2014 war movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Some brave men fight some other brave men with a tank and some of the other brave men have tanks and some of them don't but they all have guns and a desire to kill one another because that's what war is all about.

War movies generally aren't my bag because like Smokey, I'm a pacifist. But I was reminded that this was supposed to be pretty good when noting that Suicide Squad director David Ayer helmed it, and I was in the mood to see Shooby LeBoof do his thing. It's a War-Is-Hell stew of a movie with all the ingredients you'd expect to see in a War-Is-Hell stew movie--brutal violence, bravado, machismo, tough talk, motherfuckers, military circle jerking, good old boys, grease, spit, blood, sweat, tears, explosions, general ugliness, shocking deaths, tense sitting around, a big score, a fair share of Jesus, weapon fetishism, wasted youth, and naturally, hellish imagery. Ayer concocts this stew and then grabs the back of his viewers' heads and shoves faces right in there, screaming, "War! Huh! Good god, y'all!"

The characters are stock characters. You've got a greenhorn, a Bible thumper, an irritable dullard, a foreign guy, and Brad Pitt's typical brand of stoicism. They get themselves filthy and then pretty much do everything anybody would expect them to. They're anti-heroes at times and scared kids at other times, and their enemies are, for the most part, completely faceless. Pitt kind of sleepwalks through the role, but LeBoof really stands out as that Bible thumper. Apparently, he didn't shower, pulled out his own tooth, and repeatedly cut his face to add some realism to the character and the character's experience. It worked because I could actually smell him through my television screen, so way to go, Shooby. I also liked Jon Bernthal's good as a character named Coon-Ass. Either he's actually good or I just wanted a reason to type Coon-Ass.

Ayer wanted a film that faithfully reconstructs the WWII experience, and I wouldn't know if he succeeded or not because I've never been in a war at all. The tank ballistics looked like Stormtrooper blaster shots to me, and the characters' language didn't feel all that authentic. But I'm far from an expert on that sort of thing. The claustrophobia of tank life and the anxiety of knowing that a tree could start shooting at you at any moment has an authenticity though. All in all, it's not a bad war movie though I'm not sure there's anything new here. I did really enjoy the closing credits, however.

By the way, imdb tells me that LeBoof became a Christian during the shooting of this movie. Here's what he had to say: "I found God during Fury. I became a Christian man, and not in a fucking bullshit way--in a very real way. I could have just said the prayers that were on the page, but . . . it's a full-blown exchange of heart, a surrender of control."


2014 horror-comedy

Rating: 11/20

Plot: A young woman is put under house arrest in the home of her mom and step-father, the former who is convinced that the house is haunted. Kylie starts to believe it might be herself and tries to solve the mystery of what's behind some of the strange occurrences at what has to be her home for eight months.

I'm actually a little impressed that this was actually so watchable despite being riddled with so many horror movie cliches and not making much sense at all. It didn't succeed as a horror movie until the revelation with the first of what seemed like about 18 different twists, and it never really worked as a comedy either. It's trying very, very hard with both of those though. I really didn't like the main character enough for this movie to overcome its flaws.

Mean Streets

1973 drama

Rating: 17/20

Plot: Charlie wants to advance in the ranks of the mafia as he works to collect debts for his uncle, but his loyalty to a crazy friend stands in the way.

Here's a movie you should let your kids watch instead of The Angry Birds Movie. Its great performances and gritty poetry and urban fetishism is much more delightful than watching cartoon eagles urinate.

I hadn't seen this in a very long time, and I'm surprised at how similar the series of events and the relationships here are to what happens in Rounders, a movie that I've seen at least three times since the last time I watched this. Watching this in 1973, people were seeing an actor do something that I don't think was done before. De Niro's performance is so good, and it's even better because it's something that is imperfect. He doesn't hit all the notes, and for whatever reason, that makes it all better. Keitel is really great, too.

This has the feel of something very personal to Scorsese, and I love how he isn't afraid to dwell on smaller, seemingly insignificant details here. It creates this texture that I'm sure is exactly what Scorsese was going for. Great soundtrack choices, superb dialogue, perplexing relationships between the characters, and some uniquely tense scenes help him hit the bullseye again and again with this.

The Angry Birds Movie

2016 animated fecal matter

Rating: 7/20 (Buster: 20/20 [She also rated the end credits separately and gave those a 20/20]; Jen: 13/20)

Plot: Flightless birds slingshot themselves at ramshackle fortresses built by green pigs.

I hated every minute of this movie. It's vile.

There's a scene in which an eagle urinates into some water that the birds were just swimming in and drinking up, and I don't want to sound like a prude or anything, but the scene goes on for around five minutes. That's five minutes of alternating shots of a yellow stream of urine between an eagle's legs and shots of the birds with disgusted faces on their countenances. I'm not sure if that bothered me as much as some of the cheep puns though.

Did you catch that cheap pun of my own? I swear on the life of this blog that it was more clever than anything in this movie.

Avoid this, and don't let your children watch it on their own either. They might like it because they don't know any better, but there are other movies for them to see that don't have extended scenes of urinating eagles or lines like "pluck my life."

A Hologram for the King

2016 comedy

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Tom Hanks goes to the desert.

This is a strange Tom Hanks movie that likely won't appeal to many Tom Hanks fans or people who like strange cinema. It's a much more subdued follow-up to Cloud Atlas, co-directed by Tom Tykwer, but it's definitely not clean. It starts with a Hanks rendition of the Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime," and has several too-cutesy touches along the way. Hanks is his generally reliable self, a likable everyman who, as he ages, seems more willing to show us what his body looks like. There are interesting opportunities missed, an almost-touching romance, and a great, funny character played by Alexander Black. The problem is that the story is a complete mess, and it never seems like anybody involved ever had a grasp on what they wanted this to be. Is it some sort of commentary on happenings in the Middle East? Is it a comedy? Is it a dark comedy? Is it a romantic comedy? Is it about a potential business transaction? Is it about a father-daughter relationship? Is it about a guy who might have cancer? Is it a love story? In the end, it's just both too sleek and too sloppy to recommend.

Bad Movie Club: Def by Temptation

1990 splatter-filled morality movie

Bad Movie Rating: 3/5 (Josh: 2/5 or 3/5; Tami: no rating ["I am not sure how I feel about tonight's movie."]

Rating: 4/20

Plot: Some sort of demon woman known to slobber, fart, gag, and shit is killing off horny men, and she's got her eyes on a young preacher man.

Writer/Director/Star James Bond III dedicated this to his father and grandfather, who I'm going to guess were named James Bond II and James Bond respectively. His message to them? "I'm the last one now." For whatever reason, that made me laugh.

This was also the last (and only) movie that James Bond III wrote or directed although he did act in some other things. Or, more likely, "act" in some other things. The tone of this is what makes it kind of unique. It's very clearly made as a way to push religious values, but at the same time, there's a lot of cussing, some sex and nudity, and some graphic violence including a scene where a guy gets eaten by a television that has a papier-mache Ronald Reagan poised behind it. If you're a liberal who can watch that scene without having nightmares for a week, then you can survive this whole Trump thing.

And yes, as promised on the poster up there, Samuel L. Jackson is in this movie. So now you Samuel L. Jackson completists have to check this one out. Take that!

Things become dull and predictable for the first two-thirds of this, but get wacky in the final 25 minutes or so with that aforementioned death, some terrible and gross special effects, a surreal scene in a bar, and a grandmother whose wet dreams involve her grandson. The grandmother was played by Minnie Gentry who gave my favorite performance of the movie, and she'd go on to play an elderly woman in the Bad Lieutenant where Keitel shows his junk.

The best reason to check this out is probably to fill out your repertoire of pick-up lines, including gems like "I'm on a first-name basis with pussy, know what I'm sayin'?" That's guaranteed to work every single time.

Knight of Cups

2015 impressionist drama

Rating: 11/20

Plot: A guy wanders around Los Angeles and Las Vegas in search of love.

Terrence Malick has lost his fucking mind. There's part of me that really wants to appreciate what is happening here with Malick's visual storytelling, the poetic drama, and the impressionistic portrait of a lost soul. Visually, the movie is simply stunning, and I'd have trouble arguing with somebody who wanted to tell me that this is the product of a virtuosic visionary at work.

Unfortunately, it just doesn't add up to anything, and after the barrage of images for twenty minutes or so, you start to realize that most of the pretty pictures don't even really matter. The acting is almost universally stilted, like Bale and company are trying to convince everybody that they belong in an artsy-fartsy movie like this. The Tarot card references zip right over my head and, I'd reckon, the heads of most people. Yet the point of the movie seems easy to grasp, and after spending a little bit of time with this completely unlikable character played by a semi-unlikable actor, you get it just fine and start to feel exhausted as Malick wants you to get it even more. Overlong, exceptionally dry, and about as fartsy as a movie can be, this was about as unpleasant as a movie can be. It really had the feel of a two-hour commercial for perfume or something, the kind with a voice over whispering the name of the product over and over while actors and actresses appear bemused.

A major disappointment, especially since The Tree of Life, a movie with a similar style, was so good. I didn't see To the Wonder, but this makes me wonder whether Malick should go back to his one-movie-a-decade schedule.

The Witch

2016 supernatural horror movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A family in 17th Century New England has ninety-nine problems, and a witch is one.

"Wouldst thou like the taste of butter?"

At the point in the movie where that butter line is uttered, I actually thought to myself, "Wait a second. Have I missed that this is actually a comedy?"

It's really not though. It's a creepy horror movie that is less effectively when it's overtly horrifying and much better when it's just kind of getting under your skin. It unfurls in surprising and shocking ways without ever seeming cheap. No, I'm not sure if the thing makes a lick of sense, but the surreal shades (raven breastfeeding, an expelled apple) give the movie a unique flavor. It's all pretty to look at, but it's also unsettling and builds to a very memorable final fifteen minutes or so.


1972 battle of wits

Rating: 18/20

Plot: A rich guy and a poor guy engage in an elaborate pissing contest.

I haven't seen the remake of this from 2007 with Jude Law and, well, Michael Caine, but I can't imagine it's nearly as good as the original. This movie is just so well written, biting dark comedy at the fringes and some great irony, and the two leads--the only two performers in the movie, are stellar. It's a slowly-unfolding cat and mouse game that has you on the edge of your seat even if you already know how it's all going to wind up. I never made the connection, but this was written by Anthony Shaffer, the same guy who wrote the screenplay for The Wicker Man.

The Last Wave

1977 mystery

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A lawyer takes a homicide case involving some Aborigines and beings having mysterious apocalyptic dreams.

This entices with creepy vibes, visually and sonically. It's dense, perhaps even impenetrable, as references to dream worlds and other dimensions are foreign to most people.

The Fundamentals of Caring

2016 dramedy

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Paul Rudd becomes a caregiver for a handicapped smart-ass, and the pair go on a road trip to see a giant hole.

Netflix is at it again! I gave this movie a shot only because Rob Burnett, longtime Letterman show and Ed (one of my favorite t.v. shows ever) producer, wrote and directed it. I'm also a sucker for movies where people play handicapped people. And no, I'm not really sure what to call handicapped people anymore. "Disabled" never sounds right to me because it makes it sound like a person is broken or something. What is the politically correct term now?

This could have been better, and it could have been worse. It's too predictable, seems too familiar, and ultimately feels a little pointless. It's quirky, but it's not quite quirky enough while the characters are likable without really being memorable. It's stuffed with cliches which might be exactly why the whole thing was almost oppressively pleasant.

I did like Craig Roberts as the handicapped kid. I'd really like to see him start making better career choices though. This wasn't a bad role for him, and at least he got to sit down while working. Well, until my favorite scene that I won't spoil for you.

There's product placement for Slim Jim all over the place in this. I actually felt a little embarrassed because there were times when this really did just kind of look like a commercial for meat snacks.

Bad Movie Club: Miami Connection (redux)

1987 action masterpiece

Bad Movie Rating: 5/5 (Johnny: 4/5; Josh: 5/5)

Rating: 3/20

Plot: I already wrote about this movie right here.

And I don't have anything to add because the review linked above is perfectly written. I just put this new entry here to let you know that I consider this a bona-fide good-bad movie classic, right up there with Birdemic, Manos, or The Room. Josh campaigned for a rewatch of this, and it was a good choice because the thing goes down just as smoothly the second time. And now I have "Friends Forever" stuck in my head again.

Y.K. Kim, unintelligible kung-fu hero who also co-wrote and co-directed this, should have been a force to be reckoned with.

Puppet Master

1988 horror movie

Rating: 11/20

Plot: Former psychic colleagues assemble at the hotel after another colleague dies. There, they are assaulted by puppets.

I was disappointed that this movie, like Mousehunt, kills off William Hickey way too early. Man, that guy was terrific. He's really great as Toulon, who I suppose is the real "puppet master" in this scrambled mess of a movie.

This movie has something like nine sequels. I'm willing to bet I don't personally know a single person who has seen any of them though. Do I just not know the right people or is this a franchise that refuses to give up? Puppet Master, the little-engine-that-could of Hollywood.

Of course, the best thing about this movie, as you might expect, would be the puppets. They're stop-animated at times and are just odd enough to always be compelling. There's Blade, sort of the leader of the group.

Tunneler, a goofy-looking mo-fo who could very easily be a lame Masters of the Universe character.

Leech Woman, my favorite, who expels leeches from her mouth onto the bodies of her victims. No, I can't figure out how the heck she manufactures leeches. All I know is that it's strangely hot. 

Most uselessly of all, there's Pinhead, who spends the majority of his time on screen getting thrown around like a defected stuffed animal. 

And there's Rolfe:

The puppets all seem like they were planned in a hurry, almost like the person in charge of that part of the production forgot to design the things until the last minute, ironic since the movie has the word "puppet" in the title and all. There are some gruesome moments and an intriguing enough story, complete with a fair share of surrealistic touches, to make this worth the time if 80's-era cult horror movies. If you're looking for a coherent story, good characters, or actual scares, you might want to look elsewhere.

Bad Movie Club: Hawkeye

1988 buddy cop movie

Bad Movie Rating: 4/5 (Fred: 2/5, but didn't finish; Kristen: 3/5; Jeremy: 4/5; Kandi (BMC rookie who does not officially want to be associated with our group in any way): No rating, but "probably the worst movie I've ever seen"; Josh: fell asleep; Johnny: 4.5/5)

Rating: 5/20

Plot: Alexander "Hawkeye" Hawkamoto, a cop willing to break all the rules to get his man, loses a partner and gains another, a guy cast in the movie because he might remind people of Eddie Murphy. Together, they try to take down some drug dealers in Las Vegas.

Don't be fooled, Ronnie Lott fans. He doesn't even get two minutes of screen time here, so if you pick this up at your local Blockbuster Video because you see him advertised on the cover up there, you're going to be disappointed.

God bless George Chung who wrote, directed, and starred in this, ostensibly because he wanted to prove to the world that he could be an action superstar. And if you just watch the guy die and roll to dodge bullets--something he does at least twice here--you'll be sold. For an Asian character from Texas, you'd think he'd stay away from racism, but that's clearly not the case with a ill-advised watermelon reference in this script. Chung has no business being in an action movie or really any kind of movie. I mean, just look at the guy:

I'm not sure who the actor was playing my favorite character, but I think it might be Jack Wada as "karate master." Kristen astutely pointed out that the guy sounded like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, and his two scenes in this are definitely stand-outs.

This is as poorly written as you'd imagine, at times seeming like Chung doesn't have a full grasp on the idioms of the English language. That would be the only explanation for the "packing shit" line that pops up in there. Of course, there was an entire scene, one of many extraneous ones near the middle of the movie that failed to advance the plot or reveal anything about the characters, that takes place at a gay bar, apparently for comic relief reasons. References to "pissing in the rain" or "pouring the meat to her" also perplexed.

The movie has a great ending, and I wish it had two or three sequels. I'd love to see the further adventures of Alexander Hawkamoto.


2003 drama

Rating: 4/20

Plot: Steve's keeping a secret from his flower-painting girlfriend, Kate Beckinsale. And that secret is that every single other person he knows is a little person. The truth comes out when his twin brother Rolfe pops in for a visit. And when Kate ends up pregnant, likely because Steve has sex in his sleep, they start to fear that the baby will also be a little person.

It's almost a travesty that this wasn't on my blog. Here, I pretend to be both a bad movie and little-person-movie aficionado, and here's this gem that I just wasn't able to get my hands on for the longest time. I'm thrilled that it lived up to expectations with an explosion of both little people and hilarious badness.

I'd like to start with the cast, mostly filled with little people. Well, no. I want to start with the title, one that I don't understand. I don't believe the word is referenced anywhere in the script, and I can't think of an idiom or other aphorism that fits with the story or characters. I must be missing something, but the rest of this project is so colossally stupid that it's also just a possibility that the title is completely meaningless.

Now, for the cast. Matthew McConaughey plays a character who makes no sense whatsoever, and I think I've gotten to a point with McConaughey where it's just too much. I mean, I enjoy those car commercials where he talks to himself as much as the next guy, but all of his roles are starting to blend together. I expected this character, who as I said makes no sense, to get AIDS and fly away in a spaceship at any second. The beautiful Kate Beckinsale plays his love interest, a woman who is an artist in at least one scene in the movie. And Patricia Arquette plays a free-spirited woman who Peter Dinklage's character is banging.

And that's it. The rest of the cast consists of little people which puts this right up there with The Wizard of Oz and Over the Rainbow (but not The Terror of Tiny Town, of course) with an impressive dwarf-to-non-dwarf ratio. Of course, that's only if you consider Gary Oldman--in a "role of the lifetime" according to a trailer--on his knees a little person. Oldman gets a cane, a back hunch that likely shifted quite a bit although I didn't pay enough attention to it, and sometimes a couch to bury his legs in, a special effect that can only be described as magical, and he brings his best Matthew McConaughey impression to the proceedings to turn in a performance that I'm sure both he and his family are proud of.

You know what I'd like to see? I'd like to see a remake of Tiptoes where Daniel Day-Lewis plays a little person. You know that fucker's chopping off his legs for the part.

Seriously, why is this movie called Tiptoes? Somebody tell me.

The real little people are led by Peter Dinklage playing an ornery character who is pretending to be French. Either that or he was playing an actual Frenchman. Regardless, I had trouble figuring why the character was even in the movie. I kept waiting for his purpose to be revealed. I know that Dinklage is the biggest little star these days, but I'm rarely impressed. Here, the French accent is silly, and it's definitely not a good performance. And of course, it doesn't help that his character is completely superfluous. He doesn't work with as a foil to Oldman's Rolfe (seriously, that's his name) or as comic relief, and the subplot with Arquette and him doesn't help develop the movie's themes or anything.

Wait! David Alan Grier is in this movie, too! I forgot about his character. He gets himself a very brief sex scene with Bridget Powers of Big Money Rustlas fame. And no, you sicko, it's not anything graphic. But seriously, other than that, it's little people. It's like McConaughey is trapped in some sort of little person nightmare or something. When he and Beckinsale have their baby, and the little person doctor walks in, I nearly shit myself.

Ed Gale, who started his career playing Howard the Duck in another critically-acclaimed film and who has worked with the Coen brothers, is in this. He was also in Spaceballs and played Chucky's stunt double in one of those Child's Play movies. Debbie Lee Carrington was also in Howard the Duck (as "other ducks," I shit you not), played Valerie Vomit in the Garbage Pail Kids movie, and was an Ewok a few times. I'm most interested in seeing her as "Hot Pocket" in Bitch Slap. Oh, and she did stunts in Titanic apparently. One of my favorites--Michael J. Anderson--plays the twins' father. Did I even mention that Rolfe (Oldman) and McConaughey are twins in this? Because of course they are. Anyway, you know Anderson as the little guy in Twin Peaks and as Samson in Carnivale. Somebody with the terrific name Cherub Freed is in this, her only movie.

My favorite credit in this movie is a poor guy named Chuy Bravo (from Chelsea Handler's show) who is credited here with playing "Little Person." It's a movie filled with little people, and this is the only guy who doesn't get a name. He's "Little Person" instead. That one had to hurt Mr. Bravo.

It's hard to figure out what this movie is. At times, it feels comedic, but I think it's supposed to be a drama with some lighter moments mixed in. If it reminds me of anything, it reminds me of an after-school special, one with a pro-dwarf agenda. Unfortunately, the whole thing backfires, and it seems more like the makers of this are poking fun of little people. It's all just so silly.

Beckinsale might have delivered the line of the year for me in this movie, by the way. "So you had a circle jerk with a bunch of little people" is good enough to put a smile on my face, but when she adds a hearty "I would have loved to see that!", it's just magical.

It all moves along clumsily and builds--or more accurately, stumbles--to a what-the-hellish ending that will make you wonder what just happened. As Dinklage's character would say: "Zut alors!"

C'mon, really? 

Fassbinder Film Fest: Chinese Roulette

1976 drama

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Philandering spouses are totally busted by first each other and then their daughter when they all arrive at their country home. They decide to play a game.

I thought this was a very strange film. It was strange in a quiet way rather than a wacky way. The characters just don't act like normal people should, and there's this coldness to the style, the camera angles, and the framing that makes this almost chilling. I'm not quite sure what Fassbinder wants to say about people or relationships--especially marriage--here, but it's about as misanthropic as a movie can get.

Anna Karina is in this, and that always makes me smile.