Mar 312016
 

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This week, your heroes, now counting FOUR of them, discuss their most anticipated movies for the Summer of 2016! Will your choices make the cut?!? Following that, we play a game exclusive to Behind the Pop called Give Me the Title! Bryant gives his co-hosts the plot description of a 70’s Made for TV Movie and the guys have to give him the title! Hint: the funniest one wins! Join us this week for Summer Movie discussion and games galore!

Intro Music Courtesy of https://mathgrant.bandcamp.com/track/space-blocks as provided under the Creative Commons License: Attribution, NonCommercial, Sharealike – If this Podcast were to reach commercial status, this theme would be replaced.

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Mar 292016
 

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By: Bill Nelson

This week we’re going to take a look at one of my all time favorite bad movies, Saving Silverman. Trust me, if you’re in the mood for a stupid laugh or two, this is one of the best flicks for you. Released in 2001, Saving Silverman stars American Pie’s Jason Biggs along with Steve Zahn and Jack Black as a trio of life-long friends with a shared obsession for Neil Diamond. Biggs plays Darren, an unlucky in love retirement home entertainment director, who ends up hooking up with Judith, played by Amanda Peet, a domineering psychologist who completely takes over his life as their relationship progresses. Zahn and Black, fearing the end of their friendship with Darren and their overall way of life, make progressively more insane attempts to break the couple up, finally settling on kidnapping Judith with the intention of getting Darren to hook up with his high school crush, who has returned to town with the intention of becoming a nun.

Basically, the movie is about as dumb as it sounds. I don’t even really know how to get across just how ridiculous the movie gets. There are serious pacing issues and a complete and utter lack of logic throughout the entire flick. If you try to take this movie seriously you’re going to end up either hating it or get the worst migraine imaginable, possibly both. It’s best just to turn your brain off and enjoy the ride.

Seriously, a movie where the main characters worship Neil Diamond to the point that that they have a cover band for him is worth your time. Steve Zahn proves once again that he’s an underrated comic presence. He throws himself whole-heartedly into whatever role he gets. I really wish he had a bigger presence these days because he’s one of those guys who can make a dull movie better with just the way he delivers a line. Jack Black is his usual over the top self, but it works, especially once his character becomes convinced he’s gay. The verbal banter between him and Zahn is puerile gold that elicits plenty of chuckles and the occasional belly buster.

The real scene stealer is the inimitable R. Lee Ermey. Ermey is famous primarily for his role in Full Metal Jacket as a tough as nails gunnery sergeant. He’s basically made career out of playing different variations of this same characters. In Saving Silverman, he plays the main characters’ former high school football coach, who, despite being insane, is looked up to as a hero by them. In the story, he convinces Zahn and Black that they need to kill Judith once she figures out who’s kidnapped her. Later, he breaks them out of jail and takes them on a high speed race to save Biggs’ Darren from marrying Judith where he ultimately also comes out of the closet and ends up with Black’s character at the end of the flick.

So, there you have it. A quick, easy flick to ease yourself out of the horror flick season and start getting ready for the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner and, trust me, there are plenty of opportunities for bad movies there. Today, though, just sit back, queue up some Neil Diamond on your music player of choice, and watch Saving Silverman. You’ll be glad you did.

Stank Rating: – 7/10

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Mar 292016
 

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In our 20th EPISODE we are taking in the greatest face off of all time: BATMAN VERSUS SUPERMAN! In the latest DC/WB film Batman and Superman are taking each other on, and in classic Behind the Pop fashion, we’re taking the final product on! After our review, we do our own fantasy match up in hero versus hero! Will it be Spawn or Hellboy? TMNT or the Power Rangers? Or Thanos versus Everyone? After that, it’s a quiz down! I read the plot, and Derek and Bill guess if it’s Batman, Superman, or Dawson’s Creek! Can you outscore our hosts? Don’t forget to rate us on iTunes for a chance at a $20 Amazon gift card!

Intro Music Courtesy of https://mathgrant.bandcamp.com/track/space-blocks as provided under the Creative Commons License: Attribution, NonCommercial, Sharealike – If this Podcast were to reach commercial status, this theme would be replaced.

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Mar 262016
 

 

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By: Bryant Daniels

When we critics sit down to write a film review there are several items that need to be considered about the subject of our criticisms: what year was the release, what was the country of origin, was the movie successful in its attempt, etc… This criteria especially helps when you are attempting to translate a foreign film into modern terminology. Some films become a struggle though, especially when viewing them through 20th century eyes, and Apostasy is no exception.

Based on the book “The Broken Commandment” and released in 1948, Apostasy is a Japanese film that attempts to take on just maybe more than it can chew. It is the story of a Japanese school teacher, Ushimatsu Segawa, dealing with tradition versus government reform on a personal level. The film takes place in 1904, and the Japanese government has currently dissolved the caste system, and while the burgeoning metropolis areas are accepting this movement, the smaller communities are hanging on to the caste tradition. Ushimatsu is teaching in one of these very towns, and in the course of events it is revealed that Ushimatsu is from an outcast family and has been hiding this very fact from his friends and co-workers. This sets up the story to move into a territory of social commentary on several items.

Per my previous statement, there are several thematic elements being juggled by the director, Keisuke Kinoshita, and a master at interweaving these elements he is not. At some point, the storytelling gets bogged down by “the message(s?) of the film”. Mr. Kinoshita is grappling with everything from social structure ideas, the rights of women, fair labor treatment, personal responsibility to one’s self, and the list goes on and on and on. Often times Apostasy comes across like a Bob Dylan song in motion, especially 60’s Dylan, when he was sitting on the pavement and talking about the government, only not handled nearly as well as Dylan handled his revolutionary tunes. The issue is the thematic elements often trip over each other without ever successfully developing any fleshed out concepts or results. The only element that gets a proper treatment is the core idea from the original story, the belief that true happiness comes with being generally okay with who you are and where you come from. Don’t get me wrong, the convoluted delivery of the core ideas doesn’t make the film any harder to watch, it’s just a pet peeve of mine when directors allow ideas to overtake and bog down the narrative.

What does work in Apostasy is the beauty of the film it’s self. It is gorgeous. The scenery is captured with the mastery of a classically trained painter, and the emotion that was drawn out of me when I was watching the background pass by was worth the viewing alone. The score was perfectly cued, and the cinematography moved in a fluid and structured motion, allowing for the images captured on screen to be fully rendered. What also works is the majority of the performances and the masterful pacing of the film. It flows with a unique and fast style that doesn’t hesitate to transition quickly from scene to scene. Now, I said the majority of the performances, and earlier I also said when we review these films, we have to consider several criteria, that brings me to the lead in the film. The actor playing Ushimatsu Segawa was the only performance that really bugged me. Now, this was 1948, so I will forgive some of the histrionics, but when the rest of the cast played with subtle emotion and intelligent delivery, it makes me wonder if the lead actor wasn’t some form of Keanu Reeves in his day?

Overall: Convoluted thematic elements, a weak lead performance, masterful cinematography, perfect editing, and a wonderful score make for a mixed viewing.

Apostasy – 1948

Running time: 99 Minutes

Directed by: Keisuke Kinoshita

Written by: Eijirô Hisaita

Starring: Ryô Ikebe, Yôko Katsuragi, and Osamu Takizawa

Rating: – 6.5/10

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Mar 252016
 

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This week, your heroes are taking up the ranks of the badass vigilante role and talking The Punisher! But we’re not talking about the new one, we’re talking about the rocking Dolph Lundgren in a role that was meant for him! Sure, there’s a bit of talk on all the punisher’s, but nothing beats the schlock fest of 1989’s The Punisher. Learn why there is no skull logo, what made Dolph more comfortable, and why there hasn’t been a really “great” Punisher movie. In our second segment, we drop a top 5 for the ages! It’s all about Comic Books we want as films! Don’t forget about our contest!

Intro Music Courtesy of https://mathgrant.bandcamp.com/track/space-blocks as provided under the Creative Commons License: Attribution, NonCommercial, Sharealike – If this Podcast were to reach commercial status, this theme would be replaced.

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Mar 242016
 

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a Retro Review, and I want to apologize. I get busy, as we all do, and I don’t always find the time to fit everything I want to see in to my schedule. Luckily, I was able to fit this awesome Spaghetti Western in to my daily life, and that is mostly thanks to Hulu, which has an unreasonable amount of Spaghetti Westerns available for viewing. Including a ton of Franco Nero productions! Who, if you didn’t know, played the “original” Django, not that the Franco Nero production and Quentin Tarantino share much in common. Consider this the first in a multi part Spaghetti Western review series called Marinara Review.

If you’re not familiar with Spaghetti Westerns, then Texas, Adios is the perfect place to start. It’s condensed to 93 minutes, incorporates the trends that these Italian produced Westerns would become infamous or famous for, and it eliminates a lot of the more verbose and unwanted elements. It’s not perfect. Hell, it’s not even great. But it is a kick ass good time that you can chuckle at, and find sincere enjoyment in.

Franco Nero stars as Burt Sullivan, a no nonsense sheriff hell bent on killing the man who killed his father. Alberto Dell’Acqua stars as Franco’s brother, Jim Sullivan, a pretty boy ladies man who is good with a pistol, and would follow his brother straight to the gates of hell. In this case, hell happens to be Mexico, and the Devil is Cisco Delgado, a gang leader who robs from the poor to make himself and his gang rich. That’s the surface of this movie, and that is really all there is. There’s no extreme subtext, no literary allusions, no hallucinogenic Jodorowsky like settings. This is a revenge story that telegraphs its self from point A to point B. And on some nights, there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, in this case it is perfectly acceptable, because the movie knows what it’s doing and it does it best: it kills everything.

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Texas, Adios is 60’s violent. Men get shot over and over again with no regard to human life, and sometimes we just need a film like that in our lives. Franco Nero and the gun fighting are the most interesting accents to the film. It is easy to see what Franco Nero is a cult star of the 60’s. He has this look in his eyes like he has seen some shit, and is unwilling to let anyone else in. That’s it. There’s not much else to this review, because there’s not a lot of movie. Part of me wishes there were, but I also realize that a concise focused story is better than something that meanders under the guise of intelligence.

Texas, Adios – 1966

Running time: 93 Minutes

Directed by: Ferdinando Baldi

Written by: Ferdinando Baldi and Franco Rossetti 

Starring: Franco Nero and Alberto Dell’Acqua

Rating: – 6.5/10

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Mar 232016
 

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Bad Movie Tuesday: Darkness Falls

By Ozzy Nelson

Welcome back, bad movie fans!  Have I got a treat for you, just in time for the Halloween season.  Today we’re going to look at Darkness Falls, a 2003 ghost story romp that fails to scare.  Directed by Jonathan Liebesman, who’s best known for butchering numerous franchises from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles through Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes production company, the film attempts to give us a new movie monster to haunt the pantheons with idols like Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, and Jason Voorhees.  However, like most attempts to build a franchise around a monster, they fail in pretty much every respect.

Darkness Falls is set in Darkness Falls, Massachusetts and centers around a local legend of a widow named Matilda Dixon.  Dixon loves children and earned a reputation as the the ‘Tooth Fairy’ for her habit of giving gold coins to the children of the town when they lose a tooth.  However, a fire leaves her heavily scarred and extremely sensitive to light.  She becomes a recluse, only going out at night and wearing a porcelain mask whenever she does.  One night two children fail to return home and the town goes into a panic.  They lynch Dixon thinking she’s done something to the kids and with her dying breath she curses the town.  The next morning the children return unharmed and the townspeople bury Matilda Dixon and the reason for her death in shame.  However, for the last 150 years, whenever a child loses their last baby tooth the ghost of Matilda Dixon visits them and, if they see her face, she kills them.

The biggest problem with this film is an overall lack of a story.  There is an intriguing back story but instead of developing it they jump right into the meat of the story.  There is no character development and even less actual good acting.  The thing is they treat the story like a monster movie, but it would have worked better as a ghost story.  A successful ghost story works on at least two levels.  First, it needs to be a mystery that slowly reveals the nature of the haunting.  Second, it needs to build its scares slowly.  Too much of the Tooth Fairy is revealed too soon for her to ever be truly scary.  What scares we do get are derivative and largely unimaginative, pointless jump scares that you can see coming a mile away.

This film was scene as a launching point for Emma Caulfield who, at the time was something of a breakout star on TVs Buffy the Vampire Slayer, playing the wonderfully droll ex-demon Anya.  As a character, Anya played to Caulfield’s strengths.  She could be vulnerable and tender when needed, but what made her work was her ability to say whatever comes into her head without any kind of verbal filter and fail to understand why it’s inappropriate, which comes from living hundreds of years as a vengeance demon without actually living among the humans she slaughtered.  In other words, Anya was witty and silly all at once and could muster a steely resolve when needed.  In Darkness Falls, Caulfield is reduced to a helpless woman who is utterly reliant on everyone around her to save her from the terror that surrounds him.  She has no spunk, no wit, and very little charm.  She’s just a pretty face to look at as the film races to a conclusion that makes little to no sense.

There are some very good creature effects in the movie, though they fail to capitalize on anything interesting in a movie that should have had fun playing with how light is used considering its their primary antagonist’s only weakness.  Still, the Tooth Fairy is solidly constructed and the few scares in the movie are because of this.  All in all, there’s little to recommend in this film, but it’s a good flick to start your Halloween with.  It follows a similar premise to James Wan’s Dead Silence, which is a far superior film, but it does a good job of getting you in the mood for much better scares to come.

Stank Ranking –  – 9/10

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Mar 202016
 

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This week, your heroes go on holiday with none other than Pee-Wee Herman! In the first segment, we review the latest Netlfix addition, Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday! And in our second segment, we give you our top 5 films from 1985, a banner year in movies! Will your personal selections make the cut? Does Pee-Wee still have what it takes to tickle our funny bones? And what the hell happened to FRANCIS!?!? Also, we have a new contest rolling out! Leave us a review on iTunes, and every week we’ll read you our favorites! Our favorite reviews will be entered in to a contest to win a $20 Amazon gift card! And this will continue every month until we stop it! Spread the word, play an episode for your friends, and help us get even more Poppers!

Intro Music Courtesy of https://mathgrant.bandcamp.com/track/space-blocks as provided under the Creative Commons License: Attribution, NonCommercial, Sharealike – If this Podcast were to reach commercial status, this theme would be replaced.

Edit: Error alert! Error alert! During this episode we say that Pee-Wee is a character founded in the comedy troupe Second City. While are description of Second City members is correct (except Paul Reubens and Phil Hartman), the Pee-Wee character originated in The Groundlings, along with Paul Reubens and Phil Hartman.

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Mar 172016
 

Judge-Doom

This week your hosts and heroes are going behind the scenes on a movie from our childhood, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? It’s an animation staple, but find out how it got its reputation. After that, we have a cartoon quiz down! Can you name the show based on the plot before your hosts do? And in natural BTP fashion, we add a BS20 at the end and bring back the ever popular Trashcan Theater! Enjoy!

Intro Music Courtesy of https://mathgrant.bandcamp.com/track/space-blocks as provided under the Creative Commons License: Attribution, NonCommercial, Sharealike – If this Podcast were to reach commercial status, this theme would be replaced.

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Mar 162016
 

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By: Bryant Daniels

The Ballad of Narayama was the final film to make an appearance on Roger Ebert’s “Great Movies” list, and deserves to be present with other classics such as Harakiri and The Killing. Stemming from Japan’s Golden Age of cinema, The Ballad of Narayama is a Kabuki Theater style film that is built on lush colors, significant characterization, and the concepts of nobility and transition.

Based on the novel,The Men of Tohoku,and directed by Keisuke Kinoshita, The Ballad of Narayama is a tale about a small village that is struggling to feed it’s residents. Therefore, when citizens reach the age of 70, they are escorted to Mount Narayama to pass away with dignity. We follow the transition of Orin, a 70 year old widow who must face the journey to Narayama. Orin’s own story contrasts with her neighbor Mata, who, although he is of age to pass on, refuses to and scavenges for food throughout the village.

This cruel tale is told with the use of intentional artifice. The sets are carefully plotted and designed. The backgrounds are illuminated by matte paintings filled with extraordinary colors and beauty. The lighting in The Ballad of Narayama is used as part of the story telling and establishes the village and background characters as another compound entity that operates as one singular unit. There are contrasts of green and red, blue and gray, and the lighting allows for the director to highlight the emotional state of a scene. The film, by using the Kabuki Theater styling, evokes the same feeling of a fable and makes for easier acceptance of the harsh material

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Harsh material indeed, at least, Orin’s son believes so. He struggles with letting go of his mother and wishes for her to stay with her one more day, while his wretched son wishes for Orin’s death out of selfish need. Orin’s grandson goes so far as to sing songs about her having all of her teeth due to making a deal with demons, and mocks her throughout the story line. Orin stands firm through the mocking and her son’s desires. She shows a noble spirit in her actions. She is the definition of pride. Orin goes so far as to ensure her son will be taken care of by selecting a widow from a neighboring town to marry her one and only child. When the young widow arrives, Orin shows her acceptance and grace, and in the process, establishes a familial connection with the would be stranger.

The film, overall, is about transition and acceptance. Every character in the film is going through a transitional period. Orin is moving in to a state of grace and is approaching self-sacrifice. Her son is getting married and losing his mother. His son has met a young girl, impregnated her, and is looking to start a family. The widow that Orin has set her son up with has left the only sense of normalcy she has ever known and is moving in to something completely different. Even the town goes through seasons of transition that are beautifully displayed within the artifice of Kabuki Theater. We get to see through each character, how they deal with the ebbs and flows of life. At this time, 1958, Japan was attempting to move on from World War II and accept not only what had been done to the country but what the country had done to others, including it’s own citizens. Maybe the film is to represent the acceptance of the horrendous within Japanese culture.
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Looking at Keisuke Kinoshita’s previous work, including the previously reviewed Apostasy, there isn’t another film as striking, beautiful, or haunting. The last 20 minutes of the film bring to a close a breath taking and exhausting journey that reflects and respects tradition and cry’s out for acceptance. As the film closes, the widow looks to Orin’s son and says, “When we turn 70, we’ll go together up Narayama.” Saying, we will accept our fate with pride and move in to a new state of being.

Overall: Luscious backgrounds and sets, an unsettling yet poignant story, along with haunting visuals and transitions ensure The Ballad of Narayama will leave an impression and make you long for something more than selfish desires.

The Ballad of Narayama – 1958

Running time: 98 Minutes

Directed by: Keisuke Kinoshita

Written by: Keisuke Kinoshita

Starring – Kinuyo Tanaka, Teiji Takahashi, and Yûko Mochizuki

Rating: – 10/10

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Mar 152016
 

Zombeavers

 

By: Bill Nelson

Hey sports fans…wait, that’s not right. Oh well, it’s time for another exciting romp into the refuse bin of cinema. Today we’re looking at a flick that if you found it DOR (dead on road) and fricasseed it just right you might almost have the beginnings of a decent movie. Of course, the fact that we’re looking at it here means they didn’t, so let’s just get over that missed opportunity and dive right in. This week we’re looking at the 2014 masterpiece Zombeavers.

Zombeavers was directed by Jordan Rubin and co­written by him, Al Kaplan, and Jon Kaplan. It tells the story of three comely young ladies seeking refuge from their wayward men at a cabin in the woods only to have their freedom interrupted, first by the men they sought to escape and then by a den of unruly, mutated zombie beavers. Yes, you read that right. The zombie craze has finally made it’s way to nature’s lumberjacks. Next thing you know dogs and cats will be living together in bizarre remakes of Single White Female. But I digress, the film is what it is and doesn’t pretend to be anything else. For that alone I’ve got to give it props. Don’t think that means this movie might actually be good, though. It’s about as mind numbing as watching paint try to stay wet. Yet it does manage to get off more than a handful (though not much more) of good laughs. The problem is the acting is about 2 levels below straight to DVD level and the special effects, while humorous, leave a lot to be desired. On a more serious note, the film does suffer from significant pacing issues. It basically just throws the story at you in one giant lump and circumstances unfurl from there. If you were going to make a more serious attempt at a horror movie, then some actual plot development would have been needed. And the subplot where one of the girls, Jenn, is dealing with her boyfriend cheating on her without knowing he cheated with one of the girls she came to the cabin with would need some serious building since it’s the only real character development in the flick.

Of course, if you’re actually watching Zombeavers, none of this really matters because five minutes in you’ll find your tongue planted firmly in cheek as you giggle at the bad dialogue. And when the human victims start turning into zombie human/beaver hybrids you’ll have reached the peak of your night. Nothing else will ever seem better, I promise. Just kidding, but if you like a bad horror flick that doesn’t take itself too seriously, Zombeavers really isn’t terrible. It’s obvious they were trying to intentionally make a B­movie, it just happened to be more of a D­movie. Give it a shot, you’ll smile for a bit…I promise!

Stank Ranking –  – 8.5/10

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Mar 132016
 

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This week your hosts lock themselves in a doomsday shelter with John Goodman and J.J Abrams and fight for survival against “10 Cloverfield Lane!” After our review, we talk about our personal top 5 American Monsters and fight each other for the top Monster slot! There’s drama, there’s action, there’s intrigue…there’s Behind the Pop!

Intro Music Courtesy of https://mathgrant.bandcamp.com/track/space-blocks as provided under the Creative Commons License: Attribution, NonCommercial, Sharealike – If this Podcast were to reach commercial status, this theme would be replaced.

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Mar 102016
 

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By: Bryant Daniels

You hear the phrase, “they just don’t make ’em like they used to,” being tossed around constantly. It’s a bane to be honest. Just because something isn’t what it used to be doesn’t make it any less. Culture shifts, attitudes change, people grow. However (yes there is a “however”), when it comes to 70’s film making, they truly do no do that anymore. It was a different time. It was a time of pessimism and anger, and a time of complete distrust in the government. After all, for a long stretch, the government continually shoved the American people in to wars and situations they did not want. Nothing’s really changed if you think about it. In fact, the only thing that has changed is our culture, and I firmly believe that has been driven by a rash of propaganda like films from the 80’s that made us all believe the American dream was still alive and kicking. Big corporation’s and the government have dictated our narrative, and it all started in the 80’s with the one thing that is mass produced and mass consumed: films. So, when I say they don’t make ’em like they used to, this primarily applies to Charley Varrick and its 70’s brethren, which would not get made today. It’s too smart and highlights the ploy of the “little guy” just a bit too much for studio executive’s to be comfortable with.

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Alright, enough of my soap box. I’m here to talk about the Don Siegel (Dirty Harry) classic starring Walter Matthau (The Odd Couple) and Joe Don Baker (Walking Tall). So, just what is Charley Varrick? Well, on the surface it’s a bank robbery fairy tale turned nightmare turned fairy tale. The titular character shares a similar narrative with the majority of us. He’s tired of being stepped on by the big guy and he wants a way out. So, one day he decides to rob a bank with his wife and a couple of partners. It just so happens that on that particular day, the mob is using the same bank to launder their money. So, when Varrick accidentally steals a whole lot of the mafia’s cash, they call in professional Joe Don Baker to deal with the problem.

It’s a pretty straight forward story. It has a lot of fun, painted violence, car chases, intrigue, and feels like a strange hybrid between a spy movie, a heist movie, and a comedy. Matthau plays Varrick as the smartest guy in the room, and it never comes across smug, or even ballsy. Varrick is constantly the coolest cat in any situation, and he’s thinking so far ahead of everyone involved that they struggle to keep up. However, it’s never not believable. Matthau uses quiet moments to embrace the intrigue and build the audience’s suspense. Siegel, being behind the camera, actually does some of his best work using lighting, wordplay, and close ups to draw a narrative, and personally speaking, I prefer Charley Varrick over Dirty Harry. And Joe Don Baker as the main, yet sidelined antagonist is menacing and snake like, but carries a certain charm that makes you want to trust him.

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As simple of a story as it is, the commentary is heavy. Charley is “The Last of the Independents,” he’s the struggling  version of the American Dream that has been caused by corporate greed and belief in a system that was broken when politics became synonymous with greed instead of public service. I don’t want to spend too much time on this, as my opening was a bit heavy, but hopefully you get the picture. Overall though, seek this one out. The story telling is brilliant, the execution is stunning, and the performances are subtly venomous. Plus, the final sequence is a work of art!

 –  9/10 

Charley Varrick – 1973

Starring: Walter Matthau, Joe Don Baker, Andrew Robinson, and Norman Fell

Directed by: Don Siegel

Running time: 111 Minutes

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Mar 102016
 

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This week, join your hosts Bill, Bryant, and Derek as we breakdown our personal shame songs. That’s right, we’re getting personal this week and putting all of us out there for all of you. Feel free to make fun, tear us apart, roast us! Hint: There’s way too much Brittany Spears for anyone’s safety!

Intro Music Courtesy of https://mathgrant.bandcamp.com/track/space-blocks as provided under the Creative Commons License: Attribution, NonCommercial, Sharealike – If this Podcast were to reach commercial status, this theme would be replaced.

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Mar 082016
 

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By: Bill Nelson

Every once and a while, a studio thinks a film is going to change the world in some way. Sometimes it does, but only rarely. More often what we get is an overblown mixed bag of a flick that usually falls so far from the side of good that it’s all the studio can do to distance itself from the mess. Thus we come to Johnny Mnemonic in our journey through bad movies worth checking out. This was a 1995 actioner from Sony Pictures starring Keanu Reeves, Ice-T, Dina Meyer, Henry Rollins, Dolph Lundgren, and Udo Kier and based off of the classic cyberpunk short story by the legend, William Gibson. It was adapted for the screen by the author himself and directed by Robert Longo, an American painter and sculptor making his directorial debut. At the time, Keanu was still riding the high of his recent hit, Speed, and Dolph Lundgren and Udo Kier were still decent box office draws. The rest of the cast was made up of largely unknown or unproven screen actors, though both Ice-T and Henry Rollins had highly successful music careers that carried built in fan bases. Sony must have felt that with a young, hip cast and an adaptation of an iconic work of science fiction, whose ideas were just starting to come to fruition in the real world, nothing could go wrong. Instead, the film was ravaged by critics and only made back about 2/3s of its $30 million budget.

Going back and watching the film over 20 years after its release is a little weird. Technology has come so far in such a short time. There are references to 120 and 320 gigs being a lot of data and, though it really is a significant amount, it’s tiny when you realize that the terabyte is becoming the new minimum. The film shows successful video phone technology repeatedly, and, though that wasn’t exactly impossible in 1995, it was costly and difficult to do. Now we all carry phones capable of doing it without a second thought. Additionally, cybernetic implants play a crucial role in the story. Today, though we’re far from the neural implants in Johnny’s brain or the tech that gives bodyguard Jane her strength and speed, we do have artificial hearts and robotic limbs for amputees. And all of this was predicted almost entirely by one man. For those that don’t know, William Gibson coined the term cyberspace. He is credited with being the first to accurately predict what the internet would essentially become. This was all back in the 80s, when very few people knew the internet existed and even fewer were using it. Let’s face it, the internet was invented in the early 80s but didn’t become public until the late 80s and early 90s and it wasn’t until the turn of the century that it became a true power in the world. That said, even today we’re still hitting landmarks with the technology that Gibson and his peers predicted 30 years ago.

So what is Johnny Mnemonic, then, and why did it fail so badly? Well, Johnny Mnemonic is the story of a courier who carries black market data in an implant in his brain to avoid detection. Johnny’s trying to get out of the business and have his implants removed in an effort to regain memories that he gave up in order to get the implant in the first place. He is convinced to take one last job so he can afford the procedure. However, the data he is carrying far exceeds his storage capacity and he has only a short time to remove it before it ends up killing him. To make matters worse, the data is being hunted by its original owner, a pharmaceutical company called Pharma-Kom, who have contracted the Yakuza and a cybernetic religious zealot known as the Street Preacher to hunt him down and retrieve it no matter the cost. The film is ambitious in its depiction of a corporate run dystopian world, but fails to really capture it. Instead, it suffers from the ‘telling instead of showing’ problem. We’re told corporations run the world but the only company we see is Pharma-Kom and only through the eyes of one mid-level executive. We’re told there’s a war brewing between the technophiles and the luddites, called lo-teks in the film, but outside of a single instance where they try to take over a television signal and are immediately shut down at the beginning of the movie, we primarily see the lo-teks just wanting to be left alone.

Also, the acting is terrible. The only props go to Udo Kier and Dolph Lundgren, both of whom approach their roles with their usual manic zeal, infusing them with character even as they spew out the worst possible dialogue. That being said, you do see some early hints of the awesomeness that Keanu would carry into the role of Neo in The Matrix 4 years later. If he could have just lost that surfer accent completely for the film I might have held his performance in a little higher regard. Henry Rollins is also fun in the role of Spider, a street doctor who ends up getting some of the best lines in the movie.

While the technology used in the flick doesn’t hold up to the story it’s trying to tell, it is state of the art for its time. You have to think that if the story had focused on the technology at its heart instead of squandering the brilliance of William Gibson on a mindless action flick, the film would have been worlds better. Still, it’s not without its charm. If for nothing else than it’s the only film ever made based on Gibson’s work and the joyful, manic gleam in Dolph’s eyes when he plunges a massive, cross-shaped knife into just about anyone he can grab, this film deserves to be watched.

Stank Ranking –  – 8.5/10

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Mar 072016
 

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This week, we’re talking old Ghostbusters, new Ghostbusters, and our favorite horror comedies of all time! We’re getting brutal, we’re getting mean, and we’re going for the hard R on this one. Agree or disagree? Let us know at behindthepoppodcast.com, on twitter @behindthepoppod, or on facebook at facebook.com/behindthepoppodcast! Have a week, and see ya Thursday when we talk about our guilty pleasure songs!

I know this is a two parter, but the file size was so large because we had so much fun recording it! Thank you!

Intro Music Courtesy of https://mathgrant.bandcamp.com/track/space-blocks as provided under the Creative Commons License: Attribution, NonCommercial, Sharealike – If this Podcast were to reach commercial status, this theme would be replaced.

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Mar 072016
 

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This week, we’re talking old Ghostbusters, new Ghostbusters, and our favorite horror comedies of all time! We’re getting brutal, we’re getting mean, and we’re going for the hard R on this one. Agree or disagree? Let us know at behindthepoppodcast.com, on twitter @behindthepoppod, or on facebook at facebook.com/behindthepoppodcast! Have a week, and see ya Thursday when we talk about our guilty pleasure songs!

Intro Music Courtesy of https://mathgrant.bandcamp.com/track/space-blocks as provided under the Creative Commons License: Attribution, NonCommercial, Sharealike – If this Podcast were to reach commercial status, this theme would be replaced.

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Mar 052016
 

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By: Bryant Daniels

If The Lady Vanishes had taken its original course and been directed by Roy William Nell instead of Alfred Hitchcock it would have been a very different movie. Not that there’s anything wrong with Roy William Nell, after all, he was the man that brought us Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman. I just can’t imagine it would have the same lasting legacy as it does today, and that would be a shame.

When Leonard Maltin puts a film on a “100 Movies to See” list, then you know there has to be some reason for its spot. Unlike the first two Criterion films I reviewed, La Grande Illusion  and Seven Samurai, The Lady Vanishes does not hold the same thematic weight, or even necessarily the same technical achievements. However, what it does maintain is an ever entertaining narrative, creative story telling, wonderfully selfish characters, and a perfectly dark sense of humor that reflects Hitchcock’s early years.

The Lady Vanishes is a train mystery, in fact, I think it may be the greatest train mystery ever put to film. It follows the story of a group of people who get wrapped up in to a conspiracy that is either being used to drive Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood, Hungry Hill) crazy, or has a goal that is more sinister in nature. Rounding out the cast are Michael Redgrave (The Importance of Being Earnest) as the love interest Gilbert, and Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne as Charters and Caldicott, two characters who would return in future films not directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The entire cast plays perfectly as a group of staunch British citizens caught in what is seemingly an impossible situation. The humor when the seemingly isolated parties are brought together brings more laughs than the majority of modern comedies, and it is easy to see where the Python’s would later borrow from Hitchcock.

Not only does the humor stick throughout The Lady Vanishes, the macabre nature of the story drives the dark mystery in to places that feel very modern. It’s not hard to see why Hitchcock has gone down in history as one of the greatest directors of all time. Now, this earlier work doesn’t have the same atmosphere or technical achievement’s he would later present in Psycho or Vertigo, but what it does display is Hitchcock’s ability to push a story to its limits and succinctly deliver a narrative without wasting a breath. Every scene holds something that is important to the resolution, and that is forward thinking in today’s world of profit and finance.

I cannot urge you to see The Lady Vanishes enough. It is, well, it’s perfect. And I know I’ve given every Criterion film a perfect score, but I honestly cannot find fault this early in the collection.

 – 10/10

The Lady Vanishes – 1938

Starring: Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas, Dame May Whitty, Naunton Wayne, and Basil Radford.

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

Running Time: 96 Minutes

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Mar 052016
 

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Join us in a very special commentary as we watch and discuss the cult classic, Forbidden Zone! It’s weird, it’s bizarre, and it’s…well, interesting! Enjoy!

Intro Music Courtesy of https://mathgrant.bandcamp.com/track/space-blocks as provided under the Creative Commons License: Attribution, NonCommercial, Sharealike – If this Podcast were to reach commercial status, this theme would be replaced.

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Mar 042016
 

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By: Bryant Daniels

I’ve seen a lot of bizarre movies in my time. Stuff that no one should be made to suffer through, well, at least no sane person. Myself, I’m attracted to the strange. The more unique, the better. Whether it’s the good versus evil narrative of The Visitor or the ever present Eraserhead, I generally find something to keep me engaged.

Nothing is different for 1980’s Forbidden Zone, directed by Richard Elfman, who is the brother to famous composer Danny Elfman (The Simpsons theme and ALL of Tim Burton’s movie). There is absolutely something to enjoy in this stage show put to film, but to be honest, I’m still trying to determine if I liked it. I mean, I watched it two days in a row, and I can’t decide if it’s from morbid curiosity or if there was something I actually gained from one family’s journey to hell.

Forbidden Zone is a performance “art” piece put to film. Technically, according to Richard Elfman, this film is the stage performance of Danny Elfman’s band The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. Later in their career The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo would drop the cabaret aspects of their show and become the new wave sensation Oingo Boingo. Shortly before that, we were blessed or cursed with Forbidden Zone; I guess the determination of blessing or curse is up to your personal preference and patience.

This will not be for everybody. The one thing I can say is that at an hour and ten minute running time, Forbidden Zone moves at a fairly fast clip and does not waste a single frame. I can also say that the music is nothing less than spectacular. The numbers feel directly composed from 30’s and 40’s Hollywood musicals, and as a send up/criticism of the “golden age” of film it works on every account. Not only are criticisms lobbied against old Hollywood via character design and performances, you can tell that Danny and Richard respect the final result, and understand that there is a gray area between being offensive and being artful. Trigger warning: there is the use of “blackface” and simulated rape sequences, but it is meant as a criticism and is not done in a genuine attempt at replication.

Honestly, I cannot recommend Forbidden Zone to everyone, or possibly even anyone. I mean, it’s called “the Citizen Cane of cult classics” for a reason. If you want something different and interesting, and are okay with some bizarre content, then I absolutely recommend it. However, if you like something that is a bit more escapist, then this is not for you. But, then again, if you like good music, then sure. It’s really difficult to surmise a proper response to such an unusual film. You know what? See it, it’s an hour and ten minutes, and if you don’t like it, then this type of film is not for you. Me, well I’m going to watch it a few more times and try to find a place for it in my personal film journey.

P.S. – There is a sequel coming out…so, there ya go.

 – 10/10 or  – 1/10

Forbidden Zone – 1980

Starring: Danny Elfman, Herve Villechaize, Susan Tyrell, Gisele Lindley, Matthew Bright, and Marie-Pascale Elfman

Directed by: Richard Elfman

Running time: 74 minutes

P.P.S. – I will be putting out a commentary for this!

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Mar 022016
 

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By: Bill Nelson

The year was 1999. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace had yet to come out and blow…I mean underwhelm…our puny little minds. The time seemed perfect to start another space franchise. So the powers that be landed on Wing Commander. Yes, that Wing Commander, the popular 90s space flight simulator series, got made into a movie. Bet you don’t even remember it came out, right? You can thank Star Wars and a little film called The Matrix for that, though they honestly didn’t have to work very hard to dwarf this heap of a movie.

Wing Commander the movie tells the story of Christopher ‘Maverick’ Blair (yes, they even stole Tom Cruise’s call sign) and Todd ‘Maniac’ Marshall, two fighter pilots carrying news of a recent attack by the evil Kilrathi (cat­like aliens bent on conquering Earth) that may have compromised the secrecy of our planet’s location to their new post. Their new ship, the Tiger Claw, has been commanded to take on the suicide mission of slowing down the massive Kilrathi fleet while the rest of the Earth’s ships scramble to get back to the planet to defend her. Along the way Maverick and Maniac bump heads with commanding officers, deal with their heritage, and make really bad jokes at the expense of Top Gun. Seriously.

Despite having a significantly higher female count the film definitely seems like it’s trying as hard as it can for the same level of machismo. The problem is that even by 1999 standards everything on this film looks dated. The aerial battles are clearly miniatures with bad CGI effects and when we do see cockpits that’s all we see so there’s never a sense that the fighter pilots are actually in space. The interiors of the space ships mostly look like large boiler rooms. And when we finally see the Kilrathi, which doesn’t even happen until the final act of the film, they look like a snarling version of something you’d want to pet, cute but vaguely evil looking and not really the villains you’d been hoping for.

The acting is both interestingly international and wildly uneven. Tcheky Karyo brings his usual dependable intensity and Jurgen Prochnow does his best to chew the scenery in what is basically the Michael Ironside role of the movie, however David Suchet (of Poirot fame) seems out of place as commander of a battleship and David Warner (the scientist guy from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze) is just flat out underused. Then there are the two leads. I like Freddie Prinze, Jr. I really do. He has charisma that works well with certain types of projects, like his appearance on TVs Psych where he plays a former geek trying to hide his nerdy behavior from his smoking hot wife, but this movie was just not a good fit for him. He brings a decent level of pathos to his character but there’s just not enough of a reason for us to care about his back story for it to matter. And Matthew Lillard. Can’t forget about him. He is simultaneously the best and most annoying things about this movie. Maniac seems to be the only character in the movie that goes through a genuine arc, though I would argue it’s solved a little too easily. Still, it’s almost as if when the movie wasn’t sure what to do next that meant it was time to punch in a standard late 90s Matthew Lillard gag and believe me they get tiresome.

The film’s biggest problem, though, is an overall lack of action. For an action film most of the movie is rather uneventful. The few battle scenes we see are really too clunky to get a sense of wonder and excitement and too much time in general is spent simply sitting around on the ship(s). You’d think that a movie based on a series of video games that helped to revolutionize video games would be given better treatment. The sad thing is that I can actually remember liking this movie way back in the day, even owned a copy of DVD. Of course, I think that can be blamed on my crush on Saffron Burrows, but who knows, maybe kid me saw a gem that old me can no longer see. Whatever the case, this movie is a fun trip down memory lane but little else.

Stank Rating –  – 9

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