Jul 1 2015

Day of the Mummy (2014)

daymummyWith Day of the Mummy, it’s tough to tell who had it easier: William McNamara (Chasers), since his role is largely offscreen and spoken? Or Danny Glover (Saw), who literally sits behind a desk for the entirety? No matter your answer, the loser is clear: We.

That’s because the movie is as wretched as the Day is long. And damn, does this ever feel like director Johnny Tabor (Eaters) took the time of the title to heart. His horror flick is so lazy that its opening credits present a pair of (no-)names in a typeface that has defaulted from the fancy one everyone else gets. If they didn’t bother, why should we?

daymummy1McNamara’s Dr. Wells seeks a big ol’ diamond from an Egyptian king’s tomb, rumored to be cursed and of course it is. To get his hands on the goods, he joins a team of archaeologists — who look like they’d be on such an adventure only if MTV crafted a reality show around such a concept — and together, they penetrate the tomb. I hate to spoil it, but with just a few minutes left in the movie, our asshole archaeologists find a CGI mummy.

Because Wells’ eyeglasses have a built-in camera, we see what he sees. Given that much of Day of the Mummy takes place within narrow cave paths in the dark, the POV gives viewers the feel of watching — but not playing — a first-person shooter. In the corner of the screen, Glover’s character sits and watches and guides and comments and occasionally gets flustered. (For proof of the latter, check out the eight-second clip below from the final scene, which I shot with my iPhone. Doesn’t it seem like he’s having a stroke while pitching a fit?)

If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the movie; I wish I had not progressed past that first step. —Rod Lott

Get it at Amazon.

Jun 30 2015

Vertical Limit (2000)

verticallimitChris O’Donnell’s acting abilities have been in question ever since he transitioned from supporting parts to leading man, and his hot streak effectively ended — as did many — with 1995’s Batman & Robin. Five years later, the snowy mountain actioner Vertical Limit failed to reverse his career descent, but at least he emerged rosier than co-star Bill Paxton (Edge of Tomorrow), whose monosyllabic Texan routine already had worn thinner than his hair.

O’Donnell stars as a National Geographic photographer — no, really! — who must put away his fear of heights when his champion-climbing sister (Robin Tunney, Supernova) falls into an icy crevice with Paxton’s greasy, rich (redundant) scumbag villain. You really won’t believe the O’Donnell/Tunney pairing as brother-and-sister, because they totally play it like they’re firmly within week two of a couple’s “we’ve just begun fucking” phase.

verticallimit1Complete with the requisite spooky, local Native American hermit (played by a wackily miscast Scott Glenn of The Silence of the Lambs), members of the rescue team have the bright idea to strap nitroglycerin to their backs for the trek up the peak. Making up for such nonsense is GoldenEye girl Izabella Scorupco as the team’s all-important blonde hottie. I might have misspelled her name, but when you take a look at this frostbitten fox, vowels and consonants will be the furthest from your mind.

As directed by Martin Campbell (Green Lantern), the limited Limit does boast a couple of good, tense action sequences. However, like many other studio-spit-shined blockbusters, it grows excessive and doesn’t know when to quit. —Rod Lott

Get it at Amazon.

Jun 29 2015

Crocodile (2000)

crocodileDirected by the fallen-from-grace Tobe Hooper, who did the killer-croc thing before in 1997’s Eaten Alive, Crocodile kicks ass for one simple reason: It does not skimp on the bloody croc attacks. So many animal-attack films seem to miss this point entirely, resulting in utter disappointment, but Hooper gives nearly 10 violent on-screen deaths! Yes!

The rote story puts several drunken frat types and their so-hos on a houseboat during spring break. The lake they visit should have a sign posted reading, “DO NOT FUCK WITH CROCODILE EGGS,” because once these immature bozos do, it’s feedin’ time! And that’s what Hooper does right. What he does wrong is put a poodle named Princess in jeopardy at least three times, yet ultimately lets her live. (I’m also curious why he let the croc vomit up the annoying punk kid at the end, but that’s beside the point.)

crocodile1Members of the cast are unremarkable and unmemorable — they’re just croc food, after all — with the possible exception of Caitlin Martin (When Billie Beat Bobby), playing the kindhearted Girl Next Door who charms the screen with her crooked-eye-and-bit-lip routine. She did not return for 2002’s expected sequel, Crocodile 2: Death Swamp, but neither did Hooper. —Rod Lott

Get it at Amazon.

Jun 27 2015

Reading Material: We Don’t Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy

wedontneedroadsI can think of a few people who may hate reading Caseen Gaines’ history of the Back to the Future trilogy. These people are Eric Stoltz (fired from the lead role of Marty McFly after filming began), Crispin Glover (more or less blackballed from the sequels), Jeffrey Weissman (Glover’s ill-treated replacement) and Cheryl Wheeler (a stuntwoman who nearly died during a questionably safe stunt in Part II).

Everyone else, go for it! While inessential in terms of claiming a cineaste’s shelf space, We Don’t Need Roads is a must-own for anyone with a deep fondness for the classic time-travel comedy, especially if you were among those audiences wowed upon its release in the summer of 1985. That’s the power of love.

Continue reading

Jun 25 2015

Zombeavers (2014)

zombeaversAren’t you sick of those half-assed, would-be creature features in which the entire experience is the title? You know the ones: Pick one animal from Column A, then another from Column B, and pat ourselves on the back for our “best thing ever” hipsterism, i.e. Sharknado, Sharktopus, Dinoshark, Dinocroc, Pteracuda, Piranhaconda, Sharknado 2, et al.

Me, too. Well, Zombeavers is nothing like that. Zombeavers is a tool of goodness. For 85 minutes, I felt pure joy. And upon a second viewing, I felt that all over again. It’s a real-deal motion picture — not a time-slot filler that aims no higher than to be a Twitter trending topic. I loved it.

zombeavers1Three sorority sisters (headed by Dumb and Dumber To standout Rachel Melvin) head to a cabin in the woods for a weekend escape. Their respective boyfriends crash the party. And so does a colony of beavers, rendered radiated and mutated by an errant barrel of toxic waste. Leave it to the beavers to spoil the collegians’ trip of tanning bods and guzzling booze and swappin’ spit.

Several aspects keep Zombeavers blissfully afloat, including scene-stealing supporting turns from Rex Linn (TV’s CSI: Miami) and — believe it — white-bread pop singer John Mayer.

But the main reason is that the horror comedy is like a PB&J: It sells both sides. It earns its “Ewww”s for every lost limb and spewed fluid, and yet it never loses sight of being a joke-delivery vehicle — a screamingly funny one at that. No winking at the camera, no has-been cameos, no self-referential BS; following in the muddy, bloody footsteps of Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever, director/co-scripter Jordan Rubin (a writing vet of several years’ worth of MTV Movie Awards) strikes that delicate balance of tone that allows the film to be deliberately campy without becoming a joke itself. —Rod Lott

Get it at Amazon.