Mind Storm (1996)

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Ian Ziering has managed to resurrect his career, and will no doubt be starring in a network sitcom or a few big-budget films as soon as the Sharknado series is done. But he never really stopped working, and even when he was in the middle of his decade on “Beverly Hills 90210” he appeared in films during summer hiatus. Fortunately for us, one of them had the same name as the last film I reviewed, and was available for free on Youtube!

Eh, perhaps he should have just gone fishing, or read a few good books, because this really wasn’t worth his time. He’s Darrin, a computer game designer who takes a job with CTC, who might as well have a board outside their offices reading “A Completely Evil Corporation”. They’ve got some business going on where they do subliminal badness with their games, although the subliminal messages just look like what happened to a new computer when it boots up. Just flashing up “ANGIE” and “SEX” is enough to make you want to have sex with Angie, apparently.

So, there’s evil corporate drones, and someone’s offing people by using the computer program to send them individual messages. But here’s the thing – if you know that you make evil subliminal message programs, and you get a mysterious CD in the mail, would you touch it? These people are pretty dumb.

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“MInd Storm” is known under a great variety of names, possibly because its original title, “Subliminal Seduction”, is rubbish. So you’ve got “The Corporation,” and “Roger Corman Presents Flash Frame”, as well as “Mind Storm”.

What you also get is boobs. Ziering is involved in quite a few steamy scenes, involving his wife (Katherine Kelly Lang) and a few of the other corporate ladies. There’s little more erotic than brainwashed sex! Anyway, with this, the Stepford Wives vibe that comes across, and the slow reveal of just what CTC are up to, you’re not left too bored at any moment.

I’m sort of stumped as to what to think of this film. It’s surprisingly tense and decent for what it is, but the computer tech is laughably awful, and although they do a lot of clever shooting to make it look like they’ve got some great sets, that cheap TV movie stank is all over it (this one was made for US channel Showtime).

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Corman is a master of doing a lot with a little, so enjoy the surprisingly clever moments, and wonder if even by picking films virtually at random I’ll ever get away from him and Jim Wynorski (listed here as a production executive). Damn you!

Rating: thumbs down

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Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014)

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The Asylum and their friends at the SyFy Channel have nailed it, finally. After years of “funny” giant monster films which were anything but, the occasional clever parody which they treated like a serious film, and a not-that-great first “Sharknado” (despite a few brilliant moments) they’ve got some big sponsors and therefore a decent budget, a ludicrous number of special guest stars, a script which is actually funny and clever, an almost universally strong cast and a world which was ready for it.

It cleverly understands that the “how did this sharknado happen?” bit is dull and no-one cares, because it’s not like it could happen anyway, so they just get straight into it. In more ways than one – as Fin and April are on their way to New York to visit family, they fly through a sharknado, somewhere. Who cares? The celeb cameos start right away – I’m not going to mention them all, as there’s too many and I’m bound to miss a few, and indeed there were a few who were clearly supposed to be famous who I just didn’t recognise. Kelly Osbourne is a flight attendant, Wil Wheaton is a passenger and, best of all, Robert Hays is the pilot. You may remember him from “Airplane” and sadly not too much else, but he’s having fun here.

Fin’s family are unusual in an Asylum film. Not only because the mother and father are famous (father is Mark McGrath from Sugar Ray, mother is Kari Wuhrer) but because they seem happily married – regular readers will know the SyFy template of the estranged couple resolving their differences during the apocalypse, although the son, at least, has the decency to be a terribly wooden actor. The drama here is being separated – dad and son go to a Mets baseball game, mother and daughter to the Statue of Liberty.

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The really weird thing is, they appear to have actually filmed in New York. I’ve seen the Mets Stadium enough to know that they’re really there; and the Statue of Liberty seems real, and in the shot with the actors, too. There’s a lot of real New York street-shots…the upgrade in budget is obvious at every stage, and it’s great. Talking of real New York things, one of my favourite sitcoms is “Taxi”, set in the sleazy New York of the late 70s. Amazingly, they got that show’s star Judd Hirsch to play a taxi driver in this – a reference that will probably be lost on a lot of this film’s younger fans, but great for those of us with long TV and movie memories. He does unfortunately get eaten, but it’s good to see him again. We know him as “America’s favourite cranky old Jew”, but I hope he has a sense of humour about his career.

Biz Markie is in it! A pizza place that clearly paid a little to have their frontage on screen is Fin’s favourite place in New York, and his old friend played by Biz is the cook there. When I heard he was appearing, it made me so happy I sang his hit “Just A Friend” round the house for days, loud and out of tune (so, like Biz). He’s not, it must be said, a great actor, so I presume someone involved with the film was just as big a fan of his as I was.

The thing they learned from the first film is that normalcy is boring. It starts insanely over the top and just stays there – the plot and exposition is handled by regular cuts to real TV news people, clearly having the time of their lives; the cast just get to run around and be badass, shoot, slice or cook sharks, and have weird adventures with the B-list superstars who must have been queueing round the block for a chance to be in this film. I was amazed they lasted til nearly the end of the second one before they made a “jump the shark” joke as well, and then slightly disappointed in them. Ian Ziering gets both a rabble-rousing monologue and one where he questions his own life, as a formerly famous surfer turned nobody turned shark-killing superhero. The second one is clearly about Ziering’s own career, and talking of his actual career I hope he seizes this chance and does well with it. I imagine signing on for a terrible SyFy Channel movie a few years ago was a sobering moment for him, so it being the best thing he’s done in nearly 20 years must be weird.

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So yes, it’s really good! Loads better than the first film, and by a distance the best original movie by either the Asylum or the SyFy Channel (although my own personal favourite “Super Cyclone” runs this close). It was a huge success on its first broadcast, setting SyFy Channel viewing records, so I’m fairly certain there’s going to be a third one. Time to start guessing locations, and I’ll go for either the Caribbean or England, both of which give plenty of opportunities for celebs to pop in for a minute, have a laugh and then get eaten.

Rating: thumbs up

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