Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Hit The Ice (1943)

It would seem that by this point in their careers, Abbott & Costello had really hit their stride. The template had been set a long time ago but the fine tuning had taken a while. Thankfully, it was worth it to get entertaining movies like this one and many others.

This time around our loveable fools are a couple of photographers trying to get an exclusive that will secure them work with a local paper. Instead of a steady job they actually end up, inadvertently, watching the front doors of a bank while it is robbed. The boys are, obviously, accused of the crime and so have to set about hatching a plan that will clear their names and bring the real criminals to justice. That plan may end up involving pratfalls on ice, some fancy skiing and a few musical interludes.

There's nothing extraordinary about this film but it's just so much fun from start to finish that it's one fans of A & C should happily be able to watch again and again. The songs aren't too bad, the physical comedy is enjoyable and there are a few moments of very good, quickfire dialogue.

The leads are, well, as they always are while support comes from Ginny Simmons as the lovely Marcia Manning, Patric Knowles as a doctor, Elyse Knox as his observant nurse and Sheldon Leonard as the "patient" who comes up with the great bank robbery idea. Oh, and Johnny Long and His Orchestra are on hand to back up the singing.

Director Charles Lamont took over after Erle C. Kenton was fired and he does a good job, maintaining the quality and number of the gags in comparison to the past couple of fantastic films, that Kenton had directed, featuring the duo. True Boardman gets the credit for creating the story but Robert Lees, Frederic Rinaldo and John Grant craft the dialogue (with some uncredited input from Allen Boretz, apparently).

All in all, another fine slice of A & C hijinks.



Monday, 30 January 2012

Poison Ivy: The Secret Society (2008)

The fourth, and we can only hope the final, instalment in the Poison Ivy series of films is a step backwards after the superb third movie. It's not quite as bad as the second film but it feels more like another kind of film altogether. Like The Skulls but with sexy girls in place of smug, snobby guys. Not that I'm saying that's a terrible thing, it's just not as entertaining as it could be.

Daisy (Miriam McDonald) heads to college and quickly finds herself the subject of attention, some of it wanted and some of it unwanted. She likes handsome young Blake (Ryan Kennedy) but finds her opinion of him changing as her eyes are opened by the manipualtive Azalea (Shawna Waldron). Azalea is quite a prime figure in the secret society known as the Ivy Society and decides to corrupt Daisy and use her for her own ends. And Azalea also uses her sex appeal whenever she needs to wind a man around her little finger.

Bizarrely moving between scenes of sexiness and nudity and scenes that look like they were written for a standard teen chick flick (there's a makeover moment, in particular, that feels as if it belongs in a completely different movie), the film just about keeps boredom at bay but it's a close call.

Miriam McDonald, Shawna Waldron and Ryan Kennedy are all okay. Waldron is undeniably attractive, it's just a shame that the characters are all either too naive or scheming to really root for. Support comes from Crystal Lowe (probably still most recognisable for her role in Final Destination 3), Andrea Whitburn, Greg Evigan and Catherine Hicks.

Three people wrote the script, which makes you wish that just one of them had taken charge and kept the movie properly focused, and Jason Hreno does a capable enough job with the direction. No fancy moves or tricks but this is decent enough stuff for a TV movie. If there's nothing else on.



Sunday, 29 January 2012

Poison Ivy: The New Seduction (1997)

The third Poison Ivy movie is fantastic, it's on a par with the first movie, and that's thanks to two main contributing factors. First of all, the presence of the gorgeous Jaime Pressly and the fact that she began her career not worrying about getting any "no nudity" clause in her contract (thank the lord). Secondly, the movie just takes the trashy core of the material and runs with it. Plausibility and drama are thrown out of the window, only to be replaced by the vicarious thrill provided by Violet (played by Pressly) getting all of the pieces in place for her grand revenge.

We begin with a bit of infidelity which leads to a woman leaving her place of work with her two young daughters, Ivy and Violet. We know how Ivy turned out but this story focuses on Violet. She returns to the household many years later to reconnect with her friend, Joy (played by Megan Edwards), but the audience is well aware from the very beginning that Violet just wants to get herself in a position where she can destroy the household. Joy has a chance to be recognised as a very capable tennis player - that needs ruined. Joy has a decent boyfriend - that needs ruined. Joy has a father who may end up finding happiness once again, long after the passing of his wife - that needs ruined. You see the pattern? Yep, everything needs ruined and Violet is not averse to using her obvious charms and sexuality to get what she wants.

Directed by Kurt Voss, and written by Karen Kelly, Poison Ivy: The New Seduction takes many familiar elements of the erotic thriller and throws them in the mix with a healthy sense of fun and plenty of onscreen time for the enormously appealing Jaime Pressly (can you tell that I've had a crush on her for a long time yet?). It's silly but it doesn't claim to be serious. It's also sexy when it needs to be and it's entertaining from start to finish.

The cast are all just fine. Pressly, of course, is the centre of attention, and deservedly so, but Megan Edwards is okay in her role, Michael Des Barres is fine as her father, Greg Vaughan is acceptable boyfriend material and Susan Tyrrell is very entertaining as the housekeeper who smells a rat before anyone else.

Fun, occasionally funny, sexy and twisted. And did I mention that Jaime Pressly was always worth watching?



Saturday, 28 January 2012

Poison Ivy II: Lily (1996)

I knew that I was risking seeing something awful by watching the sequels to Poison Ivy but I didn't think that the dip in quality would be so quick and so steep. I should have known, after my experience with the other films in the Wild Things series, but I remain ever the optimist.

Things were looking bad from the very beginning. The movie starts off with a bit of raunchiness. Now I like to see a bit of raunchiness and I'm all for plenty of nudity in the right context but when a movie opens with such shenanigans then it either goes one of two ways. A) You can have a movie chock full of sex and nudity and fun or B) You can have a movie that has very little going for it and puts a sex scene right at the start of the film to capture unwary, casual viewers. This movie definitely went with option B.

Alyssa Milano stars as Lily Leonetti, a reserved young girl who has arrived at a California college to study art. Her teacher (played by Xander Berkeley) takes quite a shine to her. Art is created, passions rise and Lily transforms herself, helped by a box that she finds containing the diary of a girl called Ivy. Other people are involved, there is some nudity here and there and everything is just so crushingly dull that I can barely stay awake to write the end of this review.

It's a horrible, inept movie that replaces the psychological tricks and dramas of the first film with poor character changes and a cast of folk that audiences will struggle to sympathise with. Sara Gilbert was the focus in the first movie, even as she was (and also BECAUSE she was) being overshadowed by Drew Barrymore. In this sequel, we just have Alyssa Milano acting quite foolishly, Xander Berkeley being pretty unpleasant and Johnathon Schaech being moody.

The script by Chloe King is dire, more in line with her work on "The Red Shoe Diaries" than the preceding movie, and the direction by Anne Goursaud shows the same attitude and approach to the material. An awful soundtrack is the cherry on top.

Undemanding viewers may enjoy watching this for the fleeting moments in which Alyssa Milano get partially nude but everyone else would do best to just avoid it altogether.



Friday, 27 January 2012

Poison Ivy (1992)

Like other, slightly better, examples from the subgenre, Poison Ivy is an erotic thriller that walks a fine line between pulpy trash and dark psychological study. It's maybe not the cream of the crop but it's certainly a very enjoyable movie, buoyed by great performances from all involved and the easy-to-understand appeal of Drew Barrymore in full-on sexy mode.

Sara Gilbert plays Sylvie Cooper, the young girl who finds herself developing a friendship with the strange and exciting Ivy (Barrymore). The two soon become inseparable, which helps Sylvie no end as she deals with the continuing illness that keeps her mother (Cheryl Ladd) bedridden and the animosity that she has for her father (Tom Skerritt). But friendship can quickly sour and Sylvie soon starts to envy Ivy, with her free spirit and her ability to get attention and the fact that she doesn't mind shopping for new fashion choices that Sylvie usually ends up paying for. Things get even worse when Ivy takes things further, scheming and manipulating to get exactly what she wants.

Director Katt Shea doesn't really have a lengthy, glowing filmography but she actually does very good work and certainly meet audience expectations (and, hey, I even quite enjoyed The Rage: Carrie II despite expecting to hate it). She's helped here by a decent script (co-written by herself and Andy Ruben) based on a story by Melissa Goddard, something that titillates and teases in places while also ensuring that viewers stay considerate of the very differing personalities onscreen and how they're affecting each other.

The camerawork is perfectly fine, though the soundtrack is a bit cliche and cheesy in places (a bit of soft rock here, a saxophone moment there), but the cast make up for any shortcomings elsewhere. Sara Gilbert is likeable and understandably emotional, Drew Barrymore is a fantastic potential femme fatale - sexy, persuasive and always just playful enough to avoid being hated. Tom Skerritt does well as the flawed father figure and Cheryl Ladd is very good indeed as a woman tired of living with her ongoing health problems.

Some people may watch the movie and hope for more nudity, others may want more drama and thrills. I think it gets a decent balance of the two and remains a solid erotic thriller.



Thursday, 26 January 2012

Pistol Whipped (2008)

AKA The Marker.

Well, I don't know quite where to begin. It turns out that the career suicide of Steven Seagal may not have been a permanent thing, after all. Urban Justice was flawed but a step up from many of his previous efforts. Pistol Whipped takes things up one more notch and, yes I'll say it, audiences can finally sit down once more to a Seagal movie without worrying about the pain they will have to endure.

Fans of the art of cinema who are eagerly awaiting the next Citizen Kane will still not want to go near any of these simple action movies but fans of the leading man will find plenty of decent sequences throughout to keep them happy.

Seagal plays a cop who was removed from the force amid rumours of theft and dirty dealing. He has a gambling problem, which he likes to accompany with a drinking problem. His debts just keep mounting up until, one day, they are bought by a mysterious old man (actually named The Old Man and played by Lance Henriksen). The Old Man wants the debt repaid with action rather than cash, ordering Seagal to kill certain bad eggs. Seagal doesn't actually mind, he hasn't forgotten his old skills and the bad eggs are really bad eggs. Things change, however, when he finds out information about his old pal, who is now the present stepfather to his daughter.

It's a good film. There. I said it. Okay, there may not be as much actual hand to hand combat as fans of Seagal's fighting style would like but there are a few moments here and there almost recapturing the spirit of his earlier slap-punch adventures. And the shootouts aren't all that bad either, despite some horribly misjudged slow motion during the opening credit sequence.

The acting isn't too bad either. Seagal is never going to put himself on screen with the newest graduates from RADA but Lance Henriksen is usually watchable, Paul Calderon is okay, Mark Eliot Wilson does quite well and Renee Goldsberry is easily one of the better female co-stars that Seagal has had in years.

Roel Reine does a decent job as director and, perhaps more shockingly, J. D. Zeik actually provides a half-decent script, which helps immensely. The whole thing is still ultimately predictable and fairly uncomplicated but the movie is lifted up simply by the fact that you can sense everyone involved actually seemed to be trying to make something decent.

They succeeded.



Wednesday, 25 January 2012

It Ain't Hay (1943)

AKA Money For Jam.

A movie that was believed lost for a number of years, due to legal issues, I am one of the many Abbott & Costello fans glad to find that the movie is available because it's another one of their better outings, with Erle C. Kenton once again handling the directorial duties and a script by Allen Boretz and John Grant based on a story by Damon Runyon entitled "Princess O'Hara".

This movie takes quite a few different directions in the first half but the central storyline really kicks off when Bud and Lou find themselves on the lookout for a horse after the death of an animal that belonged to a friend. They want to make everything right but, as usual, end up making things a lot worse with an adventure that involves mistaken equine identity, a bit of gambling and the usual mugging to camera.

It may not be one classic moment after another from start to finish but It Ain't Hay has a number of scenes that hold up as great examples of A & C at their best. There is plenty of wordplay and plenty of dodgy arithmetic when it comes to financial matters. There are also a couple of sly, self-referential gags that should please fans. The reply given to the delivery of "Go answer the door. It might be Warner" is my favourite in the whole movie.

The two leads do their usual stuff, and do it well, but the supporting cast isn't really up to much, with the exception of Eugene Pallette. Grace McDonald, Cecil Kellaway, Patsy O'Connor, etc all do just fine but they're outshone by the leads and also, in one scene, by a marvellous routine performed by The Step-Brothers (AKA The Four Step-Brothers).

The movie runs out of steam in the second half but it more than makes up for it with the great first half and the quality of the gags throughout.



Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Terror Firmer (1999)

To judge Terror Firmer by any standard movie criteria is to do a disservice both to yourself and to the movie. Terror Firmer is just an absolutely bonkers, overly gory, hilarious celebration of all that is Troma from start to finish. When a movie has been running for mere seconds and shows someone having their leg ripped off then you know that things aren't going to be subtle and insightful. When, moments later, a woman has her unborn child ripped out of her stomach then you know that things just went way off the scale of anything that society would label as acceptable or tolerable. And, if you keep watching the whole movie, you realise that you're glad that Troma keep on keeping on with their particular brand of low budget lunacy.

The actual story revolves around a vicious killer who is causing a number of disruptions on the set of the latest Troma movie. Cast and crew members start to die and police want to find the culprit as soon as possible, obviously. Which all just means that viewers get to see one crazy death sequence after another, linked by numerous references to other Troma movies, plenty of gags (both lame and pretty good) and occasional moments in which characters discuss the merits of independent filmmaking and how spirited it is to keep breaking taboos and pushing boundaries.

To many people, this film will rank amongst the very worst that they could be forced to watch. For others, like myself, it will easily rank up there with the very best inspired insanity that Troma can provide. Lloyd Kaufman gets to sit in the director's chair and the script is based on the book that he co-wrote with James Gunn entitled "All I Need To Know About Filmmaking I Learned From The Toxic Avenger". He also stars as the blind director of the film within the film. So, hopefully, you don't mind his particular style of overacting and mugging to the camera.

The rest of the cast more than makes up for any weaknesses in Kaufman's repertory. Will Keenan is especially great as a man quite obsessed with pickling, Trent Haaga is good fun (n.b. Haaga would go on to direct Keenan in the superb Chop - well worth checking out), Alyce LaTourelle is a lot of fun and also very attractive and then we get the great Debbie Rochon, the legendary Ron Jeremy, the equally legendary Lemmy and many other familiar faces dotted throughout the supporting cast.

It's an absolutely hilarious slice of distasteful entertainment. Or it could be the worst thing you ever see.



Friday, 20 January 2012

Urban Justice (2007)

Steven Seagal is a motherfucking hardass. Oh, if you’ve seen one or two Seagal movies before this one then you’ll already know that he’s a hardass. But this movie goes to great lengths to prove that he’s a MOTHERFUCKING hardass. I think so, anyway. Because every other word in the script seemed to be “motherfucker” or “nigga”. Unlike real life, I don’t have a problem with these words being bandied about in a movie. Sadly, when those two words seem to make up half of the script then it signifies a bit of a problem. We get the fact that Seagal is a hardass and that a bunch of badass black guys are all gangsta ‘n’ shit and gonna get all up in his face but we get that fact within the first 15 minutes or so. The rest is just, well, laziness.

The plot this time is actually a decent one – Seagal is back in town to find out who shot his son. He doesn’t care about anything else, he just wants his revenge and that’s it. Oh, he’ll punch and kick anyone who gets in his way but it’s not personal. That's it.

It's a shame that the script is so lousy here because, in many other respects, this is one of the better Seagal movies that has appeared in the first decade of the 21st century. It has some decent actors, including Eddie Griffin and Danny Trejo (though the latter has little more than a cameo role, sadly), a budget that makes the film look like it cost more than all three of his previous movies put together and a nice grittiness that's reminiscent of the leading man's earlier movies.

Director Don E. FauntLeRoy keeps things moving along and throws enough action into the mix to keep fans happy. We are all well aware that Seagal is well past his prime but he throws a few moves together that make him look believeable tough and . . . . . . . . . . . like a motherfucking hardass. The effort, at least, is appreciated.

Gilmar Fortis II gets the blame for the script. Oh, there have been many terrible scripts written for Seagal but the annoying thing about this film is that it didn't have to have a terrible script. The storyline makes sense. It's simple and action-packed. That's why it's more annoying when the dialogue is full of Seagal being "down with the kids" and gangstas being gangsta with each other, for the sake of just being gangsta, dog. Aaaaiiiight. If you think it's laughable to see me try to act all tough and urban in written word form then just wait until you see Seagal doing his thing onscreen.

Having said that, this is still a lot less painful than you would expect it to be.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Teen Wolf Too (1987)

A sequel to Teen Wolf? Is Scott Howard going to have all kinds of hairy issues all over again? Of course not. It's a completely different plot this time around. Todd Howard (Jason Bateman) is Scott's cousin and he is trying to study hard and do well in life while sharing a room with 'Stiles' (this time played by Stuart Fratkin). He also has to man up and start winning when he's thrown in to do a bit of boxing. Boxing is tough, it's a lot of pressure and a lot of pain. But it's easier when you can turn into a werewolf. Oh, never mind that nonsense about boxers not being allowed to have too much facial hair, it doesn't apply to any teen wolf. And 'Chubby' (Mark Holton once again) is a team mate. Estee Chandler is the lovely Nicki, James Hampton pops onscreen to reprise his role as Harold Howard for a few minutes and the cast also includes Kim Darby and the great John Astin. You see how different it is from the first movie?


Okay, maybe it's almost exactly the same but just not as good. Thank goodness that the writer, Tim Kring, went on to produce the superb TV show "Heroes" because nobody would want to be remembered just for this film. Director Christopher Leitch, sadly, doesn't have the same good fortune and this film remains one of his few relatively well-known projects.

Thankfully, the cast try their best with material that struggles to reach even a level of mediocrity. Bateman is an appealing lead as Todd Howard but in the wolf make-up he doesn't seem quite as cute or likeable, especially when compared to Michael J. Fox in the first movie. Estee Chandler is a decent love interest and Mark Holton does exactly the same act he did in the first movie, which was just fine anyway, but Stuart Fratkin is a lot less enjoyable than Jerry Levine was in the role of 'Stiles'. James Hampton, Kim Darby and John Astin are all pretty good.

It's a real shame that this sequel starts off poorly and just keeps sliding down and down until the end credits roll. The first film holds up well and viewers who grew up in the 80s will have a lot of goodwill for the character but that goodwill starts to ebb away quickly. It usually disappears at about the same time Jason Bateman is made to lip-synch and dance to a bad rendition of "Do You Love Me?"



Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Teen Wolf (1985)

Michael J. Fox stars in this enjoyable 1980s comedy that shows a highschooler discovering that the hairs on his palms aren't just from that hobby he's not supposed to have. Nope. He's a werewolf. Which is going to make life at high school either a LOT tougher or a LOT easier.

Despite many other actors taking on similiar roles, it's hard to argue against the fact that Michael J. Fox was the everyday teenager to a generation who grew up with him throughout the 80s. In real life, he was already a bit older and wiser than the teenagers he so often portrayed but onscreen he was Alex P. Keaton, Marty McFly and, in this movie, Scott Howard. And the big plus for Teen Wolf is that it has a great central concept but also fills the movie with the standard scenes of a teenager going through . . . . . . . . . . changes. So the whole thing is a fine analogy for puberty, the various rites of passage that teenage years bring and trying to fit in at high school? Not to oversell the thing but, well, yes. Kind of. Of course, when I first saw the movie at the age of 9 or 10 the movie was about a teenage werewolf and "surfing" on the roof of a van. So it has something for everyone.

Director Rod Daniel keeps things nice and simple. It's a teen movie, it comes in at just under the 90 minute mark and it has Michael J. Fox. All is good. Add in a great supporting cast (James Hampton as Harold Howard, the lovely Susan Ursitti as the lovely 'Boof', Jerry Levine having a blast as 'Stiles', Lorie Griffin as the shallow Pamela Wells, Mark Holton as 'Chubby', Jay Tarses grabbing most of the best lines as the coach and Jim McKrell as Rusty Thorne), some decent practical effects and the main achievement that the characters are striving for - to win a basketball championship - and you have a movie that remains as easily entertaining today as it was over 25 years ago.

Jeph Loeb, Tim Hayes and Matthew Weisman put together a decent script and a number of scenes are accompanied by decent, inoffensive tunes in line with the sound of the decade (admittedly, the special dance moment is quite cringeworthy). There are many other teen movies with sharper dialogue but it's easy to forget just how many great lines and little moments this film has.

Give it a visit some time, you may just be surprised to find that you enjoy it.



NB - it's worth noting, for anyone who may not have heard the news yet, that Teen Wolf has been "reimagined" for an ongoing TV show that launched in the USA in 2011.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Who Done It? (1942)

Abbott & Costello play two soda jerks who are really just killing time until they can get a chance to impress their local radio station with one of their murder mystery radioplays. They get lucky and gain entrance to the station, just in time for a reading of an entertaining murder mystery, but are then unlucky enough to become suspects when a murder is committed. Our two leads try to solve the case to make their names but, more importantly, try to stay alive while doing so.

Who Done It? is a lot of fun. It's a great mix of comedy and murder mystery and certainly works a LOT better than the earlier Hold That Ghost. The two leads are on great form and the plot pauses now and again for a few fun routines (including Lou being scammed a number of times by Walter Tetley, a discussion about volts and watts and some fun with well-timed recordings).

The script is by Stanley Roberts, Edmund Joseph and John Grant and it moves along at a fairly brisk pace indeed, helped by the fact that there are no musical numbers padding out the runtime. Erle C. Kenton returns to direct the laughs and certainly confirms that he's well-suited to the job.

But the script and direction and leads make up only half the story. Who Done It? benefits from a supporting cast that are all great fun and just as watchable as the leads. William Gargan and William Bendix are standard cops taking no nonsense and it's fun to see the rare times when A & C manage to get the better of them. Walter Tetley, as previously mentioned, gets a few great moments and then we have Mary Wickes easily holding her own in the role of Juliet Collins, a great character brought to life by a great actress.

It's not quite as good as the previous outing but this is entertaining enough from start to finish and easily stays a few notches above the weaker movies in the A & C filmography.



Monday, 16 January 2012

Abnormal Activity (2010)

A lot of people watched The Blair Witch Project many years ago and immediately thought "I could do that, it's nothing special". Which led to all kinds of rip-offs and parodies (most notably The Bogus Witch Project, which I've sadly still not seen). So it's no surprise that just as many, if not more, people thought exactly the same thing when Paranormal Activity opened to such success. It's simplicity itself, to copy it should be a piece of cake. Here we have the parody, Abnormal Activity, to remind everyone that there's actually also some talent required.

The plot is all about . . . . . well . . . . . . . ummmm . . . . . . wait, there isn't any damn plot. Okay, a couple decide to start filming stuff after they notice some unusual things going on in their home but, trust me, this goes around and around in unfunny circles for just over an hour before finishing everything up with a lame punchline.

Writer-director Jason Gerbay (who also stars as Roger) obviously thought that he had stumbled upon a great idea but he should have just kept it in the form of the 15-minute short it started off as. The script doesn't sound like a script most of the time, it's full of rambling nonsense, incoherent moments and lines that someone with a poor sense of humour must have found funny at the time. The direction is just as bad. Gerbay obviously thought that all hand-held "found footage" films were just roughly planned out and then hastily edited here and there to exaggerate amateur filming. Once the headache wears off after viewing his attempt to recreate that style you'll realise that many proper movies (I'm sorry but this barely registers on the scale as a proper movie) within the subgenre actually get the balance of rawness and cinema just right. Unlike this.

The one high point is the presence of Lexy Lexington, a fun and likeable lady willing to really throw herself into every lame gag. Sadly, she gets less screentime while we're forced to endure a couple of painfully unfunny and "quirky" demonologists visiting the house and plenty of footage of Roger going around the house with the camera glued to his face.

There are very, VERY few movies that I give a 1/10 to because I always feel that as long as someone seems to be trying, as long as there is SOME kind of heart beating within the movie, then it deserves to score an extra point. As long as you don't watch the thing and think that it could have just as easily been directed by a group of gibbons fighting amongst themselves. Or, worst of all, as long as I don't think "even I could do better than that" (in this case, I'd think back to my short film I made as a teenager that featured me, a friend and some Boglins and realise I already DID make a better film).



Sunday, 15 January 2012

Wild Things: Foursome (2010)

Well, here we are with the third sequel in a movie franchise that should never have been. If anyone comes to this movie hoping that the series will take an unexpected rise back to a level of quality close to that of the first movie then they probably need professional help.

The big addition to this movie is right there in the title. Where the other movies all tried to shoehorn in a memorable threesome scene somewhere this film tries to show FOUR people getting hot and horny with each other at one point. I can't wait to see who they throw in to the mix if they ever try to stretch things out for yet another tired instalment. Wild Things: Pentalogy?

The main pretty young things this time around are: Brandi Cox (played by Jillian Murray), Rachel Thomas (Marnette Patterson) and Carson Wheetly (Ashley Parker). What fun can they plan for each other? Well, the plot of the movie involves murder, rape, double-cross after double-cross and interference from Detective Frank Walker (John Schneider). Or, in other words, pretty much the same mix as viewers saw in the preceding three movies.

The film actually doesn't do too badly, it's just a shame that it's so unnecessary and so lacking when compared to that fantastic first instalment. Jillian Murray is okay, I suppose, but Marnette Patterson fares a bit better. Ashley Parker just exudes an air of smugness that doesn't make him endearing at all but John Schneider is someone fun to watch onscreen. Ethan C. Smith, Jessie Nickson, Marc Macaulay and Josh Randall all do pretty well with their relatively limited screentime.

Andy Hurst (who co-wrote the previous two movies) is in the director's chair this time around and he actually does a capable job. I certainly prefer his directorial work to his writing. Howard Zemski and Monty Featherstone provide the script this time, it's their second time working together after scripting a movie called SharkMan (that I now desperately want to see - just knowing that a film with that title exists is enough to get me excited), and it really would seem to be a thankless task. Let's face it, this idea was worn out by the second movie so repeating the formula again and again just means that it's stale as soon as the titles flash up. Having said that, the writers do try here and there to keep things entertaining and unpredictable but it's the nature of the twists and turns (based on the template set many years earlier) that actually make the thing entirely predictable. The biggest crime in the whole movie actually takes place during the end credits, in which we get a sequence of revelatory moments that are completely uninteresting and add nothing to what we've just seen. Even the second and third movies managed to get that bit right.

I hope they just cut this series dead right now. It's horrible to think of the reputation of the first film being further tarnished. It's even more horrible to know that I'll just keep having to check out any future instalments. I hate having such morbid curiosity.



Go wild, and pick up my book. Every copy of my book sold gets a few pounds in my pocket, and gets you a good read (if I say so myself).

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

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

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

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Wild Things: Diamonds In The Rough (2005)

Who knew when Wild Things first arrived on cinema screens that it would spawn a bunch of sequels all built around the exact same structure? This second sequel is once again written by Andy Hurst and Ross Helford (who wrote the screenplay for the previous movie) but the directorial duties are handed over to one Jay Lowi. To be fair to Lowi, Tangled (the 2001 teen-friendly thriller and not the 2011 Disney movie) was a movie at least belonging underneath the same umbrella as this one and showed that Lowi could handle such material.

Serah D'laine and Sandra McCoy are the two young women at the centre of the activities this time around and this time everything seems to revolve around a nice pair of diamonds. There are numerous twists and turns, once again, but the shorter runtime dictates that the plans start to unravel faster than ever before and that the mystery is, once again, nicely wrapped up in time for a number of enjoyable revelations shown during the final credits.

The cast are okay. D'laine and McCoy make up for their lack of any in-built name recognition with an attempt to be a bit raunchier and more willing to shed clothes than Susan Ward and Leila Arcieri were. Dina Meyer is relatively well known and does just fine. Linden Ashby reprises his role from the previous movie and does a bit better this time around. Then we have Brad Johnson and Ron Melendez, both doing what they have to do with their roles though both stuck with weaker characters.

Once again, this is nowhere near as good as the first movie. It's quite dull for most of the runtime and everything just feels a bit . . . . . . . flat. BUT the last-minute revelations are a bit more enjoyable, thanks to being a bit different from the previous pattern, and there's still some fun to be had from the central concept if you're an undemanding viewer not expecting anything great.



Friday, 13 January 2012

Wild Things 2 (2004)

Six years after the cool and sexy first movie, along comes this sequel to show how you can take almost exactly the same material (in some instances even the scene structure is almost EXACTLY the same as in the first movie) and turn a winning formula into complete sewage.

If you've seen the first movie then none of the twists and turns will surprise you. If you haven't seen the first movie then why the hell are you considering even watching this instalment?

Jack Perez directs and I can't help thinking that all he did was watch the first movie. Of course, this isn't the worst thing he could have done. After all, Perez is now the man perhaps best known for giving the world the supreme and jaw-dropping Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus. (best sold to anyone who has yet to see it with THIS clip). Ross Helford and Andy Hurst wrote the screenplay for this and the next outing in the series so no worries there. Of course, they also wrote the screenplay for Single White Female 2: The Psycho. Oh dear.

Which means that we have nothing but a rehash of the first movie from a group of untalented people behind the camera. Hopefully, a few good stars onscreen could pick things up a bit. Well, not really. There are some decent people in front of the camera (Susan Ward is just too cute for me to dislike and Isaiah Washington is a very good actor and certainly the best thing in this film) but there are also just as many folk you won't care about one little bit. Leila Arcieri as Maya King is just annoying, Joe Michael Burke is far too bland, Linden Ashby is okay and that's about it, nobody else really gets to make any impression.

Overall, Wild Things 2 is just like Wild Things (even the dvd cover is almost a carbon copy). Without the talented cast. Or smart script. Or style and sexiness. Or any trace of originality. Despite so many failings, however, it's still a bit of an entertaining watch thanks to the way it follows the structure of the original so closely. There are even a number of reveals during the end credits which end up being almost as much fun to watch as the revelations in the first movie. Almost.



Thursday, 12 January 2012

Wild Things (1998)

Wild Things is a twisty, stylish, sexy thriller that features a great cast all doing a great job. It's also quite trashy and stretches things further and further with each scene but I still love it (and, no, that's not just because of the scenes in which Denise Richards goes topless . . . . . . . . . . it's because of Theresa Russell too).

While aiming to keep things as spoiler-free as possible, I shall describe the plot thus: Matt Dillon plays Sam Lombardo, a popular and handsome guidance counselor who is accused of a heinous crime by Kelly Van Ryan (Denise Richards). It's simply untrue, according to Sam, but Kelly is the daughter of Sandra Van Ryan (Theresa Russell) and Sandra Van Ryan has the money and influence to make sure that Sam no longer has a place in his town. Kevin Bacon and Daphne Rubin-Vega are the two main cops on the case and Neve Campbell plays Suzie Toller, a girl who may end up playing an important part in the proceedings. Oh, and I'd better not forget to mention the great performance from Bill Murray as Ken Bowden, just about the only lawyer who will take a chance on defending Sam.

There's a clever, fun script by Stephen Peters and great direction from the talented John McNaughton (who provided audiences with the very different, and disturbing, Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer and also directed the enjoyable Mad Dog & Glory) that manages to create a darker and darker style while still maintaining the colour and heat of the Florida locations.

A decent score by George S. Clinton accompanies the action but the icing on the cake is the acting from everyone involved. Matt Dillon is always a great actor, as is Kevin Bacon, so you expect them to do good things. And they do. Neve Campbell is just fine and Denise Richards is fantastic (she's actually very good in the right roles, such as her part in Drop Dead Gorgeous, but that often seems to be ignored because of her physical attributes). Bill Murray is another actor I'd watch in just about anything and he's as wonderful as ever here. Daphne Rubin-Vega easily holds her own and does well to avoid her character being pushed into the background.

Trashy and sexy fun, this is the kind of movie you'll probably enjoy if you liked Cruel Intentions and the fantastic Body Heat. And make sure that you keep watching the credits at the end of the movie to see a number of crucial revelations.



Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Flight Of Fury (2007)

There's a popular term used when people try to repeat some success that they've had or simply rehash their previous work. It's the one about going to the well one too many times. Well, let me tell you, in the case of Steven Seagal he's not only gone to the well too many times but he's also drained every drop of moisture from the air around him, creating an atmospher as dry and harsh and uncomfortable as any major desert area.

This time around, Seagal is John Sands, some ex-soldier type who is called in to help when a new aircraft is stolen and put into the hands of the enemy. It's a bit like Broken Arrow meets Stealth only, according to everyone, it's actually just a blatant remake of Black Thunder (a 1998 movie starring Michael Dudikoff that I've not yet seen). Oh well, you might say, at least they can blame someone else for the lame plot and poor script this time around. Nope, Steven Seagal and Joe Halpin take the writing credit. Perhaps Seagal has turned his career into a long-running joke by now and most of us are just too ignorant to appreciate his genius. Or, more likely, he started down a slippery slope and may never recover.

Michael Keusch is back in the director's chair and, considering how bad his previous effort was, this fact didn't fill me with joy. I was right to be apprehensive, the movie is just plain bad on almost every level. The acting is, as you'd probably expect by now, pretty dire. The sets and scenery seem to have been leased from The Asylum (e.g. a number of plain environments in which to have action sequences and a number of interior shots featuring machines that go ping!), the editing is often painfully bad and there's even footage cribbed from other movies to save cash. Oh dear, oh dear.

Seagal is even worse than usual and the only cast member I actually didn't mind watching onscreen was the lovely Ciera Payton as the woman inexplicably fond of Sands. Yet another one to avoid.



Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Pardon My Sarong (1942)

Within the first half of this movie, Abbott & Costello leave town in a bus that shouldn't really be leaving town, have fun pretending to be magicians, help out on a sailing trip and end up on an uncharted island. You can't accuse the duo of not trying hard enough with this effort, one that is full of some great comedy sequences and a number of amusing lines.

It's not perfect, and certainly won't win over anyone not a fan of the boys, but there's a lot here to make you laugh out loud. When the boys try to use a baseball story to avoid paying for gas you get the first decent bit of comedy but the highlight of the whole film would have to be when Abbott & Costello try to avoid being caught by a detective by impersonating magicians (especially amusing when Lou keeps removing his cigar from his mouth, complete with the false beard and moustache attached to it). Having said that, a classic comedy staple (the old "pretending to be a statue" gag) is also a contender for the highlight of the film, mixing some standard slapstick with clever changes in the poses adopted by our two leads. And there's a cute seal. What more could you ask for?

There are also a few lively song and dance numbers here and there (though it's strange to watch a film nowadays that features a group of African American singers called "The Four Ink Spots") and a decent supporting cast. Robert Paige, Virginia Bruce and Leif Erickson are just fine but Lionel Atwill is always a pleasure to see onscreen, William Demarest takes part in that great magician sequence and Nan Wynn is a delight to watch.

Erle C. Kenton directs well enough but it's the screenplay, by True Boardman, Nat Perrin and John Grant, that really helps raise this one up a couple of points. Fans of A & C would do well to make sure they see this enjoyable outing and anyone else who just enjoys a good laugh should give it a try sometime.



Monday, 9 January 2012

Single White Female 2: The Psycho (2005)

If you can't tell whether or not this belated sequel to Single White Female is going to be any good then I suggest that you head off quickly and get your bullshit detector working. The fact that it is subtitled "The Psycho" is the big clue. That's like providing viewing audiences with a movie titled "Jaws 2: The Shark". Lazy, dumb and simply signposting that everyone is in for a lesser rehash of the first movie. So nobody should be surprised to find that this sequel is just a lesser rehash of the first movie.

Everything is pretty much the same, but not as good. A woman gets upset after finding that her fella has cheated on her. She moves into a new apartment with a flatmate. The flatmate starts to grow closer and closer to the woman, even going so far as to emulate her physical appearance. Things turn deadly. There's even a scene in which the lead actress follows the psycho flatmate to a sex club and sees something she shouldn't. You may remember that scene, even that was in the original movie.

Of course, there are minor differences here and there but this film, for the most part, ticks all the boxes in the "how to make a sloppy, lazy and cynical cash-in of a sequel" checklist.

The script, written by Glenn Hobart, Andy Hurst and Ross Helford, is pretty lame. Gone is the subtlety and decent characterisation of the first film. Instead, we get everything spoonfed to us and a lead character we're supposed to care for because, well, she's the lead character. Never mind the fact that she's also quite dumb, weak and irritating.

The flat direction by Keith Samples seems unsurprising when you consider his wealth of TV work. It's just a shame that he couldn't try a bit harder to spin the weak material here into something a bit more entertaining. He decides to keep things relatively sanitised and sexless when the trashy premise cries out for some suitably trashy treatment to at least make it entertaining for . . . . . . . . . . . . fans of trash.

The cast? Brooke Burns is good to watch onscreen but I'd have to say that Kristen Miller didn't impress me at all. Neither did Allison Lange or Todd Babcock or anyone else in the movie, for that matter.

Simply put, no aspect of this movie, from the camerawork to the cast to the script to the soundtrack, made any good impression on me. Apart from Brooke Burns. Oh, and a final 10 minutes that had me laughing out loud when I assume that I was supposed to be tense. Avoid it.



Sunday, 8 January 2012

Single White Female (1992)

Psychopaths, how can you avoid them? Because, according to Hollywood, they're absolutely everywhere and you need to be careful and vigilant at all times. Don't have a fling (Fatal Attraction), don't take in tenants (Pacific Heights), don't become the object of affection for any young girl (The Crush), don't hire a temp (The Temp), don't visit any dentists who are having severe emotional problems (The Dentist & The Dentist 2), don't go white water rafting (The River Wild), don't pick up any hitch-hikers (The Hitcher), don't ever go to summer camp (almost every teen slasher movie ever), don't fall for a charming landlord (The Resident), don't let anyone put you at ease and begin singing the praises of Huey Lewis & The News (American Psycho) and don't, under any circumstances, spend a night at the Bates Motel. Of course, there are many other places to find psychos but I think that provides a decent cross-section of the main pitfalls to look out for. Oh, and if you were thinking of advertising for a flatmate then Single White Female advises you not to do that either.

Based on the novel, "SWF Seeks Same", by John Lutz, Single White Female is a glossy, Hollywood thriller that stays very entertaining and enjoyable for about 3/4 of its runtime. Sadly, like many movies from this particular subgenre, it starts to fall apart under the strain of numerous silly choices made and a number of characters being far too slow on the uptake.

Bridget Fonda plays Allison Jones, a decent young woman trying to make it on her own in the big city. Well, she was actually trying to make it with the support of her boyfriend (Sam, played by Steven Weber) but it turns out that he's actually not been entirely truthful with her. Upset and angry, Allison considers giving up and moving back home but instead makes the decision to carry on and to get herself a flatmate. She lives in a great, rent-controlled, apartment so the flatmate wouldn't be on the lease and would have to not really introduce herself to everyone as a tenant of the building. This suits Hedra Carlson (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a quiet and pleasant girl who makes a great impression on Allison. It's only as more and more time passes that Allison realises something isn't quite right about Hedra. Things seem to escalate as Allison and Sam reconcile - Hedra often becomes snappy and also starts to feel more like an overbearing intruder rather than a friendly flatmate. And it also becomes obvious that she is trying to emulate Allison in her appearance and wardrobe choices. Is she a shy young woman looking to style herself upon someone she admires or is she getting obsessive?

There's a decent enough screenplay by Don Roos and solid direction by Barbet Schroeder but I'd have to say that Single White Female is a movie made into something very entertaining by the cast members. Both Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh are great in the lead roles, able to show vulnerability when required and also steely resolve. Steven Weber is just fine as Sam, Peter Friedman is enjoyable as the upstairs neighbour who gets on well with Allison and Stephen Tobolowsky is fantastic as the sleazy Mitch Myerson, a man who hires Allison for her computing skills but assumes that he has the upper hand in their working relationship.

By the time the movie starts to get bogged down by the number of thriller cliches and poorer moments it doesn't really matter so much because you've gone along with the leads and been rewarded with some surprising nastiness, a fun build-up and an enjoyably warped sexual frisson weaving throughout the developing plot.



Saturday, 7 January 2012

The Jokers (1967)

Before he settled into a disheartening routine of recycling his own material, playing around with celebrity chums and judging various meals, Michael Winner was a director with no small amount of wit and talent. Yes, I said it. It's largely forgotten nowadays but look back through his filmography and there are still a number of his movies that are worth seeking out. The Jokers is one of them.

The relatively slim plot sees Michael Crawford and Oliver Reed playing two brothers who enjoy nothing more than a good prank or two, the more audacious the better. Between them, they hatch the ultimate caper: they're going to steal the Crown Jewels. As long as they make it clear that they never intended to keep them for personal gain then they should be able to get away with the whole thing. Well, that's the plan.

It's a movie from the late 60s set in London so you shouldn't be surprised to find more than one or two scenes that focus on the groovy side of life and just how cool everyone is, whether they're dancing in a disinterested fashion or watching a piece of performance art (performed and viewed, it has to be said, in a slightly disinterested fashion). Because being disinterested = being cool. You dig? The characters played by Crawford and Reed are the coolest of the cool because they aren't actually interested in anything around them that doesn't serve to amuse them or be manipulated in their numerous schemes. And while I may seem to be sarcastic here, I assure you that it's only slight sarcasm. Swinging 60s London is a scene that can provide a lot of unintentional giggles but, dammit, it does still seem very cool. And Crawford and Reed ARE cool in this film, the former really embodying the kind of laid-back, carefree cad audiences should actually hate (but don't) and the latter being simply Oliver bloody Reed in, arguably, the prime of his life.

A great supporting cast features a number of faces familiar to classic movie fans and/or UK TV viewers: Harry Andrews, James Donald, Daniel Massey, Brian Wilde, Edward Fox, Michael Hordern, Peter Graves, Warren Mitchell, Frank Finlay and many more.

The script is written by two other names familiar to fans of UK TV - Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, a writing team responsible for classic shows such as "The Likely Lads" and the absolutely superb "Porridge". The story idea may have been hatched by director Winner but the two men make sure that things zip along nicely in between the key moments and that every line is in character, and usually pretty funny when juxtaposed alongside the attitudes of the characters onscreen.

Michael Winner deserves some praise. Sometimes. The Jokers may not be an absolutely unmissable classic but it holds up well. Much like The Thomas Crown Affair, it's a heist movie that takes more delight in enjoying the boredom of the bourgeoisie and how those afflicted may try to cure themselves. A fun film worth checking out.



Friday, 6 January 2012

Titanic II (2010)

It's another cannily-titled cash-in from our friends at The Asylum and if you can't guess the movie they're hoping to emulate then perhaps you deserve to be forced into watching the thing. But, before I get carried away with easy mockery and insults, I must just say that this is far from the worst of the movies to come from The Asylum. In fact, it's actually almost good though these films always lose a few points for the cynical way that sees them being created in the first place.

The Titanic II is a ship (hence the title, this is NOT a sequel to James Cameron's Titanic) that is due to travel on the same journey as the original Titanic did exactly one hundred years previously. If you're superstitious then you may not want to get on the ship but plenty of people (desperate actors, desperate wannabe models and out-of-work service staff, by the looks of things) throw caution to the wind and grab themselves a ticket. Well, of all the unlikely and unfortunate events to occur, a huge ice shelf breaks off many miles away and sends a tsunami wave towards the ship. There are also big blocks of ice that may cause quite a bit of damage. Oh, and another wave is due to head their way that's even bigger.

Directed and written by Shane Van Dyke (son of Barry Van Dyke and grandson of Dick Van Dyke), Titanic II actually does what it sets out to do fairly well. It sets up the main characters, sketches out the leanest of backstories, throws onscreen a load of disposable victims and gets the threat developed as quickly as possible. The FX work is disappointing but also an improvement on past works from the studio.

Shane Van Dyke also takes one of the main roles and he's not too bad. Okay, nobody is too great either but I'd have to concede that the acting here is also an improvement over past efforts from The Asylum. Marie Westbrook and Michelle Glavan aren't the best actresses but are likeable enough as the destruction threatens them at every turn. Brooke Burns is also okay and Bruce Davison deserves better at this stage in his career but works well with what he's given. Everyone else overacts appropriately and gets to throw themselves around as the camera tilts and judders to simulate the effects of a ship being battered in the middle of the ocean.

If you're after something that's of proper movie quality and measured by the standards of fare that can get into the local multiplex then look elsewhere. But if you're after something that's enjoyable enough while it passes the time, laughable in places, cheap and cheerful throughout and amusingly ridiculous then you could do a lot worse than watching this film.



Thursday, 5 January 2012

Attack Force (2006)

Barely, and I do mean just BARELY, ahead of Ticker, this Steven Seagal movie was a pain to sit through and seemed to drag on forever and ever. It has almost no redeeming qualities and is one of the very worst in his entire filmography, which is really saying something.

But, before going any further, I shall be fair to the film and share this titbit from IMDb trivia - "Screenwriter 'Joe Halpin' is quoted in the book "Seagalogy: The Ass Kicking Films of Steven Seagal" as saying that Attack Force had originally been written and filmed as "Harvester," a sci-fi/horror movie with Seagal and his men battling an invading force of vampire space aliens. After Seagal, Halpin and director Michael Keusch had delivered the finished sci-fi film, the production and distribution company decided to eliminate the sci-fi space-alien elements and replace them with another plot having about a super-addictive drug that turns its users into superhuman killers. They called back a few of the lower-paid actors for re-shoots, re-dubbed the majority of Seagal's dialog via ADR, totally re-edited the film and changed it into the Attack Force we know today. Seagal and Halpin were not involved."

That means that the blame for this pile of drivel cannot be entirely placed on the shoulders of Seagal (who co-wrote as well as starred in the thing), director Michael Keusch or Joe Halpin (who came up with the story idea and co-wrote the screenplay with Seagal). There is a lot of terrible dubbing throughout, the plot is a dull and meandering mess and there isn't any great action to keep fans happy.

But the guys named above can still share some of the blame because, surely, a lot of the scenes that they created are still in the movie and none of them are any good. At all.

Lisa Lovbrand, David Kennedy, Matthew Chambers, Danny Webb and a number of other people embarrass themselves onscreen in this nonsense about Seagal and his pals taking on a bunch of super-soldiers. My attention was only ever held when the lovely Ileana Lazariuc was onscreen (and if she'd had more screentime the film may have managed to almost double up to a 3/10 rating).

Sadly, despite the troubled background of the film, audiences can only judge events onscreen by what they're given and, at the risk of repeating myself, all that is on show here is terrible dubbing, a dull and nonsensical plot and a distinct lack of action to even keep undemanding action fans happy.

An absolute, indefensible stinker.



The above image is better than ANYTHING seen in the movie itself. And I love how the artwork subtly removes two of Seagal's chins.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Rio Rita (1942)

The first of three pictures that Abbott & Costello made with MGM, who managed to negotiate a deal with Universal that allowed them to "borrow" the stars for a while, Rio Rita is a huge disappointment and one of the weaker films from the duo. One or two decent comedy routines aside, there is very little on display here to really keep anyone genuinely entertained.

Bud and Lou lose another job and end up hiding in a car boot that they believe is heading towards New York. Unbeknownst to them, the driver turns around and they eventually end up at a hotel on the Mexican border, where they get to cause their usual brand of mayhem while also running in to a group of dangerous Nazi spies.

Directed by S. Sylvan Simon, with a screenplay by Richard Connell, Gladys Lehman and (surprise) John Grant, there are very few scenes in Rio Rita that aren't flat or just flat out terrible. Kathryn Grayson is one of the few highlights as Rita Winslow, Patricia Dane is very good as Lucette Brunswick and John Carroll is okay as Ricardo Montera but the characters aren't all that interesting or likeable. The situations they get involved in don't really hold viewer interest until the last fifteen minutes or so and, to add insult to injury, there are also a number of horrid songs scattered throughout. "The Ranger's Song" is so dire and laughable that it almost seems like something from a Monty Python sketch. But it isn't. Sadly, that's the best of the lot.

There's at least some fun to be had when Abbott & Costello just get the screen to themselves and play around with one or two comedy routines. You can laugh at the duo being stuck in a car that's too far from ground level, enjoy a misunderstanding of the phrase "I've got twenty, too" and, best of all, watch the two almost at their very best in the ridiculous scene in which someone bets that they can guess which numbered girl (from a line up) is kissed by whoever puts their money on the table.

Despite those few enjoyable sequences, there's just not enough here to make me ever want to see this film again and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone but the most die-hard fans of A & C.