Tag Archives: movies

The Happening

NOTE: An unfinished version of this review was put up because of some weird glitch with WordPress. Below is the complete review.

Title: The Happening

Year: 2008

Got It For: $5.00

Thanks to this DVD, I have resolved never again to watch behind-the-scenes special features before writing these reviews. The Happening is a hilariously bad movie. But like all movies, a colossal amount of work went into it and everyone involved was trying hard to make it good. Watching the “making of” featurettes on the DVD was a somewhat depressing exercise and it got me thinking about where it all went wrong. Ludicrous plot? Terrible acting? Poor direction? Well, let’s dig in and find out what makes The Happening so cringe worthy.

Hint: This is part of it!

The first scene  takes place in Central Park, where a woman observes everyone around her stop what they’re doing and begin searching for ways to kill themselves. This is a somewhat creepy moment, but it’s ruined by plot holes when we discover what’s causing such things to happen; but we’ll get to that in minute. We’re then introduced to our hero, a schoolteacher played by a vegetative Mark Whalberg. He and his wife; the horribly miscast Zooey Daeschanel (who seems to play the exact same character in everything she’s ever been in) have a relationship that’s been on the rocks lately. Can they salvage their love in the midst of this mass disaster? Why do perfectly healthy people suddenly want to kill themselves?

With proper writing and many, many better decisions, this may have turned out to be a good movie. But there are so many problems here; the only way to properly describe them all is in a classic bullet point list.

  • Terrible performances from normally talented actors. It seriously feels like everyone is reading the script for the first time.
  • Ridiculous twist. Spoiler alert here just in case you haven’t seen the movie. It turns out that the trees (not any specific species mind you, just “the trees”) are releasing chemicals that erase the human instinct for self preservation. While it is true that many plants use toxic or pungeant chemicals to defend against predators or claim an area of soil; the idea that they can just create new poisons and release them at will against a single species is ludicrous. Also, how was that one woman at the beginning not affected?
  • Apparently the movie takes place over a period of one or two days. In this time, scientists figure out what the chemical does, where it’s coming from, and have already organised press conferenes and TV interviews. Not to mention entire cities are evacuated.
  • Characters appear and disappear as needed. A random couple who know a lot about plants, a displaced Army private, and two random teenage boys (who are both shot about 10 minutes after they are introduced) and a psychotic old lady (the best and honestly scareist part of this movie) are amoung the cast of characters we get to “know” and “love.”
  • The kid in this movie (oh yeah, I forgot to mention the whole depressing John Leguizamo and his daughter subplot that ends with his death before the halfway point) has an Avatar: The Last Airbender backpack, foreshadowing another Shyamalan bomb.

I’m just scratching the surface here. There are SO many things wrong with this movie, that you have to experience it to truly understand. And it proves that just because you work really hard on something; it doesn’t mean it’s going to be any good.

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The Capture of Bigfoot

Title: The Capture of Bigfoot

Year: 1979

Got It For: $3.33

 When Bill Rebane made a movie, he made it a family affair, as evidenced by the credits for 1979’s “the Capture of Bigfoot.” The end scroll hardly had a line go by without a crew member‘s surname being  Rebane, and if it wasn’t Rebane then the person likely shared their name with at least one other person responsible for bringing us this snow covered gem. It seems that in the late ‘70’s there was a big Sasquatch/Yeti/Arak (the native name given to the legendary creature in this feature) fad going on, as this is one of long line of low-budget Bigfoot movies that hit the silver screen in that time period.

Whatcha gonna do, brother, when Arakamania and these 24 inch pythons run wild on you!

And oh boy, what a movie this is. We get our first full shot of Arak in the opening scene, foregoing any attempt to build atmosphere or tension through the wait to see what our monster looks like. See, some business man operating out of some backwoods ski resort in…uh…Place, USA, is obsessed with hunting down the legendary creature, and has hired a number of trappers to help him in his quest for surefire fame and fortune. Unfortunately for the trappers, the Arak they capture is merely a youngin’ and soon a full grown ape man appears to take them out. With a mighty sound that is not at all similar to some guy just yelling “BLLLEEEEUUGHGHGHGHGH!!!!” as he jumps out from behind a tree, Bigfoot grabs one trapper, turns him into floppy dummy, and tosses him face first into the snowbank before sending his partner home with fatal face wounds. As the park ranger and local Sherriff start to figure out what’s going on, the business man spirals into a blind murderous fury as everyone races to get their hands on Arak.

 

The first thirty minutes of this picture will have you laughing until your eyes bulge out of their sockets. The monster costumes, while not horrible in a technical sense (honestly the Bigfoot masks look pretty good) are still dopey looking and make it awkward for the actor to walk around in the snow. However, it starts to lose steam about halfway through. We’ve been given the payoff reveal of the monster in the first scene, so watching people traipse through the wood – often falling flat on their face in the snow- and arguing over the creature’s legitimacy starts to get boring pretty quickly. Still, this movie contains so many hilarious shots and sounds that a couple of screenshots can’t possibly hope to capture the magic. Highlights of the film include:

  •  A kid who sounds like Rocky the flying squirrel
  • High flying snowmobile accidents
  • Rodeo clowns at a ski racing event
  • A terrible band playing terrible music with terrible lyrics at a terrible dance party at the lodge
  • Boxes labeled “Explosives” left near burning welding torches
  • A car chase with one jump onto another car’s roof, one rollover, one explosion, and one hit-and-run

If you’re a fan of Bigfoot or poorly acted monster films in general, I say give this one a shot if you find it lying around somewhere.

 

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The Octagon

Title: The Octagon

Year: 1980

Got It For: $2.50 ($9.99 four movie set)

 

Watching The Octagon really shows how far action movies have devolved over the years. Oh, it’s a silly movie with cheesy acting and ludicrous characters, but it’s a look back at a time when something could be considered an action movie even if five minutes went by without something exploding. Even with its problems, it’s more gritty and graphic than much of today’s PG-13 (or 14A as we call it here) fare.

Chuck Norris plays Scott, a former martial arts competitor who was trained as a ninja throughout his childhood. When people around him start dying, Scott suspects his former “brother” may be training an army of terrorists as ninja assassins. When his best friend goes off like an idiot to take down the camp by himself, Scott finally decides he has to fight one more time to protect the people he cares about.

In spite of the hilarious plot and sub-par acting (which can’t be placed on Norris alone), the story mangages to create some suspense, as we really begin to wonder whether Scott can kill the man he considered his brother for the entirety of his formative years. However, certain elements of this film just put it too far over the top. We’re treated to Scott’s inner monologue (we know this because the voice is all echo-ey) throughout the movie, and the interspersed ninja training sequences are just too goofy to put any stock in. Oh, and no less than three women have the hots for Norris’s character over the course of the picture. There’s literally one for each act of the movie!  As one love interest is killed off, another immedietly takes her place.

The Octagon may feel a bit slow to today’s action movie audience, but if you want an early example of what made ‘80’s action movies awesome, this is a perfect example.

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Inner Sanctum Mysteries: Calling Dr. Death

Title: Calling Dr. Death

Year: 1943

Got It For: $5 (set of six movies).

I happen to be quite the fan of old radio dramas, especially ones of the thriller/horror varieties. Radio plays are quite the lost art these days, though you can still find them being made by a few broadcasters like the CBC and BBC. To my knowledge however, none of these are in the genre of suspense or horror, which in my opinion are the best for this type of audio drama. With breathless speeches from the characters, spooky sounds and eerie ambience the listener’s mind can create a vast canvas of the most horrifying things it can imagine. One of the best horror dramas ever on the radio was Inner Sanctum, which ran almost all the way through the 1940’s and into the ‘50’s. The series was so popular in fact that a series of six movies were made for Universal Pictures under the “Inner Sanctum” banner, a fact I was unaware of until I ran into a DVD of all six of these films on a $5 rack. All of the movies star Lon Chaney Jr. of Universal’s popular Wolf Man franchise. This brings us to our current feature, Calling Dr. Death.

Chaney plays Dr. Mark Steele, a successful neurologist with a talent for hypnotism. While Dr. Stelle is adept at unlocking the secrets of all his patients, his own life and mental health are a mess. He’s trapped in a loveless marriage with a woman only interested in his money, has a thing for his cute nurse, and is beginning to hear his own voice in his head suggesting that maybe life would be better with his wife out of the picture, *nudge nudge, wink wink.* One Monday morning, Steele wakes up to find his wife has been murdered and he can’t quite remember where he’s been all weekend. Hey, don’t act like it’s never happened to you! So is Steele really the killer? Is an innocent man going to the chair? Or is someone else behind the whole thing?

This film is actually quite good. Chaney and the rest of the cast deliver good performances, especially for what was a low budget picture, and the film is shot quite nicely with a decent DVD transfer. If you’re a fan of old fashioned mystery and suspense tales, it will do quite well for you. The film isn’t perfect however. Some of the superimposed “state of mind images” are a bit cheesy, and the famous Inner Sanctum host that bookended the radio program is nowhere to be found. We are, however, introduced to a man whom I refer to as “Mr. Crystal Ballhead.”

It clocks in at just over an hour, which was pretty standard for some low budget movies of the time, but it may come across as a bit of a ripoff at regular full price by itself. If the other five movies are as good as this one was though, it’s a steal as a set for five bucks.

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