[Movie Review] Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman

Revenge of the Mutant Killer SnowmanStarring: Christopher Allport, Eileen Seeley, Chip Heller, Ray Cooney
Director: Michael Cooney
Genre: Horror
Cert: 18
Released: 2000

Once in a while, a movie comes along that redefines the way you look at celluloid entertainment, if only for a short time. When flashy directors spend millions soaking their movies with state-of-the-art special effects, it supposedly increases the entertainment value of their work. Takes flicks like “The Matrix”, “The 6th Day” and “Independence Day”. I can honestly say that the entertainment ascertained from all the above movies paled in comparison to dismal B-movie “Jack Frost 2”.

Yes, you heard me right. “Jack Frost 2” is utterly dismal. It is a B-movie in every sense of the phrase, looks like it was made with an expensive camcorder and stars actors who could very well be your neighbours. But despite this, it still managed to make me laugh so hard I thought I’d cough my lungs up right there.

The premise of “Jack Frost 2” follows similarly to the 1997 prequel. In the original, a serial killer is killed in a car wreck, but he somehow mutates into a snowman and seeks revenge on the sheriff who caught him. The sequel sees a lab expirement go wrong, and once again Jack Frost’s remains mutate and he goes on a killing spree on a tropical island where our unfortunate Sheriff Tiler (Christopher Allport) and his wife are attending their friends wedding party.

But the beauty in this movie is not the storyline (as brilliant as a killer snowman on a tropical island is), or the script (which although generally awful, has some humorous and very witty lines). It could be attributed to any of a number of things. Perhaps the memorably bad acting and performances. Maybe the laughable special-effects and settings. The complete lack of editing, direction and production also help make this movie unforgettable. And finally the injection of Jack’s “children” – a blatant rip-off of Gremlins, but hilarious all the same.

Not everyone is going to view this movie the way I did. Some will probably switch it off after 15 minutes. But if you like complete and utter rubbish, this is as good as it gets.

How about “Jack Frost 3: Jack vs Worzel Gummidge”.

2star

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[Movie Reviews] Small Time Crooks

Small Time CrooksStarring: Woody Allen, Tracy Ullman, Michael Rapaport, Tony Darrow, Jon Lovitz
Director: Woody Allen
Genre: Comedy
Cert: 15
Released: 2000

Woody Allen is Ray Winkler, bungling crook who has pushed his wife Frenchie (Ullman) to the limit by spending too much time behind bars. Despite promising to go straight, he cooks up a ludicrous plan to rob a bank by purchasing a premises two doors down from it and tunneling underneath and into the bank vault. In keeping with the uselessness of the idea, he brings in cohorts Denny (Rapaport), Benny (Lovitz) and Tommy (Darrow) to help him dig, while Frenchie runs a cookie business upstairs as a front. But while the tunnelling goes wrong, Frenchie’s cookie business takes off and within a year the motley crew become millionaires.

Despite all the money, Ray and Frenchie still don’t have any class and struggle to fit in with the more affluent people that their success and fame has brought them in contact with. Wanting to fulfill her pretentions as one of the rich and famous, Frenchie befriends suave art dealer David (Grant), while Ray prefers to eat take out and watch old movies. Understandably, Ray and Frenchie grow apart as each finds someone they think is more suited to them. But behind it all love is stronger than money as they are to find out.

If I were to sum up the theme of “Small Time Crooks” in one sound bite, it would be “money is not everything”. There’s more to it than that, but the central theme is one that crops up again and again. Frenchie does her best to fit in to the rich ensemble she rubs shoulders with, her penchant for fine wines and thick books in stark contrast to Ray’s awkward suits and fondness for 12-inch super deluxe with anchovies.

Woody plays the neurotic fish-out-of-water with usual aplomb and even after 30 years it still has not gotten boring. Ullman is surprisingly entertaining as his inflated wife who cannot accept that money has not made her happy. Woody’s gang of crooks (Rapaport, Darrow, Lovitz) are hilarious. Jon Lovitz is one man I think gets a raw deal ? his look and delivery are becoming of a very funny man. When asked by Ray Winkler why he wants to burn down the premises that he just bought, Benny (Lovitz) replies “I burn everything. It put two kids through college”.

Although it does lag a little in the middle, “Small Time Crooks” is a winner thanks to the hilarious script, entertaining performances and worthy, if predictable, moral.

3star

[Movie Review] 15 Minutes

15 MinutesStarring: Robert De Niro, Edward Burns, Kelsey Grammer, Avery Brooks
Director: John Herzfeld
Genre: Thriller
Cert: 15
Released: 2000

Armed with a screen legend and socially-aware subject matter in “15 Minutes”, director John Herzfeld mixes exciting action fare with an attempt to instil a deeper commentary about media obsession with tragedy.

Eddie Fleming (De Niro) enjoys the media attention that has turned him from successful homicide detective to celebrity. By ensuring that unethical TV anchorman, Robert Hawkins (Grammer – TVs “Frasier”), is on the scene during his major busts, Fleming manages to get his face on TV more so than your average cop. A suspicious fire at an apartment block brings Fleming together with arson investigator, Jody Warsaw (Burns – “The Brothers McMullan”, “She’s the One”). They realise that the fire is no accident and embark on a homicide investigation.

Herzfeld keeps things moving pretty well with some excellent action sequences, but the balancing act between balls-to-the-wall action and the “media preoccupation with violence is bad” social commentary, waters things down too much. You are left with the thought that either this is a serious movie that pokes fun at its own plot or a light-hearted yarn that takes itself too seriously. In essence the movie lies awkwardly between two stools, and no doubt it’s crying out “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”.

1halfstar

[Album Review] "Lions" – The Black Crowes

Lions - Black CrowesAlbum Title: Lions
Artist: The Black Crowes
Year: 2001
Running Time: 55m 5s

Track listing: 1 Midnight from the Inside Out; 2 Lickin’; 3 Come On; 4 No Use Lying; 5 Losing My Mind; 6 Ozone Mama; 7 Greasy Grass River; 8 Soul Singing; 9 Miracle to Me; 10 Young Man, Old Man; 11 Cosmic Friend; 12 Cypress Tree; 13 Lay It All On Me

One thing about the Black Crowes is that they can play it fast, and they can play it slow. On their landmark debut album, they did both amazingly well (‘Jealous Again’, ‘Twice As Hard’ or slowed down rock-ballads, ‘Sister Luck’ and ‘She Talks to Angels’). They repeated the feat on their previous hit record with ‘Go Faster’, ‘Horsehead’ and ‘Heavy’ playing roughneck partner to subtle beauties like ‘By Your Side’, ‘Diamond Ring’ and ‘Virtue and Vice’.

The Crowes are back with album number six of their eleven year career. Following the commercial and critical success of the pleasing “By Your Side”, Chris Robinson leads the retro-rockers back towards their roots with a mixture of blues-rock, distorted funk and psychedelic undertones. If it ain’t broke…?

“Lions” takes it’s time to grow but once it does, you are guaranteed a treat on the ear, and a further return to form for Chris Robinson and Co is in evidence. ‘Midnight From the Inside Out’ is a typical Crowes ragged-rock anthem complete with crunching guitars and a slow but deliberate rhythm from drummer, Steve Gorman, and ‘Lickin’ is a soild, crusty Led Zep-style 70s rocker.

A fair part of this album sounds more like a throw back to their early records, and especially their second release, “Southern Harmony and Musical Companian” with a heavy blues and funk influence apparent. ‘Greasy Grass River’, ‘Ozone Mama’, groovy ‘Come On’, and the marvellous ‘Soul Singing’, mix distorted electrics, strong rhythm sections, wonderful acoustics, R&B backing vocals and trademark keyboards.

Although none of the slow songs make the lasting impression that ‘She Talks to Angels’ or ‘Virtue and Vice’ made, ‘Miracle to Me’ is a beautiful heart-felt Eagles-style ballad and ‘Losing My Mind’ picks up brilliantly in the electric-heavy chorus. Unfortunately, promising ‘No Use Lying’ becomes more bland as it goes on and ‘Lay It All On Me’ proves the theory that sometimes cutting an album at 12 tracks is sufficient.

‘Cosmic Friend’ is brilliantly bizzare with the first 120 seconds of marching-drums and occasionaly chords reminiscent of late-Beatles/McCartney, before kicking in with a throbbing British rock performance with Robinson’s vocals really standing out, as they do frequently on the record. ‘Cypress Tree’ is a more mainstream but successfully, rugged rocker, while the harmonica-effected ‘Young Man, Old Man’ is less cohesive or interesting.

All in all, this album doesn’t quite make the mark that the last release did, but it is better than the mid-career lull that the Crowes experienced with “Amorica” and “Three Shankes and One Charm”. Hats off to the guys for once again proving themselves to the be “America’s Most Rock N Roll Band”. A sincere compliment if such a thing exists in this industry.

3star

[Movie Review] Meet the Parents

00261_001Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert DeNiro, Teri Polo, Blythe Danner, James Rebhorn
Director: Jay Roach
Genre: Comedy
Cert: 15
Released: 2000

You meet the girl of your dreams. You know that you guys were made for each other. Nothing can stop the two of you making the perfect life together ? except maybe her father. Yup, it’s the unnerving battle between loving father and loving boyfriend that is the worst nightmare of all concerned. Jay Roach (the Austin Powers series) brings the nightmare to the screen with a stellar cast and a better script.

Male nurse, Greg Focker (Stiller – “There’s Something About Mary”, “Zoolander”, “Happy Gilmore”, “Reality Bites”) is dying to marry his girlfriend Pam (Polo – “The Arrival”, TVs “Northern Exposure”), but he realises that to do it properly, he must first win over his future father-in-law, Jack (DeNiro). The couple spend the weekend with Jack and his wife, Dina (Danner – “Forces of Nature”, “Mad City”, “Husbands and Wives”, “The Prince of Tides”), and inevitably, despite his best efforts, everything goes wrong.

“Meet the Parents” really is classic comedy. The comic set-ups stand out a mile – a surname of ‘Focker’, the fact that Greg is a male nurse, his dislike of everything that Jack likes, his requirement to quit smoking for the most stressful weekend he’ll encounter. It is fair to say however that no matter how good your script and storyline might be, you have to have actors who can deliver when required. Thankfully DeNiro and Stiller, whom the movie revolves around, do not disappoint. DeNiro has been playing roles in his sleep recently (“Ronin”, “15 Minutes”, “The Score”, “Men of Honour”), so it’s great to see him somewhat out of character, playing the suspicious, but oddly sensitive father figure.
DeNiro and Stiller – great comedy.

Stiller sometimes gets an unfair press from critics, but his delivery here is top notch. He works hard to make an amusing situation even funnier when he struggles to explain to his girlfriend’s cat-loving father why he don’t exactly love cats (‘I don’t hate cats?I just, eh, prefer dogs’). The good-natured Focker finds himself inexplicably at odds with the parents as well as his Pam’s brother (Jon Abrahams – “Scary Movie”), her sister (Nicole DeHuff) her fiancĂ©e (Thomas McCarthy – “Conspiracy Theory”), his father (the excellent James Rebhorn – “The Game”, “Independence Day”) and Pam’s very successful ex-boyfriend, Kevin (Owen Wilson – “Armageddon”, “The Cable Guy”, “Zoolander”).

The characterisations are very defined but not stereotyped, making it quite easy to understand the logic behind their reaction to outsider, Greg.

Not being a huge fan of the Austin Powers movies, I was surprised at how enjoyable “Meet the Parents” was. Roach ensures that the gags are continuous, and there is far less sentimentality than you might expect.

A sequel is lined up for 2003, “Meet the Fockers”. Now what I wouldn’t give to see Jason Alexander (George in “Seinfeld”) given the role of Greg’s dad. Alexander and DeNiro duelling it out? File that under ‘love to see it’.

4star