Bad Movie Club: Singh Is Kinng

2008 Bollywood action comedy

Bad Movie Rating: 1/5 (Libby: 3/5; Fred: 4/5; Josh: didn't make it; Johnny: didn't make it; Ozzy: also didn't make it)

Rating: 10/20

Plot: Singh, the village buffoon, becomes Kinng after a hilarious and musical series of misadventures.

Fellow Bad Movie Clubbers wanted to recapture the magic of Bollywood classic Gunda, but we were all more confused than amused. Inexplicably, Snoop Dogg pops in during the credits to rap about what he thought the movie was about after fast-forwarding through it. Diamonds on his toes, women bringing him grapes, saying "What up" to all the ladies hanging out in Mumbai. Other than that, this is exactly what you'd imagine a movie from India to be like if you've had people tell you about them but haven't seen any. That's not a good thing.

Visitor Q

2001 Miike movie

Rating: 9/20

Plot: A family pulls together after a visitor stays with them for a while.

And by "pulls together," I obviously mean that they enjoy the products of a wildly lactating mother, beat each other with riding crops, engage in incest and necrophilia, experience gang sodomy nostalgia, shooting smack, and kill a few people. The movie's paced weirdly, almost unprofessionally, and Miike--you'd better sit down because I'm about to say something shocking--seemingly made the thing to see how much he could shock the viewer. It's possible that there's social commentary here, that Miike is saying something profound about Japanese family life or taboos or breastfeeding in public places, but it comes across as amateurish shock cinema, written and filmed in rapid time for a very limited audience, like a non-comedic Freddy Got Fingered or something. The tone, comical decadence, is consistent, but after a lengthy opening scene that only becomes disturbing after you watch a big chunk of the movie to find out how the characters are related, a riding crop scene, and some fireworks shenanigans, you really don't need to see the violence or the breast milk or the fecal matter later on. After a bit, you feel exactly like the character who gets smacked on the head with the rock in this movie.

There is a great ending shot though. I'll give the movie that.

I'm either rating this movie way too low or way too high which means I'm no longer qualified to watch and write about Japanese avant-garde movies.

The Ladykillers

2004 remake

Rating: 12/20

Plot: A professor assembles a ragtag team of criminals, poses as a classical music ensemble to gain access to an old lady's basement, and then digs a tunnel to a nearby casino in order to pull off a heist. It goes about as well as you'd expect for something like this in a Coen Brothers' movie.

This isn't nearly as good as the majority of the rest of the Coens' filmography, and it's nowhere near as good as the original Ealing Studios version with Alec Guinness. However, it's not the complete waste of time that I thought it was. I had plans to watch a few Coen Brothers I'd only seen once (this, Burn after Reading, No Country for Old Men) before watching the new one, but that's not happening. Instead, I just watched this, a mess of a comedy made up of a lot of really fun bits.

I'm not clear on what the commentary is, but there's a lot of clashing in this. There's a soundtrack of gospel and hip hop, the terrific Irma P. Hall making recurring references to A Tribe Called Quest's "I Left My Wallet in El Segundo." There's the clash of characters, Tom Hanks erudite Southern professor with 27 dollar words mixing it up with Hall's uneducated naivete and deeply religious sensibilities. And there's a clash of ideologies with gambling boats and Bible Belt sanctuaries, the religious background of the old lady and the scientific mind of the professor. Lots of clashing.

I really do like the cast, and I like a lot of the writing.

"If ass was nickels, you'd be a motherfucking millionaire." That's gold!
"We must all have waffles forthwith."
"You brought your bitch to the Waffle Hut?"
"I feel 50 pounds lighter."
"I can't really play the butt sack."
"I got blueberry syrup on my safari jacket."

I also like most of what Tom Hanks' character says, the sort of lines that'll help you increase your vocabulary if you're willing to pay attention. Hanks, I think, is more of a chameleon than people give him credit for, and his character, even though he's in a mess of a movie and doesn't have any depth at all, is definitely memorable. I love the scene where he tests the acoustics of the cellar. Tzi Ma is The General, a character who always looks like he's on the verge of exploding. He gets to do a little cigarette trick several times. Ryan Hearst's Lump character is severely underdeveloped, so much that he's barely there at all. He's a dumb jock, a character that any screenwriter can create on a piece of single-ply toilet paper, a character as sophisticated as a fart joke. Marlon Wayans never seems like he quite fits in the Coen universe, the character just a little too all over the place. He's got the best name though--Gawain Macsam. Unless "Mountain Girl" counts as a name. J.K. Simmons' Garth Pancake (another great name!) is the most fun although the character is too ridiculous to really take seriously, even in screwballery like this. It's great to hear him say, "Fuckin' A," but it just doesn't seem appropriate. It's like somebody else made The Ladykillers and wanted to make it Coen-esque and had just seen Lebowski and felt a "Fuckin' A" was the best way to get there. Irma P. Hall is the best, so severely bowlegged that you start to wonder if it's a special effect.

I also liked the cat--Mr. Pickles.

There's a stunning first shot, then a poignant shot of trash, and then some CGI birds. And you wonder immediately what's going on. CGI birds? It just never feels completely like a Coen Brothers' movie, and that's what you expect when you start watching a Coen Brothers' movie. The storytelling is a mess, and not in the refreshing and vibrant way that The Big Lebowski is sort of a mess. The characters are introduced awkwardly, and then they're all together and you start to wonder how this was all patched together. There are fart jokes, references to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and product placement (Burger King thrice, Hefty trash bags, and Goldfish Crackers), and none of those feel like they belong in a Tom Hanks movie or in a Coen Brothers' movie.

All in all, it's a movie that I don't exactly hate watching, but it's not what you'd expect from guys who would be pretty high on your list of favorite modern filmmakers. It's a movie with far too many sore thumbs. You should definitely see the Ealing version instead of bothering with this one. Well, unless you're a huge fan of Tom Hanks and want to see him acting really goofy or if you think Irritable Bowel Syndrome is hilarious.

The Voices

2014 dark comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A psychopath looks for love. And since this is a whimsical romantic comedy, his talking dog and cat help.

This is not a whimsical romantic comedy. It's a very dark but also very unique comedy, the kind of thing that is surely not for everybody even though I suspect Ryan Reynolds might be for everybody. He's flamboyantly terrifying, a freaky-deaky buffoon who stumbles through homicide like a Stooge poking somebody in both eyes. Sure, any director and actor can create a psychopath easily enough with a few dismemberment sound effects and the gruesome aftereffects of said dismemberment. But to make the viewer uneasy while showing the character eat pizza? That's really something. Reynolds also does a great job voicing the animals in this, appropriate since it seems that their talking is all in his head. Mr. Whiskers sounds like an Irish devil, Bosco the dog's got a sort of doofus act going on, and there's Bunny Monkey and a dying deer. Talking animals will always threaten to become just a little too precious, even when they're inspiring characters to kill, but this never falls into those traps. Of course, it might help that you get a scene where Mr. Whiskers is watching animal porn. The cat easily gets the best lines in this.

This is directed by Marjane Satrapi who did Persepolis and Chicken with Plums, the latter which I'd highly recommend. Actually, I'd recommend them both, but people have seen Persepolis. She nailed this sort of magical realism in Chicken with Plums, and although this is a little more mainstream, probably because of the appearance of Hollywood beefcake and future superhero Ryan Reynolds, it's still got that playful vibe. There's a cartoonish look to small-town America. There are colors that shouldn't exist outside of a little girl's wardrobe, and like Tim Burton--who this does, in a good way, recall--it makes the setting weirdly creepy. I'm not sure if there's any commentary in the way the factory where main character Jerry works looks, but the pink uniforms and the choreography during this cute little "Jerry and Fiona" song makes the place seem like it would be so much fun to work there that it might kill you.

The music is interesting. This isn't a musical at all, but there are a few cool interesting musical bits. There's a monkey jukebox thing near the end, there's a woman doing a karaoke cover of Wu Tang Clan's "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" (you know, the "Oh baby, I like it raw" one), and there's an Asian Elvis impersonator. Movies with Asian Elvis impersonators always get a boost. The very best musical moment is a great Bollywood-esque closing credits number that features most of the characters and a surprise guest who I won't mention because I don't want to give that kind of thing away.

This straddles the line between gruesome and whimsical so beautifully, a tough chore since those features aren't even adjacent. There's not even a line. I'd imagine this is going to be too dark for some people and too playful for others, but if you like dark comedies, I'd recommend it.

Time Travel Movie Fest: Hot Tub Time Machine 2

2015 sequel

Rating: 6/20

Plot: Three-fourths of the characters from the first movie have to dig up their hot tub time machine in order to travel to the future and solve a mystery.

This movie shouldn't have happened. There's a simple equation Hollywood needs to learn:

Successful first movie featuring Crispin Glover - Crispin Glover = really poor sequel

Need an example? Back to the Future - Crispin Glover = Back to the Future II

Actually, now I'm wondering if that just works for time travel movies.

This meanders, steering straight for gross-outs and boner humor. It's never funny once, the characters aren't likable, and even though you've got no idea what's going on, it still somehow manages to be predictable. I'm not sure why I watched it, but I'm pretty sure this ends the Time Travel Movie Fest in the same way Little Man ended my "Man" movie streak.

Special Feature: Top Ten Movies I'm Most Looking Forward To (2016 Edition)

I compiled a list like this last year, and it was enormously popular. So I thought I'd do it again.

This is heavily researched, as opposed to most of the drivel I throw on here, and by "heavily researched," I of course mean that I spent a couple hours poking around the Internet to figure out what movies were coming out in 2016. Most of these are upcoming although a few are things that I might have missed. I had fun putting this together, especially since I learned about some upcoming releases that I had no idea were even coming out.

None of this will surprise any of my longtime blog readers. Enjoy, and let me know what you might be looking forward to in the comments.

Movies I'm Most Looking Forward To

The Disaster Artist, 2016

If only that was the real poster for James Franco's adaptation of Greg Sestero's memoir about the making of The Room. This is the only repeat from last year's list, and I still think the whole thing could go either way. It could be a bad movie about the making of a bad movie or it could end up being a great movie about the making of a bad movie. Either way, I'm enough of a fan of The Room to have to put this on my list.

Moonwalkers, 2015

More trepidation as this has gotten mixed reviews, but a filmed version of a conspiracy theory is a really cool idea. I'm actually pretty sure this is not going to be a good movie, but from what I've heard, I don't think it will completely bore me. Ron Perlman and Harry Potter's friend, as you can tell from the poster, are in this. That poster might also have stolen its idea from Warner Brothers. I've been staring at that thing for a while now looking for Porky.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Movie, 2016

In case you missed it, there was a new Star Wars movie in 2015. It was good, even better than the prequels! I'm not sold that the Disney folk should be putting out a Star Wars movie every year and wonder how these stand-alone movies will work, but this one sounds better and better to me the more I hear about it. I like the idea of a grittier Star Wars flick, a Death Star plans heist movie with a motley crew of heroes. And Darth Vader might be in it? Well, if that doesn't harden the old nipples, I don't know what will!

Flooding with Love for the Kid, 2007

So this is one guy filming his version of Rambo all by himself in a studio apartment with a budget of 96 dollars. Like I'm not going to do everything I can to watch this.

The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet, 2013

You'd think that a guy who is a huge fan of Delicatessen, Amelie, and City of Lost Children who also happens to have a music blog would know what Jean-Pierre Jeunet's up to at all times, but I completely missed this 2013 release. This movie's about a young cartographer who travels across America by train to accept an award for a perpetual motion machine he created. Let that one sink in, Jeunet fans! A Jeunet movie with a perpetual motion machine? Come on!

Mascots, 2016

You had me at "new Christopher Guest movie," but making it a Christopher Guest movie about mascots in some sort of mascot competition? Whoa, Molly! (Is this an expression? It should be!) This is Guest's first movie since 2006's For Your Consideration which I'm not sure I've ever seen. That's ten freaking years, Christopher Guest! I'm a sucker for grown people wearing goofy costumes anyway, and since I'm a fan of the mockumentary format that Guest should probably get a lot more credit for helping create, this figures to be right up my alley.

Ip Man 3, 2016

Ip Man is one of my favorite kung-fu movies from the last few years. Ip Man 2 disappointed. Ip Man 3 has Mike Tyson and Mike Tyson's awesome face tattoo in it. A preview for this came out recently, and the movie looks awesome. I'll watch 1 and 2 before I see 3, and I might consider even seeing this one in a theater, probably because I've been looking for an opportunity to flamboyantly pump my fists in public for a while now.

Pee Wee's Big Holiday, 2016

Another Netflix release! Is this going to be closer to Pee Wee's Big Adventure or Big Top Pee Wee? And is there going to be a sneaky public indecency gag in there somewhere? And why do all Pee Wee Herman movies have to have "big" in the title? I think this will be a lot of fun. I might have to have a party once this is released and provide cheese dip of some kind for my friends.

The Lobster, 2016

From Yorgos Lanthimos, the director of the brilliantly odd Dogtooth, comes this, a movie about people taken into a hotel where they either have to find a mate or be transformed into an animal and sent off into the woods. And this reminds me that I didn't ever seen Alps, another Lanthimos movie that also looked good. When I first read about this movie, my immediate thought was, "Yeah, this sounds like a shane-type movie."

Entertainment, 2015

This is Gregg Turkington in his "America's funnyman" Neil Hamburger character ("Why did God create Domino's pizza? To punish mankind for his complacency in allowing the Holocaust to happen." Zing!) in a movie written and directed by Rick Alverson, the guy who made The Comedy with Tim Heidecker. The Comedy was wonderful and difficult, and it's one that sticks in my memory long after I watched it. This promises to have a similar vibe, and with Neil Hamburger wandering around a desert, this just has to be good.

Hail, Caesar!, 2016

We're just a few weeks away from a new Coen Brothers' release, the kind of thing that is like Christmas for some people. This looks funny, and it has Scarlett Johansson playing a mermaid. Also, it's got a title with punctuation, and Coen Brother movies with punctuation are always good. Punctuation and George Clooney! This has a terrific cast and looks like it could be great quirky fun like Lebowski. Or maybe it will be like the unfortunate misstep that is The Ladykillers.

Endless Poetry, 2016

So we get no Alejandro Jodorowsky for a couple decades, and suddenly we're blessed with a pair of autobiographical films within a couple years of each other? Awesome! This is a direct sequel to his Dance of Reality, continuing the magically realistic glimpse at his life. If there are dwarves and golden showers, I'll be pleased. So glad Jodorowsky is back and just as adventurous as he nears the age of 90.

Anomalisa, 2015

Charlie Kaufman + existential comedy + stop-motion animation + puppet sex = something I definitely want to see. I have a feeling that this might be my favorite thing I see in 2016.

The Forbidden Room, 2015

Well, it's a Guy Maddin movie, and I'm not sure anything else needs to be said. This one's an anthology film where Maddin takes stabs at what "lost films" from the silent era were all about based only on their titles.

The Insects, 2016

And last but not least--especially since these are roughly in order--is Jan Svankmajer's upcoming movie. Svankmajer (The Svank as we cool kids call him) released his last one 5 years ago, and he's on an every-five-year pace. He's another guy like Jodorowsky who I'm glad is still kicking, and like Maddin, this one looks back at the silent era. Sort of. Here, Svankmajer basing this on a play from 1922. It's a dark comedy that pokes fun at contemporary society. And it'll have stop-motion insects. That's just a guess.

Other Films That Intrigue Me But Not Enough to Get Pictures

Finding Dory: I couldn't put this in the top ten list above because I haven't even seen Pixar's last dinosaur movie.

Captain America: Civil War: My favorites of these Marvel superhero movies have been the Captain America ones; my worries have to do with the poor historical track record of third movies and how this Marvel universe is all tying together, ambitiously but potentially messily.

Batman vs. Superman: This might be an expensive disaster, and I didn't like the Man of Steel movie, but I'm still curious. It looks like Eisenberg's settling into a Nic Cage thing.

Deadpool, Suicide Squad: Two more of the 19 or so superhero comic book movies coming out this year, but at least these look unique. Well, the latter does. Deadpool annoys me more the more I see of it.

I Saw the Light: Tom Hiddleston in a Hank Williams biopic

Jungle Book: I had no interest in this at all until I saw Scarlett Johansson is voicing Kaa. Now I'll be watching it with the most confused boner I've ever had.

Creed: I've heard nothing but good things. Hopefully, Stallone's mom makes a cameo appearance!

The Founder: A darkly-comedic biopic about Ray Kroc starring Michael Keaton.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny: This was on last year's list. I'm actually starting to lose interest. Note the title change.

Tickled: This is a documentary about competitive tickling that apparently goes into unexpected territories. It looks really fascinating.

The Neon Demon: Nicholas Winding Refn horror movie that for whatever reason makes me think of Showgirls

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children: I kind of liked the book. I'm just not sure what Tim Burton's going to do to it.

Neruda: Pablo Neruda is one of my favorite poets. Hopefully, this biopic features a scene where he has sexual intercourse with either a fish or a tomato.

BFG: Big Friendly Giant, if you're unschooled in the works of Roald Dahl. Spielberg's at the helm, for better or for worse. Dahl on the screen is sometimes great and sometimes not so great.

A Monster Calls: Well, this one has a tree monster voiced by Liam Neeson.

Moana: The next Disney singing-princess movie, this one with a Polynesian setting. I'm more interested in seeing how the mix of 2-D and 3-D animation works. Otherwise, I'm not sure I'd be all that interested.

Swiss Army Man: Paul Dano's stuck on an island and he finds a dead Daniel Radcliffe. Hopefully, there's a volleyball.

Colossal: A monster movie with a psychological subtext from Nacho Vigalondo, the guy who did Timecrimes.

Knight of Cups: Or any of the handful of Terrence Malick movies coming out this year. Wait a second. That can't be right? Terence Malick has multiple movies coming out this year? Isn't he the guy who makes a movie every ten years or so?

Dog Eat Dog: Another chance for Paul Schrader and Nicolas Cage, this time with Willem Dafoe's help. Think about that for a moment. Cage and Dafoe on the screen at the same time. Can you imagine those two having a conversation about a Youtube video where a cat plays a keyboard? I imagine that as I'm going to sleep nearly every night.

The Fundamentals of Caring: A movie where Paul Rudd has to take care of a kid with muscular dystrophy doesn't sound like my thing, but it's written by Rob Burnett, longtime head-writer for Letterman and co-creator of Ed, one of my favorite television shows ever.

The Trap: I know. I just called the last Harmony Korine movie I saw (Trash Humpers) the worst movie that I saw last year. Hoping this will be more like Spring Breakers and less like all the other shit of his that I've seen.

A Cure for Wellness: I usually like Gore Verbinski, and here, he's tackling the horror genre again.

Green Room: From the maker of Blue Ruin, Jeremy Saulnier. I liked that movie although I'm confused about why Saulnier thinks all of his movie titles have to start with a color then have an R-word.

Eddie and the Eagle: Cool Runnings, but in England and with a ski jumper. This is based on an odd true story, and it looks pretty good.

On the Milky Road: Kusturica!

Kubo and the Two Strings: From Laika, the Caroline and Boxtrolls people

The Bad Batch: A "dystopian love story" with cannibals that is the follow-up to Ana Lily Amirpour's A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, a movie that I've been accused of underrating. Jim Carrey and Keanu Reeves are in this.

Paterson: Adam Driver is in this. One thing I noticed while researching--Adam Driver is apparently going to be in everything. Get ready for a whole lot of Adam Driver, people. I picked this Adam Driver movie for the list because it's a Jim Jarmusch movie. According to imdb, it's a movie "about a bus driver and a poet."

Silence: Scorsese's follow-up to Wolf of Wall Street, this is a movie about Christianity and China. Oh, and Adam Driver is in it.

Deathgasm: Well, I like the title anyway.

Anything I'm leaving off, readers?

Lady Snowblood

1973 revenge movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: After scoundrels rape her and kill her family, a woman gives birth to a daughter who is then trained to get revenge.

"The vagina goddess has blessed us with a visit."

Narratively, this makes some really odd choices. Our heroine has to go after bad guys one-by-one, just like Beatrix Kiddo in the Kill Bill movies, stories heavily influenced by this. But after it's over, when you stop and think about what she actually accomplished, it's a little disappointing. You just wish Snowblood could have sliced off a few more arms or decapitated a few more outmatched bad guys. A character who pops in around the middle of the movie feels superfluous, even at the end when you discover how he's connected to the whole thing. There's a really talky, broken-up exposition, and some completely unnecessary narration.

But with a movie like Lady Snowblood, the plot doesn't really matter all that much. A movie like this is all about creating a cool character--in this case, a cool heroine--and telling that character's story with a whole lot of style. This does just that. If you like your movies with a generous helping of violence, the blood in this one doesn't dick around. As with shane-movies favorite Lone Wolf and Cub series, this blood sprays from wounds in exaggerated but strangely beautiful ways. Limbs are lost, characters are cut in half, and dead characters lie in waves that are more blood than salt water. There's a terrific scene near the beginning where the title character dispatches some poor guy's in the snow, and there's just something about snow and blood that is so beautiful. And there's one scene where the withdrawing of Snowblood's phallic symbol that is more realistic than I've ever seen it before. I can't figure out how they got the shot, but I have a guess: They actually stabbed the guy.

More beauty: A shot during the obligatory training sequence where young Snowblood kills a bunch of grass against a backdrop of angry waves. The swooning camera after the opening percussive and synth belch tidbit where we get a look at a prison and its occupants, cries timed with breathing, and a shot of a blizzard on the other side of the wooden bars. A mill rape with percussive thump-thump accompaniment. Blood dripping from a sword, fighting to be seen after a smoke bomb's gone off. Banzo laying in the rocks with those bloody waves. Blood raining from a hanged character. That gorgeously dangerous umbrella.

I can't explain the odd chapter titles or some jarring camera work during some scenes. Or why the music gets all jazzy at one point. Or why an important part of Snowblood's training involves rolling down a hill in a barrel. But this movie is so good at creating calms both before and after the storms, and despite some narrative flaws, I enjoyed the character and Toshiya Fujita's style.

This was the second movie picked for the little Criterion movie thing my brother and I are doing. Let me know if you want in. You won't be allowed to pick any movies, but you can watch the movies at roughly the same time we do. Our next one: The Pornographers.

The Peanuts Movie

2015 animated movie

Rating: 15/20 (Buster: 20/20)

Plot: Hopeless loser Charlie Brown attempts to gain the affection of a little redheaded girl.

Sound familiar? Well, a lot of this will, and I'm actually pretty sure that was just the right move. I had reservations about this when I first heard about this project from the Blue Sky people. Ice Age isn't bad, but I haven't liked any of its seemingly endless sequels or anything else the studio has put out, and I wondered what these exquisitely two-dimensional characters would look like with fancy computer-generated bodies and mannerisms. The first preview peaked my interest, and the movie itself, though it breaks absolutely no ground at all, is just as sweet and fun as the Peanuts best television special moments, if those are your thing. If they're not, you're probably either Hitler or Satan.

Ice skating sequence? Check. Lucy with her nickel psychiatrist business? Check. Red Baron v. Snoopy shenanigans? Check. Dance scene? Check. Failed kite flying? Check. Great Pumpkin reference? Check. Little redheaded girl? Definitely a check as she's at the heart of the entire plot. Failed attempt to kick a football? Check. Hell, even Snoopy's relative from the desert (Spike, right?) finds his way in this thing! This starts to feel like a Greatest Hits deal after a while, as safe as The Force Awakens, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. With characters this beloved, you really don't want to mess with the formula, and this movie takes everything familiar and updates in a way that catches the characters up with the technology and 21st Century animation while still being respectful to Schulz's vision. I'm still a little surprised at how natural the characters look in this format, and the setting details in the background, though almost always kept simple, are as good as you'd expect from the people who made Ice Age, a movie with striking backgrounds. I really enjoyed the look of this movie, maybe even more like a comic strip come to life than the televised stuff.

You could accuse this of having choppy storytelling, but that's actually consistent with the televised specials. You could actually watch just fragments of this and have perfect little comic strips, the same sorts of mini-stories that might not be all that funny (I don't believe I've ever laughed at a Peanuts comic strip) but have that Schulz poignancy, almost like cute koans. As with all great animated features, this one has a lot for adults, but it's not contemporary allusions or jokes that go over little kids' heads. Or fart jokes, unless that's what is going on with Pigpen. No, the parts of this that appeal to adults works because it's all stuff that you get only with the wisdom that years of experience being a human being can give you.

This is simple in all the right ways and as touching as something that lacks surprises like this can be. I'm sure the makers of Ice Age are planning five or eight sequels as I type, but I'm actually not sure where they can go. Didn't they pretty much use up all of Schulz's ideas? I guess Charlie Brown can go to camp or something.

Question: Does Peppermint Patty wear flip-flops in the snow in the original cartoons? She does here, and it made me wonder if that's the case in the Christmas special.

Nicolas Cage Birthday Celebration: Dying of the Light

2014 Nicolas Cage movie

Rating: 10/20

Plot: A CIA agent with a jacked-up ear spends the waning moments of both his life and his career searching for the terrorist who jacked up said ear. When forced into retirement, he takes a page from Sarah Palin's book and goes rogue. He goes rogue!

A doctor tells Nicolas Cage's character that he "will be subject to overreactions or inappropriate reactions." In other words, this is the perfect role for Nicolas Cage! Mood swings, unreliable sensory perception, general wackiness. I was going to watch a different Nicolas Cage movie on his birthday, but when I noticed he was playing an unbalanced CIA agent in this one, I didn't feel like I had a choice. Cage, as always, didn't let me down.

Actually, before I continue, I should note that writer/director Paul Schrader (who made the very good Bringing Out the Dead with Cage and wrote Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters) didn't even want me to watch this. His vision was apparently compromised as the studio didn't like his 15-hour cut and butchered the thing to present this hour-and-a-half version that doesn't end up making a whole lot of sense.

Back to our birthday boy. This isn't one of his better performances, but it's got enough Cage-iness to be worthwhile for anybody who loves the guy as much as I do. After all, he is playing a character with a mental illness. It starts with a nice "Fuck!", the sort of "Fuck!" that only Cage can deliver, before a scene where he's giving a speech for some new CIA recruits, one where he references watching porn and asks, "What in the name of Jesus Christ nailed to the cross are you doing here?" There's so much angry in that speech that this is probably worth watching just for that. He gives the gift that never disappoints--that patented Nic Cage freakout--more than a few times in this one. There's a great scene where he's told he can't smoke at a restaurant, yells "Jesus!" and then blames the whole thing on jet lag, something that also could explain his entire performance. No way any other character would really take the guy seriously after that scene. His character gets to throw a temper tantrum in his office before he's escorted out, hurling things around and yelling "Core values!" like it's a line he forgot to say during another part of the movie or something. The line "You got your head so far up Obama's ass, you can't see anything but his shit now. Shame on you!" is inspired, and you have to love the way he sneers the bad guy's name. Banir.

You have to love how clumsily this approaches mental illness. The mood swings in this are so jarring. There's a scene where he randomly smells a plant in a hotel, and co-star Anton Yelchin seems so confused by it that you figure it had to be ill-advised improvisation. Apparently, an agape mouth is our visual clue that Cage's character is losing it because that's his go-to move here. Both the writing and the performance tag-team to offend sufferers of brain degenerative diseases or their loved ones.

Cage gets a mirror scene, one where he's checking out his fucked-up ear, and at one point in the film, he's got a goatee and a Romanian accent which is about as perfect as you'd imagine. But the greatest thing about this movie and Cage's performance is this:

That hat nearly steals the show. There's no way to know for sure until Schrader's director's cut is released, but there just has to be a scene that shows Cage's character purchasing the hat. Hell, I wouldn't mind an entirely new movie for this hat's origin story. It could be called Nicolas Cage's Hat in Dying of the Light. That's one I'd see in a theater, 3-D if available.

What else is there to say? The music really stunk in this, there was a shaky-cam chase scene that would have been the worst thing about this movie if it wasn't for a poorly-filmed shoot-out scene with really crappy effects later on, and the film's climax includes a lengthy conversation that didn't make much sense to me and has the most anticlimactic fight scene you'll ever likely see. Of course, it ends with one of the greatest sound effects ever and an awesome one-liner, and that almost makes up for everything.

Is it bad that I'm not enough of a literary scholar or music scholar to know whether the title of this movie is a Dylan Thomas reference or a line from that song where they sing "Wrapped up like a douche"?

Oh, a little product placement: Ruby Tuesdays is apparently the preferred dining establishment of crazy CIA guys. There's this great bit of dialogue about the restaurant:

Yelchin's character: Evan, where are you?
Cage: Diamond Tuesdays.
Yelchin: You're at Ruby Tuesdays?
Cage: Yes, I'm at Ruby Tuesdays. That's what I just said.

You know, because he's got a disease, and Schrader wanted to make sure we knew that.

Apologies to Nic Cage aficionados (Nicophiles) for not getting this published on his actual birthday.


2015 animated prequel

Rating: 10/20 (Buster: 20/20)

Plot: The little yellow guys try to find a bad guy to latch onto, but throughout history, they don't have a lot of luck. They retreat to an icy cave. Eventually, a trio of brave Minions venture out to find a villain, and they think they've gotten lucky when they discover Scarlet Overkill.

One movie was probably just about enough for these sort-of annoying characters. Of course, this movie made 1.157 billion dollars, so what the hell do I know?

I kind of liked the idea behind the movie, a Minions origin story, but Illumination Entertainment went into the project with far too many so-so ideas instead of a few really good ones. The gags all blend together after a while, and the characters irritate more and more as the movie goes on.

Minions 2 and/or Despicable Me 3 are likely in development because children are stupid. According to Wikipedia, they've not got anything Minion-related on the horizon, but they do have a buttload of Dr. Seuss stuff.

Note: My daughter Buster isn't stupid. As a father, I just think it's important that my kids understand age-relevant pop culture references. So I made sure Dylan saw certain movies before he ran off to college, and I'm making sure Buster isn't going to be left out when her kindergarten friends are talking about the Minions.

Sorry if you were looking for a helpful review, but chances are, you're one of the millions of people who have already enjoyed this. Here it is in a nutshell: Children will likely enjoy this movie; parents will feel like somebody's ripping their skin off piece by piece.

Bad Movie Club: The Warrior and the Sorceress


Bad Movie Rating: 3/5 (Johnny: 2.75/5; Mark: unable to finish due to technical difficulties; Josh: 4/5; Fred: 4/5; Libby: must have fallen asleep while counting breasts)

Rating: 7/20

Plot: See Yojimbo. Or A Fistful of Dollars. Same plot.

Right down to a scene where David Carradine walks back into the story through a wall of smoke. And Carradine squints a lot, but that might just because the guy was stoned out of his mind during this movie's production.

That poster up there probably looks familiar. It's the work of Boris Vallejo, an artist who specializes in scantily-clad fantasy characters on sword and sandal movie posters. And, of course, the National Lampoon's Vacation movies.

This is exactly what you'd expect from a mid-80's fantasy movie--too-big music, a sketch of a good v. evil plot, some weird-looking characters, guys comparing the length of their swords, people fighting over a well. There are four things that keep things interesting though:

1) David Carradine, a guy who always made great career choices. I said he was stoned out of his mind up there, and he very likely was. Still, he's got cool boots (Pocahontas boots, Johnny said) and is the personification of cool. Does he ever display anything higher than "barely competent" when it comes to action chops? No, not really. He's sluggish and clunky when swinging giant swords around or kicking people in the midsection. But there's just something about the guy--those eyes, the way he puts his lips together, that voice. Here, he has a great moment where he rubs his own nipple, ostensibly as a form of intimidation. Oh, and there's one great moment where the sound effects guy used a sword whoosh sound to go with a Carradine kick. If there's one action star who deserves that treatment, it's Carradine.

2) One of the bad guys has a pet lizard. He's the Jabba the Hutt of this movie, and his puppet friend is his Salacious Dumb. The puppetry with this minor character's scenes would likely make Jim Henson shit his pants.

The lizard puppet is the one on the right. 

3) In their efforts to make the "Sorceress" in the title of this movie a strong heroine, the screenwriters decided to have her run around topless the entire movie. She's Maria Socas, who was probably used to the objectification since she did a lot of these movies. (We saw her in Wizards of the Lost Kingdom.) But seriously, the amount of screen time her boobs got in this movie was a little ridiculous.

4) There's a four-breasted woman, about six years before we got to see 75% magic on the silver screen in Total Recall. I'd give you a picture, but this is a family-friendly blog. My inquiry ("Does anybody know if Cecilia Narova really has four breasts?") is that actress's only thread on her imdb message board.

Oh, I also liked two "idiot" characters full-mentally-challenged by Daniel March and John Overby. This was the only movie for both of those guys. Their names were Blather and Gabble, and if you have to credit this movie for anything--other than the lizard puppet character, David Carradine, or the gratuitous nudity including a scene with a tri-titted stripper--it's the names. Zeg, Bludge, Bal Caz, Burgo, Blather, Gabble, Scarface.

The Future

2011 drama. . .or comedy

Rating: 12/20

Plot: A couple approaching middle age with a couple of dead-end jobs decide to adopt an injured cat named Paw Paw. Not able to take their pet home for 30 days forces them to think about their futures, and they both search for ways to find meaning in their individual lives with disastrous results for their shared life.

You and Me and Everyone We Know was one of my favorite movies of the year for the year that I watched it, and I had my eye on this Miranda July, first because I think we have similar hair and then because she's got that kind of quirky humor that I'm drawn to. I've wanted to catch this follow-up for a while now. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. The quirk is still there, Miranda July still has the same hair, and there's enough here to make this nearly interesting. On the other hand, it almost seems like July is working too hard to be the Miranda July that was number one in Filmmaker Magazine's "25 Faces of Indie Film" in '04. The artsy pretension grate where her former film's oddness delighted. Instead of being a movie about 30-somethings lost in the 21st Century that's really about something, it ends up being a movie that feels as lost as its characters.

I did like a scene where Miranda July awkwardly twerks. In fact, I might try to find a gif of that as soon as I'm done here and then watch it for a couple hours.

My favorite thing about this movie, however, is that July includes these interludes where the cat talks. She voices the cat, in fact, and that voice irritated my wife so much, that it actually makes me want to watch the movie a little bit more.

It probably didn't help that I watched this movie in something like eight installments.

Heroes of the East

1978 martial artsy domestic drama

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A Chinese guy marries a Japanese gal because it's what their parents want and because they're both reasonably attractive. Tension arises for the newlyweds, however, when they begin arguing over their martial arts styles and abilities and the merits of their countries' weaponry. She whines off to Japan and tells her martial arts peeps about her situation. The husband writes a letter, his intentions are misconstrued, and they come to China to beat him up.

When I read a plot synopsis of this one--likely a plot synopsis not nearly as exquisitely written as the one you just read--I was worried this would be a little too much story and not enough of the kicking and punching. But the exposition's brief, and the newlywedded bliss--or whatever the opposite of bliss might be--erupts into the two showing off their weapons and styles, the tension growing more and more between them as the guy consistently wins their little fights. I probably could have watched an entire movie with that versatile couple, and I liked that the plot of this one was so different from your average kung-fu revenge plot.

Once this gets going, it's almost wall-to-wall action. The seven or eight "heroes of the east" each have own specialties. There's a karate guy, a sword guy, a staff guy, a nunchaku guy, a sneaky ninja guy, a knife and rickshaw guy. He's forced to fight one a day, even after his wife has seemingly accepted things and is back to living and even rooting for him. The whole thing really stops being about their relationship and more about how China is cooler than Japan. Don't be fooled by that title. This is very pro-Chinese as opposed to pro-Japanese, and despite that bias, one of the more interesting things about this whole thing is seeing the differences in fighting styles and the knives and staffs and swords. There are other cultural nuances in there, too. The movie's packed with action, but the Shaw Brothers really branched out with this one, giving the characters a much different reason to be fighting and making the whole thing far fresher than most kung-fu movies of this era.

The fight scenes are well choreographed, and the participants are sharp, especially the versatile lead played by the legendary Chia-Hui Liu (Gordon Liu), the guy who played Pai Mei in Kill Bill: Volume 2. Oh, and Johnny Mo in Kill Bill: Volume One. Am I the only Kill Bill fan who didn't know these two were played by the same guy?

However, all the kung-fu dudes in this are skilled, and I loved how they worked in all the weapons. There's a drunken style scene, and those are always fun to watch. The ninja action, like a kung-fu chess match, was also very cool. My favorite antagonist was probably a mousy, twitchy guy, the one with the rickshaw and the knives.

Highly recommended for martial arts fans!

2015 Year in Review: Part Five

Best Nicolas Cage Moment

“Without creativity, without life, then you are truly unable to go straight up the devil’s ass, look him right in the face, smile, and survive.” This should go on Cage’s tombstone.

“When that big red snatch is coming right at your face like a freight train, it’s pretty hard to paint, I’ll tell you what.”

Cage rapes a woman in a confessional in Zandalee, and he also delivers the wonderful line “This duck is succulent,” a line followed by Tomei’s laughter. But the freak-out at the end of the movie where he kung-fu fights paintings, whimpers, and eventually pours black paint all over himself almost rivals his wackiness from any of his movies.

The intro of Zandalee, an 80’s rock god head twirl, is also pretty intense.

Oh, and he makes a second peach reference, this time offering to share one with Judge Reinhold, a man with no ass.


Cage putting on his leather jacket in Rage because at that moment, you know it’s on.

The “acting shitstorm” you get to experience when Peter Stormare, playing an Irish guy, and Nic Cage are acting together in Rage.

There’s no winner in this category. We’re all winners when Nic Cage is on the screen.

Best Auxiliary Character

They stand out in very small roles. I loved Richard Cordery as the uncle in About Time. Electric Larry, mysterious party animal dude, is so cool in Get Crazy. Dance of Reality has a bunch of amputees. William Hickey is a shane-movies fave anyway, and he appears in The Telephone Book with a perpetual erection. Vincent “Excuse Me If I Smell Like Piss” Schiavelli is one of the few good things about Death to Smoochy. Edward Morrow is three characters in Wizards of the Lost Kingdom, but the one eligible for this award is Gulfax (I think), a character we Bad Movie Clubbers referred to as “tampon man,” “mutated lambchop,” and “giant gurgling white Chewbacca.” Another shane-movies favorite John Lurie gets to be Disciple James in Last Temptation, and he even gets to talk about fishing. Scott Spiegel’s solid as Marty Coleslaw in Robot Ninja, Gary Crain plays a Gomer Pyle type character who ends up being the devil in disguise in C Me Dance, and Alan Tudyk is very funny in the kind-of funny Premature, especially with the “Why were there only one set of footprints in the sand?” line. Coen brother movies are always filled with great minor characters and Herb, the Baron, and Wheezy Joe (RIP) from Intolerable Cruelty are all great.

I’m giving this to Adam Pearson though. He was the deformed man in Under the Skin.

The Wiseau

This award is for the best-worst example of a person who thinks he or she can do it all--write, direct, act, and sometimes even make music.

John De Hart would be deserving of this award in any other year as the writer/director/star/composer for Road to Revenge. He’s bad in otherworldly ways at all four of those, and his work would rival any previous winner of this award.

Brett Kelly did it all (poorly) in Thunderstorm: The Return of Thor.

Both Brad F. Grinter and especially Steve Hawkes co-wrote/directed Blood Freak and gave themselves screen time, and either of them would be worthy of The Wiseau.

But there’s no way anybody’s competing with the triple shot of Breen. It’s hard to imagine that there will ever be another Tommy Wiseau, but Neil Breen comes awfully close with I Am Here….Now, Double Down, and Fateful Findings.

Worst Actor

Don’t confuse this with the upcoming Torgo, an award given for bad acting that entertained me. This is more for performers who irritated me.

James Franco, for example, was just unpleasant in The Interview. Bill Murray, with that accent and all the post-stroke scenes, was terrible in St. Vincent. Ashton Kutcher? Do I need to say more? (Although that scene with the granola bar is pretty special.)

Actually, I’m not sure why I have this award. Nevermind. Move on.

The Torgo (Most Entertaining Bad Acting--Male)

Nicolas Cage in Rage, a money grab where he’s called upon to play a real person far too often and unfortunately shows that all his emotions are kind of the same and that he might be getting a little too old for this action star thing.

Peter Stormare in the same movie, wheel-chaired with an Irish accent that he can in no way be proud of.

Cage again in Zandalee, probably a top-five Cage-y performance. Of course, Judge Reinhold, a man without an ass, out-doofuses Cage in that movie and can’t make anything his character does seem natural.

Rudy Ray Moore in Petey Wheatstraw, a guy with only one gear. 

James Mitchum again for that work he did in Hollywood Cop. John De Hart once again for the brilliancy in Road to Revenge. Jody Haucke, the bad guy in Thunderstorm. Colton Osborne, who plays Tony in the Birdemic sequel. George Kennedy, a professional who should have known better, for his work in The Uninvited. Steve Hawkes in Blood Freak. Richard Kiel, huge and grunting in The Humanoid. They’re all just so good-bad at what they do!

Battlefield Earth almost feels like a race for the Torgo at times. Travolta and Whitaker ham it up, and then Michael MacRae steps in as Zete and almost steals the show. They’re hilariously awful.

And then there’s Jon Voight in Karate Dog. Dick hair, an accent that makes him sound like a Warner Brothers cartoon character, CGI kung-fu. His villainous performance in Karate Dog is one for the ages.

But this is the Year of Breen, and that trifecta of movies is filled with enough magically bad moments to earn the guy some sort of lifetime Torgo if those existed. Not only is Breen the Torgo winner for the year; he’s also one of my new favorite people in general.

The Livingstone (Most Entertaining Bad Acting--Female)

Last year, I decided that the women deserved their own category and made this one up. The nominees:

Peggy Neal, a woman who both overacts and overreacts in The Terror Beneath the Sea
Veronica Hamel, the witch in The Last Leprechaun
Maria Markovic, an antagonist with a headband in Robot Ninja
The woman who plays the over-the-top villainess in Jurassic Shark (I can’t find her name but she’s not winning anyway)
Gabrielle Mackenzie, another over-the-top villainess named Hel in Thunderstorm

And our winner--Shirley L. Jones as Helen Black, the puppet’s unfortunate victim in Black Devil Doll from Hell

Best Actor

Willem Dafoe, Jesus in Last Temptation
Jake Gyllenhaal, wonderfully-nuanced dual performances in Enemy
Michael Parks, Tusk
shane-movies favorite Matti Pellanpaa, La Vie de Boheme
Jake Gyllenhaal again, Louis Bloom in Nightcrawler
Albert Finney, poetically drunk in Under the Volcano
Eddie Redmayne, Theory of Everything
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Miles Teller, Whiplash
Don Knotts, Pleasantville
Joaquin Phoenix, Inherent Vice (I think he’s possibly the best actor in the biz right now.)
Bill Nighy, the dad in About Time
Al Pacino, Donnie Brasco
Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York
John Hurt, Only Lovers Left Alive
Toby Jones, Berberian Sound Studio
Buddy Hackett, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World
Harry Dean Stanton, Paris, Texas
Both Paul Dano and John Cusack, a pair of Brian Wilsons in Love and Mercy
Samuel L. Jackson, The Hateful Eight

The winner, however, might be a bit of a surprise. On the strength of the “Daddy’s got to go to work” scene alone, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson wins the best actor award for his work in Furious 7.

Best Actress

Rachel McAdams, Mary in About Time

Pamela Flores, a brave role with urinating and operatic singing (of all her lines) in Dance of Reality
Eva Green, Sin City 2
Annette Bening, American Beauty
Julianne Moore, About Alice (but only if that was real urine)
Whitney Moore, Birdemic
Tura Satana, Astro-Zombies
Sarah Snook, Predestination
Melanie Lynskey, Heavenly Creatures
Nastassja Kinski, Paris, Texas
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

The winner: Scarlett Johansson, perfection in Under the Skin. She might win this award every year.

Best Documentary

Life Itself, a touching tribute to Roger Ebert wins. But I also liked The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, Trinity and Beyond, No No: A Dockumentary, The Maestro: King of the Cowboy Poets, and Animal Passions.

Best Silent Movie

Happiness, a 1935 Russian movie, narrowly beats The Hands of Orlac and Harold Lloyd’s Dr. Jack. None of them were great. Why did I only watch three silent movies this year? Is that really right?

Best Opening Credits Sequence

Seconds, by Saul Bass, the best ever at opening credit sequences

Best Animated Movie

Shaun the Sheep was the most joyful animated experience, and Mr. Peabody and Sherman, Big Hero 6, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, The Boxtrolls, and the gorgeous hand-painted “Old Man and the Sea” short (which would win if it wasn’t a short) are all recommended for fans of animation. But this year, we had a Pixar movie, and Inside Out takes the prize. Actually, there were two Pixar movies, but I haven’t seen the dinosaur one yet and can’t imagine it’s going to be better than Inside Out.

Best Short

Ahh, here’s where that “Old Man and the Sea” (which you need to find on the internet and watch) can win. I also liked the depressing time-travel short 12:01 a lot.

Best Television Show That Was New to Me

Nathan for You

Wait a second! Tommy Wiseau released episodes of a television show? Nevermind, The Neighbors has to win this award.

Movie That Took the Longest Time to Complete

Tiny Furniture--something like 3 years, and it wasn’t really worth it.

Worst Movie

These were the most painful movie-watching experiences of the year for me:

The Interview, a waste of my time
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
American Sniper
Terminator Salvation
Goodbye to Language
The Last Mimzy
Moron Movies
Battlefield Earth
Mission: Impossible 2
Project Almanac
San Andreas
Christmas with the Kranks

But the winner, a movie I still feel a little bad for subjecting two people to? Trash Humpers. Way to go, Harmony Korine.

The Manos (Best-Worst Movie)

This gets tougher every year since I seem to intentionally watch more good-bad movies every year. These all entertained me this year:

It’s hard to believe that none of the following are good-bad enough to even be considered for this prestigious award: Malibu Express, The Terror Beneath the Sea, Can’t Stop the Music or Showgirls or The Dragon Lives Again or Plan 9 from Outer Space (all ineligible because they’re repeats), Robot Ninja, Beach Girls and the Monster, The Day Time Ended, C Me Dance, Thunderstorm: The Return of Thor, Jurassic Shark, Fatal Deviation, Halloween Puppy, Elves, Not Just Another Christmas Movie, The Humanoid, Wizards of the Lost Kingdom, Left Behind, The Uninvited, Raiders of the Lost Kingdom, and the Star Wars Holiday Special

Hollywood Cop
Road to Revenge
I Am Here….Now
The Killing of Satan
Black Devil Doll from Hell
The Creeping Terror
Double Down
Birdemic 2
Karate Dog
Fateful Findings
Blood Freak

Man! What a great year of good-bad movie magic! Honestly, both Road to Revenge, Gunda, and Black Devil Doll from Hell deserve the Manos. But as I said earlier, this is Neil Breen’s year, and any of his three movies would be worthy Manos Award winners. I’ll go with I Am Here….Now, however, because it was the first one I saw and has the four-dot ellipses.

Best Movie of the Year

As always, this is limited to movies I hadn’t previously seen. So Gangs of New York, American Beauty, Donnie Brasco, Harold and Maude, Eyes Wide Shut, Back to the Future, Playtime, and Northfork are ineligible.

The following were movies I liked or loved but fell just short of being nominated:

Short Term 12
Under the Volcano
The Wizard of Speed and Time
The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears
Arizona Dream
Noises Off
Wild Tales
Berberian Sound Studio
Dillinger Is Dead
Heavenly Creatures
La Main du Diable
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Love and Mercy
The Spook Who Sat by the Door
Snow on tha Bluff
Upstream Color
Mr. Nobody
Uncle Boonmee
Sweet Sweetback’s Badass Song
Man Push Cart
Furious 7
Inherent Vice
Paris, Texas
The Red Shoes
The Hateful Eight
Mad Max: Fury Road
Inside Out (best animated feature winner)

The nominees:

Under the Skin
Dance of Reality
La Vie de Boheme
The Music Room
About Time
The Conformist
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

The winner? Under the Skin, also the first movie I watched in 2015. It’s the movie that I was the least able to forget long after I watched it and then watched parts of it over again.

Thank you very much for being one of my three-and-a-half readers this year. I really appreciate it.