Tuesday, July 28, 2009

RiffTrax LIVE: Plan 9 From Outer Space

RiffTrax LIVE: Plan 9 From Outer Space

I am seriously considering taking a day off from work just to go see this. I'm a huge MST3K fan, and I'm loving the work Kevin Murphy, Mike Nelson, and Bill Corbett have been doing with Rifftrax. (Seems to me that their riffing is even funnier when a GOOD movie is the subject of their scorn.) Though I'd rather see it live in Tennessee, I guess I'll have to settle for seeing it on the big screen in Scranton, PA.

To see if a theater near you will be showcasing this one-night event, visit Fandango.com!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Vault Master's TOP TEN KILLER ANIMAL FILMS: #1 - JAWS (1975)

JAWS (1975)
124 minutes / Color / Rated PG

The Culprit(s): A 25-foot (rogue) Great White Shark that has acquired a taste for humans... the other, other white meat.

The Plot: Surprised that this made number one? Yeah, I didn't think so. "JAWS" basically set up the template for all the sequels and knock-offs that were spawned after its release, and has rightfully earned its status as a true cinematic classic. This tale of "nature run amok" centers around a small island community off the coast of New York called Amity. It's a quiet little village that relies on Summer tourism to get by each year, but things quickly go bad for the islanders once a rogue Great White shark begins snacking on locals and tourists alike. After claiming several victims, the beaches are shut down, and a shark hunter named Quint (Robert Shaw) is hired to track down and kill the offending fish.

Along with Amity Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) and a marine biologist named Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), Quint sails out in his boat ("The Orca!") in search of the elusive man-eating shark. The trio of men cross swords with the mighty creature and trade blows, which eventually results in one tired and angry shark and one crippled boat. As the battle continues, Quint is devoured by his finned opponent, leaving Chief Brody (who ironically is terrified of the water) to continue the fight whilst clinging to the mast of the sinking "Orca."

In a totally unlikely scenario (as disproved on Mythbusters) Chief Brody manages to kill the Great White by shooting the tank of compressed air that was hanging from the shark's mouth. The bullet causes the tank, and the shark, to explode, which allows Brody and Matt Hooper (who miraculously survived the Great White's wrath by hiding underwater) to swim back to Amity to share the good news.

Based on Peter Benchley's novel of the same name, "JAWS" is an excellent character-driven film with effects that still hold up well today. The best part of the movie (aside from the chilling shark attacks) is the bonding experience between the film's trio of heroes. Quint, Brody, and Hooper all come from different backgrounds and have their own reasons for going on their dangerous mission, and its neat to see them pull together against a common foe, and occasionally have a bit of fun.

Quint is a former World War II vet that was on the ill-fated U.S.S. Indianapolis, which was sunk by a Japanese submarine in shark infested waters. Though he never comes out and says it, you get the feeling that he has an axe to grind against any and every shark in the sea since that fateful experience.

Hooper is on the opposite end of the spectrum and "loves sharks." He's been a fascinated with sharks since his childhood and thinks that they are graceful, misunderstood creatures. He joins the hunt for the elusive Great White mainly out of scientific curiosity, but also because he knows that the killing won't end until the shark is caught and destroyed. Lastly there's Chief Brody who is terrified of going into the water. He goes along on the trip because of his strong sense of duty to the town and to his family. All in all, he has to be the bravest person in this film because he overcomes his fears and ultimately saves the day.

You really get to like all three of these guys and you want to see them pull through the ordeal in one piece because you care about them. And that is the result of good writing and good acting folks, which helps make this film so damned near perfect. In an age where effects and budget seem more important than the script and talent, its good to know that we can still go back and watch films from a time when studios gave a damn about what they put out in theaters. Long live "JAWS" and may it continue to mystify (and terrify) younger generations for many years to come!

Why it made the list: Do I really need to explain? This movie basically created the template for almost every killer animal flick made over the last four decades. I mean, hell, look at the previous ten films that I put on this list, and you'll see that half of them are basically "JAWS" with another murderous animal replacing the Great White as the lead antagonist. This movie set a standard, broke box office records, kick-started Steven Spielberg's impressive career, and resulted in the perennial Summer blockbuster season that we've all become accustomed to. For better or worse, "JAWS" brought some major changes to the film industry.

Why YOU should watch it: Really? You haven't seen "JAWS?!" You been living in a cave?!

While it looks a bit dated now, "JAWS" has aged well, and Spielberg's "less is more" approach with the shark works so damned perfectly. (Of course, he had to take that route because Bruce the mechanical shark never seemed to want to work. Luckily Bruce did work often enough for Spielberg and company to get the job done.) Along with an amazing cast of memorable characters, and an effective (yet simplistic) musical score by John Williams, this is a must see film that should make you think twice about going for a swim.

Is it worthy of a remake? NO! LEAVE THIS MOVIE ALONE HOLLYWOOD! If I hear that a remake is in the works, I think I may very well "go Frank Castle" and punish those who would corrupt and tarnish the image of the original. If you want, do a new sequel ("JAWS 5" talk occasionally makes its rounds around the web every now and again), that's cool by me, but leave the original alone! There's not really much you can do to improve upon it so please, let it be!

The "JAWS" Legacy continues: Along with three sequels that became increasingly worse as the series progressed, (the final film, "Jaws: The Revenge" is horrid!), "JAWS" has spawned numerous knock-offs, such as the notorious "The Last Shark" which was actually pulled out of American theaters and banned after its release, for being "too derivative" of Spielberg's film. However, the influence of "JAWS" has transcended mere celluloid and has embedded itself into pop culture for all time. Even today, references to "JAWS" pop up in magazines, films, and books and the mighty Great White was even made into an impressive-looking toy by the folks over at McFarlane Toys for their "Movie Maniacs" (4) series.

"JAWS" has also been made into two awful video games (the notoriously bad "JAWS" released by LJN way back in the day for the original NES and "JAWS Unleashed" for PS2 and X-BOX), and has inspired a slew of fan films and tributes on the world wide web. Here is just a taste of the stuff that you can find online:

And believe it or not, there was a "JAWS" parody made called "Blades" which featured a killer lawnmower! Don't believe me? Then feast your eyes upon the following Youtube video:

And most recently, "JAWS" has had the honor of being riffed on by MST3K's Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy. Here's a "greatest hits" compilation of their hilarious Rifftrax commentary:

Well that's all folks! I hope you have enjoyed reading my Top Ten Killer Animal Films countdown! While I'm sure none of you were shocked to see "JAWS" take the number one spot on the list, I do have to say that I am shocked that so many folks haven't disagreed with the films that made the cut. Usually at least ONE person will complain, saying "you should have included this film" or "why isn't this movie higher up on your list?" but surprisingly it seems like I've managed to create a well-balanced list of films that most (if not all) of my readers seem to be happy with.

I've gotten a lot of positive feedback on this top ten list so I may end up doing another one later on down the road, but first, methinks I should get the rest of the B-Movie Film Vault back up to snuff. Thanks for reading, and my sincerest apologies for taking so long to complete this killer animal flick countdown.

Stay tuned for some more new stuff at The Vault, and keep fighting the good fight b-movie fans!