Film Review: City On Fire! (1979)

Also known as: La Cité en feu (Canadian French title)
Release Date: May 24th, 1979 (Germany)
Directed by: Alvin Rakoff
Written by: Jack Hill, Dave Lewis, Celine La Freniere
Music by: Matthew McCauley, William McCauley
Cast: Barry Newman, Susan Clark, Shelley Winters, Leslie Nielsen, James Franciscus, Ava Gardner, Henry Fonda

Astral Bellevue Pathé, Astral Films, Canadian Film Development Corporation (CFDC), AVCO Embassy Pictures, 106 Minutes

Review:

“All it takes is one man, could be anybody… your neighbor, my neighbor… one man to destroy a city.” – Chief Albert Risley

How can a movie that boasts the talents of Henry Fonda, Shelley Winters, Ava Gardner and Leslie Nielsen be absolutely abominable? Well, if it’s an all-star ensemble thrown into a ’70s “made for TV” disaster movie, there’s your answer.

These things were rarely good. Actually, I don’t think they were ever good. Now some disaster movies are fun but those were the big Hollywood blockbusters for the big screen and only the first few at the beginning of the 1970s obsession with urban apocalypse pictures.

This one sees some disgruntled worker deliberately cause a fire at an oil refinery, which is apparently enough to burn down an entire city. Well, if you can suspend disbelief and watch this thing unfold like an unfunny version of Curb Your Enthusiasm where the city is Larry and the fire is spread by everything going wrong that could possibly go wrong at every turn.

City On Fire! is a compilation of brain farts captured on celluloid. There isn’t much about it that is worth anyone’s time and it has no redeeming factors. It’s boring, dumb and you’ll only feel sadness for the talented actors wedged into this flaming shit show.

But hey, it was lampooned on the first season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 when it was still on local TV in Minnesota. They never resurrected this once the show went national on Comedy Central or the Sci-Fi Channel and that’s probably for the best. It was alright to sit through once and didn’t need to be dusted off and replayed like a few other films from that inaugural season.

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: other terrible “made for TV” disaster movies.

Film Review: Creepshow (1982)

Release Date: May 16th, 1982 (Cannes)
Directed by: George A. Romero
Written by: Stephen King
Based on: various stories by Stephen King
Music by: John Harrison
Cast: Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Fritz Weaver, Leslie Nielsen, Carrie Nye, E.G. Marshall, Viveca Lindfors, Ted Danson, Ed Harris, Tom Atkins, Tom Savini, Stephen King

Laurel Entertainment, Warner Bros., 120 Minutes

Review:

“I drove out there with the remains of three human beings… well, two human beings and Wilma.” – Henry

Creepshow was one of the first modern horror films I experienced as a kid. However, I was a kid in the 80s, so this was modern then. Now it is thirty-five years old. Revisiting it now though, is still a real friggin’ treat.

I love this movie. I admit that a lot of my warm and fuzzy feelings for it can be due to the fact that I’m a total sucker for nostalgia but it is a damn good picture for its time. I’m not even a huge anthology horror fan but when these films are good, I absolutely love them.

Creepshow is one of the best horror anthology films of all-time. Each story works and George A. Romero created a true piece of cinematic magnificence outside of his Dead series. Plus, having the help of Stephen King’s pen made this a bit more unique than other films like it.

There isn’t a dull story out of the five that we get within this film. Six stories if you count the intro and ending.

The weakest story is probably the one that stars King himself, as a man that becomes possessed and overcome by some sort of alien plant life. Even that one is entertaining because King plays the role so hilariously. It is also the shortest chapter.

The best story of the bunch is The Crate, which really could have been its own film and worked really well. It is also the longest chapter and feels like a throwback to an H.P. Lovecraft tale. In this story, we see a janitor discover a strange crate under a staircase at a college. It is from an expedition, decades earlier. Inside the crate is a hungry beast that pretty much want to devour everyone. But it is the monster itself that is the star of the movie, in my eyes.

The film has a good all-star cast with two highlights. The rivalry between Ted Danson and Leslie Nielsen is well orchestrated and they play off of each other like the pros they are. The other is the relationship between the quiet and sweet Hal Holbrook and his annoying as hell wife played by Adrienne Barbeau. It is such a comedic mismatch but it works too a t.

The visual comic book style highlights within the film, give it an otherworldly life that really wraps the movie in that old school pulp feel.

Creepshow is so enjoyable and the funny bits are still funny. Yes, it has a real sense of terror but it is a load of fun.
Rating: 8/10

Film Review: The ‘Slap Shot’ Sequels (2002-2008)

Slap Shot (reviewed here) is one of the greatest comedies of all-time. It is also probably the greatest hockey movie of all-time. It certainly didn’t need sequels. But for some reason, twenty-five years later, we got Slap Shot 2 followed by Slap Shot 3. Here are my thoughts on those unnecessarily sequels.

Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice (2002):

Release Date: March 26th, 2002
Directed by: Steve Boyum
Written by: Broderick Miller
Based on: characters created by Nancy Dowd
Music by: John Frizzell
Cast: Stephen Baldwin, Gary Busey, Jessica Steen, Callum Keith Rennie, David Hemmings, David Paetkau, Jonathan Scarfe, Jeff Carlson, Steve Carlson, David Hanson

Universal Pictures, 104 Minutes 

Review:

This film was a straight-to-video release, as it should have been. It also came out during the height of straight-to-video sequels of popular films. Historically, this formula led to a really shitty product. Straight-to-video movies were straight-to-video for a reason.

Somehow the Charlestown Chiefs still exist, without explanation, after they were sold and disbanded in the original Slap Shot, twenty-five years earlier. The Hanson Bros. still play on the team but other than them, these are all new characters.

The new cast is led by Stephen Baldwin, which should say a lot about the quality of this film. He’s never really been good in anything and it is no different here. He certainly can’t come close to filling the shoes of the legendary Paul Newman and it was a casting choice so poor, that the quality between Slap Shot and Slap Shot 2 is made very clear, just in watching the leads of the two films.

The only other noteworthy cast member is Gary Busey, who played an extreme right-wing television mogul who buys the Chiefs so that he can use them in a scripted hockey television show, where they are made to constantly lose and aren’t allowed to fight. The plot is bizarre and the idea of “family friendly” scripted hockey makes little sense in any situation. They try to sell it like the Harlem Globetrotters of hockey but the idea just doesn’t work and I’m not sure who would ever watch slapstick scripted hockey where the same team always wins. The Globetrotters are successful because of their skills displays and their storied legacy.

The Chiefs also have to wear different jerseys and different colors for the majority of the film, which doesn’t even make this movie feel connected to Slap Shot. The Hanson Bros., while featured a lot in the beginning, then disappear for the second half of the film until the very end.

All in all, it isn’t completely horrible. It was watchable enough for one viewing but I’ll never revisit it again.

The gay coach was fantastic, though. Actually, he was the best part of this whole film.

Rating: 3/10

Slap Shot 3: The Junior League (2008):

Release Date: November 25th, 2008
Directed by: Richard Martin
Written by: Brad Riddell
Based on: characters created by Nancy Dowd
Music by: Terry Frewer
Cast: Greyston Holt, Jeff Carlson, Steve Carlson, David Hanson, Lynda Boyd, Mark Messier, Doug Gilmour, Leslie Nielsen

Universal Pictures, 90 Minutes 

Review:

After the mess that was Slap Shot 2, they felt like they could milk the old cow one more time, thirty-one years after the original.

This film stars Leslie Nielsen but he’s barely in it. The Hanson Bros. are also back but they spend half the movie as peaceful zen monks who have sworn off their violent ways. Mark Messier shows up too, for some reason.

The plot revolves around a boys’ home that is ran by the boys, as the caretaker died or something. I don’t know if that was made clear in the film or not. Anyway, they have some plan to get good at hockey, beat the evil rival town junior team and somehow turn that into saving their town. The plot makes less sense than Slap Shot 2.

The Hanson Bros. eventually go back to normal but not until after they make the Junior Chiefs play hockey in zen-friendly kimonos. Yes, you read that right.

This is, quite simply, a pretty awful and boring movie. It is only worth watching for the Hanson Bros. material but there just isn’t enough of them to make it worthwhile and at the same time, they shouldn’t have to carry a film.

Rating: 2/10