“Terror in Beverly Hills”

terror in beverly hillsYou know what you’re in for very early on with “Terror in Beverly Hills.” Not only does the name “Frank Stallone” appear almost immediately on screen, but the rest of the credits unspool while Palestinian terrorist mastermind Abdul runs his daily errands. He reads a newspaper, he goes to a shop, and he visits his local mosque. No dialogue, no action, just a man going about his business at a leisurely pace. When he finally boards a jet for the United States, you wonder if you’re going to watch him sit through the entire 14-hour flight. Continue reading

“Attack of the Super Monsters”

attack-of-the-super-monstersAttack of the Super Monsters” is a junk-drawer movie. For starters, it’s not technically a movie, but rather a handful of episodes of a Japanese kids’ show stitched together. It gets stranger than that, because it’s a weird combo of hand-drawn animation, Godzilla-style rubber monster suits and live-action backgrounds. If Osamu Tezuka and Ralph Bakshi ever worked together, it might look like this. Continue reading

“Shark Attack 3: Megalodon”

shark-attack-3-posterShark Week may be over for this year, but there’s enough B-roll footage in “Shark Attack 3: Megalodon” to create at least one Discovery Channel special. Between these clips, actors talk at each other and sometimes take off their clothes when they’re not having their arms ripped off by shark puppets. This is one way to make a movie, I guess.

The movie stars John Barrowman as Ben, who is head of security for a Mexican resort on the ocean. A giant telecommunications company has stretched a fiber optic cable along the ocean bed, and one day Ben finds a shark tooth embedded in it. He can’t place the tooth, so he takes a picture of it and puts it on the Internet. A paleontologist named Cataline sees it and immediately heads south of the border. You see, the electrical impulses from the cable are stirring up the sharks in the water. One of those sharks is the prehistoric ancestor of the great white, megalodon. Continue reading

“Saturn 3”

saturn3It must have been very easy and very difficult to make a science fiction movie in the late 70s. It was easy because after the success of “Star Wars,” studios were throwing money at anything with robots in it. But it was difficult because the genre was in a very weird place. Before “Star Wars,” big-budget sci-fi movies generally were thoughtful, philosophical works. But after “Star Wars,” the A-list sci-fi movie transformed into something more visceral. Movies with a message gave way to pure spectacle. “Logan’s Run” was pushed aside for “Flash Gordon.” “Saturn 3” tries to have it both ways. It wants to split the difference between “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Alien.” That’s how we get a movie in which Harvey Keitel accidentally teaches a robot how to be horny. Continue reading

“Americathon”

americathonThere’s a notion baked into our national identity, as American as apple pie, that America is here to stay. The thing I personally love most about our national anthem is that it manages to make the very idea of soldiering on in the face of defeat and humiliation a heroic act. Rather than being about a great military victory or the inherent superiority of our democratic republic, “The Star-Spangled Banner’s” triumphant moment comes when Francis Scott Key realizes that the flag simply is “still there.” Although that says a lot about our national ideals of perseverance, self-reliance and determination, there’s a dark inverse of that idea implied by the anthem. It’s the idea that America can be “still there” even after it’s been broken, battered beyond all recognition, and left to limp along in a pathetic, crippled state. It’s an idea that may have had an influence on the national mindset in the post-Vietnam era. And once they made a movie about it where Jay Leno’s mother kicked him in the balls. Continue reading

“Metamorphosis”

affiche-metamorphosis-1990-1Metamorphosis” is an Italian-made variation on the classic mad scientist tale of a brilliant man cursed by his own hubris to turn himself into a Halloween costume. Seemingly made with ample inspiration taken from David Cronenberg’s remake of “The Fly,” “Metamorphosis” ratchets up the mindless violence but tones down the tragedy. Unlike Jeff Goldblum’s doomed Seth Brundle, the main character of “Metamorphosis” only succeeds in making himself as physically ugly as he is spiritually. Continue reading