Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The Haunting Of Whaley House (2012)

The Asylum reappear once more on this blog (and I'm sure that they'll continue to grace this little corner of the internet with their presence) and this time it's with another one of their haunted house movies. Now, as much as many people seem to have an aversion to The Asylum and their working model, many people are most probably aware of how much I tend to enjoy their output. Some of their movies are awful, some of their movies are entertainingly awful and some of their movies, as hard as others find it to believe, are properly enjoyable. The haunted house movies that they've released (including the Paranormal Entity films and A Haunting In Salem) have been very entertaining, which is why I had high hopes for The Haunting Of Whaley House.

It's a step down from their other haunted house movies but still fun nonetheless. The premise is wonderfully simple - a young woman (Penny, played by Stephanie Greco) gets a job showing people around a haunted house. She doesn't believe it's actually haunted but that doesn't matter, the other woman taking the tours round (Bethany Romero, played by the lovely Lynn Lowry)  does and she advises Penny not to take things lightly. So you know that trouble is coming when Penny's friends convince her to let them all go around on their own private tour.

Written and directed by Jose Prendes, The Haunting Of Whaley House provides what you'd expect it to provide. There are some dumb teens, there's one moment of fleeting nudity and there are ghosts. Sadly none of these things are treated in the best possible way. The dumb teens are bland and interchangeable, the fleeting nudity is too fleeting (oh, everyone knows how shallow I can be so don't act all surprised now) and the ghosts don't show themselves enough to provide the easy jumps that a film this low on tension could benefit from.

Thankfully, there are some good moments that manage to entertain and the presence of Lynn Lowry in a cameo role makes everything a bit easier to endure for horror fans but the movie is, ultimately, something that you can all too easily miss out on with no regrets.



Book? Book, you say? Yes, I published a book, and every copy of my book sold gets a few pounds in my pocket, and gets you a good read (if I say so myself).

The UK version can be bought here - http://www.amazon.co.uk/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1395945647&sr=1-3&keywords=movie+guide

And American folks can buy it here - http://www.amazon.com/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395945752&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=TJs+ramshackle+mov

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Idiocracy (2006)

Another comedy written (with a helping hand from Etan Cohen) and directed by Mike Judge, Idiocracy is another out and out winner that once again shows how Judge seems to easily and unnervingly get to the heart of what elements in our society are so soul-sapping and painful that laughing AT them is the only way to stay sane.

This time around he's looking at the dumbing down of our culture and the whole world. In fact, the downward spiral of the world's IQ is put forward with horribly believable rationale and Idiocracy scores major points by mixing the absurd and hilarious with the prescient and scarily believable.

Luke Wilson stars as Joe Bauers, a completely "average Joe". He's in the military, coasting along, and happy with his lot in life. Everything changes when he's chosen for an experiment that will see him frozen in hibernation for some time and then reanimated. His fellow test subject is Rita (Maya Rudolph), a prostitute, and the two are nervous as the hibernation tanks close around them. 500 years later, after being forgotten about and left under rubbish and rubble, a freak accident releases the sleeping duo and they wander around to find themselves on a planet that can barely spell IQ. Joe is now the smartest man on Earth but that doesn't mean that he'll avoid getting himself in trouble.

Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph are great fun in the lead roles while Dax Shepard, Terry Crews, Sara Rue, Stephen Root and Thomas Haden Church are among the cast members having a ball acting dumber than a bag of hammers.

The script is very funny, very funny indeed - mixing the superdumb with the subversive and clever - and great scene follows great scene. However, the main premise keeps the movie down ever so slightly. Call me a naive optimist but I like to think that the human race wouldn't become quite THAT stupid, even if the evidence seems to pile up every day to try and prove me wrong. The movie is a farce, albeit a superb farce full of numerous, individual, laugh out loud moments.

Mike Judge is one of the best comedy directors in modern cinema. He's smart, very observant and, most importantly (of course), damn funny. If you haven't found that out for yourself yet then I urge you to check out any of his movies as soon as possible.



Sunday, 29 July 2012

Tape (2012)

The worldwide web brings people closer than ever and has really changed many lives, there's just no denying it. I remember many years ago trying to write a number of movie reviews with nothing more than a pen, some paper and a huge Halliwell's Film Guide for reference. If the internet hadn't been invented I may still be doing that, I just loved films and loved writing about them. But the internet HAS been invented and it's allowed everyone to have their say, for better or worse, on whatever they like. The phrase "everyone's a critic" has never been more appropriate.

The internet has also allowed me to befriend a number of people I would otherwise have perhaps not know of. Aaron Christensen, who takes the lead role in Tape is a great actor, a fantastic movie critic and an all round nice guy. It's quite sickening, to be honest. He's like the human equivalent of a cute puppy and I'd hate him if it wasn't for the fact that he's so bloody good at everything that he even managed to bring together a number of IMDb Horror Boarders, including myself, to write essays that would be put together to form Dr. A. C's Horror 101 (published by Aaron at his own expense and pimped around America . . . . . by Aaron). It was a beautiful moment, I still own my copy and show it off to friends with pride. I also met Jason Coffman through movie-related chat with Aaron and that's another friend added to the list. Why am I telling you all of this? Well, Jason created Tape, starring Aaron, and has been promoting it for a while now over in America. Of course, as soon as I heard about it I was keen to see it. I reminded Jason of this the other day and was sent the link required along with the kind message that if I wanted to leave it alone because of knowing those involved then that was fine. This, I admit, made me pause and think for a moment. Would I have a conflict of interests here? What if I didn't like the film and had to put those criticisms here, in harsh black and white, potentially damaging a blossoming friendship?

Well, when it comes to movies we all have our own biased way of viewing things. That's unavoidable, in my opinion, so a conflict of interests is just the same - it becomes a factor in the review that can be taken into account as long as people are aware of it. I just made you aware of it.

As for the chance that I would dislike the film and upset Jason and Aaron and the other people who worked on the film (some of them I know and some of them I don't) well . . . . . . . . . that's just a risk that crops up more and more now with the great number and variety of people I am always befriending due to an enduring love of the movies. I don't WANT to be saying anything negative about work done by friends but if I think I have valid criticisms then I'll just suck it up, put on my big boy pants and write honestly. And hope they don't want to string me up for it.

Anyway, after that long and rambling preface, let's get to the short film itself. Tape is about a man (played by Aaron Christensen) who engages the unique services of one Mr. Lake. Mr. Lake will do your dirty work for you but there's a catch - you must then keep the tape that he delivers to you for the rest of your life. Whether you actually watch the footage or leave it in the box, hidden away somewhere, it stays there like some kind of recorded tell-tale heart.

Short films are always, I feel, harder to review than features. There are often surprises that you don't want to spoil and even sketching out the plot may be enough to spoil the experience for others. That's just one of the reasons that I don't often review short films. The other main reason is that I always have enough features to be working through. But that's not to say that I am dismissive or ignorant of short films. I love many of them and they're often fantastic stepping stones for directors who go on to bigger and better things after creating on e or two little gems.

Is Tape a good short film? I'd have to say that it is. I'd say that even if I didn't know Jason and Aaron and a few of the others involved I would still have enjoyed the movie. It has a nice, off-kilter, vibe to it and things develop in a tense and interesting manner. It helps that Aaron is, indeed, a very good actor and great in the central role (damn him, one day I will find a flaw . . . . . . . . one day).

Is it a great short film. Oh, it's so close. This is when I have to weigh up everything that I already mentioned above, that conflict of interest and those friendships. Yet I think that any viewer watching Tape would feel the same way. It makes you wish it was on for longer, it prompts you to consider how the premise could be expanded into a feature, it entertains and also makes you think. It might not quite reach greatness but it tries damn hard and I know that those involved all put blood, sweat and tears into the thing so I'm more than happy to recommend it as a very good experience.

There are, as you would expect, some slight failings (despite Jason and co. doing their best with the limited budget there's only so far you can go with restricted funds - this is never going to look like The Dark Knight Rises, of course) but nothing can bring the film down too far, thanks to a central concept that proves so enjoyable that it would take a bunch of idiots to really mess things up. And, as I've known for some time, these guys are certainly not a bunch of idiots.

Well done, folks. Consider my jealousy of your talents increased tenfold.


Check out the Facebook page here - https://www.facebook.com/tapeshortfilm

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Warlords Of Atlantis (1978)

Before I begin this review I'd just like to point anyone who counts themselves a fan of Amicus movies toward the reviews that will be appearing on Flickfeast over the next few days. Yes, it's been a feast of Doug McClure films. Oh, and I am also hoping to put together an interview with director Kevin Connor so keep your eyes peeled.

But on with this wild, watery tale. The core of the movie is simple enough - a bunch of people are out at sea looking for some stuff and they come across one or two big beasties in the water before discovering the mythical area of Atlantis itself.

Directed by Kevin Connor (who did more than his fair share of these movies) and written by Brian Hayles, if you're already suspecting that this movie is a mix of cheesy moments, clunky dialogue and at least one big, rubber octopus then you'd be absolutely right.

But there's more to it than just that. The backstory to the people of Atlantis and what they're doing and also planning to do in the future is a good one while a story strand about a golden idol causing mutiny on the ship adds a little bit of tension.

Doug McClure does just fine in the lead role but cinema fans will have more fun recognising the supporting players. Peter Gilmore is still best known to many for his roles in the "Carry On" films but he's the driven and slightly deceitful Charles Aitken here, Shane Rimmer is good as Captain Daniels, Lea Brodie is lovely as Delphine and a young (-ish) John Ratzenberger does well. There's even a small role for Cyd Charisse.

The effects don't hold up too well nowadays, and they didn't seem all that great when the movie was first released (this film came out AFTER Star Wars?), and there are a number of scenes that threaten to put viewers to sleep but, overall, there's still a mix of genuine charm and a warm essence of nostalgia that makes this, and any other Amicus movie, something I can always rewatch if I catch it on TV during a dull afternoon.


Warlords Of Atlantis is out to buy on Monday 30th July.


Friday, 27 July 2012

Abbott & Costello Meet The Keystone Cops (1955)

This may not be a terrible movie but it's clear that at this stage of their career, Abbott and Costello were way past their best. There are no BIG laughs here, instead the film throws in a number of comedic stunt sequences. Those moments are enjoyable enough but just not what I want to see in an A & C film. I want the wit, the confusing wordplay and the great blend of stupid and smart that the boys do so well.

The plot sees our two leads swindled out of $5,000 dollars (they buy a movie studio that turns out to be the old Edison studio, not in use and not for sale) by a man who then heads to Hollywood to pass himself off as a talented European director. Once they realise the con, Bud and Lou go on a journey to find the man and get their money back. That journey ends up getting them inadvertently involved in the movie business and leads to the titular meeting with the famous Keystone Cops.

Directed by Charles Lamont, and written by John Grant (based on a storyline by Lee Loeb), there is certainly more to this movie than just the usual buffoonery and money-chasing antics. Many moments throughout the film actually look at the wonder of the cinema screen and the inclusion of the Keystone Cops should also clue you in to the fact that this is a bit of a celebration of the development of slapstick and comedy routines in the movies.

Bud and Lou are still amusing enough when not being stuck in the middle of too many special effects and stunts, Fred Clark is good fun as the conman, Lynn Bari is his lovely accomplice and there's a nice cameo from Mack Sennett before that third act that finally brings in the Keystone Cops.

While it's not a great comedy, nor is it a great A & C film, there's a nice warmth in this movie and an affection for the works of those who started off before sound was developed and helped to shape some great sequences that would entertain cinema audiences.



Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Day Of The Beast AKA El Dia De La Bestia (1995)

Alex de la Iglesia is someone that you should have heard of by now. If not, I urge you to explore his filmography. Not only did he direct this wonderful movie but he also created the bizarre and brilliant Perdita Durango and the dazzlingly brilliant The Last Circus.

The Day Of The Beast is yet another great slice of entertainment from this consistently enjoyable director (he also co-wrote the film with Jorge Guerricaechevarria) and it's a twisted comedy with a number of horror elements quite unlike anything you may have seen before.

The movie begins with a priest (Father Angel Berriartua, played by Alex Angulo) telling another priest that he has deciphered the message. He knows when the Antichrist is due to be born and he knows just what he must do to destroy it. And what he must do is commit as many sins as possible, that way he can get closer and closer to Satan and gain his trust until the moment comes when he can redeem himself. So he begins stealing from beggars, shoplifting, cursing at dying men, etc. He also gains a helper in the form of heavy metal fan Jose Maria (Santiago Segura) and the two men seek out an expert on the occult, Professor Cavan (Armando De Razza playing his character as some slick TV psychic, imagine a cross between Derek Acorah and Peter Vincent from the original Fright Night and you're close enough). Can they do all that is required of them in time to save the world?

Full of wonderful performances, great black comedy and special effects that may be far from perfect but certainly feel charming and in line with the overall style of the film (a real mix of traditional horror tropes and wonderful subversion), The Day Of The Beast is a treat for horror fans. As well as the leads already mentioned there are great supporting turns from these actresses - Terele Pavez, Nathalie Sesena and Maria Grazia Cucinotta - and everyone else who takes part.

The only reason that I don't rate it even higher than I do is because of the slight feeling of everything being thrown into the mix in a bit of a slapdash manner. That's not a major problem when the end result is so much fun but it still means that many moments feel completely unnecessary, a few plot points feel like the writers were either clutching at straws or smoothing over bumps without thinking viewers would notice and there's an overall lack of tension while things build to a so-so finale.

Don't let those criticisms put you off, however. Many people like this movie even more than I did and I still really liked it. I'd watch it again, many times, and I can't wait to add it to my collection at some point.



Wednesday, 25 July 2012

April Fool's Day (2008)

If you're going to do a remake then this is the way to go about it. For starters, the original movie wasn't exactly a perfect film and it wasn't exactly universally loved. Getting some bright young things in front of the camera to be put in danger is a given but it's a plus when you get someone behind the camera like Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores (AKA The Butcher Brothers). The two men have already done some good stuff in the horror genre so I lift my hopes slightly when I see them attached to a project.

Taking the screenplay by Danilo Bach as a loose template (there are easy points of reference for those who have seen the original movie but this is also different enough to feel like quite a different beast), The Butcher Brothers also engage the help of Mikey Wigart in crafting something that's slick and disappointingly bloodless and amusingly ludicrous.

A prank goes horribly wrong and those involved find themselves threatened some time later. That's all you need to know. Yes, it's a mix of I Know What You Did Last Summer and the original April Fool's Day and Valentine. I don't care what you think of me, I LIKED those movies. I didn't love them but I liked them. Despite strong disapproval from almost everyone I know I actually really like Valentine (just such a great mix of old school slasher style and post-90210 teen sheen) so there you have my position on such glossy fare, for what it's worth.

April Fool's Day has some fun moments, and the cast has a couple of decent starlets in the shape of Scout Taylor-Compton and Taylor Cole, but it's all just a bit too bland to be solidly entertaining. The fact that it comes from The Butcher Brothers makes the tame nature of the movie even more of a disappointment and it's not helped by the rest of the cast - Josh Henderson, Joe Egender, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Samuel Child, etc - looking as if they have wandered in from the set of Cruel Intentions 5 or The Skulls 6 (both of which are sequels that I'm well aware don't exist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . yet).

I wouldn't go out of my way to see this again, and I certainly wouldn't rush out to buy it, but if it was on I could manage to sit through some of it. And if I see it anywhere at a bargain price I may well just have to buy it to satisfy my DVD-buying addiction.



Tuesday, 24 July 2012

April Fool's Day (1986)

Hmmm, April Fool's Day is just one of those movies that you still can't help liking even while the realisation dawns that it's completely and utterly rubbish. It really is dire but it's dire in a goofy and endearing way.

Deborah Foreman stars as Muffy, a young woman who invites all of her friends to stay with her at her isolated island home for a weekend. It's the weekend of April Fool's Day and her friends need little encouragement to take things further anf further. They love playing pranks on one another, something that is clear from almost the very beginning of the movie. Door handles fall off, glasses full of drinks are rigged to leak, knife blades are retractable, etc, etc. Yep, there's never a dull moment at Muffy's place. And it's about to get even more interesting when a killer is added to the mix.

Written by Danilo Bach and directed by Fred Walton, April Fool's Day takes a risky premise and largely fumbles it by populating the movie world with a number of irritating characters and keeping everything surprisingly bloodless. Yet it does have humour in spades and the audacity of the whole thing is something to either go along with and enjoy or just allow to ruin your day.

The cast aren't great but Deborah Foreman is entertainingly over the top as the eye-rolling Muffy, Thomas F. Wilson is fun to see in a non-"Biff" role and Tom Heaton, Griffin O'Neal, Leah Pinsent, Pat Barlow, Mike Nomad, Clayton Rohner and the other actors make up the numbers and do what is asked of them.

April Fool's Day definitely becomes more interesting when you consider the context of the movie and not just the final result that ended up onscreen. The early to mid 1980s say the horror market completely oversaturated by the slasher subgenre. Spoofs had already appeared but the humour in this movie is more in line with the cool subversion of the Scream franchise. The fact that it doesn't quite work doesn't detract from it being one of the more interesting mis-steps in the field of slasher movies.

Worth watching if you're a fan of this kind of film from this decade but do be prepared for the ending to either make you smile or make you want to put your foot through the TV screen.



Monday, 23 July 2012

Trancers III (1992)

Jack Deth returns and he's after Trancers once again. If you don't know the backstory by now then I encourage you to check out the first two movies and start enjoying one of the most enjoyable and enjoyably ridiculous b-movie franchises that I've seen in many years. Three films in and there's no major drop in quality. I'm actually kicking myself for not listening to my many friends who advised me to watch this series sooner but now I finally get to write up reviews for them and recommend them to one and all.

For this third adventure, Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) is once again being moved around time to try and head off the threat of a Trancer uprising. Trancers are people who can enter a heightened state when called upon, it makes them stronger and deadlier but also takes away their humanity. They're basically zombie soldier types. The only thing worse than a bunch of zombie soldier types is a bunch of zombie types being led and strengthened by an ambitious Colonel (Andrew Robinson). Yep, it doesn't look like poor Jack is getting to take it easy yet and there's no end to the time-travelling part of his job either.

C. Courtney Joyner takes over the writing and directing duties this time around but a lot of other familiar faces return to stick with a fun franchise. Thomerson is, of course, the key element in the lead role but it's good to see him supported once more by Helen Hunt (in a much smaller capacity), Megan Ward and Dawn Ann Billings. Melanie Smith doesn't do badly in her role (a soldier trying to expose the Trancer program), Ed Beechner is just fine as Lt. Ryan and Andrew Robinson is as good as ever in the role of Col. Daddy Muthuh. There's a suspicion that his character was given such a strange name just to allow for one line - "come to Daddy" - that references Hellraiser but maybe that's just me being overly suspicious.

There are a number of decent one-liners peppered throughout the script, the special effects range from the okay to the charmingly cheap and there's rarely a dull moment. I was seriously considering just rating this one on a par with the two preceding movies but it suffers slightly from a further build up of paradoxes and illogical moments and the fact that each instalment stretches the initial premise thinner and thinner. Despite the faults, all is forgiven when the fun begins and you get to see Deth warmed up.



Sunday, 22 July 2012

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (2007)

It's most definitely not the worst movie that I've ever seen but Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer is a pretty weak horror comedy that doesn't have enough good horror in the mix and also forgets to include enough comedy. There are some good effects and gore gags on display but not enough to make up for the insubstantial content and unappealing lead character.

Jack Brooks (played by Trevor Matthews) has a problem with his anger. A big problem. He just can't chill out and let things pass him by. There's a chance that it all stems from a childhood incident in which he didn't react while his loved ones were attacked, perhaps ever since that fateful moment he has been overreacting to compensate for his inactivity. Will he be able to step up to the mark when Professor Crowley (Robert Englund) finds himself turning more than a little bit monstrous?

There's definitely potential here, this is a film that a number of other people have enjoyed much more than I did, but it's just never realised because of the biggest hurdle - that lead character. Trevor Matthews does okay in the role but it's just an angry man onscreen being pretty stubborn most of the time. Kinda like any number of Adam Sandler characters but with a lack of anything remotely funny. Robert Englund does a bit better, and at least seems to be having fun, and the supporting cast features a number of people trying hard with weak material.

Writer-director Jon Knautz is the man to blame. He's had the seed of a great idea but then absolutely failed to make anything great from it. Poor Trevor Matthews is an easy target, especially when you consider what someone like Bruce Campbell or Bill Paxton could have done with the role (and if you've seen and enjoyed the movie just take a moment to consider those casting choices and then tell me that you can't imagine the whole thing being even better), but he's let down by Knautz just not getting the tone or balance right. The movie doesn't know whether to be a dark comedy, a light horror, a homage to the latex monsters and practical FX of the 1980s or an enjoyably 'rough 'n' ready' low-budget romp using every trick possible to hide the limitations. It tries to be all of these things, which is admirable, but ends up being none of them.



Saturday, 21 July 2012

Lemmy (2010)

Ian Fraser Kilmister was born on December 24th 1945. He grew into a man best known for his long hair and beard, his individualism, his followers and his ability to endure experiences that would kill many mere mortals. He could have almost been a new messiah for the 20th-21st century. Instead, he became Lemmy.

This documentary looks at the man, the icon, the personality that Lemmy is. Adored by so many people around the world, it soon becomes clear that if you think of Lemmy as just that guy who had a hit with the Ace Of Spades (an absolutely classic tune) then you don't know how many lives he has touched and what a huge influence he has been on the musical landscape. There is a lot here that will be familiar to you if you've seen Lemmy in any other context - the fashion statements remain somehow cool even when they shouldn't, the Jack Daniels and the cigarettes are always in hand or nearby, the gravelly voice and self-deprecation is on constant display - but as the documentary settles in and starts to look deeper at just what makes the seemingly-indestructible Lemmy tick it becomes quite an eye-opener and a great reminder of why the rocker deserves all of the praise that he receives.

Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski do a fantastic job because in the first few minutes of the documentary you realise that Lemmy is such a larger than life figure and such a unique individual that he could easily become a parody. Somehow he avoids that pitfall but it's only when you have the time to realise that he lives his life the way that he claims to live it. He's not putting on any act just for the public, he talks the talk AND walks the walk. Which is why you have to respect the guy, grudgingly or otherwise.

Dave Grohl, Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Bob Thornton, members of Metallica, members of Megadeth, members of Guns 'n' Roses, Peter Hook, Jarvis Cocker, Steve Vai, Alice Cooper, members of The Damned, Joan Jett, Mick Jones, Ice-T and many, many more people appear onscreen to sing the praises of an unassuming man who has been in the industry for over 40 years and who has lost none of the passion for wanting to make great music since being inspired many years ago by people like Little Richard, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Elvis Presley.

Lemmy works almost perfectly as a documentary about an iconic figure, it reveals plenty about the individual and makes you see him as others do. Sadly, it also feels as if a lot is missed out. It may be the case that a full look at the life of Lemmy would require a 24-hour camera crew feeding live to a website that would also include archival material, that's the case with every living legend. Which is my way of saying that the film isn't perfect but it does what it sets out to do superbly - reminding every viewer that the man at the centre of the documentary IS a living legend.



Friday, 20 July 2012

Mask Maker AKA Maskerade (2010)

There's no need to tread softly here or sugarcoat the message, Mask Maker is a bad movie. I don't care about the feelings of those who made it because they didn't seem to care at all about the feelings of anyone forced to watch their rubbish.

The story is all about Jennifer (Nikki Deloach) being given a house by her boyfriend (Evan, played by Stephen Colletti). It's a present for her birthday, he managed to get the property and 40 acres of ground and everything inside the house for $10,000, and the aim is to put enough work in to renovate the property and then sell it for a tidy sum. Because that makes the most sense. As opposed to other ways to use the $10,000. It's not as if Jennifer and Evan are a bit of a shaky couple who may not stay together further down the line. Oh, hold on, yes they are. That's made clear during one of their conversations in the first 15 minutes of the movie. Yes, things start at that level of unbelievability and get worse from there. A bunch of dull characters join the lead couple, a couple of familiar faces show up for cameo roles (mainly Treat Williams in a very small role and the great Michael Berryman) and someone goes out of their way to mention quite early on that there is no phone reception in the area.

Director Griff Furst, who also wrote the screenplay with Eric Miller (and Miller was helped in an earlier stage of the writing by Jake Kennedy - did this rubbish really need three writers?), doesn't seem to be trying for most of the runtime. Things are only ever livened up by the lowest common denominators - gore and gratuitous nudity - and even then the film struggles to hold your attention.

The cast try but are hampered by the material that they're working with. It's just too ridiculous and at times bordering on parody. Nikki Deloach is a decent leading actress until the final act, when things are stretched way beyond breaking point, and Anabella Casanova and Mariah Bonner are both pleasingly attractive and not allergic to some fleeting moments of being nekkid. Stephen Colletti, Ross Britz and A. J. Allegra are disposable males, overshadowed by the likes of Terry Kiser and the more famous names already mentioned above (Berryman, in particular).

If it had at least tried to do something with conviction then Mask Maker could have been a lot more fun. Instead, it fails to recreate the slasher thrills of the video nasty era (unlike Hatchet which, while I didn't love it, gets things just right) and it doesn't have the intelligence or humour to invest the stale material with something that could transform it into more than a poor pastiche of 101 better movies. Jonathan Breck is wasted as the main villain and the moment near the end of the movie that lifts a trick directly from Friday The 13th Part 2 should be enough to make you laughingly dismiss the whole thing, if you still had any hope left that there would be some redemption.



Thursday, 19 July 2012

Abbott & Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1953)

Charles Lamont returns to direct Abbott and Costello in this lesser outing that sees the duo meeting up with the legendary figure of horror. The plot is very slim, it's essentially summed up in the title, and the movie suffers by not actually having Bud and Lou onscreen for large durations of the runtime.

Bud and Lou are two police officers who get themselves in a bit of trouble when they're embarrassed by some protesting suffragettes. Perhaps they'll be able to get themselves back in the good books if they find and apprehend the monster responsible for terrorising London. That monster isn't always a monster, however, and so the duo don't realise how close they are to the villain when they meet the very civil Mr. Hyde (Boris Karloff).

It's weak, there's no denying that it's weak, but there are still a few good moments scattered throughout this A & C adventure. The script by Lee Loeb and John Grant may be light on laughs but there's at least one great set-piece that involves Lou being unwittingly transformed and the finale is a fun mix of thrills and amusing confusion.

The leading men are good when onscreen but, as mentioned above, that's really not often enough. Craig Stevens and Helen Westcott are acceptable enough in their supporting roles but things improve whenever Boris Karloff is onscreen, making this worth a watch if you're a fan of the horror icon (he gets more to work with here than he did in his last appearance alongside the boys).

Some fans of the duo had already written them off by this point but their last few movies still contain enough entertainment if you've been on the journey with A & C over the years and remained a fan of their style and routines.



Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Stargate (1994)

My fellow Flickfeaster, Tue, recently rewatched Stargate and this reminded me that it was available for my viewing pleasure. Despite trying to make my way chronologically through the filmography of Kurt Russell I felt that I owed it to myself to watch this movie ASAP and see how it held up years after I first saw it.

Back in 1994 when Stargate was first released it was a surprise hit. Nobody could have envisioned that the film would spawn a number of popular TV shows and build further upon the mythologies mentioned. Yet here we are almost 20 years later and most people have at least heard of Stargate in some form or another.

Revisiting the movie is a strange, but rewarding, experience. I remember being underwhelmed when I first saw the film at the time of release. That's entirely my own fault. I was young and I saw a sci-fi/action movie that didn't have quite enough sci-fi spectacle and far from a satisfying amount of action. Watched again nowadays, however, I have to admire the focus on brains over brawn and the way in which the film comments on the downside of soldiers who blindly follow anyone giving the orders. A little knowledge goes a long way, as the film shows.

Directed by Roland Emmerich (who co-wrote the movie with Dean Devlin), this is an interesting precursor to the sci-fi and disaster movies that they would give audiences in their future careers. These guys have been responsible for a number of films that have thrown as much as possible onscreen (including Independence Day, Godzilla and The Day After Tomorrow) while also continuing to use heroes who save the day with their smarts as opposed to just muscle and weapons.

The story goes as follows - a bunch of smart folks and army folks are gathered around a large stone thingummybob, that becomes known as the Stargate (of course), and don't know how to make it work until the supersmart Dr. Daniel Jackson (James Spader) deciphers the symbology and sets things in motion. A team, led by Col O'Neil (Kurt Russell), is then sent through the Stargate, ending up on a faraway planet not unlike the ancient Egypt of Earth. They eventually find signs of life there, people who are kept ignorant and ready to do the bidding of the might Ra (Jaye Davidson). Perhaps an uprising is needed.

Stargate has everything in place to provide a perfect slice of entertainment. It's relatively smart (certainly in the core idea and the way things are tied together), the script gets everything over easily without feeling too clumsy, the cast and the characters are slightly more complex than usual for this type of fare and the SFX work holds up reasonably well. In fact, the overall design of the movie is excellent.

Spader is an excellent lead here, his character is slightly eccentric, believable in his intelligence and more full of awe at the sights around him than fear. Kurt Russell, seen at the start of the movie in an unkempt and suicidal state, is superb as the main soldier given his mission for a very specific reason. Then we have the androgynous Jaye Davidson giving another superb turn as Ra. The supporting cast includes Alexis Cruz, John Diehl, Mili Avital, Djimon Hounsou (billed as just Djimon), Erick Avari and Viveca Lindfors with every person doing what's required of them. You may not know their names but their characters are made real for the duration of the film and that's what counts.

The music by David Arnold fits nicely with the visuals and nothing here lets the movie down. I do think that many aspects could have been improved slightly - some better editing/pacing with one or two more action beats would have been nice, for example - but Stargate remains a very enjoyable and interesting film for sci-fi fans.



Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Wizards (1977)

Ralph Bakshi. If you haven't heard his name before then the chances are that you're not a fan of Fritz The Cat or The Lord Of The Rings (both movies that he directed). I've yet to see the former movie but I remember seeing the latter film when I was young and being very impressed by it, even though it had an experimental quality to it at times, mainly due to the rotoscoped elements, and was actually an unfinished adaptation of the epic tale. His work may not be entirely successful but it's almost interesting.

Wizards is a tale of magic and machinery and war and death and more. It focuses on two brothers, the good Avatar (Bob Holt) and the very bad Blackwolf (Steve Gravers). Blackwolf wants to rule many lands and sends his army further afield to achieve this while Avatar travels to take a stand and put a stop to the destructive force that his brother has become.

Wizards isn't a complete success, and it's certainly not as good as the other Bakshi movies that I know of, but it doesn't lack conviction and is a unique attempt to blend numerous ideas and styles into one grand comment on the damage caused by war and the power of propaganda. Moments of madcap humour sit alongside moments of wartime atrocities which sit alongside standard sword and sorcery fare. There are moments of almost Monty Python-esque absurdity that serve as a reminder that war is horrific and fatal and yet also absolutely ridiculous as a means to an end.

The film could have just as easily been called "Soldiers" but then I'm not sure that it would have worked so well. The fantasy element and the far-fetched premise allows Bakshi in his writer-director role to hammer home a number of pertinent observations that don't always sit well with viewers when shown in an unfussy, realistic context.

I liked Wizards, there were moments in it that I loved, but I wouldn't rush to rewatch it. The energy and creativity onscreen come at a price - a lack of cohesion, a rambling sense of ADD throughout and also the constant feeling while watching the movie that you should maybe be ingesting the same substances the makers of the film seemed to enjoy so much.



Monday, 16 July 2012

Office Space (1999)

Written and directed by Mike Judge, Office Space resonates with a hell of a lot of people just as much now as it did when it was first released. The fact that the film wasn't given much, if any, support and advertising when it was released perhaps explains why those who love the film are so loyal to it. It's a cult hit but it's a cult hit with a lot of appeal to anyone who has been stuck in an office job at some point in their lives. It's a movie that you can watch nowadays and share with others, an experience full of familiarity and wish-fulfilment that makes for perfect viewing when you need cheering up after a bad day at work.

Ron Livingston plays the central character, Peter Gibbons, one of the hundreds of thousands of people who seem to spend their working days trying to hold on to whatever is left of their sanity from the moment they wake up to the moment they leave the office. He stares at the cubicle walls around him and spends a lot of his day just zoning out. That all changes, however, when he takes part in a unique hypnotherapy session that leaves him completely calm and not caring one bit about his job. This could get him fired, of course, but actually ends up making him look better to the two consultants who are checking out the company and "streamlining" some departments.

It's a bit rough around the edges, and not quite as sharp as it could be, but Office Space well and truly deserves the reputation that it has amongst people who have been praising it for years. The central characters are all superb but the biggest laughs come from the supporting cast of downtrodden workers (especially Milton, played by Stephen Root - a pretty perfect physical interpretation of the animated character*).

Ron Livingston is ably supported by David Herman and Ajay Naidu, both portraying fellow sufferers, and there's yet another wonderful turn from the always wonderful Richard Riehle. Gary Cole is hilarious as the office boss while John C. McGinley and Paul Wilson prompt more laughs as the two consultants impressed by Peter's attitude. Then there's Jennifer Aniston, giving a bright and breezy performance as Joanna, a woman stuck in a different kind of workday hell at an eatery named Chotchkie's.

It's a shame that a subplot about the workers trying to make themselves a small, dishonest profit feels shoehorned in and not that well thought out but there are enough brilliant scenes (many of them involving a frustrating printer) to raise the movie well above average and make the whole thing worth repeated viewings.

*For those who don't know, Mike Judge made the film based on his own animated works, "Milton", that proved to be very popular on Saturday Night Live.



Sunday, 15 July 2012

Sand Sharks (2011)

Just when you thought it was safe to go back on the beach, along comes Sand Sharks to remind you that no environment is safe from the dangers of horrible CGI. It's a familiar story to fans of much better movies, including Jaws and Piranha, as a small seaside town is about to become the setting for a big, moneyspinning, party until one or two people go and spoil everything by getting themselves munched. By sand sharks, no less. These creatures, in case you didn't realise, are just like sharks except they can move through the sand as if it was water.

Corin Nemec plays Jimmy Green, the man hoping to keep the party going even when the lives of others may still be in peril, while Eric Scott Woods is Sheriff John Stone and Brooke Hogan (who seems to have an affinity with strange sharks - she was also in the dire 2-Headed Shark Attack) is a pretty scientist type who may be able to help save the day. Vanessa Lee Evigan is also trying to help keep things safe while the wonderfully-named Edgar Allan Poe IV plays the mayor and Robert Pike Daniel gets to embarrass himself enormously with a terrible riff on Robert Shaw's classic Quint character.

Director Mark Atkins and writer Cameron Larson get a few things right in this cheap 'n' cheerful flick but there are too many things working against them to help raise the movie above the level of the godawful. It's fun in places and lacks any sense of shame whatsoever as it references the best shark film of them all and also includes one or two nods, for some reason, to Apocalypse Now. The cast do okay with the laughable lines that they're given - as well as those already mentioned there are a few scenes for the lovely Gina Holden and amusing performances from Hilary Cruz and Delpaneaux Wills.

And that's it. Nothing else can be praised. The special effects are only special if you've not seen any other movie in the last 30 years, the comedy misfires a lot more often than it works, the few scenes that require literally tens of extras hardly feature anyone remotely convincing and the central idea is mishandled - it's just not treated with enough seriousness or humour to make it work as either a decent creature feature or a fun, tongue-in-cheek, b-movie romp.

I almost feel bad for giving this movie such a low rating, almost. It was fun and it certainly tried often enough to rise above the low budget and cheesiness with a bit of wit but even though I was never bored while watching the film I had to concede that I was laughing AT it more than I was laughing WITH it.



Saturday, 14 July 2012

Brain Damage (1988)

Frank Henenlotter is, to me, the most wonderful madman to have ever been allowed to direct movies and I thank my lucky stars that he shared his warped and hugely entertaining vision with audiences. If you haven't seen Basket Case and, my particular favourite, Frankenhooker already then please do so. Oh, but make sure you also fit this one into your schedule.

Brain Damage is all about a relationship that develops between Brian (Rick Hearst) and Aylmer, a relationship that works well for both of them. Unfortunately, Aylmer is a parasitic creature that releases euphoria-inducing liquid directly into Brian's brain in return for sucking the grey matter from various victims. While Brian is on his "high" he doesn't fully realise just what's going on and even as things start to become clearer he knows that while he must do the right thing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . he is also already addicted to getting his fix as often as possible.

I don't think that Frank Henenlotter is capable of making a bad, unentertaining movie. Even Bad Biology (which I thought was a bit below his usual standard) had enough twisted fun to keep me happy. He started off writing and directing his own particular brand of madness and has continued to do things very much his own way over the years. Many other people rate Brain Damage as his finest hour and, while I may not agree, it's certainly up there with his other best works.

The acting is fine from Rick Hearst and everyone onscreen (including Gordon MacDonald, Jennifer Lowry, Theo Barnes, Lucille Saint-Peter, Vicki Darnell - who has, arguably, the most memorable scene of the whole movie - and Beverly Bonner) but every aspect of the movie is overshadowed by how wonderful a creation Aylmer (voiced by John Zacherle) is and the visuals that illustrate the way he changes Brian's brain. Considering the obvious low budget, there are a number of FX moments and set-pieces that stand up to this day as impressive pieces of movie magic.

If you like the work of Henenlotter then you'll undoubtedly like this movie. You may, like so many others, love it and that love is not undeserved. Oh, and fans of Basket Case (despite the information regarding region coding listed on the packaging/at Amazon, horror fans will be delighted to know that the Basket Case Bluray will play on any player) will enjoy the amusing cameo from Kevin Van Hentenryck.



Friday, 13 July 2012

The Amityville Horror (1979)

You may sneer and laugh at me for saying so but The Amityville Horror remains one of my favourite haunted house movies and I put it up alongside such classics as The Haunting and The Legend Of Hell House. It left an indelible impression upon me when I saw it in my youth and even though I am now older and wiser (and armed with the knowledge that a lot of the story is alleged to be completely fictional) I still can't watch the movie without being affected by the ominous presence of the house at the centre of the supernatural events. That haunting score by Lalo Schifrin doesn't help matters (I rank it alongside The Omen as one of the best horror movie scores of all time).

The story, for those of you somehow unaware of the most famous haunted house since Borley Rectory, is all about George (James Brolin) and Kathy Lutz (Margot Kidder), a married couple with three kids (two boys and one girl) and not too much in the way of disposable income. They move into the house in Amityville, aware of the history it has but dismissing the fact that the house itself is a bad place, and it's not long before things start going bump in the night, bump in the day and bump all over the place.

The Amityville Horror is, despite the fact that none of it actually happened, a fine movie. It takes a number of preposterous ideas and somehow makes them all believable, thanks to a mix of solid direction from Stuart Rosenberg and a great cast including Brolin in one of his best roles, Kidder being a bit less annoying than usual, Rod Steiger, Murray Hamilton and Don Stroud. Steiger is landed with the worst of the roles, a priest trying to help the Lutz family, but he has fun in the role and is always entertaining. The film also proves once again that what you don't see is always a lot scarier than any special effects that could have been thrown around onscreen (the one major visual fright is actually one of the lamest moments in the whole movie).

The book was written by Jay Anson, from the tale that he was told by George Lutz and his wife, and the screenplay by Sandor Stern takes the enjoyable and melodramatic raw material and keeps everything nicely paced en route to an unashamedly bombastic finale.

Yet, in many ways, The Amityville Horror isn't all that affected by the direction, the script or the acting. That music plays and the camera shows the "face" of the house and that's all it takes for the goosebumps to rise and the atmosphere to start taking hold. You might try to say that the house is actually an icon of horror. Or maybe I'd be alone with that opinion.



Thursday, 12 July 2012

Abbott And Costello Go To Mars (1953)

First off, the title is a bit of a con here because at no point to Abbott and Costello actually go to Mars. Am I spoiling the whole movie for you with this piece of knowledge? No. The two stars do end up in outer space and they do explore some alien territory, but it's most certainly not Mars and I can only assume that the title was left so inaccurate because it just had a nice ring to it.

If you have a top secret spaceship that you're hoping will go on an amazing journey of discovery then the last thing you should do is let Abbott and Costello loose in it but that's exactly what happens near the start of this movie. One or two button pushes later and the boys are flying around with no idea of just how to safely land.
They first arrive in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, thinking that they're surrounded by aliens, but that's just the start of their travels.

Directed by Charles Lamont, this outrageous and unbelievable adventure still manages to be a lot of fun from begining to end by simply concentrating on the many comedic opportunities that the premise allows and not letting anything like logic or any semblance of reality get in the way. Sometimes this can harm a movie but I'm happy to say that it's not the case here. The script by D. D. Beauchamp and John Grant is enjoyable and the performances from Abbott, Costello, Horace McMahon and Jack Kruschen (as a pair of escaped convicts) and a large number of Miss Universe contestants are all easygoing and should make you smile.

There are one or two set-pieces (including a tussle without gravity) that stand out, a pleasing lack of any musical numbers and plenty of decent one-liners in the script. Even the dated look of the sci-fi elements (big fishbowl-space helmets, endearingly poor special effects, etc) actually made me like the whole thing even more, like some comedy riff on the sci-fi comic books of the time. Which is, essentially, what it is. Overall, this ended up being a lot better than I expected and I'd happily watch it again.



Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969)

It's another Disney movie starring a young Kurt Russell but this time around he gets a starring role, and a superb job he does with it too.

Russell plays Dexter, a typical high school teen who has a good heart but doesn't apply himself as well as he should. One day he ends up in an accident involving water and a computer (nothing too harmful, this is a Disney movie in which mild electrocution is just a fright as opposed to something potentially fatal) and from then on he is supersmart. He has somehow absorbed the abilities of the computer, much to the great pleasure of his Dean (Joe Flynn). Now he can travel the world and promote the school. He can also pick winners at the horse racing, much to the pleasure of crooked A. J. Arno (the great Cesar Romero). It's not long before the thoughts of just how Dexter's knowledge can be used put him in danger and it's up to his old friends to help save him from being unplugged.

Now I know that this movie can divide opinion. A lot of people can't help but view it with nostalgic fondness while others view it as typical, overly sweet, Disney fare from the era. I never actually saw this when I was a kid so this was my first viewing and I STILL really liked it. Oh, there's no denying that it IS typical, overly sweet, Disney fare from the era but it's also brisk entertainment from start to finish and great family fun.

The cast are all fantastic. Russell excels in the title role and the supporting cast - Joe Flynn, Cesar Romero, William Schallert, Alan Hewitt, Richard Bakalyan, Debbie Paine, etc - all do well with the material, written by Joseph L. McEveety.

Director Robert Butler keeps everything ticking over nicely, after an awful opening credits sequence (the title song is still something that I am trying to scrub out of my mind), and the film has a great mix of breezy fun, mild tension in places and, of course, life lessons.

I was going to end this review by explaining how the film works better as a mix of sheer entertainment and also a bit of a "time capsule", I was going to say that the movie doesn't stand up when compared to modern family movies but that it is still a bit of fun you could happily watch on a rainy afternoon. Then I realised that I was about to lie. The film may have that "time capsule" element to it but it also easily stands up alongside any other family movie you could choose to watch. There will, of course, be some better than this movie but there will also be a lot that just aren't as much fun. This is, thanks largely to the cast and the high concept, a solid piece of entertainment.



Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Lost In Alaska (1952)

Lost In Alaska was another one of the many Abbott & Costello titles that I'd never heard of before deciding to explore as much of their filmography as I could get my hands on. I didn't expect much from it but, live and learn, it turned out to be a very enjoyable comedy with some great one-liners and at least one memorable routine (involving the duo sleeping in two hour shifts to keep a watch over a suicidal man - something that Bud manages to manipulate in his favour by winding forward the clock).

Our two leads play two volunteer firemen who make their lives more complicated when they save the life of heartbroken Nugget Joe McDermott (Tom Ewell). Joe is a gold prospector who got lucky with his prospecting but unlucky with his love life (he was rejected by Rosette, played by Mitzi Green). When his death is wrongly reported, Bud and Lou are wrongly wanted for murder and so they go with Joe when he returns to his hometown. Unfortunately, having changed his will to let people benefit from his newfound riches, Joe is wanted dead by a lot of greedy people (including Jake Stillman, played by Bruce Cabot) while Bud and Lou have to keep him alive to prove their innocence.

Directed by Jean Yarbrough, and written by Martin Ragaway and Leonard Stern, Lost In Alaska is a surprisingly top notch comedy from start to finish. Even the central contrivance that puts the leads in big trouble feels better than usual, a bit less forced despite being no less implausible.

The cast all do a great job. Mitzi Green plays a character who seems to change her mind from one scene to the next but she also shows that she's no pushover and there's a decent song from her, serving as a memorable introduction. Bruce Cabot is a decent baddie and Tom Ewell is very good as the unhappy Joe. Bud and Lou do their thing and do it well.

The finale is a bit of a disappointment but that shouldn't be enough to detract from all the fun of the first hour or so. There are some A & C movies that I'd easily watch again and some that I am just happy to have seen the once. This is one of the former.



Monday, 9 July 2012

Big Stan (2007)

How can you make any Rob Schneider movie even funnier? If you immediately thought of adding a few fight scenes and lots and lots of jokes about male rape then Big Stan is the film for you.

I have a bizarre viewing relationship with the films of Rob Schneider. Part of me knows that his movies are always crass and stupid and part of me still ends up enjoying them. Jeesh, I used to OWN The Animal and I cannot promise you that I would never buy it again if it was on a shelf in front of me at a bargain price (as of this moment, I have hastily closed the Amazon page to resist temptation). The movies may be pretty easy to criticise but they also have at least one or two moments that are pretty easy to laugh along with.

Big Stan is almost exactly the same as his other movies in that respect. The central concept isn't too bad - Schneider plays Stan, a man about to be sent to jail for fraud who invests his limited free time before the big day in getting his body trained to perfection (by David Carradine) - but then we get the jokes about male rape. And more jokes about male rape. And even MORE jokes about male rape. Now, I am far from the easily offended type, and I do believe that humour should have no boundaries, but rape of any kind is a hard subject to wring humour from and many of the jokes here just fall flat. Thankfully, the rest of the movie showing Stan being trained and then asserting his authority in the prison is pretty amusing. Scott Wilson (probably best known lately for his role in "The Walking Dead") is good as the scheming warden and Jennifer Morrison does just fine as Mindy, the woman who stays in love with Stan through thick and thin. There's also a very funny turn from M. Emmet Walsh as seedy lawyer, Lew Popper.

Written by Josh Lieb, and directed by Schneider, there is plenty here to enjoy if you're a fan of the main star. He runs through his usual range of witticisms and comedy faces (both of which I enjoy) and the supporting cast all add to the fun but there's just that bad taste left in the mouth by so many of the gags that detracts from the overall fun factor.

The main idea of a weak con man building himself up to be the biggest and baddest mofo in the prison is a good one and Schneider is, surprisingly, convincing enough when he kicks ass (okay, he's not going to launch an action movie career but he shows that he can pull off a few moves) but the film is half a good movie sewn into half a bad movie. Hence my rating.



Sunday, 8 July 2012

Reno 911!: Miami (2007)

While I never watched the TV version of Reno 911! I was somehow always aware of it. It was a parody of the "COPS"-style TV shows that have become so popular over the last decade or so and featured some great comedy from two people I really enjoy seeing onscreen - Thomas Lennon and Wendi McLendon-Covey. Maybe if I'd seen some episodes I would have enjoyed it. Maybe not.

The plot sees our hapless police officers invited to a big event in Miami. It's not that they're special, or that anyone actually wanted them there, but the fact is that this time around everyone was invited. Things start off as you would expect - the group are mocked and their details can't be found on the system - but things swiftly turn around the next day when a terrorist attack leaves every other officer quarantined inside the main event building. Law and order must remain and it's up to the folks from Reno to uphold it. Uh oh.

Directed by Robert Ben Garant (who also co-wrote the thing with stars Thomas Lennon and Kerri Kenney - and, I'm sure, everyone who was able to improv some lines), this movie suffers due to the fact that every single character is just slightly too dumb to be amusing for an entire film. The cops are dumb, of course, but The Rock pops up just to be dumb too. Then we have a dumb, though still amusing, Scarface-inspired baddie played by Paul Rudd. Patton Oswalt, as Jeff Spoder, does reasonably well until the big finale, in which he also becomes pretty dumb. It's a symphony of stupidity and that's a tricky thing to get just right, which is why the movie falls down slightly.

There are many individual moments that cause laughs (the aforementioned appearance from The Rock is one while attempts to remove the body of a beached whale is another) but there are many other moments that pile on the crudity and nonsense without success. Lennon is consistently great, as are Wendi McLendon-Covey and Kerri Kenney, but the other main characters are either undeveloped or just plain unfunny.

With a cast that also features David Koechner and Nick Swardson, and even a small and amusing cameo for Danny DeVito, there's enough stupidity thrown around to make this a passable time-waster but it's not one that I'll choose to watch again.



Saturday, 7 July 2012

2-Headed Shark Attack (2012)

If you've seen a number of killer shark movies and often found yourself thinking "well, sure, they're scary and dangerous but they would be even scarier and MORE dangerous if they had two heads" then this is the film for you. It's another gem from the folks at The Asylum and it's pretty bad, I'm sad to say.

2-Headed Shark Attack is yet another movie that you can't possibly begin viewing without knowing what to expect. Would you be astonished if I told you that it concerned a group of young adults being attacked by a 2-headed shark? No, no you wouldn't. The biggest stars in the cast are Carmen Electra and Charlie (brother of Jerry) O'Connell while everyone else seems to have been chosen for their willingness to act alongside some of the worst special effects since "Button Moon". Brooke Hogan tries to acquit herself as the lead but she's ill-served by the material, as are all of the other actors.

Christopher Ray gets to sit in the big chair and direct stuff based on a screenplay by H. Perry Horton and it's hard to think of who to blame more for the final result. A movie that could have been a bit of dumb fun (as so may of the other creature features from the studio are) is bogged down by a mix of laughably poor practical effects, CGI that looks like it could have been created on a mobile phone and a script that, I kid you not, includes the following clarification about 3/4 of the way into the movie: "Two heads is twice as many teeth".

I know that movies of this kind aren't going to be the most stimulating movies around, I know that the budget is limited and that logic often has to take a back seat. Anyone who has knowledge of the many low-budget horror movies that I've enjoyed already knows that I know that. Yet there's no excuse for something quite this irritating. A bunch of characters that you really don't care for are terrorised by a bunch of pixels that don't provide one iota of tension. I was tempted to give this an even lower rating but it's saved by two things. 1 - it's never dull. 2 - unusually for a creature feature from the studio, there's some gratuitous nudity in the mix (not for long but it's at least a bonus for male viewers enduring the whole movie).



Yes, this is a completely gratuitous opportunity to post a pic of Carmen Electra in a bikini but, trust me, this is a damn sight better than any images that I could have posted containing the laughable 2-headed shark.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Trancers II (1991)

For anyone interested, my review of the first movie is on Flickfeast here.

Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) returns to take on more Trancers in this hugely enjoyable sequel. Helen Hunt is also back, as Lena, and the film continues on from the events of the first movie, albeit six years later. Yes, Jack has been settled in the past now for six years and he's quite happy but he can sense something in the air, some vibe that somehow lets him know that Trancers are in the vicinity. What are Trancers, you might ask? Well, you have to watch the first movie to make sure that you're fully informed.

This sequel starts off a bit uncertainly but quickly hits its stride and then never pauses long enough for all of the nonsense to spoil the sense of fun. After an opening sequence that introduces the situation and characters and briefly tries to make the science stuff believable it's all about fun with the Deths and the people who end up having their lives saved by Jack.

With Charles Band directing once again, and Jackson Barr returning for the writing duties, there's certainly no big gap between the tone of this movie and the tone of the original. Deth is still a gruff guy, happier shooting a gun than trying to verbalise any emotions, and he's still a great central character.

Thomerson excels yet again in the lead role, and Hunt is also just as enjoyable as she was in the first movie. Art LaFleur and Telma Hopkins return, albeit briefly, and Biff Manard and Megan Ward have fun with their roles. Richard Lynch puts in a decent performance as the main villain while horror fans will love seeing supporting roles for Martine Beswick, Jeffrey Combs and the lovely Barbara Crampton.

There are a number of moments when the low budget becomes a bit obvious but that can't detract from the sheer sense of fun that fills every frame once Jack Deth sets his sights on baddies that he can happily blast away. Some additional emotional complication (Megan Ward's character is the future wife of Jack Deth, which displeases Helen Hunt, his wife in the present) is largely played for comedy value but adds a satisfying heart to all of the gunfights, gadgetry (the long-second watch returns) and paradoxes. If you liked the first movie then I see absolutely no reason why you wouldn't enjoy this sequel just as much.



Thursday, 5 July 2012

Me, Myself & IMDb.

Hmmm, some time has now passed and I have received nothing but an automated response from IMDb after my posts and entire post history were deleted for no good reason last week. Oh no, I'm completely serious. No good reason at all. Hey, I can fess up to the fact that in the past, before learning how to make the best use of forums and my time, I've been a bit of a pain in the ass but this time I am, for a change, quite innocent.

And here is the correspondence thus far:

Hi guys,

I know that this is a long shot but I can genuinely not think of one single
thing I have posted that has violated the IMDb terms and conditions and came
along today to update my ongoing coverage of the Edinburgh International Film
Festival to find everything gone (threads on The Twilight Zone, Disney, etc, etc).

Is there any way this can be investigated further and perhaps reversed?

I hoped that was polite and restrained enough to warrant a decent reply but instead I received the standard auto-response.


Posts in our message boards can be deleted/moved for a variety of reasons. First of all, before assuming your post has been deleted, you should check your post history (on your user profile page). Sometimes posts are moved by an administrator to a different board from the one they were posted on (usually because they were off-topic and/or better suited to a different forum).

If you are certain that the post has been deleted and you didn't do it, then there are two possible reasons: the message has been removed by a moderator or it has expired. Our boards are not designed to store messages indefinitely: after a certain amount of time older threads are removed from the board automatically. This process is called "expiry".

The rate of expiry is adjusted dynamically according to the posting traffic for each board. Threads are removed sooner from a board that attracts a lot of posts than they would be from a board with less activity.

Please keep in mind that the boards system is not meant to be an archival medium, and all posts are subject to expiry and disappearance sooner or later. This is intended to allow us to manage the resources consumed by each board effectively, and also to promote the ever-changing flow of discussion.

Posts can also be deleted by an administrator if they have generated complaints from other users (through the Report Abuse feature) and have been deemed inappropriate or in violation of our Terms & Conditions of use (http://www.imdb.com/help/boards/tc)

Please note that when an administrator removes a post that was the head of a thread, every other post in that thread is removed at that same time. Also, if  a thread has degenerated into a string of abusive posts and it appears that further responses are going to continue this trend, the entire thread will also be removed.

In cases of cumulative, serial or blatant abuse of the system, administrators may exercise the option of removing entire post histories from the system. If this has happened to you, it's a definite sign that you are doing something inappropriate that has attracted multiple complaints.

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The IMDb Help Desk

Well, Ann seemed nice enough anyway even though "she" was actually saying, essentially, that I'd done something wrong repeatedly without being aware of it. To have my post history removed I must have been "doing something inappropriate that has attracted multiple complaints".

Which was absolutely not the case. And so I countered with, you know, actual evidence of my upstanding board conduct (note, the following links no longer work, of course, as the posts have all been deleted but I believe that IMDb admins have access to deleted threads as long as they receive the URLs).

This was my Twilight Zone thread - [url]http://www.imdb.com/board/bd0000024/nest/196668178[/url]

My thread on horror movies on YouTube - [url]http://www.imdb.com/board/bd0000024/nest/190241833?d=190241833#190241833[/url]

My thread exploring the movies included in the DVD Delirium - [url]http://www.imdb.com/board/bd0000024/nest/190997812?d=190997812#190997812[/url]

My thread journeying through the movies of Walt Disney - [url]http://www.imdb.com/board/bd0000007/nest/191503568?d=191503568#191503568[/url]

And my thread exploring my own DVD collection - [url]http://www.imdb.com/board/bd0000007/nest/194749826?d=194749826#194749826[/url]

Please look into this rather than giving an automated response, I literally have NO idea what I could have possibly posted that would constitute "doing something inappropriate that has attracted multiple complaints" and I believe that whoever tried to report my posts/threads has themselves been abusing the complaints procedure and may need investigated further.

I understand that the stock reply will be for me to not use the boards if I am unhappy with the resolution and I will go my merry way, as a last resort, but I would much prefer to give you as much information as possible to try and actually redress the balance when it comes to the misuse of the post reporting facility.

Yours sincerely,

Kevin Matthews.

The reply? Zero. Zip. Nothing. Despite the fact that I have almost 950 reviews on their site and probably about the same number of external links, despite the fact that I try to contribute data whenever possible and despite the fact that I've actually not done anything worthy of negative action, this won't be fixed and they are quite happy to simply encourage users to "like it or lump it". It's been that way for years and won't change, I and many other users are well aware of this and grit our teeth on a daily basis.

I have a LOT of friends on IMDb and have had a lot of great conversations. But most of them are also on Facebook. Or have their own blogs. Heck, I'd LIKE to cajole a few of them into chatting away on the Flickfeast forums.

I'm not going to disappear from IMDb and I'm certainly not going to stop adding my external links and user reviews. But I am going to be there a LOT less than I was before and not invest any time or energy into the kind of threads I previously enjoyed maintaining.

Of course, I MIGHT still get an answer to my mail and a solution to this problem but I seriously doubt it. So be warned where you put in any effort, it only takes a majority of one (apparently) to see it all undone.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Class Of Nuke 'Em High (1986)

I know what you'll be thinking when you scroll down to read my rating. 8/10? EIGHT out of TEN???? Of course, when compared to the likes of something like Citizen Kane or The Shawshank Redemption or even The Dark Knight this score seems ridiculous. But take this movie on it's own, dubious, merits and rate it according to what it sets out to do and how it does it and 8/10 seems fair to me. In the realm of low-budget craziness it's a jewel in Troma's crown.

The story (stop laughing now, wipe your eyes and read on) is all about a school that's placed a little bit too close to a nuclear power plant, resulting in some awful, unfortunate pupil deaths and also the growth of some super-strong drugs that provide very bad side effects. A young couple (Warren and Chrissy) try to develop their burgeoning relationship while things around them descend into anarchy, insanity and even death.

This movie is not about great acting. It's not about a great script. It's not even about a remotely believable premise. Not at all. This movie is about people melting, bikers acting hard, nightmares about the consequences of sexual encounters, a massive monster that can punch all the way through someone's head and the most hilarious double-take in movie history (when Warren's mates see him making out with Chrissy, it has to be seen to be disbelieved). It also helps that Janelle Brady, playing Chrissy, is very attractive.

So there you have most of the plus points covered. See it if you think you may glean some enjoyment from it but if you have any doubt at all . . . . . then you're probably best just to leave it for the mad fans like myself.