Robot Monster – #MovieReview

we know how it will end

Slick Dungeon here, in the tenth room of my dungeon. This is where I watch the weirdest, baddest and sometimes oldest movies and give you a little review so you know if you should invest your time in them. You totally should.

This week I watched Robot Monster. Also known as the granddaddy of so bad it’s good science fiction films. It was poked fun of by the guys on Mystery Science Theater 3000. It was so bad and did so poorly at the box office that the director tried to kill himself. His shot missed though and he survived. His movie, for all of the bashing it gets, is still around and people still talk about it. It’s not every movie that can say that!

This thing was shot in four days in Bronson Canyon. It has a whopping ensemble cast of eight people. Two of which are mostly in a monster getup that was not well thought out. The rushed filming shows if you look closely. There are spliced scenes from other movies, there’s a point where a woman is loosely tied up and unconscious in one shot and when we see her again, she is fully bound and fully awake, you can see a hand controlling the model spaceship in the special effects shots and if that was not enough, you can see the actor’s face in the space helmet when he is supposed to be some kind of technologically superior space gorilla.

But those things I just listed, are the unintentional mistakes. I feel like the conscious choices here are much, much worse. They wanted the monster to look like a huge furry ape creature in a space suit. Mission accomplished and it looks as stupid as it sounds. Let me give you just a brief plot summary here and as we go on, I will point out even more of the ridiculous.

The film starts out with a nice little family having a picnic. Johnny, the little boy in the film and his sister Carla run off to play unsupervised near a cave. At the cave there are two archaeologists digging out some fossils. They explain to the kids that their job is to dig it out and send this stuff to a museum for people to study. Johnny is more interested in space aliens. The older sister of Johnny and their mother find the boy and then they leave. Johnny can’t resist coming back and there’s a flash of lightning. Dinosaurs (from another movie) roam the planet! Lizards (from another movie) wrestle each other! Action! Excitement!

Next we see a monster. This is Ro-man (Pronounced Row-man not Roman thank you very much) and he is armed with a bunch of antenna, a television screen and even, a machine that makes bubbles! Ooooh watch out!.

But this dude is serious. He’s killed literally everyone on the planet with one stroke. Except for our five remaining cast members. Lucky for them, their father, “The Professor”, had cooked up a serum that protected the whole fam from any sort of disease at all. Yay for illegal science! There’s also a couple of people on a “space platform” that have survived, also thanks to the Professor.

Ro-man spends the rest of the movie, slowly turning dials, slowly wandering around in grass, slowly picking up little girls and women, and loudly yelling back and forth at his leader in space. It’s super obvious that the visibility from this outfit was zero for this actor. It’s awesomely funny.

There are also some choice bits of dialogue from the handsome lead to his love interest. Roy, who is not related to the rest of the family but was an assistant to the Professor also got to have an injection of the serum. Good thing for him too because he is in love with the Professor’s oldest daughter Alice. Alice is a beautiful and brilliant scientist in her own right. How do we know? Well, she almost fixes the screen that speaks with space. And, Roy, says to her, “You’re either too beautiful to be smart, or too smart to be beautiful.” Because you clearly, cannot be both. The fifties must have sucked so much if you were not a straight, white, male. Anyway.

Ro-man, as can be predicted wants to kill the humans. But not Alice because, well, I guess he’s got an open mind about dating. He shouts at the humans on the screen a few times and says they should ask for a painless death, but like, can he date Alice or what? Alice is kinda like, well, if it will save humanity, I’ll go talk to the space alien monster. The Professor and Roy decide to tie Alice up for her own good instead.

Then later, when there is still a dangerous monster out there, Johnny gives up the secret of the serum to Ro=man. Does Ro-man kill Johnny after that? No. Why? Because Johnny is on top of a rock above Ro-man, and that costume is unwieldy my friends.

Even later Alice and Roy decide to go do some necking as they might have said in the fifties. You know, despite the fact that there is a murderous alien. By the way, none of them ever once seems to think it’s a good idea to move away from the cave at all. Also, they don’t seem too broken up about the entire rest of the planet being dead.

When Alice and Roy get back from their fun time, Roy asks the Professor if he can marry Alice. Not like the Professor and his daughter have a lot of options but he agrees. Alice has time to find a veil but Roy doesn’t seem to have time to put his shirt back on. There is a little ceremony and they get married. They head off for a honeymoon. Yes, a honeymoon right near the cave where the murdery space gorilla lives. Roy, you must have been one amazing assistant.

Carla, Johnny’s little sister, runs after the happy couple, gives them some flowers and runs off (in the totally wrong direction). Ro-man finds her and strangles her off screen. Why off screen? Because that costume is unwieldy my friends.

Soon Ro-man finds our happy couple and the epic last battle for humanity begins again. He strikes Roy! He captures Alice! Alice is slowly taken to the cave! Alice has her dress torn (that’s seriously out of line, Ro-man) and she is slowly tied up, loosely! Ro-man turns around and argues with his boss that he should get to keep the girl. Boss is unhappy, Alice is now fully tied up completely!

Roy makes it back to the house with the Professor where they have just buried Carla! Roy dies! For a moment Ro-man seems to regret his actions! Boss zaps everyone on the planet including Ro-man!

Johnny wakes up! Oh, oh wait. This was all a dream. Yep, they went there. They Wizard of Oz’ed this sucker. I guess we knew that from the start since the actors don’t change at all from before Johnny went unconscious. Ah, well, all good they won’t be the last to rip that off. Roy and the Professor turn out to be the archaeologists! And Roy asks Alice on a date! Yay!

Now look, as ridiculous as everything I just described sounds, here’s the thing. I don’t think this deserves the harsh treatment it gets, I get what the film makers were going for and at the time it made sense. It was kind of poorly executed but you know what? This totally could have worked as a Twilight Zone episode. With a little more careful editing you wouldn’t catch the mistakes and the premise is not that bad. One family survives the destruction of Earth. Could be interesting. I recommend checking this out with the realization that this movie has actually lasted. It doesn’t seem that out of place from the rest of sci-fi at the time. Give ol’ Ro-man a break will ya? I mean have you seen the original Star Trek show?? They have a ton of weird stuff in there too and we don’t bash that the same way we do this.

That’s all for now, next week I will be watching Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama. At least Captain Tiger hasn’t gone after the treasure of Rama Lama yet.

Defensively yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Here’s why zombies are the best monsters

Starbucks is releasing the Pumpkin Spice Latte next week. It’s a little early for fall if you ask me but if they can do it, I can release a blog post related to monsters a little early for Halloween. Enjoy your pre-PSL warm up discussion of fictional monsters below.

I’d say we all have a favorite movie or fiction monster. Some people become obsessed with blood sucking creatures of the night. Others love the creature cobbled together from dead body parts most people incorrectly call Frankenstein (it’s Frankenstein’s monster people, get it straight!) Others are really into those who grow fur and fangs but only on full moons. Werewolves, I’m talking about werewolves if that wasn’t clear. But for me if I could only have stories about one type of creature ever again I definitely go for zombies. Here’s my list of why zombies are the best monsters.

  1. They are versatile – zombies can be a stand in for anything. They can be a metaphor for consumerism, for fear, for mass hysteria, for communism, for outsiders, literally for anything. It always works because zombies are just a mindless horde of creatures and the motivations they get assigned to them are based on what the still living people in the stories think they are. So if the main character thinks these suckers are in a mall all day because that’s what they did in their former lives, boom, this story is about consumerism.
  2. They are unpredictable – sure a slow walking zombie seems like it has it’s attention focused on a dead animal and you might be able to sneak by it but one snap of a twig and that thing and all its buddies have decided on fresh meat and next thing you know you are running like crazy.
  3. They can be anyone at any time – this goes along with them being unpredictable, but it happens in nearly all zombie stories. Someone has been bit. Their natural instinct is to hide it and although they start acting funny, no one wants to say anything because it’s someone they care about. Sure, the best thing for the group is to get rid of that person but that is cruel and heartless. So next thing you know, a whole group of non-infected people are now zombies. And it happens so fast it can’t be stopped.
  4. They are us – A person is bitten by a zombie and they turn. But this person is your wife, husband, brother, friend, cousin etc. This is someone you know. And although you know for a fact that they are no longer human, how hard would it be to stop this walking reflection of someone you held dearly in your heart only moments ago? I feel like there might not be a more terrifying scenario in fiction.
  5. They are never ending – Stop a werewolf? Use a silver bullet. Stop a nest of vampires? Stake the original vampire in the heart. Stop one zombie? Usually damage its brain. But unlike vampires and werewolves, the only way to completely and forever get rid of zombies is to once and for all get rid of people. I don’t think any of us wants that. The next best thing is to hope for a cure. Even if you can get that, you have to hope it sticks and the odds are not good because, well, everyone is a little different and there could be that one person that doesn’t respond to the cure. Then that person infects the next and here we go again, only this time, the infection is stronger.
  6. They have the coolest origin story – At their start, zombies were just people who had been hypnotized and essentially given up the will to live. They were seen this way for centuries but then, one movie wiped all of that out in one swoop and zombies have been different ever since. When Night of the Living Dead came out, George A. Romero redefined one of the most recognizable and iconic of creatures so much that his version of zombies is now the most recognizable one. That is incredibly bold and influential film making.
  7. They are the most likely to happen in reality – Could vampires exist? Maybe, I mean, there have been people who thought they were vampires and there are a few stories of historical figures who did very strange things with blood. But we know that a lot of the origin of that myth has to do with the misunderstanding of how bodies decompose. Could werewolves happen? There’s a ton of stories of people morphing into animals in one way or another, some of them benign, some malevolent. But there is no scientific evidence that I am aware of that would make werewolves at all likely. Could zombies happen? Well, there is a lot we are yet to understand about the brain. We have untold fungus, bacteria, disease out in the world that we do not understand. We have scientific research going on that could lead to very bad things getting out into the world. I’m not saying it’s likely or anything, but the right confluence of factors could lead to a disease of some sort getting out that strongly reflects our modern concept of zombies. It’s the only fictional monster that I can think of where this is even a remote possibility. For me, that’s enough to make them my favorite and the ones I am most likely to be frightened by.

So what do you think? Do you have a counter argument? Is there a better monster out there in fiction? Which creatures keep you awake at night? Let me know in the comments.

Zombie-rifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Armada – #Book Review

Have you read this before? yes. Yes you have.

Sometimes you read a book full of pop culture references with a cool story about a video game player and you think, “I wish Steven Spielberg would make a movie out of this.” And sometimes the author of that book writes a second book that proves that was a one time experience. Welcome to Armada by Ernest Cline.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Actually, scratch that, don’t stop me because you have heard it before but read this review anyway.

From the opening moments of this book, I kept wondering what science fiction story this was ripping off. The answer? All of them. I mean it. There is pretty much no science fiction story here that is not referenced or mimicked in this book. It is so chocked full of direct quotes and references that I began to wonder what percentage of a book has to be original not to be considered plagiarized. I know that a lot of people like Easter eggs and find them fun when you can recognize them in books or movies. I like it too, especially in a Marvel film that might give a hint of what’s to come. But this wasn’t like that. It was more like the Easter bunny firing a rapid fire Easter egg grenade launcher at your face.

I wish that was the only problem with this book but boy, howdy, is this thing a walking disaster.

Has this ever happened to you? You’re a senior in High School on his last semester who has daddy issues because your father died in a sewage treatment explosion just after you were born. To deal with the tragedy, you spend your life obsessed with all the video games, movies, books and music that your father left behind. You play a new game called Armada but are a little worried about your mental state because your father left some notebooks behind with a timeline that seems kinda crazy. Not only that but the notebook makes it seem like there is a global conspiracy to cover up the fact that we have already made contact with aliens. Then you see a spaceship that looks directly like the one from Armada. Your boss who is a used video game store owner shows up with a secretive government agency right out of the video game you happen to be really good at. You get recruited to fight against these aliens by playing your favorite video game that is now real. Lucky for you, you are recruited moments before you were about to beat up a guy with a tire iron because he said bad stuff about your dad. While waiting around to get the full story, you meet a beautiful girl who is smart and also an awesome video game player who is instantly attracted to you. Carl Sagan then gives you a briefing about the aliens and how every science fiction movie, book, or video game has been used to get the population prepared for the knowledge that aliens are out there. Not only that, Star Wars, and all the cool stuff you love, was actually funded by the government for that very purpose. Oh, and not only that but the video games you have been playing happen to function the exact way the real weapons that the government has reverse engineered from the aliens work. Since the whole world plays video games, our best and brightest aren’t people like astronauts and math geniuses, it’s actually the people who have been logging the most online hours playing video games. This all seems pretty weird to you but you roll with it because you feel like you were always meant for some bigger destiny. You are also shocked and amazed at every single new revelation in the whole thing. Like you see the video game ship in real life and go, “That’s not possible.” Then you are taken into a big old government training facility and see the guy from the video game and go, “Even though I now believe the ship is real, I don’t believe the dude is real” And then you find out your dad is alive and had been recruited by the video game dude years ago and you go, “Even though I now believe the ship is real and the dude is real, I don’t actually believe my dad is alive.” And then they take you to the moon to meet your dad and you go, “Even though I now believe the ship is real, that the video game dude is real, that my dad is alive, I still didn’t really believe there was a moon base…” (Ok, I think you get the point.) Then on your first mission with the real drones you screw up but still get to fight because, you’re still good at the video game. Then your dad tells you all about how he figured out there was this conspiracy and not only that, your dad thinks that the aliens may not actually want to kill us. Then you watch your dad almost die trying to prove his point. Because you have a very hard time believing things that are clearly obvious, you still don’t quite believe him so you go back to your home town of Beaverton, Oregon and run it by your two best friends. They argue a lot, while your mom and dad get reacquainted and you convince everyone your dad was right. Well, almost everyone because the video game guy doesn’t believe it and wants to blow the aliens to kingdom come. So, now you need your two best friends, the people you met on the moon base, your dad, and the hot girl you met at the mission briefing to help you out while you go blow up the super weapon that Earth has come up with before we do something really stupid and get the whole planet destroyed by these aliens. You are also able to excuse global warming and a whole host of other problems because clearly the aliens are a bigger threat. So, after your dad actually gets himself killed, on the day that you finally met him, you go after the weapon and blow that to kingdom come. Then the aliens start talking to you and telling you that humanity has just passed “the test” so we’re all good now, welcome to a new galactic society that you as the dude who blew up that weapon get to decide if we are joining or not. Thankfully you say yes because no would have meant that the aliens would blow us up anyway. Also, the aliens aren’t aliens but actually just some kind of robotic thing that was left behind on Europa to, you know, watch us. Then you go back home, get to run the used video game store, are a celebrity, sign an autograph for the guy you almost beat with a tire iron that one time, get married to the beautiful girl you met at the briefing, and have a kid you name after yourself and your father. Then you basically get to live out a normal happy life.

Spoiler alert. Shoot, probably should have put that up higher.

Here’s a few answers to if this has happened to you from some random people I polled on the street.

Ender Wiggins [Ender’s Game] – “Sounds pretty familiar but it was a little different”

Alex Rogan [The Last Starfighter] – “I think I was in that story”

Doug Masters [Iron Eagle] – “Well, there were no aliens but my dad’s plane did get shot down”

Well, there you have it folks, it’s a pretty common occurrence. Even with that being said, I still had more problems with this book.

  • I actually listened to this as an audiobook and while I love ya Will Wheaton, your Carl Sagan somehow sounds exactly like George Takei. How is that even possible?
  • They claim that the government funded Star Wars??? Hands off my favorite film franchise man, I’m not having it! It made me want to get Daisy Ridley to slice the book in half with a lightsaber.
  • It made zero sense to me that the government goes to all that expense of cover ups to then just be like, yup there are aliens everyone, watch out when the aliens attack
  • There are a lot of crazy things in this book and I am pretty good at suspending my disbelief but there is no way that Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking and Neil Degrasse Tyson all went in on the covering aliens up thing. Not a freaking chance, period. To me, this was the least believable thing in the book.
  • They recruit these gamers under complete duress and basically kidnap them and tell them they can either sign up or wimp out cause the aliens are about to attack. The second I got back from that, I am hiring a good lawyer and getting out of this contract.
  • Finally, this book was just such a huge disappointment because Ernest Cline has written a good book. I hope he has it in him to pull out another good story, but man am I going to be hesitant to give it a try.

Next week I am going to get off the Sci-Fi bandwagon and give a read to Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare. I wasn’t sure which Duke she was talking about but it’s romancing the Duke, so it’s that one.

Repetitively Yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Space Zombie Bingo!!! – Movie Review

Kiss your rental fee goodbye

It’s been a long time since I have been outside of these dark dungeon walls. I’m not sure if I can remember the last time I felt fresh air blowing past my face as I struggled to keep my top hat upon my head. But I do remember when video stores were a real thing. And I remember a time when a film like Space Zombie Bingo!!! might lie on the shelves in hopeful anticipation of an evening rental.

This film is uniquely of that era. Have you ever heard of a found footage film? This is a stock footage film. A similar movie would be Plan 9 From Outer Space. This film is almost a reboot of that movie. At the time, reboots weren’t really a thing, so I can’t quite call it that. It mixes live acting with stock footage that movie studios let anyone use for free without any strings attached. They throw in some horrible effects like fake weapons blasts and body parts that are supposed to look like they have been cut off etc. It combines for a stunningly cheesey effect.

I wish I could give you a good summary of the plot here but that’s essentially impossible with this film. It’s insanely disjointed but I’ll give it a go. It’s so disjointed I think calling it an actual movie might be a bit of a stretch. Like, a downward facing dog across the Grand Canyon size of a stretch.

The film starts off with a voice over telling us what is going to happen. There are space robot zombies that are trying to take over Earth. As far as the plot goes, it’s pretty basic but the way it plays out is, totally nuts. So there are alien invaders with weapons that outmatch ours. These space robots want to destroy or take over the earth and then the military fights back. Luckily a mad scientist is able to engineer a weapon in order to fight back against the invaders and Earth is once again safe.

The film is grainy and scratchy like most from the late eighties or early nineties. It’s full of bad pun dad jokes. The love interest is named Barbie Queue while the heroic military soldier is named Kent Bendover. The news station featured is K-I-L-L. It does not improve from there.

During one portion of the movie, the news anchor literally looks into the camera and says that you paid $3 to rent this so you might as well watch it or your money is wasted. Pretty sure your money is wasted anyway. They are also sure to point out that they are telling you this after the fifteen minute mark. Video stores used to do a thing where if you watched more than fifteen minutes of a video, you couldn’t take it back and get your money returned. That was the policy of most places but sometimes you could rewind and lie and get your money back anyway. They later added a mechanism to prevent that.

The space robot zombies wear a cardboard suit that basically looks like a reject from a lost episode of Dr. Who some time in the 1970’s. And in one scene, there are mannequins that have been dismembered and painted with fake blood as the narrator assures us that those are real actual humans who have been dismembered and NOT, painted mannequins.

This film revels in it’s awfulness and that kinda makes it almost great. Of course the acting is far below the level of a third grade Thanksgiving play production. But some of the more hilarious things are in the actual plot. In order to destroy the space robot zombies, the military decides to nuke the earth. Barbie Queue gets mad at Kent Bendover because he doesn’t park his jeep far enough from the mushroom cloud. They both survive of course, but then Kent is abducted by the aliens. There he makes a umm… let’s say “friendly connection” with one of them. This alien wants to go to Earth and live in peace with the “Earthians” and be Kent’s wife, never mind the fact that this alien would want to eat every other human for dinner. But we Earthians are lucky because Kent (the guy who had the idea to nuke the Earth) has tricked this alien to coming back where it can be dissected. A brilliant scientist who we know is brilliant because he wears a lab coat (don’t they all?) is able to discover through looking at a fake helmet and some seriously fake looking guts that the thing is made of “Pure Evil”. The only thing that can stop them is the solaranite bomb. If you are wondering if that is the same weapon used in Plan 9 From Outer Space you would be right, and you have seen too many bad movies. Welcome to the club! Also, they straight up say that they ripped the weapon off from another movie, in case there were any doubts.

Also, the narrator turns out to be this psychic guy who can predict what is about to happen. He doesn’t seem to do anything about it, but he knows it’s coming. So between the scientist and the narrator we know that we need to use that Solaranite weapon on the zombies, We do. The end comes stunningly abruptly and what’s left of Earth gets to live happily ever after.

However, I think I have to say that my absolute favorite part of this movie comes when the nuclear bombs are about to be dropped on major cities all across the globe. The news anchors tell the audience that they will be safe as long as they cover themselves in wet newspapers. Yep, wet newspapers will totally work!

Honestly, with this film, I don’t think they could have made something worse if they tried. And I believe they tried. Very hard. If that’s what they were going for, so that they could bilk a sixteen year old out of his allowance in 1993 by putting the words Space, Zombie and bingo (because teenagers really love bingo) on the cover, with a picture of women in bikinis holding a machine gun, they succeeded. I should mention that the women with the machine guns in bikinis never appear in the movie. Neither does bingo.

I can’t imagine this film made much money if any at all but any that it did was definitely through trickery. It’s an awesome spectacle of horrendously bad taste and worse film making. This is the kind of thing that will one day end up in the congressional library as an example of what not to do when making a movie. It should be watched. Late at night when you really have nothing else to do, this is perfect for the sheer spectacle of badness.

I can’t imagine that I can actually watch something worse than this. But then again, the next film on my dusty shelves is Attack of the Tromaggot! so we’ll see.

Dolefully yours,

Slick Dungeon

Dead in the West – Book Review

Zombie tropes? We got ’em

Fiction Friday is filled with zombies in my dungeon this time. They’re pesky undead creatures that I learned to deal with long ago. Sure they try to bite, but they make decent can openers if you time it right so the teeth bite the can and not you. I just light a fire at the entryway of any room I am in and then the zombies stay away unless I put it out. They typically aren’t fans of fire or bright lights. Or bullets to the head. They really don’t like that. And in a pinch my dapper cane smashed into their craniums works. It’s a bit of a pain to wash the blood off though, so I try not to do that too often. Plus it musses my tuxedo and I simply won’t tolerate that.

How do I know so much about these suckers? Well, I’ve read a zombie book or two thousand in my time. Some are great. Cell by Stephen King is an exceptional standout in the genre to me. And of course the now finished but never forgotten The Walking Dead comic book may be the most brilliant zombie story to ever be told, no matter if you are tired of the television show or not.

But I can tell you that those examples are the stunningly rare exceptions in a genre with a zillion books. This week I read Dead in the West by Joe R. Lansdale. I’ll give you a quick summary of the plot, then we are going to run through the zombie trope checklist together and see how many boxes we can mark off. Fair warning, spoilers follow.

It’s old west Texas, and a preacher comes into a small town called Mud Creek. Prior to his arrival, the town had unfairly executed an Indian medicine man and his innocent wife. The Indian laid a curse upon the town with his dying breath and the dead begin to rise. The preacher and his allies attempt to stop the undead, and only the preacher survives with his life.

Here is our checklist

  1. A lone hero with a storied past comes into town – check
  2. A plucky kid meets the lone hero and we know he is going to a. save the life of the main hero and b. die in the end, even though the hero does not like the kid at first. – double check
  3. A beautiful love interest for the lone hero – check
  4. The father of said beautiful love interest is the first one to trust the hero and figure out what’s going on – checkity check
  5. Hands come out of the dirt in a grave yard – this has not been new since Night of the Living Dead and is no longer necessary to any story but we checked this one off anyway!
  6. A mystical force of evil is causing this, even if you can kinda understand where the evil is coming from – large check
  7. The hero is an alcoholic or has some other life struggle – blindfolded I check this box
  8. Hero teaching the plucky kid how to shoot – was this ever in doubt? Check this box!
  9. No one believes the scientist (in this case a doctor) when he figures it out even though the evidence is extremely obvious – check it in bold
  10. Hero admits he loves the beautiful woman even though it’s been a very short time that they have known each other – Put a heart around this check
  11. A total racist jerkwad who basically causes the whole thing and is then torn apart by the living dead – shredded check mark!
  12. A sheriff who could have stopped the damn thing but through inaction allows everything to go on – put a badge on this check
  13. Dead people moving around left and right but most of the people don’t even notice until it’s too late – sneaky check mark!
  14. Body parts falling off shambling zombies – arm shaped check mark
  15. Love interest blowing her own brains out so she doesn’t become a zombie – gore splattered check mark circled with a broken heart
  16. Plucky kid getting in a few distracting licks so that the hero can survive – made this check with my foot
  17. Hero being unable to shoot plucky kid after he is bitten even though that’s the one darned thing the kid specifically asked him to do – put a bullet hole in that check box
  18. Daylight coming along and frying the big bad, but just a little too late to save the town – sun soaked checkity check mark
  19. Hero riding out of town feeling lost and like he failed – lonely check mark
  20. The feeling that you have read this book before – blood read check mark

Okay, so checklist made. Now for a few things that stood out in this book as, umm… different. First, though, I do want to say, this is not by a long shot, the worst zombie book I ever read. I have read a lot of them though so I don’t know how much that’s worth. I feel like the author might have other good books, and he has certainly written a lot of books and won awards for them. I just feel like this one was too typical of the genre to stand out in any significant way.

So the interesting stuff.

There are a few sentences in this book that I didn’t understand. It could be that’s because this story is part of a larger series or it could just be that I’m not catching a reference. But here’s one. “He had the cool, blue eyes of a cold killer – the eyes of a man who had seen the elephant and seen it well.” Umm… I’ve seen an elephant too. And seen it pretty well, I mean it’s kind of hard to miss and I even gave it an address since it was wandering in my dungeon. I don’t think that’s what makes someone a killer somehow though.

Another odd metaphor, “The sun was easing up over the horizon like a sneaky, blond baby raising its head.” Later in the page, “The blond head was coming up faster, strands of light, like fine lines of hair were lightening the lower edge of the sky.” Now, I’ve been down here in the dark for a while but I have seen sunrises. You know what they never, even once reminded me of? An infant’s head.

The preacher who is the hero of the book rolls into town, gets drunk, shoots a spider in his hotel room, leaving a hole in the wall and causing a ruckus, but seems to think people should treat him nicely.

The author at times, seems to have an unhealthy obsession with describing things in comparison (for lack of a better word) to dung. “The river itself was darker than the s***t from Satan’s bowels.” Later in the paragraph, “Up s***t river without a paddle.” An odd image if I do say so myself.

Usually I am not too annoyed with typos and misspellings. I mean, I know I make those mistakes myself, although I do try to proofread my posts before posting. But this one stood out as either an egregious error or a major Freudian slip. Either way it made me laugh. “…Matt said and walked out of the mom.” I wondered to myself how he got in the mom in the first place.

At the end during the climax, the preacher had a line that stood out as ridiculously funny to me in his righteous fury, “Hallowed be thy name, oh Lord – and shotgun do your stuff.” That sentence belongs in a b movie horror film immediately.

And the weirdest thing I have saved for last. Also, the grossest. The preacher is guilt ridden because he slept with his sister. Then he gets attracted to the woman that he says he loves in the town mostly because she looks like his sister. I’ve gone over this before but let’s leave this stuff to George R.R. Marin please. I don’t need to read any more of that. Also, this preacher seems to be mad at God and his father both, for thinking what he did with his sister was not okay. Clue for ya buddy, it’s not.

To review, zombies make good can openers, they can be fun to read about, but most books in this genre have done everything to death (pun seriously intended). If you want an average time of reading a zombie book and have a couple hours, Dead in the West is not your worst option. But if you have higher standards skip this one and read World War Z or something like it instead.

Come back to my dungeon next week when we will continue with the dead theme for no apparent reason as I read Dare to Die (Death on Demand series #19). Is death on demand a video streaming service? Can I get it for free if I sign up for Amazon Prime on Prime Day?!

Forlornly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Battlefield Earth – Movie Review

Cavemen make great fighter jet pilots

Lost in the mazes of this dungeon that I call home, I often have to use cunning and stealth to avoid being ensnared by dangerous creatures looking to do me harm. How I wish these creatures were even half as dumb as the villainous Psychlos from John Travolta’s pet project film, Battlefield Earth.

This movie is one of the greatest box office flops of all time. There are some who argue that this can be put in the so bad that it’s good category. I consider myself somewhat of an expert in bad films. This is simply so bad that it is bad. Totally and completely bad. I don’t find any redeeming qualities in this film and it’s downright painful to watch.

I’ll tell you the premise and then I’ll go into some finer detail on the awfulness of this abomination.

The year is 3000 A.D. and the human race has been nearly wiped out by a vicious, war hungry race of aliens called the Psychlos. When these aliens attacked, virtually everything on earth was wiped out. To the point that humans are basically living as primitive cavemen. They think that old structures that were once office buildings were built by “the gods”. They have some simple encampments and ride horses and things like that. Things that visually look almost identical to the opening of Planet of the Apes. There’s a standard heroic caveman dude with the standard heroic name of Jonnie. The humans at the beginning know that there is a threat out there but it seems like they haven’t encountered the aliens in a while because some think these creatures are real and some don’t. Caveman Jonnie is out hunting or something and comes across a few more cavemen and they are suddenly captured by the aliens. Just like Planet of the Apes they are then herded into cages and put to slave labor. They even get the same hose down. Then we get to meet the career defining performance of John Travolta.

Travolta plays the evil Psychlo, head of security, Terl. He has wild cackling laughter for no reason for most of the film. He overacts to the point of absolute insanity and most of the time he is talking to another Psychlo named Ker, played by Forest Whitaker of all people. You can feel Whitakerr’s pain just emanating out of his face the whole time, wondering how the heck he ended up in this film.

Back to a bit of the plot, Ter, wants to get off Earth and the only way he can do that is by making some money for this corporation on the Psyhlo home world. The Psychlos are pretty dumb though. They see humans as a menial labor species but don’t seem to think they are capable of using weapons, pushing buttons, or speaking with each other. In a weird effect in the film, the Psychlos and humans go back and forth, neither knowing the other language. It kind of works but it’s really distracting when they suddenly go from weird grunts in one perspective to speaking perfect English the next.

Jonnie, is able to nearly escape, kills a Psychlo and hangs onto the weapon. Ter’s reaction to this is disbelief but as soon as he sees that it’s true, decides to use the humans to mine gold.

Okay so to put this in a more succinct summary, bad aliens who are dumb, want cavemen who are slaves to mine gold. The cavemen want to not be slaves. With me so far? Good.

To train the humans, Ter hooks Johnnie up to this magic technology that will teach Johnnie the Psychlo language. But it doesn’t just do that, it also teaches him about the entire Psychlo history and culture. Johnnie is suddenly converted into the only human who actually knows what is going on. Now he’ll be able to mine gold and fly spaceships.

But of course, humans always endure so Johnnie is smart enough to figure out that he can use this to defeat the Psychlos. In the end, as expected the humans win.

Again to make this summary a little more succinct, the evil aliens give the cavemen the very technology they need to overthrow the aliens.

On the surface, in some ways this could have worked. Like say, if it had been, I don’t know, Charleton Heston playing the lead character and the bad guys were actually apes and we called it Planet of the Apes. At least in that one, Charleton Heston was not an actual caveman and knew stuff.

Now, one tendency I have when I watch virtually any movie is to overthink it. I wouldn’t write movie reviews if I didn’t. But here are some ways that this movie goes completely stupid.

The makeup on the Psychlos is absurdly bad. Don’t believe me? Look at the picture at the top of this post. That’s a rejected Star Trek alien if I ever saw one. These creatures are also supposed to be bigger than humans. I’d say they are roughly Shaq sized but the framing of the shots often makes the size relatively flexible and you really notice that. Also, why do they have fur on their hands?

The effects in this film are abysmal. They look clunky and weird compared to today’s films certainly but even for the time they were just bad. The blasts from the weapons are a vague streak of white light. At least make them red or blue or a bright color. Also, these guns sometimes outright kill, sometimes can blow a hand off and sometimes launch someone non-lethally through six panes of window glass. The ships look like there is no chance period they could stay airborne. The one or two shots we get of the Psychlo home planet looks like someone built the same building five bazillion times and then turned some lights on.

The acting is so bad. It’s not just John Travolta who fails here, it’s almost everyone. The cavemen are never believable at all.

Then there are the Psychlos and their plots. First off, fine they want to mine gold. why would gold in specific be a precious metal on any world besides earth? There’s no more intrinsic value to it than any other ore, especially if you come from a planet that is not Earth and might not even have gold. But okay, I can kind of get past that, there are other space movies where gold is precious.

But why would you give the humans access to all your technology? I mean any good warrior wants to know their enemy before the fight. But the Psychlos are like, hey here’s everything about us, have at it.

There’s good reason for the Psychlos not to go to where the humans mine the gold, the area is radiated. Why this particular kind of radiation doesn’t harm humans is never explained.

But instead of setting up some way of monitoring the humans. these aliens, who are smart enough to figure out space travel, don’t even think to monitor with some kind of camera to see what the humans are up to.

Then there are the cavemen. This is the oddest problem in this film. So, Jonnie is the leader and he got to learn from the magic machine. But they meet this other group of cavemen and they are never exposed to the magic learning machine. However, even without it, these cavemen are able to fly fighter jets. Why? Because it’s “like taming a horse”. Yup. Horses, fighter jets, pretty much the same thing for sure.

Also, the humans are able to defeat these Psychlos due to a series of ridiculous events. First of all, they fake mining the gold because Jonnie read about a place called Fort Knox. It’s convenient they had time to travel and get the gold and that they were easily able to break in and that the gold was still completely intact. Cause. you know, breaking in to Fort Knox should be relatively inconvenient for these guys right?

Conveniently, they are close enough to an Air Force base, the fighter jets still work, there seems to be working fuel which should have expired roughly one thousand years before, and they have nuclear weapons there.

There’s a fairly serviceable battle sequence at the end where the humans trick Terl into transporting a nuke to the home planet of the Psychlos but the visual of the cavemen in the fighter jet blows all credibility here.

In summary, do not watch this film. It’s not good. It’s worse than not good. It’s beyond terrible. Stay away at all costs.

This one left me frustrated enough that I want to go in a different direction for my next review. I am going to watch Undercover Grandpa. It could be about a grandpa who goes under cover, or it could be about someone who goes undercover as a grandpa but my bet is that this is ninety minutes of an octogenarian under a blanket.

Excruciatingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Transformers – Movie Review

Did we have to do this?

When I was a kid, before I fell into a dungeon, I had quite a number of toys that I loved. Top was Star Wars based toys, followed by He-Man and G.I. Joe but right after that without a doubt was Transformers. I have a lot of fond memories of the cartoon and the toys and spending hours with robots in disguise. But I never thought they would be cooler as a live action film. Turns out I (and a lot of other people) were right about that. Spoilers below if you have somehow not seen this film.

Before I body slam this film let me say, as a dumb, fun, summer blockbuster where you don’t need to think much (cause if you do this film makes no sense), this is fine. There are many, many worse films out there. Some of them are even in the Transformers franchise itself. So if you want to just enjoy this and not think much about it, I have no gripe with that at all. It’s not to my taste but disagreements are part of life so all good.

I thought long and hard about how I should review this movie. In depth analysis of a movie that expects you to believe cars can transform into thirty foot tall robots with gears and parts that were never in the car in the first place seems rather silly. Plus, there are professional film critics that have lambasted this film to hell and back and I don’t think i can say anything much more insightful than they did. So instead I am just going to list the good, the bad, and the ridiculous.

Before I do that, just in case anyone hasn’t seen this film, let me get a little summary of it written down. There are these robots looking for a mcguffin from outer space called the all spark. This mcguffin can vaguely menace earth because if it didn’t there would be no movie. There are bad robots that want it and good robots that don’t want the bad robots to get it. Some military types encounter these aliens in what seems to be an assault. A stereotypical nerd type character who is stereotypically bullied by stereotyped football bullies buys a car. That car happens to be one of the mcguffin seeking good robots. In the ultimate of convenient coincidences, this teenager (played by Shia LaBeouf in his twenties) has a great grandfather who has some glasses that can find the mcguffin. He gets intertwined with the military, a secret government organization and the good guy robots. Lots of explosions happen, a big robot who was in the Hoover Damn (???) gets awakened and threatens earth but the teenager dude, his very poorly developed love interest, secret government agents, and the good guy robots all team up to defeat the bad robots. We win, yay!

The good.

  1. Although the actors kind of phone it in, there’s no one here that I would say had such a bad performance that they ruined it.
  2. There are a lot of explosions and that can be fun right?
  3. Optimus Prime has the right voice.
  4. This was only mediocre at best so it can’t spawn sequels right?

The bad.

  1. The transformers go from reasonable looking vehicles to huge robots that seems to have an infinite amount of gears, paints and parts that were just not in those vehicles. This is probably minor to some people but come on, when they had the cartoon, you could still tell the robot that had been a truck was a truck. I hate how these things look now.
  2. There are so many lens flares in this movie and why is everyone sweating all the time? I mean you are either blinded by most shots or going, man they are so greasy and sweaty that I can smell it through the screen. This was a conscious choice on the part of the directors. Why???
  3. The camera doesn’t just look at but outright ogles every female in this film under the age of 35 and it’s especially disturbing when they do this to Megan Fox.
  4. Again this might be just me but I never needed to hear masturbation jokes in a Transformers film. It wasn’t funny and it’s awkward when the audience targeted in the marketing is like seven year old boys.
  5. See number four for when the robots swear.
  6. Did we need a thing from space for this to work? I can’t remember if that was in the cartoon or not but it seemed utterly stupid in this movie.
  7. The United States military had to give approval for the vehicles, uniforms, etc. that are shown in this film. This film has a vaguely defined government agency that doesn’t seem to be clear where it sits in regards to the military. The military signed off on this movie but wouldn’t let military planes be shown in The Avengers for the exact same things I just stated above.
  8. Michael Bay already has enough money so can he just stop already?
  9. There are super smart code crackers sitting in the Pentagon, who are surprised that the Secretary of Defense shows up. Seriously not showing your smarts there.
  10. Uh, there was this thing in the ice with a polar expedition and President Hoover so I guess we have Hoover to thank for us not being killed by robots before this?
  11. The run time of this movie is 2 hours and 23 minutes. I can watch like five hours straight of the cartoon and not be bored but I was checking my watch constantly on this film.
  12. There are more plot holes in this film than there are characters the whole MCU.
  13. In one spot, a military guy gives the teenager dude the Mcguffin and tells him he is a soldier despite the fact that there are actual soldiers who probably would have been more trustworthy with it and in way better shape to get to the vaguely defined objective.
  14. Why wasn’t Bumblebee a beetle? Because Michael Bay wanted more money.
  15. Everyone accepts that the Autobots are good guys because they pretty much say they are the good guys and not because they do good stuff.

The Ridiculous

  1. There ARE sequels to this.
  2. John Voight, Tyrese Gibson, and John Tuturo are all in this. Come on guys, you are capable of so much more.
  3. There ARE sequels to this.
  4. No one notices any of the bad robots because no one ever turns to look at the sound behind them.
  5. There ARE sequels to this.

I could probably go on with these lists for a while but instead I will just give some advice to improve this. I think what is missing is Marky Mark showing up in a future film having to do with King Arthur. That’ll work right?

Well, so ends another Monday Movie review from my dark and dank dungeon. It was a painful one but the next one on my shelf should cheer me up. I will be watching and reviewing, Battlefield Earth. That is supposed to take place in space, it’s under two hours long and it has John Travolta! What could go wrong?

Painfully yours,

Slick Dungeon

A Hymn Before Battle – Book Review

Lifting weights makes you scowl

Before you walk in the halls of my dungeon any further, a warning. There are creatures that abound, lurking, practically invisible, at every turn. Many of them are just going about their day to day routines, on the hunt for sustenance and perhaps a little sport. Many of them are ugly, and grotesque, and would turn your hair gray or make it fall out if your hair is already gray.

However, none of them, not a single one of them, would I describe in the way that, John Ringo, does the alien race of the Posleen in his bloody awful book A Hymn Before Battle. Instead of using vague and menacing descriptions like I did above, he just calls them “centaur-looking”. Mmmhmmm, Yep. Initially that is how these creatures are described. It does not improve a lot from there.

This book is supposed to be a hard military science fiction epic. Ringo, nailed the very first word. It’s hard. Hard to read. Also it is far too long. This is just the first in a trilogy and I am not recommending to anyone ever that you read the first so I am going to assume the second and third are not any more worth it.

I’ll try to summarize this the best I can but honestly this book goes all over the place and is seriously confusing at times. The basic premise here is that earth has made contact with a federation of alien species. This federation needs help from humans because one type of alien from one planet or system or whatever is decimating the population of the rest of these aliens. The federation aliens are more or less pacifists so they decide to go to the warlike species of humans to, you know, kill stuff. Humans have a vested interest in doing so because in five years or so, the murdery aliens will be at earth and that ain’t gonna be good.

As far as a plot that doesn’t seem so bad to me and given a more talented author (paging Orson Scott Card for this one) might turn out to be good. While Ender’s Game took a decent idea and made it brilliant through memorable characters, a menacing threat and one major stunner of a surprise, A Hymn Before Battle decides to completely ignore that playbook. Instead we get heavy military jargon, a confusing set of timelines, characters that are nearly impossible to remember or keep straight and some of the oddest descriptions of aliens I have ever read.

The weird descriptions of aliens come later in the book but we get going early with an odd description of a human. One of the main characters, Mike O’Neal, is described this way, “his face fixed in a perpetual frown from weight lifting”. Weight lifting? Weight lifting gives you a frown??? Okay, Mikey, buddy, you are either lifting weights incorrectly or you are trying to make your jowls stronger by lifting with them.

A little more about Mike our weight lifting, scowling hero. He is the most fleshed out character in the whole book and that’s not saying much. We do get a little bit of background on him before the big reveal of aliens happens. He works in a tech office and seems to write military science fiction on the side, because, obviously this guy is a stand in for Ringo’s ego. He does feel a bit overlooked at the start of the book and laments not being a company commander because he wishes he could do something, “…important, useful, I don’t know, something more than building a really boss web page for the country’s fourth largest bank!” This ignores the fact that boss web pages for the country’s fourth largest bank totally rule. Non-boss web pages for the country’s third largest bank totally suck, so at least he isn’t doing that.

Other descriptions of humans get pretty clunky in this book too. Here’s a small sampling of the description of an officer. “Erect of carriage, his Battle Dress Uniform fit as if, contrary to regulation it was tailored. With closely cropped silver hair and glacial blue eyes he appeared to be exactly what he was: an iron-clad modern scion of the Prussian warrior class.” Say what now? I mean I get what the description is going for but did I start reading War and Peace or Gone With the Wind and not realize it? Clearly this guy doesn’t spend his time on building boss (or non-boss) websites.

The President in this book is basically a cookie cutter version of the one from Independence Day but he does say one line that stood out to me as super ridiculous, “We’ll fight in our boxer shorts before we’ll fight as slaves”. Are those really the only two options? Or maybe the President just really likes walking around in his boxers.

These weird descriptions continue, only more so once we are introduced to the enemy aliens, the Posleen. This is how they are initially described, “In general they are four legged sort of centaur-looking omnivores that lay eggs.” Not sure what they are in specific but I am going to assume, single legged sort of unicorn-looking carnivores that drink milk. The only real further description we get is when a video is shown of an attack made by these aliens. “Moments later leprous yellow-scaled legs with eaglelike talons entered the view.” Yeah, lots of centaurs with those… Later they are describe this way, “The aliens were Arabian-horse-sized centauroids. Long arms ending in four-digit talons, three “fingers” and a broad, clawed thumb, protruded from a complex double shoulder. The legs, ending in elongated talons, were longer than a horse’s, and sprung on a reverse double knee that seemed arachnid… Their long necks were topped with a blunt crocodillian snout. ” Thanks, Ringo, that clears it up in my mind a ton. It’s basically a menagerie of weird animals on a horse I guess? Maybe I’ll make a boss web page about it.

Now, the Posleen, obviously are not the only alien race in this book. There are more friendly aliens and here’s a little description of one of them. “The Indowy, those greenish dwarf-looking bipeds”. So we’ve got centaur-looking and dwarf-looking. Was this supposed to be a fantasy novel?

And if you are thinking that hey these centaur-looking menagerie creatures sound kind of cool and that could work, you haven’t had to slog through the few parts told from the aliens’ perspective. I’ll just leave you with one quote to demonstrate how bad this is. “Tele’sten, take your oolt to the lefto to support Alllllnt’s and prepare to recieve his oolt’os.” I think that quote pretty much explains itself don’t you? Seriously, if you are going to write about aliens, please don’t just mash a keyboard to come up with names. It never works.

Alright, I lied to you. I have to give you a second quote here, one that shows the dialogue more capable of readability but amps up the cartoonish aspect of these creatures to eleven. “And the structure of my enemies shall burn beneath my claws. I shall reap the blood and sear the bone. They will burn until the burning sends word to the demons of the sky that none shall oppose the A’al Po’oslena’ar!” I don’t know about you but I imagine this alien wringing his talons and cackling like Dr. Evil after that.

There’s also pretty poorly defined and often times nearly magical technology that the human soldiers get to use in their fight against the bad aliens. Seems no one in any military thought maybe inspection and adjustment of this stuff was a good idea. In one part a character named Sergeant Duncan is testing out this device that is more or less Jarvis from Iron Man and he literally cuts his roommate’s legs off with it. After this idiot does that, he tells his roommate “Forget it. They can regrow them now.” As if that wasn’t callous enough, Duncan then mopes about because he gets in trouble for it. Dude, you cut a person’s legs off, feel a little freaking remorse. Despite all that, this dude gets to keep right on soldiering.

Now, don’t ask me how these aliens knew how to make tech that would work for humans or why it sometimes is awesome and sometimes is pointless. But if this book teaches us anything, it’s that military officers are all idiots and no one would want to actually try and use this equipment prior to battle. It’s completely ridiculous. The enlisted guys basically have to fight with the upper brass just to train in these military suits that clearly are new to everyone. And the one guy who can use them (and did not cut anyone’s legs off with it) is shut down at every turn when he tries to show others how to. I mean, I know the military can be full of people that might make bad decisions and certainly mistakes are made but show me a military person who gets a new weapon and DOESN’T want to freaking test it??

Also, while the humans are flying to these planets they are on a spaceship that is totally unsuited to human size. Except for boss web page makin’ Mike’s room. So another officer asks him about it. This officer is specifically described as being about Mike’s size. Mike says he is able to have everything the right size because is about the size of the aliens so they listen to him. Then the officer says they don’t listen to his requests. Well then it isn’t the size thing is it Mike???

Then, even after a battle has begun where the soldiers pretty much get ripped apart, the officer who was against testing this stuff doesn’t want to take a call from scowling, weight lifting, Mike because he doesn’t want to hear, “I told you so.” The battle is still going on and this guy is too dumb to listen to the guy he realizes he should have listened to in the first place? That’s beyond stupid or incompetent.

The military jargon in this book is dense. There’s more TLA’s than you would find in a seven volume series of text books telling you how to design boss websites. And even when the acronyms don’t get in the way, what’s going on is about as clear as mud. Here’s a little sample, “Our mission is as follows: Task Force 2nd 3-2-5 Infantry has been tasked with defense of the III Corp flank in the area of the Deushi megalopolis where it is contiguous with the Nomzedi massif. The S-2 will brief on the threat situation.” Got it. I think that maybe there are some people defending some stuff in a place?

As an added bonus there is rampant sexism in this book. Women are close to non-existent. There are two women that actually get a description of any kind beyond what they are wearing and only one that does anything of action in the story. One is Mike, the scowling weight lifter’s wife. The other is a deadly assassin sniper named Ellsworthy. But here’s what the author wants you to know most about both of these women. They have perfect breasts. Ellsworthy has seriously cringe-y lines too. She’s out in space about to fight these murderous aliens and her comment is,”Damn, I wish there was a nail shop on this ball.” And that’s one of the least cringe-y things she says. Personally, I think the author needs to stop looking at boss web sites and maybe interact with an actual woman once in a while.

The end of the book gets a little better with a sort of epic battle going on. But this battle goes on for more than ten chapters so it’s a bit long winded. There’s also a side plot story about another group of soldiers that go to Indiana and have to clean up a riot at the army base. I imagine this will have something to do with the future books but I really could not care less about it. If you have to subject yourself to some really bad military science fiction I recommend just watching Starship Troopers instead of subjecting yourself to Ringo’s Posleen garbage.

In fact, this whole series is something I really couldn’t care less about. What I care about is making boss web pages for the country’s fourth largest bank! That’s what I am going to do until next time when I find out if in my dungeon I can get some Fatal Justice.

Agonizingly yours,

Slick Dungeon