Unofficial Trilogy… Adapted Screenplay Edition (Now In Theaters)

Mars needs women... and food.

This Unofficial Trilogy is a special one.  It contains three theatrical treats, as opposed to DVD releases.  (It might be a bit misleading to say treats, but I liked the alliteration of it all.)

What makes these three pieces of work work as a threesome is that they are all adapted, um, works.  John Carter is based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars21 Jump Street is based on Stephen J. Cannell’s TV show, and kids TV show scripter Suzanne Collins wrote the book about kids killing each other for food.

So how do they stack up?

JOHN CARTER

Definitely the weakest of the bunch, and it’s a shame.  I had high hopes for this one despite its uninteresting previews, and I don’t even think the high hopes were what let me down.  Uneven pacing, too many plot points, no sense of wonder – these components were what let me down.  And it’s a shame, too.  This is director Andrew Stanton’s first foray into the real world.  He might be better off back behind an array of computers.  Compared to his Finding Nemo and Wall-E, John Carter doesn’t hold a CG-candle to them.

21 JUMP STREET

Often times, when cop comedies get stuck in their actual crime story, they lose some of their laughs (Hot Fuzz, The Other Guys, Police Academy series).  That is not the case with 21 Jump Street.  Adapted from a serious, and sometimes preachy, show, this flick is more about two buddies overcoming the differences in their past than anything else.  Who would have ever thought I’d enjoy a Channing Tatum film?

THE HUNGER GAMES

I don’t want to hype this movie up any more than it already is, but believe the hype.  This film is a winner.  I had no expectations or drive to see this film (since I’m not a teenager I didn’t read the books), and I think I was about an hour into it when I turned to someone with me and whispered:

I love this fucking film.

It might be too early to share this, but I’m looking more forward to Catching Fire (book two in The Hunger Games trilogy) than I am The Avengers.  And that’s saying a lot.

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Unofficial Trilogy… Shott Gunnn! Kid Detective Edition

Ah, the good ol’ days.  But as Billy Joel once said:

The good ol’ days aren’t always good and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.

The same could be said for this slightly different Unofficial Trilogy.  It’s unofficial for the simplest reason – they’re home videos.  A grouping of skits that I made with my kid brother starting back in 1991 (when he was around 7 and I was around 16) and ending the early winter of last year.

If you watch them, I hope you enjoy them.  If you don’t, don’t ever come looking for help from Shott Gunnn!

(SIDENOTE: Some history… the first two were filmed within rainy days of each other.  I started each with a basic idea, but we made the dialogue and action up as we went along.  I edited them both in camera, rewinding to erase takes, most times not successfully.  The last one was filmed on an iPhone 4s, which is a fraction of the size of a VHS tape.  It’s a worthy homage of the originals, including mistakes and all.  If you get through all three, I think you’d agree that it wraps things up nicely, bringing the Unofficial Trilogy full circle.)

Unofficial Trilogy… Unbelievably Wise Apes Edition

Rise of the Quality of the Ape Films

I love bad films; I love good films.  For this Unofficial Trilogy, it’s about as hot and cold as it gets.  Let’s jump into the premises, and you can determine which is which:

CARNIVAL MAGIC (1981)

A travelling carnival has reached the end of the line.  Nobody’s visiting anymore, and the tiger trainer – which used to be the big draw – is an abusive alcoholic.  Low and behold, the magician’s chimp – Alexander the Great – can talk, but he’s been keeping it under wraps.  Once word gets out, the carnival becomes a success, at what expense?  The drunk tiger trainer’s girlfriend’s safety?  The carnival owner’s daughter’s virginity?  Alexander the Great’s life?  All of the above in this children’s film.

Oh yeah, and this eventually happened to the director, Al Adamson (via Wikipedia):

Al Adamson was reported missing in 1995. Five weeks later, after law enforcement officials discovered his remains beneath the concrete and tile-covered whirlpool bath in his newly remodeled bathroom, his live-in contractor Fred Fulford was apprehended… He was charged with and convicted of murder, and sentenced to twenty-five-years-to-life in prison.

Magic!

PHENOMENA (1985)

The young daughter of an American movie star (Jennifer Connelly in her first major role) is sent to an all-girls school in Switzerland, and there’s a killer stalking the students.  That’s the boring part!  For some reason, Jennifer (that’s also the character’s name) can communicate with insects, and they become like the Watson to her Sherlock (that’s how her scientist friend puts it).  As for the ape – the less you know about him, the better.

(SIDENOTE: This film was known as Creepers when it was released in the US.  Oh yeah… it’s originally Italian.)

Jeepers, where'd you get that chewed up, mangled peeper?

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2011)

We all should know about this one, and if you don’t, I won’t spoil it.  The worst thing about this film is that it wasn’t nominated as on the ten Best Picture Oscars, especially when only nine were chosen.  I thought this was the most surprisingly good film I saw last year.  Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close gets nominated?!  Please.  more like Extremely Dull & Incredibly Pretentious…  

Unofficial Trilogy… Sucked From Time Edition

Flashing Lights, Grids, and Guns = Science Fiction

Millennium (1989)

This is the first of the films in which characters about to die are sucked from their impending doom and thrust into a surreal reality, or surreality™.  As you can see from the poster above, this one involves a plane.  Well, two planes.  And they’re about to crash into each other.  But all the passengers are already dead.  Because they were see the first sentence. It’s not the greatest film in the world, but if you enjoy Cheryl Ladd and Kris Kristofferson looking like this…

...then this pic's for you. Well, not this picture. I mean the motion picture. But I guess you could have this pic, too.

Freejack (1992)

The second film featuring a surreality™ doesn’t give away as much in the poster, other than its odd cast.  You might think the flick has to do something with virtual reality, which is strictly The Lawnmower Man’s territory (no it’s not), when in fact it deals with a man (Emilio Estevez) being pulled into the future before his race car crashes.  The reason why?  Sir Anthony Hopkins wants his body.  Seriously.  Estevez escapes and becomes a Freejack (aha!), and is chased by Mick Jagger looking like this:

He's got the goons like Jagger.

Gantz (2011)

If you enjoy subtitles and odd sci-fi action spread out over two movies, then these Japanese films are for you.  I haven’t seen the sequel yet (Gantz: Perfect Answer), so I don’t have any answers, perfect or otherwise, as to what the Gantz is.  Well, it’s a dude inside a giant black ball that pulls the almost deceased into a surreality™ where they dress up in rubber power suits and set out to kill a vast array of strange aliens.  Here’s a taste:

Natsuna Watanabe is easy on the Gantz.

Unofficial Trilogy… Meta-Mental Edition

These posters are almost like Neapolitan Ice Cream.

Mental illness is nothing to laugh about, and these films don’t take them lightly.  They take them light-ish.  Depression is depressing enough.

STRANGER THAN FICTION

Sure, Will Ferrell’s Harold Crick may not be too mental, but he sure needs some help.  When he begins hearing the narration about the mundane details of his systematic life, he seeks not only psychiatric help, but literary help.  Is his life a comedy or a tragedy?  Same goes for this film.

LARS AND THE REAL GIRL

Ryan Gosling’s Lars Lindstrom has a problem.  He can’t deal with the fact that his sister-in-law is pregnant (it is explained), so his response?  Get a mail-order girlfriend… that’s not really real, despite what the title depicts.  The whole town ends up chipping in and helping with his malady, so that maybe – just maybe – he can find true love with a real girl, like the title says.

THE BEAVER

Forget about Mel Gibson’s public exploits; his Walter Black is much worse off.  He’s so depressed that the only way he can keep giving a dam (ha!) is to speak through a beaver puppet.  This film isn’t as funny as you may hope it could be, but it is interesting… especially the end.  It’s certainly not flat like a beaver’s tail.  Sorry.

Unofficial Trilogy… B-Movies With B+ Endings

This is an Unofficial Trilogy I would never brag about, but I have to recommend.

One of these won't leave you feeling icky.

Galaxy of Terror

This Roger Corman classic is known primarily for three things:

  1. Joanie (Erin Moran) from Happy Days and Freddy Kruger (Robert Englund) are in it
  2. James Cameron (yes, that James Cameron) worked on this film’s special effects
  3. The worm scene

It’s because of #3 that I loathe to recommend it, but it’s story ended up impressing me slightly (because my expectations were so low).  Hence, the B+ ending.

The Toolbox Murders

This one starts off so stupid, I barely paid attention to it.  But there were two scenes that made me take notice:

  1. It contains Stephen King’s favorite death scene (Hint: it involves a nail gun.)
  2. The conversation between the kidnapped girl and the killer… is better than this film as a whole.

Group those in with the ending, and I say, it’s kind of worth watching if you like stupid slasher films.

Brotherhood

This is the respectable one in the bunch.  It’s about a fraternity prank that goes very wrong,  similar Very Bad Things.  It’s fairly believable, and it ratchets up the tension quite well.  Then there’s the ending!  Use this one as a palette cleanser.

Unofficial Trilogy… Cartoonish Nazi Bashing Edition

I know you’ve seen these, but I implore you to watch them again.

Fun times in not-so-(Nazi?)-fun times

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Raiders of the Lost Ark might be critically regarded as the best of the Indy films, but I was fourteen when Indy went on his supposedly Last Crusade and it’s my favorite.  I’m not a huge movie quote-spouter regularly, but with this film (and Ghostbusters), I can whip out (ha!) more than a few.  And don’t forget Sean Connery!  Plus Hitler signing the Grail Diary!  This film belongs in a museum.

The Rocketeer

One of my all-time favorite episodes of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was when there was a bad guy so bad that He-Man and Skeletor teamed up to save Eternia.  Aside from the happy heroics and the happier soundtrack, this film does the same – the Rocketeer teams up with mobsters to fight Nazis!  America, fuck yeah!

Inglourious Basterds

This film seemed to be the most fun Brad Pitt had since Snatch (take that whatever way you want).  We get not only exposed to one of the greatest film villains of all-time in Chistoph Waltz’s Colonel Hans Landa, we are treated to an early glimpse of the greatness that is Michael Fassbender/Magneto.  Bonus: Mike Myers isn’t playing Shrek!  We also get one more guest appearance from Hitler himself, but the Inglourious Basterds accomplish what Indy couldn’t, so once again… America, fuck yeah!