Trucks

Trucks

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Today’s feature is Trucks, a 1997 television movie adapted from a Stephen King story about killer automobiles.

Trucks is based on the same Stephen King short story that turned into the 1986 movie Maximum Overdrive, which King himself directed and adapted. The screenplay for this made-for-television adaptation, however, was written by Brian Taggert, who also penned Omen IV and Poltergeist III.

Trucks was directed by Chris Thomson, a career television director who worked on a variety of television movies, as well as on the shows Flipper and Time Trax.

The cinematographer for the movie was Robert Draper, whose credits include Halloween 5, Tales From The Darkside: The Movie, and numerous episodes of both Tales From The Crypt and Tales From The Darkside.

The editor for Trucks was Lara Mazur, who worked extensively on television shows like Andromeda, Dead Like Me, and Highlander.

The team of producers on Trucks included Mark Amin (Leprechaun, Evolver, Leprechaun 3, The Dentist, The Dentist 2, Chairman of the Board), Bruce David Eisen (Leprechaun In The Hood, The Dentist 2), Greg Griffin (Ice Road Truckers, America’s Next Top Model), and Jerry Leider (My Favorite Martian).

The effects work for Trucks was provided by a team that was made up of Pamela Athayde (Capote), Erich Martin Hicks (Babylon 5, Leprechaun In The Hood), Cara Anderson (Marmaduke, Baby Geniuses 2), Darcy Davis (Final Destination, A Christmas Story 2), Kevin Stadnyk (Deep Evil, Blade Trinity), and Rory Cutler (Iron Eagle II, The Fly II).

trucks4The musical score for Trucks was provided by Michael Richard Plowman, who also did music for Laserhawk, the cartoon Sonic Boom, and a number of nonfiction documentaries like Triggers: Weapons That Changed The World, Untold Stories of the E.R., and The Man With The 200 lb Tumor.

The cast of Trucks includes Timothy Busfield (Revenge of the Nerds, Field of Dreams), Brenda Bakke (Demon Knight, Under Siege 2, L.A. Confidential), Aidan Devine (A History of Violence), Jay Brazeau (Insomnia, Best In Show), and Brendan Fletcher (Freddy vs. Jason).

The plot of Trucks is summarized on IMDb as follows:

Based on the short story by Stephen King, this tells the tail of trucks suddenly coming to life and attacking their owners.

trucks3Given that Trucks was a television movie, it wasn’t particularly widely seen. That said, the people who did see it didn’t exactly like it: the movie currently holds a 3.8 user rating on IMDb, along with a 30% audience aggregate score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Comparisons between Trucks and the earlier adaptation of the same story, Maximum Overdrive, are unfortunately impossible to avoid, which doesn’t do Trucks any favors. As much as Maximum Overdrive is a bad movie (a good bad movie if you ask me), it was also a big movie with impressive effects work and a sense of visual spectacle. Trucks, being a much smaller production, just can’t compete with what Maximum Overdrive put on screen. Likewise, the low-budget cast isn’t nearly as impressive, which is saying something given how weak the performances were in Overdrive.

trucks2Overall, outside of a couple of memorable highlight moments, Trucks is just an immensely forgettable movie. It mostly exists as a footnote on the much better known Maximum Overdrive, but I think it is worth checking out for die-hard Stephen King fans, or for people who got a good laugh out of Overdrive. Trucks does take itself a bit too seriously, and never quite feels fun, which I think was a mistake for what is a pretty goofy premise. However, the handful of highlights make it worth digging up for bad movie fanatics.

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Wired

Wired

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Today’s picture is one of the most hated biopics ever made: 1989’s Wired, which paints a less-than-generous portrait of comedian John Belushi.

The screenplay for Wired was written by Earl Mac Rauch, whose other credits include Martin Scorcese’s flop New York, New York, and the cult sci-fi movie The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension. The source material for the movie was penned by journalist Bob Woodward, who is best known for his involvement in exposing the Watergate scandal.

The director on Wired was Larry Peerce, who worked on the television shows Batman and Touched By An Angel, and also helmed a handful of movies dating back to the early 1960s, including Goodbye, Columbus and The Other Side Of The Mountain.

The cinematographer for the film was Tony Imi, who also shot the movies Babycakes, Enemy Mine, and Survival Island.

The editor on Wired was Eric A. Sears, who cut Cellular, Shooter, Spy Hard, D2: The Mighty Ducks, Final Destination 2, and Final Destination 5, among many others.

The team of producers for Wired included Edward S. Feldman (The Truman Show, The Golden Child, The Hitcher, Fuzz, Hot Dog: The Movie), Austen Jewell (Motel Hell), and Charles Meeker (Hamburger: The Motion Picture, The Hitcher, The Golden Child).

The musical score for Wired was composed by Basil Poledouris, who also provided music for movies like Conan The Barbarian, Red Dawn, RoboCop, Iron Eagle, RoboCop 3, On Deadly Ground, Free Willy, and Starship Troopers.

wired2The effects work for the film was provided by a team that included Craig Lyman (The Stuff, Carlito’s Way, The Fisher King, The Happening, Men In Black III), Vera Yurtchuk (Teen Wolf, Tuff Turf), and Robert Calvert (Iron Eagle, Cutthroat Island, Monkeybone, Con Air, Castle).

The cast of Wired includes Michael Chiklis (The Shield, Fantastic Four), Ray Sharkey (Cop And A Half, No Mercy, Wise Guys), J.T. Walsh (Sling Blade, Executive Decision), Patti D’Arbanville (Real Genius, The Fan), Lucinda Jenney (Rain Man, Thirteen Days), and Alex Rocco (The Godfather, Smokin Aces).

The plot of Wired is summarized on IMDb as follows:

The ghost of John Belushi looks back on his troubled life and career, while journalist Bob Woodward researches Belushi’s life as he prepares to write a book about the late comic actor.

In one of the sequences featuring the fictionalized John Landis, a helicopter is prominently heard in the background. This is a not-so-subtle reference to an infamous on-set accident involving a helicopter on Twilight Zone: The Movie that killed three people under his watch, including actor Vic Morrow (The Last Shark, 1990: The Bronx Warriors).

Given that Wired was not an authorized biographical feature, it was haunted by the specter of legal issues. Numerous prominent figures in Belushi’s life threatened to sue if they were portrayed in the film, and Saturday Night Live skits were officially off-limits thanks to NBC’s copyright. The result of this on screen is the featuring of oddly manufactured facsimiles of SNL skits, which only vaguely resemble actual performances, and feature few (if any) of Belushi’s co-stars.

WIRED, from left: Gary Groomes as Dan Aykroyd, Michael Chiklis as John Belushi, 1989 © Taurus EntertainmentWired was widely reviled by both audiences and critics alike upon its release: it currently holds a 4.5 on IMDb, along with Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores of 4% from critics and 15% from audiences. Appropriately, the movie was also a financial disaster. On a production budget of roughly $13 million, the movie only managed to gross just over $1 million in its theatrical run, which was significantly impacted by a boycott of the movie which was vocally supported by many of Belushi’s friends and family.

The portrayal of John Belushi in this movie, as many have pointed out, is written is an excessively brutal way, which emphasizes everything negative about the man, while glossing over any of his positive impacts and traits. However, Chiklis’s performance is actually pretty spot-on if you ask me, despite the issues with the material he was working with. His mannerisms and voice were clearly the result of some meticulous effort on his part, and the result is pretty impressive.

WIRED, Lucinda Jenney as Judy Belushi, Michael Chiklis as John Belushi, 1989, © Taurus EntertainmentSomething that bothered me a lot about Wired is how much it feels like a vanity project of the author, Bob Woodward. The fact that he is written into the screenplay as a character is a bit over the top, and Belushi’s portrayed obsessive fascination with him as a celebrity is a little beyond ridiculous. If Belushi’s portrayal wasn’t enough poor taste for this movie, the self-aggrandizing portrait of Bob Woodword adds a layer of sleaze on top of the stack.

The message of Wired is nothing if not heavy-handed, which is a significant weakness of the film. A good biopic should focus on building the central character, with the flaws included as part of the holistic entity of them. Wired, however, just focuses on the flaws of John Belushi, which gives an incomplete picture of the character, and makes his downfall less potent as a result. If the movie wanted to effectively telegraph an anti-drug message, it should have built up a sympathetic character, and then had him destroyed by his drug addiction, which would have had emotional weight. As it stands, Belushi is painted as an asshole from the start, so the tragedy of his story is negated.

Overall, Wired isn’t the worst movie out there. There are actually some interesting aspects to it, like the surreal framing device, some moments of appropriately bleak humor, and Chiklis’s performance. That said, the screenplay clearly has an axe to grind and a message to deliver, which taints everything it touches. The result is a bitter, self-righteous, and hateful movie that is impossible to like, in spite of some of its positive aspects. I can’t very well recommend the movie, because it isn’t a film that can really be enjoyed. However, it has some trivia value thanks to its background, which might make it worth checking out for some.

For some other thoughts on Wired, I recommend checking out the coverage of the movie by The Cinema Snob , as well as the episode on it by the We Hate Movies podcast.