The Rainman Twins (2003)

Flo and Kay Lyman were not only bullied for being different, but nearly killed by their mother. Yet they are incredibly special. The only identical twin autistic savant sisters known to exist, Flo and Kay have memorized everything in the world, unable to forget dates, songs, the weather, what they ate or what others wore on that date.

They consider one man their personal savior: Dick Clark.

After his stroke, they get to meet with him and explain what he means to them. Soon, their lives would change forever as they would leave their family behind. This movie really hit me emotionally, as I felt so much for the girls.

I’m happy to report that while Dick Clark is no longer with us, the Lyman sisters are. You can keep up with them with this Facebook group. You can also watch the movie here:

Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003)

The final film to be scored by Jerry Goldsmith, this film sadly bombed at the box office. It’s a fun little picture, all about Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny helping Damian “D.J.” Drake, Jr. (Brendan Fraser) and Warner Bros. executive Kate Houghton (Jenna Elfman) to find the “blue monkey” diamond. If they don’t, Acme’s Mr. Chairman (Steve Martin) will turn mankind into monkeys to make his products. And oh yeah — they also have to save D.J.’s father Damian Drake (Timothy Dalton) who is an action movie star but is actually a spy.

This movie started as a follow-up to Space Jam, which would have featured a new villain named Berserk-O, who was to be created by Bob Camp. Michael Jordan didn’t want to come back, so two movies were planned — Spy Jam with Jackie Chan and Race Jam with Jeff Gordon. Both projects were canceled and Warner Brothers brought in Joe Dante to direct this movie, which he agreed to do as a tribute to Chuck Jones.

Warner Brothers wanted a reinvention of their characters like Space Jam, while Dante and screenwriter Larry Doyle reportedly wanted the film to the “Anti-Space Jam” as Dante hated how that film represented the characters. He referred to this movie as, “a pretty grim experience all around” and “the longest year and a half of my life.”

This being a Dante film, there are some great cameos from Peter Graves, Roger Corman, Marc Lawrence, Ron Perlman and Robert Picardo — things that amuse me, if not big audiences. Plus, Kevin McCarthy plays Dr. Miles Bennell, the same character he played in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The Area 52 scene is packed with monsters from so many movies, like the flying brains from Fiend Without a Face, the Metaluna mutant from This Island Earth, the Triffids, Robby the Robot, Daleks — which were the reason Steve Martin agreed to do the movie, Robot Monster, Marvin the Martian and The Man from Planet X.

I also adore the scene where Porky Pig and Speedy Gonzales talk about how political correctness has ruined their careers. There’s also a great chase scene through some famous paintings: Seurat’s “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte,” Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” and Munch’s “The Scream.”

Oh yeah — if you love wrestling, Bill Goldberg is in this.

It’s a fun film. I’m a major Joe Dante and cartoon fan, however, so you may feel differently.

 

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)

Sean Connery turned down the roles of the Architect in The Matrix films and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He would have made $450 million off that last role, so that led to him taking this movie, even though he didnt understand the script. But hey — $17 million makes things much simpler, right?

He warred with director Stephen Norrington (Death MachineBlade), who was uncomfortable with large crews. It makes sense, as Norrington came up from working with special effects on movies like Split Second and Aliens. For what it’s worth, Norrington did not attend the premiere, and when he was asked where the director was, Connery is said to have replied, “Check the local asylum.”

Jason Flemyng, who played Dr. Jekyll in the film, told Empire, “My favorite bust-up was in Venice. The League had to walk from Captain Nemo’s boat down the street, Magnificent Seven-style. At the end of the take, Sean shouted to Norrington, ‘What? You want us to do that again?’ He replied, “For $18 million, I don’t think it’s too much to ask you to walk down a road.” To which Connery’s reply was unprintable.”

Since this film, Norrington has been attached to several projects but hasn’t made another film, claiming that he would never direct again.

Interestingly enough, Larry Cohen and Martin Poll filed a lawsuit against 20th Century Fox, claiming the company had intentionally plagiarized their script Cast of Characters, which the two had pitched to Fox several times. But wait — isn’t this movie based on the Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill comic book?

Cohen and Poll claimed that the studio bought the rights as a smoke screen, as both their script and the final movie shared public domain characters who did not appear in the comic book series.

The case was settled out of court, a decision Alan Moore told the New York Times  was upsetting, as he had “been denied the chance to exonerate himself.” No wonder the guy hates the movies made from his comic books so much.

In 1899, Fantomas (Richard Roxburgh, Van Helsing) and his army have broken into the Bank of England to steal da Vinci’s blueprints of Venice and kidnap several scientists. To figure out what is happening, Allan Quatermain (Connery) is brought back to for a new team of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, along with Captain Nemo, vampire Mina Harker (Peta Wilson from the TV version of La Femme Nikita), invisible man Rodney Skinner (the production couldn’t get the rights to the original story, so they made up their own invisible person), Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend, Queen of the Damned), Tom Sawyer and the twin form of Dr. Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde.

Whereas the comic showed the league battling Martians and Fu Manchu, instead of the revelation that M — yes, like the Bond films — is also Fantomas and Sherlock Holmes’ archenemy Professor James Moriarty. Like they say, this is loosely based on the source material.

David Hemmings shows up as Ishmael, which is a nice cameo. The effects are big and bold, while the movie sets up a sequel at the end. That never happened — this is another one of those “even though the movie made $179.3 million on a $78 million budget” movies that still isn’t a success. Hollywood math.

The character of Campion Bond, British Intelligence Director — and the ancestor of James Bond — was supposed to appear and be played by Sir Roger Moore. The character was dropped before filming began to be saved for a possible sequel, which was never made.

Despite only a few references to Tom Sawyer in the comic books, the character was added to appeal to young Americans, which upset many fans of the comic, as well as Moore and O’Neill. That said, Mark Twain wrote two little-known sequels to Tom Sawyer, is Jules Verne-like one called Tom Sawyer Abroad and another where he becomes Tom Sawyer, Detective.

O’Neill would later say that he believed this movie failed because it was not respectful of the source material, such as how Allan Quatermain was changed so much and that Mina Murray was marginalized by becoming a vampire.

The Wold Newton family — a literary concept derived from a form of crossover fiction developed by the American science fiction writer Philip Jose Farmer — is a great concept. The comic takes full advantage of this. The movie ended a director’s career and retired Connery from anything other than voice-over work.

Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003)

The Angels are all back, as is Crispin Glover as The Thin Man in the next installment of this series. This time, however, Bosley’s half brother, played by Bernie Mac, is in charge and the Angels are going up against one of their own. This entire film is packed with cameos and more comedy than the original, which is OK. In times like these, it’s a nice bit of fluff that goes down easy.

Natalie Cook (Cameron Diaz), Dylan Sanders (Drew Barrymore) and Alex Munday (Lucy Liu) are up against former angel Madison Lee (Demi Moore) as well as numerous criminal organizations.

Jaclyn Smith returns as one of the original girls. You also get John Cleese as Alex’s dad, Bruce Willis as a federal agent, Robert Forester, the Olsen twins, Carrie Fisher as a nun and many, many, many early 00’s celebrities. You can have a great time just naming each new one who appears.

There were plans for two more sequels, but they never happened.

Mayor of the Sunset Strip (2003)

George Hickenlooper was a director who excelled at telling peoples’ stories. Edie Sedwick in Factory Girl. Jack Abramoff in Casino Jack. And documentaries on Dennis Hopper, Apocalypse Now, Peter Bogdanovich, Monte Hellman and this take of Rodney Bingenheimer, Rodney on the ROQ, the Mayor of the Sunset Strip, the man who launched so many bands into American consciouness.

When Rodney was 16, his mother dropped him off at Connie Stevens’ house, told him to get her autograph and abandoned him. He ended up as a stand-in for Davy Jones, as the live-in publicist for Sonny & Cher, opened a club, brought glam to the U.S. and took to the air on Los Angeles’ KROQ.

The list of bands that Rodney broke on his show includes The Runaways, Blondie, the Ramones, Social Distortion, Van Halen, Duran Duran, Oasis,The Donnas, No Doubt, The Offspring, The Go-Go’s, The B-52’s, X, The Smiths, Suicidal Tendencies, Dramarama and Nena.

In fact, I always wondered how a song like “99 Luft Balloons” broke in our country. It was because Nina Hagen and Christiane Felscherinow liked the song and asked Rodney to play it. The rest was 80’s video history. And in the same way he brought glam to the U.S., he’d bring Britpop here as well.

This movie took six years to produce and presents Rodney as a Zelig, a person that was there for the biggest moments in rock ‘n roll. He got Bowie his record contract, but he lives in a small apartment and until 2017, was happy playing music on Sundays from midnight to 3 AM on KROQ. But no more.

Rodney wasn’t the only Mayor of the Sunset Strip. There was also Bobby Jameson, who released Songs of Protest and Anti-Protest under the name Chris Lucey. He appears in Mondo Hollywood and his role in the Sunset Strip riots earned him the title.

Then, there was the shadowy cult figure Kim Fowley, who held sway over the Runaways (duBeat-e-o), recorded the song “Alley Oop,” wrote “They’re Coming to Take Me Away Ha-Haaa!,” co-wrote “King of the NIght Time World” for KISS, produced the demos for Gilby Clarke’s band Cherry, started another version of the Runaways and even had the time to make a mess of underground films.

Rodney comes from a time when celebrity actually mattered, when rock and roll felt like something and when one play of a song could make you rich and get you laid. We’ll never know that era again.

You can watch this for free on Tubi.

One Missed Call (2003)

This Japanese horror film — directed by Takashi Miike (Ichi the KillerDead or AliveThe Happiness of the Katakuris and a few other movies that will either upset you or make you happy) and written by Minako Daira (who wrote all three films in the series) — is all about a psychology student named Yumi Nakamura (Ko Shibasaki, Battle Royale) whose friends begin getting messages from the future that gives the time and date of their deaths. And then — you guessed it — they die. Now, Yumi has received her message.

Based on the novel Chakushin Ari by Yasushi Akimoto, this movie was remade in that mid-2000’s time when every single J-horror movie was getting Westernized.

Detective Hiroshi Yamashita (Shinichi Tsutsumi, Why Don’t You Play In Hell) begins helping Yumi, telling her that she isn’t crazy. His sister was one of the early victims, who are all called an hour after each murder and then die at the time and date that the message prophecizes. Then, they spit out a red jawbreaker.

Everything points to Mimiko Mizunuma, a girl who died from an asthma attack and whose ailments would indirectly happen to her sister Nanako like some psychic Munchausen syndrome by proxy.

There’s also a televised exorcism that goes horribly wrong, more possession, stabbings, severed hands clutching cel phones and the kind of twisted imagery that would be beyond the scope of most directors. However, this may be one of Miike’s tamest movies. That’s not a slight, but he has a tendency to go well beyond the boundaries of sanity. There’s also plenty of light and shadow here, along with a Bava-esque blue and red color palette in some scenes.

If you enjoy Japanese horror, consider this a greatest hits collection. A ringtone plays music from Miike’s Gozu, the idea of the curse itself is from Ringu, the apartment building with a water tank shot is from Dark Water, the idea of ghosts in the machine of modern technology comes from Pulse and The Grudge lends the ghost child imagery.

This film is available on the One Missed Call Trilogy release from Arrow Video. Not only does it have all three films in high-def 1080p, it also features plenty of extras for each film. This one has new audio commentary by Miike biographer Tom Mes, archival features like The Making of One Missed Call, interviews with actors Ko Shibasaki, Shinichi Tsutsumi and Kazue Fukiishi, and director Takashi Miike, footage from the premiere, an alternate ending, the Live of Die TV special and a feature called A Day with the Mizunuma Family.

DISCLAIMER: This set was sent to us by Arrow Video.

Arachnia (2003)

Brett Piper (Mysterious Planet, 1982) has written, directed or provided special effects for some pretty entertainingly named movies: Raiders of the Living DeadA Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur HellDrainiac!Muckman and ZillaFoot. This is filmed in Vermont on video, but if Piper had been around for the regional era of exploitation, he would totally be making drive-in or direct to video films.

When a small research plane — filled with science students and their professor — makes an emergency landing in the middle of nowhere, the survivors head to a nearby farmhouse to look for help. Instead, they find some mutant spiders.

With a budget of a day of catering on the last movie that you saw in the theatrer, these guys tried. An ex-military man with a past and the robotic lead girl must survives so that someday, I’m forced to watch Arachnia 2. Which doesn’t exist. But it probably should.

You can watch this on Tubi along with Rifftrax commentary.

Shade (2003)

My fool’s errand to watch every single Sylvester Stallone movie has brought me here to 2003’s Shade, a movie made by Damien Nieman, a real-life sleight of hand card magician who created a DVD called Fast Company detailing all of the many ways to cheat at cards. Those are his hands doing the cuts at the beginning along with card mechanics R. Paul Wilson, Jason England and Earl Nelson. These three men also taught Sylvester Stallone and Stuart Townsend how to properly perform their card manipulation in the film.

Many years ago, Dean “The Dean” Stevens (Stallone) played in an illegal underground poker game that was attacked by thugs. As he put his hands up, he revealed that he was concealing a winning card. A firefight broke out with only Dean and one mobster surviving.

Today, Tiffany (Thandie Newton), Charlie (Gabriel Byrne) and Larry Jennings (Jamie Foxx) — nearly every character in this movie is named for a famous magician — are planning on taking down an illegal game. They bring in a blackjack dealer named Vernon (Townsend) — named for noted sleight of hand master Dai Vernon — to take a casino for $40,000. They’re shaken down by Scarne (Bo Hopkins), a crooked cop, but still escape with most their cash. He’s named for John Scarne, who was best known for exposing crooked gambling to the public and doubling for Paul Newman’s hands in The Sting.

Unfortunately, Larry gets too greedy and runs afoul of Malini (Patrick Bauchau) and his men Marlo (Roger Guenveur Smith) and Nate (B-Real from Cypress Hill), who kill him.

This triggers a flashback, where we see the mobster and Dean draw cards to decide who takes home all the money. The man cuts a King and Dean an Ace, but there’s a double cross. The mobster pulls his gun, Dean shoots him first and the Ace gets sprayed with blood.

Malini’s men are after our heroes, but they hide out at the Magic Castle, a venerable magic club, where The Professor (Hal Holbrook) discusses magic with them before they head to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel for Malin’s five card stud poker game. Dean’s former lover Eve (Melanie Griffith) arrives and they discover that Dean is using a marked deck, but even then, he’s able to win the final $3 million dollar hand, before the next double cross, which reveals that the Dean and Vernon were in on the game all along as the master of cards flips the bloody Ace card to Vernon.

This is part of Stallone’s attempt to push himself in more dramatic directions and he’s quite good in the film. It’s not a slam bang action affair, of course, but interesting nonetheless. You can watch it for free on Amazon Prime.

The Stranger Beside Me (2003)

The Stranger Beside Me is based on Ann Rule’s New York Times bestseller. Before she became a true crime writer, amazingly enough Ann became close friends with one of the most notorious serial killers — Ted Bundy.

Ann Rule (Barbara Hershey, The Entity) is an ex-cop and single mother who volunteers on the suicide hotlines in Seattle. That’s where she meets Ted Bundy (Billy Campbell, The Rocketeer), who comes off as the nicest man she’s ever met.

Of course, that changes. She’s already been called in to help with the murders of women that have stretched from Utah to Seattle and may have provided a criticial piece of insight on the fact that Ted fits a sketch and drives the same car as the suspect.

As their lives go in separate directions, Ted stays in touch with Ann, always convinced of his own innocence. While she may have stood up for him in the past, by the end, she only knows him as a monster.

It’s directed by Paul Shapiro, who also directed the new VC Andrews adaption Heaven which airs later this month, as well as an upcoming remake of one of my favorite Lifetime films, Death of a Cheerleader.

While the film jumps all over the place way too much, Campbell is great as Bundy, proving why so many could find him so attractive and above such crimes. It’s well worth a watch if you’re interested in this case.

The Stranger Beside Me is available for free on Tubi and from Mill Creek Entertainment.

DISCLAIMER: This movie was sent to us by Mill Creek Entertainment, but that has no bearing on our review.

In Hell (2003)

Ringo Lam and Van Damme worked together on three films — Maximum Risk and Replicant are the other two — and this one finds JCVD living the Cool Hand Luke life in a Russian prison. However, unlike the only other Russian prison movie I’ve ever seen, Red Heat, there’s no Sylvia Kristel. There is, however, an appearance by Lawrence Taylor, former NFL great and WrestleMania XI main eventer.

Kyle LeBlanc (Van Damme) is an American working overseas in Russia. One day, he hears his wife being attacked while speaking to her on the phone. He arrives too late to save her and the man who killed her, Sergio, buys off the judges. So Van Damme does what anyone else would: he kills Sergio and goes to jail for life.

Soon, he’s become friends with people like young American Billy Cooper and wheelchair-bound Malakai. Then, he’s put in a cell with the violent Inmate 451 (Taylor), who the head of the guards hopes will kill our hero. Nope — they become friends.

The general who runs the place has a secret fight league inside the prison. Are you surprised? I mean, why else would Van Damme be there? Soon, our hero has lost his mind and is messing dudes up left and right while his friend Billy keeps trying to escape. Sadly, his big attempt is foiled by Malaki being a snitch, so 451 lights the old man up. Yes — another Van Damme movie where someone is covered with gasoline and lit ablaze.

After Billy dies, Kyle realizes that he must win the battle for his own inner peace and once again become the man he was before this all happened. He refuses to fight and gets hung outside the prison by his arms, because this is a JCVD movie and some inner demons want us to see him be tortured for our sins.

Kyle is supposed to fight the giant Miloc, but he ends up communicating with him and they start a riot. Yes, a Van Damme movie that somehow is about dudes learning to talk to other dudes about their issues rather than repeatedly kicking one another in the face. I’m as surprised as you are.

You can watch this for free on Tubi or Vudu.