A Walk to Remember Recap

Jamie

Landon Carter is just your typical teenage rebel. When he gets in trouble for a prank gone awry, he is forced to join the school play with Jamie Sullivan. She’s a good girl and Landon would NEVER fall in love with her. So can he fall in love with her and overcome the secret reason why he shouldn’t fall in love with her before it’s too late? Find out in… A Walk to Remember.

How?! Landon Carter is a teenybopper rapscallion who, along with his scallywag friends, gets in trouble for the literal definition of peer pressure… like… he gets a dude to jump off a bridge by pretending like he’s going to do it too. Pretty on the nose. Anyway, the school is like “you rascal, you now have to volunteer teach and participate in the school play,” and Landon is like, “pffft, whatever. Definitely won’t fall in love with a total nerd.” But then he sees Jamie Sullivan and she’s a total nerd but also… intriguing. But still, definitely NOT falling in love with her. However, realizing that he’s probably going to totally bomb the play he asks Jamie to help him out. Through this process they strike up a friendship and they totally own the play, but afterwards go their separate ways. That is until Landon’s so-called friends play a prank on her and he’s like “yo, not cool and also she’s my girlfriend and I love her.” The audience is confused but thrilled as we get to watch young love blossom over fancy dinner dates and dancing. But Jamie is always on guard and we soon find out why. She’s dying from cancer and the audience rends their clothes in despair. But Landon isn’t ready to give up yet. He still totally is in love and they keep on dating and making her dreams come true in the short time they have. Realizing the profound change in his life he decides that despite her imminent death he wants to marry Jamie and despite the misgivings of their parents they do and boy oh boy, let me tell you, it’s… a walk… to remember. In fact, I’m remembering it right now and it’s beautiful. We then find out that after her death the once wayward Landon is now studying to become a doctor and likely cures cancer in the future. THE END. Big Question: Would the story have been less profound if they didn’t get married? Just wondering how much the marriage itself factors into the story.

Why?! Love… oh, you probably want me to say more. Well, I think Jamie always realized that Landon was really nice (and very handsome *wolf whistle*), but through a combination of peer pressure and difficulties with his parent’s divorce was straying from the straight and narrow. So I think she kinda knew that if they hung out that side would come out and they would fall in love. So still, love all the way.

Who?! Mandy Moore is the star and at the time was a pretty big pop star. Not like Britney, bitch. But like a bench player on the all-pop star team. There were also a couple “In memory of” credits at the end of the film. These went to Nicholas Sparks’ sister, who was the inspiration for the book, and Jimmy Everest, who was a child who died of bone cancer and whose memorial helped establish the University of Oklahoma’s pediatric cancer center.

What?! A bunch of places mentioned how crazy the product placement in this film was and I was like “what?” but then I was reminded that there is pretty much a full-blown commercial for the Star Registry in the middle of the film (you can name your own star!). And this came just a mere three years after they were forced to stop claiming that you were buying the official naming of a star… so it’s officially unofficial. That is pretty good.

Where?! I mean… it’s Nicholas Sparks. Where else but North Carolina. But also like most of his books it’s not necessary, just made very clear. So like a B or B+. Obviously this film could also have taken place on Martha’s Vineyard… starring me. Obviously. Also, interestingly this film features a scene with a “Welcome to Virginia” highway sign. Add that to the list.

When?! Now if you thought the product placement was great for this film, wait until you get a load of the temporal setting. Eventually the film revolves around Jamie having all of her dreams come true thanks to Landon. This includes seeing a once-in-a-lifetime comet. What comet? Well she specifically mentions it’s the Comet Hyakutake… which was visible in Spring 1996. Interestingly she wouldn’t have needed a telescope to see that comet… it was very bright and visible to the naked eye. But yeah, I’m gonna give that an A. Somehow the exact time of the film is relevant to the plot.

The film is fine, but eventually gets quite weird. It’s all very saccharine, so if you’re into high schoolers falling deeply, madly and/or truly in love and marrying despite imminent death from cancer then this will do nicely. If you aren’t looking for that then it’s a tough watch. The big critique is how much time they spend on the front half of the film (sometimes even on trivial things) only to put the pedal to the metal as Landon goes from scoffing at Jamie in the hallway, to holding her head in his hands and asking “baby, are you all right?” in what feels like five second. It’s pretty jarring, but still less jarring than them getting married just moments later. The book does a better job with the pacing and as a result is probably more successful. But still… it’s OK. We all need a little sweetness every once in a while. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! Oh man, that walk. You know what? That was a walk that I’m going to remember, that’s how good that walk was. Let’s get into it!

P’s View on the Preview – This was a long time coming. We almost audibled to Sex in the City 2, but then it just felt right. It had been so long since we had done a Nicholas Sparks film, and this is the true OG Nicholas Sparks film. I was a bit surprised to learn that the leading man is also somewhat musically inclined. I was not surprised after watching it to learn they didn’t let him sing in the film. What are my expectations? A whole lotta schlock. What I want is Midnight Sun. Someone has to be a terrible actor, and I want to tear up and think “Peter Coyote, you done right, don’t you feel bad.” If I don’t get that I’ll be disappointed.

The Good – I thought Mandy Moore did a decent job. If I knew nothing about her I wouldn’t have thought it was a singer-turned-actor, she held her own amongst the rest of the young cast. The film is mostly just syrupy sweetness, which often is enough to get me through a teen drama. The first hour is quite good in that regard. We get to learn who Landon is, see him change and start dating Jamie, ah young love. Then they gut-punch you, but that isn’t always a bad thing either.

The Bad – I did not like the weird pacing they chose for the adaptation. The relationship is building for about an hour, and then in order to connect the dots to the ending they kind of just have to fast forward months into the relationship. It makes the whole flow of the end of the film seem off. I don’t want to get into it too much, but having the two 18 year old lead characters get married at the end is very old fashioned. It dates the movie to a different time in America. And the play-within-a-movie was objectively awful and everyone should feel bad about that storyline.

The BMT – Of course, all Nicholas Sparks novels are going to inevitably result in BMT glory. This had to be done, so from that perspective it is obviously BMT. The issue is probably that this is one of the better Sparks films in the end. Like, you couldn’t even throw us one ghost wife? Not even a single one? That’ll ultimately sink it in my estimation. Did it meet my expectations? Nope. Neither of the leads were amusingly terrible at acting. They were both serviceable, and their relationship was earned and very sweet. And then, I felt nothing for Peter Coyote when his terminally ill daughter died. Sorry. It is probably his dour preacher demeanor that turned me off, whereas Rob Riggle in Midnight Sun was a constant amusing delight. So take some notes Sparks, your father figures should have an irreverent sense of humor. Just a tip.

Roast-radamus – There isn’t a Planchet, but there is a frenemy with a ‘tude named Dean. I mean, we don’t award things for that, but still, it is important to consider awards for sheer ‘tudeness. I’ll definitely allow for Setting as a Character (Where?) for North Carolina, they even filmed on the Dawson’s Creek set. And lob over an easy Worst Twist (How?) for the now-classic tragic-death-of-the-leading-lady-for-romance. I think this has a chance for a Good nomination at the end of the year, but it is highly dependant on how many films we think could get that designation.

StreetCreditReport.com – Not surprisingly this film got very little play in 2002. It might have just been floating in that fine-but-too-sweet area such that it really wasn’t the worst. Or 2002 was a particularly “good” year for bad movies. Whatever the case, the cred mostly comes from Sparks anyways who managed to mostly tarnish his reputation as a writer for a whole group of people who would never be interested in his books by releasing terrible adaptations for a decade. That’s it though, it is all Sparks.

You Just Got Schooled – Jamie (me, not Sullivan) jumping in because, guess what? I totally read this book. Don’t worry, it’s pretty short. Anyway, it’s a very sweet book, which focuses much more on the spiritual and religious aspects of Jamie’s (and eventually Landon’s) life. It also takes place in the 50’s and is told from Landon’s point of view decades later. Both these aspects make the pacing of their relationship and their eventual marriage much more logical. There is also a lot more discussion about their choices in the book, so the film feels like it hits hyperspeed at a certain point as they jump from not dating at all to marriage in a relatively short time frame. Besides that though I think it’s a pleasant enough adaptation of a pleasant enough book. Do I recommend it? No… why would you read this?

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

The 13th Warrior Recap

Jamie

Ahmad Ibn Fadlan is an ambassador from Baghdad who gets caught up in a Viking quest to defend a town under attack from mysterious monsters. Can he stop the monsters (and get (with) the girl) before it’s too late? Find out in… The 13th Warrior.

How?! Ahmad Ibn Fadlan is a totally rad emissary for Baghdad, exiled because he was just too sexy and the ladies loved cool Ahmad. On his journey as an ambassador he meets up with a bunch of even radder Vikings who are informed that they must help a king whose lands are being attacked by mysterious monsters. They are also told that a stranger, a thirteenth warrior, must join their group if they hope to succeed. Obviously Ahmad is chosen because he’s rad and ladies love him. They go to the Viking manor and find evidence that the rumors are true and the town is being attacked by a mysterious force that eats their victims. They prepare for battle, but after a brief skirmish they realize they’ll have to do more to survive and they start to put up barricades. Meanwhile the ladies still love cool Ahmad. After a large nighttime battle with the monstrous force they again realize that they’ll have to do better to survive as their group is dwindling (the ladies still love Ahmad to this point). They go to an oracle and are told to take out the enemy Queen in her lair and kill their leader who possesses the Horns of Power. They proceed to go there and do so, but the leader of the Vikings is poisoned. In his dying effort he is able to defeat the final forces and crush that dude and his Horns of Power. Everyone is sad but also happy and Ahmad forgets about the ladies that loved him and heads back home. This may in fact be my worst ever synopsis. I have only the movie to blame. THE END.

Why?! Ahmad really just gets caught up in all of this, but eventually you get the sense that he kind of digs the Viking lifestyle of fighting and drinking and, pardon my French, making sweet, sweet love to Viking queens. He always like “No, I can’t do that for God or whatever,” but then he does… because he’s a Viking at heart.

What?! Before each battle Ahmad slams a couple Coors Lights and when the Vikings asks how that’s OK with his religion he exclaims “It is mere water to quench my thirst.” Seriously though I thought this section would be trouble until a prophecy at the end reveals that in order to conquer the bad guys they must defeat the leader who wears the Horns of Power. While perhaps not a MacGuffin in the truest sense of the word, it is definitely awesome in every other sense of the word.

Who?! There are two interesting credits here. The first is Dr. Leroy Perry, a sports chiropractor who got a special thanks on the film. He is apparently a big deal LA chiropractor and likely entered this production after Banderas sustained a back injury early in filming. For a while there he was part of a number of films, but IMDb doesn’t have any credits after this one. The second is that Michael Crichton ended up doing uncredited reshoots on the film and is listed as an director on IMDb. This is the reason that the film was not released for over a year after filming as Crichton had final cut rights and didn’t like McTiernan’s version (which also tested poorly). So he did his own reshoots and that’s what we ended up seeing. This also may explain why the film is so close to the book (which is nearly unfilmable) as it appears that Crichton had a lot of control on production.

Where?! The whole setting can only really be gleaned from the book/historical person that the story fictionalizes. So we can presume this takes place in modern day Russia… but it’s kinda lame. D

When?!  One can assume that this takes place in the 10th century because Banderas’ character is based on a real person who wrote about the culture of Vikings in his travels. The whole story was concocted as a reimagining of the Beowulf mythos as a twisting of the true tale of a Viking battle. But of course no one in the film is like “Yo, it’s the 10th century, bro. Viking time.” D

This film is really interesting… but no matter how much I wanted to say that it was underrated and actually good I couldn’t make myself do it. Why? Because it’s kinda boring and they botched the big action pieces that could have taken it to another level. I actually listened to the audiobook for the novel that this was based on and it is shockingly similar. That would be fine except that as I listened to it the only thing I could think was “This could be a really great film as long as they made major changes and really amped up the action scenes.” Guess what? They didn’t. And in the end it pretty much matched the book. Interesting as a concept, but boring as a film. Matched with it was Edison Force starring our boys LL Cool J and Justin Timberlake. JT in particular gives the worst performance I’ve actually seen put to film and the entire film seems like a less successful 88 Minutes or Righteous Kill (if that can be believed). It is a terrible film and also kinda funny to watch at times if only for JT embarrassing himself. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! You ever just want to go on a relaxing holiday up north, a little sauna, a few laughs, but then get hooked into a battle against some cannibals with magic horns of power?! Me neither, but Ahmad Ibn Fadlan did, let’s go!

The Good – Let’s get this out of the way: I dug this movie. And not in an ironic way. If this was cleaned up a bit and was made in like 1980 I think it might have been kind of good in the Conan the Barbarian kind of way. But it was instead made in 1999, and is not cleanly made. So it is merely a somewhat tolerable film in the medieval genre, that is really the best you can say about it. Beautiful though.

Ps View on the Preview – The director of this film is actually really interesting. Made Predator, Die Hard, and The Hunt for the Red October back-to-back-to-back. He was a true legend, someone that is still mentioned as “hey, maybe he could still make something great if given the chance.” But he perjured himself to the FBI and went to prison and now no one seems to want to touch him with a ten foot pole. And by all accounts this film was a complete mess with audiences and cut / shot to shit by Michael Crichton. It is bananas, and the only reason this is even on BMT’s radar.

The Bad – And it is cut to shit. The movie is at turns kind of boring and extremely confusing. It is beautiful, but that only really gets you so far. It helped immensely that I brushed up on my Beowulf so I could pick up what they were … just kind of throwing willy nilly at the screen. I also had to watch the film in pieces. It really doesn’t grab you. And this is coming from a person who said he dug the film. Yikes.

Get Yo Rant On! – It is tough to think on something to rant about here … how about the gall of Michael Crichton to think he could make Beowulf interesting (his words not mine, that is literally why he wrote the book, as a kind of dare to make the story interesting to modern audiences). I can’t speak to whether the book was successful … but the movie is pretty boring, so probably not very successful there. I still bet you could make the story interesting though … like set it on an alien planet and make Grendal an actual alien monster or something? I’ll take my payment for this idea in Bitcoin, thanks.

The BMT – Naw, this isn’t a BMT film at all … but I could probably watch it again. For the vistas! I love vistas and this movie has them in spades. But it is nowhere near as bad as a BMT film should be. It is one of the better actual films we’ve seen for BMT in the last year easily … which I guess is terrible?

Welcome to Earf – Antonio Banderas is in The 13th Warrior and Expendables 3 with Sylvester Stallone who was in The Zookeeper with Adam Sandler who was in Jack and Jill with Al Pacino who was in 88 Minutes with Leelee Sobieski who was in Here on Earth. Welcome to Earf!

StreetCreditReport.com – The only mention I found in an actual worst of list was it being mentioned as being … not that bad. But it is easily found on worst flops lists. Like this one. That is basically why it is famous after all.

Bring a Friend – This week we watched Edison as part of the bring a friend cycle. And unfortunately the only thing you can really say about it is that it is generic. Sure Justin Timberlake’s acting is straight up hilarious in the film. And some of the directorial choices are kind of off the wall. But if you’ve seen any number of cheesy corrupt cop dramas you’ve seen this movie. There is no twist, or mystery, no killers like in Righteous Kill to keep things interesting. It is just m’boy Justin T cracking the case with good journalism and taking down some fratty F.R.A.T. bros. No biggie. As far as bring a friend is concerned though I would give is a D+. It is hard to fault the film for its mere existence, but why does it exist? Why did I watch this? I will never watch it again, and would never recommend it to anyone. The extra few points is because JT’s acting is amusing on occasion. If you like guns though there is a good shoot’em up right in the beginning. Watch the first 10 minutes and then turn it off.

I did not read the book.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

Vampire Academy Recap

Jamie

Rose is the protector of Lissa, a vampire at Vampire Academy. When eerie and troublesome things start occurring on campus they have to figure out who’s behind it. Can they stop this mysterious danger (and maybe get the guy) before it’s too late? Find out in… Vampire Academy.

How?! Rose is a Dhampir, a vampire/human hybrid sworn to protect Moroi, or full vampires. She is attached to her best friend, Lissa, a potential future ruler of the Moroi. There is a whole bunch of fantasy bullshit associated with this garbage but I’m not going to talk about it because it’s lame. They are returned to Vampire Academy after running away to find that everything has changed. Lissa has been ostracized and is relentlessly bullied by the new cool kids in school. Part of this is a series of mysterious threats in the form of dead animals and messages written in blood. In the process of trying to figure out who sent these messages Lissa and Rose discover that Lissa is a rare and powerful vampire able to practice Spirit Magic (cool beans). This allows her to heal animals and people, but leaves her very weak afterwards. In a shocking and wholly unpredictable twist, it turns out that this power is coveted by a powerful friend of Lissa’s family, Victor Dashkov, who is ill and needs Lissa’s healing ability. He kidnaps her, but Rose and a bunch of other vampire fighters go out and totes defeat him cause he’s old and lame. In another shocking twist one of Rose and Lissa’s friends turns evil and attempts to free Victor, but is killed by Rose in a rad final battle. In the end Rose totally makes out with her 40-year-old fighting teacher and we are treated to a sneak peak of a sequel that never happened. THE END.

Why?! Well I think this is all an extended allegory for not having sex before marriage (like many of these types of books are in the end). So I guess the reason anything is happening is because Rose and Lissa made out with people and should feel bad about that (or something). Being serious, the whole story centers around Lissa’s healing ability. She’s more or less a chosen one destined to defeat the bad vampires in the name of the Moroi. Unfortunately some Moroi hope to exploit her talents and risk everything. All conflict is between those two groups.

What?! There actually is very little product placement in the film since the latest technologies are forbidden in Vampire Academy and they drink blood, not delicious Coca-Cola. We do get a little taste of what they were missing out on as the main character laments the loss of her iPhone 5 upon their return to the academy. Pffff, that’s so 2012 and hate.

Who?! Are some of these actors also teen musicians. Statistically speaking, probably. There is also a special thanks given to the husband of one of the producers which seems a bit strange to me. It’s a bit of a mystery as to what he even does on set considering his IMDb page is dominated by credits as “staff”… like he was “staff” on 122 episodes of ER. What does that mean?

Where?! My god! This film is very specifically set in Hamilton, MT. Which is simply amazing. We even see a “Welcome to Montana” sign in the beginning. I’m really, really tempted to give this an A+ for just how weird and specific this is, but it wouldn’t be right. This is obviously a B+ as it plays no role in the film other than being visually noted on screen.

When?! I can’t remember if they ever spell out explicitly when this is set. My presumption was that they ran away in the Fall and then were brought back in the Spring because they are in Montana and it seems someone tolerable weather-wise. That would put the climax, set during the school’s Equinox Dance, on March 20th for the Vernal Equinox. But that is all guess work. D+.

Vampire Academy is laughably bad. You can see that Zoey Deutch has quite a bit of talent as the beautiful and yet snarky girl, so that’s enjoyable. But beyond that it’s a contrived film filled with bad actors. I don’t say this lightly considering what I do for fun but… this was a giant waste of time. As for it’s “friend” Teen Witch, not since The Room have we watched a film that lived up to its hype to a greater degree than Teen Witch. It is crazy and hilarious, both as an anthropologic wonder of 80’s styling and as a timeless pseudo-musical. Gather the whole family around that television set, pop in that worn Teen Witch tape, and you’ll be set for the night of your life. Put that on the poster, babbbyyyyyy. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! I do believe congratulations are in order, I just graduated from Vampire Academy! I’m off to the Vampire Institute of Technology to study the art of vampire dance. It is my passion, what can I say? Let’s get into it! (It being the movie, not my seductive vampiric dances).

The Good – I very much liked Zoey Deutch. She reminds me of Linda Cardellini from Freaks and Geeks. This is also an incredibly faithful adaptation of the book. For those who care about such things it is one of the better adaptations I’ve ever seen in that regard.

Homework Sklog-signment – I’ve replaced the P’s View on the Preview section because reading the book was my preview really. To get this out of the way: literally one of the worst books I’ve ever read just from a writing perspective. Poorly written. Unlike Fifty Shades of Grey (which I read a single page of and then thought “I’m better than this” and stopped) this was blessedly short and lightweight, so I did ultimately get through it. But it isn’t so out of bounds to call this, like Fifty Shades, Twilight fanfiction. It really really isn’t much better than that. The description I kept going back to was: This is like what a 30-year-old thinks a 13-year-old thinks a 17-year-old sounds like … and it wasn’t too far off, the book was written by a 31-year-old who used to teach eighth grade in Seattle. A adaptation, D- book.

The Bad – Uh … this movie makes no sense. There was basically two options considering how much lore is crammed into book one of the series. Either you create a prequel film which covers Rose and Vasilisa’s accident and allows the Moroi and Strigoi lore to be established and the interpersonal relationships of the Academy to develop so that the eventual book one makes sense. Or you make this a crap CW show and give yourself 10 episodes to really explain it all in a reasonable amount of time (and then flow into a movie series maybe). Besides that: the acting is dire and the main relationship appears to be between a 17-year-old girl and a 30-year-old man which really couldn’t be creepier. It is profoundly disturbing.

Get Yo Rant On – Alright, I’ve touched on the 30-year-old man getting into a relationship with a 17-year-old girl. First, sure he’s probably supposed to be 24 in some capacity, but he was actually 29 and honestly looked older to me. Zoey Deutch was actually 20, but her character is explicitly in high school. HIGH SCHOOL. This creepy dude is creeping around like a creepster, and it is totally unnecessary! Dimitri doesn’t even need to be in the movie! He’s just there to teach her stuff and create a love interest. Split him into two characters, one in high school (the love interest) and another teacher character (a wise old man who dies in the end). Oh, but Dimitri’s age and the forbidden love is the point you say. Yeah … that’s my point, it is creepy and doesn’t need to be there. Jeez, with this and Underclassman it feels like I’m taking crazy pills. Was 2014 really that long ago? End rant.

The BMT – This movie flows through me like a wave, cleanses me, leaving nothing of the dirtiness of BMT behind. And in that capacity it will have no impact on BMT. On the other hand it is genuinely one of the bigger recent box office bombs and if I were to compile a list of the top ten weirdest BMT love stories this might just be the creepiest. So it has an outside shot at impacting BMT in the end.

Welcome to Earf – Boom. Zoey Deutch was in this and Dirty Grandpa with Robert De Niro who was in Righteous Kill with Al Pacino who was in 88 Minutes with Leelee Sobieski who was in Here on Earth! Welcome to Earf!

StreetCreditReport.com – This actually weirdly went under the radar a bit. It gets an Honorable Mention on IndieWire, but nothing else. It is pretty nice to see it get an entire Gizmodo story though. This person is very clearly a huge fan of the books, and not a huge fan of the film. I disagree on a bunch of it, but you can at least see where some cred might come from: fans of YA novels.

Bring a Friend – A little bonus section for the (non-BMT) bonus film Teen Witch! And I have to say: a thoroughly entertaining film. Understandable it is considered a cult favorite among bad movie aficionados. I think my primary complaint here would be it severely loses steam in the back half. The best part of this film is, by far, the first 30 minutes. You can ogle those sweet 80s threads, listen to some jamming 80s beats, and, before they attempt to foist real feelings onto you, appreciate the very weird character choices in the film: the gluttonous brother, the white Beastie Boys knockoff rappers, the devilishly awful History teacher, the very strange witch character, it’s got them all! The “Top That” rap which the movie is famous for also does not disappoint, although you might as well just turn the movie off right after it because it never does … top that! Ayyyyyyyooooooo. As far a friend-movies are concerned though: A I would definitely watch it again, it is basically all we hope for in a friend movie, but I need to leave some room for something like The Room to come along and melt our minds so thoroughly that they end up writing books about it.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

Conan the Barbarian (2011) Recap

Jamie

After surviving an attack by the warlord Zym as a child, Conan grows up to be a powerful pirate, pilfering and banging ladies all day (high five). But when he overhears that Zym is back in town and looking for immense power Conan knows what needs to be done. Can he stop Zym (and get the girl) before it’s too late? Find out in Conan the Barbarian.

What?! Conan’s totally the boss from day one. He’s like ten years old and totes crushing his enemies under his Cimmerian heel. Unfortunately a dangerous warlord Zym and his sorceress daughter are hoping to get all the pieces of the powerful Mask of Acheron which definitely does… something… and guess who has the last piece? That’s right, Conan’s daddio and he gets killed trying to protect it. Flash forward years and Conan is still the boss and he’s a pirate extraordinaire. While he loves crushing brews and the ladies with his bros, he finds destiny calling when he learns that Zym is out to finish the job with the mask. To bring it to full power Zym needs the blood of a totally bodacious pure-blood and he’s right on her trail. But Conan’s right there to be like ‘psych’ and grab her instead. He pretends to want to trade her to Zym but really he’s there to karate chop Zym in the neck, but Conan is seriously injured in the ensuing fight. They go off oto recover on his pirate ship and eventually bone in a cave (obviously) immediately after which she’s captured by Zym and taken to his magical cave shaped like a skull (lots of caves in this one). Conan comes to the rescue, fights an octopus, battles with the sorceress, and eventually Zym falls into a crevasse and dies because he’s dumb. Conan and the lady then go off to setup a sequel. If anyone wants to put this in as the synopsis on Wikipedia feel free to do so. I’m pretty sure I summed it up the best. THE END.

Why?! Well the bad guy wants that sweet looking mask that definitely is super powerful. He wants to use it to bring his sorceress wife back from the dead using the pure-blood as a vessel. His daughter is like “but I’m also like a powerful sorceress,” but Zym isn’t too impressed and is like “you’ll never be like your mom. She was rad.” Conan mostly wants to freely kill and pillage to his heart’s desire, but when the chance to avenge his father comes about he’s pretty into that too.

What?! Sometimes even I forget that this section isn’t just for product placement (which might be hard to come by in Cimmeria), but also for MacGuffins. MacGuffins like the Mask of Acheron that Zym hopes to put back together to attain ultimate power. Except that the crown seems to need the blood of a pure-blood to work… so doesn’t that make the blood the real MacGuffin and the crown just something rad you wear while killing innocents? Something to think about.

Who?! As often seems to be a requirement in these types of films the main bad guy has an underling of immense size which our hero must overcome. In this case it’s Pro wrestler/MMA fighter/kickboxer/former pro football player Bob Sapp. While he doesn’t do much of any of that in the US anymore, he is still a pretty big star over in Japan fighting people and apparently a bear. He also pretty much loses every fight he participates in (including against said bear) and recently was accused of domestic violence… so things not looking great for Bob Sapp.

Where?! The lands of the Hyborian Age, duh (emphasis on the -Bor-, amirite?). Conan is from Cimmeria, but his adventures take him all over the place… which is just not worth me talking about since it’s all made up anyway. Hard to judge these things so I usually give it an N/A.

When?! After the sinking of Atlantis, duh (emphasis on the… uh… -Anti-… amirite?). People have tried to place this sometime around 10,000 B.C. but I don’t think that’s worth the effort. This is all made up. Don’t know if you heard but Atlantis is fictional. N/A.

At first I actually thought I might like this. There were bare-breasted ladies, limbs getting chopped, and other things that my lizard brain liked. But it pretty quickly got bogged down in the main thrust of the film focused around the mask and revenge. Blah. Can’t I just enjoy Conan being a pirate and learning of a big time treasure he wants to get (which turns out to actually be a sexy princess, ooh lah lah) and eventually coming to rule a kingdom? Do I need you to rehash and ruin the origin story of Conan? It seemed like they couldn’t even decide how to ruin the plot so they not only had a MacGuffin in the Mask, but also had the revenge subplot. Choose one and stick with it. Also Rose McGowan was not good. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! Conan the Barbarian? We haven’t had a movie about him in like … 30 years! Call up that swords and sandals screenwriter we have on retainer and give him a million, I want a script by Tuesday, we’ll lunch. That’s my impression of the producer of this film. Let’s go!

The Good – Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh … uuuuuuuuuuuuuuh … this movie got me to watch the original again, and read another Conan short story. I know a lot more about pulp novels of the 30s and Conan because of it. Thanks terrible Conan movie.

Ps View on the Preview – I like where I went a few weeks ago with this, so I’m going to try again. There are 15 qualifying films in the sword and sorcery genre in Box Office Mojo (nearly 50% of the wide release films qualify, which I’ve now discovered is a higher percentage than 75% of the other Box Office Mojo genres). We’ve seen 9 of 15 qualifying films, the other six being Highlander 3 and 4, Red Sonja, Kull the Conqueror, Krull, and Quest for Camelot. There was a lot of cred to live up to for sure.

The Bad – This is the kind of movie which makes you think they ruined Conan the character (even though they didn’t really). It is an action film starring Conan instead of a Conan story. The acting is dire. And not just Momoa (who sadly captures none of the charm Arnold brought to the role), but everyone, especially Rose McGowan. The story is a bit too expositiony. The action a bit too clean. … I’m doing a terrible job describing this, but having watched the original and read another short story (see below) the heart of Conan was missing and replaced with Dungeons & Dragons (the movie). And that makes me sad.

Get Yo Rant On – This movie is far too convenient for me. Oh, Conan cuts the nose off of one of the villains henchmen so that he immediately recognizes him 20 years later, how convenient. Oh, Conan happens to fall in with an escaping thief who is something of a king of thieves and can pick any lock in the world, hope we have some locks to pick later (oh, we do? How convenient). Conan happens to save Tamara, totally by accident, who is (quite literally) the only pure blood of Achemon in the entire world, how convenient. Hell, the entire last fight scene involved Conan kind of accidentally not falling into a giant pit and dying. Too convenient, bad writing, kind of loses itself trying to set up big action set pieces. End of rant.

Welcome to Earf – Luckily this is a short one. Ron Perlman is in Conan the Barbarian and In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale which also starred Leelee Sobieski who was in Here on Earth. Welcome to Earf!

The BMT – I think this will only be notable once we finish off the three and a half Conan films available (Conan the Destroyer, Conan 2011, Red Sonja, and Kull the Conqueror which was originally written as Conan the Conqueror). We’ve done two, and the other one and a half should be easy enough. I think this will be the least pleasant, if only because it is the only one without that 80s/90s sword and sorcery charm going for it.

StreetCreditReport.com – Looks like plenty. Here is it 19. Here is it 6. And Stuckman has it at 5. Basically it isn’t beating out things like Jack and Jill or The Zookeeper very often, but it was on the critics radar and widely disliked at the time. Since? I imagine it has mostly been forgotten. Maybe they’ll reboot or sequelize the older movies again.

Whoooeeeeee. And I actually did some homework! I re-watched the original Conan and read another of the short stories, Shadows in the Moonlight. The story was quite good. Goes into Conan’s chivalry, and also his tendency to be both a pirate and a thief, but also never actually pillaging or stealing during the story (it is always before or after the story). He’s an interesting character, and one I think Arnold portrayed quite well in the original. Which also had a much more effective beginning to the film (yada yada yada-ing a bunch of stuff with “and he was a slave and became super strong and learned to fight”), and a generally pleasant and true-to-character thief story that evolves into revenge. I don’t think the new movie did the character wrong in any way, it is a lot closer than I expected. But it still felt like a modern version of Conan with a heart and conscious of gold, not enough barbarian. It just doesn’t really sit correctly with the 1930s pulp novels vibe I would want. C- adaptation, better than I expected, but worse than it easily should have been.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

Jaws 3-D Recap

Jamie

Jaws is back, Jack! Just when the latest SeaWorld resort is set to open, our titular shark swims into the park with a baby in tow ready to wreak havoc. Can Michael Brody stop the terror and get the girl before it’s too late? Find out in… Jaws 3-D.

How?! SeaWorld is about to open a new resort and things are popping. They got waterskiers, they got dolphins doing tricks, and they got our old friend Mike Brody getting hot and heavy with his lady love. Life is good and nothing could go wrong. When a maintenance man goes missing on a routine dive, Mike goes searching for his body only to discover that a shark has gotten loose in the resort! Uh oh! Springing into action the trainers are able to corner the shark and capture it alive… which seems suspect.You would think it would be a lot harder to capture a monster shark alive. They literally had to blow it to smithereens and electrocute it to death in the past. But oh well, nothing to see here (or is there?). Obviously it soon becomes clear that the shark they captured is just the baby of the true monster Jaws that we’ve come to love and respect. By the time Mike realizes this it’s too late, the resort is in the midst of its grand opening. As the shark wreaks havoc across the limited scope of a theme park, they devise a plan to lure it into a tunnel and suffocate it to death. When this plan fails there’s only one thing left to do: delicately remove the pin from a water grenade held by a dead guy chilling in the mouth of the shark (even more ridiculous than it sounds). After a grand 3D explosion we are treated to a couple dolphins doing neato tricks. THE END.

Why?! Sadly this legitimately becomes a question in the Jaws series as the Brody family is continually stalked by killer sharks. In the first two films you could chalk it up to the shark being hungry and heading to Amity to snack nearer to shore. So its motivation is simply to eat because it’s essential to life. However, this film would take place a decade later in a totally different state and Michael and Sean Brody would once again encounter a monstrous shark that wants to eat them. So we must ask what the shark’s real motivation is. My guess? It’s an assassin sent from the future to kill the Brody family as their offspring are all that stands in the way of the successful shark uprising of 2044. Wait… did I just make this movie rad?

What?! This film is peppered with product placement but you simply can’t ignore the fact that it’s essentially a five hour commercial for SeaWorld (Wait, this film wasn’t five hours long?) Halfway through the film they open the park to great fanfare and it actually made me sad. I don’t want to watch a commercial for SeaWorld! Why did you make me, BMT?

Who?! No Planchet character to be seen. In fact very little humor at all. One interesting fact is that the actor who portrayed Sean Brody, John Putch, eventually turned full time to directing, mostly for television. I presumed he wouldn’t have directed anything for BMT… I presumed wrong. He is none other than the director of Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike. It’s a small BMT world.

Where?! Have I mentioned that this is set at SeaWorld in Florida? Because it’s set entirely in a theme park in Florida. This really should be an A+, but can only get an A because it happens to not be called SeaWorld: The Movie. A.

When?! I didn’t get anything exact. It can be presumed that it’s the beginning of summer since Sean Brody arrives on the scene fresh off final exams at school. I wouldn’t be surprised if I missed something more specific, but for now it stands as a measly D.

This film is terrible. An unacceptable jump down from a serviceable first sequel in Jaws 2. The storyline could never have been made successfully and they obviously got a director who didn’t have the chops to bring the tension that either Jaws or Jaws 2 had (albeit in two totally different ways). Not a surprise that he didn’t direct ever again. I did not like it at all. As for our Friend, D-Tox starring Sly Stallone I’ll let Patrick talk about the merits of the film. Instead I’ll limit my comments to the book on which it’s based, Jitter Joint. The film and book are only very tenuously connected, to the point where I wonder how the author ended up with a credit. Other than the basic idea of a cop heading to rehab and dealing with a string of murders, they are entirely different. The book ended up having a more sensical and original killer (son of an alcoholic targeting alcoholics) and a nice ambiguous ending (not sure whether he ends up living or dying), so I guess I enjoyed that one more, although I didn’t much enjoy the book. It’s just that the film didn’t have much of anything of value. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! So you’re the new PR director for SeaWorld and you want to make … a splash! Luckily you got connections up to wazoo, and you’ve been hearing that Jaws is not only going three-dimensional but also, more excitedly, they are looking for some corporate synergy! Can they guarantee all patrons to SeaWorld will look 100% super happy and 100% super alive throughout? … No? Whatever, let’s get that money making machine rolling! Let’s get into it!

The Good (Sequel, Prequel, Remake) – Lea Thompson is as cute as ever, and Dennis Quaid obvs looks great too. I dug the classic 70s/80s bar scene. There is so little good here I’m actually having a hard time figuring out what to do, because the idea behind Sequel/Prequel/Remake is to take the nugget of good and try and correct everything around it to make a good movie. But … honestly this comes across as more of one of the knockoff Jaws films that were being made in the late-70s and early 80s. So I guess Remake it, but don’t make it a Jaws film. Strip all of it out, and almost go Jurassic Park with it: Shark World. A bold SeaWorld-like amusement park which claims the world’s largest and most dangerous sea life on display! But uh-oh, everything goes wrong and a small group of patrons are trapped underwater fighting for their lives against the park’s most dangerous pets. Meanwhile, on the surface there is a scramble to secure the facility in the face of a greedy owner who only cares about money and himself, in that order. Shark World 3D! Underwater, they are the dominant species!

The Bad (Sklognalogy) – This film looks like a cheap 70s film you’d see on Mystery Science Theater 3000. In fact, the Sklognalogy is from MST3K: The Return, the disasterpiece Avalanche! This movie very much comes across as similar to that, cheap with weirdly well-known main actors and only appealing to the genre nuts. The director clearly had no idea how to film underwater, the connection to SeaWorld is gross and perplexing, and there is never really a coherent storyline (at least not one you care about). It also shits all over the Jaws franchise. In a way that is actually unrecoverable. This movie took a series that had kind of a silly but inevitable sequel, to a laughable franchise that would eventually be poked fun of in Back to the Future II.

The BMT (Legacy / StreetCreditReport.com) – For us I think Jaws 3D joins a film like Can’t Stop the Music as being just kind of perplexing. I could see myself watching it again if, for whatever reason, I found myself watching all four at once. But I doubt it. It is probably still going to be one of the technically worst films we see in BMT, because films that look this technically bad probably wouldn’t be released any year after around 1988. And street cred would be hard to determine if not for the Razzies where it got nominated for nearly every award (it won none of them), and, blessedly, a very amusing clip by Siskel and Ebert for their worst of the year.

Definitely a catastrophe at the time.

There was a small Homework Sklog-signment here in that I had never previously seen Jaws 2. And honestly? In many ways I dug it. I agreed with the choice to show more of the shark since the surprise in the first one was already blown. I liked the teenage characters and the tension when they were stranded on a flotilla of broken sailboats. It worked all the way up to the end, when a terrible looking fiberglass island comes into play, and the shark is electrocuted to end it all. And, obviously, the fact that the Amity Island selectmen wouldn’t believe Brody that a shark was attacking after seeing a shark eat a bunch of people ten years prior is ludicrous.

The more important bit was out Bring a Friend, where we brought along a true blue straight-to-DVD picture. D-Tox starring Sylvester Stallone would remind anyone that watching straight-to-DVD garbage just isn’t worth it. It is boring, and honestly the entire movie is cut in such a way as to make little-to-no sense. I don’t think it is going to change our mind in our tendency to avoid non-theatrical releases, but maybe we just have to find the right one. The set and much of the acting was amusing though, so it did get pretty close. I don’t think I would have necessarily batted an eye if that had come up in BMT, besides that it might be the most poorly edited together film I’ve seen. I’ll leave it there. Cheerios,

The Sklogs

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer Recap

Jamie

After surviving a maniacal murderer last summer, Julie needs a little R&R. Lucky for her, she wins a trip to The Bahamas. Unlucky for her, the murderer shows up for another shot at revenge. Can she stop him before it’s too late? Find out in… I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.

How?! A year after the events of the first film, we find our hero Julie working hard at Harvard to make up for her freshman academic woes. She’s still dating Ray, the fisherman living back home, but their relationship is on the rocks. With July 4th approaching, Julie dreads heading home, so when her roommate Karla wins a trip for four to The Bahamas it provides the perfect excuse. Ray plans on surprising Julie by coming on the trip, but on his way to Boston the fisherman murderer shows up and seriously injures him. He’s left scrambling to try to make it to The Bahamas to warn Julie. With Ray nowhere to be found Julie’s totally platonic whitebread nerd-alert friend, Will, tags along as they head down to paradise… or so they think. Turns out the resort is on a secluded island that is basically deserted for storm season. Trapped by a monster storm on the horizon, Julie and her friends are terrified to find that the murderer has followed them. Turns out that [SPOILER ALERT] the fisherman murderer actually used to work at the resort and was suspected of murdering his two-timing wife decades ago before fleeing. Also turns out that Will is actually his son and they teamed up to trick Julie into going to the island. They corner her in a spooky scary graveyard, but at the last moment Ray arrives and together they defeat Will and his father. He is definitely dead this time and will never come back ever obviously because that would be ridiculous. But wait, what if… it wasn’t? Bum, bum, bum!

Why?! As is the case with most horror films the motivation lies entirely in the hands of the murderer. Julie, Ray, and the rest of the gang are just looking to get laid and paid. The murderer on the other hand is doling out years of revenge. As I see it, he is angry because: 1. His daughter was killed in a road accident and the driver wasn’t punished enough… this enraged him. 2. After murdering the driver he was hit by a car… this extra enraged him. 3. After doling out some revenge he was thrown off a boat and lost his hand… this double extra enraged him. None of this really explains his obsession with waiting for July 4th each year to enact revenge, but to each his own I guess.

What?! No great product placement here. Instead I’ll highlight another favorite of ours: when other pop culture references show up in a film. Like posters for films, books, etc. Early in this film we get a super close-up of a book that Julie is reading. It’s the sequel to Scott Turow’s book Presumed Innocent, The Burden of Proof. Sometimes they’ll drop something like this into a film as weird foreshadowing, if it relates to other works done by people associated with the film, the maker is just a fan of the work, they simply needed a prop, or it’s a joke. This feels like a “prop.” (PATRICK NOTE: I am now reading Presumed Innocent because of this, I’m a crazy person, welcome to my Bad Movie Book Book Club (BMBBC)).

Who?! The obvious highlight here is Jack Black who appears uncredited despite appearing in three major scenes in the film. He’s ostensibly comic relief as a stoner/forgettable murder victim, but his appearance almost comes across as parody. Pretty early in his career to take an uncredited role, but maybe he was aware of how badly this film would be received? Don’t know.

Where?! After very obviously being set in NC, this film takes a wild jump to international waters to The Bahamas. Really nice A- setting as it truly depends on the tropical locale. This is also a great film to foreshadow an upcoming world map game where we collect all the countries of the world. It will of course be called Backstreet’s Map, Alright!

When?! Again we have to sound the Secret Holiday Alert! The murderer loves killing on July 4th. It’s almost like they were trying to have their own Halloween franchise, but with a decidedly unscary holiday. Also a Solid A.

While I still know that I thought this film was entirely ridiculous, you have to give them a hand for those setting. Just spectacular. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! I Still Know What You Did Last Summer?! I still don’t wanna know! Two for the price of one on that NY Post headline. Actually the headline would have been something like “Audiences Didn’t Want To Know!”. So you just made a moderately successful film in the newly-minted Scream-induced resurrection of slashers, what is your next move? Yes, let’s take this to The Bahamas and introduce a ludicrously convoluted backstory for our favorite killer … Ben Willis (ooooh yeah … what you aren’t scared of Ben’s sweet hook action?). Let’s get into this!!

The Good (Sequel Prequel Remake) – One of the best comedies I’ve seen in years. When Jamie and I discussed this film there was a point in which we just described the storyline and started laughing. It is some of the funniest shit you’ll see. In the same vein: Jack Black is amazing-but-really-terrible-but-you-get-it-like-…-he’s-amazing in this film. It is like a parody film. Oh did none of this seem particularly good … yeah, this film is hilariously bad, almost mind-bogglingly so. Obviously I’m going Sequel because I need to know everything about the Willis family (Myers, VoorHees, Krueger … Willis, that is the Mount Rushmore no?). We know Ben Willis killed his wife in the Bahamas and moved to North Carolina with his son and daughter. Let’s go further. A young Ben Willis is a happy-go-lucky lad in Massachusetts, fishing with Papa Willis and having a grand old time. But one day he snaps and kills his entire family never to be seen again (perhaps he went to the Caribbean for some R&R …). Years later a traumatized Julie James and her husband Ray move into a house on Cape Cod. Little do they know the entire deal was set up by Ben Willis (who spent a few years getting his real estate license, natch) to bring them to his all-too-familiar familial home for one last shot at ice hook vengeance. It makes no sense, but you’ll learn everything about grandpa and grandma Willis in …. I Knew What You Did Last Summer.

The Bad (Sklognalogy) – This film is laughable. The acting, the premise, the fact that they felt the need to make a sequel to a mediocre slasher which is … the same movie except on a bad Caribbean set. It isn’t scary, they hide half the kills from you (probably for budget reasons), and did I mention it makes no sense. Ben Willis is from The Bahamas? Where the hell was his son during the events of the first movie? Did the son not go to highschool with the other kids? How did he get into Harvard without anyone noting the fact that two people from this incredibly small town both went to Harvard in the same year? It. Is. Ludicrous and I love it. Pure distilled trash. The analogy is probably something like Halloween Resurrection (although I haven’t seen that). That just seems like the right mix of follow-up-to-a-mediocre-slasher-that-crosses-the-rubicon-into-ridiculousness. Maybe Species II as far a ridiculous sequels to horror films go, if you want to stick to BMT.

The BMT (Legacy / StreetCreditReport.com) – The legacy of this film should be quite nice. As far as BMT is concerned this is the first real post-90s slasher sequel we’ve done and it hits right at a time when the genre thought they could sustain such garbage and be fine (it can’t and didn’t). I will always remember this film for how they just blew out Ben Willis’ backstory for no reason and basically made a comedy from what would have otherwise been a boring forgettable genre sequel. And this time I’m somewhat stunned that I Still Know What You Did Last Summer got no play as far as I can tell for worst of 1998. People seemed distracted by Armaggeddon and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (of all things). I would have usually chalked this up to the fact that critics tend to ignore horror films, but Phantoms, Urban Legend, and Species II all made some lists. A travesty. The Will Benson reveal does get a little play as either a great or terrible twist though (it is terrible, for the record).

And I’ll close with a little Book Review. Little did we know I Know What You Did Last Summer was based on a book! And yes, we both read it which is crazy. The book is a very short lightweight teen thriller and in general is a pleasant enough read. Solid twist even. But I can see why the author was pissed about the adaptation … it isn’t a slasher. Almost the opposite. It is about guilt and the unforeseen consequences that chaotically reverberate across a small town from what was an unavoidable tragedy. Interesting read. Especially subsequent interviews about the movie (which, as I said, she hated). I’ll leave it there.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

Blue City Recap

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of the Black & Blue Bicycle where we watched Blue City and Fifty Shades of Black in one week. The two recaps are separate but go together. Here is a link to the Fifty Shades of Black Recap]

Jamie

Prepare for a extra juicy post this week. That’s because we watched two films! A black and blue bicycle of Blue City and Fifty Shades of Black. I doubt anyone has actually heard of Blue City. It only has 755 votes on IMDb and its popularity ranking is so low that it comes in behind the 1986 gymnastics film American Anthem. This Italian Terminator rip-off is ranked higher for God’s sake!

As we all know (“You’re a crazy person,” the crowd chants in unison). Yup, I’m a crazy person. So I obviously read the book that Blue City was based on (that obviously no one has heard of either). It is a boilerplate noir thriller. Our hero returns from war to find his estranged dad murdered. With nothing to lose, he descends into the darkest corners of the city to find his father’s killers and bring them to justice, even if it costs him his life. Blue City! As far as an adaptation goes it was a pretty solid example of how some of the best films get made. Find a book of middling quality but with a solid story, tighten the screws, add some meat, and voila! Did it succeed? Ha! No. Lots of changes, merging of character, change of setting (more on that later), etc. etc. etc. But in most cases the changes were simply to try to clean up the seedy characters you are meant to root for. A general brat pack-ification of the material. As for the film itself I actually wasn’t totally disappointed by it. I’ll let Patrick discuss its finer points, but there were some bonkers MonoSklogs being thrown around and some crazy editing/directorial choices. While somewhat boring, it gave me enough to provide sense of peace with what would have otherwise been an odd choice for BMT considering just how unknown it is.

Taken in tandem is the longest post we’ve had since… well actually probably not that long ago. Still, I’ll try to keep the Settings 101 brief…ish. Blue City had a very interesting setting. The book was purposefully set nowhere. Our hero arrives in “The City” without acknowledgement of which state he is in. There is mention of Chicago being somewhat close and that The City was a big tire and rubber center, so I guess it’s a take on Akron, Ohio. But a fake state capital is explicitly mentioned, so that confirms the N/A setting for the book. The movie on the other hand was working hard for its setting. That production designer has so many “Blue City” signs and decals my head was spinning. However, the true setting was only shown once: on the side of a police car where it said “Florida” above the Blue City Police department shield. While there are a lot of mentions of Miami being nearby, there wasn’t enough to float it above C. Similarly, you can almost get an exact date for the temporal setting from a calendar on the wall and a visit to a graveyard (April 1985), but didn’t play a role and wasn’t exact. C- or maybe a C.

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! Blue City? More like Real Shitty! We completed the Black and Blue Bicycle, which means you’re going to get two, so let’s try and keep them each shorter. Let’s go!

  • The Good – It is an okay crime story with okay acting from Caruso and an interesting fictional grimy southern setting. I could see someone accidentally watching the film and not realizing it was incredibly reviled upon release.
  • The Bad – Nelson and Sheedy, woof! Sheedy in particular was just atrocious in this film, it kind of threw me. This was also probably an editor’s nightmare, it came across as just kind of cut to pieces and barely 80 minutes, the first time directing was exposed there. The story is also just unpleasant with undesirable characters thrown around with little regard for how they would eventually have to resolve the story.
  • The BMT – Naw, again, just kind of a blah, boring crime film with terrible characters and action that hasn’t aged particularly well. A 10 would be right in line, definitely poor, but never popular enough to make it a hit.

And I’m thinking Sequel for this one. Billy Turner, now a long time Florida politician running for Governor, is assassinated at a campaign stop in his hometown of Blue City. With no suspects and no hope his son Jim Turner returns to try and untangle the threads that tied his father to the dark underbelly of the town that tore his family apart. Was it corruption that felled Billy Turner at his moment of triumph, or is that yet another lie surrounding his tragic death? Blue City: Legacy. I’m hearing through the grapevine that I’m writing the screenplay and John Krasinski is attached to the lead role of Jim Turner.

That’s it, cheerios,

The Sklogs

Shanghai Surprise Recap

Jamie

Shanghai Surprise! I believe Patrick has a better perspective on this film so I’ll sit quietly over here and just talk a little bit about the book (‘The book?!’ exclaims the crowd, blissfully unaware until that moment that Shanghai Surprise was based on a book that Jamie would read). That’s right, the book. Originally called Faraday’s Flowers, it was written by Tony Kendrick and came out in 1985. For whatever reason (perhaps George Harrison loved the author or something), it was almost immediately optioned and adapted into a film. I ended up having to watch the film first and then read the book for practical reasons. I didn’t think this would be much of a problem since it seemed pretty straightforward from the book jacket synopsis: a man is convinced by a missionary to search for opium in 1937 China and falls in love with her in the process. But when I watched the film I was shocked by some of the more bizarre twists and turns that the storyline took. I presumed that in an attempt to spice up an otherwise incredibly boring film a screenwriter had inserted some weird-ass stuff, right? Wrong. After reading the book it is essentially a straight adaptation (with some of the more explicitly violent and sexual parts cleaned up and the order of events somewhat scrambled). The moral of all this is that you cannot blame the storyline on the filmmakers, the book is just really strange (making it all the stranger that it was targeted for adaptation). Almost Mortdecai level weirdness at times. Now as for Madonna’s horrific acting, Sean Penn’s ridiculously bad hair and makeup, and an overlong and dull storyline? Blame away.

Important day guys. That’s because for the first time since we’ve been doing Settings 101 in the email we have finally arrived at an A+ film. Shanghai Surprise not only opens with a meta-acknowledgement of the setting via intertitle and has the setting play a vital role in all aspects of the film, but also has the name of the setting in the title! I had always kind of assumed that London Has Fallen would be the first film to get the coveted A+, but I obviously forgot that any 1986 cycle would have to include Shanghai Surprise. I feel pretty good about it. It joins When in Rome, Texas Rangers, Bangkok Dangerous, Battle: Los Angeles, Ghosts of Mars, Pompeii, Sweet Home Alabama, The Haunting in Connecticut, and Harlem Nights as our clear A+ BMT settings films. There are some other candidates that would need to be debated (I Dreamed of Africa, Jupiter Ascending, etc.), but those are the solid ones. Congrats everyone. We made it.

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! Shanghai Surprise? More like Makes Patrick Sigh! And it does. As I watched this film I just sighed to myself and thought “Yup. This is my life”. I don’t really get some of these films. I understand that De Laurentiis was going bankrupt and was throwing shit at the wall when Raw Deal and King Kong Lives was made. That makes sense. But optioning Shanghai Surprise for a Penn / Madonna vehicle with inordinate international filming costs? Bewildering. Let’s get into it.

  • The Good – It seems like most people disagree with me, but I thought the basic storyline here was okay. No joke. I was pretty interested in the happenings for a good third of the film. The soundtrack was bonkers and banging, just so bizarre and weirdly catchy and maybe culturally insensitive. George Harrison is a madman. I can forgive how confusing the film was because it ran like Indiana Jones crossed with a Noir film, Penn is the detective in this scenario, just his skillset is supposed to be that of an adventurer.
  • The Bad – The movie is certainly dull. The back third is bizarre in a bad way with a very annoying businessman who is obsessed with baseball and talks in the third person tagging along for a solid chunk of it. Madonna might be one of the worst things we’ve seen in a BMT film, just a terrible actress. The twist at the end was telegraphed from the beginning. I wrote in my notes: “That guy is actually this other guy, book it”. Don’t be too impressed, it was literally the same actor with a terribly fake mustache on. Speaking of bad facial hair, Penn has bar none the worst makeup for the first twenty minutes of this film as you’ll ever see.
  • The BMT – Hmmmmmm, I’ve kind of psyched myself into this one a bit. I would give it a 25 probably, median BMeTric. The movie is weird, I still don’t quite understand how it has a 3.0 on IMDb, that is just so incredibly low. I just don’t really understand how anyone watches it now and proclaims it as one of the worst movies ever made. It doesn’t feel like one of the worst movies ever made. But I would watch it in a BMT movie marathon. It could sneak into some Worst of the 80s medley or something.

Phew. Let’s see. I wouldn’t want a remake to this film for Sequel / Prequel / Remake, but which would be better, a prequel (outlining the hilarious misadventures of Sean Penn’s character in his trading travels in China) or a sequel (Penn and Madonna as drug kingpins in post-WWII China)? They are both good. So why not both? We’ll get Chris Pratt for the prequel, make it kind of a Indiana Jones in China affair, except as a goof he’s always just inexplicable looking for opium. For the second old-strongman-body Sean Penn will reprise his role and we’ll run it like The Gunman, shaky cam action. Madonna’s character is gunned down in the streets as Penn realizes he’s lost the territory battle for the heroin market in 70s China. Time for some payback. The first will be called Shanghai Surprise: Legacy. The sequel will be called Shanghai Surprise 2: Street War. Oof, these both sound terrible. Netflix, I’m waiting by the phone, I’ll direct it for free.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

Deadly Friend Recap

Jamie

This week we began on the Sklog’s Birthday Bonanza, all movies from 1986, with a movie based on a book, Deadly Friend. As I watched Deadly Friend I couldn’t help but think to myself “Hmmm, I would have thought I’d be having more fun watching this than I am.” After all, this was a film that featured a bright yellow robot as a main character and a death scene involving a zombie throwing a basketball at someone’s head so hard that it literally explodes! But almost everything outside of those two things was pretty meh. But I’ll leave the further analysis of the film to Patrick.

In terms of the adaptation from the book Friend by Diana Henstell, we actually got a bit of a departure going from print to screen. The book was just a classic boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, girl is killed by father, boy resurrects girl on a stormy, lightning-filled night. Just classic stuff. At its core it’s just an update of the Frankenstein story to a 1980’s love story. The movie kept a lot of the main storyline (the boy’s weird robot best friend is probably the most peculiar), but scrapped a lot of the Frankenstein heavy features, choosing instead to focus on the love story (and eventually the gore). The most prominent change made was to the motivation of the main character bringing his love interest back from the dead. In the book the boy is distraught over her death and in a fit of anger/love/insanity steals her body from the mortuary and attempts to revive her (to horrifying effect). In the film they seemed to shy away from having the main character straight-up rob a grave. Instead he plans on installing a microchip into her brain to revive her from a coma. Finding that he is too late to the hospital and she has already passed away he decided to go forward with the operation and revives her (to horrifying effect). Just a little softening to make an unlikable character… well, still pretty unlikable. Overall, I found the book to be quite the drag (mostly because the main character is a pain in the ass and super weird) and unsurprisingly the movie it inspired isn’t much better. It’s basically the worst combo. At least with a lot of the other films we watched for this cycle I enjoyed either the film or the book (or both). In this case they both were just OK. Phew… finally no more books to read.

This week Settings 101 was an exhilarating adventure. We’ve been on quite the run of films with distinct locations, so it’s nice to have to work for it this week. While watching the film there were several scenes with fairly clear license plates shown to the viewer. Unfortunately, these license plates turned out to be prop plates with “Drive Safely” written at the top rather than the state name (kind of like the “Great State” license plates of The Tuxedo). Unwilling to give up I scoured the rest of the film for any other indication of location. Fortunately the film opens with a scene of the boy moving with his mother to their new home. He is navigating the highways and byways of America and has a map on his lap. That map? A map of Illinois! Now this would hardly be definitive except that there is a line marking their route through the state ending near the city of Peoria. Now does this really mark their route? How are we to know whether this truly means that the film is set in Illinois or if they just grabbed a random prop map for the film? Who cares! Set in Illinois! A definitive D-. Literally the least amount of information that could possibly be provided and still arguably have a set location. I. Love. It.

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! Deadly Friend? More like Dreadful Fraud, amirite? We watched what I will describe as a very strange movie, and probably for a very strange reason. Let’s just get into it:

  • The Good – Um, honestly nothing? It isn’t really a movie I would say. It is somewhat charming in the technological youth it exhibits in its hopes and dreams of robots at that point in the 80s. But it is a barely movie through and through. Even the practical effects aren’t effective. And acting is okay for what it is I guess. But at that points in time it is a low-budget nonsense movie. I wonder why it has a cult following …
  • The Bad – I’ve already went through it a bit, but the movie is bonkers. It makes little sense in some ways (the main character is either totally insane or a sociopath) and then is only morbidly fascinating in most others. It is boring, and weird, and falls short in almost every way. As Jamie said: it should be more fun, but it isn’t.
  • The BMT – No. Too small and boring. Like Maximum Overdrive it is only BMT in showing how people completely botched horror in the 80’s. Probably the cocaine.

Ah, and why did we watch this movie? Because 1986 is amazing terrible for bad movies. It was between this and Shanghai Surprise as far as we could tell (since we have already seen Cobra) and Shanghai Surprise had to be reserved for Romance … so yeah, getting a bit sparse. This cycle … might be bad.

You know what? I’m going to leave it there. Deadly Friend isn’t very inspiring.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

Bonfire of the Vanities Recap

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! Bonfire of the Vanities? More like Bonfire of the Banalities. I had a tough time figuring this movie out, and I’ll tell you why. Let’s go.

  • The Good – For much of the movie it is well acted. I was rather impressed with Hanks, Willis (surprisingly), and especially Melanie Griffith. It is, for decent stretches, at least fascinating. I would say I was more confused as to whether this was supposed to our world or a truly surreal satirical take on our world, and perhaps that is what kept my attention, but there were certainly bits I did like.
  • The Bad – Where to begin … I mean, I know this movie is a satire, but it does come across as genuinely racist. Like it is painting a picture of a world it imagines exists and then takes the unfortunate tack of taking down the strawman caricatures it creates, as if that is meaningful. I kept grasping at things, trying to think how I could make the movie better in some tangible way, but the unfortunate thing is: without reading the book I didn’t know! I knew the movie’s approach couldn’t be the book’s angle because it would have been torn down and cast out of society with vigor. But how it differed I didn’t know. Reading the IMDb notes and realizing they were forced to recast the judge as black (Morgan Freeman) makes oh so much sense. At times I really couldn’t believe what I was watching. I found it shocking. I knew it was supposed to be satire, but it is so weak that occasionally you get lulled into the sense that you are watching a real movie only to be shaken awake by angry and awful people and actions. I found the first half of the film stressful, and the second half unpleasant (if slowly relieving as you realize that things are kind of going to way you’d expect them to go). So there you go. I did not think this is was not that bad, but perhaps that is the mood I was in, willing to take this silly movie a bit too seriously. And yet my feelings seem to mirror the critical reception at the time, so I’m giving myself the benefit of the doubt.
  • BMT – I’ll keep this short. I thought it was boring, but shocking enough to warrant a solid 25 and maybe (maybe) I’d throw it to someone with the tentative recommendation that you are watching a truly strange movie come to life. I do kind of want to read the book about the making of this movie. It must have been simply bonkers.

Let’s see. Sequel/Prequel/Reboot would be fun to try and figure out who would play all of the people in a reboot made this year (plus, hey, it’s not like we are having a serious discussion on race in the United States at the moment …). So in the Tom Hanks role I wanted someone with that boyish charm, who can play someone you kind of want to hate a bit, and as close to 35 as possible (a believable age for the social position Hanks was in in the movie), and I think Andrew Garfield in that role would work really well. You could definitely believe him on Wall Street and then sympathize as his world falls apart around him. Bruce Willis comes across a lot older than he actually is (also 35 at the time), but also the literal alcohol character is tough to pull off I feel like these days, they are either now much older or the perpetual party boy type deal (like Miles Teller in The Spectacular Now). I went a little older and found Danny McBride which I think could work, even has the comedy chops if they wanted to go that direction again. Jeremy Renner or Joel Edgerton could both work as well. Scarlett Johansson in the Griffith role rounds out the important bits. Recast Freeman in his own role and you got a stew cooking.

There isn’t much beyond the three leads to make this movie again if they cared. The rest of the cast you could debate back and forth, but really that is unimportant compared to actually getting the tone right.

Jamie

As we finish our Now A Major Motion Picture cycle heading into our transition week, I can start to think retrospectively about the collection of books that I’ve (largely suffered) through. In most cases the books and the films were either very similar, bordering on straight adaptations (Pinocchio, Phantoms, The Choice, and The 5th Wave) or wildly different (Fair Game, Get Carter, and Random Hearts). The Bonfire of the Vanities stands out because it’s not really in either category. The first half of the film is basically a straight adaptation, with only minor changes to how characters look or behave. Halfway through the film though, it veers wildly off course. Starting from a scene where our main character Sherman McCoy wanders out of a courtroom in which he has been indicted on charges of reckless endangerment, we, as the audience, also wander helplessly from a film that made some sense, to one that makes no sense. I was so confused by the tone change at that point (anchored by what I knew from the book) that I actually assumed for a while that what we were seeing was a dream sequence (spoiler alert: not the case). It seems at this point that the filmmaker decided that he no longer liked the film he was making (probably because all the characters are terrible people) and decided that the movie needed some bucking up. Let’s all of sudden make Peter Fallow a hero (rather than the shitty pulp tabloid man that he is in the book), let’s have Sherman comically brandish a shotgun in a crowded party, and let’s make the climax of the film be the just acquittal of our valiant hero (!!!) Sherman McCoy. In the book this climax was just only in that it took all the shitty, vain people involved in the story and destroyed them all in a blaze of glory. In the film none of the characters are developed enough to convey this (and the ones that are developed have been developed into nicer, softer characters) so that the climax is played straight. Gross.

Funny enough this probably wouldn’t have made a difference to me if I hadn’t read the book. I wondered if I would have thought the film was well-acted and well-written (albeit a bit aimless), and produced in that Hollywood way to make it pleasant enough. I thought that I might have even said It’s Not That Bad.™ With the book, though, it seemed like a disaster. In the end I think Patrick and I agreed though. The fact of the matter is that the book is considerably more shocking in its racism than the film and in that way you can see the satire. It creates caricatures of real NYC dwellers of the time, but magnifies the hidden racism that roils beneath in order to satirize the institutions in the city (police, law, finance, politics). But how the film reigned back the exaggeration and dared to soften the McCoy and Fallow characters destroys the satire and in turn makes it simple offensive. Basically, I was wrong in my assumption that I might not be offended if I didn’t have the book to anchor me. His recap proves that I would have probably been even more offended.

Perhaps it’s a byproduct of all these films being based on books, but we’ve had a nice little run of films with very distinct settings for Settings 101. Once again we have a film that gets an A! In this case The Bonfire of the Vanities is a takedown of the New York City elite. Obviously they couldn’t change the setting or else the entire message would be lost (instead they just lost the message through shitty character development). We get several shots of the New York skyline, a close-up shot of Sherman McCoy’s New York license plate, clear “Manhattan” and “Bronx” highway signs, and a climax that centers around the idea of a white Manhattanite running over an African American youth in The Bronx. Kinda hovers a bit between A- and A as there isn’t really a distinct New York landmark used as a prop. But as the setting itself is vital to the plot and unchangeable, I give it the A. Once again, misses out on the coveted A+ by not having the setting in the title of the film.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs