Monster Dog

1984 werewolf movie

Rating: 7/20

Plot: Vince Raven returns to his childhood home to record a rock 'n' roll video with his entourage. Monster dogs happen!

Well, I couldn't pass up an Italian horror movie with a very-badly-dubbed Alice Cooper. The monster dog action is bookended with a pretty bitchin' song where Cooper rhymes "Billy the Kid" with "Jack the Rip-per" which, while at the time, I thought was pretty silly is something that I now realize is pure genius. I was really thrown off every time the characters called their van a camper. It must be an Italian thing. The dubbing is terrible in this. It has this weird cadence but perfectly matches the actors' lips, so it must be their actual off-rhythm. At one point, I wondered if the dubbing was making this movie worse than it actually was, but then I remembered what the monster dog looked like. Yeah, it's kind of like how it looks on the poster. There's also a random bloody guy running around who delivers these ominous but vague and ultimately befuddling threats on behalf of the monster dog. I laughed during a scene where he wonders off after talking to Vince Raven and his pals and shakes the bushes a little before Vince casually says, "The dogs must have attacked him." I also liked these giggling werewolf hunters, one who says, "I'm going to shoot him through the heart. . .with this silver bullet. . .that's how you kill werewolves." But that's not my favorite line. No, that would be the excited "Wow whee!" a guy yelps after spotting a tray of sandwiches. Warren Zevon is also in this movie and plays a character who is made sick to his stomach by queers and eventually gets it when he somehow manages to catch himself on fire. One thing I really have come to appreciate in movies is artwork created for the film, and this has a couple good ones:

I've got no clue what's going on in this last one, but if I saw that hanging on the wall of somebody's house, I'd either leave or ask to move in. Or look out for a monster dog!

The Warriors

1979 gang movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: During a big gang get-together at a New York City park, a charismatic gang member is murdered. The titular gang is blamed. Without any weapons but their spunk, they have to return to Coney Island, preferably alive, while moving through hostile territories.

So prior to this, was the whole live-action-freeze-frame-turning-into-a-comic-book-page been done before? I liked it here even though I feel like I've seen it too much lately in other movies. I liked the variety of gangs but kind of wished there were more of them as they were more colorful than the rather boring Warriors. I can imagine the conversations they have about their gangs' themes. "Ok, so you want to go with leather vests and no shirts--headbands optional? Sounds good to me? Anybody object?" I liked the clown baseball players, the mimes, and The Orphans led by either a retarded David Schwimmer or a David Schwimmer who was beaten repeatedly with a Ralph Macchio. And then there was a scene with a long guy wearing overalls and roller skates in the subway, and wondered, "Can he technically be considered 'a gang' all by himself?" before seeing that he had some friends. David Patrick Kelly plays the main villain a little too goofily, but that little "Come out the play" bottle trick is a nice musical number. I wish the fight scenes were a little more realistic or at least choreographed. I guess there's a chaos to them that does create a sort of realism. But I don't know. A lot of the fighting looks so much like play fighting. I did like a scene where a guy in overalls gets punched, hurls himself into a wall melodramatically, has a baseball bat broken across his stomach, and then falls awkwardly onto a trash can. This is an entertaining little B-movie apparently loosely based on a historical Greek battle legend which I think means you could probably show it in school.


2009 horror film

Rating: 12/20

Plot: A married couple struggling with a personal loss ventures to a cabin in the woods to try to work through their feelings. Things get graphic.

This is difficult viewing. Like The Wacky and Whimsical Whites of West Virginia, this is the sort of movie that I don't seem to be able to handle very well anymore. I can stomach a lot, but there are at least two shots in Antichrist that I just wish weren't there. Certain things seen, it's been said, cannot be unseen, and I'll admit that I flinched more than once during this one. This is a beautifully-filmed movie and the imagery is powerful for the most part, but von Trier seems to enjoy making me (and I suspect most people) really uncomfortable. Trust me--this one is difficult visually and it's difficult emotionally. A beginning black 'n' white montage, thought stunningly poetic and tragically beautiful, is tough, and things just get worse from there. It's also got Daniel Dafoe who I always have trouble believing is a real person. I'm not sure his penis is real either actually. Charlotte Gainsbourg is solid, and both of the leads wrestle bravely with some of the most challenging roles I think I've ever seen. I don't know why I said "leads" there because with the exception of a little kid at the beginning and some faceless walking symbols near the end, there aren't any other characters. Unless animals count. Talking animals. You know, the kind of talking self-cannabalizing foxes that you're used to seeing in a Disney flick. Ants and hawks, weird subtle wobbly cam effects, a CGI grotesque fawn, ominous acorns, and the tree-root/hand thing you see on the poster up there. I didn't get all the symbolism being shoved in my face, probably because the movie stole my will to live. This one pulls no punches.

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia

2009 train wreck

Rating: 10/20

Plot: Documentarians risk their lives and chronicle a year in the life of the titular West Virginia family, the most famous member being the subject of Dancing Outlaw.

I'm getting too old for this shit. My late-30s has transformed me into something stuffy. I think I would really have gotten a kick out of something like this in my younger days, but this drifting and pointless look at this family filled with not a single likable individual just managed to depress and bore me. I distracted myself by wondering what Hank Williams III was doing with these people and whether or not the documentarians were using the Whites didactically or if they were just kind of being made fun of. I didn't care either way. I imagine this sort of entertainment is analogous to a Jersey Shore or The Whorish Housewives of Wherever or something like that. Early on, a police guy or maybe he was the county prosecutor or something brought up a kid "from a humble background" going to MIT and wondered why he wasn't being followed around with a camera. It was actually a really good point.

Rocky V

1990 sequel to a sequel to a sequel to a sequel

Rating: 8/20

Plot: Rocky's gotten too old to punch people anymore. He's also run into a little bit of money trouble after a crooked accountant robs him. It's back to the crappy part of Philadelphia for poor Rocky and his family. Things look grim until he meets a young boxer who he decides to train for the heavyweight crown. Meanwhile, Rocky's son Rocky Jr. starts to feel alienated and becomes cinema's first goth kid. Mickey's still dead. Creed's still dead. Read this plot summary with a rock anthem behind it, and you've got yourself a montage!

Say what you want about the idiotic Rocky IV, but this one is just dull. The title crawl from the right is thankfully back, and we get to see a big ridiculous chunk of that bout with Drago where the commies decide to change their wicked ways and root for the guy with the red, white, and blue boxing trunks. And then you get to see a naked Stallone. Fantastic. Drago must have hit Rocky pretty hard, by the way. That or Stallone just flubs up his lines. Half of what he says in those first couple movies seems to be "Adrian! Adrian!" and at the beginning of his movie, after that pounding from Drago, he actually calls his wife Mick. He also tells his wife that "Maybe [he] should take [her] upstairs and violate [her] like a parking meter" which is probably not something you should say in front of your son. Speaking of his son, played by Sylvester Stallone's actual son Sage Stallone, he seems to have just as much acting talent as his dad. He acts as well as you'd expect a guy named Sage to act. All the scenes featuring children in this movie are pretty painful, and the hip hop score doesn't help. The dirty goth kid running off after Rocky Jr. beats up his friend ("I didn't like him anyway!") is pretty cool though. It's almost like Stallone wrote for these young characters without having ever been a child himself. And when his son starts rebelling, illustrated by his earring and his use of double negatives? It just so simpleminded. But back to the father. There's an entire conversation that Rocky has with Rocky Jr. where the former barely seems like he can speak English. He's back to the braindead Rocky of the first movie! Later, he wears a sweatshirt that rivals that tiger jacket in Rocky II for pure awesomeness. Oh, and Rocky has learned magic. He pulls things from about fifteen different ears in this movie which I think might somehow be how Mike Tyson got the idea to eat Evander Holyfield. I can't explain it here because I don't have time, but I have a few charts and diagrams to explain it all.

But I'm really making this movie sound better than it actually is. Sage Stallone isn't even the worst actor here. No, that dishonor goes to Tommy Morrison as Tommy "Machine" Gunn, a character whom I could not have possibly cared less about. He does look like a heavyweight boxer, maybe a little more realistic than Mr. T. or even Drago, but he's the least interesting antagonist in the series by far, and Morrison's acting abilities are dreadful. I did like the Don King character played by Richard Gant who would later play a character who couldn't find The Dude's Creedence tape. And Mickey's back from the dead, spitting all over the champion with his zombie spit. Ok, so it's not an undead Mickey. No, that'll probably happen in Rocky VII.

The real problem with this movie is the ending. Like the other movies, this builds to a climactic fight between Rocky and the antagonist, but this is a wild no-rules street brawl. "My ring is the streets!" What the hell is the lesson supposed to be here? I can't believe this is the way Stallone wanted to end things with this character ("Yo, Adrian! I did it! I beat up some thug in the street which actually doesn't, you know, solve any of our problems at all!") and the trumpety theme music almost seems blasphemous after some experimental flashback weirdness and that idiot son of his saying, "Knock the bum out! He took my room!" So stupid. And I think George Lucas ripped off dialogue from this for his fight between Anakin and Obi-Wan. "You and me was supposed to be brothers. I loved you." I think Obi-Wan says that verbatim in Revenge of the Sith.

This movie was almost no fun at all. Rocky movies aren't supposed to depress me! One more to go, and I can't imagine a movie where Rocky boxes at the age of 90 or whatever is going to be any good.

Revenge of the Nerds

1984 comedy

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Some nerds go to college. They're thrown out of their dorm room when the jocks burn their fraternity house down and team together to form their own fraternity. The jocks pick on them.

Not only did I start watching this movie--I finished it. Afterward, I felt more depressed than I've ever felt before. My will-to-live was at an all-time low. I made a mental list of well over one-thousand things that I could have done with the time it took me to watch Revenge of the Nerds. I wept uncontrollably for another ninety minutes.

For me, this is the typical 80's comedy, and that is not a good thing. I did catch the insult "douchebag" in there somewhere. I'd questioned its use in Wet Hot American Summer which was supposed to take place in '81. I wonder if Nerds is the first movie with a "douchebag" reference. It should be noted that the character (Booger, of course) did not call another character a douchebag; he just used it in an insult. The only chuckle this got from me was the following conversation:

"See that man over there? We arrested him for mopery."
"What's mopery?"
"Mopery is exposing yourself to a blind person."

And thinking about how that made me chuckle has depressed me again. So does thinking about the musical number where Poindexter plays an electric violin. I can't decide if that's the greatest thing I've ever seen or the worst thing I've ever seen.

Trivia: Booger has a real name in the movie--Dudley Dawson. Curtis Armstrong is one of the most underrated actors of all time, by the way.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

2010 horror comedy

Rating: 13/20

Plot: The titular hillbillies go on holiday, getting away from whatever it is they do to retire to their crappy cabin in the woods. While trying to relax, a group of college kids mistake their goodwill for something more devious and decide to attack them. It turns out really bloody.

And pretty funny. In fact, the simple line "Are you OK?" got one of the biggest laughs from me in a long, long time. This movie contains my second favorite wood chipper scene either. The titular hillbillies are likable though Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk play them awfully dipshitty. But the comic timing is perfect, and some of the lines are really clever. I'm fond of "He's heavy for half a guy," "He looks like he's gonna walk it off; he's gonna be fine," and my favorite as an English teacher, "Me and Tucker...I mean I and Tucker...Tucker and I brung you here." The college kids were annoying, and the Chad character really got in my way of completely enjoying what was going on even in the best parts of this movie. At around the 57 minute mark, things get a little tired. You really have to pay during the final third of the movie for the fast pace of the first two-thirds. Dale and Tucker also split up, and all the fun toying with movie cliches goes away as this turns into something predictable. Still, this is a fun and really splattery way to spend ninety minutes.

The Favour, the Watch, and the Very Big Fish

1991 comedy movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Louis takes photographs depicting Biblical scenes, and his boss is on him because he has yet to find a suitable Jesus. Meanwhile, he does a favor (sorry, favour) for an actor pal--orgasm voice work for a pornographic movie--and meets Sybil who he is smitten by. Her story leads him to meeting a piano player who looks a whole lot like Jesus. But this is just the beginning of Louis's problems.

Jeff Goldblum as Jesus? I'm in! This one's understated, very dry, and a little black, probably just like I like 'em. Goldblum is as funny as I've seen him, both as a piano player who doesn't look like Jesus at all (the faces he makes as he plays when his character is introduced are almost as entertaining as watching Chico play) and as the guy who not only looks like Jesus but starts wondering if he actually is Jesus. "My God! I'm so hungry!" got a nice laugh from me as did the "Don't touch me. Don't poke me" scene. And Goldblum's attack of a violinist was hilarious, a scene containing the second fork stabbing I've seen in a week. Hoskins is a bit of a straight man here, but he's a good one. The story is unpredictable and possibly a little too bizarre for most people with some scenes (I'm looking at you, healing-with-a-a-golf-ball scene) and a punchline that I don't think I liked very much. But the goat humping, the statue of a monkey strangling a woman (seriously, what is that?), and the beggar's sign ("IMA BLIDN") made up for the stuff in this that didn't work. This will have to hit the right people at the right time, but I'm really glad I watched it.

The Great Buck Howard

2008 comedy

Rating: 14/20

Plot: The titular washed-up illusionist hires a new assistant who has disappointed his father Forrest Gump by not finishing law school. Buck Howard isn't the nicest of employers or the easiest to deal with, but Troy does his best to help him in his attempts to make a comeback and get back on The Tonight Show.

Love seeing Malkovich in comedy roles, and although he might not have a lot to work with here--the writing, the other performers--he's a lot of fun here as the illusionist, especially when he becomes unglued. The dopey handshake, the piano performances, and the magician showmanship that paint Buck Howard as this almost deliriously unhip fellow who is not really likable at all but still manages to be somebody you want kind of almost want to root for. The real main character--with his narration, the conflict with his father, the love interest--didn't interest me at all. That's Tom Hanks' boy, and he doesn't seem to have much of a future in this business. You do have to give credit to a movie that establishes Jay Leno as a "dimwit" and manages to include a scene with Gary Coleman, a juggling little person, and a ventriloquist in the same room without making my television ejaculate. Worth watching for Malkovich fans.

Rocky IV

1985 propaganda piece

Rating: 10/20

Plot: A powerful Soviet boxer named Drago punches Rocky's friend Apollo Creed to death. Rocky travels to the Soviet Union, a place that once existed, to train and fight the monster.

Monster. Seriously, was I supposed to be rooting against Drago in this movie, and more importantly, does the fact that I really wasn't put me on some kind of Joseph McCarthy list? As pro-America and pro-democracy as this movie is (and believe me, it's as proud to be an American as a guy wearing red, white, and blue boxers at a monster truck rally), there are some mixed messages throughout this. We start with exploding boxing gloves, not the traditional title crawl from the right, and automatically, this does not bode well. Then, you get to Paulie's birthday party where the birthday boy gets a robot. Only in America, right? This was actually the first "Rocky" movie I ever saw, and I remember being confused and bored by all this birthday and robot shit. I probably wondered, just like I did when I watched it this time, if Paulie and the robot were going to have an intimate sex scene. Apollo seemed to think so. The robot is probably a good symbol for what is wrong with America in this movie, but I'm too tired to get my thoughts together on that. I do know that America just seems so cocky and cheap and loud. You get all these flashy shots of a Camaro at the beginning of one of about five thousand montages. Then, you get flamboyant Apollo's entrance before his last tragic match, and you can just tell that James Brown confuses the heck out of Drago. So you get these clashing ideals in the ring--capitalism vs. communism, old (Apollo and his training techniques) vs. new (Drago and all those machines the commies got), a cocky guy who is all style vs. a guy who just wants to freakin' box, pomposity vs. stoicism. And by the way, I prefer Drago's entrance music more than anybody else's in any of these movies. I like movie music that I can play anyway, but that synthesizer/hissing breath thing is just cool. Drago trains really hard, just as hard as Rocky or Apollo, so I'm not sure what the message is supposed to be. And Rocky is chopping down trees for no good reason, so you know the environmentalists (probably, commies anyway) are going to be rooting against him. And then, look at the fight itself. First, you know who's going to win because these movies have gotten predictable. But look at how Rocky wins. He gets lucky during the fight, and he cheats by hitting after the bell, but they try to keep Drago as the bad guy by having him retaliate. I wonder if Rocky had something stuffed in his glove to cut Drago actually. I wouldn't put it past him! There's also a moment in round two where Rocky gets knocked down but doesn't get a count. What the heck? I just don't see how Drago is the villain in all this (aside from a half-second shot of him being injected with something which suggested he's not all-natural), but his hometown crowd does as they start rooting for Rocky at the end which has to be the dumbest thing about any of these Rocky movies. Poor Drago was probably shot like a wounded racehorse after the fight, and after all that hard work, I just felt sorry for the guy. I also feel sorry for anybody with an aversion to movie montages since Rocky IV has to break the record for most in one movie. There are at least seven, and counting the opening sequence which, just like the other sequels, is the end sequence of the previous movie, this has about forty minutes of footage that we've already seen before. It's like they filmed Rocky IV, realized they only had about fifty minutes of movie, and said, "Yeah, we can just pad the rest of this with some of the best moments from the other three movies." This movie, despite being an offensive chunk of propagandist cheese, gets a 10/20 only because you get a formidable foe with Drago (I like Dolph more than Mr. T. and the Hulkster combined actually) and because even though Mickey is dead (he shows up in those montages though), that ring announcer's mustache is alive and well. But overall, this movie should be as embarrassing to America as slavery and the treatment of the Native Americans.

As mentioned, I watched this Rocky before the others. More than likely, this one turned me against the series and kept me from giving the first movie a chance until I was in my late-20s.

One more thing--2,150 pounds per square inch, the most force of one of Drago's punches, I believe. Wouldn't that be enough to completely destroy Rocky's skull or literally tear his head from his neck? That would have been a nice end to the story actually--Adrian catching her husband's head in her lap and Rocky looking up at her and saying, "Yo, Adrian. I guess this is it for old Rocky, huh?" Or just "Adrian! Adrian!" with a cut to Paulie having his way with his robot or Rocky's son, who acts just as well as his dad, crying. That's an even better end to the Balboa story than the one I imagined for Rocky II where a truck hits the boxer and kills him in front of thousands of children.

The Cruise

1989 documentary

Rating: 17/20

Plot: A few days in the life of New York City bus tour guide Timothy "Speed" Levitch who waxes profusely, shows off for the camera a bit, and just might be having sexual relations with the city.

I also watched this in honor of the Titanic tragedy. I'm moved by Levitch's message ("the most beautiful failure is the pursuit of individuality"), his lovely singing voice (Gershwin's "There Writing Songs of Love but Not for Me"), and the little biographical tidbits that are peppered throughout this. This is a movie that is about Levitch's loneliness in one of the most populated cities on earth than anything else. No, not everybody is going to appreciate this oddball (eyeing you here, Cory), but I really enjoy the 80-or-so-minute journey through Levitch's noggin. His goal to be "thrilled to be alive and still be respected" or desire to "look at the flower, appreciate the beauty of the flower, and have the flower appreciate the beauty of [him]" and other ramblings could be tossed off as this neo-hippie nonsense, but I just find them profound and beautiful. Maybe his worldview just matches up with mine. When he talks about having an "intimate love affair with a flower" and how that would be a much better experience than having one with "some of the more banal creatures of the human race," I can definitely identify. But no, I've never looked at leaves and thought of them as sexy. And I don't have a terracotta fetish either, but I can be entertained by his simulated (I hope) orgasm that he has while a few confused pedestrians look on. It rivals Meg Ryan's work in that one movie. The tour guide stuff was fascinating, too. You get to find out Dylan Thomas's last words, and it's always nice when a tour guide points out the sun.

"This is ludicrousness, and it cannot last!"

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover

1989 grotesque art

Rating: 18/20

Plot: A brutish bully and sort of vague criminal--the titular thief--frequents the lush dining establishment of the titular cook. The titular abused wife meets her titular bookish lover there and begins boinking him nightly behind her husband's back. He's too busy eating fistfuls of pudding, behaving unruly, and verballing assaulting his friends and fellow patrons to notice anything like that. But when he finds out? Oh, snap! This goose is cooked!

First saw this at Clown College with Kent back in '93. It was my first trip through a Greenaway movie, and I just didn't get it. I think we rented that and Henry and June because they were both NC-17 and wanted to see some boobs. This has some boobs, specifically the two belonging to Helen Mirren, but that's not the reason to see this. The reasons to see this are the performance of Michael Gambon as the thief and the pretty pictures that Greenaway gives us. First, what's not to love-to-hate about Gambon's character? He's got to be in the running for the most despicable movie character in the history of film, right along with most of Shirley Temple's characters. What a villain. But since this is a blacker-than-black comedy, he's kind of funny, too, and he gets all sorts of great one-liners.

"There's a lady present. She doesn't want to see your shriveled contributions."
"You'd just be interested in whipping it in and whipping it out and wiping it on your jacket." (more clear in context probably)
"I think those Ethiopians like starving."
"A cow drinks its weight in water twice a week. For milk. Cause a cow's got big tits."
"I didn't mean that you literally had to chew his buttocks off. I meant it metaphorically."

It's great stuff. And it's dark and filthy, almost enough to make you feel dirty for watching the thing. It's like low-brow potty humor for the artsy-fartsy crowd. I mean, the movie starts, just like Ridicule, with a character pissing on a guy, but this takes it one step further and adds fecal matter. But as grotesque as things get, Greenaway and his cinematographer Sacha Vierny of Last Year at Marienbad fame keep things so artistic. Greenaway doesn't make motion pictures; he makes motion paintings. And there are countless shots in this son of a bitch that just floor me as the camera moves through the kitchen of the restaurant. There's no way this restaurant is passing a health inspection, by the way. There are feathers flying all over the place, a random castrato, a naked guy with shit all over him, cigarettes in the soup, a chubby shirtless guy, a truck of rotting meat, people having sex right there by the loaves of bread. But it's all so beautiful, and it's just not fair that I can only take in Greenaway's visuals with one of my senses. I'd really like to use more of them. I love the way he toys with colors in this movie with the character's clothing changing color as they move from room to room. One great scene involving a fork has this gradual reddening as the thief passively (ironic passivity) spreads something on a cracker before an intense bathroom destruction. And how the heck does one choreograph dogs and breaking bottles? Oh, man. Throw this movie in a museum because it's a visual masterpiece, marred only by a lengthy conversation near the end of the movie that I think almost spoils the surprises at the end. That scene's problem might be the acting of the cook though. Otherwise, just a lovely and disgusting movie.

Rocky III

1982 sequel sequel

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Rocky's now the champion of the world (see Rocky II, or just the beginning of Rocky III since it shows you the end of the second one anyway) and is fighting chumps. A new challenger with a mohawk bursts onto the scene. A blast from Rocky's past comes along to help train him for his big fight. Meanwhile, there are Adrian problems.

This is no worse than the last sequel, but as entertaining as things are--and they are mostly very entertaining--things are really starting to get ridiculous here. I do love the title crawl from the right in these. Iconic. After that, the movie goes downhill, but I'm glad I got to see the end of Rocky II again since I didn't notice blood on the referee the first time. Then, we get not just one montage but two, including an "Eye of the Tiger" montage with a Muppet sighting. The characters are as colorful as the storytelling is formulaic and clumsy. Mickey's in there to deliver his Mickey-isms, my favorite being "You ever fight a dinosaur, kid? They can cause a variety of damage." And there's Mr. T. whose Clubber Lang would be a really cool character if he wasn't just stealing Apollo Creed (love the names in these) dialogue from the other movies--my suspicions, at least--and if there wasn't all that cartoonish grunting. It takes away a little of his presence, I think. The Rocky character seems even less brain-damaged than he did in the first two movies which makes no sense at all. Stallone's writing makes it clear that he might not be all there, however. Adrian seems superfluous all of a sudden, and the less screen time for her, the better. And then there's Hulk Hogan as Thunderlips. What the hell is going on with that match with Thunderlips? And what the hell is he talking about most of the time? Love slaves? Punching cops? Who thought this scene was a good idea? Rocky's screaming of "Adrian!" (of course) and "Catch me!" when Thunderlips is getting ready to throw him into the crowd were funny though. And I didn't realize Hulk Hogan was so huge. Anyway, this is a fun enough little movie, but it's so cartoonish and doesn't have nearly the emotional impact of the others.

And nobody thought taking Mickey to a hospital would be a good idea? What's wrong with these people.

Titanic: The Legend Goes On...

2000 abomination

Rating: 2/20

Plot: Apparently, this is based on the true story of an actual boat called Titanic that ran into an iceberg and sank. Except this version has talking mice and rapping dogs.

I shit you not, dear readers! Rapping dogs. Not only are they rapping (poorly) on a ship that sank, oh, roughly sixty-seven years before rap music even existed (that's right, suckers, I'm throwing credit to "Rappers Delight" and the Sugarhill Gang), but they are doing their thing doggy style in front of a brick wall, a kind of wall I'm not sure they had on the RMS Titanic, that has a piece of paper with the words "rap music" written on it. This follows a classic line, perhaps a historically classic line but I'll have to do some research on the Titanic tragedy to know for sure, uttered by one of the mice: "If it wasn't for you, I would have ended up in somebody else's digestion!" One of the rapping dogs is carrying a boom box which I'm not sure was invented by 1912 either. I'm not sure how many people were in the room where this scene of the movie was planned and actually decided it was a good idea, but they might as well have gone down in one of those submarine things with James Cameron, found a few victims of the tragedy, brought them back to the surface, strapped them to an iceberg, and pointed and laughed at them. It would have been less offensive maybe, unless Celine Dion was invited. Speaking of her--there might be a song in this that is worse than that grating song from Cameron's little boat movie. I'll call it the "Yi yi yi ya ya, You're in My Blood, You're in My Blood" song. Actually, it's not only worse than the Celine Dion song (which I call "Goo La Doo La Gooly Doo")--it might be worse than the Titanic tragedy itself. This thing is poorly animated with out-of-proportioned characters, on-screen jitters, and stiff backgrounds. And most of the characters seem ripped from other movies--loads of Disney, Speedy Gonzalez, An American Tale, Home Alone maybe. Lots of stereotypes, too, the kind you just don't get to see much since they stopped showing the Warner Brothers cartoons. Appalachia, Jews, Mexican. The sound and translation work are equally embarrassing, with some lines not making much sense at all and some lines being repeated in this almost trippy way. It's bad in bewildering ways, probably (taking into account the tastelessness of the whole thing) the worst cartoon that I've ever seen.

The Producers

1968 comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: An accountant and a theater promoter come up with a can't-miss plan to swindle their way into riches by getting people to invest in a show guaranteed to be a flop--Springtime for Hitler. The plan does not go as expected.

It's Gene Wilder in the Unhinged Character Hollering Competition of his life! Good ol' Gene can get frantic, upset, and angry with the best of them, but flabby Zero Mostel as the producer and unlikely ladies' man, Kenneth Mars as the play's writer, and Dick Shawn as the titular dictator in the musical-within-a-movie all give him a run for his money. Watch Wilder going bonkers over his blue blanket, however, and you'll want to hand him an award of some kind. There are some classic moments and a lot of stuff that seems dated, but it's hard for me to see a room full of Hitlers practicing their saluting and not want to laugh. And remember, the fuhrer never said baby. That's all I have to say about this movie.

Rocky II

1979 sequel

Rating: 12/20

Plot: The world champion's pissed following the improbable conclusion to the last movie. People are questioning whether Creed really deserved the decision, and his ego can't take it. He pressures our titular hero into a rematch. Rocky's reluctant, and his manager and wife aren't happy with the idea. Family pressures and an inability to read become other obstacles that Rocky must overcome, and there's only one thing that can save him--a leather jacket with a tiger on it!

I'll argue that Rocky inexplicably seems more lucid the more he gets hit in the head, but that tiger jacket? Nobody in his right mind is going to see that thing and think it's a good idea. He also proposes to Adrian ("Yo, I was wondering if you wouldn't mind marrying me very much."), clumsily, at the zoo in front of a tiger who looks to be embarrassed that he has to be in the movie, and Gazzo's driver in the first movie told us that the zoo is where retards like to go. Remember: driver's words; not mine. Later, we get the classic "I never use condominiums" line, Rocky's admittance that he can't "tell time real good" [sic], and the reading "It makes me smeal mainly" from a cue card. And there's that Tarzan yell again, something that's got to be scripted. So the answer to another character's question "Do you think you had brain damage?" would still have to be a definitive yes, but his brain still seems stronger than it did in the first movie, a trend that will oddly continue through the first four of these movies.

This is very much a case of "second verse, same as the first." We start by showing the end of the first movie again, something that happens in all the rest of these Rocky movies and in The Karate Kid II. There are more Jesus allusions, and the biggest difference is that we get a more offensive, improbable Hollywood feel-good ending. Now, I'm not a boxing expert (there was a time when I did watch a lot of boxing though), and I've never even been in a fight, but I might know more about the sport than Stallone's character here. If somebody is punching me, I'd at least know to put my hands up and protect my face. The boxing match that ends this chapter in the story could only happen in a movie. But more offensive than that to my sensibilities is the whole Hollywoody Adrian coma nonsense even though we get to see a premature baby with more hair than Mickey and hear what might be the worst poem ever recited on film. Am I a bad person for laughing during that scene? I like that the Apollo Creed character has two sides here--the showman and the more classy other side. And initially, I thought Burgess Meredith's Mickey was going to save this thing. The more Mickey we got--"He'll hoit ya poymament!"; "A good snarl can give you what the Bible calls a psychological edge."--the better. Later, I changed my mind about that as Mickey turned into more of a parody. Still, Burgess Meredith is the best thing about this movie.

My idea for how this should have ended: At the 1:30 mark, while Rocky is running and being chased by about a thousand children, he's struck by a truck and dies instantly. That would have saved us all from a lot of nonsense.

One more thing: I'd like to live in a place where guys sing around burning trashcans.

Wet Hot American Summer

2001 comedy movie

Rating: 12/20

Plot: It's the summer of 1981, the last day at Camp Something-Rather.

Did people in 1981 use the word "douchebag" as an insult? I would have guessed late-90s for that one. This has a who's-who of funny famous people, and it is frequently pretty funny. It's episodic, great for the MTV generation, so if you don't like one of the threads (like Molly Shannon's arts-and-crafts-loving character's subplot), you don't have to suffer much. This is an example of a movie that is more fun than it's good. You have to wonder though--is a parody of the already-too-goofy summer camp movie genre really necessary? The conversations between David Hyde Pierce and Janeane Garofalo were the funniest parts of the movie, but I did like Christopher Meloni's Gene character. I did not recognize him, by the way. Oh, and look who else is in this movie--Bradley Cooper. I think I broke my record for most movies without Bradley Cooper before seeing this one.

Something really bothers me about Paul Rudd. I'm not saying that I want to fight him or anything, but I wouldn't have any problem fighting him if it became necessary. I'll even call him a douchebag right to his face.


1976 love story

Rating: 17/20

Plot: The titular boxer, an over-the-hill part-time amateur pugilist and part-time loan shark bruiser, gets the chance of a lifetime when the cocky heavyweight champion of the world challenges him to a match. Balboa balances training and courting Adrian, a shy pet store employee, and prepares physically and mentally for his second chance.

This isn't a movie about just one underdog, the titular one. It's an underdog overdose! It really lays on the resurrection theme pretty thickly from the get-go with the first shot being a painted Christ and the word "resurrection" actually appearing on a sign in the background. I also love how Rocky is later compared to Albert Einstein, Beethoven, and Helen Keller. Which gives me an idea--maybe I'll tackle a Helen Keller boxing movie after I finish writing and directing my sequel to The Diary of Anne Frank. I can't watch Carl Weathers without saying, "You got yourself a stew." But he's good here, convincing as both a boxer and an actual human. He's got pizazz. My favorite bit of acting from any of these movies is Apollo's look in the 14th round after Rocky gets up again. Love Burgess Meredith's Mickey, too, so grizzled. His face is perfect for this part as a guy with 1,000 years of boxing experience. Maybe Stallone should have had his character write the movie to make the boxing parts of it a little more believable. Another thing I respect about this movie is that is that it succeeds with two hearts--the sports story and the love story. You get a brutal 15 rounds of bloody boxing, cracked ribs, blood being spat out, cut eyes, etc., but the movie ends with an "I love you!" The result of the boxing match can barely be heard in the background as Rocky looks for his gal. I really am touched by the whole thing, as manipulative and movie-ish as it is.

But let's talk about Rocky. I'm making my way through the Rocky movies, two-thirds of them for the very first time. It seems that with as much as Rocky gets punched in the head, he should become more and more brain-damaged. I think that's how brains work anyway though admittedly, I am not a scientist. In this first movie, Rocky is so simple and childlike, and Stallone plays the character as mentally challenged. He has conversations about turtle food with himself in the mirror; Tarzan-yells at a dog that I believe is named Butt Kiss; asks, "How do you spell Del Rio?"; says things like "Hey, I won't let that happen no more, about the thumb, you know?"; has trouble opening his locker, something that I see the dumbest 7th graders in the world accomplish daily (OK, to be fair, he does technically get it open, and it's a padlock problem rather than a Rocky's brain problem, but still--it took him a long time to figure it out, right?); greets birds with a "Hey, birds!" that rivals the way Tommy Wiseau's dog greeting (seriously, all bad movie appreciators need to check out The Room) and later compares birds to "candy, like flying candy"; has these goofy arguments with Buddy the driver (Rocky, "I don't like YOUR face" is not a good comeback to "I don't like your face." It really isn't.), a character who says, "I heard retards like the zoo" which made me wonder if the Dead Milkmen were inspired to write a song after seeing this movie; says "I ain't never talked to no door before" which is, if my counting is correct, a triple negative, a line he delivers after needlessly introducing himself as Rocky twice; introduces himself as Rocky to Adrian again on the television because he must have gotten television and radio confused ("Yo, Adrian. . . it's me, Rocky.); impresses girls with the old "Ahh ahh ahh ahh! I just dislocated my finger" trick; asking if he's talking too loud which, most of the time, he really is; delivers a nice "Ehh-yo" cymbal crash after his punchlines; refers to himself as both dumb and a moron; thinks turtles and a gold fish are "rare animals"; explains his Italian Stallion nickname by saying, "I invented that one day when I was making dinner." (By the way, are boxers supposed to give themselves nicknames? That seems amateurish to me.); gets egg all over himself when he drinks his breakfast; says "moo" at one point; asks, "Does it ever snow in here?" which might have been a joke but it's hard to tell sometimes with Rocky; and says Apollo "looks like a big flag."

But as the Rocky story progresses, he sounds more and more intelligent. I don't get it.

It's almost too bad there were sequels. Alone, Rocky is a great feel-good story and piece of Hollywood myth-making. And it teaches the audience a lesson that yes, even a mentally-challenged way-out-of-his prime fighter can lose a boxing match.

Screwball: The Ted Whitfield Story

2010 comedy

Rating: 6/20

Plot: During the 1994 baseball strike, professional wiffleball legend Ted Whitfield attempts to break the home run single single record of 122. Controversy surrounds him as cheating accusations arise.

This half-assed mockumentary, one that doesn't really follow its own rules and ends up being a half-mockumentary/half-straight-fiction, has a handful of interesting ideas mixed in with all the poop and penis jokes and cheap drug references. I thought having this coincide with the '94 strike and a lot of subtle references to McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds was kind of clever. The blue dinos, a performance-enhancing vitamin, and the diming the bat episode were almost funny. And it was fun hearing a pretty good Harry Caray impersonator. Unfortunately, this wears thin very quickly. It really should have been a nine-minute short on Youtube instead of a feature-length movie. Oh, well. At least I got to use my bestiality tag again. A movie about wiffleball does seem like a promising idea. And this one, though nowhere near a good movie, did inspire me to start up an adult wiffleball league once I recover from my foot injury surgery. Two-man teams, standard rules. So far, I've recruited one other guy, and I know my brother and brother-in-law will play. So I guess you could say that Screwball: The Ted Whitfield Story was an inspiration.


1989 tornado movie that isn't that 1996 tornado movie

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Not much of one. A carbonated beverage tycoon lives with his son, daughter, grand-daughter, and housekeeper. He's dating a woman who hosts a religious program for children. His children want to find Mom. The daughter's ex-husband wants back into the fold. Somewhere mixed in all this is a tornado.

But no, this isn't that more famous and funnier tornado movie with Helen Hunt and that nondescript guy. I would have rather been watching a version of that with Crispin Glover though. That one's pretty straightforward. This one will have you asking, "What the hell am I watching here?" At times, I had to wonder if the actors and actresses were even on the same page in the script. Or even if there was a script. The movie's called Twister, but to be perfectly honest, it could have been called Ping Pong, Soda Pop, Bad Guitar Music, or Inflatable Dinosaur because those are just as important to the "plot" of this thing than the tornado. I'm positive that this is supposed to be a comedy, but I'm not sure there's an audience who's going to be in on the joke. You get all kinds of terrific dialogue, including this gem:

Dylan (ex-husband character played by Dylan McDermott, kissing Maureen in front of a giant television showing some cartoon): Can we go someplace more private?
Maureen: Let's go outside.
Dylan: No. I just came from there. There's a tornado out there.

What? And then all of a sudden, there's a horse in the house. None of the characters seem bugged by its presence, so why should I be? Of course, I put this on for the Crispin Glover, and he doesn't disappoint. Well, unless you're disappointed by baffling acting performances for characters that don't make much sense. He's weird here, even for Crispin Glover. He spends a lot of the movie in a red velvety suit, probably from his own personal collection, and gets a reverby musical number that sounds like it might be improvised. It reminded me a lot of outsider musician Jandek. You also get a scene where Glover's beaten up by a young Tim Robbins and another later scene where Crispin Glover fights a wall. He gets angry a few times, and it's always fun to watch an angry Crispin Glover. There are also cameos by guys named Donal Donnelly and Ralfe D. Reber as a twitchy doctor and a golfer respectively. I think the latter they must have just found on the golf course a few minutes before shooting the scene. It's his only film credit. Donnelly was in Godfather III and some other things though. But my favorite performance in this comes from none other than William S. Burroughs in a tiny role as Man in Barn. Seriously, I'm surprised I didn't have to clean myself up after find a movie scene where William S. Burroughs and Crispin Glover are in a barn together. Burroughs' target practice (of course) is interrupted and he answers a "Where's Jim?" question with the classic: "Jim got kicked in the head by a horse in February. He went around killing horses for a while. Then he ate the insides of a clock and died." That cameo alone was worth about five points for me.

Let me know if you want me to review the tornado movie with Helen Hunt and the nondescript guy because I'll do it for you!


1996 witty movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Some French guy travels to Versailles in order to get the king (Louis CXVII or something) to help him drain some swamps. He learns quickly enough that the only way to get an audience with the king is to be wittier than everybody else. He's assisted by a doctor whose lovely and bosomy daughter is trying to perfect her diving suit invention. Meanwhile, there's a whore who kind of looks like Lyle Lovett, and she keeps trying to play footsy with him while he's busy getting his wit on. I'm sure it would have all made perfect sense back in the 18th Century.

Just two minutes in, a guy whips it out (it, being the penis) and urinates on an old man wearing an eyepatch. Cory recommended this one; he really likes that sort of thing. Here are three things that stand out about this movie:

1) This is exactly why everybody hates French people. In a way, it's hard for me to believe that people were ever like this, but then I think about how people are today and believe that people were definitely like this. I like the characters' faces after they make a witty remark, most, by the way, that I didn't even understand. Their expressions made me laugh and want to punch some random French guy.

2) The writers of this totally took that "jawbone of an ass" gag (where a character thinks of a witty retort way too late as he's traveling home from one of these awesome parties) from a Seinfeld episode. You know, the jerk store one.

3) I'm going to try to find every opportunity I can to say "Your butt is wider than your mouth" to people. I don't even know what that means, but it definitely sounds like something.

I liked this movie though I'm not a big fan of stuffy period pieces regardless of how much beautiful cleavage they throw on the screen. The costumes and settings provided a colorful backdrop to the frequently clever dialogue. And although I thought a lot of this was a little cold or, yes, stuffy, I thought a scene near the end with some deaf mutes was pretty touching. If I knew anything about French history and what happened to some of these people after most of this movie takes place, I bet I would be able to appreciate some of the irony more. Nice recommendation, Cory, and definitely not something I would have popped in on my own.

Smoke Signals

1998 Native American movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Victor and Thomas are a couple Native American teens living on a reservation. Thomas is a nerdy storyteller, and Victor's kind of a cool jock. They're not friends exactly, but when Victor's estranged father dies, Thomas, whose life was saved by him, travels with him to pick up the ashes.

This is apparently the first feature film written, produced, directed, and starring Native Americans. It works as an understated comedy with a nice theme about the sins of our fathers regardless of the Native American characters even though the storytelling tradition of the people is important to the way the story's told. Evan Adams is so good as the nerdy Thomas Builds-a-Fire; the way he tells his mostly pointless stories is like he's trying to hold on to hundreds of years of tradition. The dynamics between the two kids are interesting. They've got their problems, and it's easy to identify with the two characters as they deal with those problems in their own ways. Gary Farmer from Dead Man and Adaptation is also in this. This isn't deliriously funny or anything, but I did enjoy the antics of the weather/traffic guy for the reservation radio station KREZ, and I learned a catchy little song about John Wayne's teeth.

Hobo with a Shotgun

2011 70's movie

Rating: 8/20

Plot: The titular hobo arrives in a town I believe is named Fuck Town, a "satanic dystopia" if you believe the graffiti. He finds nothing but crime and corruption, sticks his probably filthy hobo nose where it doesn't belong, and ticks off the town's big wig and his dopey sons. Finally, he's pushed too far, gets his hands (probably filthy) on the titular shotgun, and takes the law into his own hands.

Oh boy. What am I getting myself into here? This seems to be a halfassed production rushed out there to take advantage of the 1970's grindhouse revival. It's about as subtle as a hammer to the groin. More than likely, there was a scene featuring a hammer to a groin in this mess somewhere. This is a movie that doesn't take itself seriously at all but that probably needed to. There are moments of manic bloody genius if you're looking for a gorefest as guys are decapitated with barbed-wire nooses, heads are smashed between bumper cars, arms are broken on video game joysticks, faces are slapped with socks full of coins, school children on buses are flame-throwered, chests are pierced with ice skates, and. . .well, you get the idea. But the storytelling, acting, and writing are so bad, even for this sort of thing. See, you can't start a movie with a group of really loud people decapitating and a record-breaking amount of dick jokes (seriously, tally up the number of dick references in the first ten minutes of this thing) and then transition to the protagonist staring at a lawn mower with some sad piano music. What am I supposed to feel there? Somebody's head just flew off and a bunch of people danced as his blood rained down on them, and now I'm supposed to appreciate the depth of our hobo protagonist? You're asking for too much, filmmakers. You're distracted and, if you're the type of sicko who appreciates this kind of over-the-top gratuitous movie violence, amused during the bloody action sequences that take up at least half of this movie, but when the movie slows down, you realize how bad it is. Just check out some of this crap:

Hobo, after being taken to his prostitute friend's house where he will be given a sweatshirt with a bear on it: "I see you have an empty picture frame here. Why don't you put a picture of your family in there, or a dog or a cat?" What happens to that picture frame made me laugh. Or this line from the hobo: "You seem like a smart and intelligent girl. You should be teaching, tell people about beautiful things and miracles." You also get to learn a lot about bears during this touching scene. Then, there's what might be the action one-liner of the year: "First, I have to wash this guy's asshole off my face." I'll credit Rutger Hauer with one thing--he grabs onto this character and gives it his all. I'm not sure if he's playing this character without irony at all or if he's on some kind of level that I can't even comprehend where he knows that I don't know how seriously he's taking this movie and is just toying with me. Or he understands that I'm going to wonder if he's just toying with me, drops hints in his performance that he might be toying with me, and ultimately plays it as straight as he can. All of those are possibilities, and I don't feel that I can appreciate the tragic beauty of the scene where the hobo is talking to a bunch of newborns without knowing which. Anyway, here's my favorite dialogue from the movie:

Prostitute: This isn't the only place grass grows?
Hobo: Are you serious?
Prostitute: Yes.

It's not my favorite moment though. That would be a pair of emergency room doctors trying to save a girl's life which might be the funniest thing I see all year. And wait a second. Now there are armored guys and an octopus thing? This movie's just too much for me to handle.

Rutger, contact me. I'd like to send you my screenplay for my grindhouse kung-fu revenge flick sequel to The Diary of Anne Frank.

The Fall

2006 fantasy thing

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A paralyzed stuntman in a 1920's Los Angeles hospital meets a girl with a broken arm and begins telling her a story about five vengeful heroes and a monkey. She enjoys his disjointed tale of a search for the evil Lord Odious, but the storyteller might have ulterior motives.

I had to take a point away from this because the director, Singh, chose to go by a single name, Tarsem, for this production. And then there's the issue of this poster which is one of the ugliest things I've ever seen. I've seen The People's Tongue album covers that are easier on the eye than that. But then there was a really nice tribute to silent film stuntmen with Beethoven's 7th Symphony, 2nd Movement that teared me up a bit. Of course, it made me wonder if that particular piece of music, which I plan on dying to some day, is overused these days. It's no "Beyond the Sea" yet, but it's getting there. This is a movie with so much beauty in its individual parts that it's almost overwhelmingly sloppy. The sheer amount of locations the filmmakers would have had to travel to is impressive enough. Tarsem's visuals are often stunning, and the swimming elephants, dazzling colors, butterflies that morph into islands, and human meat chandeliers can remind a person why they watch movies in the first place. Unlike Alexandria, played by Catinca Untaru in a child performance that ranged from touching and with surprising depth to sort of annoying, I didn't care much for the story the guy was telling or its flat characters. But I was enamored with the visuals, these characters traveling to places that movies can usually only take us through the magic of CGI. I'm just going to assume computers weren't involved because it makes me like the movie more. Just as this movie's story and its story-within-a-story are all over the place, this is thematically all over the place as well, touching on dark thematic issues like depression, child labor, immigration, and suicide and happier ones like the powers of imagination. And movies. This doesn't always work and feels a little too long, but when it connects, it's almost magical. Buster makes a few appearances in that stuntman montage, by the way.

Midnight Cowboy

1969 Best Picture

Rating: 18/20

Plot: The titular cowboy moves to the Big Apple to make it big as a gigolo. He struggles until he runs into a two-bit criminal named Enrico Rizzo, and then he winds up struggling even more. Regardless, the two strike up a friendship and become roommates.

Everybody who knows me well knows of my affinity for Harry Nilsson, and I could hear "Everybody's Talkin'" 14,000 times without getting sick of it. Actually, I'm pretty sure I did hear it 14,000 times during the first half hour of Midnight Cowboy. Here's a classic that is not without its share of problems--the oft-imitated style makes it feel dated, as does the drug and sex and late-60's counterculture references. I'm not sure I care about the artsy-fartsy flashback sequences, but the experimental choppy editing gives this an almost nightmarish vibe that I really like. It keeps things ominous even though there's a sad humor just below the surface, almost like these two characters could have been plopped into a wacky sitcom in the late-70s and been just fine. Those characters? This movie's as much about New York in the late-60s just as much as these two, but it's a study of an unlikely friendship that never makes a lot of sense but is nonetheless touching. Voight's wide-eyed outsider, naivete dripping from his boots, keeps him likable even though he's too stupid to root for and is tough to pin down. Is he angry? He should be. Does he really think he's going to make it? He shouldn't. Hoffman creates this limping barely human character that you also like even though he gives you no real reason to like him. I like the nuances with his character--the reaching for the spare change in every pay telephone coin slot, the persistent coughing without a single covering of the mouth, the darting eyes. He's almost street smart, and you almost wonder what the circumstances were that put him in the situation he's in. And you almost believe him when he tells us that the two basic ingredients to sustain life are sunshine and coconut milk. The famous "I'm walkin' here" that leads into a pedestrian's shocked "What's that?" is pure 1960's movie magic. Voight and Hoffman are both great playing these characters who really should clash, but they have this weird chemistry and the friendship they develop is touching in a very strange and ambiguous way. This is a movie made of a lot of fine moments, a couple that work almost like little short stories. Buck's "I want to see the Statue of Liberty" come-on line that leads to a rendezvous with a cougar and a remote control ends in irony that might have been from an O. Henry story that never made it past the censors. And I just love the expression on the dog's face after that plays out. The movie's also got a great tragic ending. All Dustin Hoffman movies should end on a bus, I think. And hey, that's Bob Balaban!


2004 ghost comedy

Rating: 15/20 (Emma: 14/20; Abbey: 17/20)

Plot: A trio of paranormal psychologists open up a ghost extermination business after getting kicked off the university campus in which they research. They become a phenomenon as ghost encounters in Manhattan grow with the impending arrival of some devil thing.

Silliness abounds in this picture that adeptly combines comedy and horror in a very mainstream way. The special effects range from very good (the ghost in the hotel, the stuff in the library, the climactic arrival of the marshmallow man) to "How the heck did anybody think that looked good enough to be in a movie?" (the dog chasing Rick Moranis around). More subtle effects would have worked better for some of the monsters or the big castle thing, too. The story and comedy ranges from clever, especially when things are subtle, to just a little too much. Bill Murray is perfectly funny, and like a lot of his stuff, you really have to pay attention to his face even when he's not the one delivering the lines that are supposed to be funny. A Ghostbusters 3 just wouldn't work without him, and they should abandon the project immediately. The other guys are funny as well, and Sigourney Weaver maybe never looked better. Neither has the ultra-sexy Rick Moranis who also looks like a comedic genius here. And my argument hasn't changed much from when I first saw this in a theater: There's nothing more exhilarating than seeing that grinning marshmallow man. It's impossible not to see that monstrosity and laugh, isn't it?

I think I caught the sequel to this but remember nothing about it. Worth my time?

Tere Bin Laden

2010 movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Ali Hassan is a young Pakistani man with aspirations of making it in America as a news reporter. Unfortunately, his visa application is refused over and over again because of an incident where he kept using a couple no-no words on a flight to the United States. Things are looking bad until he runs into a Bin Laden look-a-like while covering a cock opera. That's right--a cock opera. Let's see if that word combination gets me some Google search hits! Anyway, Hassan decides to use the faux-Laden to record one of those wacky videos the real-Laden used, and the entire plan, as you'd expect, backfires.

Cock opera? Is that just as punnish in Urdu or whatever they speak in Pakistan? The cock opera sequence and all of the scenes with the Bin Laden doppelganger were funny. Mostly, however, this has a liveliness to it that is infectious without being all that funny. It's colorful and most of the action zips by so briskly that you can't get bored. The film's star, the Indian Zach Braff (Ali Zafar, but he should just change his name to "Indian Zach Braff" actually) sure is likable and full of energy. I'll tell you one thing though. I've not watched a lot of movies from India compared to other countries, but it seems that Bollywood sure likes its montages. And loud soundtracks. There's some very light and playful satire (love that the American military action is called Operation Kickass) that more than likely isn't going to offend anybody from anywhere who stumbles upon the movie. Things are lighthearted. Still, I appreciate the ballsiness.

Seriously, check that guy out. He's the Indian Zach Braff. They should get him to star in an Indian Scrubs, but it probably wouldn't make much sense since they don't have hospitals in India.

I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK

2006 quirky love story

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Cha Young-Goon's family has a history of mental problems. She becomes convinced that she is a combat robot and has to be committed. The doctors desperately try to get her to eat something, but she just wants to lick batteries and watch her toes light up. She meets a masked kleptomaniac who steals her panties and tries to trick her into eating.

There's a pair of moments in this one that touched me like nothing I've seen in any other recent romantic comedy. I can't give specifics because I wouldn't want to spoil this for any of my 4 1/2 readers, but one of them involves a cork and the other involves a door. There's another scene with a yodeling Japanese guy that also nearly made me weep. As did the line "A cat is, above all, a furry animal," a bit of dialogue that probably is funnier in context. This has a free-flowing cuckoo vibe, and people will call it a Japanese One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, a movie that some people refuse to even watch because it beat an inferior Jaws for Best Picture. The craziness is movie craziness with an asylum that wouldn't actual exist outside of the screen. You get characters with silly mental disorders probably used for comic purposes. They color the movie but don't really serve any real purpose, at least regarding the plot, until another kind of touching moment that takes place in a cafeteria. You get a guy who walks backwards, a woman who can only look at people in a mirror, and a variety of other characters humorously sick in their heads. I liked how this one was filmed, flamboyantly and with almost a French whimsy. It breezes on by, and although it's never really all that profound (it is, after all, a romantic comedy), it's a cute little story with some beautiful visuals. I might be in the minority here, but I prefer this one to Chan-wook Park's Oldboy.

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

2009 movie

Rating: 10/20

Plot: Following a difficult break-up, a graduate student dives right into her work, conducting the titular interviews with the titular hideous men.

I don't know why I watched this. I wasn't in the mood, had trouble staying focused, and haven't read the source material. I was curious to see what The Office's John Krasinski could do, I guess. There's just so much acting in this thing, and everything that was being said, whether it was in the interviews that served as little more than darkly amusing interruptions to a story that wasn't really going anywhere or the actual conversations the characters were having, just seemed so written. I was really kind of bored out of my mind. I also didn't care for the protagonist. Juliane Nicholson's performance is not good here, and the character lacked depth. The only reason I'm glad that I watched this was because there's a scene where a one-armed man makes air quotes. That was like a cinematic koan.

Leaves of Grass

2009 dark crime comedy

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Bill or Brady Kincaid has left Oklahoma where his identical twin brother, Brady or Bill, and his mother still live. He's an author and philosophy professor and wants nothing to do with his family or any state that has a panhandle. He travels back to his home state when he gets word that his twin brother has died.

This is a Coen-esque dramedy with some shocking violence and a humor from left-center field, but it's not as fully realized or, well, as brilliantly written as anything in the brothas' oeuvre. And whoa. There are at least three words in that last sentence that make me wonder if I should still be doing this blog. This is Tim Blake Nelson's baby. He wrote and directed, and he also plays a character who I'm convinced is actually just himself. Edward Norton, an actor my wife has a thing for, is good in one of those dual-performances, identical twins that are physically identical minus a mullet and some facial hair but completely different in the personality department. I always think Norton's convincing playing intelligent characters, and I think it's because of his voice. Here, he pontificates about Kierkegaard with the short-haired character and throws out Okies' jargon like "I don't cotton." He's convincing in both roles, and as strange as it seems to type this, he has really good chemistry with himself. Richard Dreyfuss also has a small role and gets to say, "I'd like everybody in the world to call me a cocksucker and give me a dollar because that way I'd be rich and everybody'd love me." Susan Sarandon's also in there, but she doesn't have any lines about being a cocksucker. The story's often implausible and things happen in this movie-quick way that never feels natural, but I do like the thematic tying-together of philosophy and meteorology. This might be like a diet Coen, but it's fairly entertaining, thematically easy, and well acted enough to make it worth your time.

Note: I don't remember if Norton's philosophy professor character (Brady or Bill) talked about Kierkegaard or not, but I thought it throwing that name in there would make me seem smarter and trick philosophy buffs into finding my blog.

Hands on a Hard Body: The Documentary

1997 documentary

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Twenty-four contestants participate in an endurance competition to win a brand new truck.

What I liked about this one is that a marketing gimmick turned reality television episode managed to transform into something a little more profound. The motivations of these various characters was fascinating, and psychologically, it was just interesting to follow the different states of mind of these contestants. There was a giggling fanatic who kept having these mini laughing religious experiences, a woman with no teeth supported by her husband with no teeth who claimed he could stay up without sleep for 101 straight hours and had a 20-ton air conditioning unit that could bring the temperature of his home to 12 below zero, a young woman who just wants to use the victory as a ticket out of town, and a former winner of the competition who had an almost zen-like approach. His description of this as a competition to see "who can maintain their sanity the longest" is accurate and makes for a fascinating contest, and there were some moments of real tension and suspense as the contestants started dropping. It's also one of those glimpses of something that could only happen in small-town America.

A couple bits of trivia from 1) Robert Altman planned to make a film based on this contest. That could have been terrific. 2) During the 2005 contest, one of the contestants stole a shotgun from a nearby K-Mart and killed himself during one of the breaks. Yikes. That person really stunk at the contest!

Chicken Run

2000 animated prison break movie

Rating: 17/20

Plot: A bunch of chickens, led by feisty Ginger, attempt to bust out of Tweedy farms. They fail many times, and things get more critical when the Tweedy decides to abandon attempts to make it with eggs and purchases a giant chicken-pie-making machine. A performing rooster named Rocky flies in and agrees, reluctantly, to teach the chickens to fly.

I love this little movie from the Aardman folk who bring us the Wallace and Gromit movies and not just because it can technically be described as a women's prison movie. Sure I wish they were a little more prolific, but these are labors of love, and the amount of detail that goes into these things makes them magical for children and adults. The details given to the strange looking characters and their odd expressions (I just love how the chickens have teeth in this thing) give them real personalities. The voice work is great in this, especially Tony Haygarth and Miranda Richardson as Mr. and Mrs. Tweedy and Benjamin Whitrow as the lone rooster Fowler. "The turnip's bought it!" and "Don't be ridiculous; I can't fly this contraption!" still makes me laugh. Mel Gibson, the only American voice in this thing, gives a terrific and inspired voice performance in something he could have been tempted to phone in so that he could concentrate on his first love--hating the Jews. The little details in the setting are also nice and give this location that you could easily imagine a Steve McQueen or Paul Newman trying to escape from a little of its own personality. There's so much on the screen to see here; it's so complex for a stop-animation feature. There are scenes where you have an impossible number of chickens making all these impossible-to-coordinate movements, and it's just amazing. Amazing, but I guess not impossible since they pull it off. Things get a little goofy at the end with an action sequence that crosses the line into absurdity and completely ignores the laws of physics, and a lot of people will get a little sick to their stomachs with the terrible puns delivered by a pair of questionable rats. Birds of a feather flop together, it's raining hen, "Dough!', poultry in motion, it's like an oven in here. Uggh. Otherwise, this is well written and clever with more than a few fun references to classic films. It's entertaining for the whole family! This is one of those movies that I have seen about a hundred times, by the way.

Oh, and it reminds me that I have a pirate movie to watch!

Hobson's Choice

1954 dramatic comedy

Rating: 17/20

Plot: The titular guy with really no choice at all (hence, a Hobson's choice) is a successful but aging cobbler who, as a widower, raises his three grown daughters. He's cheap, drinks a lot, and could probably be described as verbally abusive to his employees and family. He won't allow his daughters to marry because he's worried about paying a settlement, so his oldest daughter takes matters into her own hands, forcing Dad's top boot-maker to start a life and business with her. Then, she tries to help our her two sisters.

Love the opening shots of a creaking sign in the shape of a boot, a venturing into Hobson's boot shop, and an investigation of the setting. I like when the cinematography makes me feel like I'm intruding. I liked the characters, too, even though I went into this thinking they'd be a little more manic, more comedic. Like caricatures. Charles Laughton plays drunk well, that 1920's kind of drunk that Chaplin and probably every other silent comedian did so well. He shows a surprising physicality here, and he does this whole sophisticated irritation thing so nicely. I think that's how the English get irritated. But I also really liked John Mills as Will Mossop, the lowly bootmaker with no aspirations at all. The movie's as much about his metamorphosis than it is Henry Hobson or any of his daughters although Maggie is just as much a protagonist as she makes every single thing that happens in the movie happen. Brenda de Banzie plays her with just enough of her father's character in her to make her motivations and actions realistic. But Will's story was really the emotional heart of this one for me, and Mills takes us through the journey in what I thought was a very natural way. So for me, this is a story about realizing your potential more than anything else. Nothing hysterically funny here, but it's an amusing little comedy with some dark edges. The interactions at the Moonraker with his odd-looking friends were funny, and a chasing-the-moon sequence reminded me a bit of W.C. Fields for some reason.

Another quality Cory recommendation!

The Living Wake

2007 dark comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: K. Roth Binew, escorted by his only friend Mills Joquin, prepares for his titular wake by traveling about via rickshaw to invite his friends, family, and enemies.

Bonus point for the rickshaw. This doesn't seem to be a very popular movie, probably from the lot of people who hate the entire Eisenberg family who refuse to see the movie but still write bad things about it, but I thought it was very amusing and enjoyed its almost cartoonish philosophical themes and its go-nowhere plot. Speaking of Eisenberg, he's about right here except for an accent that kind of goes in and out, but he's mostly good for being out of the way of the real star of the show, Mike O'Connell as K. Roth Binew. Binew's a character you'll either love to hate, hate to love, or just plain hate. He's boastful with nothing at all to boast about, rudely brazen, ornery as five-year-old, and as animated as a character from a Monty Python sketch. He's a great half-realized character, but you'll hate him and most people, I reckon, will find him more annoying than humorous. I say half-realized, by the way, not as a criticism--it's appropriately for this character. His sole purpose on this final day of his is to create a complete life, leave a weird little legacy, build himself up into this mythic artistic genius, but from the episodes we get here, it's easy to see that his is a wasted life. There's just something nonsensically poignant about the whole thing. This isn't a movie that will likely ever have much of an audience, not even a cult one, and that makes me sad since it does have a rickshaw in it. Comedian Jim Gaffigan makes an appearance and doesn't talk about hot pockets even once. If this movie didn't have an Eisenberg in it and you'd told me it was a comedy from the 70's, I might have believed you. And I don't mean that as a bad thing.

They Live

1988 science fiction movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: An unemployed former wrestler exchanges his kilt for jeans and looks for a construction job. While crashing at an urban campground for the homeless, he stumbles onto a sort of rebellion centered in a small church. The government comes with powerful bulldozers, and the former wrestler finds a nifty pair of sunglasses that enable him to see the truth. He runs out of bubblegum.

The famous "I'm all out of bubblegum," "You know, you look like your head fell on the cheese dip back in 1957" (I rewound to hear this one three times to make sure I caught it correctly), "Mama don't like tattletales," and "And who are you, little fellow" are all lines that show what happens when you let Roddy Roddy Piper write his own dialogue. And no, I do not mean that as a criticism! It's taking the whole 1980's action movie one-liner thing, something I've always blamed on Arnold Schwarzennegar, to its logical crux. I just love what John Carpenter does with a limited budget here. The glasses effects are eerily fantastic, the switch to black and white and those expressionless alien faces combined with the subliminal messages make for some classic sci-fi horror with, more than likely, some heavy-handed satire. Personally, I don't mind heavy-handed satire. What does annoy me are action movie cliches, and this has more than a few of them as well as what is probably the longest and most absurd scene of extended fisticuffs in science fiction movie history. I think the fight between Piper and the black guy was probably longer than most of Roddy Roddy's wrestling matches though not, if I'm remembering correctly from back when I watched WWF wrestling (its golden age, in my opinion), nearly as long as some of his speeches. Piper, to be honest, makes the transition from ring to movie role much more smoothly than I expected. He plays Average Joe just fine and his action hero chops are as good as any other 80's superstar they would have thrown in there. Pretty cool sci-fi flick with several great scenes and a few that need to be reconsidered or completely removed before they do a remake of this in a few years, probably with Vin Diesel.

Enter the Void

2009 trip

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A drug dealer is shot and enters the titular void, an act which apparently involves a lot of floating and watching his sister have sex. Flashbacks reveal childhood tragedy and flashforwards reveal other things. Apparently, it's a Tibetan Book of the Dead thang.

Gaspar Noe makes incredibly happy films. In this one, he shows the viewer things they probably never thought they'd see and likely wouldn't want to. Queasy cinematography and hallucinatory hijinks, a true assault on the senses, make this unlike anything you've ever seen before unless you happened to see the only other Noe move on my blog, Irreversible. Noe attacks your eyes and ears and intentionally, I suspect, working to make the viewer a little nauseous, all while showing you things that you appreciate because you haven't seen anything like it on the screen before. I watched a great deal of this bloated guided tour through the world's most dismal kaleidoscope with mouth agape. And yes, I'm aware that there's a misplaced modifier in that sentence, but this movie took away my ability to fix things like that. Even the opening credits floored me, electric and shocking, especially when compared to the syrupy, more reflective pace of the movie. The mostly first-person perspective is unique, and Noe takes the viewer over the city, through light bulbs, deep into the past, despairingly into the future, into human beings, and pretty much anywhere else he feels like taking us. And looking at this from a purely technical standpoint, I don't see how he does it exactly and would label this a masterpiece, though not always an easy-to-watch masterpiece. The problem is that the movie is way too long, and the acting, especially from the kid who plays the lead, is bad in distracting ways. Both of those issues really take away some of the power this movie could have had. It's still an experience though, one that I'm not likely to ever forget, and I would recommend it to my more adventurous readers. Warning, however: It's not really very happy.


2008 dystopian comedy

Rating: 13/20

Plot: George Washington Winsterhammerman is a lowly employee at the Jeffers Corporation in the not-terribly-distant future. People begin exploding from stress, and when impotent and disenchanted George begins experiencing some of the warning signs, he looks for a way to prevent it from happening.

This feels way too much like something that I've already seen a few times. It also doesn't feel like a very complete movie. I like Zach Galifianakis fine as a bumbling everyman, but his story is a sketchy one, and I never really feel like I have a grasp on the world in which he lives. Or sort of lives. There are some nice enough ideas here, and I like what the movie has to say even though it's been said so many times already in other movies.

But I am glad I stuck around to see Aubrey Morris, that guy from A Clockwork Orange and The Wicker Man (the good one, not the comedy with Nicolas Cage), make an appearance. He's great!

Bunny and the Bull

2009 comedy

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Agoraphobic Stephen revisits a trip through Europe with pal Bunny by discovering artifacts from the holiday around his cluttered home. The flashbacks include visits to museums, a visit to a bed and breakfast with a stuffed bear, and the meeting of a Spanish waitress who tags along.

A road movie through a damaged subconscious. If you don't like quirkiness, have an aversion to British neo-Python absurdity, or just despise anything inventive, you can go ahead and stay away from this. Wackiness keeps the viewer from really feeling the characters. They're goofy sketches instead of fully-realized flesh 'n' blood folk, but that's probably my only real complaint. The characters are likable though. Visually, this is wild and a lot of fun, like a Michael Gondry daydream, and although I wonder if it's something that would be funny for very many people, it made me laugh a few times. The stream-of-conscious gags don't come quite as rapid-fire as in the Paul King television show The Mighty Boosh, but fans of that type of humor will have a head start here. It's not all whimsy, however, because there's this melancholic undercurrent throughout this poor guy Stephen's story, and although you don't really know how things will end up, you know there will be tragedy. What you'll remember about this is that set design though, a blend of cheap animation and live action. It never looks expensive, but it does look like a labor of love, and it's just so much fun watching the camera zoom into, around, and through some of these sets, taking the characters in all these unexpected places. I was a little stressed when I started this one, and it melted a lot of that right away. It was definitely hard not to smile while watching this one.