January Positivity: Seven Days Away (dir by Josiah David Warren)


Clayton (Josiah David Warren) is the religious kid who everyone dreads getting in to a conversation with.  He’s the type of kid who accepts a ride from one of his friends and then starts to give everyone a hard time for drinking and driving and….

Actually, wait a minute …. drinking and driving sucks!

So, Clayton is actually totally correct to tell his friends to put down the beer cans while they’re driving.  They, of course, just laugh him off and call him “church boy.”  One accident later, Clayton’s friend is dead and Clayton is more determined than ever to go down to Mexico and do missionary work.  Everyone tells him that it’s dangerous to go down to Mexico.  Everyone knows that Clayton’s father died while serving as a missionary.  But Clayton and another group of friends still head down to Mexico.

Unfortunately, it turns out that Clayton’s other friends may not be drunk drivers but they’re still not all that interested in evangelizing in Mexico.  They especially get angry when Clayton insists that they accompany him to the local church.  Clayton finally gets annoyed with all of them and he decides to wander off on his own.  Of course, that’s always a mistake.  No sooner has Clayton turned down the wrong street than he’s been kidnapped.

Clayton finds himself tied up in an old barn and being held prisoner by a group of human traffickers.  They’re convinced that Clayton is rich and they continually call his mother and demand that she send them some money.  Meanwhile, Clayton soon realizes that he’s not the only person behind held prisoner in the barn.  He also comes to realize that the desert surrounding the barn is full of dead bodies.

Noticing that his kidnappers are always drinking and smoking, Clayton tells them that they shouldn’t.  When they demand to know why not, Clayton quotes Corinthians.  That goes over about as well as you might expect.

Seven Days Away attempts to mix the faith-based genre with the action genre.  When Clayton isn’t preaching or quoting the Bible, he’s running through the desert and trying not to get shot.  Unfortunately, the film doesn’t really work as an action film.  The film uses some hand-held camerawork to try to generate some suspense but, at this point, the whole hand-held thing is such a cliché that it actually inspires more laughs than gasps of terror.  The soundtrack is remarkably muddy and it’s often difficult to understand just what exactly anyone is saying.  Even by the standards of the low-budget faith genre, the acting is amateurish.  As a film, it just doesn’t come together.  The fact that the film’s director also played the lead role was perhaps a bit of the problem.  It’s hard not to feel the film would have had a better chance at success if he had just concentrated on doing one thing as opposed to everything.

I guess the best thing you can say about a film like this is that it was well-intentioned.  Watching it brought back memories of the days leading up to Spring Break, when the campus would be full of stories about students who got drunk while partying in Mexico and subsequently vanished.  I have to admit that I never had a lot of sympathy for the students in those stories.  Sometimes, you just have to use a little common sense.

Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 12/26/22 — 1/1/23


Happy New Year!

Films I Watched:

2022

  1. Amy Winehouse (2007)
  2. Coach (1983)
  3. Consider It All Joy (1986)
  4. The Contract (2006)
  5. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
  6. Death Stalker (1983)
  7. Forever and A Day (2022)
  8. Mommy’s Little Star (2022)
  9. Raw Spice (2001)
  10. Saturday Night Fever (1977)
  11. Seven Days Away (2013)
  12. Three Minutes: A Lengthening (2022)

2023:

  1. Deadline (2012)
  2. Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956)
  3. Wrong Place (2022)

Television Shows I Watched:

  1. 1923
  2. California Dreams
  3. The Circle
  4. Dragnet
  5. The Love Boat
  6. Night Flight
  7. Twilight Zone

Books I Read:

  1. Cimino (2022) by Charles Elton
  2. Godzilla (2022) by Graham Skipper

Music To Which I Listened:

  1. Alan Walker
  2. Amy Winehouse
  3. The Bee Gees
  4. Britney Spears
  5. Carrie Underwood
  6. The Chemical Brothers
  7. The Doors
  8. Gwen Stefani
  9. Haim
  10. Hans Zimmer
  11. Herve Villechaize
  12. Hurray for the Riff Raff
  13. John Travolta
  14. Katy Perry
  15. Kelly Clarkson
  16. The Mistletoe Disco Band
  17. MO
  18. Nat & Alex Wolff
  19. Night Terrors of 1927
  20. Rita Coolidge
  21. Selena Gomez
  22. Spice Girls
  23. Talking Heads
  24. Taylor Swift
  25. Tom Tom Club
  26. Walter Murphy
  27. Yvonne Elliman

Awards Season:

  1. Lisa Marie’s Oscar Predictions for December
  2. Greater Western New York Film Critics Association
  3. Internet Film Critics Society

Live Tweets:

  1. The Contract
  2. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
  3. Saturday Night Fever

News From Last Week:

  1. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI dies at age 95
  2. Italian film director Ruggero Deodato dies
  3. Fashion Designer Vivienne Westwood dies
  4. Journalist and View co-host Barbara Walters passed away at 93
  5. Anita Pointer, founding member of the Pointer Sisters, dies at 74
  6. Brazilian soccer player Pele dies at 82
  7. Jeremy Renner in ‘critical but stable condition’ after accident
  8. Whoopi Goldberg doubles down and DEFENDS her Holocaust slur that led to suspension from The View: Declares genocide was NOT ‘racial’, calls it ‘white-on-white’ violence and says Jews are not a race
  9. Whoopi Goldberg Denies Doubling Down on “Hurtful” Holocaust Comments, Apologizes Following ADL Criticism

Links From Last Week:

  1. 6 Celebrities Who Torched Their Legacies in 2022

Links From The Site:

  1. Jeff reviewed Cool as Ice!
  2. Erin welcomed you to 2023 and shared The Day After Christmas, Movie Fun, Whisper, Silk Stocking Stories, Film Fun, The Clock is Ticking, and Happy New Year!
  3. I shared music videos from Herve Villechaize, MO, Chanel West Coast, Gwen Stefani, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Night Terrors of 1927, and Crystal Bowersox!
  4. I shared my week in television!
  5. I paid tribute to Ruggero Deodato and I shared a scene from The Poseidon Adventure!
  6. I reviewed Godzilla: The Official Guide to the King of the Monsters, Making of a Male Model, White Elephant, and Mommy’s Little Star!
  7. I reviewed Hang Time, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, City Guys, One World, and California Dreams!

More From Us:

  1. At her photography site, Erin shared Waiting for The New Year, Ice and Limbs, The Hidden Kiss, A Squirrel, Tree and Sky, Another Squirrel, and Happy New Year!
  2. At my music site, I shared songs from Carrie Underwood, The Mistletoe Disco Band, Haim, Alan Walker, Hans Zimmer, Selena Gomez, and (again) The Mistletoe Disco Band!
  3. For Horror Critic, I reviewed The Lift!
  4. At SyFyDesigns, I shared Happy 2023!

Click here to see what I did last week!

Cool as Ice (1991, directed by David Kellog)


Johnny Van Owen (Robert “Vanilla Ice” Van Winkle) is a rapper who travels across the country on his big yellow motorcycle, with his loyal crew traveling behind him.  When one of the motorcycles is damaged, Johnny and the crew pull into a repair shop owned by Roscoe (Sidney Lassick) and Mae (Dody Goodman).  Even though their repair shop looks like something out of Pee Wee’s Playhouse, Mae says that Roscoe can fix anything.

Johnny says it’s all cool because he’s got his eye on Kathy Winslow (Kristin Minter), an honors student who is about to leave for college and who is dating Nick (John Haymes Newton).  Johnny is so in love with Kathy that he rides his motorcycle in front of her while she’s riding a horse and she nearly breaks her neck as a result.  Johnny doesn’t apologize because Johnny’s cool as ice.  Instead, Johnny renames Kathy “Kat” and then takes one look at Nick and says, “Drop that zero and get yourself a hero.”  Just to make sure there’s no confusion how Johnny feels about his romantic rival, he also calls Nick “Dick.” Later, Johnny performs a rap just for Kat and Kat agrees to go on a date with him to an abandoned construction site.

Kat’s father (Michael Gross) is in the witness protection program but, when he and Kathy appear on the news, he’s spotted by two gangsters who kidnap Kat’s younger brother.  Kat’s father assumes that Johnny must be working with the gangsters so Johnny has to clear his name by defeating the gangsters and performing the rap to end all raps.

Cool As Ice was an attempt to update the old Elvis formula with infamous white rapper Vanilla Ice in the place of the King of Rock and Roll.  The end result was a box office flop that hastened the demise of Vanilla Ice’s career.  (At the same time the film came out, some journalists dug into Ice’s background and discovered that he wasn’t a gangster from Miami but instead he was a douchey ex-jock from Lake Highlands, Texas.)  Even today, it’s still surprising to see what a terrible actor Vanilla Ice truly was.  The role doesn’t demand that he do much, other than smirk and rhyme a few insults but Vanilla Ice wasn’t even up to successfully doing that.  Most musicians at least have enough stage presence that they can get by onscreen, even if they don’t have a large amount of range.  Vanilla Ice is a blank onscreen.  It doesn’t do Vanilla Ice any favors that he’s surrounded by people who actually can act, like Michael Gross, Kristin Minter, and Sidney Lassick.  Even John Haymes Newton, playing the stock bad boyfriend role, gives a better and more sympathetic performance than Vanilla Ice.

I went into this movie knowing that it would be bad but I had no way of preparing myself for just how bad it was.  It’s almost so bad that it’s watchable, though for all the wrong reasons.  Watching Vanilla Ice in this movie, I saw why grunge (and not poppy white boy rap) replaced hair metal as the 90s favorite music.

Book Review: Godzilla: The Official Guide To The King Of The Monsters by Graham Skipper


Do you like Godzilla?

You better!  Seriously, for over 60 years, Godzilla has been the rightful king of the monsters and not even a few less-than-perfect films have been able to knock him off of his throne.  He started out as a symbol of the nuclear age, a prehistoric monster brought back to life by man’s arrogance and war-like nature.  He eventually became mankind’s protector but then deciding that he no longer cared for mankind. And then, like many international stars, he ended up making movies for the American studios.  It’s an epic story and it’s hard not to like the big monster at the center of it.  If, for some reason, you don’t like Godzilla, maybe Graham Skipper’s new book, Godzilla: The Official Guide To The King of the Monsters, will change your mind.

Godzilla: The Official Guide To The King of the Monsters is exactly what the title says.  It’s a guide to all of Godzilla’s adventures, from his first appearance in the 50s all the way through his animated films and the current American version.  (Perhaps not surprisingly, the 1998 version of Godzilla is only afforded a few paragraphs.)  Helpfully, Skipper divides his overview into ears, so you can see how Godzilla changed as he moved from studio to studio.  Skipper also takes a look at Godzilla’s existence outside of the movies, as a comic book mainstay and an occasional television guest star.  The book is written with a lot of obvious affection for Godzilla in all of his incarnations and reading it will remind you of why Godzilla’s films — yes, even Son of Godzilla — are so much fun to begin with.  Skipper includes a lot of trivia, some of which was new to even me.  Such as, did you know that Luigi Cozzi re-edited and colorized the original 1954 Gojira for a 1970s release in Italy?

The book is also heavily-illustrated, featuring a lot of shots from the films and behind-the-scenes pictures of Godzilla and all of his colleagues.  As I read the book, it occurred to me that, as goofy as Jet Jaguar was, it’s still nice that Godzilla had a friend.  As well, as I looked at the pictures, it occurred to me that, even in the later films when Godzilla had been transformed from a truly fearsome symbol of the nuclear age to a somewhat goofy rubber monster, there was still an undeniable majesty to him as a creation.  Even at his worse, Godzilla still looks like a king.

I picked up a copy of this book on the day after Christmas and I’m glad I did.  Not only does it celebrate Godzilla but it also provides me with a guide because, over the next 12 months, I hope to watch every Godzilla film that’s ever been made.  (I’ve seen the majority but, as this book reminded me, there’s still a few that I missed.)  For the record, I still think that Godzilla vs Destoroyah is the best of the Godzilla films but who knows?  Maybe my mind will have been changed by December.

Humanity has survived a lot over the past few years and I’m happy to say that Godzilla has survived with us.  Graham Skipper’s Godzilla helps to explain why.

Retro Television Reviews: Making of a Male Model (dir by Irving J. Moore)


Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Sundays, I will be reviewing the made-for-television movies that used to be a primetime mainstay.  Today’s film is 1983’s Making of a Male Model!  It  can be viewed on YouTube!

While visiting the set of an outdoor shoot in Nevada, high-powered modeling agent Kay Dillon (Joan Collins) spots a ranch hand named Tyler Burnett (Jon-Erik Hexum).  Tyler is tall, athletic, handsome, and polite.  When Kay asks Tyler if he’s ever modeled, Tyler scoffs at the idea.  Him?  A model?  He’d rather stay in Nevada and work on the ranch.  However, when the girl he likes turns him down because he doesn’t have any money, Tyler reconsiders Kay’s offer.

Before you can say Midnight Cowboy, Tyler is walking around Times Square while dressed like a cowboy.  At first, Tyler is resistant to Kay’s suggestions on how to improve his look.  He doesn’t want anyone messing with her ear or trimming his eyebrows.  But, after a humiliating meeting with a photographer who tells him that he just doesn’t have the right look, Tyler agrees to let Kay turn him into a male model.  Not only does she fix his look but she also takes him to bed.

Soon, Tyler is one of the country’s most well-known faces.  He branches out into commercials, using his sex appeal to sell products to the men who want be him.  And yet, Tyler still feels lost.  He’s not sure if Kay actually loves him or if she’s just using him.  Meanwhile, his roommate, Chuck Lanyard (Jeff Conaway), is a former model who is now hooked on drugs and who constantly warns Tyler that all models are washed up by the time they hit 35.  Tyler becomes disillusioned with his life as a model but is he capable of giving up the fame and the money and returning to Nevada?  Or is he destined to follow in Chuck’s footsteps and head down a path of drugs and self-destruction?

Welcome to the world of decadence, 80s style!  Making of a Male Model is one of those films where the synthesizer-heavy soundtrack plays through every scene and the only thing more dramatic than the line readings is the hair and the shoulder pads.  It’s all a bit silly, none more so that when Tyler and Kay go to a costume party.  Kay dressed up like Cleopatra.  Tyler wears a cowboy hat.  One random extra wears an oversized headpiece with two gigantic eyes painted at either end.  It’s not so much Studio 54 as much as it’s Studio 54 as imagined by someone who has heard of the place but never visited.  It’s decadent but it’s never quite authentic.  The film captures the joy of not only looking good but also knowing that you look good but it never captures the tedium that can go into being on a shoot.  It’s a film about the reality of modeling that never bothers to get that real but so what?  You don’t watch a film called Making of a Male Model because you’re looking for reality.

Joan Collins appears to be having fun in the role of Kay.  John-Erik Hexum, who was a real-life model, gives a rather stiff performance in the role of Tyler.  He looks good but he struggles whenever he has to show any emotion beyond being slightly annoyed.  If anyone really stands out in the cast, it’s Jeff Conaway.  Conaway brings a bit of genuine sadness to his role but you’ll guess what’s going to happen to Chuck long before it actually does.  Finally, Kevin McCarthy (the actor, not the Congressman) plays one of Kay’s business rivals.  He doesn’t get to do much but it’s always nice to see Kevin McCarthy playing yet another sophisticated but ruthless businessman.

In the end, the film doesn’t have anything surprising to say about the world of modeling and Tyler is never that interesting of a protagonist.  However, there’s just enough 80s melodrama and 80s fashion to keep things watchable.

The Internet Film Critics Society Honors Tar


The Internet Film Critics Society has announced their picks for the best of 2022!

And here they are:

Best Drama: Tar
Best Comedy: The Banshees of Inisherin
Best Horror or Science Fiction: Crimes of the Future
Best Action Film: Top Gun: Maverick
Best Actor: Brendan Fraser in The Whale
Best Actress: Ana de Armas in Blonde
Best Director: Steven Spielberg for The Fabelmans
Best Experimental Film: Everything Everywhere All at Once
Most Underrated Film: The Outfit
Worst Film: The Munsters

Catching Up With The Films of 2022: White Elephant (dir by Jesse V. Johnson)


White Elephant is not that bad.  In fact, for a B-action movie it’s actually pretty good.  If nothing else, it featured one of Michael Rooker’s best performances.

It’s important to start out this review by making that clear because I think a lot of people are going to be tempted to judge this film based solely on the fact that this was one of the last films that Bruce Willis made before his family announced that he would be retiring from acting due to health reasons.  When the big story was published in the L.A. Times about Willis’s recent struggles and how those struggles led to him accepting countless roles in straight-to-video fare like American Siege, several people who worked on White Elephant were quoted, with many saying that Willis always did his best but that he was definitely not the Willis that they all remembered.  The film’s director, action maestro Jesse V. Johnson, publicly stated that he would not make another film with Willis because “the arrangement felt wrong” and that Willis deserved a better end to his career.

And it must be said that Bruce is obviously not himself in White Elephant.  As with many of his recent films, Bruce is cast as a villain in this piece.  He’s a crime lord named Arnold and he spends the majority of his time taking meetings and giving order to his underlings.  Eventually, he does pick up a gun and fire it but there’s very little of the cocky attitude and swaggering charisma that made Bruce Willis into a superstar.  He still has the physical presence to play a tough guy.  Bruce Willis still looks intimidating and the film uses him sparingly, never allowing us to spend too much time focusing on how different he seems from the Bruce Willis who starred in Die Hard and Pulp Fiction.  One never gets the feeling that Bruce is being deliberately exploited in White Elephant, that alone sets it above some of the other recent films that have featured Willis.  But, at the same time, Arnold is a fairly generic bad guy.

Fortunately, the majority of the film follows Michael Rooker in the role of a far more interesting criminal.  Rooker plays Gabe Tancredi, a former Marine turned hitman.  He’s about as ruthless as they come but he still has enough of a code of ethics that he realizes that he can’t kill a police officer named Vanessa (Olga Kurylenko), no matter how much Arnold wants her dead.  Ordered to kill her, Gabe instead protects her, which leads to Arnold sending all of his men after them.  It leads to several shootouts and explosions as Gabe puts his life at risk to finally do the right thing.

It’s a simple story but it’s told well.  Jesse V. Johnson started out as a stuntman and he clearly knows his way around an action scene and the final shootout in genuinely exciting.  The film is also helped by Michael Rooker, who brings a good deal of unexpected depth to the role of Gabe.  Even though Rooker obviously knew that White Elephant was a B-movie, he still refuses to phone in a single minute of his performance and, instead, he turns Gabe into a surprisingly complex killer.  Gabe’s relationships with his agent Glen (John Malkovich), his protegee Carlos (Vadhir Debrez), and Vanessa are all genuinely interesting.  I especially liked the early scenes between Rooker and Debrez, in which the two actors wonderfully play off of each other and we get the feeling Carlos is almost like a son to Gabe.  Of course, being genre savvy, we know that Carlos is eventually going to be assigned to take Gabe down but, because their friendship seemed so real, we find ourselves dreading that confrontation.  White Elephant is a B-movie but, much like last year’s Corrective Measures and Gasoline Alley, it’s a B-movie with a heart.

Happy New Year From The Shattered Lens


Clouds at Sunset

Happy New Year from the Shattered Lens!  Thank you for reading in 2022 and may 2023 bring you all the best.  When I took the above picture, I didn’t even realize that, along with the sunset, I would also be capturing a bird flying across the sky.  It was only after I looked at the picture that I saw that bird there.

Clouds at Sunset 2

To me, these are peaceful pictures.  I hope 2023 will bring us more peaceful images.

As the dawn breaks on a new year, let us give thanks for all we hold dear: our health, our family and our friends. Let us release our grudges, our anger and our pains, for these are nothing but binding chains. Let us live each day in the most loving ways.

Music Video of the Day: Why by Herve Villechaize (1981, dir by ????)


For the past few months, I’ve been watching and reviewing episodes of the original Fantasy Island.  One of the keys to that show’s success was the enigmatic partnership between Mr. Roarke and Tattoo.  Even though it’s usually pretty easy to see that Ricardo Montalban and Herve Villechaize did not like each other, their exchanges are usually the highlight of any episode.  Of course, after years of high ratings and television fame, Villechaize was fired from Fantasy Island when he demanded more money.  Without Tattoo, the series was canceled after one season so …. well, they probably should have just given him the money.

Anyway, one thing that I recently discovered about Herve Villechaize is that he had a musical career!  In 1981, at the height of the show’s popularity, he released a song called “Why?”  It’s all about trying to understand why people have to fight and why people cannot just accept the wisdom of peace-loving children.  The video at the top of this post was recorded for a TV show on which Villechaize appeared.  Unfortunately, I don’t know which show it was for and the video upload itself is not the best quality.  Apparently, the split-screen visual effect that gives us two Herves singing at once was a part of the show.

That said, this is as close as we have to an actual music video for Herve Villechaize’s Why? so I’m sharing with it.  What better way to start a new year than with a plea for peace?

Why do we always have to fight?

Enjoy!