B Movie Buffet

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 16th April 2013.

Every so often I feel compelled to visit my local non-specific video store and take advantage of a special offer in order to bring you my B Movie Buffet. The popcorn is ready and the sneeze guard has been removed. Let me watch the dross so that you don’t have to.

First up in this cavalcade of clunkers is Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, a sequel to the 2006 original which was based on the Konami video game. Starring unknown Australian actress Adelaide Clemens, the film also features appearances from returning stars of the original, Sean Bean, Radha Mitchell and Deborah Kara Unger. Ah, the power of contractual obligation. The movie impressively adopts the nightmarish imagery of its source material. Abandoned hospitals, bizarre creatures, faceless scalpel wielding nurses…they’re all here. Just like the video game, the film also has no discernible plot whatsoever. The filmmakers really need to look up the meaning of “revelation” in the dictionary.

WWE Superstar Mike “The Miz” Mizanin stars as the third incarnation of the titular character in The Marine: Homefront, a direct-to-DVD entry in the franchise from WWE Studios. This reasonably new production company was established to showcase the acting talents of WWE wrestlers. Insert laughter here. In the prologue, the film explains that US marines are trained to deal with any situation. After watching this unintentionally hilarious film, this obviously includes saving your sister from terrorists embarking on the dumbest scheme ever with flaws and assumptions big enough to drive a tank through.

Next up on the conveyer belt of cheese is Red Dawn. A remake of the 1984 original which starred the late Patrick Swayze, this teen action flick was actually made in 2009 but delayed due to MGM’s financial problems. Prior to the film’s release last year, the remake’s villains were changed from a Chinese invading force to North Korean. There’s a lot of money to be made at the box office in China compared to North Korea, you see. Aussies Chris Hemsworth and Isabel Lucas lead up the Wolverines, a rebel fighting force formed by some good looking teens who manage to escape the initial invasion. In a ridiculous training montage, Hemsworth transforms the rag tag group into a tight military unit in a single day. Plot holes abound. How do the North Korean soldiers parachute into Spokane and then suddenly have tanks and jeeps? How do the Wolverines infiltrate the city to carry out their missions when everyone else appears to be locked down? Why do I care? My verdict: Tomorrow When the Bore Began.

Last up is the pick of the litter, although that’s not saying much. Here Comes the Boom stars Kevin James of The King of Queens fame. He plays a biology teacher who becomes an MMA fighter in order to raise funds to save his school’s music program, run by The Fonz. There are a few laughs to be had, and I must admit to rather enjoy seeing James, an incredibly annoying comic, get punched and kicked in the head. A predictable ending leaves a saccharine taste in the mouth, and it’s no surprise that this lightweight sports comedy comes from Happy Madison Productions, Adam Sandler’s production company.

Eighties remakes suck…but if you really have to, remake these

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 1st November 2011.

There’s nothing new under the sun. This year has seen the release of eighties remakes, Footloose and Fright Night. Both films have enjoyed moderate box office success and mixed critical reviews, but ultimately, one has to wonder why a remake was necessary.

With a prequel to the 1980 classic The Thing also hitting screens this month, plus a troubled reworking of Red Dawn likely to finally see the light of day this year, it seems all bets are off.

So here are my picks for eighties classics to be remade, even though I think it’s a bad idea.

Number 5 is alive! Despite starring Steve Guttenberg and having a shameful Indian stereotype character played by white actor Fisher Stevens (Birdy Num Nums anyone?), Short Circuit (1986) is great fun. Johnny 5, a military prototype robot, gets struck by lightning and develops self awareness. Permanently stuck is wise cracking mode, Johnny learns about life as he goes on the run from the bad guys with charisma vacuum Guttenberg and Ally Sheedy in tow. A poor sequel was produced in 1988 with only Fisher Stevens and Number 5 returning.

Have you ever left a yogurt in the fridge for so long that it becomes an evil entity that wants to take over your body? That is pretty much the premise of The Stuff (1985). Miners discover sweet tasting goo seeping out of the ground and decide to mass market it as a dessert (as you do). Of course, the goo is alive and has the power to turn the good folk of America into zombies. Only an industrial espionage expert hired by a rival ice cream company can save the day. I know it’s not exactly Hamlet but conceptually The Stuff is pretty good, er, stuff.

John Cusack was a staple in eighties teen comedies and two of his classics deserve a reboot. The Sure Thing (1985) stars Cusack as a young man who embarks on a road trip across America to hook up with a bikini clad blonde. Bad luck pairs him with uptight classmate Allison (Daphne Zuniga). Chaos ensues. Will he get to meet the girl of his dreams or will the mismatched travelling couple fall in love? I’m sure you can guess.

Better Off Dead (1985), also stars Cusack as a teen who loses his fickle girlfriend to a fellow skiing rival. Depressed, he tries unsuccessfully to kill himself. Pursued throughout the film by a paperboy (I want my two dollars!) and two very funny Asian revheads who seem to be waiting to race him at every traffic light, Cusack has to get his skiing mojo back as he falls for the pretty foreign exchange student next door.

In the eighties, two-for-one vouchers could often be found on promotional bottles of a particular brand of cordial (the one my dad picks the fruit for). These vouchers were only good for whatever film was being pushed at the time, and this is how I got to see my final pick, The Boy Who Could Fly (1986).

Teenager Milly meet Eric, an autistic boy. Both have lost a parent or parents and they soon become friends. After a series of strange events, Milly comes to the conclusion that Eric might have strange powers. Can Eric really fly? Have you read the title of the film?

On paper, none of these films sound worthy of a remake. However, like the original Footloose and Fright Night, they each contain a particular energy, attitude and innocence unique to the eighties and this cannot be replicated by CGI, 3D or any Kevin Bacon wannabe. But if we must disturb the graves of classic eighties cinema, you could do far worse.