Gangster Squad Recap

Jamie

Mickey Cohen is a menace to LA and police officer John O’Mara ain’t letting it fly. No way, no how. He’s tasked with assembling a squad of police officers to clandestinely take apart the evil gangster’s criminal empire. Can they stop Mickey before it’s too late? Find out in… Gangster Squad.

How?! John O’Mara don’t take guff from nobody, especially those that aim to dirty his beloved LA like gangster Mickey Cohen. Unfortunately he also doesn’t take guff from nobody so O’Mara is tasked with creating a misfit squad of gangster hunters (what to call them, though?) whose smarts and toughness will combine to take even less guff than Cohen (if you can believe it). Will they go out and murder Cohen right away? No! That would be too boring. Instead they aim to dismantle his empire while keeping him alive and figure out what his dastardly plot is to take over the West Coast (hint: it doesn’t matter). The squad goes about punching and shooting people to great effect, while also totally getting with Cohen’s main squeeze. Cohen is obviously none too pleased with this and he proceeds to punch and shoot a bunch of people until he figures out who the gangster squad is. After that it’s all out war and they punch and shoot some more until one of the squad is dead and their families threatened. All seems lost, except remember… no guff. O’Mara scrapes together a warrant for Cohen’s arrest and there is a big showdown at the Plaza. Shooting. Punching. Punching. Shooting. O’Mara takes Cohen down and cleans up the streetz. THE END. So the big question: was Mickey Cohen’s downfall because he took too many guffs or maybe, just maybe, he didn’t take enough (yah dig?).

Why?! I mean, Mickey Cohen is a psycho. No need for more explanation on that front. As for our boy John and his gangster squad, well they just want to do good in a world where people too often let money dictate their morals. Other cops are being bought, but they didn’t fight in WWII to let their home descend into crime. No! Not the Gangster Squad™.

Who?! Anyone who’s anyone knows that Ryan Gosling was part of the Mickey Mouse Club and so he’s got those dancing and singing chops for days. Lesser known is that he’s an actor-turned-musician (my favorite) and released an album as part of the rock duo Dead Man’s Bones in 2009. According to wikipedia he performed under the alias Baby Goose… OK.

What?! As I looked at the beautiful chiseled features of Josh Brolin I of course wondered to myself, “Is there a way that I could look like that granite rock of a man?” and the answer is yes. I can wear the very gun holster that he wears. Now if only I can figure out how to sound just like Nick Nolte (hint: it involves smoking cigarettes and gargling whiskey for 5000 years).

Where?! This feels like it’s the most LA movie ever. They are talking all kinds of Hollywood stuff all day. We see the Hollywoodland sign, they are talking about the movie biz, and references to Brentwood are dropped in as if the audience would be like “Jeez, Brentwood, amiright?” and nudge each other whenever it’s mentioned. A.

When?! Secret Holiday Film Alert! In the beginning you’re like “wait… is this set around Christmas?” And then the film slowly becomes more and more christmasy until we have Sean Penn screaming “Here comes Santy Claus!” as he shoots up a christmas tree in slow motion. It’s actually pretty hilarious. B+.

Overly stylized, very dark, choppy at times, and steered heavily into cliche. But I also didn’t think it was all that bad (if that makes sense). I let it wash over me like a sultry LA night and had a fine time watching it. I think the acting was pretty great (other than Penn who legend says is still chewing the scenery) and the story interesting. So all in all: not the worst. As for Future Kick, I actually really liked it. Super weird and fun production involving robots and a colony on the moon and virtual reality and organ harvesting. And there’s really nothing more beautiful than an ending that asks the question, “maybe everything you just watched was meaningless.” I’d gladly watch any film that implies that the whole thing was a dream. My one big critique: we needed more martial arts. Somehow T.N.T. had way more impressive martial arts than this one did. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! Jamie and I threw away our official LAPD Cobra Division badges in prep for this film. We’re off the books! Time to murder a bunch of people! Let’s go!

P’s View on the Preview – I remember when this come out this was a very exciting film for some corners of the internet. It checks off a bunch of boxes: a group of guys smashing up some gangsters, the late-40s/early-50s west coast period piece, and a crazy cast. And then it just fizzled out to rather lackluster reviews. I guess we’ll see if it ages well? What are my expectations – I want Sean Penn to basically be Nic-Caging all over the place. I want him to actually eat some scenery during a scene, like literally break off pieces of the set and eat it.

The Good – I like the period setting. The story is interesting. Emma Stone is excellent as always, and I really like the group of actors they got for the Squad. I really couldn’t ask for much more from what the film promised: a bunch of cops are going to bust up some gangsters, the end. There isn’t really much more to expound on here, but be assured that I actually liked this film quite a bit.

The Bad – I can definitely see why Sean Penn’s performance sunk the film for critics, he is so over the top it is very very distracting. I also think the story ends up pulling a punch or two and just retreating to the safety of what is ultimately a very predictable series of events. The biggest crime is killing off Ribisi which is by far the most obvious choice of how to “shake up” the Squad during the film. The outside shot is to kill off Brolin, and then making Gosling dry himself off to lead the Squad to victory. Apologies if somehow all of these events are part of the “true story” that it is all adapted from … I doubt it. Finally, the film is just kind of directed / structured sloppily with the least interesting bits, somehow, being the bits involving the Gangster Squad.

The BMT – It is certainly a weird BMT. Long ago we were rather insistent that we were going to do Amelia starring Hilary Swank … and then we just didn’t. Straight dramas don’t tend to fit into our traditional cycle genres. So it is nice to do a straight drama that is considered bad. Did it meet my expectations? Not really. I didn’t think Sean Penn was that bad, even though I can see why people hated it at the time. And that is really what it needed. Once you think that is fine … the movie isn’t that bad, so no, I don’t think I’ll be sending this over to people as a bad movie recommendation.

Roast-radamus – I think we have a very strong Setting as a Character (Where?) for Los Angeles (we can’t let Mickey Cohen take our city!!!) and Secret Holiday Film (When?) where the entire end of the film takes place during Christmas complete exploding Christmas display in slow motion. Other than that I could maybe see a nod for Good from me specifically, but I guess we’ll see.

StreetCreditReport.com – Finally! We finally are back in the zone where people actually have lists. And indeed this film is on the AV Club list (number 8) and on the IndieWire list (number 14). And I think it would end up on a worst of gangster film, and worst of films set in the 40s lists if you really pressed it. Pretty good cred, critics really hated this film!

You Just Got Schooled – Lightning quick one as a semi-endorsement of The Flophouse Podcast which did this film all the way back in 2014. They’ve come a long way since then in how the podcast is structured (this was back when they all lived in New York still and Elliott was Dan’s boss at the Daily Show), but overall I thought it was a funny listen. Just the right level of Elliott Kalan random asides to make what isn’t a very interesting bad movie interesting. And ultimately I agree with his assessment: if I saw the film on television I would probably be fine with watching it, and it is actually maybe closer to a good good movie than a bad bad movie (but definitely not a good bad movie).

Bring a Friend Analysis – And as with any Sean Penn film you just have to watch a Chris Penn feature alongside it. This time? It’s the very promisingly named Future Kick, which I know for a fact I’ve seen as a vhs tape on the Red Letter Media studio’s shelves. I think the film throws a lot at you to consume in the first 25 minutes of the film, with a dystopian world with a Elysium-like moon base, and escaped automaton bounty hunters, the last of which is played by Don “The Dragon” Wilson. For a bit there I was kind of barely holding onto the story (which seems to be a trend with 90s straight-to-VHS features, just incomprehensible). But by the end it saves itself with strong and entertaining performances by Wilson and Meg Foster. The end is also very amusing as it (spoilers) goes for the classic “this entire film was a dream” ending. I’m going to give it a B+. I wish it was a bit clearer in premise and martial arts action early, but the back half is, I think, a rather fun balls-to-the-wall ridiculous straight-to-video feature.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

Perfect Recap

Jamie

Adam is a journalist looking for a story. What he doesn’t expect to find is love (awww). While writing a puff piece about LA gym culture, he encounters an aerobics instructor, Jessie, and immediately falls in love. Can he get the bog scoop (and still get the girl) before it’s too late and he ruins it by being an asshole? Find out in… Perfect.

How?! Act I: Adam is a journalist. But just not any journalist. He’s got integrity up the wazoo. He’s got a big ol’ story in the works and it might even be a book… but while he waits to find out if he can score the big interview he decides to start his next story: a sexy puff piece about young singles who frequent the gym. Sexy. Act II: Adam arrives in LA and is immediately like “woah, who’s that?” about Jessie, the top aerobics instructor (in the world? Probably). As a result, a funny thing happens on the way to writing the story when he totes falls in love and realizes that he actually wants to write about how gyms are the next philosophical frontier (you dig?) as society attempts to take responsibility for oneself and become… perfect. Unfortunately this all crashes and burns when despite scoring the big interview he needed he also inadvertently ruins what he has with Jessie. Act III: Under pressure from lawyers regarding the big interview and also suffering heartbreak, Adam decides to write the original puff piece anyway. This ends up double backfiring when Jessie attempt to reconcile but discovers what he’s done. Attempting to make up for it, Adam writes the Emersonian version of the piece, but his editors are like “this is clearly the writings of a pompous asshole” and write an even worse version of his original story. Even worse he’s heading to jail for contempt of court for not giving up his notes from the original story. Gah! Lucky for him, though, Jessie is a first amendment fanatic and they reconcile upon his release. THE END. 

Why?! It’s pure journalism, baby. Adam is just all about that first amendment and won’t compromise on anything. Whether it’s writing about financial crimes or the Emersonian nature of the gym, he is a totally uncompromising asshole. It’s only when Jessie realizes that he’s only an asshole because of the first amendment that she can be like “oh, I love him.” Her motivation is like… life, man. She just wants to win and be the best and be… perfect.

Who?! Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner played himself as did Carly Simon in a cameo. I believe there are a number of other cameos in the film, including thanks given to Mick Jagger who allowed photos of himself to be used in the film. There are some notable special thanks as well including Kathryn Bigelow. I still can’t figure out how she was involved in Perfect in any way.

What?! Every once in a while we get a film that is basically just a long commercial for something. Here it’s Rolling Stone, which is depicted as more than just a music magazine… it’s got journalistic integrity for days. Look at all that goddamn journalistic integrity! It’s oozing off John Travolta’s body like sweat.

Where?! There is a fun minor setting of Morocco late in the film, but this is a NYC-LA production with a slight edge to LA because that’s really where the sexiness and love occur. That’s actually a big part of my grading: how sexy is the setting. I think this is an A-. Both NYC and LA are pretty indispensable for the plot… perhaps only Miami could have swooped in and ruined it. 

When?! Near the end of the film they set up the exact time frame. Takes place over a number of months culminating in the publishing of the article and portions of the final trial at the end of July. They give an exact date for a few of these times. It’s actually pretty solid. B+.

I’m not sure what to even say about this film. It felt like the longest movie in the world. Took me at least three full days to watch and yet the clock told me it was only two hours. There are long stretches of just male and female hips thrusting in your face for reasons unknown… probably to convey how people would easily see this and think “new singles bar of the 80’s” but this would be wrong. They are Emersonian philosophers, duh. Beyond the length, I think the biggest crime is the self-serving, pompous attitude of how journalism is depicted. Gets really tired as the film drags on to see Travolta stand up six or twelve times to declare his journalistic integrity. The only positive, weirdly, is that I genuinely think Travolta and Curtis had *gulp* sexual chemistry. That seems weird to say. As for To the Limit, that film may in fact be the single most confusing thing Patrick and I have watched. We tried to recap exactly what happened in the film to each other and it is simply put absolute nonsense. Throw in Anna Nicole Smith barely acting in a monotone voice and several playboy level sex scenes and we got something that’s… well… it exists I guess. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! As I sculpted my Perfect bod I thought of Emerson and the pursuit of man’s true physical potential. Also I thought about beating up dweebs. Let’s go!

P’s View on the Preview – I had only heard of this film via How Did This Get Made? basically. I knew it was about aerobics and that it is supposed to be terrible. The connection between Stallone and the director seemed interesting. What were my expectations? I just hoped it was just in your face aerobics sexy action. Without that why am I even watching this film?

The Good – There is wall-to-wall aerobics action … which I’m going to say is good. Jamie Lee Curtis I thought was great. And in a different universe where the aerobics story didn’t exist, the trial that occurs during the film could have been an interesting story. Instead it comes out as absurd, but the idea is a kind of in the weeds interesting story. Quite a thin section this week, but the film is very weird and hard to “enjoy” in traditional terms.

The Bad – The acting. Travolta is only the most high profile offender. The Rolling Stone founder plays himself and he is straight up terrible at acting. They just hired a load of aerobics instructors as actors and it shows, all of them are incredibly stilted and distracting. There are very very very long aerobics scenes, they last forever, it is crazy. The entire thing comes across as just the most snobbish trash. It really seems like the guy wrote a story where he nobly goes to jail for his craft (magazine writer), and nobly stands up for the dignity of subjects … give me a break. The entire thing just seems like a giant pat on his own back from a writer who really thinks he does things that are important … and people should know it.

The BMT – Yeah. It is a very unique film. About a sport (arguably) which really doesn’t have another film made about it. Made about a profession (magazine journalist) which gets overshadowed by their newspaper peers and thus doesn’t feature in films very often. And the acting is almost second-to-none terrible. I was intrigued by the film and would definitely watch it again with someone. Did it meet my expectations? More than I could have imagined. There is a crazy number of aerobic scenes with those full body suits that have thongs, and guys gyrating their hips. It is great. Highly recommend those scenes, they last forever.

Roast-radamus – This is actually a really good example of Product Placement (What?) … since the entire movie is a placement for a product: Rolling Stone magazine. They fight for the truth! Decent argument for Setting as a Character (Where?) since the strangeness of Los Angeles plays a huge role in the story. Outside shot at BMT, otherwise I don’t think it really has much of anything. I would have went with a specific temporal setting (since the magazine article was published specifically on June 6, 1983), but that is kind of unconfirmed, and also we have enough holiday films that that would never actually be nominated this year.

StreetCreditReport.com – Amazingly this has two giant pieces of cred. First, it is on Siskel and Ebert’s worst of list of 1985 which is obviously enough in and of itself. And then second it was features on How Did This Get Made? which is a rubber stamp for amusingly bad movies. I have to imagine this is the worst film ever made about aerobics or about a magazine journalist as well, although I have no proof of that.

Bring a Friend Analysis – With any John Travolta film we obviously have to watch a Joey Travolta film. To this end we watched the Anna Nicole Smith feature from 1995 called To the Limit. Full disclosure: I barely remember this film. Like, I straight up don’t understand what happened. I think it is because the movie was written strangely. It is like they had a plot sketched out on a napkin (A man’s wife is killed and friend murdered because of a mysterious CD-ROM. His friend’s wife, secretly a CIA agent, helps him to take down those responsible while keeping the disc safe), and then thought “that is too straightforward … let’s add some twists.” But then … they only do half twists because they don’t really know how to adapt their story (oh no, a girl is kidnapped! Oh wait, she just ran away and is back now. And then our main character is kidnapped! Oh no, he just ran away and is back now. And Anna Nicole Smith is a bad guy! Nope nevermind she isn’t). Anna Nicole Smith is a marvel to behold and kind of makes the whole thing worthwhile. The film is soft-core porn though which was just sad and gross. I’m going to give it a C+. I wouldn’t want to watch it again or anything like it because it is 90s pornography. But Anna Nicole Smith’s acting is just insane enough to legitimize the initial viewing.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

Sleeping with the Enemy Recap

Jamie

Laura is trapped in an abusive marriage to a controlling man. She is able to escape by faking her own death and moving to Iowa where she learns to live and love again. However, when she dares to visit her elderly mother her ex-husband is able to track her down. Can she take him out (and perhaps get the guy) before it’s too late? Find out in… Sleeping with the enemy.

How?! Act I: Laura and her husband seem to have the perfect life but underneath the visage he’s a controlling abusive maniac! Get out of there, Laura! And she does just that by faking her own death by drowning and escaping to picturesque Iowa where she can’t possibly fall in love with anyone. Act II: She immediately falls in love with the drama teacher next door. With his plaid shirts and flowing locks for days, he’s just a dreamy dreamboat and Laura is smitten. She learns to live and love again and he helps her figure out a good way to safely see her mom using his flair for costumes… or is it?! Because Laura’s husband from hell has figured out that she’s still alive and is staking out the old folks home. Using his own acting chops he finds out that Iowa is the place to be. Act III: Everywhere that Laura looks it seems like her husband has come for her… that’s because he has! Oh no! He shows up and is all like “you won’t kill me.” But jokes on him because she does. THE END. Big Question: Is Laura falling in love with a drama teacher a twist on the fact that she was married to a man who spent his life acting the role of happy family man, when in reality he was an abusive monster? Chew on that.

Why?! I mean… he’s a psycho. So there’s that. As for her… well she wants to get away from the psycho she married. It is pretty jarring to see an older movie like this where domestic abuse is depicted in what seems like a fairly accurate way. Pretty scary.

Who?! I think the most interesting thing is the BMT implications of possible casting choices for this film. Apparently Kim Bassinger and Sean Connery were attached to co-star. That’s just a powerhouse BMT couple right there (assuming of course that Connery was attached as love interest… not sure why he would join the project as the husband from hell).

What?! While there isn’t something for sale that fits our traditional definition of a prop, there is an entire house for sale. The house that Julia Roberts moves into in Iowa (really Abbeville, South Carolina) has been on the market and valued at 160K. You’d make that up in no time doing full time tours and entry fees for the museum.

Where?! This is a truly great BMT setting film. Clearly takes place on Cape Cod, Iowa, and in small parts Minnesota. It’s a wonder we didn’t end up doing this one for the mapl.de.map because it really is super duper duper Iowa and that seems somewhat rare. Loved it. B+

When?! Secret Holiday Film Alert! While much of the film takes place generally in the summer, there is a big scene at a Fourth of July parade that leads straight into a scene where Julia Robert and Mullet McGee try on costumes, laugh, love, and live along to the song Brown Eyed Girl. *chef’s kiss* A-

I can fully understand why this film is a bit of a cult classic. Julia Roberts was quite good and I thought the writing was pretty good too. As I said, I think the depiction of the husband as an abuser seems scarily accurate and makes some of the later scenes really interesting from a psychological perspective. And it was thrilling to boot. I think the biggest critique is that the directing really lets everything else down. Has the look and feel of a Lifetime film with the acting and writing of a Hollywood film. Let down by schlockiness… which is pretty much the tagline of this website. As for T.N.T., it was my first Olivier Gruner viewing experience, which probably brought more joy in itself than anything the actual film had to offer. He seems like a poor man’s JCVD but somehow way worse at acting. His weird smiling face seemed to throw everyone off until they all seemed like aliens trying to pretend to be human. It was quite the experience and definitely made me excited to see more of his films. Patrick?  

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! There’s nothing like a hefty dose of harrowing domestic violence drama to really make one wonder: should I make jokes about this film? Let’s get into it!

P’s View on the Preview – I straight up had to ask Jamie whether Safe Haven was a readaptation of Sleeping with the Enemy … before remembering that that movie was based on a Nicholas Sparks novel. Not surprisingly a ton of reviews from when Safe Haven was published made the exact same comparison, so I wasn’t alone. I hoped for an amazing Ghost Wife twist at the end of this film, but I didn’t expect it. What were my expectations? A solid performance from Roberts, and otherwise I just wanted the craziest thriller possible. Give me Color of Night, please. One Color of Night for Patrick.

The Good – I genuinely liked this film. It probably helps that I went into it expecting precisely what I got: a thriller. It seems like at the time reviewers were rather put off by the apparent bait-and-switch performed by the director by starting the film off as a very intriguing drama, and then tacking towards the more rote thriller tropes at the end. I can understand that, but this movie gave me mostly what I wanted: A solid Roberts performance, a crazy thriller stalker man, and a love interest with quite literally a mane of hair. I’m hoping Jamie finds an online auction where I can buy that man’s wig / real hair because mein Gott!

The Bad – The aforementioned thriller tropes. Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled. But yeah, the movie didn’t need it. Give me an opening with Roberts seemingly happy at the beach. Give me a flashback to how they met, the wedding, a concerned warning from a friend, and the first time he hits her. Give me the establishment of the boating accident, and the suggestion that maybe she killed herself. And then bam! While he is out looking for her she kills him to make it look like an accident and goes off with her assumed identity. Let Roberts carry the drama, and drop the thrills. I don’t have much of a complaint about what I got, but I understand why critics hated it now, it was definitely not what you were hoping the director would do.

The BMT – I think this is a weirdly special BMT. It is another amazingly Iowa-y film. I’m honestly not too sure how we didn’t end up doing this for Iowa, but then again Iowa basically only produced weird dramas so whatever. Other than that I just kind of like when we get dramas in the mix, and especially when we get films where I think contemporary critics disagree with the critics at the time about the merits of the film. Gives us a lot to chew on. Did it meet my expectations? Not as a bad movie, it had to be maybe 10 times crazier. But I liked it. So … whatever.

Roast-radamus – I think we could definitely consider this as a Setting as a Character (Where?) because Iowa represents everything quaint and small-towny that the cosmopolitan Roberts is looking to escape back to. I’ll throw in a Worst Twist (How?) for the moment at the end when the ex-husband baddy basically comes back to life to try and kill Roberts. A classic Halloween / Michael Myers thing, but it works especially poorly when contrasted with the domestic violence drama we were sold in the first half of the film. And finally it’ll almost definitely be one of my nominations for Good for the year because guess what? I genuinely think this is a fine film all things considered, so there.

StreetCreditReport.com – I legit can’t find any worst-of lists with this film on it. I’m genuinely surprised because Ebert absolutely eviscerated the film. While I agree with the thesis, I actually mostly disagree with the nitpicks he reluctantly lobs out at the end of the review. (1) Yes the toilet hadn’t been used for weeks, the distraught Bergin I think rather obviously packed up the house and hadn’t visited again. (2) The woman saw the obituary in the newspaper which would have mentioned that she was survived by her husband, a financial adviser at Yada Yada Inc. (3) Roberts has been secretly squirreling away money for years it looked like, so why is it hard to believe she had done so for that purpose? (4) He knows she loves books and previously worked at a library so he could have just asked them where the “new girl” lives. (5) He only did the rearranging when she was out, either prior to his arrival or during the picnic and (6) because he is a psycho. This is why I don’t like dumb plot hole nitpicking of films, it is pretty easy to nitpick back. But I get the point: the movie isn’t very well written. And I generally agree.

Bring a Friend Analysis – This week we went with possibly one of the less well-known sibling pairs with Julia Roberts’ brother Eric Roberts (famous for playing the titular role in A Talking Cat?!). He has been in over 300 film (wowza) so we had the pick of the litter. Unfortunately we chose T.N.T. which mostly just reminded me of Black Friday in that it appeared to have been put together with little thought or care as a starring vehicle for a martial artist. Starring kickboxer Olivier Gruner, the film is effectively a knock off of a Van Damme feature: this French guy who is inexplicably in the U.S. military is just too good to do bad things and retires to the quiet life. But the baddies don’t want him to have a quiet life, so they’re here to make some noise. The End. Gruner has an impressive kickboxing background and gets to show it off a bit. Eric Roberts is barely in it and, I swear to god, is just playing Steve Jobs (perhaps not coincidentally Jobs rejoined Apple in 1997 and so would have been in the headlines around the time). The film is pretty worthless and trashy, but I’m glad I got to tick off my Olivier Gruner box on my martial arts bingo card. I’m going to give it a … B-. It would take some convincing to get me to watch it again, but for a martial artist actor completionist it is must see.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

Black Dog Recap

Jamie

Jack Crews, truck driver extraordinaire, is fresh out of jail and trying to make ends meet. When he is offered an illegal smuggling job he wants to say no, but needs the money for his family. The job immediately goes awry as everyone from criminals to the police are after him. Can he stop the bad guys (and not go back to jail) before it’s too late? Find out in… Black Dog.

How?! Act I: Jack Crews is a man just trying to do right by his family. He was the best (the best!) truck driver around, but fell asleep at the wheel and went to jail for manslaughter. Now he just wants to make sure his family is fed, has a roof over their heads, and gets all the basketball shoes and free throw practice they need. Aw shucks. In a wild coincidence he is offered a $10,000 illegal smuggling job the same day that he learns that he owes $9,000 on his mortgage. How about that! So while he wants to say no, the pressure from his smarmy boss and debt force him into the criminal lifestyle. Oh, woe is the American justice system! Look upon ye institution that has failed such an honest family man in Jack Crews. Look at his chiselled chin! Oh, what a chin!… Act II: He totes goes and takes over the big rig like the boss that he is. Even when the bad guys attempt to set him up as a patsy and steal the goods back from under him, Crews is like “no way, Jose,” and outdrives them (duh). From there we learn that not only is one of the crew a rat, but another of the crew is an undercover cop! Oh boy, Jack Crews may as well drive right back to jail, right? Wrong! Act III: That’s because he sets up the big bad guys (who have kidnapped his wife and kid) to be caught by the police. Happy and laughing he totally hugs his kid and smooches on his wife and they all climb right into the truck for a little joy ride over to the impound lot (lol, what?). But, uh oh! Another bad guy is ready for one last intense chase culminating in a giant explosion and more smooches for Crews (naturally). THE END. Big question: is this the quintessential film about the pressure on parolees towards recidivism due to lack of adequate reentry programs?… name me a better one. 

Why?! Right in line with the big question, the motivation for Jack Crews is obvious. He is on parole for a felony manslaughter conviction. He needs a job to provide for his family, but the only person who will hire him is a smarmy criminal who is looking to exploit Jack’s lack of opportunity to use him for his nefarious deeds. Feeling like he has no way out, Jack takes the job. The criminals want that sweet, sweet money and they need Jack to take the fall in order to obtain it.

Who?! Randy Travis has a major role in the film, which is quite the coincidence seeing as he is also in next week’s Friend, T.N.T…. which also stars the star of Driving Force, Sam J. Jones. Additionally, Meat Loaf also has a prominent role in the film… but I thought he was less good than Randy Travis to be honest. There are also some great Special Thanks on this film, but definitely wanted to point out that the UNC burn center got a thanks as a result of an on-set accident that led to the firing of a few of the crew members. 

What?! “Well I better make sure to find a good product placement in Black Dog starring Patrick Swayze because god knows there won’t be any props for sale,” says Jamie as he checks the internet, “What thuuuu….” That’s right, you too can look just like Patrick Swayze… wearing a flannel shirt (probably while being told that he needs to commit crimes to make ends meet). In terms of actual product placements though, I only noticed a number of Ford motor vehicles.

Where?! Road Trip Alert! The beginning and end of the film take place clearly in New Jersey and the trip starts in Georgia. So I would put those at the top of the list of settings. But Tennessee is in there along with North Carolina. Obviously there are others, but would have to watch a bit closer to get his exact route clear. B

When?! Uh, basketball season? Seriously, though, you can put the pieces together on this one. Swayze’s file says he applied for a job at where he works in October 1998. In the beginning of the film his boss says he’s been working there for three weeks. I would put this in the beginning of November. Even the beautiful fall foliage matches this window. C.

Up until the end of the film, it was pretty ho hum. I liked the big stunts and explosions. Swayze’s background and motivations were tragic and made me sad, but I guess that’s a good thing since it made me feel an emotion (?)… although I don’t typically look for sadness in my action films. But otherwise the script was pretty tough, hinging on a hilarious coincidence where Jack gets his job offer the very day that he stumbles upon the foreclosure notice his wife has hidden from him. How fortunate for our narrative momentum. That should have been a hint for what the end of the film would bring because once the bad guys are dispatched our hero (?) is informed that he is not in fact going to jail at all! The police all recognize his innocence despite the many bodies Jack has left in his wake while driving a big rig across the United States without a license. No worries about that, they’ll help him get that license back. Also don’t worry about your house, they’re paying for it. Great! Also, does Jack and his family want to bip and bop about in the truck (a crime scene) for a bit before delivering it to the impound lot? Of course they do. I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. As for Driving Force, it was exactly as billed: a Mad Max ripoff. I thought the story was pretty good despite that, as was Don Swayze. My biggest problem was actually a weird throughline that despite living in a post-apocalyptic hellscape the main character refuses help from the many wealthy individuals in his life in order to work as a tow truck driver/murderer to support his daughter… like what’s wrong with getting a safe job in your girlfriend’s corporation that she owns and runs? But no, he needs to earn a living like a man… that’s pretty dumb, bro. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! Here I was thinking I was going to watch an action packed Swayze smash ‘em up, and instead we got a PSA about driving while tired. Well, I know I’m not going to drive while drowsy, lest I end up like Jack Crews. Let’s get into it!

P’s View on the Preview – I really didn’t know what to expect with this one. It is a movie I never heard of, with a clearly over-the-hill Patrick Swayze way past his 80s action prime, involving things I’m not sure I care about, namely big rigs. But hey, it is always fun to learn new things right? What were my expectations? Let’s get some sweet Swayze action, some things about fambly, and big rig action and call it a day. What more could I really expect?

The Good – The big rig action was actually a lot better than I expected. A bit slow moving, and a better movie would have adjusted the speed a bit instead of trying to provide realistic explanations about how big rigs are actually really hard to stop and dangerous, even when you think you’re under control (rainbow, piano ditty, The More You Know). The acting is … fine actually. I was fine with it, along with the ragtag group of heroes Swayze kind of accidentally accrues around him.

The Bad – The FBI story with Tobolowski is nonsense. I could have done without so much Meatloaf. I get it, he wants to jack the load and get away with the loot, but he keeps on coming back like the Terminator. He owns a transportation company, he isn’t a super human, it was weird. Swayze looks oooooooold in this film. It is pretty surprising considering he was only like 46 at the time, but it makes the film feel like a Seagal film, a last gasp of an era where a producer could just shout “Swayze, big rigs” and get a movie made. The end is terrible and basically kills the rest of the film. Spoiler, but the FBI absolves our ex-con from any legal repercussions, pays for his house, and get his trucker license back in one fail swoop, and then asks Swayze to drive the load to the impound himself with no escort … like WHAT?

The BMT – I don’t think so. If this was what BMT was every week I think we would have quit doing it years ago. I’m not joking. It is kind of a novelty I’ll give it that, but there just isn’t much meat on that bad movie bone. It’s a movie that kind of sucks, the end. Did it meet my expectations – As minimal as they were yes it did. I got to see old Swayze drive some big rigs with a heavy dose of him talking about his family. Doesn’t mean I enjoyed it, nor that it was that bad, this time I kind of knew what we were getting ourselves into prior to watching the film.

Roast-radamus – I think there is a strong case for Brian Vincent’s Wes being a Planchet (Who?) because his sole purpose in the film seems to be to be a slob and to be ripped on by everyone else. Unless your daughter’s basketball game is a holiday it doesn’t get that. I could believe that the cache of guns that Swayze is running is a MacGuffin (Why?), but in the end that is probably all you can make a strong case for. It really isn’t a bad, good, or BMT in the end.

StreetCreditReport.com – I really can’t find anything with this on it. Not for 1998 or even for Swayze rankings (which mostly don’t count as they just use the Rotten Tomatoes score). I would say this would likely make a top five worst Swayze film. I think it is a top 5 worst Trucking film. And I think this could mix it up on some lists for the last film a major film star made prior to making a bunch of straight-to-video films as well. It has a pedigree of some sort, just not one you’ll find listed online.

Bring a Friend Analysis – For this Sibling Rivalry we had to look for a classic Don Swayze film. And Driving Force … well, it’s a Don Swayze film. Set in a dystopian future it really reminded me of a knock off Mad Max. A future where the bad guys rule, and the good guys can only take so much before they lash out at those that tried to take their loved ones. It is definitely the kind of film someone would be like “oh, Don Swayze, there is no way this isn’t entertaining!” And then you’d watch it and be like “Yeah … that was garbage, why did I watch that?” Also supremely weird because Flash Gordon himself is the lead actor and he is not good at acting. Grindy grungy film which could be entertaining if you’re into that style. I am not. C.

Originally I was going to watch Flash Gordon, but I straight up ran out of time. Cheerios,

The Sklogs

Lost & Found Recap

Jamie

Dylan Ramsey’s love life is a total mess at the exact moment that a stunningly beautiful, professional cello player moves in next door. Realizing he’s in love he does anything to win her affection, including steal her dog so they can search for it together. Can he… give the dog back to her, I guess (and perhaps get the girl) before it’s too late? Find out in… Lost & Found.

How?! Act I: Dylan Ramsey is a restaurateur extraordinaire in need of THE BIG LOAN, but his love life is a disaster. Just then he meets his new neighbor, Lila, and immediately knows this smart, super attractive, talented woman is perfect for him: a self-confident loser. If only she also had the self-confidence to realize it! Luckily the power of positivity is destined to bring them together. Or is it? Bum bum bum. That’s because Lila’s scummy ex-boyfriend, Rene, who totally cheated on her and didn’t foster her self-confidence, is in town. Uh oh! What’s a boy to do? You know, other than never go to work and steal Lila’s dog so that she all day searching for it with you. And so his life as a dognapper is born. Act II: The whole middle of the film is mostly him making snide remarks to Rene and lamenting having to spend a bunch of time with a lame dog that totally ate his best friend’s anniversary ring that he conveniently had to hold onto (that’s just good writing). Act III: Things come to a head at the big party Dylan’s restaurant is holding to try to secure THE BIG LOAN. Coincidentally Lila is also there so that she can speak to the head of the philharmonic to try to get a job. There’s a scene where Dylan sings Neil Diamond and totally gets THE BIG LOAN, but at the same time Lila finds out that he has her dog. Oh no! After a while of moping around Dylan finds that Lila actually forgives him for his transgressions and takes him back and they smooch a whole bunch. THE END. The film hinges on a regressive “low self-esteem woman needs the right man to fulfill her promise” plot with Dylan espousing the self-help stylings of The Secret. Dylan’s advice is to dream big, have confidence, and good things will happen. So the big question: Did Dylan imagine Lila into existence through the power of positive thinking?

Why?! Love, duh… at least as far as the “romantic” storyline goes. He’s smitten with Lila and all the insane things he does is tied up in that. She actually doesn’t seem as interested in love at the moment. She’s fresh out of a toxic relationship and just trying to find work in a new country (we could analyze exactly what kind of visa she has all day but I’ll spare you). Then there is the background business loan that Dylan needs to expand his successful (?) restaurant… but I choose to ignore that. Oh and a minor B-plot MacGuffin Alert as Dylan really needs to find the engagement ring he’s been tasked to keep safe… but no one else cares about that.

Who?! Movie Within A Movie Alert! Another rare type here as portions of a fake movie about a kid who has to shoot his own dog were shot for the film. The kid? Frankie Muniz. Speaking of dogs, I also appreciate when the canine actor is given an actual credit in the film. In this case Jack was played by Cody. Good dog.

What?! There are a number of small product placements, including an extended shot of a Victoria’s Secret catalogue and the forced consumption of Pepto-Bismol by a dog. I do love when there is something in there that is so small you can’t even think of how or why it would be product placement. Like there is a moment when a character is drinking conspicuously from an Orange Julius cup… did Orange Julius pay for that? If yes, why?

Where?! This is obviously set in California. From the beautiful vistas to the California license plates to the Dodgers paraphernalia. If that was it, I think I’d land this at C+/B- territory. However, there are two scenes set explicitly in the Hollywood Bowl… which means this probably jumps all the way up to an A-.  

When?! Because I’m insane, I went back through the film and made sure we couldn’t get an exact date. The closest we get is the Victoria’s Secret catalogue that Dylan gets in the mail. Clearly says Spring ‘98 on the cover and he’s getting the new issue so it is a rough estimate. Too bad I couldn’t find when those magazines were released more precisely. D+

Anyway, overall the film is pretty lightweight all-around and is particularly embarrassing at the end when Dylan secures the big loan from Martin Sheen by dressing up and singing a Neil Diamond song. I shudder even thinking about it. As for the Friend we brought, Soultaker starring Joe Estevez was a pretty enjoyable film to watch. It plot is thin, but the acting and writing are off the hook. The main actor in particular is just so weird it’s almost like meta-acting. Almost like he looked at the role and decided to play the type of actor that would take such a role instead of the role itself. The ending is nonsense too. Not bad in my opinion. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! I was lost, but now … I am found. All it took was a meandering story about a vulgar restauranteur with a heart of gold. Let’s get into it!

P’s View on the Preview – I would have thought this film on first blush was a Happy Madison joint. In reality it seemed like a weird Spade vehicle that might have started as a Spade/Farley buddy comedy that was retrofitted after Farley’s death. Late 90s Something About Mary clones are maybe a blind spot for me, so that was probably the most interesting bit. What are my expectations? I would just be happy if there is enough gay panic, gross humor, and racial stereotypes to remind be that “yup, this is what comedies used to be like”. It was a wildly different time.

The Good – I genuinely liked Spade and how they made a big part of the film the idea that he needs to get this woman to know him because he comes across as a jerk. This is something that gets glossed over elsewhere: the sarcastic schlubby guy needs to have a sweet and funny side to make the mutual attraction at the center of the film make sense. I had one good chuckle which, again, is above average. We’ll get to the intricacies of the plot in the next section, but it is a surprisingly coherent plot given together it has to hold about five different threads together (main romantic storyline, restaurant needs a loan, Spade needs to hold his friend’s ring, French ex-beau in town, Spade’s employee is obsessed with him).

The Bad – Oh boy, the gay panic, child rape jokes, a hard f-bomb. It was a wild time indeed. The storyline is one of the best examples of the “plot cloud” I’ve ever seen. And little of it makes much sense … like, why is this bank allowing this restaurant to cater an event as part of a loan application (I know I know, Spade did it at cost, but why would Martin Sheen give a shit?)? Why does Sheen basically say loans aren’t based on money … and then turns around and gives the loan after Spade lip-syncs some Neil Diamond?! None of it makes sense. And finally, while it is clear the bad guy is a bad guy because he cheated on Lila we are told … most of his actions during the film make him look fine? He’s clearly controlling and smarmy, but Spade is kind of mean and inconsiderate to his friends as well. I can absolutely see why Leonard Maltin thought the bad guy came across as better than Spade during the film, especially at the time.

The BMT – It is weak. I think you can add it to the repertoire of late-90s and SNL-alum comedies. But the film isn’t over the top with the weirdness that you have to show it to people. Like, there isn’t a four minute long gay panic scene or anything, which would have made the movie a bit more must-see. We’ll see more Spade films, specifically Black Sheep with Farley qualifies. Did it meet my expectations? I feel like we are on an interesting streak of films kind of half meeting my expectations. We got gay panic, and child rape jokes, and gross humor out the wazoo. But it was too few and far between to sustain the shock-horror throughout.

Roast-radamus – I don’t think Artie Lange is a Planchet … he’s just filling into the Laurel and Hardy / Abott and Costello mold that Farley left behind with his death. Reading Jamie’s section I do think the Orange Julius thing was a real Product Placement (What?). Because SNL must have some connection to Orange Julius. They have to. Definitely a Setting as a Character (Where?) for Los Angeles complete with a trip to the Hollywood Bowl. And then there is a discussion about the dog. It isn’t a MacGuffin, but it is a “thing” that is a linchpin to the plot. You can imagine any plot: boy meets girl, boy steals [object, e.g. a car, a dog, a prized surfboard] from her to get closer to her, hilarity ensues. It is a something, not a MacGuffin, but it is the “why” of the film. We won’t use it for the awards, but it is something to think about.

StreetCreditReport.com – Almost nothing, which shouldn’t be a surprise since I basically didn’t know this movie existed until I watched it. Roger Ebert eviscerated it which is a plus. It probably is one of the worst dognapping films. Could definitely make a list of worst David Spade films. And probably could be considered for a Worst Films Starring a French Movie Star list of some kind as well. But even those are pushing it.

Bring a Friend Analysis – This week we watched the Joe Estevez and Robert Z’Dar classic Soultaker? Never heard of it? Well, it is about four people whose souls become displaced after they die in a tragic car accident. They then must race against death itself, players by Joe Estevez … kind of, he’s like a dark angel character, but Z’Dar is like his boss as well. Anyways, it was written and stars Vivian Schilling and it was clearly a passion project for her. As a bad movie the acting is probably its strongest attribute. The weirdness of Joe Estevez and Z’Dar’s interactions help. And finally some of the weird choices like the drug dealing alcoholic asshole friend, and very strange scene with the mother are probably what you’d see online. I really liked this film. It is wild, and just entertaining enough to sustain the run time. Probably the only time is starts to die a bit is in the end when it just takes forever to get to the point. I really liked this as a friend. A B I think, very entertaining, but nothing super special and specifically interesting.

You Just Got Schooled – This time I had it easy because it turns out Soultaker is considered one of the best episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 ever made. In a poll it ranked 18th among fans, and it was noted as a favorite of current MST3K writer Elliott Kalan. The episode is very good in my estimation, having watched a number of MST3K over the years. The comparison of the main character to Tonya Harding, the constant 60 Minutes references, the riffing on the screenwriting in general, and notes concerning Joe Estevez’s status as the lesser Estevez brother are all gold. I would say that while Soultaker itself is entertaining in its weirdness, the MST3K episode made it a very easy rewatch a week later. Indeed, while I may have only occasionally indulged in Soultaker by itself, I think if someone had never seen MST3K this is a fine introduction and companion to the film. It is nice that it, in a way, lends a stamp of approval to the film as an unqualified bad movie.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

Daylight Recap

Jamie

Kit Latura is a disgraced badass ready to make everyone regret doubting him. When the Holland Tunnel collapses it’s up to him to save the remaining survivors. He totes goes in there and leads them like the leader that he is. Can he save them all (and perhaps get the girl) before it’s too late? Find out in… Daylight.

How?! Act I: Our main players all converge on the Holland Tunnel, where a truck filled with toxic waste (obviously) explodes when a car filled with highly flammable jewel thieves crashes into it. In an absolutely wild coincidence the former head of the EMS, Kit Latura, is driving a cab just outside the tunnel. He volunteers to head in on a rescue mission to save them all with his big muscles. Meanwhile we are introduced to the only survivors in the tunnel… which are honestly mostly criminals and cheats. Act II: Sly enters the tunnel ready to rock-and-roll. Unfortunately he enters through the ventilation system that is only a one-way entrance. Realizing that he needs to strengthen their position he decides to collapse part of the tunnel with explosives. Who does he ask for help? The pretty playwright, Maddy, of course. The biggest question here is whether Maddy is actually his love interest. She is a beautiful thirty-something, he looks like he’s been carved from an old tree. I was getting some serious father-daughter vibes, but not sure that’s what they were going for. Anyway, he blows the tunnel, but soon realizes that their position is even more vulnerable when water starts to flood and they hear the rescue workers trying to break into the tunnel (which would kill them). Attempting to find a way out, Kit leads the group to long unused areas of the tunnel (with only minimal fatalities). Finding a way out he forces the group to go to safety, while him and Maddy are stranded in the tunnel. Act III: We end with Kit and Maddy deciding that they have to try everything to survive. They decide to use the remaining explosives to blow out the tunnel and have the pressure hopefully push them to the surface of the river. This, of course, works because it’s a movie. Kit and Maddy still don’t kiss because everyone probably realized it would be weird. THE END. 

Why?! Weirdly, atonement. The backstory for Kit is that he’s been disgraced and forced to become a taxi driver because he got rescue workers killed while trying to save people. You get the sense that by voluntarily going back in he is trying to save those lives to make up for his perceived failure. Perhaps he even would have sacrificed himself for this atonement if Maddy hadn’t been there to force him to take one last drastic action. As for the main antagonist, The Tunnel, well it just wants to be a tunnel. Usually that’s not too much to ask.

Who?! For the first time ever I think I’m going to call a Nepotism Alert! Sage Stallone, Sly’s son, actually has a fairly prominent role as Vincent, one of the juvenile delinquents. Much like Kevin Costner’s daughter in The Postman I actually think he was pretty good though. I really think if I didn’t know he was Sly’s son then I would have just been like “he’s actually an OK actor.”

What?! I feel like I’ve mentioned this before, but there is a very special product placement associated with this film. It’s Sly Stallone’s Panerai watch that he wears and subsequently became associated with a number of action stars. They are big and bulky and designed for use in submarines, but Sly Stallone took one look at it in Italy and, “immediately knew it had star power.” That’s real. That’s a quote. He thought the watch was good character development and insisted his character wear one. I mean… that’s just good writing.

Where?! Very very very good NYC film. The Holland Tunnel itself is more or less a role in the film. We even get some history lessons about the construction of the tunnel and very intricate geography of exactly how it’s laid out. A all the way.

When?! I went back through it and confirmed that indeed they don’t make specific mention of when this takes place. We see some spotty snow on the ground and one character is seen contemplating whether to buy a Super Bowl ad for his company, so it’s clearly winter before the big game. I also think post-Christmas because otherwise we’d probably have a character be like “this is the worst Christmas ever,” or something. So January? D+ I think… I have to look back on my grading rubric.

This film really harkened back to an older time in action films. It felt very Towering Inferno or Poseidon Adventure. There isn’t some major terrorist plot or millions of dollars at stake. Just a few survivors of a major disaster hoping to get saved by the ultimate badass with a heart of gold. Despite being a major film it felt very small, and that was both good and bad. It was good in that the plot didn’t seem contrived and there wasn’t some silly MacGuffin to laugh at, but also bad because at times it almost seemed meandering. The survivor’s plight in the tunnel seemed so hopeless that they were just screaming “we’re going to die! What are we going to do?!” and Sly would kinda just shrug and wait it out. It’s almost like they were writing the film as they were making it… and Sly seriously didn’t know what they were going to do. Other than obviously he shouldn’t panic because he forced a rewrite where his character would survive. Overall it’s an entertaining film, but just fine otherwise. As for Roller Blade Seven, I was surprised by the coherency. It wasn’t as totally off-the-rails as I expected given the IMDb score. It did feel like there was a vision there… at least from a filmmaking perspective and not necessarily from a storytelling perspective. Like there were some Crank-type roller blade handheld camera stuff going on and the random cuts and repeats of scenes that people make fun of did seem purposeful. Like I think he was trying to say something about time and memory as part of the Zen Filmmaking idea that he espouses. So, dare I say it, I think Roller Blade Seven is maybe underrated? Is that right? That can’t be right… Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! I swear to God I’ve seen this movie before … or at least I’ve seen the ending of this film a few dozen times on TNT. Either way, let’s get into it!

P’s View on the Preview – Last year, after finding Skyscraper absolutely insufferable, I watched Towering Inferno a few days afterwards. Disaster films from various decades are interesting, and the 90s was mostly aliens, and comets, and real large scale stuff. This was pleasantly small scale. So I was excited to see just how it compared to the various other disaster films I’ve seen in my life. What was I expecting? I was expecting a terrible acting performance from Stallone, melodrama, and for this ragtag team of misfits to go out there and beat the Holland Tunnels, yeah! The sports analogy works.

The Good – This is bar none one of the best plane movies I’ve ever watched, breezes by with no gore or nudity to embarrass you in front of nosey neighbors. Ideal. The set is incredibly impressive, and the tension is ratcheted up to 11 because they actually give a decently plausible series of minor disasters for Stallone to individually tackle to save everyone. The film was decently paced because of this. This is a very old school film, with the various characters all getting their little introduction, and you learn about them, and care for them, and in the end you’re like: “You did good kid” and you wink at Stallone, who gives you a thumbs up and everything and it is awesome, you know?

The Bad – The acting was quite bad top to bottom. This is one year prior to Stallone earning a bit of redemption for Cop Land, and you kind of see the humble, sheepish, reluctant hero in the making here as well. Almost like he was insisting that the brash 80s action hero brand was ovah baby and had already started to twist it back around … I think it is merely embarrassing here as it is clear Stallone is the only competent person in the movie and his fake humility probably got a bunch of people killed. Anyways, the storyline of the tunnel and the gigantic coincidences that put Stallone in the position to be this reluctant hero are a bit too much such that it sinks the first act. The second act is weighed down by the realization that most of the people in the tunnel are garbage people and you kind of don’t care if they live or die. And the third act is an implausible ‘splosion … when you put it that way this film really doesn’t have much going for it. Whatever it is entertaining as hell I think.

The BMT – For the set piece alone I would give it to it. As I said, I’ve watched a bunch of disaster films in my life and this lies closer to the Poseidon Adventure area. The reluctant hero saves a small group of people, some of whom die one by one (mostly the nice ones), etc. They naturally pulled the punch and had Stallone live. This is in stark contrast to the real old school flicks like Towering Inferno or Avalanche which both reveled in showing you the various ways all of the good and bad people could die (god is dead, amirite?). And also contrasts with Skyscraper is on the other end with The Rock deploying death to only those he deems the baddies with tactical efficiency leaving every good person alive and well. This is a nice (and kind of rare I think) 90s disaster film that operates on the small scale. Plus Stallone, so like … yeah, its BMT. Did it meet my expectations? Only partially. As I said the film was entertaining as hell so that makes it tough to really crap on. But also they kill off too many of the good guys on Team Stallone for my liking. The score was like what? Team Stallone 9, Holland Tunnels 4 or something? It was a lot closer than you like to see I think.

Roast-radamus – I wish there was something for the Matthew Lillard Most Sidekick-est Character award or something for Amy Brenneman, but alas. I do like the very specific Holland Tunnel as a Setting as a Character (Where?). Other than that … there isn’t much of a twist unless you could the deus ex blow-out-ea to save Stallone and Brenneman. So that really is it. I don’t think it gets a Good, Bad, or BMT nod.

StreetCreditReport.com – Amazingly it juuuuust narrowly gets onto this disaster film list by Newsweek tied for 49th out of 50. It gets a pretty decent 23rd best Stallone film list from Men’s Health. Otherwise it could get what? Worst film set in a tunnel I think for sure. I could definitely be on a list of worst 90s disaster films, although I think it might get beaten out by a few of the crazier late 90s ones (Godzilla comes to mind), and also some real crap ones (Firestorm comes to mind). Even Volcano … whatever, it would get top ten for sure.

Bring a Friend Analysis – As the first installment of the Sibling Rivalry Bring a Friend we chose Roller Blade Seven. I’m not actually sure what put this film on my radar besides that fact that it stars both Frank Stallone and Joe Estevez and thus seemed to have super sibling powers of some kind. Written and directed by Donald G. Jackson and co-written with Scott Shaw (who both also starred in the film), it comes across as part micro-budget 80s sci-fi dystopian crazy film, and part art film. Using a style he dubs zen filmmaking (see above), Jackson creates a dream-like atmosphere by replaying some clips over and over, especially during fight scenes. Starring C/Z-list actors, plus a few famous cult film stars, it comes across a lot like what I imagine Manos Hands of Fate wanted to be. While Manos was made on a bet, the intention was to partially buck the Hollywood system and show that a man with a plan and a camera could make a movie. Unlike Manos Jackson actually succeeded in breaking into Hollywood and cultivates a following with his most successful venture Hell Comes to Frogtown. It is hard to even describe what I think of this film. I think it is terribly made, terribly acted, nonsensical, and aggravating. But at the same time I find something very alluring about zen filmmaking. Something about this film makes me think I’ll watch more Donald G. Jackson in my life, and something about the film tells me that is necessary to really understand the weirdness that was 80s/90s off-Hollywood productions. As a friend I give it an A for being thought provoking. But I have to say, I’m glad we didn’t watch Rollergator this week, as that would have been too much Donald G. Jackson too quickly.

You Just Got Schooled – Without a logical choice for learning in Daylight, I decided to watch this documentary about The Roller Blade Seven (and its sequel). You can get the gist of this bizarre documentary and Zen Filmmaking as a whole in the first five minutes, it is pretty much explained in the opening crawl and the whole thing is boring and awful. Some other interesting bits: The film was entirely filmed at Golden Hour, which means it took a lot longer to finish that I would have thought at first glance. The roller cam is pretty funny and works well for the film as a whole. In a different universe these guys are genuinely funny guys making an interesting art film, but with the early-90s Hollywood quality it is just … a bit sad? The dog collar, the outfits they are wearing, the fake reporters, the chosen location. The experience of watching this “film” is very much like the tuxedo scene in Step Brothers: “Oh I get it, it’s ironic, that’s funny, that’s cool, I’m into it, let’s do this … [watches the filmmaking documentary] Oh … nope, now this all seems pretty fucked up to be honest.” … I think it now gets a B as a friend.

Phew, what a combo! Already loving this cycle. Cheerios,

The Sklogs

Dracula 2000 Recap

Jamie

Dracula is back, Jack! It’s Y2K and he’s ready to party (amiright?). When a group of cybertheives steal Dracula’s coffin and awaken the monster, he arrives in New Orleans looking for his part-vampire bride. But the Van Helsing gang ain’t having that, especially since it’s his daughter. *gulp* Can they defeat Dracula before it’s too late? Find out in… Dracula 2000.

How?! Van Helsing is an elderly antiquities collector with a dark secret. When some high tech thieves break into his office and open his locked vault they are shocked to find that it’s just filled with lame ol’ bones and a coffin. What’s extra lame is when a bunch of boobytraps kill half of them. Assuming what’s in the coffin must be extra valuable they take it and attempt to fly it back to America. On the way they inadvertently awaken the tenant of the coffin, Dracula, who has been kept in continual slumber by Van Helsing in hopes that he could figure out how to kill him. In scientific terms they are totally pwned by Dracula and turned into more draculas. Realizing that Dracula is probably going after his daughter, Van Helsing travels to New Orleans where she lives, followed closely by his assistant Simon. Once there, he attempts to take care of bizness, but finds himself outmanned by the number of vampires already on the loose. Heading back into the city he tries to find his daughter but is confronted by Dracula himself. Being an old rickety man who’s only stayed alive by infusing himself with dracula blood he is immediately killed, duh. Meanwhile Simon is able to find Van Helsing’s daughter, Mary, but they separated as they try to stay ahead of Dracula and his gang. Once separated Mary is almost immediately turned into a vampire by Dracula and they totes make out on the rooftops. He then goes on to explain exactly who he is, bum bum BUM Judas! What a twist! He’s actually Judas, unwelcome in heaven or hell for all eternity and feeding on blood and afraid of crosses, etc. etc. etc. Super twist. Simon confronts Dracula but is captured and Mary is forced to drink his blood. But then, double twist, Mary didn’t actually drink Simon’s blood and instead they do a little kungfu and hang Dracula/Judas all over again and he totally dies this time. Still worried, Mary vows to guard his ashes, setting up for the sequel that definitely will happen (spoiler alert: it didn’t). THE END.

Why?! Dracula is a monster so really just for that sweet sweet blood. He is the last of his kind and wants to make a whole mess of draculas, particularly with the help of his part-vampire bride. Van Helsing and the rest of the good guys just want to protect the world from Dracula. It’s all very straightforward… except the part where Dracula turns out to be Judas… not sure how it influences the motivations. It all just happened so quickly.

Who?! Been a while since we had a legit singer-turned-actor in one of these. No, I don’t mean Gerard Butler, star of Phantom of the Opera and formerly in a band called Speed (apparently). And no, I don’t mean Coolio (breakout star of Dracula 3000). I mean Vitamin C, who played Lucy in the film. She was the lead singer of the band Eve’s Plum before setting out on a solo career. This was pretty obviously the peak of her acting career.

What?! One of the best Product Placements we’ve had in a while. Mary works at the Virgin Megastore and boy howdy do we know it. Multiple scenes and multiple t-shirts are devoted to this fact. Is it somehow relevant to the story? The release of the soundtrack by Virgin suggests that the answer is no. There are a few props for sale, but nothing that allows me to dress exactly like Gerard Butler, so no thanks.

Where?! Can’t understate how fun New Orleans is as a BMT setting. Always know you’ll get a parade and beads and stuff and people in masks and crazy shit happening and everyone ignoring it because it’s New Orleans. There is also a significant portion that takes place in London. All around solid B+.

When?! Secret Holiday Film, Alert! This film clearly takes place during Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Normally this would just be a great A- specific setting that is promoted up from B+ because of the significance of holidays in general. HOWEVER, given the bonkers twist that Dracula is in fact Judas and given that Mardi Gras occurs the day before Lent, which is meant to prepare for the celebration of Easter, this has to be elevated to an A. I’d even hear arguments for an A+ given 2000 in the title and the significance of the particular date.

The first half of this film I was just startled by how similar aspects of it was to Vampire in Brooklyn. Not just the obvious Dracula references but like… the search for his half-vampire bride, which seems to be unique to later adaptations. Because of this I was like, ‘lame, cliche’ even as cyberhacker thieves were stealing his coffin. After a certain point I started to kinda dig the visuals though. Nice mix of artistic and early 2000’s BMT. And so I was starting to get a little torn… until the twist happened. It is nuts. Just crazy that they dropped that in there at the end. It’s such a heavy twist thrown in at the very very end of a film that it really takes some balls to do. All of a sudden you can’t even pay attention to the climax of the film anymore because your brain can’t process the casual mixing of Judas and Dracula as if such a mix is a natural addition to the classic Gothic tale. It’s the twist we deserve. As for Dracula 3000, the movie is Transmorphers garbage. They were too tongue-in-cheek and in on the joke that I couldn’t even enjoy it. On top of that Dracula looked like trash, like straight out of a kids movie or something. It’s hard to imagine how it was delivered in the state that it was. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! I’ve consumed like 14 pieces of vampire media in the last two months … for Dracula 2000! What is wrong with me? What have I done in my life that has led me here? Let’s go!

P’s View on the Preview – I had just read Dracula and watches Coppola’s vision of that adaptation, so the big thing was obviously going to be comparing this to those two. Also skinny Gerard Butler, an actor whose BMT fame was a mere glimmer in his sexy eyes, is an interesting proposal. What are my expectations? If this movie has just wall to wall references to Dracula I think I’d pretty much be satisfied. Anything else is a cherry on top.

The Good – While the twist is the worst thing in the world (and we’ll get to that), in an alternative universe that twist is a really really cool idea for Dracula, and it is pretty sad it is wasted on this trash film. Up until they get to New Orleans the idea of the film is actually quite cool: Dracula can’t die and Van Helsing doesn’t know why, so he invents a way to live forever to watch over his sealed coffin while trying to figure out how to kill him. That’s a pretty good conceit. Unfortunately everything else goes off the rails.

The Bad – The twist is awful once you think about it for five seconds. So here’s the twist: Dracula, the original vampire, is in fact Judas, rejected by both heaven and hell and thus doomed to walk the earth forevermore. The good here: it explains quite nicely the idea of drinking his blood, much like drinking of the transubstantiated blood of Jesus, makes you his follower (a vampire as well). The bad: but why does he need to drink blood? Why does he have sharp teeth? Why does he live in Transylvania? Why does sunlight kill him? Even within this same film, why does filtering Judas’ blood through leeches render it safe to inject into our veins as Van Helsing does to stay alive forever? It completely rejects the book it is adapted from for a, only vaguely, decent twist and that is a slap in the face. That twist would have been much more fitting for a reenvisioning like Dracula: Untold than what seems to be a direct sequel. Along with that the fact that it is a long Virgin Media commercial is insane, and the acting, outside of Plummer, is terrible.

The BMT – I think so, I think this will be a good benchmark for vampire / Dracula films from here on out. It basically has enough interesting additions to the vampire lore to legitimize its existence, but yet it tosses it all away for a twist that ends up being worthless at best, and a slap in the face at worst. Did it meet my expectations? Yes, it indeed had wall to wall references to Dracula. The best being that the plane they use to transport Dracula to New Orleans is called the Demeter and the pilot is ultimately lashed to the steering wheel, which is an iconic image from the original novel and probably any film adaptation of Dracula. And they toss a bad twist in for good measure.

Roast-radamus – Obviously we have one of the greatest Product Placement (What?) examples ever with the film quite literally being a commercial for Virgin Media. It also has a strong Setting as a Character (Where?) for New Orleans. A common setting, but only effectively used in my opinion to allow weirdos like Dracula to roam around without attracting attention. We have a fantastic Secret Holiday Film (When?) for the film specifically falling on Mardi Gras in New Orleans. And naturally it’ll be stiff competition for Worst Twist (How?) for the reveal that Dracula has been Judas all along. That is a decent lineup that maybe could mean this sneaks in as a BMT in the end, but we’ll see.

StreetCreditReport.com – It didn’t get any play from the worst of lists for the year, but that is fine. It will almost always end up on a list for worst vampire films. Funny enough that description gets it wrong, Plummer isn’t a descendant of Van Helsing, he is Van Halsing. That is a pretty early reveal so I would be a bit surprised if that was a spoiler consideration, but maybe it is. I would say this deserves the title as the worst Dracula film, but that is unlikely. Not only did we watch Dracula 3000 which is obviously much much worse, but there is also Argento’s Dracula 3D which is on the worst film ever wiki page. So really it is just a really bad Dracula film, not the worst. Still enough cred for me.

You Just Got Schooled – I also read the book and watched Coppola’s 1992 adaptation. The book is very long and pretty dry, but I was genuinely surprised at how much of the Dracula lore comes directly from the book itself. Stoker really went out of his way to flesh out the character. I was also a bit surprised that Dracula could walk around in the sunlight, that seems like a strange and bold change for someone else to have made after the fact, and yet getting killed by sunlight in a major point in True Blood and ‘salem’s Lot and even Dracula 2000. The adaptation I thought was very visually cool, but I found Mina’s characterization to be off putting and a very strange choice. Almost insulting. In the book she is a woman living in a man’s world who is just as smart and capable as the men, but who ends up in trouble partially because of how delicately the men treat here. Here she is kind of played off as the cheating woman whose love for another man (Dracula) is almost her doom … it was weird and wild stuff. In the end I could give or take either, but I’m glad I read/watched both as it gives me a much better perspective on Dracula as a character.

Bring a Friend Analysis – So as a friend we naturally brought along Dracula 3000 with Dracula 2000. I guess I didn’t have much expectations, although the idea of going to space with Dracula makes sense, no sun. But this is the exact type of “friend” I don’t like. It is intentionally dumb, intentionally cheap, all the while winking at the camera like “eh, get it, we’re really dumb and cheap. That’s fun right? Like, a real cheap dumb movie, right?”. I do not find films like that amusing. The characters are annoying, the lore bastardized, the ending is just tacked on once they met the obligatory 90 minute run time. Chockablock with Dracula references, all of which are unearned. We should have done Argento’s Dracula 3D. F, terrible friend, more like Bring an Enemy, amirite?

Cheerios,

The Sklogs