Directed by Hope Perello
Starring Bruce Payne, Brendan Hughes, Michele Matheson
BMM Keywords: Dull, gratuitous chicken-eating.
An English drifter, Ian, wanders into a little town in America
on the trail of a travelling freakshow. He helps the local Preacher repair his
fence while romancing the man's daughter, checks out the exhibits of the
freakshow, then goes all hairy at the full moon.
It turns out that the man who runs the circus - Harker (Payne) - killed our nice drifter's family and left him with a nasty case of lycanthropy. Before he can get his revenge however, it turns out that Harker can trigger the change with a chant, and young Ian is outcast from the town and locked in a cage at the freakshow. He escapes, has sex with the girl, kills most of the freaks and then takes out Harker with the aid of fellow abused freak, the Amazing Alligator Boy (who is pissed because Harker killed his pet cat, which doesn't quite rival whole family killed).
Oh; and Harker is some kind of blue-faced vampire thing, and explodes in sunlight.
Ian and Alligator Boy stagger off into the sunrise. The End.
Oh, where to begin? Well, the characters are unengaging, the actors - so-called - can't act and the special effects aren't special. The werewolf looks less like a ravening wolfman than a pissed off guy in a monkey suit, and the vampire is strangely blue. The rest of the freaks just aren't very scary - a dwarf, a geek and a hermaphrodite; gosh, how terrifying.
While certain whys and wherefores are ill-explained, the basic plot is sound and if the script isn't gold, it at least steers clear of any major howlers, if you'll excuse the pun.
Well, for the sixth movie in the Howling series, it's really not that bad; it's just no damn good either.
Okay, so there's this scene where Harker forces Ian to turn into the wolf and gives him a cat to dismember for the enjoyment of the audience, but he just pets it and lets it go. Call me a big sap, but I was moved.
Production values: Low. As noted, the special effects are all naff makeup, and the werewolf transformation is one of the less spectacular exponents of the breed. 14
Dialogue and performances: Well, Brucey is the definite acting highpoint here. I'll let you deal with that in your own ways; I recommend a soothing cuppa. 15
Plot and execution: The plot is straightforward enough, but the execution is cack-handed at best. The film isn't hard to sit through, but it is hard to keep your attention on it. 16
Randomness: Impressively little, once you get past the freakshow concept and its attached baggage of mutant carnies. 8
Waste of Potential: Well, it's not as good as The Howling, but it's better than the other four. 9
Directed by Michael Anderson
Starring Richard Crenna, Ben Cross, Paul Gross, Julie Cox
BMM Keywords: Dull, so bad it hurts, gratuitous pseudo-Shakespearean cross-dressing, heinous mangling of a classic movie, heinous mangling of a classic novel
With Atlantic shipping in the Victorian age beset by some
kind of maritime prankster who delights in ramming ships, the authorities ask
Professor Arronax (Crenna) to investigate the possibility that the attacker is a
'proto-leviathan', an unevolved deep-sea relict of a past age. With harpoonist
Ned Land (Gross) on board to bag the beast, and the professor's daughter Sophie
disguised, not very convincingly, as a boy, with the subtle pseudonym of
'Charles Darwin' - the good ship Abraham Lincoln sets out. The 'beast' resists
harpoons and cannon fire, and rams the ship, spilling everyone with a name into
the water to be rescued by Captain Nemo (Cross) and the submarine Nautilus. But then you
Professor Arronax buddies up with Nemo, while the good Captain and Mr Land go nose-to-nose in pursuit of Sophie (Nemo's opening gambit: 'My daughter would have been the same age as you if she wasn't dead') and Ned tries to escape. Nemo tries to have Ned bumped off, but fails. The Nautilus sinks the Abe Lincoln as Nemo's declaration of war on the imperial powers who invaded his small and non-specific country and killed his family.
The ship gets attack by a proto-leviathan (what, no squid?), which Neddy kills. Nemo lets his prisoners go, submerging under them just to fuck with their heads before releasing a life raft and sailing away.
Well, the Nautilus is a good place to start.
It's a masterpiece of retro design that looks like it comes right out of Austin
Powers. When Sophie and her father change into Nautilus uniforms you can just
imagine Nemo asking 'do you like your quasi-futuristic outfits? I designed them
myself'. The alarm klaxon sounds way too modern, and is in fact the exact same
noise as the siren in the military base in Terminator 3. The whole thing looks
less like a cool, grandiose Victorian steampunky design than like a Disney
Then there's the master of the Nautilus. The guy clearly wants to be James Mason, and is also way too English to be the king-in-exile of a conquered land, even if he was Oxford educated. Plus, the whole thing of him macking on a girl he admits is young enough to be his daughter is just a little grotesque. The rest of the cast do little better: Paul Gross is dully macho, Crenna is blandly patrician and Cox is tediously winsome.
Which brings me to the problem of Sophie. Clearly interjected to add some breasts to the proceedings, the character is a blatant anachronism. This wouldn't matter so much if they didn't draw attention to it by having her dress up as a principle boy and then have Ned goggle at being introduced to 'Mr' Darwin, since she's clearly nothing of the kind. Her presence further reduces the ideological conflict between Land and Nemo to macho chest-beating.
The dialogue is stilted and reeks of bad rep theatre, with lines like: "Are you Professor Arronax, Holder of the Chair of Marine Biology at Harvard Universtiy?" 'Why no,' you feel the answer should come. 'I'm just breaking into his lab and his assistants haven't noticed yet'.
Finally, the film clearly models a lot of its content on the old Disney Leagues, which was a far superior film, and when a fifty year old Disney film kicks your arse in the special effects field, you know you're in trouble.
Well, not a lot really, save perhaps that what I saw was cut down from a miniseries which one must assume contained more of the same.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is an aggressive
waste of filmstock. The action is dull, the romance bland and the human interest
utterly lacking. Cross' attempt to simulate the mannered performance of James
Mason only makes you yearn for the older version, and indeed Cox's huge
eyes do little but put one in mind of Peter Lorre, who essentially played her
Some might miss Ned Land's 'Got a Whale of a Tale' sea shantying antics, but on the plus side at least Paul Gross doesn't get to sing.
When the giant squid has the sub on the surface, and Nemo tells them they are about to go face-to-face with the most tenacious of all sea beast...Oh, wait; that's the old Disney version. Never mind then.
The proto-leviathan? I mean, what did they think? 'The giant squid is passé; let's do something different'. It's like the director who decided that the 'to be or not to be' soliloquy had been done to death and left it out of his version of Hamlet.
The dinner-party introductions? 'My name is professor Arronax.' 'Not the famous marine biologist?' 'No; I'm a plumber. I work with daleks. On a ship at sea. Yes! The marine biologist!'
Nemo's appeal-to-incest chat-up lines? Yick.
Production values: A version of the film from fifty years before kicked this film's arse in every element of production, from design to special effects. 20
Dialogue and performances: Painfully stilted performances from wooden actors playing cookie-cutter characters. Nemo is without nobility, Arronax without dignity, Land without integrity and Sophie without...well, any defining features but the exceptionally obvious. The dialogue is the worst however; trite to the point of being insulting. 18
Plot and execution: This is a film without narrative drive. Everyone just meanders through, without goals, deadlines or pressures. The whole thing is a soggy mess, without tension or drama. What a mess. 18
Randomness: Not a whole lot, but God damnit! I want a giant squid! Bonus points for removing the giant squid. I mean, this is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; we expect a squid. We deserve a squid after two-and-a-half-hours of this stinkburger! 16
Waste of potential: Disney did better with this classic story of gripping adventure! Bunch of Muppets. And not the funny kind of Muppets. 20,000 Muppets Under the Sea I'd pay to see, I tells ya. 20
Directed by John Mostow
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Clare Danes and Kristanna Loken
BMM Keywords: So bad it's good, temporal disjunction, egregious philosophy, confused.
So, in 1984 a cyborg was sent back in time to assassinate
a waitress named Sarah Connor before she could give birth to her son John, the
man who would lead the human race to victory against intelligent machines of its
own creation. But - and this was the clever bit - the humans sent back a
soldier named Reese to protect her, who ended up fathering John, as John,
something of a father figure to Reese, always knew he would. The future cannot
be changed, you see, because for those trying to change it it has already
happened, including their intervention.
In 1991 a second cyborg was sent back to kill John as a young boy. This time the defender was an older model of cyborg, because Arnie was a big star playing heroes now. With the aid of the good Terminator, Sarah and John stopped the machines ever being created. You see, the future can be changed because it is not written.
But now another machine has come back, a foxy female 'Terminatrix' with a taste for fast cars and leather. With John Connor an untraceable cypher in the system, she goes after his support crew, including future wife - I apologise if you think this is spoilery, but seriously; duh - Kate Brewster. Another T101 is sent to protect John and Kate, with the twist...Well, I'll leave this unspoilered since it's the movie's one good idea. Anyway, car chases and gunfights, then John and Kate try to stop Kate's father allowing Skynet to take over the world, because you see the future can only be delayed. Events can be changed, but some inexorable force of fate exists that brings on Judgement Day and draws Kate and John together.
Judgement falls, and the once-doubtful John steps up to the plate swinging. It's all kinda uplifting.
Okay, the issues with the schitzophrenic nature of time travel now dealt with, I shall leave them aside and judge the film on its other merits or lack thereof.
T3's problems are many, but first of all it's redundant.
The need for Terminator 2 was questionable; sure the end of Terminator was dark,
but it was supposed to be. Nevertheless, T2 picked up the story, took it in new
directions, and did something new; mostly - as noted - by reversing the central
conceit. With T2 over, the story felt even more closed than before, and the only
real reason to make T3 is to make money. The fact that of the central
participants in the first two movies only Arnie was on board for this one
suggests it might also be an ego thing.
Next up is Sarah Connor, dead these five years of leukaemia. Save the world, die of leukaemia; great. Right up there with survive the nest of aliens only to die in a shoddily-built Marine strike vessel.
Poor bloody Newt. What is it about women who survive James Cameron films and are felt redundant for the sequel that they have to die?
But I digress. The point is that, even if you feel this is no longer Sarah's story, she deserves better than to have died offscreen of cancer. And don't tell me the world isn't fair; this is a movie, and dramatic rules should apply. She at least deserves to die on Judgement Day doing something meaningful. The fact is they were clearly pissed at Linda Hamilton for not doing the movie.
T3 lacks structure. It's essentially a sequence of chase and fight sequences, strung together without a coherent arc to support and bind them together, with the result that the film does not really stick in the mind. Good thing, too, since it doesn't hold up to too much consideration. If you stop to think you really start to wonder - for example - how a veterinarian, a delinquent-looking fugitive from justice with no official existence and a heavily-armed Austrian with metal showing through the skin of his face manage to not only gain swift and easy access to a top-secret, maximum security military research facility, but manage to show up unheralded in the nerve centre of the operation with a shotgun.
The main characters manage to be likeable, if not particularly engaging, and you kind of care about them. The incidentals are a different matter however and whether it's a directorial issue or just changing times, in Terminator and even T2 you felt something for the poor schmucks who get wasted during the Terminator's hunt for it's true quarry. In this film, you couldn't care less about the schlubs who might have grown up to be John Connor's inner circle, in part because they're such a pack of losers that you just know they'd grow up to be the whiney anime heroes with entitlement issues.
Redundant or not, T3 does manage a different take on the
time-travel plot with its quasi-religious overwhelming destiny notions. As noted
above, the characters are fairly sympathetic for this genre, perhaps because
Arnie is the focus of the crass machismo. And okay, I kind of felt for the poor
woman with Munchausen's syndrome by kitty.
Oh yeah, and the special effects are pretty goddamn good.
T3 is the ultimate candyfloss movie. Good enough while it lasts, but no real substance and swiftly forgotten. It's a fun movie and not a waste of time if you don't want anything earth-shattering.
When Kate briefly escapes her strange captors she is introduced to post-trauma councillor Dr Silberman, another hold-over from both previous movies. When she tells him 'he wasn't human', Silberman assures her that he's been in hostage situations himself. He then goes distant and strange as he explains how they make you see things: "Crazy things. Impossible things. Insane things."
The TX being able to control mechanical machines? I mean, I get it can monkey with electronics and computers, but how is it driving those cars?
Arnie and friends just strolling into a top-security base?
The TX expanding her breast size to distract a traffic cop? This is not a machine working through subtlety here. I mean, it's not like she isn't just going to kill him anyway; why bother trying anything else first?
Kate being able to command the Terminator, but it refusing to let her go?
Production values: Top notch. Absolutely no complaints here. 0
Dialogue and performances: Actually fairly decent, although some of the jokes are a little flat. The TX lacks a little of Robert Patrick's reptilian menace, but Arnie is right at home here. Stahl and Danes seem a little ill at ease, but do pretty well. 5
Plot and execution: Oh dear; and it was all going so well. This film doesn't have a plot so much as it does a premise and some action scenes. It's an extended chase, as are the other two Terminators, but more disjointed; less coherent. It also suffers from an error of conception, in that it never needed to be made at all -in as much as any movie needs to be made. 14
Randomness: Strange ramblings on destiny, lax security in the most sensitive government installations. Captain; there be randomness here. 15
Waste of potential: I'm torn on this one. On the one hand I didn't expect too much, on the other I felt there was a better movie in there. I have to go to the middle ground I think. 10