Oprah Movie Club for March: Paprika

2006 anime

Rating: 15/20 (Mark: 12/20)

Plot: Some fiend's stolen a dream machine, and it's up to a scientist and her titular alter-ego to save humanity. Or something like that. Honestly, I wasn't nearly smart enough to figure out what the hell was going on here.

But I liked what I was looking at! This stretches the elastic boundaries of what animation can do, dips deep inside the old noggin, scrambles things around, and leaves you baffled but aesthetically pleased. I thought the story was frustratingly incoherent, but that might not be the movie's fault. Then again, my brother's reasonably intelligent and was also confused, so maybe it was the movie's fault. He's not seen Inception, a film that seems to have borrowed a lot of this one's ideas--Jello floors, elevator rides through the subconscious, frog musicians. I have seen Inception which might have given me an advantage although I did have an extra obstacle in trying to avoid thinking about Leonardo Dicaprio. The guy's just dreamy. On second thought, I'm not sure there were frogs in Inception. I think part of the problem for me (and again, keep in mind that I'm a dumb guy) is that I had trouble understanding the motivations of most of the characters. There's a character we never really get to meet who befuddled me, and the villain's logic never really made much sense to me. But again, I did appreciate the manic creativity and goofy surrealism, and cartoon nudity always is good for a bonus point or two. I don't see how there could have possibly been enough room on a storyboard for all the ideas that show up on screen here. You get walking refrigerators, giant headed guys, butterfly girls, talking dolls, musical animals. The screen's just filled with this stuff, and even though a lot of the imagery was redundant, I looked forward to seeing that parade. As much as I enjoyed the cartoon visually, however, I hated it aurally. The soundtrack, other than the cute and unhinged parade music, was irritating. A lot of times, I watch a movie like this (Synecdoche, New York; anything from Czechoslovakia; You've Got Mail) and think that if I just watched it a second time, I'd understand it all a lot better. I think I could watch Paprika a dozen times and still not figure out what was going on.

OK, what other Oprah Movie Clubbers got a chance to see this one? What did you think?


2011 movie

Rating: 18/20

Plot: An orphan living in a train station tries to repair a robot that his father found in storage at a museum. He befriends the daughter of a crotchety old toy shop owner and tries to avoid being caught by the station inspector while he keeps the train station's clocks running.

Just a stunningly beautiful work of art and a lovely ode to silent cinema, especially the work on a director I won't mention even though it doesn't seem to stop anybody else who writes or talks about the movie. Now the big surprise in this was already spoiled for me because I'd read Brian Selznick's beautiful novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Knowing the story's secrets didn't ruin it for me, and I still teared up, probably because of Ben Kingsley's wonderful performance as that director whom I will not mention. This is a touching movie with plenty of humorous bits, mostly provided by Sacha Baron Cohen's station inspector. The movie's got whimsy and heart, and it's also gorgeous. France is France, but I also loved the way the camera maneuvered around the clock gears or the people packing the train station. I also really enjoyed the recreations of the early films, too. This is a great adaptation of a very cool young adult book and a movie seemingly made for fans of movies.

Buster and Chaplin footage is in this, and Django Reinhardt also makes an appearance. Well, an actor playing Django Reinhardt.

How to Get Ahead in Advertising

1989 dark comedy

Rating: 17/20

Plot: Dennis is an advertising executive, and he's very good at it. Unfortunately, he's got a bit of writer's block and can't find the correct words to sell a pimple cream. He has a nervous breakdown, gets a pimple, watches in horror as that pimple becomes a second head, and is transformed into something more sinister.

This was pretty brilliant, subversive and provocative, and really funny. Richard E. Grant is so good in a role that would have been played by Nicolas Cage if Hollywood decided to make a remake of this. He's unhinged and delirious and spits out these terrific lines faster than you can grab at them. Like really good women's wrestling videos, you want to slow this down to make sure you catch everything. Grant had me at "I am an expert on tits--tits and peanut butter," but his later story about a grandfather molesting a wallaby sealed the deal. And the way he eats fish sticks during one scene? It's legendary, and that's not a word I use lightly. Of course, pretty much any movie featuring a talking boil is going to be right up my alley, but one made by the director of Withnail and I? I'm going to be all over that! The special effects for that were impressive, too. I loved this movie although it's probably not for everybody. Its message is timeless, just as scary now as it would have been over twenty years ago.

The Terminator

1984 Schwarzenegger movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: In the distant future (I think, 2007), machines have taken over the world. The titular robotic assassin is sent back in time to terminate a women who will later give birth to a guy who will mess up the robots' picnic. Some other guy also travels back in time to try to stop him and maybe to convince him to put on a pair of pants.

I don't know how old I was, but I have a fond memory of watching this movie at some relative or step-relative's house following a game at Busch Stadium, the second one, that ended with a diving catch by Willie McGee. I slept in this person's basement and found this on the television when I was probably flipping through the stations in search of nudity. The next day, I got to try out a pogo stick. The step-relatives had a cute girl who lived next door, and I'll bet she still thinks about how impressive I looked on that pogo stick. Or in those yellow shorts that were a little too short.

But I digress. That has nothing to do with what this movie's all about which is actually Arnold Schwarzenegger's penis. It's probably the second most exciting Arnold Schwarzeneggar movie moment right next to that scene where he fights a guy in a bear suit in Hercules in New York. Soon after naked Arnold arrives in 1980-something, he punches through a guy and steals a guy's clothes. Now Arnold, if you haven't noticed, is a fairly large man. I'd think it was pretty lucky that he found a random guy whose clothes fit him so well. Speaking of random guys, that's really what James Cameron is good at here--allowing random guys to shine. There's the "Hey, man, you got a dead cat in there?" guy, the "That son of a bitch took my pants!" guy, and the guy on the telephone who says, "Hey, man, you have a serious attitude problem," all which makes it seem like Cameron has never actually met real people. Arnold never acts like a real person, but he surprisingly plays an emotionless robot really well and has a screen presence that makes almost every moment of screen time he has exciting. The plot's a little on the goofy side, and the flashback sequence special effects and the general story line, almost thirty years later, are very dated. I kept expecting Doc Brown to run out and yell at Arnold and Michael Biehn for messing up the space-time continuum or something. I did like the stop-motion terminator action at the end though. Solid sci-fi entertainment. I have not, by the way, seen any of the sequels. I think I did eat a Terminator cereal at one point though, but that could all be in my imagination. Phallus-shaped marshmallows?

Meatball Machine

2005 science fiction movie

Rating: 11/20

Plot: Aliens infect humans and transform them into beastly robotic fightin' machines. They meet, they fight, and then the victor gets to eat the loser. One nondescript guy tries to either save the woman he loves by destroying her or prevent his own destruction.

This might be the first movie on this blog that has a scene where a woman is violated by tentacles. I've been looking for a movie with a good tentacle rape scene so that those with that particular fetist (apparently, there are loads of them) will stumble upon my little blog. I've now got Hunger Games fans, women's prison exploitation aficionados, and tentacle rape fetishists covered, and I'm feeling pretty good about the future of shane-movies.

Meatball Machine won't be mistaken for a good movie, but it does have its visually interesting moments, all done very cheaply--spaghetti wire shaking, junkyard costuming, phallic jello. The monstroids (have I coined a word?) are cool, and the violence is splattery if you're into that sort of thing. I couldn't care less about the plot or characters, and the filthy atmosphere, though intially kind of cool, grew tiresome. So did the climactic battle scene which I'm pretty sure is still going on. A tacked-on end scene that attempted to explain everything that happened was really dumb. It's almost like the makers of this wanted to make a movie only so that he could call it Meatball Machine, neglected to tell the audience anywhere in the movie why it was called Meatball Machine, and added an ending just to throw those words in there sometime.

Somewhat reminiscent, by the way, of Tetsuo, the Iron Man.

Women in Cages

1971 women's prison movie

Rating: 8/20

Plot: Pretty much the same as all the other women's prison movies.

So here's the deal: The most popular blog post of all time here at shane-movies is my write-up for The Little Mermaid. And it's not even close. So I tried to figure out why that's the case in order to figure out ways to generate more blog traffic.

At first I thought it was just an angry reader who just couldn't stay away and kept reading the The Little Mermaid post because he is worried his blood pressure might be too low. Then, I investigated further.

The words "horny teenage mermaid" appear right near the beginning of the post. And I could picture bloated sweathogs drooling in front of their computer monitors as they Googled "horny teenage mermaid" with their pants half-unzipped. It was easy for me to picture because I'm one of those guys. The words "sexual awakening of a young girl," "hot sea witch," and "Buddy Hackett" probably brought people to that post, too. And any combination of the words mermaid, vagina, sex, and saucy. Or, for the ladies, "nondescript prince."

Naturally, I started thinking about how I could, like a Pied Piper of movie bloggers, lead unsuspecting perverts to my little blog since it's been a dream of mine to hit the 10 1/2 reader mark. I don't discriminate, ladies and gentlemen. I'm a lot like the Christian church or the Statue of Liberty and will take anybody I can get with open arms. Maybe some bloggers out there don't want poor, tired, or huddled masses dirtying up their comments, but I'll gladly take 'em! And I don't want to limit that just to perverts either though I suspect three of my readers probably could safely be labeled "perverts" or at the very least derelicts.

So here it is. Here's the flute this Pied Piper is using to trick the masses into finding my blog. It's been 4 1/2 years, people, and I just can't be happy with 4 1/2 readers anymore. The Hunger Games + women's prison movies + nudity + "horny teenage mermaid" + Buddy Hackett? I don't see how this plan can fail. I thought about throwing in words like "naughty nurse action," "juicy sorority party," "throbbing," "waxy nips," spandex jumping jacks," "Duchess of Spain sunbathing," "MILF drinking a milkshake," "polka-dotted panties," "hot pudding wrestlers," "x-rated aquarium," "Kim Kardashian," "studly fireman," "naked shuffleboard," "salami treat," or "elderly spanking," but I figured that would be considered cheap.

And new readers? You can bet that all of the entries are just as good as this one!

Oh, Women in Cages. It's not very good, a lesser entry in the women's prison genre. Pam Grier plays a sadistic guard this time, and she doesn't wear the uniform as well as the prisoner garb she did in The Big Bird Cage. We get into blaxploitation motifs when she starts mentioning her life in Harlem. Smack at age 10 and working the streets at 12. It explains why she enjoys strapping half-naked women to large wheels or employing crotch burning though. "Crotch burning" is probably a word combination that will draw a certain crowd here, right? The story's not all that engaging, but you do get your obligatory shower scene, your obligatory catfights, and your obligatory torture sequences. Andres Centenara makes a very brief appearance but isn't on the screen enough to matter. This is a hastily-put-together production that is way too serious to be much fun. Corman produced. And here's the real poster which, as much as it might surprise you, isn't really a very honest depiction:

Viva Knievel!

1977 movie

Rating: 4/20

Plot: After breaking into an orphanage, healing one of them, and flirting with a nun, Evel Knievel nearly dies in a motorcycle stunt while attempting to jump over cages full of circus animals. Well, he breaks his arm anyway. He impulsively retires. He's lured to Mexico and back into the jumpin'-over-things game because. . .well, I think it has to do with money. Leslie Nielson, however, wants him dead so that he can use his trucks to transport drugs into the United States. Meanwhile, Knievel tries to bag a newspaper reporter.

I had an Evel Knievel lunchbox as a kid. Actually, I don't know if I had one or not, but I'm going to go ahead and say that I did for the blog. The stuntman intrigued me, and this is without even getting a chance to see him in this movie or knowing that he had healing powers. That's right. It only takes about five minutes of movie before you get one of the most heartwarming and beautiful scenes in motorcycle stunt movie history when an orphan tosses away his crutches and says (I shit you not), "You're the reason I'm walkin', Evel. You're the reason I'm walkin'!" Brought a tear to my eye anyway. Evel Knievel isn't all heroic in this. In fact, a lot of the movie makes him look greedy and surly. He's mean to Gene Kelly. Poor Gene Kelly, by the way. What did he do to deserve this? He does deliver a powerful anti-drug speech while standing next to a nodding Frank Gifford in which he references Indianapolis and says, "Narcotics will make you blow all to hell!" I was convinced. Leslie Nielson plays the bad guy, cardboardily, and Lauren Hutton is the love interest/newspaper reporter. Also, Marjoe Gortner and his curly hair are in this. Marjoe plays a rival stuntman, and he's about the most interesting character in this thing, probably because not much of what he does makes sense. Of course, I was probably just distracted by that hair and his creepy eyes. Frank Gifford plays himself a lot more naturally than Evel Knievel who at times looked like he knew he was making a terrible mistake but that it would be worth it because a hell of a lot of lunchboxes were about to be sold. For those of you into motorcycle/car chases, the one that makes up the finale of this stunt-and-drama-filled extravaganza seems like it's at least forty-five minutes long. The most thrilling stunt, to me at least, was a spill from a wheelchair though. That might have been the only stunt that Evel Knievel, really not in his prime here, actually had anything to do with. I also laughed outloud when a child fell off a motorcycle. Note: I'm still trying to figure out if this is a real movie.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go not take narcotics.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II

2011 franchise finale (until somebody figures out a way to squeeze more money out of this character)

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Heroic Harry and his helpers hunt for Horcruxes while warring wizards wrangle. A guy with nose envy prowls around in search of Potter. It's like an elaborate and magical (read: Satanic) game of hide and seek. Meanwhile, barely pubescent boys' magic wands wiggle as they discover Hermione's cleavage, and combined with all the spells and supernatural silliness, there's enough to piss off the Christian church for years and years. A choir director is heard saying, "What? They're kissing each now? I thought they just performed magic!"

I don't remember what I gave the last boring entry in the Harry Potter series, but I'd like the series to be around a 14 or 15. It's solidly entertaining, and the actors do such a good job of bringing these characters to life. It's a shame Richard Harris couldn't stick around for the duration, but I really am glad they were able to get these things spat out while everybody else was young enough. This last movie is packed with action, and the special effects are really good. I love that opening shot with the black ghostly things hovering over and around Hogwarts, and the destruction of the school, so whimsically magical in those first few movies, is shocking. I don't like watching wizard duels nearly as much as I enjoy a good lightsaber battle, but at least there aren't any of those jerky-camera fight scenes like in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I. I still think, despite this last book being split up into two lengthy-movie chunks, that things move a little too quickly at times. A lot of important characters die in these things, but the next big plot development has to be hurried along which takes away some of the emotional jolt. Snape's exit should have been a big emotional moment, and it's the one thing I really looked forward to after reading that last book. In fact, I might have given up on the movies if it wasn't for the anticipation of that scene. Maybe I was expecting too much, but I thought it was just another example of the makers taking movie shortcuts and taking away some of the power of that scene. Rickman's so good as that character though, and I thought it was cool that Rowling filled him in on his character's whole story after making him promise that he wouldn't reveal the secrets. Voldemort--is it just me or does his character become more comic the more we see him? He goes from the mysterious Villain with a Name You Can't Say to a bit of a doofus, doesn't he?

One of these weekends, I think I'll throw a Harry Potter movie marathon party, invite all of my friends over, and watch all eight of these movies in a row. I'd like to look at my ratings again. At the same time, it's nice to be done with all these movies. Maybe I should just move on with my life instead.

The Big Bird Cage

1972 women's prison movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Horny Terry is arrested for a crime she did not commit and sent to a prison labor camp for women. Meanwhile, some people who want to raise money to start a revolution get the idea to bust out a bunch of the women at the camp for their cause. The result? Mud wrestling!

How about that tagline--"Women so hot with desire they melt the chains that enslave them!"

So what are you really looking for in a women's prison movie? Sexy women? This has a few of those--Pam Grier at her toughest and the stunning Anitra Ford, a future Price Is Right gal. Nudity? It's got that, too, and not just with the aforementioned blaxploitation superstar or a woman Bob Barker would probably later sleep with. You get a shower scene or two, a genre favorite. You also get a really tall woman covering herself in lard and attacking another woman in a river with floating coconuts. Gritty and brutal prison life depictions? The titular bird cage is a giant rickety mill that gives the producers of this (yes, Corman's involved) an excuse to show sweaty and scantily-clad women climbing stairs and engaging in hard work. Perverse torture scenes? Check, including a great scene where Ford is chained and hung from her hair. How about action? Hell, yes! One only needs to point to the handful of scenes featuring mud wrestling, but there's also a terrific scene where Pam Grier and her boyfriend Django have a chicken vs. knife fight. And does this have the great acting you would expect from a feature like this? Why, yes it does. Sid Haig shows comic versatility as a revolutionary although it's not one of the most politically correct performances you're likely to see. Grier's just a presence. My favorite performance of them all is Andres Centenara as the cruel Warden Zappa. Love how he screams all of his lines with a chunky accent and kicks small animals. The best thing about this movie, other than all the nudity, is its tone. This isn't a movie that the actors or director Jack Hill is taking too seriously. I think it's hilarious how the amateur revoluntaries talk:

Guy: Me and the boys have been talking about the revolution.
Other guy: Yeah, like how to get it started and stuff.

The comic tone, the cool setting, and the gals-in-chains thrills make this a near masterpiece of the genre.

Battletruck (aka Warlords of the Twenty-First Century)

1982 Mad Max rip-off

Rating: 6/20

Plot: Some dudes got the titular vehicle and wants to use it to push everybody else around. A guy with a motorcycle and John Ratzenberger are not about to let that happen!

If this was the movie advertised on the colorful sci-fi-rific poster up there, it would really be something. Unfortunately, this one is just boring, both as a legitimate post-apocalyptic road warrior movie or as a B-movie/unintentional comedy. With the latter, you know it's obviously produced very cheaply and quite possibly sans script, but it's not quite inept enough to be worth the time of a bad movie aficionado. As the former? The colorful moments are few and far between, and the characters are some of the least engaging you're likely to meet. This is definitely a case where the bland title Battletruck fits a lot better than the bitchin' mayhem that could have been Warlords or the Twenty-First Century. The hero's humdrum, so boring that it's impossible to believe he can ever do anything heroic. The leading lady is homely, and the bad guy is more dull than he is evil. The battletruck itself is a monstrosity that is nearly as intimidating as Spielberg's 18-wheel antagonist in Duel. I did like this little creation of John Ratzenberger's, something that looks like it could have come straight from The Cars That Ate Paris:

That little slug bug turned out to be nearly invincible! Roger Corman, of course, produced this movie. It's not one I would recommend. My favorite thing about it is that everytime a character dies, they sound like they're trying to create the new Wilhelm Scream or something.

Hellevator: The Bottled Fools

2004 elevator movie

Rating: 13/20

Plot: In a futuristic society where people get around via elevators, a Japanese school girl (I have to occasionally throw words like "Japanese school girl" together so that more people will find my blog when searching) gets in trouble not only for smoking but for accidentally blowing up a bunch of people. She enters an elevator which turns out to be the titular hellevator when a criminally-insane rapist and a criminally-insane terrorist who, for whatever reason, talks backward enter.

I was very intrigued during the first twenty minutes before stuff started happening. That first chunk of movie was a series of surreal vignettes, stylishly dopey with some cool sound effects and cheap effects that reminded me a little of Brazil or Tetsuo. There were zip-zipping businessmen and a robot dog brain, and instead of the weird horror movie I figured I was going to see when I popped this in, I was starting to wonder if this was a weird half-assed parody instead. The one-setting thing works while things remained odd and random. Once the criminals enter the story, things are still interesting, probably because one is just great at playing a violent twitching, screaming, and licking lunatic and the other talks backwards. Once a real story develops, it loses steam, and although it was still consistently entertaining, the never-changing setting began to feel a little claustrophobic. Several twists and grainy flashbacks later, I was more confused than interested in what was going on. I'm going to give director Hiroki Yamaguchi bonus points for doing an awful lot with not very much at all and for displaying some filthy creative spirit, but I wish the story and its characters were a little more interesting.

If I have a worst title pun of the year award, I don't see anything beating this. Hellevator? I'm not even sure why anybody would want to admit they saw a movie called Hellevator.


1972 enviro-horror

Rating: 4/20

Plot: All this wheelchair-bound rich old guy wants to do is throw a party. The wildlife on his island is sick of people, however, and decides to get rid of them. Several people croak.

This is far from the movie about mutant frogs killing people that I thought it would be. No, this is more like just-regular frogs standing around watching other animals kill people. Would I lose all credibility as a movie blogger if I told you that I kind of expected this to be a hidden gem? I mean, it's got Sam Elliott in it, and surely he wouldn't be in a crappy movie called Frogs that isn't really even about frogs, right? The cast in this is terrible, almost bad enough to make it seem like they're all competing for some kind of Worst Actor of the Year award. Adam Roarke, as "Clint" (that's a name I almost always put in quotes unless I'm talking about Eastwood), doesn't even try, especially any time his character is on a boat. When he asked Sam Elliott near the beginning of the movie, "How are you at badminton?" I could have sworn he was high. But his performance might be topped by Ray Milland, a guy who's acting like he wants everybody to know that he's a master Thespian (note the capital T) even though he's in a movie about killer frogs. Want thrills? You're not finding them here. This one's about as suspenseful and/or horrifying as a trip through your average zoo's reptile room. Les Baxter's knob twiddling synth score doesn't help at all. The makers of Frogs didn't really need a famous name like Les Baxter to do the music for this. A baby or a drunk chimp could have handled the score for this one. Or a frog! The death scenes are really silly. In a preview of this movie, it shows a lady in quicksand, but the scene wasn't in the movie. I investigated and found out that they cut the quicksand scene because they deemed it too silly. That was too silly? The scene were the guy Plaxico-Burresses himself in the leg isn't too silly? The woman with the butterfly net turning blue seconds after a snake attack isn't too silly? The superimposed birds that are only slightly better than the special effects from Birdemic: Shock and Terror aren't too silly? The death by turtle and crab isn't too silly? I still don't know how a slow-moving turtle manages to kill a woman actually. I will say this: the last five minutes featuring a character and (finally!) a bunch of frogs is actually really good. Shots of stuffed animal heads, a frog-filled library, some amphibian record scratching. It's good, and so are the credits, silent except for a bunch of ominous croaking. Of course, croaking was omnipresent throughout the story.

If you're in the mood for a lame horror movie with an environmental message from the 70s, I'd recommend Day of the Animals before this one. That one's got Leslie Nielson's nipples in it.


2011 driving movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A Driver with No Name is a stuntman by day and a getaway driver by night. Mystery surrounds him. He works at a garage, purchases groceries, and doesn't talk a lot. That is until he befriends his cute neighbor and her young son. Well, actually he still doesn't talk a lot even then. When the patriarch of that little family gets out of jail, our protagonist is sucked into some criminal activity that forces him into a sticky situation. Oh, snap! Shit's about to get real!

With a slightly different feel, this movie would have been a major disappointment for me. Other than some of that terrible modern electronic music we're hearing in every other movie these days and a few quick shots of exploding heads or stomped-on heads that seemed to appear on the screen for nothing but cheap shock value, I really dug the style of this one. Gosling hits the quiet,-too-quiet existential anti-hero perfectly, and like most movies featuring this type of characters, what isn't explained about his character manages to be just as interesting as what is happening on the screen. Ron Perlman and the always-hilarious Albert Brooks are both sufficiently nasty here. The latter, only minimally funny here actually, was especially good, his nastiness rivaling his work in Finding Nemo. While watching this, I couldn't figure out if I was actually liking it very much, but now I kind of want to watch it again to see if it's much closer to being a neo-noir masterpiece than I'm thinking it is. I really like what this director, the Danish Nicholas Winding Refn (What kind of dopey name is that?), does with violence. It's visceral, tough on both of the senses you use to enjoy movies, appallingly beautiful, exciting, disgusting, and usually so quick that it's almost shocking. It's movie violence but somehow manages to transcend normal tough guy fist-pumping movie violence and retain an artsiness that I like. It's hard to explain, but he did the same thing in the equally-engaging Bronson.

I think fans of The Help would probably really like this one.


1988 teen drama

Rating: 12/20
  1. Plot: Veronica oozes her way into a clique of the titular Heathers, the in-crowd at her high school. A new boy with a trench coat catchers her eye and is more interested in killing everybody.
  2. This might be the most realistic portrayal of high school ever. This also gets bonus points for the line "I don't patronize bunny rabbits" and for having the first on-screen fist bump. And for having Winona Ryder. I have mixed feelings about this one because I liked it when it came out but now think it's about the stupidest thing I've ever seen. When a line about "coughing up a phlegm globber" sounds Shakespearean compared to the rest of the script, you know things are bad. I'm really not sure how anybody could have read this script and wanted to be in the movie. Still, this has a redeeming quirkiness and enough darkly comic bits to make it worth the time. And I could be completely wrong about the dialogue. It's entirely possible that it's a work of genius. Regardless, Christian Slater's Jack Nicholson impression gets on my nerves. Or who knows? Maybe that's a work of genius, too. The satire in this is pessimistic and biting, not always in the best of ways, and the narrative, though not believable in the slightest, at least doesn't make you feel cheated. Things do really fall completely apart by the end though.

    This might sound dark, but Christian Slater would have been better off overdosing after completing this movie. He would have been a legend.

Broadway Danny Rose

1984 comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: The titular struggling agent attempts to resurrect the career of a lounge singer. A big break might be on the horizon, but it involves Danny sneaking the singer's mistress into the big show, a seemingly easy chore that doesn't end up that way.

Easy-going breezy comedy with a shot of nostalgia, and that's just not because it's in black and white. Woody Allen, by the way, might be as good an actor as Quentin Tarantino. I really like Mia Farrow here, acting most of time behind giant sunglasses. This is very funny for a movie from the 1930s. It's also got a sweet, 1930's ending that doesn't make much sense.


2011 documentary

Rating: 14/20 (Mark: 10/20)

Plot: A look at real life superheroes who wander the streets of numerous cities at night to protect ordinary regularly-dressed citizens who also don't have superpowers. Some of them also help homeless people.

There's some nonsense at play here with at least one staged shot with the biggest nut of the bunch. Still, I was entertained by this and appreciated the intentions of most of these real-life superheroes. It's an objective expose about these characters, some who wish to remain as anonymous as Clark Kent, and the documentarians are only heard once when they ask one of the superheroes about whether or not he actually has a girlfriend that he's talking about.

But enough about the movie. I'd like to put a superhero league together to fight crime on the streets of Indianapolis. Let me know if you're interested and let me know what you'd like your superhero name to be, what special qualities or skills you have that will come in handy, and what crime-fighting experience you might have. Experience, however, isn't necessary.


1978 futuristic action masterpiece

Rating: 4/20 (Mark: 4/20)

Plot: Some evil people kidnap a couple "guides" and prep them for. . .wait for it. . .the titular Deatsport! That's an arena-style competition involving glass swords, motorcycles, and inexplicable explosions.

Corman needed another "death" movie and this is what happened. David Carradine is the Carradine in this one, and I'm willing to bet it's the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to him. Not that he would remember a thing since he was apparently stoned throughout the filming. This movie isn't good for the right reasons, but it does have just the right ineptitude to provide a few laughs. The action scenes are repetitive, and my brother and I speculated that this might have the record for most things exploding in one movie. Most of those are random explosions, by the way, as these motorcycle death machines (destructocycles, natch) seem to blow up at the slightest touch. A climactic sword fight scene is also repetitive and dull with choreography that doesn't even show the swords, presumably because they are made out of glass and would shatter if they actually connected. Richard Lynch is a lame bad guy with an even lamer script, and he's got something wrong with his neck that perhaps distracted me from discovering the smaller bits of genius hidden within Deathsport. You also get some bug-eyed cannibals that look like they waltzed straight out of Killers from Space. My favorite scene, by far, was one with a naked Claudia Jennings in a disco torture chamber. I could just imagine this conversation taking place between the directors:

Director 1: Hey, I was watching what we shot yesterday.
Director 2: Yeah? What did you think?
Director 1: I hate to tell you this, but Deathsport is really going to suck.
Director 2: Oh, man. That's a shame because we've already shot fourteen hours of motorcycles with silver cardboard boxes taped to them driving around the desert. And this is really going to hurt David Carradine because he's really putting his soul into this performance.
Director 1: What are we going to do now?
Director 2: Well, I do have some Christmas lights.
Director 1: You do? Fantastic! Let's go see if Claudia Jennings will take off her clothes!
Director 2: Bingo! You took the words right from my mouth, Director 1!

To continue the thread of decapitation, this movie does have a rather exciting one. And the lovely Claudia Jennings, it seems, was also decapitated in an automobile accident. Apparently, it ended her acting career.

Also recommended for fans of The Help.

From Dusk till Dawn

1996 George Clooney movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A pair of brothers kidnap a faithless preacher and his two children, drive to Mexico, and meet up with some vampires and Fred Williamson.

A tale of two movies, the first a very written tale of criminal activity and possible neurosis and the second a balls-to-the-grindstone (is that a phrase?) vibrant and chaotic and squelchy erupted bloodbath with decapitations and stake piercings. And Salma Hayek, a woman who makes Juliette Lewis look like a little boy. The brothers are interesting even if they're a bit cardboardish, and even though you've already seen this movie, it's still got a way to keep you guessing. There's a solid ten minutes in this, right after Salma's little dance, that is about as exhiliratingly bitchin' as cheapo gross-out mayhem can get. But my favorite part is how John Hawkes' Pete pronounces "microwave" or maybe his magazine selection. That and the words "Hey, Monkeyman."

Recommended for people who really liked The Help.

Bad Teacher

2011 comedy

Rating: 6/20

Plot: The titular teacher wants new tits, and after her rich fiance dumps her, she's having trouble figuring out a way to afford them on her salary. See, they just don't pay teachers what they deserve. She crushes (that's how the kids use this verb) on a new substitute teacher (although he shouldn't be rich--plot hole) while ignoring the advances of the gym teacher who is crushing on her. When it's announced that the teacher whose students do best on the standardized test will win a financial prize, she begins taking her job more seriously.

I really wondered if this would be a biopic about me, but it's not. I'm not a slut. And look at that--this wholesome family-friendly conservative blog is now likely to feel the wrath of liberals who don't like it when people call women sluts. My blog will be boycotted, and I'll be the second most hated blowhard after Rush Limbaugh. For that reason, I'm taking another point away from this movie. It's a movies-that-ruin-my-reputation-point-deduction rule. This movie wasn't funny at all even though everybody involved (with the possible exception of Jason Segal) is trying really really hard to make it work. Timberlake is intentionally miscast, and Phyllis from The Office makes a fool of herself. Things are more awkward and silly than humorous. Other than a car wash scene that was almost as magical as the one in Cool Hand Luke but that really made me wonder if I was watching a Carl's Jr. commercial, there's not much to see here. No, it's not as offensive to my profession (until somebody hires me to do something else, that is--if you're reading, just ask for my resume!) as Waiting for Superman, but it is offensive enough. And you just keep waiting for the character to change or learn a lesson because that's what happens in all stupid movies like this, but that doesn't happen either. And that might be just as bothersome.

Shane trivia: Even though this isn't a biopic based on my life and career, I did catch a few lines that I have uttered before.

"Adios, bitches!"
"Hey, zip your shit!"
"OK, we all know these tests are gay."

I've used all of those at one point. Again, if you're interested in hiring me, let me know in the comments below. I'm willing to do anything as long as it doesn't involve a lot of hard work.

The Brother from Another Planet

1984 urban sci-fi production

Rating: 13/20

Plot: The titular brother, a mute alien, crash lands in Harlem. He tries to adapt despite his inability to speak. Two mysterious men who I think might come from those Matrix movies in black pursue him.

This is far from the 1980s blaxploitation picture that I was expecting. Netflix kept telling me that I would like this one, so I finally said, "Fine, Netflix! I'm starting the damned thing! Are you happy now?" It's a science fiction B-movie with a dopey title, but it's not nearly as goofy as you would expect it to be. There's nothing over the top with the possible exception of the protagonist's toes, and all of the humor is very low key. My favorite scene is a short one where those aforementioned men in black walk into a bar while searching for the brother. I don't know what effect is used, but the film just seems off, like it's filmed backward or something. The men in black move with this lurching motion that is really cool. There are other cool small moments in this, but it really fits more into the "interesting failure" category than anything else. There's some social commentary (character names: The Brother, West Indian Woman, Hispanic Man, Haitian Man, Islamic Man, Korean Shopkeeper) and a lot of no-budget effects. The story's not always interesting, but I did like watching Joe Morton as the title character. He does a great job considering he's not given a single line. In all, I'm glad that Netflix recommended this even though the parts don't quite add up to enough of a whole. If nothing else, it was cool seeing all those early video game machines.

Thieves Like Us

1974 crime movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Bowie, Chicamaw, and T-Dub escape from prison and team up to become a bank-robbing team. While hiding out in a gas station, young Bowie falls for the owner's daughter who may or may not be Popeye's girlfriend. I'll have to check the timeline to verify that one. The life of crime puts a strain on their relationship.

In the last week, I've seen both Keith and David Carradine without shirts, both at the height of their pectoral powers. With a little research, I can probably see Robert Carradine's nipples, too, and complete what might be the first ever Carradine Nipple Trifecta. It'll be a first for this blog anyway.

Also, I got the opportunity to see Shelley Duvall naked. If I remember correctly (this could just be a delusion or fantasy on my part), she's also naked in Altman's 3 Women. I told my brother, a guy who I remember describing Shelley Duvall as "hot," and he emailed, "What was it like?" It's actually exactly like you'd imagine it to be.

This is one of those less-busy Altman movies with a focus on a lot less characters. Really, it's a focus on two naive souls and this impossible little romance that develops in the middle of this bank-robbing crime spree. It's a quiet, reflective movie, and the cinematography perfectly captures this long-gone Great Depression-era Americana. It's gorgeous and it's dusty, and it's got one of the things I really like about Altman--that ability to show this quiet little moment and make it feel like it's an important memory that came right from your own head. Also contributing to the period flavor is a lack of movie soundtrack. With this, you get all crackly diegetic music, mostly from radio seriels. Add some creaky rocking chairs and footsteps on a wooden floor and you've got a setting that is as quiet as the 1930s in the middle of all that dust. Even the robbery scenes, all but one at least, are quiet. Most of them are shot in a way so that the action can't even be seen. I think it's Altman trying to be funny. Altman's wry humor is all over this otherwise serious crime story actually. It's seen in the ineptitude of the titular thieves, especially during a "drawing straws" scene that I thought was hilarious but didn't laugh at. I was also amused at a robbing practice scene with a kid in blackface playing a porter. Carradine is good as this naive kid in way over his head, and the other two-thirds of the robbing trio--John Schuck and Burt Remsen--are perfectly cast. And I really do like Shelley Duvall who I always think is underrated as an actress.

Dodgeball--A True Underdog Story

2004 idiot comedy

Rating: 7/20 (Dylan: 13/20)

Plot: Norman Bates is about to lose his gym, much to the amusement of the cocky guy who owns the much larger gym next door. In order to save the family business, Norman and the gym's geeky clientele enter a dodgeball tournament with a fifty thousand dollar first prize.

This movie isn't as funny as Titanic. Actually, that might not tell you enough since certain moments of Titanic really are funny, especially when people start falling off the boat or that whole part at the end where the naked girl tells blue Gilbert Grape that she will never let go and then lets go something like ten seconds later. Sorry, spoiler alert if you haven't seen that one. No, it's probably more telling to type that this movie--a true underdog story, by the way--isn't even as funny as A Night to Remember. I don't like the way that Vince Vaughn walks. Is it just me or do other people feel the same way? This movie has extraneous Lance Armstrong. Seriously, it's like the lamest cameo appearance of all time.

I'm going to Hollywood to pitch the following idea: Take A Night to Remember, a finished movie from what I understand, digitally remove the iceberg, and digitally include Rip Torn throwing wrenches at the ship. That would be hilarious!

And that brings me to this week's blog question since the "Dinner Party with Movie Characters" was such a successful endeavor: What historical moment, one depicted on film or not, do you think would benefit most from having a Rip Torn throwing wrenches?


1997 movie about people doing math

Rating: 12/20 (Dylan: 13/20)

Plot: Seven strangers wake up in the titular cube. Well, really it's a whole bunch of cubes inside of one big cube. At least that's what they think. It's not like they can see the outside. Some cubes are booby trapped, so they have to be careful as they maneuver about to locate an exit. At least the cubes have pretty colors.

"Is that your two cents worth, Worth?"
"For what it's worth."

"But it is pointless!"
"That's my point."

See, this almost turns into an Abbott and Costello routine a few times. I think it's intentional. Dylan and I have been quoting that second bit of dialogue all week. This is a less-traditional entry in our prison escape movie festival, and it really was a little pointless. Of course, that might actually be the point, a sort of nihilistic or existential nightmare. It's not a bad premise, and I have to give credit to director Natelli for making something that looks so cool on what was likely a minuscule budget. Unfortunately, the writing isn't very good at all, and the acting might be worse. The woman who played the doctor (Nicky Guadagni) is the worst of the bunch, but the others really aren't far behind. Granted, I can't imagine shooting something like this would be much fun, and they did have a lousy script to work with. After a couple scenes of shocking violence, this loses its momentum and turns into a story about people doing math while really bad music plays. Seriously, this has a soundtrack so bad that the music actually made me tired. My initial prediction, by the way, was way wrong. They surprised me by using a different cliche than the one I thought they were aiming for. Neither would have made for a satisfying ending though. All in all, Cubeis a failure, but it's at least a pretty interesting one. And, in case I didn't mention it before, it's got math in it!

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

2004 love story

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

Plot: Joel plays hooky from work and takes the train to Montauk for reasons that he doesn't completely understand. He meets a blue-haired gal, and they hit it off. Soon, however, they discover that they not only were an item previously but that they both underwent an experimental procedure to wipe their memories clean of the other person. It's very touching.

Jim Carrey's such a good actor when he wants to be. He's got an everyman face that makes you want to root for him. I'd accuse myself of having a crush on him if I didn't already have a crush on Kate Winslet and/or Kirsten Dunst's underpants. This is such a fascinating fractured rom-com, one that is always more touching than it is funny. Intricately written and visually clever, this thing slides down the gullet so smoothly that it almost seems like it's half as long as it actually is. And somehow, even when the goings get sad, things still manage to be joyful. The storytelling feels fresh, and the premise, although there's so much sci-fi fantasy that you're forced to suspend disbelief more than a lot of romantic comedy fans might be willing to do, is creative. Other movies just aren't like this one. Sunshine entertains while making a pseudo-profound statement on love and loss and relationships. It's really a beautiful little movie.

You have to have a good eye, but this movie does contain a Tom Waits reference. And Jon Brion's got soundtrack duties for this one.

How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog

2000 comedy

Rating: 13/20

Plot: An impotent and misanthropic playwright hasn't had a stage hit in a decade. And that's not his only problem. His wife is pressuring him to knock her up, the neighbors have an obnoxious dog, and his new eight-year-old neighbor won't leave him alone. Oh, and he has a stalker. It's enough to make a guy as moody as Hamlet.

I had my doubts about the comedic stylings of Kenneth Branagh, but he's got a nice character to play with here. And really, all he needs to do to pull off surly and misanthropic is have an accent. The character is the type of character that I usually like, but the movie meandered a little too much, and there were a couple-few scenes where Peter went from likably mean to just plain mean. The little girl (Suzi Hofrichter) was fine, but her character was a little too much like an eight-year-old girl to actually be likable. Far from the documentary on how to kill dogs that I thought this would be, it was an almost-funny way to pass some time but nothing I'm going to remember seeing in a week.