Mini-Review: The Werewolf Reborn! (1998)

Starring Robin Atkin Downes, Ashley Tesoro, Len Lesser, Bogdan Cambera, Lucia Maier

Directed by Jeff Burr

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


The Werewolf Reborn! is the second of two Moonbeam films under the Filmonsters! banner, and while Frankenstein Reborn! was bad but kinda fun, this one is just atrocious. Very little of note happens in the movie, but at least it has the decency to be quick about it. The Werewolf Reborn! runs 43 1/2 minutes without credits and my sanity is eternally grateful. To imagine this movie twice as long, at “normal” movie length, is to imagine a horrific cinematic nightmare. Not exactly the usual way to strike fear in the hearts of the audience! 😛 There are definitely worse movies out there, although at the moment The Werewolf Reborn is the torchbearer in my brain, and it’ll probably remain the benchmark for some months to come.

As with Frankenstein Reborn, this film attempts to re-invent a horror classic for a younger audience. I don’t know what was wrong with kids just watching the original Universal films, but I guess some kids (and parents) might not want watch stuff in black and white. So enter Full Moon to create low-budget ’90s versions! In 2017, I’d be curious to see which one kids would rather watch; my money’s on the Universal versions, but it’s probably a toss-up depending on the person. Anyway… what this translates to is the coupling of the basic Wolf Man story with the well-used Moonbeam story of a kid sent off to live with a relative in another country. Frankenstein Reborn got a little more than this — it also had 60 whole minutes to work with! — but in The Werewolf Reborn that’s about it. The way the film handles the gypsies is a little different than the 1940s Wolf Man, but it’s nothing significant enough to set it apart. If the rest of the proposed Filmonster films were just going to be these relatively lazy productions of classic stories with teens shoehorned in, I guess I’m glad they stopped when they did.

I don’t really have anything else to say about The Werewolf Reborn. It’s one of the worst Moonbeam films I’ve seen, about as interesting as a bucket full of dust thrown in your face. It has a few moments of fun with the werewolf, but literally everything else had me clamoring for the film to end… and when it’s only 43 1/2 minutes long that really isn’t a good sign! Full Moon also combined the films in 2005 into Frankenstein & the Werewolf Reborn!, and I can only imagine the amount of fortitude and caffeine it would take to make it through both of them back to back.

Next time I get around to a Full Moon movie I’ll be watching The Vault! I hope whatever is locked up in that vault is better than the Werewolf’s rebirth! 😛 See ya then!

Frankenstein Reborn! (1998)

Starring Jason Simmons, Ben Gould, Haven Paschall, Ethan Wilde, George Calin, Oana Stefanescu, Claudiu Trandafir, Roxana Popa

Directed by David DeCoteau

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


Frankenstein Reborn! was to be the first of a multi-film series for Full Moon called Filmonsters!, with each film bringing a classic film monster into the Full Moon fold. As a huge fan of the classic monsters (who isn’t?), I would’ve loved to see this series take off. Unfortunately it died a premature death after the release of this film and its concurrently produced sibling The Werewolf Reborn!. The movie even opens with a cool series intro, featuring the Puppet Master puppets resurrecting the monsters in a spooky graveyard. It’s similar to the scene in Puppet Master II, and some of it may even be footage from Puppet Master II. It’s been too long since I saw it to be sure, but regardless it sets the tone perfectly for a short monster movie.

When I say short, I mean it: Frankenstein Reborn! runs about 46 minutes (with a few of those devoted to the intro and credits). The brevity of the movie allows it to just rip through the story and entertain constantly, but I was also left unsatisfied. I don’t think I’d have preferred an 80–90 minute version of this movie, but it barely felt like I watched a movie. Later in the day, I thought to myself, “Oh, I guess I’m not watching a movie today, it’s too late to start one,” before realizing quickly thereafter that I had already watched Frankenstein Reborn!

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Jackie Chan: My Story (1998)

jackiechanmystory_1Starring Jackie Chan, Willie Chan, Charles Chan, Stanley Tong, Sylvester Stallone, Michelle Yeoh, Sammo Hung, Joe Eszterhas, Arthur Hiller, Martin Lawrence, Michael Warrington, David Wu

Directed by Jackie Chan

Expectations: I don’t know, honestly. Curious.


Whether you’re an old fan or someone just discovering the work of Jackie Chan, Jackie Chan: My Story is a great overview of his career up to the point just before Rush Hour was made. It’s pretty “fluffy,” but this light tone reflects the jovial spirit of its subject and thus works well to convey the specific charm of Jackie (especially to newcomers). Even though I’ve seen so many Jackie films, I never feel like I know the real man underneath the characters. Jackie Chan: My Story cracks that shell a bit, allowing the audience to gain an understanding of his methodology for filmmaking, as well as how his dedication to his craft has impacted other areas of his life.

Jackie Chan: My Story also does a good job of communicating what makes Jackie’s style of action stand out from others (notably American films and the work of Bruce Lee). Besides showing a bevy of wonderful clips from his Hong Kong films, a direct comparison between the two versions of the fight with Bill “Superfoot” Wallace for the end of The Protector perfectly encapsulates the key difference in style. One of the best moments comes when Jackie walks us through the creation of his on-screen snake style seen in Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, showing that each movement has purpose and thought behind it. I wish I could show this doc to everyone who ever questioned my intense love and fascination with martial arts films (because according to them: “they’re all the same”).

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Rush Hour (1998)

rushhour_1Starring Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Tom Wilkinson, Tzi Ma, Ken Leung, Elizabeth Peña, Mark Rolston, Rex Linn, Julia Hsu, Chris Penn, Philip Baker Hall, John Hawkes

Directed by Brett Ratner

Expectations: Interested to revisit it.

threestar


And so begins my descent into madness — I mean, the American films of Jackie Chan. While I have always been happy that Jackie achieved global success, his transition to Hollywood definitely leaves a lot to be desired in terms of quality filmmaking. For newcomers to his work, I suppose the flashes of fearless stunts and athleticism are welcome and shocking additions to the American action film, but to anyone who’s seen one of his Hong Kong films, it’s hard not to be somewhat disappointed with the watered-down Jackie Chan present in Rush Hour. That being said, Rush Hour is just about exactly what a “Jackie Chan comes to Hollywood” movie should be, providing the audience with an ample amount of action and lighthearted comedy.

Jackie Chan has often said that Hong Kong directors know action and American directors know story. Rush Hour isn’t the best showcase of this “knowledge of story” that Jackie speaks of, but there is a fundamental difference in the way Hollywood films are structured that is in evidence. If you look at a movie like Mr. Nice Guy, it’s easy to see how the story was built up around the action set-pieces in a way to string them together as seamlessly as possible. Lots of Hong Kong films feel similarly (but Jackie is wrong, there are plenty of Hong Kong directors who understand story!), whereas Rush Hour is clearly set up with the story as its foundation and the action arising where it can. It’s kind of a subtle distinction in Rush Hour, as the story is pretty thin. It’s a key difference, though, and consequently there aren’t any huge, extended action scenes in Rush Hour.

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Talisman (1998)

talisman_1Starring Billy Parish, Walter Jones, Jason Adelman, Ilinca Goia, Constantin Barbulescu, Oana Stefanescu, Claudiu Trandafir

Directed by David DeCoteau

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:
twostar

On the B-movie scale:
threehalfstar


Like a lot of B-Movies, the logic employed in Talisman is shaky at best. What separates Talisman from the pack, though, is how well-realized and enjoyable it is; multiple times while watching it, I thought, “Wow, this is legitimately a good movie!” I don’t think it’s quite there for straight-up mainstream people, but Talisman is far better than your average late-period Full Moon film. I’ve held off on watching this one because, for reasons I’ve forgotten, I thought it would be dumb, so it’s a nice surprise to find it’s actually a competently made picture from underrated low-budget maestro David DeCoteau.

Elias (Billy Parish) is a new student at the Gornek International School for Boys, a boarding school where troubled kids are sent when they’ve exhausted their last traditional option. Apparently, there’s only seven kids who fit this description, and judging by the dominance of Burke (Jason Adelman) over the “student body,” the school isn’t all that strict. They might have some strong disciplinary measures, like locking everyone inside their rooms at night, but the rehabilitation of these delinquent youths is obviously far from the minds of the staff. But whatever, this isn’t called Boys School, it’s called Talisman, so I don’t care if the fictional school makes sense, or is “doing the right thing for these kids.”

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Who Am I? (1998)

whoami_1Who Am I? [我是誰] (1998)
AKA Jackie Chan’s Who Am I?

Starring Jackie Chan, Michelle Ferre, Mirai Yamamoto, Ron Smerczak, Ed Nelson, Ron Smoorenburg, Kwan Yung, Mike Ian Lambert, Yanick Mbali, Washington Xisolo, Chip Bray

Directed by Jackie Chan & Benny Chan

Expectations: Interested to revisit it.

threehalfstar


Who Am I? was Jackie’s last Hong Kong production before re-entering into the Hollywood machine with Rush Hour. Like the last four or five of his films, Who Am I? continues the trend towards eliminating Cantonese dialogue in favor of English; to the point that this film only has a small handful of lines that aren’t in English. It’s still very much a Hong Kong film in feel, but the shift towards a more sustained and consistent American tone is a defining element of Who Am I?. Where Mr. Nice Guy was an Americanized version of the Hong Kong filmmaking philosophy of the ’80s (action above all else), Who Am I? is more an attempt to blend Hong Kong-style action and stunts into the structure of a traditional American action film.

Jackie plays Jackie Chan (yep!), a highly trained military operative on a mission in South Africa with an elite strike team. They pull off their mission without a hitch, but somewhere along the way Jackie was left behind. We aren’t privy to the exact events just yet — unless you’re watching the US cut that reorders all the flashbacks to not be flashbacks! — we just know that a tribe of African natives has taken him in, providing everything necessary to make a speedy recovery. But Jackie’s not just physically injured, he’s also lost his memory. The tribe calls him “Who Am I” due to a language barrier, and while he’s happy living with the tribe, he’s also eager to leave and reclaim his identity.

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Shrieker (1998)

shrieker_1Shrieker (1998)
AKA Shriek

Starring Tanya Dempsey, Jamie Gannon, Parry Shen, Alison Cuffe, Thomas R. Martin, Chris Boyd, Jenya Lano, Jason-Shane Scott, Brannon Gould, Rick Buono

Directed by David DeCoteau

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:
onestar

On the B-movie scale:
twostar


Right upfront I’d like to say that despite the ratings I’ve given to Shrieker, it is enough of an enjoyable movie to make for a fun B-Movie watch. The parts that work do so fairly well… it’s just that everything else is really annoying. And because annoying characters and lame, meaningless dialogue eats up far less of a film’s budget than creature FX, the annoying stuff makes up a lot more of the runtime, making the film feel like something of a fun chore. Bet you’re just chompin’ at the bit to watch the film yourself, huh? 🙂

Shrieker opens with perhaps its best scene, where a couple of doctors at a hospital are killed by the Shrieker. Why the hospital has hallways lit like an abandoned warehouse, I don’t know, but I do know that it made the scene far more confounding (and therefore interesting). B-Movies should never pass up an opportunity to make the film more interesting, although I’m sure this (and perhaps most “interesting” things like this in B-Movies) arise out of budgetary concerns more than anything else. Anyway, the doctors get killed and we soon find ourselves 50 or so years in the future as a group of college kids have decided that housing on campus is too expensive, and squatting in this abandoned hospital is far more attractive.

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