Tag Archives: from the archive

The Summer of Lovecraft: Dagon (2001)

Horror in Spanish!
Horror in Spanish!

Reviewed by Tim Deegan

Directed by Stuart Gordon
Starring Ezra Godden and Francisco Rabal

The Story

This film is based less loosely than many on ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’, in which a posh backpacker comes to the deserted town of Innsmouth, encounters the town drunk and hears a tale of dark trades and (gasp) miscegenation with fish people, then finds himself trapped overnight and pursued by shambling foes.

summerattemp2

Continue reading The Summer of Lovecraft: Dagon (2001)

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From the Archive – Bones (2001)

Bones (2001)

Bones

“This Halloween, unleash the dogg.”

Directed by Ernest Dickerson
Starring Snoop Dogg, Pam Grier, Michael T. Weiss and Clifton Powell

 In 1979, Snoop Dogg is Jimmy Bones, a gangster who rolls around the neighborhood accompanied by his sidekick Shotgun, doing nice things for people. He gets murdered.

    Skip forward to the modern day, where a clueless group of multicultural teens are buying Bones’s old house to open their nightclub in. Despite warnings from neighborhood psychic Pam Grier and her attractive daughter, the club opens… only to be terrorized by the revived Bones, eager for vengeance on the people who killed him long ago.

    Surprise surprise, the idiot young folks are descended from one of Bones’s murderers. Bones goes on a killing spree, knocking off his killers and their descendants one by one until finally only Patrick ( Khalil Kain) and aforementioned attractive daughter Cynthia (Bianca Lawson) have to track him to his lair and banish him.

What’s wrong with it?

Godawful cheesy-ass special effects, particularly the blood, which looks like red paint mixed with Pepto-Bismol. The plot more or less makes sense, but the execution is irritating. Performances are terrible, including a particularly disappointing turn by Ginger Snaps star Katharine Isabelle. Snoop Dogg is actually one of the best performers in the film, since he’s basically just playing his stage persona. It also has a cheesy nightclub sequence, gratuitous scantily clad women, and the obligatory Snoop-dominated soundtrack.

What’s right with it?

Snoop Dogg is, funnily enough, pretty good, but the real scene-stealer is Ricky Harris as local crime kingpin Eddie Mack. Bones severs Eddie’s head and carries it around with him, still wisecracking. As a gothic horror movie, it’s OK, but a little limp.

How bad is it really?

Bad enough to be funny, if it weren’t for the long, dragging scenes with the earnest young people. Not hip enough to inhabit their roles well and not old enough to ham unabashedly, they stumble through the hoary plot, failing at every turn to provide us with reasons to care about them – or even distinguish one of them from another.    

Best bit (if such there is)?

  • Eddie Mack: “My soul? I killed you, you killed me, we’re even. Why you gotta get all metafuckinphysical, n***a? Shit!”
  • Cynthia, finding herself in a crazy necropolis full of Gigeresque twisted walls and trapped spirits: “This is the city of the dead.” You don’t say.
  • Bones, closing in for the kill on the hapless Patrick: “Surprise, n***a!”
  • Bones’s scary dog, after tearing out someone’s throat: “The gangster of love don’t need no fried chicken!”

What’s up with…? 

  • Bones’s dog? It can turn into other animals, vomit maggots, look like a person, talk, slice, dice, and give your floors a shine like never before! And where does it go halfway through the movie?
  • Pearl the psychic? If she’s so dingdang psychic, how come she only sees danger coming when it’s too late? And come to that, Bones kills his faithful henchman Shotgun because he betrayed him. But Pearl betrayed Bones in much the same way, and he’s not mad at her, oh no. Talk about a double standard…
  • Shotgun? Is he high all the time? There are lots of hams in the movie, but he’s the biggest of all, gurning his way through every scene like a sort of black Rowan Atkinson.

Ratings

Production values – not too bad, I guess. Competently shot, if a little dim. The 70s flashback sequences are pretty neat. Special effects are dismal, though. 13

Dialogue and performances – rotten. Snoop, Grier, and Harris are worth your time, but the charismatic young leads are dull enough to drag the average down. 14

Plot and execution – well, it’s pretty much just a standard revenge-from-beyond-the-grave scenario. The scenes are strung together with no real relation to one another, particularly Bones’s manifestations in the early part of the film. 14

Randomness – high randomness, particularly in the first half and right toward the end. 16

Waste of potential – well, it’s hard to say. With some hipper young leads and a good unifying idea for the ghost-Bones, it could have been a lot better, but it’s pretty much a blaxploitation horror flick, so what did you expect? 14

Overall 71%

From the Archive – Velocity Trap (1997)

Velocity Trap (1997)

velocity-2

“Crime at the speed of light”

Inflicted by Phillip J. Roth
Starring Olivier Gruner, Alicia Coppola and Jorja Fox

In a weird future setting where electronic commerce has been destroyed by crime, a cargo ship has to carry a load of cash money between planets. Disgraced cop Olivier Gruner is given the crummy assignment of guarding the cash after being framed by a superior who is also a romantic rival. While the ship passes through an asteroid field, space-hijacker types board the ship and Gruner must fight them off more-or-less alone. Predictable plot “twists” are provided by the space pirates and ship’s crew continually trying to double-cross one another and get their hands on the loot.

What’s wrong with it?

In two words: Olivier Gruner. In a few more words: Olivier Gruner, the king hell pig run of all implausible settings, and cheap-jack production values. Jorja Fox and some guy as the space pirate leaders ham the hell out of their roles, which only serves to throw Gruner’s almost schizophrenic lack of affect into sharp relief.

What’s right with it?

Hmmm. Uh, OK! Here’s a thing. Gruner’s character and his shipmate are nicely ambiguous. As a cop who’s been kicked around by the forces of law and order, it would be traditional for him to be really upright and noble all the time. But in fact he’s really tempted by the idea of making off with the loot and writing off his beautiful but useless girlfriend. It’s left unclear at the ending, which is kind of nice.

How bad is it really?

Really? It’s bad. If you’re making a science fiction movie and you don’t have any money, you need to have good ideas or good performances. This has neither.

Best bit (if such there is)?

Easy. Left alone on the spaceship for months while the crew hibernate, Stokes (I just looked it up, and Olivier’s called Stokes in this movie) goes a little peculiar. This leads to the greatest scene in Olivier’s career, as he ballet dances around the empty ship in his long johns. It is absolutely amazing, and it’s twice as alarming coming in the middle of such a bland movie.

What’s up with…?

  • space pirate Fallout and his bazooka? Big guy has to have a big gun, I guess, but I’m not sure it’s a terribly practical weapon indoors.
  • Jorja “her from CSI” Fox and the armour with boobs on it? I guess in the future breasts will be much larger and need greater protection.
  • electronic funds transfers are no longer possible, so money is transferred between banks on different planets in shipments that take years? Rather than, say, each planet just having a totally separate economy.
  • Olivier’s girl being some other guy’s “contract wife?” It’s not important, she’s barely in the movie; it’s just five minutes of needless exposition.

Ratings

Production values: Poor. CGI effects courtesy of Babylon 5. 15

Dialogue and performances: Oh hell no. 18

Plot and execution: Standard. Romantic failure, space pirates! Bang bang aaah. 12

Randomness: A certain amount. Shifty economy, uncalled for space battle scene. Also space ballet — good but random.13

Waste of potential: It’s got Olivier Gruner in it. On the other hand, replace him with, I dunno, Bruce Campbell and it could have been very good. 11

(like a lot of Gruner works, it dodges the bullet on Waste of Potential)

Overall 69%

From the Archive – Razor Blade Smile (1998)

Razor Blade Smile (1998)razor-blade-smile-poster

“Part Seductress. Part Assassin. All Vampire.”

Inflicted by Jake West
Starring Eileen Daly and Christopher Adamson

Lilith Silver (Daly, and that name should give you an idea of the kind of film we’re dealing with here) is a 19th century (I guess) woman who shoots Sethane Blake (Adamson), a vampire who kills her lover (or someone) in a duel. The bullet doesn’t affect him much, but he’s so moved by her bravery or something that he turns her into a vampire. Skip forward to the present where Lilith is a hitwoman assassin-type person in a dodgy leather catsuit. She’s assassinating members of a mysterious organization called the Illuminati who wear cheap novelty gift rings. Their leader appears to be none other than – gasp! – Sethane Blake again, and he sets his pet police inspector, Price (Jonathan Coote) on her. We follow Lilith around as she kills people, has sex with people (and kills them), gets in trouble with the law, etc., until eventually she goes after Blake in a big showdown with a super-ass lame twist ending.

What’s wrong with it?

  •  “Lilith Silver?”
  • At one point, she goes into a goth club and in the background they’re playing – shock horror! – “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” It’s a bit on the nose, isn’t it?
  • Interminable pompous ham voice-overs.
  • Effects that would disgrace a Hammer film.
  • Lilith’s ridiculous internet chat-room thingy.
  • Silver’s boyfriend is called Platinum.
  • Someone claims to admire Price’s – my hand to God – “dogged determinism.”
  • The sex scenes manage to combine being really pretty unerotic with feeling sleazy and vile.
  • The vampires are into the head-cutting-off thing, so you get to see what Highlander would be like if no one involved could fence worth a damn.

What’s right with it?

Price. He rocks. Sent to take out the vampire, he’s initially sceptical, but when shown evidence he gets right down to whittling stakes and chewing garlic. When Lilith wounds him with one of his own stakes, he steals some PCP from evidence and takes it so as to feel invulnerable. And when Blake offers to reward him for his good service by turning him into a vampire, he tops himself rather than have to put up with these wankers for all eternity. Having seen the film, I know how he feels…

How bad is it really?

If you’re both a goth and a moron, or ironically post-goth, it’s probably pretty enjoyable. For the rest of us, it’s just unbearable.

Best bit (if such there is)?

Well, if it isn’t any of Price’s bits, it’s the part where Lilith is creeping into a house and her catsuit creaks. Which, if you think about it, they probably do if you don’t have a good sound editor.

What’s up with…?

  • note to all future henchlings. When someone throws a cellphone at you, and then it rings, DO NOT PICK IT UP. If you absolutely must, remember that only ONE of you is required to answer the phone.
  • the cheesy-ass Halloween novelty rings the Illuminati wear? Kind of a cut rate bunch of secret masters.
  • the horrible horrible horrible voiceover narration? Sounds like a high school production of a phone sex dominatrix.
  • And leave us not forget the pathologist, so wittily nicknamed ‘Horror Movie Man’ (The Prophet).

Ratings

Production values: Feeble. Shoddy camera work, poor lighting, bargain-basement effects (including the infamous “blue-for-night” filter). 15

Dialogue and performance: Execrable. Horrible, horrible overacting, particularly among the vampires. The appalling, pig-ignorant dialogue doesn’t help. 20

Plot: Weak. The core plot – secret society hunts vampire – is pretty consistent, but it tends to wander at length, usually when the director realizes it’s been 20 minutes and it’s time for another fight or sex scene. 16

Randomness: well, not that much, really. It’s a pretty hackneyed vampire story, with only the individual eccentricities of the characters to make it strange. 10

Waste of potential: I don’t know about this. I mean, it’s a pretty weak premise, and it’s not like we were expecting much. 10

Overall 71%

From the Archive – X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

x-men-3

“Take a stand.”

Directed by Brett Ratner
Starring Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart and God knows how many other people (see ‘What’s wrong with it?’)

In this third and final installment of the X-Men films, a company produces a ‘cure’ for mutants, to the horror of Professor Xavier and the outrage of Magento. There follows a series of flashy set-pieces and some vileness from Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil, while Jean Grey reappears apparently alive but psychotic, we discover that the Professor has no scruples and new guy Beast deals with politics. There’s a flying bridge and a big fight, Rogue wonders if she wouldn’t be better off with the cure and Vinnie Jones…is.

What’s wrong with it?

It’s a mess.

I mean, really, there’s just too much going on and the director fails to make us give a toss about any of it. When Professor X gets vaporised halfway through the film I thought: holy crap. Then I realised I’d thought it, not felt it. Professor X just got vaped and I didn’t care. When we find out Scott’s been killed, I could hardly muster a cheer!

The removal of the Phoenix Force from a version of the Dark Phoenix saga also creates serious problems within the film. I understand why it was done; the Phoenix Force introduces a huge amount of backstory, too much for a single movie. Unfortunately, the consequence of removing it is that instead of Jean Grey being a woman fighting – with the assistance of her mentor – against the influence of an external force that wants to manipulate her powers and personality for its own alien purposes, she becomes a woman unable to control her own strength without her (male) mentor performing psychic surgery on her without consent.

This is not good for her character, and it is not good for Professor Xavier’s character; she is made weak, he is made… well, pretty damned evil.

What’s right with it?

Well, it looks pretty, I guess.

How bad is it really?

Not terrible, just really, really disappointing. I liked the first two; I really did. This was just…blah.

Best bit

Meh.

What’s up with…?

  • Professor Xavier carrying out impromptu psychic surgery to make people be the way he wants them to be? Um…why is there a problem with the acceptance of mutants if he can and will do that?
  • Professor Xavier turning out to be a complete monster, rearranging people’s brains and possessing people to extend his own life? That was a bit left-field.
  • All the bloody plots? Were they worried we’d get bored? They were right, but…
  • Rogue’s big dilemma? Would you be better without being an uncontrolled psychic vampire who can’t kiss her boyfriend without killing him? That might have been a big struggle, if she hadn’t been cranked into training with a field team, where her powers were of no use whatsoever.

Ratings

Production Values: No complaints, if a little over-reliant on spectacle. 3

Dialogue and Performances: Decent to good performances can’t hide a pretty cliche ridden script. “I’m the only one who can stop her!” Blah. 11

Plot and Execution: That big scene where Magneto makes all the trucks pile into one another. That’s your plot that is. 17

Randomness: Split personalities? I mean, okay, you’re trying not to talk about the aliens, but still. And the flying bridge? 10

Waste of Potential: Did you see the other films? 18

Overall 59%

From the Archive – Underworld (2003)

Underworld

 

Directed by Len Wiseman
Starring Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman

For fourteen hundred years the vampires have been at war with the Lycans (that’s werewolves to you and me); both races immortal – barring serious accident or bad cases of killing – and apparently none-too-bright. The Lycan general, Lucian, has been dead six centuries, and for all that time the vampire elite, the Deathdealers, have been on the verge of wiping out the last werewolves, but have never managed it.

Selene (Beckinsale) is one of these Deathdealers and while hunting Lycans she realises that they are showing an unusual interest in a human, Michael (Speedman). She also stumbles on a den of werewolves larger than any seen since Lucian’s death. She is all suspicious and stuff, but the leader of her coven, the aptly named Kraven (Shane Brolly), is too busy trying to get into her knickers to care. Oh; and the vampires are about to have a transfer of power between two of their elders.

Selene investigates Michael and gets the hots for him. Lucian – whose death was somewhat exaggerated by the only witness, Kraven – also shows up looking for him. Michael gets freaked out at the sheer number of fangy, gun-toting maniacs coming after him for one reason or another.

There’s a whole lot of killing and bloodshed and betrayal, then Michael and Selene fulfil Lucian’s plan by turning Michael into a super-hybrid of Lycan and vampire and offing Bill Nighy, lord of the undead.

What’s wrong with it?

Underworld is one of those films in which a whole bunch of good ideas get pissed away in a frenzy of fast-editing and wacky SFX. There are moments when the idea of a centuries old war, of a vampire populace yearning to forget about the war and get on with being all cool and Goth and stuff and the torturous and Byzantine politics almost get interesting, before some ludicrous set piece or clunky line of dialogue (“Silver nitrate! Bet you didn’t see that coming!”, oh, you were up all night for that kiss-off) brings the whole thing crashing back to Earth.

There are also a great many instances where you just wonder how these slackers have lasted as long as they have. Lucian’s Lycans wipe out a train full of veteran Deathdealers with nary a scratch in return, yet Selene can drop them by the dozen. Lucian successfully hides his existence for centuries, then Selene stumbles on his army and he lets Kraven – his creepy, weasel-traitor, unloved ally – be dragged into his lair with a gun. How did this lot manage to last so long.

A friend is quite insistent that I mention here that Selene tells Michael that he saved her life, when she’s actually undead, but the fact is that she isn’t undead. Undead is a word that never shows up in Underworld and all evidence suggests that these vampires are as vital as anyone.

What’s right with it?

Well, there’s some cool Gothy bits and impressive special effects, and the lead characters manage to be reasonably sympathetic, despite an excess of kewl. There are also some splendid ideas, however little time may be given over to them. And Bill Nighy; always good for the money. Many people also rate Kate Beckinsale in leather as a big draw, but by that standard you’d have to say Van Helsing was a winner.

How bad is it really?

None too. I mean, there’s some decent action, they don’t get bogged down in their own stupidity nearly as much as they could and at least it isn’t Underworld: Evolution. Or Blade II.

Best bit

Okay, it’s been a while. Nothing really sticks out.

What’s up with…?

  • Ultraviolet bullets? I mean, huh?
  • Kraven’s kiss-off line to Lucian? “Silver nitrate! Bet you didn’t see that coming.” Well, he didn’t see anything coming, did he, otherwise he would have taken away your gun and you could have shot him with silver bullets, exploding rounds or whatever. The silver nitrate is the chemically-questionable icing on the explody death cake.
  • Mr Razor Wire Whips? Come on; you’re just asking to get et.
  • Bill Nighy is the Lord of the Undead?

Ratings

Production Values: High. A little too much darkness, but basically sound. 4

Dialogue and Performances: A film somewhat lacking in snappy one-liners, which is a shame as it’s the kind of film that really needs that lift from time to time. The dialogue that there is isn’t bad, but it’s basically just, y’know, functional. There’s no zip, no fire, no poetry; not even bad angst poetry. 12

Plot and Execution: PWP, turned up to 11. Erm, the stuff with the blood and the big monsters and…stuff. Oh, you’re the spit and image of the girl I used to love. Huh? The film does well to avoid getting mired in all this crap people are spitting out by way of exposition. 13

Randomness: Bill Nighy is the lord of the undead?* 7

Waste of Potential: With a little more script work and a little less devotion to po-faced sombreness, this could have been a hell of a lot of fun. It’s still fun, just not a hell of a lot of it. 9

Overall 45%

*Although in fairness, since this review was first written, this has become a thing.

From the Archive – The Da Vinci Code (2006)

Into every life, there comes a defining moment of motion picture badness; a time when you must choose whether to embrace the way of the bad movie or turn away and walk the well-worn path of sanity. Even for those of use who have taken the road less traveled and ventured into the sinister alleyways of the industry’s dispossessed and forgotten children, there are places where perhaps it is better not to go. These gloomy, Gotham-esque warrens may be our hunting grounds, but sometimes even we quail; sometimes, a movie just looks too bad, even for us. This is the testing time and we have a choice to make: do we stand forth and stride into the darkness, or shuffle away and try to avoid making eye contact with our friends?

But these tests do not merely come on us in the dark heart of Blockbuster Video. Sometimes, just sometimes, a work of such monumental crapness actually makes it to the big screen in a flurry of hype and merchandising that would make George Lucas blush. Sometimes, a truly bad movie attains apotheosis and ascends to walk in hallowed pastures, on which it ought be shamed to look.

Such a movie is The Da Vinci Code. Not the worst movie ever reviewed herein, but a movie whose assured commercial success and slick production make it more offensive than any but the most vile of genuine, unashamed bad movies can hope to compete.

da-vinci-code

“Seek the Truth”

Directed by Ron Howard
Starring Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Jean Reno, Alfred Molina, and Paul Bettany

In fact, so egregiously bad is this film that no one reviewer could possibly do it justice. Therefore, here follows a two-handed review, featuring the thoughts of both HappyFett and Gonzohistory.

Disclaimer – Let’s be clear: this film is a work of fiction which does not purport to actually reveal the truth behind the foundations of Christianity. I personally can not imagine that any sane person would find it to be blasphemous or offensive. This review will in no way criticise The Da Vinci Code for representing or purporting to represent a flawed version of reality, any more than I would criticise The Lord of the Rings for its laughable claims of the existence of elves and dwarves. We will be criticising the film solely on the grounds that it is shit.

Second disclaimer – We accept that there is also an element of bitterness involved, in that the authors are jealous of the sheer amounts of money that people are making from this crap.

happy fett

Robert Langdon is a Professor of Symbology who gives pat lectures which seem to impress people very much and writes best-selling books about the sacred feminine. While visiting Paris, he is taken to the Louvre by Jean Reno – I mean, the character has a name, but basically it’s just Jean Reno – to see a corpse covered in symbols and ends up on the run with the dead man’s granddaughter, trying to solve a mysterious puzzle which will unlock the secret of the Holy Grail, before it can be destroyed by a shadowy council of Catholic Cardinals dedicated to maintaining the temporal power of the Church of Rome through the use of albino assassins.

There follows a whistle-stop tour of modern Jesus Bloodline lore, via a series of fairly predictable revelations and some really dodgy names, to a conclusion that frankly lacks punch.

Huzzah.

Gonzo

A Harvard professor (Hanks) and a French cryptographer (Tautou) investigate a murder which leads them, by a series of elaborate clues, to an ancient conspiracy which is trying to protect the knowledge that Jesus had kids, and another conspiracy, headed up by Alfred Molina and his mad assassin Paul Bettany, that wants to stamp the knowledge — and the family — out.

The baddies frame Hanks and Tautou for the murder, so gruff, dependable policeman Jean Reno sets off in pursuit. Along the way, the pair hook up with eccentric scholar Leigh Teabing (McKellen). After many wacky adventures, during which the MacGuffin changes hands a dozen or so times, they discover that Tautou is the last heir of the divine bloodline and Hanks has some kind of quasi-mystical chivalrous experience.

What’s wrong with it?

happy fettWell, first and foremost there’s the fact that the film ends at least 30 minutes after the plot does. What tension the film has comes from the protagonists being pursued by a self-mortifying albino hit-monk and, once he is dead, there is absolutely nothing to keep the film going because – and this is the great sin – the film fails utterly to make you give a good goddamn about its own central premise. The film is about the Great SecretTM (the, if you will, dark con of man), but nothing in it manages to give the impression that the secret actually matters. Yes, it’s the quest for the Holy Grail, but so what? There is no sense of importance.

GonzoThe central story was kind of spooky when Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln did it in Holy Blood, Holy Grail — twenty-five years ago or whatever. Now it’s not going to shock or alarm anyone with the wit God gave a goose, which makes it so maddening that this calculatedly lame, middle-of-the-road film was the flashpoint for an international controversy.

happy fettThen there’s the historical bullshit. The film gives woolly, fluffy, vague and occasionally downright inaccurate dates for real historical events, placing the first crusade too early and stating that a set of records go back ‘thousands of years, to the death of Christ’. It also over eggs the pudding by embellishing the already pretty sensational history of the Templars with wild suggestions of ‘sealed orders to be opened simultaneously across Europe’ and the whole thing ends up being silly instead of portentous.

What’s right with it?

happy fettThe film is, if nothing else, slick. On occasion, the blatantly manipulative soundtrack almost manages to convince you that you are reacting emotionally to the film, despite its utter lack of involvement.

And then there’s Ian McKellan, clearly aware that he’s in a stinker, but mucking in with not the least resentment. No Jeremy-Irons-in-Dungeons-&-Dragons grumpy moping, this is a professional thesp in full flood. Alfred Molina likewise gives it his all and Paul Bettany’s Silas the albino assassin is really rather creepy and disturbing, with the droopy-eyed menace and the flesh-creeping self-flagellation.

GonzoOpie got a bunch of good actors to be in his crap sandwich, I’ll give him that. And he clearly threw a lot of money at it.

How bad is it really?

GonzoIf it were just some stupid little DtV effort like we deal with a lot here at the Bad Movie Marathon, this movie would be only a dumb conspiracy thriller, the kind Heath Ledger or Michael Rooker or somebody could growl and bumble his way through. As a massive blockbuster based on a hugely popular novel, its lack of substance amounts to an affront.

happy fettIt really is the scale of the thing that lifts it to the vaults of Bad Movie Heaven. So much money, so many people, so little quality control.

Best bit

GonzoIan McKellen seems to know, if no one else does, what a stinkburger this film is, and he just goes completely balls-out with his performance, going from a camp old don to a scenery-chewing maniac over the course of the picture.

Also, the relationship between Molina and Bettany’s characters is nicely drawn.

happy fettEasily Sir Ian McKellan hamming it up like a mad thing as they drag him off, pointing at Tom Hanks and shouting: “He’s got the map to the Grail! That man there!”

What’s up with…?

GonzoWhere to begin?

happy fettHow about…

  • The names? Sir Leigh Teabing? I mean, anagrams are one thing, but if the best you can come up with is ‘Teabing’, just drop it and call the bugger ‘Smith’. And Bishop Aringarosa? I’m given to understand it’s Italian for ‘red herring’, but I just wanted one of the other shadow council types to demand a telephonic explanation by snapping out: “Ring Aringarosa!” (It would at least have supplied some much needed distraction).

Gonzo

  • A professor of religious symbolism — from Harvard, yet — who seems to have missed every development in the analysis of symbolism in the last hundred years?

happy fett

  • Offing the albino hit-monk a clear half hour before the end of the film?

Gonzo

  • the elaborate code the murder victim places throughout the Louvre, with anagrams and everything? In the time it took him to do that, he could have learned medicine and performed surgery on himself.

happy fett

  • The Church allegedly getting all upset about this? Why?

Gonzo

  • the big philosophical implication of the system being “just act like Jesus recommended without worrying about the details of his life?” So, basically, what most Western Christians already believe, then?

happy fett

  • All this shit about the Catholic Church persecuting Sir Isaac Newton over gravity? He was a bloody Anglican, for crying out loud. I mean, sure he was a heretic, even by the standards of other Anglicans, but it’s not like the Catholic Church (and the Shadow Council clearly wasn’t an ecumenical body) put people under house arrest in 18th century England, so he was no Galileo or Copernicus.

Gonzo

  • the entire town knowing the deal when they go to Rosslyn? I don’t think that’s how good conspiracies work.

Ratings

Production values:

happy fettTop notch. Cinematographically, this film is da bomb, there is a stirring score, and the visual effects intended to show Langdon’s mental processes are slickly done. It’s almost tragic that this much effort went into the stinker. 3

GonzoNothing to complain about here. Pretty locations, car chases, and effects. 2

Dialogue and performances:

happy fettThe dialogue is, to put it bluntly, crap. Lots of waffle about secrets so powerful that they would shake Christianity to its foundations and ‘what matters is what you believe’ sentiments that are so bloody trite that they play like ‘The Best of Thought for the Day’. The performances are a mixed bag, from Tom Hanks’ slightly petulant Langdon to the glorious camp of McKellan’s Teabing. 17

GonzoHanks phones it in, and Tautou struggles with her weak-ass material. Good performances from the supporting players can’t help that central problem. 14

Plot and execution:

happy fettThe plot isn’t exactly brilliant, but it’s muddling along quite merrily until, with little warning, it just stops16

GonzoMy headache is coming back just thinking about it. 16

Randomness:

happy fettWell, I don’t know if it’s exactly randomness, but the film certainly takes the grab-bag of vaguely Grail/Priory of Sion related crap and sort of shakes it up a bit. It’s like Foucault’s Pendulum without the higher thought. 14

GonzoLittle bit, yeah. 15

Waste of potential:

happy fettIt would be hard to make a decent and coherent movie about the Priory of Sion. It could be done, but not without substantially more thought and care. And damnit, if you’re writing or filming a thriller, can’t you at least make it vaguely thrilling. You might also think that at least some of the money invested in this could be spent on getting something right. 16

GonzoWith all that money and all those actors, yeah. The script is nads, of course, but they could have made something else. 19

The Final Score – 66%

From the Archive – Darkman III: Die, Darkman, Die (1996)

Darkman

 

“One fights for justice. The other for power. Only one can survive.”

Directed by Bradford May
Starring Jeff Fahey and Arnold Voosloo

Faceless vigilante Darkman – aka Dr Peyton Westlake (Voosloo) – crosses paths with ruthless mobster, Peter Rooker. In revenge, Rooker’s henchling-cum-mistress, Dr Bridget Thorne tricks Darkman so she can implant him with a pain inducing device, in order to study him and find out why his tactile insensitivity  gives him superhuman powers.

There are some fights and stuff, culminating with a warehouse battle to save Rooker’s wife – with whom Westlake has fallen in love – and daughter. Then Westlake sacrifices his chance to look properly normal by using his only sample of perfected synthetic skin to repair the kid’s face, which was burned by natural gas in the fight. Bless.

What’s wrong with it?

Die, Darkman, Die is a ham-fisted follow-up to a ham-fisted follow-up to a Sam Raimi film that wasn’t exactly subtle to begin with. Voosloo chews on the scenery like he’s trying to stop his incisors growing down to pierce his own chest, and sad to say he’s the actor in the bunch. The plot also lacks tension and is overly sentimental.

Once again, I’m having real trouble remembering the character names in this one.

What’s right with it?

The basic premise of Darkman remains good: A scientist hideously disfigured and isolated from the world uses a talent for mimicry and masks of synthetic skin to fight crime, aided by the psychotic strength granted him by the severing of his central nervous system.

How bad is it really?

In parts painfully bad, mostly during the surprise birthday party scene, where Darkman – disguised as the villain – confuses Rooker’s party guests by acting like a decent human being. Bless.

Best bit?

Darkman’s beat-up old maintenance train that he uses to zip around the subway.

What’s up with…?

  • The kid’s face being burned by natural gas? Note that the gas is not on fire at the time. She simply gets a face full of vapour from a tank marked ‘natural gas’, and comes away all disfigured.

Ratings

Production values: Not so good. Some decent makeup on scarred Darkman, but mostly he’s just wearing a scarf. The rest is all bullet sparks and some cut-rate wire-work. 9

Dialogue and performances: Oh my lord. Voosloo lays out each and every line as though it were a Shakespearean soliloquy, including lines like ‘My name is Dr Peyton Westlake’ and ‘Hello’. Fahey just snarls like a rabid dog and the rest of the cast are utterly forgettable.19

Plot and execution: Rattles on well enough, but without much energy and an excess of mawkish sentimentality that slows the film right down in the touchy-feely scenes. 14

Randomness: Solid. Nothing ridiculously out there once the premise is established, aside from the heavily acidic natural gas of course. 4

Waste of potential: As with the Turtles, Darkman could – and did – make a better film than this. Even for number three though, this was not a great success. 10

Overall 56%

From the Archive – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)

TurtleII

Directed by Michael Pressman
Starring Paige Turco and David Warner

“Cowabunga; it’s the new Turtle movie”

Following their victory over Shredder the Turtles are ‘resting’ in April O’Neill’s (Turco) apartment (she seems to have bought pants since the last time at least). Then Shredder and the Foot Clan return, stealing the last sample of the ooze that created the Turtles and using it to make two monstrous – if endearingly dim – minions. With the aid of the scientist who accidentally created the ooze (Warner), the Turtles demutate the minions, battling them through a club to a Vanilla Ice soundtrack (Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go!) then tackle a giant, mutated Shredder in the sewers to some kind of conclusion.

What’s wrong with it?

Well, for starters, having left it a week before writing the review, I can’t actually remember very much of the film at all; it were that gripping.

I do recall that the acting was flat, the fight scenes greatly hampered by the Turtle costumes (imagine the Tellytubbies trying to do kung fu) and the plot pretty much non-existent. Then there’s the gratuitous cute, scrappy kid, the terrible Turtle dialogue and the Ninja Turtle Rap. Sheagh!

What’s right with it?

David Warner provides his usual performance as serious person in a silly film with some dignity, and the film has a tiny spark of zany energy, although the Turtlosity was wearing out by this point. The sets – especially the abandoned subway lair – are pretty keen.

How bad is it really?

Bad, no; just not very good.

Best bit?

Shredder preparing to subdue his new minions encourages them to attack him. The giant wolf and snapping turtle run forward, throw their arms around him and cry: “Mama!”

What’s up with…?

  • The scientists just abandoning the ooze that makes things really big? Surely they could sell it to the military even if they didn’t try to use it to solve world hunger, with predictably disastrous results.
  • Vanilla Ice? What is he doing here? Was his career already so far down the crapper that TMNT II seemed like a life-saver? Oh wait; it was.

Ratings:

Production values: Some of the sets are actually really nice and although they hamper the ninjitsu, the turtle suits look okay. However, the snapping turtle and wolf monsters are crappy. 11

Dialogue and performances: Really no-one but David Warner was walking away form this with any dignity. 16

Plot and execution: I have big monsters. Go big monsters; chase the Turtles. Quickly Turtles; fight the big monsters. Ladies and gentlemen; the plot. 17

Randomness: Vanilla Ice. Other than that it all makes sense given that we have four big terrapins as the central characters. 7

Waste of Potential: Considering the mine had already been tapped more than dry by the first film, this one didn’t do too badly. 6

Overall 57%

From the Archive – The Peacemaker (1997)

Image

“This is not a test”

Directed by Mimi Leder
Starring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman

When a Russian general steals ten nuclear warheads, a US nuclear smuggling adviser (Kidman) and an Army Intelligence officer (Clooney) must retrieve them, running roughshod over the silly old Russians in order to do so. Then they must track down the Serbian diplomat who plans to blow up the UN building during a peace summit as a warning against international interference in the former Yugoslavia.

What’s wrong with it?

The Peacemaker is actually a rather unpleasant film, in part because it offers crassly simplistic answers to difficult questions. The fact that Clooney’s gun-ho antics not only override Kidman’s caution but also almost invariably prove to be the right thing to do is symptomatic of the basic problem, which is that the film is glossing over the very complex and scary issue of stolen nuclear weapons. The important issue raised by the terrorist’s motive – he blames the enforced creation of Yugoslavia post-WWII for the current troubles, and not without cause – are breezed over by the fact that he ends up a mad-eyed whack-job trying to nuke Manhattan. The fact that Clooney is willing to order a sniper to shoot through a five-year-old to stop him is not dwelt upon.

Only once is there any implication that this problem goes beyond running around and hitting people, when Clooney’s jovial Russian contact is shot, but after a few minutes confusion – in his line, such things would not normally be done – Clooney is up for invading Russia. Moreover, no-one seems to bat an eyelid at the detonation and irradiation of a large part of the Ukraine; the threat of fallout is mentioned, but not even a ‘poor sods’ is uttered in memory of the locals.

Were this a James Bond film this all might be acceptable, but it isn’t. The film aspires to a more serious level, and by so doing exacerbates its own offences. The cack-handed romantic sub-plot – which boils down to nothing more than the fact that Clooney and Kidman are both attractive – likewise serves only to trivialise the proceedings.

It’s also not a good sign that I can’t remember the name of a single character in this film. The contact might have been Vasiliy or Vladimir or Viktor and I think the General was Alexander something.

What’s right with it?

Well, this is the real problem. Extensive thought the film’s flaws are, they aren’t really that bad by the standards of the Bad Movie Marathon. However, this film has fewer redeeming features than almost any other movie ever to gain a  theatrical release. The best that can be said about it is that it is professionally made, but nothing about it shines. Not a goddamn thing.

How bad is it really?

The Peacemaker is a tedious and petty little film, in which the might of America abuses the sovereignty and dignity of all and sundry to save the world for democracy. It’s really, really no damn good.

Best bit?

See above re. nothing shines.

What’s up with…?

  • The spetnaz night vision goggles? I mean, presumably the idea is to give you an advantage by letting you see the enemy in the dark, but he can see you too because your eyes are glowing red.
  • A US Army Colonel smashing and shooting up Vienna with no repercussions?
  • The militant Serbian piano teacher?

Ratings:

Production values – Solid, professional work, but nothing ground-breaking or spectacular, even when the Ukraine is getting nuked. 3

Dialogue and performances Dull dialogue and phoned-in performances down the line. No one seems very interested in what they’re doing here and I just can’t blame them. 13

Plot and execution – Trite, lazy, ham-fisted and uninvolving. There’s a desperate man carrying a nuke around New York in a backpack, and I can’t seem to care. 15

Randomness – More-or-less under control, save for the extreme swiftness with which the leads criss-cross the world and change their clothes. That and the utter lack of consequences for their blatant disregard of other peoples’ sovereignty. 8

Waste of potential – A stolen-nuke action thriller should really be more action-packed – one raid, one car chase, one fight and one foot chase is pretty lame – and more thrilling than this offering. Moreover, the utter lack of good points in this film means that I just have to give it maximum points here. 20

Overall 59%