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.)