Along Came a Spider Recap

Jamie

Alex Cross is back, Jack! And boy is he damaged. When a psycho kidnaps a Senator’s daughter, Cross is shocked to find the maniac communicating directly with him. Can he and his definitely-not-a-bad-guy secret service helper stop the baddie and rescue the girl before it’s too late? Find out in… Along Came a Spider.

How?! Alex Cross is stinging from the death of his partner in an undercover operation gone wrong. But when a prominent politician’s daughter is swiped from a high security school by a teacher, Gary Soneji, who seems to have meticulously planned out the crime years in advance he’s intrigued. He’s even more intrigued when the guy starts communicating with him and implies that he wants Cross to personally profile him for the historical record. Enter Alex Cross and his exquisite mind. He takes the school’s secret service agent, Jezzie, as his partner and together they start knocking down clues. “Why is that picture missing?” Cross asks! “Why take a measly Senator’s daughter and not some even more powerful person?” Jezzie chimes in! “Why does this maniac seem to just want fame?” Cross ponders. Oh how beautiful a mind he has… or should I say they! Because he and Jezzie together foil a second kidnapping and ruin Soneji’s day. With the plan ruined, Soneji (or is it?) demands a ransom and, through an intricate, wholly original plot whereby he forces Cross to run across D.C. answering a series of pay phones, is able to get millions of dollars in diamonds. At this point Cross is puzzled as the case doesn’t seem to have gone the way he thought. Even more puzzling is when a distraught Soneji shows up at Jezzie’s apartment and attempts to kill her resulting in Cross killing him. Realizing this doesn’t make sense Cross cracks Jezzie’s computer with his sumptuous mind and reveals that (what a twist!) Jezzie has been part of the plan. She and another secret service agent tailed Soneji, let him take the girl, foiled the other kidnapping, demanded ransom, and then stole the girl back. When Jezzie realizes that Cross’s mind is just too stunning, she runs to the hiding place to kill the girl. But Cross is too good and shows up and kills her and saves the girl. THE END. Big Question: Is Alex Cross’ mind a 10?

Why?! You have to applaud the adaptation because it does streamline the motivations whereas the book mixes Soneji up with all kinds of psychology stuff like split personalities. Here it’s simple: Soneji wants fame and considers himself the criminal of the century worthy of documentation by bestselling crime author Alex Cross. Jezzie on the other hand wants money and uses her position as a secret service agent to take advantage of Soneji’s plot for her own devices. Alex Cross just wants to solve the crime, his mind demands it.

Who?! At a certain point in the the hierarchy of the US government I have to cut my losses and not mention that we have an actor portraying the character. Senator Hank Rose seems to fit the bill. Even the characters in the movie are like “he’s not even that famous, why would anyone care to kidnap his children?” The only reason I even am mentioning him is that he is played by Michael Moriarty (aka Harry Potter, Sr. from the film Troll) and he appears to be quite kooky. He was kooky in Troll and he’s kooky here and I watched him in a film Full Fathom Five where he is also decidedly kooky. Always interesting to watch.

What?! Hey, anyone need a prop police badge from Along Came a Spider? No? Me neither. But speaking of props I did enjoy a cyberprop (just coined that) in this film. The kids in the elite D.C. school hide messages encoded in pictures, which they pass back and forth. Uncrackable unless you know the key that tells you where to look specifically in the data for the message. It’s a nice touch and actually seems believable.

Where?! This is a Washington D.C. special (honestly how an Alex Cross film should be). We get several prominent landmarks featured and the portrayal of a US Senator. Climax takes place in Northern Virginia. I would give this an A-, but the Tyler Perry Alex Cross film proved that they can really take Cross to a number of other cities and he settles in quite nicely. B+.

When?! I went back through and the closest we get is the dry erase board in the security area of the school that appears to have a note for the date 23/4/01. This would make some sense, but I’m thrown off by the apparent use of a European date notation. Regardless this is a D at best.

I found this one almost the reverse of Kiss the Girls. I thought Morgan Freeman sleepwalked through the film and Monica Potter was not particularly good. This was probably partially the fault of the script, which was pretty meandering. And that in turn might have been because the book itself was much much harder to adapt than Kiss the Girls. They did a pretty straight adaptation of that one, but in this case there was just no way. The book as written is unfilmable, so they had to do a lot of work to smooth everything out and it was smoothed into something slow and boring. Not a thrill and/or chill to be seen and an ending that is both nonsense and anticlimactic. The only good thing was that I felt like the director pretty deftly handled a twist in the middle of the film in order to obscure it from audiences who hadn’t read the source material. Somehow we had two Alex Cross films with nearly identical Rotten Tomatoes scores and I reacted totally differently to them. Interesting. I give it an upside down hand heart (aka The Butt). Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! If I made this film I would have called it Along Came a Creepy Kidnapper. ‘Cause I’m scared of spiders. Let’s get into it!

P’s View on the Preview – Confusingly this film is the second in the series, whereas the book is the first in the long-running book series. The book is straight up b-b-b-b-b-bonkers (more on that later), but I had already seen the film back in the day before I realized it qualified for BMT. So the preview was me just kind of remembering that the film kind of sucked. What were my expectations? The further I get away from reading the book I wondered if I misremembered things a bit. The film is so far from the book that maybe things got muddled in that way … I don’t think so though, I bet the film is a mess.

The Good – Morgan Freeman is still pretty good as Alex Cross, although he seemed a bit less thrilled with the film. Seemed a bit bored. It is too bad he never got a chance to go at some of the later books which I assume eventually settled into something a bit less … weird. If you didn’t really expect a twist the twist at the very least kind of comes out of nowhere. The child actors do a shockingly good job.

The Bad – This movie is a mess. A complete mess. They botch the twist in the end. The two main villains (spoilees, one is Monica Potter, who seems like a good guy from most of the film) are terrible actors as well. It is a really bad adaptation of the book, but almost by necessity. You see … the book is insane. So when they adapted it they clearly had to cut half of it out and try and rebuild it from the ashes. It doesn’t work. The story makes no sense without the batshit insanity Patterson introduced with the main villain, because his motivations only make sense if his is batshit insane. It is a bizarre choice for a bizarre film. Small shoutout for them totally ripping off Dirty Harry with Alex Cross running around from payphone to payphone at the behest of the villain. Bold move.

The BMT –.I think this is one of those films where the book adaptation is so crazy that it makes it slightly more enjoyable … but it still isn’t good. I’ve seen the film twice … and I will do as much as possible to avoid seeing it a third time. Just not good or fun. Did it meet my expectations? Well I had already seen the film, and remembered not liking it and thinking it was dumb … nailed it. I remembered correctly.

Roast-radamus – Very small Setting as a Character (Where?) for Washington D.C. because the fact that high-level government children getting kidnapped is pivotal to the plot. Decent MacGuffin (Why?) … actually aren’t all kidnapping films centered around a MacGuffin? Interesting thought I’ve never considered before. And of course no bad thriller would be complete without a Worst Twist (How?) and this one is a doozy. Here is turns out the good guy is a bad guy, but then kills the other good guy (for no reason), and they are in a farm house … it makes no sense. It is fantastic. I’ll throw this into the Bad running early. I really disliked this film and just hated it.

StreetCreditReport.com – This is a lot closer to something that I can imagine entering some BMT pantheon. Maybe … worst book adaptations? I can’t really find any good lists from 2001, but the cred, as I said in the other recap, is just because of Alex Cross. Crazy pulpy detective series with a 100% BMT record? Yeah, we were going to do these eventually.

You Just Got Schooled – Ah, another book adaptation. This book is insane. It was the first Alex Cross film and I think Patterson didn’t really know what he wanted to do with it. It actually feels like multiple books smashed together. You have the kidnapper obsessed with the Lindbergh kidnapping … but then all of a sudden the kidnapper is a family man, who claims to have a multiple personality, and robs a McDonald’s, and then the Secret Service agent is involved, but Alex Cross is having a relationship with her, and one of the kids died! The multiple personality story is straight out of Primal Fear, which I had read just before this book. That probably didn’t help when I read it. It really did feel like a smash up of a cheap detective thriller with some early-90s legal drama (obsessed with split personalities obviously). The book is a C-, and somehow the adaptation is an F.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

Kiss the Girls Recap

Jamie

Alex Cross is a psychologist/cop who specializes in understanding the criminal mind. When his niece is captured by a serial killer whose motives may not exactly be what they seem, it’s up to Alex to figure out his next move. Can he stop the killer and rescue his niece before it’s too late? Find out in… Kiss the Girls.

How?! Alex Cross, D.C. detective extraordinaire and part-time psychologist is the master of getting into the mind of a criminal. When he finds out that his niece has gone missing, along with a number of girls in the Durham, NC area, he will stop at nothing to solve the crime. He goes down there and is like “guess what, I’m now a part of this,” and the cops there are like “well yeah, duh, you’re Alex Cross, welcome aboard.” He gets all up in that investigation and things get pretty thrilling/chilling when the kidnapper, calling himself Cassanova, appears to communicate with Cross directly. When Dr. Kate McTiernan is kidnapped and subsequently escapes it becomes clear that the killer is collecting talented women and is keeping them alive as part of a fantasy harem he is building. From the drugs used on Kate they track down a doctor in LA that must be involved. Their sting goes disastrously awry, though, and things are looking pretty dire and the audience is like “how will Alex Cross recover?” but we all know how: he’s Alex Cross! He swiftly uses his beautiful mind to track down the general area of Casanova’s hideout and when he hears a gunshot is able to find and free the missing girls. The LA doctor, known as The Gentleman Caller, is killed, but Casanova escapes. While Cross is just chilling out waiting for a dinner date with Kate he realizes that Casanova is in fact one of the police officers working the case! He rushes to Kate’s house to find her having handcuffed Casanova to the stove and him threatening to blow the house up in a gas explosion. Cross again breaks out that gorgeous mind and shoots Casanova through a carton of milk, thus killing him and preventing the explosion. THE END. Big Question: This is just good, right?

Why?! Cross’ motivation is personal, as his niece is one of the kidnapped women. No need to go into more detail than that really. For Casanova and The Gentleman Caller, they get pretty deep into their motivations. Casanova considers himself a great lover and kidnaps and drugs talented women for his “harem” to live out his fantasy that he is irresistible and a man of great power. The Gentleman Caller is just a sadist really… so not as much thought for his character I guess. 

Who?! Interesting tidbit that Anna Maria Horsford went uncredited in the role of Vicki (Alex’s sister) in this film, but then reprised her role in Along Came a Spider and was credited in that. She basically had the same amount of screentime in each. Curious. Billy Blanks also made an appearance as Ashley Judd’s kickboxing instructor. He’s, of course, the inventor of Tae Bo.

What?! Sometimes when you’re watching a film that’s set in a particular place (especially when there is a good chance they actually filmed on location) you’ll see some funny product placement specific to the area. I always like to see local beers play a role in films. Here Alex Cross shoots Casanova in the climactic final scene through a Maola milk carton. You gotta run with that Maolo, get on the “Alex Cross’ Milk of Choice” ad campaign.

Where?! The beginning of the film takes place in D.C. and there is a small part in California, but otherwise all the action is in Durham, NC. Same as in the book. Interestingly there is a reason it does. Because of the Research Triangle in the area I think they were going for the idea that it would be a perfect place to pick up super talented women in a relatively small area. B+.

When?! I think this likely takes place in either April or May ‘96. They have a big wall that charts the disappearances of the girls. To the left is a series of calenders for January-May of 1996. Presumably this is the range over which the girls were kidnapped. Considering Alex Cross’ niece had just been the latest victim you presume that it’s somewhere near the end of that range. Although, weird that it seems so chilly in NC that time of year. C+.

I’ve realized that I have a soft spot for thrillers. Last year I raved about Mercury Rising and now I have to say… Kiss the Girls is closer to being just fine to being BMT. I thought Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd were excellent. In particular I thought Judd should have been a bigger star from what I saw in this film. Sad given what has been revealed about that in recent years. The thriller itself had enough thrills and chills for me and I think its biggest error was being way too predictable and stumbling over some lazy red herrings. I can’t really tell whose fault that might have been. The director I guess, but it didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the film. So I give it the patented BMT hand heart of approval… you know, the classic rating system that fans of BMT have come to know and love. And for those that are wondering, yes I did think through the other hand symbols we’d have as part of the system. Turn that hand heart upside down and it turns into a butt for our “poo in the face” rating. For fun BMT films? Turn your hands into goggles through which we are watching the films in amazement. Everything we make up for BMT is the lamest possible thing and I’m very proud of this. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! If I made this film I would have changed the name to Smooch the Girls. ‘Cause Casanova be smooching. Let’s get into it!

P’s View on the Preview – I had read this book ages ago after we watched Alex Cross. Out of the two books I read this is by far the most adaptable, although it is still rather disturbing. I will say, I very much enjoy serial killer fiction, and this is very much that. The book wasn’t the greatest thing I’ve ever read, but the subject was definitely up my alley. I was excited to see Morgan Freeman in the role as well. What were my expectations? I expected it to just be kind of confusing. Those are pretty common issues for thrillers, and I can very much imagine that being the issue since, honestly, I found the book pretty confusing.

The Good – I actually liked this film to be honest. We’ll get to some of the issues, but Ashley Judd must have been a revelation in the late 90’s. She is so good in the film, and it is pretty crazy the film got such bad reviews when the main two actors are so good. I thought the setting was cool, a very good use of the Research Triangle of North Carolina. I’m glad they kept it there instead of trying to force it back to DC (which is where Cross tends to be based in the earlier novels). And it wasn’t nearly as confusing as I remembered the book being, because they resolve the Casanova / The Gentleman Caller confusion really quickly.

The Bad – They try and half-heartedly foist the actual twist from the book (in which the reader wonders right to the end which of the police detectives is in fact Casanova) into the film even though it is abundantly clear Carey Elwes is the only logical choice. The fact that the twist is so obvious is an issue, and one easily solved: just make the detective such a minor character you’d never think he’s the culprit. But nope, it’s the late-90s, so you have to get that big name for the bad guy. Dumb. The Gentleman Caller serial killer story is as bad as in the book. It is so unnecessary it kind of annoys you that they are drawing you away from Casanova who is the far better story of the two.

The BMT – Just because we are completing the Alex Cross franchise. That’s really the only real BMT cred its got. Otherwise it’ll end up being one of my favorite BMTs ever I suppose, just because of Judd’s performance which is genuinely quite good. Did it meet my expectations? No, but in a good way. This is a very good adaptation of a book that deals with difficult subject matter and is somewhat confusing as written. The film manages to deal with the difficult subject manner tactfully, and is considerably less confusing that the book I thought.

Roast-radamus – I think this is a decent Setting as a Character (Where?) for North Carolina, with the Research Triangle in particular playing a big role in the film. I’ll also give it a shoutout for Worst Twist (How?) for even daring the headfake the audience about Detective No Name being a legit potential Cassanova. And finally I think this has a decent shot at Good since at least I expect this will be my favorite thriller this year.

StreetCreditReport.com – I guess it shouldn’t be that surprising that this doesn’t have much cred in the media at the time. It isn’t that bad, and there wasn’t as much media coverage of bad films at the time. The cred comes from Alex Cross anyways, both the amazing Tyler Perry adaptation, and the fact that the books have been around for so long. It isn’t even close to the worst serial killer film. Hell, it’s the best Alex Cross film ever made!

You Just Got Schooled – As I said I read the book long ago, but I’ll try and remember as much as I can. I read Along Came a Spider first (I’ll save that review for that recap), but that really set up the character for me. This takes him out of DC and sends him to the South, and I remember being supremely confused about how they were splitting the story between Cassanova and The Gentleman Caller (the two killers in the film). They kind of wanted you to wonder if they were the same person, but it was obvious that they weren’t. And then the twist of which detective was the killer was weak because … I mean, who cares? So yeah, the book was a bit more confusing and leaned into the lame twists a bit too much. These types of books are also terribly written … as I said, somehow the film is loads better than the book. C+.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

Along Came a Spider Quiz

The last thing I remember I was trapped in a boat after being kidnapped from my rich-kid school. Otherwise because of all of the drugs I don’t remember anything … wait these two films are really rather similar, just a lot of drugs and kidnapping. Do you remember what happened in Along Came a Spider?

Pop Quiz Hot Shot!

1) At the beginning of the film Alex Cross’s partner is killed. How does she die?

2) Now distraught, Alex Cross is semi-retired and painting boats. Meanwhile a Senator’s daughter gets kidnapped. How does Alex Cross get involved in the case?

3) So Alex Cross goes to the scene of the crime and immediately figures out all about the sneaky sneaky kidnapper. First he locates a picture which opens an internet portal to a live feed. What was the picture and how does he subsequently figure out where the feed is located IRL.

4) In the end Alex Cross figures out our kidnapper isn’t really the kidnapper anymore because a second set of kidnappers have kidnapped the Senator’s daughter off his boat. Whoops! How does Alex Cross deduce this fact?

5) Finally it is revealed that the secret service agent Alex Cross has been working with is the culprit. What, vaguely, was their plan?

Answers

Kiss the Girls Quiz

So last thing I remember I was bopping around N.C. as a doctor, but now I appear to be drugged in a dungeon. I don’t remember anything … because of the drugs that my kidnapper gave me. Anywho, do you remember what happened in Kiss the Girls?

Pop Quiz Hot Shot!

1) In the beginning of the film Morgan Freeman’s Alex Cross comes home to find his partner Sampson waiting with some dire news. Naomi has been kidnapped! How is he related to Naomi?

2) So Alex Cross is off to N.C. to see what he can see. Once there he learns there have been a lot of kidnappings by a man named Casanova. He also meets Naomi’s boyfriend. What secretly useful interest does this boyfriend have?

3) And then we meet Ashley Judd, the most recent kidnapping victim. She’s a doctor, but she’s also an athlete. What sport do we see her participating in during her introduction?

4) After Judd escapes Casanova, they learn that the drug used against her was purchased by a doctor in California. He goes by a different nickname. What is it?

5) In the end Alex Cross figures out one of the detectives in N.C. is in fact Casanova (Carey Elwes). How does he figure it out?

Answers

Along Came a Spider Preview

As Rich and Poe approach an encampment with Sorsaron and Brawln they reflect on the walk through the waste. It sure was a walk to remember during which Poe met a wandering beauty and fell in love only to have her perish due to a rare medical condition. It was all very sweet and yet devastating. But no need to dwell on the past, time to focus on the future and the task at hand. As they peer down toward the camp they are told that the gamemaster spoke of the goblins within as thieves who stole a magical crown that would help Sorsaron and Brawln escape back to their dimension. “The Crown of Blizarion?” asks Rich and the centaur nods his head, “You’ve also heard of its power? Get it for us and we’ll take you to the school.” Rich and Poe are confused as to why everything feels so familiar and yet slightly different, but agree to the task nonetheless. First off they must ingratiate themselves with the goblins. While Rich wants to mesmerize and bewilder with their chiseled abs and spectacular dance moves, Poe has a different idea. A short time later they bust into camp. “Police!” they shout and the goblins freeze, demanding to know what they’ve done wrong. “How about a little thing called… MURDER!” shouts Rich waving his gun wildly around the crowd. The goblins gasp and implore them to help find the real culprit, for they are innocent. Rich and Poe agree and ask to take a quick look around, particularly in places where people hide things. The goblins sigh with relief, “thank you, officers. What are your names?” At that Rich and Poe look at each other. “Uh… well… this is Officer Chriss and I’m Officer Cross. Officers Chriss and Cross.” That’s right! We’re diving (back) into the world of Alex Cross only seven years after watching Tyler Perry play the character in Alex Cross. This time should be better as we get the precursors Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider. Both star Morgan Freeman and had considerably better reviews than the later adaptation, but still bad enough for us. I’m ready for some thrills and/or chills. Let’s go!

Along Came a Spider (2001) – BMeTric: 21.1; Notability: 49 

AlongCameaSpiderIMDb_BMeT

AlongCameaSpiderIMDb_RV

(Actually still quite good. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a big contingent of people who forgive the film because of Freeman. Even acting in terrible movies he is usually good and elevates the material.)

RogerEbert.com – 2.0 stars – A few loopholes I can forgive. But when a plot is riddled with them, crippled by them, made implausible by them, as in “Along Came a Spider,” I get distracted. … [Y]ou [are] gonna be talking when you come out of this movie! Saying things like “but why . . .” and “if she . . .” and “wouldn’t he . . .” and “how come . . .” as you try to trace your way back through the twisted logic of the plot. Here’s a sample question. Dr. Cross mentions a $12 million ransom and later explains that the person he was talking to should have known it was $10 million but never said anything. And I’m thinking, should that person have even known about the ransom at all? Well, maybe, if . . . but I dunno. There are places in this movie you just can’t get to from other places in this movie.

(Haha, riddled with plotholes. It isn’t what you want with your early-2000s thriller. As he says, if the killer is interesting you forgive a few, but when there are too many it ends up taking all the fun out of figuring things out.)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kswRbwYqn3k/

(Ohhhhhhh snap, I think you can see the aborted ending in the trailer. That scene where the daughter and the parents are hugging by the water isn’t in the film. In the film it all ends at night at a barn. Also, they very much indicate that the President of the United States is involved. He is not, it is the son of the Russian Ambassador.)

Directors – Lee Tamahori – (Known For: Die Another Day; The Edge; The Devil’s Double; Once Were Warriors; Mahana; Future BMT: Next; Mulholland Falls; BMT: xXx: State of the Unionl; Along Came a Spider; Notes: From New Zealand, started as a photographer and then transitioned into the film business as a boom operator.)

Writers – James Patterson (novel) – (Known For: Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life; BMT: Alex Cross; Kiss the Girls; Along Came a Spider; Notes: He apparently came up with the slogan Toys R’ Us Kid.)

Marc Moss (screenplay) – (BMT: Alex Cross; Along Came a Spider; Notes: Was also uncredited on Kiss The Girls doing a continuity check / re-write or something. So he’s been involved in writing all three films.)

Actors – Morgan Freeman – (Known For: The Shawshank Redemption; The Dark Knight; The Dark Knight Rises; Seven; Batman Begins; Unforgiven; Lucy; Oblivion; Deep Impact; Now You See Me; Olympus Has Fallen; War of the Worlds; Million Dollar Baby; Wanted; Going in Style; Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves; RED; Gone Baby Gone; The Lego Movie; Bruce Almighty; Future BMT: Evan Almighty; Just Getting Started; Edison; The Nutcracker and the Four Realms; Eye for an Eye; Chain Reaction; The Contract; Ben-Hur; Momentum; Last Knights; High Crimes; Now You See Me 2; Harry & Son; Feast of Love; Levity; That Was Then… This Is Now; BMT: Conan the Barbarian; Dreamcatcher; The Bonfire of the Vanities; London Has Fallen; Hard Rain; Transcendence; Along Came a Spider; Kiss the Girls; Angel Has Fallen; Notes: He owns a jazz club in Mississippi, and learned to fly at the age of 65.)

Michael Wincott – (Known For: The Count of Monte Cristo; The Crow; Ghost in the Shell; Alien Resurrection; Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves; Treasure Planet; Born on the Fourth of July; Knight of Cups; Dead Man; The Doors; Strange Days; Hitchcock; The Diving Bell and the Butterfly; Basquiat; What Just Happened; Talk Radio; Before Night Falls; Curtains; Seraphim Falls; Forsaken; Future BMT: Metro; The Sicilian; The Three Musketeers; 1492: Conquest of Paradise; Romeo Is Bleeding; BMT: Along Came a Spider; Notes: Is the brother of Jeff Wincott who we’ve seen as Jeff Devreaux in the two Universal Soldier television sequels.)

Monica Potter – (Known For: Saw; The Last House on the Left; Con Air; Without Limits; A Cool, Dry Place; Future BMT: Head Over Heels; Bulletproof; Patch Adams; Martha – Meet Frank, Daniel and Laurence; BMT: Along Came a Spider; Notes: Starred in over 100 episodes of the television show Parenthood, she has mostly focused on television in her later career.)

Budget/Gross – $60,000,000 / Domestic: $74,078,174 (Worldwide: $105,178,561)

(Hmmm, I wonder why they felt the need to double the budget. It isn’t like this film is particularly more complex than the first. At least the way they adapted makes it pretty straightforward.)

Rotten Tomatoes – 31% (39/125): Derivative and contains too many implausible situations.

(Wait a second … this one did better review-wise than the first? That doesn’t make much sense. I’ve read Along Came a Spider, it is effectively unadaptable, which means it is either a terrible adaptation, a terrible movie, or both. Reviewer Highlight: Like a paperback plucked from a counter at an airport, Spider is an impulse buy of a film, a time killer that will neither tax your brain nor challenge your memory. – Susan Wloszczyna, USA Today)

Poster – Along Came a Spiderman (B)

along_came_a_spider

(I think this is solid. Although maybe a little too close to their faces. Back it up a bit. Also could have done with some sweet font.)

Tagline(s) – The game is far from over. (D-)

(That is decidedly mediocre. When did the game even start? What game are we talking about? Is this somehow a continuation of the previous film. This is a very confusing choice… but blessedly short. It’s just a few words away from being an F.)

Keyword – ransom

AlongCameaSpider_ransom

Top 10: Tropic Thunder (2008), The Big Lebowski (1998), Fifty Shades Freed (2018), In Time (2011), Captain Phillips (2013), Inherent Vice (2014), Angels & Demons (2009), The Rock (1996), A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014), All the Money in the World (2017); 

Future BMT: 88.2 Street Fighter (1994), 73.5 Snatched (2017), 62.1 Half Past Dead (2002), 50.3 Son of the Pink Panther (1993), 46.4 The Wash (2001), 45.3 A Kid in King Arthur’s Court (1995), 41.5 Excess Baggage (1997), 39.7 Pink Cadillac (1989), 39.3 That Darn Cat (1997), 35.2 City Heat (1984); 

BMT: Fifty Shades Freed (2018), Along Came a Spider (2001), The Avengers (1998), Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous (2005)

(This I think is even more straightforward than the serial-killer one. This is basically just showing the trajectory of kidnapping thrillers. And indeed, they have tailed off as VOD absorbed most of the schlock that genre has to offer.)

Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 17) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Morgan Freeman is No. 1 billed in Along Came a Spider and No. 5 billed in Transcensdence, which also stars Paul Bettany (No. 2 billed) who is in Firewall (No. 2 billed), which also stars Harrison Ford (No. 1 billed) who is in Hollywood Homicide (No. 1 billed), which also stars Josh Hartnett (No. 2 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 3 billed) => 1 + 5 + 2 + 2 + 1 + 1 + 2 + 3 = 17. If we were to watch Chain Reaction, Hardball, and The Glass House we can get the HoE Number down to 11.

Notes – When Alex is looking through Jezzie’s computer, there is an article on the Casanova Killer from the previous film, Kiss the Girls (1997).

The ending for the film was re-shot, due to poor test audience reception. (Oh God, I wonder what the original ending could have been)

The film takes place over the course of a few days, but in the novel the story takes place over approximately two years. Also, in the book Alex Cross is 38 years old with two kids, whereas in the film he is in his mid to late fifties.

The film’s title comes from its source novel by James Patterson. The title is taken from a nursery rhyme “Little Miss Muffet”. The early Cross novels were all named after nursery rhymes (Jack and Jill, Pop Goes the Weasel, etc.), while the later ones used Cross’ name in the title, either in a punning context (Cross Fire, Double Cross, etc.) or a matter-of-fact one (The Trial of Alex Cross, The People vs. Alex Cross, etc.) (Huh, I didn’t know that, I kind of like how it splits it up into eras)

Gary Soneji’s prosthetic makeup and affected British accent make him look and sound like actor David Thewlis. (It really really really does)

Kiss the Girls Preview

As Rich and Poe approach an encampment with Sorsaron and Brawln they reflect on the walk through the waste. It sure was a walk to remember during which Poe met a wandering beauty and fell in love only to have her perish due to a rare medical condition. It was all very sweet and yet devastating. But no need to dwell on the past, time to focus on the future and the task at hand. As they peer down toward the camp they are told that the gamemaster spoke of the goblins within as thieves who stole a magical crown that would help Sorsaron and Brawln escape back to their dimension. “The Crown of Blizarion?” asks Rich and the centaur nods his head, “You’ve also heard of its power? Get it for us and we’ll take you to the school.” Rich and Poe are confused as to why everything feels so familiar and yet slightly different, but agree to the task nonetheless. First off they must ingratiate themselves with the goblins. While Rich wants to mesmerize and bewilder with their chiseled abs and spectacular dance moves, Poe has a different idea. A short time later they bust into camp. “Police!” they shout and the goblins freeze, demanding to know what they’ve done wrong. “How about a little thing called… MURDER!” shouts Rich waving his gun wildly around the crowd. The goblins gasp and implore them to help find the real culprit, for they are innocent. Rich and Poe agree and ask to take a quick look around, particularly in places where people hide things. The goblins sigh with relief, “thank you, officers. What are your names?” At that Rich and Poe look at each other. “Uh… well… this is Officer Chriss and I’m Officer Cross. Officers Chriss and Cross.” That’s right! We’re diving (back) into the world of Alex Cross only seven years after watching Tyler Perry play the character in Alex Cross. This time should be better as we get the precursors Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider. Both star Morgan Freeman and had considerably better reviews than the later adaptation, but still bad enough for us. I’m ready for some thrills and/or chills. Let’s go!

Kiss the Girls (1997) – BMeTric: 16.1; Notability: 50 

KisstheGirlsIMDb_BMeT

KisstheGirlsIMDb_RV

(Honestly, given the rest of this preview, that 6.6 is right on target. It seems like maybe at the time it wasn’t very well received, but some of the reviews feel like maybe it actually wasn’t that bad.)

RogerEbert.com – 3.5 stars – When the film is over and we know all of its secrets, there’s one we’d like to know more about: What exactly is the dynamic of the relationship between the two most twisted members of the cast? But being left with such a question is much more satisfactory than being given the answer in shorthand Freudian terms. What we’re also left with is the real sense of having met two very particular people in the leads. Freeman and Judd are so good, you almost wish they’d decided not to make a thriller at all–had simply found a way to construct a drama exploring their personalities.

(This actually might legit be the best review we’ve ever features on a recent BMT film! Basically, Freeman and Judd are good actors and it is a fine thriller … so why does everyone seem to hate this film? Hinteresting. Methinks I’m going to enjoy this film.)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JiHGk64-eNE/

(I like this old school trailer. Also a bit surprising that they manage to give away a good chunk of the film, but then don’t touch on The Gentleman Caller. So they manage to restrain themselves possibly as a red herring to distract the audience from realizing the two killers are distinct people initially.)

Directors – Gary Fleder – (Known For: Homefront; The Express; Runaway Jury; Future BMT: Impostor; Don’t Say a Word; Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead; BMT: Kiss the Girls; Notes: Primarily has stuck to television more recently, and is primarily a producer at this point. Homefront I think was his most recent feature release in 2013.)

Writers – James Patterson (novel) – (Known For: Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life; Future BMT: Along Came a Spider; BMT: Alex Cross; Kiss the Girls; Notes: He started as an advertising executive for Burger King.)

David Klass (screenplay) – (Future BMT: Desperate Measures; Walking Tall; Emperor; BMT: Kiss the Girls; Notes: Has produced and written a handful of Law & Order: Criminal Intent episodes.)

Actors – Morgan Freeman – (Known For: The Shawshank Redemption; The Dark Knight; The Dark Knight Rises; Seven; Batman Begins; Unforgiven; Lucy; Oblivion; Deep Impact; Now You See Me; Olympus Has Fallen; War of the Worlds; Million Dollar Baby; Wanted; Going in Style; Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves; RED; Gone Baby Gone; The Lego Movie; Bruce Almighty; Future BMT: Evan Almighty; Just Getting Started; Edison; The Nutcracker and the Four Realms; Eye for an Eye; Chain Reaction; The Contract; Ben-Hur; Momentum; Last Knights; Along Came a Spider; High Crimes; Now You See Me 2; Harry & Son; Feast of Love; Levity; That Was Then… This Is Now; BMT: Conan the Barbarian; Dreamcatcher; The Bonfire of the Vanities; London Has Fallen; Hard Rain; Transcendence; Angel Has Fallen; Kiss the Girls; Notes: He became so concerned about the decline in honeybees that he turned his 100+ acre estate into a bee sanctuary.)

Ashley Judd – (Known For: Heat; Divergent; Olympus Has Fallen; Natural Born Killers; A Time to Kill; Frida; A Dog’s Way Home; Bug; De-Lovely; Dolphin Tale; Simon Birch; Smoke; Barry; Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood; Animal Attraction; Dolphin Tale 2; Ruby in Paradise; Helen; Normal Life; Come Early Morning; Future BMT: Tooth Fairy; Eye of the Beholder; Allegiant; Insurgent; The Identical; Kuffs; Good Kids; High Crimes; Flypaper; Big Stone Gap; Double Jeopardy; The Passion of Darkly Noon; Crossing Over; Where the Heart Is; Trafficked; BMT: Twisted; Kiss the Girls; Notes: IT was rumored that she would run for Senate in Kentucky where she went to college, but ultimately decided not to.)

Cary Elwes – (Known For: Bram Stoker’s Dracula; The Princess Bride; No Strings Attached; Saw; Liar Liar; Twister; The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn; Hot Shots!; Robin Hood: Men in Tights; Glory; The Jungle Book; Ella Enchanted; A Christmas Carol; Shadow of the Vampire; Lady Jane; Whisper of the Heart; Porco Rosso; The Cat Returns; Another Country; The Cat’s Meow; Future BMT: The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure; Behaving Badly; Black Christmas; Saw 3D; Edison; The Alphabet Killer; Billionaire Boys Club; Days of Thunder; The Crush; The Chase; Collection; Sugar Mountain; The Bride; The Queen of Spain; The Magic Sword: Quest for Camelot; Factory Girl; Delhi Safari; Being Charlie; BMT: New Year’s Eve; Georgia Rule; Kiss the Girls; Notes: Was recently features in the third season of the smash hit streaming television program Stranger Things.)

Budget/Gross – $27,000,000 / Domestic: $60,527,873 (Worldwide: $60,527,873)

(That’s not great I don’t think. You would have expected more from a Morgan Freeman vehicle in the late 90s. Bad thrillers though probably had terrible word of mouth back in the day.)

Rotten Tomatoes – 29% (9/31): Detective Alex Cross makes his inauspicious cinematic debut in Kiss the Girls, a clunky thriller that offers few surprises.

(Surprises? This must have come out right when a few thrillers really smashed the Twist-y McTwist side of thrillers out of the park. As a matter of fact Primal Fear did come out the year prior. Reviewer Highlight: Even those engrossed by the build-up here are likely to kiss off the rest after suffering through Girls’ groaner of a wrap-up. – Mike Clark, USA Today)

Poster – Kiss the Sklogs (C-)

kiss_the_girls

(Ha. Well… this is less than a stellar effort. Looks like Alex Cross is going to battle a spooky ghost or something. Only good thing is the pop of color that ghost brings with it. But also not offensive.)

Tagline(s) – A detective is searching for a deadly collector. His only hope is the woman who got away. (D)

(They chose the wrong tagline for the poster. This is too long and not clever. It’s just telling us what the basic premise of the film is… and wasting our time in the process. It is still at least understandable.)

Keyword – serial killer

KisstheGirls_serial killer

Top 10: Joker (2019), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Pulp Fiction (1994), Zodiac (2007), Heat (1995), Shutter Island (2010), Split (2016), Glass (2019), Seven (1995), American Psycho (2000); 

Future BMT: 74.3 Psycho (1998), 68.4 Urban Legends: Final Cut (2000), 65.9 Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991), 64.3 Valentine (2001), 63.6 Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995), 62.4 The Hills Have Eyes II (2007), 59.1 Child’s Play 3 (1991), 57.6 Sorority Row (2009), 55.8 Jury Duty (1995), 51.1 Dylan Dog: Dead of Night (2010); 

BMT: The Snowman (2017), Kiss the Girls (1997), Friday the 13th (2009), Basic Instinct 2 (2006), Cobra (1986), Leprechaun (1993), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), Zoolander 2 (2016), Color of Night (1994), Alex Cross (2012), Righteous Kill (2008), Species II (1998), Untraceable (2008), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006), Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988), Jade (1995), I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998), Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989), Twisted (2004), I Know Who Killed Me (2007), 88 Minutes (2007), Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo (2005), Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990), Vampire in Brooklyn (1995), Bless the Child (2000)

(For a bit I wondered if notability tailing off like that was a quirk of the underlying data, but I don’t think so. I legitimately think “thrillers”, much like horror, went through a popularity boom and bust in the late-90s and early 2000s. They now mostly got to VOD with smaller big names. This was one of the big ones in the 90s though.)

Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 17) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Morgan Freeman is No. 1 billed in Kiss the Girls and No. 5 billed in Transcensdence, which also stars Paul Bettany (No. 2 billed) who is in Firewall (No. 2 billed), which also stars Harrison Ford (No. 1 billed) who is in Hollywood Homicide (No. 1 billed), which also stars Josh Hartnett (No. 2 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 3 billed) => 1 + 5 + 2 + 2 + 1 + 1 + 2 + 3 = 17. If we were to watch Chain Reaction, Hardball, and The Glass House we can get the HoE Number down to 11.

Notes – Ashley Judd took kick-boxing lessons from stuntman David Lea before filming. She insisted on doing many of her own stunts, but the studio finally put their foot down, when she wanted to leap off a 150 foot waterfall. A stuntman, wearing a wig, made the jump instead, narrowly missing the rocks as he plummeted through the falls to the water below. (Uh … yeah you can see it, he gets really close. I can’t believe they put it in the movie)

Gillian Anderson was initially going to play Dr. Kate McTiernan during her hiatus from The X Files (1993). (Huh interesting. They are the exact same age)

At one point, Denzel Washington was to star, but he had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts, and Morgan Freeman was brought into the project. (That would have been a cool Alex Cross)

A split diopter lens is used in the final kitchen scene. The two-shots show both characters in sharp focus, even though one is much farther from the camera. Normally, one or the other would be out of focus. But a half-width lens placed in front of the camera’s main lens adjusts the focal plane of one side of the scene, allowing close and distant subjects to appear sharp. Brian De Palma often uses this filming technique. (Yeah … it is really old school. I was watching an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and they got the same effect but clearly there is some digital way to do that because instead of being weirdly fuzzy and looking like shit in my opinion, it looks super smooth.)

It was during the making of this film that Ashley Judd was subjected to sexual harassment by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. She would finally open up about the ordeal in 2017. (Gross!)

Campus officials at the University of North Carolina refused to agree to allow filming on campus in Chapel Hill, because of the subject matter of the film. Hence the only UNC-Chapel Hill campus scenes are the flyover shots. There is one other scene shot on UNC’s campus. After the flyover shot of Duke Chapel, the next scene is the detectives car turning onto Medical Drive in Chapel Hill.This can be seen by the sign behind the tree which is the old School of nursing sign on Columbia street.

Whenever Casanova speaks from the shadows, as well as in the opening credits, it is Tony Goldwyn’s voice being heard. Goldwyn’s voice was used to throw the audience off the trail so the unveiling of the real killer at the end would be more of a surprise. Goldwyn’s Casanova voice is easily distinguishable from Cary Elwes’ affected Casanova voice, which Ruskin uses as he is revealed as the real killer at the film’s close. As a result, when Rudolph is shouting at the hidden Casanova, Tony Goldwyn is essentially arguing with himself. (Yup, you can tell they are too totally different voices, it was an odd stylistic choice. Why not just have Elwes use his own British accent?)

MythBusters (2003) proved that it is nearly impossible for the muzzle flash of a gun to cause a room full of natural gas to explode.

Angel Has Fallen Recap

Jamie

Agent Mike Banning is back, Jack! And guess what? He’s still saving the President. When an attempted assassination goes wrong, leaving only the President and Banning alive, suspicion lands sqaurely on Banning. Can he reveal the vast conspiracy, stop the bad guys, and save the President (again) before it’s too late? Find out in… Angel has Fallen.

How?! We open on a broken and beaten Banning. He’s popping pills, struggling with the physical and mental trauma from his direct involvement with several national emergencies, and trying to figure out what’s next for him and his family. And it’s not so different for his fellow war veterans, for example check out his friend Wade Jennings who is definitely not a bad guy. Wade is just lamenting the lack of use of private military contractors by the US, NBD. Anyway, shortly thereafter Banning is out fishing with the President when a massive assassination attempt via face recognizing drones is carried out. Only Banning and the President are able to survive, thanks to his quick thinking, but both are seriously injured. When Banning comes to, he’s the prime suspect thanks to an almost comical amount of physical and electronic evidence he’s left behind of his alleged activities. As the definitely-not-evil Vice President takes the oath of office, Banning is taken into custody, only to be freed moments later by a bunch of black ops soldiers. Using his skillz to kill them, Banning discovers that they are employees of Jennings (My god! How unexpected!). He then leads authorities on a multistate chase before disappearing into the West Virginia mountains where he hides out with his *bum bum bum* estranged father (what a twist!). Jennings’ squad continues in hot pursuit and Banning’s dad is a total maniac with the explosives and saves the day. Meanwhile the FBI, finally getting the hint that maybe Banning is innocent, tracks down Jennings and his entire plot hatched with the Vice President (My god! Whodathought!) blows up in his face. Realizing that he really just wants to kill the President and Banning and then move offshore he heads to the hospital where the President is. Banning also heads there in order to warn everyone what’s going on. There is a climactic shootout and Banning totally tricks those dopes and kills Jennings in hand-to-hand combat. It ends with Banning getting promoted. THE END… or is it? It is, for now. Big Question: Why frame Banning? Why not kill Banning and frame someone who isn’t a superhero?

Why?! Interestingly we do get some motivation for Banning. While dealing with the consequences of the concussions and injuries he’s suffered in the line of duty he has to seriously consider whether it’s all worth it (particularly since he’s battling some addiction issues at the same time). Less interestingly this really doesn’t get resolved adequately at the end. As for the bad guys, well they lament to loss of lucrative military contractor work for both monetary reasons and for macho “we’re lions!!!” reasons.

Who?! I mean it goes without saying, crank up that Hail to the Chief. We inaugurate President Trumbull into the BMT Hall of Presidents. Former Speaker of the House and then Vice President, he’s come a long way. I was just really hoping that at the end of the film he would ask our boy Mike Banning to be his VP. The only thing to legit get me excited for the sequel.

What?! You know you have a good product placement when people online are baffled by its presence. In this case Banning uses the cell phone lifted from one of the bad guys and its… Apple? …Samsung? Nope. They have a OnePlus cell phone, a phone somewhat popular outside of the US but rarely seen here. Maybe this is a subtle hint that the mercenary soldiers are not American… or maybe they were just filming in Eastern Europe.

Where?! Obviously a chunk of this will take place in D.C., but I was pleasantly surprised when it was made very clear that our boy Banning heads into the mountains of West Virginia in order to track down his estranged father. I didn’t even remember what we used for West Virginia for the mapl.de.map, but then I checked and it was the greatest film of all time, Silent Hill: Revelation 3D… so that wins. A-, just slightly necessary to the plot.

When?! Couldn’t find anything for the time. Clearly it’s Fall as it’s cold but not that cold. President Trumbull mentions the G20, implying its coming up shortly, but that’s not something that happens at regular intervals. I think we could figure it out, but I didn’t. F.

Either we’ve hit some level of bad movie watching where our beautiful minds can piece together anything remotely trite or cliche, or this film is on some whole other crazy level of predictability. There was a moment early in the film where I thought, “you know what, this isn’t half-bad” but then it veered away from the fun action in order to start putting together the pieces of the overarching plot, which was pretty boring… because I already knew the plot. The bad guys may as well have been twirling their evil mustaches and yet we had to wait for the film to “reveal” them to us. Worse, the final action scene actually looked super silly, which was weird because the other action scenes in the film were pretty good. Obviously not as offensive as the last film but also not as much of an improvement as I secretly hoped. I’d say a little overrated seeing as it qualified for BMT by the slimmest of margins. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! A bunch of baddies want to kill the President and need a fall guy. But who to choose. How about the one that foiled two international plots to kill the president before? What are the chances he’ll do it a third time? Pretty slim if my terrible grasp of probability theory is correct. Let’s get into it!

P’s View on the Preview – Don’t think for a second I wasn’t excited to hear they were going to complete this trilogy. I was only slightly disappointed to hear it was no longer the spiritual successor to Air Force One (it was originally supposed to be set on Air Force One). Fake presidents, explosions, hand-to-hand combat, maybe some light racism? Count me in. What was I expecting? The second film in the series was actually an incomprehensible trainwreck. So … uh, more of that please? I hope the nameless SAS agent returns and still remains nameless during this film as well.

The Good – Ripping off The Fugitive is rarely a bad idea as that film is obviously excellent. We learn a lot about the dangers of concussions, and private military forces, and Russia meddling in elections. There are lots of explosions, only some of which look like CGI garbage. And I like Morgan Freeman. It is actually rather straightforward: this is the kind of shiny action film that mimics (in inventiveness) old straight-to-video trash except with a big budget. Somehow, Gerard Butler just makes these at will, it is incredible.

The Bad – The movie is just kind of trashy. The long lost father, the “twist” of the vice-president being behind the plot (which I guessed while watching the trailer months ago … and don’t tell me it was intentional, they distort his voice during the film to hide the fact), the guy who’s just about to retire, the broken everyman hero. We’ve seen this all before. You can lob as many current messages at me as you want, it doesn’t change the fact that this is a story I’ve seen before, and a story that is more like a bad season of 24 than a $40 million film.

The BMT – We have to complete the BMT Trilogies. There is just nothing to be done about this fact. And that will be its enduring message for BMT. That we do our homework, we don’t skimp, no matter how joyless the money-grubbing sequel they produce. Did it meet my expectations? No, it was not nearly as entertaining as the craziness that is London Has Fallen. The only way something like this is entertaining is if the production really seemed to have been struggling. This seemed easy breezy. So easy in fact that Gerard Butler didn’t even feel the need to get into shape (that will be the one time I’ll body shame Gerard and mention his weight … for real though he looks fat).

Roast-radamus – I think it has a pretty strong Setting As a Character (Where?) game with basically Washington D.C. and the surrounding area, plus West Virginia. It kind of rockets up to the top of the Worst Twist (How?) list for me, because … for real, Vice-President Kirby is so obvious of a villain that I guessed it the instant I saw him in the trailer. The trailer! And then it probably doesn’t really have a shot at, but will be on the short list for, BMT Live! (2019).

StreetCreditReport.com/ – Ah finally, we have some lists. This didn’t make the AV Club list, but it did make the list from The Wrap at number 8. Considering it barely qualified for BMT that is actually pretty good. It’s cred comes from a franchise with diminishing returns though. It doesn’t even sniff Gerard Butler’s personal worst-of list even.

You Just Got Schooled – You know what is a movie I’d never seen? White House Down. It is pretty good if overly long. At least it isn’t as schmaltzy as Olympus Has Fallen. A lot of the jokes landed and a few out-of-nowhere references were actually used effectively. Specifically, although I knew President Jamie Foxx survived, I had forgotten about the pocket watch right up until he pulled it out with the bullet in it. Also the flag waving by Lucy Hale managed to go so far into bad territory that it went back around and became ironically good. The thing is, the entire world they built would never be suited for sequels, unlike Olympus Has Fallen which was already a super agent film set in the terror-around-every-corner world of 24. So while White House Down is fun, it always seemed destined to be a one time adventure. Which is fine. B-, glad I watched it, but I won’t watch it again.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs