February 11th, 2009

ANACONDA 3 (2008) ** ½

I like the Anaconda movies almost as much as I like movies with the number 3 in it, so I was game for this Direct-to-Sci-Fi Channel sequel.  Now I know that I am breaking my self imposed moratorium on Sci-Fi Channel Originals by watching this flick, but goddamn it, any movie that features a hungry Anaconda, the number 3, AND David Muthafuckin’ Hasselhoff is worthy of my time.  The first Anaconda had a reliable hodgepodge of veteran actors and up-and-coming stars, the second flick had… Morris Chestnut.  In Part 3, we got the Hoff and that’s all we really need.


The plot has John Rhys-Davies using extracts from Blood Orchid to create a cure for cancer in an underground lab.   He shoots up a giant anaconda with the serum with the hopes that its offspring will hold the secrets to the cure.  Predictably the snake gets loose and John’s got to send the Hoff out into the woods to find it.


The reviews I read about this movie were all pretty scathing and had me prepared for the worst.  I don’t know if it was the lowered expectations or what, but I kinda dug Anaconda 3.  It wasn’t Mega Snake or anything but it got the job done.  Honestly, what were all the reviewers expecting from a direct-to-Sci-Fi Channel sequel to Anaconda?  It’s not like its Chinatown or anything.


What really bothered me was that reviewers said that this flick “had no connection to the first two movies”.  HELLO… in the second scene of the movie, the weasly scientist guy tells Rhys-Davies about the Blood Orchid!  You remember the Blood Orchid, don’t you?  You know, the one from Anacondas:  Hunt for the BLOOD ORCHID!  Really folks, are you all smoking crack or something?  How could you forget about the fucking Blood Orchid?  And you call yourselves movie critics…


The flick suffers from being filmed on the cheap and has some pretty shoddy CGI, but I enjoyed myself more often than not on this one.  The thing that irritated me the most was the abundance of false scares.  Seriously, every five minutes somebody would whip around, the music would swell, and… it would be a goat or something instead of a bloodthirsty anaconda.  Also, the movie kinda petered out near the end when it should’ve been heating up.  I must commend director Don E. (Today You Die) FauntLeRoy for not overdoing it on the Snake Cam POV shots though.


The best thing that can be said about Anaconda 3 is that it tops it’s predecessors in the gore department.  It’s actually one of the goriest Sci-Fi flicks I think I’ve ever seen.  The giant snake bites heads off, impales people with its tail, rips off their faces, wraps itself around its victims and crushes them to death, swallows them whole and regurgitates their undigested bodies (a staple of the series). 


What really makes the movie though is the Hoff.  He’s great in this.  I particularly liked his barroom brawl scene.  He also gets all the best lines like: “Always know the animal before the hunt!”, “If you follow my lead, I’ll lead you right up the snake’s ass!”, and “I intend on getting a nice new pair of Anaconda snakeskin boots!”


AKA:  Anaconda 3:  Offspring.


Bruce Dern stars as a mad scientist who gets tired of grafting extra heads onto monkeys, snakes, and bunnies so he decides to try it on a human.  The doctor uses the head of an escaped killer (Albert Cole) and grafts it onto the body of a borderline retarded handyman (John Bloom), and predictably the two-headed terror goes on a rampage killing bikers and necking teenagers.  In the end, the doc, his wife (Marilyn Munster herself, Pat Priest) and his buddy (Casey Kasem) corner the creature in an abandoned mineshaft and literally bring the house down.


Okay, I’m confused.  How can you make a movie about a two-headed psycho starring Bruce Dern, Casey Kasem, and Marilyn Munster and have it suck nuts?  I’ll tell you how:  the tone is all out of whack.  If director Anthony M. Lanza went for a campier tone, The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant could’ve been a blast.  Then again, if he had played things deadly serious, that could’ve worked too.  Unfortunately Lanza tried to split the difference and the result is pretty much a mess; especially since the two-headed special effects are so pitiful.


Likewise, everyone in the movie doesn’t quite know how to play things.  Only the goofy grinning Cole has any fun and you can only imagine what the movie would’ve been like if the rest of the cast had followed his lead.  Dern more or less sleepwalks through his role, which is pretty unusual for him.  You’d think that an overacting nutbar like Dern would’ve relished the opportunity to play a mad scientist who creates a two-headed monster, but I guess not.


The year after releasing the mind-numbing The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant, the good folks at AIP came out with this flick, effectively cornering the market on two-headed transplant movies.  While The Thing with Two Heads is by no means perfect, it’s a much better film than The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant and features a pair of great performances by the two leads; which at least makes it worth sitting through.


Ray Milland stars as a racist scientist with terminal chest cancer who is renowned for his transplant operations.  After successfully grafting an extra head onto a gorilla, he decides it’s time to try the experiment on himself.  (“My genius must be allowed to continue!”)  When Milland’s condition worsens, he slips into a coma and his staff rushes to get a donor body.  Enter football star Rosey Grier who plays a convict on death row who volunteers for the experiment.  The doctors graft Milland’s head onto Grier’s body and when poor Ray wakes up he’s in for quite a shock.


The Thing with Two Heads is a lot more enjoyable than The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant because it actually has a bit of fun with the premise.  The scenes of Grier and Milland constantly bickering are pretty funny, especially when Ray starts tossing out racist insults like, “Your kind always sticks together!”  The film is at its best whenever the duo are dealing with their bizarre predicament (like when the two-headed Rosey goes to visit his girlfriend) and the scene where Ray wakes up on the operating table is priceless.  The two-headed effects are really well done with the dummy heads being a lot less obvious than you might expect, but the special effect highlight is the two-headed gorilla that was designed (and played) by a young Rick Baker.


Unfortunately doldrums set in during the flick’s extended motorcycle chase scene.  While it’s initially humorous to see a two-headed man on a motorcycle, the appeal quickly wears off as the chase sequence plods on and on for nearly twenty minutes.  After that, the movie never really gets its momentum back.  The ending is also wrapped up a little too neatly, but the flick is damn good times for at least the first 45 minutes or so.


Director Lee Frost got his start doing nudie movies like House on Bare Mountain and The Defilers.


AKA:  The Beast with Two Heads.  AKA:  The Man with Two Heads.

STREETS OF FIRE (1984) ** ½

Streets of Fire is one queer duck of a movie.  The opening titles inform us that it takes place “In another place, in another time”.  Seconds later, another title tells us that the film is “A Rock n’ Roll fable”.  All of this just means that the whole movie will look like a feature length MTV video and feature lots of guys who wear S & M get-ups and 50’s style ducktail hairdos.


Basically the plot has Tom Cody (Michael Pare) walking into town and accepting an offer to rescue a Rock n’ Roll singer named Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) who also happens to be Cody’s former flame.  He teams up with her manager (Rick Moranis) and a lesbian (Amy Madigan) to get her back from the clutches of the vile Raven (Willem Dafoe), a guy who likes to wear black latex clamdiggers.  Then there’s some singing and dancing and fighting and shootouts and stuff before Cody and Raven go mano y mano with sledgehammers for the climatic showdown.


Now I really like director Walter Hill’s stuff.  I mean this is the guy who directed such classics as 48 Hours, The Warriors and Last Man Standing.  In The Warriors, Hill had a knack for making hyper-stylized gang cultures seem realistic; but in Streets of Fire it just seems downright goofy.  The problem is the approach is all wrong.  Whereas The Warriors had a tough hard-R edge to it; Streets of Fire is a watered down, PG-rated MTV-friendly hodgepodge.  It also doesn’t help that all the music is generic 80’s rock that tries to sound all 50’s and stuff.  (That fucking lame ass “I Can Dream About You” song has since become a Light Rock radio staple.)


What makes the flick immensely watchable is the amazing cast.  I think Pare never got his due (he certainly doesn’t deserve to be Uwe Boll’s go-to guy I know that much) and he’s quite good in this.  Dafoe is the one who steals the flick and looks creepier here than he did in Shadow of the Vampire AND HE’S NOT EVEN WEARING ANY MAKE-UP, FOLKS!  Also in the mix is Bill Paxton, Rick Rossovich, Lee Ving, Deborah Van Valkenburgh (also in The Warriors), and Robert Townsend.  Lane is pretty vapid but hey, she looks hot so I’ll give her a mulligan this time. 


Hill’s next was Brewster’s Millions.