2010 Recap (aka I've Done This for Three Years Now?)

Billy Curtis Award: Traditionally, we honor our little-person-of-the-year first, and that isn't changing this year. What is changing is the name of the award. I've decided to name it after the late great Billy Curtis, the first recipient of the Little Person of the Year Award.

This year, we had Tony Cox as the criminal elf in Bad Santa, a significant role that nevertheless didn't get his name on the poster. Harry Earles was fantastic as the little guy in The Unholy Three, and R2-D2 himself Kenny Baker had a short (ha ha) appearance in The Elephant Man. Billy Curtis himself had a very small (ha ha) part in The Incredible Shrinking Man, but there was really only one little guy who could win the award this year. Herve Villechaize wins for his work in both Forbidden Zone as King Fausto of the Sixth Dimension and Nick Nack in The Man with the Golden Gun.

Most Incredible Achievement in the History of Movies: Me, mo-fos! I watched 137 movies in a row with the word "man" in the title. How this isn't newsworthy is beyond me.

Biggest "No!" Moment: Harvey Kietel's little Harvey in Bad Lieutenant.

Best Animated Movie: Lots of good ones! I loved Ponyo and The Princess and the Frog. I loved The Fantastic Mr. Fox and Toy Story 3 even more. My Neighbor Totoro is great despite what some of my readers think, but I'd already seen that. The award goes to the frequently funny and frequently touching Mary and Max.

Worst Caveman Movie: For whatever reason, I saw an above-average amount of cave people movies this year. Themroc wasn't bad, and One Million Years B.C., although not very entertaining, wasn't the most terrible. In a normal year, Teenage Caveman (5/20) would probably win, but I saw The Wild Women of Wongo (3/20) this year. But not even that captures the Worst Caveman Movie of the Year Award! Nope, that has to be the dreadful Eegah (2/20) with Richard Kiel (Jaws in the Bond movie) as the 7'2" titular character. If I had an opposite of a Billy Curtis Award, he'd likely get it.

Shane-Movies Blog Buzzword of the Year: Reader Cory's favorite--Delightful? My most overused word--Titular? I couldn't pass up dickfart, introduced by reader Larst when he posed as an Anonymous to leave a comment for the Orphan entry. Dickfart didn't linger, but it still left a mark.

Favorite Comments of the Year: Speaking of my four-and-a-half readers (Man, I really wanted to get that up to five-and-a-half this year!), they leave me lots of delightful comments.

My favorites:
Anonymous: "Your must be jealous of orphan because its popular and you only got like two people reading of your blog! lmao!"
Kairow: "If 250 movies were southbound on a train going 25.4 mph, while the cast of Harry Potter and Tea Leoni are traveling northbound at 25.4 kilometers per hour, in a semi driven by Kris Kristofferson's nipples, which train would arrive at the end of this topic of discussion first? (P.S. Nipples are unshaven. You must show your work to get credit.)"
Barry: "Karen Allen looked like she had eaten Short Round right before filming."
Kairow (again): "I will be honest, child rape never crossed my mind during Totoro."
Cory: "Your theory and take are wrong." Or "What the hell is thmilsde?"
Larst: "I need to wash your lack of taste out of my brain."

Documentary of the Year: The fascinating Big River Man beats out a lot of good ones. Watching Martin Strel lose his mind in the 4th Dimension is as fun as it gets. Even Dylan gave that movie a 20/20. Other contenders: My Winnipeg by shane-movies favorite Guy Maddin, Marjoe about that child preacher, and Touching the Void, recommended by Cory. Oh, and I liked seeing those bugs in Besieged Fortress.

Favorite Word from a Musical: "Shipoopi!" R.I.P. Buddy Hackett.

Most Depressing Movie: The Devil, Probably. And Dear Zachary. Thanks for those, Cory and Larst. Most Depressing Movie Experience (an entirely different thing) was Meet Me in St. Louis. See below for the reason why.

Best Sound Effect: The blippity blurping sounds from Alec Guinness's series of beakers in The Man in the White Suit, a sound effect cleverly pinched by Wes Anderson for The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Most Offensive Child Actor of the Year: Good God! I still can't, to borrow Larst's lingo, wash the taste of Margaret O'Brien from Meet Me in St. Louis out of my brain! Also offensive: Bonita Granville from These Three, Tommy Bupp from It's a Gift, Hallie Kate Eisenberg (Uggh! I hate that family!) from Bicentennial Man, and Julie Herrod from Wait Until Dark. Three of those were recommended by Cory. I don't know what that means.

Recommender of the Year: Cory, despite those movies with the offensive child actors! Six 18/20's and ten 17/20's? Holy cow! That's some terrific recommending!

Best Movie with At Least One Scene Featuring Sharon Tate in a Bathtub: The Fearless Vampire Hunters

My Most Outrageous Claim of the Year: "I could have written [the screenplay for Home Alone 2] with nothing more than the screenplay for Home Alone 1, ten bottles of white-out, a pencil, and forty-five minutes."

Best Puppet: Ventriloquist dummy in Dead of Night.

Most Santo Moment: 1) Santo rips off his opponent's mask in Santo vs. the Vampire Women. 2) Almost every scene in Santo and Blue Demon Against the Monsters. Trying to pick a favorite Santo moment would likely cause the world to implode.

Best Appearance by a Wrestler Not Named Santo: Plan Nine "actor" Tor Johnson was in The Man on the Flying Trapeze.

Best Movie Moment Featuring at Least One Nipple (New Category): Richard Harris suspended by his in A Man Called Horse or the faux-nipples in The Man with the Golden Gun?

Best Groucho Line: "There's something Corrupt going on around my pants" from Go West.

Best Bird: The penguins from The Man Who Came to Dinner.

Most Inspiring Movie Quote of the Year: "There is an endless supply of white men, but there have always been a limited number of human beings." I've always loved that quote from Little Big Man. "Funny is a person trying to smile without teeth" is great. So is "Where are you taking me, Homo?" on a title card, not spoken. Mystery Train's "At the time of his death, if he were on Jupiter, Elvis would have weighed six hundred and forty-eight pounds" is great. But I have to give this award to The Pistol: The Birth of a Legend for the words "Pete, watching you makes me want to dream." Listening to the dialogue in that movie made me want to bleed from the ears.

Best Monster: Oh, boy. The Incredible Melting Man from the movie of the same title was nice and gooey. The seductive Wasp Woman was easily the sexiest monster of the year. That little guy who just stood around in that Santo movie or the Cyclops or Dracula, a vampire not afraid to strike a pose, in the same movie? The Goatman, another monster I got to see with Kairow. Does the cymbal monkey in Toy Story 3 count? The Mighty Peking Man? I'm still just happy a movie called Manster exists, and that scene where the guy's starting to turn into a monster and an eyeball appears on his shoulder is one of the best things I've seen all year! That creature in Corman's The Creature from the Haunted Sea sure was goofy, and I liked those giant stars with an eye in the Japanese sci-fi weirdness that was Warning from Space. No, I've got to give the Best Monster award to Teenagers from Space for the terrifying shadows of lobsters. Can't figure out how to make a big scary lobster thing? Don't have a budget? Nothing to worry about, makers of Teenagers from Space! Just use a lobster shadow!

Favorite Moment that Made Me Want Wish My Grandfather Was Still Alive So I Could Share It with Him: Watching the jungle girl climb up and down the tree in The Mighty Peking Man. That old dickfart would have loved that scene!

Best Musical Moment: That part near the end of Honkeytonk Man with Marty Robbins almost made me cry. The beatboxers in Forbidden Zone (and a hell of a lot more) were great. There's a scene I'm mentioning later from Bad Lieutenant that could fit here. I loved a version of "The Moonlight Sonata" from Walker, and the line that follows a song sung by Jarvis Cocker's character in The Fantastic Mr. Fox--"You wrote a bad song, Petey." David Byrne bouncing around and sweating profusely inside that big suit? The musical number in Man of the Century about how the guy is a "Diga Diga Do" man is wonderfully wacky. And delightful! My Best Musical Number for 2010 goes to Scott Walker: 30th Century Man for the scene where Walker instructs a percussionist in the studio on the proper way to slap a big chunk of meat.

Best John Malkovich Line: "Hold this watch because if it breaks, I will kill everyone on this train."

Best Nic Cage Moment Not in a Werner Herzog Movie: Watching Cage chase after a car with a McDonald's apple pie in The Weather Man.

Best Use of the Wilhelm Scream: Them! wins this one easily, not necessarily for the clever use of the scream but for the balls to include three of them in the movie. Three Wilhelms?

Best Scene Featuring the Delightful Practice Known by the Kids as "Teabagging": Laurel teabagging Hardy in Block Heads. This just beat out what is likely the first teabagging in cinema history in The Gold Rush.

Most Ridiculous (Good Ridiculous) Movie Moment: The parking garage scene in Drag Me to Hell. I'm not joking when I type that that scene made me pee myself.

Favorite Moment Involving a Frenchman in a Movie about Russia: For no reason I can figure out, a French guy in Russian Ark peeks in a doorway, blows a raspberry, and then leaves.

Most Touching Movie Moment: Watching Karen at the end of Idioterne.

Best Devil: Pitch in Santa Claus? Walter Huston as Mr. Scratch in The Devil and Daniel Webster? Danny Elfman made a pretty good song-and-dance devil in Forbidden Zone. With apologies to those fine thespians, I just have to give the award to Tom Waits as Mr. Nick in The Imaginarium. When Tom Waits acts, I listen.

Best Moment Featuring a Salad: A scene in otherwise dreadful The Man with the Screaming Brain where Bruce Cambell eats a salad.

Best Death Scene: Nothing can beat a scene where a guy, with his own intestines, strangles another guy, and that's exactly what happens in Guy Maddin's Archangel.

Best Mime Scene: There was a midget mime (again, I apologize to any little people reading, but I can't pass up the alliteration) in Shakes the Clown, but the scene with a mime in Mary and Max is easily the best.

Best Masturbation Scene: Why the hell do I have this award? What's wrong with me? Is anybody even reading this still? Runner-up for this award doesn't matter when you've got a scene where a guy masturbates on tomatoes like in Leolo.

Movie That I Wish Was More Well Known: Fred Tuttle: Man with a Plan. Dinky!

Best Nic Cage Moment and Best Moment in Any Movie Ever: "Shoot him again. His soul's still dancing." I can't believe this scene exists! Thank God for Werner Herzog.

Best Performance by an Actor: It almost seems unfair to include Crispin Glover or Vincent Price or Nicolas Cage in this category. Price showed amazing versatility in Theatre of Blood. I also really liked Christoph Waltz in Basterds, Eamonn Owens (the anti-Margaret O'Brien?) in The Butcher Boy, Marcel Marceau in the delightfully strange Shanks, Michel Simon in Boudo, Per Oscarsson in Hunger, the great Buddy Hackett in Music Man, Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs, Monty Woolley in The Man Who Came to Dinner, Maximillian Schell as Arthur Goldman in The Man in the Glass Booth, Chief Dan George in Little Big Man, Richard Dawson as the villain in The Running Man, and Paul Muni in I'm a Fugitive from the Chain Gang. I have to give the Actor of the Year award to Nicolas Cage for Bad Lieutenant though. I have to give it to him "to the break of dawn!"

Best Performance by an Actress: Lots of good ones here, too. Sarah Douglas as Ursa in Superman II. Non-actress Flo Jacobs, the director's mom, in the oddly-named Momma's Man. The lovely Angela Jones in the macabre comedy Curdled. Susan Cabot, the Wasp Woman herself! Sally Kellerman in Brewster McCloud, Judith Anderson as Buffalo Cow Head in A Man Called Horse, or Lillian Gish as the titular girl in The Yellow Man and the Girl (Broken Blossoms)? I certainly enjoyed watching Britt Ekland in The Wicker Man and The Man with the Golden Gun. Edith Evans almost should earn this award for her delivery of "A handbag?" in The Importance of Being Earnest. This award was an easy one for me though. Congratulations, Emmanuelle Beart for your work in Manon of the Spring! That harmonica solo could have also been included in the Best Musical Moment category, by the way.

Worst Movie of the Year: These are unpleasant bad movies, not good-bad movies. Those are for another category. I wanted to give this award to Orphan because some fool who likes this movie too much left those stupid comments. But the truth is, there were worse movies I watched this year. Bicentennial Man (4/20) was particularly brutal, possibly the longest movie I've ever seen. Little Man (4/20) ended the "man" streak. Batman and Robin (4/20) could almost be considered a good-bad movie, so I don't want to pick it. He Was a Quiet Man (3/20) was abysmal, but the winner of the Worst Movie of the Year award goes to the Michael Jackson biopic, Man in the Mirror: The Michael Jackson Story. That 2/20 has to be seen to be believed.
The Manos Award (Best Good-Bad Movie): The contenders--Creature from the Haunted Sea, Eegah, The Amazing Transparent Man, Tentacles, Breaker! Breaker!, Pumaman, The Incredible Melting Man, The Wild Women of Wongo, The Horrors of Spider Island, The Wasp Woman, Santa Claus, and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. The winner--Teenagers from Outer Space.

The Torgo (The Best Bad Acting of the Year): George Murdock, you classed up Breaker! Breaker! Linda Hayden, you made things sizzle in Blood on Satan's Claw. Douglas Kennedy, you made The Incredible Transparent Man come to life. Alan Oppenheomer, you almost had it as Dr. Contrare in that Gamera movie I watched this year! Fess Parker, you sure did your best to bring Them! down a few notches. And Ronald Halicki, your performance as the pig farmer in The Junkman was about the worst thing I've ever seen. And you can call me biased, fine thespians, but I've going with Crispin Glover's dad Bruce Glover for his portrayal as "The ex-husband" in his son's It Is Fine. Everything Is Fine! It's a truly Torgo-esque performance!

Nipples I Almost Forgot About!: Rubber Duck's nipples! Not reader Rubber Duck. Convoy's Rubber Duck.

Best 11 Movies New to Shane (No particular order. . .well, actually they're in the order I watched them. That's a particular order, I guess.):

Inglourious Basterds
The Earrings of Madame de. . .
Odd Man Out
Broken Blossoms
The Man Who Would Be King
The Lavender Hill Mob
Jean de Florette/Manon of the Spring
The Sweet Smell of Success

My Pick for Movie of the Year: You, the Living

But My Actual Favorite Movie Experience of the Year: Forbidden Zone

My Wish for 2011: To find a movie where John Wayne beats the crap out of Tootie from Meet Me in St. Louis. Or that with CGI technology, somebody can still make that movie.


I watched 47 movies in December. I watched only 10 in April. April had the highest average rating with a 16.1, but that's based on only those ten movies. The next high was November with a 14.9 average. The worst average for a month was September with a 9.8, but that was only based on 11 movies as school was starting up again. The next low was actually December with a 12.4.

The rating I gave the most was a 16/20. That's three years in a row. That has to mean something, but I don't know what. I gave only five 20/20 (two Santo movies), and zero movies got a 1/20 this year. There were four 2/20's though.

Average rating: 13.7. Last year it was a 12.6 and the year before it rounded up to a 13.

My Neighbor Totoro

1988 animated feature

Rating: 18/20 (Emma: 14/20; Abbey: 15/20)

Plot: A professor and his two daughters move into an old country house to be close to the hospital where the matriarch of the family is convalescing after a long illness. A neighbor boy warns that the house is haunted, and the girls do spot some creepy dust mite-ish spirits before they quickly scurry away. Once the girls feel more at home, they aren't seen anymore. They also meet a big fluffy bunny thing named Totoro, their neighbor, and a bus/cat hybrid. The girls try to adapt to a house without a mother in it.

Delightful! This has got to be one of the most accurate depictions of children's feelings that I've ever seen. Or maybe it's an accurate look at difficult moments from the point of view of children. My favorite thing about this is how it doesn't focus on the negative stuff that's going on, but on the details that take the characters away from that negative stuff. The titular Totoro is simple but iconic, and I can't imagine anybody watching this movie without wanting to go for a ride in the cat-bus. The animation is beautiful, and the story, although honestly there's not much of a story here, drifts along so softly that you just want to cuddle up with it. There's the best adjective I can use to describe My Neighbor Totoro actually--cuddly. I love everything about this movie, including the songs used for the credits. Cuddly and delightful!


2009 shenanigans

Rating: 15/20 (Mark: 13/20)

Plot: Bazil, not to be confused with any of the numerous cartoon mice named something that sounds like Bazil, has every reason to hate the companies that manufacture weapons. A land mine killed his father and a stray bullet still lodged in his forehead could kill him at any moment. He ends up homeless until adopted into a family of junkyard-dwelling misfits including an ex-human-cannonball and a contortionist. They're more than willing to help Bazil with his convoluted plan to bring down the weapons manufacturers.

This has a lot in common with Jeunet's City of Lost Children and Amelie but it's not nearly as daring or touching as those. You get some visual thrills, some quirky characters, and the wild imaginative quality of his other movies, but this is a little uneven and at times seems like something that's inspired by those films rather than something made by the same person. Still, there's a great story, and a stylistic impersonation of Jeunet's work is a lot better than an impersonation of something else. I wish there could have been more time spent with the assortment of characters. Bazil even seemed a little on the flat side. Instead, most of the time is spent with the intricate ploys Bazil and his posse invent to enact his revenge. They're goofy as ploys can get, like a cross between Wile E. Coyote and fleshy Rube Goldbergs. They're imaginatively complex. I always like Jeunet's refusal to just stick to a story; the quirky asides, like the rhythmic almost-voyeuristic what's-going-down-in-everybody's-apartment scene in Delicatessen, are maybe the best parts! This has its share, from junkyard gadgetry to a tour of one of the weapons guy's odd collection of historic body parts. And speaking of Delicatessen, there's a neat little nod to that film as well. Despite this film's flaws, I couldn't help digging it.

Special note: Julie Ferrier plays the contortionist. I figured she was a contortionist who could act well, but it turns out she's just an actress who isn't a contortionist at all. An erotic contortionist was used for some of the movements that Ferrier couldn't do.

Another note: The full title of Micmacs which appears on some posters throughout the movie means "Non-Stop Shenanigans" apparently. I'm guessing Micmacs means shenanigans.

Christmas Eve Movie Extravaganza!

We watched A Charlie Brown Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life, and A Christmas Story back-to-back-to-back on Christmas Eve.

The Peanuts gang still has the power to, for whatever reason, arouse me sexually. My psychologist has suggested that I don't discuss this with anybody.

It's a Wondeful Life. . .what can I say? I seem to like it a little more each time I see it. It's far from perfect, but it's a touching story with a great message. I'd bump it up a point to a 15/20, but I think I'll bump it up an extra point and call it Cory's Christmas present. So a 16/20 for me, an 18/20 for Jen, an 11/20 for Dylan, a 12/20 for Emma, and a 17/20 for Abbey.

And A Christmas Story: 16/20 for me. Nobody else in my family had previously seen it. Jen: 16/20; Dylan: 12/20; Emma: 12/20; Abbey: 10/20. I think Peter Billingsly's performance is my favorite child acting performance ever. My home town is mentioned in this movie.

Merry Christmas, four-and-a-half readers!

Bad Santa

2003 Christmas movie

Rating: 15/20 (Jen: 14/20)

Plot: Billy Bob and his little buddy Marcus love Christmas. It's all about tradition with those two with Billy Bob dressing as Santa and bringing delight to children at malls while Marcus plays his elf helper. And when the Christmas season is ending, they rob the mall and run off. With each passing year, Billy Bob's drinking and sexual exploits get more and more in the way of the duo's plans. But this season, meeting a chubby kid and a new ho ho ho threaten to change him.

This was the perfect movie to wash Meet Me in St. Louis out of my mouth although I must admit that I'm almost ashamed that I like it. It's just funny to watch Santa Claus piss himself, curse, drink, and nail Lauren Graham. It's almost too easy, and I don't want to give the writers any credit. It'd be like crediting the writers of America's Funniest Home Videos for all those shots of people being hit in the groin. Or crediting zookeepers with monkeys being funny. Still, this is a very funny and often unpredictable movie, and Billy Bob's performance as the titular Santa is award worthy. I also thought John Ritter was hilarious in every one of his scenes, and I liked the kid, apparently named The Kid, played by Brett Kelly. I'm envisioning a mash-up between this and Meet Me in St. Louis actually where The Kid eats Tootie. No, there's nothing really sweet about this movie, and I can't see it putting anybody in the Christmas spirit, but it's a ton of fun. As I've always said, the Christmas season would benefit from more cursing.

Meet Me in St. Louis

1944 piece of technicolor crap

Rating: 10/20 (Jen: 13/20)

Plot: Attorney Smith lives in St. Louis with his wife and four daughters, one of them who might be the devil. They spend most of their time singing and being carefree, but suddenly, Dad announces that they're going to move to New York City. Oh, snap! This depresses everybody!

Judy Garland is sort of homely and has a terrible voice. Shirley Temple should have played Esther in this movie. There really isn't enough story here to make an entire movie which is why, I guess, they have to stuff in a bunch of songs. This might have been the most excruciating movie experience of the year for me, mostly because of the disturbing and obnoxious performance of child actress Margaret O'Brien as "Tootie," the only character I've watched this year with this almost overwhelming desire to hit repeatedly with a shovel. Seriously, what the hell is going on with Tootie? She's psychologically disturbed! The Halloween scene in which she's burning furniture and throwing flour in people's faces for no good reason is bad enough, but when she talks openly about trying to murder people? Yikes! If I would have watched this movie seventeen years ago, this kid would have inspired me to castrate myself so that I wouldn't accidentally have children. In addition to children, this movie also made me hate the following:

--St. Louis, a city I've always loved
--The Wizard of Oz
--My wife
--White people
--Square dancing
--Alec Baldwin
--The Facts of Life
It's been a couple days, but Meet Me in St. Louis seems to have this ability to continue making me suffer long after it's ended. It's like a bad taste in my soul. How this movie didn't lead to murder-suicide must be some kind of Christmas miracle.

Kill it with a shovel:

The Right Stuff

1983 airplane and spaceship movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Traces the advances of flight and the U.S. space program from the time Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier to the training and travels of the Mercury 7 astronauts.

Der Stoff Aus Dem Die Helden Sind is a thoroughly engaging, light-hearted breath of fresh air. There were a lot of ways this material could have been approached. This movie almost fictionalizes the events and characters, and never steers away from an opportunity for a little humor. Instead of inflating the hero aspect, the script makes these pilots and astronauts very very human, and I really liked all the scenes with the bumbling politicians. Their scenes aren't far off from Abbott and Costello routines or an Ionesco play. The scenes with the flights are very realistic without being overly special-effecty, and even though anybody with even a rudimentary knowledge of this period of history knows what happens with the characters, they still manage to hold the tension. At six hours and forty-three minutes, this movie is very long, but it's never boring. The music was a bit much a lot of the time, and the sudden narration at the end is weird. Overall, I really enjoyed this very warm look at the Cold War, a movie that puts a human face on the wacky and wild world of space travel. If nothing else, this movie may have inspired me to incorporate horses into my sex life.

Cory always wanted to be an astronaut as a little boy. Or a shark. Watching movies about them was the next best thing. He recommended The Right Stuff.

This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse

1967 sequel

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Coffin Joe is back to his old tricks after being acquitted of the murders he's accused of committing, the same crimes we got to see him commit in the first movie. He still longs for a son, and kidnaps six women with the hopes that one of them will be perfect enough to help him create the perfect offspring. It's sort of like a Coffin Joe reality show except one that is nowhere near as offensive as the Sarah Palin reality show. He dumps tarantulas on them and allows snakes to attack them. This does nothing for his popularity.

All of a sudden, Coffin Joe's got himself a hunchbacked friend! Bruno! This sequel's not as strong as the first, mostly because Coffin Joe never shuts up. The guy just goes on and on and on. No wonder he's got no friends! I still like his character though, as misanthropic as they come, a guy with a weird spider fetish, and a guy who could really be considered a good role model because he sets a goal and then refuses to give up until that goal is reached. There are some genuinely creepy moments, made creepier by the nothing-budget, but this one doesn't shock as much as At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul. There was one great scene though with a close-up of Coffin Joe coming in for a kiss. If anything in this movie gives me nightmares, it'll be that. After the opening credits--weird sound effects accompanying images of floating bones, hands bursting through soil, and underpants--I had high expectations, but this installment of the Coffin Joe story stutter-stepped a bit too much and never was able to sustain a momentum. Bruno was cool though.

Jonah Hex

2010 comic book Western

Rating: 9/20

Plot: In postbellum America, Jonah Hex is Civil War hero turned ruthless bounty hunter. The government enlists him to help find John Malkovich and his posse, Wild West terrorist who hope to bring America to its knees by using the same weapon technology that Jar Jar Binks and his friends used in The Phantom Menace--glowing orbs. Hex is all over that because Malkovich is the guy who scarred his face and killed his family.

A lot of this movie is incoherent. The plot's easy enough to follow, and the characters are nothing but cardboard types, but the individual parts that made up this whole just didn't make a lot of sense. It has the kind of fight scenes where you lose focus and can't keep track of what's going on. It's almost like that feeling when somebody turns off the lights and you can't figure out what's happening until your eyes adjust. Watching the action sequences in this movie was just like that feeling. The ultra-modern look of the movie almost clashed with the post-Civil-War and dusty town settings, and the score, thick in rockin' electronic git-fiddles, really annoyed me. There were some moments here (I like the first gun fight scene that winked at predecessors) and Josh Brolin was pretty good as the anti-hero type although his character does seem like a composite of a handful of silver screen anti-heroes. And despite all the whining about Megan Fox lately, I liked it when she was on the screen. But I suspect Jonah Hex is a movie that should have stayed a comic book, a film that cries out, "Look at how fresh I am! I'm new!" while actually seeming like nothing more than a Sin City rip-off.

What do you think, Kairow? Comic/movie comparison?

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

1964 holiday classic

Rating: 5/20

Plot: Martian children have become obsessed with earth television, specifically any show that features Santa Claus. Martian parents decide to send a ship to earth to locate and kidnap Santa. But Santa's holly-jolliness and cheer corrupts the Martians because apparently Christmas spirit is communicable. The Martians force Santa and the two American children they also kidnapped to set up a workshop and start making toys for the Martian children. A Scrooge of a Martian named Voldar conspires to do away with the jolly elf once and for all though. Can Santa escape and get back to earth in time for Christmas?

A true holiday classic. I can't figure out why the theme song ("Hoo-ray for Santy Claus") hasn't become a Christmas standard. This movie doesn't exactly look like it had a lot of money dumped into it, but it's not the cheapest production I've ever seen. The sets aren't bad, and heck, they got three little people to play elves (three more than the Mexican Santa Claus [Conquers the Devil] movie had). There's even a bitchin' robot, and the funniest polar bear you're likely to see in a movie! The bitchin' robot isn't around for long because Santa Claus refers to him as a toy which apparently causes him to malfunction. There's also some great Martian gun effects. They make a small popping sound and cause their victims to freeze and slightly wobble. The acting in this isn't awful, and the guy who plays the 800-year-old prophet who sounds like he's whining is terrific. I'd try to figure out his name, but the characters are named Kimar, Voldar, Droppo, Harpo, Momar, Gilmar, Bomar, Rigna, Winky, Stobo, Lomas, and Shim. I think it might be Chochem though, and Carl Don played him. He also played Von Green in this. The Martians are cheesy, green-suited and in green face. My favorite Martian, probably because I'm a bit of a Grinch myself, is Voldar played by Vincent Beck, an actor who did a lot of television work. All his lines are barked out in this grouchy tone, so most of what he says is funny. His reaction to one of Santa Claus's jokes ("Martian Mallow!") was hilarious, and I loved hearing him say things like, "They have a secret device and his name is Billy Foster!" or "Soon all of Mars will be blithering idiots!" This interaction was my favorite though:

Earth Kids: What are those things on your head?
Martian: Antenna.
Earth Kids: Are you a television set?
Most Martians: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
Voldar (barking): That's a stupid question! We want our children to be like these nincompoops?

It all leads up to what can only be described as a demented final fight between Santa/children and Voldar. It's a great, uplifting Christmas story, but I wonder if there's something deeper going on here. I wonder if maybe Voldar is the real hero of this story and whether the producers of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians are trying to warn viewers that Christmas may turn us all into blithering idiots or what will happen as people lose touch with the real values of the holiday and things become more automated. In some ways, this movie is eerily prescient.


2008 stop-animated feature

Rating: 13/20

Plot: A bunch of clay people living in an apartment building in Sydney contemplate their lives.

I suppose I wanted to like this more than I actually did. The characters and their experiences scratch the surface of philosophical ideas but refuse to penetrate, and I demand penetration in my animated movies. Speaking of penetration, there is a clay figure sex scene and some nudity if that's your bag. Who we kidding? We both know it is! This flashes from character to character pretty rapidly, too quickly for me to really connect with or care about what's going on with any of them. The animation's really good although the characters are at times so unattractive that they don't even look human. They also move funny. But there are some nifty effects with bottlecaps, water, and other movements that make this visually interesting. Some quirky imaginative moments including the angel on the cover and some very tiny people as well as a couple surprises at the end make this narratively interesting as well, but it's not really enough to make me completely thrilled that I spent about ninety minutes with these characters. The philosophical jabs failed to knock me out.

Stuart Little

1999 creepy CGI-animal movie

Rating: 10/20 (Emma: 13/20 [She watched only the last half.]; Abbey: 18/20; Sophie: ?/20)

Plot: The Little family decide that the annoying son they have isn't enough and that they need another. So they head over to the adoption agency and adopt a talking mouse. Big brother isn't happy, and their cat is even less happy. They plot Stuart's doom which, unfortunately, never happens.

For whatever reason, we own a VHS copy of this, and Sophie, for whatever reasons, has been carrying it around with her. So I popped it in for her. Here's what she has to say:

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Gentlemen Broncos

2009 comedy

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Young Benjamin's worked hard on Yeast Lords,
a sci-fi novel with a hero partially inspired by a father who is no longer around. His mother sends him to a writer's camp where he meets his author/hero Ronald Chevalier and a boob-obsessed teen filmmaker who has made over eighty movies although some of those are just trailers. Benjamin throws his Yeast Lords into a pile for a contest and is rewarded for his hard work by having Chevalier, currently struggling with his own ideas, steal his work and have it published. Around the same time, the filmmaker gives him five hundred dollars for the right to adapt Yeast Lords into a feature film. Problems occur when Chevalier finds out because there's nothing he hates worse than plagiarism.

On the poster, they advertise this as being from the director (Jared Hess) of Napoleon Dynamite. A lot of times, that sort of thing can be misleading. Not here. It's entirely appropriate, either as a threat for those who think Napoleon Dynamite is the stupidest thing they've ever seen, or as a promise to anybody who happens to like that movie. I personally liked Napoleon Dynamite, so I suppose I'm the audience for this sort of thing even though I can see how large chunks of Gentlemen Broncos might even be too wacky for Napoleon's fans. Hess is the type of director who knows how strange people really are and uses his films to magnify eccentricities into wildly comic proportions. Nothing about these characters or the worlds they inhabit are exactly realistic. Our protagonist, played by Michael Angarano, acts as a kind of straight man here, but in every other movie, he'd easily be the weirdo. Jermaine Clement (from Flight of the Conchords and Eagle vs. Shark) and Jennifer Coolidge (lots of stupid movies) really steal the show, and they get so many hilarious lines to say. Honestly, I'm not sure how they can say some of the things they say without erupting into a painful fit of giggles, but I guess that's why they make all the money. I'm also not sure how Hector Jimenez can contort his face into such goofy expressions, but I almost laughed every time he was on the screen. A scene involving a hand massage and Jimenez's horrifying moaning was probably the goofiest thing I've seen all year. There are some really dopey soundtrack choices, kind of like Hess swung for Wes Anderson's fences and missed, but there's some great set design and art work. A lot of the set details in the places these characters frequent seems to have been picked up at rummage sales (butterfly decor, Jesus portraits), but there are some originals that the characters painted that are pretty sweet. The science fiction covers used during the opening credits, whether they're real or originals, are also cool. A lot of the stuff going on in the movies-within-the-movie was a bit much and there were far too many boob and gonad references. Then again, gonad humor almost always works. Heh. Gonads.

I looked up Napoleon Dynamite to link this to that and was surprised to see that I apparently haven't watched that movie in the last three years. Odd since it seems like I've watched Napoleon Dynamite over a hundred times.

The Ossuary and Other Tales

Svankmajer shorts from 1964-1988

Rating: n/r

This collection has some great stuff but might not be as consistently great as the other collection. "The Last Trick" features a pair of dueling wooden-headed magicians and their surreal acts. "Don Juan" is marionettes, sometimes sans strings, in elaborate stage settings. "The Garden" has no animation at all; it's an absurdest gag about a fence made out of people. "Historia Naturae" is visually interesting with its rapid shots of the kibbles and bits of eight different species, but after a while, I was glad it was a short short. "Johann Sebastian Bach" is rock music. Well, it's Bach set to images of animated stones. Oft-beautiful, but not exactly memorable. The one in the title ("The Ossuary") isn't a tale at all but a commissioned glimpse at an ossuary in the Czech Republic, a church/mass-grave with art and architecture constructed from tens of thousands skeletons of Black Plague victims. That one is exactly memorable, not because of anything Svank's doing but because it just might be the most beautifully depressing place I've ever seen. Svank doesn't animate (some of those rapid fire shots and weird camera movements are there though), but this place is as Svankmajer as a place can be. I might have liked it more if the female tour guide voice wasn't in it. She's entertaining as she repeatedly begs field-tripping children not to touch the bones and eventually threatens them, but it kind of takes away from the experience a little. "The Otrants Castle" was a dull pseudo-documentary. There's some cut-out animation that isn't very interesting. "Darkness Light Darkness" is an extra on Alice. It's creative, risque, and bizarre fun with clay and is great from a technical standpoint (watching clay hands mold with clay is just cool) and for anybody looking for some avant-garde slapstick. Finally, "Manly Games" is a hilarious look at soccer. You can't accuse Svank of being pretentious after watching that one, a mish-mash of animation styles (some cut-out stuff, some clay) that looks at the sport in a grotesquely humorous way.

I'd say three-and-a-half of these are vital. For fans, the others are worth checking out once.

The Devil's Brother

1933 comedy operetta

Rating: 11/20

Plot: Stanlio and Olio attempt to rob the infamous singing bandit Fra Diavolo. Later, they work with him.

There's a hell of a lot of singing in this one. I wish there would have been something funny in it.

The Devil and Daniel Webster

1941 movie

Rating: 17/20

Plot: Good-natured New Hampshire farmer Jabez Stone trades his soul to Mr. Scratch for seven years of prosperity. Good fortunes change him, making him an avaricious womanizing bastard. When his seven years are up and Jabez is on top of the world, Mr. Scratch comes to collect. Only politician and orator Daniel Webster can save the day!

Seems like I've seen a lot of devil movies this year. This could probably be the Year of Satan if it wasn't already the Year of "Man" Movies and the Year That Shane, Sans Pants, Watches 365 Movies. That last part was for the ladies. But yeah, this will be a hotly (pun intended) contested "Satan of the Year" award. Walter Huston's is damn good though. His Mr. Scratch isn't your typical devil like the one who attacks Santa Claus in Santa Claus. He's more that ornery trouble-maker who has a decent sense of humor, a guy you wouldn't mind sharing a few drinks with because you just know he's got some good stories to share. The Stephen Vincent Benet short story this is based on has always seemed odd to me (Why Daniel Webster?) but it's a fascinating one that William Dieterle's visuals tell remarkably. My favorite thing about this movie (other than Huston's performance or the shape of Simone Simon's face) might be the lighting. There are so many shots in this that are just so artistically set up. This really is a beautiful film to look at. There are some creepy, almost surreal bits, too, like the scene with the moth, the miser's last dance, and the climactic courtroom scene. This easy-to-connect-with interpretation of the Faust story seems ahead of its time, is entertaining from start to finish, and has a timeless moral.

Until next time, ladies.

The Wasp Woman

1959 Roger Corman sci-fi monster movie

Rating: 5/20

Plot: Janice Starlin, the owner and face of a cosmetics company, worries about declining profits and her waning beauty. Lucky for her, she meets Dr. Zinthrop at exactly the right time. He's discovered a fountain of youth only its not a fountain at all but a "powerful royal jelly" extracted from wasp jism or something. It works on rats, then on cats, and finally on Janice Starlin. Starlin becomes obsessed with her refound beauty. But are there side effects she doesn't know about? Like turning into a wasp woman and biting people? Oh, snap!

This starts really strong with what seems like a poorly-shot documentary on beekeepers. Yeah, this thing hits you with a barrage of cheapness from shot one and doesn't let up. You get one of those wonderful character-wrestling-with-something-stuffed scenes (a cat, in this instance) that I've grown to love, the same art work hanging on walls in two different settings (an office and an apartment), and one of the goofiest monster costumes you'll ever see. There's a lot of pseudo-technical jibber-jabber that confounded. Most confounding, however, were a pair of scenes where I couldn't figure out what the hell was going on. In one [SPOILER ALERT], the scientist, right after he's been attacked by a stuffed cat, staggers off a sidewalk and gets struck by a car. Why does getting attacked by a cat make a person forget to look both ways before crossing a street? The other scene is when the scientist is showing off his creation to Susan Cabot's character. He injects a rat, puts it in a cage, and then talks for a while so that the audience can't see the rat. When the camera shows the rat again, it's a little bit smaller. Later, it's even smaller. I couldn't figure out what that meant. Does the royal jelly injection lead to youth or dimunitiveness? There are a handful of scenes that make this kind of fun, but a completely maddening soundtrack that makes it almost painful in chunks. It would also be painful to anybody bothered by poor editing and storytelling, of course. And anybody who, like me, is left with a desire to have a sexual encounter with the wasp woman, a desire you know will lead to numerous sleepless nights. Susan Cabot made for an attractive wasp woman. Still, I wouldn't have been able to control my own royal jelly if Sebastian Cabot had starred as the wasp woman.

Britannia Hospital

1982 Lindsay Anderson movie

Rating: 11/20

Plot: Mick Travis, the guy in If... and O Lucky Man!, suddenly finds himself in a movie that isn't nearly as good. In this one, he's a documentarian surreptitiously making a film to expose a hospital's questionable procedures. Meanwhile, the Queen is set to visit, and a doctor is working on a crazy experiment known as the Genesis Project which he claims will perfect mankind. And also meanwhile, a bunch of protesters threaten to ruin everybody's plans.

This didn't work for me as a comedy or as social satire, the latter maybe because I'm missing a bunch of context. All I know is that where Mick Travis ends up is completely unexpected but unfortunately not in such a good way. There are lots of unexpected goings-on in Britannia Hospital, like in the other two movies of this trilogy, but instead of the unexpected being used to season the proceedings, this thing is sauced in the unexpected. It's like the Monty Python boys decided to smoke Keith Richards' dad's ashes, lost interest in trying to be funny, and made a loosely-connected series of sketches anyway. It's more bizarre than funny, and this is coming from a person who likes his humor dry. Immensely disappointing stuff, but worth checking out if you've ever wanted to see a stoned Luke Skywalker laughing hysterically at a documentary about chickens.

Rome Open City

1945 slapstick comedy

Rating: 18/20

Plot: It's just like every skit that I ever saw on The Benny Hill show except with more Nazis and no "Yakety Sax" at all.

Stark, powerful look at the life of ordinary people and folks involving themselves in the Resistenza near the end of World War II, the "Not-So-Great" War. There aren't special effects or exterior sets needed. This was filmed right after the Germans were booted, and maybe better than any movie I can remember, it shows everything like it really was, even more than a documentary would. And definitely more than an Ernest movie would! The characters and their motivations are sketches, but I liked that. It made some of the twists in the story more twisty and helped lend a realism to everything that was going on. It never really felt like I was watching a movie. To be completely honest, it didn't always feel like I was watching a good movie. The lighting is bad in spots, and it looks cheaply produced at times. But when you take the film in context, it's impressive stuff and somehow seems to give the movie more ummph. It's really Open City's rough edges that make it the experience that it is. It's not the happiest movie you'll ever see, especially the devastating final fifteen minutes, but it's probably a movie you should see anyway.

Santa Claus

1959 Mexican Santa Claus movie

Rating: 3/20 (Jen: 1/20 [fell asleep]; Emma: 2/20 [fell asleep]; Abbey: 10/20)

Plot: Pretty much your standard Christmas story. It's Christmas Eve and Santa Claus is somewhere in space or heaven overseeing his sweatshop while children from many different cultures help him prepare for his magical flight. Of course, Satan wants to stop him and sends demon Pitch to tempt kids to be naughty and kill Santa. And of course, Santa has to get help from Merlin the magician to survive the night and ensure that the nice children wake up with a living room full of presents. Even the poor little girl who just wants a freakin' doll!

You have to love a Christmas movie that has the ability to punish viewers who fall asleep while watching it with hellish nightmares of holiday demons and laughing reindeer robots. This is bizarre from the get-go. It starts with a seemingly endless scene with Santa playing an organ while showcasing the variety of countries that the jolly old elf has apparently kidnapped children from to work in his sweatshop. For a moment, I thought I was watching a live-action film based on Disney's "It's a Small World," something I'm sure is on the horizon. Each group of children got to sing a little song that sounded like it could have come from the country they represent, and my favorite was when the American children did "Mary Had a Little Lamb." Seriously? That's the song that best represents America? It's not even a Christmas song! The next scene takes the viewer naturally to hell where the "King of Hades" lights a firecracker and leads a poorly-choreographed dance. Then it's back to Santa where we get a chance to see just how he knows if you've been sleeping or if you've been awake or if you've been bad or good. Apparently, he's got a big machine with giant lips, a telescope with an eyeball, and a satellite thing with a human ear attached. The surreal props and goofy sets show some creativity, but it also makes it obvious that the people who made this thing only had a rudimentary understanding of Santa Claus. I mean, there aren't even elves and his four reindeer are clunky robots. Speaking of those robots, at one point one of them laughs (he he he ha he ha ha ha ho he) and it might be the scariest thing I've heard in my entire life. Santa's almost nonstop maniacal laughter (nonstop except when the devil is trying to murder him) isn't much better though. There's just so much about this movie that is so awkward, and a lot about this movie that is downright unsettling. A pair of dream sequences--one with giant dancing dolls and one with a kid who opens up coffin-like presents containing his parents--are just weird, and almost every scene with Pitch gave me the chills. Of course, Pitch was a poorly-costumed red-painted demon, so I guess that was the desired effect. One of the scariest moments was when the little poor girl was having a repetitive conversation with the devil about stealing a doll. She must have said "No, I don't want to do evil" five or six times. The good characters, absent-minded Merlin and a magic-key-making blacksmith, are fun. Merlin's got this weird bouncing gait that makes Torgo's walk look normal, and the blacksmith has some hair glued to his chest to, I guess, make him look more blacksmithy. Nobody's going to mistake this for a Miracle on 34th Street or an It's a Wonderful Life, but this just might be my new favorite Christmas movie. Like those movies, you get to learn beautiful lessons like how "a dream is a wish that the heart makes" or how people on earth eat "even smoke and alcohol." Fun for the whole family unless some of your family members would rather not have Satan anywhere near their Christmas entertainment.

A Face in the Crowd

1957 Andy Griffith movie

Rating: 17/20

Plot: This is all about the rise of Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes, from a jailed hobo to a radio and television sensation to finally a political force to be reckoned with. But Lonesome's a human being and therefore flawed, and he finds that his new success isn't without its problems.

This movie's over fifty years old if my math is correct, but it hasn't lost a bit of its power. At the heart of things is a fireball of a performance by Andy Griffith, so full of energy that I feared he'd bust through my television screen and start spitting on me. He teeters on an edge, his performance always threatening to become just a bit too much, but it's a stunning 180 from the roles for which he's probably known. From the lovable bumpkin radio personality to the unhinged guy he eventually becomes, it's impressive stuff. Equally impressive is the work of the gorgeous Patricia Neal with a quiet and nuanced performance that works as a foil to Lonesome's character. And let's not forget Walter Matthau who gets some great thick lines to chew on here. This is very well written and directed, and both the writing and directing seem ahead of their time to me. Elia Kazan knows where to stick his camera, and he isn't afraid to experiment, most wonderfully in a Vitajex montage after Lonesome hypocritically becomes nothing more than a shill for the company. Long shots and close ups are used effectively to distance you from a lot of the public moments with Rhodes while drawing you in to feel the effect that his personal moments have on the characters who surround him. Kazan's also a director who knows exactly how much time to show baton twirling. Juicy and seductive baton twirling! Thematically timeless, this is a story that, if not always believable, is well told. One more note--after hearing the whistle-heavy song over the opening credits, I wondered if Griffith had something in his contract about how whistling needed to be involved in the theme songs to projects he was involved with. I always thought Griffith himself did the whistling, but I looked it up and it was some guy named Earl Hagen.

Great recommendation by Cory.


2009 biopic

Rating: 9/20 (Jen: 13/20)

Plot: Details the misadventures of the notoriously lousy pilot Amelia Earhart.

That poster almost makes me throw up. So did Hillary Swank's relentless smile in this movie. I'm not sure if Amelia Earhart is known historically for having a smile that made her appear as if she was about to bite your head off, but that's about the only thing I learned about Earhart in this movie. Well, that and the fact that she was such a whore. I didn't know that. Maybe it's because I have the mentality of your typical middle schooler, but I can't watch a Richard Gere movie without thinking of gerbils or Ewan McGregor without thinking of Ewan McGregor's junk. And now, I guess because of a guilt-by-association thing, I won't be able to watch a Hillary Swank movie without thinking about gerbils or Ewan McGregor's junk. And those would be just reasons number two and three for why I'd rather not watch another Hillary Swank movie. In Amelia, like in her other movies, she's Acting with that capital A, sinking her giant teeth into a role that's got Academy Award written all over it. Only she's not a great actress, and she makes Amelia Earhart seem like one of the most irritating women in history, a character I hoped to see eaten by cannibals (or Michael Oher) by the end of the movie. Eerily melodramatic and sickeningly sentimental, almost every aspect of this movie seems unnecessary. I would much rather just read a book about Amelia Earhart, and I don't even like reading.

The Blind Side

2009 big-screen after-school special

Rating: 11/20 (Jen: 15/20; Emma: 15/20; Abbey: 18/20)

Plot: The extraordinary true story of Michael Oher, a troubled black teen without a home or family who is transformed overnight into a student-athlete after the well-to-do Touly family takes him in and feeds him turkey.

Somebody made Dylan watch this at school, and he told me, after his class had almost finished the entire thing, that it was a great movie, one that he would rate an 18. That's three times what he rated Dr. Strangelove, by the way. So we watched it, actually finishing the movie before he got a chance to watch the rest. I told him he was going to feel let down by the ending because Oher ends up devouring the Touly son S.J. Sandra Bullock walks in and watches in horror as Oher gnaws the rest of S.J.'s flesh from what appears to be a bloody, tooth-marked femur, and screams, "Big Mike! What are you doing?" Oher looks at her with this demented look in his eyes, a string of cartilage dangling from his lips, and exclaims with a mouth full of S.J., "I told you not to call me Big Mike!" That would have made this a much, much better movie, but a much, much less extraordinary true story. Speaking of S.J., I don't see how anybody can watch Jae Head's performance, a slightly-more-obnoxious-than-normal child performance, and consider this as a Best Picture nominee. His first line ("It's girl's volleyball, mom. You didn't miss anything.") almost made me stop watching The Blind Side. Sandra Bullock's critically-acclaimed performance isn't much better though. I wasn't as impressed with her down-home accent and tough-cookie personality as most seemed to be. It seemed to me that she had only a single move that she used over and over in this movie--a sideways glance with slightly-parted lips that she'd use whenever another character in the movie said anything to her. It kind of made her character seem dumb a lot of the time. This alternates between bland, derivative, and overly sentimental, and although the story is a nice one, I don't get the hype. It's definitely not three times better than Dr. Strangelove.


1996 dark dark dark comedy

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Gabriela has an unhealthy obsession with serial killers and their violent art, probably the result of living in a neighborhood in Columbia where people die in the street. She immigrates to Miami and takes a job with a cleaning service that cleans up murder scenes after the investigations have ended. As she scrapbooks clippings about the "Blue Blood Killer," she gets lucky and gets to clean up one of his blood baths. She and her partner show up while he's in the house trying to get rid of some incriminating evidence.

Curdled is not without its flaws, and one could accuse it of being a one-joke movie. And it's such a sick, dark joke that I imagine most viewers either won't get it or just won't find it funny at all, especially if they're into that Sarah Palin reality show. It definitely doesn't sugarcoat things. The crime scenes are gratuitously blood-splattered, and the violent scenes, even when the specific acts aren't shown, are brutal. William Baldwin nearly genteels (I know, not a verb) his way into becoming a walking stereotype, but he's better than expected as a low-budget Jeremy Irons. But it's Angela Jones as the bubble-popping, childlike Gabriela who steals the show. There's not a great deal of depth to her character, but she's got a commanding presence. And she's cute. The soundtrack plays a large role; it's a Latin-flavored guitar-heavy dance pop that had me bobbing my head, and it's the perfect accompaniment for a disturbingly seductive dance scene near the end of the film. Great dead-pan (no pun intended) fun here, as morbid as funny can possible be. Tarantino produced, and I suppose fans who like the humor in his films would have a head start with this one.

The Host

2006 Korean monster movie

Rating: 9/20

Plot: Stupid Americans! Their army dumps formaldehyde (I think that's what they said) into the river and for reasons that don't make scientific sense, a reptilian, many-tentacled monster is born. It starts killing and dragging people off, including Park Hyun-Seo. The rest of the Park family have to find her.

This is a lot of frenetic, head-scratchin' action sequences with a herky-jerky CGI tentacle-flailing monster juxtaposed with calm scenes of dopey characters sharing moments that I assume are supposed to be poignant or humorous. It was hard to tell because the dubbing didn't match the subtitles, and neither made much sense to me. This isn't like those horror/monster movies where the makers don't let you see the monster or only reveal the monster a little bit at a time. No, you get to see the thing pretty early on, and I thought it looked pretty silly. Alternating between phallic and vaginal, this thing could be a Freudian's nightmare, but if you've got no interest in psychoanalyzing the special effects team, I don't think it would be of much interest to anybody. Maybe I should give this movie credit for trying to do something a little different with the monster movie genre, but it's got this ultra-modern flavor (read: it sounds and looks really loud) that I find annoying. The Host focuses on a family of four rather than society in general as with a Godzilla movie, and that doesn't help matters either since I didn't care for the Park family. The ending was especially yucky.

The Ref

1994 Christmas comedy

Rating: 12/20

Plot: A jewel thief's partner leaves him behind during a burglary gone wrong, and he's forced to abduct a bickering married couple on Christmas Eve. As he plans his escape, things get even more complicated with the arrival of their mischievous son and some other relatives. Can Gus the jewel thief escape before the family drives him completely insane?

I thought this was more irritating than funny. I don't really like Denis Leary anyway, probably because of the way he spells his first name rather than anything to do with his talents or personality, and it seems that all the other characters were written to be obnoxious. I couldn't find a single laugh anywhere in this thing, making it just dark instead of a dark comedy. The premise is clever but predictably written, and majority of the dialogue sounds like it was penned for the purpose of showing audiences how witty the writers are instead of creating realistic, complete characters. There's a lot of talent involved, but it's going to be hard for me to like a movie where I don't actually like any of the characters. The actors try very very hard (probably too hard), and each gets a chance to deliver these foul-mouthed diatribes that come across as mean-spirited but seldom funny. It's impossible for even the best funnymen and funnywomen to be funny without material. Oh well. At least there was a recurring urine joke.

Cory, jolly old elf, recommended this one.

The Five Deadly Venoms

1978 kung-fu movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A kung-fu master laments that his former pupils of the Poison Clan have all gone bad. What do you expect when you call yourself Poison Clan though? He sends his last pupil out to find and dispose of them. Unfortunately, they're anonymous and all have unique powers. The student ventures out to find the Centipede, Snake, Lizard, Scorpion, and Toad.

A classic according to most kung-fu aficionados, this is known more for its rich, serpentine story rather than its kick-em-up thrills. When there's action, it's fun. The animal styles give you a lot of variety, and the fighting's frantically and creative. I like the characters, especially in an awesome prelude that describes their special powers--lightning quickness that makes it appear as if there are a hundred hands and feet, snake-like agility, wall climbing, invincibility, and whatever the scorpion does--but I just think there could have been so much more done with them. Still, it's a cool kung-fu flick that most fans of the genre will appreciate, and the story's solid enough to make it worth revisiting.

Night of the Living Dead

1968 zombie movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A Christmas celebration has never gone so horribly wrong as a lot of uninvited guests, including a black man, crash the party. When the food runs out, the black man starts a riot, breaking furniture and setting the guests on fire. Eventually, cannibalism ensues, and the riot squad is summoned to break things up. This upsets the left wing, and Al Sharpton raises a big stink. Somebody give these people some Little Debbie Zebra Cakes or something!

There's nothing I dig more in movies than no-budget style. This is far from perfect storytelling, but the imagery, from its radical camera angles to haunting lighting and bleakly grainy black and white settings, manages to shock over thirty years after its release. The film's style lends a realism that makes this an uneasy experience, even when you're sitting next to a Christmas tree or are wearing Bedazzlered pants while holding a popsicle. There's a tiny bit of dragging in the middle, but for the most part, this is an evenly paced and completely engaging. A lot of the soundtrack, by the way, is the same music used in Teenagers from Outer Space, a movie that probably isn't as influential but nonetheless entertaining.

House of Wax

1953 stereovision extravaganza

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Poor Henry Jarrod. He's worked hard to put together his wax museum, lovingly constructing historical characters for patrons to admire. But a mean guy sets fire to the museum, leaving Jarrod inside for dead. Wax figures apparently can't survive a fire, and all seems lost until Jarrod resurrects and reopens his business with a macabre twist.

I gave this the Vincent Price bonus and a separate bonus because I wasn't watching it with my 3D glasses and probably missed a lot of the brilliance. House of Wax is historically important as one of the first 3D films. I'm not sure the gimmick was used effectively. There's a scene with dancers' legs that I imagine would have looked like they were extending over theater-goers' heads, and a lot of pointless time spent with a top-hatted dude with three paddleballs. That's right--paddleballs. The scene with the burning wax museum looked a little odd, splotchy fires and wax sculptures melting like the bad guys at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and I wonder if maybe there was some 3D action going on there. Speaking of that scene--the makers of this film missed a golden opportunity to have a little dark humor in this. There was a wax Joan of Arc, and Vincent Price's partner didn't set fire to that one first? What were they thinking? The wax figures, especially the ones at the end of the movie, were cool, and I liked watching a shadowy Vincent Price Darkmanesquely lurking in dark alleys or stalking his victims. This was a remake of 1933's Mystery of the Wax Museum which I plan on watching eventually despite the lack of 3D effects.


1998 John Waters comedy

Rating: 12/20

Plot: A burger flipper named Pecker becomes an overnight art sensation after he shows off his photographs of his weird family, friends, and neighbors. His new-found fame stains those relationships though.

Pecker's likely a thinly-veiled autobiographical Waters joint, about as mainstream glossy as it gets for the director. My problem with Waters' movies is that he doesn't seem to be able to write anything funny and tries to make up for it with the crude and unusual. But where else are you going to get lines like these:

"Knock yourself out, butt plug."
"You teabag a customer again, and he'll fire your ass."
"Three times loser and he's sentenced to the chair but he's still got a boner."

And where else are you going to get shots of rats doing it, frequent references to "beaver," Virgin Mary ventriloquism, so many ugly people, and a scene with a guy getting it on with a washing machine? Add a really unusual soundtrack featuring novelty songs, nutso country, and indescribable alien lounge music, and you've got yourself a movie that's fun for the whole family. I don't know who this Edward Furlong is, but he seems like the type of actor who needs to be in television sitcoms, probably playing characters who are much younger than he is. At least this has the always-lovely Christina Ricci though.

The Boogens

1981 silliness

Rating: 5/20

Plot: Four guys reopen an abandoned mine and unleash the titular monster. The Boogens. Maybe it's monsters instead of just a lone monster actually. I'd probably be able to figure it out if somebody told the story a little better.

Rarely do I want to penalize a movie for its title, but this movie is called The Boogens. That might have worked if this was a horror-comedy or a horror spoof or something like that, but it's not. It's a straight monster-on-the-loose movie with only a bit of the dated humor that 80's horror filmsters would inject into the story. It's also got several of those "ha ha just kidding" moments where the bad synthesizer music and timid characters lead you to believe that something scary is about to happen (you know, like The Boogens or A Boogen jumping out of a closet and doing whatever Boogens do) but then it's just like an old guy who isn't scary at all and you say, "Ah, director of The Boogens! You got me!" while you secretly wish you were watching something else. This is a cheapo production, but the main problem is with the unlikable characters, poor storytelling, and a complete lack of style. Unless tedious shots of characters descending into basements or mine shafts is stylish. You get two kinds of shots in The Boogens--lots of quick zooms and a wobbly, nauseating Boogens-cam. But the makers of the film sure make you wait a long time to see the monster itself. You wait so long that you just think you're going to get a cool monster. That's only if you completely forget that you're watching The Boogens though because everybody knows that nothing is allowed to be cool in The Boogens. Except the dog maybe. The dog spends most of the movie trying to leave the movie, and he impressively out-acts the humans with every bark.

Trail of the Screaming Forehead

2007 B-movie homage/comedy

Rating: 7/20

Plot: Body-snatching alien foreheads invade earth.

I watched and enjoyed Larry Blamire's The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, another intentionally bad homage to 50's low-budget movies complete with anachronism and continuity errors. That, for the most part, was an enjoyable experience. Screaming Forehead, despite a title that might make you think you're about to watch the next Citizen Kane (or Eraserhead), just doesn't work. I think it's a case where everybody is just trying too hard, and although Cadavra also struggled with that at times, it at least had some more subtle and quietly clever moments that made it worthwhile. I never felt happy that I was watching this one though. This movie's in color, probably the grossest color that a movie can be in. There's a ridiculously over-the-top theme song that I kind of liked, like Burt Bacharach on a bad trip. Ray Harryhausen is given a production credit, but I've not been able to find any evidence that he had anything at all to do with this.

On Borrowed Time

1939 movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Recently-orphaned Pud tells his grandfather that he gets a wish because he did a nice thing, and the grandfather, presumably because he's ignorant, wastes it by wishing that anybody who climbs into his apple tree will be stuck until he says he can climb down. It doesn't seem like such a bad wish, however, after Death comes to fetch him and he manages to trick the Reaper into climbing into the tree. This buys Gramps time while he figures out how to save his grandson (Pud) from having to live with his mean aunt, Demetria Riffle.

The version of this story with which I'm familiar is a South American folk tale called "Aunty Misery." There are differences, one of the major ones being length, but the motifs are there: magic tree, Death being tricked, no death in the world for a period of time. I've always liked the trickster tale and was excited to see this movie existed. I think a lot more could have been done with it though. I really liked the wheelchair-bound Lionel Barrymore despite some textbook "overdoin' it" throughout. His performance is touching, and he's got good rapport with the kid. And I thought Cedric Harwicke as a suave, fedora-topped Mr. Brink/Death was great, a unique take on the Grim Reaper. Even the kid, the oddly-named Bobs Watson as the oddly-named "Pud," was tolerable even tough it's evident he graduated with top honors from the Shirley Temple School of Obnoxious Child Acting. Speaking of children, this certainly was a lot for young Pud to endure. He loses his parents, his grandmother, and his dog; he injures himself after a fall; and then his grandfather/BFF starts talking about how he's going to die. Yeesh. Typical of a 1930s production, this is gaggingly sentimental, especially the ridiculously precious ending. This movie's pretty good, but so much more could have been done with this idea. It's ripe for a remakin'! What's Henry Fonda doing?


2003 holiday comedy

Rating: 10/20 (Toby: 5/20; Kasey: 10/20; Tramayne: 7/20; Dakota: 13/20; Tyler: 1/20; Derrick: 10/20; Jacob: 12/20; Kendrick: 15/20; Jazzmin: 3/20; Taylor: 17/20; Brionna: 20/20; Michaela: 16/20; Hailey: 12/20; Damion: 19.9/20; Mikhail: 1.5/20; David: 15/20; Kimberly: 16/20; Yamira: 20/20; Stephen: 4/20; Sebastian: 2/20; Elizabeth: 20/20; Brianna: 15/20; Rahim: 15/20; Austin: 13/20; Krista: 10/20)

This is already on the blog right here.
The movie isn't any better now, but I learned that middle schoolers like when Will Ferrell runs face-first into walls. Well, I guess I knew that already which makes Elf completely useless to me. And look at that poster up there. I don't want to watch a movie that features a guy who can make that face. In fact, no more Will Ferrell movies for me. You have my word that you won't see him on these pages ever again.

Teenagers from Outer Space

1959 alien movie

Rating: 2/20

Plot: Some aliens, who don't really look like teenagers if we're being completely honest here, are scouting the galaxy to find a planet where their giant lobsters can thrive. They use the lobsters for food. Unfortunately, their food can kill them, and they decide our planet (earth) would be a good giant lobster farm. One of the aliens named Derek, a teenager who also coincidentally happens to be the son of their leader, has second thoughts after they disintegrate a dog. He runs off to find the dog's owners and falls for young Betty. Meanwhile, fellow alien Thor causes wreaks havoc as he searches for Derek.

I lost the notes I took for this one. Suffice it to say that this is a bad movie, but it's definitely more in the "good bad" category than it is the Wild Women of Wongo category. The acting is uniformly bad, especially Harvey B. Dunn as Gramps. Mr. Dunn's resume includes work in a couple Ed Wood Jr. movies--Bride of the Monster and Night of the Ghouls. Their acting seems even worse with this ineffectual dubbing, but aside from that, there aren't a lot of movies where the actors stand this stiffly. David Love, the guy who plays the lead, probably does the best job, but this is the only movie role he had. The dialogue's laughable, and the alien costumes (bulky white spaceman boots and jumpsuits with what appears to be masking tape on them) are very nice. But the biggest thrills from Teenagers from Outer Space come from the brilliant special effects. Seeing what I assume is the same skeleton used over and over again when Thor is on his rampage is bad enough, but when you finally get to see the giant lobsters, this reaches a new level of bad. This is the type of movie that is made so cheaply that you don't get an actual giant lobster. Nope. You get to see a shadow of a lobster! They couldn't even hold a normal-sized lobster close the camera for this one? I'm so happy that movies like this exist, and I'm proud to say that I own a copy of this bad boy.

The White Ribbon

2009 Face-Palm D'or Winner

Rating: 16(?)/20

Plot: In a German village just prior to The Great War (Wait a second. I don't know history. Is the first World War or the second one called The Great War? Or are either of them called that? Seems like I should know that, but when I was a kid, my teachers started with explorers every single year and never got very far. So I still know why Balboa named the ocean he found the Pacific Ocean [And speaking of that, why should we credit somebody with finding an ocean? Do you think the other explorers used to laugh at Balboa and talk about him behind his back? "Hey, Cow Head (That's what one explorers name meant. Cabeza de Vaca--head of the cow. I learned that thirteen times between my kindergarten and twelfth grade years actually. If that information was actually useful, I might have a life today that I could be proud of. Instead, I'm just a surly middle-aged man who knows useless things. Thanks a lot, former teachers.), when are you going to find another ocean? He he ha."] [Editor's Note: Shane became too depressed to complete this plot synopsis.]

This might be the coldest movie I've ever seen. I guess most people who know Michael Haneke's movies (the hilarious Funny Games and the action-packed Cache) aren't going to use "warmth" when describing them, but this one seemed even more detached, probably because of the crisp but eerie black and white. This was certainly a gorgeous movie, shots that looked like they could be photographs in an art museum, right next to Ansel Adams' stuff maybe. And for (especially) American audiences, that's going to be one of the serious issues with The White Ribbon. At times, the plot moves about as quickly as a photograph. Scenes that didn't really really seem to add to the character development or advance the plot just lingered. Characters seemed frozen in time, moving stiffly, probably with syrup in the britches. This movie is just so quiet, too quiet. And the bad deeds that the characters commit add up to this mood of despair. There's no on-screen violence, but the community and its population is drenched in this very thick molasses of violence, something you just get the feeling they won't be able to swim their way out of. Children are abused, birds are harmed, and it's all too much to take. Like Haneke's other movies, I'm not really intelligent enough to write about this one. I'm probably not even smart enough to watch it. (Editor's note: Shane became too depressed to finish this review.)
Here's a picture of a squirrel:

Sweet Smell of Success

1957 movie

Rating: 18/20

Plot: Sleasy weasel Sidney Falco's hit the big time, the sort of big time where you get your name taped on the door of your office/bedroom. He's a press agent, successful because of bigwig newspaper columnist J.J. Hunsecker, a shady but powerful man who can make or break a career with a few typewriter taps. Hunsecker wants a favor in exchange for helping Falco reach the top--the break-up of his sister Susie and her jazz guitarist boyfriend Steve. Falco shoves any existing morals aside in order to please J.J., but he may find out that success doesn't smell quite as sweet as he thought it would.

The dialogue, as crisp and cutting as you'll find, is nearly perfect in Sweet Smell of Success. It dates our story, sure, but it dates it in the same way that Shakespeare's plays date his stories. This is endlessly quotable, and the words that Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster's characters get to say add paint to the already colorful black and white urban setting and to these nocturnal creatures. I'm as cynical as the tone of this movie and therefore have my doubts that anybody has ever talked like the characters in this movie, but who cares? The words are funny and haunting, at times simultaneously, and the script shades the circumstances like the shadows and smoke in your typical film noir. This doesn't exactly fit in with that genre, but it's got similar ideals with almost every scene taking place at night and a hopeless hopeful character fumbling in this web of his own invention. 50's black and white cinematography doesn't look better than this, and I loved how the camera moves in this movie, simply but elegantly focusing on those characters but doing it without ignoring their surroundings. Lancaster's performance as Hunsecker has the perfect amounts of sinister and confident, and Curtis's Falco, a guy you just know isn't going to win in the end despite his unscrupulous craftiness, has this terrific loser frenzy. They could have almost added foaming at the mouth and made it seem appropriate. I liked the fringe characters, too, except Steve was pretty uninspiring. Most people named Steve are though. This is the type of movie that just feels completely right, and it's about perfect.

Speaking of terrific loser frenzy, Cory recommended this one, his way of saying thanks for my recommendation of Eraserhead.