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Hilarious, but disjointed.
It's really too bad that Clerks was up against the two highest rated events of the summer season- Survivor on CBS and the NBA Finals on NBC. I'm sure that the unfortunate scheduling contributed heavily to the lack of ratings; in some markets, including mine, the second episode wasn't even shown, because of the heavyweight competition. (Luckily, my local station sent me a videocassette of ep. 2.)
Both episodes of Clerks were hilarious, but not uniformly so. There are parts of both episodes that dragged, and parts of both that actually kind of shocked me. (Randall explaining to the jury how alike they and Dante are; the Indian convenience store). My friends and I, while enjoying the show immensely, realized there was no way the average viewer would even understand much of the cartoon, let alone appreciate the in-jokes and find the whole affair funny- in fact, there are parts of each that many would find downright offensive. While we wish the show would have continued (and perhaps with more equal competition, the show could have matured into something really good), perhaps it's best that the shows just come out on video for the benefit of the converted.
My main problem with the show was the stylistic similarity to "The Critic"- most of the jokes were not only pop-culture based, but they were essentially non-sequiters, contributing nothing to the story. Their use in the original movie fit in with the feel of the film- that of bored coworkers who are just killing time. They felt awkward, though, nestled in the sitcom-like plot of the cartoon.
All in all- recommended for the Clerks fans out there; everyone else may want to see the movies before seeing the cartoon.
Basic animation for a simple tale of a tantrum-throwing child.
I saw this in the theatrical compilation Spike and Mike's Classic Festival of Animation; it was neither the zenith or nadir of the show.
A simplistically rendered girl (who looks much like the comic strip character "Cathy") screams and cries, and her environment changes to reflect her thoughts and mood. After she's finished, we discover she's been in a sort of time-out room, and her mother comes inside and gets her.
That's about it. There is no underlying meaning or symbolism (that I picked up anyway). It seemed to be an exercise in animation, and an experiment in visually showing inner emotions.
The one thing that is impressive is that this is the director's first work; while just average as a short, it's impressive for a first effort.
Pafekuto buru (1997)
I've been wanting to see Perfect Blue since I saw magazine ads for the theatrical release; it never made it to an Indianapolis theatre, however, and I made do with the recent VHS release.
The box promises a psychological thriller on a par with Hitchcock's work- as much as I love anime, I honestly can't give PB such high marks. It's a bit better than a Verhoeven potboiler, but nowhere near the level of a Hitchcock. The main plot points (and the suspense) are very cliched and overused- if it weren't for the psychological angle, the entire story would be a waste of time.
The sub-plots were interesting, but as many others have pointed out, it's best to be aware of or accepting of some very Japanese pop-culture standards, such as the pop-idol phenomena, the sex video industry, etc. The differences between Japanese and American cultures are very pronounced sometimes, and the fact that the storyline revolves around Japanese pop-culture may make the movie off-putting for casual fans.
The animation wasn't as spectacular as I was expecting- this is my own fault, rather than the movie's. I've come to expect a certain level of animation prowess in theatrical releases, and this felt more like an OVA. The animation is quite serviceable, though.
Character designs are a bit bland. The deformed appearance of the boy (Me-Mania) makes it obvious early on who the culprit is going to be. Character voices (English translation) are okay- I've heard worse. The song translation is well done, but I'm not a big fan of j-pop...
In the end- I don't mean to sound too down on Perfect Blue. I don't feel it's an appropriate movie for non-anime fans, but if you do like anime, it's a decent purchase.
Joy et Joan (1985)
Great Brigitte Lahaie vehicle; so-so book adaptation.
As far as "anonymous"-written soft-core pornographic books go, the Joy series can be considered a classic with Fanny Hill and The Story of O. Certainly not as well known as the others, but fairly erotic and entertaining...
Joy: Chapter 2 is an adaptation of the second book (usually titles Joy and Joan); as an adaptation, it barely follows in the book's tracks. As soft-core in its own right, however, it's a great movie.
Joy is played by Brigitte Lahaie- a distinctive looking (and beautiful) actress known mostly in America for her role as a prostitute in Henry & June, but known more in Europe for being a former hardcore porn actress and star of many exploitation films afterwards. Basically, in this film, Joy runs away from her sexually-abusive husband, and goes overseas. There she meets and becomes sexually involved with a young woman (girl in the book), while being tailed by a man whose intentions are unknown.
Obviously, the main draw of this film isn't the story, but the sex scenes- which are plenty. Brigitte is, as mentioned above, unique looking- she is not your run-of-the-mill sex kitten. She takes her role and runs with it; no matter how non-explicit her scenes are, she's great to watch, and she really knows what she's doing during the sex scenes. Her female partner (whose real name escapes me) also comes across well; she seems to be younger and energetic, and she provides a contrast to the more mature and thoughtful role Brigitte plays.
Are there better movies of this type? Probably. Are there better Brigitte Lahaie movies? Probably. But Joy: Chapter 2 is still an entertaining romp, that may just make you into a fan of Brigitte, too.
Luxo Jr. (1986)
Transcends computer animation.
At the time of Luxo Jr., there was a lot of experimentation going on using computer animation- most of the resulting shorts seemed to be concerned with showing off the new zooming/tracking/etc technologies. (Who, interested in early computer animation, hasn't seen a plethora of shorts that involve zooming around a bunch of dolphins?)
Unlike other contemporary shorts, Pixar shorts attempted to tell a story rather than concentrate on life-like movements of animals (like the aforementioned dolphins or ostriches.) Because of the limitations of computer animation, Pixar chose to animate typically inanimate things; toys and figurines. With the aforementioned limitations, this provided Pixar with the background needed. Toys/other inanimate objects infused with life, attempting to interact with a living world.
Luxo, Jr. concerns a big (mother?) lamp learning to deal with a baby lamp, who is itself unaware of its limitations in this world. The short itself doesn't even last 60 seconds, but it creates understanding within the viewing audience for the large lamp, and an understanding that the small lamp is a child. This is an amazing feat for any cartoon, let alone one that was considered an experimental technology at the time of its release.
Pixar has release shorts since then, as well as full-length movies ("Toy Story" and "A Bug's Life"); it is still an amazing thing, though, to study Luxo, Jr., and the results thereof.
Miracle Mile (1988)
Perhaps unbelievable, but a still-powerful story of romance.
I was originally a fan of this movie because of the end-of-the-world themes; I still enjoy those themes. But since I've become older (and married) I've come to appreciate the romantic themes.
The story revolves (mostly) around a person who believes the world is going to end, and who is determined to save the one girl who's shown interest in him.
I don't wish to give away the entire (obvious) plot- suffice it to say that my wife was crying at the end, and that for the romantic-at-heart, there'd be no better ending possible to a nuclear-holocaust story.
I was a fan of this movie as a pre-teen, and paid over $100 for this movie as an adult. hat should hopefully show how powerful and moving this movie is...
Toy Story (1995)
Despite the Disney conventions, a very entertaining film.
I avoided this movie for a long time- in fact, I only ended up seeing it due to the influence of alt.video.laserdisc.
I am forever indebted to this movie for re-igniting interest in Tron (my sentimental favorite movie of-all-time); but besides this, TS is an incredibly entertaining movie in its own right.
I was familiar with Pixar animation before TS; I actually stayed away from this movie because I didn't want to have my opinions altered by the presence of Disney. I now wish I had seen this movie years ago, instead of waiting for a cheap LD clearance sale.
TS, while adhering to Disney movie traditions, is an entertaining diversion, and historically important as a computer-rendered movie to boot. The difference between Disney and Pixar sensibilities concerning humor are evident early on; one is thankful that Disney gave so much lee-way to Pixar concerning story and dialogue. While I can't say that I was as entertained by the goings-on as average Disney fans, I can say that the results are much better than standard Disney fare. (In fact, if you can find this for under $50 on laserdisc, I can assure that your entertainment dollar is well-spent)
The LD contains the pre-TS Pixar shorts (worth the price of admission) as well as director's comments, and much more. The LD is probably the best deal I've had in a while, and I recommend that everyone- despite their feelings towards Disney- get this LD set. I hope that Disney comes out with an equivalent set for DVD users; everyone deserves to have access to this.
An amazing film, seemingly light-years beyond what Disney is capable of. I'm definitely looking forward to the sequel.
Great show that lost its edge.
Alf in the beginning was a hilarious show, almost a satire of sitcoms. By the time the show left the air, though, it was a shell of its former self, just a family-friendly wacky sitcom that catered to children.
When Alf started out, he was a rather ratty-looking creature; he improved in looks over the years, but he originally seemed to be infested with fleas and/or moths; his voice was hoarse, and his wit caustic. Once execs learned of Alf's popularity amongst children, though, the scripts began to skew to a younger and younger demographic- turning off many of the people who had helped the show become a hip hit originally.
Alf later spun off a comic book series (itself the subject of a feeding frenzy/fad that ended up hurting the book's reputation and sales later on), and into an animation series notorious for a "subliminal message" inserted by frustrated overseas animators. (The "message" was innocuous, and consisted of the Statue of Liberty and an American flag; this scared people enough that the show ended up being dropped.)
Virtual Encounters (1996)
Designed for remote control users.
Unlike many other soft-core movies I've seen over the years, this one is definitely not meant to be enjoyed as a story. Other than the framing device of a woman using VR to "get in touch" with her sexuality, almost none of the vignettes have anything to do with each other. In fact, I'm willing to bet that some of these scenes weren't shot for the movie, but were edited in to pad the thing out. The framing device itself is pretty laughable. I don't think there's very many "executive-pleasures" type establishments, especially ones with beyond-state-of-the-art VR gear, located in industrial warehouse complexes. Yes, that's right, the world's greatest VR is located in a warehouse, and the classy entrance is a back door, right next to a bunch of electrical transformers. The voice, "Rob" is pretty funny, although that's not the effect they seem to have been trying for.
But, the whole point of these films isn't the story- it's the sex scenes. They're... okay. All of the actresses are great looking; much better than Euro soft-core. There is very little spirit, however, to any of the proceedings... the actors and actresses for the most part don't seem to be having much fun. Some of the scenes are still pretty fun to watch, though, if not actually being erotic.
Recommended if you can find it on the cheap.
The Last Boy Scout (1991)
Mean-tempered, foul-mouthed... and the best "buddy-cop" movie around.
When I try to describe this movie to people who've never seen it, I always start out with the worst adjectives. This movie is so incredibly mean-spirited and hateful, that it's a wonder no one suggested that the movie was unreleasable.
Thank God, however, the movie came out. This is the perfect antidote to the oh-so-funny Lethal Weapon movies, and is a logical successor to the original Die Hard. Bruce Willis plays the over-the-top hardcore private detective; he's got the world's worst relationships, the world's worst family life. His best friend dies after cheating with Bruce's wife. His life is dark and dreary, and he cuts through it all with an acid tongue and a lot of misanthropy.
Damon Wayans plays a drug-using ex-football star whose life just can't get back on track. His girlfriend dies trying to get his old job, the only thing that means anything to him, back. With her death, Damon and Bruce join together to form a bickering, hateful team that goes after corruption in football and politics, saves the President, saves Bruce's marriage and family life, gets Damon off of drugs (temporarily, in all likelihood), and causes lots of blood splatters, explosions, and deaths.
Sure, the script is unbelievable. Sure, the dialogue causes 3rd degree burns. (The interpersonal bickering *does* get tiresome; by the time Bruce and Damon are searching Damon's girlfriend's apartment, I am fed up with the snippiness...) But the whole movie is so damn entertaining because of it all! Unlike Rambo or whatever, this movie makes no pretensions towards respectability or patriotism. It's pure action- action for people who are sick of all-american muscle bound heroes.