Friday, June 29, 2012

I Miss Giant Bugs Even More Now That I Have Them

A couple of years ago, I commented on how the Golden Age of Giant Bug Movies was a thing of the past, a relic of a period where special effects didn't have to be believable and process shots of real bugs close up were just fine in the minds of moviegoers who hadn't been exposed to Lucas-level effects magic. But I added the caveat that with the cheapness and ease of use of CGI, we were approaching an era where big-bug movies were cheap and easy to do once more. Many of my commenters pointed out that ScyFyieh (or however they're spelling it these days) is doing just that, with films like 'MegaShark Vs. Giant Octopus', 'Giant Shark Vs. MegaOctopus', and 'OctoShark vs. MegaGiant'. (Or something like that. The titles kind of blur together after a while.) I've since watched a couple of these...

...and I gotta say, the people who make them really don't understand how to make a bad movie.

I know, you wouldn't think of a bad movie as something that takes any particular talent to make, would you? I mean, that's what makes it bad. Lack of talent. But that's exactly the problem with these bad movies. They're not made by talentless people trying hard to make the best movie they can possibly make. They're made by people of modest talent who have decided that there's more money to be made by making a bad movie that they hope people will watch because it's campy, than in trying to make a good movie on a limited budget. Basically, they're bunting.

Take 'Arachnoquake'. It's not the craziest of B-movie ideas; an earthquake in New Orleans unleashes hordes of giant subterranean spiders. You could, theoretically, make a good disaster/horror movie out of that. (Not High Art, or anything, but good.) But when you make them telepathic fire-breathing spiders that can walk on water and have radar senses, you're clearly not even trying. You're just chucking any old thing onto the screen in the hopes that people will say, "Oh, wow! A movie called 'Arachnoquake'! It's bound to be so bad it's good!"

But it's not. It's charmless. The actors are all reasonably talented (with the obvious exception of Edward Furlong), speaking dialogue that was written to sound bad coming out of their mouths. They all cope in various different ways, but it doesn't have any of the silly joy that you get from watching an obvious amateur act to the best of their abilities (like, say, anyone in an Ed Wood movie.) The CGI, while well-executed, feels sterile and uninteresting. Watching the old giant bug movies, you wondered as a kid how they did it. Then as an adult, you wondered how they thought anyone would believe it. A CGI spider just feels like a cartoon with delusions of grandeur.

A truly great bad movie is one that swings for the fences. It's a movie that leaves you with no doubt that this is the best possible movie these people could make, and frequently leaves you admiring their effort even as you chuckle at the gap between their desire and their ability. The new bug movies are made by people who just don't care. And if they don't care, why should anyone else?

Friday, June 22, 2012

My Joker

I've had this mental image of the Joker in my head for years, as part of a vague set of ideas for a reboot of the character. In my mind, Bruce Wayne is touring Arkham (pretending that it's a mad whim, the sort of morbid curiosity of the idle and politically-connected rich) and they show him the cell. In it, there's a man with chalk-white flesh and bright green hair, laughing and laughing and laughing and laughing...

"Who's he?" Bruce asks.

"We don't know his name. We found him five years ago, sitting just like this in a fast-food restaurant, dressed up like their mascot."

"Why didn't you clean him up?"

"We tried. That's not make-up. His actual skin is like that. Hair, too. Toxicology shows it to be some sort of chemical dye, the same sort of thing we found in the victims."


"Everyone else in the building was dead. We think he was handing out poisoned food, pretending it was free samples. We may never know for sure."

"Haven't you asked him?"

"He hasn't stopped laughing. He doesn't talk, he doesn't sleep, we acutally have to force-feed him. He just keeps laughing like that. We can't put any prisoners in this row, they go nuts." Pause. "More nuts."

Bruce looks at the man in the cell, trying to see through those eyes for a moment to understand the madness within...and then shakes himself free of it. The tour moves on.

That'd actually be the last you see of the Joker for a while. Maybe twenty issues, maybe twenty-five. Batman goes on, fights other bad guys...and then at the end of a storyline, after the main action is done, the scene cuts to Arkham. The panels form a long "tracking shot" down the hallways, following a trail of laughter sound effects to its source: The man in the cell. He's laughing, and laughing, and laughing, and laughing...

And slowly, the laughs become giggles. The giggles become chuckles. The chuckles subside into that last little, "heh, heh, heh...whoo," that comes at the end of a long fit of giggles. And the Joker wipes a tear of laughter from his eye.

"Well," he says, "that was fun. I wonder what I should do next?"

Friday, June 15, 2012

Apologies for the Delay

Got hit with a nasty flu bug--no trip to the hospital or anything, but I haven't felt up to blogging this week. Normal service should resume on Monday.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Review: Touched by an Angel

...the Doctor Who novel. Not the long-running, inspirational TV series. I've never actually seen an episode of the show, but I guess it was sort of like 'Highway to Heaven', only with less Michael Landon and more women. Which, y'know, if you like that sort of thing, I guess? Anyhow, this is about the other kind of Angel. The kind that you should never look away from. Not even for a second.

Honestly, if you're going to do a Weeping Angel time-travel head-trip story, there really is no better person to go to than to Jonathan Morris. He's one of the remaining genuinely great Doctor Who authors who hasn't made the jump to television, and his debut novel, 'Festival of Death', is probably the only Doctor Who story to out wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey Moffat himself. Combining him with the Weeping Angels is an absolutely natural pairing.

And he doesn't disappoint. The basic premise of the novel is pretty much in line with the sort of thing you'd expect from a Weeping Angel story, while at the same time providing an inventive enough twist; Mark, a depressed widower, receives a message from his own past self explaining how he can save his wife, one which leads him into an encounter with Weeping Angels and sends him back in time so that he can follow his future self's instructions. It's sort of a remix of the two basic ideas of 'Blink', a not-unheard of but well-executed version of the time travel paradox story.

And Morris continues the 'Blink' house mix idea a fair distance into the novel; we get the Eleventh Doctor's take on the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey detector ("boils eggs; that's not a bug, it's a feature"), we get some cunning interactions between the past and future Marks as the Doctor, Amy and Rory struggle to prevent history from being's nothing especially inventive, but Morris has great prose and the plot unfolds entertainingly...

And then Morris rings in the clever twist, which I'm far too nice to spoil, and it becomes obvious that he's been working hard at letting us think that this is a clever-but-unambitious time-travel head-trip story so that we don't see the twist coming. And then things get seriously clever, and Rory wears a fez. And about the ending I shall say no more, except to suggest that this one is well worth reading.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

My Invention Idea

My idea is simple, yet revolutionary. It comes in three steps.

1) Add a laser distance meter to the front bumper of every car, which is continually taking measurements of how car away the thing in front of you is.

2) Combine it with a computer that calculates the speed at which you are approaching the thing in front of you to work out a safe following distance for your current speed.

3) Hook that up to a set of speakers in the car that would play an annoying sound, which gradually increases in volume as you exceed the safe following distance (ie, as you get too close to the car in front of you.) My original plan was to put in a governor on the accelerator linked to the computer which would automatically cut out the gas as you got too close, but this seems like a better way of doing it.

Since I'm aware this wouldn't be the most popular invention...ironically, it'd be least popular among the people who need it most...I'm tempted to add 4) Design the whole thing so that it gives you a mild-but-painful electrical shock if you try to tamper with it.

Now granted, this isn't a multi-million dollar invention, because I'm pretty sure that nobody thinks of it as a quality-of-life improvement for their driving experience to have loud, annoying noises playing in their cars. But I'm also pretty sure that nobody enjoys having someone less than two feet from their rear bumper when driving at highway speeds, either, so it's just possible that we could get the government to mandate something like this in the same way they require seat belts and airbags. In a way, it makes even more sense; we're willing to spend millions to make cars more survivable in the event of a crash, so why wouldn't we spend about $150 to try to prevent the single most preventable accident there is?

I know, there's probably some crazy reason why it would be a bad idea. But given the amount of absolutely terrible driving I've seen in the last two days, just let me have my dream, okay?