January 29th, 2008

BATS: HUMAN HARVEST (2007) *

I’m a little bit confused.  Is this supposed to be a sequel to the awful 1999 Lou Diamond Phillips killer bat movie, Bats?  And if so, why the heck did they wait EIGHT YEARS to release it?  I ask this because this flick has NOTHING to do with that movie (other than of course, the killer bats), but then again that’s never stopped the Sci-Fi Channel from showing unrelated sequels in the past. 

 

The first Bats movie (which I think we all could agree was a turd) at least had the benefit of Richie Valens blowing away bloodthirsty bats.  This flick only has a bunch of no named losers fending off the nocturnal nightmares. 

 

The movie starts out with a bunch of Russkie soldiers being attacked by killer bats; then the plot begins.  A bunch of indistinguishable soldiers played by interchangeable actors go on a training mission hunting for Al-Qaeda terrorists on the Russian border.  A stone faced Russian broad is hired to lead the troops to their main objective, but of course, no one really trusts her because she’s a Commie.  They find a bunch of rebel freedom fighters torn to shreds and pretty soon get attacked by killer bats themselves.  They learn the hard way that the bats also have the ability to camouflage themselves into their surroundings, which makes them that much harder to kill. 

 

The soldiers run afoul of a mad doctor (actually he isn’t really THAT mad, he’s more like a cranky doctor) who has genetically engineered the bats to be unstoppable killing machines.  They apprehend that Commie and try to extract him out of Russia, but of course, the bats get loose and turn most of the cast into Bat Chow. 

 

The special effects are surprisingly rather good and are easily the best thing this pile of guano has going for it.  When you compare the CGI bat effects to those in the first film (or your average Sci-Fi Channel Original for that matter), these effects look like Jurassic Park quality.  Even the practical animatronic models are pretty decent, and the “camouflage” effects aren’t the worst you’ve ever seen. 

 

The gore is OK by Sci-Fi Channel standards.  We get a few severed arms and one exploding body, but most of the victims die from being nibbled on by bats. 

 

Too bad everything else about this crappy movie is a complete waste of time.  The plot, action sequences and especially the acting are all the pits and you may find yourself doing your laundry, preparing your taxes or painting the OUTSIDE of your house in between the bat attacks. 

 

The dialogue is pretty sparse in this flick, but the cranky pants doctor does get to say to an inept guard, “I’d hate to have to breed your replacement.”  But it’s the lone wolf commando/leading man who gets the movie’s best lines like “Bats bounce right off of me!” and “Teamwork sucks!” 

 

So does the movie. 

100 RIFLES (1969) **

Burt Reynolds stars in this pokey paced oater as a half breed Indian who robs a bank to get enough cash to buy a cache of guns to fund an Indian uprising.  Jim Brown plays a black sheriff (years before Blazing Saddles made it fashionable) who heads down to Mexico to arrest him.  They end up being marked for death by the villainous railroad men played by Victor from Guiding Light, Fernando (“You look marvelous!”) Lamas and Dan (Robocop) O’Herlihy who want to wipe out the Indians and run the railroad through their land.  Reynolds eventually convinces Brown to join the revolution, much to the delight of the sexy mama Raquel Welch.

 

This has all the ingredients for a good western, but director Tom Gries stages the gun battles awkwardly, and drains them of any excitement they possibly may have had.  It doesn’t help when the capable cast isn’t given anything memorable to do either. 

 

Separately all three stars are great, but the problem is that they don’t have much chemistry with each other.  The much touted interracial love scene between Welch and Brown is kind of a fizzle as there are no sparks between the two.  Soledad (Vampiros Lesbos) Miranda has a brief, but saucy role as one of Reynolds’ conquests.  She seems more awake in this movie than anybody else in the movie and it’s a kind of shame she didn't have Raquel’s role.    

 

Gries later directed Helter Skelter. 

HEARTBREAK RIDGE (1986) ** ½

Clint Eastwood directed, produced and stars as a gruff Marine sergeant who has to turn a bunch of obnoxious, rough and tumble, wet behind the ears soldiers into lean, mean fighting machines. He also rekindles some flames with his cocktail waitress ex wife (Marsha Mason), butts heads with his thick skulled superior (Everett McGill from Silver Bullet) and actually gets to lead his platoon into battle in Grenada. 

 

Sure the story is rife with clichés, but Eastwood always did have a knack for fleshing out paper thin material into something you could actually care about.  The young cast, which includes Mario (New Jack City) Van Peebles (as a soldier with rock n’ roll aspirations) and Tom (Popcorn) Villard is especially good, and they help elevate the movie from it’s many clichéd trappings. 

 

The capable cast does it’s best, but unfortunately at well over two hours, Heartbreak Ridge has more than it’s share of lulls.  Chief among them is the gratuitously trite subplot where Clint tries to reconnect with his ex.  The scene where the battle hardened Clint is reduced to reading women’s magazines so he’ll know exactly what Marsha Mason needs to hear is especially cringe inducing.  The film’s concluding token action sequence finale also falls kinda flat as it merely serves as just an exercise to show how well the troop works as a team.  

 

But it’s Clint Eastwood who truly rescues the movie from being just another gung ho military potboiler.  He has a surly demeanor in this movie that compliments his usual squinty eyed stare nicely and has a memorable prison fight scene with the great Nicholas (Don’t Answer the Phone) Worth in the beginning of the film.  He also gets to say some truly priceless dialogue like “The only thing you could build is a good case of hemorrhoids!” and “Shut your face hippie!” 

THE MARINE (2006) ** ½

There’s been a void in wrestling ever since The Rock left to become a movie star and an even bigger void in the action genre since The Rock stopped making action movies and started making kiddie crap like The Game Plan.  While I never liked John Cena on WWE and found his yo boy persona rather irritating, he makes a pretty decent film debut here.  It’s no Commando but it’s way better than anything Steven Seagal’s done lately. 

 

Cena stars as (what else?) a Marine who gets a dishonorable discharge for disobeying orders when he heroically saved three soldiers in combat.  He returns home to his hot wife (Kelly Carlson) and tries to fit back into society by getting a job as a security guard.  That only lasts a day as he’s promptly fired after throwing a dude through a plate glass window.  Meanwhile there’s a group of crazed diamond thieves led by the always great Robert (Terminator 2) Patrick who blow up a gas station and kidnap Cena’s wife.  That makes the Marine all kinds of mad and he spends the next fifty minutes bodyslamming the heck of the sleazy bad guys. 

 

The action is plentiful as something gets blowed up real good about every ten minutes or so.  There’s also a great car chase in which Cena’s ride gets shot into the consistency of Swiss cheese, gets turned into a makeshift convertible when it collides with a crane and then flies off a cliff. 

 

Cena is no Rock, but he’s OK in the lead role and proves he has more charisma than most professional wrestlers-turned-actors (yes, Hulk Hogan, I’m talking to you).  Unfortunately the filmmakers do him the great disservice of not providing him with any funny one-liners or catchphrases.  But the movie really belongs to Patrick.  He chews more scenery per minute in this flick than most villains do in an entire movie, and he’s clearly having a lot of fun with the role.  His colorful crew gets a lot of great dialogue too and one villain even gets to relate a thoughtful summer camp story of when he hooked up with a (male) counselor!!! 

 

Maybe his crew is a bit too colorful for their own good. Their increasingly bizarre and reckless behavior (Patrick shoots his own man for no reason whatsoever) draws a lot of unnecessary attention and they probably could’ve made a clean getaway if Patrick wasn’t so busy blowing up cop cars with a bazooka just for the heck of it. 

 

Predictably, Patrick gets all the movie’s best lines like, “I have severe intimacy issues!” but the film’s best moment is when one of his underlings refers to Cena as “the Terminator”, and Patrick coyly raises an eyebrow to the audience. 

 

Nobody will be asking for a Marine 2, but the action is pretty much non-stop and you can do a heck of a lot worse.