1997 blockbuster

Rating: 12/20 (Abbey: 16/20; Becky: only watched enough to ruin the experience for me)

Plot: As you can easily tell by the above poster, this is about the historic boat that sank in 1912 after ramming into a giant poor guy and a giant slut who were impersonating icebergs in the Northern Atlantic.

I'd already seen this monstrosity for the 100 year anniversary of Titanic, but Abbey and I had some time to kill and decided to pop this in. Of course, I only wanted to watch it for Kate Winslet nudity and was hoping that my daughter would have fallen asleep way before that, likely since large chunks of this compete for Most Boring Chunks of Movie of All Time. But no, Abbey didn't fall asleep. Not only that, my mother-in-law came into the room to watch the movie with us and asked specifically about that scene. Talk about killing the moment. I mean, Gloria Stuart and her wrinkles butting in intermittently is nearly enough to make a guy flaccid for life anyway. And then you add a mother-in-law? There's a cure for virility if you're ever looking for one. So I did what probably any other guy would do in a situation as awful as this one--skipped over the best scenes of the movie and be forced to watch them on Youtube more than a week later. Eight times.

And that, dear readers, is as terrible as what any of the actual victims of the Titanic tragedy had to deal with.

In fact, one could watch Titanic as a metaphor for my personal tragedy.

1) Leo is dissatisfied with his life, wants a change, and finds his way onto Titanic. In my situation, I had just watched a movie called Monster from a Prehistoric Planet that, despite frequent references to "Playmate Island," lacked nudity. So I perused my mother-in-law's dvd collection, saw Titanic, remembered that it's got Kate Winslet's boobs in it, and popped it in.

2) Leo sees Rose for the first time. I also saw Kate Winslet for the first time, and like Leo, I liked what I saw. She's very nearly perfection in this movie. Leo and I both think, "I should just skip ahead to the scene where she's naked."

3) Leo and Rose develop a friendship, a development that lasts well over four hours. I develop sleepiness but stay awake in anticipation of the best scene in Titanic.

4) Bang! The boat hits an iceberg. That iceberg symbolizes my mother-in-law in my tragedy. The boat represents my journey to see Kate Winslet naked, of course.

5) People start drowning, falling to their deaths, and turning blue in the icy waters of the North Atlantic. In my tragedy, that represents me hitting the forward arrow button on the remote and skipping over the only scene that matters in this movie with the exception of the couple shots where computer-animated people are falling from the back of the ship when it's all ass-up and hitting parts of the ship and flipping around.

6) Rose lets go of blue Leo who dies and sinks to the bottom of the ocean. That's just like my dreams of seeing Kate Winslet naked!

Obviously, James Cameron didn't make this movie as a metaphor for my personal tragedy. No, he made it to make a buttload of money. That this movie starts with the money-grubbing explorer looking for a gigantic blue diamond, a grave robber tearing apart the ghostly remains of this beautiful and very real ship that once had beautiful and very real people on it in order to become a rich king of the world. And that's offensive.

Look, if I made a 9/11 movie in which two fantastic-looking young people, knowing that their plane has been taken over by terrorists, decide to have sex in the airplane bathroom, a lot of people would be offended by it regardless of whether or not one of them was Leonardo Dicaprio. My special effects might be spectacular, but it wouldn't matter. My movie would be offensive. This isn't different. Cameron's taken a historical tragedy and added a lot of flair, an unbelievable love story, and a pair of nipples. The focus is just all wrong here. The lessons of the Titanic are in this bulbous motion picture, but the viewer is distracted by what's going on with the two main characters.

Cameron does a lot really good here. The underwater footage of the sunken ship, whether it's real or not, is really cool. It's haunting footage, and any emotion I felt during this movie was during these early scenes and not when the boat was sinking and its passengers dying since the movie had essentially turned into an action movie with only two characters who matter by that point. There are other individual scenes--the death of some poor people, the captain's demise, the stuff with the musicians--that worked really well, and in a movie that was about Titanic instead of Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet, they would have contributed to an emotional piece of historical fiction. The ship looks great even though you can tell in all the grand sweeping shots that it was created with a computer. I can't imagine another movie giving a better experience of what it was like on this ship. Well, other than that cartoon with the rapping dogs.

Click on that link there if you want to see the dumbest thing ever made.


2011 Guy Maddin movie

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Gangster Ulysses Pick and his gang take refuge in Pick's home. The police have the place surrounded. Accompanying Pick are a tied-up and gagged young man and a drowned woman. While his men bicker, Pick and the two companions venture through the house in search of his wife. They talk to some ghosts and see a penis or two.

Even a bad Guy Maddin film is going to have enough originality and cool visuals to make it worth the time. This is a clash of all kinds of ideas, but it never feels very complete or even all that coherent. It's more like thumbing through Maddin's notepad which is fun in spots and frustrating in others. It's definitely a weird movie although Maddin claimed it was his effort to make "pure narrative." The nods to silent cinema are still present, but this is shot more traditionally and has a lot of dialogue. I think the less dialogue in Maddin's movies, the better. Anyway, there's a ton going on--a noirish gangster tale, a ghost story, a psychological investigation, a surreal dream playground, light science fiction, and maybe the retelling of a myth. It's a lot to take in, and most people are going to think it's just a little too pretentious. But it's a silly pretentious, not a stuffy pretentious with Maddin his usual playful self. In this, you get naked old guy genitalia, backwards talking, weird moving lights, characters speaking to each other in different languages, undergarments with phallic doodles, wallpapering, symbolic green bowls, a bicycle-powered electric chair, a crowded tub, secret tunnels with a "Cyclops ahead" warning turning out to be a glory hole, old man stump licking, weird antique toys, wallpaper love, Mexican banditos, Kids in the Hall alum Kevin McDonald attempting to sodomize a ghost, and a narrator who says cool things like "You don't even recognize your own son, Ned--Milk-drinking Ned." Oh, and a guy in a closet who plays Yahtzee. A lot of the dreamlike visuals are really cool, but that can only take you so far and this ends up dragging a little and frustrating a lot. It's not where I'd start with Guy Maddin's work if I were you.

Monster from a Prehistoric Planet

1967 monster movie

Rating: 5/20

Plot: A magazine mogul wants to take a volcanic island and turn it into a resort spot called "Playmate Land." After exploring the island, scientists bring back a baby monster and bring it back home. Its parents get pissed off and come looking for it, destroying all kinds of architecture in the process. Can they reunite the destructive monsters with their offspring before it's too late?

From Wikipedia: "In the scene where the Gappas rise from the ocean into a city, one of the Gappas was carrying an octopus in its mouth, hoping to bring food to its missing offspring, assuming it was found (this scene was meant to be humorous)."

I was wondering about that. I completely missed that the makers of Gappa: The Triphibian Monsters or whatever the hell this movie wants to call itself were trying to be funny. I did wonder why one of the monsters had what I thought was a squid hanging from his chin. I thought it was like a waddle or something that helps distinguish between the male and female monsters, but it was shot off awfully easily by one of the toy tanks. I apparently assumed incorrectly that this was unintentionally funny. The two-monsters-destroying-miniatures mayhem wasn't terribly done, but there was nothing special about it. The other effects were mostly embarrassing. There's a volcano on "Playmate Land" that made me laugh every time I saw it. I've seen science fair volcanoes that are more realistic than that one. Speaking of that island, I can't figure out the title of this movie at all. First, there are multiple monsters, not just one. Second, nothing about the island makes me think it's prehistoric. There's an English-dubbed tribe there. The bearded leader of the tribe (Bumon Koto in his only role) is very good and says, "Are you Japan people?" at one point, and there wasn't a Japan in prehistoric times. And third, the monsters aren't from a planet. They're from an island, one that some guy wants to name "Playmate Land." Oh, that guy's model of "Playmate Land," complete with little plastic animals and a recording of bird sounds, might have been the best special effect of the movie. The characters certainly say "Playmate Land" enough, and if I had seen this previously, I could have invented a drinking game where I drank a shot every time somebody said "Playmate Land" and ended up completely smashed and weeping by myself instead of just soberly weeping by myself. But maybe the endless repeating of "Playmate Land" was part of the intentional humor of Monsters from a Modern-Day Volcanic Island or whatever the hell this movie is called. There was a character inserted into this mess who was obviously there for comic relief. He was irritating, the Jar-Jar Binks of Big Bird Things from Playmate Land. Those bird things are more goofy than menacing, by the way, and the bird noises they make are just grating, really some of the worst noises that I've ever heard. And I work with middle schoolers! Sometimes, they sound like a bird in a lot of pain, sometimes they sound like a human being imitating a bird in pain, and sometimes it just sounds like a stylus being moved across a record really repeatedly. The dialogue--poorly translated, I reckon--is equally painful.

Guy: Look at this. A lake under a volcano.
Girl: Are we dreaming?
Guy: [grabs girl's arm] We're here. See.

I will say this about this movie. The reunion with the baby at the end is one of the most touching moments in the history of guys-in-rubber-giant-bird-costume cinema.


1978 Star Wars rip-off
Rating: 4/20
Plot: Sexy sexy space smuggler Stella Star, her robot friend, her mysterious and powerful friend Akton, and David Hasselhoff have to save the galaxy from an evil "count" who is building a weapon that can destroy stars or something. The weapon, the mightiest weapon according to Count Zarth, is called the Doom Machine. Nope, I'm not making that up.
I apologize for the flimsy plot synopsis, but I never really had a clue what was going on in this movie. I was enormously entertained by this for a variety or reasons that I'll mention below, but I had no luck following a story. I'm fairly positive that the makers of this were working from a script to A New Hope that had been very poorly translated into Italian or partially consumed in a fire or maybe both. Or maybe they were just making the whole thing up as they went. That's more likely. Director/co-writer Luigi Cozzi probably just said, "Forget a script! Let's just build a bunch of shit and get this thing rolling! Let's make us some Star Wars money!" The movie opens with a shot of the underside of a passing space ship. Doesn't that sound familiar? Seriously, you're ripping off the first shot of Star Wars? I'm surprised there wasn't a scrolling backstory against a background of stars. Of course, Cozzi's spaceships don't look as realistic or as iconic as Lucas's, but his outer space is definitely a lot more colorful. It looks like it might have been made with a Light Brite actually with all kinds of colorful stars. There's also a robot, voiced by Hamilton Camp who played Mr. Margolies in an episode of Saved by the Bell which allows my mind to connect Marjoe Gortner and Elizabeth Berkley in my head, and that robot provides comic relief that makes the C3PO of the prequels seem like a comic genius. The robot moves like a less-stiff version of C3PO, and says things (in a Southern accent) like "Every time I go into hyperspace, I get nervous" which almost seem directly lifted from Lucas's scripts. He also says, "Time for a little robot chauvenism," at one point which made me wonder if the writers of this knew what "chauvenism" means. Oh, and my favorite fake-C3PO line--"Look! He's here! There's his holographic image!" Another Star Wars-inspired line--"Let's hope this star buggy stays together." And then there's the big reveal--that Marjoe Gortner's character has force-like abilities. He can blind people with his eyes, heal people, see into the future, absorb lasers and shoot them back out his palms, etc. And, of course, during one brilliant fight scene with some stop-motion robot "guardians" (stop motion that would make Harryhausen piss himself!), they give Marjoe a lightsaber so that he can wipe out troglodytes. There's an image I don't have to badass-up with superlatives--Marjoe Gortner wiping out troglodytes with a lightsaber. There's also a Death-Star-esque space battle at the end but the fight ends up more on the inside of ships with torpedoes filled with soldiers being utilized and engaging in laser battles where a lot of characters scream, "Kill! Kill!" Maybe those are robots, too. Of course, this is probably superior to any Star Wars film because of the eye candy that is Caroline Munro. I might have to work my way through her filmography. She plays Stella, and although she's not naked as much as Barbarella, a few of her fashion choices (and there are a ton of wardrobe changes) recall that character. Anyway, lots to love in this one. Marjoe actually gets top billing, and from the get-go, you can tell it's going to be a special performance. The first shot of him in the space ship with that big curly hair of his and these wide eyes is classic. I'm going to go ahead and call it the most iconic moment in sci-fi movie history. I'm pretty sure he's stoned throughout the filming of this movie, and I really like how he says "robot" in this. And this scene, in which he plays with a little laser thing by himself for no reason whatsoever, might be my favorite thing ever:

I think he's using the force there, but I'm not sure. That was right before his fight with the bald guy (Thor--played by Robert Tessier) which is one of the worst fight scenes ever. And then there's his character's knowledge of the future which is one of those things that manage to make the rest of the movie completely pointless, like Superman flying around the earth really fast. Of course, Cozzi had that covered with this dialogue:

Stella: Why didn't you tell me [that this would happen, or something]?
Marjoe (trippin'): You would have tried to change the future, add that's against the law.

Ahh, I see. Other than Marjoe and the aforementioned Munro, you also get big sexy David Hasselhoff who really gets to show off his acting chops with lines like "This is an energy shield mask!" Christopher Plummer, in one of his proudest and apparently more sleepy moments, plays the Emperor, and Joe Spinell chews it up as the bad guy. "Dooooooom machine," he says, with a gigantic wave of his hand. And the greatest weapon might actually be his bitchin' goatee instead of any doom machine. There are all kinds of trippy effects (a tentacle head with a lava lamp behind it, the robot going out of control while circuits fail as the ship travels through a Pink Floyd stage backdrop), a flying caveman attack that is more thrilling than anything in Star Wars, and all those Stella Star costumes which also make this well worth watching. And it's a lot funnier than Spaceballs.

The Amazing Spider-Man

2012 superhero reboot

Rating: 9/20

Plot: It's just like this Spider-Man (hyphenated for Kent) except with a mutant lizard man instead of a goblin. And this one is in 3D.

Thank God! I've been wanting a movie to explain the origin of Spider-man for years!
It's like they decided to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man by releasing the same movie again with different actors and a different villain. When that first movie came out, the story already felt stale to me because Spider-Man was one of the handful of superheroes who had a backstory that I knew fairly well. So here's the story again, so soon after the other one came out that it's impossible not to compare the two. I'm not going to do much of that, however, other than taking time to mention that there was a Randy "Macho Man" Savage-sized hole in this one.

This is what they showed me on the plane. I was going to try sleeping but couldn't. It's entirely possible that I dozed off throughout this, and I'm pretty sure it was edited for time. Either of those could explain why this seemed so choppy and poorly-paced. And there seemed to be quite a few lazy storyteller shortcuts in this, like how the bad guy finds out that Peter Parker is really Spider-Man. This is heavy on the one-liners--as predictably lame as one-liners can get--and since you can't see Spider-Man's mouth move, they always seemed like voice-overs, lines added during the punch-up stages of the script-writing process. The action sequences are dizzying and cartoony, all special effect and no soul, and since you already know how everything's going to turn out in the end, you kind of just want them to end. I really liked Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker. He's charming enough and everything. This version of Spider-Man was a little too cocky though, and that character trait was either not developed enough (i.e. Spider-Man as a dynamic character who learns a little humility while he fights crime) or that was lost in the airplane edit. Denis Leary and Emma Stone's characters were silly cliches, and Rhys Ifans and his stump were really good, the lizard villain (I think he's named The Lizard) just didn't do it for me. The budding romance between Peter Parker and whatever the girl's name seems like it was developed to grab fans of Twilight movies. I might have just thought that because of Garfield's hair though. Oh, I did like Charlie Sheen's dad as Uncle Ben although he was also a little cartoonish. This adaptation of the Spidey story has a troubling lack of depth, a movie made for teenyboppers. If you're easily entertained by watching a guy in spandex fly around the city, there's plenty of that. A lot of that, I'm sure, was for the 3D or even just big screen crowd. I was just irritated. More irritating was a scene where a bunch of tough New Yorkers--construction workers and firemen, aka the real heroes--help out our titular superhero with some cranes. And most irritating? That would have to be the music, a horrible mix of bombastic blockbuster score and emo tunes.

Hopefully, the studio that makes these Spider-Man movies will give a little better effort in 2022 when they reboot this again. And hopefully, the sequel to this tedious reboot will reunite Sally Field and Burt Reynolds. It's about time Burt Reynolds gets a shot to play a comic book villain. Maybe he can be that guy with all the arms or the Riddler.

The Wizard of Oz

1939 fantasy

Rating: 20/20 (Dallas: 1/20; Rodrigo: 1/20; Treslynn: 10/20; Osni: 19/20; Dutch: 1/20; Lance: 17/20; Breanna: 19/20; Ig'Enid: 20/20; Jonathon: 3/20; Kimberly: 9/20; Reinn: 1/20; Mary: 15/20; Jaidah: 12/20; Kuenton: 8/20; Justin: 2/20; Cierra: 20/20; Matthew: 20/20; Donnyha: 17/20; Daniel: 3/20; Sarah: 14/20; Tyler: 1/20)

Plot: The first movie ever made about the effects of bath salts! Dorothy, as a way of revolting against her elderly guardians who give away her dog, becomes a drug addict, shoe thief, and murderer. She also takes some apples that don't belong to her. She decides to run away from home in the most illogical way imaginable--via cyclone--and meets more little people than I'll ever meet in my entire life. She befriends a stupid scarecrow, an apathetic robot, and a chickenshit lion (Oz trivia: Originally, the Cowardly Lion was called the Chickenshit Lion.) and searches for the titular wizard so that she can get out of a coma.

Monkeys and Munchkins and talking trees--oh my! First off, yes I do have a student named Donnyha. We watched this as school to reward our students for a nine weeks of embarrassing mediocrity. One teacher suggested we watch Beastly, but I threatened to quit on the spot and this one was settled on. 8th graders were not happy that it was a) partially in black and white, b) filled with songs, or c) kind of "gay," but I was entertained as I hadn't seen the movie in a while, so who cares about them? They're all a bunch of punks anyway. I did love one conversation I had with a student:

Girl: What movie are we watching?
Me: The Wizard of Oz.
Girl: (Pause) The Wiz?
Me: No, not The Wiz. The Wizard of Oz.
Girl: Oh. I've not seen that. I've only seen The Wiz.
Me: Right. That makes perfect sense.

My students poked fun at the special effects, but check out that tornado! I think that's an astounding effect for the late-30s. It looks realistic enough and is such a menacing presence as it gets closer and closer. That tornado, something I saw every single year as a kid since this was on yearly, is one of the reasons I first started loving movies. So yes, this looks dopey in some places, but the painted backdrops, the fact that this is obviously made on a stage, and the dated effects give this a feel that Tim Burton has been trying to duplicate for years while knowing that he never will. That tornado has passed, Mr. Burton. And that color! When Dorothy opens the door, that color just splashes at you. Wonderful!

This also has to be one of the most arousing moments of all time, and I'm really glad that my lower half was hidden behind a desk in a semi-darkened room during this. It starts with Auntie Em. Yeah, she's bitchy, but she's also undeniably hot. And then there's Margaret Hamilton in those dual roles. That voice just does it for me. Don't even get me started on the Munchkins because things might get inappropriate. The good witch singing "Come out, come out" scene where the Munchkins "come out" might be the most arousing moments in cinematic history.

I remember watching this as a kid and thinking that all little people must sound like the Munchkins and always wanting to meet one. That impressive array of costumes and facial hair. And the Lollipop Guild. If I ever formed a street gang, I'd call ourselves the Lollipop Guild, and we would roll pretty hard. Billy Curtis is also in there somewhere.

The performances are so good in this. I've already mentioned Margaret Hamilton. If she's not the perfect witch, I don't know who it would be. That nose and that voice would be enough to get her in the Witch Hall of Fame if that existed, but her posture is also so perfect. My favorite Margaret Hamilton moment is when her image replaces Auntie Em's in a crystal ball and she starts mocking Dorothy--"Auntie Em, come back!" Oh, and that laugh! Frank Morgan is also great in his multiple roles, and he gets a lot of the best lines--his terrific alliteration, calling the scarecrow a "Doctor of Thinkology," the famous "Ignore the man behind the curtain" and the "Oh, you liquidated her" which should be just as famous. Ray Bolger's physical, elastic shenanigans as Scarecrow are fun to watch even for the 47th time. When you see him early on as "Hunk" (Hunk?), he seems like the worst actor of all time, probably because of the way he says "Finga," but then you find out it was Scarecrow foreshadowing and makes perfect sense. The foreshadowing in this is really neat, one of the reasons this is so much fun to watch again and again. I always thought Bert Lahr was one of the Stooges. Jack Haley is the weakest link, but he's still good.playing the more-than-likely gay Tin Man. Of course, there's Judy Garland as flat-chested Dorothy. Shirley Temple might have ruined this movie. What I like most about Garland's performance is that she never overdoes anything. She's the main character of the movie, but you never notice her all that much, and for whatever reason, that's the way it should be here.

The Munchkin hanging himself in the background of one shot (ok, so it's one of those weird birds), the irritable trees who really have a legitimate argument, the "Clever as a gizzard" line, all those flying monkeys that I'm still convinced are mostly real, the Cowardly Lion's "Pullin' an ax on me, eh?" followed by the "Whoo-uh, whoo-uh" growl which might be the worst growl of all time, that giant menacing green hall that leads to the Wizard, the first glimpse of the Wizard's disembodied head with all that fire and all that noise, the Scarecrow holding a gun in one scene (I never noticed that until I watched the movie this time--what the heck is the Scarecrow doing with a firearm?), the wack blinky bird effects, the army of Alan Thickes with their "Ooh-ee-oh" song that has always been my favorite song from this movie filled with all kinds of great songs (although that one Alan Thicke's voice when he says "She killed her" proves that they shouldn't have talked at all), Toto's impression of Lassie (did you know, by the way, that Toto made 125 bucks per week while the Munchkins earned less than half that?), the witch using the inefficient Hourglass Method of Murder which she must have gotten from the Batman Villain School of Villainy, the beauty of the unleashing of the monkeys scene and the dark scenery detail when the characters are atop the witch's castle, Morgan's uttering "Bless my buttons" and the Lion's expression right after. There's just so much here to love again and again which is probably why this should start being shown annually on network television again.

My only two gripes--

1) I've never liked the second solo the Cowardly Lion gets while they're waiting for the wizard, the "King of the Forest" number where it seems like Lahr had an "R-trilling" clause in his contract or something. It might include the great line "The chipmunks genuflect to me," but the song is about fifteen minutes long and just passes time.

2) The poppy field scene also has always seemed extraneous, just a silly distraction.

Other than that, this is perfect. And with the hefty little person bonus, it's easily a 20/20 for me.

Just spellchecked and am pleased that "Munchkin" is a word while "Donnyha" is not.

The Onion Movie

2008 satirical news movie
Rating: 10/20
Plot: America's finest news source with anchorman Norm Archer gives us the news. But Archer becomes increasingly frustrated with their corporate sponsor and its cartoon penguin. Meanwhile, terrorists.
I love The Onion, but this came across as a slightly-more-intelligent Not Another Teen Movie which I don't mean as praise. On the one hand, you've got some biting satire (my personal favorite kind of satire), some no-holds-barred envelope pushing that is clever enough to make me want to use all kinds of cliches. And then you've got Steven Seagal punching cocks. Sure, "Taffy? Fucking blacks!" is something that I'm likely to repeat and the most inappropriate time imaginable, and a blue teddy bear nearly converted me into a plushsexual after years of sketchy heterosexuality. And then there's Rodney Dangerfield rolled out to say exactly what you think he'd say. There's clever stuff in here, and I'll always be more willing than most people to support a movie that features scenes with people having sexual relations with a library book return slot, but the whole thing is so poorly paced and clumsily strung together that it's not a surprise at all to find out that this had no theatrical release and was shelved for a few years. Bits went on for far too long, and the attempt to tie it all together with the Archer vs. cartoon penguin subplot never really worked. A wild ending synthesized the chaos a bit, but there was just far too much stupid involved to make it work. And Rodney Dangerfield. 

Spanking the Monkey

1994 movie that doesn't even have a monkey

Rating: 10/20

Plot: Some kid with 90s hair has an internship all set up but instead has to go back home to take care of his recently-injured mother because his dad is a traveling salesman. The dog keeps distracting him while he's trying to masturbate, and he's not having much luck at all with the neighbor gal. Luckily for him, his mother's a lot of fun to hang out with.

The box, imdb.com, and the above poster make this seem like it's supposed to be a comedy. It was definitely more disturbing than funny, and the indie-film quality somehow succeeded in making it all seem much, much creepier than it was supposed to be. There's a big shocking payoff in the late-middle part of the movie, and although I liked how it was filmed--well, maybe it should have been a lot less tasteful--when it happened, it really doesn't inspire anything but shrugs. The actors all perform as if they're either really sleepy or maybe hypnotized. Scenes with main character Raymond's friends not only seemed extraneous but interrupted the storytelling. This movie seemed much longer than it actually was. It's really unfortunate that there wasn't a monkey in this movie.

People Like Us

2012 movie

Rating: 11/20

Plot: Some nondescript guy named Sam has all kinds of financial problems and no fighting robots to help him out of his jams. He finds out that his father dies, and although he does everything he can to miss the old man's funeral, he is curious to find out if he was left any cash. Unfortunately, a large chunk of money was left to some boy he's never heard of. Sam investigates and discovers that that boy is the son of a woman who might be a sister he never knew he had. So naturally, he flirts with her.

I like riding on planes because it forces me to watch a movie that I otherwise wouldn't watch. I wasn't thrilled to get this one, but I didn't figure it would matter anyway since I was traveling with a toddler. Luckily for me, Buster didn't had so much interest in the woman trying to read and then sleep in the window seat, and I could just let her take care of herself. I kept trying to place the nondescript actor playing the nondescript protagonist of this. He has the type of face which made me think he's somebody I should know, like he's the next big thing or something. I looked him up. Apparently, he's Captain Kirk and the guy on the runaway train with Denzel Washington. His character here is strange, almost a stalker, and his charming ways really do make it seem like he's flirting with a gal he knows is his half-sister. There's no way that the half-sister, played by the mundane and probably-too-polished-for-this-role Elizabeth Banks, wouldn't think that. But Chris Pine doesn't have much range at all. That picture up there is pretty much all he does except sometimes he does it in a sadder way. And then there's Michelle Pfeiffer who doesn't seem old enough to be Captain Kirk's mom, but I'm sure she is. This is a a nice enough story, apparently based on a true story, but the whole thing is almost painfully comfortable. It's an elevator music kind of movie, criminally pleasant, and I'm really surprised that I was able to stay awake during it.

Real Steel

2011 Rockem Sockem robots movie

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Down-on-his-luck ex-boxer and current boxing robot manager Hugh needs some cash to pay off some debts and replace his robot that was destroyed by an angry bull. And no, I am not making that part about the bull up. When an ex-lover and mother of a son he doesn't care about at all passes away, he sees it as a money-making opportunity. He and his son fix up a robot together and take it on on the road, and then the robot turns into Rocky.

When I saw a preview for this in the theater (directly after a Transformers and Pink Floyd collaboration preview), I turned to my lovely date and whispered, "Did Hollywood finally give us that movie based on Rockem Sockem Robots that we've been waiting for since we were kids?" This is really sappy, overwhelmingly predictable, and offensively rip-offy, the type of movie I'm usually going to hate. But this one got to me a little bit. I liked the way the father/son relationship grew even though it grew like only something planted and watered in Hollywood can grow. I always find Hugh Jackman likable even though his character makes the kinds of mistakes that make it difficult to root for him. The ending was beyond stupid, and the Rocky parallels were almost sickening. Hugh Jackman, thinking he was in a Rocky remake actually started yelling "Adrian! Adrian!" at the end. The robots were all a lot smarter than Rocky Balboa though. Of course, Talia Shire isn't in this movie. It's Evangeline Lilly. She's a lot more attractive, but the makers of Real Steel could have saved a lot of money by eliminating her character altogether without losing much of anything. The real stars of the show, as you might expect, are the Transformers themselves. No, they don't transform, but the mix of CGI and robot puppets works really well to give this all a realism. You really feel like those giant robots are there with the characters although I'm not sure the people in the front few rows of these bouts are responding realistically. I mean, wouldn't there be a threat of giant pieces of metal flying into the stands? A whole leg flies into the stands at the rodeo at the beginning of the movie, but apparently it doesn't weigh a whole lot because an adolescent girl walks off with it like it's a souvenir. It's unfortunate scenes like that that keep this from being a better movie. I did like that this movie is set just eight years into the future. It's got a science fiction feel while still feeling realistic. Well, as realistic as something from Hollywood's garden is going to get, I guess. I did like those robots though, and I'm glad they didn't just limit them to red and blue like in the game. These have some variety, and one even has two heads which, now that I think about it, seems like something a boxer wouldn't want to have. This movie based on a Richard Matheson story could have been a lot better, but it still managed to be a lot better than I expected it to be. Oh, and a special nod to John Gatins who plays this mohawked meth-head, the owner of the two-headed robot. His performance is so over-the-top that it almost distracts from everything else that goes on in the movie, and that takes some serious talent.

Sound of Noise

2010 new favorite movie

Rating: 17/20

Plot: A group of percussion terrorists perform a musical composition in four movements. A detective, the tone-deaf brother of a famous conductor, tries to stop catch them.

I just stumbled upon this, found it to be one of the most joyous movie occasions in recent memory, and then discovered that they have some digital fame with something you probably need to find on Youtube called Music for One Apartment and Six Musicians, which is not only even better than this full-length feature but which realistically might be my favorite thing I have ever watched. Excuse the hyperbole, but it seemed like Scandinavia made this just for me. The music is exhilarating, starting with a short piece in a speeding van that led to fist-pumping and uncontrollable urination. The movements are as humorous as they are cleverly composed and wildly creative. The bits are funny. I loved the "Nobody move--this is a gig" stick-up with a metronome, and the titles of the movements (e.g. "Doctor Doctor, Gimme Gas in My Ass" made me smile. And one scene in which the detective Peter-Townsends a bunch of instruments was ridiculously beautiful. One gets the sense that nobody involved in the making of this gave a damn about the plot, one that is really pretty thin anyway, or the love story subplot but instead just wanted an excuse to use surgery patients, a bank, large clunky vehicles, and electric wires to make as much exquisite noise as humanly possible. There's a bit of satire here maybe--I'm remembering a naked painted man--but for the most part, this is silly fun--musical mayhem that would appeal to fans of those Stomp dudes or playful experimental music with a sliver of a love story and a police vs. terrorists conflict mixed in.

Seriously, if you don't want to take the chance with the full-length feature, take a gander at that Youtube video. And thank me later. Well, unless you've already seen it. Then, you owe me nothing.


2010 superhero movie

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Frank's kind of a loser, so I'm not sure why he's surprised when his wife leaves him for a drug dealer who used to sell to a guy named Jim who went to high school with a guy who had a one-night stand with the woman who sold my mother a cat. Inspired by a religious superhero program, he becomes the Crimson Bolt and starts fighting crime, vigilante-style. Unfortunately, the bad guys hanging out with his wife have guns, so Libby, a comic book store clerk, becomes his sidekick--Boltie.

Well, terrific. Now every time I see Ellen Page in a movie, I'm going to feel like a dirty old man. It couldn't have helped that this movie came out around the same time Kick-Ass did. But Kick-Ass didn't have a scene with a kid being urinated upon by two other kids like this one did in its opening seconds. That might have been the highlight of the movie although my first laugh was because of some white-outed hands. There are some darkly funny moments in this movie. I'd definitely watch that religious superhero television show, the Holy Avengers "gay" comic art was funny, the childish animation of the opening credits was a lot of fun, and a reference to Ellen Page and "midgets" was about as much as I can handle. There's also a Haxan allusion which was neat. My favorite scene involved some tentacle rape, divine visions leading to superhero gifts. It was fantastic, and the serious music backing up such ridiculous ideas clashed exquisitely. I always like Rainn Wilson although he's consistently distracting in anything he does. His faces behind the Crimson Bolt mask in this were very funny. Ellen Page's character is just too weird; she really overdoes things in this. However, she spends a lot of the movie in superhero spandex, and you do get that Ellen Page sex scene you've always been waiting for, you pervert. She's l2 years old! The biggest problem is that the transition from darkly comic to just darkly violent is too much of a jolt. No, wait. The biggest problem is indie rock music. There's just way too much music in this.

Oprah Movie Club Pick for September: Showgirls

1995 stripper movie

Rating: 4/20

Plot: Nomi, a long-legged gal with a troubled past, hitches a ride to Las Vegas in order to become a showgirl. She makes some friends and pushes her way to the top, similarly to those ballerinas in that Black Swan movie.

I was a Saved by the Bell fan just like everybody else. Wait a second. Was? I was, am, and will always be a Saved by the Bell fan, or a Bell Head as we call ourselves. And like all the other teenage male Bell Heads, I wanted to everybody on the show naked, probably in this order: Jesse, Kelly, Mr. Belding, Lisa, Screech, everybody else. So this was a dream come true, an answer to our perverted prayers. You get to see every inch of Jesse in this movie. But you know what? It's too much. I almost can't believe I'm saying this, but this movie has almost too much nudity. After a while, she'd start to strip and I'd sigh and say, "Great. Elizabeth Berkley is stripping again." It probably doesn't help that she appears to have been made out of plastic in this movie. And either she's a terrible actor or this was just the wrong part for her or, most likely, a combination of those. I'm really not even sure if she can dance. She certainly moves around fast, especially during the scene where she's dancing with the black guy in the club and looks like she's having an epileptic fit. She spends as much of this movie angry as she does naked (sometimes she's naked and angry), and she really doesn't play angry very well, probably because she's just so polished. And I really never fully understand her motivation or why she's so angry and why she loses her temper so quickly and easily. I was probably distracted by all the nipples though. I'm just never able to buy "tough girl" with her. However, all the bad with her character and Berkley's performance is erased when you see her eat a hamburger at around the 45 minute mark. It's magical. "Thanks for the hamburger!" Right at the hour and thirty-four minute mark, there's some hamburger parallelism, and you can try your hardest to unravel the symbolic layers of that pair of hamburgers but you'll eventually give up and concentrate on where Henrietta Bazoom's boob-poppin'-out-of-dress-wardrobe-malfunction-complete-with-honking-sound-effect trick would fall in a list of Best Movie Moments Ever.

This movie isn't just bad; it's classically bad. At times, it nearly seems intentional, the kind of bad that can't happen accidentally. There's the guy in the truck who bookends Nomi's story, a character whose driving is almost as bad as his acting. I love how he says, "It was a bad idea!" Early in the movie, there's one of those big movie moments when Jesse runs across a street and nearly gets hit by several cars. It was right after some puking, puking that I think must have been inspired by the movie's score. Those kinds of moments usually happen at the ends of the movies. This one was at the five minute and forty second mark. Oh, and then again at six minutes and ten seconds. There's naked volcano dancing, a show that lasts about two minutes, after which the crowd--probably disappointed that they spent so much money to see a two-minute naked volcano dance--asked for an encore. There's a scene with a ring pop. There's the "I wanna see your ass" guy. There's a character who actually says, "You want a knuckle sandwich?" There's the red-headed Patrick Bristow who played the Wig Master in a Seinfeld episode who at first I thought was named Gay in this but who turned out to be Marty instead. His "THRUST IT! THRUST IT! THRUST IT! THRUST IT!" was award-worthy. There are monkeys, and then more monkeys, and then a sweet catfight in the vicinity of the monkeys. There's a doggy chow conversation and a tender moment involving cheese. Oh, and some great child acting."Can we see the  monkeys?" "Mommy, she said the f-word!" And, of course, a whole lot of nudity. And Kyle MacLachlan.

The best thing about it, for me at least, is that it seems to have been written by somebody not quite as talented as the folks who penned all those Saved by the Bell episodes. These lines are golden:

--"If it happens again, to anybody, you're going to jump to your conclusion. Without your golden parachute."
--"It must be weird not having anybody cum on you."
--Almost everything Henrietta Bazoom says. Her character might have broken a record for saying the word "twat" in one movie, by the way.
--Almost every conversation Jesse and her friend have but especially the one they have about chips and fingernails.
--"She wants to smile her snatch. She probably cut [the g-string] herself." There's no way I wrote that down right. Or did I?
--"Look at these tits. What are they--watermelons? This is a stage, not a patch."
--I want my nipples to press but I don't want them to look like they're levitatin'."

I'm sorry that this isn't more coherent, but the movie isn't all that coherent either. It is sleazy though. It's the type of movie you wouldn't want to eat off of. It's a ball of sleaze covered in three more layers of sleaze. But if nothing else, it does teach you an important lesson--you gotta gamble if you're gonna win. Not that it worked well for Elizabeth Berkley's career.