Why Don't You Play in Hell?

2013 action comedy

Rating: 15/20

Plot: An amateur film crew calling themselves the Fuck Bombers get involved with a Yakuza turf war. 

This is my second Sion Sono movie of the year, and I might watch another one because he's that kind of director. There's weirdness throughout with allusions to a made-up toothpaste commercial and a real Bruce Lee jump suit, but things don't get ultra-weird, or ultra-violent, until a frenetic final thirty minutes or so where limbs are flying all over the place and blood's spilling from the television set. The imagery is energetic, electric, and alive, one of those bloody cartoons for adults, and the thrilling denouement set up by 3/4 of the movie is captivatingly goofy. 

Sono's a bit over my head with the message, but there's an obvious homage to grindhouse and independent film here. Things get meta early and often, and the whole thing's elevated above other splattersploitation flicks by having something to say about movies and violence and violence in movies. You also actually care about the characters and their relationships. So when everybody is decapitated or shot apart by the end of the movie, you feel a little something. And you also feel that nothing is real, so you're allowed to go to bed happy. 

Dark humor, wacky characters, blood spurts. What else could a guy ask for? I'm starting to wonder if Sion Sono is my new favorite director. 

The Mechanic

1972 action movie

Rating: 12/20

Plot: An assassin makes a new friend.

Here's a brief list of things I would like to hear Charles Bronson say:

"If you have to go potty, then go potty."
"Well, it looks like somebody ate the last popsicle."
"The smeller's the feller, my friend. The smeller's the feller."
"Stop flashing that puppet at me, or I will cry."
"Don't go home with your hard-on; it will only drive you insane." (Leonard Cohen)
"Those Koopa Troopas don't want me walking in the room in my Goomba Shoe."

I liked the first chunk of movie because I like extended scenes where characters are working. I don't believe there's any spoken words at all for the first quarter of an hour which is sort of a risky move. But it's one that works because you really get to the heart of this character. The less Bronson's character talks, the more effective the character is created, even as the mystery of the character deepens.

There's not really enough story for this character, and I'm not really sure much about the last third of the narrative makes sense. I spent most of the movie wishing that I could have another story featuring Bronson's Arthur Bishop. The twists don't quite work, and there's just not quite enough style to make this stand out from similar films from the gritty 70s.

Movies-A-Go-Go: Labyrinth

1986 fantasy movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A bratty teen gets exactly what she wishes for when goblins steal her little brother. She has to navigate her way through a tricky maze with the help of some puppets in order to retrieve him from an androgynous glam rocker.

I hadn't seen this since I was a kid and didn't figure I would like it as an adult, but I intended to watch it after Bowie's death because I couldn't think of a better way to honor David Bowie than to spend some quality time with his codpiece. I'm always amazed with Muppet movies because of how well the puppets, very obviously puppets, mesh with the reality, and this Jim Henson production does the same thing. The monsters, goblins, trolls, and other critters don't need to look real because this isn't that kind of movie. If this were remade today, the filmmakers would ruin the feel of the thing by trying to make it all realistic with CGI. The story here is thin, our protagonist is difficult to root for, and some of this is really really goofy, but this is a project fueled by imagination, and combined with the wizardry of Henson's crew, that fearless imagination is a force to be reckoned with.

Anyway, I decided to Movie-A-Go-Go this. In case you're new to my blog, the Movie-A-Go-Go format is one of the most popular blog features. With these real-time ramblings typed up as I watch the film and cleaned up slightly afterward, you very nearly get the experiences of sitting down and watching a movie with me--Shane. Or maybe it's more like you get to be in my head while I watch the movie. Maybe that's why I've been getting so many headaches lately.

Here we go!

This might be the worst opening credit animation I’ve ever seen. This crappy-looking animated owl is the kind of thing you have to endure.

Look at this fucking thing! We're off to a bad start, Labyrinth

“Life isn’t always easy.”  You’re right, David Bowie. Sometimes, you have to watch poorly-animated owls. (Note: According to this movie's trivia page at imdb.com, this was the first attempt at using a CGI animal in a movie. It was a mistake. That last part is from me, not the imdb.com trivia page.)

I was hoping I’d get to hear this Bowie song again. Maybe not three minutes later though.

“She treats me like a wicked stepmother in a fairy story no matter what I say.” Maybe if you wouldn’t refer to them as “fairy stories,” your dorky immature step-daughter would take you more seriously.

I’ve had four babies and can verify that the best way to quiet an upset baby is to tell a boring, incoherent story about goblins. If there's one thing babies love, it's stories about goblins.

This motley crew of goblins would have been perfect for Nilbog.

David Bowie insisted that some of his friends got speaking parts in this movie which gives me an excuse to make a Troll 2 reference. 

I tried wishing my little sister away after seeing this movie as a kid. The power did actually go out, but my sister was still around unfortunately.

Labyrinth trivia: Nobody did anything with Bowie’s make-up, hair, or wardrobe. This is just how he looked on a normal day. Henson was too impressed that the singer brought his own codpiece that he couldn't hire anybody else for the role of Jareth.

“Come on, feet.” Everything Sarah does or says annoys me a little more. I hate this character.

Peeing goblin! Right there demonstrates the magic of Jim Henson. (Note: I'm on a two-movie "pissing scene" streak.) 

I wish Hoggle would chase her around this thing with an ax. I can't recall, but I really hope there's a "Heeeeerrrrrre's Hoggle!" moment.

When in doubt, just throw a fit and start whining again. Have I mentioned that I hate this character?

This had to be traumatic for this baby. Plop the poor kid down in the middle of a bunch of creepy puppets? (Note: The baby is played by Toby Froud in what, so far, is his only role.)

See? Traumatized Toby ended up like this. 

“I saw my baby crying hard as babe can cry.” I love how David Bowie could sing anything with passion. That lyric makes no sense, David!

Did this “Dance Magic Dance” song win an Academy Award? I’ll have to look that up after I look up the age that this baby playing Toby committed suicide. (Note: I was wrong about Toby. Also, "Magic Dance" did not win an Academy Award. According to Wikipedia, the song is also known as "Dance Magic," which is probably only funny because it's about 1:30 in the morning as I'm working on this.) 

“Your mother is a fragging aardvark!”

Fake baby special effects as Bowie and a goblin play catch with him! Still looks more realistic than the scene in American Sniper.

I’m finding it impossible to root for Sarah in this movie. (Note: I apologize for the redundancy.)

Helping Hands Well, where you get groped all the way down. You have to pay a pretty penny to get this experience these days. I wonder which hands are Donald Trump’s, by the way?

Oubliette? Is that a real word?

Surprised they didn’t have Hoggle taking a dump this second time we meet him. (Note: I like the character fine, but there's no chance at a Billy Curtis award because the woman who is in the suit isn't the person doing the voice. Tough luck, Shari Weiser.)

One of those talking wall faces sounded like Inspector Gadget’s nemesis, Dr. Claw.

If you know me at all, you might suspect that I'm including this only to make a cheap Donald Trump pussy-grabbin' joke. I will not, however, be doing that.

Suspended headfirst in the bog of eternal stench? That's how I feel about teaching middle school.

Hoggle’s face got a little too close to Bowie’s codpiece there.


“The cleaners” reminds me of the giant and completely impractical decapitation device in Caligula.

(Note: These things aren't even close!)

Speaking of eternal stenches, how bad do you think Hoggle smells?

Now Sarah is stealing. This character isn’t likable at all. I guess you'd have to call her an antiheroine.

I wish I had a bird on my head to punctuate everything I saw with a hearty “Whoo! Whoo! Whoo!”

“It’s so stimulating being your hat.” I can't believe that was something that somebody wrote in a screenplay, but I love it.

Seriously, so much imagination. Even if you hate the character, the slight story, David Bowie's songs, the writing, or whatever, you have to appreciate the imaginative powers that went into the creation of this thing. There are just so many ideas thrown into this thing!

“I ain’t never been no one’s friend before.” Maybe that’s because of your propensity to use triple negatives?

Ludo probably has a terrible flea problem and seems a little dense.

Surprised I haven't seen Ludo in memes. Pair that picture with "What? You mean these choices I'm given for this presidential election?"

“What’s this?” It’s a peach, Hoggle. I'd expect Ludo not to know something as simple as this, but I expect more from you, Hoggle.

This bog of stench thing is starting to sound like a made-up thing.

Forget the bog of stench. This hyper bunch of fuzzy red marionettes singing this terrible song and playing basketball with each other’s heads is a much worse punishment. The Bog of Eternal Fuzz Red Marionettes! Although I do have to say that this reminds me of about half of the sex dreams I've ever had.

Imagine a bunch of these!

Her head don’t come off? I wish it would.

The bog of eternal stench actually makes fart sounds. Again, that's the magic of Jim Henson.

Sometimes I wish we all could be as simple-minded as Ludo. “Smell bad!” I bet I know who Ludo would vote for in this presidential election. (Note: I apologize for the politics.) 

Sir Didymus lost his eye. You have to wonder how.

Those teeth are a little too realistic. 

How did they put Didymus on a dog like that? Amazing! I can't even tell if that's a puppet dog or a real dog. It reminds me of watching the monkey ride the dog at the Palestine rodeo I used to go to as a kid.

Uh oh. Sarah thought the bog of eternal stench was bad. Now, she’s just wandered into a PG version of the Eyes Wide Shut orgy.

I once dated somebody who looked a little like the garbage lady.

Junk Lady. I was close. 

The details in this German Expressionism village with all this puppet action is really impressive. There’s just so much to see.

MC Escher apparently designed the goblin castle.

This song Bowie’s singing in the Escher stair place makes no sense in the context of the story or its characters.

“I am exhausted from living up to your expectations of me.” I’m going to start using that line with my wife.

Sarah’s going to get in trouble for having her friends over when her parents are gone.

And this really becomes just a story about a girl who is driven mad because of a crying baby. Sarah just wasn't made for babysitting.


1979 pornographic history lesson

Rating: 8/20 (Buster: 3/20)

Plot: Caligula rises to power as his penis rises to erection.

Geez Louise! As gratuitous as the sex and nudity is in this movie, it wasn't until a giant orgy scene where dwarf Salvatore Furnari is pinned down and orally pleasured by a Penthouse model that I said, "Wait a second. A lot of the sex in this is unnecessary." Body parts a-go-go in this one, and if that's why you pop this into your dvd player, you'll likely be satisfied. If you're looking for a good movie about a historical character, there's actually kind of one hidden in this mess of dicks and nipples. You have to squint to see it, but there are some goods in this. I saw them because I was squinting.

We'll start with the always-interesting Malcolm McDowell. I'm not even sure I'd say he's any good here, especially the first half of the movie, but as his character becomes more and more deranged, McDowell seems more and more comfortable. He's got the eyes to pull off a character, and you have to credit McDowell, really a guy who could have taken his career in whatever direction he wanted, for his bravery. It takes balls to even step into a set for this movie, and McDowell had the balls and most likely flashed them at one point.

I think McDowell had it put in each of his contracts in the 70s that he had to have a pissing scene.

Also always interesting is Peter O'Toole who spends most of his screen time looking like a guy who's questioning his decision to be in Caligula. Even the syphilis make-up effects are trying to leave his face and flee the motion picture. His performance is bizarre here, but like everything else O'Toole touched, he created something memorable. And managing to do that while surrounded by some sort of Hieronymus Boschian orgy nightmare really is something. There's a cheap-looking, congested three-story set complete with an elevator, and that's where we first meet O'Toole's character. And during that scene, there's always something to see, the screen just packed with all this perverse details. I wasn't sure whether I was supposed to be impressed or sickened.

I had the same reaction during a big orgy scene later in the movie. It's odd to pull out one scene and call it an "orgy scene" because the whole movie is like one giant 150 minute orgy scene. This particular scene seemed endless and was packed with gratuitous detail. Was it pornographic? Absolutely. Penises throbbed, ejaculate splooshed, holes were present, penetration was front and center. Was there something almost sort of artistic about the whole thing? Well, it's probably debatable.

Helen Mirren, sometimes wearing a leash, is in this. John Gielgud is in there, too. It's odd seeing these big-name actors and actresses in something so blatantly pornographic. O'Toole had to have known what was going down unless his syphilis-stricken face made it tough for him to see clearly. McDowell knew that a lot of him would be on the screen and doesn't seem to care. But the more overtly pornographic material seems to be filmed apart from all of them and spliced in which makes the whole thing seem very very cheap.

Nearly as shocking as all the graphic sex is all the graphic violence. When people die in this movie, director Tinto Brass (I'm assuming he handled the actual movie stuff with Bob Guccione taking care of the sex stuff) really wants to make it clear that they're dead. Like, really really dead. So heads roll (almost comically with this giant decapitation device), virgins bleed, and fisting is barely off-screen.

Wait a second! Caligula has sex with a horse, doesn't he? Did I dream that up later on or did it actually happen?

I could go on and on. I wish I would have Movie-A-Go-Go'd this one. It's a train-wreck of a movie, except with train wrecks, you can't avert your eyes and here, you have to look away. Unless you like seeing penises being fed to dogs. Then, you're just a sicko.

I feel like a sicko for spending this much time on Caligula. I'm glad I saw it, something that probably separates me from almost everybody else on earth.

Magnum Force

1973 action sequel

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Dirty Harry takes on vigilante cops who are circumventing the system to rid San Francisco of bad guys.

Look at the size of Clint Eastwood's penis! I mean, gun. Gun!

There's something unsavory about the unnecessary inclusion of Adele Yoshioka's character, an Asian lady who lives in Clint Eastwood's apartment and tells him that she wants to sleep with him to start their initial interaction. Yoshioka looked young enough to be Clint's daughter, and although I'm never going to be one to complain about Asian women only wearing shadows, I'm having a tough time figuring out why her scenes were needed. Eastwood allegedly co-directed this, and you have to figure that this was his idea.

"Hey, everybody, we're going to add this Asian women who has a thing for me. We'll just have her pop out of the apartment downstairs, introduce herself, and then tell me that she wants to engage in sexual relations with me."
"Ok, Clint. But that doesn't sound like something that would actually. . ."
"It happens to me all the time." Lots of squinting.
"If you say so. But what does it have to do with the story?"
"It's needed for characterization. The audience needs to know how desirable Harry is."
"Whatever you say, Clint. I'm just a chair anyway, so what do I know."

I'd love for somebody to explain why this character needed to be in the movie. Was it because the film needed padding to get past the two-hour mark? Was it so that she could almost open his mailbox and blow everybody up? Sorry, about the spoiler, but nobody's read past that ridiculous dialogue I made up between Clint Eastwood and a chair.

I had never seen anything past the original Dirty Harry movie even though I like that movie quite a bit. Honestly, I only watched this sequel because one of my favorite musicians, Robyn Hitchcock, seems to be obsessed with it. Well, he's written two or three songs inspired by it anyway. Here's my favorite, but be aware that it spoils the end of the movie:

Isn't that a nice song?

Clint Eastwood really isn't much of an actor. He's especially wooden here, and he seems older than he is supposed to be. He's at least too old to be sleeping with Sunny anyway. But age don't mean nothing at all when you got yourself a penis of that stature. I mean, gun! Not penis! Gun!

I like Robert Urich here as Grimes, a foil for Eastwood's Harry. Grimes is a guy who never pulls out his penis whereas Clint wagging his around like it's a phallic symbol or something. Sunny knows who's got the gun although maybe she would have gone for Grimes if he lived upstairs from her, too. You just can't tell with gals like Sunny. There's a bit of irony with all this because you could argue that Grimes is the character with the balls. But he doesn't know his limitations!

Anyway, go ahead and listen to that song because it explains everything better than I can.

Blind Chance

1987 drama

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A medical student, following his father's death, decides to drop out of school. He barely catches a train. Or he misses the train and ends up arrested. Or he misses the train and doesn't end up arrested.

What a poster!

I'm not all that familiar with the oeuvre of Krzysztof Kieslowski other than the "colors" trilogy, and I've always meant to catch up. Give me a break though because I've only been doing this blog for 9 years. Blind Chance, with its structure that inspired Run, Lola, Run and Sliding Doors, recalls my own alternate realities with this blog.

The moment when I decided to start a movie blog was a critical moment in time, and the first movie I wrote about after starting this blog was It! The Terror from Beyond Space. It didn't quite garner the attention that I figured it would despite being exquisitely written and insightful. But I trudged along, the time devoted to watching and writing about movies threatening my marriage and getting in the way of real life. And here I am nearly 3,000 blog entries later with nothing to show for it. I could blame It! The Terror from Beyond Space, I guess, but that doesn't seem fair. The decision has led me to this moment where I am just wasting my life away and writing to an audience that doesn't exist.

In an alternate reality, I'm not writing about this movie at all. Instead, I decided to start my blog off with a different movie--Mary Poppins. And because that particular movie makes me horny as hell and because I'm nothing if not an honest movie blogger, I wrote about my experience with Mary Poppins in the most graphic way imaginable. I wrote about how I had climaxed 3 1/2 times during the film and about how I couldn't stop leering at the woman playing Mary Poppins at Epcot Center the last time I was there. Disney got wind of the blog entry because they have their mouse eyes everywhere, and I was sued. The mouse has deep pockets, too. Their plan backfired, however, as attention was drawn to my blog and yours truly became an overnight sensation. Fans demanded perverse movie reviews, and I provided, soon becoming the most trusted movie critic not named Gene Shalit's Mustache.

And in a third reality, I wrote about Casablanca, gave the movie a 14/20, and was ridiculed by some chubby guy named Jimmy. I decided that I had no business writing about movies because I didn't really know what the hell I was talking about and gave up after the third entry, a write-up for the classic The Computer Wore Gym Shoes which I rated a 17/20. I devoted my time to watching The Andy Griffith Show and never watched a movie again, and the country philosophizing of the townsfolk of Mayberry made me a better husband, a better father, a better teacher, and a better human being. I also became a Communist.

It makes you think, doesn't it?

Remember the Titans

2000 sports movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: An newly-integrated school's new football coach has to first get his players to play together and then try to win some football games.

Can you fault a movie or its star for being too likable? This Disney flick is 100% Disney--completely safe, vanilla, predictable, melodramatic. That's going to annoy a lot of people, but the story is touching and definitely worth telling. Denzel Washington plays the character you know he's going to play when you see his giant face on the poster. He exudes this strength and confidence that carries the film, but although the screenplay does try to illuminate a flaw or two with the character, he still seems just a little too perfect to be true. He's definitely likable, and the best lines his character's given come out so naturally.

There are a few moments in the narrative that will have a lot of viewers rolling their eyes, but there are also some nice subtle moments that kind of hit you in the heart. The narrative's biggest flaw might be that it tries to tackle--no pun intended--far too many subplots. A lot of the auxiliary characters--a girlfriend, a mother, annoying little girls--needed to be left on the sidelines--pun intended--although I'm aware that picking only female characters probably makes me a male chauvinist. Sure, it looks like a football movie and has a lot of football in it, but it's really a movie about race relations, something that does affect both males and females.

Anyway, this is a fine movie with a relevant message.

The Brothers Grimsby

2016 action comedy

Rating: 8/20

Plot: A slacker football fan reunites with his younger brother, now a super-spy. The former gets in the latter's way, but they have to work together to save the world from a terrorist.

You want proof (other than my poor writing and lack of movie knowledge) that I really shouldn't even have a blog? It's because of Sacha Baron Cohen. I was watching this movie and hating it and trying to remember if I hated The Dictator about the same or if I liked it a little more. So I looked it up and found out that I gave The Dictator a 14/20 even though I can't recall a single thing I would have liked about it.

The gap between this--co-written by Sacha Baron Cohen and a couple others--and Borat or Bruno is immense. I know that the guerrilla stylings of those two would have gotten a little stale by now, but I know Cohen is better than this. He's almost funny here, especially with the physical stuff, and it's partly because the guy is willing to do anything to get a laugh. But he seems to be morphing into Tom Green or somebody, and so much of the comedy here just seems to be like they've accepted a Let's-See-What-We-Can-Make-People-Watch challenge. The most obvious examples of this feature tea-bagging and elephant ejaculate. I'm no prude, but if you're going with tea-bagging and elephant ejaculate, it at least has to be funny. Nothing about this was really funny, and the way most of it just seemed to easy actually annoyed me. An early reference to Bill Cosby, a lame recurring fake Daniel Radcliffe cameo, and a line about pedophiles at Legoland just seem like they're aimed at middle schoolers. Some lines are oddly homophobic, too, like they've been lifted from the 80s.

This lets you down with the narrative, too. You just never really care about the relationship with the brothers, and the spy stuff never really seems to matter all that much. Action scenes will make you dizzy. And you'll be really glad when it's all over.

Maybe you liked Borat. And maybe you thought you liked The Dictator. Maybe you remember the preview for this and thought it looked a little funny. None of that will matter because you aren't going to like this.

65 Revisited

2007 follow-up

Rating: none

Plot: D.A. Pennebaker looks back (see what I did there?) and finds more footage of Dylan being Dylan in England in 1965.

I didn't really need to make this a separate entry because it's more of the same. The concert footage seems less interrupted, but other than that, I can't think of anything else to say. Obviously, I just gave this its own post because I really need to get to post #3000 by the end of the year and I wanted to make that bad pun in the plot synopsis. I'm a little embarrassed about both.

Don't Look Back

1967 documentary

Rating: 17/20

Plot: D.A. Pennebaker follows Bob Dylan and posse around England during a mid-60's tour.

"Keep a good head and always carry a light bulb."

I've seen this a few times and, after popping it in to celebrate Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for literature, was surprised that it wasn't on the blog already. I first watched this soon after becoming a Dylan fan and didn't like it very much. It was nice seeing the intimate live stuff, but I couldn't figure out what the point was as it really doesn't build any sort of narrative at all. Plus, I thought Dylan came across like a real asshole.

Watching it now, I love it because it doesn't really have a point and because Dylan comes across like a real asshole. The Pennebaker fly-on-the-wall approach doesn't need a narrative and doesn't need to answer any questions. It's a slice of a life that is otherwise impenetrable. Dylan was a riddle incarnate then and only became more of a riddle as he became reclusive later that decade, and this is easily the most intimate look people could get of the human being unless you count Blood on the Tracks or Time out of Mind which are at least lyrically intimate. Pennebaker's camera work is freewheeling and dirty, the camera often looking for something to focus on and not always even finding it. Other times, the camera magically winds up exactly where it needs to be, almost as if the whole thing is scripted. But the viewer never feels like he's not right there, engaged in the shenanigans, almost like he's snuck into these rooms and the people who really belong there just haven't figured it out yet. Meanwhile, that camera buzzes around, draws way too close to people's faces, lingers over piano-playing fingers, catches discomfort of other people who figure out that they don't really belong there.

And Dylan really is a prick. He's nasty with Donovan, weirdly because it's almost like a competitive insecurity. He's future Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan, an artist at the peak of his powers, and he's jealous of Donovan? Dylan was never affable with the media, probably for good reason, and you can just tell he's a guy who has no interest in making time for the people who he has no time for. He's not a jerk during interactions with fans or with the people in his circle, however. But most of the time, yeah, he's kind of a prick. But to me, that just makes this whole thing seem that much more honest. Dylan knew those cameras were there, yet this is the version of himself that he gives. There's no doubt in my mind that some of this is performance, the star deliberately going out of his way to seem jerky. Look no further than the episode with the broken bottle for evidence of that. And I have no idea why that's who Dylan wanted to be on screen, but as I said earlier, the guy is a riddle. And he probably really is a bit of a prick.

One of the best things about this is seeing a guy who at times looks really tiny but who at the same time is absolutely larger than life. Another visual contradiction: Dylan is constantly surrounded with an entourage or swarms of fans--some even climbing on cars he's riding in--at all times, but at the same time, he seems very lonely.

The performances are all about what you'd expect. Dylan's a better songwriter than a performer, but you can't take your eyes off his face during the performances, partly because it's the only thing to look at and partly because he's got this incredible focus. I imagine it's because he's trying to remember the difficult streams of lyrics to songs like "Don't Think Twice, Ma." My favorite song moments are the off-the-cuff backstage or hotel room dick-arounds where Dylan's just sitting at a piano or doing things with Baez. And I really love the moment where he listens and obviously digs a Donovan song and then shares one of his.

Raw, intimate, honest, and surprisingly kind of emotional, this is just about a perfect look at a musician becoming an icon who is at a crossroads in his career and life. Great stuff.

Sleepaway Camp

1983 campy horror movie

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Somebody's killing off campers and faculty members at Camp Arawak, a campground that has seen its fair share of past tragedy. It's probably the creepy, expressionless girl, but I wouldn't want to spoil anything for you.

This movie is only worth watching for the shocking and completely crazy final shot which you're not sure you believe even after you see it. You have to trudge through a lot of standard early-to-mid-80's horror cliches to get there, but it really is worth it. No, it doesn't make any sense at all, add to the story or its characters, or really do anything but shock, but it's undeniably memorable and unique.

The derivative bits could almost entertain in a bad movie sort of way. And if violence is your bag, there are some nifty death scenes, almost darkly comic.

James Earl Jones' dad, Robert Earl Jones, is in this. That was kind of fun. Mike Kellin, who I'm surprised to see was a serious actor and actually nominated for a Tony, plays the camp director, and it's a bafflingly bad performance.

Now You See Me 2

2016 sequel

Rating: 9/20

Plot: The Four Horsemen are directed by The Eye. . .oh, fuck it. I don't have time for this shit.

Why did I watch this? I hated the first one so much. I wrote about how much I hated it right here. See? Really hated it. So I really only have myself to blame.

This movie's very much a second-verse-same-as-the-first type situation except they've added Daniel Radcliffe, an actor who apparently can only play dead people. And Lizzy Caplan who replaced the horsewoman from the first movie. Oh, and Woody Harrelson is playing his character's twin brother which actually winds up more ridiculous than it sounds.

I can't remember being more annoyed by a movie. If I try watching the third installment, I want you to do anything in your power to put me out of my misery and stop it from happening.

Elvis and Nixon

2016 historical snippet

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Elvis, who wants to be made some sort of undercover agent, arranges a meeting with Richard Nixon.

I blame the material far more than the performers here. You could argue that Michael Shannon is miscast here because he doesn't quite nail his Elvis impersonation, but I don't think that's the point. More important to me is that he nails the emotions and personality quirks more than whether he nails the kitsch. Kevin Spacey, you can tell, put a lot of work into this performance, balancing the comedy in a character like Nixon with the flaws that really give him depth. It's tough working with icons like this, and both Shannon and Spacey have to be given credit for making them both actual humans rather than caricatures. The latter would have been far too easy.

Unfortunately, this doesn't really go anywhere and is never all that interesting. I liked the idea a lot--taking this brief and completely insignificant moment in history and making it into something. I just didn't think it was effective in making it into anything. The purpose never seemed to be anything other than recreating a quirky situation, and by the time I'd reached the end, I wasn't sure what the point of the whole thing was.

The Nice Guys

2016 action buddy comedy

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Two private detectives team up to solve the mysteries surrounding the death of a porn star.

The rapport between Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling is terrific, and there are a lot of funny moments in this fairly incoherent period piece, but movies like The Big Lebowski and Inherent Vice do it much better. I kept wanting things to settle down a little bit. Character development is sort of there, but it's not nearly enough to distract from general wackiness or action sequences. I actually enjoyed watching this movie because I was never bored, but I wish the story came together a little more coherently. And maybe I needed to be a little bored at times. It would have made the rest of this work that much better.

One odd thing: There were a lot of civilian casualties here. It was a little disconcerting seeing so many nameless or faceless people being shot or injured. More off-putting--the little girl who was in this movie way too much.

Special effects to create late-70's Los Angeles were really good. It was seamless, and they really nailed the mood. I always wonder how they pull that off.


2016 dramedy

Rating: 13/20

Plot: A glimpse at the lives of four owners of the titular wiener-dog.

I generally have mixed feelings about Todd Solondz, and he's as divisive as any filmmaker working today. His ability to show the plastic underbelly of society feels a little tired, but I think this anthology of shorts tied together by this wiener-dog works just fine. There are moments that are funny enough although I'm not sure any of it resonates emotionally. At first, it just didn't feel cohesive enough with its themes or the narrative, but it does sort of take you through the four seasons of a life with youth, young adulthood, middle age, and old age. It all almost works, but like all of Solondz's other work, there's just something distasteful about the whole thing. And not distasteful in a good way.

Welcome to the Dollhouse fans should be aware that Dawn is one of the characters in this.

The dog was really good, by the way. Much better than Keaton Nigel Cooke, the young fellow who plays the kid in the first chapters of this.

My Life to Live

1962 drama

Rating: 18/20

Plot: After not making it as an actress, a woman in Paris decides to try prostitution instead.

Ah, Anna Karina. From the first shot of this movie--Karina's profile--my soul was crushed and I was distracted by thoughts of the actress eating my heart with dainty silverware from a child's plastic bowl. And I'd sit there and watch the whole thing from the other side of the table, propping my head up, gasping for air as all of my blood leaks out of my chest. I'm crumbling just thinking about her, quite possibly the most beautiful woman to ever walk the earth other than my wife.

Karina's performance, like the direction, never dazzles because it's not allowed to. Godard is often tricky, and there's some trickiness here where he'll shoot scenes of dialogue and only show the backs of people's heads, but there's nothing tricky about what Karina is doing. She just exists on the screen for as long as she needs to, floats through a black and white world where tragedy likely lurks, and she and her character are both too delicate for any world at all but neither know it.

This movie has the flow and technique of a non-comedic Jim Jarmusch movie. I'm not sure how I felt about the chapter titles, mildly intrusive though humorous. The length is just about perfect, as long as a few weeks and as short as a life. It's a bit of a downer despite the effervescence of the star, and the idea that it's a perverse Godard parable is a little bit of a turn-off for whatever reason.  But like that star, the movie is very nearly perfect.


2010 drama

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Uxbal does his best to raise his two children alone while dealing with health and job problems.

I just made the plot of this movie sound really trite. It wasn't intentional. This movie is really way too long because nobody wants to be pummeled with this much bleakness for around two and a half hours. If I wanted that, I'd just sit and think about my life for a couple hours.

Javier Bardem's performance makes this movie. Watching him, you've got no choice but feel the performance deeply. I don't know if it's his giant face or what, but there's this rich combination of stoicism and fragility that not only creates this character but places decades of humanity on his shoulders for him to carry around for a while. Perhaps that's why he slouches.

I don't think I'll fee the need to ever see this again, but it'll probably be in my bones for a while. Or maybe I'll just remember the three or four scenes where Bardem urinates in a funny color and nothing else.

Graffiti Bridge

1990 sequel

Rating: 7/20

Plot: The Kid, the one from Purple Rain, battles a nemesis for control of a club they share.

"Damn, this is embarrassing." I love when the characters write for me. This is written and directed by Prince who also stars, and he probably should have let other people do the writing, the directing, and the acting. He could have handled the stunt work, mostly the motorcycle riding. I have reasons to believe that the only reason this was made was so that Prince could ride around on a motorcycle again and show the world how he's sort of a bad ass.

There are a handful of nice musical bits, including appearances by Mavis Staples and George Clinton, but there's nothing even half as memorable or as electrifying as any single number in Purple Rain. And then you've got a story that is largely incoherent; weird sets, including the titular bridge which appears to be a cheap prop for a high school stage production of Graffiti Bridge; a weird performance by Morris Day who was probably just as bad in Purple Rain but I was too distracted by Prince's sex appeal to notice; and all kinds of lines or moments that make you wonder what the hell is even going on.

Purple Rain isn't a good movie, but it's got Prince's charisma to make it worth watching. There is nothing about this movie that makes it worth watching.

The Uninvited

1944 ghost story

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A brother and sister move into a new house and soon discover that it's haunted. The ghostly inhabitants get in the way of the brother's attempts to get laid.

I think this is probably a more interesting story than it is a movie. As a movie, it impresses with its cinematography. So many of the scenes take place at night and appear to be lit solely by candlelight, but it looks so good. I like movies with creepy houses anyway, and the house in this has enough banister to keep a person interested. The house, along with the cliff and the crashing waves of the ocean, almost become characters themselves. In fact, they're probably more interesting characters than the actual human characters in this. Ray Milland has about as much charisma as the aforementioned banister, and everybody else just kind of acts like you'd expect them to act in a 1940's horror movie. The music, as you'd also expect, has trouble behaving itself. Despite all that, it effectively captures the right moods and contains an interesting narrative. It might not do it quite as effectively as Val Lewton's movies made around the same time, but it's a good, serious early example of the haunted house genre.

Swiss Army Man

2016 comedy

Rating: 17/20

Plot: A suicidal man deserted on an island befriends a dead but gifted guy.

Within a few minutes, Dano is riding on a fart-propelled Harry Potter like he's a jet ski. And almost instantly, I had a new favorite movie. Sure, I was bummed when I saw this was directed by "Daniels," which ended up being a pair of guys named Daniel. But when a movie is this vivacious, this unique, this creative, this gut-bustingly hilarious, this flatulent, this heartfelt, this tragic, this twisty, this humanly written, this perfectly directed, this flavorful, this magically realistic, this completely absurd, this stylish, this much fun, and this beautiful, you can ignore all that because you really have to pay attention.

Paul Dano says that the directors' description of the movie was a movie where "the first fart makes you laugh and the last fart makes you cry." I could understand an argument made that this movie is just one long fart joke, but those farts have something to say, something about what makes us human and why that matters. I never cried, but I felt that gas as deeply as one can feel gas.

The magical thing about what the Daniels do here is that they constantly surprise you. The movie starts with a great bit of physical black comedy and abruptly takes a surreal left turn. And just when you get the feeling that it's going to spin its wheels and settle into a fart-drenched rut, it hits you with something new. And then, it hits you with something new. And then there's Kaufman-esque shifts, a dark twist, and more surprises. This is a movie that never settles for anything, consistently keeping you on your toes and maintaining this freshness from start to end. And for a movie driven by only two actors, that's even more surprising.

I have to talk about them because they're both brilliant. Dano is amazing as the living character, half-crazed and wild-eyed. He brings a humanity to the proceedings, a sort of straight man to Radcliffe's animated dead guy shtick. And Radcliffe is amazing as that dead guy. It's a brave performance, just the sort of thing the guy needs to bust out of his Harry Potter robes. I had become convinced that Radcliffe didn't have much to offer, but I was impressed with the versatility he managed to display while playing a deceased character.

And oh my God, the score! Andy Hull and Robert McDowell wrote the acapella score, and I just found out now that Radcliffe and Dano performed it. It's quirky and hilarious and fits what you're seeing on the screen about as perfectly as I've heard music fit movie visuals. I loved it!

And I loved this movie, the sort of art that reminds me why I like movies so much. There was absolutely no way this movie could possibly live up to the hype that I had built up in my head, but remarkably, it somehow did. I'm still as excited about it right now as I was a week ago while I was watching it, and I can't wait to see what the Daniels do from here.

This movie deserves a Best Picture nomination, by the way. I'm not sure human beings deserve movies like this, but I know the movie deserves that nomination.


2014 horror comedy

Rating: 11/20

Plot: School children become infected and start tearing their teachers' limbs off and pulling out their intestines.

Loads of intestines. I watched this and fully anticipated that it would provide some sneaky commentary on public school education, standardized testing, or the de-evolution of young people. There was a little bit of that actually, but it tackled a bunch very very shallowly, mostly because directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion wanted to get to those intestines. This starts hitting over the top early and often, blood-spattering the audience, almost grabbing the back of your head and shoving your face in the viscera. Good old-fashioned squelchy viscera. If that's your thing, you likely won't be bored, at least for the first half of the movie. But after a while, enough's enough and you're ready to watch something else. Or you're ready for a point to emerge. Or you're just sick of the jittery camera work during the action sequences that make the whole thing seem really cheap.

There are funny and creative moments throughout, and I really liked the opening credits containing horrifying chicken processing with some Elfman-esque music. That beginning was absolutely horrifying. Despite a handful of moments, a lot of the humor just doesn't work. With whiffs on Hobbit references and most of what Rainn Wilson shouts during the last third of the movie, this is really uneven.

It's an interesting first film for those two directors, and I'll look forward to seeing if they can create films more consistently good. Or maybe ones that have something to say.

Eddie the Eagle

2016 biopic

Rating: 14/20

Plot: The true story of persevering Olympian ski jumper Eddie Edwards.

This was as quirky and endearing as the previews made it seem it would be even though what you think it's going to be going in is exactly what it ends up being. You have a pair of underdogs going through all the predictable motions you'd expect in a sports movie about underdogs, and even if you don't know the story of Eddie the Eagle (I really didn't), you already know the story of Eddie the Eagle. Hugh Jackman plays the exact same guy he plays in Reel Steel, and for whatever reason, it's impossible for me not to like him in stuff like this. Taron Egerton, from that Kingsman movie, was really good because he was completely likable. Eddie's an easy character to root for because your decades of movie watching experience tell you that you have to root for him.

So this isn't going to surprise you at all, but if you're in the mood for this sort of movie and want to see the formula applied to what's sort of a fringe sport, this will satisfy.

Medium Cool

1969 drama/documentary hybrid

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A news reporter tries to hook up with a woman while America goes nutsy.

With our current political climate, it was really interesting to watch this now. America was crazy in the late-60s, and America is crazy now. This is a blend of footage shot during a violent Democratic convention in Chicago and a story constructed with actors and actresses. I'm not sure how much Haskell Wexler wrote this and how much he shaped his story around what was happening in Chicago at that particular time. Undeniably, what we have 45 years later is important as a historical document but also still relevant, in ways that are both sad and scary.

I've never seen anything else Haskell Wexler has directed. He's maybe known more for his work as a cinematographer (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Conversation, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), and although there's nothing flashy going on with the camera work here, it's Wexler's eye that really makes this work. His camera has a way of capturing the chaos while simultaneously making some sense of it.

You have to give credit to the actors and actresses as well, especially Robert Forster. There wasn't a moment in this when I saw what they were doing as performances. They blended into the reality so perfectly, and that's exactly what they needed to do.

It was nice hearing the music of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention in there, too.

The Compleat Al

1985 biographical mockumentary

Rating: 10/20

Plot: A mostly-fictionalized look at the life and early career of Weird Al Yankovic.

This starts with a great parody of Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar where Yankovic, perhaps too obviously, burns an accordion on stage. That's part of the magic of Weird Al though. His comedy always seems way too obvious. the stuff of idiots, but he somehow manages to make it all seem like gold. That includes about half of his songs that are about food.

Unfortunately, that opening scene is probably the highlight of the movie. I'm a fan of Weird Al and have been for a long time, but this seemed like one of the longest movies I've ever seen. It just kept going and going and going. It was almost fun seeing a lot of the old videos, but not all of those were exactly hits anyway, and the faux-biographical stuff in between got pretty tiresome after a while.

All in all, I don't even think I'd recommend this to fans. Of course, I might just be biased because of the misspelled word in the title.


1974 Tati swan song

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A movie that shows how Jacques Tati sadly didn't know the difference between a parade and a circus.

Despite loving all things Tati, I was really in no hurry to see this and didn't think it was going to be any good. No, this isn't as good as Tati's earlier feature films, but it's absolutely delightful. I especially appreciated how this so lovingly looks at the connection between the performers and the audience. A focus on just the jugglers, acrobats, pantomime performers, and others would have ended up cold. This shows the audience almost as much as the performers doing their thing. Additionally, it shows a lot of backstage stuff where props are assembled and sets are constructed and painted. And there's one almost touching scene where Tati performs a pantomime act during the intermission only for the other performers.

Tati is the master of ceremonies here, and although he's aged, he still moves like only Tati could move. He pantomimes a few sports--boxing, soccer, fishing, and most humorously, tennis (in slow motion)--and it's just a blast watching him move. As with other Tati stuff, there are a lot of simple bits of comedy that don't make any sense but also don't need to be explained. For example, there's no explanation why so many motorcycle helmets are hat checked. But does there need to be? I'd argue that there's no need.

The magic created is simple, just props rolled onto a mostly white stage. They get a lot of use out of a pommel horse. Heck, there's more pommel horse action here than in Gymkata. There are some cute Spike Jonesy musical numbers, a great juggling sequence featuring three people and a bunch of paintbrushes, and some funny dancing. If there's a main issue with this, it's the length. By the time they trot out the ponies, the movie starts to feel a little long. Cut down to an hour, this would have been about perfect.

If you've ever wondered why this blog is so popular or has won so many awards, you're not paying attention to how I can so effortlessly connect Tati to a movie like Gymkata.

The Lobster

2016 black comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: David is taken to a camp filled with other single people where he must meet his soul mate in 45 days or be transformed into an animal and released into the world. It's a struggle.

This is from Dogtooth director Giorgos Lanthimos, and if you've seen that, you know exactly what to expect. The appeal for me is the weirdness of the world being created is approached so casually. You just have to go with the flow because nothing the characters say or do or nothing in the film's style suggests that anything you're seeing isn't completely natural. Like Dogtooth, the pace of this is very different from what people used to Hollywood movies might expect. Its shocks come quietly or nonchalantly, almost like a mischievous kid hiding behind a doorway and half-murmuring a "Boo" in the most deadpan way imaginable. A lot of the humor works because it doesn't seem like any of the actors know how to deliver their lines and therefore just end up saying them. Colin Farrell plays a sort of hopeless everyman so well that you're almost convinced the guy's the biggest loser in the world. I laughed (especially at a line about blood and biscuits and a post-masturbation toaster punishment), but it was always with a feeling of unease.

As with Dogtooth and Alps, this stubbornly refuses to answer all of your questions or even really fill you in on what it's trying to say. It seems to be a twisted look at relationships, the expectations we have for those we're in relationships with, and the expectations society places on people in regards to relationships, but I'd have to see it again to figure out just what the animal/people connection has to do with anything or what the hell was going on at the end of the movie.

Anyway, you artsy-fartsy types who loved Dogtooth and happen to be in the mood for a romantic comedy will likely find a lot to love here. Somewhere, I saw this described as a cross between Luis Bunuel and Charlie Kaufman, and that makes perfect sense to me. I'd credit the person who came up with that, but I'm far too lazy to look it up.

Poor Pretty Eddie

1975 hillbilly thriller

Rating: 10/20

Plot: After a jazz singer's car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, she finds herself at the mercy of Shelley Winters and a horny guy who thinks he's the next Elvis.

Rednecksploitation? Was that a thing? This seems like a cheap attempt to capitalize on the success of Deliverance but is far too bizarre to be taken seriously. Of course, it's bizarre flavor is what gives it any appeal at all. It's a clone of nothing at all but very much something that could only have been made in the 1970s. The best thing most people who stumble upon this are going to say is that it's unique. Most, however, are going to call it garbage, but those are people who wouldn't be able to stomach your typical John Waters flick.

With a score heavy on the always-underappreciated jaw harp and taxidermy close-ups, this never really pretends to be mainstream. There's clearly an attempt to create some sort of C-grade art. An early photo montage--right after a scene where Elvis and a big Jaws-looking guy (the James Bond villain--not the shark) nearly fight and then engage in chortling--give the thing an artsy vibe with its visuals. There's an amazing scene at a dam with a "publicity shot" that was really well done. And there was one of the oddest rape sequences you'll ever see with this awful song--"Make Believe You Love Me All Night Long" is the title I'm giving it--the physical assault juxtaposed with shots of a hick collective watching a couple dogs go at it.

It's hard to know what was a serious attempt at drama and what, if anything, was supposed to be black comedy. It's all just so clumsy although again, that's really part of the appeal. But when the jazz singer reports the rape the local sheriff (more on him later), it's impossible not to think this is supposed to be funny. Because rape, I'm guessing, was hilarious back in the 1970s. But the questions the sheriff asks, the strange offer of a tomato, and the hilarious doodles really make you think something else is going on here.

Really, the beauty of this movie is in its cast. Add this to the pile of odd career choices Shelley Winters, possibly aided by an agent with a sick sense of humor or some sort of personal vendetta, had in the 1970s. She seems drunk out of her mind here, but that might just be really good acting. Belching out lines like "You are an ugly bitch!", naturally to herself in a mirror; emitting noises that might make it impossible for me to have sexual intercourse for a couple months; and sharing redneck wisdom like "You'll fight God and seven different types of alligators to keep your man there" give Winters a lot to work with, that great kind of humiliating character that she can really chew on. Literally, I mean, as she probably ate half of the characters she played.

And that aforementioned sheriff? Why, that's none other than Slim Fucking Pickens. He gets a sidekick, an inbred armed with a slingshot, and every single thing he says is just pure redneck poetry. "Would you like to suck on a tomato?" "Did he bite you on the titties?" "Sweet Jesus! That's a fine piece of evidence." I've always been of the opinion that Slim Pickens could make any movie better, and although this seems like a strange career choice on the heels of a bunch of Disney TV stuff, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, and Blazing Saddles, I sure am happy he was in this. Ted Cassidy plays Hillbilly Jaws, and Dub Taylor creeps things up even more as Justice of the Peace Floyd, spending the movie cackling when he isn't spouting out gems like "Just as plain as an ass on a goat."

It's a very strange movie that deserves to be a cult classic and actually something that I'd watch again in ten years or so when I get an itch for the kind of erection that only seeing Shelley Winters and Slim Pickens on the screen at the same time can bring.