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Jaws 3-D (1983)
Dead air- now in movie form!
It's amazing how tired a film series can become. Well, seeing as how this film is the third in a series all about the same exact thing, I'm surprised anyone decided to OK this one at all. Anyhow, a mere 8 years after the original "Jaws" scared the living you-know-what out of moviegoers, this bore fest was tossed in to theaters to milk the series of a few more bucks. The plot is exactly the same, only it takes place at Sea World, so we'll skip it. Not one of the cast members from the first two films showed up, but this was scripted by Carl Gottlieb, (original Jaws Screenwriter) ,and, for some peculiar reason, Richard Matheson. Dennis Quaid plays Michael Brody, the kid from the other movies (people age faster in sequel-land, I guess), and he is no substitute for Roy Scheider. Really, he's dweeby, unimposing, and an all around "nice guy". The coolest stunt he does in the film is crash a golf cart. None of the other characters really left much of an impression on me either.
The mechanical shark is as bad as in the first two films, but this time the film makers were dumb enough to show it all the time, showing just how fakey it is. At one point, it even crashes through the control room at Sea World, kind of like the Airplane in 1980's "Airplane", only even funnier. There's a lot of showing the shark swimming around, but not much action, making it very tedious and boring.
I only gave it 2 instead of one star because the make up effects on the mutilated dead guy they fish out of the tank, as well as a few of the "3-D" effects looked pretty cool.
Other than that, there's no reason to recommend this one. Stick with the classics. This ain't one of 'em.
Seven Days in Utopia (2011)
So dull, you'll wish you were watching an actual golf tournament
Trite, clichéd, predictable and dull, here's "Seven Days in Utopia". Stop me if you've heard this before- a down on his luck golfer becomes stranded in a small town where he just so happens to meet an elderly man (Robert Duvall) who just so happens to be an ex golfer. What are the odds of that? The old man becomes a mentor of sorts and reteaches him how to play the game, readying him for the next Texas Open. The golfer also finds love in a girl who just recently lost her father and has to contend with a few town bullies. Sound familiar? This movie borrows from virtually every single sports movie ever made ,but refuses to add anything new to the mix. You don't really need to even pay attention to it, as you know exactly what is happening the entire time.
While not technically a poorly made film, the performances are, for the most part, lifeless, as the actors portray characters who are flat and simply uninteresting. I bought this mainly because Robert Duvall was in it, and even he didn't do much for this film. "Major Predictable Spoilers ahead!" Anyway, up to the very end, I was planning on giving this a 3 or 4. It was bad, but at least it seemed to be able to tell a decent, if thoroughly covered ,story. However, this is what happened. The movie actually ends before you see if he made the last hole or not! Okay, leaving it up in the air is okay, but here's what sealed the "One Star" deal for me. Before the credits role, a note crawls up saying "To see if he made the last putt, visit blahblahwhatever.com...." are you kidding me? The film makers can't even tell the complete story within their entire freakin' movie? They're advertising a website to go to see if he won or not! That really ticked me off!
So, all in all, avoid this one. Entirely predictable, with an infuriating ending.
Jaws 2 (1978)
Cmparing it to the original-why bother?
This half baked sequel once again takes place on Amity Island, and, you guessed it, there's a giant killer shark on the loose to feast upon unsuspecting vacationers. I guess I have to compare it to the original, although it seems a bit pointless. While the film benefits from including several of the cast members from the original, the script is probably the weakest aspect of the whole production. Let's compare. The original had lots of humorous dialog from many of the quirky islanders and even added a bit of realism by often showing several conversations happening at once, whereas this one is flat and dull. Also, in the original, you can sense the strong bond Brody has with his family, with many little charming moments like the scene where he and his son make shark faces at each other. This one has nothing even close to that, except maybe when Brody hits his head on a low hanging lamp in their house. This movie also suffers from the inclusion of a bunch of annoying teen characters. Most of them have very little to add to the film, except to become "damsels in distress" of a sort for Brody to rescue at the end. Most of them have hardly any interesting character traits or even become shark bait, so there was really no reason to include so many of them. The original was the perfect "Man vs. Nature" film, but this one just feels like a bad slasher flick where barely anybody dies. To it's credit, this movie does try to have a real storyline involving Brody's dismissal from the police, not just the shark eating random people, but I would have liked to see more of that than scenes of the teens sailing. It's also nice that Hendricks (Jeffrey Kramer) has a more substantial role, and, to it's credit, it does have some nice shark attack scenes for undiscriminating movie monster fans. It's just nowhere near as good as the original. It may have been a bit better if Spielberg had stepped behind the camera again. Either way, while the original introduced us to the most terrifying killer shark in movie history, this one is little more than a cinematic plate of fish and chips.
The Purge (2013)
A victim of it's own poor writing
The story, though extremely far fetched, could have made a very good dystopian sci fi horror flick. Unfortunately, this film takes that idea and goes nowhere with it. We never find out who these mysterious New Founding Fathers are or how such a law could have been passed in such a short time. On the other hand, the film's main villain, the "Polite Leader" is laughably one dimensional and shallow. Thanks to this character's ridiculously cheesy opening dialog, we know exactly what he and his friends want within 2 minutes of screen time. Any possible social commentary this film was trying to convey becomes lost in the awful script and wooden performances of most of the cast. Now, let's talk about the climax. My God, what a "I'm the screenwriter and this is the big twist I pulled out of my you-know-what" ending. Let me "spoil" it for you. The neighbors all gang up on our heroes and attempt to "purge" them themselves. Why? Well, because they got rich selling them expensive home security systems, that's why! Sorry, did I miss something? They traded their money for a product they wanted, and they're so mad about it that they would kill because of it? Basically, they're jealous they're not making as much money as our heroes, though they are clearly in the same basic financial situation as them, as they live in the same neighborhood. I'm sorry, but even for a movie like this, that makes no sense! Anyway, the movie kind of fizzles out after that, and the audience is left to ponder just how bad the effects of a "Purge" would be, though most people who saw the film would know such a law would be a bad idea in the first place.
While "The Purge" features some good action sequences, I found myself too distracted by the incredibly inane characters and ridiculous plot twists to care. Also, that robotic baby thing was clearly lifted from "Toy Story". Also, the masks were lame. Seems like if it's legal to kill all these people, you wouldn't need to hide your identity, and might make you really sweaty too.
A different (but still lousy) approach
The first one had a teenage girl in a life or death struggle against a horrifying monster who only exists in her dreams and the dreams of her friends, who are quickly dying around her. This one? This is the one where a guy in his underpants sits around in a hot room and sweats for half the movie.We hop from the greatest in the series directly to the worst, with this ,the first of many inferior sequels to the original classic. The filmmakers go for sort of a "Wolf Man" approach, in which our hero, played by Mark Patton, is possessed and eventually transformed into the dream stalking Freddy Krueger. While this movie deserves props for originality , the plot makes little sense. I guess Freddy wants to take over the body of Jesse so he can be free to kill people in real life and in the dream world. The problem is, most of the suspense and fear of falling asleep from the first film vanish when most of the deaths occur outside the dream world. And the death scenes that are there are among the worst in the entire series. A couch being towel whipped to death? Really? A bunch of people being chased by Freddy at a pool party? Who thought that was a good idea? The plot structures of the many sequels, while formulaic, work because of the constant fear that a madman will get you in your sleep. This one has none of that.Jesse's transformation scene and the death of Grady do include some great visuals, as well as the hell dogs at the end of the film, but all of the "Nightmare" movies have good visuals, and this one doesn't really stand out too much. And the performances? Ouch. This was after Freddy was ghoulish and scary, but before he became a tongue in cheek pop icon, so he's kind of just "there" in this one. He has a couple of one liners, but there's nothing too humorous or creepy here. Mark Patton is prissy, obnoxious, and screams like an 8 year old girl. Kim Myers is cold, and looks very bored in her role as Lisa. Clu Gulager is one of my favorite actors, but he doesn't have too much to do here.
And as far as the "gay subtext" is concerned, it's great they tried to give this film a little depth, but this doesn't help it out at all as a horror film. In fact, with the audience constantly looking for "gay stuff" throughout the film, any possibility of it being taken seriously is vanquished.
So, all in all, this is the film equivalent of a hotdog which has been sitting directly under the hot sun in a parking lot in New Jersey for the past week. It's ugly, nauseating, and you couldn't get me to look at it again if you paid me to.
Voodoo Man (1944)
About what you'd expect
This is about what you'd expect from a Bela Lugosi vehicle from the mid 1940s. At this point, his career was steadily sliding downhill, but hadn't quite reached rock bottom as he would in the early to mid 50s. This is a low budget Monogram quickie, with nothing particularly exciting or memorable going for it. The plot is predictable and derivative of an earlier, slightly better Lugosi flick- "The Corpse Vanishes". Bela plays a mad doctor (wow, really?) who drains the life out of several young women into the body of his decades dead wife(who happens to possess a stylish 1940s hairdo). He is aided by a Voodoo practicing gas station attendant and two imbecilic henchmen. All is going well until a Hollywood scriptwriter stumbles upon their little operation.
While some of the characters and situations are somewhat different from your typical low budget Monogram flick, it's mostly just same ol' same ol'. You've got a creepy house in the middle of nowhere, lots of driving through the woods, and Bela doing what he does best. (or at least most often). To it's credit, the movie does have a decent cast. Bela's great as usual, John Carradine and George Zucco make formidable secondary characters, and this does contain some nice looking ladies, including Louise Currie, who happens to slightly resemble Gillian Anderson of "X Files" fame, at least to me... Also, the set design is decent as well. The finale, which takes place in a cave, springs to mind.
But overall, this is just a mediocre 1940s horror flick, clearly only made to make a few bucks, with very little effort on the part of the writer or director.
This is pretty much the "Inception" of God Awful cinema. We have an unknown narrator telling us the story of Santa Claus being stuck on a beach in Florida, who, in turn, tells a group of children a random story about Thumbelina, which is from the viewpoint of ANOTHER narrator, who happens to also play an aging female mole. Confused yet? This movie has a total of three different storytellers, yet it still manages to make absolutely no sense whatsoever. Probably because, from what I can tell, the Santa film and Thumbelina were made at separate times as promotional films for a now long forgotten theme park in Florida. So what we get is a hodgepodge of absolute nonsense involving randy moles, various farm animals being attached to Santa's sleigh,and hippies popping out of flowers. And what about that Ice Cream Bunny? Oh yeah! What we get is a very disturbing man in a filthy rabbit costume riding around in an antique Fire Truck loaded with helpless children with the doomsday alarm blaring out of some unseen loudspeaker. All the while, the rabbit's face remains emotionless and blank, lost in his own sickening thoughts which probably involve children and the dozens of melting ice cream bars he has packed inside various parts of his trousers. (Hey, they said he was an ice cream bunny, and I don't see any ice cream anywhere else, so I'll assume it's inside the costume). Anyway, the bunny comes to Santa's rescue. Some garbled, incoherent dialog seep past his most likely slavering lips, picks up Santa, and leaves the children and the sleigh in the middle of nowhere. I swear, just the sight of the bunny driving the truck through the park nearly made my skin crawl. I just wouldn't give it the satisfaction. So there you have it. . Try eating pizza and watching this movie right before bed. I guarantee the nightmares you have will make more sense than this sorry excuse for cinema.
It could've been the next slasher series- if it had dropped the "Prom Night" Moniker
"Hello Mary Lou"... concerns a girl who finds herself possessed by the vengeful spirit of a deceased prom Queen.This was a surprisingly spooky and nifty little horror flick by my standards. It's not exactly the best movie ever made, but I'll get to that in a minute. The ultimate strong points of this film are most definitely the special effects and it's decent writing . The special effects are top notch, and the stunningly original ideas behind them make them even more impressive. We get a creepy as all get out rocking horse which springs to life, a chalk board which becomes a pool, a locker which squishes some poor girl, some really good burn makeup, and much more. While some of the effects seem similar to another popular slasher series of that time (Nightmare on Elm Street), they are still very good in their own right. The plot and storyline, while a little too "Carrie"-esque, do move along quite well. It was quite interesting to see Vicki's slow transformation from average school girl to insane demon, and the kills which get thrown in are less than routine (see the locker death I mentioned above).
Earlier I said this wasn't exactly the best movie ever made. I have my reasons. Mostly it's due to the acting. While it was interesting to see Vicki become Mary Lou, Wendy Lyon's performance just becomes more and more over the top as we go along, and builds up to an absolutely ridiculous, "Places to go, people to kill" answering machine message. No one else's performance was much to write home about either.
Another beef- Mary Lou's spirit just isn't that scary. She's still a rebellious and "loose" teenage girl, and while that actually makes sense for this film, it was still more campy than scary to me.
Overall, it's a very effective and chilling mini masterpiece of a horror film. It's underrated, probably due to it's lame title and it's odd association with a less than stellar slasher film from seven years earlier(which makes me wonder why they chose to call it a sequel at all. It has practically nothing to do with the original, and by 1987, "Prom Night" must've already been old news; it's not like there could've been legions of fans clamoring for even an in name only sequel or anything, but what do I know?) Lord knows that's why I had avoided it for so long. But give it a shot, if you're into an unusual slasher with great, surrealistic effects and a little originality to boot.
Hollywood Party (1934)
What's not to like?
Like the cover states, it has everything! It has Jimmy Durante fighting lions, Laurel and Hardy, musical numbers, laughs, Mickey Mouse, and even the Three Stooges (with Ted Healy) appear as reporters. We also get a color Disney animated short, a funny scene featuring Laurel and Hardy, Lupe Velez, broken eggs, and a revealing dress, not to mention the naked shadow of a woman's breast. This movie is so typical of the 30s upper class lifestyle, it almost felt like I was transported to that time period. This is one of those movies that I mainly like just for the look of it. Sure it has almost no plot whatsoever, but you could say that about almost any "party" film. Overall, it's just a really fun movie. And for a little bonus- check out the outfits on some of the ladies. Yowza!
Safe in Hell (1931)
Why does everything bad have to happen to her?
Poor Dorothy Mackaill just can't catch a break. After falling into the prostitution racket, she accidentally kills the man who was partially responsible for her line of work in the first place (or so she thinks).Her sailor boyfriend smuggles her onto an island with a bunch of weirdos to avoid arrest. Things get a little complicated when (SPOLIERS!) the man she thought she killed shows up on the island. This is a decent pre code drama, however, it is very draggy in some parts, (featuring many scenes of the half drunken old criminals sitting around in wicker chairs) ,has the production values of a poverty row flick, and drifts off into fairly standard early 30s courtroom drama by the third act. But the last ten minutes or so provide a couple of moving, powerful scenes, and the depressing, but effective ending more than makes up for the rest of the movie being slow. It also helps that the two black actors, Noble Johnson and Nina Mae Mckinney, aren't total stereotypes, which is remarkable for a film of this age.
So don't be fooled by the seemingly endless "sitting around on an island" scenes. Just wait til the end, it'll be worth it.