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Jackée Harry? Jonathan Brandis in drag? I must be in heaven!
Well, I've either died and gone to heaven, or just died. I can't really tell at this point. "Ladybugs" is an odd film. How could I have sat down and watched this film on three non-consecutive occasions? I guess the allure of Rodney Dangerfield is like a horrible, twisted automobile accident. No matter how much you want to move along, you just can't turn away.
Jackée Harry's voice alone would make any man flee the area, and never return. Tommy Lasroda appears near the midpoint of the film to remind us that he should never be cast in feature films EVER AGAIN. Then factor in Jonathan Brandis...as a girl! No, not just Jonathan Brandis. HE'S ALSO DRESSED LIKE A GIRL. Go now. While you can. Run for your life.
Once you watch a bit, you'll be hooked. I'm warning you.
Dangerfield is no threat. If you've seen this film, or "Easy Money" or "Back To School" or anything else he's been in, you know his role. "A wise-cracking (blank)". Here, the blank is filled with "soccer coach". If you're seeing it for the sole purpose of "The Rod", go see "Meet Wally Sparks". A much better effort.
Sometime in the near future, a professor from a large university in Norway will release a thesis paper drawing parallels between "Ladybugs" and it's Hollywood soccer film equal, "The Big Green". The paper will go on to comment that Hollywood cannot make a decent "Big Budget Soccer Picture", and films of the sort should be left to the much more soccer-movie-inclined Icelandic film producers. Just a prediction.
Please take heed. This movie is like a cult. You watch it once, and it will never let go. You'll have to call in sick to work, and cut out your social life because of this film. "Ladybugs" will attach itself to you an never let go...until your eventual demise. Then it will move on to it's next unsuspecting victim that says, "Hmm...Rodney Dangerfield, Jackée Harry, AND Jonathan Brandis...sounds good..."
Proof of Life (2000)
Just don't see this film. Please...
I'm one for artistic films, and films that are different. Pictures that others in my age group (18-25) may find boring and at odds with, I love. But "Proof Of Life" really is a dull, someone-shoot-me-in-the-head, drawn out feature. And to those who don't know me will assume that I'm saying that because I'm a product of American cinema looking for sex, nudity, and drugs.
I went into the film blind, not knowing any more than Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan were top billing. Sure, I realize hostage negotiating is a drawn out ordeal, but the movie took it to the tenth degree. It clocks in at two hours and fifteen minutes. I don't mind long films. But there has to be enough story to carry it for that long! "Proof Of Life" didn't have it. A hostage negotiator comes in, negotiates, then gives everything up to take the hostage using force. Simple as that. Crowe drives here and drives there, and talks with this person and that person. A big waste of time. It all could have been done in ninety minutes.
And Meg Ryan might as well have been replaced with a hatstand. She played a weak, often braless, wife that had nothing to do with the main plot of hostage negotiating. She got top billing for that? Meg Ryan is, loosely speaking, a good actress, and her talents were basically wasted here.
During the last half hour, I could not stop laughing, because of the amounts of film they could have chopped out and still had a watchable movie. The only good thing I could take solace in, is that we were at a cheap-o theater, and only paid $2.50CAD to see it. Let's put it this way, the film took so much out of my viewing companion and I that we had no patience to go and see "Vertical Limit" showing immediately after.
Whether that's a blessing in disguise or not is a different story.
Bottom line here is one of boredom. "Proof Of Life" seemed to get lost in the Christmas Movie Rush of '00. And a good thing too. Saved quite a few people from getting mighty angry. Looks like for once the masses picked which ones would float, and which would sink. And "Proof Of Life" was rightfully deep-sixed!
Cecil B. DeMented (2000)
I'm confused as to why this film was made...
I'm not big on John Waters, and I absolutely detest Melanie Griffith, but I figured that any movie that stands up against mainstream Hollywood cinema has gotta be good...right? Uh...no. To the power of ten.
I viewed this movie and thought to myself, "Geez, the story is about the overthrowing of mainstream cinema by the underground...yet this movie is exactly the same as any other teen angst film from the past twenty years!"
But then I thought, "Are they doing THAT on purpose? Is there irony in the fact that a film preaching the coolness of the underground cinema is following all of the standard Hollywood ideals and benchmarks needed to put together a movie such as this?"
Either way, the movie, in my opinion, comes off horribly. "Demented" sticks to the guns of past teen angst films by having a large central teen cast, each with specific quirks (there's the leader, the bad girl with black hair, the hussy, the nerd, and so forth) getting fed up with the "system" and revolting against stuffy grown-ups. However, Waters adds a new senseless twist...killing! That's right Teenage America! If there is something you don't like, grab a bunch of your stereotypical buddies and shoot up as many as you can!
Melanie Griffith is horrible, as usual, and Rikki Lake proves once again why she has a trash talk show and NOT a career in low-budget films. The only redeeming factor of the film is the potshots it takes at Hollywood features, like "Lake Placid" and "The Flintstones". But it's got a lot to make up for. For example, the group orgy at the drive-in where half the characters are offed while performing their sexual duties within the last five minutes (what was that all about ANYWAY??). Or how about the character of Cecil himself climbing into a wheelchair, lighting himself on fire, and "saving the day". Just complete and utter stupidity.
If you feel the need to stand up against Hollywood (like I did), and look to "Cecil B. Demented" for salvation, you'll be very disappointed. The film you thought would make up for the sins of Hollywood in the past year (see "Gone In 60 Seconds", "Hollow Man", "The Art Of War", etc.) only proves that you've once again been duped. This anti-Hollywood picture is just another bad Hollywood picture in disguise. Your money would be better wasted on "Empire Records" or any other film made in the last ten years that promotes teen unity and revolution.
Tell Your Children (1936)
Rrrrroll another fatty for this review, daddy!
How can you not love this film? A piece so wonderfully outdated, even young children could get a laugh out of it. Shows how programmed society is to issues such as the use of "marihuana cigarettes".
The film makes sense of the whole issue of narcotics, as much sense as anyone could have had on the topic back in the 1930s. The film puts special emphasis on marihuana, the "deadliest of all drugs". This is especially laughable now that people have wised up, and found out that marihuana isn't screwing them up half as good as heroin, crack, blow, or acid can. "Reefer Madness" wants us to tell our children some important facts. Marihuana can make you laugh too much. Sure, according to the film you could also turn into a closet rapist and/or a violent murderer, but the laughing is where the emphasis is put. That's the last thing grown-ups would want teenagers to do back in the 30s is to have a good time.
Which brings me to my next point. This whole film looks like one-sided propaganda from the government or some incredibly concerned non-profit organization. In no way am I condoning the use of rec drugs, but the way it's presented gives me my suspicions. Seeing as this film only targeted our good friend cheeba, I'm waiting for sequels! CRACK-COCAINE CRAZY, 'SHROOM PSYCHOSIS, ACID INSANITY, and HEROIN HOE-DOWN! Tell your children!
Bottom line here? "Reefer Madness" will bring about more laughs than concerns in this day and age. If you've got a thing for campy classic exposés, or you just really like smokin' the trees, you can't beat this one.
Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999)
An incredibly well-made film...with a stellar cast...
This is probably the first, and last, time you'll ever hear the words "stellar cast" to describe a feature film starring Kristie Alley. There. Now that I got the Kristie Alley cheap shot out of the way, I can accurately review this film.
Without a doubt, the best kept secret of 1999. It came out with little hype, and to my recollection, made little noise at the box office. Still, the film is witty, post-modern, truthful, and full of satire. The director takes you behind the scenes of Nowhere, USA beauty pageants, and the jealousy contained therein. One of the most beautiful and unique aspects of the film is that it's shot documentary style. We are given the "honest" opinion of the director, and what he sees. And what he sees very well may be the truth...magnified to the tenth degree.
Kristen Dunst is wonderfully cast as the sweet innocent girl (like most other Dunst roles) who comes from a poor family, and aspires to be the greatest of all beauty queens. On the other end of the spectrum, we have Denise Richards thrown in as a wealthy snob who feels threatened by the innocent girl, and along with her mom (Kristie Alley) tries to off her any way she can. I couldn't think of two Hollywood sex bombs better suited to play these opposites. Throw in Ellen Barkin as Dunst's mom (who gets a beer can fused to her hand after a nasty explosion) and it makes up the incredible core cast for the film.
Something about this movie just draws me to it. Could be anything from the colourful sets, to the music by Mark Mothersbaugh (from DEVO!), or the creative mock-u-mentary style. But in all honesty, it's the casting. Everyone played superior roles, and special mention should be given to Mike McShane and Will Sasso, who played the large father and son team of Harold and Hank Vilmes. Incredibly hilarious stuff. See this film to discover a fairly well kept secret of Hollywood.
Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000)
This film helped me loose my faith in Hollywood...
This film is completely horrible. Without a doubt one of the worst films 2000 brought to us on the big screen. Pretty bold statements, I know, but there is truth behind them. I finished watching the film knowing only what I knew going in; "It's about stealing cars". There's not much more to it than that. No real sub-plots to speak of, and the few that surfaced were weak, and died after a couple of scenes. Actors were just empty shells, with no real motivation. Cars were given names to signify that they were just as important, if not MORE IMPORTANT as the actors piloting them. Welcome to mainstream Hollywood cinema everyone.
I'm not a big fan of Nick Cage, and stick to my guns that the only decent film he's done is "Bringing Out The Dead". Similarly, Angelina Jolie isn't on the top of my list either, yet if there was a performer that was grossly underused in any film ever, it's Ms. Jolie here. Time her screen appearances. What did you get? Fifteen minutes? And in that time we figure out she is a crack mechanic, loves stealing cars, at one time dated the title character, at one time stole cars with the title character, gets turned on by stealing cars, still loves the title character, and actually never stopped loving him. A lot learned in a little bit of time. Jolie is present as a piece of meat. Nothing else. Maybe they should have talked to her Oscar, and found out that she CAN act. It could have helped the movie. They might as well have put a blonde wig on a Chevy Nova, and `creatively' named it `Angelina' like they did with all the rest of the cars featured. Would have had the same effect.
But alas. The movie stereotypes itself in order to please the common male. Cars, cars, cars, a strong woman who is eventually broken down by an even stronger man, and more cars. Predictable storyline, wandering plot, and actors that could have been replaced with cardboard cut-outs without us being the wiser. Seeing this movie in the same night as "Hollow Man" really made me loose my faith in Hollywood. Too commercialized, too stereotypical, and therefore too predictable. Show a nine-year-old child seven Hollywood "blockbusters", and then on the eighth, ask him/her to predict what will happen next. Chances are he/she'll be able to do it. Are we, the audience, less intelligent than a nine-year-old child? "Gone In Sixty Seconds" seems to think so. And THAT is something that sickens me.
Slaughter's Big Rip-Off (1973)
Two words to make you see this film: Ed McMahon!
Somehow, this film burrowed it's way into the soft spot of my heart. Don't ask me how it happened, but I suppose having the film feature Ed "I'll Sponsor Anything" McMahon as a tail-chasing crack hustler had a bit to do with it.
Frankly, I was disappointed with Slaughter's first outing in 1972. Nothing more than a quick throw-together to follow Shaft-mania. How does the sequel get away from this? Big Jim Brown seems stronger as Slaughter here than in the first. Perhaps this is due to the fact that one year later he had something to work from, instead of his simple "Be like Shaft" motivation before.
The most outstanding part about the film is the soundtrack provided by pimp-daddy number one, James Brown. Almost every scene is graced with a touch of funk by the Godfather. An excellent period film, for the music, wardrobe, vehicles, lingo, and hair. I should also point out this film is also an excellent period film to represent a time in motion picture history when Jim Brown and Ed McMahon could actually GROW hair.
Double the chicks, double the blow, triple the body count, and factor in Ed McMahon and James Brown. You'll be in for one hell of a 70s action flick, and one that outshines it's predecessor no less. For my money, Slaughter's Big Rip-Off can play ball with any Blaxploitation film ever made. Even Shaft. Chances are you'll disagree, but Slaughter's Big Rip-Off has it's own distinct feel. Something the original was lacking.
They walk among us...
When you watch this movie, you'll realize that hardcore Star Trek fans walk among us everyday. You may even work with one. Business suits on the weekdays, and Klingon battle armor from episode 56 of The Next Generation on weekends. Should these people be locked up? Of course not. Society locks them up for us. There are probably triple the closet Star Trek fans than there are ones that are featured publicly wearing costumes in this film.
Trekkies puts the spotlight on the outrageousness of it all. It tries to show us that these people, with mullet haircuts (or as I like to call them "Ape Drapes"), and attire from the mid-eighties, have not anything better to do, collect or believe in, than Star Trek. Everyone needs solace. Some choose the bible, some choose crime, other choose Star Trek.
I'm not sure which of the above is the most outrageous. But that's besides the point.
Trekkies is a fine film. It walks a fine line between giving the diehards insights and exclusive interviews from the space stars, all the while keeping things light and not too Trek-heavy for people like me who just want to watch and see how far these people actually take it.
A suitable adaption for fans of the novels and British humor in general
I've been into Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker's Guide" series since grade school where it was introduced to me. So when I learned that I could have it presented to me in visual form, I was interested...just how could they adapt this novel, which strays every which way from the central story, into a mini-series of epic proportions?
Easy. As long as the Brits do it.
Get yourself a heard of young but experienced talent, who are no stranger to the airwaves in the UK, and stick close to the story. You're assured a winner. The book tells amazingly well on the screen, and the characters are pretty close to what your mind would imagine from descriptions in the text. Important points in the story occur when Adams strays from the main plot, and jumps into a description of the history of a certain object, person or event as described by the "Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy", a futuristic electronic know-all dictionary. The mini takes this to heart so it seems, and sticks with it, showing viewers animated sequences to what the Guide would be showing it's user. This is where the film turns in it's most brilliant sequences.
Granted, some of the effects are cheesy, but for the time of the film (1981) and the budget of a mini, I say they did well. So Zaphod's second head is a motionless blob of plastic, with a moving mouth for about three sequences. The look, and attitude of Marvin the depressed robot is just fantastic and should be ranked up there with C-3P0 and Data as one of the greatest androids to appear on a screen.
The final word on this one is that once again, the BBC has put together another gem. It may scare you, being on two tapes and all, but it's worth a look. A genuine quality piece.
Ballet mécanique (1924)
Spellbinding. Terrific. Groundbreaking. I'll continue...
1924. While everyone else is screwing with "feature" films with subtitles and storylines, along comes Ballet Mecanique. A fifteen minute experimental masterpiece, that walks the fine line of boredom/pointlessness and excitement/entertainment. This particular film was showing in the Art Gallery of Ontario, in Toronto, and was a visual treat playing in the same section as the Picaso.
Leger and Murphy used magic and early optical illusions, such as looping segments and split screens. The repetitive movements of the steel machines, match those of the live action people doing work, or even the comical puppet like figure that dances across the screen to create a mechanical ballet. Be it mechanical movements of humans, or mechanical movements of machines. Something tells me I should make a parallel between the man-machine imagery and the 70's electronic German godfathers, Kraftwerk. It's the Europeans I tell ya...they bring us all the best art as entertainment. Every image, from the smiling girl, to the numbered cards all serve a purpose in the grande scheme of Ballet Mecanique.
I really encourage anybody in the Toronto area, or anyone visiting Toronto, to go to the Art Gallery of Ontario to check out Ballet Mecanique. It's on a continual loop. I could have stayed watching it all day. Very spellbinding.