Saturday, August 9, 2014

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Humanoids from the Deep (1980)

Humanoids from the Deep is another one of those "locals fight the big, bad corporation" films, blaming them for a dwindling catches of salmon. But of course, there's something lurking beneath the surface off the coast of Noyo, California.

Baron is the first to fall victim to humanoid monsters. He's the family dog, owned by Jim and Carol Hill (Douglas McClure and Cindy Weintraub in her film debut), and his brother, Tommy (Breck Costin in his film debut). Apparently, Baron is one of many dogs left mangled.

And, of course, in films like this, teen lovers are out of luck. First, it's swimmers James Potter (Meegan King) and Peggy Larson (Lynn Schiller), who's raped by a monster, followed by Billy (David Strassman in his film debut) and his girlfriend Becky (Lisa Glaser),

The large corporation is Canco, which wants to build a large salmon cannery. Canco promises jobs, and an increased salmon population thanks to the work of its scientist, Dr. Susan Drake (Ann Turkel).

Local redneck canner Hank Slattery (Vic Morrow) has an ongoing conflict with Native American activist Johnny Eagle (Anthony Pena), who's planning to block development of the cannery via lawsuit. But when he's attacked by a Hank Slattery Molotov cocktail, Tommy is hurt by one of those monster things, and Tommy's girlfriend, Linda Eale (Denise Galik), dies in a car crash, he helps Jim and Susan find the monsters.

Susan definitely knows something about the humanoids, which appear hot to mate, rudely interrupting the Noyo Salmon Festival and "doing it" with women. Yep, it's a Canco coverup.

Humanoids from the Deep is simple, definitely unconfusing. The side stories are at least relevant to some degree, and most of the acting isn't too bad. There's frontal nudity, there's bloody gore, there's lots of screaming – everything one could want from a monster film. The Jim Hill character is superfluous, they should have saved money and gotten a cheaper actor than Doug McClure.

The movie’s stuntmen were originally supposed to play the humanoids, but they backed out, claiming the monsters looked too stupid. So more actors had to be hired to wear them. Actually there was only one humanoid costume that looked and functioned realistically enough to be used. Two more were shot from different angles to hide major imperfections.

Ann Turkel took the role of Dr. Susan Drake after reading the script and noting there was no sex. But when additional sex scenes were added, she asked the Screen Actors’ Guild to stop the film from being released. She failed.

The ending is a direct rip-off of 1979’s Alien (monster popping out of the stomach). A Roger Corman film, Humanoids from the Deep was released as Monster in Europe. It was remade in 1996 for television, reusing much of the salmon festival carnival footage.

Grade: C-

Monday, August 4, 2014

Red 2 (2013)

When Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) retired, he expected to stay retired, playing homemaker with his girlfriend Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker). But his former partner, Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich), has other ideas.

But before we can find out what's up, Marvin's car blows up. Still, at the funeral, Frank suspects he's still alive, lying there in his casket, looking all serene and peaceful.

A man named Jack Horton (Neal McDonough), claiming to be Frank's representative, shows up at a Dept. Of Defense's Yankee White Facility, demanding to know where Frank is. Frank had been taken into custody at the funeral, and is being interrogated about Nightshade, a portable nuclear weapon hidden in Russia.

Horton brings along a half-dozen or so men, but that Frank is talented, and handles them all. Well, all except one. That one is eliminated by Marvin. Yep, that Marvin, the one believed dead by everybody. Consequently, Jack arranges for a Hong Kong contract killer, Han Cho-Bai (Lee Byung-hun), to take care of the situation.

What situation, you ask? They think Marvin and Frank know all about Nightshade. And why not? They had been assigned to get Dr. Edward Bailey (Anthony Hopkins), a brilliant, genius physicist, out of Moscow 30+ years ago. They failed, and Bailey was killed. Or so everyone thinks.

Meanwhile, in the U.K., Victoria Winslow (Helen Mirren), an old compatriot of Frank's, is hired by MI6 to also kill Frank. She calls Frank to let him know, in effect giving them fair warning.

What they have to do is catch "The Frog" (David Thewlis). They steal Han's plane and head off to Paris, where they bump into Russian secret agent Katya Petrokovich (Catherine Zeta-Jones), an old girlfriend of Frank's. She's also after Nightshade. They hook up with Victoria after tricking Katya into thinking she has the key to Nightshade, and invade an MI6 asylum where they find Dr. Bailey, whom everyone thought was dead, but has been hidden incognito for more than 30 years.

Meanwhile, Jack Horton is still trying to track them down, as is Han. And boy, is Han good at what he does. But he does do the right thing.

Ernest Borgnine had wanted to reprise his role as records keeper Henry. He was accommodated, but died three months before production got underway, necessitating changes in the script.

By the way, Mary-Louise Parker never looked more beautiful. Come to think of it, I could say the same thing about Catherine Zeta-Jones. And Helen Mirren has always been beautiful. I laughed quite a bit during the film, but it has nothing to do with their beauty. The writing is funny.

Red 2, the sequel to 2010’s Red, had a box office of #148 million against its budget of $84 million. The Red films were inspired by DC Comics’ limited edition comic book of the same name.

Grade: B

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Godzilla vs. Monster Zero (1965)

Miniature models and rubber-suited monsters abound in this sixth film of the Godzilla franchise.

Two astronauts – American Glenn Amer (Nick Adams) and Japanese K. Fuji (Akira Takarada) – are sent in spaceship P-1, to Planet X, a heretofore undiscovered dark planet situated on the other side of Jupiter. They find ... footprints.

The astronauts are taken below the surface to meet with the Controller of Planet X (Yoshio Tsuchiya), who has a proposition: Help them get rid of Monster Zero, known to Earth as the three-headed flying dragon, King Ghidorah. They want to borrow Godzilla and the giant pteranodon Rodan and use them to defeat Ghidorah. In return, they will give Earth a miracle drug that will cure all diseases.

Meanwhile, Fuji's sister, Haruno (Keiko Sawai), is seeing an inventor, Tetsuo Torii (Akira Kubo), whose dubious invention – a personal alarm – has caught the interest of the World Education Corporation. Miss Namikawa (Kumi Mizuno) arrives to finalize the deal with Tetsuo.

But a contract is not forthcoming; the alarm is "being tested." It's just a ploy to get ahold of the device. By coincidence (or not), Glenn is dating Miss Namikawa and spots the Controller on Earth.

The monsters are found where the Controller said they were – Godzilla at Lake Myojin, and Rodan at Washigasawa Cliffs. Dr. Sakurai (Jun Tazaki), who's head of the project, negotiates with the aliens, who are already here, hiding in the lake. The monsters are appropriated and whisked off to Planet X. Glenn, Fuji and Dr. Sakurai go along.

Once there, Godzilla and Rodan are released to do battle with Ghidorah.

Fuji and Glenn slip away and ... ye gods, all the females on Planet X look like Miss Namikawa. They collect the miracle drug and return to Earth, leaving Godzilla and Rodan behind.

But ... (What did you expect?) something else is afoot. The X-ers bring Godzilla and Rodan back to destroy the Earth. But Earth has a solution.

Notes and Thoughts: A thermos bottle filled with carbon dioxide was exploded under water to simulate the effect of flying saucers leaving the lake. Godzilla's jumpy victory happy dance cracks me up. The cinematography is rather good, despite the cheesy sophomoric special effects. The dialogue is rather corny, however.

Also known as Invasion of Astro-Monster, and in Japan as Kaijū Daisensō, Godzilla vs. Monster Zero was also to feature Mothra, but the giant moth had to be put back on the shelf for budgetary reasons.

While Nick Adams spoke his lines in English to accommodate the English version, the others spoke in Japanese for the Japanese version. Adams' lines in the Japanese version were later dubbed by Goro Naya, a noted voice actor. The American version was released in 1970, possibly delayed because Nick Adams died mysteriously in 1968.

Godzilla vs. Monster Zero was shown as a double bill with War of the Gargantuas. It was the first Godzilla film to feature aliens, and the first and only to be co-produced by Toho of Japan and an American studio, United Productions of America (UPA).

Grade: B

Movie Quotations 142

"The good things always happen with the rain." – Nora Marcus (Salome Jens), in Seconds

"I have no desire for vengeance for what was done to me. I have escaped from the emotions. I am safe within myself. All I ask and want is peace and quiet." – Sol Nazerman (Rod Steiger), in The Pawnbroker

"You really some teacher, Mr. Nazerman. You really, really's the greatest." – Jesus Ortiz (Jaime Sánchez), in The Pawnbroker

"Anybody know what time it is? Margarita-thirty!" – Sara (Taryn Manning), in The Breed

“Give Cujo my best.” – Nicki (Michelle Rodriguez), in The Breed

"Agents are like scientists, professor. Some are good, and some are not so good." – General Boyd (John Mills), in Operation Crossbow

"In war, decisions almost always have to be taken on incomplete knowledge. If you wait until you're certain, you're sure to be too late." – Duncan Sandys (Richard Johnson), in Operation Crossbow

“If that great philosopher, Socrates, were living today, he’d be reduced to sitting on a cracker barrel, chewing tobacco. That’s what America does for greatness.” – Dr. T.D. Shawnessy (Walter Abel), in Raintree County

"A good wife is a good start towards greatness." – Dr. T.D. Shawnessy (Walter Abel), in Raintree County

"There's more of them. They're getting closer! We need to move the boat faster!" – Ellen Brody (Kari Wuhrer), in Sharknado 2: The Second One

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014)

You've heard of the movie, Snakes on a Plane, right? Well, right off the bat, we're treated to sharks on a plane. Wait ... What? You heard me right, sharks on a plane.

It all starts when ex-Los Angeles bar owner Finley "Fin" Shepherd (Ian Ziering) (remember him?) and his ex-wife April Wexler (Tara Reid) are on a plane approachng New York. Fin looks out and sees a shark. Wha-a-a-t? You heard me right, a shark in the sky.

Next thing you know, sharks crash through the fuselage and start eating crew and passengers. April's hand gets chomped off. Fin, who just happens to know how to fly a big commercial jet, lands the plane safely.

All this before the opening credits roll.

The Brodys – Martin and Fin's sister Ellen (Mark McGrath and Kari Wuhrer), their daughter Mora (Courtney Baxter) and son Vaughn (Dante Palminteri) – are all set for their holiday in New York. Mom and daughter go sight-seeing; dad and son head to a Mets baseball game, but the ball park is right next to the ocean.

And yikes, a huge storm is heading for New York, and it's going to collide with a huge cold front moving in from Canada. Fin warns his sister, but has to find Martin at the stadium, where he bumps into his high school girlfriend, Skye (Vivica A. Fox).

So, to recap: Fin, Martin, Vaughn and Skye are at Citi Field, Ellen and Mora are on a ferry trying to get back to Manhattan, and April is stuck in the hospital after the operation on her arm. And here comes the cold front, here comes the storm, and here come the flying sharks. Sharknado!

Sharks are everywhere: In the sewer, in the subway, in the trains, in the air and in the flooded streets. Lots of dismemberment, lots of head-bashing and decapitations.

Of course, Fin has to take charge, just as he did in LA (Sharknado).

Downtown Julie Brown, Billy Ray Cyrus, Andy Dick, Robert Klein, Wil Wheaton and Kellie Osbourne have cameo roles. Judd Hirsch has a continuing role as cabbie Ben. There are others on the list, but I have no idea who they are. Oh, I forgot Robert Hayes. Y'know, the Santa Mira Flight 209 pilot from Airplane!?

A SyFy Channel movie, Sharknado 2 is so stupid that it's hilarious. The best part was watching Matt Lauer, Al Roker, Kelly Ripa and Mike Strahan, who play themselves, going along with the gag and playing it straight. I gave the original 2013 Sharknado a D, and the movie earned it. I give Sharknado 2 a higher grade, thanks to the real-life personalities playing themselves.

I had fun.

Grade: C+

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Brewster's Millions (1945)

Montague “Monty” L. Brewster (Dennis O'Keefe), a newly discharged U.S. soldier, comes marching home from war into the arms of his sweetheart, Peggy Gray (Helen Walker) and her mother, Mrs. Gray (Nana Bryant).

He also brings along his wartime buddies, Hacky Smith (Joe Sawyer) and Noppy Harrison (Herbert Rudley).

Monty and Peggy want to get married right away, but there's an unexpected hitch. A lawyer appears at the door and advises him that he's heir to a large estate of $8 million tax free. He's a multi-millionaire! But wait, there's a catch. He has to spend a million in two months before his 30th birthday and show no assets. Among other conditions, he can give only 5% to charity, it has to be a secret, and he can't be married.

In other words, he has to end up broke with nothing to show for it. That messes things up with Peggy, big time, but she capitulates. And that's how Brewster & Company is born, with Jackson (Eddie Anderson, "Rochester" on The Jack Benny Show) at the front desk, Peggy and his pals on the payroll.

A little encounter with socialite Barbara Drew (Gail Patrick), daughter of Monty's banker, Colonel Drew (Thurston Hall), whose bank is failing, upsets Peggy.

He's happily making bad investments. Buy they suddenly begin paying off big. He's making money hand over foot. After just one week, he's up $25,000. Desperate to lose more money, he increases his investment in a money-losing play he'd dumped $75,000 into, and makes showgirl Trixie Summers (June Havoc) the star. She's horrible. And that also upsets Peggy.

Women trouble: Barbara and Trixie are after him; Peggy's giving up on him.

Brewster's Millions is okay. Actually, a little meh. But it's a good early-evening diversion with a few chuckles.

Originally cast as Monty Brewster was Garry Moore, a highly successful radio personality who would later gain fame as a television game host in the '50s-'70s; but he didn't make it past the first day of filming.

Brewster's Millions received an Academy Award nomination for Best Music Scoring. It is the fifth of ten film adaptations of George Barr McCutcheon's 1901 novel of the same name. A 1985 remake starred Richard Pryor as a minor league baseball player.

Dennis O'Keefe reprised his Brewster role in a 30-minute radio adaptation on The Screen Guild Theater that was broadcast on March 31, 1947.

Grade: C+