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Rest Stop (2006)
Often wondered about those rest-stops!
Now here's a minor curiosity. Not a film to adjudge as you watch it. Rather, one to ponder and to write about in the cool light of reflection. It is neither the scourge of film-making as many believe, nor the misunderstood gem others would wishfully crave.
Personally I found it "interesting" for the most part, which itself indicates something of the director's intentions were clumsily achieved.
Jaimie Alexander, whose greatest achievement prior to this little flick was playing young "Tammy" in a TV semi-doco entitled "Underage Drinking: A National Concern," portrays the hapless Nicole Carrow, who absconds with her boyfriend Jess, unrealistically hoping to set themselves up in Hollywood somewhere.
She selects quite the wrong rest-stop so far as the call of Nature is concerned. Just how much of what follows transpires in the "real time" remains at the behest of the individual viewer. Whether the director was aiming for "Wrong Turn 3" or "Texas Chainsaw Massacre 4: Jess Loses His tongue" is unclear. What he hands us here is a near psychedelic re-working of "Jeepers Creepers III: Mystery of the Pick-Up"
Alexander acts herself into a frenzy. Shame the script wasn't up to it. Yet something intrinsically fascinating draws the viewer to gaze upon her increasingly manic behavior with the work-ethic of a mongoose.
The scenes with the unfortunate bike-cop border on lunacy, yet one is drawn to the girl's plight, wondering sadly "Why the Hell didn't she just return to the highway in the first place and flag someone down?"
So like I said. A film one might extract some appreciation from - however small.
The Risen (2003)
If you prefer your soul-movies to be credible - "The Risen" is an option!
Slavish followers of my former cinematic ravings (such ARE out there!) may wonder why my reviews came to a grinding halt in 2005. The simple fact is that I tired of the abusive and sub-intellectual feedback that they generated. The fact that films were being regurgitated additionally, on a brain-dead assembly-line-of-remakes, soured my inclination to comment further. The days of "Midnight Cowboy," "Jacob's Ladder," "Goodbye Mr. Chips," "Blade Runner" and their ilk, long dead, I deduced.
Last night I watched "The Risen." It affected me sufficiently that I harbored the desire to comment on it. Is it a masterpiece? nope! What it IS though is another interesting Canadian flick that transcends its limited budget...a trait exhibited by "Ginger Snaps" before it. What we have here is basically a "displaced soul" concept, that leaves crap like "The Unborn" floundering in its cosmic amniotic fluid.
Suffice to say, Amanda Knowles is rendered operable upon, courtesy of an ectopic pregnancy. When she awakes, she recalls nothing, including her husband. This is not necessarily a bad thing, given Darren Knowles considerable total lack of appeal, one ponders. From this point on, her life becomes a real-time nightmare, helped not one jot by her inexplicable fascination for a young student at her husband's upmarket college of learning.
T'would be churlish of me to comment further except to say that despite having the outcome telegraphed early, the very last line of this film will probably upset...in a heart-warming fashion, the aware viewer.
Alberta Watson gives us a very believable characterization, as does the always reliable Helen Shaver as her sister Lynn.
Interesting also that the film was co-executive-produced by Anthony Ginnane who gave us the equally offbeat "Men with Guns" and the minor Aussie classic "Sally Marshall is not an Alien."
Black Sheep (2006)
If movies are all about entertainment, then BLACK SHEEP delivers.
Exactly WHAT it delivers is largely up to you and your level of humor. In terms of film-making talent, both the actors and film crew are some decades off an Academy Award and yet I personally enjoyed this more than LIVE FREE DIE HARD (Limply, DIE HARD 4 in Australia) which remains probably the greatest cinematic disappointment of a lifetime's viewing, one which stretches back to early Lon Chaney flicks of the 30's.)
Danielle Mason has probably less charisma and acting skill than most dentists, yet makes the most of her second big-screen opportunity. in 2004 she was seen as a ditzy fruitloop roped into a dating agency in the barely-funded NZ comedy FUTILE ATTRACTION) Some of her lines here as animal-rights activist "Experience," cracked me up in their intellectually-challenged delivery.
Nathan Meister, with even less acting experience, portrays a suitably unhinged wimp of an anti-hero that following his childhood experiences at the hands of his boorish bro (Peter Feeney) suffers a nervy turn every time he claps eyes on a baa-lamb.
This canny take on "Shorn of the Dead" IS funny. Raw film-making indeed, but so was EVIL DEAD. The blood flows but nothing to be taken seriously. Let's face it, how credibly fearful could one BE of an obviously rubber mutant baby lamb, chewing gleefully on a man's tattered left ear? True, the humor sinks to levels of plebeian tastelessness once or twice, but what kinda New Zealand comedy would it be without some reference to the residents' amorous inclinations towards their beloved wool-packs?
Leave your inhibitions in neutral, switch off your higher brain functions and just go where this film wants to take you. It's a fun ride.
American Dreamz (2006)
Exquisite satire deserving of better appreciation.
Way above the average viewer's ability to negotiate - sadly demonstrated by the asinine and cretinous comments published here for the most part.
Its not American Idol, or the Presidency the film is lampooning. It is US - the general public, at the butt-end of this black humor. The flimsy values we hold dear, the deconstruction of original thought, the subtle shifts in social attitudes - it is all this and more. Every reviewer who found this 'boring,' 'slow,' 'not worth watching,'uninspiring' and 'disappointing,' would have been better served watching SURVIVOR or JERRY SPRINGER - something in keeping with their own limited conventions.
An insult to the Presidency? I think not. I'd vote for anyone had the guts to say "enough's enough, lets get back to our grass roots" before sending their every last 'adviser' packing.
Too much for the collective conscience this film. For all its humor it isn't a comedy, for all its stage-time it isn't a musical. For all its warring sentiments it isn't quintessential political satire. What it IS is brilliant! Dafoe nails it as the one-dimensional "Lets keep America on track" adviser. Grant, the impeccably professional host of "American Dreamz" who despite his pretensions, hates most every facet of his (and everyone else's) life. A great performance from him.
Many scenes are memorable - if you have any idea what you're seeing! The terrorists voting for their idol. Mandy Moore's first solo performance. The presentation of the News headlines. Grant telling Moore she mirrors his own existence and that it's "revolting."
Wonderful film. We need to be "Omarised" more often!
Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
Only for those WITH a soul!
The fact that this film seems to divide reviewers - The one-dimensional "Total boring crap - I want that 90 minutes of my life back" set, and the more perceptive, "Wonderfully insightful movie" adherents, illustrates the gulf between those who can "see" and those who have nothing cranially to "see" with!
Bubba Ho-tep starts and ends with Bruce Campbell. It is the performance of his career....pretty much of ANYONE'S cinematic career. The first half my friends is NOT slow - its a portrayal of life at the wrong end of the timeline. The zest of youth has gone...the body is in sad-decline, brain-cells are dying by the truck-load.....the river has fully slowed to a stream.
Every one of you who complained about the film's seeming slowness and dearth of action, are gonna end up in your own little "Shady Nook" somewhere on the planet. Let's see how fast you move and think then, how exciting YOUR life is - how many nurses YOU can karate senseless.
Campbell conveys it all. It is a tour-de force performance and whether you subscribe to the concept of soul-sucking mummies, believe you're Jesus Christ or just sit there being spoon-fed your tomato puree, it really doesn't matter! How Coscarelli ever managed to come up with a film of this stature given his previous claim to fame with the inventive but ultimately low-grade Phantasm series stuns me. Plaudits however must be shared by the entire crew.
This is a film that sets a benchmark for "quirk." Forget the mummy..the horror - this is a film about not only growing old but BEING old. If you happen to be Elvis Presley - so much the worse! The power of this movie - if you have ANY awareness whatsoever is in the last five seconds of the film. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, then you wasted your time watching it!
The Fog (2005)
The final cut of this movie should have been left on the "Elizabeth Dane"
The question is WHY?? Why would anyone even BOTHER remaking Carpenter's 1980 Fog-fest? It wasn't his greatest moment even back then - but hey, HALLOWEEN might have been a tad hard to top I guess? Why for that matter, would JC himself want to co-produce a watered down and quite obviously rushed version of his own film? It has lost a lot in the translation....mainly the 'spirit' of the film...as it were.
The CGI of the fog rolling in might be better, but the FOG itself is less menacing and oddly, prone to laughable tidal activity. There one moment...right across town the next and clear as a bell the following scene. Some cretinous FX - such as the old lady having a bad night washing up, insults the viewer - least those who hung around in the theater long enough to see it.
Inarguably from the DARKNESS FALLS and GHOST SHIP school of horror, the film is an exercise in futility. How many genuinely needy people worldwide, could the $40-50 million budget allocated to this flop, have fed? As for Smallville's favorite son, read my lips: "The guy doesn't have it" Mind you he was in equally charismatically-bereft company. Something's majorly wrong when a pair of rather sexy little panties proves to be the highlight of the movie!
Is Hollywood so hard-up for original scripts they must continue to pillage (and desecrate) those from yesteryear? How long before Adam Sandler stars in a remake of THE THIRD MAN or maybe Jackie Chan can upstage Chuck Heston in the new BEN HUR (After all, look what he managed with AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS) Meanwhile someone might fancy their chances remaking Carpenter's classic THE THING next..I'm sure there are people out there THAT stupid!
What really irritates me. I picked this up last night in my local video store's bargain bin for $5.95. That would have gotten me a medium cheeseburger meal - with OJ!
Lady in the Water (2006)
The World is not ready for this
I was born when Sinatra was making a name for himself, The Beatles were still seventeen years from discovery and you could leave home without locking the front door.
I still believe in fairies, Santa Claus and opening doors for girls. Be advised though - I'm no fruitcake.
I DON'T believe in screwing a client for a few extra bucks, selling the car for two grand more than its worth, driving around trying to save a few cents a litre on a tankful of gas. I can live without the Dow Jones index, flash jewelry, new age thinking and latte coffee!
I can't live without magic.
LADY IN THE WATER is magic - for the fortunate few that can see it. Unless you are fully able to suspend belief and simply let the fantasy embrace you - you are totally wasting your time with this movie. You think Shyamalan cares? he doesn't! He has a depth of awareness few possess. He made this film because he COULD, not because he's desperate for cinematic recognition.
Whilst preposterous in concept - it is still at its heart, a tale of hope and belief. Belief in yourself, belief that life has a purpose that as yet you have not discovered. Story is our own conscience. We all have the Healer, the Interpreter, the Guardian....even the eagle, inside of us.
Giamatti is not far short of awesome here. A wonderful portrayal of a stuttering man with a devastated past who asks nothing from life yet gives of himself freely. Again one cannot overlook Shyamalan's unequalled ability to fashion rich and interesting characters out of the meek, the oppressed and the emotionally underdeveloped. He himself plays a key role in this film and his talent in front of the camera should not be under-rated.
There is so much to watch and listen to here - IF you are of a mind to. If you prefer, follow the crowd - sit there and see nothing but a slow moving film with seemingly no purpose and childlike intentions. Laugh at the dialog, the funny green hyena, Bryce Dallas Howard's make-up.
On the other hand, if you see beauty in snow flakes, red ochre sunsets and a child's smile...odds are, the last ten minutes of this film will make you cry!
Days of Our Lives (1965)
Like sense through the looking glass, these are the pits of our lives.
I have watched sporadic episodes of DOOL since 1966 - yeah! I'm THAT old....funny thing is, MacDonald Carey was getting-on on even then! Tuned-in perhaps to every four hundred episodes on average (I admit to having a dry spell when ABBA were big - missed every episode from 1972 to 1979) the next time I caught the thing, in a doctor's surgery - while my wife was waiting to have an ultra-sound, it seemed to me nothing had changed. Now call me picky, but any show you can pick-up on having missed way more than 1000 episodes has to be something less than enthralling entertainment.
What IS it's fascination? Who knows? probably different things to different people, but I imagine its core devotees simply get their fix artificially enhancing their own plebeian existences by living through and sharing the fantasy lives of their chosen characters. Not that different really to peering over your neighbor's fence to find something else to talk about to "Doris" across the road! In terms of artistic merit, DOOL doesn't crack the big time. In terms of staying power, yeah, ya gotta admire the thing.
Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
If this is a failure, I can live with it!
Incredibly, I never got to see Magical Mystery Tour in 1967. I was twenty-one then and an entrenched Beatlemaniac. I had heard the rumors, read reviews of the time and decided not to risk sullying the magic I had grown to an adult with, by watching it. Never even gave the thing much thought in the ensuing years though I loved the title track and have never gotten over I AM THE WALRUS, which I will discuss in a moment.
A week ago, I saw several copies of this DVD on a grubby little stall at a small-town open market on the Australian coast. They were selling (or rather just sitting there) for $4.95 (That's two pounds (GBP) or $US3.80) and I thought to myself "How sad!" Tonight I watched it.
Quite obviously it was meant for me to see this so long after the film was made. I am now, given the passing of almost forty years, able to view objectively what in 1967, I (and most every other detractor) could not possibly have done.
It isn't a masterpiece - yet there are inspirational flashes in this film that highlight what the Beatles were and what they stood for. FOOL ON THE HILL though amateurish by comparison with today's techno film clips, is beautiful in its raw simplicity - especially if one is to listen to the lyrics as the clip invites you to do. Ringo comes across as being by far the most natural performer of the group - his manner and smile are infectious. It is no wonder all the girls loved him. He has no pretences, no gratuitous pleasantries. With dear old Mr Starkey, what you see is most definitely what you get.
The years of idiotic complaints as to the film's relevance and purpose! Its a Magical Mystery Tour for God's sake. There IS no purpose. There IS no relevance. It's the Beatles Home movie - so what if it's nuts? If you don't like it - go film your own.
Much of the cinematography is truly inspired and far from hack work. Following the tour guide's almost twilight-zone suggestion "Now Look to the Left" can be seen some amazing photographic FX (for its day)of ice floes, mountains, far distant fields, blinding sun etc, as they kaleidoscope and blend. Does not this remind you of anything? How similar are some of those shots (the mountain slopes especially) to Kubrick's trip through the Stargate - released two years later!
And then we have The Walrus! That song I believe was so far ahead of its time production wise on its release - we STILL haven't caught up to it! For me, it - together with STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER, are the two greatest pop songs ever recorded, or ever LIKELY to be recorded. Watching the I AM THE WALRUS sequence tonight I can hardly credit how emotionally I was affected by it. SEEING the thing, added a dimension that simply a turntable cannot. Again, some of the lyrics are awesome in their contemplation - far from the ravings one attributes to John Lennon occasionally. I wonder how many people WOULD have cared, watching a crowd kicking Edgar Allan Poe? How many people reading this I ponder, have even the slightest clue who he was? If you have access to this DVD I would suggest you watch this sequence again....even in its fading seconds it is innovative brilliance.
Sure they couldda ditched BLUE JAY WAY - the undisputed low-point off the film and really only with any shareable purpose if you are stoned of your face, But it's OK..it's where George WAS at that time and it stands as an epitaph to that fact.
The strip show sequence is a hoot and almost makes up for George's little turn. Lastly I am curious as to what so many people have been on about complaining that the mop tops "do nothing" when they descend the staircase? What exactly were they supposed to be doing. Its just a light-hearted film clip (complete admittedly, with totally out of sync dance moves)of YOUR MOTHER SHOULD KNOW...another nostalgic McCartneyesqe piece from a period long dead!
In the upshot, what MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR represents, is a totally unshreddable memory. A time-capsule without peer, a showcase of Beatle madness, innovation and lovable tomfoolery. It may not be art but I didn't hear the "f" word, no one was raped, I didn't see a terrorist with a bazooka and I'm wondering just what humanity has in fact achieved since that bus pulled out of Liverpool that one magical day.
Given the option, I really would prefer to spend a few hours on tour with Mr Buster Bloodvessel than Bin Laden!
Dracula 3000 (2004)
Let's look at what we have here guys! We may all be doing Roodt's spaced-out vampire epic a disservice!
Like where else you ever gonna see a girl strapped to a lounge offering her captor the opportunity to check "every square inch of her body" for a bite-mark. Peter Cushing never got that lucky!
What's the chance of ever hearing that immortal line "I wanna ejaculate all over your bazonkas" uttered again in a thousand years or viewing?
Who can ever again hope to experience the thrill of the chase, supposedly in a galaxy far far away - but looking like it was filmed in the boiler room of some retired battleship from World War 2?
And then, the spectacle of Udo Kier in his twilight years having inordinate difficulty reading off his own cue cards? You're talking movie magic here!
But I digress, Dracula 3000 (It was meant to be $3.00 btw) leaves every other horror film pretender floundering in its wake when it comes to endings - it achieves the unattainable - there IS NO ENDING!
Humvee doesn't get to have sex with his re-programmed pleasure robot. No one ever reaches the twin-sun. Dracula isn't staked by Van Helsing's great great grandson....he ISN'T even Dracula....just a fashion-wimp sobbing his guts out on the floor because his arm happens to fall off!
Yes my friends, you have all missed the greatness here - a film bigger than life itself. A movie event so bad, so trivial and so irredeemably embarrassing - its like may never be seen again.
Casper Van Dien RIP