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Monday, April 28, 2014

My Science Project (1985): Fantastical Metamorphosis

my_science_project 1985 poster

All throughout the 1980s, moviegoers were bombarded with a number of films that contained elements of science fiction, fantasy and adventure, and more often than not these movies were set in the real world and filled with regular people. Though the lines were very blurred, these films varied in both tone and in their target audience, with some being more for children (Goonies; E.T.) and others being more for adults (The Terminator; Robocop), while there were those that sort of met right in the middle (Ghostbusters; Back to the Future). And then there were movies that targeted the teen audience, such as Real Genius, Weird Science, and of course writer/director Jonathan R. Betuel’s My Science Project.

What makes movies such as My Science Project and others from that era so enjoyable is the way in which they captured youthful imagination. There’s a true sense of wonderment and curiosity to be found in these types of films, and often these feelings come from putting characters in situations that challenges them to embrace either adulthood or the child within them. In the case of My Science Project, it’s the former, as the film’s lead character, Michael (John Stockwell), is at a point in his life where he really needs to grow up.  

my_science_project 1985 2[2]

Form a heart-to-heart conversation with his teacher (played by Dennis Hopper) early in the film, it becomes apparent that Michael is a smart kid. Within this same scene, it also becomes very obvious that Michael's not living up to his potential, as he's far more concerned about his car (which he lovingly refers to as his GOAT) than he is in his own future. Michael’s a brilliant kid who lacks drive, and at this integral point in his life as a high school senior, he needs to turn things around or face some heavy consequences.

Michael's lack of motivation and love of his car is not only hurting him scholastically, it has taken a toll on his relationship as well. Again, Michael is more concerned with his car than he is romancing his girlfriend, who breaks up with him for those very reasons (to be fair, though, her expectations are a bit much). The breakup bothers Michael, as he doesn’t seem to think there were any issues with their relationship, which shows how little he has paid attention to anything other than his car. At this point in Michael’s life, the world is simply moving on without him, and he will be left behind if he doesn’t step things up.

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Michaels immature nature become the catalyst for the events to come, as his lack of focus on school work has put him in a position where he needs to do well on his science project. If he doesn’t, he will not receive a diploma. Since Michael has not been putting much effort into his studies, he has no science project. As a result, Michael, very characteristically decides to take the easy way out by going to an old junkyard that was once used for military testing in the hopes that he can find something to pass off as his science project.

Joined by the class nerd and eventual love interest, Ellie (Danielle von Zerneck), Michael stumbles upon a hidden underground bunker at the military complex where he finds a strange orb. It's mesmerizing glow immediately captures Michael’s attention, making it an obvious item to turn in as his science project. Due to the film’s opening scene involving a military discovery of a UFO, it’s already apparent that this orb is not of this world. This is further cemented in the next few days, as every time Michael and his best friend, Vince (Fisher Stevens), mess with the contraption, something bizarre happens. It isn’t long before Michael and Vince learn that the orb can manipulate time, and through a series of fantastical events, the orb opens up a time portal in their high school.

my_science_project 1985 4

After learning that Ellie is trapped inside the school, Michael is now in a position where he has the opportunity to man up and save her from this hostile situation. As a result, Michael, Vince and the school geek, Sherman (Raphael Sbarge), enter the high school to rescue Ellie, only to find themselves facing off against a number of deadly antagonists from various points in time, including Vietnamese soldiers, dinosaurs and aliens from the future.

Now, this is where things get interesting for Michael as a character, as his route towards becoming a man involves acting out the fantasies of almost every young boy (and some young girls, too, I assume). Killing aliens and dinosaurs with machine guns, without any consequences, is the stuff that dreams are made of when you’re a kid (well, at least me). it’s this fantastical situation, however, that forces Michael to think about someone other than himself and, more importantly, his car. Saving Ellie is all that matters to Michael, as she is the one person who has inspired him to, quite simply, be more concerned with something other than his car.

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Michael and Ellie’s relationship is truly what drives his transformation towards becoming an adult. What I find most enjoyable about the way in which their relationship is portrayed is how different Michael and Ellie are from one another. As previously noted, Michael is a gearhead with a reputation as a cool dude, while Ellie, on the other hand, is a glasses wearing bookworm who has absolutely no interest in cars. The two characters are true opposites, yet the fact that they are opposites is never made to be a big deal by the characters or the film itself.

While My Science Project is a lesser-known film from the era, it shouldn’t take away from the value that the film provides in terms of its characters. It’s a movie I greatly enjoyed as a child, and now, as an adult, I still find it to be a fun, nostalgic romp that echoes back to the days of yesteryear; where movies weren’t afraid to be sincere and innocence was embraced by adults and children alike.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. On Crack.

Texas chainsaw massacre in 60 seconds

I suppose the title of this article speaks for itself, but if you require further elaboration, then I shall certainly oblige you. Courtesy of Czech filmmaker Petr Cerny, the following video is a 60 second musical parody of the Tobe Hooper classic, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Outside of that, the only thing I have to say is that it’s absolutely mind-boggling in a fashion that is difficult to comprehend.

Czerny also directed a 60 second parody of Scream, which you can watch right HERE, but the strangeness of  The Texas Chain Saw Massacre parody should keep your brain spinning for the time being.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

HazMat (2013): Chemical Imbalance

HazMat 2013 movie poster DVD

After a scary prank goes awry, a television crew and a small group of friends find themselves trapped inside an abandoned chemical factory with an ax-wielding madman looking to cut their night short.

Written and directed by Lou Simon, HazMat is a low-budget slasher film with a premise based around a Scare Tactics inspired television prank show called Scary Antics. The film begins by focusing on the show’s production team as they are gearing up for their latest victim. Through these moments it becomes apparent that the show has been struggling with ratings, and as a result, the producers have been ramping up the show’s intensity in an attempt to bring in more viewers to avoid being cancelled.

HazMat 2013 movie

For their latest episode, the Scary Antics team will be pranking a man named Jacob (Norbert Velez), who we learn through a series of production interviews with his friends, has been acting very strangely since his father died while working at a chemical factory. According to Jacob’s best friend, Adam, Jacob believes that the chemical factory is haunted, which has led to an obsession that is causing a rift in their friendship. Adam is hoping that playing a scary prank on Jacob will help him snap out of his rut; however, after the prank backfires, an already unstable Jacob doesn't take things too well and goes on a killing spree, taking an ax to his friends and the TV crew alike.

Overall, HazMat is a simplistic slasher film that doesn’t necessarily add anything new to the genre. With that said, however, it does succeed in doing a number of things right. Unlike many slasher movies, HazMat doesn’t treat its audience as if they are completely stupid. The characters are given enough depth to keep them from being entirely hollow and without any personality. Furthermore, the characters/victims vary in age from young adults in their mid-to-late 20s to a middle-aged man. These definitely aren’t your typical horny teenagers.

HazMat 2013 movie 2

Decked out in a grungy hazmat suit, complete with chemical mask and a fire ax to complete the “I like to kill people” look, Jacob is a fairly imposing slasher movie killer. Of course, such a look is somewhat reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine’s Harry Warden, but I don’t hold that against them in a negative way. As far as the death scenes go, the kills are mostly basic, but they are executed well enough considering the budgetary restraints. As the movie progresses, however, the kills do fittingly become increasingly gruesome and violent, but there’s nothing that will blow anyone away.

Despite being formulaic, HazMat is a tightly paced, straightforward, no frills slasher movie that avoids some of the pitfalls often found within the genre. The performances are good, minus a few glitches, and the fact that there is some thought and care put into the characters is a welcome change of pace. I wouldn’t go as far as to recommend HazMat to the layman horror fan, but for those who appreciate both low-budget horror and slasher movies, it is certainly worth a look.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Beard-Os And Badasses: The Punks Who Took Film News Underground

beard-os and badasses

There is an new documentary in the works; a documentary that will explore how, through the internet, movie fans were able to take a hold of film news and criticism, adding their own voice for the world to hear. Beard-Os And Badasses focuses on a small movement that would become a revolution, and it’s this revolution that would come to inspire cinephiles across the world to create blogs, websites and podcasts of their own, forever changing the landscape of film criticism and news.

Now, I’ve been doing Chuck Norris Ate My Baby for nearly five years, and I have written for numerous websites and blogs throughout that time. I have also been very fortunate to become friends with a number of incredible people over the years as a direct result of communities that are built on blogging and podcasts. So needless to say, a documentary such as this really speaks to me in many ways.

With that being said, Beard-Os And Badasses is a masterpiece waiting to happen, but it needs a little help from good people like you and me. There are two ways you can help: donate to the Kickstarter and help spread the word. Simple, right?

Here’s a Kickstater video and press release with more info about this badass project and how YOU can help:

This was a movement bigger than any one site, more significant than a name. BEARD-Os AND BADASSES: The Punks Who Took Film News Underground is a new documentary film project that has exploded onto Kickstarter. In 1995 when Patrick Sauriol flipped the switch on his film news website Corona Coming Attractions, it changed everything. No longer was film reporting and criticism, in the exclusive hands of the few, privileged elite. For the first time, fans and enthusiasts threw their keyboards in the ring, and a revolution was launched.

BEARD-Os AND BADASSES, the feature length debut from Geoff Todd and H. Perry Horton, will be an in-depth look at The Punks who took control of an out of control and outdated mechanism. There were false starts, missteps, and plenty of controversy, but a revolution was launched that changed the entire landscape of American film journalism and criticism. It is the goal of this film to document each step, but we need your help.

Join the Revolution on Kickstarter, Already in Progress!

• Go to: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1034909631/beard-os-and-badasses
• Follow Us on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/beardosthemovie
• Like Us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/beardosthemovie
• Visit http://beardosandbadasses.com for more updates and ways to help!

We can't make this movie without you and we are going to do everything we can to make sure the world knows you helped us out. Pre-production is done; the next step is up to you. It's like a choose your own adventure book, only you end up with a cool as hell film and some killer rewards instead of a cheesy ending you saw coming from a mile away.

This is BEARD-Os AND BADASSES: The Punks Who Took Film News Underground!

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