Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ed Wood (1994)

Halloween Movie #8 (I know, I know...Ed Wood isn’t a scary or supernatural film, although it is the perfect companion to Plan 9 From Outer Space). Please click the links to read my reviews of One Hour Photo, American Psycho, Flatliners, Jacob’s Ladder, BlueVelvet, Ghostbusters, and Lost Highway. Oh – and Happy Halloween!!

Synopsis: World’s worst filmmaker finally receives the respectful, sympathetic tribute he probably doesn’t deserve.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “From Tim Burton, acclaimed director of Batman, Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands, comes the hilarious, true-life story of the wackiest filmmaker in Hollywood history – Ed Wood!”

What Did I Learn?: With a little bit of ingenuity and a whole lot of plucky determination, anyone can turn a few hubcaps, a short recording of Bela Lugosi and several reels of stock footage into a cinematic piece of shit.

Really?: I have to wonder how Ed Wood supported himself when he made those awful films that bombed at the box office. He’s shown moving plants at a movie studio early on, and then things get a bit vague, money-wise.

Rating: Ed Wood is a warm, clever and often-funny look at a heterosexual-but-cross-dressing movie-maker with a great deal of enthusiasm (and not much talent), who assembled a motley menagerie of hangers-on. Johnny Depp and Martin Landau are amazingly good as Wood and Lugosi, and you just have to root for these loveable misfits even as they create some of the most genuinely awful films ever made. 9/10 stars.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)

Halloween Movie #7

Synopsis: Aliens raise the dead, world’s worst filmmaker had a few clips of Bela Lugosi and a shitload of stock footage.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “This is it! The most phenomenally popular cult classic ever, the double Golden Turkey Award winner – worst picture and worst director in the entire history of motion pictures. Immortalized in celluloid by the celebrated writer/producer/director Edward D. Wood Jr. It’s all here – the famous not-so-special effects as aliens in car hop outfits invade Earth in hubcap flying saucers to implement their ninth plan of conquest (the first eight failed). This time they’ll raise the dead to conscript armies of mindless cadavers, starring the most famous lady zombie of all, Vampira, and the legendary Bela Lugosi in his swan song performance. (Sadly, he died before filming started. Happily, he was replaced by the producer’s wife’s chiropractor.)”

What Did I Learn?: It’s sometimes a good idea to shoot the same scene more than once on the off-chance an actress suppresses an on-camera snicker at the shitty dialogue you wrote.

You Might Like This Movie If: You know that anyone could write a better introduction than Ed Wood and Criswell. [My apologies - I couldn't find the whole thing].

Really?: Oh God, where do I begin?

Rating: Plan 9 From Outer Space is an interesting companion movie to Ed Wood. It’s fun to watch certain parts and think: “oh yeah – I remember Bill Murray and Johnny Depp doing that scene!” Unfortunately, the novelty quickly wears off and the viewer is left with wooden acting, irritating narration, bargain-basement special effects and a storyline that makes no sense. Plan 9 From Outer Space is painful to watch, and I cannot recommend this movie. 1/10 stars.

Would It Work For a Bad Movie Night?: I couldn’t imagine any group of friends sitting through this cinematic turkey for the full 79 minutes.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Angel Heart (1987)

Halloween Movie #6(66)

Synopsis: Greasy private dick bangs Cosby brat, has *ahem* devil of a time finding evil crooner.

What Did I Learn?: If a guy by the name of “Louis Cyphre” asks you for a meeting, start running.

Really?: 1) So, what’s the significance of Harry’s aversion of chickens? 2) Did the real Harry Angel have any family? Wouldn’t anyone close to him realize there’s an imposter running around? 3) Why exactly does Harry get beaten up at the church when he approaches the woman in the veil? Come to think of it, what business does he have there, considering he meets Cyphre in a restaurant that day? 4) If I were a private investigator and I found that people I spoke to earlier in the day were dropping like flies, and my client doesn’t really give a shit, I think I’d say: “fuck the money” and hightail it back to Brooklyn, ASAP.

Rating: Angel Heart is a stylish, well-written and extremely creepy film with a solid performance from Mickey Rourke and an absolutely outstanding one from Robert DeNiro. Angel Heart works as both a hard-boiled detective story and as a supernatural horror, and it’s well worth watching at least once. Highly recommended. 10/10 stars.

Friday the 13th Part II (1981)

Halloween Movie #5

Synopsis: Crazed slasher carves up obnoxious, sex-crazy preppie teens. Nobody seems to mind.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Just when you thought it was safe to go back to camp...” [no VHS jacket – taken from]

What Did I Learn?: If you’re staying at a cabin that was the scene of a gruesome murder five years earlier, and you have a choice between going into town to catch some live music or staying behind to have sex, go for the first option – trust me.

Really?: 1) So wait – Ginny’s big brainstorm is to put on a mouldy sweater and convince Jason she’s really his dead mom? Oh, that's fucking brilliant... 2) Shouldn’t these kids be at least slightly likeable so the audience cares about what happens to them? 3) I had a hard time believing two teenagers would fail to notice their monster truck getting towed just ten feet away from them... come to think of it, wouldn’t that be a difficult prank to pull off? 4) Since when did it become illegal to run into a forest? And there’s no way the sheriff would attempt to pursue Jason on foot, in the woods for such an extended period of time. (Oh – and dummy left his car door open).

Rating: I was never a fan of the Friday the 13th films when I was a kid, I don’t think I missed out on much. While Part II has better-looking actors and actresses than the original Friday the 13th (which I viewed without sound at a recent party, so I’m not going to write a review), none of them have any talent. The film consists of 30 minutes of set-up followed by scenes of each obnoxious teenager getting iced. Friday the 13th Part II has some nice T&A shots, but it’s pointless, brainless and dull. I cannot recommend this movie. 2/10 stars.

Would It Work For a Bad Movie Night?: It certainly did last Saturday.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Bordello of Blood (1996)

Halloween Movie #4

Synopsis: Smug B-list comedian wisecracks his way through terrible T&A-loaded horror-“comedy”.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “A wickedly funny motion picture complete with all the hackcitement anyone could axe for! Dennis Miller, stunning supermodel Angie Everhart and Erika Eleniak join every bodies’ favourite cutup, the Cryptkeeper, in a hip frightmare of sly humour, sex appeal and go-for-the-juggular special effects.”

What Did I Learn?: The proper response, when challenged to 'step outside' to fight, is: “no thanks, pal – I’m not in the mood for a blowjob.”

You Might Like This Movie If: You know that vampires are nothing but trouble.

Really?: 1) Very few private investigators continue to work after the client has paid them and announced their services are no longer required.(Oh wait – I learned that from The Big Sleep). 2) Wait – I thought Lilith killed J.C. (Chris Sarandon) once Vincent threw away the key that controls her. Why does he show up later, strapped with dynamite? Come to think of it, why doesn’t Lilith kill Vincent once she’s a free vampire? 3) Wait – Rafe (Dennis Miller) is propositioned by ANGIE FUCKING EVERHART, and he isn’t even slightly tempted? What's the point of making the lead villain a hot chick if the protagonist sees right through her?

Rating: Bordello of Blood is just plain awful; it isn’t scary, it isn’t funny (well, aside from a line or two – see “What Did I Learn?”) and nobody in the film seems to take it all that seriously. I’ve never been a Dennis Miller fan, but he’s actually the best thing in this turd, and the funniest scene is of him heckling a game of billiards. I cannot recommend this movie. 3/10 stars.

Would It Work For a Bad Movie Night?: You betcha.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Blade (1998)

Halloween Movie #3 (I don’t think I’ll be reviewing Blade II, or Blade Trinity)

Synopsis: Samurai Shaft shoots, stabs, slices, slashes sanguinary-suckers.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: "Wesley Snipes (US Marshalls, Passenger 57, Murder at 1600) stars as the tortured soul BLADE - possessing powers greater than any man or creature of the night"

What Did I Learn?: Apparently, vampires receive extensive training in martial arts and small arms combat after they become undead.

You Might Like This Movie If: You know that vampires are nothing but trouble.

Really?: 1) Funny how Blade never gets a drop of blood on his nifty trenchcoat. 2) So wait, Blade has an unknown blood disorder, and he rescues a hematologist...and she just happens to also be a cute black chick? 3) The long-lost ancient vampire temple is located under modern-day LA? 4) I realize Officer Krieger screwed up, but is it really a good idea to ice a cop? Aside from generating an investigation, isn’t it useful to have police officers on your payroll? 5) Is it safe to inject yourself with essence of garlic? And how long does it take to create a vaccine for an unknown blood disorder? It’s more than a day, right?

Rating: I feel a bit guilty writing this review. Blade received a lot of positive reviews when it opened, Wesley Snipes is quite good as the title character, and the film is obviously a great ‘popcorn’ movie. Trouble is, I lost most of my interest in big summer blockbusters years ago, and once you take away the explosions and chop-socky action sequences, you’re left with a dumb, and highly contrived storyline (see “Really?”). Maybe Blade could have worked if the writers had stuck to Blade and Whistler taking on Deacon Frost, but the balderdash about resurrecting a vampire god was just too hokey for me. If you enjoy comic book-inspired action flicks, you’ll get plenty of thrills and spills from Blade, but I cannot recommend this movie. 5/10 stars.

Would It Work For a Bad Movie Night?: I think so.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

Halloween Movie #2 (Yup, those are Blockbuster Video stickers on the VHS jacket)

Synopsis: Violent, cold-blooded sociopath preys on movie crew. Oh, there’s a vampire, too.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “In his quest to create a vampire film to die for, F.W. Murnau (Malkovich) hires the mysterious Max Schreck (Dafoe) to play Count Orlock in his masterpiece Nosferatu. Murnau introduces Schreck as the 'ultimate method actor' - one who will appear only in character, in make up at night."

What Did I Learn?: If your leading lady give you any lip during a film shoot, whip out a syringe and dope her up for awhile.

You Might Like This Movie If: You know that vampires are nothing but trouble.

Really?: 1) I’m a bit surprised that anyone would agree to continue working with “Max Schreck” after they find him sucking the cinematographer’s blood, and he dies soon afterward. 2) Wait, do vampires drink schnapps? Come to think of it, wouldn’t Schreck have enjoyed a nice opium kick after sucking Greta’s blood?

Rating: Shadow of the Vampire is a stylish, cleverly-written and sometimes wryly funny take on the vampire film genre, and movie-making in general. John Malkovich is superb as the obsessed (and not terribly nice) filmmaker, while Willem Dafoe steals the movie with a very memorable performance as an old, and decidedly un-cool undead. Somehow, Malkovich and Dafoe manage to play their characters in larger-than-life fashion without seeming hokey or unbelievable (see: Interview with the Vampire). 8/10 stars.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Interview With the Vampire (1994)

Halloween Movie #1

Synopsis: Tom Cruise is even creepier than the time he jumped up and down on Oprah’s couch.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “The undead are among us and livelier than ever when Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and a talented group of young-bloods star in Interview with the Vampire, the spellbinding screen adaptation of Anne Rice’s best seller that’s ‘one of the best films of the year’ (Caryn James, The New York Times).”

What Did I Learn?: If it’s after midnight, and you see a little girl crying by herself on a park bench, DON’T  TALK TO HER!!

You Might Like This Movie If: You know that vampires are nothing but trouble.

Really?: 1) Why does every scene descend into a screaming match? 2) I don’t suppose the local constabulary in New Orleans or Paris would ever notice all those murder victims with bite marks on their necks, would they? 3) Seriously, why are we supposed to care about Louis or Claudia? They’re stone killers!

Rating: While I love the overall look and cinematography of this movie, Interview with the Vampire is marred by hammy, over-the-top performances and hokey, inauthentic dialogue. By the end, I really didn’t give a shit. I cannot recommend this movie. 5/10 stars.

Would it Work For a Bad Movie Night?: Nope.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Aristocrats (2005)

Synopsis: It’s 90 minutes of 100 comedians telling the same filthy joke over and over again.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Don’t miss this critically acclaimed, star-studded comedy extravaganza that celebrates the art of improvisation and the finest (and most foulmouthed) traditions of stand-up.”

What Did I Learn?: 1) Most stand-up comedians try way too hard to be funny. 2) Most variations on this joke include both incestuous kinky sex and poo, but it’s best to save the scatological stuff for the end.

You Might Like This Movie If: You believe there's a good chance that Bob Saget snapped after this experience.

Really?:  Frankly, I’m surprised that professional comedians find this joke to be hysterically funny, and amazed that it’s been around since the days of Vaudeville.

Rating: The idea of hearing variations on the same comedy routine might not sound appealing at first, but The Aristocrats is a sometimes-funny, but always interesting documentary about the world of stand-up comedy. The late George Carlin and others provide some clever insights into the appeal and longevity of this private joke, the main one being that it offers comedians a chance to get the creative juices flowing. 8/10 stars.

Coach Carter (2005)

Synopsis: It’s Hoosiers in the ‘hood!

Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “Based on an incredible true story, Coach Carter is the inspirational account of controversial coach Ken Carter (Academy Award nominee SAMUEL L. JACKSON), who received both high praise and staunch criticism when he made national news for a gymnasium ‘lockout’ of his entire undefeated team for poor academic performance.”

What Did I Learn?: High school teachers apparently have nothing better to do with their free time than to hang around in a gym for days on end for big, group tutoring sessions.

Really?: 1) Ok, take a drink every time Carter gets the last word against the angry high school principal, or one of the basketball players yells: “this is bullshit” and storms out of the gym. 2) So wait, the basketball coach decides on his own to forfeit games, and the principal doesn’t simply fire his ass on the spot? 3) Assigning 2000 push-ups as punishment might be realistic for the Marine Corps, but for high school students? And sure, I can understand punishing kids for tardiness and impertinence, but it seems a bit much to assign push-ups for a bit of bragging. 4) What’s the point of having Carter’s son switch schools to play on his basketball team? He seems to blend seamlessly into the basketball clique, and he never really “talks” to his Dad after he makes the move.

Rating: Borrowing heavily from Hoosiers and Lean On Me, Coach Carter is a pretty formulaic, by-the-numbers drama about a middle-aged role model who whips some young punks into shape with a combination of push-ups and a lot of yelling. Samuel L. Jackson does a decent job with a lacklustre script. 6/10 stars.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Synopsis: Charming young con artist attempts *ahem* pilot project.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket:Catch Me If You Can follows Frank W. Abagnale, Jr. as he successfully passes himself off as a pilot, a lawyer and a doctor – all before his 21st birthday!”

What Did I Learn?: “Go fuck yourself” isn’t a bad punchline for a ‘knock knock’ joke. 2) The Yankees win because the other team can’t stop staring at those pinstripes.

Really?: I realize this movie is based upon a true story, so maybe it’s not fair to attack it for presenting extremely implausible scenes, but: 1) wouldn’t Frank – who’s a teenager through most of the film – have done a much, much better job of staying in touch with his parents? 2) Wouldn’t a hospital phone Harvard’s medical school to confirm the graduation of a Frank Connors?

Rating: Catch Me If You Can is a well-written, and well-acted film with good performances from DiCaprio and Hanks, as well as a lot of cameo appearances (I wish the scene of Hanks meeting Christopher Walken had been longer). The movie drags a bit when Frank pretends to be a doctor, and then a lawyer in the South,  (maybe the real Frank Abagnale did this, but from a movie-watching perspective it’s tough to understand why he set down roots when there’s a nation-wide manhunt for him) and it’s a little unclear about his mental motivations, but it’s a fun ride. 8.5/10 stars.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday After Next (2002)

Please click the links to read my reviews of Friday and Next Friday.

Synopsis: Grumpy rapper-turned-actor and village idiot cousin throw their weight around as rent-a-cops, and beat the crap out of old St. Nick.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “The Party’s Back In The ‘Hood! Craig and Day-Day have finally gotten their own crib. When a fake Santa robs their rundown apartment on Christmas Eve they embark on a comical adventure in an effort to track down the bandit and retrieve the stolen loot. Meanwhile, Day-Day’s rent-a-cop tactics cause them to continually miss their chance to catch the Santa and instead has them squaring off against innocent caroling ladies, shady neighbourhood kids and the police!”

What Did I Learn?: 1) Bringing hot chicks in lieu of cash to a rent party is an acceptable trade-off to most young men. 2) If you grab a would-be rapist’s nuts with a pair of vice grips, there’s a very good chance he will kill you the second you let go.

You Might Like This Movie If: You’ve always wanted to see Santa Claus visit the ‘hood.

Really?: Friday After Next isn’t meant to be taken all that seriously, but I had a bit of trouble believing that: a) Craig (Ice Cube) would ever hang out with Day-Day, let alone share and apartment, or b) any woman would respond favourably to “it ain’t ya booty, it’s ya beauty.”

Rating: Friday After Next is one of those rare sequels that’s better than the previous film (although it doesn’t quite match up with the original). The script is a bit silly, and Ice Cube once again pretty much walks through it playing himself, but Friday After Next delivers some very funny lines and a surprising number of laughs. 7/10 stars.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Croupier (1998)

Synopsis: Clive Owen wears a tux, hangs out in a casino, turns into a bed-hopping, vodka-swilling, cold-hearted son of a bitch. (How did he not nab the role of James Bond?)

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Jack Manfred (Clive Owen: Close My Eyes, Bent) is an aspiring writer who is going nowhere fast. To make ends meet, and against his better judgement, he returns to his former job as a croupier.”

What Did I Learn?: If you’re waiting on a dark street to confront the croupier who earlier accused you of cheating, hit him first and then start yelling.

Really?: 1) The casino has a policy against dating fellow staff members, and yet it provides co-ed change rooms?! 2) So wait, Jack’s girlfriend wants him to remain a broke writer instead of working as a croupier, and she doesn’t end the relationship when she catches him cheating on her? 3) If the conspirators don’t need Jack to play an active role in the plot, why do they pay him in the first place? 4) So, the pit boss can’t count, and he’s part of a money-laundering scheme... funny how those story threads remain loose ends.

Rating: Croupier is a low-budget British drama with genuine twists, turns and suspense, as well as a solid performance from the under-rated Clive Owen. 8/10 stars.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip (1982)

Please click the links to read my reviews of Eddie Murphy’s Delirious and Raw. (It might be slightly unfair to compare Pryor with Murphy, but I haven’t reviewed a lot of stand-up comedy, and I like to provide reference points for my readers).

Synopsis: Smartass in fire engine-red suit talks about getting barbecued.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “If Richard Pryor were accused of being the funniest man in America, this film of his incredible stage act would be Exhibit A. It is proof beyond the shadow of a doubt!”

What Did I Learn?: Americans stopped having sex when Reagan was elected President.

Really?:  I have to wonder if Gene Wilder honestly believed that prison sex was 100% consensual.

Rating: Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip is an enjoyable 82 minutes of the late, great comedian telling stories and offering profanity-laced insights on life. Not all of Pryor’s act is funny, and some of it is a tad self-indulgent, but he has some interesting and remarkably honest things to say about drug abuse and the time he was nearly burnt to a crisp. It’s worth watching. 8/10 stars.

WWF High Flyers (1989)

Synopsis: ‘Roided-up idiots in tights jump on top of each other.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Launching themselves from the top rope, leaping high above the ring and above the heads of their opponents, they execute some of the most dangerous and spectacular moves in all of WWF Wrestling. Here, on one tape, are some of the highest flying WWF superstars performing their trademark maneuvers. It's 60 minutes of heart-stopping excitement..."

What Did I Learn?: Every single tag team match follows the same sequence of events.

Really?: 1) It’s funny how the "Conquistadors" and the "Shadows" wear nearly-identical costumes. 2) Based on the crowd reaction, nobody seems to care about the outcome of the women’s tag team match. Why would anyone include that for this video?

Rating: I no longer watch professional wrestling, but I used to consider myself a fan, so I can occasionally enjoy a vintage match or two. If you’re looking to re-live some of the glory days of the WWF/WWE, however, High Flyers never really *ahem* gets off the ground. Sure, you’ll see Randy “Macho Man” Savage, Owen Hart (as the Blue Blazer) and Shawn Michaels in action, but they only fight jobbers on this video; there’s no storyline, and certainly no suspense. High Flyers is basically a collection of dull matches with an introduction (obviously read from cue cards) from Mean Gene Okerlund tacked on. I cannot recommend this video. 2/10 stars.

Would it Work For a Bad Movie Night?: Give it a shot.

[No link]

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

Synopsis: Big, loveable oaf drives tightly-wound business guy apeshit across American Mid-West.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Neal Page is an advertising executive who just wants to fly home to Chicago to spend Thanksgiving with his family. But all Neal Page gets is misery. Misery named Del Griffith - a loud mouthed, but nevertheless loveable salesman who leads Neal on a cross-country, wild goose chase that keeps Neal from tasting his turkey."

What Did I Learn?: 1) A man who will pay $50 for a cab will easily pay $75. 2) There isn’t much to see in Wichita, Kansas in the middle of the night. 3) Not many people know the words to “Three Coins in the Fountain”.  4) You can’t rent a car with shower curtain rings.

You Might Like This Movie If: You’ve ever had to travel in planes, trains, or automobiles. (Ha – and I guess you were expecting a clip of “Those aren’t pillows!”, or Steve Martin’s foul-mouthed rant in the rental agency, weren’t you?)

Really?: 1) I realize Neal and Del were let down by Amtrak, but couldn’t they have tried to pick up another train when they hit St. Louis? Or why didn’t they keep bussing it from there? 2) Would a vibrating bed really cause a six-pack of beer to explode? 3) I had a bit of trouble believing these guys would keep bumping into each other and re-teaming after so many fights and breakups.

Rating: When I reviewed Uncle Buck almost a year ago, I wrote that it might have been John Candy’s best movie. My old friend Raphael disagreed, and stated that Planes, Trains and Automobiles was a better film. After seeing PTA again for the first time in many years (this is one of those movies I overdosed on as a kid), I have to admit that Raphael was correct. Candy and Steve Martin are perfectly cast, the storyline is easily relatable, and the film delivers both laughs and some genuinely touching moments. PTA is highly recommended. 10/10 stars.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Next Friday (2000)

TGIF! Click the link to read my review of Friday. (Yes, that is a ten-cent sticker in the top right-hand corner)

Synopsis: Imagine Cheech hiring a replacement Chong, and you get the drift of Next Friday.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Get ready to kick it again with Ice Cube (Three Kings, The Players Club) as he moves to the burbs in this outrageous sequel!”

What Did I Learn?: 1) If you have a sensitive colon, it’s not a great idea to consume a lot of hot sauce before a long drive. 2) Very few individuals will agree to use a hot tub after discovering a used condom in the water.

Really?: 1) I would imagine that most people who fall in dog shit go home and change their clothes; they wouldn’t wear the same coveralls all day. 2) So wait – Debo knocks out the gangbanger about to kill Craig because he wants to do it himself? Why would he want to put his fingerprints all over a murder weapon?

Rating: Next Friday has a few laughs (all of them lowbrow, and mostly thanks to the talented comic actor John Witherspoon), but the film sorely lacks the manic energy of Chris Tucker’s Smokey character. On the whole, Next Friday is pretty forgettable. 5.5/10 stars.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

She's So Lovely (1997)

Synopsis: Chick with incredibly bad judgement is torn between foul-mouthed suburban family man and fresh-out-of-the-loony-bin scuzzy ex-husband.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “John Travolta (Face/Off, Phenomenon) joins Sean Penn (The Game, Dead Man Walking) and Robin Wright Penn (Forrest Gump) in this funny, hip and emotionally supercharged movie about a woman whose passion for two totally opposite men sets up an outrageously explosive love triangle!”

What Did I Learn?: Ladies, telling your husband that while you love him, you love your ex-husband even more is a pretty good way to start a fight.

You Might Like This Movie If: You enjoy hearing the screams of passion.

Really?: 1) It’s funny how Maureen (Robin Wright Penn) never changes at all, even a divorce, a re-marriage, three kids and ten years later. 2) So wait – Eddie (Sean Penn) manages to talk Maureen into leaving the house, and he has the nerve to order her around? And she’s ok with that?!

Rating: Like a number of other John Cassavetes films, She’s So Lovely deals in raw human emotions, and it isn’t always easy to watch. While Sean Penn delivers a tour-de-force performance as a very troubled young man (Travolta and Wright Penn are also very good), She’s So Lovely is a disjointed film that feels like two movies welded together: the first half set in the 1970s is gritty, raw drama, while the second half is more of an awkward comedy. She’s So Lovely doesn’t quite work, but it’s an interesting misfire. 6.5/10 stars.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Under Suspicion (2000)

Synopsis: Scuzzy lawyer likes really young girls. Scuzzy cop wants to know what he likes to do with them.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Everyone has secrets. Some of them are crimes. Two men. One night. The police captain on the island of Puerto Rico interviews a prominent tax attorney and old friend – the witness to one of a shocking series of brutal crimes. But what begins as a cooperative conversation between peers descends into a night of intense interrogation between fierce adversaries.”

What Did I Learn?: If you’re going to lie to the cops, it’s best to come up with a good story off the bat and then stick to it.

You Might Like This Movie If: You enjoy a good interrogation.

Really?: 1) Wouldn’t a rich guy be able to afford a better toupee? 2) What are the odds of Hackman having photographs of both murdered girls? 3) Umm...innocent people sometimes plead guilty to crimes because they’re poor, can’t afford legal representation, and figure they’re better off with a plea bargain. Generally speaking, rich lawyers don’t admit to raping and killing children because they’re down in the dumps.

Rating: Under Suspicion is a tense psycho-drama featuring fine performances from Hackman and Freeman (as well as Thomas Jane and Monica Bellucci in supporting roles). While I recommend this movie, it’s seriously undermined by an unsatisfying and highly unbelievable ending. 7/10 stars.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Few Good Men (1992)

Synopsis: You want subtlety and good writing? You can’t HANDLE subtlety and good writing!

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore star in Rob Reiner’s unanimously acclaimed drama about the dangerous difference between following orders and following one’s conscience” [Wait – “unanimously acclaimed”? Is Columbia Tristar Home Video seriously suggesting that everyone loves this movie? Give me a fucking break...]

What Did I Learn?: If you think there’s a chance you might suddenly snap under an aggressive cross-examination and admit your guilt, count to ten, practice your collection of friendly smiles and repeat the words: “wasn’t me!”

Really?: 1) So....the defense strategy (in the absence of any usable evidence) is to get a hardened combat veteran to crack on the witness stand and admit his guilt? Hey, that shit happens all the time on Perry Mason! 2) Wait – does Tom Cruise drive drunk? And does he seriously expect Demi to get into his car after he admitted to knocking back nearly an entire bottle of bourbon? 3) Is Cruise’s hair short enough for a Naval officer? And does his character actually know anything about the Navy?

Rating: I hadn’t watched A Few Good Men for a number of years, so I was taken aback by its mediocrity. Written by Aaron Sorkin, the dialogue is hackneyed, and often descends into editorializing – everyone wants to give a speech, it seems. While there are a number of good performance (especially from a snarling Nicholson), it’s dull and utterly predictable for the simple reason that everything is spelled out ahead of time, there are no surprises, and the viewer is never given the opportunity to put any pieces together. 5.5/10 stars.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Poolhall Junkies (2002)

Synopsis: Down-on-his-luck billiard genius finds the inner strength to take Schroder, the kid from Silver Spoons?!

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Johnny was a pool hustler, one of the best, until he discovered how his manager Joe had ruined his life. He left Joe in the hands of some heavy-duty drug dealers and split the scene. Now he’s trying to go legit, save his relationship with his girlfriend Tara, and maybe even save his life.”

What Did I Learn?: Never, ever agree to play 8 ball against a better player on the condition that you may remove four of your balls after his first shot – it only makes it easier for him to pocket his.

Really?: 1) So Johnny’s girlfriend is a hot law student with rich parents, and she really wants him to work construction jobs? 2) Johnny meets Uncle Mike (Christopher Walken) at a party, and they become friends; that said, it’s a bit of a stretch when Mike agrees to bankroll Johnny’s big game.  3) Even if you have revenge on your mind, ripping off the local drug dealer by putting a gun to his head is a pretty bad idea. I don’t think Joe would still be in the city, soliciting billiard games after doing so.

Rating: Poolhall Junkies is a fun little movie with fine performances from Walken and Chazz Palminteri, and a decent first outing from real-life billiard master Mars Callahan. The movie is at its best when it focuses on pool; Alison Eastwood isn’t given much to do except huff-and-puff (“you’re playing again, aren’t you?!”), and Danny’s crew is a little too goofy to be believable. 7.5/10 stars.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Americathon (1979)

Synopsis: It’s the 1990s, as foreseen through a crystal ball made of late-1970s cheese.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “It’s the 1990s and the world’s oil is gone. The United States Treasury is empty and a billionaire loan shark is about to foreclose on the nation explaining “we all gotta eat”. The solution: a telethon to save Uncle Sam from bankruptcy. With this as a launching pad, Americathon explodes into comic outer space. Written by Firesign Theatre veterans Phil Procter and Peter Bergman, this wicked and screamingly funny satire stars Harvey Korman, Fred Willard and Peter Riegert with a very funny special appearance by John Ritter as President of the United State.”

What Did I Learn?: “Puke rock” was the big musical trend in 1998.

You Might Like This Movie If: You’re glad this is a work of fiction; China would never become a capitalist world power, and America would never elect a lecherous President or wind up on the verge of bankruptcy. And the idea that the world could run out of cheap oil? Preposterous!

Really?: Americathon is a wacky social satire, so it isn’t meant to be taken all that seriously; I can overlook Israel merging with its Arab neighbours, or North Dakota becoming the first all-gay state. Still, if Mouling Jackson is supposed to be Vietnamese, wouldn’t it have made sense to hire an Asian actress for the part instead of Zane Buzby?

Rating: Chock full of celebrity cameos (Meat Loaf, Elvis Costello, Jay Leno, Howard Hesseman, and George Carlin, to name a few), Americathon is a long-forgotten, and utterly strange time capsule from Carter-era America. The film is awful for a lot of reasons (the biggest being that it’s not so much funny as loud, and everyone tries way too hard), but it’s worth viewing once, if only because Americathon is such a bizarre spectacle. 3/10 stars.

Would it Work For a Bad Movie Night?: You betcha!


Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday (1995)


Synopsis: Grumpy rapper-turned actor and hyperactive pot-head while away a pleasant day on the front porch.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Ice Cube stars as Craig, an alright guy with some crazy friends like Smokey Chris Tucker (Rush Hour, Money Talks) who has 24 hours to pay back Deebo, the hood’s nastiest thug – or else!” [WTF?! Who wrote this? Smokey owes the money to the local ice cream truck-driving drug dealer, “Big Worm”, not Deebo, who’s just a run-of-the-mill muscle-headed bully. And “Smokey Chris Tucker”? Smokey is the character, Chris Tucker is the actor who portrays him. Wow...]

What Did I Learn?: You have to be either very unlucky or very stupid to get fired on your day off.

You Might Like This Movie If: This song means a great deal to you. Oops – I mean this song.

Really?: 1) I don’t suppose anyone in the neighbourhood ever considered calling the cops on Deebo? (Not that Ice Cube is a big fan of LA’s Finest, of course...). 2) So wait, Craig doesn’t want to shoot Deebo, but hitting him in the head with a brick is somehow ok?

Rating: Ice Cube turns in a decent performance in Friday (even if his character is something of an unlikeable asshole) but Tucker totally steals the movie as Smokey. Quite honestly, I couldn’t stop laughing through the scene when Smokey is forced to defecate in the bushes near his home and he’s accosted by the local crackhead. Friday isn’t great cinema by any stretch, but it is a surprisingly funny movie. And you know this! 8/10 stars.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Man Trouble (1992)

Synopsis: Nicholson and Barkin ask themselves that age-old question (XXXXXX?)

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “JACK NICHOLSON is Harry Bliss, a wisecracking con-man and the owner of the House of Bliss Guard Dog Agency. ELLEN BARKIN is Joan, a single, sexy singer who discovers that her Hollywood Hills house was burglarized. Terrified, she enlists Harry’s help to protect her. But the more he tries to help, the worse things get!”

What Did I Learn?: 1) Very few Asian women appreciate being addressed as “Iwo Jima”. 2) If a woman asks you a difficult question you don’t wish to answer, the proper response is: “I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but I notice you have exquisite hands!”

You Might Like This Movie If: you loved Trouble Man.

Really?: 1) So wait, there’s a creepy, masked attacker tormenting Joan, and she just happens to have an ever-so-nice, sweater-wearing male friend who complains she never confides in him anymore? Hmmm... 2) Isn’t the attacker taking a rather big risk in chopping up Barkin’s car when he knows she has a big, well-trained German shepherd nearby? 3) Isn’t Jack a little, um....old to be romancing Ellen Barkin?

Rating: While Man Trouble received scathing reviews when it was released two decades ago, it isn’t that bad a film (although it isn’t great, either). Nicholson is charmingly sleazy, Barkin is sexy, and you could describe Man Trouble as a nice, romantic comedy with a few good moments. Alas, the movie also isn’t terribly interesting or funny, the plot is a tad predictable, and the ending is downright lazy. Save Man Trouble for a rainy Sunday afternoon. 6/10 stars.