Cloverfield

I love this J.J. Abrams produced movie because I am mean spirited.

It starts out with a bunch of young, attractive, New York 20-somethings having a party and complaining a little too much and having the bulls**t drama that 20-somethings hold so dear...all this, of course, in a very well decorated apartment. This sequence isn't very long but it feels like two hours.  One of the partygoers is the hippie from True Blood (Lizzy Caplan), who has made an art of being both ditzy and somehow intimidating.

Then a monster invades New York.

Not a brain surgeon in the bunch, as they all think heading to the roof is a good idea after what could have been an earthquake. But No! It gets worse! Explosions! Flaming Debris! Screaming! Fleeing! Poor decision making! Mutants! All of these American Apparel models are going to die!! Obviously, the party breaks up, and we follow a smaller group of people who decide to take Rob (Michael Stahl-David ) on his ill-advised plan: Cross the freshly-made downtown combat zone to see about a girl.

You probably already know that Cloverfield is a standard Monster-Invades-New-York scenario told from the perspective of everyone else. You know those guys on the boat that brought the thing, or the shady government organization that's known about it for years? Not them.

When is the government going to realize we wouldn't need universal health care if they'd just stop bringing ultra destructive monsters into our population centers?

It would also be easier to cover up, since everyone and their mother has a video-equipped cell phone these days. Imagine how much money it takes to police up and erase all that footage filmed in glorious Shake-o-Vision.

One of the silliest things about this movie is just how seriously screwed the main characters are and the decisions they make despite this. Prime example: there's a 30 story tall something trashing Manhattan, and one of three on screen characters decides he needs to  cross the newly made demilitarized zone for a girl he apparently slept with once. Once.

So they go there. They encounter trials and tribulations, like mutant snow crabs and whatever diseases they're carrying, and the 30-story 'something', and it's all pretty pulse pounding. The movie clocks in at a fat-free 85 minutes and barely leaves time to breathe.

Really, this movie gets everything right in terms of straight presentation, cinematography and style. Unlike a lot of other directors, Matt Reeves makes it a point to have almost no signature on his work when necessary, which lends a great deal of credibility to what's going on. Where John Woo has his doves and his fire, Tarantino has his feet and DePalma has misogyny, Mr. Reeves appears to have authenticity; he'll certainly be one to watch, with his remake of Let The Right One In (titled Let Me In ) coming soon.

That being said, you could really have a great time with this movie and any number of "documentary" style horror films with simple "WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT?!" humor.

Monsters Vs. Aliens

This is precisely the sort of movie I would make if I wanted something kids could watch in awe, while the adults laugh themselves silly.

Starting out with some SETI-style researchers-who only took the job because they wouldn't have to do anything-end up having their plans foiled when they detect a U.F.O. It turns out to be a meteorite that crashes into Earth, specially on top of Susan Murphy (Reese Witherspoon), turning her into a 50-foot-tall woman.

Oh, and ruining her wedding.

In short order, the usual black helicopter goons show up and whisk Susan off to the secret government lab, where she meets all the great b-monsters of the 1950's. B.O.B the blob (Seth Rogan)-a lovable pile of sentient goo, Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie)-a not-too-subtle reference to The Fly, The Missing Link (Will Arnett)-who is more Creature from the Black Lagoon than walking ape, and Insectasaurous-the requisite giant monster that resembles nothing less than the product of an unholy union of a gerbil, a puffer fish, and a ladybug. These characters are wardened by the hysterically funny Gen. W.R. Monger, played with verve by Keifer Sutherland-who, quite frankly, sounds like he wrestled a bull by the horns, took said horns, and carved them into the microphone he used to record his voice over.

Apparently the Monster crew has been sequestered for some time, only to be released when the world is accosted by the (slightly) intelligent alien warlord, Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson ). Their mission: Defeat Gallaxhar's terrifying probe robot, then his army of very stupid clones, and finally Gallaxhar himself. I'm not really spoiling anything when I tell you they win. It's a kids movie after all. That's not really the point, it's not that they win, but how.

Full of hysterical sight gags, clever bits of dialogue ("This place is an X-file, wrapped in a cover-up and deep-fried in a paranoid conspiracy!"), a dash of satire, and a surprising number of adult contemporary hits. Phrases like "Code Nimoy! Code Nimoy!" are frequently mixed-in with references to Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Beverly Hills Cop-nevermind the fact that the entire movie is a nod to Dr. Strangelove. Even so, there's a good balance between the referential pop-culture humor and jokes that stand on their own. It doesn't hurt that the supporting voice cast is top notch as well, with Stephen ColbertPaul Rudd, and Ed Helms all contributing.

The icing on the character cake is Susan, who does the full Sarah Connor/Ellen Ripley Hero's Journey: going from delicate flower to destroyer of robots and stomper of alien ass. More importantly, she realizes she doesn't need a man to make her happy. You go, girl!

We don't do "family" movies on the Cavalcade often, but when one comes down the pike that has so many nods to the movies that inspired our love of schlocktacular cinema, we have to take a look. Fortunately, this movie's great on all levels. If you were to Cavalcade it, feel free to mix and match it with one of the fore-mentioned 50's romps, Monsters Inc., or Bolt-which has even more nods to Hollywood b-movies.

Q: The Winged Serpent

There’s so much in this movie that I don’t know quite where to start.  Let’s start with the basics: worshipers of the ancient, Aztec god Quetzalcoatl , have been performing sacrifices and as a result have brought “Q” back to life.  Q is a 40-foot-long winged serpent that has set up shop in the Chrysler building and uses the New York skyline as her own buffet.  The NYPD had their hands full between investigating the ritual murders before heads, arms, and blood start raining from the sky.

Starring as our stalwart police detectives are none other than David “Kwai Chang Caine” Carradine and Richard “Shaft” Roundtree.  What’s more, they are playing pre-Giuliani New York police detectives, so not only are they jaded, not only are they underpaid and grouchy, but they (and the city as a whole) look completely rumpled and dirty.

Part of what makes this film-and the majority of director Larry Cohen’s pictures-so fascinating, is how Cohen presents ludicrous events and how something very closely resembling the real world would react to them.  There are no secret agents, clandestine government agencies, covert religious sects or chosen saviors in the film.  There is only an over-worked and incredulous police force.  There is a gigantic flying lizard literally picking people off of rooftops and all Carradine can do is research the ritual killings, interview history professors, and put together a theory that just happens to be correct, no matter how insane it appears.  When Carradine and company finally do track down Q, the assault on the bird feels more like a police raid than a climactic battle between man and the wrath of nature.  But, that is exactly what makes the film so interesting.  Well, that and Michael Moriarty.

Older readers will remember Moriarty as the original ADA on Law & Order back before Sam Waterson (my favorite of Jim Henson’s Muppets) took over.  Q began a long working relationship between he and Cohen which included The Stuff and Cohen’s episode of the Showtime's horror anthology series Masters of Horror: “Pick Me Up.” Moriarty plays Jimmy Quinn, the greatest asshole ever.  Mere words cannot do justice to hope thoroughly and exquisitely annoying Jimmy Quinn is.  You have to imagine the dread combination of Veruca Salt , Walter PeckEllis Carver, Carter Burke, Biff Tannen, and Chet Donnelly… exposed to gamma rays.  Quinn is a former addict/full-time loser who happens upon Q’s nest and uses the information to extort money from the city of New York.  Along the way, he will push every single button in your soul until you wish you were the man with knife at his throat.  I honestly do not know why Moriarty was not nominated for such a performance.

If that is not enough, be sure to keep an eye out for some of the greatest reaction shots from the cheapest New York local actors.  It’s a wonderful combination of bad acting and imitation Ray Harryhausen special effects.  And, remember, body parts falling from the sky!

Fallen Ones, The

Let's start this off with a simple statement, so you understand where I'm coming from: I honestly don't know how the other critics do it. By "it" of course, I mean write about movies they hate.

My thoughts are if a movie is so chock full of suck that you are driven to drink in order to forget the terrible memory of what you've just forced yourself to sit through, the last thing you want to do is sit down and write 500 words about it, right?

Before the Cable nets got all uppity and started making original television shows that were better than what the broadcast networks were doing, they were the haven of television reruns, infomercials, and late-night movie marathons. TNT in particular, before they knew drama, were intimately familiar with B-grade splatterhouse schlock.  Of particular note was a Saturday night show called Monstervision that started in the early 90's and ended in 2000. Every episode the host of the show, Jo Bob Briggs, would enthusiastically talk about the movie we were about to see together-frequently throwing in bits of trivia about the cast, crew, or the making of the film. This guy loved these movies no matter how bad they were, and his excitement was seriously infectious. The best part of his reviews though, were his lists, where everything ended in "FU". An example of his breakdown style, for Vampire Cop (1990):

The special effects consist of about ten seconds of a drug dealer's face turning into Silly Putty and getting fried off in the sun. My kind of promotion!

  • Twelve breasts.
  • Twelve dead bodies.
  • Multiple neck-fanging.
  • Wrist-cracking.
  • Double vampire sex in a bathtub. (Don't ask--you don't wanna do it.)
  • Flesh-burning.
  • Co-anchor bashing.
  • Kung-Fu.
  • Fang-Fu.
  • Fe-Fi-Fo-Fu.
  • Gratuitous "Hot Bod" bikini contest.

Well, the point of all of this is that I now get why he did it that way.  Sometimes it's easier to do a breakdown list than actually talk about the movie in detail. Sadly however, I notice that I still have about a hundred words left to go in this review, so maybe I should actually talk about the movie this review is supposed to be about.

The Fallen Ones tells the story of Matt Fletcher (Casper Van Dien), an archaeologist who digs up a giant mummy, only to find out that it's the son of an Angel who raped a woman thousands of years ago (Navid Negahban), and who's now trying to resurrect his son to start a new war on heaven...or something like that. To be honest, by the time they get around to explaining motives or anything, you'll be deep into your drink, trying hard to forget the stabbing pain behind your eyes this movie induces. The vaunted giant mummy on the box cover appears in the first 5 minutes and the last 10, that's about it.  Everything in between is people talking or dying off camera.

The best part of the picture is Tom Bosley-the dad from Happy Days-playing a rabbi. Sadly he gets offed early in the film, so the only thing left to you is more booze to try and slog it through the full runtime. Lest you think I kid about this: At our Cavalcade screening, a non-drinker sucked down 4 Rum and Cokes to make it through the pain. Further evidence in our continuing theory that the more Casper Van Dien is in a movie, the more one must drink to forget it.

There, 574 words. I've done my duty.

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Godzilla: Final Wars

Good day, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for joining us for our long-awaited review of Godzilla: Final Wars. However, before I can get to the review proper, and adequately discuss the nuances of the film, I have to get something off my chest. I feel the need to do this, if only because it does so affect the rest of the analysis. We here at the Cavalcade of Schlock do want to thank you for your patience in this matter, ladies and gentlemen, and promise to be brief in my announcement, so that we may both continue on in our studied consideration of the motion picture. So, without further ado...

Ahem.

*cough*

....

*deep breath*

Oh. My. F*@%ING GOD. This movie is F*@%ING AMAZING!

*cough*

Thank you.

Ok, now onto the review proper: The year is 2020 and the earth is in chaos. Countless years of constant warfare and environmental neglect has led to the rise of the monsters. To combat the growing threat, the world's governments have formed the Earth Defense Force (EDF), whose sole purpose is to, well, defend the Earth... through force. Wielding a staggering array of the latest technology and weaponry that science-fiction can provide, the EDF have still more resources to call on in this desperate struggle for humanity: Super-Human Mutants.

Enter into the situation, the Xiliens. An alien race that, at first glance, is promising to help defend mankind against not only the monsters, but the impending doom of a planet made of FIRE on a collision course with Earth (to be fair, I think they meant "meteor" and mistranslated). However, it turns out that the Xiliens are actually the ones controlling the monsters and the fiery planet of doom hurtling towards Earth. Now, with the planet overrun with giant monsters, what hope do we have left?

That's right, Godzilla.

The one monster that the EDF couldn't defeat steps into the fray, not necessarily to defend the Earth, per-se. It's mostly a "if anybody's gonna trash the place, it's gonna be me" kind of deal. That's right, Godzilla is here to kick ass and call it Christmas, so sit back and enjoy the show. And what a show it is!

Every monster to ever set foot (or wing, in the case of Mothra) makes an appearance in this picture. Even the American 'Zilla from the travesty that was Godzilla (1998) steps up to receives a beating in one of the films best scenes.  This is a movie that's not afraid to ripoff of every science fiction movie released in the last 20 years. Just off the top:

But. It. doesn't. Matter. Because this movie throws them all together, stirs the pot of absurdity into a quality stew, and sets the burners to eleven...

Hmm. Kind of took that metaphor a bit too far there.

The point of all this is that you won't find a better Cavalcade movie than this. I still haven't mentioned the captain of one of the EDF warships, played by former champion Mixed Martial Artist Doug Frye as a man so... manly that he carries a samurai sword slung over his shoulder the entire picture soley so he can stick it in a wall and fight mano-a-mano against an alien in one of the films climactic battles!

In closing, three words: See this f@#%ing movie.