Cinemax Friday: Die Watching (1993, directed by Charles Davis)


Mentally scarred by the night that his mother murdered his father, Michael Terrence (Christopher Atkins) is a video editor who makes his living filming naked models and who deals with his mental issues by then asphyxiating those same models.  Michael’s main kink is that he ties his victims up in front of a monitor and then films them as they die, basically forcing them to witness their own murders.  In other words, Michael is one sick puppy who has perhaps seen Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom a few too many times.

Despite the fact that dead actresses and models are turning up all over Los Angeles, Detectives Lewis (Tim Thomerson) and Barry (Carlos Palomino) have no idea that Michael is responsible.  In fact, no one suspects Michael.  His neighbor, an aspiring artist named Nola (Vali Ashton), even hires Michael to help her promote her artwork.  Despite the fact that Nola already has a boyfriend, she and Michael fall in love.  Falling in love causes Michael to lose his urge to kill but it may already be too late as a video of one of his murders has fallen into the wrong hands.

For some reason, Christopher Atkins was a direct-to-video and Cinemax mainstay in the 90s.  I’ve never understood why because he was a terrible actor with absolutely no screen presence.  Unlike C. Thomas Howell, who was bland in mainstream films but usually surprisingly good when he did direct-to-video work, Atkins was always forgettable regardless of whether he was appearing in a major studio production or something like Die Watching.  For a film like this to work, the film has to convince you that there’s at least a chance the murderer could have been a decent human being if not for his tragic past.  Atkins just comes across like a natural born weirdo.  Atkins gives a sweaty and nervous performance but he makes Michael so obviously disturbed that it’s impossible to buy that Nola would dump her boyfriend for him.  Judd Nelson or, again, C. Thomas Howell probably could have pulled off the role.  Christopher Atkins just feels wrong.

Of course, the target audience for this film doesn’t care about the acting or the plot or anything else.  They care about the women and those who watch a film like this solely for the nudity won’t be disappointed.  Vali Ashton is actually really likable as Nola, though the film is stolen by Erika Nann, who plays Nola’s sex-obsessed roommate and who gets the best lines.  (Of course, there’s a difference between getting the best lines in Die Watching and getting the best lines in something like Hamlet.)  It’s also good to see Tim Thomerson in practically anything, even when it’s something as dumb as Die Watching.  

Die Watching is pretty dire but it does predict the rise of a very specific type of internet culture.  When Michael accidentally sends one of his murder tapes to a producer instead of one of his sex tapes, the producer is not disturbed but instead, he’s intrigued by the commercial possibilities.  Even Michael knows that’s messed up!  If Die Watching were made today, of course, that producer would probably own an adult website and he would be talking about selling the murder videos on the dark web.  It just goes to show that the more things chance, the more they remain the same.

 

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: Near Dark (dir by Kathryn Bigelow)


The 1987 film Near Dark is the story of two American families.

The Coltons are a family of ranchers living Oklahoma.  Loy Colton (Tim Thomerson) is the patriarch, keeping a watchful eye on his children, Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) and Sarah (Marcie Leeds).  Caleb is a cowboy and a nice guy, even if he does seem to be a little bit too naive for his own good.  After Caleb disappears one night, Loy and Sarah start their own search, traveling across the back roads of the Southwest.

The other family may not share any biological relation to one another but they definitely share blood.  They’re a group of outcasts who have found each other and now spend their nights searching for people who can satisfy their hunger.  They’re vampires, even though that’s not a word that they tend to use.  (In fact, for all the blood-sucking that goes on throughout the film, the term “vampire” is never actually heard.)  At night, they’re all-powerful but during the day, even the slightly exposure to the sun can set them on fire.

The patriarch of this family is Jesse Hooker (Lance Henriksen), a scarred war veteran.  Jesse will do anything to protect the members of his family but he expects each of them to pull their weight.  At one point, when Jesse is asked how old he is, he says that he fought for the South and that the South lost.

Jesse’s girlfriend is Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein), who is just as ruthless as Jesse.  Filling the role of oldest son is Severen (Bill Paxton), a cocky gunslinger with a quick smile and cruel sense of humor.  Homer (Joshua Miller) appears to be a 12 year-old boy but he’s actually one of the older and more violent members of the family.  And then there’s Mae (Jenny Wright), the rebellious daughter.

Mae is the one who first met and bit Caleb.  She’s the one who turned Caleb into one of them, though it takes Caleb a while to not only discover but also understand what he’s become.  When Caleb tries to escape from Mae and his new family, he becomes violently ill.  He can no longer eat human food but, at the same time, he can’t bring himself to hunt.  Instead, he’s forced to drink whatever blood Mae can provide for him.  Even when Jesse’s group attacks a redneck bar, one cowboy manages to escape, specifically because Caleb cannot bring himself to kill him.

What is Caleb to do?  He can’t return to his old family, as much as he may want to.  (It doesn’t help that Homer has developed an obsession with Caleb’s sister, Sarah.)  At the same time, his new family says that they’re going to kill him unless he starts hunting for blood.  They only thing keeping Caleb alive is the fact that Mae likes him and even she’s telling him that he’s going to have to hunt.

Meanwhile, Loy continues his own hunt, the hunt for his son….

Long before she became the first female director to win an Oscar for The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow directed this stylish vampire film.  Visually, Bigelow emphasizes the emptiness of the Southwestern plains.  Looking at the desolate landscape, it’s easy to believe that Jesse and his family could use them to successfully hide from the rest of the world.  It’s also just as easy to believe that a well-meaning but not particularly bright young man like Caleb could get lost and not be able to find his way home.  Bigelow turns the vampire family into a group of modern-day outlaws, crossing the land in their sun-proofed vehicles and trying to stay one step ahead of modern-day posses made up by concerned families and law enforcement officers who don’t know what they’re getting into.

Even if not for Bigelow’s stylish direction, the film would be a classic for just the cast alone.  Henriksen, Paxton, and Goldstein all previously appeared in James Cameron’s Aliens and they have a camaraderie that feels real.  In fact, the vampires work so well together that it’s impossible not to kind of admire them.  They’ve got it together and, even when faced with an army of police officers determined to make them step out into the sunlight, they don’t lose their sardonic sense of humor.  The much missed Bill Paxton’s performance is a hyperactive marvel, both menacing and sexy at the same time.  Meanwhile, Jenny Wright and Adrian Pasdar have a likable chemistry as Mae and Caleb while Tim Thomerson makes Loy’s love and concern for his son feel so real that adds an unexpected emotional depth to the overall movie.  The script, written by Eric Red and Bigelow, is full of quotable dialogue and the cast takes full advantage of it.

Near Dark is vampire classic and definitely one to watch this Halloween season.

Film Review: Cherry 2000 (dir by Steve De Jarnatt)


Okay, so this one is kind of weird.

Remember how, a few nights ago, I watched and reviewed something called Prison Planet?  No?  Well, I don’t blame you.  I wish I could forget about it too.  Anyway, the movie that aired right before Prison Planet was yet another futuristic tale that was largely set in a desert wasteland.  This movie was originally released in 1988 and the title was Cherry 2000.

Cherry 2000 takes place in 2017, or perhaps I should say that it takes place in 2017 as imagined by someone in 1988.  In this film’s version of 2017, both the economy and the environment are a mess, America is divided into warring urban and rural zones, and all human emotion and creativity is being stifled by government bureaucracy.  In short, Cherry 2000‘s version of 2017 is a lot like the real world’s version of 2017…

In the future, everyone’s still obsessed with getting laid but all of the bureaucratic red tape has made things difficult.  Having sex now means first getting a lawyer to draw up a contract.  In order to avoid all of the legal complications, men are now marrying specially designed sex robots.  Again, this probably seemed way out there in 1988 but, in the current world, it just looks like my twitter timeline.

(Do they have sex robots for women in the world of Cherry 2000?  As far as I could tell, all of the sex robots in the film were designed for men’s pleasure, which doesn’t seem quite fair.)

Anyway, Sam Treadwell (David Andrews) is a business executive who thinks that he is deeply in love with his robot wife, Cherry 2000 (Pamela Gidley).  However, a mix of sex and a broken washing machine causes Cherry to short-circuit.  When Sam tries to get her repaired, he’s told that it’s a lost cause.  Cherry is beyond repair.  Add to that, apparently the Cherry 2000 model is no longer being manufactured.  If Sam wants a new Cherry, he’s going to have to go into Zone 7 and get one out of an abandoned factory.

So, of course, that’s what Sam does.  The only problem is that Sam is a business guy and Zone 7 is the most dangerous place in the world.  Why is it so dangerous?  Because it’s ruled by a warlord named …. Lester.  (No offense meant to anyone named Lester but that’s not exactly the most intimidating name in the world.)  Lester is played by B-movie mainstay Tim Thomerson, who appears to be having fun whenever he appears on-screen.

To help guide him through Zone 7, Sam hires E (Melanie Griffith).  E is the film’s saving grace, largely because she kicks everyone’s ass.  The great thing about E is that, from the minute she first appears, she makes no secret of the fact that she finds Sam and his sex robot to be just as pathetic and ridiculous as we do.  Griffith plays the role with just the right mix of humor and annoyance.  If I ever have to guide anyone through a desert wasteland to a sex robot factory, I hope that I can do it with half as much style and panache as E.

Anyway, Cherry 2000 is a weird little mix of the western and science fiction genres.  For a film about sex robots, it actually has a rather goofy and almost innocent feel to it.  It’s a film that raises a lot of issues but which is also smart enough not to spend too much time on any of them.  Director Steve De Jarnatt also directed one of my favorite 80s movies, the charming apocalyptic love story Miracle Mile.  Cherry 2000 may be a mess but it’s definitely a watchable mess.

A Movie A Day #259: Take This Job And Shove It (1981, directed by Gus Trikonis)


Originally from a small town in Iowa, Frank Macklin (Robert Hays) is a hotshot young executive with The Ellison Group.  When Frank is assigned to manage and revitalize a failing brewery in his hometown, it is a chance for Frank to rediscover his roots.  His childhood friends (played by actors like David Keith, Tim Thomerson, and Art Carney) may no longer trust him now that Frank wears a tie but it only takes a few monster truck rallies and a football game in a bar for Frank to show that he is still one of them.  However, Frank discovers that the only reason that he was sent to make the brewery profitable was so that his bosses could sell it to a buffoonish millionaire who doesn’t know the first thing about how to run a business.  Will Frank stand by while his bosses screw over the hardworking men and women of the heartland?  Or will he say, “You can take this job and shove it?”

Named after a country music song and taking place almost entirely in places stocked with beer, Take This Job And Shove It is a celebration of all things redneck.  This movie is so redneck in nature that a major subplot involves monster trucks.  Bigfoot, one of the first monster trucks, gets plenty of screen time and, in some advertisements, was given higher billing than Art Carney.

A mix of low comedy and sentimental drama, Take This Job And Shove It is better than it sounds.  In some ways, it is a prescient movie: the working class frustrations and the anger at being forgotten in a “booming economy” is the same anger that, 35 years later, would be on display during the election of 2016.  Take This Job And Shove It also has an interesting and talented cast, most of whom rise above the thinly written dialogue.  Along with Hays, Keith, Thomerson, Bigfoot, and Carney, keep an eye out for: Eddie Albert, Royal Dano, James Karen, Penelope Milford, Virgil Frye, George “Goober” Lindsey, and Barbara Hershey (who, as usual, is a hundred times better than the material she has to work with).

One final note: Martin Mull plays Hays’s corporate rival.  His character is named Dick Ebersol.  Was that meant to be an inside joke at the expense of the real Dick Ebersol, who has the executive producer of Saturday Night Live when Take This Job and Shove It was filmed and who later became the president of NBC Sports?

A Movie A Day #210: Who’s Harry Crumb? (1989, directed by Pat Flaherty)


Who’s Harry Crumb?

He is a private detective, the latest in a long line of gumshoes.  While Harry’s father and his grandfather may have been great detectives, Harry is about as incompetent as can be.  He is a self-styled master of disguise but not much else.  He is employed at Crumb & Crumb Detective Agency, solely because of his family background.  When the head of the agency, Eliot Draisen (Jeffrey Jones), engineers the kidnapping of a millionaire’s daughter, he gives the case to Harry because he knows Harry will never be able to solve it.

Who’s Harry Crumb?

He is John Candy, the much beloved and much missed comedic actor from Canada.  As anyone who has ever seen an old episode of SCTV knows, John Candy could be one of the funniest men alive but Hollywood rarely knew what to do with him.  Other than the movies that he made with John Hughes, Candy was always stuck in either supporting roles or in bad comedies.  In Art Linson’s A Pound of Flesh, veteran film producer Linson writes that, because of Candy’s size, some Paramount executives wanted to cast him as Al Capone in The Untouchables.  That is something that I would have enjoyed seeing.  Instead, some actor named Robert De Niro got that role and Candy ended up making movies like Who’s Harry Crumb?

Who’s Harry Crumb? tries to be a mix of comedy and mystery but, due to a weak script and uncertain direction, it does not really succeed as either.  John Candy delivers a few laughs because he was a naturally funny actor but, as a character, Harry Crumb is not that interesting.  Instead, the film is stolen by Annie Potts, playing a duplicitous femme fatale.  Potts and Candy previously came close to working together in the original Ghostbusters.  (Candy pulled out of the role of Louis Tully so that he could play Tom Hanks’s brother in Splash.  He was replaced by his SCTV co-star, Rick Moranis.)  The rest of the cast seems bored and uninterested in what they are doing.  Even Jeffrey Jones, usually so reliable in smarmy bad guy roles, seems bored.

John Candy died just 5 years after the release of Who’s Harry Crumb?, leaving behind two intriguing dream projects, one a biopic of Fatty Arbuckle and another an adaptation of A Confederacy of Dunces.  Sadly, Hollywood never really figured out what to do with this talented comedian.

 

Insomnia File #27: Remember My Name (dir by Alan Rudolph)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

If you were having trouble sleeping last Tuesday, around one in the morning, you could have turned over to TCM and watched Remember My Name, an odd and sometimes frustrating little thriller from 1978.

Remember My Name opens with Emily (Geraldine Chaplin) showing up in a small town in California.  From the minute we first see and hear Emily, something seems to be off about her.  She views the world through suspicious eyes.  Whenever anyone talks to her, you’re never quite sure whether she’s going be friendly or if she’s going to lash out.  When she speaks, there’s something weird about her vocal inflection, as if she’s always struggling to figure out what she’s supposed to say.  She seems to be separated from the world, almost as if she’s walking through a living dream and only talking to figments of her imagination.  There’s nothing about her that feels at all authentic.

She moves into a small apartment and enters into a relationship with her handyman (Moses Gunn), a relationship that seems to be largely defined by her refusal to open up about herself.  She gets a job at a grocery story that’s managed by a Mr. Nudd (Jeff Goldblum).  Mr. Nudd mentions something about Emily knowing his mother.  Apparently, they met in prison.

Soon, Emily is stalking a construction worker named Neil Curry (Anthony Perkins).  When Neil spots her, he calls out her name and Emily runs away.  And yet, Neil doesn’t bother to tell his wife, Barbara (Berry Berenson), about Emily.  Soon, Emily is even breaking into the Curry home, silently shadowing Barbara as she walks through the house.

I described Remember My Name as being a thriller and I guess that, technically it is.  There are a few moments of tension, especially when Emily is stalking Barbara.  However, the film itself is directed in a detached manner by Alan Rudolph.  Rudolph was a protegé of director Robert Altman (who also produced Remember My Name) and Rudolph’s approach is very Altmanesque, often to the detriment of the film.  (Chaplin and Jeff Goldblum had both appeared in several Altman films, most famously in Nashville.)  Though the film is dominated by Chaplin and Perkins, it’s still very much an ensemble film and the action plays out in a deceptively casual, almost random manner.  It tries so hard to be Altmanesque that Remember My Name gets a bit frustrating, to be honest.  Chaplin gives such a good and memorable performance and she works very hard to make Emily a character who is both frightening and, at times, surprisingly sympathetic but, for the most part, Rudolph’s technique makes it difficult to get emotionally involved in any of the action unfolding on-screen.  Rudolph observes the action but refuses to comment on it.  As a result, Remember My Name is occasionally intriguing but, just as often, it’s rather boring.  Just like real life, I suppose.  And, just like real life, it’s not for everyone.

That said, it was interesting to see Anthony Perkins playing a role other than a knife-wielding inn manager.  Without resorting to any of the familiar tics or the neurotic speech patterns that typecast him forever as Norman Bates, Perkins plays Neil as just being a regular, blue collar guy and he actually does a pretty good job.  Watching the film, I got the feeling that this was perhaps Perkins’s attempt to change his image.  (Whenever Neil appears shirtless, both the film and Perkins seem to be saying, Check out this physique!  Would someone only capable of playing a psycho have abs like this?)  Neil’s wife, Barbara, was played Perkins’s wife, Berry Berenson.  Neither one of them is with us any longer.  Perkins died of AIDS in 1990 while Berry Berenson was on one of the planes that flew into the World Trade Center on 9-11.  They both did good work in this film, as did Chaplin and Goldblum and, really, the entire cast.  It’s just a pity that the film itself isn’t as good as the performances. 

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run

Sci-Fi Review: Trancers: City of Lost Angels (2013, dir. Charles Band)


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It took me since September 5th of 2015 to finally reach the very last film in this retrospective of the Trancers series, but I’m finally here. This is the lost sequel that was made…why am I explaining this? There is a title card right at the beginning that does it for me.

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Yes, I do have The Evil Clergyman. I will get to it eventually. Pulse Pounders also has a sequel to The Dungeonmaster (1984) in it, but that doesn’t appear to have been released yet.

The movie begins with good old McNulty (Art LaFleur).

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He is on his way to be briefed about a prisoner in jail who apparently does not like Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) who is still in the past. He is being briefed by The Warden of the jail…

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played by actress Grace Zabriskie. Ah, the good old days when I could still play dumb. You of course know Grace from Norma Rae (1979), Galaxy of Terror (1981), An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), Leonard Part 6 (1987), Wild at Heart (1990), My Own Private Idaho (1991), Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), Seinfeld, Big Love, and that little short-lived show called Twin Peaks. Oh how I wish I could have claimed I thought that was some late night cable series from the 90s like the TV Show Red Oaks having a character think The 400 Blows (1959) was porn. I still have the right to make a couple American Sniper rubber baby jokes in future posts. You can’t take that away from me! If you are thinking I’m padding out this review because the movie is really short, then you’d be right.

She takes him to every futuristic hallway from the 80’s to meet the vicious murderer named Edlin Shock (Velvet Rhodes). She only says two words in her time there: Jack Deth. He is the one who brought her in.

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You can sort of see through the lousy VHS rip this DVD provides that she is being transferred because the movie has to have an excuse for the criminal to escape and they went with this one.

McNulty walks through a door that can conveniently close on him when needed, and she breaks free.

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She has the cuffs off now that were holding her hands straight up for some reason. Just thought I’d tell you that, cause the movie never explains how that happened. Nor does it explain this.

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That’s right! She somehow punctured and got through the ceiling. Even Zar in Rock’s Winning Workout Without Weights couldn’t do that!

The best he could do was bonk his head on the ceiling.

Rock's Winning Workout Without Weights (1990)

Rock’s Winning Workout Without Weights (1990)

If you’re thinking they might show her taking someone’s gun that could be used to make that hole, then…um…nope! The best we get is that as she kicked one of the soldiers, he appears to have shot upward once. Blink, and you’ll miss it.

Anyways, The Warden instantly knows she has reached the room where she can go back in time. So of course they go there and find Raines (Thelma Hopkins).

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She tells him that Edlin forced her to send her down the line. McNulty orders Jack’s body brought out of the vault, and gets Raines to send him down the line. By that I mean Alyson Croft is back to play McNulty as a girl. She’s as good as ever in this. In fact, the majority of the film is made up of Tim Thomerson and Alyson Croft reminding us that they really did give the best performances in any of the Trancers movies.

We now cut to the past of 1986 Los Angeles so that Helen Hunt can make what is basically a cameo appearance as Lena Deth. We first see her throwing dishes.

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She’s not too happy with the last three years of their time together. Jack tells her they have a great detective agency. However, they have zero clients despite a great newspaper ad that says, “Put your trust in Deth.” Sounds fine to me! A plumbing agency ran that kind of an ad in my city’s local newspaper back in the 50s.

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Then again, this is the same paper that ran a story talking about dogs pissing on the paper while it sat on newsstands. They also wrote an apology for making a typo in a classified ad by making another typo in the apology. Maybe she’s right. By the way, I’m not kidding about the pissing thing. It’s a four paragraph story about how “canines criticize” the paper.

Meanwhile, back in the movie, she chews him out, he uses the long second to give a speech, but after kissing her, she storms off anyways. Now Jack sits down to watch…

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what I assume is Peter Gunn? They did make a joke about that show in the first Trancers movie. I’m not knowledgable enough about 50s television. That’s when Alyson Croft, as McNulty’s ancestor, shows up to deliver the message that the crazy killer from the beginning is after him.

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Along with that, she brings up the fact that it’s a lot easier to protect Jack if he comes back to the future. This is probably the best part of the movie cause they actually bother to bring this next part up. Jack says that if he left now, then Phillip Deth, his ancestor whose body he is in, could be picked off and thus erase his own existence. McNulty says that the bad lady likes to look the person she is going to kill in the eye. That means she’ll follow him back to the future if necessary. However, since they already built this nice apartment set, Jack stays and stops McNulty from shooting him with the back to the future dart. McNulty likes to do that suddenly to Jack. He did it in the first film thus interrupting Jack just before he was going to have sex.

Now a guy fixing the roof shows up because we are only working without about 24 minutes of footage here.

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Of course Jack lets him go. Now a red herring shows up. Okay, I kid. She’s not a bird, but she is dressed in red!

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If this is actress Velvet Rhodes, then they sure don’t tell you anywhere in the non-existent credits or on IMDb. If she was, then you’d think he would recognize her, but he doesn’t, and neither does McNulty. I don’t think it is. Although, he certainly is skeptical. It really doesn’t matter what happens here. You are watching this just to see Tim Thomerson and Alyson Croft do their thing. They really are good together.

Oh, and the way you know for sure it’s either red jacket lady or roof guy is that they make sure to tell you that McNulty is lucky he has a genetically aligned ancestor to go back into before sending him down the line. That way you know for sure it’s not the killer posing as McNulty.

After a little bit of drinking, a little bit of interrogating, and red herring changing her clothes, this happens.

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Yep, roof guy was the one she took over.

A scuffle now ensues, and between Jack and McNulty,…

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she and Jack are sent back to the future.

Now the fight continues in the future.

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The fight goes to the roof, and she gets knocked off bringing the reason for this plot to exist to an end.

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Jack and Raines talk a bit. Jack decides to go back to the past, but with one condition. Could she send him back three hours earlier? You know, that way this movie never actually happened. Of course she can so…

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they can attempt to kiss,…

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tell McNulty to piss off,…

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and actually kiss.

Then this happens.

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Thomerson runs across the screen holding some stuff while Helen Hunt dances. Classy, Full Moon Features.

Now you may be asking yourself a question right now. Where were the Trancers in this Trancers movie? You didn’t miss anything. They aren’t here. This is the one and only Trancers movie without any Trancers in it. No mind controlled zombie Trancers from the first one. No drug-induced/mind controlled ones from the second film. No super solider ones from the third one. No vampire ones from four and five. No meteor rock tied into a ray gun that zaps you in the eyes from Trancers 6 either. No Trancers whatsoever. Honestly, I’m glad. I needed a change.

What’s nice about this film is that it really doesn’t break the continuity with the actual Trancers II. If anything, it gives us an early glimpse into how Jack was trying to settle into living in the past. Also, how his and Lena’s relationship was already on the rocks. In the end though, I would only recommend this for real fans of the series.

At the end of this entire look back at the series, the only ones worth seeing are the first one, this one, and the actual second movie. Definitely skip the rest.

Sci-Fi Review: Trancers 5: Sudden Deth (1994, dir. David Nutter)


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Wow! That title card cares about this movie as much as the one for Trancers 4: Jack of Swords did. That is to say, it doesn’t care one bit. And for good reason. This movie sucks! At least it isn’t as depressing as what I’ll mention at the end of this review.

In case you don’t remember the complex and memorable plot of Trancers 4 when you go to watch Trancers 5, it begins with a recap. I’m glad this recap exists. It not only reminds me that nothing happened in Trancers 4, but it also tells me what this lady’s name really is.

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That being “the bitch leader of the rebellious peasants” (Terri Ivens). You see, this is what happens when you get one of the villains of the movie to do your recap. They will resort to name calling. The only new thing it adds is that shortly after Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) killed Caliban (Clabe Hartley) they used hit and run tactics for a month before launching an attack on the castle. Cut to the attack on the castle and this guy keeps saying “Deth is coming!” Very true, as he learns from Jack’s gun.

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One eye (Mark Arnold) here flees the castle, but first he takes the painting from Ghostbusters II.

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Oh, yeah! That means what you think it means. This movie is that stupid. Meanwhile, it’s time for Jack and Lyra (Stacie Randall) to have another hilarious scene together. Lyra being the girl from the future who was tough and smart, but in the past is super submissive. Jack still isn’t happy about that. Aside from the sex thing.

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Then a scene happens that I’m sure was the inspiration for Stephenie Meyer’s June 2, 2003 dream that inspired the Twilight series.

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That’s Prospero (Ty Miller) who is a Trancer/vampire and the bitch…okay, her name is Shaleen. She is in love with him, but his hunger causes him to need to feed, and she is willing to let him. Nope. Nothing Twilighty going on here. Meanwhile, Jack is in the library trying to understand his contract to make Trancers 4 & 5 which apparently had him paid in money he could only spend in Romania.

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Actually, it’s some random gibberish that talks about inter-dimensional travel or something. Oh, then this happens.

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Yep! Caliban is back. Why? Probably the same reason why Jack getting struck by lightning at the end of the fourth film simply transported him behind Caliban so he could shoot him. Plot convenience. Whatever, it’s back to Jack and Prospero. All you need to know is Jack needs to go get something called the Tiamond. Where does he need to go to get it you might ask? Stupid question! Of course it’s The Castle of Unrelenting Terror. Where did you think he was going to have to go? To a 7-Eleven?

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Now Shaleen’s breasts say goodbye. Jack then tells Lyra he has to go and gives us some words of wisdom: “A woman isn’t a real woman unless she makes you want to smack her in the chops. Not doing it makes you a real man.” Thanks, Jack! I mean I can’t say I really disagree with the point of the line…I think, but that’s certainly an interesting way of putting it. Now Jack and Prospero are off to The Castle Of Unrelenting Bullshit.

Jack and Prospero sit down to let Ty Miller attempt acting before Taylor Lautner shows up.

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They just throw him some food and he leaves. Wait I’m sorry. I forgot that it turns out the food tastes like shit, but Prospero has some drink for Jack that will make him care about its shitty taste less. Very important lines. Then some guy shows up, tries to kill Prospero, and Lautner kills him. Who cares, we need to get through this thing as fast as possible. As Jack puts it, “I’m getting too old for this shit.”

Now we get more scenes of Ty Miller acting. These scenes are just to remind us that Prospero is a good guy, but Jack doesn’t trust him cause he is a Trancer after all. Then we cut to Lyra who wanders somewhere in the castle to start drawing. It really doesn’t matter. Next they arrive at The Castle Of Unrelenting Nonsense.

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They would’ve painted the girls green, but then Roddenberry’s estate would have sued their asses off. They basically serve the same purpose as Orion Slave Girls trying to keep Jack and Prospero in a state of bliss that will cause them to rot away. Makes me wonder though. If two women had arrived at the castle, then would these have been men? Can the castle tell what your sexual preference is and tailor these people to match it? Doesn’t matter. Jack figures it out and gets hit with a giant hand.

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Then he cuts off the arm it’s attached to and throws it on the ground.

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On to the next room of The Castle Of Unrelenting Things From Other Movies And TV Shows.

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Zombies! At least I think they’re zombies. They sound like it and move towards them like they are. However, Jack just tells them to “suck floor”. They do just that, and scene!

Meanwhile, Lyra is back at the castle padding the movie out by drawing things. Back in the actual plot of the film, Jack and Prospero come to a room where Prospero is struck down with noise.

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Then the dumbest scene of the same actor playing themselves twice in the same scene happens. It’s like watching the Disney Channel show Liv and Maddie if they used no special effects at all, but kept cutting to single shots of Dove Cameron pretending to be different characters with an occasional arm reaching towards her. Yep. Jack fights with himself. Here you go.

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Good Jack

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Evil Jack

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Fighting

The whole scene is like that. Evil Jack has the Tiamond and now Please Get Me Out Of This Movie Jack has the Tiamond. The dog is back and transforms into Caliban, but in between we get the dog wearing a vest!

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Needless to say Caliban takes the Tiamond away and uses it to make this happen…

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before going through that vortex, as they call it.

Now the movie has all the characters make a mad dash back to the main set. Back at the castle poor Shaleen’s breasts get squished.

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Why you ask? Because the movie needs to reference Back To The Future now. Isn’t it obvious? No? Let me help you out. She is Lorraine Baines.

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He is Biff Tannen.

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That’s Marty/George McFly AKA Jeff Moldovan who was the stunt coordinator on the film.

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The fight.

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The fist.

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The knockout.

Not perfect, but I have absolutely no doubt that’s what they were referencing with that scene.

Anyways, Prospero shows up and lifts the styrofoam off of her body. However, Caliban shows up and starts making impressive use of The Force to do more than just open up doors this time.

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Caliban has a showdown with Jack and Prospero. After knocking Jack down, Prospero stabs him, then Jack shoots the Tiamond saying, “Back to L.A. you son of a bitch!” They turn yellow and disappear. I love what follows.

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There’s this shot of Shaleen looking around in amazement for a full 10 seconds. It’s hilarious. Now we cut back to the future. Oh, and past Lyra is pregnant. Doesn’t matter.

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Initially they think they have lost Jack and talk about him in the past tense. The problem is that before they start talking about him, Jack and Prospero come through the door. It means Lyra and the guy banging Jack’s ex-wife didn’t hear the door open up right behind them. Then Jack is reunited with Lyra and iris shot!

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So, you want to watch something depressing? Watch Trancers 3, 4, and 5. Want to crank it up a notch? Watch the behind the scenes featurette on the Trancers 5 DVD where it’s obvious that Thomerson was having none of this movie. Not sad enough? I can make it worse. Actor Clabe Hartley now owns a restaurant in Venice Beach, California. This year a homeless person came into his restaurant, harassed some customers, then BIT PART OF HARTLEY’S FINGER OFF! And they couldn’t reattach it. Instead of our usual look on Thomerson’s face, I have embedded the news story below.

Sci-Fi Review: Trancers 4: Jack of Swords (1994, dir. David Nutter)


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Yes, there’s more of these. And three more after this one. At least this one is sort of a step up from the third one in that they let Tim Thomerson do more comedy and self aware jokes than the particularly lousy Trancers III. The movie opens up with a castle followed by this picture of Jack Deth and someone says, “now it begins”. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end with this movie because this one and the fifth film are really one movie divided into two.

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Then cut to Los Angeles where Jack gives his usual voiceover only this time it’s to tell us that he’s basically just a time cop now because all the Trancers have been dealt with. Thomerson now walks through a brightly lit door and proceeds to do a little standup routine. Makes sense, he was once a standup comedian. Remember that fish head cyborg thing that he was paired up with at the end of Trancers III? Well…

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he didn’t make it. And neither did anyone else from the previous Trancers movies except Tim and one of the guys who was on the council at the end of the previous film. Thomerson has some humorous lines about this. This is when you realize the movie is going to be self aware, which is a welcome return since the first one did that as well. Then we cut to a bar to be introduced to Jack’s love interest for this movie. If you can call her that. Afterwards we see Jack, a gun, and an awesome lamp.

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I wonder what contest I need to win in order to get that lamp. Now Jack goes to get his mission and of course it’s the same lady he ran into at the bar. Oh, and here’s every man’s worst nightmare.

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Apparently, this knife will cut through anything. That will come in use later. She has also improved the long second watch so that it can recharge. That will also come in use later for a comedy bit. He also gets an RBG-7. It’s the Trancers version of the BFG. Do I need to spell it out for you: Really Big Gun. It can recharge like Mr. Fusion from Back To The Future. Just shove things up it’s butt as she says. Oh, I’m sorry, “shove it up your butt”. She says she would have made an inflatable doll of herself for him, but she didn’t have the time. Considering the lines he has later with a different version of her, his lines about her being a smart ass here are kind of funny. Anyways, after Jack tells his boss he doesn’t appreciate that he’s been “fucking” his wife, a plot device grabs him, and he’s sent somewhere in time and space.

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Jack was originally supposed to go to Topeka, Kansas, but he winds up…who cares cause look, a Trancer!

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Sorry, I mean a “fucking Trancer!” This movie has more cursing and some tits for it’s R rating. Well, as you might have guessed, his Really Big Gun doesn’t do Jack Shit (Jack’s nickname in this). So Jack just stabs him and after changing colors a few times, he disappears like any good Trancer should. Here’s our bad guy.

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He knows it’s important to show the girl’s breast to the camera before you kill her. Seriously, he opens up a girl’s dress just to show her breasts to the camera then vampire kills her. After the bad guy and bad guy, jr. have an exposition conversation, we cut back to Jack for comedy.

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Jack hops into hay. He doesn’t hide under the hay or anything, but the guy driving the thing doesn’t notice. He’ll fall right out of that hay later and no one notices then either. Love it! After we meet people who we don’t care about, we meet this guy who is here to splice this movie into two.

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I’d say he’s rocking the Star Wars Emperor look here, but there’s already a Star Wars thing coming in this. He has another picture of Jack in which he is holding up the gun which is going to get struck by lightning or something. I don’t really care. Where’s Jack!

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Jack falls out of the hay and gets into a fight. Jack’s jacket gets hit with an arrow…

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and then it’s time for more plot. Look, all you need to know is this is some sort of medieval place with medieval Trancers that have to feed on people to stay alive. That’s it! Oh, and here’s the lady from the future who is someone different in this past other world.

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Cause of course she is. Now Jack runs into character actor Lochlyn Munro who at the time of writing this has amassed close to 200 acting credits on IMDb.

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He’s here to heal Jack and then turn him in. There’s also some plot injected in here before they come to capture him. The bad guy has a son who needs to be initiated and thus needs to kill someone. Who cares. Back with Jack, he discovers that the long second doesn’t exactly work the same way in this world.

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The long second actually slows him down instead of everyone else. This is a funny scene as Thomerson moves in slow motion while everyone around him is fascinated till they decide to just knock him out. Jack wakes up a little confused with the love interest who has been told to satisfy him.

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Jack gets laid. After the other characters get in the way of us having fun watching Thomerson, he finishes having sex and immediately starts chewing her out for being so submissive. Part way through this Jack realizes the humor of his situation. In the future he was chewing her out for being a bitch and here for putting out at the drop of a hat.

After grabbing a guy out of a painting who must have been watching them the whole time, Jack is led into the bad guy’s castle and captured. Meanwhile, other actors are taking up quality Jack time. The bad guy talks about Jack’s weapons to pad the movie out while Jack is chained against a wall, but Jack says fuck you!

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After the girl he just had sex with manages to get the indestructible knife to Jack, he is left alone, and breaks out of his chains by cutting through them using the knife. Now the movie is just a series of action scenes as Jack hooks up with rebels I didn’t bother to mention before and the bad guys search for Jack. Oh, and Jack learns his destiny.

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But just before that, bad guy opens a door using The Force.

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Then more stuff nobody watching this movie cares about happens. I do love this scene though.

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The bad guys stumble upon them and stop. Are they surprised they’re just standing there? Do they think they’re are going to make out or something? Who knows? Who cares. The bad guys end up in traps and die. After more stuff we don’t care about…

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this guy falls from the sky to kill somebody with a sword. Now we get the sword battle between Jack and the bad guy. To quote Jack: “En garde, motherfucker!”

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Sadly, Jack really doesn’t know how to handle a sword at all. He swings it around in a ridiculous fashion before the guy simply takes it from him and lets Jack run away. Jack finally decides to accept his destiny by going to get struck by lightning. Well, that is after The Wizard Of Oz shows up.

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Then he gets struck by lightning.

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And what happens you ask? The bad guy goes up to investigate where Jack was and apparently Jack had just teleported behind him. Jack shoots him and after changing colors, he’s dead. Then they say things to tell us there is another movie before posing.

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So ends Trancers 4: Jack of Swords. A movie that, while it did have better jokes and lines than the third film, is instantly forgettable and really does have a lot of scenes with actors we don’t care about. I’m not sure why they couldn’t have spent more time with Jack. He’s still very funny. This is the last of the Trancers movies I had already seen. The remaining three are going to be brand new to me.

Well, let’s end this the same as the last three reviews. By that I mean with a great Tim Thomerson look. This time it’s probably the look he gave when he was told he would not be back for Trancers 6.

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