Wednesday, May 15, 2013

MOVIE REVIEWS #63: "JOHN DIES AT THE END", "TO ROME WITH LOVE", "ROCK OF AGES", "SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD", "SOUND OF MY VOICE", "THE FAIRY", "KISS ME", "GIRL WALKS INTO A BAR" and MORE!

Don't ask me, how the hell this happened, but I somehow got a job writing an occasional report on Ring of Honor pro wrestling. Don't worry, I'm just the link here, you can read it on GuysNation.com. I mentioned to them, that I watch ROH and was bored by the WWE, and anyway, now I'm writing a brief report for them occasionally. It's fun, it's light, nothing too serious, so, if you, or anyone you know is a pro wrestling fan, let them know about the ROH Reports, on GuysNation.com, and here's the first one, posted yesterday:

http://www.guysnation.com/ring-of-honor-report-for-5122013

Alright, enough plugging, back to this blog. I don't know about you, but I'm glad we've finally met the mother in "How I Met Your Mother", and depressed, knowing that "The Office" is going to be over tomorrow. I might post a blog on "The Office" later this week, but also going on this week, the TV upfronts, and I'm already seeing a bunch of trailers and ads on facebook for all the new shows coming in 4 months, at least, and about five of my friends have already liked that damn "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." show on Facebook. Anyway, I'm gonna not discuss any of that, until they actually air, and I'm certainly not gonna like any of them until I see them. Oh, and NBC, you should've kept "Go On" on.

I don't know what anybody else thought about Angelina Jolie's mastectomy, but that was a helluva wake-up call news story yesterday morning. My tweet on that, led to some interesting discussions. Well, that's what she wanted, and good for her.

Alright, that's enough news and thoughts for the day, time for this week's RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS!


JOHN DIES AT THE END (2013) Director: Don Coscarelli

2 STARS



First things first, to quote "Shakespeare in Love", "Good title". Unfortunately that's probably the best thing about "John Dies at the End", but it's definitely worth noting. It's the first feature from cult horror filmmaker Don Coscarelli since 2002's, weirdly wonderful cult film "Bubba Ho-Tep" and you can find some shreds of inspiration here, but eventually the movie got so convoluted, with the continual double-backing into it's own gimmick so often, that by the time you can even comprehend the complexities of it, you've long stopped caring. Frankly, I'd have an impossible time, tying to explain every single action in "John Dies at the End", but basically, this is one of those movies where there's a big new drug out on the streets, this one's called soy sauce, for some reason that they thought was funny. (It was the first time, not much after that) What does this soy sauce do exactly? Well, either it turns you into some kind of lizard-like creature, or you can turn people into lizard creature, or it can open a portal into numerous multiverses, where you can find excuses to make an "Eyes Wide Shut" reference, or it can help you see the future, or, you can end destroying everybody in sight, including yourself, unless you maybe take a new body before the lizard-like takes yours...- I don't know what it does. It does a lot of crazy shit. Too much to make any sense out it, although how many drug trips, do actually make any sense? (Well, I guess Hunter Thompson and Aaron Sorkin probably had a few, I imagine, but other than that). The movie is being told in flashback by Dave (Chase Williamson) to a reporter he called named Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti) and he finally impresses Arnie, by doing a few cool mind tricks, like telling him exactly what dreams he had last night, one of the powers of soy sauce. He's also able to count how much change is in his pocket. I guess he's got, x-ray vision, psychic, telekinesis, abilities, or something. I guess it doesn't really make much difference what it actually does, as long as everybody's using it, and it's bad for you and possibly good for you, so that people from both sides want to get ahold of it, or the people using it. John (Rob Mayes) does sorta die a couple time, but ironically not the end. Hope I'm not totally spoiling that one, but by the time I understood any of it, I couldn't care less who lived or died, except possibly for Giamatti. And the rastafarian guy, Robert Marley (Tai Bennett) was pretty cool. There's a lot of small jokes, I guess it was intended as a comedy, and some kind of satire on a few different genres, but I really wasn't laughing that much. I was entertained I guess, by what they were coming up with, but the film lacked so much coherence that, I'm not sure any of it ever actually existed. I guess if you like horror comedy, you might be intrigued, but especially after knowing that Coscarelli is quite adept at telling a good story, this mess just feels like throwaway bits from unfinished scripts he was pushing together, and praying it worked.


TO ROME WITH LOVE (2012) Director: Woody Allen

2 STARS



Woody Allen's late-career surge through Europe, has been fairly hit-and-miss. While, it's easy to remember his recent masterpieces like "Match Point", "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," and "Midnight in Paris", it's tough to remember sometimes the forgettable ones like "Scoop", and "Cassandra's Dream". "To Rome with Love", which was originally titled "Nero Fiddled" (Which would've been a better title for the middle), belongs to the latter group. It feels like a combination of some of Allen's lesser ideas from long discarded scripts, pushed together, without any real connecting thread. Actually, it kinda does feel like three or more different movies altogether, two of them in Italian, and two in English. I'll start with Michelangelo and Hailey (Flavia Parenti and Alison Pill). Michelangelo's a human rights lawyer, while Hailey is an American tourist, looking for the Trevi Fountain. They soon meet, and fall in love, and now Hailey's parents, Phyllis and Jerry (Judy Davis and Allen)  come to Rome, to meet Michelangelo, and his family. His father, Giancarlo (Fabio Armiliato) is a mortician, which already freaks out Jerry, but after hearing his voice in the shower, the former classical music exec, thinks he's struck a goldmine. The only problem is that, he can only sing that well, when in the shower, but that doesn't stop Jerry, who his psychiatrist wife points out, affiliates retirement with death, so he decides to press on. The second story, is so quintessential Woody Allen, it comes with a running commentary. Two students, Jack and Sally (Jesse Eisenberg and Greta Gerwig) are in Rome. Jack, see an architectural mentor, John, (Alec Baldwin) one day, and invites him to come to his place for a cup of coffee. Jack used to live in Rome, near where John lives, many years earlier, and he knows when even Sally warns about her incoming friend actress friend Monica (Ellen Page) is coming to stay, it means trouble. John, then goes from, real person, to inner monologue, who sometimes can be seen and heard and talked to by everyone, or sometimes, is just heard by Jack, but either way, Jack's going to fall in love with Monica, despite all attempts not to. The third story, I think would've probably been the best film if, it was extended into one, involves an engaged couple, Antonio and Milly (Alessandro Tiberi and Alessandra Mastronardi), who are both anxious about their wedding, and his family is coming down. Then, Antonio somehow ends up in bed with a prostitute, Anna (Penelope Cruz), right as his family walks in. Anna now has to pretend to be Milly for Anna, as they travel and see the sights of Rome. Meanwhile, Milly walks onto a film stage, and begins debating whether or not to have an affair with Luca Salta (Antonio Albanese), a big-time movie star, who he claims, his marriage is secretly separated. This comes ahead, in two hilarious romantic scenes, one happening at a convention, where Anna has to inform nearly everybody who recognizes her, that she's going by Milly today, and another, involving a hotel room, and a robbery; all this after a close call at a restaurant, where both parties nearly run into each other. The fourth story, works because Allen knew enough to cast Roberto Benigni as Leopoldo, a typical office worker, who suddenly wakes up one morning, to find that he's very famous, for no reason what-so-ever. He goes on TV interviews, suddenly he has a hot secretary, and multiple mistresses, and even his wife Sofia's (Monica Nappo) run in her stocking, becomes a fashion trend. This probably would've been better as a short film, but, it is done well, even a little handicapped here, playing more of an everyman than usual for him, Benigni saves this bit, from really being a dud. "To Rome with Love" feels more like a bunch of fiddling around with a couple different plots, not really connecting us with any one in particular.This feels like Allen's way of getting some ideas out of his head, that have been bouncing for years, so now he can move on. There's some good stuff here, but it's a bit of a letdown, especially after "Midnight in Paris", for Woody; yeah, I can't really recommend it, knowing what else he can do.


ROCK OF AGES (2012) Director: Adam Shankman



Folks, I take great pride in the fact that I usually don't write too many notes when I'm watching a movie. This is counter to what I really should be doing, as a critic; I don't recommend that, but I usually have very good recall, especially if the movie, is any way memorable, I can usually remember what I want to say about it, without any more than, 2 or 3 notes per film. Sometimes, and you'll know it occasionally as I'm writing, if I watched the movie a week or two before I wrote it, and sometimes, I'm struggling to remember some details, especially if it's a forgettable film, but you know if it's a memorable movie, no need. I also like to do this, because the emotional response to the film, I feel is more important, than knowing every single detail about it. A movie is an experience, not something to study for, like a final exam. At the 58 minute mark in "Rock of Ages" however, I had to break this rule. I've paused this DVD, because I needed to write down, every single thought, going through at my head, as I watched this, film. Here is what I wrote down,  and keep in mind, it's rare that I ever write more than three of these notes:

ROCK OF AGES
Did she have to literally come off the bus?
Bourbon is obviously the Whiskey
Really? What is this, musical by number? Housewives hate the music, even Tipper Gore's saying shut up!
They made about 100 documentaries on the era, and one mockumentary, and this is the best story- I'm beginning to understand of a "Rocky" the Musical exists, they've run out of ideas!
Why are they doing the dancing from "Beat It", in the Pat Benatar musical number?
Bryan Cranston, gets whipped with a ruler.
This got how many Tony nominations?
Oh come on! She loses her suitcase, with all records, but somehow her bikini wasn't in the only suitcase she had? Is that what you spend your last $17 bucks on?
Of course her name's Sherry.
Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) is a rock star who's so reclusive, so untrustworthy and who's behavior is so beyond outlandish ever for a rock star, that he could only have been inspired by Axl Rose, and I swear to God, I said that before he took his hat, and revealed the bandana.
This movie is literally, great actors in terrible roles, having a scenes, one-by-one with Tom Cruise
Wait, let me guess, she take off the glasses, unties the hair, and she's a slutty rocker at heart?
Is Malin Akerman, really singing a song, on her knees, while she's untying Tom Cruise's pants, with her teeth!?
Oh, dear God,  Akerman and Cruise, are literally reenacting the "Creature of the Night" scene from "Rocky Horror"! to Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is"?
Malin Akerman's ass has the best two-shot with Tom Cruise.
Malin Akerman is so talented, and her role is basically, show up, get fondle by Tom Cruise, and sing a song!
Okay, how did get Kevin Nash get a SAG card, and why he is now in everything!
I don't know who's "Behind the Music" they based this movie on,  ("God, I hope it wasn't 'Poison''s) but no matter few clothing you put on the girls, you really can't tell this story without tits. Flashing, bare-chested tits. You really, really can't. Seriously, this is Sunset Strip in the '80s, not Elton John at the Troubador!
Really, no nudity, in the strip club scenes!
This movie's so ridiculous, it's taken me this long (an hour) to realize that there's a monkey in it, the absolute clear cut sign of a movie's desperation.

After Stacee Jaxx, managed to drink and urinate at the same time, on purpose, and onto Paul Giamatti, I decided to stop taking notes, so it ended here. What else can I say about this film? How come the only new song they came up with was the Boy Band's one? Nobody could write an entirely new song, that might either, be a better fit than some of the actual songs, at least one, so that we don't keep saying stuff like "You didn't write that, Jon Bon Jovi did!" I think I saw Sebastian Bach as an extra, let him right a song for it! I better stop, this is turning into an episode of "Mystery Science Theater 3000", minus two robots, which thankfully weren't in "Rock of Ages". I don't even know how to grade this movie. I can just as easily give "Rock of Ages" 5 STARS, as I can give it ZERO STARS. This is one of those truly memorable, truly godawful- that it's so bad, you almost have to show it to people, to make sure that they know, you're not lying. Yet, it's entertaining enough, that I would actually show it to people. It's bad. It's tremendously bad, on multiple different levels. This is one of those films, where a rating, really means nothing. You're either gonna just enjoy it, or not, depending on-, well, I don't know what it's depending on, a state of mind, I guess. Maybe this is a good drinking game to play with some strippers, who actually do, strip.

Well, I've only done this three times previously, but here, sadly is number four:

ZERO STARS

I have to. I don't want to, but if I'm criticizing on my emotional feel, when watching this movie, I have to give it  ZERO STARS. I know, that this is an anomaly, everyone's too talented. Adam Shankman made "Hairspray" a couple years ago, and he's one of the best Broadway directors around, and almost all of these actors, have been better, and been in better movies. They will recover from this. But, for now, for "Rock of Ages", I have to do it.


SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD (2012) Director: Lorene Scafaria

4 STARS



It's been years since I thought about this, but back in, I think it was 10th Grade, my English teacher would post a random question of the day for us to ponder and answer, and there was that question about, knowing that the nuclear war was going to happen a week from today, what would you do. Anyway, I didn't understand the question; it was just after 9/11, and I was pissed at Bush, and I wrote a long angry-hippie diatribe about dodging the draft and the inhumanity of a useless nuclear war, and totally missed the point, to consider what you would do, if you knew the end of the world was near. Honestly, I wish, even now I could say that, I'd break my habits, go out more, commiserate with people, party, maybe start smoking pot and injecting heroin, have all the sex I can, and be as carefree as I'd like, but I really doubt I'd do that, and I'm not sure what I'd do. But despite all my misanthropic tendencies and preferences, I don't think I'd want to be alone. Seems to me like nothing can more pointless or lonelier than to be at the end of the world, and not have anybody to at least feign celebrating it with. In "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World", Dodge's (Steve Carell) wife Linda (Nancy Carell) goes up and leaves him to go be with her boyfriend, right after news of the impending apocalypse is official, and the radio stations start their end of the world, classic rock coutndowns. He's an insurance salesman, who abruptly quits, and tries to have fun and party, while his friend Diane and Warren (Connie Britton and Rob Corddry) try setting him up with their single friends, at their dinner parties/dynamite-infused orgies, but no luck. At home, he suddenly gets mail, months late, from his old high school girlfriend Olivia, who he let get away years ago, and now she wants him back. He would've gotten the letter sooner, but it was in the wrong mailbox, but luckily, his neighbor Penny, (Keira Knightley) between sleeping through everything, ignoring her loser boyfriend and getting high listening to records, managed to save it. The rest of the movie, finds Penny and Dodge, on a road trip, through America, where God knows what's in the Mudslides at the way-too-friendly party restaurant,  the Trucker (William Petersen)  who's more than happy to give a ride to hitchhikers,  and the military survivalist, Speck (Derek Luke) who's enough gas mask and underground titanium walls in his bomb shelter to survive multiple apocalypses. Not all of this was played for laughs though. Yes, the satire is biting, but I found the movie for thoughtful, and forboding, and that's how I imagine the end of the world would be. There's been a few movies lately about the end of the world, Lars von Tiers's "Melancholia" being the best of them, as people do their best to cope and adept themselves for the inevitable. This movie isn't so neat; it suggest a more improvisation and sloppy but tenderhearted image of people coping and trying to fully grasp the depths of their feelings. I enjoyed "Seeking a Friend...", despite some slow points and flaws. The chemistry between Carell and Knightley is intriguing, but not exactly great, and at a certain point, the movie did seem to be, just a road movie, where we're wondering, which famous actor's gonna show up as a crazy character next. But, those are minor complaints. It's the feature film from Writer/Director Lorene Scafaria, who started as an actress/musician, but has begun transitioning to writing and directing. When Penny, leaves the house to run from the rioting looters, she collects dozens of records, and her dog, and music plays a key role, throughout the film, and I don't think it's satirical, I think she really can't imagine an end of the world, without music. When your life flashes before your eyes, there is usually a soundtrack, isn't there, why not one for the Apocalypse?


SOUND OF MY VOICE (2012) Director: Zal Batmanglij

3 1/2 STARS



"Sound of My Voice," is the first feature-length film from Zal Batmanglij, but it's the second film that's co-written and starring Brit Marling, after working with Mike Cahill on the transcendent film, "Another Earth", about a second planet Earth that suddenly became visible in the night sky, and Marling played a former high school graduate who enters a contest to join a flight crew up to the mysterious mirror planet. "Sound of My Voice," also takes an emotional approach to the possibilities of science-fiction, and the moral and human struggles involved. Peter (Christopher Denham) is a substitute teacher, but really, he's a documentary filmmaker along with his girlfriend, Lorna (Nicole Vicius), and they've begun an investigative documentary, by joining a cult led by the striking Maggie (Marling). After a blind car ride, and elaborate handshake, a change into more Grecian white clothes, they finally meet the mysterious Maggie, who usually drags an oxygen tank, and tells a story of waking up, drowning in a hotel room, and starving on the streets for days, before finally remembering her past, and that she's a time traveler from 2054. We get brief introductions to Lorna and Peter. Lorna's childhood resembled Drew Barrymore's rehab history, while Peter's mother was in a cult, one that probably resembled Christian Science, and after she was diagnosed with Cancer, she refused treatment, dying when he was 13. This vendetta against cults, would make it seem like he's the ultimate skeptic, and he starts out that way, even ingesting a recording device, in order to sneak it into the secret basement where Maggie lives, and never leaves. She even has her followers grow her organic food for her, as she's apparently allergic to food from this time. She however is quite powerful, even one time getting her followers, including Peter to vomit, as a way of supposedly purging out their energy. This scene, which opens some emotional boxes for the closed-off Peter, makes him more conflicted. Lorna realizes this, as she wonders why one of Maggie's followers brings her out into the woods, with no preparation, and holding a gun. Is she from the future, or a con artist? The movie doesn't quite say either way, although there's clues, and insinuations from Maggie's behavior. When asked to name a song from the future, she starts singing one, from the '90s, that she claims, a different artist remade. She also throws out members, who she claims, aren't there in the future, but it might be for confronting her on her future claims. When she mentioned she had a 54 written tattooed on her, and said that's where she was from, I thought it was Studio 54, at first. Shows you where my mind goes, but not important. "Sound of My Voice," is an intriguing film, and Brit Marling is one of the most interesting people working in film today. Filled with new takes on old genres and ideas, her acting and presence might be more powerful. It's one to write a character like Maggie, but it's another thing to play it, having to come off as a believable prophet that many would follow to a hidden basement hideaway, it's hard to imagine an actor, knowing that she can have that kind of presence, yet she does, and if it wasn't for her, the whole film might not have worked. It's certainly not up there with "Another Earth", for her, and even as a film about the insights of a cult, it's hard to top last year's "Martha Marcy May Marlene", but here's a rare talent with a distinct vision with the pen, and a natural ability and presence in front of the camera. It becomes a little too procedural at the end, and I'm 100% sure ambiguous ending works completely here, but more than enough to recommend, and we're certainly awaiting Brit Marling's next projects, with great anticipation.


THE FAIRY (2012) Directors: Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy

4 STARS



The word you're gonna hear a lot this review, is quirky. Quirky, quirky quirky. Somewhere between Coen Brothers quirky and Aki Kaurismaki quirky, lies "The Fairy", from the Belgian directing team of Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy, who did the strange film "L'Iceberg", a few years ago, about a mother who spends a day locked at her work's walk-in freezer, amazed to find that her family doesn't notice she was missing. The film also leaned toward the cerebral the obtuse, but compared to "The Fairy," it might as well be as straight-forward as any three-piece structured film. Dom (Abel) works as one of those oddball nighttime hotel clerks, who's annoyed every time, some new customer comes in, because he can't watch his TV show. One guy, Jon, an Englishman (Philippe Martz), first tries to get a hotel, with a small little dog. Then, a few minutes later, he comes back without the dog, and a bag that's walking up the stairs, while he's still trying to to figure out that the elevator's broken. Then, a woman walks in, Fiona (Gordon), announces that she's a fairy, and that Dom now has three wishes. He gives her a room, with a bum lightbulb in the nightstand table. Dom, then gets saved from choking to death on a sandwich by Fiona, using, what, has-to-be-considered the absolute definite incorrect way to perform the Heimlich Manuever. He then wishes to never spend money of gas again, and a scooter. The next day, there's a scooter in lobby, that he, usually is able to ride down the street without the scooter getting away and chasing it down. Then the movie gets strange. Wonderfully carefree, bizarre, quirky, strange. Fiona steals some shoes, there's a romantic skinny dipping, nude-ish, dance at the bottom of the Ocean, there's another dance, with a very pregnant Fiona on top of the roof, and complete with complaints that they're being too loud, after she goes into labor, and they keep it down. Oh, that dog goes missing, and the Englishmen, accidentally puts down, the wrong dollar amount on the reward flyer, which leads to some locals going to great lengths to find the dog. One of the times, when Fiona's captured in the insane hospital, one of her punishments is apparently writing "There's no such things as fairies" on a blackboard dozens of time, a punishment that usually only reserved nowadays for Bart Simpson. I don't know whether she is a fairy, or just some strange girl who thinks she is one, or something else, but the walked into Dom's life, she might as well be supernatural. Every once in a while, especially during moments when it seems like it can be useful, Fiona asks Dom about what to do about his third wish. He never answers. "The Fairy" is sweet, over-the-top, fun, that has to be seen to be appreciated. It's almost more cheerful Saturday Morning cartoon than a film, complete with a kiss that needs more than one police force to separate, and actually surviving a fall off a cliff like Wile E. Coyote. It's quirky, but it's fun to watch, and was probably fun to make. It's one of those films, where you get that sense of pure joy, and it's infectious. Quirky, quirky, quirky, quirky.


KISS ME (2012) Director: Alexandria-Therese Keining

2 1/2 STARS



Despite not being theatrically released in the United States, I was looking forward to "Kiss Me", because the last Swedish Lesbian film I saw, "Show Me Love", was such a good one. It was an older one, so I was hoping the next one would be better. "Kiss Me", isn't bad but it isn't anything special either, just another passionate story of two people who, for one trivial reason or another, fall in love, but take the entire movie, before they can fully commit to each other. In this one, the girl is Mia (Ruth Vega Fernandez) who is engaged to Tim (Joakim Natterqvist). Her father Lasse (Krister Henriksson) is also engaged, to Elisabeth (Lena Endre). She takes Tim, to see her father, at the engagement party, it's the first time they've seen each other for years, but as they slowly rebuild their bonds, Mia sees Frida (Liv Mjones), Elisabeth's daughter, and they fall in love with each other. Practically falling into bed with each, in passionate love, and yes, there's a lot of love scenes. A lot, considering how this relationship, is basically kept secret for most of the film. Mia, continues to plan her wedding, and Frida has a girlfriend in Elin (Josefine Tengblad). Still, Mia's wedding plans, and her father's wedding plans continue on. They also continue to see each other sporadically, and yes, the sex scenes are romantic. This basically was the entirely of the film however. I could've been Romeo and Juliet, (Or, insert female equivalent name for Romeo,-, wait, what is the female equivalent to Romeo?) two star-crossed lovers, but there isn't nearly the built-in tension their affair would actually casue, other than a couple people's feelings getting hurt, and it's way too much meandering. There's a bunch of great stories about two people, gay, straight, whatever, who fall in love, and delay being with each other, for trivial reasons, many of them are actually rather good, but "Kiss Me", really isn't one of them. The fact that the movie's well-made makes this a particularly difficult negative review, 'cause the good performances and directing damn-near save the film. It's only Director Alexandra-Therese Keining's second feature film, after her '02 film, "Hot Dog," which was widely-talked about, but did rather mediocre in the theatres. The trouble is that, sometimes good and well-made aren't enough to make up, for the same story told again.


GIRL WALKS INTO A BAR (2011) Director: Sebastian Gutierrez

1 STAR



"Girl Walks into a Bar", can, and has been a catalyst for dozens of movies and stories. "Casablanca," comes to mind, that whole film wouldn't happen if a Girl didn't walk into a bar. I would've prefered if "Girls Walks into a Bar" didn't happen at all, but it did. This movie, wasn't based on the wonderous hypothetical that I just pointed out, that I could've written dozens of wonderous stories from, but it was actually based on a scene in Gutierrez's cult hit film "Elektra Luxx" (Haven't seen, I think it's on my Netflix like everything else it, but I'd actually have to double-check that one to be sure), and does in fact, begin with a girl, Francine Driver (Carla Gugino) a cop, who's actually working as an undercover hitman, who's just got Nick (Zachary Quinto) a dentist, on tape, ordering the death of his wife. After this encounter, Nick goes off to get money that he had previously loaned one of his patients, a well-known gangster, Aldo (Danny DeVito, in his only scene), and Francine, gets her purse stolen by Herny (Aaron Tveit), which happens to have the leave with teh tape of Nick, confessing to hiring the hitman to kill his cheating wife. This is when the sub-Altmanesque narrative begins, and we meet Herny's sister, Theresa (Emmauelle Chiriqui) who's used to working cons with her brother, but currently, she's on her own, with a distinctive "Lucky You," tattoo on her shoulders. The film, opened very briefly in L.A. before, becoming the first feature film, available for free download on Youtube, with major stars in it. The movie goes from person-to-person, from bar to lounge, all over L.A., and at one point, to a nudist ping-pong club, where an attempted robbery occurs, which is as boneheaded as it sounds, but on top of that, the movie, on Netflix at least, black barred all the nudity during a crucial scene, probably so that it can play on Youtube. This is the kind of movie that thinks it's got smarter and more observant dialogue than it actually does, while most of the characters don't have much to them, so they come off as set pieces at best, and cliched characters at worst. I kept watching the movie 'til the very end, thinking that there'd be something after the line dancing sequence at the end worth noting, but there wasn't. There's great actors coming in and out of the movie, and some coincidences and ironies, but all this has been done, so much better and smarter in so many other movies, all I wondered by the end, was "Why didn't he start all over with the original catalyst, and come up with a real story worth telling?" Gutierrez is style over substance, but even the style feel flat and dated. There's a lot of good actors in this film, like Josh Hartnett, Rosario Dawson, Xander Berkeley, Robert Forster, Alexis Bledel, etc., There's no character here I haven't seen before, no witty dialogue, nothing new that I can even point to, that's even remotely memorable or interesting; except for the fact that he uses film noir as his motif, there wasn't anything I liked about "Girl Walks into a Bar". I can see on rottentomatoes.com, that so far, no professional film critic, has even gone out to review the film, even thought it's been free for everyone to watch for two years, and frankly I'd tell them to stay away, and go watch one of the dozens of great films, stories, oh, TV shows, can't forget "Cheers", which begin with a girl walking into a bar.


THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993) Director: Harry Selick

2 STARS



A few close friends of mine, will be happy to know that I have finally crossed this one off my shame list, but they will not be particularly happy how I feel about it. My original reason for having passed over this one, when I was eight-years old, was that, as a kid, I simply hated Halloween. I don't have that natural appreciation for being scared that some people do, nor do I like scary things, or dressing up and trick-or-treating, as it directly confronted my big fear of knocking on people's door. (Understand this, I was not afraid, of what was behind the door, I knew that was candy, but I was afraid of knocking on them, at all. It's an important distinction, I insist all be aware of.) On top of that, I was never the biggest Tim Burton fan. I gave his latest animated adventure, "Frankenweenie" a negative review recently, for much the same reasons that I've giving "The Nightmare Before Christmas", which he wrote and produced, a negative review, as always, amazing and unparalleled visuals, but he never follows them through with a story, unless it's something like "Ed Wood", or "Sweeney Todd...", where the story is already provided, and in the latter's case especially, practically a ready-made project perfect for Burton visual sensabilities. "The Nightmare..." begins the night after Halloween, in Halloweentown, where the whole town is done with it's traditional wonderous night of scaring and freaking people out. However, Mayor Jack Skellington (Danny Elfman, when singing, which is often, and Chris Sarandon, when not), is bored and tired of Halloween, and scaring, and one day, as with Plato's allegorical caveman, (I don't know why I'm throwing in the obscure references today, must be coming down with Dennis Miller Syndrome) he eyes become open, when he accidentally wanders into Christmastown, and begins studying up on Christmas, hoping to take over for Santa this year, just so he can have one enjoyable night. The townspeople, are loving the idea, because they think the goal is to take Christmas for themselves, and begin scaring everyone when they least expect it, and another night of scaring, is widely-regarded, except by Sally (Catherine O'Hara) who's a science experiment turned prisoner of Dr. Finklestein (William Hickey), who's constantly stealing body parts of her, so that she'll have to come back after she escapes, to be put back together. She sees Jack's earnestness, and foresees the bad things coming, when the Halloween people take over Christmas. There's a lot of music in this film, a lot! I can't remember an animated movie with so much music since Don Bluth's disastrous "Thumbelina", which I'm pretty sure had three songs sung, before it had ten words of dialogue. Thankfully, the music in "The Nightmare Before Christmas", is much better, The problem however, is that, this isn't really a full story as it is, a cute sketch that's been stretch to an hour and fifteen minutes, and like I said, and unusually high amount of it, is music. The visuals, are amazing, as always, and the stop-motion animation truly is something to behold, but the movie is only half a good idea, and a lot of visuals and music, stretching it to a feature-length film, and I can only be distracted by music and visuals so often, while waiting for Act 2. I'll admit, to appreciating Halloween a little more now, and my fear of knocking on doors has mostly subsided, but "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is lacking.


BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD DO AMERICA (1996) Directors: Mike Judge w/ Mike De Save, Yvette Kaplan and Brian Mulroney

3 STARS



For a while this week, I thought "Beavis and Butt-Head Do America", was gonna be the bright spot of this batch of movie reviews, and then I saw "The Fairy" and then "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World", and my faith in movies, was once again, rejuvenated. I was never that big a fan of "Beavis and Butt-Head," I was always more of a "Daria" fan growing up, but I certainly knew who they were, and definitely knew some people who were a little too addicted to "Beavis and Butt-Head". One of my old friends from middle school, could've been mistaken for either one of them or both at any given time, (He knows who he is) and once in a while I'd occasionally see an episode, which basically consisted of Beavis and Butt-Head, sitting on the couch, watching music videos on MTV, and making the childish remarks of and grunt-like laughs, when anybody said a syllable that could even remotely be considered rude. Man, times have changed. Music videos on MTV, that was awhile. Anyway, in "...Do America", Beavis and Butt-Head (Both voiced by Mike Judge) wake up on their couch, only to realize, eventually that the TV is gone. It takes them a while to realize it was stolen, (Actually, in hindsight, I'm not completely sure they did come to that conclusion, but they definitely knew the TV wasn't there anymore) so, they head out, and search for TV. Eventually, this leads to them, being confused for hitmen by Muddy Grimes (Bruce Willis), who sends them out to Vegas to kill his wife Dallas (Demi Moore), who's got a stolen, deadly explosive, and manages to hide it in Beavis's pants, and send them on their way to Washington. There's no real point in explaining the rest of the plot, but as they're heading through America, including the White House, and Yellowstone Park, and the desert with a couple of old Motley Crue roadies, who don't realize they're their fathers (Earl Hofert [aka David Letterman] and Tony Darling) occasionally finding time for masturbation in Tom Anderson's camper. It's nice to see that early Mike Judge character, which clearly was the original inspiration for Hank Hill on "King of the Hill". There's a few other characters they run into, including an old woman (Cloris Leachman), who loses everything in Vegas, and apparently everything she says is heard a lot dirtier in Beavis and Butt-Head's mind. Their objectification of women is interesting to study, as they seem to be completely inept at all forms of human emotion, but do in fact have their pre-pubescent urges towards women; probably a side-effect of their TV viewing habits, but that would be taking Beavis and Butt-Head too seriously. There's also a funny cameo by Robert Stack, playing an ATF agent, who's determined to be thorough on all his cavity searches, playing a bit off of his famous role in "Airplane!", and it's always good to hear Robert Stack's distinctive voice again. I don't know, if I ever really laugh at Beavis and Butt-Head, I more or less, hold in my laughter, with a tight-lipped shy smile, while I look down, close my eyes, and shake my head going, "Yep, people like this actually exist, don't they?, and a few of them probably are in Congress?" Part time-warp to the '90s, and part cultural satire, "Beavis and Butt-Head Do America", surprisingly still holds up rather well, even today, which makes me feel disappointed in humanity, but glad I got to watch a decent movie. Although, I'm pretty sure I'd be satisfied with my life, if I never hear the word "Cornholio", again.


SLIDING DOORS (1998) Director: Peter Howitt

2 STARS



There really isn't much to "Sliding Doors".

I guess I should write a little more, huh? Very well. "Sliding Doors" was the directorial debut feature for British actor Peter Howitt, and the original idea has some possibilities, if only they were actually explored. Helen (Gwyneth Paltrow) is a P.R. consultant who gets fired one day, and from there, we get two different versions of what took place next, one in which, she catch the subway, and gets home to find her fiance Gerry (John Lynch) having an affair with Lydia (Jeanne Tripplehorn), and another where she doesn't catch the train, and she doesn't realize her fiance's having an affair. After she catches her husband, in that scenario, she starts seeing James (John Hannah), who's nice, and everything he seems at the surface, and even convinces her to start her own P.R. firm, but is secretive about something, that's trivial, it's not even worth revealing for the spoiler, but it's dumb. Anyway, in the other scenario, Helen starts working at her fiance's family restaurant, and even delivers food at one point, to a vindictive Lydia, who's preparing a trap play of her own, to have Gerry all to himself, and Helen, only at the fringes of her, thinks that there may be something going on with Gerry. Both scenarios involve pregnancy, and an accident, and in both scenarios, the ending is essentially the same, or at least, on it's way there, begging the question, "Well, then, what the hell was the point of all that?" There's a general rule that if you're gonna do something, you should always do three, instead of two, with of course, the exception being Stanley Kubrick, especially when regarding how things change, and how, if things happened just a little different, and chance and coincidences beyond our control, beyond our control have a way of altering our life, you really want to make it worth it, to distinguish, and in interesting ways. Kieslowski was good at this, with films like "The Double Life of Veronique", but I think version of this two stories, same incidents, scenario was the underrated Woody Allen film, "Melinda and Melinda", which involved the same plotpoints, and essentially the same story, but one told as a comedy, and the other as a drama, and both stories were being told by two New York playwrights, having an argument over dinner about whether life was tragedy or comedy. That film came out after "Sliding Doors", so that couldn't have been used as a prototype at the time, unfortunately. I think it's nice to tell multiple stories, but at least one of them, has to really be interesting, and neither one of these are. Gwyneth Paltrow does a good job with the two scenarios, their isn't much else to say about that. The movie is dreary too. They couldn't have changed, the lighting cues for both stories? Well, since there really isn't that much difference between the two stories, I guess not. "Sliding Doors", is in intriguing for a minute, then it's cliche-riddened boring melodrama, that's filled with some plot-driven manipulation, that's kinda frustrating. I'll say this, the actual sliding doors, is a good visual motif idea.


VEGAS VACATION (1997) Director: Stephen Kessler

1 STAR



Ah, Vegas in the nineties, when we were portraying ourselves as a family entertainment tourist attraction. I remember those Mayor Jan Jones years well. There could've been a decent film or parody made about that at the time, "Vegas Vacation," though.... Even "National Lampoon's chose not to have their name attached to this one, and considering some of the straight-to-video crap they have put their names on, that's saying something. I'm not the greatest expert on the "Vacation" movies. I've seen the first one a few times, and it's funny as hell, and behind "...Animal House", I think it's pretty safe to say it's the 2nd best National Lampoon film. I've also, tried to sit through "...European Vacation" a few times, I seem to have recalled listening to Amy Heckerling's director commentary on the DVD of that film once, although now that I'm thinking about, I might've just been dreaming that I did that. (Wow, what a weird dream) "Vegas Vacation" also marked the first time John Hughes didn't write the script to a "Vacation" film, so there's a lot already against this film, and sure, if it was Mighty Casey, it would've strucken out, but since it's Vegas, let's say it hit on 19, and busted. Oh, and speaking of that, somebody should tell Clark (Chevy Chase) that the only casino game where the house doesn't have a mathematical advantage is poker, not blackjack, although the scenes of him losing to Marty (Wallace Shawn) the vindictive, blackjack dealer are entertaining  enough. The Griswald kids are teenagers now, but to Rusty's (Ethan Embry) disappointment, he's not old enough to gamble, although he tries to find a way, eventually getting a decent fake I.D. Clark intends to head down to a wedding chapel to renew his vows with Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo), but she soon becomes the object of Wayne Newton's (Himself) affection, as he begins hitting on her during his show. Audrey (Marisol Nichols) can't find much to do either, until Cousin Vicki (Shae D'Lyn) gets her to lose herself a bit at the boneyard, and later gets a job as a go-go dancer. Oh yeah, Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) is around in Vegas, living near Area 51 and getting radioactive or something. There's a cute scene involving a callback to Christie Brinkley from the first movie, still in her red ferrari and looking the same, and if anybody's seen her even lately, fifteen years later, not much has changed about her since. Anyway, there's a parade of the typical Vegas tourist spots. The Hoover Dam tour sequence wasn't that funny, and frankly should've been played as more terrifying than it was. It's always good to see Seigfried and Roy again, in anything, even this. I actually happened to be watching some old videos of them recently, and boy, are they missed. I mean, somebody like me, who's born, raised and still living in Vegas, is six degrees from every magician in Vegas, knows more about the secrets of magic than most, but knowing all that, and still asking "Where/How the hell did they hide the tiger?". We're never gonna see that again. Anyway, it was nice reminiscing, but it wasn't much of a movie. Chevy Chase's detached acting style of comedy gets on my nerves after awhile, since there's nothing to grasp or hold onto with him, and in a really bad film, like this one, it's not worth it. Also, Wayne Newton shouldn't be acting, ever. Even as himself here, just, really bad. Nice of him to let them use his house, but still, those scenes were hard to watch. Well, a documentation of a Vegas that doesn't exist anymore, there's some old memories brought back, but I still contend that there isn't much reason to bother with any of the post-"Vacation," "Vacation" films. For locals only, and frankly even then....  



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