A Herman Wouk Double Feature: The Winds of War (1983, directed by Dan Curtis) and War and Remembrance (1988, directed by Dan Curtis)


When the great American novelist Herman Wouk passed away earlier this month at the age of 103, he left behind a rich and varied literary legacy.  From 1947, the year that his first novel was published to 2016, the year that he published his memoirs, Wouk wrote about religion, history, science, and even the movies.  However, Wouk will probably always be best remembered for the three novels that he wrote about World War II.

Based on his own Naval service during World War II, The Caine Mutiny was published in 1951 and was later adapted into both a successful stage play and an Oscar-nominated film.  It also won Wouk a Pulitzer Prize and established him as a major American writer.  Nearly 20 years later, Wouk would return to the history of the Second World War with two of his greatest literary works, The Winds of War and War and Remembrance.  (Originally, Wouk was only planning on writing one book about the entire war but when it took him nearly a thousand pages to reach Pearl Harbor, he decided to split the story in two.)  Beginning in 1939 and proceeding all the way through to the end of the war, the two books followed two families, the Henrys and the Jastrows, as they watched the world descend into war. Along the way, the book’s fictional characters rub shoulders with historical characters like Hitler, Churchill, FDR, and even Stalin.  Carefully researched and meticulously detailed, the books were both critically acclaimed and popular with readers and, despite some soapy elements, they both hold up well today.

Given their success, it’s not a surprise that both The Winds of War and War and Remembrance were adapted for television.  Today, HBO would probably give the books the Game of Thrones treatment, with 8 seasons of war, tragedy, romance, and Emmys.  However, this was the 1980s.  This was the age of of the big-budget, all-star cast network miniseries.  Wouk’s epic history of World War II was coming to prime time.

With a total running times of 15 hours, The Winds of War originally aired over seven evenings in 1983.  Produced and directed for ABC by Dan Curtis, The Winds of War had a 962-page script, a 200-day shooting schedule, 285 speaking parts, and a then-record budget of $35,000,000.  It also had Robert Mitchum, starring as Victor “Pug” Henry, an ambitious naval officer who somehow always managed to be in the right place to witness almost all of the events leading up to America’s entry into World War II.  Jan-Michael Vincent played Pug’s son, Byron, while John Houseman took on the pivotal role Aaron Jastrow, a Jewish scholar though whose eyes the home audience would witness the rise of fascism in Europe.  Terribly miscast as Natalie, Aaron’s niece and Byron’s lover, was 44 year-old Ali MacGraw.  Among those playing historical figures were Ralph Bellamy as FDR, Howard Lang as Churchill, and Gunter Meisner as Hitler.

I recently watched The Winds of War on DVD and, despite some glaring flaws that I’ll get to later, it holds up well as both a history of World War II and a tribute to those who battled Hitler’s evil.  Like Wouk’s novels, the miniseries does a good job of breaking down not only how Hitler came to power but also why the rest of the world was often in denial about what was happening.  Watching the entire miniseries in one setting can be overwhelming.  It’s a big production and it is also unmistakably a product of a time when the major networks didn’t have to worry about competition from cable.  It takes its time but, in the end, you’re glad that it did.  All of the little details can get exhausting but they’re important to understanding just how Hitler was able to catch the world off-guard.

Jan-Michael Vincent and Ali MacGraw in The Winds of War

The miniseries does suffer due to the miscasting of some key roles.  Both Jan-Michael Vincent and Ali MacGraw were far too old for their roles.  Vincent was 38 and MacGraw was 44 when they were cast as naive and idealistic lovers trying to find themselves in Europe.  It’s perhaps less of a problem for Vincent, who had yet to lose his looks to alcoholism and who looked enough like Robert Mitchum that he could pass as Mitchum’s son.  But MacGraw is simply terrible in her role, flatly delivering her lines and looking more like Vincent’s mother than his lover.  It’s particularly jarring when she mockingly calls diplomat Leslie Sloat “Old Sloat,” because Sloat was played by David Dukes, who was six years younger than MacGraw.

67 year-old Robert Mitchum was also much too old to play an ambitious junior officer, one whose main goal in life is still to ultimately become an admiral.  When he ends up having an affair with a younger British journalist played by 30ish Victoria Tennant, the difference in their ages is even more pronounced than in Wouk’s novel.  (Pug was in his 40s in The Winds of War.)  However, Mitchum overcomes his miscasting by virtue of his natural gravitas.  With his weary presence and authoritative voice, Mitchum simply is Pug.

A ratings hit and a multiple Emmy nominee, The Winds of War was followed up five years later by War and Remembrance.  Like its predecessor, War and Remembrance set records.  The script ran 1,492 pages and featured 356 speaking parts.  The production employed 44,000 extras and filming took nearly two years, from January of 1986 to September of 1987.  With a budget of $104 million, it was the most expensive television production to date.  The final miniseries had a 30-hour running time, which was divided over 12 nights.  War and Remembrance not only made history because of its cost and length but also as the first major production to be allowed to film on location at the Auschwitz concentration camp.  For many members of the generation born after the end of World War II, War and Remembrance would serve as their first introduction to the horrors of the Holocaust.

Director Dan Curtis returned and with him came Robert Mitchum, now in his 70s and still playing a junior naval officer.  David Dukes once again played the hapless diplomat, Leslie Sloat.  Ralph Bellamy also returned as FDR as did Victoria Tennant as Mitchum’s lover, Polly Bergen as Mitchum’s wife, and Peter Graves as Bergen’s lover.  However, they were the exception.  The majority of the original cast was replaced for the sequel, in most cases for the better.  With John Houseman too ill to reprise his role, John Gielgud took over the role of Aaron Jastrow while Hart Bochner replaced the famously troubled Jan-Michael Vincent.  Robert Hardy took over the role of Churchill while Hitler was recast with Steven Berkoff.  Best of all, Jane Seymour replaced Ali MacGraw in the role of Natalie and gave the best performance of her career.  Other characters were played by a mix of up-and-comers to tv veterans, with the cast eventually including everyone from Barry Bostwick and Sharon Stone to E.G. Marshall and Ian McShane.

Jane Seymour and John Gielgud

With a stronger cast and (ironically, considering the running length) a more focused storyline, War and Remembrance is superior to The Winds of War in every way.  That doesn’t mean that it’s perfect, of course.  The scenes featuring Barry Bostwick as a submarine commander feel as if they go on forever and Robert Mitchum still seems like he should be preparing for retirement instead of angling for a promotion.  But none of that matters when the miniseries focuses on Aaron and Natalie Jastrow and their struggle to survive life in the Theresienstadt Ghetto and eventually Auschwitz.  At the time that War and Remembrance was initially broadcast, the concentration camp scenes were considered to be highly controversial and many viewers complained that they were so disturbing that they should not have been aired during prime time.  (This was four years before Schindler’s List.)  Seen today, those scenes are the most important part of the film.  Not only do they show why the war had to be fought but they also demand that the world never allow such a thing to happen again.

Though it was considered by a rating disappointment when compared to its predecessor, War and Remembrance was still a multiple-Emmy nominee.  Controversially, it defeated Lonesome Dove for Best Miniseries.  Both Winds of War and War and Remembrance have been released on DVD and, like the books that inspired them, they both hold up well.  They pay tribute to not only those who fought the Nazis but also to the humanistic vision of Herman Wouk.

Herman Wouk (1915-2019)

Cleaning Out The DVR: Christmas In Mississippi (dir by Emily Moss Wilson)


(Hi there!  So, as you may know because I’ve been talking about it on this site all year, I have got way too much stuff on my DVR.  Seriously, I currently have 193 things recorded!  I’ve decided that, on January 15th, I am going to erase everything on the DVR, regardless of whether I’ve watched it or not.  So, that means that I’ve now have only have a month to clean out the DVR!  Will I make it?  Keep checking this site to find out!  I recorded My Christmas Prince off of Lifetime on December 9th!)

When I saw the title of this one, I immediately started thinking about William Faulkner.  I thought about the tragic Compson family and the scandalous Snopes family and the complicated legacy of Colonel John Sartoris.  I found myself wondering what Yoknapatawpha County looks like today and whether the town of Jefferson had changed much since Faulkner’s day.

Of course, Christmas In Mississippi is not based on a Faulkner short story, nor does it claim to be.  Instead, it’s a thoroughly pleasant Lifetime holiday movie, a good-natured celebration of Christmas tradition and romance.  Still, it’s rare that you ever seen any movie set in Mississippi, outside of the occasional Faulkner adaptation or stories that focus on Mississippi’s past.  Much as with New Jersey, it sometimes seems like the only time you see or hear about Mississippi on television or in a movie is when it’s being set up as the punch line to a joke so I guess my point  is that it’s nice to see a positive movie about Mississippi.  Not only is this film set in Mississippi but it was actually filmed there, in the lovely city of Gulfport.

As for the movie itself, it deals with Holly Logan (Jana Kramer), a photographer who returns to her hometown of Gulfport for the holidays.  Not only is she visiting her mother, Caroline (Faith Ford) but she’s also helping to set up the holiday light show, the first one to be held since Gulfport was hit by a destructive hurricane five years ago.  (In real life, Gulfport was hit and seriously damaged by Hurricane Katrina.)  The only real complication for Holly is that the festival is being supervised by Mike (Wes Brown), who broke her heart in high school.  Even though Caroline insists that Mike has changed and matured since high school, Holly doesn’t want to risk getting hurt again.  Fortunately, Mr. Kriss (Barry Bostwick) is working at the festival and he’s good at bringing people together.  And yes, Mr. Kriss is playing Santa Claus.  If you’re surprised by that, you’ve obviously never watched a holiday movie before.  (That’s not a complaint.  If you make a holiday movie where St. Nick isn’t the one bringing your couple together, you’re doing it wrong.)

Christmas In Mississippi is a nice little movie.  Though the plot may not take you by surprise, Jana Kramer and Wes Brown make for a likable couple and the entire cast has a charming chemistry.  You really do believe that they are all neighbors and they all did grow up next to each other.  It’s a sweet movie.  In the end, Holly does a good job with the light show and so does the movie.  For that matter, so does the city of Gulfport, which looks great in Christmas in Mississippi.

Val’s Movie Roundup #15: Hallmark Edition


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Citizen Jane (2009) – I was quite surprised that this was actually a Hallmark movie. The acting was strong. The story stayed focused. They actually bothered shooting in San Francisco. This almost could have been a small time B-Movie or something I would expect from Lifetime.

It begins with Jane Alexander’s (Ally Sheedy) aunt being murdered. Jane lives with a man named Tom O’Donnell (Sean Patrick Flanery) and it’s never really a mystery that he did it. The film is about how they prove it. Jane has assistance from Detective Jack Morris (Meat Loaf). I think Meat Loaf did a great job and so does Sheedy. We care, we follow, we get a decent movie. The only problem I found is the same one that was in the Lifetime movie Cleveland Abduction (2015). That movie was also based on real events. Even not knowing the true story behind it, you could tell that the film was a superficial treatment that needed much more time to properly tell the story. The same is true here. At times things will feel like they just jumped from one gear to another. Otherwise, it’s one of the most well made of the Hallmark mystery type movies. Even if there isn’t much of a mystery to it. More like mystery in the Columbo sense of the word where we know exactly what happened, but find out how the person is going to be caught.

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Garage Sale Mystery: The Wedding Dress (2015) – Again, it’s time for Jennifer (Lori Loughlin) to get involved in a mystery. This time she is at an estate sale and when she returns to her shop she discovers that among the things she has purchased is a vintage 1970’s wedding dress. Great! Except there are blood stains in a pocket. And thank god there are. I say that because this establishes a good reason for her to be investigating while the cops don’t. That’s really nice when it comes to the recent deluge of these murder mystery movies that Hallmark is producing. Usually the woman just comes across as a busybody who should just mind her own business. Here she has something that should spark her interest and the further she looks into it, the more she has a reason to bring her police officer friend into the case. It’s still heavily sanitized in the way you expect from these movies. However, for this series, I think it’s the best one I have seen so far.

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Love Under the Stars (2015) – When you boil it down to the basic plot, this is like the Hallmark movie Class (2010). Except it’s much better. It’s about a college girl played by Ashley Newbrough who needs to come up with her thesis in child psychology. Her college advisor played by Barry Bostwick has a niece that teaches a fourth grade class and has Newbrough go there for inspiration. She meets a guy played by Wes Brown who is raising a daughter as a single parent because the mother/wife has passed away. It plays out the way you expect it to and the way Class did, but it’s just better the whole way through. Especially Wes Brown. We can easily understand why she is attracted to him, but he also comes across well as a loving father who appears happy, but also has an underground river of fear and concern for his daughter constantly flowing through him. He is the real reason the film works as well as it does. Newbrough is pretty good too, but she basically walks around the film like she’s hot and horny, to put it bluntly, all the time she’s with him. It makes it difficult to take her character seriously as a real person the way we do with him. In particular, when it comes to her backstory of also losing her mother and the development of the relationship with the daughter. They should have had her dial it back a bit and act less like an infatuated teenager.

Also, the daughter (Jaeda Lily Miller) is a little annoying. I don’t think it’s the actresses fault so much as it is the way her character is written. I don’t think they give her enough credit and let her be more like a real kid with problems, then a cardboard cut out of a troubled child. A little tweaking of her character would have helped.

I really did like the use of the counting thing. When the father leaves her off at school or somewhere else, he counts down a few seconds because he knows she will turn around, usually opening a door, in order to wave to him one more time. She’s afraid he might be gone like her mother is forever. It’s a really nice touch that of course pays off in the end.

All around, this is one of the top tier Hallmark movies I have seen so far.

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Operation Cupcake (2012) – I mentioned not giving the character of the daughter enough credit in Love Under The Stars and the problem is in this film too. This is about Army Colonel Griff Carson (Dean Cain) who comes home on leave to his wife Janet (Kristy Swanson) who runs a cupcake shop. The whole thing is about Griff adjusting to civilian life while also awaiting a possible promotion to General. The problem is they don’t give this guy enough credit. Instead, they drag out his adjustment way too long. It shouldn’t have taken him so long and the change should have been more gradual rather than played for laughs as long as it could. He works at the shop with his wife, and there was at least one scene where you wonder if he actually comes from the Army. He is mobbed by a ton of people at the cupcake store that he suddenly has to service. He doesn’t really attempt to put some of his training to use in order take a bunch of unruly people and get them to act in a civilized manner. The scene doesn’t work and the movie just doesn’t really work either. I think they should have had Cain’s character transition more gradually rather than having him be essentially a brick wall that only comes down in the end. Hallmark avoided that with Recipe For Love and that’s why it is one of my favorites. I also think that Dean Cain was miscast. I have difficultly buying any kind of machismo from his character. He just doesn’t fit the part. This is one that’s fine if you wind up catching it by chance, but don’t put your lure out into the Hallmark waters explicitly to see it.

Final note: I didn’t even notice till I was looking at the credits, but Donna Pescow is in this. She was a baker at the store who has some back and forth with Cain. Of course for most people she is from Saturday Night Fever (1977), but I will always remember her as the mom on the TV Show Out Of This World. Makes me want to break out my bootleg copies of that show. To the best of my knowledge, they still haven’t released that show on DVD.

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #37: Jennifer on My Mind (dir by Noel Black)


jommThe 1971 film Jennifer On My Mind opens with a lengthy montage of black-and-white photographs of immigrants arriving at Ellis Island.  These, the film tells us, are the men and women who came to America with nothing and who fought and struggled to have something.  The film itself deals with the grandchildren of those immigrants, who, as opposed to their ancestors, now have everything and who seem to be determined to reduce it all down to nothing.

24 year-old Marcus Rottner (Michael Brandon) would appear to have everything.  Following the death of his father, Marcus has inherited the fortune that his immigrant grandfather earned.  (The ghost of his grandfather shows up at one point and smokes a joint.)  Marcus will never have to work a day in his life, owns a nice apartment, and can go to Europe whenever he feels like it.  However, Marcus does have one problem: his girlfriend Jennifer (Tally Walker) just died of a heroin overdose in his living room.  Now, Marcus has to try to dispose of the body without anyone discovering what has happened.

The film alternates between showing Marcus’s attempts to get ride of Jennifer’s body and flashbacks to his romance with her.  We see how he first met Jennifer in Venice and how he fell in love with her.  Like Marcus, Jennifer comes from a rich family.  Her parents are alive but we never see them.  (Reportedly, scenes were filmed that featured Kim Hunter as Jennifer’s mother but they were cut after a disastrous preview.)  As she leaves Venice, Jennifer tells Marcus to visit her back in the states.

Which is just what Marcus does.  Marcus and Jennifer’s relationship plays out like a romantic comedy, except for the fact that Jennifer doesn’t really seem to care that much for Marcus.  After Jennifer jumps off a roof, Marcus takes her back to Venice and tries to recreate their earlier romance.  However, Jennifer just wants to go back to New York…

About ten minutes into the film, I nearly stopped watching Jennifer On My Mind.  Both Marcus and Jennifer seemed like such unlikable characters that I couldn’t imagine spending a full 90 minutes with them.  The fact that they were both rich and spoiled didn’t help.

But I kept watching because the first part of the film was set in Venice and I love Venice!  Watching those scenes reminded me of visiting Italy the summer after I graduated from high school.  It was a great time and, despite how I felt about Marcus and Jennifer, the film still brought back some nice memories.

However, then Marcus and Jennifer returned to New York and, since I don’t really care about New York the way that I care about Venice, I again found myself tempted to stop watching.  However, it was around this time that I started to realize that Michael Brandon was actually giving a pretty good performance in the role of Marcus.  So, I decided to keep giving the film a chance.

And then the ghost of Marcus’s grandfather showed up.  And then, the film gave us a scene of Jennifer hanging out with the two traveling “minstrels.”  And I thought to myself, “This is getting unbearably cutesy…”

But then, Robert De Niro showed up!  That’s right — Jennifer On My Mind is an early De Niro movie.  When Marcus hails a cab and asks for a ride to Long Island, the taxi driver is played by none other than Robert De Niro.  And while De Niro is only in the film for a few minutes, he totally steals those few minutes.  He plays a “gypsy” cab driver in this film and, as he drives Marcus to Long Island, he rambles about his sister, his drugs, and his fear of driving Marcus to see a bunch of “squares.”  De Niro is such an eccentric and energetic presence that he brings the whole film to life.

After De Niro’s scene, there was only 30 minutes left in the film and I thought to myself, “Okay, I can give this another 30 minutes…”

Written by Love Story‘s Erich Segal and directed by Pretty Poison‘s Noel Black, Jennifer On My Mind is an uneven but oddly watchable film.  If you’re looking for quirky love story … well, I really can’t recommend Jennifer On My Mind because it never really convinces you that Marcus and Jennifer are in love.  For the most part, their relationship seems to be one of convenience.  Jennifer wants drugs and Marcus can afford them.  Marcus wants a girlfriend and Jennifer is willing to pretend.  Instead, Jennifer On My Mind is more like a parody of true romance.  Marcus spends the entire film wanting Jennifer’s body and now that he has it, he has to find a way to get rid of it.

It’s undeniably uneven; for every scene that works, there’s another one that doesn’t.  But, at the same time, it’s undeniably watchable.  Plus, you get an early performance from Robert De Niro!

Jennifer On My Mind is currently available to viewed on Netflix.

 

Shattered Politics #90: FDR: American Badass! (dir by Garrett Brawith)


FDR-American-Badass-movie-poster

So, as I was thinking about Hyde Park On Hudson, I started to ask myself: what would have made that movie better?  Obviously, the script could have been improved.  Bill Murray could have had some better lines.  Laura Linney could have been a bit less bland.  The direction could have been a bit more dynamic…

And of course, the film could have used a few more werewolves.  Maybe not a huge amount of werewolves because, after all, you do want to keep things plausible.  But, at the same time, a werewolf or two would have livened things up.

And then I thought about Sunrise at Campobello and I realized that film was also missing something.  Once again, the film could have used some werewolves.

“My God,” I thought, “aren’t there any filmmakers out there willing to combine Franklin Roosevelt with werewolves!?”

And then, I realized that there was!

The 2012 film FDR: American Badass! features Barry Bostwick in the role of Franklin D. Roosevelt.  At the start of the film, Roosevelt is the dynamic and athletic governor of New York.  However, while out jogging one day, Frank is attacked by a werewolf and ends up contracting polio as a result.  Recovering in the hospital, Roosevelt decides to run for President and kill werewolves.

Over the course of the film, he does just that.  And, when it turns out that the leaders of the Axis Powers are all werewolves as well, FDR single-handedly wins World War II.  Fortunately, with the help of Albert Einstein, FDR gets his wheelchair equipped with all the latest weaponry.

And did I mention that, as President, FDR smokes weed with Abraham Lincoln (Kevin Sorbo)?  Because he so totally does…

So, at this point, you’re probably already getting the feeling that FDR: American Badass! is kind of a weird film.  And it is.  But what makes the film better than you might think is the fact that it totally commits itself to making no sense.  FDR: American Badass! is full of scenes that are alternatively hilarious, disgusting, and offensive but it works because, unlike something like A Million Ways To Die In The West, FDR: American Badass! is at least creative in its stupidity.  Say what you will about the idea of FDR killing werewolves, the fact of the matter is that there’s only one film where you can actually see that happen.

So, should you see FDR: American Badass?

Go back and read the film’s title.

Did it make you roll your eyes and say, “Oh my God, that is so stupid?”  If so, you’ll probably have a similar reaction to the film itself.

On the other hand, did the title make you smile?  If so, you’ll probably find something to enjoy in this movie.

At the very least, FDR: American Badass! is better than Hyde Park on Hudson.

The Things You Find On Netflix: The Scorpion King 4: Quest For Power (dir by Mike Elliott)


Believe it or not, The Scorpion King 4: Quest For Power is a historical footnote.  It is the first 2015 release to be available for viewing on Netflix streaming!  That’s because The Scorpion King 4 was a straight-to-video release and Universal Pictures doesn’t seem to have much faith in the film’s commercial prospects.  In fact, if not for my love of historical footnotes, I probably would never have even watched the film.

But I did watch it, mostly because I didn’t like the idea of The Woman In Black 2 being the only 2015 films that I had seen up to that point.

And you know what?

The Scorpion King 4 is cheap, silly, and often times impossible to follow.  But, when taken on its own terms, it’s also a lot of fun.  At the very least, it’s more entertaining than The Woman In Black 2.

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As for what the film is about … well, that’s a good question.  To be honest, I’ve never seen any of the previous Scorpion King films.  I know from Wikipedia that the character was spun-off from Brendan Fraser’s old Mummy film and, while I’ve seen bits and pieces of it on cable over the years, I’ve never actually sat through that entire movie.  However, I do know that the Mummy was Egyptian and apparently, so was the Scorpion King.

So, you would assume that Scorpion King 4 would take place in ancient Egypt.  And indeed, the opening scene is set in the desert and involves the Scorpion King, also known as Mathayus (Victor Webster), and his partner Drazen (Will Kemp) storming a fortress that feels vaguely Egyptian.  After a lengthy battle, Mathayus and Drazen steal an urn that is covered with hieroglyphics.  However, Drazen double crosses Mathayus and takes the urn for himself.

Okay, I thought, we’re obviously in Egypt.

Except, of course, in the very next scene, Mathayus meets with his employer, King Zakour (Rutger Hauer).  King Zakour explains that Drazen is the son of a rival king (played by Michael Biehn, who makes little effort to hide his Southern accent).  Zakour also explains that the urn hides mystical secrets that, if deciphered, could allow Drazen to conquer the world.  Zakour sends Mathays to the rival kingdom, ordering him to deliver a peace treaty.

And, while Zakour delivers all of this exposition, it’s hard not to notice that he appears to live in an ancient Roman villa and he has a rather cheap-looking crown perched on his head.

Okay, I thought, the film has moved to the Roman Empire but at least I know we’re still in ancient times…

Except then Mathayus rides his camel into the rival kingdom and it turns out to look a like the set from a community theater production of Spamalot.  As soon as Mathayus arrives, he is captured by Drazen’s men and ends up in a jail cell next to Valina (Ellen Holman), a revolutionary who is wearing a green, prison bikini top.  After Mathays is framed for the king’s death, he and Valina escape from the prison and run into the wilderness, where Valina changes into a battle-worthy bikini top.

They reach the house of Valina’s father (Barry Bostwick) and it turns out to be a Dutch windmill!  So, within the first 30 minutes of the film, we’ve gone from ancient Egypt to the Roman Empire to a medieval village in England to Renaissance Netherlands.  Eventually, our characters will end up in another village, one that happens to feature a temple that looks a lot like a left over set from Hercules in the Haunted World…

What’s surprising is that the film’s refusal to settle on a definite setting or time period is actually oddly charming.  As soon as that windmill showed up and a feather-covered Barry Bostwick flew across screen (Bostwick is an inventor who has filled the windmill with blueprints for cars and airplanes), I knew that this was a film that was at peace with being a mess.  And you had to respect the film’s no apologies attitude towards being incoherent.

Trying to keep up with the plot is exhausting so I suggest that, if you should find yourself watching The Scorpion King 4, you ignore the plot.  The best thing about The Scorpion King 4 is that it doesn’t take itself all that seriously.  All of the dialogue is either intentionally melodramatic or anachronistically humorous and all of the actors seem to be having fun going over the top.  Some of the fight scenes are exciting, some of the scenery is pretty, and some parts of the film are better than others.

In the end, The Scorpion King 4 is pretty forgettable.  But it’s still better than The Woman In Black 2.

Scorpion King, The Lost Throne

2013 In Review: The Best of SyFy


It’s been quite a year for the SyFy network, even if the network’s most widely-seen original film, Sharknado, was actually one of their weaker offerings.  As a proud member of the Snarkalecs and a Snarkies voter, I’ve certainly enjoyed watching, reviewing, and live tweeting all of the films that SyFy and the Asylum have had to offer us this year.

Below, you’ll find my personal nominees for the best SyFy films and performances of 2013.  (Winners are listed in bold.)

End of the World

Best Film

Battledogs

Blast Vegas

*End of the World

Flying Monkeys

Ghost Shark

Zombie Night

Best Actor

Neil Grayston in End of the World

*Greg Grunberg in End of the World

Anthony Michael Hall in Zombie Night

Frankie Muniz in Blast Vegas

Corin Nemec in Robocroc

Tom Everett Scott in Independence Daysaster

Best Actress

Maggie Castle in Blast Vegas

Lacey Chabert in Scarecrow

Kaitlyn Leeb in Grave Halloween

*Maika Monroe in Flying Monkeys

Ariana Richards in Battledogs

Mackenzie Rosman in Ghost Shark

Best Supporting Actor

Barry Bostwick in Blast Vegas

William B. Davis in Stonados

Brad Dourif in End of the World

Dennis Haysbert in Battledogs

John Heard in Sharknado

*Richard Moll in Ghost Shark

Best Supporting Actress

*Shirley Jones in Zombie Night

Nicole Munoz in Scarecrow

Jill Teed in Independence Daysaster

Jackie Tuttle in Flying Monkeys

Dee Wallace in Robocroc

Kate Vernon in Battledogs

Best Director

Griff Furst for Ghost Shark

Robert Grasmere for Flying Monkeys

John Gulager for Zombie Night

W.D. Hogan for Independence Daysaster

*Steven R. Monroe for End of the World

Jack Perez for Blast Vegas

Best Screenplay

Shane Van Dyke for Battledogs

Joe D’Ambrosia for Blast Vegas

*Jason C. Bourque and David Ray for End of The World

Silvero Gouris for Flying Monkeys

Paul A. Birkett for Ghost Shark

Rick Suvalle for Scarecrow

Flying Monkeys

Best Monster

*Skippy from Flying Monkeys

The Shark from Ghost Shark

Robocroc from Robocroc

The Scarecrow from Scarecrow

The Tasmanian Devils from Tasmanian Devils

The Zombies from Zombie Night

Battledogs

Tomorrow, I will continue my look back at 2013 with my picks for the 16 worst films of 2013!