Anyone who remembers the Syfy channel makeup competition show Face Off will know that there are important elements that go into making a memorable movie monster.  The movie Octaman goes in the opposite direction, being cheap and nonsensical at almost every turn -- and that's before the oddly environmental messages, the terrible acting, and the attempt to cover it all up by almost shooting the movie in the dark.  It's a terrible combination of elements -- but it supplies lots of comic material for Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett in Rifftrax Live: Octaman.

The evening's festivities begin with plenty of funny songs and fake movie facts.  Next comes a short where McGruff the Crime Dog teaches little kids about drugs (where we learn "poison is dangerous").

Then it's time for Octaman!  A bunch of scientists are exploring Mexico -- here a land of stock footage of animals -- and find the lakes are polluted with radiation and filled with small rubbery octopus-ish babies.   This attracts the fury of... the Octaman!
Let's get the Octaman out of the way.  Two arms work just fine, but the others just dangle there.  "Fortunately" the creature attacks by flailing to the left and right until it hits something.  Worse, the costume allows for no facial expressions: Its round mouth never moves, and it has no eyelids whatsoever.  As for being scary, it's accurately described as "having the agility and speed of Bernie Sanders."
Add to this lame monster an uninteresting mix of supporting characters and you have a movie so bad, for a brief time one of the three comedians quits Rifftrax over what's happening on the screen -- and it's hard to blame him.  But the comics all come together in the end -- and they have a pretty steady supply of jokes, culled from this sometimes-aquatic nightmare of a movie.  There are plenty of reasons Octaman isn't known among horror movie fans -- but Rifftrax Live: Octaman gives it life among fans of comedy.
Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch



While most DC superhero movies have gone the grim and gritty route, Shazam! is far more aimed at the brightness and magic that appeals to young kids.  And in this case, the change in tone works very well.

Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a 14-year-old kid who's been running away from foster homes to search for the mother who lost him as a young kid.  His latest foster home has him with five other kids, notably Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer), a handicapped kid obsessed with superheroes.

After Billy helps Freddy with some bullies and runs away, Billy is transported to a magic world.  The Wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) explains that Billy was chosen to be the champion of good, protecting the world from the monstrous Seven Deadly Sins.  From then on, when Billy says the word "Shazam" a bolt of lightning strikes him and he transforms into, well, Shazam (Zachari Levi), an adult with a wide range of super powers; saying it again turns him back into Billy.  Freddy becomes Shazam's "manager," documenting his powers -- from super-strength and toughness to shooting lightning and flight -- and posting the videos online while Shazam becomes interested in popularity.
Of course there's a bad guy.  Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) had been summoned by the Wizard as a kid but deemed unworthy because he was tempted by the Seven Deadly Sins.  As an adult he found his way back to the magical world, leaving with assorted powers and the ability to summon the Seven Deadly Sins.  Sivana wants to claim Shazam's powers for his own.
Shazam! has a lot of what most of the DC movies have been missing up to this point:  fun.  Zachari Levi captures the wonder and enjoyment of a kid suddenly given amazing powers and adulthood (and there are several nods to the movie Big here), and Jack Dylan Grazer is a nice foil as the kid who sees what a superhero can and should be.  Mark Strong is a nicely menacing villain, but the movie is more about Billy Batson's growth from a self-interested kis with amazing powers to learning what it means to be a hero.  Even the Shazam costume is always bright and colorful, reflecting the positive nature of the film.  There's a lot of action at the end, but the comedy is what stands out here.  Shazam! is sometimes exciting, usually amazing and thoroughly entertaining movie.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch