Arcade (1993, directed by Albert Pyun)


Alex (Megan Ward) is a suburban teen still trying to come to terms with the suicide of her mother.  She and her friend, Nick (Peter Billingsley), spend all of their time hanging out at the local video arcade, Dante’s Inferno.  (Symbolic name alert!)  Also hanging out at Dante’s Inferno is a man (John de Lancie) who is desperate to find people willing to play what he says is the next step in the evolution of gaming.  The game, which is simply called “Arcade,” is a virtual reality simulator and soon, all the teens want to play it!

Unfortunately, there’s a problem with Arcade.  It was partially programmed with the brain cells of a child who had been beaten to death by his mother.  Don’t ask why anyone thought this was a good idea because this is a Charles Band production so you know no one would explain even if they could.  The child wants either friends or revenge so, as a result, the game is stealing the souls of the people who play it and transporting them to the virtual reality world.

Realizing that all of her friends will soon be gone, Alex enters the virtual reality world to save them and thwart Arcade!  She’ll have to defeat skulls, serpents, and every other CGI challenge that the game can throw at her.

If you remember this film, it’s probably because you’re like me and you saw it on HBO when you were kid.  Though the film has an R-rating because of some awkwardly deployed bad language, the film really is a teen boy fantasy, one in which you can enter the world of your favorite video game and save the world with Megan Ward, a hot girl who loves video games just as much as you do.  When it was released, Arcade’s special effects were pretty impressive.  If you watch the movie today, it’s obvious that the actors have just been superimposed against a virtual background.  Watching the film today, I had the same feeling that I had when I recently hooked up my old Xbox 360 and played a few games.  It was more primitive than I remembered but that rush of nostalgia was enjoyable for a few hours..  Arcade features an energetic cast (including Seth Green and  AJ Langer in supporting roles) and Dante’s Inferno was the coolest arcade I’ve ever seen.  It was a hundred times better than the one from Joysicks.

One final note: If you needed any more evidence that Disney is evil, they actually sued Charles Band because they claimed Arcade was too similar to Tron!  As a result, Band, working with Peter Billingsley, actually had to redesign a good deal of the CGI before the film could be released.  Disney was right about Arcade being a goof on Tron but who cares?  I doubt anyone has ever said, “I’ve seen Arcade, I don’t need to see Tron.”  Chill out, Disney.  There’s room for at everyone at the arcade.

 

Cleaning Out The DVR: Party Mom (dir by Michael Feifer)


(I recorded Party Mom off of the Lifetime Movie Network on March 30th.)

Party Mom tells the story of two moms who live in Los Angeles.

Jackie (Krista Allen) is a party mom!  She has a nice house in Beverly Hills, where the party never ends.  She’s always quick to point out that she looks young enough that she could pass for being Ashley’s sister instead of her mother.  For her part, Ashley (Amber Frank) kinda wishes that her mother would be a little more traditional.  Of course, Jackie’s usually too busy trying to get Ashley’s friends drunk to really worry about what her daughter wants.

Caroline (Megan Ward) is definitely not a party mom.  Instead, she’s a hard-working, no-nonsense mom who lives in the Valley with her husband, Gary (Brian Krause), and her two daughters, Brittany (Elise Luthman) and Emma (Savannah Judy).  Caroline just can’t understand today’s teenagers, with their social media and their iPhones and their lack of interest in hanging out with their boring parents.  In Caroline’s day, teens would have loved a chance to spend a night watching TV and eating popcorn with mom and dad!  Now, they just want to sneak out of the house and take selfies.

Brittany thinks that Jackie is the best, though Caroline isn’t quite sure that she wants her daughter hanging out in a mansion where all of the adults are just as stoned and drunk as the kids.  Caroline even attempts to put her foot down and ground her daughter.  Of course, that doesn’t really work.  Instead, Brittany simply sneaks out of her bedroom window and heads for Beverly Hills!

Of course, since this is a Lifetime film, it all leads to the usual combination of underage drinking and tragedy.  When Brittany and a group of drunk friends leave the mansion, a terrible car accident leaves only one survivor.  Jackie finds herself on trial for involuntary manslaughter.  Caroline and Gary are determined to see Jackie pay for being a party mom but Jackie’s rich enough to afford a slick attorney.  In fact, Jackie doesn’t even seem to feel that bad about the car accident or almost anything that happens afterward.  As she explains it, all of the tragedy is due to people from the Valley coming into Beverly Hills, where they don’t belong.  It all leads to murder, arrests, and one final confrontation.

I liked Party Mom, largely because, in high school, my best friend’s mom was a party mom and watching this movie brought back a lot of memories.  At the time, it was always fun going over to my friend’s house and literally getting to do anything that I wanted to do.  Looking back now, of course, it’s easy to say that my friend’s mom was incredibly irresponsible and probably should have been forced to go on Dr. Phil or something.  But, at the time, I was a lot like Brittany.  I just thought it was cool that there was an adult around who refused to care what was being done in her house.

Krista Allen does a really good job in the role of Jackie, tearing through the film like an irresponsible, perpetually drunk tornado.  She especially does well towards the end of the film, when Jackie really goes off the deep end.  Like all good Lifetime film, the melodrama in Party Mom is over-the-top and we’re all the better for it.

Film Review: Trancers III (1993, dir. C. Courtney Joyner)


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This was a little sad to watch. At least it didn’t make me feel even more depressed than I did after the scene in the transploitation “documentary” Let Me Die A Woman (1977) where a trans woman cuts off her own penis. Thanks, Ms. 45 (1981)! It probably didn’t help that I also watched Crackdown Mission (1988) where Godfrey Ho spliced a Pierre Kirby buddy cop movie into a Taiwanese remake of Ms. 45 either.

The last time we left Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson), he and Lena (Helen Hunt) had dealt with Trancers in early 1990’s Los Angeles. This movie picks up in 1992. And yes, Helen Hunt is in this. If memory serves, she did this as a favor to the filmmakers considering she was on Mad About You at this point. It opens with the usual voiceover from Jack and then we see a really sad commercial for the Jack Deth detective agency.

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Yep, just like the first film, this one also has a part of it that takes place during the Christmas season. Then we see what happens when a guy who seems to barely speak English tries to rob a convenience store run by another guy who also seems to barely speak English.

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It causes this guy to show up in a time machine. He’s there for Jack. Cut to Jack talking on the phone to Lena. Turns out they’re getting a divorce! Can’t really blame her. It’s either a guy who has futuristic zombies coming after him like this.

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Or a guy who wants to hang a giant poster of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman in their apartment.

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As Helen puts it.

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I think she made the right choice.

After finding Jack, him and the reject from the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise travel into the future of 2352. There he finds that they were also able to get back Telma Hopkins as Cmdr. Rains…

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and Megan Ward as Alice Stillwell.

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This was three years before she would get her own show on NBC as well called Dark Skies. Unfortunately, that show didn’t succeed like the two other shows I remember them packaging with it: The Pretender and Profiler.

The gist here is that something happened in the past that led to a huge Trancer army overrunning the humans. You know what that means? Jack has to go back to the future to stop it. That means he has to go back to 2005. And by 2005, I mean we cut to a strip club.

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Hey, I know that name! Thanks, Mötley Crüe!

I’ve got the screenshots, but there’s no menage a trois here, nor breaking any of Frenchies laws. However, this guy seems to like what he sees.

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This scene introduces us to R.J. played by Melanie Smith.

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She’s joined a special corps of people who are being enhanced to be able to Trance at will through the use of drugs. The guy I posted before decides to beat some people up before being shot to death. This scene only exists to introduce us to her and the whole drug thing. Well, that and since it has…

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Travis McKenna as the bartender, it gives me an excuse to post one of my favorite scenes from Road House (1989).

I guess you could say that other guy was “too stupid to have a good time.” Now we are introduced to the villain of this movie and…

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I guess this movie was an audition for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Melanie Smith would have a recurring role on the show, and that’s Andrew Robinson who would play Garak, the Cardassian tailor who was also a semi-retired dangerous spy and assassin. He really is the only good thing about this movie. Even through this stupid half assed sequel, he manages to show us exactly why he got hired to play that role. Funny that the previous Trancers movie had Jeffrey Combs in it who would also go on to play one of the most memorable characters from that show: Weyoun.

Anyways, after Jack goes back in time and shows us what being asked to make Trancers III was like…

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by falling into a pile of trash, we get some pointless scenes till Jack shows up at Lena’s 2005 apartment.

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And by 2005, I mean as seen from 1993. Making that girl wear that hat is cruel and unusual punishment. Turns out R.J. went to Lena because Lena has been writing about this Trancer core. It’s actually just an excuse to get her with Jack and let Tim and Helen say their goodbyes.

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From this point till the final scenes of the movie can be summed as stalling for time by having pointless scenes with the villain, pointless fighting between his soldiers, and pointless conversations between Jack and R.J. The only thing worth mentioning here is that it’s not a good idea to pit a piete girl and against decent sized guy in a fight when they certainly don’t come across as martial artists. I say that because one of the scenes is like watching an ant try to beat up a beetle.

Well, eventually Jack and R.J. are captured. R.J. breaks Jack out, but starts to Trance because of the drugs, so she asks Jack to kill her, which he does. Then what must have been a joke happens. The fish head guy from earlier shows up out of nowhere to help Jack, but the second they turn to go through the door to fight the bad guys, this happens.

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The guy freezes up leaving Jack to deal with them. And deal with them he does by gun, fist, and sword. I bet that was supposed to be a hint or inspiration for the next Trancers movie. Afterwards, it turns out fish head’s circuit board had malfunctioned, but came back to life as soon as the battle was done. Jack returns to the future future and goes before the council.

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They give Jack a fancy new title, which Jack correctly knows is just an excuse so they can send him anywhere in time they please along with his new buddy. And that’s it! There’s no reason to see this. I remember stumbling across this at a video store when I was young. No wonder I basically forgot about it’s existence. Since it worked so well at the end of the Trancers II review. Here’s another shot of Thomerson giving a help me I’m stuck making Trancers movies face.

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Film Review: Trancers II (1991, dir. Charles Band)


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Well, it sure took them a long time to get back to this series. Actually, they did shoot a sequel before this, but I’ll get to that one after I finish the main releases. This one picks up six years after the events of the first one. In that one we left Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) and Lena Deth (Helen Hunt) in the past of Los Angeles. We also got a short sequel bait at the end in the form of McNulty in his female ancestor’s little girl body. For this installment they appear to have gotten back just about every single person of consequence.

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Jack and Lena Deth

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Art LaFleur as McNulty in future

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Biff Manard as Hap Ashby

Even Telma Hopkins returns as Raines and she was barely in the movie.

Even Telma Hopkins returns as Raines and she was barely in the movie.

The setup here is that Hap Ashby got clean and made a bunch of money in commodity speculation. He needs it since he has taken up the hobby of collecting firetrucks. Jack and Lena live with Ashby on his estate. Whistler’s brother is in the past so that means more Trancers are on their way. McNulty is going to go back in time again into his ancestor along with a time machine. The idea is to bring Jack back to the future with Whistler’s brother in tow. Jack’s body in the future is unsuitable to come back to so he needs to return in his new body. There you go, sequel!

Before I continue, take a look at those screenshots. They do those close portrait shots of the actors a lot in this movie. My guess is not that they couldn’t get the actors in the same place all the time, but that they thought that might happen. As a result, they used that consistently throughout just in case the situation arose. Enter the Trancers!

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That’s when one more actor makes a return. Not sure how, but seven years or so after the production of the original Trancers, they got Alyson Croft to reprise her role as McNulty’s ancestor. I think I enjoyed her performance in this movie the most. I love her entrance into the film. She shows up having some trouble riding a bike before falling over.

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However, while McNulty may have trouble riding a bike, he apparently has no issues putting on makeup.

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This is when one more little important piece of information is dropped on us. In the first film we found out that Jack’s wife was killed by a Trancer. However, in this one we find out that someone was sent back to shortly before she died. They sent her consciousness back in time so that this movie can have some funny scenes between Jack and his two wives.

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This is Alice Stillwell played by Megan Ward. You see, while Jack got sent back into the body of Philip Deth shortly after having sex and McNulty ended up in a pretty and funny young girl, Jack’s wife ended up in the body of a mental patient. And not just a mental patient anywhere either.

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That’s Whistler’s brother who goes by the name Dr. Wardo played by the late Richard Lynch. And he has a sidekick.

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Honestly, if the credits hadn’t told me that was Jeffrey Combs, then I could have easily missed that fact. I really have no idea what Lynch and Combs are up to in this movie. It doesn’t matter. Jack needs to rescue his wife and kill Lynch. It’s that simple.

The long second makes a return! Jack makes good use of it to singe some Trancers. He then comforts three ladies who saw the Trancers disappear by telling them it’s okay because they’re biodegradable. The lines in this just aren’t as good as the first one. Alice also uses the long second to hide the time machine after she finds it. It’s not important why it’s near her. It’s for the same reasons why she is even in this movie. It’s convenient for the plot.

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Meanwhile, Alyson Croft continues to be the funniest person in this movie, which is humorous considering Helen Hunt would go on to do Mad About You and Tim Thomerson was once a standup comedian.

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Jack shows up and rescues Alice while they are moving her. There’s a short exchange where she says he’s the only man she’s slept with, she passes out, and he’s says it wasn’t that bad. Kinda funny, but nothing in this movie is as memorable as lines like “Beef? You mean like from a cow?” or “I’m from another time, another world. I don’t even know what you people eat for lunch.”, which were in the first film.

There’s some screwball stuff here between Jack, Lena, and Alice, but who really cares. Trancers show up, Ashby starts drinking again, and Alyson Croft continues to be funny.

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Now our four Musketeers set out to take down Lynch and Combs. But first we get a cameo appearance by one of director Charles Band’s other movies.

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I’ll probably review that eventually. The only really important plot point left here is that Jack is going to have to send Alice back in the time machine since otherwise she’ll die shortly after returning to her body. I say it’s time for highlights.

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The good guys win in a final showdown with Lynch, Combs, and their henchmen. Jack sends Alice back to the future in the time machine after a parting kiss. McNulty returns to his body to inform Raines that Jack has a new home in the past. Then Jack and Lena kiss just like at the end of the first movie.

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But unlike the end of the first movie, there’s no hint at a sequel here. However, they must have changed their minds because there are five more films in this franchise. This one was definitely a step down from the first. Honestly, I really only recommend it if you are a big fan of the first like I am. We’ll see what’s next for Jack Deth in Trancers III (1992).

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Horror On The Lens: Amityville: It’s About Time (dir by Tony Randel)


 

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Today’s horror on the lens is a haunted house film from 1992.  In Amityville — It’s About Time, Jacob (Stephen Macht) buys a new clock for his home but what he doesn’t realize is that the clock comes from the infamous Amityville House!  Soon, everyone in the family is acting strange.  Has the clock brought evil spirits with it or–

Well, let’s not even consider the other possibilities.  Of course the clock is full of evil spirits!

As I watched this film on YouTube last month, a lot of it seemed very familiar.  I quickly realized that this was because Amityville — It’s About Time used to show up on HBO all the time when I was a kid.  And while I never sat through the whole film, I did always somehow seem to manage to catch the most gruesome bits and pieces whenever it was on.  And yes, it did give me nightmares!

Of course, the movie would not give me nightmares today but still, it’s good for what it is.  Some of the scare scenes still work, especially the one involving the dog.  Stephen Macht makes for a good psycho and, in the spirit of Halloween, you can even forgive the plot for not making a bit of sense.

Interesting to note: The uber annoying Lenny is played by Jonathan Penner, who would later find some fame as a three-time contestant on Survivor.

(Also, needless to say, this film is rather tame by today’s standards but it’s still NSFW!)