Tag Archives: Dimension Films

Highlander: Endgame (2000, Douglas Aarniokoski)

For all intents and purposes, there’s nothing nice to say about Highlander: Endgame. Maybe there’s an almost all right moment between Lisa Barbuscia and Adrian Paul. They’re married, but estranged. They’re both immortal, something he didn’t tell her before killing her to bring about her immortal existence. It’s terribly handled in the flashback sequences and not exactly done well in the modern day stuff, but Paul can emote serious without actually being able to act serious and Barbuscia really isn’t bad when she’s not playing an evil tough guy. It’s like Paul and Barbuscia remembered a better scene from an acting class and tried it out in Endgame. But, otherwise, it’s bereft of quality.

Joel Soisson’s script isn’t good, but it’s not utter crap. It’s mildly competent. If director Aarniokoski had any ability whatsoever, the film would have moved. But there’s also Douglas Milsome’s awful photography, the six terrible editors, the lame music, the cheap looking sets, the lousy special effects. Even Christopher Lambert deserves better than Aarniokoski. Lambert’s a trooper. He’s bad, but he’s willing. Aarniokoski doesn’t do anything with him. Aarniokoski’s camera doesn’t have any connection with the characters. It’s so bad. Aarniokoski does a really, really bad job. And Milsome enables some of it.

Because, Endgame is a part of what was once an almost reputable cult franchise. Things went wrong, but Highlander was an HBO hit in the eighties when HBO movie hits mattered. And Endgame is even more horrifying because it actually tries really hard to be a sequel to the original movie. It can’t be a sequel to the original because it’s a sequel to the TV show, but it wants to pretend. Aarniokoski doesn’t care enough pretend, but Lambert and the script want to pretend. So it’s depressing. It’s actually depressing.

Endgame is about pitying the people who tried to care about it. Not just the actors, but the audience. Watching this movie makes you feel bad for the other people who have seen it.

Lousy performance from Bruce Payne as the villain. It’d be laughable but it always feels like there’s a chance Payne is intentionally doing vamp camp so maybe it’s somehow brilliant. But it can’t be because Aarniokoski’s bad at directing actors too. He’s bad at filming actors act. It’s an incredibly poorly directed film. It’s stunning.

Oh, and Donnie Yen’s good. Beatie Edney too. She manages to have class, which is something because there’s no class anywhere else in this picture.

It doesn’t even move well. It’s less than ninety minutes and there’s always action and it doesn’t even move. Endgame is the pits.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Douglas Aarniokoski; screenplay by Joel Soisson, based on a story by Eric Bernt, Gillian Horvath and William N. Panzer and characters created by Gregory Widen; director of photography, Douglas Milsome; edited by Chris Blunden, Rod Dean, Robert A. Ferretti, Tracy Granger, Michael N. Knue and Donald Paonessa; music by Nick Glennie-Smith and Stephen Graziano; production designers, Jonathan A. Carlson and Stephen Scott; produced by Peter S. Davis, Panzer and Brian Gordon; released by Dimension Films.

Starring Christopher Lambert (Connor MacLeod), Adrian Paul (Duncan MacLeod), Bruce Payne (Jacob Kell), Lisa Barbuscia (Faith), Donnie Yen (Jin Ke), Jim Byrnes (Joe Dawson), Peter Wingfield (Methos), Damon Dash (Carlos), Beatie Edney (Heather), Sheila Gish (Rachel) and June Watson (Caiolin MacLeod)


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Highlander: The Final Dimension (1994, Andrew Morahan), the European version

About the only complementary thing in Highlander: The Final Dimension is Steven Chivers’s photography. The film’s got a terrible color palette, which isn’t a surprise since all of director Morahan’s decisions are bad, but Chivers never lets the film look cheap. It’s clearly cheap, but Chivers refuses to acknowledge it. It’s kind of cool. But only with a qualifier or two, because the crappy color palettes are a real problem. Most of Morahan’s direction is bad and Chivers does nothing to alleviate its damage on the film.

Well, I suppose there really isn’t much you could do for Final Dimension. A better director would have helped, but only so much. It’s one of those pictures not just without anything going for it, but without anything good in it. Deborah Kara Unger arguably gives the film’s best performance, but only because it’s the least worst. Unless you count Mako, who stands in for Sean Connery in this entry. He manages to keep a straight face opposite Christopher Lambert.

Final Dimension is one of those too craven sequels. It borrows story beat after story beat from the first film–though Unger doesn’t even get to be the damsel in distress, Lambert’s got a little kid to threaten in this entry. As that little kid, Gabriel Kakon is atrocious. No surprise, but Morahan can’t direct actors either. So it’s like watching all the action from the first film done in Panavision by a bad director shooting it in Canada. With photographer Chivers trying so hard to distract from its lack of domestic shooting locations, he just makes the film look terrible to hide it. Like I said, it’s kind of admirable. Chivers can clearly do a better job–lighting this terrible palette takes skills–but he doesn’t. There’s no excelling in the Final Dimension.

As the villain, Mario Van Peebles is almost funny. He’s just strange enough not to be sad, but he’s not strange enough to be interesting. A lot of it is an objectively bad performance. Some of it has the promise of a better performance. Again, Morahan. Also, it’s a terrible script. What is anyone going to do with a terrible script? Unger tries with her crusading archeologist bit but once the film gets her clothes off, it stops giving her anything to do.

Really bad performance from Martin Neufeld as the angry cop who’s after Lambert. Final Dimension fails on every level. It can’t even do bit parts well. It doesn’t have a script going for it, doesn’t have a director, doesn’t have production values (awful music from J. Peter Robinson, bad editing from Yves Langlois), but it doesn’t even have a good casting director. Maybe because there’s no credited casting director.

It’s a movie with a terrible Christopher Lambert performance I don’t even want to pick on. It’s such a bad script, turning Lambert into a nineties action hero dad while more T–800 than Highlander… it’s not a fair fight. Amid all the crappy work in Highlander: The Final Dimension, there apparently can be only one to do the crappiest work and it’s screenwriter Paul Ohl.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Andrew Morahan; screenplay by Paul Ohl, based on a story by Brad Mirman and William N. Panzer and characters created by Gregory Widen; director of photography, Steven Chivers; edited by Yves Langlois; music by J. Peter Robinson; production designers, Gilles Aird and Ben Morahan; produced by Claude Léger; released by Dimension Films.

Starring Christopher Lambert (Connor MacLeod), Mario Van Peebles (Kane), Deborah Kara Unger (Alex Johnson), Gabriel Kakon (John MacLeod), Martin Neufeld (Lt. John Stenn), Daniel Do (Dr. Fuji Takamura), Michael Jayston (Jack Donovan) and Mako (Nakano).


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Halloween II (2009, Rob Zombie), the director’s cut

Halloween II is terrible. Unquestionably terrible. It sounds as though the director’s cut, which I watched, is even worse than the theatrical cut, based on the items director Zombie added back to the film.

But I wanted Halloween II to be good. It can’t be good–even with Zombie’s dumb ideas, there’s terrible writing and an awful performance from Scout Taylor-Compton in the lead–but I wanted it to be good. Because Zombie, after teasing the audience with a direct remake of the original Halloween II as an opener, does come up with an interesting concept. What happens to Taylor-Compton after the horrific events of the first film, with all “real life” psychology thrown in–including Malcolm McDowell making a jackass of himself as “famous TV psychiatrist”–it could be really interesting.

Zombie has all the pieces–Taylor-Compton’s friend, played by Danielle Harris, and her dad, an excellent Brad Dourif, take her in, which creates all sorts of problems and new situations. Juxtaposed against McDowell tormenting his media handler (Mary Birdsong), it all could have worked out. There’s some good stuff with Harris and Dourif, Birdsong and McDowell, but it’s all accidental. It’s actors with ability transcending terribly written material.

Oddly enough, Zombie cares. He cares about his dumb story invalidating every idea of the Halloween franchise–instead of a soulless shape, Michael Myers is driven to kill by his mystically evil (and undead) mother. Zombie spends most of the movie upset he can’t show Tyler Mane’s face until the end. Zombie puts it off so long, the reveal has no point–not as commentary on the Halloween franchise, which the film could’ve been perfect for, and not for his dumb evil, mystical Myers family thing.

Great photography from Brandon Trost on 16 mm. Occasionally okay music from Tyler Bates.

And, real quick, Sheri Moon Zombie is awful in it (though not worse than Taylor-Compton); it’s sad since the film opens with a flashback where Moon Zombie’s actually good.

Halloween II is not at all worth watching, but it should have been.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Rob Zombie; screenplay by Zombie, based on characters created by John Carpenter and Debra Hill; director of photography, Brandon Trost; edited by Glenn Garland and Joel T. Pashby; music by Tyler Bates; production designer, Garreth Stover; produced by Malek Akkad, Andy Gould and Zombie; released by Dimension Films.

Starring Scout Taylor-Compton (Laurie Strode), Tyler Mane (Michael Myers), Malcolm McDowell (Dr. Samuel Loomis), Brad Dourif (Sheriff Lee Brackett), Sheri Moon Zombie (Deborah Myers), Danielle Harris (Annie Brackett) and Brea Grant (Mya Rockwell)


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Halloween (2007, Rob Zombie), the director’s cut

Halloween is a very bad film. It’s an ambitious film but it fails with everything it’s trying to do. Director Zombie wants to do a revisionist look at the original film (and franchise to some extent). He wants to make it real. He wants to write long monologues for Malcolm McDowell’s psychiatrist, long, ridiculous monologues. They make McDowell seem like a joke. Except the script doesn’t function if he’s a joke. Zombie wants to make fun of the original Halloween. Halloween, the remake, is the idea of remake as overcompensation.

Of course, Halloween isn’t just a remake–though it is, for the majority of its runtime, a terrible updating of the original film. Zombie (intentionally) doesn’t give years, but it seems to take place in the mid-nineties, which makes it a reference to the release of the original film. There’s so much symbolism, both visually and in the narrative, it actually gets uncomfortable. I’m not sure if Zombie could make the film more desperately obvious.

Zombie front loads a back story for Michael Myers (played as an adult by Tyler Mane–who actually gives an okay performance given the nonsense going on–and Daeg Faerch in the opening). Personifying Faerch, while teasing his “true” nature, might–in the second part of the film–lead to some audience curiosity about Mane’s actions (instead of focusing on his intended victims’ fright), but it doesn’t do anything. Zombie does a crappy TV movie version of an abusive home life, generic bullies, evil older sisters, drunk stepdads (a hilarious William Forsythe). And even though cinematographer Phil Parmet appears able to handle the lighting, Zombie doesn’t have a style for it. He does a bland Panavision, nothing else. The handful of okay shots in the movie are just because Mane’s really tall and he’s breaking down walls because–to be realistic, of course–the monster has to be an actual monster.

But front loading Mane’s backstory distracts from Halloween’s biggest problem. “Lead” Scout Taylor-Compton is terrible. Zombie writes the teen girls terribly. Intentionally. He wants to get rid of the artifice, he wants to get rid of the sympathy. Because without sympathy, the audience has to get it from the terrible fates of the characters. It’s a slasher movie, right? But it doesn’t work. Zombie’s approaches to the slasher set pieces are all terrible. He even tries to distract from them with ludicrous plotting to keep those viewers familiar with the original (you know, the target audience) guessing where the story is going.

And then Zombie wants it all to be about the death and beauty of the American family. Sincerely. He even gets Dee Wallace to play Taylor-Compton’s mom. Halloween is a movie made for people who get E.T. references. It would’ve been better with more, because at least with bad cameos and lame jokes, Zombie is appearing interested.

Brad Dourif’s okay as the sheriff. He’s not in it enough. Sheri Moon Zombie is almost good as Faerch’s mom. Danny Trejo gets casted for the visual recognition but does a fine job. Danielle Harris probably gives the film’s best performance. Well, except the little kids. Both Skyler Gisondo and Jenny Gregg Stewart are fantastic.

Malcolm McDowell is bad. Zombie doesn’t know how to direct him and he’s got the film’s worst role, which is saying a lot, but McDowell is still bad.

On the other hand, even though I can’t stand the movie, I really want to see it pan and scan. I want to see Rob Zombie’s Halloween cropped to 4:3. Maybe he’s directing for 4:3. I doubt it, because the script would still be terrible and the acting awful and Tyler Bates’s music lame (though not as lame as the soundtrack selections–from Zombie). But maybe.

Wait, I almost forgot–even though her acting is unbelievably bad and anyone would have been better–Taylor-Compton is good at pretending to be scared.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Rob Zombie; screenplay by Zombie, based on the film written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill; director of photography, Phil Parmet; edited by Glenn Garland; music by Tyler Bates; production designer, Anton Tremblay; produced by Malek Akkad, Andy Gould and Zombie; released by Dimension Films.

Starring Starring Malcolm McDowell (Samuel), Scout Taylor-Compton (Laurie), Danielle Harris (Annie Brackett), Kristina Klebe (Lynda), Brad Dourif (Lee), Jenny Gregg Stewart (Lindsey), Skyler Gisondo (Tommy), Nick Mennell (Bob), Danny Trejo (Ismael), Sid Haig (Chester), Dee Wallace (Cynthia), Pat Skipper (Mason), Hanna Hall (Judith), Sheri Moon Zombie (Deborah), William Forsythe (Ronnie) and Daeg Faerch & Tyler Mane (Michael).


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