Aisle of the Damned: 01/19/18- The Perfunctory 2017 Wrap-Up

Hello, fellow movie geeks! Bryan and Kent are up to their old tricks again with their mandatory look at the year that was! Yes, there’s a look a the best, the worst, and the most disappointing releases of the year. Which movies will top their lists? Will Bryan have room for anything besides the plethora of grand superhero films this year? Find out!

All this and less on Aisle of the Damned!

The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
Velocity Girl- My Forgotten Favorite

Aisle of the Damned: 05/12/17- Mashed Potato Sculpture Man

Anybody got a cigarette?

It’s time to Ooga Chaka again! That’s right, Bryan and Kent take an extended look at James Gunn’s wonderful Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Kent also looks at a couple of excellent indie films with Colossal and Free Fire. But first, we examine the first look at Kingsman 2, which features the great Frank Sinatra, and the final look at Wonder Woman, which features… music from a late-90s Army recruitment ad?

Plus Hellboy news, recommendations and less on Aisle of the Damned!

The Aquabats– Stuck in a Movie
Charly Bliss– Ruby [Single Version]

Aisle of the Damned: 4/28/17- In Space, No One Can Hear You Say “Family”

family family family family

In our latest episode, Kent deals with all sorts of ne’er do wells with the cannibal import Raw, the very Lovecrafty chiller The Void, the Scottish pricks of T2 Trainspotting and the deviants behind Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Then Bryan joins in for a discussion about the 8th(!) film in a series that started with a decent Point Break remake: The Fate of the Furious.

We also discuss some Marvel and Transformers news and take a look at some new trailer drops like Atomic Blonde and Thor: Ragnarok. Oh, and a little movie called Star Wars: The Last Jedi. 

All this and less on Aisle of the Damned!

The Aquabats– Stuck in a Movie
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes– I am a Rock

Aisle of the Damned: 10/31/16- Patrick Stewart Eating from the Trash

Better than the Magnanimous Six

Bryan Lip-crypts and Kent Holle-ween are having you set your podcast dial to spooky as we shamelessly jump on the bandwagon and give our Top 10 favorite horror films of the 21st century. Before that though, we talk about Ash vs Evil Dead, the new Magnificent Seven, Storks and Shin Godzilla. We also discuss the Logan trailer, a couple of major hits losing their directors for the sequels and the possibility of a third Cloverfield coming soon. Oh, and JACK FROST IS COMING TO BLU RAY.

All this and less on Aisle of the Damned!

The Aquabats- 
Stuck in a Movie
John Zacherle- Coolest Little Monster

Five (or six) More Movies I (and Possibly I Alone) Want to See on Blu Ray

AMP1. The Absent-Minded Professor- This is more of a call to Disney to finish their promise from years ago to release the Fred MacMurray classic in hi-def. (If they include the sequel, Son of Flubber, even better!) I love black and white movies on blu ray and this is one that Disney said was coming a long, long time ago. They can include the colorized version if they want (yuck!) but I would buy the crap out of the original version of this movie. I loved it as a kid and always recognized its superiority to both the big-screen remake, “Flubber,” and the small-screen version with Harry Anderson. Judging by the DVD, I’m guessing the materials are in pretty good shape, so let’s see that lunatic basketball game and flying jalopy in all its glory, Mouse House!

poster 70x100 Slither nl nieuw 5.indd2. Slither- With James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy dominating the box office, how about we finally get a winning release of his horror comedy that provided a bigger role than “girl Steve Carrell hits on” to Elizabeth Banks, featured Nathan Fillion in one of his best roles and starred some Gunn regulars that populate his instant Marvel classic. (Michael Rooker, anyone?) To call Slither a true classic would be a bit of a stretch, admittedly. But it’s damned solid and it deserves better than the treatment it’s gotten, which is to say a Canadian blu ray that isn’t even in true 1080p. After watching Shout Factory’s excellent Lake Placid release, I sent them a suggestion to pick up the title since it would be perfect as part of their Scream Factory line. I would humbly request you do the same. More Gunn is always a good thing.

GCHI3. Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?/The Girl Can’t Help It – Frank Tashlin, the Looney Tunes director extrordinaire, made what would commonly be considered his best live-action films in the 50s when he partnered up with Jayne Mansfield for these loopy reels full of as many cartoon hijinx as he could muster for the era. (It helped that Mansfield was basically a cartoon version of Marilyn Monroe that seemed like she could have been dreamed up by an animator, and I mean that as a sincere compliment.) The films, besides still being fairly hilarious send-ups of the music/film/advertising biz, are Technicolor wankery at its finest, just begging to pop out of your screen in a cavalcade of eye-melting hues.

AoD4. Army of Darkness (Director’s Cut)- Call me old-fashioned… or a primitive screw-head… but I hate it when we see a step backwards from one generation to the next. I have a two-disc DVD set with both versions of Sam Raimi’s “Medieval Dead” capper to his trilogy and the differences are fascinating. I actually prefer a good portion of the theatrical cut (one of the main reasons being the inclusion of some of Ash’s best lines, for example “Good. Bad. I’m the guy with the gun.” as opposed to the underwhelming, “I ain’t that good.”) but the end battle with the army of the dead works better in the director’s cut than the chopped up theatrical version, giving you a much better sense of an actual battle with a plan rather than a chaotic free-for-all. Now, honestly, I’m sure the director’s cut is in pretty sad shape. Let’s just call the spade what it is. But it still stinks that on the blu ray release, we only get one version of a film that has already seen multiple releases of multiple cuts. I realize you and Anchor Bay like milking us for all it’s worth to try to recap your losses on this one since it’s a cult favorite, Universal. But, despite the fact that it would certainly decimate the worth of my limited edition set, let’s finally get a definitive hi-def release of this puppy with both versions and all the suppliments. Mm-kay?

cutie-honey-logo15. Cutie Honey- A live-action adaptation of the popular Japanese anime, Cutie Honey is directed by the creator of Neon Genesis Evangelion. But you wouldn’t know it to see it. There is no incoherent religious subtext or endless ocean of ennui here. Instead, it is absolute bonkers animated insanity cranked up to 11 and kawaii as hell. My personal favorite parts are the strange, photo-animated effects sequences as, for example, Honey dodges missiles shot out by the crazy-make-upped bad guys. Just in general, it operates along that bizarre “WTF” level that is occupied by films such as Detention. The eventual American DVD release was pretty meh, even by anime release standards, so an upgrade would be nice. More than that though, this is a film that has a visual look to it that deserves to be seen in a high quality format. Those who have seen Speed Racer on blu with a nice, big TV have an inkling of just what kind of visual crack can be achieved with a movie that exists in such a stylized universe. I’m not saying Cutie Honey is on that level (it wasn’t nearly expensive enough), but to my eyeballs, it is akin to Crazy Harry dynamiting a Katy Perry concert. Like Speed Racer, it is very, very close to being a cartoon, despite being populated with flesh and blood humans. This is my favorite kind of movie imagery to suck into my view-holes, like a filterless Lucky Strike for my visual pleasure centers. I want to see it as it deserves to be seen.

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Guardians of the Galaxy


Guardians of the Galaxy is not Marvel’s best film. At least not in my eyes. It isn’t as consistent as The Avengers and it doesn’t offer quite the perfect blend of heady thrills that we received in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. But it absolutely delivers, and when taken as a pair with Cap, it makes 2014 the banner year for Marvel cinema. Some have called it this generation’s Star Wars. I would call it this generation’s much better version of The Last Starfighter. Whatever you call it, it is a great way to close out the summer.

But let’s put the kibosh on the outright Star Wars comparisons while we have the chance. While it’s obvious that Gunn grew up with Star Wars and brings that kind of semi-grungy feel to the proceedings, the most recent film I can think of that is reminiscent in tone is actually JJ Abrams’ initial Star Trek entry. It cares more about movement and fun (while including some pathos) than being serious sci-fi. And the way Gunn grounds the film with the soundtrack is a much better utilized extension of how Abrams clunkily snuck the Beastie Boys into Trek on an “oldies” station. Both seem to care more about establishing the characters and their interaction than plot, at least on the surface level. In fact, I kind of want to watch it again so that I can do a bit better analysis of the two and how they compare and contrast. But then I’m also reminded because I feel a lot of the original Trek in Guardians, as well there should be considering the cosmic side of the Marvel universe was being developed back in the sixties and seventies. The character Gamora, with her green skin, is highly reminiscent of an Orion woman with a higher make-up budget. This only enhances the proceedings as far as I’m concerned. They are both playful updates that keep the spirit of the pop-art sci-fi they were born from.

After an Up-style, heady, depressing opening designed to inform the audience of where our protagonist Peter Quill comes from, it wisely buckles in to become a tongue-in-cheek thrill ride with some great characters and an assortment of wonderful moments that range from small and personal to universe-shattering. Unlike a lot of films of this ilk, there are even moments when the two collide.

Quill, desperate to make a name for himself as an outlaw with the nickname ‘Star Lord,’ was abducted from Earth as a child right after the most tragic and defining moment of his life, his mother’s death. It’s obvious why Chris Pratt of Andy Dwyer fame on Parks and Recreation was cast, as he imbues the same kind of childlike innocence in the character that makes you root for him even as he’s doing things that could be considered border-line despicable. The real brilliance of the casting is that he manages to give Quill a sense of palpable arrested development. While he’s gotten older and become a seasoned pirate, for lack of a better word, there is a part of him that has never progressed from that moment and the film pulls no punches with the obvious metaphors in this regard. While it is never mentioned by name, Quill obviously labors under a love of the Han Solo model of scoundrel. But rather than push that connection, writer/director James Gunn fills him with just as well-known but more left-field references to the pop culture he grasped onto as a child and hasn’t let go of.

In addition, Quill continues to carry around a mixtape his mother made for him. Played on his original Walkman (still in fantastic condition, surprisingly), it becomes a part of the character and the ’70s and ’80s tunes are built into the film in an extremely organic way. No doubt, the soundtrack will sell a bajillion copies. If one were cynical (and I’m sure there are a few critics who have already said so) I could talk about the film being so blatantly calculated with its feel good, curated soundtrack. I’m sure there are lots of other ways that people can complain about being manipulated (as if that doesn’t happen with every movie), but every example I can think of actually comes across as good, solid, commercial filmmaking. Everything that could come across as trite is embedded into the story or the characters and given a real excuse to be there, beyond being, to quote Mike Nelson from the Twilight Rifftrax commentary, “Coldly calculated to pander to your shrieking demographic.” As an example of commercial limitations being built into character, there are things like Quill’s use of the term “a-hole,” used to get the director his first PG-13 rating, which come across as part of his stunted growth.

And the characters are extremely well put together. The villains and side characters may lack a certain amount of depth, but Gunn does such a good job balancing and creating interpersonal relationships between the eponymous Guardians that one would struggle to come up with a standout. Given that means fully developing five separate characters from scratch (none of the main characters have been seeded in other films) and giving each of them a real arc, that’s not bad at all. Besides Quill, we also have Gamora, played by Star Trek alum Zoe Saldana, who is the adopted daughter of Marvel’s Darkseid analog, Thanos. She finally feels she’s found a chance to escape his clutches. If anyone gets a shorter shrift it’s her, but it’s not from a lack of trying. Part of her character simply requires her to have less of the humorous moments that pull the audience in. If her “sister” Nebula (Doctor Who’s Karen Gillan, sporting one of the more impressive make-up jobs I’ve ever seen) had been further developed, it may have helped as she does have that interpersonal relationship to fall back on, but we may have to wait for the inevitable sequel for that. Marvel occupies this incredibly unique sphere where their films work individually, yet their almost assured success thus far has allowed them a tremendous amount of breathing room. If a plot thread isn’t overly developed in one film, it can be picked up in another. Gunn does a fantastic job wrapping things up in satisfying fashion at the end, but there is more than enough to bring along for another film. It’s a balancing act that most of the Marvel directors have proven deft at and speaks well to the planning that has gone into their overall series. (Ant-Man could always be the first blow against them, but I hold out hope that Peyton Reed will finally get a chance to pull off his superhero film that he’s wanted to do since he was prepping what sounds like a far superior version of Fantastic Four than what ended up coming out.)

In addition, we have a surprisingly good performance from Dave Bautista, who made his name as a professional wrestler. Based on what little I’d seen of his performances talking up matches and his serviceable but unremarkable role in Riddick, I was expecting him to bring a strong physicality to the role of Drax the Destroyer, for sure. But I was pleasantly surprised by the comic timing that he brings to the screen. He gets a good hook that allows humor to be built off him so he can be taken in by the audience much more than a typical scarred up, tattooed, hulking ball of rage. The characters that will undoubtedly find their way into the highest echelons of pop culture, as kids will undoubtedly latch onto them like crazy, are Rocket (aka Rocket Raccoon) and his ent-like sidekick Groot. While they will surely be turned into cute plush toys, neither comes across as particularly adorable for most of the screentime with Rocket managing in particular to come across more as irritable. There’s little chance of him being confused with the kind of CGI animals that inhabit family films where screenwriters work out their issues with how they think their dads worked too much. No, our little Rocket is a hissing, mangy bag of annoyance. And while I still personally would not have picked Bradley Cooper to voice him (I had spent a good deal of time rooting for the David Tennant rumor to be true, giving him a gruff British Isles accent as he does in some media he’s appeared in), he does a more than serviceable job. Also doing his job well is Vin Diesel, who manages to give Groot’s limited vocabulary a surprising range. What in many ways could come across as a one-note character is, through Diesel and some excellent work by the film’s animators, given a surprising depth and unique personality. Sometimes he feels like a Miyazaki character that accidentally fell into the wrong universe.

Gunn manages to herd these characters through several action sequences and alien worlds, giving us a rudimentary travelogue through Marvel’s cosmic branch. For decades the company has had a history of characters jumping around in deep space but this section of the publisher’s continuity had largely been overlooked in favor of Earth-based heroes in the films. Some of this may be because arguably the most well-known of these characters, The Silver Surfer, is tied to the Fantastic Four franchise over at Fox. Some of it is certainly due to a lack of name recognition compared to a character like Captain America (though really, Iron Man was only a sixties cartoon away from similar obscurity to the general public before that movie was a big hit.) And some of it was, no doubt, due to worries about the nature of the ensuing film. After all, apart from Star Wars/Trek, there have been relatively few space franchises that have made a splash at the box office. Put it all together and it’s no wonder people thought this was a big gamble for the studio and their Disney overlords. We’ve been given peaks and glimpses to this larger universe in the Thor films and The Avengers, but on the whole it is a very different project for them.

However, the Marvel name has deservedly become a huge selling point and they made all the right calls here. It may be sci-fi spectacle, but they have injected it with plenty of the Marvel DNA that typically means a fun and exciting story that won’t depress the hell out of you. They put together that rarest of things: A special effects blockbuster with not just a pulse, but a soul.

(Four and a half damns given out of five)

Kent’s Movie Diary: Samurai, Santa and Scooby-Doo

The Criterion Zatoichi set is insane.

The Criterion Zatoichi set is insane.

ZATOICHI- I’m about halfway into the Zatoichi film series and man, is it a lot of fun.

After ordering the 25-film set from Criterion when it came out around November, I’ve been picking at it here and there, sometimes watching a couple of films in a row, sometimes going a couple of weeks between films, depending on how busy I am and whether I feel like breaking them up and watching other films inbetween.

I’d say the set is the best blu ray release of 2013 for a number of reasons. First, because of the sheer manpower that went into it. Each of the films has a short essay/description of the film, which is certainly not rare for the company, but what’s really great is that each is accompanied by an art piece inspired by the film by a different illustrator or comic artist. You’ve also got decent transfers for the films, despite being three films to a disc. (Unusual for Criterion, but they also had both versions of Godzilla/Gojira on the same disc.) And, despite my incredulity over the unnecessary size of the set due to the redundant inclusion of all the films on DVD (leading to a mammoth 27-discs), the box itself is gorgeous. Frankly the whole thing has had care lavished upon it. I highly recommend picking it up.

One of many Zatoichi films and one of my personal faves so far.

One of many Zatoichi films and one of my personal faves so far.

As for the films themselves, they start out very strong and have a surprising amount of continuity between them in the beginning, especially in the opening trilogy or so. After that, unfortunately, it peters away and only gets brought up as convenient exposition. At the point I am at, having just finished film twelve, Zatoichi and the Chess Expert, they’re starting to seem more like a well-made TV series. (In fact, the films would finally give way to a TV series starring the same actor in the role which would run for many episodes.) There are actors showing up in different roles and plots starting to feel recycled. Not to mention some more cliche story elements like the old “main character finds himself saddled with a baby” chestnut. In a way that is a bit hard to avoid though as, while Ichi isn’t a samurai per se, the films share the same DNA and there are a lot of them in the films. If America has the Western then samurai movies are the “Eastern.” The two have a lot in common, down to the samurai or the gunslinger being constantly challenged by rivals determined to prove they’re the best. Each is full of themes that repeat ad nauseum and the quality of the production often outweighs how original they are simply because the tropes loom so large.

And in that sense, the Zatoichi films fare well because they are full of great character moments and fantastic, if sometimes short and spread out, action sequences. Seeing him take down those that try to cheat him due to his blindness really never does get old. He is a classic rogue. He stands up for the rights of others, but he’s no angel. He gambles, he drinks and he loves to stuff his face like a glutton. I can’t wait to get to some of the great sounding chapters to come up, like the one in which he faces Tishiro Mifune’s character from Yojimbo.

Because what the world was waiting for was a tattooed Santa, ready for Coke cans.

Because what the world was waiting for was a tattooed Santa, ready for Coke cans.

RISE OF THE GUARDIANS- I remember this film doing reasonably well at the box office, but Dreamworks being very disappointed that it didn’t do better. Part of that may be because it has some things in common with The Avengers, putting together the most well known of children’s myths into a kind of super-team. Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Sandman and, as a new member, Jack Frost comprise the Guardians. And as such, they have to fight the Boogeyman. It sounds good on paper, but I’ll admit that it just seemed to be missing something. Maybe part of it is that kids love to be scared and the Boogeyman could have been a great personification of Halloween instead of a really generic villain. Part of it may have been the fact that it represents one weird theology.

The Guardians are all creatures that have been created/appointed by the Man in the Moon, who is a stand-in for God, apparently. And he created the Boogeyman for a reason that is unclear. And he let him go off and scare people for a really long time before he changed his mind and had the Guardians take him out somewhere around the Enlightenment. So the Boogeyman is kind of Satan, I guess? Meanwhile, Santa is Russian. This despite the fact that the films says all the Guardians started as regular people, so one would assume that would be St. Nicholas, who was Turkish. And the Easter Bunny is Australian. There’s not really an explanation for that either, but he’s huge and uses boomerangs. Maybe it’s because Sony had already used the Easter Island gag for Hop. (Santa’s elves seem distractingly similar to the Minions from their Despicable Me movies as well.)

These weird ticks aren’t quite as damning as the awkward attempts to inject schmaltz though. Spoiler alert, at one point a kid, who has just spent the last 20 minutes hanging out with all of them asks what happens if he stops believing in the Guardians. Why would he? That’s like not believing in carrots even though you are currently in the middle of eating them. It made me think of that guy in the Stan Freberg Dragnet parody that doesn’t believe in Santa Claus or Columbus. (He hadn’t made up his mind about Toledo.) That’s one hell of a fragile belief system, kid. And this nonsensical moment is no doubt shoehorned into the story to make sure they can throw in an obligatory speech about the importance of “belief.” Not anything specific, mind you. Just believe in believing. Sort of the Unitarian Church of story morals.

Despite all the nitpicking (when did this turn into a Red Letter Media video?), it’s a solid enough effort with some decent visuals and a fun idea behind it. Those with kids should check it out.

Doo is right.

Doo is right.

SCOOBY-DOO/SCOOBY-DOO 2: MONSTERS UNLEASHED- Given my excitement over the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy (and my appreciation for Slither and Super), I decided to give Scooby Doo another chance. What does one have to do with the other you may ask? Well, if you were an IMDB obsessive, you may know that James Gunn, the director (and writer) of those films, wrote the screenplays for the two theatrical, live-action Scooby films.

Direct to video Velma. Jesus, she's adorable!

Direct to video Velma. Jesus, she’s adorable!

To be clear, as far as I know he had nothing to do with the other ones that have been made for the direct-to-video market. You know, the ones where Velma is suddenly Asian? (Which I am actually really OK with for obvious reasons.)

While I can say I didn’t hate Scooby Doo as much as I did back when I saw it after it first came out, I can say it’s still not very good. At all. Sure, a few things work. You’ve got Matthew Lilliard giving the performance of his career as Shaggy. It’s just too bad they give him so little of merit to do. By the time he and Scoob have their big fart-off, it’s obvious that he’s way better than the material here. Yeah, I said it. And then there’s Linda Cardelini from Freaks and Geeks as Velma. She’s also terrific. She manages to present one of the more likable versions of the character. Again, no thanks to Gunn’s script. And by the way, she’s by far the hottest of the group between her and Daphne.

Theatrical Velma in her Rob Liefeld designed outfit.

Theatrical Velma in her Rob Liefeld designed outfit.

And don’t get me wrong, I like Sarah Michelle Gellar. I’m a fan of Buffy from the way, way back and I had a not unreasonable crush on her at the time. She’s not even necessarily terribly cast in the role had it been written as the character on the original TV show. Sort of like how Arnold Schwartzenegger wasn’t a terrible choice for Mr. Freeze… if they’d treated him as the emotionless block of ice from the cartoon instead of the pun-spewing cinematic shrinkage he was written as in Batman and Robin, trying to ape the 60s show.

But that’s the biggest problem with both of the Scooby films. Neither of them treat the characters as they are in the cartoon. They act as poor sequels to the cartoon with the characters in a state of flux. These aren’t the characters we have seen for the last forty years. They’re completely different. It’s like doing a Little Rascals film in which Spanky and Alfalfa are grown-ups, talking about mortgages in their clubhouse. In the case of the first film, it’s trying far too hard to be both a Doo movie and a parody of the TV show based on countless bad stand-up routines from the 80s about Shaggy smoking weed or Velma being a lesbian. A far, far less clever version of what was cranked out in The Brady Bunch Movie. But while the Brady’s were celebrated, winning out over those that made fun of them for being out of time, the Scooby gang are twisted around into socially retarded dopes and neurotics. Not to mention that it abandons the basic tennents of the series by having the ultimate bad guy (yet another gag that sounds far more clever as an internet joke than a plot point) be supernaturally powered.

I suppose that might be why so many folks were pleasantly surprised by the second film. It carries over many, many problems of the first film, (like the fact that Scooby still looks like he was rendered on a graphics chip for a PS2) but it does manage to succeed in making its spastic tone settle the hell down. It’s far more a straight-up Doo movie without as many of the jokes that were far too blatant to be “wink wink” in the first film. And in the end, when Mystery Inc. gets the bad guy, it feels much more like it should. There may be “real monsters” now, but they were created by someone using the same kind of hackneyed science that allowed movie projectors and glow paint and air-powered jet packs to somehow create convincing ghosts in the first place.

It also has by far the funniest line in either film, delivered by Peter Boyle in reference to those damn bushes.

It’s not a great film. Hell, I’d struggle to call it a good one. But compared to the first it was definitely a step in the right direction. I wonder what would have happened if someone besides Raja Gosnell had directed them. Someone with some more style and an ability to create more atmosphere. That was what I really loved about the original cartoons. The look of the creepy houses. The music. Is it wierd I think about the Nolan Batman films when I think about how it’s been long enough since these came out that someone could take over and restart the franchise? I just think of someone like Guillermo Del Toro taking over and I get a little giddy. Or Alfonso Curon. (Before you give me the middle finger, remember that he did Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.)

I have to imagine that Gosnell was a large part of why these films failed if only because Gunn has a history of schizophrenic films that juggle ideas and when he has helmed his own projects, he’s been able to balance his crazy better. Then again, most of his other projects were balls-out R-rated meyhem. I guess we’ll just have to see how well he’s able to do with a PG-13 next summer.