Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Avenging Eagle (1978)

Title: The Avenging Eagle (1978)

Director: Chung Sun

Cast: Sheng Fu, Lung Ti, Feng Ku


I love me a good Kung Fu flick, for the longest time, the problem for me with these old kung fu movies was getting a hold of them. They simply weren’t available on any format! Also, so many of these films have been produced, that sometimes they get lost in the shuffle; case in point, The Avenging Eagle; a Kung Fu movie that I’d never heard about, yet ended up loving the hell out of. I guess that’s okay, especially when we take in consideration that many of these Kung Fu movies received a theatrical released way back in the 70’s and then were never seen again. But now, thanks to the folks at Celestial Pictures I have been getting up to date with a lot of these old Kung Fu Flicks. The Weinstein Company has unearthed them through their ‘Dragon Dynasty’ label. I have to thank these guys for that. They’ve been releasing these old Kung Fu movies in pristine condition, re-mastered and looking grand spanking new. If it wasn’t for these guys I would have never seen films like The One Armed Swordsman (1967) and Return of the One Armed Swordsman (1969) or the awesome Kung Fu classic King Boxer (1972), so this is a good label to look into my friends, they got some really interesting films on their roster.

But today I will be talking about The Avenging Eagle (1978) which is a film about this man who is running from a group of outlaws who call themselves ‘The 13 Eagles’. The groups leader is a man who calls himself ‘King Eagle’; what this King Eagle does is he takes children and trains them in the deadly ways of kung fu, then he brainwashes them into believing that they have to follow his every whim and desire; which they do. He sends them to steal gold and to kill his own personal enemies, they do it blindly, because its all they’ve ever known. After a while, our protagonist decides he wants out of the ’13 Eagles’ which of course upsets ‘King Eagle’ who sends the remaining 12 to hunt down and kill the traitor. Will he escape the claws of his past?

This Kung Fu classic has many great things going for it, chief amongst them is the fact that it is never for a minute boring. Since we have 12 deadly assassins chasing after the hero of the film, we have to see him defeat all 12 of them through out the course of the film. This of course means that every five minutes, two new Eagles appear to fight against our hero. Coolest part of it all is that every fight is just a bit different then the other because each eagle specializes in a different fighting technique and weapon. So we have the dude who fights well with axes, the guy who fights with swords, the guy who fights with his pipe (true!) but trust me, the weapons get cooler and cooler as the film moves along. This is something that distinguishes Kung Fu films, the variety of weapons that the characters use, and this film has some awesome ones. We get everything from wrist blades to Iron Claws.

The fights all build up to the amazing climactic fight with the leader of The Eagle Gang, King Eagle. Now this is one amazing Kung Fu duel! First the good guys have to dispatch of a couple of lower class kung fu mothers, but the final confrontation between the good guys and King Eagle is awesome one to behold, coolest part? It’s a lengthy fight that goes on and on, like I said, the film is never boring. The production also has good art direction, special care was taken to make this one look just a bit different, the sets and location give it a unique look that makes it stand out from other Shaw Brothers productions. For example, the lair of the 13 Eagles is this awesome, spacious set that looks like the interior of a boat, whit a giant golden eagle hanging in the background. Same as Hammer Films did, The Shaw Brothers had a roster of directors that commonly made films for them. The most renowned were Chang Cheh who made The Five Deadly Venoms (1978) and Chia Liang Liu who made The 36th Chambers of Shaolin (1978). The Avenging Eagle was directed by Chung Sun a director who wasn’t as renowned as the others, but from what I gather, he put his name on the map with The Avenging Eagle. The film balances great fighting sequences, with an involving revenge story that has more then a couple of surprises in store for the audience. The director chooses to tell his tale through a series of flashbacks, each more revealing then the next until it all hooks up to the amazing finale, which is worth the wait. Highly recommend this one if your looking for a night of awesome Kung Fu action.

Rating: 5 out of  5  

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Title: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Written By: Christopher and Jonathan Nolan

Cast: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Matthew Modine, Cillian Murphy


The Dark Knight Rises is an event movie, the kind that comes along rarely, not only because of the excitement behind seeing this final installment of the film, but also because of the tragic events that surrounded the premiere of the film. As most of the world already knows, On July 20, 2012 in a Century 16 Cinema in Aurora Colorado, a psycho by the name of James Eagan Holmes entered a theater during the premiere of the film and while wearing a gas mask, threw a smoke bomb into the theater and started shooting randomly at people who where there simply to enjoy the latest installment of the Batman franchise. He managed to kill 12, and injure 58 others. What was he trying to say by doing this? What was his purpose? Did he hate movies or people going to see them in droves? Whatever was running around that guys head, he was seriously disturbed. Did he feel he was one of the villains in the Batman films? Did he not learn to differentiate between reality and fiction? Between entertainment and real life? Whatever the case, this disturbed individual probably had a half-baked idea of what he wanted to say swimming around his brains; all villains do.

James Eagan Holmes; getting what's coming to him

You see in films, the villain is commonly used as a way of pointing towards something that is seriously wrong in the world we live in, and the results that this ailment can bring upon society. Take for example ‘The Joker’ in Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008). In that film the character was angry at the importance that the world gives to money, and how the society we live in revolves around it. One scene has the joker burning a mountain of money simply to show how little he cares for it; and he burns it with gasoline, just to be poetic and comment on how oil and money are entwined in the world we live in. The Joker pitted people of Gotham against each other just to show that humanity is selfish, that in the end, all we really care about is ourselves. Villanous? Sure, but you have to admit the character is making a point. This guy who killed 12 people in the theater, what point was he trying to make? By telling the police he was The Joker, he’s saying that he saw himself as a villain trying to make a point. Was he commenting on societies obsession with movies and entertainment? Was he saying films blind us from reality? That we are not living our lives and instead we are wasting it in a movie theater? 

If that was his point, then he was wrong. Sure Hollywood can be shallow and is often times filled with empty spectacles, but The Dark Knight Rises was not one of those films. This film had a lot to say, it is in my humble opinion a very important film. Same as The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises says a lot about the way the world is NOW. Thematically speaking, The Dark Knight Rises is all about the class war, a very heated topic these days, considering how middle class in the world is quickly fading away. Currently, you are either ridiculously rich or obscenely poor and that’s the way the powerful like it. Through the dynamics between Batman and Bane the film speaks about the struggles of the working class, the oppressed and the ever going hatred for the dudes running Wall Street. The status quo of the world today shows us that it’s true, a part of humanity is selfish instead of giving. It thinks only of itself and not of the needy, the less fortunate. Sadly, the rich and powerful are not currently thinking about making this world a better place for everyone, they think about making it a better place for them, and how those who have less then them can serve them. These are the themes that The Dark Knight Rises tackles with great precision and assuredness. This film knows what it wants to talk about, and it says it very clearly, through its villain, Bane. So this isn’t just any stupid little comic book film, nope, this film is bombastic, epic; a mesmerizing film that  has important issues to adress.

Christopher Nolan in my opinion has made his best film to date with The Dark Knight Rises. Technically speaking, his films have always been top notch and this one is no exception, but what I loved the most about The Dark Knight Rises is how fleshed out the characters are. I was missing the time when great villains dominated a film, Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger are good examples of the kind of performance I like to see from a villain in a film; and I have to thank Nolan for making that special effort to build these memorable villains. Case in point: Tom Hardy’s Bane can now proudly stand next all those great villains of cinematic history. We hardly see Tom Hardy’s face in this film, save for a small flashback scene, his face remains hidden behind a mask for 99% of the films running time, yet Hardy’s performance shines through none the less. The character itself is extremely fleshed out, his back story is a very satisfying one. As a comic book fan, I was particularly thrilled to see moments from the storylines Knightfall, Knights End and No Mans Land on the screen.

DC Comics Batman # 497, one of the comics that inspired the storyline for The Dark Knight Rises. 

This is the third time Christian Bale has played Batman, I enjoyed how this time around he is a beaten, reclusive character, hiding away from the world in his mansion, like Mr. Kane in Orson Welle’s Citizen Kane (1941), the rich old guy who doesn’t want to answer to the world outside. It was great of the filmmakers to use the Bruce Wayne character to criticize the rich and powerful. If you have so much power, so much money, why not do something worthwhile with it, something that will improve humanity and the world we live in? Loved it how the movie tackled those themes through Bruce Wayne. It was a very intelligent move on the filmmaker’s side to comment on classist issues with the character, considering how the rich are viewed by the working class that’s struggling to get by on a day to day basis in this greedy world we live in. Anne Hathaway as Catwoman was somewhere between sexy and deadly, but nothing as overtly sexualized as Michelle Pfeiffer’s take on the character in Batman Returns (1992). The rest of the amazing cast does an amazing job, Michael Caine turns in an emotional performance on this one.

On the fun side of things the film delivers in spades. It was great to see a film that balanced action set pieces with story development so well; this really is a well though out picture, Mr. Nolan went up a couple of notches in my book with this one. Where the first two Nolan Bat films seemed a little on the talky side, this one balances fleshing out its characters and wowing us with amazing action and visual effects to perfection; kudos to Nolan for achieving that so well. So that’s it ladies and gents, I say don’t let the whole shooting thing scare you from seeing this one. It truly is a great film that touches up on important themes. This is an event picture, the kind you want to go to the theater to celebrate the fun of watching movies; don’t let the isolated incident with the crazy kook scare you out of that my friends! There was a special kind of electricity in the theater before and after the film started, people were genuinely excited to see this one. From what I can gather and from the resounding round of applause that I heard after the film was over, this one has won audience approval. The momentum these films have captured since the first film premiered has exploded on the screen with The Dark Knight Rises, the final film in Christopher Nolan’s Bat Saga; don’t let what that psycho did in Colorado scare you away from enjoying this awesome film.

Rating: 5 out of 5 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Robocop 3 (1993)

Title: Robocop 3 (1993)

Director: Fred Dekker

Writers: Frank Miller & Fred Dekker

Cast: Robert Burke, Nancy Allen


So every now and again a franchise becomes mega successful, and takes over the world. It churns out a sequel or two and then dies when one of said sequels becomes what I like to call ‘The Franchise Killer’. It happened with Spiderman 3 (2007), it happened with Batman and Robin (1997) and it happened with Terminator Salvation (2009). The only solution that studios are left with is to reboot the entire series; start from scratch, make believe the previous films never happened. This is exactly what happened to the Robocop franchise. Paul Verhoven’s Robocop was a huge hit that instantly turned the robotic cop into a pop cultural icon. The sequel, Robocop 2 (1990) got a lot of heat because it was such a violent film, it had a 12 year old kid running a drug cartel, wielding machine guns and cursing like a sailor. Plus, the body count was even higher then that of the first movie! But it was filled with action and that dark sense of humor that the first film was so known for, it wasn’t a disappointing Robo-sequel in my book. Then came the third film, The Franchise Killer. What went wrong here?

Well, a couple of things went wrong here. Number one, the studio had decided to turn Robocop into a series of films for kids. But was Robocop a series of films made for kids? No, far from it; if you remember correctly, since inception Robocop was a violent series of films. I just re-watched the first film, and that’s a violent, gory piece. I mean, Murphy gets his hand blown clean off! He gets blown away by shotguns! He gets a bullet in the head! And we get front row tickets to the whole thing, we got to see it all. Hell, a man gets toxic waste spilled on him and melts into a bloody pulp! For Christ sake, we see Robert Morton  -Robocop’s creator- hanging out with two whores as he sniffs cocaine from their bare breasts! Point is, the first Robocop was not a film intended for children. Neither was the second film, that one was centered around drug addiction. Ever stopped to count how many people died on Robocop 2? A lot that’s how many!  So why turn the third film in the series into a vehicle to sell video games and action figures? There was  money to be made and the studio knew it that’s why. So sad they decided to turn Robocop into a nanny. How was this PG-13 version of Robocop when compared to the previous two films? For starters, the body count was low, there’s no nudity, no blood, no gore, no foul language. Robocop gets a sidekick, and she’s a little girl who is a computer whiz. This is what Robocop was reduced to.

Robocop 2 was written by Frank Miller, the renowned comic book artist behind Sin City and 300. Writing Robocop 2 was a bad experience for him because the script he wrote and the film we ended up seeing where two different beasts all together. So different were they, that in 2003 Frank Miller released a comic book called Frank Miller’s Robocop 2 which stuck close the original script for the film. Miller’s script was so convoluted that the studio deemed it “un-filmable” and so they brought in a team of writers to rework it. Robocop 2 was a sour experience for Frank Miller, but, like a resilient cockroach, Miller came back anyways to write part 3, thinking he could teach Hollywood a thing or two. Instead Hollywood taught him something. In his own words: “Don’t be the writer. The directors got the power. The screenplay is a fire hydrant and there’s a row of dogs around the block waiting for it” So according to Miller, his screenplays got pissed on by Hollywood. Fred Dekker was the guy who pissed on Millers script, Dekker took Miller’s script and reworked it under studio orders to make it more kid friendly. So if we have to point a finger at someone, it’s the studio who wanted to turn Robocop into a Saturday morning cartoon. Dekker was just playing ball, excited to be playing with the Robocop franchise and willing to do anything he could to make the film.

In a scene during Robocop 2, when they are injecting Robocop with all these useless new directives one of the directives read: “Directive 262: Avoid Orion Meetings”, funny they should put that there because Orion Pictures was going bankrupt around this time! So you can add that to the list of things that went wrong during Robocop’s 3 production; Orion Pictures, the studio that financed and distributed the film was going bankrupt. As a result many films where put on hold while the studios gargantuan debt was being resolved. Reportedly, the debt had risen to the vicinity of 690 million dollars! This was a studio in trouble, no doubts about that! And it was sad too, Orion Pictures had produced so many Oscar winning films like Silence of the Lambs (1991), Platoon (1986) and Dances with Wolves (1990). They were behind fun films like the Bill and Ted movies, The Terminator (1984) and even Return of the Living Dead (1985)! So, Robocop 3 was made during the last days of Orion. Robocop 3 had been finished in 1991, but ended up being released a couple of years later, in 1993, which of course led to speculation about the studios integrity. When a studio holds a film back like that, it’s because of something, and usually it aint good. Movie buffs such as myself can smell a troubled production from miles away! Situations like this can put a dark cloud over a film, making its target audience suspicious about the films quality. 

Fred Dekker on the set for Robocop 3 (1993)
Finally, the saddest part of the whole Robocop 3 ordeal is that it was made by a director whose work I’ve enjoyed very much. The man is Fred Dekker. Strangest part about the whole thing is that Dekker says that working on Robocop 3 was “the most enjoyable movie making experience I’ve had, and for me, the most accomplished work I’ve done as a director” That comment baffles the mind, considering he is the guy behind such great sci-fi horror classics as Monster Squad (1987) and Night of the Creeps (1986), two far better pictures in my opinion, but it’s what the man thinks, you gotta respect that. I guess Dekker is actually referring to working with a bigger budget and having all the equipment necessary to make a film; this was his biggest film ever and he was excited to be working with all these professionals. Frank Miller, the comic book god and Rob Bottin the make up effects god, these are all great industry professionals respected in their fields, hey, I’d be excited to be working with them too. For Robocop 3, Dekker was working with a budget of 23.5 million dollars, of course he was enjoying himself! All his previous films were made under the 12 million dollar mark. On the positive side of things, Dekker does accept the blame for the film not working and recognizes the mistakes he made. He says part of the films failure was that it was a story about Robocop siding with the poor guys (a very left wing message) at a time when the country was mostly right wing. He also admits to having shot himself in the foot by following studios order to make the film more kid friendly. Gone were the violence and cynicism that made the first two films successful. Dekker also wishes he’d put more action in it, I agree right there too, the action falls flat on this one.

So there you have it ladies and gentlemen, the reasons why Robocop 3 failed to lift off at the box office. I personally didn’t mind that this was a story about Robocop siding with the poor and the needy, because you know, this world is filled with evil corporations wanting to kick the poor out of their homes so they can make their expensive condos that only the rich can live in; spreading their Ivory towers around the world, and that sucks in my book. There should be space for all of us in this world, “this could be heaven for everyone”, but it isn’t because of corporations like Robocop’s Omni Consumer Products. Yeah, it’s a tired story, but apparently it keeps happening in the world because films with these themes do not stop getting made. I personally enjoyed that angle of the story. The human characters had heart to them, unfortunately, though Robocop was siding with them, he had no emotion or heart himself. On this film Robocop was more robotic than ever! I mean, didn’t Robocop turn a bit more human in previous films? He’s supposed to be thinking on his own now! He’s supposed to be more Murphy than Robo, but he isn’t. On this third film he speaks in a colder fashion, with a whole lot less emotion, he’s not Murphy and that was one of the biggest problems for me with the film. And when Robocop flies through the air, it just looks so cheesy, so fake. All things considered, at the end of the day I can’t bring myself to completely hate this film because it’s Robocop and I’ve always loved the character. Let’s hope this new reboot that is on the horizon does the character some justice! Let’s hope the series doesn’t loose that cynicism, that violence and that edginess that the previous films had. But I digress, in all honesty this new Robocop film will probably be PG-13. The more things change, the more they stay the same.  
Robo Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sphere (1998)

Title: Sphere (1998)

Director: Barry Levinson

Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Samuel L. Jackson, Sharon Stone, Live Schreiber, Queen Latifah


Some movies just fall flat no matter the amount of talent that’s behind them. That being said, I wouldn’t go as far as calling Sphere a failed attempt. In my opinion Sphere was simply not all that it could have been, still it ends up being an interesting film. Dustin Hoffman himself said that he had some issues in regards to the film, he felt it was not finished, that it needed to be worked on a bit more and I have to say that I agree with him because the film feels like a couple of short films strung together, without smooth transitions from moment to moment. This is probably the reason why they decided to divide the film with title cards that read “The Sphere”, “The Spaceship”, “The Monster” and so on. Speaking of ‘The Monster’ what a disappointment; but more on that later.

Sphere tells the story of how the U.S. Government has found an abandoned spaceship resting deep within the darkest pits of the ocean. They quickly go ahead and gather a team of experts that includes a biologist, a physicist, a mathematician and a psychiatrist to deal with a possible alien encounter. But they don’t know if there’s aliens on the ship, they are simply speculating. Their purpose is to find out what this mysterious spaceship is all about, to take that first step, those first risks. They soon discover that the ship holds an ominous golden sphere inside of it, but what is it? What does it do? Who controls it?

So basically, Sphere attempts to be the kind of science fiction film I love the most: the philosophical science fiction film. This is not a science fiction film with light saber battles or the U.S. military shooting their guns at little green men, no, this film attempts to be something deeper and more thought provoking; which is always a plus for me.  Gotta love it when a film tries to go deeper then your regular dumb flick. Sphere actually wants to talk about important themes that I’m sure were better explored on the Michael Crichton novel on which the film is based on; I never read this book so my review is solely based on the film itself. I say Sphere is an ‘attempt at a deep film’ because I felt it didn’t fully get there in my opinion. It does ask some interesting questions, kind of in the same way that Prometheus (2012) did and I enjoyed that about it. In fact, it can be argued that this film comments on the nature of religion and the illusion behind it all. The use of fear to control the masses; the use of a book to bring our fears to life; I of course enjoyed that about the film.  Sphere starts out pretty cool because it achieves a level of mystery to the sphere that was reminiscent of the mystery revolving around the ‘Monolith’ in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1969), unfortunately this film presents us with a promising premise…only to never truly deliver on the spectacle that we as an audience see on the horizon. This is always a letdown: the film that doesn’t deliver the goods.

The problem with this film is that it’s afraid to be what it is supposed to be. It’s like one of those vampire movies that is afraid to use the word ‘vampire’ for fear of sounding cheesy. Sphere is a brainy sci-fi film, but it is also has horror elements to it. Sadly, this is a monster movie that is afraid to embrace its monstrous side. If this is a monster flick, then by all means, show us some monsters! The film uses Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as a plot device, a character loves to read this book but is scared of reading the ending because it’s “too scary”. Through the use of the book, the film hints that we might be seeing a huge squid attacking the good guys, we hear the squid, we see it on a computer monitor, but we never truly see the creature. What the film does is tease us to death; it shows us everything but the monster. Can you imagine 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) without the scene where giant squid attacks the Nautilus? One gets the impression that the filmmakers behind Sphere didn’t have the money to show the monster? This wouldn’t surprise me; the film was in hiatus for a while. In fact, while this film was in hiatus, Levinson and Hoffman went off and did a whole other film called Wag the Dog (1997); which by the way was released before Sphere was! This gives you a pretty good idea of how long the making of Sphere was put off for; which of course points towards production problems, creative differences and a slew of other things that can slow a film down.    

A scene from Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)

Sphere has many similarities with films like Leviathan (1989), Deep Star Six (1989), Event Horizon (1997) and James Cameron’s The Abyss (1989). Let’s count the similarities between Sphere and The Abyss shall we? The film takes place in an underwater rig, with a small crew who end up meeting an alien life form. We get a strong willed woman in a lead role. The crew cannot resurface because there’s a huge storm going on above, a plot device seen in almost all of these underwater monster films. Somebody goes whacko at some point. And basically, Sphere was shot in similar fashion then The Abyss was, with giant water tanks and sets built on them. Extreme similarities can also be found with P.W. Anderson’s Event Horizon (1997), because it also deals with a sphere that augments our fears. Anderson’s style of making films is he steals ideas from his favorite filmmakers and authors and reworks them, then spews them out as if they were his own. He is the Tarantino of science fiction. I’m thinking Anderson read Crichton’s novel and then did his own version of it. Typical Anderson behavior. Sphere came out one year after Event Horizon, it almost feels as if Levinson saw Event Horizon and said let’s do Crichton’s book the right way, let’s make an intelligent film! Which would explain why Sphere puts a lot of its emphasis on philosophical ideas. This is one of  Sphere’s strongest points, the philosophical angle. It asks questions like: Are we ready for the secrets of the universe? Are we ready to know it all? Or are we better off not knowing? Are we just babies in this universe? Are we a race of infants?

What I enjoyed about Event Horizon is that it is a film dealing with these phenomenal cosmic themes, like black holes and traveling to other dimensions through them, but it does it in a highly entertaining way, plus it never forgets that it is a horror movie. It didn’t forget to have some fun with its themes. Sphere needed a little more of that entertainment value seen in Event Horizon to it. Why shy away from showing the monster? I’m willing to bet that this films disappointing box office performance was due to audiences feeling cheated. Audiences were expecting a spectacle or a monster movie (or both) and what they got was Stone, Hoffman and Jackson playing scientists talking about the ultimate knowledge and the secrets of the universe; which is cool if you enjoy philosophical conversations, which I do, but if you don’t you’ll probably think this is a boring film, or that the film cheated you. If you want some spectacle, this movie does little in the way of giving it to you, find it somewhere else. For some reason, opportunities to give a little grandeur to the proceedings are thrown away and shown in a hurry, basically, the film feels like it was rushed; this is something I find surprising coming from such an accomplished director as Levinson, I guess his forte was never science fiction or the production problems ended up bringing the film down. Bottom line is that Sphere had potential, but wasn’t given the time and dedication needed to make a truly special film.

Rating: 3 out of 5 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Worst Movies Ever Made Part II

Here’s a couple of bad movies for you, hope you have a fun time watching some of these, mind you I said some of these, others, as I stated on part I of this article are not to be watched, EVER! Still, there’s some fun to be had here for sure, enjoy!  

Title: Fantastic Four (1994)

Why it’s so Bad: Same as that crappy Albert Pyun Captain America (1990) film, this Fantastic Four film produced by none other than B-movie producer extraordinaire Roger Corman was one of Marvel Comics many failed attempts at breaking into the movie business. For some reason, before Blade (1998) and X-Men (2002) came along, Marvel had a hard time trying to get a good film made! But they tried, you gotta give them that! So this here film is terrible because it was obviously a film that required a bigger budget in order to get made. Let’s face it; most of these comic book characters would require a big budget to bring them to cinematic life! And that’s the problem with this here film, its budget was too limited and its special effects requirements were too big! But that didn’t stop these filmmakers from making this film anyways! Supposedly, according to Stan Lee himself, this film was not meant to be released; it was made simply so that the company who was holding the rights wouldn’t loose them. The cast and crew worked on a film that was not intended for release? Damn that sucks! So anyways, this one has to be seen to be believed as well. If you can get a hold of a bootleg copy of this do so, it’s a hilarious film to watch! You’ll never see a cheaper comic book movie EVER! Situations don’t make the least bit of sense! I think the only thing they did get right was Dr. Doom, who looks a heck of a lot like the Dr. Doom from the comics. To be honest, this film is terrible, but it had it’s heart in the right place, and you could tell the actors were giving it their all, and they did kind of capture that feeling of family and light heartedness that the Fantastic Four comics always had so I’ll give it that. Hell, they even included Sue and Reed’s wedding! It looks cheap as hell, but it’s a moment. At the very least, it’s worth a watch.   

It’s Obvious It’s Bad Moment: The suits look like they were sewed on by an aging grandma with Alzheimer’s.

Bad Movie Dialog: “Holy Freud Batman! I think you’re right!”

Title: The Wicker Man (2006)

Why it’s so Bad: Worst film of 2006 for me, and I’m sure that I am not alone on this one either. The worst part about this film is that it is a remake of a truly great horror film, Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973), considered by many to be “the Citizen Kane of horror films”. Hardy’s film was so freaky because it was hard to define; was it a musical? A horror film? A police story? An examination of religion? At the end of the day, it was all those things and more. The film effectively established this incredibly creepy town with its creepy, ominous town folk who were obviously hiding something: their extremely dangerous religious cult! So here comes the update, and I think their first mistake was getting the often times goofy Nicolas Cage to star. Immediately Cage’s participation takes away any seriousness from the proceedings. What unfolds is a parody of the first film with Nicolas Cage investigating things by screaming at everybody.  They turned a creepy film about a crazy cult into a joke about crazy cop! Sadly, the climactic scene that shocked audiences beyond belief in the first film was reduced to a mere seconds of footage on this one…what a waste!   

It’s Obvious It’s Bad Moment: When the cult is going to torture Cage with bees and he starts screaming “Not the bees! Not the bees! Aaaah!”  

Bad Movie Dialog: “Killing me won’t bring back your goddamn honey!”

Title: H. P. Lovecraft’s Chthulhu Mansion (1992)

Why it’s so Bad: The first thing you gotta know is that even though this film marketed itself on its cover as being a film inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, it actually has NOTHING at all to do with Lovecraft. I guess they thought they would sell more video tapes if they called it ‘H.P. Lovecraft’s Chuthulhu Mansion’, which they did. You don’t see ‘Chthulhu’ anywhere on this movie! The mansion’s name is Chthulhu and they do use a book that has the words ‘Chthulhu’ written on its cover, but that’s about it. They might as well have called it ‘The Mansion’. But whatever, sleazy marketing aside, this is another “must watch because it’s so bad” film. It comes to us from J.P Simon (a.k.a. Juan Piquer Simon) a director who has never really made what I would call a ‘good’ film, still, he sure has made some entertaining ones. Ever seen that ultra gory 80’s slasher Pieces (1982)? Or perhaps the killer slugs movie Slugs (1988)? Well this is the same director who made those slightly more enjoyable flicks. With Chthulhu Mansion J.P. Simon displays an alarming amount of amateurishness, even though he’d made better films before this one? It’s as if his films kept getting worse and worse with time. So anyhow, this film is about a group of thugs who decide to hide out in this spooky old mansion,     Unbeknownst to the thugs, this house belongs to an aging magician called Chandu (!) whom they don’t take too seriously despite his warnings about the mansion being possessed by evil spirits. Of course, the mansion ends up showing the thugs a lesson or two. This film is not unlike Lucio Fulci’s House of Clocks (1989) which by the way has the same exact plotline. It’s one of those films that’s filled with one horror cliché after another! Black cats, full moons, magical books, ghosts, haunted mansions…This is a good one to watch with your friends during a night of drunken debauchery on Halloween Night.     

It’s Obvious It’s Bad Moment:  When an invisible evil spirit takes a bag of cocaine away from the thugs and burns it in the fireplace. The scene is supposed to show us a bag of cocaine magically whisking itself away, making its way towards the fireplace, unfortunately, we can see the strings pulling it! Also, there is a character  called ‘Hawk’, how generic can you get?

Title: Spider Man 3 (2007)

Why it’s so Bad: It had the same problem that Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin (1997) had: too many villains! On this one we have to not only deal with Spider-Mans love triangle with Mary Jane and Gwen Stacy, we also have to deal with the drama surrounding The Sandman, The Green Goblin and Venom! Saddest part is that everyone was hoping to see this cool rendition of Venom because let’s face it, he is one of the coolest villains in the whole Spider-Man universe, but no, instead we get Topher Grace to play him! That was the worst casting choice I have seen in a long while. Eddie Brock (a.k.a. Venom) is supposed to be this hulking body builder, not a whimpy, skinny dude like Topher Grace. On top of all this, they opted to make Venom “less scary”, which means we never really got the full on version of Venom that we wanted to see on this film. This film shows us what happens when too many hands are doing the cooking. Raimi wanted to focus on The Sandman as the main villain while Marvel wanted him to stick Venom in there at any cost, even if it meant the movie was going to be cluttered. The result was a cluster fuck of a movie that pales in comparison to Spider-Man 2 (2004) which is one of the best comic book film ever made. We also have to deal with Peter Parker going emo? Yes ladies and gentlemen, on this film Raimi takes a cue from Superman III (1983) and has Peter Parker ignoring his hero persona and becoming ‘evil’ which in this movie translates to Parker going clubbing and coloring his hair black. Really? That’s the most evil thing you could get Peter Parker to do? This is his dark side?  

It’s Obvious It’s Bad Moment: When Sandman turns into this huge Godzilla like monster

Bad Movie Dialog: “You made me loose my girl, now I’m going to make you loose yours. How’s that sound tiger?”

"Look at me, Im so evil, I got snakes coming out my ears!"

Title: Dungeons and Dragons (2000)

Why it’s so Bad: It’s bad because it was a wasted opportunity. This movie should have been a serious fantasy film, with magic and dragons and all sorts of supernatural shenanigans, something closer to what Lord of the Rings turned out to be. But no, what we had here was one of the worst fantasy films ever made. The real problem with it is that it treated the Dungeons and Dragons universe as if it was some kiddy film, when in reality this board game had nothing kiddy about it. It’s about black magic and demons, sorcerers and witches, dark stuff. The film should have been dark and gritty, not shinny and colorful, and certainly not filled with comedy relief. Director Courtney Solomon decided he needed to have Marlon Wayans in there spewing stupid jokes every five seconds, let me tell ya, that gets annoying fast! Sad part is that making this Dungeons and Dragons film was director Courtney Solomon’s dream, he even bought the rights when he was a mere 19 years old! What does he do when he finally gets the chance to make it? This piece of crap! It’s a sad story too because the premise about these powerful dragons was promising, unfortunately the film failed to deliver. Then we have Thora Birch doing her best ‘Princess Amidala’ impersonation which was quite pathetic I might add.  The dialog is way too modern for a film about dragons and magic. I guess the worst thing about it is that it feels as if it was made for 10 year olds. I’m still holding out for a good Dungeons and Dragons film, please, somebody make it!

It’s Obvious It’s Bad Moment:  When one of the films villains has snakes coming out of his ears…

Bad Movie Dialog: “Not so talented, eh Mr. Ridley?”

It was 'Nipple Night' at the Batcave

Title: Batman & Robin (1997)

Why it’s so Bad: It’s bad because it single handedly destroyed the first batch of Batman films by doing all sorts of things very, very wrong. Let’s see, we start by having way too many characters in the film. We have three villains, Poison Ivy played by Uma Thurman, Bane played by some guy I don’t know and finally Mr. Freeze played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. What pissed me off is that since they used so many villains for this one film, none of them get the proper focus they deserve; case in point: Bane, one of Batman’s most formidable villains is in and out of the picture in a matter of minutes; to make things worse, his appearance in the film doesn’t even matter, it’s not even that relevant to the story. What a wasted opportunity! On top of that we have Schwarzenegger spewing one liners like there’s no tomorrow, in fact, you feel as if that’s the only language he speaks. Then we have George Clooney in one stiff as hell performance as Batman, Chris O’Donell and Alicia Silverstone playing Robin and Batgirl respectively, so that’s three good guys and three villains you have to flesh out in one movie! Needless to say this is not what happened. When it all came down to it, it was just too much. Plus, we had to deal with Bat nipples.

It’s Obvious It’s Bad Moment: When Robin jumps out of a flying rocket, surfs the air on a door and screams “Cowabunga!” while doing it

Bad Movie Dialog: “Let me guess, Plant Girl? Vine Lady? Hand over the diamond Garden Gal or I’ll turn you into mulch!”

Title: Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

Why it’s so Bad: This is without a doubt the worst thing that George Lucas ever produced in his whole life. What the hell where they smoking when they said yes to making this weird television special? I know it’s not a film per se, but I had to put it on here because it is related to star wars, and it is kind of like a t.v. movie, and it is without a bit of doubt a bad film. Story is all about Han Solo trying to arrive to Chewbacca’s home planet (Kashyyk)  so he can celebrate something called “Lifeday” which is the Wookie equivalent of Christmas. We get to meet Chewbacca’s wife and child and we get to hear them talking wookie for minutes on end, which of course translates to a bunch of grunts for all of us humans. Weird part about this whole thing is that it’s got various interludes, for example: one of them is an animated segment in which we are introduced for the first time to ever to the character of Boba Fett! We get a musical appearance by Jefferson Airplane singing “Light the Sky on Fire” Now there’s a ‘what the hell’  moment if there ever was one. What the hell does Earth Wind and Fire have to do with Star Wars? Nothing that’s what! Same as Bill Cosby did with Leonard Part 6, this Star Wars special is so bad, that Lucas himself tried buying the masters so that this abomination could not be aired ever again on television, guess what? He failed!

It’s Obvious It’s Bad Moment: When we meet Chewbacca’s father, who is watching an erotic dancer on television  

Bad Movie Dialog: (Spoken by a hologram that Chewbacca’s dad is watching) “I am your fantasy; I am your experience, so experience me. I am your pleasure. Enjoy me. This is our moment together in time that we might turn this moment into an eternity”

Title: Howling III (1987)

Why it’s so Bad: This one comes to us from Philippe Mora, the director behind some pretty bad films, but Howling III? Hands down the worst Philippe Mora film I’ve ever seen! Unless you’ve seen Howling II: Your Sister’s a Werewolf (1985); I’ve never seen it myself, but I hear its pretty bad. However, I doubt it’s worse than this third entry. On this gem of bad cinema a scientist falls in love with a werekangaroo! That’s right my friends this film is primarily about Werekangaroos! But fear not! There’s werewolves as well! In fact there’s a whole school bus filled with werewolves dressed as nuns! Don’t ask, just rent this horrid thing and laugh your way through awfulness, you won’t believe your eyes. How bad is this movie? Well, here’s how bad: a couple of years ago I went to buy some movies, and they were giving copies of Howling III away with every horror film you bought!     

It’s Obvious It’s Bad Moment: When the protagonist is having sex with the Were-kangaroo girl (!) but he doesn’t realize how freaking hairy this girl is? 

Bad Movie Dialog: “Any trace of Beckmeyer yet?” “No sir. I think he fell in love with the Russian Werewolf”   

Title: Captain America (1990)

Why it’s so Bad: Back in the 80’s and 90’s, comic book movies were not considered bankable by studios and so, it was a rare thing to see a good comic book movie. Tim Burton’s Batman () made studios realize the potential of comic book movies. But for a while, they had absolutely no respect in Hollywood. Especially ones based on Marvel comics characters, which believe it or not were a lot less popular than DC’s Superman and Batman. But that was long ago, in a galaxy far, far away before The Avengers (2012). Back in the 90’s, this Albert Pyun directed Captain America flick was all us Marvel fans had to satiate our thirst for comic book films. And boy was this one bad! This was the film that put rubber ears on Captain America! Why? Because the original suit, which exposed the actors real ears caused chafing, so to protect the actors real ears, they opted to show fake ones. Somehow, the filmmakers managed to turn The Red Skull (who always had German roots) into an Italian Mafioso! Pyun said that part of the reason why this film was shelved for two years was because the studio was unhappy with it. No shit! Also, he said at times they literally had no money in the bank. This was a Menahem Golam production, two producers who brought Cannon Films to bankruptcy during the late 80’s with films like Masters of the Universe (1987) and Superman IV (1987). Too many of their films depended on other films being successful first; which is what happened with this Captain America film. They didn’t have money to do it and started shooting it anyways, hoping that other projects would make the dough they would need to finish this one. So these guys were making a movie for a major Marvel character, without a budget! My how things have changed!

It’s Obvious It’s Bad Moment: Captain American is out of costume for most of the film! 

Bad Movie Dialog:  “Gee Whiz, we gotta get going Mr. President!”

Title: Zombi 3 (1988) 

Why It’s So Bad: Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2 (1979) is one of Fulci’s most recognized films. It’s an indirect sequel to George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, because when Dawn of the Dead was released in Italy it was released under the title ‘Zombi’, so due to the success of  Zombi (which was really Dawn of the Dead with another title) Fulci went and made ‘Zombi 2’; which is a memorable zombie film because it has that amazing sequence where a zombie fights underwater with a shark! Fulci’s Zombi 2 was also a successful film and so the inevitable part 3 went into production. Zombi 3 was a problematic film from the get go, reportedly Fulci was ripping away pages from the script and avoiding them altogether, and also health issues were keeping Fulci from directing the film properly which led to Fulci dropping out of the film altogether half way through it. Unfortunately it was Claudio Fragasso and Bruno Mattei who ended up directing most of the picture, some might consider that a good thing, but I say no way, these two guys have directed a bunch of really bad horror films in their time; some of them quite enjoyable precisely because they are so bad, Zombi 3 is one of these. Rest assured this is a badly acted film, and some parts are beyond dull, but certain grizzly moments make it worthwhile. Like for example, there’s a dj throughout the whole movie who ends up as a zombie, so we get the first official zombie DJ! Another memorable moment happens when pack of zombie birds attacks a moving car, this was an idea that P.W. Anderson re-used on Resident Evil Extinction (2007). So hey, Zombi 3 can be considered an influential zombie film at least in that sense. The sequels that followed this one were Zombi 4: After Death (1989) and Zombie 5: Killing Birds (1987), both are even worse in my book. 

It’s Obvious It’s Bad Moment: At certain point in the film a refrigerator door is opened and out comes a flying decapitated head!

Bad Movie Dialog: “I’m feeling better Patricia, but I’m thirsty….for your blood!”

Title: Planet of the Apes (2001)

Why It’s So Bad: There was a lot of buzz around this movie, because it was a remake of Planet of the Apes (1968) the beloved science fiction classic, and well, with all the advancements in make up and visual effects, this was supposed to be the superior picture. Also, acclaimed director Tim Burton was directing the film and he’d proven himself a reliable and talented director before. Burton even got legendary make up effects artists Rick Baker to do the make up effects! The cast was amazingly good. Tim Roth, Paul Giamatti, Michael Clarke Duncan, Charlton Heston, Helena Bonham Carter, David Warner, Kris Kristoferson, the list goes on. So what happened with Burton’s Planet of the Apes? If he had all these resources under his command, why did the film turn out so bad? Well, while the movie starts out pretty good with Mark Wahlberg playing  a scientists who gets lost in some sort of cosmic space anomaly that sends him to the proverbial Planet of the Apes. Unfortunately, after we reach the proverbial Planet of the Apes, the film turns into a bloody bore. For huge amounts of time all characters do through out the film is walk and walk and walk some more. The worst part of the whole ordeal for me was that the Planet of the Apes looked like something out of The Flintstones! Ugh, it was just horrible to watch; my recommendation? Go watch Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) instead!

It’s Obvious It’s Bad Moment: When Mark Wahlberg’s character kisses a female ape.

Bad Movie Dialog: “The young ones make great pets. Just make sure you get rid of them before they mature, the last thing you want is a human teenager running around your house”

"What the hell Satan? Starfish? Really?"

Title: Rock and Roll Nightmare (1987)

Why it’s so Bad: This one is without a doubt one of the worst acted, directed and edited films ever made. It’s one of those movies where the dialog just sounds so unnatural, as if people were playing make believe when they were three year olds? The film is a true joke to behold, and as such deserves to be viewed and reviewed! This film tells the story of a heavy metal band that gets together to lock themselves in a house so they can come up with their new album. I guess it falls in the same category as other Heavy Metal Horror Films such as Trick or Treat (1986), Black Roses (1988) and Hard Rock Zombies (1985). On Rock and Roll Nightmare John Triton, the lead singer of the band has an ulterior motive: to summon Satan and destroy him forever! Ha! In the film, Triton, the lead singer of this heavy metal band actually admits to working for God! Ha! If that isn’t good enough for you, then you don’t have a pulse. Oh you want more reasons to watch this royally bad piece of cinema? How about a starfish throwing Satan? That’s right boys and girls, John Triton ends up fighting Beelzebub and what does Satan fight goodness with? Starfish! This film was shot with little more than 50,000 dollars and in just seven days! This movie is hilarious, really, I highly recommend it if you ever need some cheering up.  

It’s Obvious It’s Bad Moment:  When Triton suits up to fight Satan, he is shirtless (to show all that workout he’s been doing at the gym), wearing a spiked leather thong, boots, wristbands and tons and tons of hairspray.  

Bad Movie Dialog: “Well, it sounded like the scream came from down here, right, let’s look upstairs ”

Well, thats it boys and girls, hope you enjoyed both of these articles! What? You never read the first part? Well do yourself a favor and check it out: Worst Movies Ever Made Part I! It's a hoot, also, I'm going to be writing more of these "Worst Movies Ever Made" things, keep an eye out for them in the near future! 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)

Title: Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)

Director: Barry Levinson

Cast: Nicholas Rowe, Alan Cox, Sophie Ward


Young Sherlock Holmes is the kind of children’s film that Steven Spielberg used to produce during the eighties, a time when he really had a knack for making these types of films. I’m talking about films like The Goonies (1985), Gremlins (1984), Harry and the Hendersons (1987), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and Hook (1991). The last film that Spielberg produced that captured a similar vibe was Super 8 (2011), and that’s because director  J.J. Abrahams worships the ground that Spielberg walks on. The Adventures of Tin Tin (2011) was a good one as well. Barry Levinson’s Young Sherlock Holmes is the 'forgotten' one of the bunch, it never reached the level of popularity that all these other movies reached during the 80’s and 90’s, but still, I have to say it was a fun ride.

This film attempts to show us the first meeting between Sherlock Holmes and his investigative partner Watson. We get to see their first adventure together. A scroll during the films opening credits tells us that this film isn’t based on any of Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels, but that it is obviously inspired by them. The film was written by director/writer Christopher Columbus before he’d ever directed a film himself. You see, Chris Columbus started out as a writer, and truth be told he wrote a great bunch of children’s films. In fact, he seems to really understand and get the pre-teen demographic very well, he’s the guy who wrote Gremlins, The Goonies, and the awesome animated children’s film Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1989), don’t know how many of you guys have seen that one, but I highly recommend it, it is a great escapist fantasy with some wild dream like visuals. It is in my opinion a criminally underrated film! He then went on to direct Adventures in Babysitting (1987) and Home Alone (1990) amongst many other box office successes. So we have a good writer here paying tribute to the beloved character of Sherlock Holmes.

The story for Young Sherlock Holmes is similar in some ways to Guy Ritchie’s excellent Sherlock Holmes (2009) because it is also about a secret cult that exists deep within the bowels of the London city streets. Both films deal with similar themes as well: religion is all about illusions; about making you see things that are not there. In Young Sherlock Holmes, Holmes and Watson investigate why random people seem to be dying out of fear! Apparently people are seeing things that attack them and here’s where the film offers us some of its more imaginative special effects. By the way, it is important to mention that Young Sherlock Holmes excels with its visual effects; some scenes used more traditional forms of special effects like stop motion animation, while other scenes were downright groundbreaking for their time.

In fact the effects work on this film was so groundbreaking that it was nominated for the best visual effects Oscar that year, unfortunately Cocoon (1985) beat Young Sherlock Holmes for the award. In all honesty it was Young Sherlock Holmes who should have taken home the Oscar. Why? Because this film was one of the ones responsible for giving birth to CGI! The film has this famous scene –a milestone of modern cinema really- where a stained glass knight comes alive and tries to kill the vicar of the Christian church. By today’s computer animated standards this scene is child’s play, but back then it was groundbreaking stuff. The scene took the guys at Pixar (who still worked for George Lucas’s Industrial Lights and Magic back then) six months to achieve, and it only lasted 30 seconds! It was the first film to mix live action with a computer generated image. Young Sherlock Holmes along with other films like Rock and Rule (1983), 2010: The Year we Make Contact (1984) and The Last Starfighter (1984) were the cinematic parents of the computer generated visuals that are so popular in today’s films, so that alone makes Young Sherlock Holmes an important film. 

But effects alone do not make this one a worthy watch; the film benefits from a genuine love for its source material. You can tell that Chris Columbus was aware that he was dealing with a beloved character, and so he paid his respects to it by treating the character accordingly. We get to see the first time Holmes wears his famous hat, we get to see where he gets his coat, his pipe, and we get to hear him say “the games a foot!”  a couple of times. There’s little nudges here and there to previous Sherlock Holmes films and books. And then there’s the fact that Nicholas Rowe and Alan Cox fit their characters to perfection. Some have noticed similarities between the Harry Potter books/films and this particular film and I’d have to say the similarities are pretty blatant. For example the story takes place in a school in England; we get two boys and a girl as protagonists, a trio of friends. The teachers in the school form an important part of the story and finally, Christopher Columbus, the guy who wrote Young Sherlock Holmes actually ended up directing the first two Harry Potter films. Who knows, maybe J.K. Rowling was a true fan of this film and was inspired by it to write her books? It wouldn’t surprise me that much. So anyways, that’s it boys and girls, what we have here is an enjoyable adventure film that displays some true love and affection for its source material. Highly recommend it if you want to see a good children’s film with some innovative effects.            

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5


Related Posts with Thumbnails