True Lies


1994 dumb action movie

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Arnold Schwarzenegger's got a really big secret. He's a big-time secret agent who runs all over the world stopping terrorists. His wife and daughter, however, don't know that. She's about to find out when his suspicions of infidelity begin a chain of events that involves her in one of his missions. 

First, I want to point out that Schwarzenegger is totally ripping off this pose from another well-known actor on another poster: 

Give him a gun, which in this movie is very much a phallic symbol, and the poster is nearly identical. And really, Hanks doesn't need a penis on that poster anyway because Big had that subtext that was all about guns anyway. But I digress. This isn't about Big; it's about True Lies, a dumb action movie that Josh told me to watch. I really appreciate the recommendations, by the way. More of you should tell me what to watch. 

A lot of this is really entertaining, and I think the first half is actually a really good movie, especially for its genre. And that's surprising because it's got a few of my cinematic pet peeves--Tom Arnold, Bill Paxton, and Arnold Schwarzenegger attempting to act like an actual human being which almost never works because I don't think he really is one. Things are set up early with Arnold as Bond, and the action-packed opener is a lot of fun, a secret mission packed with exciting gun play and chases and some nice humor. Oh, and Schwarzenegger tangos and beats up a pair of dogs, though not at the same time. A question about that first scene though: If you're going to have all these guards with machines guns, snowmobiles, and skis, wouldn't you make sure they could shoot a little better than your average stormtrooper in A New Hope? They must have been so enamored by the snowmobiling skills during the job interviews that they didn't really check to see if the dudes could shoot the side of a barn with a machine gun. Arnold is, after all, about the size of a side of a barn. After this first scene, things slow down for a little bit, but you don't have to wait very long for more action sequences. And they're increasingly silly. There's a great bit of strobe-light fisticuffs in a mall restroom, the comedy provided by a poor guy dropping a deuce while it's all going on. It's a cool set piece. I like those scenes where a set is built--in this case, a restroom--and then completely demolished. That leads immediately to a scene where the characters steal a motorcycle and a horse and chase each other through a hotel, up different glass elevators, and onto the roof. Does that sound ridiculous? What about if I told you that it's actually a flying motorcycle? Yes? Ridiculous? It is, but I'm going to forgive that because it was something I hadn't seen before. I'm also the same guy who likes the notorious refrigerator scene in that last Indiana Jones movie, so what do I know? Maybe I just like watching Arnold Schwarzenegger being out-acted by a horse. By the end, the ridiculous action scenes either got way too ridiculous or I just lost my patience. All those explosions, jets, helicopters, machines guns. I'll take the brawl in the bathroom or the close-quartered cat fight a little later over all that special-effects-infused nonsense. The last 25 minutes of this movie, with Arnold flying a plane and his daughter somehow in Miami, just isn't believable at all. I'll give you horse in the elevator, True Lies, but enough was enough. The final scene is laughably implausible. By the end of this movie, I just wasn't having as much fun as I was having before the wife character found out the really big secret. How dumb is Jamie Lee Curtis's character, by the way? Maybe that's why the last half of this movie doesn't work as well as the first half. But man, she sure looks good in one key but completely unnecessary scene. That's what you'd have to call a killer bod. Even hotter is listening to her voice during a truth serum scene where everything kind of gets fuzzy and slow for Arnold. It's not much different than what I expect is always going through Schwarzenegger's mind actually. Arnold's just fine when he's playing big action hero, but when he's required to show emotions, things get a little embarrassing. "It's Helen. . .it's Helen. . .it's Helen." He also kind of acts poorly in a picture in a locket, and you just have to see what I'm going to refer to as his "thumb war face." Nobody--and I mean nobody--can make the face that Arnold does there. What about my other two cinematic pet peeves? Surprisingly, Tom Arnold isn't entirely useless. He's around for comic relief, but all of his one-liners sort of sound like things I've heard before. I also have to criticize the guy because his skeleton is chubby when the characters walk through an x-ray thing. And Paxton's not too bad either. Maybe it's the terrible hair and the stache, or maybe it's the way he says "pussy," "suck start a leaf blower," or "ass like a ten year old boy." Charlton Heston hams it up with an eye patch and gets the type of lines that only Heston can pull off--"This is not blowing my skirt up, gentlemen." I really liked the bad guys. The main baddie is played by Art Malik who has a couple great moments. One is is when he says "Yes!" and does this fist pump thing after shooting some kind of rocket launcher. Bad guys don't celebrate enough with fist pumps. Also, there's a scene where he's riding in a helicopter with a nuclear bomb strategically placed between his legs, yet another obvious phallic symbol. It was either a missile or the guy watched Jamie Lee Curtis taking off her clothes earlier. I also liked Charles Cragin who played a torturer named Samir and an actor named Armen Ksajikian who played a chauffeur and seemed completely out of place in every scene he's in. He's the type of character who really doesn't seem like he knows how he even got in the movie. 

This has an entertaining enough first half that makes it worth watching. I'd almost recommend that you stop watching after you've watched Curtis stripping to her underwear three or four times. Of course, you'll miss Armen Ksajikian, equally sexy, if you do that. And you won't know how the story ends. 

The Battered Bastards of Baseball


2014 baseball documentary

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Details Bing Russell, a guy who spent his childhood with the Yanks and whose own baseball career ended with a bean ball, and his efforts to run a successful independent minor league team in Portland, Oregon. He assembles the titular ragtag crew of has-beens and never-wases and surprisingly puts together a productive team that both wins and draws fans to the ballpark.

Somebody in this offered up the perfect description of the Mavericks: They "led the league in stubble" and had players who "literally had toes coming out of their spikes." This documentary tells an interesting story with no narration, only interview snippets with a lot of the players (including Bing Russell's kid, some guy named Kurt Russell), the coach, a couple local sports writers, and a bat boy. It's part real-life Bad News Bears, and you'll want a happier ending for the motley crew. The players were eccentric but had this drive that you don't see in all professional athletes that made them fun to watch. And pretty damn good, of course. Sub-stories about Jim Bouton, a guy whose hat fell off when he pitched and who was blackballed by Major League Baseball for writing an expose, and Swannie, a left-handed catcher who somebody actually asked, "Did you know you were left-handed?" were really good, and this taught me the idiom "That's the way the pickle squirts" which I'd never heard before. I like what the real-life story says about second chances, the joy that everybody who gets the opportunity to be associated with baseball should have, and what a little ingenuity from passionate people can accomplish. As a baseball fan who really enjoys the quirkier characters and stories from the history of the game, I thought this was entertaining. And I didn't know anything about this team or Bing Russell, so it was educational, too.

Mystery Fest: Wild Style

1983 document

Rating: 16/20

Plot: There's something about a graffiti artist and a girl and the graffiti artist's acceptance as a legitimate artist, but it doesn't really matter all that much.

Some movies are great because they tell great stories and have great characters. Some, like Wild Style, are great because of what they document, the time and place and real people they capture. Or the ideas the drift from them, like echoes from the past. This is the first "hip hop" movie, and although there's a narrative with people (not really actors and actresses except for Patti Astor who plays Poodles in one of my favorite movies ever--Assault of the Killer Bimbos), you almost want to just call it a documentary. If not a traditional documentary, it's at least photograph of that time and place and real people, a look at a fledgling rap music where every artist was still required to ask the audience to say hooo and ho ho or reference the "break of dawn," graffiti art, and breakdancing. Wisely, the makers of this used real artists and real rapper and DJ's in this loose story, so you get to see seminal figures in the hip hop scene like Grandmaster Flash, Fab Five Freddy, the Cold Crush Brothers, Lisa Lee, and Busy Bee along with guys who know how to use a can of spray paint. And I enjoyed seeing the art on the subway cars and decrepit walls, almost like a trip through some kind of urban art museum. And there's just something about the sound of a paint can rattling. The art style is compared to a virus and characters talk a little about the outlaw side of it. But you know what? Cities are sometimes really ugly, especially when you really get into their wrinkles and scars, and this colorful art adds a beauty. It's fun to watch the breakdancing, too, and it definitely took me back to my elementary school days when my peers and I spend our recess making fools out of ourselves on a piece of cardboard while thinking we were impressing girls. I never realized the youngster incorporated miming into their dance moves so much. I was spending far too much time pretending to be a robot when I should have been pretending to be a mime. No wonder I didn't get laid in 4th grade. There's enough music in this for one to argue that it's really a musical. Early rap music is so innocent and dumb and wonderful, and I really miss hip hop where a guy can get away with saying, "I'm like Mickey Mouse and the Son of Sam, gonna shake the house, don't give a damn." Or "Threw her monkey ass on my waterbed." Or "Busy Bee's my name and that's a fact. You can't beat that with a stickball bat." Or, "I'm a waterbed user, not an abuser." Who knew that MC's referenced waterbeds so often in the early-80s? A lot of the musical bits are superfluous and some could argue they go on for too long, but it's all priceless. I'm not sure how much footage of this sort of thing exists. And seeing Grandmaster Flash work in a completely superfluous scene? Man, oh, man. If that doesn't get your nipples a little hard, then you're probably way too white. I also enjoyed seeing Fab Five Freddy in this. He was important to my childhood because I watched him on the MTV rap show. Here, it's really hard to tell what exactly he does, but it's obvious to know why he's influential. If that makes sense. He just seems so big here, really standing out in every scene he's in. He's the type of personality people would gravitate toward. He also uses "Scooby-Doo" as an interjection which is something I might borrow for my own vernacular. I was surprised to hear him use the word "hunky-dory" at one point. That would be a word you'd expect to hear from the white guy at a party who says "rat music" or Patti Astor's character. Astor, by the way, is really awful in this, but she's almost awful in a lovable way. One scene involves a gang thing where they take turns rapping while playing basketball. It almost makes the activities in West Side Story make sense actually. Anyway, great art, great music, and a great slice of life all add up to something pretty great here.

How much different would my life had ended up had I been able to pull off even a halfway decent backspin? It really makes you think.

Kung-Fu-riday on Saturday: Ninja Hunter


1987 ninja movie

Rating: 12/20 (I guess. I almost feel like using a different rating system for these. I'd give this four fists of fury.)

Plot: Well, the alternate title pretty much sums it all up--Wu Tang vs. Ninja. And I'm not talking about the 90's rap troupe with RZA and DZA and BZA and the other ZA's and Ol' Dirty Bastard. Essentially, it's a white-haired guy with giant white eyebrows named Abbot White who wants to decimate Wu Tang.

And he nearly succeeds! Call it Eyebrow Power, I guess. See, Abbot White is able to become invincible by absorbing the essence of women he's with. He caresses them, there are terrible synth sound effects and a little smoke, and it's suddenly like the dude is made out of metal. He can also--at least I think this is what was going on--catch flowers on fire by pointing at them which you have to admit is a pretty badass super-villain power to have. Oh, and there's a scene where he disrobes a woman just by swiping his fingers around. It's the kind of thing that I'd be willing to go through hours and hours of tough cinematic kung-fu training to be able to accomplish. Just imagine being able to disrobe a woman from across the room by moving your fingers around and squinting your eyes a little bit. I'm not saying it's a gift I would use all that often. It would be unethical, and I'm not an unethical person. But it's the kind of thing I'd like to have in my back pocket just in case. Eyebrow Guy's got an army of ninjas including one with a Hitler mustache. Like in Duel to the Death, the ninjas in this do regular ninja things--scooting up trees, jumping great distances, slinking around, throwing stars, tossing bombs that explode in colorful smoke--but also have some supernatural gifts. They can, for example, disguise themselves as foliage. There's one scene where one of the good guys (as always, not nearly as interesting as the bad guys) somehow figures out that a shrub is actually a ninja and throws his sword into it/him, leading to a shot of the kind of absurd bleeding that is really the reason I watch movies like this. There are three main ninjas. There's a white-clad one, the aforementioned ninja with the Hitler mustache. There's a gold lamé ninja who uses a seemingly endless supply of these cool rings that sometimes explode. And there's a ninja in traditional black who is pretty boring until he turns into a fucking flying, fighting rug, the kind of kung-fu movie moment that is capable of inspiring a blogger to throw a fucking into the blog post. There are a lot of scenes showing the ninjas in training, but their action scenes show that we might be dealing with some low-quality ninjas. I did like an early scene where a couple of them soak themselves in acid (I think?) and turn themselves into kung-fu zombie guys. Another ninja scene has a great use of dummies. The nondescript good guys are climbing up the side of a cliff and attacked by a quartet of ninjas. They take care of two of them. The other two light what I think were sticks of dynamite, launch themselves at the good guys who of course just climb the rope really fast--Benny Hill fast!--to get away, and then turn into obvious dummies on fire. Supremely silly, but also about as awesome as it gets. The good guys are all pretty nondescript but are nonetheless flashy during the fight sequences. And that's one thing Ninja Hunter's got going for it. There's not a lot of slow in this movie. Director Kuo-Ren Wu isn't all that interested in telling a story here. Instead, he just puts this thing in the only gear he knows--F for Fighting--and lets it roll. Lots of fast-moving fight sequences filled with impressive acrobatics and creative choreography. My favorite fight scene in the movie is where a woman takes on the three ninjas and their weapons and actually holds her own. There's enough flipping and flapping in that scene for an entire kung-fu movie, but there's so much more here, including a pretty epic finale that only slightly disappoints with a silly ending. As I said, the plot is forgettable. You've got two sides fighting for reasons that are never really clear, and everything is so jumpy. It's difficult to tell both what is happening at times or how it's happening. The first half of the movie has a lot of scenes where it seems like brand new characters have stumbled into the wrong movie to fight for unknown reasons. But who cares because if you watch martial arts movies for the characterization and plot development, you've probably been finger-jabbed in the head too many times. That's the big move in this movie, by the way--the finger jab. The training sequence with the two guys who end up being the main characters involved some of the usual gymnastics and feats of strength but had a definite emphasis on strengthening the index fingers.

Viy

1967 horror comedy

Rating: 17/20

Plot: A priest-in-training kills a witch and then is forced to pray over her body for three nights. She messes with him. He defends himself with a piece of chalk.

Russian author Nikolai Gogol wrote one of my favorite short stories, "The Nose," about a guy who loses his nose and spends the story chasing after it. Gogol wrote the story this is based on, one filled with folklorish motifs like magic and the number three. I'm sure that Gogol's name is the only thing that kept Soviet censors from saying, "We don't know what is going on here, but it's too weird to show people!" and banning this son of a bitch. I can't think of a lot of Russian movies that I've seen, and I definitely don't remember any like this. First, it's funny. Early, the priests are like Stooges, the seminary student shenanigans way more humorous than you'd expect from something coming out of 1960's Russia. Narratively, this meanders a lot for a 72-minute movie, but that gives it an unpredictability that I really like. I enjoy the look of the movie, too. What seemed to be painted backdrops at the beginning aided in creating that fairy-tale quality, and the first shot of the church was so good, a setting that turns out to be creepy both inside and out. There's also a vivacity to the camera work and ingenuity with the special effects that are consistently surprising. Really, just great camera work during a scene where a creepy woman in a barn approaches, menacingly, while animals gaze on; a "flight" scene that is completely odd but strangely beautiful; a terrific scene where the main character is drunk, the room swimming followed by a nifty three doorway effect; an amazing dance scene; scenes where the camera circles the characters or the witch in her coffin or both. And don't even get me started on the facial hair in this movie. If I've seen a more impressive assortment of beard, I can't remember it. Of course, the most memorable parts of this are the three scenes in the church when the main character is left alone with the witch's corpse. I don't want to give much away because I think I had more fun with this going in completely blind. But you will see things that you've probably never seen before, especially in a wild final eight minutes which were simultaneously horrifying and humorous. I was reminded most, if forced to pick something, of some of the imagery in the Coffin Joe films or (and this probably explains my giddiness) the manic funk of Evil Dead II. And yes, you do get to see something called Viy (pronounced VEE-uh), the titular demon with drooping eyelids. In any other context, it'd have to be one of those see-it-to-believe it images. In Viy, he fits right in with midget demons, dancing skeletons, bunches of hands. One more thing--the music in this movie is terrific. There's vocal stuff that sounds a little like Danny Elfman, lively orchestral stuff, music that wouldn't be out of place in a Western, and this great funeral song with an ominous bell. You might expect a glorious assault of beards and mustaches from the Soviet Union in the 1960s, but a horror-comedy? Highly recommended.

Mystery Fest: The King of Comedy


1982 black comedy

Rating: 17/20

Plot: A prospective comedian tries to forcefully befriend a talk show host in order to get his chance and make it big. When that doesn't work, he teams up with another delusional person to attempt something a little more drastic.

A more lighthearted, albeit not exactly uproarious, Taxi Driver, The King of Comedy is a great example of the type of comedy I usually like--depressing ones. Rupert Pupkin, one of my favorite movie names, is delusion incarnate, and Robert De Niro's ability to shrink is an important part of what makes the character who he is. Pupkin's a bundle of dichotomies. He's a loser or a schmuck, but there's this strange confidence that can trick you into thinking he really is something. He's fragile, but he's in complete control. He's calm, completely unassuming, but you just know it's not going to take much to make the guy snap. He's lost his mind; however, every move he makes is too calculated to come from a damaged psyche. He's insignificant, just another autograph hound, but he carries himself he's not just a man but the man. He's a criminal, but it's really hard not to like and root for him anyway. Pupkin's a great character, and De Niro's performance is exceptional although a lot quieter than his previous exceptional performances. Jerry Lewis is really good, too, and it's almost startling how the character isn't funny at all. I'm not sure what that says exactly. Well, there is one line--"It's not grammatically correct, but I think you get the idea."--is funny. Sandra Bernhard plays the other key character, and although I've never been a fan of her or her face, the unhinged red-haired feisty personality fits naturally here. I almost with her character didn't exist though. Not that I want Bernhard gone or anything, but with that red hair and vitriolic goading, she could almost be a figment of Pupkin's imagination, more a symbol of temptation than anything else. Characters can see her and her actions affect others directly, so she is, of course, really real. So is Tony Randall, and I know I've said this before and will probably say it again, but things are just better when Tony Randall is involved. I like how Scorsese tells the story here. It's not anything outrageously funny even though every moment Kim Chan is on the screen as Jerry Lewis's butler is funny and there's definitely an excuse for outrageous comedy in there. There aren't big moments exactly. Things sort of proceed matter-of-factly, and it's almost shocking how non-shocking it all is. I think it's a tribute to the performances but also, maybe, on what the idea of fame has become in the last thirty or so years. Here's a guy in Rupert Pupkin (seriously, can't get sick of typing that name) who has taken Warhol's "15 minutes of fame" idea and dove nutsack first into it all to become that titular king of comedy. One moment I really like in this: Pupkin, alone, performing in front of a wall of fake people with canned laughter drowning out his jokes. Powerful scene there.

Bad Movie Club: A Talking Cat!?!


2013 masterpiece

Rating: 2/20 (Carrie: 1/20; Johnny: 1/20; Fred: 6/20; Libby: 3/20; Josh: 1/20; Jeremy: don't think he stuck around)

Plot: I already wrote about this movie here.

The fake poster above is from a person named Aric. Perusing that tumblr, I started thinking that I should do a David DeCoteau Fest after somebody correctly guesses what the Mystery Fest is all about.

Yes, I subjected people to A Talking Cat!?! I pretty much nailed it with my earlier write-up and don't have much to add. Johnny turned almost violent at the frequent mentioning of cheese puffs. Fred, a computer guy, was amused at the giant laptop with duct tape prop that both Kristine DeBell's daughter and Phil had. Everybody assumed (incorrectly) that Justin Cone's character was a closet homosexual even though he was clearly swimming with a girl at the end of the movie. We all appreciated the bandages they slapped on Duffy, and we were all amazed at Eric Roberts' voice work in this. And some of us felt sorry for Squeaky, the cat who played the titular feline, because this role may have ruined his or her career. Oh, and Josh would love to see Bart the Bear in Squeaky's place which, I'll admit, would make an interesting movie.

Magical scenes:

1) First time Duffy talks--that special effect!
2) Cheese puffs must just sit in an oven that isn't turned on or something since the characters don't require oven mitts to pull them out.
3) Driving montage
4) Father and son using DeBell's daughter's program to figure out that a blue shirt will look good with jeans and a white belt. Still not sure what they were scanning there.
5) Seeing that cat with that loose bandage on his head.
6) "Is that a cat?"
7) Hearing Eric Roberts mumble, "Cheese puffs wafting across the pool deck."
8) "La Cucaracha"
9) Finding out that Phil's shirt translates as "A fucking day at a time"
10) Phil's Bogart impression
11) The life-changing advice from Duffy: "Stop worrying about the destination and enjoy the trip" (paraphrase)
12) Echoes, echoes, echoes, echoes
13) Best reggae version of "Itzy Bitzy Spider" I've ever heard
14) Great dialogue: "What happened?" "We did. . .something." Not even the people performing in the movie knew what was happening apparently.

Let me know if you think a David DeCoteau/Mary Crawford Fest is a good idea or not.

21 Jump Street


2012 action comedy

Rating: 12/20

Plot: A pair of high school classmates, an outcast and a popular jock, become policemen and are sent undercover to a high school to find out who's behind the spread of a dangerous new drug.

I started watching this very late one night and could not stop laughing. I was enjoying 21 Jump Street, and I immediately figured that something was wrong with me. Since I was afraid my laughter (and keep in mind that I don't really laugh out loud unless there's somebody else in the room who I want to think that I'm smart enough to understand the humor) would wake up my wife, I decided to shut this off. I thought it would be an interesting experiment to see if this was just as funny the next day. And it wasn't, but I'm not sure what that means. First, I think this kind of humor really does work better when the viewer is really tired. However, I think there's a shift here after the characters have a sort of role reversal, and that development really bogged things down after a while. The movie also gets a little more serious and really really loud, and after a while, it just loses steam. I did like Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, the latter who has really grown on me. Hill's got the lips of a woman though. I do want to point that out. They work well together and have the kind of rapport that makes this sort of buddy comedy thing work. Nick Offerman, the star of Sin City, brings his mustache to this story, and James Franco's brother and somebody named Dax Flame are also in there. Dax Flame is not--hold on because this might surprise you--his real name. He was born Madison Patrello. Chris Parnell is almost always funny, and although I really don't like comedian Rob Riggle, he's got his moments in this. Oh, and Ice Cube's in there, Ice Cubing it up. When this movie is silly, it works. When the pedestrian, predictable story gets too much in the way, it's just not as good. I did like the meta-humor. Ice Cube's character points out that he's a stereotype, there's a fun cameo (leading to a great death scene) which is a nod to the television series, and there's a joke about the recycling of ideas that is funny. The movie also has a little to say, albeit superficially, about high school cliques and even race. Very superficially actually, but that commentary is there. The closing credits are also cute. Oh, and there's a nice Wilhelm Scream in there. This didn't turn out as good as the first half hour or so led me to believe it would be, but I'm glad I watched it and will probably check out the sequel eventually.

Sin City


2005 comic book movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Three-and-a-half dark stories of the criminally insane, rogue superheroes, hired killers, nefarious politicians, and tough whores from the titular town, Basin City.

I'm not sure it's possible to make a movie more faithful to the source material than this. It's fitting that Frank Miller received directing credit. I don't think you can argue that this isn't an impressive artistic achievement. Whether or not you like it, however, depends on your tolerance for hyper-stylized, hyper-violent, hyper-sexualized comic book stuff. None of this is believable. Characters are beaten, riddled with bullets, and thrown around, only to survive like they're made of the same material as Wile E. Coyote or Tom from the Tom and Jerry cartoons. And they speak all these neo-neo-noir inflated lines of dialogue or narration, boys and girls both delivering them in these husky voices, and it's the sort of writing that Raymond Chandler would be too embarrassed to include in his fiction. Stock characters are exaggerated to the point where they become parody. The heroes--Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Clive Owen--are invincible and tougher than whatever nails are tougher than. Rourke fits the ultra-stylized story and visuals the best. His voice is perfect for the role and both his body and especially head have this comic-book character shape to them anyway. Owen's just cool enough and vulnerable enough for his story, and what Bruce Willis does here isn't really far removed from what he normally does. The gals sure look good--Alba swinging her rope and gyrating in a way that would likely make Roger Rabbit turn his eyes away from Jessica, at least briefly, Devon Aoki as Miho, slinging swastika stars and swinging samurai swords; Jamie King as Rourke's muse(s) Goldie/Wendy shimmering in this filthy gray world and possessing what might be the best nipples I've ever seen in a movie. And I've definitely seen my share of nipples. Speaking of whores, I sure do love that old-town whore gang, the kinds of characters who just add so much color to a black-and-white world. Not that there's any depth, of course. You can't go into Sin City expecting good storytelling, characterization, or any realism. You're especially not going to get anything resembling character development with the collective of villains here. They either don't say much (or anything) or get much screen time, and their motivations don't make a lot of sense. And really, in a setting where all the good and beautiful has seemingly been sucked out, the line between good and evil is pretty thin anyway. Although when you're obscenely jaundiced or mounting women's heads on walls, I guess it's pretty obvious that you're going to be thrown into the villain category. The real stars are the style and the visuals. There's such clarity to the imagery, and you can see hair on women's backs and pieces of human beings so clearly. Mostly, this is black and white, but honestly, it's mostly black with varying shades of gray. There are stand-out reds and greens and eyes and the one guy with yellow skin, and I'm a sucker for that kind of shit. It's a beautiful kind of ugliness to these images. Less believable or realistic than your typical superhero movie, a lot of this--talking severed heads, guys saying "Heyyyy" after getting arrows shot through them, guys knocked out by single punches but walking off four gunshots to the torso--will be hard for a lot of people to love. There are suggestions of mental illness, surreal imagery, all that ultra-violence. It's definitely a case of style over substance. Actually, it's style over everything, the style completely drowning everything else. If you're in the right mood, this connects, like Looney Tunes cartoons for grown men, and I look forward to the upcoming sequel.

Had no idea Nick Offerman was in this movie, by the way.

Mystery Fest: C.H.U.D.


1984 horror movie

Rating: 8/20

Plot: A photographer, a policeman, and a hippie try to figure out why so many people are disappearing in New York City. They discover something terrible living in the sewers.

Other than the incomparable Daniel Stern, there was only one thing I liked about this movie: low shots of manhole covers being lifted by the titular cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers while unsuspecting citizens do whatever they're doing. There are a couple shots like that, and those are effective. Other than that, this doesn't really work as a good or bad movie. It's just sort of boring. I do like the underground abodes of the homeless characters, reminiscent of Dark Days, and the urban decay of wherever this was actually filmed adds to the atmosphere. I guess I would have liked to see more of the cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers, just to add to the cheese. This focuses more on the characters trying to figure things out, and none of that is interesting enough to drive the film. It could have been better and it could have been worse which makes it not worth the time. This is the only full-length movie Douglas Cheek ever directed which seems weird to me.

Bad Movie Club: The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik Yak

1984 semi-erotic adventure story

Rating: 4/20 (Fred: 0/20; Libby: refused to rate the movie because she wants to be able to deny that she even watched it; Josh: 4/20; Johnny: 2/20; Jeremy: not sure if he finished; Carrie: "Internet problems," probably just an excuse to flee, kept her from finishing)

Plot: The titular heroine, played by an actress who was in rehab for cocaine instead of heroin, arrives in China on a search for either her father, a butterfly, or both. She, a friend who almost looks like Shelly Duvall, and a heroic jerk brave the dangerous land of the Yik Yak where clothing is shed and general silliness occurs.

French director Just Jaeckin, a guy who also made one of a thousand erotic Emmanuelle movies and versions of both Lady Chatterley's Lover and The Story of O, put this together, presumably because he likes to spend a lot of his post-production time Just Jaeckin off. This stars Tawny Kitaen, probably most famous for writhing on the hood of a car in a Whitesnake video. She's fairly naked in this movie along with a whole lot of Yik Yaks, but it was about as erotic as a Berenstain Bears cartoon. I did feel a little grimy after watching it though, so there's that. One poster described it as Barbarella meets Indiana Jones, but there's no real science fiction--more fantasy--and I'm pretty sure Indiana Jones would rather see his still-beating heart ripped out of his chest than have his name associated with a movie like this. Things start out insane enough with about fifteen minutes of characters speaking in un-subtitled Chinese. Gwendoline's in a box, a guy gets a grappling hook to the throat, and there's a scene with the Chinese Chris Elliot getting himself a blow job. The biggest jerk in adventure movie history is recruited by Gwendoline to go along on this little adventure, and then there's a succession of what I assume are supposed to be "perils," gradually amped up to please the S&M crowd with revealing costumes, a wacky torture chamber, and threats of forced sexual intercourse. Speaking of sex, this has one of the greatest sex scenes ever. The trio are captured and tied up by some natives--not Yik Yaks, I don't think--and Gwendoline, who has stated that she is impossibly a virgin, and the guy, who has the great action hero name of "Willard," engage in this weird verbal sex play that involves a piece of straw. It's a scene that went on forever, like Just Jaeckin wanted to bludgeon us to a state of arousal. So the soft-pornish side of this doesn't work, and the adventure stuff doesn't work. What about the humor? Well, I think there was comedy, but it was difficult to spot without a laugh track. Willard's lines are almost entirely made up of one-liners, but instead of being funny, it just makes him sound like a complete dick. Actually, I don't think he's got a single line in this that doesn't make him seem like a dick. It makes the romance forced into this story completely implausible. But I'm not sure why I'm even mentioning plausibility with The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik Yak. This is definitely one of those cases where you'll either want to shut off your brain or kill yourself before watching. This is a movie that I could understand as a cult classic that some purveyors of bad movies might enjoy, but it didn't really seem to connect with any of my bad movie friends. I think I liked it better than the rest of the Bad Movie Clubbers, probably because I'm a pervert. And borderline insane.

UHF Redux


1989 comedy

Rating: 15/20 (Jen: 10/20; Dylan: 18/20; Emma: 18/20; Abbey: 17/20; Buster: 4/20)

Plot: I already wrote about this movie here.

I don't know if you've noticed, but Weird Al Yankovic has taken over the world this week. And this is the 25th anniversary of UHF. If you can think of a better movie for family movie night, let me know.

I reread what I wrote a few years ago and noticed that I left out Emo Philips appearance. His scene was funny. I also sort of glossed over Billy Barty's work as the titular station's cameraman in one of the funnier sight gags.

Joe


2013 Nicolas Cage movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A fifteen-year-old befriends a bearded Nicolas Cage who hires him for a job poisoning trees. The kid, probably since his father is a real loser, looks up to his new older friend.

Nic, to whore: "Got any pets?"
Whore: "I mean, I had a cat."
Nic: "Cat? Beautiful. What's his name?"
Whore: "Missy."
Nic: "What'd you feed it?"
Whore: "I don't know. Fucking dry food."
Nic: "What's your favorite color?"
Whore: "Red."
Nic: "Blow me."

I just love that dialogue.

There are metaphors played with here that I only halfway understand. David Gordon Green, just like in Prince Avalanche, is messing around with trees again. Well, that movie had the ghosts of trees. This time, they're being poisoned. And there's a poisonous snake. And there's the titular character who is obviously impotent. And there are guns. There's got to be something going on there, right? It's that or I'm fixated on cigars again.

This movie is relentlessly ugly, just brutal. It's a good thing the kid's in there; otherwise, there's no redemption. The characters are often violent and they're violent for reasons that you just can't figure out. One violent scene in this was one of the most chilling things I've seen in a while, and ironically, it ends with a kiss. People aren't the only animals in this trying to kill each other. There are dogs in there, too, including a scene that looks like something that could have been shot at Michael Vick's house. Brutal. Dogs are symbolic as trees and dicks, and the way they're used here seems like the sort of thing that's been done again and again. Cage shows his violent side, even growls during it. I've heard this described as a comeback for Cage, but that's the kind of thing said by people who haven't seen Bad Lieutenant or who don't know that there's a Left Behind movie starring Cage coming out this year. He's pretty fantastic here, but he stands out only because he's the main character in a movie named after the main character. His "Mexican game show--that's what I'm talking about" or handling of a snake that you just know is real because cockroach-eating Nicolas Cage ain't going to mess around with a non-venomous snake or his cries that a certain dog is "an asshole" or those darting eyes of his or the great line "Pow! Fistful of dollars!" are all things that would normally stand out, but he doesn't here because of the colorful characters around him. A lot of those characters were locals chosen by David Gordon Green who thought it would bring some authenticity to the proceedings. It works, successfully creating this nightmarish location and these frightening characters you wouldn't want to spend any real time with although it's fascinating watching it all safely on the other side of the screen. Gary Poulter, a real-life homeless guy who sadly died before this movie was released, gives one of the most memorable performances you'll ever see. Popping and locking, wearing a G-Daawg jacket, engaging in shouting matches with other characters, or whatever the hell Green has him doing, Poulter's a presence, the type of character you absolutely despise yet still miss when he's not on the screen. I don't know how much acting Poulter is even doing, but he makes an amazing villain and it's hard not to call this an amazing performance. In fact, a posthumous Oscar nomination wouldn't surprise me a bit. Another non-actor named Elbert Hill III plays a character named Shorty and shows off this great gruff voice. At least I think that was Shorty. And I really liked a guy named John Daws who played Coleman, the guy who owned the convenience store. He's been in a few projects, some that might even be real movies. The local flavor they add keeps things entertaining although it doesn't make it all any less dark. The murky ambient music helps build tension and adds shading, but I'm not sure it really needs to be there. There's another random song used for a montage where the characters are driving around looking for a dog. It was really distracting, but I liked it. I'll let you know if I find out what it was.

This movie has a scene where Nicolas Cage and a windsock man are on screen at the same time. And yes, that's as orgasmic as you think it might be.

Planet of the Apes


1968 science fiction monkey movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A spaceship from earth crashes on the titular planet where intelligent simians rule and mute people are just around to have their brains experimented upon. The lone survivor among the crew tries to figure out what's going on and escape from the apes' clutches.

There were a few different posters to choose from including one that had a giant Tom Hanks head, but I had to go with this one that spoils one of the most iconic endings in movie history. They might as well have included a tagline, something like "The maniacs blew it up! Moses was on Earth the whole time! #punked." Of course, they wouldn't use a hashtag, and the poster doesn't spoil anything because everybody--even people who haven't seen this movie--know the ending. And that's an iconic ending, ladies and gentlemen--one that you know even if you haven't seen the film. What other endings would be in there? King Kong? Anything else? This is co-written by Rod Serling which makes sense because it's a lot like an extended Twilight Zone episode except with color and less ventriloquist dummies and no guy with slick hair introducing the whole thing. The movie's not close to perfect. The sets are cheap; the apes, at least when you watch them from the 21st Century, look ridiculous; there's an awful lot that happens from Point A to Point B that really doesn't matter at all; and Charlton Heston can't act. That's right--I said it. Charlton Heston is awful in this movie, awful to the point where he's actually pretty hilarious. And here's a big shocker for you--his character wanted a gun in this movie. But boy, you really feel Heston's character's pain on that ship when he says, "I feel lonely." I long, by the way, for a time somewhere in the near future when smoking cigars on a spaceship makes sense. I don't know why NASA's not made that happen yet. Also, on the ship, there's a great scene where Heston gives the snoozing Dianne Stanley, the only female member of the crew, a lascivious look before he climbs into his little glass thing to start working on his beard. What a tough image to wake up to, by the way--a bearded Dianne Stanley. She was a looker when he turned in and he probably, knowing what we know about his character, had X-rated dreams about her, but he wakes up and she's got a beard. I'm not a scientist or anything, but I'm wondering if Stanley's beard makes any sense at all here. Also--shouldn't Heston and his two males buddies have had more beard when they woke up? Later, we get to hear a whole bunch of lines from Heston that only Charlton Heston could have gotten away with. And he shouldn't have gotten away with them.

"We're in the soup."
"That's when the groceries run out." (I have my doubts that the word "groceries" will even exist in 2,000 years. I'm not a linguist or anything though.)
"There is only one reality left--we are here and we are now." (Ok, that one's not so bad. It sounds like something straight out of Yoda's diary or something actually.)
"To hell with the scarecrows!" (A line that leads to late-60's shaky cam and that skinny-dipping scene that you were wanting from the second this movie started. And yes, I played it back 12 times and never did see Heston's little pistol although the little Charlton had to have been close to making an on-screen appearance.)
"Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!" (Yeah, I know that's as iconic as the ending of this movie. But think of how the line is delivered and then listen to most of Charlton Heston's other lines. Most of them are delivered with that identical tone. It's like Heston's got one gear in this movie.)
 "It's a madhouse! A maaaaaaaaaaaaadhoooooooooooouuuuuuussssse!" (Beautiful.)
"You cut up his brain, you bloody baboon!"

Here's another question that I'll put here because I just thought of it--why don't the other human characters have beards? I'm not a scientist or a barber, so I really need somebody to explain that to me. Surely, they don't shave.

Back to Heston--the guy looks a little old in a few of the action shots. Of course, he was lying in a glass tube for a long time, so maybe there was some muscle atrophy. Watching him flee from the apes--clumsy themselves--or try to evade their nets is often a little embarrassing, especially with his nipples being as droopy as they are. He does get one great action shot where he kicks an ape off the stairs and then provides us with a taint shot while an awesome ape-kid exclaims, "Look! It's a man!" Heston's best scene, an epic moment that--to me, at least--is just as important as seeing that withered Statue of Liberty involves Heston laughing at a flag. The character's really kind of an asshole, isn't he? He's misanthropic, pervy (check out the scene where he's staring down cave people and looking slightly horny), and pessimistic. He reminds me of myself. And it turns out he's a Hoosier which sure makes me proud. Speaking of pervy, how about that Zira? And kinky! She's all about collars and leashes, and there's one scene where Heston is disrobed where Zira's nose twitches. Twitches with lust! Speaking of those monkeys--I know I sort of made fun of their appearance up there, and their clothing looks like it's made out of plastic like 1980's action figures' clothing. The monkey's sort of look like people wearing masks; however, I'll definitely take that over the CGI monkeys in that prequel, and I really hope that doesn't hurt Gollum's feelings. Or King Kong's. Zaius has a cool strut and an even cooler jacket. That's Maurice Evans, Hutch from Rosemary's Baby, a classically-trainer actor who did a bunch of Shakespeare but died being best known for playing an ape in a poop-colored jacket. Roddy McDowall's Cornelius might, if you'll excuse the hyperbole, be the greatest performance ever by a guy playing some kind of monkey. Really, I like most of what they do with the apes in this, definitely taking advantage of the absurdity of the idea to inject a little humor into the otherwise serious and depressing sci-fi movie. Their use of sugar as a reward for the humans is a perfect sneaky bit of satire. A very quick scene in a museum is kind of a neat touch. My favorite shot in this that doesn't involve the Statue of Liberty might be a shot of an ape sitting back, cross-legged and smoking. The first shot of the apes has them on horseback which reminded me of when I saw a monkey riding on a dog at a rodeo, one of the highlights of my entire life. I'll tell you what though: Those pictures where the apes are posing with people they've hunted down are bound to piss off people on social media. I thought a see-hear-speak-no-evil pose of the tribunal was a little too cheesy. I also sort of hate Dr. Zira's nephew Lucius. He pops in the movie like he doesn't belong, almost like the character was added because Heston or director Franklin Schaffner had a friend who wanted his son to have a part. Lucius can't even walk right and says stupid things like, "What do you expect--an ape's new suit?" What a dumbass character. Of course, the best character of all is Nova played by the lovely Linda Harrison. See, I'm not even sure why Charlton Heston spends this movie growling all those lines at the apes. What does he have to complain about? He gets this great-looking gal to spoon with, and although it's not shown, I assume he hits that at some point. Of course, there are the constant threats of castration and all the hose-spraying, both which could be boner kills.

Some of the sets look silly in this. Do they live in caves? What's with the doors made out of fake wood? However, I do think the "scarecrows" are a cool image, and the spaceship scenes that make it seem like Heston and his buddies are in a discotheque are cool. Oh, and I like how they check the atmosphere on some spaceship device that has a barbershop pole inside it. I like the spaceship crash scene, but let's think about the setting a little bit. Now, I'm not a geologist or anything, but I can't figure out how the landscape would change so much that New York would be a desert in that amount of time. Would the Statue of Liberty really be next to a big rock cliff? Am I missing some science here? I also like the Jerry Goldsmith score, weird sort-of-orchestral music that sometimes incorporates monkey sounds.

This has a lot of B-movie elements and definitely isn't perfect, but it's stood the test of time, survived a bunch of ridiculous sequels, and is filled with classic movie moments. I think I will watch some of the sequels before that new prequel arrives on dvd. I might have to watch that first prequel, too. This is a franchise that has interesting stories to tell even when they're told imperfectly.

Here's a hint for those of you who got this far: This isn't part of the Mystery Fest, but I think I could have legally included it. Actually, I could do anything I wanted because nobody cares. But this fits in a strange way. It begs the question--are there Zubaz two-thousand years in the future? If not, I definitely don't want to be around.

Mystery Fest: Die Hard: With a Vengeance

1995 action stupidity

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A suspended Jon McClane, that guy from the first two Die Hard movies, is invited to play an elaborate and dangerous game of Truth or Dare by somebody really into nursery rhymes and riddles. His sidekick is a pawn shop owner who doesn't want to be a sidekick. Together, they have to work to figure out who's behind the monkey business and save the world.

Hey, did you know that Bruce Willis is a white guy and Samuel L. Jackson is black? If not, this movie will pound that idea into your head. Willis plays his character about as comfortably as you'd expect him to except this time he's got a headache. The role looks painful, and the character, like in the other two movies, is battered by the end of it although, like the other movies, he's predictably invincible. Jackson's cool from an early interaction with some superfluous children who get in the way of the movie's story a little later on until the very end although the character's a little uneven. Love the first interaction with McClane though, a simple but ironic "Morning." This movie's got all the pieces it needs to be a big summer action blockbuster--there's the hero, the sidekick, a crazy villain, a psychologist, a bomb expert, a guy with a mustache. But really, it's the city and all the extras who give it all the color. There's a great opener where "Summer in the City" is played over shots of New York City, places our characters most likely visited since they seemed to be all over the place. But then the director--a wildly-masturbation (I'm guessing) John McTiernan who returned to the franchise after missing the kinda-crappy second one--makes a critical error with an explosion because nobody--and I mean nobody--interrupts the Lovin' Spoonful. There's a story being told here, but like the first movie in the series (and probably the second), it really doesn't matter. This is all about thrills, sometimes cheap and sometimes ingenious. And the first half of the movie is a lot of fun. You've got a wonderfully entertaining drive through Central Park, a subterranean scene involving a subway, sandwich board shenanigans on the streets of Harlem. It's a very New York movie, isn't it? Irons is about what you'd expect as a bad guy for better or worse. He's actually better when he's just a voice ("G-g-g-g-g-g-g-g-g-gullibility.") and a bunch of nursery rhymes. Once you see his face for the first time, that's when this starts to fall apart and devolve into rapid fire action scene choppiness. The thrills are still there, but it's all more difficult to buy into and all to quick to really care about. Luckily, the action scenes are so well done that you don't really care all that much. That, and the movie's funny. Willis and Jackson have great rapport, and I enjoyed the typically New York reactions--maybe stereotypically New York reactions--to everything that was going on. It's a fun little rush of a movie. I can't finish this without mentioning mute Katya, played by musician Sam Phillips who adds a little eye candy.

This is a couple points better than the second Die Hard movie and a couple points worse than the first. Therefore, I adjusted my rating for the first to a 16/20.

My favorite line: "Maybe that mime," with a Wilhelm Scream.

Mystery Fest: Rosemary's Baby


1968 horror movie

Rating: 18/20

Plot: A couple move into a new apartment building and make friends with the neighbors, an eccentric couple who may or may not be friends with the devil. The titular wife becomes pregnant and soon starts to believe that somebody is after her unborn child.

This is the rare (and maybe even unique) horror movie that actually manages to be creepier when you watch it a second or third or fourth time. Other horror movies might grab you the first time you watch them, but on subsequent viewings, you know when that guy with the mask is going to pop out of the closet or that hand's going to grab the woman's foot Tommy Wiseau's going to show his ass to the audience or that kid's going to wake up as Tom Hanks.


And if you know what's going to happen and when it's going to happen, you're just not going to be all that scared. Of course, Polanski isn't just trying to scare us in Rosemary's Baby. He's trying to get under our skin. The strength of this is the atmosphere and a slowly-unfolding mystery that will have you guessing about Rosemary's psychological well-being and the motivations of the other characters until the very end and, I suppose, even after the ending if you're the type of person who doesn't like to take the visuals at face value. And with this story, if you where it all goes, it deepens all of the seemingly prosaic scenes in the first half of the movie. Chilling stuff, even that song that plays over the opening credits which I just read was sung (wordlessly) by Mia Farrow herself. And I don't feel like I discuss fonts enough on this blog, but the pink cursive font over the panorama of the city is perfect here. Something else you notice when you watch this movie second or third or fourth times is the amount of long shots--the first tour of the apartment, the scene in the phone booth. That apartment's filled with shadows, and you just know that there are demons ready to pop out of there and perform little demonic dances although they never do. And that ever-present ticking clock? The atmosphere's organic, and you'd think it's the kind of thing that could be easily duplicated, but I can't think of many examples. I like both Farrow and Cassavetes although "Guy Woodhouse" is a silly name. Of course, when Ruth Gordon is in a movie, she's going to get most of the attention. Man, is she awesome. There's this little rat face she makes near the end of the movie that is about the best thing I've ever seen, and there's another great shot of her through a peephole. I love her cadence, such a unique delivery. Sidney Blackmer's great as her husband, too. This is the sort of movie you watch and never ever forget, mostly because of the weirdness at the climax with the titular spawn and a great dream sequence or whatever it turns out to be involving ominous shadows, chanting, and a Satan/Rosemary kinky sex scene. Oh, and please don't forget that this movie's also darkly funny at times. Guy Woodhouse's "Kind of fun in a necrophile sort of way" the morning after the Rosemary/Satan sex scene is the best example of that.

There's Something About Mary


1998 romantic comedy

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Prom night doesn't go well for Ted unless you'd call getting his genitalia caught in his zipper as "going well," and years later, he starts wondering about his date for the evening, a woman way out of his league then and probably would still be way out of his league. He hires a shady private detective on the recommendation of his friend to find her, and the detective falls for her. Shenanigans.

Farrelly brothers stuff doesn't quite do it for me, probably because I'm not entertained by movies making fun of the mentally or physically handicapped. Bobby and Peter magnify the awkward, and it's the type of comedy that works in spurts but not really in any prolonged fashion. It depends on moments that would be funny if you tried to describe them to people the next day. Like, "This guy gets his nuts caught in a zippers!" Or, "This woman thinks ejaculate is hair gel!" Or, "A guy tries to resuscitate a dog and ends up catching it on fire!"  They're scenes that are mildly humorous when you see them the first time, but they don't have staying power. Ok, maybe that scene with the dog would be funny any time you watched it, but that zippered scrotum scene seems endless and almost gets to the point where it's almost as painful as what the character is experiencing. A scene where a handicapped gentleman (well. . .) is trying to pick up his keys off the floor. Is that funny? Ben Stiller's brawl with an enraged dog? Is that one? Personally, I thought the funniest moment was an interrogation scene with some dramatic irony, that misunderstanding or dual meaning humor that always reminds me of Three's Company. This does have some performers I really like. It gets off to a good start with Jonathan Richman singing in a tree about the titular gal and then popping in every once in a while like a one-man Greek chorus. Well, one man with a drummer. It's also got Chris Elliott as the friend. Elliott's a guy I always enjoy watching, and his character is funny enough here as he talks about flogging the dolphin, choking the chicken, or spanking the monkey. Jeffrey Tambor's not in the movie enough. And Markie Post? She was one of my first celebrity crushes. Oh, and Brett Favre makes an appearance. His acting is about as good as his quarterback abilities when he played for the Jets, but he does get a funny line--"I'm down here to play the Dolphins, you dumbass." I almost always like Ben Stiller, and I'm never going to say anything negative about a Ben Stiller masturbation scene, especially if it involves a brassiere advertisement. And I like Cameron Diaz in this. She's very natural in the role, and I love her laugh. I don't know--there's just something about her that I like. Dillon's pretty good, too, even though his character is a little much. His attempts to woo Mary are funny though. This movie makes a terrible mistake twice unfortunately. I don't write screenplays, but if I taught a class in writing them, lesson one would be that you don't mention the names of better movies in the dialogue. This does it with Harold and Maude twice and later The Karate Kid. As this movie started to lose its charm, those references just made me wish I was watching one of those movies. Oh, and there's another mistake it makes--Harland Williams. The guy just rubs me the wrong way. Luckily, he's not in this for long. This is humorous enough to watch once, but it's far from the comedy classic that a lot of people seem to think it is.

Cory's Birthday Movie Celebration: Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster


1971 monster movie + environmental propaganda

Rating: 9/20

Plot: Hedorah, the smog monster, is born from Earth's pollution and begins pooping on everything and poisoning humanity. As scientists and the military try to come up with a plan to stop the seemingly unstoppable beast, Godzilla steps in to try to save the day.

I'm fond of the Polish poster for this movie:


It looks like the smog monster, that thing with the glowing red eyes there, is an old bearded man which isn't the case. No, the smog monster is not nearly as intimidating as an old bearded man.

And as an added bonus, here's a poster for Big starring Tom Hanks:


I'd actually like to see a movie where a giant Tom Hanks threatens Japan with Godzilla trying to stop him. Tell me that wouldn't be awesome! They could just drive a dump truck full of Best Actor Oscars to Tom Hanks' house if that ever happened.

Cory's the only reader I have whose birthday I celebrate with a movie. As I've said before, it's one of the lamest things you could do for a person's birthday, but I can't stop doing it now because Cory will think I'm mad at him or something and have his birthday ruined. This year, it seems like I've figured out a way to make the "present" seem even worse--I've intentionally picked a Godzilla movie that I know he doesn't like which I will now spend a lot of time making fun of. Happy birthday, Cory!

First, this is the weirdest Godzilla movie that I've seen. I kind of liked the idea behind it and the heavy-handed anti-pollution message. The movie opens with shots of pipes spewing the titular smog and ends with our big lizardy hero looking sadly upon polluted waters--a shot of some sludge with a large clock floating in it--before lumbering away while the annoying kid in the movie screams his name. It's a real Shane moment actually except Godzilla isn't a gay-looking cowboy. Actually, that's not how the movie ends. The movie ends with the words "And Yet Another One?" popping on the screen followed by a shot of what I assume is supposed to be a fledgling second smog monster. The idea, obviously, is that we'd better stop polluting or another one of these things is going to start farting and/or shitting on us again.

Let's talk about Godzilla's foe in this thing. It might be the silliest-looking monster that I've ever seen, like a much larger version of that killer rug from 1964's The Creeping Terror. It's got sideways red-glowing eyes and really does spew a diarrheal sludge which, when it hits people or Godzilla or the sides of buildings, ranges from gross to really really gross. I almost hate to type this on Cory's birthday, but I may have laughed the first time I saw the monster. And the second time. And probably the third time, too. Of course, it later confuses me by transforming, turning into a sleek flying thing and shooting a jagged red laser thing out of its eye. Then, there's Godzilla whose first appearance is accompanied with this really weird music. It sounds like the type of music they'd play in a cartoon where there's a race between a pair of animals and they show the fast animal and have this upbeat music and then show the slow animal and switch to the sounds of struggling trombones and tired trumpets. That's the music that Godzilla gets in this for some reason. It's a recurring theme actually.

The guy responsible for the music (Riichiro Manabe) was, I'm guessing, stoned. That's the only explanation for the oboes and jaw harps used in this. Oh, and because it's 1971, there's a psychedelic band in a few scenes, one in a club with the kind of backdrop that you'd expect to see behind Pink Floyd (a very weird scene where a guy who turns out to be the another character's brother but who is randomly introduced becomes horrified when everybody at the club ends up wearing fish masks) and one after they retreat to a field, build a bonfire, and have a jam session because that's apparently what Japanese hippies do when there's a smog monster on the loose. I'm surprised the jam session in the field didn't inspire a Burning Man-esque festival of some kind--Smog Monster Festival. There's a great part of that scene where it shows the characters around the bonfire and then a shot of these old people staring at them through some tall weeds. Who the hell are those old people? It's never explained and just adds to the weirdness of this whole thing, yet another thing that I don't think anybody associated with this would be able to explain. That band's called Honey Knights and the Moon Drops (of course), and I'm not sure why the songs "Return! The Sun!" or "Beat Hedorah!" didn't become classics. You'd think with those exclamation marks that they would have. Actually, I can't blame Riichiro Manabe for all the music. He might have just done the psychedelic songs. I think he's a Honey Knight. Maybe he's the one jamming on the flute!

But back to Godzilla since he's star of these things. He moves really strangely in this thing, like he's on uppers or something. He can't walk right and twitches and jerks around a lot, and with that goofy slow-animal-in-a-cartoon-race music, it makes him seem a little ridiculous. It's almost impossible to figure out what's going on in most of the fight scenes which is odd because they almost seem like they're in slow motion. During the first time they face off, I actually wasn't sure if it was a fight scene or a sex scene. Also, I'm not sure why Godzilla was fighting him in the first place. He wasn't really doing anything except--and this is awesome--huffing pollution from a pair of factory pipes. That's after he's grown and looks sort of like a rotten Snuffleupagus. During that first fight, Godzilla picks him up and starts swinging him around, and Hedorah leaks sewage all over the place. I'm not even making that up. I'm not making any of this up actually. Then, they go away awhile so that the characters can talk about science. A microscope is involved which--again, I'm not making up--two characters somehow use at once, and we get a lesson in astronomy which I guess means smog monster came from outer space. And the guy with the bandage talks about how they'll all need to work together to defeat the thing, and I start wondering if this is going to end up being a movie where Godzilla is completely superfluous, completely useless. Of course, that's not the case. Hedorah comes along to ruin the hippie fest jam session, and Godzilla comes along to have another conversation with it that does us the viewers no good because it's not subtitled for us. They prepare to fight; Hedorah kind of sidles and Godzilla actually does the Mashed Potato. Then, steaming shit, a transformation, a rumble, a tea-bagging, and Godzilla finds himself dropped in a hole and covered with a filthy ooze, the kind of thing that you can almost smell through your television screen. Either that or I need to take a shower. Then, humans are doing something involving science in a scene that seems to go on forever and Godzilla pops in again, Hedorah seems to be dead, Godzilla pulls a couple bowling balls out of his nemesis, and then old smoggy flies off. And I'm starting at the screen and thinking, "What the hell is going on?" Maybe you have to be a scientist to understand this movie. And then, in what has to be the biggest twist in Godzilla movie history, Godzilla tucks his tail between his legs and spits whatever this white flaming stuff he spits in this movie at the ground, and proceeds to fly backward as he chases after Hedorah. All with some college football fight song music playing! Not the most convenient method of flying there, Godzilla. You can't even see where the hell you're going! It all leads to a disgusting fight to the finish where Hedorah is disemboweled, Godzilla actually hurling his innards around while the worst song I've ever heard (until the song plays at the end of the movie anyway) plays. I love this little look Godzilla gives the people afterward, looking down on us all as the screw-ups that we all are.

Sorry if I just spoiled the entire movie for you. I really have my doubts that I understood this movie well enough to spoil it for anybody though.

I did really like the cartoons used in the news footage where they'd sort of explain what was going on since the visuals didn't help out very much. And I liked a cool shot of the thing oozing down stairs and then oozing back up again with the help of a special effect called Playing the Movie Backward. I also liked a shot of a kitty meowing in the muck and some time-lapse withering of leaves and flowers after the smog monster hovered over everything and showed off its poisonous flatulence. There are also some cool shots of rotting people and one great scene where Hedorah flies toward a building being constructed by apparently one single construction worker, a guy who screams wonderfully before jumping to his death. He's next shown as bones and a hardhat while the building falls apart with no sound or music at all. It's the weirdest thing. No, wait. The weirdest thing is more news footage that turns into this split screen nonsense with images we saw earlier in the movie, including people dancing in fish masks for reasons that make no sense at all, and a shot of a baby half-submerged in the murk. It's really pretty wonderful.

Rock of Ages


Whoops! Wrong poster!


2012 musical comedy

Rating: 10/20

Plot: Oh, who the hell cares?

I really thought I was going to like this. I felt hooked with an opening musical number, a sing-a-long thing on a bus. After that, however, Alec Baldwin popped in and looked like he got lost and stumbled into the wrong movie, Russell Brand does way too much of his Russell Brand thing where he talks about Margaret Thatcher's bumhole and references Road House which just makes me wish I had decided to watch Road House instead, and Tom Cruise shows up with a ridiculous codpiece and a monkey. Actually, I would have really liked Tom Cruise had his character been on the screen for no more than 7 minutes in this. He sings just fine, so they could have given him one song. And I do like that codpiece. He does get a funny first line. It's one of the only lines that made me nearly chuckle in this movie. The other line I thought was funny was when somebody said, "My son ate the head off my neighbor's horse because of Stacee Jaxx!" Most of the humor in the dialogue is predictable, and predictable writing is generally not funny. The movie's a real mess, so poorly edited that people who just popped the movie in their dvd players to see Tom Cruise's codpiece and hear Russell Brand say "Balls!" would probably even notice. There's a lot going on, but none of it is really developed in a way that makes you care at all. Baldwin's problem where he might lose his club? Who really cares? The anti-rock people led by Zeta-Jones and Cranston, two people who really should have better things to do with their time? It's just not fleshed out in a way that makes it work. Giamatti's shenanigans? Giamatti's appearance is funnier than the writing in this, but the character just feels like a caricature. And the love story at the center of all this? Well, that might work, but the two kids who play Drew and Sherrie (Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough) are terrible. They sing well enough, but they're bad in nearly every scene where they aren't singing, and how they interact with each other in their initial meeting almost makes it look like they shouldn't even get lead roles in a middle school play. I didn't like the music very much in this, always a problem with a musical. The stuff's all performed well, but I just don't like the songs chosen for this. It's a very Disneyfied rock 'n' roll musical actually. This thing really needed to be rated R, I think. It's flaccid, predictable, and dull.

Mystery Fest: Big


1988 comedy

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A kid successfully drops a coin into an animatronic sorceror's mouth and wins himself a wish. He wishes to be big so that he can meet the height requirements for a ride. He's granted his wish and wakes up the next day in the shape of one of the bosom buddies. He gets his best friend to understand his predicament but has to flee to the city when his mother freaks out. As he looks for a way to get small again, he has to figure out how adults act. Oh, and he gets a bitchin' trampoline!

I wasn't sure which poster to go with on this one. The poster up there with Hanks leaning from the left or this one. . .

where you get more of his face and a tag line but that same ridiculous grin. This one:


Or this one:

Again--this one:


Or this one:


What do you think? Should I have gone with this one, which we'll call Choice A:


Or Choice B which is what we'll call this one:

Here they are together:


And again:


Wait a second! I just found another one. . .


where he's touching a mirror like he's Nicolas Cage in Vampire's Kiss. Not bad, but shouldn't it come with a spoiler alert or something. Just by seeing that poster and reading the tagline, you can figure out that there's a mirror and a secret in this movie. Here's another poster:


It seems like Hanks' "really big secret" for this might be that he's a homosexual who has belched. I don't know what's going on with this one. So, pass. How about this one?


Not only do you get belching Tom Hanks, you also get one that George Zimmerman would probably take a shot at if given the chance. And that top picture where it makes Hanks look like he's one of the Little Rascals--the confused one. It also makes the movie seem like it's called Big Big Big. One more:


Well, there we go. That's the one I should have used. That's an impressive piece of art right there. It's probably too weird for this blog though, and I don't want to make any potential readers uncomfortable. So let's stick with our original two choices. Choice A:


Or Choice B:


But what about the actual movie? Does it live up to either of those posters? I do like that the whole thing ends with a dick joke. And speaking of dicks, this is definitely a movie that makes you think. I mean, consider that sex scene a little bit. There's the type of scene where you almost have to pause the movie just to work it all out in your head. Is it statutory rape, for example? And how disappointing do you think Josh would have been in the sack there? What is he, 12 years old? I think it's safe to assume that he had never been with a woman. I think at the age of 12, I would have shot my wad as my hand cupped the woman's boob. I mean, we're talking about Elizabeth Perkins' boob here. I'm 40 years old and have had sexual intercourse about 7 or 8 times, and I'm not sure I'd be able to keep from giggling and making a big mess in my pants. But let's say he doesn't prematurely ejaculate in this situation. This is, after all, a fantasy movie. So there's penetration. How's Josh going to know what to do there? Josh is the type of kid who is buying trampolines and making dinosaur toys growl and playing video games where he's a wizard. I really doubt he's put a lot of thought into the details of the female anatomy. How disappointed do you think Elizabeth Perkins had to have been? Of course, one of the central themes of this thing is about how a child's mind is more capable of creative thought than an adult's mind, so maybe that applies in the sack, too. However, let's face it. That's a ridiculous concept anyway. It was a ridiculous concept in Ender's Game where they figure the titular kid can handle the Buggers or whatever they were called in the movie better than the adults, and it's ridiculous here. We get to see a few of Josh's decisions here. The electronic interactive comic book? There's a reason why those don't exist now. Children wouldn't like them. It's a dumb idea. And I don't care what Josh says, that Chrysler Building Transformers action figure is something that would have really taken off. Another theme in this movie has to do with what a person loses in the process of becoming an adult, and I like that. It's subtle here, mostly there with Hanks' nuanced performance. Hanks really is good here. There's a nice unbroken scene after his idiot friend leaves him alone in the St. James that's really great. It's little things--like biting his nails during his job interview--that make this entire far-fetched concept plausible. The best acting nomination makes sense just because he was able to pull that off. He's also got good rapport with Jared Rushton who played his pal Billy. Rushton's annoying, but Billy's important because it brings out another important theme for this whole movie--bros before hos. I do like Billy's "Good bye, Mr. Spalding!" trash talk, pretty sophisticated stuff for a dumb kid who is obsessed with his teacher's breasts. He's also quite possible the worst basketball player in the history of movies. He looks like he could be one of Teen Wolf's future teammates. You do have to love his reaction to meeting Josh's girlfriend later. The best actor in this is Paul Herman who plays the "Schizo," a bearded lunatic they meet on the streets who shouts, "Kill the bitch!" It's fascinating to me (because this is the type of thing that fascinates me) that Herman went from playing a schizophrenic who says "Kill the bitch!" to playing the Apostle Phillip in The Last Temptation of Christ the same year. I'll have to check that Bible I may have stolen from a hotel during a recent vacation to be sure, but I don't think Phillip said anything like "Kill the bitch!" in any of the Gospels. I actually don't know if he had any speaking parts in there. Maybe he said something like that during the woman at the well part?

One more thing: I know the "Heart and Soul" scene in this is considered an iconic moment or whatever, but isn't it really weird?

No, wait! I thought of another thing. Do you think there are women out there who are sexually attracted to Zoltar? If so, do they meet in groups to discuss things? I'd like to think there's some Women Who Are Sexually Attracted to Zoltar Group out there having meetings. I know one thing--even though you can't see Zoltar's lower half in those little boxes, he's obviously rocking a pair of Zubaz.

Let me know if you have any questions about Big.

The Waking Life

2001 cartoon

Rating: 17/20

Plot: A guy meets various characters as he wanders through a dream and then a dream within that dream and then maybe a dream within that dream within a dream.

"Super perfundo on the early eve of your day."

Like a philosophical hodgepodge, Waking Life is noodly, a jam session. Noodly and probably frustrating. I consider myself a fairly deep thinker or at the very least I pretend to be one, but this is a little exhausting. Maybe it would help if I dreamed. I don't--lucidly or nonlucidly. Well, people tell me that I dream, but I don't know how they know. I definitely don't remember any dreams, and I've always been jealous of people who do. And I suppose that's why I like watching movies, especially surreal ones. They take the place of dreams. This is one of those dreamy movies and its stuffed with so many ideas that it's probably impossible to watch the thing and not get something out of it--the idea that we may or may not make decisions that make us who we are, dreams as destiny, crayons, our need for revenge, the importance of human beings demanding freedom, existentialism and the big pink nosy ideas of postmodernists, the flaws in our language, free will, science as God, evolution and a neo-human not restricted by either time or space, human beings' need for chaos and destruction and even death, free will again. It's like Linklater wasn't sure what idea he wanted to tackle in this, so he, sort of like in the exquisite Slacker, just threw it all out there in an attempt to either answer the question "What is reality?" or, more likely, just ask the question "What is reality?" over and over and over again. And it's quite possible that the movie's about nothing at all and how liberating it would be to realize that everything that's ever been thought might just be a bunch of balderdash so that we can float away. I like how the protagonist, a long-haired Native American maybe, progresses through this "story" in this. For the first half of the movie, he's passive in these dream snippets. He's a listener, an onlooker. Gradually, his voice comes out more and more and he tries to gain control of the situation. By the end--dude's flying. It was an ingenious choice to use the rotoscoping animation technique which helps this match up visually with the idea that what we think is really real might not really be really real. It's a copy of a visual truth, wavy lines and shifting color palettes suggesting that none of this is real and then suggesting that maybe that's the way we should be looking at our existence. The visual effects are discombobulating, and I can't imagine seeing this on the big screen without getting a little dizzy. I'm not going to pretend I even have 1/4th the brain to understand 1/4th of this movie. Hell, I was confused by large portions of A Goofy Movie, so I probably have no chance with this one. However, I did get something out of it and find it exhilarating stylistically, a trippy skull cracker. In a way, I wish I would have made this an Oprah Movie Club selection so that I could have watched it by myself and have absolutely nobody to discuss it with.

Bonus point for Timothy "Speed" Levitch who does not disappoint in his animated cameo. If you haven't seen The Cruise, please do so immediately.