Thursday, January 22, 2009

Warbirds, movie review


The Final Battle has Begun...

In this episode Spaceman J is shifting gears slightly from the usual diet of rotting Zombie flesh and going for something a little less putrid.
"Warbirds (2008) is not exactly a movie and not really a TV show. This piece of work was made for the Sci-fi channel and apart from Chinese piracy I doubt if it's available anywhere else other than utorrent download. I wasn't expecting much but the concept intrigued me,
What is almost as exciting as a world wide Zombie invasion ? World War II ! What is almost as scary as being attacked by a horde of stinky re-animated corpses ? An attack by a flock of scaly resurrected Dinosaurs !
So when I saw this disc down at the pirates' lair I thought;
"Brilliant ! An example of the little known genre of WWII vs The Dinosaurs, only 8 yuan worth every kuai ".
But oh ! how wrong I was. Let's get the setup out of the way first before we plunge into the battle...

The year is 1945, the place somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. In the final stages of WWII an isolated Imperial Japanese island base is excavating new fortifications when they discover something strange. On the other side of the war, an all female flight crew delivering a new B-29 bomber to the front line is diverted to carry out a secret mission of the utmost importance.
The bomber, piloted by Lieutenant Maxine Hotbody West (Jamie Mann) but commanded by Colonel Jack Heroic Toller is forced down due to some unusual damage right into the heart of that mysterious island.
Then what happens ? Well to give the writers some credit they don't mess around with the tedious process of plot exposition or finely finessing character development, they get straight down to business, namely;
They get attacked by flying Dinosaurs ! Bloodily and repeatedly attacked by massive flying dinosaurs both in the air and on the ground. To save themselves and their mission the Americans try to forge an alliance with the few surviving Japanese and plan an escape using the bases' Zero fighters.
That is were it started to lose me. Suspension of disbelief is a funny thing, sometimes you buy it and sometimes you just don't. An all female flight crew I believe, they actually did that during the war. A flight crew made up entirely of gorgeous women always in spotless uniforms, perfect makeup and luscious lipstick ? Sure why not it's a movie. Flying Pre-historic monsters ? I can buy that after all what was Godzilla ? But when we discover that this team from the Miss Teen America beauty pageant are also crack fighter pilots in Japanese Zeros things start to get stretched too far. Before you comment yes I know the picture is of American P-51 Mustangs and not Japanese Zeros but that discontinuity is the least of our problems.
Air to air combat between WWII era fighters and Pterandons has got to be more one sided than this, What was the top air speed and altitude of a Zero fighter ? I looked it up, a Zero could do 500 kmp.h and had a ceiling of above 5000m, not to mention the guns. Fighting a flying reptile would be like an F-16 fighting a 9 meter albatross. And there are hundreds of these things, what do they all eat ? Coconuts and fish ?
The final insult to credulity is the manner of the the Dinosaurs' destruction. What is their top secret mission ? what is the mysterious object in the bomb bay that must be delivered at all cost ?
Why it's an A-bomb of course ! Not just an A-bomb but THE A-bomb destined for Hiroshima, the most potent weapon yet created and the most expensive object on the planet is hanging like a sack of potatoes in the bomb bay, fully armed and primed to go at the pull of a lever.
Now that's ridiculous.
Giving credit where it is due the CGI effects are certainly well done and give a good look to the monsters and external shots of the aircraft. I guess the technology has advanced to the point where even a pooch like this can get some nice looking work done cheaply. The interiors still look like plywood sets knocked up in a garage though.
It is almost as if the producers wanted to get a certain retro 1950s giant monster B-movie feeling going but didn't have enough belief in their own material, they couldn't sell it and I don't buy it.

Final verdict: 2 Ninja Stars **

Friday, January 16, 2009

Blake's 7 TV review

For me one of the great joys of broadband internet has been re-discovering some of my favorite old TV shows and introducing some new friends to these old classics. For me one of the best has always been Terry Nation's BBC space opera classic Blake's 7 now available at blistering fast download speeds from our friends on utorrent.

B7 ran for 4 series from 1978 to 1981 but all of this stuff you can read on Wikipedia anyway so lets get down to Spaceman Jack's contribution.
I am halfway through watching series 2 for the first time in probably 20 years and it stands up pretty well in the 21st century a time of CGI Sci-fi and digital downloads. The cardboard and plywood special effects of the BBC that feature in B7 are so very familiar to fans of Terry Nation's other big success Dr Who. Bits fall off control panels and sets wobble visibly as the actors touch or move around them. In the debut episode the Federation freighter looks like the bastard child of a papier-mache bathtub and a shoebox hanging on strings. On this space ship the command "Engage engines Time distort 5 !" means "Remove handbrake, Light 5 fire-crackers out the back tube and hold on tight !"
Anyway that old tub takes Roj Blake, Kerr Avon, Vila Restal and the rest of the gang of convicts to prison planet for life but fate intervenes. Through a series of unlikely plot twists this group of Rebels, Criminals, disaffected intellectuals and telepathic aliens gain control of The Liberator, a super fast and super sweet advanced tricked out Alien Spaceship. Thus equipped do our gallant heroes Sallie forth like Robin Hood robbing from the rich fighting the system shooting at the cops and blowing shit up, but in space.
Actually its the costumes that really mark this as space opera from the 70's check this out.

Nice threads dudes ! The eponymous Blake is under the delusion that balloon sleeves are the way to go this season, not only make you look bigger in the event of a hostile encounter but they can also slow your rate of descent in the case of a severe fall.
Costume designers with few exceptions have decided that future clothing means synthetic plastics, sometimes to and outlandish degree. (Watch season 2 episode 7 the killer and see if you like the triangular brown vinyl suits ).
But on the other hand Servalan was probably the best dressed Space Villainess yet encountered witness this outfit....

Isn't she delightful ! Just the thing for a summers day massacre. By the way the weapon in her hand is a standard issue Federation Blaster pistol and is capable of a rate of fire of 2 firecrackers per minute. The 2 bodyguards in black acrylic are Mutoid slaves, a sort of cybernetic vampires made from humans mind wiped by the Federation sort of thing. They obey their master's every sordid whim without question, drink plasma and wear BDSM gear.
But its not just about nostalgia, I am really enjoying coming back to this old show. What made B7 different was the dark style of the writing, that made it a nice antidote to the millennial Federation of Gene Roddenbury's Star Trek. For B7 the core is rotten, the center cannot hold and mere anarchy is set upon the universe. Here alliances are temporary, friendships are rare and treachery is common.
So very 21st century Enjoy !

Final rating: 5 Ninja stars * * * * *

Friday, December 5, 2008

American Zombie

My god its been more than a month and I said that I'd do one of these a week ! well I could do a Zombie movie review a week and still have 6 months of material before I have to get a new one but I think I can be a bit selective.
After the last Motocross Zombie piece of dog shit it's time for a real slice of Gold with American Zombie directed by and starring Grace Lee. Grace Lee is apparently something of a star in the USA west coast independent underground fringe documentary film making scene. I wouldn't know as it would appear that America is now producing more film school graduates than automobiles.
I read that her debut effort was called "The Grace Lee project" where she tracks down and interviews all the Asian women she can with her name. Great idea I'd wish I though of it(I love Asian women too).
I don't know much about the LA documentary film scene but one thing I do know is Zombie movies and this one is a real winner, it uses some of the old predictable tropes of a mockumentary but actually comes up with something rather more interesting and thoughtful.
The plot goes like this; LA has a small but growing population of Zombies, or revenants as the politically correct like to call them. This isn't a George Romero zombie plague, there are three classes of Zombie; the high functioning group who have full human personalities and mind but no memory of their lives before death, a low function group who are mindless and speechless and the Feral.
We follow four of these high functioning Zombies and see what their Un-lives are like, we have Ivan a low rent slacker who works the night shift a convenience store (he doesn't sleep), Judy a rather sad woman who scrapbooks ands dreams of romance, Lisa a florist who is trying to find some meaning to her existence through new age spirituality and string art.
Then there is Joel crucial for the story Joel is the organizer of Z.A.G. the Zombie Advocacy Group who are agitating for reanimated people who are now starting to demand their (human ?) rights. It's a great concept the un-dead as an oppressed minority. They even have their open air festival Live-dead an annual get together but what goes on there ? what is the freaky secret behind the Zombie movement ?
Check it out you wont be disappointed

American Zombie: rating **** 4 Ninja stars

Official website: American Zombie

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Movie Review: Motocross Zombies from Hell !

Yes that's right kids they're not just Zombies they're Motocross Zombies !
Where do they come from ? Is it California ? Is it Alaska ?
No you foolish mortals they come from Hell !

I must say that shopping for DVDs (and everything else) in China is a very different experience than shopping back home. It's not that it's bad because sometimes you can get some really great stuff at excellent prices, it's just that it's unpredictable and inconsistent. Sometimes you can get some real gems and sometimes a real turd. In the DVD stores porn can be thrown on to the rack next to Disney or a Charlie Chaplin comedy next to a BBC documentary on global warming.
What is here today can be gone tomorrow and things are often not what they seem. So when I saw "Motocross Zombies from Hell" at the local DVD pirates' lair I got it but I wasn't holding out much hope for a cinematic masterpiece.
But I was intrigued. This concept could be quite a breakthrough in the field of Zombology, like Sauramans' Uruk Hai crossing Orcs and Men, Zombified Motocross riders could be devastating. Imagine it, an undead army that could cross great distances over rough terrain at high speed. Plus the Motocross uniform would disguise their identity and the helmet would provide protection against the Zombie stopping head shot.
make no mistake this isn't "Citizen Kane" it's an independent low budget schlock horror. There was no modern Orson Welles slaving away to make a new cinematic paradigm with this baby, although it would be amusing to imagine if there was;
"The postmodern nature of the Mechanistic Motocross shall be thrown into stark relief by the Primordial Atavistic nature of the Zombie !"
But to give credit were credit is due a young and rather inexperienced cast do some solid work carrying a barely conceived plot along and selling themselves as Californian dudes and gear heads. Technical effects and stunts are adequate and do a bit to lift the overall production value of the piece.
I will let the movies' own website spare me the tedious task of summarizing the plot, so here it goes;

Up and coming motocross racer Cody is on the hottest winning streak of his short career…a streak that threatens to unseat the undefeated riders on Team Skullz. Little does Cody know that this team's riders have an edge, they are zombies! Cody and his tuner Tom and friend Lori get more than they bargained for when during the biggest motocross race of the season the zombies and their un-dead manager Ivan target them for elimination of the deadliest kind.

And that is pretty much it as far as the plot goes. There is an escape to a ruined spooky building in the middle of the desert an inconclusive battle with the Zombies and then it's all over. It gave me the impression of project that collapsed half way through, maybe the money ran out or maybe the crew just got bored and walked out. The Un-dead manager Ivan only gets one scene, he is introduced, acts all creepy and then we never see him again. There is no climax, no final show-down between the forces of good and the powers of rottenness. They don't even defeat the Zombie riders to win the Trophy save their lives and ride off into the sunset. 2 out of 3 of the main characters survive the night time Zombie assault and then stagger off into the sunrise. Roll credits. Align Center
Final Judgement 2 Ninja stars **

Hey ! whats with all the Zombies ?

To kick off my newly relaunched Spaceman Jack blog I am introducing a new feature, the Zombie Movie Review of the Week where I hope to give an in depth review both cultural and technical of one of the movies from my now burgeoning Zombie DVD collection.
but before I launch into my premiere Zombie review I will take the time to answer some (anticipated) readers questions, firstly

Hey Jack whats up with all the Zombies ?

That's a good question hypothetical reader, why don't I spend equal time examining the cinematic examples of other undead monsters such as Vampires or Ghosts ? Because Zombies are the perfect monstrous metaphor for our times. Unless you are a corporate lawyer or work on Wall Street you will probably never meet a bona fide Vampire, but Zombies on the other hand are everywhere. They are in your schools, churches and offices, they are cooking your food and fixing your car, TV is absolutely stuffed with them. They infest every country in the world and their numbers are growing everyday.
Look outside the window right now, Yes You ! look outside the window Right NOW ! Do you see those people shuffling aimlessly from place to place with dull eyes and unintelligible speech ? They're Zombies, every last one of them. They don't know if they are alive or dead they don't even remember what its like to be human, maybe they were human once but then they got bitten by some other Zombie and now its all over.

Wow you seem to be really into Zombie Movies, you must really like Zombies.

Hell No ! Mr or Mrs Hypothetical reader, I hate Zombies ! I fear and despise them. I am into Zombies the same way that a Doctor is into gangrene or the Pentagon is into Osama bin Laden.
I study them only in order to recognize and destroy them.

Oh my God ! that sounds scary what can I do to protect myself and my family ?

That's a good question increasingly hypothetical reader, but fear not ! By regularly reading this blog you have taken an important first step in protecting yourself from the Zombie menace. In upcoming posts you will learn how to identify and distinguish the major types of Zombies, how to destroy even the toughest of Zombies and how to Zombie proof your home against the coming nightmare Zombie apocalypse. Good luck ! here are a few other websites that should get you in the right frame of mind
Rotten library Zombies

Jack is Back !

Yes that's right kids, Jack is back and in full effect.

I could spend a bit of time coming up with some dishonest excuses why in spite of my promises I haven't posted for more than a year. Such excuses would include shifting residences (both countries and several apartments) erratic broadband and the great firewall of China, not to mention a rather difficult 8.0 magnitude earthquake.
All of which are true but the as usual the simplest explanation is usually the best and I will have to put it down to good old laziness. There is another thing too which is a little more difficult to explain, I like the concept of blogs and I really enjoy reading everyone elses but I have often have a certain reluctance writing them, maybe its a privacy thing but I am sometimes worried about what the people I know will think about what I say about who to whom. Or possibly what I say to whom about what, maybe even whom I say to what about who.
Hells Cowbells ! (hat tip Bubbajay) I'm an English teacher now I should know all of this grammar crap, if it wasn't for the spell checkers I wouldn't even be writing intelligible English. In response to this little problem I have come up with a solution that appeals to my somewhat bifurcated world view.
I will simply split my blog in two, posting some sort of content on one and certain styles of content on the other. Think of it as a tangible metaphor of the left brain right brain split, the physiological fact that lies at the center of so much of humanities brilliance and madness.
This blog "Spaceman Jack" will be the right side, creative, imaginative and holistic, my other blog "East is West" will be the left side, rational analytical and sensible.
well thats the idea anyway let's see which side will dominate !

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Time for this Spaceman to Fly !

Spaceman Jacks' jetpowered rocket pack is fueled up and ready for blast off. he's not gone for ever though as he will be reappearing as the slighly saner Jack Dee in a politically flavoured travel blog
hope to see you there