Simon Says

2006 crapfest

Rating: 4/20

Plot: Some college kids go camping in a remote location and are terrorized by two Crispin Glovers armed with pickaxes.

That's right, Crispin Glover fans. You get to double your pleasure with this one. And his dad, former Torgo award winner Bruce Glover, is in this, too. He stinks it up in a limited role, but not as much as his children, twins played by actual twins Chad and Chris Cunningham. It's got to be the worst acting by twins ever which isn't right because they're playing young versions of the greatest actor of all time. And speaking of Crispin, just imagine this for a moment: Crispin Glover playing a mentally-challenged character and his twin, both with accents that convince you they're both supposed to be mentally-challenged. Sometimes, especially when he's called a retard or crazy, he gets mad. His character stomps on a dog and then exclaims, "Puppy sleepy!" He delivers some of the worst puns you'll ever hear--"How about a hand sandwich?!"--and gets lines like "I like this game. Make you special present for my dream. Everybody want to play this game. Oh, I like this game" that make you wonder if it was all written that badly or if Glover was just butchering his lines and everybody went along with it because he was the only famous person in the movie. Oh, wait a second. On some covers of the dvd of this movie, it has Blake Lively's name right up there. This was before she was famous for whatever she's famous for, and she's really only in this movie for about 3 1/2 minutes. Still she's Blake Lively, somebody I've heard of! There are three other Livelys in this movie, too (possibly a Lively record) so one can only assume that somebody in the Lively family produced this.  But back to Crispin because he carries this kids-in-the-woods-with-a-killer cliche on his shoulders and turns it into a comic masterpiece. In fact, a conversation one of his characters has that ends with him yelling, "Sorry! I'm just a little tense here!" might be the most comical thing I've seen all year. Or maybe it's his prayer--"Oh, God. [Moaning] [More Moaning] Let's eat." Or his explanation of "the devil's cry." Or maybe the line "Now that's what I call a fatty!" which I can't believe hasn't become an Internet meme. Aside from Glover's decision to make this an uproarious comedy, this movie is a complete disaster. The dialogue's inane ("How a one-armed man counts his chain" might be the most pointless thing I've ever seen), the story and its characters have all the cliches that The Cabin in the Woods poked fun at, and the special effects are awful. There are flying pickaxes, an effect that not only looked completely stupid but didn't make any sense at all. That's almost topped a little later on by some fire effects. There's plenty of gruesome violence if that gets you off. And I was really confused with the twin thing. You ever watch a movie where there seems to be a twist, but you catch on so quickly that you wonder if there was even supposed to be a twist? That's kind of what happened there. I lost track of what was going on with the pair of twin Glovers, and at one point, I convinced myself there was a twist within a twist within another twist.

A well-timed Wilhelm scream makes me wonder if this whole thing is nothing but a joke. I wouldn't put it past William Dear, the director of Harry and the Hendersons.

Hatfields and McCoys

2012 mini-series

Rating: none

Plot: Following the Civil War, the titular families living on opposite sides of the border between West Virginia and Kentucky talk trash and shoot at each other for a couple few decades.

This birthday gift from my father isn't a real movie, but if I'm going to spend nearly five hours staring at a screen, I need to count it as one. Also, I want my three readers who didn't watch this with me to know how good it is. The acting is terrific from top to bottom although there are so many characters that all look like people from the border between West Virginia and Kentucky, two of the states America can really be proud of, and my wife and I initially had a difficult time keeping track of them. Costner and Paxton are especially great, but all the participants do a great job to add flavor to the time and place. I loved the family feud trash talk. They should have settled this feud by lining everybody up to trade insults with a few impartial judges later determining which side had the best insults. I don't know if these people actually spoke like this to each other or not, but I'm going to pretend it's completely accurate because it makes history more fun. I also don't have any knowledge at all about this historical feud, but if this was accurate at all--Wikipedia told my father that it was--then it's really informative and paints this wild picture of how this second Civil War almost started. Wild, wild stuff, the type of story that could get kids more interested in history. You really grow to hate a few of these characters--Berenger's Uncle Vance, Ronan Vibert's despicable lawyer Perry Cline, the mean "Bad" Frank played by Andrew Howard--and have trouble finding any redeeming qualities in most of the others. But they're all characters you love to spend time with, even if it's nearly five hours of time. My favorite character was in the series only briefly--a posse hopeful who can shoot a rat's ass at forty yards and who tried to join both sides of the Civil War but couldn't because his genitals were askew. Really cool stuff and definitely something your father should think about buying you for your birthday.

The Masque of the Red Death

1964 Poe movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A mean prince parties pretty freakin' hard while keeping people safe from the plague.

Ah, Vincent Price. It's been far too long, old friend. This is one of 7 or 8 Corman-directed Poe adaptations. This actually combines a couple--the short story that shares the same title and the more obscure "Hop-Frog" which has the alternate title of "The Eight Chained Ourangoutangs"--which allowed Corman to not only have Vincent Price using words like "Garrote them" or "One of [the daggers] is impregnated with a poison that kills in. . .five seconds" like no other actor can but also include a little person and Patrick Magee in a gorilla suit. The little person is played by Skip Martin who gets a chance to do some gymnastics and dance with Esmeralda, a character who is supposed to be another dwarf but who I think was a child dubbed with a grown woman's voice. Magee, when not in the gorilla suit, gets to speak to women about the "anatomy of terror" which is really close to the pick-up line I used when I met my wife. Of course, nobody can compete with the great Vincent Price even though he has difficulty saying "squirrels" correctly. His Prince Prospero character's got a nice pad with colorful rooms, a variety of animal heads on the wall, more interesting decor, a pendulum on a clock that moves way too slowly. Prospero makes his friends act like animals, a scene that ends with one lady in a yellow dress really getting into things with some gnarly flapping. There are also great party games like the aforementioned poison dagger game which inspires one couple--maybe the woman in the yellow dress and her date--to start voraciously making out upon. Like these other Corman productions, there's some nice period style, from the atmospheric opener to a nifty parade of plagues at the end. Speaking of that opener, I don't think cinematographers shoot through tree branches enough anymore. Samurai movies and old horror movies both feature shots through tree branches. There's also one of those obligatory trippy hallucination sequences all veiled in blue mist with Hazel Court's silent screams and an erotic bird attack. Bonus awesome moment: guy in the dungeon who goes "Waaaa!" Cool little period horror movie here, one that will definitely appeal to fans of Satan or plagues.

Fubar: Balls to the Wall

2010 comedy sequel

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Headbangers Terry and Dean, a couple of long-haired dudes who are apparently in another movie, travel north to get jobs laying oil pipeline. The job and Terry's new love interest put a strain on their friendship.

I knew nothing about this going in and wasn't even aware that I was watching a sequel. All I knew is that the characters, though complete imbeciles, are lovable losers and really funny. This has a very improvised feel that I like, and the humor came fast and furiously. It's funny enough times to almost be hilarious even though the whole thing does feel a little half-assed at various times. Still, I immediately sought out the first Fubar movie because I needed another fix of these two, and that's maybe the most ringing endorsement.

Samurai Cop

1989 action movie

Rating: 2/20

Plot: The titular cop and his sidekick battle organized crime in Los Angeles.

Matt Hannon plays that titular cop and is pretty dreadful as an actor but not too bad as an action hero. He's no worse than an Arnold or a Stallone really although he doesn't have that special whatever that either of them have. Still, it's strange to me that he wasn't in a single movie after this one and only had other straight-to-video release. Jannis Farley, who plays his love interest Jennifer, also had no other movies after this one, and I would have figured that her posterior alone would have gotten her more work. The bad guy is played by Robert Z'Dar whose had plenty of work including the sequels to Hell Comes to Frogtown and Beastmaster, Tango and Cash, and that awesome Soultaker movie with Joe Estevez. So with a cast like this, how could it possibly miss? Well, it was apparently written by an individual with some mental problems. Amir Shervan wrote and directed it. And Amir Shervan might have written this without first hearing other human beings speak to one another. Most of these are likely worse in context, spoken from the mouths of people who can't act very well:

"I will bring his head, and I will place it on your piano." (This is right after the gang leader guy said, "I want you to bring me his head and place it on my piano.")
"I can relieve you of this gift, this black gift." (This is a reference to the castration of Samurai Cop's black sidekick.)
"You lost. . .you lost face." (Spoken by the protagonist after he beats a guy up. No, it doesn't make more sense in context.)
"Hey, wait a minute. I want to talk to you." (This isn't a bad line on its own, but it's the exact thing spoken by four extras in a row during an escape from a hospital.)
"I feel like somebody stuck a big club up my ass. And it hurts. We have to figure out a way to get it out of there." (This is the police captain. He's got a few gems as almost nothing he says makes sense.)
"Oh, shoot!" (Right after the cops run over a guy they just shot. What?)
"Shoot! Shoot him!" (Said repeatedly during a car chase scene. Then, a "Yeah! You got him!" Spoken like a true sidekick.)

This sexy bit of dialogue:

Girl cop: Ok, Joe. Just keep it up.
Cop: Oh, it's always up. You just keep it warm.
Girl cop: It's warm and ready.
(Then, later--following the car and helicopter chase they're involved in during the above exchange) Girl cop: I'll be home later.
Cop: I may stop by, so (pause--tongue click) keep it warm."

And then there's this conversation between a sex-crazed Samurai Cop and a nurse who is only in the movie to have this conversation:

Nurse: Do you like what you see?
Cop: I love what I see.
Nurse: Would you like to touch what you see?
Cop: Yes, yes, I would.
Nurse: Would you like to go out with me?
Cop: Umm. Yes, I would.
Nurse: Would you like to fuck me?
Cop: Bingo.
Nurse: Well, then let's see what you got. (Checks groin area) Doesn't interest me. Nothing there.
Cop: Nothing there? Just exactly what would interest you--something the size of a jumbo jet?
Nurse: Have you been circumcised?
Cop: Yeah, I have. Why?
Nurse: Your doctor must have cut a large portion off.
Cop: No, he was a good doctor.
Nurse: Good doctors make mistakes, too. That's why they have insurance.
Cop: Hey, don't worry. I got enough. It's big.
Nurse: I want bigger.

And that's it.

And then there's some great dialogue with dubbed (I think) voices that are pretty much unintelligible, like gangsters just growling at each other. And two conversations about how black the Samurai Cop's sidekick's ass is. The greatness of the dialogue is nearly surpassed by the greatness of the action sequences in this bad boy. During a car chase where the film was speeded-up but still seems to involve vehicles that never top 30 miles per hour, a van drives into a pile of dirt and naturally explodes before the driver runs out on fire while the cops panic and yell about how he's burning and how they need to do something. Then, it cuts directly to the first of a few awkward sex scenes. Another great action scene involves the cop throwing a samurai sword (really the only time he uses that weapon, I think) and chops a guy's arm off. The black sidekick's response? "Damn!" There's some kung-fu fighting with some strangely echoing utterances that would likely embarrass Bruce Lee, and a final shoot-out that makes up the final redundant 30 minutes of this thing that feature some of the best (and by that, I mean the worst) death scenes I've ever seen. Oh, and at one point, you can hear an audible gun click. It's all wildly entertaining and really funny if you're looking for a movie bad enough to make you laugh.

Special mention goes to Joselito Rescober who showcases some of the best acting I've ever seen as a waiter.

Bowling for Columbine

2002 documentary

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Michael Moore pisses off gun nuts.

I had one person, one of those guys who doesn't really understand the Constitution or especially the 2nd Amendment, tell me that Michael Moore says in this movie that people should have their guns taken away. I have seen this twice, and I must have missed that part both times. Michael Moore isn't always fair and he is guilty of using propaganda techniques to sell his ideas, but there's really no point in this movie where the filmmaker points a definitive finger. That might be the documentary's fault actually. Moore raises questions about violence in America, specifically gun violence, but doesn't really answer them. This is very well researched, and there's a wealth of information about our gun laws, tragedies like Columbine, violence in the U.S. compared to other countries (some with nearly identical laws), America's bloody history, and often insane reaction to violent acts. Conservatives who hate Michael Moore will find lots to hate here because there's lots of Michael Moore in this. And they'll kneejerk, saying that Michael Moore is telling everybody that we should do this or that we should do that, but I just don't see it here. As I said, he's exploring this issue that really needed to be explored 10 years ago in the wake of Columbine and, sadly, needs explored just as much today in the wake of Newtown. The most important thing to learn from all this is that there isn't a simple answer to the problem but that there is very definitely a problem. Like all Moore's documentaries, this is presented in a way that makes it all as humorous and as entertaining as it is tragic or troublesome. Scenes where Moore gets himself a gun at a bank or attempts discussion with Dick Clark (a pointless scene, one example of where this meanders a little more than it should) or Charlton Heston are typical of the director. There are also conversations with Terry Nichols' brother John Nichols, one that also manages to be both chilling and humorous as he refers to Timothy McVeigh as a "nice guy" and says he isn't familiar with Gandhi; shock rocker Marilyn Manson who makes a lot more sense than he should; and Matt Stone, odd to me since I just saw a Michael Moore marionette explode in Team America: World Police. Oh, and few clips of scantily-clad women holding machine guns which, as anti-machine-gun as I am can still appreciate as a warm-blooded American male. Most chilling to me: the 911 calls over the security camera footage of Columbine and Charlton Heston speech footage juxtaposed with a father of one of the victims of that tragedy. This is an important movie, just as important as it was 10 years ago, and I suspect that people who have negative things to say about it ("Michael Moore wants to take our guns away!" or "This movie is filled with lies!") haven't even seen it.

"Take the Skinheads Bowling" is one of my favorite songs ever, by the way. There's a cover of it here over the credits. It's Teenage Fanclub though I prefer the original Camper van Beethoven version.

I would also like to point out that Michael Moore, according to Michael Moore on Twitter, has not made a dime from this movie. I'm not sure if that's important or not.

The Libertine

 1968 sexy Italian movie

Rating: 13/20

Plot: A widow discovers that her late husband had an apartment rented solely for extracurricular shenanigans and decides to use it to explore her own sexuality.

I'm now a big fan of Catherine Spaak and her versatile hair. She's really good here though there's not nearly as much nudity as you'd expect from this. Or maybe from these other posters:

I really need to check out more Catherine Spaak movies though. This isn't really a funny movie at all. It's cute, more than a little dated. It's got a little bit of style but looks cheaply produced. There is a really cute little song that runs throughout the movie. Aside from Spaak's nice performance, a guy named Renzo Montagnani is really good as Fabrizio. I'm not sure what the message for women is here, probably because I'm not a woman living in the late-60s, but I'm sure there's some kind of feminist idea here. Or maybe not since a male wrote the original story, a male wrote the screenplay, and a male directed the thing.

This has nothing to do with the Johnny Depp movie, by the way.


2007 Transformers rip-off

Rating: 3/20

Plot: People vs. robots, in the future.

The Asylum is a production company that attempts to capitalize on current movie blockbusters by putting out their own really low-budget, direct-to-dvd movies. There's a Sherlock Holmes one on the old blog somewhere, and although it nearly bored me to tears, I decided to watch this one anyway. I thought there might be some unintentional comedy. But no, director Leigh Scott and his cast of terrible actors only succeeded in giving me something really dull and incomprehensible. The nicest thing I can say about this movie is that the robots look a lot better than the birds in Birdemic: Shock and Terror. And that's surprising since it seems the entire budget for this movie was blown on strobe lights. It's really an ugly movie though. Leigh Scott did discover split screen about halfway through the production and uses it for no reason at all, but everything's so murky. I've seen video games that look a lot better than this. I'm really glad the survivors of this alien robot war are all good looking though. Otherwise, I don't think anybody would have a reason to watch this at all. I'd probably want to watch the movie with my eyes closed. Well, the dialogue's also pretty terrible ("I got a bogey on my ass! I can't shake him!") so I'd probably want to watch with my ears closed as well. The acting is universally bad. Sarah Hall plays Blair, and initially, I thought she was about as awful as things get, but the rest of the acting is so bad that it was impossible for me to have any of them stand out. Although I will say that Michael Tower, the guy who plays a nerdish doctor, makes a pretty good effort to stand out. He's playing the stammering-nerdy-doctor-amidst-alpha-males stereotype like a pro though. There are times when he finishes a line and then looks around like he's expecting somebody to yell "Cut!" and make him do it all over again. Oh, and there's a woman named Amy Weber in this who I could have sworn is related to Elizabeth Berkley. She's not related, but her first acting gig was in the "Screech's Spaghetti Sauce" episode of Saved by the Bell. And she was a professional wrestler. Ok, that's enough time spent with this movie. I can't believe I watched the whole thing. I might be done with The Asylum after this and probably should have been before.

And Now the Screaming Starts!

1973 horror movie

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Newlyweds are traumatized by a curse involving a ghost and a severed hand.

Why the hell don't I have a Patrick Magee tag for this blog? He plays a doctor here. Love that guy. Peter Cushing is also in this. I don't really have much use for these creepy period horror movies aside from the architecture and the wonderful cleavage. This has some nice artwork--portraits that sometimes have ghostly eyeless figures popping out of them. There's also some sideboob, severed hand strangulation, gyrating paintings, and some maddening zither. Seriously, if you're one of the oddballs who doesn't like the zither action in The Third Man, the score for this will likely annoy. There's also this great scene where a guy shows off his hands, a scene that was stretched comically. This isn't a terrible movie, but it's not one that is going to be all that memorable unless cheap-looking severed hands does it for you.

This movie is one of the rare ones with a title that both has punctuation and makes a complete sentence although starting a sentence with a coordinating conjunction would most like make the screaming start in most English classes.


2001 romantic comedy

Rating: 19/20 (Jen: 17/20)

Plot: An awkward, introspective waitress in Paris decides to become a good-deed doer, and after she gets the hang of that, she decides to help herself.

This little feel-good movie of the century seems impossible to not love. It's refreshing, like lemonade washing over you without any of the stickiness. Amelie is as cute as a peach, and Tautou just nails this quirky and lovable character. The direction is as flamboyant as you'd expect and want from something Jean-Pierre Jeunet had anything to do with, and although the surface of this story is as simple as it can possible be, its diversions are so much fun. This is definitely a case where the "Where the characters go" doesn't matter nearly as much as "How the characters get there," the latter keeping this movie fresh no matter how many times you watch the thing. Along the way, there's a tiny bit of animation, fun camera play, some narration, a lawn gnome, and a sex montage that is as much a whimsical treat as my favorite scene in Delicatessan. Oh, and I just love the music of Yann Tiersen here. Even though it wasn't written specifically for this movie, the music matches the visuals so well. Another of my favorite little things about this movie: Amelie and Nino don't have any face-to-face dialogue in this movie. There's just something so precious about that. Ah, precious! That's a good word to describe this one. It's almost a fragile little movie, so delicate that I fear somebody with big clumsy hands might come along and accidentally break the thing. This is definitely not a movie for people with big clumsy hands.

As far as I know, this is still my brother's favorite movie.

FDR: American Badass!

2012 historical comedy

Rating: 7/20

Plot: Roosevelt fights Nazi werewolves, straight from the history books.

This movie has its moments, and Brian Bostwick and Ray Wise are good as the titular president and MacArthur respectively. Unfortunately, this thing is just so cheap. And I mean "cheap" in every single sense of the word. The effects are cheap--CGI explosions that I bet my son could make and pasted-on werewolf fur. The humor is cheap, a lot of dick jokes and polio jokes that are the sort of thing I hate the television show Family Guy for. And cheap puns. Marco Polio and a play on "debriefing" somebody. This was written by the guy behind that wiffleball movie  I watched earlier this year. Ross Patterson is his name, and he has a small part in this one, too. I think this guy's got some potential as both an actor and a writer, but he's got to learn to channel things and probably mature a bit. He's probably a little too South Park-inspired for his own good. He could also, of course, use a little more money to work with. There's a whole lot of ugliness here, definitely more than laughs. One scene probably typifies this most:

FDR has just had an affair in which his mistress squirted ketchup and mustard on his "tiny little polio legs" because, I guess, they resemble hot dogs. Eleanor pops in and says, "What the shit?" There's a bit of an argument which ends in Eleanor saying, "Tell them a rainbow took a shit on your legs." Now, I could be completely wrong. That might be historically accurate. Or it could just be completely tasteless. Either way, it makes me wonder why I watched this.

Sleepwalk with Me

2012 comedy

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Matt Pandamiglio, an aspiring comedian based on star and director Mike Birbiglia, deals with his new profession, a relationship that isn't really working anymore, and the increasing dangers of his somnambulism.

I had looked forward to this movie for a while because I like Birbiglia's comedy act. He's better than maybe anybody else at turning awkwardness into humorous. And the guy and his brother bought a van and converted it into one that looked just like the one in The A-Team. He's creative and funny, and the story he tells here about his love life, burgeoning comedy career, and sleepwalking is perfect material for a comedy movie. He's surprisingly expert as a first-time screenwriter and director at intertwining the three of those. What he doesn't have is a lot of charisma as a leading man, and I imagine there are viewers who wouldn't like his personality as much as I do and therefore not like his character all that much. Birbiglia's not a great actor, but he works well enough as an everyman to make this story work well enough. Part of the problem for me is that I'm very familiar with Birbiglia's comedy act and know a lot of the stories told visually here, as well as a lot of the jokes. This never feels like a "best of" Birbiglia or anything, however. In fact, a lot of his best-known bits are either not in this at all or started but not finished. I do wonder how somebody completely unfamiliar with the guy's comedy would enjoy this thing though. Maybe you should check it out and let me know!

Pulp Fiction Redux

1994 masterpiece

Rating: 20/20 (Dylan: 15/20)

Plot: See here for a comprehensive plot synopsis.

Part two of my son's Quentin Tarantino education. Here's all he had to say about this one: "There was only one character I liked." That was, maybe predictably since my son is a black teenager who really enjoyed those Star Wars prequels, Samuel L. Jackson. Speaking of Samuel L., I was playing that board game Apples to Apples last night at my dad's house. The green clue card was "Cool" and "Cold-blooded" was one of the other words on the card. I confidently threw my Samuel L. Jackson card. How the hell does that not win? Anyway, my son, like has been with every other movie with the exception of Raiders of the Lost Ark, is wrong. I don't think there's a character in this movie who isn't great, and I would also say that about the actors and actresses who play them. This is a movie that has a unique energy, and yes, I'm using the word unique correctly here. There isn't another movie with the wall-to-wall energy that Pulp Fiction has, and the movie has this weird power to make other movies worse. You watch another movie, think to yourself "This isn't Pulp Fiction," and not like the movie as much. Other movies just have no chance, probably because they have any of the following:

--Uma Thurman and John Travolta dancing. My God, I absolutely love how Uma Thurman moves, both in this and obviously the Kill Bills. I don't know if it's how Tarantino dressed her or films her or just the way she's shaped, but watching her move in Jack Rabbit Slim's just makes my penis giggle.

--The rapport between Travolta and Jackson. Who would have guessed that in 1993?

--Christopher Walken's ass watch story. That's just one of those things that exists only to make the world a slightly better place.

--John Goodman's voice? I swear that's him as the boxing announcer.

--Baggies and twistiks.

--"I said God-damn!" I'm going to devote 2013 to saying that just like Uma for regular everyday thing. Picture me taking a bite of a burrito, lifting my head, and exclaiming, "I said God-damn!" It's happening.

--"I don't think Buddy Holly's much of a waiter." This probably won't go down as one of Buscemi's best roles, but shouldn't it?

--The Wolf's notes: "One body no head" cracks me up. And his line, "Well, let's not start sucking each other's dick quite yet." Ah, I love Harvey Keitel.

--Bruce Willis going ballistic in the hotel room. If you'll allow me to call that a fight scene, Bruce Willis vs. hotel room might be one of my favorites.

--The Honey Bunny/"Execute every last one of you" juxtaposition, goose-pimply funny. Upon repeat viewings, you watch and wait for that moment, and then it happens and is magical.

--"Mmmm, that's a tasty burger." The entire scene in the apartment is electric. Just so so good!

--Pop Tarts, Butch? You're risking it all for Pop Tarts?

--Speaking of breakfast--Fruit Brute cereal. I think I just assumed it was Tarantino-invented. Now, however, I've been tricked into thinking I remember it from my childhood. It's definitely within my window of childhood.

--Lava product placement. Whoever makes that product has a perfect "bloody towels" commercial here.

--Jack Rabbit Slim's little fella.

--"Miserlou" to "Jungle Boogie". Who changes the channel on the radio dial during the opening credits?

--Ving Rhames. "No, man. I'm pretty fucking far from OK" and that bandaid on his neck.

--Divine intervention. Travolta and Jackson's faces after that guy comes in with a hand cannon. Hand cannon!

--That tracking shot following Willis to his apartment to fetch his watch. And while I'm thinking  of Bruce, I also like his face as he looks upon Vincent.

--The way Esmeralda says "Butch" and maybe actually everything she says. Angela Jones should be a movie star!

--Vincent's confusion when using the intercom.

--Finally, "My name's Paul and this shit's between y'all." It just occurred to me that I have a name that rhymes with a lot of things. "My name's Shane and my interest in this shit's started to wane." I don't know. Surely I can come up with something better than that.

I can't wait to see Django Unchained. I might have to hit the theater.

America the Beautiful

1996 documentary

Rating: 13/20

Plot: It was Christmas Eve, and I had grown bored with Tetris. I was having trouble breathing, and my back hurt. I was looking for the worst Christmas movie ever made, but I stumbled upon this documentary instead and decided to watch it. I had to watch it in four installments.

It wasn't this documentary. I didn't watch America the Beautiful and have no interest in watching it. I watched a different documentary instead, one about dogs and Nazis and babies. Oh, and there was a bird in there, too, but the bird refused to cooperate. The filmmaker's voice bugged me a little, and this investigation into the subject matter seemed personal and not all that deep. It was superficial giggling, and that's fine, especially here on Christmas Eve, but it doesn't quite justify the existence of itself or sweeten anything after a long day of fishing. If you know what I mean. You probably don't!

Anyway, happy holidays, readers!

Santa with Muscles

1996 Christmas comedy

Rating: 3/20

Plot: A millionaire is chased by police after some wild driving while on his way to some paintball shenanigans. He hides out in a shopping mall and puts on a Santa Claus outfit to elude the po-po, but an accident knocks him out and gives him amnesia so that he actually believes he's Santa Claus. A shady character named Lenny tries to take advantage of them, and the duo try to save an orphanage from evil scientists.

I wanted to give this a try to see if there's a worse Christmas movie than Sinbad and Arnold Schwarzennegar's big F-U to Christmas. The best thing I can probably say about this one (and that one) is that it's not as offensive to Christmas as a Santa Claus who molests children would be. But it's closer than you'd think. I'm trying to decide who you'd have to consider dumber--screenwriters Jonathan Bond, Fred Mata, and Dorrie Krum Raymond who have a grand total of zero other writing credits to their names because they were more than likely blacklisted after this came out or the characters they create. The characters are all pretty stupid, so that's also closer than you might think. Now, if I had blog readers, one of them would argue with me that this is completely harmless. On the contrary, this movie is so dumb that watching it could give a person brain damage. Not only that, I think I now hate Christmas because of this movie. I also hate professional wrestling, magic crystals, orphans, bodybuilding supplements, paintball, SUV's, science, Mila Kunis, and puns. Oh, and Christmas. What? I already typed that? See, that's probably an effect of watching this movie. I would wonder if Hulk Hogan's terrible performance, one that is really one of the worst you'll ever see, was the result of him watching this movie, but I can't think of how that would be possible and my head hurts just thinking about it. He's so bad here when he's not beating up scientists, but in his defense, the script doesn't help him out much. There's one great scene after the bad guys are defeated (oh, c'mon--like you were A) going to watch this, B) get to this part of the movie, and C) not know how it was going to end) and the Hulkster says something about how one of the bad guys needs to go defrost himself and then laughs. It's a thing of beauty, ladies and gentlemen. I've not really experienced the magic that is Hulk Hogan outside his early wrestling career, another movie or two, and a terrible venture into rock 'n' roll that I happen to own on cassette.

That album, by the way, makes Randy "The Macho Man" Savage's rap music album seem as good as Abbey Road. Oh hell, who am I kidding? The Macho Man's rap album is gold anyway. But I digress. As a matter of fact, I don't even remember how I was going to follow the "I've not really experienced the magic that is Hulk Hogan" idea that I started above. I'm distracted by wondering if it's really fair to have one movie that has both Hulk Hogan and Clint Howard in it. This one does, and that just doesn't seem right to other movie makers. Can't you just imagine a film producer saying the following:

"What? Cabin Fever Entertainment, distributor of Silence of the Hams, is releasing a movie with Hulk Hogan and Clint Howard? And Hulk Hogan has hair? And Clint Howard is playing a cop? That's it, everybody. Wrap it up. We're giving up here."

I just read that the original author of this gem sued to have his name removed, supposedly because the story had been changed so much. But really, anybody who sees this is going to know the real reason.

This and Jingle All the Way double feature! I want to meet the man who can stomach that onslaught.

The Junky's Christmas

1993 stop-animated Christmas classic

Rating: n/r

Plot: A drug addict desperately looks for a fix during the holiday season.

William S. Burroughs wrote this little story which can be found in his book Interzone, and his performance with the Disposable Heroes of Hipocrisy can be heard on the 1993 album Spare Ass Annie and Other Tales. Burroughs is my favorite beat writer, and I'm not sure why this--one of his more coherent tales--hasn't become required viewing for families in December just like the boring stop-animated Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or How Charlie Brown Stole Christmas. This is a far more spiritual story. The animation is pretty good. The characters sort of walk like Muppets, that clunky high-foot-lifting walk. I like when claymators use a variety of facial expressions, and the human characters in this--four of 'em, I think--have great faces. Mostly, it's the soothing tones of Uncle Bill Burrough's voice that does it for me. The music is a little distracting in some parts, but for me, it's impossible to listen to Burroughs read anything and not enjoy myself. You can find this online if you're interested. It's a little under 25 minutes long. Burroughs, by the way, is in scenes bookending the animated story. Watching him slice a turkey is almost as good as hearing him read.

Home Alone

1990 slapstick comedy

Rating: 13/20 (Jen: 15/20; Dylan: 11/20; Emma: 15/20; Abbey: 19/20)

Plot: Some really bad parents leave their 8-year-old home alone and fly to France for the holidays. A pair of burglars try to rob his house but are in for more than they bargain for!

Macaulay Culkin is really likable during a lot of scenes in this movie. Well, maybe during a couple scenes. Unfortunately, he's really annoying during the rest of the scenes. The spoiled-brat bad behavior stuff before he's left home alone makes me almost want to root for the burglars, and the barrage of screaming, celebrating, and cutesiness gets painful after a while. Compare Culkin to Peter Billingsley in the far-superior A Christmas Story. Billingsley, or maybe Bob Clark who directed him, understands subtlety. Culkin, although he was younger and already hooked on heroin when this was filmed, doesn't. So even though it's always funny to see Joe Pesci with the top of his head on fire or Daniel Stern getting hit in the groin, there are a lot of scenes in this where it feels like you're the one getting a blow torch to the scalp or a shot to the groin. And getting punched in the groin three times just to see somebody else punched in the groin once just isn't worth it although I think I just invented a new game show. When you see this movie a second or third or fourth or fifth time, you really feel like you're wading through a bunch of crap to get to the cool booby trap scenes at the end. Once there, you realize that they're not nearly as funny as you remember them and have nothing better to do but focus on how the scenes with Roberts Blossom (the old guy) and his shovel didn't really need to be here. Sappiness drenches this thing by the end with that father/son reunion, the mother coming back home, and all the other relatives coming back home at just the right Hollywood time.

My new favorite thing about this movie is that there are apparently people who believe Elvis makes a cameo. Of course, the King had been dead for about fourteen years, but that doesn't stop people from thinking the extra standing behind Catherine O'Hara is him:

Magic Mike

2012 stripper movie

Rating: 8/20 (Jen: 8/20)

Plot: The titular stripper takes a young pup under his hunky wing and teaches him the profession. Adam's extracurricular activities threaten to get Mike in some trouble and ruin his chances of opening up a furniture-making business.

I completely forgot that I watched this movie with Jen a few weeks ago. She was in the mood for something with "bunches of male stripping," "barely a story at all," and "lots of Matthew McConaughey." I suggested this because I thought it would also have some magic, but unfortunately, there wasn't anything magical at all. This isn't too far from Showgirls in terms of quality. The biggest difference is that it's not unintentionally hilarious. What I'm wondering is what Steven Soderbergh is doing this for? Shouldn't he be hard at work on a sequel to Schizopolis or something? That's a rhetorical question, so please don't answer it. McConaughey is his usual charismatic self and gets to say, "Alright, alright, alright!" enough to satisfy fans of Matthew McConaughey saying, "Alright." And if you're a fan of naked men, this has more than enough of that, too. There were so many stripping scenes here, and although they were all well choreographed and the actors (not professional strippers?) did a fine job, they just felt extraneous halfway through the movie. What this doesn't have is enough of a plot to last for the nearly two hour length of the motion picture or characters that are the least bit interesting. I guess I was supposed to care for Channing Tatum's Magic Mike because he made furniture, but I just couldn't do it. Tatum's not a very good actor either although he seems to be getting a lot of work. For this, it's apparently that he was hired as the lead only because he's pretty. The worst acting in this and quite possibly in anything else is Cody Horn's as Tatum's sister. She must be a Scientologist or something because she showed absolutely no emotion whatsoever in this movie and read all of her lines like she was behind a table reading lines for other actors during auditions. She didn't seem like she wanted to be in the movie at all. I might not be the audience for this movie even though I am a big fan of Matthew McConaughey and male strippers, but I found this really really boring. This is the last time I let Jen pick a movie for a long time!

Blood Games

1990 Rambo clone

Rating: 9/20

Plot: A barnstorming female baseball team runs into some trouble in Hicksville after the opposing coach refuses to pay.

Note: This also goes by the much-better name of Baseball Bimbos in Hillbilly Hell.

The most surprising things about this are that it came out in 1990 and that it was directed by a woman. It's actually director Tanya Rosenberg's only credit which was surprising to me because it's not completely inept film-making or anything. No, she expertly showed off these scantily-clad and oft-naked women just like a male exploitative director in the 1970s would have, most notably during an extended and completely pointless shower scene. This is a lot like Rambo with the whole "Hunters became the hunted" idea on the poster up there, only the makers of Rambo thankfully didn't try to find any excuse they could to get their main character naked. Plenty of skin in Blood Games, gratuitous, if you're into that sort of thing. I, of course, only watched this because I was in the mood for a good baseball movie, but there's only baseball in the first ten minutes of the movie unless you count women hitting rednecks in strategic locations with bats as baseball. That game was a disappointment though. [SPOILER ALERT] The girls win 17-2? C'mon, drunk rednecks, that's just embarrassing. This movie definitely gives psychotic country folk a bad name, not because they try to rape members of a female baseball team or murder people. No, it's the way they celebrate and talk trash during a baseball game they are losing so badly. One said, "Hey, let me show you my bat!" after a double and added some hip gyrations, very similar to a move that got me in trouble during a church softball game. My favorite redneck is played by the great  George "Buck" Flower who even gets a scene where he's attacked by a group of women after caught being a peeping-Buck during the shower scene. He's got a trucker cap that says "The check is in the mail" which I assume came from his own personal collection, and for most of the movie but especially the locker room scene, it looks like he accidentally wandered onto the set or something. My favorite line in the movie is from main redneck Mino: "You're fucking with the devil now, boy." I think it's how he said it, with a little gravel in his voice box. He's played by a guy named Ken Carpenter who got a strange filmography. He acted and was a crew member for a movie in '74, had an uncredited role in a 1977 movie, and then did nine films between 1989 and 1994 before apparently dropping off the face of the earth until 2011 when he played a ranger in a movie that he wrote and produced called The Terror at Big Bear Lake: Thrillogy. He could have easily had a career as a poor-man's Sam Elliott though. Anyway, this isn't exactly a baseball classic like I expected and it's not quality storytelling either, but it's kind of fun in bits and pieces. And I'm sure a feminist would love it!

Emperor Tomato Ketchup

1971 blockbuster

Rating: no rating

Plot: In a land governed by children, kids run around abusing adults and drawing X's over things.

The only thing I really knew about this movie is that the band Stereolab grabbed its title for one of their album titles. I'm not sure what it's about. It's a frenzy of worn black 'n' white shock images, a lot involving children doing things they're not supposed to be doing. I'm sure director Shuji Terayama is saying something here, but it's going to be next to impossible for most viewers to see it through some really shocking visuals. The imagery invited Holocaust comparisons and thoughts about censorship and totalitarian governments, but none of it was cohesive enough to make a point that a dumb guy like me could fully grasp. No, I'm the type of viewer who's content in being entertained by a scene of a little person emerging from a hole while wearing an army helmet and what appears to be a diaper, running to another hole where he extracts a chicken that he takes an ax to, an act accompanied by a too-loud screech and some scattered applause. There's no real dialogue, but there's some words thrown in (found sound or stock sounds, I assume), none of it that I could understand because I don't speak whatever language it's in. There are also some words that appeared in white on the screen that I wouldn't be able to read even if I could read German. The music is nice if not all over the place. Like many foreign avant-garde productions, I'm missing way too much context to fully appreciate this or even understand it. This might have loads of interesting ideas but it's distracted by its own imagery.

Note: There's a 70-something minute version of this and a much shorter 20-something minute version that I'm guessing only shows the highlights. Like a Michael Bay movie with just the explosions maybe.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

2012 romantic disaster comedy

Rating: 14/20 (Jen: 14/20)

Plot: They've tried everything, but a meteor is going to collide with earth and kill everybody. A lonely divorced insurance salesman befriends a neighbor and promises to get her to her parents in England. They travel to visit his high school sweetheart. Along the way, they find a dog.

Jen claimed repeatedly that she had already seen this movie. In a way, it does feel really familiar although I can't really think of a movie that is like it. It's an interesting premise that I'm sure has been done before, maybe even better, but I wish writer/director Lorene Scafaria would have done a little more with it. This drifts along, meanders, and takes a few turns off roads that it didn't need to be on in the first place. I liked Steve Carell fine regardless of how mopey he was, and I also think Keira Knightley is as cute as a button. You know, because objectifying women is something I like to do here at shane-movies. What I'm not sure is if I liked the chemistry between Carell and Knightley here. There's cuteness here, a touching little love story, and a few good songs, but this isn't really anything I'd care to see a second time. I did like the ending quite a bit.

The Avengers

2012 superhero mayhem

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A glowing cube--perhaps the same one from a Transformers movie or something--threatens the existence of mankind, and Samuel L. Jackson and his motherfucking eyepatch have to assemble the titular group of superheroes in order to save everybody. The boring emo villain from Thor's movie is also involved. Thor and his hammer, Iron Man and his snarkiness, Scarlett Johansson and her glorious posterior, Captain America and his patriotic shield, some guy with a bow and arrow, and the Incredible Hulk and his magic indestructible pants team up to deliver all sorts of one-liners and do superheroic things.

I really got tired of hearing about this cube. Everytime one of the characters mentioned "the cube," I just thought, "The cube? Really? Is that the best they could do?" This movie depends on character development from the characters' individual movies except for the two who don't have their own movies. There's potential with Johansson's character maybe and I like her costume because I'm a pervert, but the bow-and-arrow guy (Buckeye?) played by Jeremy Renner is just a dull character. The new Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is fine; this is the new best movie with the Hulk in it. I still think Chris Evans is perfect for Captain America although he's a little overshadowed by all the personality around him, especially with Downey Jr.'s arrogant Iron Man. And Samuel L. is fine although I prefer him in more realistic roles like he got in Pulp Fiction or the Star Wars prequels. He kind of seems like he's going through the motions here although that could be because he can only use one of his eyes. But look at all those characters! It was a lot to keep track of, and since this is a comic book movie, the plot was almost incomprehensible to me, at least for the first half before everything comes together. All I really understood completely was that there was a cube because that was referred to about three hundred and fifty times. If I had played one of those drinking games where I took a shot each time a character said "the cube," I would have died from alcohol poisoning. Once things were cleared up, this story's a pretty thin earth things vs. alien things with the titular superheroes battling some fairly nondescript and unmemorable space beings who were apparently brought here by the cube. The aliens do have a funky gyrating caterpillar thing, and the destruction to the poor city during the very long climactic action sequence is an impressive demonstration of terrific special effects and creative camera movements. There's one sequence in particular that I really enjoyed where the camera was swooping around to the different characters kicking ass--like Thor would hammer somebody 200 feet away while the camera follows to reveal Buckeye shooting an arrow which the camera would follow to the Hulk smashing something. It was very well done, almost poetic comic book character movements and cartoon violence.

For those of you who keep up with this sort of thing--Is Buckeye going to get his own movie eventually? How about the cube?

The Cabin in the Woods

2011 horror movie deconstruction

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Five stereotypes go on a retreat to the titular cabin in the titular woods, mess around in the cellar with stuff that doesn't belong to them, and unleash a redneck zombie family. Although there's a little bit more to it than all that.

I managed to hear about this movie without knowing anything about it which is exactly how you need to go into the experience. Let me be completely honest--I'm having a difficult time determining whether this is a really intelligent pseudo-horror movie that deconstructs the genre; pokes fun at its cliches, excesses, and even its audience; and manages to be really funny, infectiously energetic, and wildly creative or if it's just really really silly. Or maybe it's a little of both of those and that's exactly why it's so invigorating. I really enjoyed some allusions to horror classics, including the Evil Deads, and there's a moment of sheer lunatic brilliance in this that was simultaneously the most ridiculous thing I've seen all year and one of those moments capable of forcing one to cream his jean shorts in a way that jean shorts have never been creamed before. What follows is nonstop horror action with questionable special effects and even more questionable logic that cools down with a little Sigourney Weaver and some gummy allegory. Intellectually fascinating and horrifically stupid-fresh, this would make horror movie fanboys giggle themselves blind while also appealing to people who like dissecting movies to discover their meanings.

Dark Shadows

2012 gothic vampire soap opera

Rating: 7/20

Plot: 18th Century vampire Barnabas Depp is violently exhumed in the 1970s where he desperately tries to get his family back on track and stick it to the witch who cursed him in the first place.

I can't remember being this bored while watching a movie. Maybe Tim Burton needs Winona Ryder back or something. Or maybe Tim Burton just needs to come up with original ideas. He seems to be a creative fellow and his movies are a lot better when they're straight from his imagination (Edward Scissorhands, etc.) than when they're from somebody else's (Planet of the Apes, etc.). I've not seen the 60s/70s soap opera this is based on, and thanks to Tim Burton, I don't really have any interest in seeing it. After a narrated prologue that is typical Burton, all stilted and faux-dark, I almost wanted to shut this off. I didn't because I thought there would be a few funny moments. Unfortunately, this was about as funny as being attacked by an actual vampire. The out-of-time character humor seemed cliched, and the screenwriters hit the 1970s references so hard that it just gets annoying. I lost interest in the story since I was fairly sure how it was going to end. That's not a problem if the journey there is entertaining, but this isn't. This movie does have a few things going for it. The house is cool, and it's good to see that Christopher Lee is still kicking around though his role here is very small. Best of all is Eva Green who is absolutely gorgeous here. The sex scene with Johnny Depp is all kinds of wrong though.

Barton Fink

1991 movie

Rating: 19/20

Plot: The titular playwright rides the success of his play about the plight of common men to a contract with a film studio and is hired to write a movie about wrestling. He moves to L.A. where he struggles with the screenplay and makes some friends.

I know that I saw black comedy before Barton Fink, but I'm not sure I appreciated the genre as much before I saw this. I guess this just came along at the perfect time in my life, and I found it easy to connect with its dry humor, its surreal glimpse of one man's personal hell, and its many incomprehensibilities. I didn't understand it back then, but it was a movie with these overly-colorful characters in this setting that seems to be right from somebody's lackadaisical nightmare that I just felt, one of those movies that keeps coming back and rubbing up against your leg long after you're finished with it. I don't think it was the first artsy-fartsy movie that I liked--I'd seen Eraserhead--but it was the one that made me actively seek out more artsy-fartsy movies and turned me into a Coen brothers fan. And you know what? I still don't have a grasp on this one twenty years after I saw it which, for me at least, puts it right up there with a lot of my favorite movies, works of art, writings, or music. It's a riddle that I'll always love diving into.

What a look the Coens capture with this! It's almost like they wanted to see how many different shades of brown they could squeeze on the screen. The movie's got this dusty tint which adds to the dreamlike tone. And I love the shots of the peeling wallpaper, the mosquito cam, all these absurdly long hallways (sometimes with shoes laid out in front of the doors) and balconies, and some of that typical quietly flamboyant Coen camera work. The movie's also got such colorful characters, both the major and minor ones, that are wonderfully performed by a few Coen regulars. Turturro's almost a straight man in this, but he gets more than enough chances to stand out on his own when his character passionately engages in one-sided discussions about the importance of his work or gets angry or nervous about something. Charlie's the perfect role for Goodman whose smile is as big as the hotel room. This was when Goodman became Goodman for me since I was too distracted by the genius of Nicolas Cage to notice him in Raising Arizona and only really knew him from Roseanne and Revenge of the Nerds. He and his chins are just such a physical presence in this. John Mahoney--who is the coolest guy ever according to a history teacher I used to work with who was an extra in some movie that Mahoney had something to do with--is also very good as the writer, W.P. Mayhew. Buscemi's Chet, Judy Davis's Audrey, Michael Lerner's Lipnick, Tony Shalhoub's Geisler, and Richard Portnow and Christopher Murney's Italian and German detectives are all smaller but still memorable roles that add such color to the Coen's world. And then there's the humor. Chet's double introduction of himself (Chet!) is my personal favorite moment, probably because of Steve Buscemi's teeth, but I also love the very first little "joke" where a guy screams "Fresh fish," a gag that is just so beautifully executed. As the characters maneuver through this landscape of surreal imagery and symbols, it's hard to know whether you're supposed to laugh at them or be horrified, and that's part of the magic of this movie. This will more than likely be a movie that I will always feel slightly lost within, kind of like its protagonist. No, that doesn't sound like a comfortable movie feeling, but it's a feeling that I'll never forget and one of the main reasons I started really liking movies in the first place.

My favorite line in the whole thing, by the way: "These are big movies about big men in tights, physically and mentally--especially physically."

Ferrets: The Pursuit of Excellence

2007 PBS documentary

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Ferret owners talk about their pets as they prepare for the annual Buckeye Bash, a sort of perverse ferret beauty contest.

My brother recommended this. I might have the title all turned around. This appears to be a television program called The Pursuit of Excellence and this is an episode about ferrets. I just like how Ferrets: The Pursuit of Excellence sounds though, so I'm sticking with that. Mark compared it to the work of Christopher Guest which is pretty accurate. These ferret owners are almost too strange to be real, but I'm only a little bit ashamed to admit that I felt that I was laughing at them instead of with them the entire time. When they say things like "Ferrets are my reason for being," sing seemingly endless songs about the animals while wearing tie-dyed shirts, discuss "Rainbow Bridge" which is apparently some kind of ferret heaven, dress up their miserable-looking animals, and or make claims that ferrets are somehow special because "if they die, they accept it," it's kind of hard not to want to poke fun. Cuteness abounds, but this is definitely more about the owners of these pets than the pets themselves. If you're looking for a little "Which ferret is going to win" type suspense or a feel-good story about an underdog ferret winning at the Buckeye Bash, you'll be disappointed. You just won't care very much at all. And it's a little anticlimactic when there are 327 ferrets at the competition and 400 ribbons are given out. Still, this is an entertaining little documentary, one that probably would appeal to fans of Guest's mockumentaries.

Casa de mi Padre

2012 comedy

Rating: 7/20

Plot: Mexican Will Ferrell and his brother have to save the titular casa from a drug lord.

The music, which as far as I know could have been lifted from other movies (I didn't want to spend any more time with this movie and check the credits), was pretty good. I made a promise here a while back--no more Will Ferrell movies. So I'm not exactly sure why I decided to watch this. I think it might be because I feel sorry for the movie. Will Ferrell movies don't come up in conversations I have often, but I've not heard anybody at all talk about this one. I'd almost assume that fans of Will Ferrell movies can't read (yeah, I know--I'm going to edit this out before I publish this post), so I'm not sure any of them would watch this anyway. Then, I see lots of copies at the library, but they're shelved in the foreign movie section, a collection of outcast dvd's that aren't even allowed to be near the other movies. It's unlikely that a Will Ferrell fan who hasn't heard of this one is going to stumble upon it. So I guess part of me just wanted to put this on the blog so that Will Ferrell fans who Google "Will Ferrell's actual buttocks" and find this post will find out this exists and check it out. I'll make sure not to use any big words in this entry. I'm not sure they'll like it because it's just not funny at all. In fact, it would be unclear whether it was a comedy at all if not for some too-wacky moments. Will Ferrell's in the movie. He speaks Spanish, and although I'm not exactly a linguistics expert or anything, it sounded pretty good to me. When I first heard about this movie, I was under the impression that he couldn't speak the language at all and was faking it here. If that's the case, he did a great job with it. I'm never going to say that Will Ferrell isn't a talented guy or even that he isn't funny, but everything he does just feels exactly the same. I'm not just talking movie to movie either. It's joke to joke. With this one, I almost turned it off the second time Will Ferrell and his pals engage in some lengthy chuckling. It was a typical Will Ferrell movie moment. I'm glad I didn't turn it off, however, because I would have missed out on what I can only assume are several shots of Will Ferrell's actual buttocks. And the lovely Genesis Rodriguez's actual buttocks. The plot's so predictable and intentionally-derivative that it makes you sleepy, and the novelty of Will Ferrell speaking Spanish wears off after about five minutes. I really can't imagine that this would appeal to anybody at all, even the most rabid fan of Will Ferrell or Will Ferrell's actual buttocks.

I looked at Genesis Rodriguez's imdb page for research purposes. One message board post wonders if she's related to Genesis P. Orridge. Here are more subject lines:

"I wish to impregnate her"

Those are the first six, all started by different people. Apparently she brings out the best in people.

Oh, and the Will Ferrell embargo is back on!

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

1989 Christmas comedy

Rating: 14/20 (Jen: 14/20; Dylan: 13/20; Emma: 8/20; Abbey: 15/20)

Plot: Clark Griswold has family over for the holidays and tries his best to give them the perfect Christmas. Meanwhile, he awaits his Christmas bonus check so that he can feel more comfortable about the deposit he put on a backyard pool. Things unravel slapstickily.

This was never one of my favorites though I've seen it countless times. Like the superior A Christmas Story, there's a very thin plot that's really only there to hold together the series of gags. I'm not sure any of those gags--the Christmas lights, the recurring snooty neighbor torture, the electrocuted cat, the attic imprisonment, the Christmas feast, etc.--are all that great, but they add up to something that will make most people laugh a few times around Christmas time. I'm not sure that Chevy Chase was ever as likable as he was as Clark Griswold. That's not to say he was all that likable though. Things threaten to get stale early on in this one, but Randy Quaid swoops in to save the day and steals pretty much every scene he's in. And then there's the very best thing about Christmas Vacation--the great William Hickey as Uncle Lewis. He and Aunt Bethany bring this thing to life again after it starts to lose steam again. All in all, this isn't a bad comedy to spend Christmas with if you can only tolerate a little irrelevancy and typically enjoy that characters-stepping-on-boards-and-hitting-themselves-in-the-face-and/or-testicles style of humor.

Reservoir Dogs (Redux)

1992 Tarantino film

Rating: 18/20 (Dylan: 14/20)

Plot: My son is going to college soon, and his pool of pop culture knowledge is despicably shallow. I'd be remiss as a father if I didn't attempt to do something about it. When I thought about how he might be sitting in a dorm room some day and have to hear "What? You've never seen Pulp Fiction?", it made me sad. He didn't want to watch Reservoir Dogs until I tricked him into it by telling him there would be talking dogs.

Dylan's thoughts: It was pretty good.
Me: Is that all you want to say? That's pretty lame.
Dylan: It's good enough.

I already have this movie on the blog right here. The rating hasn't changed. I have nothing intelligent to add and more than likely had nothing intelligent to say in the first place. This and Pulp Fiction--the next Tarantino movie I'm making Dylan watch, tricking him this time by convincing him that it's a documentary about orange juice--are endlessly rewatchable. This one is a much simpler story about honorable criminals paying for their crimes, and although the structure is different from its cousins, it's not got the thematic complexity or variety of Tarantino's second movie. It still manages to seem so fresh though. In fact, the director's flair almost stands out more. This time through, I really focused on the relationship between Tim Roth and Harvey Keitel's characters. There's a lingering attention to these two and their emotions. It's not just the dialogue but how much weight is given to the situation which makes what ultimately happens to them pretty moving. These are movie criminals, barely more than cartoons, but they've got flesh, and when they bleed, they seem to bleed in ways that matter. The way all the characters come to life is amazing, a combination of quality acting, writing, and story organization. There's not a bad acting apple in the bunch unless you're as annoyed by Tarantino's skills as much as I used to be. But it's not like he's around all that long. Roth's pain is especially cartoonish, and he always sounds like Bobcat Goldthwaite to me. And his practice sessions telling that story about the drug-sniffing dog don't seem all that natural. However, everything that somebody could say is wrong about his performance in Reservoir Dogs should be forgotten with his expression after he shoots that woman. That's so perfect. Keitel oozes cool, compulsive hair combing and all. The way he reassures Roth's character--"I didn't know you were a doctor!"--makes me laugh. Buscemi's Mr. Pink is classically greasy, and it's one of those characters that you just can't imagine another person being able to pull off. His activities during the Mexican stand-off also make me laugh. And his running after the failed heist when he knocks over a guy on the sidewalk produces the greatest use of the Wilhelm Scream that I have ever heard. In fact, I'll go ahead and say that it's the greatest use that I'll ever hear because I don't think it can be topped. I think I could listen to Buscemi and Tierney's argument about the Mr. Pink name every day and not get tired of it. Madsen's Vic Vega is a character that doesn't make much sense at all and probably couldn't survive outside of a Tarantino movie. The ear scene is always a little hard to watch for me, but you have to love a character who stops for a soft drink after a heist-gone-wrong. "Are you going to bark all day, little doggy, or are you going to bite?" is a great line, but how about your last words being a quote from The Wizard of Oz? That just seems like an impossible way for a violent criminal to go.

Ok, I'm going to digress. If you were about to die, which quote from The Wizard of Oz would you want to be your last words? I know what I wouldn't want it to be--"Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!" Maybe "What puts the 'ape' in apricot?" would be a good one just because it would be "Rosebud"-y enough to make people wonder what the hell I was talking about. How about "I can barely hear my heart beating"?

I also like Madsen's little dance. The aforementioned Tierney is great, too, such a cool old man. Two more things I really like about this movie: 1) The way Stephen Wright pronounces the word "behemoth" and 2) that message to Tony above a doorway--"Watch your head."


1981 science fiction rom-com

Rating: 4/20

Plot: A pair of robots escape the robot factory or wherever the hell they live. They make a baby robot and try to escape their pursuers, including a ruthless cop robot.

I'm not sure there's another movie this boring. With Andy Kaufman and Bernadette Peters as the pair of lovestruck robots and Randy Quaid playing himself, I know that might be hard to believe, but it's true. Painfully boring. This starts with the robots falling for each other and then goes absolutely nowhere. The robots just plod through about eighty minutes and do almost nothing. John Williams provides some ambient tinkering. There's a comedian robot with a cigar who provides such gems as the one about how his uncle was killed by a weasel. ("He was sitting on the railroad track, and a train came along, and he didn't hear the weasel.") That just pissed me off. So did the title, but it wasn't enough to stop me from watching this. Heartbeeps? It had Kaufman in it, so I was intrigued enough to give it a spin. If you, dear reader, ever told me that you were going to watch this, I would probably murder you to save you from the experience. I'm not a violent person or anything, but it would just seem like the human thing to do.

Shane trivia: This is the only movie I can remember apologizing to. I kept dozing off while watching this. At one point, a robot says, "What are you--an audience or an oil painting?" I was awake enough to hear that, figured the movie was talking about me, apologized, and even gave the thing a weak pity laugh.

A Christmas Story

1983 Christmas movie

Rating: 17/20 (Jen: 15/20; Becky: 18/20; Dylan: 12/20; Emma: 13/10; Abbey: 15/20)

Plot: Ralphie wants a B.B. gun, but his parents, his teacher, and a department store Santa Claus all tell him that he'll shoot his eye out with it. Meanwhile, his father wins a major award.

This nearly plotless series of memories that almost-but-not-quite feels like you're watching somebody else's home movies has really grown on me through the years. I laugh more now than I ever did when I watched this as a kid or a younger adult. I appreciate nostalgia a lot more these days, even if it's not anything I can personally connect with because it's before my time. Perhaps it's just the mention of Terre Haute, Indiana, that works for me. Whatever it is, this movie almost gets funnier the more you see it, and it's rewatchability is great. Actually, I'm surprised that some cable channel hasn't decided to play a 24-hour marathon of this movie every Christmas. This is already on the blog somewhere. Actually, I just looked and it's on the blog 2 1/2 times, and I've bumped it up a point every time.

I've seen A Christmas Story memorabilia around lately--replica leg lamps, figurines, snowglobes. Honestly, I'm not sure if I've seen a snowglobe or not, but you're not going to fact-check me or anything, so I can probably get away with it. I'm not sure how I feel about people being able to buy leg lamps. Part of the beauty of those scenes is that the lamp is so completely ridiculous. Now that I can see them in people's windows almost taints it. I even saw one in a window right above a nativity scene the other day. Of course, I could be making that up, but again, nobody's going to fact-check.

This was my mother-in-law's first time seeing this movie. Next time she's here in December, I'll show her Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

Prairie Love

2011 movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A hunter in frozen North Dakota saves a stranded man's life and later steals his identity in order to meet his pen pal girlfriend upon her release from prison for sexual reasons.

This is a very quiet movie, like the Coen's Fargo with the sound and style turned all the way down. That's not necessarily a terrible thing. I enjoyed the leisurely pace and attention to details that don't really matter at all. There are shots of rattling things on the main character's rickety trailer, and they don't add to the character much or the plot at all, but they lend some flavor to the movie. The director, by the way, is named Dusty Bias, and this is his debut. I'll be following his career, mostly because his name is Dusty Bias. He takes things so slowly here which allows the viewer to absorb everything. That keeps things kind of uneasy since there's really not that much to absorb. A lot of people will find this thing too slow and the characters too unattractive and uninteresting. And a lot of people probably won't find this very funny although it is a darkish comedy--kind of a grayish comedy. There's ill-fitting underpants during a run through the snow, perhaps the bravest and coldest-looking running I've seen since that guy in that Inuit movie, Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner. A frozen deer prop is used in funny ways, including an odd parallel episode where characters suggest to the guy, "Maybe you should taste its blood." Things move from naturalistic to just plain goofy with a play dinner, and the main character dressing up as a cowboy, making pow-pow-pow sounds, and saying, "Look at me. I'm a cowboy, ya know." This is a comfortably odd comedy that I'm glad I accidentally watched.


1932 circus soap opera

Rating: 20/20

Plot: A circus strongman and a trapeze artist conspire to steal a sideshow little person's fortune. Gooble gobble.

This is a special movie. A lot of its specialness is the context. It's 1932 when talkies are mostly awkward, and as expected from both the time period and the use of non-professional actors, this is stagy. But you look past that because so much of this is stuff you've never seen on screen before and will likely never see again. Sure, certain directors revel in showing audiences the grotesque, but in Freaks, Browning shows it all so casually, and instead of exploiting the sideshow performers in this movie, they're just nonchalantly shown going about their business and are easily more likable than the "normal" characters. This is prior to the enforcement of the Hays Code, and a couple years later, this movie wouldn't have been allowed to exist. Predictably, it was banned in several places as well as being heavily edited by the studio. The studio also decided to tack on a happier ending.

Here's my context: I had heard about this movie long before I saw it. I saw a VHS copy at a library and took it home to give it a spin. I enjoyed the antics of the titular freaks, but the 1930's movie aesthetics were distracting while the story was weak. It's really a side-show soap-opera rather than the horror cult classic that I was setting myself up for. However, I couldn't shake it, especially the climactic scene in the rain that is so wonderfully filmed. I watched it again, and what I thought were flaws the first time I watched it didn't seem important at all. Now that I've seen it a third time, I think it's a masterpiece.

At the heart of the movie is Hans, the little guy whose infatuation with the "most beautiful big person" he's ever seen leads to the tragedy. He's played by Harry Earles who unfortunately has a small discography which includes another Tod Browning movie called The Unholy Three which I liked. He was also in the Lollipop Guild. His wife in this movie is played by his sister which, if you ask me, is all kinds of creepy. His character in this is such a player. Harry and his sister Daisy are both great, and they have these great little people voices. The best Hans scene is when he raves about "Swiss cheese heads" with tiny clinched fist body language. The "laughing" speech is also really good. Of course, this movie isn't just about little people. The first shot of the microcephalic children from the circus with "La la la" circles is plenty shocking, but there's also something beautiful and wonderful about the whole thing. Add conjoined twins, one who is marrying a stutterer; Johnny sans the lower half of his body whose deft maneuvering using on his arms is beyond impressive (Johnny Eck--a guy referenced in a Tom Waits' song); a marriage between a thin man and bearded lady whose offspring just made me try picturing a thin-man-and-bearded-lady sex scene in my head; a guy with no arms and no legs who lights a cigarette (Prince Randian in his only role); a bird-girl; Schlitzie, one of the "pinheads" whose incomprehensible dialogue doesn't even get subtitles; and the 2'11" Angelo Rossitto who gets the "Gooble Gobble" chant started during the great wedding reception scene. From the torn title screen leading into a carnival barker's foreshadowing intro about the "code of living monstrosities" to the shocking rain-drenched finale, this is about as fascinating as movies get, one that has really grown into one of my favorites.

The Lemon Grove Kids Meet the Monsters

1965 children's entertainment insanity

Rating: 5/20

Plot: The titular gang races against a rival gang, fights a guy in a gorilla suit, cleans a starlet's home, and battles sinister aliens in a trio of adventures.

Look out! It's Ray Dennis Steckler, the creator of gems Rat Pfink a Boo Boo and The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!? This time, he takes a stab at kiddie entertainment, a trilogy of short films that are like The Little Rascals on mescaline. And with random monsters. In the first, they have a foot race against an antagonistic gang from another grove. They also encounter the same gorilla Rat Pfink and Boo Boo had to battle in that movie. I guess Steckler owned the suit. Or, more likely, the guy who plays Kogar the gorilla owns the suit. His name is Bob Burns, and during his sixty year career as an actor in almost 24 films, he's played Kogar the Gorilla, Gorilla Monster, or Tracey the Gorilla in eight of them. Not that he isn't versatile because he's also a mummy in one of these Lemon Grove things. And he's a "NY Stander" in Peter Jackson's King Kong movie. And he worked on special effects in the Lord of the Rings movies. This whole first adventure--crazy music, bad dubbing, cartoonish sound effects--makes for a maddening experience although it's both completely harmless and energetic enough to be watchable. There's even a Rat Pfink cameo. Oh, and Frankenstein is involved somehow. I should have probably typed "Spoiler Alert" before that though. Things pick up with a little sci-fi craziness with a sexy vampiresss and a grasshopper alien. When the latter talks, it's a beautiful thing. The former is also a beautiful thing, but I would never type that as to not invite accusations of objectification. I was totally objectifying her though. Steckler's in this himself as Gopher, the goofiest of the Lemon Grove Kids. He operates under his cool-guy moniker Cash Flagg here, and his finest moment is when he does a bunch of animal impressions. But his bad acting is overshadowed by his own daughter Laura as Tickles. Her acting almost makes it seem like she had decided at the age of five that she hated her daddy and wanted to ruin his career. Of course, she must have been a dumb five year old to not realize that her daddy didn't make very good movies in the first place. The sheer zaniness, a catchy musical number that probably took two minutes to write, and a bunch of cheap-looking monsters keeps this fun even when it's nowhere near good.

Buskers: For Love or Money

2008 documentary

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A look at the lives and art of the titular street performers.

This is directed by Mad Chat Taylor who juggles chainsaws at Venice Beach. It's an interesting subject matter, but it's not a terrible interesting movie, especially for one about people who make their living playing with fire, balancing on things in slightly-dangerous ways, juggling, unicycling, escaping from things, and breakdancing. I do like the idea that "all great artists have had a deficiency of some kind," and it was fun seeing some old archival footage of some of the performers in this thing. Most of the performance footage, however, felt a little flat, almost like you actually have to be there experiencing it in the flesh 'n' blood for it to be any fun. I guess that's why people don't watch circuses on televisions. This will probably be satisfying for anybody with an interest in the topic.

Team America: World Police

2004 marionette action movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A stage actor joins the titular terrorist busters, stops a group of terrorists in Egypt with the help of his acting abilities, and then must face Kim Jong Il who is planning to use his weapons of mass destruction to take over the world.

There are a lot of movies that I like that nobody else seems to like very much. I get it most of the time. I don't blame or criticize anybody for not liking Eraserhead. But this one I have trouble understanding. Not even South Park fans seem to like this much at all, and I don't understand why. For me, this is easily the most brilliant and brilliantly executed and consistently humorous thing that Parker and Stone have ever done. They nail big dumb Michael Bay-esque action movies, and the satire is just perfect. Of course, I was sold within the first few moments of the movie when there's a marionette who has his own marionette and a mime. All within seconds! And you get to see puppets engaging in fisticuffs including a guy vs. terrorist fight sequence near the beginning that includes the Crane Technique. And yes, there's the infamous marionette sex scene which is not only one of my favorite sex scenes ever but one that should be required viewing for all newlyweds. These puppets are awesome. I'm easily entertained anyway, so something as simple as getting to see marionettes "walk" around is enough to please me. Still, the way they give these little figures facial expressions and all gives them this realism and makes them seem like better actors than the people who are usually in movies like this. The sets are absolutely amazing with this surprising amount of details. I always imagine Parker and Stone catching part of this on television (because in my mind, they're always in the same room as each other) and saying, "I can't believe we made this thing!" Like most of their stuff, this is also a musical, and the songs are also pretty great. There's a wonderfully catchy song about AIDS, a dumber-than-dumb "Freedom Isn't Free" song which is stupid enough to seem real until a line about how "Freedom costs a dollar fifty" line, fist-pump-inducing "America, Fuck Yeah!" that should probably replace our current national anthem, Jong Il's number about how rone-ry he is, and the brilliant "We're Gonna Need a Montage." The big swing and miss is a song devoted to making fun of the Pearl Harbor movie. Aside from a bit of political jabbing that is pretty harsh on both liberal and conservative ideals, there are plenty of goofy moments that just make me laugh. I don't like all the meta-jokes that draw attention to the fact that the characters are marionettes. Those didn't need to be there. But I laugh every single time I even think about that Matt Damon puppet and his repeated single line. And "No me gusta!" makes me smile. And the line "When you see Alec Baldwin, you see the true ugliness of human nature." Oh, and the line "I was raped by Mr. Mistoffelees." A hammer slid across a table, Kim Jong Il's panthers, the gruesome deaths of many Hollywood stars. Seriously, somebody tell me what's not to like here! That's a rhetorical exclamation, by the way, so you don't really have to answer. Bonus nods for a strong use of the Wilhelm Scream and an allusion to the cantina scene in A New Hope. This might not be a perfect movie, but I challenge you to find a movie this freakin' funny that also contains an extended scene of marionettes having sex.