Movie Review: SHORT CIRCUIT 2

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short circuit 2TriStar Pictures
1988
PG

“Hubcaps, corn dogs, soul.”

Short Circuit was a surprise summer hit in 1986. So, obviously, a sequel was inevitable. This time around, though, the two primary stars from the first one–namely, Steve Guttenberg and Ally Sheedy–are not in this sequel, and instead the movie has Guttenberg’s assistant from the first movie–you know, the white actor portraying the guy from India stereotype–as the main human star of the film. Of course, the response went as well as you could imagine.

As far as my experience with the movie, I didn’t watch this when it was originally out in theaters. I had no desire to, really. I figured I could wait, and either catch it as a video rental, or if I was at my grandparents and it played on Cinemax. I did end up watching it on cable–in 1990, on a hotel television while on vacation with the family.

Number Five, aka Johnny Five, that incredible, loveable robot from the smash hit Short Circuit, is back and taking the big city by storm in this action-packed comedy adventure. Upbeat Johnny’s out for some “urban input,” but some street hoods, a greedy banker and a gang of crooks see his naiveté as their high-tech ticket to easy street. Will Johnny survive the big, bad city and its big, bad city slickers? Keep your wires crossed when you switch on this high-voltage film.

Short Circuit 2 is your basic fish-out-of-water comedy movie, one of those “country boy goes to the big city, wackiness ensues” type of things, only with the country boy part replaced with a sentient robot that hasn’t attempted to overthrow humanity for some odd reason.

Anyway, the movie itself is fine, though it might again cause some grumbling with the portrayal of an Indian character played by a white guy in this day and age; for me, the most memorable part of this movie was when Johnny 5 befriends the Los Locos gang. Their catchphrase will stick in your head long after the credits roll, here. The best way to watch Short Circuit 2 is by way of a double-header with the first movie, obviously.

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Movie Review: CYBER TRACKER

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cyber trackerSterling Home Entertainment
1994
R

“I think scars are sexy. I’m divorced, too. My husband said I was too aggressive, so I smacked him.”

Ah, 90s low-budget sci-fi. There’s a certain charm about them. Even the ones that were attempting to have a higher level of quality to them, like Species, or 1996’s The Arrival, juts couldn’t shake the thin film of cheese that stuck to them like bacterial plaque to your teeth.

One of the things I love about these kind of movies from that era was the overabundance of the use of the word “cyber” to describe anything futuristic and shiny. You have a movie set in the near future that features robots running amok? You’ve got yourself a cyber-apocalypse, there. A “cyberpocalypse”, if you will. You get the idea.

So, in 1994, we got the low-budget sci-fi martial arts action hybrid Cyber Tracker. It stars a professional kickboxer with the nickname of “The Dragon”, so we’ve got a clincher right here. There should be at least one person who is refered to as “The Dragon”, or some variation therein, in movies like these. But, I digress.

This is the future. The judiciary system has been replaced by a computerized system. Facts are filled in, the computer determines the verdict and the punishment is extracted by a Cor-Tracker, the newest breed of law enforcers. Cyborg executioners used for search and destroy missions. Eric is a secret agent currently working as the security guard for senator Dilly. The senator is the main advocate for a new kind of police officer: The Tracker, a perfect and nearly invulnerable android. When Eric realizes that senator Dilly is playing dirty games, he does not only have Dilly’s security chief Ross after him, but also those nearly undefeatable Trackers.

So, what we have with Cyber Tracker is a low-budget mash-up of The Terminator and RoboCop, with a lead that has maybe half the personality of a standard Jean Claude Van Dam, who I think would have been a much better pick for this movie, But, I’m thinking JCVD would have been too rich for their budget. This Don “The Dragon” Wilson does have more charisma than Steven Segal, I will give him that. Wish I could say the same about the rest of the cast, though.

The characters lack any sort of interesting development, the effects are shoestring, and the big Twilight Zone twist has been done before, only better. But, you have to admire the spunk and energy going into making this thing. Sure, it can get dull at certain stretches, and this thing just oozes cheese, but I wasn’t too annoyed by this movie, and actually kind of enjoyed it on a certain dumb level. It’s worth a look for anyone who likes to do Bad Movie Nite gatherings.

Movie Review: TERROR AT TENKILLER

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terror at tenkillerUnited Artists, Inc.
1986
NR

Terror At Tenkiller is another in a long line of low-budget slasher movies that came out in the 1980s. Yeah, they were poppin’ them out like Pez candy back then. It’s not hard to see why–most of these movies could be mad eon a shoestring budget, not having to be too elaborate with the effects, and the plots themselves come in pre-packaged paint-by-numbers. It’s rather hard to actually ruin a slasher horror. So, when one comes around that does manage to mess things up, it is something to behold.

As you may have already made the connection, the 1986 direct-to-video slasher Terror At Tenkiller does just that.

Shot on video entirely in Oklahoma, Terror At Tenkiller was an 80s slasher title that I had never heared of until just this year. That is indeed a rarity. Usually I’ve heared about a movie years before stumbling upon it. But with Terror At Tenkiller, I happened upon it while going through the horror movie streaming section on Amazon. The cover made me think it was cheesy goodness. Alas, it was anything but.

After a fight with an estranged boyfriend, Leslie and Jana take off on vacation and strange things start to happen at their remote cabin. Soon corpses begin turning up near the lake. One by one friends start to disappear, but the horror of these murders does not fully dawn on the heroine until she comes across the dead body of Jana. Is the killer Jana’s psycho boyfriend? Is it the weird handyman? Or is it somebody else?

I have a theory that, whoever was involved with the making of Terror At Tenkiller, probably watched a slasher flick and thought, “I can make one of those, easy.” Kind of like when someone watches a stand up comic and thinks, “I can do that.” And thus, we have a slasher movie that completely ignores all the ingredients that makes a slasher movie good: things like suspense, plot twists, story arcs, or even third-act reveals. Or motivation.

This movie decides to get the reveal of the actual killer out of the way within the first reel of the movie. That is the biggest misstep this movie takes, as it eliminates any kind of tension or suspense the plot could have had. And let’s face it, the plot itself is rather paper thin to begin with, which is fine, as you don’t go into an 80s slasher flick expecting a nuanced and complicated storyline. I do expect at least an effort to make the killer’s identity a mystery until at least the third act. Spoiling things like that just makes everything else lame. From the very sub par acting, to the slow pacing and bad editing beats; by the time the end credits roll, I would be surprised if you were still invested in the movie itself by then. I stopped caring about a third of the way in. Pass.

Movie Review: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY The Ghost Dimension

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Movie Review PARANORMAL ACTIVITY The Ghost DimensionParamount Pictures
2015
R

“Ryan, your daughter was born on June sixth, two-thousand five. Right? It’s the sixth day of the sixth month of the sixth year, two-thousand five. Six six six. I believe this is no coincidence. She’s part of the prophecy.”

So, here we are. Paranormal Activity, subtitle The Ghost Dimension. AKA Paranormal Activity 5. Paranormal Activity 6, if you count that spin-off The Marked Ones. Which I don’t. And because I’m a masochist when it comes to these movies, let’s see if this is a case of the same-old, same-old, or if the Paranormal Activity franchise still has something new to give at this point.

The Ghost Dimension follows a new family, the Fleeges–father Ryan, mother Emily, and their young daughter Leila–who move into a house and discover a video camera and a box of tapes in the garage. When they look through the camera’s lens, they begin to see the paranormal activity happening around them–including the re-emergence of young Kristi and Katie.

At this point, it should come as no surprise that the Paranormal Activity movies hold nothing new and innovative for the series. While the attempt to spice things up with the whole 3D aspect was decently done, I believe that franchise fatigue has set in, and a sense of treading the same ground as the previous movies seriously diminishes any kind of visceral thrills. Which is a pity, because the visual effects are fantastic, and the third act really goes all-out. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make up for the weakness in the script and story.

Overall, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is a passable horror movie at best. It does not deliver in the whole all questions will be answered! the promotional material promised, and ends the series with kind of a wet splat. Worth it if you have nothing better to watch.

Movie Review: IT’S PAT!

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its patTouchstone
1994
PG-13

“I played with a Ween!”

My first Saturday Night Live-based movie I watched was Wayne’s World back in 1992. It was fantastic. I was 18, a young rocker / not quite a full-blown metalhead, and this movie spoke to me like none other had up to then. This was made at one of the high points of Saturday Night Live’s broadcast history. I figured, naively, that anything the legendary comedy sketch show made into a movie would be instant gold.

Ah, to be young and idealistically stupid again.

Unfortunately, this review is not about Wayne’s World. Instead, this is a review of another SNL property that was given the movie treatment: It’s Pat!

I should point out that the exclamation point is part of the movie title, and in no way suggesting that I’m excited to review this cinematic disaster. Let’s proceed, shall we?

I have to give credit where credit is due: it was my brother-from-another-mother Scott that initially subjected me to It’s Pat! The Movie. I was aware of this movie’s existence, having seen it on the shelves of the two video rental stores in Fremont, with no interest in ever watching it by my own volition. Of course, Mr. Cheesy Movies himself owned his own VHS copy of It’s Pat!, and one late afternoon hanging out at his place, he popped it in, and thus I watched It’s Pat! The Movie. Thanks, Scott. My bestest buddy.

So, I would normally put the blurb from the back of the DVD here for the rundown of the actual movie. But, as it turns out, the description blurb on the back of It’s Pat! just uses their words to go on about how hilarious this movie is, and how it’s yet another in a long line of brilliant Saturday Night Live movies…actually, it almost sounds like the blurb itself is trying to convince itself that this movie is worth watching. So, let me relive the pain and give a bit of an idea of what this movie is about: Pat is an annoying, androgynous human being that’s wandering about life trying to find purpose. Pat meets Chris, an equally androgynous individual, who’s not as annoying as Pat, so obviously the two hit it off and eventually get engaged. One can only hope that someone is sterile in this relationship. Pat’s neighbor Kyle develops an obsession with discovering Pat’s gender, but is thwarted in his attempts by Pat’s sheer ineptitude. Pat stumbles upon a radio talk show host position, appears in a Ween video, and has a fallout with Chris, while Kyle steals Pat’s laptop but can’t hack into it. Kyle tries physical violence, Pat inadvertently reveals the gender to the crowd at a Ween show (but not us, obviously), Kyle is arrested and is now a transvestite, while Pat and Chris wed and Pat continues as a successful radio show host career. The end, and pass the bleach.

Gads, this movie was a slog to get through. Even as a sketch short on SNL, the character was as funny as nails dragged on a chalkboard. Watching a (mercifully) 78 minute film version of that? Who demanded that? Certainly not Julia Sweeney, at first. But made it was.

It’s Pat! The Movie is not only unfunny, it’s insultingly unfunny. This is the kind of movie I would make someone watch if I really hated them. And I don’t hate anybody this much. Hard pass.

Movie Review: SHORT CIRCUIT

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short circuitTriStar Pictures
1986
PG

“Hey, laser lips. Your mama was a snow blower.”

There are a few movies from the 1980s that I refer to as my Psych Ward Movies. these were movies that ran in theaters that the staff members at the psychiatric ward I was in at the time would take us to once in a while as a group outing. Takin’ the crazy kids to the movies, and all that. One of those movies we were taken to was th surprise sci-fi comedy hit, Short Circuit

I remember sitting there with my fellow inmates from 4 East, taking in the wacky hijinks of this military grade robot whi is now ALIVE!, running around with Steve Guttenberg and Ally Sheedy avoiding that other guy from Police Academy, thinking this was the greatest movie I had ever seen. Keep in mind, I was also 12 years old and terminator 2 had yet to be released. but, for what I was able to see in the theaters that year, Short Circuit was just what I needed.

Steve Guttenberg and Ally Sheedy co-star in this high-tech comedy adventure about Number Five, a robot who escapes into the real world after he short-circuits in an electrical storm and decides that he’s human. Because he’s carrying destructive weapons, the Defense Department and his designer are desperate to find him. But Number Five is being protected by a young woman who is teaching him a gentler way of life.

Watching Short Circuit now, sure, you can say that the movie didn’t hold up that well, both from the acting and the story departments. And of course, using an actor in brownface to portray a character of Indian (as in, from the country of India) decent would not fly in this day and age. And really, I find Ally Sheedy’s character more annoying than whimsically charming. But, beyond that, the two highlights here are Johnny 5, and the always lovable Steve Guttenberg. Also, any movie that has G. W. bailey is worth a watch, really. Even if it is the Police Academy movies.

Overall, Short Circuit is a product of its time, and that product is a whimsical fantasy featuring a living robot getting in wacky situations. Think of this as a prequel to Pixar’s Wall-E if you want. Recommended for a nice 80s throwback.

Movie Review: PLANET OF THE APES (2001)

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Planet Of The Apes ¥ Art Machine job#4112  POSTER C comp VVV.rev1 ¥ 05/30/0120th Century Fox
2001
PG-13

“Get your stinking hands off me, you damn dirty human!”

Having been a long-time fan of Tim Burton, there’s been some debate as to what point the quality of his movies began to dip in quality. Some say it began with Mars Attacks! Some say it was with Sleepy Hollow. I am of the opinion that it was his remake of the science fiction classic Planet Of The Apes when the prospect of a new Tim Burton movie began to lose its luster.

Released in the summer of 2001, this particular remake of the 1968 Charlton Heston classic actually started development back as far as 1988 and at one point had Arnold Schwarzenegger starring. Of course, it went through the usual development hell issues, being passed around various directors and producers, and several script rewrites, the movie was put into active production and Tim Burton was hired to direct. By the time it was finally released, hype for the movie was pretty high. I went to the movie the weekend it was released, along with my usual crew of Nex, Cass and Boz. I can’t really speak for anyone else, but as far as I’m concerned, 2001’s Planet Of The Apes was–and still is–a mixed bag.

In the year 2029, interstellar reconnaissance missions are relegated to chimpanzee pilots from the space station Oberon in deep space. On one such mission, a chimp loses communication and vanishes from the radar. Fearless astronaut Leo Davidson launches a rescue mission and, following a malfunction, lands on a jungle-like planet not unlike the earth. To Leo’s astonishment, English-speaking apes and primitive humans inhabit the planet. Following his capture by the apes and consequent escape, Leo assembles a small band of defiant humans and empathic apes in an attempt to re-establish contact with Oberon, but his focus changes following an unexpected discovery. Armed with this new information, Leo leads a rebellion against an overpowering ape force that will result in freedom or complete annihilation.

On the one hand, Burton’s Planet Of The Apes manages to build on the original by way of the set pieces and consumes and effects. The ape makeup was just outstanding, and the actors in the getups were very good at making you believe an ape can talk and reason and stuff. And you have to admit, the story and scope of this was pretty epic. However, concerning the story, it does get snagged up in a few places: Mainly, the whole social commentary wasn’t handled as deftly as it was in the original. Also, while I’m not a purist of the original, I still don’t like the decision to make the humans be able to talk. It seems…wrong, somehow. Some character motivations are a bit questionable and head-scratching, like the tender romance that pops up between Captain Leo and Ari. And don’t get me started with that twist ending, there.

Overall, 2001’s Planet Of The Apes isn’t that bad, really. It’s a movie that’s a bit long in the tooth, will dazel you and then frustrate you. It’s worth at least a rental, there.

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