Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Saw it before. Must have had the VHS at one time. Catching it now on Amazon Prime Video. It’s Sliver, staring that very hot (then) Sharon Stone. This came out in 1993, about the time Stone was still sizzling from Basic Instinct, to be reviewed later. It’s from Paramount Pictures. Details are from Wikipedia.

It’s based on the book of the same name by Ira Levin, and I’m guessing the title comes from the apartment building that’s central to the plot. It’s a sliver of concrete, steel, and glass that shoots up in a tony neighborhood in Manhattan. It’s a thriller, with emphasis on eroticism and suspense. Lots of people die.

Opening scenes show a striking blond woman, Naomi Singer played by Allison Mackie, entering the building and taking the elevator to her apartment on the 20th floor. Closed circuit television (CCTV) follows her every move. She goes immediately to her balcony, overlooking the city, and takes in the view. Another person, not identified, enters her apartment using a key. He comes up behind her and caresses her. She responds at first. Then she is suddenly and violently thrown over the railing to her death. Thus begins the drama.

The next tenant of number 20B is Carly Norris (Stone), book editor for a New York publisher. She bears a resemblance to the late Ms. Singer.

Carly is newly divorced, having shucked off a seven-year, miserable marriage. She soon meets a number of other residents of the building, some of whom are about to die. One is Gus Hale (Keene Curtis), who first notices Carly’s strong resemblance to the former tenant. He aims to tell her some things he knows before he goes off to Japan for an extended stay. Later we observe his body in the shower, as seen on CCTV. Coverage throughout the building seems to be unlimited.

Unlimited includes Carly’s bathroom. Somebody watches her bathe erotically.

Nothing and nobody are missed. CCTV seems to cover every inch of the sliver building.

One of the downsides of Carly’s promising career is a morass of pressure exerted on her by people in power. She advertises herself as fiercely independent, a person who likes to be in control. Her boss, Alex Parsons (Martin Landau) wants her to review a book by Jack Landsford (Tom Berenger). She does not like Jack’s books, and she does not want to review his book. Alex wants Carly to work with Jack. Jack lives in the sliver building. He has already noticed Carly moving into the building. He is brash and pushy, just the kind of person Carly does not like.

Carly throws a party, and Jack crashes the party, uninvited. Another tenant is Zeke Hawkins (William Baldwin), who also attends. Somebody has gifted Carly with a telescope, already set up on the balcony. Party goers take turns exercising some erotic voyeurism through the telescope. It remains a mystery how the telescope got delivered and installed.

It turns out Zeke was the donor. It also turns out he owns the building. Both Jack and Zeke put the move on Carly, but Zeke has more oil (as in oily), and his rude sexual overtures are successful. There is much steamy sex, as much as can be allowed without garnering an R (X?) rating. Here Zeke has left Carly the gift of sexy bra and panties. At dinner in a swanky restaurant he demands she demonstrate she is wearing them. That she does, to the alarm of an elderly couple sitting nearby. She has to demonstrate the panties by removing them and passing them over to Zeke.

But Zeke has wired his entire building so he can spy on everybody and everything. He invites Carly to participate. She is spellbound and cannot look away. Tragedy and depravity are played out in front of them. Zeke, from time to time, interferes with these dramas, in one case levying an anonymous threat against a child molester, forcing the creep to mend his ways. But there is no doubt who is creepier.

Carly’s friend Vida Warren (Polly Walker) has something to tell Carly about the late Naomi, but she doesn’t. She is shortly murdered in the stairwell, and Carly hears the commotion and spots Jack standing over the body. Jack is arrested, but released on bond. There is a confrontation. Jack has a gun. Jack accuses Zeke of setting him up to take the fall for Vida’s murder and wants Zeke to confess. Carly and Jack wrestle for the gun, and Jack is killed. Police stop looking for the root of the sliver building murders.

But Carly’s suspicions grow. She sends Zeke out on an errand and uses the interval to search for video tapes. She finds the one showing Naomi’s murder, a tape Zeke said did not exist. She also finds Zeke’s gun, and when Zeke returns early and sees she has the tape, Carly holds him off with the gun, from time to time shooting out one of the myriad TV screens. In a glimpse she catches the identity of Naomi’s murderer. It is not Zeke. He empties the pistol into various TV screens and leaves.

And that’s the end of the movie.

My first impression was that for a woman as Carly purports herself to be, having the need to be in charge, she allows Zeke to run all over her. I would consider Zeke’s sexual approach to be crude and doomed to failure had I not witnessed the same method work (not for me) on a number of occasions.

People, a hidden TV camera in every bathroom? Is there any reason the tenants have not already sued Zeke’s socks off and taken possession of the building for themselves? There is ample evidence that unauthorized entrance is being made to Carly’s and other apartments, and nobody calls the police to investigate, much less a lawyer.

Reality is not what this movie is about. Watch it for yourself, but beware your glasses are going to steam up.

Seven Days In May

I don’t know why this movie came to mind just now. Maybe it’s because today, 18 May, is the critical day in the plot. It could be that recent developments in the news made me think of it. Anyhow, it’s Seven Days in May, starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. It was directed by John Frankenheimer, with a screenplay by Rod Serling, of The Twilight Zone fame. Here are Airforce General General James Mattoon Scott and Marine Colonel Martin “Jiggs” Casey.

They are participating in a congressional hearing that pits General Scott’s pro-military stance against that of liberal President Jordan Lyman, played by Fredric March. It’s about an attempt to usurp the United States Government by military coup.

Here is the point in the plot where Colonel Casey begins to become suspicious that something fishy is going on. He hangs up the phone and asks himself, “What the hell is going on?”

But don’t worry. It’s only fiction. Get a good night’s sleep. Everything will be all right in the morning.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

In 1889 the Brits set out to construct a rail line from Kenya to Uganda. This in competition with the French and the Germans. At the time the African continent was open to colonization, and European countries were invading en masse. During construction of a bridge over the Tsavo River the construction crew, mostly Africans and Indians, was beset by two man-eating lions, who would from time to time attack a worker, sometimes at night in his tent. At one time the Guinness Book of World Records listed this as the worst plague of man-eating lions at 300 killed. That has since been revised, and a figure of about a tenth that is now acknowledged. That’s the basis of this movie. It’s The Ghost and the Darkness from 1996 from Paramount Pictures.

British Army Colonel John Henry Patterson (Val Kilmer) is engaged to manage the project. He leaves behind in England his lovely wife, Helana (Emily Mortimer), pregnant.

Patterson teams up with construction foreman, Samuel (John Kani). Together they vow to finish the project on schedule. Samuel asks Patterson if he is married. Patterson tells him he is. Samuel tells Patterson he, himself, has five wives. He asks Patterson whether he loves his wife. Patterson tells him he does, very much. Samuel mentions he does not like any of his wives.

We get a preview of coming disaster, as tan forms move through the tall grass near the rail line.

The killings begin, as a worker finds himself dragged from his bed in the middle of the night and eaten by a lion.

Patterson has never seen a lion before, but he teams with fellow Brit Angus Starling (Brian McCardie) to stalk and kill the lion. At this, Patterson is successful, and all celebrate the vanquishing of the menace. Then the killings resume.

When Patterson, Samuel, and Starling stalk an attacking lion at the railway station, they spot another on the roof. There are two lions.

Patterson converts a railway car into a killing trap for the lions. A trap door will ensnare the lion, while accomplished killers from among the work crew will shoot from inside their protective cage. It does not work. These accomplished killers panic and fire wildly, hitting the cage bars and nary a lion.

Professional hunter Charles Remington (Michael Douglas) appears on the scene. Together, Remington and Patterson stalk the two lions.

 

They succeed in killing one of the lions and celebrate with champagne and a restful sleep. Patterson has a dream. His lovely wife and newborn son arrive at the railway station, and she waves to him. Then he sees a tan form charging through the tall grass, onto the platform, and attacking his bride.

 

Patterson wakes up and sees Remington is gone. He finds Remington’s body out in the grass, where the lion has left it. Patterson constructs an elevated platform from which to shoot the lion, and he baits the area with fresh kill. When the lion comes it is an even match, and Patterson ends up killing the animal up close and personal with two blasts from a large-bore, double-barrel weapon.

The construction workers, who had fled earlier, return to the job on the train, as well as Patterson’s wife and son. No tan nform stalks from the tall grass. And that’s the end of the movie.

The Remington character is fiction. Amazon movie credits tell that Patterson killed both lions. The movie spends a lot of time with Patterson and Remington tracking the lions and discovering a lion den cave with a cache of human remains. No.

The bit about the accomplished killers in the railway car trap is beyond absurdity, engineered to entrap viewers into some extra suspense and drama. Three armed men unable to shoot a lion through the cage bars is too much a stretch.

The bridge, by now nearly 120 years old, appears in the beginning and end credits of the movie.

Quiz Question

One of a continuing series

This is number 100.

Here is a cultural literacy test. Roy Rogers made it big, starting in the 1930s as a singing cowboy, patterned after Gene Autry, the original singing cowboy. He had a famous horse named Trigger and a pretty wife, Dale Evans, who often appeared with him in his movies. But Roy Rogers, for all it’s Hollywood alliteration, was not his real name. What was his real name? Hint: it’s not a name guaranteed to throb hearts.

Post your answer as a comment below.

Update and answer

Only one person took a stab at this week’s Quiz Question. Helen had it almost correct. Roy Rogers’ real name was Leonard Franklin Slye, not something you wanted to put on a billboard.

Hardly a westerner, he was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Ever since this came out in 2004 I’ve been wanting to see it, but I didn’t want to pay any money to see it. This week, April 2017, it turned up on Amazon Prime Video in conjunction apparently with the Easter holiday season. However, the film is not about bunny rabbits and Easter eggs, or even Easter. It’s an exotic bit of sadomasochism for adults, reflecting writer, director Mel Gibson‘s extremist views. It’s The Passion of the Christ, featuring Jim Caviezel as Jesus and Maia Morgenstern as Jesus’ mother Mary. The distributor was Newmarket Films. Details are from Wikipedia.

I’m not going to detail the plot. It’s whole cloth from the New Testament accounts by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, otherwise unknown. None of these writers were present, nor likely even alive, at the time of the events. See Bible Gateway for the text.

Those brought up in a Christian  world already know the story. Jesus was a radical Jewish rabbi during the time of the Roman occupation of the region east of the Mediterranean, particularly Jerusalem. He came crossway’s with the Jewish authority, who, according to most accounts, kowtowed to the Romans as a means of maintaining their own position. Jesus preached unorthodox philosophies and was thought by many to be the promised messiah, the god-man come to save the Jews from oppression. This did not sit well with authority, neither the Jews nor the Romans, and when Jesus crossed the line by throwing a fit and wrecking a temple, the Jews, led by King Herod, saw their chance to get rid of him.

The Jewish authority paid one of Jesus’ disciples, named Judas, to finger Jesus, so he could be arrested by the Romans. This scene shows Judas, knave that he is, down on  his knees before the authorities, grubbing to pick up the 30 pieces of silver he has spilled. Too bad for Judas. Ever since, his name has become synonymous with duplicity and betrayal. Although lots of people get named Jesus these days (my neighbor down the street), almost nobody gets named Judas. Or Hitler.

Anyhow, the movie covers the final 12 hours of Jesus’ life, starting with the night of his arrest and culminating with his death by crucifixion the following day. Justice was swift in those days. We see Jesus and his disciples reposing in an olive grove, and it is dark. No street lights in those days. Jesus confers with a spectral figure in female form and gets a hint of his fate. The movie dialog is a mixture of Aramaic, Latin, and Hebrew, languages I do not speak, so I can only follow the conversation through the subtitles. I’m guessing the specter informs Jesus he will  die and save all mankind from eternal damnation. But that’s just my interpretation.

Although the plot is  straight line with no parallel themes, there are flash backs in Jesus’ life to give perspective. Here he is in  better days, showing his mother a table he has built. He was a carpenter, according to biblical accounts.

Starting with Jesus’ arrest (Judas identifies him by kissing him on the cheek), the film is all about injustice and an escalating program of debasement, brutalization, and  torture of Jesus, ultimately resulting in his death. Famous characters from the biblical account are depicted in stereotypical rendition. Here is Roman Governor Pontius Pilate (Hristo Shopov), haughty and impervious. He attained a certain level of fame through the biblical account of his washing his hands after dealing  with the matter of Jesus. The movie shows the famous washing hands scene.

We see the Jewish hierarchy, standing so solidly with their Roman masters. The very picture of complicity. You have to dislike them.

The arresting soldiers begin by punching and kicking Jesus, putting him in shackles, then dangling him off a bridge by the shackles. The brutality is just beginning. The movie is all about this drum beat of brutal assaults. You have to wonder what kind of pleasure anybody has watching this.

Yes, Jesus must be crucified. The crucifixion to take place on a hill outside the city, and you have to wonder how come the crosses are not already set up there. History tells us the Romans used crucifixion routinely, and we don’t want to believe they constructed new crosses each time. Anyhow, it was a gruesome form of death, and it served to remind non-Roman subjects just who was in charge and what waited for anybody defying Roman rule.

However,  the movie has to follow biblical tradition, and a cross is constructed especially for him, in the city, and he has to carry it through the city gates and up the hill. Even though Jesus gets help (the Romans press an on-looker into service), it is an epic struggle, which is what this movie wants to show. Great injustice, cruel treatment to the extreme, the shameful killing of a hero of the people.

Here’s the part that a gaggle of true Christians are going to get off on. They lay the cross out on the ground and drive nails through Jesus’ hands to affix them to the cross arms. Then they drive a nail through his feet to affix them to the upright. That has got to be painful. It’s what crucifixion was all about.

Finally they stand the cross upright so Jesus can die by suffocation. The deal is, when you are hung by your hands, nailed in this case, you can’t breath, and suffocation comes eventually. Attaching the feet to the upright slows the process. According to history, the executioners would sometimes break a prisoner’s legs to hasten death. Believe it if you will, this was the humane thing to  do.

After Jesus dies great turbulence strikes the region. An earthquake destroys the temple, and a massive storm approaches. A soldier jabs Jesus in the chest with a spear to ensure he is dead, and then they all flee.

Friends and Jesus’ mother take down the cross and remove the body from it. There is a scene in the movie that exactly captures Michaelangelo‘s Pietà. A nice, if obvious, touch by Gibson. The body is placed in an ossuary in a crypt, a cave dug out of the side of a cliff. The crypt is sealed by rolling a large rock over the opening. The movie ends with the rock rolling back (presumably the following  Sunday) and Jesus walking forth.

No doubt, Gibson pulled out all stops depicting the brutality inflicted on Jesus. There is plenty of motion picture blood spurting in response to the nails being driven in. Tales of the Soviet gulags pale by comparison. The film is a reflection of Gibson’s ultra-religious views:

ibson was raised a Sedevacantist traditionalist Catholic. When asked about the Catholic doctrine of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, Gibson replied, “There is no salvation for those outside the Church … I believe it. Put it this way. My wife is a saint. She’s a much better person than I am. Honestly. She’s… Episcopalian, Church of England. She prays, she believes in God, she knows Jesus, she believes in that stuff. And it’s just not fair if she doesn’t make it, she’s better than I am. But that is a pronouncement from the chair. I go with it.” When he was asked whether John 14:6 is an intolerant position, he said that “through the merits of Jesus’ sacrifice… even people who don’t know Jesus are able to be saved, but through him.”[162] Acquaintance Father William Fulco has said that Gibson denies neither the Pope nor Vatican II. Gibson told Diane Sawyer that he believes non-Catholics and non-Christians can go to Heaven.

Gibson’s religiosity would be difficult to detect from his earlier films. Previously reviewed are Mad Max and Mad Max, Beyond Thunderdome. Then there was the Lethal Weapon series, Payback, and Conspiracy Theory. I have watched, but not reviewed, We Were Soldiers, which features Gibson as the deeply Catholic Lieutenant Hall Moore.

What kills this movie is not only the fixation on sadism, but the plot, or lack thereof. There is no plot. If this had been a movie about a nameless woman, scooped off the street and tortured to death by some religious fanatics, the largely Christian fans would not only not watch it, but they would demand that nobody else should be allowed to watch it. The fundamentalist Christian audience gives a pass on the brutality depicted, because this is a bit of fiction ingrained in their faith, of scarce veracity at that.

No eyewitnesses to the crucifixion of Jesus wrote any of this stuff down. Accounts from biblical scholars hold that followers of Jesus scattered following the Roman crackdown, and the story was subsequently recreated from legends. The existence of an actual Jesus character is also questioned. Biblical depictions of Jesus’ birth do not square with know fact, heaping considerable doubt to the rest of the Jesus story.

Details of the movie do not jibe. Scenes of Jesus hanging on the cross by way of nails through his hands are recreated by having an actor supported from below. A real person supported as Jesus is shown would come close to dying before the camera’s lens. Perhaps more so.

Not wanting to be indelicate, but the movie shows friends of Jesus having removed his body from  the cross. They apparently pulled the nails. Not so. These were substantial nails, and a real carpenter would recognize the near impossibility of pulling them, having been driven through a four-inch timber and then bent over from the back side. The body would have been removed by cutting the hands. Realism is not a matter of concern here.

I had trouble with the language. The Romans speak Latin, and sometimes Hebrew when talking to the Jews. I don’t speak Latin, but it sounds as though the Romans are speaking Italian. They even speak with an Italian  accent. The Jews seem to switch between Aramaic and Hebrew, two of the three Semitic languages of the region, the other being Arabic. Gibson loaded the burden of  having actors speak these ancient languages on top of the more mundane production tasks. Not much is gained.

If you are a soaked in blood Christian, then this movie is for you. If you have any sense of propriety, you will  want to skip this snuff film.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Hey! Number 100 in the series.

This is a limited release that came out in 2005, so I’m seeing it for the first time in April on Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia. It’s A History of Violence, featuring Ed Harris and William Hurt.

The opening scene is a notable cinematographic work. It’s a boom shot that runs for about four minutes, focusing initially on a chair sitting beside a door, outside a single-story motel. Presently Leland Jones (Stephen McHattie) emerges, followed by Billy Orser (Greg Bryk). As Billy exits the door, he straightens another chair that’s standing next to the door. Billy gets into the car parked out front, and Leland tells him to drive to the office, Leland will check out. Billy drives and stops in front of the office, and Leland goes inside, returning presently and taking over the driving. He mentions he had some trouble with the maid. It’s one continuous boom shot, following Billy as he goes into the Motel office to refill their water jug. Inside, Billy observes the bodies of the manager and the maid, and when a little girl opens a door to take a look, he shoots her with his pistol. These are two really bad dudes without any redeeming qualities. Turns out they are not long for the world.

The are on a cross-country spree of robbery and murder, and their fatal mistake is stopping to do Tom Stall’s (Viggo Mortensen) diner (somewhere in Indiana) They overplay their hand. It’s closing time, but the crooks crowd their way in. When Tom advises Charlotte (Deborah Drakeford), the waitress, to knock off and go home, the pair reveal their intent to rob the place. Leland directs Billy to show these locals they mean business by raping Charlotte. For an instant Leland takes his eyes off Tom, and Tom throws a pot of hot coffee in his face. The gun goes flying, Tom takes possession and puts four through Billy, who crashes backward through the front glass door. Leland, now on the floor, stabs Tom in the foot with a knife, and Tom plugs Leland in the back of the head.

Tom becomes a hero, and that is bad news. Tom cannot afford to be a hero with his face appearing in newspapers all over, especially Philadelphia.

Presently Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris) shows up at Tom’s diner with a henchman. Carl recognizes Tom as Joey Cusack. The two have a history. In their most recent encounter Joey messed up Carl’s face, and more.

Meanwhile, Tom’s son Jack (Ashton Holmes) is experiencing life changes of his own. A bully, Bobby Singer (Kyle Schmid), who has been bearing down on Jack since near the beginning of the movie overplays his own hand. He pushes Jack too hard in the hall  at school and insults Jack’s girl friend, Judy Danvers (Sumela Kay). Jack stomps Bobby’s buddy and puts Bobby in the hospital. Tom doesn’t think that’s a good idea, and he strongly remonstrates Jack. It gets physical.

Carl and two henchmen show up at Tom’s house with the intent of taking Tom/Joey away with them—likely not a round trip. Tom resists, putting the two henchmen down for the count. When Carl prepares to shoot Tom, Jack comes up from behind and blows Carl away with a shotgun blast. A history of violence seems to run in the family.

Tom and his lovely wife Edie have had an intense and highly sexual relationship, but it begins to fall apart as Edie becomes aware of Tom’s double life. Tom figures he needs to  settle things for good and drives to Philadelphia to confront his nemesis, his brother Richie Cusack (William Hurt). Joey previously trashed a well-placed mobster (read “made-man”), and this has crippled Richie’s future in the mob. The only way Richie can fix the matter is to have Joey killed, and he sets a killer with a garrote on him. But Joey defeats the killer and Richie’s other henchman. He finally confronts Richie and puts a bullet in Richie’s head without hesitation.

Tom returns to  his home in Indiana, where his daughter Sarah (Heidi Hayes) sets a place for him at the dinner table.

Yes, this is a good action movie. In addition to Jack’s tussle at school, there are three gunfights, and Tom wins two. He loses the second one, involving Carl, but Jack saves the day with his friendly shotgun. And that’s a bit much. On three separate occasions Tom turns the tables against overwhelming odds and receives minor injuries. This kind of stuff is legendary, for a reason. It does not happen in real life.

The opening scene is puzzling, as well. Leland and Billy have obviously spent the night in the hotel. Billy waits outside while Leland goes inside, presumably to rob and kill the manager. He kills the maid, as well. We hear no gunshots. His pistol does not have a silencer. We later learn he has a knife (in the diner). He must have knifed the two. That way other motel tenants don’t become curious. But Billy shoots the little girl with his pistol, making a lot of noise. Apparently they drive away unmolested.

There are any number of ways Leland and Billy could have been caught off guard by random people coming and going. Presumably they kill all witnesses, but why. They leave a trail of identity as they make their way cross-country. So, why kill witnesses? Makes for extra drama.

William Hurt appeared in a number of interesting productions, but I have only seen The Accidental Tourist, where he plays a travel writer with a dysfunctional family. Haven’t been able to catch this on the tube.

We remember Ed Harris from a number of notable works. He was John Glenn in The Right Stuff, Kristof in The Truman Show, and the German sniper in Enemy at the Gates.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

In 1898 British Lieutenant-Colonel John Henry Patterson was put in charge of the construction of a railway bridge over the Tsavo River in Kenya. According to the movie, the schedule was tight, as Great Britain was in competition with the French and the Germans for dominance in the region. Presently the project was put in jeopardy by attacks from two lions. And that’s the basis of this movie, The Ghost and the Darkness. It stars Val Kilmer as the real-life Patterson and Michael Douglas as the fictional Charles Remington. I saw it before, and I may have once had a VHS. It is now available on Amazon Prime Video. This was released by Paramount Pictures in 1996. Details are from Wikipedia.

 

After opening scenes, showing Patterson being inducted into the project by Sir Robert Beaumont (Tom Wilkinson), we see Patterson on a train to the job site, along with Angus Starling (Brian McCardie), who plays fill-in roles in the plot, and who seems to have been injected primarily to add extra British flavor to an otherwise African story.

Together, Patterson and construction supervisor Samuel (John Kani) discuss how the construction will proceed. Samuel asks if Patterson is married and if he loves his wife. Patterson says he does, very much. Samuel reveals he has five wives, and he does not like any of them.

In a reveal, a scene shows a tan ghost moving through the tall grass near the construction site. Death is coming.

It comes in the middle of the night, as a lion drags a worker from his bed.

Patterson, who has hunted in India but has never seen a lion, takes up a rifle and hunts down and kills a lion face on. All want to think the lion menace is done.

But there are more attacks. Samuel and Starling team with Patterson to bait and hunt the attacking lion. As they stalk one lion through the train station,  they spy another on top of the building. There are two lions.

Patterson gets the idea from his experience in India of trapping and shooting the lions. He converts a rail car into a trap. A lion enters the open door. The door slams shut behind the lion. Experienced shooters inside, protected by a steel barrier, will then shoot and kill the lion.

It doesn’t work. The terrified shooters fire but hit nothing besides the steel barrier. The lion breaks free.

Enter professional hunter Charles Remington. He’s going to kill the lions. He’s brought along a platoon of Maasai warriors to help flush out the lions.

It doesn’t work. The lions to not respond as expected. The Maasai don’t understand why the lions are acting as they do. They call them the ghost and the darkness.

Patterson constructs a stakeout platform and proposes to lure a lion within shooting range. Remington is skeptical, but it works. A lion comes, there is great danger. Patterson kills the lion. One more to go.

Patterson and Remington celebrate their partial victory. Patterson dreams his young wife (Emily Mortimer) has come to visit with their new baby. As he rushes to greet her on the station platform he sees death racing through the tall grass. He can’t save her as the lion pounces. He wakes up. Remington is missing. A lion has killed him and taken his body out of the camp.

Patterson and Samuel plot to kill the remaining lion. The lion attacks in the night and pursues Patterson onto the partially completed bridge and then to a tree, where Patterson takes refuge. The lion follows. The double-barrel long gun that Samuel throws to Patterson falls to  the ground. Patterson falls, as well. The lion attacks. Patterson gets off a shot, wounding the lion. The lion persists. Patterson shoots him full in the face at point blank range.

The workers, who previously fled the lion menace, return, and the bridge is completed. And so is the movie.

Good drama, good action,  good acting, good photography. A whimsical plot. A few points:

Three experienced shooters confront a lion trapped inside the rail car, and they can’t get a shot between the slats of the steel barrier?

Nobody ever thinks to tie a few goats around the camp to give the alarm when a lion approaches in the darkness?

Patterson fends off a lion at close range? No way. A real lion would have been on  top of him in milliseconds. The director (Stephen Hopkins) stretched out the drama interminably. Gives us something to watch while Patterson  kills the lion.

Guinness Book of World Records, in an addition I previously owned, listed this episode as the world’s worst attack by man-eating lions. I recall the number 300, the movie, based on Patterson’s book, claims 135. Researchers think it was more like 28 to 31.

Quiz Question

One of a continuing series

A star actor’s career typically stumbles onto the scene as a bit part here with a screen credit near the bottom. Few know where most were before they gained momentum. Last appearances are more noted. And that’s this week’s Quiz Question. What was the last movie for the following? Film theatrical releases only. No TV.

Post your answers in the comments section below. Extra points for Peter Falk.

Update and answers

I’m going from memory here. Tania can weigh in if she wants. She probably knows them all. I have added the answers to the list above.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Hey! It’s a teenage, coming of age yarn, with time travel. You know the type. I viewed it on Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia. It’s Project Almanac, from 2015. Wikipedia hails it as a “found footage” style, but this is unlike The Blair Witch Project, and Cloverfield, where everybody dies. The production company is listed as MTV Films and Platinum Dunes. The company logo shows it was distributed by Paramount Pictures.

What gives this the found footage look and feel is the home video shooting style. We open with three geeky teens and their science project. David Raskin (Jonny Weston) is in the middle, and Quinn Goldberg (Sam Lerner) and Adam Le (Allen Evangelista) are his buddies. It’s David’s idea to parlay his drone robotics genius into a full MIT scholarship. He demonstrates for a video shot by his sister Christina (Virginia Gardner). We see her from time to time, since she spends most of the movie behind the camera. She’s got great boobs in case Steve wants to watch this.

Too bad. David gets accepted to  MIT, but it’s not a full scholarship. He’s going to have to  kick in the remaining $40,000. His mother plans to sell the house to raise the money. She is a widow, David’s father was killed in a car crash right after David’s 7th birthday party.

The three science kids wander into the late father’s workshop to sift for any left-over science projects that can be used to leverage additional scholarship money. David comes across a video camera. It’s footage from that last birthday party. He views the celebration. He sees himself in a mirror. It’s as he is now, not as he was ten years ago. The logical conclusion is that David’s father was working on  time travel. That would be a great science project to divvy up additional scholarship funds.

The kids get together and go through the late father’s notes. They reconstruct his work.

Success! They invent time travel. Market it? No way. It was developed under the father’s DARPA grant. They figure they can exploit it directly. They team with good looking Jessie Pierce (Sofia Black-D’Elia). David’s hot on her, and he’s been trying to work up to talking to her anyhow.

They make a pact. The will all go back in time together. The experiment with going back farther and staying longer. They go back to help Quinn get past a difficult classroom assignment. See the image below. Quinn has previously muffed a response to a Chemistry question. The plan is for them to all go back so Quinn can substitute for the former Quinn and aced the question. As the former Quinn heads for the chemistry class, Christina rushed out to inform him the class has been canceled. They can’t afford for both copies of Quinn to show up for class.

The teens work their way up. Win the lottery, raking in millions to share. They purchase press passes to a prior Lollapalooza on eBay and go back to the event with unfettered access. A wall at Lollapalooza asks people to write what they want to do before they die. Jessie says she wants to fall in  love. David says he wants to go sky diving. A budding romance withers on the vine.

Tragedy. The butterfly effect is manifest, as a chain of events set into motion in the past results in an aviation tragedy.

David goes back alone, and undoes the start of Project Almanac. In class, with David alone knowing what has transpired, he realizes he must talk to Jessie. She has been waiting for him to make his move. Love will bloom for real.

OK, get past time travel and all that, this is supposed to be a home video production. I can appreciate, maybe Christina shooting David and Jessie in the school cafeteria, but who’s taking the live camera footage while the two make out in bed? Dvid goes back in time alone. Who’s shooting the video? Yes, there’s some loss of continuity there.

The director, Dean Israelite, wants to show us what it’s like when you make a time jump. He does it by swirling a bunch of stuff around.

 

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This was Stephen King‘s big breakthrough. Before there was The Green Mile, before there was Pet Sematary, before there was The Shining, there was Carrie, a notable piece of horror. This came out in  1976, and I don’t remember where I saw it  the time before. I just now viewed it on Hulu. Details are from Wikipedia.

Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is shy and unremarkable. She is maladroit and poor at sports. She fumbles a critical play, and her team loses a volleyball match. Back in the locker room the other girls taunt her or ignore her completely. Steve, here’s your chance to see naked teenage girls in the locker room.

Carrie is dangerously unworldly. Her mother is a religious psychopath and has not informed Carrie on basic feminine development. When Carrie’s first menstrual period is manifest in the shower, she panics and turns to the girls for help. Instead, they taunt her, chase her into the shower and throw towels at her.

Back home, Carries mother, Margaret White (Piper Laurie) is worse than the girls. She screams at Carrie that she is living in sin and must repeat that aloud.

In class, Carrie is the only one to respond after the teacher reads Tommy Ross’s (William Katt) poem. Tommy, with long, blond hair, is a certified hunk.

The girls who taunted Carrie are severely punished. Their gym teacher, Miss Collins (Betty Buckley) manages their detention, forcing them to do rigorous exercises.

The girls complain. One, Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allen), drops out, forfeiting her ticket to  the senior prom. Another, Sue Snell (Amy Irving) doesn’t drop out. She stays in. And plots revenge.

Meanwhile, Carrie has grown  angry, particularly when Principal Morton (Stefan Gierasch) persists in calling her “Cathy.” Objects move on his desk. Carrie investigates, pulling books from  the library. She comes across the concept of telekinesis. She can do it.

Sue works her revenge on Carrie. She connives to have her boyfriend Ross take Carry to the prom. She also connives to have the voting compromised so that Carrie and Ross are elected queen and king of the prom. She has set Carrie up, bringing her to the high point in her life.

Then Sue unleashes her plot. She has incorporated other students, including Billy Nolan (John Travolta) to slaughter some pigs and collect a bucket of blood. The bucket is rigged, and a pull at a rope dumps the blood on Carrie as she stands in her place of honor. Additionally, the bucket falls on Ross, knocking him out.

Carrie unleashes her fury on everybody. She leaves the auditorium engulfed in fire with everybody locked inside. Everybody, that is, except for the perpetrators. As Carrie walks home in her blood-drenched dress, she encounters Billy Nolan and Chris Hargensen, who attempt to run over her with the car. The car veers to one side and overturns. The two die in the burning car.

Carrie has defied her mother by going to the prom. Back home her mother embraces Carrie, then stabs her in the back with a kitchen knife. Carrie responds. Knives and other objects fly from the kitchen and pin her evil mother to a door frame.

Their house dissolves in flame.

Afterward, Sue is the sole survivor of prom night. She has a dream. She is placing flowers at the site of Carrie’s burned  house. There is a cross, really a for sale sign. On it are painted the words “Carrie White burns in Hell.” An arrow points down.

A bloody hand comes up from the ground to drag Sue down.

And that was our introduction  to the mind of Stephen King. He has taken our worst experiences of high school and amplified on them. You want to see how nasty high school girls can be? Come see this movie and be glad you have moved on.

Since this is a work of fantasy, there is not much that can be argued against the plot. If you want any of it to make sense, then you have to make sense of somebody setting an auditorium on fire and killing everybody through mind power alone. Beyond that there are some stretches of imagination.

Sue thinks she is going to pull of this business with the bucket of blood and then ever graduate from high school? Or live in this town?

Yeah, high school kids have done stupid things, thinking about five seconds into the future, but breaking into somebody’s pig business and killing some pigs is something that’s going to earn time in the clink, and screw all thought of going to college. Example: About the time I was starting at the University of Texas, some frat kids thought it would be cute to kidnap the Baylor bear mascot. They wound up killing  the bear (a cub). End of college for those guys.

Stephen King is an excellent writer, and his stories have enough reality to ground them while the remainder of his plots fly off into the stratosphere. If you can stretch your mind enough, you can appreciate a vicarious journey into the netherworld.

If I can obtain a copy, I hope to review Cujo.