Tuesday, May 21, 2013

There and Back Again: A Nerd's Half-Assed Journey

RV!: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) Dir: Peter Jackson Date Released: December 19, 2001 Date Seen: December 2, 2012 Rating: 3.75/5

407) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) Dir: Peter Jackson Date Released: December 14, 2012 Date Seen: December 11, 2012 Rating: 3/5

I meant to rewatch all three of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings adaptations before seeing The Hobbit. But uh, I got caught up in Godard fever. Still, I don't regret having given up on that project after rewatching the extended cut of The Fellowship of the Ring since Jackson slavishly traces over the narrative beats of that earlier film throughout The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

So: the first installment in Jackson's Hobbit trilogy is supposed to mirror the first film in his Lord of the Rings trilogy. That's annoying, and distracting, but not inexplicable. The Hobbit is a much gentler adventure than The Fellowship of the Ring: singing, and riddles are just as, if not more important than dragons and wizards. So Jackson tried to simultaneously make his Hobbit just as dynamic as his earlier film while fostering a sense of continuity between his two trilogies. 

Bilbo's earlier adventure in The Hobbit now mirrors Frodo's in Fellowship: the council of wizards looks like (and scored the same as?) the Council of Elrond; the flight from the Troll King is like the Balrog chase; and Bilbo's exit from the Shire looks like Frodo's. This narrative tracing is usually more annoying than it is thoughtful, though I did like the way Jackson made the cliff-side fight in The Hobbit correspond with the Fellowship scene where Aragorn rescues Frodo from the Ringwraiths. But that's mostly because the juxtaposition of these two scenes is a lil counterpuntal: Aragorn rescues Frodo, while Bilbo has to actively help his rescuers. These two scenes confirm the differences between the two trilogies while also uniting the two films: in both movies, this is the moment where the Fellowship really becomes a group.

That's the thing I most liked about The Hobbit: as Gandalf says, Bilbo is the most important member of his group because he is naturally more fearful and anxious than any dwarf or wizard. He is literally a smaller person than everyone else, and therefore has to try harder to be a hero. Even when he's only trying to save himself, like when he tells riddles to Smeagol (best scene in the film), or distracts some trolls before Gandalf saves him and his friends, Bilbo stumbles into heroism. It doesn't come naturally to him, and he's no Errol Flynn (he gets some good licks in during the cliff-side fight, but he doesn't single-handedly win the fight for his group). But Bilbo is inspiring, and I greatly appreciated the lengths Jackson went to to establish that conceit.

That having been said, the leering, Raimi-esque canted angles that Jackson uses throughout Fellowship also made me realize that it wasn't just the 48 FPS camerawork that made The Hobbit look ass-ugly: it was the way the film was shot. Jackson cut too many corners, and tried too hard to do too many things in An Unexpected Journey. I'm consequently not surprised that he felt he could/should make The Hobbit into another trilogy. Still, I am really not looking forward to Jackson's spin on Tom Bombadil...

Monday, May 20, 2013

Their Eyes Were Watching Max Von Sydow, I mean Romy Schneider, Shit.

389) Death Watch (1980) Dir: Bertrand Tavernier Date Released: April XX, 1982 Date Seen: November 30, 2012 Rating: 3/5

I'm not wild about this contemplative science fiction film, but I did write about it for the L Magazine. You're welcome.

Capsule Fevah, Part 2

386) Talaash (2012) Dir: Reema Kagti Date Released: November 30, 2012 Date Seen: November 28, 2012 Rating: 2.5/5

387) Deadfall (2012) Dir: Stefan Ruzowitzky Date Released: December 7, 2012 Date Seen: November 28, 2012 Rating: 2/5

388) Happy New Year (2011) Dir: K. Lorrel Manning Date Released: December 7, 2012 Date Seen: November 30, 2012 Rating: 1.5/5

Some capsule reviews for the Village Voice review can be found here, here, and here. You can read them!

Ray Liotta Doesn't Do Method

RV!: Revolver (2005) Dir: Guy Ritchie Date Released: December 7, 2007 Date Seen: November 25, 2012 Rating: 4/5

382) Article 99 (1992) Dir: Howard Deutch Date Released: March 13, 1992 Date Seen: November 25, 2012 Rating: 1.75/5

Ray Liotta is a wonderful interview, no joke. I talk-ed to him for Esquire.

Capsule Fever, Part 1

381) The Athlete (2009) Dir: Davey Frankel and Rasselas Lakew Date Released: November 30, 2012 Date Seen: November 25, 2012 Rating: 2/5

383) Certainty (2011) Dir: Peter Askin Date Released: November 30, 2012 Date Seen: November 25, 2012 Rating: 2/5

Man, these movies just can't catch a break. See my capsule reviews for the Village Voice here and here.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Yet More Odds and Ends: Cult Fun Edition

RV!: The Cable Guy (1996) Dir: Ben Stiller Date Released: June 14, 1996 Date Seen: November 24, 2012 Rating: 4/5

385) Penn and Teller Get Killed (1989) Dir: Arthur Penn Date Released: September 22, 1989 Date Seen: November 27, 2012 Rating: 4/5

392) Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (2012) Dir: John Hyams Date Released: November 30, 2012 Date Seen: Decemer 2, 2012 Rating: 4/5

The Cable Guy: Wow, this holds up really well. Jim Carrey's performance is inspired, maybe the best among his '90s comedies. And the film's dialogue is generally on-point, and rarely so ostentatious, or so clunky that I felt alienated by its immodest ambition. Still, this, like the two other films in this round-up, is a very strong cult film. It's a black comedy that thankfully follows through on its premise, but that premise is so myopic in its appeal and scope that I can't help but feel that stumping for its canonization is a fool's errand. I don't know if I want to be that fool, is what I'm saying. I do however think The Cable Guy is very funny in that cynical, but infantile way Ben Stiller used to do so well.

Penn and Teller Get Killed: Having never really been a Penn and Teller devotee, I was pleasantly surprised by this cult comedy. I particularly dug its creators' blithely arrogant assumptions about narcissism, and suicide. Essentially: once you start to invest serious thought into the delusion that somebody's out to get you, you start to fantasize about killing yourself. I also love that the film's conclusion mocks/exaggerates the snuff film's intended effect: you see someone die, your own sense of self is destabilized--and then you want to die. Then the next person that sees you die, dies. And so on. Again, Get Killed is a strictly for-fans-only proposition. But how will you know if you're a fan unless you give it a go, right? My grandpa used to love Penn and Teller; he recorded Bullshit! off of TV all the time. I wonder if my grandma still has his old tapes...I doubt it, but maybe.*

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning: I think this is as dementedly kinetic, and delightfully unclean as I remember, but I could be wrong. I really dug Hyams's virtuosic direction, and appreciated the hyper-serious-ness he brought to an otherwise unglamorous gig. That having been said, I wouldn't care if Hyams wasn't so good at being heavy-handed. I agree 100% with Richard Brody when he says that the film is immediately intriguing because of how hard Hyams tries to show us what's going on inside his characters' heads. Hyams mostly succeeds, I think, and Day of Reckoning is consequently a darkly comic (that POV brain surgery scene is a doozy!), and even well-choreographed action movie. Also, hey, I cared about a JCVD movie. How'd that happen?

*Gah, I did it again, writing about a movie that I already blurbed up here. Still, the above blurb is probably a better blurb than that earlier one. So, meh.

Odds and Ends: Underwhelming Monsters Edition

378) Godzilla Raids Again (1955) Dir: Motoyoshi Oda Date Released: May 21, 1959 Date Seen: November 23, 2012 Rating: 3/5

379) Old Dracula (1975) Dir: Clive Donner Date Released: The Fuck if I Know Date Seen: November 24, 2012 Rating: 0.75/5

380) We're Going to Eat You (1980) Dir: Tsui Hark Date Released: *shrugga* Date Seen: November 24, 2012 Rating: 3.25/5

Godzilla Raids Again: I shouldn't be surprised that Raids Again, Gojira's first sequel, is as underwhelming as it is. It's not directed by Ishiro Honda, or scored by Akira Ifukube, so that's two strikes already. Raids Again also doesn't have the same alarmist zeal, or even a compelling human story. Still, I got my kaiju-fightin'-fix, so I'm OK.

Old Dracula: This was something of a holy grail acquisition that I lost interest in once I got my hot lil hands on it. I knew it'd be dreadful, but I didn't know it'd be BORING. I mean, really boring. I'm giving the film 0.75 stars only for David Niven swanning about as a terribly bored, and yes, not-young Dracula. But otherwise: eesh. In the film, Dracula turns  his Transylvanian estate into a tourist attraction, so he's also a relic in the film, and boy, does it show. The jokes aren't funny, the set pieces aren't compelling, and the filmmakers are clearly out to lunch half the time. Oh, and Teresa Graves gets to do nothing as Drac's ingenue. I mean, holy shit, man, how do you fuck up so badly that not even Teresa Graves and David Niven can make me care? There is this trailer, and it's the best thing about the film. Otherwise, avoid avoid avoid.

We're Going to Eat You: By Hark's standards, this is pretty sedate. There's some weird Texas Chainsaw Massacre cues in it, and some funky fight scenes, but a lot of the humor in this clangs. And I say this as a Tricky Brains fan. So, like, whoa, watch out. Still,there's enough endearing weird-ness here to make Hark's cannibal spy spoof worth a look. I'm not wild about it, and I wish I were, is all.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Odds and Ends: You Don't Belong Here Edition

375) Katie Tippel (1975) Dir: Paul Verhoeven Date Released: September 25, 1976 Date Seen: November 21, 2012 Rating: 4.25/5

RV!: Rollerball (1975) Dir: Norman Jewison Date Released: June 25, 1975 Date Seen: November 22, 2012 Rating: 3.5/5

377) Face (1997) Dir: Antonia Bird Date Released: ???? Date Seen: November 23, 2012 Rating: 3.25/5

Katie Tippel: This is easily my favorite of the handful of Verhoeven's Dutch films I've seen so far, though I still have a number still to go, including Soldier of Orange, and Turkish Delight. Katie Tippel has all of the ghoulish venom, and delightful cattiness that I've come to associate with its director. Here, Verhoeven giddily mocks the evils of capitalism by following a voraciously hungry, and totally nubile(!!) young waif's rapid ascent up the social ladder. Monique van de ven's titular Tippel magically transforms from a slave laborer, burning and bleeding all over hot laundry, into an immodest socialite, eating oysters, and riding in carriages with a young Rutger Hauer(!!!!!). I like this movie most when it's a black comic precursor to Masterpiece Theater (I don't really care about the film's relatively sober finale, though it's fairly negligible). Come for the sexy stuff, stay for the Dickensian squalor.*

Rollerball: This is my comfort food. I used to be nuts about this movie; showed it to the science fiction club I was head of, and really thought it was the apogee of American existential '70s scifi movies for a while. Then I saw Soylent Green and Silent Running, and boy, does this not look so special anymore. I've written before about why I think Jonathan, and Jewison's other rebels are interesting. But this time around, I found Rollerball to be sometimes unproductively slow. I do think Jewison's pacing is right on more often than not though, and I do appreciate that he seems invested in the idea of Jonathan's world as a slow-to-destruct city on the edge of nowhere. The rollerball scenes are still fleet and brutal, and I love to watch James Caan mope around. I am still smitten with Rollerball, even if it doesn't hold up very well.

Face: After seeing Ravenous, I thought Antonia Bird could do no wrong. So when I bought Face sight unseen, I expected more than just a competent Danny Boyle knockoff. Face is fine enough, so I was never that bored watching Robert Carlyle try to finger the crook that stole his gang's money. Face has got a good ensemble cast (including Ray Winstone and Lena Headey), and Bird's direction is OK. But I can't really see myself revisiting this anytime soon. *shrugga*

*I just realized that I technically didn't need to write about this one again since I already recommended it here. But well, whatever.

Maudit, Mais Pas Mal

374) Heaven's Gate (1980) Dir: Michael Cimino Date Released: November 19, 1980 Date Seen: November 20, 2012 Rating: 3.25/5

Like Showgirls, I kinda see both sides, and don't really feel too strongly one way or the other. It's great! It's terrible! It's both! You're welcome! Some stuff at The Playlist.

Jeez, Santa, What'd I Ever Do to You?

RV!: Black Christmas (1974) Dir: Bob Clark Date Released: December 20, 1974 Date Seen: November 16, 2012 Rating: 4/5

First time I saw this, I felt like I was missing something. Now, I got it. For the L Magazine!

Mental Acuity and Romance at Your Local Arthouse

365) The Normals (2012) Dir: Kevin Patrick Connors Date Released: November 16, 2012 Date Seen: November 14, 2012 Rating: 1.25/5

371) Ex-Girlfriends (2012) Dir: Alexander Poe Date Released: October 20, 2012 Date Seen: November 19, 2012 Rating: 2/5

For work! See my reviews for the Village Voice.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Sexytime Odds and Ends, Zzzzz-What-Hell-Was-That Edition

364) Breaking Dawn--Part 2 (2012) Dir: Bill Condon Date Released: November 16, 2012 Date Seen: November 14, 2012 Rating: 2/5

368) The Baby (1973) Dir: Ted Post Date Released: March XX, 1973 Date Seen: November 15, 2012 Rating: 3.25/5

370) Hercules (1983) Dir: Luigi Cozzi Date Released: August 26, 1983 Date Seen: August 26, 1983 Date Seen: November 17, 2012 Rating: 3.5/5

Breaking Dawn--Part 2: I had originally wanted to interview Condon, and ask him what the fuck is up with his previous horror movies. But somehow, I could not get more than 10 minutes to talk with the man. So I have yet to achieve my dream of discussing Le Cinema Psychotronique with the dude that co-wrote Strange Behavior and directed Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh. Anyway, I went to see Breaking Dawn--Part 2 because a friend invited me, and I was in an especially masochistic/down-in-the-dumps mood. I still haven't seen Breaking Dawn--Part 1, but at the time, I had already seen the other three Twilight movies (and reviewed two of them!). Thankfully, skipping Part 1 wasn't much of an impediment as the plot of that film is rehashed throughout Part 2. For the most part, Condon's conclusion is a more technically accomplished Twilight movie (though Part 2 is also drippy, creepy, and moronic in the usual Twilight way, too). But when the movie got to its ridunkadunk concluding battle royale, I got what I came for. It really is everything you've read and more. Everyone's heads--ripped off! Michael Sheen--over-acting up a storm! Ice caps--melting! Twist ending--is a twist ending! It's nuts, but the rest of the movie is pretty whatever.

The Baby: Ted Post's now-infamous whatsit is also mostly sleepy, albeit in a more inviting, made-for-TV domestic psycho-drama kinda way. But then the big twist hits, and it's all WHAAAA GOOOOOOOO NNNNNNNN WWEEEYYYY. If someone were to rhetorically ask me if I've ever seen a movie where any one part is sufficiently screwy enough to make up for the middling whole, I'd cite The Baby's twist. When I was watching this thing, I was waiting, and waiting for the much-hyped crazy to kick in. And as I waited, my interest gradually flagged, but I was still OK. Yeah, yeah, whatever, this isn't the crap-fest I was promised, but it's OK, I'm OK, I'm falling asleep, but it' OWHAT THE FUCK, HOW THE SHIT-A-BRICK! And that's The Baby.

Hercules: This one is a bit more uniformly butt-slut-nuts, to use a favorite Carlson-ism. It's as if Cozzi saw Clash of the Titans, and decided he could do better by making his pantheon of Gods more petty and over-sexed (They love each other! But they hate each other!), his hero more beefcake-y (Oh, Lou Ferrigno...), his monsters more screwy (giant mechanical bug-thing!), and his special effects more dated (Lasers, everywhere!). Hercules consequently makes no sense, but it's like The Manitou's space-battle-in-a-janitor's-closet scene was turned into a whole movie, and while that has its drawbacks (ie: you can't sustain that much crazy, Captain, there's just too much pressure, she's gonna blow eventually!), all I remember was being all, mimimimiWHATWHATWHATmimiWHAmWWWOOOOOOO. Just ask Bill, he'll confirm that I'm exaggerating within my means.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Great, Russian

362) War and Peace (1956) Dir: King Vidor Date Released: August 21, 1956 Date Seen: November 13, 2012 Rating: 4.25/5

366) Le Notti Bianche (1957) Dir: Luchino Visconti Date Released: May 28, 1961 Date Seen: November 15, 2012 Rating: 4.25/5

Based on the Great Russian Et Cetera. I wrote about these two films, and Two Lovers, Morphia, and The Brothers Karamazov (1958) for The Playlist.

Bad Idea Podcast #17: '90s Star Vanity Projects

354) Battlefield Earth (2000) Dir: Roger Christian Date Released: May 12, 2000 Date Seen: November 9, 2012 Rating: 0.75/5

355) Last Dance (1996) Dir: Bruce Beresford Date Released: May 3, 1996 Date Seen: November 10, 2012 Rating: 1.25/5

356) Intolerance: Love's Struggle Through the Ages (1916) Dir: D.W. Griffith Date Released: September 5, 1916 Date Seen: November 10, 2012 Rating: 4.25/5

359) Hudson Hawk (1991) Dir: Michael Lehmann Date Released: May 24, 1991 November 11, 2012 Rating: 4.25/5...either that or 1/5. Though really, I loved it/5

360) Excess Baggage (1997) Dir: Tommy Wiseohwaitnosorry...Marco Brambilla Date Released: August 29, 1997 Date Seen: November 11, 2012 Rating: 0.5/5

One of these films is not like the others....listen to Steve and I discuss all these films and more on the Bad Idea Podcast.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Sundry Odds and Ends: Disturbing Other People Edition

353) Lincoln (2012) Dir: Steven Spielberg Date Released: November 9, 2012 Date Seen: November 9, 2012 Rating: 4/5

361) The Golden Child (1986) Dir: Michael Ritchie Date Released: December 12, 1986 Date Seen: November 11, 2012 Rating: 1.5/5

363) Skyfall (2012) Dir: Sam Mendes Date Released: November 9, 2012 Date Seen: November 14, 2012 Rating: 3.25/5

Lincoln: I'm not fond of one or two would-be iconic scenes in this film, particularly the opening, the ending, and the battlefield survey. I'm also not nuts about Sally Field's Missus Lincoln subplot (gratingly shrill, though that's her role). But otherwise, I was drawn to Lincoln because it's a superior legislative drama, and I love legislative dramas (Advise and Consent!). Part of this is a matter of direction, scripting, and virtuosic acting, especially Tommy Lee Jones and Daniel Day-Lewis. But I'm also struck by screenwriter Tony Kushner's idol worship. To Kushner, the film's subjects were flawed men that, to some extent, knew they were carrying the burden of change.They knew that they needed to resort to rigorous politicking if they wanted to make a difference. I like to imagine Kushner's own activism influenced the way he shows characters like Jones's Thaddeus Stevens or Fields's Mary Todd Lincoln heroically making ethical compromises for their own personal reasons. If activism is going to work, everyone has got to find their reasons, and they do, in the end. 

Kushner was smart to narrow the scope of his drama so that it mainly concerns the steps needed to pass the 13th amendment and the people that took those steps. This means Lincoln is almost exclusively about white people, which is theoretically distressing, but works practically sincethese men consider slavery in a conceptual light. Sure, they all have slaves, and in Stevens's exceptional case, slaves are more than just property. But the consequences of the legislators' actions are abstracted to the point where it's all about bodies on a battlefield, visitors in a gallery, and votes that need buying. I'm most comfortable with Kushner's approach when Lincoln is all about buying allegiances because that's when the film's drama is most dynamic. But I'll probably rewatch this in a year or three and not have any reservations.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Too Late, Perhaps!

352) A Late Quartet (2012) Dir: Yaron Zilberman Date Released: November 2, 2012 Date Seen: November 8, 2012 Rating: 2.75/5 

Again, not so bad, but not very good either. See my review for The Nashville Scene.

My Godard is An Awesome Godard

350) Vivre Sa Vie (1962) Dir: Jean-Luc Godard Date Released: September 23, 1963 Date Seen: November 6, 2012 Rating: 4.5/5

369) Les Carabiniers (1963) Dir: Jean-Luc Godard Date Released: September 27, 1967 Date Seen: November 15, 2012 Rating: 3.75/5

371) Weekend (1967) Dir: Jean-Luc Godard Date Released: September 27, 1968 Date Seen: November 16, 2012 Rating: 4.25/5

376) Sympathy for the Devil (1968) Dir: Jean-Luc Godard Date Released: April 22, 1969 Date Seen: November 22, 2012 Rating: 4.5/5

384) Le Petit Soldat (1963) Dir: Jean-Luc Godard Date Released: April 20, 1967 Date Seen: November 27, 2012 Rating: 4/5 

I Didn't Know He Left

347) The Return of Lencho (2010) Dir: Mario Rosales Date Released: November 8, 2012 Date Seen: November 4, 2012 Rating: 2.75/5

So this one wasn't too bad, just kinda not good. See my Village Voice review, maybe?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

More Odds and Ends: End of Reality Edition

346) Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972) Dir: Werner Herzog Date Released: April 3, 1977 Date Seen: November 3, 2012 Rating: 3.75/5

RV!: eXistenZ (1999) Dir: David Cronenberg Date Released: April 23, 1999 Date Seen: November 3, 2012 Rating: 4/5

351) Detropia (2012) Dir: Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady Date Released: Date Seen: November 7, 2012 Rating: 2.75/5

Aguirre: The Wrath of God: I confess, I'm still slowly making my way through Herzog's canonical films, having only recently "gotten" on the same wave length as his films (first breakthrough was Rescue Dawn, then Cave of Forgotten Dreams). I certainly liked this one, and appreciated the way Herzog expresses his pet themes ("The clouds, they are slowly creeping down the mountain, like so many ignoble dreams of conquest on their way to dissipate on the valley below. Climb, little conquistadors, soldier on to your inevitably inexplicable fates! Life is but a dream, so row, row, row your boat, distractedly down that stream!"). And while I greatly admire the lengths he went to make this film, and was often fascinated by the film's dreamy (ie: Herzogian) atmosphere, I also don't think I'm in love with this one, or as fascinated by it as I am by, say, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser. Maybe I should check out Nosferatu the Vampyre next....

eXistenZ: After interviewing David Cronenberg, I'm more convinced than ever that this film is a clever, though infrequently under-developed (ex: what the hell's going on with Gas?!) riff on Demonlover more than it is a prototype for The Matrix. Since Cronenberg is a mostly literal-minded (though advanced) thinker, virtual reality just happens to be the way he looks at the next step in corporate espionage/indoctrination. Video games are the future according to this film because they turn tutorial learning into role-playing. So when the goal of the game is revealed to be murder and sabotage, it's not especially surprising: as in any other video game, you learn as you do in eXistenZ. The difference here is, unlike video games that prompt you with knowledge throughout your quest, you only acquire a greater appreciation of your objective at the very end when you've already been manipulated into doing something you maybe didn't want to. Corporate brainwashing, Playstation-style. Of course I like it.

Detropia: Accomplished alarmists Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, the co-directors of Jesus Camp and 12th & Delaware, make great docu-horror movies. I've yet to watch one of their films, and not be a little suspicious of their intentions, or the sometimes unsettling ways that they express concern for their subjects. In Detropia, the weakest of the three films I've seen by them, Ewing and Grady push a lot of buttons all at once by enumerating  the various community members effected by Detroit's long, steady financial decline. 

Basically, I was frustrated by Ewing and Grady's sprawling, quasi-symphonic approach to turning their subjects' respective experiences into a collective story. Admittedly, Detropia is the first of Ewing and Grady's films that I've seen after finally watching (most) of The Wire, so that could be informing my opinion. But to my mind, Ewing and Grady tackle a complex situation by establishing, but never fully developing various tenuously connected characters. I want to know more about the union members, more about the self-absorbed hipster artists, more about the opera house patrons...I mean, who are all these people, and what motivates them beyond their sloganeering goals? Detropia succeeds as an artfully arranged collection of disquieting, context-less footage of a severely depressed part of America, but that's about it, for me. Scary, yes, but not very compelling.

Fear and Self-Loathing in William Friedkin's Other Controversial Gay Panic Drama

345) The Boys in the Band (1970) Dir: William Friedkin Date Released: March 17, 1970 Date Seen: November 3, 2012 Rating: 3.25/5

Boys has grown on me a little since I first saw it, so it's a good thing that I only recently compared it with Cruising for the Village Voice.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Assorted Odds and Ends: Poor Decisions Edition

340) Transylvania 6-5000 (1985) Dir: Rudy de Luca Date Released: November 8, 1985 Date Seen: October 31, 2012 Rating: 2/5

342) The Dentist (1996) Dir: Brian Yuzna Date Released: October 18, 1996 Date Seen: November November 1, 2012 Rating: 3.25/5

343) Every Which Way But Loose (1978) Dir: James Fargo Date Released: December 20, 1978 Date Seen: November 1, 2012 Rating: 2/5

Don't look at me, I was depressed, and bored. Currently, I am depressed, and unmotivated. Big difference. Anyway!

Transylvania 6-5000: This is the kind of no-brow comedy that is so stupid that I hope, for the sake of the dignity of the people involved (yes, even Michael Richards), that the jokes were as improvised as they seem...same goes for the plot...and the characters....and the direction...and the production. Look, what I'm trying to say is, I loved Jeff Goldlbum's schmoozy schtick, and was delighted by how tone-deaf Michael Richards's "performance" is. But apart from some satisfyingly goony gags, this is a fuckin' mess. Still: Geena Davis in a cut-rate Vampira outfit, hubba hubba.

The Dentist:This horror film (it's not a horror-comedy) is weirdly straight-forward for a Brian Yuzna film called The Dentist. Yuzna's movie semi-seriously adheres to a basic B-noir stock plot: Corbin Bernsen's driller killer (aha, I slay me, aha!) tries to get away with murdering his wife, and, well, spoiler alert, he doesn't. Ken Foree, wearing some ree-dick-ulous glasses, investigates. The Dentist is accordingly...well, bland, really. Did Yuzna blow his wad of crazy on Necronomicon? I hope not, because there's some stuff he's made since then that I would like to check out (Return of the Living Dead 3, I'm looking at you...some day...maybe...).

Every Which Way But Loose: This high-as-a-kite-concept comedy is so dull that I kept waiting for some good quips to sustain me, just one or two Stallone-level quips, that's all, really. And this movie couldn't even deliver that! How do you fuck this up: Eastwood, a guy that oozes charisma, and an ape sidekick: how is this not at least a memorably insult to my intelligence? 

This movie is so boring that, during the ages-long stretches between forgettable orangutan-related jokes and sleepy bare-knuckle brawling scenes, my mind wandered. I started to wonder about the sanity of the people that wrote this thing. Like, who expects the American public (because this film was clearly intended to get people off on heartland Americans' feisty, won't-back-down self-image) to believe that there are people--real, actual people--that would try to make money fist-fighting Clint Eastwood? Who says, "Gee, that feller? I kin take 'im?" I'm thinking especially of that last guy, the fat, mouthy dude in the meat-packing plant. Who is this guy? What's his story? Is he brain-damaged? Does he have a doctor's note? Was he always that stupid? Why, after giving and taking trash talk from Clint Eastwood, does this man say, "Hot dayum, I'ma win me some moola?"*

I'm not saying this is a line of questioning one should pursue when watching Every Which Way But Loose. But the fact that I was pursuing said line of questioning as, ahum, vigorously as I did is a good indication of how bored it made me. BORING BORING BORING.

*Note: He does not actually say this. I am paraphrasing him in a comical manner.