6 Classic Trailers For May 13th, 2022 (RIP, Fred Ward)


Originally, I was going to devote this latest edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse Trailers to all of the Friday the 13th films but then I heard the sad news that the great character actor Fred Ward had passed away at the age of 79.  Needless to say, I changed my plans.  There will be many Friday the 13ths but there was only one Fred Ward.

Fred Ward lived a life that could have been a movie.  He ran away from home at a young age.  He spent three years in the Air Force.  He spent some time as a boxer.  He worked as a lumberjack in Alaska.  He worked as a cook.  He worked as a janitor.  He spent some time in Rome, dubbing Italian films for the American market.  Much like Lance Henriksen, someone from Fred Ward’s tough background may have seemed like an unlikely actor but he proved himself to be one of our most memorable.  Ward brought an authenticity to even the wildest of parts.  He was a smart actor who could play dumb and, by most accounts, a down-to-Earth nice guy who could be totally intimidating on screen.  He was one of the best.  Here are 6 Fred Ward trailers.

  1. Time Rider (1983)

After appearing in a few supporting roles (most memorably as a trigger-happy redneck in Southern Comfort), Fred Ward had his first starring role in Time Rider.  In this film, Ward plays a dirt bike rider who travels through time.

2. Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985)

After playing tragic astronaut Gus Grissom in 1983’s The Right Stuff, Ward was cast as Remo Williams in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.  Ward performed all of his own stunts and, if the film had been a success, he would have had a chance to be an American James Bond.  Unfortunately, Remo Williams bombed at the box office and was only later appreciated by fans of action cinema.

3. Tremors (1990)

Perhaps the most beloved of all of Fred Ward’s films, this horror comedy featured Ward, Kevin Bacon, and a bunch of killer worms.  What could have been a standard B-movie was elevated by a witty script, energetic direction, and Bacon and Ward’s playful performances.  The way that Ward and Bacon bounced dialogue off of each other was almost as fun as all the monster mayhem.

4. Miami Blues (1990)

The same year that Tremors came out, Ward co-starred with Alec Baldwin and Jennifer Jason Leigh in Miami Blues, a film that showed all three of those performers at their best.

5. Cast a Deadly Spell (1991)

In this film, which was made for HBO, Fred Ward plays a role that was perfect for him.  He’s a tough, hard-boiled P.I. working the mean streets of Los Angeles in 1948.  The catch?  In this version of 1948, everyone uses magic!  This is a fun movie and I recommend it to everyone.

6.  Full Disclosure (2001)

Even though Ward’s career as a leading man slowed down a bit in recent years, he still appeared in movies and often, he was the best (any maybe only) reason to watch them.  I’ve never seen Full Disclosure but if I ever do track it down, it will be because of Fred Ward.

Fred Ward, R.I.P.

 

Horror on the Lens: Cast a Deadly Spell (dir by Martin Campbell)


For today’s horror on the lens, we have a real treat!

Produced for HBO in 1991, Cast a Deadly Spell takes place in an alternate 1948, where magic is used regularly and zombies are used as slave labor but the streets of Los Angeles are just as mean as they’ve ever been.  Fred Ward gives a fantastic performance as Harry Phillip Lovecraft, a hard-boiled P.I. who refuses to use magic on general principle.  Lovecraft, however, may have no choice when he finds himself embroiled in a case involving a magic book, Julianne Moore, and Clancy Brown!

Enjoy!

(If you want to know more about the film, check out this review that I wrote for Horror Critic.)

Back to School Part II #20: Secret Admirer (dir by David Greenwalt)


Secret_admirer

After I finished watching Girls Just Want To Have Fun, it was time for the 1986 film, Secret Admirer!

Secret Admirer is a fairly good example of a film that is dependent upon the idiot plot.  Every plot complication could have been avoided by the characters not being idiots.  The entire storyline could have been resolved within five minutes if some of the characters had been willing to ask questions before jumping to assumptions.  Idiot plots tend to fun when they deal with teenagers, largely because, when you’re that age, you can get away with being an idiot.  That’s part of the charm of being a teenager and why nobody ever wants to grow up.  When you’re a teenager, you’re not expected to have any common sense or knowledge of the real world so you can get away with a lot more.  At the same time, idiot plots involving adults tend to be annoying because adults really should know better.  The idiot plot of Secret Admirer involves both teenagers and adults and, as a result, the film is half-charming and half-annoying.

Smart but shy Toni (Lori Loughlin) has a crush on her lifelong friend, the sweet but kinda stupid Michael (C. Thomas Howell).  So, Toni writes Michael an incredibly eloquent love note and slips it into his locker.  When Michael finds the note, he assumes that it was written by Debbie (Kelly Preston), who is pretty and popular but only dates college students.  When Michael attempts to write a response to Debbie, he is sabotaged by his limited vocabulary, lack of eloquence, and general dimness.  Luckily, Toni finds the note and, wanting to spare Michael any embarrassment, rewrites it for him.  Debbie is so touched by Toni’s note that she goes out on a date with Michael.  Toni is forced to stand in the background and watch while the boy she loves falls for a girl who is obsessed with shopping.  (Secret Admirer suggests that this obsession indicates that Debbie is shallow but seriously, who doesn’t love to shop?)  Will Toni tells Michael that she loves him or will she leave him so that she can spend a year studying abroad?  (Personally, I would leave and have fun exploring Europe but then again, I also love to shop so obviously, Toni and I have conflicting worldviews.)

But that’s not all!  Michael’s dad, George (Cliff DeYoung), also finds the note and assumes that it was written to him by Debbie’s mom, Elizabeth (Leigh Taylor-Young).  Of course, Debbie’s father, a police detective named Lou (the always gruff Fred Ward), also comes across the note and becomes convinced that George and Elizabeth are having an affair.  He somewhat forcibly recruits George’s wife, Connie (Dee Wallace Stone), to help him expose George and Elizabeth for being the cheaters that he believes them to be….

I got annoyed with the parents fairly quickly.  It’s always fun to watch Fred Ward grimace and glare at people but otherwise, all of the adults were way too stupid and their behavior reminded me of that terrible episode of Saved By The Bell where the exact same thing happens to Mr. Belding.  Secret Admirer works best when the adults are pushed to the background and the film concentrates on the relationship between Toni and Michael.  They’re a sweet couple and you really want to see them end up together.  Michael may be stupid but he’s still really cute and the film is perfectly charming whenever it concentrates on him and Toni.

Incidentally, Michael has several friends.  They all ride around in a van and look through old issues of Playboy together.  Most of the friends are interchangeable but I did like Ricardo (Geoffrey Blake), just because he was wearing a suit and a fedora for no particular reason.  Ricardo didn’t really get to do much but his fashion sense made a definite impression.

By the admittedly high standards of 80s teen films, Secret Admirer is a minor film.  It’ll never be mistaken for Sixteen Candles or Pretty In Pink.  That said, it’s still an entertaining and occasionally sweet film.  You’ll want to skip over the scenes involving the adults but the scenes involving C. Thomas Howell and Lori Loughlin are perfectly charming.

Insomnia File #11: Summer Catch (dir by Mike Tollin)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

Summer_catch

Whenever I look at my cable guide, I always notice that channel 834 is listed as being “MorMax.”  For some reason, I always assume that MorMax stands for Morman Max and I’m always expecting that it’s going to show movies about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.  But actually, MorMax stands for More Cinemax.

Anyway, last night, if you were having a hard time sleeping around midnight (though why anyone would ever try to go to sleep before midnight is beyond me), you could have turned on MorMax and watched the 2001 romantic comedy Summer Catch!

Though it may be hard to believe today, there was a time when Freddie Prinze, Jr. was a pretty big deal.  From 1997 to 2001, Prinze appeared in 179 movies.  Well, actually, he only appeared in 10 but since they were all aimed at teenage girls and played on cable constantly, it felt like 179.  (Seriously, there was a time when I could not get through an entire day without seeing at least a few minutes of She’s All That.)  For the most part, all of these films were pretty much the same.  Freddie Prinze, Jr. plays a kind of dumb guy who falls in love with a girl.  Prinze’s character was usually from a working class family and had at least one wacky friend.  The girl was usually from a rich family and had one bitchy friend who would be an ex-friend by the end of the movie.  There was usually at least one scene set on the beach or at a swimming pool, the better for Freddie to remove his shirt and his costar to chastely strip down to her underwear.  There was usually a falling in love montage and at least one big misunderstanding.  Freddie would always flash the same goofy smile whenever the misunderstanding was cleared up.  Even at the time that the films were being released, nobody was ever under the impression that Freddie Prinze, Jr. was a particularly good actor.  But he was likable, unthreatening, and hot in an oddly bland sort of way.

(Speaking of oddly bland, check out the titles of some of Prinze’s films: She’s All That, Down To You, Boys and Girls, Head over Heels, and, of course, Summer Catch.)

Summer Catch opens with Ryan Dunne (Freddie!) explaining that he’s just a working class kid from Massachusetts but this summer, he’s going to be playing amateur baseball in Cap Cod and hopefully, he’ll get signed to a professional contract as result.  (Freddie adopts an inconsistent “pahk ya cah by the bah” accent and its kind of endearing to see him trying so hard.)  Ryan, of course, is just a local guy who mows lawns for a living but he’s determined to succeed.  He just has to stay focused.

However, that’s going to be difficult because he’s just met Tenley Parrish (Jessica Biel).  The Parrishes own a vacation home on Cape Cod and they are so rich that they can afford to name their oldest daughter Tenley.  Soon, Tenley and Ryan are a couple but Tenley’s father wants Tenley to marry a rich boy and Ryan’s father is too busy being all surly and working class to appreciate Ryan’s dreams.

(Tenley’s father, incidentally, is played by Bruce Davison because all snobbish WASPs of a certain age are played by Bruce Davison.  Ryan’s father is played by Fred Ward because Summer Catch was made in 2001.)

Because every Freddie Prinze, Jr. movie needs a hyperactive and wacky sidekick, Ryan’s best friend on the team is a catcher named Billy Brubaker (Matthew Lillard.)  Billy is known as “Bru.”  There’s a lot of scenes of people saying stuff like “Yo, Bru,” and “Come on, Bru!”  After a while, I found myself hoping for a scene where Bru went crazy and started shouting, “My name is Billy, dammit!  BILLY!  DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!”  Instead, however, we get a subplot about how Billy can’t get any hits until he has sex with and wears the thong underwear of a local baseball fan.

Anyway, Summer Catch is an extremely predictable film.  It’s not surprising that this was one of Freddie’s final star vehicles because, other than his heroic effort to maintain a Massachusetts accent, even he seems to be bored with it all.  Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Summer Catch is that there’s next to no actual conflict in the film.  Oh sure, Ryan and Tenley have a few misunderstandings but it’s never anything serious.

If there’s an unheralded hero to Summer Catch, it’s the uncredited guy who we hear providing commentary during the games.  Seriously, I would have been so lost if not for him constantly saying stuff like, “This is Ryan Dunne’s chance to show what he can do,” and “Billy Brubaker needs to get a hit here…”  They should have made the entire movie about him and his efforts to remain up-to-date on all the players.

Because Summer Catch was a baseball film, I begged my sister Erin to watch it with me so that she could explain all the baseball stuff to me.  For the record, Erin says that the game scenes were okay (and I personally liked all of the totally gratuitous slow motion) but that the film wasn’t really a deep examination of baseball.  To be honest, I really wasn’t expecting that it would be.  I just wanted to make my sister stay up late and watch a movie with me.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye

 

 

A Quickie Review: 30 Minutes or Less (dir. by Ruben Fleischer)


Earlier tonight, I went and saw the new comedy 30 Minutes or Less.  The film has, so far, gotten mixed reviews and the theater we saw it in was half-deserted.  The audience laughed quite a bit during the 1st half of the movie and a little less so during the second.  As soon as the credits started, everyone stood up and left.  This is not the type of film that inspires you to sit around and wait to see if there’s any extras at the end.  Still, despite that, it’s an enjoyable comedy that has enough laughs in it to justify the 83 minutes it takes to watch the entire film.

Danny McBride plays an aimless loser who, despite being in his mid-3os, still lives at home with his wealthy but hateful father (well-played by Fred Ward).  McBride spends his time blowing stuff up with his well-meaning but stupid best friend (Nick Swardson) and fantasizing about the day that his father will die and leave him his inheritance.  However, then McBride finds out about a hitman (Michael Pena) who is willing to kill Ward as long as McBride can pay him several thousand dollars.  So, McBride and Swardson kidnap a pizza deliveryman (Jesse Eisenberg) and strap a bomb to his chest.  They tell him that is he doesn’t rob a bank in the next 10 hours, the bomb will go off.  With the help of his best friend (Aziz Ansari), Eisenberg attempts to do just that.

The film’s humor comes not from the plot (which is based very loosely on a true story — more about that in a minute) but instead from the way these very ordinary characters attempt to deal with the situation they find themselves in.  All four of the major characters have little grasp on reality beyond what they’ve seen in other movies.  When Eisenberg and Aziz plot their bank robbery, it has less to do with logistics and everything to do with Point Break.  The film is perfectly cast and all of the actors have a real chemistry with each other.  You believe that McBride and Swardson are lifelong friends just as you buy that Aziz would go out of his way to help out Eisenberg. 

Much as he did with Zombieland, director Fleischer manages to maintain a nice balance between the comedic and the grotesque.  Unfortunately, also much like Zombieland, the film starts to run out of steam during the second half as the storyline becomes more centered on action than on comedy.  These characters who were previously only talking about being in an action film are suddenly thrust into an action film and everything starts to seem a little bit too familiar.  Still, 30 Minutes or Less is an enjoyable enough movie.  I just wish the end result had been a little less uneven.

Now, 30 Minutes or Less is based on a true story and this story wasn’t a comedy.  In 2003, a pizza deliveryman named Brian Douglas Wells robbed a bank in Erie, Pennsylvania.  He had a bomb around his neck.  Unlike the characters in this film, Wells was killed when the bomb went off and blew a softball-sized hole in his chest.  The police — who, in the moments before the fatal blast, basically just stood around with their tasers drawn while Wells begged for help — later accused Wells of being a part of the whole plot.  Which makes absolutely no sense but who am I to question Big Brother? 

Regardless of whether Wells was a victim or participant, that doesn’t change the fact that pizza delivery men are easy targets.  Just last year in Dallas, two kids with guns ordered a pizza and gave the address of a deserted warehouse.  They had to call many different pizza places before they found someone willing to deliver to that area of town.  When the pizza arrived, the kids gunned down the deliveryman.  When they were arrested, they said they had simply wanted to kill someone and they knew a pizza deliveryman was the only potential victim they’d be able to lure out to the middle of nowhere.  That’s hardly an isolated incident. 

Also, as is mentioned in this movie, whenever the pizza person takes 34 minutes to get to your house and then you go, “Duuuuuuude, the pizza’s free!” that means that the cost of your pizza is going to be taken out of the paycheck of a man who puts his life in danger every time he goes to work. 

So, what am I saying?  I’m saying don’t be an asshole and pay for your damn pizza!

And leave a good tip.

Quickie Review: Tremors (dir. by Ron Underwood)


I just happened to catch one of my favorite creature-feature films on cable this morning and I had forgotten just how much fun this film was and is to still watch. I am talking about 1990’s horror-comedy Tremors by director Ron Underwood (who would follow it up with the very successful and funny City Slickers a year later) and starring the comedic duo of Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward. I was still in high school when I saw this in the theaters and even then this film had me from the get-go.

Tremors is a throwback to all the Saturday matinee creature-features and monster mash films that were huge during the 50’s and through the 60’s. It’s plot was simple enough that even a little kid could keep up with what was going on. We had a small, rundown mining town in the middle of nowhere (it always happens to be one of those small desert or valley towns which dotted the landscape once the national interstate was completed) whose fortunes have seen better days, hell better decades from the looks of it. The town has its cast of characters with Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon’s roles of Earl and Val the two main leads. We even get long-time genre actor Victor Wong in a supporting role as the town’s only store owner and also it’s two-bit hustler always looking to find a new way to make a buck. One of the funniest roles goes to Michael Gross (the dad in the 80’s hit family show Family Ties) who, with Reba McEntire as his wife, play some crazy-ass survivalists who try fighting off the creatures of this feature the giant, underground worms the survivors have dubbed “Graboids” for their propensity to grab people and animals with prehensile tentacle like appendages which shoot out from their mouths.

No, Tremors wasn’t some live-action version of the ever popular hentai, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the writers of the film were subconsconsciously influenced by them. What the film ended up being was one of the funnier horror comedies which ended the 80’s and announced the 90’s. It was also one of the last few great non-CGI creature features to come out of Hollywood. The Graboids were definitely animatronic and rubber-suited props, but they moved and looked real that one didn’t question whether they were real or not. It would be these creatures who would end up the stars and highlight of this film (the ensemble cast a good second) and follow-up sequels would and could never live up to it. It didn’t help that the sequels ended up using too much CGI which just ruined the illusion built-up by the original.

So, if you ever feel bored and suddenly see that one of the many basic cable channels are showing this little horror-comedy gem from the 1990’s I recommend you watch it with snacks and drinks on hand. There are many ways to make one stop being bored by watching something on the “Tele” and I say Tremors is one of those ways.