Halloween Movie Fest: The Exorcist


1973 horror classic

Rating: 18/20

Plot: A guy looking for Weapons of Mass Destruction in Northern Iraq--the titular priest, I think, unless the other guy is supposed to be the exorcist--fears that he's going to have to battle Captain Howdy again. Back in America, a God-fearing country, the young daughter of an actress starts misbehaving and cursing like a sailor that would actually embarrass the other sailors. It's probably because she watches South Park. Eventually, they decide that she needs some Ritalin.

A few notes on The Exorcist:

1) This has nothing to do with the movie, but my wife, who long ago stopped even reading this nonsense, hates when I do blog posts that are lists instead of one poorly-organized, rambling paragraph. What do you think?

2) 1973! I think that has to be one of the best years for movies. It might be the best actually!

3) I was born in 1973 and have vivid memories of watching this movie in the theater with my parents. That explains why my first words ended up being "You motherfucking worthless cocksucker!" I had bad parents.

4) Number 3 actually isn't true. At least one of my parents was pretty good. And I don't think I really saw this movie as an infant.

5) As a middle school teacher, I've had students who are worse-behaved than Regan at her worst in this. If I had a dollar for every time I've said "The power of Christ compels you" in the classroom," I'd come pretty close to doubling my salary as a public educator. I've never had a student regurgitate pea soup on my face, however, so I guess I should consider myself lucky. I did work across the hall from a woman who had a student urinate in the trash can though.

6) Speaking of the soup, I read that the special effects people didn't like the look of Campbell's pea soup and went to another brand--Andersen's. Now I was an infant when this movie came out and can't remember commercials from 1974. So maybe the Andersen's soup people did use this bit of information in commercials. If they didn't, they missed a golden (or greenish) opportunity. "Andersen's--4 out of 5 demon-possessed children prefer to vomit our brand of pea soup over Campbell's." Or, "Andersen's pea soup! It might look like drool oozing from a possessed child's mouth, but trust us--it tastes a whole lot better!"

7) I'm a big fan of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells. I own a vinyl copy that I stole from the parent that wasn't very good and a c.d. copy. And I know the music's association with this movie is the sort of thing where some people might not be able to think of one without thinking of the other. But I'm not sure I like how it's used in this. It sounds great in the end credits, but does it really fit in a scene where a character is just walking around?

8) How inappropriate would it have been if they'd used the part from "Tubular Bells" where the guy is saying names of instruments? Like, while Linda Blair is spinning her head around, you hear a voice saying, "Bass guitar."? This might not be funny at all, but I know this isn't funny if you've never heard the entire "Tubular Bells" track which is (no kidding) over 30 hours long.

9) I can't be the only person who finds this movie uproariously funny. Sure, it's always hilarious to hear little girls talking about demons raping your mother in hell. But earlier, it's all about the context. Just imagine being at a party, and the host's little girl comes downstairs, stares awkwardly, says something incoherent about how so-and-so is going to die, and then pisses on the rug. I love how the characters in this don't really react to that at all.

10) This movie pushes boundaries. Name another movie that enjoys the popularity that this one enjoys in which a child violently masturbates with a crucifix. Can't do it, can you? Again, I wasn't really aware of what was going around in 1973 and am too lazy to do any research on this, but did religious people have a problem with this movie? Did they throw a fit over the crazy antics of this little girl like they did over the crazy antics of Jesus in that Last Temptation of Christ movie?

11) Linda Blair was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for this which is strange to me since a lot of her scenes involved a puppet instead of her. And what spectacular puppet work that is! And the real star of the show is Mercedes McCambridge. And do you know what she put herself through to perfect that voice? She swallowed raw eggs, smoked, and drank whiskey, the latter an especially dangerous risk because she'd had some problems with alcohol in the past. She also insisted on being tied up as she did some of the voice work. It all worked because that demon voice in this movie is absolutely terrifying.

12) Max von Sydow was only 44 when this was made. That make-up job is almost as impressive as that Linda Blair puppet. And take a look at that poster up there. You've seen this movie, and you remember that scene where Merrin first shows up at the house. That foggy exterior, that creepy music. It's one of those perfect-looking scenes that make you happy to be a movie fan. Anyway, credit von Sydow and his make-up artists for the work he does as he enters Regan's room and sets up shop, prays, tosses holy water on himself, etc. He's got this look on this face that perfectly captures this "Shit! I don't believe I have to go through this again!" feeling. It's also the look of a man who is exasperated by the idea that he is not going to survive the experience.

13) Jack MacGowran's in this, playing another character that you notice because Jack MacGowran is playing him. He was nominated for the Torgo last year for his work in The Giant Behemoth, and I also made fun of him here. I'm actually wondering if the guy deserves his own fest! A question about his character in this movie: What the hell is he doing in Regan's room before being tossed out the window?

14) There's a bum in this who gets the line "Can you help an old altar boy?", a line that's repeated later. I don't know who plays him because I can't find a credited bum, but whoever it is has the prettiest eyes.

15) Speaking of eyes, there's a lot of vision/eye stuff in the beginning of the movie. I'm not sure if it's intentional or not, but I reckon it is. You've got shots of eyeless statues, an image of a blind guy being led around, and an auxiliary character with a messed-up eye. And you've got Merrin whose eyes are open. He can see the demon that everybody else is missing.

16) And speaking of missing demons, one of the more interesting aspects of this movie is the science vs. religion dynamic. The whole exorcism-as-a-placebo thing is fascinating to me, and I love how the doctors just keep pushing the "temporal lobe" explanation. In a way, I'm happy that the religious side of this wins out in the end because scientific-minded people are so smug.

17) The special effects in this are cool. I've already mentioned the puppet work and make-up, but I also like what they do to the bed. I haven't seen a bed move that much since my honeymoon. Wakka wakka wakka!

18) My favorite sound effect in this: the noise made when Regan's head twists around. You know a sound effect is good when you can't picture the scene later without hearing it.

19) Captain Howdy! It sounds like a nickname that a college kid would give his penis. He'd start to unzip in the men's room and announce to anybody listening, "Time to let Captain Howdy out for a bit!" Or, if the type of guy who would nickname his penis Captain Howdy got lucky enough to ever get to sleep with a woman, he'd prepare his sexual conquest by saying, "Here comes Captain Howdy!" in his best Ed McMahon voice.

20) Eileen Dietz. That's who "played" Captain Howdy. Well, the demon face that pops up subliminally a few times in this thing. She sued to get credit for it which is a weird thing to want credit for. Anyway, you know what else she was in? She was Penny in David Holzman's Diary. And that means that I've seen Captain Howdy naked. Who knows what kind of dreams I've going to have tonight now that I know that little bit of information.

21) I wish Father Karras's struggles with his faith were a little better realized in this. To me, that's the heart of this movie. Yeah, there's the mother/daughter relationship, the renewed conflict between Merrin and this demon, and all that other stuff, but this movie is really about the internal conflict of that one man, isn't it? Jason Miller portrays the character so quietly which forces the viewer to fill in a lot of gaps.

22) How'd Regan's face ever get back to normal following all this? Did it require plastic surgery? Her mother's a successful actress, so you can assume she knows a few plastic surgeons. Seems like Regan would have been scarred from the experience. And does pea soup come out of sheets very easily? These are the types of questions that keep me up at night.

23) Is this the scariest movie ever made? People say that, but those are people who probably haven't seen Ernest Scared Stupid.



Halloween Movie Fest: V/H/S/ 2

2013 horror anthology

Rating: 10/20

Plot: An investigative team stumbles upon a bunch of video cassettes and watches some of them.

Ok, watching the second installment of what will undoubtedly be an endless franchise is admitting that the first is what you'd call a guilty pleasure. I like the found footage horror genre, and although almost every idea this movie has to give them an excuse to even have filmed evidence is really dumb, this still gives the audience a unique first-person perspective with these stories. The problem is that the stories just aren't very good. The first, in which a guy has this electronic eye that turns him into Bruce Willis, has a few shots that might make you jump out of your seat, but nothing happening with the characters makes any sense. Also, I had trouble figuring out how the guy was able to live in a house as nice as the one in this. The second story is an almost-clever twist on the zombie story. Then again, it's zombies. The longest, and probably the best, involves an Indonesian cult and is a true mindfuck with some really good effects, the sort of thing where you're impressed with everybody's timing. The story's a little weak, however. And then, there's a stupid alien thing that feels cheap, and by the time that story rolls around, you're probably a little tired of the whole thing. The frame story doesn't work at all. Well, at least it made no sense to me. I will say this: the first movie was impressive because the different directors found an excuse to show nudity in every one of the stories. This gives you a shot of breasts and a penis within the first minute, but there's not nearly as much nudity as the first one. I guess that's why it loses a point. Anyway, some of this might impress some people, and I have no doubt that the people involved--seven directors--are very creative people. Unfortunately, this doesn't add up to anything you're proud to have watched.

This movie could have been the worst experience of my life, and it still would have been worth it. I watched the whole thing before writing my thoughts about it. That's better than Rex Reed could do. I am now a more reliable and credible source for movie information than Rex Reed. Not that any of you doubted that anyway.

















That's right--only one of those two guys watches the movies he reviews. And I don't even think the guy with the tie has his own blog!

David Holzman's Diary


1967 mockumentary

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A New Yorker decides to document his life on film, and this is the result.

Early in this--right after the titular character's girlfriend has broken up with him (or maybe before)--Holzman's friend tries to tell him that this whole thing isn't going to work because it will be filled with all these "half-truths" and that "aesthetic decisions" are going to get in the way. And this takes on an interesting dada quality precisely because the friend is right. Holzman doesn't have anything going on in his life that would make him worthy of having a documentary about him. And the late L.M. Kit Carson--very recently late actually--walks a thin line between interesting character and guy who you just don't understand, a guy who you sort of want to like and a character you almost want to take a swing at. This is a faux-documentary, back before faux-documentaries were cool, and it's fascinating to me that filmmaker Jim McBride was able to turn the genre on its head before it was really even a genre. It's more clever--and maybe more sad--than it is funny, but Carson excels in what I imagine was a really difficult performance. There's a character arc in this, but you have to squint and turn your head to one side to see it. I imagine Holzman's biggest problems in this are caused by his drinking of Pepsi from a Coca Cola glass, the sort of thing that might lead an individual into following women a couple blocks from a subway or filming people through windows. The guy's a definitely creepster, and you can tell he's an expert by the way he talks about the "widow thumb and the four daughters," the kind of masturbation analogy that can only be made by a bona-fide creepster. By the end, the character's become difficult to figure out, just like the best characters in fiction, but you feel a little sorry for him during a rambling monologue near the end where he alternates between an angry "What do you want?" and also-angry "You made me do things!", both directed at an audience who will in no way have a clue what he's talking about. I'm not quite sure what he's demanding of the audience here or what this is saying about making movies or the process involved in this sort of thing. Four really great scenes in this: 1) a scene where the faux-documentary apparently loses its faux as Carson interviews a sex-crazed woman, 2) a blurred night of television, 3) a scene where he dicks around with a brand-new lens, 4) a great extended shot of a bunch of old people sitting on a bench. There are also some great black and white shots of the city as it lived in the mid-1960s.

The Mishaps of Musty Suffer


1916-1917 slapstick shorts

Rating: n/r

Plot: The titular vagabond suffers, mustily, in a series of shorts.

I'd never heard of Musty Suffer, the character played by former circus performer Harry Watson Jr. When my fellow silent comedy fans and I get together, I think I'm going to refer to him as "The Nose." From certain angles, Watson resembles a squat Abe Lincoln, but he's a lot funnier than I imagine Lincoln ever was. A lot of the appeal is an extremely rubbery face, a physical feature that Watson utilizes to get a lot of laughs. Not that I laughed. These nearly plot-less vignettes are amusing enough for sure, and one of the things I really appreciate about silent comedy is the lengths these creative minds would go to get a laugh. It's almost like silent funnymen (and women? Were there any?) weren't trying to out-funny but out-innovate each other. This definitely has imagination and plays around with all kinds of old-timey special effects, the kind that I've always had a sweet spot for. Slightly surrealistic and near-absurdist at times, these shorts have just the right of mean-spiritedness mixed in with the humor. Musty Suffer is, as I think the back of the dvd case suggested, a sort of comic Job character, and describing the plot points for any of these would likely trick somebody into thinking they're tragedies or a little depressing. But Musty's a clown in purgatory, and even if Watson's character isn't exactly as easy to connect with as the silent comedians everybody's heard of, he's still fun to watch. I'll be diving into these shorts again and am happy that whoever was responsible for this collection unearthed him for my fellow silent comedy fans and me. We all call him "The Nose," by the way. Not sure if I mentioned that earlier.

Halloween Movie Fest: A Page of Madness


1926 Japanese silent avant-garde film

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A man gets a janitor job at a sanitarium in order to help his crazy wife escape.

I don't watch nearly enough silent movies anymore. And I can't recall ever seeing a silent movie from Japan. This one is from the mind of Teinosuke Kinugasa, a former female impersonator and the director of Gate of Hell, a movie that I know I watched but must have forgotten to write about because I can't find it here. This film was originally shown, I've read, with narration. Watching it now, it's really difficult to figure out the backstory for these characters. There aren't any intertitles to help you out at all, and the storytelling isn't exactly what you'd call coherent. That doesn't make it any less enjoyable as Kinugasa throws in every trick from the 1920's cinematic book of tricks (not a real book), making this more like a tone poem than a narrative. You get very quick montages, something that gives the setting a manic and somehow claustrophobic vibe. There are quick cuts of dancing, terrible lightning effects, and shadows that add up to a chilling look at mental illness. There's multiple exposure used extensively and a lot of distorted faces or dancers that give this that otherworldly feel that you can really only get from 1920's horror movies or the works of Guy Maddin. Washed out backgrounds and silent murky fuzz certainly add to the overall texture, but it's hard to know what was part of the vision of the filmmaker and what improvements time made on a "lost" movie that apparently was just sitting around for about 50 years before its discovery. This one's all about the imagery, and the images are indelible ones. A trio of crazed motherfuckers, a dog and later the male lead with their profile in a halo of light, a dancer with an odd hat in front of a bloated barbershop poll. You piece together enough of a plot to make the logical parts of your brain happy enough, but it's the part of your brain that just likes to look at stuff that's going to be thrilled the most with what's going on here. It might get a little repetitive after a while, but this is still highly recommended for fans of experimental and/or silent movies.

Parts of this lost movie were still lost after the rest of it was first found. Apparently, an extended cut exists, but I watched a non-restored version. The music was provided by some 1970's avant-garde Japanese musicians.

Halloween Movie Fest: The Worst Horror Movie Ever Made


2005 comedy

Rating: I don't know.

Plot: Some people get together for a poker game, and a few of them die. Then, a game of 52-Card-Pick-Up turns violent, and a couple are forced to flee. God, what am I doing with my life. Why the hell would I even think about watching this?

A poop monster, lots of talk about fecal matter, a hootenanny, lactation, bloody baby dolls, fake penises, a werewolf that either disappeared or anally raped a character named Detective Fred, a snowman, Jesus, the line "So you want us to shoot you out of a cannon right into her meat curtains?", a fight between a fake spider and a fake bat, a mummy. I don't know what to do with any of this. I did learn that cups were the only thing in the Bible that Jesus is afraid of which is one more thing than I learned at the Bible college I attended for a year and a half. All the bonus points I would get from God for going to a Bible college are wiped away after watching this movie. There's too much blasphemy and racism in this. So Saint Peter is going to say, "Sure, you went to a Bible college for three semesters and got a few hits for their baseball team--The Preachers--but you also watched The Worst Horror Movie Ever Made. I don't know if we want to let you in."

You, whoever you might be, shouldn't watch this. It's stupid. In a way, it's frustrating because I think director Bill Zebub, a guy who has made 39 other movies that are more than likely a lot like this since 2002, lets a little cleverness slip in every once in a while. And then--poop monster. Or a CGI rape scene that is not awful because a character is being raped but because the CGI is so bad. I laughed a bunch of times while watching this because I was apparently as high as a human being can be, but once I sobered up, I was embarrassed by the whole thing. I probably shouldn't have even written about it here. I hate myself.

Bill Zebub, for your information, is the director of Antfarm Dickhole. I'd watch that, but I'm terrified I would have to use the word titular in my review.

Seriously, don't watch this. Watch something else instead.

This might be the most depressed I have ever been. If this blog entry isn't a cry for help, I don't know what it is.

Bad Movie Club: Ice Cream Man

1995 horror movie

Rating: 4/20 (Fred: 3/20; Carrie: 1.5/20; Libby: 5/20; Josh: 2/20)

Plot: The titular traveling purveyor of creamy desserts and frozen confections is up to no good.

"Who's the pied piper now, ice cream dick?"

I had to do a search for the cliche "tour de force" on my own blog to make sure I haven't overused that phrase. I used it to describe the performance of a camel and a few human actors and once where I actually used the sentence "I had to do a search for the cliche 'tour de force' on my own blog to make sure I haven't overused that phrase." But really, how else are you going to describe Clint Howard's performance in this? In fact, "tour de force performances" should be called Clint Howards from now on. Ron Howard's brother carries this movie. He's like a rusty wheelbarrow (wait--is that a sex act?) being used to haul about 300 pounds of fecal matter. His shining moment in this, you'd expect, would be a scene where he's got a servered head on a waffle cone, but later, he performs a puppet show with a pair of severed heads for an extended period of time. I don't want to question whether or not it's even possible to use a severed head as a puppet because that would ruin the magic of the whole thing.

Do you think Ron Howard has watched this movie? Here's what I want to see: a movie that is nothing more than Ron Howard watching this movie. And then, a sequel where Clint Howard watches the movie where Ron Howard watches his movie. And if that works, they can complete the trilogy by having Ron Howard and Clint Howard fight to the death. I might have to pitch this idea to somebody.

Anyway, that's really all I have to say about Ice Cream Man.

By Request: Beetlejuice


1988 comedy

Rating: 15/20 (Jen: 17/20; Emma: 15/20; Abbey: 11/20)

Plot: A recently-deceased couple has to live out part of their afterlife in the house they owned at the time of their deaths, and that means putting up with an annoying family who has moved in. After attempts to scare the new owners away fail, they call on the titular ghoul for help.

Why would you have Robert Goulet in a movie and not give him a song? That cost this movie a point right there. The combination of Robert Goulet and Dick Cavett in the same movie seems irresponsible, by the way. Just think for a moment about how dangerous that could have been.

At one point in this, a character informs us that "Live people ignore the strange and unusual." Tim Burton is a live person, as far as we know, but he's spent his entire career putting the strange and unusual on movie screens for us. As a fan of the strange and unusual, I can respect that. There's enough weirdness here, but it's not a refined weirdness. The Salvador Dali-esque landscape has some dopey special effects, but the stop-motion sand worm, like all the stop-motion creations in this, is really cool. The handful of appearances of the shrunken head guy (a cameo by Dan Hedaya) in that lobby behind that chalk-drawn door are great because that one facial expression he makes is perfect in every situation. There's a lot of creativity and color behind that door, but it's all a little goofy and seems like stuff that just sprang from a Burton brain that was a little out of control rather than something that was well planned. A run-over guy glides in to make a too-obvious "feeling a little flat" pun; Sylvia Sidney comes in to play a great old-lady character and have smoke come out of a slit in her neck; and Douglas Turner, in his lone acting role after making models for Chopping Mall, gets to play Char Man. There's fun to be had in those lobby scenes, like a brief Disney-style ride through Burton's head. I also like the dark comedy as the inexperienced ghosts--one of those Baldwin brothers and Geena Davis, an honorary Baldwin brother--try their hand at haunting for the first time, and their earlier death at a covered bridge. A covered bridge might seem like an unlikely place to die, but that's always seemed like the exact kind of place where you could be murdered. The Baldwin brothers' death also seems impossibly tragic, almost in a humorous way although there's really nothing funny about any of the Baldwin brothers dying. Except for maybe Stephen Baldwin.

Hey, I hate to interrupt myself like this, but I just thought of a fantastic idea. Fantastic ideas are rare, so I have to make sure I get this down somewhere. I'm not sure how this could be arranged, but I think Danny Elfman should score Stephen Baldwin's death. Elfman's work makes everything sound better, even the shittiest of Tim Burton's movies, and an Elfman composition would definitely help people get through the loss of Stephen Baldwin. Sure, the other seven Baldwin brothers and Geena Davis are going to be upset, but they'd at least get to enjoy something about the tragedy. Elfman's score is really good here in his second collaboration with Burton, especially with the stuff that plays over the credits and the sweep over the model of the town.

I've got to digress again because I'm wondering if Josh, the person who both requested a blog entry about Beetlejuice and let me borrow a 20th anniversary dvd copy of the movie, has seen Forbidden Zone. If not, he needs to stop whatever he's doing (reading this) and watch that. It might be the greatest movie of all time.

Another digression: The Baldwin Brothers is such a good band name that I'm sure it's already been taken by somebody.

Little thespian Tony Cox plays a preacher in this. But not even Tony Cox can overshadow what Michael Keaton does as Beetlejuice or however the hell they want to spell his name. He's like an undead Tom Waits. He's not in the first half of this movie much at all, and if you've seen this before, you really miss him. But from his first appearance, where he says the great line "I'll possess myself if I gotta," you know you're getting a special character. When the living human characters are all kind of annoying and Burton's screenplay seems like it's about to spiral out of control, Keaton gives this thing a nucleus and is entertaining every single second he's on the screen.

Halloween Movie Fest: The House That Drips Blood on Alex (short)


2010 horror short

Rating: n/r

Plot: Alex moves into his new house on 3 Blood Street, and it begins to drip blood on him.

I'll leave this here for anybody who hasn't seen this: http://www.cc.com/cc-studios/the-house-that-drips-blood-on-alex-starring-tommy-wiseau/tespbn/the-house-that-drips-blood-on-alex----starring-tommy-wiseau

The interest in this little comedy short is that Tommy Wiseau plays the titular guy who has blood dripped on him. He's not in control of this production, but in a way, he's in complete control of this production. It doesn't really matter what Wiseau is supposed to be saying or what his lines actually are because he's going to Wiseau them and turn them into something magical. This is supposed to be funny, and it is, and although I think Wiseau is in on the joke, I'm not really sure he's that in on the joke if you know what I mean. This is under 13 minutes long, but there's a whole lot of Tommy Wiseau packed into that 13 minutes, and if you're like me, that makes it worthwhile. Hell, it might be worth it just to hear him talking about a fancy pen ("I might as well be writing with a duck") or starting a story with "Back when I was a little girl." There are also a lot of close-ups of Wiseau's face if you're into that sort of thing. I know that one of my blog readers is.

I think I might watch this again.

Halloween Movie Fest: Hellraiser

1987 horror movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A married couple moves into the husband's brother's house. Coincidentally, the wife had a sexual relationship with that brother who also--coincidentally--bought himself a magic box and was sucked into a nightmarish alternate dimension of some kind. Some spilled blood brings the brother back into the world of the living, but he needs more in order to come back all the way. And if I write any more about this plot, I'm going to change my mind about the 15/20 that I'm giving this.

I'd never seen this or any of the 27 sequels. I don't really care if my horror movies are scary are not. I do want them to be creative, even if the amount of creativity that goes into the characters or storytelling pushes things into bizarre territories, and I want them to be darkly comic. I don't even care if the comedy is intentional or unintentional. Hellraiser definitely has bizarre and darkly comic covered, but it's also got more than it's fair share of scares. Start with the look of the creatures, sadomasochistic demons. Pinhead--a name that shows you how serious Clive Barker et. al. are about this whole thing--and the other Cenobites [By the way, has Pinhead and the Cenobites been taken as a band name? That would be a good one.] and one vaguely phallic thing that chases a cute Ashley Laurence down a corridor are imaginative creations. The "Chattering Cenobite" reminds me of something from Doctor Who, definitely not a guy you want to meet in a B-horror film. "Butterball Cenobite" looks like a guy I've played poker with a few times while the other, which I guess is supposed to be a chick Cenobite, doesn't look too goofy or terrifying in comparison--not much different than the character in that movie Powder. They wisely don't give the quartet enough screen time for you to get sick of them or for them to lose their novelty. Of course, if they're in the 27 sequels, that might change. Those cats are nothing compared to the monstrous Frank though. How about the incredible make-up job in this that makes it look like he's reverse-melting? Reverse-melting? I'm sure there's an easy everyday word for that, but I can't think of what it would be, so I'm sticking with reverse-melting. Nobody's reading this shit anyway. The blood in this thing might look pretty dopey at times, but they certainly nailed grotesque with the look of Frank. There's lots of gross imagery in this thing--random maggots, etc.--and there's often a perfect combination of special effects, sounds like cracking noises and squelching sounds, and score, especially during a great scene where the creature comes to life through the floor. Just all kinds of creepy coolness, the kind of stuff that I don't think anybody had seen before back in the late-80s. Of course, there are some questionable choices--the "Come to Daddy" catchphrase of Uncle Frank; Kirsty's first meeting with her uncle that turns comical and involves bewildered nuns and a slow-motion Frank voice; that fucking monkey that I swear was three times as loud as any other sound in this movie; a weird near-sex scene with an over-acting Clare Higgins screaming "I can't bear it! Please no!" (reminded me of my honeymoon actually) while Frank creeps out, cuts a rat open, and then leaves; another Higgins line that made me laugh--"Not me!"; a whole bunch of Frank's lines, especially in the awkward scenes where he's pretending to be the dad ("So much for the cat and mouse shit!"); some sound effects that make it seem like the characters are on a boat; a face with maggots coming out of it that was obviously included just for shock value; and did I mention that fucking monkey? There was also all this religious iconography and Frank's final line where he quotes the Bible's shortest verse for reasons that I didn't really understand. What's with all the religious stuff in this? Anybody?

I'm probably going to watch a couple more of these in the next couple weeks. I'm assuming they get worse. Hey! Let's make this a fest! Halloween Movie Fest!

The Fault in Our Stars


2014 cancer movie

Rating; 14/20 (Jen: 16/20; Emma: 16/20; Abbey: 14/20)

Plot: A couple kids with cancer fall in love.

I had no trouble connecting with this movie because just like the young characters in one key scene, I too become sexually aroused whenever I think about Anne Frank.

This movie isn't without its problems, and I liked the book better even though it had the same problems. The young leads were fine, but these characters are a little too sure of themselves, like protagonists in a Chuck Palahniuk novel. There's a nice rapport between Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort (he should get that changed), so I can almost understand why these two are going to be in every movie released from now on. Willem Dafoe is terrific as a reclusive and bitter author. He plays that character exactly like he should have been played, and the taste you get of that character with that performance almost makes you want a separate movie just about that guy. And faithful readers already know my feelings about Mike Birbiglia who gets a small role here as a group counselor. Things get overly sentimental here. It's like everybody involved with the production wanted to do everything possible to make the audience cry, but I wasn't falling for it. If I was a teenage girl, I think I would have liked this a lot more, but I had the teenage girl in me exorcised from me many years ago. There's a lovely story nearly submerged beneath all the muck, the kind of glossy gloom you could almost choke on, and the likable characters help keep you involved. Still, this is a look at cancer and young love that only Hollywood can deliver, and that scene in the Anne Frank house makes me laugh just thinking about it.

Speaking of Anne Frank and teenage hormones, how much of a fight do you think there was about the sex scene prelude in this? After the Anne Frank shenanigans, they should have just handled it with a train like Hitchcock would have.

Locke


2013 drama

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A guy drives and talks on the phone. Hands-free though. So back off, Christians! It's actually where Lincoln got the idea for those car commercials where Matthew McConaughey talks to himself.

Seriously, that's all that this is. A guy, the titular guy played by Tom Hardy, drives and talks on the phone. It's night time. There's music, but it's nothing more than wallpaper. Or upholstery, I guess. And you're just trapped in the car with this guy and his problems. And he has problems, all emanating from a one-time affair with a lonely woman that resulted in a pregnancy. He talks to an imaginary father in the backseat; that's the closest thing we have to a second physical character in this. He talks to co-workers on the eve of the biggest concrete pouring job in European history (or something like that). He talks to his sons about soccer and his wife about his mistake. And Hardy handles it all with this grace under pressure. It's such a quietly terrific performance. There's no bombast at all, but you can almost see the stress and the guilt oozing from him. It takes a special kind of performance to carry a movie with no other on-screen characters, and Hardy delivers just that performance. And it takes a special kind of screenplay to create a narrative the way this single-setting movie does--through snippets and pieces, unseen flashbacks, effects with yet-to-be-revealed causes. It's drama that sneaks up on you in a way that enhances the character and really makes you care about him, one that unfolds just how director Steven Knight wants it to unfold which is not quite like any other movie I can remember seeing. I've been trying to dig into my rudimentary understand of philosophy--my brother could tell you that I had a great Intro to Philosophy instructor at I.S.U.--to figure out if there's any reason why Hardy's character is named Locke. That's the tabula rosa guy, and Locke's concept of the self does have some connections to this Locke's story. His consequences are, at least in part, chosen by him because of his experiences as a child, so there might be some connection there. It doesn't really matter because this movie's really all about how one man is forced to man-up and deal with the Right Now.

I think I should watch every movie that Tom Hardy has been in. He's that good.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit


1988 marriage between live action and animation

Rating: 16/20 (Buster: no rating)

Plot: A detective reluctantly helps out a cartoon slapstick star after he's accused of murder.

Imagine Roger and Jessica having sex for a moment. That's why this movie can't be any higher than a 16/20. If I didn't have to imagine that, we're talking at least an 18/20. And you can't blame Lars von Trier for this kind of thing because I watched this before Nymphomaniac and spent the entire time looking for Jessica's animated cooter. So step off, Christians! This movie's characters are fun, and the noirish structure works because noir is a little cartoonish anyway. I'm not a huge fan of the actual story or especially the ending where things get a little too goofy (pun intended), but those characters are great. Bob Hoskins and Christopher Lloyd play stereotypes, but they play them so well that it doesn't matter. Jessica Rabbit almost looks too good, and Kathleen Turner's voice fits her very well. I'm still not sure how the Disney people gave the animators the OK to draw her "that way"--those legs, those absurd knockers, those lips--but who am I to argue. She's still a cheap whore, however, compared to Betty Boop who gets a cameo in this. Of course, I'm old school, so I'd always rather screw a black and white cartoon character over a color one. The cameos help keep this fun, even at their most forced, but this movie really could have used a little more Droopy. Roger himself is a character I hated when I first saw this. Especially that stutter. Not sure what my problem was because from the first moment you see him on the screen, he feels like a classic cartoon comedy icon--a Mickey or a Bugs or a Tom or Jerry. And I like those weasels a lot. Of course, the real star of this show is the effects to blend the animated characters with the flesh 'n' blood ones. Technically, this is nothing short of magical. There's a Disney motto that comes from this--"Bump the Lamp." It's used to push animators to go that extra step and create animated details that would probably not even be noticed by most people watching the movie but that would be appreciated by those who do. It comes from a scene where there's a swinging lamp that casts moving shadows over both humans and cartoons. It's the little stuff like this that you notice that really makes this something special. Sometimes wonder to yourself "How the hell are they doing that?", and I don't know about you, but that's one of my favorite questions to ask during a movie. There's a liveliness to the whole thing, colors and movements leaping off the screen. It's got more dimensions than Mary Poppins (though it's not as arousing, and I don't care how many Jessica Rabbit cooters you throw at me) or Bedknobs and Broomsticks although the tone isn't as whimsical. Is it unclear who the audience is? It's definitely not a five year old who should perhaps not be exposed to such oppressive animated breasts or double entendres. Anyway, it's a lot of fun.

By the way, did you know that that question marks in titles are considered bad luck? That's why this doesn't have one. It makes you wonder what kind of luck you get from using two exclamation marks and a question mark gets you or how well A Talking Cat!?! would have done if it didn't have them.

Dennis the Menace


1993 family comedy

Rating: I can't give this a rating because I haven't seen it in over 20 years. (Jen: "22 stars!")

Plot: The titular kid has to stay with his neighbors, the Wilsons, when his parents go away. There are shenanigans, and I think he helps stop criminals like in Home Alone.

Me: [typing about Nymphomaniac]
Jen: How come you've never written about Dennis the Menace?
Me: Because I haven't seen Dennis the Menace in over 20 years.
Jen: So? You should write about it anyway.
Me: Blogs didn't even exist when that movie came out.
Jen: I liked that movie. You should put it on the blog.

Back in 1993, Jen and I saw this movie at a dollar theater. I didn't like it, but she described it as "cute" which I think led to our first break-up. I'd have to check with my diary to verify that. Neither of us have seen it since 1993, but she apparently remembers it well enough to give it 22 stars. That's a lot of stars!

The kid who played Dennis was Dirk Calloway in Rushmore.

That's really all I've got.

Nymphomaniac: Volumes 1 and 2

2013 two-part epic

Rating: 16/20 (both parts)

Plot: Joe, the titular sexual dependent, recounts her sordid life to an old guy who enjoys reading.

Trollish Lars von Trier, the self-dubbed "best director in the world," is trying to raise the hairs on the backs of your necks, get your ire up more than getting anything else up, and there are times when that annoys me and times when it feels brilliant. He did it with a hilarious Nazi reference at a film festival, and he's doing it by showing us what it looks like when Shooby LeBoof has sexual intercourse. Part-poem, part-(over my head)-intellectualism, and part-pornography, Nymphomaniac probably does exactly everything that von Trier set out to do, and it does it in a succinct 4+ hours filled with relentless sexual imagery. As the two-part third part of a "Depression Trilogy," this is the one that seems most Trierish, possibly what he'd consider a magnum opus, but I'm not nearly smart enough to figure out how it ties in with either Antichrist or Melancholia. I'm assuming they're all personal statements of some kind, and with that in mind, I guess this one makes the most sense thematically of the three. There's a duality here with Gainsbourg's nymphomaniac and Skarsgard's asexual intellectual which just has to represent some kind of dueling polarities of an artist, right?

There are two narratives here that almost clash--Joe's mostly-chronological exploits and a story about how an old virgin is hearing about those exploits and interjecting by dropping knowledge about fly fishing, Bach, Edgar Allan Poe, the histories of the Eastern Church and Western Church, and mathematics. The former, as I said, is relentless and mostly humorless. Joe's story gradually grows darker and darker as she moves from her sexual awakenings and games on a train to consequences with her child, S&M, and criminal exploits. Joe's played by an impressive Stacy Martin when she's in her late teens to early 30's and by Charlotte Gainsbourg in most of volume 2's flashbacks or when she's talking to Skarsgard. The two actresses is an obvious choice because of the difference in age (Gainsbourg's got the type of face that can pass for 50 while there's no way you'd buy that about Martin no matter how much you Winona Ryderize her), but it works thematically, too. With Martin's Joe, there's a devious innocence, a fluffy apathy, and a childlike reckless abandon. With young Joe, there aren't really consequences even when Uma Thurman's character is all up in her grill trying to create consequences. With Gainsbourg's Joe, a little more guilt comes through. The laissez faire mentality is still there, but the character's lost a lot of the control (if not all of it) and the darkness in the Volume 2 chapters at least fooled me into thinking that there was regret and guilt. I don't know exactly what von Trier's trying to say about himself as an artist here and don't want to guess for fear of being completely wrong. And I just wrote that Volume 2 is darker than Volume 1, but I'm not sure that it is much darker. In the first, you've got a lot more about the relationship young Joe has with her father as they explore various trees, but the final moments with Christian Slater (only somewhat distracting as Joe's father) aren't exactly lighthearted. You've got the scene with Uma Thurman who is so angry here that she is almost unrecognizable. And you've got a scene that you'd have to describe as rape although since it ends with a shot of a young woman enjoying a bag of candy, its impact is lessened. In Volume 2, there's some blood, a gun, an argument between two well-endowed men, whippings. Maybe Volume 2 is just more superficially dark, and maybe you actually feel a little bit for the protagonist so that her moods affects the overall mood. Both parts have enough graphic sex to push this out of R-rated range, and you definitely don't want to watch it with your five-year-old child no matter how much of a Willem Dafoe fan she happens to be.

There are lots of shots of junk including a rather impressive penis montage, and there are all sorts of shots of simulated sex and actual penetration, but none of this--and I repeat, none of this--is the least bit arousing. The direction is too cold, detached, matter-of-fact, and the onslaught of sexual imagery is more likely to depress the viewer than turn anybody on. You wonder why von Trier went with sex here. My guess is that he thought he could get a bigger response than he would have been able to with violence or anything else that people generally respond to. I'd also guess that he's having a little fun with the hypocrisies of movie audiences. At one point, Skarsgard's character asks Joe, "Are you making fun of me?" I sort of wondered the same thing a few times as I watched this.

I do think there's a humor in this that a lot of people might be too distracted to recognize. I didn't laugh out loud at any point, but I did think a lot of this was very funny. I'd even describe it as a dark comedy. Just the idea of Skarsgard intellectualizing this sex addict's tell-all, pointing out those parallelisms to fly fishing or whatever, is funny, isn't it? The details of the masturbation jigsaw puzzle, the random and unlikely-to-be-true tidbit about how all the foreskins cut off in history would reach to Mars and back (right after the aforementioned penis montage), an episode in a restaurant involving a lot of spoons, and stock footage of quacking ducks after Skarsgard's "One hardly dare imagine the quacking duck" following Joe's description of the "silent duck" in a story. It feels like a little bit of slapstick in an otherwise dark story, one with an author who cynically philosophizes ("Love is just lust with jealousy added") and makes some of the most absurd intellectual connections while being just as much of a pretentious knob as he makes himself out to be with all his other work.

He might be a pretentious knob, but von Trier's films always look so good. This, like the other two movies in the trilogy, is filled with great imagery, and the music choices--also pretentious, except for a weird Rammstein song and maybe the Talking Heads track--often perfectly compliment the visuals. The acting is often very good, too. I still don't really know what to make of Charlotte Gainsbourg, but I really liked Stacy Martin. Especially her butt! I thought Shooby LeBoof was really good despite a sketchy accent, and Uma Thurman was electric during the short time she was on screen. And Skarsgard! Man, I could listen to that voice for hours. Just listen to the low rumble of his voice as he says "spontaneous orgasm" or feel his barely-contained excitement over "mathematical crap."

So what's this thing really about? There's a barely perceptible tension between Gainsbourg and Skarsgard as her story goes. She becomes frustrated with his digressions and even makes fun of one of them at one point ("That's your weakest digression yet.") while he appears to lose his objectivity and becomes almost agitated a couple times. And then, something happens at the end that almost seems like the punchline of a 4-hour joke. At that length, this seems a little indulgent, its pretensions might be unsettling, and a lot of what seems like loose ends are frustrating. But I really like how this one challenges, balls first (sometimes literally) and fearless. It's certainly not for everybody, but there's a reward for those willing to give it a chance. And that reward is not an erection unless statements about conflicting halves of an artistic soul get you going.

At least that's what I think this is about.

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure


1989 time travel comedy

Rating: 10/20

Plot: Two morons are in danger of failing history. That would cause a sequence of events leading to the break-up of their band which, somehow, would change the future. So George Carlin is sent in a Tardis to help out.

The makers of this didn't want to use a car because it would have reminded people of a DeLorean. Apparently, they hadn't seen any Doctor Who. This movie is too cheaply done and dumbly written to really be worth anybody's time. The titular characters are likable enough, but the humor is so easy that you wonder if Bill and Ted actually wrote the movie themselves. It could have been clever; they certainly had the right characters for it. Unfortunately, it all seems dumbed down for potheads and thirteen year olds. I was probably part of the intended audience for this when it came out--teenagers all ready to embrace Beavis and Butthead with open arms--but it didn't work for me then and works even less now.

Oprah Movie Club Pick for August: Gigli


2003 movie

Rating: 4/20 (Mark: 3/20)

Plot: A lousy hitman abducts a mentally-challenged kid, the brother of a district attorney. A lesbian with a rockin' bod is sent to keep an eye on him and make sure he doesn't screw the whole thing up. Shenanigans!

This movie grossed about five million dollars less than Jennifer Lopez was paid to sort-of act in it. And just over five million dollars less than what Ben Affleck, that douchebag on the poster up there, was paid. The hot couple made 24.5 million for this--highway robbery, if you ask me--and the movie made a little over 7 million. And poor Martin Brest has never worked again.

You almost have to wonder if this whole thing was made as an excuse to show a skimpily-dressed Jennifer Lopez doing yoga for ten minutes, just one of the many many scenes in this movie that were way too long. There are a myriad of problems with this notorious box office bomb, and I'm not sure that I can claim pacing is the worst of them. However, it's definitely one of the biggest issues with this thing. Along with the dialogue. And the acting. And the dreadful combination of that acting and that dialogue which almost makes this seem like the lines are translated and delivered by people who don't speak the language it was written in. And one of the worst scores you'll ever hear. And an almost baffling fatuity. And that rare case where you know exactly where the movie is going to go each step of the way, yet it still doesn't seem to make any sense.

How did Walken and Pacino get dragged into this? Were they promised front-row seats to watch Jennifer Lopez do yoga for ten minutes? Walken's appearance almost seems like an accident, like he showed up on the wrong set and just started doing his thing. I never quite figure out who is character is, why he's important to what little story there was at that point, or why he never popped into the movie again. But Walken delivers, doing a perfect impression of himself with this miniature monologue:

"Man, you know what I'd love to do right now? Go down to Marie Callender's, get me a big bowl, pie, some ice cream on it. Mmm-mmm good. Put some on your head! Your tongue would slap your brains out trying to get to it. Interested? Sure!"

You remember all those hilarious blooper reels at the ends of every Burt Reynolds' movie in the 80's? One of the characters would stumble over a line and then just start making noises that would inevitably end with a raspberry? That's almost what it seems like Walken did up there, almost like he was supposed to say something else but ended up messing up and just saying that but then didn't have the time to do a second take but everybody was cool with it because the whole thing just seemed so Walken, all those verbal twitches. "Put some on your head!" I can understand why Martin Brest would think that was brilliant. Walken's character is only in that one scene, and it's not long enough to give enough of a hint about what mental disorders he might have. I'm pretty sure his first line was an off-screen remark about a chicken, but I can't be sure.

And Pacino! At first, I just thought he was phoning it it, and I was fine with the guy just collecting a paycheck because he put so much of his soul into his best performances. However, Pacino phoning something like this in and essentially parodying himself is still more entertaining than most things you see in movies and anything in the dull story of the titular hitman, his gal pal, and a mentally-challenged rapper. It's barely more than a cameo, but it's enough to make you think he's about to leap through your television screen and bite your couch in half. At that point, no matter how hammy you could accuse Pacino of being in that scene, Affleck and J-Lo don't really deserve to be in the same room with him.

Let's talk about them. Affleck delivers what has to be the poorest performance of his career, a fast-food facsimile of a young gangster thug archetype, and you don't believe a word of the performance. You don't buy that he's got even a smidgen of tough guy in him, that his character actually has any heart, that he's straight, or that he can pour his own cereal and milk. Big Ben's doing an overblown gangster thing like all the other gangster actors in this, and it's the sort of thing that could make a person swear off these artificial gangster movies forever. Affleck just looks big and stupid in this movie, like a dopey-grinned cardboard cut-out of himself. Lopez certainly looks better--and kudos to the folks in charge of her wardrobe--but her acting is probably worse. I believe she's supposed to sound intelligent (surprisingly so, like it's some sort of extended joke that you never really get) and cool, but every single one of her lines sounds forced, like she has to squint to read her cue cards. And her character doesn't really make sense. What is she supposed to be? An assassin? A lesbian assassin? Brest throws in another random character (a second lesbian) to chew on any of the scenery that hasn't already been chewed on, I guess as a way to actually prove that Lopez isn't lying about her sexuality. But where's the part of the movie where we can confirm that she actually has any skills that would make somebody hire her to babysit a guy who is babysitting a handicapped teenager.

That handicapped teenager is played by The Hangover's Justin Bartha, and I don't know whether I'm supposed to laugh at it or not. I think the mental disability is played for laughs, but how can you really be sure? Would anybody really feel comfortable laughing at this in a crowded movie theater? Or, in the case of Gigli, a theater with you and one shady-looking fellow waiting for the yoga scene so that he can have a legitimate reason to take his dick out. I mean, he gets a couple rap songs ("Baby Got Back" and "I Need Love," both kind of awesome) and blurts out half-discernible curse words. There's also a scene where he's laughing at monkeys on a television that rivals the scene with Nicolas Cage laughing at monkeys on a television in Ghost Rider as the best scene where a character laughs at monkeys on a television of all time. And there's some comical dancing. So yes, this is a mental handicap played for laughs, and I'm not sure what this says about anybody involved--the writer/director, Bartha, the viewer, the guy who took his dick out. Note that I'm not complaining at all. I don't need my movies to be politically correct, and this offends in other ways a lot more. And who can complain when you get dialogue like this?

Character: Who the fuck are you?
Bartha's character: You the fuck are you?
Character: What?
Bartha: Huh?

Seriously, it's hard to believe that somebody actually sat down and wrote any of this dialogue. You'd think that any piece of modern technology would reject this sort of thing, lock up and not allow it to happen. Come on, Apple. You've got to step up your game and prevent the next Gigli! Of course, nothing Bartha says in this (and he says way too much) can compete with what is one of the most mind-blowing dialogue snippets ever heard on the silver screen:

"It's turkey time. Gobble gobble. Lay some of that sweet heterolingus on me."

I don't know if this was a written line, if it was improvised, or if it was sent from the gods above directly to J-Lo's lips, but it's movie magic.

Even if the dialogue and story and acting were any good at all in this, I think the music would ruin the thing all by itself. Now, John Powell's an award-winning director who seems to do a lot of music for animated features, and his other stuff might be just fine. This stuff, just a little too heavy to be elevator music, was a passive assault on the ears. And it was constant! Relentless! At one point, I wondered if I would rather hear an hour of this music or the two hours plus of the music with these inane characters having their inane conversations.

I did like one sound effect though: the sound of a plastic knife cutting a thumb off.

This was not a very good Oprah Movie Club pick, so I apologize for that. I really hope this doesn't ruin the club's chances of taking off. What I'm sure was supposed to end up like an intelligent crime black comedy fails so bizarrely that it actually does manage to be entertaining enough as a bad movie. I think it says a lot about Ben Affleck that he's been able to overcome the thing.

So Oprah Movie Clubbers--what did you think of this fucking movie? A misunderstood near-masterpiece? Turkey time?

Bad Movie Club: Creepozoids


1987 horror movie

Rating: 5/20 (Fred: 1/20; Josh: 5/20; Libby: 7/20; Ryan: didn't make it)

Plot: Survivors of World War III avoid some sort of acid rain situation by ducking into a seemingly abandoned warehouse only to discover it's occupied by some sort of creepozoid. That or the humans are actually the titular creepozoids in this. It was never all that clear to me.

This is a David DeCoteau joint, but there wasn't a single talking cat (?!?) in the thing. There was, however, a lot of similarities to Alien, enough that one could accuse DeCoteau of plagiarism. Of course, Alien had the ill-fitting underpants instead of the 1 1/2 shower scenes this one threw in, and there wasn't a killer baby. There's a possibility that I should have given you a [Spoiler Alert!] there because maybe the baby was supposed to be a surprise. Alien also had a lot fewer scenes that took place in shafts. I believe there were shafts in Alien, but the shaft in this movie got more screen time than Shaft did in Shaft. Creepozoids also doesn't take place on a claustrophobic spaceship. Instead, it takes place in a place where actors and actresses go to ruin their careers. Other than all that, this is pretty much Alien, right down to a disgustingly scary dinner scene although the nonsense in this one didn't really make any sense at all. One bad movie club member (a jockass) suggested that this reveals something about director DeCoteau, something about his fears of becoming a father, similar to what I've always suspected Eraserhead is really about but am likely wrong. If we want to psychoanalyze this, we should probably find better things to do, but there's definitely some interesting things going on here. You've got that shaft, characters returning to a womb, the whole baby thing, that shower scene, a catfight. I don't know what I'm even trying to say here because I distracted myself with visions of one of the most disturbing catfights you'll ever see. This has all the ingredients for an entertaining bad movie--terrible acting, grotesqueness, that shower scene I can't stop mentioning, a low budget, poor screenwriting--but it doesn't add up to anything that we haven't seen before. I was fond of multiple references to the creepozoid's fecal matter and one scene where he appears to urinate on a victim. And Linnea Quigley, the star of that aforementioned shower scene, has quite the scream on her. Quigley was the gal impaled on an antler in Silent Night, Deadly Night, and Bad Movie Club also apparently saw her in Dead Heat. There was also a male character who was a little louder than the other male characters and got the silliest lines. I didn't catch his name, but all the characters were interchangeable anyway. But this guy got to say "Let's hump it!" and "More than three shakes and you're wankin' it," both which show off that combination of genius writing and great performance. A halfway-decent looking alien thing, a grotesque baby with a very realistic umbilical cord, and a great early-80's score help keep this entertaining although it's not exactly a classic good-bad movie. Oh, and did I mention that there's a shower scene?

The Institute

2013 documentary

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Artists dick around with people, sending them on a wild goose chase sans goose. Thousands of participants try to figure out what to believe and trust from the mysterious Jejune Institute, the titular organization which might be a cult or a game or a little of both.

I guess what frustrated me was that I wasn't sure what the heck I was supposed to do with any of this. Was I supposed to figure something out? Was I supposed to be enlightened somehow? Was I supposed to laugh or cry? It sort of feels like a puzzle that's already been assembled for you. You open up the box, and the puzzle pieces are already almost where they're supposed to be. But only almost because things seem askew or incomplete. This wasn't great storytelling, but it's hard to tell if that's part the point. The participants interviewed were descriptive enough about the experience that their feelings behind the whole virtual reality deal were clear. However, I never really got a grasp on what was going on, and just couldn't piece any narrative thread together. If the point of that was to make the viewer of this documentary feel as lost and/or confused as the participants in this little game, it didn't really work well enough. There were times when I was a little bored rather than delightfully befuddled. Still, I really like the idea of the whatever-it-is in general, and a few of the characters were a lot of fun to watch. An actor/self-help-guru who came along at the end and helped bring everything to some sort of conclusion played his role perfectly, and my favorite part of the documentary might have been when he cracks a little joke at a seminar. No, my favorite part was the part with the guy in the red jumpsuit dancing to music coming out of a boom box. Of course, if a guy dancing to music coming out of a boom box is part of any movie, it's likely to be my favorite. And that's especially true if a Sasquatch is involved or if there's a mention of inter-dimensional hopscotch. This could have worked a lot better, but it was an interesting enough movie about an interesting social experiment and worth watching for people fascinated by that sort of thing.

Question: Is the "Eva" mentioned in this even a real person? It all feels so hoaxy, but if this whole thing was really put together as a tribute to an actual person, I might have a little more respect for the whole thing. I don't know why because I respect a lot of absolutely meaningless things.

The Karate Kid III

1989 sequel

Rating: 8/20

Plot: Upon returning to America, Daniel Macchio and Mr. Miyagi start a bonsai tree business because that's just the sort of thing that would take off. Meanwhile, Sensei Kreese wants revenge and calls on an old friend, a ponytailed rich-boy douche, to help him. Daniel finds himself forced into defending his title in the All Valley Tournament where the cartoonish bad guys have devious plans to pummel and embarrass him. Hopefully, Mr. Miyagi will teach him something that seems worthless but will actually help give this movie the happy ending it deserves.

Well, at least Mr. Miyagi gets a chance to beat on some punks. I'm not sure he does it in a way that is really all that consistent with his character from the previous two movies though. I mean, what's Daniel supposed to learn when watching his mentor mock his opponent by imitating his chirping. The only thing this movie really gets right is the very brief training montage with that terrific music and all those seagulls. Our titular hero has all his usual problems in this, but in this one, he's also pudgy and doesn't know how to shut up. I'd love to see a page of this script just to check out the ratio of Daniel-san words to other characters' words. It's got to be around 9 to 1 though. And there's a scene where he goes absolutely apeshit over some macaroni and cheese. Macchio also has to overcome some sketchy special effects when he and his third love interest in three movies are repelling to retrieve a bonsai tree. Maccho's got three total gears as an actor here. He's got those scenes where he's likable because he has more boyish charm than a 45-year-old actor should have. He's got the scenes where he's exasperatingly and awkwardly afraid. And he's got scenes where he's just really loud. It's not a very good performance. And for the second movie in a row, this needed more Mrs. Larusso. She's in this very briefly along with a new character--Uncle Louie, so pitiful with his coughing and his bell. I don't know about anybody else who has ever watched this, but I kind of wish Uncle Louie had his own spin-off movie. He's played by Joseph V. Perry who has 174 credits on imdb. Still, this movie, one in which he only coughs and rings a bell, is the first he's "known for" according to that website. The character who almost singlehandedly brings this into good-bad-movie territories is ponytailed and prickish Terry. Unfortunately, he's more obnoxious than entertaining although there are definitely some moments. His ridiculous assholery makes it hard to believe that somebody involved in this production didn't stop everybody and say, "Wait a second. We really aren't going to use any of this footage, are we?" His thugs are also comically malicious, like guys in an Archie comic strip going a little too far. Terry's Bruce-esque bird noises are pretty awesome, but almost everything any of bad guys have to say is embarrassing. The sublime "Get him a body bag! Yeah!" (probably voted #1 in some greatest movie line ever--I'm too lazy to look it up and verify it) during the tournament scene in the first movie is replaced with "Hey, Danny Boy, how are the family jewels, eh?" which just doesn't stack up. Terry the Prick gets far too many asides, mostly directed toward a quiet and stoic Kreese, stuff like "I love it when he pounds him" that really adds nothing. Snake does get a great "Attaboy, Luther" moment when he says, "Hit him, Mike. He's hallucinating," while Daniel is doing whatever he is doing at the end of the match. They also decided to bring racism into this, probably unnecessarily, when the bad guys start referring to Mr. Miyagi as a slope. The best line the bad guys get belongs to, appropriately, Terry, one that precedes the scene where Miyagi starts kicking ass: "Did you see that trail? I think he peed in his pants." I think it's the added preposition that makes that borderline magical.

You know, I didn't even think I'd ever seen this movie, but it was all very familiar when I watched it. Apparently, I had repressed it.

And yes, I will be watching the fourth installment eventually. I know for a fact that I've not seen that one.

Also--I'd recommend the Karate Kid cartoon, available on Netflix. It's pretty special.

Insidious

2010 horror movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Possessed kid.

It's the ethereal voice of Tiny Tim that sold this one to me. Demons popping on "Tiptoe through the Tulips" on scratchy vinyl doesn't make any sense at all, but I think this one is a little tongue in cheek anyway. And that's really how I like my horror movies--with a generous amount of humor. Insidious brings the scares--and there are loads of skin-crawling moments--the way a horror movie should, by effectively and (yes) insidiously setting a vibe and then maintaining consistency with the use of creepy visuals and a great use of sound and music and not with silly make-up or special effects trickery. Along with the use of Tiny Tim, that's something you have to give Saw-director James Wan credit for. Don't get me wrong. There's still some cheapness and there's still a few tired tricks, but even though very little of this feels like anything we've not seen before and even though a poltergeist-thin plot didn't always make much sense, this somehow manages to add up to something that works. There is a shift in this that I'm really not sure if I liked, and that's when the ghostbusters or whatever the hell Tucker and Specs were supposed to be came in. They brought a different sort of humor on their own, but things came even more alive with the appearance of Lin Shaye's Elise. In a way, I welcomed the shift because the main characters were never all that interesting. The guy was a teacher who stayed at school under the pretense of grading tests, so I could identify with him, but what was the point of making the mother a musician? I really doubt anybody would fault this for being overly structured or too well thought out. The demonic presence never had enough palpability to carry this either, so Elise and her associates did probably come along at just the right time. Insidious has a great visual style and puts you right there with these boring people being assaulted by fiends, and the disturbing score and use of sound effects enhance that experience. It's not a horror movie classic exactly, but I'd recommend it for October viewing and am interested to see where they go with the sequels.

Godzilla


2014 monster movie

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Godzilla fights MUTOs in San Francisco.

I used that poster because it shows about as much of the titular monster as the movie. Now, I'm not a child. I don't need a bunch of monster fighting, special effects destruction and mayhem, and explosions to enjoy a movie. However, this is a Godzilla movie, ostensibly, and you sort of expect certain things. This reboot can't seem to decide if it wants to be a Godzilla movie, something fun and a little goofy and completely unafraid to show you something ridiculous or something entirely different, modern and way too serious and bloated with that artificial heart and soul that only Hollywood thinks we like. This makes you wait and wait, and then you finally get to see the star of the show. And he looks pretty badass and sounds even better, but after the climactic battle that takes place in the murky urban darkness, you're a little underwhelmed. I think part of the problem is that I didn't like the MUTOs, Godzilla and humanity's foe in this. I didn't like their shape, their movements, their abilities, or their stupid name. Maybe--just maybe--if they would have given me a MUTO sex scene, I could have fallen in love with the duo, but they were hardly anything you're going to remember. I was interested to see what Bryan Cranston would do in this after creating one of the most iconic television drama characters of all time, and what he does is teeter on the edge of overdoing things, almost embarrassingly. He overacts; there are times when he seems to be trying to out-growl Godzilla. The human side of this Godzilla story causes it to drag, and I really trouble caring about any of them or having any interest in what they were trying to do. Especially Aaron Taylor-Johnson, the big hero, who seemed like he accidentally stumbled out of Pacific Rim or any other generic action movie into this one. I'm pretty sure I could like a movie this long (read: too long) with the low percentage of monster fighting scenes if the subplots involving the humans were interesting at all. They weren't, and it's a main reason this didn't work. I'll say this though--they did get that Godzilla scream right, and the score for this thing was outstanding. I'll definitely see sequels to this because they can't have monsters any less interesting than the MUTOs, but I'd much rather spend my time with the old stuff. They carry about the same emotional weight while having a lot more scenes where monsters are allowed to be monsters. I really missed watching a guy in a rubber suit destroying miniatures during this.

Bad Movie Club: Attack of the Beast Creatures


1985 horror movie

Rating: 5/20 (Jeremy: 3/20; Fred: 2/20; Josh: 1/20; Libby: didn't make it)

Plot: Shipwreck survivors end up on a mysterious island filled with acid streams and some terrifying puppets, part-beast and part-creature. How will any of them survive the nibbling?

Look at these fuckers:


For the longest time, nothing was happening in this movie except for lots of walking and some berry-eating. Oh, and somebody fell into the acid stream. And then, you get beast creatures. However, the first time they attack, it's dark and they're difficult to see. I expected to be cheated, expected that the makers of the redundantly-titled Attack of the Beast Creatures were going to hide their low budget and laughable effects with darkness. I wasn't sure we were going to get a good glimpse of the beast creatures at all. I'm so glad I was wrong:


Josh pointed out that they look like little orange Tommy Wiseaus, something that could actually make this the most terrifying movie ever made. Well, at least until you see them running, something that the producers of this also aren't too shy to show you multiple times. I honestly couldn't tell you how the effect is pulled off, but it looks similar to a Muppet running in fast motion. I have a feeling that director Michael Stanley and his special effects wizards worked really hard to perfect the effect, so hard that they felt the need to make their effort worth it by giving "beast creature running" about fifteen minutes of screen time. It made me giggle every single time. The little guys aren't really all that menacing. The attack scenes in this start with shots of them sitting in trees or lurking behind bushes, and they're about as intimidating as your average squirrel. When they attack, you're treated to shots of the actors holding them against themselves and jerking around a little bit. That, or you're treated to a close-up where the beast creatures jaw moves up and down while it gnaws on the victim's skin. And no, that's not nearly as grotesque or horrifying as it sounds. It's definitely not as grotesque or as horrifying as the acting in this. The worst offender is John Vichiola as Mr. Morgan, a guy whose character arc moves him from perpetually grumpy to rabid and flailing. The second most interesting character is Case Quinn, but he's only interesting because it appears from almost the beginning of the movie that he has shat in his white pants. And we Bad Movie Clubbers have the mentality of 8-year-olds, and can't let something like that go. When a movie's second most interesting character is the movie's second most interesting character because it kind of looks like he's shit himself, said movie probably doesn't have any interesting characters. Attack of the Beast Creatures doesn't, and those characters' decisions don't make much sense either. The entire movie has the characters moving to higher ground, apparently because that would give them a better chance to defend themselves against the beast creatures. It takes them about three days, it seems, but when they realize that plan won't work and decide to return to the shore, it takes about five minutes. You're not really watching this one for the plot (barely existent) or characterization, but some terrible acting and dialogue and those titular little fuckers make it worth it.

Moonraker


1979 James Bond space adventure

Rating: 12/20

Plot: 007 has to figure out who's behind the theft of a space shuttle, and it turns out to be a bearded fellow with evil plans to destroy most of humanity to start again and create a master race of humans. Meanwhile, Eegah.

First, that poster is bitchin' but misleading. Bond never wears aluminum foil pants. I'd wanted to see this Bond movie for a while and felt that Kiel's recent passing was enough of an excuse. Jaws isn't the bad guy to watch for in this, however. No, that's Michael Lonsdale's Hugo Drax. I mean, just look at that name! That's a good bad guy name! He's got the bad guy stance down, too, a humorless, cocky and slightly effeminate posture with his hands always behind his back. And you have to give the guy credit for thinking big although I'm not sure how nobody knew the guy was building a giant sex space station. Drax also is guilty of the old super villain cliche where he's too concerned with coming up with ingenious deaths for the good guys instead of just having them shot in the head. Why just shoot somebody in the head (so boring) when you can make this fake stone platform that your enemy might stand on at some point which will enable you to toss him into a pond with a giant snake? Or why would you just want to shoot somebody in the head when you can trap him beneath the titular space shuttle as it takes off and incinerates him? Drax does admit that he wants an "amusing death" for Bond though. The return of Kiel's Jaws, although a welcome sight, really stretches the limits of ridiculousness. It's still great to see the look on Moore's face whenever Kiel shows up, and I like the way those two clash, but they've really got Kiel doing some stupid things in this movie. He's dressed as a clown and loses all menace in the frenzy of color in Rio de Janeiro's street festivities. There's cable car nuttiness directly followed by a scene where Jaws actually falls in love. There's also a scene where Jaws is kneed in the crotch, and the sound effect for that is a metallic clang. I'm not sure what they're insinuating there, and although I initially wanted to make fun of it, I'm now thinking it might be the best thing in the world. Jaws also gets a single line in this movie, and I think it would have been a better move to just let the guy be a mute. He also waves, gaily. Love can do strange things to a giant men with metal teeth, I guess. I did like his first appearance in the movie, a plane shove followed by a shot of his teeth front and center. A free-falling chase scene is an awesome start that not even Shirley Bassey's crappy theme song can ruin. The first two-thirds of this movie is typical Bond stuff with some cool locales--Rio de Janeiro, the canals of Venice--before they apparently just said, "Fuck it, let's see what these characters look like weightless." Things gradually got sillier and sillier, but there's one moment when Bond and Dr. Holly Goodhead (ahem) are sitting in the cockpit (ahem) of one of the shuttles, and Moore gives her this look that seemed to say "Are we really going through with this shit?" There were cutesy mainstream sci-fi musical references and one very strange scene that used the theme from The Magnificent Seven, stuff that should have foreshadowed the later silliness. And when James Bond floating around in space and teaming up with Jaws isn't the silliest thing in the movie, then Houston, we have a big problem. No, the silliest scene in this movie and perhaps the most embarrassing scene in any James Bond movie takes place in Venice where Bond's gondola turns into a car and moves through the streets (Wait, Venice doesn't have streets...) while birds and dogs do double takes. This is right after they wasted a character, a cool knife guy who pops out of a coffin in the canal. That assassin had about ten seconds of screen time but needed twenty minutes. He was much better than the goofy-looking henchman who lurks around the first half of this before Jaws comes along again. Guy looks like a vaguely-Asian Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite. There is a really good hand-to-hand combat scene between Asian Pedro and Moore that uses a cool setting and a creative use of props. This isn't the most logical or well-written Bond movies, but it was better than I thought it would be and did keep me entertained for the most part. And I may have given the whole thing a bonus point for an "attempting reentry" pun which is simultaneously predictable and awesome.

Goldeneye

1995 Bond movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: James Bond tries to save the world from bad people.

This is one I wanted to watch for the score after reading about how Eric Serra, the guy who gave The Fifth Element its cool score, provided a score for the movie that was much maligned. I liked it, especially when it was at its most minimalist, but might agree that it's the type of thing that would probably make most Bond fans uncomfortable. I did like the sneaky touches of the Bond theme used throughout. I also liked the theme song sung by Tina Turner and written by people in U2, those terrorists who put songs on my phone. I've never been sure how I feel about Pierce Brosnan as Bond. He's cool enough, but there's something a little too pretty-boyish about him. The humorous touches in this, for whatever reason, seem a little more natural with him though. Honestly, it doesn't matter to me who plays Bond anyway. The character's got this ability to stay the same regardless who's running around on these convoluted globetrotting missions, sleeping with anything that moves and escaping from situations preposterously. He globetrots in this a bit, and he gets to have fun in a variety of vehicles. We start off with a ridiculous action sequence featuring a motorcycle and a plane. No, actually we start off with a really cool bungee-jumping scene that features this ridiculously awesome overhead shot. Then, it's the scene where 007 and 006 are trying to blow up some Russian shit, a mission which climaxes with the aforementioned motorcycle/plane shenanigans. The best thing about that early scene? A squeaky wheel, a great sound effect in a sequence that is otherwise silent. So good. Anyway, I was talking about vehicles. Brosnan shows off in a car, uses a tank in a chase scene with expected destructive results, and has a little bit of fun on a train. There's also some nutty gadgets showcased in an extended scene with Q, and although some people think those are a little goofy, I always like them, probably because I'm a little goofy. Bond movies are only as strong as their movies, and the collection of baddies in this is solid. The main bad guy, who I won't tell you is 006 because I wouldn't want to spoil anything, adds a little more depth to the conflict. Gottfried John classes things up a bit as platypus-nosed Ourumov. But the real star of the show is Famke Janssen as the fetching Xenia Onatopp, a yummy but ruthless gal seemingly with a violence fetish. Her over-the-top moaning when she's up to no good? Her preferred method of assassination? Let's just say I wouldn't mind being killed by her. There's one scene where she says, "He's going to derail us," and I'm not sure how the line was written, but her delivery and sly little smile, almost like she's aroused by the idea, is just great. It's characters like Onatopp that make you stop worrying about the somewhat-confusing scheme involving the titular weapon. Oh, and the results of one of her jobs--the expression of a deceased Captain Farrell--made me chuckle. Joe Don Baker also pops in to Joe Don Baker things up. All in all, Goldeneye is another solid Bond movie with that color in the title.

Idiocracy


2006 comedy

Rating: 11/20 (Jen: fell asleep)

Plot: Owen Wilson's brother and Minnie Ripperton's kid are used in an Army hibernation experiment for reasons that I don't remember, and after a big scandal, they are forgotten. 500 years later, they awaken and find a society so dumbed-down that they actually seem like geniuses. Owen Wilson's brother becomes part of the president's cabinet and tries to solve an agriculture problem while keeping his eye out for a time machine that will take him back to his time.

This isn't as funny or as consistent as Office Space, a movie that isn't as funny as its fans seem to think it is. This seems to have a following based solely on the fact that it's a Mike Judge joint, but although it's at times almost clever and the 12-year-old inside me (that doesn't sound perverse, does it?) did giggle at the de-evolution of the Fuddruckers franchise and every time the words "ass" or "balls" were mentioned, the whole thing seems like a half-assed execution of a pretty good idea. The special effects are also so poor that they get in the way of the storytelling. And the storytelling isn't great anyway, just there as a backdrops for the jokes really. Gags either don't last long enough or don't have enough ideas (the inaccurate histories of the time machine at the end of the film) or go on too long (the monster truck rehabilitation), and it really seems like Judge and whoever else was involved wrote a first draft and then refused to cut or rewrite anything. This should really be a lot better than it is. Balls.