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In turns, unbearably dull and surprisingly hilarious
I'm a big fan of naked women, but even I don't need this much
nudity. THE MONSTER OF CAMP SUNSHINE takes place in a
nudist camp and, almost exclusively, involves nudists (who we are
informed in a pre-credits card, are not monsters) who are
terrorized by a dopey guy who has drank some nasty lake water
and turned into a threatening dopey guy.
Most of MONSTER is very dull, directed without any sense of
pacing or style. Obviously, people at a drive-in in 1964 didn't care
about that, they were excited to see the nudists. They certainly get
what they paid for, with lots and lots of women disrobing and
strolling around the idyllic Camp Sunshine. This was probably a
gas at some point, but now it's very tame, and eventually one gets
tired of it. Too much of a good thing takes all the fun out of it.
There are some highlights for bad movie fans. A unknowing
nurse is pushed out of an office window...by some crazed killer
mice. They even go so far to have guys throwing mice at the poor
woman from off camera. Then, after the monstrous Hugo has
fallen under the spell of that contaminated water (it also got to
those mice), MONSTER looses all semblance of reality and
becomes a bizarre montage of naked bodies, and stock footage of
various armies and military explosions. There's so much of it, you
might think that the editor accidentally forgot what movie he was
cutting. Then, when the craziness dies down (and there certainly
is a lot of it), the nudists get back to doing what they do best. This
includes the one of them who just lost a brother, and another who
is a doctor (He takes off his white jacket to reveal nothing
MONSTER OF CAMP SUNSHINE is a very bad movie, but it rarely
offers the sort of z-grade thrills you'd hope to see in something of
this caliber. If you fast forward a whole lot, you might be able to
Psycho II (1983)
Doomed to fail, it almost works
It would impossible for Psycho II to live up to the original, but the cast and crew give it their best shot. The film is actually pretty competent throughout, though the silly finale ruins what is otherwise an interesting and suspenseful (if totally unnecessary) sequel.
After a pre-credits reprise of the shower scene (Done for no reason other than to start the movie off with an easy scare), Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) is released from the mental hospital after more than 20 years of psychiatric treatment. He's deemed "sane" and allowed to return to his home and motel, despite the protests of Lila Loomis (Vera Miles). Bates gets a good job at a diner nearby, but things immediately start going sour. The interim motel manager is a sleaze (played with greasy gusto by Dennis Franz), and when Bates fires him, he begins to taunt and harass the "psycho." Norman also takes a shining to co-worker Mary (Meg Tilly), but almost as soon as he begins to get comfortable in his new life, notes and phone calls from his long-dead mother start appearing and Norman starts to go just a little mad. Then the murders start all over again, of course, since this is a sequel to a slasher film.
For a while, the movie works. Perkins' Bates is still a likeable oddball despite the ending of the first film. While his performance closes in on camp during some of the more "intense" sequences, the quiet scenes of Bates are still powerful. And Miles' Lila is an interesting extension of a character who was ostensibly a plot device of the first film. There's even a plot twist (revealed in the middle of the film, not at the conclusion) worthy of a Hitchcock thriller. As Bates cracks up, and Mother starts to return, director Richard Franklin creates some fine suspense sequences, playfully returning to certain sequences and images from the first film (A girl takes a shower, someone peeps through a hole in a wall, jump cutting on a victim's scream). Eerie music, and careful editing make for some enjoyable tense sequences; for a while, I was impressed. Psycho II isn't as unnerving or scary as the original, but it's a fun thriller.
As the film ramps up towards what looks to be a juicy climax, it sadly falls apart. The body count starts to rise in unwise ways. Since this film was made in the splatterfest decade that was the 80s, the violence is a lot bloodier than the first film. However, Psycho II becomes less disturbing as more gore is shown because the effects, mostly rubber knives sticking out people's faces and backs, are profoundly bad. And instead of obeying Hitchcock's rule that there be a reasonable explanation for everything, the filmmakers settle for a finale that is completely absurd. In a matter of minutes, the film descends from tight thriller to wacky groaner.
Psycho II initially defied my low expectations; sadly, I was proven right in the end. No sequel could ever match up to Psycho, and in trying to do so, the creators here throw in so many twists and so much gore that they do far too much for their own good, veering off the path to success down the road of cheap horror cliche. It's an interesting film to see for its successes and failures, but it's not one I can recommend.
Oh to be a Mexican wrestler...
It's not easy being Neutron, let me tell you. American wrestlers, they get off light. All they have to do is wrestle. Mexican wrestlers, on the hand, are called upon by their society to act as masked peacekeepers against the forces of evil. Such is the life of Neutron, who is the hero of our film, a mediocre entry in the Mexican wrestler genre.
An important scientist is working on a brand new type of bomb, confusingly called a neutron bomb (No, it doesn't have any connection to Neutron the wrestler). He's killed by a duplicitous lab assistant and the police later discover the formula for the bomb is actually broken into several small pieces which must be recovered to protect the world from the evil Doctor Curante (Julio Alemán). Luckily for the free world, the scientist's son is best buddies with Neutron, so he starts to investigate the case. We're also fortunate that the police seem content to have a son of a murdered man and his wrestler friend assisting in the investigation.
The only treat this movie has to offer is the character of Doctor Curante, an inspiringly silly villain. Wearing a white shirt and pants combo, white gloves and a bandage mask similar to Darkman's, he strikes an uncomfortable image, especially when the script calls for him to trudge down long hallways barking orders to his midget sidekick. It's unclear exactly what he's a doctor of; he does little to suggest any medical knowledge, though he's especially good at insulting his minions and denigrating the heroes. He acts more like a bad guidance counselor than a doctor. Foolishly, the filmmakers banish Curante to limited scene time and focus on the less interesting supporting cast.
There's little else to recommend in Neutron and the Black Mask, including the title; Neutron IS the guy wearing the Black Mask, so it's redundant. The fight scenes aren't as exciting as some of the Santos movies, and while the production values aren't bad, they are squandered on a meandering plot and weak characters. I told you it's tough being a Mexican wrestler; even your movies stink!
Logic be damned, here comes Valentine!
There are so many puns to play on the title of the spectacularly bad Valentine that I don't know where to begin. I will say this though; here is a movie that makes me long for the complexity of the Valentine cards we used to give out in elementary school. You know, the ones with Batman exclaiming "You're a super crime-fighting valentine!"
Valentine is a slasher movie without the slightest hint of irony, one of the few horror movies in recent years that ignores the influence of Scream. The villain is omniscient and nigh-invulnerable. The heroes are easily scared when people run around corners and grab them by the shoulders screaming "HeyIjustleftmycoatbehind!" The score is more overbearing than Norman Bates' mother.
The flimsy plot follows several childhood friends, now grown up and extremely curvaceous. Since the film gives them nothing else to do, they stand around and wait until a masked stalker kills them one by one. This stalker appears to be former nerd Jeremy Melton, who was constantly rejected by women and beaten by men in high school. With Valentine's Day approaching, the women begin receiving scary cards foretelling their doom. Melton seems like the obvious suspect. Only problem is, as numerous characters warns, in thirteen years Melton could have changed his appearance to look buff and handsome. So (insert terrified gasp here) everyone is a suspect!
Here's problem one. In order to have any sense of suspense while watching Valentine, you have to accept a reality in which a high school nerd is capable of becoming David Boreanaz. Nerds don't turn into Angel when they grown up, they turn into older, balder nerds. He's not a terrible actor, but the script, by no less than four writers, gives him and the rest of the cast nothing to do but scream and make out. Denise Richards (the bustiest actress in Hollywood never to star in Baywatch) is especially exploited; most shamefully in the blatant excuse to get her in a bathing suit just before a crucial suspense scene. Note to self: always bring a bathing suit to a Valentine's Day party. Just because it's February doesn't mean you might not feel like taking a little dip.
The slasher in Valentine dresses in head-to-toe black with a Cherub's mask. Here's problem number two. The filmmakers clearly thought this would be a disturbing image to have on the head of someone who's whacking people in the face with hot irons. Plain and simple, it's not. Instead, it just made me wonder how a guy with a mask that covers his entire face, including his eyes and ears, can move so stealthily without bumping his shins on chairs or tables. Then again, given the things the Cupid Killer does, maybe he can teleport and his eyes are on his hands.
Not only is the movie bad, it isn't even sure who the killer is; the final "twist" is more "Huh?" than "Hah!" When you're not scratching your head you're yawning, then groaning, then searching for the nearest exit. Do not watch this movie. Even if you're alone on Valentine's Day, find something, ANYTHING, else to do. You'll be glad you did.
Here's thoughts after one viewing (bound to change)
Spider-Man fans will like Sam Raimi's Spider-Man; in translating the comic to the screen he's done little more than take the best parts of forty years of history and plastered it onto a movie screen for two hours. For die-hards, the best part is the perfect tone and great characters. Newcomers will enjoy the great visuals and Maguire's fantastic portrayal of everyman Peter Parker. It's a fun movie.
Readers will know the story, and those who don't will be able to predict most of the twists anyway. Peter is a likeable, shy nerd with a crush on the (literal) girl next door Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst). He's bitten by a genetically engineered spider just as he makes his first advances toward MJ. As Peter tests out his new powers, his classmate's father, Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), is performing his own experiments, using a vague strength-enhancing serum on himself with rather nasty results. The two gain alter-egos and are brought into colorful conflict.
In any movie like this, the special effects are bound to hog the spotlight, but Maguire and the supporting cast do a wonderful job of making you care about the people surrounded by the explosions and spandex. Dafoe's Green Goblin is clearly in the vain of Jack Nicholson's Joker but Dafoe manages to give a memorable turn as the more human half of his character. Dunst as Mary Jane is great at subtly showing you the stuff going on behind her initially giggly facade. And J.K. Simmons steals all his scenes as Daily Bugle chief J. Jonah Jameson. If any character is the complete essence of his comic book counterpart, its Simmons as JJJ.
Like the rest of Raimi's best work, the camera in Spider-Man is completely unchained; it follows him through the air, out of windows, dive bombing with a joy that translates beautifully on the screen. Some shots of Spider-Man in action are, for a long-time fan, breathtaking. Raimi as director was a bold choice that really pays off. His handiwork is all over the film; devotees will recognize touches from Darkman and Army of Darkness among others.
The movie works for the same reasons the comic works. Some people might not like the frenetic changes of pace and tone but it's a touch right out of comic books, where pathos, action, and comedy mix every twenty-two pages. The movie hits all the right notes until it pauses after the conclusion of Spider-Man's origin. It loses some steam in its middle third, before it cranks up the juice for a great climax and a perfect epilogue that summarizes all that is great about Peter Parker: no matter his successes as Spider-Man, he will always be deficient as Peter Parker and vice versa. Throughout, the movie has the guts to remain true to the character, both in the costume and out. And they don't even use the silly cartoon theme song.
The Scorpion King (2002)
The Scorpion King marks the official start of the 2002 summer movie season, and woe be the moviegoer who wants logic and brains in his movie. If The Rock's starring debut is any indication, this summer will be the worst on record. Scratch that; it's not an indication, it's a warning. Summer movies are here; no brains allowed.
Audiences should have known something was up when Universal claimed they were so excited by The Rock's `performance' in The Mummy Returns that they simply had to give him his own starring vehicle. In his five minutes of actual screen time (the rest of his performance was completed by a CGI scorpion), he did little more than grimace, grunt, and growl.
This film charts the character's ascendancy, from mercenary named Mathayus to a powerful sovereign capable of a transformation into a giant CGI creature. A terrible despot named Memnon (Steven Brand) rules the ancient world with an iron, arrow-catching fist, with the aid of a clairvoyant, semi-nude sorcerer (Kelly Hu). Over the course of ninety-odd minutes and endless swordfights, Mathayus tries time and time again to kill Memnon while bearing his teeth and arching his eyebrow.
Clearly a film in the Conan vein, The Scorpion King gives The Rock plenty of opportunity to twirl things in the air and glower with hammy abandon. Of course, the dialogue is kept to a minimum. `I've come for the woman and your head' is about the most complex sentence Mathayus utters; although you might be inclined to believe that the character's silence is less a function of his stupidity than the film's inability to go more than four minutes without increasing the body count.
I never thought I could miss the Mummy movies so much. While Steven Sommers' movies were dumb, he knew how to make great action sequences. The Scorpion King, all clanging swords with squishy sound effects, is a film dying for a great action scene. Time and time again, indistinct royal guards charge The Rock, who dispatches them with quick, bloodless swipes from his sword. Helpfully, The Rock's sword appears to be enchanted; no matter how many times it gets lost or broken, it always reappears at his waist at the start of the next scene.
In a crazier movie, The Rock's overbearing acting style, wide eyed and frowning like he smells something bad, could work. But director Chuck Russell's work is uninspired; he's missing the sense of uninhibited abandon he brought to The Mask. A novel of The Scorpion King would probably be just as bad as the movie; there are no standout images, no great fights, no good performances, and nothing worth remembering. It is the epitome of bad Hollywood filmmaking. Here's hoping this bad omen is only a false alarm.
Killer Workout (1987)
You know Jason, you know Freddy, and you know Leatherface. Now, get ready for: The Safety Pin Killer! That's right, in Killer Workout, a dumb slasher movie if I've ever seen one, the unseen murderer dispatches his (or her?) victims with an oversized, novelty safety pin. It is an odd choice to be sure, the kind of thing that deserves an explanation. Naturally, the movie never even attempts to clarify where the killer acquired such a thing.
As the title suggests, an aerobics gym is under siege by a mad killer and everyone is a suspect. In fact, the movie gives so few clues as to the identity of the killer, just about everyone in the movie is a potential murderer until they get killed. And since just about everyone but the killer winds up dead, it's really just process of elimination.
Oddly, while the entire name cast is killed off, the aerobics classes continue in earnest. In fact, nothing is capable of stopping the dancing. While three men are murdered in the next room, the workout goes on. Death isn't even a factor; one character dies, but is still seen prominently in the later workout sessions. Director David Prior knew what he was doing when named the movie Killer Workout and not Logical Workout.
Cop chases, explosive tanning beds, and hundreds of shots of women's exposed flesh are thrown in for good measure. Much like the woman caught in the tanning bed, I felt very uncomfortable by the end of Killer Workout. Finally, thankfully, THE END flashed on the screen. What happened next? You got it, shots of the women working out. Not even the end of the movie can stop them!
The Stabilizer (1986)
Insane and hilarious.
What's the most violent movie of all time? Rambo III? Commando? Robocop? Add these three very violent together, and you still won't equal the carnage in The Stabilizer, the wildest, silliest, craziest action movie I have ever seen. For one hundred minutes things blow up and people die in dozens of strange ways. It will make you laugh and cheer, and when it's all over you'll be more than a little exhausted. This movie is a buried gem, a cult classic sadly lacking a cult.
The Stabilizer is the nickname of our hero Peter Goldson (Peter O'Brian), a large oily man with a curly mullet. He arrives in Indonesia on the trail of the villainous and mean Greg Rainmaker. We know he is evil because he is only referred to by his full name ("I hate SCUM like Greg RAINmaker!") and utilizes a method of killing that is so horrible I can't even utter it here. Wait, yes I can. He steps on people in spiky shoes. Greg Rainmaker: Cleat Killer.
When Greg Rainmaker isn't pouring alcohol on women for their sexual pleasure, he's kidnapping important professors and heading a huge underworld empire. It's up to Goldson (A Jewish action hero? Gevalt!) and his motley crew of sidekicks to stabilize the situation by killing everyone and blowing lots of stuff up. Maybe "stabilize" has a different meaning in Indonesia.
And the violence, oh the violence. This is a film unwilling, nay, uncapable, of letting five minutes of screen time go by without some sort of explosion, knifing, car crash, or squib interrupting the dialogue. The violence is extreme; not graphic and bloody, just really weird. For example, The Stabilizer & company invade one of Rainmaker's warehouses (by driving through a solid concrete wall on a motorcycle, of course). When perched on the balcony, with heavy fire coming from below, The Stabilizer does the one thing he can do. He drives off the balcony into the guy's head, his front tire bouncing off it like a basketball. Astounding.
From the overly-gratuitous love scenes (Both major female characters hop in the sack with the hero of their choice not two minutes after they speak to them alone for the first time) to the poorly dubbed dialogue ("Victor, you talented bastard!") The Stabilizer has it all. This is a film for the ages, right up there with Citizen Kane and Gymkata. It is not widely available in release. If you find it anywhere for any price, buy it and relish the insanity.
Say It Isn't So (2001)
The title says it all
The title of Say It Isn't So is a better review of the movie than anything I can write. Just when I thought I had seen the worst 2001 had to offer (Including, among others, Freddy Got Fingered, 3000 Miles to Graceland and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider), this movie pops up on late night cable and makes me wish it hadn't. Let's be blunt; this movie stinks.
If there is a God in the universe in which this movie takes place, then Gilbert Noble (Chris Klein) is his favorite person to torture when He's having a bad day. Gillie is an orphan, a lonely guy working at his local animal shelter. He finds the love of his life Jo Wingfield (Heather Graham), but there's a problem. It seems that Jo's parents are also Gillie's. Jo leaves and finds another guy, when Gillie discovers that he isn't really her brother, so he heads after her.
The incest joke could, I suppose, have been good for one laugh in a movie. But as the WHOLE movie, it is a rather thin, and the script (by Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow) feels like a Farrelly Brothers ripoff, not the real thing. Odd since Peter and Bobby Farrelly are actually two of the producers on this movie.
As told in the film, everyone in the entire world except Gillie, Jo and one or two other characters, is cold, heartless, and greedy. Gillie is held to a standard of behavior whereby he would need precognitive telepathic abilities to act properly. Even though he didn't know he was sleeping with his sister, he is ridiculed mercilessly, scorned, and abandoned by his "parents." You feel bad for Gillie, especially since Jo is an awful mate, except that she looks like Heather Graham. They fall for each other as she gives him an awful haircut and cuts off his ear. This, Van Gogh fans, is played for laughs.
The movie is a series of low notes. I thought it couldn't get worse when Sally Field wiped her armpits with a sandwich to give to her stroke-inflicted husband, but that was before the movie shifted locations to Beaver, Oregon, hitting the audience over the head with Beaver joke after Beaver joke. They finally flog that bit to death, but just when you see the light at the end of the tunnel, Gillie sticks his arm in a bull's behind up to his shoulder, then gets dragged through town, then loses something in there he has to retrieve. Chris Klein, so good in Election and American Pie, followed those two fine movies with Say It Isn't So and Rollerball. Say this for him, it's only up from here.
The only reason to watch this movie is the soundtrack, featuring songs by Teenage Fanclub, Third Eye Blind, and others. I'd like to say skip the movie and get the soundtrack, but apparently the movie did so poorly they never even bothered to release it on CD. I know what you're thinking, "No soundtrack? Say it isn't so!"
Bubbling just beneath the surface of Showtime is a good idea. Actually, it's more like two or three ideas that constantly fight for screentime. This film doesn't just have its cake and eat it too; it has the whole bakery.
Detective Mitch Preston (Robert De Niro) has a drug bust interrupted by the media and a brash, cop-slash-actor named Trey Sellars (Eddie Murphy). When Preston's partner is shot, he angrily shoots the camera out of the hands of a pestering newsman, and the tiff lands him in a new reality cop show produced by Chase Renzi (Rene Russo). In the first of many errors and oddities in the movie, that injured partner is never heard from again or alluded to for the remainder of the film.
De Niro's best gag is his speech to a classroom of small children to open the picture about how TV cops don't act like real cops. Funny thing is, as the movie progresses, his character and Murphy's begin to act more and more like the clichés they supposedly clash so strongly with. In a smarter movie, De Niro's diatribe could have played as ironic comment; here, it only shows to point out how truly lame the movie is. While a spoof of a reality based cop show could be funny, the team of writers and director Tom Dey (Who made the far superior Shanghai Noon a few years ago; see that movie instead) seem to be on unsure footing, and instead of slamming the TV industry, they really let them off light (The harshest thing they seem to be able to say about network execs is they like to play ping pong at work). Russo's character has a glint of fiendish delight in her eye, but her dialogue and actions rarely match the actress' enthusiasm.
With little on screen to keep my attention, my mind began to wander, and that's dangerous in a movie with this many plot holes. For instance; if Showtime (the name given to the cop show) is such a popular smash, why doesn't anyone seem to recognize De Niro and Murphy when they are on the job? For that matter, if their investigation of smuggler and all around mean guy Vargas is being televised, why the heck hasn't someone mentioned to him that they are on his trail? Then again, given this villain's actions maybe I shouldn't be surprised; this is the same joker who is very angry at an associate for using his new supergun without approval, jeopardizing a deal, and then dispatches him how? By using about ten of the superguns to level his entire house, of course! That's like putting out a fire with a bigger fire.
Occasionally, Showtime gets laughs, but there simply aren't enough for the film's nearly two hour running time. Even worse, the really smart gags suggest that this movie really could have been on to something, if only they had put in a few more drafts of the script. Murphy mugs and talks as fast as he can with minimal results, and De Niro looks flat out bored through most of this. After a completely unnecessary fistfight between cops and gangsters (That remarkably results in no injuries and no arrests) Russo's character shouts `That's great television!' Perhaps it's great television, but it's far from a great movie.