April 16th, 2008

SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER (1977) **

The Duke’s son, Patrick (Young Guns) Wayne stars as Sinbad the sailor in the third and final film in special effects master Ray Harryhausen’s Sinbad trilogy.  A young prince gets turned into a chess playing baboon by an old witch and his sister (a dreadlocked Jane Seymour) gets Sinbad to help set things right.  The witch sends out a trio of insect warriors to stop Sinbad, but that doesn’t discourage him one bit.  He goes on a voyage looking for a cure and runs afoul of a golden Minotaur, a telepathic hottie (Taryn Power, the daughter of actor Tyrone), an oversized bumblebee, a big ass walrus, a giant but gentle troglodyte, and finally a sabretooth tiger. 

 

Sadly, Survivor’s hit song “Eye of the Tiger” is nowhere to be found. 

 

Wayne definitely didn’t inherit any of his father’s acting genes, but his wooden acting is well suited to these kinds of shenanigans.  Luckily, Seymour and Power can usually be found wearing a slinky dress and provide fine arm candy for Sinbad.  Director Sam Wanamaker is usually an actor (check him out in Superman IV) and was probably in over his head with all the fantasy elements of the picture, which explains why things get particularly waterlogged about halfway though.  

 

But you don’t watch these movies for the acting, plot or directorial flair.  You see ‘em for the stop motion monsters.  The special effects in this movie are fine (the troglodyte being the standout), but they pale in comparison to some of Harryhausen’s more spectacular creations.  Likewise the film is enjoyable to a point, but it lacks the elements that made the other Harryhausen special effects smorgasbords so memorable.  The troglodyte vs. tiger finale is impressive, but unfortunately you have to wait about 110 minutes to see it. 

 

Still to me though, the best special effects in the flick were Seymour and Power’s breasts.  Sure you only see them for about two seconds apiece, but the brief glimpses of the ladies’ skin were easily the best part of this mediocre entry in the series.  I mean where else are you gonna see Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman expose her ta-ta’s to a giant caveman?

AKA:  Sinbad at the World's End.

20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957) ** ½

 

The first manned spaceship to Venus crash lands in Italy carrying a Venusian space egg.  Predictably, it cracks open and gives life to a reptilian monster (the Ymir, courtesy of special effects master Ray Harryhausen) that rapidly grows to enormous size and runs amok.  A smarmy astronaut (William Hopper) manages to capture the monster, but it inevitably breaks loose and goes on a rampage through the streets of Rome and wrecks havoc at the Coliseum.  

 

The Ymir stands as one of Harryhausen’s greatest creations (the sequence where the Ymir battles an elephant that squashes some zookeepers is a standout), but the movie he inhabits is rather pedestrian and by the numbers.  The movie is novel in that the monster doesn’t attack the USA for a change but other than that, it’s pretty standard issue.  It’s not bad by any means; it just pales in comparison to Harryhausen’s earlier similar flicks like The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and It Came from Beneath the Sea.  If director Nathan Juran brought the same amount of fun as he did for Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, this could’ve been a classic, but as it stands, 20 Million Miles to Earth is just a mildly amusing monster movie. 

 

Juran and Harryhausen later collaborated on The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and First Men in the Moon.  Hopper also starred in The Deadly Mantis for Juran the same year. 

 

The love interest gets the best line of the movie when she says, “I’ve been cooking over a hot monster all day!”

 

AKA:  The Beast from Space.  AKA:  The Giant Ymir. 

PROM NIGHT (2008) **

 

I know that everyone is getting tired of all these horror remakes, but I can’t see why everybody got all worked up over the fact that someone went ahead and remade Prom Night.  It’s not a big deal people.  Prom Night was never a sterling horror movie to begin with.  In fact, the plot was so lame (a killer stalks a bunch of teens who covered up a murder years earlier) that when it came time to make Prom Night 2, they threw out the story and started from scratch.  While Prom Night 3 was a legitimate sequel to Prom Night 2, it had no relation to the first movie, and Prom Night 4 had no connection to ANY of the previous movies.  This remake has even less to do with those movies and if you just more or less consider this Prom Night 5, it goes down a lot smoother.

 

Basically the plot of this one has this hatchet faced chick being stalked by her gonzo teacher (Road House 2’s Jonathon Schaech).  The opening scene actually manages to provide a jolt or two as the killer murders her entire family and kills her mother while she watches.  The cops grab him before he can turn her into a teen-kabob and they send him off to the nuthouse.  Three years later on prom night, he escapes from the loony bin and filets her friends with a fishing knife before setting his sights on her.

 

Say what you will about this diluted PG-13 horror remake, but it wasn’t THAT bad.  Granted the teens were all annoying, the music was horrible and the kills were rather tame, but I have to give credit where credit is due.  Even though the murders got a little repetitive (Schaech’s MO:  slash and run), Schaech did carve up someone about every eight minutes and managed to stack up an impressive body count before buying the farm.  Also, the flick moves at a pretty snappy pace, which is more than I can say for the original, which took almost an hour or so before someone finally got knifed. 

 

Another plus:  NO DISCO MUSIC. 

 

Of course that’s about where the good stuff ends.  Despite a strong start, the movie kinda falls apart at about the ¾ mark when the action shifts away from the prom and focuses on the suburbs.  The PG-13 rating doesn’t help matters and the blood is kept to a minimum.  (I’ve had bowel movements with more blood than this movie.)  The lead actress was pretty… awful and I kept being distracted by the huge scar on her forehead.  It was weird; her scar had more personality than the rest of her face did. 

 

In fact, I found myself actually rooting for Schaech to turn the irritating kids into cutlets about halfway through the movie.  Schaech was in full on Vincent Gallo mode the whole movie and exuded an odd freakiness that was way more interesting than anybody else in the movie.  Besides, let’s face it.  That little hatchet faced broad cockteased him into lunacy and the only way to make her pay was to butcher her family and friends.  We’ve all been there before.  We can sympathize with the man. 

 

And while we’re talking nutcases, let’s take a moment to honor the killer’s disguise.  I think it will go down as one of the more memorable disguises in horror history.  In the Friday the 13th series, Jason had his hockey mask.  In Urban Legend, Noxema Girl sported the Eskimo coat.  In The Toolbox Murders, the immortal Cameron Mitchell wore a scary ski mask.  In Prom Night, Schaech wears… are you ready for this?  A BASEBALL CAP! 

 

Sure, you’re gonna say, boy Mitch, you really lost it on this one, you’re actually PRAISING the fact that the movie’s killer donned a cut rate, non-descript noggin topper that looks more Jason Giambi than Jason Vorhees, but let me defend myself here for a second.  The cap works because whenever Schaech wants to remain anonymous in a crowd, all he’s gotta do is PULL THE BRIM DOWN.  When Schaech wants to show how angry he is, all he has to do is LIFT THE BRIM UP so you can see his crazy ass eyes.  And when Schaech wants to camouflage himself in the darkness like Predator, all he’s got to do is PUT HIS HEAD DOWN in a dark room to make himself invisible. 

 

As you can see, it’s an all purpose disguise. 

 

Look, this flick ain’t gonna cure world hunger, make the planet environmentally friendly or teach inner city kids how to play the violin.  It’s a damn Prom Night movie.  You pays your moneys, you get what you pays for.  It’s no Prom Night 4:  Deliver Us from Evil, but it gets the job done for the most part, and if you can put yourself in the killer’s shoes, it’s really not so bad at all. 

 

Mortal Kombat fans will be pleased to know that none other than Johnny Cage plays the hatchet faced chick’s legal guardian.

GONE BABY GONE (2007) ***

 

Ben Affleck makes his directorial debut with this predictable but compelling child abduction drama.  Affleck’s brother Casey stars as a private investigator who is hired to find a missing four year old girl in Boston.  With the help of his partner (Michelle Monaghan) and a pair of crusty cops (Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris) they scour the city looking for the kid in hopes of reuniting her with her deadbeat coked out white trash mama (Amy Ryan).  When they trace her whereabouts to a Haitian crime lord named “Cheese”, they arrange for an exchange, but the deal goes sour and the little girl ends up dead.  Or does she? 

 

Any person with half a brain can figure out if the girl’s got a heartbeat or not and who the kidnapper is as soon as he appears, but the flick is worth checking out for the performances alone.  Affleck does a great job in the lead role and proves that he earned his shot as a leading man.  (Although I’m sure a little nepotism didn’t hurt.)  Harris and Freeman are both excellent in their juicy roles and Ryan (in an Oscar nominated performance) is pretty convincing as a deadbeat coked out white trash mama.

 

Speaking of white trash, this movie sets some kind of cinematic record for most white trash per square minute.  Seriously, every frame of this film oozes white trash.  I mean it, John Waters only wishes he had this many trashy looking people in one movie.  After you figure out who did what to the kid, you can entertain yourself by checking out the various colorful white trash background extras.  (You can also have fun counting the chins on that one child molester lady.)   

 

Affleck directs the flick with an assurance of a seasoned professional, but hopefully he’s gotten this dramatic stuff out of his system so he can hurry up and fucking make Reindeer Games 2 for God’s sakes.  Now that he’s a big time director, maybe he can even direct the sucker himself.  How does the title Reindeer Games 2:  Slayride sound?  Seriously Affleck, I’ll write the fucker for you if that’s what it takes.