Holiday Film Review: Jack Frost (dir by Michael Cooney)

Tis the season for killing!

One snowy December night, a prison transport drives through the town of Snowmonton.  The prisoner (Scott McDonald) being transported is a serial killer who murdered 38 people over the course of his crime spree.  In fact, he was arrested right in the town of Snowmonton and, since he’s now due to be executed, you can bet that he holds a grudge.  And get this …. the killer’s name is Jack Frost!  I mean, what a weird series of coincidences, no?

What do you think the chances are that the prison transport is going to crash into a genetic research truck?  And what do you think the chances are that Jack Frost is going to get splashed by a lot of chemicals that lead to him merging with the snow?  I mean, I guess it only makes sense that he would turn into a murderous snowman who goes on a rampage in Snowmonton and who stalks everyone that he holds responsible for his capture.

Actually, it doesn’t make any sense at all but so what?  The fact that this 1997 film still has a small cult following is a testament to the fact that sometimes, people don’t want movies that make sense.  Sometimes, they just want a movie about a trash-talking snowman who can shoot icicles.  Jack Frost is also known for being the film debut of actress Shannon Elizabeth who falls victim to the snowman in a scene that is both horrifying and incredibly silly-looking.  Though Jack may have taken on the form of a snowman, he’s actually a liquid.  (Don’t ask.)  So, as Shannon Elizabeth’s character learns, it’s smart to be careful about taking a bath when Jack Frost is dripping around.

(In Thirteen Ghosts, Shannon Elizabeth was attacked by a ghost while looking at a bathroom sink. In Jack Frost, she’s attacked by a snowman while taking a bath. There definitely seems to be a pattern here.)

It’s up to Sheriff Tiller (Christopher Allport) and FBI Agent Manners (Stephen Mendel) to figure out how to defeat the killer snowman.  It won’t be easy.  Manners thinks that the solution to everything is just to fire a gun or set off an explosive.  Sheriff Tiller and his staff likes aerosol cans.  But Jack Frost turns out to be a lot smarter than the average snowman.  He’s also a lot meaner than Frosty.

Jack Frost was apparently shot over the course of the week and screenwriter Michael Cooney only agreed to direct because no one else was willing to do it.  The budget was low and it shows in every scene of the film.  Fortunately, this is one of those cases where the budget was so low that the cheapness of it all eventually becomes rather charming.  You can’t help but respect the fact that, despite having no money, the filmmakers still managed to make a movie.  Jack Frost is smart enough not to take itself seriously.  Instead of wasting the viewer’s time with pointless drama, the film focuses on the snowman making angry expressions and shouting out morbid one-liners.  That’s really the only way to go when you’re making a movie about a killer snowman and the filmmakers deserve some credit for knowing exactly what type of movie they were making.  Jack Frost may not be a good film but it’s definitely an amusing one.

Retro Television Review: Hang Time 2.11 “Superman Brodis” and 2.12 “Green-Eyed Julie”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Mondays, I will be reviewing Hang Time, which ran on NBC from 1995 to 2000.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

Ugh.  I can’t get the theme song out of my head.

Episode 2.11 “Superman Brodis”

(Directed by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on November 16th, 1996)

Teddy’s long-absent father retires from playing professional basketball and moves to Indiana so that he can be close to his son.  Because “Superman” Brodis has spent the past 15 years playing across the country and in Europe, he’s been absent from most of Teddy’s life.  At first, Teddy can’t stop talking about how excited he is to finally have his father in his life.  However, Teddy’s father turns out to be kind of a jerk, constantly telling Teddy that he needs to lose weight and work harder.  Teddy says that it doesn’t bother him but, as usual, Josh decides that it is his place to tell everyone else how to live their lives.  Josh tells Teddy that he should be angry and soon, Teddy is angrily telling his father to stay out of his life.

(And don’t get me wrong.  Teddy’s father deserved to be told off but it still really wasn’t Josh place to get involved.)

Meanwhile, because this season’s writers were incapable of writing the character as being anything other than self-centered and overdramatic, Julie will not shut up about having a toothache.  Eventually, things work out on both fronts.  Teddy and his father agree to try to build a relationship.  Julie goes to Amy’s dentist and, after discovering that she will need a root canal, she blames Amy.  Actually, Julie, maybe you should blame yourself for not brushing and flossing.  Going to the dentist may be unpleasant but it’s still preferable to dying of blood poisoning.

This episode continues this season’s theme of Josh and Julie being the best players and the worst human beings on the team.  While Julie whines and moans about having a toothache, Josh tells Teddy how he should feel about his father.  That said, this episode also shows why Anthony Anderson went on to have a successful career after leaving Hang Time.  He gives a touching and sincere performance here, especially in the episode’s final scene.  There’s a lot of emotional honesty to be found in Anderson’s performance, which isn’t necessarily something that you would expect from an episode of Hang Time.

Episode 2.12 “Green-Eyed Julie”

(Directed by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on November 23rd, 1996)

Julie upset when she discovers that there’s a new waitress named Nicole at her favorite after-school hangout and, for once, it’s kind of understandable.  Not only Nicole played by a pre-American Pie Shannon Elizabeth but Nicole obviously has a crush on Josh!  Josh’s efforts to set Nicole up with Danny fail, largely because Danny is kind of a loser.

Eventually, it’s revealed that Chris Atwater (who was the first season’s version of Josh) cheated on Julie in between the first and second seasons and that’s why they broke up.  It’s also why Julie is incapable of trusting anyone.  It doesn’t help, of course, that Julie happens to see Nicole kissing Josh.  Later, when she finds out that it was Nicole who made the first move and that Josh did not reciprocate, she tells Josh that he’s way better than Chris.  I have to wonder how David Hanson, the actor who played Chris during season 1, felt about this episode.

Meanwhile, the school is throwing a disco party!  Everyone dresses like they’re from the 70s and breaks out some disco moves.  That was cute, silly, and fun and provided a nice (and needed) relief from all of the Julie drama.

Next week, season 2 ends!  Will Deering made it into the playoffs?  We’ll find out in December.

Cinemax Friday: Blast (1997, directed by Albert Pyun)

Blast opens with a title card telling us that what we’re about to see is based on a true story except that it’s not.  In the days leading up to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the FBI thwarted many potential terrorist plots.  Only one of the plots was a domestic terror plot.  Blast is the story of what would have happened if that plot had not been disrupted.

(What about Eric Rudolph and the Olympic Park bombing?  That’s not mentioned, probably because this film went into production before the Atlanta Olympics actually began.)

Omodo (Andrew Divoff of Wishmaster fame) is a terrorist who does evil things because he’s evil.  He and his group have taken the American Olympic swim team and their coach, Diane Colton (Kimberly Warren), hostage in an Atlanta gym.  They’re demanding money and an opportunity to escape.  The police (led by Tim Thomerson) don’t know what to do.  The FBI (represented by Rutger Hauer with braided hair) are not much help either.  Fortunately, the gym’s janitor, Jack Bryant (Linden Ashby), is a former Olympic gymnast who is a master of Tae Kwon Do!  Jack also happens to be Diane’s ex-husband!

Blast comes from us the time when every action movie was a blatant rip-off of Die Hard and we were all cool with that because Die Hard was so awesome that it deserved to be remade a thousand times.  Blast is more of the usual.  Jack sneaks around the facility, defuses bombs, and picks the terrorists off.  Omodo kills two hostages in cold blood.  Shannon Elizabeth of American Pie fame plays one of the hostages but she doesn’t get many lines beyond, “Help us!”  Why does Rutger Hauer have his hair in braids?  Because he was Rutger Hauer and everyone was probably so happy to have him on set for a few hours that they were willing to let him do whatever he wanted to do with his hair.  Rutger Hauer only gets about five minutes of screentime but he makes the most of them.

Lindsen Ashby is convincing in the fight scenes but I think the movie would have been better if he had just been an ordinary janitor, instead of a Tae Kwon Do supstar who has fallen on hard times.  That would have added some suspense to the story because, as it is, Jack is so obviously superior to his opponents that there’s never really any question as to whether or not he’s going to succeed.  Andrew Divoff is a good actor but his villain isn’t given any good lines and the people working for him are all pretty bland.  One of the best things about the first three Die Hard films was that the villains were just as interesting as the hero but the same cannot be said for Blast.

Blast is forgettable but still, five minutes of Rutger Hauer is better than no Rutger Hauer at all.

Horror Film Review: Thirteen Ghosts (dir by Steve Beck)


Thirteen Ghosts!  

Oh my God, this 2001 haunted house movie scared the Hell out of my when I was way too young to know any better.  Seriously, it would come on HBO late at night and I would secretly watch it with the sound turned down and just the visuals would freak me out.

That lawyer getting chopped in half by the glass doors?  AGCK!

That ghost staring at Shannon Elizabeth?  AGCK!

That other ghost attacking Shannon Elizabeth?  AGCK!

All of the ghosts suddenly appearing and then just as quickly disappearing?  AGCK!


Seriously, I had nightmares about those ghosts!

For this month’s horrorthon, I decided to rewatch Thirteen Ghosts and … well, first of all, I was reminded by the DVD that apparently, the name of the film is not Thirteen Ghosts.  Instead, the proper name is Thir13een Ghosts, which is really kind of annoying because it’s not like that “13” even vaguely resembles a “T”.  I’m not even sure how exactly you would pronounce Thir13een.  Wasn’t one of the robots in the last Star Wars film named Thir13een?  Just looking at the title makes me think about that episode of South Park where Cartman went into the future and had a robot dog named K-10 (and a cat named Kit-9 and a bird named Kok-A-3!)

So, no offense meant to anyone who was involved in the naming of the film, but I’m going to keep calling it Thirteen Ghosts!

Anyway, I decided to rewatch Thirteen Ghosts because I remembered it as being the scariest film ever made and … wow, it really did not stand up to the test of time.  I mean, don’t get me wrong.  The ghosts were still kind of scary and I guess that Tony Shalhoub did the best that he could do with the material.  But the movie itself…oh my God.

Seeing as how I’m contractually obligated to come up with at least 500 words about Thirteen Ghosts, let’s talk about the plot, shall we?  Tony Shalhoub is Arthur.  Arthur’s a widower who has two children, Kathy (Shannon Elizabeth) and Bobby (Alec Roberts).  For some reason, Kathy is obsessed with sink fixtures.  Bobby, meanwhile, is your typical bratty kid.  Arthur is like way poor and about to lose his house.  Despite this, he continues to employ a housekeeper named Maggie (Rah Digga).  HEY, ARTHUR, THERE’S NO POINT IN HAVING A HOUSEKEEPER IF YOU CAN’T AFFORD YOUR FREAKING HOUSE!


Fortunately, Arthur is informed that his uncle, a legendary ghost hunter named Cyrus (F. Murray Abraham) has died and, as a result, Arthur has inherited his mansion!  YAY!  PROBLEM SOLVED!  Of course, the mansion is kind of weird.  The walls are covered with Latin phrases and it’s all glass.  “I do not do windows,” Maggie says.  Ha ha ha.

Well, it turns out that the entire house is full of murderous ghosts.  (Of course, you can’t see them unless you put on special glasses.)  We occasionally get glimpses of the ghosts and this is where Thirteen Ghosts actually triumphs.  The ghosts actually are really freaky looking and they’ve all got enjoyably weird backstories.  That’s a good thing.

What isn’t a good thing is that, in order for the ghosts to get free and wreck some havoc, everyone in the house is required to act like a total idiot.  Hence, we get Shannon Elizabeth staring at herself in a mirror for literally four minutes, just so one ghost can sneak up behind her.  We get Bobby and Maggie constantly running off.  We also get Embeth Davidtz as a “spirit liberator” and Matthew Lillard as a psychic.

Does Matthew Lillard give a good performance in Thirteen Ghosts?  It’s hard to say.  He definitely gives a performance that could only be given by Matthew Lillard.  There’s a few scenes where you do wish someone on set had told him to calm down but, on the whole, you can count me in the pro-Lillard camp.  It’s a silly film and it needs someone willing to give a silly performance.

There are a few parts of Thirteen Ghosts that have stood up well.  The ghosts, the production design, the scene with the lawyer.  But ultimately, the movie fails because you really don’t care about Arthur or his family or his housekeeper.  In these type of films, the main characters either have to be likable or they have to be so unlikable that you don’t mind seeing them get terrorized.  But bland just will not get the job done!

Since I love lists, here’s my ranking of the ghosts, from least to most frightening:

  1. The Withered Lover — I can’t talk too much about her without it counting as a spoiler but she’s the only ghosts that isn’t malicious and therefore, she’s not frightening.
  2. The Bound Woman — A hanging woman wearing a prom dress.  Who cares?
  3. The Torso — The torso is a legless torso that has to drag itself around by its hands.  The torso is kinda freaky but it’s hard to be scared of something that doesn’t have legs.
  4. The Pilgrimess — The Pilgrimess was accused of witchcraft in the 17th Century.  She’s kind of scary but she’s also still in the stocks so she’s not quite as threatening as she could be.
  5. The Great Child and
  6. the Dire Mother — AGCK!  The Dire Mother is a tiny woman who is always feeding her giant son, the Great Child!  Creepy!
  7. The Torn Prince — The Torn Prince always freaks me out.  Not only is he massively disfigured as the result of a car crash but he also carries a baseball bat.  AGCK!
  8. The First Born Son — The first born son is a kid who has an arrow sticking out his head.  He whispers that he wants to play.  AGCK!  Children are creepy.
  9. The Angry Princess — The Angry Princess is a total rip-off of the bathtub ghost from The Shining but she still scares the Hell out of me.  AGCK!
  10. The Hammer — AGCK!  He’s a former blacksmith, covered in spikes and featuring a hammer in place of his left hand.
  11. The Juggernaut — Oh my God, this guys is scary and evil-looking!  We’re told that he killed 9 people when he was alive and 31 people as a ghost.  DOUBLE AGCK!
  12. The Jackal — OH MY GOD!  The Jackal gave me nightmares when I was younger and he’s still the scariest of the ghosts!  He’s the one who has a cage on his head.  The scene where he attacks Shannon Elizabeth is pure nightmare fuel!  TRIPLE AGCK!

Anyway, the movie’s not as scary as I remembered but those ghosts are still Agck-worthy.




Val’s Movie Roundup #4: Hallmark Edition

Recipe For Love

Recipe For Love (2014) – The movie begins with Lauren (Danielle Panabaker) as a kid writing a food blog about cafeteria food. She is told that’s a no no by the school. Then we jump ahead to when she’s an adult working in a kitchen. Suddenly, an opportunity falls into her lap. She is asked to ghostwrite a cook book for a television chef named Dexter Durant (Shawn Roberts). At first there is a little friction, but it doesn’t last long. The two open up to each other pretty quickly. We see behind the facade Dexter puts on for the audience and Lauren genuinely wants to make this cookbook happen. It’s not like this is a story about a woman whose voice is hidden behind a man’s. And it’s not about tearing down this fake personality to see Dexter fall from grace or watch him give up this thing he was only doing for fame. They work together, fall for each other, and both come out of the process better then when they began it. They both still love cooking and want to continue to do so with each other. I really liked that she wasn’t bashing against a wall that finally comes down in the end. Both of them begin to deal with each other as real people early on. I liked this Hallmark movie better than most I have seen.

Catch A Christmas Star

Catch A Christmas Star (2013) – I swear if it isn’t a dog movie, it’s a bible movie, otherwise it’s a Christmas movie. In fact, director John Bradshaw has made eight of them. This film introduces us to a family that has a little girl who likes a singer named Nikki (Shannon Elizabeth). She shows up at a record signing and wouldn’t you know it, turns out Nikki knows her Dad from the past. There’s no sense in spelling out the rest of the plot because you already know it. I didn’t like this one. I didn’t feel any chemistry. Shannon Elizabeth doesn’t act well. She certainly can’t sing. And while she is probably the nicest and sweetest person I could ever meet in real life, she looks like a plastic doll to me in this movie. I just couldn’t push past that. I’ve only seen four Hallmark Christmas movies, but I would go with A Royal Christmas (2014) instead.

My Boyfriends' Dogs

My Boyfriends’ Dogs (2014) – This year I replaced my desktop PC with a Mac. I kind of regret the choice of going with a Mac because the software is lousy. The hardware is giving me some problems too. But I’m going off on a tangent. My point is that while the computers have given out over the years, the monitors still work fine. As a result, I have the monitor that comes with the all in one Mac and two monitors from previous computers attached for a three monitor setup. This movie is like that. It follows Bailey (Erika Christensen) as she goes from one boyfriend to another, picking up their dogs along the way. It’s actually quite funny to see two of them show up on her doorstep with a dog for her to adopt. At the center of this series of dates is the guy at the pet shop cast because we can instantly tell he’s a good guy. Now all of this is told in flashback. At the beginning of the movie, Bailey wanders into a cafe wearing a wedding dress where she recounts her story to a some guy and Joyce Dewitt of Three’s Company fame. Turns out the final boyfriend almost became her husband before she ran out, dogs and all. I won’t spoil the ending, but it will have you yelling, “Oh, come on!” This one’s okay, but Recipe For Love is the best of the four in this roundup.

For Better Or For Worse

For Better or for Worse (2014) – This one is a Romeo and Juliet style story. You have the mother who does weddings. You have a father who does divorces. Their children decide to come together, become vegans, and organic farmers. Obviously, that doesn’t go to well with the parents. What follows is the parents getting closer while trying to drive the kids away, only to figure out that as weird as it seems, the kids are actually pretty happy together. The two parents also turn out to be happy as well with each other. Wait, I just realized something. I know it’s a little wishy washy, up for argument, and they did it in Clueless, but that smells a little like incest. A little weird for a Hallmark movie. Oh well, is it worth your time? You can do worse. It’s a decent 90 minutes or so without commercials. I wouldn’t seek it out, but if it’s on, then just enjoy it to pass the time.