Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Airboss (1997)

I mentioned earlier that a friend bought me a DVD collection titled Terror In The Air, which contains nine movies on two discs. The first movie of the collection, Crash Landing, isn’t very good. The second, Airborne, is much worse. But the next several are quite enjoyable, and I started to revise by overall feeling about this collection. Then I watched Airboss, a movie which makes Airborne look like a masterpiece by comparison. This is one of the worst of the worst.

It opens with shots of miscellaneous military planes in the air. Then we go to Pokalsko Airbase in the former USSR. A title card tells us it’s decommissioned. Suddenly a bunch of folks parachute in and begin killing people, people who must have seen them coming, people who had plenty of time to react. After all, it’s broad daylight. But they seem very surprised at being killed. Perhaps they were expecting friends to parachute in. Elsewhere, a woman is yelling into a man’s ear that they must stop them. Stop whom? All she knows is that the alarm was triggered. But she has no idea of the type of emergency. Unless, maybe she’s clairvoyant?

Well, the bad guys reach their target, and that’s when their leader decides to stop and give a little speech about their mission. Now? Mostly it’s to let us know what’s going on. But seriously, shouldn’t they just get on with it? Well, the leader says they’re going to steal a MIG-35 stealth bomber. And I wonder, Why are all the extras in masks, but the actors are not? Either there’s a need for secrecy or there isn’t. Hmmm. Did the leader just hand masks to people he didn’t want to hear speak on this mission? “If I give you a mask, it means shut up, no matter what.” Anyway, they steal the plane, and that woman laments, “We will never see that plane again.” Apparently, she has some sort of unnatural attachment to this particular plane.

We then go to Hafar Al Batin Oil Field in Saudi Arabia. Yes, this movie hits all the hot tourist spots. Hey, here comes that stealth bomber. And though it’s nearly dark, the man on the ground shields his eyes when looking up at it. Bombs away! Now it’s time to shield your eyes, fellah. So the plan is to target a lot of oil fields, so that one guy’s oil will be worth more. Oh no, the poor struggling oil industry is being targeted! Geez, give those guys a break, you ruthless villains! “Your oil will be worth billions more,” one villain says to another. I never thought an oil magnate could be so greedy. You’d think the billions he was already making would be sufficient.

Meanwhile, the navy and the CIA are bickering over jurisdiction regarding the case. The CIA suit threatens to go up inside the navy guy’s ass, but before he can follow through on his threat, some other guy interrupts. And the camera isn’t sure which character to focus on. This guy, no, this guy, no, that guy. Hey, does this guy have a line? Um, no, quick, back to that other guy. Hey, a wide shot would solve this issue. Or you could shoot coverage, like every other movie ever made. No? Okay, the master is all in close-ups, bouncing around like a nervous junkie. Who shoots like this? I’m too caught up in this bizarre camera decision to be able to follow any of the dialogue. A guy named Todd is given the opportunity to lead a team to solve the problem, but there are more ass-related threats, and I’m fairly certain this movie is going to end with an all-male military orgy. Poor Todd is unhappy that Frank White is being brought in on his team. But seriously, would you ever put someone named Todd in charge of anything? I wouldn’t.

I didn’t think it was possible to make air combat dull, but a flashback to a training mission proves me wrong. “Sometimes in air combat, you gotta be a little crazy, Willis.” A little bit of crazy, a whole lot of dull. But with more threats of driving a rocket into someone’s ass. I get it: the two screenwriters are super, super gay. That’s fine, and if this movie doesn’t end with a giant anal sex scene, I’m going to be upset. And how can you have a character named Willis and not have someone else say, “What you talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?” Well, whatever, the boring flashback is also a dream sequence. Ugh. Then, to spice up the exciting man-riding-in-a-jeep sequence, we repeat part of the flashback. Oh god, this movie has stopped cold, and we’re only twenty-six minutes into it.

Anyway, nothing whatsoever happens for the following ten minutes. Then the team begins its mission, which I guess is to find out who is destroying the oil fields. Frank White flies around until he hears of an oil field being attacked, and then flies to that oil field, but can’t go into restricted air space. That means more footage of planes flying around. The guy with the stolen plane fires on Frank’s plane. What about the oil field? They seem to have forgotten about that. Frank’s plane is hit, he ejects, and then he talks to himself for a while. We follow him as he walks along back to America, or wherever. So I guess the mission is on hold again. You’d think there would be more than one plane on this case, what, with billions in oil at stake. But no, it’s just this one guy. And so the movie is now about Frank walking around. And guess what? That other pilot that was shooting at him finds him. Geez, doesn’t this guy have other stuff to take care of? Oil fields to blow up and so on? Nope. He gives Frank a little history lesson, then tells him: “You, American, you killed my country. You killed me.”

Then, when the villain’s female accomplice hears Frank utter a feeble prayer, she suddenly becomes compassionate and frees him. It’s completely unbelievable, but, hey, whatever gets this movie to its conclusion, right? It leads to the villain saying, “What a day I am having.” Anyway, the military comes in to rescue Frank, and there is a lot of shooting and running and falling down, and a lot of shots of the villain speaking into a phone. It’s all very thrilling, but what about the oil fields? And, oh boy, in the middle of it all Frank starts making out with the Russian chick. Why not?

The oil guy is of course upset with the Russian guy. But haven’t they already destroyed several oil fields? Who knows? Only twenty minutes left in the movie. So anyway, all the military guys get Frank out, only to then send him back in to attack the villain. It’s a shame they didn’t think to do that earlier before they left. Now they have to parachute back in and use up more film. So there’s more shooting and running around and falling down. It couldn’t be more boring, and yet somehow someone somewhere decided this movie deserved a sequel. Actually, three sequels. It’s incredible. The villain sums up the entire film-watching experience near the end: “Life is full of little disappointments.” And then, guess what, when his plane crashes, it actually manages to smash into and blow up another oil facility. Even in death, he’s continuing to do his job. Good for him! But where the hell is the gay orgy we’ve been promised?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Airborne (1998)

A friend of mine recently gave me a DVD set titled Terror In The Air, a collection of nine action movies all involving airplanes. The first movie of the collection, Crash Landing, isn’t all that good. The second, Airborne, is much worse. You know you’re in for a bad movie when it begins with a long title card which is also read aloud to you (because, the producers must feel, the movie’s audience might be too stupid to be able to read): “February 1990. The Gulf War erupts and…” And I’ve stopped paying attention. Something about one of those elite forces the government is always creating in movies. “Shrouded in total secrecy, they infiltrate hot spots, execute their mission and disappear. Until the next time.”

I’m worried that it must be the next time.

Sean Bean and some guys break into a laboratory and steal some glowing beads, an experiment in using a virus as a biological weapon. So it’s up to the elite force led by action movie hero Steve Guttenberg (who seems to be imitating Bruce Willis), to recapture the glowing beads before they can be used against a population. The virus is currently on a plane, so the elite force is going to do one of those popular mid-air entries. “All right, we’ve all got our dance cards,” action movie hero Steve Guttenberg says. And then the elite team is identified with title cards while the group’s theme song plays. I’m beginning to suspect this is a comedy. But there are lots of dramatic pauses before they start their mission, which seem to indicate these characters wish to be taken seriously.

Everything goes well on their mission, but they take the dangerous cylinder out of its protective case for some reason, and then toss it around. This is supposed to build suspense, I suppose, but it just comes across as seriously stupid. And there’s some fighting on the plane, and one of the bad guys calls action movie hero Steve Guttenberg by name. By his character’s name, that is: Bill McNeil. The elite force escapes, but the movie is far from over. How did that villain know his name, action movie hero Steve Guttenberg wonders. And we are supposed to wonder that too, but I’m not all that concerned.

Elite team supervisor Ron Simpson (Colm Feore, who must have been wondering what the hell he was doing in this movie) and action movie hero Steve Guttenberg go for a drive. Ron goes to put on some Abba or Diana Ross, but puts in the wrong CD, and a man starts talking to him through the speakers, and somehow that makes the car doors lock. Also, the brakes and steering wheel stop functioning. Uh-oh! Not that we’re overly concerned about these characters, but now it’s beyond any doubt that this is a bad movie. And I wonder, What would the bad guys have done had Ron decided not to put on this CD? I mean, sometimes you just want to drive in silence, and not listen to a man’s voice threaten you on your stereo. And sometimes you don’t even want to listen to Abba or Diana Ross. Well, of course Ron and action movie hero Steve Guttenberg escape. But I’m also wondering, How would killing these two help the bad guys get the virus back? It’s not like the elite force still has it. Their mission is over. It’s been over for a while.

Well, one of the other members of the elite force is murdered, and a murder attempt is made on the female member, Sara. So Ron, Sara and action movie hero Steve Guttenberg no longer trust anyone, including their bosses. So they decide to steal the virus themselves in order to find out who the buyer is. That seems somewhat nutty and dangerous, but the movie has to go on. It’s about this time that I recall that the DVD box set is called Terror In The Air. The entire plane sequence was over in the first twenty minutes. Hmm. Anyway, the team breaks in to the place where the virus is stored without any trouble whatsoever. But when they get the container, Sean Bean is there like Belloq in Raiders to take it from them. There is a cool liquid nitrogen death, but the whole thing is so silly. Where are the guards? So now the bad guys have the virus again. And I learn that secret operations agents take long bubble baths.

Action movie hero Steve Guttenberg walks in slow motion in a couple of scenes. That builds suspense, even when he and Sara are just walking down a hotel hallway. What will happen? And then, with eighteen minutes left in the movie, we have another airplane sequence. Well, an airport sequence, anyway. The plane never gets off the ground (so much for Terror In The Air). Why does no one carry that virus in a protective case? The movie’s ending provides a few answers to certain questions, but no answer to that question.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Shark Exorcist (2015)

My friends know I love shark movies, and one of them alerted me to the existence of Shark Exorcist several months ago. The title is, of course, ridiculous. Deliciously so. Shark movie fans are used to wacky titles by now, after seeing movies like Sharknado and Raiders Of The Lost Shark and Sharktopus (hey, I still haven’t seen Sharktopus). So a title like Shark Exorcist doesn’t scare me off; quite the opposite, actually. However, if you are someone who is going to judge from the title alone that this is a terrible movie, well… you’re right. It’s about a possessed shark in a lake, and a possessed girl. Or does the girl actually become the shark? It’s unclear.

When the movie opens, a nun walks through a graveyard, while we hear a news report about a search for Miss Blair (a nod to The Exorcist, obviously) who is accused of the torture and deaths of several boys and girls. The nun walks to the ocean and says to it, “The world has betrayed me, so the world will taste my vengeance.” The ocean doesn’t reply. When a woman suddenly approaches her and threatens to reveal what the nun has done, the nun pulls a large blade from her robe and stabs her with it. She then pushes her body into the water and asks Satan to send her an avenger in return. Time to cue the goofy yellow-eyed CG shark. And Shark Exorcist is underway. (By the way, no more will ever be said about the murdered boys and girls, so don’t go thinking that’s part of the plot.)

One year later, three dippy girls are heading to a lake. Lauren, the dumbest of the three, says “BFF” and expects the lake to have waterslides. And Ali is having boyfriend troubles. Emily is the brunette and so is the smartest and most likeable of the three. A sign at the lake says “Swim at your own risk,” and Lauren can’t get eaten soon enough for me. But it’s Ali that goes swimming and is attacked. So apparently, over the last year, the shark moved to the lake. (Unless that was the lake at the beginning; but then, why would there be a shark in it?) Also, it appears that someone wrote a poem or grocery list on Ali. Apparently, there was no money in the budget for special effects makeup, and so there is no bite on Ali. Just some fake blood on her leg. Just rinse it off and you’ll be fine, Ali.

But Ali is far from fine. According to her friends, she is acting strangely, taking long baths and so on. Emily is concerned, and reminds her, “Three weeks ago there was this chunk bitten out of your leg.” (Not true, as we saw, but whatever.) Ali tells her, “That’s the thing about almost dying, Emily: it is a real buzz kill.” Emily points out that there isn’t even a scar on her leg. But we’re already well aware of that. After all, there was never a wound. Ali then hitchhikes to the lake, and the guy that picks her up goes swimming with her. Hey, someone scribbled on his flesh too, in the same place where that grocery list is written on Ali. Could this be a key to unlocking the mystery of Shark Exorcist? Who has been writing on this movie’s cast?

Meanwhile a redhead named Nancy Chase is doing a low-budget exposé on the lake. She hosts a reality-type show titled Ghost Whackers, which is shot by a guy with a cheap video camera (just like the rest of the movie). Though at certain points she turns away from the guy with the camera and speaks directly to us through the movie’s camera, oddly breaking the fourth wall, and giving her cameraman a dubious shot of the back of her head. She also talks to the water, asking if it’s true that sharks have been attacking people. She says, “If there is a shark here, I believe it’s possessed, possessed by a demon.” Okay, then. And she acts like she herself is possessed. When some girl interrupts her taping to protest and insult her show, rather than just cutting until the woman leaves, Nancy acts like her show is being broadcast live. Weird. And the second time Nancy acts like she’s possessed, her film crew (meaning that one guy) runs away. No matter.

As for the film’s title, well, there is a priest named Father Michael who gets a letter about the mysterious death of his brother, and shows up to… well, investigate, I assume. Is his brother the guy with the writing on his side? We’re never told. The letter, by the way, is read in voice over by someone who seems to be struggling to speak. Father Michael seems to have some information on Ali’s troubles. And during the short exorcism scene, we get the obligatory, inevitable Jaws reference: "You’re going to need a bigger cross." (We also get the pea soup from The Exorcist.) And for some reason, the movie shows us three witches trying to summon a spirit, while some other girl crawls around in a graveyard. Nothing ever comes of this, so pay these characters no attention. There is also a retarded woman playing with toy sharks on a playground. Hey, does she always wear her swimsuit under her clothes?

Three more blondes are introduced halfway through the movie, and – oh no – they’re sorority sisters. Or, one is, and the other two want to be. If they are willing and able to swim in the lake without getting eaten by the shark, they get to join the sorority. That leads to the question, which is the worse fate? But don’t worry – these three girls are here for only one scene, and then are forgotten. And there is a long scene of some other blonde walking along slowly, then putting down a towel, sitting on it and playing with her phone. Who is she? A guy is watching her, taking photos of her. Who is he? No idea. But we get to see him scroll through every single photo he’s taken of the girl with his phone. This exciting development is shortly before the end of the film.

For a movie titled Shark Exorcist, it doesn’t really have much footage of the shark or the exorcist. And the shark footage that is there is really awful. The shark and the actors are never in the same frame. The movie also suffers from some terrible music, as well as some poor ADR. Watch the priest’s mouth during the scene where he meets Emily. His mouth doesn’t match the sound. And what’s up with the weird limping extra in the carnival scene? Why is there a carnival scene anyway? Still, I did have fun watching this one. Hey, at one point the shark arrives from space. It really doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, but I’m not sure it was ever intended to.

The movie is only an hour long, so after a portion of the closing credits, we’re given another scene. It’s of a girl looking at an aquarium, and then at some plush shark toys. It goes on for several minutes. And then just before the last of the closing credits, there is yet another scene. Just end, already!

By the way, two people are credited with special makeup effects. Hmm. One of them is Alaine Huntington, who is also an actor in the film. She’s also an associate producer. And the second unit director. And she’s in charge of transportation in Louisiana. Shark Exorcist was written and directed by Donald Farmer, who also made the Misty Mundae movie An Erotic Vampire In Paris (which surprisingly is a much better movie).

(Note: I posted a somewhat shorter review of this movie on Pop Culture Beast.)

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Die Fighting (2014)

When Die Fighting begins, the little red “REC” sign appears in the upper right corner of the screen, and I get a little nervous that this might be one of those “found footage” films, which some filmmakers still think are interesting. But it isn’t, at least not exactly, since the footage was made deliberately. It’s about a group of martial arts enthusiasts who want to break into Hollywood, and are forced into playing roles in someone’s odd idea of a movie. Die Fighting was written, edited and directed by Fabien Garcia, who also plays the lead role, a character named Fabien Garcia.

The first images are of a man watching news footage about a martial arts team called the Z Team winning some award and coming to Hollywood. This man is videotaping himself from behind, from a couple of angles, so what we get are wonderful shots of a person’s back and video monitors. On one of his screens we see a man who has apparently killed a few people and is upset about it. A title card then reads “24 Hours Earlier.”

Twenty-four hours earlier is this guy’s birthday party. It’s Fabien Garcia, leader of Z Team, and one of his friends is videotaping him. Someone is lurking outside, also videotaping him. Fabien opens a present with no name on it, and it turns out to be a camera slate, with “The Price Of Success” written on it. Fabien and the other members of Z Team have come to Hollywood to pursue their dream of making movies. But one member now says he’s going to move to China to take a job there, because he’s impatient for success, and because it’s difficult to get money to make a feature film. (Ha, the joke is on him, as this movie seems to have been made for only a few thousand dollars.) However, after Fabien’s wife is kidnaped, the team stays together to rescue her.

The mysterious villain at the monitors calls the Z Team and starts giving them instructions, warning that if they don’t do precisely what he wants, he will kill the girl. The first thing he has them do is put on special collars with tracking systems in them, and to throw away their cell phones. Now they’ll have other cell phones that he’s given them, which apparently can only call him. Not even 911? Is that possible? They don’t ever try calling for help, so who knows? Their first task is to attack an armored truck. Somehow the villain has control over a ton of street cameras, and we see the fight sequence from several angles. It’s remarkable that four unarmed guys, without any plan or strategy, are able to take out the guards, as well as policemen who happen by, and make off with the money.

So now they’re criminals themselves. And this is all to possibly save some girl whom we’ve seen for only a couple of minutes, a character that is about as interesting and dynamic and human as a sock left in a corner of a laundromat. I say let her die and get on with your lives. Well, the group splits up and Fabien is led to a church, where the priest is tied to a chair and utters that great line, “Why are you doing this?” (From now on, whenever you watch a movie, listen for that line. You’d be surprised just many movies have a character ask that question. This movie uses the line three times.)  The villain calls Fabien and tells him he’s the star of his new movie. So the villain is making the dreams of Z Team come true by videotaping them. Not only has he set up thousands of cameras, but has also hired a bunch of thugs to rough up a priest. Or is the priest an actor too? Fabien spots one of the cameras in the church, but soon there is an excellent fight sequence to distract us from the silly plot. Because, yes, as ridiculous as this movie is, the fights are actually quite good.

Meanwhile, the other three members of Z Team are at an abandoned hospital, and just when they’re considering going to the police, the police come to them. But instead of giving up and explaining the situation (they have the collars, the phones, and so on), and enlisting their help in rescuing the girl, they fight the SWAT team. It’s lucky the villain put hundreds of cameras in every single room and hallway of this hospital. No matter where the Z Team runs, he’s able to get multiple angles of them. How much did the villain spend on this? Wouldn’t it have been better for him to just hire the Z Team to do a real film? After all, they’re hungry for fame, and would have done the movie for very little money. Then the villain would have had more control over the environment, and gotten better shots. There’d be better wardrobe too. And a script. Imagine a script, and what wonders it could do for his movie. (At one point later on, he says “It’s in the script” to one of his hired thugs, but the thug is just as confused by this idea of there being a script as we are.) Hey, when the SWAT guys regain consciousness, won’t they be curious about all the cameras?

When the villain calls the team to congratulate them on escaping from the SWAT team, it sounds like he says “excape.” How can they take this guy seriously? The villain then has Fabien go to a martial arts class and fight the whole lot of them – teacher and students. Don’t these students wonder why there are suddenly tons of cameras all over the room, including some on the mat? Meanwhile the other three get into a gun battle (it’s a good thing one of them picked up three guns earlier). Again, how long until they say, “You know, that bland girl isn’t worth it”? Are they really going to kill people over this? The answer is yes. And one of Z Team is killed in the gun battle. But still the others go on with this guy’s game. Immediately the villain calls to console the other two: “Your friend will live forever through his performance in my film.” I think he’s greatly overestimating the appeal of his little independent straight-to-video masterpiece.

Toward the end, only Fabien and one other Z Team member are left, and the villain wants them to fight each other to the death. And guess what? At some point the villain kidnaped the other guy’s wife too. Apparently, they both married mousy little Asian girls. Isn’t it convenient that these are the two survivors? What if it had been the other two? Whom would he have kidnaped to make them fight? And when did he kidnap the other girl? It doesn’t really matter. At the end, there is a twist that sort of answers some questions, but which is unbelievable and ridiculous. But along the way, there are several completely enjoyable fight sequences. Just watch those and fast forward through the rest of the movie.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Nasty Terrible T-Kid 170: Julius Cavero (2016)

I’d long had a theory that all graffiti was done by twelve-year-old girls. Because, honestly, who likes to write in big bubble letters? That’s right: twelve-year-old girls. But apparently some grown men also like big bubble letters. The Nasty Terrible T-Kid 170: Julius Cavero is documentary film following one such grown man, Julius Cavero. I knew very little about graffiti art before watching this film. And actually, I hesitate to call “art” something that mars or damages someone else’s property. That being said, I’ve seen some beautiful, vibrant paintings on the sides of buildings, paintings which somehow made an ugly section of city look friendlier, happier.

As the film opens, Julius in voice over, tries to distinguish the artists from those who are just looking for attention, the difference between art and simple tagging. The movie basically stays with him and his perspective. There is quite a bit of pseudo-philosophical musings on his part. He says things like: “The bottom line is with the past there is no future. Remember that. You have to have a past to have a future.” Did he just contradict himself there? Well, it’s clear this isn’t the brightest guy around. There is also a whole lot of bragging. “I’ll always be relevant,” he tells us. And he says, “We took this to a whole nother level.” By the way, everyone, “nother” is not a word. The word you’re looking for is “other.” Remember that.

The filmmaker does ask him why he chose spray paint as his method of self-expression, and he tells the story of being young and seeing two kids spray painting a train. And that moment had a strong impact on him. To the director’s credit, she also asks him, “What do you think about expressing yourself on other people’s property?” He tells her: “I never personally, like, spray painted on somebody’s car or I spray painted on somebody’s house. I did tag my name on mailboxes, trucks, anything commercial.” He says he only spray painted on public property “because I am the public.”

He does talk about joining a gang, and about leaving it. It’s a shame it took him getting shot to leave. And he tells us where the name T-Kid 170 comes from. And when he’s not bragging, he does have a few interesting things to say. Like about getting legitimate jobs. But this documentary is a bit messy, and it’s difficult to know just when certain things occurred. And a lot of shots just aren’t properly identified. For example, there is a shot of him with Brian Grazer, but no explanation of how this meeting came about, or when, or where. Plus, there is a lot of poor-quality old video. And for such a short film (it’s only 49 minutes), there is some pointless stuff, like several moments of him trying to pronounce “Champs-Élysées” while he’s in France.

There are brief snippets of interviews with other graffiti artists, but this isn’t any kind of in-depth documentary on the subject of graffiti. No other perspectives are really presented. For example, we don’t hear from the people who own the property that’s been vandalized. We don’t hear from the police. I thought it might also be interesting to hear from the guys whose job it is to clean up graffiti. And I wish the people who had hired Julius Cavero for legitimate jobs had been interviewed. This documentary is essentially a puff piece. At one point Julius actually says, “We was doing masterworks of art on subway cars.”  Wow. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Shark Island (2012)

As you know, most shark movies are bad. Shark Island is bad even among other shark movies. It was originally titled Shark Week, and was released on DVD under that title too. Apparently it was also released as Shark Assault. But whatever they call it, this movie is a piece of crap.

At the beginning, a man throws a key into his pool and tells another man he has fifteen seconds. That second man is bound in chains, so apparently the first man means he has fifteen seconds to retrieve the key and unlock his chains. Now it’s not clear when those fifteen seconds start, because the second guy dawdles at the edge of the pool for a while. But let’s say the time starts the moment he gets in the water. Okay? When he has nine seconds left, the man says, “Twelve seconds” (not that the guy can hear him at the bottom of the pool anyway). Then when he has negative four seconds left, the man says, “Seven seconds.” And when he has negative twelve seconds, the man tells him, “Five seconds.” At negative twenty-one seconds, the man says, “Three.” When he says “One,” the guy triumphantly raises the key out of the water, but the first man says he’s too late, and releases a shark into the pool. No kidding, he was twenty-three seconds late. And I’m not sure how the man released the shark into the pool anyway. We don’t see him pull a lever or anything. Maybe the shark just knew that whenever the man said “One” that he should go into the pool and eat whoever happened to be in there. Maybe it’s a routine the man and the shark worked out ahead of time. Who knows? Anyway, that’s the opening scene of Shark Island.

Then several people from various parts of Los Angeles are kidnaped by two men and brought to this man’s swimming pool. The man then tells them, “None of you are here by chance.” No kidding. He then tells them they’re going to play a game, and he pushes one of the people into the pool. Oh yeah, I’ve played this game. There are a lot of sharks in the pool. This is a magic pool, by the way. From above, it looks like an average-size pool, not very big, but when you’re under the water, it’s huge. Look at all those sharks. The host’s girlfriend tells the other people that sharks are gods and “They should be revered.” That’s why she has them in her swimming pool. The man says the pool is a gateway to a path taking them to the other side of the island. Each day they’ll encounter a new type of shark and have to kill it. Why does he want these people to kill his girlfriend’s deities? They have an interesting relationship. Later, when they’re alone, he yells at her, “This is not a game!” In her defense, it is difficult to know just what constitutes a game for this guy.

The people don’t bother to use the key to unlock their chains until the next day. Not too bright, these folks. Nor do they try to figure out the situation until the next day, and when they do, they discover that their host is some kind of drug trafficker, and they have each had a hand somehow in the death of the guy’s son. Rather than go back and kill him and his girlfriend, this group wanders around the island, where apparently there are cameras attached to every tree and rock and blade of grass, because the drug trafficker is able to watch them and hear them wherever they are. They are somehow aware of the cameras, though they don’t think to smash them, and that might be because we never actually see any cameras.

This is yet one more movie where the sharks growl. And watch out for the CG mine field! Apparently this man has cameras and speakers attached to the waves in the ocean too, for he’s able to communicate with the people while in they’re in the water. Amazingly, this man has control of the sharks in the ocean. This is a pretty elaborate revenge scenario, but he often looks quite bored while watching the people on his monitor. Yes, just one monitor. And I am quite bored watching him be quite bored watching them. But my third beer helps do the trick.

Hey, this movie was directed by the same guy that directed 2-Headed Shark Attack, 3 Headed Shark Attack and Mega Shark Vs. Kolossus. Wow! And guess what? This one is the worst of the bunch.

same movie (don't be fooled)

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Breaking Point (2014)

The Breaking Point is a crime drama about three guys who shoot a woman in a convenience store, the detectives who are investigating the murder, and a woman who is eager to be district attorney. It is a mess. It opens with the woman who wishes to be the next DA telling a friend that she is working on something special in order to get that job. He asks her about Assistant DA Thomas who is next in line, and she tells him, “I’ll give Thomas an offer than he cannot refuse.” Here are some other clichés from that first scene: “Everything worth having is worth fighting for,” “If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you,” and “Word on the street.” The whole script is like that. (Later we have lines like “It’s like taking candy from a baby” and “Let’s just say a little birdie told me.”) It’s pretty bad. It feels like a first draft. And we have to suffer through some awful and completely useless narration by a character named Shawn (played by Erik Grey).

Shawn, his brother Mike and his friend TJ enter a convenience store, and TJ decides to rob a woman in there, and ends up shooting and killing her. Another bullet injures Mike. Shawn, in his narration, tells us that this “set off a chain of events that we would all later regret.” (That’s not even true, by the way; it doesn’t seem that TJ regrets anything. And come to think of it, it doesn’t seem like Shawn or Mike regrets it either. None of them expresses any remorse. Neither Shawn nor Mike ever turns TJ in. But then again, the line is that they would regret the chain of events, not the actual murder. So whatever. Though after Mike is shot, he does say he should have stayed in school, so there’s that.)

The lighting is also a major problem in this film. The actors are often in shadow, and it doesn’t seem like it’s by choice, but rather by lack of proper lighting.  When Li Ling, the Asian cashier at the store, tells the detectives, “I no see face,” it doesn’t seem like she’s lying, like she’s saying that because she’s scared to testify. I couldn’t see his face either, due to poor lighting. And this is in a convenience store, for fuck’s sake.

The narrator introduces every character. “That’s Captain Harry Sawyer. He retired from the police department after thirty-two years. A real law and order type of dude.” Yes, that’s the kind of dialogue we have to listen to throughout the film. Ouch. And watch Harry’s insane reaction when he learns his wife has been killed. And one of the other cops tells him, “Everything happens for a reason.” I personally like to punch people who say that, but Harry doesn’t hit him. Soon Harry’s granddaughters arrive (cue the terrible emotional music – the score is yet one more major problem), and one of them says, “We’ll get through this together, the way Grandma would have wanted it.” Have I mentioned how bad the dialogue is? And they don’t get through this together anyway. After this scene, the granddaughters disappear.

This movie also has several pointless flashbacks. In one of them, we see the chick that wants to be DA as a child. One of her friends says, “Come on, girls, we need to start working on our realistic career aspirations.” Are you fucking kidding me? Another long, fruitless flashback involves an aborted oil change. The flashbacks become more and more risible. Check out the one after a little girl begs Harry, “Please don’t kill my mommy.” Oh, that reminds me: Harry of course starts investigating on his own, since he was a cop and it was his wife that was killed. But nothing ever comes of that. Nothing. That’s the way this movie is.

The movie keeps introducing people, and you wonder briefly if they might have anything to do with the plot, if perhaps they’ll help get it going. But in most cases, no, they don’t. And I should mention that these are all despicable losers, so who gives a shit what happens to any of them? Are we supposed to side with Shawn? After all, he provides the voice of the film. But why would we care about this guy? He is a thug. Sure, he didn’t pull the trigger, but he is an accessory to murder. And then in an effort to avoid jail, he commits another crime – he breaks into the store that night in order to steal the surveillance tapes. But he can’t find them. Do the cops have them? No, apparently no one has them. It’s another element that never pays off. Why didn’t the cops ask about the tapes when they arrived on the crime scene? I don’t think it’s that the detectives are lazy; I think it’s the writers who are lazy. Yes, writers. It took two people to write this script. Wow.

Out of nowhere there is a slow motion close-up shot of a girl’s ass as she walks away. This movie is amateur hour through and through. It seems like there was no storyboarding or planning of any kind. I mean, who are the main characters? What is the film’s point of view? What is it trying to say? This movie pretends to be about an innocent man wrongly accused of murder. On the DVD cover it says, “Sometimes the innocent have to go beyond… The Breaking Point.” But again, Shawn is far from being innocent.

After Shawn is arrested, he tells the detective, “I’ve seen tougher dudes than you in dresses round my way.” Well, let’s see them in this film! We’ve seen every other person in the neighborhood. Bring on the transvestites!

Suddenly the film jumps to ten months later and Shawn is on trial. But wait a minute. The Asian chick told the cops that three black men were involved. Did the cops ever look into the identities of the other two? What the hell? And the end is totally stupid. Shawn narrates the whole ending, explaining what happened. But who cares? Shawn and Mike, who were accessories to murder, are shown in a college classroom. Are we supposed to think that’s a good thing?

So, what’s good about this movie? In the middle of all this, there is a wonderful scene with two women named Bernadette and Yvette, who are questioned by the detectives. They are the only believable characters, and their scene is by far the most enjoyable. Bernadette is playing by Shellita Boxie, who turns in a really good performance. These two women are so good that it feels for a moment like we’re in a completely different movie, a better movie.

The Breaking Point was directed by James Hunter.

(Note: I posted a shorter version of this review on Pop Culture Beast.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)

I have been a Star Wars fan since 1977 (seeing the ad for Star Wars is my earliest memory), and collected the toys until the end of 2005. Yet I was not all that excited to see the new film, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, mainly because I detest Disney. But I finally saw it. I did enjoy parts of it. But I felt that the movie overall was unnecessary and rather pointless. Also, it seemed to basically want to redo much of the original trilogy, just with different characters (but without character development). A secret map is hidden in a droid, who then ends up in the desert. A young character with inherent force ability must leave the desert planet. We even get a variation of the cantina scene from A New Hope. (Note: As always, there are spoilers in this Good Things About Bad Movies review.)

One of the main weaknesses of Return Of The Jedi was the rehashing of the Death Star, and so I was seriously surprised that The Force Awakens decided to do it yet again. Not only that, but it also uses the whole going-down-to-the-planet-to-destroy-the-shield-generator plot point from Return Of The Jedi. It took a lot of work to accomplish that in Jedi (and yes, they had to get the help of the beloved Ewoks), but in this one everything is pretty easy. I was never anxious for any of the characters at any point in the movie.

Finn’s character is one that I find particularly questionable. I do love the idea of delving into the lives of stormtroopers, but it’s just not handled or developed all that well. He was a stormtrooper all his life, completely indoctrinated, yet he’s aware of Han Solo and other elements that I can’t believe stormtroopers would be taught. Also, he says he worked in sanitation. So why was he there on that raid to capture the map to Luke Skywalker’s location?

Why does that map even exist? Maybe that was explained and I just missed it, but seriously, who created the map, and to what purpose? And why was it divided into two pieces – one very large, and one small? And if R2-D2 had the main section of the map, why did he wait so long to offer it up? And why wouldn’t R2 have the complete map?

Back to Finn: Why did the First Order kidnap children and spend decades indoctrinating them only to make them work in sanitation anyway? And how is he able to use the lightsaber so well? And of course that leads us to Rey’s character. She has apparently never used the force, has had no training, and then suddenly is some kind of expert. What gives? How did she even get the idea that she could use the force to control the weak-minded stormtrooper in that one scene? And, outside of the whole force issue, what led her to rescue BB8 in the first place? Why did she care about a droid she had never seen before? (One more thing about Finn: the bloody handprint on his helmet is ridiculous. I know it’s there so that we can tell him apart from the other stormtroopers, but really, how did the blood get on that guy’s gloves in the first place? He still had his armor on, so wouldn’t the blood be under it?)

The main villain in this movie is lame. It’s a whiny, rebellious, nervous teenager who likes to dress in black and wear a mask. He reminds me of those assholes who take guns to their schools. Like all kids, he wants to distance himself from his parents. But in doing so, this little shit decides to be like his grandparent. He just needs a good spanking. And yet he (big spoiler here) is the one to dispatch one of the original trilogy’s main characters. So sad. So pathetic. (The real villain here is Disney.)

And actually the way the characters of Han, Leia and Luke are handled here is infuriating. After thirty years, Han is back to smuggling? And someone stole the Falcon from him? Come on! That’s fucking stupid. And Leia is back to leading the resistance? What’s going on with the New Republic? And Luke had trouble with his first group of students, and so gave up the whole idea of teaching Jedi? So he just figured, what, there would no longer be Jedi in the galaxy? That’s kind of a huge decision. Leia, Han, and Luke all basically gave up their lives because of one bratty kid? Again, give that little shit a spanking and move on.

I know this question is asked (and not answered) in the film, but seriously, how did that lightsaber end up in that box? The last we saw, it was falling out of Cloud City. And speaking of relics from the original trilogy which miraculously show up in this film, how did the bratty kid end up with Vader’s helmet? Years later, he went to Endor and found it? Had Luke buried it, or just left it smoldering? Did he make a map for that too? And why would the kid want it? And why does he talk to it? This kid is fucked up. He needs therapy.

But the Nazi scene where the crazy Hitler character addresses all the stormtroopers is maybe the worst scene in the film. When the stormtroopers all give the Nazi salute, I burst out laughing.  And again, what is going on with the New Republic? Where is its army? And this new Death Star is able to shoot its beam out across entire star systems and destroy several planets at once? So the entire New Republic was on three nearby planets? That’s so convenient. And unbelievable.

You know what else is unbelievable? The music isn’t good. There are no new memorable themes here. That might be the saddest and most surprising thing about this movie.

Like I said, I did enjoy chunks of this film (and I do really like BB8). But it’s really only enjoyable until you think about it for like three minutes. (By the way, there were like seven or eight trailers in front of this film, and none of them looked the least bit interesting. Is this the way movies are going? Who the fuck was asking for a sequel to Independence Day?)