Wednesday, March 29, 2017

10 Fun Facts About Demon Possession in Movies

Eh...sort of.

I found this sitting around in my file folder. I had written this after a viewing of the movie Antichrist (1974), and similar The Exorcist clones from the 1970s. The one thing these clones have in common, other than being near duplicates of one another, is they are not very good, to outright wretched.

Of course they do have other things in common too. Let's say 10 of them. I made this list sort of as a mini primer on demon possession movies. Obviously I have taken liberties for the sake of having fun with it, but these 10 things are certainly inspired by the myriad clones of The Exorcist.

1) Demons are apparently hard of hearing as they have to be told repeatedly to depart before they eventually leave.

2) Demons have a telekinetic ability to throw things around a room including, but not limited to, furniture, plates, candle holders, records (CDs) and priests. I admittedly admire this ability as it looks like it would be fun.

3) Demons have an obsession with vaginas and thusly possess females and spread their legs in front of priests. Obviously they have no understanding of priests or else they would know that possessing a little boy is more likely to get interest. (Oh...that was sooo evil!)

4) Demons must have poor vision as a priest wearing a cross has no affect on them but the same priest holding the same cross out in front of them puts it withing range of the demon's sight.

5) Never, never, ever feed a demon, especially anything that is green or contains peas. Remember...feed a cold, starve a demon.

6) Demons are good housekeepers. After all, they do leave a body in better shape than it was while they were possessing it.

7) It's not that the exorcism is painful. Really. I mean, have you seen some of the guys they send to do exorcisms? You'd scream too.

8) Being possessed by a demon causes excessive gas in the subject. Hence, this explains levitation.

9) Demons have no sense of direction. When given the opportunity to run, they will run to a church or a holy site.

10) Demons like to speak Latin. Not because it represents anything significant as it is usually gibberish, just that it really pisses off priests and that makes it a fun thing to do.

And always remember...Just Say No to Demons

Toxic Fletch

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Movie Review: The Incubus (1982)

This is a review I originally wrote for another review website but the website has since disappeared. It's a little longer and more detailed than my usual review being I was writing for screencap margins. I happened to be looking around in a file folder and found it. Figured I would post it here.

The Incubus (1982) - USA - Horror - R
Directed by John Hough
Starring John Cassavetes, John Ireland, Kerrie Keane, Erin Noble (as Erin Flannery), Helen Hughes, Duncan McIntosh, Harvey Atkin, Mitch Martin

On the tail end of the 70s supernatural/satanic horror boon and the apex of the slasher cycle, it would make sense that several movies came out which married those two premises. This is one of them and that's the most that can be said about it...except maybe that the marriage didn't work out.

Dr. Sam Cordell (John Cassavetes) has been in the small New England town of Galen for a year now. It's a quiet town, that is until a series of brutal rapes start happening. The first victim survives the rape, though hospitalized in critical condition due to the violence of the rape and the physical damage to her, and the shock of something she saw but is unable to tell. Her boyfriend and subsequent rape victims are not so lucky as someone or something is on a rampage leaving dead and mutilated bodies in the wake. The doctor, a journalist and a cop are on the trail of whomever or whatever is committing these atrocities, with mounting evidence of something strange afoot, including a young man, the boyfriend of Sam's daughter, who keeps having strange nightmares.

::spoiler alert::

It's an Incubus!

Oh, wait. Do you suppose the title gave that away?

Unfortunately the title of this movie is the only part which has such clarity. It moves along as though the viewer is familiar with the characters. An example would be the character of Lt. Drivas who appears in several scenes and obviously is someone in authority, but I actually had to look his character up on IMDB to find out he was a police lieutenant as he appears in several scenes, flaunts his authority, and yet leaves the audience wondering who was that unmasked man. 

The movie even takes additional liberties with leaving elements of the story hanging. In the case of one of the attacks, in this case with multiple victims, one has to assume all the victims were killed as it is unclear in the movie. Additionally there is a background story on John Cassavetes' doctor character alluded to in flashbacks and a short conversation and then just disappears.

The art direction in this is right out of a slasher movie, and I don't mean the good ones. Bodies are carried away on stretchers covered in white sheets which are covered in blood. Damn, the medical teams in this sure are sloppy. The same is the case for forensic evidence left behind at scenes presented for the sake of looking bloody for the camera despite how inconsistent it is with the scene that was just played out. How the hell did a bloody handprint get there?

The performance of Kerrie Keene in this is stiff. I don't know if it is her lack of experience, or nerves? Checking on IMDB this is listed as her first movie, though that doesn't necessarily mean it's her first acting experience. Maybe it was the direction they gave her for the way they wanted her to portray the character, but she seems to mostly have one style of expression which is somewhere between being pissed off and a deer in the headlights. Her eyes stare wide as her dialogue is delivered with baited breath, like an angry child talking under its breath to its mother. If it is the direction it would seem a poor choice when having someone work off of other seasoned actors like John Cassavetes and John Ireland.

As for the rest of the acting, though there is some overacting most of the performances in this are very good, better than one might expect. The dialogue is not consistently good, just mostly good. The acting and dialogue are much like the other parts of the movie I have mentioned, inconsistent.

The Incubus comes off like a puzzle you just put together, but a few pieces ended up missing. The puzzle is still complete enough to see what the end result is, and the movie successfully tells its story, but those missing pieces just glare at you, irritate you. The Incubus has several missing pieces that, though not necessary to complete the story, get in the way of the enjoyment of the movie as one sits wondering just who the hell that Drivas guy is and why did the doctor's past disappear, among other pieces.

For my personal taste, the story is too choppy and the presentation too inconsistent to enjoy, and it's not sooo bad as to be enjoyed for that. It just kind of falls in the middle in a place called Forgettable.

My Rating: 2 Fingers

This movie is available on DVD and Instant Video. The DVD is expensive but the Instant Video is very affordable.

Toxic Fletch

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Movie Review: The Great Los Angeles Earthquake (1990)

The Great Los Angeles Earthquake (1990) - USA - Drama - TV Movie
Directed by Larry Elikann
Starring Joanna Kerns, Dan Lauria, Ed Begley Jr, Bonnie Bartlett, Lindsay Frost, Alan Autry, Joe Spano, Holly Fields, Brock Peters, Stephen Elliot, Robert Ginty, Clarence Gilyard Jr, Richard Masur, Silvana Gallardo, Richard Herd, Michael T Weiss, Charles Siebert

Average, depressing and formulaic, this has TV movie written all over it and yet is still well made and entertaining if you have 3 hours to spare.

Dr. Clare Winslow is a seismologist monitoring tremor activity for an underfunded agency. Recent tremor activity leads her to believe a much bigger tremor is going to hit Los Angeles. She finds herself up against city officials who don't want to panic people if she's wrong, a sleazy land developer who wants to shut her up at least until he can unload beach property, and a tabloid TV reporter who uses creative editing in an interview he did with her which gets her in even more hot water.

Overall The Great Los Angeles Earthquake is well made with a cast of who's who of TV stars from the 80s. A main story line runs the course of the movie while intersecting other micro stories. With an all-star cast and various human drama stories involved, stop me if you've seen this before. They could have, and may well have, made a movie poster of this featuring headshots of all the stars in it. Its formula is straight out of the 70s disaster movies, updated with stars contemporary with the time.

An advantage this movie does have over some of its predecessors is a more brutal reality check. Don't get your hopes up that a particular character will survive because it would be the nice thing for the movie to do. The intent, as I see it, is to portray a more likely outcome should such an event happen, and that means high mortality, and at that it succeeds. If you like a movie where lots of people die, this is your movie. If you like a movie where people are heroically saved in seemingly impossible situations, you'll want to look elsewhere. It would be a good movie for preparedness but it is depressing.

My Rating: 3 Fingers

This is available on DVD.

Toxic Fletch

Monday, March 20, 2017

Movie Review: Supervolcano (2005)

Supervolcano (2005) - Drama/Disaster Movie - UK/CAN/USA - TV Movie (BBC)
Directed by Tony Mitchell
Starring Michael Riley, Gary Lewis, Shaun Johnston, Adrian Holmes, Jennifer Copping, Rebecca Jenkins, Tom McBeath, Robert Wisden, Susan Duerden, Jane McLean, Sam Charles, Kevin McNulty, Eme Aneke, Garwin Sanford, Joanna Gosling, Shelagh Mitchell

Supervolcano is simply the best disaster movie I have ever seen.

Beneath Yellowstone National Park lies a huge chamber of magma as Yellowstone is a supervolcano. A super eruption happens about every 600,000 years, give or take, and with it being past due and tremor activity having increased in the area, a reporter quizzes the volcano experts at Yellowstone. Another vulcanologist who has been predicting an eruption has the reporter's ear and this gets the government asking questions, and getting answers they don't want to hear should a super eruption happen. And if it happens it will be catastrophic on a worldwide scale. This is a fictional account of that actually happening, or as it says at the beginning of the movie "This is a true just hasn't happened yet".

What sets Supervolcano apart from any other disaster movie, especially those dealing with volcanoes, is its docudrama style of presentation. The story alternates with singular explanations, like interviews, from the different participants in the story. This has the unique advantage of explaining things on a factual level as they take place in the story.

Don't know the difference between a red and gray eruption? You will. Do you know how many times a passenger jet flies through an ash cloud each year? What is volcanic ash and how many inches does it take to collapse a roof? What affect does breathing ash into your lungs have? What about the affects on the weather? These and many more things you will learn about volcanoes, and this is a movie, not a documentary.

The characters in this did not fall out of a comic book or spy novel, but seem like people you would expect to see dealing with a disaster. The acting is superb and writing is brilliant, combining to create a tense and educational drama that will have you on the edge of your seat. One scene in particular was so well done as it turns into near a screaming match between scientists on the edge, the tension so thick you can hardly breath.

They obviously did a lot of research for this movie. A companion documentary was also produced. Not just the effects of a super eruption were well researched but the response before and after a disaster as well. You don't have the obligatory call to the president scene in this movie, but the departments that would actually deal with a disaster is the focus. Why ask someone who doesn't know a damn thing about how to deal with a disaster when they are surrounded by people who do, or can learn to deal with it?

And of all things, this is a made for TV movie, made by the BBC. As disaster movies go, this has special effects, a talented cast, a well written screenplay, sets and locations that give it authenticity. It has those things other good disaster movies have, then it goes beyond that and offers so much more.

My Rating: 5 Fingers. I give it a high five!

This movie is available on a Region 2/PAL DVD. You can also find it on YouTube.

Toxic Fletch

Friday, March 17, 2017

Movie Review: Anderson Bench (2016)

Anderson Bench (2016) - USA (Louisiana) - Black Comedy - Unrated (mature themes)
Directed by John Schneider
Starring Jordan Salloum, Maddie Nichols, Brande Roderick, Dane Rhodes, Chasen Joseph Schneider, Phil Redrow, Duke Davis Roberts, Ann Dalrymple, Steven Esteb, John Schneider

A twisted plebeian morality play, minus the morality, takes an excursion into the theater of the absurd in a most wickedly delightful way that will have you laughing inappropriately, and slapping yourself because you did.

Anderson Bench is stuck in a road trip of life that has no off-ramp. He follows the rules having a pothead for a boss to whom comprehension is a myth, a nagging shrew for a wife he maintains yet keeps his heart locked away, and only finds a soulmate in a mouse. Then he meets Bethany, a brash girl several years his junior who not only has the contradictory quality of a deliberate spontaneity, but a homicidal tendency to go with it. Ahead is the road to hedonism, but its off-ramp is a dead end.

Black comedy is a double-edged sword in theater: it is simultaneously easy to do, and difficult to do well. Anderson Bench is black comedy done well. Its humor is a surreal escapism thoroughly drenched in hedonism. Throw your mores out the window while viewing this or you may find yourself offended; and if you're not offended...the shame, the shame!

I love independent films. I've watched several big budget movies in a row and been disappointed with every one of them; it obviously wasn't a good week. I rarely don't like an independent film, for the reason that they are not cut and paste but somebody doing their own thing. Anderson Bench is definitely its own thing; you haven't seen this before. Elements of the film, yes, but not crafted and told like this. I get the impression that some seeds of this were sown in a youth spent at Saturday matinees in the 70s.

This may sound strange, but I sometimes find beauty in the abject. In the opening scenes of Anderson Bench we are introduced to the surroundings, of dilapidated motels, rustic corner stores, a road we know does not lead to prosperity. The beauty is not in the poverty but in the sustenance of the people. As a child I grew up in some of these communities, communities like them, in the south. I found the brief tour reminiscent, and appropriate. Like Anderson Bench the exteriors are wearing away; Anderson Bench finds no beauty in his abject world.

Anderson Bench is an experience, or experiment if you will. If you're looking for straight lines from A to B with no detours, you won't find it here. What you will find are moments where you question why you are laughing at something. In John Schneider's cameo scene I found myself roaring, and questioning why because it's so disgusting, and yet I'm still laughing. That's one scene out of many that may have you questioning how well you know yourself.

The music is wonderful. In an unusual use of music it plays continuously throughout the movie, save for a stark silence to emphasize a statement. At times I did find the music to be overplaying the dialogue. I was using headphones though and that can happen with headphones, so open speakers would likely be a better option.

All performances in this movie are great, with an obviously talented cast having fun with their roles. Jordan Salloum and Maddie Nichols have excellent chemistry together with Jordan bringing to fore the frustration of Anderson Bench and his rapture he finds in Bethany played so excitingly and even frighteningly unpredictable by Maddie.

I do want to call out Brande Roderick for her wonderful performance. I had no idea that was her, as her face is not revealed until later. I like that John Schneider chose to do her character this way as I found myself focusing on the behavior of the character, and surely did not expect her to look like that. It's also a good lesson for the whole of the movie: make no assumptions.

My Rating: 4 Fingers

You can get it on DVD or as a download at John Schneider Studios.

Find out more about his films and music at John Schneider's Official Website.

You can also watch the trailer and/or rent the movie on Vimeo

Toxic Fletch

Thursday, March 16, 2017

TV Shows That Lost Major Stars

With the recent death of Bill Paxton and him having a new TV series in its first season leaving the future of the show questionable, and now with with CBS having moved the show to a Saturday night timeslot very probably signaling its demise, I wondered what other shows have lost a major character/cast member, and what affect that had on the shows.

Not all TV shows that lost major characters were due to the actor playing that character dying. Sometimes they just quit the show, due to problems on the set or due to illness.

Make Room for Daddy/The Danny Thomas Show (1953-1964)

At the end of its 3rd year on the air Make Room for Daddy was faced with a dilemma, I mean other than its low ratings. Jean Hagen who played the mother on the show had reached the end of her 3 year contract and decided not to renew. Well, shows at that time didn't have divorcees and they decided to take a risky move and have the mother die off-screen and they changed the name to The Danny Thomas Show.

Inarguably the move that saved the show was the end of I Love Lucy. ABC had cancelled The Danny Thomas Show at the end of its 4th year, and losing the I Love Lucy show CBS picked it up to put in the timeslot vacated by I Love Lucy. The Danny Thomas Show got a ratings boost from the move and in total lasted for 11 years on the air.

Bewitched (1964-1972)

Bewitched was, almost a pun, a cursed show throughout its run, and then some.

Alice Pearce played the Stephens' nosy neighbor Gladys Kravitz until her death during the second year from ovarian cancer, being replaced from the third year on by Sandra Gould. Marion Lorne played the absent minded and adorable Aunt Clara until her death from a heart attack in 1968, being replaced by the similarly absent minded Esmeralda played by Alice Ghostley.

The most memorable change in the series though was what is known as the two Darrins. Dick York played the role of Darrin Stephens from 1964 to 1969 until an increasingly debilitating back injury, suffered during the filming of They Came to Cordura (1959) and re-aggravated by a fall on the set of Bewitched forced him to leave the show; he was actually carried off the set unconscious in his last episode. Dick Sargent took over the role of Darrin from 1969 to 1972. Though the series lasted for 3 more years, the ratings dropped considerably after the departure of Dick York.

Doctor Who (1963-1989, original run)

Doctor Who took the loss of its main actor and turned it into a plot gimmick which allowed the show to continue with great, perhaps unequaled, success through many subsequent changes in its main actor.

William Hartnell was the original Doctor. He began the role in 1963, but as the show progressed in a time where they worked 48 weeks out of the year on production, his health deteriorated causing him to have trouble learning his lines. Faced with losing their main star, the shows producers came up with the idea that since The Doctor was an alien he could change his appearance. Hartnell left the show in 1966 with the setup that he had undergone a 'renewal' when the new actor, Patrick Troughton, had replaced him. Troughton's Doctor then underwent a 'change of appearance' when he left the show to be replaced by Jon Pertwee. From then on The Doctor would go through a regeneration, brought about by a catastrophic occurrence to his previous incarnation, when a new actor was brought on to play him.

M*A*S*H (1972-1983)

In one fell swoop at the end of its 3rd year, M*A*S*H lost 2 of its main stars, McLean Stevenson and Wayne Rogers. It's tough enough replacing one major cast member at the beginning of a new season, but two main cast members probably had some of the cast and crew checking the want ads. Especially since an arrogant killing off of a beloved character by vengeful producers so an option for returning to the show was not open, was not popular with its audience at the time. Yet, in a creative 2-part opening to its fourth year they were able to keep the audience and even continue for 8 more years. Larry Linville later left the show at the end of the 5th year and was replaced by David Ogden Stiers.

One of the things, if not the thing, that made the new cast changes successful is that the new characters were not carbon copies of the characters they replaced. B.J. Hunnicutt, played by Mike Farrell, was more reserved than Trapper John, and most especially faithful to his wife, something Trapper John never was. Colonel Sherman T. Potter, played by Harry Morgan, was more military and came with the backbone his predecessor Lt. Colonel Henry Blake was missing, not to mention that unlike Henry Blake, Potter was also faithful to his wife. David Ogden Stiers' character of Major Charles Emerson Winchester, tha thiiird, was arrogant and even more snobbish that his predecessor, Major Frank Burns, but unlike Burns he was compassionate and more than an equal to spar with Pierce, played by Alan Alda, and Hunnicutt.

Good Times (1974-1979)

Aside from the two Darrins on Bewitched, Good Times may well be the most notable, if not infamous cast change.

John Amos played the father on the show for the first 3 years. Like other shows Norman Lear produced Good Times dealt with social issues of the time, this one dealing with African Americans in the ghetto, and in particular dealing with poverty and inequality. Or at least that was the intended focus.

With the rising popularity of the J.J. character and his goofiness, mainly with young viewers, the producers focused more on him and this caused conflict between the producers and other cast members who felt the producers were creating a negative stereotype. Keep in mind this conflict was between cast and producers and not between the cast and Jimmie Walker whom they adored.

The most vocal of the cast members conflicting with producers was John Amos, and by the end of the 3rd year he was fired. At the beginning of the 4th year his character was out of state where he had gotten a good job and the family was looking forward to his return and relocating, but they received an unfortunate phone call that James Evans Sr. was killed in a car accident.

Well, this was not the end of the producers' problem as Esther Rolle was also dissatisfied with the show, especially the producers getting her character to date again so quickly and end up marrying, which she felt her character would not do, so she left at the end of the 4th year with the explanation that she would be moving away with Carl, to whom she is now engaged, to Arizona because of his recently diagnosed lung cancer.

One year without Esther Rolle and a new character having been introduced to the show, the ratings fell during the 5th year. Esther Rolle agreed to come back for only one more year, and they concluded everything in a series finale by the end of the 6th year without having been cancelled.

Spin City (1996-2002)

Michael J. Fox was actually diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease before he started on Spin City. He did not come out publicly with it until 1998 as it was progressing. During his 4th year on the show, dealing with Parkinson's and his work schedule were having a toll on him so the producers brought in Heather Locklear as a new character to take some of the workload off of him. Fox left at the end of the 4th year due to the advancing of his Parkinson's and to focus more attention on his Parkinson's foundation, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.

Even though the show only lasted for two more years after Fox left, being replaced by Charlie Sheen, I don't believe it was just the main character replacement that brought the show down, though this is just my opinion. With Fox in the lead the show was shot in New York, but when Fox left the venue was changed to Los Angeles. Though this would not change the theme of the show, it did mean a relocation for some of the actors who lived in New York and did not have confidence in the series continuing without Fox enough to relocate. This resulted in the loss of 3 other main characters. A total loss of 4 characters after 4 years is not an update, it's almost a spinoff in its own right. It's my opinion that the show would not have taken the ratings dive it did if they had not changed production venues.

There's more than one way to leave a TV show but death is certainly the most permanent. What follows are TV shows which lost a main character due to the actor playing them having died. Some were successful in continuing, most were not.

Wagon Train (1957-1962, NBC; 1962-1965, ABC)

Perhaps it was the premise of being an anthology show depending more on telling the stories of the guest stars each episode rather than the regulars that allowed it to continue after the death of its main star. Ward Bond played wagon master Major Seth Adams from 1957 until his death from a heart attack in 1961. He was replaced by actor John McIntire as wagon master Christopher Hale midway through the 4th year. The show continued 4 more years after that making it pretty successful despite the loss of its main star.

Bonanza (1959-1973)

Some could say that Bonanza was dead in the water by the time Dan Blocker, who played Hoss Cartwright, died in 1972 from a pulmonary embolism after gall bladder surgery. The show had been on for 13 years already, and you'd figure at some point one of the sons would have gotten laid by then. In an unusual turn for a TV show with such a popular and major character, rather than write his character off as having 'gone out of town' or having moved, the show acknowledged the death of Hoss. There was no joy on the Ponderosa after Blocker's death, and even if the show could have continued without him, it was cancelled, the rest of the cast didn't want to continue without Dan Blocker.

Petticoat Junction (1963-1970)

Bea Benaderet had been a successful and beloved actress for years playing supporting roles in many popular TV show including The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show and as Cousin Pearl on The Beverly Hillbillies. With Petticoat Junction she played the lead as Kate Bradley, owner of the Shady Rest Hotel and mother of the 3 hot chicks in the water tower. Bea Benaderet died of lung cancer and pneumonia in 1968.

The show had previously suffered the death of a cast member in 1967 with the passing of Smiley Burnette who played the engineer of the Cannonball train, and had also been a popular cowboy sidekick in many old westerns. The show also went through many cast changes through the years with only 3 of the original actors from the start of the series making it through to the end of the series.

Oddly the show had intended to end after the 6th year but the network renewed it for a 7th year so they could have 5 full years of color episodes, the first 2 years were black&white, for later syndication of reruns. It was cancelled after the 7th year due to the oncoming and infamous rural purge. The show was actually quite successful despite the number of cast changes, and probably could have continued another year or two.

Though I was never a big fan of Uncle Joe Carson on Petticoat Junction, the actor who played him, Edgar Buchanan, is among my favorite actors.

Chico and the Man (1974-1978)

Freddie Prinze was a promising young comedian of Puerto Rican/German heritage. He was only 20 years old when he started on Chico and the Man playing opposite Jack Albertson's cantankerous old man character. In its third year of production, on January 28, 1977 Freddie Prinze committed suicide at only 22 years of age; Prinze suffered from depression.

During the show's 4th year, it was said that Chico had gone to Mexico to visit his father and they tried to replace his character with a 12 year old boy who is adopted by Jack Albertson's character. In a two-part episode Chico's death is acknowledged. The 4th year was the final year of the show.

The Royal Family (1991-1992)

Redd Foxx starred in the successful Sanford and Son during the early 70s and this was his third attempt at a successful sitcom post Sanford and Son, and unfortunately his last attempt as he died of a massive heart attack on the set of the show only 7 episodes into the first year. The producers brought in a new cast member and reworked the remaining episodes. It was a short lived attempt as the series was cancelled after only 13 of its 15 completed episodes were aired.

Before Foxx's passing, ratings for the early episodes were high. The Royal Family looked to be a hit with viewers but ultimately floundered without Redd Foxx.

8 Simple Rules (2002-2005)

Strangely enough John Ritter's sudden death of an aortic dissection only three episodes into the 2nd year may have actually prolonged the life of the show.

8 Simple Rules just did not have good ratings finishing #46 its first year. With the death of John Ritter so soon into the 2nd year of the show, they brought in James Garner and David Spade as supplemental characters in a creative way to both deal with the death of the character on the show and eventually move the show in a different direction. The show was renewed for a 3rd year and then cancelled.

8 Simple Rules was not strong in ratings. It is just my opinion that the network may well have cancelled the show at the end of the second year without John Ritter's death but after the retooling of the show after his death and that it would have seemed cold to have cancelled it, the network probably let it continue another year, both as a goodwill effort and a genuine hope that the retooling might bring up the ratings.

There are a lot more I could cover which include British shows, shows with a short life and some older shows nobody has probably heard of or seen. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

Toxic Fletch

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Movie Review: Meteorites! (1998)

Meteorites! (1998) - USA - Drama/Disaster Movie - TV Movie
Directed by Chris Thomson
Starring Tom Wopat, Roxanne Hart, Abby Meates, Darrin Klimek, Pato Hoffmann, Marshall Napier, Amiel Daemion, Leo Taylor

Destructively powerful meteorite strikes coupled with a divergence of rural townsfolk make for an entertaining movie to kick back for 90 minutes.

A teenage girl exits her home upset with her parents and telling them in a simple moment of teen angst she wishes they were dead; in short order the daytime sky lights up and the house literally explodes. The local sheriff calls on Tom Johnson, a retired police demolitions expert with a past incident he wishes he could forget, to help him investigate this mysterious home explosion. Both of them butt heads with the town mayor because this is the week of the UFO festival, the town's major source of tourism and tourist dollars, and he doesn't want them scaring away tourists investigating something he wants to believe is due to mundane circumstances. With additional meteorite strikes and an eventual warning from an astronomer that the town is in for heavy meteorite activity, a potential disaster is looming large if people are not warned.

I have seen meteorites in movies that bounce off of cars, and where people get under awnings and indoors for protection. In this movie, however, something the size of a coconut or smaller that has fallen miles through the atmosphere rips through vehicles, overturns cars, and leaves craters a car can drive into. Now I'm no expert on meteorite strikes, but it seems like something the size of a cannonball hurtling toward earth at an accelerated rate, as falling objects do, would do a hell of a lot more damage than just bouncing off of a car or rolling off of the roof of a home.

The meteorites in this movie are threatening, they're not just falling out of trees. Houses, building and vehicles are seriously damaged or destroyed when hit. A staple of disaster movies that makes them work is to build up the threat, and that they do in this movie. You can't crawl under a table to get away from these extraterrestrial ingots of siree!

Another staple of a disaster movie which works is making you victims, or would-e victims, likable. You'd think that would be a given, but I have seen many movies in which the people being threatened are assholes and find myself rooting for the disaster. Meteorites! has a mix of folks with likable personalities and a scummy character thrown in who tests their mettle.

The ending I find absolutely unbelievable. No, I'm not going to give it away. Let's just say it's one of those true moments of a willing suspension of disbelief. I think my disbelief was suspended somewhere in outer space, but it still works. Overall it is an enjoyable movie.

My Rating: 3 Fingers

Meteorites! is only available on VHS. I did find a nice VHSrip searching it on YouTube.

Toxic Fletch

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Movie Review: Night of the Twisters (1996)

Night of the Twisters (1996) - USA - Drama/Disaster Movie - TV Movie
Directed by Timothy Bond
Starring Devon Sawa, Amos Crawley, John Schneider, Lori Hallier, Laura Bertram, Jhene Erwin, David Ferry, Helen Hughes

A standard plot for a tornado movie, tornadoes lay waste to a small town, is brought up a level by focusing on the characters of the story rather than special effects and creating tense storm scenes.

A storm chaser for the weather service tracks a supercell storm behaving erratically through rural Nebraska (I know, that's redundant). On a hunch he goes to the town of Blainsworth. The Hatch family lives in Blainsworth, and on this night the mother is working at the diner, the father is checking on his mother while the son is at home taking care of his baby brother when twisters strike. Survival, fear and chaos are all on order for this evening as families that are separated try to reconnect while the massive storm sits stationary and threatening with more twisters before this night is over.

What separates Night of the Twisters from other twister movies is in creating scenes which accentuate the storm effects surrounding the characters in the story. The main character, a teenage boy, is home with his best friend watching his baby brother until one of his parents get home. With the storm siren going off then failing they are in the dark whether it is real or not. The sounds increase outside the house. Is this a twister or not? The viewer is just as blind to what is approaching as the characters on the screen and feels the tension building as a result. An added bonus is the after effects of the storm are just messy, making it seem like a real storm has been through this town.

What I did not care for with this movie is the pretense given to this storm being some freak of nature working contrary to the laws of nature, with the storm chaser saying (paraphrased) that in 20 years of doing this he has never seen such a storm behave in this way, yet this mystery is never resolved. I can see it as a tension building element by painting the storm as unpredictable, but in the end I was still left hanging about that. 

Additionally I didn't feel John Schneider was given much to work with as an actor. He is a more than competent actor from whom I have seen some wonderful performances, but he seems stuck in a singular mood. It is certainly not his acting capability, I just don't feel he was given that breadth in this as the main character is his character's son, and he is more affective to that main character. It is probably just knowing what he is capable of I found myself disappointed is his role, not in him.

Night of the Twisters is somewhat based on the book of the same name, which in turn is a fictionalized account of the Grand Island, Nebraska tornado outbreak on June 3, 1980 which produced a total of 7 confirmed tornadoes in the Grand Island area, from a slow moving supercell, ranging in strength from F1 to F4.

My Rating: 3 Fingers Plus. Though I had some disappointments with parts of the movie, overall it creates an effective tension better than other movies of its kind.

Night of the Twisters is available on DVD but it, as of this writing, is expensive. I found mine in a YouTube search.

Toxic Fletch

Monday, March 13, 2017

Movie Review: Disney's A Christmas Carol (2009)

Disney's A Christmas Carol (2009) - USA - Animation - PG
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Starring Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Bob Hoskins

A beautifully animated film that is fairly faithful to the original novel, but it is a somber and even horrifying presentation not appropriate for young children.

Ebenezer Scrooge is a dour and penny pinching old man who would literally take the pennies off the eyes of a corpse to keep them from being wasted. Another Christmas is approaching without Ebenezer learning like anybody else he has a heart, though he locked his long ago. Also approaching on this eve is the Ghost of his deceased business partner Jacob Marley to show him the error of his ways and his torment in death if he does not change his ways. Jacob also tells him of three ghost who will visit him this night. One each of Christmas past, Christmas present, and Christmas yet to come. Ebenezer will look upon his life with eyes he has refused to open for so long, and even see into his future on this night.

Disney's A Christmas Carol is a skillfully animated and directed film. A talented cast of actors lend their voices to an even more powerful artistic rendering of Dickens' England and the characters who inhabit his story. Like any other adaptation it takes its own liberties with the story. Even at that it is still pretty faithful to the book. Maybe that is its failing too as it loses itself in a dark, humorless and even horrifying at times world akin to Dickens' own world he wrote about of poverty, despair and debtors prison. Beyond that the imagery of some of the main characters within the story certainly could inspire nightmares.

That is fine if you're making a Tales from the Crypt episode, but this is a Disney animated film and somewhere along the way Disney forgot who they are and who their audience is. This would be great for adults who don't mind the lack of humor, but for children (you know, Disney, like your target audience) this is not something I would recommend unless I'm looking to scare the hell out of them.

My Rating: 3 Fingers

This is available on Blu-ray, DVD and Instant Video.

Toxic Fletch

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Updating My Movie Rating System

When I started this blog there were two things I wanted with regard to movie reviews: to have a standardized review format and to have a simple rating system. The reason I came up with the five finger movie rating system was its simplicity. I had looked at using a star system, even using toxic barrels to represent stars and which would fit with my pseudonym. The problem was I didn't really have a way to integrate the graphics for such a rating system with this blog.

For some reason it came to me to use fingers instead. I don't need graphics since most of us have our own built-in graphic (the hand if you needed help with that) and I think most of us, at least in the western world, understand the difference between giving someone the finger and giving them a high five. So I came up with the five finger movie review rating which is not too different from a 5 star review.

My rating of movies expressed from 1 to 5 fingers, hence the name 5 Finger Movie Review. The more fingers, the better.
  • 5 Fingers = Exceptional. A classic. It's a high five!
  • 4 Fingers = A very good movie.
  • 3 Fingers = Good. Could be better, but worth a watch.
  • 2 Fingers = Not a good or entertaining movie, or otherwise flawed.
  • 1 Finger = Poor. Stinker. Turkey. The bottom of the barrel. I give it a finger!

I've never been particularly fond of a 10 point or 10 star system such as is used on IMDB, but I concede the greater range of such a system. I did not want to use more than a 1 to 5 rating and certainly not a complex rating system. I also did not want to use a half system because half a finger just seems kind of weird.

This has proven an effective system, mostly. Lately though I have reviewed several movies which I have rated as 3 fingers, yet don't feel that they are equal, even though they fit with my rating system is a broader sense.

What I have been considering is incorporating a 'Plus' option into my rating system. The rating system will be the same. The only difference will be the 'Plus' will signify the movie offers a little more than its means for the rating; such as a movie that I don't think was well made but still is entertaining, or the obverse where the movie is pretty well made but lacks much entertainment value.

This should only affect 2 and 3 finger ratings. 1 and 5 finger ratings have no variance as they are, respectively, either the bottom of the barrel or the top of the heap. I reserve the option to add a 'Plus' to a 4 finger rating, but presently can't think of where that might apply.

I want to keep my rating system simple. This is a way of having a little wiggle room so to speak without actually changing the system. Being that I have added comments to my ratings in past reviews to sort of tweak the ratings where I felt it was necessary, I don't believe I need to update those reviews. Of course your feedback is invited.

Toxic Fletch

Friday, March 10, 2017

Movie Review: Jurassic Shark (2012)

Jurassic Shark (2012) - Canada - Horror/Action - NR
A.K.A. Attack of the Jurassic Shark
Directed by Brett Kelly
Starring Celine Filion, Christine Emes, Angela Parent, Emanuelle Carriere, Duncan Milloy, Phil Dukarsky, Kyle Martellacci, Jurgen Vollrath

This can be a fun movie if you don't mind the silliness and glaring signs of its low budget showing through.

An oil company drilling into an ice pocket above an oil reserve (just go with it) causes the prehistoric ice to melt and empties it into a lake and unknowingly releases a prehistoric megalodon shark. A group of thieves who have stolen a painting and a group of college girls out to expose the oil company for illegal drilling, are both attacked by the shark on the lake, both losing members of their crews and end up being stranded on the island with the oil refinery.

This movie has alternated with Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas as the lowest rated movie on IMDB and presently is rated lower than Saving Christmas. This should give you an idea how bad reviewers are on IMDB. I have seen horribly produced and torturous movies rated 5 to 6 average on IMDB and this is rated the lowest? When Las Vegas Serial Killer (1986) is rated a 3, one of the most god awful painful to watch movies I have ever had to force myself through to the end, and this movie is rated a 1.5, this assures me that people who rate movies on IMDB are either incredibly dense or incredibly sadistic, and probably both. I use IMDB for production information and pay zero attention to ratings and little to reviews on the site.

Is this a good movie? Not if you compare it in kind to the average for this type of movie; but then a lot of those movies have a bigger budget and recognizable stars. Is it as bad as the basement dwellers who rate movies on IMDB make it out to be? Hell no! If this were a seasoned production company like The Asylum behind this or a big studio, this would be a letdown. Being this is a low budget, if not no budget, indie production, their end result is not that bad considering the means they likely had available. So I'm going to review this as the indie film it is, and not as the Hollywood production it is not.

Being a low budget production it shows through in several areas. The cast is suppose to be on an island, though in the background you can clearly see the land beyond the lake is actually connected to the island they supposedly occupy. This calls for a bit of willing suspension of disbelief, something I had to do from beginning to end watching Armageddon and it still didn't make that movie any better.

The audio in Jurassic Shark varies from poor to excellent. On average it is good, but there are a few scenes where I wish the director had screamed to the actors "Stop whispering". There is one scene in which the bad guys are huddled together and whispering among themselves to be out of earshot of the others and I must say they successfully kept their plan a secret because I could not hear a damn thing they were saying. Fortunately that was not the norm for the audio and other than a few spots like that it is pretty good.

The quality of the video is excellent. Some of the underwater photography leaves a bit to be desired; I only say this as a movie viewer not as a photographer because I don't know a damn thing about underwater photography. Editing in some places lends to confusion. The now combined group has to trek to the other side of the island to the refinery. They find someone on the shore of the lake, and it left me scratching my head as it was not clear they had apparently gone back to where they started.

The whole of the movie clocks in at a little over 78 minutes. The actual movie itself is only 65 minutes, followed by what has to be the longest end credits I have witnessed at 13 plus minutes. I was going to watch the end credits through but they won and I surrendered.

Jurassic Shark is a silly movie, but it's a fun movie if you are willing to look past its limitations and enjoy it for the effort that was made. I've read complaints about the CGI shark not being very realistic, but it worked for me and was kind of fun too. The last scene of this movie had me roaring in laughter; that's a good way to end a movie.

My Rating: 3 Fingers, if you are willing to enjoy a movie for what it is. If you are expecting and demanding a Hollywood movie from a low budget indie, then you probably want to skip this one and stop rating movies on IMDB and get out of your parents' basement.

This movie is available on Blu-ray.

Toxic Fletch

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Movie Review: Treasure of the Moon Goddess (1987)

Treasure of the Moon Goddess (1987) - USA/Mexico - Action/Adventure - R
Directed by José Luis García Agraz
Starring Don Calfa, Linnea Quigley, Asher Brauner, Joann Ayers, Danny Addis, Enrique Lucero, Eric Weston

A mostly entertaining and at times funny low budget Indiana Jones-esque movie that could have been better.

Lu looks to her manager Harold to get her singing career off to a good start. Harold, though, doesn't seem to understand the word 'good', or have much business sense as a manager and has her performing in cantinas in Central America that make dives seem upscale by comparison. A small time crime boss and modern pirates have an unusual interest in Lu as they try to kidnap her. Teaming up with a boat owner and his girlfriend they run from and/or dodge various dangers and adversaries in the jungle.

Of course the poster art for this movie is misleading. Any Indiana Jones clone outside of the actually Indiana Jones movies does not come anywhere close to the poster art. I have seen several clones in an attempt to find something else close to as entertaining as Indiana Jones, and this is one of the better attempts, and that's still not saying a lot.

There are several problems with the film which take it down a notch or two, and right up front is the fact that here is an R-rated movie with Linnea Quigley and Joann Ayers running around the jungle in tank tops or skimpier clothes and not one of them even loses their top; calling this R-rated is ridiculous. The editing is choppy in places and fight choreography is near non-existent. And yes, the plot is incredibly silly.

Those problems aside, the movie does work. It doesn't take itself seriously. Don Calfa as Harold also is the narrator of the story, which I can only presume exists as a way to tie up loose ends in continuity and for filler. Don Calfa is the primary source of comedy in the movie, though Linnea Quigley does her fair share of adding to it. If editing had been tighter, and some other sloppiness cleaned up, this could have been pretty good, but as it is, it is just mediocre but still entertaining so long as you keep in mind that it is a low budget Indiana Jones knockoff and don't expect too much.

My Rating: 3 Fingers

This movie is only available on VHS though I did find it on YouTube. Keep in mind that being it is only available on VHS means that any online copies you find to download were ripped from a VHS copy and are not going to look very good on anything bigger than a laptop screen.

Toxic Fletch

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Movie Review: Dracula (1979)

Dracula (1979) - USA/UK - Horror/Romance - R
Directed by John Badham
Starring Frank Langella, Kate Nelligan, Donald Pleasence, Trevor Eve, Lawrence Olivier, Jan Francis, Tony Haygarth

Though at times playing like a Masterpiece Theater production, this is a visually stunning, stylish melodrama crafted with precision.

The guy who gives new meaning to 'you look delicious' comes to England circa 1913. Of course being a count, Dracula travels first class; he looks at booking passage on a ship full of sailors is the same thing as a boat ride with an all you can eat buffet. Unfortunately ships cannot sail without a crew and the one he is on beaches itself, luckily though it happens to be in Whitby where he was headed anyway because he bought an old estate through a solicitor, Jonathan Harker. Found by a young though sickly Mina Van Helsing (don't ...don't get ahead of me) he calls her his savior and is so grateful that in short order he drains her blood and she dies. But just before he kills Mina he meets Lucy Seward and develops a lust for her, even against the jealous, dagger shooting gaze of her intended, Jonathan Harker (stop getting ahead of me), the concern of her father, Dr. Jack Seward, or the murderous conflict with Mina's father, Prof. Abraham Van Helsing.

If the preceding summary is confusing, well it ought to be if you're familiar with the story of Dracula by Bram Stoker. Even if you've seen other Dracula movies, it should still be confusing. Of course all productions of Dracula, stage or screen, differ from the book, most quite considerably. For a movie which follows the basic story of the book, this movie probably has the most severe character changes of any adaptation outside of parodies. The purpose, in my estimation only, for the character changes in this movie is condensing the cast to focus more on the story.

In this movie the only character who is close to their character from the book is Jonathan Harker. Although Dracula sort of counts as being the same character, any portrayal of Dracula as a handsome man is contrary to the book. Renfield takes on the additional role as a workman for Dracula before being committed to the asylum, and his obsession with eating bugs is just more because he likes it. The biggest changes are Lucy and Mina whose roles are flip-flopped; Mina is the young sickly woman and Lucy has the relationship with Jonathan Harker. Now to twist things a bit more, Dr. Jack Seward (not John) is now Lucy's father; you should be so ashamed what you just thought because Lucy is Mina and Mina is Lucy (oh me!). Additionally Alexander Van Helsing is now Mina's father. Got it? No...I'm not going through this again.

This movie takes place entirely in England and the only location where Dracula is encountered is at Carfax Abbey, though the suggestion is made that he has other locations in England. Though Jonathan Harker is the solicitor who handled the estate purchase by Dracula, it was by correspondence so they only first meet face to face at Jack Seward's home. Speaking of Jack Seward's home, it is also the mental asylum where he works.

The focus of this movie is on the relationship between Dracula and Lucy Seward, and the conflict which arises with Jonathan who loves her, her father who wants to protect her, and Van Helsing who wants to save her soul, though one cannot completely deny revenge on Van Helsing's part with what Dracula did to his daughter.

The production of this movie is high. Lavish sets, beautiful period costuming, a wonderful and highly skilled cast, excellent photography, and thick atmosphere. Dracula is threatening even standing still. He can lure you in with his charm, or overcome your psyche with his. Foreboding with his tall, lean stature, his eyes are piercing, yet he is every bit the well mannered gentleman, on the surface. Within his dark soul though is a frightening beast who scales walls as easily as a spider would, and snarls people in a web of deceit as a spider descends on its victim. This point is well illustrated by a top-down shot in Dracula's home as Lucy comes to visit; the shot is through a spider web as the spider crawls along the web toward Lucy just as Dracula enters.

The story is well focused and pieced together without missing a beat. It's neither Masterpiece Theater nor is it a contemporary horror movie, but somewhere between those two. Dialogue is plentiful which provides the actors plenty to work with, and work it they do. Terror is plentiful too from the imposing and powerful Dracula to the horrors of his misdeeds.

Being a period piece the movie loses nothing in the time that has passed since it was made. It may have actually gained something since. Originally, as I have read, the director wanted to shoot the movie in black and white for the atmosphere but the studio backing it wanted it in color. The color has been somewhat desaturated for the DVD release giving it a more austere feel than its vivid color counterpart that played in theaters.

My Rating: 4 Fingers

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD.

Toxic Fletch

Friday, March 3, 2017

Movie Review: Atomic Twister (2002)

Atomic Twister (2002) - USA - Drama/Disaster Movie - TV Movie
Directed by Bill Corcoran
Starring Sharon Lawrence, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Corbin Bernsen, Daniel Costello, Charmaine Guest, George Henare, Jonathan Blick, John Leigh, John Sumner, Katrina Devine, James Gaylyn, Meryl Main, Joanna Morrison

Despite the trappings of a TV movie, melodramatics laden at the sacrifice of rationality, it still succeeds in being entertaining.

Small southern towns and tornadoes go together like popcorn and butter, they are just made for each other, but throw in a nuclear reactor and that pristine picture of trailers and junked cars flying through the air gets complicated. This movie centers around a nuclear power plant facing a core shutdown further complicated by overheating of fuel rods due to a coolant leak after the power plant is hit by a twister. If that wasn't bad enough, another twister is threatening the power plant and this time things will go critical if they cannot find a way to cool the rods.

This is an older movie, coming upon 15 years since it was released, but with the saturation of movies about tornadoes combined with other elements, like sharks and boulders, one might think this movie is about a nuclear powered tornado. To the contrary, this movie is about a pending nuclear disaster brought about by tornadoes. It essentially answers the question of what if someone combined the movie Red Alert with the movie Twister. Nobody asked that question, but for what it's worth we still got an answer.

Atomic Twister centers around Corrine Maguire (Sharon Lawrence) and her son who are new to the area, having been transferred here to run the nuclear power plant. She may be familiar with the operations of a nuclear power plant, but neither she nor her son have been through a tornado and in addition to dealing with a potential nuclear disaster herself, her son has to deal with this frightening beast he's only heard stories about, up to this point. A deputy with his own baggage to carry about tornadoes may find his own peace in helping her son deal with it.

The focus of this movie is the drama, not the tornado. Yes, there are tornado scenes in it with competent enough special effects, but their time on screen is limited; they should really have a few words with their agent about this. Melodramatics with emotions running high and conflicts arising are the order of the day for this movie. 

What brings it down a notch for me is finding some parts to be unbelievable, particularly with regard to things taking place at the nuclear power plant. Unlike many IMDB reviewers I am not an expert on things I don't know shit about. I've never been in a power plant, and don't have any idea of the proper operation of one, but there are at least a few times this movie had me saying "Really?"

Overall the movie works if you're looking for a drama. If you're looking for lots of special effects and more people dying, or are an expert on nuclear power plants as most IMDB reviewers seem to be, then you might want to pass this one by.

My Rating: 3 Fingers

Though Atomic Twister was put out on DVD it is hard to find. I found it by searching on YouTube.

Other tornado movies on DVD you may find interesting are TwisterF6 Twister, and Fire Twister.

Toxic Fletch

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Movie Review: Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark (2014)

Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark (2014) - USA - Sci-Fi/Adventure - NR
Directed by Emile Edwin Smith
Starring Christopher Judge, Elisabeth Rohm, Matt Lagan, Debbie Gibson, Paul Anderson

Being a movie by The Asylum it fits the bill by being very entertaining without being a threat whatsoever to Shakespeare.

Ding..ding..ding, in this corner weighing in at twenty thousand tons at least is Mega Shark, not having had sex in 200 million years he has a hard-on that would compete with Captain Kirk and is really, I mean really looking to score. And in this corner, made out of steel and titanium is Mecha Shark, the newcomer in this match and feeling a little hollow and unloved.

A boat is hauling a chunk of glacier to Egypt via the Mediterranean when it begins to crack, releasing a revived megalodon shark upon the world once again. This time around the U.S. Navy working with two scientists devise a plan to build a mechanical shark to face off against the megalodon. An AI onboard the mecha shark allows it to run unmanned, but can they control it or will it become as much of a threat as the mega shark?

I always get tickled when reading reviews on IMDB and other sites about how stupid movies like this are. I mean, come on, with a title like Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark are you expecting Shakespeare? If you are you need to avoid movies with silly names like this, and especially any movies made by The Asylum. This movie gives one exactly what is expected: a cartoon like plot in an entertaining presentation.

As a bonus, having two known and seasoned actors as the leads, Christopher Judge (Stargate SG-1) and Elisabeth Rohm (Law & Order), adds some talent and personality often missing from such movies. Christopher Judge pumps up his role with loads of personality, probably letting go after having to contain himself so much playing Teal'c on Stargate SG-1 and it adds a refreshing element to the movie.

My Rating: 3 Fingers

Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

For even more fun check out the other movies in this series: Mega Shark vs. CrocosaurusMega Shark vs. Kolossus and Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus.

Toxic Fletch

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Movie Review: Ice 2020 (2011)

Ice 2020 a.k.a. Ice (2011) - Eng/NZ - Sci-Fi/Disaster Movie - TV Movie
Directed by Nick Copus
Starring Richard Roxburgh, Frances O'Connor, Brooke Williams, Claire Forlani, Ben Cross, Erin Mullally, Sam Neill, Patrick Bergin, Stephen Moyer, Simon Callow

An entertaining movie despite its 3 hour runtime that may well be even more germane in its message in this Trump era of politics.

In the very near future amid an energy crisis on a global scale with billionaire energy industrialists looking to tap the arctic oil reserves, environmental scientist Thom Archer warns that the drilling is causing the warming of arctic waters and will cause the melting of the Greenland ice sheet which would collapse the gulf stream and lead to an ice age in the northern hemisphere. His warnings fall on deaf ears, especially those of the corporation drilling in the arctic who will stop at nothing, even eminent global catastrophe, to hush him.

This is a two-part British mini-series that aired in 2011. We have seen and heard in the past protests about building borders most obvious outside of England in Pink Floyd's album aptly titled The Wall. The near future world of Ice 2020 focuses on England and a tyrannical immigration policy on those fleeing to England for mere survival due to the effects of global warming having made much of southern Europe uninhabitable due to the increase in temperatures. In an ironic twist, the oncoming ice age swiftly overtaking England forces its population to flee.

Though released in 2011, this movie may be more germane today with a new American president on the frontier who is all about borders, big corporations, billionaire friends, and doing away with environmental protections. No, I'm not saying this movie is what will happen in the future; it's a look at a possibility that is much accelerated and exaggerated for the purpose of giving the viewer something to think about. After all, if you keep slamming the door in someone's face when they need help, how do you expect them to be there for you when you need help?

On the technical and artistic front of the movie, Ice 2020 plays like other British mini-series I've seen. The acting is good, the special effects vary from good to cheesy, the story also varies from good to cheesy, and it is pumped full of social commentary. 

Kudos go to Sam Neill for once again being pure evil in a movie, though I understand he is quite the opposite in real life. It's almost dead on the same character he played in Daybreakers (2009), except this time he's in a good movie. Oh yes, that was cheap shot at Daybreakers and I'm so proud of myself. Ben Cross, you may remember him as Barnabas Collins in that short lived reboot of Dark Shadows in 1991, gives a fine performance, which he typically does from what I've seen. Additionally Richard Roxburgh carries the movie as the lead character with a devoted and passionate performance while Brooke Williams gives an emotional performance as his daughter.

My Rating: 4 Fingers

You can get Ice 2020 on a Region 2/PAL DVD or Blu-ray which mean you need a DVD player with a built-in PAL converter, though it will play on your computer with a DVD or Blu-ray enabled drive. Or you can do like I did and find it on YouTube; though not quite DVD and certainly not Blu-ray quality.

Other movies you may want to check out are Absolute Zero and The Day After Tomorrow.

Toxic Fletch