Jackass Number Two

2006 comedy

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Morons pull pranks and perform stunts, mostly to entertain themselves, it seems.

You know you're in good shape when somebody says, "We have rectal bleeding," within the first ten minutes of the movie. Several chapters involving horse semen, malfunctioning rockets, launched shopping carts, fecal matter, the exposed testicles of the elderly, beer enemas, puking, bull attacks, flying wee men, pubic beards, and death-defying moments later, I had laughed quite a few times and even laughed until tears came once. I should probably feel a little guilty for liking this as much as I did, but I refuse. The mayhem is faster, funnier, and more dangerous than the stuff they did in the first movie (or on the television show, of course), and the beginning scene and ending musical number that bookend the body of this are really well executed. That closing musical number even pays tribute to Hollywood musicals and even Buster Keaton. I was reminded of Keaton quite a bit while watching Jackass Number Two actually. No, I've not yet found the movie in which Keaton's ass or testicles are displayed. With a lot of the stunts, you get exactly what you think you'll get (bike with a rocket being shot into a lake) but there are a lot of set-ups that take the stunt one unexpected step further, giving the audience a second unanticipated punchline. Does all of it work? No. Some of this is hard to watch and not really all that entertaining. But when this hits, it's home run after home run. Brilliant stuff! My favorite scene? Likely the extended terrorist bit near the end.

By the way, watching this made me realize what Tillie's Punctured Romance from 1914 was missing. If the kicking in Tillie's Puncture Romance would have been in the groin instead of directed at the backside, I think it would be considered one of the most influential and uproariously funny comedies of the early 20th century.

Village of the Damned

1960 creepy movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: The small village of Midwich lives a peaceful, damned-free existence. But things change when there's a mysterious blackout during which several of the women are impregnated. Less than nine months later, creepy big-headed blond children with psychic abilities and superior intellect are born. Damn it!

This movie isn't great from beginning to end, but most of it is made up of really great scenes. The stage is set immediately with the blackout and ensuing outsiders-trying-to-figure-things-out scenes. The black and white sudden ghost town, with its circling tractors and wrecked buses and overflowing tubs, is shot soundlessly in a way that creates a genuine unease. Later, you get the creepy children with their cheaply glowing eyeballs, and their vacant stares and monotone voices (although now that I think about it, there might have been only one who spoke) work to set a mood that contemporary directors may have tried to accomplish with overly-stylized shots or top-dollar effects. Of course, the final scene would have benefited from somebody spending a little dough. The finale also seemed a bit quick to me.

Babe: Pig in the City

1998 sequel

Rating: 12/20 (Jen: 7/20; Abbey: 20/20; Emma: 17/20)

Plot: For reasons that are never clear to me, Babe and the farmer's wife have to fly to a city following an accident in which the farmer falls into a well. They stay at a hotel filled with monkeys, kitties, and dogs, and various things happen. Babe has to save the day.

What the hell? Parts of this movie look really cool. The imagery of the imaginary city (like a cross between an American city with its skyscrapers and Venice) works to create this otherworldly feel which places this firmly in fairy tale territories. It's all very pretty. I also like the special effects and animal training that went into bringing these characters to life. Most of the voice work was good (Stephen Wright was a monkey) while a few of the new characters were interesting, probably more interesting than the ones in the first movie which, excluding a couple few, aren't in this much at all. But I had an extremely difficult time following the plot of this thing. More specifically, I had a tough time figuring out why this particular weirdo plot was chosen as a sequel to the much-simpler and sweeter story in the first movie. During the last of what seemed like forty-seven climaxes, I kept thinking about the quiet beauty of the climactic scene in the first movie. It's stunning how different this one is from its predecessor. So while I really did enjoy seeing a lot of what I saw, most of this just didn't sit well. No wonder there wasn't a third one of these. The only logical next-step would be to put Babe in some sort of Dante-esque or Boschian afterlife, and that would be more troubling than seeing the near-drowning of a cute little dog.

Actually, I'm starting the petition. Sign below if you would buy a ticket for Babe: Pig in Hell.

Tillie's Punctured Romance

1914 silent comedy

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Swindling city chap Charlie elopes with farm girl Tillie in order to get at her daddy's money. They move to the city, and Charlie abandons Tillie when she gets into a little bit of trouble. Later, Tillie inherits a large chunk of money from her uncle, and Charlie has to knock her off her feet again.

This is only worth watching for historical reasons if it's worth watching at all. It's the first feature-length comedy and Chaplin's first film. Marie Dressler as Tillie, however, is really the most interesting aspect of the film. There's nothing special about what Chaplin does, the movie isn't funny at all, and it really doesn't even make much sense. Most of the comedy involves the characters kicking each other in the behind. I wish I would have counted the amount of times the characters kicked each other. I bet it was about as much as the average kung-fu movie though. Tillie's Punctured Romance failed to make me laugh; heck, it failed to make me even smile. The Birth of a Nation from 1915 might actually be funnier.

Waiting for Hockney

2008 documentary

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Delusional pencil artist/waiter Billy Pappas works for eight and a half years in his studio (located conveniently in his parents' home) on an insanely detailed sketch of Marilyn Monroe. He has high hopes that he's about to rock the art world and wants artist David Hockney to validate his hard work. Unfortunately, he's got an encouraging entourage.

First off, the picture itself, once the filmmaker finally decides to reveal it, is pretty incredible. I'm not sure about the decision to wait so long for that unveiling. There's so much of a build-up that pretty much anything is going to be underwhelming, but it's still a pretty magical moment once it's unveiled. The eventual meeting with David Hockney, also built-up and highly anticipated, is only shown in photographs and discussed by the eye witnesses. It sort of takes away some of story's spunk. Still, this can be stacked up with a couple fistfuls of other documentaries and fictions about artists and their art and the philosophical questions about what art even is.

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeouisie

1972 Bunuel comedy

Rating: 16/20 (Jen: 13/20)

Plot: Six snooty friends try unsuccessfully to have dinner together.

This isn't a hilarious comedy. It's sort of a comedy for people who think the typical Frasier episode is way too wild. It's more funny on an intellectual level, probably funnier for Bunuel himself than anybody else. Well, not anymore since Bunuel is dead. The surreal elements are subdued; there's nothing too goofy here, but characters wander in and out of dreams. I think some of them might even have dreams within other characters' dreams. Puzzling stuff, definitely puzzling enough to frustrate probably anybody who watches this. I really enjoy scratching my head though.

A Night at the Opera

1935 musical comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Poncho, Lefty, Karl, Stinky, Shifty, Bimbo, Gordo, and Jacko Marx destroy a night at the opera.

When ranking the Marx Brothers movies I've seen, it would be Duck Soup at the top followed by everything else. A Night at the Opera is consistently cited as one of the best if not their very best, and I can understand why. The story is easily the most cohesive, the pacing is much better, and their are some classic bits. I don't think those classic bits are as uproariously hilarious as some of their others, and this one does suffer from that 1930's need for comedies to have endless and bland musical numbers. And while I do always enjoy watching the obligatory Harpo and Chico musical numbers, this one isn't their best. Still, I'm just nitpicking. This is not only a great 1930's comedy, it's (as the poster says) the funniest picture ever made.

Pulp Fiction

1994 Buddy Holly biopic

Rating: 20/20 (Jen: 16/20)

Plot: Four intertwining stories in one--Hit men Vincent and Jules fetch boss Marcellus's briefcase which very obviously contains nothing but radioactive tapioca pudding; Vincent shows Marcellus's wife Mia a good time and helps her win a dance contest; boxer Butch, paid to lose a fight by knockout in the fifth, changes his mind and decides to run off with the money instead; and two small-time crooks decide to rob a restaurant.

Is there a two and a half hour film that is this consistently entertaining from beginning to end? It's been fifteen years, so this can safely be given classic status. Lively, audacious, glossy storytelling, this movie just shimmers. The characters are so great. Credit the actors, of course, but the dialogue they're given also sparkles. Pulp Fiction has more great scenes than a movie should legally be allowed to have, the kind of scenes that just pop into your head randomly when you're mowing the grass or standing in line at a gas station. I love how Tarantino creates this world where there's really nothing unfamiliar (and in fact, so much is plundered from other pop culture sources) yet it still seems like a completely fresh place you've never been before.

Man on the Moon

1999 biopic

Rating: 15/20

Plot: The pointless career of criminally untalented but intriguing public annoyance Andy Kaufman.

This is very similar (same strengths, same flaws) to The People Vs. Larry Flynt, probably because they're both directed by Milos Forman. I like this movie despite not being all that impressed with Kaufman as a "comedian" or really as a human being. Ok, the second part of that might be a lie. Jim Carrey perfectly embodies Kaufman with the mannerisms, the voices, and the facial features, but after a while, it just seems like you're watching a two-hour impersonation instead of a fully realized movie. This movie actually seems to hit a wall at about the halfway mark, right around the time when Andy starts wrestling. From that point until another point, things drag, I think weakening a lot of the impact that the movie's ending could have. I'm not sure why there was so much of a focus on the wrestling when a lot of the other stuff seemed pretty quickly skimmed over. Aside from Carrey, the other performances (DeVito, Giammati) are really good, and it's fun to see reconstructions of a few of the "highlights" of Kaufman's career.

Earth Vs. the Spider

1958 B-movie

Rating: 9/20

Plot: Teenage lovebirds stumble into a cave despite signs that clearly warn them to stay out of the cave. Teenagers, those who can read, never listen. The cave happens to be the lair of a gigantic spider that has killed the girl's father. Help arrives and the spider is killed and taken downtown to be displayed and studied. But oh, snap! Some more teenagers revive the beast by playing rock 'n' roll music and the spider has to be stopped a second time. Damn those teens and their devil music!

This movie isn't really offensively or laughably terrible which unfortunately makes it a little boring. The acting's flat, the characters are boring, and the story is pedestrian. There's about 10-15 minutes where the giant spider is crawling around the small town (this is, by the way, more like A Small Generic Town Vs. the Spider rather than Earth Vs. the Spider) while people run around screaming. That part is mildly entertaining. The special effects, a superimposed spider, aren't awful, at least all the time. There's no interacting between the creature and the people. There are a few scenes where a spider leg extends from off-screen to slap a human around, but that's about it and it makes the violence and "horror" in this a bit hokey. I was impressed with the cave scenes. Lots of stalactites and stalagmites here even though it probably would have been much cheaper to just show the same stalactites and stalagmites over and over again. It wasn't enough though. This was a pretty boring movie.

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

1965 sexploitation masterpiece

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Three mean go-go dancers, while out in the desert driving their hot rods really fast, kill! kill! a guy and kidnap his girlfriend. At a gas station, they hear about a crippled old man who lives with his two sons and who has a large amount of money hidden somewhere on his expansive desert property. They decide to go find it.

Russ Meyer was the "King of the Nudies," but this one has no nudity at all, unless you consider glimpses of naked backs to be "nudity". However, almost every single shot in the film is bursting with sexual fervor. There's enough oppressive udder activity in this, mounds not only threatening the strength of their wardrobes but threatening to break out of the television screen and smother the dog. There's also not anything overtly violent. Sure, characters kill! kill! and there's a Hamlet-esque denouement, but the more horrifying parts of the violence in this is psychological or suggested violence. Is the story, acting, and dialogue a little junky? Absolutely. The dialogue, at times, seems like it's being read phonetically by two of the three pussycats, and the characters' motivations at times don't make much sense. But this is some really artistic trash! I love the cinematography. This is the type of movie where you could pause the movie almost randomly and find yourself something poster-worthy. Really iconic imagery. The weird acting fits, and I actually did like Stuart Lancaster as the old man. Great stuff.

Apparently, there's a remake of this one in development. Why? How can Tura Satana be replaced?

Paranoia 1.0

2004 dullfest

Rating: 9/20

Plot: A computer programmer living in a dilapidated apartment keeps getting empty brown packages sent to him anonymously. He tries to figure out who is sending them and why. I try to figure out why I haven't stopped watching the movie.

I can't decide which title for this movie I hate more--Paranoia 1.0 or One Point O. Both are probably examples of "books" you can judge by their pretentious covers. This incredibly boring artsy-fartsy nonsense somehow manages to be really stuffy and lifeless and one of those ultra-modern technobabble things. I'd rather watch robots masturbate. The story makes little sense, making this sort of like an Eraserhead without personality or humor. Or maybe like Cronenberg-lite, a Cronenberg that doesn't inspire any feelings of hatred. Or any feelings. It does have an Eraserhead-esque soundtrack, industrial sputterings and filthy ambient textures. I hated it. There are some moments featuring some creative camera work, but for the most part this film looks pretty ugly, all browns and greenish browns. And the lines, mostly all mumbly-jumbly anyway, are delivered (garbled) in a way that made me not even care to pay attention. Really dull movie, but I did learn a pair of lessons: 1) Beware of movies with really terrible titles, and 2) Don't bother with any sequels.


1975 monster movie

Rating: 2/20 (Jen: -1/20)

Plot: A bitter and insane scientist, Dr. Leopold, transforms himself into a "walking catfish" in order to get revenge on colleagues who doubted his ideas. He also wants to team up with other aquatic beings in order to take over the world.

The first fifteen minutes of this is just footage of a tired looking dopey scientist shuffling about, occasionally twiddling with knobs. We get to hear his thoughts which barely make sense. We also get to hear his Vincent Price-esque evil laugh which begs the question--do actual evil scientists really stop their thoughts to laugh evil laughs in their heads? The remaining seventy-five minutes or so of the movie is a ratty-looking sea monster shuffling around, occasionally twiddling with knobs. The soundtrack of this movie consists of one obnoxiously repetitive moog synthesizer dick-around after another. Seriously, I could have spent a couple hours with a moog and come up with a very similar soundtrack. For a while, this was in the so-bad-it's-entertaining camp, but by the end of this, it felt as if somebody had repeatedly slapped my brain. I did laugh nearly every time somebody died in this horror film. That's usually not a very good sign. There is some really nice (stock?) footage of sea creatures. Of course, there's also the filmmakers' sorry excuse for a killer sea creature:

For reasons I can't explain, I felt filthy after watching this movie and required a hot shower. If you're looking for this atrocity, it does have alternate titles including Attack of the Swamp Creatures (even though there is only a single attacking swamp creature in the movie), Blood Waters of Dr. Z, and Hydra. Like all movies that contend for the title "Worst Movie Ever Made," nobody associated with the making of this film was ever allowed to work in the movie industry again.

The Tingler

1959 William Castle science fiction horror movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Dr. Chapin's been experimenting with the source of human fear for a long time, sacrificing his relationship with his wife and maybe even his credibility. He's able to capture x-ray images of a creature that moves along the spine when somebody is scared, a creature whose only weakness is the human scream. Chapin stumbles upon an easily-frightened deaf woman and gets the opportunity to further study the Tingler.

This is considered a bad movie, but I just don't see it. It's got a great role for Vincent Price as the doctor, it's stylish, the story is original and interesting, there are some really creative visual effects including an innovative use of color, it includes a depiction of an LSD trip, and it's called The Tingler. I like the dynamics between the characters, and there's some good dialogue between Price's character and his wife. The soundtrack is also very strong even as it seems plagiarized from Hitchcock's films. Are there some goofy moments? Sure. I guess the schlockiest thing about this is the Tingler itself, sort of an indestructible centipede thing that bounces along the floor clumsily. And there's also, of course, the gimmickry. Castle planted screamers in the audience and used electrical shocks to give theater-goers a more multi-sensory experience. There's a really cool moment when the screen is completely dark and the only soundtrack is Vincent Price's voice and lots of screaming. I wouldn't try to argue that it's not cheesy, but at the same time, it's entirely possible that it's the greatest moment in the history of cinema. It's been a while since I've seen a Vincent Price movie. Every time I see one, I'm reminded that he is one of the greatest talents of all time. Anybody who can, without even the slightest giggle, say the lines he had to say during his film career deserves special recognition.

Muppet Treasure Island

1996 tale of swashbuckling puppets

Rating: 12/20

Plot: It's the exact same as Stevenson's classic novel except with a frog and a Gonzo. Everything else is exactly the same!

And Miss Piggy is added, extraneously. I don't like how her character is squeezed into the proceedings. I also don't like Tim Curry as Long John, partly because I picture (perhaps incorrectly) an older, scrawnier, and scruffier Long John and partly because Curry doesn't look at the Muppets when he talks to them. That's just inexcusable. I also don't like how the island itself likes, but I do like the sets that are used for the other settings. The puppets themselves are fun to watch with lots of complex movements all at once. You really feel like you're watching living things with these Muppets. The writing is typical Muppet stuff--some really bad jokes and some unbearable ones--but that's all part of the fun, and there are some nice moments when the humor gets a little dark. I wish the songs would have been a little more fun. They just don't work, although the choreography accompanying them is pretty impressive. All in all, this looks to be a half-assed affair. It would have been a really good straight-to-video release.

Manos: The Hands of Fate (again)

1966 artistic masterpiece

Rating: 1/20 (Mark: 1/20; Amy: 4/20)

Plot: See previous write-up in this blog for the "plot" of this movie.

The best thing about owning your own copy of Manos: The Hands of Fate is that you can watch it any time you want. The other best thing about owning it is that you can force your friends to watch it. An unplanned Manos viewing has got to be one of the best ways to celebrate the holiday season. 19,000 dollars, by the way, Mark, most of it likely spent on the prosthetics for Torgo's goat legs or The Master's bitchin' black and red cape. You know a movie is in trouble when not only the dogs are out-acting the people, but you really get the sense that the dogs could have written a better script.

Wise Blood

1979 American masterpiece

Rating: 12/20 (Mark: 10/20; Amy: 6/20)

Plot: Wounded veteran Hazel Motes returns to the deepest South, buys himself a suit and a preacher hat, and moves to the city to do some things he's never done before. He does them in a very intense way. He meets a bunch of mentally-challenged southerners, sleeps with a fat whore, buys a car that will get him anywhere, and decides to start the Church of Jesus without Jesus.

I really wanted to like this movie. I'm still a little surprised that I didn't like it very much since it's just the type of movie that I generally like. I did really like how this movie looked; there's a richness and texture that brings alive this almost otherworldly South. I don't remember much about the Flannery O'Connor novella, just that I really liked it, so I'm not sure exactly how true this cinematic version of the story is to the text. I do know that this was disjointed, thematically uneven and frustratingly clunky. It's heavily symbolic, but the symbolism is made really silly by what's either a bad script or terribly delivered lines. I'm leaning toward the latter. The cast--led by Brad Dourif who actually made me uncomfortable as the ultra-emotive protagonist but supported by Harry Dean Standon, Ned Beatty, and Dan Shor--do nothing to make their characters resemble actual people, giving really bizarre performances that actually busted my quirkmeter. Those sonsabitches ain't exactly cheap either! If I could be more convinced that this was a dark comedy or if I could put the pieces together and figure out what this is saying, I'd feel more inclined to like and recommend this.

The Long Good Friday

1980 English gangsta flick

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Things is going good for Harold, top London gangster, as he tries to put the finishing touches on a deal with some tall Americans that promises to bring him billions. He's also sleeping with Helen Mirren. It's Good Friday and Harold wakes up ready to celebrate. But oh, snap! Somebody starts blowing up or stabbing his friends or ruining his dinner plans, and he has to put a stop to it before the Americans lose interest in working with him.

This is really all about watching Hoskins' character gradually unravel and lose his cool, and this is the kind of movie that is worth the time just to watch a great actor create a great character. There's a wonderful, almost hidden intensity that builds in his character until the final (great) scene in which he can finally take a breath and rest, albeit submerged in the shadows of irony. The story's a little hard to follow, especially early on, and it's got that stuffy Englishy flavo(u)r that I hate, but the in medias res storytelling and a suspense that is so quiet you barely know it's there work very well. There are a few really cool scenes, and the interrogation scene could be regarded as a classic. The music, however, is probably some of the worst that I've heard this year and really dates the thing.

Recommended by Cory. Did you know, by the way, that they're apparently doing a remake of this?


2006 zombie comedy

Rating: 11/20

Plot: Following a living person vs. zombies war, a company called Zombiecore creates technology that domesticates the dead, giving middle class families the chance to own zombies as pets or slaves. The Robinsons get themselves a zombie even though Dad isn't happy with the purchase, and little friendless and frequently bullied Timmy finds not only a bodyguard but a new best friend. Until it starts devouring the neighbors.

The best thing I can say about this is that it was very colorful. I liked the contrast between the shiny happy 1950s colors and the deadness of the zombies. It's a fun juxtaposition. Pretty much everything else about this movie annoyed me. An oppressive score, a lousy script, flat humor, and an underlying triteness made this impossible for me to sit through in one sitting. In fact, I watched this movie in nineteen installments. It fails as a comedy and it fails as a zombie movie. This really seemed like something Tim Burton would involve himself with and was about as good as most of his movies, too. Was Billy Connelly, whose performance ranged from ecstatic grunting to low-key grunting, nominated for best supporting actor for this one? It might get my vote for the most moving zombie performance of all time.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

2007 incoherent blockbuster

Rating: 8/20 (Dylan: 7/20)

Plot: Pirate Jack Sparrow and his swashbuckling peers, following the success of the first pirate movies--Pirates of the Caribbean: Not Just a Disney World Ride and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Search for Keira Knightley's Booty--decide that they can fit more gold pieces on their ship, so they throw a script together and make another film. Glub glub.

Anybody got some Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End cliffnotes? I couldn't follow what the hell was going on in this movie. I tried to stop caring and just watch the pretty pictures and the action sequences, but after a while, those got boring. Whereas the second movie still managed to be entertaining and keep the charms and rhythms of that first pirate movie while not being nearly as good, this one is completely drained of charm, is meandering to the point where it might as well not have a plot at all, and just isn't much fun. I like a few of sexiest-man-ever Johnny Depp's lines and the costumes and effects are just as good as in the other movies, but the incoherent action scenes go on for far too long, the characters have no room to grow, and story winds up feeling strangely unresolved, and it felt like I was being pounded on the head by the movie's score. If the geniuses at Disney can't figure out a way to give me my 7 1/2 hours back, they can at least make it up to me by allowing me to hit Orlando Bloom with a sock full of doubloons.

Putney Swope

1969 comedy

Rating: 13/20

Plot: The president of a struggling advertising firm drops dead during a board meeting. The board members immediately vote on who should be the new president, the only condition being that they can't vote for themselves. They all decide to vote for Putney Swope, the lone black member of the board, thinking that nobody else would vote for him. He replaces the white collar white guys with some brothers and brings some truth and soul into the firm.

Another Robert Downey flick, this one less of a glorious mess and more of a frustrating one. One problem is that it's dated, a product of its time that likely would have raised some eyebrows back in the late 60s but doesn't retain much of its shock value 40 years later. It's definitely not without its moments and at times is pretty funny, but the hour and a half of gritty and artsy-fartsy incoherency would be draining for the average audience. Still, it's daring, unconventional, and anarchic enough for adventurous and patient film lovers to pop in. It's another one of those types of movies that I think I'd probably like better if I watched it a second time.

Greaser's Palace

1972 Western comedy spoof

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A zoot-suited Christ lands in the desert and begins healing people, performing miracles, and prophesying. The constipated Seaweedhead Greaser, owner of the titular establishment, and his gang of oddballs do various things, few which make any sense.

This strange little movie has a language of its own. It's rebellious and quietly wild, weird and wacky, and almost completely pointless. You'll scratch your head until your skull bleeds, you'll laugh a bewildered guffaw, and you'll declare that you've just watched the greatest Western ever made and then immediately retract the statement, claim you never said that and that you indeed hate the movie, and get a few band-aids for that skull of yours. I was moved spiritually, nearly baptized myself in a kool-aid bath actually as the credits rolled, but it also made me want to wash my hands with another man's washcloth and drink a cup and a half of bleach afterwards. A unique and wonderful slab of absurdist funk here!

Harold and Maude

1971 romantic comedy

Rating: 20/20

Plot: Gloomy and asocial Harold gets his kicks faking suicide for the benefit of his mother. While Mom tries to set him up with a suitable mate via a dating service, Harold meets nearly-eighty-year-old Maude under more natural circumstances--while recreationally attending a funeral of somebody he didn't know. They hang out, he falls in love, and she teaches him how to live.

"I suppose you think that's very funny, Harold." What a great first line! This is one of my favorite movies. I sincerely believe that this is one of the most beautiful of cinema's love stories, and I love how a movie that starts with so much death and dark humor ultimately has so much to say about life and how to live it. I also love the humor, the performances from the two leads (the fringe characters are also good), and, even though I'm not exactly a Cat Stevens fan, the music. The screenplay is also really good. Harold and Maude just seems so easy to enjoy; it's effortless and manages to surprise again and again.

Full Battle Rattle

2008 documentary

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Full Battle Rattle details the goings-on at a military training facility in the Mojave Desert that helps prepare troops for the War in Iraq.

This was sprawling, fairly dull, and ultimately kind of pointless. I'm glad to be made aware of this facility, and there were a few scenes that I liked just because of their oddness (the collection of fake limbs and the ice cream truck, for example) but this just didn't add up to much at all. There were a few potentially interesting side-stories about some of the Iraqi-Americans who participated in the simulation (my favorite being the guy who really got off getting to play the po-po) and I thought the general or whatever he was was an intriguing figure, but there just wasn't enough here to sustain my interest.

Black Orpheus

1959 mythic musical myth musical

Rating: 16/20

Plot: In the slums of Rio de Janeiro during carnaval time, Orpheus falls in love with visiting Eurydice. Then a guy in a skeleton costume kills her.

Interesting choice to place the Orpheus/Eurydice myth in this particular location. Arguably, the colors and the music are the real stars in this movie. The bossa nova score gives the film a pulse. You could feast on the colors that compliment the music. Literally! I really like how every inch of the screen is utilized with minor characters wandering in the background or things happening outside windows behind characters. True, some of the scenes of festive dancing could have probably been cut, but I like how they contrast against the scenes with the Death character and Orpheus's grim search for his missing Eurydice in a world suddenly drained of color. There's very little flashiness in the way this myth is told, but its beautiful simplicity makes it a powerful, rewarding experience.

College Road Trip

2008 comedy

Rating: 5/20

Plot: Overly protective and loving father Martin Lawrence goes on a college road trip with his daughter, one of the kids on The Cosby Show. It's annoying!

File this in the "Forced to Watch Against My Will" category. Very derivative, predictable comedy that I'm frankly shocked to find out came out in 2008. It's got the feel of a 60's Disney comedy. I kept waiting for Hayley Mills to show up and start crunk dancing. Color-by-numbers comedy that is made more obnoxious by some performers who decided to take their characters beyond quirky and well into annoyingly unrealistic. And nowhere near funny. I protested this choice of school movie (it followed a field trip) but nobody listens to me. Me! A guy with his own movie blog and an impeccable history of rating movies! Oh, well. Screw 'em!

The Nightmare Before Christmas

1993 animated classic

Rating: 18/20 (Abbey: 15/20; Emma: 12/20; Dylan: 6/20)

Plot: Jack Skellington, the emaciated brains behind the Halloween Town festivities, has grown a little bored with the gruesome decor and traditions of the annual bash. He stumbles upon Christmas Town and is enamored with the bright lights, the pretty packages, and the mystique of Santa Claus. He decides to take the ideas back to his Halloween Town peers and set up his own Christmas. It doesn't work out very well.

I hate the scene where Jack rescues Santa Claus from the Oogy-Boogy man. Other than that, this movie is pitch perfect and might have my vote for best full-length feature film debut. Visually, there's so much to see, especially during the musical numbers. The screen is filled with so many complexly moving figures, and it's hard to imagine the hours that had to be put into the stop animation. Musically, this is Danny Elfman's finest hour. Generally, I could take or leave the music in an animated musical (and, by the way, was glad that Coraline didn't have any) but the songs in this one are indispensable. The instrumental stuff, a lot of it played by a Waitsian accordion-driven street trio, is also really good and goes hand in hand with the visuals to create the mood in this almost fairy tale land. Solid characters, iconic imagery, a bizarre sense of dark humor, and great rewatchability make this a holiday classic.