The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum at Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade

1967 Movie Club Selection

Rating: 16/20

Plot: The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum at Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade.

First things first--I don't remember the character's name, but there's a guy in this thing who has the best hair ever.

There are a great deal of words in this thing. Some, especially a lot of the ones that were sung, were incomprehensible. And a lot of them flew right over my little head. I was in bad need of subtitles to help me out. Even with subtitles, I doubt I'm intelligent enough to attempt swimming in the various layers of Marat/Sade. Freewill vs. predetermination, the power of the individual vs. the community, equality, freedom, justice, censorship, nihilism. Heavy stuff, and this is a challenging and intense experience. Draining even. The style instantly draws you in, almost makes you feel trapped in there with the inmates of the asylum. The single setting is sparse, but I like how some of the features of the bath house are utilized. The camera's definitely not afraid to get right in there, allow you to get intimate with the crevices of the actors' faces. At times, this is almost a movie you can smell. There are a couple of scenes that I just loved. First a "Marat Nightmare" scene with steamy effects, demonic silhouettes, and disorienting music. The second was a scene that started with a chant (in rounds) about "general copulation" and ended with some hot dry-humping orgy action. The ensemble cast is excellent. Patrick Magee is haunting as the Marquis, and I also liked Ian Richardson as the other titular character. My favorite characters, other than the hair guy, were the clown-make-upped chorus that would pop up and sing the weird little songs. Marat/Sade is heady stuff, but it's impossible to take your eyes off the screen as the camera maneuvers through all those crazy mo-fos. It's intoxicating and exhausting, and I wish I was enough of an intellectual to fully appreciate it.

So, fellow Movie Clubbers, what did all y'all think?

Bob Roberts

1992 political satire

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Ultra-conservative folk singer Bob Roberts wants to be a senator. A film crew follows him on his campaign while reporter Bugs Raplin tries to uncover a story of corruption.

As I've here stated ad nauseum, I love the mockumentary format. Generally, you don't 100% buy what's going on in your typical mockumentary, but you forgive them because they're hilarious. Bob Roberts isn't your typical mockumentary. It's not laugh-out-loudly hilarious, but it's got the realism. The cast, including all the extras, is gigantic, but they step on each other's lines like they would in real life and none of their actions seem extraneous or unnatural, helping me buy every inch of what was happening on the screen. That's actually pretty scary when you think about it. Bob Roberts is like a mockumentary that Robert Altman would have made. And although I didn't exactly laugh, the biting satire made me nod in appreciation more than any movie I can remember. It's an impressive achievement for first-time director Tim Robbins who also wrote the thing, starred as the titular right-winger/singer, and co-wrote the songs. It must have been exhausting. After all, tongue-lashing a nation for its hypocrisy, shortsidedness, and naivete is tiring work. This wouldn't click with everybody, and like a lot of great movies, it'll offend some people. Giancarlo Esposito as the reporter, Alan Rickman as an advisor, and Gore Vidal as the incumbent are all very good. I also dug all the Bob Dylan references, some album covers and the "Subterranean Homesick Blues" thing.

Planet 51

2009 pedestrian cartoon

Rating: 9/20 (Dylan: 6/20; Emma: 8/20; Abbey: 15/20)

Plot: It's an alien invasion! Only instead of the little green guys invading our world, it's Earthlings doing the invading. American Chuck Baker, a less-than-heroic astronaut hero, comes in peace, but he isn't exactly given a welcoming reception and has to find a way to retrieve his confiscated space ship and escape the titular planet.

OK, I'm officially tired of these CGI things that try to appeal to both children and adults and end up failing to appeal to either. The forced pop culture references in this (Thanks, Shrek) are cringe worthy, and the characters are as flat or personality-free as characters can get. The aliens, not helped by the fact that they all looked the same (apologies if that sounds racist), were indistinguishable, and the 1950's Americana influence for the setting was an idea that probably worked on paper a lot better than it ended up on the screen. It didn't take very long at all for me to completely lose interest in everything that was going on here. But my biggest problem, something that bothered me on multiple levels--a penis joke. "That's a funny place for an antenna." C'mon, Ilion Animation Studios. That's not necessary and unfunny on any planet.

Devil Doll

1964 evil ventriloquist movie

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Loosely based on the life of Edgar Bergen, this one's about The Great Vorelli, a stage hypnotist and ventriloquist with a dummy capable of leaving the lap and walking around before saying one-liners like "Who are you calling a dummy, dummy?" or "Morning wood? It's morning, afternoon, and night wood for Hugo!" Vorelli spots a chance to inherit a fortune and hypnotizes the lovely and wealthy Marianne Horn. Marianne's boyfriend Mark doesn't approve.

Any time Hugo is on screen, this reminded me of The Twilight Zone (in a good way) and was effectively spooky. Whether Hugo's in his cage, "performing," or walking around on his own, he has this ability, like all ventriloquist wooden men probably, to make you a bit uneasy. The problem is that The Twilight Zone is about twenty minutes long while this thing was movie-sized, stretching the plot mighty thin. Bryant Haliday--an actor with only six, mostly B-pictures on his resume (How did I miss The Projected Man during my infamous "man" streak?)--does everything he can with a pretty lousy script and is really pretty good. He's at least good enough to have a career longer than six movies. I liked the scenes with Vorelli on stage, mostly because they seemed nowhere near natural. It seems like a lot of the extras should have walked out during the weird hypnosis stuff--making people think they're being executed or getting women to dance. If not, the stuff with the dummy would have cleared the house. A walking ventriloquist dummy, although a novelty, wouldn't necessarily be entertaining, would it? And the interaction between Hugo and Vorelli was so intense, the latter barking these orders with an odd threatening edge in his voice. This movie really isn't very good, mostly because of a weak story and poor writing, and it's not bad enough to be funny. In fact, it's the type of movie you'd forget about completely if not for the image of Hugo walking around on his own with that goofy smile on his face. It's not the worst way to spend eighty minutes though. Here's Hugo:

Ip Man

2008 Hong Kong Phooey

Rating: 17/20

Plot: The tale of Yip Man and why he lost his Y. Loosely (I imagine very loosely) based on a real-life tough guy in Foshan, a town packed with martial arts schools, who single-handedly-and-footedly beats up every single Japanese person and teaches China the art of Wing Chun. Bruce Lee, according to the poster, learned from him.

Not only is this an action-packed kung-fu film stuffed with lots and lots of images of guys getting kicked in the side of the face in slow motion (a modern kung-fu movie idea that will likely be beaten into the ground), it's a great movie. The cinematography is impressive, and the 1930s Foshan they've created is very realistic. The acting's good, especially the stoic Donnie Yen as the titular Yip, a guy whose got that gift of having such a presence even if he's not doing anything, reminiscent, I think, of the commanding screen presence that Bruce Lee had. And the scenes when he actually does do things on screen? Electric. The fight scenes are terrific--intensely exciting and often even emotional. There's a scene near the middle of the film where Yen fights Japanese soldiers for the first time, and from the moment he says, "I'm going to fight ten of you mo-fos" (that's my paraphrase) to the last strike, I was all goose-pimply. It's one of those fight scenes that, if you enjoy martial arts movies, you just have to rewind and watch again. You never really get the sense that Yen's character is in any danger at all though; in fact, I wondered if it was in his contract that he was not to be struck on screen or something. Still, regardless of whether or not there's any suspense about who is going to win any of the fight scenes, it's great fun watching Yen's quickness and fluid movement and there's nothing going on that makes it unrealistic or fantastical like some other modern kung-fu classics. With flying fists, swinging axes, dancing long poles, and busting bones, this has enough to please both old school kung-fu aficionados and fans of all those beautifully photographed, more mature martial arts dramas that have been made this century. I'm not sure about the historical accuracy. I'm also pretty sure that Ip Man is really a glossy action-oriented propaganda film. But who cares?

A confession: I may have watched this only to prevent it from being Kairow's movie-of-the-month selection for March because it would mess up the movie I want to pick in a few months. He can have credit for the recommendation though.

Damned--The Strange World of Jose Mojica Marins

"I'm Coffin Joe, and I'm about to eat your amygdala!"

2001 documentary

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Director and actor Marins discusses the ups and downs of his life and career.

This opens with some amazing footage of what I guess was a mass hypnosis. It looks like something straight out of a documentary about a Pentecostal church though. Coffin Joe tells a congregation that they are on a plane, a plane which begins to shake and eventually go down. The people scream and weep uncontrollably. Then, Joe tells them that they're all going to hell and grins madly and deviously. I'm not sure what exactly it adds to the Jose Mojica Marins story, but it sure was interesting to watch. Flash-forward to '99, and Coffin Joe's let himself go a bit. He looks like an ordinary out-of-shape Brazilian guy, balding and pot-bellied, and I'm not sure if I was surprised or disappointed that he isn't completely insane. I did learn some interesting tidbits about the guy:

1) He was born, of course, on Friday the 13th.
2) He loved and was inspired by comics, but surprisingly, to me at least, not Batman. He didn't care for Robin apparently.
3) As a boy, he actually lived in a movie theater.
4) His "studio" was an old chicken barn.
5) The first shocking film that he saw was an educational film about venereal disease.
6) He had a bodyguard named Satan.
7) As a kid, he knew a guy who sold potatoes on the street. He and the other children loved the guy. But as all potato men must eventually do, he passed away. Then, at his funeral, he came back to life again and freaked everybody out. This would have an impact on young Marins' life.
8) When working, Marins rarely slept or ate, sometimes working for 96 straight hours without stopping. He had to be hospitalized after taking 20 amphetamine pills.
9) While filming a movie called God's Sentence, he decided he was cursed due to all kinds of problems. Two actresses died, another actress lost a leg, the producer died. An assistant camera man asked Marins, "Who's next?" Marins answered, "You are." Of course, four hours later, the assistant camera man died.
10) Marins used snakes, spiders, and vivisepulture to test his actors and make sure they had the courage to appear in his movies.
11) The banning of Awakening of the Beast (this one will be on my blog soon enough) ruined him. He funded his next movies with the earnings from the previous movie. Since Awakening of the Beast wasn't allowed to be released, no next movie. Marins had to turn to an Ed Woodish pornography career.
12) Unlike Ed Wood's work, Marins' often involved bestiality. At least one had a talking dog, played by a non-talking dog that Marins said was the best actor he worked with.

For those of you who are bored with my write-ups of Coffin Joe movies, be glad to know that I've only got one to go. For the rest of you, here's a picture of Marins at work:

Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind

1978 film that just ain't right

Rating: 20/20 (Yes, there's a new Coffin Joe Rule. If you don't like it, take it up with him and more than likely have your face eaten off.)

Plot: A psychologist is troubled by nightmares in which the movie character Coffin Joe fondles his wife. His colleagues try to convince him that Coffin Joe is only a character and even call Jose Mojica Marins to speak with him. Then, on the back of a fish truck that unloads, his conscience explodes.

"Flesh will be blood, blood will become water to bathe my eternal legacy and glorify the pleasure of pain in the bodies of the damned. So shall it be from one galaxy to another from one existence to another. The little forever midget and the great eternal giant."

If God called the Audience of One guy to make the science fiction Joseph movie, I think Satan was probably responsible for this one. Or a buttload of hallucinogenics. This starts with a drumming, spinning hunchback, an image that in a normal movie would probably be the weirdest one. But this is a Jose Mojica Marins movie, not a normal movie, and the hunchback is just a precursor to about eighty minutes that can only be categorized as an unhinged barrage of nightmarish visuals, mostly censored scenes from his other movies that he's recycled. Bugs crawling on people, wind-up toy snakes, really really bad naked dancing, devil figurines, a bridge made out of people, a mustachioed spider puppet, waving feet, snakes and the women who laugh at them, Coffin Joe shooting fuckin' lasers out his fingers like Emperor Palpatine, shots of colorful test tubes and beakers with frothy foaming liquids, walls made of tarp and naked women, laughing and then exploding black guys in Speedos, those curling fingernails, that ominous unibrow, Erik Estrada, people in animal masks, a magically appearing top hat with pyrotechnics, naked guys tumbling down staircases, Satan poking the half-buried with a pitchfork, fire-breathing topless women, nude posteriors with goofy faces painted on them, finger-eating pasty guys, a lot of shots of half-buried people, what appears to be a cannibalism game show with an upside-down guy and a smiling man in a tuxedo beside him, demons with claw hammers, laughing skulls, random shots of frogs, white mice danging in front of bare breasts, severed hands, gelatinous head walls, tongue yankin', and that guy with two different-sized ears I've seen in Marins' other movies. And yes, that's all as badass as it sounds. Low-budget insanity art, toxic and mystifying. I've seen my share of weird movies, and I can tell you with confidence that there's not much out there that is this relentlessly weird. And I know what you're wondering, so I'll go ahead and answer the question for you--No, you can't handle this movie. Sadly, you would probably have trouble finding it anyway.

Audience of One

2007 documentary that my brother will be pissed I watched without him so I'd better hurry up and type a bunch of entries with the hope that he won't see this

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Because Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat wasn't quite amazing enough, God speaks to Richard, a Pentecostal preacher from California, and tells him he needs to make a science fiction movie based on Joseph's story. His congregation helps fund the project while Richard works hard to find other investors to help raise the fifty million dollars the first-time director wants to work with. Unfortunately, God doesn't seem to like what happens in pre-production and decides not to support the project any more. But Richard and his congregation, still convinced that they've been called to make the film, keep trying to do everything they can to make Gravity: The Shadow of Joseph a reality.

On the one hand, you almost want to commend Richard for his faith and for his creative spirit. He's a man, for better or for worse, who is bursting with ideas. But that one hand is so far away from the other hand, a much larger and more conspicuous and screaming hand. And on that hand, you want this guy to be punished for biting off far more than he can chew, ripping off a flock that really doesn't look like it can afford to be ripped off, and for being about as delusional as an individual can be. Don't get me wrong--I have nothing against delusions. But Richard's delusions are potentially harmful, the best example in this film probably being where one of his crew asks if it's safe for kids to be around some horses and getting the answer "Don't worry about that." There's a wonderful moment in the movie when, after spending a nice wad of movie to film in a neat spot in Italy, they encounter problem after problem. One of the problems is that their camera stops working. Oh, snap, right? Not if you're Richard who announced, "God called us here to shoot this movie, and we're going to shoot this movie--camera or no camera." It's not a leap of faith as much as it's a triple-jump of faith or a pole vault of faith. Later, after the church rents a San Francisco movie studio that they eventually can't afford the rent on after shooting what seemed to be zero hours of footage, Richard starts to get really paranoid, even setting up security so that nobody will bust in and steal their ideas. "It's either God or I'm crazy," he claims at one point, and you'll come away from this believing it's definitely one of those. By the end of the movie, Richard's completely lost his mind, promising his congregation that God has sent him a vision in which they'll be making forty-seven films a year, own eight TV networks, have their own airport, and (believe it or not) colonize another planet. Got news for you, Richard. It ain't God. Since this is a documentary about Pentecostals, you know you're going to be treated or creeped out by some scenes showcasing their religious practices, and there's a nifty scene where they're sanctifying the studio, a process that involves a great deal of shouting and these really strange horns. A lot of the cast is entertaining. The guy who plays the "horned captain" (I went to a Bible college, but I don't remember a "horned captain" in the Joseph story.), actor Daniel who plays Spirf, and a tubby and high-maintenance trippin' stunt man could all be in any movie that God tells me to make.

Don't tell Anonymous that I watched this.


2002 new favorite movie contender

Rating: 17/20

Plot: A very old, very wrinkled man has the hiccups or, as some people spell it, hiccoughs. Meanwhile, life and death go on around him. Pigs have sex. A shepherdess is leered at. Insects do insect things, and a policeman urinates. And oh, snap! Redrum! Redrum! Hiccup. Hiccup. Hiccup. Hiccup. Hiccup. Hiccup. Hiccup. Hiccup. Hiccup.

Sometimes I take notes on the movies I watch, especially when I get behind and know I'll forget something when I finally get around to writing about it. I wrote "Fahrtmester" in my notes for Hukkle, and apparently that was important enough to draw a box around. Fahrtmester. I don't know what that's about.

I do know that I loved this movie. I tried to watch it about a week before I did, but my wife was annoyed with the repetitious sound of the hiccuping guy. The titular hukkle, I guess. And you do get to see this heavily-wrinkled, half-grinning old man hiccup more than you can probably tolerate it. But that hukkle is just one of a flurry of sound effects. I can't remember a movie I've seen like this where the sound effects are at least as important as the visuals. There's this musicality or rhythm to the sounds going on in this nowhere village, and although there's almost no dialogue in this movie, there's plenty to listen to. Not to say the visuals aren't important or impressive because they are. There are a lot of "special effects" in this movie, things that made me wonder how the heck they pulled it off. There are lots of bug close-ups, recalling Microcosmos actually, and a whole lot of scenes where animals are in places where I don't think the animals would want to be. And there's that aforementioned pig sex scene if that's your thing. There's one scene during what I initially thought was an earthquake--it wasn't--that was really cool despite some dopey CGI. I also liked some stylish scenes involving an x-ray and some gyrating foliage that I liked even though they kind of clashed with the simple nature of the rest of the film. This is a sneaky film, one where nothing significant seems to be going on. You've got the hiccuper, a ladybug flying from a shepherdess to her stalker's nose, a bunch of insects, some guys bowling, that large-balled pig, a dying cat, a urinating policeman, a frog, somebody watching a soap opera. You almost just give up trying to find a plot, but then there's a striking imagery that reminds you that big things usually happen in movies and you start to piece together the clues and it's all so quietly shocking that you almost poop in your pants. I loved it, and the parts of me that loved it are the same parts that love the work of Jacques Tati and Twin Peaks. And movies with close-ups of insects.

See this one, Fahrtmesters! And when you do, stick with it and let it seep into your pores.

The Eye Creatures

1965 Larry Buchanan sci-fi remake

Rating: 3/20

Plot: Titular eye creatures (see below) invade earth and interrupt necking teens. One of the teens, a thirty-year-old one named Stan, hits one of them with his car because he's driving without his headlights on. He and his girlfriend try desperately to get the police to believe their story, but he's arrested for hitting a drifter instead. They return to the scene of the accident to look for evidence of aliens. Or maybe just to make out again.

Larry Buchanan, director of the Manos Award winning It's Alive, sure knew how to make bad movies. The silliest thing about this Z-movie is the whole night/day continuity error thing. The story takes place during a single night; however, half the scenes are being filmed in obvious daylight. It almost seems like every other scene switches from day to night or back again, and if I didn't know better, I'd think they did it on purpose to be funny. Or maybe the silliest thing about this is the acting. Lots of Torgo contenders here. The guy who plays "Jim" is really great, especially that moment when he spots a wildly spinning UFB (unidentified flying hubcap) and spitting out, "This one was green!" with far too much excitement. The old man who, although he only gets one line (essentially "Get off my lawn, kids!"), gets to say it over a thousand times. The pair of Peeping Tom surveillance dudes were also impressive. I can't find any of these thespians names because the cast list doesn't show that the characters even have names. But I know that guy's name was Jim! The scene where Stan hits one of the aliens with his car should be used as a "how not to" in an editing course in film school. The girl screams, Stan looks over at her, there's a screech, the girl says, "Oh no!" or something, and then there's a thud, all with this comical choppiness. The alien monsters themselves, eye creatures apparently, were obviously dudes in hastily-assembled costumes. Here's what they look like:

Not quite as embarrassing as the monster in It's Alive, of course, but still pretty dopey. Watching one of their severed rubber arms prowl around was about as embarrassing though.

Here's my favorite tidbit about this movie though:

Apparently, this was shown on television and the producers wanted to jazz up the title a bit by adding "attack" in the title. I guess it makes it seem more menacing. Problem is, as you can see above, they didn't bother proofreading their work and ended up with Attack of the the Eye Creatures as the title. That is awesome. And so is Larry Buchanan who, as I examine more of his work, might have a body of work that is more inept than even the great Ed Wood.

The Extreme Adventures of Super Dave

2000 straight-to-video comedy

Rating: 5/20

Plot: The titular stuntman decides to call it a career after he survives yet another failed stunt. He retires to his compound with his posse where he trains the future stuntmen of America including young D.J. who he takes under his wing and treats like a son. In fact, D.J. takes the name Super Dave Jr. before double-crossing his "father" with a shady promoter named Gil Ruston. Retirement isn't going well until Super Dave falls for the equally clumsy Sandy. But when her son Timmy aggravates his heart condition while trying to attempt his own stunt, Super Dave finds that he has no other hope of raising money for his operation than to come out of retirement for one more potentially deadly stunt.

This has about as much sophistication as the work of Jim Varney as Ernest P. Worrell. About the same amount of laughs, too. I gave this a shot because I like Bob Einstein's work on Curb Your Enthusiasm as Marty Funkhouser, and mockumentary veteran Don Lake is also in this. But had I known a bit two minutes into the movie featuring Ray Charles driving a bus was the funniest thing in the entire movie, I probably would have stopped watching. At about 90 minutes, this is a test of endurance, especially since about 40 of those minutes are made up of one seemingly endless series of fart jokes that made me embarrassed for everybody involved in the production of The Extreme Adventures of Super Dave. Predictably plotted, mind-numbingly idiotic, and devoid of any entertainment value whatsoever, it's not difficult to figure out why this movie was never released in theaters. Recommended for Bob Einstein completists only.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

1970 Russ Meyer movie

Rating: not rated

Plot: The Kelly Affair, an all-gal rock 'n' roll trio, travel to California with the hope of making it big.

I don't know if I'm just missing too much context or what, but I just didn't get this. The flash-flash quick editing style and frequent nudity initially intrigued me, and I liked a montage with some voice-over narration that seemed like a commercial for Hollywood. But really quickly, I just got bored and then irritated and then bored again. Eventually, I stopped playing close attention, my mind wandering enough that I don't really feel comfortable giving this a rating.

Who's seen this? Do I need to give it some time and try to watch it again? Roger Ebert, I know you wrote the screenplay for this, so if there's something I need to know before giving this another shot, let me know. Do you even read this blog, Roger? I really dug Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, so I feel like I should like this Russ Meyer major studio release, too.

Hour of the Wolf

1968 Ingmar Bergman horror movie

Rating: 17/20

Plot: Troubled artist Johan shacks up with girlfriend Alma on bleak island. His insomnia worsens as his past haunts him and the other inhabitants of the island pay him visits. A 216-year-old woman tells Alma to read Johan's diary, and after she does, she realizes how tormented he is.

The most baffling thing about this baffling little gem is that the title screen doesn't appear until forty-seven minutes into the movie. This isn't your traditional horror flick. It's more disorienting than scary, more surreal than terrifying. And although there aren't monsters or ghosts roaming the island our protagonists are staying, it just doesn't feel like the other inhabitants of the island are entirely human. This is a movie that seems like it takes place not just in the subconscious but in the subconscious of a ghost. It's a stark glimpse at a mentally-disturbed mind, one troubled by a past we only get some peeks at. The artist's female companion is along for the ride, and the story unfolds in a way that puts us in her shoes. Put Hour of the Wolf in that category of movies that you feel more than you comprehend. And although it isn't traditionally scary, it is something I'd avoid watching alone at night. The brooding atmosphere, the way Bergman makes this expansive island with a sky that never ends feel claustrophobic and suffocating, the haunting imagery during the encounter with a boy on a rocky shore or the desolate castle corridors, the insane scene with the woman taking off her hat. Nightmare time, kids! This is thick with typical Bergman symbolism and has a sleepy structure, but it's well worth attempting to unwrap. Even without any werewolves in sight.

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done

2009 black comedy

Rating: 15/20

Plot: This is the story, loosely based on a true story, of Brad, a guy who loses his mind after his mother serves him Jello one too many times and ends up killing her with a sword. He barricades himself in their house with a pair of hostages while a pair of detectives work on piecing together possible motives and look for a way to get to him.

This isn't a true collaboration exactly, but it certainly feels like one. And for this viewer, it's a David Lynch/Werner Herzog collaboration is a collaboration made in heaven. Or in the subconscious of a schizophrenic maybe. Lynch apparently had very little to do with this, but Herzog pays homage to the producer with a few scenes--a random gas mask, a couple really strange scenes where the actors freeze and break the fourth wall by staring into the camera for a long enough time to make me kind of uncomfortable, conversations about coffee, and a little fellow in a tuxedo. Oh, wait. Herzog uses little people, too. The acting reminded me more of Lynch's characters than Herzog's, speaking in those slightly-off cadences, stilted almost, and somewhat unnatural. I'm not sure if this works as a drama, and anybody watching this as a Law and Order type thing might be disappointed. I caught on quickly enough that this is more dark comedy than crime thriller/drama, more a glimpse at the world as seen through the eyes of somebody with a damaged mind than anything realistic. And who better to show us that world than Werner Herzog? Flashbacks, especially anything having to do with Brad Dourif's Uncle Ted, seem so insubstantial and too dopey to be real, but they work to add up to what gets to the heart of the crime--that Brad is one cuckoo mo-fo. Could that have been explained more naturally? Of course, but it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun. At times, I'll admit, this almost seems like a parody of both Herzog and Lynch's work. Those Uncle Ted scenes, the use of animals, the aforementioned unnatural acting, a character losing his mind in South America, chickens doing something crazy, God as a canister of oatmeal, all those conversations that seem so detached from anything that matters, and so on. I suppose folks who enjoy a chunk of either directors' filmographies will find something to dig in this one. It's probably not essential, more like a limerick or some other nonsense verse written about insanity rather than the poetic look at insanity that Aguirre is. But it is very entertaining. The title, a full sentence by the way, still makes me laugh. I don't see how a person can read that title and think that this is a serious attempt to make a crime drama.

The Strange Hostel of Naked Pleasure

1975 Coffin Joe morality tale

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Coffin Joe is resurrected (I think) by some scantily-clad women and some male dancers with plastic breasts. His top hat magically appears, and he sulks off to an inn. A variety of guests arrive to escape a thunderstorm. Coffin Joe accepts some while turning others away. The guests engage in a variety of nefarious goings-on--biker orgies, gambling, an affair, shady business dealings, jewel thievery. At midnight, the clocks stop and some bad stuff happens.

I have to admit something--I think I'm terrified to give any of Coffin Joe's movies anything less than a 14. I almost want to make a Santo-esque "20" rule for Coffin Joe; then again, I'm terrified Santo will have an issue with that. The Strange Hostel of Naked Pleasure might not be as good as its title. As a horror film (or whatever the hell it is), it's really bizarre. The freeform weirdness of the opening scene sets the oddball atmosphere--a train track rhythm, some of the worst dancing you'll ever see, people in masks, one guy wearing the neck-down part of a gorilla suit, those men with fake plastic breasts, wobbling shirtless men, silk-clad dancing girls. And, the piece de resistance: a guy who is wearing a giant plastic fake butt on his front. After that insanity, you get the opening credits, a hypnotizing asteroid field, and some terribly incoherent poetry. Things slow down, almost to a screeching halt, as some sort of story threatens to develop. For about forty minutes of so, it's just people arriving at the hotel and Coffin Joe saying some cryptic things ("Why are objects important if the goal is for eternal existence?"). Ad infinitum. The biker orgy scene is especially nutsy though. For the longest time, it's just this packed room of unattractive biker guys and biker chicks undulating on top of each other while, for what seems like forever, chanting, "Everybody naked, great! Everybody naked, great!" The juxtaposing scenes of the dealings of the strange hostel's inhabitants is a lot to endure, but thankfully, things get really bizarre again. Stop reading now if you want to avoid spoilers. Coffin Joe, seemingly ubiquitous, pops in everybody's room, does his weird eye thing, and watches flashbacks where nasty things happen. All with some squiggly, howling, squelching Moog accompaniment and omnipresent screams. Oh, and an off-sounding "Auld Lang Syne". One guy puts a gun to his head. Suddenly, the screen is filled with superimposed fireworks before becoming drowned in blood. It's a sick effect. There's also some nifty fire effects that showcase Marins' ability to do a whole lot with just a little. Another favorite scene is where a couple are having a splash fight in a bathtub when the husband walks in with flowers. He pulls a knife and the flowers fall before, if I remember correctly, Marins decides to show us some insects or rats or a close-up of a creepy clock. Even more than the other two Coffin Joe movies on this blog (here and here), this has the feel of outsider art. It's not exactly the most coherent movie I've ever seen, but like any other Coffin Joe movies (there are two forthcoming), I'd recommend this to weird film enthusiasts.

Hard Candy

2005 drama

Rating: 13/20

Plot: 14-year-old Juno MacGuff, prior to getting knocked up by that menace-to-society Jesse Eisenberg, chats online with a 32-year-old photographer named Jeff for three weeks before suggesting they meet in a coffeehouse. They go back to his bitchin' pad for some screwdrivers, one which she spikes. Jeff passes out, waking up later to find out that he's been tied to a chair with a bag on his head. It's not what he had in mind. Juno turns out to be neither naive or innocent as she proceeds to torture Jeff mentally and ransack his apartment in an effort to expose him as the pedophile she thinks he is.

This is the second Cory recommendation I've watched this month that has both Patrick Wilson and a pedophile being mistreated. I think this means that Patrick Wilson is Cory's new favorite actor, but I'm not sure.

Probably the less you know about Hard Candy, the better chance you'll end up enjoying it if this sort of psychological thriller is your bag. This will likely have spoilers. I went in knowing nothing, and although I wasn't caught completely off guard when it transforms into a very dark tale of revenge, there were still lots and lots of surprises. When a movie's really got only two performers, their story is only going to work if both of them are good. With Hard Candy, that's the case for the most part, although both are kind of a mixed bag thanks to a sloppy script. Ellen Page plays naive and vulnerable and innocently flirtatious really well, and I was really impressed with the job she did during the first twenty minutes of the movie. When she turns into a complete psychopath, I thought her character was a bit too snarky and sneering. She ended up really annoying. Cory's new favorite actor was excellent in a role that must have been physically and mentally exhausting. He's good as both sneaky predator and victim. The problems I had with the characters wasn't with the acting; it was that I didn't really feel like I could root for either of them. You can't root for a pedophile in a movie no matter how many times he cries out, "I'm not a pedophile." And Page's character was, as I said, a bratty psychopath. The dialogue became less and less realistic as the story went along, and I didn't end up believing either character. A lot of the problem was the script. "C'mon, Jeff...shoot me. C'mon, Jeff...shoot me." Oh, boy. And the "I'm every little girl..." line was really heavyhanded. This is also one of these modern stories that tries to shock and then shock you again with more twists than a story this size can possibly contain. The best example of how these twists do nothing more than mess up the story is when a third character, Sandra Oh as a neighbor, pops up and Ellen Page's character suddenly turns into a complete moron. The tortuous complications in Hard Candy end up seeming more like distractions than anything else. I didn't care much for the style of this movie either. The scene with the characters driving from coffee place to Jeff's home actually made me laugh. There are alternating shots of Jeff and Juno exchanging this glances that lasts for at least fifteen minutes. No exaggeration. And the "stylish" close-up of Juno's lips saying "Juicy" was a little too much. Hard Candy is a movie that definitely took some chances, and the two leads gave some brave, demanding, and mostly-good performances. Unfortunately, any messages writer Brian Nelson and director David Slade might have wanted to deliver seem either conflicting or drowning in the entanglements of the psychological thrills, and I didn't end up liking it very much. I will say this--the lengthy operation scene at the heart of this film was really intense.

Of Mice and Men

1939 movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A big doofus named George and a guy named George who only sort of looks like Gary Sinese flee from one job to the next, presumably because Lenny keeps accidentally squishing bunnies. They migrate from job to job with the secret dream of somebody owning their own place and working for themselves. They run into problems with their employer's mean son and flirtatious and really bored daughter-in-law.

I'm not sure if I prefer this one or the Sinese/Malkovich take. The remake is truer to the source material while actually managing to be the rare film that is better than the book. This version is fairly true to the source material, but it's not as good as the Steinbeck novel. The changes that are made (especially the tacked-on ending) add nothing. The performances are really good. Lon Chaney Jr. is a great Lenny; Burgess Meredith is also good but has that 1930s wide-eyed, excitable thing going that at times makes him seem as mentally challenged as his big buddy. I really liked Roman Bohnen as Candy, and the scene with his character's dog is really well done and touching. The story by Steinbeck, America's greatest writer, deserves simple and quiet direction, and for the most part, that's what this 30's movie (surprisingly) gives it. Although simple, the story and its characters do allow for a little wiggle room for the viewer, and I liked some of the ambiguities with George's character near the end of the movie. I haven't seen the Sinesely-directed version since it came out. I'm going to have to check that one out again.

Note: I kicked a horse in the head this afternoon. I think that might be ironic, but I don't know what the word ironic means.


2005 neo-noir

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Brenden finds his ex-girlfriend murdered a couple days after a cryptic phone conversation with her. With the help of a buddy, he tries to find her killer, uncovering a high school drug ring and getting beaten up numerous times.

Not a bad idea. Nor is it poorly acted. I like that Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and there's not really a weak link amongst his supporting cast. The dialogue's thick with noirish cliche, maybe too thick. I don't mind the dialogue of a movie wiping away any chance at realism, but since there was nothing unrealistic about the look or feel of the story, it almost clashed. Neither the story nor its characters were really all that interesting, and after half the movie had ended, the novelty of the dialogue wore off and I was left wondering how many times I'd get to see Gordon-Levitt punched, probably because he has too many names. This is the type of movie that I'll see on the blog at the end of the year and not really remember.

Tetsuo, the Iron Man

1993 mind warper

Rating: 16/20

Plot: The titular man accidentally runs over a guy who likes to stick metal rods into his legs. Later, metal starts growing from him including an awesome penis drill. He begins to become more metal than man, and not only will it hurt his relationship with his girlfriend, it might ruin his entire life.

"You want a taste of my sewage pipe?"

Like Eraserhead at twice the speed, a comical nightmare, or vile outsider art, this is very likely the strangest movie I've ever seen. That's saying something. There's not much dialogue in this, something else it has in common with Eraserhead, but at one point, a character says, "What's going on here?" and then, while breaking into tears, "What the fuck is this?" I can imagine that the majority of viewers would be thinking the same exact thing, and honestly, a lot of them would also probably feel like crying. I give it bonus points for sheer audacity, but there's also a thrill in the innovative camera work and effective imagery and atmosphere. Director (and star) Shinya Tsukamoto manages to create something that uniquely creates these moods that you really have trouble labeling. It's foreboding and troubling, but always with some dark humor built in. I'm not familiar with anything else he's done, but with what I'm guessing isn't much of a budget, he auteur-istically brings his wacko vision to life. Chases with lobster-clawed women, rocket heels, metal phalluses, metallic chewing noises, chipmunk laughs, hulking metal men, robot porn. It's demanding stuff, a movie a lot of people wouldn't be able to watch much of, but if you're in the right frame of mind and enjoy the wildly experimental, this could be your favorite movie ever.

Cory, don't watch this one. I'm putting it on the anti-five list.

. . .And God Spoke (The Making Of)

1993 mockumentary

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Clive Walton and Marvin Handleman--the producer/director team that brought the world
such gems as The Airport, Dial "S" for Sex, She Beast, and Nude Ninjas--decide to make a Biblical epic based on a 2,000 page script. The problem is that they have no budget, and after just a few hours, they're already hopelessly behind schedule. Numerous problems arise and begin to strain Walton and Handleman's relationship.

First off, I have to give the makers of this props (wait, do we still give props?) for the Fitzcarraldo reference. Nice. This pokes fun at the film industry more than Christianity. In fact, I really doubt it would offend too many Christians, and even if I'm wrong, it's still mighty funny. The production's nearly as cheap as the Biblical epic they're trying to film, and not every single gag connects, but it squeezed more than a few laughs from me despite the gloomy mood I was in before watching. Like the best of the genre, it's really the little moments (the ones you almost miss if you don't pay attention) that are the funniest. Everything Fred Kaz (Noah) says is funny ("I was a Klingon for a few minutes."), and I also loved the sound effect guy, a discussion about how many disciples there were, a dead buffalo, some hilarious product placement, and "What lovely Frankenstuff!" Oh, and "I could do it with or without my teeth." This has a few famous faces, too. Soupy Sales, oddly enough, is Moses. Jan Brady plays Noah's wife, and Lou Ferrigno and Andy Dick play Cain and Abel respectively. I'm sure reading about this movie has done little to convince you to watch it. Do it anyway and thank me later!

The Social Network

2010 movie

Rating: 17/20 (Jen: 15/20; Dylan: 6/20)

Plot: In order to impress an ex-girlfriend, socially-inept computer genius Mark Zuckerberg steals an idea described to him by jocky twins and ends up the youngest billionaire in the history of money. He calls it The Facebook until a former member of 'N Sync tells him to drop the article adjective. But with the immediate success and the monies that it brings comes both personal and legal problems. Apparently, you have to be a real asshole in order to make a billion dollars.

Michael Cera was really good in this. The pacing is as quick as his character's cadence, and there were times I felt like I had to lean forward on the couch cushion a little bit to catch everything that he was saying. Was Zuckerberg a jerk? Absolutely, but he's a likable villain and even though the folks he screws over really didn't deserve it, Michael Cera plays Zuckerberg as a real guy instead of a burlesque. I guess it's easier to like a bad guy when he's intelligent and witty, no matter how much meanness is sprinkled in with that intelligence and wit. The script is quick and occasionally very funny, and especially for a movie that is so dialogue-driven, this never bored me. Not to say it doesn't have its share of tedious scenes. Almost every scene that took place in a club made me want to leave the room, probably the same feeling I'd have if I was actually in a club. Aside from the lead, I enjoyed the performances of Andrew Garfield as Zuckerberg's partner Eduardo, the always-surprising and immensely-talented Justin Timberlake as the Napster guy (he almost plays the character as a little evil gnome that sits on Zuckerberg's shoulder, whispering temptations into his ear), and Armie Hammer who I didn't even realize was one guy. Armie Hammer (what an unfortunate name) fooled me into thinking he was two people, like a burly Hayley Mills. Which reminds me--as a child, I had recurring dreams about a burly Hayley Mill chasing me around the lawn and threatening me with vegetables. I always had mismatched shoes in those dreams. Or, occasionally, mismatched feet. But I digress. Here's the most surprising thing about this movie and very likely any movie experience I've ever had--I actually enjoyed watching an Eisenberg on my screen. Yes, I know it wasn't Michael Cera. I really did like Jesse's performance, one that almost makes up for all the ways he's annoyed me previously. It does not, however, cover up his sister's sins. Eisenberg's got some sneaky layers here that gave his character some depth you wouldn't figure he had.

And now I notice that Armie Hammer didn't actually play twins. Somebody named Josh Pence played the other one in most scenes. I take back everything I said about Armie Hammer being the next Hayley Mills. He's still got a great name though.

Mongolian Ping Pong

2005 movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: In the Mongolian grasslands, young Bilike lives with his parents, older sister, and grandmother. He chills with his peeps, racing his horse against his friend's moped and occasionally playing some spirited rounds of grab-ass. One day, he finds a ping pong ball floating down the river. Only he doesn't know what a ping pong is, so the object fascinates him. He and his friend ask around. Is it a pearl, some sort of egg, something from heaven? When Dad, a guy obsessed with a carnival game that involves rolling tires to win prizes, finally gets the audio on the television working, Bilike finds out that his treasure is the national ball of China and decides it needs to be returned.

This is a charming little movie, kind of a cross between The Story of the Weeping Camel and The Gods Must Be Crazy. It's beautifully shot. The Mongolian steppe is almost as important as the characters or maybe even more important than the characters, and it's filmed in a way to make this family seem completely alienated from industrialized society. There are some great shots in this. Maybe it's just my current state of mind and my desire to be as far away from people as possible, but I would love to live in Middle-of-Nowhere, Mongolia with these folks. And I liked the story of how a simple object like this can get a child's imagination going. The pace is very slow, but instead of being dull, the space you're given helps you absorb the experiences of these children. The focus stays with the children, and it gives the story an innocence that I found refreshing. I'm not sure if any of the cast is a professional actor, but the only times things didn't seem authentic, almost documentary-authentic, were a few scenes where the children interacted with each other. The ending of this coming-of-age (sort of) story is a poignant one, the only movie I can think of that ends with a sound effect. I only grabbed this movie because I hadn't seen a Chinese movie in 2011, and I'm glad I picked this one.


1982 sci-fi horror movie

Rating: 4/20

Plot: An alien crashes in the woods, and some guys camping hear it. They investigate and are immediately lazered into oblivion. Who is going to stop the Nightbeast, a being impervious to bullets and seemingly unstoppable? Oh, and there's a Bad Fonzi character running around raping people. Somebody's also got to stop him.

Director Don Dohler directed The Alien Factor in 1978, but he apparently wasn't happy with it and thought he could do better. So just four years later, he remade the story as Nightbeast. If this movie actually is better, I wonder how bad The Alien Factor is. The first half of the movie is jam-packed with repetitive action scenes involving the monster shooting people and them disappearing with some graphics that look like something I could have seen while playing Atari as a kid. The spaceship scenes at the beginning were cheaply artistic. I was all ready to give the guy who played Uncle Dave the Torgo award for the year until I noticed that every single performer in this movie is almost as bad. I'm not sure I've seen a worst ensemble cast. Don Leifert played Bad Fonzi (actually, Drago) with a low-budget intensity that gave me chills, and I'm guessing, since a quick glance at his short resume shows that he only acts in movies from this same director, that he was either a good buddy of Don Dohler or they were both in some club for people named Don. And who do we get to be the big action hero who will eventually save the day? This guy:

That guy! He, by the way, only acted in one other movie--The Alien Factor. But Tom Griffith sure nailed this one, rocking that salt and pepper afro and shooting an insane amount of bullets at the monster during several scenes despite knowing that it has no effect. And to top it all off, he gets himself a sex scene! That's right. You get to see that guy's ass. If I made a top-ten list of awkward sex scenes, this would be in there somewhere. I have to give credit to Dohler for his ability to shock though. Along with that shocking sex scene, there are some pretty gruesome deaths. Well, after the thirty minutes of lazerin'. Intestines make a cameo appearance, and there's a nifty decapitation. Hell hath no fury like a rubber-faced alien scorned, I guess. If you like bad movies, this isn't a bad way to spend eighty minutes. Or three hundred and eighty minutes if you have to rewind and rewatch that sex scene a bunch of times like I did.

Taoism Drunkard

1984 kung-fu insanity

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Umm. Well, the titular drunkard breaks a statue, and to make up for it, he has to find the cherry boys and the Virgin Chicken. Meanwhile, a kung-fu demon is trying to steal some holy writing, but he's having a difficult time getting past a grandmother and a watermelon monster. That's right. A freakin' watermelon monster. Confession: I have almost no idea what was going on during most of this movie.

This is how I like my kung-fu--nice and insane. Within ten minutes, you get the following: some spacey sound effects, knee knives, some flying, a guy who has no palm lines, a flashback that sort of explains why he has no palm lines, tongue removal, a porcupine man, these cool physics-defying metal balls that a guy uses as weapons, and a drunken guy driving a car shaped like a mouse. Don't think that Taoism Drunkard shoots its wad too early though. You don't have to wait too long before the real star of the show makes his appearance. The Watermelon Monster:

This is the thing that guards the writing that the devil guy is trying to steal. It hops and flies around, snapping its teeth (it seems to go straight for the groin) and nipple-tweaking with these tentacle things. It's the greatest thing ever, and I realize I've written that exact same thing about eighty different things on this blog, but this time I mean it. And the zaniness doesn't let up after this first appearance of this spherical fighting machine. No, you get a kung-fu fighter who can retract his head and arms into him like a turtle, articles of clothing used as weapons, attack tables, the biggest sword I think I've ever seen, a poison that ages the victim, urine drinking, an homage to the Marx Brothers' mirror gag, a giant stone foot that pops out of the wall and kicks people, and in my personal favorite scene, a kung-fu master who incorporates the robot and the moonwalk into his fighting repertoire. There's also a song with the raunchy lyrics "Though the sugarcane is small, it is hard as iron" that they sing to the tune of "It's a Small World." Whew. It doesn't make a lot of sense, but it's very funny and quickly paced, and the fight scenes are creative. This is the type of kung-fu movie that you have to pause every once in a while just to catch your breath. Something strange though--the version I watched was subtitled instead of being dubbed. Major bummer, and it probably didn't help me understand the plot any, but there were some (I'm guessing) poorly translated subtitles that were funny.

"So me ate what he grew."

"I am using abdominal language to joke with you."

And some dirty talk during a sex scene: "How is it? Is it comfortable and interesting?" If I ever have sex again, I'm going to say that.

Red Rock West

1993 Nicolas Cage movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Mike's down on his luck, a guy who can't get a drilling job because of a bad leg or afford to gas up his car. With five bucks left in his tattered wallet, he sputters into Red Rock, a town of 1,522 people. At the local watering hole, the proprietor (Wayne) mistakes him for a guy named Lyle and hints that there's a job for him. Mike, as desperate as they come, goes along with it and discovers that the job involves making the population of Red Rock 1,521 people by killing Wayne's whore of a wife. Being an honest guy, Mike tries to do nearly the right thing, but he finds himself in a pretty big mess anyway.

You're guaranteed to get at least one Nicolas Cage Moment in every Nicolas Cage movie. A Nicolas Cage Moment, in case you don't know, is when the character he happens to be playing starts acting like Nicolas Cage, doing things that only Nicolas Cage could or would do. Some movies (The Wicker Man, Bad Lieutenant) have multiple Nicolas Cage Moments. In Red Rock West, you get the Nicolas Cage Moment early on during a scene where he overreacts because he's low on gas. He punches the ceiling, like only Nicolas Cage would, and does this head-roll-while-moaning thing to show his frustration. Earlier in the movie, you get to see him do a one-armed push-up, and, for anybody who hasn't already realized it, he demonstrates what a sexual monster he is in the simple act of pumping gas, a simple act that Nicolas Cage Nicolas Cages like only Nicolas Cage can Nicolas Cage. He's pretty good in this, and it's entertaining watching his character, a genuinely good guy as proven in earlier scenes where he's honest about an injured leg and passes up the opportunity to grab a handful of cash and run, slip and slide into this hopeless situation. The more he tries to do right, the more he finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. He almost gets out a few times, but you just know there's going to be yet another shot of that "Red Rock population 1,522" sign. The second half of the movie is dominated by the actual Lyle played by an unhinged Dennis Hopper. It would have been fun to see Dennis Hopper at his wackiest in the same movie with Nicolas Cage at his most Nicolas Cage. Not sure about Lara Flynn Boyle as the femme fatale, but she is a cutie. The story threatens to spiral out of control, straddling that line between completely ludicrous and whatever is on the other side of completely ludicrous, but it's a well paced and consistently entertaining example of modern noir. The ending caught me off guard.

Nicolas Cage synchronicity: As I finished typing this, a Drive Angry commercial came on.


2010 cerebral action movie

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

Plot: Loosely based on Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, this involves Leonardo Dicaprio busting into people's dreams to steal their ideas. It's a confusing job, but somebody's got to do it. The work's cost him. His wife's dead, and for various reasons, he can't return to the United States and be with his children. An Asian guy offers him a job, but instead of the extraction he's used to performing, he's given the task of planting an idea in a guy's brain. That's called inception. He gathers together a team and meticulously plans this reverse heist. It won't be easy, and there will be a lot of explosions.

While watching this movie, I fell asleep and had my own tri-level dream. I don't remember my dream details often, but I know this one had something to do with trying to warn a dog that my friend Don's hot older sister who liked The Doors had put dynamite under his bowl. Then Lionel Richie broke into my dream and sang that "I had a dream; I had an awesome dream" song, but I couldn't pay attention to lyrics because his pants were too bright. Suddenly, I'm shooting at gypsies. Blam blam blam blam! Explosion! It was a dream within a dream within a dream within a dream within a dream within Christopher Nolan's jism. And Shooby Leboof (he's in all of my dreams) taps me on the shoulder and says that we've only got thirteen third level dream days remaining before we'll have to clean up dog guts from the first level dream. I had enough of that sort of thing on my honeymoon, so Shooby and I walk arm in arm so that we can push my cousin off a ladder so that he can pop balloons in close proximity to our faces. When I woke up, Roger Ebert was standing by my bed (this is not unusual lately) calling me a genius. And he knew the lyrics to that Lionel Richie song, but he couldn't sing them.

The general idea behind this movie is pretty cool, and the special effects are dazzling. But all that razzle-dazzle is really just hiding the fact that this is a big, dumb action movie covered in layers and layers of intellectual mumbo-jumbo. It's a simple story packed in multicolored packing peanuts, surrounded by shimmering baubles, and scrambled by the world's most expensive spatula. It's not nearly as masturbatory as the worst parts of the Matrix movies, but it has more than a little bit in common with them. After the intriguing premise and the rules of the movie unfold with Dicarprio explaining things to that girl from Juno, you get a solid hour and fifteen minutes or so of car chases, shoot 'em ups, and those aforementioned 'splosions. I didn't just have a headache because I already developed a headache from trying to think too much. It was a double headache, a headache that folded over on top of itself like the city in that dream. Boredom set in. I give credit to Nolan for coming up with a very original idea and for allowing the story to unfold in an interesting way. The performances are fine, maybe better than you'd expect from a movie with more special effects than non-special ones. It's really a pretty good movie, but it could have been a whole lot shorter. I had heard that the ending is ambiguous, but it seemed self explanatory to me. I think the fact that I don't really care to think about it all that much shows my true feelings about Inception.


1966 spaghetti western

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A man with no name. . .no, scratch that. He has a name. Django! He walks through a muddy wasteland dragging a coffin around until he finds some Mexicans mistreating a woman. The Mexicans' fun is interrupted by some white guys, and their subsequent fun is then interrupted by Django who shoots them all. He travels to a nearby town overrun by the same gang whose members sport these KKK-esque red hoods. Django finds himself in the middle of their conflict. Lots and lots of people die.

The inspiration for at least Tarantino and Miike (see: Sukiyaki Western Django if you need proof), this is a very entertaining bloody Italian western. Franco Nero doesn't have the charisma of Clint, but he's still very good as the stoic anti-hero. The antagonists, both the guys in the red hoods and los banditos, are really just around to die. And boy, do they die. This spaghetti western has a lofty body count, and although a lot of those deaths are just guys falling down, it does have its share of sadistic organ removal and gruesome mangling. Django's got these perfect alternative Western settings. The town's a wreck and drowning in mud. I still can't figure out how a semi-important fallen-down tree got in the middle of the road there. A rickety bridge over a quicksand lake is used twice, and the whole thing ends, appropriately, in a graveyard that looks like it's been hit by an earthquake. The story's filmed competently enough, maybe not with Leone's eye but with some cool shots, and there's a fantastic theme song. I really like how director Corbucci slows things down, letting the conflict build momentum naturally. There's a scene late in the film where Django is sneaking around. Arguably, it goes on too long, but I liked how it builds some tension and makes the title character look clever. Same goes for an earlier scene where Django is literally just sitting and doing nothing for about fifteen minutes.

Note: There are a lot of movies with "Django" in the title but that have nothing to do with this movie. The one I really really want to see is called Django Kill which, from the descriptions I've read, sounds like it could be the greatest movie ever made. I say that about a lot of things though. I've not had success finding that one yet.

Sex Galaxy

2008 B-movie regurgitant

Rating: 7/20

Plot: Because of overpopulation, sex has been outlawed on earth. A crew of astronauts decide to go to the titular galaxy to find out if rumors that a planet is inhabited by sex-starved women are actually true.

I really liked the idea behind this movie--the world's first "green" movie 100% recycled from public domain cheapos. I should have just read about the movie and assumed it was cleverly written and hilarious because it turned out to be not even close to either of those descriptions. The jokes are juvenile, the same sort of stuff that my friends and I would have written if we had made this in junior high school. And regardless of how hilarious I thought I was, nothing here (or there) was really all that funny. It sure seems like a lot of time and effort would have been needed to compile all this footage and synthesize it into a halfway-coherent story. I wish more time would have been spent with the script. I don't even think the stoners who watch those Adult Swim programs on the Cartoon Network would care for this one.


2010 Lindsay Lohan movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: An ex-cop who looks as if he finished in third place in a hatchet-fighting contest is hired to assassinate a senator during his re-election campaign. He realizes that the whole thing was a set-up, and while on the run from seemingly everybody, he has to figure out who's behind it all. Turns out it's a tubby Steven Seagal, the same Steven Seagal who put him out of commission in the first place. We learn that revenge is a dish best served with jalapeno.

You pretty much know what to expect going in, and the first ten minutes delivers with a few decapitations, a naked woman, a hero using a gun with a severed hand attached to it, and a ridiculous pace. From there, one could accuse the movie of flat lining. The characters grow little, if at all, and the story's framework seems to have been stolen from the musuem of action movies. There's a pinch of your average kung-fu movie, 70's grindhouse (naturally), and (again naturally) Rodriguez's earlier work like Spy Kids and Spy Kids 2. The violence is so over the top that it's lucky this isn't in 3-D like the third Spy Kids movie. The audience would wind up wet with blood. This is co-directed, and I imagine Rodriguez focused his abilities on the action sequences with the other guy (Ethan Maniquis) tackling the boring stuff. I like how the action stuff is filmed; whether or not you actually want it, you're forced to be right in there with the splatter. You're forced to sweat and bleed with the characters, and since I imagined that I smelled a lot like I imagine Danny Trejo smells after I finished Machete, I required a quick shower. But the violence is always displayed with a tongue in cheek or, more appropriately, with a tongue that pokes all the way through a cheek so that blood gushes out and stains the walls and carpet. Being a Rodriguez flick, you're sure to get a handful of those cool moments that make Tarantino want to be his buddy. Here, you get the crucifixion of Cheech Marin (It's about time!) and Lindsay Lohan shooting people while wearing a nun's habit. Actually, just Lohan in the habit would have been blasphemous enough. Like buddy Tarantino with Travolta in Pulp Fiction, Rodriguez manages to coax some really cool performances from guys who aren't supposed to have cool performances anymore. In Machete, it's Don Johnson who is chilling as corrupt lawman Von Jackson and, to a lesser extent, Seagal as the big bad guy. Really big. Robert Deniro and Jessica Alba are both OK, and Jeff Fahey is his usually bitchin' self. And Danny Trejo, an actor who may have tasted his last chance at a starring role unless Rodriguez really does make a couple sequels to this, is very very cool. There's a lot of stuff about immigration and border control that seems superfluous, really doing nothing other than getting in the way of the fun violence. Recommended for fans of the genre.

Hot Tub Time Machine

2010 time travel comedy

Rating: 8/20

Plot: A couple high school buddies take one of their nephews and another high school buddy who may or may not have attempted suicide to an old haunt to have a killer weekend. Things are depressing until they get the hot tub working. When an import energy drink is spilled on the hot tub controls, it sends the quartet back to the 1980s--the worst decade ever--and they are forced to relieve a vacation from the past in order to not screw up their futures.

Is it just me or does John Cusack look really really depressed. He's features are droopy, and he just looks like all the energy has been sapped from him. I'm worried about him. If working with Crispin Hellion Glover doesn't cheer you up, I don't see what will. Glover, by the way, is the only thing this movie has going for it. In fact, the only reason I finished the movie was because I knew Crispin Glover--America's finest actor--had more scenes. The first and sadly only laugh this movie got out of me was during a scene where Crispin Glover's character is unloading suitcases from a cart. The rest of the cast (other than the terminally-dejected Cusack) is enthusiastic enough, but they've got a script that was apparently written by teenage boys of below-average intelligence to work with. Chevy Chase takes away any bonus points Crispin Glover gets this movie. Craig Robinson from The Office is fine, and I suppose most fans of this movie will argue that Rob Corddry's idiocy is the funniest part of the movie. But the story is derivative (lots of Back to the Future parallels), the allusions are too contemporary to give this movie any legs, and it depends far too much on raunchiness. If any of it was funny at all, I could excuse all that. Unfortunately, this isn't even as funny as Somewhere in Time.

And seriously, somebody needs to help John Cusack before it's too late.


1996 bug movie

Rating: 17/20 (Jen: 18/20)

Plot: Gnomes, I imagine, use very tiny cameras to record the goings-on of strange and colorful insects, some which I suspect don't really exist.

Has that perverse part of you that you don't want anybody to know about ever wanted to voyeuristically watch a couple snails knockin' coiled shells? Then, stop reading this and grab yourself a copy of Microcosmos immediately. This bug movie doesn't have the narrative structure of the recommended The Besieged Fortress, but it's got a lot more insect variety. It's the sort of thing where you think (a lot), "No, that bug doesn't actually exist. That's computer-animated!" and (a lot more), "What the hell are those bugs even doing?" Bugs are wacky, and this intimate glimpse into their world is an experience and a half. The images dropped my jaw, and several times, insects made it into my mouth while I watched Microcosmos. I suspect it's all part of a tiny conspiracy. It's fantastic stuff, and my only gripe was a theme song (lyrics below) which sounded like it was being sung by a dead child. It was in there three times, and although by the closing credits, I was singing along in a joking way, I was creeped out and couldn't sleep afterward. Hours later, it still reverberated in my noggin, and I had become convinced that I had become possessed by the "The Microcosmos Song" and had to find an exorcist in the yellow pages. That ended up being costly. Terrific movie though, so I guess it was worth it.

"Look at your feet
This funny world
Full of insane small creatures

And listen to
This buzzing chord
Who keenly spreads such keen murmurs.

The sound's buzzing, swarming,
Sliding beetles, snails, and ladybirds

On swarming grubs
On sliding ants.
Open your eyes before you die.

Sit on the grass,
Observe and paint
The toad, the wasp, the dragonfly.

The sound's buzzing, swarming,
Sliding beetles, snails, and ladybirds

On swarming grubs
On sliding ants.
Open your eyes before you die."


1993 movie

Rating: 18/20

Plot: There isn't really much of one. A not-so-great-guy named Johnny flees Manchester after sort-of sexually assaulting a woman. He arrives in London at the flat of his ex-girlfriend Louise, and when she's not home, he charms the pants off her roommate. Literally. He gets bored with that, leaves, and stalks the darkness of London's fringes, meeting and verbally abusing lost souls along the way.

David Thewlis's performance in Naked is unforgettable, an anti-hero lost in a dark purgatory. He's witty, hilarious, and irritably likable despite being about the most dishonorable fellow you could ever meet on celluloid. You almost want to taste every single word he spits at the other characters in this movie, and when he's not on the screen, you miss him. In a way, he's like a tour guide, taking your hand and leading you on a trip through the blackest despair and this sort of pre-apocalyptic malaise. He smells bad, and you know deep down that he doesn't really know what the heck he's talking about. He's as lost as the lost souls he's pointing out and mocking on the tour. You decide that if this was real life, if Johnny lived in your neighborhood, you wouldn't associate with him at all. You'd feel sorry for him in a way, but you wouldn't really like his rawness, his honesty, or his mustache. Naked is about the blackest movie I've ever seen. It's comedic, blackly. Most of the scenes are at night, and the cinematographer stuffs the screen with the blackest kind of darkness. The souls of the characters are scorched, their blackened edges rustling in a laughing nocturnal breeze. It's a brooding sort of movie with scenes that harden in you, stuff you can't shake even while new scenes unfold. Love the performances (the lone exception maybe being Greg Cruttwell as a foil to Johnny), love the score (mostly harp), love the atmosphere, and love the bleakness. But really, this movie's all about Thewlis's performance, easily one of my favorite of all time. Naked's got a lot of ridges, and although it might not be easy to fully grasp initially, it's impossible not to come away with a little something. It definitely says whatever the hell it's saying very powerfully and lingers far after the last quiverings of those harp strings.

Shane-movies trivia: I watched this movie fully clothed.

The Happiness of the Katakuris

2001 black comic musical (with claymation!)

Rating: 14/20

Plot: The titular family lives in the middle of nowhere, operating a bed-and-breakfast that nobody visits because the dad heard that a new road was going to be constructed that would be great for business. The family's far from happy. The son's got a criminal background, and the daughter is recently divorced. But their luck changes when they actually get a customer. Then their luck changes again when the customer commits suicide. They decide to cover it up. Soon, more customers arrive and wind up dead. Apparently, that's a problem. They sing about it!

This one starts with a woman in a restaurant eating soup. She finds a demon thing in the soup ("Waiter, there's a demon in my soup!") and the whole scene morphs into claymation. The demon steals her uvula and flies off. Eventually, a bird gets involved and the grandfather of the family throws some firewood at it from an absurd distance and hits it. Then, we get to meet the Katakuris. I've got no idea what the demon or the woman's uvula had to do with anything. This is the second Takashi Miike movie I've seen in the last couple weeks. He's the type of director who needs to calm down, have somebody gift him a funnel, or hire an assistant to throw cold water in his face every twenty-three minutes or so. This is a wild ride, not really letting up after the scene with the uvula-thieving demon, and the mashing together of genres (the Sound of Music meets Dawn of the Dead description on the poster is appropriate) is almost unnerving. But in a delightful way! You can go into this movie expecting the unexpected, but Miike will be a step ahead of you. It's like he's discovered the 3-D equivalent to "unexpected," and uses it to attack the viewer as he also assaults with tacky color, gross imagery, gross sound effects, and tacky musical numbers. You know how you sometimes come across a video clip of footage from a Japanese game show and you watch it and think, "Everybody in Japan must be nuts!"? This is the movie equivalent to that. Nothing's right about The Happiness of the Katakuris. It's unapologetically dopey and covered in a few thick and raunchy layers of cheese. The music really is terrible, dated Japanese pop with embarrassingly terrible lyrics. You really have to sort of endure the musically numbers. The onslaught of that with the gross-out imagery and the seemingly random metamorphosis into claymation is enough to make you dizzy. But again, it's in a delightful way! The humor's black, absurdly black, and if you can't laugh at death, this probably isn't the movie for you. As unhinged as this is, it all manages to keep things together for an (expected?) feel-good ending. This definitely isn't for everybody. In fact, it's probably not for very many people at all, but if you think you might be the type of person who would like a movie where one of the first five words in the script is "uvula," you might want to give it a shot.

Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter

2001 religious kung-fu musical horror comedy

Rating: 12/20

Plot: I haven't read it, but I think this might be based on John's the Book of Revelation.

Yes, that's Santo on the cover, side-by-side with Jesus and ready to fight lesbian vampires. And in the middle is Mary Magnum in that tight little red leather number. Fetching. Making Jesus an action hero is dangerous business, especially since a lot of religious folk don't have much of a sense of humor. But I'm not sure Christians would be too appalled with the character Himself since I don't think He does anything Jesus wouldn't have done like Scorsese had Him doing in The Last Temptation of Christ. Unless bad puns are offensive. In fact, even though the title hero is your typical overblown action hero, he is the hero. He fights evil, and he quotes scripture. What's likely more blasphemous is the use of Santo. El Santo in Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter can't wrestle and is portly. When watching this movie, your first thought (other than "This is blasphemous!") would probably be, "I think this might have been made on the cheap." And you'd be right. Your third thought would probably be, "This was made in 2001? No way! It's got to be from the 70s!" But there's a charm to the proceedings, and the script, littered with (intentionally?) bad punnage and silly action hero banter, is funny enough. I found myself laughing more than I really wanted to. For whatever reason, hearing Jesus deliver the line "I'll need to buy some wood. . .for stakes!" was hilarious. I also thought the spinning crucifix used as a Batman-esque transition between scenes was clever. I also liked a scene where about three hundred baddies get out of an SUV. Not all the comedy worked though, evidenced by a scene where Jesus has a conversation with a bowl of cherries. The bowl of cherries actually tells him to find El Santo. I can't decide if seeing Jesus and a priest hanging out at a Hooters-type restaurant is funny or not. There's a lot of kung-fu in this movie, and it won't exactly make you think of Bruce Lee. The fight scenes often seemed endless, and if the guy who played Jesus (Phil Caracas [Wait a second! Isn't the guy who plays Jesus in the Mel Gibson movie named Caracas?]) had any martial arts training, they wasted their obviously limited funds on it. There is a scene where a character uses intestines as a weapon though. I should have started making a list of those movies a long time ago. This is also a musical, and although the songs were only slightly more tolerable than Repo: The Genetic Opera's numbers, there at least was some eclecticism. You had punk, techno-robot-lounge, keyboard blipping, 80s feel-good movie rock, Mexicali funk, cheesy lounge, neo-funk with vocoder, dance music, retarded jazz, and my personal favorite--a really creepy song where somebody whispered the books of the New Testament with cymbal accompaniment. The performers were likely friends of the director, some of them, I think, appearing as more than one character, but three of them were real stand-outs. Josh Grace was deliriously over-the-top as Dr. Praetorious. I checked his resume, and he's been in a few of JCVH director's Lee Demarbre's movies including one where Demarbre includes another Mexican movie legend--The Aztec Mummy. I can't find the name of a screaming woman, but it was one of the best screams I've heard in a long time. But the very best part of the movie is the introduction and musical performance of Blind Jimmy Leper played by an actor named "Lucky Ron" who had about as many teeth as Shane McGowen. He does this scatting number which could probably prove the existence of God to even the most diehard of atheists. Jesus jumped on the stage and did his own scatting, but he couldn't beat the work of Blind Jimmy Leper. And when you're Lucky Ron and can prove in your lone movie that you can out-scat Christ Himself, you don't have to do anything else as a performer to win a lifetime achievement award on shane-movies.

Note: I've heard that there's an Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter movie being made. Joaquin Phoenix is attached to that project. I guess his career is doing just fine!

A Town Called Panic

2009 animated chaos

Rating: 16/20 (Jen: 15/20; Dylan: 12/20; Emma: 16/20; Abbey: 10/20)

Plot: Cowboy and Indian have forgotten to get Horse a birthday present and decide to build him a barbecue. A computer (user) error causes them to order fifty million bricks instead of fifty. This sets off a chain of cause-and-effects that involve what I think are sea monkeys, a stolen tractor, a falsely arrested farmer, missed music classes, a giant robot penguin, and a trip to the center of the earth.

Quick whining: Why couldn't this have been dubbed? I'm not stupid. I don't need all foreign movies that I watch to be dubbed. I don't mind reading. But there was so much happening on the screen, and I wanted to pay attention to it all.

If you love Gumby even half as much as I do, you need to check this out immediately. The humor's quirky, the stop-motion is clever but rudimentary, and the plot makes virtually no sense. This is a kiddie flick for the kiddies with ADHD, and these characters go all over the place during these misadventures. Gotta love the imaginative spirit of the writer/directors (Stephanie Aubier and Vincent Patar), a couple filmmakers who either have a good grasp on how the average child's mind works or are wacky on the junk. Don't watch this if you're looking for something with depth or heart. This ain't Pixar. This is simply a breezy bit of insanity with some fun characters and lots of very humorous episodes. I imagine it's the sort of thing that could irritate or even infuriate about the same amount of people that it could amuse. There are a few episodes of the television show on Youtube if you're interested. In fact, at about 80 minutes, this would probably be a test for the average adult's endurance like a lot of shorts blown up into features. But seriously--Gumby fans would love this.