Tag Archives: bad movie

Harry and the Hendersons

Harry and the Hendersons

Today’s movie is 1987’s Sasquatch-centered family comedy: Harry and the Hendersons.

The plot of Harry and the Hendersons has the following synopsis on the Internet Movie Database:

The Henderson family adopt a friendly Sasquatch but have a hard time trying to keep the legend of ‘Bigfoot’ a secret.

Harry and the Hendersons was co-written and directed by William Dear, who is best known for directing Angels in the Outfield, The Perfect Game, and If Looks Could Kill, as well as providing input on the story for The Rocketeer.

The cast for the movie includes John Lithgow (Cliffhanger, Raising Cain, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension, Footloose, Blow Out), Melinda Dillon (Captain America, Magnolia, A Christmas Story, Close Encounters of The Third Kind), David Suchet (Wing Commander, A Perfect Murder, Poirot), Don Ameche (Cocoon, Cocoon: The Return, Trading Places), and M. Emmet Walsh (Blood Simple, Fletch, Critters, Slap Shot).

The cinematographer for Harry and the Hendersons was Allen Daviau, whose other credits include Van Helsing, Congo, The Astronaut’s Wife, The Color Purple, E.T., and Empire of the Sun.

Harry and the Hendersons was cut by Donn Cambern, who also worked as an editor on movies like Ghostbusters II, Twins, Time After Time, The Glimmer Man, The Cannonball Run, Easy Rider, and The Last Picture Show.

The musical score for the film was composed by Bruce Broughton, who also composed scores for movies like Silverado, Tombstone, The Monster Squad, Stay Tuned, Baby’s Day Out, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, and Lost In Space, as well as for television series like Dallas, Hawaii Five-O, and Gunsmoke.

Rick Baker, the special effects master who has, to date, won seven Academy Awards (with five additional nominations),  was the creature designer for Harry and the Hendersons. He ultimately won one of his Oscars for his work on the movie, and has claimed that the gigantic, lumbering Harry is his favorite of his many created characters.

Speaking of the creature work for the film, the suit worn by actor Kevin Peter Hall in order to play Harry stood at well over 8 feet tall, making for an immense presence on set.

While Harry and The Hendersons did not receive a sequel, it did spawn a television series, which ran for 72 episodes over 3 seasons, from 1991 to 1993. The series did not follow the continuity of the movie, however, as Harry is shown living with the Hendersons rather than returning to the wild as shown in the film.

Harry and the Hendersons was released internationally as Bigfoot and the Hendersons. A number of promotional images with this alternate title can be found around the internet with a little bit of digging.

Harry and the Henderson features a handful of characters who are obsessed with the hunt to capture or document a Sasquatch. These characters fit the mold of “cryptozoologists,” people who study unconfirmed mythical creatures (with the assumption that they exist), and “squatchers,” who are essentially Bigfoot hunters.

Harry and the Hendersons grossed just over $50 million in its lifetime theatrical run, making a significant profit on its production budget of $16 million.

Critically, however, the movie had a mixed reception. Today, it holds an IMDb user rating of 5.9/10, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 44% from critics and 54% from audiences.

If there is anything that must be said about Harry and the Hendersons, it is that the effects for Harry are incredibly impressive. Even though it looks creepy as all hell, the intricate facial expressions displayed by Harry are almost unimaginable for a monster suit in the 1980s. Rick Baker absolutely outdid himself here.

Beyond Harry, the big highlight of the movie has to be John Lithgow: I can’t think of a single performance of his career in which he hasn’t been entertaining in one way or another, and Harry and the Hendersons might be his pinnacle of his scene-chewing prowess. The guy is just a delight throughout the movie, and gives it more energy and passion that it had any right to deliver. The humor as it is written is a bit hit or miss, but Lithgow manages to elevate it at every turn. Without his presence, this movie might have been unwatchable.

The biggest issue I have with the movie, apart from the aforementioned comedic writing issues, is its tendency to get preachy: the message of nonviolence is really over the top, to the point that it almost feels like a PSA at times. That said, it isn’t terribly distracting, and kind of fits with the overall silly tone of the movie, but I would be remiss not to mention it.

Overall, I think that Harry and the Hendersons is 100%, grade A cheese. It certainly isn’t good by any conventional standards, but it is a true product of its era, and is worth watching for that aspect alone. Lithgow and Harry definitely solidify it as a recommendation for bad movie fans, but I think it is worth a watch for anyone, just because of how much it has seeped into cultural crevices over the years. It is also almost completely inoffensive, like a bumper car lined with plush animals, so almost anyone could enjoy it.

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Man-Thing

Man-Thing

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Today, I’m going to dive into an obscure, straight-to-video Marvel movie: 2005’s Man-Thing.

The plot of Man-Thing is summarized on IMDb as follows:

Agents of an oil tycoon vanish while exploring a swamp marked for drilling. The local sheriff investigates and faces a Seminole legend come to life: Man-Thing, a shambling swamp-monster whose touch burns those who feel fear.

The screenplay for Man-Thing was written by Hans Rodionoff, who also penned the films The Skulls II, Lost Boys: The Tribe, Lost Boys: The Thirst, and National Lampoon’s Bagboy.

The eponymous character of Man-Thing is credited to Steve Gerber, a veteran comic book writer who might be best known for creating the somewhat infamous character of Howard The Duck. He wrote a lauded 39-issue series that brought Man-Thing to wider prominence and fleshed out the story, but he interestingly did not create the character. The first appearance of the swampy creature was in Savage Tales #1 in May of 1971, and was initially conceived of by four notable comics figures: Stan Lee, Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas, and Gray Morrow.

This film adaptation of Man-Thing was directed by Brett Leonard, who is best known for movies like The Lawnmower Man and Virtuosity.

The cast of Man-Thing includes Matthew Le Nevez (Feed, Offspring), Rachael Taylor (Transformers, Jessica Jones), Jack Thompson (Australia, Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil), Steve Bastoni (The Matrix Reloaded, The Water Diviner), and Conan Stevens (Game of Thrones, Son of God).

manthing2The cinematographer for Man-Thing was Steve Arnold, who also shot the films Feed, Highlander: The Source, and Last Cab To Darwin, along with a handful of shorts, documentaries, and television series.

Man-Thing was cut by editor Martin Connor, whose other credits include The Hard Word, The Railway Man, and Burning Man, along with a good number of Australian television series.

The production of Man-Thing had two lead designers: Tim Ferrier, who is best known for doing the design work for the cult favorite science-fiction television FarScape, and Peter Pound, a storyboard and concept artist who has worked on films like Ghost Rider, Mad Max: Fury Road, Dark City, and The Crow.

The initial plan was apparently to have Man-Thing film in New Orleans, essentially on-location for the Louisiana setting of the story. However, budget limitations led to a change of plans, and Australia ultimately served for the backdrop for the production.

manthing4While Man-Thing didn’t reach a very wide audience with its television debut and subsequent DVD release, those that did see it didn’t much care for what they saw. Currently, it holds an IMDb user rating of 4.1/10, alongside Rotten Tomatoes scores of 17% from critics and 12% from audiences.

The first thing that I noticed about Man-Thing is that the color grading is absolutely out of control. Most of the sequences are absolutely drowned in green tones, to the point that the whole movie looks like an overdone CSI episode. During the handful of daylight sequences, yellows take over with very much the same effect. However, no matter what, every sequence is unreasonably over-saturated with one color or another, which makes the movie look and feel cheaper than it needs to.

Man-Thing features a handful of unique scene transitions in the form of rapid montages of gore, pollution, and swamp imagery juxtaposed together. While I thought this was pretty interesting the first time it happened, it gets far too overused over the course of the film, to the point that it loses its potency. The same could be said for the whole movie, to be honest: there is a lot of rapid cutting whenever the action picks up, which gets really tiring after a while. When the same gimmick happens over and over again, it becomes predictable and uniform, as opposed to novel.

One of the most common complaints that I have read about Man-Thing is that it is not loyal to the source material of the comics, wherein Man-Thing is more of a heroic avenger than a murderous terror. While I am sure this was frustrating for die-hard fans, I can totally understand why the production went in the direction of a horror movie: honestly, it just makes more sense for the setting and concept, particularly for a one-off story. If this were going to be a television pilot or a franchise-builder, having Man-Thing as a protagonist would have made sense. However, I think that is a lot to ask for in a single movie. Unlike Swamp Thing, Man-Thing is not very humanoid in design, and it would be really hard to get an audience to back him.

One of the most impressive aspects of Man-Thing is surprisingly its use of gore, which I really didn’t expect. A number of key scenes in the movie take place either during autopsies or at crime scenes, where the bodies play an important role in building up the anticipation and fear of the monster’s full reveal. The fact that these corpses are done well adds a lot of power to the movie if you ask me. Honestly, most of the effects look good, which is more than a little unusual for a modern b-movie. This was likely due to the dark lighting concealing CGI issues, but if it works, it works. The portrayal of Man Thing himself is also notably cool and intimidating, and gives a distinct sense of size that does a lot for making the character imposing when fully realized on screen.

As far as the performances go, I think that all of the players are perfectly serviceable for a b-movie, particularly considering that almost the entire cast was filled in regionally on location. Even the comic relief characters, which can easily wreck the tone of a horror movie when done poorly, work like a charm.

As with seemingly every b-movie of the past 30-odd years, there is a sequence in Man-Thing with completely unnecessary nudity and sexual content that adds nothing to the story or characters. However, unlike most b-movies, it only happens once, and stands in sharp contrast with the rest of the film. While I haven’t read anything to attest to this, I have a suspicion that this brief sequence towards the beginning of the film may have been added in at some point, probably to help in selling the film to a distributor. I do know that the movie struggled for distribution before SyFy took it on, and this seems like just the sort of move that would be made to try and lure a sleazy distributor off of the fence.

It is worth noting that I have watched a ton of SyFy originals and straight-to-DVD features over the years, and typically, they are the absolute bottom of the barrel in quality. Man-Thing, when you stack it up against these cohorts, stands out from the bunch. Compare this film to any given Lake Placid sequel, or any of the litany of Mega Shark or Sharknado features, and you would come out with a much greater appreciation for it than if you compared it to Marvel Studios outings. I think that people often see this film, and compare it unfairly to movies far outside of its league.

Overall, I think that Man-Thing is a half-decent b-level flick, though definitely flawed. It clearly turned off fans due to the significant deviations taken from the source material, but as someone who isn’t familiar with the comics: this is totally ok. In a lot of ways, it feels like a modernized swamp monster movie, more so than most of the remakes and homages I’ve seen over the years.

As far as a recommendation goes, I would say to give it a shot. There are way worse entries in the early days of Marvel movies, and if you can handle any SyFy Original, you can certainly deal with the negative aspects of Man-Thing. If you go in with no expectations, and leave any prior comic book knowledge of the character at the door, you might just have a half-decent time with this flick.

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Resurrection

Resurrection (1999)

Today, I’m going to take a look at Russell Mulcahy’s bizarre 1999 crime drama Resurrection.

The plot of Resurrection is summarized on IMDb as follows:

Chicago homicide detectives John Prudhome and Andrew “Andy” Hollingsworth are assigned to investigate a gruesome murder, and both become entangled in the plot of a serial killer whose goal is to recreate the body of Christ.

Resurrection was directed by Russell Mulcahy, who is best known for The Shadow, Highlander, and Highlander II, as well as for his extensive work directing 1980s music videos like “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and “Hungry Like The Wolf.”

The screenplay for Resurrection was credited to Brad Mirman (Highlander: The Final Dimension), who also received a story credit alongside the film’s star, Christopher Lambert (Highlander, Highlander II, Mortal Kombat, Fortress).

Beyond Lambert, the cast for the movie features Leland Orser (Taken, Very Bad Things), Robert Joy (CSI: NY), Peter MacNeill (A History of Violence, Frequency), Barbara Tyson (Final Destination, Ernest Goes to Jail), and famed director David Cronenberg (Jason X, Nightbreed).

The cinematographer for Resurrection was Jonathan Freeman, who has shot numerous episodes of acclaimed television series such as Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire, as well as the film Hollywoodland.

Among the numerous special effects workers for Resurrection were Charles Belardinelli (Red State, Saw, Dogma, The Mask, Suburban Commando, Killer Klowns From Outer Space) and Michael Kavanagh (American Psycho, The Boondock Saints, The Dead Zone, Deadly Eyes, Three Men and a Baby).

The prosthetic supervisor for the film was Louise Mackintosh, whose other credits include Wrong Turn, Cube, Bless The Child, and the Netflix show Hemlock Grove.

Resurrection received a theatrical release in a number of international markets, but never hit screens in the United States. It was instead released straight to DVD. However, the DVD version is somewhat edited down from the version that hit theaters overseas, notably to tone down the violence.

The reception to Resurrection was generally negative. Currently, it holds an IMDb user rating of 6.2/10, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 17% from critics and 51% from audiences.

Resurrection, to start with, is undoubtedly a Christopher Lambert vehicle. From what I can tell, he was hugely instrumental in getting the movie made, so it makes sense that he is a prominent centerpiece. That said, outside of Highlander, he has never been much of a lead role sort of guy: he just doesn’t quite hold a movie together on his own. Part of the reason why that’s true is, unfortunately, because of his distinct and thick accent, which he’s never been able to shake for roles. In Resurrection, there is at least a slight attempt to try to explain Lambert’s accent, through making his character cajun and a New Orleans transplant.

There is only one reason that Resurrection has stuck in the back of my head for so many years, and it doesn’t have anything to do with Christopher Lambert. Resurrection, to be generous, is  one of the most egregious and shameless ripoffs that I have ever seen. This movie absolutely reeks of Se7en: the style, the plot, the characters, the twists, the content, the effects, the everything. Basically, if you removed all of the star power and David Fincher’s craftsmanship from Se7en, what would be left over would be very similar to Resurrection: a gritty detective cat-and-mouse story with heavy religious overtones and brutal violence.

As far as positives go, surprisingly, the comic relief sidekick character is arguably one of the strongest aspects of Resurrection. Leland Orser’s wisecracking, cheesy levity could easily have been out of place in this darkly-toned movie, but it winds up working pretty well. Mostly, this is because the movie tears him down as the stakes get higher, so he acts as a sort of barometer for the state of affairs for the movie as a whole. It is also worth noting that Orser is a genuinely talented character actor with a lot of range, and uses that range to turn his comedic character into a panicked, tortured one with the flip of a switch.

Something that stood out a bit to me on this rewatch of the movie is its general lack of polish. Structurally, it feels like it starts out of nowhere, like it is a tv program that only briefly needs to catch the audience up on the previous episode’s events. The setup for the plot and characters seems like an afterthought, and feels forced in and awkward. I think, from reading a little bit about the movie’s inception, that this was probably due to a rushed screenplay.  It sounds like Lambert and Mulcahy were immensely excited about the film’s concept, and bumped other projects out of the way to do it, which probably led to them glossing over some screenplay issues due to rushing. I think that there is definitely a nugget of a compelling film here, but it needed some more time and attention to be really good.

This brings me to another huge issue with the film. As mentioned previously, there was clearly a focused effort to imitate the style of Se7en with Resurrection. Unfortunately, the mimicry isn’t done very well, and ultimately acts as a disservice to the film. The frequent use of distorted images, the washed out, color-drained palette, and rapid, jarring edits all combine to make an ocular nightmare of a film that is “hard to watch” for all the wrong reasons. Things that Fincher can make work can easily go awry in the hands of someone less meticulous, which is exactly the problem with Resurrection.

Overall, I think Resurrection provides an interesting case of style mimicry going dramatically awry. And, for better or worse, this obscure knockoff has stuck in my mind for years, which must count for something. That said, the handful of positive aspects, like Orser’s performance and the effects work, are overpowered by an under-baked screenplay and an absolutely wretchedly edited final screen product. Unless you are driven by a wild curiosity or an infatuation with the canon of Chrstopher Lambert, you are better off skipping Resurrection.

Bleeders

Bleeders (1997)

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Today, I’m going to be fulfilling a request from one of my gracious Patreon patrons, and talking about 1997’s Bleeders.

The plot of Bleeders is summarized on IMDb as follows:

A man travels to an island with his girlfriend in search of his relatives but he finds maybe more than what he wanted to know.

Bleeders is loosely based on a serialized 1923 H.P. Lovecraft story called The Lurking Fear, which had been translated to the screen twice previously in Dark Heritage (1989) and The Lurking Fear (1994).

Among the credited screenplay writers for Bleeders is Dan O’bannon, who was known for genre flicks like Alien, Return of the Living Dead, Lifeforce, Total Recall, and Screamers. Also listed is Ronald Shusett, whose works include Freejack, Above The Law, and King Kong Lives.

bleeders2Bleeders was directed by Peter Svatek, who also helmed Witchboard III: The Possession, the television show Big Wolf On Campus, and television movies like Baby For Sale and The Christmas Choir.

The cast for the movie is headlined by Roy Dupuis (Screamers, La Femme Nikita), Kristin Lehman (The Killing, The Way of The Gun), and noted character actor Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner, Surviving The Game, The Hitcher).

bleeders5The creature designs for the film were provided by CJ Goldman, who went on to work on larger movies like Battlefield: Earth, Pacific Rim, The Fountain, 300, and X-Men: Apocalypse.

As with many b-movies, Bleeders has been released under a number of different titles over the years, including Hemoglobin and The Descendant.

Bleeders currently holds an IMDb user score of 3.8, alongside an unenviable 30% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. A prominent review of the film on HorrorNews.net confidently stated that “I’ll be damned if there was anything in this picture worth seeing again,” which succinctly sums up the general reaction to the film.

When I first saw images of Bleeders, the first thing that stuck out to me were the monster designs. They don’t look particularly good, but they are, I suppose, imaginative. I assume that the budget, particularly for the effects, was really low, so there was a lot of necessary creativity to accommodate those restrictions. Honestly, considering that, the monsters could definitely have looked a whole lot worse.

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That said, there is definitely a problem with the monsters: they aren’t scary. While they do successfully rack up a kill count over the course of the movie, they are never particularly intimidating, which I think is more the fault of the direction than the creature designs themselves. There is one specific sequence I recall in the film where one of the beasts charges out of a clothes dryer at a potential victim, only to get caught in a sheet, flail confusedly, and then fall head-first into a boat motor. That sequence is probably the best representation of a Dungeons and Dragons “critical fail” that I have ever seen on screen, and it doesn’t give the CHUD-like beasts much gravitas.

The ludicrousness of that incident aside, the moment in the movie that has made the most lasting impression on me was a sequence that was meant to have great plot significance. One of the lead characters is, during the story’s climax, forced into a position where he must succumb to his long-suppressed cannibalistic nature. On its own, this setup has the makings for a decently dramatic scene. However, the way he goes about indulging this need is at once too gross, while arguably not being explicit enough: he eats (drinks?) a wet specimen of a human fetus.

While the act isn’t shown, the lead up and its aftermath are. On one hand, the very idea of eating a wet specimen is hella gross, and that is accurately and sufficiently conveyed. On the other hand, from the perspective of understanding and experiencing the character, not actually capturing this final, irredeemable act is a huge loss for the audience: it is a pivotal, climactic moment for a central character that is played entirely off-screen. While suggestion can certainly be powerful, missing out on the entire fall from grace isn’t something that can be overcome easily. At the very least, the act could have been done in silhouette or in deep shadow: any way that the content could be understood and experienced, while details of the act could still be somewhat concealed. The moment simply would have been more powerful if the audience could have experienced it.

This brings me to the biggest issue with the film: there really isn’t anyone for the audience to identify with. One of the strengths of Lovecraft’s stories comes from his ability to write horror from a distinct perspective, which helps immerse readers into his tales of terror. However, Bleeders lacks this immersive identification with any of the characters. If the story were from the perspective of the sick young man, that might have worked as a descent into madness. If the story had been through the eyes of his love-stricken, confused caretaker, there still could have been a story there, as she is the most notable outsider on the island. Instead, the narrative doesn’t back anyone in particular: the audience is left without even the slightest guidance. On top of that, the characters are all so damn weird and unbelievable that I couldn’t help but feel like a wholly disengaged gawker, rather than an invested observer of the story.

 

bleeders3Overall, Bleeders is a weird, if uneven, b-movie. Rutger Hauer is good for what little time he is on screen, and there are a couple of other hammy performances that lighten up the experience of watching the flick. However, the story is pretty damn slow, and pretty much everything that shows up on screen is visually bland. There are definitely the makings of a decent movie with the source material, but this isn’t it.

As far as a recommendation goes, I’m on the fence. Bleeders is definitely not your everyday b-movie, and it does have some redeeming qualities, but they aren’t enough for me to recommend it to anyone but the most die-hard bad movie fans.

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Timeline

Timeline

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Today’s feature is one of the lesser films to be based on a Michael Crichton work: 2003’s Timeline, directed by Richard Donner.

The plot of Timeline is summarized on IMDb as follows:

A group of archaeological students become trapped in the past when they go there to retrieve their professor. The group must survive in 14th century France long enough to be rescued.

Timeline is based on a novel written by Michael Crichton, who is best known for Jurassic Park, Congo, WestWorld, The Andromeda Strain, and E.R.. However, the screenplay adaptation for Timeline was penned by Jeff Maguire (Gridiron Gang) and George Nolfi (Sentinel, The Bourne Ultimatum, Ocean’s Twelve).

The director for the movie was Richard Donner, who is known for such features as The Toy, Superman, Superman II, The Goonies, Scrooged, and Lethal Weapon.

The cast of Timeline includes Paul Walker (The Fast and The Furious, The Skulls, She’s All That), Gerard Butler (Reign of Fire, Dracula 2000, 300, The Ugly Truth, Olympus Has Fallen), David Thewlis (The Island of Doctor Moreau), Anna Friel (Limitless), Neal McDonough (Minority Report), Billy Connolly (The Boondock Saints), and Frances O’Connor (Windtalkers).

timeline5The cinematographer on the movie was Caleb Deschanel, whose other credits include Killer Joe, Winter’s Tale, The Patriot, The Right Stuff, National Treasure, and The Passion of the Christ.

The editor for Timeline was Richard Marks, who has cut films like The Godfather: Part II, The Hand, Broadcast News, Serpico, Pretty In Pink, As Good As It Gets, and Julie and Julia over his career.

The music for the feature was provided by Brian Tyler, whose other credits include Simon Sez, Dragonball: Evolution, The Expendables, John Dies At The End, and Iron Man 3.

Apparently, Michael Crichton so hated the film adaptation of Timeline that he ceased licensing out his properties for the rest of his life, which unfortunately ended only a handful of years later.

The actors David Thewlis and Anna Friel met while working together on Timeline, and were romantic partners for many years afterwards.

Timeline experienced a number of behind the scenes issues. It was initially supposed to release in 2002, but was delayed after the studio was unsatisfied with Richard Donner’s cut of the film. The film had to be entirely re-cut twice more, which led to the entire Jerry Goldsmith score having to be replaced with one by Brian Tyler, due to Goldsmith’s failing health.

Initially, the role eventually filled by Gerard Butler was offered to James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan, who turned it down.

A third writer, Frank A. Cappello (Suburban Commando, Constantine), was at one point credited for film. He apparently wrote an entire draft of the screenplay, and was even credited on some of the film’s early promotional materials.

The battle at the center of Timeline‘s plot is entirely fictional, though the overarching conflict of The Hundred Years War was very much real. A number of liberties are taken with historical accuracy, as you might expect,  including some intentionally anachronistic insignias placed in the background as Easter eggs. One of these is the Quebec flag, which appears on a shield as a nod to the filming location.

Financially, Timeline was a significant loss. On an $80 million production budget, the movie only grossed just under $44 million theatrically, leaving the production significantly in the red.

timeline3Critically, Timeline fared equally as poorly. Currently, it holds a 5.6/10 IMDb user rating, and Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores of 11% from critics and 45% from audiences.

Roger Ebert was one of the more charitable critics of the lot, giving the film a 2 star review. However, his criticisms echo much of the negative reaction to the feature:

“I felt too much of the movie consisted of groups of characters I didn’t care about, running down passageways and fighting off enemies and trying to get back to the present before the window of time slams shut…Just once I’d like to see a time-travel movie inspired by true curiosity about the past, instead of by a desire to use it as a setting for action scenes.”

As Ebert stated, one of the biggest weaknesses of the movie is the un-enthralling cast of characters. The interpersonal relationships and individual characters are all incredibly forgettable, to the point that some are only distinguishable based on their accents. Part of this is due to the cast just being unnecessarily large, to the point that the characters don’t get the space to develop on screen. As far as the dialogue and characters go, this movie is roughly as fleshed out as a lesser Friday the 13th sequel: individuals are only as identifiable as stereotypes, and only exist to be arrow fodder.

Plenty of fans of the source material have complained at length about changes to the screenplay, but I tend to let those kind of details slide: movies need to fit a more compressed medium, and writers and directors have the right to put their own creative stamps on things. So, for this movie, I’m not going to delve into those.

One of the more widely-mocked sequences from the movie involves the English army launching a volley of “night arrows” at their enemies. I remember this from the first time I saw this movie as a kid, and I definitely recall it not making any sense. “Night arrows” are not a thing: they are just normal arrows, shot at night, that aren’t on fire. The fact that characters act like this is some some of tactical brilliance is absolutely baffling to me, and I’ve never figured out just why that sequence was included.

Overall, Timeline is a way cooler idea than an actual movie. The weak casting and writing certainly didn’t help matters, but I’m not sure if this movie would have resonated with audiences even if everything fired on all cylinders. Even if Donner’s initial cut was a masterpiece, I don’t think a time travel movie set in this particular time period was going to excite anyone. The Hundred Years War just isn’t something that clicks for people in general at this point, let alone your average American audience.  If you want to mess with time travel, go to the dinosaurs, go to Rome, go to the Revolution, go to the Civil War, go to a recent 20th century decade, or go to the future. Some time periods are just more cinematic and intriguing than others for Hollywood, and I don’t think this time period makes the elite cut as far as options go for blockbusters.

As far as a recommendation goes, I found this movie to be incredibly dull and forgettable, and I’m hard-pressed to think of any redeeming qualities. Outside of seeing Gerard Butler in his long-hair period, or Paul Walker doing his damnedest to be a leading man, there’s not much worth seeing here.

Fateful Findings

Fateful Findings

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This past week, I had my first opportunity to experience Fateful Findings, a movie from the contemporary trash cinema master, Neil Breen.

Neil Breen, who performed just about every major role behind the scenes of the movie, is apparently a successful Las Vegas architect who self-funds his film productions with his profits. On top of his numerous behind the scenes duties, he also stars in all of his films, and Fateful Findings is no exception.

Fateful Findings was released in 2013, and is Breen’s third feature-length work. A fourth feature, Pass Thru, is due to release in 2016.

Fateful Findings is a movie that almost defies summary. There are so many sub-plots, dropped threads, and non-sequiturs that the story is barely coherent. On IMDb, the plot is broken down as follows:

A small boy discovers a mystical power as a child. He is then separated from his childhood girlfriend. He grows up to be a computer scientist who is hacking into the most secret national and international secrets, as well as being an acclaimed novel writer. His childhood ‘finding’ gives him amazing paranormal powers. He is reunited with the childhood girlfriend, mystically, on his hospital deathbed… as his relationship with his current drug addict girlfriend is deteriorating. The passions build between the threesome. Mystical, psychiatric and worldly forces rise to prevent him from revealing the hacked secrets. He attempts to reveal all in a Washington DC large press conference, with ‘fateful’ and dangerous consequences.

Fateful Findings is one of the most deeply incompetent films I have seen in a long time. Honestly, Coleman Francis, who could never quite figure out how sound worked on film, made more watchable movies than Neil Breen. Not only is Fateful Findings written in a confusing, convoluted, and rambling way, but both the sound and visuals are lacking on a near-parallel level.
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Any given sequence might feature an airplane flying overhead, a loud air conditioner, inexplicably loud ambient tones, or silence for no apparent artistic purpose. Really, the sound throughout the movie is a crap shoot in every way imaginable. There is even one sequence where the sound of keyboard typing continues in the background after the character is no longer on the computer.

The visuals are primarily comprised of awkward close-ups, with occasional strangely set up two shots. A number of sequences feature two or more people at a table, which rapidly become confusing thanks to the way the shots are structured, and the fact that Breen can’t seem to fit more than two people in any given shot.  Even worse, however, is the fact that the acting is all truly horrendous, which makes the pressure of the closeups unbearable. On top of that, the editing leaves in long stretches of silence between lines, that only serve to enhance the awkwardness of their deliveries.

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Honestly, I could go on forever nitpicking specific issues with this movie. However, here is the key takeaway: with the right group of people, Fateful Findings is a blast. This is a weird movie that takes itself way too seriously, and is all the more comedic because of it. It is almost artistic in its lack of cogency, and in how it revels in its own terrible form and practice.  Surreal might be the right word for it, but I would hesitate to give it that much credit: it is a nonsensical fever dream of a concept that somehow made it to film without getting translated into any language at all.

Roar

Roar

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Today’s feature is a bit of a curiosity, in that it is possibly the most dangerous movie ever filmed: 1981’s “Roar,” starring Tippi Hedren, Melanie Griffith, and a shit-ton of lions. Many thanks to the Gateway Film Center for screening the film, and the Alamo Drafthouse for helming the re-release.

“Roar” was written, directed, and produced by Noel Marshall, who is best known for acting as a producer on “The Exorcist” and a handful of other pictures, as well as being the husband of the famed actress Tippi Hedren (who also starred in and produced “Roar”).

The cinematographer and supervising editor on “Roar” was Jan De Bont, who went on to become a successful director and director of photography on some significant Hollywood movies (“Leonard Part 6,” “Speed,” “Speed 2,” “Twister,” “Die Hard,” “The Hunt For Red October”).

The distinctive music for “Roar” was composed by Terrence Minogue, who has no other credited film work. It was performed, however, by the National Philharmonic Orchestra, a recording orchestra out of London that can be heard on soundtracks for movies such as “Supergirl,” “Alien,” “Total Recall,” and “The Exorcist.”

One of the other producers on “Roar” was Banjiro Uemura, who also later produced the Hayao Miyazaki classic animated film, “Spirited Away.”

“Roar” was filmed at a southern California ranch owned by Tippi Hedren and Noel Marshall, where the family for years acquired and raised countless big cats, and lived alongside them not unlike as depicted in the film.

The cast of “Roar” was a true family affair, headlined by Tippi Hedren and director Noel Marshall, who also acted as the primary financiers for the film. Most of the rest of the cast is filled out by their children: John Marshall, Jerry Marshall, and the later Hollywood star and two-time Golden Raspberry winner Melanie Griffith (“Working Girl,” “Body Double,” “Bonfire of the Vanities,” “Crazy in Alabama”).

The story of “Roar” centers around a family traveling to visit their radical big cat researcher father, who is embedded with a pride of lions while simultaneously introducing an assortment of foreign wild cats into the pride. Just before the family arrives, a new, aggressive lion arrives to challenge the balance and leadership of the pride, putting the family in significant danger.

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“Roar” is likely best remembered due to the multiple attacks and maulings that occurred on set during filming. Noel Marshall at one point had to be hospitalized for his wounds, which reportedly required years to recover from. He was also bitten through his hand in a sequence that remained in the finished film. Likewise, Melanie Griffith required plastic surgery after the film, and reportedly fifty stitches to her face. The assistant director, Doron Kauper, was nearly killed after one of the lions tore open his neck and attacked his face. John Marshall reportedly needed over fifty stitches to repair a wound from a lion bite. Tippi Hedren not only broke a leg after falling off of an elephant, but also needed more than thirty stitches after being bitten on the back of her head by a lioness. Reportedly, Tippi Hedren has said of the experience of being bitten by a lion:

“Let me tell you, it hurts when you’re bitten by a lion. It’s not only that you may have an open, gaping wound, plus shock, but the pressure of those enormous jaws is so strong that it hurts”

“Roar” ultimately took over a decade to actually complete from writing to release, partially due to the death of a number of the lions in the wake of a tragic flood of the property resulting from a local dam break.

The idea for the story of “Roar” was apparently conceived of by Hedren and Marshall while making a movie in Africa, during which they discovered an abandoned house on a wild game reserve that had become overrun by a pride of lions. The financial success of the 1966 lion-centric movie “Born Free” also seemed to signal that the idea could be financially viable.

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Tippi Hedren later founded the Roar Foundation, which supports the Shambala Reserve for wild and endangered cats in Acton, California (many of which have descended from the cats used in “Roar”). Hedren is now a staunch animal rights activist who opposes the private ownership of big cats, and regrets letting her family live in proximity to the dangerous animals. She wrote a book about the making of the movie in 1985, called “Cats of Shambala.”

In 2015, the Alamo Drafthouse produced a re-release of “Roar” that marked the first time that the movie has hit American theaters. The initial release of the film only played in international markets, grossing only $2 million of the reported $17 million budget.

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The reception for “Roar” was understandably mixed. The film is more of an astounding spectacle and experience than it is a sensible motion picture, which has led to it receiving Rotten Tomatoes scores of 70% (critics) and 58% (audience), along with an IMDb rating of 6.4.

It is really hard to view and analyze “Roar” like one would a typical motion picture, because it is truly impossible to separate the film from its astounding back story and the shock of seeing the experience on screen.

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From the point of view of looking at “Roar” like a standard film, it is just terrible. Plot lines are dropped (what happened to the disgruntled poachers?), the story is nonsense, and the acting (can you really call it acting?) is pretty atrocious on the part of the Marshalls. The pacing and shots are generally jarring as well, because the film was very much dictated by the cats’s behavior, which was naturally erratic and unpredictable, something that is explicitly acknowledged in the credits. The entire film feels like a sequence of shots that were aimlessly strung together in the editing stage, which is a film-making practice that typically only Terrence Malick can get away with.

“Roar” is very obviously a message movie, which is a bit confusing and wrong-headed given how violent the large cats are over the course of the story. There is also a lot of genre confusion, in that the film was not portrayed or marketed as a horror movie, despite how terrifying the product is to watch. The story tries to play off the conclusion as peaceful, with the humans adapting to living around the lions in peace, which frankly makes no sense after all of the chaos and violence that they have inflicted on the family.

Speaking of which, the only character who reacts to the various dangerous animals like a human actually would is Mativo, a supporting character who spends most of his time trying to get his coat back from an assortment of deadly animals. However, even his terror at the cats is overcome by the end of the film, when he joins the family in cuddling and playing with the pride of lions. At the very least, he should be upset at the fact that the cats absolutely destroyed his jacket, and also managed to sink his boat.

Overall, despite the fact that “Roar” is a pretty awful movie by film standards, I consider it a must-see for movie fans. It isn’t a film so much as it is a shocking and baffling visual experience, which is one of the most honestly terrifying things that I have ever watched. I don’t consider it “so bad it is good” like most of the films I cover, but more as a truly unique experience that belongs more in a category with films like “Cannibal Holocaust” that are defined by their back story, rather than the product on screen.