Sunday, December 6, 2015


In the month of November, I watched nine movies. All of them came from my local library or from area libraries connected to my local library through the Clevnet system.

The best of the bunch was The Final Girls [2015], a slasher horror-comedy written by M.A. Fortin and Joshua John Miller, and directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson. Miller is an actor. Strauss-Schulson was the director of A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas [2011]. Here’s the Internet Movie Database summary:

A young woman grieving the loss of her mother, a famous scream queen from the 1980s, finds herself pulled into the world of her mom's most famous movie. Reunited, the women must fight off the film's maniacal killer.

This is a clever film that respects the slasher movie genre as it pokes fun at it. Taissa Farmiga leads the very likeable cast as Max Cartwright whose mother Angela made her solitary claim to fame as Nancy, the most memorable victim of Camp Bloodbath. Angela is played by Malin Akerman. Joining Max in the world of the movie are best friend Gertie [Alia Shawkat], Gertie’s horror movie fanatic step-brother Duncan [Thomas Middleditch], Max’s crush Chris [Alexander Ludwig] and Vicki [Nina Dobrev], Chris’ ex-girlfriend and Max’s former best friend. These actors deliver good performances all around as their characters are forced to accept that they have, indeed, living in an old movie and are further challenged when they realized their presence has changed the movie’s plot...and not necessarily for the better.

The “final girl” of the title is the sole surviving cast member of movies like Camp Bloodbath. It’s a trope found in Halloween [1978] and many horror films, but upended in others. This movie plays with this classic trope in ways both comical and suspenseful. The result is a film that’s both a good horror movie and an often-hilarious comedy...a dichotomy it maintains brilliantly right to the end of the movie.

I love The Final Girls. It’s one of the best B-movies of the year and, as such, earns my highest recommendation.


The worst of the movies was Hot Pursuit [2015]. Here’s the quickie summary from IMDb:

An uptight and by-the-book cop tries to protect the outgoing widow of a drug boss as they race through Texas pursued by crooked cops and murderous gunmen.

I got this from my library because it starred Reese Witherspoon and SofĂ­a Vergara, two actors whose previous comedic performances have entertained me greatly. Not so in this movie.

Directed by Anne Fletcher from a screenplay by David Feeney and John Quaintance, what could have been an amusing combination of a female buddy movie and The Odd Couple failed miserably because the women played by the likeable Witherspoon and Vergara are thoroughly unlikeable. Witherspoon’s cop is so tightly wrapped around her rule book and her desire to live up to the legacy of her killed-in-the-line-of-duty hero cop father that she seems like she is channeling Barney Fife. Vergara’s widow is a treacherous diva, driven only by her greed and her desire for vengeance against the cartel boss who murdered her brother. Virtually every problem they encounter is of their own making and their escape from those dire circumstance can usually be chalked up to sheer dumb luck.

Not surprising given almost all of Feeney and Quaintance’s previous writing credits are for television sitcoms, Hot Pursuit feels like three episodes of a failed sitcom that a network was burning off to fill an hour-and-a-half while most of their viewers were watching some sporting event. Even if you’re watching it during Thanksgiving  weekend, as I did, avoid this turkey.


Detention (2011) is a horror satire film directed and co-written by Joseph Kahn, whose previous credits were music videos for Britney Spears and others.  Mark Palermo is the other writer of this movie, Kahn financed most of the movie himself. Here’s the quickie summary from IMDb:

As a copycat killer named after movie villain Cinderhella stalks the student body at Grizzly Lake High School, a group of students band together to survive while serving detention.

This movie left me with mixed emotions. There’s some clever stuff in it, such as the names of the cast and crew members appearing on brand-name products and other items. Some of the humor works, some of it is forced. There are unexpected twists that made me giggle a little because of their audacity. Ron Jeremy has a bit part, which is always a mistake because he is always the creepiest thing in any movie in which he appears. Despite several good moments, Detention seems longer than its 93-minute running time.

The bottom line...Detention is one of those B-movies that is okay when you have a hour-and-a-half to kill and you’re not particular about how you kill it. But it’s not going to be a move you’ll watch a second time.


Shockwave (2006), also known as A.I. Assault, marks the third time that director/co-writer Jay Andrews (a pseudonym for Jim Wynorski) has made the same movie. As faithful readers of this bloggy thing will recall, The Curse of the Komodo (2004) and Komodo vs. Cobra (2005), reviewed here on October 20, shared the same basic plot as describe in this IMDb summary:

When a plane carrying a pair of top secret military robots crashes on a deserted Pacific island, a team of Navy seals must find them and turn them off as soon as possible for the longer they are activated, the smarter they become.

Co-written by Bill Monroe, Shockwave replaces the giant creatures with giant war-machines that were pushed into testing before all of their bugs had been worked out. The murderous machines are hammers and all humans are the nails.

This made-for-TV movies boasts some familiar faces from other sci-fi movies and TV: Hudson Leick, Michael Dorn, Bill Mumy, Robert Picardo, George Takei and Tim Thomerson. Fresh from dying in those two komodo movies, Paul Logan, future star of Mega Piranha (2010), gets to die in this one, too.

Sad to say, the third time wasn’t the charm. The CGI war-machines are cluncky. The familiar plot elements - such as criminals holding up a casino and crash-landing on the island of the robots to face death with the Navy Seals and scientists - are wearing very thin in this third movie in as many years.

I don’t regret watching Shockwave once. How could I resist seeing how Wynorski - who usually makes much better movies - got a third film out of the same old plot? But I wouldn’t recommend this movie to anyone who wasn’t a big a Syfy Channel freak as I am.

War of the Satellites (1958) was the oldest movie I watching last month. It was a low-budget quicky made by the great Roger Corman to exploit the national shock and media frenzy of the Russians getting into space first with the launch of their Sputnik satellite. Corman directed the movie, which was written by Irving Block, Lawrence L. Goldman and Jack Rabin. Here’s the IMDb summary:

An "unknown force" declares war against planet Earth when the United Nations disobeys warnings to cease and desist in its attempts at assembling the first satellite in the atmosphere.
Dick Miller leads the case, playing a dependably heroic scientist. Susan Cabot is the dependably beautiful scientist who he falls in love with it, though the romance angle is downplayed. Richard Devon is a dead scientist being impersonated by an alien saboteur who can split into two people ala Duo Damsel.

From concept to final product, the movie reportedly was good to go in eight weeks. The special effects may look comical, but I thought the acting and the suspense were above average. While the movie is not remotely a classic, I would consider it a basic touchstone of the post-Sputnik science-fiction movies of the 1950s. I’m happy I finally got to see after all these years.

That’s a wrap for today, my friends. Hug your loved ones and keep them close. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella


  1. Hey, Tony! As always--love your reviews. But one quick observation. You wrote, "...whose mother Angela [played by Malin Akerman] made her solitary claim to fame as Nancy, the most memorable victim of Camp Bloodbath". Unless I'm reading this comment wrong, you seem to be suggesting that Malin Akerman's most famous role came in "Camp Bloodbath". I've never seem that epic, but Ms. Akerman has had many better known roles, including a starring turn on the TV series, "Trophy Wife", and in films like, "The Heartbreak Kid", "27 Dresses" and of course, as the Silk Spectre in "Watchmen". I KNOW you remember her from that role! Keep up the good work, Tony!

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