Universal Home Entertainment

Jesus Christ Superstar – Live Arena Tour (2012, Laurence Connor and Nick Morris)

Besides having an unwieldy title, Jesus Christ Superstar – Live Arena Tour does have quite a few things to recommend it. Within reason. It’s still just a video taping of a live performance–albeit an occasionally rather decent one, albeit with the ability to do complicated shots. Lots of crane moves and zooms. Unfortunately, taping director Morris isn’t very good. Melanie C gets some particularly bad shots during her solos and it’s clear she knows she’s being filmed, but apparently not from where.

Don’t tell me a Spice Girl doesn’t know how to make a music video.

And Laurence Connor, the director of this staging of the musical, integrates live video footage of the performance already. It’s on a big screen–it’s the Arena version after all–and occasionally you’ll see the timing on the big screen footage is better on the cuts to Morris’s version. There are five credited film editors–including Morris–so I’ll just make it easy by blaming Morris for all of that stuff. Especially all the religious imagery at the end, which is actually counter to how an audience member would be seeing the performance.

Got to make it a little more churchy for Morris, apparently.

As for the performance itself, there are ups and downs. Tim Minchin is good. There are occasional weaker moments, but he’s good. And he gives a great performance. He’s the only principal who acts. Mel C and Ben Forster (as Jesus)… well, I was going to say they perform but not exactly. Mel C performs. Forster just sort of mugs. He’s not good. Mel C is all right, but Forster is just bad. At performing and singing. And acting.

For the first act, I couldn’t stop cringing when he’d sing and then Morris would ineptly capture it.

The supporting cast has some real standouts. Alexander Hanson is awesome. Gerard Bentall is awesome. Pete Gallagher is pretty good, Chris Moyles is okay but Morris really flubs the Herod number. He also starts cutting to cheaper DV for some weak shots in the last quarter or so. Michael Pickering’s duet with Mel C is nice. He doesn’t stand out in anything else (at least, not in a good way), but their duet is nice.

I’m not exactly sure what a good taped performance of Jesus Christ Superstar: The Arena Tour would look like, but it’s not this one. Morris is either lifeless or incompetent. He’s annoyingly obvious. Though, then again, it’s not like Forster’s his fault. Apparently Forster is the fault of the great British public, who cast him through a reality show.

Connor’s production, Minchin, some of the supporting cast, they get it to the finish. The second act, even with Morris’s taping worse, is a significant uptick from the first.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Laurence Connor and Nick Morris; written by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice; lighting director, Steve Nolan; edited by Morris, Brett Sullivan, David Tregoning, and Guy Morley; produced by Dione Orrom and Sullivan; released by Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

Starring Tim Minchin (Judas), Ben Forster (Jesus Christ), Melanie C (Mary Magdalane), Alexander Hanson (Pontius Pilate), Pete Gallagher (Caiaphas), Gerard Bentall (Annas), Michael Pickering (Peter), and Chris Moyles (King Herod).


Kindergarten Cop 2 (2016, Don Michael Paul)

Kindergarten Cop 2 doesn’t provoke a lot of reaction. It’s terrible, sure, it’s incompetent in parts, it’s got a lousy script and some really bad acting, but why wouldn’t it? It’s a direct-to-video sequel twenty-six years after the first entry, has nothing to do with the original except in gimmick and concentrates more on fifty-eight year-old lead Dolph Lundgren trying to score with young chicks. Maybe–and it’s a stretch–but maybe it’s interesting in terms of trying to figure out the intended audience. It’s not action fans because director Paul is lousy at the action, especially at the logic of an action scene. Though I suppose editor Vanick Moradian has the best technical effort–far better than photographer Kamal Derkaoui–but it’s not like the action is good. It’s not godawful. At least some of the action, a lot of it is godawful.

Paul has his creepy male gaze shots down, but he doesn’t commit, doesn’t linger. It’s like he’s trying to appeal to the closet perverts in the audience–but Cop 2 is direct-to-video so is it for the dads stuck watching the rented movie? But it’s also not for kids. The kindergarteners have their “cute kid” moments but barely any and Paul’s inept at all those scenes. He’s especially bad at directing the kid actors–stop looking at the camera, Abbie Magnuson! How hard is it to tell her to stop looking directly into the camera.

Maybe if David H. Steinberg weren’t so stupid. But, even then, it’s got terrible acting–Danny Wattley gives one of the worst mean cop boss performances in film history (probably even direct-to-video sequel history)–and no one’s any good. Sarah Strange isn’t completely terrible. Most of the other actors are completely terrible. Like Bill Bellamy and Michael P. Northey. One assumes they’ll leave this one off the CV.

As for Lundgren, in what should be a kind of amusing turn–well, he’s bad. He’s perving on young teacher Darla Taylor while trying to take down a drug kingpin. Taylor and Lundgren don’t have any chemistry, but Lundgren doesn’t have any chemistry with any of his costars. Especially not Bellamy, who’s his partner. A lot of the casting decisions in Kindergarten Cop 2 seem to be based on height in relation to Lundgren, not acting ability.

Though director Paul wouldn’t know what to do with a good actor.

Kindergarten Cop 2 ought to be at least diverting as an abomination of nostalgia and dumb humor. It’s not. It’s boring–a hundred minutes of boring–and incompetent. Did I already mention Steinberg’s script is really dumb?

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Don Michael Paul; screenplay by David H. Steinberg, based on the film written by Timothy Harris, Murray Salem and Herschel Weingrod; director of photography, Kamal Derkaoui; edited by Vanick Moradian; music by Jake Monaco; production designer, Tony Devenyi; produced by Mike Elliot; released by Universal Home Entertainment.

Starring Dolph Lundgren (Reed), Darla Taylor (Olivia), Bill Bellamy (Sanders), Aleks Paunovic (Zogu), Sarah Strange (Miss Sinclaire) and Danny Wattley (Giardello).


Turbo Charged (2003, Philip G. Atwell)

With the exception of being a Hollywood production (even if it’s a Hollywood production for video), Turbo Charged plays like an amateurish short movie make on an iMac. The kind of thing iMovie was great for back in the late nineties–lots of imaginative transitions, the omnipresent music so there doesn’t need to be any dialogue or even sound recording.

And at the center of Turbo Charged is movie star Paul Walker. He doesn’t have any lines, he just has to walk around, just has to run from the cops (he’s on the run, a rogue undercover cop, or so all the national news coverage says). Right, national. Because Turbo Charged is cross country, with flashier Indiana Jones map travel lines.

Only all the locations are in Southern California.

Those unreal moments are nothing compared to Walker. He can’t even successfully essay his part when he’s silent. He’s visibly lost.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Philip G. Atwell; written by Keith Dinielli; produced by Neal H. Moritz; released by Universal Home Entertainment.

Starring Paul Walker (Brian O’Conner).


Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994, Don Coscarelli)

I watched Phantasm III because I wanted to see what Coscarelli would do without studio interference on a Phantasm sequel.

Apparently, what he decided to do was add an annoying little kid who kills people (they’re bad people, but they’re people just the same–and it’s never clear he was in any physical danger) and a black kung fu girl then turn his mostly absent from the screen protagonist (A. Michael Baldwin returns to the role after losing it to James LeGros for the previous sequel) into some sort of Luke Skywalker stand in… right down to the black outfit.

Most of those additions could be forgiven, I suppose, had Coscarelli gotten good actors. The little kid–played by Kevin Connors–is awful. But the girl, played by Gloria Lynne Henry, is worse; so it seems like Connors is giving a better performance. And Baldwin isn’t any great improvement over LeGros. Phantasm III might be interesting to look at in comparison to the first, in terms of Baldwin’s performance as a kid and as an adult.

I’m not even sure it counts as a horror movie. Without the yellow blood, occasional zombie and the flying spheres, it’s just an action movie. Reggie Bannister makes a hilarious lead for such a film, but it’s clear in a lot of scenes he’s a lot better than the script.

Coscarelli apparently has said he was out of ideas for this film and it shows… his demystifying of the Phantasm lore is particularly unfortunate.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written, directed and produced by Don Coscarelli; director of photography, Chris Chomyn; edited by Norman Buckley; music by Fred Myrow and Christopher L. Stone; production designer, Ken Aichele; released by Universal Home Entertainment.

Starring Reggie Bannister (Reggie), A. Michael Baldwin (Mike), Bill Thornbury (Jody), Gloria Lynne Henry (Rocky), Kevin Connors (Tim), Cindy Ambuehl (Edna), John Davis Chandler (Henry), Brooks Gardner (Rufus) and Angus Scrimm (The Tall Man).


Tremors 3: Back to Perfection (2001, Brent Maddock)

The first Tremors sequel probably used up all the goodwill the first movie created… and the presence of Fred Ward helped quite a bite. Ward was a lead in the first film–not to mention being a highly recognizable character actor. The third movie opens poorly, with Michael Gross doing something silly under the opening titles, and barely recovers enough to be watchable. I can’t bring myself to call it a film and movie gets annoying after a while, so I guess I’ll just say there are a number of major problems with the production.

Even though it’s from the same producers–one of the original writers even directs–the guy performing scripting duty is severely lacking. He can’t make the jokes work, even with Gross giving some decent deliveries throughout. And besides the dumb things about the script (the flying monsters, the guy making zen observations), there’s also the constant references to the earlier movies. It gets to the point a regular person couldn’t sit down and understand what’s going on, even after expository dialogue tries its best. There were references in the film I had to think about–and I just watched the original a few weeks ago.

The direction’s another defect. Maddock’s obviously composing for full frame television–the whole production was just a backdoor pilot for the Sci-Fi Channel–and the pseudo-widescreen presentation gets annoying all the time. He’s also just not a good director. He can’t do the humor (which is odd, given his screenwriting career). The script doesn’t help things, but Maddock’s responsible for a lot of the one liners falling flat.

The acting is all mediocre, sometimes better. Shawn Christian isn’t much of a sidekick, but Gross isn’t much of a lead, so it doesn’t matter. Susan Chuang’s probably more likable than she should be, given how dumb her character is written. The best performances come from the other first movie returnees–Charlotte Stewart and Tony Genaro. Ariana Richards has some terrible writing, but if she were in it more, the movie would probably be a lot better.

Another problem is how bad the effects get. The monsters are almost all cheap CG and, if they aren’t, there’s a visibly felt sock puppet in use. The music’s awful–I find it incredible Kevin Kiner’s ever worked again.

The movie runs long (there, I called it a movie again) and gets boring in stretches. I don’t think it ever actually gets interesting, but there’s always something moderately compelling about the genre. There’s also the car wreck aspect–watching Michael Gross run around pretending to be chased by cheap CG monsters… it’s mildly amusing.

With a decent rewrite, a little bit more money and an adequate director, it might have been fine. But there’s still the problem of Gross… he’s a TV guy, not a movie guy. Besides the first Tremors, I’ve never seen him in any other theatrical release. His presence as protagonist makes the whole thing immediately suspect.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Brent Maddock; screenplay by John Whelpley, based on a story by S.S. Wilson, Maddock and Nancy Roberts; director of photography, Virgil L. Harper; edited by Drake Silliman; music by Kevin Kiner; production designer, Ken Larson; produced by Roberts; released by Universal Home Entertainment.

Starring Michael Gross (Burt Gummer), Shawn Christian (Desert Jack Sawyer), Susan Chuang (Jodi Chang), Charlotte Stewart (Nancy Sterngood), Ariana Richards (Mindy Sterngood), Tony Genaro (Miguel), Tom Everett (Statler), Barry Livingston (Dr. Andrew Merliss), John Pappas (Agent Charlie Rusk), Robert Jayne (Melvin Plug) and Billy Rieck (Buford).


Tremors II: Aftershocks (1996, S.S. Wilson)

I remember when Tremors II first came out. I believe it was on the heels of a special edition laserdisc of the first film, but it might have been at the same time. Universal made a lot of direct-to-video sequels in the 1990s, but Tremors II was a little different. First, it was an actual sequel–writers S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock return from the first film, as do Fred Ward and Michael Gross. Second, it was at least an attempt at a real movie–instead of shooting Tremors II for television, it was shot for a theatrical aspect ratio (I guess that special edition laserdisc sold well, because the only widescreen advocates in 1996 were laserdisc buyers). Unfortunately, it still looks like it was shot for television and it still feels like a hackneyed direct-to-video sequel.

Not all of it is bad. Wilson and Maddock make their characters appealing–the stuff with Fred Ward and Helen Shaver is fantastic–and there’s still a lot of humor… but it’s not a real movie. No one’s really afraid of the monsters. Shaver loses a friend–watches the sequel’s new monsters eat off a leg–and is flirting with Ward twenty minutes later. There are some funny lines and funny details, but it’s NutraSweet overall. Ward stumbles a lot as some of his dialogue is terrible and, as his new sidekick, Christopher Gartin manages to be both agreeable and annoying. Gartin’s performance is agreeable, his character’s writing is annoying. But the big problem is that lack of fear. It’s a monster comedy, not a monster movie with comedy.

As for Michael Gross… he’s pretty bad for most of the movie. He’s got a few moments here and there, but his performance is an exaggerated repeat. He does what he did before, just amps it up a little bit; makes it cheesy.

Given the effects–done on the cheap–are excellent, the main problem falls on Wilson, who directed this one. He’s got no idea how to do establishing shots during scenes. The whole movie feels cheap because of the lack of these shots (regardless of its actual, frugal budget). He directs comedy scenes like “Mr. Ed” used to do. The inexperience is startling. With everything else trying (and maybe not succeeding) at making Tremors II more than a video cash-in, the director (slash co-writer) isn’t cutting it. He’s making it feel cheap. Worst is when he tries to mimic the Underwood crane style from the first film.

Tremors II is better than it should be–that Ward and Shaver romance standing out–but it’s a surprise, for the first film anyway. This one shows off how important having a good director can be.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by S.S. Wilson; written by Brent Maddock and Wilson, based on characters created by Maddock, Wilson and Ron Underwood; director of photography, Virgil L. Harper; edited by Bob Ducsay; music by Jay Ferguson; production designer, Ivo Cristante; produced by Christopher DeFaria and Nancy Roberts; released by MCA Home Entertainment.

Starring Fred Ward (Earl Bassett), Christopher Gartin (Grady Hoover), Helen Shaver (Kate Reilly), Michael Gross (Burt Gummer), Marcelo Tubert (Señor Ortega) and Marco Hernandez (Julio).


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