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Airplane vs. Volcano (2014)
Don't h8 so much on this neato The Asylum comic book adventure
Oh, gosh, so many h8rs for a film that doesn't aspire to be anything more than worth every penny of your $1.50 at the Redbox.
You'd do yourself a favor to cut this The Asylum outing the break your IMDb and Amazon peers have denied.
The preposterousness and cheesiness of this comic book melodrama are actually redeemed by some winning performances; colorful and creative, if not convincing special effects; and a cast totally committed to this project, no matter how ridiculous the plot thickens like flowing lava.
The story: Some unclear natural disaster has created volcanic activity of such scale that it's essentially turned the West Coast into Mordor.
As it happens, an airline (for some reason, just one airline, and not hundreds) is approaching L.A. at that exact time, and ends up flying straight into the volcano.
It flies and flies and flies, for the entire 90-minute runtime, somehow, despite engine failure, pilot deaths, insane terrorists, low fuel, volcanic heat, flying lava balls and ash clouds so hot they turn beachgoers into piles of cinders.
How will they survive? How can the volcano be stopped?
You'll be surprised how much you'll care about those answers.
The cast: Dean Cain got too fat to be Superman, so now he turns up in The Asylum roles Greg Evigan turns down to preserve his dignity. He's OK in this one as one of those stock-character passengers who happens to know how to fly a plane once the pilots are dead.
Surprisingly endearing is a turn by Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, famous only as Freddy "Boom Boom" Washington on the '70s sitcom "Welcome Back, Kotter," as a grizzled air marshal. Somebody give this talented Hollywood veteran a cop series.
Robin Givens shows up, characteristically devoid of any charm or personality, as a volcano expert who exists only to forward and describe the absurd pseudo-science of the film's main conceit.
And as is true in pretty much every other The Asylum flick, the supporting cast and extras act their little nobody hearts out, as if this stupid DTV kerfuffle was "Terms of Endearment."
The SFX: Most of the time, it looks like a CGI aircraft superimposed on a Renaissance painting of the Catholic interpretation of hell. But you can't say that's not doggone pretty to look at. Most of this film is the fire-orange hue you wish Crayola made a crayon of when you were an insane little kid.
A couple of times, when a piece of lava hits the plane, or as the plane flies over vast magma fields, it looks really cool. Credit the editor as much as the SFX team for creating fine dramatic tension on the cheap.
Other times, it looks like a cartoon. Like a "Bullwinkle" cartoon.
The lowdown: Look, you watch a movie called "Airplane Vs. Volcano," you know It's from The Asylum, you can't fault the thing for wasting your time because it wasn't "Star Wars."
Few production houses require viewers to leave their brains at the door as often as The Asylum. But when we do, we're occasionally charmed by the end product.
"Airplane Vs. Volcano" is one of those pearls in an otherwise slimy oyster bed.
Mulberry St (2006)
What a wasted opportunity
This movie was so good for the first 45 minutes, I almost wept when the second half went all to hell.
Few movies capture the seedy underbelly of New York City in as raw a way. Parts of this movie look almost like they were filmed guerrilla- style. Indeed, in that respect, "Mulberry Street" hearkens back to the glorious '80s films of Frank Hennenlotter.
Alas, this is no "Basket Case" or "Brain Damage." Because although director Jim Mickle imbues the film with the same gritty, neon-lit, back-alley feel characteristic of Hennenlotter, his failure is that while Hennenlotter expertly married the surrealism of real-life Manhattan with his bizarre stories and creations, this film, while showing that kind of promise early on, unfortunately has so little confidence in itself it devolves quickly and quite unfortunately into B-movie idiocy.
The conceit is wonderful -- a new rat-borne disease is turning New Yorkers into flesh-eating zombies.
Wouldn't a "28 Days Later" set in NYC and directed by Frank Hennenlotter be awesome?
Keep hoping. Because although it looks like it's going that way for the first half, then the rat people show up.
Yes, this rat-borne disease not only makes people zombies, it freakin' turns them into rat people.
Ridiculous, pointy-eared, pointy-toothed rat people who squeak like rats and scurry about the floor on all fours.
I wanted to weep, seriously weep, halfway through this movie, because when the first rat person showed up after 45 minutes of Hennenlotteresque gritty New York cinematography, interesting camera-work and real, untrained New Yorkers as actors, it felt like I'd found a real super-cool, smart, pretty and sassy girlfriend, and just learned too late she had the clap.
Man this one looked like it was gonna be a real good one, too. What a disappointment.
Storm Warning (2007)
What a lie this movie is
I picked this up for three bucks, then 50 percent off at the why-are-they-still-in-business FYE store in the mall.
I was ripped the hƏll off nonetheless, and here's why.
This entire movie is a lie. The box, the cover, indeed the premise of this diaper-rash of a movie, promise a picture of gory suspense unlike anything you've ever seen.
But you've seen everything here, better, everywhere else. Including Chuck E. Cheese's.
There's nothing at all new here, except the Australian accents and the baby kangaroo that gets its head chopped off by a naked hottie in a bath towel.
Now, friends, you'd expect that to be the money, here. You'd expect the filmmakers to be pitching this movie to their investors with the promise, "A naked hottie cuts a m'thr f'kn baby kangaroo's head off. Then she inserts a jagged piece of metal into her hello-there so the psychopath she knows is going to r@pe her gets his Mr. Winky all bloody shred up. And ha-ha, that's the end!"
And you, the angel investor, would be throwing your grandma's inheritance at them and singin', "Hoo-ray for Hollywood!"
Good luck seeing a return on that investment, friends, because this is the most boring, predictable, bloodless, soulless piece of uninteresting nothing you'll ever have the unfortunate opportunity to experience, disguised as envelope-pushing indie horror filmmaking.
"Dumbo" is more disturbing than this.
These filmmakers have achieved the nearly impossible feat of making rape, torture, violence, suspense, poetic justice and b-movie gore, altogether, as boring and uninteresting as an episode of "The McLaughlin Group."
Hey, movie-loving friends... You see this movie for a buck-and-a-half at the FYE at the mall, you let it be. Spend those six quarters on a Starbucks or an Orange Julius or a Redbox rental. Or heroin.
Yes, heroin is better than this movie.
You'll fall in love with Agni Scott
The major draw in this totally harmless and formulaic romantic comedy is the absolutely effervescent Agni Scott as the female lead.
Her strong, independent character, charming allure and healthy beauty are reminiscent of '80s actress Diane Franklin, who unfortunately was never given the opportunity to carry a film such as this.
The plot, which is inconsequential in these kinds of films, concerns an American archaeologist who travels to an unnamed Greek island in search of the biblical cup of poison rejected by St. John the Evangelist (who appears to be some kind of patron saint in this community).
Romance and complications arise when he falls for a local widow whose popular restaurant apparently sits just above the ruins where the artifact may lay buried.
It's an inane premise that only serves to justify the romantic story, and it mostly works, thanks to an almost alchemically charming turn by Scott.
Unfortunately, as he does in almost every movie he's in, Matthew Modine practically ruins it with his whiny schlub schtick that's grown more tiresome and annoying ever since it kind of worked for him that one time in "Married to the Mob." Even if his character weren't written as a selfish jerk that even his colleagues don't like, it's hard to picture anyone falling for this nasally-voiced, hair-dyed pill.
But if you can overlook that close your eyes and picture, say, Tim Matheson in the part, instead the rest of the movie is a pleasant, albeit familiar, delight.
The Greek isles backdrop is a beautiful picture-postcard of a country that really only exists in movies like this and yogurt commercials. The running gag of the three nuns making facetious observations about the story is reminiscent of a '60s Audrey Hepburnish romcom. And the incidental Greek characters are suitably bombastic caricatures.
The late Richard Griffiths is unfortunately unsettling as Modine's fellow scholar. You'll recognize him as Uncle Vernon Dursley from the "Harry Potter" movies. As depicted here, it's not hard to surmise why this talented actor died at the relatively young age of 65. He's positively elephantine, and it's sad to see him uncomfortably moving about, climbing stairs and hobbling along a dock. It's too bad, because his character is delightful and his portrayal quite charming. You'll want to like him, but all you'll feel is pity.
But all that's neither here nor there, because this is totally Agni Scott's show, and she lights up every frame she's in. When she's Greek- dancing on her birthday, you'll wish her hand was on your shoulder instead of on that goofball Modine's. When she's cruising down a Greek country mile on her bicycle, lifts her arms from the handlebars and cries "Opa!" as the wind blows her curly hair behind her, you'll wish it were you sitting behind her, your arms around her waist, instead of that goofball Modine's.
Why this gal isn't in all the movies is a puzzle to me, and will be to you, too, once you watch it.
Killer eels slither up Christopher Lloyd's butt
In this movie, killer eels go through the plumbing, slither up Christopher Lloyd's butt, then pop out his mouth.
That's horrifying on oh, so many levels that have nothing to do with this being an effective horror picture, which it is not.
That the famously reclusive character actor apparently needed the dough so badly that he'd add this call-in DTV role to his Reverend Jim / Doc Brown / Uncle Fester repertoire is sad enough. That he shakes and gesticulates in every of his few scenes like he's got the delirium tremens makes me worry for his sobriety.
But when the scariest thing in your horror movie is Shannen Doherty's face -- most specifically her Botox-frozen lips and cig-poisoned skin pallor -- you're gonna want to use your digital effects to make your lead actress look at least a bit less revolting than your vampire water snakes.
You didn't here. Ugh. Not ugh blood-sucking eels. Ugh Shannen Doherty.
Nobody dies spectacularly; none of the hot girls take their clothes off; the ending's a letdown. The Asylum, ladies and gentlemen.
Netflix "Night of the Creeps" or "Slither" instead for a movie that takes awesomely better advantage of its similarly dumb premise.
Treasure Raiders (2007)
Fun and funny movie. Don't listen to the h8rs.
Oh, cut this fun and funny movie a break, whydontcha.
Here's a movie that revels no, bathes in its own ridiculousness to such a degree you really can't escape being charmed by all the fun everyone's having.
So here's the silly story: A college professor who doubles as an illegal street racer and triples as an intrepid archaeologist is in Russia on a teacher exchange program but is really seeking the lost treasure of the Knights Templar. Because yeah.
He befriends a kindly Russian vigilante strongman, woos the vigilante's Angelina Jolie lookalike sister, and runs afoul of drug dealers, a characteristically evil David Carradine, and Russian police who openly and inexplicably worry about "bad press."
Talk about uneven! I lost count of how many movies were going on here. It's a "Fast & Furious" mockbuster, it's a "Da Vinci Code"/"Tomb Raider"/"Indiana Jones" mashup, it's a clichéd drug melodrama, all duct taped and Krazy Glued together into one Frankenstein of a movie.
That said, "Treasure Raiders" is an idiotic delight; near perfect comic book escapism, with just enough unintentionally funny scenes like these to make it a big ol' hoot:
-- CUT to stunt driver speeding through the streets of Moscow, then CUT to ancient David Carradine gesticulating wildly with a steering wheel, obviously not driving at all.
-- Russian bodybuilder Alexander Nevsky is an expressive, genial teddy bear of an actor cut from Arnold's cloth, and is just as indecipherable as Arnold was back in the day.
-- And his girlfriend is, oddly, Sherilyn Fenn, obviously old enough to be his mother, who acts as if she wandered in from the movie set next door.
There's an ancient coded amulet, a secret bible, plot holes wider than Red Square, and a car that shoots rockets.
Actual Russian location shooting lend this movie some much-needed validity, and there are some stunts and racing scenes that are actually quite jaw-dropping. One involving a motorcycle that bursts from a window in the midst of an explosion is truly impressive for a DTV silly like this.
Know what I say? Woo hoo! What a Friday night, with "Treasure Raiders," some 7-layer dip and chips, and a coupla cold ones!
H8rs gonna h8. Don't listen to them. Listen to me. This is a fun one. Pick it up.
Independence Daysaster (2013)
Tedious made-for-TV sci-fi actioner
Decent special effects and acting can't save the dopey tediousness of this made-for-TV sci-fi actioner that's ultimately done in by a clumsy plot and the worst title ever given a film, ever, ever.
Despite the obvious comparison to the big-budget "Independence Day" of more than a decade prior, the only similarity between that blockbuster and this DTV nonsense is the alien-invasion story and the ridiculously convenient and inane deus ex machina plot devices that let our heroes save the day.
Otherwise, this one is about aliens who decide to terraform the earth, using giant, robotic phalluses that burst out of the ground, and flying, spherical drones that protect a mother ship that emerges suddenly! from behind the moon.
That's all we get.
A ragtag group of nerds, teenagers and the president of the United States (!), team up to save the world. And it's a good thing they do, because this is one of those movies in which the only people who exist in the world are those with speaking parts. It's like the filmmakers spend so much money on special effects, they can't afford to pay an extra or two to stand in the background to at least make the town that's getting destroyed by alien robot drones look somewhat populated.
Tom Everett Scott from "That Thing You Do," the only player of note in this drivel, has matured into a handsome and confident actor who needs to fire his agent, and hire one who can talk him out of idiotic films like this one, "Santa Paws 2" and "Mars Needs Moms." Seriously, dude's got some chops. There's gotta be a "Law & Order" or "CSI" franchise for this guy somewhere.
Most of the other actors in this movie, surprisingly, give it all they've got. I mean, once their agent sent them a script that said "Independence Daysaster" on the cover, they should have been expected to phone it in. But these little nobodies act their little nobody hearts out, and it's so charming.
Not charming enough, however, to make this a good movie, or one worth recommending you spend 90 minutes of your life with. Despite everyone's good intentions, "Independence Daysaster" is a disaster.
Fun and original, but wolves look silly
This somewhat original werewolf flick by The Asylum is more fun than it deserves to be, thanks to a its cool premise, some neato plot elements by scriptwriter Shane Van Dyke, some attractive location shooting, and the surprising and welcome presence of Ariana Richards, who's grown as hot as you might have expected since she uttered her infamous "It's a Unix system! I know this!" as a teen in "Jurassic Park."
It is, however, nearly undone by ridiculous-looking CGI werewolves, a script devoid of humor, and a couple of "Wait What?" turns that all remind you you're watching a film from The Asylum.
Richards plays a wildlife photographer bitten by a wolf in Canada who arrives in New York's JFK Airport, where she promptly turns into a werewolf and goes on a killing rampage, turning more people into werewolves.
Without explanation, we learn the government has immediately decided to train werewolves as soldiers. That revelation provides the film's only laugh-out-loud moment, albeit unintentional, when one character asks what any sane viewer would at that point: Wouldn't that just serve to turn the enemy soldiers into werewolves, too? And then, you know, the world?
Nice of the film to take its biggest gaping plot hole and just lay it bare for the viewer.
That said, direction by Alexander Yellen is surprisingly tight and solid for a first-timer; and the Buffalo, N.Y., backdrop is a suitable stand-in for New York City. I especially enjoyed the abandoned train station that resembled Grand Central Terminal, which served as an Ellis Island of sorts for recently bitten werewolves.
But when your werewolves look like 3D versions of various cartoon "Big Bad Wolf" characters, you have to admit your audience isn't going to take your movie seriously. Therefore, you as a filmmaker shouldn't either.
And that's the major flaw in almost every film by this company they play it straight. A little self-referential humor (I would have LOVED to see Richards save the day with a Unix system again. Just sayin') would have made "Battle Dogs" a classic.
As it stands now, it's a decent rental at the Redbox, but worth little more than that.
Papá, soy una zombi (2011)
Let this "zombie" rot at the Redbox
My daughter begged me to get this at the Redbox after watching the trailer online.
Even the trailer gave me pause, and with good reason, it turns out. I should have not let her persuade me to get her this appalling movie.
So here's the story:
Tweenage girl has tweenage girl troubles and wishes she was dead.
Pow! Lightning hits a tree and a huge limb crushes her to death.
Just so you're absolutely clear on this: YOUR CHILD WILL WATCH A GIRL BE CRUSHED TO DEATH BY A TREE LIMB.
Oh, and to make it more disturbing, it's established early on that her father is a mortician, so the plot strongly suggests he embalmed his own daughter.
Well, now. No worries, though, because instead of actually being dead, she rises from a stone tomb as some sort of not-dead, half-skeleton zombie, and joins a ragtag pair of other zombies to escape some satanic villain and open a magical portal which will transport them back to the moment before they were killed.
Because death isn't permanent, see? You can wish you were dead, die, then come back to your folks all sorry about it through some magical portal. Great lesson to teach our bullied young children, don't you think?
Bah! In little more than an hour, this poorly animated film with perhaps the most wretched storyline anyone's ever dreamed up accomplishes thus:
-- It teaches your troubled young girls death is the answer to their growing pains.
-- Bullied in life? There's friends on the other side who understand your problems!
-- And everything's gonna be OK anyway, because you can come back through a portal, just like this girl and her friends!
-- So go ahead and die! It's fun!
This is a horrid movie, with a horrid story, containing horrid lessons. Only horrid people would create and release a film like this for children, and I'm a horrid dad for letting my child watch it.
Learn from my mistake. Let this "zombie" rot at the Redbox.
Time Bomb (2008)
A chip off the ol' Busey
This would have been a fine, creative essay on war, grief and PTSD, if it weren't for the stupid "mad scientist" plot device that screams that the writer and director had no faith at all in their ability to craft a fine, creative essay on war, grief and PTSD.
The production values are mid to high, though, and Jake Busey, while creepily looking exactly like his father circa 1975, has a greater acting range than papa has displayed in his later, regrettable "Gingerdead Man" career.
Here, Jake turns out a sensitive, yet fearless performance reminiscent of "Big Wednesday"-era Gary, and it's a pleasure to watch.
Just wish he were given a better movie to perform in.