Dog Eat Dog

2016 crime movie

Rating: 11/20

Plot: A trio of criminals team up for a job that will help them get their lives as ex-cons on track. It doesn't go well.

This movie is fucking crazy, and I loved nearly every minute of it! Please don't assume that means this is a good movie because it's definitely not that. Paul Schrader tells a largely incoherent story with far too many pieces flying around everywhere for this to work as a cohesive whole. You'll question most of the choices he makes as a director, laugh a little at his efforts to insert a little style into the storytelling, and wonder just what he's getting at. But at the same time, the ridiculous characters, the performances to create those ridiculous characters, and the unpredictability of the whole thing make this completely entertaining from its ultraviolet beginning to its pointlessly tragic denouement.

I think the following conversation between this pair of oddballs played by a pair of Hollywood oddballs might sum it all up best. In this scene, the trio are kidnapping a baby. The baby's crying, and Nic Cage's character wants to shut it up. He's starting to get stressed out, man! And this conversation ensues:

Cage's character: Can you shut this baby up? I know you know how. Where’s the thing you put in the fucking baby’s mouth? What’s it called?
Dafoe's character: Umm. Dick?
Cage's character: No.

It's a scene that I think is supposed to be packed with tension. Instead, Schrader and his actors seem to be playing it for laughs. And it's so funny! It works, especially when butted up against what happens next in that scene.

Dafoe is the unhinged character here, all jittery and coke-addled. Of course, Cage can't be out-unhinged by any actor, and his performance, which I believe is supposed to be more like a straight man to Dafoe's craziness, always seems to be threatening to reach peak-Cage levels. There's a brief sex scene, and you get to hear him say things like "dude" and "C-town," and by the end of the movie, his character is doing Bogart impressions. I'm not joking there. Cage or Schrader or some twisted combination of the two visionaries have decided that Cage's character needs to morph into Humphrey Bogart for the last 15 minutes of the movie. It's really something else. At one point, I convinced myself that he was imitating a rabbit instead of Bogart, but I'm pretty sure I was wrong. There's also a great scene where Cage and Dafoe are doing cocaine and talking gibberish, and another where a shirtless Cage is having a mustard-and-ketchup fight with Dafoe and the other guy who isn't even important enough to get his visage or name on the poster. But the best Cage moment is when he's talking on a phone and almost gets hit by a car. He has this Cagian mini-freakout that is just completely awesome.

This is a lot wilder and more entertaining than the other Schrader/Cage collaboration, Dying of the Light. I'd recommend it to Dafoe or Cage fans, but you'll think you're going nuts while watching the movie. Be warned.

The Number 23

2007 mystery thriller

Rating: 8/20

Plot: A dogcatcher becomes obsessed with the number 23 after finding a book that seems to be based on his life.

I can't believe this is from the director who brought us D.C. Cab.

After being intrigued by Jim Carrey in that Jim and Andy documentary, I thought I'd give a Carrey movie I've never seen a spin. I can't remember why I ignored this one right around the time I started this blog. I have an interest in arithmomania, and the premise of this one does seem kind of interesting on paper. However, I can't think of a worse performance that I've seen from a big-name acting, one who made (of course) 23 million dollars for this movie. Carrey's performance is wildly uneven, ranging from way too goofy to preposterously serious. He sort of plays two roles, the guy reading the book and slowly losing his mind and the detective character in the book, and he doesn't do either one of them very well at all. He also narrates--very poorly--and reads from the book like it's the most serious acting that has ever been done on film before. It's really embarrassing.

The twists and turns in this one work as twists and turns mostly because they don't make much sense. Things get very dark, and then they get darker, but you never really take anything seriously because the director of Batman and Robin made this and you expect the main character to bend over and start performing a ventriloquist act with his ass at any moment.

Right at the beginning, Carrey starts making a weird noise at a dog because he's "bored." I should have taken that for a bad sign right there. I didn't, watched this entire ugly movie, and am thinking about writing a letter to Joel Schumacher and demanding he pay me two dollars even though I didn't pay anything to see this movie. He owes me though.

All the Money in the World

2017 drama based on true events

Rating: 14/20

Plot: When rich-guy J. Paul Getty's grandson is kidnapped, his mother expects him to help out with the ransom. Getty, however, wants nothing to do with that. Mom and Getty's security guy Marky Mark have to figure out another way to get back her son before he loses more ears.

It's really amazing how they wiped Kevin Spacey out of this movie. Plummer is really good as his replacement, and I can't see how all of his scenes were done in nine days and this thing was put together in essentially a month to have it ready for its original release date.

You always wonder about the accuracy of these "based on true events" films. I imagine this is Hollywooded up quite a bit, probably for the better. There are moments that are tense, and I like the juxtaposition of Gail's love for her kid and Getty's love for his wealth.

I didn't like Michelle Williams, who seems like she's clearly trying to win an award, very much. I don't know anything about the real Gail, so her portrayal could be 100% accurate. Maybe I just don't like Gail. But Christopher Plummer is a joy to watch even though I'm not sure he's doing anything spectacular here.


2017 sci-fi comedy/drama

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Matt Damon and his wife, feeling economic pressures, decide to undergo the procedure known as downsizing in order to shrink themselves and live in luxury with other tiny people. When Damon's wife surprises him by not going through with the plan, he has to figure out how to adapt.

I prefer my son's title for this--Now Matt Damon Is Tiny.

Although I like some of this film's messages, ones that are definitely relevant in today's political and social climate, it seems like Alexander Payne bit off a little too much here. Overly ambitious thematically, this has a little trouble settling on a central message. It's almost like Payne (and co-writer Jim Taylor) first decided that a tiny Matt Damon would make a great movie and then tried to figure out what themes could fit in with something like that instead of really having something to say and coming up with the metaphors to deliver the message.

There's also difficulty establishing the right tone. The comedy is front-and-center at times, and at other times, the drama stands out. A balance is never really reached though. Damon is his usual self, but he seems to have trouble figuring out whether he's in a comedic sci-fi movie or a human drama. Once Christoph Waltz pops in, stealing every scene he's in for better or for worse, things get a little more interesting. And then there's Hong Chau, easily the funniest thing about the movie. But so much of what makes her character and lines funny depends on her character being a stereotype of Asian women acclimating themselves to Western culture. I smiled while watching her performance, but I really didn't feel good about the whole thing.

There are poignant moments, and the movie's got a good message or three along with a clever premise. It's just never as funny or as earnest as it wants to be and therefore just isn't effective.

La Grande Bouffe

1973 drama

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Four men arrive at a house and resolve to lock themselves in until they manage to eat themselves to death. Prostitutes and a school teacher also get involved.

I sure to love depressing comedies. This one is dark and has a lot of food in it. My favorite thing might be the fart sound effects. It's surprisingly tasteless for what is essentially an art film. I don't want to give anything away, but the lovely prostitutes, some lovely-looking food, good performances from all four leads, that dark humor, meat in the garden, and bodies in the freezer make this absurdist comedy well worth the trouble of finding.

I'd write more, but I'm in a hurry here. I have to get caught up so that I can start working on my mammoth year-in-review post. I have people depending on this!

Death Laid an Egg

1968 chicken-fueled drama

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Romantic intrigue among people who run a chicken farm.

Whether you think this is a good movie or not, you have to at least admit that Giulio Questi has made something interesting. Oddball editing, a strange soundtrack, a narrative that never quite makes sense, headless chickens. This was Questi's follow-up to Django Kill...If You Live, Shoot!, a strange almost-parody of spaghetti westerns. This might be a parody, too. If it is, it's a parody of the Italian giallo genre.

Movies-a-Go-Go: Gremlins 2: The New Batch

1990 sequel

Rating: 9/20

Plot: Gremlin infestation in a New York skyscraper. 

I was Movies-a-Go-Go-ing this one, but after learning that my friend Josh had tricked me into watching a really unpleasant film, my heart just wasn't in it. I wouldn't even bother reading this if I were you. 

But here it is anyway--a collection of my random thoughts while watching this terrible sequel. 

What the hell is with this Donald Duck and Bugs Bunny intro? 

These flying-into-New-York-City shots always make me a little uncomfortable. 

Wait a second. Was the Chinese guy in Chinatown in the last movie? Did I mess that up? Hoyt wasn't in Shanghai or wherever? 

Very nearly Keye Luke's last movie. He died in 1991. His character dies in this, so he won't be in Gremlins 3

“A man can always agree with others; it is more difficult to agree with oneself.”

Is that Confucius or Bruce Lee?! You fucking racist! 

The Chinese man probably died from Icky Eye Disease. 

There’s nothing sadder than an orphaned Mogwai. 

Seeing Gizmo walk after his dramatic escape from the shop...this sets puppetry back forty years. 

Ok, here is the clip of Gizmo walking. I was too distracted by the funky walking to even pay attention to what the guy who made this video is whining about. 

Coca Cola product placement! 

Billy and Kate look like a pair of douchebags! What has New York done to them? 

I had a terrible impression of New York City based on movies like this with characters like this. 

Whoa! An Octaman spotting! 

Gremlins 2 and Octaman have Rick Baker in common. 

“Fred” makes me nostalgic for Sammy Terry. And with Fred’s sob story, this has taken a depressing turn. And it was already a depressing movie. “All I had was a cross-eyed puppet named Igor.” Devastating. 

These 1990 movies always depress me. I have no data to base this on, but I’m willing to bet 1990 is the worst year in movies. All of these movies from 1990 feel like last gasps of a dying putrid decade. 

“Oh splendid. This must be my malaria!” Christopher Lee is here to class things up! 

This animal experimentation stuff with Lee’s character makes it seem like some Tim Burton accidentally got spilled on this movie. This is pretty goofy. 

Now Gizmo is dancing, and Christopher Lee looks about as amused as I am. And Christopher Lee has never been amused!

This Billy/Gizmo reunion wasn’t quite the touching moment I would have expected. 

It’s almost like Kate can’t remember anything about her character from the first movie. I assume the combination of this and Drop Dead Fred ruined Phoebe Cates' career. And her career had such a promising start! 

I don’t want to sound superficial here, but it seems like Billy has upgraded with the redhead. Feisty! 

If I had a job where I had to be by myself for long periods of time, I’d likely talk to myself nonstop like Joe the janitor. [Ahh, that's John Astin of The Addams Family fame.]

Oh, crap. Even the other Mogwais are ridiculous in this movie. Wonky-eyed, buck-toothed, and doofusy. And there’s one with a spike, of course. 

This time, it’s not even the human’s fault. This one’s all on Gizmo this time. 

Hostess product placement. 

This movie is awful, but maybe Dick Miller can come in and save the day. 

And it takes Futterman about 15 seconds of screen time before he starts complaining about foreigners. 

It’s probably a blessing in disguise that the Futtermans can’t stay at Billy and Kate’s place. Now they can fuck freely. 

I'm a little ashamed for typing that, but I refuse to censor myself. 

“Oh, I caught myself a little terrorist, eh?” This security guy is overdoing things a little. 

Mimes. For no reason at all. 

God damn these sound effects! 

“If we get through today alive, you’re in big trouble.” If I had a nickel for every time I heard that. 

Microwave with Marge. 

Kathleen Freeman, who had a very long career in a variety of things. 

That’s right, Weisenheimer. It’s all fun and games until a Gremlin pops through your console and bites your jugular. 

Well, at least the Gremlins made things on Microwave with Marge more watchable. 

I guess the Bugs Bunny thing at the beginning was a warning that this was going to be way more cartoonish than the first one. I should have heeded the warning. 

That paper shredder Gremlin death was disgusting. Did Billy's mom write that part of the screenplay or something? 

And Kate just died in an elevator mishap. R.I.P., Kate. 

I was slightly aroused during that elevator sequence, by the way, and I’m not nearly as ashamed as I should be. 

I’m going to have to see what Leonard Maltin, who has a cameo in this, rated this movie. [Well, he didn't like the first movie and gave this second one a favorable rating. That guy is a total punk.]

Leonard Maltin reviewing the original Gremlins during the sequel? That’s meta! And it makes no sense! 

Did Christopher Lee bail out or something? I haven’t seen him in a while. 

Oh, just as I mentioned him. 

Now one of the Gremlins has mutated into a Gremlin with glasses. And it’s talking. And I really want to turn this movie off. Anybody but Tony Randall here, and I might have turned this off. 

This is around the same time when Randall had a baby at the age of 80 or something, right? Maybe he used this voice gig to get laid. “Hey, you know I was the voice of that smart Gremlin in the sequel?” 

Flying effects, reminiscent of any flying-monster loose in the city movie from the 80s (Q, for example).

Caught a Wilhelm scream in this chaotic scene in the office building. 

Dick Miller pretending to fight a flying Gremlin can’t be the proudest moment of his career. 

And there’s a camel running around the building while Christopher Lee says, “Oh, the horror! The horror!” I’m finding it almost impossible to believe how bad this movie is. 

The Gremlins, as they mess up the film and make shadow puppets, are the real heroes here. 

Nude volleyball, Paul Bartel, and Hulk Hogan? This movie has fucking lost its mind! 

I don’t want to just pass over the Paul Bartel cameo like it’s nothing. It’s by far the best part of this dismal movie. 

The best part of ANY movie!

A character just said, “This is a complete failure.” You aren’t kidding, character! 

I don’t even know what to say about the Dick Miller vs. Gremlin with a dentist drill scene. And now there’s a spider Gremlin. 

Gizmo to the fucking rescue! You knew he’d have to Rambo-Up in this. 

Kate is now telling a story about Lincoln’s birthday. This movie is definitely self-aware, but I’m not sure it’s self-aware about how self-aware it is. 

Damn, that’s a lot of Gremlin action during this “New York, New York” scene. There have to be over 100 puppeteers here. 

“Hubba Hubba.” 

“Hey, I’ve got a bunch of ideas for what we can have the Gremlins do? Like, some visual gags.” 
“Ok, let’s use them.” 
“ haven’t heard any of them? And there are probably too many to squeeze in. . .”
“No, that’s fine. You had me at ‘bunch of ideas.’ Let’s use them all!” 

In all this chaos, I’ve missed the plan. Why are they spraying water on them? 

The word “avuncular” was just used, apparently because the writer of this thing has a “Word of the Day” calendar but ate the definition part of the day where “avuncular” was the word. 

That’s a weird ending, one that suggests the third Gremlins movie might have to do with the offspring of a human and a Gremlin. I’d see it if promised at least and R-rating. 

Dick Butkus was in that? I missed him. Maybe he was standing behind Hulk Hogan's pythons or something. 

That's it. I'm profoundly disappointed in my friend Josh. 

Movies-a-Go-Go: Gremlins

1984 monster comedy

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Hoyt Axton gives his son a terrible Christmas present that almost destroys their town.

After compiling my list of the 10 greatest Christmas movies of all time, Josh brought up Gremlins 2. I had remembered that Gremlins took place around Christmas, but I didn't know how much of a factor Christmas actually played since I hadn't seen the movie since it came out. I had never seen Gremlins 2, and I didn't even know it took place during Christmas. But I trust Josh and figured I'd check it out after watching Gremlins again. Turns out that Josh was wrong because the sequel has nothing to do with Christmas, and I suspect he did this intentionally to trick me into watching a horrible movie.

I liked Gremlins a lot more than I thought I would. I decided to do this one Movies-a-Go-Go style because I can't remember the last time I did a blog entry like that and know how wildly popular they are. I can't promise this will be entertaining or coherent, but if you get through this whole thing, you'll be eligible to win a prize.

Anyway, here are my thoughts while watching Gremlins for the first time in 33 fucking years.

Don't get them wet. Keep them out of bright lights. Don't feed them after midnight. And don't curse around them. 

“Let me introduce myself.” No introduction needed, Hoyt Axton!

I could have sworn that was Short Round. And that’s not racist because I only thought that because of the Yankees cap.

I wish I had a job where I could just look pensive and smoke an extra long pipe.

In a prequel, you might get to find out why my right eye is all fucked up. 

Hoyt invented a Swiss Army travel buddy?

Will all the jokes in this film be accompanied with a gong? Gosh, I certainly hope so!

200 dollars? How much is a dog? Seems like 200 dollars is pretty cheap for such a unique varmint.

No bright lights. Keep him away from water. Never feed him after midnight. I have a friend who would make a joke about his penis here. [Hint: It's the same friend who tricked me into watching Gremlins 2 for Christmas.]

Slug bug--white.

Something tells me Mr. Futerman would have been a Trump supporter.

Goddamn foreign cars! Goddamn foreign Mogwais!

That Burger King stuck out like something a fast food franchise paid a chunk of change to have sticking out.

And Mrs. Deagle, with her hatred of deadbeats and her decapitated snowman, seems to be based on Betsy Devos.

We’re getting a lot of extraneous characters right off the bat here. Should I start caring about any of them?

Wait a second. How was that “all that is left” of her snowman? What did the dog do with its entire body? I'm not buying Miss Gulch's story here.

If you play Gremlins and The Wizard of Oz at the same time, Mrs. Deagle rides her bicycle at the exact same time the old bag in The Wizard of Oz is seen transforming into a witch in the tornado. That is a true piece of movie trivia that I just made up.

Captain Clip-On? That’s not a terrible nickname!

Xenophobia, the importance of buying American, capitalist greed, a lack of empathy, light misogyny. This is a very 80s American movie. This entire movie would have probably voted for Trump if it could.

And there's Jimmy Stewart, always working his way into every single Christmas movie.

This son isn’t too bright. Gets something that he thinks is a birdcage (presumably with birds) and immediately starts shaking it?

“Dad, it’s really neat.” Obviously, Billy’s a virgin.

Gizmo’s got a lovely singing voice. This musical number is sweet, but both Billy and Gizmo are making eyes at each other like this is going to lead to something else. Maybe Billy will have some neat sex with his new furry friend and not be a virgin anymore. The dog doesn’t look thrilled about the prospect.

Did Gizmo just say “God damn it!” after falling into the trash can? Howie Mandel, if you're reading this, I need confirmation.

Like I have time to read this! I'm too busy appearing on every other NBC show. 

Rule Four: Keep him out of reach of large dogs.

Cool! An invention that sprays orange juice all over the place. Like you can’t just find a three-year-old to do that for you.

That was a ton of juice to come from a single orange, by the way. Have you ever tried to squeeze the juice out of an orange? You won't get enough orange juice to paint your kitchen. I know that much.

Rule Five: Don’t bother him when he’s masturbating.

Wait a second. Is this thing using Minions language? Howie?

Thanks, Dad, for the super-fragile gift that will force me to live in the semi-darkness for the rest of my high school life.

Why’s Corey Feldman delivering Christmas trees while dressed as a Christmas tree? What’s his game?

I get my 80's Coreys confused. Is this the one making terrible music these days or the dead one? 

This little puppet is wonderfully expressive. I’m not sure the eye-blinking sound effects are really needed though.

Pete’s kind of a dick.

Childbirth looks painful for Mogwais. So I'm not sure what my wife was complaining about when she gave birth. At least she doesn't have boils festering on her back before balls of fur pop out of them, right?

Less than 24 hours, and you’ve already gotten the fucker wet! Now you’ll never get a turn on that little Donkey Kong game, Billy.

Speaking of Rule Five (Don’t bother him when he’s masturbating), do you think you could pleasure yourself with those things watching you? For some, it would probably enhance the experience.

I’m pretty sure Hoyt needs to find another career. These failed-invention gags have just about run their course, by the way.

Now dropping water on him intentionally just so the science teacher can see it seems really mean. You know it’s painful for the poor little guy!

Hey, it's Dick Miller!

You should go to my imdb page and see how many times I played a character named Walter Paisley. 

You can’t go Christmas caroling anymore for fears of being labeled a terrorist organization and potentially being shot at.

Kate sure is a downer! Bringing up Christmas suicide rates and leprosy in the same scene.

I wonder if I can get Trump to bring back Washington’s Birthday as an official holiday. For the past eight years, there's been a War on Washington's Birthday!

Science teacher, approaching with needle: This isn’t gonna hurt.
Mogwai, after being needled in the hand: Oww! Fucking liar!

Wait a second, I don’t think this guy is a science teacher. Why would he be in school over winter break? I guess Billy just happens to have a friend who is a scientist like Marty in Back the the Future.

How did I make it through the 80s without thinking I needed to befriend a scientist? 

Sprite product placement.

Did Billy even go over the rules with the scientist?

Ok, I was wrong. Apparently, he is a teacher. Also, school is still in session on Christmas Eve. War on Christmas!

Gremlin-hatching music is very Elfman-esque.

When CAN you feed these things? Like, what’s the prohibited time? Midnight until 6 A.M. I think the rules need to be a little more specific here.

I’ve got a family get-together a little later today. I think I’m going to say “Yum” while eating like the Gremlins do.

And make this exact face the entire time. 

A school with an unlocked nurse area where kids have free access to whatever is in there doesn’t seem like a great idea.

This shot of Gizmo on the dart board. I can’t tell if the Gremlins are really good at darts or really bad at it.

“Phone home.” Spielberg: Ok, I'll produce your movie, but you have to include at least one reference to E.T.

Clearly, Mom’s not in a festive mood. Get that “Do You Hear What I Hear?” crap out of here!

Mom: “First, he gets orange juice all over my kitchen, and now he’s bringing creatures home that play unwanted Christmas music and try to kill me! I’m filing for a divorce!”

Blender death, a stabbing, a spritz with insecticide, and a microwave murder. Mom’s like fucking Rambo here!

Like fucking Rambo

I’m guessing the science teacher is deceased. So right now, here’s the score: Humans 3, Gremlins 1

Without context or any shot of the Gremlin, this scene could look like a Christmas-tree-on-woman sex scene. And nothing says "Merry Christmas" quite like that.

Humans 4, Gremlins 1 after a decapitated head flies into the fireplace.

“Pardon me, sir. Stuff? Would 60 gallons be sufficient?” I’m not sure what that robot at the invention convention does exactly, but I’m excited thinking about it.

Uh oh! This pool scene is the scariest thing to happen in a YMCA since that scene in Can’t Stop the Music. I wonder if we'll be treated to some PG penis glimpses in this one, too.

I’ve got the captions on, and it’s providing subtitles for the Gremlins. “Ay yu gibbuwik! Eeyo basar gigiyo! Hey custo yap yar!”

This scene with the Gremlins walking down the street and emerging from the darkness is awesome! Stop animation?

Another reference to foreigners (“God damn foreign TV!”), and I’m reminded how xenophobic the 80s were.

I was 11 when this came out, too old for this mailbox scene to cause me to fear mailboxes. Yet, I feared mailboxes until I was in my 30s.

I’m impressed that these things can read.

Deagle’s cats are named Kopeck and Drachma. That’s got to be the kind of knowledge that can win you a bar trivia night.

And apparently, one is named Old Dollar Bill.

“Screechy-voiced little glue sniffers.” I have to respect a woman who hates Christmas carols so much that she’s willing to throw a pitcher of water on them in freezing temperatures. In another life, I might have married Deagle.

I’ve lost track, but I think the Gremlins might be ahead now.

Pete’s armed with a slingshot! That’ll put a dent in this problem!

More amazing than their ability to read is the amount of destruction they’ve managed to cause in such a short time.

And now we take a break from this Gremlin mayhem to give you another invention gag.

Say what you want about these Gremlins, but this scene in the bar shows that these fuckers know how to celebrate Christmas.

The shot of the Gremlin flashing Kate or whatever her name good!

Wait, where did Spike get a tiny gun?

Gremlin puppet show? Exercising with leg warmers? Breakdancing? Brief Coca Cola product placement. This just turned into the most 80’s movie ever!

How did Kate know that they didn’t like bright lights?

Chaos as they “make a run for it” is so much going on in that little sequence.

Gremlins, just like Mr. Futterman said? I don’t think that’s what the drunk guy was talking about.

Like Kate needed another reason to hate Christmas.

Gizmo’s bored with your story, Kate. Can you give us the tl;dr version?

I know this story about Kate’s dead father is supposed to be tragic, but Gizmo’s reaction just forced me to guffaw. And say "Ay yu gibbuwik!"

Why did Hoyt take Barney the dog with him to the invention convention?

Ironic use of “Silent Night” is a nice touch here.

Milk Duds product placement.

You better enjoy the hell out of this picture of Milk Duds. I don't want the time it took me to put it on here to be wasted. 

This shot of all the Gremlins in the movie theater is impressive. I’m not sure how they know the right lyrics to songs in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs though.

Kate: What are they doing?
Billy: They’re watching Snow White. (Only his answer is snarled, like Kate’s question was idiotic. "Duh, stupid. They're obviously watching Snow White! Gosh!"

Gremlin silhouettes approaching the screen...another great shot!

Something tells me that Billy just destroyed the only thing there is to do in his town.

Stripe’s the leader but has one obvious weakness--a sweet tooth.

This is no time to make out, Billy and Kate! Come on, horny kids!

Another sneaky E.T. reference. Spielberg just can’t help himself.

Upon further review, I'm not sure why I called this "sneaky." 

Meanwhile, Kate can’t figure out how to turn on lights.

This really is the Tardis of department stores--much bigger on the inside than it looked on the outside.

How long does it take a chainsaw to go through a baseball bat?

Oh, geez. Bird tweet sound effects after Stripe hits his head. That might cost this thing a point!

One of our favorite family games spotted--Survive. Recommended if you want a game that will cause your family to be mean to each other and lead to screaming.

Just in time, Dad.

Ai-yah! The Chinese guy is upset because Gizmo was taught to watch television?

“You have done with Mogwai what society has done to all of nature’s gifts.” What does that even mean, old Chinese guy?

Well, I don't know how the sequel can be more Christmas-y than that? Christmas was all over this one! 

Silent Saturday: Part Two of ? a Georges Melies Film Fest

1902-1904 short films

Rating: No rating for shorts or collections of shorts

"Meanwhile, you're watching this shit." --My wife, disgruntled

Part One can be found right here if you're interested. You're probably not!

So many of these begin with Melies bowing to the audience, just like a magician coming on stage. He really did think of these things more as magic tricks than movies, I suppose. There's some silly slapstick with "The Colonel's Shower Bath," but Melies knew what he was good at and thankfully didn't try too much of that sort of thing. Most of this is just Melies doing these little movie magic tricks.

"The Dancing Midget" disappoints by not having any actual midgets and is heavy on egg tricks and ballerinas.

Melies gets a lot of play from magic boxes during this period. "The Treasure of Satan" combines surrealist magic and a dancing box for some kinky damnation.

"The Human Fly" anticipates Lionel Richie but with more Russian dancing and what can only be described as breakdancing 82 years before Breakin' came out. In fact, it's safe to say that Melies invented breakdancing.

"The Marvelous Wreath" is one of many of these that utilize this spry fellow who always bounds into the scenes and looks like he's about to break something. This time he's a devil gymnast. Lots of demon references in these, by the way.

There are two titles with "infernal" in them. "The Infernal Cakewalk" has dancing (you guessed it) demons and fire magic. One demon has the legs that Torgo should have had. The best part about this one is an elaborate set with all these moving parts. Melies almost always impresses with the art design with these things. "The Infernal Cauldron" probably makes more sense as a title than "The Infernal Cakewalk."

"The Enchanted Well" has some great animals--a donkey, snake puppets, and frog guys. Oh, and demons. And by "great animals," I really mean "completely ridiculous animals." The donkey costume is wonderfully laughable, but it doesn't hurt the magic any.

"The Inn Where No Man Rests" is about a cute little haunting, more whimsical surrealism. Melies, as he does in a lot of these, stars and gives one of the worst drunk acting performances you'll ever see. This one had about the same "story" as "The Bewitched Inn" from the Part One except this one was a little crazier.

There was more playful self-decapitation in this one, too. In "Melomaniac," he tosses heads onto a musical staff. Of course, that might have worked better with sound. I can't read music, Melies! How am I supposed to know the tune your heads make?

I don't have a lot to say about a piece called "Jupiter's Thunderballs," but I need an excuse to type that title out. This one was unremarkable although it did have some vocal sound effects and a Jupiter who reminded me of a Looney Tunes character I couldn't quite identify.

"Jack Jags and Dum Dum" had a lot of clownish tricks involving things disappearing or suddenly materializing. I'm sure people in the early-1900s fell for it! The chairs and balls and hats transforming into other things is a little more seamless in this second chunk of movies. Melies also fell in love with a trick that is used here and lots of other ones where clothes are thrown at a person who is then dressed in those clothes. It's remarkable how you could actually be fooled into thinking that's really happening here.

I love that moon that I wrote about last time (and it's in one or two of these as well), but I might have a new favorite prop--the wonderful living fan in "The Wonderful Living Fan." Check this bad boy out:

I want one for my bedroom!

Melies dives underwater for us with "Mermaid," featuring a smokin' hot mermaid. My favorite monster in these shorts is probably the seven-headed hydra in the Faust short though.

The pieces de resistance, however, are two very famous Melies shorts.

The first is the widely-seen "A Trip to the Moon" featuring geriatric astronomers amidst mushrooms and Selenites. This must have been the first science fiction movie, right? It also might be the first legitimate film spectacle. Those Selenites weren't all that intimidating, especially since they become a cloud of dust when struck with an umbrella. This is just so much fun and imaginative and has some great imagery. It must have been an enormous influence on a guy like Terry Gilliam. I like that it seems to poke fun at science a little bit, too.

"A Trip to the Moon" might be what Melies is most famous for, but for my money, "The Kingdom of the Fairies" is his masterpiece. Nearly 20 minutes long, this thing is filled with fantastical imagery, elaborate sets, and dazzling special effects. Dig those awesome water scenes! See lobstermen! There's more originality packed into these 20 minutes than most modern-day blockbusters. This version was colorized, and it's just stunningly beautiful. If you see one Melies' movie, I think I'd pick this one.

That's all I've got. I apologize if this doesn't make sense. I had taken some notes, but I couldn't make much sense out of them.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that Buster watched some of these with me. While Jen was clearly not amused (see her quote above), Buster really enjoyed some of this and even Wow'd audibly a few times. She fell for the magic. And as bad as 2017 has been, there is at least that to be happy about.

The House

2017 comedy

Rating: 9/20

Plot: Parents need some money for their college-bound daughter and open a casino with their friend.

Why do I do this to myself? What was I possibly hoping to accomplish here?

Personal Shopper

2016 supernatural mystery

Rating: 12/20

Plot: A personal shopper tries to get some kind of sign from her dead twin brother.

I don't think Kristen Stewart can act.

Writer/director Oliver Assayas seems to want to intentionally perplex and leave things open-ended, and although I don't mind that at all with a movie, this wasn't engaging at all. There are loose ends--a vomiting ghost, for instance--that aren't sufficiently resolved, and so much of the movie was just Stewart, who can't act, shopping or looking at her smartphone. It was boring.

I think this movie might actually be about smartphones, but I'm not sure what it would be trying to say.

It's possible that I'd like this movie more if I could put some of its pieces together, but I don't really want to think about it anymore.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

2017 action sequel

Rating: 11/20

Plot: Four high schoolers are sucked into a video game and have to retrieve a statue's jewel eyeball in order to make it back to the real world.

This reboot of the Robin Williams Jumanji movie from the mid-90s almost works as well. Things are updated for the millennial crowd this is clearly created for, a boring board game replaced with an only-slightly-dated video game. It's also as loud as a movie for that millennial crowd needs to be. Big music, big animal noises, big action. Everything, especially Dwayne Johnson's arms, is big in this, almost to the point where it's obnoxious.

This is probably harmless fun, but it's very predictable. The characters go exactly where you could have guessed they'd go from the first moments you meet them. Even a surprise character appearance isn't a surprise at all. As the characters go through motions, wind up in peril, wisecrack, grow and develop, and work together to reach goals, you just kind of sit there and feel like you could have written the thing.

I don't have to apologize to you for wasting my time and seeing this in the theater. I think I'm going to see every Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson movie in the theater though because he's a once-in-a-lifetime talent. The Rock on the big screen? That's where it's at, kids, and I'm not sure how many more years of the guy we've got since he'll probably be our president in 2020 or 2024. Kevin Hart is in this movie to scream, Karen Gillan's potential as a strong heroine is wasted as she's forced to awkwardly become nothing more than a sex symbol and love interest, and Jack Black's act gets tired pretty quickly.

References to Jack Black's penis made me uncomfortable.

Bad Movie Club: Santa with Muscles

1996 Christmas comedy (with muscles)

Bad Movie Rating: 4/5 (Josh: 2/5; Johnny: 2/5)

Rating: 3/20

Plot: I already wrote about this movie here. If you want a well-written plot synopsis, go and read that.

I'm not writing about this movie again. The review linked above is brilliantly composed, and I don't see how I can improve on that.

The Shape of Water

2017 adult fairy tale

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A mute janitor falls for a merman in the midst of the Cold War.

A movie romance can't work for me unless I also fall in love with the characters, and I imagine that's especially true if one of the two people in that romance is a merman. And I fell in love with both of these characters. Superficially. With mute Eliza, I fell in love with her the moment there was some surprise nudity, and I liked the way she handled her eggs. I loved--and I mean, loved--Sally Hawkins in this. It's easy to see why the aquatic creature fell in love with her so easily. It's not because she's conventionally attractive, but she's got an allure. And Hawkins' performance was just dynamite, so expressive and capable of saying so much without saying a single word. I think she might be my new favorite actress.

With the creature, it was all about the ass. I'm joking, at least a little, but I did come across this article all about the guy's butt. That "amphibious man" is played by Indianapolis's own, Doug Jones, who also played the Pale Man in Pan's Labyrinth. I don't remember what his posterior looked like.

All fairy tales need a villain, and this has a good one with Michael Shannon's character. The Cold War backdrop added this consistent tension, but one of my favorite parts of the love story is how the romantic parts of this almost seemed oblivious to the surrounding darkness and intrigue.

Fairy tales need helper characters, too, and I loved both Octavia Spencer as Eliza's co-worker/fellow-janitor and the great Richard Jenkins as her quirky artist friend.

The Shape of Water is visually stunning, and I'm not just talking about that guy's ass. Guillermo del Toro uses color well, and his camera moves so effortlessly through the characters' apartments and the research facility. A lot of the visuals reminded me of those Caro/Jeunet films from the 90's (City of Lost Children, Delicatessen), and more movies need to look like that. It struck similar tones and levels of quirk. There are so many standout scenes--simple ones like Hawkins' character living a life of routines (including the aforementioned handling of eggs and a daily bathtub masturbation session), a lovely opening sequence where we get a glimpse of Eliza's subconscious desires, some gorgeous and moving and completely improbably romance.

Embrace of the Serpent

2015 adventure movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: White people employ the services of a shaman in the Amazon to find some sort of plant.

Cory recommended this a while ago, and I finally decided I was in the mood to watch it. I like that it's labeled as an "adventure movie." If it's in that genre, it's the slowest adventure movie of all time. The movie was made in Colombia and uses seven different languages, but to me, it felt very Japanese. No, Japanese wasn't one of the languages. But it moves like a tired glacier, leaving you a ton of room to reflect on these characters, their relationships, and their motivations. And you'll want to do that, too.

The main character, Karamakate, is an enigma, the last of his people and a guy whose motivation to help these white guys is never entirely clear. We see Karamakate at two points in his life as two explorer/scientist dudes enter his world forty years apart. The narrative is non-linear, bouncing back and forth between the two times. There are parallels and there are more subtle differences that suggest the effects on time on this place and this particular character. And without saying anything in any obvious ways or making grand statements, it's really quite profound. It's not quite a character study, but I did like seeing this stoic character at these two different periods in his life.

Forty years. The world changes. White people fuck everything up.

Gorgeous black and white imagery made this easy to look at for the duration. There's a richness to the scenery that I never got tired of. The rain forest and the river are immense, but the way this is filmed, it almost feels claustrophobic. And otherworldly! It reminded me a little of Werner Herzog, which I suspect might be one of the reasons Cory recommended it. He'll have to leave a comment and let you all know if there's any truth to that. Dreamlike and haunting, this probably won't satisfy your need for an exciting action movie, but it is definitely worth checking out.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

2017 sci-fi movie

Rating: 10/20

Plot: I do not feel like reliving this.

If you ever want to see what it would look like in Luc Besson's toilet after his imagination, after a night of drinking, vomited, then this is the movie for you!

I didn't like a single thing about this movie. I would love to applaud something so unapologetically creative, but what should feel fresh and original is burdened by bland characters, an unengaging story, sci-fi tropes. Any good feeling from the surreal sci-fi imagery vanished quickly when I realized I was going to have to spend 2 1/4 hours with this Valerian guy, played by the ultra-bland Dane DeHaan, and his partner and love interest who apparently isn't even important enough to get her name in the title. Not even the appearance of Herbie Hancock or Rutger Hauer could save this. Ethan Hawke's batty performance as a space pimp is almost fun if you're really desperate for something to enjoy in this bloated CGI crap.

If I sound a little more negative than usual, it might be the result of being a little angry at this movie even before I saw the thing. I was part of a summer movie fantasy game where we drafted four movies and got points based on how well they performed during their opening weekend. Valerian was my fourth pick, and its performance was underwhelming and cost me the championship. I blame Dane DeHaan.

Special Feature: The Top Ten Christmas Movies of All Time

For the past 8 years, we've had a War on Christmas that has prohibited from making a list like this. Thankfully, that war has now ended, and the world can enjoy my list of the 10 best Christmas movies of all time.

Christmas movie aficionados may notice some omissions: Batman Returns, Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure, and It's a Wonderful Life, most notably. If you don't like my list, go make your own stupid list. Stop wasting your time reading lists like mine and make something of yourself.

I want to apologize for starting this off so belligerently. The sun is in the perfect position to be right in my eye, and there's nothing I can do about it except move somewhere else. I had a headache before I started this thing, and after doing ten minutes of research, the headache is even worse. And now this sun!


I skimmed my review of this, and it turns out that I didn't really enjoy it. Pickings are slim when searching for classic Christmas cinema though, so this makes the list. IMDB plot keywords contain the obvious Christmas ones like "loneliness" and "stabbed to death," but also some surprises in the old stocking like "incest," "monster rape," "electrocuted in bathtub," and "Nazi conspiracy." Television's Grizzly Adams himself--Dan Haggerty--plays a sort of Santa Claus anti-hero.

Saving Christmas

Feel-good Christian movie mojo from that guy who played Boner's friend on Growing Pains, Saving Christmas might be the lone religious movie on my list unless you're one of those fools who actually consider "Jedi" a religion. And that, friends, is a spoiler. This movie wouldn't have any business being a part of a list on a well-respected blog like this except for the scene featured in the above screenshot in which J.C.'s BFF K.C. shows off The Worm. Nothing--and I mean nothing--says Christmas like Kirk Cameron doing the worm in front of a Christmas tree while a black kid watches in amazement. Trump may be currently boasting that he has single-handedly saved Christmas from the clutches of the black president and his terrifying liberal minion, but I don't think he could have done it without Kirk Cameron laying the foundation with this movie.

Santa with Muscles

A jolly mismatch of genres including science fiction and fantasy, action, comedy, and orphan movies, this Hulk Hogan movie is probably the toughest movie on the list. It's the only movie on the list with 24-inch pythons! We just watched this for our Bad Movie Club. It was my second viewing, and I'm not proud of that at all. In fact, it's actually kind of depressed me a little bit. I'm going to give you all a warning about this one: Unlike most other Christmas movies, you have to suspend your disbelief a little bit with this one.

Christmas on Mars

Well, I'm already totally bored with this list and wish I would have never started it! This is about the point where people are going to stop reading anyway, so I don't feel like saying much about this silly sci-fi musical adventure from the Flaming Lips. It's like It's a Wonderful Life mixed with 2001: A Space Odyssey. I think I might appreciate this movie more because people spent so long on it--something like 8 years--and ended up with something so stupid. It's got the guy from Blue's Clues and lots of vaginas, so if that's what you'd like to find under your tree this Christmas, this is probably the movie for you!

Ernest Saves Christmas

I might quit this blog entry soon and just delete the thing and pretend it never happened. That "find under your tree this Christmas" thing up there makes me sick to my stomach. I'm embarrassed that I typed that, and I'm even more embarrassed that I'm leaving it up there. But at least I was never in one of Jim Varney's "Ernest" movies. Oh, who the hell am I kidding? I would have given my left nut to be in an Ernest movie. My brother, who isn't speaking to me anymore, claims that I fell asleep in the theater when we saw this. We used to watch them all on the screen, likely because it's the only way to fully appreciate an Ernest movie. That, or we were mentally ill. If Jim Varney were still alive, American would have put him in Congress by now.

Star Wars Holiday Special

The only thing that could have made this television event more festive would be a scene where Mark Hamill milks a space creature. If you've never been talked into watching this, finding out right now that it starts with a bunch of non-subtitled Wookiee speak, has a scene where Bea Arthur sings a song with the Cantina band, another scene where Art Carney shows Chewbacca's kid some pornography, drug-aided appearances by a wide-eyed Mark Hamill and bored Carrie Fisher, and a Boba Fett cartoon. Now that I think about it, this celebration of some Wookiee holiday called Life Day is likely precisely what pissed off Trump and those bunch of morons who support him and think there's actually a war on Christmas.

A Christmas Story

As a Hoosier, I've got no choice but to include this Christmas coming-of-age comedy. I'm sure it will be a popular choice, and I'm going to take a moment to put my head back, close my eyes, and imagine all the blog comments rolling in. "I'm glad you included A Christmas Story, Shane. It's a classic!" Maybe references to shooting eyes out or leg lamps. Every Christmas, I'm reminded that there's a sequel to this movie that I've never seen where Ralphie loses his virginity. I should check that out sometime!

A Muppet Christmas Carol

My brainstorming paper included all sorts of variations on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol including Scrooge, Scrooged, Scroogin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, Rich Little's Christmas Carol, A Christmas Carol, An American Christmas Carol, and A Christmas Carol. This surpasses them all because it's got puppets. Muppet wizardry and that lovable stupid humor make this a really enjoyable Christmas movie even if it's not upper-echelon Muppet action. Avid readers might recall that I first saw this movie at the theater on what can only be called a homosexual date.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Scandinavian joy abounds in this tale about the unearthing of an old guy who may or may not be Santa Claus during an archaeological dig. This is the one that TBS or TNT or whatever cable channel it is should show over and over again even though it doesn't take place in Indiana. Darkly humorous and endlessly surprising, this is sure to delight both children and adults alike as long as children and adults enjoy looking at naked old men. 

Nightmare Before Christmas

For the record, this would also go on my Halloween movie list if I made one of those. I'm not going to make one of those, however, because this has been absolute torture, seriously one of the worst decisions I've made in 2017. And it's not like I can even say I don't have anything better to do with my time. I could be spending time with family. I could be writing about other movies that I haven't written about yet. I could be watching another movie. I have plenty that I could do! Instead, I'm writing this thing that nobody is going to read anyway. My God, this is depressing! Anyway, I'm a sucker for stop-animation anyway, and I really like the creative energy of this, the gorgeous imagery, and the fun songs. I also like that I can go in any Hot Topic store in any mall and pick up a t-shirt or something with these characters on it.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

I've seen this holiday classic a few times, but I just thought about how I've seen Elf with Will Ferrell about twice as much and became melancholic. I guess I must like the Christmas sci-fi sub-genre. That, or I like movies where Santa Claus is Claus-napped. It's probably the latter. Throw in little people, a polar bear, a freakin' robot, and a song that should be a Christmas classic played at least as much as that terrible Paul McCartney song and probably way more, and you've got yourself a great holiday movie! By the way, I see this as a cautionary tale, warning people of what Christmas is capable of turning them into.

Christmas Evil

This is John Waters' favorite Christmas movie, and that's probably all you need to know. Some terrific black comedy, a great lead performance from Brandon Maggort, a great score, and all sorts of unpredictable goings-on, this subversive character study also warns about what can happen when people take Christmas spirit to extremes. There are more Christmas slasher movies than you can throw a dead reindeer at, but this one, which actually isn't really a slasher movie at all, is the best. Pictured above is likely the only Santa Claus police line-up in cinema.

Santa Claus

You have to love a movie that would ruin the idea of Santa Claus and Christmas for a child if they saw it. The creepiness and weirdness of Santa's surveillance techniques, his reindeer, and his choice in friends would be enough to make children decide not to believe anymore because the reality of a world in which this sort of magic can exist is too frightening to deal with. Kind of like the Trump presidency. This is from Rene Cardona, the Mexican director who did one Aztec Mummy movie and some Santo movies. Only a guy like Cardona can understand that in order to have an authentic Christmas movie, it's got to include Satan.

Eyes Wide Shut

Of course Stanley Kubrick's modern Christmas classic would have to be pretty high on the list. What's most surprising to me is that this film didn't inspire people to come to Christmas gatherings or parties in masks and g-strings. I mean, I've seen those silly leg lamps for sale, and people even celebrate Festivus, the made-up Seinfeld anti-holiday. So why didn't this movie inspire more Christmas orgies? Maybe it did, and I just don't have the right friends. Actually, now that I think about it, I don't get invited to Christmas parties. If I ever do, I guess I'll show up in a mask.

Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny

When I originally wrote about this movie (see the link above), I challenged somebody to find a more excruciating Christmas movie than this one. There's no way it's possible. And that's enough to put it at #2 on my list. If movies or television specials with Will Ferrell, Charlie Brown, Frosty, Rudolph, Ralphie, Chevy Chase, Batman, cute kittens or puppies, Tim Allen, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, Chewbacca's family, Kirk Cameron, Rich Little, or the Grinch are capable of helping viewers find Christmas joy, this one has to do the exact opposite. Call it Christmas misery, I guess. Or Christmas angst, Christmas distress, Christmas melancholia, Christmas torment, or Christmas sorrow. This one brings the pain, and it does so magically with the titular bunny character, a bunch of kids, Thumbelina, and a guy in a gorilla suit. It's a wonderful experience.

And the number 1 Christmas movie of all time?

Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas

Christmas perfection, and if you think about it, you know Jesus would agree with me.

So, friends, what did I leave off? What Christmas favorites do you feel belong on the list of the ten greatest Christmas movies of all time? Feel free to share in the comments below.