Friday, July 10, 2015

Worth Mentioning - Lots of Scratch and One Big Catch

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Another Elmore Leonard book becomes a movie, heroes are united, and a maniac wrestler returns.


The only feature ever directed by Peter Weller (yes, RoboCop/Buckaroo Banzai himself), who has done a lot of episodic television otherwise, is this Elmore Leonard adaptation that pairs future CSI star Marg Helgenberger with future CSI: Miami star David Caruso.

Caruso plays a man named Maguire, who is, along with two friends, hired by Florida mobster Frank DiCilia to rob a Detroit country club. If they pull off this job, they'll be paid $5000 a piece. They rob the place, but get arrested before they can get paid for it.

Released on a technicality, Maguire travels to Florida to collect the money he's owed... and discovers that DiCilia has died and left his widow Karen (Helgenberger) in a very strange situation.

DiCilia was having an affair, and Karen knew about it. Her threat to have an affair in return so enraged her husband that he put it in his will that Karen will only receive the millions he's left behind - paid out $75,000 a month for the rest of her life - if she is never again intimate with another man.

Karen's financial situation jeopardized by the fact that she and Maguire are instantly drawn to each other, and everyone around her is keeping a close eye on what she's up to. The most prominent person following Karen's activities is Jeff Kober as Roland Crowe, a career criminal cowboy who has his sights on those millions and is willing to manipulate the scenario in any way that will get him access to that cash, including murdering anyone who gets in the way.

It's not the most enthralling Elmore Leonard adaptation, but it's an interesting story, and a convoluted, twisty one that may lose you at points along the way. The actors do well bringing Leonard's characters to life, with Kober in particular leaving a impression.

Screenwriter Harley Peyton deserves some major kudos for remaining very faithful to Leonard's prose. A lot of Leonard's dialogue has made it from the page to the screen, and keeping it was a very smart move. Leonard was one of the greats with dialogue.

Gold Coast was made for Showtime, and its '90s TV roots are somewhat obvious in the look and feel of the movie, but that doesn't drag it down too much. It's a solid crime thriller that's worth checking out.


The previous film in the Sniper franchise, Sniper: Reloaded, introduced viewers to Chad Michael Collins as Brandon Beckett, son of the series' original hero Thomas Beckett. Brandon followed his estranged father into the Marines to spite him, but had no interest in becoming a sniper. The events of Reloaded changed his mind about that. When Sniper: Legacy catches back up with the character, he's working as a sniper in a multinational taskforce, currently stationed at the Turkey/Syria border. Brandon has already gotten to a point where he's considering getting out of the profession because he's finding it too easy to kill people.

Then comes word that Thomas Beckett has been murdered by a rogue sniper who has been travelling the globe, picking off military officers who were involved with a mission in Afghanistan a decade earlier. Coincidentally, the next person on the killer's hit list is believed to be a man who's now on a mission in Syria, so members of Brandon's taskforce are assigned to be the guy's bodyguard. Brandon is not given this assignment, kept out by order of a higher-up known only as The Colonel... but his commanding officer unofficially suggests that he follow them so he can get a chance to take out the man who killed Thomas.

Don't worry, this isn't a Kickboxer 2 (or a Kickboxer 5) where a hero we've enjoyed watching in the past is unceremoniously killed off just so they can be replaced by the new hero. Thomas Beckett isn't really dead, his survival was obscured by an explosion, and now he's in Syria as well, doing some sniper hunting of his own. Tom Berenger reprises the role, entering the picture at the 55 minute point to team up with his long lost son.

It has been clear that Brandon has a lot of issues with his dad, but the two make the choice to push all of that aside and focus on the situation at hand. This movie's about the action, not the drama.

Sniper: Legacy was directed by Don Michael Paul (who also co-wrote the screenplay with Sniper: Reloaded writer John Fasano), a director I'm very interested in at the moment because he was at the helm of the Tremors sequel that's set to be released in October. I was very glad to see that Legacy looks incredible for a direct-to-video action flick. It's not a movie that was ever intended to make it into theatres, but Paul sure didn't take that as an excuse to slack. The direction and the cinematography by Martin Chichov are top-notch, and the film was shot in some visually impressive locations.

Paul also gets solid performances out of his cast. I liked Brandon better in this film than in Reloaded, and it's great to see Berenger back in the role of Thomas, even with him having so little to do and such a short amount of screen time. A few newcomers to the franchise really shine in this one as well: Dominic Mafham as "Bulletface", the taskforce commander, Mercedes Mason as Brandon's sniper companion Sanaa, and the always dependable Dennis Haysbert, playing The Colonel.

It's a great little ensemble, and Paul keeps them busy fighting their way through dangerous situations.

For the fifth film in a series that has been going straight to video since the second installment, Sniper: Legacy is surprisingly well-made and surprisingly good. I really hope Paul was able to carry this level of quality over into Tremors 5 as well.

SEE NO EVIL 2 (2014)

If a horror movie is going to get a "part 2", the powers that be usually strike while the iron's hot. Very often you'll see a horror sequel reaching theatres just one year after its predecessor. The See No Evil iron, though, was well cooled by the time WWE Studios finally got around to making its sequel. Their action movie The Marine came out the same year as the first See No Evil, 2006, and by the time See No Evil 2 was released to home video a Marine 4 was already in development. Slasher Jacob Goodnight kind of got the shaft.

Despite the fact that eight years passed between the first and second See No Evils, and the fact that they were filmed on different continents (part 1 in Australia, this one in Canada), See No Evil 2 picks up exactly where the original movie left off. Jacob Goodnight's rampage in the Blackwell Hotel was brought to an end when his potential victims inflicted some serious bodily harm to him, and now his corpse is transferred to a nearby hospital's morgue.

This is a familiar set-up to slasher fans. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter started this way. Halloween: Resurrection ended this way. Norwegian slasher Cold Prey 2 did it. You know what's coming... Jacob Goodnight isn't really dead. He rises from his slab in the morgue and starts stalking the halls of the hospital like Michael Myers in Halloween II (both of them).

Speaking of Michael Myers and Halloween, four-time Halloween star Danielle Harris is our heroine this time around, a morgue attendant named Amy who is working the graveyard shift on her birthday and volunteers to stick around to work some overtime when news of the Blackwell massacre hits. Since she can't go out partying, her brother and friends bring the party to her at the hospital, unwittingly turning themselves into cannon fodder for Jacob Goodnight.

As Goodnight, Glenn "Kane" Jacobs gets a bit more to do this time around. Not only does the slasher try to cobble together a bit more of an iconic look for himself than he had in the first movie by putting on a plastic face mask (taken off the corpse of a burn victim) and a black morgue smock, he also talks a bit while being tormented by memories of his mother, the woman who groomed him into a murderer. He handles both the acting and the slashing well, and being such a beast of a human he's quite intimidating.

Harris can always be relied upon to deliver a good performance, and a solid supporting cast was assembled that includes genre regular Chelan Simmons, who you may recognize from such films as Final Destination 3 or Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. Simmons' Carrie 2002 co-star Katharine Isabelle is in here as well, giving a really fun performance as a serial killer-obsessed party girl who descends into hilarious hysteria once faced with an actual killer.

This was also a reunion for Isabelle and her American Mary directors Jen and Sylvia Soska, who were working from a script by first-timers Nathan Brookes and Bobby Lee Darby.

On almost every level, See No Evil 2 is a step up from the first movie. The characters are more likeable, the cinematography is more pleasant to look at, the clean hospital is a relief after the filthiness of the Blackwell Hotel, the direction is a vast improvement. It's a lot of fun seeing Jacob Goodnight back on the screen, in a much better movie, tearing through a new batch of people that features some familiar faces. And like the order of kills in the first movie, this one has some surprises, too.

It was looking like Goodnight would be a one and done killer, but now that he has been revived after long last, it appears that he may have franchise potential after all. I hope there is a See No Evil 3, and I hope there won't be another eight year gap before it happens.

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