Horror Film Review: Joy Ride (dir by John Dahl)


The 2001 film Joy Ride is an example of a subgenre of horror that I like to call the Don’t Fuck With Truckers genre.  It all started with Duel back in the early 70s and since then, there’s been a large number movies about ordinary people who end up getting on the wrong side of a trucker.

Myself, I would never piss off a trucker.  First off, I have a few cousins who are proud members of the Teamsters and I can tell you, from personal experience, that you don’t want to get on their bad side.  Secondly, those trucks are really, really big and it takes a certain amount of skill to drive them, certainly more skill than it takes me to drive my little convertible.  (Truckers can make turns in those gigantic trucks and somehow do it without crashing into a stop light.  I can barely parallel park.)  Trucks block out the road, making it impossible to see anything beyond them, which makes the prospect of trying to pass them all the more frightening.  Essentially, if you get into a vehicle fight with a trucker, you’re going to die.  There’s just no way your little car is going to be able to beat that giant truck.

Now, I have to admit that I really like Joyride but sometimes, I feel like maybe I shouldn’t.  It basically comes down to two things:

Number one, I have always defended horror movies against the charge that they always feature people making the stupidest possible decisions.  My defense is usually that people in real life are actually far more stupid than they realize and that whenever anyone says, “I would never be stupid enough to wander around a deserted camp ground in the middle of the night!,” they are essentially lying.  Seriously, everyone would do that just so they could later joke about how it was just like being in a horror movie.

That said, the majority of the characters in Joy Ride are really, really dumb.  Basically, two brothers (Steven Zahn and Paul Walker) are driving from California to Colorado so that they can pick up Walker’s best friend (Leelee Sobieski).  Along the way, Zahn and Walker decide to have some fun by getting on the CB radio and telling a trucker who calls himself Rusty Nail (voiced by Ted Levine, who was also the killer in The Silence of the Lambs) that there is a prostitute named Candy Cane waiting for him in a motel room.  The joke, of course, is that Zahn and Walker know that an obnoxious businessman is actually staying in the room.

The next morning, after playing their little joke and then listening to Rusty Nail and the businessman have a huge fight, the brothers are informed that the businessman has been found on the side of the road.  He’s still alive but his jaw was ripped off.  The brothers’ reaction is to get the Hell out of town.

Okay, so far, so good.  The joke was mean but people are mean.  Leaving town instead of helping with the police investigation was selfish but people are selfish.  What drives me crazy is that, once they’re on the road, the brothers get back on the CB radio and inform Rusty Nail that there was no Candy Cane and that they were just playing a joke on him.

IDIOTS!  Seriously, you’ve just been told that the guy ripped off another man’s jaw and now you’re going to piss him off more?

My other problem is that Leelee Sobieski’s character is so underdeveloped.  The film’s nearly halfway over before Zahn and Walker reach Colorado and pick her up.  Just a few scenes later, Sobieski is kidnapped by Rusty Nail.  Characterwise, she pretty much only exists to be kidnapped and held hostage.  It seems like a waste of Sobieski’s talents and the flatness of her character is especially disappointing when you consider how well-developed the characters played by Walker and Zahn are.

And yet, despite all of that, I really like Joy Ride.  It’s just a well-made film, a relentless thrill ride that succeeds largely because director John Dahl never gives the audience any time to relax and think about whether or not the film makes any sense.  As a largely unseen threat, Rusty Nail is both plausible and seemingly supernatural at the same time.  I mean, that truck literally pops up out of nowhere sometimes.  Zahn and Walker are very well-cast as brothers, with Zahn’s natural goofiness nicely paired up with Walker’s natural earnestness.  You like them, even if they are selfish idiots.

Almost despite itself, Joy Ride is a good movie and it features an important message: Don’t fuck with truckers.

Film Review: Programmed To Kill/The Retaliator (1987, dir. Allan Holzman & Robert Short)


Samira (Sandahl Bergman)

Samira (Sandahl Bergman)

That screenshot look promising? Well, it isn’t. Programmed to kill? More like programmed to bore. This movie is like Atomic Cyborg in that it’s a Terminator inspired movie. However, unlike Atomic Cyborg, this movie is awful.

I would love to say the movie is about Samira who is captured after participating in a terror attack in Greece and turned into a killing machine, but it’s not. Look at this shot below and guess when it happens out of the 90 minute running time.

I bet that number you thought of wasn’t 40 minutes! Take a look at the shot below when she kills someone in the field as a cyborg and take another guess.

This happens at 52 minutes. It takes this movie 52 minutes to capture her, transform her, and send her into the field. The movie is only 90 minutes long with credits! Just wow! What the movie is actually about is this guy who captures her, then tries to track her down to finish her off.

Eric Mathews (Robert Ginty)

Eric Mathews (Robert Ginty)

The majority of the film is with him, his wife, and kid. The rest of the time is the surgery and exposition. I love when they are walking down this underground hall with pipes running it’s length. Why? So they have plenty of time to tell us that their plan to turn her against her own people by transforming her into a cyborg is going to backfire down the road. What a waste of time! I wonder if the VHS release of this had a sticker on the front of it that said “Press Here” so it’s audience would know how to insert it into the VCR. Oh wait, this was for an audience expecting something kind of cool so maybe it says “insert to fucking box” like Explosive Fighter Patton for the Famicom Disk System does.

At least we can hope that the action, when it happens, is good, right? Nope, it sucks. The stuff near the end kind of suffers from the 2014 Godzilla problem of not putting enough light on the action. Not that much is going on anyways, but still. I really love this shot below.

It’s clearly supposed to be all arty and dramatic as he talks about how she is out to get those who wronged her, but oh please. It’s like the movie wanted to be taken seriously. As if it had an important message to deliver it’s audience. Atomic Cyborg covers the same sort of territory so much better and has arm wrestling. The best you get here is when she calls up a guy and screeches so loud into the phone that his ear bleeds, he crashes the car, and dies. I’m sorry, but if I want murder by phone, then I’ll watch Murder By Phone (1982).

There is one bright point though. Eric’s son is played by none other than Paul Walker!

Paul Walker

Paul Walker

That’s a good thing for me because it means I can mention Tammy and the T-Rex again. Otherwise, there is no bright point to this movie. It’s just terrible. Please watch Atomic Cyborg or Lady Terminator instead.

Film Review: Tammy and the T-Rex (1994, dir. Stewart Raffill)


Title Screen

You read the name and you know it sucks. Then that title screen pops up. Oh, my God! It looks like a 2nd grader made that, but it’s oh so perfect. You know why? Because this movie is as childish as that screen implies. The only thing wrong with it is that the title is too short. It should have been called Tammy, the T-Rex, and the African Queen. No, not because it has anything to do with the Hepburn movie, but because of this.

This!

This!

It’s two for the price of one! Not only do we get a gay stereotype, but one that is also a black stereotype. But what do you expect? The movie is made by the same guy who directed Mannequin: On The Move, which had a similar character. He also wrote and directed Mac and Me. The character’s name is Byron (Theo Forsett). So, what happens in this movie when Byron isn’t passing out or someone is saying not to bend over near him?

Testicular Standoff

Testicular Standoff

I’m not making that up! One of the two cops who shows up actually calls it that. Those are two high school guys trying to crush each other’s genitals with their bare hands. Wanna know something else? That’s Paul Walker on the right. Yep, that Paul Walker. Need it to be even dumber, since the fact that this carries on for several minutes isn’t enough. It turns out Walker, I mean Michael, is faking it because he’s actually wearing a cup. If you can’t tell whether you are holding male genitals or a piece of plastic then you are in real trouble. Why are they doing this? Well, of course for the heart of Denise Richards who plays Tammy! It’s everyone’s dream to have two men fight over them this way. Oh, and that shot of Byron above is from this scene. He seems to be turned on by it. Oh, this movie. Now comes the T-Rex.

The T-Rex

I know this is a lousy VHS print of the movie, but I can’t imagine how much worse this must look in HD. The plot goes like this. Michael shows up at Tammy’s place for a little action. Poppy Montgomery, in clearly her finest performance, sees Michael climbing up to Tammy’s room and calls in the other guy who fought with Michael earlier at school. Just as Tammy is finally gonna get a little something, in comes the bad guy with his friends in a scene reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange. They take Michael away to the Wild Animal Park. They couldn’t come up with a better name. Michael is left to get mauled by a lion. What happens next is right up there with the vagina snake scene at the beginning of Lady Terminator.

A mad scientist and his girl show up at the hospital, pretend Michael is dead, then steal his body out from under the nose of Tammy, Byron, both of which pass out on the floor, and the one member of Michael’s family who also happens to drink like a fish. Then they cut open Michael’s head and put his brain into a T-Rex. Yep, that’s how it happens. What follows is Michael the T-Rex seeking revenge on all the people who have wronged him.

The Got Milk? Guy

The Got Milk? Guy

The funniest death is easily when the guy from the original Got Milk? commercial gets killed after peeing on the T-Rex. Oh, and Michael the T-Rex also makes a phone call.

He actually tries to leave a message for Tammy!

He actually tries to leave a message for Tammy!

What follows are stupid deaths, stupid gay jokes, and one of the fakest things I have seen in a long time. Feast your eyes!

This will move you to tears.

This will move you to tears.

The ending is so absurd that I won’t even…who am I kidding? No one is going to seek this out. It ends like this.

An American Werewolf In London death

An American Werewolf In London death

Denise Richards does a sexy dance

Denise Richards does a sexy dance

And Paul Walker's brain sparks with excitement.

And Paul Walker’s brain sparks with excitement.

After unsuccessfully trying to find Michael’s body, they simple put his brain in Tammy’s room, attach it to a camera, and she dances for him. It’s amazing these movies exist. I don’t know how we made it out of the 1990’s. There’s an Italian R-rated version of this movie with a few deleted scenes. I watched them. Let’s end this review with one of them.

Like a compass

Like a compass

Film Review: Furious 7 (dir by James Wan)


fast-and-furious-7

Regardless of what you may think about the rest of Furious 7, the final ten minutes will make you cry.  They made me cry and, before I saw Furious 7, I wasn’t even really a fan of the franchise.  It’s not a spoiler to tell you that Furious 7 ends with a tribute to both the character Brian O’Connor and the actor who played him, Paul Walker.  While Dominic Toretto (played, of course, by Vin Diesel) says goodbye to Brian, we see a montage of clips of Brian throughout the previous Fast and Furious Films and it’s so poignant to see how Paul Walker transformed over the course of the series, going from being a somewhat bland teen heart throb to becoming a genuinely charismatic leading man.  Watching the montage, you can see that Paul Walker was still growing as an actor and you’re reminded of just what a shock it was when we first heard the news of his death in 2013.

And, of course, we’re very aware that, as Dominic is saying goodbye to Brian and we’re saying goodbye to the actor who played him, Vin Diesel is saying goodbye to his friend.  That Diesel and Walker were friends on-screen and off is no secret.  In fact, that friendship has always been one of the big appeals of the Fast and Furious franchise.  The films are about a group of people (mostly men) who care about each other and who aren’t ashamed to admit it.  When Dominic delivers the film’s final monologue, it’s really all about Vin saying goodbye to Paul.  By the time the words “For Paul” appeared on the screen, there was not a dry eye in the theater.

The death of Paul Walker adds an undeniable poignancy to Furious 7 and it’s sometimes hard to separate the real-life tragedy from what we’re watching on screen.  But here’s the thing — Furious 7 works as both a heartfelt tribute to Paul Walker and as a wonderfully over-the-top and fun action movie.  Furious 7 is a burst of pure adrenaline and style that epitomizes everything that you could possibly want out of an action movie.

Jason Statham plays Deckard Shaw, a former government assassin who has a personal vendetta against Dom, Brian, and practically everyone else who has ever been a Fast and Furious movie.  Statham isn’t in a lot of scenes but whenever he shows up, he kicks ass and watching Furious 7 was probably the first time that I’ve ever truly understood Statham’s appeal.  How impressive is Jason Statham in this film?  He puts Dwayne Johnson in the hospital, that’s how impressive he is.  And what’s amazing is that after watching their fight scene, you totally believe that Jason Statham could put Dwayne Johnson in the hospital.

Another government agent, Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell, having a great time), offers to help Dom take out Deckard but first, Dom and his crew have to do a favor for Mr. Nobody.  They have to rescue a hacker (Nathalie Emmanuel) from an African warlord (Djimon Honsou) who is obviously based on Joseph Kony.  That hacker knows about the location of a device that will allow the government to track down Deckard but the device has already been sold to a billionaire who lives in Abu Dhabi….

Ultimately, the exact specifics and logic of it all doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Chris Bridges, Tyrese Gibson, Michelle Rodriguez, and Dwayne Johnson are all back and they’re all a lot of fun to watch.  What matters is that the cars look good and the stunt work is just as amazing as you were hoping.  What matters is that the film features things that you never thought you’d see — like cars parachuting down to a mountain road and jumping from skyscraper to skyscraper.

This is an exciting film.  It’s a fun film.  It’s an entertaining film.  It’s a stylish film.  And, ultimately, it’s a film that will make you cry.

What more can you ask for?

furious-7

Song of the Day: See You Again (by Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth)


SeeYouAgain

While still looking to finish up my review of the latest entry in The Fast & The Furious franchise I thought it best to just put up the song which has led to many a-filmgoer trapped in a box of their emotions and feels.

Everyone by now knows how the release of Furious 7 has a tinge of both sentimentality and bittersweet emotions as this was the final film filmed by Paul Walker before his untimely death in late 2013. The shadow of Walker’s death had cast a shadow over the film. Whether people thought the film was good or not became a sidenote as the filmmakers, actors and everyone involved gave Paul Walker a moving final tribute by film’s end.

“See You Again” brings back Wiz Khalifa who also contributed what would become the theme song for Fast and Furious 6 with “Ride or Die.” This time Wiz has Charlie Puth doing the chorus. The combination of Puth’s heartfelt vocals and Khalifa’s rhymes made for a moving musical tribute to one of the founders of the The Fast & The Furious franchise and to a close friend to all involved in it.

See You Again

Charlie Puth)

It’s been a long day without you my friend
And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
We’ve come a long way from where we began
Oh I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
When I see you again

(Wiz Khalifa)

Damn who knew all the planes we flew
Good things we’ve been through
That I’ll be standing right here
Talking to you about another path I
Know we loved to hit the road and laugh
But something told me that it wouldn’t last
Had to switch up look at things different see the bigger picture
Those were the days hard work forever pays now I see you in a better place

How could we not talk about family when family’s all that we got?
Everything I went through you were standing there by my side
And now you gonna be with me for the last ride

(Charlie Puth)

It’s been a long day without you my friend
And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
We’ve come a long way from where we began
Oh I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
when I see you again

(Wiz Khalifa)

First you both go out your way
And the vibe is feeling strong and what’s
Small turn to a friendship a friendship
Turn into a bond and that bond will never
Be broke and the love will never get lost
And when brotherhood come first then the line
Will never be crossed established it on our own
When that line had to be drawn and that line is what
We reach so remember me when I’m gone

How could we not talk about family when family’s all that we got?
Everything I went through you were standing there by my side
And now you gonna be with me for the last ride

(Charlie Puth)

So let the light guide your way hold every memory
As you go and every road you take will always lead you home

It’s been a long day without you my friend
And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
We’ve come a long way from where we began
Oh I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
When I see you agai
n

Trailer: Furious 7 (Extended)


Furious7

We saw the Super Bowl trailer of Furious 7 (formerly known as Fast & Furious 7). Well, here’s the extended version of it with more Jason Statham mayhem added to the mix. We also get The Rock get beatdown by Statham. Then again we’re all pretty much aware that Statham probably is the only person can put a beatdown on the Rock.

It looks like the summer blockbuster season starting out earlier and earlier with each passing year. Furious 7 is set for an April 3, 2015 release date.

Shattered Politics #68: The Skulls (dir by Rob Cohen)


Theskullsposter

What do George W. Bush, John Kerry, and Paul Giamatti all have in common?

They were all members of the Skull and Bones, which may be an organization that secretly controls the world.  Then again, it might also just be an organization for male students at Yale, a place for the sons of the rich and famous to get together, drink, and do whatever else rich kids do when they go to an Ivy League college.

One thing’s for sure — when you’re a member of the Skulls and Bones, you’re a Bonesman for life.  If you have any doubt about that, go ahead and watch the 2000 film The Skulls.  In The Skulls, Martin Lombard (Christopher McDonald) is such a loyal member of the Skulls that, even though he’s currently a provost at Yale, he’s still willing to break a student’s neck in order to keep him from revealing the society’s secrets.

Seriously, do all Ivy League administrators know how to break necks or just ones that were former members of the Skulls?  It just makes me glad that I went to UNT, a good school with absolutely no ivy on the walls.  A degree from UNT might not translate into membership into America’s elite but at least you don’t have to worry about being targeted by any dangerous secret societies.

(Unless, of course, you’re a TAM.  But that’s another story…)

Anyway, the dead student’s best friend is Luke McNamara (Joshua Jackson).  We know Luke’s the hero because he doesn’t come from a rich family and he’s attending Yale on a rowing scholarship.  Shortly before Will’s death, Luke is invited to join the Skulls and does so because he thinks it will help him court rich art major Chloe (Leslie Bibb).  However, after Will death, Luke decides that he has to join so that he can find out the identity of the murderer.

Luke wrongly suspects that the murderer was his new friend and fellow Skull, Caleb Mandrake (Paul Walker).  What Luke doesn’t know is that the murder was actually ordered by Caleb’s father, Supreme Court candidate Litten Mandrake (Craig T. Nelson).  (As a sidenote, has anyone named Litten Mandrake ever not turned out to be evil?)  However, as Luke gets closer to the truth, the Skulls arrange for him to be arrested and put into a mental asylum.

Oh, and Martin Lombard starts chasing after him with a gun.

Remember, this is the same Martin Lombard who is a provost at Yale.  Now, I’m not saying that it’s out of the question that a Yale provost could chase after a student with a gun.  But, at the very least, it seems like a conspiracy as wealthy and powerful as the Skulls could afford to hire less recognizable henchmen.

In fact, watching The Skulls, you can’t help but suspect that this secret conspiracy is not exactly the smartest conspiracy in the word.  Not only do they do a terrible job of hiding their existence but they are continually outsmarted by a bunch of undergrads.

Anyway, eventually, it all leads to Luke challenging Caleb to a duel.  A mysterious Senator (William Petersen) shows up and says, “Well done, son, well done.”

It’s all kind of stupid.

Fast & Furious 7 – The Super Bowl Ad.


Universal is up again during the Super Bowl with this trailer for Fast & Furious 7, which has Vin Diesel’s Dominick Toretto and his family facing off against Jason Statham, who plays the brother of Luke Evans’ character in the last film. As usual, it looks like there will be some crazy car stunts, and there seems to be more in-air acrobatics (which is weird, for cars). We still don’t know how the story will deal with the passing of Paul Walker, but they appear to have their action scenes all set.

Fast & Furious 7 (or Fast 7) opens in cinemas on April 3rd.

 

Trailer: Furious 7 (Teaser)


Furious7

To much fanfare we finally have the teaser trailer to the latest adventures of Dominic Toretto and his band of misfit drivers.

Now officially titled as Furious 7, the latest film in the franchise goes further away from it’s street racing roots and into the spy thriller and superhero genres it drifted into with Fast Five. Even the title alone sounds like a superhero team straight out of Marvel Comics. It’s almost as if I expect to see Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Daredevil and Elektra plus three other furious heroes fighting the good fight.

The teaser pretty much teases the sort of over-the-top, physics-defying action scenes we’ve come to expect from this franchise. It’s almost as if with each new film they up the ante as to how much universal laws Dom and his crew will break in order to entertain it’s massive fan audience.

Furious 7 is set to ride and die this April 3, 2015.