Wednesday, October 9, 2013

SyFy vs. The Mynd: Blast Vegas (2013)

aka Destruction: Las Vegas

Some really old teenagers are visiting Las Vegas to commit that most confounding of American religious rituals, "spring breaking". Because this is a movie, a party of male jocks has brought the supposed intellectual Nelson (Frankie Muniz) with them, while an independent party of female jockettes has brought just as supposedly intellectual Olive (Maggie Castle). Obviously, romance for Nelson and Olive is in the air.

Alas, before the couple can go on their first date, Nelson's jocks steal the sword of Tutmosis III out of the foyer of a casino where it is guarded by exactly one guard, and no additional security measures (and let's not even ask why the hell it is in a casino at all), and fuck around with it. Said around-fuckery awakens the sword's magical powers, and before you can say "abracadabra", a snake-headed magical sandstorm is blasting Vegas and is not going to stop until the city surrenders to Tutmosis III.

Of course, Nelson and Olive are separated early on, and Nelson begins to discover his inner hero, waltzing through various dangers to get to Olive. Fortunately, our young hero has befriended lounge singer and martini expert Sal Rowinski (Barry Bostwick) who acts the native guide for him and his friends; particularly Sal's intimate knowledge of Las Vegas's underground tunnel systems is of immense help.

Once the lovers are reunited by the hand of Bostwick, Olive - who just happens to be a student of ancient history - can exposit how to stop the sandstorm by surrendering to a guy who has been dead for quite some time and is surprisingly (perhaps disappointingly) enough not around as some kind of undead mummy. The act of surrendering is rather complicated and involves a scavenger hunt. Obviously.

Among the more peculiar phenomena in my cult movie watching of the past few years was the realization that the rather clever horror comedy Some Guy Who Kills People had the same director as Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus, a film that is many things but certainly not clever.

That very same Jack Perez is also responsible for our SyFy weird disaster movie of the day. As the other two movies by Perez I mentioned, it's a gain a comedy, but it heavily comes down on the camp and idiocy side of Mega Shark rather than the complexities of Some Guy. That's not exactly unexpected in a film produced for SyFy yet it does - surprisingly enough - not mean I didn't enjoy Blast Vegas quite a bit. In fact, Perez (working on a script by Joe D'Ambrosia and Tom Teves who were involved in the localisation of Blood+, it seems, which, dear IMDB, isn't the same as writing the show, how dubious an achievement that may have been anyhow) does some funny work wallowing in the absurdity of the plot and the absurdity of Las Vegas itself, throws in the handful of disaster set pieces his budget allows, and make me pretty happy with it.

It's only in a comedy where a guy looking like Frankie Muniz would be allowed to play the heroic lead (or rather the lead discovering his inner hero), which is a bit of a shame, really, not because I think Muniz would be any good in a dramatic role (I might be wrong, of course), but because I'd love the movies who do the "everyone can be a hero if he just tries" talk to do the appropriate walk. Speaking of heroics, I would have wished the film had given Maggie Castle one or two opportunities more to be heroic herself instead of needing quite as much saving. Despite what mainstream movies like to think, we aren't in the 50s anymore, so it would be nice if at least the supposedly ideologically more mobile low budget world could accept that. Of course, "male nerd discovers inner hero to rescue female nerd" is still a more involving and interesting narrative than "Buff Buffington, star, discovers inner hero".

Blast Vegas gets extra amusement points for a very funny performance by Barry Bostwick, who not only gets all the best lines but also the most open shirts and the most opportunities to walk around with a martini in his hand, as well as an equally funny cameo by John Landis and Joe Dante who do a variation of the good old Tarantino gangster talk shtick.

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