Category Archives: afterschool special

Quickies 1-8-2011

Me and Orson Welles ~ This is essentially about Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater’s production of Julius Caesar in 1937. An aggressive young high school kid and wannabe actor gets hired into the play and unfortunately involved in a romance with an older woman on set. Much like Orson Welles’ personality in real life, his character, so much larger than life, also takes over this kid’s story. Great stuff.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time ~ For a movie based on a limited graphics videogame from the early 1980s, this flick has a good premise, lots of potential, but little was aspired to. Some nice special effects, some interesting plot twists and frequent nice nods to the old Sinbad movies of the 1960s and 1970s, this is worth a watch if it’s on television. Good popcorn flick.

Whip It ~ Drew Barrymore’s direction of this film based on the book “Derby Girl” by Shauna Cross is very good. Great drama, great comedy, and all with a heart as well. It has the feel of a contemporary After School Special, and that’s a good thing. One of my favorite flicks of the year.

Formula 51 ~ This is mindless shoot-’em-up fun that is carried chiefly by the charisma of Samuel L. Jackson as chemist Elmo McElroy who has created a superdrug. Robert Carlyle from The Full Monty is also fun here as the Jackie Chan to Sam’s more talented Chris Tucker. Turn your mind off, put your feet up and enjoy an hour and a half of action thriller fun.

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New Moon

New Moon ~ Unofficially called The Twilight Saga: New Moon for the folks too dim to realize it was a sequel to Twilight, happily the actual credits of this film read just New Moon. Remember back in the day we didn’t have to be reminded what we were watching? We know a James Bond movie without having to see his name in the title. I wish this kind of nonsense would stop, and yes, I blame you, George Lucas, for starting it.

Let me start by saying that New Moon is no Twilight. I was quite surprised by the first movie despite the hype both good and bad, and liked it quite a bit. The sequel is a serious drop in quality of story and character development – a true disappointment. After the first flick I was ready to read the novels, and after this one, I think I’ll pass. New Moon is the kind of crap I expected when I first watched Twilight. It’s emo, it’s melodrama, it’s just bad.

When vampire Edward pushes our heroine Bella away, she becomes closer to werewolf Jacob. It is literally gothic romance meets afterschool special with some horror undertones. The flick gets a bit disturbing when Bella starts taking dangerous risks and Edward seems to be psychically stalking her ever step. Creepy. It does get mildly exciting toward the end when Bella encounters the Voltari, the masters of the vampire world, but it’s far too little, far too late.

This movie was hard enough to get through without the douchebag factor, which ruined a couple scenes for me. Peter Facinelli plays Dr. Carlisle Cullen, a fact that meant nothing when I saw Twilight. Since then I have become acquainted with him as the obnoxious Twittering doctor on “Nurse Jackie,” and now I just can’t take him seriously whenever he’s on screen. I kept expecting him to start texting or to say something stupid, rather than be the wise patriarch of the vampire family.

Maybe some of that dark “Nurse Jackie” humor might have helped though. This dreary thing barely held my attention and was difficult to sit all the way through. Give New Moon a pass.

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Twilight ~ I’ve never had the pleasure (or displeasure depending on your perspective) of reading Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight” books so I really had no idea of what to expect here other than teen angst and sparkly vampires. That said, I have to say that Twilight is really not bad at all. I had actually expected a bad movie from all the trashing it’s received and the critics’ usual contempt for anything with a pop culture vibe. This was a good movie however, not a great one, but a good one.

Twilight does skew to a younger demographic and while I had heard it was cast with all “90210” type pretty people, I have to say I found no one in this flick particularly attractive or unattractive, but that may just be me. The vibe of the flick is definitely “Afterschool Special” meets Judy Blume with some vampire stuff and intriguing special effects thrown in, but again, that’s not to say it’s bad.

The plot is pretty typical teenage fare. New girl in a new school trying to fit in, only the weird kids aren’t Goths, punks or geeks – they’re vampires. But that’s beside the point, everyone’s just trying to get along. Twilight high school is a whole lot different from the Mean Girls or “Lord of the Flies” high schools the rest of us went to apparently. And when the plot does take a turn toward something meatier, the good news is that Twilight doesn’t disappoint. Much. It just goes by too quickly. Good thing there are sequels.

Quite a bit of it is a bit predictable, even transparent, like the set-up for werewolves in the sequel New Moon, but it kept my attention, kept me watching, and now I am interested in the books, and the movie sequels, both finished and impending. Great soundtrack and worth seeing.

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Boy Meets Turtle

Gamera the Brave ~ Boy meets turtle. Boy feeds turtle. Turtle grows. No, really, turtle really freakin’ grows. Monster attacks Japan. Turtle fights monster, saves Japan. Boy (and Japan) happy. That could be it, but there’s a lot more to it.

Gamera the Brave, or Chiisaki yusha-tachi: Gamera as it is known in its native land, is not your average Gamera movie despite the above description. It was marketed as a children’s film, which it most certainly is – like the original Gamera film series of the 1960s but unlike the more violent and dark 1990s flicks. Except for the opening few moments which harken back a vague memory of Gamera fighting several Gaos, this is pretty much all kids fare – and it’s delightful stuff.

The little boy Toru finds his pet turtle Toto is a little more interesting than most other turtles, flying and spitting fireballs. This secret he shares with his best friend, little girl next store Mai. It’s just fun. And it’s not annoying. As any Kaiju fan will tell you when they hear a kid is involved in the plot of the movie, he’s going to be annoying – especially if it’s a Gamera flick. Not the case here at all.

This could easily be an afterschool special with a bit of kaiju eiga nudge-nudge thrown in. It does eventually turn into a Gamera movie though, so take heart, fans of the spinning flame-spitting turtle – you won’t be disappointed. There’s even a Guiron reference that is in there just to make the fanboys grin. Fun is what the kids’ part of this flick, as well as the adults’ part, is all about.

When bad monster Jidas shows up, we see that the special effects are cutting edge, at least as far as the genre goes. Toto plays Gamera (although I wish they would have kept his original roar) and takes on Jidas, a prehistoric spiked iguana-like kaiju with a mutant tongue – don’t ask. The fights that ensue are spectacular, and that is the reason I like kaiju eiga, but I gotta tell you – as engaging as the monster battles are, the relationship between little Toru and little Toto is moreso.

I waited months for this on NetFlix, and it was worth the wait. Fun for the kids, fun for the monster fans, fun for the adults, just fun.

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Quickies 5-31-2007

“Afro Samurai” – Almost anything with Samuel L. Jackson is a good time as far as I’m concerned, and this English translation of this oddball anime is no exception. Jackson voices the hero as only he can, backed up by Ron Perlman as the villain and Kelly Hu in the small role of the girl. What at first seems like any mindless nonsensical manga actually has an edge and some classy M. Night surprises, so keep sharp while you watch. Blaxploitation meets Ralph Bakshi meets Toshiro Mifune. This is definitely worth a look.

WarGames – I just recently caught this one after not having seen it since its theatrical release. What seemed brilliant to a teenager now comes off as amateurish and just a bit preachy. It’s still fun however to see the young Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy.

Casualties of Love: The Long Island Lolita Story – Long title, I sure hope the review is longer than that at least. This rushed-onto-the-small-screen telemovie was written and directed by John Herzfeld who has also done stuff like “The Ryan White Story” and “The Preppie Murder” as well as a couple Afterschool Specials. It’s not all good and true though, he also directed 15 Minutes and 2 days in the Valley. This story seems to take Joey Buttafucco’s side in the infamous Amy Fischer story. Fischer is played with hysterical histrionics by Alyssa Milano, late of “Who’s the Boss.” This is not one of her better moments.

The Good German – This was advertised as a good old-fashioned film noir, it was even filmed in black and white. The flick, set in post-war Nazi Germany, does all the right noir tricks but it’s scarred by current day language and violence. Tobey MacGuire does a sinister turn worthy of an Oscar as a complete bastard. Cate Blanchett eats up scenery like an early Bette Davis and George Clooney (of whom there is far too little) mugs for the camera when he’s not getting beaten up. The plot is complex but compelling, must see.

Everything Is Illuminated – This touching story of an obsessive accountant, played by Elijah Wood, who tries to find the woman who helped his grandfather escape from the Nazis sometimes feels like the love child of Pedro Almodovar and Borat. Although it’s funny and bizarre where Borat was simply insulting and hateful. It’s also a must see though.

The Glass House


A Video Review of The Glass House

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Remember all those ABC movies of the week from the early to mid-1970s? You know, stuff like Trilogy of Terror and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark? Or how about all those cautionary tales with teens babysitting for psychos, nannies who steal families and young girls who hitchhike with serial rapists? Wow, the 1970s were great, weren’t they? Sarcasm mode off.

The Glass House is a throwback to those movies of the week, but that’s not a bad thing. It is the story of two children orphaned in a sudden car accident and taken in by old family friends. *Spoiler Warning* As it turns out the whole thing was a scam to get money. The new foster parents are as evil as any that might be found in an ABC movie of the week.

LeeLee Sobrieski is amazing here as she is in most flicks. The only problem I have with her is one that can’t really be helped. She is such a dead ringer for Helen Hunt that it’s distracting. I wonder if they’re related? The brother is played by Trevor Morgan who did such a great job in The Rookie and The Sixth Sense.

The suspense is real and despite plot comparisons much more real than your average Lifetime Network flick or Afterschool Special. See it. An underrated thriller for all.