Monday, October 31, 2016

MadCap's Reel Thoughts - "Halloween II" (1981)

Happy Halloween, my dear readers!

As always (except, y'know, when I don't), I like to end Horror Month on a high note. And there's not much of a higher note than a film that John Carpenter wrote, but never actually wanted to do and didn't actually direct himself.

...yeah. Apparently he was in that "I'm done with this" phase before he decided to take Halloween into an anthology series...and that didn't go particularly well, but that's a story for another time.  What I like about this film, and it's something that not a lot of films bother to do even today, is that it's more of a continuation than it is a straight up sequel. It still has, overall, the same feel as the original 1978 film and is actually not one that tries to pull a "one year later" or an even longer time period after the original.

Halloween II picks up right where the original left off, with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) absolutely traumatized after she's saved from Michael Myers (Dick Warlock) by Doctor Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasence) and his magical six-shooter that can fire seven shots.  However, the power of editing errors is not something that can put Michael down and he's soon gone, leaving Loomis to go after him, Laurie to be sent to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, and both of them to learn a terrible secret about Michael's origins...and his motive for killing.

Yes, this is where the series' long-standing plot device of "Michael killing his loved ones" comes into play. To give credit where it's due, it's a legitimately good twist if you're seeing this film for the first time and it's actually done pretty well.  That being said, it is a blatant retcon and you would think that Laurie would remember trips to Smith's Grove to visit her older brother...even though, to the best of my recollection, Michael's name isn't ever actually spoken to her in the first movie. But, regardless, a legitimately good twist and something that provides good motivation for Michael.

It's just a shame the sequels will run it right into the ground.

The feel is very much the same as the first film, director Rick Rosenthal apparently wanting to follow as close to the original as possible.  He succeeds in this, though the style is not exactly the same in a few places.  One of the biggest ones, of course, being that there's a great deal more violence and gore than in the original. This is, of course, because the 1980s were in full swing.  The original had unfortunately given birth to the slew of imitators and copycats that would follow on from it,'s where things get a little confusing.

Rosenthal claims to have wanted to do "more of a thriller movie than a slasher movie", as the original was.  The original Halloween had almost no gore and a minimum of violence (the most traumatic death onscreen happens by a character being strangled by a phone cord, of all things), relying largely on suspense and - in John Carpenter's own words - "jack in the box moments". It was meant to be suspenseful, not a gore-fest as so many films of the 1980s were.

He claims that John Carpenter took control and refilmed several scenes in II to add more gore, which he says ruined the movie overall.  Carpenter, however, was apparently afraid audiences wouldn't respond well to a lack of gore giving the rise of the copycats who had upped the gore significantly (much like Friday the 13th), and thus did so in post-production.  And while it's positively tame, even for the standards of then (and laughable by the standards of today), it isn't hard to see Rosenthal's point. I really wish that Carpenter has stuck to his guns and let the suspense speak for itself, showing up all the horror films of the time without feeling like he needed to surpass them in the cesspool of blood and gore that they'd fallen into.

The film also suffers from the slasher film trope of a pile of victims that we don't actually care about.  Michael walks his way through many members of the hospital staff in order to get to Laurie. Note to screenwriters, making a character comic relief does not necessarily make them endearing (see also: Jar Jar Binks). It also doesn't help when humor is the only trait of a character besides being an asshole, which only makes every single moment that they're onscreen and not a corpse completely unbearable. And while the supporting cast isn't all that great (again, no attempts at even developing so much as one character), both Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence turn in excellent performances as one can expect from either of them in a film.

Despite the few problems, I do actually enjoy this film. It's not as good as the original, but given the nature of the film literally being a direct continuation, I almost consider this and the original as just one extended film. It meshes pretty well, minus a few blemishes, and is very enjoyable. Much more so when you consider the slew of sequels that followed it, some of which we've already covered here much to my own trauma.

If you can pick up a copy, or you can find it on cable, give it a view! Bonus points if you can find it playing back to back with the original.

Halloween II is available from Universal Pictures and The Dino De Laurentiis Corporation.

Halloween and all related properties are owned by Dimension Films.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Monday, October 24, 2016

MadCap's Reel Thoughts - "Blade" (1998)


Okay, one would have to stretch pretty far to call Deadpool a "superhero film" and they'd likewise have some difficulty calling this a superhero film.  Blade (Wesley Snipes), born Eric Brooks, is a unique fixture in the Marvel universe. He is a half-vampire, due to his mother being bitten by a vampire while he was in the womb. He has all the strengths of the vampire - strength, speed, and endurance - and none of their for the thirst for human blood. Teaming up with vampire hunter Abraham Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), he now hunts the abominations that took his mother's life, trying to protect humanity from the curse of the vampire.

And that's pretty much the entire plot recapped right there. Yes, there is a subplot involving the audience surrogate/love interest Dr. Karen Jenson (N'Bushe Wright) having been bitten by a vampire and trying to develop a serum to cure herself and potentially others. Also, Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) is trying to summon up the powers of the vampire god La Magra, which will spell the doom of all mankind unless Blade stops him. Unfortunately, Frost is also the vampire who bit Blade's mother, so he's iceskating uphill already before he even begins.

The film is very much a product of the late 90s. Doing the whole Matrix vinyl look for Blade a full year before the Matrix came out, the cinematography in speeding up the footage and the like. That being said, the fight scenes are pretty damn enjoyable and it has one of the best villain deaths in a film I've ever seen. The acting is pretty good, and it's clear that Snipes and Kristofferson have a lot of onscreen chemistry that really shows a good student-mentor bond.

And yes, you might say I'm cheating with this one, but it is horror! Blade is constantly trying to fight his vampiric nature, not giving into his thirst and become the monster that he fights (or worse, given that he holds none of the vampire's traditional weaknesses). What's more tragic than the story of a man whose trying his hardest to not become a terrible creature of the night?

...okay, a lot of things. But don't be so pedantic.

Blade is now available from Marvel and New Line Cinemas.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

MadCap's Comic Reviews - "Spider-Man vs. Dracula #1"

Spider-Man is my favorite superhero of all time, largely because of what he represents.  More so than a lot of superheroes out there, he stands out to me.  While Captain America is (when written by people who are not Mark Millar) a symbol of integrity, never compromising in the battle to do what's right and Iron Man is (when written by people who are not Mark Millar) a symbol of perseverance, of what people can accomplish through hard work and dedication, as well as a living example of the miracles that science and technology can accomplish, Spider-Man has, to me, always exemplified a single thing:  hope.

Peter Parker was originally crafted as the everyman by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko waaaaay back in the 1960s.  He was supposed to be the average joe who just happened to be a superhero, having to balance the problems that came with squeezing himself into a red and blue onesie with things like relationships with his peers, constantly trying to make ends meet financially, and caring for his constantly-dying Aunt May.

No matter his struggle, no matter the peril he finds himself in - be it dealing with a supervillain preying on his loved ones, having to battle a cosmic being that is hunting other versions of him from across the multiverse, or the simple struggle of making enough cash just to keep his lights on, your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man will always find a way to bounce back and come out on top.

...yeah, totally sets you in the mind of a Halloween story, right?

And I won't go into how bizarre it is that Dracula is suddenly in a superhero comic, because I have done so already and managed to give a quick, concise history with it all the while. Basically put, Dracula exists in the Marvel universe, being that the Marvel universe operates on a standing policy of "All Myths Are True". So, naturally, throwing Spidey into a knock down, drag out fight with Dracula makes sense.  No, that's not a joke.  After all, one of his biggest villains (and later anti-hero and sometimes partner) was one, so it doesn't seem all that far-fetched.

And honestly, after his battle with the X-Men, it seems only natural to take a big step back and focus on a specific character rather than his efforts against a team.  Simple enough, right? Take a well-known hero, Spidey being a big seller for Marvel in any case, and have a tight, well thought out story that has a satisfying bout between the two that will obviously end with the knowledge (at least to the reader) that Dracula isn't really dead.  They had the potential to do something really neat here.  Did they do it? Well...

...yeah, no, this is...this is not that comic. I won't go so far as to say that it's bad, just that it's really pointless. The worst part about it is that the title is actually a complete and utter lie:  Spider-Man and Dracula do not, at any point, fight in this comic.

I know, I was disappointed, too.

The comic itself begins with Spidey coming across a jewelry store having been broken into. He soon comes across a shadowy figure and they tussle for a bit, but they manage to escape and completely elude the Webslinger.  Notably, during the fight, the webbing doesn't stick and Spidey slips on a patch of ice on the sidewalk...which he notes is odd in the sixty degree weather.  It's a good opening that shows us Spidey's fighting abilities as well as sets up vampires...though we don't actually get any indication that it is a vampire.  It's clearly supposed to be, but it's not Dracula (the figure's silhouette doesn't look a thing like Dracula as he appears later), and there's no follow-up on it later.

But we're not supposed to think much about it before Peter goes to visit his dear Aunt May who, in spite of her instance that she's fine, has picked up some strand of super flu that regular vaccines are immune to.  Her only hope is one A.J. Maxfield, an eccentric doctor who apparently discovered a new vaccine.  However, because of their eccentricities, they won't fly and is coming to America by boat.  Fearing that may be too late, Peter does what any rational superhero would do...hits up the Baxter Building and harangues Johnny Storm until he gives him a rocket to use.

...oh, don't look at the screen like that, you totally saw that coming.

But after that intrusive cameo, Peter somehow manages to have the exact coordinates of the ship bringing Maxfield to America and shoots off to it, arriving and sneaking aboard out of costume.  Coincidentally, Dracula is also arriving at about the same time and the two literally bump into each other, each one thinking about how the other one is an asshole.  And my spoiler from earlier actually gets worse, because this is literally the only interaction that the two of them have during this entire comic.  It's not even like X-Men vs. Dracula where the two at least came into conflict, no.  This is literally the only time the pair of them even speak to one another, much less fight.

The rest of the plot is Dracula looking for A.J. Maxfield because of the vaccine they discovered for...reasons.  Dracula mentions something to do with his "carefully laid plans", but there's no elaboration on it and it's frankly just a little to Vampire: The Masquerade for my tastes.  Nevertheless, while you would think this would bring Spidey into conflict with him, it doesn't...because Spidey has your standard thugs who are also looking for Maxfield.

So, in summation, while Spidey does end up getting Maxfield (who is apparently a she and whose only eccentricities seem to be having her date lie for her and wearing Viking attire) and getting the vaccine...there' reason to have called this Spider-Man vs. Dracula.  Besides to simply put it on the cover (and it is a pretty neat cover), which I suppose is the point in the end, but with any crossover, you have to have something to the story.  It's the same reason why Freddy vs. Jason was a forgettable mess of a film.  It tried to go solely on brand recognition without actually bothering to tell any sort of story.

Rather like this comic, in fact.

"Spider-Man vs. Dracula #1" is brought to us from Marvel Comics.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Monday, October 17, 2016

MadCap's Reel Thoughts - "Friday the 13th Part 2" (1981)

What happens after Mother's gone? Well, if you're Jason Voorhees, you pick up a machete and start chopping away at teenagers.  Thus is the entire set up for Friday the 13th Part 2.  Jason Voorhees actually takes up the machete (no hockey mask yet) after the death of his mother (Betsy Palmer) at the end of the first movie (spoiler alert!) at the hands of Alice (Aridenne King).  To set up what would be the standard treatment for protagonists in the series (with the exception of Tommy Jarvis, but we'll get to him), Alice is unceremoniously killed off in the first twenty minutes by a mysterious man who breaks into her home near Crystal Lake (having come back two months later to try and find some closure after the terrible events) and has some very interesting ideas about what to put in her fridge.

This was done as King's request, as she was stalked by a fan after the first movie had premiered and given her some prominence, and started the long trend in slasher movies of the previous protagonist being killed off so as to allow a new cast to deal with the killer...even though, ironically, most protagonists within the Friday series would never actually appear again after their first film even if played by a different actor.

Nevertheless, it's five years after the first film, putting this firmly in 1984...and beginning an arc that would carry the series through to Part 4, some confusing hiccups in continuity notwithstanding.  A new group of late teenage/early twenties youths are, rather than being counselors, being trained as summer camp counselors not too far from the original Crystal Lake. Crazy Ralph (Walt Gorney) is still biking around spreading his gospel, and a new arrival to the trainees comes in the form of Ginny Field (Amy Steel).

Yes, she's the Final Girl. Don't be shocked.

She is the first protagonist to realize the untapped potential of the series by pointing out that Jason may have survived his drowning and lived out in the woods in Crystal Lake as some kind of feral man thing, and that he had potentially witnessed the death of his mother...

This movie isn't one of the well-remembered ones in the series, but it's definitely not bad by any means. Nobody's favorite, certainly, but it was the springboard by which the entire rest of the series flows...for good and for ill.

This was also in the era where film makers were still aware that the people in their films were actual people and not just crash test dummies filled with blood that occasionally went topless for the T'n'A quota to be fulfilled, so there is several scenes dedicated to building character so that we actually care when the killing starts.  It's certainly not to the level of Aliens or Predator, but we do get a sense of who these twenty-somethings are, how they interact with one another, and even a bit of their histories.  It's really something I can't praise highly enough, seeing as we almost never see that anymore in movies, and that's a real shame.

It's the reverse of the problem I have with the Godzilla movies I've seen - not enough humanity to make me care.  So, it's honestly nice to see those bits of character development, make some actual investment with the characters before they're thrown into peril.

Apart from that, yes, this is a paint by numbers slasher film.  Killer kills, victims die. Rinse, lather, and repeat.  Though it's important to remember that this is one of the first in the big craze that followed Halloween.  Take it for a nice viewing in a marathon, enjoy some of the cheesier bits, then move on to others that will follow.

...maybe not Part III, though.

Friday the 13th Part 2 is brought to us by Paramount Pictures with the current rights behind help by New Line Cinema.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Friday, October 14, 2016

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Until Dawn"

Choices...choices are what lie before all of us every day.  Every so often, they can have grand and long-lasting consequences.  But most of the time, they're mundane.  To paraphrase Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation: "the decision to go through a door will result in me being in the next room". And that is, ultimately, what the draw of Until Dawn is not supposed to be.  The choices are supposed to matter and, ultimately, they really don't. That being said, that doesn't make Until Dawn bad, per se. It's just not really a game except in the strictest's an 'interactive storytelling experience'. And, in that capacity, it actually tells a very good story.

I'm serious, and you - my dear readers - should know by now that I will play through just about anything if the story is any good.  The story admittedly pretty good, though it is riddled with every single horror cliche to be used in the last...forever, really.  To put it in perspective to all of you, let's play the Until Dawn drinking game!

The plot begins with a group of teenagers alone in a cabin in the woods (take a shot!) who play a prank on one of their friends that goes horribly wrong (take a shot) resulting in her and her twin sister going missing.  One year later (take a shot!) the friends regroup to try and honor their memory at the same place they went missing: the cabin in the woods, which is built near an old sanitarium (take a shot) and the entire mountain that both are built on is a cursed Native American burial site (take a shot) and they are stalked by a mysterious masked man with a machete (take a shot).

So yeah, a lot of them and that's just the plot itself without actually getting into the characters. You have the final girl (take a shot) played by Hayden Paniter...Panita...Panera...the cheerleader from Heroes, the jock (take a shog) played by that guy from Agents of SHIELD who was apparently in HYDRA (spoiler alert!), the bitch (tag a spog), the other bitch (tak a smok), the "nice girl" (gag a frog), the nerd (smoke a shod), and the incredibly creepy kid who is so obviously either going to die first or be the killer (COASTERS!).

Okay, I'm assuming now that you've woken up from the alcohol-induced coma, so let me continue with the fact that I honestly don't mind the cliches being used, as I much as I joke about them.  I'm a horror fan myself (or didn't you know?), so seeing the concepts highlighted and having fun poked at them is a joy of mine (also a fan of irreverent humor, or didn't you know?). What isn't a joy of mine, however, is two things that this game is absolutely filled with - quick time events and jump scares.

Let's go ahead and get the big one out of the way - jump scares are so inappropriately misnamed as to be libelous. The fact is that jump scares are not scares at all, they're startling.  Think back to any Screamer video you've ever seen (and no, you never have to worry about that from me, I'm not that much of a dick).  If someone jumped out at you in real life what would you do? Punch them in the face.  In the misquoted words of The Spoony One, using loud noises to slap someone upside the soul is not remotely fair as a scare.

Jump scares are the cinematic equivalent of the fart joke - rarely done well and, even if they are, it doesn't take away from the fact that there's a terrible brown stain on your underwear now.

As for the second problem, Quick Time Events.  This is where the game gets into barely qualifying as an actual game, because the player does actually have to pick up the controller to interact with the world.  Although interestingly enough, with the Playstation 4's movement technology, there are several times when the player is outright instructed to move as little as possible, so much so that they could just set the controller down on a flat surface and wait it out with no penalty.  That's right, a game that actively tells you to not play it.

But yes, as you move the characters through certain areas, cutscenes will trigger that will force the player to do a quick time event or three that will often determine the fate of the characters in question.  And, for horror fare, they do die if you fail in some very visceral and even some creative ways.  That being said, it is very cheap to have a split-second decision or a wrong-button press mean a character will immediately go down the wrong pathway or open the wrong door to be devoured by a hungry monster. Though, perhaps, I'm just missing the point.

That being said, we come back with the problem with the choices.  Much like life, only a handful of your choices actually have any consequences in the grand scheme of things.  Characters can die, though two of them are off the chopping block until literally the very end of the game when you make the last decision, which - now that you know that - kind of makes any dangerous situation they find themselves in rather pointless and lacking any sort of tension, doesn't it?

It feels like the developers are simply having you along for the ride.  This is their story, and you're just here to watch and occasionally press a button...and, honestly, I'm conflicted because the story is actually really good.  I mean it.  You can pick up items throughout the game - papers, photographs, and items, that will tell the various stories from the asylum, the mines, and even the house the characters are bunking over at.  While its to different degrees, the stories all have their own flavor and complexities and really show that the developers were thinking of the world beyond just the player and the characters that they control.

The problem comes with choices that ultimately are meaningless because certain events must always happen, quick time events that tie into that by unduly stressing a player at the beginning and then pissing them off once they realize they're pointless, and jump scares that serve no real purpose.  Couple all those with a game that you're barely playing as much as you are watching, and it's just...really depressing.  And yet, I still have to recommend this game, because the story is just that good.

I hope, when and if we get a direct sequel (from what I'm given to understand, Rush of Blood is going to be more a spin-off than a sequel, and I have no interest in a rail shooter...) that we see a little bit more of an actual game in the game.  Having big name actors is nice and (sometimes) brings considerable talent to the screen, and making the screen very, very pretty is good, but that doesn't sell me on a game and - even if your story is great - games are an interactive medium.  Put more game in the game, Supermassive, and I'm all aboard!

Until Dawn is now available for Playstation 4 from Supermassive Games and Sony Interactive Entertainment.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Monday, October 10, 2016

MadCap's Reel Thoughts - "The Thing" (1982)

An outpost far from civilization... and complete isolation...

...unable to trust anyone and having no way to escape.

This is the main draw of a movie like The Thing.  Now, it's time for me to praise the cinematic genius that is John Carpenter. You may recall, last year, me talking about Rob Zombie's unashamed raping of one of his best works, but now you can actually read me ranting about a good movie he's associated with.  He actually didn't write this one, just directed it, but his talent in bringing the printed words of a script to life shines through here beautifully.

The story is one of, as I said in the blurb above, isolation and of paranoia. A group of Americans in the Antarctic come across the remains of a Norwegian research station, finding bodies both burned and twisted by...something, though they really can't say what. And, in the beginning, they think nothing of taking on an adorable little husky that the few remaining Norwegians seemed to be chasing down...

...soon, things take a turn for the worse. The creature begins to assimilate members of the research team and starts to assimilate or otherwise incapacitate them. After the team discovers a flying saucer found by the Norwegians, they discover the titular Thing is trying to escape...whether to leave the Earth or leave the Antarctic is unknown.  After some calculations, however, they do know that if the Thing manages to escape the cold of the Antarctic, that it will assimilate the world in a matter of years.

So it soon becomes the world's deadliest game of ten little Indians as the members of the group find that they cannot trust one another, they have only a few improvised weapons (namely flamethrowers - which explains where "kill it with fire" came from), and they can't count on any outside help due to equipment failures caused by a storm. Will helicopter pilot MacReady (Kurt Russell) be able to discern who is who and save the day? Or will the Thing manage to find a way to escape to the mainland and assimilate humanity?

Nothing in the film ever seems too cheesy, either. It's dated by the technology, but that doesn't take away from it, it's just a product of its time.  That being said, the acting is sublime. Along with Kurt Russell there are several other acting talents, such as Wilford Brimley and Keith David (y'know, the guy who voiced Goliath in Gargoyles). The music is good too, and this is one of the notable instances where John Carpenter did not actually score his own film.

No, they got Ennio Morricone for that.  You know, the composer who scored The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly? Yeah.  That guy.

The special effects are also of note. Practical effects are the name of the game here, and The Thing does that better than many.  What you see of the creature is utterly horrific and gory, and all of it done by practical effects (including the Thing-dog, created by the Stan Winston) which makes it all the more impressive.

The Thing is an utterly magnificent film and, as I said before, its themes of isolation, mistrust, and paranoia. Can you imagine something scarier than a creature wearing the face of a friend and that could, at any moment, transform into a hideous abomination and swallow you whole? Or, worse, could infect you with a single drop of blood, just mixing in a few of its cells with your own and taking over your body entirely to make you a part of its consciousness?

I'll just keep myself tied to the couch until we find out...

The Thing is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Universal Pictures.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

MadCap's Trailer Reactions - "Power Rangers"

...well, that happened.

I said in on Twitter and I'll say it here: to be perfectly frank, it's bad.

First off, and I know this may be a bizarre complaint - but why Walk the Line? Excluding the fact that it's a cover (and not a bad one, in all honesty), why this for Power Rangers? Is its slow, somber tone supposed to illustrate to us that the five teenagers with attitude who get recruited by Zordon...oh, wait, they don't get recruited by Zordon in this version?

...what do you mean "they find their morphers in a quarry"?!

Yes, in a bizarre twist it seems that the rangers (at least Jason, Kimberly, and Billy if the trailer is to be believed) discover their morphers in a quarry...and they aren't even morphers. Gone is the uniqueness of the original belt buckler morphers carried by the team in the original series. Now, they have...I guess a flattened rock that glows their respective Ranger color? They look like something that someone who has no idea what they're doing would put on Etsy. Lame!

From the look of it, as well, the team's uniting actually comes not in the Angel Grove Juice Bar, but in Saturday detention. I wouldn't mind it so much, except it completely and utterly rips off The Breakfast Club in a way that shows no originality whatsoever. While that movie was a deconstruction of the various tropes of the teenager and how breaking free of what your peers or what society thought of you was the most important step in self-realization...Power Rangers took those stereotypes and played them straight in the original show.  If the definition of "dark, realistic reboot" is "make everyone kind of an asshole regardless of their stereotype" then I guess you could swing all of them being in detention, but I personally don't find it believable in the least.

The character bits they try to set up are also a bit odd, what with Jason apparently talking about "a big screw up", Kimberly dealing with some of her fellow cheerleading peers, and Billy dealing with a bully of his. Trini also gets a bit where someone scrawls on her locker...but Zack gets...nothing. I don't even think he has a speaking line in the trailer. Not that he was a big part of the team or got a large amount of character development (then again neither did Trini or Jason before they got Peace Conference'd...) but he's still one fifth of the team and honestly I would have hoped he'd get a bit more an appearance.

In what is sure to be a massive bit of controversy within the fanbase, the Rangers also have powers outside of their morphed form - Jason exhibited an enhanced physique in a scene taken right out of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man as well as enhanced strength, and Billy showing off enhanced durability when a bully headbutts him...and is promptly knocked out cold for his trouble. The Rangers never had powers outside of their morphed state in the original series (that came with later seasons), and, to paraphrase Linkara of Atop the Fourth Wall and his History of Power Rangers videos, it really does take away from the special status their powers are given if the Rangers can just crush a sink with a casual swipe or lift a car without so much as an inch of spandex on them.

...though some would argue that THAT IS NOT SPANDEX!!!...but I'm getting off topic.

In the one bit of praise I can give for this, Elizabeth Banks as Rita has a fairly menacing scene where she's telling Kimberly about how she's killed Rangers before. Short, sweet, and setting her up as an actual threat for directly facing the Rangers instead of hiding behind stock footage. The outfit still looks stupid, but at least she doesn't look like Queen Amidala and Madonna's forbidden love child anymore.

And, in what is a consistent problem with movies nowadays, everything looks so dark. Even scenes that are in the daytime look dark. It doesn't make the film look cool or edgy, it makes it harder to see and it makes me pissed off because I can't see anything. If I didn't know what Power Rangers were and knew nothing about the 20+ years that have come before, I'd assume this was some dumb shlock teen action movie. Which, it's sad to say, is probably what this is going to end up being.

And this is by Saban, the same people who had made the original show such a hit. What has happened?! Admittedly, I haven't kept up with the show (my interest in it waned in my youth after In Space, though I did watch Dino Thunder because of nostalgia), but when Saban bought it back I had honestly thought that it meant that they were going back old school with it.  By the look of this, if they knew what they were doing back then, they don't know. It looks like absolute garbage, and is about as far away from the uniqueness of the original as you can get.

That being said, I'm sure it'll make tons of money and get plenty of sequels. After all, it's not like good taste has ever stopped Michael Bay, either.

Saban's Power Rangers is set to be released in theaters on March 24, 2017 by Saban Films, Lionsgate, and the Toei Company.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Friday, October 7, 2016

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Alice: The Madness Returns"

...this game sucks.

And yes, I know fans of American McGee are going to probably try and hang me for that. I know two of them who will most definitely be reading this who live within driving distance and have access to both actual and improvised weaponry of all sorts, but I stand by my decision.

This is actually a done up version of my review of this that I did way back when the game was first released in 2011 and never published because...well, we all know how Skyrim pretty much took over my life around that time. Nevertheless, I decided to go back and try it out again and - with the benefit of time and experience, I have a much better perspective on it. still sucks.

So, eleven years after the first game (which, no, I haven't played), Alice has been released from the madhouse and is now living at the most Cockney orphanage ever (I'm assuming, in England, that all orphanages are just filled to the brim with lovable Cockney children) where she has occasional forays into Wonderland because...otherwise we'd have a really boring game about running around in a version of London that's just into the Industrial Revolution era (see also, the beginning of Fable III).  Except Wonderland is a little more screwed up than it was before...that is to say, it's empty. Very few people are around, the familiar landmarks have been corrupted or tainted, and Christine's train-based cousin is running around causing problems...sort of.

It's kind of the same problem with Tim Burton's version of Alice in Wonderland - everyone here is crazy, so things being even more crazy really shouldn't be too much of an issue for everyone. Granted, at least here, if no one is here to be crazy, then that is their logic, anyway.

What did take a page from the Tim Burton school is the weapons. Everything from a kitchen knife to a pepper grinder to an umbrella, all mundane made functional that Tim Burton does...and Steven Moffat does far, far better. It's also a platformer, so better be sure you've got your aim right. Luckily, the controls for it aren't too bad. Alice can jump for days and you'll need that in order to maneuver around to solve puzzles and go digging around for secrets in levels that you've left behind.

So, on the hole, The Madness Returns is not that great. Even Mr. McGee has said it's unpolished, which I agree with.  Though while he has problems with the filler, I'd say there's really not enough to do in it. You wander around the open, empty landscapes of Wonderland and occasionally run into NPCs to interact with to further the sort of story, broken up by sporadic jaunts through A Christmas Carol.

On the horror doesn't have a lot, though it may just be enough to drive you insane...with boredom.

Alice: The Madness Returns is now available from Spicy Horse and Electronic Arts for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Monday, October 3, 2016

MadCap's Reel Thoughts - "A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge"

Why do so many people not like this movie?

This isn't the set up to a joke, I'm genuinely not sure I understand it. This question actually applies to people before the age where we looked back at movies and yea'd or nay'd them. Apparently, this film was derided even when it originally came out...and I'm honestly not really sure why.

I know people will refer to this as "The Gay One" due to the homosexual overtones that seem to follow the main character, Jesse (Mark Patton)...and that's not unwarranted, given that the screen writer of this one, David Chaskin, admitted in 2010 that he did this because he wanted to make the film that much scarier to teenage boys.

...stay classy, Chaskin.

Worse than that, Mark Patton himself came out within a few years of this film's release, having been closeted before and felt very betrayed when he realized what had happened.

Really, just...absolutely classy.

That bit of egregious homophobia aside, this is actually a very solidly put together film that I'm not going to judge on the merits of its writer being a completely tone-deaf asshole. Indeed, a lot more goes into a film than just the writing and - subtext aside - Freddy's Revenge makes for a really, really scary time.

All the necessary elements are here - namely the teenagers (and others) to be picked off, and Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) to do the picking off.  What's missing? Oh, right, the snarky jokes and puns that Freddy is so known for...starting in the next movie, Dream Warriors.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again - people are too caught up on how Freddy is after this movie.  In the original and this one, Freddy is a very dark and sinister being, even more so in this one than in the original.

That's right, I went there.

Really, what is more frightening? Stalking a bunch of teenagers in their dreams and killing them off one by one or hijacking the body of an unwilling individual, whether they're asleep or awake, and having them do it for you? That to me is significantly more frightening that Freddy cracking one-liners, but then I'm just one of those crazy people I guess.

But, nevertheless, that is the situation that our protagonist Jesse finds himself in as he moves into the house once lived in by Nancy Thompson. Five years after the first movie (with an unclear ending to boot, and no revelations about the fate of Nancy or her friends), Jesse and his family have moved to Springwood and he begins to have dreams where Freddy commands him to kill...

Thus, it is a battle for Jesse's very soul as Freddy pressures him and pressures him until he is finally able to fully take over...or is he? Jesse's love interest Lisa (Kim Myers) must find a way to free Jesse from Freddy's corruptive influence before its too late...

That point alone makes this film rather unique, flipping the trope of the damsel in distress from the slasher film villain, it now being a male in that place.  Uncommon, but not unheard of even today. Mark Patton's Jesse, however, was the first male Scream Queen.  That alone makes this film noteworthy.

However, that doesn't mean that the film is good by that alone.  Yes, the homophobic overtones are there (many who have worked on the film besides Mark Patton and David Chaskin did confirm it was deliberate). Yes, the scenes with the S&M bar don't really serve any purpose besides getting two characters to form a friendship.  But overall, this film is no worse than any other entry into the Nightmare franchise and is, in fact, better than almost all of them.  Mark Patton's acting as Jesse is excellent as he's driven into the depths of insanity, and Robert Englund as Freddy is as menacing as ever when he's allowed to be (the makeup is also, in my opinion, better than in the original and some of the later films).

It's doesn't have Freddy giving off his quips with each kill, and it's legitimately horrifying. You want to see Freddy defeated in this and Jesse saved, perhaps even more here than Nancy's struggle in the original.  To me, it's really what a sequel should be, if they were going to do any at all. Nightmare, sad to say, has not had it great in the sequels department and maybe we'll get to that another time.  For now, however, give this film a try. If you've already done so, give it a second look. It's definitely worth it!

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge is now available from New Line Cinema.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.