Saturday, January 30, 2010

Movie Review - The Asylum

God bless The Asylum, for how would I be able to get my shitty movie fix. With The Asylum, I'm guaranteed to see a quality shitty movie--with casting choices that make me feel like it's the late '80s all over again.

For those not in the know, The Asylum is a film production studio and distributor with such popular releases as "Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus" and "Transmorphers." Their films are generally low budget, special effects heavy, straight-to-DVD affairs. Critics have mockingly labeled their films as "mockbusters" in the way that they often play off of major theatrical releases' titles and how their film releases generally precede or coincide with those aforementioned major releases. However this label is largely unfair to The Asylum as their films often bare only passing resemblances to the films that their titles parody. Furthermore, some of their films have proven to be remarkably resilient to reviews, offering insightful social commentary as well as modern interpretations of classic novels.

For example, there is "The 18 Year Old Virgin" starring Olivia Alaina May. Clearly the title is a take on Judd Apatow's "40-Year-Old Virgin" but what you'll find is a movie more akin to "Can't Hardly Wait" or the American Pie series. Sure, it's still full of sophomoric sex jokes and sex myths (let's face it, so was "The 40-Year-Old Virgin) but it's also about teenage awkwardness and young people searching for their first love.

"Transmorphers" (and it's sequel "Transmorphers: The Fall of Man") deemed a "Transformers" rip-off, actually shares more of it's plotline with the Terminator film series. Yes, there are transforming (or transmorphing, depending on which studio you talk to) alien robots, but that is pretty much where the comparisons end. The movie also boasts some remarkably entertaining CG effects work as well as several predictable but surprising plot twists. The plot for both the first and second movies are also arguably tighter than either of Michael Bay's blockbuster offerings.

"Mega Shark versus Giant Octopus," a more or less generic monster movie, received a great deal of buzz owing to it's viral trailer revealing a giant prehistoric shark leaping out of the ocean to bite an airliner in half. Sadly, while that was the highlight of the movie and though it was critically derided, it is noteworthy to point out a rather positive and nonchalant depiction of the interracial relationship between Debbie Gibson's (yes, that Debbie Gibson) character, Emma, and Asian-American actor Vic Chao's Seiji. The two characters are brought together by a confluence of events, hit it off, and end up knocking the boots, all before the midway point of the movie. And the best thing is that none of the other characters express any disdain for the relationship. (SPOILER ALERT) And just when you think The Asylum is going to pull a classic Hollywood stunt and kill off Seiji, they pull another typical Hollywood stunt and bring him back. American race relations may still have a long row to hoe, but The Asylum has just made it a little shorter. (END SPOILER)

Compared to Roland Emmerich's special effects disaster orgy, "2012 Doomsday" has a lot more heart, and faith. Released under The Asylum's Faith Films label, and starring Cliff De Young, Dale Midkiff, and '80s princess and Micky Dolenz daughter, Ami Dolenz, the movie explores common faith-based questions in the face of world annihilation. Coping with the destruction becomes a religious exercise as families searching for answers have their love and devotion tested, only to be rewarded with miracles when they hold true to their faith.

"30,000 Leagues Under the Sea" starring "Renegade"'s Lorenzo Llamas (who also starred in "Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus"), while not attached to any major Hollywood release, puts a twist on the classic Jules Verne novel with Captain Nemo as a scientist ruling over a completely rebuilt and technologically advanced underwater city of Atlantis. And "The Land That Time Forgot," while released near the Will Ferrell vehicle, "The Land of the Lost," has more in common with its source material than does the latter. With a modernized take on the novel, the C. Thomas Howell (he also starred) helmed film takes a modernized approach to Edgar Rice Burroughs work, with mostly positive results.

So The Asylum is much more than a studio trying to capitalize off of Hollywood blockbusters. Their titles are really about getting their foot in the door, rather than flat imitation. The content of their films manages to exceed the expectations of most low budget, B-grade films. One should (or would) never confuse them with the largely more popular films they appear to be named after, but give them a chance, and you'll most likely come away with something to smile about.

The Asylum Homepage

1 comment:

  1. In Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus I found the interracial relationship part of it the most unbelievable...That and Vic Chao's accent. Was he trying to channel George Takei?