count on. Exploitation films, sometimes called B-movies, give us something very important. More than any other, they are aware of the sense of fun and release that film has the power to provide. No one is going to say that these films have the best special effects or are the most meticulously planned. But for me, they are a friend that I get to visit several times a week. They have saved me time and time again. Exploitation films in all their guises are the cure for the mediocrity of modern film and the tyranny of the everyday world. This isn’t the first time Charles Band has been there for me, and it won’t be the last. Thank you, sir. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. ★★★½ (out of ★★★★)
Total films watched in 2013 so far: 20
My soundtrack for January 8, 2013: “They’re playing on our weaknesses and changing every sound.”