The Death of the Incredible Hulk (1990, directed by Bill Bixby)


David Banner (Bill Bixby), still hoping to find a cure for the condition that causes him to turn into the Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) whenever he gets injured or stressed out, heads up to Portland.  Pretending to be a simple-minded janitor named David Bellamy, Banner gets a job working in the lab of Dr. Ronald Pratt (Philip Sterling).  Banner hopes that Dr. Pratt’s research holds the secret that can release him from being the Hulk.  When Dr. Pratt learns Banner’s secret, he and his wife (Barbara Tarbock) work with Banner to try to cure him and to understand the Hulk.

David Banner is not the only person who has infiltrated the lab.  KGB agent Jasmin (Elizabeth Gracen) has also been sent to the lab with orders to steal Pratt’s research.  Jasmin hates working for the KGB but she’s been told that her sister will be killed unless she complete one final mission.  When Jasmin meets and falls in love with David, she starts to reconsider her loyalties.  When the KGB finally makes their movies, Jasmin is going to have to decide who to help and the Hulk is going to have to come through and save the day one final time.

David Banner’s saga finally comes to a close in The Death of the Incredible Hulk, the third and last of the Incredible Hulk television movies.  It’s also the best of the three, though that might not by saying much when you consider the quality of the first two.  While the other two movies both served as backdoor pilots for other heroes and the Hulk was barely even present in the 2nd movie, The Death of the Incredible Hulk keeps the focus squarely on David Banner and the Hulk.  (Though Jasmin does seem like she could be a version of the Black Widow, I think the similarities between the two characters are a coincidence.  Beautiful and conflicted KGB agents were a popular trope in the 80s and early 90s.)  Both Bixby and Ferrigno get to show off what they can do in their signature roles.  Bixby is especially good at capturing Banner’s tortured and lonely existence and his performance helps to make The Death of the Incredible Hulk something more than just another cheap sci-fi TV movie.

Though the film stays true to its title and ends with a mortally wounded Banner saying that he’s finally free, it was not intended to be the final Hulk film.  There were plans to bring David Banner back to life and presumably, the Hulk would have come back with him.  Unfortunately, Bill Bixby himself died in 1993, before shooting could begin on The Return of the Incredible Hulk.

 

The Trial of the Incredible Hulk (1989, directed by Bill Bixby)


Still on the run and hoping to find a cure for the condition that causes him to transform into the Incredible Hulk, David Banner (Bill Bixby) is now in New York and using the name David Belson.  He’s grown a beard to keep himself from being recognized.  I guess it’s like when Superman used to put on his glasses.  When David sees a woman being harassed on the subway by two thugs, it’s too much stress for him and he transforms into the Hulk (Lou Ferrigno).  When the Hulk turns back into David, he is arrested and charged with being a mugger.  (No one believes the witness’s account of seeing a huge green man on the subway.)

Despite the title, the Hulk never goes on trial, though there’s a dream sequence where David turns into the Hulk in a courtroom.  (Stan Lee plays the jury foreman.)  Just having a nightmare about turning into the Hulk is enough to cause the transformation for real.  No New York jail can hold the Hulk.

David’s lawyer is blind and yes, his name is Matthew Murdock (played by Rex Smith).  Murdock thinks that the attack on the subway was somehow linked to a crime lord named … yes, Wilson Fisk.  Fisk (John Rhys-Davies) wants to set up a national crime syndicate, as if Lucky Luciano didn’t already do that.  Using the name Daredevil, Murdock tries to prevent that.  David eventually ends up helping.

The Trial of the Incredible Hulk is a huge tease.  It promises the Hulk on trial but, instead, it’s just a backdoor pilot for a Daredevil TV series.  Just like in The Incredible Hulk Returns, the Hulk is forced to make room for a new hero.  But at least The Incredible Hulk Returns actually featured the Hulk working with Thor.  In Trial of the Incredible Hulk, the Hulk is hardly present at all.  Banner encourages Murdock not to give up, even after he’s badly beaten by Fisk’s men, and he works with Matt to help him prepare for a rematch.  But the final battle is almost all Daredevil.  Once he escape from prison, Banner doesn’t turn into the Hulk once.

Rex Smith isn’t bad as Daredevil.  While he’s not as good as Charlie Cox, he’s still better than Ben Affleck.  While the movie does not feature the classic Daredevil costume, it does at least get Daredevil’s origins and powers correct.  John Rhys-Davies hams it up as Wilson Fisk.  One of Marvel’s most intriguing villains is turned into just another generic bad guy in an office.  It’s disappointing.

The Trial of the Incredible Hulk ends with Murdock pledging to protecting the city and Banner again hitchhiking away.  Daredevil would have to wait for another 25 years before getting his own series.  Banner would return in The Death of the Incredible Hulk.

 

A Movie A Day #145: The Incredible Hulk: A Death In The Family (1977, directed by Alan J. Levi)


Following the events of The Incredible Hulk and with the world convinced that he is dead, Dr. David Banner (Bill Bixby) is hitchhiking his way across California, hoping to reach a hospital where research is being done on the effects of gamma radiation.  When he stops off in an orange grove, he spots a young, crippled woman named Julie (Laurie Prange).  When Julie faints, David carries her back to her mansion.  It turns out that, after the mysterious death of her father, Julie stands to inherit millions.  David suspects that her doctor (played by William Daniels) may be poisoning her and he gets a job working on the grounds of her mansion.  At first, David thinks that his biggest problem is going to be the head groundskeeper (Gerald McRaney), who is jealous of David’s relationship with Julie.  But, actually, it’s Julie’s stepmother (Dorothy Tristan) that David has to watch out for.  When David tries to protect Julie and a bitter hermit (John McLiam) from the stepmother’s evil plans, he soon finds himself being pursued through the swampland by both men with guns and tabloid journalist Jack McGee (Jack Colvin).  They are all making David Banner angry and they’re about to discover that they wouldn’t like David Banner when he’s angry.

This was the second pilot for The Incredible Hulk.  It aired a week after the first pilot and, like that one, it was also given a theatrical release in Europe.  While the first movie established David Banner’s backstory and explained why he transformed into the Hulk whenever he bumped his head on a door frame or twisted his ankle, A Death in The Family is more typical of the series that would follow.  Like every subsequent episode, A Death In The Family opens with David Banner finding an odd job and ended with him walking down the road with his thumb stuck out.  In between, Banner helps a special guest star.

Watching the second pilot, it’s easy to see why CBS took a chance on The Incredible Hulk even though, at the time, comic book adaptations were considered to be a risk.  Both Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno really throw themselves into playing Banner and his alter ego and the show takes the idea seriously.

There’s nothing special about the pilot’s story.  The stepmother and the doctor are obviously guilty from the start.  But the plot (and the 90 minute running time) does allow for four appearances by the Hulk.  David Banner even gets attacked by a grizzly bear, which brings the Hulk right out.  David Banner always had the worst luck with wild animals and barbed wire.  The Hulk, though, just throws the grizzly bear over into the next pond.  The bear is not harmed.  The Hulk may have been angry but he was never really dangerous.

Finally, for the record, Death In the Family featured the first of many aliases that David Banner would assume over the next four years.  This time, he’s David Benton.

A Movie A Day #144: The Incredible Hulk (1977, directed by Kenneth Johnson)


It may seem hard to believe now but there was a time when comic book adaptations were considered to be a risky bet at best.  In 1977, Marvel Comics sold the television rights for four of their characters to Universal Productions. This led to three unsuccessful pilots (one for Dr. Strange and two for Captain America), a Spider-Man series that lasted for two seasons, and The Incredible Hulk.  As opposed to the other Marvel adaptations, The Incredible Hulk series was popular with fans and (some) critics and ultimately lasted for four seasons.

It all started with a 90 minute pilot that aired in 1977.  Haunted by the car accident that caused the death of his wife and his inability to rescue her, Dr. David Banner (Bill Bixby) is researching why, in times of extreme stress, ordinary people can suddenly experience moments of super human strength.  What he theorizes is that it is a combination of body chemistry and gamma radiation caused by sun spots.  Eager to test his theory, David straps himself into a chair and zaps himself with gamma radiation.  At first, it seems as if nothing has changed.  But when David’s driving home, he gets a flat tire.  When he struggles to change the tire, in the middle of a hurricane nonetheless, David gets mad.  Suddenly, his eyes turn green and soon so does the rest of him as David Banner is transformed into the Incredible Hulk (Lou Ferrigno, except for one shot where the Hulk is played by Richard Kiel).  The Hulk runs through the woods, accidentally scaring a girl and getting shot by a hunter.  When the Hulk falls asleep, he transforms back into David, who has no memories of what he did while he was the Hulk.  While David and his colleague, Elaina Marks (Susan Sullivan), investigate what happened to him, tabloid reporter Jack McGee (Jack Colvin) tries to uncover the results of David and Elaina’s research.

Other than introducing the Hulk and giving Banner a backstory, the pilot didn’t have much in common with the series that followed.  Along with being a comic book adaptation, the series was also a remake of The Fugitive.  With everyone convinced that the Hulk had murdered both him and Elaina, David was always on the run and trying to find a way to cure his condition.  Every episode would begin with David working a new odd job and getting involved in a new situation and almost every episode ended with David hitchhiking while the show’s famous piano theme played over the final credits.  Because David was always either getting beaten up or tangled in barbed wire, the Hulk would show up twice an episode.  David Banner just couldn’t catch a break.

The pilot seems to take forever to get going, devoting a lot of time to David and Elaina doing research.  In those days before the success of The Dark Knight and the MCU legitimized comic books as a cultural force, The Incredible Hulk was determined to show that it was not just a show for kids.  Today, the pilot is too slow-paced and self-consciously serious but still contains the elements that made the show itself became a success.  Bill Bixby takes his role seriously and Lou Ferrigno is the perfect choice for the Hulk.  Decades after they first aired, the Hulk-transformation scenes are still undeniably cool.  It was also during the pilot that Dr. Banner uttered those famous and oft-parodied words: “Mr. McGee, don’t make me angry.  You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

As of this week, reruns of The Incredible Hulk are now being shown, daily, on both H&I and the El Rey network.  I will be watching.

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #30: The Adventures of Hercules (dir by Luigi Cozzi)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by the end of Tuesday, December 6th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

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On November 10th, I recorded 1985’s The Adventures of Hercules off of the Encore Family channel.

Let’s see if I can explain exactly what this film is about.  Bear with me because this is going to be a strange one.  For that matter, you might also want to bare with me because The Adventures of Hercules is all about displaying the physique of body builder Lou Ferrigno.  Ferrigno plays the legendary Greek demigod Hercules.  Or I should say that he provides Hercules’s body and occasionally a facial expression or two.  Since The Legend of Hercules was an Italian film, the entire cast is obviously and frequently awkwardly dubbed.  That includes Ferrigno.  Though Hercules doesn’t say much, when he does speak, he does so in a voice that really doesn’t go with his body, his personality, or anything that seems to be happening on screen.

Anyway, I guess I should try to explain the plot.  I should mention that The Legend of Hercules is a sequel to another Hercules film.  I haven’t seen the first Hercules film.  Maybe the Legend of Hercules would have made more sense if I had, though I somehow doubt it.

Basically, bad things are happening on Earth.  Why?  Well, it appears that four of the Gods have gotten together and stolen Zeus’s 7 Mighty Thunderbolts.  They’ve hidden the Thunderbolts across the planet, entrusting them with various monsters.  As a result of Zeus no longer having his thunderbolts, the Moon is now on the verge of colliding with Earth and human sacrifices are also being committed to a monster that looks a lot like the ID Monster from Forbidden Planet.  

What does a Mighty Thunderbolt look like?  Here you go.

What does a Mighty Thunderbolt look like? Here you go.

Two sisters, Urania (Milly Carlucci) and Glaucia (Sonia Vivani), appeal to Zeus for help but, of course, Zeus is powerless without his thunderbolts.  However, he can still sends his son Hercules (Lou Ferrigno) to Earth.  Working with the sisters, Hercules goes on a quest for the thunderbolts.  This basically amounts to a series of scenes in which Hercules battles various people in rubber suits.  Whenever Hercules throws a punch, he’s filmed so that appears that he’s punching the camera.  Whenever Hercules’s fist makes contact, there’s a flash of red.  Whenever anyone is knocked off their feet by Hercules, they flip around in slow motion.  This happens every ten minutes or so.

Now, I don’t want to spoil the movie but I simply have to tell you about this.  There is a scene, towards the end of the film, in which Hercules literally grabs hold of the Moon and prevents it from crashing into the Earth.

Anyway, the plot makes no sense and that’s a huge part of this film’s enthusiastic, if frequently inept, charm.  As directed by the famed Italian director, Luigi Cozzi, The Adventures of Hercules has this cobbled together feeling to it that is undeniably likable.  Much as with Cozzi’s best-known film, Starcrash, The Adventures of Hercules is a film that wins you over by pure determination.  Cozzi set out to make a mythological epic and he wasn’t going to let something like a complete lack of budget stop him.

How strange an experience is The Adventures of Hercules?  Check out some of these randomly assembled screen shots:

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The other fun thing about The Adventures of Hercules is that, since this was a Luigi Cozzi film, the cast is full of Italian exploitation vets, the majority of whom were best known for appearing in far less family-friendly fare.

Here’s just a few of the performers you’ll find in The Adventures of Hercules:

Sonia Vivani, who plays Glaucia, also played the doomed sculptor in Umberto Lenzi’s infamous Nightmare City.

William Berger, who plays the villainous King Minos, appeared in several classic Spaghetti westerns, including Sabata.  Sadly, his promising career was cut short when he was framed for drug possession and spent several years in an Italian prison.  When he was finally freed, he ended up doing movies like The Adventures of Hercules.

Zeus was played by Claudio Cassinelli, an acclaimed actor who appeared in several giallo films.  He also co-starred in 1978’s infamous Mountain of the Cannibal God.

The evil High Priest was played by Venantino Venantini whose credits include everything from The Agony and the Ecstasy to Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead to Umberto Lenzi’s Cannibal Ferox.

Aphrodite is played by Margit Newton, who somewhat infamously starred in what is generally considered to be the worst zombie film of all time, Hell of the Living Dead.

Serena Grandi played Euryale (a.k.a. Medusa).  Grandi is probably most remembered for his grotesque death scene in  Antropophagus.  She was also the star of one of my personal guilty pleasures, Lamberto Bava’s Delirium.

And finally, the mad scientist Dedalos was played by Eva Robbins, who achieved immortality by playing the Girl on the Beach in Dario Argento’s Tenebrae.

The Adventures of Hercules might not be “technically” a good film but it’s definitely (and rather compulsively) watchable.

Let’s Talk About Sharknado 3!


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(This review contains spoilers because it’s impossible for me to imagine that you somehow have not already seen Sharknado 3.)

Last night, I watched and live tweeted Sharknado 3 and I’m still recovering.  After the first hundred, I lost track of how many tweets I devoted to Sharknado 3.  Of course, I wasn’t alone in that.  Last night, it seemed like the entire nation was tweeting about Sharknado 3 and it was a wonderful thing.  At its best, twitter can be the great equalizer, giving everyone an equal voice and last night was one of those moments.

In fact, I was tempted to just devote this review to posting the best Sharknado 3 tweets from last night.  However, if I did that, 90% of those tweets would be from me.  Out of the millions of Sharknado 3 related tweets last night, mine were definitely the best.

Over the past three years, the premiere of the latest Sharknado film has almost become an unofficial national holiday, a summer version of the Super Bowl.  On twitter, Sharknado 3 was trending for days before the film even premiered.  And, once Sharknado 3 did start, it seemed as if everyone in the country was watching and taking bets on which celebrity guest star would be the next to die.  (I’m very proud to say that I correctly predicted the bloody and prolonged death of Frankie Muniz.) Even the majority of the commercials were specifically meant to tie in with the Sharknado franchise.

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Fans of the first Sharknado will be happy to know that Nova returns!

But what’s amazing and admirable is that, even though the franchise has now become an international phenomena, Sharknado 3 stayed true to its SyFy roots.  Ignore all the hype and you’ll see that Sharknado 3 tells  a story that will be familiar to anyone who has ever watched any SyFy original movie.  The world is threatened by a flamboyant threat, in this case a bunch of tornadoes that happens to be full of sharks.  Only one man (Ian Ziering as Finn) can save the world but first, he has to deal with skeptical military jackasses.  As always seems to happen in these films, he’s separated from his wife (Tara Reid playing the role of April and sporting a truly badass robotic hand).  Meanwhile, their teenage daughter (Ryan Newman as Claudia) has gone off on her own and finds herself right in the center of the disaster.  It’s a plot that has been used in thousands of SyFy and Asylum films but director Anthony C. Ferrante directs with a lot of energy and writer Thunder Levin provides so many clever one liners that it doesn’t matter if the storyline is familiar.  Ignore all the hype and you’ll discover that Sharknado 3 is still a wonderfully fun film that features everything that we love about SyFy movies.

Of course, one thing that distinguishes Sharknado 3 from other Asylum film is that it is full of celebrity cameos.  Usually, I am weary of excessive celebrity cameos because they’re distracting and the celebs often turn out to be terrible actors.  But the celebs in Sharknado 3 all do a wonderful job.  (Add to that, the majority of them get eaten, as well.)  Then again, the same could be said for the entire cast.  Regardless of what they’re asked to do or say, Ian Ziering and Tara Reid both full commit to their performances.  Casting director Gerald Webb is indeed one of the unsung heroes of the entire Sharknado phenomena.

The film opens with a shark attack on Washington D.C. and it’s during this time that we meet President Mark Cuban and Vice President Ann Coulter.  And, oh my God, how certain heads on twitter exploded when Ann Coulter showed up.  But you know what?  After seeing Sharknado 3, I would totally vote for a Cuban/Coulter ticket.  I don’t care what their platform is, they know how to fight sharks and they seemed far more believable than anyone who is currently running for President.  At first, I assumed that Mark Cuban was supposed to be playing himself and I thought that Sharknado 3 had somehow managed to predict the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.  However, I then checked with the imdb and I discovered that Cuban was playing President Marcus Robbins.

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The same people on twitter who were bitching about Ann Coulter weren’t much happier when Michele Bachman showed up, playing herself.  (For a few minutes, I was hoping that the movie would be full of cameos from former Presidential candidates.)  However, the political cameos in Sharknado 3 are bipartisan.  When the action moves down to Orlando, noted Democrat Jerry Springer shows up as a tourist and promptly gets eaten.  And then Carlos Danger himself, Anthony Weiner, shows up as a heroic NASA guy.  Eventually, for those of us who lean towards the libertarian side of the political spectrum, Penn Jilette and Teller eventually show up.  Personally, I suspect that Teller knew how to stop the sharks but, of course, he wasn’t going to say anything.

As for the cameos from various media personalities, Sharknado 3 never manages to top the moment from Sharknado 2 where Kelly Ripa stomped a shark with her high heels.  But no matter — it’s still fun to watch Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda get drunk while sharks fall around them.  And then Matt Lauer gets eaten by a shark so yay for that!

(Incidentally, whether intentional or not, the film was full of former contestants from The Celebrity Apprentice, with Ian, Penn, and Lou Ferrigno all showing up.  Personally, I would have enjoyed seeing Piers Morgan get eaten by a shark.)

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However, of all the celebrity cameos in Sharknado 3, nobody could top the Hoff.  When David Hasselhoff first showed up as Finn’s father, it felt like a funny but obvious joke.  Of course, Finn’s father would be David Hasselhoff.  But you know what?  Give credit where credit is due.  The Hoff actually gave a pretty good performance and, during the film’s interstellar climax, he managed to do a pretty good impersonation of George Clooney as he looked out into space and said, “It’s a beautiful view.”

And yes, Sharknado 3 does go into space.  How could it not?  The film may have started out as an homage to the classic weather disaster films but, by the end of the movie, it turned into a delirious combination of JawsGravity and Interstellar.  By the time Finn was exploring the stomach of a shark while it floated through the starry sky, Sharknado 3 had achieved a definite state of grace.

Incidentally, the film ended with a cliffhanger and we were asked to vote whether or not April would live.  At first, I voted to kill April because, quite frankly, I thought it would be fun to see a vengeance-obsessed Finn.  But then Tara Reid tweeted the following and made me feel totally guilty:

So, I’m changing my vote!  APRIL LIVES!

Of course, all this means that there will be Sharknado 4 and I can hardly wait!

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Playing Catch-Up With 6 Film Reviews: Avengers Grimm, Bad Asses On The Bayou, Hayride 2, Insurgent, Poltergeist, Tomorrowland


Here are 6 films that I saw during the first half of 2015.  Some of them are on Netflix and some of them were major studio releases.  Some of them are worth seeing.  Some of them most definitely are not.

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Avengers Grimm (dir by Jeremy M. Inman)

Obviously made to capitalize on the popularity of Avengers: Age of UltronAvengers Grimm opens with a war in the world of fairy tales.  Evil Rumpelstiltskin (Casper Van Dien) uses Snow White’s (Laura Parkinson) magic mirror to cross over into our world and he takes Snow White with him!  It’s now up to Cinderella (Milynn Sharley), Sleeping Beauty (Marah Fairclough), and Rapunzel (Rileah Vanderbilt) to cross over into our world, save Snow White, and defeat Rumpelstiltskin.  Also sneaking over is rebellious Red Riding Hood (Elizabeth Petersen) who is determined to kill Rumpelstiltskin’s henchman, The Wolf (Kimo Leopoldo).  

Got all that?

Avengers Grimm is another enjoyably insane mockbuster from The Asylum.  The budget’s low, the performances are intentionally melodramatic, and it’s all lot of fun.  Casper Van Dien has a lot of fun playing evil, the women all get to kick ass, and Lou Ferrigno is well-cast as a labor leader named Iron John.

Avengers Grimm is currently available on Netflix.

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Bad Asses On The Bayou (dir by Craig Moss)

Apparently, this is the third film in which Danny Trejo and Danny Glover have respectively played Frank Vega and Bernie Pope, two old guys who kick ass in between worrying about their prostates.  I haven’t seen the previous two Bad Asses films but I imagine that it really doesn’t matter.

In this film, Trejo and Glover go to Louisiana to attend a friend’s wedding.  When she’s kidnapped, they have to rescue her and impart some important life lessons to her younger brother.  It’s all pretty predictable but then again, it’s also pretty good for a film called Bad Asses On The Bayou.  This is a film that promises two things: Danny Trejo kicking ass and lots of bayou action.  And it delivers on both counts.

In fact, I would say that Bad Asses On The Bayou is a better showcase for Danny Trejo’s unique style than the better known Machete films.  Danny Trejo is a surprisingly adept comedic actor and he gives a performance here that shows his talent goes beyond mere physical presence.

Bad Asses On The Bayou is currently available on Netflix.

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Hayride 2 (dir by Terron R. Parsons)

I should admit up front that I haven’t seen the first Hayride film.  Luckily, Hayride 2 picks up directly from the end of the first film and is filled with so many flashbacks and so much conversation about what happened that it probably doesn’t matter.

Essentially, Pitchfork (Wayne Dean) is a murderous urban legend who turns out to be real.  He killed a lot of people in the first film and he stalks those that escaped throughout the 2nd film.  Like all good slasher villains, Pitchfork is a relentless killer.  He’s also an unrepentant racist, which leads to a genuinely unpleasant scene where he attacks a black detective (Corlandos Scott).  Say whatever else you will about the film, Hayride 2 deserves some credit for being on the side of the victims.  No attempt is made to turn Pitchfork into an anti-hero and the movie is relentlessly grim.

Hayride 2 is an odd film.  The film’s low-budget is obvious in every single scene.  The pacing is abysmal and the performances are amateurish.  And yet, when taken on its own meager terms, it has a dream-like intensity to it that I appreciated.  Then again, I always have had a weakness for low-budget, regional horror films.

Hayride 2 is available on Netflix.

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Insurgent (dir by Robert Schwentke)

Insurgent is both the sequel to Divergent and was also 2015’s first YA dystopia film.  Shailene Woodley is as good as ever and I guess it’s good that she has a commercially successful franchise, which will hopefully inspire audiences to track down better Shailene Woodley films like The Spectacular Now.  

All that said, Insurgent often felt even more pointless than Divergent.  For a two-hour film featuring performers like Woodley, Kate Winslet, Octavia Spencer, Ansel Elgort, and Miles Teller, Insurgent has no excuse for being as forgettable and boring as it actually was.  The next installment in The Hunger Games can not get here soon enough.

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Poltergeist (dir by Gil Kenan)

When a family (led by Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt) move into a new house, they discover that everything is not what it seems.  For one thing, they come across a bunch of creepy clown dolls.  They also hear a lot of scary sounds.  They discover that the house was built on an old cemetery.  Their youngest daughter vanishes.  And finally, someone says, “Isn’t this like that old movie that was on TCM last night?”

Okay, they don’t actually say that.  However, as everyone knows, the 2015 Poltergeist is a remake of the 1982 Poltergeist.  Since the 1982 Poltergeist still holds up fairly well, the 2015 Poltergeist feels incredibly unnecessary.  It has a few good jump scenes and it’s always good to see Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt in lead roles but ultimately, who cares?  It’s just all so pointless.

Watch the wall-dancing original.  Ignore the remake.

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Tomorrowland (dir by Brad Bird)

Welcome to the world of tomorrow!  Wow, is it ever boring!

Actually, I feel a little bit bad about just how much I disliked Tomorrowland because this is a film that really did have the best intentions.  Watching the film, you get the sinking feeling that the people involved actually did think that they were going to make the world a better place.  Unfortunately, their idea of a better world is boring and almost oppressively optimistic.  There is no room for cynicism in Tomorrowland.  Bleh.  What fun is that?

Anyway, the film basically steals its general idea from the Atlas Shrugged trilogy.  Tomorrowland is a secret place that is inhabited by inventors, dreamers, and iconoclasts.  Years ago, Frank (George Clooney) was banished from Tomorrowland because, after learning that the Earth was destined to end, he lost “hope” in mankind’s future.  Fortunately, he meets Casey (Britt Robertson), who is full of hope and through her, he gets to return.  They also get a chance to save the world and battle a cartoonish super villain played by Hugh Laurie.  (Why is he a villain?  Because he’s played by Hugh Laurie, of course!)

After all the hype and build-up, Tomorrowland turned out to be dull and predictable.  What a shame.  The Atlas Shrugged trilogy was at least fun because it annoyed the hipsters at the AV Club.  Tomorrowland is just forgettable.

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.

Scorpion-King-4

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

6 Trailers In The Basket


Hi there and welcome to the Easter edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Trailers!

1) Bunnyman (2009)

Just in time for Easter, it’s Bunnyman!

2) Deathmaster (1972)

Much like Twilight, Deathmaster combines the true life crimes of Charles Manson with vampires.  In this one, the Manson character is played by Robert Quarry.  Speaking of which, did anyone see those pictures of the modern-day, incarcerated Manson that were released last week?  I took one look at those and I went, “Santa Claus is really letting himself go.”

3) The Last Horror Film (1984)

Speaking of maniacs, this film reunited the two stars of the infamous movie of the same name, Caroline Munro and Joe Spinell.

4)  Hercules (1983)

For the past month and a half, I’ve been watching Lou Ferrigno on The Celebrity Apprentice and, even though I’m rooting for Aubrey O’Day, it’s impossible not to like Lou.  Here’s Lou starring as Hercules in a film from the infamous Luigi Cozzi.  (I wanted to also include the trailer for Hercules In New York, the 1970 debut of Arnold Schwarzenegger but every single Hercules in New York YouTube video is embedding disabled.  Bleh!)

5) Ironmaster (1983)

Yes, it’s yet another history lesson from the Joel Schumacher of Italian exploitation, Umberto Lenzi.

6) The Phantom of the Opera (1998)

Since it’s the holidays, let’s end with some Argento.