Cheerleader Ninjas (2002)

Four Happy Valley High Hamsters cheerleaders, led by Angela (Angela Brubaker), have been by a church group for everything bad about the internet. They hire a gay teacher named Steven (Jeff Nicholson, who created the comic book Ultra Klutz) to train a group of Catholic school girls to take their place. He’s also working with Mr. X (Donr Sneed) who is turning all internet users into zombies.

The girls turn to the nerds, led by Maverick (Jared Brubaker), who are able to teach the girls how to be ninjas.

Director and writer Kevin Campbell directed an entire series of VHS how-to model kit videos in the 90s like Video Workbench: How to Build Science Fiction Models and Video Workbench: How to Build Car Models. Just last year, he came back to directing and made an internet referencing slasher called Back Slash.

Probably the reason why most guys watched this was because Kira Reed was in it. She’s also in Amityville Witches, Chained Heat 2001: Slave Lovers, Playboy’s Sexcetera and was an early internet adult star. Nearly all of the nudity in this movie comes from her.

As you can imagine, this is one of those films that sets out to be bad and overdelivers.

This is not Ninja Cheerleaders.

You can watch this on Tubi.

MILL CREEK BLU RAY BOX SET: Dawson’s Creek (1996-2003)

I know no bigger fan of Dawson’s Creek than my friend Jim Sloss, who was kind enough to teach me that Pacey’s boat is named True Romance and to write this:

Over the years Sam has asked me many times if I’d like to write something for B&S and I’d always hem & haw and then never get around to it. Then came the box set of all box sets, the show that is like a time capsule to the 1990s and one of my all-time favorites, Dawson’s Creek.

In 1998 when this show came out I can remember vividly watching it on my VCR the following morning (because I had to work the night before) and from the first moment of the pilot to the last I was hooked, the dialogue was nothing that I’d heard before in a teen soap. They took a chance at treating the audience like adults rather than kids and it paid off. So, from that night on I followed the “kids” from Capeside each week for six seasons.

Created by Kevin Williamson, the co-creator of the horror franchise Scream, this series is a fictionalized account of a young film buff from a small town just trying to find his way. Pretty much what Kevin Williamson did was pitch what he knew and so he told a fictionalized version of his growing up in North Carolina. The show was launched on the WB network in January 1998 and was an instant hit with the show being parodied on MTV and Saturday Night Live. Their use of current pop culture and hit music for the time was what kept it relevant each week and talked about on school campuses.

During the late 90s, Dawson’s Creek was considered cutting edge for teen angst, touching on issues that were not talked about on TV and even less so in public. The first season dealt with drug abuse, addiction and infidelity along with every teenage boys dream… the inappropriate relationship with a hot teacher. In 1998 that was a huge story arc for a main character with the teacher just leaving to avoid scandal. These types of stories were becoming more and more common during this time and now leads to the teacher spending long stretches in prison rather than just moving on to another school.

Yet along the way these colorful kids learned from their mistakes and grew into functioning adults just trying to make their way. With the main character Dawson Leery, played by James Van Der Beek, not getting his High School crush Joey Potter, played by Katie Holmes, but instead getting to fulfill his dream of working in movies and TV where he turned his life into a teen drama TV show just like Kevin Williamson.

I would be remiss if I didn’t leave you with the greatest quote and moment of this fantastic tv show. In the finale we find our core characters several years in their future living their lives with little interaction when everyone is reunited for a wedding they immediately learn that one of the main characters, Jen Lindley, is dying of cancer. While Dawson is spending time with his close friend at a hospice facility she has this Hollywood filmmaker record a video for her infant daughter to watch when she’s older. In that video one line she says that gets me every time is “Be sure to make mistakes. Make a lot of them, because there’s no better way to learn and to grow.” While she’s saying that you can see the anguish on Michelle Williams’ face, showing the audience how fragile she is at the end of her short life and how she just wants the best for her child.

This show never shied away from tough storylines and in the end wrapped up everyone’s arc phenomenally.

I would give this series a 10 out 10!!

P.S. The popular Jenna Ortega can be seen watching Dawson’s Creek in Scream 5 out in 2022 and currently on Paramount+.

Thanks again Jim.

The Mill Creek release of the entire series has all 127 episodes across six seasons, along with seven hours of bonus extras, which include Entertainment Weekly‘s 20th Anniversary Reunion, audio commentaries on select episodes, a retrospective featurette and alternate scenes and an alternate ending to the pilot episode.

I watched several of the episodes on this set as, surprise, I never watched this show, despite Jim telling me near consistently — we lived in a house with six people while this show was popular, so I have no idea how I didn’t watch it with him — that I need to watch “The Dawnson,” as he put it.

Surprisingly — as I have often remarked about Williamson’s other work — I really liked what I watched. It felt honest and truthful, nearly lived in. I’ve been watching a few episodes a week now and really enjoying the opportunity to be part of the lives of these characters.

These Mill Creek TV sets are great because they really give you the opportunity to do the same, exploring or binging or however you choose to watch. And unlike streaming, they’re always there for you, not being edited or taken down when you’re in the middle of watching a season.

You can buy the Dawson’s Creek set from Mill Creek at Deep Discount.

Wishmaster: The Prophecy Fulfilled (2002)

The fourth movie in the Wishmaster series, this movie somehow finds romance in the world of the djinn, as he (played by John Novak, same as the third movie, which was shot in the same 16 days as this movie) falls for Lisa Burnley (Tara Spencer-Nairn), who has been living with her paraplegic boyfriend Sam (Jason Thompson). As he spirals into depression, she’s left without any love life, constantly verbally abused by the man she was once so close to.

He also thinks she’s having an affair with their lawyer Steven Verdel (Michael Trucco), who is trying to get a settlement from Sam’s accident. Steven tries to give her a red jewel and, yes, that’s the Wishmaster’s prison. He escapes, kills the lawyer and takes over his body and starts that affair, all while healing Sam and trying to remove him from Lisa’s life.

As the djinn keeps tricking Lisa into making wishes — the other djinn are anxious, it’s been four movies and they haven’t had the chance to take over our world — he finds himself wanting Lisa. He goes through a journey of romantic discovery, asking humans — well, before he kills them — to explain the ways of love to him. He and Lisa do end up having sex — demonic hands covered in goo reach for her, which is a nice touch — but she realizes she doesn’t love him. She just misses physical contact.

The djinn flips out and forces her to make her wish. He transforms her home into a maze and tells her she has a choice: become his wife and second in command when the djinn race takes over our planet or be cast down to Hell. Oh yeah — there’s also a Hunter (Victor Webster) from a whole other sect that hunts the djinn and those that it grants wishes to.

Between the romantic 90s alt rock and female empowerment ending — which costs both suitors their lies — this Wishmaster movies strays from the formula in a way that actually works. Director Chris Angel and writer John Benjamin Martin take this into Cinemax After Dark territory, which is a wild place to go after a series that started basically as an FX showcase. You know, I love it.

You can watch this on Tubi.

APRIL MOVIE THON 2: Rollerball (2002)

April 29: Drop A Bomb — Please share your favorite critical and financial flop with us!

I’m usually nice about movies, even when they fail on every level, but why the fuck does this movie exist and who is it for?

I should just stop this article after that sentence.

Somehow, John McTiernan is the same person who made Die Hard and Predator. How did we get here?

Like the 1975 movie, it’s based on William Harrison’s short story “Roller Ball Murder,” but unlike that movie, it’s set in the present, avoids a lot of the political issues of the world and oh yeah — when the James Caan-starring original movie was made, people knew and understood a different roller derby, placing it into the same strange world as pro wrestling and not how we see it today, which is a female-centric sport that has no predetermined elements.

Jonathan Cross (Chris Klein, maybe a step down from Caan, end of tweet) and Marcus Ridley (LL Cool J) are the only good players on Kazakhstan’s Zhambel Horsemen. Sure, everyone gets destroyed but them, but team owner Alexi Petrovich (Jean Reno; if I wrote he deserves better, I would have to say it for everyone in this movie, so just add “he or she deserves better” every time you read most of the names in this) keeps them supplied with money, booze, cars and women like their teammate Aurora (Rebecca Romijn in a black wig; you’d be amazed with black bangs can do to a heart rate). The secret is that Alexi and his henchman Sanjay (Naveen Andrews) have been making the game more dangerous to make it more popular.

You know who knows about worked or semi-worked sports churning up and spitting out bodies? Former ECW mastermind Paul Herman and MMA fighter Oleg Taktarov who show up in this. So does Shane McMahon, which meant this show was promoted all over WWE TV.

How did we get here? The first draft of the script was considered by many to be superior to the original film, yet McTiernan didn’t like it because it focused too much on social commentary. He wanted action and action he created, even if initial test screeners showed the movie to be confusing and even restrained when it should be going for it with a hard R if there was no story.

Thirty minutes were cut out of the first cut, the entire ending was re-shot and changed, massive reshoots and re-edits happened and some of the cuts were made because MGM said the movie was “too Asian,” which for many reasons — mostly all the movie in the Chinese movie market — would never happen today. Oh yeah — the score by Brian Transeau was “too Arabic” and was replaced with a new score by Éric Serra. And then an entire sequence looked too dark, so they reshot it, then made it look like it was all green night vision and you still couldn’t see it.

It made $25.9 million on a budget of $70 million but hey — Slipknot is in it!

APRIL MOVIE THON 2: Time Changer (2002)

April 9: Easter Sunday – You don’t have to believe to watch and share a religious movie.

Time Changer is a movie that will fool you.

It doesn’t seem like it’s going to be an ultra religious movie. After all, it has a time travel concept, which seems against the Bible. It has a pretty recognizable cast, such as Hal Linden, Gavin MacLeod, Paul Rodriguez, Richard Riehle and Jennifer O’Neill.

Yes, Jennifer O’Neill from Fulci’s The Psychic.

I’ll get to her soon enough.

Bible professor Russell Carlisle (D. David Morin) shares his new book, The Changing Times, with the leaders of the Grace Bible Seminary. The big idea is that you can have good morals without Jesus Christ. Everyone — and by everyone, I mean Barney Miller and Richard Riehle — agree this is a good thing. The only person who doesn’t is Dr. Norris Anderson (Gavin MacLeod), who has a time machine that he plans on using to show Carlisle the error of his ways.

A hundred years in the future, Carlisle is frightened by everything: cars, telephones, laundromats, Paul Rodriguez, baseball, children watching unmarried men and women kiss, tipping people who carry your luggage — even though tipping was invented in the middle ages in Europe, when servants would receive extra pay for good service from their masters and wealthy Americans learned of it when they started traveling to Europe in the mid 1800s — so, you know, pretty much everything. Taking the Lord’s name in vain in a movie — he’s not afraid of the actual movie, like how people ran away from the theater in France when L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciota played there in urban legend — is enough to stun him into gibberish speech.

Up until now, Carlisle is played as a comedy character, happily befuddled by the strangeness of our modern times. Yet things start to get to him, like divorce and women’s clothes on a mannequin, which causes him to complain to an employee, who thinks that our bearish religious learned man wants to wear those clothes himself.

Again, this is all played for laughs.

Except for when he goes to the school of someone he meets in church and lectures the class on how science works and drops this on them: “Remember, students, if any scientific record contradicts the Scriptures, it is the scientific finding that is in error. The Scriptures are never wrong.”*

This scene is so strange because up until now, we’ve been shown that Carlisle is a well-meaning moron. One of those so smart they’re kind of idiotic movie people who invent Flubber but can’t make it to any appointment on time. But now, are we to empathize with him when his religion is kept out of school? Or are we to take dialogue like “God’s Holy Word is so trustworthy, it is amazing how it is recorded scientific fact hundred of years before scientists ever discovered them, and has proven accurate one hundred percent of the time.”

So…is he a goofball?

Not anymore, as he goes to meet Mrs. Bain, the librarian Dr. Anderson told him to check in with. And yes, that’s Jennifer O’Neill. And before you can hear seven notes in black, she brings this movie to sheer right wing persecution mania just when you thought you were watching a different movie, telling him that “our nation is no longer built on the biblical principles set forth by our forefathers,” even though in the Treaty of Tripoli, written in 1797 and sent to the Senate by John Adams, states “the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” Yet more importantly, while many of the morals of the U.S. are indeed based on Christian principles, there is no demand to practice Christianity or any other religion. The First Amendment to the Constitution says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” People are free to believe whatever they wish; that’s far from being expressly established on biblical principles.

She goes on to say that “We’ve lost prayer in school since the Supreme Court decision in 1962.” This is a myth. Yes, official, state-sponsored and mandated prayers led by school officials aren’t allowed, but moments of silence and private prayers are always allowed. Trust me. Whenever there’s a test someone didn’t study for, there are prayers.

But man, when it gets to “secular entertainment is one of the biggest tools Satan uses to mislead people” and that Hollywood started in the 1930s — wrong, In Old California was the first movie shot in Hollywood in 1910 — and movies started with a code of ethics — wrong: “The Hays Code was this self-imposed industry set of guidelines for all the motion pictures that were released between 1934 and 1968,” according to Australian Centre for the Moving Image curator Chelsey O’Brien — and now, all of the failings of morals can be attributed to movies.

How did we switch so suddenly?

Get this: the movie goes back to wacky hijinks right after that.

Well, first our hero goes to the Church and tells everyone they are in the End Times, then he gives a Bible to Paul Rodriguez, who yes, was actually in this movie and remember when AKA Pablo was going to be this huge hit after all that hype and lasted six episodes? Man, I watched too much Entertainment Tonight as a child. Then, the two guys at the church who have always been weirded out by him chase him into an alley and he goes back to his own time, which they think is The Rapture.

At the end of it all, Carlisle decides to change his book and even shows a young boy who he yelled at in the beginning the error of his ways, gifting him some marbles and a lesson about Jesus.

But it’s not over.

No, Captain Stuebing decides to send a Bible through his time machine to find out when the world ends. Well, it could very well be 2050, the way this makes you see things.

Director and writer Rich Christiano is still making movies. And you know, I like a lot of this film. I just feel like it goes so all over the place in its narrative and then outright has moments where you know the truth against the words on screen that you start to doubt everything and man, faith is hard. Can you be moral and good without belief? I’m not sure, I’m no theologian. This movie says there’s no way.

It would be easy to just shoot fish in a barrel and make fun of this film — I mean, I did fire off plenty of ammo — but I still enjoyed the time I spent watching it, even though the Hollywood scene made me scream at my television. Then again, I own an uncut version of Emanuelle In America, so I am in no way to be listened to.

*Credit to Heathen Critique for writing down much of this movie’s dialogue.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Arrow Video The Lukas Moodysson Collection: Lilya 4-Ever (2002)

With Lilya 4-Ever, Lukas Moodysson moves from stories of children dealing with growing up or living in a commune with a very different teen. This is based on Danguolė Rasalaitė, a 16-year-old girl from Lithuania who had come to Sweden in 2000 and was kept by a pimp who forced her to repay him for travel expenses by prostituting herself. She escaped only to later by assaulted by her boyfriend and two others, leading to her jumping off a bridge and dying. Three letters that she had told the story, which became a major story in the country. In fact, this film has been used in Eastern European countries. to warn young women about human trafficking.

Lilya Michailova (Oksana Akinshina) believes that she is leaving with her mother for America, but instead she’s abandoned to be with her aunt, who takes her nice apartment and leaves her behind. Her school life is not much better, as a rumor begins that she’s a prostitute and she ends up raped before she decides to just follow the stories and start making money with her body. This journey takes her away from her only friend Volodya (Artyom Bogucharsky), an abused boy who soon ends his life, taking the form of an angel who tries to atone for his death and fix Lilya’s life. Yet by the time she gets to Sweden, another man has lied to her and she’s trapped by a violent pimp. By the end, the bridge is waiting to take her away from this world and to two potential happy endings, one in which she changes her path and another where she and Volodya make it to some form of the afterlife.

Volodja has a lesson in this, as he says, “I killed myself and went to Heaven and yeah, it’s really good in Heaven. But I regret it, ’cause I wanted to live on Earth a little longer. You remain dead for all eternity, but you’re alive only for a brief moment.”

Moodysson has really made a turn in this film, showing a dark side of life and not just alienation and anxiety. It’s a depressing film yet has moments of joy buried inside.

The limited edition The Lukas Moodysson Collection from Arrow includes high definition blu rays of seven films, as well as interviews with Moodysson and other cast and crew, moderated by film programmer Sarah Lutton. There’s also a two hundred page featuring new writing by Peter Walsh, excerpts from the original press kits for each film, interviews with and directors’ statements from Moodysson and essays on his films from a 2014 special issue of the Nordic culture journal Scandinavica by C. Claire Thomson, Helga H. Lúthersdóttir, Elina Nilsson, Scott MacKenzie and Anna Westerståhl Stenport and Kjerstin Moody.

Extras include interviews with Moodysson and Östholm, a Guardian interview with Moodysson, a trailer and an image gallery.

You can get this set from MVD.

ARROW BLU RAY RELEASE: .com for Murder (2002)

.com for Murder hits everything I’m looking for in a movie:

Nico Mastorakis (Death Has Blue EyesSky HighThe WindNightmare At NoonBloodtideNinja AcademyIsland of Death) makes entertaining junk and I use the word junk with the highest possible esteem. I mean, the dude was a muckraking reporter and co-wrote some songs with Vangelis before he even got into movies.

It’s a movie about an internet — and a dark web! — that doesn’t even exist this way today, filled with graphics that are once dated and futuristic and giving me the warmest of feelings.

A direct-to-video movie?

Appearances by rock stars — Huey Lewis and Roger Daltrey — and gorgeous leads — Nicolette Sheridan and Nastassja Kinski — in what is really a giallo no matter how much you dress it up as an erotic thriller?

Daltry is Ben, an architect married to Sondra (Kinski) who has just broken her leg in a skiing mishap. When he leaves town, she uses the computer that runs their house — called HAL, right? — and finds out that her husband has been talking dirty in internet chat rooms. She plays sleuth and gets online and sets herself up on a date with one of the girls online — which is amazingly not a dude, welcome to science fiction — named Lynn (Kim Valentine, who was in Mastorakis’ Grandmother’s House) before she’s locked out by a hacker named Werther (Jeffrey Dean). She logs off just as her sister Misty (Sheridan) comes to look after her and before you can say Rear Window, they watch Werther murder Lynn via online feed — it was 2002, so I imaging he was using Real Player and man, the buffering — as he quotes Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe.

The police can barely handle real crime, much less giallo police handling psychosexual crimes, much less 2002 police handling web crime, so they refer Sondra and Misty to FBI agent Matheson (Lewis and yes, I am as shocked as you; he does not show off his hog as in Short Cuts) who has experience with these kinds of murders. He advises them to call an expert to fix their computer but what if the expert is the killer?

This movie also has Melinda Clarke — who knows a little about giallo style murder as she played Lady Heather on CSI — as Lewis’ partner and Shelley Michelle (Showgirls 2), Sandra Eloani  and goddess walking in the world of mortal men Julie Strain as virtual exotic dancers.

Imagine if Manhunter wasn’t a well-made masterpiece and instead a near-Cinemax After Dark ripoff of The Net and man, just writing that makes me want to watch this all over again. Bonus score for Huey Lewis yelling, “Fuck computers!”

The Arrow Video blu ray — I love that they’re steadily releasing everything Mastorakis made — has the film in high definition, as well as The Making of .com for for Murder: The Unknown Story, a new featurette in which producer-director Nico Mastorakis revisits the production; interviews with Daltrey and Lewis, a trailer, an image gallery, a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys and an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by David Flint. You can get it from MVD.

JEAN ROLLIN-UARY: Dracula’s Fiancee (2002)

Jacques Regis stars as a vampire hunter who is dragged along his apprentice (Denis Tallaron) on the hunt for the many descendants of Dracula (Thomas Desfossé), which leads him to The Order of the White Virgins and monsters that include a dwarf (Thomas Smith), smoking nuns who also — of course — kiss, a vampire woman (Sandrine Thoquet), an ogress (Magalie Aguado), a wolf-woman (Brigitte Lahaie) and Isabelle, a young woman destined to be the latest bride of Dracula (Cyrille Iste).

Dracula lives inside a clock, which alows us to know that this is the work of Jean Rollin, as that image was such a part of The Shiver of the Vampires. The other major clue is that this ends on a beach, where a sacrifice and a wedding and doom are due along the shore. And hey — one of the nuns is half of the Castel twins, Cathy, making an appearance after Rollin was critically re-evaluated and had a comeback big enough to get to make this.

There’s also a heart ripped clean out of a chest and a baby being eaten, making this one of the bloodier Rollin films. It’s also odd that Dracula himself appears instead of just being hinted at, but in a world that by 2002 had seen everything there was to see about fanged blood drinkers, leave it to Rollin to show us more by going back to what has always worked. Druggy, slow, doomy wanderings through musty castles and overcast coastlines.

I love that so many reviews start with “This shouldn’t be your first Jean Rollin movie.” There are more of those than where to start!

You can watch this on Kino Cult.

DISMEMBERCEMBER: Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House (2002)

As much as I dislike every Home Alone movie, this one…this is the darkest timelime. Kevin McCallister (now played by Mike Weinberg) is now a child of divorce and his mom Kate (Clare Carey taking over for Catherine O’Hara) crying while she watches It’s A Wonderful Life and his father Peter (Jason Beghe from Monkey Shines taking the role from John Heard) getting married to the rich and gorgeous Natalie Kalban (Joana Going). Gideon Jacobs and Chelsea Russo are Buzz and Megan, who don’t really figure into this.

I mean, I can see why they got divorced, after leaving Kevin at home twice they had to have Child Services called on them and had to deal with all sorts of issues. Now dad has two servants — Mr. Prescott (Erick Avari) and Molly (Barbara Babcock) — and a hot lady and why would he ever go back?

Filmed in Cape Town, South Africa — not the most wintery of locations — this movie couldn’t even get Daniel Stern to play Marv. He called the movie “an insult” and “total garbage.” They had to get French Stewart for the role, yet he dresses like Harry, which is somewhat confusing but maybe the filmmakers never watched the first movie. Anyways, Marv has a girl named Vera, played by Missi Pyle. And you knew it, Kevin has to fight them off again inside the mansion.

Directed by Rod Daniel (Teen Wolf) and written by Debra Frank and Steve L. Hayes, this was supposed to become a series. That’s why the original ending that had Kevin’s dad staying with Natalie and his mother dating a police officer who turned out to be Marv’s younger brother was changed. The parents had to stay together if they were making a show, I guess.

American Pie 2 (2001)

The summer after their first year of college, Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs), Kevin Myers (Thomas Ian Nicholas), Chris “Oz” Ostreicher (Chris Klein) and Paul Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) decide to rent a beach house and get stuck with Steve Stiffler (Seann William Scott). Everyone’s lives are slightly moved ahead, as Jim is about to meet with Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth) at the end of the summer and gets sexual experience from Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), Kevin reconnects with Vicky (Tara Reid), Oz is in a long distance relationship with Heather (Mena Suvari) and Paul is longing for another evening with Stiffler’s mother (Jennifer Coolidge).

Directed by James B. Rogers and written by Adam Herz, who also wrote the original, this at least carries everyone through to a logical next step in their lives while having a great lesson that you should  get past high school. You should also not use super glue to jerk off and always go after geeky girls, which really is the best thing you can get from this movie.

In the scene where Stifler, Jim and Finch get caught by the next door lesbian neighbors and are coerced into removing their clothes, you can barely see Eddie Kaye Thomas in the shots. That’s because he was genuinely laughing so hard that they had to edit around him as he broke character.

Two scenes were cut: Oz and Heather cheating on each other and the character of Stifler’s dad played by the late Chris Penn. It just didn’t work for the movie and they were removed after test screenings.

There was a lot of secrecy over what would happen in this movie and it was shot with the fake names Secret Disguise, Semi-Secret Disguise, Semi, Semi-Secret Disguise, The Not-So-Secret Disguise and American Pie 2: The Heretic.