Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens – A Sharknado Too Far (Review)

 Sharknado: The 4th Awakens - Season 2016

It is hard to believe that the same production company that gives us  Z Nation can continue to  produce such irredeemable rubbish. In Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens the plot is that no sharknadoes have been spotted for five years. Sadly this is not the case in our world.

The Asylum churns these cheese-fests out like so many Babybels.  With substandard gags, acting, stunts and FX the bloom has gone off this teeth filled rose. Perhaps the only thing left  to do is play “spot the cameo” where z-list celebs can be found in their dozens.

It is amazing how many actors actually appear in these things. From David Faustino to Alexandra Paul (who literally looks no different from her “Baywatch” days) the scope was pretty amazing, more so that the actual movie. (At one point it even looked like Melissa Joan Hart was consumed by a flying shark, but her name is not in the credits. So Melissa, was that you?)

Reality “stars” made appearances also. Even Dog the Bounty Hunter, aka Duane “Dog”Chapman and his wife have a small set piece as proprietors of a chainsaw store.

Even Carrot Top made a cameo.  (Like Gottlieb he was also on the Jim Gaffigan Show “The Trial” episode.)

As these “movies” continue to punish those bored enough to watch, the search for “stars” to appear must be hitting rock bottom. Performers so far past their “use by” date popped up in number four.  Poor old Wayne Newton, a fixture in Las Vegas since time out of mind, looked like a Spitting Image puppet version of himself. (Quite sad really.)

Sharknado: The 4th Awakens - Season 2016
Wayne Newton. Is that really you?

Cheryl Tiegs, a personal favorite from back in the day, proved that despite still looking fabulous should have been left to play a silent role. To be succinct, acting is not the lady’s forte.

Others were as funny as the material allowed them to be. Stacey Dash was suitably “witchy” as was her character’s demise. Gilbert Gottfried was, perhaps, the best cameo as he bellowed out “COW-NADO” and so on. (Although not as funny as his cameo on The Jim Gaffigan Show “The Trial.” His “AFFLECK” was truly hysterical.)

Some cameos made no real sense. For instance, Jedward. Does anyone this side of the pond care or even know who these X-Factor twins are?  A minor sensation in 2009 – they came sixth in the competition – is was puzzling to see them included in the movie. The Asylum are either fans or the cameo well has dried up in the US.

One cameo was purely business related. Steve Guttenberg, another personal favorite, stopped by to plug his upcoming SyFy film “2 Lava 2 Lantula! ” Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens is not the first installment to do this, Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No gave a plug to The Asylum’s “Z Nation.” The beautiful and talented Kellita Smith appeared as her character in Sgt. Warren and zombies were alluded to.

Sidenote: It looked like another sort of cameo appears  in the movie. At one point, one of the ‘nado’s whirled past the arch in St Louis, Missouri. It smashes the top of the arch and it suddenly looks like the damaged article in another SyFy series  Defiance. The show was cancelled. But, is this a hint that it will be returning withJulie Benz and co?

The main plot dealt with Las Vegas, where a real-life party was held to aid animal charities so at least some good came from this movie, and a shark themed hotel casino.  A giant sandstorm releases the sharks within and the new threat waltzes across the US.

Tara Reid‘s character did not die, she was resurrected by her father played by Gary Busey.  Ian Ziering returned to play Fin Shepard, yet again. (Surely the pay cannot be that good? Ziering must want to do something else by now.)

There really is no discernible plot for this (hopefully) last offering from the Sharknado franchise.  It consists of set pieces slapped together at random. It seems that even writer Thunder Levin is tiring of this mess he created.

The film ends with all the previously eaten Shepard friends and family are rescued by Fin’s son with his tiny chainsaw.  (An odd scene that uses the device of those matryoshka nesting dolls but with sharks…and a whale.)  As the family reunite Fin spots Nova Clark (Cassandra Scerbo) – she was in Sharknado 1 and 3 – atop the Eiffel Tower. 

Sharknado: The 4th Awakens - Season 2016
Jedward…Really??

Does this mean there will be a Sharknado 5? One with an international slant? For the love of all that represents good taste, please no.  Another TV movie with deliberately bad FX, a skeleton storyline and more bad acting than one wet paper bag could possibly hold is too much to bear.

The first one  only became “popular”  when derogatory tweets during the movies broadcast thrust it into the publics eye line. Please SyFy, stop now.

Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? (2016) Lesbian Vampires…Dude (Review)

James Franco and Lela George

The only thing that “Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?”has in common with the 1996 original, besides the title, is Tori Spelling.  This new version features lesbian vampires (Dude!) with a curiously flexible standard  when it comes to the male of the species. (More on this later.)

Not too dissimilar to the German vampire film Wir Sind Die Nacht (We Are the Night) this tale of small town vamps is also about  a finite sized group of all female Nosferatu’s.    Unlike the German horror film, these lesbian vampires are slowly adding to their number.  (In We Are the Night, the fanged group reluctantly increase their number  by one.)

James Franco, perhaps the busiest man in Hollywood, produced and provided a story for the re-imagining of this tale.  He also plays a cameo role as the drama teacher/professor. Amber Coney directed and wrote the screenplay for “Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?” and she also played one of the goth-chic vampires. 

The film looks at the sexuality of Bram Stoker’s original tale about the count and how it is still all about exchanging bodily fluids.  Focusing not on the homoeroticism but a band of 20 something lesbian vampires who kill men who “abuse” women.

In one scene a date rape is about to transpire and the vampires swoop in to save the innocent girl and drain the miscreant dry.  Later in the film;  history repeats itself but with a  very different outcome.

What is interesting about the film, apart from its PG-13 lovemaking between Pearl (Emily Meade) and Leah (Leila George),  is that it challenges gender roles across the board. Franco’s drama professor chooses Leah to play the man who would be king  in the “Scottish Play.”

Apart from serving to be somewhat progressive, as pointed out by Rolling Stone, this re-casting of the lead role allows for what could have been a love interest to become homophobic and bitter. (Herein lies the only bone of contention with the entire film. Bob  -played by Nick Eversman – changes, in the blink of an eye,  from  a lovesick crush to a roofie dropping rapist. Thus proving what every feminist has been saying for years, “all men are rapists waiting to happen.” Seriously?)

SPOILER ALERT – If you have not watched the movie yet skip the next two paragraphs. A’ight?

The object of this second attempted date rape is Leah, whom  Bob has “crushed on” from the start of the film. She is rescued by the vampires and in the ensuing fracas he escapes being bled dry and “changes.”

Later the male wannabe rapist is accepted wholeheartedly into the little group of vampires without question. They even go partying later.  Cue confusion and disbelief from the viewing audience of one.

There is a thread of “true love conquers all” in the love affair between Pearl the vampiric photographer and Leah the danger loving gal .(Who does not ask her mother permission to sleep with her lesbian lover. )

In the film there is a certain amount of claret (blood) splashed about but not copious amounts, this is, after all, Lifetime inspire of the side-boob shots and simulation of sex. The final battle does include some gore but nothing to send the viewer into shock.

“Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?” ends on a bit of a flat note and I do not believe for an instant that it is a clever as Rolling Stone believes.  At best it is a re-write of an older Lifetime “classic”  that has been “sexed up” and used the vampire myth to facilitate the more modern take on young love.

Overall the film is slow paced and tends to drag in too many places. The classroom scenes all look and sound authentic; helping to authenticate the setting and give one a sense of place. It still entertains although is could have moved a bit faster pace wise.

Tori Spelling leaves her recent reality show presence behind and is actually very convincing as the mum who is shocked to the core that her daughter loves another woman.  As Leah’s single parent she even manages to convey those mixed feelings of love and protection that one has for any child, however surprised they are at their  life choices.

“Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?” is a solid 3.5 star TV movie. It aired on Lifetime on 18, June and will undoubtably air on LMN shortly after. An interesting film that is definitely worth a look.

 

The Night Stalker (2016): Lou Diamond Phillips Sells Evil (Review)

Lou Diamond Phillips as Richard Ramirez

Written and directed by Megan Griffiths (Eden, Lucky Them) and starring Lou Diamond Phillips as Richard Ramirez and Bellamy Young as a fictitious defense attorney, “The Night Stalker” follows the heinous crimes of the man who terrorized Los Angeles during a heat wave in the mid 1980s.  While clearly influenced by the crimes of the Satanist, rapist and murderer some crimes were soft pedaled while still being mentioned as a matter of fact. 

Kit, a defense attorney from Texas heads to Death Row at San Quentin Prison to coerce a confession out of Ramirez. Back in the Lone Star State a black man was wrongly convicted for the murder of a Japanese woman and her son.  This crime occurred before the string of offenses were committed in the mid ’80s.

“The Night Stalker” shows Kit’s obsession with the serial killer and his “career” which was covered pretty extensively by the news.   The grownup Kit must earn the trust of Ramirez while not letting him gain control of their conversations.

In many ways this could be seen as a pale imitation of Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lector, a  woman starting her career in a legal capacity needs the help of a serial killer to solve another crime. This fictionalization works but the comparison is clear and one wonders whether this was, in some odd way, a homage.

It could even be a nod to the interviews by real-life  FBI profiler Robert Keppel  who interviewed Ted Bundy in an attempt to solve another series of murders.  The Green River Killer, aka The Riverman was baffling authorities and Keppel  spoke with the convicted Bundy to gain some insight on the suspect.

This TV movie goes back to Ramirez’s childhood, his violent upbringing and early marijuana use as the triggers that started his murderous acts.  Ramirez himself stated that he was pure evil and never relied upon his youthful experiences as an excuse. (Not mentioned in the film was his epilepsy although it did mention a frontal lobe injury.)

The younger actors who portrayed Ramirez in different stages of his life were more than adequate.  It is Phillips however  who really sells the evil in this man. His eyes and facial expressions are damned near terrifying. The actors eyes show coldness and a combination of death and callousness that is truly frightening.

The film skirts around the real-life issue of 9 year-old Mei Leung who was found raped and killed in the basement where Ramirez lived in 1984. Her death was changed to that of the Japanese boy and his mother whom (in the film) Ramirez raped then killed.

The Japanese were quite possibly substituted for the real case of Leung and Dayle Okazaki  because the real case was so much more horrific.

(In a sidenote, it was announced in March this year  that police were reopening the Night Stalker files to search for a second assailant in the Leung case.)

“The Night Stalker” ends with the 2013 death of Ramirez and the defense attorney visiting her mother in California.  The television film aired June 12 and will be showing again on LMN June 24.  Lou Diamond Phillips is intense and he convincingly sells the evil that Ramirez believed was deep inside of him.

Catch this one if for no other reason than to see Phillips work those massive chops.

Dead 7 Grown Boy Bands Meet Seven Samurai (Review)

Dead 7 - Season 2016

One has to admire Asylum; the studio that  brings  Z Nation and Sharknado (ad nauseum)  to SyFy.  The former sometimes reaches heights that can only be described as sublime and the latter is an exercise in schlock. Dead 7; a sort of mishmash of grown boy bands meet Seven Samurai (or the “not-so” Magnificent Seven) is the latest effort from the bargain basement film company.

At two hours, Dead 7 is a little long and drawn out.  Co-written by Nick Carter and Sawyer Perry and directed by Danny Roew the film follows a group of disparate “heroes” who take on the evil Apocolypta (Debra Wilson), who could be a kissing cousin of Big Daddy Mars (Richard Cetronein John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars.

The world has been overrun by zombies and the power mad Apocolypta is raising an army of the undead to take over her little part of the world. She sends hordes of the creatures to overtake towns, under the supervision of her “non-zombie” right-hand man (AJ McLean another of Nick Carter’s band mates from BSB), and makes more zombies.

Dead 7 - Season 2016
Joey Fatone as Whiskey Joe

As the team of seven work toward taking out Apocolypta they find more zombies and more villains to overcome. This film, despite being written outside the Asylum studio feels right at home on SyFy with its mix of Z Nation and the Sharknado  franchise meet the Seven Samurai manages to slightly entertain.

There are enough CG exploding heads and blood spray to keep most gore enthusiasts satisfied. It is never explained just why Apocolypta wants to overrun the world  with zombies.  The heroes battle an ever increasing amount of these creatures  and as the two hour film progresses, characters  stumble and die along the way.

Of course the big pull of this film is not its plot and is more about the  grown boy band members.  Nick Carter is the lone wolf hero who  reluctantly joins the mission.  There are members from BSB *NSYNC, 98 Degrees and O Town.

Carter looks good and all of these boy band performers do a pretty impressive job in front of the camera.  The problems with the film, and there are a number of them, have to do with liberal borrowing from other  horror films, an overabundance of CG deaths and a meandering plot line.

Dead 7 - Season 2016
Erik-Michael Estrada as Komodo

For example; the heroes pull teeth from the “copperheads” and use the mouth enamel as currency. This is all too similar to the collection of vampire fangs in Stake Land which were also used as a replacement for money.

Dead 7 is probably more entertaining to fans of the former boy band members who populate the film.   Others may find the movie  a bit tedious as the pace drags and the boy band actors are a little up and down in terms of performance.

Joey Fatone is good as the gregarious Whiskey Joe and Carter is good as Jack, so too is his wife Lauren Kitt Carter who underplays the role of Sirene. McLean’s giggling Johnny Vermillion is just annoying after a while however.

The camera work is a mixture of oblique angles and tight shots that fall short of a proper close-up and feel more like an effort to ignore the set’s background.  Overall Dead 7 is more on par with Sharknado than Z Nation and a deviation from the usual popular fare from Carter and his fellow Backstreet Boys band members.

The film is not overly impressive as it rambles (At two hours how could it not?)  and it ultimately fails to deliver a punch by its end. There are moments where  Wilson actually manages to be rather disturbing and the one scene where she licks zombie drool off of a zombie’s chin is revolting.

Dead 7 - Season 2016
AJ McLean as Johnny Vermillion, Debra Wilson as Apocolypta

Dead 7 is another example of Asylum putting together a project that falls short but still has the odd moment that entertains.  On a Sharknado scale of one to five, this one is a two and a half sharks short of a full mark.

Sorry Nick.

 

Caught (2015) When Spouses Cheat (Review)

In Caught an 18 year-old student has an affair with a married man and his wife kidnaps her and keeps her prisoner in the attic. Then things start to go wrong. It seems that when spouses cheat, the wronged member of the marriage seeks revenge.

Caught Anna Camp

In Caught an 18 year-old student has an affair with a married man and his wife kidnaps her and keeps her prisoner in the attic. Then things start to go wrong. It seems that when spouses cheat, the wronged member of the marriage seeks revenge.

Written by Marcy Holland, directed by Maggie Kiley and available on Lifetime, airing 2 April,  the film is compelling and at a times  frustrating to watch.  Stephanie Scott is Allie, the track runner who gets caught up in the madness of a jealous wife.

Initially Sabrina (Anna Camp) and her sister Paige (Amelia Rose Blair) kidnap Allie as a particularly vicious prank. Sabrina  wants to torture the youngster for awhile and then let her go. Paige is a reluctant partner in crime and campaigns almost incessantly  to let Allie go.

Things begin to go wrong when Sabrina’s cheating husband suddenly shows up while Allie is still in the attic.  Events spiral out of control  as the evening progresses. From the very start, however, the woman cheated on is clearly not normal.

Giggling like a school girl and constantly being reined back by her sister, Sabrina is more than just completely self-centered, she is not very tightly wrapped either. Paige may not be the sharpest tool in the shed but she does lack the homicidal instincts of her married sister.

As the film progresses the stakes are raised repeatedly, with Sabrina never doubting for one moment that she cannot get out of the crater she has dug for herself and sister Paige.  She ropes her husband into the proceedings  still  concerned with what she wants.

Caught is said to be based upon a true story, but the real story apparently dealt with two British teens and a cheating boyfriend.  Maggie Kiley keeps the story moving from one disastrous move to the next at a steadily increasing pace.

There are problems with the TV film. For starters, it feels like a made for TV movie, which is interesting as presumably this was originally meant to be theatrical release, but this does not really hurt the entertainment value.

Caught comes close to falling into black comedy, the storyline  can be seen as a comedy of errors, but Camp’s portrayal of her character manages to avoid this, but only just.  While the performances of the other actors, specifically Scott’s Allie,  add a lot to the story as well.

The one “let down” is the cheating husband’s decision to go along with Sabrina’s increasingly outlandish plans. Despite Justin (Sam Page) and his apparent success, he shares too much with Paige, in terms of questionable  intelligence. Although to be fair, none of the trio are overly clever which then makes the viewer wonder how they managed to kidnap an 18 year-old.

Overall, Caught works. Allie’s attempts to get away and Paige’s alliance to the kidnap victim keeps the film from falling into outright farce. In the end, the story is believable and while not quite white-knuckle, edge of the seat viewing, it is tense in places.

Caught airs April 2, on Lifetime and available on Digital and On Demand form MarVista Entertainment from April 1.   Check it out, it is an interesting tale  (although the based on a true story feels a little “Coen-ish”) and worth the effort.