Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tales From The Discount Bin: Wet Work

I've got mixed feeling about this book, which was expanded from a short story that appeared in the Night of the Living Dead inspired anthology Book of the Dead. In many ways Wet Work is spectacularly, awesomely bad, but in other ways it's just plain bad.

Phillip Nutman does deserve credit for creating a fairly unique vision of a zombie apocalypse, where Comet Saracen rains down radiation that revives the dead and weakens the immune systems of the living. The twist here is that not all zombies are brainless, although all of them are bloodthirsty. For reasons not explained in the book, some zombies retain all of their mental capacities, and actively choose people to recruit to their ranks, saving the rest to live as cattle. Sounds promising, right? Unfortunately the book takes until nearly the halfway point to actually bring the zombies into the heart of the action, leaving them mainly on the sidelines while the action is focused on two disparate storylines, neither of which is incredibly fast paced or interesting.

Story A follows Dominic Corvino, an Italian CIA assassin with a penchant for Billie Holliday and silk Karate Gis. Most of his story is devoted to a botched job in South America and his investigation into who betrayed his team. It's no real surprise to say his investigation doesn't stop when he's shot to death by a fellow assassin, although it should have. I mean, you'd figure a seasoned CIA assassin would know enough to shoot someone in the head. That's common knowledge even when there aren't zombies running around. Story B follows Nick Packard, a rookie cop teetering on the edge of alcoholism as he begins his career on the mean streets of Washington D.C. while his wife is away to be near her dying mother.

While I can't say Mr. Nutman is a horrible writer, he isn't an especially spectacular one either, particularly when it comes to pacing. The book lurches unsteadily along, seeming to build up speed repeatedly only to veer away from any buildup of action to focus on some fairly tedious domestic action, and then suddenly picks up steam and races to it's conclusion in the last 60 pages or so. Nutman is the type of author who explains characters rather than allow them to reveal themselves through their actions, so it's hard to get fully involved in the parts of this book where we're supposed to be worrying about their predicaments.

On a side note, this book was written in 1993, and takes place in 1995, and yet the president, although never named, is clearly George Bush, and Dan Quayle is the vice president. It's never explained, although I am curious as to how he could have made such a mistake, or why he would employ such an anachronism. That's the largest, although not the only, error in the book. It's clearly stated early on that the Zombies feel no pain, and yet when it suits the story they are shown and described as being in pain from certain wounds.

Still, the book passed a boring day answering phones at a temp job(no, I wasn't slacking, they told me to bring a book!), so it has that going for it. And really, what's not to love about a climax that features a full on kung-fu fight between two zombies in the lobby of the Pentagon(which had been converted into a farm where live humans are kept to be fed to the politically elite?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Another in the Continuing Saga of the End of the World

One of my favorite sci-fi/horror films, and based on a great Richard Matheson novel, The Incredible Shrinking Man remake had the potential to be a pretty fun film, with the right creative team at the helm. Of course, notice I used the past tense in that statement. The Hollywood Reporter broke the news the other day that there's a new director looking at this project, and it's none other than Brett Ratner, and the plan is now to turn the film into a comedic vehicle for Eddie Murphy, who apparently has had enough of fat suits and is planning on taking the other direction.

The only glimmer of hope is that Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant, of Reno 911! and the awesome The State, are the latest writers to take a stab at the script. Unfortunately, their absurdist, edgy humor will almost certainly be whitewashed by the increasingly pedestrian Murphy.

Really, there is nothing about this story that I'm happy about.

Monday, April 14, 2008

We Now Resume Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

In retrospect, Poultrygeist probably wasn't the best film to be eating a large meal at. But I couldn't help it; Bear Tooth has such good food. I can't sit through a movie there without scarfing down a pizza, or their Pesto Treats, or their steak and cheese nachos. If there isn't a law against going to the Bear Tooth without eating, there should be. But still, had I given it much thought, and considered that I was about to watch a Troma film, one directed by Lloyd Kaufman himself, I probably would have opted out of the Brewhouse Favorite pizza. Luckily food was delivered during the opening scene, which, as vile as it was, was still tolerable and well within expected Troma standards. However, a few minutes into the movie, when Michael Herz showed up and proceeded to disrobe while the audience got a way-too-personal view of his bathroom behavior, I pushed my pizza away, never to be touched again(actually not true, I had leftovers for lunch the next day).

To be honest, Troma films haven't changed much over the last 20 years(they've been in operation for over 30, but I only became aware of them with the Toxic Avenger in the late 80s), which is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on who you ask. I suppose I'm of the opinion that it's a good thing, and Troma has certainly cultivated and appeased a very rabid audience with their shenanigans. I myself have grown past the time in my life where I avidly devoured Troma films and bought whole-heartedly into their gung-ho obscenity, but every now and then I'm in the mood for some mindless T&A, gore, and outrageously indecent humor(to call it politically incorrect would be a vast understatement).

And yet, with Poultrygeist, there's some sign of growth. Sure, the jokes are meant to offend more than to make any actual point, the gore is nonstop and amateurish, the cast is full of people who, though they lack talent, have no shortage of enthusiasm, and Mr. Kaufman seems to be of the opinion that fart noises make everything high-larious, but it all comes together much more smoothly than in any film of theirs I've seen since the original Toxie. Lloyd Kaufman(and co-screenwriters Daniel Bova and Gabriel Friedman) seem to have a pretty sharp satirical eye(the faux-lesbian, anti-corporate protesters all drink Starbucks), but for the most part are content to go for the easy mark, and opt for buckshot rather than precision sniper fire. Oh yeah, and it's a musical(at least for the first half).

A lot of credit for the success of this film needs to go to it's two leads, who are not just good in comparison to past Troma actors, but are actually decent actors.. Kate Graham(Wendy) and Jason Yachanin(Arbie, yes, all the characters are named after restaurant chains) play high school sweethearts reunited after a semester of college. Wendy is now a lesbian protesting the arrival of a new chicken restaurant because it was built on an old Indian Burial Ground, and Arbie takes a job at the place to spite/impress her. Of course, undead chickens begin to rise, creating undead chicken/human hybrid zombies. The two leads make the most of a script that occasionally asks them to pantomime wild sex with a cash register and cross eyed exclamations of surprise and show some real presence and comic timing. Kate Graham is particularly notable for her excellent singing voice, which is nice enough that I was paying as much attention to that as I was to her lesbian make-out sessions during the musical numbers.

Poultrygeist is the first Troma film I've ever seen in a theatre, with an audience not completely made up of my trash-loving friends, and I have to say, the change in surroundings did wonders. Apparently the audience the night before was no so appreciative, with about half of the spectators walking out, but my audience seemed to get it. Riotous laughter filled the theatre, and there were even a few claps at the end of the movie.

And so, take it from me, Poultrygeist is the best musical horror film about undead chickens with a scene in which a man grows breasts that turn out to be eggs that give birth to baby chickens and then he begins to regurgitate food for them that you will ever see.

Or at least in the top 5.

Just don't plan on eating anything else that night.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Send Me Your Mixes!

Earlier tonight I discovered the site, which is a super simple form of music sharing. Basically you upload up to 12 MP3s in your own customizable mixtape. You choose your URL("URL" and then send it out to your friends for them to hear. It's super simple, and not really an essential activity, but it's a pretty fun timewaster. I spent some time on it tonight, and made a quick mix, and it really couldn't be easier. Which is also a bit of a drawback. There's no real organized way to search mixes, although there is a large, constantly changing list on the homepage. You can't download songs from another mix, only stream them, and so far there's no way to comment on someones mix. You can add it to a small list of your own private favorites, but nothing else. So really, the only way people can find your mix is if you tell them about it. Also, you can only have one list per account, but on the plus side you can always change it.

Here's my first mix, which is really nothing special. I basically threw up a few songs that were already on my hard drive. And I don't usually keep music on my computer, so the pickings were rather slim, mainly some oddities I had recently downloaded.

I encourage you all to make your own mix, and send the link to me. I love hearing people's mixtapes.