Special Feature: The Top Ten Most Popular Shane-movies Posts of All Time

Here's a pointless exercise. But pointless exercises just might be my specialty. I mean, I've maintained a movie blog with sub-par writing and almost no real expertise for a little over nine years.

I thought it would be both fun and informative to see what my most popular (read: most accidentally stumbled upon by people searching for this or that and then being really disappointed upon arriving at this blog) blog posts were. Turns out, it was neither fun nor informative. The numbers don't make much sense to me though I will, as I share the list, speculate on them. I'm not going to do the math, but if I had to guess, I'd say the average number of views I get is somewhere right below 100. Most are between 30-70, but there are plenty of outliers.

I'll start with what I believe is the least popular blog post--Searching for the Sugar Man.

This post has an impressive total of five views. That's right--five. It's an odd one because the documentary was fairly popular, and I used the word "Dylanesque" in there somewhere. Of course, I didn't get around to seeing it until a few years after its peak popularity, so maybe people had completely lost interest and had no interest in reading the thoughts of somebody who doesn't really know what he's talking about.

So what are my most-viewed posts of all time? Here they are in reverse order! Click on the titles to enjoy the original posts.

15. Basket Case

Before rereading the post, I figured this had a lot of "hits" because it's a cult favorite. After reading, I decided it had more to do with the use of certain words that might be reeling in the perv crowd. "Female," "sex scene," "sleaze," "puppets," "grimy," "filthy," "landfill-dwelling brethren," "mannish prostitutes," "squishes," "audible drooling," "sticky," and "basket."

So somebody doing a Google search for "grimy mannish puppet prostitutes sex scene with audible drooling in a landfill" would very likely wind up here and be extremely disappointed in what they find.

I just tried that out, and my blog was indeed the first thing that popped up. The site below mine was somebody writing about The Expendables, which he called a "TESTICULAR MASTERPIECE." Those are Harry Knowles' capital letters--not mine. I didn't check to see if he actually used those other words.

14.  Inside Man

I have no idea. I liked this Spike Lee joint, but I can't tell you a single thing about it now. And what could have possibly dragged disappointed Internet scourers to this one? My guess is that they heard about the terrific word play I ended the review with:

"Do the right thing, and give Inside Man a chance!"

Word probably got around about that one.

Person: "Hey, man. I'm going to email you a link to this guy's blog post about the movie Inside Man."
Other person: "The Spike Lee movie that nobody cares about? Why would I want to see that?"
Person: "Seriously, it's so worth it. You just have to see the last sentence of this guy's review!"
Other person: "Yeah?"
Person: "Trust me! This is one of the greatest human achievements in history!"

And yes, this was during my famous "Man" movie streak in which I watched 137 movies in a row with the word "man" in the title. You know, the other greatest human achievement in history.

13. Happy Feet

Well, I'm three movies in, and I'm already hopelessly depressed.

Actually, I'm glad this made the list because in the plot synopsis, I talk about how my use of the word "retarded" is some weird attempt to get more blog traffic and then promise to "do my very best to make this one of my best-written reviews ever." Apparently, it worked!

And for me, that obviously means writing about how I have nipples and penguins don't, turtle orgasms, and hilariously clubbing baby seals to death. And I whine about the oppressive amount of penguin movies, so maybe I snagged a few folks sympathetic to that issue.

I also ended this post with a powerful "Boom!" So it's possible that I was drunk when I wrote the whole thing.

12. Unstoppable

The second Denzel Washington movie to make this list! Maybe he's the force of nature that is drawing people in.

Before clicking on my own post and seeing what this movie even was, I wouldn't have been able to tell you what it was or whether or not I saw it. I would have guessed it was a kung-fu movie actually. This was a movie I saw back when I was working the C-shift at a shifty hotel, watching movies on the Urine Couch when I wasn't busy chasing prostitutes off the property.

I have no idea what anybody would Google to accidentally stumble upon this entry. I spend most of the time talking about my hotel starting to move and traveling down the highway and maybe exploding in a "cloud of cocaine and filth." And I wonder about the chances of two Indiana Indian hotel managers being murdered and thrown in dumpsters.

Seriously, this one is one of the more perplexing additions to this list. Maybe there's more of an interest in Gene Siskel's ghost than I originally thought.

11. Vampire's Kiss

Nicolas Cage, as you're about to discover, is very popular as there are a disproportionate amount of his movies in this list. I'm really happy this made the cut because it's a historic blog post. This, before it had a name, was my first Movies-A-Go-Go post. I've even got time stamps for reasons that I'm not sure I understand. I think I always assumed this Karate Kid post was the first Movies-A-Go-Go, but that's because watching Vampire's Kiss was something like an out-of-body experience for me and my immune system wouldn't let me remember all of the details.

As for the reason why this is such a heavily-viewed blog post, I have to assume it's people who have also seen this movie and then, for their own safety and mental health, tried to purge it from their memories. But somewhere--likely on some subconscious level--they remembered bits and pieces and wanted to revisit even though they couldn't recall exactly what the movie was. So they'd Google things like "movie where Nicolas Cage eats a pillow" or "movie where Nicolas Cage eats a cockroach" or "movie where Nicolas Cage screams the alphabet at some poor woman" or "movie where Nicolas Cage impersonates Max Shreck at a discotheque."

And I'd like to meet these people, maybe form a club or a group or a posse or a gang.

10. Muppet Treasure Island

This entry is from back in '09. I have no real idea why it would be one that a lot of people have looked at. The "review" isn't well written at all. In fact, part of me wants to edit the thing and fix a very obvious and distracting typo and rewrite a sentence with some very poor word choice. My first thought was that maybe people were seeing this and telling their friends, "Hey, you've got to check out this blog entry about a Muppet movie. The guy can't write at all!" But it's not really poorly written in an entertaining way, so I don't think that's it.

My second thought was that maybe I'd slipped the word "porn" or "pornography" in there because when I think of the Muppets, my erection often screams (figuratively), "This is just like pornography for you, isn't it, Shane?" And since I did mention Gonzo in the first sentence of my plot synopsis, I suppose somebody doing a Google search for "gonzo pornography" might be tricked into clicking on the link and then exclaim, "How the hell am I supposed to masturbate to this poorly-written review of a movie with pirate puppets?" and act like I'm the one who has done something wrong.

Swashbuckling gonzo pornography? Is that a thing? It doesn't matter because "pornography" isn't anywhere in that post.

9. Con Air

Here's an easy one to explain. A little less than seven years ago, I declared the summer months The Summer of Nicolas Cage and watched and wrote about at least 20 of The Great One's films in about five months. It was probably the highlight of my life. I can't verify it for sure, but I believe this Nicolas Cage virtual film festival was written about in all sorts of major publications. Con Air was the first movie in The Summer of Nicolas Cage, and I assume after intense interest was drummed up from all those write-ups in newspapers, magazines, and other online sources, people flocked to my blog to see what it was all about.

They were treated with lots of Cage and Malcovich fawning, naturally, and also my speculation about whether Nicolas Cage should be considered a classical element. Earth, wind, fire, air, and Nicolas Cage!

Something else I noticed with this one: Apparently, I censored the f-word at this stage in the blog's existence. "What do you think I'm gonna do? I'm gonna save the f-in day!" Or maybe I'm not remembering right. Maybe Cage actually does say "save the f-in day" there.

Allusions to pussy, dick, and fire might have helped generate traffic for this one, too. I didn't censor "pussy," by the way. Just the f-word.

8. Man in the Mirror: The Michael Jackson Story

Of course the 8th most popular Shane-movies blog post is going to be one of the many classics that VH1 produced. This was an embarrassingly and hilariously bad unauthorized biopic that didn't feature a single Michael Jackson song and where the subject is played by somebody using the pseudonym Flex Alexander to avoid ruining his career.

I don't have statistics for how many people visited this particular post before Jackson's death and after, but I hope it comforted a lot of people who were looking for something to get over the death of the King of Pop. Of course, I may have attracted a crowd with my frequent mentioning of "tickle fights" instead. There are loads of people out there looking for tickle fight videos or tickle fight erotica. Or maybe it was the words "nude Michael Jackson" appearing in that order. So my blog's demographic happens to be sad Michael Jackson fans, people who want to see him naked, and individuals looking for tickle fights. I guess I'm fine with that.

7. Of Mice and Men

Well, this one doesn't seem to fit. I have no clue why this would be a blog entry accidentally stumbled upon, and I might be a little embarrassed that so many people now know that I don't know what "ironic" means. 

6. Gooby

My daughter was around 8 when she saw this. I just asked her if she remembered this, and she said, "Sort of. I think it had a bear it in?" For a movie ostensibly for children, her 8-year-old self's 1/20 rating says a lot. I spent the majority of my review talking about how other people on the Internet compared the titular character in this to the bear in that one scene in The Shining. And that, ladies and gentlemen, still makes me laugh almost uncontrollably today.

This is the sixth most popular post on my blog, and I'm willing to bet it's all people watching the movie and then doing research to figure out if it really is a Shining prequel or sequel. As far as I know, this isn't a very well-known children's movie, so there might not be all that much information on the web about it. Therefore, the chances that they'll find my blog in their manic search to figure out what the hell is going on with this bear character might eventually lead them to my ever-informative blog.

My only other guess about the popularity of this post is that people were trying to Google something else and accidentally Googled "Gooby" instead. If there's some word that is sort of like "Gooby" that has something to do with farting or the intestines--both which I reference in my write-up--then it's possible somebody gassy came to shane-movies in order to find some relief.

They will find no relief with Gooby. I'm sure of that.

5. The Family Man

It's Nicolas Cage again! What are the odds that three movies with the word "man" in the title would appear on this list out of the 3000+ poorly-written reviews I've got on this blog? I guess not so bad when the blogger watched 138 movies in a row with titles featuring the word "man." Yes, I'm bringing that up again.

This is an interesting time in my movie-watching life before I fully appreciated the force that is Nicolas Cage. This entire write-up is just making fun of the movie's half-assed tagline--"What if you made different choices? What if you said yes, instead of no? What if you got a second chance?" And I use that to make fun of a handful of other Cage performances. It's the kind of thing that I could find on the Internet now that would cause me to scroll down to the comment section and type furious defenses of the man.

"Tea Leoni's shower scene." Is there enough interest in something like that to get people coming to my blog?

4. The Incredibles

A couple other Pixar movies narrowly missed making it on this list. I have a sneaking suspicion that over 2,000 of the "views" of this entry were actually Cory just checking in again to see if I had changed my mind and raised my rating a little bit. If not, the popularity has to be in the brief discussion of Helen's elastic posterior. I'm sure there's an elastic posterior fetish, right?

It's more than likely a combination of Cory and Helen's elastic posterior combined with the popularity of Pixar movies.

A discussion in the comments turns into one on comic books. I suppose that could have something to do with it, too.

3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

Take your pick to explain the appeal of this one:

--the overall popularity of the Potterverse
--a mention of playing "hide-and-seek with Hermione"
--a reference to an autographed Peter Mayhew picture (still not for sale)
--Horcrux speculation, bound to draw Potter fiends to me like a magnet
--people Googling "wizard's sleeve"
--the words "Halitosis bonerificus" and the promise of spell instructions

There are four Harry Potter movies on the blog, and the other three all have a normal amount of views. This one has ten times the normal amount of views. Halitosis bonerificus!

2. The Little Mermaid

When I first noticed that I could even see statistics on blog views and stuff, this and the mostly-highly-viewed movies both surprised me. I couldn't figure out why the hell they would be immensely more popular than any of the other crappy blog posts I write. Or, more accurately, why people would be lured by some combination of accidental treachery and blind luck to some posts more than others.

With this entry, it's completely obvious. It's almost like I intentionally wrote this entry to entrap the pervert crowd, like that Chris Hansen guy from To Catch a Predator was hiding behind my review of City Lights and waiting for the perfect moment to pop out and tell somebody to have a seat. I don't think that was my intention, but it's hard to tell with me.

What word choices might arouse the curiosity of a basement-dwelling degenerate?

Horny teenage mermaid? Check. Hot sea witch? Check. Brittney Spears lyrics? Check. Little girls? Check. All the sex? Check. An erection? Check. The sexual awakening of a young girl? Check. Phallic sharks? Check. I want to jump his bones, Scuttle? Check. Mermaid vagina? Check. Sexy time? Check. Weird sexual tension with Ursula and Triton? Check. Saucy? Check. Hormone-driven teenage girls (and mermaids) looking to satiate their confusing newfound lust? Well, yes, if reader comments (Cory) count. The shenanigans of underaged mermaids doing the nasty? Again, check, if Barry's comment counts. Bestiality? Check. Buddy Hackett? Check!

I don't want to meet people who accidentally arrived at this blog post searching for some of that. Well, unless they searched for "Buddy Hackett sexy time." I'd love to throw those people a party.

1. Bicentennial Man

What the hell, people? My most popular entry is a movie that I completely loathed? Is it Internet robots who keep visiting this page? A.I. programs trying to collect information on possible methods of torture for humans? Is it people interested in the television sitcom Small Wonder? Robots interested in the television sitcom Small Wonder?

Other movie posts that seem extremely popular:

American History X
Italian Spiderman
Alice in Wonderland: An X-Rated Musical Fantasy
Seed of Chucky
Amos and Andrew (more Nicolas Cage)
Matchstick Men (even more Nicolas Cage)
Who Am I?
The Weather Man (don't underestimate the appeal of Nicolas Cage)
Ali G. Indahouse
Batman and Robin
War of the Gargantuas
Pulp Fiction
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
And documentaries on Harlow Hickenlooper, Jose Mojica Marins, and Gumby

Bad Movie Club: The Little Panda Fighter

2008 animated rip-off

Bad Movie Rating: 2/5 (Mark: 1/5; Josh: didn't make it)

Rating: 1/20

Plot: I don't want to talk about it.

Ursinho da Pesada is the Portuguese title of this offering from Studio Brinquedo of Brazil. This is apparently what they do, and I have to assume "Brinquedo" is Portuguese for "Bottom of the Barrel." Or maybe it has something to do with plagiarism? Shamelessness? Toilet?

The animation is slightly worse than the animation in Foodfight!, and if you've seen that, you know just how bad that must be. The movements of these animals are unnatural, and they each have only a single facial expression. It's unnerving actually. They all look rubbery, and I can't even tell what kind of animals they're supposed to be. The panda and a polar bear are obvious, and I just have to assume the others are some sort of bear. Or melted caramel in the shape of alien animals. During Bad Movie Club, I compared one to a dead fetus with a mustache, one to the aliens in Mac and Me, one to bison shit, and one to chewed-up taffy. I'm also not sure about the clothing situation here. The lack of clothing on these genital-less animals almost seems grotesque.

One of them is a fucking Care Bear. I don't even think I'm imagining that.

The movie doesn't sound much better than it looks. Stock sound effects, voices that don't match the animals' lips, and an awful score conspire to drive the audience mad. And the pacing of this can only be described as excruciating. There are two scenes where the panda character is walking from a door to the polar bear's desk, and they seem to take five minutes. I'm not sure if it was for comic effect or it was just plain ineptitude, but to spend that long showing that in a movie that was just a bit over 50 minutes doesn't seem right. I don't know how I can complain though because I asked for a montage and got one. It even climaxed with a Rocky-like sprint up some steps, steps that seemed to be out in the middle of nowhere. That, I'm not ashamed to admit, might have been when I climaxed, too.

A washing machine might have actually gotten more screen time than all but four of the characters in this.

One gross little detail--the character who looked like bison shit had a perpetually runny nose. Like, there was this stream of snot that just hung from his nostril in all of his scenes. What the hell, movie?

I can't imagine how disappointed a child watching this because he or she thought it was Kung-Fu Panda would be. It would definitely be something brought up in future sessions with a therapist.

I'm going to try to go to sleep and hope that I can forget all about this movie.

Silent Saturday: Diary of a Lost Girl

1929 drama

Rating: 16/20

Plot: The titular girl gets knocked up and sent to a house for wayward girls, and her life doesn't really get any better from there.

Well, that certainly is one alluring poster. Any reader of this blog knows I have a thing for Louise Brooks and those bangs of hers, and here's a drawing of her wearing nothing but a large book. There's not a giant diary in the movie and no scenes where Brooks is naked. She is wearing an unflattering exercise outfit at one point. But no kneeling naked behind a book.

And thanks to Croatia, this blog has just been Rated-R. Or Rated-N, obviously for Nipple. Her nipples definitely weren't in the movie either. Of course, I can never take my eyes off her eyes, so maybe her nipples were in the movie and I just completely missed them.

This movie, as well as Louise Brooks' performance, is really good. Actually, before I get into the movie, let me share a picture of Brooks in that exercise outfit because I know you're going to hunt for it anyway. I'll save you the trouble.

And now that I see that again, it kind of does it for me. This was after she went several scenes without her bangs which was almost like Chaplin's Tramp character running around without a Hitler mustache. She was still absolutely stunning though. And her performance was just as stunning. As much as I love silent movies, it's often hard to really buy these characters and their emotions. With Louise Brooks, I never really have that problem. I believe her, and that makes every movie I've ever seen her in work that much better.

This was the other G.W. Pabst/Brooks collaboration, following the great Pandora's Box.

I'm distracted again. I linked my exceptionally well-written review of Pandora's Box up there and noticed that that was back when I included pictures of myself watching the movie, probably the third worst idea I've ever had in my life. It's a solid picture, and I'm very handsome, but it's still odd to see those. I also noticed this exchange in the comments:

Anonymous: Next year, you should watch 365 silent movies. That's all you seem to watch.
Me: Next year, I might watch 365 pornographic movies all featuring your mother.

Was I really that belligerent back then? I mean, that just seems so mean-spirited and irritable. Maybe that's why I've never had any readers. People are too afraid to leave me nice comments or start discussions about movies they like or dislike because they think I'll start making references to their mothers being in pornographic films.

But I digress. Brooks is great in this, a Pabst exercise in how much bleakness one character can be dragged through. I'd list the things Brooks' character goes through, but it'd spoil things. I'll just say that there are some little moments that I really liked in that bleakness--the rhythmic eating of soup in the house for wayward girls, my chance to dream about living in a house for wayward girls, the way the bald guy (who looks like Bull from Night Court) plays with confiscated lipstick, an expression on the face of the madam of a brothel, the most apathetic title card I think I'll ever see ("She happens to be dead."), a possible lesbian subtext, and this pervy customer with a fantastic beard and even better mannerisms.

I'd probably make that face if I ran into Louise Brooks, too.

Doctor Strange

2016 superhero introduction

Rating: 12/20

Plot: A cocky surgeon jacks up his hands, reminding us all about the dangers of texting and driving. In his efforts to get his hands working again, he meets a mystical cult and a quirky bald woman, learns how to be a wizard, and saves the world from unruly computer graphics.

As usual, I had no real knowledge or interest in this comic book character. I'm not even sure I could have told you he was a superhero before this movie came out. I think I got him confused with that main villain in the Fantastic Four movies actually. Seeing the Inception-esque previews of this and learning a little about the character, I thought I might like it more than some of the other Marvel characters, but that wasn't the case at all.

I did like a lot of the visuals, all the twisted urban landscapes, warped worlds reminiscent of an Escher sketch, and surreal glitchery. But after a while, enough was enough. A maelstrom of CGI and special effects sorcery couldn't hide the fact that this really wasn't original at all, copying the blueprint of almost every other Marvel superhero story and nailing all of the cliches of the genre, too. I guess that has something to do with the source material, but I don't know anything about that and will blame the movie. Strange had potential to be a fascinating character, but there just wasn't enough in this to really make him all that fascinating, either as a complex and flawed human being or as a wizard or whatever the hell he's supposed to be.

Is there a difference between a wizard and a sorcerer? I think that might wind up being my blog's new crocodile/alligator. If there's ever a movie with a crocodile wizard, I'm in real trouble.

Damn, now I'm actually kind of hoping somebody is developing a movie about a crocodile wizard.

I always get a little lost when watching these superhero movies anyway, but this one really confused me. I got the basic ideas. Those were pretty easy actually. But I had trouble connecting all the dots, and that made the whole thing frustrating. Even more frustrating is that I'm not sure the writers of this thing really cared all that much about whether I understood it. My guess is that the writers of this thought that layers and layers of mystical mumbo-jumbo would just kind of blend in with all the weirdness and cause people to just assume the whole thing makes sense. You excuse a lot of it because you're dealing with alternate dimensions and the tractability of time and wizards or sorcerers, but once you try to put all those pieces together, you'll feel like a person who accidentally spilled all of his puzzles together and was missing half of the pieces anyway.

Benedict Cumberbatch, a guy who might be in too many things, is just as good--for better or worse--as you'd expect him to be. And maybe it was because he was a doctor character pretending to be American, but he sounded a lot like Hugh Laurie to me. And that was distracting, too. Once they slapped a superhero costume on him and gave him that Magic Carpet for a cape, he looked a little dopey.

I guess I like my superheros more realistic, as silly as that might sound. Doctor Strange and Thor are too mystical. But I'm going to have to keep watching their movies so that the rest of this Marvel universe will make sense.

What the heck are these Infinity Stones anyway? Are those references to Stan Lee's testicles? Is this something that comic book guys hear about and nod at each other in recognition? I'm assuming it's all building up to something big in one of these movies. I guess I'll have to try my best to live long enough to see what that's about.

Wait, does Marvel already have an alligator sorcerer? Or a crocodile wizard? Or some other combination of those words? I wish Kairow still read this blog because he'd know.

Silent Saturday: The Phantom of the Opera

1925 silent melodrama

Rating: 15/20

Plot: In the corridors below an opera house, a deformed guy becomes infatuated with a young opera star and flirts clumsily.

Here's some Shane trivia for you. The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables are two stories with various cinematic incarnations that I usually avoid because of high school. My high school's band had marching band shows centered around these two stories while I was there, and those people always rubbed me the wrong way. It had more to do with me than any of them. I didn't really care for anybody my age, and I was sort of like the phantom character, deformed and trying to hide in the basement of my high school and often creeping out members of the opposite sex.

This movie is all about the shadows and Lon Chaney's self-applied make-up. Chaney is a living and breathing special effect here, thankfully not listening to his mother all those times she told him to stop making faces or it would freeze like that. It's striking the first time you see him when Mary Philbin rips off his mask, and I can't imagine how striking it would have been if I'd not seen it before. Also striking is his appearance in a Skeletor mask with the red cape in the scenes with some sort of crazy ball. Other bits are tinted in that scene, but it's the cape that really stands out, almost becoming another character. Chaney's performance, as you'd expect in a silent melodrama, is all about physicality. He contorts the body and uses his hands in a way that makes the character's insanity convincing.

And those shadows! There are lots of nice shots in this, all those subterranean angles and a beautiful opera house, but it's the shadows I like the most. The "phantom" is only seen in shadows for the first fourth of the movie. Those shadows make up for the lack of actual thrills or horrors in this movie.

There was a ballerina in this that I thought was distracting, twirling for no reason at all in one scene. It made me wonder if ballerinas had difficulty not spinning in random situations. Like, when a ballerina is standing in line at a grocery store, is it hard to keep from spinning around a few times? I often have trouble not correcting people's grammar in situations outside of school, and I assume that's sort of my "twirling."

Ok, I've said enough. Stop looking at me.

The World's End

2013 sci-fi action comedy

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Five friends make another attempt at a pub crawl twenty years after their failed first attempt, only to discover that the town has been overtaken by robots. Can they make it to The World's End before the world's end?

Ok, I'm sure I just ended that plot synopsis with a tagline for the movie. I apologize for that, and I want you to know that it was unintentional.

As a fan of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (and Scott Pilgrim, though it's a different beast), I'm not sure why I hesitated to see this. It's got all the right ingredients--Pegg and Frost, a screenplay by Pegg and director Edgar Wright. It just doesn't work nearly as well as its predecessors. Moments are humorous but not really ever funny, action sequences start to feel really redundant, and this hyperkinetically anxious tone is relentless.

Simon Pegg certainly is giving it his all here. Veins are poking out of his neck and forehead for the entire movie, and after a while, I started getting worried that the performance would kill him. The problem isn't the energy with this movie or its performances at all. The problem is that it all becomes a bit grating. I just got a little tired of Pegg and the rest of the crew shouting at me, and the scenes of robot dismemberment and decapitation weren't really a break from it.

There's a subtext here that I would have taken some time to consider if the movie didn't annoy me. This seems to deal with the idea of leaving childhood and all the immaturity attached to childhood behind. Or more specifically, the social norms or other forces that keep a person from staying young. I guess the robots or aliens or whatever represent those forces.


2016 Best Picture

Rating: 16/20 (Jen: 20/20)

Plot: A look at three stages of the life of Little/Chiron/Black as he grows up in a home with a drug-addicted, mostly absent mother; deals with bullies and developing romantic feelings; and starts a career.

It seems like the regular viewing public is a lot more mixed on this one than critics or the Oscar people, and I think that's probably because most Americans don't have any interest in bleakness, especially involving characters who are gay, black, or gay and black. This is a quietly-presented, fragmented, impressionistic glimpse at a kid who is the product of his environment, and it's very effective at painting a picture of this still-life that is constantly in motion, a kid you just want to reach into the screen to pick up and put somewhere else. Aurally and visually, director Barry Jenkins forces us to feel what's going on even if we're not entirely understanding everything that's going on. There aren't solutions to any of the problems displayed in Moonlight, only hints or shadows of solutions at best, but the movie is about perfect when it comes to attaching human faces to those problems. This is a movie, more than any I've seen in a while, that I felt like I watched more with my bones than with my heart or mind or eyes or whatever I normally watch a movie with.

A lot of the credit has to go to the three actors who played the protagonist. Young Alex Hibbert gives the best child performance I've seen in a long time in the "Little" chapter, Ashton Sanders matches that performance as the adolescent version in the "Chiron" chapter, and Trevante Rhodes brings some muscles to the character in the final "Black" chapter. Most remarkably, they manage to make it seem like the character is played by the same actor in a 13-year period, just like Linklater did with Boyhood. And even more remarkably, not only is that not the case at all but the performers didn't even meet each other or see any scenes where the other two were playing the character. Maybe I just made the connections myself, paying attention to physical quirks or speech patterns that weren't really there, but for me, the three performances just worked so well to create this one character at different stages of his young life.

I never even paid attention to that poster up there. That has all three actors on it. I'm sure a more perceptive blogger would have noticed that before right now.

The supporting cast is also really good, despite not being featured on the poster. Janelle Monae has physically been in only two movies (a voiced, I'm assuming, a colorful bird in Rio 2), but both of them were Best Picture nominees. She's good as a character named Teresa here. Mahershala Ali was just as good as Juan but got more recognition with the Oscar win. Ali was also in Hidden Figures, by the way. I was most impressed with Naomie Harris, the mother, in a role that kind of wore me out and seemed like the kind of thing that would be emotionally draining as an actress. She filmed all her parts in three days, and one of the reasons the performance is so good is because it seems like she filmed them over several years. All involved work to make this something that you don't see in a lot of modern movies--something honest or truthful.

This deals with life in parts of town that most white people wouldn't want to drive through and sexuality without being at all preachy. Jenkins does it so artistically, and he does it on a shoestring budget that never shows. There's an effortless experimental quality to the whole thing that doesn't feel experimental, and none of the camera tricks or weird sounds ever get in the way, instead just contributing to an experience. It's a beautiful movie about some ugly things. It is a little bleak, and some will be frustrated at the lack of resolution or answers.

Silent Saturday: 4 from Chaplin's Mutual Comedies

1916-17 comedy two-reelers

Rating: n/r

As much as I love both Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, I'm not sure I've seen all of their shorts. I've seen more than most people but definitely not all of them. Especially with Chaplin, I don't even think I could look at a list of everything he made and tell you which ones I've seen and which ones I've not seen. This collection includes all the work he did for the Mutual Film Corporation where I guess he had a bit more autonomy than he did with Keystone and Essanay. For the most part, he plays a different character in each of these, not just the Tramp character. He also got paid a butt load of cash for these.

I thought I'd throw them on here in four-film installments in the order they appear on the dvd.

The Floorwalker

If nothing else, this improbable and only mildly-amusing comedy can teach people a new word as Chaplin is credited as playing an Impecunious Customer. The story concerns our impish hero trading identities with an embezzling doppelganger to avoid trouble and ending up in more trouble. The stars of this short might be the facial hair of various characters. Eric Campbell, who like a lot of the performers seems to be in most of these, even brings a solid eyebrow game. My favorite character might be the peculiar-looking old man played by James T. Kelley. He plays "Lift Boy" and just looks like the type of fellow who never ever could have existed at all if it wasn't for silent film screens.

The story doesn't make sense, and the short isn't terribly funny. There's some fun with an escalator, and then there's a little more fun with an escalator, and then there's a moment when you realize they're really going to continue escalator gags through the point where they cease being funny into a period where they somehow almost-but-not-quite become funny again. There's also some humorous ebullient dancing, and it's always fun to watch Chaplin being choked by a much-larger man, especially if that much-larger man has eyebrows like Eric Campbell.

The Fireman

Fire-drill choreography in this reminded me of something Tati did with postmen a few decades later. I'm not sure when the music accompanying this was composed, but I don't think I've ever heard that much slide-whistle action. This short also isn't anything great although I believe it's Clint Howard's first role. Chaplin plays an inept firefighter in this one. There's also some scheming going on with the father of the love interest (Edna Purviance, who is in a bunch of these) and the fire chief who happens to be Eric Campbell. None of that really makes any sense, and the comedic situations that are set up don't really make up for it.

If you long for the days when kicks to the butts were funny, however, this is probably the short for you. There's probably more butt-kicks per frame in this than in any other movie I've ever seen. There's also a nice action scene where Chaplin scales a building and rescues a dummy that winds up having completely different hair color than Edna Purviance. At least I think it was Chaplin. It was all filmed with the climber's back to the camera, so unlike with Harold Lloyd where you can see his face the entire time, you just can't be sure who it was.

The Vagabond

Now this was a good one, but not necessarily for its comedy. Here, Chaplin plays a street performer who wanders off, meets a girl being abused by gypsies, rescues that girl, and then falls in love. This is more romance and action than comedy with a great deal of pathos in the former foreshadowing what was to come in most of Chaplin's feature-length films.

There's a terrific opening shot of Chaplin's feet shown approaching below one of those swinging saloon double doors. Man, I liked that shot a lot. The funniest chunk of this short is right at the beginning as inhabitants of the bar, as well as a rival batch of street musicians, chase Chaplin in a scene that takes advantage of the fact that the establishment has two entrances. From there, you get some physical abuse that might be a little too cruel (a whip?), a hideous gypsy woman who looks like a witch, assault with a tree branch, and a love triangle that doesn't have nearly enough time to develop. Oh, and the goofiest title card I've seen in a while, one that reads "I will learn to paint, kiddie." I will learn to paint, kiddie? What?

Still, this one holds up really well as a nice little dramatic comedy short. And I think I just learned that Charlie Chaplin was left handed. Either I knew that at one point and completely forgot or never knew that. He definitely plays the violin like a left-hander though.

One A.M.

This one could almost be called experimental. It's essentially a Chaplin one-man show, the only other character being a taxi driver played by Albert Austin, a guy who showed off his impressive mustache in a bunch of these. But the taxi driver is gone after the first couple minutes, and it's just a drunk Chaplin, playing a rich guy here, trying to get to his bed. There's great physical comedy as he battles things in his house and performs some mild but impressive stunts, and this one gave me a good chuckle. There's a good use of carpet, stairs, taxidermied animals, a fish bowl, a pendulum, a spinning table, and one of those beds that folds into the wall. Oh, and a car door. Chaplin makes great use of what is essentially just three sets--the taxi, the front room of his house, and his bedroom--and although a few of the sequences go on way too long (he falls down the stairs more times than I could count and runs atop a table for what seems to be five minutes), it's all pretty funny.

A Monster Calls

2016 coming-of-age monster movie

Rating: 13/20

Plot: A young boy deals with a mother dying from cancer and bullies at school. He befriends a tree monster who tells him a trio of stories.

I didn't really get it, and I'm not sure if it's because I kind of lost interest early on or if the movie just had issues with a lack of focus. I really think it's the latter, but it's possible that I just didn't make the connections I was supposed to be making. There were plenty of individual elements that I liked about this movie. Liam Neeson voicing a giant tree man might be worth the price of admission for some people. Both Sigourney Weaver and Felicity Jones, the two women in the kid's life, are both really good. And the kid, played by Lewis MacDougall, gives a great kid performance and maybe just a great performance period. The monster's stories are these nifty animated sequences, and the animation has a unique style that I really liked. The effects are good, the score sounds like the kind of thing that could be nominated for awards, and the opening credits were beautiful.

Unfortunately, I'm just not sure what this was supposed to add up to. It was muddy and out of focus, and unlike most coming-of-age movies with young male protagonists, I wasn't able to connect much at all. Maybe I just didn't have enough experiences with tree monsters when I was young.

I really want to make some sort of morning wood joke, but I'm not going to. I'm going to keep this professional.

Hacksaw Ridge

2016 bloody true story

Rating: 13/20

Plot: A pacifist named Desmond Doss enlists in the Army because everybody else is and he wants to do his part. He figures he can just be a medic and not have to worry about carrying a gun around. His commanding officers and fellow soldiers don't appreciate that at all, but he winds up saving a bunch of their lives in the Battle of Mr. Miyagi and winning himself a Medal of Honor without even killing any Japanese guys.

I know this is based on a true story and all, but I just never believed in it. No matter how much director Mel Gibson--known anti-Semite--shoves our faces right in the blood and strewn body parts and more blood and agonized expressions on the filthy countenances of members of the greatest generation. There's nearly as much blood in this movie as Jesus had in his body in The Passion of the Christ, and it's all to illustrate something that everybody knows anyway--that war is horrifying. But Gibson likes his body parts and blood-soaked soldier uniforms, so he just keeps getting his camera right in there, showcasing men with limbs akimbo flying through the air, Japanese scoundrels running sharp things through abdomens, the final gnarled dances of bullet-riddled soldiers, and even a bit of viscera if you look closely enough.

The real-life character, whom I'm positive is portrayed in a completely historically accurate way here and not Hollywoodized a bit, is definitely worthy of having a movie, but the hero-making becomes hyperbolic as Gibson and Andrew Garfield create this character who's a walking brew of good old fashion American balls, inspiring persistence, and some heaping tablespoons of aww-shucks. Garfield's performance is really good, but there's still something really distracting about the whole thing. I don't think it's because he's Spider-Man, but maybe it's because he's Spider-Man. Or maybe it's because he's got a really long neck. Whatever it was, I just had trouble buying the character.

Gibson creates all kinds of ultra-tense sequences where Doss is crouched a few feet away from Japanese soldiers. There are more close calls in this than any movie should be allowed to have. The entire second half of the movie is one relentless action sequence, a ridiculously overcooked battle sequence followed by the aftermath with Garfield stepping over dead guys to try to save other guys from also becoming dead guys. And after a while, I felt like I got it. Then, I got sick of it. Then, I just couldn't stop rolling my eyes. And my living room had filled with smoke, and I had to wave a towel by the smoke alarm to get it to shut off.

Hugo Weaving plays Garfield's dad, and his performance is really uneven. I liked a lot of what he did a lot, but there were some parts of his performance that were just silly. And he was also involved in a second needlessly slow-motioned scene (his "I'm gonna have to beat you now" followed an earlier "You're gonna make it") that made me laugh inappropriately. I did enjoy his character's story about his friend's intestines though. I love a good intestines story.

If you've seen any other movies about great American war heroes, you'll recognize all the beats of this one. You can tap your foot to Hacksaw Ridge's music. However, you're not going to see anything new here, and the Gibson gore indulgences will grow tiresome. Another disappointing Best Picture nominee for 2016.


2016 animated vomit

Rating: 4/20 (Jen: 16/20; Buster: 20/20)

Plot: Colorful, attractive trolls try to keep from being eaten by larger, unattractive trolls. With music!

This was appalling. I didn't exactly have high expectations from the start, but after about 5 1/2 seconds, those expectations lowered even more. I hated every ounce of this movie, one of those types of movies that is capable of making a person physically ill.

You know the movie production company called The Asylum? They take upcoming blockbusters and quickly assemble their own knock-off straight-to-video version with the hopes--I'm assuming--of duping people who don't read very well into thinking they're purchasing or renting the big budget film. So they're got their own Jurassic World, their own Terminator, their own Transformers. You get the idea. They're also the people responsible for most of those low-budget shark movies. Oh, and a little thing called Titanic 2.

I actually thought that this might have been The Asylum's version of Trolls. The animation was terrible; the music, though filled with too many songs that I'd imagine would be out of The Asylum's price range, was grating, the characters were obnoxious, and the plot was something that could have been written out on a napkin in a Waffle House. The movie was so bad that I thought it was from The Asylum.

It's not. They do have their own troll movie. It's called Trollland.

I can't imagine this being worse than the real Trolls. I mean, it does have Ja Rule, Jerry O'Connell, and Dick Van Dyke in it. Wait, the late Dick Van Dyke? He's not alive, is he?

I just checked. Dick Van Dyke is still alive. 92-ish years old and still with enough energy to voice trolls in blockbuster knock-offs. I really hope Trolland isn't the final movie on his filmography.

Anyway, the real Dreamworks troll movie boasts quite the cast of people who have no integrity. Anna Kendrick, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Timberlake, Jeffrey Tambor, Russell Brand, John Cleese, Christine Baranski, James Corden, Gwen Stefani, Quvenzhane Wallis. It seems like all of those people should A) know better and B) have better things to do with their time. And Russell Brand had better watch himself. His career's about to be deader than Dick Van Dyke.

I can't write anymore about this movie. I'm still a little depressed that I even watched it. I'm ashamed for my wife who inexplicably gave this a 16/20, although she did it with a smirk. I'm ready to disown a daughter who watched this 2 1/2 times before I was supposed to take it back to the library while being really tempted to save other parents in my town from having to suffer through it and toss it in the garbage. And my misanthropy has deepened. A civilization that makes a movie like this--with trolls that fart glitter--doesn't deserve to survive.

I am not making that up, by the way. A troll farts glitter. I just questioned my wife about that. Her reply?

"It's so sparkly. I love glitter, even if it comes out of a troll's butthole."

Lord, help us all.

Bad Movie Club: Last Ounce of Courage

2012 propagandistic nonsense

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

Rating: 3/20

Plot: Former veteran and current father of a deceased soldier Bob Revere--no relation to Paul, as far as I know--is tired of the wars waged on American values, religion in our schools, and Christmas. He uncovers his motorcycle, props up his American flag, and decides to go to battle. America!

It's surprising that a Christian film can end up this tone deaf. There are two things I'm genuinely shocked about with stuff like this. First, it's how wrong they all are. Even the most God-fearing, MAGA-frothing, tea-bagger should be able to watch this plea to give Christians back their First Amendment rights and say, "Wait a second; that's not what the founding fathers actually meant." The "rights" that the deluded producers of this propaganda piece are arguing for would essentially create a situation where one group--a majority, I suppose--is shitting all over the rights of all the other groups. Only the most ignorant Americans slumming around the swampish Bible belt are going to miss that, right? And that's the second thing that genuinely shocks me--the idea that there are a lot of people who are going to buy this crap, let it conjure up all these irrational fears about how there are these nebulous forces trying to take away our right to say prayers, nodding along with the idea that our country was founded by a bunch of Christian men who would never harm and Injun or mistreat Africans, clutch their Bibles close to their chests as they cry out about how it's not fair that the creation story isn't taught in schools anymore.

If you want a little insight on how Trump won the election, all you need to do is think about how this movie was made and how the audience for this movie believes in it. The people who aren't fully understanding the beauty and fairness of the First Amendment are the same people misinterpreting (or being fooled into misinterpreting) the Second Amendment.

Who is the audience for this anyway? I assume most people would say that it's Christians, but that would definitely be a case of preaching to the choir. I think this actually might be an attempt to sway opinion about these First Amendment issues. And there's not a person alive who is going to watch this and think, "Hmm. I never looked at it like that. I'm convinced!" It's a preposterous failure and gives me an excuse to cut the movie's rating in half.

So thick with symbols and cliches and symbols that are cliches, the whole thing feels like the kind of thing that Ted Nugent and Mike Pence and a few of their buddies could circle-jerk to. Veteran Marshall R. Teague--a real man in movies that other real men can appreciate like Armageddon, The Rock, and Road House--is a growling ball of hammy masculinity. He rides around on his motorcycle with the flag on the back like he's going to single-handedly defeat ISIS with nothing more than a prayer and his majestic jowls. His character is some sort of "mayor" (one that can be "fired" rather than impeached) and a pharmacist. He's a busy guy, and having two jobs forces him to find times to squeeze in all his whining.

And who's the antagonist in this? Other than Satan (off-screen), it's none other than Fred Williamson. He's not a Fred Williamson who kicks or does anything remotely cool (unless being 100% right with every single one of his lines is "remotely cool"), but it's nonetheless still Fred Williamson.

What the fuck am I doing in this movie? 

There's also the exact sort of motorcycle gang you'd expect to see in a Christian movie except it's apparently led by a little person. We meet him and them in the pharmacy where our protagonist treats one of them who has a gunshot wound. Because that's something that pharmacists do in these Christian movie worlds. I couldn't figure out the character's name to get him in the running for the Billy Curtis award at the end of the year, but trust me, the movie would have been a lot better if his name was Ounce and he was the protagonist of the movie. Most of the other characters are either children or grown people who seem to have the intelligence of children. I did enjoy one strange teenage girl who claimed she "got a Medal of Honor once." I think she was improvising, and they decided not to do another take because it was almost time to pray. 

The worst thing about all this is that we wanted to watch a religious movie for Easter and ended up accidentally watching a Christmas movie. And you know what should offend Christians more than people trying to take away our First Amendment right to force non-believers to hear us prayer? The Christmas decorations they scrambled together for this thing! 

This isn't a good-bad movie despite what Josh would tell you. He's a sucker for these religious things. In fact, I imagine this would make most people who watch it a little angry. It is, however, fun to watch with a couple guys and make fun of. 

Important note: I am not anti-Christian, at all. I want to make that clear. 

The Fate of the Furious

2017 sequel craziness

Rating: 14/20 (Rubber Duck: 14/20)

Plot: Dominic is lured to the dark side by a James Bond villain, and it's up to his "family," along with Deckard (lured to the light side) and a couple of Nobodies, to stop him and save the world. Submarine!

A quick note: If you only like these Fast and the Furious movies because you're a huge Paul Walker fan, you're likely going to be disappointed in this entry in the franchise. They're not going to get Brian and Mia involved in this!

Rubber Duck put the over/under at 10 for references to "family," and I foolishly took the under. It ended up being fourteen. Now I might have to revisit the others a third time to count how many "family" mentions are in there to do a little statistical analysis. It seems as important as anything else that's going on in the world right now.

I thought this 8th movie in the series was exactly what anybody would expect after seeing the fifth, sixth, and seventh in the series. They've got a formula now that they don't seem to want to mess with. A big action scene starts things off, a villain emerges and a conflict develops, the crew is assembled, a big action sequence takes place, the crew kind of gets stuck for a bit, another ridiculous action sequence occurs, the crew figures something out, a final giant and even more ridiculous action sequence takes place, and then there's an ending scene where the characters are chilling and sometimes eating or tossing their babies around on a beach somewhere. And they're globetrotting as much as James Bond does.

This installment follows that perfectly, and since the movie is brand-spanking new, I won't spoil anything by giving away locations or plot points or anything like that. I will say that I likely had a giant smile on my face during that initial action sequence where Dominic gets to do something utterly ridiculous, loved the effects and mayhem in a scene where Charlize Theron's character works her hi-tech magic, and thought the big submarine scene you saw a glimpse of in the trailers was so far-fetched that it transformed into a kind of higher art. The Rock and Statham get to show off their skills in some well-choreographed punch-'em-up sequences that were as gorgeous as ballet. There were none of those jumping punches, but there were plenty of elbows, human beings being thrown around like they were dolls, headbutts, elbows, and kicks. Also, more elbows. If there had been any of those jumping punches, I might have left the theater seat and whooped.

Speaking of that sort of behavior, there were some people in the theater who whooped it up. This was the first of these I've seen in a theater, and I'm not sure I've seen a movie with that much audience whooping. It happened a few times during moments that you might expect, but it also happened at a scene that I can't describe because it would give too much away. It involves something that you're not supposed to know about and a decision made about that something that didn't really warrant the enthusiastic reaction these theater patrons gave it. It was pretty awesome.

The principals pretty much do exactly what you'd expect in this. Kurt Russell has a little more to do and almost everything he gets to say is humorous. Scott Eastwood enters the franchise as "Little Nobody," I suppose as a bit of a feeler sent out to see if he could possibly replace Paul Walker. His rapport with a clownish Tyrese Gibson is fun enough, and Gibson and Ludacris (the perfect name for an actor to have in a series like this) form two sides of an emerging comic love triangle with Nathalie Emmanuel's returning cyber expert. Michelle Rodriguez brings the one-and-a-half dimensions she's got, and Vin Diesel gets to scowl more than anybody has ever scowled on screen while also getting a chance to be really really sad once. Statham's terrific physically and very funny. Maybe more than any other action star, Statham really seems to get it and understand what he is. And The Rock just continues doing the sorts of things that only The Rock can get away with in movies. The first time we spot him here, it's in a scene that seems like it belongs in one of his dopier projects like that Tooth Fairy thing instead of a Fast and the Furious movie. I mean, he references Taylor Swift.

And then, you get the new characters. Eastwood's fine, mostly at filling in space. Helen Mirren pops in just a little bit more than Paul Walker does. I can't actually figure out how she logically enters this movie, and when it's revealed later on who she actually is, the whole scheme that set up a meeting between her and another character makes no sense at all. Charlize Theron is the other new face, and she's definitely capable of playing a smart villain even if she does seem a little flat at times and if her performance morphs into this thing where she just interrupts action sequences with cutesy one-liners. She seems a little wasted despite lots of screen time and dialogue. We had just seen her kick ass in a preview for another movie, so she's definitely capable of doing more than just standing around and being mean to the good guys.

I can't tell you who the best performance is from because it gives away a new character that you're not allowed to know about.

I wonder if the tone of this one was too comedic. There are a lot of really dark things going on, and the leader of their "family" has "gone rogue." Just the use of that word reminding the characters about the existence of Sarah Palin should be enough to put these characters in no mood to joke around. It's still a good enough balance of action mayhem--often a little slapsticky--and the natural humor of these characters to make the whole thing work, but I do fear future sequels could get too cartoonish. It struck me while watching this that these things are becoming more like James Bond movies than James Bond movies. I'm talking about the really goofy, superior James Bond movies that would use slide whistle sound effects, not the early Connery stuff or the morbid Craig stuff.

Man, I can't tell you how much I want to see Nicolas Cage in one (or more) of these movies!

My favorite thing about this: There's a race scene (I don't think that's a spoiler), and when one character loses, he exclaims something that sounds very close to what Sebulba exclaims when he loses the pod race in Episode One. I'll have to watch this again sometime to verify.

Oh, no! My favorite thing was a close-up of The Rock and a drawn-out "Somabitch." It was almost in slow motion, and I'm surprised the audience survived.

These movies are just so much fun. I think I'm ready to anticipate future releases of this series as much as Star Wars movies. So viva la Diesel!


2016 science fiction movie

Rating: 11/20

Plot: Twelve weird-looking spaceships flown by heptapods arrive on earth and hover a few yards off the ground in seemingly random locations. It's up to a linguistics professor and some guy to figure out how to communicate with them and find out what they want.

Was it just me or did it seem like everybody in this movie was stoned? Amy Adams seemed stoned, Jeremy Renner seemed a little stoned, and Forest Whitaker couldn't even open both of his eyes all the way. The movie's pace was lumberous, the tone lugubrious, and that probably didn't help. The characters at times seemed like somnambulists, like the giant magnet that the 7-limbed ink-squirting aliens had parked near them made them drowsy or something. Along with the sleepy performances, you had all these flashbacks (I know, I know) to dead kids and people sneaking bombs into places and Chinese people up to no good, and it all added up to a brain-numbing mess of a movie.

I didn't make all the connections I was probably supposed to. Early on, I didn't think this was going to be a movie that gave me all the answers I'd be looking for. I think I'm right although part of the problem might be that I'm just not all that smart. I don't want to give anything away in case you want to suffer through this on your own, but I'm not sure all of this adds up. The answer to the question on the poster--"Why are you here?"--just doesn't make sense to me. Maybe you can convince me that it does in the comments below.

Visually, there's some cool stuff going on. I liked the look of the spaceship things, some surreal shots inside that spaceship, and the tentacles. I'm always a man who enjoys some good tentacles. And I kind of liked some of the score, weird ambient sounds that I thought might have been Aphex Twin jiggling things around. It wasn't though.

I was really disappointed with the linguistics stuff. I never really bought any of the language stuff in this movie or understood how the characters were putting the pieces together to figure out what the aliens' ink rings meant. Likely, any further explanation would have been boring for most people, but the themes about language and communication were the most interesting thing about this movie to me. The lack details about all that linguistic stuff made me not really believe in what was going on. And when the story's twist winds up having something to do with the language, I really had trouble figuring out if it even made any sense.

The movie clumsily attempts philosophically conjecturing, but like most of the rest of this, it just seems a little half-assed or incomplete. Unengaging and personality-free, this movie just never really convinced me that I should be watching it. I'm flabbergasted that this was a Best Picture nominee.

Bad Movie Club: Assault of the Killer Bimbos

1988 action comedy

Bad Movie Rating: 3/5 (Mark: 2/5; Samantha: 4/5; Johnny: didn't finish; Josh: didn't finish)

Rating: 7/20

Plot: Two go-go dancers are framed for the murder of Shifty Joe and flee to Mexico. They pick up a waitress with bimbo potential along the way, meet some surfers, and dance awkwardly. They don't, as the poster might lead you to believe, fly.

This was a terrible Bad Movie Club experience. First, we started way late because one of us didn't remember when Bad Movie Club started, and two others were just late. Second, 40% of us dropped out very early, likely because they had experienced the best part of the movie and knew it nothing else would come close to touching it. And third, I accidentally provided a link to a Spanish version of this that only one of us could understand. I did take Spanish in high school for a year and a half, but all I know are a few words. Including, I guess, "bimbo." That's Spanish, right?

I expected this to really only be fun for two of us anyway--my brother and me. This was a blast from our past. We were fans of the USA Network show "Up All Night," a late-night program hosted by Rhonda Shear at one point and Gilbert Gottfried at another. They would show a pair of bad movies and share really bad jokes before and after the commercial breaks. We caught this flick one night, and it became one of our favorites, mostly because of one immortal line. And probably the butts. I'm sure we enjoyed the butts.

Before seeing it again this past week, I couldn't have told you much about it. I knew a character's name, could tell you that they wind up in Mexico, and could imitate that aforementioned line with perfection. But that was about it. What was probably most interesting about watching this movie again for the first time in probably 27 years was how every single beat seemed memorable. It was like I was listening to a song I played to death in the 80s and haven't heard in a long time but can still sing along with. It was all just so familiar.

So although it wasn't a great Bad Movie Club experience, I am definitely glad to revisit this one.

It's an action comedy in which there isn't much action at all and the comedy doesn't work. The tone is very tongue-in-cheek, and everybody involved seems to be having a good time making the thing. That's the sort of fun that can be infectious, and I think it definitely is here, at least for a while. This is definitely one of those films that loses its momentum and really fails to get it back, and by the end, you might struggle to stick with these characters. I enjoyed watching Elizabeth Kaitan, a B-movie actress in Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity and other crappy films but who also played a secretary in the cinematic masterpiece Twins, and she looks a whole lot like Jennifer Lawrence to me. Her Lulu isn't a well-rounded or particularly memorable character, but she does have some round parts that are nice to remember. Christina Walker is Peaches, and I loved watching her dance even though she seemed to have only 2.25 dance moves. I think together, they might have invented twerking with this film. Nick Cassavetes plays a wide-eyed energetic surfer dude, somebody named Tammara Souza plays the boring third bimbo Darlene, and Eddie Deezen gives a memorably goofy performance as a deputy. Most memorably is the extra who utters that line I mentioned with perhaps the greatest delivery in the history of motion pictures.

"Oh no! A bimbo with a gun!"

It's really something beautiful, and I've probably said that 500 times in my life since seeing this movie, sometimes in the presence of bimbos.

This movie is tacky but harmless, really silly but endearing. If you enjoy gratuitous ass shots or road trip comedies, I'm sure there are lots of other places you can go. But this is one that will always have a special place in my heart.

La La Land

2016 musical

Rating: 16/20 (Jen: 16/20)

Plot: An aspiring actress and a lover of jazz who wants to start his own club meet and fall in love with each other while singing and dancing adequately if not expertly.

That's one of the two gripes I've heard about La La Land. The two actors can't sing and dance very well. My Uncle Barry, a man who may or may not actually exist, hated the movie for that reason. I've seen people's amateur reviews--unlike the sort of professional quality you're used to getting here--griping that "These people sure ain't Fred Astaire!" I don't claim to be an expert on either singing or dancing although I do watch The Voice sometimes which probably does make me close to an expert on the former. And my mom watches Dancing with the Stars, so I might somehow be an expert on the latter, too.

Regardless, I have my very own movie blog and feel qualified enough to say that I think that argument is ridiculous. First, I think both Stone and Gosling (especially Stone) are just fine when singing. Gosling doesn't have an ultra-powerful voice or anything, but I actually think that fits in with the character more. The character isn't a singer. He's a jazz pianist. He's also a shy and awkward fellow, so a singing voice that doesn't sound all that confident or forceful actually works to create the character a little better. And Stone, I thought, was borderline exceptional. I don't really mean that in some sort of she's-the-greatest-thing-to-happen-to-female-vocals-since-Aretha-Franklin kind of way. But she does have this ability to share her character's emotions by using her singing voice, and there were moments in some of her song numbers that I found genuinely touching. I'd also like to point out that her character isn't supposed to be a singer either.

I don't know how to judge dancing. I couldn't take my eyes off Ryan Gosling's posterior during most of the dance sequences.

The second gripe is that the story is derivative or uninspired. That's kind of a silly gripe, too. First, I'm not sure I want my movie musicals to have intricate plots. You're dealing with a medium where characters stop anything resembling normal life and start singing and dancing around. I guess there could be a sophistication to that sort of behavior, but we certainly don't need a sophisticated plot to match it. For a movie musical, I'm happy with the writer just ripping off Romeo and Juliet or trying to find a wizard with the assistance of a scarecrow and a bunch of little people. The story here isn't anything great. It's an unrealistic romance, the type of thing that can only really happen on Hollywood sound stages, but the characters and their hopes and dreams are strong enough to make the whole thing work just fine. There's a sweetness to the whole thing, and it's got an ending that, although some folks might not exactly care for it, it's a beautifully delicate ending that recalled something like City Lights and really touched me.

My gripe would be that there just weren't enough song and dance numbers. The whole thing opens spectacularly with a huge and complex and exceptionally-choreographed and absolutely exhilarating musical number that temporarily interrupts a traffic jam. I nearly cried as this thing unfolded, but I was with my wife and didn't want her to see me cry like she would inevitably have to see me cry when The Rock flexes his cast off after saying, "Daddy's gotta go to work." What kind of man cries during a musical anyway? There's just so much going on in this scene, so much movement and color and people involved, that I don't see how anybody can watch the thing and not love what they saw. And like (I think) every other musical moment in the movie, it's all a beautiful extended take, the camera swirling between cars, capturing hopping bicycles and spinning skateboarders and a band with instruments in the back of a truck for some reason and all these random human beings popping out of their cars to dance around a bit and lessen the ennui from what very likely is going to wind up being another soul-crushingly dull day. I just loved the scene so much. And the next number, another scene without a single--at least noticeable--cut is also wonderful. It's an upbeat number in Emma Stone's apartment, and again, there's so much movement and so much color that you really don't end up giving a shit about whether anybody can dance or not. The third big musical number is reminiscent, probably intentionally, of something from Singing in the Rain. There's even a little tap-dancing. And yes, there aren't any cuts in that one, too.  Anybody who knows me knows that I love those long takes in movies. Movies are hard enough to make as it is. At least I've heard they are. To construct an extended scene like this and have everything unfurl so flawlessly and so exquisitely is just mesmerizing to me.

There's another much quieter musical number that plays with a song from earlier, and then some instrumental stuff, but other than that, there aren't any more of these grand, old-school song and dance things. And that frustrated me a bit because even though I was engrossed enough with the romance and the structure of the story, I really longed for more of the music.

With this and Whiplash, Damien Chazelle is on a bit of a roll. A next movie from him, which I assume will have something to do with music and maybe have an underutilized J.K. Simmons, will be something to look forward to. And I won't even care if the characters can sing and dance very well and don't care what my Uncle Barry thinks about that.

Special Feature: Furious 7 Movies-A-Go-Go

2015 sequel

Rating: 15/20 (Jen: no rating)

Plot: Like my previous two entries, this is a repeat. I already wrote an award-worthy blog entry about this movie a couple years ago, and the plot synopsis for that was accurate and nothing short of brilliant. You can find that original entry right here.

I may have lied in my last entry about my marriage being fine. My wife Jennifer actually hasn't spoken to me since somewhere around the end of this movie, and that's why I don't have a rating up there. If I had to guess, I'd say her rating was somewhere in the 19-20 range, but I don't want to put numbers in her mouth.

I don't make trips to the theater very often because I have a fear of people trying to touch my neck in the dark. But I am seeing the 8th installment of this ridiculous franchise in a few hours. I'm pretty excited. But this entry isn't about the 8th movie. It's about the 7th one, and here were my thoughts (with a few of Jennifer's) as I rewatched it.

Hi, everybody! I'm not real! 

Well, Statham, the hospital has less of a chance to take care of your little brother if you’ve completely destroyed the hospital he’s in. Darth Vader didn’t even do that much damage at the end of Rogue One.

Race Wars--Director James Wan gets right to the point with what appeals to fans of these movies. Fast cars and asses!

You want asses and fast cars? I'll take care of you. 

Jen: “Why isn’t Michelle Rodriguez wearing a bikini like these other women here?” First off, Jen, that's sexist.

Jen: “This one’s getting a ten.” I don’t have a lot of rules here at shane-movies, but rating a movie 5 minutes into it breaks all of them.

Letty: “What are you doing?”
Dom: “What I should have done a long time ago.” Vandalize tombstones?

Jen: “Is she in the country illegally?”
Me: “Is [The Rock] on the planet illegally?”
Jen: no response

“You just earned yourself a dance with the devil, boy.” Every. Single. Fucking. Thing. He. Says.

Every time The Rock gets in a fight in one of these, lots of stuff gets broken. He's like the Fat Man of action movies.

These sound effects are hurting me!

Anybody else think they should put onomatopoeic words on the screen like in the Batman TV show? That would be great! 

The Rock can actually be injured after a gigantic explosion and a fall from about three stories onto a car, which his body totals, by the way. An injury to The Rock is this franchise’s “jumping the shark” moment. And probably a continuity error.

Can you imagine Dwayne Johnson reading the script and saying, "What a second. I spend most of the movie in the hospital with injuries? How's that even possible?"

“Cars don’t fly.” Just you wait, the late Paul Walker! Just you wait.

That was not the most realistic explosion I’ve ever seen.

Don’t look so glum, Dom. I know your house just exploded, but this could just be a chance to have an impromptu barbecue.

Jen’s phone has now been confiscated. She is really angry right now.

Hobbs has a kid? Immaculate conception is my best guess.

Jen was not impressed with that “he’s gonna wish his momma would have kept her legs closed” line.


Jen: “I hate you now.”

I can’t think of a reason why they wouldn’t "Grand Moff Tarkin" Paul Walker into more F&F movies. It would be a nice way for his family to keep making money off of these.

Or just go ahead and put Grand Moff Tarkin in there somewhere. Why not?

Should I be this surprised that Vin Diesel’s character owns a suit? Am I stereotyping?

I wish this car chase out of the cemetery included those little magnetic funeral flags they put on the cars.

This car showdown with the shadows of giant fans is as majestically filmed as the gunfights in Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Westerns. I'm not even joking.

Jen: “I think they both lost that game of chicken.”

I’m not used to seeing Kurt Russell without ridiculous facial hair.

Corona product placement. Of course, that's in almost all of these movies.

I don’t think I could get away with holding a beer bottle the way Vin Diesel does--that close to the top with what appears to be a tight grip. I'm just not man enough.

“This happens to be the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard in my life.” The producers embracing these stupid ideas is what makes this franchise so magical!

Jen seems really agitated tonight. More agitated than she was the previous two nights.

Crazy shit! Absolutely, Kurt Russell! Bring it hard, people!

Jen: “Just when I thought it couldn’t get any stupider.”

Cars have just left the airplane, my friends. Cars are flying. Boner activated!

I don’t know much about cars, but I think Paul Walker’s driving a hatchback of some kind.

Man, that was so incredibly stupid. And I love it!

These movies have a lot of fisticuffs, but they also somehow manage to have cars engage in fisticuffs, too. It's not much different than if Pixar had the characters having fistfights in Cars.

Kurt Russell should only be in movies where women are hanging on to hoods of cars for their lives. Of the exactly two movies I can think of where that happens, this one is far better.

These reactions from guys about to die--where the sound cuts out and they make little squelchy noises--are so great.

Driving down a tree-covered mountain like this--isn’t this how Sonny Bono died? I know the circumstances were similar.

shane-movies reaches a new low.

Fighting on a bus in which the driver has just been shot on a mountainous road is pretty much how I feel almost every day of my life as a middle school teacher.

“Too slow!” Was that Short Round? I hope that’s not racist or anything.

With that sprint off the bus thing and a record-breaking leap to the back of Letty’s car, it’s confirmed that these characters are fucking superheroes. There’s just no other explanation.

Why would a man with Dominic's skull even need to own a helmet? Another movie error, I think.

They just survived that. [Note: I don't know what "that" means here, but I assume it's when Dominic drives off the cliff to escape. But this is something I could type numerous times during these movies.]

Jen: “And these yahoos just know exactly where to go to meet them.” That’s her issue with that entire action sequence? That Paul Walker and the rest of them know where Dom ended up?

Good thing she was wearing that helmet, by the way!

Jen just snickered at a “sit your candy ass down” comment. She claims it was sarcasm, but there’s really no way to tell.

We’ve just had a camel spotting!

Jen: “I hope the next people they fight are on camels. Cars against camels. Who do you think would win?” I really think she’s making fun now. Again, there’s really no way to tell.

Note: Not a camel featured in the movie. And add a camel to that goat I talked about earlier and Nicolas Cage to actors/animals I want added to this Fast and the Furious franchise. 

She also doubts that women are walking around in bikinis in the Middle East.

Wow, they clean up nice.

No flashbacks!

Gold-painted women? This guy really knows how to throw a party.

Also--I think I saw both Taylor Swift and Ricardo Montalban at this party.

Totally not in the movie

Probably in the movie

Why am I thinking about how they got the car in there? I asked Jen and she says, “They probably have a service elevator just for cars.” Because that makes perfect sense.

Rhonda Rousey--thespian.

Rousey did that jump-punch thing that I was talking about characters doing in the last A-Go-Go. So now I know it’s legit because a real professional fighter like Rousey wouldn’t be doing that if it wasn’t.

According to Rousey’s last two fights, she can’t take that many punches.

“Time to unleash the beast.” Hell yeah!

Jen thinks the similarities to the World Trade Center are obvious. She also told me not to type that, but I did anyway. I wasn’t sure she was serious about not wanting me to type it. I mean, how can you tell?

Jen’s prediction: Kurt Russell’s character is going to turn out to be a bad guy. Let’s see if she’s right!

It’s time for a fucking montage! A let’s-get-ready-to-rumble montage! Sawed-off shotguns, bullet-proof vests, conversations about sandwiches. Foreplay rarely gets this intense.

Jen: “I miss The Rock.”
Me: “No spoilers, but the greatest moment in movie history is coming up.”
Jen: “The Rock just makes everything OK.”

Just in case this plan didn’t make sense the first time, they went ahead and explained it again.

I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for The Rock’s big moment.

“Oh shit!” is this franchise’s “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

More chicken? I’m not sure of the point of that the first time, fellas. I'm not sure how that could get you what you want.

That spinning Ramsey-transfer-from-one-car-to-another thing. How many people saw this storyboarded and still let the idea come to fruition?

Head-on collisions! Statham and Diesel are real men.


All that work to get that shotgun ready and you’re just going to fight with giant wrenches?

This music recalls the score accompanying the Darth Maul vs. Jedi fight in Episode One.

These guys are doing more damage to Los Angeles than Godzilla or Gamera could ever do.

That “Too slow!” seemed a little forced. A one-liner recall just didn’t work there.

The Rock’s about to do something absolutely impossible, and once again, I’m aroused.

“Woman, I am the cavalry.” If I ever have sex with my wife again, I'm going to say this before going in.

Yeah, why depend on something antiquated like CPR when you’ve got the power of flashbacks to bring Vin Diesel back to life?

A bunch of blows to Vin Diesel’s head, and Letty’s memory comes back. So that's how it works!

Such a touching tribute to Paul Walker. Unfortunately, his character has to metaphorically “die” to this terrible song.

Bring on Fate of the Furious! Jen and I are ready! [Note: Jennifer says she is not seeing it, but I'm not sure if she's serious or not. It's hard to tell.]