Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Revisit: Going Overboard

A Trimark release 1989

Directed by Valerie Breiman

Written by Valerie Breiman & Scott LaRose & Adam Sandler

A struggling young comedian takes a menial job on a cruise ship where he hopes for his big chance to make it in the world of cruise ship comedy.

Going Overboard, Adam Sandler's first feature film, rests comfortably at #71 on IMDB's Bottom 100 list. It's the kind of film you'd find on the turn-style rack at your local supermarket - forgotten. Let's hope it stays that way.

Going Overboard is terribly humorless. It strains to wring laughs out of mean-spirited characters, a lame-duck plot, and piss poor production values. Of course some of the quality issues have to be forgiven - director Valerie Breiman made the film on a shoe-string budget while on a cruise - but it doesn't help when the script is an unfunny travesty to begin with. Sandler leans on the usual angry man-child schtick, though not quite as refined. The rest of the cast adds nothing. The result is a film that feels like a bunch of slapdash ideas with little comedic merit. Avoid at all costs.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Revisit: Transformers

A Dreamworks film 2007

Directed by Michael Bay

Written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman

An ancient struggle re-erupts on Earth between two extraterrestrial clans, the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons, with a clue to the ultimate power held by a young teenager.

Transformers is a big, loud, dumb movie. That would be fine - I'd expect nothing less, especially from Michael Bay - if it were fun. But it isn't. It's just big, loud, and dumb.

What's wrong with it? Two things, namely: the script, and the action. Writers Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman spend a lot of time dilly-dallying, wasting our time with corny jokes, backstory and general B.S. before getting to the action. When it finally comes, the robots move too quickly, with their 'transformations' so visually complex, that it's difficult to follow. The result: boring boring boring.

How hard is it to make giant robots fun? Get 'em smashing shit and we've got a movie! You would think pairing Michael Bay and giant friggin' robots would be a match made in heaven. Hopefully they up the ante with the sequel, due this summer, cause this first installment was quite the snoozefest.

Revisit: Starman

A Columbia Pictures release 1984

Directed by John Carpenter

Written by Bruce A. Evans & Raynold Gideon

While being pursued by the government, an alien takes the form of a young widow's husband and asks her to drive him from Wisconsin to Arizona.

Jeff Bridges scored an Academy Award nomination for his performance as an otherworldly being adjusting to life on Earth in this film from John Carpenter and producer Michael Douglas (yes, THAT Michael Douglas). Surprisingly, it's the only film ever made by John Carpenter to garner a nomination, and as a result, exists as proof that all you really need to do to get an Oscar is mix some ticks with a stutter and act like a retard. The film itself is fine, if not a little dated - Carpenter handles the romantic stuff surprisingly well, and the story is effective, despite more recent thematic advances in mainstream science fiction. If you're a Carpenter fan in need of another weapon in arguing why Carpenter was one of the masters of genre, Starman makes a great addition to your arsenal. Otherwise, I'd recommend it for a quiet night with the significant other, if they're down with older-type flicks with 80's nostalgia appeal.

Revisit: Undertow

A United Artists release 2004

Directed by David Gordon Green

Written by Joe Conway and David Gordon Green

Based on a story by Lingard Jervey

Tragedy besets a broken family when a mysterious uncle returns from prison with more on his mind than a happy reunion.

An unsettling film with a strong Southern voice, Undertow is a fine representation of David Gordon Green's skills as a director. While far from perfect - the script takes a while to get going, stumbles in some information reveals and relies a little heavily on Christ metaphors - Undertow is a captivating mix of melodrama, suspense, and horror. Green really makes the most of the setting, a Southern bayou, letting cinematographer Tim Orr really stretch his camera and get a good feel for the murky, hot, muddy surroundings. Performances from Josh Lucas, Jamie Bell, and Dermot Mulroney are more than passable, elevating the somewhat leaden script to a much scarier place. Ditto for composer Philip Glass's music, which certainly adds to the tension and moves many of the scenes. Under anyone else's supervision, Undertow may have been a sub-par or downright silly affair. But David Gordon Green and his crew make it something more: a sort of modern day Night of the Hunter, fairy-tale-esque and all the more tragic. Worth a watch.

Revisit: Blood Hook

A Troma Films release 1986

Directed by Jim Mallon

Written by Larry Edgerton & John Galligan

During a local fishing contest, people are being mysteriously dragged into the lake and killed by a giant fish hook.

For a D-list film revolving around "Muskie Madness" and a fishing rod wielding killer, Blood Hook is a surprisingly satisfying (and unsurprisingly hilarious) adventure. Shot in 6 weeks with a cast and crew of non-professionals, the film looks like crap but is campy fun and a testament to the independent spirit. It's no surprise the director, Jim Mallon, went on to be part of Mystery Science Theater 3000 - Blood Hook is the exact kind of film those guys love to trash. Yet at the same time, it manages to be aware of the inner-workings of the genre, subverting some of the slasher flicks most timeworn cliches, including characters like the idiotic punk-rock teen, shell-shocked war vet, among others. While the plot may be completely ridiculous and full of Midwestern inside jokes, information is never revealed too quickly, and the story keeps you guessing up until the very end. Far more intelligent than it looks, Blood Hook is perfect for anyone who loves well thought out, shoe-string DIY horror trash.