Cinemax Friday: Fever Lake (1997, directed by Ralph Portillo)


I’ve seen my share of bad slasher films but Fever Lake is definitely one of the worst.

The plot is a familiar one.  Six college students (including Corey Haim, Mario Lopez, and Lauren Parker) head to the lake for the weekend.  The lake has a bad reputation and they’ll be staying at a house where a terrible murderer occurred ten years earlier.  The sheriff (Bo Hopkins) doesn’t want any foolishness.  The local Native American medicine man (stiffly played by Michael Wise) says that there is a demon in the lake and that it’s about to reawaken.  The students go to the lakehouse anyway.  Can you guess what happens?  It’s a 93 minute film where the killer doesn’t show up for 70 minutes. There’s not much gore and zero nudity and it has a twist that anyone will be able to see from a mile away.  Haim alternates between sleepwalking his way through the film and screeching unintelligibly and Mario Lopez comes across like he’s playing A.C. Slater on speed.  It’s thoroughly inept in almost every way that a film can be and, even worse, it’s boring.

Fever Lake is the type of film that, in the 90s, you always hated coming across on late night Cinemax.  Because you were watching 2 in the morning, you would expect something extreme and instead you ended up with an hour of Corey Haim and Mario Lopez driving up to the lake.   Late night connoisseurs held films like this in a special kind of contempt.  For the most part, we never asked much from more late night Cinemax offerings and when a movie like this couldn’t even deliver what little we did ask for, it was hard not to take it personally.  (To be honest, the PG-13 rating should have given the game away.  I’m not sure what the film did to rate the addition of that 13, though.  This film is a solid PG, all the way through.)

Today, of course, we can enjoy Fever Lake because of RiffTrax.  Mike, Kevin, and Jim ripped Fever Lake apart in 2015.  The film, with their commentary, is available on Prime.  It’s the best way to watch Fever Lake.

 

Here’s The Trailer For The Saved By The Bell Reboot!


Good God, this looks awful.  When is Mario Lopez going to start aging?  I swear, the man has to have a Dorian Gray-type painting up in his attic or something.

Oh well.  As bad as it looks, I’ll probably watch a few episodes.

Cleaning Out The DVR: A Very Merry Toy Store (dir by Paula Hart)


(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 A Very Merry Toy Store off of Lifetime on November 26th!)

As I watched A Very Merry Toy Store, I found myself wondering, “Could any couple possibly be more adorable than Melissa Joan Hart and Mario Lopez?”

Hart and Lopez play rival toy store owners in this movie and they are the main reason to watch.  Hart is Connie Forrester.  Lopez is Will DiNova.  At one time, their fathers owned one toy story but when a conflict led to the end of their partnership, it also led to Connie and Will growing up to be rivals.  Connie’s toy store is struggling.  Will’s toy store is thriving but he’s struggling personally as he tries to deal with a divorce.  However, Will and Connie will have to set their differences aside because Roy Barnes (Billy Gardell) has just arrived in town and he brings with him the promise of the type of big chain store that puts independent toy stores out of business!

So, obviously, the main appeal here is that Mario Lopez was A.C. Slater and Melissa Joan Hart was Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.  The film even highlights the Sabrina connection by casting Beth Broderick as Connie’s mother.  (Broderick gets a subplot of her own, a sweet love story with old pro Brian Dennehy.)  Lopez and Hart are so overwhelming likable that it’s easy to overlook the fact that nothing surprising at all happens in A Very Merry Toy Store.  Whenever they get together and smile, the blinding likability on display keeps you from worrying about things like plot holes or the fact that Roy is a bit of a cartoonish villain.  Lopez and Hart are fun to watch and you hope that their characters end up together.  If nothing else, you know they’re going to have amazingly likable children.

Speaking of Mario Lopez, does he have a picture of Dorian Gray in his attic or what?  The same day that I watched A Very Merry Toy Store, I also watched an old episode of Saved By The Bell and I was once again shocked by the fact that Lopez has apparently not aged in twenty years.  As for Melissa Joan Hart, she’s all always be Sabrina to me.  She’s also a pretty good actress with a very genuine screen presence.  This is the second time that Lopez and Hart have played a couple and hopefully, they’ll do so again next Christmas.

A Very Merry Toy Store may be a predictable holiday film but it is more than saved the charisma of its two leads.

 

A Movie A Day #337: Colors (1988, directed by Dennis Hopper)


Los Angeles in the 80s.  Beneath the California glamour that the rest of America thinks about when they think about L.A., a war is brewing.  Bloods vs Crips vs the 21st Street Gang.  For those living in the poorest sections of the city, gangs provide everything that mainstream society refuses to provide: money, a chance to belong, a chance to advance.  The only drawback is that you’ll probably die before you turn thirty.  Two cops — veteran Hodges (Robert Duvall) and rookie McGavin (Sean Penn) — spend their days patrolling a potential war zone.  Hodges tries to maintain the peace, encouraging the gangs to stay in their own territory and treat each other with respect.  McGavin is aggressive and cocky, the type of cop who seems to be destined to end up on the evening news.  With only a year to go before his retirement, Hodges tries to teach McGavin how to be a better cop while the gangs continue to target and kill each other.  The cycle continues.

Colors was one of the first and best-known of the “modern gang” films.  It was also Dennis Hopper’s return to directing, 17 years after the notorious, drug-fueled disaster of The Last Movie.  Hopper took an almost documentary approach to Colors, eschewing, for the most part, melodrama and instead focusing on the day-to-day monotony of life in a war zone.  There are parts of Colors that are almost deliberately boring, with Hodges and McGavin driving through L.A. and trying to stop trouble before it happens.  Hopper portrays Hodges and McGavin as being soldiers in a war that can’t be won, combatants in a concrete Vietnam.  Colors is nearly 20 years old but it holds up.  It’s a tough and gritty film that works because of the strong performances of Duvall and Penn.  The legendary cinematographer Haskell Wexler vividly captures the harshness of life in the inner city.  Actual gang members served as extras, adding to the film’s authentic, documentary feel.  Among the actors playing gang members, Don Cheadle, Trinidad Silva, Glenn Plummer, and Courtney Gains all make a definite impression.  In a small but important role, Maria Conchita Alonso stands in for everyone who is not a cop and who is not a gang member but who is still trapped by their endless conflict.

One person who was not impressed by Colors was future director John Singleton.  Boyz ‘n The Hood was largely written as a response to Colors‘s portrait of life in South Central Los Angeles.

Playing Catch-Up: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (dir by Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone)


Have you heard of Conner4Real?

If you haven’t, you’re probably just old or else you don’t keep up with what’s happening in the world of popular music.  His real name is Conner Friel and he used to be a member of the Style Boyz.  Of course, the Style Boyz eventually broke up.  Kid Brain became a farmer.  Kid Contact became a DJ.  And Kid Conner — well, he became Conner4Real and he became a bigger star as a solo artist than he ever was as a Style Boy.  His debut album, Thriller, Also, broke records.

But the follow-up, Connquest … well, Connquest wasn’t quite as acclaimed.  In fact, it was hated by just about everyone.  This is despite featuring classic songs like:

Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song)

Mona Lisa

and Equal Rights (featuring P!nk).

Fortunately, when Conner4Real was facing his greatest existential crisis, a film crew was present to record his struggle.  For those of us who were fascinated by the career of Conner4Real, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a chance to see how Conner dealt with everything from his terminally ill pet turtle to the elaborate marriage proposal ceremony that led to Seal being attacked by wild wolves.  We would have gotten to see Conner and his manager defeat a swarm of mutant bees but, unfortunately, that happened right after the only time that Conner’s manager asked the film crew to stop filming.

Oh well, these things happen.

So, as you should have guessed from all that, Popstar is not a serious film.  It’s a mockumentary, with the emphasis on mock.  It was also one of the funniest films of 2016, a spot-on parody of the silliness and pretensions of fame.  Conner is a combination of Justin Bieber and Macklemore at their shallowest, a well-meaning but thoroughly empty-headed singer.  In fact, if Conner was played by anyone other than Andy Samberg, he would be so annoying that the film would run the risk of being unwatchable.

But fortunately, Conner is played by Andy Samberg.  It’s hard to think of anyone who plays dumb with quite the same panache as Andy Samberg does.  There are plenty of lines in Popstar that shouldn’t work but they do, specifically because they’re being delivered by Samberg.  He brings just the right amount of sweetly sincere stupidity to the role.  Almost despite yourself, you find yourself hoping that things will work out for Conner and the other Style Boyz.  Conner may not deserve to be as big a star as he is but it was obviously going to happen to some idiot so why not a sincere one?

Samberg is not the only funny person in Popstar.  The movie is full of funny people, from Sarah Silverman to Bill Hader to the always underrated Tim Meadows.  It’s also full of celebrity cameos and I have to admit that I usually tend to cringe when I see too many people playing themselves.  But in Popstar, it works.  One need only rewatch something like Zoolander 2 to see how well Popstar pulls off its celebrity cameos.

Sadly, as funny as Popstar was, it was also one of the biggest bombs of 2016.  (The trailer, it must be said, did not do the film justice.)  However, I expect that it will soon develop a strong cult following.  In a few years, we’ll get a sequel.  It probably won’t be as as good.

Oh well.  These things happen.

What Lisa and Megan Watched Last Night #96: Saved By The Bell 2.9 “Jessie’s Song” (dir by Don Barnhart)


Last night, my sister Megan and I watched the classic 1990 Saved By The Bell caffeine pill episode, Jessie’s Song.

Why Were We Watching It?

I was visiting Megan and her family for the holidays, she has every episode of Saved By The Bell on DVD — seriously, how could we not end up watching it?

What Was It About?

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times and things at Bayside High were pretty messed up.  Self-declared genius Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley) was failing Geometry so she started taking caffeine pills.  Then, her sociopathic friend Zack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) decided that Jessie should also launch a musical career as a member of the disturbingly generic girl group Hot Sundae.  And who can blame him with all of this talent of display?

 And so, Jessie started taking more and more pills.  And then, this happened…

Fear not!  Jessie recovered from her drug addiction in time to be featured in Johnny Dakota’s No Hope With Dope ad campaign.

What Worked?

Jessie’s Song is like The Room of Saved By The Bell episodes, 22 minutes of television that is just so wrong and oddly executed that it becomes oddly fascinating.  For that reason, it’s impossible to judge this episode by standard definitions of quality.

The idea that Kelly, Lisa, and Jessie (a.k.a. Hot Sundae) could get a recording contract, the fact that Jessie ends up getting hooked on the equivalent of can of Red Bull, the fantasy sequence where Jessie imagines having to go to Surf U. because she failed Geometry, the fact that a few pills transform Jessie overnight, and the overly optimistic ending; none of it works.  And, for that reason, the entire episode works.

Consider this — before I had even seen this episode, I knew that Jessie Spano ended up getting hooked on caffeine pills and singing, “I’m so excited!  I’m so excited!  I’m so …. SCARED!”  For better or worse, this episode is a part of our culture.

On a personal note, I loved the extremely earnest way Mario Lopez delivered the line, “Hold on, Jessie — it says right here that these may be habit-forming…”

What Did Not Work?

As Megan pointed out to me, there’s a huge continuity error in this episode.  Back in the glee club episode, it had been established that Kelly couldn’t sing.  Now, suddenly, she’s on the verge of getting a recording contract.  Was there no such thing as a consistency at Bayside?  No wonder Jessie ended up addicted to drugs.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

Much like Jessie Spano, I have a tendency to push myself.  Whereas Jessie pushed herself to attend an Ivy League college and to try to destroy the patriarchy, I push myself to post a certain amount of film reviews each month.

For instance, earlier this year, I decided that I would post at least 120 reviews in October.  And so, much like Jessie, I pushed myself and pushed myself and, when I felt like I couldn’t go on, I took every pill that I had in the medicine cabinet and then I danced around my bedroom going, “I’m so excited!  I’m so excited!  I’m so … scared!”

And some people though that was silly on my part but you know what?  This October, the TSL posted 137 new reviews so, obviously, I was doing something right.  And I’ve already decided that next year, we’re going to break all previous records.  That’s right — 200 posts in October of 2014!  You read it here first.

And, to think, I owe it all to caffeine.

Lessons Learned

There’s no hope with dope!  Wait … no, actually, that was a different episode.  In this one, I guess I learned not to abuse caffeine but I really didn’t learn that because I’ve seen this episode a few dozen times and I’m still addicted to caffeine and, for that matter, I’m still pushing myself and having trouble accepting that I can’t always be the best at everything so maybe I didn’t learn anything from this episode…

Oh wait!  I did learn something.  Geometry leads to drug addiction and causes you to let all of your friends down.

Seriously, geometry sucks.

(For another look at drug abuse in the 1990s, please be sure to check out my review of the California Dreams steroid episode, Tiffani’s Gold.)

What Lisa Watched Last Night: Saved By The Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas (dir. by Jeff Melman)


Recently, I spent the night watching a bunch of commercials for Everest College that had been recorded onto my DVR.  Occasionally, the Everest commercials were interrupted by 1994’s made-for-tv movie Saved By The Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas.

Why Was I Watching It?

Back when I was like 10, I used to always watch Saved By The Bell: The New Class every Saturday morning.  Even at that age, I knew that show was kinda stupid and that Dustin Diamond’s Screech Powers was one of the most annoying television characters of all time.  But I still watched it and occasionally, I would catch a rerun of the Old Class as well.  (Quite honestly, up until a few years ago, there was never a time that reruns of Saved By The Bell weren’t being broadcast somewhere.)  By the time I was in high school, I appreciated Saved By The Bell as being almost a type of performance art.

As of late, it’s been difficult to find Saved By The Bell reruns on television and that made me a little bit sad because I felt like my childhood was disappearing and that I might be turning into an adult.  So, imagine how happy I was when I discovered that MTV2 now shows a two hour-block of Saved By The Bell every afternoon and, thanks to the wonderful thing that is the DVR, I can watch them without having to quit my job to do so.  Yay!

Two weeks ago, MTV2 showed the final Saved By The Bell movie, 1994’s Wedding in Las Vegas.  Though I knew, of course, that Zack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) and Kelly (Tiffani Amber Thiessen) had gotten married at the end of the original series, I had never actually seen the wedding.  And I have to admit that I really didn’t have much desire to see the wedding until it suddenly showed up on my DVR…

What Was It About?

This is one of those rare cases where the film’s title truly tells you everything you need to know.  Zack and Kelly get married in Las Vegas while their friends Screech, Slater (Mario Lopez), and Lisa (Lark Voorhees) have wacky adventures of their own.  Zack has $1,200 dollars to try to put on his dream wedding but, as often happens in the world of Saved By The Bell, there are countless complications that are largely the result of Zack being a sociopathic pathological liar.  Zack loses all of his money but, instead of telling Kelly the truth, he attempts to win the money by becoming a male escort.  Meanwhile, Slater falls in love with a girl who is being pursued by the Mafia and Lisa (Hey, I just noticed that we have the same name!  Yay!) ends up flirting with a hot guy who has a pony tail and who, fortunately, happens to be as rich as everyone else that she went to high school with.

What Worked And What Did Not Work?

Normally, I separate this into two separate questions but that’s kind of pointless when you’re dealing with something like Saved By The Bell: Wedding Las Vegas.  The main thing that works about a show like Saved By The Bell is that absolutely nothing really works.  It’s all very silly, shallow, predictable, dated, occasionally cringe-worthy, and, in its way, very calming.  Despite the film’s many flaws, it’s difficult to really justify criticizing it too harshly because you know what you’re getting into when you decide to watch something called Saved By The Bell: Wedding In Las Vegas in the first place.

Almost everyone in the cast is really cute in a 90s kinda way and even the usually horrible Dustin Diamond (who I hated even when I was ten years old and watching him on the New Class) is tolerable in Las Vegas.  Though the film — much like the series — is focused on Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Zack, I’ve always felt that Zack was overrated.  Mario Lopez, with his confident smile and perfectly chiseled body, was (and still is) the hot one.   Whereas Zack always seemed to have an off-putting air of entitlement, Slater knew what he wanted and he took it.  That trend continues in Wedding In Las Vegas where Slater won’t even let the Mafia stand in the way of getting a date.

This film is technically a comedy though you don’t so much laugh with it as you laugh at it.  However, there was one moment that made me genuinely laugh out loud and that was the scene where “the gang” visits a 24-hour wedding chapel and director Jeff Melman gives us a quick tracking shot of the long line of couples waiting to get married.  Along with the expected Elvis impersonators, there’s also a very pregnant girl standing next to a scared-looking boy who has an old man pointing a shotgun at him.  That made me laugh.

This is yet another one of the shows where every single problem could have been avoided by the characters just not acting like idiots.  Seriously, I don’t know what’s worse — that Zack felt that it would be better to become a male escort as opposed to just telling Kelly the truth or that Kelly so quickly forgave him.  (Me, I would have been so mad at him but it doesn’t seem to bother Kelly that her future husband lied to her on the night before their wedding.)

As I stated before, there’s a lot that technically doesn’t work about Wedding in Las Vegas but it is Saved By The Bell, after all.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

If ever get married in Las Vegas, I imagine it’ll be quite a bit like Saved By The Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas, in that I fully expect that 1) I’ll stay at a nice hotel, 2) I’ll get a mani/pedi with my best girlfriend, and 3) the Mafia will somehow be involved. 

That said, Dustin Diamond will not be invited to my wedding.

Lessons Learned

Nothing can stand in the way of true love.  Especially when you’re rich and white.