Fat Girl

2001 movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: While on holiday (cause that's what they call it in Europe), a pair of sisters meet an older law student. He sneaks in to visit the older sister at night while the titular fat girl snoozes or pretends to snooze across the room. Then, a bunch of other things happen.

Matt recommended this one, and I don't know what to think about it. It wasn't something that I enjoyed, but I'm not sure it was made for anybody to enjoy. And it made me a little uncomfortable, but I suspect director Catherine Breillat was trying to make me uncomfortable. I have fuzzy ideas about what this is all about, but I really feel like I need somebody, probably a feminist, to help fill in some gaps for me. I wonder how I'd see this differently if I were a woman. To me, the whole thing seems like one long joke that was never intended to be funny, a joke with the most depressing punchline of all time. I did like the performances. Roxanne Mesquida plays the attractive older sibling. She's cute (and I can type that because she was of age when this was made) and plays this naive-but-doesn't-quite-know-it thing really well. The villain, Libero De Rienzo, was especially scary for me, a guy with three daughters. He's also cute, and I'm not sure whether or not I should be typing that or not. He's almost good enough to allow me to call this a monster movie. And then there's the titular fat girl played by Anais Reboux, a non-professional actress although she did appear in a T.V. movie around the same time as this. Most of this movie is her doing what she's doing on the poster up there, halfway covering her face while her sister is seduced by an older guy on the other side of the bedroom. But her performance is fantastic here, and I'm not just talking about when she's singing about crows eating her worthless lump of raw meat body. There's nothing all that flamboyant in what she does, but there's this depth, this understanding, that makes it a pretty special performance. The tone of the bulk of this is ominous, like the quiet before the storm, and during that storm, Breillat gets a little tricky. She throws an idea at you, makes it stick (for me at least), and then hits you with something shocking and frightening following by something just as shocking and frightening and a little snippet of dialogue that manages to be even more shocking and more frightening than all the other shocking and frightening stuff. This is not a happy movie.

Little Shop of Horrors

1996 musical black comedy

Rating: 14/20

Plot: For the most part, it's the same as this one. Only this version has songs and probably took longer than two days to film. There's also more cleavage, less Jack Nicholson, more black people, and more color.

I had a "Guess This Movie" contest with the winner getting pick the next movie that I watched, and this is the movie that was sort of chosen for that. It was on the queue anyway, so this guy really didn't win anything. Sucker!

The only other time I saw this was in the theater. I was a big Rick Moranis fan, and since this was PG-13, I thought there might be a little partial nudity. I already liked puppets, but I wonder if this sparked an interest in cult black comedies. I can't think of any that I would have seen before seeing this. It was an interesting theater experience for me. I remember during "Suddenly Seymour" not being able to peel my eyes from Ellen Greene's cleavage, and I was perplexed and strangely aroused by the hermaphroditic Audrey II. When Audrey II assaults Audrey I (a scene that completes a 2012 "tentacle rape" trifecta for me, by the way), I got stiff and hoped my date--the pudgy and red-haired Cassandra, a girl who may or may not actually exist--didn't notice. When Audrey II depantsed Rick Moranis, I climaxed, and I wasn't ashamed of it then and am not ashamed to admit it now. Also--and this made the Brazil Times so you can verify it--during the scene where Audrey is crying because her boyfriend was just smashed by the demolished building and the music rumbled to life and played "Suddenly Seymour" and then Seymour emerges from all the smoke, the theater crowd erupted with cheers. People started disrobing and having sexual intercourse right in the theater aisles, somebody started a small fire and started throwing trash into it, a person a few seats next to me fell to his knees and started eating through the cushion of the chair he had been sitting on, somebody stood a few inches from the screen and screamed The Kaddish. Sure, the songs in this are memorable enough, but all the extracurriculars made this a movie experience I will never forget. The songs in this, all intentionally corny, aren't bad, but they're dated more from the bass lines than they are the doo-wop doo-wops provided by the trio of background singers. I like them, by the way, like a dramatic chorus. Not sure why they were murmuring "summertime" during the scene when Seymour's boss gets eaten. [Edit: Ah, it was "suppertime," not "summertime." That makes more sense.] Rick Moranis, a guy who ruined what could have been one of the greatest careers in movie history by deciding to focus on his family, isn't a bad singer, but he's out-performed by Ellen Greene, sometimes comically. Either she's overdoing things or he's underdoing them. And then there's Levi Stubbs of The Four Tops whose performance would have been better if he didn't have such stupid things to sing. "I'm just a mean green mother from outer space, and I'm bad." "Would you like a Cadillac car? Or a guest shot on Jack Paar? How about a date with Hedy Lamarr?" Ick. He does get to use one of my all-time favorite phrases--"No shit, Sherlock"--so it's not a total loss. Back to Ellen Greene and her cleavage. She's got an impressive singing voice, but the Olive Oyl screeching voice thing drove me nuts. She made up for it by riding side-straddle on the back of Steve Martin's motorbike though. Hot! Steve Martin is delightfully over the top, part-Elvis and part-Marquis de Sade, and I especially enjoyed seeing him from the perspective of a uvula. And I had completely forgotten that Bill Murray was in this in Jack Nicholson's role. That's still a completely pointless scene. The stylized setting looks great, and the puppet work is amazing. No, I never believed there was really a man-eating plant in the room, but I also couldn't figure out how exactly that many parts of Audrey II moved around like that. As my five and a half regular blog readers know, I'm easily impressed by puppets though. A couple gags that I really liked: John Candy's radio show that apparently shows his listeners weird things. How would that work on the radio? And waiting to be interviewed after Rick Moranis was a little person with a saxophone-playing nun ventriloquist dummy. I tried to find the little person's name, but I can't even find evidence on the Internet that that scene exists. It's possible that I hallucinated again.

Kung Fu vs. Yoga

1979 kung-fu movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A kung-fu dude wins himself a wife at a tournament, but she won't let him consummate the marriage until he retrieves three items for her. He and his friend run off to steal these items from an angry monk, a transgender kung-fu master, and a contortionist.

I found a dvd release of this with Dolemite on the front--a "Dolemite presents" thing--but the dvd copy I had unfortunately didn't mention Dolemite at all. The story here is fairly pedestrian although a guy running raound doing all these dangerous things just to get laid is something we can all respect. And the acting/dubbing is really as bad as it gets. "The guy with the eyebrows (no, not THAT guy with the eyebrows) is dubbed in a way that makes it seem like he's the worst actor of all time--"You're going to die! You're going to diiiiiiieeeeeee!" "Balls! Balls! I shall beat you both!" The voices used are just ridiculous. But nobody who pops this into their dvd players cares about either the acting or the story. And the fight scenes in this are creative and a lot of fun. I really like the way the protagonist and his friend work together, especially during the scene with the guy with the eyebrows. They toss each other around, kick through each other's legs. It's humorously choreographed and only slightly gay. That doesn't seem very heroic in a martial arts fight, by the way. Ganging up on somebody? Speaking of humorously gay, I think this is the first kung-fu flick I've seen that features a fight with a transvestite, all limp-wristed and as whiny as a wounded bird. That fight contains a nutsack grab accompanied with a slide whistle sound effect which makes it exactly as awesome as you think it would be. But it's the final fifteen-minute-or-so battle with the yoga guy--the reason for this goofy title, I imagine--that makes the movie. Singh, played by some guy named Dupar Singh, is this lanky quadruple-jointed contortionist, and the fight between those three has to be seen to be believed. This was Dupar Singh's only movie, another of those great one-and-dones. Appreciators of goofy kung-fu movies, the kind who get all giddy when something like Cripple Masters is brought up, won't want to miss this thing of beauty. More than likely, that scene (and perhaps the entire movie) is Youtubable.

The Secret of the Magic Gourd

2007 children's movie

Rating: 6/20 (Jen: 3/20; Emma: 8/20; Abbey: 10/20)

Plot: Some lazy Chinese kid finds the annoying titular fruit which promises to give him anything he wants. Predictably, it doesn't turn out to be a good thing.

Gooby vs. Gourd--which children's movie magical character is more irritating? I think their fuzzy and flesh respectively neck and neck. Gourd's got a really annoying voice (voiced by somebody named Corbin Bleu which is almost an Arby's sandwich), crosses his arms above his mouth, spews far too many bad puns (as if there's another kind of pun), says things like "What's the diff?", raps poorly, and for reasons that I will never understand no matter how much I try to understand them, was animated with an anus. I think this is my first "anus" on shane-movies.blogspot.com, and I didn't figure it would be a children's movie that was a collaboration between Disney and China that would be responsible for it. It's possible that I was just seeing things, but I'm willing to bet you my youngest child, who actually seemed to like some of this, that this thing had an anus.

Now one of the biggest issues with this is some bad dubbing. It might not be fair to make fun of a movie for bad dubbing, but it's not like some cheapo dvd production company is taking a cheesy kung-fu movie and throwing in a bunch of voices that sound like John Wayne. This is freakin' Disney! And poor voice decisions were made here, not limited to the Corbin Bleu. And the translation? "Whenever you work hard, better is your level of satisfaction" sounds like something Yoda would say.

The movie doesn't just sound bad. The special effects--very plasticky CGI gunkiness--do create some interesting individual visuals, however. The kid running beside his bike while a frog flees on two legs might be my chase scene of the year, and a scene with some flying fish looked kind of cool. But the gourd is rubbery and doesn't always mesh with the setting or other characters as well as he should. And there's this scene featuring a circle of junk food that nearly gave me a seizure. A lot of the effects here are just gross. Dinosaurs, a parade of toys, flying books, a space ship. This thing was just ugly.

This was a family movie night selection. The idea with family movie night was that we would take turns picking movies, but I forced this one on my family because I remember seeing a preview of it (those fish, I think) and thinking it looked pretty good. Whoops. Little did I know that it had a Corbin Bleu in it. Of course, there may be some cultural things that my family and I just don't understand. For example, the main character--some annoying and really unlikable kid--saying "Huh!" in an angry way to end about three conversations. To me, that seemed goofy, but maybe in China it's completely normal. Or the grandmother's obsession with toe nails which didn't work for me as a recurring joke and for some reason seemed to offend Jennifer. Jennifer, by the way, referred to this as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Gourd at one point which distracted us enough to stop paying attention to the movie to come up with more titles. The Maltese Gourd, Indiana Jones and the Gourd of Doom, How to Train Your Gourd, I Spit on Your Gourd. That was more fun than the movie. One more thing: This lost another point because of the song playing over the end credits. I imagined this conversation:

Chinese people: [playing song] Did you like it?
Disney people: God no! That was awful! We can't use that.
Chinese people: I'm sorry, but this is Asia. That is the way we end our movies.
Disney people: Ok, fine. But this is going to cost us a point or two on Shane's blog.

If I were you, I would not watch this movie with your family. I'd watch I Spit on Your Gourd instead. Of course, I am me and I did watch this with my family, so what do I know?

Seriously though. An anus.

Stranger Than Paradise

1984 comedy

Rating: 20/20

Plot: A guy in New York has his life disrupted by a visit from his young Hungarian cousin. She stays for a week and grows on him, enough for him to drive with his pal Eddie to visit her in Cleveland with money from gambling. Later, they go to Florida.

Here's another one of those great one-and-done performances. Cecillia Stark, who plays Aunt Lotte, played this part when she was 85 or 86 and died in 1985. When I watched Stranger Than Paradise this time, probably my fourth or fifth time, she was my favorite thing about the movie. "You son of a bitch!" might be the funniest delivery of a line ever, and her way of answering the door when Willie and Eddie visit cracked me up. Hers isn't even the best performance in this movie. No, that would be the brief appearance of Rammellzee as the guy who gives Ava some money. Almost shockingly, this was his only acting job. He didn't die though. Rammellzee, who sounds like he stole his name from a fairy tale or something, probably just figured there was no way he was topping this. Nice glasses, by the way.

I forced somebody to see this once, and he didn't like it so much. He liked the characters fine but was annoyed because they didn't have anything to do. I don't know why good movie characters need a lot to do anyway, but one of the main reasons I think this movie is funny is because these characters don't have much to do. It lets them and their relationships grow in a unique way. These characters exist in a kind of purgatory, characters shaped by forces they can't understand. Willie whines about Eva "disrupting" his life which is funny because he doesn't really seem to have much of one. He watches T.V., eats T.V. dinners, plays Solitaire, stands or sometimes sits around, occasionally goes to the track. Of course, that is while Eva is in town, so who knows what kind of exciting life the guy has when she's not around. The character doesn't do anything and trudges through this kind of bleak existence because there's nothing for him to do. Jarmusch's characters live in these empty worlds, these dead lonely cities. New York never looks this completely empty in any other movie, Cleveland's bleak, and even Florida looks like the most depressing places on earth. I imagine Budapest was just as depressing. It's not the place that shapes these characters' lives. They all look the same according to Eddie. Eddie gets that who you are is not shaped solely by where you are. The forces that control us are the same in New York, Cleveland, Florida, and Budapest. Twice, Eddie talks about how beautiful a place--Cleveland, Florida--is and responds to "Have you been there?" with a "No." During the scene in a car where you can see the person operating the camera in the rearview mirror for a length of time that almost made me uncomfortable--seriously, he's got like the fifth most screen time in the movie--Eddie asks is Cleveland looks like Budapest. He knows though. You can't escape your circumstances, Eddie and Willie, and there are horse and dog races all over the place. And I love that this movie is bookended with planes.

Don't get me wrong. Watching this movie is not a bleak experience, and I think it's a little funnier every time I see it. "It's Screaming Jay Hawkins and he's a wild man so bug off" gets me every time, and a scene in a movie theater might be one of the funniest scenes without dialogue ever. It's not comedy for everybody, but for me, it's a pretty special movie. Jarmusch almost invented his own film language, his own rhythm. It never really feels like the language and rhythm of real life--more like a fairy tale that Rammellzee could feel comfortable in--but it somehow ends up more authentic than real life. It's like real life stripped of its skin, and there's something so refreshing about that. And funny!

Ironically, the one reader who would most agree with me probably didn't read this because it's got too many paragraphs.

Five Easy Pieces

1970 character study

Rating: 18/20

Plot: Bob takes a break from his meaningless and directionless life of odd jobs to return to his former life with his well-to-do family of musical geniuses because Dad's dying. After a visit of a couple weeks, he returns to his directionless and meaningless life.

If this movie was made today, Nic Cage would have to play Dupea. And although he's one of the finest actors to ever grace the silver screen, he's not touching what Jack does here. Nicholson's performance is otherworldly, transcendent. This character-in-limbo study works for me, mostly because of that performance. The movie's driftless, just like his character, but Nicholson holds this whole thing together, gives it this chewy center. I could watch him attempt to order toast for hours, but that most famous scene in this movie isn't the only place he shines. His road rage is complete genius, all intensity and random shouting. "Why don't you flash your lights so we can see what else you got for Christmas?" And when his barking turns to a piano solo? Unforgettably beautiful. There's also a Nicolas Cage-esque freakout in a car, and his demonstration of Vegas rehearsal piano playing is so nutty. It's truly a virtuosic performance. I also enjoyed Billy Green Bush despite his dumb name as Dupea's buddy Elton. He's got a great southern chuckle which he demonstrates during some bowling alley antics and after pulling something out of his nose. He's also the reason I get to use my "ill-fitting underpants" tag, and, unless I heard incorrectly, he called Jack a "shit ass" at one point. One little detail that I like: during the scene where Jack visits his sister in a recording studio, you can hear the sound of a rewinding tape, backwards piano as a clue to what we're supposed to be looking for in Jack's character. I like that. Five Easy Pieces, a movie with a title I won't pretend I understand, also has arguably one of the best endings.

"Her name's Twinky."
"Yeah, cause she's so Twinky."

That's not the ending, you shit ass.


1996 movie

Rating: 19/20 (Jen: 19/20; Dylan: 10/20)

Plot: Used car salesman Jerry Lundegaard needs some cash and has thought of the perfect crime in order to get it. He hires a pair of guys--a big one and a funny-looking one--to kidnap his wife so that he can split the ransom money with them. It doesn't go very well. Hot on the trail is a pregnant police officer.

"Where is pancakes house?"

I remember the feeling I had after watching Fargo for the first time. I was kind of stunned. Part of it may have been that I fell for the Coen "Based on a true story" gag. Part of it was definitely what happened with all these characters who I really enjoyed spending time with. And part of it was just because the movie was so damn good. Oh, and part of it was how much I laughed or smiled while watching some really awful people trying to pull off some really dreadful things. It made me wonder if there was something wrong with me. The overall tone, one established with that opening shot with that somber violin music and the truck on the highway. But there's a delicious black humor (yes, I did just type that, bitches!) under the surface. And part of this movie's brilliance is the way it blends the murder mystery genre and comedy so perfectly in a way where neither interferes with the other. Of course, it's the performances that make that happen. Macy's profoundly dopey and, as far as I know, just nails that accent. McDormand does, too, the moral center for this story and the only character in the whole thing who is likable. She's so atypical for the character she represents in a murder mystery. There's nothing the least bit Bogarty about her, but it's a terrific performance with some surprising depth. I mentioned that Marge is the only character you can like. You might not like the kidnapping duo, but it's impossible to not be entertained by them. Buscemi's every movement is perfect, and Peter Stormare, as we've already established, is the greatest actor of all time. Harve Presnell, Steve Reevis as Shep Proudfoot (great name), John Carroll Lynch as Mr. Marge Gunderson, Larry Brandenburg as Stan Grossman, Bain Boehlke as the guy who gives the final tip, the hookers. There's not a weak link in the bunch. And I know what some of you are thinking--what about Scotty, the son? Isn't he likable? Well, yes. I'll give you that, but only because he apparently plays the accordion. This is about as entertaining as a movie can be for the type of funny-looking fellow that I am. So why doesn't it get a perfect score? For Jen, it's the sex scenes because she's a prude. For me, I've never been able to figure out if the Mike Yanagita character really belongs. That's a lengthy scene that adds only a little bit to our understanding of Marge, marginally has to do with one of the overall themes (something Marge "just don't understand"), and has nothing to do with the main plot. And Dylan? I'm not sure what his problem is. He only watched this because I made a deal with him that he wouldn't have to participate in family movie night. He jumped at the chance but wasn't impressed with this movie which might lead to us giving him up for adoption.

One more thing: I need one more movie to complete a wood chipper trifecta. Anybody got any ideas?

Oh, another thing: Did you know Bruce Campbell's sort of in this?

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid

1982 comedy

Rating: 13/20

Plot: A woman believes the death of her father, a noted scientist and cheesemaker, was murder and hires shamus Rigby Reardon for the case. He uncovers a bunch of mysterious goings-on, some which even make a little sense.

I have mixed feelings about this one because although director Carl Reiner has created it with a good understanding of the films he's spoofing and it really is a clever idea, it's just not very funny at all. The title is actually one of the funniest things about the movie, and I would definitely put this more in the "cute" or "clever" category than "hysterical." The dialogue that is created with characters from classic noir, Marlowe included, makes sense most of the time, but it just isn't funny. Aside from Bogart in, I think, three different movies, this plunders scenes from movies with shane-movies favorite Vincent Price, Charles Laughton, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Veronica Lake, Bette Davis, Alan Ladd, Barbara Stanwyck, Ray Milland, Ava Gardner, and Burt Lancaster. It's a clever idea even if none of it made me laugh. The best thing about it is how Edith Head, in what was apparently her final film, matched the costumes in this to the originals. I watched this while in the middle of a reading of Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, and I appreciated the nod to some of the language of that, especially the oft-goofy figurative language used by that author. Of course, I got the biggest kick out of the line "Start the whoopie machine" which I'm going to now preface all of my love-making, assuming I ever have sexual intercourse again, with. I also appreciated the allusion to my birthplace of Terre Haute, Indiana. Steve Martin poked fun at Terre Haute back in the day, but I can forgive him for that. He's really good as the centerpiece for this typically confusing noirish tale. His performance has just the right mix of goof and straight, and he's got the right face and build for a noir detective.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to start the whoopie machine. (Note: I am not really about to have sexual intercourse.)

Zazie dans le Metro

1960 French comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Because her mom wants to get laid, the titular 12-year-old has to spend a couple days with her aunt and uncle in Paris. She has a series of adventures, none which involve her riding the subway due to a strike.

It seems like it's been a while since I've used the word whimsical on the blog. I use it almost hourly in my normal day-to-day communication though. I'm not sure if I've just not been watching a lot of movies filled with whimsy lately or if I've been a little down. Either way, this offering from an ornery Louis Malle either met any kind of whimsy quota I might have or acted as a pick-me-up. The movie's very French and very late-50s/early-60s, so much that I more than likely missed a little of the satire. But slapstick is a universal language, and Malle's dicking-around, though likely excruciating for a lot of people, was a lot of fun. This is just so visually playful and random right from the opening sequence in which a very tall man in a checkered suit, a character who turns out to be Zazie's uncle, walks through a crowded train station talking loudly about how bad everybody smells before a pickpocket, a recurring character, pinches a ringing alarm clock from his coat. The rest of this is cartoonish and manic, like a cross between those wacky Beatles movies and Looney Tunes with a pinch of Tati. There's a delirious chase scene that did seem to borrow a little from and the roadrunner and coyote cartoons, complete with a character named Pedro Surplus. Malle pulls out every visual and audio trick in the book in his quest for whimsy. You have characters flashing around, a silly French parrot, intentional continuity errors, multitracked crying, music box boots, children for sale, backwards storytelling, invisible violins, a character who actually changes races for a single shot, endless traffic jams, a stalking little person, a very cheap puppet, and a polar bear juggling flaming torches. Oh, and lots of chipmunk voices. You're going to have to have a high tolerance for chipmunk voices if you're going to dive into this one. There's a long sequence at the Eiffel Tower that I really liked, one of those things where it's pretty obvious that Malle and his camera crew just went in without a script and said, "Let's just film a bunch of stuff and see what we get." And they got some really incredible shots, some which don't look safe at all. Of course, this is coming from a viewer with mild acrophobia. I'm not sure what this all adds up to, but it's a neat little story that I had a lot of fun with. Oh, I nearly forgot to mention Catherine Demongeot who plays young Zazie. I thought she was really good here. I think her character might have grown and turned into Amelie. Demongeot, probably because of her Satanic name, didn't have much of a career--only three roles, the last before she was eighteen.

The Wizard of Gore

1970 horror movie

Rating: 4/20

Plot: The titular magician has a gratuitously violent stage show in which he dismembers, decapitates, and disembowels female volunteers from the audience before magically putting them together again. It's really stupid. Later that night, the volunteer's wounds reappear which is even stupider. And the fact that nobody can put the pieces together and figure out what's going on? That would be stupidest. A writer--a female one, of course--is intrigued enough to investigate.

If Herschell Gordon Lewis was more well known (read: more infamous) outside B-movie/gore circles, this is the movie that would have given him his nickname. He could have gone down in cinematic history as the Wizard of (Cheap and Gratuitous) Gore. It's easy to see that Lewis had absolutely no budget at all to work, and all the funds he did have (fifty bucks?) was used to purchase meat and tomato juice. The stage show violence is so over the top that it crosses the border between Scaryland and the Continent of Goofy and then continues all the way around the world like a squelchy perverse Magellan so that it can scoot over the border another time. The goofiest thing about these scenes is that they're shown multiple times. So you'll see the saw going through a woman's abdomen, then a shot of the audience looking rather bored, then Montag digging around in the woman's viscera, then another shot of the audience, then a shot of the woman's abdomen without any injury at all, then a shot of Montag's face, then a shot of her being sawed again. It's awkwardly edited. It's the same with the spike-in-the-noggin scene and a scene featuring a guillotine. Movies with guillotines, by the way? Automatically more awesome. Orson Welles wishes he had some guillotine action in Citizen Kane, and according to an unauthorized biography I imagined and then pretended to read, that was his biggest regret. Montag is played by Ray Sager, a guy with an arguably respectable career. Here, he's predictably terrible, but straight from the get-go, it's almost like he's lost his faith in the words he's been given. It's hard to say, "And you were expecting a mere handsaw!" in a way that makes you look like a real person. At one point, he mispronounces his own name. He's such a talky magician, going on and on and on about. . .well, magic, I guess. The audience doesn't know how to act during these scenes, so they just randomly gesture. I didn't take the time to verify, but I'm willing to bet the same extras were used for the audience members. Sager's bad, but the auxiliary actors might be worse. There's one guy who discovers his wife dead in bed and shows off what might be the worst acting ability ever. And the delivery of the line "Craig, Craig! Look at your hand! Your hand is bleeding!" is pure classic B-movie bliss, a line that I would have quoted endlessly with my brother if we had seen this as kids right along with "Give me back my hand!" or "Oh no! A bimbo with a gun!" Screenwriter Allen Kahn, whose only other writing credit is the Lewis-directed The Year of the Yahoo, throws a Shamalamadingdong-esque twist into the climax which, on the surface at least, seemed kind of cool until I thought about it a little more and realized I didn't even understand what happened. And maybe that's my fault, but I'm just not ready to take the blame.

Two more notes: 1) I really liked how there was plastic on the floor of a restaurant where the sawed-in-two lady falls apart. "Yes, you can use our restaurant for your stupid movie, but we're putting plastic on the floor so that you don't mess up our carpet." 2) "The guy's no magician. He's just a hell of a technician." It's 1970, and some white dude invents rap music in The Wizard of Gore. Little known piece of trivia there.

L.A. Confidential

1997 movie

Rating: 18/20

Plot: Following a massacre at a diner, three 1950's Los Angeles cops--a by-the-book youngster with a tragic past, a thuggish veteran with a special hatred for wife beaters (men who beat women, not the shirts), and another veteran more concerned with his own fame and wallet weight--uncover corruption.

I think all movies should start with Danny DeVito. The plot of this one confused me the first time I watched it. I finished it, enjoyed it, turned to a friend sitting beside me, and said, "I'm not even sure what happened during a lot of that." Of course, since nobody was actually watching the movie with me, I wasn't exactly lucid anyway. I really feel like this movie pulled its punches. Don't get me started on the ending which puts the capital H in front of ollywood. The movie should have ended with Guy Pearce flashing his badge, and you're not going to convince me otherwise. And the makers of this really tease us with Kim Basinger who could have been a lot more naked. She does have the perfect look for this sort of femme fatale role and does a nice job. Really everybody is almost given a role that is perfect for them. Pearce is good, even when they put glasses on him. The Crowe (that's what I'm calling him), for whatever reason, is a very realistic tough-guy-with-temper. And Spacey and DeVito are terrific in their sleazy roles. And you have to love James Cromwell who I think is the best of the bunch. I'll tell you, when you put him in a situation where he's not talking to a pig, that guy's as menacing as they come. There's a lot of interesting stuff packed into this almost-Shakespearean tragedy--racism, Hollywood and the nature of tabloid, greed and corruption, pornography, what shapes us as human beings/determinist philosophy. And I really like how 50's L.A. is created here. The costumes, the music, the settings, the dialogue, etc. all recall the earlier noir films this pays homage to, and the clash between the sparkling time and place--these almost peachy-keen 1950's--and its much darker underbelly really is what drives this movie and makes it pretty special. The complexities of this story fit together so well, and its twists and turns are interesting even when you're seeing this for a second or third or fourth time. The biggest tragedy is that this (and Boogie Nights, and probably almost every other movie released that year) lost to Titanic for Best Picture. Somebody should be embarrassed about that. L.A. Confidential is a great old-school movie movie, arguably one of the best made in the last twenty years. It could have done without all the glitz and gleam of Hollywood though in a sort of strange way, that fits thematically.

30 Minutes or Less

2011 comedy

Rating: 12/20

Plot: A pair of criminals plan the perfect crime but don't have enough money to execute it. So they plan another perfect crime--kidnap a pizza delivery person, strap a bomb to him, and force him to rob a bank. Poor Jesse Eisenberg.

This is the exoskeleton of something that Don Knotts and Tim Conway would have been in with raunchiness and loudness stuck to it. The problem might be that Jesse Eisenberg is no Don Knotts. Nobody is. See, part of me--especially after his really good work in The Social Network and the humorous The Living Wake which might just be funny despite him--wants to push our differences aside, forget that his sister made those Pepsi commercials which did worse things to my stomach than drinking carbonated beverages could ever do, forgive him for a brow which he can't even help, and try to like the guy. But after liking him in a couple movies, this happens. He's not really the problem with this at all though. Neither is Aziz Ansari who I also want to like, probably just because he's on Parks and Recreation. Their chemistry here as BFF's seems a little forced. Then again, I'm pretty sure it would be hard for anybody to stand next to Jesse Eisenberg in a movie and make whatever relationship seem natural. I do like how Ansari is referred to as a "mini-genie" here. Oh, and Michael Pena plays a character named Chang, and he just grabs this character by the nuts and runs with it. This ends up just being another one of those modern comedies, one that takes a clever enough idea and fails to do enough with it. There are some funny individual lines ("You had a lunchables for dinner.") and I thought it was funny how Nick Swardson's character made monkey noises during the kidnapping scene. And I really liked this bit of dialogue:

Swardson's dumb character: Where the hell did all these leaves come from?
Danny McBride's dumb character: Where do you think? Fucking trees.
Swardson's dumb character: That's what she said.

But too often, the humor in this seems like it was collected by spinning The Hangover or Superbad around really fast and waiting for some stuff to fly off so that it could be inserted in this script. I don't think I'll remember much about this movie in a few months, and I doubt I start quoting it this weekend at my 20 year reunion.

Les Miserables

1935 movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: France's most notorious bread thief ends a prison sentence, fails to meet with his parole officer, fails a drug test or two, is caught with a hooker, and feels the scene of a rickshaw accident. He's relentlessly chased down by Inspector Javert as he attempts to start a new life and falls in love with a little girl.

Ten years for a loaf of bread? Wow, the French are serious with their crime and punishment. They're not wusses when it comes to prison either, and the prison scenes in this are grimy and realistic. There's a lot in this that is typical 1930's melodrama, but both the leads--a versatile Fredric March as the bread thief and the imposing presence that is Charles Laughton--manage to rise above all that and give memorable performances. They don't always have the best lines to read. Asking your host who knows you just got out of prison "How do you know I won't murder you in the night" seems like pressing one's luck. But they transcend a screenplay that isn't always very good and deliver the goods. Cory recommended this and has a thing for Charles Laughton. He's also enjoys movies with bad child actors, and this one's got a fairly offensive one, Marilyn Knowlden as young Cosette. She almost completely ruins a horse chase scene that is really pretty thrilling for the mid-30's, neatly edited with some flamboyant camera angles. And it looks dangerous enough with a horse running right into a box and falling down and everything, so maybe that's why Cosette is screaming like that. There's another chase through the sewers, a scene obviously pinched from The Third Man, that I really liked. And I believe there was music in exactly two scenes during this movie which I liked. 1930's movies are definitely better without music. Whistling, yes. Music, no. This feels to me like a color-by-numbers literary classic adaptation. It's a little choppy, almost a Cliff Notes or abridged version of Victor Hugo's story. Of course, I'm not planning on reading that 1,300 tome anytime soon to see what's missing or anything. I also don't think I've seen any of the other numerous versions of this although I did know the story. I avoided any versions of this because my high school band's little marching show had something to do with the songs from the Les Miserables musical, and those people annoyed me. It all led to a recurring dream--variations of the same dream anyway--where I made a trip to 19th Century France in a Delorean and shoved various musical instruments into the rectum of Victor Hugo. But despite my past hang-ups and the choppy way the story is told in this particular version, I was moved by the story and the denouements of both the protagonist and antagonist.

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark Redux

1981 adventure

Rating: 20/20 (Jen: 16/20; Dylan: 20/20; Emma: 16.5/20; Abbey: 20/20)

Plot: The titular archeologist/professor globetrots in search for Noah's boat. He runs into some Nazis, a group of people who historically weren't very nice.

I've already written poorly about this movie twice, but Abbey picked it for family movie night. It's not one that I'll complain about having to watch again. That's part of the beauty of the thing. It's more than likely the film that I've seen the most times with the possible exception of Toy Story. Anyway, I'm dividing my thoughts into three categories for this--questions, noticings, and things-I-freaking-love.


How can this be rated PG? It's got face melting/exploding. Face exploding, by the way, would be a horrible way to go, wouldn't it?

What's the body count? Next time I watch this, I'm counting.

Where the hell did Belloq get that goofy outfit and that staff? The only thing I can think of is that there must be a Ark-Opening Clothes "R" Us on that creepy island.

Speaking of that creepy island, how's Indy ride on the outside of a submarine for the distance shown on the map? Dylan explained that submarines are faster when they surface, so they probably wouldn't have gone under. If not, then why would they even use a submarine in that situation?

Is that Ralph Macchio preparing dates?

Why don't the Germans wonder why there are people off digging in a different place from everybody else? Belloq eventually notices them, but you'd think somebody would walk up to them and ask, "What the heck are you digging here for?"

How do you get a monkey to Heil Hitler salute? Or are monkeys just naturally hateful creatures? I wouldn't put it past them.

How many extras were in this movie? The big dig, the streets of Cairo. There are so many people in this!

How can Indy fans have so much of a problem with aliens and refrigerators in the new movie but not have a problem with melting faces and burning crates in this one? And speaking of the swastika burning scene, what's up with that rat? He looks like he's about to boogie.

Was Shooby LaBoof conceived on a submarine? I'm going to have to check the date for that fourth movie! If he was, it explains a lot.


All these movies start with monoliths, don't they? Or maybe just a plain rock.

There's a lot of man screaming in this movie. 1) The guy with the stocking cap screams at the statue as they're trudging through the forest. 2) Alfred Molina screams like a woman at a skeleton. I also freaking love how that skeleton turns his head to glance at Molina. 3) Toht (a role turned down by Klaus Kinski if you believe a word that guy says) gives his first girly scream when he grabs the hot medallion. Hot Medallion would be a great band name, by the way. 4) Random guy with turban screams when the Well of Souls is opened. Then there's Sallah's "Eeahahahhaheh" which, at the very least, isn't all that feminine. 5) The cobwebby skeletons in the Well of Souls scream. That makes even less sense than all of those different kinds of snakes living in there. 6) Toht gives the best scene of the movie during once the spirits from the ark start wreaking havoc until 7) the guy who screams after him manages to top it!

Scream bonus: The Wilhelm Scream is used when a dude spills from the back of the truck in the big chase scene.

The natives with their spears and blowguns are as accurate as the stormtroopers in the Star Wars movies. And a bonus question. There were a lot of spears being thrown in that chase scene. Once you're an extra in that scene who has thrown his spear--you know, shot your wad--do you keep chasing? You were probably handed another spear, right?

The guy trying to outdrink Marion looks like George Wendt, Norm from Cheers. I don't think that's a coincidence. All guys who look like that are big drinkers.

Indy almost consumes that "bad date" several times. It's a neat little detail.

The map room has an obelisk. I'm too lazy to see if that is architecturally correct. I had Indiana Jones actions figures and a map room, by the way. That's a really cool scene in the movie with the beam of light and Indy brushing away sand, but it wasn't all that fun to reenact in your bedroom. Also, there's one building in the map room that looked like it had been tagged. Was a street gang down there at one point or did the Nazis mark it?

Things I Freaking Love about This Movie:

That first shot of Indy--absolutely iconic. Framed by waterfall and mist, quick edited shots of bullwhip frenzy, Jones stepping out from the shade. So awesome. To think that Indy was almost Tom Selleck makes me slightly ill.

Indy's shadow on the wall of Marion's bar. Also so awesome. And I love their dynamics in that scene with dialogue perfection. You find out just enough about their past without it seeming like it was written in a script just so the audience could catch up.

Sallah: "Why does the floor move?" At this point, by the way, Jennifer informed me that she had never seen this movie all the way through. What the hell?

Toph! Love his beady little eyes. His little giggle--once when he walks past Belloq after they seal Indy and Marion in the Well of Souls and later after the ark is opened. And his hanger is the most bad ass hanger in movie history. And yes, I'm including the hangers in Birdemic: Shock and Terror. And that bald head of Toph's? It's nefarious.

I love how Indy fights so dirty during the brawl with that big bald Nazi guy--dirt in the eyes, using a chunk of wood as a weapon, the old point-at-your-opponent's-shoe-to-divert-his-attention trick.

How Belloq says "idiot."

Head explosion!

"It's not the years. It's the mileage."

The way Indy saves Molina by grabbing his belt. Poor Molina, by the way. This was his first movie, I think, and he starts his career by having tarantulas all over him, screaming like a girl, and getting killed by a booby trap that he had already seen which makes him one of the dumbest characters ever.

That gunfight in Marion's place? The best ever, the type that can make me type in hyperbole! But that motley crew of thuggery, the "Whisky?" from Indy, a guy punching with an arm that is on fire? All sans music, just the crackling fire, the rat-a-tat gunfire, breaking bottles. What a terrific scene.

Another action sequence--the Cairo street brawling. It's lively and exciting in the midst of an adventure story, but there's such a personality with the fight scenes. There's humor mixed in with the mayhem, all while Harrison Ford's got the runs.

And that guy who Marion threatens with a pan only to watch him pull out a knife? The dude's teeth are even scarier than his blade!

I love the mystical guy with the high-pitched voice they visit. You know he's a mystic because he's wearing bright blue and has his own telescope.

Terry Bradshaw's "Waa-ehh" as he gets run over. And before that, the "Let's see how you like it!" toss out the front window. Indy's so pissed. Before that, there's a shot of a guy on the windshield and Indy and his passenger look at each other and laugh. That guy's expression and the shared laugh of enemies makes me smile just thinking about it.

Indy putting his hat on against a sunset backdrop--just beautiful. That is one evil-looking sky as they find the edges on top the Well of Souls.

Not everybody likes the music in this (I'm eyeing you here, Laurence), but I love it. It's the soundtrack for my childhood outside play. That's the music I heard when I ran around my backyard with a fake gun and an invisible whip, and it's the music I heard when I stepped up the plate in the last inning of a baseball game in college with a chance to drive home the winning runs. In this movie--the familiar music when Indy, fleeing from 15,000 natives while dust from the cave flies off him in that terrific scene, swings from a vine like Shooby LaBoof and dives into the water. Boom!

After the booby-trap-packed cave climaxing with a fiberglass boulder chase, I'm hooked forever. If you're not, you're a child without a heartbeat.

Top men. Endless boxes. Where was that shot? That place has to really exist. What's in all the boxes? Other than dead alien bodies, of course.

What did I miss? What do you love about this movie?

Moonrise Kingdom

2012 Wes Anderson movie

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

Plot: The troubled daughter of attorneys and an outcast scout run away from home and camp respectively in order to have a romantic adventure. Scout Master Ward, a handful of scouts, the Bishop parents, and the island's law enforcement search for the couple.

Wes Anderson's movies, maybe this one more than any of the others, are like Precious Moments figurines made for hipsters. If you don't like his movies--especially The Life Aquatic--you aren't going to like this one either. And if you do, you're likely to be a fan of this one. A lot of new faces to the Wes Anderson world--lovely Edward Norton, Bruce Willis with a little hair, Frances McDormand. It's an oddball world to inhabit, like its own little island. Coincidentally, this takes place on a little island, the kind of setting that part of me knows actually exists but that seems like it can only exist in a Wes Anderson movie. These characters are all his type of characters, nutty as can be, and I guess I can see how some people might have a problem with that. Of course, you've got a bunch of kids in there, too, and although there are a couple moments when the kids are kids--as in the type of child actor I normally really hate--they're given such funny things to do and say here that I didn't mind it. Oh, and Bob Balaban is in this, a bearded Bob Balaban, and his ridiculous opening narrative bit squeezed the first laugh out of me. This is a very funny movie. My favorite bit might have been a big action sequence involving a motorcycle, the flash of an arrow, a dog, a tree, and lefty scissors. Lefty scissors! You know what Alfred Hitchcock always said about lefty scissors, right? I'm paraphrasing, but it was something about how if a director shows the audience a pair of lefty scissors, you can safely predict that those lefty scissors will be used at some point in the movie. I was never clear on what happened during that scene, by the way, but it was shockingly funny stuff. Like with the underrated The Life Aquatic, this gets really nutsy at the end, but here, as it was there, the nutsiness really fits with the themes. This also looks a lot like a Wes Anderson movie, almost identically colored and textured as The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Of course, you just need to see a single frame of this movie to know who its director is, and again, that's not going to be a good thing for all viewers. And the opening shots, a journey through the Bishop's house that reminds me of the tour of the Zissou's submarine, is remarkable in how it sets the tone for the whole movie and gives such a good introduction of the Bishop family despite not including any dialogue. I also loved the music, some from Devo guy Mark Mothersbaugh and a lot of playful vocal classical stuff. I still can't get a final "cuckoo" out of my brain, and one number with angelic voices and boy scout trumpets was something I almost thought only I could hear, an ear hallucination or something. Oh, and there was a blast from my childhood with the work of Benjamin Britten. And a lot of Hank Williams. It's all just so beautiful, and I really didn't want the movie to end.

Side note: The theater we saw this at has a summer midnight movies thing. I tried to convince Jennifer to stick around and watch The Room, but she had no interest.

Lady and the Tramp

1955 dog cartoon

Rating: 14/20 (Buster: 20/20)

Plot: A brown dog from a well-to-do neighborhood and a gray dog from the wrong side of the tracks meet and go on a date where they eat Italian food. Lucky for the streetwise gray dog, Lady's the type willing to put out on the first date. He spends the rest of the movie telling his pals, all representing a different racial stereotype, about how he "hit that."

How many perverts do you think walked into the theater to see this back in '55 because they thought it was going to be a movie about a couple lesbians?

This works as a love story. It doesn't work as a comedy. It is animated very well; I really like how all the animals--dogs, giraffes, the same beaver who's "not in the book" from the Winnie the Pooh movie, the other dogs--move around in this one. When this is focused just on the talking animals, this isn't too bad although it is a little boring. The humans get in the way a bit though. But this has to be Disney's most racist movie. Imagine the squirming that would take place if you watched this as part of a racial-diverse audience. It's also maybe Disney's most sexually-suggestive movie. It's all concealed from the kiddies, of course, but adults know exactly what's going down, from the scene where the other mutts are chasing down Lady because she's in heat to the pretty shot of the dogs silhouetted in front of a full moon where Tramp's about to get some. Doggy style. (Sorry, regular readers. I had to throw that in to lure more Googlers here.) This is a sweet enough little cartoon with far too many distractions. It's never been one I cared that much about.

The most famous scene in this movie, the one where the dogs eat spaghetti, reminds me of my date with Elizabeth in high school. There was a fat stereotypical Italian, and we both reached for the same spaghetti noodle with our mouths because this was a really cheap restaurant and they had run out of silverware. In the movie, the dogs [SPOILER ALERT] kiss. I just kept chewing and didn't realize my mistake until it was too late. Elizabeth had to have reconstructive surgery, and we never had a second date. I did not, if you're keeping score at home, hit that.

None of that is true, by the way. You know, in case you're keeping score at home. There was a girl named Elizabeth, but we never shared spaghetti. I also never even came close to chewing apart her face.

Disney movies, for whatever reason, bring out my raunchiness more than any other type of movie. (It's why The Little Mermaid is my most frequently visited blog post.) I wonder why that is. Should I talk to a psychologist about it?

Fight Club

1999 movie

Rating: 18/20

Plot: An office worker befriends a soap maker on an airplane. Love triangles and fisticuffs ensue. They form the titular club, something that I'm probably not even supposed to be typing about. It's all fun and games until somebody suggests blowing stuff up and a guy with man tits gets a hole in his head.

Oh, man. This one's so dense! Dense and endlessly entertaining, a film with the substance to match its bombastic style, one that just shimmers. I remember watching this for the first time back when I lived in a yellow house. It shook me, and I thought about the movie for days and days. I even lost sleep because of the movie. Of course, it did completely ruin Chuck Palahniuk novels for me because they suddenly all had the same exact narrator--Edward Norton. Ah, Edward Norton. I don't know if I want to even like you since my wife's got a thing for you, but you're just so good in every movie you're in. And anytime an actor can make me not hate narration, that's a plus. The way he screams, "The first person to come out of this fucking door gets a lead salad, you understand?" or explains that "This chick Marla Singer did not have testicular cancer" and was a liar. The way he catches a giant bag of liposuctioned fat. The way he stares at a CGI penguin. But mostly that fight he has with himself in his bosses office? That scene is off the hook (as the kids would say). And Brad Pitt is just electric, always about a scream and a point-at-his-own-head away from transforming right into Nicolas Cage right on the screen. The performance is so good that you just can't imagine anybody else rocking that ironic (iconic?) bathrobe or swinging those nunchucks. Both performances bring out the subtle-and-not-subtle-at-all dark dark comedy in this story. And the movie is very funny. Just listen to Helena Bonham Carter (she's about perfect, too, and very sexy in kind of a filthy way) and Pitt's orgasmic outbursts, or better yet, just try to figure out what's going on when Norton interrupts a love-making session of theirs and Pitt comes out of the room with giant rubber gloves. A personal favorite bit of comedy is the look the woman at the thrift store gives when Norton announces, "I want bowel cancer." And Meat Loaf is in this! With tits! Tom Waits also gets a song in there, the delirious "Goin' Out West," and did I hear incorrectly or was there a Wilhelm during the plane crash fantasy? Fight Club's a movie that begs you to watch it again and again, one of those in which you might pick up a little something new during subsequent viewings. Did I notice the Tyler glitchiness the first time? That first non-glitchy shot of Tyler at the airport--what a line there. This is a movie about the balance between accepting life as it is and complete nihilism, about people--especially men--actually feeling something. You know, like a punch to the nose.

La Course en Tete

1974 cycling documentary

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

Plot: A look at Belgium cycling superstar Eddy Merckx as he trains and races and juggles a family life.

Best thing about this one: I get to use my "bagpipes" label. A bagpipe-heavy score, by the way, never really made sense to me. I was tricked into watching this by my brother who translated La Course en Tete as "The Way of the Tits" and told me it was "boob kung-fu" which, as a warm-blooded American male, I was excited about. And then this didn't have kung-fu or boobs, just a bunch of cycling. And I mean lots of cycling. For the cycling enthusiast, this might make a lot of sense on its own. I had to have a lot explained to me by a cycling enthusiast, almost as much I need comic book movies explained to me by comic book enthusiasts. I also had problems with the chronology of this, and I suspect that it was all sort of random. There was a lot of exciting cycling action, but after a while, enough was enough. Once this hit the four hour mark, I had hit my limit. I did come away with a respect for Eddy Merckx though which I suppose was the point. My favorite bits: an opening montage of a bunch of old-timey bicycle footage and a later montage of a lot of horrendous accidents. One of those probably was accompanied by inexplicable bagpipe music.

The Puffy Chair

2005 puffy chair movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Josh makes a road trip to surprise his father on his birthday and give him the titular piece of furniture. He takes his girlfriend along though their relationship has been strained. Along the way, they pick up Josh's bearded brother.

This movie's got the puffiest MacGuffin in cinematic history! The handheld camera might have given this a cinema verite feel, but it also made this seem really really cheap and was sort of annoying. And I nearly shut this off after five minutes because I couldn't stand the voices the guy and gal were using with each other. It reminded me of the "Snooki" episode of Seinfeld. There also might be more "dudes" in this than Lebowski, and I don't mean that as a compliment at all. This one really grew on me though as it established whatever rhythm it was going to have. A lot of it was the performances from the three principles. This has a realistic come-as-you-may plot, and it would have completely fallen apart with bad acting. Mark Duplass, brother of his co-writer and director Jay Duplass (dad Larry Duplass also makes an appearance), is good, but his co-star Katie Aselton, even though her character is more whiny than likable, is terrific. And cute! I think I almost recognized her from an episode of The Office (the superior American version) and a fantasy football sitcom called The League. This lags in bits, but there are a few really funny scenes, one which caused me to reminisce about my days with the urine couch. This isn't anywhere close to comedy perfection, but I look forward to seeing more from the Duplasses.

The Virgin Spring

1969 feel-good movie

Rating: 18/20

Plot: Based on a Swedish folktale and set during medieval times, this is the story of a family who sends the daughter and a surly maid to light some candles only to have the daughter raped and murdered by forest thugs. Soon afterward, her parents meet their daughter's attackers face to face and have a decision to make.

According to a guy named Daniel Ekeroth who wrote a book called A Clandestine History of Sex, Thrillers, and Kicker Cinema, John Waters says this is the first movie to show a character vomiting. He'd probably know! You almost have to give the movie a bonus point for that, right? This movie had me at the surly maid with her break frog surprises and the way she plucks chicken feathers. It's really kind of hot. This movie does such a good job at creating tension. Bergman shows us a smoke hole, a leather satchel, a butcher knife lodged in a tabletop, trees--nothing anybody would notice or think twice about--with this focus that makes them seem the like the most ominous things a person can be shown. There's such a sadness and a beauty to many of these shots--tree dust like falling snow as the boy contemplates the crime and vomits up break, the poetic wrestling match between a man and a tree. Bergman's imagery always seems to be simple but profound, and the stuff in this is no exception. Then of course you've got a pair of scenes of violence, shocking not because there's anything flashily gruesome about them but because they're just so realistic, so blunt. Almost thankfully, there's some oddness in this that gives this that folk tale feel to remind you that you're just watching a movie. Rapists with jaw harps, another sans tongue, a one-eyed guy who likes to show off his collection of severed fingers. Also, this has the absolute worst bedtime story teller in the history of bedtime stories. There were two other things I really liked about this one. First, I like the furniture in medieval Sweden, all the those clunky doors, the one-eyed guy's "seat of honor," bulky tables. And also, this might have some of the best dialogue I've read in a movie in a long time, a scene involving a gift of clothing that is filled with such juicy double meanings that I just had to watch it again. This isn't exactly easy viewing, but there's a quiet beauty and reflective tone that makes it pretty brilliant.


2011 religious movie

Rating: 8/20

Plot: Odin's titular kid is too cocky and stirs up too much trouble, so he's sent from Asgard to earth where he falls in love with Natalie Portman and saves humanity from some bad guy from Asgard who is up to evil things that I never quite understand because I'm too bored to pay attention.

If I'm going to eventually watch The Avengers, apparently the greatest movie ever made, I have to do my homework and watch these other movies. I've got Hulk and Iron Man covered, so it's just this and Captain America. I'm not exactly a comic book or superhero expert, but when the most interesting character in the whole movie is "Pet Store Clerk" played by some guy named Isaac Kappy, you probably have a sucky superhero movie. Isaac Kappy's had a great start to a very promising career, by the way. No, he doesn't have his picture on imdb.com yet, but he does have three message board posts on his page and only one of them is his. He just hasn't had the right role yet because his work as "Pet Store Clerk" in this is fantastic. He's played Rowdy Prisoner, Stoner Dude, Geek, Buzter Pie (in Klown Kamp Massacre), and Hustler, but I'm willing to bet his best work is still to come. But back to Thor since this is his movie, unfortunately for him. This is the least fun I've had watching a superhero movie with the exception of Spiderman 3, but Spiderman 3 did at least have a great scene where James Franco is enjoying pie. It's all so stiff and lifeless and the scenes on Asgard taste a lot like the inside of a computer. So many grand swooping fake camera movements over shiny castles. Look at the scene where, accompanied by giant omnipresent predictable music, Thor and his peeps ride horses on a iridescent bridge after these big fake doors open. It just made me wish that I was watching a Western with real people riding real horses. Then, they go to a yellow-eyed guy who watches over the bridge. He turns out to be important, and if more people read this blog, some comic book nerd (Kent?) would tell me what his name was and make fun of me for not knowing it. I could stop all that from happening by just looking it up, but my eyes still hurt a little bit from all the Asgard glossiness. I really hated the action scenes in this. It didn't take long for me to be convinced that this whole movie was just part of a conspiracy to sell plastic hammers to children. But the action scenes confused me, especially the one where they loudly fight in the land of the ice people. There's a lot of swooshing and a lot of crumbling things, but it was mostly too dark for me to figure out exactly what was happening. Or maybe it was my television. I'm too lazy to Google "Guy with yellow eyes on the shiny gay bridge in Thor," so it's not hard to believe that I'd be too lazy to adjust the brightness on my television. Things improve slightly once Thor hits earth, and this part of the movie really could have worked as an entry in the whole stranger-in-a-strange-land genre if ("What realm is this?") it just didn't take itself so seriously. I did chortle when Thor smashed a glass in a diner. I might have enjoyed that part of the movie more, but I was confused about how a taser could take a superhero out, probably because I didn't watch this with a comic book nerd (Kent?) who would have explained it all to me. And what's with all the tilted camera angles in this? Was it the cinematographer's ingenious way of showing that Thor's world had become askew? Was it an homage to the comics? The dialogue in this is very awkward, and that might explain why the acting is almost universally bad (Pet Shop Clerks excepted), especially Natalie Portman who is quickly becoming a sort of pet peeve for me. She needs to stop before she loses all credibility. And speaking of credibility, why is Kenneth Branagh directing stuff like this? Did he run out of Shakespeare plays? Did somebody convince him that this was a Shakespeare play? Another question--isn't the whole Thor-as-a-Christ-figure thing a bit odd? Or is the whole father/son story (that's how Netflix categorized this for me, by the way) an archetype? Anyway, back to the movie. Eventually, Thor magically--and by that, I mean stupidly--gets his hammer back and fights a giant metal man in a tornado. And that's not even the big dumb climactic fight scene that all of these superhero movies seem to end with. No, that pits the sort-of good against the ambiguously evil in a special effects laden bunch of hurls and clashes that succeeded in making me wish I had gone to bed instead of watching this. And it was four in the afternoon!

This is fairly verbose, so let me simplify things for you: Watch this with a comic book nerd (Kent?), give your comic book nerd instructions to wake you up in time to see the scene in the pet store, fall asleep before the movie starts, watch Isaac Kappy's genius, and leave to buy an ice cream cone. You can thank me later.

The Barbarian Invasions

2003 death movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: College professor and part-time philanderer Remy is dying. Not only that--he's dying with a few regrets. He spends his last moments on earth hanging out with friends, making peace with his estranged son and ex-wife, and befriending a heroin addict.

Don't be fooled by the poster for this one, friends! Despite its appearance on the poster, this movie does not have any shots of old man ass. It's still worth seeing, however, one of those that I can stack beside other movies that manage to be about death on the surface but really more about life--Ikiru, The Living Wake. Remy Girard's performance as the dying man touched me. His character's got a faux strength, but there's this hopelessness there as well, every spot on his countenance betraying this sadness because he knows he's messed things up. So much of the dialogue alludes to the past, both Remy's and humanity's. Lines--"The history of mankind is a history of horrors" or "History is a series of abominable crimes"--take on a double meaning. A central theme deals with the human need to have somebody there to forgive us for the horrible things in our past. I loved that line about embracing the mystery in order to be saved. This is a simple story with a hidden subplot about how "living grows on you," and although most of the story is driven by the dialogue (read: smart people acting all witty), there are some moving visuals as well. The trips through Canadian hospital halls are depressing enough, long shots following or in some cases leading the characters. There's a poignant shot of Remy sitting beside a lake, all the shots of his son (Stephane Rousseau) counting out money, that final twitch of Remy's mouth during the quiet death scene. Love the last image in his mind, the same as the first in his masturbation Rolodex. It was nearly enough to jerk tears from this middle-aged viewer. And wait just a second! Is that Philip Glass mixed in with all the classical music? Rousseau's performance is nearly as good as Girard's, but the beautiful Marie-Josee Croze comes along and nearly steals the show as Nathalie the heroin addict. It's a delicate balance between a victim and somebody who, as the drug dealer warned, will turn on you.

My question: Who are the titular barbarians? The 9/11 terrorists? Europeans, seen through the eyes of Native Americans? Remy's son, a representation of the evils of capitalism? Cancer?

This was a Cory recommendation, so maybe he can answer that.

Rocky Balboa

2006 sequel to a sequel to a sequel to a sequel to a sequel to an original good movie

Rating: 11/20

Plot: The titular former heavyweight champion of the world is adjusting to a new life as a retired athlete whose fame has withered away, a restaurant owner who owns a burgundy jacket, and, sadly, a widower. That's right. They'll killed off Adrian, probably because of some contract dispute with Talia Shire. There's a fire burning (boynin' as Mickey would have said) inside Rocky, and he longs for one last chance in the ring even though he's in his 90s and can't find those ridiculous red, white, and blue shorts still drenched with his buddy Apollo's junk sweat. The new champion, a cocky and unchallenged Mason Dixon (seriously?), becomes disturbed when ESPN boxing analysts suggest that Rocky was a better fighter with a virtual match between the two proving them right. Rocky agrees to an exhibition match. Cue theme music/workout montage!

The best thing about this movie is that it isn't the last movie. This is the first one of these sequels where we don't have to watch a big chunk of the previous movie, presumably because they were all embarrassed by Rocky V. "What? This is how we ended it?" This makes for a more fitting end for our character (though a part of me was hoping this would end in his death) but it really feels like they've dug up a dead horse so that they could beat on it. Like a pinata, hoping that candy or maybe even money will come out. Everything that reminds me of the other movies feels tired, and everything that is different isn't really different. For example, Adrian's gone, but this movie still manages to have her stink all over it. His restaurant's got pictures of her all over the place, and there's a sickening scene where Rocky returns to his old crib and says "I remember when she was standing there" which of course makes an Adrian ghost appear. In the years that have passed since the last movie, Paulie's become a complete cartoon. My favorite Paulie moment is when he's rambling, "I got a watch! I got two watches!" I wasn't sure if that was comedy or tragedy so I laughed and cried at the same time. Another nice Paulie moment:

Paulie: Are you made because your wife left you?
Rocky: She didn't leave me. She died.
(Blubbery weeping)

Mason "The Line" Dixon (seriously, they really went with this?) has the boxing chops, but doesn't have nearly the personality of any of Rocky's other opponents, even Tommy Morrison in that last pitiful movie. There's the obligatory training montage where you get to see Rocky do all the stuff that he did in the previous movies when he was much younger. He even runs up those steps, this time with a dog. Here, it just seems like an excuse to show off how good Stallone thinks he looks as a guy in his 60s. Speaking of that, something artificial has to be going on there, right? And speaking of artificial, I didn't buy the father/son stuff in this. And where was Rocky's son anyway? You're telling me that they could get Skip Bayless in this, but Stallone's son was too busy? And holy cannibalism! There's Mike Tyson's tattoo! Iron Mike gets to say, "You got that midget with you right there!" which makes me wonder why the heck anybody would let Tyson improvise in a movie. And once you've thrown Mike Tyson talking about midgets in a movie, you have nowhere to go but down, so the boxing match that takes place afterward is anti-climactic. I'm not a boxing expert, but I'm pretty sure this fight would have been stopped in the 2nd. This lays the theme on so thick that the whole thing seems like an over-icing'ed cake collapsing under its own weight. It's like a very small cake, a heaping layer of Adrian, a layer of father/son, and at least five layers of redemption.

My two favorite things about this movie: Rocky's new quirk--a "How ya doin?" long after a "How ya doin?" is appropriate in a conversation. He does it twice. And the second is Angela Boyd's performance as "crazy woman who turns all gangsta in the bar" which is quite possibly the worst performance from any of the Rocky movies. And that's saying something! "A fool? I'm the fool? You're the fool!"

Singin' in the Rain

1952 musical

Rating: 18/20 (Jen: 17/20; Dylan: 10/20; Emma: 6/20; Abbey: 6/20; Buster: 5/20)

Plot: A movie studio and its stars try to adapt to the talkie phenomenon.

The first sign this is a movie that Shane will like: Zelda's walk about a minute and a half into the movie. It's not a sexual thing here, more about the flamboyance, making something that ridiculous the focal point of a scene that early in the proceedings. No, the sexual thing comes later with the movement of a green dress and some rhythmic coin flippage. It's so awkward getting an erection on family movie night. The reaction from my family during this was fun. Dylan, during a kid tap-dancing scene in a pool room, said, "I don't feel comfortable about this," and later exclaimed, "Oh no! He's going to sing!" Emma also yelled a "No! Why does he have to sing again?" at one point. Later, the kid who gave Dr. Strangelove a 6/20 and forever ruined his credibility, complained that Gene Kelly was a bad dancer. He also claimed he was going to give this movie a 0/20 for "unrealistic violin playing" but reconsidered later. Jen was really looking forward to the "Singin' in the Rain" number, and when it began, she emitted a for-some-reason gravelly "Alright!" Buster's reaction was the best. She loved watching this despite her 5/20 rating. I wish I would have videotaped her imitating "Make 'em Laugh".

But I digress. This would be a classic even without that aforementioned green dress and coin flippage scene because of the "What's you hitting him with--a blackjack?" guy. But it's filled with a lot of memorable moments--the talking picture demonstrator, like Vincent Price with bad teeth; the way Gene Kelly assaults Debbie Reynolds a few times, just because he's Gene Kelly and, like John Wayne, he can; Gene and Cosmo's walk through a studio where several movies are being filmed at once, a scene put in there just for movie lovers; that exhilarating seersucker violin tap-dancing number that looked like it came straight out of Spike Jones; lines like "I can't make love to a bush" or "I make more money than Calvin Coolidge combined"; the spoken argument during the silent scene of The Duelling Cavalier; Cathy's dress blown by a fan; a way-too-close close-up of Gene's face, a shot that made me as uncomfortable as Dylan probably was while watching a little kid tap dance; the hilarious sound issues during the premiere of The Duelling Cavalier, the "No! No! No!"; the "Broadway Rhythm" sequence set designs and dazzling colors. The best musicals, at least for me, are the ones that manage to have a buoyancy throughout, not just during the song and dance numbers. This one's got that buoyancy and pours on a little extra during some of those song and dance numbers. I nearly creamed my britches during the "Mose Supposes" sequence, one that makes me realize that the same exact part of me that loves watching kung-fu movies also loves to watch tap-dancing. Singin' in the Rain's got a cool story despite being sort of artificially created around songs that already existed, and it's hard for me not to watch and recall my childhood, the days when people destroyed their homes with lethal tap routines and then collapsed giggling. That happened all the time when I was a kid! The world would be a better place if they'd just stop what they were doing and watch Singin' in the Rain once or twice a year.

American History X

1998 movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A guy with a giant swastika tattoo on his chest goes to prison for curb-stomping a guy who was attempting to steal his car. By the time he gets out, he's decided that black people aren't so bad after all and wants out of the white supremest club he's in. Danny, a little brother who emulates big brother in every way, doesn't understand Derek's transformation. Derek wants to start over and keep his little brother from following in his hateful footsteps.

Fun trivia: The two Edwards grab a bite to eat in the same little coffee shop that they try to kick Walter out of for screaming about toes in The Big Lebowski.

Am I wrong for thinking that this is extremely well done but ultimately pretty pointless? The acting's good, especially Norton who takes on a dangerous role and runs with it. The difference between his body's shape here and his body shape in other movies from around the same time is almost shocking. There's a look Norton gives while being arrested that is one of those movie moments that you'll never forget. It's a powerful performance in a powerful story, but it doesn't really add up to a powerful movie. I didn't like the other Edward in this one, pouty Furlong who is just a bit too feminine in this movie. The colorized present contrasting with the black and white flashbacks thing was an effective device. This really is a great movie in bits and pieces. I just wish those bits and pieces built something a little more meaningful.

Django Kill. . .If You Live, Shoot!

1967 spaghetti western

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A guy who might not even be named Django and his peeps steal some bags of gold dust and are immediately double-crossed and left for dead. With the help of two of the fakest-looking Injuns in the history of world cinema, the guy survives and heads to a nearby town where the double-crossers have already been executed. He sticks around to retrieve his gold.

This oddly-titled spaghetti western has nothing to do with any other Django movie, including this one. This isn't quite the great movie I've waited patiently to see since writing its title on my "Movies I'm Waiting Patiently to See" list, but it's weird enough to at least be interesting for the duration. It's also not as graphically violent as I had been led to believe which makes me wonder if I watched some kind of watered-down edited version. Wikipedia quotes some writers who claim it's "the most brutally violent spaghetti western ever made" and it's got "truly horrendous scenes." There's some bloody weirdness that might have been a shock in the late-60's. There's the extraction of some golden bullets, a scalping, the demise of a guy named either Mr. Zorro or Mr. Sorrow. Then, there's just some general weirdness--a great entrance into a town that "sure don't look like heaven" with weird singing troll children, a crippled rat, a flash of a dress; gay bodyguards in matching black outfits; that aforementioned non-convincing Indian who kind of looks like Dudley Moore in a bad wig; a whiskey-drinking parrot; the use of vampire bats and lizards in an attempt to off our anti-hero instead of just shooting him, almost like they're villains from the old Batman t.v. show or something. Speaking of our hero, a guy who isn't even named Django, he's played by Tomas Milian who is probably good here just because he kind of looks like Franco Nero. A solid score compliments the odd, convoluted, and incoherent meanderings typical of a lot of your Italian westerns. This isn't top shelf stuff exactly and not worth being all that excited about, but it's a nifty enough little oddity.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

1986 comedy fantasy movie

Rating: 13/20

Plot: The titular charismatic rascal malingers masterfully, convincing his parents to let him miss his 9th school day of the semester. His sister knows what's up, and so does Principal Rooney who wants nothing more but to catch him. Ferris convinces his pal Cameron, a kid who is actually sick, and his girlfriend Sloane to take Cameron's dad's Ferrari up to see the sights of Chicago--Sears Tower, Wrigley Field, an art museum, an inexplicable parade. It's all fun and games until some odometer problems.

So here's an interesting theory I stumbled upon: interesting theory.

Essentially, it's a theory that Ferris Bueller doesn't actually exist and the whole thing is a Fight Club-esque delusion in the mind of Cameron. Despite the fact that I think Cameron is a far more interesting character than Ferris and there are moments when you do question the boy's sanity, I don't buy this at all. Heck, even Carl Fredricksen thinks this is a bunch of hooey. (And no, I'm not bringing that up [pun intended?] again!) It would add a bit of depth to a movie that isn't nearly as much fun in 2012 as I remember it being in the late-1980s. It would also make the scene where Cameron ponders pointillism a little more than the waste of time it is now.

I don't think this movie holds up all that well. It's a lot of fun right up to the point when they hit the Windy City. The characters are colorful. Stein and Del Close make dull and lifeless into something humorous as Bueller's teachers, Jeffrey Jones overdoes it just the right amount as the principal, and Edie McClurg is hilarious as the secretary. The way she says "dickheads" in this movie should have won her some kind of award. The breaking-of-the-fourth-wall early in this still seems fresh, responsibly for more than a few television sitcom imitations. This just begins to wear thin after a while and lines like "The man could squash my nuts into oblivion" don't exactly make it seem timeless. And what kid, even in the mid-80s, wore freakin' berets? Another issue--Ferris Bueller must have the same gift that Jack Bauer has. There's no way these kids had enough time to do all of these things in Chicago. Maybe that lends credence to the above theory, too. This movie should be better although Broderick is charming, so charming that his character's the kind of miscreant housewives wouldn't mind their teenage boys aspiring to be. And Mia Sara--almost as cute as a button--should have had more of a career after this.

The more I think about it, the more that "Ferris Bueller doesn't exist" theory makes this movie more enjoyable. What do you think?

The Emperor's New Groove

2000 movie where a David Spade character befriends a fat guy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: The titular emperor, a young and arrogant spoiled brat, has plans to build a waterpark on a hill belonging to a gregarious peasant named Pacha. A power-hungry associate named Yzma attempts to assassinate Emperor Kuzco but winds up turning him into a talking llama instead. He has to depend on Pacha to get back to his kingdom and un-llama himself. It's a hilarious adventure!

Sure there' a midget Tom Jones in this, but other than his opening song, this isn't a musical. And thank God for that! This offering seems a little adventurous for the Disney folk. This one's got an ornery rhythm, and although there isn't anything objectionable, I imagine its general attitude might be off-putting to some parents. It's playful and as colorful as Robin Williams' squelchiest brain farts, but unlike his unhinged Genie, the modern references in this--boy scouts, exotic bird bingo--are never obvious. This is stuffed with visual gags, and the jokes in the dialogue are rapidfire, the funny coming so quickly that you really need to see this more than once to catch it all. So much contributes to this unique liveliness this cartoon's got. You've got the good voice work from the likes of sarcastic Spade ("He's doing his own theme music!") who, for at least part of the movie, narrates unreliably; John Goodman; freakin' Eartha Kitt as one of Disney's most inept villains ("Should have thought about that before you became a peasant."); Patrick Warburton as her even more inept sidekick, the rare dumbass character who doesn't get annoying by the end, a character whose every bit of dialogue is funny; even John "Piglet" Fiedler with one of his final roles, an Old Man cameo surrounded by movie after movie after movie in which he has to voice fucking Piglet. The action sequences, those scenes of adventure that must have been the reason this had a "mild peril" warning stamped on it, have both a zip and a wang. The sound effects accompanying all the mild peril were also great, giving this almost a Looney Tunes flavor--wacky and lively. The settings, a variety of gnarled locales with no regard for buzzkills like continuity, just pop, and I like the cool transitions from place to place and scene to scene. The whole movie's got a look that I liked a lot--the characters with exaggerated angles of necks and limbs, the jazzy movement, explosions of color. It's all very refreshing. Buster watched this with me and instantly wanted to watch it again. She was, however, high.

Good Morning

1959 comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Two boys in the Japanese equivalent of suburbia want a television to watch obscenely-hefty scantily-clad men bump bellies. The parents refuse, so the two brothers take a vow of silence which, because they don't understand how annoying children are, they believe will be some sort of retaliation. The neighbors gossip, and a lot of people fart.

Seriously, what's with all the farting? This movie has more farting than all three Shrek movies combined. I'd like to think it's Ozu's shrewd way of proving his point that television "will produce 100 million idiots." Only it's not television. That's wonderfully prescient though, isn't it? If you've seen any clips of Japanese television floating around the Internet, you've probably noticed that it's like one giant fart joke. That's not a bad thing, of course. Neither is the reply of the parents to a visit from their kids' teacher--"Please use Spartan methods. We don't mind." Wow! What a beautiful thing that would be to hear, like a golden ticket for teachers. This is a charming little story despite all the flatulence. It's more charming than humorous anyway. The kids are likable enough, and I like how the story, though not all the way seen through their eyes, is from this naive perspective. There's an innocence there that allows you as the viewer to discover things about the adults in this story. And about a rapidly-modernizing and Western-izing Japan. Don't get me wrong because there's nothing heavy-handed here at all. It's about as light as an American 50's sitcom; in fact, I half-expected Beaver Cleaver to walk out and fart. If I didn't know any better, I'd think Ozu was making fun of Western civilization a little bit. It's a deceptively simple little comedy. My favorite thing about it is how a touching second story sneaks up on you by the end and makes you realize that Good Morning was kind of about something else all along.

I believe this is the only Ozu movie on the blog. I might rectify this by declaring this the Summer of Ozu! Who's with me?

P.S. I may have just farted. LOL!