Amores Perros

2000 dog movie

Rating: 17/20

Plot: Three nearly-intersecting tales of people and their dogs. In one, a guy in love with his sister-in-law takes up dog-fighting in order to whisk the gal away. In another, a model's accident threatens her relationship and her career. And in the third, a hit-man takes a job.

I've got some gaps in my movie education with Alexander Gonzalez Inarritu films, likely because I knew I am limited by my lack of ability to type letters with tildas or accents and wouldn't be able to spell his name correctly. I loved both Birdman and The Revenant, and even though Biutiful depressed the hell out of me, I thought I'd finally watch Inarritu's earlier work.

I guess the guy doesn't have a feel-good movie in him. I knew this would be bleak going in, especially after reading it was the first in a "death trilogy" along with Babel and 21 Grams. I didn't see Babel, and I don't remember 21 Grams which I must have seen right before starting my pointless blogging journey. Amores Perros isn't as bleak as Biutiful; in fact, you could probably win an argument about how there's quite a bit of very black humor embedded. It does, however, deal with people in situations--all involving that bitch-y love--that most people wouldn't want to be in. The dog-fighter kid, played by Gael Garcia Bernal in his first role, is hopelessly in love with somebody he's not supposed to be in love with and then falls in love with the power and cash associated with his new hobby. The hit-man's broken, suffering from a parental love that he can't enjoy. And the model's love of her boyfriend, her dog, and her own vanity is shattered when she jacks up her leg.

You quickly lose hope for the characters early on in their individual stories, even when things are looking pretty good for them, and that's because of the dire tone that Inarritu creates. There's a chaos created, the camera jerking all over the place and color and life almost seeming to be draining from the characters' surroundings. There's also so much blood--dog blood, leg blood, victim blood, more dog blood--and that much blood just can't be good for a movie character's future. And it's inability to retain hope in these characters that makes this another exhausting Inarritu film experience. The Revenant wore me out; I felt bludgeoned by the epic and CGI bear rumble. Biutiful--despite fun, colorful urine--also drained me. These stories and their characters kept me interested for the duration of this lengthy film, and I especially enjoyed the moments when their narrative paths intersected or almost intersected. But as I get older and older, the sort of on-screen desolation seems to wear on me more and more.

It makes me wonder if I should just start diving into Adam Sandler movies where I'm not likely to see dead or dying dogs and those gallons of canine blood.

Nah, I've already reconsidered. I'd rather watch the dogs bleeding to death. I'm not really all that squeamish, but the dog scenes in this were really graphic and difficult to watch. I'm not sure how they were handled exactly either. The dog-fighting sequences looked real to me, and each lifeless dog that was dragged or picked up appeared to be a real lifeless dog.

All the dogs and the grit gave this a realistic touch. If somebody watched this movie and didn't like it, I'd probably guess that it's because it's too real. Nobody likes having his or her face shoved in reality for that long. The performers definitely helped give it that realism. All of the performances are very good, but I was especially moved by the old guy who played the hit-man. His name is Emilio Echevarria, and I'm surprised to see he hasn't done much of anything. This, Y Tu Mama Tambien, and a few small roles in other movies. Here, he's got this physicality that gives away all these complex emotions. He's a man battered by life as he pushes around this cart, slouching and leading a posse of ragged dogs. And then he's something stoic and calculating and driven as he's going about his job. There's one scene where he's just sitting alone with a newspaper that floored me. He was just so good as this guy who refuses to be a tragic character. Or maybe he is a tragic character. Maybe we're all tragic characters.

Bad Movie Club: The Deadliest Prey

2013 ill-advised sequel

Bad Movie Rating: 3/5 (Johnny: 4/5; Samantha: 2/5; Josh: 4/5; Mark: 3/5)

Rating: 6/20

Plot: Nearly identical to its predecessor except the main characters are 27 years older. 

This is a movie for anybody who wants to see Deadly Prey but with senior citizens. Jonesin' for some geriatric fight sequences? Want to see guys who would look more natural at a retirement party than in an action movie running around the woods and playing army man? Want to see what might as well have been a shot-for-shot remake but where everybody seems really tired? Well, this sequel is the movie for you! 

It's a bland action film. David Prior is back at the helm, and brother Ted Prior, although he's most definitely aged, looks to be in fairly good shape. It's a little painful watching him run, and a lot of his fight sequences do seem like they're in slow motion, but he's still a convincing enough bad ass to make this almost work. His locks are gone, and he keeps his shirt on, but he still is capable in his mid-50s of Rambo-ing it up, setting booby-traps and grunting and punching guys in the head. He also seems a little too tired to growl out all his lines like he did in the first movie. 

David Campbell's antagonist Colonel Hogan returns (from the dead?) to get his revenge, and he does growl out all his lines. He looks a little worse for wear than his nemesis, but his teeth must be stronger as he spends the entire movie chewing up the scenery. Hogan spent the intervening years between the first movie and this one in prison, so I was completely wrong about him being dead. Now, if he winds up in a third movie--a movie that I can't see anybody allowing to happen--it'll be fucking miraculous. 

Other characters: There's a new wife for our hero, and he's got a son who is played by Prior's son. I don't know which Prior fathered the kid, but he's definitely a Prior. You don't even need to check the credits to see that. All you have to do is watch the freeze-frame at the end, and you'll say, "Yep, that kid's a Prior." Actually, I'm fairly positive he'll be the protagonist of Deadly Prey 3, which I imagine will be called Even Deadlier Than Deadliest Prey: Spawn of Danton

Speaking of the closing credits, I got a kick out of seeing so many characters credited as "soldier" in this. It had to be about 40. Following all of them, there were about 20 "bar patrons." I don't know why things like that entertain me, but I suspect it's because I don't have much going on in my life.

If you've seen Deadly Prey, you likely remember Danton's hair, a freeze frame, and a scene where he rips off a guy's arm and beats him to death with it. That character's brother is in this, wearing mirrored sunglasses that I could have sworn I saw the film crew reflected in at one point. And guess what? He has his arm hacked off and then is beaten with it. I guess David Prior is from the if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it school of filmmaking.

There's a female villain in this, a completely extraneous character who I assume was squeezed into the proceedings to convince the fellows watching that there might be some nudity at some point if they persevere through the redundancy of watching old guys chase each other past the same trees over and over again. She's played by Tara Kleinpeter, and I thought she looked like a Muppet.

I guess it's the lips. 

Finally, there are a trio of characters who I can only assume were in this because the thing was crowd-sourced and they donated enough money to get roles. They play gamers who end up watching all of this action unfold on the Internet and decide to try to help Danton out. None of the three are good, but Suki-Rose Simakis gives the performance that her friends are going to make fun of her for if they ever find out she was in this. The script doesn't help as she's required to say "True that" about twenty times. Unless those "true thats" were improvised. 

Fans of the original '87 action Rambo rip-off will likely want to give this a try, but it's not as much fun as that one and suffers from having no original ideas at all. It tries to duplicate the accidental good-bad magic of its predecessor, and although it seems like an entirely earnest affair, it just suffers from being more of the same. But with old farts. 

Silent Saturday: The Last of the Mohicans

1920 action movie

Rating: 12/20

Plot: During the French and Indian War, a dastardly Redskin abducts the daughters of an English army man. The titular Indian and America's first white rapper--Natty Bumppo--try to save them.

I wouldn't have wanted this movie to be any longer, but at a little under 80 minutes, there wasn't really enough room for this story to develop. Plot details were sketchy, and the characters never become anything real. They're cardboard cut-outs wandering around forests. Barbara Bedford might as well have been made of cardboard actually. I can't remember the last time I saw a performance that this was this flat. She spends the movie just kind of staring without any expression on her countenance.

Or maybe that was Lillian Hall. I don't know which sister was Cora and which one was Alice actually, and I'm too lazy to look it up.

That's not as lazy as the people in charge of researching Native Americans for this movie, of course. There is some effort to make at least one native seem heroic, but for the most part, they're just a bunch of savages and redskins running around trying to scalp poor white guys. No, I didn't expect to pop in a silent movie with Native American characters and see a realistic portrayal of them, but it was still annoying.

There were some nice landscapes and some solid stunt work in this, but it wasn't enough to sustain my interest.

I'm not sure why I watched this. I've had nothing but bad experiences with The Last of the Mohicans. I was bored by the most recent film adaptation when I saw it at a dollar theater, and then I was forced to see it a week later when my girlfriend's dad (now my father-in-law) wanted to see it. A year later, I had to read the novel for an American Literature class at Indiana State University, and the chapter or two that I did manage to read was a real struggle. I don't know why I thought this silent version would be a positive experience.

War Machine

2017 Netflix original movie

Rating: 10/20

Plot: A gravelly-voiced alpha-male is put in charge of NATO forces in Afghanistan, but runs into some issues, especially when a Rolling Stone reporter gets involved.

And Netflix's streak of not releasing good films continues with this satirical war story that can't quite decide what it wants to be. Its ideas hollow and its humor flat, this is pretty much D.O.A. I hadn't heard that this was coming out, read a blurb from a critic I'm starting to lose all respect for, and got excited enough to check it out. It's a mess, it's poorly paced, and it's in desperate need to an editor. At best, it needs a trim. More likely, it needed tossed in the garbage and started again.

Brad Pitt doesn't help. I've never been convinced that the guy is a great actor anyway. When he's in just the right role, he works great. Here, you get the sense that he's only in this because George Clooney said no. He even looks a little Clooney-ish from certain angles here. He's nothing but a growling caricature here with inconsistent physical characteristics. He reminded me of Popeye at times, and after a while, I just started wishing I was watching a Popeye movie instead of War Machine. Even that Robert Altman one.

I did enjoy watching Brad Pitt run. Well, at least the first time. They milked that bit of physical comedy for all it was worth.

Full disclosure: I actually stopped paying attention to this movie at one point and had sex during it. What can I say? Popeye gets me going.

Dementia, or Daughter of Horror

1955 nightmare

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A woman has a bad dream.

Jazzy noir! With a great eye to capture an oily night with noirish shadows and haunting imagery, director John Parker is a freakin' auteur! I'm really excited to check out the rest of this guy's work, and I'm surprised I've not heard of him before.

Unfortunately, this is Mr. Parker's lone movie. It's a travesty! This haunting and surreal piece of horror art showcases a promising director. Just look at object placement and framing. There are shots that reminded me of Last Year in Marienbad, these little visual riddles, still-life choreography that felt simultaneously complex and simple. Just check out those shadows, that chase scene featuring a newspaper, that jazz scene that viscerally showed music like La La Land's Damien Chazelle, that nightmarish black and white cinematography.

What makes this more chilling and more dreamlike is the complete lack of dialogue. Except for some narration by a guy you're used to hearing talk to Johnny Carson, there's no language to guide us through this strange nocturnal journey.

Almost all of the actors in this don't even have their own Wikipedia pages, including Adrienne Barrett who plays "the gamin." There are three interesting exceptions though. One is an uncredited performance by the great Angelo Rossitto as a guy selling newspapers. It's a very small role, but it was still fun seeing him.

Second, Ed McMahon is the voice of the narrator. See, there's no dialogue, but there is Ed McMahon to ineffectually tell us what's going on. It's odd narration, likely completely unnecessary. And third, Aaron Spelling is apparently in this movie as a patron of a nightclub.

I also want to note the score, this exotic jazz with disembodied, wordless Yma Sumac-ish vocals. Shorty Rogers (and his Giants) are actually in the movie during the jazz club scene, but the score is by avant-gardist George Antheil.

One more note: This movie is playing in a movie theater in The Blob. You've probably always wondered what that film was.

The Black Pirate

1926 pirate movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: To avenge the death of his father, that guy on the poster up there infiltrates a pack of pirates and makes plans to bring them down.

I had titled this one "Silent Saturday: The Black Pirate," but I couldn't leave it. If this blog isn't informative, entertaining, or comprehensive, it can at least be honest. And I didn't watch this movie on a Saturday. I watched this movie on Douglas Fairbanks' birthday, a mini-tribute. So happy birthday, Douglas Fairbanks!

Ok, I just did a little research in order to make this blog at least more comprehensive and informative and figured out that Douglas Fairbanks died about 80 years ago and would be around 134 years old now. So he's not reading this blog entry.

Douglas Fairbanks is hit and miss for me. He's got this infectious enthusiasm, smiling his way through all of these feats of strength and athleticism, so even if the audience isn't having any fun watching his movies, it's nice to know that he at least had a lot of fun. His athletic prowess is impressive although his stunts never really look all that dangerous. Everything's a little too effortless with the guy, probably because he can't wipe that ridiculous grin off his mouth. His movements do make him stand out though, even when he's in a crowd of a hundred or so pirates. I mean, the guy doesn't even go down stairs like normal men. He's fun to watch--just the silent movie hero you'd ask for to bounce around a pirate ship.

This is a silent film from the mid-20s, but it's a little different than most you've seen in that it uses color. It's a limited color palette, but it's still much different than anything I can recall seeing. There's an artificiality to the colors, all muted and sickly, but I really liked it. Combine that with the gnarly assortment of pirates complete with missing limbs and cool-looking pirate ships, and you've got quite the spectacle here. The story's nothing to swing a cutlass at, but the movie pirates have an authentic look that makes it all fun to watch. There are also a couple scenes of violence--one featuring a finger and a ring that takes place off-screen--that give this a bit of a grimy edge.

My favorite moment: Fairbanks, during the climactic battle scene, is engaged in sword-fighting with about seven guys. He's shielding himself with an unconscious guy. One guy, whom I never saw actually get injured, dies, and it's such a distracting death scene. He's just kind of in the middle, falling down in slow motion with this goofy expression on his face. That's an extra who knew how to get himself noticed!

Here he is, so that you can know how much I'm exaggerating:

Bad Movie Club: Kill Squad

1982 action shenanigans

Bad Movie Rating: 2/5 (Mark: 3/5; Fred: 2/5; Josh: fell asleep; Johnny: didn't finish)

Rating: 7/20

Plot: Following an assault by people for reasons that I never bothered paying attention to, a guy has to assemble his Vietnam buddies to get revenge. There's a lot of fighting.

Lots and lots and lots of fighting. There's a pattern established early on, and until a twist at the end that doesn't make any sense, it doesn't shift. There's some discussion of a lead, the characters go try to find so-and-so, there's a fight scene, and then there's a new lead. The cycle just repeats, ad nauseum, until you kind of wish somebody would punch you in the head and put you out of your misery.

My favorite parts are when they assemble the squad and after locating the member of the squad who, of course, is engaged in fisticuffs, he's told, "Joseph needs you!" and the part after they're assembled when they take turns showing off their skills with a weapon that none of them use at any other point in the movie. I also enjoyed the plethora of sound effects, and a scene where a character survives a fall from a five-story building onto a car.

I'm sure the script for Kill Squad had to have been about 1 1/2 pages long.

There are definitely better good-bad action movies to see, but if you're in the mood to watch nearly identical fight sequences for an hour and a half, I guess this isn't a bad way to go.


2016 hero story

Rating: 12/20

Plot: In this sequel to Birdemic: Shock and Terror, birds attack Chelsey "Sully" Sullenberger's plane, and he and his mustache have to find a way to save all the passengers. The solution turns out to be landing the plane on the Hudson River. Although he's declared a hero immediately afterward, the airline and their insurance people have their doubts.

More heavy-handed hero-making from Clint Eastwood, a man who talks to chairs. There's probably nothing wrong with this movie, but it feels a little half-assed. I can almost picture Eastwood sitting in his chair--something that I assume would lead to a difficult conversation--after giving some vague direction and then Hanks or the cinematographer or somebody else asking him a question and the old man just waving his hand and saying, "I'm too old for this shit. Just do whatever. People will like this because it's about Sully Sullenberger, so stop asking me things."

The structure feels lazy, too. It starts with a nightmarish sequence with sketchy CGI planes crashing into buildings. I was confused because I knew Sully didn't crash into any buildings--just dirty, chilly water. And then we're in the days following the crash landing. Then, there are some flashbacks. And then we get to see the plane land in the Hudson a bunch of times. And then there are simulations. It all got pretty redundant, and I couldn't figure out why I was being subjected to so many flashbacks or scenes of Tom Hanks running.

Hanks seems to be going through the motions, too, almost like he decided to do this movie as a personal favor to Clint Eastwood because he really liked the Dirty Harry movies and then, once he realized it wasn't written well enough or with a dynamic enough character to get him another shot at an Oscar, decided to just be Tom Hanks with white hair and a mustache.

As with most things like this--ripped from the headlines!--you sense certain liberties were taken with the storytelling. From what I've read, the airlines weren't quite as antagonistic as this story made them out to be. However, I can understand why Eastwood and company needed to exaggerate that a bit. If it wasn't for that juicy storyline, this would just be a guy landing his plane in the water over and over again.

Oh, and my pet peeve is also in this movie.

I didn't need to see this movie, but I'm glad that I did. Now, I've done what Gregg Turkington was unable to do which I believe might give me "film buff" status.

Mr. Brooks

2007 crime drama

Rating: 12/20

Plot: The "Thumbprint Killer" tries to break his addiction to shooting people while they're having sex, and it might just be the comedic stylings of Dane Cook that get him there. Pervy Cook has incriminating photos and wants to make himself a third-wheel in the adventures of Mr. Brooks and his imaginary buddy. Meanwhile, a detective works on hunting him down, and his college-aged daughter has disturbing news. But Mr. Brooks, an intelligent guy, might just have a way to get out of a whirlwind of problems.

There's a scene where Costner and William Hurt start laughing, and it lasted for just a little too long, so I started laughing with them. I felt a little like Dane Cook's character, only I could see William Hurt.

The reason to see this is the idea at the center of it. My buddy Josh recommended and loaned this to me, and that was because of the idea rather than the execution of the idea. Having Hurt and Costner share dialogue gave a unique perspective on the inner workings of the intellectual psychopath idea that was probably starting to get a little tired by 2007. Hurt is probably the best thing about the movie, and he really seems to relish playing this type of character. I did a special feature with best cinematic imaginary friends a while back, and Brooks' pal Marshall could have probably ended up on there somewhere. Costner's performance is a little more uneven. It was nice seeing him exploring a different kind of character than normal, but the character was never all that believable and some of the character's quirks didn't make sense. What, for example, was going on after the first murder when Costner starts twirling and gesticulating?

Dane Cook. I just have to know who's idea that was. I don't like the shape of his head. He's not a total distraction here although it's easy to tell he's not exactly an actor. Demi Moore does precisely what she normally does, but the character she portrays is so poorly realized and at the heart of so many unnecessary subplots that it makes her performance seem annoying and unnecessary. I did enjoy the detail about her character being into younger men though.

I did really enjoy seeing cute little Reiko Aylesworth, what's-her-face in 24. Michelle? Was that her character's name? If so, that's probably a piece of information I can let go of.

The superfluous subplots winds up being what keeps this movie from being really good. Demi's character's divorce stuff, a lot of the stuff with Costner's daughter, another killer who growls crap like "We're gonna have some fun with you!" It just all a little too much of a distraction from what should have been the focus of this. This movie needed some serious trimming.

The writing also isn't very good. While there's some great individual pieces of dialogue, there's also this strange exchange between Demi Moore and Dane Cook about a "hunch" the former has:

Demi Moore: What do you have to tell me?
Dane Cook: Nothing.
Demi: Really? Because I was driving around and suddenly got this feeling you had something to tell me about the murder.
Dane: No, nothing.
Demi: Well, that's disappointing.

That conversation, by the way, ended with a "See you later, alligator."

There's also a moment where Mr. Brooks tells Dane Cook, "You look a little like that E.T. guy. You remember that movie where he flies the bike?" because Cook's character was wearing a hoodie. It was such a stupid piece of dialogue that I stopped rooting for the killer like I usually do and instead began to root for the Second Coming.

My favorite Mr. Brooks scene that didn't have a nipple in it involved orange juice. Costner pours himself a glass, attempts to take a sip several times, and ends up with it poised a few inches from his mouth after another character says something that he has to respond to.

I'm not sure why I notice things like this, but it makes me feel like I'm wasting my life away.

Anyway, thank you to Josh for recommending this and getting a copy into my hands.

Silent Saturday: The Parson's Widow

1920 comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: After a parson passes away, an ambitious young buck gets the job. But it's on one condition--he has to marry the widow of his predecessor. The problem is that he's already engaged to a woman he actually loves. Oh, snap!

Two Carl Theodor Dreyer silent flicks this year, and both are comedies. This one is a lot more fun than most people would think it would be, but that's because most people don't realize how funny movies from Scandinavia can be.  The humor is also a little more modern than one might expect.

Take an early scene in which we're thrust into the cutthroat world of competitive preaching. Our protagonist is in a three-minister contest against John Lennon and a visibly-ill John Candy. And our hero, instead of Dreyer just making him an impossibly pristine and lovable figure, almost aims for buoyant anti-hero as he wishes the devil on one and attempts to sabotage the other. It's a funny scene, but it also sets up the character well, gives him some shading.

The main character is played by Elnar Rod, and he's got the perfect shape to wind up in a situation like this. He just looks green and has this desperate posture that helps the character work. He also had a bitchin' hat. The titular widow is played by Hildur Carlberg, and all I can really say about her physical appearance is that she looks exactly like how you'd imagine a woman named Hildur to look. She's also perfectly cast, just for her presence. She's a withered but imposing figure, but poisoned herring and Schnapps goggles apparently make her irresistible enough. She gets one stunning moment during an extended good-bye sequence that I thought was very touching. Carlberg only had three credited performances, and this was her last one. The sweetheart (Greta Almroth) is just kind of on the screen, not quite having that silent-movie feminine charm that I usually fall in love with.

Dreyer's direction brings a few magic tricks to help with the storytelling--unfocused camera fuzz, a cool use of split screen, and that move where the screen gradually darkens to focus on one character. I'm sure that last one has a name. And again, the movie is funny. There's a nifty scene with a demon costume, a funny scene featuring rings, and a weird wedding ceremony that made me realize I needed a better hat and more swords at my wedding.

Also--this is likely the first time a "snot rocket" ever made it into a movie. That piece of information is likely to get you the win at your next bar trivia night, so you're welcome.


2016 comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A bus driver writes poems when he and his wife and dog aren't busy dreaming. 

"They were just words written on water." 

What a beautiful look into the life of a pair of dreamers, filled with comically poignant lines, fun Jarmuschian dialogue, and even some visual humor. The story is as pointless and mundane as life, and the characters' daily goings-on are about as redundant and uneventful as you'd expect characters' lives to be if you have any experience with a redundant and uneventful life as a human being. You might guess that this is a dreary movie with characters who slouch all the time, oppressed by the weight of humdrummery. But it's the complete opposite as there's almost a quiet effervescence with this couple. Adam Driver's Paterson is completely content as an observer of the world, a guy with seemingly no aspirations and with an appreciation of those colorful everyday things that William Carlos Williams wrote about. Golshifteh Farahani's character--Paterson's wife--is content with creating in various ways, a woman who does have aspirations but doesn't seem like the type of person who would be all that bothered if she never reached any of them. You just get the sense that while some people in the lives these two characters find themselves in would feel sorry for themselves, be bored by the routine of it all, and probably wind up mopey, Paterson and his wife are not people you have to worry about at all. 

That poetry though. Was it supposed to be good? For me, that was the most difficult thing to accept about this movie. Paterson's poems, which appeared as text on the screen as Driver read them slowly, contain good ideas but aren't well written. Maybe that's part of the point? Maybe that was supposed to be part of the humor? 

What Jarmusch gives us for a story is structured in seven (I think) chapters, each detailing a day in the week of these characters. Paterson wakes up without the need of an alarm clock somewhere between 6 A.M. and 6:30, he eats either Cheerios or a Cheerios knock-off, goes to work, talks to a co-worker, drives his bus, observes things or listens to conversations of passengers on the bus, writes poetry during his lunch break, eventually goes home, fixes his mailbox, talks to the wife about their days and their futures, takes the dog for a walk, hits a tavern for a beer and some conversation, and then goes home. The next day, like a jazz improvisational variation, happens about the same. The structure forces you to pay attention to the tiny differences, make connections between motifs, and try to predict what direction--if any--this will go in. Nothing much ever happens until one moment where something that feels very significant happens, but Jarmusch still demands the viewer's attention and draws you in with the minutia. 

I like how steeped in metaphor and symbols this movie is, and that's true even though I didn't really understand all the metaphors and symbols. Threats of dog-jacking, that lopsided mailbox, all the blacks and whites, a pair of shoes on the wrong feet, the character's time spent in the basement, a wall of local celebs (including Iggy Pop, of course), all those circles (including Cheerios or Cheerios knock-offs), a laundry free-style rap, various depths of beer, cupcakes, numerous references to twins, a pie made of Brussels sprouts and cheddar cheese, waterfall allusions, foam bullets. Is a character referencing getting his ass kicked in a chess game and then revealing that he's playing himself important or a quirky Jarmuschian bit of humor? How about Paterson's inability to force the dog to walk in the direction he wants him to? Or the fact that our protagonist is a proud Luddite? What about those conversations he eavesdrops on--about the boxer Hurricane, about a cute girl at a doughnut place, about an anarchist weaver? Or the poets Jarmusch decided to include in the script? Dante, Ginsberg, Emily "Fucking" Dickinson, Petrarch, Frank O'Hara, and, of course, William Carlos Williams are all alluded to. Is there a reason for that? Oh, and as any Jarmusch fan would have likely predicted, language differences play a role, too. 

The movie is busy with ideas--some small and some large--but it never feels like anything but a simple Jim Jarmusch movie. 

Like a lot of his recent films, this one feels a bit like a riddle, but it doesn't feel quite as fartsy or impenetrable to me. And yes, I'm talking about The Limits of Control. I guess that's because I could identify with the character a little more easily, a guy just digging the mundane rhythm of the everyday, knowing that so much depends on red wheelbarrows and white chickens and the deliciousness of the last plums. 

Movies-A-Go-Go: Cool As Ice

1991 white rapper movie

Rating: 5/20

Plot: A guy with stupid hair and ridiculous pants meets a girl and then gets mixed into some dangerous activities involving her family. It's not cool at all.

Stare at the above poster for an hour and a half and you've pretty much seen this movie. That's better than both seeing and hearing the movie, by the way. Nevertheless, I did both and am now sharing my a-Go-Go thoughts.

Let's do this, crackers!

This a-Go-Go may end early as the opening credits might give me a seizure.

I want to make some joke about people stopping, collaborating, and listening as all these names flash by, but those words--in the context of "Ice Ice Baby" or out of that context--don't really make much sense together.

Vanilla Ice forgot to take the price tag off his baseball cap. What an embarrassing faux pas that is.

I can’t follow Vanilla’s (Ice’s?) train of thoughts here in this rap, but he just referenced, like, four of the seven dwarfs.

Oh, my God! This editing is really making me wonder if I’m going to make it through this.

This era--early 1990s--is horrifying for me. High school was not a good time for me, and I’m not sure I want to be reminded that a lot of these color combinations existed. More than likely, I'm going to end up hopelessly depressed by the time this is over, but that's only if I survive the seizures.

I’m confused because the microphone keeps being replaced with one of those metal flashlight things. Continuity error?

In this movie, this is a special effect. 

That is some hair cut, Vanilla. No wonder you got Monique’s phone number!

Holy shit! Vanilla’s pants are stellar!

Vanilla and the Technicolor Pants.


Wow. If this lady he just knocked off a horse is the love interest in this movie, I won’t be able to suspend my disbelief. He scared the lady’s horse by ramping his motorcycle (impossibly, I should add) over a fence and right in front of the animal. That should be enough to ruin any first impression, but adding, “You hit like a girl!” a little later definitely would have sealed the deal.

Yup, yup. My closed captioning has confirmed that Vanilla just said, “Yup, yup.”

“Man, my bike’s trippin’!” I think you can say that to a mechanic when you bring your vehicle to a shop.

Mechanic: What can I do for?
You: Man, my mini-van be trippin'!
Mechanic: Well, we'll go ahead and have a look at it.

Aggravated driver just nailed his extra work. He kind of had an angry Buddy Hackett thing going there.


I love this scene where his motorcycle gang is driving through a neighborhood in the suburbs of wherever-the-hell-they’re-at while Boy Scouts, a guy mowing the grass, and a postman stare at them in disbelief. Have they never seen colorfully-dressed doofuses on motorcycles? Black people?

Ok, this plot is moving a little too fast for me.

They’ve stopped at some random old couple’s home to get that guy’s bike to stop trippin’, and the house is filled with oddities--like giant salt and pepper shakers, a roof that is a world map, quotes on the wall, glowing world globes. I think it's because it's the only place where Vanilla Ice's pants might fit in.

I just heard an “Ahhhhh, yeah” soundbyte for no good reason.

The horse girl has a name now--Kathy.

Kathy’s boyfriend just looked at Vanilla Ice and said, “What is that?” And it made me laugh. You get the sense that his line was supposed to be "Who is that?" or something but he flubbed it and then the director realized that "What is that?" actually made more sense.

“Drop that zero, and get with the hero!” Fuck yeah!

“The chick that drives the horse.”

By the way, I think I might have a horse-riding pants fetish.

Now we’re in Kathy’s house, and they’ve Benny-Hilled scenes of random domesticity. I can’t figure out how anybody thought this would be a good idea.

Apparently, Kathy is a high school student. So this will be a film about Vanilla Ice trying to get away with statutory rape. That's just fantastic.

Great, a child actor. Tommy with a quip!

Any child actor who can’t do a scene where he plays video games realistically probably has no future in acting.

Victor DiMattia, Dennis in Dennis the Menace

Roscoe and his wife Mae (and boy, she can act) apparently live in Pee Wee Herman’s neighborhood. So many colors!

Bad guys (I’ve already lost track of what they want) in the desert. One of them pulls a pistol from the front of his pants and there was a “pop” sound effect.

“Across the street to schling a schlong.” That’s where Vanilla is going.

I want to knock on doors like Vanilla Ice knocks on doors.

Diet Coke product placement! But I’m going to associate them with Vanilla Ice’s outfit and be instantly sick to my stomach.

Oh, holy hell! This lead singer of the band at the Sugar Shack is something else!

He's Louie Bonanno, and I can't tell what the song in this was supposed to be. It was like an inebriated post-punk or something, and there was a lot of Bonanno pelvic thrusting going on. 

Another Diet Coke reference.

Vanilla Ice and Kathy’s eyes met at the Sugar Shack, and he looks like date rape personified.

Wait a second. Kathy's dad is Michael Gross!

Vanilla and his posse just pulled the plug on the band, too bad because I was really enjoying that guy’s sultry hip thrusting. Now, he’s dancing around like a fool, and one patron just said, “What the hell?” That’s the second time a character has expressed my exact thoughts!

“Awww, yeah. I’m gonna drop some funky lyrics.” Show it, don’t tell it, Vanilla.

All it took to win the heart of Kathy was a little dry humping  on the dance floor at the Sugar Shack.

Prelude to dry humping. And yes, I realize this is the second time I've used this picture. 

Umm. These guys!

I paused the movie to take this bad picture because I have nothing else going on in my life. 

Well, Kathy’s boyfriend is showing abusive tendencies.

Whew! Vanilla Ice just swooped in on his motorcycle and saved Kathy from. . .well, it’s not entirely clear what was happening there. She was in the middle of the road, the bad guys were following her slowly in their car. I'm not sure what was going to happen, but it wouldn't have been any more terrifying than Vanilla Ice dry-humping you.

I just can’t see Michael Gross in anything but Family Ties. It’s like he’s cheating on his family or something.

An old couple just witnessed a murder-by-baseball-bat attempt. They also saw some of the worst fight choreography in any white rapper musical ever.

Ok, Kathy just woke up to Vanilla putting a piece of ice in her mouth while lying in her bed. He’s also wearing some sort of hip tool belt.

Wait, is that a fanny pack?

Imagine waking up and Vanilla Ice with a fanny pack is lying next to you, unexpectedly.

This jacket Vanilla’s sporting in this is an impressive feat of fashion. Black pleather with white words (“Ice,” “Down by Law,” “Deep) all over it. It’s pretty fucking sweet and reminds me of how much of an idiot I probably was in 1991.

Tommy is told by Vanilla Ice that he’ll get a ride on his motorcycle soon. His reply: “As soon as you’re done making sex?”

Vanilla Ice escaping from a lawn sprinkler that attacked him while he was putting his hat backwards--acting wizardry.

I’m not sure I’ve seen a male and female have less rapport than these two. Of course, Vanilla’s acting is so bad that I’m not sure he could have rapport with anybody.

“Yup, yup.” And the date should just be over at this point, right?

His jacket also says “Sex me” on it.

Brief montage where the couple chase each other around some partially-constructed houses.

“Lust,” “Dancer.” I think this jacket is custom-made.

I’m trying to figure out if having these horny kids run around this construction site is some sort of metaphor or if they just stumbled upon the site and figured it was as good a place as anywhere else to film a date scene.

“If you ain’t being true to yourself then you ain’t true to nobody.”

Matthew Robert Van Winkle. That's Vanilla Ice's real name, and I just felt like putting it here.

A horse just tried to escape the movie.

Date montage! I’m pretty sure it’s going to end with the two making sex.

I’d like to take this time to remember that in their first meeting, Vanilla Ice ramped his motorcycle over a fence in front of her horse, causing the animal to jump and knock her to the ground.

Old people dancing to hip-hop beats. If that doesn’t sum up the 1990s, I don’t know what does.

This movie has a surprising lack of rap performances actually. I guess it’s not the musical that I thought it was.

Michael Gross is explaining the story’s main conflict, but Vanilla Ice’s wardrobe isn’t on the screen to keep me awake during it. So I still have no idea what the bad guys want.

And now, after an argument filled with a bunch of trite lines, we get a motorcycle montage. It's like they saw Purple Rain and thought, "Maybe Vanilla Ice will look just as cool riding his motorcycle around for half the movie."

No he fucking won't.

Vanilla just disappointed Tommy after he put a lot of product in his hair and ditched little league practice.

What the fuck? This is another montage, this time one with motorcycle assembling, a ride with Tommy, and some random dancing.

The movie’s run out of ideas, so they’re just filling the rest of this with montages, I guess.

Michael Gross is really going to freak out when he sees Tommy getting off Vanilla Ice’s motorcycle.

Tommy’s hair looks ridiculous. That’s not the right look to have when being kidnapped, young fool.

I always feel a little wrong about thinking things like this, but I really hope they kill Tommy and start mailing his body parts to the family.

Vanilla Ice threw the ring he was wearing into a fishbowl with way too many fish in it. They’ll probably be dead from his juices by dawn.

Sadness montage.

Can somebody with this haircut be sad? 

Yes! There’s that knock again!

Vanilla: Yo, I gots to talk to Kathy.
Michael Gross: He’s not here.
Vanilla: She’s standing right behind you.

I’m not sure if that was supposed to be funny or not.

Tommy can’t even act when it’s just his voice on a cassette either.

Poor Vanilla Ice. He’s really in the shit here. Be seen with the kidnapped victim prior to his kidnapping? Check. Handing over the tape from the kidnappers? Check. Proudly wearing the clothes he does? Check.

Look at this dick. 

Oh, great. We got to hear the tape again.

Tommy’s gagged. Now I’m on the side of the kidnappers.

Vanilla Ice took care of four guys with baseball bats but is having trouble with a middle-aged bald guy?

The other characters have changed clothes, but the quirky motorcycle repairman has had the same shirt with apples all over it for several days.

Sydney Lassick and Dody Goodman. Dody is wonderful in this! 

Mom: “Did they do this to your hair?” I laughed at that one, too.

Stocking cap, leather jacket, shorts. It’s not a good luck.

Vanilla Ice just spelled a word! True, it’s only of the two-letter variety, but it was still spelling!

This rappin’ and dancin’ scene at the end featured a dangerous-looking tea-bagging dance move.

If this movie ever ends (looking unlikely at this point), I hope it ends with a hearty “Yup, yup.”