61 Days of Halloween- Satan’s Little Helper

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Satan’s Little Helper

Alexander Brickel in Satan's Little Helper (American World Pictures)

This is the kind of film that best illustrates the dangers of Netflix instant streaming (Not currently available on Netflix instant). You scroll over to it and click on it thinking “Oh, maybe this will be so bad it’s funny.” Then you start watching it and realize you’re in trouble. It’s just bad and it’s like a car wreck you may want to stop looking but you can’t and sadly I sat through this whole thing if only to warn others so that they may avoid the same fate.

Perhaps the first thing that needs to be stated is that it just may be that Douglas “Dougie” Whooly is the dumbest character in the history of cinema. In this film this supposedly nine-year-old kid walks about obliviously as the Devil himself kills people and he thinks it’s all pretend, a set-up. As if that isn’t bad enough when he finally does get wise to what’s really happening he still makes stupid mistakes, which leads us to our terrible and predictable ending which include two whole lines spoken over a black screen.

The dialogue is absolutely atrocious in this film from the incessant repetition of “That looks so real!” as Dougie is witness and accessory to another murder to the overly frank conversations about how Dougie still wants to marry his sister and the jokes about big sister’s “boomies.”

The score is completely unoriginal and the opening piece in this film sounds like the rendition of “Dies Irae,” which was in The Shining.

There is also bad animation in this film. I mean really bad. I mean like animation that makes Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist looks like MC Escher. As if that wasn’t bad enough we’re supposed to think this animation is a video game. A video game called “Satan’s Little Helper,” oh that’s the title, I get it!

However, this film is also educational. There is so much you can learn like how many times can you get your head slammed into a brick wall and not die and how many points is bowling over and elderly woman with a shopping cart worth.

Also, if your passion lies in prosthetic work you should watch this film to learn how not to make fake guts because this film has perhaps the worst example ever filmed.

As if it wasn’t made clear already that the concept is downright terrible but there is also a few logic flaws. The biggest of which being that everyone on this island both knows how many cops there are in the local PD and that they’re all dead.

About the only positive thing I can say in this film’s favor is that it is good for the occasional laugh, some of which are actually by design that and the mask the Devil wears. All that, however, does not excuse the terrible quality of this film.

I’ve seen some bad movies that looked pretty good. Films where the cinematography at least kept me interested. No risk of that happening here because it video and poorly shot video. The kind of video that shows you why it’s still film’s weak sister.

The cherry on top is that there’s a nice little touch of blasphemy too. I will spare you the details as all that precedes this should be enough to steer you clear. If curiosity gets the best of you, godspeed and get well soon.


Review- Rio

Rio (20th Century Fox)

For any viewer, regardless of your experience, academic acumen or whatever other qualifications you may have, there will invariably be occasions where a film plays into a sensitive area for you where it’ll either excel with flying colors or fail miserably, perhaps to a greater degree than it would otherwise, due to your personal experience. In the case of Rio it was targeted on my radar early on for two reasons: first, and the lesser of the two reasons, for my love of birds and conversely my loathing of smuggling but it hit home more because it’s set in Brazil, a nation of which I am a dual citizen.

Having been one who grew up cinematically with only Carmen Miranda and the anti-Lambada propaganda film The Forbidden Dance as major reference of American interpretations of Brazil onscreen my apprehension is understandable. Not that there’s anything wrong with Carmen Miranda but any icon can be turned into a stereotype in the wrong hands.

Suffice it to say that most of my concerns are addressed by the fact that one of the film’s writers and its director is a Brazilian, Carlos Saldanha. Yet, you also do not get a Disney-fied Saludos Amigos or Three Cabelleros rendition of Latin America, you have in the narrative of this film a setting which actually plays a role, which is rare but also one that is presented without frills and bereft of commentary. You see the glitz and glamor of Rio, the natural beauty, the beach life, the skyline at night, carnaval but also the favelas and in a minor way, crime. It’s a subtle but accurate portrait that doesn’t impose itself above the story. It shows the good and the bad. So with that personal concern overcome I can begin to address the rest of the film.

When dealing with animation set overseas there are invariably headaches of logic. There’s always the minor bugaboo of when do you float a word in said foreign language that English speakers will readily recognize? How many Brazilians and/or actors of Hispanic descent do you include in the cast? Now, there’s only one Brazilian in the principal cast, however, considering that many Brazilian actors have recently been cast as either Hispanic or “Vaguely Foreign” characters (such as Rodrigo Santoro himself in Love Actually) it all comes out in the wash.

In fact, quite a lot the voice talent does quite well either toeing that line or just being convincing that it makes you forget. Jesse Eiesenberg conveys the stressed, caged bird in the wild well and also has the unexpected task of struggling/learning to embrace his newfound culture. Anne Hathaway, perhaps more than any other name actor in the cast, vanishes behind the veneer of her character. Thankfully she is given license to sing and the few seconds of Portuguese she’s asked to speak sounds good.

The rest of the voice cast does rather well as a whole also. One of the most distinctive and hardest voices to overcome is George Lopez’s but his shtick with his wife is funny enough such that you eventually forget. While Tracy Morgan always sounds like himself it works in tandem with his character so well that it doesn’t matter. Will i. am provides the most consistent comic relief and perhaps the most overlooked voice work belongs to Jake T. Austin, perhaps best known for his work on Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place, he convincingly comes across as not only a Brazilian kid but also one who’s younger than he is.

The story of this film resolves itself quite neatly. It gets just the right amount of complication what with the smuggling plots getting aided with a scene-stealing performance by a Cockatoo (Jemaine Clement, who thankfully is also allowed to sing). Events head for the collision course you hope they’ll have and while there are dueling love plots and a heist everything thing has its proper priority within the infrastructure of the narrative. There’s more going on here than meets the eye with many of the villains not willing to do their own dirty work, such that you can see how it may be described as a mess but it truly does all work towards one end.

And that end is truly one of the more graceful and visual I’ve seen in some time. You realize the film is all but over and there are at least three questions/open ends you’re wondering about that are addressed in a few shots and wordlessly, without any lengthy denouement. It’s a thing of beauty of behold.

Moreover, it’s a musical that’s actually musical, meaning there are a few musical numbers where characters breakout and sing but not once does it seem random and forced. The score is tremendous and very present and when it’s not there it’s replaced by source music, which is usually a new take on a Brazilian standard. It’s another example of the synergy of location. The score is indigenous without feeling forced or trite. Even incorporating Samba beats the score and source music still underscores the action tonally.

I typically leave the 3D commentary for near the end when I do see something in 3D. I did see it as such and my general feeling is that right now animation, specifically animation by the biggest studios (Disney/Pixar, DreamWorks, Fox/Blue Sky) is usually your best bet for getting the most bang for your buck 3D-wise.

The animated feature film has become more of a box office and aesthetic presence than it ever was. It has truly grown in leaps and bounds over the history of cinema as something that was virtually a one-studio specialty to a medium that has become, at long last, a bona fide Oscar category. Having said that the category has been virtually monopolized. It’ll be very hard to justify that this year with Rio entering the fray I think.

As I may have said before, I now treat sitting through the end credits like a standing ovation. Considering the fact that I was so apprehensive about seeing it in the first place, I truly did not expect to watch this film all the way to its literal conclusion. Rio is a tremendously effervescent film that actually manages to capture some of the spirit of the city in a very honest way.