Gems in Cyberspace: Shitcase Cinema

Many of you who read this blog are probably fans of cinema, storytelling, and overall good entertainment. Some of you may also be into laughing at really bad entertainment.

Enter Shitcase Cinema, a YouTube channel that is run by two British guys that does tongue-in-cheek reviews of some of the worst low budget D-Movies ever created.

Johnny Shitcase, as he calls himself, typically reviews a bad movie by telling us just how awful it is. Everything from plot holes to bad CGI to non-sense dialogue to excessively bad acting are fodder for Johnny’s cannon here. His sidekick, Professor Bruce, shows up some episodes here and there. In some of the earlier episodes Professor Bruce allows Johnny to transport through time, but more recently he’s been offering some dry comedy to Johnny’s over-the-top criticisms.

The cast seems to continue to grow as Johnny and Bruce’s friends get into the mix. Most shows now just don’t have reviews but full-on campy skits featuring Johnny and his buds adding their own low-budget craft in mocking these films.

There are a few key things to understanding Shitcase Cinema though:

  • a mustache is always a sign of a villain, so much so that Johnny often compliments a good ‘tache
  • Zardoz is the ultimate force in the universe
  • Beer does not get in the way of anything
  • scream “I am the Ultimate Ninja” and your life will improve
  • If you have a friend named Susan, you’ll learn how to properly say her name
  • Top Gun is way overrated
  • Nicholas Cage is perhaps the worst A-List actor in history
  • Johnny has a mancrush on Kurt “Fuckin'” Russell

Oh, and the theme song is pretty catchy after watching a few episodes.

This is not for everyone. Unless you have a really good handle on pop cinema from the 70s through the 90s many of the references will go over your head. That being said, you can still enjoy the show just for listening to Johnny’s amazement at how some of the trash he watches actually ever got made.

Key episodes to watch are embedded below. 
Check out all of Shitcase Cinema on their YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/shitcasecinema
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The Infamous Zardoz Review

Tales From the Hood

Grim Weekend – “SUSAN!”

Big Trouble In Little China – “I can hap you”

Clash of the Criminals

Troll 2 – “Oh My Godddddd!”

Anchorman 2 – A Long Awaited Comedy Sequel

It’s been a long time since Anchorman – perhaps Will Ferrell‘s best film to date – made audiences hysterical with laughter. Now, it appears a sequel has finally been put into motion.

Yes, the film that had people saying “scotch, scotch, scotch … I love scotch”, made the ‘tache fashionable again garnered an appreciation for leather-bound books will have a follow up. The announcement was made in late March on Conan.

Most of the cast will be returning for the sequel but what exactly is the plot of this movie? In an interview with salon.com, director and co-writer of the original Andy McKay didn’t reveal much, but from reading it you can get an idea of where the story might be going.

However, the phrase “custody-battle” was used, and so was “bowling for dollars” … so take that for what it’s worth.

So, we’ll have to wait and see as more comes out about Anchorman 2 which is slated to be released in 2013. It will probably be the most anticipated comedy sequel since The Hangover 2, and that’s saying something.

What makes a good villain?

Villains come in all different forms in the world of storytelling. From the small antagonist who is simply annoying, the an all-dominating force that looks to destroy the universe, the bad guys in our favorite works of fiction can be measured by how much you, the audience, at some point say to yourself “get that jerk!”.

Now, we’re talking about villains here not anti-heroes. Villains are characters (most rational people) don’t want to cheer for. There’s a part of us that does indulge in the apparent freedom really vicious villains have in being able to do what they want, and that often comes from the author making “protagonists” who are actually annoying (see: Friday the 13th films). Anti-heroes are good guys fighting for a just cause but doing it in a vicious way. Villains are remorseless characters who, for whatever reason, take cruelty to a level that is most often unforgivable.

Probably one of the most recent and widely recognized villain of recent times is Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter series. In the books, Voldemort was a mystery for the first three volumes until his grand appearance in full-form near the end of The Goblet of Fire. When he does finally manifest, he goes on a tirade that doesn’t much leave room for you feeling this is a cool bad guy. Tom Riddle, as he is known in some circles, displayed every bit of the attitude of a bully, a sadist and a megalomaniac.

Lord Voldemort

The portrayal in the films was just as haunting. Gone were the reptile-like eyes, but Ralph Fiennes‘ performance of the dark lord was rather unsettling. I remember (at the time not a big fan of Harry Potter) seeing the first scene in GOF and getting an uneasy feeling watching Voldemort so ravenously torture Harry – a fourteen-year-old boy – and relishing every second of it. Overall, whether in the books or the films, there’s something about a grown man wanting to murder an adolescent that is unnerving on so many levels. It makes Voldemort one of the better villains in recent pop culture.

I ate his liver with some fava beans, and a nice Ciante.

Then we have the cold, calculated villain in Hannibal Lecter. A minor character in most of the books (until Hannibal), Lecter was a creepy inmate on the page who showed a vastly superior intelligence to the FBI agents trying to glean insight from him.

Hannibal’s on-screen persona, as expertly crafted by Sir Anthony Hopkins in three films, took it to a whole different level. You really want to like Hannibal, which makes him all the more sinister as a bad guy. It’s his charm and wit that lets him in, and once he’s in, you’re in trouble. What’s most disarming about Lecter is that he demands politeness and courtesy, and to deny him that would certainly be the first nail in your coffin, however engaging with him politely allows him to plant the first seed in your mind of a weed that will have you questioning everything you are.

I was going to keep Darth Vader off this list, but having recently watched The Empire Strikes Back for the first time in years recently, I left compelled to include him. In the original trilogy, especially in Empire, Vader is a dominating force that relentlessly hunts down our heroes, all in an attempt to lure young Luke Skywalker into a trap, for what purposes at the time we could only guess (until the end of course!).

The Imperial March that played every time he stormed onto the screen, and the camera would pan up from the black boots and the bottom of his long cape, up to the soulless mask and dark helmet made anyone under the age of twelve recoil in fear. In Empire, you get the sense that the heroes really got lucky in the first film, and now were going to get their butts handed to them by the Vader-lead Imperial forces. And the fact that Vader was subservient to someone called The Emperor just made you shudder to think that there was someone worse than him!

God is in, His Holy Temple. Earthly thoughts, be silent now

Okay, that creeped me out just typing it. Who could forget Henry Kane, the scary preacher-ghost from Poltergeist 2? The film would have been laughable if not for Kane, as it was a lesser-quality film to the original by leaps and bounds.

Correction, the film would have been laughable if it were not for the performance of Julian Beck. Whoever played Kane in Poltergeist 3 is forgettable (I don’t remember his name and care not to look it up). Beck’s scene at the doorstep of the Freeling’s grandmother’s house, where he has a strangely engaging conversation with Steve Freeling has to be one of the more memorable, and skin crawling, monologues ever. There’s something genuine in Beck’s mannerisms and his southern preacher accent that strikes to something familiar in all of us.

Julian Beck as Henry Kane

Add to that the unfortunate poor health Beck was in, being only months from death sadly enough. He looked like a walking skeleton with a thin layer of flesh hugging his bones. Those eyes and those teeth just rounded out the look. In fact, I’m getting scared just writing this so I think I’ll move on.

We’ll go from the creepy to the unknown. Unheralded as a real villain, but effective nonetheless, are forces that are beyond our control. In the 90s there were a great number of disaster films from Deep Impact to Armageddon that gave us the faceless fear. There’s something about forces of nature that we can’t control or fight with our fists that make these man vs. nature stories come to life.

On the other side are monsters, and recently the best movie screen monster I can remember is the alien menace in Cloverfield. Half of the movie was spent with you wondering “what is that” because of the clever way in which the film was shot. They only gave glimpses of the creature, sometimes through “news” footage, sometimes in passing shots behind a building. The moment I knew the monster worked well was when the main cast is running into the subway amidst rocket fire and explosions, and we get a brief camera pan upwards towards the creature and see some 90-foot-tall thing screeching just before we go to black. Not much is still known about the Cloverfield monster, and unless there is a sequel, we won’t know much more.

Cloverfield

There are so many more. Bullies like Kahn from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn and Sho’ Nuff from The Last Dragon, to monsters like Freddy Kruger and Michael Meyers, to forces of nature like volcanoes and the End of the World, villains – when done well – make you fear them and more importantly make you hero have something worth overcoming.

A Look Back at the Lionsgate Slasher Porn Era

In the early 2000’s, the genre of horror fiction in cinema had reached a down point. The films of the time, what few there were, lacked for any real scares and even worse any real quality. Coming out of the “smart horror” era of films like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, the entire genre had fallen into a myriad of poorly made copy-cat films. Anything really edgy or horrifying was left for the b-movie shelf of video stores.

Briefly, The Blair Witch Project had brought scares back into the theaters, but with half the public denouncing it as a gimmick, that style of horror film was quickly shunted off to the side as being a one trick pony.

Enter Lionsgate Films.

Capt Spaulding

The studio that was famous early on for such hits like American Psycho, Fahrenheit 9/11, and a myriad of Tyler Perry movies, also brought back to the cinema extreme horror. Lionsgate was known for releasing independent films and movies that were controversial that other studios wouldn’t release. One of the first of these films was House of 1000 Corpses, a small horror movie created by rocker Rob Zombie as his first feature film.

Corpses had been shot over a year before it’s release and most studios wouldn’t put it out because it was deemed “too extreme” or “too gory”. The internet helped fuel the myth of Corpses until it’s promotion was entirely hinged on it being the most extreme horror movie ever. While it wasn’t anywhere near the most extreme horror film ever, for it’s time, it was certainly different. It was a return to the Last House on the Left/Texas Chainsaw Massacre kind of 70s splatter horror where the young people in the film weren’t smarter than the villains as was all the rage in the 90s. Corpses let you know in a tongue-in-cheek way that you’re entering the world of the bad guys, and they are the center of the story. With memorable characters like Capt. Spaulding, Baby and Otis – the dark carnival way in which the film was shot and the set pieces – and the freak show of situations and characters that populated the screen, Zombie’s film did as much to entertain as it did disturb.

I remember leaving the theater thinking that I had not seen the greatest horror film of all time, but I had seen something decidedly different than the very by-numbers “supernatural thrillers” or “smart-ass horror” films I had been subjected to for the prior ten years.

A trailer that appeared before the film was for another early Lionsgate release called Cabin Fever. It was Eli Roth’s first splash into mainstream cinema and the movie was also delayed in its release. This was a film full of young people, full of gross set pieces, and filled to the brim with more tongue-in-cheek comedy, even right down the last part of the film which at first seemed unsettling but turned into one of the better set up jokes of the decade.

Saw Movie Poster

Then we hit 2004 and the genre really starts to take off. The film that really made the mark for the era was released that November, a small picture known as Saw, which again at the time was nothing of great fan fare. However, after viewing it the first time, I thought the film was an engaging “who dunnit” story with some really sick scenes that made me cringe, but also had me guessing why this was all going on. The ending surprised me (as it did most people, even though some claim to have saw it coming, I have no idea how anyone could), and solidified in my mind that we were in fact in a new era of horror cinema.

What Saw managed to do was merge the slick style of the 90s smart-ass horror genre, mix it with the mystery of a film like Seven, tack on some disturbingly inventive gore and make an experience that was both gross and engrossing at the same time. It did it so well that the series went on to have seven films in total.

The sequels were hit or miss as a whole. Although, the series did do a good job of letting you think there was always much more to the story. Each film kept upping the ante and increasing the questions. Who is she? What does that mean? What happened to Dr. Gordon? Who’s working with Jigsaw?

In fact, the puzzles around Saw became just as much a part of the experience as the traps in the films. Unfortunately, the resolution to these films was less satisfying than we would have hoped. The threads ultimately didn’t tie all together, and there were many questions left unanswered. This is mainly because of the changing crew behind the camera. James Wan and Leigh Whannell made the original Saw, while Saw 2 through 4 were the work of Darren Lynn Bousman who did (in my opinion) a great job of not simply repeating the same formula but changing it up. The fact that in the second film Jigsaw is captured, yet the traps still go on … and in the third he dies at the end, yet that’s still not the end of the story, made you keep wondering “where are they going with this?”.

During this same time, Zombie returned with The Devil’s Rejects, a much improved follow up to House of 1000 Corpses. Rejects brought back the same characters (although not all the same actors) and abandoned the dark carnival feel of the first film and went for a more gritty, true 70s dirty road horror film feel. Everything in this film seems filthy, and more realistic. You can almost imagine that Corpses was through the view of a bunch of kids who were drugged up while Rejects was the sober, grimy reality of the next day.

Hostel dvd image

Eli Roth also came back with probably the gross-out high point of this era. Hostel truly disturbed me. It worked on xenophobia and a bit of stereotyping towards Eastern Europe – the old country that was known for dark castles and torture devices. There are so many great things about the original Hostel that not only work visually but also work as subtext. The kid who would be the hero in any other horror film is killed halfway through the film which made you immediately feel that anything can happen. Some truly twisted scenarios happen in the last half of this film, along with Roth’s usual demented humor (the street gang of ten-year-olds who want bubble gum is particularly funny). At one point, I actually remember saying “I can’t believe it, there’s a movie that’s made me go ‘enough’!”. The film plays on a weird mix of torture and sex and submission rolled into something that was unique and lasting. The sequel didn’t quite live up to the original but it certainly made it’s mark.

Many other films came out during this time, including The Descent and Turistas. The slasher porn style even found its way into other cinema from action films like Crank to the Tarantino/Rodriguez projects including Grindhouse, Kill Bill and Inglorious Bastards.

The genre did also manage to find its way into the remake craze as well. A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and about two dozen other older horror franchises were rebooted in the “slasher porn” image. Most didn’t work (except for maybe the Chainsaw remake and Dawn of the Dead) for one fundamental reason – these films just thought that filling the screen with gore was what made Saw, Rejects, Hostel etc. successful. The characters in Zombie’s films, the dark humor of Roth’s and the intrigue of the Saw films are what added to the gore and made them stand out.

As the 2000’s ended, and we entered the 2010’s, Lionsgate Films underwent some management changes and we have seen less of the edgy horror come out of the studio. Although we did get The Midnight Meat Train, the film was scuttled almost into a DVD release by the new management. A few unique pictures have popped up here and there like The Collector, Eli Roth’s The Last Exorcism, and of course The Human Centipede films – but you can certainly feel the drop off in ideas and production.

In fact, The Human Centipede 2 was one of few horror films to come out in 2011 (the only other notable one was the continuing Paranormal Activity franchise which is not part of this genre).

Even though it appears the genre has passed its high water mark, it still shows up here and there. While some may say the films were trash, even ardent horror writers and producers take issue with some of the films of the era, there is no doubt that the Lionsgate/slasher porn era of horror pumped some much needed blood (pun intended) into a form of film that had been entirely too watered down in the 1990’s

Clive Barker Recovering From a Coma

Mastermind of the classic horror films Hellraiser and Candyman, as well as the author of such fantastic novels like Imajica, Weaveworld, and the young adult series Abarat Clive Barker, suffered for seven days in a coma after a routine dentist appointment.

He recently commented on the incident on his Twitter page.

My friends,Clive here.I’m at home now after a while in hospital,thanks to a nearly fatal case of Toxic Shock brought on by a visit …

…to my dentist.Apparently this is not uncommon.In my case the dental work unloaded such a spillage of poisonous bacteria into my blood..

…into my blood that my whole system crashed,putting me into a coma.I spent several days in Intensive Care,with a machine breathing for me.

..Later,my Doctors said that they had not anticipated a happy ending until I started to fight,repeatedly pulling out the tubes…

…that I was constantly gagging on.After a few days of nightmarish delusions I woke up to my life again,tired,twenty pounds lighter…

..but happy to be back from a very dark place.And here in the world I intend to stay.I’ve books to write ,films to make and paintings ….

…to paint. I seem to have come home with my sight clearer somehow,and my sense of purpose intensified.Thank you all for your messages…

…your prayers and love.What better reason to wake to life than knowing I have such friends? Again,thank you.My love to you always.Clive.

Thankfully, Clive is still alive and kicking. We look forward to the continuation of The Art series, the second book of Galilee and the final two books of Abarat.

Books to Look For – Abarat: Absolute Midnight

Some time ago I posted about Clive Barker’s lack of activity with his series. He’s got three going that are over a decade old and none of them have been completed:

The Art trilogy (2 of 3)

Galilee (1 of 2)

Abarat (2 of 5)

 

Well, it seems our wait is over for one of these as Abarat: Absolute Midnight is finally going to be released next month on September 27th. I adore this series, and cannot wait to see what wonderful, weird, colorful and outrageous things Barker has come up with for this latest installment.

The trailer is here. If you’re familiar with where book 2 left off, there’s a pleasant surprise right at the beginning of this. The art direction is pretty darn good too.

 

The Immanent World Concept

We’ve seen a billion or so anthologies over the years. We’ve also seen a few fantastic collections of short stories and poetry. Of course, being myself, I wanted to up the ante on the anthology concept by taking it a step further, especially with the new electronic media we have.

Some of my all time favorites are The New Weird, Zombie Stories of the New Age, and Books of Blood.

The New Weird
Time for an even NEW weird

So, The Immanent World (please look up the definition of immanent as opposed to imminent) is an anthology we hope to have out later this year. It’s a combination of various writers, photographers, poets and illustrators who all contribute to the project. The theme of this book is “weird and dark” – essentially horror fiction, odd photographs, strange illustrations and creepy poetry.

The book will also work as a promotional piece for all those involved, and as such, we want to emphasize the creators of these works as well. Each creator will have a section of the book that starts with a profile of them complete with social media links, a short ‘get to know you’ part and some photos. For the eBook, I’m looking to fully utilize html5’s video capabilities for more in-depth commentary by the authors on their work.

Projected date for the release of The Immanent World is February 2012 (paperback and eBook).

More to come …

SuperBowl Thoughts

I’m a big fan of football, have been since 2001, and this year’s SuperBowl was pretty cool. Reports are it’s the most watched tv show ever, which is funny since last year’s SuperBowl finally dethroned MASH’s series finale as the most watched television show of all time.

So here are a few things …

The Black Eyed Peas – not a huge fan of theirs, but their music is catchy.  I did like seeing Slash and Usher do their cameos. However, I wasn’t too impressed with their live performance vocally. The set up and stage spectacle was amazing, but seemed to just be a way of distracting from the fact that these guys can’t really perform live musically.  I am tired of hearing a bunch of old white men complain about it on the radio and tv. I mean, Sean Hannity wanted Lynard Skynard up there – really?!

Bill O’Reilly interviews Barack Obama O’Reilly is not as bad as many people who are more liberal leaning portray him as. I’ve watched his show for years and only on a few occasions has he ever gone off the rails. Usually, he’s pretty fair but tough. And that’s what I can say about that interview, fair but tough. Obama actually won me back a bit with how he answered questions and talked about his plans for the country. I do have to dispute his claim that he doesn’t want to redistribute wealth – uh, remember Joe The Plumber?  Regardless, it was fun to see these two political icons have an interview. It’s a shame though that other people in the news media had to compare it to a fight or something, which it wasn’t.

Commercials – I didn’t see too many of them. I was busy writing during them, but I did see the Darth Vader one which made me laugh. The kitchen renovation commercial was excellent too.

The Actual Game – I’m a Ravens fan, so seeing the Steelers lose is always a plus! 🙂  Green Bay was one of my alternate teams if the Ravens didn’t get to the big game, so it was cool to see the emergence of a new superstar in Aaron Rodgers, and to a lesser extend, Clay Mathews. The guy is a throw back, for sure.

The game was a bit boring during the middle, but when it looked like Pittsburgh was going to do it again – make the big comeback, something us Ravens fans have seen way too many times – it got good. Seeing Rodgers come back and finally the Green Bay defense snatch any hopes of a comeback out of Big Ben’s hands made my night. Add another new QB to the status of “elite” with Peyton, Ben, Brady and Brees.

Now, to deal with the first Sunday without football. It’s always a weird change after five months of gridiron action, but it will give me more time to write and expand the company. Until later kids …

What Makes a Good Story?

As a writer, I’m often asked “how do you know what you’re writing is good?”. Well, it’s a matter of personal taste but there are some things you can see along the process that will let you know you’re on the right track.

First and foremost is when you read back what you’ve written and say to yourself “That’s pretty good!”. I love that moment. Usually, you should step away a few days or even weeks to do this. When you come back, you can pick up a chapter and read through it. If you would find what’s on the page interesting, there are certainly lots of other people who would as well.

Friends and family are another great resource for this. Find the honest ones, because many people you know will tell you that what you wrote is good, whether it is or not. Most will be astonished that you could actually write anything at all. But do find those people who do a) read a lot and b) watch a lot of movies/television. We’re in the media era, like it or not, and if you’re story’s got the “mental eyecandy” then people will let you know.

I had the first person who read an early draft of Paris say to me “It scared me”. That’s when I knew I was on the right track. Others have been offended at some of the more graphic elements of the book, but that’s also a good thing. It says I’m doing right by the audience I am aiming for, and that the book is for a specific niche.

Above all, try to keep your head on your shoulders when writing. Don’t get too bogged down in the details on your first draft. You can always come back and make revisions. Just write, step away, come back and read … doing this will give you a clear perspective on your work and what to do going forward.

Paris: The Dark Epic Now Available

The first in “The Dark Epic” series has been released.  Paris – The Dark Epic is now available in paperback, eBook and Kindle formats.

BUY NOW:

On AOE Studios.com (paperback)
On Amazon.com (paperback)

On Kindle

eBook – complete novel
eBook Parts (Nine in total) for $1.50 each.

Synopsis

Split between this world and the next, three souls weave their way through a tale of natural corruption and supernatural adventure: Paris Drezner, an aristocrat who was slain in his youth and has returned as an Unborn; Michael Scottsdale, the second son of the famed Scottsdale clan who have sat as titans on a mountain of money and power; and his wife, Traci Scottsdale, a woman plucked from obscurity and thrust into the limelight as the wife of one of America’s most sought after bachelors.

For them, the world is not as it seems. Revelations of the past force Michael Scottsdale to confront his family’s own secrets, and also challenge him as to his own nature. Traci, in a desperate attempt to help her husband, delves into a world which she could never have imagined. It is the world of Paris, and his world is anything but normal.

The wars between the Daridum Brotherhood and the Unborn have spanned many decades, neither side gaining a clear advantage and both hiding in the shadows of normal men. The time has come for this conflict to come to a head, and Traci finds herself in the middle of an ancient and bloody war that changes her life, while Paris fights with his destiny to be part of his new world, or watch it burn to the ground.

From the humid, fast paced streets of Miami’s South Beach, to the soaring heights at the top of Norrumpatholah … from the boardrooms of America’s top industries to the bohemian back alleys of Baltimore, Paris takes the reader on a journey through two intertwined worlds of the human and the supernatural. At the end, each character will stand at the precipice of disaster or desire, and their choice will bring earth shattering consequences to the whole of mankind.

Harry Potter Mania

So, it’s finally here. The wonderful final chapter (in two parts) of the theatrical version of Harry Potter.

And so also ends the era of fantastic franchises/series during the 2000s.

From Lord of the Ring to Star Wars to Spiderman to X-Men to The Matrix to Saw to Kill Bill to Harry Potter to Twilight – we’ve been blessed as movie goers with thought-out, continuous epic stories. The age of sequels which broke continuity, changed characters or the universe for that matter in a way that betrayed fans and the artistic expression alike were gone.

Unfortunately, we seem to be entering further into the remix era. I actually saw that there’s another Scream film in the works (the movie franchise that single-handed ruined the horror genre for a decade).  We can only look for some more franchises coming in the future that are well told.

Not all of these were great. The Matrix trilogy was a bit of a let down and let’s not even get into the Star Wars prequels, but the good thing is they weren’t rehashed sequels. They weren’t the crap of 80s and 90s sequels where you might as well have had a Hollywood exec on the screen saying “you’re dumb enough to buy this crap, so we’re just going to repackage the last movie and take the heart out of it while screwing up the characters”.

So, sometime over the next few days I will hit up the local theater and check out the first part of the Deathly Hallows. The real end actually comes this summer when both Twilight and Harry Potter will be singing their swan songs (get ready for a nutty busy summer at the box office with those two franchises closing out).

The Book Trailer

We’ve been kicking around the idea of a book trailer for Paris for some time now.  Book trailers are often not very good, sometimes they’re inventive, but usually look like cheap movie trailers.

This no doubt has much to do with budget.  Just don’t have the resources to do things like that with the budget for a novel.

I believe though that AOE Studios has come up with some great ideas to make book trailers more effectively.  Stills of drawn characters won’t cut it nor will B-rate acting nor will special effects and titles that look like they were made by a fifth grader.

Quality over quantity.