2011 Year in Review and Awards Post!

First, the boring statistics. For the second year in a row, I watched the most movies in December (a whopping 50) as I was trying to reach the yearly goal. I watched the least movies in August (only 16) as school was starting up. Most of the latter were watched on a urine-stained couch. The year started strong with a January average rating of 14.6. The lowest-rated month was November at 10.9. The overall average this year rounds up to 13. That's .7 less than last year, but it's higher than the year  before. For the 4th straight year, the rating I gave out the most was a 16/20. Last year, I didn't have a single 1/20. In 2011, I watched two. There were also only two 19/20's.

Readership: I think it's the same--4 1/2 readers. Anybody got any ideas? Maybe I'll start promoting more because the more I read myself the past couple of days in preparation for this post, the more I realized how delightfully entertaining I am.

But enough about me. You 4 1/2 readers come here for the awards.

The Billy Curtis Award (Best performance by a little person): Not a particularly strong field this year. I like Danny Devito's work in Cuckoos Nest, and Jesus Juarez is great as Aladin in Jodorowsky's Santa Sangre. I liked that little caramel-covered Indian in The Manitou, but that little bugger was actually played by a pair of little fellows--Joe Gieb and Felix Silla, both who will probably find in this blog after Googling themselves and be thrilled to come so close to winning the Billy Curtis Award. This one was really no contest though as Weng Weng jump-kicked and scooted into my heart as Agent Double-O in For Your Height Only. Whether as a fighter or a lover, a kung-fu or weapons master or a guy floating from a top floor of an apartment building with an umbrella, Weng Weng delivered the goods. Way to go, little buddy!

Most Embarrassing Thing That Happened While Shane Was Blogging in 2011 That He Probably Shouldn't Even Admit to His Readers: How much I giggled after imagining little people Googling themselves.

Best Blog Comments: Because it's really you 4 1/2 readers that make this blog the success that it is! Here are my favorite comments from the year:

"Starting off the movie club with accusations of brutality? Couldn't ask for more." (L@rstonovich)
"Ohhh snap. That plan of posting like a billion reviews almost worked. Bitch!" (my brother, after my plan to post a billion reviews to hide a movie that I was supposed to watch with him didn't work)
"I will never see One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. It beat Jaws for Best Picture. (Barry, bewilderingly)
"[Gump's] voice is like a cheese grater to the balls." (my brother again)
"Haven't seen it." (Barry, numerous times)
"I thought, 'Ringo doesn't cry!'" (Cory, possibly still crying himself after his failed efforts to get Ringo's autograph)
"If I didn't know any better, I would suspect you of subtly pointing out that I misspelled caricature...and you did it twice!" (a paranoid Cory...or is he?)
"If you had seen [Inception] in a theater, you would have given it a 36." (Cory)

Readers don't get to see all the comments. Anonymous comments, spam. Here are the three best ones:

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"You have a very good blog that the main thing a lot of interesting and useful!" (left by "Order Anti-Depressants")

"You are truly correct with this piece." (left, of course, on the Up post)

Movie That Caused Me to Suffer the Most Abuse from People Who Are Supposed to Love Me: Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas. I need a new family.

Scene That Causes Spontaneous Bits of Giddiness When I Think about It: When the guy in 127 Hours starts hallucinating and imagines that Scooby Doo is with him. That laugh!

Number of Movie Posts in Which I Confused or Asked about Alligators and Crocodiles: 6. 7 if you count this one.

Best Nipples: Leslie Nelson in Day of the Animals! The worst scene with a nipple is probably in Ichi the Killer when a nipple gets sliced off.

Best Fight Scene: So many good ones. Anything with Weng Weng could have won. The fight between a boy with a stick and an alligator (or would that be a crocodile) in Louisiana Story is really a thrilling action sequence. In Night of the Demon, you get a scene where a guy fights a stuffed animal. Leslie Nelson could take this and the nipple category with his fight against a bear in one of the most erotic movie moments I saw this year. Arnold Schwarzenegger also fights a bear in Hercules in New York, although it's really a guy in a bear suit because Arnold doesn't have Nieson's nipple power. Rat Pfink and Boo-Boo also fight a guy in a bear suit. Lots of good kung-fu action--Bruce Lee, Donnie Yen vs. a whole bunch of dudes in Ip Man, the showcase of weaponry at the end of The Legendary Weapons of Kung-fu, several fights in Master of the Flying Guillotine but especially the ones involving the guy who can extend his arms to ten feet, Super Inframan against all those guys in rubber suits. The award, however goes to Lionel and his lawnmower against all those zombies in Dead Alive. Bloodbath-o-rama!

Best Special Effect: A three-way tie because I couldn't decide between the flying horse scene in Ashik Kerib (accomplished with a spinning globe), the woman falling in Day of the Animals (accomplished with a blue screen), and the baby octopus in Octaman. I don't know how that last effect was accomplished.

Movie That Needed Mel Tillis the Most: The King's Speech. Tillis would have brought the laughs.

Number of Movies That I Think Andy Dick Might Have Been In: 17, a new shane-movies record!

Best Giant: John Aasen in Harold Lloyd's Why Worry? despite Richard Kiel's attempts to win the award by popping up in every other movie I watched in December

Best Documentary: Marwencol! Although I also loved Exit through the Gift Shop, Anvil: The Story of Anvil, Why We Fight, Brother's Keeper, Vernon Florida, and I Like Killing Flies.

The Question I Asked My Readers That I'm Disappointed None of Them Answered: Are there any movies with a Whoopi Goldberg nude scene?

The Movie That Should Have Killed Me but Didn't: Teen Wolf, which also started the Urine Couch A.M. Movie Club. All those recurring dreams of dying while van surfing? Watching this at the most dangerous motel in Indianapolis? I risked my life to see shaggy Michael J. Fox dunk basketballs in this one.
My Favorite Thing I Wrote All Year: "I liked Jafar as a villain. . .but when he turns into a genie and starts making puns that would make C3PO groan, it was clear that the script could use some editing."

Another Time When My Readers Let Me Down: After I asked if anybody wanted to do a "Human Centipede" thing with me for Halloween, I got no responses. None! The offer's still on the table, people.

Best Puppet: I've already mentioned how much I enjoy Emmet Otter's legs, but that little furball had too much competition this year. We had creepy Hugo in Devil Doll, the skeletal creatures and sock caterpillar in Svankmajer's Alice, the wonderful Bilial in Basket Case. Heck, if I can count Mitzi Mozzarella as a puppet, there's even a sort of strip tease in that documentary about Showbiz Pizza's band! But I have to give the award for best puppet to Gordon in Follow That Bird.

Worst Puppet Omission: How could they not put Roosevelt Franklin in Follow That Bird? Is it because they already had Gordon?

Best Shane-Movies Transvestite Experience: Easy. I only had one, the interruption of American Splendor by a transvestite who first wanted stale doughnuts and later wanted to sell me a shrink-wrapped pornographic DVD for five dollars. My biggest regret of the year? Not buying that DVD.

Most Controversial Thing I Typed: "Why was Kevin Costner's wife wearing a beanie at one point?" It was the question that almost destroyed the Oprah Movie Club!

Other Favorite Things That I Wrote This Year (If you can guess the movies correctly in the comments, you can win a prize!):

1. "Next time I'm on an elevator, I'm just going to go ahead and kill everybody just to be on the safe side."
2. "I'm going to try to start my career as a battle rapper."
3. "Halitosis bonerificus!"
4. "I want breasts on my Disney princesses."
5. "I have the hots for Mary-Louise Parker. Don't tell my wife. I can type that because she only skims this crap."
6. "[A titular character] reminds me of my penis."
7. "All I want is a two-hour film in which Renee Zellweger gets beaten with a shovel."
8. "Black people are really dangerous."
9. "[This movie] was the only source Al Gore used for An Inconvenient Truth."
10. [The spanking scene in this movie] reminds me--a baseball coach at my school was telling me today that one of his players couldn't make it to practice because he injured himself by "diving onto his bed with a hard-on," hurting the member."

Amount of Tarkovsky's Movies I Watched After Announcing That I Was Going to Watch All of His Movies Back in January: None.

Number of Movies That Used "Beyond the Sea": 27. This is a real statistic!

Best Sex Scene: Another tough one! Nicolas Cage and Satan (you have to turn your head sideways and squint a little) in the otherwise dreadful Season of the Witch. The wind and door sequence in Out of the Past. The drill/robots sex in Tetsuo. Action hero Tom Griffith's bare-bottomed work in Nightbeast. The great line that ends the scene in Taoism Drunkard: "How is it? Is it comfortable?" Silvano Venturelli and everybody else in The Lickerish Quartet movie. Nic Cage again in Deadfall, a scene with just him and a bed. The scene in Taxidermia that includes a hole in the wall of a barn, lubricant, and a rooster. Bilial in Basket Case or the Fleshapoids with their finger lightning in that Kuchar movie. Those were all good and very very erotic, but the scene that takes the prize? Ashik Kerib's sex scene in which a clown covers a couple with a sheet before a couple guys blow horns and a couple more guys release a bunch of doves. That one wins because it was in a children's movie.

Most Erotic Movie Moment That Isn't Really a Sex Scene: Catherine Keener's delivery of the line "We'll see" in Being John Malkovich. Oh, there's also that scene in The Cat in the Hat where Kelly Preston vacuums somebody. That's hot. And of course, Tippi and those birds.

Best Masturbation Scene in a Motion Picture: C'mon. I still have this award? Somebody needs to take this blog away from me! I would have thought that Natalie Portman, in what would undoubtedly be her proudest moment as an actress, would win this one easily with her masturbation work in The Black Swan. It definitely beats the Randy Quaid/dildo opener of Another Teen Movie and John C. Reilly's work in Cyrus. Crispin Glover doesn't masturbate on screen, but his line about how he doesn't masturbate in Fast Sofa is close enough: "I've never done that. . .thing. That thing with the dolphins and the ponies." There's implied masturbation of a tire in Rubber which is great, and it's fun watching John Waters watching Chucky masturbate in Seed of Chucky ("A masturbating midget!"). But this is all Taxidermia's award for its opening scene (that's right--it opens with this) where a guy ejaculates fire. Sorry, Natalie Portman. Maybe you can try again and win next year!

Movies That Made Me Cry: Make Way for Tomorrow, Edward Scissorhands, Toy Story, Cars, Yellow Brick Road, The Illusionist, Waste Land, Anvil: The Story of Anvil

Best Stunt: The bike stunt from Bad Ronald

 Worst Child Actor: Mike "Boys have penises; girls have a vagina" Hughes would take this easily for his work in Kindergarten Cop but had the disadvantage of acting next to Arnold Schwarzenegger which made him look not as bad. Milton Davis Jr. is terrible in Angels in the Outfield, but at least I was convinced he was really a black kid. He pulled off "black kid" pretty well. The kid who played Bodo in Watch on the Rhine though? Eric Roberts couldn't even convince this viewer that he was a kid! A truly awful and irritating performance.

Best Sound Effect: It's got to be the hiccup from Hukkle, my second favorite movie from this year. Although I did like the final sounds in Mongolian Ping Pong and some grunting the The Saragossa Manuscript as well.

Best Monster: This category is tough every year. I'm going with the Watermelon Monster from Taoism Drunkard, but look at these other contenders: the Demon in Night of the Demon, the titular creatures in Attack of the Eye Creatures, Larry Buchanan's other monsters in Zontar--The Thing from Venus and Curse of the Swamp Monster (the monster in the latter is mostly recycled from It's Alive! though), the little uvula-stealing demon in that Miike movie, the Umbrella Monster in that Yokai Monsters movie, rubbery-blubbery Yongary, all those rubber-suited guys in Super Inframan, Ortega from Mixed-Up Zombies, the fearful Manitou, the bunny-exploding tire from Rubber, Octaman, Gooby. That's a nightmarish collection of monsters!

Best Musical Movie Moment: You've got Joe Pesci singing Chuck Berry, a wicked dancing scene in the Greek Dogtooth, another great dance number in Godard's Band of Outsiders, the guy singing "If I Only Had a Brain" in Yellow Brick Road, the piano mayhem near the end of Hausu, Bad Boy Bubby's punk antics? They're all good, but this is the actor known as Lucky Ron's award for his work in Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter. His scene as Blind Jimmy Leper is a short one. He enters, scats, and is gone, never (as of right now) making another movie appearance. I'm guessing it's because he knew that he had climaxed, that nothing he ever did again would come close to touching this scene.

Best Animated Movie: Out of the ones I had not previously seen, The Illusionist takes it easily. Beautiful, beautiful movie. I also liked A Town Called Panic, Idiots and Angels, Rango, and Blood and Red String.

Weirdest Thing in Any Movie I Saw This Year: The face groping thing that John Travolta does in Face/Off. What the hell is that?

Best Movie Quote of the Year (not said by Nicolas Cage or Crispin Glover): See if you can guess the movie! No prizes though.

"God called us here to shoot this movie, and we're going to shoot this movie--camera or no camera!"
"You want a taste of my sewage pipe?"
"I am using abdominal language to joke with you."
"And the omelet stinks!"
"Hi, doggy!"
"Have you seen a five-year-old boy, blond hair, and he's wearing a t-shirt that says "bullshit" on it?"
"Remember, Boo-Boo, we only have one weakness--guns!"
"You shouldn't have been from Minneapolis."
"I haven't seen any goats!"
"You're quite a good chicken strangler."
"I'll be like, what time is it? Five o'clock? Damn. Time to rape me some fine bitches." (This one is really special and the one I'll most likely quote at dinner parties.)
"I've seen amputees with better hands than this."
"He had a lot of ukuleles in his trunk."
"Our Father, who art in heaven, you made a jackass out of me for years!" (Leslie Nelson again!)
"Let's shag ass."

Best Nicolas Cage Moment: In a year that included the ongoing Summer of Nicolas Cage, this isn't going to be an easy choice. Watch Vampire's Kiss or Deadfall in their entirety, and you will see Cage at his very best. The reciting of the ABC's and the "I'm a vampire!" scenes in the former and the "What am I--a fucking retard? Huh?" delivery or the awesome karate kick in the latter? Movie magic. Stuff like that is why we watch movies! Other great Nic Cage moments:

"Banana nut--that's a good muffin." (His real best performance in Adaptation. Heck, there are two of him!)
"You know, I can eat a peach for hours." (from Face/Off, and I'd like to meet the woman who isn't turned on by those words)
"Have you ever been taken to the sidewalk and beaten until you pissed blood?" (magical moment from Matchstick Men)
Dozens of Nic Cages on screen at the same time in Next (actually, that's not as euphoric as you'd think)
His sex scene in Drive Angry where he smokes a cigar, drinks whiskey, kills garden-utensil-wielding Satan worshippers, and screws a woman simultaneously
Cage and Tom Waits on the screen at the same time in Rumblefish

Best Scene Featuring an Animal: A cow is eviscerated in Viva La Muerte, rats jump on Roger Barnes' face in Day of the Animals, a guy calls a turtle a gopher in Vernon Florida, Crispin Glover flips out over a bird in Fast Sofa, a turtle is torn to pieces is Cannibal Holocaust, Paris Hilton's face falls off in Repo Man: The Musical, and Gooby wafts his fart. The best animal scene is the elephant funeral in Santa Sangre though. It's one of those can't-believe-this-exists things.

Best Actress: Anna Karina is just so pretty in Band of Outsiders. I just want to squeeze her. Again, I can type things like that because there's no way my wife (or anybody for that matter) will read it. Jennifer Tilly's work in both Seed of Chucky and especially Fast Sofa can't be ignored. Crispin Glover's mom in Willard (Jackie Burroughs) is really awesome, too. But the Best Actress award goes to Helen Lloyd Breed for her one line in Vampire's Kiss. To stand out in a movie where Nicolas Cage is that Nicolas Cagey is award worthy.

Best Actor (Nicolas Cage and Crispin Glover Aren't Allowed in This Category): I saw a lot of my favorites this year--Matti Pellonpaa, Paul Benedict, Klaus Kinski, Peter Stormare. I think David Thewlis in Naked is about as great as it gets, and Richard Beckwith's work as a medium in Night of the Demon really has to be seen to be believed. I really wanted to give this award to Fred Kaz for his work as Noah in ...And God Spoke: The Making of. But Tom Hardy in Bronson was just too mesmerizing and powerful to not win this one.

The Torgo Award (Best Worst Acting Performance): I really would like a woman to win this award some day. Same with the Billy Curtis! And Linda Watkins almost did it as the neighbor in Bad Ronald, most impressive because she doesn't even have a single line! Jake Busey came on strong at the end of the year with the crap he threw on the screen in Fast Sofa. The guys who played "Jim" and "Uncle Dave" in The Attack of the the Eye Creatures (my favorite on-screen error of the year) and Nightbeast were just awful, and believe it or not, Tom Waits could have won this award for his wackiness in Cold Feet ("I'd like some cowpoke stuff."). Arnold delivers a bad performance in Hercules in New York and an even worse one in Kindergarten Cop. But there's just no way anybody is beating Tommy Wiseau in this category. I have trouble imagining anybody being worse than he was in The Room.

The Manos (Best Worst Movie): Tommy Wiseau again with The Room. Not that there wasn't stiff competition. Buchanan's Eye Creatures, Zontar, and Swamp Monster could all three have given him a chance to win his second Manos in a year where I didn't watch The Room. Ray Dennis Steckler's Rat Pfink and Incredibly Strange Creatures are both solid pieces of inept filmmaking. Nightbeast, The Manitou, Hercules in New York, Bad Ronald, Octaman, Day of the Animals. I loved all of those. But they all have one problem--they're not Tommy Wiseau's The Room and therefore can't win the Manos for 2011.

Worst Movie (Bad Worst Movie): Well, I saw The Cat in the Hat on the Urine Couch. No need to count any ballots this year.

Best Movies of the Year (in no particular order): Note--this excludes Naked, Do the Right Thing, Alice, Goodfellas, Rope, Psycho, The Birds, The Royal Tenenbaums, Enter the Dragon (a 20/20 if I ever saw one!), Being John Malkovich, Edward Scissorhands, Double Indemnity, Punch-Drunk Love, Adaptation, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, Santa Sangre, Out of the Past, Toy Story, and any other movie I'd previously seen. This is a list of Best Movies New to Shane:

Make Way for Tomorrow
Ip Man
Ace in the Hole
Ivan's Childhood
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
The Cremator
The Saragossa Manuscript
Tree of Life
Witness for the Prosecution
The Social Network
Vampire's Kiss

Very Best Movie I Saw This Year: Werckmeister Harmonies

Favorite Crispin Glover Moment: His answer to his mother's "What are you doing in there?" question in Willard: "I'm going potty!"

Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses

1994 sequel

Rating: 13/20

Plot: It's five years after the Cowboys do America, and the titular worst band in the world have fallen on hard times in Mexico. Tequila has taken the lives of some of the bandmates and gotten the rest of them in trouble. A savior arrives, Vladimir the manager returning after abandoning them at the end of the last movie and "never being heard from again." He's renamed himself Moses and promises to help get the Cowboys back to their native land. Promised land, I guess. Before they depart for Europe, Vladimir steals the Statue of Liberty's nose for reasons that are never explained very well.

What better way to finish off a year of movies than with an Aki Kaurismaki movie? This isn't as solid as the first Leningrad Cowboy movie unfortunately, but it does have my favorite actor Matti Pellonpaa in it and a scattering of funny bits. The musical numbers are all pretty good, my favorite being the one sung by "Elijah," the guy who's chasing them around for most of the movie trying to steal back the nose. That song ("Kili Watch") is just pure bliss. There's a lot of Biblical satire here, some which doesn't work at all. Pellonpaa's quoting of the Bible ("You shall not eat any disgusting thing. Also, you should not cook a kid in his mother's milk." [Wheezy laugh]) is great. The burning bush or water-from-the-rock scenes are a little too silly and random. This is filled with enough absurd comedy to make it worthwhile for fans of the first movie or for Aki Kaurismaki in general, but it's not exactly a great movie.

Hercules in New York

1969 action comedy

Rating: 4/20

Plot: The titular demigod is bored with life in Olympus, so his father Zeus lightning-bolts him to New York City to teach him a lesson. While in the Big Apple, he becomes a successful wrestler and competitive weightlifter with the help of a nerdy streetwise guy named Pretzie and gets himself a girlfriend. Meanwhile, Zeus sends Mercury and Nemesis to retrieve him.

This is worth watching for fans of Arnold Strong as this is his first film appearance. Or Arnold Stang fans, I guess, if there are any of them out there. I liked him in The Man with the Golden Arm enough. But back to Schwarzenegger, the real star of this show. With the screen presence this guy has in this movie, I'm really surprised he didn't have more of a career in movies. Seems like he could have had a nice career as an action hero or something even though the acting he does in this is embarrassing. He's worse in Kindergarten Cop actually. Here, he doesn't have to do much acting. He just has to be big and strong, and he does a fine job of doing that. Now, the version I watched has Arnold Strong dubbed, allegedly because he was unintelligible when delivering the wonderful dialogue that was written for him. The voice used is odd since we all know what Schwarzenegger sounds like. I watched some bits and pieces of the non-dubbed version for comparison purposes, and Arnold's heavily-accented voice would have been pretty brutal for the duration of this one. Honestly, I think this is kind of a cute idea for a movie, and writer Aubrey Wisberg got a lot of the mythology right. This, by the way, was her last writing credit. The writing's bad, but it's the inept direction that really makes this one special. The poster brags about this being filmed almost entirely in New York. Well, they really should have located a more isolated location for the Olympus scenes since you can hear traffic in the background while Zeus and Juno are bickering. The pacing of the story's awkward. Even more awkward is the amount of screen time devoted to Arnold Strong just standing around flexing. The most awkward of those is when he spots a movie poster as he's walking down the street with his lady friend and starts griping that the actor doesn't even look like him. Of course, he takes off his shirt and starts flexing in order to prove it to her. But the scene that makes this movie? Arnold Schwarzenegger fighting a guy in a bear suit! I had to rewind and watch that epic battle twice just to make sure I really saw it.

Side note: I wish Arnold Schwarzenegger would have stuck with Arnold Strong. It's a lot easier to spell.


2010 Disney movie

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

Plot: Poor Rapunzel. Her fake mother keeps her trapped in a lonely tower in order to take care of the Fountain-of-Youth-like powers of her golden tresses. She watches floating lanterns on her birthday every year, not even aware that they're released by the king and queen for her. A handsome thief stumbles upon her tower while fleeing from a horse, and she sees him as her chance to see the world for the first time.

It's amazing how lively and fresh this one seems for something that borrows so heavily from all the other Disney princess movies. You've got very similar stock fairy tale characters, an anthropomorphized animal sidekick, a big romantic "Whole-New-World-Boat-Ride-Ballroom" scene, action scenes that seem like they could be identical to action scenes from other Disney movies. But this one puts all these pieces together in a way that really works and gives this one some vibrancy. I really like most of the characters. Rapunzel's now getting my vote for hottest Disney princess with those cute big eyes and beautiful hair that she can use to tie you to a chair with if she's feeling frisky. And a makeover at the end makes her even cuter! The guy's that typical bad-guy-only-on-the-outside type, but he's at least a hero you can root for from the beginning until the end of this one. The animated couple has good chemistry, and their developing romance feels more real here, probably because Disney gives it more of a modern spin to appeal more to contemporary kids, than in most of their princess movies. The "mother" bad guy is funny as that typical overly-judgemental and overly-protective mother, and I thought the anthropomorphized horse was fun. This story moves briskly, has action and humor, and has some lovely computer animation. My only complaint would be with the songs which I thought were just awful, the only exception being the big "Dream" number in the pub filled with ruffians. That was a fun scene and included voice work by Brad Garrett, Jeffrey Tambor, and Richard Kiel. That's right--another Richard Kiel spotting.

And now, here's how I'd rank the Disney princesses by how much I would, if I were a cartoon man, want to have sex with them:

1) Rapunzel
2) Mulan
3) Jasmine
4) Ariel with legs and no voice
5) Belle
6) Pocahontas (I've not seen her movie though)
7) Tiana
8) Cinderella pre-transformation
9) Ariel with no legs and a voice
10) Aurora
11) Cinderella after the transformation
12) Snow White

It should be noted that if the fairy godmother counted as a Disney Princess, she would be between Ariel and Jasmine.

How's my list compare to yours?

Fantasy Mission Force

1982 action movie

Rating: 6/20

Plot: It's World War II, and the Japanese, while attempting to take over the world, have already captured the leaders of France, Germany, England, and America. The latter, it should be mentioned, is Abraham Lincoln. Officials get together to find somebody who can save them and decide that Lieutenant Don Wen is their man. Rejected heroes: "Snake" Plissken, James Bond (the Roger Moore one, if you care), and Rocky Balboa who is not suitable for military action. Wen assembles a ragtag crew to save the world.

Lots of weirdness here with varying degrees of entertainment value. First, if you really need a coherent plot with your action movies, you've just got to avoid this one. It's episodic, and none of the individual episodes really go together in a way that makes sense. Not only that, the individual scenes don't really make much sense on their own. Not to say that this doesn't entertain because bits and pieces of it manage to do just that. You get a musical number, some Benny Hill speeded-up weirdness, a bunch of masked flying Amazon women wielding ribbons, Jackie Chan fighting while holding a chicken, some hopping zombie things, disembodied hands and ghost women in a haunted house, and some Nazi Japanese riding on hoopties that look like they're straight out of a post-apocalyptic action flick. I expected Mel Gibson to waltz in and demand gasoline or something. Almost all of the humor in this falls completely flat, and the characters aren't really interesting at all. Except one: Brigitte Lin's (Bride with White Hair) great as Lily, all in leather and thigh-high boots, winning drinking contests like Indiana Jones' girlfriend and waxing acrobatically. She's fun to watch, as is a fight sequence with Jackie Chan (not really the star of this, by the way) at the end. Ultimately, this one is just too confusing and goofy to be completely entertaining. I'm also pretty positive that this isn't really all that historically accurate either.

The Last Broadcast

1998 horror mockumentary

Rating: 8/20

Plot: A documentarian attempts to get to the bottom of the gruesome murders of some public access show hosts looking for the Jersey Devil. It's horrifying!

I want to get settled right off the bat--the only thing that this movie has in common with the far superior Blair Witch Project is that they both have a lot of trees in them. Only a small portion of this is found footage stuff. The rest is complex and gimmicky with all kinds of television trickery and those big sound effects you hear when you're watching those television expose things. The guy making the documentary got on my nerves and misused the word "ironic," and the acting from the rest of the cast was just not good enough to carry this thing. Things get repetitious and tiresome, and there's not a single moment of this where there's any real tension or scares. By the time we get to the big twist at the end, things stop making sense almost entirely. Not only that, it confuses matters by breaking its own pseudo-documentary rules. If anything, this made me appreciate the brilliance of Blair Witch even more. The simplicity of that one, and Paranormal Activity as well, is what makes that one successful. The makers of this one bite off way more than they can chew, and they end up with a big mess.

The Garbage Pail Kids

1987 garbage pail movie

Rating: 3/20

Plot: A frequently-bullied, delusional kid accidentally frees the seven disgusting titular puppets from their garbage pail prison in a magician's antique store. They wreak havoc in disgusting and unfunny ways.

This came very close to being the first movie in the nearly four year history of this blog to be too embarrassing for me to admit that I watched. I could attempt to justify spending an hour and a half with this movie, one without a single redeeming value, by saying, "Well, I've seen it on some 'Worst Movie of All Time' lists, and I'm on a quest to find the worst movie of all time," but that wouldn't make it any less embarrassing. I could say, "Well, you know. It had puppets in it" or "Hey, I was watching it ironically!" or a variety of other things that would make it a little closer to OK that I watched this, but I don't think anything could make it OK that I watched this. Don't get me wrong! I did learn a couple valuable lessons from this thing: 1) Don't shake hands with Messy Tessy. 2) Don't watch anymore movies produced by the Topps baseball card company. Apparently, there is something more difficult to digest than that nasty gum they included in those card packs. Farts, projectile vomit, puppet rapping. If somebody shoved a copy of this into an 80's time capsule, likely to get rid of it so that none of their friends would catch them with it, then whoever digs that up is going to likely want to invent a time machine just to go back to the mid-80s and eliminate the race of man before this movie or any movie like it could be made. Here, I'll tell you a story to illustrate just how painful and embarrassing the experience of watching this movie is: I saw a can of Pepsi yesterday, remembered that the Pepsi company had for whatever reason decided to include a little product placement in this movie, remembered that I had watched this movie a few days ago, and attempted suicide by running head first into a cement wall. So this movie, out of the hundreds that I've seen and written about on this blog, came the closest to ending my life. True story.

For Your Height Only

1981 little person James Bond

Rating: 5/20

Plot: The evil Mr. Giant has kidnapped some scientist and is planning on using him for some evil plan that never made any sense to me. There's only one little guy who can stop him and his band of ruffians--Agent Double-O! Mayhem ensues.

I've also seen the title of this as For Y'ur Height Only. I'm going to go ahead and go with what's on the poster since, you know, it's actually a real word and all.

A story behind this movie made me laugh. Apparently, Imelda Marcos put together the Manila International Film Festival as a way of showing off Filipino culture. Only one film sold though--this one! I'm sure that made Marcos proud.

This has one heck of a body count. Star Weng Weng (pronounced Wang Wang) kills about as many bad guys as James Bond does in all of those movies combined, I think. He does it with his guns, sure, but also with his lethal little hands and feet. As ridiculous as it might seem to have an action star of his stature (2'9", the shortest leading actor ever [Troyer, by the way, is actually an inch shorter but has never had a starring role.]), the guy moves fluidly, packs a tiny but strong-looking punch, and performs his stunts admirably. I assume it's Weng Weng doing his own stunts anyway. I doubt they found a 2'9" stunt double. That the fight scenes don't look completely ridiculous is really pretty impressive. Well, let me clarify. There are multiple scenes involving Weng Weng scooting across the floor and shooting people. It's like his signature move. And it's cool and all, but he's got to be covered in butter or something in order for that to happen. Still, I'm not knocking this little guy's action chops, and if you saw this bitchin' jump/kick/shoot thing, you wouldn't either. The makers utilize Weng Weng's stature to the fullest, and part of his spy skills involve him being able to get into places that spies of a regular stature wouldn't be able to squeeze into. One great scene involves Weng Weng climbing through an opening at the top of a fence. A pedestrian (an actual pedestrian, not a film extra) spots him and looks really confused. Mostly, this is played pretty straight with more than its fair share of sight gags. Sure, there's some silliness. For one, it rips off the James Bond theme which seems pretty ballsy to me. There's a Stooge-esque pie-throwing scene, an X-ray glasses gag that ended with Weng Weng covering his mouth to conceal a Pillsbury giggle (legendary, by the way), a scene involving a lethal flying hat that ended with that same giggle, and a scene where he uses a jet pack that forced me to conceal a little giggle. Other silliness involving a telecommunications device that is essentially a mirror with lights around it with a nearby action figure, the surprise of seeing the main villain Mr. Giant for the first time near the end of the movie, and a scene straight from Mary Poppins that had to have been extremely dangerous for the little dummy they used in Weng Weng's place made it difficult to take this seriously as an action movie. The numerous scenes where Weng Weng essentially trips a villain and incapacitates him also don't seem all that realistic. The real nuttiness is with the dubbing or poorly translated dialogue. I'm sure it's poorly translated anyway because I'm sure the people responsible for writing For Your Height Only had a top-notch script that would make the Philippines and Imelda Marcos proud. But check out these gems:

"Don't be a nosy Parker, Paco."
"Talk! Talk or you'll eat lead!" (Actually, you need to hear the dubbed bad guy voices. They all sound like they're straight out of 1950's gangster movies.
(Weng Weng's boss when going over the weapons/gadgets) "I like how you pay attention."

Or take this dialogue:

Big boss man: Nobody could begin to guess. There's a lot of dough in this dough. The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. Happy pushing. Happy pushing. The boss says to cover every kindergarten...and sandbox. We're gonna teach them something about pleasure.
A subordinate: Yeah, but what if Double-O should appear, huh?
Big boss man: You blast him into another world. You kill him. There's always a way.

This was another nice exchange, and I wonder if the translators rhymed intentionally or not:

Subordinate: He's a mass killer, that Double-O. Who will be the next to go?
Big boss man: I said shut your hole!

Or the line after they find a signalling device on the hot little female spy? "So this is how you communicate with your little Weng." Come on! Remember, it's pronounced to rhyme with dang.

Another good one:

Guy 1: That little man has done it to us again. He's made a monkey out of the forces of evil. He's as slippery as an eel. How the devil do you hold on to an eel?
Guy 2: To be beaten by a lousy eel! We must get him at all cost!
Guy 3: I declare war on that little stinker!

But nothing beats this exchange which might be the best dialogue I've ever heard in a Filipino little person spy movie:

Woman: You're a great person, ya know.
Weng Weng: You don't have to say. It ain't the size. It's the way you use it.
Woman: Maybe, but are you a sexual animal?
Weng Weng: I don't know.
Woman: I'm crazy about you, Agent Double-O. Why, I don't know. Maybe it's the way you strut your stuff. You know sex is like tequila. Take one sip and you're a goner.
Weng Weng: Shall we get it on?
Woman: Yes, darling. Bare your bod.

All in all, I really enjoyed this fun little (no pun intended) movie and look forward to seeing this pint-sized badass ("Pettite, like a potato," as one character says) in the handful of other actioners he starred in.

Witness for the Prosecution

1957 courtroom drama

Rating: 18/20 (Jen: 18/20)

Plot: Sir Wilfrid isn't supposed to be taking any stressful cases following a heart attack. Of course, he's not supposed to be drinking or smoking cigars either. So when a juicy murder case falls into his lap, he can't help himself. Married inventor Leonard Vole has been arrested for the murder of an old woman. He claims he's innocent, and his wife helps back up an alibi. But when the trial begins and the wife takes the stand as the main titular witness for the prosecution, things might get more stressful than Sir Wilfrid imagined.

This Wilder/Christie piece is an enormously entertaining courtroom drama with a little dark humor thrown in. It'll appeal if you're looking for a twisty and turny mystery or if you're looking for a fun character study. Charles Laughton's Wilfrid is just the type of character I really like--kinda violent and really surly, the old guy I'll eventually be provided I live that long. Tyrone Power and Marlene Dietrich get top billing here, but this is really Laughton's show, especially in the early going. Don't get me wrong--Dietrich is really good, too, in this multi-dimensional role. Power? He could have been anybody and probably gets in the way too much if you want to be honest. The writing sparkles, lots of wit and irony. One line that I liked was when Laughton compliments Vole by telling him he thinks like a criminal. Pretty brilliant writing. The twists in this work which is really something considering how much time has passed and how much stuff like this has been duplicated. I won't type anymore because that poster up there is telling me not to. The poster up there also calls this "the most electrifying entertainment of our time," and although I'm not sure if that's entirely accurate, everything Billy Wilder does could be described as electric and entertaining. Subtly electric!

I should point out that Jennifer claimed right after the opening credits that she had the whole mystery figured out. She wouldn't elaborate, probably because she didn't want to ruin things for me. At the end of the movie, after the last big twist, she started laughing maniacally and then ran circles in the yard.

Fast Sofa

2001 movie

Rating: 10/20

Plot: Gary Busey's son cheats on his girlfriend with a porn actress and then embarks on a road trip to meet said porn actress at a shoot. Along the way, he picks up a bird-obsessed virgin named Jules, and they have some adventures.

So do you think I watched this for the Jennifer Tilly bondage scenes or the Crispin Glover? Either way, I would have left satisfied. If I had watched this for some kind of plot, I would have been completely disappointed though. There is a lot of Crispin though, red-headed and lazy-eyed. It's a juicy part for him, a neurotic character with all kinds of opportunities to be awkward and strange. His best moment is a freak-out in a bird shop, but he gets a great line with "I've never done that. . .thing. That thing with the dolphins and the ponies." And of course he's talking about masturbation. If you're a Crispin Glover fan, you probably need to watch this just to get the chance to watch him bowl. And if you're a fan of Jennifer Tilly's boobs, you need to see this because there's some screen time for them. You don't get to see Jennifer Tilly bowl though, so don't get overly excited. And if you're a fan of Jake Busey? Well, you must like terrible acting, and with his performance here, you are getting the best of the worst. Not only is he a bad actor, he doesn't really get anything to work with. Nothing he does seems natural anyway, but when he's telling his girlfriend that something is in the refrigerator and then adding that it's "in the kitchen"? Or when he's answering Adam Goldberg's gripe about some sunglasses ("They're too big and they say 'Disco' all over them.") with "Those glasses rule!"? Or when he's justifying cheating on his girlfriend by saying, "It's nothing to do with us. It was crucial and hilarious." I'm not making that up. Somebody wrote that for Jake Busey to say. "It's crucial and hilarious." Not only that, he uses the word "crucial" at least two other times, once in trying to convince Crispin Glover's character to drink water. Later, he defends pornography by saying, "It's hilarious. It's porno. That's what America's about--Freedom." Porn is apparently hilarious but not crucial. Despite a wide variety of flaws, I enjoyed watching Fast Sofa. I would have enjoyed it more without the artsy and pointless split screen stuff that dominated the second half of the movie although without it, I wouldn't have gotten the opportunity to see more than one Crispin Glover on my screen at the same time.

Enter the Dragon

1973 kung-fu spy movie

Rating: 17/20

Plot: Bruce Lee's recruited to participate in a martial arts tournament on an island to check out what's really going on there with Han, an alleged criminal with an array of fake hands. He meets some new friends and kicks some ass.

Less a traditional chop-suey flick than a James Bond-esque excursion with Bruce's pectoral and abdomen muscles replacing 007's gimmicks. This movie actually doesn't need a plot; it's all about Bruce Lee's presence. Whenever Lee's on the screen in this, it's impossible to take your eyes off him. You don't even want to blink. He's just so quick and so powerful, and his every gesture is like a work of art. Lee's the focus of Enter the Dragon, and he fills the screen, always right in the center. And I'm not a homosexual or anything, but what a physical specimen this guy was. Enter the Dragon takes a while to build with all this plot stuff and character development getting in the way, but it's all undeniably cool. You get a cool cast with Chinese Hercules himself Bolo Yeung, a different kind of physical specimen but always fun to see; Robert Wall, one of the seventh funkiest white men to ever live; super-suave John Saxon; cooler-than-cool black samurai Jim Kelly; and the nearly-recognizable Kien Shih/Shih Kien with all those "hand" weapons including, I think, a rake attachment. How cool would a Han action figure be, by the way? One Han gripe: He swipes at Bruce Lee pretty well and scratches him up a bit, the only character in the movie to really do any damage to the hero. There's one scene where he sneaks up behind him and cat-scratches him. Why didn't he just stab him there? Once the action in this one gets going, it's a lot of fun watching Bruce Lee slink around, but the real excitement comes in the thrilling final twenty-five minutes, building to a Lady of Shanghai-like hall of mirrors sequence which would have caused me to cream my jeans if I hadn't just seen him doing his nunchaku thang a few minutes earlier and already shot my wad. And if I even owned a pair of jeans to cream. Some early philosophical mumbo-jumbo doesn't distract from the central message of Enter the Dragon: Bruce Lee is a total badass.

Dragon Wars: D-War

2007 fightin' dragon movie

Rating: 4/20

Plot: A reporter who coincidentally happens to be the reincarnation of a wizard's nipple investigates some dragon business. He has to locate Sarah, the reincarnation of some dragon princess or something, in order to save Los Angeles from dragon fury. D-War!

It looks as if South Korea spent a ton to make this movie which possibly makes them some of the dumbest people on earth. Here's how the pitch probably went:

Guys with idea for a dragon movie: OK, so we need approximately a zillion dollars.
Studio executive: A zillion dollars? (taps pen on desk) That seems like an awful lot of money.
Guys with idea for a dragon movie: Well, we've got a golden idea!
Studio executive: Fine, let's here what you've got.
Guys with zillion dollar dragon movie idea: OK, so it's called Dragon Wars and the whole thing's about these. . .
Studio executive: (breaking pen in half with excited fingers) Hold on right there! Did you say Dragon Wars? We're in!

Because who needs a story, right? You've got fucking dragons fighting in Los Angeles! All you need are some big special effects, some loud noises, and an audience dumb enough to pay for movie tickets. This certainly is a big, loud movie. And you know what? I'm just going to say it. People who enjoy this movie are probably really dumb. I don't even care if I just offended any of my 4 1/2 readers. I don't feel like wasting time typing coherent thoughts, so here's a list of this movie's offenses in no particular order:

--Two narrators within the first three minutes--that's two narrators too many!
--At 6:45, we get a flashback. At 11:20, we get a flashback for the character who is having a flashback. Then, a little later, there's a flashback within a flashback within a flashback. Come on! I can't keep up with all that!
--Imoogi. Enough said. The thing's called Imoogi.
--Quick edits during the action scenes made me dizzy and sick to my stomach.
--The bad guy makes me laugh everything that I see him. He's taking his bad-guy-ness way too seriously and should not be walking around Los Angeles dressed like that. And his magic sword thing? I really got sick of seeing that one.
--Terrible acting that doesn't mesh with the big, big effects. You'll have a giant dragon bursting through a building, and then, not exactly with good timing, a very staged reaction. It's almost like there wasn't even a real giant dragon!
--A kissing scene on the beach? Sure, why not?
--The special effects are ugly and unnatural. The dragon slithering through streets left blurs of damage, but it didn't look good at all. The dragon stuff looked fine. The setting detail around the dragons? Not so much.
--There's a fucking dragon wrecking Los Angeles and nobody seems to know about it? What the hell? The characters say, "There was a rumor that a dragon knocked down an entire hospital but we can't verify it." That doesn't make any sense!

At one point, one of the characters says, "None of this makes sense." I agreed completely. I never thought I'd find a movie that made me wish I was watching one of the Transformers, but this one did. This movie made me angry, and I don't think I'll be seeing a Korean monster movie for a very long time after this trio of crappy movies.

Yongary, Monster from the Deep

1967 monster movie

Rating: 6/20

Plot: Yongary, a monster from the deep, is awakened and goes on a rampage, inspiring a video game with the same name. Rampage. The South Korean people do their best impression of scared Japanese people and flee before trying to fight the thing with toy tanks. [SPOILER ALERT!] And itching powder.

I thought I'd go ahead and make it a trifecta of Korean monster movies since nothing puts me in the Christmas spirit more than Korean monster movies. This baby's from South Korean, and nobody, as far as I know, was kidnapped and ordered to make this movie. Nope, somebody made Yongary on his own which, in a way, is even sadder. This is a really cheap production, presumably because South Korea is poor. I can understand a production company not being able to afford a real rocket, or even a realistic rocket, but to not be able to afford a real sky? The miniatures in this are charming. My favorite thing about those is how there are some things that don't even need to be fake that for some reason still are. I guess they wanted everything to look fake. I'm not sure which is worse actually--the miniatures or the big lizard. Actually, maybe things are really made like that in South Korea, so I'm not even sure I can knock the miniatures, but that Yongary needs to eat more. He's very rubbery and way too skinny and for most for the majority of the movie, he shows no personality at all. Until a scene where he starts dancing that is. I'm not sure what's going on there. I'm also not real sure what was going on with the editing in some of these scenes. There's one where you see a blue jeep driving along and then it cuts to one of the passengers making a face. Then, you hear a screeching tire sound before the vehicle makes a fiery tumble down a cliff. And then you hear the screeching tire sound again. Another weird scene--at about the 51 minute mark a character says his line twice, almost like they cut and reshot that part and forgot to remove one of them. I can forgive all that though, especially since I knew exactly what I was getting into with an especially cheap rubber monster movie. What I can't forgive is the child actor in this one, a kid who had me screaming at my screen, "C'mon, Yongary! Get him! Get that little bastard!" I don't have any tolerance when it comes to bad child acting anyway, but this kid was especially unpleasant. Also bothersome [SPOILER ALERT!]: a ridiculous and silly ending in which itching powder of all things does the monster from the deep in. Itching powder? Come on! Not only itching powder though. No, this is itching powder that apparently leads to rectal bleeding. Oh, well. At least it made the kid sad for a while. Not long though because he was back to grinning like a moron a few seconds later. I would have liked to have seen more of the filthy "Repent, you sinners!" guy, by the way. If there's a sequel to this silliness, he should be given a more prominent role.


1985 monster movie

Rating: 10/20

Plot: In an oppressive regime, a jailed blacksmith makes a doll out of rice, probably because he doesn't have anything else to do. When that doll comes in contact with the blacksmith's daughter's blood, it comes to life, and when it starts eating metal, it grows to an immense and destructive size.

The story behind the making of this is probably more interesting than the movie. The South Korean director, Shin Sang-ok, was kidnapped by North Korea, orders from none other than Kim Jong Il. And then he was forced to make this movie with the help of folk from Toho studio. The movie itself is really kind of dull, a boring entry in the guy-in-rubber-suit-wreaking-havoc genre. The thinly-veiled communism allegory makes it all a little more interesting, but the monster itself is a little stiff and without much personality. The adult Pulgasari anyway, as the little baby one that munches on sewing needles and door locks is about as cute as a fierce monster can be. He's also possibly retarded, and I can justify the use of that word here because what Kim Jong Il did in his career as a dictator is a whole lot worse. This has some really poor fight scenes with all those 1970's martial arts movie sound effects. The whole thing has a much older feel actually, so much that I wondered just how long Kim Jong Il had been in power before noticing this movie comes from the mid-80s. The movie takes a very long time to get going and as a whole is nearly as stiff as Pulgasari. I'll say this though--I was impressed with the amount of extras involved in this production. The battle scenes were epic!

True Stories

1986 movie

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

Plot: Talking Head David Byrne visits a Texas town on its sesquicentennial as its inhabitants prepare for a talent show. One of those inhabitants, Louis Fyne, looks for love.

Band Radiohead nabbed its name from this movie.

This is a mess of a movie, but it's an interesting enough failure, probably one that would appeal to those in tune with Mr. Byrne than those who aren't. Like the Heads' music, this one kind of has its own rhythm, one that does quite fit in with pop movies like the Heads' quirks make them one of pop music's more unlikely successes. If I had to pick a movie this reminded me of, it would be Soderbergh's Schizopolis, although this is a lot less subversive. There's almost a documentary feel to the movie with a sprinkling of satire about life in small town America. Byrne's narration, mostly from a red car which contrasts sharply with the Texas landscape, is humorously naive, and his costumes are goofy and fun. Being a musical guy, director/star Byrne gives his characters multiple opportunities to sing or, in one memorable scene, lip sync. There's a lot of clever in this, but you have to wade through a lot of clumsiness to get there, and I don't imagine it'll be worth it for too many people. John Goodman lumbers as enthusiastically through this as he does in that Bob Dylan mess, Masked and Anonymous. Spalding Gray also makes an appearance. I can't say I completely understood what Byrne's intentions were with this thing, but I did enjoy watching parts of it.

Deadhead Miles

1972 truck movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A possibly-crazy Cooper steals a Peterbilt, paints it yellow, and starts a transcontinental trip. He picks up the Jeffersons' butler, and they have a series of misadventures.

If you like trucker movies or 70's counterculture road movies, you need to check this one out before you forget about it and it goes away forever. A large percentage of the population ain't going to get this Malick-penned undiscovered little gem, but for those who do, it's going to hit hard. I came for the truck driving and Malick script, stayed for Alan Arkin's ridiculous performance, and fell in love with the Paul Benedict brilliance. Let's start with that script which seemed aimed straight for my funny bone. There's very little story here, just episodic free-form truck-driving tomfooleries, but there's a great feeling of nostalgia and a celebration of the open road. The story has a very made-as-you-go feel, but not in a bad way at all. Take this sequence when the characters try to go to a drag race: They can't get into the drag race because they either can't pay or don't want to pay. Paul Benedict's character says that he is going to watch the drag race from inside. The two have a little fight. Benedict buys a fake mustache. They steal a doll. Arkin rips off the dolls head and attaches it to the bottom of the gear shift in somebody else's truck. He moves the gear shift which contorts the doll's face and then says, "The world is bigger than you know." Nothing in that scene connects with anything else. Hell, the scene doesn't make sense on its own, but for whatever reason, it adds to the experience and is really funny. Here's another bit of dialogue after the characters throw full stolen bottles of soda at signs from their moving cab in a scene that might be about six bottles too long:

Arkin: Boy, I never had so much fun. Howdy mighty damn!
Benedict: Golly.
Arkin: That was fun.
Benedict: Gee.
Arkin: That's what I call fun.
Benedict: That was something all right.

Come on! That's almost Shakespearean! I also liked this exchange, following some enthusiastic singing:

Benedict: You know "Red River Valley"?
Arkin: Yeah.
Benedict: You want to sing it?
Arkin: No.

As I type that, I realize it's one of those you-had-to-have-been-there moments, but I don't care. I'm typing it anyway. I'm not sure any of the dialogue would work without Arkin and Benedict. The latter I was just thrilled to see. Arkin is completely unhinged here, so close to Depp's Hunter S. Thompson that you almost wonder if Depp drew inspiration from this before remembering that he drew his inspiration from an actual guy. Arkin's performance is one of the oddest I've seen as he hollers at blow-up dolls, claims his name is Bingo Freighthaulers, or tells stories about Jesus. A lot of the fun is this weird rapport that Arkin and Benedict have. Watch Benedict's face as Arkin is talking through a drive-in showing of Samson and Delilah when he says, "Hey, look at Jesus up there!" or claims that "Jesus don't make no deals." Or when Arkin's rambling something like "If I see him again, I'm gonna stick his head with a fork mumble mumble mumble" followed by a pained scream, a moment when Arkin just gives up on using words. That look on Benedict's face is priceless. My favorite moment (possibly ever) is when both characters are screaming. A feeling of euphoria washed over me, dear readers.

OK, I'm going to start reminiscing with myself about this movie that none of you will ever see. My new favorite movie!

Oh, but for all you Richard Kiel completists--you could blink and miss him, but he is in this one. You know, the dude with the 7'2" teeth.

A Christmas Carol

2009 Christmas horror movie

Rating: 11/20 (Jen: 14/20; Dylan: dnf; Emma: dnf; Abbey: too terrified to finish)

Plot: An old guy mixes up his medication again and has a series of fever dreams and hallucinations that end with his obsessing over a crippled little boy. Merry Christmas!

I don't think Robert Zemeckis has a clue who his audience is. This isn't as terrifying as the ultra-creepy Polar Express movie (Shane trivia: That's the only movie that, since I was watching it on a plane, made me wish for a plane crash.) which is odd since this one has a lot of scenes that are supposed to be terrifying. It is scary though, so much that there's no way this would appeal to children. And it's a cartoon, a genre that a lot of adults have no interest in, so it's not really for adults either. So who's the audience for this thing? Speaking of the cartoonishness, I don't care for this kind of animation at all. I don't like the unnatural way the characters move while they have such a realistic look to them. I think it's that clash that makes this feel so cold and stiff and creepy. I did like how the camera moves, and being able to zoom beneath character's legs or through wreaths is almost enough reason for this story to be told yet again. The animated telling of the story allows for some different perspectives at least, and there's a liveliness to this version that only gets old at about the 2/3 mark. Zemeckis does a great job creating an animated London that effectively sets the mood for Scrooge's story, and the ghosts look pretty good. Well, Marley looks ghastly cool. The Ghost of Christmas Past is the wrong kind of creepy, and the Present one looks like it could be a Will Ferrell character. Dug the shadowy final ghost though. Overall, this just seems loud and extraneous, and far from the new Christmas classic I think Zemeckis is trying to make, it's not even one that I'll likely ever revisit again. Unlike Polar Express which I do periodically revisit in my darkest of nightmares.

Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas

1977 holiday miracle

Rating: 16/20 (Jen: 12/20; Dylan: 20/20; Emma; 14/20; Abbey: 12/20)

Plot: Pa's dead, and Emmet Otter and his mother Emily struggle with odd jobs to make ends meet. When they both hear about a Christmas Eve talent show that pays fifty bucks to the winner, they sacrifice tool chests and washboards in order to capture the prize. A flashy rock band from River Bottom threatens their chances of winning, however. Will Emmet or his mother be able to win the big money? Will they find something more valuable than fifty dollars? Will somebody who uses the slide Pa made injure himself and sue?

My favorite thing about this is how their legs move when they walk. You'd almost think that Jim Henson or somebody would say, "OK, fellows. We tried with this leg thing, but we just can't get this to look right. Oh, well." Maybe they did, but somebody else stepped in and said, "Don't change a thing! Those legs look awesome the way they are!" And that second person, Christian readers, was correct.

This sweet little story was one of my favorites when I was a kid, mostly because I like both puppets and jug-band music. That and Emily Otter is one hot little number. It's probably been close to thirty years since I last saw this, but I could still do a mean air-guitar/vocal version of the River Bottom Nightmare Band song. They're my favorite characters, of course, because they're misbehaving rock 'n' rollers. Chuck with the voice of Cookie Monster, a bass-playing snake, an otter that looks like he could have been one of Fat Albert's buddies, and a fish that is apparently just there for decorative purposes. I'm so glad [SPOILER ALERT] that they won the thing because they freakin' rocked. Being a Muppet production you can expect certain things--quality songs, recognizable voices (if you grew up on Sesame Street), and great and creative puppeteering. This delivers, and if my wife and kids just want to make fun of it the entire time we're watching it, they may wake up on Christmas Day to find that their father has abandoned them.

I Like Killing Flies

2004 documentary

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Kenny Shopsin's operated a restaurant where he's put a variety of things in pancakes for over thirty years in Greenwich village. Like the Soup Nazi, he's got an eccentric personality and a series of rules he expects his customers to follow. He loses his lease and is forced to move down the street. He was already grumpy, and this development isn't going to help his temperament any.

This is the sort of oddball, like Timothy "Speed" Levitch, who I enjoy spending some time with. I'm not sure I'd want to eat the food after watching it prepared or getting a glimpse into the guy's kitchen. This is the kind of old guy that, given the right circumstances, I'll likely turn into. He's a colorful personality with an interesting life perspective. This documentary is quotable and endlessly entertaining as he tells the camera that "This [stove] looks like a whore's ass" or that new customers "have to prove it to me that they're OK to feed." At the end, he gets downright philosophical, discussing the need for people (specifically, his children) to realize that they're "not so terrific" and encouraging people to "pick an arbitrary, stupid goal, become involved in it, and pursue it with vigor." Shopsin's looks like a fun place, and I'm glad this little documentary gave me the opportunity to visit it. Still not sure I'd want to eat something that's been prepared on a whore's ass though.

Fists in the Pocket

1965 family film

Rating: 16/20

Plot: An epileptic young man named Ale decides to murder everybody in his family in order to give his brother a chance to live a normal life.

This is strange little Italian movie that reminds me quite a bit like that other Italian movie. At the center of things is Lou Castel and his performance as the bad (or good, depending on how you look at things) brother. Even during his calmer scenes, you can see a lot of craziness burbling beneath the surface. Of course, the real fun is watching him come completely unhinged. His performance is really mesmerizing and my eyes were just glued to him. Unless Paola Pitagora, his character's sister, is on the screen because my eyes really enjoyed watching her for different reasons. This bleak and cynical family drama is shot in an interesting way with Bellocchio taking advantage of the architecture and geography to help illustrate the family dynamics and situations. They family leaves on a cliff which works to not only create some beautiful shots but as a metaphor. I also liked an early dinner sequence with some creepy editing and choreography really paints a picture of what this family's all about. It's a picture that's worth a thousand words as all these slight movements give you this strong impression that things ain't right with these people. Morricone's score, a lot of it consisting of ghostly vocals and dropping things, is also very effective. This had some slow moments and a confusing relationship between Ale and his hot, hot sister, but it's still a nice feel-bad picture of a dysfunctional family.

Best Worst Movie

2009 documentary

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A look at Troll 2 and its cult following as a so-bad-that-it's-good-although-it's-in-no-way-really-good film. Michael Stephenson, the boy who pisses on hospitality in Troll 2, assembles most of the talent (Note: I'm using that word liberally here.) and the Italian director, explores the phenomenon of cult cinema, and returns to Nilbog (It's Goblin backwards!) for an often awkward reunion.

OK, I'm not seeing anything on imdb about Claudio Fragasso making a sequel called Trolls 2: Part 2, and I can't decide if I'm disappointed or relieved. I'm not sure this is magic you can just recreate.

I avoided watching this as I was afraid it would yank the Wizard's curtain away and reveal something that would somehow ruin the experience of Troll 2, but it really doesn't do that at all. It's comforting to know that everybody involved in this had every intention to make a movie that was actually good. Fragasso at least claims that he's almost insulted by people referring to this as a bad movie (he almost gives himself away during a screening where he's caught laughing) and the delusional actress who played the mom compared Troll 2 to Casablanca. My favorite scene involves her, by the way. George Hardy (the dad) and Michael Stephenson (the son and guy who put this documentary together) are at her house trying to talk her into showing up at some reunion thing. She nervously refuses and then describes noises she's hearing at night, presumably from Troll 2 fans. Hardy asks what kind of noise she's hearing and she unleashes this hellish scream. The looks on the faces of Hardy and Stephenson are classic. The rest of the principals seemed a little embarrassed or confused by their involvement in this. George Hardy's at the center of all this as the dentist with acting aspirations. The guy's enthusiasm is infectious, but things get a little sad when he starts forcing that "You can't piss on hospitality!" line on people at horror conventions who have never even heard of his movie. Also sad: the look in Robert Ormsby's (Grandpa Seth) eyes when he says, "I guess you could say I've wasted my life." I really enjoyed the antics of Don Packard, the guy who played the shop owner in Nilbog who had spent time in an asylum just prior to the filming of Troll 2.

Yeah, this is a movie about one particular movie and how it's because famous in unexpected ways, but it does a good job exploring the fandom with cult movies in general and, a lot like Winnebago Man, showing how the love people have for the stars of these kinds of oddball phenomena is genuine.

I might try to convince my family to make Troll 2 a Christmas Eve tradition.

Terror in a Texas Town

1958 Western

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A greedy oil tycoon is trying to drink everybody's milkshakes up. One of his thugs shoots and kills a Swedish landowner, and when his son comes for a visit, he finds out about it and gets all pissy.

Iron-hooked fury! They say you can't bring a knife to a gun fight. What about a harpoon though? This doesn't have a terribly original plot, but it opens and closes with one of the craziest Western showdowns you're likely to see--a ticked-off Sterling Hayden yielding a harpoon as he's marching down the dusty street to face the bad guy with his guns and black outfit. Slap my ass and call me Ishmael if that's not just completely badass. Sebastian Cabot is great as the oil baddie, but it's really Sterling Hayden's terrible Swedish accent that steals the show. I was distracted by having to figure out if he was supposed to be mentally challenged or not. Derivative, other than that bitchin' harpoon, but well shot with some solid character development, this isn't a great Western but it's not a bad one. And I'm not joking when I type that this might be the best Hollywood example of iron-hooked fury ever! Iron-hooked fury!

Strictly Background

2007 documentary

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A look at ten professional film extras.

An oft-amusing and at time surprising poignant look at the lives of these folk. Some of them are completely delusional as you might expect, but you can't really accuse the director of going out of his way to find the real nutcases. Most of them are realistic and just have an enthusiasm for this kind of work, a love of being on the set, and an excitement with getting to see themselves, even briefly, on the silver screen. With a documentary like this, one where you get a glimpse at the lives of eccentric people, you always want to judge it on how fair it is to the subjects. There are times when this seems like it might be poking fun a bit. That's fine with me because I really like making fun of people anyway. I really enjoyed seeing these people in their movies, the footage changed to completely black and white except for the extra. Some of these cats were even featured pretty prominently, like the guy who was semi-nude in The Shawshank Redemption or the other guy who even looked like he got to act a bit in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Then again, you also had the poor woman who kept talking about movies in which she had appeared where the clips would only show the top of her head or a shoulder or something.

My favorite bit: A guy outside of the Ricardo Montalban theater calling it the "Tattleban Theater" and then saying, "I might not be saying that right."

Punching the Clown

2009 comedy

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A semi-autobiographical tale of comic singer-songwriter Henry Phillips, this follows the protagonist to L.A. where he tries to make it big and get himself a record deal. Meanwhile, he deals with his brother, love, accusations of Neo-Nazism, and being a sell-out.

This is smart and understated like I prefer my comedies. I watched it on a whim, probably because Sarah Silverman liked it and I want to impress her, and I'm happy that I did. It's not so much a mockumentary, but it's got a vibe similar to Curb Your Enthusiasm where it feels like you're just following this hapless character around as he has misadventures instead of watching a character in something more written. No, Henry Phillips doesn't have the acting chops (does Larry David?) to make it all that believable or Larry David's personality to carry the premise, but this is well written enough that it doesn't matter that much. And Larry David doesn't have a guitar. Phillips' songs all the sound the same, but at least I like his voice and they are consistently funny. As his manager, played hilariously by Ellen Ratner, says, he's like "James Taylor on smack." Loved Phillips' response to that: "But James Taylor really was on smack." I also enjoyed Phillips' rival Stupid Joe (Mark Cohen) and the cuts we get to hear from his album Let's Get Guitarded, probably enjoyed them a little more than I was supposed to actually. But c'mon, it's impossible not to laugh at "Cut loose, footloose, there goes some more brown juice," isn't it? This feels like a Phillips-penned love letter to his career, and I really enjoyed it.

Run Ronnie Run

2002 comedy

Rating: 10/20 (Mark: 10/20)

Plot: The titular redneck frequently makes appearances on a Cops-like reality show, so a struggling producer decides to give him his own show where he gets arrested in different cities every week. It's a smash hit, and Ronnie has to adapt to a new celebrity lifestyle.

I laughed at this a few times, but I never felt comfortable doing it. It really felt like a blow to my dreams of being an elitist hipster. Elitist hipsters, by the way, will refuse to admit that this is just a slightly-more-intelligent Joe Dirt with performers slightly cooler than David Spade. David Spade would have trouble stuffing this much star power in his comedy. Seriously, look at this list of famous folk:

Jeff Goldblum. A bunch of others.

It's just missing Andy Dick, and I could have sworn I saw him, too. Couldn't find him in the credits though. Mark and I watched this after watching the lighthearted Mishima and had time for another piece of classic cinema. I demanded something "stupid" and ended up with this. It's definitely stupid.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains

1982 punk movie

Rating: 12/20

Plot: A triad of punk grrls grab them some instruments and form The Fabulous Stains which, after opening up for a couple of boy punk bands, begin to develop a following despite their complete lack of talent. It's the style that sells records anyway, right?

This is choppy and uneven, it nearly put me to sleep, and it lacks thematic clarity. Still, there are some endearing components, most notably the performance of Diane Lane as the lead Stain. She's going to be Clark Kent's mom in the superfluous upcoming Superman movie, but here she's young and angry. She plays naive and pissed really well here, well enough that it should have launched a great career. She would get to play Patty in Rumblefish and one of Charlie Chaplin's wives in that biopic. Laura Dern and Ray Winstone are both good here, too. The Stains' music is fun, kind of reminiscent of The Shaggs only with a little more attitude. This movie's got a large cult following apparently and was difficult to find for a long time though it is available on Netflix now. It just didn't connect with me, and I doubt I remember much about it five years from now. Well, other than a really disappointing ending maybe.

Cannibal! The Musical

1993 historical musical

Rating: 14/20

Plot: The story of Alfred Packer, the lone survivor of a failed mining expedition somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Upon his return to society, he's tried and convicted of eating the rest of his party, something you're apparently not supposed to do on a mining expedition. His only hope to escape an impeding hanging is a young newspaper reporter named Polly Pry and some Japanese Indians.

This one, as you'd expect being an early project from one of the South Park dudes, is a mixed bag. It's a musical about cannibalism, so it's nothing I need to be talked into seeing. Since this is a Trey Parker project, you might guess that the songs would be pretty good. They are, too. Parker's songs have a way of feeling they could actually be in a legitimate musical until you listen really closely to the lyrics and hear things that would have Rodgers and Hammerstein reaching for their shotguns. Lyrical genius:

"The sun's as warm as a baked potato."
"The sky was a lot more blue when I was on top of you."
"My pa was an elephant, but that is irrelevant. My ma was an Eskimo."
"I've got a chest of wonder and balls of thunder. I can break right through a wall."
The entirety of the snowman song.

This is brazenly low budget, and I really got a kick out of the costumes and faux facial hair. The trapper characters' outfits were the best. They even had "Trapper" across their backs which made me laugh. My favorite characters were the Indians, played stereotypically by Japanese people. Favorite line: "We are. . .Indians. Look at all the teepees." All kinds of little oddities in this one--references to The Odyssey and unexplained aliens. This one isn't a home run or consistently great, but it can be mentioned in the same conversation as an Airplane or a Holy Grail, which a lot of comedy directors would take as a huge compliment. People will think a lot of this is pretty juvenile but there's enough clever in here to make it worthwhile. Also of interest to South Park or Team America: World Police fans or anybody who likes musicals or cannibalism. And if you appreciate both musicals and cannibalism? Hold on tight!

Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story

1988 biopic

Rating: 14/20

Plot: The Karen Carpenter story, detailing her rise to fame in the 70s with The Carpenters and her battle with anorexia nervosa.

But with Barbie dolls.

This is Todd Haynes first movie, and it looks like it's probably a student film. It's made on the cheap, but the use of the dolls is definitely effective. The initial fun of watching this reenacted with dolls does wear off a bit after a while, and I'm glad this movie isn't longer than the forty or so minutes that it is. I happen to like The Carpenters' music, but the fact that there is so much of it in this little film made it really difficult to both watch this movie or find a poster since its use (and probably the use of Barbie dolls actually) makes this movie illegal to sell. Well, the former wasn't all that tough actually since you can see this thing on the Internet. You'll see the use of the dolls as novelty, but it really does help drive home a point of some kind. I might not know exactly what that point is, but I'm sure there is some kind of point.

By the way, if you're into this sort of thing, there is a Barbie spanking scene in this one. Hot!

Leningrad Cowboys Go America Redux!

1989 Aki Kaurismaki movie

Rating: 16/20 (Only gave it a 13/20 last time I wrote about it on this blog--I'm embarrassed about that.)

Plot: The titular worst band in the world go America after being told that Americans will buy anything. They travel the country, trying to earn a buck by playing gigs in trashy bars that their unscrupulous manager has set up for them. Their ultimate destination is Mexico where they've been hired to play a wedding.

This movie is already on the blog, but I just don't have access to Aki Kaurismaki's movies and needed to see one. Plus, Criterion (God bless 'em) just released a box set with this and two others (stay tuned!), and I didn't want to watch the sequel without giving this one another spin. When I first checked this out, I wasn't familiar with Kaurismaki and probably just didn't get it. It's a brilliant comedy though a little more slapsticky and goofy than his other movies on this blog. The camera also moves a lot more. It's moving right off that bat actually in a sweeping shot that ends with the frozen Cowboy you see on the poster up there. There are a lot of sight gags in this one, some hilarious and some that just aren't. Seeing the dog's hair? Hilarious. The picture of their ancestor--Abe Lincoln with the Cowboy's hair style? Not so much. But actually, that little gag is so bad that's actually good. A tire popping gag, a scene with beer cans, a picture of a tractor. These kinds of shenanigans aren't going to appeal to everybody, but seven-year-olds who don't mind subtitles will think it's all pretty funny.

Here are four scenes that I really love, at least two of them almost entirely pointless:

1) A scene in a shoe store
2) A scene where the guy who is following them around is carrying a large fish while slogging around in a swamp
3) A funeral march that ends with "Chuck" the cop arresting them
4) The most ridiculous fight scene ever filmed, one with more hopping than should have been allowed

Brilliant stuff. And it's Kaurismaki's willingness to linger on the pointless that makes this stuff so good, I think. The written "jokes" are so subtle that you can't really even be sure it's all supposed to be funny. My favorite exchange is this one:

Concert venue guy: Before I can book them, I need to hear them play.
Manager: Is that necessary?

That's followed by this terrific shot of the accordion player's face that made me laugh out loud. Bam! Speaking of their music, I actually like it, and they're far from the worst band in the world. The tuba-accordion-accordion-mandolin-fiddle rock sound you hear at the beginning will have anybody with legs dancing around the living room, and their "Bad to the Bone" is so good that it hurts a little bit. My favorite song might be the bluesy number with the lyric: "Who made that horrible noise in the sauna, what, huh?" Or the country song which ends with a hearty "Yee-haw!" It's great stuff if you're entertained by this sort of thing. And you've got to love a movie that manages to find places in America that look more depressing than the Tundra these polka superstars came from.

My favorite actor of all time--the late, great Matti Pellonpaa--is superb as the manager. You don't need to look further than the scene where he greets a person with a barking "Hello!" and an awkward wave to see why I think this guy is the greatest actor to ever live.

Jim Jarmusch has a cameo as a used car salesman.

Next up: Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses.

Double Indemnity

1944 noir classic

Rating: 20/20

Plot: A horny insurance guy meets a dame (I think that's what they were called back then) with gams (I think that's what they were called back then) that don't quit and decides to help her kill her husband in order to impress her.

Sorry to tell you this, but if you don't like this movie, you just don't like movies. True, you could probably say that about every Fred MacMurray movie that doesn't involve him turning into a dog. I remember seeing this for the first
time after knowing MacMurray only for The Shaggy Dog and the Flubber movie and having no idea he could be this cool. I guess we can't give credit to MacMurray for these gems though:

"I couldn't hear my own footsteps. It was the walk of a dead man."
"How could I have known that murder could sometimes smell like honeysuckle?"
"I wanted to see her again. . .without the silly staircase between us."

No, Raymond Chandler gets credit for those. I'll give MacMurray credit and possibly a lifetime achievement award for the way he lights a match though. I dig everything about this movie, from title credits with the approaching shadowy figure to the Stanwyck's terrible wig. A slow-moving train, a hide behind a doorway, excessive perspiration, the A-ha look that Edward G. Robinson has in his eyes throughout the entire movie. Double Indemnity is probably the purest example of noir storytelling, all Venetian blinds and femme fatales and shadows, and although it's reportedly Ass Masterson's 7th favorite movie of all time, it's impossible not to see it as the classic that it is. jHe probably just likes it because none of the characters are happy at the end though. This picture of depravity, greed, and horniness is just perfection.