Second Chance Cinema: Lake Placid (1999)

We have a theory that maybe, sometimes, a film gets such a bad rap early on that its reputation is unfairly spoiled for the rest of that movie’s history. This is Second Chance Cinema. We re-examine the most infamous films to determine whether its reputation is earned or not.

Lake Placid is a terrible movie if you think it’s supposed to be serious. It’s a wonderful movie if you realize that it’s all done tongue-in-cheek. Based off the 39% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I’m guessing that people weren’t clued in on the joke. It’s one of the best let’s-make-a-movie-about-a-giant-common-animal movies. I’d rank it right under Tremors (and you should know I love me some Tremors).

The cast has perfected the scene chewing required for this type of movie. Their acting is so hammy it’s no wonder a giant crocodile wants to eat them. Particular stand outs in the movie include Bill Pullman’s everyman hero and Oliver Platt’s crazed expert. Character actor favorite Brenden Gleeson also shows up as the token skeptic.

Another key aspect to Lake Placid’s success is the sharp script from David E. Kelly. Kelly perfectly infused his trademark sarcastic characters with the tropes of a giant monster movie. The script is a great example of both sending up the genre and being a loving and respectful of it.

Lake Placid is such a fun movie that it really does deserve a second chance. A recurring theme emerging in this Second Chance Cinema column is that certain movies are released ahead of their time. The giant animal monster movie has been a staple since the 1950s. The genre has ebbed and flowed many times. Over the past 10 years there’s been a large influx of giant monster movies (especially SyFy Channel’s output of movies). It seems that Lake Placid was released in a low point for the genre’s popularity.

Lake Placid is a lot better than its reputation suggests. Give it another try if you haven’t in a while. (I’d also like to say it’s one of those movies enjoyed better with company.)


Not So Great Movies You Should Watch

All film fans and cinefiles know the canon — great films that are almost unanimously considered classics. Films such as The Godfather, Chinatown, and more recently family friendly hits such as Toy Story seem to be impenetrably popular and critical darlings. But, there are hundreds of films produced each year and we would like to help you sift through some of the, ahem, less successful and critically appreciated films. One of the goals of this blog is to move beyond the Manichaean review because there are redeeming qualities to almost every film.

So each month, Harrison and I will post a movie in the main genres (action, comedy, drama, horror, sci-fi) and note why you may want to spend some time watching them. We’ve also got some friends that may want to provide their own list of four not so great films that they will share in the future.

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Debate: Best Directorial Debut

A director’s first movie is arguably his or her most important film. It displays the filmmaker in their most raw form and it’s how the filmmakers say to the world “I’m here.” It’s a gateway into a new way of storytelling or style for audiences. Not to mention, a director’s first film is often the reason why a director gets to make a second film. With that in mind, Josh and I wanted to debate who exactly had the best entrance into the world of cinema.

Josh: In my opinion, nobody made a more bombastic entrance to Hollywood than George A. Romero with his 1968 feature Night of the Living Dead.

Harrison: For my money there’s no better first movie than Christopher Nolan’s Memento. Not only is it unique. Not only does it have a great story. Not only does it have an incredibly well defined visual aesthetic. But it’s his first movie. What Nolan did with this movie is kick in the doors of the bank and say “I’m here to kick ass and chew bubblegum and I’m all out of bubblegum.” Here’s a guy who at the onset of his career had molded the fundamental tenets of types of movies he makes.

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Preview: Best Directorial Debut Debate

Who had the biggest splash into the world of cinema and Hollywood? In one corner the forefather of the zombie subgenre. In the other, the patron saint of mind games.

It’s George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead) vs. Christopher Nolan (Memento).


Come back Friday (11-11) to find out who is victorious!

Second Chance Cinema: The Shadow (1994)

We have a theory that maybe, sometimes, a film gets such a bad rap early on that its reputation is unfairly spoiled for the rest of that movie’s history. This is Second Chance Cinema. We re-examine the most infamous films to determine whether its reputation is earned or not.

I can’t quite say The Shadow was before it’s time. It’s a pitch perfect homage/recreation of the classic pulp stories told in the 30s and 40s. What I can say is that this movie is much more in line with current movies that embrace and project ridiculousness onto the screen earnestly. Movies like Sin City, Crank: High Voltage, and The A-Team all have absurd, over the top plots and action without the tongue-in-cheek sarcasm and cynicism that permeated throughout the 90s. Because of its similarity to current movies, The Shadow is  perfect to revisit with a fresh mindset.

Alec Baldwin stars as the titular Shadow (civilian name Lamont Cranston [how awesome is that?]). He’s a suave playboy who has harnessed the ability to “cloud people’s minds.” Throughout the movie there is an awesomely cheesy special effect of a shadow coming across Baldwin’s face when he wants to control and persuade someone’s mind. It’s not Bladwin’s best role, but you can sense and experience the fun he’s having playing Cranston vicariously.

The plot is threadbare. It involves one of Genghis Khan’s ancestors (who strangely also has the same power set as Baldwin) holding New York City hostage with an atomic bomb. It’s always jarring when the villain is the weak point of a movie and that’s the case in The Shadow. Both the actor and character aren’t a suitable match for Baldwin’s Lamont Cranston.

But the story should be the least of your concerns when watching The Shadow. The best part of the movie is inhabiting the pulpy world of 1930’s New York City. The cars, the buildings, the clothes, the characters, and most importantly, the dialogue. The script has perfected the sort of pulpy dialogue that leaves no room for subtext. There’s also Tim Curry who plays a deliciously evil scientist and is one of the highlights of the movie.

The Shadow is the type of movie that was misunderstood at the time of its release and demands a second chance. (It’s on Netflix Watch Instantly right now. Check it out!)