Film Review: The Hungover Games & The Starving Games

This review was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 22nd April 2014.

Beginning with the hilarious Airplane! (AKA Flying High) in 1980, Hollywood has built a fine tradition of spoofing itself through parody movies. Actually, I’ve just reread that last sentence. I think I’ll start again.

Beginning with the hilarious Airplane! (AKA Flying High) in 1980, Hollywood has a tradition of spoofing itself through parody movies which have suffered from the law of diminishing returns. Sure, there have been a few spikes in quality such as The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad (1988) starring the iconic Leslie Nielsen and um…well, every other comedy he made after that, but the rest of the pack over the past thirty years has been pretty much miss and miss.

I recommend that you look up one of Nielsen’s pre-comedy performances. A noted dramatic actor before he started carrying a fart gun twenty four seven, it’s impossible not to laugh at his ultra serious delivery style, which strangely is also the same as his subsequent comedy style.

The thing about parodies is that they are really cheap to produce compared to a Hollywood blockbuster. Even a bomb at the box office will easily slide into the black with DVD sales and downloads. Unfortunately, for the two latest parodies to hit the straight to DVD shelf, jokes must have been at a premium, because both of these abominations are low budget in every way.

Teen box office smash The Hunger Games has spun off not one, but two parodies. In the spirit of Easter, I have watched them so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

The Hungover Games combines The Hangover Franchise (already a comedy, I know) with The Hunger Games. Four unknown actors have received their “big breaks” impersonating Bradley Cooper’s Phil and so on. What’s more irritating than Zach Galifanakis? Well that would be someone pretending to be Zach Galifanakis.

Instead of losing Doug in Las Vegas or Thailand, our heroes are instead thrown into The Hungover Games, a battle to the death between various Hollywood franchises including Thor, Carrie, zombies, The Lord of the Rings, 300, Avatar and Ted. Featuring cameos from the incredibly unfunny Tara Reid, Jonathan Silverman and Jamie Kennedy, this film is simply awful. Shot in what appears to be a park in Los Angeles, no-one seems to care when street lights are visible in the background, nor when a car drives up the said street.

As an indicator of the humour blackhole that is The Hungover Games, here are the “sidesplitting” new names of The Hunger Games characters: Katnip, Effing White, Skip Bayflick and Justmitch.

The Starving Games is only slightly better, earning just a handful of titters and maybe a smirk. Following the original storyline more closely, our hero must battle for survival, with not only her life at stake but also prizes including an old ham, a coupon for a footlong sub and a partially eaten pickle.

Shot with a Z grade cast in probably the same park as its counterpart, the film also features ho-hum appearances from The Avengers, Thor, the Na’vi, Harry Potter and The Expendables. For your convenience, here are The Hunger Games alter egos: Kantmiss Evershot, Effoff and President Snowballs.

A sure sign of a terrible comedy is when the bloopers are funnier than the film. Unfortunately, that’s the case for both of these disasters. Avoid at all cost, but if you are a sucker for punishment, ensure that you forget your Hungover / Starving Games experience immediately, Barry O’Farrell style.

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Deluxe Movie Packaging: same movie, bigger box

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 19th November 2013.    

Many moons ago, I spent a North American summer working as the World’s Oldest Camp Counsellor™. It was a rich kids’ camp and I will never forget parental unit visiting day. One of the campers in my cabin was handed a brand new music CD as a gift. He immediately took the disc out to play the inevitably horrible music contained within, throwing the case and liner notes in the bin, or trash in this instance. As a music collector I was shocked. Although the music is, obviously, the most important element, I love having my CDs stored in their cases on my bookshelf. Besides, how on earth would he know the names of the songs?

Fast forward to today and music CDs are practically an endangered species. However, when it comes to movies, the industry has shifted to the opposite extreme. Perusing the shelves at my favourite non-specific movie retailer and their online store on the weekend, it was hard not to notice that the emphasis is now on the packaging, not the film. Why buy just the film on your preferred format? You need to shell out the extra bucks for a fancy box too.

Here are my favourite deluxe editions that I am sure will be on many a Christmas wish list.

et

Remember everyone’s favourite alien? No, not Lady Gaga, I’m referring to E.T. Steven Spielberg’s sublime masterpiece hit shelves last year in beautiful high definition blu-ray to celebrate its 30th anniversary.  The movie on blu-ray can be picked up for a reasonable $13, but why stop there? For just an extra $150 you can get the film with a 26cm “collectible” replica of E.T.’s spaceship complete with flashing lights, music and moving parts. That’s a very expensive box. I’m sure a real spaceship wouldn’t cost much more. Maybe Clive Palmer will build me one if I ask nicely.

i robot

If more redundant films are your thing, how about I, Robot? Recently released in 3D (I’m not sure why), the disc will set you back about $30. For $120 more, you can buy the deluxe gift set which includes a full scale robot head bust. For that price, I don’t think anyone is getting a gift, except the film distributor. Forgettable film, unforgettable packaging…

breaking-bad-series-on-blu-ray

Everyone seems to love Breaking Bad at the moment. Having recently completed a brilliant 5 season run, the complete series will be released later this month on blu-ray for around $150.  Add an extra $85 and you can get your hands on the very same discs, stored in a replica money barrel, as well as a commemorative coin and apron. What, no replica crystal meth too?

The X-Men franchise has vacuumed up over $1 billion worldwide. This Christmas, you can add to this total by purchasing the Adamantium Collection. That’s six discs (5 of them already available as budget titles) stored in a weird looking stand which features a replica of Wolverine’s bladed fist for $170. Please note that only right handed versions are available. I don’t know about you, but I have enough trouble keeping my discs scratch free without storing them in a box with claws.

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I probably should mention the Predator 3D deluxe edition which comes with a predator’s head and the Under the Dome limited edition set with the discs stored (wait for it) under a dome. For true fans of the show, the dome should be sealed so you can’t open it.

under_the_dome_limited_collectors_edition

As a cinephile, I’m all about the films, not the elaborate packaging. I’m (mostly) with the summer camp kid on this one. Just give me the movie in a boring old case. The film should take me to other places and worlds, not the box.

B Movie Buffet

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 16th April 2013.

Every so often I feel compelled to visit my local non-specific video store and take advantage of a special offer in order to bring you my B Movie Buffet. The popcorn is ready and the sneeze guard has been removed. Let me watch the dross so that you don’t have to.

First up in this cavalcade of clunkers is Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, a sequel to the 2006 original which was based on the Konami video game. Starring unknown Australian actress Adelaide Clemens, the film also features appearances from returning stars of the original, Sean Bean, Radha Mitchell and Deborah Kara Unger. Ah, the power of contractual obligation. The movie impressively adopts the nightmarish imagery of its source material. Abandoned hospitals, bizarre creatures, faceless scalpel wielding nurses…they’re all here. Just like the video game, the film also has no discernible plot whatsoever. The filmmakers really need to look up the meaning of “revelation” in the dictionary.

WWE Superstar Mike “The Miz” Mizanin stars as the third incarnation of the titular character in The Marine: Homefront, a direct-to-DVD entry in the franchise from WWE Studios. This reasonably new production company was established to showcase the acting talents of WWE wrestlers. Insert laughter here. In the prologue, the film explains that US marines are trained to deal with any situation. After watching this unintentionally hilarious film, this obviously includes saving your sister from terrorists embarking on the dumbest scheme ever with flaws and assumptions big enough to drive a tank through.

Next up on the conveyer belt of cheese is Red Dawn. A remake of the 1984 original which starred the late Patrick Swayze, this teen action flick was actually made in 2009 but delayed due to MGM’s financial problems. Prior to the film’s release last year, the remake’s villains were changed from a Chinese invading force to North Korean. There’s a lot of money to be made at the box office in China compared to North Korea, you see. Aussies Chris Hemsworth and Isabel Lucas lead up the Wolverines, a rebel fighting force formed by some good looking teens who manage to escape the initial invasion. In a ridiculous training montage, Hemsworth transforms the rag tag group into a tight military unit in a single day. Plot holes abound. How do the North Korean soldiers parachute into Spokane and then suddenly have tanks and jeeps? How do the Wolverines infiltrate the city to carry out their missions when everyone else appears to be locked down? Why do I care? My verdict: Tomorrow When the Bore Began.

Last up is the pick of the litter, although that’s not saying much. Here Comes the Boom stars Kevin James of The King of Queens fame. He plays a biology teacher who becomes an MMA fighter in order to raise funds to save his school’s music program, run by The Fonz. There are a few laughs to be had, and I must admit to rather enjoy seeing James, an incredibly annoying comic, get punched and kicked in the head. A predictable ending leaves a saccharine taste in the mouth, and it’s no surprise that this lightweight sports comedy comes from Happy Madison Productions, Adam Sandler’s production company.

Box Set Bonanza 2012

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 2nd October 2012.

Every October, dark forces return to unleash unspeakable horrors upon our supermarket and department store shelves. No, I’m not talking about Halloween. I mean the Christmas merchandise that’s already started to appear in our stores. So if it’s good enough for a multinational corporation, it’s good enough for me. In preparation for the silly season, here are my picks for the best box sets to buy for your favourite movie fanatic (or Tuesday columnist).

If too much Bond is never enough, grab Bond 50 – The James Bond Collection which celebrates half a century of Bond adventures with 22 films on 22 discs. If you buy the blu-ray set, there’s also an extra disc full of exclusive new content. Unfortunately, the non-canon Never Say Never Again from 1983 is not included, which is a shame because I’d gladly exchange it for the invisible car and wooden Madonna performance from Die Another Day. With the latest Band mission, Skyfall, hitting cinemas in November, a space has been generously left in the box for you to complete your collection next year. You can then rest easy knowing you own every single minute of Bond goodness, until the next movie is announced and you’ll have to buy a new box set. Start saving your money, Penny.

Speaking of great franchises, Indiana Jones has finally taken the leap to high definition. Indiana Jones – The Complete Adventures features all three original films on beautiful blu-ray, plus an extra disc chock full of bonus stuff. The films have been remastered under the supervision of Steven Spielberg, with Raiders of the Lost Ark receiving a complete restoration from the original print and sound mix. The set also includes a special Indiana Jones coaster. You can protect your tabletops knowing that The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has finally found a useful purpose.

The Universal Monsters Collection on blu-ray celebrates the 100th anniversary of Universal Studios by unleashing some of its iconic creature features in high definition. Featuring a 48 page book and 8 discs, I can’t wait to get my hands on this one and experience horror classics Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man and Phantom of the Opera for the first time. Best of all, The Creature from the Black Lagoon will make his (or is it her, or its) debut in blu-ray 3D.

Finally, the master of suspense has been given a high definition makeover to bring you Alfred Hitchcock – The Masterpiece Collection. The box set features 14 Hitchcock  classics including Rear Window, Frenzy, Psycho and Vertigo, plus every ornithophobe’s favourite, The Birds.  There is also 15 hours of bonus content for your enjoyment. Strangely, my favourite Hitchcock flick, North by Northwest, is not featured. Neither is Gus Van Sant’s disastrous 1998 shot for shot remake of Psycho, which is good thing.

One last thing, all of these box sets are labelled as limited editions. This is a rather meaningless marketing term nowadays so don’t rush out and buy them all just in case. With all of the above around or above the $100 mark, the limiting factor may well be your wallet.

Blu-ray Combo Packs: would you like fries with that?

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 10th July 2012.

There’s a trend now to release films in combo packs. That’s a blu-ray disc, DVD and digital copy of the same movie in the same package. Why would I want three copies of a film in three different formats? If I own a blu-ray player and have the capability to enjoy a film at home in glorious high definition, why would I want to watch it on my phone or in inferior DVD?

Blu-ray owners seem to be the hardest hit by these packages, which are more expensive than a standard edition. It is worse for 3D blu-ray owners who have to pay even more for a four disc combo. I understand that this may be appropriate for kiddie films so you can have a copy for the kids or the car but the majority of these combos are for adult oriented flicks. My suggestion to thrifty blu-ray owners is to find a friend who owns a DVD player only and someone who likes to watch movies on their iPad and split the cost of the combo three ways.

Published in: on July 19, 2012 at 10:35  Leave a Comment  
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My Easter “Easter Egg” Hunt 2012

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 3rd April 2012.

It’s that time of the year again. The Easter bunny will soon be hopping down your chimney to deliver chocolate to good boys and girls in exchange for teeth. I’ve been on an Easter hunt myself and without any further ado, bring you my favourite Easter eggs of all time.

Did I mention that I’m not talking about foil wrapped goodies? Oh no. Easter Eggs are hidden features within DVD menus that are only accessible with the right combination of clicks on your remote control. So turn off that Rankin-Bass Peter Cottontail stop motion special that you’ve watched every single Easter, sort through your DVD collection and have an Easter Egg Hunt yourself.

Pirates of the Carob-bean At World’s End (get my little Easter joke?) is a horrible confusing mess of a film by anyone’s standards but the 2 disc DVD edition is the perfect place to start an Easter egg hunt. The second disc has a bunch of hidden features about the production of the film. The best is an amusing short on the search for the perfect peanut for Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow to fight over with his doppelgangers. Select The Tale of Many Jacks on the menu, press left then down twice and press enter when a black dot appears.

I’m a big fan of director Joss Whedon’s work. The Avengers is due to hit the silver screen in just a few weeks and I can’t wait to see Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and Hulk Hogan join forces to save the world. In the meantime, grab your copy of Whedon’s Serenity, highlight play on the main menu, press left and enter, and enjoy a short on the bizarre Japanese inspired Fruity Oaty Bars animated commercial that appear in the film. You’ll be singing along in no time.

This is Sparta! Zack Snyder’s adaption of the graphic novel 300 (how original, a film based on a comic book) has some amazing art design and some very hammy acting. On the special features menu on the main disc, select the home icon and then press down. A blood splatter will be highlighted and you can press select to watch an interesting short feature on how the director convinced the book’s author and Warner Bros that he could successfully adapt the original work into a movie (with extra cheese, of course).

The Spider-Man franchise is due for a 3D reboot this year. Some of you may remember a reasonably successful trilogy of films featuring Spidey from director Sam Raimi. The main feature disc has a plethora of Easter eggs, with my favourite being a CGI blooper reel. If the thought of witnessing Spider-man and the Green Goblin perform tai chi together amuses you, pop the original Spider-man DVD into your player, select commentaries, and click on the picture of Harry Osborne.

There’s only one Easter egg left in our hunt today, and it can be found on the Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith main feature DVD. Yoda may be a Jedi Master, but he is also a wicked breakdancer. To see him pull some fresh moves, backed by some popping Storm Troopers, select the options menu from the main screen, and then press 1, enter, 1, enter, 3, enter, 8, enter  to find the clip.

I hope you enjoyed my calorie free Easter egg hunt. There are plenty of websites that will help you to find more hidden content on your DVDs.

PS I finally finished The Hunger Games book and caught a screening of the film. It was good. That is all.

Published in: on April 22, 2012 at 13:01  Leave a Comment  
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Star Wars on Blu-ray: how many times do I have to buy the same movie?

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 6 September 2011.

If you’re a Star Wars fan, this month has been a long time coming. Wednesday 14 September will see both the original and prequel trilogies released on blu-ray. Finally we’ll be able to see that extra tall (or clumsy) Stormtrooper bang his head on the rising door in A New Hope in stunning high definition.

For around $120, you’ll get nine discs and over thirty hours of bonus features. Thirty hours! That is a lot of commitment, even for a Jedi. Don’t expect to see any nerds around town until the Saturday after its release at the earliest.

I’ve been doing my sums to work out how much money I have spent on purchasing and repurchasing Star Wars movies in my lifetime so far. There was the original VHS copy that I bought way back when owning a VHS (or Beta) player was a luxury and you needed to insert the tapes in the top. Renting a video then set you back $10 a shot, so buying Episode IV outright was easily $100.

Then there was the original trilogy that I purchased with my saved up pocket money from the now defunct HMV store in Parramatta Mall in the late eighties. Box sets didn’t exist then so that’s three movies at $30 each.

In the early nineties, I was working for my local Video Ezy store when Lucasfilm announced that they would be releasing the original films for the very last time so I purchased them again on VHS, this time in widescreen. Of course, television screens were still square shaped then so I got to watch my favourite movies in a small rectangle with dirty black bars above and below. That’s another three movies at $30 each.

What the clever folks at Lucasfilm didn’t mention during that promotion was the reason the original films were available for the “last time” was due to the imminent release of the Special Edition which included revised special effects and a little too much tampering on George Lucas’ behalf, such as changing the cantina scene to have Greedo shoot first in order to make Han Solo seem less ruthless. After duly seeing them on the big screen in 1997, I also bought the Special Edition VHS box set at say, $100. Are you noticing a pattern here?

In 2004, Star Wars Episodes IV – VI finally came out on DVD, this time in a box set complete with an awesome feature length documentary. The Force was strong in that one so I bought it too. Add another $100 at least to the tab.

The original, unaltered films were released again, this time on DVD, in 2006. I felt a little sore about this. Didn’t Lucasfilm say that the original trilogy would no longer be available? I guess they meant no longer available on video. Not a bad Jedi mind trick, but no bingo.

The prequel movies were released on the big screen from 1999 – 2005 and subsequently made their way to DVD. I only bought Episode III, largely due to the fact that the first two are mind numbingly awful. One DVD, $30 spent, fast forward through the Jar Jar scene.

Let’s face it. History shows that I’m going to buy the new Star Wars blu-ray box set. I love high definition films. Blu-ray movies look sharper and clearer to me than looking out the window. How is that possible?

So later this month, my total Star Wars expenditure will be $630. That’s not including buying cinema tickets, action figures, video games, books, magazines, the Princess Leia shampoo that you need to take her head off to get the shampoo out or tickets to see Carrie Fisher live. That’s $630 buying the same product over and over again. Despite his inability to direct actors or write decent dialogue, George Lucas is a marketing genius. Make that a ridiculously rich billionaire marketing genius.

I suppose I can’t complain. Star Wars has been an important part of my life in the past, and if I try to watch all of the new extra features it will probably be my actual life for a couple of days in the near future.

So thank you George Lucas. I hope you remember that 17% of one of the bricks in your solid gold mansion was paid for by me. But remember, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me thrice twice plus one, this better be the last time. And I don’t mean a John Farnham “The Last Time” last time.

May the force be with you and your wallet.

Published in: on September 9, 2011 at 08:30  Leave a Comment  
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Classic Films in High Def

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 28th June 2011.

The future of home entertainment is looking blu. With the steady uptake of HD screens, blu-ray is fast becoming the new standard. And just as DVDs took a few years to become popular way back in the late nineties, blu-ray disc sales have now reached a point where prices have started to come down. Titles that were initially priced at $35 – $50 a year or two ago are now on sale at the $15 mark. That’s great value for those wanting to replace their DVD collection, but not so good for early adopters.

Of course, just because a film is available in high definition does not mean that it is any good. Those extra pixels will not make Lindsay Lohan’s “acting” in I Know Who Killed Me any more convincing. And from a technical perspective, not all films will receive the same quality of remastering for a high definition release. With smaller distributors also starting to release budget titles in blu-ray, you probably get what you pay for.

Keeping in mind that this week’s latest release at full price will be in next month’s bargain bin, I suggest that your hard earned dollars go towards some of the landmark blu-ray box sets that are on the horizon. With hours of extras, nice packaging and, obviously, a classic film or seven remastered in beautiful high definition, they represent good value and will be a welcome addition to any discerning film buff’s collection.

Tomorrow will see the release of The Lord of the Rings extended edition box set. Featuring 6 blu-ray discs and 9 DVDs, you get the extended versions of all three films plus a whopping 26 hours of extras. Although it could be argued that you’d probably be able to walk to Mount Doom and back yourself in the 683 minute running time of the extended trilogy, this may well be the most comprehensive box set ever released. In fact, if a short hike to the Cracks of Doom floats your boat, the box set even comes complete with a replica ring. Priced at around $120 (that’s $8 a disc), this is great value and I recommend that you get your hairy feet down to the shops this week and buy yourself this “precious” box set.

All geeks should have September 14 marked in their smart phone calendars. This is the day where we all get to reach into our pockets and buy Star Wars for the umpteenth time. That’s right, George Lucas has finally relented to fan requests and made Episodes I – VI available on blu-ray for the first time. I’m sure it won’t do his bank balance any harm either. For about $140, you’ll get all six films and over 30 hours of documentaries and extras on 9 discs. If, like me, you’re Jar Jar intolerant and prefer to pretend the prequel trilogy doesn’t exist, both trilogies will be available separately too.

For the more astute film buff, I’d certainly recommend the Stanley Kubrick: Visionary Filmmaker Collection which features seven iconic films plus extensive documentaries over 8 discs. This set, currently discounted to around $70 at one of the larger DVD retailers, includes Lolita and Barry Lyndon for the first time ever in high definition. Worth the price of the set alone is the bonus feature length documentary, Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures.

The Al Pacino classic Scarface will also get a high definition makeover in September. For around $60, you’ll get a Tony Montana signature money clip, a dollar bill featuring Tony’s face, a replica of his green card and three art cards, all housed in a wooden cigar box. Did I mention you also get the movie on blu-ray? A modern classic, I’ll be saying hello to my new little friend in September.

Lastly, if you love the small of napalm in the morning, you’ll also love the new remastered triple disc Apocalypse Now box set. Complete with transfers supervised by Francis Ford Coppola himself, this new edition will be laden with extras including the brilliant documentary about the making of this classic, Hearts of Darkness, also in high definition for the first time.

So why waste your money on Yogi Bear and The Last Airbender on blu-ray when you can sink your teeth into some classics finally available in high definition? And although I’d always argue that content is more important than packaging, the fancy boxes and goodies inside are pretty cool too.

Classic TV shows you won’t find on DVD

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 22nd March 2011.

Have you ever wandered around the entertainment section of your local department store and seen how many TV shows are now available to buy on DVD? Surely there can’t be a demand for all of them? For every classic series such as Twin Peaks there’s a Golden Girls Season 5. Why buy the excellent Firefly box set when you can buy the craptastic JAG or The Anna Nicole Show? There must be someone buying this stuff.

With that in mind, there are still many notable shows that have yet to find a release on DVD.

“Holy chicken sticks Batman, we’re not on DVD yet!” That’s right, the campy Batman series from the sixties is still yet to be released. Starring the super serious Adam West as the titular superhero and millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, alongside Bert Ward as his youthful sidekick Robin a.k.a. Dick Grayson, there are apparently very complicated rights issues between US networks Fox and ABC, Greenway Productions and DC Comics preventing the Caped Crusader from making his way to DVD.  Why can’t there be disputes keeping Acropolis Now off the shelves?

The eighties series about the sixties, The Wonder Years, is also stuck in DVD purgatory. Starring cuddly Fred Savage as tweener Kevin Arnold and Danica McKellar as his love interest Winnie Cooper, the six seasons of this popular dramedy utilised many popular songs from the late sixties and early seventies. This is where the problem lies. With the licences for the songs limited to television broadcast only, each tune requires a new licence and royalty to be negotiated for DVD release.

Secret Valley was an Australian TV series broadcast on the ABC in 1984. Starring siblings Beth, Miles and Simone Buchanan, the show revolved around a holiday camp for kids. Strangely devoid of adult supervision, the camp was regularly terrorised by bully Spider McGlurk and his gang. It was a G-rated Lord of the Flies without a pig’s head. From memory, each episode ended with a flour bomb fight (take notes kids, bullies are best dispatched with flour, not body slams). The show was shot at the now defunct Smokey Dawson’s ranch in Terry Hills, NSW and the even more defunct El Caballo Blanco Spanish horse theme park in Catherine Field, NSW.

A spin off from Secret Valley, Professor Poopsnagle’s Steam Zeppelin was produced in 1986 and starred Justine Clark. Broadcast on Channel Ten, the story followed a group of kids from Secret Valley who build a flying red bus (as you do) to search for the missing six golden salamanders which when combined will produce a solution to air pollution. Apparently this show is still very popular in the UK, but then again, so is Benny Hill.

Both of these classic Australian children’s shows are not available on DVD. To be fair, equally daggy but awesome kids’ shows Pugwall and Pugwall’s Summer can be found on DVD.

D.A.A.S. Kapital was a sitcom of sorts written and starring the Doug Anthony All Stars. Running for two seasons on the ABC, the show featured Tim Ferguson, Richard Fidler and Paul McDermott as custodians of the world’s most treasured artworks stored aboard a submerged submarine that is owned by the Shitsu Tonka Corporation, a company that now owns the world. Despite a recent DVD release of Doug Anthony All Stars material compiled from the also MIA comedy series The Big Gig, this cult series is nowhere to be found.

If there is supposedly a demand for all twelve seasons of Murder, She Wrote (if Jessica Fletcher arrives in your town, leave because someone’s going to die), five seasons of Ally McBeal and one (but feels like twenty) season of Cops L.A.C., then there must be a market for my picks. And while you’re at it, why not also release China Beach, L.A. Law, Jim Henson’s Dinosaurs (not the mama) and Hangin’ with Mr Cooper? Write to your local member today.

DVD Commentaries and RiffTrax

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 6th April 2010.

If you’re a film buff like me, simply watching a movie on DVD or blu-ray is simply not enough. Straight after the final credits roll, I love to restart the film, this time with the audio commentary running. Pretty much a standard “extra feature” on the majority of non-vanilla movie releases, commentaries are usually recorded by the filmmakers and included on the disc as an alternate soundtrack, allowing the movie to be watched with the comments heard instead of the original dialogue or score.

The majority of audio commentaries are recorded by the director. Some also include other members of the crew or cast. For older movies where the filmmakers are no longer alive, film historians will sometimes record a commentary. On “special edition” discs, more than one audio commentary is often included.

Of course, just like films, audio commentaries vary in quality and entertainment value. The commentaries for The Goonies and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory are great fun as they reunite the casts for the first time in many years. Sylvester Stallone’s ultra-serious track for Rambo (2008) is hilarious as he justifies exploding heads and blood splatters in explicit detail. This Is Spinal Tap (1984) features a memorable commentary by the lead actors in character complaining how they were misrepresented by the (faux) documentary. Joel Schumacher’s commentary for Batman and Robin (1997) is an entertaining two hour apology for this awful almost-franchise-killing third sequel.

If you’ve ever watched a dodgy film that deserves smart comments and quips yelled at the screen, then RiffTrax may be for you. RiffTrax is a website that produces and sells downloadable comedy commentaries for movies. Simply download the commentary of your choice as an mp3 file and then play it over the top of the movie. Instructions for synchronising the track with the movie are included and usually just a matter of pressing play at the same time as a certain part of the opening credits.

RiffTrax is the brainchild of US comedian Michael J. Nelson, who came to fame in the TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1988-99). This cult show centred on a man and his robot sidekicks who were trapped on a space station and being forced to watch old B-grade science fiction films (usually with expired copyrights). A revolutionary show at the time, the TV audience watches the cast making fun of the movie and the movie itself.

Movies with RiffTrax comedy commentaries available include recently released easy targets Twilight: New Moon and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, as well as classics such as the Star Wars Trilogy and Casablanca. The website also features downloadable short films (usually American public domain educational films from the 50’s such as Teenagers on Trial) with whacky commentaries.

If you fancy taking the mickey out of your favourite (or otherwise) film, RiffTrax also allows you to submit comedy commentaries of your own. These are hosted on the website and also available for purchase with a 50-50 split on the download fee. Although not likely an avenue for a substantial income, this may be the perfect outlet for a frustrated undiscovered comedian.

Commentary tracks can add an extra dimension to a good or not-so-good movie. Whether focusing on the filmmaking process or purely for a laugh, audio commentaries are worth a listen.

http://www.rifftrax.com

Published in: on April 11, 2010 at 10:53  Leave a Comment  
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