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Retro Review: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes



Spoof and parody movies have, in recent years, gone right down the toilet. Movies like the Scary Movie franchise and not another whatever movies have ruined the art of the spoof and parody. Those movies capitalize on the recent trends and pop culture and think topical humor would make good movies; scratch that, they think its an easy cash grab. Instead of implementing timeless stories and plots, let’s parody a commercial with a basketball (I remember the commercial but no idea what it was selling since it’s been over a decade).

The only way to watch good parody and spoofs is to watch the classics where characters were acting like what they were doing and saying was supposed to be an everyday normality. Movies like Airplane and the Naked Gun franchises work is because the actors were treating it as if they’re supposed to say it straight and not be overly goofy. One of the earliest movies that seemed to implement the strategy is Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. This movie is a parody/spoof movie that takes Hitchcock tropes from his The Birds movie and incorporate it into a sci-fi comedy musical. Did it work and does modern audiences even feel any kind of inclination to want to watch a movie with such a goofy title? Let’s look at the plot, the comedy and whether or not it will be funny for modern day audiences. Let’s sit back and see if this movie is ripe (puns are funny) as we review the movie, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.

The plot of the movie is quite different and makes the movie quite interesting. We have mutated tomatoes on the loose throughout the USA and they are attacking and killing people with no remorse. It’s up to the government and a selected few agents to find a cure or solution to the tomato problem and end it before more and more people get killed and hurt. The movie is trying to be a comedy and spoof version of The Birds.

The movie has this feel of anxiousness because we jump from scene to scene with almost as little context as possible; whether we’re showing different short snippets of people getting attacked by the tomatoes or to government buildings and senate hearings and the president sitting in the oval office. The pace of the movie works to its advantage so it can show the “dire” situations of the tomato problem and also compress all these different scenes in as well to make it a longer feature. Are there scenes that weren’t needed in the movie? There were a couple of scenes that didn’t add to the movie and felt unnecessary, but, it doesn’t harm the movie. It makes you want to think, okay, that missed, but, what else do they have to offer. The plot was explained decently with some surprises along the way but, once we got the story out there and no more setup scenes, the pace slowed down and it was a lot more easy to follow who the characters are and what their purposes are.

The comedy of the movie is fantastic. The opening credits has an operatic singer singing the killer tomato song, which the song itself is so goofy that I am genuinely tickled by it. The actors were playing straight characters (not the goofball) and they were just thrown in funny situations (similar to Airplane). Some of the comedy (without spoiling the movie), features government officials having to get on the desk in order to reach their seats because the room is way too small, a paratrooper constantly in his uniform with the parachute always deployed, mocking Donny Osmond going through puberty, etc.

Watching this movie, I can see where movies like Mars Attacks took some ideas from (mostly the loud pitch song to drive the creatures into a weakened state). Not only is the one liners and action funny, but, its also a musical! Yes, a sci-fi comedy musical. There are a couple of scenes where people will break into songs and sing about what’s going on in the scene and what they hope to accomplish. One scene features a commercial public relations head honcho sing about consumerism and people will listen to whatever he says. Another is when the army is facing great odds against the tomatoes, one soldier solemnly sings about American history in war and like that, it turns into a cabaret/early rock and roll boogie woogie style all about what they’re going to do to the tomatoes when they come face to face with them. It came out of nowhere and I was very happy it did.

Comedies are very hard to write. It’s all subjective and in the PC age, one has to be careful not to offend anyone or else it can lead into a trigger attack and people smearing posts on the internet and whatnot. Most of the comedies in this generation are ingrained in pop culture and drugs and innuendos. Sometimes, we need to take a step away from what’s easy to write and think in twenty years, would this still be funny or would it be outdated? When watching Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, I laugh at the scenes that needed to be.

The jokes are funny due to great writing, and the actors portraying their tough exteriors in scenes that are so out there that the audience would have no choice but to laugh at the absurdity. This movie has timeless jokes and antics that don’t get old no matter how many years has passed. This movie was made in 1977 and in the year 2017 (40 years), I was able to enjoy the jokes and humor this movie offers because it wanted to be funny and timeless, not topical and the local fad. People of this generation and next should be able to sit down and find enjoyment in this movie whether it be the absurd premise or the musicality or the goofiness of some of the characters. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes should be on equal or close to equal par with other successful movies like The Kentucky Fried Movie and Airplane. It’s got a cult following, and one day, it won’t just be a cult phenomenon but will somehow break the glass and just be a forgotten gem that the public would enjoy.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

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Midnight Mass: The Blood of Life



The isolated island community of Crockett receives a mysterious new head priest, full of secrets and a brand new testament under a very unusual Messenger of God. 

Meet poor Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford), freshly released from prison and wracked with guilt over what got him there, a stupid drinking accident that caused the death of his ex-girlfriend. The last thing he wants to do is go back to Crockett and the judgment of the mostly religious community there, his disappointed family, and the nightmares of his ex’s death that plague him. But where else would have him? Resignedly on the ferry, he goes. 

Riley’s dad Ed (Henry Thomas) isn’t the kind of man who talks very much at all, much less about his feelings, or his very real disappointment in his elder son. Riley’s teen brother Warren (Igby Rigney) has no idea what to say to him either, and just generally keeps mum. Riley’s mom Annie (Kristin Lehman) is accepting and loving, hesitant in how to help her eldest son but never wavering in her faith in the help of our lord Jesus. Mom seems to think a good heaping dose of the Church would set Riley right but is surprised to learn that the old priest of the Parish, Pruitt, has taken an extended leave of absence from the island, and his newcomer replacement Father Paul (Hamish Linklater) is young, charismatic, and bursting at the seams to tell the whole island about the gifts he brought them, most especially what he claims as a new testament under a messenger of God. 

We’ll get back to that whole ball of issues in a moment, the other interesting characters of Crockett Island. Bev Keane (Samantha Sloyan) is the nightmarish overly polite and gently, almost lovingly condescending neighbor Christian woman you’ve ever loathed, the kind of person who explains away every last thing her Church may do wrong or contradictory because, after all, God works in mysterious ways. Pfft. Of course, Bev immediately ingratiates herself as the second to the new Father Paul in their services and is the first to start covering up his transgressions as they become more rampant. 

Newcomers to Crockett Sheriff Hassan (Rahul Kohli) and his son Ali (Rahul Abburi) present a burgeoning problem to the plans of Father Paul and his shadowy companion, for they are both practicing Muslims. The practical side of investigating these so-called ‘miracles’ and strange happenings falls on Hassan’s shoulders, as he already struggles with barely-concealed racism and suspicion from his fellow islanders, and of course his son is being wooed away from him by the promise of actual, tangible miracles, but from a different whole faith and God. Father Paul definitely does not practice a traditional Christian faith and relies far too much on making use of the eucharist, the ceremony of the blood and flesh of Jesus Christ turning into bread and wine and, well, consumed. 

Wade (Michael Trucco) and his wife Dolly (Crystal Balint) are lifers of the island and both in general interested in one thing, the advancement of their own family, specifically their daughter Leeza (Annarah Cymone), who happens to be in a wheelchair. And that happens to be the canny Father Paul’s first real miracle-with-a-cost that he demonstrates to the astonishment of the parishioners, after a heartfelt and rousing sermon, Father Paul commands Leeza to rise, to stand, and to walk. And lo, she does. What parents wouldn’t wholly dedicate themselves to a cause after seeing this happen to their beloved precious daughter? The fringe benefits of healing, and power, the ones that come at a mighty, currently unnamed, cost, are simply a nice bonus. 

Joe Collie (Robert Longstreet) is the town drunk, and while his reasons for drowning his sorrows in the sauce might be understandable, absolution wears a very different face when it comes from Father Paul. While Leeza might be willing to forgive Joe, and even as Joe begins attending the newly-formed Al-Anon meetings on the island of course hosted by Father Paul, redemption might’ve been better sought from medical professionals, and not this newfound method of religious worship. 

Dr. Sarah Gunning (Annabeth Gish) is the islands’ kind of all-around medic, and this is how she and Riley’s old friend Erin (Kate Siegel), also newly returned to the island, a few months pregnant but traveling quietly alone, met when Erin comes to the Doc for obstetrics. Sarah’s older mother Mildred Gunning (Alexandra Essoe) has many medical and mental issues, and Sarah struggles in their shared home, to take care of her addled mom and balance her own life. Then Father Paul takes it upon himself to visit one of his oldest parishioners, bringing the sacred host and wine with him to give directly to Mildred, who starts looking and acting so much better under his loving care. 

The show is very much a slow slow burn, with a lot of the actual action taking place in the last two episodes. Much of the beginning and middle episodes feature two people just sitting alone, having quiet and seriously in-depth conversations about heavy subjects – grief and repentance, what happens when we die, the disasters that come as a result of addictions, how our actions’ consequences reverberate to those we love around us, faith and the foibles of man, and of course, the giving of oneself over to a higher power, for strength, and guidance, and love. 

Except, for the higher power that Father Paul brought back with him, to share with his beloved flock of Crockett Island, while it may be extremely powerful and full of what could be considered miraculous magic, everything comes at some kind of a cost. And when the Messenger of God is finally revealed to the shocked denizens of Crockett at Easter Mass, with Father Paul rapturing on about rebirth as the bloody massacre begins in earnest, it’s faith, not in any kind of God or religion, but faith in each other, that may save a few hardy souls. 

Question the wisdom of your religious leaders along with the rest of us in a fine slow-burn addition to the Flanaverse, Midnight Mass is on Netflix now! 

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Saw X: It ain’t brain surgery!



Legendary executioner Jigsaw returns to exact revenge on a cadre of scam artists who promised him a bogus cure for his cancer! 

First off, be aware, that this is what I call an interleaved sequel, a movie set between previous films in the franchise. In this case, Saw X occurs after the events of the very first Saw film, and before Saw II. Everybody got where we are? Good! Into the madness, we dive! 

So, as we all know, John Kramer’s been diagnosed with cancer, very aggressive brain cancer, and likely doesn’t have much time left. And he’s tried everything under the sun, doing a ton of meticulous research, we’d expect nothing less from our master of the art of murder, and not one thing has worked. Yet one man from the support group for cancer sufferers, Henry (Michael Beach), offers an off-the-books supposed miracle cure, and John jumps at the chance. 

Why does this nonsense always sound too good to be true? Because it is. Deleted scenes from the first Deadpool movie already told us why traveling to Mexico for any kind of medical cure is a sublimely stupid move, but Kramer is desperate. And while he might be sick and dying, John Kramer has never been what anyone could call stupid. So the villa out in the Mexican countryside, the affable cab driver Diego (Joshua Okamoto) professes surprise at Kramer being highjacked for his good, the nervous muttering from assistant Valentina (Paulette Hernandez), the side-eyeing from little housekeep Gabriela (Renata Vaca) and her tequila, and most especially the smooth and smarming reassurances of head “doctor” Cecilia Pederson (Synnove Macody Lund), all leave a kind of sour taste in John’s mouth. 

The whole cluex4 scene is done in the style that the Saw films are known for, where we the audience are treated to cut-together explanatory scenes in a flip-flash fashion of usually about two minutes, for poor John when he realizes he’s been hoodwinked and just how badly, seems a little contrived. But then it’s entirely possible that we the audience truly expected our genius mastermind of the infamous Jigsaw murders to have realized what was happening sooner, and got enraged along with Kramer. And cheered as he prepared to take his bloody and ultra-violent revenge! 

First up in our grand guignol of executions is the return of Jigsaw’s first protégé, Amanda (Shawnee Smith). And despite her avowed reverence for Jigsaw and his proven “therapy”, Amanda does waver a bit when the scammers are put through the paces of their specially-made Saw traps, and they shriek and blubber and bleed out. The appearance of the ringer of the bunch, Parker (Steven Brand), doesn’t even slow our beloved engineer of the damned down, because we knew Jigsaw would have his other apprentice waiting just off stage, the deliciously vicious Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). Even the monkeywrench of involving little-boy soccer fan Carlos (Jorge Briseno) in the traps, is just another cog in the machine that is the brilliantly plotting mind of John Kramer. 

A fine addition to the Saw legends, showcasing a return to the beloved style and panache of the original Tobin Bell-starring Jigsaw films, Saw X is splashing gore and gallons of blood in theaters now! 

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Scott Pilgrim Takes Off



“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off,” Netflix’s latest series, is a rollicking journey through the world of video game culture, blending nostalgic references with a fresh narrative twist. Centered around Scott Pilgrim, portrayed with magnetic charisma by Michael Cera, the show skillfully integrates gaming elements into its storytelling, creating a delightful homage to the video game subculture.

The series cleverly employs pixelated graphics, power-up animations, and game-like sound effects to bring the virtual world to life. These visual cues, reminiscent of classic video games, enhance the storytelling and resonate with audiences familiar with the gaming landscape. The attention to detail in recreating iconic gaming moments is commendable, creating a visual and auditory treat for enthusiasts.

The exploration of video game culture goes beyond mere aesthetics; it becomes an integral part of the characters’ identities and interactions. The script intelligently weaves gaming terminology and tropes into the dialogue, effectively blending the real and virtual worlds. The series navigates the challenges and triumphs of the characters through the lens of gaming, making it a unique and engaging experience for both gamers and general audiences.

The ensemble cast, including standout performances from Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, and Chris Evans embraces the gaming theme with infectious enthusiasm. The chemistry between the characters is palpable, adding emotional depth to the series.

“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” successfully taps into the zeitgeist of video game culture, offering a nostalgic yet contemporary take on the gaming phenomenon. It’s a must-watch for those who cherish the pixelated roots of the gaming world while providing an accessible and entertaining narrative for a broader audience. The series takes off not only in its title but also in its ability to soar within the ever-expanding realm of Netflix originals.

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