“Full Moon Pictures presents”

Oh God, it’s happening. I delayed for seven years, watching the occasional Dollman or Demonic Toys movie, but there are still Puppet Master sequels to watch, and eventually I must watch them.

“A Charles Band Production”

Don’t be too impressed – IMDB says Band produced 30 movies that year.

“A Joseph Tennent Film”

Since his previous Puppet Master sequel only a year earlier, director David DeCoteau had made about seven movies under various aliases.

Retro Puppetmaster

It’s so retro that Puppetmaster is one word again – a throwback to the first movie, or a misspelling due to overall franchise confusion and underpaid titles writers?

Flashbacking from 1944 to “long ago” Cairo, a sorcerer is stealing the secrets of the gods, and everyone in this temple is repeating their lines of dialogue in order to pad the scene.

Vincent Price-ish sorcerer holding scroll of forbidden secrets:

To Paris 1902, and enter flamboyant Ilsa, who is acting her heart out, and uptight Marguerite, who seems to be appearing in this movie at gunpoint and reading her lines phonetically. “Don’t go into any opium dens,” Ilsa is advised as she heads for a puppet show. She meets Young Toulon (now played by Greg Sestero, soon to become infamous in The Room) backstage when sewer-dwelling Dark City fellows hire hit men to take out a hobo after the show.

Sestero is not strangling this hobo, he’s checking for signs of life:

The prop and costume budget on this movie seems higher than the talent budget. “I understand. You’re a 3000-year-old sorcerer from Egypt and you want to teach me the secret of life.” Afzel (Jack Donner, DiCaprio’s dad in J. Edgar) shows Young Toulon how to resurrect the soul of his dead hobo friend into a mute wooden puppet with oversized arms, telling him this is the most precious power in the history of the world, which I dunno. The new wooden puppets are cool: I call them Skeletal Surgeon, Primitive Screwhead, Sergeant Cyclops and Hobo Hulk.

“It is time to act,” say the Dark City Goons, and not a moment too soon… oh, but that’s not what they meant. While Toulon is off being arrested and beaten by Ilsa’s ambassador father’s soldiers, the DCGs head to the theater and psychically murder all the puppeteers by blurring the film over their faces. Cornered, Afzel proactively blurs himself to death.

Blur-attack:

Self-blur suicide:

After all this plot and dreadful dialogue delivery, Toulon only has 30 minutes left in the movie to transfer the souls of his dead friends into the wood puppets and direct them to murder the DCGs. “We shall be avengers.” It’s actually not bad as far as origin stories go.

They set out to search the country for the Dark City Goons, but they’re standing right in the other room, so we get our first showdown straight away: the DCGs’ film-blurring powers vs. a bunch of stabby, strangley little puppets. The DCGs are dispatched by a falling chandelier, then the voice of Sutek shouts “live again,” and two of them do, with newly green-glowing hands. The remaining DCGs (their leader, the appropriately-named Stephen Blackehart, was later in Super and both Guardians of the Galaxy) decide to get to Toulon by kidnapping his girl.

Lovely Ilsa: Brigitta Dau, a voice on My Little Pony in its least-popular era:

Blackehart, probably:

Second showdown, on a train this time, where everyone talks real slow to allow the puppets time to get into position. It’s all kinda underlit and non-dramatic, so DeCoteau tries tilting the camera around to build some energy. The puppets team up on one guy and Toulon punches the other out the window. As with the rest of the Puppet Master movies, it feels like they’re desperately stretching out scenes to make a contractually-obligated runtime.

In 1944 postscript, properly aged Toulon (series fave Guy Rolfe) builds anticipation for another movie by telling his puppets that he’ll tell them what happened to the original puppets “at another time” – but it would be four long years before the clip-show Puppet Master: The Legacy, a cheap and shitty move even by this series’s standards, then came the Demonic Toys faceoff, and in the 2010s a new nazi-themed trilogy began, so I guess we’ll never know.

I have mixed feelings about this one. Felt like Lynch already reclaimed Twin Peaks for himself in the final episode of the series. Sheryl Lee is great, and it’s a good movie about her increasingly troubled youth, dodging her upright boyfriend James to hang out with drug-supplying Bobby (who kills a guy in the woods), and grappling with her realization that her tormentor “Bob” is actually her father. Lynch’s heart may have been on poor Laura’s side, wanting to spend time with her while she was alive, but it comes off as a redundant prequel, full of fan-servicing cameos by the show’s cast and decisions based more on actor availability than artistic concerns.

Lynch practically writes Agent Cooper out of the show, replacing him with Chris Isaak (and wonderful sidekick Kiefer Sutherland) in a long opening segment about the disappearance of Laura’s associate Teresa Banks and her mysterious ring, but he can’t write out Laura’s best friend Donna. Lara Flynn Boyle was a superstar in 1992, appearing in Wayne’s World and Matthew Modine identical-twin thriller Equinox, so Moira Kelly (With Honors, The Cutting Edge) is the new Donna. The whole Horne family is missing too (Sherilyn Fenn was costarring with Danny Aiello in a movie about the JFK assassination from Jack Ruby’s point of view) though they’re mentioned in the deleted scenes.

Peaceful domestic scene:

Rewatched this the night Bowie died. He has a tiny role in the movie, but fits into Lynch’s netherworld perfectly. I forget some of the Twin Peaks mythology (planning to rewatch some episodes before the new one comes out), but I’m into this brigade Lynch was building of dimension-hopping special agents: Kyle, Bowie and Isaak. Re-reading a Cinema Scope article from when the deleted scenes came out, there are plenty of interesting connections to the series that I missed from not having watched it in 14 years.

Who can identify all the people in Whatever Lodge This Is? There’s Bob and MJ Anderson up front, then we’ve got papier-mache-face, cane fella, old woman, suit kid, and the fake beard brothers. According to a Twin Peaks-dedicated wiki, the old woman is Mrs. Tremond and “her intentions are unclear”.

Thanks, Wikipedia… so the red-curtained, zigzag-floored place is The Black Lodge, and that’s one-armed Mike sitting with MJ Anderson (who refers to himself as “the arm” in the film) facing Bob and Leland.

Same ending as Orlando?

Major prequelitis, all about its digi-effects and massive Henry “Hugh” Jackman score. X and Magneto are buddies, meeting a bunch more friendly mutants and trying to defeat Kevin Bacon, who starts the Cuban Missile Crisis and killed Magneto’s mom. At least Oliver Platt and Michael Fassbender were good. And at least, since it’s a male-driven comic movie, all the girls get sexy and half-naked.

Sexy J-Jones:

Sexy J-Lawrence:

Mutant Round-Up: Magneto (Fassbender), X (James McAvoy), energy-consuming, anti-psychic-helmet-creating Shaw (Bacon). Shaw’s crew: disappearing devil Azazel (Jason Flemyng, chasin’ women), diamond-fleshed psychic Frost (January Jones of Mad Men), tornado-chuckin’ Riptide (Alex Gonzalez), fire-breathing dragonfly Angel (Zoe Kravitz). X’s crew: Beast (Nicholas Hoult, Firth-stalker in A Single Man), scream/flying Banshee (Caleb Jones of Antiviral), energy-whip-shooting Havoc (Lucas Till), easily killed gill-man Darwin (Edi Gathegi of Gone Baby Gone), shapeshiftin’ Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), and their no-powers CIA contact Rose Byrne (Sunshine, Insidious).

Sexy Byrne:

Sexy Kravitz:

IMDB says Azazel and Mystique are Nightcrawler’s parents, and that Bryan Singer couldn’t be arsed to direct since he was devoting four years of his life to Jack The Giant Slayer. Vaughn later made Kingsman: The Secret Service, which I didn’t watch on the plane since they had a lousy looking, censored version.

Mighty Morphin’ Bacon in nuclear mirror room:

I liked Helen Mirren’s dragon dean.

And the hissing vampire sorority, or whatever that was.

Sometimes hard work and following your dreams just isn’t enough.

The Blue Umbrella (2013, Saschka Unseld)

A remake of Paperman using photorealistic umbrellas with cartoon faces!

Netflix Streaming has got a bunch more movies I would never pay to rent, but which I might watch for free if I was sick or something. I’m sick today, so here goes.

Prince of Persia (2010, Mike Newell)
I see ropes and swords and Lord of the Rings fire-sculptures, and holy crap is that Ben Kingsley?? Donnie Darko has a fake british accent, and he just let his girlfriend fall into the pit of hell before unleashing a crazy amount of ‘splosions and triggering a muted montage of flashback snippets. Then Donnie, who long ago became less cool than his big sister Maggie Darko, discovers that the movie was just a dream he saw in the handle of his magic dagger. All I remember from the video game is that your little man had a more human-like gait than was usual for video games, and it was incredibly hard to avoid falling into pits. As I type this, Donnie is telling a beardy fellow to “listen to your heart.” So it’s safe to say the movie isn’t much like the game, except when the girl fell into that pit.

The Men Who Stare At Goats (2009, Grant Heslov)
“Larry’s dead,” are the first words I hear… guess I won’t be seeing Kevin Spacey. Still holding out hope for Stephen Root, though. Oh wait, there’s Spacey now, wtf. Directed by an actor who played “guy in big suit” in Bug. There’s an LSD prank then all the army base’s goats and prisoners are set free. I’m not detecting much comedy in this comedy, so I guess it got dark and turned into a drama halfway through. Jeff Bridges and George Clooney escape in a chopper, Ewan provides poignant, anti-corporate-media voiceover, and it ends on a dud of a joke. Glad I didn’t sit through the rest of this.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009, Niels Oplev)
A pierced punk rock girl (a “rebellious computer hacker” according to the Netflix description) talking with her mama seems sad. Later, some blond woman is talking about being raped by her dad, cue spazzy flashback with bland music. Punk girl visits hospitalized boyfriend, drops off secret financial records, he writes an article causing a mogul to commit suicide, and punk girl steals a lot of money and escapes to a tropical paradise. Whole thing seems anticlimactic and unengaging. But I guess if The Da Vinci Code can be a huge success, so can this. Still, at least Da Vinci had a big ending (the codex is shattered! Amelie is Jesus’s daughter!) to justify all the dreary exposition. This one wasn’t even exciting enough for me to check out the last ten minutes of the sequels.

Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl (2009, Nishimura & Tomomatsu)
Dubbing!! The fakest CGI ever. Oh, this is one of those direct-to-video Japanese teen movies full of awful music where everyone wears school uniforms. It’s not even as good as Tokyo Gore Police (they share a director). “When you gave me that chocolate, I had no idea how you really felt about me” should not be one of the final lines of a movie with this title. Oh, and Vampire Girl decisively wins.

Factotum (2005, Bent Hamer)
Hooray, Lili Taylor! Long takes + poorly furnished rooms = gritty realism. Poor Charlie Bukowski is having money issues and lady issues. Matt Dillon gets life advice from “Old Black Man” (according to the credits) in the unemployment office, finally gets one of his stories published. I don’t find Dillon’s poetic voiceover very compelling. From the dude who made Kitchen Stories.

Ondine (2009, Neil Jordan)
She is telling fisherman Colin Farrell that she’s not a magical water creature, but just a girl who almost drowned while escaping from something or other. Uh oh, some fellows with pistols and strong accents. What is happening? Colin and the girl live, are getting married at the end. Jordan made a bunch of movies that always look somewhat intriguing but not quite essential.

The Day The Earth Stopped (2008, C. Thomas Howell)
If you start watching a movie ten minutes before the closing credits, the hero and villain are always in the middle of some revelatory exposition scene. All movies are the same. Should you really entrust the remake rights of The Day The Earth Stood Still to one of the teen actors from Red Dawn? Earth starts shaking (I’d hardly say it is standing still) and sepia-toned CGI versions of major world monuments (and a ferris wheel) are falling rapidly towards the camera. I was excited that Judd Nelson is in this, but I’d gotten him confused with Judge Reinhold – who is Judd Nelson? There is yelling and guns and terrible camerawork, then something really stupid happens and I guess the aliens don’t destroy Earth. Shame.

2012 (2009, Roland Emmerich)
Here’s a movie that isn’t afraid to let the world end, or to cast Oliver Platt! I don’t see world monuments crumbling, just a big Titanicky iceberg adventure (Roland must’ve had some ice left over from The Day After Tomorrow) with people yelling and swimming through tunnels to close or open portals and machinery. Oh, surviving mankind lives on arks now, and Africa turns out to be the future, or the home of the our civilization or something.

Salt (2010, Phillip Noyce)
Another movie with a third-billed Chiwetel Ejiofor, and more awful camerawork – only this time it’s awful in a big-budget extreme-cutting sense, not the give-an-idiot-a-camera awfulness of The Day The Earth Stopped. Ooh, the president is down. A. Jolie, handcuffed in FBI custody, still manages to kill Liev Schreiber, whoever he is. The backstory exposition comes a couple minutes late in this movie, then noble Chiwetel lets Jolie escape to kill again. From the writer of Equilibrium (and Ultraviolet, yuck) and director of Rabbit Proof Fence (and Sliver).

Red Dragon (2002, Brett Ratner)
Emily Watson is in a super intense burning-house scene, then a big fake explosion knocks down Ed Norton. This movie marked the end of my needing to see everything Norton was in (Keeping the Faith and The Score had already lowered expectations). Ed’s in the William Petersen role (WP’s on a cop show now). After he and Raiff Fiennes shoot each other to death, we see ol’ Hopkins (in the Brian Cox role) writing letters, and oh Ed isn’t dead actually, and it ends with a cheese-headed transition into an early scene from Silence of the Lambs. Doesn’t look bad, really, but as with all Ratner movies it is not to be taken seriously.