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AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004)
A missed opportunity
A research team investigates a newly uncovered ancient pyramid beneath Antarctica (?) ...and learns too late that they've stumbled into a Predator training ground, so they are now caught in the middle of the hunters' ongoing battle with the Aliens. Puny humans die, much xenomorph butt is kicked and lots of slime is spilled, the end.
Paul W.S. Anderson's franchise-crossover monster mash should have been a home run. The Aliens and Predators had been battling it out in a highly successful series of comic books for years so there was plenty of "source material" to draw from. Instead we got...a secret Predator pyramid in Antarctica?
"AvP" spends waaaaayyyy too much time on setup but once the two critters finally start beatin' the crap out of each other it becomes entertaining enough in a big,dumb sort of way. The set designs are way cool as well. I just wish they'd simply adapted the first Dark Horse Comics "AvP" mini series from 1989, which would have made a way more bad-ass movie.
...but hey, at least this one's better than "AvP: Requiem!"
Retro flavored "B" movie fun
"The Adventures of Paula Peril" introduces a two-fisted girl reporter who tangles with mobsters and a murderous religious cult. She's kind of like a combo of Lois Lane and Lara Croft, in a movie whose budget appears to have been about twenty bucks.
I was unfamiliar with the Peril character before watching this indie B Movie, which was apparently cobbled together from three short films based on an obscure comic book series.
I will admit that it's fun to watch Valerie Perez as "Paula" kicking bad-guy butt while wearing tight sweaters and high-heel boots, but the flick suffers from cardboard sets, silly dialogue and community-theater level acting. A quick glance at IMDb reveals that there are further "Paula" film shorts in the works. The character definitely has potential to become a cult item, but this first "Adventure" shows that she's not quite ready for prime time yet.
Entertainingly silly rock doc with plenty of T&A
Adult movie stars Bree Olson and Monica Mayhem have come up with a brilliant "legit" business idea: they recruit several of their fellow X- film starlets to form an all-girl, all-porn-star rock band (with Monica on vocals and Bree as manager), then they hit the road for what proves to be a problem-plagued U.S. tour. As it turns out, their front woman's last name is very apropos to describe what follows, as egos, alcohol, and a pronounced lack of musical talent eventually takes its toll on the hastily created group.
This documentary was boiled down from an 13-episode Playboy TV reality series, which explains why some scenes are quite obviously"staged" for the camera. Still, aside from some choice T&A bits (which are naturally unavoidable to the participants'....errr... day jobs), "Tight" is not all that different from the shenanigans you'd see in any typical rock documentary (band rehearsals, poorly attended gigs in crappy venues, disinterested record label scouts, band members getting drunk and arguing) except that the participants here are better looking than usual and barely dressed.
"Tight" is entertainingly silly stuff but it's not exactly a shock when the end credits reveal that the "band" split up at the end of their tour.
La casa 3 (1988)
Routine Haunted House Schlock
A mysterious ham radio signal (!) draws a group of curiosity seekers to an abandoned house which (naturally) was the site of several murders twenty years ago. Soon they discover that the house is inhabited by the angry spirit of a long-dead little girl and her creepy killer clown doll. This Italian horror flick (from Umberto "Nightmare City" Lenzi) certainly doesn't skimp on the gore, which is a good thing because it's the only thing that made it watchable. The characters are all idiots, the acting/dubbing sucks and the story and dialogue are a complete mess. A better title for this one would have been "Outhouse," or "Sh*thouse."
Ozark Sharks (2016)
Generic, but watchable
"Ozark Sharks" was rolled out as part of SyFy's annual festivities leading up to the premiere of the fourth (!) Sharknado flick.
"Ozark Sharks" was a serviceable, if a bit generic, entry in the killer-sharks-on-the-rampage genre. The story is paper-thin: a suburban family (Mom, Dad, Grandma, annoying Emo daughter Molly and big brother Harrison) - are going on vacation to a run-down camping resort in the Ozarks. Some sharks happen to swim upriver from the ocean and begin chomping on all the puny humans in their path (including poor Grandma), which threatens the town's annual lakeside fireworks festival. You can pretty much write the rest of it yourself.
Molly and brother Harrison (plus Molly's doofus boyfriend Curtis) take up arms against the shark invasion, aided by kindly campground bait shop proprietor Mr. Jones, who happens to have a full arsenal of weaponry stockpiled in the back room of his store for just such an occasion. I will leave it to you to find out how it all turns out for yourselves.
"Ozark Sharks" had the misfortune to premiere right after a re- airing of 2011's similarly themed (but far superior) "Swamp Shark," so for much of "Ozark" I felt like I was sitting through a re-run. At least "Swamp Shark" had some recognizable faces in it like Kristy "Original Buffy" Swanson and Robert Davi. The cast of "Ozark" appears to be mostly unknowns, who are likely doomed to stay that way.
At least it was better than the director's previous SyFy Sharknado Week effort, 2015's "Zombie Shark," which was mostly unwatchable. Feel free to skip this flick unless you absolutely have to watch every shark movie that SyFy pumps out.
Porky's II: The Next Day (1983)
"Woooo Boogie Boogie Boogie!"
Before there was "American Pie," there was "Porky's," the classic '80s sex-comedy created and directed (for two out of three installments, anwyay) by the late, great Bob Clark.
"Porky's II: The Next Day" is a laugh-a-minute smut fest that picks up exactly where the original "Porky's" left off. Pee Wee, Tommy, Meat and the Angel Beach gang don't have to deal with old Porky this time around; instead their school's big drama club presentation of the works of Shakespeare is being threatened by a fire-and-brimstone preacher and his flock, who claim The Bard's works are "indecent." To complicate matters further, the production's "Romeo" happens to be played by a Native American, which brings the local KKK into the picture. Will Pee Wee and the gang put up with such interference? Of course they won't, and before you know it the boys (and girl) are busily setting up elaborate series of pranks to get even with the Reverend, the Klan, and a sleazy, double dealing councilman. They even take time to fix the wagon of the dreaded gym teacher from Hell, Miss Balbricker!... all in the name of triumphing over the forces of injustice and intolerance, of course.
Yes, folks, believe it or not, this is a sex comedy with a social conscience. You'll still get your share of goofball raunchy bits (don't miss the scene involving "Graveyard Gloria," which also features the best bit of comic zombie action ever filmed) but at the same time, you'll cheer as you watch the irritating Holy Rollers and clueless Klansmen get their comeuppance.
I may be in the minority, but I think the "Porky's" series actually got better as it went along. I prefer "II: The Next Day" over the original, and the 3rd film, "Porky's Revenge," is my favorite installment overall. If you're looking for an '80s flashback, or just an immature chuckle, then give this one (or any of the "Porky's" films) a spin and give your inner 14 year old the time of his life. "Wooooo Boogie boogie boogie!"
I've been on a Sean Connery kick this week so when "Zardoz" turned up on Fox Movie Channel I decided to give it a whirl, despite the absolutely savage reviews I've read of it here and on other web sites. After spending two hours of my life sitting through this pretentious mish-mash of "Planet of the Apes," "2001" and, apparently, a whoooole lotta LSD, I can only say that I wish I hadn't bothered.
The story of "Zardoz" is frustratingly non-linear but I'll give describing it my best shot. Connery plays "Zed," an "Exterminator" in the year 2293 who prowls the land killing "brutals" (i.e. other humans) on behalf of a big flying stone God head that calls itself "Zardoz." You'd think any movie that opens with a big flying stone head telling a group of worshipers that "The penis is evil...The gun is good! Now go forth and KILL!" before spewing a variety of firearms from its mouth would be totally awesome. Unfortunately, you'd be wrong.
For reasons that are never made entirely clear, Zed jumps aboard the flying stone head, kills its pilot, and rides with it through "The Vortex" (I'm still not entirely sure what that is) till he lands in the territory of the "Immortals," a group of refined, celibate intellectuals who dress like the members of ABBA and live in a commune-like atmosphere controlled by a omnipotent computer. I would imagine that a savage killer suddenly appearing in their midst would freak such people out, but instead they're merely curious about him and thus they treat Zed as an experiment. He's put to work as a slave and is studied by a parade of random characters, many of whom were topless women. That was fine by me because at least the topless shots briefly woke me out of my bored stupor. As the film goes on Zed teaches some of the Immortals how to love, how to welcome the idea of death (apparently immortality becomes really, really, boring after a while), and inspires a revolt against the system... or something like that. I'll be honest, that's about all the summary I can give you, because overall this movie didn't make a lick of sense. It's just an endless series of artsy-fartsy filming techniques and "What the Eff?" moments.
Most of all, I tried like hell not to be distracted by the fact that Connery spends most of the movie wearing a pair of orange bikini panties and not much else. I guess if you were a straight female in the early 70s, it might have been the major selling point for this movie, but after a while I couldn't help but think "Dude, that's James Bond in a Speedo!" I'm honestly at a loss for words after viewing "Zardoz." It's the most nonsensical, pseudo-intellectual piece of sci-fi crap that I've had the misfortune to sit through in quite a while, and I think that's saying a lot considering I just watched "Battlefield Earth" a few weeks ago. Come back John Travolta, all is forgiven!!
Fun Popcorn Flick
I've never read Alan Moore's "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" comic book series, but it seems that familiarity with it is not necessarily a requirement for watching this film, as I'm told that it differs greatly from the graphic novel. This movie was hammered pretty mercilessly by critics and audiences when it was released in 2003, but I found it to be a rather offbeat, mostly fun action/adventure romp.
The film takes place in an alternate-reality Europe of 1899, and features a number of characters from 19th/early 20th century adventure stories banding together to battle a mysterious supervillain called 'The Fantom' (he's sort of a steampunk Darth Vader) who plans to ignite a world war using previously-unseen technology that he's developed in his top-secret lair. Sean Connery (in his final live-action film role to date) toplines as H. Rider Haggard's Allan Quatermain, who is called out of retirement in Africa by Her Majesty's Government to join the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - a collection of heroes with "singular abilities" who are gathered together whenever the world's in peril - and neutralize the threat. The other League members include Captain Nemo, Mina Harker (from Bram Stoker's "Dracula"), "an" Invisible Man (not THE Invisible Man of H.G. Wells fame, mind you -- apparently due to copyright concerns, this guy's a thief who stole the invisibility formula from Wells' character), the eternally youthful Dorian Grey, the tortured Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, and a grown up Tom Sawyer (!) who's now a "special agent" for the U.S. Government. This motley crew boards Nemo's trusty submarine, the Nautilus, and travels across the world to foil The Fantom's evil plot.
The main thing that the film has going for it (aside from the always-welcome Connery) is its lush, atmospheric look. Obviously no expense was spared in terms of costumes and set design, and the special effects (though heavily reliant on CGI) are done well enough. As the League pursues the Fantom and battles his henchmen in various world capitols, there's certainly enough action that the viewer won't get bored. I was particularly impressed with certain key scenes involving Mr. Hyde and the Invisible Man, and the rock'em sock'em final battle at The Fantom's hidden weapons factory deep in the mountains of Asia will satisfy action junkies who've been waiting for lotsa stuff to blow up. Connery proves he's still the world's most bad-ass senior citizen as the two-fisted Quatermain, and Shane West supplies fine supporting work as Tom Sawyer.
In the end, it's probably a good thing that I never read the "League" graphic novel because then I probably would've spent the entire run time picking apart the differences from the source material. Alan Moore, of course, has disavowed the film version (as he does every time Hollywood adapts one of his works) and Connery himself has said he "didn't understand" the film, but hey, as far as escapist, Saturday afternoon popcorn movies go, you could certainly do worse than "The League." Fans of other underrated, period-piece adventure films like "The Phantom," "The Shadow" and "The Rocketeer" should have a blast with it, and perhaps viewers may become curious about the featured characters and head to their local library to discover some classic literature. This is the kind of movie that's got "cult film" written all over it and hopefully more people will discover it as the years go by.
Schlock and Awe
"Ghoulies" was the first (and still the most successful) "little creature" film to rip off Joe Dante's "Gremlins" (others that followed included the "Critters" series, "Evil Toons," and the execrable "Munchies") and helped put Charles Band's Empire Pictures on the map. I remember seeing this one as a teenager and thinking even way back then that it wasn't much good, but when it came on Turner Classic Movies this past weekend, I couldn't help myself and gave it a whirl, figuring that I could use a blast of '80s cheez nostalgia.
Unfortunately, even nostalgia can't save this dog of a movie. The script is absolutely nonsensical (and appears to have been made up as the filmmakers went along), the acting's terrible, and the creatures, though cool looking, don't really get to do much once we finally see'em.
Our story (such as it is): twenty something Jonathan has inherited a big ole mansion that belonged to his parents, who were bigwigs in the local Satanic cult. Jonathan starts messing with the leftover black magic stuff in the basement and boom, conjures up a bunch of nasty looking little creatures who begin snacking on his idiot friends. Unfortunately, Jonathan's too busy trying to patch things up with his girlfriend to notice this or the fact that he's accidentally resurrected his dead father (played by rocker Michael Des Barres), who happens to be conveniently buried on the property. Thus, a battle for supreme power ensues, via lots of cheap special effects, yelling and screaming. The ending is not really an "ending," it's just one more shock scene to set up the inevitable sequel (of which there were three, if memory serves).
"Ghoulies" has some cool looking (for its time) creature and puppet effects (a trademark of most Charles Band/Empire productions) and Band's combo of Gothic Horror and high camp would serve the studio well in their seemingly dozens of creature features that followed this one (see: "Doctor Mordrid," the "Puppet Master" series, "Demonic Toys," "SubSpecies," etc.), most of which were way better than (and most likely paid for by the success of) "Ghoulies." The PG-13 rating for "Ghoulies" is puzzling, as it's pretty dark stuff. I can just imagine a 1985 theatre full of parents taking their 12 year olds to this sickie, thinking it's going to be another action packed cute-critter flick like "Gremlins" ... until the Satanic Black Mass in the opening scene! Added trivia notes, apparently one of the midgets in this flick was the guy inside the "E.T." suit, and a very young, very hot Mariska Hargitay (of future "Law & Order" fame) makes her film debut here as one of the teenybopper victims.
Worth a look for '80s trash devotees but otherwise there are far better options.
The Boogens (1981)
Slight-But-Fun Creature Feature
"The Boogens" was one of those titles that always intrigued me when I saw it in the TV Guide or video store as a kid (of course, we'd jokingly refer to it as "The Boogers") but I never got around to seeing the film, which is hailed as a minor classic in some circles, till it turned up on Turner Classic Movies over the weekend. Thanks, Mr. Turner!
Anyway, "The Boogens" is an illogical-but-enjoyable slice of early '80s drive-in trash that is unfortunately saddled with that unfortunately silly title and, as viewers later learn, some absolutely cringe-inducing creature design. The filmmakers managed to get around the latter disadvantage by barely showing said creatures till the movie is three quarters of the way over, which was probably a good idea. Up till that point, "The Boogens" did a pretty decent job of creating creepy atmosphere.
The story's nothing to write home about -- a silver mine in the small Colorado town of Silver City was closed back in 1912 after a massive cave-in. Supposedly the lone miner who survived the disaster spoke of being "attacked" in the mine by mysterious creatures, and he was promptly packed off to the insane asylum. In the present day, the mine is about to be re-opened and as soon as the cave-in is blown away, strange stuff starts happening. People disappear, strange howls come from residents' basements, those in the mine have a strange feeling that they're being watched. Our main characters are a pair of college buddies and their girlfriends, who are all shacking up together in a rustic cabin for the winter while the boys do electrical work for the mining company. It doesn't take long before some of them become Monster Chow, of course (in a low-budget film with a small cast, it's only a matter of time) till finally the Last Girl and the Last Guy have to stop the so-called "Boogens" from escaping into the world at large by re-sealing the mine shaft with as much TNT as they can get their hands on. I will not violate the Spoiler Warning rules by telling you how it turns out. I will, however, say that when you finally get your long-awaited glimpse at a "Boogen," the reaction is likely to be laughter rather than terror. The damn things look like bug-eyed turtles hopped up on steroids. How such a critter managed to survive in a Colorado mineshaft is anyone's guess, but up until they're revealed "The Boogens" is a fun, fast, occasionally gory little flick with just the right amount of '80s drive-in style T&A. Not a classic for the ages but a fun trip down memory lane for those who grew up during the Golden Era of Schlock.
Battle of Los Angeles (2011)
Score another one for the Asylum
The Mockbuster Factory returns with what may be their most audaciously titled/timed ripoff yet. The big budget sci-fi flick "Battle: Los Angeles" has just hit theaters and a day later "Battle Of Los Angeles" (note the "Of" in the title, people - totally different film!) airs as the SyFy Channel's Saturday Night Original Movie. I wonder how many people were dumb enough to tune in thinking that they were going to be getting the "real" blockbuster for free. If so - joke's on you!! Anyway, I haven't seen the "real" "Battle: Los Angeles," but what I've seen in the trailers, it appears to owe a lot to "Independence Day," and therefore so does "Battle OF Los Angeles." In both versions, a giant spaceship drops out of the skies over the City of Angels, apparently impervious to all Earth weaponry. In the "real" movie, the only ones who can do anything about the alien invasion are a platoon of tough-as-nails U.S. Marines. In the Asylum version, it's a small band of Air National Guardsmen stationed in the hills.
It must be said that the special effects in the first ten or fifteen minutes of "Battle of Los Angeles" actually look somewhat promising. While still characteristically Asylum/SyFy Channel cheap, the invasion/battle scene that opens the film looks like they at least put some kind of effort into it. I would imagine that the majority of the film's (small) budget went into that sequence, as the rest of the film doesn't come close to measuring up to it.
From here, all resemblance to the real "Battle: Los Angeles" ceases. Instead of Aaron Eckhardt and Michelle Rodriguez, we get Kel Mitchell (yes, the former "Welcome to Good Burger, can I take your order?" guy from Nickelodeon) and Nia Peeples. Nia is a sword-swingin' Area 51 ass kicker (aging gracefully in a "Resident Evil" style cat suit) who leads the band of military survivors through the desert (random observation: have you ever noticed how many Asylum films deal with "a small band of survivors traveling through the desert?" I'd say it accounts for a good half of their filmography!)to a final showdown on board the alien ship. I realize this plot description is rather vague, but then that's because as far as I could tell, the film had no real plot to speak of. It's basically a series of random fight scenes, stuff lifted from other (better) movies, lots of people running, guns being fired and stuff blowin' up (in the Asylum's trademark, laughably cheap CGI) and a whole lot of ridiculous dialogue. Shoehorned in for no apparent reason is a fighter pilot from 1942 (?) who is not what he appears to be, a grizzled old airman who tries to shoot down alien ships with a Colt revolver, and "advanced alien weaponry" that looks like it came off the shelves of Toys-R-Us. In short, if you tuned into this movie thinking you were getting the real "Battle: Los Angeles," then you deserve what you got. Bad movie fans who are in on the Asylum's joke will have a hoot and a holler picking apart the usual round of inconsistencies (such as Peeples' suddenly-appearing eye patch) and technical errors. Sit back with a six pack and enjoy. Judging from the reviews I've read of the "real" "Battle Los Angeles" movie, this Asylum-ized version is probably more entertaining anyway.
Piranha 3D (2010)
A Bloody Good Time!
I love a good creature feature and Joe Dante's 1978 "Piranha" is one of my all time favorites, so this updated version (directed by French gorehound Alexandre Aja) was a no-brainer rental for me. Obviously you don't go into a movie like this expecting Shakespeare, so those of you with more highbrow horror tastes can safely leave this one on the shelf. However, if heaping helpings of T&A and gore galore are all you need to have a good time with a movie is "Piranha" 2010 is definitely worth a rental!! The film doesn't waste much time on exposition (the script was probably written on a cocktail napkin), which is OK because let's face it, a movies like this doesn't need much back story anyway. In a nutshell, an underwater earthquake beneath Arizona's scenic Lake Victoria breaks open a passage to an additional underground lake that's been home to a pack of prehistoric piranhas for millions of years. Those bad boys find their way to the surface just in time for Lake Victoria's annual Spring Break festivities, where the town is overrun by thousands of drunken half naked college students. Do I have to draw you a picture of what happens next? Of course not.
The human cast does its job well considering that their sole function in the movie is to provide Piranha Chow. Elisabeth Shue (of "Adventures in Babysitting" fame) plays Lake Victoria's single-Mom sheriff, whose kids of course find themselves in mortal danger and require last minute rescue, and the rest of the cast is filled out by such stalwarts as Jerry O'Connell ("Sliders") as a sleazy "Girls Gone Wild" style porn kingpin whose plans to shoot a Spring Break Special video on the lake go horribly awry thanks to the arrival of the hungry fishies. Ving Rhames turns up as a deputy sheriff, and Richard ("Jaws") Dreyfuss and Christopher ("Back to the Future") Lloyd also appear in brief stunt-casting cameos.
But the real stars here are the piranhas, of course, and they're a mean looking bunch, all teeth and scales and spikes and capable of skeletonizing a drunken bikini babe within seconds. When the massive school of piranhas attack the Spring Break beach party the carnage is impressive to say the least. Gorehounds will applaud every single disgusting moment of it (especially one particularly nasty bit involving a certain, shall we say, "part" of Jerry O'Connell, which I can honestly say I've never seen in a movie before).
Technically I'd say "Piranha" 2010 isn't a "remake" of the 1978 film, rather it's an homage or a continuation on the same theme. Whatever you want to call it, "Piranha" is a blood soaked good time that carries on the exploitation tradition of the '70s and '80s most admirably. Will the inevitable sequel resurrect the piranha/flying fish crossbreeds from 1983's semi-legendary "Piranha II: The Spawning?" We can only hope!
Entertaining profile of a true ORIGINAL
"Lemmy" (sub-title: "49% mother@#$%er, 51% son-of-a-@#$%") is an engrossing documentary about the life and times of Motorhead bassist/frontman Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister, one of the more unique figures in rock and roll. His band, of course, is legendary, and till now Lemmy has been a rather mysterious figure. He has never been one to seek the spotlight or grab tabloid headlines, and seems content to simply do what he does and remain "under the radar" to everyone but his devoted fan base.
The film follows Lemmy around during his day-to-day life (recording sessions for Motorhead's 2007 "MOTORIZER" album, gigs with his '50s/rockabilly side band The Head Cat, appearing on the "Loveline" radio show, and holding down his customary bar stool at Hollywood's Rainbow Bar & Grill) while an extensive parade of rock and showbiz royalty (including such luminaries as Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue, Slash and Duff of Guns N Roses, Henry Rollins, Scott Ian of Anthrax, all of the members of Metallica, actor Billy Bob Thornton, tattoo artist Kat Von D, and Marky Ramone, just to name a few) all confirm what most of us knew already: that Lemmy is one of the coolest, most bad-ass rock & roll mo-fo's ever to walk on God's green Earth. Interviews with the man himself reveal him to be a man with rock 'n' roll encoded in his DNA. This is a guy who saw the Beatles live in Liverpool before they even had a record out, who roadied for Jimi Hendrix, and made his mark in the legendary space-rock band Hawkwind before going on to infect the world with Motorhead. Underneath all that, though,he's a pretty simple guy who lives alone in a small Hollywood apartment, doesn't put on airs and doesn't put himself on a pedestal. His vibe seems to be, more or less, "this is me, this is what I do, if you like it, fine...if not, go to hell." A mix of current and vintage Motorhead concert clips keep the volume level up and prove that even after nearly 35 years, Motorhead remain a force to be reckoned with in the live arena. He's a true national treasure.
Even if you're not a Motorhead fan (and if you're not, shame on you!) "Lemmy" is a fast, funny, and totally entertaining profile of a man who's definitely a true original.
Transmorphers: Fall of Man (2009)
The Asylum Strikes Again!
During a bout of insomnia a few nights ago, the SyFy Channel came to my rescue with "Transmorphers: Fall of Man," the second film in the Asylum's series of "Mockbusters" inspired by a certain other big-budget film franchise about giant robots. I've never seen the first "Transmorphers," but thankfully viewership of the original is not a requirement here because "Transmorphers: Fall of Man" is a prequel set in the present day (300 years before the first film), so I didn't have to worry about not knowing the back story. (Then again, this is the Asylum we're talking about -- how much back story could there possibly be?) Anyway, in case you haven't figured it out already, "Transmorphers: Fall of Man" is a hilariously cheap knock-off of the "Transformers" series, with some bits borrowed from the "Terminator" films to boot. In a nutshell, a race of giant alien robots have come to Earth intent on eradicating all of humanity. Thankfully, we Earthlings have Shane Van Dyke (pretty-boy grandson of showbiz legend Dick Van Dyke, who also wrote the script here) and "Tron" himself, Bruce Boxleitner, ready to defend us all against the metallic threat. When Transmorphers start transmorphing (?) around their small California town, Sheriff Bruce and Former Army Guy Shane head to the nearest Air Force base (which oddly enough doesn't seem to have any airplanes in it) with a scientist (Jennifer Rubin of "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors" fame) and a few assorted hangers-on in tow, to join the human resistance. This motley crew spends a lot of time running around aimlessly in the desert, occasionally being chased by badly CGI'd robots, before the group gets organized and attacks a Transmorpher "terraforming" plant, which is apparently one of a series of robot factories designed to change our planet's atmosphere and resources to "better suit them." Or something. To be honest, the script here is confusing at best and nonsensical at worst, and it was the middle of the night, so I may have been nodding off by this point.
The special effects are cheap, the acting (other than Boxleitner's) is awful, and the story is jumbled and random. People who pick this DVD up expecting to see lots of metal-clanging, robot smashing action would be better off leaving it on the shelf, as the robotic carnage scenes make up approximately two minutes of the total movie (and all of those scenes are in the trailer anyway!). That said, despite its out-and-out badness I enjoyed "Transmorphers: Fall of Man" in a "so bad it's good" kind of way (which, let's face it, is really the only way to enjoy an Asylum film). I'll even go on record as saying that I liked it better than either of the "real" Transformers flicks. "Transmorphers" was (thankfully) shorter and didn't give me a headache like Bay's movies did.
Since there's a new Transformers film due this Summer, I wonder if that means The Asylum has a new "Transmorphers" in the works as well. I guess only time will tell. As for "Fall of Man," I'd say you can safely ignore it unless you're a glutton for punishment like I am. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to put on my DVD of Stuart Gordon's 1990 classic "Robot Jox" and hope it gets the taste of "Transmorphers" out of my mouth.
Titanic II (2010)
What did you expect? It's the Asylum...
The Asylum, the wacky B-Movie makers responsible for all those giant sea creature movies with "MEGA" in the title, take a stab at a legitimate action/adventure flick with their latest, the unforgivably titled "Titanic II." Obviously this film has no connection whatsoever with the 1997 James Cameron classic, though I'd bet the studio is banking on people being dumb enough to rent it under the mistaken impression that it's a legitimate sequel.
The story's pretty simple: to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's doomed voyage, a cruise line has created a replica of the great ship, dubbed the "Titanic II" (thus justifying the misleading title) that will travel the same route as the original. Obviously these folks haven't heard of "karma."
Meanwhile, a Coast Guard captain (B-movie veteran Bruce Davison, stopping in for a quick paycheck) meets up with a scientist in Greenland (Brooke Burns, former hostess of TV's "Dog Eat Dog") who's been studying the melting of some giant icebergs. She reports that a huge hunk of ice ("the size of Rhode Island") is about to fall off of a particularly huge berg, which will cause a tsunami of Biblical proportions when it hits the Atlantic ocean. Guess which ship just happens to be in the path of said tsunami? You got it. Davison and Burke hop on a chopper in the hopes of reaching the Titanic II in time to avoid disaster. The fact that Davison's daughter Amy (the attractive Marie Westbrook) is working as a nurse onboard the ship lends some added personal drama.
So anyway, the iceberg splits, the Titanic II is hit by a massive wall of water and ice (thanks to the Asylum's cheap-as-usual CGI effects) and predictable chaos ensues. Nurse Amy and her ex-boyfriend, who also happens to be the owner of the doomed ship (played by the film's director, Shane Van Dyke - yes, he's Dick's grandson) then have to struggle to find a way off the Titanic before another massive wave --yes, another one, caused by further iceberg breakage -- can totally destroy the ship.
So what you get with "Titanic II" a pretty basic disaster-film plot, held together by wafer-thin special effects and some painfully obvious cost cutting. The Asylum's notoriously cheap CGI actually sort of works in their campy-on-purpose monster mashes like "Mega Python vs. Gatoroid," but when they're used in a supposedly "straight" action/adventure film, it just looks ridiculous. All of the scenes that take place inside the "Titanic" were obviously shot not on a ship, but in a fancy hotel somewhere. You never get the feeling that that the characters are actually on the water, or in any kind of peril. Hell, there are some scenes showing Van Dyke and Westbrook running through access tunnels with concrete floors and stairs....on a ship? Also, for a boat that's supposedly sinking at a rapid rate, you barely see any water except for some sprinkles dripping from the ceiling. I suppose the Asylum couldn't afford to really flood the place because then they would've had to pay for the cleanup. I could go on all day about the inaccuracies and continuity problems in "Titanic II" but I'll save myself the trouble, as a lengthy list of them is already available under the "goofs" section of the film's IMDb page.
On the up side, "Titanic II" is thankfully a lot shorter than the Cameron film, and you don't have to put up with an annoying Celine Dion theme song either. If you've seen some Asylum films before, you should know what to expect by now. Fans of Cameron's "Titanic" who pick this up thinking it will be more of the same will obviously be disappointed, and they are probably writing scathing reviews of the film here on this site ("How dare they insult James Cameron this way?") even as we speak. However, as someone who's hip to the Asylum's tricks, I can only look at "Titanic II" with a sick sense of admiration. After all, it takes balls the size of church bells to release something like this! B-Movie fans will have a blast with "Titanic II," but everyone else can safely ignore it.
Maybe the sequel will feature a "Titanic III" being attacked by a Mega Shark or a Gatoroid. What the hell, it's the Asylum, anything is possible. I hope they sent a copy of the DVD to James Cameron.
Modern Problems (1981)
Quirky '80s comedy hasn't aged well...
"Modern Problems" was one of those movies that got a lot of play on HBO when I was a kid in the early 80s, and since I was a big Chevy Chase fan at the time, I watched it over and over again. Nearly 30 years later, the film had all but faded from my memory except for a few random bits so when it turned up on Fox Movie Channel over the weekend I decided to give it a shot.
90 minutes later I'm sitting here thinking to myself "Wow, this was pretty bad wasn't it?", and I'm not sure if the film hadn't aged well, or if it simply wasn't a very good film to begin with. All I can say is that I remember enjoying it a heck of a lot more as an easier-to-impress 12 year old.
Chase plays Max, a stressed out Air Traffic Controller who's got serious relationship problems. He's recently broken up with his live-in girlfriend, and his ex-wife (Mary Kay Place), whom he apparently has kept a friendly relationship with, is now "schtupping" (that's an exact quote) an old friend of his from high school (Brian Doyle-Murray, aka Bill's brother). As if that weren't enough, a chance meeting with a leaky Nuclear Waste truck on the highway one night splatters him with radioactive goo, and he wakes up the next morning with telekinetic powers.
You'd think that this would be a license to do a totally go-for-broke slapstick comedy but oddly enough very little is made of Max's newfound abilities till the film is almost over. Chase isn't his usual wild-and-wacky self either, preferring to mope around mooning over his girlfriend (Patti D'Arbanville). Eventually the dysfunctional foursome (Chase, D'arbanville, Doyle-Murray, and Place) go off to Murray's beach house to spend the weekend, joined by one of Murray's clients, an insufferable self-help author played by Dabney Coleman. Coleman is the funniest thing in the film, as his constant jabs and insults finally poke Chase's character into a full on telekinetic meltdown that can only be stopped by a voodoo ritual (?) performed by Murray's Haitian housekeeper (Nell Carter).
"Modern Problems" tries to be quirky and wacky but spends most of the film falling flat on its face. It's got a decent cast and an interesting premise, but its greatest sin is that it casts a gifted comic like Chase and then tells him to be morose and unfunny for much of the run time (till he finally explodes towards the end).
There are a few good bits (Chase using his power to give a guy a massive nosebleed in the middle of a swanky restaurant is a highlight, as is the entire "voodoo" scene) but otherwise "Modern Problems" isn't very "modern" anymore. Easily skippable even for hardcore Chevy Chase fans.
The Chase (1994)
Fast, Funny Action Comedy
Current tabloid darling/"Two and a Half Men" star Charlie Sheen and Kristy ("Buffy") Swanson topline this slight, but enjoyable action comedy from Adam Rifkin ("Detroit Rock City") about a likable small time thief named Jack (Sheen) whose plans to avoid prison by quietly escaping to Mexico go horribly wrong when he's cornered by police in a convenience store. He takes a girl (Swanson) hostage and escapes down the freeway with her in her brand spankin' new BMW. Little does he know that his hostage also happens to be the daughter of the richest man in California (Ray Wise of "RoboCop"), which naturally sparks a round-the-clock media frenzy of O.J. Simpson proportions (even though, oddly enough this film actually pre-dated the O.J. circus by several months!). Soon the BMW is being pursued down the highway by an armada of police, news vans, and TV helicopters as Jack tries to make it to the border. Along the way, he and his rich-girl hostage get to know each other and eventually bond (is it love, or merely Stockholm Syndrome?), while lots of cars crash, there's much pointed satire about law enforcement and media overkill, and finally there's a showdown at the border.
"The Chase" is certainly a product of its time (1994), with its pokes at TV news and its constant coverage of real-life high speed highway chases like these. L.A. anchorwoman Bree Walker and Cary Elwes make appearances as some of the newscasters and sharp eyed movie geeks will even recognize porno legend Ron Jeremy in a cameo as a TV cameraman. '90s alterna-rock star Henry Rollins is hysterical as a tightly wound jarhead cop in pursuit of Sheen, who has a camera crew from a "Cops" style reality show in his back seat when the pursuit begins. Flea and Anthony Kiedis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers also have a hilarious cameo as two Beavis and Butthead style redneck/stoners who join the chase in their Monster Truck hoping to get on TV and become heroes.
Sheen and Swanson (who, it must be noted, was baked to absolute hottie perfection at this time!), as the felon and the hostage, do a nice job portraying the mismatched pair who fall for each other over time (though the love scene where they get it on while the car's in motion stretches the laws of realism more than a little bit) and fans of vehicular mayhem will get their share of high-speed driving stunts, crashing police cars and trucks, and the occasional highway explosion to keep them happy.
It's certainly not one of the all time great action flicks, but "The Chase" is a fast, funny way to spend 90 minutes. Make sure you stay tuned till the end of the credits, where Sheen (in a clown suit -- that'll make sense when you see the movie) recites the famous "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" bit from "Apocalypse Now."
Due to the year in which it was released, 1976's "Grizzly" seems to get summed up as a land-locked "Jaws" wanna-be, but people tend to forget that even before "Jaws," drive-ins were well stocked throughout the 1970s with a near endless series of killer animal/"nature takes revenge" flicks (i.e. "Squirm," "Frogs," "Night of the Lepus," etc.). So if anything "Grizzly" can merely be accused of having excellent timing, as it rode the coat-tails of "Jaws" to the tune of $39 million in box office and briefly held the title of most profitable independent movie (till it was unseated by the original "Halloween").
As for the movie itself, it's a fairly typical killer animal flick. A rogue Grizzly bear has suddenly begun tromping around a national park, munching on campers and back-packers, and the park's bad-ass head ranger (Christopher George) has to hunt it down and kill it, assisted by his two best friends, a naturalist (Richard Jaeckel) and a redneck chopper pilot. Due to its low budget nature, we don't see much of the actual bear till the film is three-quarters of the way finished, till then "attack" scenes are shown from the bear's eye view so all you see is a hairy paw reach from off camera and lots of growling on the soundtrack. Those attack scenes are still fairly brutal and gory (particularly when the bear goes after a young boy and his mother, and we see the poor kid thrown to the ground with his leg bitten off!), and when we finally do get to see the Grizzly in all his glory, he's a fearsome looking S.O.B. indeed. I won't reveal whether or not Ranger Smith (haha) manages to defeat Yogi Bear in their climactic battle, but I will say that it's the best scene in the movie, due to the total overkill weapon used by George's character.
Director William Girdler keeps the suspense level up and Christopher George is a suitable tough-guy hero, making "Grizzly" a decent night of schlocky-but-fun creature-feature entertainment, 1970s style.
Far-Fetched but Fun Action Drama
"Cellular" is probably not the most realistic movie ever to come down the pike, but it certainly is an entertainingly silly one. The story cranks up almost immediately and keeps its foot on the gas pedal for its entire length. The end result is a breathlessly paced, funny, action packed 90 minutes.
As the film opens, we meet Jessica Martin (Kim Basinger), a Californian MILF who is suddenly kidnapped from her home by a gang of brutal thugs, taken to their hideout and locked in the attic. She has no idea who these men are or why she's being victimized; thankfully there happens to be a telephone in the room with her, but it was smashed to pieces by the head thug (Jason Statham) before she was locked in. With no other way to seek help, she starts fiddling with the wires and components and manages to get a call out to a random number-- which is picked up by the cell phone of a twentysomething L.A. slacker (Chris Evans) named Ryan, who wanted nothing more than to spend a day at the beach attempting to get back together with his ex-girlfriend (Jessica Biel). Naturally, Ryan thinks he's on the business end of a crank call at first, but once he hears Jessica being smacked around and terrorized, he realizes her story is on the level and thus becomes the White Knight who must not only figure out where they're keeping Jessica so he can rush to the rescue, but he must also keep her on the phone for the entire movie. If he loses her call, she loses her life.
That's the set up for a series of comedic action stylings including car chases, fist fights, last minute saves and gunfire as Ryan races across the city, trying to catch up with Jessica's husband (the gang's real target) and child before the bad guys do. Along the way he manages to figure out who the thugs are and why they've targeted Jessica and her family, but I will not reveal the reason why to avoid violating the Spoiler Warning rules. Evans and Basinger receive ample support from the always-welcome William H. Macy, as a cop who's on his last day on the job (his decision to retire and open a beauty parlor - excuse me, "Day Spa" -- with his wife is the source of much comic relief) whose curiosity won't keep him out of the case, while Statham is a pretty nasty bad guy (even though he's played the hero in most of his subsequent films).
I have a friend who works for Verizon Wireless and I'm sure he could point out at least 100 ways in which the workings of cell-phone technology are inaccurately portrayed in this film, but despite that I had a blast watching "Cellular" and I think most action/adventure junkies would feel the same way. An unexpected treat.
Bloody Birthday (1981)
Campy "Killer Kid" Fun
"Bloody Birthday" is not a high concept horror flick by any means but it is a fun, sleazy slice of early '80s trash. As long as you can swallow the rather silly premise - that three kids born during an eclipse will grow up "without empathy" due to an astrological anomaly and therefore become vicious, emotionless killers -- you're in for an unsettling ride.
When we first meet Curtis, Stephen and Debbie, they're a trio of angelic looking best friends who go everywhere and do everything together -- which makes it all the more shocking when they suddenly and without warning kill off Debbie's father, the town sheriff. Next door neighbor Timmy witnesses the crime and quickly becomes next on the threesome's hit list. Fortunately Timmy's older sister, a student of astrology, is around to keep him safe and eventually figure out the reason behind the kids' killer instincts (though it takes her a while). The kids' homicidal urges seem to reach a peak as they approach their 10th birthday, for some unexplained reason, but by then there's so much going on in the film that you don't really have time to worry about it till after the film is over anyway.
In the end "Bloody Birthday" is kinda like a mesh of "The Omen" (times three) killer-kids genre with a splash of slasher film action. The kids are suitably creepy as they prowl around town, picking off the neighbors at random, making it look like an accident each time. In addition to the disturbing premise, the film also has a startling amount of gratuitous T&A (especially for a movie with kids at its center!). Curtis shoots a pair of lovemaking teens in a van Son of Sam style, and Debbie's bimbo older sister (played by future MTV comedienne/singer Julie Brown, pre-"Earth Girls are Easy") has a prominent nude scene as well. Stir that all together (and try to ignore a few glaring plot holes) and you've got a grimy, sleazy little horror flick that would probably never get made today. Ahhh, the '80s. When the thought of kids killing grown-ups was pure fantasy. It truly was a more innocent time.
Average Psychological Fright Fest...
"Gothika" (what does that title mean anyway?) was a pretty decent film, though I expected more from the star power (Halle Berry, Penelope Cruz, and Robert Downey Jr.) on display. If it weren't for those three names above the marquee, this would've a pretty standard psychological thriller (with supernatural overtones) suitable for straight-to-video release.
Berry plays a hospital psychiatrist who seems to have it all. She's happily married to the boss, she gets along with all of her co-workers and is physically fit enough to swim 57 laps in the facility's pool. One stormy night on her way home from work she has a strange encounter with a ghostly girl on a deserted bridge, and... wakes up three days later as a patient in the facility she used to work in, with no memory of how she got there. To make matters worse, she's been accused of brutally murdering her husband. Sucks to be her, huh? Downey has the rather thankless role as her colleague trying to get her to remember what happened on that fateful night, but her therapy suffers setback after setback as she experiences a series of hallucinations involving the ghostly girl, which somehow tie into the stories told to her by a female inmate (Cruz) about being raped by "the Devil." Eventually she escapes from the facility in the hopes of clearing her name, only to find out a shocking truth about her late husband's, shall we say, "extra curricular activities" and the reason behind his murder (I won't say what they are to avoid violating the Spoiler rules, but let's just say if you've seen "The Cell" or "Silence of the Lambs," you'll see it coming way before Berry's character does).
"Gothika" has rich cinematography and a nice creepy "look" to it, though the rather misleading trailers might lead people to believe it's a horror film when it really isn't. A few "jump scares" are about all you get, mostly dealing with the ghostly girl who keeps trying to contact Berry. At a slim 98 minutes, it moves along quickly enough so that the viewer doesn't get bored, though it does seem to wrap things up a little too neatly.
My only major complaint about "Gothika" is that even though it stars two of the most beautiful women in Hollywood - Halle Berry and Penelope Cruz -- it "uglies" them both down to the point where they're barely recognizable. Booooo! The choice of Limp Bizkit's version of "Behind Blue Eyes," rather than the classic original by The Who, as an end credit song is also an unforgivable sin.
Overall "Gothika" was not a bad night's entertainment but by the same token it's nothing I'll ever watch again.
Boy Eats Girl (2005)
When Irish Zombies are Smiling...
"Boy Eats Girl" is an Irish-made romantic zombie comedy ("RomZomCom?") about a high schooler who, when he thinks he's lost the girl of his dreams, commits suicide ... only to end up becoming Patient Zero of a zombie outbreak thanks to his well meaning but misguided mother, who resurrects him from the dead with the help of a voodoo spell book. After reading that description, I'm sure those of you who are looking for a serious zombie movie are already going to look for something else. For those who are still reading, "Boy Eats Girl" was a hilarious horror/comedy treat with -- gasp! -- a sweet side!!
As the film begins, our high school hero Nathan has already got enough problems -- being bullied by the jocks, abused on the rugby field - but when he accidentally misses a chance to tell his long time friend Jessica how he really feels about her, he goes home and hangs himself. Re-awakening the next morning after a last minute "rescue" by his mother, Nathan begins to notice some, errrr, "changes" in his body, chief among them the urge to munch on human flesh. Turns out Mom used a voodoo spell book "borrowed" from the local church to bring Nathan back from the dead... but there was a page missing from the book so she accidentally left out a step. Whoops. Nathan is able to contain his, errr, "appetite" for only so long, until he finally takes a bite out of one of his high school tormentors at a school dance. This, of course, is a bad idea. His victim goes on to bite some people, who then go on to bite some more people, who go on to bite even MORE people, until sure enough, his quaint little Irish village is being overrun by zombies. Even though he may be one of the Undead now, Nathan still doesn't want anything to happen to his beloved Jessica, so he and his two doofus friends race to her family's home to rescue her just before the horde of undead descends upon the place. Hilariously over-the-top mayhem ensues.
It takes a little while for the zombie shenanigans to really get going in "Boy Eats Girl" but once it does I doubt any gorehound will be disappointed. (The scene where Jessica charges into the horde on her father's farm machine is friggin' EPIC!) From then on, the blood and guts, as well as the one liners, come fast and furious. The compact run time (just about 80 minutes) keeps "Boy Eats Girl" from overstaying its welcome, and wraps everything up nicely.
Fans of "Shaun of the Dead" or "Zombieland" should get a few kicks out of "Boy Eats Girl," and the film is a worthy addition to the growing Zombie Comedy genre.
Nasty Little Underground Thriller...
Once again, I've discovered a pretty cool, unknown (at least here in the U.S.) horror film thanks to the DVD bargain bin! A British/German co-production, "Creep" was a fast moving, claustrophobic little thriller that reminded me at times of "Midnight Meat Train" and "The Descent," maybe with a pinch of "Mimic" for good measure.
"Creep" is set in the dark world of London's Underground system. Our heroine is Kate (Franka Potente of "Run Lola Run"), an attractive socialite/party girl whose mission on this particular evening is to hit a celebrity soiree in the hopes of meeting actor George Clooney, who is rumored to be in town. Unfortunately she has a bit too much to drink at a prior engagement and falls asleep on a bench on the subway platform while waiting for her train. When she wakes up hours later, she's alone in the deserted station as the Underground has closed up for the night. While trying to find her way out of the locked station, she encounters a drunken co-worker who'd followed her from the party, who tries to put some moves on her. When the guy is suddenly dragged off and mauled by an unseen attacker, she understandably freaks out and runs off into the maze of tunnels. Eventually she meets a homeless couple living in an unused maintenance alcove and she offers them money to help her reach the surface. Naturally, wherever they go, the unseen attacker is waiting for them, and bloody mayhem ensues. For a while "Creep" is your basic chase film, with Kate and her new homeless friends running through seemingly endless dark tunnels before she's finally captured and caged by the "Creep," a horribly deformed humanoid creature of some sort. Allying herself with George, a London sewer worker who's trapped in the next cage, Kate breaks out and again tries to head for the surface, leading to a final showdown in the creature's hidden lair, deep underground.
I won't reveal much more because I don't want to violate the Spoiler Warning rules, but I will say that the scene where Kate and George discover the lair of the "Creep" (which appears to be a disused hospital/laboratory) is a bit muddled and therefore the supposed revelations found there aren't very well defined, so the big "moment" turns out to be a bit anti-climactic. Up until then, the film was a top notch suspense/thriller. Gorehounds will have a field day with this one, as the kill scenes are all quite nasty throughout (even though I understand the U.S. version I saw supposedly has a few of the more extreme bits cut out), the cinematography is excellent, and the performances are great. "Creep" was a nice surprise, considering that I honestly wasn't expecting much from it when I first pressed "play." Here in the U.S. the film can be found on a budget priced DVD with three other low-budget horror flicks ("Tamara," "Drive Thru" and "Boy Eats Girl"), and "Creep" is definitely worth picking up. "Creep" does what it sets out to do: give you the creeps.
Revenge of the Undead Hottie
"Tamara" is a predictable-but-fun little teen horror flick, bolted together out of spare parts from films like "Carrie," "I Know What You Did Last Summer" and "The Craft," to name just a few. Our "heroine" (and I use that term loosely), Tamara (Jenna Dewan), is a homely high school nerd who dabbles in witchcraft in her spare time. She's got an unrequited crush on her hunky, sensitive English teacher (Matthew Marsden) and is constantly picked on by the "populars" in her school. After she writes an article for the school paper "outing" the football team as steroid users, they naturally want to get back at her so they set up a particularly cruel prank where they make her think she's going to hook up with Hunky Teacher Guy at a local hotel. Naturally the naive Tamara is less than thrilled to find out that she's been fooled, and while struggling with her tormentors, she hits her head on a coffee table and dies. In true Horror Movie fashion, the Populars decide to simply bury her in the woods, swear to tell no one what happened, and move on.
Imagine their surprise when Tamara simply sashays back into to school the next day as if nothing has happened, seemingly having gone through an Extreme Undead Hottie Makeover in the meantime. The "new" Tamara appears sweet enough at first, but quickly sets out to get revenge on the gang who wronged her, in the most brutal fashion possible. One kid recreates the "Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, Say No Evil" mantra with a razor knife, her abusive dad eats glass, a b*tchy cheerleader type vomits her guts out, etc., etc. Of course, Tamara's ambitions also extend to true happiness with her teacher, which means she has to get rid of his wife too. Will true love triumph over vengeance from the grave? OK, so "Tamara" is not a great movie by any means, but it is fun to watch. Jenna Dewan looks pretty hot even when she's supposed to be an Ugly Duckling in the first quarter of the film, but after she returns from the grave -- damn! The rest of the young cast perform their roles as obnoxious cannon fodder well enough, and the flick has decent production values and just the right amount of gore and nastiness. If you can get over the inherent silliness of it all, "Tamara" is a fun ride for B-horror fans.
"Tamara" gets an "A" for eye candy, a "C" for originality, and a "B-" for execution. Worth a look if you can find it cheap, like I did.
Pretentious, Artsy, Boring Crap
I had never heard of "Nadja" until it turned up on a 4-film budget priced "Vampire Collector's Set" DVD that I recently purchased, where it shared space with three other low budget bloodsucker films. I'll be honest, from the package description "Nadja" didn't sound like my cup of tea from the get-go, so I wasn't expecting much from it to begin with. Sometimes when I go into such films with my expectations lowered, I am pleasantly surprised, but not this time. "Nadja" was 90 minutes of plodding, occasionally irritating "art house" crap disguised as a vampire film.
I pretty much knew I was in trouble as soon as I saw the words "DAVID LYNCH PRESENTS..." flash across the screen (though he can't be fully blamed for how badly "Nadja" turned out as he was only a producer on this film), because to a B-Movie kinda guy like me, David Lynch's name is pretty much Kryptonite. I've got nothing against Lynch, I know he's got a lot of fans, but he just doesn't make "my" kind of movies. So knowing he had a even a small hand in this thing was already one strike in my book.
Anyway, getting to the story (what little there is of it) as I understand it: "Nadja" transplants the Dracula myth to present day New York, with the famed bloodsucker's daughter prowling around Greenwich Village looking for a random hookup. She meets "Lucy," a depressed, bisexual night owl, who soon falls under Nadja's spell, much to the dismay of Lucy's drunken doofus of a husband. Fortunately hubby's Uncle (Peter Fonda, who appears to be the only cast member having fun in this film) happens to be Van Helsing himself, and he of course knows how to handle a vampire problem. From there...well, there's a whole lot of pseudo-philosophy, endless talking, a lot of cigarettes being smoked, a lot of self important dialogue, and not much else. Eventually Nadja's estranged twin brother hooks up with Hubby and Helsing and they travel to Nadja's lair in Romania, where... awww the hell with it, I'm not even going to bother describing the rest of this nonsense. Let's just say if you can make it to that point in the film without feeling an urge to drift off to sleep (or change the channel), I salute you.
At first I thought the film being made in stark black and white might be distracting in this day and age, but I'll admit the B&W photography in "Nadja" is really cool...for a while. Then along came numerous segments where, for no discernible reason whatsoever, the picture would suddenly go grainy and pixellated for minutes at a time. At first I thought something was wrong with my DVD, but it turns out that director Michael Almerayda shot those particular scenes (which turn up randomly throughout the film) with a Fisher-Price kids' toy camera. He's probably got some artsy fartsy explanation for why he did those scenes that way, but to me it only served to antagonize an already bored audience.
Ultimately "Nadja" comes off like one of those 1990's Calvin Klein commercials stretched out to feature length, complete with its hip (for the time period) soundtrack (The Verve, Portishead, My Bloody Valentine, etc.). It's nice to look at (occasionally, when it's not pixellated) but doesn't have an ounce of soul.
I'll (grudgingly) give "Nadja" two stars for two reasons: Number one, the lesbian seduction scene between Nadja and Lucy was pretty cool, (though it's got nothing on the Catherine Deneuve/Susan Sarandon scene in "The Hunger," its obvious inspiration) and number two, the song "In the Meantime" by Spacehog plays over the end credits, and I've always liked that song. Otherwise, I can't recommend this one at all. Judging from the other reviews on this site, "Nadja" appears to be a film that people either love or hate. I guess it's obvious which side I'm on. Avoid!!!