It’s About Time week

About Time

 

About Time (2013)

At the age of 21, Tim discovers he can travel in time and change what happens and has happened in his own life. His decision to make his world a better place by getting a girlfriend turns out not to be as easy as you might think.”

In honor of the delightful About Time currently in theaters, this week is dedicated to time travel movies. After today I’ll cover the ones on instant Netflix but I just can’t mention the topic without mentioning…

Time After Time

 

Time After Time (1979)

“H.G. Wells pursues Jack the Ripper to the 20th Century when the serial murderer uses the future writer’s time machine to escape his time period.”

Time After Time is my absolute favorite time travel movie. Unfortunately it is only currently available on the Warner Archive streaming network. Malcolm McDowell is perfect as H.G. Wells in a rare non-villain role. David Warner is excellent as his predator/prey Jack the Ripper. Mary Steenburgen is charming as the third member of our very unusual triangle. As with many time travel stories, there is a healthy dollop of romanticism in the mix.

People Watch: Look for Shelley Hack as a docent and Corey Feldman as ‘boy at museum’.

The Omen

The Omen is currently available on instant Netflix.

The Omen (1976)

“Robert (Gregory Peck) and Katherine (Lee Remick) Thorn raise a boy, Damien (Harvey Stephens), in place of their stillborn infant, and all is well until it is foretold that Damien is the spawn of the devil. Soon, Robert is pitted against the forces of Hell and must make a fateful decision. Richard Donner directs; Billie Whitelaw, David Warner, Patrick Troughton and Martin Benson co-star in this classic scary tale.”

When the Jews return to Zion, and a comet rips the sky, and the Holy Roman Empire rises, then you and I must die. From the eternal sea he rises, creating armies on either shore,  turning man against his brother ’til man exists no more.”

Yes Virginia there was a brief, shining time when horror movies could win an Oscar. After the success and credibility of Rosemary’s Baby (1969) and The Exorcist (1973), Hollywood realized that horror was a legitimate art form, at least if children were evil. What could be more evil than the coming of the Antichrist?

The Omen begins with Jerry Goldsmith’s fantastic score playing over the credits. It won an Oscar and Goldsmith was also nominated for an Oscar for Best Song. The bone-chilling “Ave Satani” lost to “Evergreen” from A Star is Born. The score was essentially reused, again to great effect, in the sequel.

Gregory Peck is a great classic leading man and performs well here as diplomat Robert Thorn, anchoring the picture. Lee Remick is good as his fragile wife, Katherine. One of my favorite character actors, David Warner is smarmy but subdued here as Jennings, an investigative reporter. Billie Whitelaw is the creepy governess Mrs. Baylock.

The film does hinge on Harvey Stephens giving a believable performance as a child who may, or may not, be the Antichrist. Richard Donner was able to trick Stephens into a very nice performance. Stephens never appeared in another theatrical film until a cameo role in the remake as a tabloid reporter.

The Omen has a number of very memorable set pieces. The baboon attack is brief but impressive – check out the real fear on Lee Remick’s face. The attack on Katherine is surreal. Good use is made of locations in London, Rome, and Jerusalem. All of the deaths are wonderfully staged and I loved the photographic gimmick.

People Watch: Wonderful British actor Leo McKern (Rumpole of the Bailey) has a small uncredited role as the archaeologist Bugenhagen. Producer Harvey Bernhard is ‘man walking across street’ in a cameo role.

Sequel-itis: The Omen begat Damien: Omen II (1978), which, while being a sequel, simply followed the blueprint of the original. It also strangely rewrites the ending of The Omen. Gregory Peck is replaced by William Holden (who had turned down Peck’s part in the original). Lee Grant replaces Lee Remick. Look for a young Lance Henriksen as Sergeant Neff.

Continuing the series downward slide, 1981 brought Omen III: The Final Conflict. Sam Neill has a lot of fun as the Antichrist and Rossano Brazzi is good but there is not much else to recommend it.

Milking the franchise for all its worth, there was a made-for-television movie in 1991. Omen IV: The Awakening. It would have slipped into oblivion had the producers not packaged it with the others in a box set. It would be like including the Casablanca television series on the Casablanca blu-ray.

Remake-itis: The Omen was remade in 2006. Director John Moore is no Richard Donner and Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles are no Gregory Peck and Lee Remick but Mia Farrow also made for a creepy Mrs. Baylock. The movie wasn’t bad – just pointless.

Waxwork

Waxwork is currently available on instant Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Waxwork (1988) – Rated R

“Invited over by a mysterious magician (David Warner), Mark (Zach Galligan) and his college friends attend a private tour of a macabre wax statue museum near campus, where the exhibits suck them into the frightening worlds of dangerous werewolves, vampires and other monsters. Full of satisfying suspense and gore, this inventive horror film finds Mark teaming up with unlikely allies in order to shut the waxwork down and escape with his life.”

“Can’t a girl get laid around here without being burned at the stake? “

Waxwork is a loving homage to the classic Universal monsters of the 30s and 40s. Instead of remaking them in earnest as Hammer did, Waxwork takes a page out of the previous year’s Monster Squad (1987) and lovingly pokes fun while employing standard horror tropes. As Kevin Williamson would so brilliantly do later in Scream, writer/director Anthony Hickox’ characters have some self-realization that they are in a horror movie.

The Waxwork setup allows Hickox to tell little individual horror stories while having them be more firmly interconnected than in portmanteau films like Tales from the Crypt or From Beyond the Grave. Be aware that it is not family friendly as Monster Squad, Waxwork is quite gory.

Acting is not particularly good with the group of young people (was that part of an homage to the slasher genre?). Zach Galligan is okay as spoiled rich brat Mark. Zach achieved fame with Gremlins (1984) and would do sequels to both Gremlins and this but not much else. Michelle Johnson, so gorgeous as the object of lust in Blame It on Rio (you know you’re something when co-star 21-year-old Demi Moore is considered the plain one), is quite pretty here as well but her acting is terrible. Deborah Foreman, the cute young star of Valley Girl, Real Genius, and April Fool’s Day, is quite engaging as the virgin Sarah. In spite of being young stars, none of the three would go on to do much else – perhaps Waxwork has a curse?

As with the Universal horror films, the acting is so much better with the villains. The best here is David Warner as the sinister owner of the Waxwork, Mr. Lincoln. Miles O’Keefe, once touted as the new Tarzan (1981) is a very urbane Count Dracula. John Rhys Davies is seen briefly as a tortured werewolf. J. Kenneth Campbell assays the legendary Marquis de Sade. Not a villain but Patrick (Avengers) MacNee is a welcome guest star.

Waxwork was one of the first films that died at the box office ($808,114 sales vs. $1.5 million in cost) but then achieved cult status on home video (~$20 million!).

People Watch: Look for an uncredited Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees in many a Friday the 13th) as the Frankenstein Monster. Writer/director Anthony Hickox cameos as an English Prince.

Sequel-itis: Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1992), currently available on instant Netflix, is cute but fails to capture the magic and delicate balance of Waxwork. Zach Galligan and Patrick MacNee return and genre veterans David Carradine, Bruce Campbell, and Drew Barrymore co-star.

 

 

The Concorde: Airport 79 – Do Not Get on That Plane week

This is Do Not Get on That Plane week. The Concorde: Airport 79 is currently available on instant Netflix.

AVOID: The Concorde: Airport 79 – Rated PG.

“In the fourth installment of the air-disaster series, a ruthless businessman (Robert Wagner) tries to destroy the Concorde and kill a corporate spy, forcing the flight crew to contend with an errant missile, the French air force and a midair explosion. George Kennedy reprises his role as Joe Patroni — now piloting the hypersonic jet — alongside a bevy of 1970s stars, including Charo and Jimmie Walker”

“My boy is starting college, my wife has been dead for about a year.” – Said with no emotion at all by Patroni (George Kennedy).

Last night I woke up in a cold sweat. I dreamt I was being chased by a giant banana.” (No I am not making that up)

To paraphrase Thumper, “If you do not have anything nice to say then say nothing at all”. Well that will not make for good reading so let me think a moment.

I have it – the good part about this movie is that it is broadcast in high definition for those with set top boxes. that is pretty much it.

In 1979, we are a half decade away from the height of the disaster genre, The Towering Inferno (pun intended). While Robert Wagner does appear in both of them, Inferno stars Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Faye Dunaway and William Holden. Airport 79 stars Alain Delon, Eddie Albert, Susan Blakely, and George Kennedy.

George Kennedy reprises his role as Joe Patroni from the previous three Airport movies. Apparently when asked to appear, he must have told them “only if I get to fly the Concorde and have sex with a hooker this time “. Thus, inexplicably, he is now a pilot.

After treating the Concorde like the jet in the arcade game Afterburner, he dazzles the passengers with a story about what a minor problem it was. They proceed to give him a standing ovation (seriously).

What this movie lacks in star power, it makes up for in sheer mind-boggling quantity of low-tier celebrities.

Apparently the European nature of the Concorde inspired them to hire some international actors. My guess is that they were able to acquire them on the cheap. Alain Delon, Bibi Andersson, and Sylvia (Emmanuelle) Kristel all appear here.

For old TV and movie fans we have Mercedes McCambridge and Eddie Albert. For genre fans we have David (Time after Time) Warner and Sybil (Chained Heat) Danning.

Martha Raye makes her final appearance here as a bladder-challenged passenger. Jimmie (Dyn-O-Mite!) Walker appears as a dope-smoking, jive-talking musician (way to fight those stereotypes!). Charo (coochie coochie) is Margarita.

What are the odds that not one, not two but three consecutive news stories would all relate to our plot? Admittedly the first two are related to each other but seriously how often do we have news stories on state-of-the-art military hardware? I wonder if those drones will show up later in the film.

Since the sick kid ploy worked so well in Airport 75, here we have a 7-year old boy who needs a heart-transplant. Apparently they could not find a cute boy so they are transporting the heart to the boy. Do not worry though we have Cicely Tyson talking incessantly about it.

If that is not treacly enough for you, we also have a little deaf girl on the plane. Avery Scheiber plays her Russian coach father.

I have to say that I really do not understand why we do not have Concordes in the military. In this film the most sophisticated drone ever made (news story) is unable to shoot down the Concorde and neither is a jet armed with missiles and machine guns.

Of course, and I assure you that I am not making this up, when you have a missile locked onto you the obvious answer is to open the window and fire a flare gun. If this does not work, you can always turn the Concorde upside down for a second shot.

You would think all of those would be spoilers but they actually occur in the first half of the movie. I thought it was utterly ridiculous before they land in Paris but then they up the ante.

Really the only people I can imagine this appealing to are Concorde fetishists and train-wreck aficionados. This movie is just awful.

People Watch: Ed Begley Jr. has an early role here as the aptly named, Rescuer #1.