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Terrible 2’s Reviews: Transformers – Revenge of the Fallen

*Some people may say that most films lose their way by a third sequel, but that isn’t always the case. For every “Wrath of Khan” or “Toy Story 2,” there’s a dozen ‘number 2’ films that were made, that could not uphold the energy and enthusiasm of the first film. This review section, aims to talk about these “Terrible 2’s”*

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One of the strangest things I heard before the release of Transformers in 2007, was that many in Hollywood were actually wondering if the concept being put on film would attract audiences. Would the world be in on a film where robots crash-land from outer space on Earth, and then take on the forms of cars and airplanes?

To me and many others, we were already in (even if Michael Bay was in the director’s chair), and by the end of 2007, the film had become one of the year’s biggest films. And so, Dreamworks and Paramount Pictures quickly put a sequel into development. However, the schedule for release on this film was already started before the summer of 2007 was over, with the sequel due in theaters in just 2 years (word is, Michael Bay likes to move fast on things!).

The production was complicated by the writer’s strike, which prompted the addition of writer Ehren Kreuger to the staff of Roberto Orci, and Alex Kurtzman (who had penned the first film’s screenplay).

Needless to say, the production was pretty much a sprint to the finish. There were over 3 times as many Transformers in the sequel, and as the film neared the finish line, Industrial Light & Magic was working down to the last minute to get their shots finalized.

Of course, Revenge of the Fallen became one of the numerous sequels in this day and age that eclipses its predecessor in size and grosses, but was one of those ‘hideously beautiful’ creatures of Hollywood. I call it that, because so many found fault with it, and yet in Hollywood’s eyes, it was beautiful because of its big business, pulling in more money than the 2007 film.

I’ve had about five years to think about Revenge of the Fallen, and even though I haven’t sat down and watched it over and over, there’s so much in the few viewings I’ve seen, that helps me whittle down my problems with it.

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Too much juvenile humor – It felt that with the 2007 film, Michael Bay was kept on a tight leash by executive producer Steven Spielberg (at times, the film had more heart than many of Bay’s other films). But with the sequel, it seemed that Michael was let off the leash to bring forth more of his own ideas. And in many respects, he still behaves like a teenage boy in a lot of places.

You know those kids in middle school who craved attention by mouthing off to the teachers, or just outright made fun of other kids who just weren’t as cool as them? That’s pretty much what Bay does in this sequel. In a sense, this is almost like his return to the sensibilities of Armageddon and Bad Boys. Think of your middle school experiences, combine them into a movie, and that’s pretty much what was done with Revenge of the Fallen (seriously, Bay? We needed TWO shots of the dogs humping?)

Megatron’s master plan – In the first film, it was perceived that Megatron left Cybertron to pursue the lost Allspark cube. The Allspark’s ability to bring life to technology was what Megatron craved: a way to potentially rebuild Cybertron, and power a new army for him to crush the Autobots. Eventually, he found the cube was on Earth, but ended up getting himself frozen many centuries before he was uncovered. His motivations seemed fairly straight-forward…but it turns out, they weren’t.

As we soon find out in this film, Megatron was actually operating on orders from his Master, The Fallen. However, the Fallen still wanted to carry out the plan that he attempted many centuries before, and needed Megatron to kill Optimus Prime, and find The Matrix of Leadership, which acted as a key to the energy-machine hidden in an Egyptian pyramid, and drain energy from the sun.

I’m not making that up. That’s the extra chapter(s) as to what Megatron had in store in this film. And if you think that side-plot was convoluted…then what Megatron cooked up with Sentinel Prime in the next film is even crazier, if you try to find logic across all three films.

Skids and Mudflap – By now we’ve all heard plenty regarding theses two being stereotypes, but the big problem is they are tasked to stay with our main human characters through a majority of the film, but rarely do they ever provide anything constructive to the situation. They just largely bumble their way through the film. Even in one scene where they somewhat ‘help,’ it’s mainly because they start arguing and rough-housing around.

And in truth, that’s all they do: just spout alot of big talk, and knock each other around. It would have made more sense for Bay to just have included Bumblebee to be with Sam and Mikaela for the entire film. At least Bumblebee still took his role as Sam’s guardian seriously.

Too many stories going on at the same time – this is one of those films where you almost need a scorecard to figure out what is going on and where. It attempts to delve into the lore of the Transformers with The Primes and the Fallen (one of the original Primes who defected), as well as the resurrection of Megatron, the death of Optimus Prime, and the new Macguffin of the film universe: The Matrix of Leadership. Though unlike its cartoon counterpart, the Matrix is meant to function as a key to start an energon machine hidden in one of the pyramids in Egypt, but may also serve as a way to revive Optimus Prime.

And there’s something about Sam Witwicky going off to college and maybe, growing up, and how he can’t tell his girlfriend Mikaela that he loves her. Making-of footage of the writers show them admitting that this was their lynchpin to connect Sam to the Transformers, as much like Peter Parker in Spider-Man 2, Sam attempts to leave the excitement behind and try and lead a normal life…but finds that that isn’t so easy. This storytelling soon gets caught up in the tidal wave of the film, to the point that by the end, one can hardly comprehend that Sam has matured at all from his adventure.

Where the heck are we!? – Seriously, don’t give Michael Bay a GPS system. He’ll just throw it away and go, “I don’t need this stupid thing, but that place looks really great to film in!”

So much of the film just breaks the laws of time and space. In the span of what must be just a few hours, Mikaela manages to fly from California to ‘somewhere on the East Coast,’ and arrive just in time to catch Sam in bed with the Decepticon Pretender, Alice.

In another sequence, the Decepticon named Jetfire pounds down some doors within the Smithsonian Institution…and suddenly finds himself in an airplane graveyard in Arizona!

And don’t get me started on footage in the Middle East. Bay seems to have come to the conclusion that desert-is-desert, and just mashes together at least 4 different areas around Egypt. If you’re really into geographically figuring out where much of the film takes place, stop while you’re ahead, or you’ll be cursing Michael Bay for jumbling up all of the Middle East’s locations into the handy-dandy Egytaghanistan.

Too many Transformers – This sounds like a weird statement, but to me, Revenge of the Fallen suffered the same problems as films like Iron Man 2, and The Lost World: Jurassic Park. The sequel attempts to make things bigger and better than the first film, and because of that, much of the effects crew was taxed with doubling or tripling the amount of computer-generated output. This often leads to some scenes just being pushed through as ‘good enough,’ with some not taking their time quite as well as the first film.

As well, we see all styles of Transformers: pretenders, combiners, animals, insecticons, and even microbots. The way all these different types are crammed into the film, it was almost like Bay was afraid that the sequel would be the last Transformers film ever. They even manage to cram in a quick cameo by Scorponok, who was last seen in the first film…though they do not provide any information as to where Barricade in the first film went to.

This also creates a problem, that with so many Transformers running around, there’s no time to really develop any of the new characters. Many of them are just set dressing for much of the story. Even Skids and Mudflap, who we spend as much time with as Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, do little more than chatterbox on and on without giving us a pair of likable characters to relate to.

Humans are so annoying! – Bay seems to love just throwing in stereotypes or annoying characters, and in this film, it feels the number of annoying humans has doubled! Sam’s college roommate Leo becomes little more than a fast-talking idiot. A little person playing a border guard lets our ‘heroes’ pass because they are from America – it’s as ridiculous as the way he portrays characters in many of his other films.

Bay even provides us with a government liason named Galloway, who is there as the atypical, ‘we don’t need giant robots when other giant robots are destroying our Military hardware and killing people – that’s what our Military Forces are for!’ Personally, I guess I just am an ignorant child of the Reagan-era, who doesn’t see how not wanting giant robots that want to help humans is a bad thing.

Sam’s parents return as well, with his Mom given a role that is three times as whiny as her first film’s role. Seriously, very little of anything intelligent seems to come out of her mouth.

As well, Seymour Simmons returns, just as mouthy and annoying as ever, though at least he makes up for it by actually having information. In a weird way, he’s like those old film noir suspects: they are strangely quirky, yet somehow provide the main character with much-needed information.

Probably of all the human characters, it seems the only ones that are the most interesting are Lennox and Epps. Maybe it’s because these guys largely seem to be taking themselves more seriously than the other humans. As well, Epps’ interactions with Optimus Prime in one scene definitely helped make him seem more humane towards the Autobots than most.

The film is a little too long – I still remember the first time I saw the final battle in this film. After awhile with all sorts of little skirmishes here and there, a little voice in my head started pleading, “please, end soon!”

That becomes the problem with so many scenes: Bay has numerous scenes cut together with a huge amount of padding that just isn’t needed. There’s so much going on that soon the battle just becomes a rather convoluted mess. Even the use of the giant combiner Devastator seemed little more than fan-service, as his transformation sequence was about the most memorable part of his screen-time. As well, Sam’s parents are even thrown into the mix, which slows the film down for about 8 minutes.

When the turned Decepticon Jetfire is awoken from stasis, Bay spends more time on him bantering and bumbling around like an old man, before finally narrowing us in on the fact that Jetfire has prime information that we can use to better understand the plot.

The film clocks in at 2 hours and 20 minutes. Watching it in preparation for this post, I kept looking at certain scenes, imagining cutting out bits here and there, in order for the film to just get to the point in so many scenes. I believe that one could probably cut out around 45 minutes of unneeded scenes, and the film would play better.

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Even with its multi-billion dollar haul, Michael Bay, Shia LeBeouf, and several others came forward to admit that Revenge of the Fallen was a rushed film that could have benefited from more time.

the 2011 release of Transformers: Dark of the Moon served as some form of apology, as its story became a little easier to follow, and Bay managed to pull back from his drunken escapades that were seen in the previous film. As well, he even managed to kill off the annoying comic relief character that Ken Jeong was playing…and kept him dead! So, maybe he is learning…but in baby steps.

Now, 3 years after Dark of the Moon, a fourth film is about to be released, which appears to be acting as a mid-ground change-up for much of the series. Optimus Prime and Bumblebee appear to be the last of the 2007 film’s Autobots, but a number of new ones are entering the fray, as well as man-made Transformers, and even a new cadre of human fleshlings, this time with actor Mark Wahlberg befriending Optimus.

It’s definitely a given that Transformers: Age of Extinction will have a big opening weekend, but we’ll see if audiences will take to the new direction Bay has steered the film in.

Terrible 2’s Reviews: Men in Black 2

*Some people may say that most films lose their way by a third sequel, but that isn’t always the case. For every “Wrath of Khan” or “Toy Story 2,” there’s a dozen ‘number 2’ films that were made, that could not uphold the energy and enthusiasm of the first film. This review section, aims to talk about these “Terrible 2’s”*

I’ll come right out front and say what’s been on my mind since the Summer of 1997: Barry Sonnenfeld’s Men in Black was a good film, just not a great one. It had its moments, but this special effects-filled film didn’t fill me with the kind of wonder and amazement as many in the 1990’s.

Even so, it became the highest grossing film of that summer, beating out Steven Spielberg’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park (which will also be coming down the pike).

The first film told the story of a hot-headed NYPD officer (played by Will Smith), who is soon recruited by a top secret organization that attempts to hide traces of extra-terrestrials living among us. Smith’s character is handpicked by veteran MIB Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), given the name “Agent J,” and is soon on his way. However, the two are soon caught up in a plot that could mean the end of our world, and a war between others in the galaxy.

The first Men in Black was almost like Jurassic Park in how it was executed with visual effects: Though there would be use of that wonderful new CGI technology  (courtesy of Industrial Light & Magic), the film would also contain some great physical makeup and creature effects from the likes of Rick Baker. In fact, the films makeup effects would win it several accolades come awards season.

By the end of the film, Will Smith’s Agent J realizes that there’s a reason why his partner recruited him.

Back in the 1960’s, K was a normal young man who was on his way to see his girlfriend, but on his way there, he ended up getting into a meeting with an alien, and some of MIB’s first agents. K soon found himself becoming a member of the group, and left his civilian life behind…but not quite. K had been pining for his lost love for years, and with him feeling that J would be a suitable replacement, he wishes to return to the life of an ordinary man.

And with that, K was neuralyzed, with a happy ending showing he ended up with the woman he loved. Meanwhile, J seemed to have acclimated well to taking his former partner’s place, and with the help of a morgue-assistant-turned agent named “Agent L” (played by Linda Fiorentino), everything seemed to be coming up roses.

That was, until the Summer of 2002.

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There are some types of films that I refer to as “The traitorous best friend.” This can be seen as how the first film makes you feel comfortable, and it seems you and the film have a good rapport. But, when the second film comes out, one finds that good will and friendship was all for naught, and the sequel ends up stealing your wallet, and throwing you under a bus.

That to me, is what happened with Men in Black 2.

From everything that was outlined in the ending of the first film, it felt like there was ample room to move on, and do something new. But somewhere, some high-powered studio exec must have written in huge bold letters on early script drafts:

“Bring back Tommy Lee Jones!”

And thus, that becomes the plot of this sequel.

At the start of the second film, we see that things are not going so well for Agent J. Apparently, Agent L (never seen in this film!) couldn’t handle being an MIB agent, and as such, was neuralyzed, and sent back to her job at the morgue (rather convenient).

Since then, J has been trying to find a replacement, but none are living up to his expectations. It is soon after that MIB Chief Z (Rip Torn) finds out that an alien shapeshifter named Serleena (played by Lara Flynn Boyle) has come to Earth, seeking a power source called “The Light of Zartha.” Z then informs J that only his “best man” ever knew of the Light’s secret location…and he was neuralyzed 5 years ago.

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And that to me is really where much of the film’s premise stalls. The end of the first film made you think the world of these characters was going to expand out, and maybe we’d meet some more agents around MIB. But instead, we go back to the old partner dynamic. Forget that J seems to have made his own way within MIB, he needs to go back to being second-banana to K.

When one looks over the film, it could be the equivalent of what happens to quite a few sequels that try to outdo their predecessors. Some of the cinematic crimes this sequel pulls:

Unraveling all the endings in the first film – If there is such a thing as a ‘cinematic crime’ regarding this film, this to me is its biggest offense. However, it wasn’t so much that we lost characters like Linda Fiorentino’s “Agent L,” as what the script basically did to the character of Agent K.

Basically, happily-ever-after wasn’t good enough for the filmmakers, and it turned out that even with his MIB career wiped clean from his mind, K still was obsessed with the stars. And with that, the girl he (thought he) loved left him, and K ended up going to work in a Massachusetts Postal Office. As well, it is implied that he may have had several relationships with other women during his time with the MIB’s.

Familiar characters given a lot more useless stuff to do– in the first film, some of the most interesting characters just had a small amount of screentime, from the spindly Worm Guys, to the talkative Frank the Pug. Here, their roles have been expanded, but seem to do nothing but add extra filler. Frank is even made J’s temporary sidekick (aka “Agent F”), but provides little but throwaway one-liners. Tony Shalhoub as the shady pawnshop owner Jeebs makes a return, but even his role feels shoehorned into the plot.

Cameos up the wazoo – I don’t know why it is, but some films seem to develop a habit that once they are popular, they need to start chocking their film full of celebrity cameos. Sure, it’s good for a little chuckle when you see the likes of Martha Stewart and Michael Jackson in a film, but it doesn’t add anything except a few extra minutes to the film.

An over-abundance of computer-generated imagery – The first Men in Black utilized computer-generated imagery, but in a more subdued way, with much of the effects done through practical means. With this sequel, CGI is overly-abundant, from Serleena’s plant-like nature, to numerous other aliens. It’s not enough you get Johnny Knoxville as an obnoxious extra-terrestrial, but he’s got a smaller appendage with a miniature Knoxville head CG’ed onto it. There’s plenty to complain about, but that’s as far as I’ll go.

Over-abundance of product placement/tie-ins – The first film is not exempt from this (the agents sport Ray-Ban sunglasses, after all), but I’m sure someone at Sony probably was quick to bring aboard numerous companies to hawk their wares on the big screen for the sequel. We see everything from a Sprint phone store, to numerous plugs for Burger King. As well, we get a close-up shot of several cans of Mountain Dew, and see that MIB HQ has a bigger budget than we thought, as J drives around in a Mercedes-Benz. There’s also a subtle throwout to the Sony Playstation, when the controls for the MIB vehicle in flight mode, are designed off of a Playstation 2 controller. It probably took a lot of courage to just keep Will from pulling off his shades and saying to the audience, “just buy these!”

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The film’s performance during the summer of 2002 wasn’t as big as some had hoped for. It’s hard to gauge just what happened, but you could probably make a case that the summer’s box-office thunder was largely stolen by 2002’s Spider-Man, which ended up trouncing almost all comers at the theaters.

MIB 2‘s totals bucked the trends of most popular sequels, in that it fell short of reaching the same heights as the first film in total receipts, both domestically, and internationally.

Director Barry Sonnenfeld’s career was never at a higher peak than during the 90’s. That was when the Director of Photography – turned – Director was really in demand. His name was attached from everything to The Addams Family, to Wild Wild West. In fact, if not for West, one assumes we could have had MIB 2 at that time (I’m sure many of us would have at least felt better leaving the theater in 1999 after seeing MIB 2, than Wild Wild West).

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Men In Black 2 is a film that’s always stuck in the back of my head as a messed-up sequel, and not even a third film 7 years later could redeem the series in my eyes (it doesn’t say much when your third film ignores even more history, let alone sidelines Tommy Lee Jones for 5/6 of the entire film!). Though one can most likely assume that after the third film, there are no plans for a Men in Black 4.…well, one can hope.

Terrible 2’s Reviews: The Little Mermaid II – Return to the Sea

*Some people may say that most films lose their way by a third sequel, but that isn’t always the case. For every “Wrath of Khan” or “Toy Story 2,” there’s a dozen ‘number 2’ films that were made, that could not uphold the energy and enthusiasm of the first film. This review section, aims to talk about these “Terrible 2’s”*

By now, you’d have to be living under a rock to not have heard of, or at least seen Walt Disney Picture’s 1989 feature, The Little Mermaid. Singled out by many as the animated feature film that heralded the start of Disney’s second golden age of animated films, it would go on to break VHS sales records, and make many forget that just 5 years before, Disney had released a film with Daryl Hannah as a mermaid (aka Splash).

Of course, executives within the studio were always trying to find ways to squeeze more money out of their sea (cash) cow. That golden ticket revealed itself in the fall of 1994, when a direct-to-video sequel to Aladdin was released, titled The Return of Jafar. With inferior animation, forgettable songs, and even lacking Robin Williams as the Genie, the video release made enough money on its name and character recognition alone, to have management at The Mouse House declare that more profits could be made with these cheaply-produced sequels. And thus, the Home Video market would become the place for the studio to churn out sequels to films like Cinderella, The Lion King, and many more.

11 years after Ariel longed to walk on land, The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea was released to the cries of greedy little children, who begged their parents for more Ariel, regardless of the product’s quality, and making it prime fodder for this column.

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The film starts about a year after the end of The Little Mermaid, with Ariel and Eric sailing out to the ocean, to introduce their daughter Melody, to King Triton. However, no sooner does this happen, than an appearance is made by Ursula’s sister, Morgana.

After threatening to feed Melody to her hench-shark Undertow, the family manages to get their daughter back, but Morgana vows revenge, disappearing in a swirl of ink.

The thought that their daughter could now be a target, causes Ariel to suddenly go into full-on protective parent mode. Given that there is a vengeful sea witch’s sister out there, and even though her own father is the King of the Sea, Ariel cuts herself off from her former, watery way of life. As a ‘safety precaution,’ an enormous 30 foot wall is erected along the beach near Prince Eric’s castle (which I’m sure the kingdom’s people were eager to contribute to).  Just like in the first film, Sebastian is put on babysitting duty, tasked with watching over Ariel’s daughter.

The story then cuts to 12 years later, where the castle is preparing to celebrate Melody’s 12th Birthday. Unknown to everyone, Melody has grown to become a younger, polar opposite of her Mother. While Ariel longed for land, Melody longs for the sea, sneaking out and swimming along the waters near the castle wall. As well, she converses regularly with Sebastian and Scuttle (though strangely enough, she doesn’t question ‘why’ she is able to do this), telling how she sometimes dreams of having fins of her own.

It just so happens that Morgana also decides to come out of hiding, and upon finding Melody’s wish to be a mermaid, decides to use the girl’s dreams, as a way to try and get back at Triton and his Kingdom.

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As one can probably surmise from the information above, there’s not a whole lot to Return to the Sea. While the original Disney version of Mermaid wasn’t a perfect film, it at least had plenty going for it: from believable characters, to toe-tapping songs. So, when one compares the sequel to its predecessor, there are a lot of little things that stick out to me.

One of the strangest things is that Melody is celebrating her 12th birthday, yet every other person claims she’s becoming a teenager. Did I miss the memo or something? I thought you officially became a teenager when you turned, thir-TEEN!

One of the saddest things the film does, is try to make Ariel’s sidekicks from the first film relevant…and they rarely serve any purpose at all. Flounder is now all grown up, with children of his own. Scuttle? Well, it sounds like they recorded Buddy Hackett just spouting off gibberish, and felt that would be good enough for the scatterbrained seagull.

But Sebastian? The sequel deals the most bitter blow of all for the famed ‘court composer’ of Triton’s kingdom. Commanded once again to be a ‘royal babysitter,’ Sebastian seems able to sing well, but come on…after the events of the first film, he should have been reinstated to writing symphonies again. That was where his talents lay. Instead, his career has been put on hold indefinitely. Poor crab. With this plot set-up, he’ll die old, sad, cursing all the great symphonies he was denied because of Triton’s actions.

The film at times feels like it was ping-ponging between several story points, and the reasoning behind Morgana’s plan is a good example of this. Her first appearance makes it sound like she harbors a grudge for the death of her sister, but 10-15 minutes later, she’s in her lair changing her tune. Apparently, she was the sister that couldn’t live up to Ursula’s greatness, and she also seems bitter about this.

Then again, that is probably the only way to enjoy this film: throw what little logic you can out the window. “Don’t think so hard,” you’ll hear the average moron say. “You’re getting all worked up over a kids cartoon.”

And speaking of a ‘kids cartoon,’ that’s about as bad as the animation level gets much of the time. Don’t expect the kind of decent-animation levels put out by late 80’s Disney Feature Animation artists. You’ll see choppy animation of a ship sailing into action, numerous characters going on and off-model, and much more. There’s even some scenes that look like they traced over Glen Keane’s pencil work on Ariel from the first film!

And that brings us to Melody. The filmmakers attempt to give us a character that is meant to be a younger version of Ariel, but it just seems that the stuff Ariel did that made her endearing, just ends up making Melody that much more annoying. Of course, one funny way of looking at the trouble Melody causes Ariel, is to think of it as some form of universal payback for the hard time she gave her father when she was a teenager.

Melody is also given her own sidekicks once she is off on her own: a walrus named Tip, and a penguin named Dash. The two claim to be adventurers/explorers, but are your typical bumbling duo who rarely seem to get anything right, leading them up to some major heroic action at the end of the film.

It’s rather sad for me to say how much I dislike this film, because voice actress Tara Strong (voice of Bubbles from The Powerpuff Girls, and Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony), was once quoted as saying that she loved the original film, and getting to voice and sing a character alongside Jodi Benson was a dream come true.

Song-wise, there’s nothing here that comes close to the lyrical and memorable works of Alan Menken, and Howard Ashman. The songs for the film are done by Michael and Patty Silversher, and sadly, it’s a poor blemish in their repertoire of work. Prior to Mermaid, the two had done music work for a number of episodes of the Disney Afternoon. I guess when it comes to music work, they work best in small doses, rather than in feature-length.

The film even rubs a little salt in the wounds, as over the credits, they play a new version of “Part of your World,” sung in a country twang by Chely Wright. If you’ve never heard of her, don’t worry – neither have I. In fact, it seemed that most sequels did this: attempted to quell its audience with a rehash of a popular song from the original film.

While handily not the worst of the Direct-To-Video sequels, it isn’t helped that it is a continuation of one of the most beloved films the studio has made. Following the release of Return to the Sea, Ariel would come back for one more DTV release, albeit in the form of a prequel with 2008’s The Little Mermaid: A New Beginning. As I was rather put off by the results of Return, I didn’t decide to give Beginning a look.

While some praised the animation style for the 2008 prequel, it’d be one of the last films released before the studio would finally put to rest making unnecessary sequels or prequels. Once a management shake-up occurred at Disney with John Lasseter and Ed Catmull coming to work for the studio, the Direct-to-Video production end was shut down, with its studio division now tasked with making original works, or spin-off productions (such as the Disney Fairies line, and the recent release of Planes).

Terrible 2’s Reviews: Lost Boys – The Tribe

*Some people may say that most films lose their way by a third sequel, but that isn’t always the case. For every “Wrath of Khan” or “Toy Story 2,” there’s a dozen ‘number 2’ films that were made, that could not uphold the energy and enthusiasm of the first film. This review section, aims to talk about these “Terrible 2’s”*

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We all have our guilty pleasure films, and in terms of this, I’d say The Lost Boys fits into that category for me. Joel Schumacher’s 1987 film took the concept of vampires, and spun it into a modern-day story about peer pressure, and family.

After Lucy Emerson (Dianne Wiest) separates from her husband, she moves her sons Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim) to the seaside town of Santa Carla, to live with Lucy’s eccentric father (Barnard Hughes). However, when Michael attempts to fit in with a gang of biker boys (led by Kiefer Sutherland) down by the local Boardwalk, he soon finds himself in league with a group of vampires, and finds himself starting to become one.

Director Joel Schumacher can sometimes go over the top in some cases, but there are some great moments in Lost Boys, where he manages to create atmosphere and scenery within the small budget of his production. If there are any big special effects shots, he saves those for certain moments.

That isn’t to say that he ignores the family aspect of the film. The film manages to make us care about its siblings, as well as put a spin on peer pressure, and fitting in after moving to a new town. It was also one of the first films to have both Corey Haim, AND Corey Feldman in the same picture.

For years after the film was made, a small group of people pleaded and begged for more (even though the film wrapped itself up nicely). Rumors ran rampant for many years that the next step up from Lost Boys, were Lost Girls. Talk swirled about scripts being peddled around Hollywood in the 1990’s, and at one point, Joel Schumacher was involved (one has to wonder if the Batman and Robin debacle of 1997 hurt his street-cred enough to have noone take him seriously on that).

In the end, nothing would come of those rumors, and it seemed that another film from the 1980’s would be spared an unnecessary sequel.

Until, 2008.

Given how a number of studios had cashed in on cheaply-made direct-to-video sequels (such as Universal Pictures’ myriad American Pie films), Warner Brothers wanted to get in on some of this action, and launched their DTV division, Warner Premiere.

One script that had made its way to the company’s desks, was titled The Tribe, and involved surfers that were actually werewolves. The script was originally rejected for seeming too close to the story of Lost Boys, but after some thought, it was felt that the script could be altered to becoming a sequel of sorts. And so, the surfing werewolves, became surfing vampires.

And thus, Lost Boys: The Tribe, came to be.

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After the death of their parents, brother and sister Chris (Tad Hilgenbrink, on the left) and Nicole (Autumn Reeser, in the center) Emerson, move to the seaside town of Luna Beach, to stay with their eccentric Aunt (Gabrielle Rose, on the right). Chris was once a pro surfer, who dropped out of the competition.

While roaming around town, Chris is surprised to meet another former pro surfer, Shane Powers (Angus Sutherland). He invites Chris to a surf party at his place nearby. Chris eventually goes, after Nicole begs him to take her along. However, once at the party, Shane entices Nicole to drink from a flask. A few hours later, Nicole begins to act strangely.

For those who have seen the original Lost Boys, you might have been thinking to yourself in reading those last paragraphs: “Hey, some of those story beats sound familiar.” And, in a good 85% of the film, that’s because they largely are!

– Broken family moving to a new locale by the ocean

– Crazy older family member providing lodgings

– A head vampire played by a Sutherland (true story: Angus (right) is Kiefer’s (left) little half-brother!)

– Family member falls in with vampire crowd, and tricked into drinking blood

– Frog brother(s) wants to kill new vampires, but is told not to

– Crazy motorcycle stunts

– Nighttime beach party leading to vampire bloodbath

– The song Cry Little Sister is played

Also, to prove that it’s more ‘mature’ than the original film, The Tribe contains plenty of profanity, and some nudity. As well, the level of gore is upped in numerous scenes. I guess that was one thing that we can thank Schumacher for regarding the first film: he worked within his budgetary limits, and made an entertaining film. This one just comes off as a bunch of young punks wanting to act cool and hip. Then again, most sequels tend to have this thought that they need to be bigger and badder than the original.

Tad Hilgenbrink’s character of Chris just seems to be, “there” most of the time. In fact, it was hard for me to focus on him as a character, without constantly thinking, “he looks like James Marsden’s younger brother!”

Autumn Reeser’s Nicole is meant to be the ‘Michael’ of our film, but her line reading and performance didn’t instill me with much hope. Probably the most cringe-worthy moment is when she realizes she’s a half-vampire, after almost biting a guy. She gives an embarrassing shriek/cry, before babblingly telling her brother, “how could I have drank his blood? I’m a vegetarian!”

The film also seems to want to play as ‘dark and mysterious,’ but it soon ends up becoming ridiculous. For example, remember how Chris and Nicole’s last name is Emerson?

Emerson was also the last name of the first film’s family, so that makes us wonder what the deal is with this family in The Tribe. Are they the children of Michael and his girlfriend Star (Jamie Gertz) from the first film, or possibly the children of Sam Emerson, and some other girl? Or…could this film be taking place in an alternate dimension, and this story is to that dimension, what the first Lost Boys is to ours?

Well, I’ll just spill the beans right now: it’s never explained.

Almost any bad sequel has to have at least one returning cast member from the original. Surely, there’s always someone down on their acting luck enough to accept a paycheck…and that honor, falls on Corey Feldman.

The dynamic duo of “The Frog Brothers” has now been reduced to one: Edgar Frog. No longer hanging out in comic book shops, Edgar now is a surfboard shaper, which leads to his becoming involved with Chris and his family problems. It seems that Edgar Frog really MUST have a frog in his throat, as Feldman’s lines all come out in a deep growl. Along with his surfboard work, Edgar is still vampire-obsessed, and still seems to produce vampire/PSA comic-books to those he feels needs to read them.

And speaking of Feldman in another sense, the film poses a most mind-numbing conundrum. When it seems that her niece and nephew may not have plans one evening, Auntie propose a most brilliant alternative:

Some Dunkin Donuts, and a night of watching The Goonies. I kid you not, that is an actual screenshot from this film!

And, it does beg the question: does that mean Corey Feldman also exists in this world, and he also resembles Edgar Frog? Ponder it, won’t you?

The film even had multiple “codas” that were meant to play after a few moments of the end credits.  These would mean nothing, unless you were a die-hard Lost Boys fan.

The coda used for the final cut, featured Edgar Frog meeting someone on a deserted beach at night. It turns out to be Sam Emerson (Corey Haim, above), who we see has become a vampire since the first film (how/why/whuh is never explained). The scene then ends with a few words exchanged between the two, before they both charge at each other…with the scene cutting to black, leaving us to decide who lived, and who died.

On the DVD Extras included with the film, there are two alternate endings that give some hints as to just what (possibly) happened to Edgar’s brother, Alan.

The extra endings from the DVD features, shot with Corey Haim (in black) as human, and vampire.

Both of the extra endings feature Sam coming to Edgar as well. However, they are both cut almost exactly the same, except in one, Haim’s character is a normal human, and in the other, he’s a vampire himself.

In these alternate endings, Sam has come to warn Edgar that his brother Alan is also coming for him. There was apparently something that happened between the two films, that ended up causing Alan to become a vampire, and going away.

During the sequences, we see a modded up Sports Car with darkened windows, streaking down a highway. Inside, we see it’s being driven by the vampiric Alan Frog, with an unnamed woman in the passenger seat. It should be noted that since these scenes of Alan having become a vampire were not included in the final print, that Alan may still be alive somewhere in the film universe, though that’s left to our imaginations.

The two alternate endings dealing with the eventual return of Alan Frog, probably had a lot of people going, “why couldn’t The Tribe have been about that storyline!?”

After all, it does seem odd that for a sequel, we just get a copycatting rehash of the first film.

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The Tribe was savaged online by many, and needless to say, there were plenty of morons who were hopeful that a sequel made 20 years after the previous film would be a hit.

Even so, its $5 million budget was quickly made back on the home video market, which led Warner Premiere to consider another Lost Boys film.

This resulted in the 2010 DTV release of Lost Boys: The Thirst. Unlike The Tribe (or the eventual return of Alan Frog outlined in the cut scenes), the story’s focus moves from Chris and Nicole, and features Edgar Frog (now with a girlfriend!?), and Alan Frog (normal, with none of that alternate Tribe ending info). A famous vampire novelist has found out that her brother has been kidnapped by some actual vampires, and requests Edgar’s services to save him. There are plenty of other ridiculous plotpoints, but like I stated a few sentences above, how does someone like Edgar Frog, with that gravelly voice and single-minded determination about killing vampires…actually get a girlfriend!?…oh right, this is the movies.

Yeah, this promotional still from “Lost Boys: The Thirst” looks cool, but be prepared for major disappointment if you venture further inward.

Word is this third film did next-to-nothing to redeem the series after The Tribe. However, the final nail in the coffin, came with the eventual shuttering of the Warner Premiere side of Warner Brothers. Corey Feldman claimed in a few interviews over the last few years, that he and Jamie Newlander were more than willing to do more with the Frog Brothers, but was willing to accept that those characters are finished.

If you have fond memories of The Lost Boys, and don’t want to ruin them, then stay clear of these terrible direct-to-video films. Only Joel Schumacher’s touch could make campy-horror about family and vampires, watchable.

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*For the next Terrible Two’s, we peek behind the questionable inner-workings of Hollywood. When it comes time to making a sequel to a big-budget film, what do you do? Spend even more money, and snip apart all those happy endings from the first one*