Friday, 4 December 2015

Movie Review: Superfast (& Superfurious)/Dinosaur Island (2015)
It is a common thesis that the collective idea of Hell that is eternal flames may not be the case. More likely, we all craft our realms of Hell based on that which we most despise. Well, if that does end up being the case when I ultimately shift this mortal coil, I and all other devotees of cinema will be stuck in a cramped and humid theatre forever watching the ceaseless torment that is the complete works of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. Otherwise known as the infamous duo behind the ____ Movies (Date Movie, Epic Movie, Disaster Movie, etc.), these are often in the discussion for the worst filmmakers of all time and with very good reason. Their own special brand of ‘parody’ consists of time capsule pop culture references that make sure that they become outdated even as they are being filmed, as well as teenage pandering with M-rated fanservice and low-brow gags. Actually, I take that last one back, because referring to these hacks as being “low-brow” would diminish the work of people like Trey Parker and Matt Stone who make low-brow jokes that are actually fucking funny! Good God, I am looking forward to this like the prospect of actually going to Hell, only without the sense of theological confirmation that would come with it. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here: This is Superfast! (& Superfurious).

The plot: Lucas White (Alex Ashbaugh) is an undercover cop who is tasked to infiltrate the team of street racer Vin Serento (Dale Pavinski) in order to get closer to kingpin Juan Carlos De La Sol (Omar Chaparro). After a transport operation for one of De La Sol’s cars doesn’t go according to plan, Vin and his crew decide to rob a vault full of De La Sol’s money, all the while being tracked down by Detective Rock Johnson (Dio Johnson).

As much as I have shown my affinity for the Fast And Furious films, even I can see that the tropes of the series are ripe for being made fun of: The softcore car porn, the softcore actual porn, the obnoxious machismo that brings forward certain… implications; much like the big blockbusters that Seltzerberg have taken to making fun of, it’s like shooting the broad side of a door. They get a few of the points right, like how little the films really understand about street racing culture or how obvious some of the characters can get, namely how conspicuous Brian O’Connor is, but it never reaches the point of being funny. This is a seriously weird state for any comedy to be in: For as many obvious jokes that it misses, it manages to hit a few but never gets a laugh in the process. Even with how bad their sense of humour often is, the writing here at least is a lot more focused than their previous efforts with in terms of shoe-horned in celebrity impersonators and parodies of films that have nothing to do with the main target. Of course, they run into the same old problem that has plagued not only every one of their productions but also those of the Seltzerberg clones that exist out there: No straight man in sight.

No, that isn’t a back-handed comment about how camp the performances can get although, don’t get me wrong, the actors aren’t helping. Ashbaugh keeps mistaking doing a surfer dude voice, the Elvis lip and never closing his mouth for a single goddamn second as being funny, Chaparro shows how to act over-the-top and not be engaging, and Daniel Booko as Curtis (the parody of Toretto’s former right-hand man in the first film) is just obnoxious. What I mean by ‘no straight man’ is that everyone mugs and constantly act like they are in a comedy. Yeah, that might sound like the obvious thing to do but, for a spoof film, it is the completely wrong approach. What made the works of Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker and Mel Brooks work as well as they did was that, for as much goofy crap kept happening around them, the actors in those films took it dead seriously. They didn’t constantly wink at the audience that they knew what they were doing was stupid; they treated it like it was an actual film and not something meant to make fun of other films. Since this style of comedy died a slow and painful as a result of works like Spy Hard and Scary Movie (BOTH written by Seltzerberg), it has since been replaced by constant mugging and unnatural dialogue that, in the least subtle fashion, will occasionally just bring up plot holes about the films being made fun of. It’s about as sharp as a baby-proofed bag of wet hair.

None of this is aided by how, especially since they started going straight-to-DVD, their production values have taken the steepest decline imaginable. The green-screening is horrific during the driving scenes, the stunts in which are surprisingly lame considering this is meant to parody one of the most extravagant action franchises of the day. Dragging an entire taco shop on chains down the street is a decent attempt but it lands with as dull a thud as the rest of the jokes in this thing. I mean, this film was released to coincide with Fast & Furious 7, where the Toretto gang drove out of an airplane to take down an armoured, machine turret-equipped convoy; you need to try harder than that to make your point about how overblown it’s gotten lately. Also, the sound design is quite possibly some of the worst that I’ve heard all year. When it isn’t egregiously using what are quite obviously stock sound effects ad nauseum, the sound balance is so off that actors will inexplicably be talking at twice the volume of everyone else in the scene, only by accident and not out of just shouting at random as one might expect. None of this is even excusable by means of a low budget as, on $20 million, they should be able to provide better technical qualities than The Quarantine Hauntings.

All in all… is this even worth summarizing? I mean, seriously? It’s a fucking Friedberg and Seltzer movie; as much as I try to give the benefit of the doubt, there was absolutely no chance of this being good, or even watchable for that matter. It carries all the hallmarks of their non-caring and appallingly blind sense of aim when it comes to jokes, and goes to show that just because it’s slightly more focused doesn’t mean that it’s any better than their previous output. Thankfully, this is a DVD-only release, so I don’t even need to dignify it as one of the worst films of the year. It’s worse than Miss You Already since, even with how its comedy ended up hurting the film in the long run, it actually made me laugh; far more than this film can ever claim to do. However, I went into this expecting utter dreck and got just that. Considering how I am still baffled by just how bad Fantastic Four turned out, it ranks just above that.


As I go through the archives and go after the films that slipped my grasp when they were first released, I find myself asking the big question about why certain films were released in the first place. Those supposed-to-be straight-to-DVD Tinker Bellmovies? Pointless, but I can chalk that up to Disney probably owning at least half of my country by now. That awesomely awful Hitman film? Gamers make up a bigger percentage of the audience than most people think. The Quarantine Hauntings? Local productions always get proper releases because critics are afraid of saying that anything Aussie is bad. This time around, however, I am completely lost for an answer; not even that last one justifies this. I’ve seen actual straight-to-TV productions get cinema time at my local (which I don’t review because life’s too short), so I know that the bar for entertainment specialized for kids isn’t that high. I never realized until today’s film exactly how low that bar really was. Brace yourselves for the bottom-of-the-barrel that is Dinosaur Island.

The plot: After some unexpected turbulence on a plane trip to see his father, Lucas (Darius Williams) ends up stranded on a remote island, one where dinosaurs still roam the land. With the help of 1950’s palaeontologist Kate (Kate Rasmussen) he hopes to make it off of the island and back home before he becomes lunch.

The acting is similar to that found in most made-on-the-cheap children’s television. Williams has all of one mode, being surprised at everything, Rasmussen’s British accent is the kind of over-exaggeration that would make even Dick Van Dyke cry foul, Nicole Yardley is badly dubbed to the point of making me think of the likewise bizarre ADR from Twilight Of The Ice Nymphs, and Pat Drummond as Lucas’ teacher is every single stereotypical “this is most unorthodox” school teacher you’ve ever seen, right down to being unnecessarily mean to the children he’s teaching. I’m sure there’s more than a bit of hypocrisy in me complaining about someone else doing that but, then again, I’m not the one getting paid to do it.

The story, admittedly, has some nice ideas behind it; that being of the time-displaced island full of dinosaurs that, seemingly at random, gets planes and ships coming in from various time periods. In the right hands, this could’ve been amazing. They could’ve had a Space Marine team up with an Amazon and a Neanderthal to fight dinosaurs, along with so many other things that would fire up the imagination of the kids who would be the only ones watching it. However, even for a film that is roughly 75 minutes long, it seems more content to fill up its running time with padding and, whenever they do get into some interesting notions concerning the island like the native tribe that inhabits it, it just whizzes past them in favour of showing off more dinosaur effects. Hell, they could’ve gotten some jokes out of how apparently the only adult in that tribe is also the only one locked in a cage, but somehow didn’t. The writing hardly helps matters, as this is pure grade-F spoilt army rations if I ever heard it; you know, the kind of dialogue you would only use if it was a matter of life or death, and even then it’s so nasty that you’d most likely wish for the latter. How bad is it? “I have a theory that we are in a place between places.” Yes, that is an actual quote from the film; if you are capable of making Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull sound better by comparison, chances are you should have given writing duties to literally anyone else. It’s either spouting off scientific information on the dinosaurs and/or rock formations, sometimes doing it so fast that I don’t even understand half of it, or ‘banter’ that is so badly developed that I’d swear that they weren’t even written down in the first place and just improvised on set.

While the designs for the dinosaurs themselves are perfectly fine, and I’ll even admit that the forest full of plants with eyes is legitimately kind of creepy, the effects work for them is hazardous to your ocular health. Whether the weird proportions, the stiff movements or the horrible integration with the live-action footage, this is just about the cheapest I’ve seen in a while. This is dangerously close to Pan levels of cheap, it’s that horrendous. And let’s not forget the scene which features Lucas and Kate actually riding one of the dinosaurs, which somehow looks worse than most green-screened YouTube shows that I’ve seen.

However, in order to understand why all of this really doesn’t bother me, I need to discuss the idea of ‘mockbusters’. Mockbusters are films that are essentially made just so that they can cash in on a popular film that’s out at the time. This is usually done by coming up with a name that is just close enough to sounding like the original film, but not to the point of incurring a lawsuit. That way, the less informed people getting rentals from their local video shop (the few that exist, anyway) might possibly kind of be fooled into thinking they’ve gotten the official film and not a rip-off. Maybe. The Asylum, a studio I’ve mentioned on this blog before, are the frontrunners of this trend with works like Transmorphers, The Da Vinci Treasure and Avengers Grimm under its belt. Given the recent release of Jurassic World, and the fact this film actually came out first in February (a pattern followed by some of the more unfortunate mockbusters), this film becomes rather hilarious when looked at as a mockbuster of the Jurassic Park franchise. As a bit of unintentional comedy, which works especially well when put directly in comparison with those films and their pioneering effects work, this almost reaches good from the opposite side. I say “almost” because, for as many hilariously bad pieces of dialogue that are made, there isn’t really any character worth latching onto for the duration nor enough engaging set pieces (legitimately or not) to really make this work even in that capacity. It’s more boring than anything else which, for a film that features a prehistoric bird that sounds like R2D2 and crystals that repeat the audio recording of Neil Armstrong landing on the moon, is the biggest surprise about this entire production.

All in all, this is horrendous but at least it’s a potentially entertaining kind of horrendous. The acting, writing, effects and overall production values are like something that should be condemned to the lower levels of straight-to-DVD release purgatory. It’s quite horrible but, with the right mindset, it is also hilarious; yet another addition to the list of films reserved for those who actively like making fun of the films they watch. It’s worse than Miss You Already as, even if the comedy ended up hurting the overall product, it was at least intentional. However, despite how cheap this looks, at least some effort was made, which means that it did more than Superfast & Superfurious ever could.

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