I think Nickelodeon has things bassackwards when it comes to “Monster Trucks.” In the nineties and perhaps even eighties, a normal company would have released a “Monster Trucks” toy line followed by its very own movie. Instead we have a long gestating kids movie about glowing monsters that hide in trucks that transform in to… monster trucks—or something. And there’s not a toy line to be had. I say that because “Monster Trucks” watches more like a pitch movie for a franchise than it does an actual movie. “Monster Trucks” was created by a four year old (no seriously, look it up), and intended to be aimed at younger kids (Honest) as a sort of pseudo-Transformers. Which in and of itself is pointless when young kids are still very much all about Transformers.
As we all saw with Tarantino a few years ago, the idea of Will Smith in a Western isn’t a bad one. Smith has a modern look that’s not accessible for every film, but with the right director Smith could shine. It’s just too bad he straddled himself to Barry Sonnenfeld who casts Will in one of the most poorly conceived TV to movie adaptations of all time. “Wild Wild West” is worse than “Beverly Hillbillies” and “Charlie’s Angels” combined. What’s worse is that director Sonnenfeld has absolutely no idea how to utilize Smith in a Western setting. So by the time the movie has started, rather than rely on the pulpy martial arts theme from the original series, the movie just becomes a showcase for Will Smith to be Will Smith. Even in the old West, Smith is the wise cracking, shade wearing, cowboy who is a hit with the ladies.
“Teen Titans: The Judas Contract” is a sequel to “Justice League vs. Teen Titans” which was a sequel to “Batman: Bad Blood” so don’t worry, it all ties to Batman. Like pretty much everything DC Comics these days, it’s all about Batman, and “The Judas Contract” compensates for the lack of Batman by including both Robins. Not only do we get a look at Dick Grayson as Robin when he led the Titans, but we also go to modern times where Grayson is now Nightwing. Damian Wayne is Robin now, and is a member of the Teen Titans. So that Batman flavor DC banks on is still there, even if Batman never shows up. “The Judas Contract” is an adaptation of one of the most iconic comic book storylines of all time, as the Teen Titans confront a traitor in their midst. Sam Liu’s animated adaptation is weak and limp, and often times bereft of entertainment value. And I say that as someone who genuinely loves the character Nightwing.
Near as I can figure, “The Boss Baby” is about a young boy with a wild imagination who uses his daydreams and fantasies to exaggerate life. When he learns of a new baby entering his household and ruining his rituals, he basically has a psychotic break. He imagines a humongous scenario where nothing makes sense, nothing is funny, and the baby about to enter his house is a part of a bigger purpose. It’s not just replacing him, but is a businessman on a mission who has more intellect than he can ever hope to have. “The Boss Baby” wouldn’t be so bad if it were just a derivative take on “Look Who’s Talking Too” or “The Rugrats Movie.” It just gets bogged down in to so much stale comedy and convoluted storytelling it becomes white noise.
Simon Wincer’s “The Phantom” just doesn’t get any respect, damn it, and I think it deserves a lot more than it receives from movie fans. Not only does director Wincer embrace the source material of the Phantom, but he casts someone like Billy Zane, who fits so well in to the mold of the Phantom, it’s eerie. I just wish more audiences appreciated the boldness of the pulp hero sub-genre for “The Phantom” to have caught on and perhaps spawn a movie series. The best we got in the nineties was a pretty awesome animated series that provided a futuristic spin on Lee Falk’s comic strip superhero. “The Phantom” is a sleek and breezy action film in the vein of “Indiana Jones” that finds Zane as Kit Walker.
Twenty years later, and Rusty Cundieff’s horror anthology “Tales from the Hood” is probably the most socially relevant horror anthology ever created. 1995 gave way to some pretty tame horror entries, but “Tales from the Hood” doesn’t just try to scare, but has a good time delivering some schlock, and sneaks in a lot of social commentary about the race and class warfare that divided us then and continues to divide us more than ever, today. It’s too bad the movie never caught on as a cult classic, since re-watching it years later has allowed me to appreciate it so much more. “Tales from the Hood” tells four horror tales centered on an urban setting and social problem that ensues to this day, incidentally, and they end up being rather compelling and often very creepy.
Director Chris Esper and writer Jason K. Allen have a lot of ideas about fate, irony, and destiny and integrates them well in his absurdist comedy short about a couple that meets on a bench one afternoon. “The Deja Vuers” is funny, but it’s also quite intelligent, arousing some unique thoughts about how much control we have over our own lives. Are we following some rhythm, or are we voluntarily setting the stage for our own futures? Kris Salvi is great as a man named Chuck who approaches Morgan one day while sitting on a park bench. He insists he’s had déjà vu with her, and remembers them meeting in a dream.
This time around “V” embraces its science fiction roots more, allowing for a lot more looks in to the rebellion, and the inclusion of new corners of the visitors’ world and the rebels. Most of all, there’s the introduction of a Visitor/Human hybrid that becomes one of the larger symbols of the war, and is pushed back and forth between the resistance and people that think the visitors can stop the invasion and work with Earth. Months after the humans sent out the beacon for other alien species to help them take down the Visitors, nothing has happened and the humans are still trying to stop the Visitors and their plans. Now the Visitors are building new tactics, which includes armor that can deflect bullets, and a form of torture leader Diana has concocted that allows her to convert humans to the side of Visitors for programming.