Spirit, The

I'm not really sure how this movie even got made. In only his second film, Frank Miller fell into self-referential parody; exaggerating too much here and doing too little there. And by "there" I mean the characters in the film are so two-dimensional that it makes a Dennis Rodman film seem like Shakespeare.

The worst part of all of this is that you know this movie was going to be bad around seven minutes into it. When a fight between the The Spirit and his nemesis, the Octopus-played with the standard intensity of Samuel L. Jackson-goes on far too long, and then the Dad from The Wonder Years shows up to tell the Spirit he's a loose cannon, and were he on the force he would be off the case.

Unfortunately he's not on the force, and the explanation as to why comes far too late in a movie. Turns out the whole plot is like that, dividing between dull gratuitous action sequences, and exposition that actually does not explain anything. The Spirit was made invincible by the Octopus, for no damned reason, and now the Octopus views the The Spirit as a threat since, well, he's the only person on the planet with the same powers. So they actually can't hurt each other, but they can duel back and fourth for far too much of my time. The Octopus is also something of a mad scientist who makes clones, giving the Spirit the opportunity to kill the same man over and over again. He's also after the blood of Hercules, which will make him even more invincible, which like the rest of the film, comes across as completely gratuitous.

Peppered throughout this anti-plot is Miller obsessively displaying hot chicks in satin focus. Usually, I'd be all for these sorts of shenanigans, but when someone is using pretty girls to pull the wool over my eyes, I feel very insulted. The restaurant Hooters does more or less the same thing, hoping that the hot girls will get you to ignore the fact that their food is terrible.

If The Spirit were a Hooters hamburger, it would be made of sand, barbecue sauce, and finger nail clippings; brought to you on a plate by a naked Megan Fox.

The culmination of this movie's absurdity has Jackson randomly appearing in a Nazi uniform for no discernible reason.

Then he melts a kitten.

It turns into a pile of fur and eyeballs.

After that, he apparently has an assassin (Paz Vega ) try to cut the Spirit into tiny pieces, so he can't regenerate. Somehow the hero  convinces her not to for reasons I can't recall, because by that point some adolescent girls in my row were texting and chatting about homecoming, and their conversation was far more interesting than the cinematic travesty on the screen before me.

It takes skill to take a film and make it so terrible that neither Samuel L. Jackson being his usual self, or Scarlett Johansonn just being really hot, can save it. In a way, Frank Miller is some kind of genius. The kind of genius that no one wants to hang out with or talk to.

This movie begs for a Cavalcade. Paired off with either Captain America (the original REALLY BAD one), or the T.V. Nick Fury film, this movie would promise to be a romp. Alternately, you could just make what will certainly be Frank Miller's third film, a drunk man in a Batman cowl ranting about whores.

Eight Legged Freaks

Ever since Bud Abbot and Lou Costello first bumped into a reanimated corpse in the imaginatively titled Bud Abott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), the genres of Comedy and Horror have been inextricably linked. Sure there were others before that made the mix, and comic relief was a staple in the classic horror movies of the 20's and 30's, but no film was ever so able to both scare an audience and make them laugh at the same time as that one, and it's success spawned two sequels, numerous television sketches, and in my opinion, heavily influenced Scooby Doo, but that's another discussion.

Filmmakers have been chasing this particular dragon ever since, with varying degrees of success. For every American Werewolf in London, there is a House II: The Second Story; for every Tremors, an American Werewolf in Paris. The sad truth is that there have been so many bad comedy/horror hybrids that the good ones frequently go unnoticed by audiences. Slither is one example, Eight Legged Freaks is another.

Written and Directed by Elroy Elkayem, the story is straight 50's drive-in: A small cargo of Toxic Waste finds its way into a lake near the small town of Prosperity, Arizona (a town which, in typical movie fashion, fails utterly at living up to its name).  In short order, the local insect life ingests the water and are themselves ingested by the spider collection of the local kook (an uncredited Tom Noonan), who soon grow larger, escape and ingest their owner and the local fauna,  then make their way into town. By the time they get there, the babies are the size of, and able to go ten rounds with, a cat (which one of them does in one of the best scenes of the movie). Before long, they're the size of a car, with the queen mother towering over them at a grand 20 feet in height.

Kari WuhrerDavid Arquette, and a youngish Scarlett Johansson do a great job of filling the classic roles of the Small Town Sherrif, Prodigal Hero, and Rebellious Teenager while the script has  plays with the old stereotypes and turns them on their ear. Case-in-point: The wise professor/scientist role in this film is filled by a young boy (Scott Terra). All of this is played with energy and just the right touch of camp.

The best characters in the movie, however, are the spiders themselves. While realistically detailed in their Computer Models, they chatter with each other in odd little noises, react, and perform cartoonish pratfalls. The fact they do this while still managing to be deadly, and frequently creepy adversaries-is a testament to the Director's skill. The invaders in Mars Attacks! wish they were as memorable. Credit must go to the producing team of Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, who manged to bring the special effects prowess and experience from Independance Day and Godzilla to a movie that's a hell of a lot more fun and better than either those movies ever were.

So is this recommended fof a Cavalcade? Absolutely! It's a wild, fun little ride that is perfectly suited for a Drive-In. Check your brain at the door and enjoy the entertainment.