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Ho-Hum JULES & JIM wannabe
Nothing about this film feels authentic. These guys are supposed to be writers but we never learn what they write about. They easily could've been accountants or insurance salesmen. Designating them as writers seems like a shortcut to make us think these guys are "deep" when in reality they come off like characters from a bad American Gen X 1990s movie. Then there is the music: it's the music I love, the music I listened to in my 20s but I am now 44. I suspect the filmmakers are my age as well and didn't bother to research what young people have been listening to for the past 2 decades. It would be like if a movie about 20 somethings was made in 1986 and the soundtrack were filled with nothing but Black Oak Arkansas, Iron Butterfly and Disco Tex And The SeXollettes.
I really didn't care about any of these banal characters & feel the editing is a gimmick to distract the viewer from the fact that nothing interesting is happening or being said.
Murder Party (2007)
A n Old Jersey Guy's Idea Of The Brooklyn Art Scene
This movie is a real time waster. It has decent production values & a few OK performances (the lead victim & the photographer) but it is undermined by a truly awful performance by the art "patron" & a ludicrous script. The film has a "Hee Haw" attitude towards the Brooklyn art scene & seems like something a clueless old fart would've written for a skit on the "Sonny & Cher Show" back in the 1970s. The irony here is that if the writer & director were better artists they may have pulled this off. Instead it's a stale comedy that isn't funny & a horror/thriller that isn't suspenseful. Even the soundtrack is a joke--what self respecting NYC artist listens to speed metal?
A Fond Trip Down Memory Lane
I'll admit 2 things right off the bat: I was a consummate fan of the old 42nd Street grindhouses & drive ins & the fare they showed. I fondly remember skipping school to catch a triple feature. My all time perfect grindhouse experience was skipping school on a rainy lousy day with several friends of mine & kicking back with some lousy wine a few joints & a triple feature of THE WARRIORS, ENTER THE DRAGON and THE AVENGING DISCO GODFATHER.
The other thing I'll admit is that I am total Tarantino fanboy. I enjoy his work even though I really get tired of him. He does stuff that I shouldn't likeie he makes movies about moviesbut I end up loving them. I really detest his clones & after every one of his movies we are inundated with bad copycats. But I have enjoyed each feature film he has made.
So GRINDHOUSE seems to be made just for me! DEATHPROOF, Tarantino's half of GRINDHOUSE demonstrates why he is so far above his peers. He takes a hoary genrethe car chase flick--& infuses it with something new, much like Sergio Leone did with the western back in the 1960s. DEATHPROOF is the best drive in movie never made in 1975. As with RESERVIOUR DOGS he writes the scenes we never got to see in genre flicks, scenes where the characters reveal things about themselves, scenes where they set the action in motion, scenes where we see the aftermath.
DEATHPROOF also contains a car chase scene that is right up there with THE FRENCH CONNECTION & the 7 UPS. The first part of DEATHPROOF is the rapid fire dialogue between the characters & the second part is the rapid fire action of a psychopath & a car of women bent on revenge. Tarantino doesn't just send up or copy the car chase flick of the 1970she makes a really good one. Unlike Ridrigues' half of GRINDHOUSE, Tarantino does not degrade the film's image of scratch the print. DEATHPROOF looks like a brand new 1970s car chase flick right down to the soft focus.
Now about the rest of the film. As I'm sure most of you know, GRINDHOUSE is actually 2 full length (80 minutes) features, plus fake coming attractions. Rodriguez's PLANET TERROR is a mildly amusing send up of a zombie flick. This is the part of GRINDHOUSE where the film is scratched, it hiccups & burns. It's non stop action with no character development& is basically just a new version of a bad old movie. Whereas Tarantino injects a genre with something new Rodriguez simply takes a stroll down memory lane & is every bit as witless as most of the flicks I used to see at the real 42nd Street grindhouses.
The fake trailers are hit or miss. Eli Roth's THANKSGIVING is outrageous & hilarious as is a trailer for a bad 70s Euro horror DON'T.
So is GRINDHOUSE worth seeing? Well I had a great 3 hours & 15 minutes. The only time I got antsy was during the last 10 minutes of Rodriguez's PLANET TERROR. But if you aren't fond of this type of fare & if Tarantino generally leaves you cold then I guess there are better ways to spend 3 hours.
What wasn't so funny was a real trailer that I saw before GRINDHOUSE: apparently Rob Zombie has remade John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN. From the trailer its apparent that this is a non stop gore show & the tagline for the film is "an extreme update of the old classic". So what they've done is take a great old thriller that was heavy on scares but light on actual gore & have stripped it of it's humanity, added gore & torture & have created just another sick millennial stalk, torture & mutilate flick. I've caught both of Zombie's previous celluloid atrocities & found them to be nothing more than bad torture porn.
That Man: Peter Berlin (2005)
A Very Little of Peter Berlin Goes a LONG Way
This could've & should've been a documentary short. Peter Berlin is just not that important nor that interesting to justify this stulifyingly dull & overlong shot on video documentary. If the directors wanted to make a feature length documentary they could've expanded their scope to other erotic artists at the time such as James Bidgood (of PINK NARCISSUS fame) or Wakefield Pool (TAKE ONE, BOYS IN THE SAND). Peter Berlin is a forgettable & mostly forgotten footnote in gay erotic history & this snoozer of a documentary will not change that.
If you want to check out a good documentary on an obscure cult figure check out Andrew Horn's THE NOMI SONG. If you want to see a fun & fluffy look at gay erotica from the 1970s check out Joseph Lovett's GAY SEX IN THE 1970s. But skip THAT MAN PETER BERLIN. If you waste your time & money on this you'll say the same thing my boyfriend did as we exited The Cinema Village: "That man, Peter Berlin owes me $10.50 plus 85 minutes of my life!".
Gone, But Not Forgotten (2003)
Inept & Mediocre
I guess we gays have come a long way as now some of us have the time & money to waste on mediocre, dull as dishwater PG13 "mysteries" that have all of the dramatic tension of a Scooby Doo episode. Jeez, GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN makes the worst episode of MURDER SHE WROTE seem like THE MALTESE FALCON!! What I just don't get is WHY this film was made & who is the audience? If there were attractive leads or hot sex maybe I could understand the effort (there IS a market for soft core gay porn) but there's just NOTHING going on here. There isn't one second of originality in this film, not one of the actors displays any enthusiasm for their roles (I've seen hostages do better line readings), the cinematography is 7-11 security cam level, the awful neo-folkie music obscures a lot of the dialog (guess that's a blessing) & the running time is padded out with numerous scenes of people driving. Were it not for the lack of sex scenes or any flesh for that matter I would swear this was an edited porn film as the sets are hilariously unconvincing but not nearly as rigid, wooden & unattractive as the actors. This wouldn't even cut it as a Troma film! The filmmakers had a budget & materials to make a gay themed mystery/romance & this is what they came up with? Man do I hope they all know how to type or wait tables because the art is just NOT in their blood! This one is up there with PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE & ROBOT MONSTER as one of the most inept films ever made.
The only way GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN can be (almost) enjoyed is "Mystery science Thatre 3000" style. My boyfriend & I were howling with laughter at this turd & heckled it mercilessly. Hey here's an idea: the new all gay cable channel Logo can hire some really bitchy drag queens to watch bad gay flicks & heckle them. THAT is the only way I can recommend it.
I Wish IMDb Would Let Me Vote 0 out of 10!!
I am an avid Howard Stern fan & think that Artie Lange has been a positive influence on the show. I was almost going to buy this DVD but was warned by several folks I know (fellow Stern fans) that it's a waste. One of them gave me his copy which he was about to throw out. After seeing half of this I chucked it into MY trash. IT'S THE WHISKEY Talking' looks & sounds like a bad cable access show from the late 1980s. The production values wouldn't cut it on a snuff film as Artie is often out of focus & filmed from what seems like a mile away, giving it the appearance of a security cam tape. Was this shot on someone's cell phone? Artie's material is even worse than the sub amateur production values. There isn't one second of his act that you haven't heard 1,000 times before from better comedians. Artie comes across like a 4th rate Belushi clone who stumbled onto stage at a suburban strip mall comedy club sometime around 1989. His lame & dated material wouldn't make it 5 minutes on amateur/open mike night at any comedy club in New York, LA or Boston which is probably why he had to go all the way to Tempe Arizona to find people to laugh at his tired diatribes. The sad thing is that the biggest audience responses come not from his material but his references to things from the Stern show. Whenever Artie senses that he's losing his audience--which is pretty much every 5 minutes--he'll do his Jeff The Drunk or Angus Young impression. These are seeded into his act more & more as even the entertainment starved audience in Tempe begins to tire of his stale "observations". The audience seems to be made up of rabid Stern fans who at first are psyched to see someone from the show in the flesh but who soon look as though they are sitting through the most embarrassing & long drunken wedding toast in history. I'll say this for the lousy production: at least it honestly shows the enthusiasm draining from the room like air escaping from a balloon. A more professional team would've intercut positive reaction shots of the crowd from the early part of the set when the audience was happy & hopeful that a fun night was about to begin. Instead the mounting disappointment & depression of the audience is faithfully captured.
And that's all in the first 30 minutes! Holy Jeezus I can't even imagine how awful the rest of the set was. A double bill of THE BAD LIEUTENANT & SCHNINDLER'S LIST would be lighter & funnier than the funeral that is IT'S THE WHISKEY Talking'. Even though I saw this on a friends discarded DVD I still feel like I was ripped off. I'll never get that half hour of my life back!
Where is "MSTK" When You Need It?
Oh man, this braindead shlockfest looks like it just may have been made in someone's Califorina back yard! The acting is sub-porno, the sets would've made Ed Wood giggle & the dialog is some of the most unintentionally hilarious drivel ever to exude from a human head. In a weird way I recommend it, albeit only in a certain way. CLASS OF 1999 II is so relentlessly silly, cheap & badly acted that you can't help but play the home version of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATRE 3000. If you're hanging out with a few friends & have downed a few beers (or other mind altering substances) this hapless craptacular can be highly entertaining. Sasha Mitchell's wooden non acting is awe inspiring (or perhaps vomit inducing). The film also contains one of the dopiest & most unerotic sex scenes since SHOWGIRLS. If you subscribe to Showtime this deliriously inept flick pops up a lot VERY late at night or early morning (for you wake-n-bakers).
weak, dreary but looking forward to more (& better) Jaa
I'm a fan of all types of martial arts films, from the 1970s efforts of the Shaw Brothers to the 1960s Samurai films to Tzui Hark to Jet Li to Ringo Lam to to Donnie Yen to Jackie Chan. I don't expect Hollywood style camera work & editing. But I do expect fights that are filmed with SOME lighting & that the cinematographer knows where to point the camera. ONG BAK is a dreary, dimly lit & monotonous amateur film that should NEVER have received a US theatrical release & instead gone straight to home video. Tony Jaa is an excellent fighter & in a film with the right director, choreographer & cinematographer he will most likely be on his way to becoming a huge action star. He's got the looks, he can fight without the wires (whch have become a cliché & which hopefully will disappear) & he has the requisite acting chops.
What Jaa does not have in ONG BAK is a vehicle to fully demonstrate his talents. Everything about ONG BAK is dreary & dim, dull & hard to follow. I am looking forward to what Jaa does next--that is if he takes a job with competent film makers.
Garden State (2004)
Derivative Cliché' Fest
I was with this film for the first 25 minutes before the depressing reality that it was nothing but another "slacker Sundance young director" clone sank in. Zack Braff--from SCRUBS, the only sitcom that I watch--stars, writes & directs this painfully derivative flick about a bunch of aimless & quirky twentysomethings who stumble aimlessly through life while treacly awful alternative folk music is strummed & bleated from the soundtrack. Natalie Portman seems to be channeling her former costar Jar Jar Binks as the most annoying person in New Jersey (& NJ is a state that produced both Joe Piscopo & Jon Bon Jovi) while Peter Sarsgaard barely maintains his dignity in the well worn cliché of the wise, quick witted & jaded loser/stoner.
How many clinches can you jam into one movie? I stopped counting at 18 but that's only because I picked up a magazine & began reading it during the film's last 10 minutes. I just didn't care anymore what happened to these cartoon characters & only left the movie on in the vain hope that there would be another scene with Sarsgaard shirtless (there wasn't).
Jeezus, didn't they stop making movies like this back in the 1990s? Unfortunately this tepid crapola got some decent reviews, awards at Sundance & did OK box office (for an indie) so I guess we can all look forward to another slew of inoffensive, slice of life, twentysomething, slacker, disaffected, quirky, small town yarns with neo-folkie alterna "rock" cooing from the soundtrack.
Suddenly an Adam Sandler/Meg Ryan marathon doesn't seem so unendurable.
I Heart Huckabees (2004)
Could've been excellent but alas is but a noble dud
Once I realized that David O Russell's "existentialist comedy" was going absolutely nowhere & was about as deep as a p*** puddle I was able to sit back & enjoy the universally excellent performances of the cast. Jason Schwartzman & Mark Wahlberg give the best performances of their careers with Wahlberg's excellent comic timing making their scenes together a real treat...yeah I know I wrote "comic timing" & "Mark Wahlberg" in the same sentence but believe me, here he's a revelation. Jude Law is perfect as the slimy corporate lackey & Isabel Huppert is hilarious in a role that recalls a mix of Linda Fiorentino in LAST SEDUCTION & Huppert's deranged role in THE PIANO TEACHER. Naomi Watts, in a small role, once again shows another dimension. Oddly enough the weakest performances are turned in by Lily Tomlin (one of my all time fave comic actresses) & Dustin Hoffman. Both seem to be on auto pilot as if they (justifyably so) do not trust either the director or his material.
As I said the film goes absolutely nowhere as the characters are but caricatures, there's no real story & Rusell understands existentialism about as well as I do astro physics. There are a LOT of really good individual scenes in the film & some pretty ingenuous set pieces but nothing adds up. But it certainly is a unique film & probably the oddest movie made & released by a major studio since Russ Meyer's BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS. What makes I (HEART) HUCKABEES ultimately so infuriating is that there is SO much good in it & the cast is so letter perfect that the concept & the actors really deserved a lot more effort & thought from Russell.
I would've felt a lot harsher towards the film had I any loftier expectations on the way in. I knew the film was problematic & it wasn't even on my list of theatrical must sees but I just happened to be walking past a theatre that had bargain matinees & its start time was only 10 minutes away so I figured what the hell. After the movie I heard a fellow patron exclaim "I paid to see a David O RUSSELL movie but what I saw was a KEN RUSSELL movie", a remark that drew mutliple murmurs or "good one" from all within earshot (including yours truly).