Tag Archives: John Astin

Teen Wolf Too (1987)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Werewolf goes to college.

Todd Howard (Jason Bateman) is the cousin of Scott who was the protagonist in the first installment of this series. Like with Scott, Todd has inherited the same werewolf tendencies although he is not fully aware of it as he enters into college on a boxing scholarship despite having very little athletic ability. However, once he gets into the ring the wolfman inside him comes out and he becomes an unstoppable boxer that allows his team to win and brings prestige to the university, but it also goes to his head as he becomes arrogant and obnoxious to all those around him.

The film starts out with a nice opening sequence showing the grounds of beautiful Pomona College, where it was filmed, but outside of that it’s downhill from there. The story repeats too many of the same gags that were in the first film and adds nothing new to the formula. It strays slightly by having the main character become arrogant, but this lasts for only a brief period before he mends his ways and goes back to the same guy that he was initially, which makes this plotline seem almost nonexistent.

The amount of time that he spends as the wolf is shockingly small. It takes 45 minutes before he completely transforms into the werewolf and then the final 32 minutes has him going back to being human as he learns the importance of ‘just being yourself’. Audiences aren’t looking for another preachy ‘life-lesson’ flick. They want something diverting and if the title says Teen Wolf then make it that way by having the majority of the runtime with him in that form and not just turn it into a side issue that eventually gets forgotten.

I had problems with the college atmosphere as well. I definitely like the on-location shooting, but the behavior of the students seems more like high school including cruel practical jokes as well as cliques that usually disappear when students get into their late teens.

John Astin’s administrator character is way over-the-top too. He plays the part in a fun campy way despite wearing a dreadful wig, but he comes off more like a domineering principal of the small high school than a college dean of major university who wouldn’t have the time to be so hands-on let alone get to the know the kids so personally as the student body would be too big.

The worst part though is the climactic boxing sequence, which becomes excruciating to sit through as it mixes in every annoying sports cliché that you can imagine. The attempt to recreate an exhilarating Rocky-like final is so horribly botched that goes beyond just being embarrassing.

The concept is intriguing, but the producers have to give the idea a chance to breath and not compress it into just another manufactured, sanitized flick aimed solely at the preteen crowd. There are so many interesting angles that the story could’ve gone that it’s a sad waste seeing what they end up doing with it.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: November 20, 1987

Runtime: 1 Hour 34 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Christopher Leitch

Studio: Atlantic Releasing Corporation

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video

Viva Max! (1969)

viva max 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Taking back the Alamo.

A small ragtag Mexican army led by the affable, but incompetent General De Santo (Peter Ustinov) decides to cross the border and recapture the Alamo. The process goes much easier than expected despite the fact that the army used no bullets in their guns. The National Guard is then sent in to weed them out, but they too decide not to load their guns with bullets leading to some unusual results.

The film is based on the novel written by PBS newsman Jim Lehrer and the movie’s behind-the-scenes politics ends up being much more interesting than the plot itself. Filmed in April of 1969 the production initially had permission from the state to film right on the actual site of the Alamo and a major portion was done there before various citizen groups became aware of it and began protesting the crew’s presence in what they considered to be sacred ground. Some of their protests was captured on film and incorporated into the story, but their loud presence eventually disrupted the production forcing some scenes to be done on an indoor studio soundstage while still others were completed in Italy.

The commotion and ‘controversy’ was not worth the effort as the film is an overall bore. The first 15-minutes are amusing and even mildly engaging, but once it gets inside to the actual Alamo the action and pace come to a screeching halt and kill any possible potential that the film may have had.

The script also has some illogical loopholes one of them being the army deciding to invade a place, but without using any ammunition, which is never explained and highly improbably. What is even more ridiculous is that the National Guard would decide not to use bullets in their guns either since this is the U.S. of A. where guns and force are considered a national birthright and thus makes this ill-conceived plot twist to be unbelievable to the extreme. The fact that De Santos and his men and able to freely leave at the end and go back to their country without dealing with any type of consequence for their actions is equally absurd.

Ustinov is funny and speaks in an authentic Mexican accent, but he’s unfortunately limited by the broad caricature of his role. John Astin comes off best as the Sergeant that’s second in command and does most of the actual disciplining and leading and Jonathan Winters is good as a clueless American general. Alice Ghostley lends some energy as an innocent bystander that becomes one of the army’s prisoners and Pamela Tiffin looks great wearing glasses and having her hair tinged in blonde.  Gino Conforti, Paul Sand, Jack Colvin, Anne Morgan Guilbert and Kenneth Mars can also be spotted in small roles, but even with their competent performances it fails to mask the film’s otherwise glaring inadequacies.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: December 16, 1969

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Rated G

Director: Jerry Paris

Studio: Commonwealth United Entertainment

Available: VHS