Beanstalk (1994)

beanstalk_8Starring J.D. Daniels, Amy Stoch, Margot Kidder, Patrick Renna, Richard Moll, Richard Paul, Stuart Pankin, Cathy McAuley, Cindy Sorenson, David Naughton, Dominique Adler

Directed by Michael Davis

Expectations: Moderate.

On the general scale:
twohalfstar

On the B-movie scale:
threestar


As you might have figured out by the title, Beanstalk is Moonbeam’s attempt at adapting the classic fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk. The story is one that just about everyone is familiar with, but Beanstalk does a great job of keeping the basics and updating the story in a lot of fun and entertaining ways. Beanstalk does away with the antiquated setup of Jack trading his cow for a handful of magic beans, replacing it with a cross between Back to the Future‘s Doc Brown and the mega-hit from the year before: Jurassic Park. A cryptozoologist (played with reckless glee by Margot Kidder!) runs a dig site somewhere in the desert, and she unearths a bunch of huge beans and a giant skull. This might be the site of Jack’s original beanstalk, but other minor details later in the film suggest that Jack’s tale was merely one of a few beanstalk scalings over the years.

Anyway, Jack (J.D. Daniels) is helping his mother (Missy from Bill & Ted, Amy Stoch!) pay the overdue rent payment by taking a load of antiques to sell. A bully (Patrick Renna) starts screwing with his box of treasures, throwing one into the street. The money these antiques will bring is very important to Jack and his mother, so he runs out into the street to catch the porcelain dog before it smashes on the asphalt. He catches it, but the cryptozoologist happens to be driving by and almost hits him with her motor home. A crate full of the giant beans flies off in the ruckus, and because Jack is a scheming whiz kid always looking for his next big idea, he decides to take the crate home in hopes that it contains something valuable or useful.

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Johnny Mysto: Boy Wizard (1997)

johnnymysto_1Starring Lane Toran, Russ Tamblyn, Michael Ansara, Amber Tamblyn, Ian Abercrombie, Patrick Renna, Pat Crawford Brown, Jack Donner, Magda Catone

Directed by Jeff Burr

Expectations: Magic!

On the general scale:
onehalfstar

On the B-movie scale:
twohalfstar


Like many of the Moonbeam films, Johnny Mysto: Boy Wizard features a teen that time travels back to medieval times and saves the day. At this point, I guess I should assume that’s going to be the plot until I see otherwise. Anyway, Johnny Mysto: Boy Wizard differentiates itself by its main character’s magical aspirations and its complete lack of logical sense. It’s a good thing I don’t necessarily care about logic in B-Movies, otherwise this review would be a lot of complaining about how the villain’s motivations were unclear and nonsensical. So let me get this straight — they’re stealing peasants from the countryside to make doll-faced automatons out of them? Huh? Clearly, the important point here is “doll-faced automatons,” and that the henchmen soldiers ride around on horses wearing skeleton suits (and yes, that’s the horses wearing the skeleton suits).

The film begins in medieval times, as a girl is chased through the woods by the aforementioned soldiers. She manages to escape for long enough to slip into a hidden hole in the ground. Turns out that inside this seemingly nondescript hole in the ground is the one and only wizard Merlin! The girl has brought Merlin a mirror and through the magic of flexible movie logic, Merlin is able to transfer power through the mirror to an unborn child a thousand years in the future. And wouldn’t ya know, that kid turns out to be Johnny Mysto (Lane Toran)!

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