November 23rd, 2009

THE HOLLYWOOD KNIGHTS (1980) ** ½

The Hollywood Knights is basically a rehash of American Graffiti.  Except the acting and directing isn’t as good.  It does have a bunch of titties in it though so that makes it watchable.

 

Just like American Graffiti, there isn’t any plot; just a bunch of nostalgic interconnected incidents revolving around a group of teens over the course of a single night.  We get drag racing, mooning, and a lot of excessive loitering at a drive-in restaurant.  We also get pissing in the punchbowl and nerdy band leader hazing.  All of this happens while the soundtrack blares the requisite wall-to-wall oldies.

 

The characters are basically the same too.  There’s the guy who’s going away to Vietnam, the prankster, the gearhead, the cool DJ, and the nerd.  As in American Graffiti, most of the actors playing these roles went on to bigger and better things.  Among them are Tony Danza, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Wuhl, and Fran Dresher.

 

A lot of the humor is sophomoric and although nothing in the flick comes close to matching American Graffiti, it’s sorta funny.  The highlight comes when some pledges are made to walk through Watts buck ass naked in the middle of the night.  They grab a couple sheets off a clothesline and wrap themselves up.  Predictably, they are mistaken for the KKK.  Hilarity ensues.

 

Danza is the “star” of the movie but he isn’t really given a whole lot to do besides whine at Pfeiffer a lot.  Wuhl comes off best as the jokester of the group who pulls off a lot of pranks.  He gets the most screen time of anyone and says all the funniest lines like, “Did you hear about the guy with five penises?  His pants fit like a glove!”

THE KEVIN SORBO SYFY CHANNEL TRIPLE FEATURE

I really like Kevin Sorbo.  I thought after Hercules went off the air, he’d be able to have a big screen career.  After the failure of Kull the Conqueror, that never came to fruition.  He now stars in about seven hundred SyFy Channel Originals a year.  Tonight, SyFy had a triple feature of the man’s recent films and while none of them are nowhere near as much fun as Never Cry Werewolf (the Citizen Kane of Kevin Sorbo SyFy Channel Originals), they nevertheless are a good showcase for the man’s considerable acting chops.

 

LIGHTNING STRIKES  (2009)  **

 

A small town is plagued by an ominous electrical storm.  The sheriff (Kevin Sorbo) and a group of storm chasers investigate a death of a young boy by a lightning strike; much to the chagrin of the metrosexual mayor who doesn’t want any bad publicity for the town’s upcoming pumpkin festival.  With some help from a creepy drifter (David Schofield from An American Werewolf in London), our heroes learn that there is actually life form inside of the lightning that singles out people and kills them. 

 

It’s not as stupid as it sounds; mostly because the actors play it very realistically.  (Well, except the sissy mayor.)  Sorbo does a fine job in the lead and his “Aw shucks” persona is a perfect fit for the material.  Schofield also brings his A-Game to the Captain Ahab role who holds a major grudge against the Lightning Monster.

 

You know things are going to be bad though when you start praising the performances in a SyFy Channel Original.  The thing that ultimately sinks the flick is that the kills are pretty weak and interchangeable (the creature’s victims just get a little crispy).  Plus, there isn’t too much action until the almost the very end.  

 

Another thing that irked me about the movie was the fact that nothing was ever really done with the creature.  The idea of a monster hiding in lighting is intriguing enough (“intriguing” for a SyFy Channel Original anyway) but we never learn anything about it except it kinda looks like Syngenor.  The “rules” of the creature are pretty lame (it can vanquish people into a white void that resembles The Matrix) and the reasoning why it can’t “strike twice” is stupid.

 

Director Gary (Boogeyman 3) Jones films things in a straightforward manner but every now and then he will toss out a hilarious slice of WTF.  My favorite scene was when Sorbo opened up a body bag of a charred corpse in the middle of the festival in plain view of several onlookers.  Why wouldn’t he wait until he got to the morgue to do that?  The answer:  Because then we wouldn’t have the priceless reaction shot of the only black guy in the town looking over Sorbo’s shoulder at the corpse and hollering, “DAAAAAAMMN!”, that’s why.

 

Schofield gets the best line of the film when he says, “The only way to save Billy is to send me straight to Hell!”

 

FIRE FROM BELOW  (2009)  * ½

 

Miners unearth some Lithium for a wealthy jackass industrialist.  When the element gets wet, it turns into a deadly fireball with a mind of it’s own.  Kevin Sorbo (who also executive produced) stars as a seismologist who along with his wife tries to figure out a way to stop it before it completely destroys a small town.

 

While Lightning Strikes was consistently mediocre all the way through, Fire From Below (not to be confused with the Steven Seagal flick, Fire Down Below) is non-stop shittiness punctuated with moments of laugh out loud insanity.  The “plot” sucks more than a two dollar hooker on half-price night.  When it comes to the kills though, it’s downright hilarious.  See huge ass fireballs torch miners, flambé water skiers, barbeque rednecks in their outhouse, and cause horny teens to explode while taking a leak.  Most of the flick unfortunately is devoted to lame-o action sequences where Sorbo and company narrowly outrun giant balls of fire.  Then there are the intensely stupid scenes of a news anchor reporting on stuff we’ve already seen that only helps to pad out the running time to fit a two hour time slot.

 

Sorbo skates by on his easygoing charisma and does what he can with the sorry script he was given.  Needless to say, that isn’t much.  No one else in the cast comes close to delivering as good a performance as old Kev.  Maybe that’s what you get when Andrew (The Terror Within 2) Stevens and Jim (Extreme Limits) Wynorksi are in the directors’ chairs.

 

SOMETHING BENEATH  (2007)  * ½

 

Kevin Sorbo stars as a kindhearted preacher attending an ecological conference in a fancy hotel.  Unbeknownst to anyone, the hotel’s foundation was built on a fountain of hallucinogenic black goop.  When this onyx ooze gets on people it causes it’s victims to have bizarre visions until they eventually die.

 

Something Beneath takes a potentially interesting Lovecraftian premise and squanders it.  Most of the “scary” scenes mandate that the actors walk around aimlessly with the black gunk on them for what seems like forever until their hallucination finally kicks in.  Unfortunately, the majority of their freakouts end up being pretty crappy.  (The opening severed head scene being the lone exception.)  The final confrontation with the goo beast (it looks like a multi-tentacled turd) is a major letdown as well.

 

Sorbo nearly salvages this mess.  He gives the hunky priest a lot of depth and manages to make his character three-dimensional.  Anyone who thinks Sorbo is just a pretty boy should check him out here.  His performance is easily the best thing about this middling movie.  All the other characters, from the bratty socialite (clearly modeled on Paris Hilton) to the crazed scientist who lives in the basement are thoroughly annoying and cancel out Sorbo’s admirable acting abilities. 

 

The crooked cop gets the best line of the movie when he tells Sorbo, “Preacher, get the flock out of here!”

I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE (1958) *** ½

Tom Tryon gets his body taken over by an alien being on the eve of his wedding.  Soon after he gets married, his wife Gloria Talbott starts noticing that he isn’t quite the same.  He becomes distant, has the ability to see in the dark, and dogs and cats suddenly hate his guts.  She eventually realizes that her husband is not of this earth.  Pretty soon, more aliens start inhabiting the bodies of all the males in town and it’s up to the neurotic newlywed to find someone who will believe her about the imminent invasion.

 

What makes I Married a Monster from Outer Space work is that director Gene (I Was a Teenage Werewolf) Fowler, Jr. doesn’t treat the material as if it’s a cheesy 50’s Sci-Fi flick.  The film looks classy as the camera moves around a lot and the cinematography is excellent.  The script by Louis (The Rebel Set) Vittes is nicely layered and doesn’t descend into melodrama, which is refreshing.  Like Attack of the 50 Foot Woman from the same year, I Married a Monster from Outer Space has an interesting feminist slant that raises it a notch or two above the usual genre standards.  The script even goes into the otherwise taboo area of the aliens mating with humans to produce “our” children.

 

The effects are top notch.  The cool looking aliens resemble Man-Thing on acid and can shoot disintegrating rays out of their hands.  There’s also a great scene when the glowing aliens get shot and their skin immediately heals over the wound.  I also dug the part where the human host melted into bubbly goo after the connection to their mother ship was broken.

 

The performances are engaging and add a lot of depth to the film.  Gloria (The Leech Woman) Talbot is quite memorable as the suspicious wife and Tryon is pretty good as the aloof alien.  My only real complaint with the flick was that we never really get a chance to know what his character was like before he became an alien.  In movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers or Invaders from Mars, we get a real sense of what the characters were like before they were possessed by aliens.  Here, we basically just have to take the wife’s word that her hubby’s acting bizarre.

 

Another thing that I thought was weird about the film was that Tryon actually STOPS drinking once he gets married.  I think the filmmakers really missed a bet here.  I mean wouldn’t it be cooler if it was the other way around and he started drinking MORE once he got married?  I think they call that “social commentary” or something.