Adventures in Cleaning Out The DVR: Lake Placid vs. Anaconda (dir by A.B. Stone)


After I finished watching Stolen Daughter, I decided to take a break from watching Lifetime films.  So, for my next DVRed movie, I watched Lake Placid vs. Anaconda.  Lake Placid vs. Anaconda premiered on the SyFy Channel on April 25th.  It was the first original SyFy film of the year and so, of course, my friends, the Snarkalecs, and I had to watch and record it.

Lake Placid vs. Anaconda is a bit of a tribute to such classic monster movies as King Kong vs. Godzilla and … well, any other movie where Godzilla ended up fighting another big monster.  In this case, it’s a battle between the giant crocodiles from the Lake Placid films and the giant snakes from the Anaconda films.  However, it’s not really much of a battle.  The crocodiles don’t really meet the snakes until the last 20 minutes of the film and the battle pretty much ends in a draw.

Instead, the majority of the film deals with the typical collection of SyFy character types trying to escape from the beach and surrounding wilderness without getting devoured.  There’s a group of sorority girls, all of whom are basically slaves to the hilariously bitchy Tiffani (Laura Dale, who appears to be having a lot of fun with her role).  There’s the tough, no-nonsense Sheriff (Yancy Butler), who always seems to be on the verge of declaring that she’s “too old for this …. shit!”  There’s the forest ranger (Corin Nemec) who is trying to rescue his daughter, who happens to be one of the sorority girls.

My favorite group, however, was a group of mercenaries hired by Sarah Murdoch (Annabel Wright), the evil CEO of Wexel Pharmaceuticals.  Sarah is so evil that she even talks about her evil plans while casually undressing in front of her subordinates.  Now, I have to be honest.  I have sat through this movie twice and I’m still not quite sure what Sarah’s evil plan actually was.  It involved a blood orchid and capturing an anaconda.  But, regardless of what the actual scheme was, Sarah and the mercenaries were so melodramatic that it was impossible not to be entertained by them.

Anyway, Lake Placid vs. Anaconda takes way too long to get the creatures on screen together and the final battle is a bit of a let down.  Fortunately, however, Robert Englund is there to joyfully chew up all the scenery until the crocodiles and the snakes arrive.  Englund is playing a crocodile hunter.  He drinks too much, he talks too much, and he’s missing an eye, a leg, and an arm.  Englund appears to be having a lot of fun playing the role and he’s the best thing in the movie.

Lake Placid vs. Anaconda really can’t compare to any of the excellent shark films that would later premiere on SyFy in July but it’s worth seeing for Annabel Wright and Robert Englund.

 

Film Review: Trancers II (1991, dir. Charles Band)


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Well, it sure took them a long time to get back to this series. Actually, they did shoot a sequel before this, but I’ll get to that one after I finish the main releases. This one picks up six years after the events of the first one. In that one we left Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) and Lena Deth (Helen Hunt) in the past of Los Angeles. We also got a short sequel bait at the end in the form of McNulty in his female ancestor’s little girl body. For this installment they appear to have gotten back just about every single person of consequence.

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Jack and Lena Deth

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Art LaFleur as McNulty in future

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Biff Manard as Hap Ashby

Even Telma Hopkins returns as Raines and she was barely in the movie.

Even Telma Hopkins returns as Raines and she was barely in the movie.

The setup here is that Hap Ashby got clean and made a bunch of money in commodity speculation. He needs it since he has taken up the hobby of collecting firetrucks. Jack and Lena live with Ashby on his estate. Whistler’s brother is in the past so that means more Trancers are on their way. McNulty is going to go back in time again into his ancestor along with a time machine. The idea is to bring Jack back to the future with Whistler’s brother in tow. Jack’s body in the future is unsuitable to come back to so he needs to return in his new body. There you go, sequel!

Before I continue, take a look at those screenshots. They do those close portrait shots of the actors a lot in this movie. My guess is not that they couldn’t get the actors in the same place all the time, but that they thought that might happen. As a result, they used that consistently throughout just in case the situation arose. Enter the Trancers!

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That’s when one more actor makes a return. Not sure how, but seven years or so after the production of the original Trancers, they got Alyson Croft to reprise her role as McNulty’s ancestor. I think I enjoyed her performance in this movie the most. I love her entrance into the film. She shows up having some trouble riding a bike before falling over.

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However, while McNulty may have trouble riding a bike, he apparently has no issues putting on makeup.

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This is when one more little important piece of information is dropped on us. In the first film we found out that Jack’s wife was killed by a Trancer. However, in this one we find out that someone was sent back to shortly before she died. They sent her consciousness back in time so that this movie can have some funny scenes between Jack and his two wives.

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This is Alice Stillwell played by Megan Ward. You see, while Jack got sent back into the body of Philip Deth shortly after having sex and McNulty ended up in a pretty and funny young girl, Jack’s wife ended up in the body of a mental patient. And not just a mental patient anywhere either.

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That’s Whistler’s brother who goes by the name Dr. Wardo played by the late Richard Lynch. And he has a sidekick.

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Honestly, if the credits hadn’t told me that was Jeffrey Combs, then I could have easily missed that fact. I really have no idea what Lynch and Combs are up to in this movie. It doesn’t matter. Jack needs to rescue his wife and kill Lynch. It’s that simple.

The long second makes a return! Jack makes good use of it to singe some Trancers. He then comforts three ladies who saw the Trancers disappear by telling them it’s okay because they’re biodegradable. The lines in this just aren’t as good as the first one. Alice also uses the long second to hide the time machine after she finds it. It’s not important why it’s near her. It’s for the same reasons why she is even in this movie. It’s convenient for the plot.

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Meanwhile, Alyson Croft continues to be the funniest person in this movie, which is humorous considering Helen Hunt would go on to do Mad About You and Tim Thomerson was once a standup comedian.

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Jack shows up and rescues Alice while they are moving her. There’s a short exchange where she says he’s the only man she’s slept with, she passes out, and he’s says it wasn’t that bad. Kinda funny, but nothing in this movie is as memorable as lines like “Beef? You mean like from a cow?” or “I’m from another time, another world. I don’t even know what you people eat for lunch.”, which were in the first film.

There’s some screwball stuff here between Jack, Lena, and Alice, but who really cares. Trancers show up, Ashby starts drinking again, and Alyson Croft continues to be funny.

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Now our four Musketeers set out to take down Lynch and Combs. But first we get a cameo appearance by one of director Charles Band’s other movies.

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I’ll probably review that eventually. The only really important plot point left here is that Jack is going to have to send Alice back in the time machine since otherwise she’ll die shortly after returning to her body. I say it’s time for highlights.

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The good guys win in a final showdown with Lynch, Combs, and their henchmen. Jack sends Alice back to the future in the time machine after a parting kiss. McNulty returns to his body to inform Raines that Jack has a new home in the past. Then Jack and Lena kiss just like at the end of the first movie.

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But unlike the end of the first movie, there’s no hint at a sequel here. However, they must have changed their minds because there are five more films in this franchise. This one was definitely a step down from the first. Honestly, I really only recommend it if you are a big fan of the first like I am. We’ll see what’s next for Jack Deth in Trancers III (1992).

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Adventures In Cleaning Out The DVR: Stolen Daughter (dir by Jason Bourque)


After I finished watching Lost Boy earlier today, I realized that it was time to rewatch and review Stolen Daughter.  Stolen Daughter originally had its Lifetime premiere on July 26th.  I watched it and, if I remember correctly, I had a lot of fun live-tweeting it.  So, why hadn’t I reviewed Stolen Daughter up until this point?  The final week of July was not an easy one for me.  The world seemed angry (this was the same week that Cecil the Lion was killed in Zimbawe), I was dreading the idea of getting older, and — briefly — I was too overwhelmed by all the angst to write.  It happens.

But anyway, enough about me and my obsessive personality!  Let’s talk about Stolen Daughter!

As Stolen Daughter opens, Martha Dixel (Rachel Hayward) is on the verge of being released from prison.  After shooting the drunk driver who killed both her husband and her daughter, Martha was convicted of manslaughter.  She’s been both a model inmate and psychiatric patient and, now that she’s been paroled, she has no intention of ever returning to prison.  However, the world is not quite ready to accept Martha’s freedom.  As she leaves prison, she is greeted by people protesting her release.  Then, after dealing with all that, Martha is struck by a van.

As a result of getting hit by that van, a dazed Martha now believes that both her husband and her daughter are still alive.  After the driver gets out to check on her, Martha steals his van.  After driving around for a while, Martha thinks that she sees her daughter at a local playground.  Drawing a gun, Martha kidnaps her “daughter” and, after tossing her into the van, drives off to meet up with her “husband.”

Of course, the teenage girl who Martha had kidnapped is not her daughter.  Instead, her name is Sarah Wilkins (Sarah Dugdale) and she is the daughter of Stacy Wilkins (Andrea Roth).  Stacy happens to be a police detective and, as soon as she learns that her daughter has been kidnapped, Stacy demands to be put on the case.

However, Stacy has demons of her own.  She had been on psychiatric leave after being involved in a hostage situation that led to the hostage being killed in front of her and has only recently returned to active duty.  As a result, the condescending detective who has been put in charge of the case — a real prick named Barker (Josh Byer, who has appeared in several other films directed by Stolen Daughter‘s director, Jason Bourque) — refuses to let Stacy anywhere near the investigation.

And so, working on her own, Stacy tries to track down her daughter.  Meanwhile, Sarah has to figure out how to keep the increasingly unstable Martha from snapping even further.

There are literally hundreds of Lifetime films that center around kidnapped daughters but what sets Stolen Daughter apart is that Martha is a much more complex character than we traditionally expect to find in these movies.  When we first meet Martha, it’s impossible not to feel sympathy for her.  Even after she gets hit by that van and kidnaps Sarah, the film makes it clear that Martha is not in control of what she’s doing.  As the film progresses, Martha becomes more and more unstable and we start to realize just how dangerous she actually is.  Even though she’s frightening by the end of Stolen Daughter, you still can’t help but feel for her.

Sarah Dugdale’s had a pretty busy year on both the Lifetime and SyFy networks.  Not only has she had to deal with a Sorority Murder but she also found herself trapped in The Hollow and was one of the Sugarbabies.  She did a good job in those movies and she does a good job here as well.  Finally, Andrea Roth totally kicks ass in the role of Stacy.  Check out the scene where she beats up a guy while searching for daughter.  I am so totally going to learn how to do that!

Stolen Daughter was directed by Jason Bourque, who has been responsible for some of the more entertaining movies to show up on both Lifetime and the SyFy network over the past two years.  Along with writing my favorite SyFy film, End of the World, he also directed a film, called Black Fly, that I think everyone should see.

One good thing about Lifetime is that they reshow all of their movies like a hundred times.  So, keep an eye out for Stolen Daughter.

Dark Carnival: NIGHTMARE ALLEY (20th Century Fox, 1947)


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Swashbuckling matinee idol Tyrone Power was cast against type as a self-centered con artist who gets his comeuppance in  1947’s offbeat noir NIGHTMARE ALLEY. Power and director Edmund Goulding teamed the previous year for the hit THE RAZOR’S EDGE, and the star desperately wanted his next movie to be based on the dark novel by William Lindsay Gresham. Studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck didn’t like the idea, but since Power was 20th Century-Fox’s biggest star, he agreed to greenlight the film. Turned out Zanuck’s instincts were right: audiences rejected the handsome Power in the role of a heel, and although he received good reviews for his performance, NIGHTMARE ALLEY bombed at the box office. Today it’s regarded as one of the genre’s best, its unique backdrop and theme setting it apart from other noirs of the era.

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Stan Carlisle (Power), the type of guy who could talk a cat off a fish wagon (as my grandmother used to say) loves everything…

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Netflix Halloween Hangover : “Kristy”


Trash Film Guru

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Next (and last) in our little “Netflix Halloween Hangover” mini-round-up we have 2014’s Kristy, a flick that, like Bound For Vengeance, plays upon the “damsel in distress” theme, but unlike it, does so more from the traditional angle of trying to prevent something bad from happening rather than showing us nothing but events that play out well after most of the shit’s already hit the fan (also, like that film, it was added to the Netflix streaming queue with scant hours to go before Halloween itself was over, so I think I can be forgiven for getting this review in a bit “late,” as it were). Care to guess if I liked this one any better?

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Anchored by a very strong lead performance from Haley Bennett and the taut, suspenseful direction of Oliver Blackburn, Kristy is an almost unbearably tense affair that, admittedly, takes some time to…

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Netflix Halloween Hangover : “Bound To Vengeance”


Trash Film Guru

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I guess it’s fair to say that this review and the next are coming to you as an act of “digital housekeeping,” if you will, in that I meant to include them as part of my “Netflix Halloween 2015” round-up, but sadly ran out of time. So, in the spirit of “better late than never,” I present to you a (very) short addendum to last month’s over-arching theme that we’ll call “Netflix Halloween Hangover” simply because, hey, it’s a Sunday evening and I can’t really think of any snappier title than that. My apologies.

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First under the microscope we have 2015’s Bound For Vengeance, which was also released in various overseas territories under the decidedly uninspired (if understandable) title of Reversal, a flick that bills itself as turning the tables on classic “rape/revenge” horror “thrillers” but that really does nothing of the sort because, well — when you…

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Review: Ash vs. Evil Dead Season 1 Episode 3 “Books From Beyond”


The adventures of Ash Williams, humanity’s only hope, continued last night on Starz.  The third episode of Ash Vs. Evil Dead found Ash going to an occult book store and essentially screwing things up and getting at least one person killed.

That’s not really a big shock.  That’s pretty much what Ash Williams does.  He’s been fighting the Evil Dead for longer than I’ve been alive and he still doesn’t quite seem to know what he’s doing.  I mean, let’s be honest — if Ash would stop reading aloud from that book, the entire world would have been saved a lot of trouble.  Really, we should all hate Ash but how can you hate Bruce Campbell?

It’s undeniably true that for many of us, Ash and Bruce Campbell pretty much are interchangeable.  That’s a bit unfair to Bruce, who seems to be a much more intelligent person than Ash and I also assume that Bruce is probably less likely to indulge in as much casual racism as Ash.  That said, I have a feeling that if I ever meet Groovy Bruce in person, I will be disappointed to discover that he actually has two hands.

And really, Bruce-as-Ash is the main appeal of a show like Ash vs. Evil Dead.  Don’t get me wrong.  I think Dana DeLorenzo is great as Kelly and Ray Santiago has his moments as Pablo.  So does Jill Maries Jones, even if the character of Detective Jones feels a bit underwritten.  Lucy Lawless was in last night’s episode, playing the mysterious Ruby Knowby and I can’t wait until she and Bruce actually get to share some scenes together because I think the Ruby/Ash confrontation is going to be amazing.

But, ultimately, we’re all watching for Bruce-as-Ash.  There’s a reason why Ash gets his name in the title.

As for last night’s episode, Ash took his copy of The Necronomicon to Books from Beyond, so he could get the store’s owner, Lionel Hawkins (Kelson Henderson), to read from it and hopefully find a way to send the Deadites back to Hell.  There was something really endearing about how excited Lionel was to see The Necronomicon and discover that he hadn’t been wasting his life.  Of course, unfortunately, Lionel ended up getting killed but not before he got the best line of the night: “The book is harmless except when wielded by someone very evil or very stupid.”

Ash’s bright idea, of course, was to summon another demon that would presumably then defeat the Deadites.  (Somehow, Ash got it into his head that this was actually Pablo’s idea.)  From the minute the demon showed up and Lionel warned Ash not to break the circle, I knew that Ash was going to break the circle.

As a result of Ash being Ash, Lionel was killed.  Fortunately, Kelly was there to somehow vanquish the demon by hitting it over the head with The Necronomicon.  Also there was Detective Fisher, who was still investigating her partner’s mysterious death.  Ash ended up handcuffing her to a shelf and apparently forgot about her.  Either that or Ash seriously didn’t realize that Lionel would come back as a Deadite and that the handcuffed Fisher would apparently have no way to escape him.

So, will Fisher escape?  Things didn’t look good for her at the end of last night’s episode but I have a feeling Lucy Lawless will show up and save her.

As for Ash — well, as he put it last night: “At heart, I’m an alone wolf.”

You certainly are, Ash.  You certainly are.