Fox and His Friends

1975 movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: The titular circus performer loses his job when his boss/lover is arrested. He scrounges up some money to play the lottery, wins, and is then manipulated by his titular friends.

Another happy German movie. Well, if your idea of happy is closer to devastatingly bleak. Parents renting this to show their children because they think it might be a sequel to The Fox and the Hound will certainly be unhappy. It also has nothing to do with this children's book:

Unless, of course, that children's book has a lot more penis than you'd think by looking at the camera. It's possible, I guess. That pig looks a little randy. But yes, there's an awful lot of penis in this movie. One wonders if Rainer Werner Fassbinder directed this and starred as the titular loser as an excuse to show his penis to a bunch of people. I didn't realize that as Fassbinder as Fox until I looked it up. He's fine as an actor, but I thought he was a portly gentleman. El Hedi ben Salem, one of Fassbinder's boyfriends and the star of Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, makes a brief appearance in this one to as a "Moroccan." Speaking of homosexuality, here's a question. Should I have been shocked at a kiss in the first five minutes of this movie between Fox and the circus guy? And if I was shocked, what does that say about me? Keep in mind that it was kind of an odd moment for a kiss anyway. But it's 2013, and I'm not sure if I should be shocked with an onscreen kiss between two men, especially with the amount of gay porn I watch. Fox says "When I have fun, I want to have regrets." He's a tragic character who has a little fun in this movie and, I'm guessing, a whole lot of regrets. Fassbinder tells his story with a fair share of dramatic irony. I don't think there are a lot of people who could watch this not knowing that Fox is being used by people and that his lottery winnings are going to end up being his downfall. It's a lot like those stories you hear about people striking it rich and ending up with ruined lives. This is a movie about how people, regardless of their sexual proclivities, will use other people and about how money corrupts. It might not be interesting all the time and seemed a little long to me, but there is a lot of penis.

The Truman Show

1998 movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Truman Burbank begins to realize that he is the star of a reality show that people have been watching since his birth.

I love the great premise here and think it's wonderfully prescient, but it's hard to ignore the movie's flaws. First, there's Jim Carrey. I'd love to see this exact same movie with somebody who isn't Jim Carrey, somebody not nearly as recognizable. Carrey, as you'd probably expect, overdoes things a little bit. Another issue is that this spells everything out for the viewer a little too much. This could have been cleverer if the audience would have figured out the movie's secrets right along with its protagonist. The worst comes at around the halfway point of the movie where Cristof is interviewed, a scene that treats the movie audience like morons. The fact that they take one call which happens to be Truman's true love interest is also a little hard to swallow. And then there's the camera work or perspective of this thing. It seems like nobody could make up their mind whether the camera should be in the reality show or a more traditional third person thing. Still, there's something fun about watching one everyman's existential collapse. Watching the extras in Truman's world and the producers of the show try to hold everything together is also a lot of fun. As waterlogged as this movie seems at times, there are more than a few great moments. The scene where Truman reunites with his father is especially magical, goosepimple-inducing. This completely artificial thing is being manufactured, but Cristof's reaction is so good as he orchestrates and makes art out of somebody's life, like a fist-bumping God. Speaking of God, is this a metaphor for religion? I think it might be, but I've never heard anybody complain about it. Cristof is played by Ed Harris who isn't one of my favorites, but he's really good here. Carrey's fine, too, and would play that everyman perfectly if he was less Jim Carrey. You do really root for his character, especially when he's trying to construct a picture of his lost love from magazine pieces. There's just something so romantic about that. This is a good movie, but it's frustrating knowing that it should have been a great one.

Shane Watches a Bad Movie on Facebook with Friends: Abar, the First Black Superman

1977 Blaxploitation sorta-superhero movie

Rating: 4/20 (Fred: 4/20; Josh: 3/20; Ryan: 5/20; Libby: Was not able to finish because she had to explain racism to her 8-year-old son)

Plot: A black doctor experimenting with rabbits moves into a white neighborhood with his family. The white folk don't like it so much and respond like any normal racist would--killing their new neighbors' pet and hanging it at the front door, shouting racist things, attempting to steal their Frisbees, attempted murder. The titular local civil rights leader begins to defend them. Eventually, the doctor perfects his potion and turns Abar into a superhero.

I love movies that are in English but still dubbed. The dubbing makes the guy playing the doctor--J. Walter Smith, who also co-wrote this and then did nothing else at all in the movie biz--seem like an even worse actor than he is, something that I imagine was very difficult to pull off. Tobar Mayo plays the superhero, and I don't know if it's his build or his bald head, but I thought he could have pulled off action star in movies with bigger budgets. He was in Killer of Sheep which is a movie much different than this one although it tries to accomplish some of the same things. And he was "Third Indian" in Escape from New York. This is really inept filmmaking and storytelling. The first hour of the movie focuses, sometimes uncomfortably, on the racism. Director Frank Packard (his only directing credit) plays the Martin Luther King Jr. card early and often, hammering you over the head with the message. Then, the movie shifts gears dramatically, the doctor starts shooting rabbits to show that he's perfected the formula to make rabbits bulletproof, and we get more of the sci-fi superhero nonsense that my Bad Movie cohorts and I wanted for this week's selection. And it is nonsense! Sure, this titular superman can fight, but he's also got these telepathic abilities to turn prostitutes and drug dealers into college graduates, liquor into milk, and purse snatchers into quality citizens. He can also cause giant snakes to materialize. Superman can't do that! It's so goofy, and I think at this stage, the movie's message gets a little muddy. After all, this movie was really focused on the clash between hateful whites and black people minding their own business, not on the problems with black urban youth. The last half hour isn't enough to salvage this and make it an enjoyable bad movie although there is a twist at the end with Frisbee woman that has to be seen to be believed. And there is a misshapen pimp who made me laugh. Tony Rumford plays Dr. Kincade's son, and he's the worst child actor I've seen in a while. This was also his only role. His is a performance that stands out, and trust me, that's difficult in a movie like this. This is an interesting little socially-critical document, but it's not anywhere near a good movie and probably not a very good bad movie either.

The Comedy

2012 not-comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A spoiled guy drifts through life and annoys people.

Tim Heidecker stars in this. He, along with Eric Wareheim, made Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie which I refused to enjoy, and he also hosts my current favorite movie review show On Cinema which you can watch on Youtube. He does that with comedian Neil Hamburger, and both Hamburger (as Gregg Turkington) and Wareheim are in this movie. But this is Heidecker's chance to show off, and his performance is just about perfect. What Heidecker's good at, both here and the online movie review show, is being awkward. He's got a screen presence that can make a viewer uncomfortable, and he's perfect for his character in this who seems like a candidate for one of the worst human beings who ever lived. He's like Nicholson's character in Five Easy Pieces although updated for the naughtier naughts. His reaction, or more accurately a complete lack of reaction, to a person having a seizure is a genius display of non-emotion. With Heidecker and friends, you'd expect this to be a wacky irreverent comedy, and it's really not, despite that title. Or maybe it is, but it's one of the darker comedies you'll see. There's a lot of funny stuff going on, seemingly improvised, but this weird sadness kind of creeps in and overwhelms the whole thing You're not finishing this movie feeling like you just watched a comedy. When the performers do improvise and go for laughs, they go straight for the potty, having conversations about how hobos' cocks are as clean as a baby's breath and hospital scalpels. Subversive humor to say the least, but it comes across as tacky and makes you not like the characters very much. Heidecker's character's decisions don't make a lick of sense, and the episodic structure and almost complete lack of anything resembling a plot--there's something about a dad dying, a brother in a mental institution, and an inheritance, but none of it seems to matter much) gives this a dreamy tone. And it makes you a little uncomfortable. That all starts with the provocative intro with the mellow sounds of some funk song while tubby guys dance and pour beer on each other and in their underpants. And then--a dick. You'll cringe right off the bat and possibly continue to cringe, but there are a few moments in this that are almost beautiful--a final scene that takes place on a beach and one where the friends have gathered to watch a slide show. And there's a Baron-Cohen-esque scene where Heidecker goes into an African American bar and nearly improvises himself to death. This movie feels raw and challenges; it almost barks at you though it barks in a laidback sort of way. It's definitely not for everybody and might not be for very many people at all, but it really surprised me.

Lemonade Joe

1964 Czech Western musical parody

Rating: 16/20

Plot: The titular sharpshooter tries to rid a sinful town called Stetson City of whisky in the 1880s.

The good guys wear white and refuse libations while the bad guys wear black and are actually named Badman. With 1920's color tinting and slapstick, way too many songs, ridiculous fight scenes that are speeded-up, and stock characters, this both pokes fun and pays homage to Western musical comedies. It also nails capitalism as Joe seems to exist only to shill lemonade that has a name suspiciously close to Coca-Cola. Kolaloka? That's close, right? There's plenty of silliness here--a trumpeter in black face who engages in a shoot-out with the good guy in what might be the best shoot-out I ever see, a trickster bad guy named Hogofogo who probably gets the best song, a guy who eats violins, and lines like "The night is cold; I'll need to put on my woolens" preceding a climactic trip to a place called Dead Man's Valley. The hijinks make this really entertaining even though it seems to go on a little too long, and although all the parts of this remind you of things you've seen before, it all comes together uniquely and isn't really like anything you've seen before. This is the best Czech Western I've seen and much better than Blazing Saddles despite the lack of Gene Wilder. Fun stuff!

A Woman Is a Woman

1961 Godard fun

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A stripper desperately wants to have a baby with her boyfriend, but he desperately doesn't want a baby. That's where the movie loses all credibility because the stripper is played by Anna Karina, a woman who nearly any male would be willing to do anything for, especially if it involved having sexual relations with her. Her boyfriend's flirtatious buddy seems interested, probably because he's normal, and that creates some conflict.

This one's got shane-movies favorites Anna Karina and Jean-Paul Belmondo, the latter who looks a little like Bobby Fischer and the former who I would like to invite into every single one of my dreams. Godard creates good dreams, and he can also screw with an audience better than any other director. There's a spontaneity to this that is infectious and refreshing although there are some people who would find it intolerable. Godard and his characters constantly remind the audience that this is all just a movie. They break into song like only characters in a musical can. Michel Legrand's music stabs at you like a candy-coated knife, really maddening the way it comes in and out unexpectedly. A lot of the sounds and edits seem like mistakes, but you know it's all Godard's idea of a joke. Words appear on the screen, things like "Because they love each other, everything will go wrong for Emile and Angela." He flashes shots of random elderly pedestrians during a conversation with the main characters, and he includes a lengthy scene where characters are just sitting at a table listening to a song (the funny "Tu t'laisses aller" by Charles Aznavour) while looking at a photograph. The fourth wall is busted repeatedly, mostly in comical ways with characters bowing to the audience, speaking directly to the audience, and, in what is one of the most erotic things I've ever seen in a movie, winking. Anna Karina looked directly at me and winked. And I woke up three days later in a pool of my own juices. Wait, did I write that it broke a fourth wall? This wink broke a fifth and maybe a sixth wall. And then there's a moment where she strips because, you know, she's a stripper, and the music she performs to sounds like the theme to Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, something that has the potential to travel back in time and give me my first erection at the age of four. I also liked a little dance she does in a tight blue dress. Hot Tamale! I'm glad my wife doesn't read my blog. Godard dicks around so much with this that it's a wonder he was allowed to continue making movies, but it's all very funny. They "I'll go with who performs the most amazing feat" scene made me laugh, and I also liked an argument that included the words--unspoken--"pernicious mummy." And those sounds coming from the bathroom! Oh, and I loved this conversation:

Karina: Would you rather have fish or meat for dinner?
Brialy: Fish.
Karina: What would you have preferred if you were having meat?
Brialy: I don't know. Veal.
Karina: And if you were to have beef rather than veal, would you prefer a steak or a roast?
Brialy: A steak.
Karina: And had you answered roast, would you prefer it rare or well-done?
Brialy: Rare.
Karina (getting the roast): Well, you're out of luck. My roast beef's a little overdone.

That's just beautiful and perfectly and nonsensically describes these characters and their relationship. And they trill their R's. The introduction/opening credits were interesting, by the way--large colorful words popping rhythmically onto the screen to introduce the three leads. I wonder if it influenced Gasper Noe. This movie really isn't Godard's greatest achievement, but it's a lot of fun and has this great energy.

I feel the need to point out that Anna Karina is not really naked in this movie.

City of God

2002 movie

Rating: 18/20

Plot: The true story of how the Brazilian equivalent of the Boy Scouts of America was formed.

This movie starts with chickens. Chickens are haunting me this year. Sure, you expect to see some chickens in a documentary about chickens. But it seems that chickens find their way into about half of the movies I'm watching this year. Herzog doesn't like chickens.

See? The beginning of this movie is a stunning look at a chicken being de-feathered and eviscerated and chopped into pieces. Spliced into that are very quick shots of a large gleaming knife being sharpened and a bunch of people who are looking forward to eating a chicken. And then you have a shot of a scrawny chicken watching the proceedings and waiting for its turn, and that chicken gives one of the best performances I think I've ever seen by a bird in a movie. The chicken trembles, gives this "Oh shit!" look at the camera, and eventually makes its escape. Somehow, the camera follows the chicken through the streets. Watching it all unfold is invigorating for some reason, and the scene, one that starts the movie but actually takes place later in the story, really sets the stage for everything that happens in the titular slums. For the protagonist, a poor guy who just wants to take pictures and lose his virginity, this is a place that can be overwhelmingly frightening and seemingly impossible to escape. This movie is entertaining with a vibrantly told story and colorful characters, but its most effective at disturbing you with the harsh realities of this particular spot in our world and really making you feel what some of the characters are feeling. Lots will disturb unless we're all desensitized to seeing a movie with about half of the scenes featuring children holding guns and occasionally shooting each other in the face. Those faces themselves are disturbing, so callous as they go about their violent business. More disturbing is seeing Li'l Ze (actually, Lil Dice at this point) in action for the first time. It's a laugh that, if you don't remember anything else in any movie you've ever seen, you'll likely remember forever. That crazed character is probably more interesting and surely more complex than Rocket, the main character. It's fascinating to watch all these youngsters bounce off each other, dangerous little unpredictable firecrackers in a vibrating cube. It's a world dominated by children--I believe parents are shown in this movie during exactly one scene--but they're not children. They've been shaped into something else. And you think, "I can't believe that people are like this in any part of the world," but then you think about the part of the world you live in and see enough similarities. Your world's got chickens, too. This is flashy and fresh, with a twisty narrative that almost reminds you of Tarantino but with every ounce of hope slurped out. City of God (I think that might be ironic because I didn't see God in this place) is a great film, but it's almost hard to be entertained by it because these characters seem more real than movie characters, and you just know there's not much hope for some of them.
There were other movie posters for this, but I picked the one with a chicken on it. 

The French Connection

1971 action thriller

Rating: 18/20

Plot: Long before he would meet Olive Oyl, Popeye works with his partner in the narcotics unit where he tries to stop that guy in those Bunuel movies from making life a lot more fun for people in New York City.

One of my least favorite movies ever is The French Connection II which I'm reminded exists every time I think about The French Connection. That movie is as terrible as this one is brilliant, just one of those nearly-perfect movies from cinema's best decade. I guess you really have to start with Hackman's performance and the character created here. That or you start by wondering why a song performed in this movie had the lyric "It's customary in songs like this to use a word like spoon." No, it's better to start with the character, a kind of anti-hero. Hackman just seems so big, towering over everybody else. I think when I first watched this movie, I thought Gene Hackman had to have been 7'4" or something in that neighborhood, and not with a scrawny Manute Bol build either but a burly 7'4". Then, I realized that this was the same guy who was in Superman and wondered where his hair went and how he lost a foot and a half. I was a stupid child. Doyle's slightly racist, probably a misogynist, and chews his gum obnoxiously. He's loud and crude, but you never deny that he's really good at what he does, and I think it's impossible not to enjoy watching him go about his business. Oh, and he sure likes his boots on women, doesn't he? Partner Roy Scheider's good though somewhat overshadowed by the star, and Fernando Rey brings some class into this often too-gritty urban crime drama as the criminal mastermind. This movie is the epitome of grit, really diving into the oily crevices to bring out the soul of the story. Things get ugly here, but it works because the world Popeye Doyle is charged with protecting is an ugly one. I'm not sure the camera has to jerk around that much though. I like the attention to detail there is, all the tiny spectacles this movie has to offer. Love seeing Hackman chasing down a guy while wearing a Santa suit, a lengthy scene where the good guys are stalking the bad guys on the streets, that absolutely ridiculous little cat-and-mouse game on the subway that was really probably too ridiculous to even work. It's brilliant stuff. And then, of course, there's one of the best car chases ever filmed. And things end with a bang, literally. A bang more open-ended than any bang I can think of, an ambivalent bang. Great movie, but I'm always a little surprised when I think of it cleaning up at the Academy Awards. Wouldn't this have been more than a little daring in 1971? Regardless, it seems like people have been trying to make another one of these for over forty years.

Sorry about the spoiler on that poster up there.

Shane Watches a Bad Movie on Facebook with Friends: Miami Connection

1987 action movie

Rating: 3/20 (Josh: 12/20; Fred: 2/20; Libby: 3/30; Carrie: 2/20; Larry: was unfortunately not able to finish the movie with us--I believe his wife came home and caught him watching Miami Connection which led to some trouble)

Plot: A rock band consisting of orphans has to battle a rival gang and some ninjas who ride motorcycles. Drugs are somehow involved.

"Uh oh. Ninjas."

Wall-to-wall action and ceiling-to-floor stupidity! This is really just a series of badly-choreographed fight scenes and a couple musical numbers (including the should-have-been-a-hit "Friends Forever!" with lyrics that had to have been written by children) connected with a plot. It's connected the way a dried-up glue stick would connect the pieces of a child's art project. This kind of stupidity doesn't come along that often. The stars have to align just a certain way to bring all the pieces together to make something as special as this, and the production company (Draft House) that brought this thing back from the dead in recent years (complete with action figures) was right in thinking it's a potential cult classic. You'll see everything that makes bad movies like this so magical--terrible acting, continuity errors, bad effects, inept camera and sound work, poor editing, general clumsiness--but there's something that just makes this stand out a little bit. Like a lot of historically bad movies, this one seems to be the responsibility of one guy--Y.K. Kim, who co-wrote, co-directed, and co-starred in this. He's got some sweet kung-fu movies, at least when compared to most of the gangly white dudes in this movie. However, he has not mastered the English language and with the help of that gives one of the worst performances you'll ever see.  I had trouble not laughing at everything he said, including his pronunciation of the word orphans which sounded like orpins. This was Kim's only movie as a writer, director, or an actor. There's also a guy who looks a little like how Chuck Norris would look if he became really really ill. One of the orphans--the black one--is actually able to reconnect with his father, an attempt by the filmmakers to inject a little emotion into the movie. It made me cry anyway. With laughter! That black guy is played by Maurice Smith who screams the greatest scream that I have ever heard in a movie. The aforementioned "Friends Forever" song is one of two songs performed by the band--Dragon Sound, a fivesome who perform kung-fu moves while rocking out. It's the kind of song that will make you feel proud to be a human being, and the song has become the new Facebook Bad Movie Club anthem. As Libby said, this seems to be a movie made by 8-year-old boys for 8-year-old boys to watch and enjoy. It's one of the best bad movies I've seen in a while.

Oh, you know who else is in this movie? Bubba Baker, the guy who played "toothless giant" in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. In this, he plays "Nail face," a random guy in a scene that takes place in a bar who shoves a nail into his face.

The Tree of Guernica

 1975 war movie

Rating: 10/20

Plot: There's a war in Spain.

This was Fernando Arrabal's third movie after Long Live Death and I Will Walk Like a Crazy Horse, a pair of movies that I didn't enjoy or understand. So I'm not sure why I bothered with this one because I didn't enjoy or understand it either. The thing's steeped in metaphors, some that I didn't understand and flew by like non sequiturs and some that were so obvious that they seemed juvenile. Also juvenile was a lot of sacrilegious imagery Ok, Arrabal, we get it. You don't like the church very much. I don't need to see any more characters wiping their ejaculate on a statue. There's a lot of war footage and its grotesque imagery mixed into the barrage of often disturbing imagery. There are also a lot of little people, one with a naked guy who later gets a sex scene while other little people towel him off. And there's a bullfight scene with one of the little people tied to a cart with a bull's head on the front, a scene that I swear lasted ninety minutes. And there's a scene with two guys tongue-wrestling that looked like something that could have been in a Will Ferrell movie. Oh, and a giant ear knife on wheels (I have no idea how else I could describe it) with naked children running around it and a lady saving herself from rape by hurling snakes. It's that kind of movie, and I actually started hating myself in the middle of it. A lot of this has the feel of a snuff film, and although I'm sure there's a point being made with the whole, it was well over my head and I really couldn't connect to anything that was happening enough to even care that I was missing out on something. I would not recommend you watch this although it is a little funnier than The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.

Dead Ringers

1988 twin movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Twin gynecologists have this great system worked out where the more extroverted one finds women and has a sexual relationship with them before growing tired of them and passing them onto the introverted one. It works great until an actress comes along and not only finds out what they're doing but becomes the object of one of the twin's obsession.

In my head, I always think that Cronenberg's movies are too bleak. And then I think, "Wait a second! A lot of my favorite movies are pretty freakin' bleak!" So I don't know if it's the bleakness that turns me off. This one is as bleak as the others, and it's also cold, clinical, but there's still a lot that I like about it. First, you've got a pair of performances by Jeremy Irons that are just stunning. Unless Jeremy Irons actually has a twin brother who plays opposite him in this movie. I'm too lazy to look it up. The differences in Beverly and Elliot are subtle, but I had little trouble telling them apart because of the nuances of Irons' performance. And when he pukes into a shrub? Or when he says, "And some orange pop!" near the end of the movie? It's just the sort of acting perfection that you don't get to see very often. The movie's score by Howard Shore is also great, kind of a throwback to classic movies. And I like a lot of what Cronenberg does with color, especially those striking red surgical outfits that stand out in a movie that otherwise seems tan or blue. But so much of this movie is kind of boring and feels heavy. It feels like you're carrying something bulky and wet around with you for a couple hours, and although the story is shocking, emotionally complex, and eventually tragic, it just doesn't really inspire you to feel much of anything. This is worth watching because of Irons' performance and the mysteriously haunting (and apparently true) story. And those gynecological instruments were pretty sweet, like something you'd see in, well, a Cronenberg movie.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

2013 magic comedy

Rating: 9/20

Plot: A magician partnership turns sour when, in an effort to compete with a hotshot Internet sensation street shock magician, they try and fail to perform a David Blaine-esque stunt on the streets of Las Vegas. The arrogant titular showman has to rediscover the magic and get back on top.

Look--somebody made all the humor disappear! Wait, I'm sure that one was used before. Let me try again. This feels like a trick on the audience? I'd rather be sawed in half? It's a wonderstone this even made it to theaters? The only thing incredible about this is how bad it is? Abracrapola? This plot that took place in Las Vegas should have stayed in Las Vegas? A few less laughs than Nolan's The Prestige? It'll be hard to find a volunteer in the audience because they'll probably leave halfway through the movie? Worst magic-related accident since Houdini's death? Is this why Ric Ocasek sang "Uh oh!" when he sang about magic? Somebody pull a better script out of a top hat--quick!? The Statue of Liberty will be begging David Copperfield to make her disappear again so that she can avoid seeing this movie? I know where director Don Scardino can stick that magic wand? A movie bad enough to make somebody vomit an endless stream of colorful scarves out their mouth? Not even that Sorcerer in that Mickey Mouse movie could clean up this mess? Here's a film that will make you stop believing in magic in a young girl's heart? About as entertaining as your perverted uncle who smells like he lives in a porta-potty doing that got-your-nose trick at a family reunion? Something-something Harry Potter losing his virginity something-something at Hogwarts?

I can't imagine a comedy being less funny than this one. Just giving Steve Carell a mullet is not going to do it, Hollywood. The funniest things about this were Steve Buscemi's on-stage facial expressions although he otherwise looked kind of lost in this thing. The late James Gandolfini very nearly made the entire movie worth the trouble when saying, "It's gonna smell like ass in there." And there was a scene with a guy juggling ventriloquist dummies. Other than that, this was just disappointing from top to bottom. For a movie about magic, this was just so bland. One of the main issues might actually be that there was no magic. It was all special effects. You can't have a movie about magic without showing some magic.

Enthiran (Robot)

2010 ridiculously stupid sci-fi action romantic comedy (with music)

Rating: 14/20 (Unapologetically!)

Plot: A scientist makes himself a bitchin' robot that looks like him and can do anything that the writer/director of this thing can dream up. His girlfriend's upset that he spends so much time working. Eventually, the robot develops into something a little more human and falls for his maker's girlfriend. Then, things get really stupid.

Oh, goodness. This movie broke some kind of record for winning me over in the quickest amount of time because this bad boy had me at the menu screen with this delirious song that went something like "Boom boom robo gah robo gah zoom zoom." I'm easy to win over apparently. And yes, that song is in the movie, probably when the titular robot is doing something absolutely ridiculous. Actually, if I recall correctly, it was used in a montage where the robot--which is named Chitti, by the way, something else that entertained me because I'm apparently seven years old--cooks, dances, teaches karate, dresses hair, applies make-up, gives pedicures, plays practical jokes, etc. No, this guy isn't just a military fightin' rock-'em-and-sock-'em robot. He's one who can deliver babies. Love this conversation prior to the baby delivery:

Chitti: May I try?
Person: Are you a doctor?
Chitti: I'm Chitti. (pause) The robot.
Person: Can you do this?
Chitti: Why not?

Then, there's an ultrasound where the baby is revealed to be a cartoon. Awesome. Chitti also has a ridiculous action scene and then, to blow your fucking mind even more, he starts singing. Of course, the most memorable parts of this are when the robot gets to show off his fighting skills. And those scenes defy all logic. Over-the-top, silly, but undeniably creative, these are action scenes that will leave you wanting to high-five yourself. The special effects are probably on par with the stuff in the second Matrix movie, and there's even a chase sequence that reminds me of what they did with cars in that movie. But whereas that Matrix crap was happening in some kind of fantasy land (I don't really know because I didn't understand those movies), this is supposed to be happening in the real world. Those ridiculous special effects stand out most during a train scene with some interesting fisticuff action, a scene with a flying baby, some fire, and a what-the-hell moment when some mosquitoes start talking to each other. Oh, and there's a scene with a woman getting hit by a car which I believe is the worst thing I have ever seen. But when that robot [SPOILER ALERT!] duplicates himself and all the Chitti robots start piling on top of each other to make giant towers or giant Chittis, it's sublime and will, if you're anything like me, make you pee in your pants. This stars "Superstar" Raiji in dual roles, and at first, I was thinking, "This guy doesn't look much like a superstar." But there was a point early in the movie where he does this little giggle, kind of like a robotic dough boy, and that put him well into "superstar" range. He is good as both human and robot although he's aided by special effects. Since this is Bollywood, you can expect lots of music, and the action and plot are interrupted a few too many times with bad music videos about how we need to watch them "robo shake it" and other stuff. I say "other stuff" because the music video song lyrics were not translated for me. They're slick, and I didn't mind watching Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, who I assume is also a superstar, dance around in a variety of colorful outfits, but the music videos are really why the fast-forward button was invented. There's also a lot of stuff that I'm pretty sure was supposed to be comedic but that I didn't understand because it's probably a cultural thing. This movie's also very very long with a plot that develops far too slowly. At about the hour and fifteen minute mark, a character actually says something like "Now the story has begun!" which made me think, "It's about time!" Don't get me wrong though. This is close to the greatest movie ever made.

I finished watching this movie at around 3 in the morning, I think, and I immediately emailed my brother to tell him to check it out. He probably hates me for it.

Belle de Jour

1967 fantasy

Rating: 17/20

Plot: The sexually aloof wife of a doctor decides to take an afternoon job at a brothel.

"Semen retentum venenum est." If I had that line in my arsenal growing up, I might have gotten laid before my 25th birthday.

Tarantino probably likes this movie because it's got a ton of shots of Catherine Deneuve's feet. That's not exactly why I like it. I like it because of its mystery. This movie blends the line between reality and fantasy, between the humdrummery of everyday life and the free-floating exuberance of a life of dreams. Bunuel, unsurprisingly, uses this woman's story to dick around with his audience's minds, and he's one of the best ever at doing that. And he's probably the best candidate to take us on a little tour of the titular whore's dream/reality mash-up. Bunuel certainly creates an interesting rhythm with her journey, and rhythmic sound effects--bells, a few clocks, an ambulance, waves--seem to suggest something, but it's that kind of something that's just out of reach. You know, like in a dream. Catherine Deneuve's classic pretty face is perfect for the character, and I don't know if it's something she does or just her basic shapes and tones, but she's got just the right of naughtiness mixed in with this innocence. I also liked Pierre Clementi as bad-boy Marcel, a guy who either has a grill or forgot to take off his Jaws (James Bond villain--not the shark) Halloween costume. Jean Sorel makes a good schmuck, and shady friend Husson is played shadily enough by Michel Piccoli. And there are a few whores to add a little bit of color. This is a more adult Bunuel for better or worse, one who is not at his most audaciously playful, but its poetic eroticism makes it float. And who can pass up a glance through a peephole into Deneuve's subconscious?

Mansion of Madness

1973 horror movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A guy's sent to a mental institution to figure out what's going down there. What's going down is that the inmates have taken over the asylum. Shenanigans!

You would have trouble accusing this movie of at least not being interesting. Director Juan Lopez Moctezuma is one of Jodorowky's pals, and the source material is from the same Poe story that Svankmajer used in Lunacy. This movie's got chickens and chicken men, continuing in what I've decided is the Summer of the Chicken, and there are other surreal touches--mice in a cage, a man who apparently lives in a furnace, a hat and beard painted on a beard. Those details add dream color to the proceedings, keeping your eyes interesting even when the story seems to be going nowhere at all. The lovely ladies, occasionally sans clothing, do a fine job of that, too. Throw in some vegetables, perverse ventriloquism, Lady Godiva-esque horseback riding, simulated sex with a giant chunk of meat, this wacky music played during cheap-looking chase sequences, and a really sharp musical number at the crazed doctor's table. I don't know what else Moctezuma did, although it was apparently only five movies, but you can't say he had a lack of ideas. It'd be interesting to see what he would be capable of producing with a much bigger budget than he had for this, his first movie. Without it, he's still able to create a nice atmosphere although this isn't quite the horror movie that it's labeled as. It's one of those difficult-to-label movies actually.

Dr. Tarr's Torture Dungeon is an alternate title.

Silence of the Lambs

1991 best picture

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Prospective FBI agent Clarice is recruited to chat it up with notorious serial killer and cannibal Hannibal Lecter in order to help the agency capture another guy who kidnaps women for their skin.

This movie has a trio of great scenes mixed into a character study about a character I just didn't find very interesting. The three scenes:

1) The best scene in the movie is where Lecter touches Clarice's fingers. A lot of the film has to do with their complex relationship, and that scene stands out.

2) The second best scene involves Stuart Rudin's character, Miggs. I'd imagine Rudin has had a career trying to not be the guy who flings his jism at Jodie Foster like a naughty monkey a few minutes after he screamed, "I can smell your cunt!" at her.

3) Hannibal's escape scene is thrilling, I guess, but really only if you're seeing it for the first time.

This has about as much style as a television cop drama. It's not gritty, it's not flashy, and it's not unique in any way. The story's just kind of there. And even more disappointing is that the title is really misleading. There's not a single lamb in this movie. I enjoyed the performance from Hopkins, who I don't believe blinks a single time in this movie, the kind of psychopath that a lot of actors have done their best to duplicate for the last thirty years. Foster's fine, but I don't the character lacks dimensions even though they did everything they could to give her a nice Hollywood backstory. I'm sure feminists would appreciate the character, but I don't find it all that believable that she would be sent out on the assignment in the first place. My favorite scene with her character was a shot where she was circled by a bunch of guy cops in a funeral home. Ted Levine's Buffalo Bill was a generic psychopath, but the scene where he's posing in front of a mirror with his Li'l Bill tucked between his legs is one that haunted me for months after I saw this for the first time. The butterfly or moth or whatever thing was a little silly, and I actually laughed out loud when Clarice announced, "He's making a woman suit!" Not my favorite Best Picture winner despite that line.

Cory's Birthday Movie Celebration: Destroy All Monsters!

1968 monster mayhem

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A posse of alien chicks invades earth by unleashing the collective of monsters imprisoned on Monster Land. Some astronauts have to find a way to defeat them. Rawr!

That's right--the tradition of honoring reader Cory's birthday in the cheapest way imaginable is continuing. This year, I've picked what I believe to be fifth on his favorite Godzilla movie list.

This is a movie very obviously made for children. There's nothing wrong with that, and that's better than the cartoon I thought it was going to be with a first scene involving a rocket blast-off. All of these movies are a little goofy, but this one just feels goofier. I think it might be the heavy narration, especially during the first part of the movie. When the narrator said "a place called Monster Land," I again thought that I was watching a cartoon. I am glad that he introduced all the monsters though. I didn't remember their names later on though, except for the ones I'd already seen in the other movies. I'll tell you one thing about that narrator and his description of Monster Land. There's a whole lot of science going on there. Also making this whole thing so goofy that adults should be embarrassed for liking it (No, I'm not talking about you, Cory, because that would be a terrible thing to do on your birthday.): a scene where Rodan eats a dolphin; a scene where Rodan humps another monster, dryly, I assume; a doctor's suicide with an obvious dummy and the longest scream I think I've ever heard in a movie; the 1999 laser guns that make pew-pew-pew sounds; the dubbed voice of this old guy; and another dubbed voice that is supposed to sound French, I guess. One of the scientists says "the monsters look cute" at one point, and that might be part of the problem. Some of them are a little too cute. Despite the goofiness, this is almost wall-to-wall action. And I liked seeing the monsters in new locations with some familiar landmarks. The miniature stuff is well done although the movie's pretty much done with urban settings by the midway point. Some of the miniatures are complex and even having moving parts. And they're grander in scale, probably because they needed to make room for ALL monsters. The city does look a little devoid of people though, a little lifeless. Maybe at this stage in this series of movies, people knew the signs and found safe locations when they knew giant monsters were on their way. This is packed with monsters, probably too many! I still don't care much for Rodan, but I did like the spiky guy and the long guy. Son of Godzilla? Well, I just don't know about him. His voice is really silly, and he shoots smoke rings. I enjoyed the alien monster tadpole things, but the "burning monster" which turns out to not even be a monster at all is about the lamest thing ever. Oh, and Ghidorah and his trio of heads makes an appearance. They really weren't kidding with the "all" in that title! Of course, the star of the show is Godzilla, and he gets his moments. One series of scenes has some guys running from Godzilla in the woods, and I'm pretty sure some of the shots inspired shots in Jurassic Park. My favorite Godzilla moment comes early, a scene where he does a crotch chop move like that bowler Pete Weber. With the same lively music I've come to expect from these Godzilla movies and barely a slow moment, this is a fun and entertaining giant monster movie. Especially for children!

Happy birthday, Cory!

The Muppets Take Manhattan

1984 Muppet movie

Rating: 15/20 (Jen: fell asleep, but drowsily said 18/20 when asked; Dylan: 13/20; Emma: 16/20; Abbey: 18/20; Buster: 20/20)

Plot: Kermit and the gang, after the success of a musical production performed at their college, go to the titular borough to try to get the show on Broadway.

Why is more disturbing for me to imagine Kermit (a frog) engaging in coitus with a human female than with a porcine one? Or is it just disturbing that I'm thinking about that at all? Or is it just really disturbing that I have been kept awake at night thinking about it and can't stop myself? This isn't my favorite Muppet movie, but the voice work (50 Muppet characters voiced by 6 guys if my counting is correct) and puppet manipulation is always enough in any Muppet movie to make it worth the time. There's just something exhilarating about seeing these characters on the screen. Usually, it's a more-the-merrier situation, and the climactic big show/wedding scene at the end, with hundreds of Muppets including some recognizable faces from Sesame Street that got Buster excited brought out the giggles. Jen was just excited to see Muppet Babies, so excited that she fell asleep immediately after and started drooling all over the couch while sleep-singing the theme song from that cartoon. As expected, the movie's really funny although not all the gags are going to work. You get the feeling with some of the material that the writers half-expected some of the jokes to be flops though, and that adds to the fun. I also liked the songs in this one.

Here's a list of my favorite Muppets:

1) Dr. Teeth
2) Gonzo
3) Lew Zealand
4) Swedish Chef
5) Animal
6) Floyd, bass guitar
7) Waldorf
8) Statler
9) Zoot, sax player from the Electric Mayhem
10) Kermit
11) Crazy Harry
12) Beaker
13) Sam the Eagle
14) Bunsen
15) Fozzie
16) Janice, the Mayhem guitarist
17) Mahna Mahna
18) Rowlf
19) Rizzo the Rat
20) Beauregard
21) Camilla, Gonzo's chicken girlfriend
22) Scooter
23) Miss Piggy

Am I missing any notable Muppets?

Alien: Resurrection

1997 unnecessary sequel

Rating: 13/20

Plot: The Company clones Ripley, who had been knocked up by a Xenomorph in the last movie, in an effort to get their hands on an alien. Things go predictably wrong. Meanwhile, space pirates!

Lord help me, but I kind of like this movie. Nevertheless, there is absolutely no reason for it to exist. There's a lot to like about it though. First, it's got a cool cast. You get big Ronny Perlman hulking around and badassing it up. He, like a lot of characters, unfortunately has some really stupid things to say in this movie. ("So, like, what did you do?" made him sound like a teenage girl, and "Must be a chick thing" just seemed too much like sitcom dialogue.) Jeunet regular Dominique Pinon plays a cool character with an even cooler wheelchair and gets to butcher some lines in English. (Apparently, his "Who were you expecting--Santa Claus?" line was originally supposed to be "Who were you expecting--The Easter Bunny?" but he couldn't stop saying "English Bunny," forcing a script change. What a dumb line that is anyway!) Dan Hedaya acts like even he can't believe he's in an Alien movie. He overacts stupendously. And there's Brad Dourif, a guy who doubtfully can play a normal character. Here, he simulates a make-out session with the alien in one of the stranger scenes from the franchise. And there's boyish and cute-as-a-damn-button Winona Ryder whose presence forces me to give this a Winona Ryder bonus point. No pun intended! In fact--no pun at all! Oh, and somebody named Kim Flowers just may the subject of the very best shot in a franchise with a goldmine of great shots. Again, no pun intended. The problem with this movie isn't with the cast. The problem is that it's probably way too quirky and has some pacing issues. And the characters, as I mentioned say some dumb things. (Ripley: "Who do I have to fuck to get off this thing?") Why did Weaver have any interest at all in bringing this character back anyway? The character she plays here is really inconsistent, sometimes acting like one of those too-human androids with less ability to emote and sometimes sitting down with Winona Ryder's character to engage in a little girl talk so that the move can grind to a halt. She does get to show off her basketball skills in what was probably the dumbest moment in any of these four movies, so maybe she was using this to audition for the WNBA. I'm not even sure the basic premise of this movie--cloning a Ripley and an alien--makes sense, but I suppose you have to forget all about science when watching some science fiction movies. Speaking of Ripley clones, one of the failed efforts was kind of hot, and if  you've seen this movie recently, I think you know exactly which one I'm talking about. In a few hundred years, everybody could probably have their own Ripley clone in their homes. Something else I find hard to believe about all this is that there are still people who are going to be smoking that far into the future. Seems like evolution would get rid of that stupid habit. I'm a Christian though, so I'm not even sure how evolution works. Despite the myriad of problems with this movie that shouldn't even exist, it is a little bit of fun and does look very good. It's no surprise that Delicatessen and City of Lost Children guy Jean-Pierre Jeunet can handle the visuals. The special effects are probably the best of the series, right from the start with some grotesque opening credits. There's a ton of gore if you're into that sort of thing. This, interestingly enough, sets up for a sequel way much more than the third installment, Alien Cubed.

The Master

2012 Paul Thomas Anderson movie

Rating: 18/20

Plot: A Navy veteran doesn't know what to do with himself. He's tried poisoning people, copulating with sand women, and ejaculating into the ocean. He's part of the Greatest Generation! One night, he finds himself aboard the boat of the titular cult-leader/new-age philosopher/self-help author and is pulled into The Cause.

OK, this wasn't one of the fifteen movies nominated for Best Picture? I can't compare what Joaquin Phoenix did here to what Daniel Day-Lewis did as Lincoln because I haven't seen Lincoln. I find it hard to believe that his Lincoln is better than Phoenix's Freddie Quell though. I really do. Forgive the hyperbolizing, but Phoenix's performance is the best and most powerful performance that I have seen in a very long time, one of those that, even if you completely forgot the movie, you'd not forget. The mannerisms, the posture, this emotion that you know he had to dig deep for as this sex-obsessed impotent guy. There's this balance of raw power and wounded weakness that is mesmerizing, and it's a treat watching Phoenix juggle the different dimensions of the character. It's amazing, the kind of character that just grabs you until you think your face is about to be bitten off. Philip Seymour Hoffman's no slouch either, and although it would be hard for me to go Hoffman over Waltz in Django, I do think the argument could be made. The tension these two create with their characters, their jagged rapport, the way they scream and spit all over each other. They're a pair of performances to behold, dear friends. There's a lengthy interview session that should be the most boring thing ever committed to film, but watching these two actors wrestle with it is nothing short of thrilling, a scene that made my heart pound as much as any action scene in the last decade. You'd never think that much suspense could be built up over whether or not a character is going to blink. Amy Adams is mighty fine here, too, even better than she was in that Muppet movie. Her character's an enigma. She's background until you notice, and then you realize that's she's the vertebrae of this thing and appreciate the way that character's created. For the second Anderson movie in a row, Radiohead-guy Jonny Greenwood handles the score. I like the chances he takes with that. I had trepidation going into this movie, but hot damn, how I loved it! It's the kind that will just stick with you, like movies from the 1970s only a lot better looking. This is the best 2012 movie that I have seen in what I'm starting to think was a really good year for movies.

Alien 3

1992 sequel sequel

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Ripley, that robot, and that little girl from the last movie crash land on a planet formerly used as a prison but now the home of some religious cult. And, then aliens.

Alien 3? Maybe it's Alien Cubed, but that makes me think I might have to do math. Maybe it's unfair of me, but I really want to penalize this for including an exponent in the title. This movie wasn't as bad as I feared it would be. Weaver goes completely bald, completing her metamorphosis into Bruce Willis. In a way, I respect this more than the second movie in the Alien quadrilogy. Wait a second. Is that even a word? I'm fairly positive the word is tetralogy, not quadrilogy. Anyway, I almost want to respect this more because it's not a big dumb Hollywood action movie. The music's also better in this one. The special effects? Not so much. I do respect that they still use puppets and guys in costume over computer effects, but there's a lot of blue screen use (Or is it a green screen? Why do I even have a movie blog? I don't seem to know anything! Is that why I only have 4 1/2 readers?) that looks really silly. I do like how the puppet/person-in-costume movies and looks though. The plot of this third installment just doesn't seem very confident. This one stumbles around a lot more than that graceful first entry and doesn't hit the excitement level of the second movie. There are some lackadaisical attempts to say something about religion or euthanasia, maybe, but the screenwriter's heart doesn't seem into it. There's some clumsiness--a scene where some guys are running away from the alien while holding sparklers, some humor during a scene where they're trying to trap the thing--and I had trouble caring for any of the characters with the exception of the robot who comes in briefly. The dialogue is really poorly written. There are certainly a lot of "fucks" in this movie, probably to make the guys all sound tough, but when Weaver throws out her own "fuck," it's almost embarrassing. Here's what I do really like about this movie though--nobody is spared in this one, shockingly. The movie starts by killing off a little girl who Ripley fought her ass off to save in the first movie. And yes, I apologize for spoiling the beginning of the movie for you if you haven't seen this. And then it continues by killing off characters who you're not really ready to see die yet. It's kinda ballsy, right up until the end. That ending, by the way, probably would have made a good conclusion to the franchise. Not sure why Alien to the Fourth Power was necessary unless somebody just wanted money.

My spell check tells me that neither tetralogy or quadrilogy are words.

The Cat

1992 sci-fi kitty movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A guy apparently named Wei Si Li but who my English subtitles called Wisely and who is played by an actor named Waise Lee gets involved with a couple of people and a cat who are trying to save the world from an alien. I guess.

Really weird science fiction movie from the director of Riki-Oh. This actually has a fight scene that bests anything in that splatterific kung-fu extravaganza--a fight between the titular feline and a mean dog. Seriously, that is something else, one of those scenes that you watch and think, "I can't believe I'm seeing this on my television screen!" I call this a weird movie, probably because I don't understand it, but there's not much that really stands out as being weirder than any other science fiction movie if you think about it. Somehow, however, all the parts add up to something that just ain't right. There's a really cool monster, the kind that only Asians can manufacture. There's also this Robocop-type figure, flying cats, and other hardcore shenanigans, and it all made very little sense to me. That didn't stop me from enjoying myself, more than I did when watching Riki-Oh at least. My favorite bits include the gelatinous tree monster thing, an electrocuted dog, a subtitle that read "I never knew a cat could fight to and so hard!", tail repair, and a scene where the cat jumps through a window and makes a perfect cat-shaped hole in the glass. I didn't think glass could break that way, but who am I to argue with The Cat or, as it's also apparently known, The 1,000 Year Cat. This was sadly director Ngai Choi Lam's final movie.

Shane Watches a Bad Movie with Friends on Facebook: Gor

1987 fantasy movie

Rating: 4/20 (Fred: 7/20; Libby: 14/20; Carrie: 5/20; Ozzy: fell asleep, though he was saying that he didn't think this was a bad movie)

Plot: After his girlfriend breaks up with him, a college professor uses a magic ring to transport to the titular planet where he teams up with some villagers who just had their ugly pink crystal stolen by an evil dictator.

Despite this being a rather titillating PG movie with more than its fair share of taint (Libby's observation) and haunch action, this is a pretty dull movie. I think it might have more walking-per-square-inch than a Hobbit movie, and that, friends, is a great deal of walking. It's really a movie about walking, interrupted with some of the most poorly choreographed swordfights you'll ever see and some scantily-clad women wrestling around. Those fight scenes make it seem like everybody's afraid of hurting each other. Oh, and there's some dancing, and although it's choreographed slightly better than the fight scenes, it really just takes up time. This barely has a plot at all, and the most important things that happen would probably take up about seven minutes of movie time. I didn't really like the main characters very much. I had trouble getting past the main character's name: Tarl. The gal traveling with him on Gor is shapely enough and has big 80's hair just like I like. Fitting right in with that decade is the hair of another member of the posse whom my friends and I just called Mullet. And there's an old guy. Oh, and a little fellow named Hup pokes into the thing about midway through. I figured I'd see his name in the credits playing little fellows in other 80's fantasy classics, but he's only in this movie and the sequel. Apparently, Hup didn't want to mess around with anything that wasn't Gor.  Usually, when I don't like the good guys, I can root for the bad guy, but this one is awful. His dialogue is unintelligible (seriously, I watched with the subtitles, and it frequently said [unintelligible dialogue]) and he alternates between whispering and growling. The best thing about the bad guys is their hat variety. In fact, I'm fairly positive that 3/4 of the film's budget was spent on hats. The variety, I'm guessing, is because they wanted to sell more Gor action figures. It's the same reason, I suppose, that there were so many different Ewoks. My favorite thing about this is that Jack Palance is listed third in the credits but is barely in this at all. At first, it even seems like they're just using Jack Palance stock footage or stealing shots from anther movie. He's in this for about two minutes and really only to set up the sequel which was apparently filmed at the same time as this first movie. I can't wait to see the follow-up!

Save the Green Planet!

2003 Korean movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Some guy with some emotional problems kidnaps business executives because he believes they are aliens planning a takeover of the titular green planet. A private investigator and a young cop try to find the latest kidnapped rich guy and the culprit. Meanwhile, aliens might be preparing an invasion.

This movie took a little while to grab me. Once it did, I enjoyed its inventive style, quirkiness, and twists. It's the type of movie where you sort of think you know what's going on, and then you realize that you're not sure what's going on. Fun ride. It's got some blood and torture, but it's also got its fair share of black comedy. And there's a message in the mess about our violent culture, a reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey, and a couple covers of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." I liked the guy who played the disgraced detective, a guy with enough cool he made me want to get my own brown leather jacket and lose some of my hair. The movie's plot might frustrate some because it's a little all over the place, and this shifts from one genre to the next in ways that may give you a wryneck. You've got a little romance, a tale of childhood trauma, the torture porn stuff, the comedy, a crime/mystery thing, a revenge story, and some science fiction shenanigans. At times, it's even fairly emotional. And there's a great scene where a guy shoots bees. Expect the unexpected when you dive into this unique movie.


1986 sequel

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Ripley's convinced to travel with some soldiers to the planet from the first movie to check on some colonists. They have to square off against a bunch of Xenomorphs.

This replaces the chilling atmospherics and almost raw poetic and almost elegant creepiness from the first movie with non-stop action. And as far as non-stop action Hollywood blockbustin' action goes, James Cameron nails it. This pretty much takes the ideas from the first movie and increases the quantity while sacrificing the quality. This is bigger, bloodier, and louder, but if the first movie is a knockout, this is like a violent and exciting uppercut that looks great on the television before replays show that it didn't connect with anything. And Ripley's underwear fits a little better. The minimalist music that worked so effectively in the first movie is replaced with dull, predictable stuff. The space scenes look terrible compared to the first, odd since this comes about seven years after its predecessor. The characters run around like living and breathing stereotypes. There's a black guy chewing on a cigar, a bunch of asshole marines, an ultra-tough Latina, Paul Reiser's villain. They're Hollywood clichés except for my favorite character in this--Lance Henriksen's android Bishop. Bill Paxton is awful as one of the space marines and was apparently told that he needed to screech all of his lines. As much as I hate cats, I wasn't happy with the kid Newt who replaced the cat from the first movie. With this collection of characters, it's not hard to see why I was rooting for the titular aliens pretty early in the proceedings. Sigourney Weaver's character turns into Bruce Willis--taping space guns and flamethrowers together and discovering her inner-badass. Actually, I guess she retains her hair in this movie, so maybe she doesn't quite turn into Bruce yet. I was surprised to learn that she was nominated as Best Actress for this. She's at her best as Ripley here, but is it a Best Actress worthy performance? Maybe she was nominated for the scene in the elevator where she screams, "Come on, God damn it!" I've decided that I'm going to do that every time I use an elevator from now on. Don't get me wrong. This is a mostly entertaining movie even when it feels a little too ludicrous. Cameron knows how to put together an action sequence, and the last half of this movie is relentless action--just action piled on top of action, an orgy of action! It's a great action movie, but that's a little disappointing since its predecessor approached something a little closer to great art.

Supposedly, there's a subtext here, and this is a Vietnam allegory. I don't know anything about that. I didn't learn about Vietnam in school.


1990 Johnny Depp movie

Rating: 13/20 (Mark: 14/20)

Plot: It's kind of like Romeo and Juliet except it takes place in Baltimore in the 1950s. The titular bad boy falls for one of the preppy kids, and the squares don't like it.

I've never claimed to be a fan of Pink Flamingos, but I think I prefer that John Waters to this more Hollywood-friend version. This at least has Johnny Depp who even at this stage in his career seems willing to take whatever character is thrown at him and make it his. Seriously, Depp takes every character he plays and gives a performance that makes it impossible to think of anybody else being that character, and that's regardless of whether or not he has a bird on his head. Of course, he's also Johnny Depp, so he's a little distracting in this movie. He also didn't do his own singing in this, and neither did his Juliet, Amy Locane, and that's just not how a musical should work. This also has Iggy Pop who I'm becoming convinced is the finest actor of this or any generation. He actually can't act naturally doing anything at all. He's also distracting because any time he's on the screen, you want to pay attention to him, even if he's just in the background, to see what unnatural faces or movements he's going to make. Traci Lords, Ricki Lake, Mink Stole, Willem Dafoe, and Kim McGuire are all in this, the latter playing a character called Hatchet Face. The plot and dialogue are silly, but the songs and dance scenes are pretty good and the whole thing's entertaining and harmless enough. But should a John Waters' movie be harmless?

Black Narcissus

1947 nun movie

Rating: 18/20 (Mark: 15/20)

Plot: A group of nuns have trouble dealing with the fact that they, unlike some of their counterparts, are unable to fly. They move to the highest spot they can find to start a school and hospital for the locals. They try to get used to their new home, and one of them goes daffy!

This is a classic clash between religion and heathenism, and although the nuns go to this location to change its inhabitants, they're actually the ones who change. I think it's because they're people. I like movies with nuns even when Whoopi Goldberg or Nic Cage aren't involved. The nun who goes nutzoid is quite the hottie, like a 1940's Winona Ryder. And I'm allowed to lust after a movie nun. I've checked the Bible and couldn't find anything against that. I can definitely do it with this movie since this movie is all about sex. Well, it's partially about sex. It's as much about sex as Alien is. Michael Powell, who co-directed it with Emeric Pressburger, even claimed it was the most erotic movie he ever made. So much of the plot of this movie and its conflicts are underneath the surface, and I think that's what I like so much about it. My brother claims that there was an attempt to make the setting a main character and that it "ultimately doesn't work very well." I don't think that's the case. I think the setting is only one of the influences on the nuns' states of mind and their outcomes, and if anything non-human is the main character, it's something like faith or temptation. The setting is breathtaking though with lots of fantastic and vertigo-inducing shots, some lovely 1940's painted backdrops, and loads of color. I really liked the color in the indoor scenes, too. A couple local characters add some color, too. My brother and I both enjoyed the antics of an over-acting old woman whose name I can't find, but my favorite character was a medicine man without a single line but who kind of works as a foil for the nuns. We also both liked the costumes of David Farrar who spends most of the movie either strolling around with a pipe and too-short short pants or straddling a pony. He's got perfectly imperfect hair. Great movie, a very quiet one that has a lot of loudness underneath.

Check out that poster. "Fascinating adventure" might stretch things a little bit. But look at how ugly that thing is.


1979 sci-fi horror classic

Rating: 18/20

Plot: The titular fiend is loose on a spaceship where it starts picking off the crew one by one. A woman with ill-fitting underpants has to stop it.

This is the movie that my "ill-fitting underpants" tag was made for. And this is a movie that I was fascinated by way before I saw it. It came out when I was six, far too young to see it since the poster alone is terrifying. My father, however, bought me a Xenomorph doll, a foot-tall plastic guy with a button in the back that, when pushed, pushed a second set of menacing teeth from his mouth. It was not an appropriate gift for a child of six, and I didn't know what to do with it. I probably had my Star Wars action figures kill it over and over again. Anyway, I saw the monster in this franchise long before I saw the first movie which seems odd because one of the reasons why I think this movie works so well is that they don't let you see the monster for a really long time. You see eggs, you see a Facehugger (coincidentally also the name of something you can purchase from certain prostitutes), and you see the Xenomorph in bits and pieces, but you don't see the monster as well as I saw it in plastic form on my birthday when I was six.

It's hard to find a flaw in this movie, and I should probably give it a 20/20 just because it's one of the best science fiction movies of all time, one of the best horror movies of all time, and probably the very best horror/sci-fi movies of all time. The story's derivative, and it's easy to find the same yarn spun in the 50's and 60s'. Here, here, and this here Mario Bava film are some examples I could think of. The story had never been told like this, and it's never been told this successfully since. The opening credits and the way the title appears--deliberately, like the rest of the movie--with the scraping and rumbling minimalistic music set the tone early. Then, Ridley Scott gives us a tour of the Nostromo, taking his time to get to any characters or a story. The characters are snoozing anyway. The set design for the spaceship is impressive except for the Christmas lights on the bottom of it. That tour of the Nostromo creates this sense of loneliness, makes it palpable. Space looks great in this movie, too, no better than what Kubrick did the previous decade though. Kubrick didn't have Harry Dean Stanton though, and this movie does. There's not a lot of character develop here as they're kind of just there to be killed by the Xenomorph. But they get to exist like you'd figure bored astronauts would exist. I like how the dialogue is handled during a less-famous dinner scene where the characters talk like they think they're in a Robert Altman movie. The biggest surprise about the characters? Just look at the last three survivors--a black guy and two girls. Who would have predicted that? The black guys are always the first to go in horror movies! And women? A lot of the fear in this is because of how effective Scott is at building up tension. It's relentless, even if you've seen the movie. It's almost relentless even if you're not seeing the movie. There are times in this when you could listen to the sound effects alone and be terrified. There are a ton of memorable scenes and shots. The more-famous dinner scene reminds me of a Thanksgiving dinner I was once at, only less gruesome. I still remember watching that scene for the first time and being shocked and mesmerized. And check out that cute little guy skitter across the room! There are scenes that would terrify claustrophobics even more than non-claustrophobics, but a lot of the fear, I think, has to do the amount of sexual imagery in this thing. The imagery hits you more psychologically--taking advantage of women's fears of being sexually assaulted and men's fears of being attacked by a homosexual. Next time you watch this thing, watch for sexual imagery just to see if I'm making it up.


1986 horror-comedy

Rating: 13/20

Plot: A writer struggling with the loss of his son and break-up of his marriage moves into his late aunt's haunted house and has to battle both literal and psychological demons.

Entertaining horror-comedy here, but I kept getting distracted. First, it was good to see 80's sitcom superstars George Wendt and Richard Moll. But with Wendt, I found myself wondering how much he weighs now and had trouble focusing on the plot of House. Speaking of Wendt, if I were the director of House, I would have been a little more over the top with the horror and violence and included a scene where William Katt's character enters a hole in the house, stumbles around a bit, encounters a few ghosts, and emerges from George Wendt's rectum. That that scene wasn't in this movie shows that we're dealing with amateurs here. The second distraction was William Katt's V-neck sweater worn with nothing underneath. I'm talking about a deep V here. I suppose there's nothing wrong with the style choice, especially for 1986, but I was distracted because I was wondering whether or not I could pull that off in 2013. The third source of distraction was the appearance of a Masters of the Universe action figure, Buzz Off. I started thinking about the height of popularity of these toys and wondering if I was too old to be playing with them back in the mid-80s when I was entering my teens or when I was in my 20s. Luckily, I didn't need to focus too hard to get this. It's your typical haunted house movie with decaying fiends and silly shocks, but there's the missing child thing and a few Vietnam flashbacks to give this a bit more story. Things are a little too commercial, but the special effects are grotesque enough. A monster in an upstairs closet drips with ridiculousness, a reanimated giant fish, a bunch of tools, and a purple-dressed ghoul all recall Evil Dead 2. I wish that purple-dressed thing wouldn't have spoken though. I also wish "You're No Good" wouldn't have been used during one of the movie's better moments--a dismemberment montage. The music for most of this could have been lifted from any horror movie, and the Vietnam scenes seem artificial. But this has some creepiness and a few laughs. Just not George Wendt's rectum.

Bay of Blood

1971 Italian horror movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A bunch of people murder each other in an effort to inherit an island. The island isn't very happy about it.

This was on my radar because of its bitchin' alternate title--Twitch of the Death Nerve. Apparently, this has more alternate titles than any other movie which I guess is something. Here they are:

Bloodbath (or Blood Bath)
Bloodbath Bay of Death
The Odor of Flesh
Before the Fact
The Antecedent
The Last House on the Left, Part II (Note: It has nothing to do with The Last House on the Left.)
New House on the Left
Ecology of a Crime
Chain Reaction

Ok, most of them are in other languages, but trust me, there's a lot of them. And that's not counting a few working titles--The Stench of Flesh, Thus Do We Live to Be Evil, and That Will Teach Them to Be Bad. This movie's also notable as being a hugely influential slasher film, spawning films (for better or worse) like Halloween and the Friday the 13th franchise. The latter, which I've never really had much interest in, apparently borrows a few murderous acts from Bava shot-by-shot. What makes this movie a little more interesting than a lot of crappy slasher flicks that follow it is in one of those alternate titles--Ecology of a Crime. One could look at all the violence of this thing and wonder what's wrong with people, but the real villain might be a little sneakier than just something like human nature or greed. There are mysterious forces at play here, right up until the shocking conclusion which works as black comedy perfection and a final karmic exclamation point. This is very cheaply produced, but there are some great stylistic touches, like the slowing wheelchair wheel in the aftermath of the first murder. There's also some first-person stuff that predicts the opening sequence of Halloween. Oh, and there's German actress Brigitte Skay playing Brunhilda, a character you get to see every inch of if you're into that sort of thing. Lots of this is gruesome with its fair share of decapitation, impaling, slicing, and dicing. This could use better pacing, but Bava does a lot with a little and adds a little depth to the violent genre. And that ending!


2004 time travel movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Two guys accidentally invent a time machine and use it.


Surviving Life (Theory and Practice)

2010 psychoanalyticka komedie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A bearded gentlemen meets a beautiful woman in a dream and tries to discover a way to dream more so that he can be with her.

I've waited and waited for this to be available for me to watch and finally gave up and watched it on Youtube. Worth the wait? Absolutely! New Svankmajer should 1) be more of a regular thing and 2) should be celebrated as a holiday. This one seems very cheaply done. There's stop-motion, a lot more than in the last feature film, and a lot of the animation is cut-out stuff similar to the hilarious soccer short called "Manly Games" in this collection. This is very funny, too, and although I reckon the imagery and surrealistic asides would befuddle a lot of people, I couldn't keep the smile off my face while watching this. Half of this takes place in the main character's subconscious, the perfect setting for a surrealist like Svankmajer, but the conscious world isn't without the surreal touches. The main character spends a lot of his waking hours being psychoanalyzed, again perfect fodder for Svankmajer. The inside of the noggin is, after all, where all of his movies take place, isn't it? The odd visuals--chicken-headed folk, animated meat, a gigantic tongue, rolling apples, eggs, bananas, extracted teeth, antlered men, faucet-headed people, watermelons, flowers sprouting from women's heads--are easier to digest in this, like Svankmajer is picking and choosing from The Rudimentary Guide to Interpreting Dream Symbols or something. The psychological issue at the heart of the whole thing's been used enough to become a cinematic cliché, but none of that makes this any less fun. If you like your avant-garde animated movies on the playful side, this is definitely for you.

Even Dwarfs Started Small

1970 movie

Rating: 17/20

Plot: Inmates at some sort of institution run amok.

This was actually the first I knew of Werner Herzog because I was on a crazy quest to get my hands on bizarre movies as well as movies that had little people. I was instantly a fan. What choice did I have? It's a cast of little people! I'm not actually sure what the point of that is. Honestly, I'm not completely sure what the point of the entire movie is. I don't think Herzog's focus is broad, and I don't think he's filming anything satirical. Instead, I think this has more to do with individual psyche, a kind of duel between the part of a person that wants to go by the book and follow the rules and be normal and the part of the person that wants to raise hell and burst seams and piss fire. Herzog films this almost like it's a documentary. There are several times when the performers--all, I believe, non-professionals--will look at the camera and presumably at Herzog, sometimes like they believe they might be in danger. It gives this an odd kind of realism. At times, they do look like they're in danger, especially Gerhard Maerz who plays a character named Territory. I believe that's the little guy who was run over by a car at one point during the filming and caught fire in another scene. He's the real stuntman of the group--climbing out of a moving vehicle to the top, etc. Herzog put these little actors and actresses through some stressful situations, so stressful that he promised he would jump into a bunch of cacti following the filming. None of these actors went on to have film careers. In fact, almost all of them have only this movie in their filmography. Pepi Hermine played "The President" in this and also played the president in Downey's Putney Swope. Helmut Doring was also in Herzog's The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, and he's awesome in this, spending almost the entire movie laughing demonically. It's the kind of laugh that you'll hear long after the movie has ended, maybe in your dreams and maybe in somebody else's dreams. You really can't take your eyes off this guy. Doring is the tiniest of the bunch, and there's one scene where he spends about five minutes trying to get onto a bed. Of course, that's not the most interesting thing these characters do. They have a forced marriage ceremony, peruse dirty magazines, interrupt a blind duo's game, disrupt piglets' dinner, conduct an insect wedding, make a car drive in endless circles, destroy typewriters and rugs, start cockfights, have pointing contests with trees, and crucify a monkey. Other than that crucified monkey, there are other shocking and bleak moments involving animals. There's a one-legged chicken that Herzog's camera watches for a long time, a scene where some chickens play with a dead mouse, and a really disturbing scene with piglets suckling a dead mother. And the movie starts with a slow circular pan of the premises and then a shot of a chicken pecking at a dead friend. Herzog's always got great endings, and this one doesn't disappoint. In fact, it's one of my favorite movie endings ever--Helmut Doring laughing while watching a defecating camel. It's a shot which goes on way too long which, in my opinion, is just the right amount of time.