Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Pack, Stranger Things, Scout's Guide...

Yea, I know it's been a few weeks.  I suffer from periods of intense physical pain followed by periods of depression, caused by the pain.  But this isn't a pain blog, because that would be silly.  You can only say "It hurts super bad" so many ways before shit gets boring.  This is a movie review blog!  Well, sometimes movies, sometimes series, and sometimes, reviews of completely random shit that nobody asked for, but somehow, I still have an opinion on.  Yea.  Nutty.  Then again, my background of being in pain half the time, and depressed the other half, might give you some clue as to why this blog is called "Rambling Discourse from the Insane One."  Maybe.  If you're smart.  If not, you're probably off playing Pokemon Go somewhere, and not even reading my blog.

I watched several movies and series over the past few weeks, and I been wanting to review them, but just haven't been up to it.  So, I'm going to do them all at once, just in case I fall off the internet for a few weeks again.  Don't worry, I'll be back eventually.  Probably.

Let's start with Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015).  This movie is about a very small group of teen-aged boy scouts (I thought they expelled you when you hit your teen years, I swear I did, but I've never been a boy scout.  Or a girl scout, for that matter.  does dressing up as one count?  I don't think so) who happen to run across the Zombie Apocalypse in the middle of their hometown.  As many people know, Boy Scouts are always prepared, but how can you prepare for the zombie apocalypse?  Practice killing zombies on live people!  Well, they're dead after you kill them, right?  Right!  I think the real boy scouts actually have a badge for that now, the Zombie-Apocalypse-Preparedness badge.  I could be wrong.

I liked Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse.  The film pretty much plays fast-and-loose with the origins of the zombies, leaving the technical aspects of it to your imagination, which makes sense for what is basically a comedy of errors along the way.  Then there's a slow build of interconnected events which make you understand that the virus is spreading, all while you get to know the main characters.  Then, when all hell breaks loose and the whole town is infested with zombies, you basically have your characters just being themselves, and that's pretty much what makes a good story, am I right?  Am I?  I'm not sure.  I think I am.  I could be wrong.  I'm probably wrong.  No, no, I'm definitely wrong, but it was a good watch, nonetheless.

One of the funniest moments for me is when the scouts come upon a skinny zombie with a Britney Spears T-shirt (I think it was britney spears...  I'm about as expert on popular music as I am on playing Pokemon Go, which, when I translate it for you from crazy-speak to whatever language you're reading this in, means I have no farking idea what Pokemon Go is, though I have heard of Britney Spears), alone and unarmed, and realize the zombie is actually mimicking their movements instead of just trying to eat their brains.  Without weapons, there's little more the scouts can do but start a Zombie sing along to one of britney spears' songs!  Yea, that's right, this is likely the only movie where you'll ever see humans and zombies rocking out together to "Hit me Baby one more time," a song from a former Disney Mouseketeer!  If that shit doesn't blow your mind, I'm not sure what will.

Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse was playing on Epix, but I'm not sure if it still is.  Worth watching more than once, too, if only for the hot zombie stripper and ginormous zombie cop-boobs action, and totally disregarding the funny moments, of which there were quite a few.

Now on to several things straight off of netflix, who is coincidentally raising their prices next month.  Standard package was $8 per month, and now I'll have to pay $10 just to decide if I want to keep the service.  It may not sound like much, but it's an extra $24 a year to a guy who hasn't earned a single dollar since 2011.  :-/  I'm surprised I'm still chubby.  I should be starving at this point, from lack of food.  Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers, if by strangers I mean family, which I do.  They are pretty strange.

The first thing I want to review is The Pack (2015), a movie about some feral dogs that go people-hunting in rural Australia.  Much like Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, the Pack does a decent job of building up the story, even if the characters aren't as likable as the Scouts and Strippers.  A man is losing his sheep farm, and the few local animal cases his veterinary wife gets, just aren't helping him make the payments to the bank.  The teenage daughter is a jerk and the son has a problem with sticky fingers, which seriously makes me root for the feral dogs.  It doesn't end well for the dogs, sadly.

I wasn't fond of The pack, for one basic reason.  Whoever wrote the book has never owned a dog in his or her life, nor did they do any research on feral dogs, animals, wolves, or have a basic understanding of nature.  Also, they contradicted themselves, big time.  Yea, sounds harsh, doessn't it?  Let me explain!

First off, there's like one line where the veterinary wife mentions that the dogs (who are now hunting her whole family, at this point) aren't acting like normal wild animals.  No duh, but that's as close as a nod to the truth as you're going to get.  One, these feral dogs are HUGE, almost wolf sized, and they're certainly not underfed, which gives them absolutely no reason to hunt down every single member of the family and try and kill them.  If they had looked skinny, or maybe an explanation was given that they liked to eat human flesh (or even rabies), I could maybe have bought their savage behavior, but let's be honest.  No clear-thinking animal is going to continue to try to hunt you down when it's been seriously wounded.  It's going to hide and try to heal, much like Officer Mcclane in Die Hard.  You just don't go on fighting the good fight when there's no hope of survival, and dogs are a lot more practical about these things than people are.  The dogs would have realized that this family of people was a lot harder to get to than the previous victims, and move the f on.  There's just not enough meat on a human for a pack of dogs to go and waste every last member of their pack to try and eat a well-armed, healthy person.  It's a matter of survival, and if there's one thing feral dogs would know about, it's survival.

Second, have you ever come home from a long day at work, to find your dog either waiting innocently by the door for you, or pretending to sleep on the couch, only to find your entire collection of shoes torn to bits and dog poop on your bed?  Yes, had you walked in the door seconds earlier, you might have found your dog tearing your closet to shreds, but you didn't, because your dog heard you coming.  That's because their senses are a lot better than ours.  They can hear you breathe, hear your heart pounding out of your chest, and smell your fear from 100 meters away.  In this movie, out in the wilderness, the dogs can see in the dark, track you down, smell you and know exactly where you are.  That much makes sense.  Then, one slips into the house, and suddenly, it's deaf, dumb and blind.  The mother plays cat-and-mouse with it, hiding on the other side of a grandfather clock, just a few feet from where a supposedly killer feral dog is roaming down her hallway.  Does the mutt sense her?  Nope!  Just wanders into the next room, like a zombie with no eyes, ears, or sense of smell.  I'm sure it was done to heighten the suspense, I mean, there's only so much danger when you can just lock the animals out of your house and wait til morning, but come on.  At one point, the mother hides in a small closet, turns off the light just before the dog rushes in, and hops out in time to close the door on the beast, thus trapping it.  Wtf?  Are you kidding me?  Look, these dogs can see in a dark forest, in the dead of night.  I don't care how dark your house is, or how familiar with it you are, if you can see well enough to find your way around, the dog can see better.  There's no freakin' way you're going to trick it with the old rush-into-this-room-while-I-rush-out gag.  You just aren't.  Plus the fact that she had just turned off the bulb, after looking up at it, which would not only destroy whatever night vision she had going, but leave her staring at total darkness until her eyes adjusted.  The dog would have made short work of her innards while she was trying to find the exit, and that's when I stopped caring about whether the humans lived or died.

So, not too fond of the Pack, mostly for the unforgivable sin of bad writing.  Also, the characters weren't very interesting, and the action was kind of predictable.  I wouldn't recommend watching it on Netflix, but if you simply must get your Australian killer-dog fix, then knock yourself out.  Personally, I'm hoping Netflix gets wind of Razorback, an old 80's-era Australian flick about a killer boar, and decides to add it to their line-up.  Not enough killer pig movies, if you ask me.  We need more of them.

Stranger Things (2016) is a Netflix-made series I just finished watching.  It's essentially about a group of boys who live near a government research lab, who lose their friend to an experiment one night and spend the rest of the series looking for him.  Yes, it's an 8-episode series, and I wonder where they could possibly take it next season, if there is going to be a next season, since they pretty much wrapped everything up in this one.

You can tell in the first few minutes of the first episode that the series is well crafted.  There's little music playing through the background, and it's more of a very quick trip down a very dark rabbit hole, where the rabbit is an eight-foot-tall monster and the hole is a toxic wasteland between life and death.  I have watched all 8 episodes in the last week, and I honestly wasn't disappointed with the story, the acting, or any of the effects.  There were a few minor things that irked me, but all in all, a win for the Duffer brothers (who directed it, I think?) and though each episode seemed to be written by a different person, the story flowed together very well.

I have read reviews that exclaim how realistic and faithful to the 80's that it was, and recall just about every 80's movie that was ever made to try and tell you where Stranger things came from.  I'll sum it up for you.  If "Stephen King's IT" had a lovechild with "Super 8" from 2011, you'd get Stranger Things.  Bunch of kids try to fight an otherworldly monster with an 80's background.  You don't need to mention every 80's movie ever made, or bring up Stephen King's entire line of movies, to draw similarities.  That's it.  Super 8 + IT = Stranger Things.  Maybe I'm leaving some stuff out, but meh.  Close enough.

I guess they tried really hard to adhere to the 80's style of dress, hair styles, and a few of the songs and movies.  But where were the leotards?  The exercise gear?  Wasn't everyone in the 80's obsessed with their bodies?  And how about the headset that suddenly pops up in the 7th or 8th episode, on one of the kids?  Seriously?  Look, headphones back then were about the size of earmuffs worn by sentient rabbits in the cold wastelands of hell, meaning, they were enormous, hefty things that would stop a bullet if you got shot in the ear.  Yet suddenly, one kid has a set of earphones on while riding a bike, hooked into his walkie-talkie.  Did they even HAVE headphone plugs in walkie talkies back then?  Why would they?  What would be the point?  You have a walkie-talkie in your hand.  You hold it to your head like a flip-phone, for those of you who were born after the year 2000, and know what a flip-phone is.  Why do you need to go hands-free?  The answer is, you didn't.  Maybe there were earphone jacks on walkie talkies back in the 80's, and I am just completely wrong about this, but I was alive back then.  I don't recall seeing earphone jacks on those massive things, but I do recall my head being so completely bowed down by earphones that I could barely move.  And yes, I was as geeky as those nerds in Stranger Things back then.  I also played D&D.  And no, you don't kill Demogorgon or a Thessalhydra with a single fireball.  Dorks. Get your 80's shit STRAIGHT.

I did like Stranger Things, despite the minor technical glitches.  I would recommend it to anyone who likes horror movies, monster movies, or, you know, pretty much any movie ever made in the 80's.  Also, I think Matthew Modine missed his calling.  He plays one seriously creepy scientist, and I hope he makes it into season 2, if they have one.  Even Winona Ryder, who I don't even normally like, did a halfway decent job with this, though again, I don't normally like her, so maybe I'm being too hard on her.  Maybe she was awesome, and I just don't know it.  (shrug)  I'm not exactly a good critic, I'm just trying to give the thing a fair review, from a layman's perspective.

Oh, in other news, speaking of the 80's.  I recently read a fan theory about the Thing (a poster of which features prominently in Stranger Things), where it says Childs was the Thing, at the end of the movie.  The theory goes, Macready gives Childs a bottle of Gasoline (one of the molotov cocktails they were using earlier in the film, although there's no way to tell that from the movie, it just looks like a bottle of booze), and Childs drinks it without reacting to it, which gives away his identity as an alien, and makes the film even darker (because it means the Thing survived, which was exactly what Macready didn't want).  I've always viewed it from a different perspective.  Macready is the Thing.  From the beginning of the movie.  I know, you're going WHAT?  THAT MAKES NO SENSE!  It does.  Bear with me a moment...

The Thing starts with the dog, running from the helicopter.  What happens?  The malamute (or whatever the frig kind of dog it is, I'm not really an expert on anything, if you've noticed) licks the one guy's face, all over, and this totally pisses of the Norwegian with the rifle, who shoots the guy in the leg.  Granted, he was aiming for the dog, but he's a lousy shot.  The dog takes off, the guy who just got shot falls to the ground, and Macready (played by Kurt Russell) runs over to help.  He sets aside his flask of liquor, runs over to put out the fire from the blown-up helicopter and the guy with the wounded leg promptly picks up Macready's flask, and drinks from it.  At this point in the movie, we don't know that the dog is the Thing, and that every cell in its saliva could infect others.  Let's say, the saliva is left on the face of the guy the dog licked (Benning?  Can't quite recall his name), and it's transferred onto the rim of the liquor bottle.  Macready comes back, presumably retrieves his liquor, eventually takes a pull from his flask, and voila!  Macready is infected.  It would explain why someone finds a set of long underwear with MACREADY on it later in the film.  Macready assumes he's being framed, but looks at the underwear confusedly.  What if he wasn't being framed, but was actually the Thing?

Now here's where shit gets interesting.  Like someone in the movie later says (I do believe it was Childs, ironically), "If I was a copy, a perfect imitation, how would we know?"  Let's run with that.  What if, not even macready knew he was really the Thing?  Wouldn't that be the ultimate disguise?  Not even you know you're an alien, so you act 100% like a real human being, which would include trying to destroy the other things?  OR, another angle, what if macready is killing off the other things to fit in better with the remaining humans, purposely making himself the "hero" so the other human beings will accept him as one of their own.  it would have been easy enough to fake the blood test in the late part of the movie.  Macready was running the whole test, and could have easily switched the blood samples.  Or (and here's where I'm going to really mess with your head), what if Macready was the only Thing who was left alone long enough to progress to sentience?  What if the Thing, in its natural state, is actually a highly-intelligent, mostly-peaceful alien, just trying to survive?  I mean, think about it.  Macready wakes up from a long nap, realizes his cells have gone a little haywire, and infected half the camp.  He knows the best way to remain hidden is to have things just go back to normal, but his cells are trying to survive by taking over half the camp, and in their violent, not-thinking-straight kind of way, and actually causing havoc.  Havoc is the surest, quickest way to being discovered, and that means, if Macready wants to ensure his own survival, he HAS to kill off the other infected people.  It is just like the movie "Innocent Blood," where Anne Parilloud (I hope I spelled that right) has to run around hunting down her late-night snacks, so vampires don't run amok and make it harder for her to eat.  Pure survival, killing off the youngins so the older, more experienced members of the species can survive.  Seems to happen in a lot of vampire movies (The one about the vampire Lestat, just for example).  Why not The Thing?

So yea, there's my theory.  Macready is the Thing from day one, runs around capping off his out-of control brethren so he can ensure his own survival, and whether he knows he is the Thing or not, doesn't really matter.  His plan is to survive long enough to freeze, get found by the rescue team come spring, and BAM.  The sequel is born.  Personally, seeing as Kurt Russell is now substantially older, I would pick up the story 30 years later, one of two ways.  Either macready's body is finally recovered (seems unlikely, but maybe) and infects a whole new team of people, OR macready was rescued, and ends up running around and acting like a human being for 30 years.  So we recast Kurt Russell as the Thing, older and wiser, and while the events of the sequel unfold, we wonder just wtf the Thing has been doing, the last 30 years...  Sounds good, no?  I like it.  :-)  But, nobody asks me for my story ideas, do they, Pinky?  No, Brain, no, they don't.

That's all for tonight.  I've plumb worn my fingers down to the nubs!  Til next time I catch a good movie, or something so bad I just have to lambaste it, enjoy the long hot summer!

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