Jaws The Revenge Novelization by Hank Searls review

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Jaws The Revenge has a notorious reputation among movies fans. Many regard it as one of the worst movies of all time. Personally I really don’t think it’s that bad. The film is visually stunning with a lot of the action taking place in the sunny Bahamas. Michael Caine, Lance Guest and Lorraine Gary all give good performances and Michael Small’s score is creepy and sets the tone effectively. The idea of a shark seeking revenge on a family to the point where he follows them across the world is illogical, but the novelization of the film does attempt to explain this by adding a sub plot involving a witch doctor who places a curse on Michael Brody. The doctor has some sort of mystical connection to the shark which is why the shark is able to specifically target the family. I read the novelization over the weekend and was surprised at how different it was compared to the film.

In the novel there’s another sub plot not seen in the film in which Michael Caine’s character Hoagie has a run in with drug dealers who will stop at nothing to have him killed. I didn’t feel this plot was particularly necessary or interesting. It took up too much time and personally I was more interested in what the shark was up to. Michael and Jake’s relationship is different in the book with the latter not being as witty, I guess because Mario Van Pebbles brought so much to the character in the film. Michael himself is not as assertive or indeed as likable as he is in the film for some strange reason. In  fact, every character feels a bit flat especially Ellen Brody.   They also spend less time searching for the shark in the novel and certain sequences like the junkanoo festival and the shark chasing Michael are in a completely different place in the novel compared to the film.

I’m really mixed on the novelization. On one hand it was well written despite the additional bland sub plots which did nothing but distract from the main story, but ultimately I felt it was too long and I didn’t get as much entertainment value out of it as I did with the much maligned film version. I did like the voodoo aspects which added a chilly atmosphere to the proceedings and also the detailed descriptions of the sea and being able to hear what the shark was thinking and feeling. Regardless of how silly the general plot is, I think it is least strong enough to fill up a novel without subplots more befitting of crime books being shoved in. I do give Searls props for not rehashing what we saw on screen, though. As much as I would have wanted it to be closer to the movie version, I did like not knowing what was going to happen. I wouldn’t read it again, but it wasn’t a bad book by any means.

Cobra (1986) Review

I love Rocky and Rambo, but my favourite Sylvester Stallone character will always be Lieutenant Cobretti.  I was thirteen when I first saw Cobra and I’ve been captivated by the image of Stallone wearing ray bans, munching on a matchstick and uttering the epic line, “You’re a disease and I’m the cure” ever since. It was an incredibly violent flick and I had rarely if ever watched an 18 rated movie before then. I remember getting quite scared when the murders occurred, but I reassured myself that Cobra would be around to save the day and nail the killers.

A series of grizzly murders in Los Angeles perpetrated by a killer dubbed as “The Night Slasher” (Brian Thompson) by the news has thrown the city into panic. Not even children are safe from the slasher. When glamour model Ingrid Knutsen witnesses a savage slaying committed by a group of individuals she is immediately targeted as their next victim. It turns out that The Night Slasher is apart of a deranged cultist group who are hell bent on ridding the world of the weak and creating a world in which only the strong can survive.

After narrowly avoiding a similar fate as the cult’s previous victims Ingrid is placed under protection which is handled by Lieutenant “Cobra” Cobretti. Cobra is the strong arm of the law and apart of the The Zombie Squad division, the bottom line of law enforcement.

The Night Slasher and his cohorts twice come close to murdering Ingrid while she’s placed in safety and Cobra decides to take her out of the city against the orders of his superiors. When the cult ambushes them in a small, cut off town Cobra must wipe out an entire army of killers single-handedly and do battle with The Night Slasher.

Cobra is definitely my favourite Stallone film. It was made at a time when Stallone was at the top of game and also when action movies were the real deal. I don’t think Cobra gets as much as love as should do, but it looks like people are becoming more and more interested in it these days. Maybe we’ll get a sequel at some point!

Cobra was originally supposed to be two hours long, but Stallone cut it down to just under an hour and a half in order to sell more tickets. This was a wise decision as one of the main highlights of the released cut is that it’s extremely fast paced and doesn’t feel bloated. Most of the extreme violence was cut as well as a lot of the character development for everyone except Cobra himself.

Cobra is just dripping with style. I particular like the cinematography during the famous supermarket hostage sequence at the beginning and the frantic edits between the gunman shooting up the place and the cultists banging their axes together at their hideout. There’s a lot of neon in the movie, too. Cobra even has a giant neon Pepsi sign outside his apartment which is probably the greatest bit of in-your-face product placement ever put in a movie. The legendary “Angel of the City” montage is also wonderfully Eighties and highlights how effective visuals can be in telling a story without any dialogue.

Cobra is quite dark in its content. An unsettling tone is developed almost immediately and the film comes across as quite dystopian. The film isn’t humourless, though. Cobra’s relationship with his partner Tony is quite funny especially since the latter is obsessed with junk food and can’t help but take a bite out of Ingrid’s cake that’s sitting next to her hospital bed. Ingrid is played by Stallone’s ex wife Brigitte Nielsen. While not the greatest actress, Nielsen is nevertheless likable in the role and also fairly cute. The villainous Night Slasher is played by Brian Thompson who appeared in The Terminator just a few years earlier. Thompson himself seems like a nice guy, but I certainly wouldn’t want to bump into The Night Slasher in a dark alley at night. I wouldn’t want to bump into him at all, actually. He’s incredibly tall and menacing and you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that he was Ivan Drago’s distant, American relative.

The soundtrack has a lot of similarities with the Rocky IV album. Both feature John Cafferty, Robert Tepper and Gladys Knight and many of the songs seem to evoke the same sort of messages. “Hold On To Your Vision”by Gary Wright certainly wouldn’t sound out of place on one of the Rocky soundtracks. The standout tunes for me are “Suave” by the excellent Miami Sound Machine and Jean Beauvoir’s “Feel the Heat,” the movie’s main theme. John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band provide the end credits song which reminds me that I should really review Eddie and the Cruisers at some point in the future. Sylvester Levay’s chilling score adds a lot of atmosphere to a flick that successfully blends slasher elements in with its action. 

It really do think it’s a shame that Cobra isn’t as popular as Rocky and Rambo. I don’t think it would have been a franchise, but I’m sure there were plenty of good ideas for a second Cobra flick. I liked Rambo: Last Blood, but I must say I was disappointed that Stallone had decided to bring back one of his “safe” characters instead of taking a risk and bringing back Cobra. Still, I think the original is an action classic and hopefully more people will realize that as time goes on.

Miami Vice: The Vengeance Game by Stephen Grave

This week I’ve been reading this exhilarating Miami Vice novelization. Miami Vice was a hip cop show in the 1980s which effectively combined contemporary tunes and MTV style direction to tell crime stories in Miami.

Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas were the stars of this highly stylish cop drama.

Detective Sonny Crockett finds himself on an assassin’s hit list with seven drug dealers. His trustworthy partner Ricardo Tubbs discovers that drug lord Esteban Calderone has ordered the hit himself as revenge on Sonny for arresting him when he was last in Miami. On that occasion Calderone escaped custody and travelled to the Bahamas, but plans on returning to Miami once his competitors are out of the way. Sonny and Tubbs dispatch the assassin before he can make the hit, but their Lieutenant is fatally shot by the assassin and later dies. Incensed, the two cops travel to the Bahamas with the orders of capturing Calderone and deporting him. “No vigilante stuff,” the other officers warn them. Neither cop promises anything…

The Vengeance Game is a novelization of the epic Season 1 two-parter titled “Calderone’s Return.” It follows the events of the television episodes closely, but changes some of the first names of several characters and adds additional material to beef up an already thrilling story. I particularly like how the author expands upon Sonny’s relationship with his wife. They were going to divorce, but they eventually work things out and start to believe that their marriage can really be as magical as it was before. This makes it all the more heartbreaking when his wife, Caroline, decides to reschedule the divorce hearing after the assassin breaks into their house and shoots up the place, putting her life in mortal dangerous. The assassin himself is even more mysterious and scary than his television counterpart. He holds open doors for people, helps an old lady pick up her shopping bags and throws litter away when he isn’t shooting his victims to hell.

The first half of the book covers part one which is set in Miami. This is the most suspenseful and gritty half of the book while the second half, which covers the events of part two, is fun and action packed. The setting also switches to the tropical island of St. Andrews island which is colourfully described by Graves. The second episode has always been my favourite of the two mainly because Calderone actually appears in it and there’s an interesting romantic subplot involving Tubbs and Calderone’s daughter, Angelina. I prefer the way the episode is novelized compared to its predecessor, too.

This is the only Miami Vice novelization that I own, but I certainly wouldn’t mind checking out the others if they’re anything like this. It’s not great literature, but it is a good little crime novel to read if you want to laze about in the garden. It’s worth checking out the televised version, too.

Doctor Who The Twin Dilemma Novelization by Eric Sward Review

ericI have been reading Eric Sward’s novelization of the much derided Doctor Who 1984 story of the same name. Saward was script editor for the show between 1982 and 1986 and penned several stories himself during that time. His novel of The Twin Dilemma is perhaps his best work away for the television series itself.

The novel plays out much the same way as the television version did, but it has gone from being mundane to funny and inventive. A pair of genius twins are kidnapped by a renegade Timelord called Azmeal for the purpose of using them for his master’s evil plans. The recently regenerated Doctor, addled and unstable from the recent trauma of the change, investigates the kidnapping with his companion Peri and a greedy intergalactic cop called Hugo Lang. While the story is nothing to write home about, I don’t hate it. The novel does improves upon the original story by injecting some black humour and expanded the various settings that felt so small on television. Saward also fleshes out various characters and makes them more interesting that their television counterparts. Even the twins’ father is given time to shine in the early stages of the book as he contemplates the best way to murder his children.  As well as giving characters a bit of depth Saward also writes detailed  history for various objects which usually have some bizarre or tragic backstory to them  that often end in the death of the person who created them. He doesn’t shy aware from adding some adult material in order to sell the murky nature of the worlds and the moral ambiguity of the characters.

The only real problem I have with the novel is The Doctor and Peri themselves. He clearly doesn’t enjoy writing for them and I get the sense that he’s desperate to get back to writing for characters he’s more interested in like Azmeal or Hugo. He’s never excelled at writing for the TARDIS team and I find the segments involving them on their own to be the weakest parts of the book. I think Saward could write some really great original stories, but I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him because all of his work is for a show he doesn’t really like. That said, I really like this novel. I dig Saward’s writing style and I often find myself going back to the novel for inspiration whenever I’m writing my own stories.

4/5

Underdog Fever: Superman III (1983)

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The thing that’s really perplexing me this week is the reputation of the third Christopher Reeve Superman film. It’s a sequel that’s anything but devoid of ideas. It has a robot lady, an Evil Superman, Richard Pryor, an Atari chase sequence and a love interest that isn’t Lois Lane! think it’s quite good myself, but that’s not a popular view.

The plot revolves around a computer programmer by the name of Gus Gorman (Richard Pryor). Dismayed at the meagre wages he receives a week Gus figures out a way to steal a vast sum of money from the corporation he works for by using a technique called salami slicing. His actions go unnoticed by everyone but his boss, Ross Webster (Robert Vaughan). Rather than sending him to jail, Webster instead enlists Gus as a henchman.  He also states that in order to claim the 300 million dollars of inheritance money his uncle left him Gus must spend  30 million dollars in 30 days without retaining any assets after the- oh wait, that’s another Richard Pryor film. What actually happens is that Webster takes advantage of Gus’ unique computer skills by having him hack into the weather satellite in order to wreak havoc in Columbia, a scheme which would ultimately result in Webster dominating the world’s supply of coffee. Of course, Superman puts a stop to those plans almost immediately as he undoes the damage down by the satellite. Webster’s beautiful psychic nutritionist Lorelei Ambrosia (played perfectly by Kiwi comedian Pamela Stephenson) reminds the team that Superman’s greatest weakness is Kryptonite and so Ross orders that the Kryptonite floating in space be duplicated in a laboratory. When exposed to this Kryptonite Superman power isn’t weakened, but it does negatively alter his personality. While The Man of Steel spirals out of control, Gus designs the ultimate supercomputer which Webster will use to control the world. Will Superman  be able to defeat his own demons before taking Webster down? This movie is big,  loud and most importantly entertaining.

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The love interest in Superman III is Clark’s old friend from Smallville, Lana Lang. I’ve always liked this section of the movie the best mainly because Annette O’Toole and Christopher Reeve have such amazing chemistry. The cutest thing about their interactions is that’re almost always on a different page from one another.   I never did like the Lois Lane love story in the previous two films I guess because it’s easy for someone to be head over heels for a God-like being. I don’t know, watching two people who share the same quirks and  accept one another for generally being a bit of a klutz is so much more charming to me. There isn’t a sense of desperation to their relationship either. This plot seems to get sidelined in the second half of the movie which is a shame. It would have been nice to see Lana return in Superman IV so we could see how her relationship with Clark evolved, but it wasn’t to be.

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When people say that they dislike the movie they usually cite Richard Pryor as being one of the main reasons. I’ve never understood why people have such a hard time taking to him. I’ve always found Richard Pryor is be exceptionally funny and he’s no different in this film. The character of Gus himself comes across as a lovable loser. He know what he’s doing is wrong, but there isn’t a whole lot else can do about it what with Webster constantly threatening to throw him in jail if he walks away from the scheme. That said, Pryor does have a pretty good track record of escaping from prison in movies. Gus does eventually redeems himself by helping Superman destroy the supercomputer, but he makes the odd decision of rejecting a job offer at the end of the movie which sort of puts him back in the position he was in at the start of the movie. I do find it amusing that Superman is essentially a reference for Gus now. I wish I could include Superman as a reference on my own CV.

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I was unconvinced by Richard Lester’s work on Superman II so it came as a pleasant surprise that Superman III is a success in the visuals department. It’s very well shot and the special effects and action sequences are perhaps the best of the entire series. Sometimes I do think Lester relies too heavily on slapstick humour, something which drags the film into a territory where I don’t think a Superman film should be. I suppose what makes it a better film than the second is that it is at least tonally consistent and adheres to its own rules. Superman II makes the mistake of assuming that Superman can do anything like having the power to erase people’s memories by kissing them or  being able to throw a Cellophane S out of his costume. Wait, what? What’s even stranger to me is that Superman II always seems get a free pass simply because it’s Superman II. III feels less slapped together and has a more focused narrative which ultimately makes it a less frustrating watch.

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The greatest scene in the movie is the epic junkyard duel between the Evil Superman and Clark Kent. It holds up very well today thanks to some effective movie techniques which more than convince the audience that the same person is fighting himself. A lot of the action in this movie is incredibly ambitious with scenes featuring Superman escaping from a barrage of  missiles which are tracking him and an epic showdown with the supercomputer itself. One of the more bizarre moments sees Superman briefly face off against Ross Webster’s robotized sister. It’s all a bit crazy but it’s also very fun to watch.

It’s such a pity that so many people tend to overlook this movie. Of course it has flaws, but you can say that about every Superman movie. Even the Richard Donner original has niggling little problems that prevent it from being a really great movie. It’s like a Roger Moore Bond movie with Superman in it and I have no issue with that at all. I definitely recommend checking this movie out again if you haven’t seen for in a while. It certainly doesn’t do as much damage to the Reeve series as people seem to think it does. Personally, I’d say this is my favourite one of the lot.

Pointless trivia of the week: This is the first (and most likely only) Superman movie to open with a scene at the Job Centre.