Thursday, July 4, 2013
Unfortunately, I’ve hit a rough patch where the films aren’t very
good...and that’s even by SyFy standards. Let’s start with the one
that’s most appropriate for today’s holiday...
Independence Daysaster  is a low-budget alien invasion movie
and a pale imitation of the big-budget 1996 Independence Day. The
only kind of cool thing about the newer movie is the heroes are the
President and his estranged brother. Out of communication after
his helicopter is brought down, the Prez must deal with a hawkish
Vice President without a lick of common sense and find some way to
strike back at the aliens. The brother is a firefighter who tries
to protect the Prez’s son and the son’s friends and who teams with
a SETI scientist to try to fight the aliens. Assisting the Prez,
a pair of young hackers. Not a bad band of heroes, but the acting
is shaky at best.
We never see the aliens. The attacks are carried out by spinning
drones and mechanical protrusions buried underground eons ago. How
perceptive of the aliens to not bury any of them near where there
would someday be oil or coal or anything else we might dig or drill
for and thus discover them. Such foresight.
Everything is controlled from a mother ship on the far side of the
moon. No fatal weakness there.
Everything about this movie is predictable. You know who is gonna
die and pretty much when. You know how that mother ship is gonna
go down. About the only surprise is the cheap-ass surprise ending
which shows more mother ships heading for Earth. Because we would
not want viewers feeling good about the good guys beating the bad
guys for more than thirty seconds. Give this one as wide a pass as
you can manage.
Piranha (2010) was the worst movie I’ve seen this year. It was
a vile exercise in gore. I’d call it “disaster porn,” but it was
too close up and personal to be elevated even to that lowly level.
Here are the two good things about the movie:
Richard Dreyfuss plays the first victim of the prehistoric piranhas
who enter our world after an earthquake opens up a crack in their
underground sea. He plays this character as an aging Matt Hooper
and there are other nods to Jaws as well. That was a funny notion.
Closer to the end of the movie, Ving Rhames plays a police officer
who jumps into water filled with piranhas and, wielding an outboard
motor as if it were a weed-whacker, slices and dices the murderous
fish to allow others to escape. He’s clearly being eaten by these
fish and does succumb to them, but, damn, that is one ridiculously
The rest of the movie? Lousy acting. Gore. Boobies for the sake of
boobies. Gore. Terrible people doing terrible things. Gore. The
sheriff and her kids...and her son’s girlfriend...and a scientist
survive the piranhas and destroy the piranhas. Only to have that
fleeting moment of relief and victory cruelly torn from them by a
shock ending that directly contradicts information about the fish
given by a scientist earlier in the film.
This is a sick film. The crazy gore doesn’t succeed as dark humor.
It panders to sadists. If I hadn’t borrowed the movie from my local
library, I would have taken a weed-whacker to it. Stay away from
this bloody turd.
The original Piranha (1978) was kind of sort of a parody of Jaws.
Steven Spielberg called it “the best of the Jaws ripoffs.” Though
I haven’t seen the movie in decades, I remember it as being solid
B-movie entertainment. So, hoping to get the bad taste of the new
Piranha out of my mouth and with the original Piranha not available from
my library, I watched Piranha II: The Spawning (1981).
Piranha II must have had a smaller budget than Piranha. The killer
piranhas are government-created hybrids of piranha and other fish,
including flying fish. So we got scene after scene of these silly
creatures flying like bats in a low-budget vampire film and scene
after scene of the actors holding these creatures to their necks to
simulate the fish eating them. Hilarious stuff that.
The good guys are a diving instructor, her estranged husband, their
son, and a government scientist turned whistle blower. They have
their flaws, but are all more likeable than the characters in the
2010 Piranha. While The Spawning has a reasonably high body count,
the movie spends time with most of these future victims and so makes
their deaths more than points on a scoreboard.
The movie is set at a Caribbean hotel that caters to tourists on a
budget. That allows the flamboyant hotel manager to assume a role
somewhat equivalent to that of the mayor of Amity in Jaws. Why do
such guys never consider the lawsuits that must surely follow their
depraved disregard for the well-being of their customers/tourists?
Even a so-so lawyer could make bank on those lawsuits.
Some interesting notes:
Piranha II was the directorial debut of James Cameron, the guy who
keeps stealing ideas for his movies. The version of the film I watched
is likely his re-editing of the original.
The estranged husband is played by a so young Lance Henriksen that
I didn’t recognize him at first. His performance isn’t especially
noteworthy, but good enough for a B-movie.
Piranha II: The Spawning ain’t no work of cinematic art. But it’s
a fun way to kill an hour-and-a-half and that was all I required of
it. Worth watching once.
I had never seen Dogora, the 1964 science fiction film from Toho,
so I bought the DVD and watched it with my son Eddie. Actually, I
watched it twice because both Ed and I fell asleep during my first
viewing of the film. And, yeah, that’s mostly on the movie, which
seems a whole lot longer than its 83 minutes.
A blob-like alien lifeform takes out a satellite and then commences
to chowing down on diamonds and related minerals. It’s a cool idea
for a creature, but the special effects of 1964 weren’t up to the
challenge of making it look cool. Even a low-budget remake could
overcome this shortcoming.
The human supporting cast is interesting and varied. You have this
gang of diamond thieves with a sexy treacherous woman among them.
You have the shady insurance investigator who claims to be working
with Interpol, but I’m not sure I buy it. You have a scientist and
his lovely assistant and a young police detective. I enjoyed the
people scenes more than the monster scenes.
There was no excitement or tension to Dogora. It just meandered,
slowly meandered, from start to finish. The second viewing was no
more enjoyable than the first, though I am tempted to watch it one
more time in the original Japanese with English subtitles. Maybe
that will make for a better experience.
Dogora is not recommended unless, like me, you have a serious Toho
Studios jones. Maybe this is a cry for help.
Mighty Peking Man is a 1977 film from Hong Kong made to cash in on
the 1976 American remake of King Kong. I only seen a small portion
of the movie prior to getting it through my local library system.
It screams its humble origins with its often laughable man-in-suit
special effects, but it also has some cool stuff and, with a couple
of exceptions, a cast of unlikeable characters. Even the apparent
hero of the movie, an explorer and hunter whose girlfriend did the
nasty with his TV producer brother, doesn’t act admirably some of
the time. I’ll get to him in a moment.
Here’s a quick recap of the movie...
Giant monster ape destroys village. Word gets to Hong Kong. Big
sleazy promoter hires hero to catch the ape, but leaves the hero to
die in the jungle when things get bad. Hero is saved by beautiful
blonde girl raised by giant monster ape. Hero convinces beautiful
girl to bring giant monster ape to Hong Kong so promoter and hero
can get rich. Stupid greedy hero.
Giant monster ape is mistreated, but takes it because of his love
for the girl he raised. Hero shares a steamy moment with his old
girlfriend, breaking nice jungle girl’s heart. Jungle girl tries
to free giant monster ape. Promoter tries to rape jungle girl. He
shouldn’t ought to have done that.
Giant monster ape breaks loose. Kills promoter. Beats up on city
pretty good. Nasty British police chief calls out all the troops
to kill giant monster ape, even tricking reconciled hero and jungle
girl into calming giant monster ape down. Things do not end well
for anyone. King Kong decides this movie couldn’t have made enough
money to be worth the lawsuit.
This is silly B-movie fun and worth watching once. If I ever get
my own monster movie show - I’d call myself Terrible Tony and make
rude jokes at the commercial breaks and, like Ghoulardi, blow up a
variety of things - I would air this movie.
That’s my B-movie round-up. I’ll be back tomorrow with something
else. Lord knows what. I’m a wild man.
© 2013 Tony Isabella