Tag Archives: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Caught in a Ham (2019, Miguel Jiron)

I think I went into Caught in a Ham with unduly high hopes (I’ve been a Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham since 1983) and apparently I’m enough of a purist to be a little upset Spider-Ham loses out on half his four minute cartoon so it can tie into Into the Spider-Verse. There’s also the issue of him getting the shaft on the runtime. If you’re going to ape an old Looney Tunes cartoon, give it at least seven minutes. Four just isn’t enough. Especially not when half of it is bridging material, which is the nature of the made-for-home-video-supplement beast but whatever. Have some respect for the brand.

Anyway.

The cartoon opens fine. Spider-Ham swinging through the city, making jokes about the hot dog he’s about to eat (I don’t remember cannibalism from the old comics but I was in grade school) and he gets into trouble with a painfully uncool villain, Doctor Crawdaddy. Oh, right. John Mulaney voices Spider-Ham, Aaron LaPlante voices Doctor Crawdaddy. They’re both fine. There’s not much for them to do. LaPlante’s the butt of Mulaney’s jokes and gags, which are lifted—most obviously—from Bugs and Elmer and then something else with slamming doors and hallways. I can’t remember if it’s Tom and Jerry but it’s something. I feel like there’s a cat in it.

Caught in a Ham, considering how “meta” it gets, would do just as well if not better to give citations on screen with the nods because they’re not meant to be discreet and citations would—do something.

Because once LaPlante’s Doctor Crawdaddy disappears and the cartoon gets very meta about Spider-Ham being a digitally animated creation being digitally animated, it becomes obvious it’s not adding up to anything. And it doesn’t. It just sends Spider-Ham, presumably, off into the Spider-Verse, where—hopefully—he gets more to do than in his own truncated cartoon.

Maybe it plays better after Spider-Verse but it certainly shouldn’t.

The animation’s good. Wish there was more of it and less perfunctorily animated meta-nonsense.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Miguel Jiron; screenplay by Jiron, based on the character created by Tom DeFalco and Mark Armstrong; animated by Daran Sudric; produced by David Schulenburg; released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Starring John Mulaney (Spider-Ham) and Aaron LaPlante (Doctor Crawdaddy).


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Against the Dark (2009, Richard Crudo)

Leave it to Steven Seagal to make a boring vampire movie. Worse, it’s not even the traditional vampires; instead, it’s the zombies from 28 Days Later… only they’re vampires here—Against the Dark is sort of like “Die Hard (with vampire-zombies) in a hospital.”

Crudo is a terrible director. The action sequences (the ones I saw, anyway) are poorly composed, poorly edited and possibly intended to be laughable.

However, he (or writer Mathew Klickstein, who might have turned in an interesting script if he spent as much time on it as his hipster IMDb biography) does come up with one decent sequence—there may be more but I’ll never know—with a vampire filing down her teeth as to pose as a human. Unfortunately, the human who kills her never even sees she’s filled down her teeth. Great setup, no followthrough.

The cast is awful. Seagal’s too overweight to do much, so he just stands around. Crudo tries to make it look like Seagal’s walking and fails. Tanoai Reed is terrible as the action star. Daniel Percival is a special kind of awful (the story’s split between Seagal and annoying younger survivors).

I suppose Jenna Harrison was okay. Linden Ashby’s around; he seemed better than the material. According to the credits, Keith David shows up at some point but I’ll never know.

How can you have Steven Seagal fight vampires and make it boring? Dark could never be good… but the absurdity factor alone should have made it watchable.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Richard Crudo; written by Mathew Klickstein; director of photography, William Trautvetter; edited by Tim Silano; music by Philip White; production designer, Serban Porupca; produced by Phillip B. Goldfine and Steven Seagal; released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Starring Steven Seagal (Tao), Tanoai Reed (Tagart), Jenna Harrison (Dorothy), Danny Midwinter (Morgan), Emma Catherwood (Amelia), Stephen Hagan (Ricky), Daniel Percival (Dylan), Skye Bennett (Charlotte), Linden Ashby (Cross) and Keith David (Lt. Waters).


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Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (2008, Edward Neumeier)

I love this movie. Seriously. Not just because it features the most idiotically jingoistic song since Grease 2‘s “Do It For Our Country.” There’s a fair amount of political commentary (instead of going for the easy Bush jugular, Neumeier’s a lot more complicated, particularly when it comes to how religion is sellable as war propaganda) and a lot of good acting.

However, I hate Neumeier a little for wasting the finest performance Casper Van Dien is, likely, ever going to give. The movie follows Jolene Blalock (who’s awful at the start, but then turns good when the film enters its second act–Marauder‘s so shockingly well-plotted, I can’t believe they didn’t give it a limited theatrical… it’s an actual sequel to Starship Troopers, not a direct-to-video continuation) at the expense of Van Dien and it’s not right. Sure, Blalock’s got a romance with Boris Kodjoe (also way too good considering) and a personal discovery storyline, but Van Dien’s actually really good. It’s a tragedy his… yes, I’m going to say it… ability is wasted.

Unfortunately, besides those three–and Stephen Hogan, who’s fantastic–the supporting cast is pretty weak. At times, with the reasonable CG and the competent if unspectacular direction and good script, it feels like Marauder is a “real” movie… until the supporting cast speaks. Marnette Patterson and Cécile Breccia are both, sadly, laughable. I just wish they’d been able to get solider actors.

But again, I love this movie. It’s an unbelievable success.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Edward Neumeier; screenplay by Neumeier, based on a novel by Robert A. Heinlein; director of photography, Lorenzo Senatore; edited by Michael John Bateman; music by Klaus Badelt; production designer, Sylvain Gingras; produced by David Lancaster; released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Starring Casper Van Dien (Colonel Johnny Rico), Jolene Blalock (Captain Lola Beck), Stephen Hogan (Sky Marshal Omar Anoke), Boris Kodjoe (Gen. Dix Hauser), Amanda Donohoe (Admiral Enolo Phid), Marnette Patterson (Holly Little), Danny Keogh (Dr. Wiggs), Stelio Savante (Chief Bull Brittles), Cécile Breccia (Lt. Link Manion) and Garth Breytenbach (Pvt. Slug Skinner).


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Screamers: The Hunting (2009, Sheldon Wilson)

If it weren’t for the painfully Canadian cast–I’m thinking mostly of Greg Byrk and Gina Holden, Holden because a recognizable, down on her luck American actress would be playing her character and Byrk because he’s so bland he’s got to be Canadian–Screamers: The Hunting would probably be a little better. There are some decent actors in it–Jana Pallaske is so good it’s strange to see her in this one, like she was paying off a swimming pool or something, and Stephen Amell is pretty good (even if he too looks bland enough to be Canadian). When Lance Henriksen shows up, the movie almost gets classy for a few minutes.

The Hunting does something really simple–it rips off Aliens (and Alien, but in a different way) as an approach to a direct-to-DVD sequel making. I can’t believe no one else has done it before and it kind of works. Being shot on DV and poorly lighted–John P. Tarver is a horrible cinematographer, I’ve seen better DV lighting on student films–it looks cheap, but it’s generally solid at the base. With a bigger budget, a better cast and a good rewrite, Screamers: The Hunting would probably be better than the first one.

It’s the first direct-to-DVD movie I’ve seen on the level of filmmaking competence of low budget genre pictures of yesteryear, which, I suppose, is a good sign. It’s taken a long time, since everyone relies so much on cheap CG.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Sheldon Wilson; screenplay by Miguel Tejada-Flores, based on a story by Tom Berry and inspired by a short story by Philip K. Dick; director of photography, John P. Tarver; edited by Isabelle Levesque; music by Benoit Grey; production designer, James McAteer; produced by Stefan Wodoslawsky and Paul Pope; released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Starring Gina Holden (Bronte), Jana Pallaske (Schwartz), Lance Henriksen (Orsow), Greg Bryk (Sexton), Christopher Redman (Danielli), Tim Rozon (Madden), Dave Lapommeray (Romulo), Jody Richardson (Soderquist), Stephen Amell (Guy) and Holly O’Brien (Hannah).


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