Archive for the ‘Satan’ Category


Now here’s a strange duck:  A hard-R horror-comedy adult cartoon feature from musician/director Rob Zombie, featuring the usual voice suspects and a couple surprise voices. The Haunted World Of El Superbeasto is a filthy, funny, deranged mess of a kitchen sink of a movie that will please a certain kind of person, ideally in a certain state of mind (if you get me), and will turn off the straight-laced. For my part, I’m just glad that something like this exists – it’s comfortable knowing that there’s a place in the world for adult animation, even if it’s not exactly my flavor.

The story, as much as I can collect it all in one column, goes a little something like this: El Superbeasto (voiced by comedian and co-writer Tom Papa) is an insanely horny luchador – somewhere between Santo and Dirk Diggler – who is the big cheese in the titular Haunted World, a geek-dream dimension where zombies and werewolves and strippers coexist in constant hysteria. As soon as El Superbeasto falls for the town’s alpha-stripper, Velvet Von Black (voiced by Rosario Dawson!), she is abducted by the misleadingly named Doctor Satan (voiced by Paul Giamatti!) and his long-suffering gorilla henchman. El Superbeasto is aided in his rescue attempt by his younger sister, Suzi X (Sheri Moon Zombie) and her hopelessly infatuated robot sidekick (Brian Posehn.) At the end of the day, this is all about high school: Doctor Satan was the school nerd, in love with the head cheerleader (Suzi X) and constantly tormented by the school bully (El Superbeasto.) Doctor Satan will have his revenge, and hump it too!

El Superbeasto is fairly described as Heavy Metal meets Ren & Stimpy (the design, pace, and much of the voicework is heavily indebted to John Kricfalusi’s surreal/absurd classic series.) It’s also probably fairly described as Rob Zombie’s most fun movie, even his best. I’m on record as saying that I root for Rob Zombie’s cinematic endeavors – he loves a lot of the same things I love (rock n’ roll, old horror movies, pretty girls, badass character actors, monsters, and mayhem) and he brings a competitive energy and enthusiasm to the horror genre – but his movies have thus far turned out unnecessarily unpleasant, even sadistic, in finished form. (Haven’t seen his Halloween 2, but that goes back to the old cliché about not wanting to put my hand back on the hot stove that burned me once before.)

El Superbeasto, thankfully, plays out differently. It has its excesses – who am I kidding? It’s ALL excess!  But there’s a sense of gleeful anarchy and a swinging swagger that permeates the whole thing and makes it never less than watchable. For me, there were two elements to elevate it:

1)      The voice work by the unconventionally wonderful movie stars Paul Giamatti and Rosario Dawson is unconventionally wonderful. If I didn’t see from the credits that they’d be featured, I might never have guessed. Is there such a thing as Method voice acting? Giamatti and Rosario are completely and unrecognizably committed to their wackadoo characters, and the results are weird and funny, truly superior voice acting.

2)      The movie features several original songs by Hard N’ Phirm, the comedy team of Chris Hardwick and Mike Phirman. The songs are by far the funniest part of the movie – they’re exactly the right tone and vibe and they smartly comment on the action and the more blatantly exploitative parts of the story. It makes certain scenes that might have been creepy to watch hilariously creepy. I’ve seen these guys do their thing before live and they’re great – it was a fun surprise to enjoy their contributions here.

So whatever it says about me, I watched the whole damn thing. I probably wouldn’t watch it again but I’m happy to have watched it once. It’s crazy in its own very specific way and I can respect that. However: If you’re the kind of person who is offended by cartoon boobs or cartoon sex, be forewarned. Stay away. It’s understandable, but you won’t want to see what happens here. As for the rest of you maniacs? Eat, drink, and be merry.


Originally written on October 10th, 2009.




Originally posted on Mapcidy:


“I’m Jack Abramoff, and oh yeah – I work out every day.” That’s a line that opens and closes Casino Jack, and it sets the right tone fairly handily. The movie was written by Norman Snider and directed by George Hickenlooper, a documentarian and filmmaker (his Mayor Of The Sunset Strip is highly recommended) who unfortunately passed away about a month before Casino Jack was released. Tone is extremely important in a movie like this one, and the brisk, sardonic tone that carries Casino Jack turns out to be a good fit.


It seems hard to believe, but so much of what happens in this movie is drawn from real life. Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist and favor trader who was convicted of fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion in 2006 (and is now out of prison as of this month) is very real, and even the most stubborn Fox News correspondent couldn’t argue that his deeds weren’t criminal. So there isn’t much that needs to be invented for an astounding, infuriating story to unfold here, but the tone needs to be framed properly.


Before I saw Hickenlooper’s Casino Jack, I saw Alex Gibney’s documentary on the same subject, Casino Jack & The United States Of Money. That one was informative and thorough, but dry. A feature film has an obligation to be just a little more fun. Hickenlooper relies on his experience in documentaries to keep the facts straight, but also has some fun with the tongue-in-cheek, Goodfellas-esque unreliable narration from its title character, and the often-moronic misdeeds of his business partners and cohorts. Even fictionalized, this story is no less damning to its participants.


You never want to judge other human beings too harshly, but by any moral and legal standard, these people are despicable:  hypocrites, liars, and disenfranchisers. Casino Jack never loses sight of that fact, even as it allows its cast all the best chances to be entertaining, even charming. Kevin Spacey, as Jack Abramoff, the charismatic political mover and defrauder, hasn’t been this fun to watch in quite some time. As his sidekick and protégée, Mike Scanlon, the perennially underrated Barry Pepper is oily and gross and even more off-putting than he is as Lucky Ned in this month’s True Grit, but he’s also terrific as always. In an inspired bit of stunt-casting, SNL comedian Jon Lovitz shows up as Abramoff’s East Coast associate, the mob-connected mattress salesman, Adam Kidan, and he’s a total joy. Having Lovitz play a key role in a biopic pushes the boundaries of reality almost into farce, but it’s fun to see him again and after all, this story is almost too crazy to be true in reality, so the movie has some leeway to follow suit.


It helps that Kelly Preston works hard to make her role as Abramoff’s wife Pam function as the human heart of the movie. It’s hard to find much sympathy for the marauders that the movie centers around, so it’s important to have the nearly-forgotten people (and victims) on the periphery register as real, relatable, and genuinely wounded. Kelly Preston’s role is to remind the audience of the emotional and financial havoc that these men wreaked, both out on the streets and at home. The fact is, for what these guys did on a daily basis, for the harm they caused, they got off easy. It’s not too late for the rest of us to remember to not let them forget it.


If you’re interested, Alex Gibney’s documentary of the same name is also very worth watching: