Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Starman

*

Jeff Bridges' Oscar-nominated performance as the title character is really the only reason to see this turkey. He does admirable work as an alien walking around in the simulacrum of the body of a recently dead man, whose DNA he's appropriated for purposes of earthling assimilation, convincingly essaying a completely un-human entity wearing a man skin, but the rest of this is really unimaginative, "we're the true savages" sort of stuff, as the curious and advanced Starman learns about the simple pleasures of pie and human love, while the cartoonish military decides that they want to chase him down and dissect him for science and weaponry and blah blah. John Carpenter directed, but there's almost none of the signature creepiness (with one notable exception) or style on offer this time out, just platitudes and dumb.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Ruling Class


* * *

This is all fairly silly hippy-dippy stuff about a delusional young English lord (Peter O'Toole), who inherits his family estate while fully believing himself to be a kind of a Godspell-cum-Superstar Jesus Christ, complete with wacky musical numbers and a cross he can climb up on when he feels especially put-upon. Of course, young Lord Jesus' nattering about universal love makes no sense -- in entirely predictable ways -- to his crusty old-moneyed British family. It's all halfway interesting in a shaggy way-too-long sort of way, but hang on for the intriguing and absolutely insane left turn in the third act. I've rarely seen a movie go bananas quite like this one does. It's like watching Benji turn into Cujo.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

New Banner/ScreenShot Quiz!

I've snazzed the joint up a little -- just only a little.

Back in the very old days (2003, when HTML roamed the earth) I used to run a FilmChaw screenshot quiz. I'd post four images from a movie, people would try to guess what movie it was from, and then at the end whoever had the most correct guesses would win absolutely nothing!

So here's my latest attempt to revive the spirit of that. Every week I'll load a new banner, and you can, if you like, try to guess it in the comments. I'll confirm if you're right or wrong, and the first person to guess it will win absolutely nothing!

Got it? OK . . . go!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

original > remake

I watched Philadelphia Story and High Society the other night, back to back. I've seen Philadelphia Story at least a dozen times - there's something about the screwball comedies from the 20's and 30's that I really like. Perhaps it's the oft-present martini.

This was the first time I had seen High Society (HS) and after a careful and reasoned* analysis, I have to conclude that Philadelphia Story has the win, because:
  • Bing ain't no Cary (score one for PS)
  • Grace ain't no Katherine (score one for PS)
  • black & white > 1950's Technicolour (score one for PS)
  • Jimmy is good, but so is Frank (tie)
  • little girl is engaging in PS, bratty in HS (score one for PS)
  • Louis Armstrong is just plain awesome (score one for HS)
  • a musical? really? (subtract one from HS)
  • although, to be honest, Who Wants to be a Millionaire with Frank and Celeste Holm is gold. (score only 1/2 for HS, as it is overshadowed by dreck like Little One)



*a few martinis were quaffed during the viewing. Words like careful and reasoned therefore have slightly altered meanings than what one might find in Merriam-Webster. Just sayin'.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Mad Movies

Clash of the Titans
I will admit that I'm a big Harryhausen fan. I love stop-motion animation.I love the original Clash of the Titans, even the silliness (everyone knows that Bubo was the original Jar Jar Binks). I'm not a big fan of remakes so I wasn't sure if I'd like this version, however I found it to be a fun romp of monster battles. And men in short skirts. If you're looking for monster bashing, sword fights, angry gods, Ralph Fiennes trying to sport the Richard Alpert eyeliner look, oh, and men in short skirts, this is the movie for you. If you don't expect too much, you won't be disappointed. NB: Word on the street is to not see this in 3-D. The 3-D effects were an afterthought and not worth the extra $$s.

Hot Tub Time Machine
Loved loved loved this movie. I don't want to say anything (hahaha Lloyd Dobler) more except go see this movie! Okay, I lied, one more thing, Rob Corddry is hilarious. Go see it. Now! Or at least rent or Netflix it when it becomes available.

The Runaways
All I can say is I wanna be 16 again and play guitar in a rock band. Okay, to be honest, the drug abuse, the sexist abuse, the abuse from management would not be welcome but hey, if you're going to be a rock star you have to pay your dues, right? Kristen Stewart is spot-on as Joan Jett. Little Dakota Fanning is all grown up now, playing lead singer Cherie Currie. Michael Shannon does an excellent job as sleazy manager Kim Fowley - at times you want to reach out and slap him silly. The music, the clothes, the cinematography are all perfect. The movie is a bit lightweight though - going a bit easy on the Currie family problems/Cherie Currie drug issues and skimming the surface of the rock and roll lifestyle. Even so, for me, it was a fun ride along with these rocker girls from the 70s.

Anvil: The Story of Anvil
Remember Anvil? If you're not into metal you've probably never heard of them. Anvil is a Canadian band that has been around for 30+ years. At the beginning of this rockumentary, Slash says metal bands "ripped them off and left them for dead." What did happen to Anvil? Why did they fall into obscurity while other bands like Slayer and Metallica became so popular? The movie only hints at why they never got the fame and fortune, instead concentrating on where they are now, where they are still going. Steve "Lips" Kudlow is a man of dreams that he won't let die. His friend and bandmate from the get go, Robb Reiner, loves Kudlow too much to give up on him, even though he seems like he'd be happier staying at home in Toronto and painting. It's definitely a poignant look at a band that loves what they are doing, loves their fans, and most of all, loves the music.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Vertigo


* * *

There's no avoiding it. This wouldn't be necessary if I wasn't dealing with one of the most revered films in the canon, one of those sacred cows that have a permanent spot on many critic's all-time top ten list. Usually I'd simply give out my three stars - plenty good, but not all-time great - and be on my way. But not this time . . .I've got a confession to make: I have yet to fully 'get' Alfred Hitchcock, and this extends to what most consider to be his masterwork, Vertigo.

Which is to say, I recognize and celebrate the artistry in his films - the masterful composition, in the often-mesmerizing editing, in the psychological layering - but it is an artistry that doesn't quite reach me on a gut level. Hitch has been accused of misogyny, but what I come away with after a Hitchcock film is the director's contempt for almost all of his characters - poor crazy Norman Bates (Psycho)and Claude Raines' Nazi mama's boy (Notorious) may get the most unadulterated measures of the director's sympathy. Hitchcock seems to me a particularly cold fish, one who has better earned the technical master/misanthrope tag that gets pasted onto Stanley Kubrick and the Coens.

Beyond this philosophical quibble, however, lies a dirtier little secret I'll confess. In most of his most revered films (Notorious is an exception), Hitch throws in one or two serious howlers - stylized moments, often utilizing special effects, that are so off-base, so downright cheesy, that to me, they stop the movie cold. These moments - Rear Window's Jimmy Stewart blinding his assailant with his camera flash (red filters hoorah!) that whole North by Northwest Mount Rushmore set-piece, and the dippy-trippy, electric kool-aide nightmare sequence from Vertigo, to name three examples - yank you right out of the moment. Worse, all three of these occur precisely when the suspense should be at its height.

One could argue that my reaction is a sad commentary on my CGI-generation; Star Wars kids so indoctrinated to the more seamless effects of today that they are numbed to the more impressionistic visual delights of yesteryear, but I don't buy that. I was bored stiff by the twisters in Twister, for example, but that Wizard of Oz windsock is still a dark thrill (to say nothing of those flying hell-monkeys), and even Vertigo's opening set piece, in which a deadly fall is shown in horizontal, not vertical space, is genuinely terrifying. In other words, impressionistic effects still get to me - when they're well-done. I just think Hitchcock has a tendency to make bad choices in this area.

Okay, that's off my chest. I feel better. Now I can get back to my review of what remains, despite my reservations, a very tense, meticulously calibrated thriller about the fine differences between love and obsession, and which contains what is almost certainly Stewart's finest hour as an actor.

In his later career, Jimmy Stewart underwent a pretty nifty image transformation, and Hitchcock played a big part in that. His on-screen persona - wholesome, trusty, smart, and more than a little square - had been well-defined in hits like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and A Philadelphia Story. It may have been shocking for America to watch him morph, as he does here, from a folksy American whimsy-muffin into an obsessive, sadistic misogynist. That's simplifying things a bit, but the Stewart on display in Hitchcock joints such as Rope or Rear Window is a more shadowy creature by far, and in Vertigo the transformation is all the more striking because it actually occurs during the film's running time. Stewart's detective, John "Scotty" Ferguson, starts the movie so golly-gosh-gee-aw-shucks that the corn-fed goodness approaches parody. His slow transformation, therefore, from stalwart emblem of the normal into full-on psychosexual creepshow lends the second act a shocking undertow that transcends the plot.

The less said about the plot the better. Not because it is a bad one, but because unspoiled is the best way to view any film. The basics: Scotty is a San Fran detective retired after a traumatic incident involving heights, shown in a very brief establishing scene, furnishes him with crippling acrophobia. He is contacted by a rich schoolchum, who suspects that there is something quite wrong with his wife, Madeline (a magnificent Kim Novak). As a favor, Scottie agrees to investigate and is drawn into a mystery involving . . .

Well. Like I said, it's best to leave the plot alone. You either already know already or else you shouldn't be told under any circumstances. What is great about this film (as with most films with aspects of greatness) goes beyond the what-who-where. It is in the way the establishing sequence leaves Scotty hanging over the maw, the way we never discover how he escaped (he's always hanging on by his fingers, just about to plummet). The greatness is found in Hitch's eerie and deserted San Francisco, in the long expanses of silence, the fevered colors, the way the camera always seems to see Scotty looking down, never up. Vertigo holds the same inchoate menace that curls through the best noir - everything seems a little off in ways that are hard to catalogue, much like dreams are just before they become nightmares. By the end, as events loop back upon itself, Scotty has been tricked into becoming a demon, making his love into no more than the object of his obsession. "It can't possibly matter to you," he says to Novak - one of the cruelest lines of dialogue ever written - as he makes her over into the image of his desires. She has become his own little voodoo Barbie doll, allowing Scottie to purge his fears by bringing his demons right into his own psychic kitchen - he 'cures' himself by causing the tragedy which, at a different time, he was helpless to prevent.

But again, I return to my quibbles. The plot contrivance that brings the characters to this juncture - one character puts on an accessory that is a dead give-away - is just too transparent, too easy, and too unbelievable. Ever so briefly, the curtain of dread is lifted and we see the gears running the machine.

Great. The hairs on my neck are standing up, the static electricity that comes just before a lightning strike. The gods of cinema are about to strike me dead. I can feel it.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Movie Extravaganza!

Woo! It's a new month! I can movie blog again with some semblance of dignity...a lot of crap this month, but what was awesome, was amazing, so...here goes:

The Last House on the Left (2009)
Oh, god. OH MAN! Still shaking/screaming/crying for my mommy. I cannot impress upon you how FUCKING RIDICULOUSLY scary this movie is. I (looks over her shoulder) can't. Wes Craven may kill me. But if you like horror movies and feel like you've slept enough to last you a lifetime, I highly recommend this movie. It starts, as all good horror movies do, with teenage white girls doing extremely dumb shit. And then people get stabby. And you think...yawn, sigh, I've seen this a million times before. Nu uh. AND THEN THIS MOVIE gets good. OH MAN. Seriously. Can't sleep. Maybe if I watch it again, it'll help...cause I'll see that whole garbage disposal bit coming...mommy.


The Princess and the Frog (2009)

Dis. A. Ppointment. First off, the "first black princess" in the Disney vaults aint a princess AT ALL. She's a waitress. A waitress who waits tables AT multiple establishments, in fact. Like she sleeps in her waitress uniform for ten minutes before jumping out of bed and going to her next waitress job. So that she can get enough money to...wait for it...open a RESTAURANT. UGH. Now, I know there aint nothing wrong with waitressing. And opening a restaurant is a laudable goal. But for a young black woman to be waitressing instead of say GOING TO FRACKING college isn't exactly the groundbreaking cinematic change I was expecting from this movie. Ugh. Sorry to get all political about a cartoon, but I felt like I'd been sold a bill of goods on that front. Now, as your regular ordinary Disney movie, it's perfectly fine. I hear little kids love it. The ending totally made me (temporarily) forget why I was so pissed about the movie. It's cute. Not groundbreaking. Cute.

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant (2009)
This movie stars the Mr. Cellophane man from Chicago. (You know, the Stepbrothers, Dewey Cox story guy! John something or another.) It's the story of a traveling circus that comes to a small town. Two best friends go to the show and one of the boys steals a deadly spider. It then bites the other boy, so the thief returns to the circus to get the antidote to save his friend's life! If I were clear on what a Faustian bargain was, I'd claim that he makes one to save his friend's life. And of course, as no good deed goes unpunished, real bad things happen next. I liked this movie a lot! Though, I suspect this movie is just the beginning of lots of "Vampire Assistant" movies to come. Definitely give it a watch!

Extract (2009)

This movie stars Jason Bateman. This movie is horrible. Bateman is the owner of a successful extract flavor producing factory. After an accident costs one of his employees his testicles, a grifter, Jackie from That 70s show, sets her sights on the company and tries to get the ballless guy to sue for millions. Meanwhile, Bateman is in a loveless marriage and wants to have an affair with the grifter, so he hires a gigolo to sleep with his wife so he can have an affair guilt-free. All of this is supposed to be funny. It's not. Not even for a second. Oh, Ben Affleck is in it too. It's worse than Gigli. WORSE!

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

So, here's the thing. And I'm sure you never thought you'd see a Dawn Summers review which says this, but...there were too many unnecessary explosions in the movie. I know, I know. I'm scared too. It was one of my problems with the Wild Wild West Will Smith movie, some...decade(s?) ago. Look, you've made your bed and set your movie in the 19th century. Suck it up. You don't get to have 20th century pyrotechnics. Plus, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law to a (way way way) lesser extent are strong enough actors to keep me interested without the usual bells and whistles I require. They should have trusted that. The movie is okay, but the silly booms are distracting and makes the movie feel long. Also, the actress that plays Downey's foil is dreadful. Hire a fucking grownup woman to play a grownup woman part. Sheesh.


Bandslam
(2009)
This movie stars Lisa Kudrow...okay, not really. She's just the mom. It's about her son, who's a geeky loser whose best friend is imaginary David Bowie. He writes letters to the rock star instead of just keeping a diary like the rest of us. It's also one of those kinds of movies that pretends that Vanessa Hudgens is a geeky, awkward looking girl. Uh huh. Anyway, Bandslam is a huge end of year music battle. The geeks get together to form a band to compete against the popular kids. It's pretty formulaic, but decent. Plus, me likey Lisa Kudrow.

The Golden Child [I Love the 80's Edition] (1986)
Eddie Murphy stars in this 80s classic. I don't know why I rented this. It was okay. Murphy is a terrible actor! It isn't all that funny. Meh. If you haven't seen it by now, no need to go out of your way to find it.

Hero (2002)
Another excellent recommendation from Kat (I think)...this movie is visually stunning. I loved the fighting and the characters. I'm not sure I like the message, especially since the Chinese will become the American overlords any day now...but great visual storytelling and the women aren't annoying. Can't ask for more than that. Well, you could. But then you'd be a jerk. Are you a jerk? Okay then.



The Answer Man
(2009)
This movie stars Lorelei Gilmore and the Dumb and Dumber guy that's not Jim Carrey. Ugh. It's so bad! He is a self help author whose own life is, gasp, shocker, a mess! Lorelei is a single mom whose husband walked out on her and her son. Then there's a whole thing with a used bookstore owner that I still don't understand. The self help guy tries to sell him his used books, but the bookstore guy is all "I can't afford to buy books" and so the self help guy is like "fine, just take them" and the book store guy still says no! What?! Blah. Boo! Stay away.

Is Anybody There? (2008)
Has there ever been a good movie that had a question mark in the title? If not, this movie continues that trend. The little kid from "Son of Rambow" stars with Michael Caine in this schlocky British um "comedy"? The little kid lives with his parents in the family run old folks home. He then, obviously, becomes obsessed with death and finding out what comes after. So he sits next to the recently deceased with a tape recorder. Caine is committed to the home against his will and he befriends the boy. Trust me, you've seen this movie a hundred times and this one ends the same way.


Where the Wild Things Are
(2009)
Is it weird that I've never read this book? Cause if it is, then I have! (No I haven't) The reviews for this were SO BAD I was prepared for the worse...but surprisingly, I didn't get it. I didn't love this movie, but in no way was it terrible. But the little boy clearly needs psychiatric help. The monsters are also dumb looking.

An Education (2009)

This movie is absolutely wonderful. And it makes you want to speak all proper-like and say "wonderful" and "biscuits" and "out in the country." (I'll stop before further demonstrating that I haven't the faintest idea what proper speech would consist of. I mean, of which it would consist. Shut up.) It's about a 16 year old A student, whose father is pushing her hard to get into Oxford (the Yale of England, I presume.) It's the 60s and she's doing very well...for a girl. Ahem. But then she catches the eye of an older man played by Peter Sarsgaard, who totally gaslighted Jodie Foster in Flight Plan! So, in the movie you're supposed to think he's all nice and sweet, but after what he did to Jodie, I KNEW he was EVIL! Well, okay, I may be overstating his evil. But, well, teenage girl, middle age man, really? Was this gonna end well? Anyway, it's GREAT! Go see it.

Armored (2009)
Booo! BOOOO! BOOOOOOO. So the premise is that these guards hijack an armored truck full of 100 million dollars or some equally ridiculous sum, and then they have to stage a fake robbery to cover up the fact that it was an inside job.
Everything goes swimmingly until a homeless guy wanders through where they are stashing the money and the trigger happy member of the bunch shoots and kills him. Then the new guy grows a conscience and barracades himself inside the armored truck with the money while the others figure out how to smoke him out and salvage their money stealing plans. The holes in this movie are big enough to drive an armored truck through. You won't believe a single moment of this claptrap.


Chaos Theory (2007/I)


This movie is one of the last remaining Ryan Reynolds movies that I hadn't seen and he doesn't disappoint! He plays a self-help guru who lectures on efficiency and time management, but due to an unexpected run-in with a pregnant woman in labor, his life gets turned upside down and he embraces chaos theory! Like he writes down all the stuff he's ever wanted to do on various notecards and then just picks one AND DOES IT! Awesome! Ice streaking at a hockey game...my fave.


Brothers
(2009)
Um...so Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire are supposed to be brothers. Tobey is an army vet, but Jake is a paroled convict. Tobey goes on one last mission and ends up missing presumed dead. Jake fills his shoes with the wife and kids. But then Tobey comes home! Oh no! This movie could have been good, but the interesting stuff (Tobey coming home after his wife has fallen for his brother) doesn't happen till the last half hour of the movie. But you don't really care about anything else cause that's the good stuff! Blah. Boring waste of a cool premise.


Fantastic Mr. Fox
(2009)
Blah. This is one of those animated movies that are cool visually and technically and whatnot, but is really best described as boring. The premise is that Mr. Fox is a daring chicken thief, but when his wife gets pregnant and asks him to get a different profession, he does. But after years as a newspaper columnist, he gets bored and wants one last score against the biggest chicken owners in the county. Blah. Plus, they make the only child out to be a selfish brat and everyone knows only children are awesome!

The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)
Speaking of boring wastes of good movie premises...this is another Clooney vehicle where he once again makes me wonder how he has become as big a star as he is. It's about a special ops wing of the military which trains soldiers to kill with their mental minds. They train for this by staring at goats till the goat dies. It's retarded. Basically, one of them goes roque and then the secret gets out and a reporter - the pretty boy from Trainspotting - goes to Iraq to chase down the story. Instead of just being a straightforward thriller, the flick tries to be a faux documentary with flashback clips and whatnot. No bueno.

The Blind Side (2009)
I rented this movie in solidarity with Sandra Bullock leaving her stupid philandering husband! Also, I didn't hate it. Basically, she takes in a homeless black kid and he turns out to be an amazing left tackle! I also got to hear the story of Laurence Taylor ending the Redskins' quarterback career, which was awesome. (Till they get rid of their racist name, only bad things should happen to them! *Celie shrug*) I believed everyone except for the damn hell ass little white boy. Gimmee a break. Really? Michael has a coach and his dad was some big athlete, but it's the three foot tall, 40 pound kid that's gonna teach him to be a football player? Eye. Roll.

The Boys Are Back (2009)


Clive Owen is a sports writer who lives in Australia with his second wife and five year old son. She dies suddenly of cancer and he has to learn to raise his son all on his own! However will he manage the boy AND the house cleaning??!? I will say that as much as I hate how women are often portrayed in movies, I also hate the portrayal of men as slobs who are incapable of lighting a stove or washing a dish. This movie has that stereotype in droves! Oh, AND THEN we find out that mister Owen, left his first wife with a 7 year old son because he knocked up the woman that would become his second wife. (Made me feel a whole lot less bad about her cancer death, let me tell you.) Anyway, the older boy, whose mom is also in a new relationship and about to have a new kid moves to Australia with his dad and half brother. Meh. It's okay. Like, if you're on a plane and this is one of the choices, you maybe should pick it.

Food, Inc. (2008)
I boldly declared I wasn't going to eat again. But then I got hungry and ate a cookie. That cookie led to another cookie and then spaghetti and meatballs. It was a whole slippery slope. But this movie is a well done "expose" on the food industry and how we're all gonna die from the roided up chickens and cows we eat. And also how our government is in the pockets of the food industry and that's why we'll never know the truth about what we're eating. Which, in my government's defense, I really didn't want to know in the first place. So, screw you producers of Food Inc! Jerks. I hope Obama throws your asses in prison. Now, where are my cookies?



Did You Hear About the Morgans?
[Blu-ray] (2009)

Again, I ask, has a good movie ever had a question mark in its title? This movie, yet more fodder for the "nope. never" camp. So, Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker are an estranged couple thrown together in witness protection after seeing a murder. The "New Yorkers" are holed up on a farm in Wisconsin. And then Hijinks were supposed to ensue. I like to say this movie is just like City Slickers...except not funny and will never be mentioned again in six months. So, I guess it's more like City Slickers 2.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon [Special Edition]
(2009)
I haven't read the books, I'm not a huge crazy Twilight person, but I will watch just about anything. As you already know. This movie falls squarely in the category of "anything." So the plot...um...Bella dates a vampire, but she's human and fears growing old, so she begs him to change her into a vampire. He says no. Then runs away. She goes crazy and suicidal and dates a werewolf. Well, not date, just friends. And she didn't know he was a werewolf. He does not wear shirts very often. Um. And then they end up in Italy driving a hot sports car.

The Grand (2007)
Someone at a poker table in Atlantic City recommended this movie to me. It aint bad. It's basically like the story of Binion's where the next generation kinda fucks up the casino the older generation built. In this case, Woody Harrelson tries to win the big "Binion's" tournament so he can get enough money to save his casino. He is met with competition from "Howard Lederer" and "Annie Duke" (can't remember their movie names, but they're brother and sister) Plus, a nerdy math geek played by Doctor Spaceman from 30 Rock. If you like poker, you'll like this movie. If you don't like poker...you're a freak. Are you a freak?


Shorts [WS/P&S] (2009)


Okay, when I tell you I was surprised that this movie was a series of short films, clumped together in one 90 minute package, you will point at the title and wonder why. But hey, "shorts" can mean LOTS of things! Little people. Pants. Um. Some other stuff too probably. Shut up. Anyway, I actual thought this was a GREAT kids movie. So many of the movies packaged for kids are little more than flatulence jokes and sexually inappropriate dialogue -- this movie felt more like the movies we had when I was a kid. Like Flubber and that other movie with the shaggy dog. It's a feel good, for the whole family movie, that isn't totally retarded.

Possession [Blu-ray] (2007)
I have seen ever Sarah Michelle Gellar movie. And with the exception of Grudge, Scream and I know what you did last summer, they have ALL BEEN WRETCHED. I prayed and prayed to the God above that this movie would not suck. And my prayers were WAY answered!! She is the wife of a man who is letting his drug addict, parolee brother stay with them. She has finally had enough of the creepy brother and tells her husband it's time to kick him out. The brother overhears and takes off, the brother takes after him and they end up in a fiery car crash on a rainy road and they both end up in comas. (Ha, I almost spelled that commas. I'm funny.) The brother wakes up, but he has her husband's memory! OMG! Does she dare build a life with a man with a face she despises, but the insides of the love of her life? Oh, she dareth! Great flick, great twists. Delicious!


Dolan's Cadillac (2009)


This movie was so bad that while I was watching it, I was forgetting what it was about. The box makes it seem like Christian Slater is the devil or some other kind of immortal being who patrols the desert highways in a magical cadillac. Nope. He's just a creepy skin pedeller who trafficks women across the border for ilicit deeds. The protagnist is a loser whose wife saw Dolan doing his dirty business and gets killed for her troubles. The loser wants revenge. Dolan is all "ha, do you know who I am?" Loser is all "I'll get you yet gadget." Seriously, no reason to ever see this movie...unless Christian Slater is holding your teenage daughter hostage and this is the ransom demand. And even then...think long and hard...you can always get another daughter.
Murderous Maids (2000)
This movie is in French. They don't tell you that right away. Also, the murdering doesnt happen till the last 15 minutes of the movie. So, you'll spend an hour and a half adrift in a sea of French maids tapping your foot and waiting for some murdering. So, unless that's your thing...

The Marine [WS] [Unrated] (2006)
THIS MOVIE IS AWESOME!!!! DUUUDE! Stuff is blowing up right away and the action doesn't stop! After he single-handedly rescues his whole unit from those Iraqi bastards, he then is kicked out of the Marines cause he didn't wait for orders. ("If I wait, those men die!" THEY DIE!!!!!!) Then he becomes a security guard but he throws these men who start smarting off to him THROUGH a plate glass window and loses his job! Just as he's all between jobs trying to figure out what to do next, these jewel theives KIDNAP his WIFE!!! Aww, hell NO. This will NOT stand. HE'S A MARINE. Natch...THE MARINE! Holla! Nonstop action, no dialogue, shirtless hot guy. Need I say more?

Farce of the Pengiuns (2007)
This is like how they make those comedy spoofs of scary movies. Except this is a comedy spoof of the March of the Penguins. Starring penguins with actor voice over. Tracey Morgan made me laugh, as did Samuel L. Jackson. But all in all it's a dumb dumb movie. But I did laugh.

Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)

'Alice, Sweet Alice' (1976)* * *

Those who have seen this creepy, low-budgeted horror gem -- either in the late 70s when it played theatrically, or maybe in the early 80s when it would surface now and again on HBO or as an oddly-chosen weekend afternoon matinee on a local channel -- tend not to forget it. Goes under a few different titles, including Holy Terror and Communion, but Alice, Sweet Alice is what it was called when I was first spooked by it long ago.

Though in some ways derivative of the films of Hitchcock, Polanski, and other horror-in-the-home-type thrillers with domestic settings, director Alfred Sole’s Catholic-themed tale is nevertheless highly suspenseful -- even unsettling. Set in 1961 in Sole’s hometown of Paterson, NJ (where it was filmed), the story focuses on a mass-attending family, the Spages, whose status in their faith-based community has become uncertain following the separation of Catherine (Linda Miller) and Dom (Niles McMaster).

The doe-eyed Paula Sheppard stars in the title role as the troubled older sister, envious of the attention-grabbing Karen, ably played by Brooke Shields in one of her earliest roles. Their sibling rivalry receives even greater scrutiny when -- in an early, surprisingly shocking scene -- little Karen is murdered at the church just before taking her first communion. Could moody little Alice, whom we’ve already discovered likes to wear creepy masks and terrorize her sister, have committed such a horrific crime?

The murder eventually brings the estranged Dom back to Paterson, and as the subsequent investigation evolves the plot takes a few hard-to-anticipate twists, some of which involve more violence being visited upon the conservative, working-class community.

Sole’s direction is obviously very meticulously handled, with nearly every scene peppered with thoughtful, well-crafted shots -- frequently made all the more affecting thanks to the abundance of Catholic imagery as well as Stephen Lawrence’s often eerie soundtrack. The atmosphere reminds me a bit of another low-budgeted, religious-themed, domestic horror film of the era (shot in Pittsburgh) -- George Romero’s Martin (1977). Like that film, Alice does a great job with details, conveying the community and its concerns with a kind of uncanny verisimilitude, yet finding within that realistic world all sorts of strangeness over which to linger and contemplate.

There are a number of impressive set pieces that engage the viewer while helping build suspense throughout, including the murder of Karen, a couple involving the must-be-seen-to-be-believed obese neighbor/landlord Mr. Alphonso (Alphonso DeNoble), a sequence involving Dom and Mrs. Tredoni (Mildred Clinton), and the stunning finale.

'Alice, Sweet Alice' (1976)While there are some overwrought moments here and there (a couple of which involve emotional outbursts by Jane Lowry as Aunt Annie), the performances are mostly quite good, particularly those of Miller, Rudolph Willrich (Father Tom), and especially Clinton as Mrs. Tredoni, Father Tom’s middle-aged servant. Sheppard steals it, though, incredibly pulling off the unusual feat of portraying a 12-year-old Alice at the age of 19.

As I say, there are a few obviously derivative elements (e.g., the yellow rainjackets are an unsubtle crib from Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now). And while those plot twists I mentioned may not be entirely coherent (especially on a first viewing), I think there’s ultimately a way to understand everything. Still, as I say, I appreciate the imagination and creativity on display here.

There are dozens of versions of this film out there in various formats, thanks largely to the fact that the original copyright was not protected. The Hen’s Tooth DVD (released a couple of years ago) is probably the one to pick up, not necessarily for the quality of the transfer but for the commentary by the director Sole, the film’s editor Ed Salier, and Bill Lustig who spent a short period assisting with the film’s make-up effects. Lustig -- probably best known for having directed the squalid, depraved Maniac (1980) -- goes on too much about the challenges of low-budget filmmaking, but Sole (who besides directing also co-wrote the script) does get a chance to explain a lot of the ideas behind his film, including exploring some of the thematic issues it raises.

Definitely not for everyone, particularly those who dislike unsettling domestic dramas or films with less-than-favorable depictions/commentaries on Catholicism. (Or those with an aversion to gore, which though infrequent does occur.) But if you’re a fan of smart horror with a willingness to shock, Alice, Sweet Alice is probably worth a look.

The Pavement Was His Enemy

This just keeps getting funnier and funnier and funnier.

"There IS no bathroom!"