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Old 12-01-2012, 10:13 PM   #802
DVD-fanatic-9
Remaking My Soul
 
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Went on another Netflix WI cleaning-jag:


The Tomb (1986 / directed by Fred Olen Ray) - 3.5/10

Couldn't be any slower to start with cripplingly boring "characters," pointlessly dull "dialogue," and in the interest of trying to show he has some legit cinematic-artistic cred, sleaze guru Fred Olen Ray shoots, paces, and edits all the movie's scenes leisurely. Being a Trans-World production, I do believe this got some play in theaters. If so, let me be the one to apologize to the audience's butts. MGM owns the rights and decided Netflix WI patrons deserved a pretty spiffy looking widescreen 1.85:1 transfer. The obligatory Egyptian ceremony scene definitely looks a little better than Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers' (though that one had a fire-eater). Anyway, it's still an awful movie but it hits a comfortable point of mediocrity when Michelle Bauer (sometimes McClennan) takes over. She's always fun. And there's no question that the men are competing against the women for eye candy. Though none of them can compare with Bauer, David O'Hara (sometimes Pearson) fills his wife-beater (among other things- this boy is big) pretty well and Richard Hench is a likable enough Zach Galligan/William Ragsdale/Bruce Abbott-esque leading guy. The rest of the cast are remarkably transparent. Ray definitely moved up with his direct-to-video features.



New Year's Evil (1980 / directed by Emmett Alston) - 3/10
(SPOILERS)
Empty-headed, big-mouthed, conservative-leaning and incredibly sexist early 80's slasher. With plenty of sleaze but no real gore, therefore it's all up to the music and potentially over-the-top performances to pony up something in the way of entertainment value. Nil on both counts. The music is terrible and everyone plays this garbage straight. The plot pretty much says it all: sassy redheaded woman is 1980 pre-Mtv VJ celebrity host of punk-type rock TV show and psycho killer calls her warning he will murder someone at midnight, Detective Guy shows up and tells her that she shouldn't be surprised by this because she is responsible for all crime in the country thanks to the kind of music she promotes. Anyway, killer kills someone 4 hours early and calls Blaze (sassy redhead) to tell her that his plan is actually to kill 4 people- 1 at midnight for every time zone in America. So, while Blaze is doing her "so give it up for Random Band and their new hit: Blonde Girls Are Dumb," the movie cuts to the killer in a car driving a booby blonde girl they've written to be very stupid talking about entirely random things. It just goes on like this. The killer puts on a Priest costume and bikers act like bulls who just saw the color red around him. Leading to a drive-in where a guy practically OFFERS the killer his car and his girlfriend to do whatever he wants with if he doesn't kill him. He drives away and she of course says, "we can have it off if you want" (some equivalent of that). Cut to 3 midnights have passed, 3 victims dead, and the killer goes after Blaze and has a long-winded speech about killing her to prove that all women are born bad as well as to avenge her son because she allegedly didn't pay enough attention to him. He then ties her up with rope, handcuffs her, chains her into the elevator shaft- everything but gag her mouth and we watch this thing for almost 2 minutes screentime, every detail of her being tied up and then the elevator "will it or won't it" crush her. She's treated like an object, he gets all the "character development" (which as you can imagine is pretty odious), and we end the movie with him totally being in charge of how he dies and he even gets some final words in. And... then Blaze's son sees this and is touched by the killer's deed and hops into the ambulance, kills the driver, puts on a freaky mask, and clearly plans to kill his unconscious, trapped in a gourney mother. Poor Men: the only way to right a wrong done to a man is to fuck a woman up. Great message.



Soapdish (1991 / directed by Michael Hoffman) - 5.5/10

This one's interesting. Because it's actually somewhat entertaining. As in: I enjoyed nearly the entire thing. But... I can't really pinpoint a reason. I mean, Kevin Kline was excellent. As was Cathy Moriarty. Well, for most of the movie. They kind of realized she sounds "funny" when she screech-yells and had her overdo that a lot. And Whoopi looks great. Even though she does practically nothing, she gets a lot of screentime. Elizabeth Shue is a serious presence onscreen, and her character is very likable and sympathetic for awhile. Then she turns into a giant spoiled brat and you stop paying attention to the movie and wonder, "what's her problem?" Garry Marshall says little but I remember being impressed... until he insists all the ad-libbing is what the soap needed all along, then it appears he's off his rocker. Carrie Fischer gets a great "and I'm a bitch" moment. Teri Hatcher looks like a nightmare. Not a good moment for her, though it's easily her biggest part until the Superman series. Robert Downey Jr... let's forget he was ever here. I don't have a problem with him but it's another example of- lots of screentime, nothing to do. And, then, there's Sally Field... she is miscast something awful. They mock her for her age, and it fails to be either witty, insightful, dramatic, or something she turns around to empower her character (which it could have been- she looks wonderful in the movie). Her character is all over the place- neurotic and jittery to... I think it was supposed to be funny. It's not. She goes on these unbelievably annoying fake sobbing jags (you'll know them when you hear them- she does them again and again). She apparently doesn't have the range of Faye Dunaway, even though they go for the same "don't you ACT for me" effect of Mommie Dearest. She can't decide whether she wants to be a likable mess or an interesting-to-watch mess. Her character does a lot of bitchy things, which again I think is supposed to be funny, but she just doesn't have it in her. I buy both her and Meryl Streep as being incredibly sweet people in real life, but look at what Streep was able to do in She-Devil and Death Becomes Her. Sally Field is easily the most failed element in the film. And, yet... I had a great time from start to finish. Not sure why.



Masquerade (1988 / directed by Bob Swaim) - 5/10

Another fun one. If a little conspiratorially homophobic (it's definitely a tad implied that the Most Evil Man in the Movie - which is a real contest it seems - is an actual "cocksucker," who seductively strokes and manhandles Rob Lowe after revealing his plot to frame him, later he tells Lowe his entire masterplan while strutting around in nothing but very tight, very skimpy underwear) and with a generally low opinion of women (Kim Cattrall is catty, Dana Delaney is bitchy, and Meg Tilly is extremely naive). But to be fair, no one is really a complex character here. There are about a dozen backstabs, seedy trysts, and secret pacts going on- it's almost hard to keep up. It's pretty well-written, in terms of dialogue at least. And solidly acted, by everyone. None of the characters are likable, the music score is literally ATROCIOUS, and visually- it's a "passion of sailing" movie that doesn't make its' coastal, ocean-side setting look ideal. Instead, it focuses too much on the fancy, well-to-do people who live there; which means there's a lot more baby pajama pink and faded navy blue in the film's color palette. But, it makes up for nearly all of this with a pleasing load of onscreen male partial nudity. Lots of Rob Lowe ass, lovingly photographed by the camera. Doug Savant in tighty-whities with a nice upper body. And... John Glover in speedos. Hotter than it sounds. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. And, the ending nearly set off a misogyny red-flag with some very surprising (blink and you'll've missed it) brutality; Savant starts beating the crap out of Tilly, but, she throws his fucking ass out the window. It's a sight to see. Before you have a chance to utter the words "what the- ?", she's already taken out the trash. Not exactly empowering or enough to beef up her previous passivity but, especially with the look on her face and the force the movie gives her while she does it, it's a nice gesture.



Final Combination (1994 / directed by Nigel Dick) - 4/10

Detective Movie. About catching a killer (shocker). A serial killer who kills women and rapes them after they're dead. Your late 80's / early 90's Detective Movie Usual = main plot. "Hard boiled" / no-nonsense "hero" sleeps with lots of women but hasn't found the right one yet = the subplot. Secondary surrogate detective disguised as reporter shows up with secret intention to avenge her sister's death, becomes love interest = more subplot. I'm not sure a single thing here isn't a burned out cliche. What makes it watchable are Michael Madsen, who's very charming (despite his silly bleach-blond hair) and engaging (always sexy) so he isn't playing the pretentious "anti-hero" b.s., and Lisa Bonet, the best thing in the movie though the writing doesn't give her much. What makes the movie unwatchable is its' remarkable predictability, the downright painful supporting characters (especially the hotel manager), another unbelievably awful music score (there isn't a single scene in the movie paired with appropriate or even acceptable music), and the killer, who fits every single stereotype of the rape-movie serial killer in the book (I'm starting to really miss D.W. Moffett, who actually surprised me in Lisa).



Network (1976 / directed by Sidney Lumet) - 8/10

Well, obviously everything it was saying about the state of the world, who's running it, and how people really feel about it are extremely relevant and freakishly "why isn't this movie referenced in the media every single day" today... so, it's extremely smart and wise. About that. But, as a viewing experience, it's... not actually entertainment. Nor is it infotainment- it's trying very hard to be funny. It's not. It's depressing. Drably shot, stiffly / dutifully acted, and very formal. Which isn't a problem except that I think it lacks power. The filmmakers have everything they need to make the film a hard-hitting experience but they take what feels like a certain safe distance with the truth. It doesn't feel like an angry movie (just a more suited-up version of something like The Loved One). It's too long, too wide, and then gets gummy with a love plot that I don't care very much about. Thanks to hanging this all on robotic Faye Dunaway, doing another plot with her where she isn't human like the person she's taking advantage of, and frankly it seems like it might be taking liberties with the idea of "this is what happens to any woman." But... damn it, it's smart. And is one of the most honest movies I've ever seen. Thereby assuring that historical importance. It is historically important. But... it just might be the kind of movie you only need to watch once. Not because of what it chose to say but the way it chose to say it. And given how valuable what it's saying was and still is, I find it kinda sad that I'll never watch this again.



Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives (1989 / directed by Jean-Claude Lord) - 2.5/10

Been over 15 years since I saw the first film, so I don't know whether that had a serious bone in its' body- but this thing is a freaking joke. Somewhere along the line here (probably when "On the Dark Side" played for the 3rd time before the 20-minute mark), it occured to me that Eddie and the Cruisers aren't very 60's. At all. They're more... 80's era Bruce Springsteen's band, had he freshly escaped from The Outsiders gang and they been formed at Dirty Dancing's summer camp for rich losers. But, since it's the 1980's, it's now been 20 years since the first movie and there's been some epic car crash thing from wence Eddie mysteriously vanished (which doesn't reek of "the day the music died" at all) which has made The Movie Plot public insatiable for The Cruiser's music and Eddie a new "he's not really dead" Elvis myth. And, boy is the music industry eeeeevil: they drag one of The Cruiser's founding members into their huge media publicity circus to have him confirm that his dead best friend is performing on a "long lost demo" tape for some old song that they imply (directly after he leaves the room) they hired some Eddie copycat to sing over. Drudging up all those old memories of struggling to make it, only for Eddie to die. But... Eddie really is alive and working on a construction team in Canada. Watching the new Cruisers Mania unfold on TV and over the radio, with ultra-intense look on his face. Eventually we learn that what really made him feel he had to hide out wasn't the car accident as much as one of the band members dying of a drug overdose. Because not watching someone every minute to keep them from killing themselves is easily as irresponsible as being a bad driver. And he spends The. Entire. Movie, in this unbelievably funny smoldering, brooding funk. So much so that he violently lashes out at everyone he knows and throws temper tantrums, destroying guitars, stereos, song pages, etc. Meanwhile, everything is cliched (except for a Roller Skating Scene break- at Eddie's insistance), limp conflicts are thrown in with no point to them whatsoever and resolved in under 3 minutes, and most of the movie plays like a friggin' music video. With actual music video breakdowns comprised of shots from scenes we don't see play out, the New Band members we don't really get to know as characters doing things like having snowball fights (signalling comraderie you otherwise barely felt they had), and flashback clips. The story is stupid, the "drama" is laughable, 99% of the cast have zero charisma, and the movie thinks the music quality will lend some credibility to the severity of the situations in the script. Frankly: the music blows. The movie's only mildly watchable for the first 35 or so minutes for Michael Pare, who should probably have had a career as big as Tom Cruise's. (I'm so not above this: Tom and the Cruisers. Ha...)



Rockula (1990 / directed by Luca Bercovici) - 5/10

I knew from the moment I clicked Netflix's "Play" button that this movie would be an underdog. But I didn't know what kind. Would this take itself a tad seriously, like My Best Friend is a Vampire, or be a total parodic blowout of Airplane! proportions, like Transylvania Twist? I think the best way to describe it would be to say it's closer to Mannequin 2: On the Move. But with a vampire rock-rap novelty band, which forms by default so a guy can impress a girl, and Thomas Dolby (who you hadn't seen for 8 years, since "She Blinded Me with Science") in the Terry Kiser silly villain role, and Toni Basil (the infamous "Mickey") trying to pull a Debbie Harry in Hairspray and respark interest in her non-existent career. And... the results are about what you'd expect. It's not painful but it's not really entertaining either. And doesn't come close to Mannequin 2 levels of hysterical badness (unfortunately). Though it earns its' share of awful moments. Thanks to the director being so clumsy a filmmaker. Like the music video sequence where Rockula gets hit by a car. Again. This time, he gets stuck to the window and pulled along for a minute in closeup... and he just sings and kicks his sneakers up a little. There's no momentum to the attempted humor (especially where the director would have to execute a little skill with cutting), so it's just the cast mugging for attention. All of them successful in getting it, but none successful in turning it into true comedy. Or even remote entertainment. It's generally likable because none of the cast are aggressively unlikable. Dean Cameron is adorable (especially in the rap sequence) and instantly sympathetic, but... he talks to a mirrored twin of himself throughout the entire movie. A slightly more obnoxious, infinitely one-liner spewing, and not nearly as likable twin in the literal mirror. As replacement for the reflection he doesn't have since he's a real vampire. Thomas Dolby is extremely sloppy. Nothing he does is funny but you can tell he's trying. And if he weren't acting so goofy, I think he could have been a plus for the movie. Instead he's a huge con. The rest of the cast (including Susan Tyrell) are entirely forgettable. Toni Basil is the best thing here. Surprisingly less campy than you'd expect. To my chagrin.



Mulholland Dr. (2001 / directed by David Lynch) - 3.5/10

I hate David Lynch. I don't know why I bother watching his movies. Time again, it's the same goddamn thing. Quirky, goofy characters impossible to take seriously filling idiotic scenes that refuse to play drama as drama, mystery as mystery, action as action, etc. So, you end up with a 2 and a half-hour, ugly, insulting movie with a few moments you actually enjoyed. He tries to make Empiric, King-Sized movies that incorporate everything he'd like to see in a movie. Problem is, most of what he likes is fucking shit. And none of it connects to anything in the story. What it connects to is his own movie map. Made up of puzzle pieces he felt like gluing together so it looks like a Picaso statue made by Lady Gaga. Car parts stuck to ripped paintings fastened onto a record player with sculpture bits hanging off interpretive dancers. See what I mean. When someone throws a punch- that's because it happened in a toughguy movie, not because it means something here. And so it doesn't mean anything. When you see an actor playing a movie director, it's because you saw one in some other movie (I'm guessing Sunset Boulevard). A cowboy, a waitress, thugs in suits, an opera scene, limo ride of doom- I was willing to follow them were they weaved into a story rather than a pathetic visual theme. Whether I understood it or not is pointless, half the performances were fucking hammy. And it doesn't matter how much "this is only in your mind" stuff he tries to pull, Tiny Old People in a Paper Bag would have ruined the film just by itself. I've paid attention to a few Lynch fans, they really do just like him because he's "weird." Masturbatory is a better word for his sense of style. (Both figuratively and literally, in the case of this movie.)



Mean Girls (2004 / directed by Mark Waters) - 5.5/10

The cast was excellent (especially Lacey Chabert - who shockingly plays the most likable character in the movie, Lizzy Caplan, and Tim Meadows who... I never knew had such a beautiful body), it was fast-paced and stylish, and... it looked expensive. It was also in extremely poor taste (the only gay guy in the school sings "Beautiful" at the yearly talent show... that's not subversive, it's predictable and lazy), the ideas were lame (Lohan's character relating everything that happens to her experiences in Africa- this is the kind of idea Disney would have to link teen girl behavior to unbridled savagery), all the characters were shallow, neither the set-ups or revenges packed any punch, I'm not sure whether I laughed (no points for being memorable as a comedy), important issues were glanced over, and the dialogue didn't make you believe anything. Which, frankly, barely makes the film an improvement over Jawbreaker or Sugar & Spice. Which it is, but mainly in how the film is shot. And, technically, the sequence of events could be interpreted as an idealistic view of reality rather than a realistic view. Like "Regina" being hit by a bus (ala- Final Destination) so you get the enjoyment of watching "your worst enemy" being battered horribly, yet you see her later and she's okay. She even makes a full recovery and becomes a decent person, so you don't have to feel guity for wishing something worse had happened. Not realistic (I think even buses have horns). Nearly every character relationship is underdeveloped. For the sake of keeping the movie light and airy, which does nothing for the comedy and makes it more of a "Legally Blonde with more bitchiness" formula. Which doesn't make it bitchy at all, it makes it tarty. However, again it has that style benefit. Camera angles, dissolves, editing are where the movie tries to inject intelligence that the story can't exactly claim to have. Mean Girls may be better than Jawbreaker, Teaching Mrs. Tingle, The In-Crowd, and Sugar & Spice, but Heathers is still the best clique movie, Drop Dead Gorgeous (the Kirsten Dunst film) is still the superior and funniest bitchy modern high school comedy, and The Craft more interesting, respectful with characters, and raw. Oh, and: their brilliant idea for poking fun at Legally Blonde? The dog chews on her nipples. This is what I would expect from those Epic Movie guys.



Swimming with Sharks (1994 / directed by George Huang) - 4/10

The movie business is really scummy. Did you know that? People are mean to each other over there. Isn't that terrible? They say one thing and mean another. How scandalous! Bosses are total dicks. I don't want to hear this. And, people sleep with other people to get what they want. I'm not listening, lalalala!!! Hollywood is corrupt and people smoke a lot and get stressed out and they take credit for your work and manipulate you for their own amusement and throw folders and pens at you... Well! Consider my tiny, soft, addicted-to-comfort and totally-afraid-of-cinematic-conflict mind completely blown. I could be wrong, but I think this movie actually believed it was revealing, biting, nasty, compelling, and confrontational... it is not. It's not dark, original, interesting in the slightest, surprising in the slightest, or entertaining. The visual look is bland, the characters are dull, the dialogue is coasting on really overcooked and overused cliches, the cast (with possible exception of Benicio Del Toro) seem tired (and not because you believe they've actually been through something) or come off as underwhelming, and they kinda think that by throwing in some very unconvincing torture scenes (that's right- the assistant ties the boss to a chair, cuts up his face and tongue, and pours all manner of salty, spicy, tangy condiments on his wounds) somehow it really is a dark film. Or maybe that's what was supposed to be funny about it (in that case, Michael Madsen and Reservoir Dogs did it better). I would hate to think that what we were supposed to laugh at was Frank Whaley wanting to pee and Kevin Spacey pouring water into and out of a glass. Whaley is a bad choice to be the messenger of the "hard truth" that the movie business is so rough that it makes you jaded. Spacey is a disaster. He tries and maybe I'm being too hard. The dialogue sucks, so maybe he just did all he could with it. But his insults couldn't be more childish (while thinking he's being so clever and tough), and physically he couldn't be less imposing or intimidating, whether you buy him as a genuine mean jerk (let's see him size-up against any NYC cab driver) or a self-important prick with a big mouth. The ending sucks, the middle drags, and the beginning isn't great either. Benicio was a surprise, everyone else was a chore.



The House of Yes (1997 / directed by Mark Waters) - 6.5/10

The premise is really gimmicky (for a long time, everything in the film refers back to Jackie O and the Kennedy assassination), the fact that the story involves a whopping dose of incest is bound to leave a bad taste in your mouth (or that we're meant to in any way like a character whose motivations are driven mostly by jealousy... over said incestual love affair- and she is really obsessive and clingy about it too), and for too much screentime, the dialogue mainly consists of characters repeating what the previous character said but in a different tone or inflection. It's filmed like a play (so, obviously it was based on one) with entire 20 minute stretches taking place in the same room. But, after awhile the film evolves and it has some excellent stylish moments (when the electricity goes out and they arm themselves with candles- and slow mo). The cast is excellent. Which should be the same as saying "Parker Posey," but she was by far my least favorite person in the cast/film. The real surprises here are Tori Spelling (whose oddly baby-doll-like giggling is honestly the most annoying thing about her, and she gets over that pretty quickly), who shares the funniest moment in the movie with Posey (they have a hilarious Q&A session about her childhood struggles in a poor family having to eat mostly pancakes), and Freddie Prinze Jr. Seeing them on the same screen as Genevieve Bujold and Parker Posey is a shock, but then considering how likable their characters are in opposition to the intrusive, controlling, zealous nuts Posey and Bujold are evens things up. Fun movie.



Flirting with Disaster (1996 / directed by David O. Russell) - 6/10

I'm actually getting sick of hearing myself say "the cast is excellent." And, especially with this movie (Patricia Arquette, Mary Tyler Moore, Alan Alda, Lily Tomlin, Josh Brolin, Ben Stiller, George Segal, Tea Leoni), you already know that. It's also a seriously funny movie. Every now and then. Unfortunately, it's also a "quirky" comedy. Where situations are unutterably insane past the point of relatability and characters are far more antagonistic than they'd be in reality yet the filmmakers find them to be charming instead of so annoying, they want to punch their lights out- hopefully mirroring what the audience would like to do to them (I shouldn't say that since The Old B&B Lady is kinda top on my list, but this is one bitch I hope the reindeer saw in half this Christmas Eve when Santa flattens her). It's one of those comedies where characters start off normal and then talk themselves as a group around in so many circles that they slowly unhinge and then you find yourself "laughing" (in my case, the dialogue is sharp and amusing but the effect of actually watching so many characters say and do so many shocking things becomes extremely unpleasent) at the fact that this group of people (including all the sets of parents, both blood and surrogate) start reminding you of the backwoods rednecks from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Yet, I think I'd say everyone had an understandable, defendable, relatable, and 100% fair motivation for what they did. Well, everyone but Ben Stiller. And I think I mean everyone- including the butch volleyball bimbettes. But, considering how awful Reality Bites was and how he was the best thing in that, it's like a trade-off. You just don't cheat on 90's Patricia Arquette. I don't care if she has a kid or not; if you're straight- you will do no better. (I suppose I could complain about Brolin's bisexual character but, pairing him with Richard Jenkins was a red flag from minute-1).
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