Monthly Archives: July 2002

K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)

There’’s a rule of thumb I’’ve come to find in Hollywood, something so certain you could set your watch to it. No, not the Emmy’s nominating Frasier for everything. I’’m talking about man-owl Larry King, who seems to dabble in the land of film reviews. Kindly readers beware, if you see an ad for a film and it has Larry King’’s salivating blurb in it, run away. Run away like the plague, like Pamplona. Just run. The only films I can remember off hand (though this theory has come true every time) are ‘15 Minutes’ and ‘Wind Talkers’. And now there is the horrifically titled sub-sub movie ‘K-19: The Widowmaker’.

K-19’ should not be confused with ‘K-9’, the Jim Belushi teams up with a dog to fight crime film. No this one takes place in the early 60s in the thicket of the Cold War. An opening title sequence tells us Russia has enough nuclear weapons to blow up the world two times, but the United States has enough to blow up the world six times over. Whoo! U-S-A! The maker of widows is itself a docked submarine in the Russian navy in preparation for combat. Before it even leaves the shore it is said to be cursed, having five men die already from its widow maker-y hands. Liam Neeson is the captain of K-19 and well respected and beloved by his crew. However, Neeson is willing to put the lives of his men ahead of the agenda of the state, so the Communist government places Harrison Ford on the sub and gives him the reigns of command. Ford is a rigorous taskmaster who puts his men through countless drills and does not exactly see eye-to-eye with the more empathetic Neeson.

The story’’s real turn comes about midway in, when after successfully launching a test missile above the arctic ice the nuclear core of the sub springs a leak. If something is not done to slow down the heating core the men could be vaporized in a mushroom cloud. Except that patrolling the waters nearby is a Unites States destroyer and thus would be destroyed as well, surely igniting the start of World War III. Crew members take shifts to enter the radioactive filled core area to try and do what they can. The situation gets even direr when the men come out looking like something from a George Romero film.

K-19’‘s biggest fault is fictionalizing what would have been an interesting hour block on The History Channel. The Neeson and Ford characters feel like two sides of a debate, not exactly characters. The whole movie has been Americanized with heroic proportions. Instead of compelling drama we’re left adrift with what the studio wants as a summer movie with material that should no way be associated with it. I mean, the horribly dishonest marketing campaign actually has a crew member shout “”Torpedo headed straight for us!”” then shows a torpedo surging ahead. There was never a torpedo in the entire movie or a scene where they were being attacked! Somewhere in this ho-hum story is an exciting tale of the courage these men were forced into as well as the strain of not being able to tell their friends or family about anything that happened.

Submarine movies have so many limitations to them that’s it’s hard to make a unique one anymore. Everyone knows there’’ll be a point where they go beyond THE RED AREA with the needle and hear the hull ache and creak. Everyone knows they’’ll have to stop an onslaught of water leaking. Everyone knows that if you talk about writing a letter to your girlfriend at home in case you die… well, the fates have it in for you. Either you love seeing these things a million times in cramped space or you grow tired of the expectations.

Director Kathryn Bigalow (Strange Days) manages to give it the ole college try with the long camera movements inside and the close-ups of men glaring at one another. Although technically able, Bigalow doesn’’t do anything to transcend the limitations she has to work with. And while she meets her mark as a director it is neither spectacular nor worthwhile.

Ford has a horrible Russian accent he likes to flirt around with through the film. I don’t exactly know if people are supposed to like his character, being rigid and pragmatic at the expense of human life. Neeson, on the other hand, is quite capable and shines in his role. The rest of the crew alternates between Russian accents to even some Australian ones I heard.

K-19: The Widowmaker’ tells us that this story could not be told until the fall of communism, except at the end it shows a clip of the Berlin Wall coming down and the crew then gathering to finally remember their fallen comrades. Some people just don’’t have their dates right, and some people just don’’t know how to take an interesting unknown slice of history and tell it well. Damn you Larry King.

Nate’s Grade: C

Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

So, what could be timelier than releasing a Halloween slasher film around… July? The plot (i.e. flimsy device to set up killing horny teenagers by) is something that you might actually see on MTV’s Fear show. Busta Rhymes is the head of an online entertainment company and has proposed a contest where the lucky few get to spend a night in the creakily and poorly lit house of serial killer Michael Myers. Their prize seems to be nothing more than the notoriety of being seen live on the net. College student Sara Moyer (Bianca Kajlich) is one of the lucky winners along with her stars-in-her-eyes gal pal and culinary obsessed friend (‘Save the Last Dance’’s Sean Patrick Thomas). Some other people get picked including the requisite smart girl and “weird” guy. And then there’’s the horn dog played by the insufferable Thomas Ian Nicholas of ‘American Pie’ fame. For some randomly selected process it’s kind of odd that three people who are all good friends got picked. Eh, oh well.

Anyway, the kids go exploring through the decrepit remains of the house with cameras strapped to their heads. Why the house wasn’’t knocked down after the first baker’’s dozen of murders is anyone’s guess. The kids try and look for any clues to explain the psychological nature of Mr. Hack-N-Slash. Michael Myers eventually makes a homecoming complete with his favorite set of cutlery and goes to town. People go missing and eventually the participants, with Busta at the wheel, figure out that this whole thing ain’’t make believe.

Now this movie could have been a lot worse, although the scene where Myers kills a cameraman with a tripod leg is dearly pushing it. Jamie Lee Curtis even shows up for about five minuets in the beginning before having an early confrontation with Myers. Let’’s just say that Curtis seemed to want out bad, and realistically who can blame her?

I realize there are certain leaps of logic when even entering into the darkened theater to take in a slasher flick, but ‘Halloween: Resurrection’ doesn’t just defy logic, it slaps you across the face with it like a cold fish. Myers is no super human entity, to the contrary, and should actually be pushing 50. But man, can he still jump out of walls needlessly like the Kool-Aid man. And can he still dangle from poles with one arm like a champ. Talk about upper body strength.

There’’s a scene toward the beginning of the film in the basement of the mental hospital Jamie Lee resides in. Two guards retreat down there and one of them stops to purchase a vending machine goodie while the other goes ahead only to meet his doom. The lone guard now timidly searches around the nearby laundry machines and discovers his colleague’s head inside the tumbling machine. If you look closely, and do some marginal thinking, you’ll find out that in order to achieve this spook Mr. Myers actually had to put money into the laundry machine. Talk about your commitment to fear.

This whole bloody ordeal is streamed live across the Internet with something like 50 camera choices. Now the Internet, if no one’ told you, is not exactly a small thing. Wouldn’’t someONE someWHERE be watching one of the camera angles where they DO happen to see the killings and phone someone? Maybe everyone in the world just has a dial-up modem. You must realize that this bare-bones cheesy reality show concept was likely from everyone making a movie as they went along.

Let’’s face it folks, the thrill of this whole thing is gone. Somewhere along the way, I’’m guessing 19‘83, the whole concept just got stagnant and poorly executed. But now with the rise (or resurrection if you will) of the slasher genre in our post-irony world we get things like Jason in Space! And Michael Myers in an episode of MTV’s Fear! The draw is supposed to be the tightly wound suspense but, and maybe it’’s just me, where is the suspense when you could care less about the cheese-heads that are supposed to be the heroes and you KNOW what’’s going to happen to them?

Busta Rhymes, the thespian, is going to need more time to hone his craft. LL Cool J took up the rapper-come-Halloween-victim role in the last film, 1998’’s ‘Halloween: H20’ (which flagrantly did not take place underwater at all). To compare the acting prowess of the two rappers is like questioning the cooking ability of the Star Trek starship captains. It’’s just very inconsequential and should never be asked rightfully. Tyra Banks is in this movie for some reason even though her scenes account for about a weekend of work. Everyone else in the cast is forgettable, even the cute Uma Thurman-looking redhead who has the most head-scratching nude scene in an underground crypt.

‘Halloween: Resurrection’ is sloppy, dumb and above all things not scary. It seems Michael Myers is the ultimate boogey man –  he’’s survived seven straight duds.

Nate’s Grade: C-

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