American Pie (1999)

Just like slashers, the teenage sex comedy is in the lowest tier of film genres but one that Hollywood always returns to, then overdoes, then forgets all over again only to bring it back every few years. American Pie was a shocker hit, beating Wild Wild West in its first weekend, and so many movies followed in its wake like RoadtripEurotrip and National Lampoon’s Van Wilder before the cycle ended again, only to be repeated when Superbad came out.

That said, I saw this in the theater at an early screening and was shocked at how loud the audience was laughing. It felt good to just have something dumb up on the screen, even if the loss of virginity plot had been seen before. Yet much of its audience was too young for Porky’s and Animal House and by the time those once ribald movies were viewable for them, they could easily watch hardcore porn online. How would a sex comedy reach this new focus group?

By embracing them.

Brothers Paul and Chris Weitz also made Down to Earth and About a Boy together. Just like Bob Clark basing Porky’s on his life, Lemon Popsicle coming from Boaz Davidson’s (and Menahem Golan, probably) teenage hijinks and Fast Times at Ridgemont High from Cameron Crowe’s undercover time writing about high school for Rolling Stone, the Weitz brothers based this movie on what it was like to attend East Grand Rapids High School in Michigan. The script had the title Untitled Teenage Sex Comedy That Can Be Made For Under $10 Million That Most Readers Will Probably Hate But I Think You Will Love.

There are five friends that make up this story:

The inexperienced Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs) who gives the film its name when he attempts to put the moves on a literal piece of pie. He also keeps screwing up his chance to lose his virginity to exchange student Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth).

Lacrosse player Chris “Oz” Ostreicher (Chris Klein) who joins the choir to find a girl and ends up falling for Heather (Mena Suvari).

Group leader Kevin Myers (Thomas Ian Nicholas) who just wants to have sex with his longtime girlfriend Vicky (Tara Reid).

The elitist and super smart Paul Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas).

The jock maniac Steven Stifler (Seann William Scott), the only of the group who has actually had sex.

The four boys make a pact that they will all lose their virginity — which is totally the theme of Blockers but also made way more politically correct — by the day after prom. The one thing I will say about this movie is that there’s a scene with Jim and Vicky that’s all about the woman’s pleasure being more important than the man’s, which is a pretty wild idea for 1999.

The really great thing is that this movie introduced people to actors they didn’t know or in the case of Jennifer Coolidge and Eugene Levy should have already known. Levy only signed on if he could ad lib all of his lines and by the end of the series was the only actor to be in all of these films (other than American Pie: Girls’ Rules). Alyson Hannigan was well-known from being on Buffy the Vampire Slayer but this was the role that she became known for for some time. Even Natasha Lyonne is in this (and amazing in nearly every moment, redeeming so much of the cringe moments).

I have no idea why Universal Pictures sold their international rights and thought this movie wouldn’t be huge. The music is so of the time, the kids feel real for a mainstream movie and sex always sells. I mean, it sold enough to make eight sequels to this.

PITTSBURGH MADE: Night of the Living Dead: 30th Anniversary Edition (1999)

You have a lot of choices as to how you can watch Night of the Living Dead. The Criterion collection, the original, colorized, animated, deep faked, you name it, you have so many ways to drink in the 1968 classic. Except please, whatever you do, please please please stay away from this one.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary. Anchor Bay put out this version that has the original co-writer John A. Russo writing and directing all new scenes. You think ll the changes to the Star Wars films was horrible? Well, I’ve got news for you.

I’ve avoided this for years because, well, I kind of enjoy Russo’s films on their own and know that he probably shouldn’t meedle with a movie that yeah, he feels some ownership toward, but that he should not put his signature on someone else’s painting.

There’s also a new music score, re-editing and remastering of the film and you know — yes, the remaster helps, it looks better — but as much of a cliche as “if it’s not broke is,” some cliches are written because they’re true.

Patton Oswalt said it best: “I don’t give a **** where the stuff I love comes from, I just love the stuff I love!” I don’t need to know how William Hinzman’s cemetery zombie got there. It doesn’t add anything to the classic at all. I don’t need to know that he was a child molester when he was once alive. I don’t need to see new footage of Dan (Grant Kramer), Mike (Adam Knox) and guard Charlie (Scott Kerschbaumer) loading up the body. Nor do I need to know that the outbreak first happened at Beekman’s Diner, which is the location of the sequel to this, Children of the Dead.

Debbie Rochon also shows up as a therapist interviewing Reverend John Hicks (Scott Vladimir Licina, who also did the music for this and nearly died of a “heart stroke” while filming). Before all this, he opened Hinzman’s coffin so that Arthur (George Drennen) and Hilda Krantz (Julie Wallace), the parents of one of his victims, could spit into it. Then, in the midst of the zombies running wild, he gets bitten by Hinzman right in the face. And he survives!

What takes away from it even more is the new ending — which literally breaks the dread that happens when — spoiler warning for a movie made before I was born — Ben dies and we shockingly watch him burn. Now, there’s a new close with Rochon coming back to interview the now deranged priest who says that he was healed by Holy Water and that the dead are literally demons, thereby telling us exactly why the dead have returned.

There’s also a gory car crash and the undead naked woman is gone, which is funny, because Russo is the man who brought us Scream Queens Swimsuit Sensations and Scream Queen’s Naked Christmas.

Russo isn’t all to blame for the 17 new minutes. Hinzman was produced and edited, while originals Russell Streiner, Karl Hardman and Marilyn Eastman were all part of this too. They cut twenty minutes from the real movie for this new stuff. Can you even imagine? Well, it happened. And none of the footage matches.

On the commentary, Russo claims that this story is what Romero wanted to do in 1968 but didn’t have the budget. Who can say?

The April 19, 1999 Entertainment Weekly reported: “Director George Romero owns the copyright on the title of his cult horror phenomenon Night of the Living Dead – but that’s about it. For a special anniversary edition due this fall, the film’s writer, John Russo, gathered members of the 1968 ghoul-fest’s crew in Pittsburgh to film 15 minutes of new footage. So they dug up some original equipment and dressed cinematographer Bill Hinzman as “the Cemetary Zombie.”

Romero, busy with his upcoming project Resident Evil, opted instead to put his name on the 20th anniversary director’s cut of the sequel, 1979’s Dawn of the Dead, due April 27. “I didn’t want to touch Night of the Living Dead” Romero says of his $114,000 feature debut, to which Russo has added prologue, epilogue, and extra zombie footage.

Of the reanimated film, Hinzman says, “We looked at it as, had we the money in 1968, how would we have made it?” But there’s no bad blood between the team, who all live in Pittsburgh: A long-standing deal gives both Romero and Russo the right to do as they please with the film. And the director is the kind of guy who never says die. Of future Night visions, Romero says, “I’ll do the one for the millennium.””

Guess what? I’ve now seen Children of the Living Dead and I’m going to put you through that one soon.

PITTSBURGH MADE: Stigmata (1999)

Sure, this is set in Pittsburgh, but mainly it was shot in Vancouver and Los Angeles, with Pittsburgh only being used for some establishing shots. Let me tell you, there’s no goth clubs like thee one where Frankie Paige (Patricia Arquette) has a freakout and imagines wearing a crown of thorns. I mean, we had Metropol — in the Strip and on the edge — but it never looked that cool, trust me.

All that sigmata — the wounds of Jesus bleeding on the hands, feet and head of a mortal — show up because Frankie’s mother sends her the stolen rosary of dead priest Father Paulo Alameida. Father Andrew Kiernan (Gabriel Byrne) is dispatched by the Vatican to see if her wounds are actually divine.

The whole reason this is happening is that the dead priest had found something like the Gospel of Thomas. The Catholic Church wants it kept quiet because it claims that the Kingdom of God is inside all of us and not a building, which would ruin the little empire they’ve set up.

Amazingly, director Rupert Wainwright followed the movie Blank Check with this, then went on to remake The Fog. This is a Pittsburgh movie that I just can’t deal with as hardly any of the city that I love so much is in this, either in feeling or actually seen. If it was set here, that whole subway scene would be way different, because the T — sorry, the Pittsburgh Regional Transit — doesn’t go all that many places.


28. A Horror Film That Runs on Dream Logic.

How much dream logic is in this movie? Well, it’s based on a book named Traumnovelle (Dream Story) by Arthur Schnitzler.

This movie has the world record for longest shoot — 400 days — and has an entire New York City street recreated inside Pinewood Studios, so of course I’m obsessed. I love when movies could have been made on location or in normal places and are all made on a stage. I also kind of love that director, co-writer and producer Stanley Kubrick had created for himself a world where he could honestly get anything that he wanted.

Dr. William Harford and his wife Alice (the at-the-time married super couple of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman) live in a world of wealth and sexual availability. At a holiday party thrown by Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack), an older man tries to take Alice while two models offer a threeway to Bill. He’s stopped when Zieglar asks him to save the life of Mandy (Julienne Davis) as she overdoses. The next evening, Alice confesses thinking of leaving him when she fell for a navy officer on vacation this disturbs him but he’s high and also on call and heads off on a house call to pronounce a patient dead and another attempted seduction, this time by that man’s daughter Marion, then picks up a call girl named Domino (Vinessa Shaw) and learns of a costumed orgy in which his friend Nick Nightingale (Todd Field) will play piano blindfolded while an occult-themed sex ritual will be held.

I mean, somehow this descends from Tom Cruise wanting to get laid to him narrowly avoiding HIV and death at the hands of an underground cult that rules the world, all while his wife is asleep. And then,  when they go holiday shopping with their daughter, she tells him that they have to do something as soon as possible: Fuck.

It’s weird that the novel is all about anti-Jewish persecution and Kubrick removed all those references. Keep in mind both his parents were Jewish.

But maybe, as some have claimed, this movie is an in-code atonement for Kubrick’s conspiracy ties. He’d been wanting to make this since 2001. Or maybe he just wanted to make his porn movie, who can say. As it is, some think the movie wasn’t even finished. Like Garrett Brown, inventor of the Steadicam, who said, “I think Eyes Wide Shut was snatched up by the studio when Stanley died and they just grabbed the highest number Avid edit and ran off as if that was the movie. But it was three months before the movie was due to be released. I don’t think there’s a chance that was the movie he had in mind, or the music track and a lot of other things. It’s a great shame because you know it’s out there, but it doesn’t feel to me as it’s really his film.”

Then again, who knows?

Kubrick was, of course, an absolute maniac about every moment of this movie.

Here’s an example. For just one minute of the dream within a dream where Alice makes love to the navy man (model Gary Goba) Kidman had to shoot six days of naked sex scenes — fifty positions! — with a male model. Kubrick banned Cruise from the set.  He also would not allow Kidman to tell him what happened during the shoot. Yet this was one of Kidman’s personal favorite experiences, saying that working with Kubrick was like attending film school.

But let me hit that one harder. In a scene that never made it into the film, Kidman had a merkin over her private parts and Kubrick ordered Goba to go down on her. The model would later say, “He really wanted me to go for it.” I did and he was like, ‘You’ve got to really push in there and really move your head around,’ and I’d see him laughing and she would be like, ‘Oh God, Stanley!’ So I was really grinding away in there, with my mouth on her patch and there was hair in my mouth, too, and I’d be pulling one out.”

I find it hilarious that Kubrick was basically cucking the biggest movie star in the world.

Then he made him walk through a doorway 95 times for one shot.

And pretty much it makes fun of Scientology if you believe that theory.

Ah man, Kubrick. You were one weird dude.

Back to dreams: Kidman said, “It is a great memory for us, and at times it was almost a dreamlike state.”

Eyes Wide Shut opened on the same weekend that John Kennedy Jr., his wife and her sister were killed in a plane crash. I can’t even imagine what Q people would think of this movie because like all Kubrick, it’s filled with so much, well, stuff, that you can make it about anything. But hey this has an occult sex party set in the mansion of the Rothschilds, so that has to mean something, right?

Then again, it ends with a very easily explained way of saying that this was all a fantasy:

“I think we should be grateful. Grateful that we’ve managed to survive through all of our adventures, whether they were real, or only a dream. Sure as I am that the reality of one night, let alone that of a whole lifetime can ever be the whole truth. And no dream is ever just a dream. The important thing is we’re awake now and hopefully for a long time to come.”

Oh man. I could obsess — and I sure will obsess — over this movie for my entire life.

SLASHER MONTH: Retro Puppet Master (1999)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was first on the site on October 15, 2020.

The seventh film in the Puppet Master series, this is a prequel to 1991’s Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge. It’s written by Charles Band, Benjamin Carr and David Schmoeller with direction provided by David DeCoteau.And no, your eyes do not deceive you. Playing the young Toulon is Gregory Sestero, Mark from The Room.

This begins with Toulon and his puppets on the run, hiding an in an Inn near Switzerland. Blade finds the wooden head of an old puppet named Cyclops, which leads to Toulon telling the puppets about his past his love Elsa and first puppets, which all goes back to 1902 Egypt.

The puppets’ ability to become alive all are thanks to Afzel, a 3,000-year-old Egyptian sorcerer, who stole the secret from the Egyptian god Sutekh. Now, three mummies that follow the teachings of this god are following him around the world. Afzel comes into the lives of Toulon and Elsa, showing them the secret.

The retro puppets include Blade, Pinhead, Tunneler (called Drill Sergeant), Six-Shooter, Doctor Death and Cyclops. We also get to see the surviving puppets from the third film, who are Blade, Pinhead, Leech Woman, Jester, Tunneler and Six-Shooter.

An ironic twist to the casting of this film was that James Franco and Sestero were both up for the same role. Years later, Franco would make the book Sestero wrote, The Disaster Artist, into a movie.

ARROW BLU RAY RELEASE: Running Out of Time Collection

Director Johnny To (The Heroic Trio) has created two different tales of criminal masterminds going up against the Hong Kong Police Force, led by Inspector Ho Sheung-sang (Lau Ching-wan).

The Arrow blu ray set comes with both Running Out of Time and its sequel, Running Out of Time 2. Both films appear with high-definition blu ray presentations that have been scanned and restored in 2K. As always, the packaging is incredible from Arrow, with original and newly commissioned artwork by Lucas Peverill plus an illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing on the films by David West.

Running Out of Time has new commentary by Hong Kong film expert Frank Djeng, as well as a second commentary by writers Laurent Cortiaud and Julien Carbon, moderated by Hong Kong film expert Stefan Hammond. There are also interviews with Carbon and Courtiaud, Johnnie To, Lau Ching-wan and Raymond Wong. Plus, there’s a feature entitled The Directors’ Overview of Carbon and Courtiaud, the trailer and an image gallery.

Running Out of Time 2 also has commentary by Djeng, a making-of, Hong Kong Stories, a documentary by director Yves Montmayeur about Hong Kong cinema mythology via Julien Carbon and Laurent Courtiaud’s experience as writers in the HK film industry, the trailer and an image gallery.

You can get this set from MVD.

Running Out of Time (1999): Cheung Wah (Andy Lau) has been diagnosed with cancer and given four weeks to live. One night, as he eats at a diner, he takes notice of the way that Inspector Ho Sheung-sang handles a bank robbery. Impressed, he decides to play a game against the cop, giving him 72 hours to catch him for a series of increasingly daring crimes. Cheung will admit defeat if Ho can take him to the police station before three days are over.

Generally, Hong Kong cop movies are so deadly serious. This has some moments of that, as the disease killing Cheung is no joking matter. But by the end of the film, the two men have somehow earned each other’s respect, even if Cheung keeps outsmarting his police adversary the whole way to the very end.

Lau is an incredibly popular actor but rarely gets any respect. He’s a populist favorite, but this is the movie that finally won him Best Actor at the Hong Kong Film Awards. From stealing diamonds to repeatedly faking his demise, he’s the heart of this film.

Running Out of Time 2 (2001): Co-directed by Johnnie To and Law Wing-cheung, this sequel finds Inspector Ho Sheung-sang returning to match wits with another criminal mastermind, the unnamed man played by Ekin Cheng.

The man introduces himself by faking his suicide by jumping from a roof. He then announces that he has stolen several priceless Chinese treasures and will tell the press, ruining the insurance company that has been hired to protect them. Where Cheung in the first film relied on his brains, this mysterious magician can tightrope walk and seemingly disappear into thin air.

There’s an amazing scene where a chase between the two rivals is paused for water and ice cream. The unnamed man also uses bald eagles to help him steal from people and if that joke means what I think it does, well done.

The follow-up is much funnier than the first film, but it keeps so much of what made me love that movie. It’s definitely worth your attention.

Arnold Week: End of Days (1999)

Peter Hyams is a funny guy.

He once said, “O. J. Simpson was in Capricorn One and Robert Blake was in Busting. I’ve said many times: Some people have AFI Lifetime Achievement awards, some people have multiple Oscars, my bit of trivia is that I’ve made films with two leading men who were subsequently tried for the first-degree murder of their wives.”

He’s also made plenty of decent movies with not much fanfare, like Outland2010Running ScaredTimecopStay Tuned and Sudden Death.

1979: The Pope sends a priest on a mission to protect a newborn baby named Christine York, who will be the one to give birth to Satan’s child after a comet goes over the moon in full view of the Vatican, all while the Vatican knights try to kill her.

1999: Satan has possessed an investment banker (Gabriel Byrne) under the protection of Jericho Cane (Schwarzenegger) and Bobby Chicago (Kevin Pollak). Father Thomas Aquinas (Derrick O’Connor), a tongue-less priest, tries to kill the banker before being arrested.

Between his old boss Marge Francis (CCH Pounder) and Father Kovak (Rod Steiger), Cane starts to realize that something isn’t right with his boss, what with him crucifying Aquinas to the ceiling of his apartment.

Can a man who has given up on God after the death of his wie and daughter find the strength to protect York (Robin Tunney) from the Vatican knights and demons, including his dead partner reanimated after making a deal with Satan? Will the devil crucify Arnold? Do grenades work on Satan?

This movie also has Udo Keir and Marc Lawrence, somehow appearing yet again in a movie where Satan wants a woman, much like The Nightmare Never Ends but with a much larger budget.

End of Days was Arnold’s first movie since Batman & Robin and a series of heart issues. Studios were anxious about whether or not they could insure him. The insurance people and executives from Universal came to the set just to watch him for the first week of shooting, but Arnold had returned to peak condition.

Watch the series: Lake Placid

Sometimes, having OCD and ADD and who knows what else leads me down some strange paths. This time, it was to go all-in on Lake Placid. A note: The Lake Placid vs. Anaconda movie and Lake Placid: Legacy will be covered soon enough.

Lake Placid (1999): Not many eco-horror movies have the pedigree of Steve Miner directing and David E. Kelly writing them. Maybe it’s just that I’ve watched so many cable sequels and low budget cash-ins this week, but man — this is an actual movie! This line will make more sense by the time this article is done, as man did these movies take a dive when it comes to quality.

A SCUBA diving death in Aroostook County, Maine leads to an entire team investigating the cause. Sheriff Hank Keough (Brendan Gleason), wildlife officer Jack Wells (Bill Pullman), American Museum of Natural History paleontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda) and mythology professor Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt) soon discover that there’s a giant crocodile in the lakes, fed by kindly old Mrs. Delores Bickerman (Betty White).

The Stan Winston-created gator looks great, a moose head is gorily removed from the lake and White’s character is fun. There are also several references to Alligator, which I endorse because it’s the best of all croc or gator on the loose movies.

Lake Placid 2 (2007): Sheriff James Riley is now on the case of the gators and if you know your made for SyFy movies, you know that he has to be played by one-time Duke of Hazzard John Schneider. Instead of Betty White feeding gators, you get her sister Sadie, played by Cloris Leachman (they were both on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, so at least the casting has some meta quality). Instead of Steve Miner and David E. Kelly, we have David Flores directing and Howie Miller and Todd Hurvitz writing.

It is, as they say, a major step backward.

I was going to ask where a cop would get a grenade launcher and then I remembered that in my hometown of 7,436 people the police all have AR15s, ballistic armor and a battle armored SWAT vehicle. So this isn’t all that far-fetched, I guess.

In case you wondered, yes, a small dog is menaced by the gator.

Lake Placid 3 (2010): Sadie Bickerman has died and left her home to her nephew Nathan (Colin Ferguson from Eureka), who plans on fixing it up with his wife Susan (Yancy Butler) and their son Connor, who inherits the Bickerman family trait of feeding gators and making them into human masticating killing machines.

In this movie, an entire family of gators bites down on peeping toms and skinny dippers, keeping the cable movie from showing too much gore or too much skin. It also has a literal home invasion via crocodile years before Crawl.

Director Griff Furst — Stephen’s son — has been in nearly ninety movies and also directed Swamp SharkAlligator Alley and Trailer Park Shark. Writer David Reed is now a writer and a producer of The Boys.

The end of this movie directly ties into the fourth movie.

Lake Placid: The Final Chapter (2010): David E. Kelly, which wrote the original Lake Placid, gave this movie 4.5 out of 5 stars and said, “Is this the last one really? The ending doesn’t make me think so. I am glad to see Robert Englund in this and some of the cast from the previous movie! The effects are still lame as second and third, but the story is good.”

David Reed was back as the writer and sequel king Don Michael Paul (Kindergarten Cop 2, Jarhead 2: Field of FireSniper: LegacyTremors 5: BloodlinesSniper: Ghost ShooterTremors: A Cold Day in HellDeath Race: Beyond AnarchyThe Scorpion King: Book of SoulsJarhead: Law of ReturnBulletproof 2 and Tremors: Shrieker Island) was new to the series, making what was claimed to be the last film in the series. Come on, people.

After the events of Lake Placid 3, Reba (Yancy Butler) is still alive and she starts this off by killing the last remaining crocodile in the supermarket. Now an EPA agent, she returns to Black Lake a year later to work with sheriff Theresa Giove (Elisabeth Röhm). And in every Lake Placid there must be a Bickerman and this time it’s Jimmy, played by Robert Englund.

Butler is pretty great in this, the crocodile is somehow twenty feet long and a whole bus full of kids gets menaced.

There’s an opportunity to make the Lake Placid movies high trash, yet no one ever seems to go for it. You know there will be more, so that’s my challenge to croc creatives: go wild.

Mill Creek Through the Decades: 1990s Collection: The Deep End of the Ocean (1999)

The Deep End of the Ocean was based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Jacquelyn Mitchard, the first novel selected by Oprah Winfrey for Oprah’s Book Club. It’s all about what happens when Ben, the youngest son of a family, is kidnapped and then found nine years later, living in the same town where his family had just moved. What are the odds?

Beth Cappadora (Michelle Pfeiffer) lost the three-year-old Ben at a class reunion when he was just three. She has a nervous breakdown and neglects her husband Pat (Treat Williams) and other sons Vincent (Jonathan Jackson) and Kerry (Alexa Vega).

A decade and a new town later, all seems well, except when Sam (Ryan Merriman) shows up to cut the grass and she just knows that he has to be Ben, a fact that no one but Detective Candace “Candy” Bliss (Whoopi Goldberg) believes.

Can the family come back together? And is that Tony Musante from The Bird with the Crystal Plumage as a grandfather? Yes to both.

Mill Creek’s Through the Decades: 1990s Collection has some great movies for a great price like HousesitterWhite PalaceOne True ThingDonnie BrascoThe Devil’s OwnThe MatchmakerAnacondaI Know What You Did Last Summer and The Freshman. You can get it from Deep Discount.

Prophet (1999)

Jarrid Maddox (Don “The Dragon” Wilson) was experimented on as a child and mutated to gain the power to see into the future. He’s been selected to kill five terrorists who end up being five other people just like him who were experimented on by the CIA.

Also known as The Capitol Conspiracy, the main reason I was excited to see this was that Barbara Steele shows up. I mean, Barbara Steel in a Don “The Dragon” movie. Plus Robert Quarry? Come on, Fred Olen Ray. You’re giving me too much.

The best part of this movie for me was Maddox’s partner Vicki Taylor (Alexander Keith, who also used the name Wendy Scumacher in movies like Scorned 2Animal Instincts IIIStar HunterFugitive Rage and The Escort II). She has a very butch ass kicker look going on in this and while her turn on our hero can be figured out without mental powers, you won’t mind. She’s also the recipient of the heavy petting that the Dragon gives out at least once a movie.

Such are the ways of direct to video.

You can watch this on Tubi.