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I Am Wrath

I Am Wrath

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Today, I’m going to take a look at a 2016 direct-to-video action flick starring John Travolta: I Am Wrath.

The plot of I Am Wrath is summarized on IMDb as follows:

A man is out for justice after a group of corrupt police officers are unable to catch his wife’s killer.

I Am Wrath was directed by Chuck Russell, who is best known for movies like the 1988 remake of The Blob, The Mask, The Scorpion King, and A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors.

The cast for the movie is headlined by John Travolta (Pulp Fiction, Face/Off. Grease) and Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Man of Steel), with additional performances by Amanda Schull (Suits, Twelve Monkeys), Sam Trammell (True Blood), Patrick St. Esprit (Narcos, Sons of Anarchy), and Rebecca De Mornay (Risky Business, Wedding Crashers).

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The music for I Am Wrath was composed by Haim Mazar, whose other credits include The Iceman, The Taking of Deborah Logan, and the television show Teen Mom.

The cinematographer for the film was Andrzej Sekula, who shot the cult favorite movies American Psycho, Hackers, Four Rooms, Pulp Fiction, and Reservoir Dogs, and also directed the horror sequel Cube 2: Hypercube.

I Am Wrath was filmed primarily in the city of Columbus, OH, a non-typical location for a film production. A number of local landmarks show up in the movie, including the Ohio Statehouse, the illuminated arches of High Street, and the local diner chain Buckeye Donuts.

Rumor has it that the initial plan for the film was for William Friedkin, of The Exorcist and The French Connection, to direct, with Nicolas Cage in the starring role. However, numerous delays led to the eventual combination of Russell and Travolta.

The title of the film, I Am Wrath, is a reference to the Bible passage Jeremiah 6:11, which reads as follows in the New International Version of the text:

But I am full of the wrath of the Lord,
    and I cannot hold it in.

“Pour it out on the children in the street
    and on the young men gathered together;
both husband and wife will be caught in it,
    and the old, those weighed down with years.

Upon their release, the promotional images and posters for I Am Wrath were the subject of widespread online mockery for their incompetent and awkward construction.

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“this…has left me at a complete loss for words. All I can do is implore you to share this post with as many people as possible. The world needs to know.” – Scott Wampler, Birth.Movies.Death.

I Am Wrath ultimately released straight to video, and was not received warmly. It currently holds Rotten Tomatoes scores of 11% from critics and 34% from audiences, along with an IMDb user rating of 5.3/10.

For the past few years, I have been living and working in Columbus, OH, so I happened to be around while I Am Wrath was filming locally. Outside of a few blips in the news about John Travolta being in town for a role, I didn’t hear a whole lot about it. However, it was interesting to see familiar locations on screen while watching the movie: for folks in New York or Los Angeles, that is probably no big deal, but seeing Columbus on screen was kind of bizarre.

Despite a handful of interesting visuals peppered throughout the movie, I Am Wrath is far and away dominated and defined by its central performances. Unfortunately, thanks to John Travolta’s half-sleepwalking rendition of a mercenary / car factory administrator, the movie is all the weaker because of it. That said, Christopher Meloni provides the film with an iota of charm and levity with his improvised wit, though he is woefully missed when not on screen (which is, unfortunately, often). Meloni, unlike Travolta, seems to understand the schlock that he is wrapped up in, and leans into the absurdity of the situation, and clearly enjoys his tough guy routine.

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Travolta, by contrast, is a black hole: a human-shaped void that made me question if this was the same hammy scenery-chewer I remembered from Face/Off, Swordfish, and Battlefield Earth. Say what you will about any of those performances, but the guy was never lacking in passion or enthusiasm in those roles.

Beyond Travolta’s banal lead performance, the biggest issue with I Am Wrath is almost certainly the screenplay, which is basically a paint-by-numbers revenge plot. There are a few things I liked about it, though: for instance, there’s a RoboCop-like dynamic between some of the villains, which is always nice to see. However, there is also a lot of bad dialogue, and way too much information is revealed far too blatantly for the message to have much of a punch. Worst of all, I think the I Am Wrath screenplay has one of the most egregious and hilarious examples of a placeholder character name making it all the way to the final draft: Governor Merserve, the self-serving Governor. That’s just inexcusable.

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Honestly, I wish there was something to recommend about I Am Wrath. Unless you are a big fan of Christopher Meloni, or a Columbus local interested in seeing the city on screen, there just isn’t anything compelling here. Even the action sequences aren’t terribly enthralling, and are by and large forgettable. If you want a cheesy action movie, look into whatever Nic Cage has out this week, and give this one a pass.

Interview with “Bad Movie Nite!”

Bad Movie Nite! is a monthly showcase of classic bad movies shown in a handful of theaters around the country. I first came across them at Studio 35 Drafthouse and Cinema in Columbus, OH, and had to know more about the folks behind the madness. I recently caught up with Scott, the mysterious figure behind the programming, and ran a few questions by him.

“Bad Movie Nite!”: The title might be self explanatory, but what is it that you do?

Scott: The name “Bad Movie Nite!” to me means these are not good movies we’re showing, but only not good by conventional standards. I also mean bad as in Baaaaad.  Movies your Mom and Dad wouldn’t be happy you’re watching. Wait ’til they go to bed and keep the sound low. Bad in that way. As long as the movies entertain, they can never be all bad, right?

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What can you tell me about the mysterious (and, I assume, cloaked/hooded) figures behind “Bad Movie Nite!”? What inspired you to start doing these shows?

Scott: BMN! is the brainchild of me. I grew up watching Nite Owl Theater, USA Up All NIght, and TNT Night Flight. This show just basically recreates fond memories of my childhood. I started watching some of my favorites with a few friends on a weekly basis maybe 10 years ago as a way to ensure we get together consistently. Many of my friends had never heard of any of these. We loved cracking up watching them, but also getting caught up in the world of b-movies. We were getting exposed to any of the same actors, directors, stock footage, etc. 

Missing a BMN! became sacrilege. I’d play some trailers or a cheesy educational/social hygiene short beforehand. Shortly thereafter we started watching two movies and making a clip show of youtube clips in-between the movies like and intermission we call FILLER (to this day we call the clip show FILLER). The FILLER would get more and more elaborate. People took turns making it. Sometimes we would call in sick to work just to get it done. Over time, friends of friends would come over and either be baffled or engaged with BMN! I started getting the idea that what we were doing would be something others might be interested in seeing. 90% of the shows have been made by me, but early on and increasingly lately a few of my friends (including my wife) have been getting more and more involved. My wife designs the graphics for the show and the buttons we give away. 

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The BMN logo has a definite Svengali vibe to it. Is there a reason for that? Are you subconsciously controlling our minds with your show?

Scott: Thank you! That’s exactly the feeling I was going for. Become intoxicated by the insanity of BMN…

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A handful of theaters have shown your stuff around the country now. Where are they? Do you attend the shows? How did you wind up with multiple venues?

Scott: We have about 6 theaters all across the country. Just small theaters similar to S35 [Columbus, OH’s Studio 35] that we’ve known over the years for various things. We contacted a majority of them, but a few sought us out. Have never been to another location, but the Pittsburgh locale is on our to-visit list.

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Do you consider what you do akin to “horror hosts”? Or is this something that you think of as totally different?

Scott: I don’t really see myself / ourselves as a horror host. I see BMN! as a more of a secret broadcast that you tune into. I secret, sinister channel between the regular channels. A broadcast you’re not supposed to see. Goes back to the Svengali aspect of the logo you mentioned…

Part of the charm of your shows is definitely the editing. How much time do you spend on each new show?

Scott: Oh boy. Usually about 3 weeks from inception to finished product. It’s not really enough time. Every other month involves at least one sleepless night. The concrete showtime is the only thing that gets the show done each month. We’ve scraped entire shows the week of (The Hard Ticket show a few months back was made in less than 3 days). Long time… It’s never perfect, but I suppose that’s part of the charm too. The extremely gracious and loyal fans (BMNers) is ultimately what the drives the show to get finished. Disappointing them is not an option.bmn2

The first time I saw your show, I was reminded in some ways of “Everything is Terrible” (particularly your amazing pre-features). Are you fans of theirs?

Scott: I do like EIT. Also Found Footage Festival. There was a public access show in Albuquerque, NM a few years back called Forbidden Transmission. I loved that so much…

You’ve shown a lot of love for old VHS cover art in your pre-shows. What are a couple of your favorites?

Scott: Hmm… Let me peruse some. BRB… (Frantically looks at VHS tapes)

      
DOLLS
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FUNLAND
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KILLER PARTY
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HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT 2
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PHANTOM BROTHER
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SLASH DANCE
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WIRED TO KILL
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MY MOM’S A WEREWOLF
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Too many to list really…

What was your introduction to the world of “bad movies”?

Scott: Again, watching late night shows like Nite Owl Theater and USA Up All Night. These cheesy movies, along with the hosts, and the late night commercials… I was seeing a whole different world. Taudry, violent, gratuitous… Loved it.fritz1

Are you MSTies (fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000)? If so, Mike or Joel?

Scott: I do enjoy MST3K. Don’t have a fave host.

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What is your favorite “good-bad” flick that people probably haven’t heard of?

Scott: #1 with a bullet for all-time: DR. ALIEN

Do you have a particular favorite “good-bad” movie director?

Scott: Jim Wynorski is probably too obvious. Adam Rifkin has made a couple legendarily bad b-movies that I love…

What do you think is the most important element to a “good-bad” movie?

Scott: FUN. A movie that delivers the goods on a variety of these  fronts (lasers, aliens, nudity, teens, drug use, cheesy dialogue, explosions). A movie that feels like it wasn’t just a cash grab. Something unique…

What has been your favorite movie covered so far in your show, in terms of entertainment value? Related: what do you think your best show has been so far? Is it the same?

Scott: Hard to say. I think the absolute show-stopper was DEADLY PREY. I really enjoyed showing STAR SLAMMER. The crowd liked that one too.

Are there any “bad movies” that you absolutely will not cover for BMN?

Scott: THE ROOM / BIRDEMIC / SHARKNADO The b-movies I love come from a by-gone era. Although there are redeeming qualities to all of these, there’s something missing, something hollow that I’m never totally on board with.

You’ve recently booked a second monthly show at Studio 35 in Columbus, OH, where you are doing shows dedicated to specific actors.The inaugural show, Nicolas Cage-a-thon, was a blast. Who can we expect to be featured in the future? (If you don’t do a Christopher Walk-a-thon, I will be disappointed)

Scott: HELL YES Walken will be a subject. Norris, Stallone, Busey are all in the pipeline. Arnold is the next one on February 27th.

What, in your opinion, are 5 movies that every bad movie lover absolutely must see?

Scott: Chopping Mall, Prom Night 2, Hard Ticket to Hawaii, Star Slammer, Frankenhooker

Do you have any upcoming shows to plug?

Scott: The Real Arnold Classic on 2/27 and our Gettin’ Unlucky in Space themed show on March 6th.

You can follow Bad Movie Nite! on Twitter and Facebook, and catch them every month at Columbus, OH’s Studio 35.

I <3 Gateway Film Center

Have I mentioned before how awesome Columbus, OH’s Gateway Film Center is? No? Well, they’re great. After being away from Columbus, OH for the holidays, I just want to give them a giant hug for how generally fantastic they are.

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They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. After spending the last half of December back home in Huntsville, Alabama, I can say without any doubt that I miss the Gateway Film Center as much as I would miss, say, a superpower that suddenly went away: I could live without it and function well enough, but life isn’t nearly as fun that way.

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I’m not saying that Huntsville, AL is a culture desert or anything, but there isn’t anything there film-wise that can nearly compare to the quality of the Gateway. The opening of the beautiful Monaco Pictures a few years back was a big step up for the local theater game, but the content there isn’t any more varied than a typical multiplex, which is a damn shame. There are a few film clubs here and there, and a film co-op in the local arts center at Lowe Mill, but those only go so far. There aren’t any cult classic midnight screenings in Huntsville outside of an occasional Rocky Horror show, and the latest indie flicks certainly take their time getting there, if they come at all.  The south doesn’t have a stellar reputation about this kind of stuff, but I can’t help but feel that Huntsville would eat that kind of thing up. It is a pretty cultured city, considering where it is. Maybe it can snag an Alamo Drafthouse someday?

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Monaco Pictures: where looking at the building is usually more interesting than watching the movies on the inside

For the hell of it, here are some of the things I missed at Gateway Film Center over the 2 weeks I have been away in Huntsville, just off the top of my head:

  • Late Nite Screening of John Carpenter’s “The Thing”
  • Late Nite Screening of Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange”
  • Late Nite Screening of “Home Alone”
  • Late Nite Screening of “Christmas Vacation”
  • Screening of new horror movie “Late Phases”
  • Screening of “White Christmas”
  • Brunch Screening of “The Graduate”
  • Screening “The Babadook,” which has still not made it to Huntsville
  • Screening “Foxcatcher,” which has still not made it to Huntsville

Maybe my favorite part of this is that I could have seen all of these, with free popcorn to each, with my $30 monthly membership. That is just goddamn beautiful. I really want GFC to have a physical humanoid embodiment so I can express my fondness for its existence via a top-notch fist-bump.

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That is all, of course, only covering the past two weeks. I didn’t even get into the Fritz the Nite Owl screenings (which are the best things ever), Dr. Bob’s Midnight Movies, or the other amazing film stuff going on in Columbus NOT at the GFC (I missed a Bad Movie Nite at Studio 35 over those two weeks as well!). There’s also the Wexner Center available for the more “pinkies up” film things, which I should probably visit more often.

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Godzilla vs Fritz the Nite Owl

Meanwhile, Huntsville didn’t have a single notable screening while I was in town (at least that I was aware of), outside of the typical multiplex fare. I was able to at least share with Huntsville friends some things I saw at Gateway (such as the amazing, sure-to-be-cult-classic “Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead”) that never got distribution down this way. Again, I’m not trying to single out Huntsville as being particularly poor in the film department here. Honestly, I think it is on par with (or probably somewhat better than) Anytown, USA. The point I’m primarily trying to get across is that I want to hug the Gateway Film Center and be best buddies with it forever.

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If you live in Columbus, OH and love movies, you should be supporting the Gateway Film Center and the outstanding local film community there. Most of the country has nothing that can compare to it, and the programming has been nothing but stellar since I popped into town back in July. Just, y’know, don’t take it for granted. You could be a film buff stuck in Alabama.

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July Hiatus Update: Misan[trope]y on Facebook, Moving to Ohio

Hey! You might notice from the sidebar that Misan[trope]y is now on Facebook!

It turns out that I have a lot of thoughts and musings about movies that aren’t quite detailed or dense enough for an autonomous blog post. Now, these thoughts need not go to waste! I’m going to funnel them through the Misan[trope]y facebook page, where they will both appear here on the sidebar and help me theoretically  increase the awareness / traffic to the site! Isn’t that exciting? Oh yeah, and the FB page means there is now a central, public location for my post updates that isn’t my personal twitter/facebook. That seems important too.

In other news, I am using the July quasi-hiatus to work on some upcoming projects, like a potential on-site “Space Camp” review and starting a sister podcast called “The [Plot]opsy”. I’ve also calculated that despite the July hiatus, I am still on pace to knock out the IMDb Bottom 100 by the end of 2014.  I have a handful of written/recorded Bottom 100 reviews in the wings that should be published over the course of the month, but updates will be spotty until August.


In the meantime, I’m slowly getting to know the film community of my new home: Columbus, OH. It turns out that it is actually quite impressive! Not only are there a ton of excellent Bargain Bin(ge) spots, but Columbus is also home to Ohio State University’s Wexner Arts Center, the gorgeous Gateway Film Center, and the delightful Studio 35 Cinema & Drafthouse. There is also a spiffy local video rental spot (Video Central) with late hours and an admirable selection of cult / rare DVDs.  So far, Columbus is looking like a delightful new home for the Misan[trope]y Movie Blog, with multiple venues offering B-movie screenings and events in addition to everything else.  Just in the next two days, I am slated to check out screenings of the original Godzilla, Alien, and Cabin in the Woods.

So, please like the page on Facebook, and I’ll be back with regular content as soon as I am not living in an extended stay without a working internet connection.