Bermuda Tentacles

Bermuda Tentacles is currently available on instant Netflix

Bermuda Tentacles

 

Bermuda Tentacles (2013) – Not rated

When Air Force One goes down over the Bermuda Triangle, the Navy sends its best rescue team. But in saving the President, the team awakens a monster that threatens the entire eastern seaboard.”

I wish I could quit you, Asylum. Okay, I actually wish for good/better health, long life, and perhaps the usual more money than I know what to do with but you get the picture. Why oh why do I still bother to review these things. A few of them have been passable wastes of time but so far only one was actually enjoyable (Sharknado 2) and not because it was good.

Many of Asylum’s offerings make for entertaining trailers but that is pretty much it. Airplane vs. Volcano, Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus, and Asteroid vs. Earth were all rather painful to sit through.

The one good thing I can say about Asylum productions is that they usually let you know just how bad they are going to be within the first five minutes. They don’t disappoint here – from a non-existent storm passing by a stationary Air Force One to some truly pathetic CGI to some rapid fire exposition as they jettison the President before the downing of Air Force One, all of that is accomplished in under two minutes.

Bermuda Tentacles has the usual assortment of former stars and B-listers. Noted character actor John Savage plays President DeSteno. Former Terminator lead and Beauty of Beauty and the Beast, Linda Hamilton clocks in as Admiral Linda Hansen. Jamie Kennedy pops up as the unconvincing albeit amusing Dr. Zimmer. Equally unconvincing is pop star Mya as Lt. Plumber. Still they are wonderful compared to the non-name actors.

For a movie titled Bermuda Tentacles, one would think that those effects at least would be halfway decent. They aren’t. The tentacles glow and shimmer and radically change size based on perspective. One moment they are man-sized as swat men away then they are plane-sized as, you guessed it, they swat planes away. They’re solid – no, opaque – no, invisible.

Then there is the script. Are you telling me that a naval task force that is searching for the remains of Air Force One would not have any CAP in the air? We’re desperately searching for the President, just not with aircraft or anything. Air Force One’s escape pod doesn’t float?

As per Asylum SOP, simply stay far away from this Turkey this Thanksgiving.

Scream 2

Scream 2 is currently available on instant Netflix.

Scream 2 (1997) – Rated R

“In the two years since the fateful events in Woodsboro, Gale has written a best-seller, which has been turned into a film. As the movie premiere looms closer, the mysterious deaths begin again. Dewey heads to Sidney’s college to protect her.”

“There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to create a successful sequel. Number one: the body count is always bigger. Number two: the death scenes are always much more elaborate – more blood, more gore – *carnage candy*. And number three: never, ever, under any circumstances, assume the killer is dead. “

Props have to be given to Scream for setting the whole series up but Scream 2 has a better cast, better jokes, and is generally the better film. Director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson’s cross of ironic humorous detachment and actual suspense gel here just as well as they did in Scream. Scream 2 is funny and suspenseful.

Craven assembles a fantastic cast here. Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette return as our heroes/victims Sidney Prescott, Gale Weathers, and Deputy Dewey. Jaime Kennedy also returns hilariously as film geek Randy Meeks to warn us of the dangers of being in a sequel.

Liev Schreiber plays the recently released from jail, Cotton Weary. Sarah Michelle Gellar, Rebecca Gayheart, and Portia de Rossi play sorority sisters. Joshua (Fringe) Jackson, Timothy (Justified) Olyphant, and Jerry (Piranha) O’ Connell are students. Laurie (Andy’s Mom in Toy Story) Metcalf is a reporter.

Acting as guest stars are Jada Pinkett Smith and Omar Epps explaining why you don’t see people of color in this type of film. Heather Graham, Tori Spelling, and Luke Wilson cameo as Casey, Sidney, and Billy in the movie within a movie, Stab. As you can see, you might get whiplash just pointing out who’s who in Scream 2.

One of the problems with slasher films is that much of the runtime is just filler between kill scenes with a bunch of stock cardboard characters (the jock, the slut, the nerd, the comic relief, the rich guy, the virgin). Here that time is filled with many humorous asides and a number of fairly exciting chase sequences. Characters are fleshed out and feel real. Humor is not restricted to the comic relief or the killer.

While none of the killings have the visceral brutal quality of the opening of Scream, most are quite inventive. One of the killings is particularly shocking and the reveal is almost as good as the one in Scream. Naturally, as one character handily points out, the body count is higher and the deaths are bloodier and more elaborate.

People Watch: There are plenty of cameos here. Matthew Lillard has a cameo as guy at party. Wes Craven has a cameo as a doctor. Selma Blair is the voice on the phone talking to Cici. Kevin Williamson is Cotton’s interviewer.

Sequel-itis: Scream 3 (2000) suffers severely from Kevin Williamson not doing the script. His Scream and Scream 2 scripts tread the fine line between suspense and humor. Scream 3 falls from sly humor into farce and there is little suspense.

Kevin Williamson comes back as scriptwriter in Scream 4 (2011) and it shows. Unfortunately the first two Screams mined the idea for most of its potential. The opening of Scream 4 is inspired and fun, the ending and many of the ideas are nice but it is not the classic that Scream and Scream 2 are.

Shakespeare week – Romeo + Juliet

This is Shakespeare week. One of the things I most enjoy about our local Shakespeare company is the unique spin they put on his plays. One of the more unique movie adaptations of Shakespeare is Romeo + Juliet by Baz Luhrmann.

WATCH: Romeo + Juliet (1996) – Rated PG-13 for scenes of contemporary violence and some sensuality.

“In director Baz Luhrmanns contemporary take on William Shakespeares classic tragedy, the Montagues and Capulets have moved their ongoing feud to the sweltering suburb of Verona Beach, where Romeo (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Juliet (Claire Danes) fall in love and secretly wed. Though the film is visually modern, the bards dialogue remains intact as the feuding families children pay a disastrous cost for their mutual affection.”

“The hurt cannot be much” – “Twill serve – ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man.”

Right off the bat there is no mistaking Romeo + Juliet for the stately Franco Zeffirelli version (the previous gold standard for Romeo & Juliet adaptations – currently also available on instant Netflix). Romeo + Juliet opens with a TV newscaster reading from the prologue and quickly segues into a helicopter overview of Fair Verona Beach.

The hyper-kinetic stylings of Baz Luhrmann would seem to be antithetical to a proper rendition of Romeo & Juliet yet it works. The entire film can be watched just for the visuals as each scene is filled with explosions of color and music. There are many inventive modern updatings such as guns named “sword” and “rapier” and the truck called “Post Haste Delivery”.

Baz Luhrmann is clearly fond of male pecs – not only do all the young men appear partially or entirely shirtless but even Pete Postlethwaite as Father Laurence, a character one would imagine clothed in a particular fashion, is seen instructing young boys while half-naked. I will go ahead and guess that this movie predates the massive Catholic priest scandals. Juliet is also topless in a scene but only hr back is shown.

The performances are all over the map. Thankfully, Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes are wonderfully fresh faced and intense as the doomed couple. Diane Venora plays mother to Juliet quite well but her accent slips terribly from scene to scene, even from line to line. Brian Dennehy is wasted as Ted Montague but Paul Sorvino is surprisingly restrained as Fulgencio Capulet.

Many of the other actors have their performances turned up to 11. Harold Perrineau (Michael from the TV series Lost, also available on instant Netflix) does a delightful job of playing a deliriously over-the-top and seriously deranged Mercutio. John Leguizamo is filled with bitterest gall as Tybalt. Jaime Kennedy is his usual screwball self as Sampson, a “Montague boy”.

Afterthought: while I highly recommend this film, Romeo is hardly a sympathetic character. He mopes around coveting Rosaline, drops a tab of Ecstasy, crashes a party, and promptly forgets all about Rosaline when he spies Juliet. He then inadvertently causes the death of his friend, guns down an unarmed cousin of his wife, and performs a few more heinous acts on his way to the tragic finale.

People Watch: Look for currently popular comedian Paul Rudd as Dave Paris and noted character actor M. Emmet Walsh as the apothecary.

 

Christmas week – Enemy of the State

Besides taking place during the holidays (thus qualifying it for Christmas week status), Enemy of the State definitely knows if you’ve been naughty or nice.

Enemy of the State

WATCH: Enemy of the State (1998) – Rated R for adult content, graphic language and violence.

“Hotshot Washington lawyer Robert Dean (Will Smith) becomes a victim of high-tech identity theft when a hacker slips an incriminating video into his pocket. Soon, a rogue National Security agent (Jon Voight) sets out to recover the tape — and destroy Dean. Tony Scott directs this breakneck political thriller that co-stars Gene Hackman as an intelligence expert who comes to Dean’s aid.”

Tony Scott directed this tense thriller shortly after Will Smith came off Independence Day. Normally I find that his fast pace and jump cuts detract from the film but in this case they serve the story well. One of the background storylines in this movie is an upcoming vote on a bill that sounds a lot like a portion of The Patriot Act even though this film predates that by many years.

Will Smith is his usual likeable everyman self and Jon Voight is appropriately sinister as a man with an agenda. Gene Hackman does a marvelous update to his character from The Conversation (a very similar film) and steals every scene he is in. The cast is filled with easily recognized character actors giving good performances, many of whom aren’t credited for some reason. Jamie Kennedy and Seth Green play a funny pair of agent/analysts. Jason Robards lends some weight with a brief role as a Senator.

The film is very good but flawed. While the breakneck pacing keeps one from questioning some of the logic holes, the initial killing seems very far-fetched (far too public). The climax comes across as lazy and contrived since it is essentially the same climax as his earlier movie True Romance. Thankfully Tony Scott doesn’t overuse his odd angle  and color-shifted (or bleached) cinematography here – it only gets annoying a bit during a tunnel chase.

The theme of ubiquitous surveillance is wonderfully handled though credit should be given to the aforementioned The Conversation (1974) and The Anderson Tapes (1971) for breaking ground. Overall this is a highly enjoyable film that handles the subject matter in a fun instead of preachy manner. I also love one particular dialogue exchange.

Robert Dean: What the hell is happening?

Brill: I blew up the building.

Robert Dean: Why?

Brill: Because you made a phone call.

People Watch: Look for Tom Sizemore as a mob boss, Jack Black as an analyst, and Gabriel Byrne as an agent.

Scream

For October I’m going to change the blog around a bit. Horror is my absolute favorite genre – if there were enough good new horror movies I probably wouldn’t watch anything else. So for Halloween month I’m going to feature an Instant Netflix horror movie each day to watch and I’ll often pair it with a related one to avoid. Scream is currently available but not Scream 2 or 3. Scream and Scream 2 have a near perfect balance of humor and suspense. Scream 3 while enjoyable leans a lot harder on the humor and as such isn’t very suspenseful.

Scream

WATCH: Scream (1996) – “Horror maven Wes Craven — paying homage to teen horror classics such as Halloween and Prom Night — turns the genre on its head with this tale of a murderer who terrorizes hapless high schooler Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) by offing everyone she knows. Not your average slasher flick, Scream distinguishes itself with a self-parodying sense of humor. Courteney Cox and David Arquette co-star as a local news reporter and a small-town deputy”

This film is absolutely wonderful, especially if you grew up with the slasher genre as I did. Scream is a great slasher in its own right with a unique denoument. It references Halloween, Friday the 13th, the Town that Dreaded Sundown, Nightmare on Elm Street and dozens of others directly and then has just as many other indirect references. All the actors do a very good job (even if some are a little old for high school) but the real star is Kevin Williamson’s script which both pays homage to and subverts the slasher genre. Jamie Kennedy who I haven’t cared for in anything else I’ve seen is actually a scene-stealer here. People watchers: Linda Blair (The Exorcist) has a brief cameo as a reporter and Wes Craven has a cameo as a janitor in a Freddy Krueger sweater. Personal note: For many years we owned the exact same model of green-striped sofa that Sidney naps on at her house. This movie is very highly recommended but be aware that it is also fairly brutal especially the opening sequence with Drew Barrymore.

DON’T BOTHER WITH: Stephen King’s Cats Eye – also featuring Drew Barrymore, this movie never really amounts to anything. A mediocre adaptation of a few of Stephen King’s lesser short stories.