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Work of art? Exploitation film? True crime expose? Or Ed Gein homage?
2 September 2003
I picked up the DVD for "Motel Hell," and -- after getting a few good laughs out of it -- decided to watch the double-feature as well. I expected a cheap, gratuitous exploitation film with no redeeming features. What I got was a surprisingly subdued, well-made, and well-acted film that -- strangely -- had a lot of heart and compassion in it. And it's funny too, but in a down-to-earth manner. You could almost view this as an homage to Ed Gein, as opposed to an expose.

I also got a kick out of the crime reporter who kept on popping up in the scenes, waxing eloquent about "Ezra's" horrible habits, while Ezra himself sits next to the reporter, going about his business.

"Deranged" is a very strange movie, but not in an over-the-top way. It's strange with everyday life: the family who tells Ezra to stop kidding around when he repeatedly talks about committing the well-publicized crimes in the area, the old guy in the bar who talks trash about the state of his withered sex organs, and -- best of all -- the woman who uses her dead husband to seduce Ezra. Speaking of which, this lead to my favourite line in the film, as Ezra describes this woman to his mummified mother: "You were right, momma, she sure is fat! And I like that. But it would be scary to get stuck in all that fat. Real scary. I'd better take something along to protect myself."

As uneven as this movie is, it's got a strange oddball charm, as though the people involved felt they were creating a cross between an enduring work of art and a true-life crime story, but threw in a healthy dose of gore in order to make it more interesting. I'm glad I watched it, and would gladly see it again.
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I wish Doctor Satan could have butchered Baby.
26 August 2003
Yup, I'm a fan of the 70's horror genre. I rented the 1000 Corpses DVD knowing full well that it was paying homage to those films (particularly "Texas Chainsaw Massacre"), that it was an edited version of the movie, and that reviews of the film were -- at best -- mixed.

Well, my review is mixed too. Let me say, first, what I like about this film:

It's exuberant. It's cheerful, in a sicko sort of way. It's got all the relentless screaming and running and twisty passages that take me back to my childhood. It's creative and quirky and funny at times. Sid Haig is perfect as Captain Spaulding, the good ol' boy clown with a bad attitude. Karen Black was tailor-made for Madame Firefly's hicky, twisted, over-sexed but not-entirely-there routine. And I've got to say, Tiny, Doctor Satan and The Professor are inspired, horrific inventions that I won't be forgetting anytime soon.

This movie grabs some of the more memborable parts of Texas Chainsaw Massacre: a quirky group of teens who aren't particularly likeable, an inbred family who hunts humans and which operates on a mysterious, mythological logic that makes no sense to their victims. You've also got a female character who is singled out and tormented for a long time as she runs from one bizarre set to another.

But the problem is, this film didn't bother enough with character development. The TCM teens were notable because they seemed REAL, while the 1000 Corpses teens are caricatures (the slacker, the uptight one, the bitchy girlfriend, the nice girlfriend). Sure, they have interesting quirks, but they're barely integrated into the film.

The same goes for the actual family. While the TCM families all had a coherance to them, you really can't see how Otis, Tiny, Baby and the rest all relate to each-other. What's more, Baby is a terrible actress. Her oft-repeated laugh sent shivers down my spine, not because it was creepy, but because it sounded weak and forced and was always put in the forefront of the scenes. Granted, her "Boop-Boop-A-Doo" routine was great, but she simply cannot play a crazy person. Her rabbit fairy-tale speech is the most embarassing thing I've ever seen on film. Hey Rob, enough with the girlfriend/wife-in-a-major-role stuff, it's bad.

Bill Mosely flounders as well, strangely enough, considering he excelled as "Chop Top" in TCM 2. Here he seems tired and always one step behind his lines, as though he doesn't know what they mean. Otis is a poor Chop Top impersonation...sort of Chop Top with a bad cold, 20 years later.

Stick with the movie. The final 20 minutes -- while seemingly disconnected from the rest of the film -- are disturbing, if not actually frightening. I'm willing to give Rob Zombie the benefit of the doubt, that maybe this film suffered from a vicious editing job, and that a Director's Cut will redeem it in the future. I can see this becoming a cult phenomenon, and though it's desperately trying to be one I think it still deserves it: a lot of inspiration went into this movie, and it's just weird enough to pull it off. Some of the time.

And if you're watching the extras on the DVD, be sure to check out the Tiny Stump jokes. This is what I like about this movie: people seemed to be having fun, even when the material was bad.
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"Mulholland Drive" with more blood.
7 July 2003
I first saw "Day of the Locust" because I thought Karen Black was keen. I liked the film, but I can't say I understood its point at the time. What's with the faceless people, Sutherland's hands, and the angry dwarf? Sounds like David Lynch to me, especially in light of "Mulholland Drive" and its scathing, unsympathetic view of Hollywood (it even has a cowboy!)

I finally got around to reading the Nathanael West novel -- which is absolutely brilliant -- and decided to watch the film again. And I need to say that, as much as I still appreciate and enjoy the movie, it really missed the boat, trying to cram bits and pieces of ideas from the novel (the strange, artificial relationship between Faye and her father, the barely-restrained violence of those who "come to Hollywood to die," the anachronistic and cold facade of Hollywood and the people in charge of it), meanwhile stuffing in some 70's ideas, reflecting back on the beginnings of WWII (which wasn't an issue in the book at all), and -- strangely enough -- adding warmth and humanity to characters whose sole characteristic (in the novel) was that they had NO warmth or humanity whatsoever.

And that's the weird thing about this movie. I remember, when I first saw it, I was amazed at how unlikeable all the characters were. After reading the book, however, I can say that the characters in the movie are FAR TOO likeable to support any of the book's themes. This is most notable when it comes to Faye's little breakdowns, letting the viewer know that she's really a good person who wants to be loved, turning her into a VICTIM of the star system. But the point of the book -- as I gathered, anyway -- was that these people aren't victims at all. They're greedy people who victimize each-other, and usually in sloppy, stupid ways ("Jeepers, Creepers!") Faye isn't capable of an unaffected tender moment, all she can do is pretend. The same goes for her father: even his moments of genuine sickness and pain are filtered through his never-ending vaudeville routine.

Homer Simpson, as well, is portrayed (in the film) as a sort of unfortunate lump, and a bible-thumper to boot, taken advantage of by Faye. But that destroys one of the great levels of nastiness in the novel: Homer is just as much as an opportunist as Faye, and he deserves everything he gets. Why is he being so generous, letting her stay with him and hold cock-fights in his garage? Because he's a pathetic, incapable human being who barely has a human feature to him: he's just a collection of nervous ticks. He lusts after her, and he seems to delight in his thwarted lust. He's got less going for him than that lizard on the cactus, eating flies.

The film suffers from an attempt to make the characters likeable, almost without exception. The only person who escapes this "Hollywood-ization" of the book is Adore, the horrible child star whose fate nobody who has seen the movie (or read the book) will ever forget. Jeez!

If you find yourself watching this movie and "just not getting it," do yourself a favour and read the book. It won't make the movie any clearer, but you can at least view the movie as a clear-cut example of the sort of thing the book was pointing out and railing against, way back in 1939 when this idea was still a novel one: Hollywood films are manipulative and full of fakery, and so are humans in general, and people in general are also ghoulish and horrible, and no amount of eyelash-fluttering or smooth tango-dancing will disguise that. You might be the owner of a big studio and have an inflatable dead horse in your pool, but you still can't relate to your wife, and the only thing left in your life is pathetic thrill-seeking (cock-fights, cheesy stag flicks).

(Incidentally, I'm amazed at how many quirky things ended up in the screenplay that WEREN'T part of the book! Kudos to the scriptwriter for that at least!)
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Fluffy patriotic fun
30 January 2003
This war-time gem is as fluffy as you'd expect: the plot is thin, the relationships are cliche'd, and the acting is pretty much by-the-book. But it's also a heck of a lot of fun, and the musical numbers are top-notch.

You've got a homely, backwoods circus performer named Daisy (Judy Canova) who is more than a little stupid, and her equally dim-witted and goofy boyfriend Pinky (Jerry Colonna) who trains pigeons and dabbles in magic. Daisy and Pinky provide the slapstick, and boy to they dish it out. In Pinky's case it works -- he knows when to be subtle and when to stop a gag -- but Daisy comes off as sloppy and her timing is a little off. I'll give her this, though: she can look like a man when she needs to.

Meanwhile, at the base, Stephen (played by Alan Jones) is the romantic lead and the excuse to bring in musical numbers: he's a former Hollywood producer and is trying to put on a know, those shows featuring amateurs and shoddy sets until the opening night 3 days later, when everybody is a pro and the sets are gorgeous. His love-interest is Vicki Marlow (Ann Miller), the worldly and wise daughter of the General.

The plot itself isn't all that important: gangsters want to kill Daisy, Stephen wants to put on a show featuring Daisy and Vicki, but to keep Daisy on the base he needs to disguise and protect her (from medical doctors and hooch dancers), and to get Vicki into his show he needs to woo her (which is one of the more bizarre moments in the movie: Ann goes from disliking him to loving him in the space of about 2 seconds, and his method of pitching woo seems to be to insult a girl) What is important are the occasionally inspired comic routines and the snappy songs, not to mention Ann's breathtaking taps.

The highpoints -- for me -- were the two Ann numbers ("Jitterbug Lullabye," a sweet and clever song & dance duet, and a percussive solo where she taps, claps, types, and twirls along with a machine gun and a wall-clock. This is possibly the most enjoyable and relaxed tap number I've ever seen her do: it's technically brilliant but not so frantic that her sense of fun is obscured), and the final "Wacky For Khaki," wherein Judy more-or-less drops the bumpkin twang and shows us that she really CAN sing AND be funny.

The comedy treads some familiar ground but does have it's moments: Pinky's magic tricks and odd banter are delightful, and Ann's deadpan delivery is great as well. This all comes together in a somewhat anti-climactic ending. And the army looks like a really fun place. "True to the Army" is exactly what it was meant to be: fluffy patriotic fun with great songs and distinctive leads. View it in that light and you'll have a great time.
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Strange Brew (1983)
Even stupider now.
22 November 2002
The last time I saw "Strange Brew" was when it appeared on one of the Canadian Pay TV channels...and I hated it. It was chaotic, confusing, silly, and dumb. I mean, using music and drugged beer to force mental patients to fight while playing hockey? Some skinny woman's father coming back as a ghost and using a videogame to speak to people? A flying dog? I dismissed it.

But now, with the fullness of time and maturity, I've watched it again and I can say with confidence that it's STILL chaotic, confusing, silly, and dumb...but it's also hilarious!

This movie captures the sort of ad hoc, "yeah, whatever" style of SCTV, which could get dull over time, but the hosers have managed to draw it out for 90 minutes by putting in a lot of rich detail (what confused me as a child were the references to Hamlet, mainly), endlessly quotable dialogue, and scenes that are just plain funny (I particularly like the nurses arguing about whose responsibility it is to remove dead patients from their beds). I usually find "dumb" humour annoying, but Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis are so GOOD -- almost subtle -- at being dumb, and so lovable at the same time, that even the fart/booze/puke jokes became funny.

And what's more, the movie is WEIRD. If anybody can explain why Hosehead the dog ROLLS up the edge of the roof, please let me know, because it's giving me nightmares. And am I the only one who's noticed pointed musical references to Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein" (when they first see Elsinore Brewery, and when Rosie and Pam are reunited again, the score sounds almost EXACTLY like similar moments in "Young Frankenstein"...but not QUITE exactly...)

I recommend this movie to anybody who can handle some dumb with their wit, in just the right amounts. The DVD features a preview for their upcoming cartoon which looks spectacularly unfunny, so please don't judge them on that.
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Fun, but poorly paced.
5 November 2002
Is it just me, or was this film horribly paced? As much as I enjoyed the scenes themselves it felt like they were all just stuck together without any thought of building suspense (or even making sure they logically followed).

Still, I did get a kick out of it, particularly the "over-the-top" elements (squeaky, giggling spiders and the scene with the poor cat, for instance). I could watch ostriches get snatched up all day long, and the spiders (though looking a little flat at times, especially in scenes with huge numbers of them scuttling around) were nifty.

People have already drawn comparisons to TREMORS, and I need to agree with their conclusions: this is a poor imitation. No build-up of suspense, no logic, no character development, bad acting. But it still managed to be fun and silly and just a bit quirky. Rent it on a night when you don't want to think, but have enough of an attention span to deal with the lack of pacing.
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Scooby-Doo (2002)
Entertaining, ironic, and stupid! I like.
15 October 2002
I rented it because I wanted to watch something colourful, pointless and stupid. "Scooby-Doo" is all those things, for sure...but it's also highly entertaining and funny, which was a complete surprise.

It seems to be a Hollywood trend to take the TV Shows and cartoons we watched as children and remake them in an ironic way. Scooby-Doo is no exception, where everything we suspected about the characters when we watched the cartoon -- Fred being vain, Daphne being an airhead, Velma being repressed and badly in need of therapy, Scrappy being an obnoxious egotist, and Shaggy eating so much because he had some sort of drug issues -- is brought to the front. The movie is not so much about the mystery the gang is solving, it's about making fun of the things that weren't supposed to be funny in the cartoon. And while some of those things are easy targets ("It would have worked if it wasn't for..."), the script had me laughing over and over again at it's more-ironic-than-thou cleverness.

A lot of credit goes to Matthew Lillard and Linda Cardellini. Lillard as Shaggy is such a perfect carbon copy that I almost felt like punching him. And Cardellini has Velma down pat, right down to that self-satisfied sideways glance when she's exposing a mystery. Freddy Prinze and Sarah Michelle Geller were passable, and it was only the computer animated Scooby that really annoyed me: he was just too high-tech, I felt.

In my opinion the movie succeeded most when it was subtle (like the bartender telling Velma that he likes her sweater, and her giggling about Scrappy's glandular problem). Was it obvious I thought Velma kicked butt? She was the only one I liked in the cartoon and I'm thrilled that she was so perfectly reproduced.

The bonus materials are great. I much prefer the animated opening that they cut out, and Velma's "Invasion Of The Body Snatchers" scream was hilarious, as was her cabaret number.

So, the movie is funny. Sometimes it's insufferably juvenile and stupid, and sometimes it will strike the adult viewer as a bit too childish, but the movie does what it set out to do: it entertains you, and it pokes clever fun at infamous cultural icons. Expect nothing more than that and you'll have a good time with it.
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View it on it's own, not as a spoof or adaptation, and you might enjoy!
20 September 2002
I've never read the Modesty Blaise comics. What inspired me to rent this DVD was a love of 60's kitsch fashions, and an immense respect for Monica Vitti. And while I was baffled by the events in the film -- it didn't seem to make a DAMN bit of sense the first time around -- I still found myself loving it. And on repeated viewings I love it even more.

What's to love? Primarily, the quirkiness of EVERYTHING in the film: the direction is off-kilter (so many things happen in parts of the screen that you're not looking at, and the pacing is bizarre to say the least: a constant string of anticlimaxes that I found refreshing), the acting is deadpan and weird (Bogarde's shifty, psychopathic, and slightly flaky villain...Stamp's disgruntled but cheerful anti-hero...Rosella Falk's twitchy, wide-eyed, barely-restrained violence -- she is a stand-out highlight in the movie...and Monica Vitti, expressing herself mostly through strangely-timed gestures and facial expressions...just check out her "How do you get this off?" routine), the sets are gorgeously dressed (Gabriel's atmospheric island, and the fantastic cell with the spiral staircase), and the plotting is all over the place. Who's double-crossing who? Why are they doing that? WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON? On first impression, I felt the film was just "winging it," making it up as it went along. But far from's elaborately plotted, just strangely presented.

Really, I love this film, and I'm so glad it's seen re-release. It's sloppy, crazy, irreverent, and fun. If you view it as a weird little film -- not as a spoof, or an adaptation of the comic, or a reflection of the times, or as an attempt to be hip or strange -- I think you'll enjoy it as much as I did.

And yes, the clothes ARE fantastic.
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Scary Movie (2000)
Extremely broad comedy
10 September 2002
It didn't take long for me to realize that "Scary Movie" is largely apeing the "Airplane" comedies: basically, "anything for a laugh, no matter how stupid." And it lives up to that mandate.

The difference, though, is that "Scary Movie's" brand of comedy is far less subtle, mostly consisting of sight gags and physical humour (how many times do people need to get hit with things?) It does have it's subtle and surprising moments, and as far as I'm concerned those are the best ("Oh my God, we hit a boot!")

Another difference is that, believe it or not, "Scary Movie" is even LESS subtle in it's style of parody than "Airplane!" was, often outright naming the films it's spoofing, which comes across as pretty desperate. As well, it tries to be topical ("Whazzzup?") which will probably result in a film that ages very badly.

All things considered, though, I did enjoy most of it. While it was hilariously ironic to see Carmen Electra make fun of somebody ELSE'S acting ability, the principal characters -- especially the women -- did a great job. Did nobody else thing that Cheri Oteri's "Gail Hailstorm" scenes were the funniest moments? Next to Hailstorm (and including Brenda's hilarious movie-theatre death, and Buffy's "Is this the climax? Do you mind if I fake it?"), the men in the film are pretty dull, actually.

This film features jokes for everybody. How offended you are by the huge number of jokes that DON'T suit your sense of humour will probably dictate how much you enjoy the movie.
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Enigma (2001)
Romance, intrigue, loyalty! Oh, and something about Enigma, I think.
17 July 2002
Uf, maybe I was the only one disappointed. An incredibly simplistic, scattered story. What frustrated me the most was that, at first glance (and in all of it's promotion) it's a movie about the Enigma codebreakers. Look a little deeper, however, and it's a movie with three simultaneous plotlines. Here they are, in order of importance:

1. Frustrated lover, in anguish over a lost girl who has disappeared.

2. WWII mystery story: what sort of intrigue and double-crossing might have happened? Who was spying on who? Where do you draw the lines of loyalty and duty?

3. Oh yes, and superficial details about the Enigma machine, used as an excuse to draw the hero and Kate Winslett together onto a bench in a dilapidated barn.

Maybe I was naive thinking I was going to see a movie ABOUT Enigma, or at least the people involved in it, or at LEAST the nightmare of round-the-clock code-breaking. Instead, the film could have taken place anytime or anywhere in WWII Britain, and the Enigma was only a plot device to get the romance and mystery started. The only time it REALLY means anything is during the "greatest convoy battle of all time," which is 100% tangential but -- for me -- the movie's one redeeming moment. This movie could have just as well been about industrial espionage on a dairy farm in WWII Britain, and the essential parts of the plot would have been exactly the same.

If you're like me, and you've long been fascinated with Enigma, expect very little. If you like a good mystery, you might still want to expect very little (90 minutes of sparse details, and then 10 minutes of rapid-fire revelations and epiphanies that the audience -- or at least me -- didn't have a hope in hell of ever deducing). If you love the 50's fashions, though, and you think Winslett is pretty cool, then it's probably worth seeing.
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Entertainment for those being spoofed only.
23 January 2002
The key to John Waters' humour has always seemed to be a certain flippancy and distance from the people and subject matter involved, but in "Cecil B. DeMented" I think Waters is hitting too close to what he really cares about. As a result the humour is nearsighted and his gags not nearly as odd as usual, as he seems too busy reinforcing his points to sit back and wonder whether what he's doing is really funny or interesting.

And other problem is the fact that his 'points' -- the ridiculousness of both Hollywood AND desperately independent filmmakers -- leave no room for anybody else. All of the characters are under fire...a constant BARRAGE of fire that is 95% vitriol and 5% joke. This makes for an uncomfortable situation. In a usual John Waters film you can find something fascinating about every character, but here the characters are reduced to mere mouthpieces for the movie's 'points.' The trademark quirky John Waters characterizations are nowhere to be found (even Cherish's tragic backstory seems anemic in comparison).

There are some very, very funny moments in this film (the "Rear Entry" porno spoof, the nasty kid laughing at Mink Stole's heart attack, and the "Patch Adams" Director's cut) but otherwise the entertainment has been left behind in favour of getting as many digs at cinema in as possible. The result is a messy satire (even by the usual Waters standards) MINUS the entertainment. I wonder if the only people who will REALLY enjoy this film will be the very people Waters is spoofing?
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"I Don't Understand!"
10 April 2001
At one point, a terrorized Jenny screams "I don't understand!" And Vilmer replies "Welcome to the real world." For me, this sums up everything I like about this movie.

The TCM series has -- at the best of times -- been about random violence...usually for the sake of sensationalism. But underneath it all is the creepy realization that not everybody thinks like you do. Some of them do things which make no sense to you. When you step into their reality, you're at their mercy, and you'll never understand exactly why.

This installment plays the "why?" theme to the hilt, eventually copping out somewhat near the end when they should have just left us wondering. Darla is wonderful as Vilmer's girlfriend, alternately getting hung up about seemingly trivial things -- having a quiet dinner for a change -- and goading Vilmer into continuing their twisted, mutually abusive relationship. Vilmer himself has fantastic moments, though none of the actors quite live up to Perensky & Zellweger's standards of convincing nuttiness and terror, respectively. Though Newmyer is also great in a role which is too small.

Outside of the mayhem, there's some wonderful dialogue, especially the first few lines in the movie: the teacher who simpers around the students and then gripes, "f*** I hate kids." Heather's friend with the absolutely bizarre mannerisms explaining that the gossip-monger is just trying to cause trouble. Heather saying that they might end up slaughtered and hidden away in somebody's basement, with Sean retorting, "that's stupid, the houses around here don't have basements." And finally, my favourite line: "Too bad about her face, Leather, but you can have her shoes!"

Despite all the bad press this movie's received, I hope Kim Henkel enjoys what she created as much as I enjoy watching it. Goofy, funny, real, unreal, terrifying and witty: good job.
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Sadly underrated film
19 March 2001
It can't be easy to bring a Tama Janowitz novel to the screen. Her characters are strange and chronically flawed. Her plots progress like real life -- loosely, with lots of extraneous details and false starts -- yet contain a lot of wacky situations which we have trouble relating to reality (until we really think about it, and realize it's weird because it REALLY HAPPENS, everyday). I love her sense of humour and her style of writing, especially since her novels don't follow a traditional form of plot development.

That said, this movie could have been better. I don't think that the split-screen presentation of different scenes works at all, and many of the actors don't seem to understand why they're uttering the lines -- I don't think they "get it." Adam Coleman Howard (Stash) struggles valiantly, but always seems one step behind his character. Madeleine Potter (Daria) isn't very convincing either. Bruce Peter Young (Mikell) looks by turns bored and baffled. And -- perhaps the biggest injustice of all -- the knight in shining armour at the end is a terrible actor; instead of being happy and hopeful at the emergence -- finally! -- of a single genuine person in Eleanor's life, I couldn't get beyond his wooden delivery.

Everyone else is great, however. Bernadette Peters seems tailor-made to star in a Janowitz adaptation, as do many of the other oddball characters (Wilfredo, Mooshka, Samantha, the Japanese film crew). Things pick up in the second half, and it certainly gets funnier as it goes along...Eleanor mentions a dream she had the other night about a baby with long arms and legs like a chimpanzee, "but it was cute." The party (and the blender) is a blast. After so long in more-or-less quiet neutral, the last half hour kicks into gear.

Some people mentioned, "how could Eleanor put up with Stash?" Well, look around, sadly...there are lots of Eleanors and lots of Stash's (people who are "abridged" like their "tentacles have been cut off at the wrist"). As for the odd artsy SoHo this film to "Mondo New York" and see that, if anything, Janowitz has missed out on a few bizarre and self-indulgent art types.

Don't expect to be on the edge of your seat when you watch this one. Just sit back, enjoy, and take it for what it is: an expose on the New York art world in the 80's, and an examination of one woman attempting to deal with a city full of shallow, uncaring, jealous and stupid people.
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They tapdance not, neither do they fart.
15 December 2000
I have grown up with this movie. I was a pre-teen when I first saw it, and I've watched it every year or so since then, and I get something different out of it each time. One of this film's strengths (and maybe one reason why it wasn't a success) is that it targets a huge cross-section of people...there is some relatively vulgar humour (I have never heard the G dialogue so I don't know how much of the humour that removed...hopefully Botch still eats the insect in his navel!), references to parts of our culture, social commentary (the Rushers of Din would LIKE to be friendly, but their just isn't any TIME), a heroic and exciting story, some disturbing nightmarish imagery, some cute stuff for the kids, lots of self-aware humour, and -- in my opinion the biggest asset -- it's damn weird. Especially the dialogue. The voice actors are phenomenal, and they occasionally mutter their lines, which adds to the strangeness of the whole project. It's great, years later, to finally decipher one of those lines!

Technically, it's amazing. The work that went into this film...I always find myself fascinated by Botch's mouth -- his rapidly moving mouth is a series of mouth photographs brilliantly matched and synced with his dialogue -- and everything just looks GOOD. And unique, in that curious tissue-paper animation style.

This is the only film I can think of that I can show to anybody, at any age. Little kids have heard worse language than what comes out of Botch's (brilliant) mouth, and so has my grandmother.

The only downside, maybe, are the dated pop songs. Bruce Hornsby (who, in my opinion, sounded bad in 1983 as well)! That said, the orchestral score is catchy, crazy, and beautiful at times, so it's not all bad.

In fact, it's all very, very good, overall.
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Next of Kin (1982)
A stylish, creepy, overlooked horror film.
15 December 2000
This film continues to scare the hell out of me.

It has been dismissed by some as a routine slasher film, but I whole-heartedly disagree, for a few reasons:

SUSPENSE: Much of the movie IS suspense...slow walks down hallways, heads looking around corners, far-off shots of indistinct figures. This really must be what it's like to go crazy, as Linda fears she is. Importantly, the suspenseful moments never cop-out, they do usually end in a satisfying chill...but the climax is wonderfully held off for the end.

MUSIC: The music is absolutely incredible in that early-80's, Tangerine Dream meets John Carpenter sort of way. It's perfect. Sometimes, it even transcends.

ACTING: The acting is pretty low-key, allowing us time to get interested in the characters, their quirks, their hang-ups. But when it comes time for the climax, the lead actress really lets loose, and it is most disturbing to be witness to such a total frenzy.

STYLISH CINEMATOGRAPHY: Moody hallways, strange camera angles & movements (particularly the long wall-hugging draw away from Linda's nervous eyes as she peers into the hallway, and the cameraman following the nonchalant cat down the hall), creepy focus changes and slow-motion moments.

SURPRISES: The ending will blow your head off. It's nice to see a heroine being sensible, capable, and strong (especially in 1982!!!)

For sure, it's not all good. Particularly weak is the link between the suspenseful bulk of the movie and the frantic climax...the storyline falls completely apart when it comes time to explain why everything has happened. Fortunately, we don't really care at that point, because it's all too freaking scary. If you can find it, SEE IT. Especially if you like horror films populated by realistic human beings (the old man Lance, telling endlessly dull stories about the war...Linda's fork tricks and sugar-cube pyramid...the father in the restaurant threatening to smack his son into the middle of next week). Few films have upset me as much as this one, and hopefully it will do that for you as well.
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Hitler (1997)
A reward for those with persistence
14 November 2000
I understand that this film was later remade as "Krodh." Well, the two films don't have much in common, except for the wonderful Rambha and a main character referred to as "Hitler" because he's perceived as nasty.

The 1997 Hitler, however, is not such a bad guy...he's strict with his family and doesn't communicate well, but other than that he doesn't really DESERVE to be called "Hitler." Admittedly, I saw this film without subtitles so maybe I missed something...

After a shakey start, this film was a lot of fun. The was fantastic, and Johny Lever may have even been funny. It's hard to tell. The villain was particularly villainous and creepy -- those glasses! -- and the plot had a fair share of complexity and suspense. The best part of this film for me, however, were the songs: fantastic, lilting, full of odd touches (crowing roosters, sampled exclamations, and a brief reference to Mithun's earlier film "Disco Dancer" that will leave you stunned and confused).

All in all, force yourself through the first hour, and you will be rewarded!
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Invasion: Earth (1998– )
Good or bad? I don't know...
29 August 2000
I'd be lying if I said I was satisfied with the ending. I appreciate what they were trying to do with it -- show the absolute desperation of the battle, and the need to use whatever means necessary to stay alive, even if it means sacrificing innocent people (or yourself). That was a theme that went through the entire series.

But still, too many things were left unresolved for me to fully appreciate the point...particularly the fate of the communications guy with the dreadlocks, and of the sacrificed townspeople, and -- let's face it -- the fate of the entire world!

Everything was very, very well set up. The actual series was spectacular in many ways...the special effects, the focus switching from development to development, the overall confusion of humankind dealing with an alien intelligence (though I did find that some of the characters were a bit TOO intuitive..."Wow, a strange swirling yellow portal...I wonder if we're dealing with aliens from another dimension?).

I think they struck a fine balance between tense (and often gory) action, uneasy suspense, and development of the characters. I don't think I've ever seen such well-developed character interactions in such a short series.

All in all, it unfolded much the way I imagine this sort of thing really WOULD unfold -- lots of confusion, anger, anguish, guilt, drama, and fear -- but I do wish there had been a BIT more direction to the process. It was almost TOO lifelike to be ultimately entertaining for me. How often, in a TV series, do you hear a mother admit to her child that she's terrified of what might happen next, and that she doesn't know if she'll be able to come home again? Or a desperate general decide that total destruction is the most preferable course of action -- and have it actually be TRUE?

The whole thing gave me the shivers, and I don't really sure that's a good thing.
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It thrilled me.
27 July 2000
Much of the humour in "Night Of The Creeps" is based on repetition, a type of humour I associate with the original episodes of "The Addams Family." Various characters exhibit the same responses over and over (Tom Atkins' "thrill me" and related film noir dialogue), the mortician is always eating when he deals with bodies, the janitor repeating the weirdo line "screaming like banshees" and chuckling to himself. On top of this, events are always referring to themselves, and to other events...for instance, Atkins' line "A body that has been dead for 30 years does not suddenly get up and go for a walk by itself!" (and a shot of the body walking down the street), is echoed almost word-for-word in Dekkers later "The Monster Squad." The old lady is watching "Plan 9 From Outer Space." One of the characters says the events are like a bad B movie. All the characters are named after big-name horror-meisters.

None of these references are essential to a horror movie. But in this case, they expand the film beyond mere cheap thrills (and there are lots of those) and into a totally wacky film world. The characters say VERY STRANGE THINGS, much like people do in real life ("Better yet, use your whale radar," what the heck does that MEAN?), because people share in-jokes with each other. They have pasts and hang-ups and quirks. Likewise, this movie has TWO prologues, one of which establishes a second plotline that eventually converges with the first.

What's my point? Just that this film has a very complex structure, features 3-dimensional characters, stands up to repeated viewings, and -- as if that wasn't enough -- is scary, gory, funny, jumpy, stylish, and just plain fun. Stan Ridgway's on the soundtrack as well, which doesn't hurt, and you've got sorority babes (albeit 80's ones), frat jerks, and a tough-but-kind cop.

This film makes me think an awful lot of Vamp, Return of the Living Dead, and The Stuff. Many will probably disagree, but these films try to be more than just plain thrillers, and I love them for that.
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How can I be objective about this film?
27 July 2000
I've been crazy about this film for a long time. I've always been a horror buff, but I require some originality, creativity and quirkiness to keep me interested. This film has all of those things, along with the things everybody else has already mentioned (great 80's soundtrack -- especially the Cramps' "Surfin' Dead!" -- great 80's clothes, and referential in-jokes up the wazoo). If you like creepy movies with a lot of wit, intelligence, and gore thrown in...and if you like the kind of movie that poses a lot of questions, and leaves it up to you to fill in the broader picture...then don't hesitate to see this.

Kudos, as well, to Dan O'Bannon, whose work has always been of high quality and who has never gotten the recognition he deserves (likewise Fred Dekker, another superior director who lost out because he did something a little different). When I first saw this movie, I was amazed at the chances O'Bannon takes...scenes that actually build suspense (ala Alien), cryptic comments made by some of the characters which give you a sense that these are real people (they weren't just created "for the movie"), a relentlessly downbeat yet funny theme, and, most importantly:

The zombies are smart. They're fast. They talk. Freddy taunting Tina in the attic of the mortuary has to be one of the creepiest scenes in any horror film.

Do I sound like a fanatic? I am. I can't see this movie enough (and if you get a chance to see the 2 1/2 hour "rough cut," DO IT, there's loads of extra dialogue, extended scenes, and hints of subplots etc.) I think it's a testament to everybody involved with this film that it has retained such a loyal fan base, but has never turned into a commercialized & mass marketed "cult phenomenon."
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Vampires (1998)
Uneven and occasionally entertaining.
6 February 2000
Strange to say, if it had been longer it might have been better. Even though I found myself contemplating my ceiling for long stretches of this film, I think it could have benefitted from some more information about the characters. It seems strange that we only saw Crow's hunters for about ten minutes before they...well...weren't there anymore. Couldn't we have been given some background on them? Since one of the most interesting scenes in the film was the 'cleaning of the nest' right at the beginning, and since -- as many have stated -- this is supposed to be an action film...why not clean a few more nests? Let us meet the hunters one-by-one? How can we care about a hotel room full of hookers & hunters if we don't even know their names? How can we understand Crow's rage and anguish and motivation, when all we hear about his past are two or three lines of dialogue? Three quarters of this movie is people looking menacingly at eachother, and people en route to doing something. As well, I REALLY hated the way intense action scenes were presented in a sort of slow-motion montage that made me wonder if my VCR needed cleaning. And the priest was miscast. He made a good priest; as a hunter he was embarassing.

That said, there were still some great scenes. Sheryl Lee was almost transcendental in her ability to rise above her mundane role, but I think this has more to do with Sheryl Lee than it does with John Carpenter. And James Woods was fun in his usual intense, somewhat disturbed way. The vampires rising from the sand were striking and when the action actually HAPPENED, it was fun. But am I the only one who thinks that John Carpenter has become unfocused and sloppy?
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But how many people have seen it?
8 November 1999
When I was young and impressionable, I saw this on TV, very late at night, and I didn't realize it was a spoof. I was terrified by the whole egg-beater hand thing, and a rotting pig's head: oh no! But now, years later, I've finally wrangled a copy of the film, and I have to wonder two things: 1) How could I ever take this seriously? and 2) Why isn't it a cult classic yet?

This is an incredibly detailed film; every minute is filled with weird comments, dialogue, music, characters, effects, and then more music. The dinner-table conversations (especially the 50's-ish obsession with kitchen appliances), the butcher's goofy rants about his invented language...these are classic!

And the music is -- believe it or not -- good music. It spans many different genres and does a good job in all of them, but watch for the incredibly strange, Devo-esque chemical song; the guy's new wave dance will scare you far more than any of the creepier moments in the film.

As for the plot, who cares? It isn't important; in fact, I don't think the plot is there to keep you interested or to make sense; it's just an instrument to set up weird dialogue, songs, and gags. And yes, though it sometimes tries too hard, it usually succeeds.

Ever wonder what you can do with a lot of talented, enthusiastic nobody's and a miniscule budget? Check it out and see.
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O'Bannon does it again.
8 November 1999
I've read all of the Lovecraft I care to read, and I've seen all the adaptations I care to see. I cannot, however, get enough of Dan O'Bannon in any form, which was my main reason for seeing "The Resurrected."

Well, in terms of faithfulness to Lovecraft, this film excells. It has the same lurky, low-key, mysterious quality of his writing; shocks and scares only happen when they deserve to happen. Nothing leaps at the camera here unless the leaper means business. In other words, no cats, banging shutters, or friends suddenly showing up to scare the protagonists. The only things that show up are monsters, and even though you have to wait a long time to meet them, you'll be glad you did. They are brilliant.

More importantly, this film has atmosphere. The sets, particularly those under the country house, are absolutely creepy; add to them a tricky flashlight, a fragile lamp, and an almost depleted book of matches and you have a monster-stalking scene so tense you'll wet yourself. Not all the acting is top-notch, unfortunately, and the script is a little loose; but there are some great funny moments, and the characters go through some development.

My only misgiving? The finale was a bit of a cop-out, but since Lovecraft tended to cop-out as well, it's hardly a surprise. At least, nobody woke up at the conclusion, hair turned white, whispering "Cthulu Ry'leh."

Thanks, Dan O'Bannon, handling quirky, unpredictable projects with a mix of intelligence and class!
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How many football players can you fit on a pickup truck, anyway?
20 October 1999
Everybody else has said it, so I might as well say it too: this film could have been brilliant. The idea has promise, the subtext is relevant (quite often, the 'perfect in-crowd' are the most vicious and reprehensable ones of all, and people who are so perfect just HAVE to go nutty in some way, some time!), the soundtrack was fun, the setting was perfect (little isolated island). So what went wrong?

Well, what bugged me most was the attempt at inventing a "Heathers"-esque teen language, which kept on intruding in some of the best scenes. I'd find myself wondering, "what the heck did she just say? 'Sounds RIZZO?'" ('razor' apparently, but still, it sounds stupid)." Not to mention some really, really terrible dialogue. In the first five minutes I was subjected to "Self-mutilate this, fluid-boy." Oh jeez, nobody would ever say that, unless they were in a bad teen movie.

As well, too many things were left out: what's the deal with Steve's brother? What about the parents of these implanted teens, what do they have to say? What about Caldicott's background, what's his motivation? Why does the janitor pretend to be crazy (for self-preservation, of course, but this is never really stated)? How does somebody--who's perfected his 'Boo Radley' act enough to fool everybody--just slip up and leave a Vonnegut novel sticking out of his pocket? (And who's to say, of course, that no Boo's read Vonnegut) How did they break into the mental hospital in the first place? What do the other teens in the school think of all these shenanigans?

That said, there were lots of fine moments...Caldicott's daughter, for instance, and any scene featuring the oh-so-charming Chug. But overall, it was a pretty 'ooky' movie: great premise, terrible execution, though entertaining enough to sit through and enjoy to some extent. The random violence is effective, the janitor and Gavin are always fun to watch, and there's enough tension to keep you wondering what's going to happen next.

The biggest tragedy, of course, is that they didn't do more with what they had. (And maybe this is a Canadian thing, but I can't see Terry David Mulligan in a scene without thinking of "Zig Zag,".

So see it, but expect very little, and you'll be entertained enough if you can overlook the gigantic flaws.
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Well, it was better than I thought.
9 October 1999
I almost didn't finish watching it, because I was so damn sick of Jamie bumping into people, accompanied by razzy synth sounds that were supposed to be scary. Hasn't Steve Miner had enough of this sort of thing? What's that sound? YAGH! Oh, it's just my son again. YAGH! Oh, it's my boyfriend. YAGH! Whew, just a spider. Etc. What kept me watching, however, were the characters, remarkably fleshed out for such a flick. They were quirky, likeable, and entertaining, much like the characters from the original Halloween. And, because they aren't just cardboard fodder, it's more difficult watching them die...THAT is the strength of this film. Also, Curtis wiseing up and realizing that Meyers is a pro at playing dead (the first person to really NOTICE this)...that is refreshing as well. Bascially, this is a pretty bad film with a welcome touch of humanity and humour, and watching Meyers frantically flick his knife around is pretty darn creepy. It doesn't rank with the original film, as far as I'm concerned, but I enjoyed watching it (once the ridiculous string of YAGH! moments ended), and the people involved deserve some credit for trying hard to be a bit transcendent.
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Nope, I didn't like it.
11 August 1999
Watching "Phantasm IV" was like watching a senile person die. And that is not a pleasant experience. It was scattered and hesitant. While the previous films seemed to be operating in a curious, intriguing dream world, this one was a sad mess of unfinished ideas, lame Reggie jokes, and -- most annoying -- tenuous links to the past that revealed lost footage, but did NOT advance the plot. And the special effects seem to have taken turn for the cheaper this time around. Usually, when I dislike a movie, and so many others enjoy it, I can see both sides of the issue. But this time, I'm baffled. So I'll just shut up and say: you will either love it, or, like me, you'll mourn the time spent watching this collection of disconnected, badly executed scenes. (With the single exception of the hilarious Bannister song that plays through the credits)
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