Thursday, December 31, 2015

Movie Review: Foodfight!

C47 Productions, Lions Gate Family Entertainment, Natural Image, StoryArk Media, Threshold Digital Research Labs, Threshold Entertainment, USA, 2012.
Hey, this one is on IMDB's lowest rated movies list, this ought to be good!

At night Marketropolis Market turns into a city where brand icons or Ikes come to life. Mix of Indiana Jones and Rick from "Casablanca" Dex Dogtective (Charlie Sheen) fights some hamster and rat gangsters. He works for Supermarket Defense Association protecting the personified brands living in the city. and plans to marry Sunshine Goodness (Hilary Duff). Dex's best friend is Daredevil Dan (Wayne Brady). Sunshine Goodness disappears.
Dex Dogtective
Daredevil Dan
Sunshine Goodness
Mr. Clipboard (Christopher Lloyd) representative of Brand X- company wants to persuade the shops to sell their products. Ministry of Silly Walks were amateurs compared to this dude. Kaptain Krispy (George Johnsen) is angry because Mr. Clipboard stomped on his potato chips. Lady X (Eva Longoria) tries to seduce Rex.
Mr Clipboard
Lady X
Lieutenant X
Ikes start getting killed. All the dead brands are replaced with Brand X. Evil General X (Jerry Stiller) and Lady X assume dictatorship to protect the brands. They want to take over the world with their X-obyte robot mosquito army. Lady X goes into full Nazi-dominatrix mode and tries to eliminate undesirable brands. Bex and Dan must stop the invasion by going into the real world. They meet also chocolate vampire Vlad Chocool (Larry Miller). Rex raises resistance to fight the evil Brand X. The Ike-army throws food at the bad guys, every food item explodes into similar looking blobs.
Not very subtle allegory
Brand X Lunch Lady
Where is that crown attached?
The film had a $65 million budget. Probably most of the money went to pay voice actors salaries as the animation looks cheaper than Saturday morning TV-animations. The hard drives containing the original video material were reportedly stolen and the production had to be started again. As the release dates went over the film rights were finally acquired by an insurance company who wanted the film finished as quick and cheap as possible. Still the bad animation is just one of the many problems as the jokes are terrible and the script is appalling. There is a trailer online that shows some of the pre-theft material that looks marginally better:

Seriously many characters look like the unfinished storyboard animations that are given as DVD-extras. But not only the crudeness of the background characters but also the ugliness of some of the main characters sticks in the eye like a sore thumb. The colours look like someone puked after eating colourful jellybeans. I guess they tried to imitate the Looney Tunes and Tex Avery cartoons, but the poor quality of the animation makes it pure nightmare fuel. Check the character Cheasel T. Weasel (Lawrence Kasanoff) if you do not believe.
Cheasel T. Weasel
Mr. Clean and Mrs. Butterworth
Notice the copy&paste characters
There are couple of random fun ideas like ketchup-bottle tanks. The product placement is plentiful with many well known company mascots including Mr. Clean, Charlie Tuna and Mrs. Butterworth's syrup lady, but even they are lazily used. Impossible to say how much damage they made to the actual brands. The dialogue is full of sexual innuendo that will make adults' ears red: “I didn’t even get a chance to play lick the icing with Sweet Cakes.” Of course there are fart jokes and general grossness.
Even humans are ugly
Food warfare
What a mess
The lessons to be learned: 
1. Generic products are bad and brands are good. 
2. Ugly equals bad. 
3. Chicks dig chocolate. 

This is so horrible that it is awesome. Recommended viewing for bad movie connoisseurs but kids could get scarred for life. 

Rating: So bad it is good

Voice actors: Charlie Sheen, Hilary Duff, Eva Longoria, Wayne Brady, Christopher Lloyd, Chris Kattan, Larry Miller, Edward Asner, Jerry Stiller, Christine Baranski, Lawrence Kasanoff, Harvey Fierstein, Cloris Leachman, Haylie Duff, Shelley Morrison, Edie McClurg, George Johnsen, Jonny Rees, James Arnold Taylor, Robert Costanzo, Jeff Bennett, Stephen Stanton, Jeff Bergman, Karen Gallo Messore, Sean Catherine Derek, Enn Reitel, Daniel Franzese, Eliza Schneider, Jason Ortenberg, Zachary Liebrich-Johnsen, Andrew Ortenberg, Jennifer Keith, Joshua Wexler, Jason Harris, Greg Eagles, Melissa Disney, Bob Bergen, Susan Silo, Daniel Bernhardt, John Bloom
Director: Lawrence Kasanoff

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Movie Review: Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups

Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Keypix Productions, USA, 2012.
Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups title
Might as well watch this one too, as it is still Yule time.

It is summer and the elves are resting. Santa Paw's wife Mrs. Paws gets pups: Hope, Jingle, Charity, and Noble. Eli the Elf (Danny Woodburn) and Eddy the Elf Dog start training the Santa Pups. The Pups are quite rascals and not yet up to their names.
Pat Finn and Cheryl Ladd
Santa (Pat Finn) and Mrs. Claus
The Santa Pups
Christmas is nearing and Mrs. Claus (Cheryl Ladd) travels to Pineville to recruit new Christmas ambassador. The pups "loan" Eddy's Christmas crystal and hide in the sleigh. They plan to grant Christmas wishes.
Note: The introduction of four Santa pups creates a big continuity error with the original "Santa Buddies." If "The Search for Santa Paws" was the (kind of) prequel to "Santa Buddies" then it would be logical that Santa Paws had only one pup named Puppy Paws. Now he has four. There goes the continuity out the window. Whoosh!

Young boy Carter Reynolds (Josh Feldman) has lost his Christmas spirit. His sister Sarah (Kaitlyn Maher who played Quinn in the prequel) likes Christmas but misses their mum who has died. Their father Thomas (George Newbern) is DJ on local Xmas radio station. Mrs. Claus hears Sarah singing and wants to make her ambassador. However Thomas hires Mrs. Claus as nanny. The pups fulfill wishes in Pineville but then Carter wishes that the Christmas spirit would go away. Oops.
Kaitlyn Maher  and Josh Feldman
Sarah and Carter
Christmas cold starts spreading and the people lose Christmas spirit and go rude. Even jovial Mayor Denny (Obba Babatundé) loses his temper. Santa pups get captured and locked in dog pound. The Great Christmas Icicle is melting fast! It is up to Mrs. Claus, Sarah and the doggies to save Christmas. (Also anyone who has seen the previous films knows that when the going gets tough also Eli and Eddy arrive in their van to help.
Obba Babatundé
Mayor Denny
Bright Sisters
Compared to the prequel, the sugar overdose is not quite as bad. The songs look more like traditional musical numbers. Also addition of three Bright sisters Agnes (Ali Hillis), Dorothy (Audrey Wasilewski) and Blue (Jennifer Elise Cox) brings some merriment. Also it was nice that Mrs. Claus got a bigger role. Again it is a nice movie for kids and maybe a bit more easier for adults to watch than the previous "Santa Paws"- films.

Rating: Average

Starring: Cheryl Ladd, Danny Woodburn, Kaitlyn Maher, Pat Finn, Paul Rae, Adanna Avon, Obba Babatundé, Diedrich Bader, Claire Bernier, Samantha Bleich, Joey Bothwell, Jay Brazeau, Bill Chott, Chris Coppola, Jennifer Elise Cox, Tom Everett Scott, Josh Feldman, Brian T. Finney, Josh Flitter, Chris Gautier, Aidan Gemme, Tatiana Gudegast, G. Hannelius, Ethan Heavey, Ali Hillis, Abby Anne Hughes, Bryce Clyde Jenkins, Richard Kind, George Newbern, Nic Novicki, Marlowe Peyton, Mikey Post, Ted Rooney, Bonnie Somerville, Michael Teigen, Audrey Wasilewski, Trevor Wright, Richard Duke, Rocky the Terrier 
Director: Robert Vince

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Book Review: A Kim Jong-Il Production

A Kim Jong-Il Production (Rakastettu Johtaja Ylpeänä Esittää)
by Paul Fischer
translated to Finnish by Aura Nurmi
Atena Kustannus, 2015.
This review is based on the Finnish hardback edition.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il was a serious film buff who went seriously off the deep end. To please his father Kim Il-sung he started making a cult of personality around him with ordering production of heroic tales about North Korean heroes struggling against evil foreign capitalist dogs. Foreign countries were depicted as hell and it was always shining in North Korea. Kim Il-sung was depicted as mythical religious figure. State had full control of the citizens and no one else than Kim Jong-Il was allowed to watch foreign movies. To get films he ordered ambassadors to get him pirated copies of just about every film produced. He had a collection of about 20000 movies and his favourite films were James Bond films, "The First Blood" and "Friday the 13th."

The movies were made for propaganda purposes and for making the people work harder for the communist system. As the film makers in North Korea were rigorously controlled and punished severely for breaking the rules, the quality of North Korean movies was poor and the plots were repetitive and dull. In the 1970s Kim Jong-Il was running a huge organized crime and terrorist operations to get funds for his excessive lifestyle. With techniques learned from James Bond-films many people were kidnapped and forced to work in North Korea. In 1978 two South Korean film makers director/producer Shin Sang-ok and his actor ex-wife Choi Eun-hee were kidnapped by commandos and sent to North Korea. After attempts to indoctrinate them they were forced to make movies that would raise the quality of North Korean cinema.

Shin Sang-ok rebelled against the kidnapping and he tried to escape twice. As the result he was thrown into prison and tortured for years. Finally he decided to play along and act like a reformed man who has realised how awesome the Kims were. In reality he and Choi were always trying to find a way to escape.  Shin and Choi were given rather free hands to make movies. Although Shin's career had started strong he had angered the South Korean politicians mocking censorship and his career was over when the kidnapping occurred. Shin hid some critique against the North Korean system into his films but that went unnoticed because Kim Jong-Il liked the films. After making some critically acclaimed films, they were given lease to shoot films in East-European countries. Finally they made "so bad it is good" version of "Godzilla": "Pulgasari." Shin and Choi did not stay to see the film's success in North Korea as they had already escaped. Ironically the hardships took away some of Shin's egoistic characteristics and Shin and Choi found their love again. However Shin's career as director never fully recovered, the highlight being "3 Ninjas Knuckle Up."

In his book Paul Fischer gives a unique perspective of North Korea showing Kim Jong-Il's movie fanaticism as the main driving force of his internal politics. Kim is depicted as charismatic but capricious party animal who executes people at whim. Favoured persons are elevated and then destroyed when they fail Kim. Kim is compared of crazed movie producer or director who was using all the citizens as extras in Kim Jong-Il-show and North Korea as his stage. Those who do not fit their role are cut off. Keeping the borders closed and forcing the people believe absurd things Kim brainwashed the whole nation. The people are kept in dark while the party officials overindulge. However watching smuggled foreign movies is slowly eroding the people's faith in the North Korean system. Also the biographies of Shin Sang-ok and Choi Eun-hee are told in detail. The book is enjoyable reading, stylistically like combination of spy thriller and history. Fischer does a impressive job trying to separate the rumours from the facts.

Rating: Very good

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Trap Door

The Trap Door (series)
CMTB Animation, Queensgate Productions, UK, 1984-86.
The Trap Door title
“Somewhere in the dark and nasty regions, where nobody goes, stands an ancient castle. Deep within this dank and uninviting place, lives Berk ('Allo!'), overworked servant of "the thing upstairs" ('Berk! Feed Me!') But that's nothing compared to the horrors that lurk beneath the trap door, for there is always something down there, in the dark, waiting to come out..."

"The Trap Door" is 1980s clay-animation created by British animators Terry Brain and Charlie Mills. Later Terry Brain went to work in Aardman to animate "Wallace & Gromit" and "Shaun the Sheep". There were also games "The Trap Door" and "Through the Trap Door" for 8-bit home computers.

Berk is a blue blob living in an ancient castle. He must cook food (from mostly worms and other crawling things) and send it upstairs fr the Thing using dumbwaiter. The Thing is a Lovecraftian monster that is never fully shown. Berk has two friends: talking and intelligent skull Boni and spidery-thing Drutt. There is a trap door Berk should not open but he does so anyway. Weird monsters rise from the trap door and Berk must get rid of them, often by bonking them on the head with a rolling pin. Sometimes also other monsters are useful for getting rid of unwanted things.
Boni and Drutt
Although "The Trap Door" was a show for kids' it was basically a horror comedy with often grotesque monsters and some dark comedy. The series contains 40  five minute episodes. Most of the characters were voiced by Willie Rushton, and Berk speaks with West Country dialect (with some double entendres: 'I loves a bit o' bonking') while the Thing uses Cockney dialect. Boni uses more upper class English and Rogg sounds like Gumby from Monty Python. The voice acting is funny and gives personality to the characters. The animation combines plasticine animation with some drawn animation, Although the models look quite crude, the animation was good and dynamic with something always squirming on the floor. The main characters adventuring down the trap door see weird and surreal monsters, some chaotic and shape shifting and some just weird. There are only a few places: the cellar and its surroundings, the upstairs, the swamp, battlements and the trap door. Although the plots of the stories have only few variations (Berk making food or running errands for the Thing, monsters causing mischief, someone going missing) there is always some new twist that keeps the show going on. The quirky humour and the easy-going characters are fun and the monsters are always strange and unpredictable.

Rating: Very good

Voice actors: Willie Rushton (most characters), Nick Shipley (Drutt)

Episode guide:

Season 1

Breakfast time
Yellow monster comes up from the trap door and eats the breakfast Berk was making. Also a big red monster appears.
Slither, Wriggle and Writhe
Berk tries to build shelves. Tentacle-monster comes through the trap door and throws Berk around.
Food for Thort
The Thing's huge carnivorous plant Thort is hungry. Trap door releases angry wasps.

Berk and Boni go fishing. Friendly but dimwitted monster named Rogg comes up from the trap door.
Gourmet's Delight
The Thing wants supper. After making gourmet dinner Berk must clean the messy kitchen. Invisible monster Bubo causes even greater mess.
Creepy Crawly
Giant spider spins a web and ties Berk up. Drutt saves the situation.

The Big Thing
Boni is bored. Rogg takes Boni to the battlements but then Boni bores Rogg with his stories.

Berk finds a spell book. Spell summons ghostly ghoulies.
The Dose
The Thing is ill and Berk makes some medicine. Green slime from the trap door drinks the medicine.
The Thingy
Berk nails the trap door shut but a big monster breaks through and changes everyone's shape.

Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite
Berk goes to sleep. Something kidnaps Boni. Berk must go through the scary trap door to rescue him.
Fester Rancid
Bubo returns and uses Boni as a drum.

The Pain
The Thing has toothache. Berk goes upstairs to pull the tooth out. Drutt is almost eaten by giant slug.

The Little Thing
Noisy little blob must be captured before the Thing wakes up.

Don't Open That Trap Door
Berk listens to radio. The music summons all the monsters up from the trap door.

Junk Food
Rogg eats all the garbage. Then he trespasses the Things room.

Giant larva lays eggs. The eggs hatch but the larvae explode and fill the cellar with yellow goo.

Flyin' Wotsit Fingy
Berk tries to take photograph of Drutt and Boni. Bat-like thing flies around the cellar.

Strange Goings On
 The trio plans a picnic but tentacle-monster pulls Boni through the trap door.

Midnight Snack
At night three and a half greedy monsters eat all the food in the kitchen.

Nasty Stuff
Berk makes medicine for headache but turns into a monster.

Sniff That
Berk tries to unclog the drain. Something with lots of eyes comes through the trap door. Also a big nosed monster appears.
Vile Pile
Berk throws rubbish down the trap door. The garbage turns into a slime-spitting monster.

Slightly Weird
Berk hoes to find mushrooms, but the mushroom runs away.

Bye Bye Berk
Berk gets enough of his work and wants to leave the castle.

Season 2

Bubo arrives again and throws slime around.

Oh Globbits
Pipe is leaking and Berk tries to repair it with a worm. Giant flying sponge comes trough the trap door.
Moany Boni
Boni is bored again and wants to play "I spy." Flying purple demon appears and casts weird spells. One spell gives Boni a body.

The Horrible Thing
The Thing goes on holiday. All are bored and play hide-and-seek. Yellow gooey monster appears.

Not Very Nice
The Thing's eyeball falls down the trap door and Berk has to go fetch it.
Lots of crawling things come from the trap door.

Yum Yum
Berk throws Drutt down the trap door but decides to go get him back. He fishes up a cute small monster that is actually quite horrible.

Birthday Surprise
Berk is making Boni a birthday cake but Drutt is hiding. Drutt gets babies (although he is male).
The Stupid Thing
The Thing needs a bath. Drutt pulls a dinosaur-monster through the trap door.

Berk fills the trap door with rubbish. Ghosts begins to haunt Berk.

The Lump
Bad smell is coming from the cellar. Pink and smelly Lump makes also a lot of noise.

The Splund
The Thing overeats and his pyjamas split. Big and annoying Splund comes out the trap door and decides to move in the cellar.

Nasty Beasty
It is winter and Berk has to repair the Things heater. Weird furry thing has stuck on Rogg's head.

What a Weirdo
Big worm eats Boni and Drutt's family. Berk must save them all.

The Big Red Thing
Big red monster returns. Rogg goes to fight him and dies. Or does he?

Friday, December 25, 2015

Movie Review: The Search for Santa Paws

The Search for Santa Paws
Walt Disney Home Entertainment, Keystone Entertainment, Key Pix Productions, Santa Paws Productions, USA, 2010.
The Search for Santa Paws title
Santa Claus (Richard Riehle) gets sad news. His old friend Mr. Hucklebuckle has died. He had time to send a toy dog to Santa. James (John Ducey) and Kate (Bonnie Somerville) Huckle inherit Hucklebuckle's toy store. Lawyer Stewart (Bill Cobbs) tells that the Huckle's must manage the store at least for one Christmas.
Richard Riehle
Santa Claus
John Ducey and Bonnie Somerville
James and Kate
Little girl Quinn (Kaitlyn Maher) has to go to Ms. Stout's (Wendi McLendon-Covey) orphanage. Ms. Stout hates Christmas. The orphanage is not a nice place and Ms. Stout burns all toys. The oldest girl Willamina (Madison Pettis) is friend of all the other girls.
Wendi McLendon-Covey
Ms. Stout
Madison Pettis and Kaitlyn Maher
Willamina and Quinn
Christmas Icicle's magic turns the toy dog into a real dog named Paws (voiced by Zachary Gordon)! Paws becomes Santa's faithful helper. Christmas spirit of New York is waning. Santa visits NYC for PR-purposes but gets hit by a car and loses his memory. Also thief (Chris Coppola) steals his bag and magic necklace. Santa gets a job in Huckle's toy store as Santa.

Paws meets a pack of stray dogs: Haggis (voiced by Jason Connery), Rasta (Christopher Massey) and T-Money (Josh Flitter). The dog trio and some other people promise to help find Santa. Quinn wishes for toy dog and Paws arrives to orphanage to spread Christmas spirit. Without his necklace Santa gets sick and Paws turns into a toy dog (now that is one awkward situation). Also Eddy the Elf Dog (voiced by Richard Kind) and Eli the Elf (Danny Woodburn) travel to NYC to find Santa.
T-Money, Rasta, Haggis and Paws
Toy Paws
This is prequel to "Santa Buddies" with more focus on the human actors and without the Buddies. Musical numbers, cute dogs and cute kids should give adults a sugar overload. Still some scenes of toys going into Ms. Stout's incinerator might scare very small kids. Richard Riehle's Santa is a nice fellow but there is something uncanny about his make up. Also the Huckle couple and the kids were likable. For a doggy movie the dogs seem to have less screen time than in "Santa Buddies." Still the movie is quite enjoyable Christmas tale for kids, with message of Christmas spirit and some passable songs.

Rating: Average

Starring: Reese Alexander, Diedrich Bader, Sahar Biniaz, Danny Woodburn, Jan Bos, Ameko Eks Mass Carroll, Melody B. Choi, Dawn Chubai, Jason Connery, Bill Cobbs, Chris Coppola, Michelle Creber, Patrika Darbo, Michael Deyermond, John Ducey, Josh Flitter, Pete Gardner, Zachary Gordon, Jen Halley, G. Hannelius, C. Ernst Harth, Eric Keenleyside, Richard Kind , Kathryn Kirkpatrick, Alex Kliner, Nicole Leduc, Amber Lewis, Kaitlyn Maher, Christopher Massey, Tom McBeath, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Jonathan Morgan Heit, Mitchel Musso, Peter New, Nic Novicki, Adom Osei, Mark Parr, Madison Pettis, Mikey Post, Richard Riehle, Nathan Smith, Bonnie Somerville, Jakob Davies, James Ram Jattan, Megan Lee, Eddie Pepitone, Pia Mia Perez, Ian Thompson
Director: Robert Vince

Recommendations by Engageya