The Vault (2000)

Starring Leopoldo Mandeville, Ted Lyde, Shani Pride, Michael Cory Davis, Kyle Walker, Austin Priester, James Black, Parris Washington, Java Benson

Directed by James Black

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


The Vault sees a group of students and their teacher taking a trip to Washington High School. This field trip is not along the usual lines, though, as Washington High is rundown, boarded up and set to be demolished. The teacher, Mr. B (Ted Lyde), wishes his students, who are all delinquents in some form, to appreciate their opportunities and their education, and he thinks that taking them to visit his old school will do this. But it’s not Washington’s place in Mr. B’s history that draws him to it, it’s more because of its history before it was a school. During the 1800s, it served as a way station for the slave trade, and so in connecting to this history he hopes his students will leave with a newfound respect and outlook on their world.

Of course, The Vault is a horror movie, so you know things are not going as planned. Before we meet the teacher and his students, we are clued in that something supernatural is afoot in the school — particularly behind a locked door in the basement: the titular vault. It’s common for B-Movies to start with something to grab your attention, but I think in this case, it would’ve been more effective to have placed the confidence on the audience and the strength of the premise. But The Vault is barely longer than an hour as it is, and I don’t know that the main portion of the movie could withstand more fattening. It’s already kind of slow as it is, so I guess I should stop now and just concede that the film is in its best state as it was released. Hahahaha.

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Stephen reviews: Escaflowne: The Movie (2000)

Escaflowne: the Movie [エスカフローネ Escaflowne] (2000)
AKA Vision of Escaflowne: A Girl in Gaea

Starring Maaya Sakamoto, Tomokazu Seki, Jouji Nakata, Shinichiro Miki, Ikue Ohtani, Minami Takayama, Aki Takeda

Directed by Kazuki Akane


I have only seen Escaflowne: The Movie once before, back when I first got a hold of the DVD set, which must have been around 15 years ago by now. In that time I had forgotten pretty much everything about it, except that it had disappointed me all those years ago. The TV series has long been one of my favorite anime series, and I felt like the movie just couldn’t compare. A big part of this was because Escaflowne is a mecha series, and the movie only has one fairly short giant robot fight. I’ve wanted to revisit this film for a while now without having the series fresh in my mind to color my expectations, and that day has finally come.

The movie is drastically different from the TV series, and the first time I saw it, those differences were the main thing I was upset about. This time however, those differences were what I found to be the most fascinating part of the story. I’m actually glad the film isn’t just a simple rehash of the show. Instead it gave me brand new things to see, which makes it much more worth watching than simply retelling the same story I’ve already seen. Even better, because events are so different, there are no spoilers of the show inside the film, so it can be watched all on its own and still leave the series as a fresh experience for later viewing.

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Shanghai Noon (2000)

Shanghai Noon (2000)
AKA Shanghai Kid, Shaolin Cowboy

Starring Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Lucy Liu, Brandon Merrill, Roger Yuan, Xander Berkeley, Yu Rong-Guang, Jason Connery, Walton Goggins, Adrien Dorval, Rafael Báez, Stacy Grant, Kate Luyben

Directed by Tom Dey

Expectations: Moderate.


From where I’m sitting, the years have not been kind to Shanghai Noon. I initially saw it upon its original home video release, and I remember liking well enough to carry a positive memory around with me in the intervening years. Seeing it in relative close proximity to some truly great Jackie films, though, Shanghai Noon feels neutered and missing so much of the “it factor” that makes Jackie unique. The action is minimal and not satisfying at all, though to be fair Shanghai Noon is trying its best to be a comedy more than anything else. This becomes a problem when you’re not laughing along with the movie, because there’s literally nothing else to carry the film (other than every western genre cliche you can imagine).

Jackie plays Chon Wang, an Imperial Guard who is friendly with Princess Pei Pei (Lucy Liu) and feels responsible when she is kidnapped and taken to America. So along with a trio of uptight guards, Jackie makes his way to the land of cowboys and golden dreams to begin his search. Initially he finds it a bit hard, running into a bumbling gang of train thieves led by Roy O’Bannon (Owen Wilson). But to be honest, the plot of Shanghai Noon isn’t of much concern; it’s more about the comedy of the two lead characters coming together and dealing with situation after situation of bad luck.

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The Horrible Dr. Bones (2000)

horribledrbones_1Starring Darrow Igus, Larry Bates, Sarah Scott Davis, Rhonda Claerbaut, Danny Wooten, Tangelia Rouse, Derrick Delaney, Nathaniel Haywood

Directed by Ted Nicolaou

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:
onestar

On the B-movie scale:
twostar


The Horrible Dr. Bones doesn’t lend itself to much of anything, whether we’re talking about writing a review, having a discussion, or just watching the movie for simple entertainment. Made to specifically target the black audience, The Horrible Dr. Bones is about an up-and-coming rap group looking for their big break. Hmm, sounds mysteriously similar to Ragdoll… but beyond this base-level similarity, the two films are very different.

The up-and-coming rap group in this film are the Urban Protectors, and we open on them arriving to an audition for the prestigious producer Dr. Bones. Well, actually it opens on Dr. Bones and his recording engineer making an auditioner’s head explode with the loudness of their jams, but I hate to mention it because it makes the movie seem like it might be an enjoyable horror experience. Anyway, the Urban Protectors wait their turn to perform by watching a couple of other groups perform, and since this is a Full Moon movie, we are “treated” to this as well. It’s not the music that bothers me — I love music and performance — it’s that everything is lip-synced rather poorly, so there’s never one moment that comes close to capturing the feel of a band performing for an audience.

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Prison of the Dead (2000)

prisonofthedead_1Prison of the Dead (2000)
AKA Castle of the Dead, The Game

Starring Patrick Flood, Jeff Peterson, Sam Page, Kim Ryan, Alicia Arden, Michael Guerin, Debra Mayer

Directed by David DeCoteau

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:
onestar

On the B-movie scale:
threestar


Prison of the Dead is a horrifically bad movie by traditional standards, but for B-Movie fans who venture into this early 2000s era, it should satisfy quite nicely. The potential for a great horror movie is hidden beneath the surface of the film’s low budget, and while that’s a bit frustrating, DeCoteau delivers with what he has at his disposal. This is the kind of movie that rewards the hardened B-Movie fan who has sat through hundreds of hours of drek, because with that kind of context behind it, Prison of the Dead is the cream that rises to the top.

A group of friends are traveling to view the body of Calvin, their recently deceased mutual friend from college. They haven’t all been together since the good ol’ days, back when they’d all investigate paranormal sites and myths, so their reunion is both exciting and bittersweet. And it’s about to get worse, because Calvin’s body isn’t in a normal mortuary, it’s in a castle built on top of a prison used by hardcore Puritans to imprison witches! You might think that’s no big deal, but one of the group has brought along a Ouija board to contact the lingering spirits. Within seconds of bridging the gap between worlds, a lion statue cries blood into the ground which then seeps through the earth and onto the corpses of the Puritan executioners.

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The 6th Day (2000)

6thday_1

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Rapaport, Tony Goldwyn, Michael Rooker, Sarah Wynter, Robert Duvall, Terry Crews, Rodney Rowland, Wendy Crewson, Taylor Anne Reid, Jennifer Gareis

Directed by Roger Spottiswoode

Expectations: Cloned Arnold? The more Arnolds the merrier!

twohalfstar


[I spoil the end of the movie below. Read at your own discretion.]

I gotta say: for the amount of fun I had re-watching The 6th Day, it feels a bit cruel to slap it with a meager 2½-star rating. But as much as I enjoy this one, I am aware the entire time that I’m enjoying it despite its flaws. The 6th Day is also trying fairly hard to resurrect an older style of Arnold movie with less-than-perfect results. There’s a lot about this one that screams Total Recall, but recalling Total Recall while watching The 6th Day only drives home the fact that The 6th Day isn’t Total Recall. It’s also not an action movie, but at times it tries to be, so as the film progresses it never quite scratches the itches it gives you. But whatever, it has two Arnolds! That’s gotta count for something!

The 6th Day tells the story of Adam Gibson (Arnold Schwarzenegger), an everyman who operates (and presumably owns) a helicopter charter service. One day he receives a job to take cloning billionaire Michael Drucker (Tony Goldwyn) to the top of a snowy mountain. Don’t ask why. I don’t know, and I’m not sure if the screenwriters knew either. Perhaps Drucker wanted a drink of water and only fresh mountain snow would do. Anyway, it’s also Adam’s birthday, so his partner Hank (Michael Rapaport) tells Adam to take off early and let him take Drucker to the top of the mountain to get his snow water. Adam agrees, setting into motion a series of events that will change his life forever.

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Sideshow (2000)

sideshow_8Starring Phil Fondacaro, Jamie Martz, Michael Amos, Scott Clark, Jessica Keenan, Jeana Blackman, Peter Spellos, Luigi Francis Shorty Rossi, Curran Sympson, Fred Pierce, Shyra Deland, Ross Hagen, Brinke Stevens

Directed by Fred Olen Ray

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:
twohalfstar

On the B-movie scale:
threestar


Let’s just get this out of the way: Sideshow is in many ways Full Moon’s homage to the 1932 classic Freaks, but don’t take that to mean that it’s a rip-off. Sideshow is its own movie completely, but in this rather small sub-genre of carnival horror it’s probably pretty hard to make a movie without at least in some way recalling Freaks. It’s clear, though, that Full Moon and director Fred Olen Ray purposefully inserted a few nods of the cap to the classic film, and instead of inducing groans they actually work well to pay their respects to what came before (and no doubt influenced their respective artistic pursuits).

But we’re not hear to talk about Freaks, we’re here to talk about freaks! Sideshow opens with a man desperately crawling away from a sideshow tent. The employees of the traveling establishment don’t seem to be in a helpful mood either, as they ominously approach him as if he were their prey. The smallest of the group, Dr. Graves (Phil Fondacaro), then makes it clear to the audience that this frightened fan isn’t going anywhere. Are these freaks cannibals? Are they sadists? Are they just looking for a friend to chat with? Sideshow will have you asking the big questions… and more!

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