Resin Heroes

Opening Credits Sunday: Webster (1984)

Direct Beam Comms #80


Blood Drive

A few weeks ago I heard a term for a type of movie that was so perfect I couldn’t ignore it; “bad on purpose.” These kinds of films are exemplified by the cruddy SyFy movies of the week like the Sharknado and Python vs … that are created to be “so bad they’re good.” The badder the better. Think of the bad movies that get lampooned on episodes of MST3K and that’s what the creators of “bad on purpose” flicks are going for.

Except I don’t think anything intentionally made “bad on purpose” can ever be anything but plain bad. What the creators of these “bad on purpose” movies fail to realize is that all the bad movies that they’re trying to emulate with their film had creators who were trying to make something good. Now it’s plainly obvious that these creators failed in making something good — movies like Manos: The Hands of Fate or Kingdom of the Spiders are terrible films. But the goal wasn’t to make something bad, it was the opposite and became bad which is probably why we still remember these films.

These “bad on purpose” filmmakers are taking this weird, safe route by intentionally making something bad they can’t be criticized if the end product stinks, it’s meant to be that way.

And now comes a “bad on purpose” TV show, on SyFy no less, Blood Drive. This series tries to emulate the look and feel of a 1980s grindhouse movie/direct to VHS, it’s about a race across the country with cars that run on blood and takes place in the far-off future of 1999. The sad thing is that I was actually kind’a looking forward to Blood Drive when I heard about it last spring. The pitch here is that each week will bring a new grindhouse movie inspired episode. One week will have an episode about cannibals, another cults and another monsters. Which are all in the style of a bad 1980s movies. But if the first episode is any indication, Blood Drive is a total loss in that the creators of this series have taken the whole “bad on purpose” theme to a whole new level.

The writing’s bad, the acting’s bad, the sets are bad and the special effects are bad. Everything’s so over the top from the sex to the violence to the gore to people dropping f-bombs I had to seriously wonder why SyFy greenly this series? SyFy does have one interesting series on these days with The Expanse, but for the most part the rest of their schedule is a mess. They’re a network that’s supposed to be dedicated to sci-fi during a time when sci-fi movies and TV shows are king, yet they spend a considerable amount of their schedule airing reality series, non-sci-fi films like John Wick and hours and hours of “bad on purpose” movies too. While other series that would seemingly be more at home on SyFy than anywhere else like Doctor Who, The Walking Dead, Stranger Things and Black Mirror to name a few all are shown elsewhere.

So, for SyFy to choose to show something like Blood Drive instead of something else is truly perplexing. Surely there are other series out there that are either not horrible like Blood Drive or sci-fi in nature that SyFy could have picked up? Instead, the channel keeps going down the route of lowest common denominator in their never ending quest to make fans of sci-fi turn elsewhere for their entertainment.

On sci-fi and loneliness


I was really excited to see the movie Moon when it was released in theaters back in 2009. It was one of those movies it seemed as if was getting a lot of positive buzz online and from the trailers and other marketing materials for the film everything about Moon screamed sci-fi classic that millions upon millions of people would run out and see. However, all that changed once I went into the theater and bought a ticket for Moon. The showing I went to was in a tiny theater at the cineplex that maybe seated 25 people. But if memory serves me correct it might as well have been in a much smaller theater as there were only a few other people at that showing other than myself.

Moon, much like Passengers, is a sci-fi movie where there are still plenty of people alive and kicking on the Earth, but because of the great distances in outer space people in far-off places are utterly alone and might as well be the last person. Here, it’s astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) a lone technician at a mining complex on our Moon. Bell’s at the end of his tour and is ready to go home to his wife and daughter since his only companion the last three years has been a robotic assistant GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey). But after an accident out on the surface of the Moon Sam awakens to find another Sam, a duplicate of himself, on the station. I don’t want to ruin things here but Moon is the interesting movie since other than Sam #1 and Sam #2 we never get to see another person on the station at all, right to the end of the film.

And I think that’s one reason that Moon works so well — there’s so many things that happen in the film that either subvert or completely twist the sci-fi genera. Moon is a movie about a man alone and separated from everyone else, except for that pesky duplicate who shows up early in the film and is like an edgier version of the first Sam that screams sci-fi cliche but somehow works here. There’s also GERTY, whom I spent the entire movie trying to figure out when it was going to HAL-out and kill or hurt Sam, except that something quite different happens in the end.

In many ways Moon feels like a longish episode of Black Mirror, only being released a few years before that series made it to air.

If anything, I think Moon is a cross between a movie like Outland, the corporate running the lunar mining complex looks and feels very much like the corporation running the mining complex on Io in that movie — they’re willing to do anything, let anyone die and pay any price in blood that’s necessary as long as the ore keeps flowing. And a movie like Silent Running where a man, left alone in a ship on a long voyage finds a bond between himself and some robot friends. Even the style of Moon harkens back to those older films since many of the special effects used to make the futuristic technology on the Moon in Moon were done practically with models of live-action set pieces.

The one thing I think has been a bit of a letdown since the release of Moon is that I don’t think that co-writer/director of Moon Duncan Jones has lived up to his potential after his first film here. After Moon Jones also co-wrote and directed the good Source Code but also co-wrote and directed the no-good-downright-terrible Warcraft last year. I know all movies can’t be great, but hopefully Warcraft was the one aberration on Jones’ resume rather than what we can expect from him in the future.

The Reading List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1954: Them! premiers in theaters
  • 1956: Tim Russ, Tuvok of Star Trek: Voyager is born
  • 1958: Bruce Campbell of The Evil Dead films and the TV series * The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.* is born
  • 1964: Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly and director of The Avengers is born
  • 1976: Logan’s Run premiers in theaters
  • 1981: Superman II opens in theaters
  • 1983: Twilight Zone: The Movie opens
  • 1985: Lifeforce debuts
  • 1987: Spaceballs opens in theaters
  • 1989: Tim Burton’s Batman opens in theaters.
  • 1989: Honey, I Shrunk the Kids opens
  • 1990: RoboCop 2 premiers in theaters
  • 1991: The Rocketeer premiers in theaters
  • 1998: The X-Files movie premiers
  • 2003: Hulk premiers in theaters
  • 2005: Land of the Dead premiers in theaters
  • 2013: World War Z premiers
  • 2014: What We Do in the Shadows premiers
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Punisher Saturday: Mike Manley Darkhawk #9 cover sketch

Web of Spider-Man

Let this sink in for a minute — it’s been 15 years since the first Spider-Man movie was released. That first film was something the fans of the comics had been waiting years to see. Originally announced in the 1980s as a low-budget film, then a film James Cameron was set to write and direct after Terminator 2: Judgment Day in the 1990s, rights issues kept Spider-Man from the big screen for years until those details were finally ironed cumulating with a film directed by Sam Raimi and writer by David Koepp finally making it to the big screen in 2002.

Raimi on the set of Spider-Man

Now he seems like the obvious choice, but Sam Raimi as the director of a Spider-Man movie back then didn’t make a lot of sense. Personally, I was excited to see what he could do with the character. I knew Raimi from previous movies and figured that if given the opportunity to bring his kinetic style of action to the character Spider-Man might be really interesting. But to most Raimi seemed like a wildcard.

Back in 2002 Raimi was mostly known for the blood splattered Evil Dead movies and had received a bit of critical acclaim for the 1998 movie A Simple Plan. But otherwise nothing in Raimi’s resume, other than perhaps the Darkman movie, seemed to indicate that he was the right person for the Spider-Man job. I’ve come to the conclusion that perhaps the reason that Raimi got the job was because no one else wanted it.

I’m not saying that there was no director in Hollywood in the early 2000s who was pining for the Spider-Man directing job, but I am saying that back then when superheroes were an unknown quantity I don’t think major talent would have been lining up for the job of directing a comic book movie. Looking at the top grossing movies of the year 2000 the year the first X-Men was released, they were, wait for it, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, then Cast Away and then Mission: Impossible II. X-Men didn’t even crack the top five highest grossing movies of 2000, it was eighth at around $160 million.

Now $160 million might seem like a lot of money, but these days that’s what a successful movie might do in a weekend, not its entire run. So back then a Spider-Man movie seemed less like a slam-dunk no-brainer for a director to take than something that had a lot of negatives with not a lot of positives attached to it in a time when comic book movies were openly derided.

But, surprise-surprise, Spider-Man made over $100 million dollars in its opening weekend, more than $400 million overall, and went onto become the highest grossing movie that year.

Which, of course, meant sequels. Spider-Man 2 would follow in 2004 and while it made less than the first was still an improvement on the original in terms of character and story. Even the third movie that came out in 2007 while the weakest of the bunch was the highest grossing movie that year.

Ironically, Marvel created the Spider-Man character but sold the movie rights to the character years ago so that character technically exists outside the Marvel movie universe. So Spider-Man was the biggest superhero of the early 2000s, Marvel technically didn’t have anything to do with the big-screen version of that character.

After the Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, two The Amazing Spider-Man movies would reboot the character to a more darker version of the Peter Parker universe beginning in 2012. Funnily enough, while those movies would make a combined $1.4 billion at the world-wide box office they were considered failures by the fans, hence the new Spider-Man: Homecoming movie out July 5.

Starring Tom Holland in the title role who originally appeared in last summer’s Captain America: Civil War as the character, this Spider-Man, while still not officially a part of the Marvel universe kind’a is with the inclusion of Robert Downey Jr. in the Tony Stark/Iron Man role on loan from the Marvel movies. This time, Spider-Man along with Iron Man, whom I think will be in less of the movie than trailers indicate, must do battle with the evil Vulture (Michael Keaton) who wants to do really bad things to NYC.

The Monsters Squad (1987) poster