G.I. Joe Retaliation Review


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Nearly a year ago I had the opportunity to see a test screening of G.I. Joe: Retaliation. I have been sitting on my feelings about the movie since then. I have let slip a few times here and there on The Gorram Nerd Hour that I hated it. So why did I watch it again? For the same reason I watched the other movies I’ve seen at test screenings again, to see what they changed. It’s always interesting what the studios take away from the comment cards they ask you to fill out at the end of a test screening. On my card I filled it with stuff like “Why was this movie greenlit?” and “What was the point?” Did I change my opinions after the reshoots? Or were the “fixes” they made just as bad?

When I first saw the movie the only positive thing I took away from it was that Snake Eyes was awesome. I love Ray Park and he gave the movie his all despite how bad it was. Sort of like what he did for Star Wars: Episode I. With the reshoots we got a little more Duke, played by Channing Tatum. In the original version Duke was dead as fast as it takes the average person to blink. Of course, by the time the movie started I was praying for toothpicks to keep my eyes open because my eyes just wanted to close to avoid having to take in anymore of that horrible movie. The Duke scenes were designed as a passing of the torch to Road Block, played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Although the movie worked better watching Tatum and Johnson play off each other. The moment Tatum was out of the movie the fun left with it…until Bruce Willis entered the movie. Sadly, this fact has not changed. Sure, they added a couple more scenes with Tatum and Johnson together but teasing the audience with a fun movie for a few more minutes only serves to enrage them more overall. 

Duke still dies…oops, sorry. I meant to warn people of spoilers. Oh well, too late. After his death the movie falls into a boring lull for a good 40 minutes until Willis enters. Cobra Commander, Zartan and Firefly couldn’t bring the fun. Adrianne Padalecki (sic) couldn’t save it by looking hot as Lady Jaye. Nothing worked. Not even the coolness of Jonathan Pryce and Walton Goggins. This still has not changed from the previous version. There were random tweaks done to the movie but none so substantial that it made it worth watching. 

In all fairness I will say this. The few changes that were made to the movie made the film a bit more enjoyable. In fact, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that I liked this one almost as much as first. That’s still not a compliment. At least the first had a bit more of an emotional aspect to it. Plus it tried harder. This was just lazy screenwriting. I don’t blame the director or the actors. They did what they could. But when you polish a turd all it does is make the cloth dirty.

A quick note to the writers – Zombieland was fun. Was it a fluke? Or did you just sell out? If Deadpool ever gets made I’ve now become scared about what you’re gonna do with it. Are you going to be the next Ehren Kruger? 

I’m done. I don’t want to talk about this anymore. 

For the original version of the movie I give it 1/2 * out of 5. For the reshot and delayed version I give it 1 and 1/2 *’s out of *****. 

I’m sure Brian and I will be discussing this on the next episode of The Gorram Nerd Hour so make sure you tune in for it.

Evil Dead And Other Remakes


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Over the course of history we have had to suffer through a multitude of remakes with more on the way. It’s a fact of life that Hollywood wants to capitalize on a name. That’s just how it goes. How many times have seen the same Shakespeare story put on film even though there are other equally good Shakespeare plays that never get made? Why? Because people recognize the names of Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet.

Horror films get hit harder than any other genre because, as horror fans, we get excited that someone is actually releasing a horror movie in theaters. So we go and immediately take to the internet whining and complaining about the latest remake or sequel and how much the studio/director/star ruined your memories. But we go. Studios know this. And what do studios care about most? It’s not the fans. It’s profit. So we get remakes and a sequel a year to the likes of Saw or Paranormal Activity not because we demand it but because they know we’ll watch it. Hell, I have seen every Children Of The Corn and Hellraiser movie, not because I like them but because they were there. That’s what studios count on. Being a genre fan is frustrating and rewarding all at once.

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Thirty one years ago an established horror and science fiction filmmaker set out to make his first remake before they became the trendy thing to do in Hollywood. It was one of the only films in that thirty one years to do it right. The movie was The Thing, the filmmaker John Carpenter. He was already moving toward legendary statud thanks to Assault On Precinct 13, Halloween, The Fog and Escape From New York. At the time this seemed like a bad career choice. Why make someone else’s film when you could do something original? But he believed in the movie and felt it had something to say just in the same way that the remake of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers did just a few years earlier. And, like Invasion, he got it right. Since then we have seen nearly all his early masterwork remade. None match what he did with the originals. There have also been a slew of other remakes of famous horror franchises with varying degrees of success – A Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday The 13th, Prom Night, The Hills Have Eyes. The list goes on and grows by the day.
One movie that many prayed for a sequel to and feared a remake of was Evil Dead. This was the movie that launched director Sam Raimi, producer Rob Tapert and star Bruce Campbell. It mixed horror and humor seemlessly as well giving us the most innovative low budget look any horror movie ever could. For those reasons fans, myself included, feared that someone would one day ruin the franchise for us with a remake that insulted us all. I’m glad I was wrong.

The movie started in a very different way than the original. It opened with a woman, bloody and beaten, trying to escape through the woods when something bad happens. Then it cuts to introducing us to the the cast twenty-something pretty people that one expects from a horror movie. But that’s where the movie stops being like your typical “Dead Teenager Movie” (if could steal a phrase from the late, great Roger Ebert). Fede Alvarez had a very clear vision of maing a movie that was not only faithful to the Evil Dead fans but also a balls out horror film that was original and gory fun.

It’s hard to get a remake right because people feel all at once beholden to the original material and have a strong desire to explain things. Take Halloween. Rob Zombie felt that he had to keep the genreal story intact while explaining the childhood of Michael Myers. A Nightmare On Elm Street did a similar thing with giving more back story on Freddy right from the start. This used to be something that wasn’t given till you were three sequels deep in the 80’s. And there’s a reason for that. You need to go in to the first film with the intention of scaring the living shit out of your audience. When you begin to explain the evil away the audience begins to sympathize with the killer. That is like putting the nail in the coffin before the movie is even released. Fede Alvarez knew better. He didn’t go into detail about where the Necronomicon came from or how it gained its power. It was just evil and there were people stupid enough to not heed the warnings and read from it anyway.

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The movie got more right than it got wrong. It was smart enough to play with what we expect by keeping us guessing on who would live and who would die. The beats pulled from the previous Evil Dead movies were given a nice twist that kept me guessing. And Jane Levy was truly amazing as Mia. She went from frail to frightened to posessed to all out evil with what seemed to be such effortless ease. For her alone the movie is worth watching. But all the star aligned just right for this film. The cast, the director, the script – everything was spot on. Alvarez took just enough from Raimi’s style to make it feel like an Evil Dead movie while bringing in his own crazy style that fit so well for the movie. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Also, stay after the credits for a little surprise.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars on this one. It is what horror remakes should aspire to – a movie that doesn’t need to be defined by the fact that it’s a remake.

Reviews Are Coming In For Lepus


It would seem that even when people don’t like the full movie of Death By VHS (formerly known as Scream Machine) they still like Lepus. Here are some links to the reviews – 

http://guestars.wordpress.com/2013/03/20/death-by-vhs-from-scarlet-fry-and-some-other-edgy-film-fiends/

http://www.ilikehorrormovies.com/2013/02/death-by-vhs-2013_25.html

http://asouthernlifeinscandaloustimes.blogspot.com/2013/03/my-review-of-death-by-vhs-anthology.html

Those are few of the ones I found so far. I can’t wait to show it in front of a crowd and see how it plays. We’ll keep you posted.

 

Red Dawn: The Worthless Remake


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Anyone that reads this blog knows I hate remakes. I don’t pretend. But I will give credit where credit is due – True Grit, 3:10 To Yuma, The Thing, Last House On The Left. These all brought something to the table and were worthwhile remakes. When I first heard they were remaking Red Dawn I actually thought it may actually be a good idea. With the state of the world as it is today it seemed like it was a story worth telling again. I was even excited about the fact that they were using the Chinese as the bad guys. It made sense.

That was 2009.

By the time the movie hit theaters some three years later I had lost all hope that the movie could actually be good. Why? Not because it sat on the shelf. No. That’s easily explained due to MGM’s bankruptcy issues. The reason I lost faith was that the studio decided that China was too big a movie market to use them as a villain and potentially lose millions in revenue. So, instead, they changed the villain to North Korea because it’s okay to hate them unless you’re Dennis Rodman. The movie that’s creative decisions are made by following the dollar is not a movie worth seeing.

With all that said I want to tell you that I went into the movie with an open mind. But that didn’t last long. The moment the first car chase happened I was over being nice to the movie. The movie had a promising cast, an interesting director, even some really cool stunt work. But none of that could save the movie from the studio.

You know, I would normally go on and on about how much I hated the movie but just read my Twitter feed for the 23 tweets I sent out while watching it. They’re probably more entertaining than the movie itself.

Sorry for the lazy blogging. The movie just kinda put me in a mood. I need to watch something better to get this bad taste out of my mouth. Where’s my copy of Showgirls?

1 out of 5 stars.

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower Review


I’ve been so behind on my movie watching it’s ridiculous. I’ve been systematically trying to work my way through some of the 2012 movies recently to catch up and had a lot of interest in this one. It was written and directed by Stephen Chbotsky based on his novel and stars Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Paul Rudd and Melanie Lynsky. I read the novel a few years ago and thought it was a very sweet and thoughtful coming of age story about a young high school freshman finding his place amongst the outcasts. The movie had the same emotional impact as the book. It was smart, sweet, often funny and well paced. I was a fan of the TV series Jericho and knew Chbotsky was uncover with the series so when I saw the book I was immediately curious. I decided to take a chance and buy it when I read the back cover and saw that it was about a kid who didn’t quite fit in when starting high school in the 90’s. That was something I could relate to. Going through high school in the 90’s was a time when I was the most lost. My parents were divorcing, my oldest sister was an adult and leaving home, we had moved to a new state, and I was just a weird kid. Everything was in flux for me at that time…not to mention my raging hormones. So this book and movie resonate with me for that reason. I’m sure many of you would feel the same way. As a movie this film works for a few reasons. First, the script was solid. Chbotsky did a great job adapting his book to the screen. Second, the performances were amazing. Lerman was someone I had seen in movies before and could take him or leave him. That’s not the case here. He really made this role his own and embodied exactly what I pictured when I read the book. Watson was also incredible. This is the first movie I have seen her in beyond the 8 Harry Potter movies and I really think she will be someone to watch for many years to come. Third, Chbotsky’s direction of the film was not showy by any means. He was not going for gloss. He was going for a slice of reality. The style he chose worked perfectly. He didn’t do the whole hybrid of documentary/cinematic look but just went with a very stripped down style perfect for the story he was telling. I know I haven’t talked much about the story itself. There’s not much to tell. It’s pretty simple. In fact, that is its strength. It isn’t so much about story as it is about characters and heart. This is a must see for anyone who is a fan of truly good high school coming of age films. Chbotsky is someone to watch. 4 1/2 out 5 stars for me on this one. Awesome little movie, strong performances and incredibly genuine.

A Bad Day To Die Hard


I have a huge love for the original Die Hard. The second movie has its moments as well. The McClane character was still intact at that point. Part three felt like a great follow up to the first. Part four was really the beginning of the end but performed well having been edited down to a PG-13 rating.

This time around John McClane is back in all his R rated glory. Or is he? The movie is about John going to Russia to find his estranged son. When he gets there he finds more than he bargained for when he barely steps of the plane and is involved in a car Chase through Russian streets while chasing Tue people chasing his son. The cavalier attitude Bruce Willis shows as McClane amidst all this destruction is seriously disconcerting. This is the man who didn’t even want to let Hans Gruber die at the end of the first movie. Now he’s driving around in a foreign country destroying cars and presumably injuring their drivers in the process.

This is the new jaded John McClane. And that is not an improvement. He used to be someone we rooted for, someone we could relate to, someone we could have a beer with. Now he’s this larger than life Superhero that doesn’t connect with the audience.

I will give writer Skip Woods a small bit of credit when it comes to the script. He tried to bring the feeling of the first film back by trying to add some heart to the story. It didn’t work but at least he tried. Willis didn’t seem like he was trying at all. He seemed morose and bored through most of it.

The story was also very weak, the directing was technically good but there seemed to be a disconnect there…and not in a good David Fincher sort of way. Even the action scenes were bad. At one point I actually said out loud in the theater “You HAVE GOT to be kidding me!”

This movie is my new least favorite Die Hard film. I feel bad for Jai Courtney who hopefully will recover from this and still get hired for movies in the future. He was the only real bright spot in a film that was bogged down with nods to the previous films but done in a such a manner that you wanted to punch Bruce Willis.

One last thing before I finish here – I have a bad feeling 20th Century Fox is going to look at lower returns and think it is due to the R rating and not because it sucked. So I just want to say this to Fox – this movie sucked. It would have suck just as bad, if not worse, if it had been PG-13. I know Bruce Willis wants to make another one. If you are dumb enough to let him at least get John McTiernan back to direct and give him full creative control because he seems to be the only who understands the John McClane character.

This movie should get no stars. Yes I really disliked it that much. But I fear it’s partially due to my feeling about the Dying Hard franchise. So I’m going against my better judgement and giving it 1 1/2 stars.

#HoldYourBreath – Asylum’s Big Movie


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I have never tried to hide the fact that I think Asylum movies are bad. I’m guessing they would say the same thing. They have to know it. Why else would they make Mockbusters like Transmorphers and Titanic 2? But one thing Asylum has never done was release a movie in theaters. Netflix and Redbox have been their bread and butter. That all changed with #HoldYourBreath. I assume the hashtag was an attempt to get the movie trending on Twitter because it has nothing to do with the movie at all. In fact, nobody is carrying a cellphone let alone a laptop for the whole movie. 

The film begins with a flashback to a deranged killer about to be put to death by way of the electric chair. The onlookers, including the very cool Devanny Pinn as a surviving victim with the scars to prove it, witness the final horrible act of this brutal killer as he kills the warden before they get him strapped in and electrocuted. 

Cut to present day – a group of stereotypical kids are travelling up to a campsite in their SUV when they are about to pass a cemetery. Katrina Bowden (30 Rock, Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil) pleads for everyone to hold their breath as they pass. She finally convinces them all to do so. The problem is the stoner coughs and drops his pipe between the driver’s legs and they nearly crash. 

Because the stoner didn’t hold his breath he becomes possessed by the killer we saw electrocuted at the beginning of the movie. He stays behind as the rest of the pretty people go check out the spooky abandoned mental hospital. A couple of the people go off and have sex while others just explore. Eventually they make it to their campsite and all hell breaks loose. The spirit of the killer can hop from body to body and nobody is safe. 

I will say this about the movie. They tried to do something original with it. Granted, it was still weak but enjoyable. The girls in the movie were all really good. I’m not saying that because it was a low budget horror film and girls tend to be hot and naked. There was plenty of that but that’s not my compliment. When I say they were good it’s because this type of movie is only as successful as the female actors. The whole movie depends on it. Bowden and Erin Marie Hogan were both really good in the movie. At times the script got silly but they tried very hard to sell the idea at all times. I appreciate that. 

Overall, this was the best quality film Asylum has made. It was still weak and could have used a good script re-write before going in front of the camera (an electric chair at a mental hospital, really?) but they did well with what they had. I can appreciate it. This movie is not high art. It never pretended to be. But it’s not exploitation cinema either. Sure there’s boobs and violence but it doesn’t feel like they’re trying to push boundaries. 

I am going to give this 3 out 5 thanks to strong performances from Bowden and Hogan and a director that didn’t make me cringe as I watched the technical aspects of the movie.

My Top 10 Genre Movies Of 2012


I’m going to start off by saying that “genre” in this case is anything from superhero to science fiction to horror. So you will see a mix of them all on the list. You will hear this list on The Gorram Nerd Hour where Brian and I discuss it. Next week I will be giving you my bottom 10. But, for now, here we go – 

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10) The Dark Knight Rises – Batman Begins was the greatest Batman origin story put on film. The Dark Knight was a great movie with a lot of suspense and an amazing performance by Heath Ledger. The Dark Knight Rises had Bane, Catwoman, Talia Al Goul, a reluctant Batman and no sense of dread…even when the city was being held hostage. But it still managed to be a very good movie. Not the best of the trilogy but a fitting end to the Christopher Nolan era of Batman.

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9) The Avengers – Joss Whedon did what was nearly impossible. He took all the established Marvel characters from previous movies that Marvel owns the rights to and gave them the chance to shine individually and as a team. The movie itself is both funny and exciting. It’s not the greatest thing Whedon has ever directed. That honor goes to the pilot episode of Firefly. But the man did what few people could ever hope to do in bringing The Avengers to life.

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8) Chronicle – Josh Trank and Max Landis deserve a lot of credit. Found footage movies are Hollywood’s answer to low budget filmmaking anymore. And they tend to be made by low rent directors who wouldn’t know how to tell a traditional story. Not true with these guys. The made a found footage movie with a twist. This was like watching a polished film but still kept the grittiness of the found footage sub-genre. The script by Landis was great. Trank’s directing was spot on. It was a wonderful debut film from some talented guys who I hope won’t disappoint in the future.

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7) Silent House – Yes, I admit that the film was very predictable. But I saw the film more as Elizabeth Olson’s journey than the outcome. And what a performance she gave. The movie solid from beginning to end anchored by a powerhouse performance.

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6) Dredd – I remember seeing the awful Stallone movie based on this character back in the 90’s. When I heard they were rebooting it with Karl Urban I was pleased. Then I found out it was being directed by Pete Travis and written by Alex Garland and I went from pleased to excited. The character stuck closer to the comics while the story itself deviated. Urban’s performance was amazing. That man deserves more love from the geek community. Between Chronicles Of Riddick, Star Trek and Dredd the man is a champion of geek cinema. 

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5) Prometheus – If I didn’t lose you by putting TDKR and The Avengers so low on the list this one will probably make you think I’ve lost it. I’m sorry but I love Prometheus. It’s smart movie making. Ridley Scott and Damon Lindeloff set out to make a cerebral summer movie and succeeded on all counts. 

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4) John Dies At The End – I remember when this book came out and I fell in love with its strange, funny and irreverent take on the genre. The movie, written and directed by Don Coscarelli, captured the feeling of the book expertly and got amazing performances from the entire cast. The movie is not for everyone. If you’re a fan of Coscarelli’s Bubba Ho-Tep or the Phantasm series you’ll love it.

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3) Safety Not Guaranteed – I couldn’t help but find a cute photo of Aubrey Plaza for this part because the movie will make you fall in love with her. The film expertly made with great performances. It’s close to not being considered “genre” but I feel it needs to be included. Mark Duplass was amazing as the man who may be crazy or he may be able to time travel. This movie needs to be seen. 

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2) Cabin In The Woods – Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard crafted a story that was not only a traditional horror film but something completely different and original. If anyone ever tries to make a sequel I will save up my money, fly to wherever you live and shoot you in the face.

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1) Looper – I cannot say enough good about this movie. Rian Johnson’s directing was perfect. Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were amazing. The story was smart and engaging. Emily Blunt was great. There was a really cool time travel/action story as well as a wonderful emotional arc for the characters that pays off beautifully at the end. The movie was genre filmmakers on a budget should aspire to. I know it inspired me to keep plugging away at what I do.

 

There you have it, folks – My top 10 genre films of 2012. Don’t forget to tune into The Gorram Nerd Hour to hear me and Brian argue about the list.

 

 

 

My Angry Walking Dead Rant!


I have been a longtime fan of The Walking Dead. Robert Kirkman did an amazing job crafting a world for Shane and company to live in. The comic book has been one hell of a ride. The television series, on the other hand, has had its ups and downs. When it first premiered a couple years ago I was more excited than I could even say. Zombies, comic books, Frank Darabont, and wonderful pilot immediately put this at the top of my “must see” list. The first six episode under Darabont’s guidance were amazing. I have watched them numerous times and love them as much as Darabont’s films. Then season two came along. Longer season, Darabont free, and a lot of “Where’s Carl? Oh, he’s been shot? He can heal quickly and run off again. Good…Dammit, where’s Carl?”

The season started good and went downhill after just a few episodes. Sure, they introduced one of my favorite characters when they got to the farm. Herschel was a favorite from the comic books and the series. But that wasn’t enough. There were too few zombies. The show turned into Days Of Our Lives with the occasional zombie thrown in. Hell, at least when Days Of Our Lives went dark and Marlena got possessed we saw the possessed Marlena every episode! The season was boring. Then they did something that really pissed me off.

Before I say what made me so made at the end of season two let me first say this – I have no problem with the changes they’ve made from the comic to the series. I love the characters of Merle and Daryl. I love the CDC episode. I’m fine with that stuff. I think it’s been a great addition to the lore of the show. But when they do things inspired by jaw-dropping moments from the comic and dilute it then I get pissed. The moment I’m talking about is when Shane gets shot. In the comic Carl kills a living, breathing, human Shane. In the show he had to be a zombie first. That almost made me stop watching. 

This season they get to one of the best story arcs of the comic – the story of the Governor and the prison. Before I get into this part I must warn you that I’m getting into spoiler territory here. Please stop reading if you don’t want to know. 

You’ve been warned.

 

 

Last chance…

 

 

Okay, here we go. In the comic the Governor is keeping his undead daughter locked in his house. He has Roman style Gladiator games happening with zombies to entertain his people. He locks up Michonne and rapes and beats her repeatedly. Rick gets his hand cut off by the Governor. The Governor storms the gates of the prison and Lori and her unborn baby are shot and killed as they flee. This was a big epic game changer for the comic book. 

So far this season on the show (specifically last night’s episode) we had T Dogg, a character not in the comics, die. Carol died. Lori went into labor, had to be cut open to save the baby and then she died! The baby lived. The baby isn’t supposed to live. Everything is happening wrong. It makes me think that the other controversial moments of the comic are gonna get watered down too. 

Don’t take this wrong when I say this but I want these characters to suffer. Glen Mezzarra is taking the work of Robert Kirkman and pissing on it. He started off strong. I thought there was hope for the season but after last night I am at my breaking point again. I will keep watching through the season but I am seriously about to scream at how they are treating the story after last night. I want Frank Darabont back. If I can’t have that then I’ll just switch to his new show L.A. Noir when it premieres.

Part Jules Verne, Part Indiana Jones, All Crap – Nazis At The Center Of The Earth


Nazis At The Center Of The Earth is another Asylum movie. The same folks behind Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies, Paranormal Entity, Snakes On A Train, and many more made this cinematic stinkbomb. It stars Dominique Swain and Jake Busey.

Deep in the arctic there lies a secret entrance to a world underground, a world where Nazis still live. A group of scientists from a research substation are taken underground and forced to solve Dr. Mengele’s transplant and skin graft problems.

The story is ridiculous and silly. The acting is over the top and cheesy. The movie is overall stupid and yet it is more fun than most of the crap I have seen from Asylum. The movie plays like one of the 80’s movies I talked about recently where the filmmakers really tried to make what they thought was a good movie. Instead it turned out terribly. But I still enjoyed it.

There are moments in it when you think the movie couldn’t get any worse. Then they take people to the “showers” and then they top it off with a robot Hitler with a Futurama style head on top. It was like the Robo-Nixon on Futurama. But that still doesn’t top it. Shortly after the Nazis leave by way of UFO with Nazi symbols all over the outside.

This movie is amazingly bad. But it is bad in the way that The Room or Night Of The Comet is bad. They don’t seem to be in on the joke. There is never a subtle wink to the audience to let them know they know what a turd they brought into the world. I really kind of enjoyed the hour and a half I spent watching this movie.

I know there are probably a lot of you out there who may disagree with me on this but it’s just one man’s opinion. Watch it for yourself and decide. 3 out of 5 stars. Hear more about it when we review it on The Gorram Nerd Hour in a couple weeks.