REVIEW: Strange Wilderness (2008)

Here’s a low-budget stoner comedy that plays out like it’s being made up on the fly (or at least following a very brief “brainstorming” session among producer Adam Sandler’s “Happy Madison” entourage – the membership of which makes up the bulk of the speaking cast) and betting the farm on the considerable likability of Steve Zahn. Turns out it’s not that bad of a bet.

“Strange Wilderness” is a nearly-plotless, slapdash, cheap-looking, lazily-paced, amatuerish collection of random, improv-style sketches… but approached on those terms – or, rather, the terms of similarly-scattershot goofery like “Robot Chicken” or Andy Samberg’s “SNL Digital Shorts” – it’s almost embarassingly hysterical. The folks making it obviously had a good time, and so long as the film kept leaving that vibe lying around for the cameras to find (about 89% of the film features the cast sitting around in various chemically-altered states engaged in stream-of-conciousness nonsense “discussions,” which seems like a fair hypothesis of how the actual film-MAKING occured) I was right there with them.

The story, so to speak, goes like this: Peter Gaulke (Steve Zahn, the character is named for one of the film’s writers) is the host of “Strange Wilderness,” a TV nature-show he inherited (along with hosting-duties) from his famous, recently-deceased father. Peter, who isn’t all that bright even before he gets stoned – which is frequently – possesses neither his father’s TV-production skills, nor does he know the first thing about animals or nature (sample narration: “Over a million salmon are killed by bears every year. However, attacks on bears by salmon are much more rare.”) and the show is about to be cancelled. Peter, however, feels he can save it by taking his skeleton-crew of fellow drug-addled dolts on a last-ditch trip to Ecuador… where an old friend of his father’s claims to have a map to the lair of Bigfoot.

That’s pretty much it. Allen Colvert, Justin Long, Jonah Goldberg, Kevin Heffernan, Peter Dante and Ashley Scott all join Zahn for what amounts to 90-or-so minutes of funny people wandering around the “jungles” of Southern California waxing nonsensically and engaging in infrequent bouts of random drug-fueled slapstick; stopping occasionally to run Gaulke’s moronic narrations over animal footage (“Monkey’s make up over 80% of the world’s monkey population,” “sharks are only found in two places on Earth: The Northern Hemisphere, and the Southern Hemisphere.”) Ernest Borgnine, (!!!) Robert Patrick, Joe Don Baker, Harry Hamlin and Blake Clark turn up in increasingly bizzare cameos, culminating in one of the most absurd third acts I can remember seeing in any film, comedy or otherwise.

In a scene that can tell you more-or-less everything you need to know about the film, at one point Peter’s poor choice of outdoor lavatories leads to him getting his penis bitten by an enraged turkey, which leads to hospitalization when said penis becomes stuck in the bird’s throat (an X-Ray helpfully illustrates the problem,) which leads to an impromptu brainstorm among doctors and buddies about how to extricate it once the presence of an attractive nurse, er… “complicates” the situation. In another, the film stops cold to continuously replay the same shot of a long-toothed shark swimming by the camera while Zahn and friends repeatedly “dub” an inexplicably-amusing goober-voiced laugh for the creature.

It’s the silliest, dopiest, most infantile form of screen comedy… but I laughed as though I was getting a contact-high off the cast. Hard to believe, but I’m gonna say reccomended on this one.

FINAL RATING: 7/10

REVIEW: The Eye (2008)

FILENAME/TYPE: GENHRMK_WZRD.MVB

GENERIC-ASIAN-HORROR-REMAKE REVIEW-WIZARD Ver 3.0
INSTRUCTIONS.RDM (README): Following viewing of Generic Asian Horror Remake, insert appropriate specifics into indicated-spaces.

[TITLE] is an American remake of [ORIGINAL TITLE], another in the seemingly endless line of subtley-spooky [ASIAN COUNTRY OF ORIGIN] ghost movies that came in a deluge following the release of “Ringu.” [ORIGINAL TITLE] took the well-traveled route, essentially grafting the mandatory slow-build creepiness and a sampling of [NOTEWORTHY ELEMENTS BORROWED FROM RINGU & JU-ON] into a story of [“HOOK”] to create a fun new angle on the genre and made [ORIGINAL FILMMAKER] one-to-watch… at least until last year and the release of [ORIGINAL FILMMAKER’S LACKLUSTER AMERICAN DEBUT FILM.] These things happen [SNARKY I’VE-SEEN-MORE-MOVIES-THAN-YOU-NYAH-NYAH SIDE COMMENT].

Now, as if to add insult to injury, [ORIGINAL TITLE] here gets remade with the customary de-fanging and dumbing down we really ought to be used to by now in a country that continues to allow the existance of [OUT-OF-PLACE DERISIVE JOKE AT THE EXPENSE OF MAINSTREAM POP-CULTURAL STRAW MAN]. Anyway, [MARGINALLY-TALENTED B-LIST MAXIM HOTTIE] stars as [FEMALE LEAD,] who [SARCASTICALLY-RECAPPED CHARACTER BIO] leading to [PREMISE OF FILM] and now finds herself on the recieving end of [ALLEGEDLY SCARY PART OF MOVIE,] which arrives looking on-loan from [SHOW-OFFY REFERENCE TO OBSCURE GENRE FLICK MOST OF AUDIENCE HAS NEVER HEARD OF]. No prizes for guessing what’s going on. Enter [MALE LEAD], looking like [BAD JOKE ABOUT MALE FASHION TRENDS] but really just here so that [FEMALE LEAD] has someone to bounce [DIG AT FEMALE LEAD’S ACTING SHORTCOMINGS] off of. Together, they set out to defeat the [WHATEVER MANY ELEMENTS ARE BORROWED FROM “JACOB’S LADDER”] from “Jacob’s Ladder.”

[MARGINALLY TALENTED B-LIST MAXIM HOTTIE] isn’t that great of an actress, but you knew that, and it’s probably asking too much to have her in the somewhat difficult role of [SARCASTICALLY-RECAPPED CHARACTER BIO.] Sadly, her best role remains her turn as [MINOR CHARACTER-ROLE IN GEEK-ENSHRINED ‘GOOD’ MOVIE] and it’s still mostly just marking time until we get to see [DEGREE OF NUDITY NOT YET PERFORMED]. Keep waiting.

[PARAGRAPH-LENGTH BITCH ABOUT SPECIAL EFFECTS MINUTIAE]

[PARAGRAPH-LENGTH RANT ABOUT GENRE CLICHES ONLY NOTICED BY THOSE WHO SEE EVERY DAMN MOVIE THAT COMES OUT]

[ALLEGEDLY-HUMOROUS DIGRESSION ABOUT QUIRKY BEHAVIOR OF CHARACTERS/MONSTERS IN MOVIES LIKE THIS]

In the end, [TITLE] could have been worse. [GRATUITOUS SLAM OF MICHAEL BAY] And it’s hardly the worst thing out there – don’t forget that [RECENT BAD MOVIE] is still playing a few theaters down.

[GUSHING RECCOMENDATION OF SIMILAR BUT MORE OBSCURE AND OFFBEAT SIMILAR MOVIE]

FINAL RATING: 3/10

If I ran the movies…

everything would have a swordfight, a monkey and a six-boob minimum.

Also, a close approximation of the following mockup Teaser Trailer would currently be showing around the country in front of every damn release regardless of genre or rating, with the actual MOVIE to shortly follow:

Remember Cleanflicks?

Seriously, anyone?

“Cleanflicks” kinda dropped off the map after the Federal Courts effectively put them out of business by finding that “religious reasons” WASN’T in fact a circumvent-the-constitution-for-free card, so for a quick refresher see here: http://moviebob.blogspot.com/2006/07/justice.html

Basically, “Cleanflicks” was a Utah-based Christian video-store chain that exclusively trafficked in self-edited versions of popular movies, apparently founded after the company’s founder discovered that an alarming number of people religiously-minded folk were apparently desperate for copies of “Titanic” with the only two worthwhile things in the movie cut out.

Aaaaaannnnyway, good riddance to bad rubbish. Or so I thought. Few days back, the company’s co-founder Daniel Thompson – who’d recently opened up a similar Utah operation of his own called “Flix Club” – got himself into a little trouble. What kinda trouble? Let’s just say it sounds like we’ve been cheated out of the best Chris Hansen ambush ever: http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_8083729

So, apparently the guy who runs a Family-Values Video Store mainly did so as a front for him and his buddy to sexually abuse teenaged girls for homemade pornography. Post kinda writes itself, dunnit? Though I will admit, the fact that two young women got raped kinda sucks 99% of the “ha-ha” out of this one.

I should note, for the sake of posterity, that the guy in question (Thompson) was NOT the “actual” founder of the Cleanflicks operation. That’d be Ray Lines, who was apparently not involved in either Flix Club or the Thompson’s crimes.