Thursday, September 30, 2010

Universal Soldier (1992)

While ambling about Best Buy the other day, killing time before A Woman, A Gun, and A Noodle Shop started, the bf and I came across this little gem in the action area, which he'd dreamed of seeing as a young boy but wasn't allowed. Of course I speak of Universal Soldier, in which Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren are brainwashed super-soldiers bent on killing each other. That's the actual plot. There's also some stuff about the Vietnam War and a lady who's a reporter or something... Oh also Van Damme gets hella naked and we have several shots of his over-sculpted butt. ALSO someone (not saying who) gets ground up in a thresher while he's still alive. It's a pretty rad movie, as you can surely ascertain.

I think I should make it clear that this isn't like a har-har so-bad-it's-good cheesy action thriller (though in some ways it totally is). It's legitimately awesome, with a badass premise and a lot of great action scenes. The plot is a bit strange and not fleshed out much, but the basic elements of a cool science vs military theme are there, along with some attempts at reminding us how shitty the Vietnam War was (you guys: let's make movies, not war, amirite?). Van Damme is lucky in that he doesn't have to act that much since for most of the film he's all brainwashed and stone-faced, giving his lines in this hilariously flat tone. He gets in some good fights- both physical and weapons-based- as well as the aforementioned nudity, but he was sadly lacking in high kicks. I don't think I counted more than five. Dolph "I Speak, Like, Seven Languages" Lundgren is great as the villainous sergeant, gleefully injecting himself with performance enhancers while donning a necklace made of human ears.

Admittedly, this is more of a chase movie than an ultimate showdown, but it works well in that format. There's even a totally impractical, heavily armored mobile laboratory. They throw in the "sarcastic, slightly hysterical lady" character, and Ally Walker is often annoying and forced in the role but there's not much to be done. She's got some great reaction shots to Van Damme's weirdness, and their interactions serve as most of the comedic relief. When you break it down, Universal Soldier is a fun, intense movie featuring two of the period's greatest action stars doing what they do best. Sure, it could have used a more fully-realized story and a less obnoxious lady sidekick, but you can't have it all, I guess. Plus did I mention Van Damme's butt? We totally see his butt.

4/5

Pair This Movie With: Commando, because everyone should watch that movie all the time, and it's another explody action movie with a European lead and a chatty lady sidekick. But she's much more likable/capable.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pepperminta (2009) at 366 Weird Movies

Whoa, two reviews at 366 Weird Movies in one week! I'm pretty famous over there, I guess. This time around I've tackled the unclassifiable Pepperminta, a film you most likely haven't heard of but should definitely look into, though unfortunately it's only screened about 3 times in the US so far. It's the feature film debut of the insanely awesome Swiss video artist Pipilotti Rist, and it follows a Pippi Longstocking-esque character navigating the doldrums of others' boring routine existence and brightening it with her colorful approach to life. There are unexpected musical numbers, trippy visuals, and goofy characters, plus a good amount of sacred feminine imagery and Rist's trademark idealism. It's fun and funny and incredibly beautiful, and definitely very, very weird. Check out my full review!

Also see some of her rad videos (they're so good but really bizarre- just fyi):
I'm Not the Girl Who Misses Much
I Want to See How You See
I'm a Victim of This Song
Ever is Over All (I saw this phenomenal installation at MoMA a few years ago; hard to really encapsulate on youtube...)

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Easy A (2010)

Well, as mentioned earlier this week, I love smart, lady-centric teen comedies and I love Emma Stone, so Easy A was an easy choice (heh, see what I did there?). The story concerns the Scarlet Letter-esque trials of Olive (Emma Stone), an intelligent, sarcastic teenager who passes through high school fairly invisibly, accompanied by combative, big-boobed best friend Rhiannon (Aly Michalka). When backed into a corner regarding her virginity, Olive invents a detailed sexual encounter with a college freshman and the news spreads like wildfire.

Shortly afterwards she and a bullied gay student pretend to have sex to convince his tormentors that he's straight, and she quickly becomes the school's most notorious trollop. When the school's most self-righteous Christian zealot (Amanda Bynes) tries to annoy her into salvation, Olive decides to take control of her own false reputation, soliciting fake sexual favors for gift cards so that geeky male students can bolster their own popularity. Of course the situation eventually spirals out of control and she is forced to re-examine her own manufactured lifestyle.

Ok, I'll say right away that Easy A lacks the wit and insight of some of its female-centric teen-comedy peers. However, it largely makes up for it with an incredibly likable and intelligent lead, a topical script, and some great supporting performances. Emma Stone is a talented comedienne, delivering her lines with a sardonic tone and quizzical look that I relish in lady actresses, and Olive is an admirable, independent young woman who is still very clearly a misguided teenager, striking a good balance for a more believable character. The story is told from her perspective, which is a smart move as it keeps the focus solely on her. Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson's roles as her overly casual parents were the other main performance highlights, and I like to think that most of their hilarious quips were ad-libbed.

This film is insanely self-aware, working in frequent nods and direct references to 80's teen films of the John Hughes ilk. Generally, I dig that sort of thing, but here I think it was a little much. Some of the referential, almost fourth-wall breaking jokes are really great, but others are forced and flat. Thomas Hayden Church (playing Olive's favorite teacher) says "but that only happens in movies" (or something to that effect) multiple times when making fun of his own teaching approach, and it's just too obvious. I also thought the religious zealot character wasn't as funny as she was meant to be- usually I love Amanda Bynes, but she just didn't fit the role. Plus it's a bit of a Saved! rip-off, maybe.

So it has its flaws, obviously, but overall Easy A is an enjoyable, smart comedy. Emma Stone leads a range of fun supporters with a funny, slightly satirical script that thankfully doesn't focus on a romance (so many of these things do). I'm impressed that it doesn't really veer into exploitative territory very much, considering its subject matter. Yes, outwardly Olive is dressed up in revealing corset tops for half the film and gets to practice her sex noises for comedic effect, but she never goes against her own character, remaining that intelligent, sarcastic, who-gives-a-damn girl despite others' perspective of her. This wasn't a Mean Girls personality crisis thing. This was a girl-who-can-do-whatever-she-feels-like-doing-because-of-independence thing.

It all boils down to the way I attempted to get through middle school and high school: I won't care what anyone else thinks, since everyone is pretty stupid anyway. It mostly worked, but now I'm too pretentious. Damn.

4/5

Pair This Movie With: I just mentioned Mean Girls, and that's a good companion, but I'd suggest Heathers instead because it features another awesome, wise-beyond-her-years female lead.

My original art for this film is for sale.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

MirrorMask (2005) at 366 Weird Movies

Hey dudes, so I have a new review up at 366 Weird Movies this week focusing on the coming-of-age fantasy MirrorMask, from Sandman collaborators Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. It's packed with gorgeous, inventive visuals and great performances, but is somewhat bogged down by a cliche-ridden script and a smooth jazz score that doesn't fit the action at all. Still worth a watch, though, especially for any Gaiman/Sandman/fantasy fans. Go read my full review!

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

San qiang pai an jing qi (A Woman, A Gun, and A Noodle Shop) (2009)

So maybe you heard about that time the House of Flying Daggers guy did a Chinese-language remake of the Coens' first feature, Blood Simple? Hmm? Well whether you have or not, I'm here to give you a full report on the matter- the low-down, the skinny, if you will. In A Woman, A Gun, and A Noodle Shop, Yimou Zhang brings the gruesome, adulterous, murderous action of the Texas-set original into an isolated noodle shop and the surrounding desert in nineteenth century China. The aging shop owner Wang (Dahong Ni) is publicly respected for his wealth but privately abuses his wife (Ni Yan) for failing to bear him children.

He suspects her of cheating on him and hires a local police detective (Sun Honglei) to spy on her, and indeed she has been conducting affair with the well-meaning but dopey shop assistant Li (Xiao Shen-Yang). When Wang's wife (who is never named) purchases a gun from a Persian trader, a series of misunderstandings and gruesome deaths follow. But there's also a lighthearted edge featuring two goofy cooks (Ye Chang and Mao Mao) trying to break into the boss's safe for their wages.

I haven't seen Blood Simple in many a year, and while I remember totally digging it, I don't actually recall most of the film itself. I think that's an advantage to seeing Noodle Shop, as I was able to view it with a fairly non-comparative eye. One thing I will say: it brings more comedy to the proceedings. It is still in essence a dark, tense thriller, but it works in this comedic-relief subplot that works most of the time because it ties in well with the main narrative. Sometimes the tone is in question, resulting in so-so black comedy moments that could have been either amped up for humor or toned down to maintain the dramatic atmosphere.

I'm unfamiliar with Zhang's body of work so I'm not sure how he usually operates, but wow! The visuals on display here are phenomenal. The gorgeous striped desert vistas, tinted sky, and colorful costumes combine for a veritable feast for the eyes in saturated tones and detail-oriented shots. The pacing is excellent, resulting in a number of tense, quiet moments that work well with little to no dialogue. The performances are great as well: Honglei Sun as the calculating, opportunistic detective and Ni Yan as Wang's strong-willed, resilient wife are especially standouts.

Zhang has really transformed the Coens' material to make it his own, adding his own rich visual approach and sense of humor (though at times the latter is misplaced). It's a cool movie. Don't mistake it for a comedy though, as some misguided imdb reviewers apparently have.

4/5

PS Question for those who know more about Chinese culture than I do: The comedic character of Zhao is a clueless chubby guy made-up with huge buck teeth and a floppy bun, resembling a racist cartoon stereotype that can be seen in many earlier American films (Breakfast at Tiffany's, for example). It made me a little uncomfortable, actually, though I can only assume that wasn't anyone's intention. Is this kind of character some sort of archetype in Chinese media?

Pair This Movie With: Well, Blood Simple seems an obvious choice. I'll also put forth The Man Who Wasn't There, another Coen brothers movie about adultery and a vengeful husband, but with a more subdued, neo-noir atmosphere.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Movie Sketch Project #9

So I've had a pretty stressful week resulting from a sudden intense workload and inability to time-manage. Thus, there's no new artwork this week, because I just haven't had the time or energy. Don't fret, though, as I have some cool ideas for future works and I'll do my best to organize myself next week. In the mean time, you can check out earlier entries in this series, peruse items available for sale and/or click ahead to see a sexy drawing I did some years ago. It's inspired by my trip to NY Comic-Con in 2009, after which I was really in the mood to draw but could only produce comic book pin-ups.

Emma Frost, shown here as the White Queen, has always been one of my favorite characters.



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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

35 Rhums (35 Shots of Rum) (2008)

Having never seen a film by noted French director Claire Denis, her acclaimed latest feature 35 Shots of Rum seemed a good place to start. Set in Paris, the loose story revolves around taciturn subway worker Lionel (Alex Descas) and his daughter Joséphine (Mati Diop), a college student. They've lived together in the same apartment all their lives, and have formed close ties with the friendly taxi driver Gabrielle down the hall (Nicole Dogué) and Noé, the young traveler upstairs (Grégoire Colin), but their own relationship is the strongest and most important to both of them. Their daily lives are examined closely- both how they interact with one another and with friends and colleagues. The sudden discussion of Joséphine moving out on her own and the possibility of Noé moving away for good cause some friction for the father/daughter pair.

This is a simple, quiet, peaceful film at its core. With many close, intimate shots of the central characters and natural, undramatic conversations, Denis offers a realistic and intensely personal view of a certain urban French family. The story isn't much, but generally it doesn't need to be, as the powerful performances and thoughtful cinematography easily ensnare the viewer. Mati Diop is wonderful as Joséphine, conveying a very real and nuanced character in an impressive first screen performance. Alex Descas is also memorable as Lionel. He doesn't say much, but is able to communicate quite effectively through look and action. All of the actors work well with a script that's limited in expository or revelatory dialogue, instead relying on subtleties and assumptions to establish character and relationships.

It's also nice to see a drama with a predominantly black cast that doesn't get caught up in racial discourse- their ethnicity is rarely brought up, but it's still maintained as culturally significant. Plus Joséphine's mixed background is touched upon in a cool way near the end. But I assume race relations are a bit different in France than in America, because of, you know... history?

While I really enjoyed 35 Shots of Rum as I was watching it, by the time the ending rolled around I felt slightly unfulfilled. I realized the story and pacing are just a little too loose, too unfocused. There are a few subplots that are set up and then forgotten, or insufficiently elaborated upon, and it felt like the script had lost itself somewhere along the line. It's a really beautiful film, in both visuals and theme, but it left me a little unsatisfied. After reading more about Denis and her style and subject matter I'm definitely interested in seeing some of her other works, though, especially her debut Chocolat. Any recommendations?

4/5

PS I'm trying a new thing in which I recommend movies to go with the ones I review, or to watch instead for similar themes done differently/better. Just fyi, that's what's happening.

Pair This Movie With: Lost in Translation for another closely-observed, nuanced performance piece set in another country.
Watch Instead: Paper Moon to see a more fun exploration of a (presumably) father/daughter relationship.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

In honor of the 30 Days of Crazy blogathon over at Blog Cabins, I took in a viewing of the well-made but overlong drama The Talented Mr. Ripley. You should go over and read about it there! It's probably the best thing you'll do today. (That's hopefully not true.)

PS Hopefully you will like it, though.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

I'm Still Here (2010)

Let me just say, even without Casey Affleck's admission, it was pretty obvious to me that this wasn't real. I'm Still Here claims to document the trials of Oscar-nominated actor Joaquin Phoenix, who supposedly quit acting to pursue a rap career. Affleck (Phoenix's brother-in-law) and crew follow the now crazily bearded, increasingly chubby "JP" around as he says whatever is on his mind at any given moment, does a lot of drugs, and treats a lot of people like shit.

He says he wants to escape the unreality of movie acting and its baggage, believing his music to be a more powerful and truthful mode of expression, yet he continues to act like a major diva and have tantrums when things don't go his way. I guess it's all a commentary on how celebrities can be spoiled dicks? Maybe? The main story concerns his attempts to record his album with the elusive P. Diddy, but that's not really relevant.

The strength of I'm Still Here lies in its weird, offhand conversations that expose the JP character as a completely narcissistic idiot. He's constantly belittling his friends and entourage, spouting impromptu rap verses and nonsensical life observations. It's all so ridiculous and over the top that it ends up being pretty hilarious at times. Unfortunately, once you realize that it's fake, it just seems pointless. While the film offers some satirical commentary on the nature of celebrity and ego, it doesn't go far enough to actually be effective. Half of the film is JP jerking around with his friends or performing mediocre hip hop, and while that's funny at first, it loses its appeal after a while.

Much of the movie seems to be mocking documentary-making cliches, from the "shooting in a car" shots to an extended shot of the main figure walking around silently with sentimental music playing. I'm not actually sure how much of it was intentional, since I'm not ready to believe these guys have that much gift for subtlety. Anyway, I'm Still Here is really funny at times, really weird at others, and seemingly without much point overall. It's a somewhat-entertaining fake portrait of an actor I never cared much about in the first place. Because yeah, I still haven't seen Walk the Line. Oh well.

3/5

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Top Five: Teen Comedies

Summer's definitely over so I'm moving on from my previous top 5 for a more spur of the moment list. I've been reading a lot about Easy A today and I'm looking forward to seeing it because a) Emma Stone is great and b) it's been a while since I've seen a good, female-centric teen comedy (which I hope it will be). So here are a few of my favorites of the teen comedy genre, which I generally limited to movies that focus on high schoolers and spend a lot of screen time in school itself. I think it's weird when some movies or television shows seem to forget that lots of teenagers go to school pretty often and have homework and stuff.

Anyway. Some teen comedies I enjoy, in order of release. Check it out up ahead, enjoy, etc.

A note about Drop Dead Gorgeous: Definitely one of my favorite movies, but it's so much about the beauty pageant that I usually forget it's about high school students, so I left it out.

Better Off Dead (1985)
Well, it should be no surprise to anyone who pays attention that I am a huge fan of this movie. It's just so good! Like, on paper, you'd think a young John Cusack as a suicidal teen in a surrealistic suburban universe wouldn't be the funniest movie ever, but it basically is! Plus there's an adorable French lady, a musical number from Elizabeth Daily (who later went on to become a cartoon voice actor, most notably Tommy in Rugrats), a claymation sequence, and lots of skiing! It's filled with loads of small details that make it better and better upon multiple viewings, and its undeniable weirdness is incredibly endearing.

Heathers (1989)
Ah yes, the ladycentric teen comedy that launched a thousand slang terms that never quite caught on like they should have. "What's your damage?!" "How very" "Why are you pulling my dick?" Classic, classic. A devilishly dark comedy that skewers high school popularity, teen angst, teen romance, wealthy society, and school administration, Heathers makes me laugh while simultaneously making me squirm (in a good way). I think it's also the movie that made me realize I had a crush on Winona Ryder (it was this or Beetlejuice), and that Shannon Doherty must be a bitch in real life, too. (SIDE NOTE: Somehow, some way I got it into my head that this movie was released in 1988, hence its inclusion on my 1988 Top 5. Don't know how that happened.)

Clueless (1995)
This is one of my most-viewed movies. I never tire of catching up with Cher, Dion, Tai, and the gang as they stumble through a glossy Beverly Hills high school with make-overs, tons of clothes, and misguided attempts at matchmaking. It's adorable and funny, and an imaginative modern-day adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma. I love the out-there fashions, impossible dialogue, and truly sweet center. Also it's the only movie on this list that was written and directed by a lady! Yay Amy Heckerling!

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
Another adaptation of classic literature and another 90's entry- they really knew how to make teen comedies I'd enjoy back then, huh? (I do really love that era, it's true.) The ever-charming Heath Ledger and wonderfully sarcastic Julia Stiles lead an impressive cast in a kickass version of The Taming of the Shrew. The inclusion of riot-grrrl references and Joseph Gordon-Levitt AND Alex Mack makes this a pretty easy sell for me. It's quotable, features awesome music and a great performance from Save Ferris, and divides its time well between multiple plotlines. And there are multiple belly shirts! Gee whiz!

Saved! (2004)
Another of my favorite movies in general, not just teen comedies, and another of my most-viewed. The likability of this cast is through the roof, and the tricky theme of overzealous Christian bigotry is explored with intelligence and wit- and no preachy-ness, drawn from writer/director Brian Dannelly's own experiences at a Christian high school. The script is incredibly funny, but also really touching, and taps into so many actually relevant issues facing teenagers- not just those going through religious education, though it's even more apt there. Normally I'm not crazy about pregnancy-focused movies (I'm not exactly a baby person), but this one just gets everything right with its focus on characters, relationships, and belief systems. It even got a musical adaptation that was pretty decent.

Honorable Mentions
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Pretty in Pink (1986)
Bring It On (2000)
Can't Hardly Wait (1998)
Superbad (2007)

What about you guys? I know there are tons that I've missed or haven't seen! Let me know in the comments!

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

OSS 117: Le Caire, nid d'espions (OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies) (2006)

Some of you may recall a few months ago I reviewed the sequel to this highly-successful (in France) spy spoof, well now you can learn all about the first, OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (aka one of the funniest movies ever). Set in 1955 and drawing from James Bond-ish spy films of the 50's and 60's, the film casts Jean Dujardin as Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath (alias OSS 117), a self-obsessed, ignorant French secret agent sent to Egypt to "make peace" and to find his former partner Jack (Philippe Lefebvre), who's gone missing while investigating stolen weapons.

Presuming Jack dead, Hubert must track down his killers and discover what group is arming themselves for revolt- be it Communist Russians, exiled Egyptian royalty, or Muslims tired of condescending Western influence. With his lovely local contact Larmina (Bérénice Bejo), he navigates dangerous territory with a cocky smile, some well-placed punches, ill-conceived notions of Muslim customs, and absolutely no idea what he's doing.

Incorporating impressively observed details along with a twisty-turny plot, Cairo, Nest of Spies is a very stylish, engaging film. It is also one of the silliest, exuberantly irreverent comedies I've ever seen, and a remarkably re-watchable one at that. The script is riddled with nonsensical, roundabout conversations and completely ridiculous levels of ignorance, expertly parodying the racism and sexism prevalent in the period (and often today, of course). The lead character is so ill-informed and yet so patronizing, many of his better-educated comrades are left with confused, agape faces, unable to even respond. Even those who do try to correct him are generally unable to crack his powerful egotistical shell. And of course, he gets the job done in the end, somehow, so he just goes on thinking he's in the right. Trust me, that's a funnier concept than it may sound.

Jean Dujardin is absolutely amazing as OSS 117, completely dominating the film with his gutsy laugh, semicaricatural facial expressions, flashy smile, and spot-on comedic timing. He's perfectly over the top and a true joy to watch. He's supported by some excellent cast members, of course- I love Bérénice Bejo's constant look of disbelief at her French partner's ignorance, and Richard Sammel's exaggerated turn as a vengeful Nazi- but really this movie (and series) is all about Dujardin. The lovely costumes, fun music, exciting story, periodic bursts of action, and excellent one-liners are all pretty great, too, though. It's just a hilarious movie.

5/5

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Some Cast It Hot, Ep. 6: That'll Be The Day

Ok, time for a new episode of Some Cast It Hot, the exciting podcast featuring awesome ladies and lots of fun movie talk! This time around, we focus on the classic John Ford western The Searchers, featuring John Wayne, a harsh, smart script, and gorgeous vistas. Plus we go through some movies we watched recently and some of our favorite western recommendations- both classic and modern. We also break down our feelings about Quentin Tarantino's acting, reasons I should really see The Abyss, and how great Empire Records is. It's a good time, I think! This episode features Allison from Nerd Vampire, Caitlin from 1416 and Counting, and yours truly. Sadly, Sasha from The Final Girl Project wasn't available to record because she's doing fun TIFF activities, but she should be in the next episode!

Check out the episode on Podomatic or the Itunes store.

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Movie Sketch Project #8

Hello, friends. So I know I've been a little out of the blogosphere lately, but aside from having actual part-time employment, I'm also working on a large-scale proofreading job for extra dollars and it's been eating into a lot of my internet and movie-watching time. Alas. But, I've somehow pulled together to bring you another Movie Sketch Project! I saw The Man Who Fell to Earth for the first time this week, and while I wasn't completely won over, I was certainly entranced by David Bowie's strange and sublime performance. That man just wins me over, no matter what he's up to. So I did a portrait of his character Thomas Jerome Newton in pen, trying to keep it simple, which for me is actually pretty difficult as I prefer sketchy complexity when I draw. I threw some orange ink on there to accentuate his awesome hair style. Check it out.

Also available on etsy for purchase ($12). UPDATE: And here's a print with a clever pictogram ($5)!



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Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)

Finally made it to 70% on the Sci-Fi movies list! Pretty exciting stuff. I've been interested in The Man Who Fell to Earth for quite a while due to its inclusion of David Bowie, a man I'll watch in anything, doing anything, but preferably wearing tight pants. Plus I'd recently watched the Bowie episode of Flight of the Conchords for the umpteenth time, and Jemaine's completely hilarious (and weirdly spot-on) impersonation had me in the mood for the real thing. Based on the novel of the same name, the film is a sweeping drama concerning the strange lifestyle of one Thomas Jerome Newton (Bowie), a mysterious British inventor who founds a hugely successful American company with the help of Oliver Farnsworth (Buck Henry), a lawyer who becomes its president.

Newton remains in the background avoiding public scrutiny, and eventually becomes an alcoholic and sets up a large waterfront household with his chatty girlfriend Mary-Lou (Candy Clark), a hotel attendant. Hoping to launch a space program, he hires chemistry professor Nathan Bryce (Rip Torn), who spent most of his teaching time having wild sex with students, anyway. Oh also, Newton is an alien from outerrrr spaaaaace whose family and planet are dying of dehydration. That doesn't come up for a while, though.

This is undoubtedly a very strange film, but in many ways I was surprised by how conventional its story is. I guess I expected a more experimental, ambiguous story and shooting style, though I'm not sure why. In reality The Man Who Fell to Earth is a thoughtfully paced drama crossing several decades, primarily focusing on a strange ageless man and his effects on several lives around him. Even though it isn't actually revealed until two thirds or so in, you know from the beginning that he's an alien just from the title alone, so his weird actions often have an explanation for the audience if not for the supporting characters. Admittedly I was sort of hoping for more out-there sci-fi stuff, but I find David Bowie so captivating that I was ok with the script's initial realism and drama. He goes through crazy mood swings and wears an awesome suit and has the coolest hairstyle (which I hope to mimic eventually) and wears sunglasses all the time, so I was happy.

I'm unfamiliar with director Nicolas Roeg's work (the only other film of his I've seen is The Witches), so I can't say how much of the stylistic choices are typical of him, but one thing that really stood out for me was the film's frequent shifts in style and tone. There are a lot of different cinematographic conventions utilized here, switching between rapid-fire cuts, drawn-out vistas set to folksy music, intense close-ups, crazy flashbulb sex scenes, and interesting extended takes. It gives the film a scattered, uncertain feeling that is actually quite appropriate to the story, but sometimes drags out certain scenes or offers a jarring aside. Did we really need to see Rip Torn have so much sex with co-eds while David Bowie hung around being upset? Did the long drive through pretty countryside need to be quite so long? The film could have been about 20 minutes shorter, I think, and been better for it pace-wise.

I remain unsure about this film overall. I didn't all-out love it, but I certainly liked it, and it's stayed with me for the past few days as I've continued to mull it over. The story is pretty good, the supporting cast is great (I especially enjoyed Candy Clark's turn as the talkative, frightened Mary-Lou), and David Bowie is phenomenal. If I didn't love watching him so much I definitely would have enjoyed the movie less. It's kind of cool how the science-fiction element doesn't come into play for a while, and just slowly edges itself in until the whole film becomes incredibly weird and inexplicable. Plus, it sent me on a fun Bowie music kick for a while, which is always a good time (my ring tone has been "Oh! You Pretty Things" for months and I continue to be excited when I get a call).

4/5

PS I feel a little sheepish, but I actually didn't recognize Rip Torn until the end when he's in old-person make-up! Oops.

PPS I forgot to mention: David Bowie gets naked a bunch of times in this movie. I've totally seen his junk. Totally. Rip Torn's, too, but that's not as important.

Further Reading:
Four of Them thoughts
Not Just Movies review

My original art for this film is for sale as a pictogram print and as a print of my drawing.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Quel maledetto treno blindato (The Inglorious Bastards) (1978)

So just because Quentin Tarantino took the name of this movie for his uneven 2009 effort (yeah, yeah I know everyone else loved it, let's just agree to disagree, ok? I thought it was good, not great), doesn't mean he actually remade it. He took a sort of basic idea and then added a number of subplots, characters, and long conversations to make it his own. The first Inglorious Bastards is actually totally and insanely awesome in its own right. It's also better at spelling.

The film centers on a group of court-martialed American soldiers in WWII France, who escape during transport between prisons. Among them are thieving Nick (Michael Pergolani), the slick, talkative Tony (Peter Hooten), and the completely badass Canfield (Fred Williamson). Led by lieutenant and pilot Robert Yeager (Bo Svenson), the men put aside their many differences and work together to make it through France into neutral Switzerland. Along the way they kill a bunch of Nazis, see some naked ladies, and undertake a dangerous mission concerning a deadly weapon.

Damn, this movie is one good time, you know what I mean? There are a lot of action movies that waste too much time on a stupid story, or don't develop interesting characters for viewers to root for (or against), or don't remember to have fun when appropriate. The Inglorious Bastards knows what it's doing. The filmmakers take their presumably modest budget and dedicate it to memorable action scenes and some impressive sets. The script is fast-paced and filled with good amounts of chases, schemes, funny dialogue, and surprisingly decent German conversations. I liked that while the Nazis are the obvious villains, the American military isn't exactly a pillar of honor, and these anti-heroes are working outside normal channels of right and wrong. There's even an interesting subplot involving a pacifist German defector who endeavors to help them out.

I really loved the characters, who are all certainly flawed but generally likable. Bo Svenson has that All-American swagger and confidence that fits well with his romantic lieutenant, and Fred Williamson just rocks the sideburns/cigar look to the core, his own charisma shining through like a beacon of kickassery. His outward appearance might throw a wrench into their plans to masquerade as Nazis, but I'm pretty sure he prefers it that way. Peter Hooten is great as the overconfident goofball Tony, looking like the child of Paul Newman and Judge Reinhold (which, trust me, is a combination that really works). And Michael Pergolani is great as the pickpocketer Nick, reminiscent of Data for his ability to always have the proper item for a pressing job. The wimpy Berle (Jackie Basehart) is pretty boring, but whatever.

The Inglorious Bastards is just a good time, plain and simple. The weird, forced love story that gets about one minute of screen time is completely unnecessary, but it's so short it isn't a huge deal. Just made for an irrelevant ending shot. Everyone has a good time, killin' Nazis and what have you, and it's with a lot less chatter than Tarantino's re-imagining (plus half the dialogue heard here is dubbed into English in that Italian grindhouse way). A lot less women and Jewish characters, too, though.

4.5/5

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Monday, September 13, 2010

The Ten (2007)

If members of The State are involved in a project, there's a good chance it will be really silly, and an even better chance that I will totally dig it. Also, it will almost definitely involve Paul Rudd. The Ten reunites every member of 90's cult comedy troupe except for Michael Patrick Jann (due to a scheduling conflict), and adds in a plethora of recognizable actors like Winona Ryder, Jessica Alba, Liev Schreiber, Oliver Platt, Gretchen Mol, Rob Corddry, and Adam Brody. Rudd plays an unhappily married dude with huge prop tablets, dedicating himself to bringing us ten interconnected stories based on the ten commandments, while also dealing with his own problems. The stories involve a sexy trip to Mexico, a war over cat scan machines, a goofing doctor, a flower-pooping, drug-dealing rhinoceros, and a tribe of church-bashing naked dudes- among other elements.

While it doesn't quite achieve the comedic heights of Wet Hot American Summer, The Ten is still an excellent, weird, and original film whose supreme silliness makes me laugh every time. Like most anthologies, the short films can be hit and miss, but the ones that work really work, and the ones that don't quite work still have some laughs. For me the highlights are both of Ken Marino's stints as a lighthearted, murderous doctor who ends up in jail with Rob Corddry, the group of nude, Roberta-Flack-obsessed church-ditchers led by AD Miles, and the warring, coveting, mustachioed neighbors Liev Schreiber and Joe Lo Truglio (seriously the best one). I'm also a fan of how crazy Winona Ryder gets in this movie. I know she can do comedy, but I usually don't associate her with such zany projects.

Though inspired by the ten commandments, the film is neither religious nor anti-Christian. It just uses the rules as a starting point for some goofy story ideas, which relate quite loosely to the actual commandment. There's a musical number, awesome cameos (hello, Jon Hamm and Janeane Garofalo!), sex with the son of God, sex with a wooden dummy, and a terrific Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation. I would have liked more Michael Ian Black, Thomas Lennon, and Michael Showalter (they're just cameos), but you can't have it all I guess. It's just a funny movie, you guys. A funny movie.

4/5

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Kaette Kita Yopparai (Sinner in Paradise aka Three Resurrected Drunkards) (1968)

Why not try a little Japanese 60's surrealism/race relations commentary in your movie today? Such is the way of Nagisa Ôshima's strange comedy recently released as Three Resurrected Drunkards on Criterion. The film stars short-lived musical trio The Folk Crusaders- Kazuhiko Kato ("The Big One"), Osamu Kitayama ("The Small One"), and Norihiko Hashida ("The Smallest One")- as a group of whimsical Beatles-ish buddies whose lighthearted lifestyle is shaken up when they're mistaken for wanted Korean refugees avoiding military duty in the war.

The boys evade the police but are later found by the Koreans themselves, who intend to shoot them down in their soldier and student uniforms so they (the Korean runaways) will be thought dead themselves. With the help of an unhappily married lady, our heroes evade death for a while, and eventually just rewind to start from the beginning again knowing what they know now. Seriously, the movie just replays itself about halfway through, with altered results. We thought the disc was broken or something for a minute.

Three Resurrected Drunkards is in many ways a dated piece of very 60's New Wave silliness, with quirky protagonists, cheery music, nonsensical transitions, a choppy, dreamlike narrative, and shaggy hairstyles. It's enjoyable in a goofy sort of way, what with the mistaken identities, backward conversations, and incredibly awesome costumes. But at the same time, it's a serious commentary on racist protocol against Koreans in Japan at the time, and works in some unexpected dramatic moments that clash jarringly with the wacky narrative. These elements don't always work together though, often just confusing the viewer instead of conveying a message. But at other moments it is emotionally affecting.

Ôshima uses some interesting shooting styles and storytelling techniques to give us a strange, disjointed, and completely unpredictable plot. The three stars are pretty clearly non-actors, but very enjoyable and cute as the hapless students, with good chemistry together and an appreciation for the quirkiness of their characters. They even get a few musical moments in with their song about the Imjin River.

Three Resurrected Drunkards is reminiscent of various other films of this period, but its inclusion of derisive political commentary adds a new level of interest. It doesn't always work on both levels of comedy and drama, but generally I liked it. It's unapologetically weird but also surprisingly sad, in a good way.

4/5

Further Reading:
Toronto J-Film Pow-Wow review

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Movie Sketch Project #7

It's time again for the weekly Movie Sketch Project, in which I make a piece of art relating to a movie I reviewed this week. And it's an extra-special MSP today, with artwork from not one, but TWO movies! The crowd is surely going wild. Click click ahead to see what's going on, and don't forget to leave a comment letting me know what you think, and/or check out my etsy shop to see what's for sale!

I took in a viewing of The Room for the first time, and was of course captivated by the true awfulness of it all. I've always found the poster really strange, wondering what sort of PR team thought this grainy black and white photograph of a creepy-looking dude would sell movie tickets. Now that I've seen the film, it is not at all surprising, so I did a pencil drawing of the image. Unfortunately I had trouble merging the two scans (it was too big to all fit in the scanner), so I'm sorry for the weird disconnect between the upper and lower halves. I included a close-up so you can really appreciate that face. Here's its etsy listing.



Then I had so much fun at Machete that I decided to do a drawing of Michelle Rodriguez's character "Shé", who was totally badass but underused in the film. I did a pen-and-pencil drawing that I liked, and then I fiddled around with it in photoshop to make a more colorful, eye-catching poster print. Buy the drawing. Buy the poster print.




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Thursday, September 9, 2010

The American (2010)

Well, the poster got to me. It's just a really enticing bit of graphic design, you know? Based on the book by Martin Booth, The American stars George Clooney as an assassin/arms dealer hiding out in the Italian countryside for one last job. He hangs around with a quizzical priest, makes a gun out of car parts, has picnics, guns down some hitmen, and romances the good-hearted prostitute Clara (Violante Placido). He also studies butterflies and works out shirtless. It is a pretty simple movie.

I knew going in that this was a slow-burn thriller focusing more on character than story or action. I'm ok with that. But when I've just spent 105 minutes watching the lead go through several daily routines as well as new life-altering experiences, and I still don't really know him or particularly care about what happens to him (or anyone he meets), then there's something missing in this character study. I'm not against slow, thoughtful films if they're done well, but The American is just boring. There's not much plot, but there's also not much substance, despite obvious aspirations of depth. There are several ambiguous, slightly philosophical/religious conversations that awkwardly hint at overarching themes, and a few plot points brought up haphazardly and then never fleshed out.

The film is shot really beautifully, with much attention paid to his rustic surroundings and a lot of eye-catching camerawork. The visuals kept me more entertained than most of the actual action did. Clooney is so-so in his performance: he isn't given much to do except sit around looking serious, but he does it as well as he can. Without that ol' chatty Clooney charm I just wasn't as interested, to be honest. Italian actress Violante Placido is likable enough as his love interest, but she isn't given much development and it seems she's mostly there to show her boobs. I really enjoyed Thekla Reuten as the no-nonsense assassin Mathilde. Her screen time is short but her performance sticks out as the most captivating part of the film.

The American isn't a bad movie by any means- it's expertly shot, well-paced, and throws in some decent performances. But as a whole it's just bland, with an overly minimalist script and under-developed characters. Worth it for the visuals and for die-hard Clooney fans, I suppose. Really, just watch Jarmusch's The Limits of Control instead. Similar theme and atmosphere, but better film.

3/5

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Machete (2010)

Oh Robert Rodriguez, just as you're pissing me off with your continued failure to make Sin City 2 in favor of Spy Kids 4: Armageddon, you bring me back around to the Forgiving Rodriguez Fan Club with another high-octane, imaginative action thriller like Machete. You knew I couldn't quit you. Based on the badass Grindhouse fake trailer, the film stars the indomitable Danny Trejo as the title character, an ex-Federale who's forced to become a day laborer in Texas near the Mexican border after his family is killed.

He's hired by a mysterious rich white guy (Jeff Fahey) to assassinate a racist, anti-immigrant senator (Robert De Niro) running for re-election. The job's a set-up, and now he's wanted by the police for shooting the senator in the leg (which boosts the politician's popularity ratings) and is hunted down by the very people who hired him. With the help of a sympathetic immigrations officer (Jessica Alba), his priest brother (Cheech Marin), and a badass taco truck lady (Michelle Rodriguez), Machete will get his revenge!

I always appreciate a movie that just knows how to have fun, and Machete certainly falls into that category. It's got loads of outlandishly gory kills, intentionally cheesy dialogue, over the top performances, a slightly muddled plot, amped-up musical score, and various other b-movie tropes, all mixed together expertly for an adrenaline-fueled good time. The story aptly mixes in topical political commentary that's actually clever in how glaringly obvious it is. And it makes all the mindless action less mindless, or something.

This movie has so many awesome people in it that it's almost hard to deal with. I loved De Niro as the super-'Merican senator, and of course Trejo is indescribably intense as Machete himself. The man defies age. I generally find Alba uncharismatic, but she's pretty good here. Michelle Rodriguez is so totally badass and independent but her character is sadly underused. I haven't been a big fan of her until now, when I've seen her with an eyepatch and a hundred guns. Aside from the main cast, it's got Tom Savini as an assassin-for-hire, Steven Seagal as a tyrannical Mexican drug lord, Don Johnson as a trigger-happy anti-Mexican vigilante, and the Crazy Babysitter Twins from Planet Terror! And Lindsay Lohan is pretty ok, I promise. She's not in it that much and her character is just a drug addict/nude model who finds a nun's habit and a gun at the end. Not integral to the plot at all. And it looks like a body double in the topless shot. Also: Jeff Fahey. JEFF FAHEY!

The main issue with Machete is its influx of characters and subplots. There are a lot of really great actors here, but it's impossible to give them all adequate screen time. The film drags a bit in the third act before the big climax, with so-so pacing and some forced plot points. So it isn't Rodriguez's best, but then again his best is really hard to top. This is a movie that knows how to entertain, which is exactly what I wanted. The impressive cast and relevant political commentary lend some legitimacy to a movie that would have been crazy fun either way.

Further Reading:
Four of Them thoughts
Movie Mobsters review
Rotten Tomatoes Show video review

My original art for this film is for sale as a print and a drawing.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Soul Kitchen (2009)

If you can look past the funny name of this new-ish comedy, you'll find out it's from noted filmmaker Fatih Akin (you know, of Head-On and The Edge of Heaven!), features awesome actors Moritz Bleibtreu and Birol Ünel, and is totally German! These are all things I like, and you should like too. The plot of Soul Kitchen centers around Greek-German restaurant owner Zinos (Adam Bousdoukos, who also co-wrote the script), who finds himself at a crossroads when his girlfriend Nadine (Pheline Roggan) moves to Shanghai to further her journalism career, shortly after which his criminal brother Illias (Moritz Bleibtreu) gets partial parole and comes to him for a job.

At first Zinos is only concerned with his restaurant (unsurprisingly titled "Soul Kitchen"), hiring volatile but talented chef Shayn (Birol Ünel) to improve the menu, but soon decides to move to Shanghai to be with Nadine. He is held up by various setbacks, however, including a crippling back injury, a pushy ex-classmate interested in his property, his gambling-addicted brother, and no-nonsense tax collectors. He pushes through with a positive attitude, good friends, smooth tunes, and a whole lot of luck. Also, powerful aphrodisiacs.

While I certainly dug the fun script, silly jokes, excellent soundtrack, and thoughtful direction, Soul Kitchen benefits greatly from its fantastic cast. Stalwart German actor Bleibtreu (who is in like, every other German movie that makes it to the US) is great as the somewhat sleazy but ultimately sympathetic compulsive gambler, and Bousdoukos is extremely likable as the Jim Morrison lookalike Zinos, effectively communicating his awful back problems (I could relate, so I took special notice). I also really enjoyed Anna Bederke as waitress/love interest Lucia, who just radiated cool. Impressively, it's her first film role. The amazing Ünel, who I really must see in more films besides this and Head-On, is easily the best part, putting in a hardcore, slightly unhinged, but completely awesome performance as the perfectionist chef. He is sadly underused and I really wanted more of his character.

I've seen several reviews surprised by the light-hearted atmosphere of this film, and I think a lot of people forget that Akin is indeed adept at good-natured comedy- as evidenced by his adorable 2000 effort Im Juli. As much as I love his more serious work, it's nice to see him take a break with just a fun, laid back venture like Soul Kitchen. The script is funny and fairly intricate, with a number of characters and shifting relationships. Generally it's not a gut-busting kind of comedy, but just a goofy and enjoyable time with a few serious moments peppered in and a lot of dancing and eating. The pacing is off a bit and some of the jokes fall flat, but I walked away with a big smile on my face and a very hungry tummy, which I imagine is the desired effect of a food-based comedy.

4/5

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Some Cast It Hot, Ep. 5: Through the Roof 'n' Underground

Start your week off right with a shiny new episode of Some Cast it Hot! This time around we discuss the excellent black comedy Wristcutters: A Love Story, based on a short story by Israeli writer Etgar Keret. We also recommend some of our favorite movies based on short stories and discuss what we watched recently, all with jovial banter and informative facts! This episode features Allison from Nerdvampire, Caitlin from 1416 and Counting, Sasha from The Final Girl Project, and me!

Check it out on podomatic, the itunes store, or down below! And please let us know what you think, or if you have any recommendations for us! Leave a comment on any of our blogs or email us at somecastithot@gmail.com.



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Rock Slyde (2009)

I know it's a bit weird, but I really love Patrick Warburton and will seek out his live-action roles with dedication. This can be tough since he does voice work more often and really rarely stars in anything. Enter Rock Slyde! Film-Noir Private Detective Parody starring this guy! All right! Newcomer Chris Dowling writes and directs this tale concerning the actually-named hero Rock Slyde (Warburton), who decides with a name like that he can only be a porn star or a PI. After a few "arthouse"/gay musical porn films he moves into the latter career.

But, business is slow and he can barely keep his small office from being taken over by a local religious cult/scheme led by Bart (Andy Dick), who's commandeered the rest of his building. Luckily, seductive damsel in distress Sara (Rena Sofer) hires him for 24-hour surveillance at a hefty fee. But when the Bartologists increase their efforts to take control of Slyde's office space by brainwashing his beloved secretary Judy Bee (Elaine Hendrix), he's forced to reassess his priorities.

Oh dang, I giggled so hard during this movie (watched on my computer with headphones in) that my boyfriend kept giving me faces from across the room. The script alternates between unapologetically silly and keenly intelligent, while offering a satirical bent in its depiction of "Bartology", a money-hungry "religion" with members in high places. I loved the self-aware digs at private detective noir cliches, from the black and white opening to the constant narration. The story itself is pretty thin, but the jokes keep on coming and the pace is quick enough that it never matters.

Obviously this has special attention from me because I think Warburton is one of the funniest actors for whatever reason, but I'm pretty sure his performance would be hilarious to anyone with a sense of humor. He's great here as the jaded, sometimes childish Slyde, and even gets a chance to show off his very off-key singing pipes (with a song that will be caught in your head instantly, I promise) in an unexpected Pirates of Penzance reference. He is supported by an absolutely adorable, perky Elaine Hendrix, off-kilter Rena Sofer, and surprisingly low-key Andy Dick. Plus there are a number of great cameos from the likes of Jason Alexander, Eric Roberts, and Lea Thompson! Oddly enough though the main non-Patrick Warburton stand-out for me is Jamie Alexander, a fairly unknown actor who plays the Bartology receptionist. He does this extremely (and purposefully) exaggerated German accent that, combined with some choice facial expressions, made me chuckle quite a bit.

Rock Slyde is the kind of movie that is filled with so many great little jokes and visual gags- from an elementary school-style "Check yes or no" note to a Smart Car trying to park to a suspicious fascination with cookies- that it will definitely benefit from repeat viewing. It's a fresh take on the genre with some topical satire and a clever script. The fantastic performances from everyone involved (but especially Warburton, naturally) make it hard to turn down, and the fact that it's available on Netflix instant makes me itch to just sit down and see it again!

4.5/5

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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Get Low (2009)


With my homebody tendencies, distaste for young people, and distrust of many new technologies (I will NEVER own a kindle or nook), I can sort of be a curmudgeonly old person sometimes. Thus checking out Get Low, a film infused with old people and filmed in sepia tones so you know it's the past, made sense. Robert Duvall stars as notorious curmudgeonly hermit Felix Bush, who begins to anticipate his impending death when an old friend passes away and he's weakened by an illness.

He decides to hold a mass funeral party while he's still alive, seemingly so he can hear stories about himself. He hires opportunistic undertaker Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) and his well-meaning assistant Buddy (Lucas Black) to plan the whole shin-dig, and as they get to know him they realize he's more concerned with telling his own guilty story than hearing tall tales from his neighbors. No one knows exactly why he self-imposed his own isolation decades prior, except that it may have something to do with his former love interest, Mattie (Sissy Spacek).


Get Low was basically exactly what I thought it would be, and for the most part I mean that in a good way. It's simple and charmingly funny with a likable cast. The period trappings of 1930's small-town living are well-observed, from the boxy cars riding along dirt roads to the understated but detailed clothing. There are a few over-emphasized southern accents, but I think that was meant to make it seem more old-timey, along with the lovely earthy tones that permeate each shot. The script is fairly well-written, with some fun dialogue and deliberate pacing, but the whole "haunted past" thing is handled a little clumsily. It's built up too prominently and then the actual truth is underwhelming.

This is really a film you see for the performances. Duvall is perfectly grizzled, gruff, and gun-crazy as Bush, who "can be extremely articulate when he wants to be" but generally prefers mysterious terseness. His obvious guilty conscience, self-aware manner, and occasional shades of his presumed former self combine to make him a sympathetic character despite his rude demeanor. Sissy Spacek has a few great scenes as the poker-playing widow who still has feelings for him. I also dug the short appearance by Bill Cobbs as a world-weary preacher. But, naturally, the best part about this movie is Bill Murray, who expertly portrays the fast-talking, slightly sleazy, ever-bemused Quinn, a born salesman from the big city stuck in a struggling funeral parlour. He gets most of the good jokes, as well as a few good dramatic moments.

Get Low isn't anything particularly special. It didn't really leave an imprint on me or anything. The story is so-so and the balance between humor and drama doesn't always pan out. But, it's a really nice little film all the same.

3.5/5

Further Reading:
Dark of the Matinee review

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Awesomely Bad Drunken Double Feature: Gymkata (1985) and The Room (2003)


There was quite an influx of bad movie-induced guffaws this night, when we took in a viewing of both the 80's invented-martial arts flick Gymkata and followed it up with more beers and a look at now-infamous so-bad-it's-good audience favorite The Room. With my b-movies I generally gravitate toward action and sci-fi, preferably something zany from the 80's or 90's. I've been meaning to see The Room for ages but haven't been super excited about it because I knew it was more of a romantic drama and I just want ridiculous high kicks and stupid one-liners and extraneous explosions. So Gymkata was a good lead-in, but The Room didn't disappoint.


Starring actual Olympic gymnast Kurt Thomas as fake Olympic-training gymnast Jonathan Cabot, the aptly named Gymkata is a relic of both Cold War space programming and wacky 80's action. Cabot is hired as a secret agent, trained in martial arts so he can combine it with his gymnastic ability to create GYMKATA (the perfect fusion of gymnastics and karate), and sent into the fake country of Parmistan, whose position makes it a perfect set-up for a special spy satellite. But for some reason, every person who enters the country must take part in THE GAME, a rigorous obstacle course that involves rope-climbing, rafting, running, a "Village of the Damned", farm implements, referees dressed like ninjas, and a lot of death by archery. The survivor is granted any one request. Hopefully Jonathan will find a lot of well-placed gymnastic equipment so he can employ his technique! (Spoiler alert: He will.)

Oh jeez. Just watch the trailer, it will give you an idea of what is so awesome about this movie. There are tons of crazy action scenes, gruesome deaths, ridiculous dialogue, completely nonsensical plot points, and a host of funny hats. The king of Parmistan looks just like Mark Twain, and his "unplaceably ethnic" daughter wears a slinky leather catsuit under her princess robes. Thomas performs acts of implausibly convenient gymnastic attacks while dressed in a geeky, very red sweater. The script seems to drift in and out of consciousness.

I have absolutely no idea what the actual plot was, or who most of the characters were, or why anything was happening at any given time. Something about star wars and anti-monarchy rebellion, and also the lady doesn't speak for a long time but is content to just make out with Jonathan Cabot while giving him a massage? Whatever. It's got uncomfortably close crotch-shots, unexpected shirtlessness, track suits, and more cartwheel-based take-downs than I ever thought I'd see. It's an extremely silly, gimmicky movie that tries to get away with stereotyping by making up a country, but it all works somehow to make for a highly entertaining time.

"When gymnastics and karate are fused, the combustion becomes an explosion, and a new kind of martial-arts superhero is born: GYMKATA."

As a movie: 1.5/5
As entertainment: 4.5/5

Further Reading:
BadMovies.org review
Lost Highway review (beware of typos)


All right, time for the one you probably care about more since now it's become A Thing (even though, seriously, go see Gymkata): The Room. Possibly delusional auteur Tommy Wiseau crafts a truly bad romantic drama, casting himself as the successful, super nice guy Johnny, whose bored fiancée Lisa (Juliette Danielle) is considering calling off the wedding. Her mother (Carolyn Minnott) advises her to stay with him because he can support her (apparently she's incapable of caring for herself, despite being a mostly-functioning adult), and so she goes off and seduces his best friend Mark (Greg Sestero). Also there's Johnny's "adopted" teen brother/son/thing Denny (Philip Haldiman), who doesn't seem to do much for the plot except owe money to a drug lord. Or something. There's not much else to it, except a lot of gratuitous sex scenes, repetitive dialogue, irrelevant and unexplained subplots, and stock footage of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I get the cult obsession with this, I really do. It's just fascinatingly horrible, from Wiseau's stilted dubbed dialogue to the close shooting style to the weird soul soundtrack to the awkward performances. I'm amazed the film was even completed, and I love that 7 years later it's being screened in theaters as a special event. It's funny and memorable, mostly for Wiseau's strange, creepy, and ultimately endearing onscreen persona. He's the best part of the movie, easily. But while I was certainly giggling my way through many scenes, I wasn't wholly taken in by the hilarity mainly because of the Lisa character. She's this completely awful, basically sociopathic woman who makes really bad decisions all the time. The thing is, it's not really funny, just frustrating. And she's a major part of the movie so it was definitely a detriment for me.

Otherwise: good times! Bad writing, bad direction, bad acting, insanely overdramatic ending, and a dog. It's all there.

As a movie: 1/5
As entertainment: 4/5

Further Reading:
Invasion of the B-Movies review
Not Just Movies review

Purchase my original art for The Room!

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