Film Threat Review: Reunion

 

2009
Un-rated
12 minutes

*

“Reunion,” which tells what the lives of those lost during the Columbine tragedy might have been like, is eye-rollingly corny. I’m sorry, dudes. It is.

This is the sort of movie review that makes people think I have a big black hole of hate where my heart should be. I promise I don’t. What happened at Columbine was indeed horrific, and I’m absolutely not belittling that tragedy. It’s terrible when anyone dies, let alone young people with their whole lives ahead of them. But “Reunion,” which tells what the lives of those lost might have been like had they not been snuffed out on that fateful day, is eye-rollingly corny. I’m sorry, dudes. It is.

With the gimmick of a 10-year high school reunion, the film is (mercifully, I suspect) sparse on dialogue and uses flashbacks set to music to show the alternate future/past that the 13 victims would have had. Mislaid careers include a pilot, a biologist, a famous singer, and a novelist. Apparently, everyone would have been very successful, the Columbine shooting being the only thing standing in the way of a full and happy existence for all. Hilariously, in this idealized version of events, the teacher who was killed would have spent a couple more years inspiring students and then still dying before the 10 year mark. Maybe he had a terminal disease that I’m unaware of but, if not, it’s a strange choice for an otherwise rosy-colored parallel universe. And then the reveal we all knew was coming: None of this happened. These people are all dead because two jerks decided to play “Doom” with real guns.

The heavy-handedness and cheese with which “Reunion” illustrates this point makes it feel more like a report on “Inside Edition” than a tribute film. We all know it was an awful day. The victims were cheated out of a future and the rest were left to try and make sense of a senseless act. It never should have happened. But why revisit it in such a trite way? If you don’t have anything insightful to say, why say anything at all? Leave the dead to rest in peace.

Originally posted on FilmThreat.com (now defunct).

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Enlightened in Oregon

Recently, the fella and I went on a nice, romantical vacation to the Oregon coast. We had a transcendent encounter with sea lions on the beach near our hotel. They were just kicking it on the beach and didn’t seem too bothered by our approach.

I guess when you weight up to 2900 pounds and you’re napping on the beach, you want to be really sure that something is a threat before you decide to make a break for it.

After watching the sea lions for a while, another family approached on bikes. They were less respectful. Two of them lay down on their backs and began writhing and barking at the animals. Not the least bit fooled, several sea lions got a little sketched out and decided to scamper. A scampering sea lion is pretty cute and kind of hilarious.

At this point, we decided to take our leave. I don’t think sea lions are particularly violent toward humans unless they feel threatened but we felt we’d disturbed their nap time enough.

On the way back to the hotel, we passed by a boy and his sister making a sand castle. Just as we were walking by, I overheard the boy say to his sister, “Open your eyes! Everything is ALIVE!”. Wow, kid. That is a very enlightened thing to say. Maybe you should stay away from empty swimming pools for a while..

NFT Radar: Knee High Stocking Co.

In true speakeasy fashion, you have to know about it to get in. The door is locked from the inside so if you were just wandering, you’d think the place closed. But if you ring the doorbell, a friendly chap answers, welcoming you inside and handing you a large menu full of old timey cocktails, mostly involving gin. Every day, they craft a new punch and serve up cups for $3 during happy hour. The beer selection is small (and includes currant cider), but people don’t come to a speakeasy for beer. They come for the hooch. Soak up all those bathtub libations with a little nosh. The chow selection is small but more than sufficient, including lamb sliders, spicy mac and cheese, hot dogs and a crustini and cheese plate with pear butter. Oh, and don’t forget to obey the rules or you’ll be eighty-sixed. No cell phones, pictures, or standing. It’s for your own good, pops. There will never be more people than there are chairs. That means you will always be able to use hushed tones to plot with your cohorts. Chin chin.


1356 E Olive Way 98122
206-979-7049

X-posted from Not For Tourists.

Film Threat Review: Run! Bitch Run!

2009
Un-rated
90 minutes
Freak Show Entertainment

***

There’s no question about what director Joseph Guzman was going for with “Run! Bitch Run!” He aimed to make a 70’s-style sexploitation film and that’s precisely what he accomplished. Quentin Tarantino and Rob Zombie would be proud. If sex (well, mostly rape), drugs, and constant bleeding aren’t your bag, you’d best stay the hell away from this film. If you like a bit of the ultraviolence, however, read on.

“Run! Bitch Run!” follows two Catholic teenagers who are on a mission to sell religious paraphernalia and raise money for their school. It’s not a bad idea, actually. If anyone’s going to sell bibles to heathens, it’s young girls in a shorter-than-regulation plaid skirt. In true Catholic schoolgirl fashion, one of them is just a little slutty. Unfortunately, the townspeople of Mosely (a tribute to Bill, perhaps?) don’t see it that way. The girls are met with profanity, slammed doors, shotguns, and a punk kid who rips them off. And those are the nice folk. Their persistence is punished when they knock on the door of Lobo’s brothel just as he’s blowing a hole into the head of a disobedient whore. What happens to them next is bloodier and more sinister than the brimstoneiest pages in the Old Testament.

Rest assured, as the poster indicates, there’s also payback. Hell hath no fury like a Catholic schoolgirl disillusioned. But before the payback, there is MUCH scorn. Lobo isn’t the only bad wolf in the den. There’s also Marla, a whore with an insatiable libido and a nasty habit of killing her customers, and Clint, a meek but violent lackey. Marla also has a bit of a Lady MacBeth complex. It seems these three have seen “The Devil’s Rejects” one too many times.

Speaking of, fans of Rob Zombie’s work might notice a few convenient parallels (“Run rabbit, run,” anyone?), but it’s not an overt rip-off by any means. “House of 1000 Corpses” and “Devil’s Rejects” are more of an homage to films of that era, while “Run, Bitch Run!” could easily be mistaken as the real deal. Guzman and Robert James Hayes aren’t quite as effective as Zombie at writing compelling evil characters or memorable dialog, but that actually gives “Run! Bitch Run!” more authenticity. You’ll never find yourself endeared to Marla and Lobo as you might Baby or Captain Spalding. Thus, the revenge portion of the narrative is all the more satisfying. The gore effects are terrific and there’s good use of pacing, which is key in a story with so many rape and torture scenes. The cinematography also deserves a mention as they’ve deftly captured the lovely, warm, 70’s film look. “Run! Bitch Run!” may not be a repeat-viewer, but it’s absolutely worth a first look.

 

Originally posted on FilmThreat.com (now defunct).

Dis-illusion

In light of this recent story about a woman who is suing “Illusionist” David Copperfield for sexual assault, I would like to share a childhood memory.

When I was a little girl, I went with my family to see David Copperfield perform live at the Richmond Colosseum. During the show, he called on several volunteers from the audience to help with his little tricks (That’s right, I called them “tricks”). The audience was full of kids who eagerly waved their arms, hoping to be chosen. However, he only chose young, blonde women and flirted with them ferociously throughout their time on stage. I called bullshit on him at that moment. I was officially creeped out. And thus, my lifelong distrust of and objection to magicians began.

Just saying.

Film Threat Review: Perfect Hideout

2009
Un-rated
90 minutes
Zeitsprung Entertainment

**

Nick is a dim-witted, petty felon in the German crime biz. All he wants is to take his equally dim girlfriend, Celia, to the States for a fresh start. But it’s never that easy, is it? Before he leaves town, he must pay off some unseen crime boss with an undisclosed amount of money…or else! In a moment of desperation, Nick decides to rob a gas station and accidentally shoots a cop in the process. Now on the run from pretty much everybody, Nick and Celia decide to hide out in a mansion and take the owner, Victor von Hartenberg (Billy Zane!!!), hostage. Unbeknownst to them, Victor’s German accent is shoddy for a reason. Victor is not who he says and his family isn’t “just at dinner.” Now, under siege by a motley Special Forces Unit and trapped in a house with a madman, Nick and Celia begin to second-guess the safety of their “Perfect Hideout.”

With such a plot and the presence of Billy Zane, it’s difficult to imagine where they could go wrong. But wrong they went. Their biggest mistake was not marketing this thing as a crime thriller spoof because it is damned funny and I’m certain that was not their intension. Sure, there are lines that are clearly jokes (Nick and Celia’s constant bickering, for instance) and Zane hams it up like his name is Virginia. But when a Special Forces guy shouts things like, “It’ll be a massacre!” and “That’s madness,” I don’t think we’re supposed to laugh. It’s a shame too, because if director Stephen Manuel owned the inherent comedy in the script, he may have really had something. With a few dialog tweaks and a different directing style, we could have had the “Tropic Thunder” of crime thrillers.

By way of example, take this exchange between the arcane European Special Forces Officer who is now in charge and the inexplicably American Special Forces Officer who was formerly in charge. They are discussing the identity of the man they think Nick is holding hostage:

Euro Boy: Do you have any idea who this man is?!

G.I. Joe: An important private banker.

Euro Boy: …AND serious political heavyweight!

This, my friends, is comedy gold. But gems like this are squandered; as Manuel clearly thought he was making “Die Hard.” Like Gina Gershon in “Showgirls” before him, Billy Zane is the only one who knows what kind of movie he’s in, and decides to make the best of it. You know a movie is flawed when you desperately want the bad guy to win. Not the protagonist reluctant criminals mind you, but the absolute antagonist with no redeeming character value whatsoever. At best, “Perfect Hideout” is the Billy Zane Show. At worst, it’s a schizophrenic, silly pile of Eurotrash. If only Stephen Manuel had listened to his friend Billy Zane.

 

Originally posted on FilmThreat.com (now defunct).

Film Threat Review: Hick Trek/Star Warp’d

The parody film is rarely necessary and the results almost never approach biting or witty satire. But there is obviously an audience for it somewhere. There must be. Otherwise they wouldn’t keep making those genre spoof films and Carmen Electra and all those celebrity impressionists would be out of work. In that way, the Schuermanns were ahead of their time. Their “double feature” DVD release actually contains four films, each with mercifully shorter running times.

2009
Rated G
92 minutes
ATOZ Films

*

Hick Trek: The Moovie (1999)

One year before the first “Scary Movie” was released, “Hick Trek” found its way onto tape. This slapdash mess of a Sci-Fi send-up utilizes cowboy pun naming conventions and redneck jokes in a completely ludicrous plot involving cats that want to destroy the universe. Captain Slim T. Jerk must battle the threat alongside Mr. Schlock, Horns McBoy and Sueyou. It’s as if Mad Magazine penned an extra long episode of “Hee-Haw.” Granted, the hick theme does lend itself to the low-budget props and shoddy effects. It would almost be cute if they were teenagers making a movie in their garage. But adults should know better. Still, I have to give them credit for one thing: The Trekkie references are slightly less on-the-nose than those in the J.J. Abrahms version.

Star Warp’d (2002)

After learning After Effects and stop motion animation, the Schuermanns returned with an ever-so-slightly less painful Sci-Fi spoof based in the Star Wars universe. They sling three painful episodes at us in rapid succession and then dangle the threat of a fourth over us so that we will never feel completely safe again. In Episode I, “The Fandom Menace,” the conceit is that a tear in the universe allows a mashup of iconic Sci-Fi characters to battle over something-or-other. The two main opposing forces are, of course, punny versions of Star Trek and Star Wars characters. Specifically, Dark Vapor (yeah, it’s a fart joke) vs. Captain Kwirk and Mr. Spuck. They do a good job with the near-score (making a copyright-free ripoff of John Williams’ classic strains) and the animation is decent for the caliber of filmmaking. But beyond that, it’s just as painful as their inaugural outing. 2001, X-files. E.T., Terminator, Predator and Robocop are all name-checked for no real reason other than they could be made out of clay. The result feels like a much less sophisticated precursor to Robot Chicken.

In Episode II: The Good, the Bad and the Ewoquies, the madness continues as Kwirk and Spuck must save the titular furballs from genocide. Episode III: Veni, Vidi, Vapor (I Came, I Saw, I Farted…Yes, the translation is part of the title…SIGH.) brings in a superfluous “Matrix” parody.

What really blows my mind here is that stop motion animation is not exactly easy to crank out. It’s a painstaking and lengthy process. That means the filmmakers had plenty of time to mull over each of their inane gags and they still decided to go with through with it. Fans of Mel Brooks’ more juvenile jokes and people with a lifetime subscription to “Cracked” may find something to love here. The rest of you should watch Robot Chicken’s Star Wars specials and continue to live in blissful ignorance of “Star Warp’d.”

Originally posted on FilmThreat.com (now defunct).