Thursday, March 31, 2011

Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)

So John Vanderslice, everyone's best friend, recommended this movie to me years ago when he played at my school. It's taken me a while to finally get around to it, mainly because I'm not really into 70's road movies that aren't Smokey and the Bandit (read: I didn't like Easy Rider). In Two-Lane Blacktop, two long-haired twentysomethings (James Taylor and Dennis Wilson) who can only talk about cars travel around middle America racing their re-tooled Chevy against random assholes. They pick up a young hippie hitchhiker (Laurie Bird), causing some minor friction between the friends. They eventually embark on a cross-country race against a mysterious and cocky driver (Warren Oates). But actually, it's all a big metaphor?

I don't have much to say about this one. It's just not my kind of movie, really. I've always found those sparse, dialogue-and-narrative-light films hit and miss, and the fact that I don't care a lick about cars, but that's what most of the conversations and events here feature, turned me off pretty quickly. There isn't much story or character development, with more attention paid to shots of the gang driving around and sitting quietly in the roaring car, or sitting quietly at a roadside diner, or sitting quietly at a gas station. I assume it's meant to be subtle and introspective, but to me it felt bare. When Warren Oates' strange but likable character enters the picture it becomes more interesting- largely aided by sheer charisma- but the meandering plot and weird shifts in The Girl's (nobody gets a name) personality had me confused.

I know this isn't a bad movie or anything. I liked several parts of it- the adorable Bird, intriguing Oates, and lovely cinematography. I found the social commentary aspects of it interesting as well; a few small scenes focused on how residents of these small, rural towns reacted to their youth and "hippie" looks. As a whole, though, it falls flat. I don't want to say it's because it's too masculine, but I guess that is part of it- Taylor and Wilson's relationship of reserved car-based conversations and matching hair styles didn't exactly resonate with me. And I'm not one for the whole "long-road-as-metaphor-for-life" thing either. I think I am wholly ambivalent towards Two-Lane Blacktop. Yeah, that's it.


Pair This Movie With: Well, the aforementioned Easy Rider is the obvious choice, but I don't even like that movie. Maybe White Lightning since it also has some small-town/small-minds commentary?


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sucker Punch (2011) at 366 Weird Movies

Yeah, so I saw this movie at a matinee the other day with a decent-sized crowd of middle-aged white dudes. It was a little weird. Anyway, I thought it was pretty disappointing, but had some interesting visuals and exciting fight scenes. Mostly it was just stupid though. And sexist. And slow-motiony. And derivative/reminiscent of better movies like Tank Girl and Brazil and Mirrormask, which are some of the many films you can watch instead of this. But it's ok, because I still heart Jena Malone.

For a much more thought-out and well-written review, check out my post at 366 Weird Movies!

PS You will hopefully soon be able to hear me speak at length about it! Out loud!


Monday, March 28, 2011

Fantastic Voyage (1966)

For a while I thought the Rugrats episode was all I needed of the well-worn Fantastic Voyage plot, but with its inclusion in the sci-fi list and this awesome poster, I finally caught it on netflix instant. The often-adapted/referenced tale follows a group of men and a lady who agree to shrink themselves so they can travel through a dying man's bloodstream and destroy an unreachable bloodclot with a laser gun. Grant (Stephen Boyd) is a manly soldier or something (I never actually caught on to his job), Capt Bill Owens (William Redfield) pilots the sub, Dr Michaels (Donald Pleasance) is an atheist circulatory-system expert, Dr Duval (Arthur Kennedy) is a melodramatic monologuer and possibly a Communist, and Cora (Raquel Welch) is his assistant and a lady. They travel around the body in a little submarine and experience the wonders- and TERRORS- of the human body.

Even though the story and plot structure were familiar to me, I still enjoyed this movie more than I thought I would. The script picks up almost immediately, launching its characters into a tiny adventure within 10 minutes and leaving room for development and relationship exploration as they hang out in close quarters. The main crew is full of cliches- the overly macho hero, the intelligent but demure lady, the suspiciously practical scientist who's probably evil, etc, but they're all enjoyable enough to watch, with a range of dangerous scrapes popping up in the middle of most conversations. The sets are really cool, seemingly a mix of microscopic photography and huge psychedelic props, accentuated with bright colors and pretty good special effects.

But really, the best part about this movie are the two military commanders who watch the proceedings from the control room. They're both inexplicably brilliant at medical science and mathematical calculations, plus they're totally dating each other. They have all these little cute side-conversations that don't particularly pertain to anything, evoking a probable secret life together. It is adorable. I love them.

Anyway, it's better than I thought it would be, but nothing special. The visuals are cool, the story moves along at a good pace, and there are a few impressively tense moments that I dug. It's dated, of course, and most of the characters are boring/predictable, but I still liked it.


PS This movie totally inspired a Dali painting. Awesome.

Pair This Movie With: Uhh any of the many tv episodes that reference it, starting with The Venture Bros.' "The Diving Bell vs The Butterglider". Also I think Silent Running would be a cool pairing, mainly for some visual similarities.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)

So while watching Robocop the other night I was struck by how great Peter Weller is, and how unforgivably long it's been since I've seen The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. I totally dig this movie, but writing a summary of it is nigh-impossible... I will give it a shot. So. Buckaroo (Weller) is a rock star/physicist/brain surgeon/adventurer/possible samurai who has his own comic book based on him and his gang/back-up band, the Hong Kong Cavaliers. When he passes through another dimension in his trailblazing new invention, Buckaroo accidentally sets off a chain of weirder and weirder events.

Led by the crazed John Whorfin (John Lithgow), aliens from a parallel world who escaped to our Earth decades ago are now trying to steal his technology so they can travel back. A friendly Rastafarian alien pops in to warn the Cavaliers and help them stop a potential inter-dimensional war. Also a down-on-her-luck lady named Penny Priddy (Ellen Barkin), who looks exactly like Buckaroo's dead wife and is probably her long-lost twin, joins up with them for no particular reason.

Oh jeez, this movie be crazy. As much as I love it, it infuriated me when I first saw it. All of the events of this film are treated as if this is the middle of a story, with frequent references to other characters and past happenings that are never elaborated upon or explained, plus a fake-out "Look for the sequel!" title card. I'm left with constant questions about just about everything (ostensibly some of this is explained in some of the dvd's special features that I have yet to watch, also there are some comic books produced after the film but I'm not sure how canon they are; the point here is the movie by itself though): How did the gang get together? Why do the good aliens all have Jamaican accents but the bad ones don't? Why do they spend all their time playing chess on really high stools? Where did Buckaroo study? Will he remain ionized for the rest of his life? What happened to his wife? Where did Penny come from? How the hell did Buckaroo become this world-renowned scientist/rocker/comic book star? What the hell is happening at any given point in time? However, by now I actually find all that part of the film's charm. It is strange and inventive and doesn't feel the need to constantly exposit things for its audience, who are free to sit back and enjoy the ride even if they don't completely understand it.

There's never a dull moment with Buckaroo Banzai and his crew, from mountain-hopping field tests to smoky rock shows to electrifying battles, they've always got one thing or another going down. It's got space ships and big game hunting and a motorcycle chase, plus a sneaky rescue plan, anti-military satire, and torture-by-electricity (I love that!). The dialogue is often weirdly antiquated, giving it this partial pulp-novel feel, and the script bounces around at a snappy pace from Buckaroo's scientific experiments and subsequent alien encounters to Whorfin's evil plot to the government's puzzled reaction and trigger-happy Cold War attitude.

It has to be said, the cast is remarkable. Aside from the ever-cool Peter Weller, Ellen Barkin's legs, and John Lithgow's pseudo-Slavic accent, there's a quick-thinking Jeff Goldblum who inexplicably dresses like a cowboy and calls himself "New Jersey", a very attractive, bleached-blonde Lewis Smith as the well-dressed, appropriately-named Perfect Tommy, an angry Christopher Lloyd unfortunately known as John Big-Boote (that's "boo-TAY"), and the sultry-voiced Clancy Brown. Plus appearances from Vincent Schiavelli, Dan Hedaya, and Ronald Lacey. I mean, jeez. There are so many people in this movie, and somehow they are all awesome! From the cool over-sized suits to the memorable naming system, all of these guys are just instantly great. That's probably why the ending credits sequence is one of the best parts of the movie.

It's fun, it's odd, it's hilarious because it's odd, and it's completely endearing even if I have no idea why. Oh, and the soundtrack is kickin'.


Pair This Movie With: In its approach to storytelling and overall weirdness I see a strong connection to The American Astronaut. I also think Repo Man would make for a killer double feature.

My original poster design for this film is available for purchase!


Friday, March 25, 2011

Movie Sketch Project #32

Happy Friday everyone! I have the day off today and I'm pretty excited about it. Hopefully it won't fucking snow. Either way though, I've got a new entry in the Movie Sketch Project!

So last week I saw a double feature of Robocop and The Terminator at the Somerville Theatre. It was great. I thought of some related art ideas but nothing really solidified itself, except I kept coming back to one of my favorite things about Robocop: the ED-209. You know, this little guy? It's a totally killer robot featured in the best scene in the film, yet also I find it oddly adorable. The part where it can't walk down stairs? Too cute! Anyway, I initially was just going to do a little doodle of ED while I brainstormed better ideas, but eventually it morphed into this mixed-media collagey thing with torn newspaper and splattered ink and a detailed black-and-white drawing. I'm happy with it mainly because I haven't done anything like this in a while, and it's always nice to mix things up. What do you think? I couldn't get the best photo of it, unfortunately.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Black Belt Jones (1974)

This is probably the best spontaneous netflix instant pick we've had so far. Bruce Lee pupil Jim Kelly stars as the titular Black Belt Jones (or "Belt" for short), a badass motherfucker with mad martial arts skills and no discernible means of employment besides watching women on trampolines. When Pop Byrd (Scatman Crothers), an aging gambler who runs a karate center for black youth of the area, is killed because the mafia wants his building, Belt steps in to bring the bad guys to justice. Pop's estranged daughter Sydney (Gloria Hendry), who packs some ass-kicking skills of her own, arrives to claim ownership of the dojo, and the two team up to take down both the mafia boss and his drug-dealing lackey Pinky (a ferociously bearded Malik Carter). There are a lot of high kicks, high-concept schemes, Italian stereotypes, and gunfights, all set to a killer soundtrack.

Admittedly I'm still woefully undereducated in blaxploitation, but this is definitely the best one I've seen so far. It's funny, fast-paced, straightforward, and features no abuse towards women. In fact, Sydney is a totally awesome independent lady with an adorable dimpled chin and a take-no-shit attitude. Sure, she and Belt eventually get it on, but only because she says so. Plus Belt is amazing- Jim Kelly is so tall and well-dressed and good at fighting, plus he makes goofy Three Stooges sounds when he kicks. He doesn't really get any sex scenes though. It's all sadly chaste.

I was a little disappointed that Sydney didn't get to fight more (she's more on the sidelines in the final battle, sweeping up the felled henchmen), but considering his name is the title, I won't begrudge Black Belt Jones for getting in most of the good battles. There's a cool fight scene with lights flashing on and off, a gunfight car chase, plus a soap-sud-filled climax. And a portable trampoline! I didn't even know those existed!

This movie is just entertaining and fun, plain and simple. It's got something for everybody! Just watch the credits sequence below (featuring a song I've been dancing around to for a week), and tell me this isn't obviously the best movie ever. I DARE YOU.


Pair This Movie With: Ummm anything awesome? Cleopatra Jones would be another great martial arts/blaxploitation pairing with a tall person. Or of course, there's always the other Robert Clouse movie I've seen. GYMKATA!


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

No Such Thing (2001)

You guys, I have now seen every Hal Hartley feature available in the US! Plus most of his shorts! Cool! His strange fable No Such Thing draws together two unlikely pals: Beatrice (Sarah Polley), a mild-mannered aspiring journalist, and a figure known as The Monster (Robert John Burke), a real-life mythological figure living in solitude in Iceland. After her cameraman fiance and his crew go missing in Iceland, Beatrice travels there herself, determined to find out what happened to him.

Her plane crashes in the ocean and she successfully undergoes experimental surgery to avoid being paralyzed, befriending her doctor Anna (Julie Christie). The two travel throughout rural Iceland continuing to look for Beatrice's fiance, eventually leading her to the cruel and world-weary Monster who murdered him. She somehow befriends him and does her best to help him in his quest to die- his immortality has been his curse for millennia, and there's only one man who can kill him. Beatrice's opportunistic boss (Helen Mirren) turns the whole affair into a massive media blitz.

It's hard to summarize this movie, since much of it is more episodic than over-arching in narrative. In many ways it is a typical Hal Hartley movie: over-choreographed blocking, stilted dialogue, airy violin-heavy music, everyone's pretty pale- the usual. It's got appearances from Hartley regulars Robert John Burke, James Urbaniak, Bill Sage, and Damian Young. The pacing is slow but the action is engaging, the ending is emotional but ambiguous, the plot doesn't follow any normal expectations of structure or predictability... Isn't Hal Hartley great?

What sets this apart from many of his other features is its foundation in satirical fantasy as well as its more "exotic" locations. There's less gritty suburbia or urban Europe on display here and more rocky Icelandic terrain populated by weathered ruffians who just want their local murderous monster to stop with all the murdering. The fantasy element is dealt with matter-of-factly, with the Monster representative- and indeed, a direct product- of human failings. His violent nature is a response to the centuries of human violence he's been forced to witness, and while at times he is quite funny in his observations and surliness, ultimately it becomes clear that assisted suicide is the kindest thing Beatrice can do for him. The metaphorical nature of his character is sometimes handled clumsily though, and made too obvious.

The story is a bit uneven, taking too long to actually bring Beatrice and the Monster together and seemingly torn between focusing on the manipulation of the media and the whole monster thing. But with excellent performances- especially the doe-eyed Sarah Polley and absolutely badass, perfectly subtle Helen Mirren- and all those wonderful Hartley accoutrement I've come adore, this is another intriguing and affecting addition to his filmography.


Pair This Movie With: Whenever I watch a Hartley film it pretty much always puts me in the mood for more Hartley films. So go with any of his movies, I think, especially The Unbelievable Truth or Henry Fool with this one. It's also vaguely reminiscent of the Leos Carax short "Merde" in Tokyo! Or if you're in the mood for another tale of a person befriending a mythological beast, there's always How to Train Your Dragon for a change of pace.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Top Five: Movie Theme Songs

It seems silly to have that "Favorites of 2010" list up in my sidebar all the way into April, so I decided to make another one of my infrequent but always intriguing top 5 lists! Lucky you!

Ok so it shouldn't be a secret that I love theme songs. A good tv theme will probably make me like a show more (or at least look at it more fondly in remembrance). But when a movie has a theme song, I'm hooked. It immediately makes a movie more fun, memorable, and special. Of course there are plenty of sub-par movies with kickin' title tunes, so I did my best to choose my favorite theme songs that are also attached to good films. My idea of a theme song is something that either comments on the story of the film or the main character, usually played during the opening or closing credits. I'm not talking about instrumental themes here. Or songs from musicals.

Films are listed in order of release.

Barbarella (1968)
Ahh, this one is possibly the best ever mainly because it is a super catchy, synthy tune that will forever be identified with anti-gravity stripping. Perfect for a cheesy sci-fi film about free love and druggy over-saturation. The song itself- just called "Barbarella"- is performed by Bob Crew and The Glitterhouse, featuring delightfully nonsensical lyrics and a laid-back lounge-pop attitude. It plays over the credits sequence which features a pretty impressive anti-gravity illusion as performed by Jane Fonda, as well as some fun interplay with the text. Best of all: nipples! For like a second! Very exciting. And remember, I like this movie so much I totally made a poster for it.
Song on youtube.

Blazing Saddles (1974)
I'm pretty sure this is the only song on this list that was nominated for an Oscar. I'm also pretty sure it's super great and should have won that Oscar instead of some crap from The Towering Inferno. ANYWAY. I love this movie quite deeply (it is my favorite Mel Brooks film, and that means a lot), and while Brooks is known for incorporating a variety of original music into this films, this one sets itself apart by being so straight. This is a legitimately cool, well-written song with no attempt at parody, just homage to classic western ballads. Written by Brooks and John Morris, the theme is sung by Frankie Laine, who also did the 3:10 to Yuma and Gunfight at the OK Corral theme songs. The whipcracks were added later.
Song on youtube.

Smokey and the Bandit (1977)
Ah, the perfect road song for the perfect road movie. Jerry Reed's jangly tune "East Bound and Down" sums up the premise of the film in its lyrics and the carefree, fun-times tone in its melody. It's used multiple times throughout the film, primarily when Bandit is speeding around causing havoc for local law enforcement. And Reed also plays truck-driver Snowman, my favorite character! The movie, as I should hope you already know, is a totally awesome and fast-paced time, filled with mustaches and cute butts and Southern jokes and anti-establishment themes and fast driving. It is annual viewing at our house.
Song on youtube.

Flash Gordon (1980)
Oh my gosh, the ultimate in 80's synth-rock theme music! Queen's soundtrack makes this movie somehow seem 10 times more badass than it already is. There's something epic and bombastic about that thumping bassline, repetitive shouts of "FLASH! AHHHH!" while a blonde quarterback fights off a bunch of weird space guys. It's deceptively simple and a ton of fun, much like the film itself, which I enjoy for its over-campiness, weird visuals, and scattered script. Without this song, it'd be less rad, I promise.
Song on youtube.

Orgazmo (1997)
This probably seems like a weird one, but I have to admit that "Now You're A Man"- performed by Trey Parker and Matt Stone's band DVDA- makes me giggle every time. Trey studied music at Berklee and the University of Colorado, and incorporates his musical talents into most of his projects. I am a professed lover of this movie, despite its many critics. The song is goofy, raunchy, and over the top, spouting lyrics like: "What makes a man, is it the woman in his arms? Just cause she has big titties? Or is it the way he fights every day? No, it's probably the titties." Awesome. It plays over the opening credits and features many exaggerated comic book panels. It's a funny movie and a funny song. The end!
Song on youtube.

Honorable Mentions
The Goonies
Nine to Five
The Hebrew Hammer (its Shaft parody always cracks me up)

What are your favorite movie theme songs?


Monday, March 21, 2011

Les aventures extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec (The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec) (2010)

I am lucky to have a very kind boyfriend who will track down hard-to-find movies I want to see on a whim. Then again, isn't he lucky to have a girlfriend who's so awesome? I think so. Anyway, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec has a lot going for it: it's written/directed by Luc Besson, who has a fairly strong track record for me; it's based on a French comic book that I just ordered; and it's about a strong lady protagonist who uses her wits and wiles to combat weird mystical elements in the 1910's! Wowee!

The odd plot concerns multiple storylines that sort of come together eventually. A baby pterodactyl magically hatches from an egg in a natural history museum. An old dude hangs out with it while the cops try to figure out what the hell is happening. Adèle, a world-adventuring journalist, travels to Egypt to unearth a mummy who was once doctor to a pharaoh, with the hope that his ancient expertise can cure her fatally-ill sister. But first she needs to bring him back to life. And hope he speaks French.

This film rides the line between goofy camp and sincere corniness way too often, resulting in an uneven and unsure-of-itself production with its fair share of fun, memorable moments. I really wanted to like it since it has so many elements that I support- strong heroine, early twentieth century setting, fantastical adventure tropes, weird subplots- but it just doesn't quite work. The tone is all over the place, and while I was pretty sure it was meant to be a comedy, there were these offputting dramatic/scary moments that didn't fit in at all. Plus the dialogue is not as witty as it thinks it is (then again, who knows how the translation on our version was).

The cast does its best to elevate the so-so script. Louise Bourgoin is absolutely charming as the title character, pulling in equal amounts of spunky determined heroine and unexpected comic relief. She also has a rather impressive costume collection. I quite enjoyed Gilles Lellouche as well, who is very funny as the put-upon Inspector Caponi assigned to track down the pterodactyl. And Nicolas Giraud is beyond adorable as a shy scientist with his eye on the oblivious Adèle.

The special effects are noticeably sub-par, which is too bad, since there's a lot of pterodactyl-flying and mummy-reanimating to be done. The story doesn't make a lot of sense, which wouldn't be a huge deal if I felt the film making fun of itself more. I don't know if it's translation/cultural issues or what, but there's just something off about the overall tone and atmosphere, making it more confusing than anything else. It's too bad, since it's a fun and interesting premise, so I'll try my luck with the comics. I applaud the imagination and sense of adventure maintained in the movie, though.


Watch Instead: There are several shades of The Mummy laced throughout, which is a decidedly superior fantasy/action/adventure with a sassy lady. I'm sure it would work as a double feature, too, if Adèle does pique your interest.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

For a long time I only owned Bringing Up Baby on vhs, but I finally broke down and bought the dvd (I hate re-buying movies I already have) and celebrated with a viewing! Howard Hawks's classic slapstick comedy stars Cary Grant as Dr David Huxley, a mild-mannered paleontologist/zoologist/professor (?) attempting to secure funding for a big dinosaur-assembly project from a wealthy elderly lady. While trying to appeal to her financial consultant, he experiences multiple collisions with a wacky, self-absorbed hurricane of a woman named Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) and is soon swept up in her fast-talking, law-bending, ridiculous lifestyle.

She is the niece of David's potential donor and promises to get the money for him, but in the meantime the two must contend with her new pet leopard on the loose in rural Connecticut and a missing intercostal clavicle bone that David needs to complete his skeleton, all on the day he was supposed to be married to his uptight assistant.

Well it's always nice to see two of my favorite people hanging out in a clever comedy and speaking remarkably quickly to one another, I must say. Katharine Hepburn had never done comedy before and her career was in decline, but she really gave it her all as the delightfully bubble-headed Susan. She's weird and disruptive and nonsensical and just generally all over the place, resulting in a fun and fascinating performance that's always smile-inducing. Her character is very over the top and it's clear Hepburn is dedicated to pushing her to the limit. Grant, already a master of comedic timing, is his usual adorable, excitable self, imbuing David with a range of exasperated faces and unexpected outbursts. There are other people in this movie too, but to be honest no one really sticks out because Hepburn and Grant totally dominate the production. Well, except for Baby, obviously, who does a fine job as a lovable, potentially dangerous leopard.

The script is fast-paced and funny, with inventive dialogue and goofy physical comedy that charms me as much now as when I was a kid. There are some impressive special effects with the leopard, several cute renditions of "I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby", and a look at Katharine Hepburn's underwear. Not to mention Cary Grant in a sheer ladies' robe. Mhmm.

It's totally prejudice against studious ladies who wear glasses though. Not all of us are so uptight, you guys! Sorry that I have poor eyesight and like to read!


Pair This Movie With: It definitely got me in the mood for Arsenic and Old Lace, one of my all-time favorite classic comedies. Or if you just like slapstick humor mixed with animal rearing, there's always Going Ape!

My original poster design for this film is available for purchase.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Movie Sketch Project #31

Hello again! Well, it has been another busy week for me but luckily I spent almost all of my extra time working on a super-cool new movie art thing! You're welcome! It means I've watched fewer movies though, so I'll probably take it easier next week.

Anyway, as we all know, Barbarella is an awesome movie that I quite enjoy watching. A few weeks ago I was hanging out live-tweeting it and all, and was struck by an excellent idea for a movie poster involving all of her awesome costumes. I wanted it to be colorful, recognizable, loyal to the details of her outfits, and not too complicated. I think I've achieved most of these things! Please let me know what you think, this one took a lot of work. The full poster along with close-ups, after the jump. Also big shout-out to Black Hole Reviews Barbarella Costume Guide!

It is available for sale for $11 along with lots of other stuff I've made! Also you can check out earlier Movie Sketch Project entries if you like.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Top Gun (1986)

So, I'd never seen this movie. And it seemed like something I should see at some point. So I watched it. Top Gun tells the homo-erotic story of a bunch of dudes who like to fly airplanes and talk about their penises and stuff. Maverick (Tom Cruise), the great pilot who flies by his own rules, is accepted into the premier military flight academy and has to compete for points to win a trophy (or something) against the other best pilot, Iceman (Val Kilmer). Also it's the Cold War, I guess, so there are faceless Soviet bad guys? Along the way he half-heartedly romances his female teacher (Kelly McGillis), presumably while thinking about all dudes he wants to bang. At the end he and Iceman come this close to making out.

So yeah, it is fun to watch this movie with the realization that all of its super-macho characters are clearly trying to hide their gayness for each other. Every line of dialogue becomes sexual innuendo, and every scene in the locker room brings the possibility of boning. But after 20 minutes those jokes kind of get old, and the bumbling script, bad acting, confusing fake plane battles, and melodramatic direction take precedence. And there's only like 3 songs in the soundtrack, used over and over again across 110 minutes. It's not a very good movie, and not really in the fun way.

I've never liked Tom Cruise too much, but then I thought maybe it's because I've never seen most of his big movies (Jerry Maguire, Risky Business, Mission: Impossible, etc). Here he plays just the guy I imagine to be the "Tom Cruise guy": a smarmy, overconfident dick who thinks he has enough charm to pull off being that way. It's just annoying. All of the romantic subplot stuff is sooo booooring and poorly written, it was hard to get through. I liked Goose, Maverick's co-pilot, but he's mostly just the straight man to Cruise's antics. Val Kilmer is awesome, duh, but very sparsely used, with absolutely no development or insight into his character.

I thought an over-the-top, macho 80's flick would be right up my alley, but Top Gun is just too dumb and honestly just not very interesting. Maybe it's because I hate all the glorified military stuff. It was fun to play the "spot Adrian Pasdar in the background" game though. And the "Let's wait for Tim Robbins to show up at some point since he's in the imdb credits" game. Also Meg Ryan is cute.


Watch Instead: Something fun! Like Red or Speed or Iron Man!


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Kaboom (2010)

Well, lookie here! I have a new review up at 366 Weird Movies! This one was really hard for me to write, mainly because Gregg Araki's Kaboom is a strange and baffling movie that I'm still not quite sure I liked. I appreciated its over-saturated visuals, murder-mystery-fueled plot, totally unexpected ending, and heaps of nudity of both sexes, but the script was trying too hard to be funny and the various subplots don't quite add up. It's sort of like a sexier, prettier, more interesting version of Art School Confidential. I think I liked it... yeah. Plus Thomas Dekker is really attractive (despite needing a shave and some shampoo).

Check out my full review!


Monday, March 14, 2011

Drive Angry 3D (2011)

Aaaargh! Metal music! Fast cars! Fire for no reason! DRIVE ANGRY! 3D! There were many reasons to get me excited for this movie, as you clearly see. Nicolas Cage stars as John Milton (actual name), a terse but fatherly badass who's tracking down a killer satanic cult while trying avoid the mysterious "Accountant" (William Fichtner) who's after him. Scantily-clad ex-waitress Piper (Amber Heard) is along for the ride, proving herself useful with a gun and a mean right hook. They've got a baby to save!

Drive Angry starts off with an explosive, funny-in-its-overseriousness bang and doesn't really let up for most of its running time. The plot is ridiculous and infused with too many characters, there's weepy backstory and fantasy elements, plus high-bodycount shootouts to spare. Cage is surprisingly toned down, finding the comedy in mysterious one-liners and melodrama, while Heard does her best to be useful in shorts so tiny her pockets go past the hemline. She punches people a lot. I like that. Also she dives from a swerving trailer onto a moving car. Very cool.

As pretty much every other review of this movie has pointed out, William Fichtner is the best part of this movie. He's creepy and offbeat as the Accountant, and clearly relishing his ridiculous role. His character is sort of pointless, but it doesn't matter because it's so fun to watch him whenever he's onscreen. The whole movie is very silly but very entertaining, with a lot of cool action scenes, crappy CGI, satanism, loud music, and fast driving. I didn't take it seriously because it doesn't take itself seriously, which I'll always appreciate. And while the 3-D is unnecessary (as it is in almost every movie with 3-D), at least they got in a few good gags with it.


Pair This Movie With: Well there are multiple similarities to Shoot Em Up, so that's a good choice. I'd also go with another heaven/hell thriller like Constantine or Jonah Hex.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Grease 2 (1982)

As you may or may not recall, I had a real thing for Grease when I was a kid, so of course I'd watched Grease 2 a couple of times. Over the summer I spotted this little gem in a cheap dvd sale at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. The time has come to finally revisit it. Taking place two years after the events of the first film and directed by its choreographer Patricia Birch, this sequel focuses on a new crop of Pink Ladies- led by feisty Stephanie (Michelle Pfeiffer)- and T-Birds- led by Napoleon-complex-riddled Johnny (Adrian Zmed) at Rydell High.

British goodie-two-shoes Michael Carrington (Maxwell Caulfield)- cousin to Sandy from the first movie- transfers to Rydell and instantly falls for Stephanie. But as a Pink Lady, she can only date a greaser, and after her recent break-up with Johnny, she dreams of finding a "Cool Rider" to do it with. So Michael disguises himself as a mysterious biker and sweeps her off her feet, while in real life he tutors her in English. It's kind of like Spider-man, but with more talent shows and Cold War fever.

There is no way a simple plot summary can even begin to crack the incredible, enigmatic shell of Grease 2, one of the most ridiculous movies I've ever had the pleasure of seeing. It defies logic that it was even made (especially when considering the numerous script re-writes, character changes, and general kerfuffles plaguing the shoot). This movie is just one what-the-fuck moment after another, continually, as anyone who followed my hilarious live-tweeting can attest to. The songs alone are a prime example: there's a song about bowling laced with sexual innuendo (side note: bowling is what the cool kids do in this universe), one about military enlistment and the ever-present possibility of nuclear war laced with sexual innuendo ("Let's do it for our country"), one about sexual reproduction laced with sexual obvious-endo ("where does the pollen go?"), plus a shit-ton of pelvic thrusts and gyrations in the choreography. It's as if there's some sort of statement trying to be made here... about teenagers... and hormones?

The dialogue and acting are gloriously over the top, the plot flits back and forth and side to side with little regard to continuity or reason. The adorable Frenchy (Didi Conn) disappears halfway through, apparently because the character was taken out of the script in the middle of shooting. A large portion of the story revolves around a talent show (which is awesome) that somehow eclipses seemingly more important things like a hunky guy riding his motorcycle off a cliff and probably dying. Seriously. Everyone is so stupid and unlikable that they end up becoming remarkably endearing, from the air-headed Marilyn Monroe-wannabe Paulette to the spunky Pink Lady "mascot" Dolores.

Michelle Pfeiffer, bless her, takes her role seriously enough to consent to donning Greco-Roman garb during a melodramatic ballad set in fog-filled biker heaven, but lightly enough to snark out her goofy one-liners with appreciated self-awareness. Maxwell Caulfield is the stiffest person alive- but then so is his character- and he has nice hair. Adrian Zmed actually turns out to be the more talented cast member, with an energetic delivery and impressive singing pipes (I believe he'd played Danny Zuko in the stage version of Grease). And poor Eve Arden, this was her last film. Truly something to be remembered by.

Grease 2 needs to be seen to be believed. It's really bad, but it's also really entertaining. And I promise it is anything but predictable. Its script and editing feature so many disjointed, irrelevant scenes that it's a challenge to piece together any semblance of plot. Plus the music is totally catchy. "A coo-oo-oo-ool rider/A coo-oo-oo--ool rider/If he's cool enough/He can burn me through and thro-ooough..."

Oh also final note: In a moment of actual commendation for this film, it is nice that the end message is about being yourself and not changing who you are to date somebody. Unlike that other Grease movie.

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

Pair This Movie With: Well I guess the first Grease makes the most sense, though you don't really need it to appreciate the sequel. Otherwise, any other ridiculous teen movie that features singing, dancing, and/or talent shows. Girls Just Want to Have Fun, No Small Affair, or even Cry-Baby- whatever does it for you.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Miscellaneous Art Things

So here's the thing: I went to Aruba for a week, right? And that was really nice. Now I'm home and have had long, late shifts every day since we're understaffed at work. No time for art, I'm afraid, despite my really great poster idea that I've been itching to work on. So this means no Movie Sketch Project this week, yet again, and for that I'm sorry.

But I have some other things to entertain you instead! Behold!

I did manage to make some art while I was on vacation, but it's not movie-related so maybe everyone hates that? This is an ink portrait of singer Janelle Monáe, on whom I'm developing quite a crush lately. She's just super cool and I love that she wears so many tuxedos.

Also I want to continue to plug my Foreign Movie Posters tumblr because I'm excited about all the awesome poster art I've been finding and I want to shaaare it! Here's a sample:

Aaaand just for sticking with me, here's an oil painting from a few years ago. Of chopped-up fish. I had a great painting teacher that semester. Not the best photo, I'm afraid, sorry.

Remember you can always buy cool, affordable movie art in my shop.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cabaret (1972)

As a staunch lover of all things musical, I have been ashamed to say that I had never seen Cabaret. I knew most of the music, and I knew it had something to do with Germany and pixie haircuts, but that was about it. Bob Fosse's multiple-Oscar-winner stars Liza Minelli as Sally Bowles, an American singer performing in a cabaret in 1930's Berlin. Brian (Michael York), an uptight British teacher, moves into her boarding house and though initially he admits that he's never been attracted to women, the two eventually start dating. When a wealthy, over-friendly German baron (Helmut Griem) comes into the picture, a strange three-way relationship develops. Meanwhile, Nazis are beginning to rise to power and everyone is apprehensive.

I have to admit that in the beginning there were several things about Cabaret that I was not sold on. As adorable and talented as Liza Minelli is, I really just do not find her sexy at all, so her role of a seductive wannabe actress just wasn't convincing. She's too cutesy and her character is constantly saying ridiculous things. The idea that she would turn Michael York straight was also a point of contention for me. And the Nazi thing seemed like an afterthought at first.

BUT. Once we get into the swing of things, and the characters are more fleshed out and the impact of the forthcoming war is more entwined in everyone's lives, the film becomes much more interesting. I liked the relationship between the Baron, Brian, and Sally, and while the romantic subplot of Fritz and Natalia (a financially struggling German and a wealthy Jewish heiress) is a little boring, I appreciated how it related to the bigger picture.

The music is fun, the numbers are excellently staged (this is Fosse, after all), and the entire film is incredibly well-edited to showcase parallels between our protagonists, Nazi violence, and the songs showcased in the cabaret. Plus I really dug Liza's costumes, make-up, and green nail polish.


Pair This Movie With: In its music and choreography, of course I was reminded of Chicago, but I also think another WWII love story like Casablanca would work well.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The 2011 Boston Science-Fiction Marathon, Part III

Whew, it's tired in here, what with the eight movies I've just watched in a row. I should probably just give up and go to sleep, right? No! Of course not! I must press on for the sake of science-fiction and also to get my money's worth! I loaded up on tea and squirmed in my seat but admittedly had some trouble staying 100% conscious through the next two films, mainly because I'd seen them already. Also my cohorts were starting to get pretty sleepy and there's less pressure to stay awake if everyone around you is lightly snoring. But never fear! I can bring very definite reports of the next movies shown! Partially by piecing together what I already knew about two of them!

9 Videodrome (1983) (title links to my original review)
As some of you may recall, I was completely bowled over by this movie when I first watched it in January. It is by far my favorite Cronenberg, and there was basically nothing I could name that was wrong with it. Needless to say I was excited to see it again, especially on a big screen, and while it is still a fantastic film- gritty, sexy, weird, intelligent, innovative- it's not exactly the loudest of movies so I did nod off a few times. Luckily, I can accurately report that yes, Debbie Harry is still smoking hot and James Woods still has a gun hand and I still don't really at all understand what's going on. So all is well in Videodrome. Long live the new flesh.

10 Lady Terminator (1988) (title links to my original review)
I feel like I've raved about this enough around here, but OH WELL now you can hear once again how much I love it! Indonesia's unsubtle ripoff of The Terminator features everything you need in a hilarious action b-movie: boobs, big hair, 80's dance music, vagina snakes, boobs, machine guns, bad dubbing, campfire sex, and of course, boobs. There's also a fair amount of legitimately cool action scenes, with many explosions, gunfights, and corpses. It's a completely ludicrous movie that I'm fairly certain everyone in the world will like. So go see it already, sheesh! Also recall that I chatted it up in the so-bad-it's-good episode of Some Cast It Hot, which you should be listening to!
4.5/5 (as entertainment)

11 Last Woman on Earth (1960)
I actually missed the first 5-10 minutes of this because I went to get some Dunkin' Donuts, but luckily the story is easy enough to figure out. A lady, her wealthy husband, and their younger male friend go out scuba diving near their island vacation home and discover when they come up for air that all the oxygen has suddenly left the atmosphere. They keep their masks on for as long as they can, later finding that the oxygen has returned. Everyone around them is lying dead in the streets. The three hunker down and hone their survival skills, but eventually the husband's macho assholery gets the better of his put-upon wife and everything gets all love-triangley. Despite being a very talky, so-so script, the film surprisingly kept my attention throughout. I give most of the credit to Robert Towne, who played the friend character Martin and also wrote the script. He essentially spent the whole time doing this adorable impression of Jimmy Stewart in The Philadelphia Story, and that is exactly the way to win my heart. Too bad the print we had was so pink, though.

12 Mothra (1961)
Ah yes, the age-old story of a Giant Moth Monster who attacks Japan as it tries to reclaim its miniscule singing fairy twins from a jerk pseudo-American opportunist (actual plot). I'd seen most of this on tv years ago but was excited to see it in its fully form. Oddly enough the 'thon had a subtitled print, meaning the added hilarity of exaggerated dubbing is missing, and also that my crazed sleep-deprived mind had to work extra hard to read what was going on. I definitely drifted in and out a bit, but caught all the important parts: goofy chubby journalist, high-pitched twin singing, the three stages of mothra development, weird "island native" rituals, and the finale in "New Kirk City" (actual name). It's entertaining at parts but unintelligible at others, with too much of the creepy twins warbling and not enough of Mothra tearing shit up. Oh well. I'm fucking tired, man.

So the last film screened was Zonad, which we'd seen two days prior and felt no need to see again. Especially when a warm, comfortable bed beckoned us scant blocks away. So that's the end of the 'thon for me! It was basically still 24 hours since we got there an hour early. I definitely did better than the past two years, and expect to improve exponentially at my staying-awake-and-lucid abilities! It was a good time, though I hope next year there'll be more movies I haven't seen before. And better shorts (there were some really good ones last year, so I was pretty let down by the skimpy selection this time around). Until then, I'll continue to obsessively plan endless amounts of themed marathons of my own in my head! Yeah!


Monday, March 7, 2011

The 2011 Boston Science-Fiction Marathon, Part II

When we left off yesterday, I had been recounting my incredible movie-viewing exploits at the 2011 Boston Sci-Fi Marathon. 24 hours of science-fiction films, shorts, and activities coupled with a lot of snacks and inside jokes. Alright. So with four films down I was feeling good, ready to eat dinner (Subway!) and sit back for the big-screen debut of one of my all-time favorite tv shows.

5 Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (1996)
It's kind of weird to see a show that I've almost exclusively watched alone, now in a theater full of people. It's also awesome. The not-too-distant future of Mike Nelson and his robot buddies, imprisoned on a bone-shaped spaceship and forced to watch crappy movies by a mad scientist, is a delightful one and it was great to share it with so many appreciative fans. This is basically just an episode of the show but with better production values, featuring the over-talkie 1955 classic This Island Earth. It is hilarious. There are many high foreheads and bug people and multi-national scientists, plus one of my favorite MST3K moments ever. The movie itself isn't as bad as usual, so it's all a bit more fun! And we get to see Tom's bedroom and Mike's macho attempt to steer the ship.

A few shorts were shown between these films, the most notable of which was the excellent parody "Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury" music video, which actually spurred me on to finally read Fahrenheit 451 over my vacation. I liked it!

6 The Host (2006) (title links to my original review)
A movie brought to us by two of my main Korean crushes, writer/director Bong Joon-ho and actor extraordinaire Song Kang-ho, The Host is a fascinating combination of monster movie thrills, political satire, and dysfunctional family drama. I loved it the first time I saw it, and continue to feel strongly about it the second time around, especially fueled by the big-screen, big-soundsystem viewing and very enthusiastic audience! It's funny and action-packed, while simultaneously nail-bitingly tense and intensely tragic. And of course America's remaking it. Sigh.

7 The Quiet Earth (1985)
I knew nothing about this New Zealand indie going in, and was pleasantly surprised by how gripping and imaginative it is (although I must say the "shh" joke perpetuated by the audience lost its charm at least 10 minutes in). The basic premise isn't new: A man wakes up one morning to discover he's (apparently) the only person left on earth. He goes through several phases, including searching for life, doing science stuff (he was involved in a super-secret government project), proclaiming himself god, playing saxophone, and finally meeting up with two other survivors. A hesitant romantic triangle eventually forms as the two dudes and one adorable lady travel around trying to figure out just what the hell is happening. It's a very smart, well-paced movie with good dialogue and excellent, emotional performances. I was truly touched by some moments- particularly when the characters saw one another for the first time and could do nothing but hug each other fiercely. It's just a really good, understated film with a killer ending and impressive handling of a somewhat played-out concept.

8 Monsters (2010)
I missed this in theaters, somehow, so I was happy to finally catch it at the marathon. Writer/director Gareth Edwards (future Godzilla-helmer) takes a more subdued approach to the aliens-as-political-metaphor in films like District 9 in this tale of an assholey photographer coerced into escorting his boss's daughter through Mexican territory occupied by a mysterious destructive race of aliens. They travel by train, truck, boat, and foot, encountering many locals affected regularly by the strange creatures who've been there for years. It's more of a character study, with the focus on protagonists Andrew and Samantha, and little actual footage of the aliens. Edwards creates several moments of tension and curiosity with smart, limited amounts of insight into them, rarely relying on special effects. I thought the film got better as it progressed and the characters were more fleshed out, though the finale was sort of weird and ill-fitting.

Okay. I've been pretty darned awake for all of these movies, and I know that is most impressive. But now we're coming to the home stretch and I'm not sure if I'll make it through the next set of movies. It's almost a good thing the seats at the Somerville aren't very comfortable, since it helps me stay awake!


Sunday, March 6, 2011

The 2011 Boston Science-Fiction Marathon, Part I

Yes! Once again it is that wonderful time of year when nerds from all over compile in the beautiful but uncomfortably-seated Somerville Theatre to partake of 24 hours of straight sci-fi. It is at once the best and most painful thing ever, but totally worth it. We were prepared with many pillows, blankets, snacks, and of course toothbrushes. I was pissed that the "bottomless coffee" deal didn't extend to tea (seriously, what the fuck? Why is everyone so prejudiced against tea-drinkers all the time. It's cheaper, people.) Also there was no geeky burlesque, which is too bad. But OTHERWISE we were set for a radical adventure! This year's 'thon has the distinction of showing a lot of films that I'd already seen, but luckily they were all ones that I liked and now I had the chance to see several in a theater for the first time.

So in case this is new to you, I will be breaking down the films I watched in 3 posts, with short reviews of each. You can check out my coverage of the 2009 event and the 2010 event. Also check out the fantastic poster/mug design from my super-talented boyfriend!

1 Star Trek (2009) (title links to my original review)
Great start to the 'thon with a funny, action-packed crowd-pleaser. As you may or may not recall, I saw this movie three times dubbed in German before finally catching it in English. And I dug it each time! Chris Pine is really attractive, Zachary Quinto is eyebrowingly awesome, John Cho is surprisingly badass, Winona Ryder uses her old person voice, and Anton Yelchin is supremely adorable (as is his wont). I still feel the sting of Abrams' under-use of the excellent and capable Zoe Saldana, who spends the entire movie hanging out in the background in a miniskirt while her male counterparts are fully clothed and taking care of business, but I guess it was more true to the show? (Which I've never seen.) Anyway, fun times! Loud times! SCI-FI TIMES!

2 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916)
This was sort of the big deal of the marathon: a rare theatrical print of a silent classic with live musical accompaniment. The thing is, it's not actually a very good movie. The story combines aspects of Jules Verne's titular novel along with his later book The Mysterious Island, resulting in an awkward, scattered plot structure and stilted script. There's some impressive underwater photography and filters and effects coupled with a lot of brownface and exaggerated acting. And no giant squid, so... that was disappointing. The music performed by Jeff Rapsis was awesome though, and that's where most of my positive feelings stem from.

3 Metropia (2009)
This was the main film I was looking forward to, primarily because it's animated and sounded really weird. The plot follows a sullen office drone named Roger living in a smoggy future in which a giant company has taken over by making a huge interconnected subway system to link all of Europe. He hears voices in the subway and eventually feels compelled to team up with mysterious model Nina (voiced by Juliette Lewis!) to try and uncover a massive continent-wide conspiracy. The animation is strange and beautiful, with an uncanny but fascinating realism tinged with exaggerated faces, clipped movements, and a murky color palette. As a whole the movie is interesting and imaginative, but loses itself towards the end. I liked it, but I think a lot of other people were not into this one. Oh well. Also the program for the 'thon said this was co-written by "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo author Stieg Larsson"... uh yeah it was actually co-written by Stig Larsson, a different Swedish writer who is totally alive. Nice one guys.

4 Battlestar Galactica (1978)
AKA Star Wars: This Time With Stupid Characters. I've never seen the show and I'm still confused as to what this is exactly- some sort of combination of the pilot for the original series combined with new footage to make it movie-length? Or something? I can't even find a proper imdb page for it. Anyway it's basically about evil aliens called Cylons who want to Destroy All Humans and the ragtag group of fighter pilots who try to save the remains of the human race so they can escape to a distant planet known as "earth", where their human ancestors landed a while ago. It's got spaceship battles and classism and 70's haircuts (or lackthereof. Ha!) and gambling and crazy aliens and a guy who isn't quite Han Solo but might as well be (totally played by Faceman from The A-Team!). Anyway, it's not a bad movie, but it feels derivative and the characterization is very poor. I still have little interest in the show, even though many people tell me to watch the new one. Eh. Maybe later.

Ok so four down, nine to go. Whew. Time for some dinner!


Friday, March 4, 2011

Zonad (2009)

Hey dudes, sorry for the lack of interneting around these parts lately! My mom took me to Aruba and we didn't hook up my computer to wifi. That's also why I don't have any new movie art today, but I should be cooking up some interesting stuff next week! Anyway.

Zonad was another film for the Boston Sci-Fi Festival, this time with the promise of Irish villages and out-of-this-world shenanigans. Technically, it isn't science-fiction but I'll let it slide since it was pretty funny. Simon Delaney stars as an alcoholic who recently busted out of rehab during a fancy dress party. He winds up in an isolated small town where everyone acts like they're in a 1950s sitcom. They see his spaceman costume and immediately assume he's an alien, so he easily cons his way into their hearts, pantries, bar tabs, and ultimately: sheets. Of course, this sort of charade can't last forever, and "Zonad" is soon challenged by a fellow escaped alcoholic calling himself "Bonad".

I can imagine this movie was made with very little money or resources, but with the help of an interesting premise, a funny script, and some ridiculous performances, Zonad manages to easily entertain and surprise. It's goofy and offbeat, with a hint of the satirical peppered in amongst the general raunchiness. I dug Simon Delaney as the lead character, channeling a little bit of Chris Farley in his chubby overgrown-child routine, but the best characters came from the supporting cast of Rory Keenan as an overly macho American teenager, David Pearse as the vengeful "Bonad", and David Murray as the stuffy butler Benson.

Zonad is a simple, enjoyable, funny movie, but not much more than that. Its concept is good but begins to wear thin by the end; luckily at a trim 75 minutes, the movie ends just before you'd get sick of it. I think there's too much of the lewd sex stuff- which to me is unimaginative- and not enough of the self-aware camp it started out with, but I can't say it didn't have me laughing for most of its runtime.


Pair This Movie With: Gosh I really need to start writing these down when I think of them, I know had a good one during the movie! Sigh... I guess any other con/mistaken-identity comedy would work, like the Danny Kaye classic The Inspector General, the 2002 version of The Importance of Being Earnest, etc. Or for more low-budget Irish humor look no further than the daringly black comedy A Film With Me In It.