Sunday, October 13, 2019

Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Don't ever mess with an anaconda's orchids.




Anacondas:  The Hunt for the Blood Orchid – 1 out of 5

For this month of Halloween (Halloween should be observed for an entire month, says I), I revisited the awful survival horror film that is Anaconda.  Now I am going to work my way through the sequels that, up until this point, I’ve never seen nor knew they existed. A whole seven years after the first film was released, the studio gods declared that there was more blood to be squeezed from the franchise and its first sequel; Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, was farted out.  As far as sequels are concerned, this one is surprisingly good.  Ha, I’m just kidding.  This film is terrible.

I will say this:  If you like reaction shots of capuchin monkeys then you will LOVE
this movie.  Seriously, this one has a lot of reaction shots from this monkey.

"Just gonna start by saying the Blood Orchid doesn't actually
have any blood.  It's just a name.  A disappointing name.
Same thing is true of the Candy and Money Orchids."
In Indonesia, there exists a flower called the Blood Orchid and it holds the potential to be a boom for the medical industry.  Dr. Jack Byron (Matthew Marsden) leads a team of researches into the wilds but, due to the unsafe nature of the journey, can’t find anyone to guide them along the river and to the point where the flower grows—and that only blooms for a short period of time.  Captain Bill Johnson (Johnny Messner) agrees to take them but the entire group soon learns that nature has other dangers ready to stand in there way as they find there are deadly anacondas in the area and have grown larger than normal due to the orchids.  Oh, and to make matters worse, it is mating season for them and they are all kinds of horny and murder-y.

Okay, I'll give the film this.  This shot is genuinely cool and creepy.

White dudes on the internet like to cry whenever Hollywood
tries to diversify casts but this movie is a great case for why
it is important.  Karl Yune is better looking and far more
talented than Messner and he's basically used as a prop
so that the story can make sure the main protagonist is
a white dude.
Like the initial film, The Hunt for the Blood Orchid offers up a product that is pretty laughably bad.  Pretty much right off the bat this film is showcasing its institutionalized racism but making sure that the captain brave enough to take the research crew through the jungle is white as white can be.  They even conveniently place in a gag that shows the team talking to a local but then it's hilariously reveal that he is second-in-command to the big brave white guy!  It gets even better when the actor playing the second-in-command is infinitely more talented than the incredibly generic white man that is Johnny Messner.  I couldn’t keep it together because every time Messner wanted to sound tough, he suddenly started talking like Will Arnett.  The low guttural voice did little to project toughness as his blandness easily overtakes every other scene so it was impossible to really feel like he was a legit badass.

If generic, store brand vanilla ice cream was a person.

In my review of the first film (which you can check out here), I gave the special effects a pass because it was in the early days of computer generated effects—additionally, the computer generated snake really wasn’t that bad.  The thing didn’t mesh well with the animatronic practical snake that was used on set but, once again, this was the early days of CGI.  This film has special effects far worse than what the first film provided.  This is obviously a budget reason as this film was just churned out for the sake of a sequel and to make use of a potential (but ultimately stagnant) property.  The one improvement is that the snakes don’t have laughable and cartoonishly evil faces like the ones did in the first film.  Still, the special effects are Syfy original, The Asylum production quality so this minor detail doesn’t make up for the rest of this aspect being faulty.

The snake does look like it is obviously designed to look evil but at least it isn't as
laughably awful as it was designed in the first film.

I’ve already mentioned how bland and flavorless Johnny Messner’s performance is but, overall, there are some decent performers in the film.  Granted, this property and script isn’t giving them much to work with but very few members of the cast are giving what I would call a “bad performance” (with very notable exception to Messner).  To put it bluntly, the majority of the actors are giving a serviceable performance that isn’t really hindering the overall product—that is covered by the writing and special effects—but they aren’t really helping it either; however, it would take a God-like performer to save this film with acting alone.

Maybe this whole time it's all a big misunderstanding and the snakes just don't
realize their own strength and they keep accidentally killing people with their hugs.

Pictured:  Said snake orgy.
Anacondas:  The Hunt for the Blood Orchid is a pretty flat sequel to an already awful film.  It’s essentially the exact same movie but the motivations for traversing a jungle river is slightly changed, the antagonist isn’t so damn obvious and it tries to up the ante by having more snakes.  It even, sadly, tries to remix Ice Cube’s famous line of “There snakes out there this big?” by having the more frantic member of the team yell about the existence of a snake orgy when he is told it is mating season.  It’s decent enough to riff on and tease but it’s not as laughable as the first film so the points for it in this department aren’t the strongest.  As it stands by itself, it is a terrible film that didn't really offer up much for me in the entertainment department.

It's okay, monkey buddy.  The movie is over.  It can't hurt you anymore.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Anaconda

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! I wonder what this anaconda's stance is on buns and whether or not someone has them.



Anaconda – 2 out of 5

I saw Anaconda in the theaters in 1997 and thought it was just so laughably bad.  The only time I re-watched it was when RiffTrax decided to riff on it.  If you follow my blog, you know that in October I only review horror films but I also like to pick a horror franchise and work my way through it.  I’m not sure why I chose the Anaconda franchise but considering it has sequels I have never seen (and even a crossover with Lake Placid) I decided I would check this one out and revisit the awful (but hilarious) first film.

Just because you caught a giant snake, it doesn't mean you can't look fierce
in the photo with it.

Director Terri Flores (Jennifer Lopez) and her crew; cameraman Danny Rich (Ice Cube), production manager Denise Kalberg (Kari Wuhrer), sound engineer Gary Dixon (Owen Wilson) and host Warren Westridge (Jonathan Hyde), are working with Dr. Steven Cale (Eric Stolz) to locate a secluded tribe on the Amazon when they come across a stranded Paraguayan man named Paul Serone (Jon Voight).  At first, everything seems okay but Serone is very mysterious and slightly threatening and, after tragedy strikes Dr. Cale, he convinces the crew to take a new route down the Amazon River.  It turns out that Serone is a snake hunter and is out to get an extremely large anaconda and doesn’t care who he hurts if they get in his way.  However, getting the anaconda will prove more deadly than Serone anticipated and the documentary crew is now in great danger.

They're looking at Jon Voight's terrible accent.  It manifested itself in a physical
form and is now a bigger threat than the snake.

Sure, the panther is surprised by the anaconda attack
but it also stepped on a lego brick at the same time.
It’s super difficult to make a thriller about an animal and have it not look incredibly silly.  Jaws is the industry standard of a successful feature.  Just recently I watched Crawl (and you can read my review here) and found that one to be another successful feature to make a thriller about a killer animal work.  Anaconda does not work.  The snake is just too ridiculous to take seriously.  Often when the atmosphere and cinematic world is crafted correctly, you can suspense disbelief and accept what you are seeing as authentic feeling.  When done right, the over-the-top stuff can happen and you don’t question it.  Like the alligators being overly aggressive in Crawl or Jaws literally jumping the front half of his body on the back of the Orca.  The world of Anaconda doesn’t reach these levels and when you add in so many other weak factors, it results in a film that is more laughable than thrilling.

I can't tell if this moment was supposed to be a legit horrific scene or a
a comedic punchline.

It would be easy to shit on the effects of the film but, in reality, the practical and computer effects aren’t too bad.  The film was produced during the infancy of computer generated effects and they are okay for the time period.  Granted, they don’t marry well with the practical animatronic snake but, overall, still not bad.  I will say that the design of the snake is a touch goofy as they basically tried to make its face evil by giving it sinister eyes.  This didn’t work and made the snake look silly.  Thankfully, they stopped short of giving it a mustache to twirl and a bowler hat.  Of course, all of this pales in comparison to the decision to let the snake scream and shriek (done by famed voice actor Frank Welker).  First off, this screaming is annoying as hell but it only makes the snake more of a comedic villain than something sinister.  A giant snake is scary but giving it the ability to scream just takes away any amount of threat it had.

On second thought, I wish they did put a mustache on the snake.

The special effects are okay and the story isn’t the best but it works for a serviceable thriller about a giant killer snake; ultimately, the biggest killer for this film is the cast.  While it is genuinely admirable that this late 90s film has two leads that aren’t generic white dudes the whole roster is either being too extra or too underwhelming.  Lopez, Stoltz, Wilson, and Wuhrer are all so low energy for so much of the movie that they almost grow into the background while Ice Cube is trying too hard to look like a badass.  Ice Cube is already intimidating but in this one it felt like he was trying too hard.  Matters aren’t helped by the fact props gave him a very tiny knife that he constantly wields like it is an impressive weapon.   

Seriously, they couldn't give him a better knife?

The worst element of the cast, however, was Jon Voight.  No one is out over-acting him in this film.  Whether it is his painful accent he is attempting to do or the fact he is chewing the scenery as the bad guy who is trying to keep it secret he is a bad guy, Voight’s awful performance is magical to watch and one of the biggest reasons why this film stops short at just being terrible and is able to be fun terrible.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say this is the first film to ever have a POV
shot of a snake's digestive system.

Anaconda doesn’t offer up any scares, there isn’t a great performance in sight and the kills are incredibly uninspired, sterile and very boring (but what can you really do when your monster is a snake?  They don’t do much beyond bite, constrict, and eat).  Nothing about this production equals a great movie that is entertaining and compelling—however; all the bad elements have that special bit of magic to make it fun to watch.  It’s a terrible movie in every single sense of the word but it is in this said terribleness that makes it an absolute blast to watch.  Now, let’s see how the rest of the franchise goes…

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Banana Splits Movie

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! One banana, two banana, three banana BORE!  There's your hacky one-line review that critics are so fond of using!



The Banana Splits Movie – 2 out of 5

My familiarity with The Banana Splits is fairly limited.  I saw reruns of the variety show when I was younger on Cartoon Network and absolutely loved Liz Phair’s cover of the theme song in the mid-90s.  However, when it was announced they would make a horror film based on the characters, I was instantly interested.  Let’s face it, Sid and Marty Krofft’s unique costume designs from the 60s and 70s were already kinda frightening and with the popularity of Five Nights at Freddy’s, there is the real potential this film could work or, at the very least, be a fun dark comedy.  Sadly, I felt it didn’t work on any level and was just bored with The Banana Splits Movie.

When the rights to Five Nights at Freddy's are too expensive...
You go with Plan B...or whatever is cheapest.

The characters keep saying he's too old for the show
but he kinda looks the right age for The Banana Splits
to me.
Harley Williams (Finlay Wotjak-Hissong) absolutely loves the show The Banana Splits and, for his birthday, his mother Beth (Dani Kind) has gotten the family tickets to see a taping of the show.  They set out with Harley’s brother Austin (Romeo Carere), Harley’s father and Austin’s step-father Mitch (Steve Lund) and Harley’s friend Zoe (Maria Nash), to see the show; however, a new network head has declared that this show is the final one and the series is set to be cancelled.  The stars—Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper and Snorky—all of them super advanced animatronic characters, aren’t happy to learn this and are out for blood and to keep the show going at whatever costs.

Why were they built with their eyes able to change to red?

I admire taking a children’s show property and taking a big gamble with it by putting into a genre that it so clearly doesn’t belong in (although, a case can be made that Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper and Snorky are inherently terrifying) but the novelty that is The Banana Splits Movie wears off very quickly as it feels like it doesn’t lean enough into its potential and ultimately feels very generic and mundane.  Take out any reference to the Hanna-Barbera characters and this movie plays like a cheaply made slasher film.  Sadly, having The Banana Splits as the antagonists feels very much like an afterthought due to a story that kinda feels like it is going through the motions and kills that, unfortunately, feel very uninspired.It only lends credence to the rumor that the product was based on a failed attempt to make Five Nights at Freddy’s because there is no denying The Banana Splits feel like they were put in at the last minute.

So...were the Banana Splits robots programmed to know how to do this?

"Come with me if you want to live...I mean die.
I meant to say die."
The cast, overall, isn’t too bad in the film but few performers are ever really given a time to shine due to very weak writing.  The story tries to develop backstories for a lot of the characters but, sadly, they are all one-dimensional individuals.  You have the father who is an obvious asshole who cheats on his wife (seriously, this character never misses an opportunity to be unlikable—we get it, movie, you are going to kill him and you want us to love it), there’s the alcoholic human co-star of the show who is angry he plays second fiddle to robots, there’s the “well actually” fan of The Banana Splits who is also a social media star with his girlfriend and you got the stage dad who is using the taping as a way to get his daughter discovered.  While some of these characters are slightly obnoxious, the film presents them like they are terrible and deserving of the massacre that is about to happen.  Having unlikeable characters around for the sake of slaughter is not uncommon in the world of slashers but the characters are just cardboard cutouts and with their lack of depth it was hard to really get behind them dying.  I wasn’t rooting for them to live but with being such one-dimensional characters made the film feel even cheaper than it looked…add in a production that already feels very “by-the-numbers” and all this does is create the feel this film was just farted out.

Drunk acting is hard.  It's rare to see it done well and when it is done
badly, like here, it is painful to watch.  But, at the very least, it made you
want to see Stevie bite the dust even more.
 

The Banana Splits Movie contains a ton of potential and I liked the concept far more than the uninspired execution.  Despite the blood and guts, the writing felt so sterile and the utilization of The Banana Splits lacked creativity that the product was a bit of a chore to get through.  It starts fine enough and the buildup is serviceable but the moment I realize that this film will never really push itself to be something special and memorable, the whole thing just felt generic and even a bit sad as it could have been a fun dark comedy.  Hell, the movie could have even been a fun bad movie but even the genuinely bad aspects just weren’t that interesting and couldn't make this one entertaining even in a "so bad it is good" way.