Space Truckers (1996)

Today’s two reviews are from films from the mid-90s, one of which was roundly panned on release, the other which seemed to sneak under the radar. This is the panned one. A low point, even in their chequered careers, of Dennis Hopper and Stephen Dorff, and an almost-unheard-of romantic leading lady part for Debi Mazar, how does this film hold up today?

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The basic plot of this film is some executive decided he wanted to do a science fiction film that year, but the only scripts they had were fragments – a bit of a Western, a smidgeon of a sequel to “Convoy”, some “Aliens”, and the world’s stupidest love triangle film, and didn’t so much mash them together, as just do one bit, then another bit, then another bit. Charles Dance pops up at the beginning as a robot-inventing scientist, but he’s killed by his evil boss! No! Charles Dance makes any film automatically better just by his presence – FACT.

ASIDE 1: Don’t you hate it in films when someone military-ish says “the monsters are 1 mile away, repeat, 1 mile away”. Does anyone ever do this in real life?

John Canyon (Hopper) is one of the few remaining independent space truckers, and is transporting square pigs across the solar system. They’re in appalling battery conditions, and the film doesn’t appear to have a moral stand on this…just another example of how certain things like spaceships have progressed a great deal but they never bothered figuring out a decent synthetic alternative to pork. Norm off Cheers is the boss of the square pig company, and him trying to stiff Canyon starts off the film. Canyon’s favourite bartender, Cindy (Mazar) who he’s sort of guilted into agreeing to marry him, and Mike Pucci (Dorff), a company trucker waiting for his first run, join him as they’re all on the run from the space-law.

ASIDE 2: One of Norm’s henchmen inadvertently kills Norm by firing a hole in the side of the space station with a pistol, which sucks a bunch of stuff out. If you know this is likely to happen, why let anyone have a gun?

Rather than try and clear their names, they just decide to do some more trucking, Cindy and Mike strip down to their underwear on the flimsiest pretext, and take a secret load to a high Earth orbit, which we know to be loads of those robots from the beginning of the film (they had 5000 of them, apparently). They’re jacked by pirates, get to hear the immortal phrase “wang-pulse”, but do they make it back to Earth? Who does Cindy want to be with? What happens to those robots?

This film isn’t so much rotten as pointless. Absolutely soulless, it gives no reason for its own existence at any point. There’s no sense of the Universe these people operate in, they just bounce from one thing to another, and it’s the definition of the Shakespeare phrase “a tale told by an idiot…full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. Not so much plot holes as plot black holes! Because of the space setting! No, seriously, that’s a good joke.

First up are the robots. They’re super-tough, their container is said to be made out of near-indestructible material, and they’re due to be taken to high Earth orbit. So you’d think re-entry would be a doddle for them, right? Wrong. The containers are destroyed, as are the robots, while Canyon’s truck makes it down fine, ish. Then there’s Debi Mazar. She’s a fine looking woman, no doubt, but everything about her- her look, her voice – says “wacky best friend” rather than “main love interest for two guys”. Even in the grunge-loving days of the mid 90s, I don’t buy it (Janeane Garofalo, who is a roughly similar actress from a similar period, with a similar look, has something far more about her than Mazar).

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There’s one redeeming feature, and that’s when Charles Dance pops up again as the Pirate King, as he managed to survive the attack on him at the beginning of the film. He realises what sort of film he’s in and hams it up superbly. Sadly, no-one else bothers, and when the film ends, everyone apart from reviewers who need to retain a few facts should just let it slip from their minds and into the mental recycle bin. Thumbs firmly down.

Space Truckers on IMDB
Buy Space Truckers [DVD] [1996]

Snow Shark: Ancient Snow Beast (2011)

Snow-Shark-610x857

Finally, a film which makes me nostalgic for The Asylum.

I don’t think this film deserves a proper review. It’s absolutely pitiful, like a few morons trying to copy the work of the late, great Don Dohler. So, what I’m going to do is break down the ways this film fails as a film – it takes a wrong turn with its characters, or the basic structure, or something like that. That review might at least be interesting in a way me telling you about a damned snow shark would not be.

A group of scientists die initially, then we get the opening credits – “Snow Shark – Ancient Snow Beast”. Why have “snow” in there twice? Anyway, how these things go is, the next group of people we see should be the stars of the film, on their way to town or waking up hungover or something. However, we just meet another group of people who die. Then there’s a town meeting which is absolutely packed with the director’s friends and family, not a pro actor among them…the people who I suppose you’d think of as the film’s stars don’t really come into it until about the halfway point, which is a stupid waste of the first half. I’m a know-nothing idiot and I could have told them that was a terrible way to organise their movie (maybe editor Mark Polonia, no-budget movie royalty, was ill that day, or perhaps he hated the director).

Another complete group of people die! This may be due to the funding of the film, like if you and your bros ponied up a few hundred bucks, you got your own death scene. Hope you’re pleased with how your money was spent, guys!

There’s a grand total of one good line in this film. A group of policemen call over their sheriff to inspect a body, and one person says “he’s not going to like this”. The reply is “of course he’s not going to like it, his son got eaten by a fuckin’ shark”. Well delivered, nice belly laugh from me.

We see the Mayor at home and at his office, and in both locations he has a “World’s Greatest Mayor” mug. Was he bought two identical mugs or does he just carry it round with him? Thanks to my lovely wife for pointing that one out. We also see a bar, which looks like a real bar, only made entirely out of plywood. There’s a brief glimpse out of the door and it looks like garage doors outside, so maybe it’s been built by someone in a garage extension? Anyway, it’s so blatantly obvious that they really ought to have said something about it, and maybe spent a line telling us why this bar uses plastic glasses too.

At this point, we have two groups of people going after the Snow Shark. Some local vigilantes and some scientists – the scientists also have the stupidest “hunter” ever with them, who is just unpleasant to everyone. Like he saw Han Solo once when he was drunk and remembers nothing. Who’ll get to the Snow Shark first?

Well, it’s more a matter of who’ll get killed off first. The shark is never in the slightest bit of danger, and when one is killed by a heroic sacrifice at the end, that is immediately undercut by the camera then showing a bunch more sharks on their way to devour the small town. Ho hum.

There’s a small matter of how rotten and misogynistic this film is. Women are the butt of jokes or abuse throughout, and the one who does stand up for herself (one of the scientists) gets eaten just before the end. I hope these reviews are part of the end of this terrible trend in genre films, that is actively stopping half the potential audience from getting involved. Well, not that they’d want to get involved with this piece of garbage anyway. That’s another way this film seems broken – having a potential couple survive to the end helps with the dramatic tension, gives the hero or heroine even greater obstacles to overcome, but just having a large group of people who get eaten, fairly quickly, leaves you with no tension of any kind.

So, a completely pointless experience, one I should have turned off after 20 minutes. The people who made this should feel ashamed – even if you’ve got no money, there’s no excuse to do something as bad as this. Notice I didn’t even point out how dumb having a shark that can move through the earth is? That problem doesn’t even crack this film’s top ten for stupidity.

Better special effects than in the movie

Better special effects than in the movie

PS. This film’s music is maybe the worst music ever. Not even good library music, but the worst generic sub-keyboard-demo-track level. Another example of the people who made this film being cloth-eared idiots.

Snow Shark: Ancient Snow Beast on IMDB
Buy Snow Shark [DVD] [2011] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

Atlantic Rim (2013)

Once again, The Asylum delivers. With “Pacific Rim” actually promising to be quite good, their low-budget “Atlantic Rim” has a chance to make some money. But is it worth 80+ minutes of your time? Well, let’s see.

It's not aliens

It’s not aliens

After a weirdly stilted opening, where it appears the two people in the scene shot their sides of the conversation at different times, and our first view of the monster, we go to Mardi Gras. It seems the Asylum loves New Orleans! (see also “Arachnoquake”). David Chokachi of “Baywatch” and a new ISCFC favourite, is a Navy guy, and along with a woman he’s maybe sort of having a relationship with and his extremely tattooed mate, is a giant robot pilot.

Oh yes, the three robotas are colour co-ordinated. So, they’ve been tasked with finding out what happened to a destroyed oil rig, but why the robots had to be gigantic for this job is never fully explained (or explained even a little bit, for that matter).

But lucky they are massive, because monsters! They bring one of the movie’s giant lizard baddies onto the shore, kill a bunch of people by just wildly firing their lasers and then finally manage to drop the lizard thing. All the corpses you see strewn around the street after that point? Baywatch did that. That lizard didn’t even make it past the beach. But he’s fine about his mass murder, and has not the slightest pang of guilt. In fact, he does address this in dialogue – “oops”. Cold!

I don’t see there’s an awful lot of point describing the ways Asylum saves budget – if you’re watching one of their films, you know what you’re getting. But this is particularly heinous – the main Navy base, where they’re launching nukes and all sorts, has two people in uniform and then just a bunch of office people; and the room we briefly cut to which houses the guy who apparently warns all the branches of government that a huge lizard attack is on the way, is just a completely ordinary office, with zero signs that it belongs to one of the most important people in the country.

There’s a second lizard, of course, but Baywatch is locked up for offending the Navy brass, and in one of the film’s funniest scenes is seen in his “cell” exercising, pacing, rearranging the meagre furniture and so on. It looks like weeks of activity, the sort of thing most films would have to show the extended passage of time. In this film, we discover it’s still the same day, and given it looked like dusk was on its way before, it can’t be any more than a few hours.

The film has some romantic intrigue! Love triangles! And then we’re on to mama Lizard visiting Manhattan. In the classic Asylum tradition, they can’t just rip off one film, so this climactic battle owes more than a little to “Cloverfield”. There’s a clever bit where we see the monster hitting the city, and all the enormous billboards are advertising other Asylum films…and we then find out the robots can fly, and they all have “melee weapons” – a sword, a hammer and a club. It’s pretty silly, even for a film like this. Countless thousands of New Yorkers lose their lives, but do they defeat the lizard? Which brave robot pilot will the woman go for? Do they all even survive?

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I do need to really hammer this point home – “Atlantic Rim” is rubbish. I’m worried that my critical faculties have worn away, because I kind of enjoyed it. Baywatch is having fun, there’s some good-rotten acting, and it’s got more plot holes than is usual, even for something from these guys. I say give it a go!

Rating: thumbs up

Atlantic Rim on IMDB
Buy Atlantic Rim [DVD]

Phone Booth (2002)

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Directed by: Joel Schumacher

“Ain’t live a bitch (bitch) a fucked up bitch (bitch)
A fucked up sore with a fucked up stitch
A fucked up head is a fucked up shame
Swingin’ on my nuts is a fucked up game
Jealousy fillin’ up a fucked up mind
It’s real fucked up like a fucked up crime
If I say fuck, 2 more times
That’s 46 fucks in this fucked up rhyme”

– ‘Hot Dog’ Limp Bizkit

There is a lot of profanity in ‘Phone Booth’; the f-bomb is dropped with alarming regularity, in fact it is uttered one hundred and forty three times. . This recalls the early noughties American cultural influence of Generation X which was emphatically soundtracked by Nu Metal – a genre of music that was aggressive, ignorant and the first cultural expression of modern supressed masculinity. The worry was that ‘Phone Booth’ would be a dumb thriller; thankfully it proves to be anything but.

Colin Farrell’s character Stu Sheppard is Generation X’er. We see him walking along the street brashly with his lackey, fielding calls, making deals, he’s a hotshot publicist who fancies himself to be ‘the shit’. Stu is currently having an affair with Pam (Katie Holmes) and calls her from a phone box in a rough part of New York. Whilst on the phone to Pam a pizza delivery guy tries to deliver him a delicious pizza, after telling the man to Foxtrot Oscar and ending the call to Pam, the phone rings. Stu picks up the receiver and finds himself in the sights of a sniper.

The Sniper selects his targets and punishes them for their wrongful deeds. In Stu’s case he has been cheating on his wife Kelly (Radha Mitchell). Stu is instructed to confess to Kelly that he has been cheating, and admit to Pam that he is in fact married. Set in real time, the tension dramatically escalates when a pimp attempts to remove Stu from the phone box (I’m sorry but I’m not writing phone booth aside from referring to the film’s title) and he is picked off by The Sniper. This causes the fuzz to turn up in great numbers, cordoning off the whole street.

Going back to the start, the film’s opening sequence is hilariously dated; it is remarkable to think how much mobile phone technology has developed over the last decade, and this development has almost caused phone boxes to become extinct. Any film that involves mobile technology must instantly be seen as a historical comment on the dark ages. ‘Cellular’, the 2004 ode to the inadequacy of mobile phone batteries has equally not aged very well.

The film showcases the acting talent of Colin Farrell, who can be relied upon to pull off the good looking redeemable arsehole role, as he has done to aplomb in ‘In Bruges’ and ‘Crazy Heart’. Given that his nemesis remains faceless in the movie until the very end, he is able to hold the film together by convincing playing a man marked for death and arguably worse than that – public humiliation.

‘Phone Booth’ is tightly directed by Joel Schumacher, who is able to make a movie that is boldly Hitchcockian. New York is zoomed in on, and made claustrophobic, and we feel right with Stu in the confined space of the phone box, agonizing as The Sniper’s trigger finger gets itchier.

– RJW
7/10

Phone Booth on IMDB
Buy Phone Booth [2003] [DVD]

Arachnoquake (2011)

As you may be aware, SyFy Channel showed a little film called “Sharknado” a few weeks ago, and it became an, ahem, “monster” hit. Tara Reid and Ian Ziering may have resurrected their careers thanks to their agents advice to take literally anything that was put in front of them. But SyFy Channel has been making films like this for years – after combining two monsters fighting (Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, and so on), then combination monsters (Mansquito, Sharktopus) and then, natural disaster / monster mashups. “Arachnoquake” is definitely the spiritual prequel to “Sharknado”.

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Did you know they farmed chickens in the bayous of New Orleans? I would’ve assumed the heat would have caused the eggs to go off too quickly, or the swamp creatures would make regular lunch of the chickens. But, no, there is one, and some swamp-hillbilly egg-packers are discussing the earthquake they felt last night, and how rare earthquakes are in New Orleans (a very similar conversation happens in Sharknado regarding tornados and Los Angeles). We see one of the worst CGI-ed, longest tongued spiders of all time sneaking onto an egg truck, and then our story leaves these colourful local characters…at least for the moment.

Aside: my good lady wife is a bit phobic about spiders, much as I am about rats (it’s the long tails, I think). But as soon as she saw the first spider in this film, it was so unrealistic that her phobia wasn’t triggered at all, and we were able to enjoy this delightful film together.

We’re introduced to the two main groups in the film – a tour guide, led by a guy with the amazing name Bug Hall, who gets a musical montage as he strolls through early morning New Orleans, doing the walk of non-shame; and a girls high school baseball team, coached by Edward Furlong, who’s grown into a creepy looking adult. The tour bus is the cannon fodder, which is lucky because we have giant spiders now! It turns out it’s all the fault of fracking, too. These spiders can breathe fire and run on the water, which immediately makes them the most badass spiders ever to be captured on film.

Much like every other super-low-budget film, they can’t afford to close streets or anything, so in the middle of a spider apocalypse you see people walking around calmly, busy highways and so on. I’d be tempted to wander onto the set if I saw SyFy Channel filming near me – they’re so incompetent I could probably get hired as a script editor if I made a half-sensible comment. “They can breathe fire?”

I don’t want to spoil any more of this film for you. The important thing about this film is it has an excellent sense of humour, and never takes itself seriously for a moment. We’ve got a guy in an elite army unit who must be 70 years old; spiders making a coccoon out of a school bus; a jive talking tour bus customer doing the big “we’ve got to win this thing” speech half a second before he’s eaten; Bug Hall’s sister acting cheerful and perky in the middle of death and destruction all around her; and the greatest of them all, the spider-killing outfit worn by Bug right at the end of the film.

Arachnoquake-group

As well as all that, it also has a surprisingly clever twist on the “last monster left alive” horror trope. I can only recommend it! It’s the film that “Sharknado” ought to have been, really – low budget filmmaking that’s prepared to have a laugh at itself while still trying pretty hard to create an entertaining film.

Arachnoquake on IMDB
Buy Arachnoquake [DVD]

Blue Valentine (2010)

Blue Valentine promo movie poster AFM 2009 collider.com

Directed by: Derek Cianfrance

When the credits rolled at the end of ‘Blue Valentine’ I wasn’t sure if I’d seen a masterful representation of the cold deterioration of a long-term relationship, or a film that tries much too hard to make Dean & Cindy the millennial generation’s Romeo and Juliet.

There are several scenes which are at odds with the bleak tone of the movie, but these are useful in the sense that they represent the wistful way in which we reimagine our own memories of the good times. If we are to take them literally as scenes which actually happened then they somewhat tarnish the movie. For example the kooky serenading that (Dean) Ryan Gosling does to (Cindy) Michelle Williams in front of a quaint little shop with a red heart hanging up in the doorway is the kind of nauseous lovey dovey tripe that could be used in an advert for match.com.

Swallowing the brief romance is a small price to pay because the good stuff comes in the bitter arguments. I don’t know if I’m a masochist, but I was heartily chewing through a bag of Haribo Starmix as the couple sniped and bickered away at each other. The break-up plays out with the same intense anguish as a Richard Yates novel. It was Yates who said “If my work has a theme, I suspect it is a simple one: that most human beings are inescapably alone, and therein lies their tragedy.”

Dean and Cindy are lonely people, and they never truly gel as a couple. Dean becomes dependent on Cindy, to be the stabilizing force in his otherwise freewheeling and directionless life, to act as his anchor. Cindy on the other hand has to settle for second best. She gives up the strong charming masculine wrestler Bobby for Dean. She works as a nurse, when her ambition was to work her way much higher up the medicine ladder.

The last scene of ‘The Graduate’ shows two young lovers looking petrified about their future together. They sit at the back of a bus, on that great unknown road that might lead to marriage and children, settling down, living an ordinary life. For me that scene has always represented the most accurate representation of the fear that love can bring. Is this person right for me in the long term? Although the reality is that nobody asks themselves this impossible to answer question. Although perhaps they should at least find some time to reflect upon this, because when it all goes wrong, everything turns to shit.

Director Derek Cianfrance tells his tale using flashbacks; we start and end in the present, with the disintegration interwoven in a nostalgic look at those ‘better days’. Cracks appear early as the couple argue about preparing breakfast for their young daughter, and the carelessness of leaving the gate open which led to the disappearance of the family dog. This seems to stem from tiredness, Cindy is exhausted, working long hours for little reward. Dean on the other hand works as a painter who makes enough to get by, and operates in a relative stress free environment, although any possible stress is tempered by cigarettes and alcohol.

In the flashback scenes Dean is a daydreaming removal worker with artistic talent, Cindy is a medical student with a promiscuous side. Cindy is seeing a guy on the wrestling team, and Dean has an idealized concept of finding true love which is irrationally romantic, the kind of notion that is destined to end in a bruised ego. Somehow their paths cross as Gosling moves an elderly man’s belongings across the States to a retirement home that happens to house Cindy’s Grandmother who is suffering from dementia.

Dean muses about love with a co-worker before he meets Cindy and says “I feel like men are more romantic than women. When we get married we marry, like, one girl, ’cause we’re resistant the whole way until we meet one girl and we think I’d be an idiot if I didn’t marry this girl she’s so great. But it seems like girls get to a place where they just kinda pick the best option… ‘Oh he’s got a good job.’ I mean they spend their whole life looking for Prince Charming and then they marry the guy who’s got a good job and is gonna stick around.”

He’s got it wrong; in fact it seems to be a recurring theme in the film as Dean keeps getting it wrong. This comes to a head when the couple retreat to a seedy sci-fi themed hotel room with a shit load of booze in order to try and rekindle their relationship. Cindy laments upon Dean’s failure to not be able to capitalize on his creative potential. Dean then reveals to her that he never wanted to be a father or a husband, but he is content to continue to play these roles. The whole night is a disaster, and when work calls for Cindy to cover a shift at the hospital she hurries away.

It is evident from Gosling and Williams performances just how committed they were to the script, which they both read several years before production began. Their natural dialogue, most of which was improvised and a great deal of preparation for getting into character as a couple makes this almost voyeuristic viewer experience, ‘Blue Valentine’ is a harrowing peep through the curtains into domestic strife.

– RJW
7/10

Blue Valentine on IMDB
Buy Blue Valentine [DVD]

Sharknado (2013)

This film has swept the public’s imagination like no other SyFy Channel / Asylum co-production has before; and there’ve been some really, really bad ones. The AV Club gave this film an A, there’s already a load of podcast reviews of it, and the night of its broadcast turned Twitter into a game of comedy one-upmanship as nearly every comedian I follow wanted to talk about it. That said, I think some of the reviews come from a place of never having seen one of these films before. Like the intelligentsia are muscling in on our territory? Hey, AV Club, where were you for “Sharktopus” and “Swamp Shark”? But enough of my bitterness, let’s get on with the film!

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This film is already several steps ahead of the many other shark-based films I’ve reviewed for this site, as it breaks three of my four rules of shark movies. Those rules?

Rule 1: ‘there must be a shot where the three heroes are on a speedboat looking ahead with determination’.

Rule 2: ‘ there must be a large seafront entertainment event that can’t be cancelled, for some reason’.

Rule 3: ‘at least one character must behave in a brain-buggeringly stupid way, to drive the plot along’

Rule 4: ‘sharks be super-powered’

Rules one and two are right out, I’m afraid (and I always liked rule 1). It could be said that by hanging around the beachfront bar when the sharknado is on its way, the entire cast fulfilled rule 3, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. It’s only rule 4 that every single one of these godawful movies manages to keep.

An evil Oriental gentleman is after some sharkmeat, or their fins, or something. For the amount of money he’s paying, you’d think the sharks were made of gold. He has hired a boat full of scumbags to do his shark-capturing for him, and wouldn’t you know it! The sharks do not like being slaughtered, so as soon as the storm picks up, they start jumping over the boat and eating everyone in sight. One poor deckhand gets devoured almost whole. This doesn’t seem to have much bearing on the rest of the film, other than to establish man’s inhumanity to man (and shark), and to show us the storm on its way to shore.

A former world champion surfer, Fin Shephard, played by a chap from Beverly Hills 90210 (not Jason Priestley or Luke Perry), runs a beachfront bar. He has a beautiful bar-person called Nova, a colourful barfly (John Heard, star of C.H.U.D.), a wacky Australian best mate who can speak or move his facial muscles, but not both at the same time, an estranged wife, played by Tara Reid who sadly forgot how to act at some point and a couple of kids who look far too old to be the offspring of the two of them.

The film then kindly explains that while tornados never hit California, there’s one on its way now. I get the feeling this line was added after someone mentioned this fact to the producers while they’d already started shooting. But I’m not going to call them on their weird ideas about weather, or any of that, as it’s low-hanging fruit. We exist in a world where this stuff happens, and so be it. We also exist in a world where people sit around on the beach while someone yells “get the hell out, sharks are on their way” and for that they deserve to get eaten.

After the chaos of the initial shark attack and the tornado warnings, how does this affect seaside life? Does it reduce the beach to an empty shell? Or does the bar continue to do a roaring trade while people walk by outside with ice cream and balloon animals? If you guessed the second one, you win a shiny SyFy Channel award. Round about here is where things get a bit confusing. A shark flies in through the window and starts chomping as we see people out on the boardwalk pursued by sharks swept up by the leading edge of the sharknado…but we go from scenes in bright sunlight to scenes in the middle of a storm, from the middle of the day to the early morning, and they’re all supposed to be on the same stretch of beach at the same time. Maybe it’s SyFy subtly telling us that it’s hard shooting a film on this budget, so they had to shoot individual actors whenever they were available, never mind the continuity.

The middle portion of the film is a chase through the streets of LA to find Fin’s family, stopping off to save a school bus full of kids. Sharks get everywhere, including the flooded house of Tara Reid – a house which is evidently entirely water-tight, as the flooding indoors does not correspond to any flooding outside. Sharks can now swim in a depth of water which only covers up to the middle of a car tyre…sorry! I said I wouldn’t nail the technical shortcomings of the film! The clever thing that the filmmakers did was insert a lot of stock footage in here of storms and so on, and make it look part of the film. Well, either that or Asylum just films stuff like extreme weather and unusual stuff on the off chance they’ll be able to use it as background in some film they’re going to make in the future (which is actually a really good idea – Asylum, call me).

Poor old John Heard gets a wacky death scene, not quite on a level with Samuel L Jackson in “Deep Blue Sea” but still not bad; and we move on to the big plan to stop the three sharknados which are ravaging Los Angeles. And that’s where I must leave you, dear reader, to fend for yourself. Who lives and dies, and how quickly you can get over the death of a long-term boyfriend (hint: it’s less than a day), are questions the answers to which I cannot give you. We also get Nova’s description of why she’s called Nova, which encompasses her fear of sharks. Now, I’m no scientist. But, if you were afraid of sharks, and could live anywhere, would you choose to live on the beachfront? And spend all day in a bar that looked right out onto the ocean?

Which way to get out of this film?

Which way to get out of this film?

Is it any good? Of course not, really. There’s been a lot of debate about whether this film is deliberately bad, and of course Asylum must know they’re not making Oscar contenders. It’s certainly not played for laughs, aside from a few chuckles here and there, and there’s too much of it which reminds me of the tons of SyFy Channel original movies I’ve seen since I started writing for the ISCFC. But I enjoyed it – it didn’t mess about, the Australian had a really frightening stare whenever he wasn’t speaking, John Heard realised the sort of film he was in, and everyone else gave it their best shot. If you’re on this site, you’ll have heard of this film already, so I say go and watch it. Have fun!

Sharknado on IMDB
Buy Sharknado [DVD]

Batman & Robin vs. The Dark Knight Rises

batman_and_robin

I had started out with the intention of simply writing a review of the gobsmackingly bad Batman & Robin but the more I thought about it, the more I kept drawing parallels with Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. So now I’ve decided to pit the two against each other in mortal combat and have a decisive face-off between the two worst from both series of Batman films.

1. The Bat
First up we’ll start with the caped crusader himself. In Batman & Robin, George Clooney dons the tight fitting bat-suit, complete with bat-nipples, and sets the tone of what’s ahead as when he’s tooling up there’s a close up of his bat-rump squeezing nicely into his leather trousers. He then drops a glib quote (“this is why Superman works alone”) in riposte to his sulking sidekick, Robin. This during the opening credits of course. Furthermore, Clooney is impossibly miscast as Wayne/Batman, Clooney can only play himself, not a brooding vigilante psychopath. He smarms about the film either grinning away to Alfred and Robin, sharing dull one-liners with Arnie or flirting with Uma Thurman and he doesn’t even bother with the bat-voice when dressed up which made me feel a bit uncomfortable. I did like his 90s getup though, the slightly baggy roll-neck sweater with jacket combo and holding a rolled up towel around the back of his neck after a fight while shooting the shit with Alfred In the drawing room. These are both good looks.

Over to you Christian Bale. Bale is a deeper actor than Clooney and can easily play a brooding vigilante psychopath which he does well in all three of Nolan’s films but for the integrity of the competition I’m only looking at The Dark Knight Rises. First of all he hardly dresses up as Batman in this film (30 minutes screen time in a 2 hour 45 minute runtime) and he only has one bat-suit whereas Clooney has one for any occasion. He is particularly good at healing though, he’s got a gammy knee but a leg strap sorts that out plus he fixed his broken back by getting Tom Conti to punch it back in. He upsets Alfred but then makes amends by visiting the Italian bistro the butler fantasises about as to tie up all loose ends. In his final hurrah he saves the good people of Gotham by flying a big round ACME bomb out to sea but this is negated by his bland fashion sense.

Winner- 90s Clooney. Batman & Robin

2. Sidekick-Robin
Funnily enough Christian Bale had nearly got the part of Robin in the Schumacher films but narrowly lost out to Chris O’Donnell. Yes, Chris O’Donnell. He’s a whinging man-child who needs a good thump from Batman if you ask me. Does nothing but fuck around, talk back to his superiors and think with his cock.

One of the very few good bits of The Dark Knight Rises is at the end when it’s revealed that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is actually Robin. He’s a good character all the way through and JGL is an infinitely better actor than COD. No further discourse needed.

Winner- JGL. The Dark Knight Rises

3. Sidekick- Catwoman/Batgirl
Alicia Silverstone was surely only cast in Batman & Robin because of the success of Clueless a couple of years earlier. She really is such a nothing character here, just filling up empty time in an already overinflated waste of time. She serves no purpose whatsoever. No further evidence your honour.

I like Anne Hathaway and, like Robin, Catwoman is one of the few shining lights of this film. The dialogue she shares with Wayne is generally pretty solid and she makes a real good go of the character despite being reduced to a mere cameo by the final hour.

Winner- Catwoman. The Dark Knight Rises

catwoman

4. Baddie- Bane
Jeep Swenson died a couple of months after the theatrical release of Batman & Robin, now I’m not sure if the two events are related but our dearly departed should’ve been proud of his efforts. All Jeep was asked to do was to roar a lot and flex his big muscles which he performed with aplomb. He looks a lot like the comic book character too.

Bane in The Dark Knight Rises starts off full of promise but shrinks as the film progresses and is almost completely ineffective leading up to the big Talia reveal. He sounds like an old English villain who, one might imagine, would wear a scarf and escape peril in a bi-plane. I didn’t like this Bane at all plus it didn’t give Hardy much opportunity to act and that boy’s got chops.

Winner- Jeep. Batman & Robin

5. Other Baddies
By the end of the 1990s Batman series it was all about packing in as many baddies with as many big name actors playing them as possible. This particular Hollywood keys-in-the-bowl party paired up Arnold Schwarzenegger and Uma Thurman as Victor Fries (Mr. Freeze) and Pamela Isley (Poison Ivy) respectively. Is this Arnie’s worst performance? It’s certainly the worst script he’s had. Every line he says has a ‘cold’ pun shoehorned in; “ice to meet you”, “cool party”, “you’re not sending me to the cooler” and “let’s kick some ice” (ice/arse get it?) are some of the exceptionally mundane things he says with a glint in his eye followed by a nudge-nudge, wink-wink.

Uma Thurman isn’t much better, her lines aren’t anywhere near as forced as Arnie’s or anywhere near as thoughtful either. She mainly thrashes around with fearsome arm movements and blows love dust at people including Robin which turns him into even more of a hump than he was before. She gets Bane to do her horsework while she’s prancing around winking at every man in Gotham.

Talia al Ghul is thoroughly nonsensical in The Dark Knight Rises. Why go to all that trouble with Wayne when she freely admits to not even liking her father. Why not just kill Wayne after they sleep together? Why didn’t Wayne enterprises vet a high level promotion properly? This character development is insulting.

Winner- This would be a dead heat between two awful, poorly developed sets of baddies but, like the early days of the MLS, there’ll be no draws here so I’m giving this one to Batman & Robin for a zany Jason Woodrue. Kudos for having him in the film in the first place and kudos for making him a batshit crazy arms dealer. Batman & Robin

6. Story
Neither of them make much sense and you get so lost in bad acting and arsehole splittingly bad dialogue or gaping plot holes and offensive pomp that you forget there should be stories involved.

Winner- Actually I’m changing the rules as they’re both equally redundant here. Draw

7. Gadgets
Clooney has all sorts of fancy, shiny goodies at his disposal; thawing devices, laser beams, the trusty batarang, multiple suits for all weather conditions and ice skates in his bat-shoes.

Bale has a good computer and apparently a program that wipes a person’s identity. Yawn. Not a patch on bat-skates I’m afraid.

Winner- Bat-nipples and bat-skates. Batman & Robin

cloons

8. Tone
Batman & Robin is a balls-out drag party with Schumacher letting his inner fabulous out and frittering away his big studio budget on a massive homoerotic mess. Everything is neon, hyper and outrageous plus the fight scenes are choreographed like an episode of Strictly Come Dancing and you always expect someone to break out into song at any point. They didn’t care about writing, plot and acting, they just had fun. They had fun at our expense and at the studio’s expense.

The Dark Knight Rises is wedged so far up its own arse it can taste its last meal. Pompous, snooty and oblivious to its own failings, this is a film that needs a good talking to.

Winner- I’ll go with the gay. Batman & Robin

Well that’s my definitive, watertight, infallible test over and it finished 5-2 in favour of Batman & Robin.

Does this mean I think Batman & Robin is a better film than The Dark Knight Rises? Hell no, they’re both tiresome, forced sequels that nobody needed (especially in the case of Batman & Robin) and they both display the same arrogance that leaves a bad bat-taste in the mouth. One thing is for sure though, a reboot won’t be too far off.

– Greg Foster

The Dark Knight Rises on IMDB
Batman & Robin on IMDB
Buy The Dark Knight Trilogy (DVD + UV Copy)
Buy Batman & Robin [Blu-ray] [Region Free]