Bad Movie Club: The Creeping Terror

1964 sci-fi horror

Bad Movie Rating: 5/5 (Johnny: 1/5; Libby: 2/5; Kristen: 1/5; Josh: 2/5; Fred: 4/5)

Rating: 2/20

Plot: A giant carpet is moving around slowly and devouring people.

This is sadly Vic Savage's lone venture into filmmaking. It's pretty special. The obvious thing to talk about would be the monster, a unwieldly lumbering creature with inexplicable anatomy that makes the greatest sound effects I think I've ever heard a monster eat. You have to love a monster that, at one point, fucks a car.

What the hell is that thing? Oh, and here's the semi-pervy way it eats:

I guess it's not eating in a semi-pervy way. It's more the direction that could be described as semi-pervy.

Arguably, the best bad thing about this movie is the narration. You see characters clearly talking in a lot of scenes, but instead of hearing them, a narrator comes in and just summarizes their conversation. It's really great.

I also liked the music which I'm sure was ripped off from other fine pieces of cinema.

The pace is excruciating, but it's almost in a good way. We see the monster right off the bat, and then there's a tedious series of scenes where the monster wreaks havoc. It's redundant, but not as redundant as a dance club sequence that pads the length of this by about 20 minutes.

I hadn't seen this notoriously bad movie and thought it was classic good-bad movie stuff. Most of the other BMCers didn't agree.

Moscow on the Hudson

1984 comedy

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A Russian guy immigrates to New York City.

This was recommended to me by a person who had immigrated to New York City from Russia. That person told me that it was an accurate look at the experience and that Robin Williams, although he has a "heavy accent," does a really good job with the Russian he speaks in the movie.

There are a pair of grandfathers in this, and they were my favorite characters, as old people often are.

My favorite piece of dialogue:

"I defected."
"You can't do that here. The men's room is downstairs."

I'd like to see a spin-off movie about the little person who worked at the circus with Robin Williams' character.

This movie was likable.

Time Travel Movie Fest: Mine Games

2012 thriller

Rating: 10/20

Plot: Weird stuff begins happening to a group of friends on vacation after they explore a mine.

This is also called The Evil Within apparently, and although that's an awful title, it's at least not a pun. Mine Games? C'mon, movie.

Here's a brief list of reasons why I didn't like Mine Games, other than the punnish title:

1) Obnoxious characters. I don't like the generation younger than mine, and this collective, especially Rafi Gavron who played Lex (not a real name unless you're a bald Superman villain), are the type of kids who can turn a guy misanthropic. There was a scene where one of them suggested playing the "silent game," and I was all for it.

2) They're also really stupid characters, criminally dumb. They look for lost wallets in places they haven't even been, yet they somehow know the word "ouroboros," the snake-eating-its-own-tail symbol.

3) Pabst Blue Ribbon product placement. Pabst Blue Ribbon must be the official beer for assholes.

4) A "double rainbow" reference.

This movie didn't make a lot of sense, and as it lost realism, I lost interest. It's clumsy and takes entirely too long to build to anything. Once it builds to something, that something just isn't worth the trouble.

Gregory Peck's grandson is in this, by the way. I'm sure he would be proud.

Mission: Impossible II

2000 sequel

Rating: 10/20

Plot: Tom Cruise's character from the first Mission: Impossible movie runs off to Australia to fall in love and stop somebody from putting a dangerous biological weapon in the wrong hands.

The franchise shifts from Brian de Palma to John Woo and from Danny Elfman to Hans Zimmer, and neither change is a good one. I really kind of hated this movie, mostly because it doesn't even feel like a follow-up to the first movie in the franchise. It doesn't seem like Tom Cruise is even playing the same character, just another character that Tom Cruise could play adequately who is in a similar story. The romantic subplot does nothing but get in the way or make this feel like a James Bond clone. And with Woo bringing his hyper-stylized approach into the proceedings, this doesn't even feel like the same world.

The action scenes are ludicrous. No, you can't expect the good guys to ever get shot, but you can at least expect some close calls. There's never tension here because the bad guys are about the most inept collective that you'll find in a movie like this. The bad guys might as well not even have any weapons. The action sequences are filled with action movie cliches as well as what you have to call John Woo cliches. And yes, I'm talking about the doves. Fucking birds! There's so much slow motion in this movie that if you removed it all, the movie would be about an hour and fifteen minutes. Cars, during one of the most ludicrously pointless car chases you'll ever seen after Cruise meets Nyah, spin around in slow motion. Characters run in slow motion, punch in slow motion, dive in slow motion, get thrown twenty feet through the air in slow motion, eat peas in slow motion. Oh, and birds scatter in slow motion because of course they fucking do! What the hell is with the birds, Woo? You also get gunfight conversations, the kind of thing that really only Tarantino and maybe a few others can get away with. Tom Cruise, who spends the opening credits climbing a mountain for no reason at all, screams things like "I'm not going to lose you!" He does flips in midair before opening parachutes, probably because he was glancing at the storyboard and said, "Woo, this isn't how a Scientologist would do this. A Scientologist would totally do a flip right here."

See? Woo is just fucking with us!

The story for M:I2 (what the cool kids call it) isn't worth anybody's time. If it's not a story that's appeared in a movie before, I'd be surprised. But it's the little touches that make it completely idiotic, and this would probably have been as good as the first movie if it wasn't for the stupid masks in this. Things start with a Tom Cruise mask, and masks factor into things throughout this. It's just so stupid, the kind of thing that makes me mad just thinking about it. Much madder than I should be since I have no real attachment to this franchise. The story moves slowly, probably so that Woo can have enough space to show off how stylish he can be. At one point, Luther is working on a computer and Cruise says, "Isn't there any way we can speed this up?" Considering we had another slow motion scene juxtaposed with the boring computer work, I was actually asking the exact same question. 

More annoying than the slow motion--the Zimmer score. There's all this terrible vocal music, but it's bad enough to compliment the slow motion sequences, I guess. 

A question: Were the sunglasses in this an example of product placement? It seemed like they might have been, but I've never worn sunglasses and couldn't tell if it was a particular brand or not. I'm sunglasses illiterate. 

Best scene in the movie, one that actually aroused me: a sequence where we see Chimera infecting the blood. That was hot. The rest of this movie was blandly stylistic. 

It won't stop me from seeing the third installment though, but it's only because I want to see the new one where Tom Cruise hangs from an airplane. 

Time Travel Movie Fest: The Time Machine

2002 sci-fi movie

Rating: 11/20

Plot: Pretty much the same as this one. Only it's different.

The perfect example of a movie that just keeps getting worse as it goes. I'm not familiar enough with the H.G. Wells' novel to know whether this or the George Pal one from 1960 is more faithful to his book. This pays homage to the 1960 film with some visual references--including the mannequins that I liked so much in the first movie--but the story evaporates and becomes a dumb action movie by the end. Maybe it's unfair, but I just expect a movie adapted from a classic sci-fi novel to be way more intelligent. They bring in Jeremy Irons near the end of this to class things up, but his costume and make-up are too goofy to take any of his scenes seriously.

There's just something sticky about the way 21st Century movies handle the past. It's like a newly-painted room that just doesn't look natural, a room that you know isn't lived in. I can't buy the look of the 19th Century in this movie, and when the computer animators come in to create the near future and then the far-far future, I can't really buy any of that either. The CGI gets really spotty once creatures are involved. And man, those Morlocks are just wrong. What is this supposed to be?

And then, here's Jeremy Irons--a smoky albino.

I don't think H.G. Wells would like this at all.

Guy Pearce plays our protagonist in this version, and he's doing it all for love, absurdly. I always forget that Guy Pearce even exists, but I've liked him in things. Here, he acts with his mouth perpetually agape. For whatever reason, I was completely distracted by Guy Pearce's mouth. There are scenes when you could have fit an entire Madonna in there.

By the way, I'm being haunted by Ecclesiates 1:4--"Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever." There was a reference to that verse somewhere in this movie [Is it on a New York landmark? I think it was in the landmark graveyard in this movie.] and it was mentioned in a book about Hemingway that I was reading, probably because he used it in The Sun Also Rises. Same day and everything. I think God (or Solomon) is trying to tell me something.

Time Travel Movie Fest: The Time Travelers

1964 sci-fi movie

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Scientists get stuck in a bleak future where a limited number of humans are trying to solve their mutant problem.

This movie is exactly 9 years older than I am. We share a birth date. We're both Scorpios.

This was written and directed by Ib Melchior, the guy who did The Angry Red Planet and wrote Death Race 2000, Robinson Crusoe on Mars, Journey to the Seventh Planet, Reptilicus, and Planet of the Vampires, all movies that I enjoyed in some capacity. I have a thing for these 60's sci-fi movies, the ones that brag about being in color on their posters. I think it's the color that makes the scientific ideas seem even more quaint.

Things start slowly with a lot of talking in a laboratory with our actors pretending to be doctors. The opening scene in the lab was so lengthy that I actually started to wonder if the entire movie was going to take place in the lab, like Rear Window. Eventually, they venture into the future--Buster Keaton style--and things get more interesting with some futuristic cannibalistic mutants who look a little like dirty orange-tinted Hare Krishnas. There's some of that 60's sci-fi fun (in color!) with a musical score that is often too chipper, a look at an android factory with all these dopey rubber masks, and a woman running her hands over a colorful theremin-like instrument which I think they called a Loomycord. The ending is befuddling enough but just challenging enough to be interesting. I think my favorite thing is how antiquated some of the effects seem. This has a couple scenes, including one that features the removal of a head, that seem almost like magic tricks, special effects that likely could have been pulled off in the 1920s. And, of course, I love how the earth was destroyed with stock footage. I've always assumed that stock footage would be our downfall as a species.

For a B-movie, the acting isn't really all that bad. It's not all that good either though. The exception would be Steve Franken who plays Danny, an electrician who winds up time traveling with the doctors accidentally because the writers of this decided they wanted both some comic relief and romance. Franken's performance isn't terrible, but the character is obnoxious, screaming out "It isn't just a pictha!" and dancing around like a kid as he stumbles into the futuristic wasteland. He gets other great lines, too ("Now I know how a roasting chicken feels."), and says "Holy McKee"--apparently McKee was his last name--at least three times. Who uses his own last name as an interjection?

Time Travel Movie Fest: Army of Darkness

1992 sequel to one of the greatest movies ever made

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

Plot: Ash, following the events of one of the greatest movies ever made, is zapped to the 14th Century where he finds himself on a quest to retrieve the Necronomicon from a graveyard and later in the middle of a battle against an undead army. Groovy.

I hadn't seen this in a while and actually thought I disliked it more than I do. Dylan and I watched Evil Dead II around the end of 2014, and he's actually just a little older than I was when I first saw this. Though it's not nearly as good as the second installment in Raimi's trilogy, it's a lot of fun and made me even more excited to see the upcoming television series.

Anyway, this deserved Movie A-Go-Go treatment, so here we go--my thoughts as I watched Bruce's adventures in the past:

Man, I love the animation for that book. What is the most iconic book in cinematic history? Necronomicon has to be in the running.

“It came back--big time.” Such an Ash line. As disappointed as I was in this movie in the early 90s, it was so good to spend more time with this character.

That shot of the car and Ash falling simultaneously in slow motion is so good.

“Where the hell?” Only Bruce Campbell could deliver that line in that way.

Wise men in movies always have long beards. I’m not sure what this says about wisdom or about beards, but I think it says something. The patchy thing I grow that I call a beard--only because there's not really another word--just sort of stops after a while. I guess I have no chance of being a wise man.

“Well, hello Mr. Fancypants!” I laugh every single time.

That slow silent zoom to the pit pre-epic-blood-spurt. That kind of shot is Raimi’s contribution to movie vocabulary. Raimi gives you a chance to inhale and hold it in and ready yourself for whatever's about to happen.

Camera movements imitating Ash’s looking around. I just love what Raimi does with the camera in these movies.

When you expect a giant bloodthirsty monster and get an ugly woman delivering punches. What the hell did she do to the other guy to make him lose that much blood, by the way?

When that chainsaw connects after the Wise Man throws it into the pit. I would have cheered in the theater. Nothing about it makes any sense at all, but just try to convince me that that chainsaw landing right where it needs to on Ash's raised arm isn't worthy of cheers.

Ah, he fell for the old untied shoelace trick! “Who wants some?” So good! Epic Ash posturing--pointing to his ear, lunging. This is the hero cinema deserves!

Makes all other action heros seem worthless. 

“Primitive screwheads,” meet the boomstick!

Product placement for a store that doesn’t exist! “Shop S-Smart.”

Call me a chauvinist if you want, but I’d love to lie around and have a trio of women feed me grapes. Since I first saw that on screen as a kid, I’ve never even been able to eat grapes. They’re nothing but a disappointment since puberty.

With that blind shotgun blast, it’s obvious that Ash’s experiences with Deadites has made him an action movie superstar. Again, this is the hero that cinema deserves.

New hand montage! Groovy, indeed. And I want an Ash action figure with replaceable hand parts. Does that exist? It's got to exist!

It exists. 
Would “Give me some sugar, baby” even make sense in this time period?

Klaatu barada nicto...I saw this before I saw The Day the Earth Stood Still. And before I bought my first Klaatu LP. This information is pointless.

How’d they do that Evil Dead trademark low-camera-zipping-through-the-woods shot with a horse?

More movies need windmills. I was so excited to see that windmill when I first saw this movie. Unfortunately, it's where the movie starts to get a little silly.

Love how he was warming his fake hand over the fire.

Miniature Ashes. It looks kind of cool, and there are nifty individual effects. But as I said--too silly. Despite “How’d you like the taste of that?”, this can’t compete with the Ash vs. his hand stuff in Evil Dead II. The comedy, all that Stooges-influenced gaggery, is just a little too obvious.

Love that effect where he’s sucked into the book and even the face distortion, but that’s still a little too much silly there.

“Three books?” Any other movie and any other character, I’m going to be annoyed with the thinking out loud. Ash can get away with it though. It's because he's Ash.

Graveyard scene: I love the exploding grave stones and the skeletal hands. The Three Stooges’ routine where skeletons are grabbing at Bruce Campbell's face for what seems like ten minutes? Not so much.

The reluctant hero will only get involved if cleavage is also involved. That’s just how it works.

This flying stop-motion creature and the skeleton army look awful, something I couldn’t forgive when I saw this the first time. But that was before I was schooled enough in Harryhausen to understand that this was an homage. And as an homage, it works beautifully.

Am I to understand that undead Ash and the love interest had a sexual encounter because that’s exactly how I understand it.

Another building montage! With a little added alchemy.

The moon is of absurd proportions in this movie.

“Maybe I’m a Chinese jet pilot.”

Only Raimi’s going to have the undead army playing instruments with the bones of their colleagues.

“By God, let’s give them what for!”

The right-hand skeleton sure did wobble a lot on that horse as they charged the castle.

I mostly dislike undead-Ash, but his “Oh! Oh!” reaction to his men exploding is pretty great.

The miserable bags of bones’ reaction to approaching missiles is priceless. I love those screams.

I kind of wish the skeletons wouldn’t talk, especially if they’re going to start punning. “Put your backbones into it”? Did George Lucas write some of this?

Oh, undead-Ash’s “Indian” cry was pretty good, too!

The car! Hell yeah!

Dylan: “Why’s there a whistle on it? Did he have it in his trunk or did they take the time to make that for some reason?”

I have completely changed my mind about undead-Ash. “Whoops” and “Hello” are just too cool. Maybe I just had to be in my 40’s to appreciate him.

Dylan: “The skeletons are like Muppets.” I have no idea what he's talking about.

How have I not heard a Wilhelm scream yet?

"Backstabber." “I’ve got a bone to pick with you.” Ok, whose idea was it to have the puns?

DVD glitch. But it worked again in time for “You’re going for a ride” with the steam whistling skull and the big explosion which is probably the greatest thing in the history of action movies.

I think Bruce has the same facial gashes that he had in the beginning of the movie. I’m pretty sure his last scene in the past was filmed close to when the first ones were filmed.

“Hail to the king, baby.” I can’t describe how much I didn’t want those to be Ash’s last words. I needed more! And I can’t wait for the television show. I’ve waited 23 years, but these next few months will be tough.

Danny Elfman. I thought that was him! His contribution here actually clashed with the rest of the score.

Bad Movie Club: Night of the Blood Beast

1958 sci-fi movie

Bad Movie Rating: 2/5 (Josh: 2/5; Fred: 2/5; Libby: fell asleep)

Rating: 9/20

Plot: An astronaut crash lands and dies but still has a blood pressure even though he doesn't have a heart beat because the makers of this don't understand the circulatory system. It's later revealed that he's been impregnated by aliens. It's bad for his social life, and no amount of shirtless romps through the desert will change that.

One always wants to investigate the subtexts in these 1950's sci-fi  B-movies. I wasn't sure if this was about men reasserting themselves in a world threatened by females and female ideals, a man's role in decisions regarding abortion, rampaging libidos, or something else. Or nothing else! Neither Fred nor Josh seemed all that interested in discussing it.

A pummeling score, lots and lots of talking, and stupid characters who are supposed to be smart characters make this your typical 50's sci-fi fare. It's probably not worth watching even though it's not completely terrible although the monster/alien thing looks like this:

His best scene is one where he shows off his jumping abilities. It's exactly the sort of leap you'd expect from a monster/alien with a crotch like that.

I also liked an x-ray scene which probably surpasses my long-time favorite alien-life-inside-a-person-scene--that one from Alien. Of course, it's an x-ray of the previously-deceased and mostly-shirtless astronaut, and it's awesome because it looks like this:

Sea monkeys or sperm? It doesn't matter because honestly, with all the references to these alien lifeforms being inside the guy, at least two of us Bad Movie Clubbers were too immature to watch this.

Time Travel Movie Fest: The Time Traveler's Wife

2009 romantic drama

Rating: 12/20

Plot: A guy spontaneously time travels for reasons that are never explained, and although it gives him the opportunity to get in Rachel McAdams' pants, it isn't really good for his marriage.

This is my least favorite Rachel McAdams time travel movie, a sub-genre that--if she keeps at it--will need its own section in your local Blockbuster video rental store. True, her buttocks and spinal cord make brief appearances, but she's not very good here.

She's better than the little girl who plays the younger Clare. Brooklynn Proulx--what kind of terrible name is that? I don't think young Proulx is all that terrible, but she's kind of annoying. And all the scenes with young Clare are just creepy. I mean, I wouldn't want any children seeing this because the lesson is really confusing. As parents, we should teach our children not to talk to naked strange men who suddenly appear in the woods, but this seems to hint that we should take our chances and talk to them. There are several brow-furrowing moments in this, so much that is just awkward, the most notable being when the couple are on their honeymoon and for some reason are shown jumping on their bed. Suddenly--zoom-zip and Eric Bana, a guy with a distracting head shape, is whisked back to the woods and young Clare. Am I wrong or is that creepy?

Here's a question--I've seen a lot of movies where characters look inside other characters' medicine cabinets. Does that really happen a lot in real life? I'm generally uncouth, but I can't imagine snooping around in another person's medicine cabinet.

Stellar version of the uplifting Joy Division song "Love Will Tear Us Apart" at a wedding.

Time Travel Movie Fest: +1

2013 time loopy nonsense

Rating: 10/20

Plot: Kids attend a party on a night when an asteroid's strike causes time loop shenanigans. It's confusing for everybody involved.

"To meet oneself is to meet God."

This movie doesn't make a lot of sense, the characters are almost entirely unlikable, plot holes abound, and the movie doesn't make a lot of sense.

Of course, I feel silly because my main problem with the logic of this movie is the party that is thrown and the intelligence of a few of the characters. You've got some sort of space debris hitting earth and messing up time, but I'm hung up on a party that would never happen. Now, I've never actually been to a party and am therefore far from an authority on partying. But this was pretty ridiculous and made everything far less credible for me. This was a really loud movie--blaring techno music, loud glow stick colors, jerky editing, too many ideas--and it kind of gave me a headache.

Then, you've got the characters. Most of them are your typical 20-something idiots who are look like they're trying too hard to hold cups in the right way. But then you've got random characters spouting out quotes from the Talmud or pontificating about alternate universes.

This movie's got ideas, and some of them might even be good ideas. I liked what they did with a couch guy and some birds--nice touches. But it kind of gets lost in itself, fumbles around, pokes itself full of holes, and clunks along to a really unsatisfying ending. It probably could have been better, but I don't think it'll even survive as a cult classic because it's just too messy. And too 2013ish. And loud.

Night Train to Terror

1985 anthology movie

Rating: 4/20

Plot: God and the devil debate the fate of a trio of souls while riding on a train.

Thanks to the success of The Twilight Zone Movie and Creepshow, the world was treated to Night Train to Terror and its triad of totally incomprehensible tales of horror. God, played by "God" according to the credits because Ferdy Mayne was apparently too embarrassed to have his name associated with this, says at one point that he could "laugh and cry at the same time." That's exactly how I felt. On the one hand, this is frustrating because it doesn't make any sense. The individual stories don't make any sense, probably because they were low-budget feature films that were edited down to 25-30 minutes of highlights--you know, the parts with carnage and/or nipples--with little regard for storytelling. And the frame story with God and Satan (played suavely by Lu Sifer because that's hilarious--actually Tony Giorgio) would make some sense, especially if you've read through the book of Job, except it's hard to figure out why they're on a train. And the poorly-dressed rock band snippets? Those almost seem like they were inserted accidentally, like somebody accidentally spilled rock videos on the movie and they just stuck. More than likely, somebody said, "You know what's just as popular as Creepshow? Those music videos the kids are watching on the MTV! Let's put a rock band on the night train to terror!"

The first story, "The Case of Harry Billings," has to do with a kidnapping, hypnosis, and organ thievery. There's blood, there's glorious 1980's gratuitous nudity, and there's Richard Moll. I'd have no interest in seeing the original to see if it makes any sense at all. This was so heavily-edited, like somebody wanted to cut it to its barest bones but accidentally took the bones out as well, that it's incoherent. Mixed in with the rest of this mess, it's just adds to the weirdness of this entire thing.

The second story involves a cult where people find ingenious ways to play Russian Roulette. It's probably the most interesting, but only if you watch it as a person interested in surrealism. There's a great scene with a stop-motion Tanzanian beetle that lands on a fake hand and another with this electric robot where a guy gets electrocuted after an "Excuse me while I smoke" pun. The latter might be the wildest thing I see all year.

The third story is about the devil wanting to destroy humanity. So it's got a second devil in it. Oh, and Richard Moll is in this one, too. It would be completely boring except for some claymation sequences that are just awesome. This third story is the least interesting, and it's also unfortunately the lengthiest.

Some explosion stock footage, slow motion breakdancing, a toy train, and (spoiler alert) a bunch of dead 80's rockers later, and the movie ends, the sort of movie that you watch and wonder what just happened to you. I'd recommend it to folks who like their bad movies a little on the weird and/or incomprehensible side.

Aborted Film Series #12: Joe Dirt

2001 comedy

Rating: n/r

Plot: I did not last long enough to figure out what this movie was about. From the poster, I can ascertain that it's about a mulleted guy with a mop.

Let me explain why I even tried to watch this movie after missing it the first time it came around when I was apparently a lot smarter. Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser, in case you haven't heard, has been released to the masses through Crackle or some free entertainment outlet like Crackle. No, I don't need to see every movie that winds up getting a sequel that nobody on earth asked for--well, nobody but David Spade--but I found out the plot of this second installment of the Dirt saga involves time travel. But I'm not going to watch Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser without first watching Joe Dirt, am I? That would be insanity! So: Joe Dirt.

I made it three minutes and forty-two seconds, right around the time Dennis Miller appeared on my screen. David Spade can't act, and I couldn't even tell if some of this was supposed to be funny. I could not waste any more of my life on Joe Dirt, and the timey-wimey sequel will just be missing from my world-renowned Time Travel Movie Fest. But I'm not a completist anyway.

Because I was curious, I did some half-assed research to see how many movies I've not been able to finish since I started this blog. I didn't think it was very many. Here's the list: Howard the Duck, Here Comes the Boom (not really my fault), Shrek 3, If You Don't Stop It. . .You'll Go Blind, Sharknado, Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure (didn't even get to a balloon), Iron Sky, Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman, Trail of the Screaming Forehead, Renaissance: 2054, and I Am a Sex Addict (a movie that Netflix wouldn't let me finish).

The Blues Brothers

1980 musical comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Following the prison release of one blues brother, "a band lively enough to turn goat piss into gasoline" is put back together in order to raise money to save the orphanage in which they grew up.

This is a great comedy and a great musical, but I have to start this with something controversial--I don't really like John Belushi. It's possibly that, since I didn't see this when I was seven, I'm missing some context. Maybe Belushi was a little more dangerous at the tail end of the 1970's, but watching him in 2015, there's just nothing special there. I think the countless puffy guys who have come along and done similar things has maybe watered down Belushi's legacy a little.

The rest of the cast, including more cameos than a Muppet movie? Aykroyd was never better, and it feels like he wrote (or co-wrote with Landis) something that just fit him perfectly. The band's great, just so lively, and that's even when Belushi and Aykroyd are kind of getting in the way. It's too bad Paul Shaffer couldn't be involved because the way that bald head of his bounces around would have bumped this up another point. Carrie Fisher, in mostly a silent role, is just cute as a goddamn button. I don't know if it's those giant brown eyes of hers or the fact that I could pick her up with one hand, but this late-70's/early-80's Carrie Fisher does it for me. And how about these musical cameos? You've got this wild church scene with none other than James Brown, a James Brown at the height of his fury. You've got John Lee Hooker doing "Boom Boom," Aretha Franklin with a spirited "Think," and Ray Charles imploring us to shake our tail feathers.

You know what this reminds me of? An Americanized Leningrad Cowboys Go America, that Aki Kaurismaki movie that everybody should see but probably not before they've seen other Aki Kaurismaki movies. Man, is that guy good. I guess that was Kaurismaki doing his own Blues Brothers but without as much Chicago.

This really is a Chicago movie, isn't it? I should do a Chicago Movie Fest some time except I can't think of all that many.

Cab Calloway! My God, I could watch that guy for hours. I'd watch that guy drink tea.

This is how I'm going to write all my reviews from now on--incoherently. So you get paragraphs now, but you also get gibberish. Maybe the Blues Brothers drove the Bluesmobile through this blog entry like they did that mall? Great cinematic destruction there. That and the explosions from Carrie Fisher's bazooka. And with that, I'm probably horny.

Bad Movie Club: Aliens vs. Avatars

2011 science fiction movie

Bad Movie Rating: 3/5 (Johnny: 3/5; Kristen: 3/5; Josh: 4/5; Fred: 0/5; Libby: no rating)

Rating: 3/20

Plot: Campers find themselves in the middle of a galactic battle between a shapeshifting Predator-type creature and a blue woman who probably wasn't in this movie with James Cameron's blessing.

I still always wonder if the makers of these movies are pulling our legs. I know they know they're not making great movies, that they don't have anywhere near the budgets or talents necessary to make anything approaching a great movie, and that it's not going to matter because nobody's going to see it anyway. Is that why the folks involved (director Lewis Schoenbrun and four--count 'em--four writers) decided they could get away with stealing characters from Predator (not Alien) and Avatar? It's like those four writers got together for a movie marathon, thought the ideas from those movies were too good to just be in those movies, and decided to write their own.

"But other than having a Predator-type creature and a blue woman, what will this be about?" I can hear one ask.
"Well, we could have some college-aged idiots camping or something."
"That is a terrific idea!"

And so six cliches were drawn up to be the victims for this movie. There's a jocky guy, a slut, a tough gal, a nerdy guy. You get the idea. They're characters lifted directly from other kids-isolated-in-the-woods horror flicks except they don't have as much depth. They make good victims though. They're beheaded and punctured and eye-gouged and have their appendages torn off. If you're looking for some cheap gore and a little bit of gratuitous nudity, you'll have enough fun for the first ten minutes. But this is a lot like pornography, and most of you will probably shoot your wad--the literal wad--long before you get to see one of the worst fights you're likely to see or a ridiculous-looking robot that I believe was called Robotard.


The "monster" gives Robotard a run for his money though. Check this thing out: 

I know--it looks almost as good as that fake Bigfoot video where the Sasquatch is strutting around in the woods. But it's not. It's a monster. 

See? And if you believe the credits, it was played by an actual monster. 

I'm too tired to write more about this movie, but I'll close with my favorite piece of dialogue: 

Twitchy Avatar Woman: "Your planet will have a short life." 
Female Camper Played by Actress Who Will Likely End Up Doing Pornographic Films: "Wow. That sucks." 

Psycho Beach Party

2000 spoof

Rating: 11/20

Plot: A gal named Chicklet who wants nothing more but to surf beings to wonder if she's behind a series of murders after several blackouts.

I'm wondering how this would work on stage. I like the idea of mashing together the beach movie genre with a slasher film. It's kitschy which is exactly why my brother recommended this and loaned it to me about seven years ago. It's a movie that really should be more fun than it is, but I can't recall laughing at all. Everybody tries really hard, maybe even too hard, but it's just sort of a mess, and none of the humor really connects.

I think part of the problem might be that it's lampooning something that is so goofy anyway. Nobody's going to take these beach pictures seriously anyway, so a parody of them doesn't really work all that well. It's smarter than your average parody work that pokes fun at contemporary blockbusters or whatever, but the gap between them isn't as great as you'd like it to be. It's campy, but it's just not clever enough.

I did enjoy some of the performances. Lauren Ambrose showed a little versatility as Chicklet. I also enjoyed Ambrose in Birbiglia's Sleepwalk with Me. Writer Charles Busch plays a woman, and he does it fairly well. For those of you who like Amy Adams, she's got a small role in this and loses her bikini bottom at one point. There's a lot of nudity in this actually, and it's almost off-putting.

My favorite moment was a too-brief shot of masked beach rockers.

The Old Man and the Sea

1999 animated short

Rating: none

Plot: Same as this version of the Hemingway novella.

Despite obvious flaws, I do really like the Spencer Tracy movie, but this 20 minute short will be the one I recommend to anybody wanting to see a film adaptation of a Hemingway book. But I first have to start with that poster. A must "sea" movie, poster? Really? You're going with that pun? You've got one of the most beautiful and unique animated movies I've seen in a very long time, and you're soiling it with that?

This is a co-production with Canada, Russia, and Japan, but it's the work of Russian animator Aleksander Petrov. I'm not sure I completely understand the process, but it involved 29,000 frames handpainted on glass. That's handpainted. It also took two-and-a-half years to complete. Apparently, Petrov would move the paint around with his fingers to give the impression of fluency, and it really is some of the most beautiful animation I've ever seen. It just looks like a labor of love. And sure, the water looks watery, the sky looks sky-y, the humans are humany, the fishes are appropriately scaly, and all that, but you can tell the angles, the position of the "camera," has been carefully considered, too. To borrow a word from the poster, it really is stunning. And to borrow a phrase--it's a must "sea" film.

The music by Denis L. Chartrand and Normand Roger isn't always perfect, like it can't quite match the beauty of the visuals. I'm not sure how it could though! Also, there's a scene where the guy and the fish--true brothers, if you've read your Hemingway--are swimming together in what I believe is the sky, and that's a little yucky. And maybe the voice work. . .oh, nevermind. Don't pay attention to my nitpicking here because this is a nearly flawless adaptation of a great story.

You should see this. Here's a place you can find and read a little about it. It's also on YouTube.

Time Travel Movie Fest: Lunopolis

2009 faux-documentary

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Documentary filmmakers uncover a secret organization that's involved in moon inhabitation, time travel, and sunglasses.

This certainly isn't short on ideas. This is the only film from writer/director Matthew Avant, and I suspect it's because he shot his wad and used every single idea he ever had. It actually nearly all comes together in a way that's almost satisfying, but it's ultimately a little too sloppy and too predictable. It really seemed as if Avant had trouble making up his mind about whether he wanted to make a found footage flick, since those are all the rage, or a fake documentary, and this sort of settles somewhere in the middle of the two. So although the myriad of ideas are intriguing, a conspiracy theorist's wet dream, it just doesn't work.

These sorts of movies live or die with the acting, and the work in this is inconsistent. It's at its best when the actors playing scientists or researchers or former cult members are providing interview snippets. You could see those and maybe believe this is a real documentary. When it gets into the found footage area, however, it's not always convincing. I don't think the leads--the documentary filmmakers or the older gentleman who gives them a lot of information--are terrible. In fact, the older guy who plays the former cult member and moon inhabitant is really pretty good. Some of the sunglassed, Agent Smith-looking heavies and especially the overly-frantic talk show caller took me out of the experience.

Something else that took me out of this experience was the music. There was far too much music in this, and there arguably should have been no music at all.

I'm semi-impressed with what Avant was able to do with probably not a lot of money, but a lot of its issues could have been fixed during the writing process.

Only Lovers Left Alive

2013 vampire movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A mopey vampire reconnects with the love of his eternal life, another vampire. They find their lifestyles threatened by rabid fans, an impulsive sister, and changing times.

Pal Larry and I disagreed on The Limits of Control, the Jarmusch feature film that preceded this one. He, a longtime Jarmusch fan who would rank Stranger Than Paradise and Down by Law as two of his favorite comedies just like I would, hated it. I liked it, but in a sort-of lukewarm way, and it would be the movie I'd put last in a list of best Jim Jarmusch movies unless Permanent Vacation counts. I don't really remember the movie all that well either. This movie, which automatically gives you a sour taste in your mouth because it's a vampire movie in a time when somebody like Jim Jarmusch just shouldn't be making vampire movies, has a similar feel to that movie. And that means that it doesn't really feel all that Jarmuschian. I have reasons to believe that Larry disliked this one, too.

I liked it though. What really stood out to me was the music, a large chunk performed by Jarmusch's band SQÜRL, this crunchy screeching guitar-driven doom-psych stuff ostensibly performed and recorded by Thor's brother's character in this movie. It was a little like a darker, less competent Godspeed You Black Emperor! and perfectly complimented the overall ennui or lethargy that hung from some of these characters. What are you going to do when you've lived for centuries, apparently starfucking but ultimately existing as a recluse and outsider despite being gifted? You multitrack yourself and compose music in collaboration with the cosmos of your brain's right hemisphere. Or the left one. Alligators and crocodiles to me. The spinning opener with a Wanda June cover is a thrilling opener.

I also liked the performances. Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton are Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton. Actually, in this movie, Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton are very nearly Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. They're vampiric, and although their names--Adam and Eve--are really too cheesy, I like their tired apathy and their eternal perseverance. And I bought their love even though it wasn't explicit. Of course, how could that love not be real when the couple is dancing to Charlie Feathers and eating blood popsicles while playing chess? Even better than those two was John Hurt as Christopher Marlowe, that Christopher Marlowe. I've learned that John Hurt kind of steals any movie he's in though.

This is also sneakily funny, like your typical Jarmusch comedy. No, it's not as funny as his earlier films, the ones that might make you laugh out loud, but it's still funny in that way where some people won't even know it's supposed to be funny. Hiddleston gets a standout line and walks around in a comical get-up as "Dr. Faust." The comedy's subtle, but you'll have to let out a controlled chuckle if you're a hipster so that the other hipsters around you will know you're in on it.

You'd be tempted to think this is a movie about love because there's a romance at the heart of it and the word "lovers" is in the title. It might be a semi-autobiographical movie about the director, a bit of an auteuristic outsider himself. And it might be a movie about Detroit, a city which, according to Swinton's character, "will bloom again." Detroit is really another character in this story.

I don't think there's a chance we're getting another Stranger Than Paradise, and I'm not sure Jarmusch's maturity (or whatever you want to call it) as a not-very-prolific filmmaker really excites me. The movies of this second half of his career are still more interetsing than most of what's out there though.

Time Travel Movie Fest: Timescape

1992 science fiction movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A widower and his daughter renovating a hotel have strange visitors from another time.

Check out that poster! Without reading a plot synopsis for this movie, which is also called Grand Tour: Disaster in Time, you wouldn't have any idea what this is about. It looks like it could be about a guy who is struck by lightning while lighting his farts, but that would seem to be a huge spoiler alert.

If you're keeping score, this makes three time travel movies for Jeff Daniels, at least if you count Pleasantville as a time travel movie. The guy certainly picks some interesting roles for himself in between some junk roles. I like Jeff Daniels much more as a 41 year old than I did as a 20-something-year-old, so apparently, he's the type of actor who grows on you.

I do want to warn you about something though. And yes, I realize this is a spoiler, but I think going into this movie with this little bit of knowledge could save somebody from a shock that might give them a heart attack. This movie, although it starts slowly and mysteriously, gets wackier and wackier as it goes, eventually just tossing out all rules we've learned about in all these other time-travel stories and acting like it's never even seen Back to the Future or heard of paradoxes. Our character even screams, "Fuck the physics!" at one point in this movie. And eventually, you've got two Jeff Daniels on screen at the same time. As far as I know, that's the record for most Jeff Daniels on the screen at the same time, but I'm far from a Jeff Daniels expert.

I liked this movie, and I liked the premise, a concept that's apparently borrowed for a 1999 television movie called Thrill Seekers that I'll probably get around to watching later. In this, the time travelers are tourists who are visiting the past in order to witness disasters--the Chicago fire, the San Francisco earthquake, the Hindenburg explosion, etc. And with that, you've got the old question about whether or not a time traveler should attempt to change things in the past to save lives or avoid these disasters. The "time machine" itself is a little bogus, but the creepy voyeuristic aspect is cool, and it does bring up that interesting philosophical and moral dilemma, one that is looked at both globally and personally here.

There's an actor named Time Winters in this movie. He's only in one other time travel movie.

Favorite scenes: One cool shot with a drugged Daniels in a spinning room and another where he punches a woman like he thinks he's Nicolas Cage or something.

Question of the Day: If you could travel back in time and observe (just observe--not change at all) any one disaster, which would you pick? I know what I'd pick, but I'll save it for the comments.

Still Alice

2014 Alzheimer's movie

Rating: 14/20 (Jen: 17/20)

Plot: A linguistics professor is diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease and deals with her rapidly-declining memory and other mental faculties.

Julianne Moore is always great, and--predictably--she's great here in a role that requires her to show a range of vacancies. Did she deserve her Best Actress award? Well, there's a scene in this where she pisses herself because she can't find the bathroom and Alec Baldwin looks like he's about to burst into laughter. You know--the natural state of a Baldwin brother. Actually, let's have a look at the guy. Here's a collection of pictures of Alec Baldwin from various stages in his illustrious television and film career. Study them.

See? In every picture, the guy's either just about to laugh or trying to hold in a laugh. You can Google Image Alec Baldwin yourself if you want, but this is mostly what you'll see. The only other Alec Baldwin you'll see is one that is about to come through your computer monitor and yell at you. That's likely either because a paparazzo is trying to take a picture of his wife or because somebody's told him he's not allowed to play Words with Friends.

Oh, you know what? This movie references Words with Friends. Do you think he read that in the script and didn't make the connection? Or did he read it in the script and say, "Wait just a second. Are screenwriters Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland messing with me here?" but then agree to do the film anyway?

But I digress. Alec Baldwin's character definitely shouldn't have laughed at his poor Alzheimer-ridden wife's micturating herself, but that's not the point I'm trying to make. I wanted to say something about her Academy Award. And I'm saying that if Moore actually did urinate in that scene, she definitely deserves the Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. If I find out that piss was nothing more than special effects or, even worse, computer-generated piss, I think the award should have gone to somebody else.

This movie's fine, and it's about an important subject, one that's close to my wife's heart. I thought it was a little jumpy and, at the same time, a little redundant. And Kristen Stewart was in this for some reason. Moore really was good whether that urine was real or fake.