Teen Wolf

1985 werewolf comedy

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Scott Howard has no identity. He's a mediocre basketball player on a terrible high school team. The object of his affection doesn't know he exists. He's even got a really boring name! That all changes when he turns into a werewolf, the transformation suddenly giving him this dynamic personality and superhuman abilities. Becoming a wolf, however, has its price, and the price for Scott Howard is his true self.

Here's the deal. Since 1985, I've had recurring nightmares where I die after an accident while surfing on my friend's van. The dream is generally the same with slight variations. I'm surfing, and my friend starts turning into a wolf, gets really freaked out by the sight of his wolf fingernails, and swerves wildly. I spill off, the Beach Boys music stops, and a steamroller rolls over me. My last words are almost always, "Learn to fucking drive, Alex P. Keaton!" For the past 25 years or so, I've been convinced that I will die while surfing on a van and have done my best to avoid the activity.

Recently, as most of my readers know, I've been working at the dumpiest motel on the face of the earth, an establishment crawling with drug dealers, prostitutes, and drifters. Lately, it seems that it's unlikely that I'll die while surfing on a van and will probably die while working a night shift at this motel.

So in retrospect, it was probably a terrible idea to watch Teen Wolf while working a night shift at the motel. I'm not supposed to sit on the couch in the lobby and watch television anyway. Well, I don't think I am. It's never been addressed officially, but it seems like a really strange thing for my manager to pay me to do. If he knew, I can imagine having a conversation with him that had the words "Do you think I pay you to sit around and watch Teen Wolf?" which would probably make me start laughing which would make him ask "What? Do you think this is funny?" which would make me say (of course!) "I am an animal! Woooo!"

The perfect end to that story would be for my manager and I to take advantage of the sweet van the motel uses to shuttle people to the airport (illegally, it seems, since we're told to take off the sign on the door that advertises the inn because "we're not allowed there") to ride the waves. It's the perfect vehicle for van surfing! We would go out on the highway and pull over on the shoulder. My boss, a little Indian fellow, would start to get out, but I'd stop him, look him in the eye, and say, "These waves are mine." And then I'd probably die.

But I digress. My manager isn't Stiles, and I doubt he'd ever take me van surfing. Watching the most dangerous movie of all time in the most dangerous motel of all time? I defied the odds by surviving the experience. It's like I stared Death in his scary skull eyes and chuckled. And I got paid like 15 dollars to watch Teen Wolf on a couch that smells like somebody urinated on it. That, my friends, is a win-win situation.

"I'm not a fag. I'm a werewolf." I think that line was in Universal's Wolf Man, wasn't it?


2011 animated Western comedy

Rating: 16/20 (Emma: ?/20; Abbey: 13/20)

Plot: A Chameleon with No Name (well, actually he does have a name) is accidentally abandoned by his human family. The desert he winds up in is not the safest of places, and the Wild West style animal town called Dirt he eventually stumbles into is probably even less safe. He exaggerates his prowess, lucks his way through a fight with a troublesome bird, and ends up the new sheriff of Dirt. He tries to get to the bottom of the town's lack of water.

Well, I like quirky animated movies with talking animals and spaghetti Westerns, and I seem to like a lot of what Gore Verbinski does (the underrated Mousehunt, The Weather Man featuring our summer star Nicolas Cage, that first Pirate movie). Previews for this made it look really good, too. So I wasn't entirely surprised that this is actually really good. It's really got the whole spaghetti vibe down with the wonderfully withered town of Dirt and the ugliest collection of characters you're likely to see. Some grizzled voice work (Ned Beatty should be in every animated movie; it should be a new law or something) gives them personality and color, and although there's not really all that much character development with any of them other than the titular chameleon, they work really well to give the setting the texture it needs. I really like the animation in this. There's a great blend of natural and realistic settings with these strange looking cartoonish animals, and the action scenes have this frenetic energy but still somehow make sense. There are lots of nods, predictably, to Western greats, but this also has a Hunter S. Thompson spotting which I thought was an awesome touch. That, and the protagonist is supposedly modeled after Don Knotts, probably meaning that I should go ahead and give this a Don Knotts bonus point. Oh, and similar to the movie Keoma that I just reviewed, there's an owl mariachi band in this that sings a bunch of songs about what's going on with the plot and how Rango is probably going to die. They work a lot better than the drunken pair in Keoma though. This works as an action movie, a kids movie (actually, maybe not), a Western, a comedy. It's not flawless--the plot's a little sloppy--but it's a wonderful hour-and-a-half of entertainment and definitely something I'd not mind watching over and over if any of my kids had actually liked it. My rating would probably go up, too.

Summer of Nicolas Cage Movie #16: Rumble Fish

1983 movie made by Nic's Uncle Francis

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Rusty James is the younger brother of legendary gang leader [The] Motorcycle Boy, a 20-something who is on sabbatical in California. Upon The Motorcycle Boy's return, Rusty James is trying his best to keep the gang and its various activities going. Meanwhile, he's balancing love and hedonism and knife fights with a rival gang. But time's are changing, his older brother just doesn't seem into it all anymore, and it might be time for Rusty James to grow up. Rusty James!

I wonder if the name "Rusty James" is said more in this than "Man" is said in The Big Lebowski. I'm surprised I liked this one as much as I did. It's got dimensions, one of those you can enjoy on a lot of different levels. There's style to spare--black 'n' white and smoke machines and greasy shadows in dank settings and time-lapsed cloud drift and fish color splashes and shots straight out of German Expressionism. It's enough style to take this out of realistic territory and place its goings-on firmly in this imaginary movie land. I suppose that could distract, but I dug it as a sort of experimental film for teeny-boppers. I really should have seen this movie in high school. The largely rhythmic soundtrack by Stewart Copeland (apparently, a policeman) perfectly compliments the experimental tone and this streetwise otherwordliness. I could play it for you, and you'd guess it was from an 80's movie, but it didn't leave a bad taste in my mouth like so many other soundtracks from that era. In fact, I think I'm going to illegally download it! I enjoyed the leads, Matt Dillon and Mickey Rourke, the latter just exuding coolness, although I don't think I'd go as far as saying either of their performances was really good. I don't know; maybe I would. You've got a nice collective of performers playing the periphery characters as well. Dennis Hopper is really good in a small role as the boys' dad. Sofia Coppola is also in this briefly, making it a real family affair. Chris Penn, Laurence Fishburne (playing a character named Midget), our hero Nicolas Cage play Hollywood thugs. Even author S.E. Hinton's got a cameo as a whore. Of course, the real treat for me is seeing Tom Waits and Nicolas Cage on the screen at the same time. Waits plays, naturally, the owner of a pool hall, growling at the teens who don't use his furniture appropriately and getting a nifty monologue about time that sits near the heart of this movie. Speaking of time, there sure are a lot of clocks in this movie. I think there's a shot of a clock in every single scene which makes perfect sense (along with those clouds I mentioned before) since this has so much to do thematically with time and how it passes us by. Rumble Fish is a treat for the eyes and ears, and although Coppola takes a lot of chances with the way he shares the story, he doesn't sacrifice its heart or central message. Cool flick!

Note: I'm currently reading The Outsiders for teaching purposes. Tom Waits is also in Coppola's version of that Hinton book, but Nicolas Cage is not.

Correction: Stewart Copeland was a member of a band called The Police. He was not an actual policeman.

Santa Sangre

1989 Jodorowsky funk

Rating: 17/20

Plot: A boy is traumatized by some horrible experiences that took place during his young life with the circus involving a tattooed woman, his knife-throwing daddy, and his mother who worships a no-armed woman with the religious cult across the street. Following his release from an asylum, he tries to put his life back together again. That's made difficult when he runs into his no-armed mother who controls him and demands the use of his arms. His childhood sweetheart and a little fellow try to help him out.

It's really the type of movie that makes a plot synopsis pointless which explains the half-hearted effort I gave it up there. This is a psychosexual Freudian (aka Freddian) horror-comedy that is probably unlike anything you've ever seen or in some cases unlike anything you'll ever want to see. My plans were to make Santa Sangre my Oprah Movie Club pick before I got depressed about that whole thing and passed. I'm sure it would have been dug by all. This is Jodorowsky's third best film after Holy Mountain and El Topo, and although it's not as bizarre as those two, it's pretty bizarre compared to everything else. I still chuckle a little when I see this labeled as one of his most accessible. Jodorowsky seems to have had more of a budget to work with in this one, and he uses it to compile some artful visuals and utilize his vivid imagination. Not that he needed much money to help him out anyway. Drenched in film-school symbolism and saturated in cartoon colors and Part-Fellini (probably just the circus thing), part-Psycho, part-Bunuel, and all Jodorowsky, there are scenes throughout this that will linger in the mind for a long time. There's an elephant funeral that has to be seen to be believed, and the choreography and timing required for the scenes where the mother "uses" her son's arms is impressive. There's also a great little person, Jesus Juarez as Aladin. And you get a scene where some actors with Down Syndrome visit a prostitute. Exploitative? Yeah, probably. Original? Definitely. Oh, and there's a scene where a guy peels off his own ear. I'm sorry. I should have warned you all about spoilers before typing some of that. It's a challenge, but it's a thoroughly entertaining one. Shame about the dubbing though. It's also a shame that this guy can't get financing so that the rest of us can see his dreams. I keep reading that he's making a movie, but then I'll see where the Russian producers "just disappeared mysteriously" and then there's no movie.

By the way, I follow Alejandro Jodorowsky on Twitter. Highly recommended despite 95% of his tweets being in a language I don't speak. I think probably Canadian. He's like an advice columnist. One follower asked him, "Any advice for mental clarity?" and he answered, "On Sundays, lock yourself in the house and repeat, incessantly, one word: ass." It's sound advice.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

1977 mass murderer animated biopic

Rating: 16/20

Plot: All his neighbors said that he seemed so normal, but young Christopher Robin had more than his share of dark secrets. It all started with an unhealthy attachment to a stuffed bear which he called Pooh. Pooh was purchased with pants, but Christopher Robin, one afternoon when playtime got a little out of hand, removed and set them on fire along with his own. That should have served as the first warning for his parents. Classmates would laugh at Robin and his "silly old bear," and his elementary school teachers would say, "Christopher Robin, I've told you before to keep your Pooh out of here!" His peers would laugh and point, and eventually something inside of young Christopher snapped. He assembled a small army of deadly stuffed animals and embarked on a murderous rampage of revenge during which many of the classmates who ridiculed him would wind up eviscerated. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh chronicles his early life.

Disney does English kiddie lit really well, previously evidenced by their extremely erotic version of Mary Poppins. Now there's a movie that makes me horny just thinking about it. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh fails to make me horny (at least not anymore), but I still think it's an underrated Disney classic. It's obviously animated with a limited budget, but I think that adds to the charm. It's simple and extremely innocent, just like its source material. A.A. Milne's stories are great on their own, so Disney didn't really need to sprinkle too much of its magic all over this and overly complicate things (see the cgi Winnie the Pooh animated television series). The voice work is wonderful, especially Sterling Holloway as the titular bear and Paul Winchell as Tigger. After the feature, there was a little documentary where you get to see Winchell doing the Tigger voice. I'll admit that that footage DID make me a little horny. I really like how Tigger says rubber. "Their legs are made out of rubba!" Oh, and Ron Howard's brother Clint does the voice of Roo in this. I also like Sebastian Cabot's playful narration. The narrator and characters talk to one another which, even as a kid, I thought was kind of neat. This movie also frequently reminds the viewer that it's from a book, using turning animated pages and words cleverly. You get to see Pooh hopping on words or flying on a balloon from one page to the next. There's some music, simple childish music that kind of gets stuck in your head. I'm not sure how I feel about the Pink Huffalumps on Parade sequence that was straight out of drunk Dumbo's subconscious or the added gopher character who just seems extraneous. I asked Jen, "Why's that thing in this? He's not in the book." As if on cue, the character said, "I'm not in the book." I guess that's kind of funny.

Dang it. Why did I have to mention Mary Poppins? Now I won't be able to get anything done all day.


1976 Spaghetti Western

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Keoma, an adopted half-Injun (is that politically correct?) returns after the Civil War to find that his daddy is no longer the town big-wig and that his three corrupt half-brothers are in-cahoots with the mean guy who's the new town big-wig. Plague victims are shunned and sent to die. Keoma rescues one of them, a pregnant woman, and pisses off everybody. A whole lot of people die in slow-motion.

Another filthy cool spaghetti Western featuring the great Franco Nero with perhaps an overuse of Peckinpah-style slo-mo spills from horses or rooftops and a great tone. But I'm going to start with the bad or ugly in this otherwise good film--the music. There's a song performed by a woman who screeches like an inebriated Joan Baez and a guy who sounds like a guy who liquified and then drank a bunch of Leonard Cohen records. The song runs intermittently throughout the movie's duration and works kind of like a Greek chorus where the "singers" tell you exactly what just happened in case you somehow missed it or maybe what the characters are thinking. It's unnecessary and annoying. "Now Keoma has to ride into town to face his brothers." Yeah, Joan Baez, I know. I'm watching the same movie you are! Maybe if I was vision impaired, I would have appreciated that sort of thing. Or maybe I would have just shoved pencils in my ears. Other than that, this is good stuff. I like the mysterious tone, and Castellari, a director I've never heard of, uses sound effects and classic Western shots that take advantage of great scenery to create wonderful atmosphere. He uses some unnatural shots that show the characters framed by debris and dilapidated buildings, and during a climactic shoot-out--one of several--he eliminates all of the sound except for a moaning woman and the wind. Awesome. Keoma the half-breed (wait, why isn't this an offensive word?) is a cool character, not invincible and tortured not only by all the stuff that happens to him in the numerous flashbacks but by his future. And I like how he does this pointing thing that must have inspired Hulk Hogan as he was creating his wrastler persona. There's also this cool shot you'd only get in a spaghetti Western where Keoma tells his four enemies that he has four bullets. He holds up four fingers to illustrate. Then, he counts and drops his fingers to reveal the characters he's about to shoot. This movie also has a guy who looks like Colonel Sanders, and a scene where a guy with the whitest teeth in the Wild West gives a black guy's boot a golden shower. Definitely worth watching for fans of the genre even though that song will make you bleed from the ears. And not in a good way.

Summer of Nicolas Cage Movie #15: Face/Off

1997 action movie

Rating: 15/20 (Jen: 10/20)

Plot: Carousel, Nic Cage with a mustache, blood on the horse, Oh snap!, loose balloons, flash forward, bomb placement, priest-dance-f-bomb-butt-grab-ecstasy-groan, unapologetic coattail flapping, airplane tongue suck, peach bragging, chicken with a damn jet, bad guy gets it, face lifts required, boom--face lifts, vegetable resurrects, Oh double snap!, second face lift, face/off!

You just have to read that tag line to figure out how good this movie is. Go ahead; read it.

"In order to trap him, he must become him."

Let that sink in for a moment. Now, read it again, more slowly this time. What's your hurry anyway? Take it nice and slow.

"In order to trap him, he must become him."

Face/Off has two actors with hammy tendencies who get a chance to act as each other's characters. At some point in the movie, you've got Nicolas Cage acting like John Travolta acting like Nicolas Cage with John Travolta acting like Nicolas Cage acting like John Travolta. Those are the kinds of layers that can melt your freakin' mind! The performances start goofy, turn into something ridiculous, manage to top themselves somehow, and then turn into works of genius. Ridiculous genius. Nic gets some great lines, most of them referencing peaches. "You know, I can eat a peach for hours." That's the type of pick-up line that could destroy a woman, right? I'm also fond of this gem and its delivery: "Someone took my face. . .but it's cool. We're going to deal with it." I don't remember if Cage said that as Travolta's character or if Travolta said that as Cage acting like Travolta who thought he was Cage. The dialogue in this movie took my face, I think. But it's cool. I'm going to deal with it. Other brilliant pieces: "Bra-fucking-O," a line that only Cage can really nail; prolonged laughter (at least five minutes) preceding the words "I've got to go to the little boy's wee-wee room"; and a scene with a mirror that reminded me of Vampire's Kiss (What is it with Cage and mirrors?) where the title of the movie is clumsily uttered about forty-seven times. As the characters engage in what must have been the fifth or six climactic fight scene, they keep saying "Die!" to each other.

The old face-switcheroo plot is silly, but it's submerged beneath so many improbable shoot-'em-ups and 'splosions that you might not even notice if you're a real dumb guy like me. Jen had problems with the science, asking questions like "If their blood types are different, wouldn't their bodies reject the new faces?" What the hell, Jen? You can't ask questions like that during Face/Off! Flow with the beaucoup pseudo-science or cuckoo-science and the assaults on common sense and appreciate John Woo's use of slow-mo, operatic violence, and that unapologetic coattail flapping and slow-motion bird flapping and hope your spine doesn't fall out. John Woo's the only director I can think of who can nearly eviscerate you with his action sequences. After the scene at the beginning where Travolta's character (while he still has his own face with that stupid chin of his) captures Cage's character, I wondered if I had somehow fallen asleep and missed the entire movie until the end. But nope, there were logic-defying action scenes aplenty right around the corner. It's beyond stupid, but it's so much fun.

One question. There's this very strange sentiment that Travolta does with the faces of his loved ones where he places his hand near the top of their foreheads and runs it all the way down to the bottom of their faces. I noticed it the first time and thought it was just a Scientology thing. But then it happened two more times and I realized it must have been in the script. So I started counting them. Do you know how many Travolta face-gropes there are in this movie? Eleven! Eleven, counting one flashback face-grope and one attempted face-grope that fell a little short.
I tried to touch my son's face like that, by the way, and he recoiled in fear and asked me what I was doing. Maybe if I had John Travolta's chin then it would have gone better?

Lilo and Stitch

2002 Disney flick

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A destructive extraterrestrial escapes a death sentence and winds up in Hawaii. He hides at a dog pound where he's adopted by Lilo, a lonely girl living a troubled life with her older sister. As they try to prove to a social worker (an African American!) that their living conditions are acceptable, strange alien thugs try to figure out a way to capture Stitch.

I never loved this one despite appreciating Disney's efforts to work outside of the folklore canon and come up with an original story like with the dreadful Treasure Planet, The Emperor's New Groove (or is this based on a folk tale?), the dreadful Home on the Range, and the dreadfully dull Brother Bear. Oh, and the dreadful Atlantis. Maybe they should have just stuck to princess movies. Or finally adapt Baba Yaga to the big screen! The humor in this doesn't work for me, and the music, instead of going for their flashy theatrical musical thing they'd been unleashing with inconsistent results, seems to be written in to pander to tweens. I'm not sure I've ever actually seen a Hawaiian. If they look like these characters, I'd probably remember. I like the Stitch character fine, probably because he reminds me of my penis for reasons I won't get into here. I've got to keep this PG-13 after all. This hammers a message about acceptance and unconditional love and family into your noggin until you're ready to puke blood, but the story and characters are colorful and fun enough to keep it entertaining. It's not upper-echelon Disney, but the kids will probably like it. Unfortunately, it might have the undesired residual effect of causing youngsters to jump on the furniture, chew on banisters, and tear out the pages of library books.

If I start a "Do a version of Baba Yaga, Disney!" petition, will you sign it? If I can get everybody on this blog to sign, I can mail that son of a bitch off with five and a half names on it!

Horrors of Malformed Men

1969 malformed men movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A guy wakes up in an insane asylum with no idea who he is or how he got there. Clues surface, including a beautiful folk song that he links to an island. He assumes the identity of a dead man and sneaks his way on the island. And what's on the island? [Spoiler Alert!] Malformed men! Oh, snap!

Artistic trash, surface B-grade horror but with arthouse sensibilities that makes it the type of thing you should watch in your basement while stroking either your goatee or your girlfriend's goatee. It's sort of a Dr. Moreau as David Lynch would see it if he watched it through goggles he ordered from a Japanese pornographic comic book. It's also got this surreal noir flavor, a bizarre nightmare mystery that is likely only completely unpredictable because you won't be able to keep the characters straight and be confused anyway. All kinds of psycho-psychological stuff going on here; the characters who survive the experience will need years of counseling. I wonder if any of this malformed man business has to do with the bomb droppings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When this movie eventually gets to the island where the deformity is on full display, things get really interesting. Probably because that's where the mad scientist character played by Tatsumi Hijikata boogies onto the scene with moves that would anticipate the most demented chunks of the disco era. You get the impression that his fingernails could kill you. Haunting and perversely poetic, it's horror that doesn't necessarily scare you as much as it troubles you. Not for everybody--a lot of people would probably just want to wake up from this nightmare by popping it out of the dvd player. I thought it was a treat of grotesque visuals though and enjoyed it despite a clunky story and characters I couldn't keep track of.

The Puppet Films of Jiri Trnka (with The Emperor's Nightingale)

1951 Czech animation that none of my 4 1/2 readers will care about

Rating: n/r

Plot: Contains five short films and one feature-length film based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale.

The Emperor's Nightingale, narrated by none other than Boris Karloff, was boring. I watched it last, and maybe by that time, I had had enough of the puppet films of Jiri Trnka, a guy who needs to buy a vowel. The shorts though? Well, it's Czech animation, so it's up one of my favorite alleys. The first, "Bass Cello," is from the same Chekhov story that John Cleese used in Romance with a Double Bass, a cute little skinny-dipping tale. The puppets, like in most of these movies, are simple in a charming way, but Trnka still manages to make the characters expressive. I also like his backgrounds, how he simulates cloud movement and water reflection. With the wizardry of Henry Selick and other modern animators, there's not much in this that's going to drop your jaw, but Trnka's work does show off a technical genius. The wild west romance adventure parody called "Song of the Prairie" used sparse backdrops and more of those expressive but simple puppets for some funny moments. Nice touch with a playing card at the end during the villain's death. "Merry Circus" was more cut-outs than puppet stop-motion, little paper talented seals, mischievous clowns, a monkey, trapeze mayhem, a performing bear, a one-man band, a woman on a horse. Cirque So-Bear! Abbey watched this one with me and really seemed to enjoy it. These are less experimental/surreal than Svankmajer/Barta (although "The Hand" was sort of an existential nightmare), more in the vein of Mr. Roger's puppet friends than copulating animated meat. The weirdest one might have been "A Drop Too Much," a short about drunk-drivin' Bill that was like a creepy public service announcement. Worth watching if you're into this sort of business, but trust me--you don't really need to watch The Emperor's Nightingale no matter how much you like puppets or Boris Karloff. Maybe it needed a puppet Boris Karloff?


2008 Clockwork Orange for the 21st Century

Rating: 17/20 (Kent: 16/20)

Plot: Based on the story of Michael Peterson, England's most notorious and violent prisoner. At nineteen, he was sentenced to seven years in prison for armed robbery, and because of violent behavior in prison, his way of "making a name for himself," he's spent more than thirty years in prisons and asylums, most of them in solitary confinement. He is not a good role model.

Watched this with good buddy and blog reader Kent about a month ago. I had to do a search for the cliche "tour de force" on my own blog to make sure I haven't overused that phrase. Using cliches is bad enough, but when you overuse them? Well, make no bones about it, I know there's more than one way to skin a cat (proverbially) and that it's a good rule of thumb not to use cliches as a writer, and I'm not trying to toot my own horn or anything, but the day I start using cliches is the day pigs fly. I've used the words "tour de force" twice in the previous three-and-a-half years I've done this blog--once for Vincent Price in Theater of Blood and once to describe the performance of a camel. So although I don't really want to use the words again, I can't think of a performance where it's more appropriate than with Tom Hardy's here. Kent tells me that Hardy, for all you Nolan Batman movie fans, is going to be a Mexican wrestler in the next movie. I also noticed that he's going to be the titular character in a Mad Max movie that supposed to come out in 2012. I guess Mel Gibson is either too old, too crazy, too busy talking to a beaver puppet, or a combination of those. This Bronson performance is powerful stuff. He's witty, frightening, hilarious, completely unhinged, tragic, overly-theatrical, deeply human. For the most part, the script calls for a playfulness with this really violent persona, and Hardy plays him with just the right amount of bravado. It's that type of performance where you worry about the actor a little bit, wondering if he's every going to be able to come back down and be normal again. He's in (perhaps literally) every single second of this movie, and he hoists the production on his back and carries it like a fiend. Terrific stuff. The movie itself is flashy and gritty, and it really does remind me of A Clockwork Orange just like the quote on the poster says. You've got theatrics, classical music, ultra-violence, very dark comedy. And that aforementioned playfulness. This movie never takes the tragic tale of Peterson seriously while managing at the same time to say a little something serious about society and what we expect from our celebrities. There's even some animation thrown in. Bronson's also endlessly entertaining, one of those movies I felt like I could have immediately watched again. Probably not Kent though. He actually fell asleep. It was his third or fourth viewing of this monster though.

Shane-movies trivia: I think this movie might be responsible for a sebaceous cyst on my back exploding and leaking a smelly yellow pus all over the place. I can't prove it, but that is the type of movie this is.

Follow That Bird

1985 first Sesame Street movie ever!

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A nosey social worker decides that Big Bird doesn't belong with the Sesame Street gang and needs to live with his own kind. She finds a bird family to adopt him, but he gets homesick for his imaginary friend Snuffleupagus and decides to journey back home. The muppets of Sesame Street, upon hearing that Big Bird is missing from his new home, decide to venture out to search for him.

Did you know Snuffleupagus has a first name? Aloysius Snuffleupagus. Jen tells me that originally Snuffleupagus was an imaginary friend for Big Bird but that they eventually had to ditch that idea because children were confused. "Snuffleupagus" is also apparently a move similar to teabagging where you put your scrotum on somebody's nose. That doesn't happen anywhere in Follow That Bird, by the way, so it's safe to show this to your children. Here's another fun fact: Elmo's in this movie, right near the end when Big Bird comes home. He pokes his head out of a window and says something in a voice that is not the Elmo voice we know and probably despise. Anyway, the movie. Why is it a 14/20 instead of a 20/20? No Roosevelt Franklin. I haven't looked this up or anything, but I'm fairly positive mid-80's movie rules made it clear that you had to have black representation in your movies because black people weren't allowed to vote back then and couldn't be president. Forcing Hollywood to include at least one black character in each movie was the government's way of compromising. Which is a good thing because it really started the healing process after segregation and slavery and all that. The makers of Follow That Bird already had Gordon, the very realistic human muppet from the television show, in a prominent role and had no use for Roosevelt Franklin. Plus, Roosevelt Franklin had a tendency to frighten honkies anyway, and honkies were the main audience for Follow That Bird. How bitchin' would a Roosevelt Franklin movie be, by the way? Damn, my hips are moving just thinking about that. But no, the Sesame Street people are too busy with Elmo, the "idiot" who replaced Sesame Street's original "idiot" (Big Bird) and somehow became the only character who mattered anymore. Maybe it's because I didn't grow up with Elmo, but that little red monster (not to be confused with the little blue monster Grover who my brother refers to as "the mentally-challenged muppet" although if you think about it, they're all kind of mentally-challenged) has "future serial killer" written all over his fluffy little face. Where are his parents anyway? Dismembered in the basement? But I digress. You honkies want to hear about this movie. Anybody who knows me knows I'm a sucker for puppets. I really like the effects that blend these lovable characters into the world outside Sesame Street. No, they don't look realistic. They still look like puppets, but they look more natural flying planes, driving slick-looking automobiles, or using telephones than you might think. Muppet Gordon is especially great to see in such a heroic role, and a death-defying stunt involving a slow-moving truck with a cage on the back of it and a slow-moving Volkswagon Beetle has to be seen to be believed. There's a lot of music in this, much provided by the legendary Van Dyke Parks (Jungle Book songsmith, Brian Wilson cohort) and one song started off by none other than Waylon Jennings. The "Bluebird of Happiness" song and its accompanying imagery might be the most depressing thing I've seen in my entire life. I'd like to see some statistics on how many 3-6 year olds committed suicide in '85 compared to previous years. Anyway, other than the toddler suicides and veiled racism, this is fun for the whole family! Oh, and to bring things full circle: Snuffleupagus has the worst singing voice I have ever heard.

Captains Courageous

1937 boat movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A spoiled and likely neglected rich kid has his silver spoon yanked right out of his ass when he's expelled from his boarding school, takes a tumble from his daddy's cruise ship, and is put to work by a crew of fishermen. It's comeuppance time for young Harvey as he befriends crusty fisherman Manuel and learns how to not be a complete pain in the ass.

What do I hate more than anything else in movies? Child actors from the 1930s! And Captains Courageous has an annoying kid (Freddie Bartholomew) playing an annoying character. I suppose we're not really supposed to like Harvey (Why do I keep wanting to call him Nathan?) throughout the first half of this movie, but I don't like him so much that I find it impossible to like him during the second half of the movie, too. I actually broke bones in my hand taking punches at my television screen during a scene involving ice cream. The other children at the beginning of the movie are equally bad. They probably all tried out to play Nathan, and director Victor Fleming just threw up his hands and said, "Whatever! They're all annoying. Just pick out the one with the best face and keep him the hell away from me!" I really liked when one of the kids asked, "Did you call me a sissy?" in a voice that makes him sound like a big sissy. I was really surprised that I didn't really hate this movie, a Cory recommendation, and Spencer Tracy gets all the credit for that. I really think all you have to do is give me a movie where Spencer Tracy is on a boat, and I'll be cool with it. His Manuel is funny, almost like a Marx brother with a little of Groucho's bite and a lot of little of Chico's voice. And he reminded me that I really want my own hurdy-gurdy. I really liked his character, and the bond between the annoying little brat and Manuel is realistic and touching. I'm also immature enough to crack up every time he sang, "Yeah ho, little fish." Once little Nathan is on the boat, this movie picks up, probably because bad things start happening to a bad little kid. I liked watching life on the fishing boat, too. This is the type of movie that kind of makes you wish you were doing what the characters were doing, and after a while, I kind of wanted to work on a boat with a bunch of smelly fish and probably smellier fisherman. Basically, I just want a job where I don't have to shower anymore. I'll even take the occasional hook in my arm if it means I don't have to shower. I also really liked the fisherman trash talk, and Lionel Barrymore as the grizzled captain delivers those lines well. All in all, this turned out to be a nice little adventure story on the high seas with believable characters and the right amount of heart. Yeah ho, little fish! Yeah ho!

Summer of Nicolas Cage Movie #14: Bangkok Dangerous

2008 action thriller

Rating: 8/20

Plot: Joe's a hitman with a set of rules that have made him very successful at his job. Successful and alive. While doing a series of jobs in the titular capital city, he breaks one of those rules twice, forming personal relationships with a cute little deaf girl and mentoring a young punk who he picked up to run errands for him. Should have stuck to the rules, Joe, because now you've got a mess on your hands. I think that's a Jimi Hendrix lyric, isn't it? Hey, Joe, you were messing around with a pharmacist and a pickpocket and now you've got a big old mess on your hands. Something like that.

First off--nice hair, Nicolas Cage. Second off--really terrible movie, Nicolas Cage. This is really boring stuff, and Cage sleepwalking his way through Bangkok definitely doesn't help. A better title for this would have been Bangkok Wearisome. Cage's character once again performs narrator duties, unnecessarily since in this one, the narration adds no color, no depth, no wit, no nothing to the storyline as it does in, say, a Raising Arizona or Lord of War. Speaking of that storyline, there barely enough here to be able to give anybody writing credit. It's derivative and predictable and, in case I didn't make it clear before, extremely bland, the movie equivalent of a white guy singing the blues. This is a movie that takes itself so seriously, really sapping the life and fun out of the son of a bitch. So seriously, in fact, that it strangely becomes almost impossible for the viewer to take it seriously. It all builds up to a preposterous bullet-fueled ending that ends up as more of a pretentious whimper than the kaboom it wants to be. Cage's character has this really cool ability to vanish and rematerialize a foot and a half from the person trying to kill him which is kind of neat though. There's a really great scene where Cage and another guy with a gun run on either side of stacks of water bottles in a warehouse bathed in red light and just shoot the hell out of those water bottles. This has to break the record for the highest water bottle body count in cinema history. It's all really stupid. Maybe they should have called this movie Bangkok Ridiculous instead. Or Bangkok Predictable. Or just Bangkok Silly. Whatever name you put on it, it's a terrible movie.

Cory's Birthday Movie Celebration: Godzilla vs. Mothra

1964 monster movie

Rating: 13/20 (Dylan: 2/20)

Plot: A big storm washes a giant multi-colored egg ashore. A greedy land developer purchases said egg and attempts to exploit it for profit. Creepy miniature twins come from an island to retrieve the egg which they tell everybody a hundred times is really important to the people of the island. The greedy guy refuses and ends up waking up Godzilla from his hibernation. He goes on his typical destructive rampage, and Tokyo has to depend on a giant moth and the contents of the egg to save them from making all the buildings fall down. Spoiler: Silly string or caterpillar ejaculate saves the day!

A warning from the Japanese against being greedy. Or a warning about nuclear weapons. Or maybe it's a warning about being greedy with nuclear weapons. At any rate, once you get to the part where you see what nuclear testing did to that island with that lame giant turtle puppet and the red people, you'll be convinced to get rid of your nuclear weapons immediately. This seems to be an especially colorful and weird entry in the Godzilla canon, and it left me with some questions. First, why dub in broken English? "Look out there! It's gigantic monster egg!" It makes all the dialogue ridiculous which, I'lll admit, is actually part of the fun. Second, why can Godzilla knock down giant concrete buildings with one or two paw swipes while he can barely do any damage at all to a greenhouse or an egg? Finally, where did the Japanese military get so many giant nets? I liked that, by the way--Plan A: Electrocute Godzilla; Plan B: Throw giant nets on Godzilla and then try to electrocute him. I like those creepy singing twins, by the way. With their first appearance, some characters hear their voices speaking in unison and decide that they're spies. What? Spies? They'd have to be like the loudest spies ever, wouldn't they? I also liked Godzilla's first appearance in this--undulating ground and a phallic tail thirty-two minutes into the movie. You also get a Japanese guy sporting a Hitler stache. But the quality of these Godzilla movies is probably based on the scenes of monster wrastlin' and architectural destruction. The big battle (not to be confused with the final battle) is a whole lot of weird close-ups and jittery camera work. Mothra perhaps isn't the most formidable foe for Godzilla. He's too fuzzy, and flapping-hard and expelling chalk dust didn't do much for me. Dig the close-up of Godzilla's pissed face when he first spots Mothra flying toward him though. The actual final battle is all perverse caterpillar flailing and attacks with silly string. Mothra was kicking Godzilla's ass for most of that first big fight but couldn't finish him off. And then he's done in by silly string? Dylan liked the music in this enough to give it a 2/20. The song that played during the giant net drop sounded really familiar to me.


2010 killer tire movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: An abandoned automobile tire rolls around the desert and uses its telepathic powers to destroy any trash, bunnies, or people who get in its way. A crowd of people is given binoculars to watch the proceedings.

Like Christine or Maximum Overdrive or Duel but with only a tire. Or like your typical 50's monster movie except instead of a guy in a rubber suit causing mayhem, you just get the rubber. From a technical standpoint, I enjoyed trying to figure out how the tire was brought to life. It may be a much easier special effect than I think it is, and it certainly wasn't a special effect you'd describe as flashy. Most of this movie is the tire rolling around, only stopping to quiver and make a loud noise and make something explode, or people sitting around watching the tire, a meta-cular cinematic joke that's the sort of thing Soderbergh might put together in his spare time between Oceans 19 and Oceans 20. We're told at the beginning that this film is an "homage to the most powerful element of style" in movies--a lack of reason. It frequently falls into annoying cutesy-clever territories, turning into the kind of indie production that you want to take out back and slap around a bit. But was I entertained? Heck, yeah! It's a tire rolling around making bunnies explode! How could I not be entertained? Funniest bit involves a cop taking a tire off a car and saying, "This is what our killer looks like." No, the funniest bit is probably where they set a trap with an explosive dummy. I also can appreciate any movie that has a scene implying that a tire has jerked off while watching an exercise video. I'll give director Quentin Dupieux credit for seeing this ridiculous idea to its end, but his message about movies comes across like a film school student trying to impress his professor who rambles on and on about arthouse cinema every class.

I'll probably lose any chance at a Father of the Year Award for admitting this, but I was watching this with a couple of my children until the moment when heads started exploding and I told them to go upstairs. They didn't enjoy the bunny explosions at all and were probably disappointed that their father laughed at it.

Summer of Nicolas Cage Movie #13: The Ant Bully

2006 animated ant movie

Rating: 9/20 (Emma: 9/20; Abbey: 20/20)

Plot: Poor Lucas is a bullied little kid who takes out his frustrations on a colony of ants in his front yard, squirt-gunning the hell out of them and being generally menacing. Nicolas Cage ant uses a potion to shrink Lucas down to ant size so that he can learn a lesson about teamwork and being nice. As he adapts to ant culture, he has to figure out a way to save the anthill from an exterminator he hired a few days before he started living in it. Oh, snap!

Nicolas Cage, Bruce Campbell, and Ricardo Montalban? And the movie still is barely half as good as the other two CGI-ant movies? Nothing grabs you in this one. The animation is mediocre, the story is predictable, and the protagonist isn't easy to root for. He's really, probably like all children, unlikable. Like so many modern animated classics, this very clumsily attempts to appeal to adults and children, and I don't really see how it would be completely satisfying to either. There are a lot of big little action sequences with a thwomping score that was probably lifted from another animated movie, but all they managed to do was make my eyes hurt a little bit. I got bored with this very quickly. Cage, as expected, does fine voice work, but it was a waste of his time as he could have been working on a sequel to Vampire's Kiss--Vampire's Kiss II: Watch Out, Roaches, Because There's a New Vampire in Town. This is a completely soulless, headache-inducing affair that actually made me want to either a) get the old magnifying glass out and kill some ants myself or b) give the kid a few doors down an atomic wedgie and make him eat grass. Ricardo Montalban, by the way, needs more work. I think I'd rather watch those commercials where he talks about soft Corinthean leather over and over again than watch this movie again.

Bad Boy Bubby

1993 cringe-fest

Rating: 15/20

Plot: The titular bad boy lives alone with his portly mother and doesn't leave their humble apartment since the air outside is poisonous and all. He spends his time playing with his kitty and sitting absolutely still until his biological father visits one day. Consequences of that visit force Bubby outside where he makes all kinds of new friends and embarks on a career in the arts.

Challenging, oft-difficult movie featuring incest, fat naked people, cat suffocation, and Bad Boy Bubby's lil bubby--all in the first fifteen minutes. Bubby won't exactly capture your hearts, but parts of his story will make you queasy in your stomach if you're into that sort of thing. I have to give credit for Nicholas Hope's performance of the character. Mentally challenged characters are difficult to pull off, especially when an actor is delicately maneuvering back and forth between tragedy and comedy with the character, and Hope does it very well. This movie is very funny, very very darkly funny, and I always appreciate it when a filmmaker can make me laugh and disturb me at the same time. Bubby's world can't possibly be real, more of an apocalyptic wasteland or the ghost of a third world country than anywhere in wherever the hell this is supposed to take place. Australia? It's a world bathed in gray, drab and dumpy, and there are definitely shots in this movie where it actually does look like the air is poisonous. Bad Boy Bubby doesn't have much depth although I do like the possible satiric jab at rock 'n' roll, but it's a unique and, if you're a little twisted, entertaining character study.

Note: Jen watched a big chunk of this one and really seemed to like it. She missed the aforementioned cat suffocation, incest, naked fat woman, and lil bubby, however.

Happy Feet

2006 Best Animated Feature

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Mumble is a retarded penguin because his father, Elvis the Penguin, dropped him when he was in the egg. And before you start, I'm well aware that "retarded" is considered politically incorrect, and I apologize for its use here. I don't like the word much either, and I almost never use it. I'm doing my best to get some blog traffic, so maybe throwing the R-word around will get some people involved in those advocacy groups who are always ticked off with Lady Gaga or Lebron James to accidentally find their way to my humble little blog. And I'm going to do my very best to make this one of my best-written reviews ever so that once the advocates for people like Lady Gaga and Lebron James get here, they'll read this and be hooked. And then, boom! Readers! Anyway, back to Mumble. While all the other penguins use their singing voices and over-produced pop songs to find the perfect mate, something that Morgan Freeman told me is actual legitimate scientific information, Mumble can only tap dance. He's an outcast, and some of the other penguins, each inexplicably with different accents, blame him for the lack of fish. Mumble runs off with some Hispanic penguins to find some aliens who might be responsible for the famine.

First off, who's the audience for a PG-rated movie like this? I can't imagine this appealing to most adults despite the modernization of some pop tunes from their childhood (like the Artist Who's Now Known As Prince Again) to make them sound like annoying modern pop tunes. And I'd think the plot would be too confusing for children, and there are some pretty intense scenes that might make it inappropriate for younger viewers. I did watch it with Sophie, however, and she seemed to fall asleep just fine during it. Plus, I don't normally think about Prince as a good soundtrack choice for a kiddie flick. It wouldn't surprise me if the Dreamworks people decided to throw "Darling Nikki" in their next feature though.

Secondly, I'm just going to say it: I'm sick of penguins. I've seen them marching while Morgan Freeman tells me all about it. I've seen those annoying little guys in Madagascar and in the television spin-off that my girls used to annoy me with all the time. And although it's extremely unlikely that somebody will force me to watch the upcoming Jim Carrey Mr. Popper's Penguins movie, its existence still makes me tremble and weep. Don't get me wrong. If I'm at a zoo, I enjoy seeing the sad little penguins in their glass box as much as the next guy, mostly because it makes me feel superior as a human being and gives me a chance to wallow in my awesomeness, so to speak. I'm the guy at the penguin exhibit who's torn his shirt off like Hulk Hogan and flaunts his stuff, flexing and beating my chest and trash-talking the birds. "Emperor, my ass! Check out these nipples! Do you birds even HAVE nipples? Booyah!" And to answer your question: Yes, I have been forcefully removed from zoos. Unfairly, I might add. I've seen a giant turtle having an orgasm at that same zoo, and you're tell me that my nipples are inappropriate for children's eyes? What's wrong with this world? Back to the penguins--these animals are animated very well (more on that below), but all penguins kind of look the same (I know. . .borderline penguin racism there!) and there's not enough variety in their movements to make them interesting for the duration of this too-long movie.

The animation is second to none. The Antarctic setting and all of the animals look terrific. There's a great realism to these characters and their surroundings, and if they weren't talking in weird accents and performing choreographed dance routines, you'd almost mistake them for the real thing. But really, what's the point? I think I like my animated movies to look animated. I'm not sure cute penguins would have made this a better movie but it might have made the characters more likable. I didn't like a single one of these penguins--not the three or four voiced by Robin Williams, not the protagonist voiced by one of those Hobbits, especially not his parents, not his girlfriend. None of them. They just aren't likable, and the disjointed adventure that Mumble goes on is predictable and bland. A few of those aforementioned intense action sequences make little sense scientifically and only work to clash with the realistic look of the movie.

Cars actually should have beat this for Best Animated Picture. Or Monster House. There are things that annoy me about both of those movies, but the onslaught of pop music and black and white dance choreography drove me bonkers. It was like a more-polished Dreamworks movie with a story that I couldn't care about. And very very loud. There's a nice message in this movie that's hammered into you like you're a baby seal being clubbed to death by whoever hilariously clubs baby seals to death (again, the right search might bring anti-seal-clubbing advocates this way), but after so many penguin movies, I'm not sure I'm ready to keep this particular bird alive anyway.

Baby seal and retarded people advocates, Lady Gaga fans, and anti-racism and anti-nipple people: Don't forget to subscribe/follow my blog for more brilliantly-written reviews just like this one! Boom!

The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes

2005 Quay Brothers fun

Rating: 12/20

Plot: An evil doctor kidnaps an opera diva. He hires the titular piano tuner (of earthquakes) to perfect his seven automatons so that he can stage an opera he wrote for himself featuring the kidnapped opera diva, also turned into an automaton.

Reading a plot like that, you'd think this is awesome! Unfortunately, that's not the case. This movie crawls, moving so slowly that it barely qualifies as a moving picture at times. I've liked the Quay Brothers in the past; their only other full-length Institute Benjamenta is artsy-fartsy fun and you can read a bit about their short puppet/stop-animation films here. This doesn't have nearly enough puppet action. The mini-lumberjack on the poster makes a few short appearances, and the animation for the guy's automatons, when it's shown off, is beautiful. There's also some mysterious backward filming shenanigans where the Quays "animate" some real people. Without a doubt, you get some beautiful imagery in Piano Tuner, but it's all so sluggishly displayed that I wonder if it was made as a cure for insomnia or something. Stilted dialogue doesn't help. Neither does the fact that, especially early in the film, I couldn't really see or hear what the hell was going on. It makes putting the pieces to this little puzzle of a movie especially tiresome, and after a while, my mind dropped out and I just waited for the little doll lumberjack to pop in again. After all, that's why I bothered to watch this in the first place. Speaking of that, this might have the current record for the number of times I started this and had to give up and start again later for whatever reason (general boredom, sleepiness, too much noise in the room). I had it recorded on the t.v. about two years ago and never got through it, and I made at least two other attempts to watch it on Netflix.

Here's a question for my readers, by the way: Have you ever heard a person, during the time preceding sexual intercourse, ever heard your woman (or guy, I suppose) say the words "Take me"? I have my doubts that anybody ever says that, but you hear it in movies all the time. Kiss, kiss kiss, fondle, rub, rub, kiss, nibble, kiss, rub. . ."Take me!"

And now, here's the first ever shane-movies contest! Successful blogs have contests and giveaways, and I sure would like to have a successful blog. So, here it goes: If you can watch The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes uninterrupted, send me video evidence plus letters from at least two eyewitnesses, and I will make you a grotesque puppet out of food. It must be your first attempt to watch the movie, however. Offer not valid in Oklahoma because people from Oklahoma are creepy.

Summer of Nicolas Cage Movie #12: Lord of War

2005 character study

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Yuri Orlov didn't have the easiest childhood growing up with Russian (well, one of those pieces of the Soviet Union) immigrants in the big city. As just a little fella, he starts selling weapons to the mob in his town, and uses the experience to move into a very successful career as a gun-runner with his troubled brother Vitaly. He also manages to slide into a marriage with Ava Fontaine, his boyhood crush and hot model. Keeping details about his career secret from his family and evading pesky federal agents is a lot to juggle though.

I didn't really know anything about this movie going in, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed its playfulness. Here's another movie that makes me wonder if I actually do like narration in movies. I've always labeled that a pet peeve. Maybe the narrator just has to be French or Nicolas Cage. Or both, I guess. The narration in this definitely adds flavor to the drama though. Cage's character is one of those who does completely immoral things--the obvious gun-running, lying to his wife--but he's got this charm or flair about him that still makes him likable. It's a solid performance with no real room for him to work his hammy elbows. Jared Leto fits as his brother and foil, and Ethan Hawke, a kind of sickly-looking Ethan Hawke, is good as a somewhat cliched idealistic federal agent. This film has a different style that gives it a unique color and keeps you interested even when there's not much going on. There's also a little dark humor in there, especially in the interactions between Orlov and Liberian president Andre Baptiste, one of those giving us the origin of the film's title in a cute little recurring joke. Eamonn Walker is great as Baptiste, really capturing the funny that's in most of your violent dictators. The not-always-predictable tale of Orlov is consistently entertaining and concludes in a way that I thought was really satisfying. Oh, one more thing: I really dug the opening credits, a really neat series of shots (no pun intended) from the perspective of a bullet. This (and that) hammers a message home. Cool stuff.

The Great Silence

1968 Spaghetti Western

Rating: 17/20

Plot: In blizzardy Utah in the late 1800s, bounty hunters run amok, bringing in loads of dead outlaws for financial gain. The titular mute doesn't like them very much and finds ways of getting them mad enough to draw their guns so that he can shoot them in self defense. One widow tries to get Silence to kill a bounty hunter named Loco who shot her husband.

The Great Silence is one of those westerns where the setting is almost more important than the characters. The hills these hills inhabit are drowned in snow, and watching these horses trudge through the mounds of white is impressive. The mute good guy played by Jean-Louis Trintignant is fine as a sort of Eastwood Man-With-No-Name-But-With-a-Nickname. Apparently he was a mute because the actor would only take the role if he didn't have any lines to learn. But he's a cool character with a cool gun. Klaus Kinski dominates as Loco, however, stealing each scene with his eyes. What a great villain! The dubbing in this isn't great although I wonder if Kinski actually did the dubbing for Loco. It sort of sounded like him. I did enjoy the exaggerated dubbed chewing sounds because there's nothing like hearing a guy slurp a chicken. My favorite scene that is not at the end of the movie: a tossed match into a glass of whiskey during a poker game. Nice tension. But the end of this movie? That's what pushes it a notch higher than its Italian Western peers. It's an ending that'll leave your jaw dropping. Great Morricone score, too, if you're into that sort of thing.

The Visitors

1993 time travel comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A knight and his squire are transported by a senile wizard 800 years into the future. They have to simultaneously figure out life in the 20th Century while trying to return home.

This is a very amusing take on the stranger-in-a-strange land premise. leaning on slapstick and ironic situations to get more than a few laughs. It's very nearly whimsical! This film's shot well, and I really like an actor like Jean Reno in the lead role, a guy who is going to play it all so straight that it somehow makes it all even more hilarious. Narratively, this might get a little tiresome by the end, but it's a fun comic adventure and you know I'm a sucker for time travel movies that don't involve Kevin Costner. I wonder how much punnage and other word play I missed by having to read English subtitles for this one. You don't want to dig for depth with this one; it's more like a ninety minute joke peppered with punchlines, some intelligent and some dumb but most pretty funny.

Anvil: The Story of Anvil

2008 heavy metal documentary

Rating: 17/20

Plot: Lips and Robb Reiner (note the extra "b") have rocked as the founding members of heavy metal almost-wases Anvil since they met at fourteen. Now well into their fifties, they haven't given up the dream of becoming
rock 'n' roll gods. This documentary follows them on a disastrous European tour and the recording of their thirteenth album as they try to fulfill their dreams.

"Out in the schoolyard--
Little peaches play,
Rubbin' their beaves,
Got a lot to say."

At first, you just think you're watching some This Is Spinal Tap knock-off. Then, you realize it's not a mockumentary at all, that Anvil are real hosers who have been reaching for rock 'n' roll stars for about forty years. There are comic moments, including more than a few that recall Spinal Tap, but it's the very human moments that makes this one so special. You really grow to like Lips and Reiner, connect with their struggles, and root for them to taste at least a little bit of success. And I'll tell you without any shame, that I teared up quite a bit during one scene. It's likely going to be my favorite movie moment of the year, in fact. Sonically, Anvil's music isn't really my bag, but I was really impressed with Robb's drumming abilities. His stick work made it impossible for me not to hold up the devil horns. And I'll tell you what--I'd consider myself an artistic success if I had fans like Mad Dog and the guy who drank beer through his nose. A roller coaster of a documentary that juggles humorous moments, really sad scenes, and ultimately touching and beautiful footage this well should be seen by anybody regardless of how much they like bands that play their Flying-V's with a dildo.

Sir Kent recommended this little gem to me.


1966 Czech feminist film

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Two girls (Marie I and Marie II) decide that the world is bad. As a result, they decide to be bad, finding various ways to misbehave by conning perverse butterfly collectors, playing with the food, playing with their food more, breaking stuff, drowning, and being general nuisances. Honestly, you're going to be frustrated if you like movies that have plots and characters who aren't named the exact same thing.

Yet another Eastern European movie, Czech even. At times, you could accuse this of looking like a film school project that the professor didn't even like very much. It's an artsy-fartsy dadaistic clash of visual trickery and tomfoolery. You've got rapid and maddening color changes, weird sound effects (like creaking door sounds when the gals move their limbs or typewriter noises when there's nary a typewriter), lots of scenes involving the slicing and dicing of phallic symbols, the best scissor fight you're likely to see, and lots of scenes that seem to go on forever. But it does all add up to something, again with sort of an obvious film schoolish theme, and it is visually arresting and completely interesting considering the time and place it was made. It didn't last long, by the way. Czechoslovakia banned, so nobody would get to see the fantastic scene where the Maries take after Shirley Temple in The Littlest Rebel (a movie that should have been banned in Czechoslovakia and everywhere else; and I'm not even pro-censorship!) and mimic trains while in blackface. There's some Svankmajer-esque animation with the quicky-shots of things like locks, butterflies, word shavings, and colors. This is not exactly a movie that stands the test of time, and the stream-of-conscious delivery and too-lengthy scenes will annoy most people, but I'm nevertheless happy I watched it.

Summer of Nicolas Cage Movie # 11: The Rock

1996 wrestler biopic

Rating: 10/20

Plot: A disgruntled high-ranking marine steals some Gungun bombs and heads over to Alcatraz, now a tourist attraction. He kidnaps a handful of tourists and threatens to use his new biological weapon if he's not sent a zillion dollars. Chemical weapons expert Nicolas Cage and prison-escape expert Sean Connery, the latter being the only man to ever escape from the titular rock, sneak onto the island with some Navy Seals to try to thwart the terrorist's plans.

OK. Rest assured I really pay attention any time Nicolas Cage is on the screen, and that's doubly true when there's a Nicolas Cage sex scene. Some things I've noted: all the Nic Cage sex scenes I can remember feature The Jackhammer or Cowgirl, woman-on-top for you squares. And Nic always has a look on his face like he doesn't really care what's going on. In The Rock, he gets to be bored by coitus with somebody named Vanessa Marcil after telling her that "Pigtails are naughty, naughty, naughty" in an accent that could have been an audio outtake from Vampire's Kiss, a much better Nicolas Cage movie in which he gets to be bored by The Jackhammer while the Cowgirl devours his neck.

When Cage the actor doesn't know what to do but knows his character is a little ticked off, he reaches for the best tool in his repertoire: the blah blah blah blah blah (dramatic pause) BLAH BLAH, enunciating each blah and screaming each BLAH like he's trying to melt your face off.

"This isn't HAPPENING!"
"What do you say we cut the chit-chat (dramatic pause) A-HOLE?!" I'm not censoring that. He actually said "A-HOLE?!"
"What do you say you cut me some (dramatic pause) FRIGGIN' SLACK?!"
"How in the name of (short dramatic pause) ZEUS'S BUTTHOLE. . ."
"It might help our current situation (big dramatic pause) MAYBE!"

He throws in a few well-goshes like he's Keanu Reeves, and with his older thespian peers, plows through some really predictable and clumsy dialogue and some silly jokes. Speaking of his co-stars, I've got to admit that I don't actually like Sean Connery most of the time or Ed Harris almost all of the time. Ed Harris is a lame bad guy, and the writers of The Rock (an anthropomorphic cash register and an anthropomorphic stick of dynamite) apparently decided that making him and his motivations really inconsistent would help give his character some depth. Sean Connery looks like he's in this just to collect his paycheck as he stumbles through some jerky handheld action sequences and manages to survive, as you know he would since his face is really big on the poster, while improbabilities are piled on more improbabilities. Gigantic action, a gigantic Hans Zimmer score, gigantic sound effects, and gigantic special effects might have some people reaching for their popcorn, but it just makes me wonder how in the name of Zeus's butthole anybody could forgive the predictability and cliches enough to give this action clunker a passing grade.

I apologize for all the Nicolas Cage sex talk. I'll try to control myself as the Summer of Nicolas Cage continues.