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Terrible, but not without a point
There seems to be two extremes among viewers of this movie: you either love it or you don't. I found myself torn between being incredibly bored and incredibly turned off by Sandoval and his aimless friends who seem to fill the day with bongs, booze, and absolute drivel. It's even more aggravating to learn that Sandoval is a dead beat dad who chooses all this over caring for his young son. If you hate these types of people in the real world, there's no chance they're going to win your respect here.
And they shouldn't. The movie was almost over when the point of all this finally starts to become clear. About the time when Sandoval and his equally braindead girlfriend run out of money and pack up with the expectations that they'll just hit the road and do whatever, only to return to where they started. These kids are naive to the point of being pathetic. Though the tagline says that the future is dependent upon it's youth, I'm not sure this was the best example of the critical flaws. This is more like worst case scenario.
Whether it was worthy of the accolades received at the SXSW screening, I think this probably won the hearts of pretentious hipsters that pack the festival.
Desert Son (2010)
And now... for a NOT Joke
'Desert Son' seemed like a movie with an idea, but not much is there to back it up. It was intended to be a thriller, I suppose, but the audience is supposed to rely on much of what the filmmakers give, without much explanation as to why. Everything just seems to happen.
The story begins with teenage Phillip being abandoned by his vindictive stepfather in the middle of the desert. Eventually, he's discovered by Lucy, a teenage runaway who shares an abandoned house with another runaway, Jack.
Even with unconvincing storytelling, this movie would have been far more tolerable had Jack not been the most annoying character in the history of film. Without explanation, he loathes the world, including at times, Lucy. Naturally, he's not very welcoming when Phillip shows up.
Still, having nowhere else to go Phillip is permitted to stay (very much to Jack's chagrin), permitting that he learns and helps in their methods for survival. And then somewhere along the way, Jack, as God's gift to humanity, goes on a sudden killing spree. Luckily, Lucy and Phillip are there by his side, yelling at him and not doing much else.
Great acting! Great story! Great movie! .... NOT.
Fallen Idols Aka DOPE. (2008)
On the mortality of celebrities.
D.O.P.E. focuses on the similar rise and falls of four first, second and third generation skateboarders. Dennis Martinez and Bruce Logan came from the generation of gymnast-styled skaters (think headstands and 360 flatground spins) in the 1960s, a style that was ultimately rendered obsolete once the legendary Dogtown skaters in the early to mid 70s. The team included the rambunctious and talented Jay Adams, among others. And in the 1980s, Christian Hosoi dominated as one of the top vert skaters.
However, while each of these skaters found commercial success in doing what they loved, the dramatic ebbs of skateboarding's commercial excess forced those in skateboarding to realize their own mortality, which goes with the territory of "celebrity." Each of the former skaters in this very direct, cautionary documentary recounts their descent into heavy drug abuse which eventually landed them in prison. In Hosoi's case, this was something already documented in "Rising Son: The Legend of Skateboarder Christian Hosoi." Jay Adam's drug use, too, is to some extent already documented in Stacey Peralta's Z-boy documentary, which begs the question as to why the subject must continuously be revisited, especially when there a few incidents like these in recent pro skating (saying a lot about the drug cultures of the 70s and 80s).
Granted, this film is trying to make a point about the consequences of life in the fast lane. A lot of these pro skaters were very young when skateboarding started gaining commercial success, and were being turned into celebrities as soon as their early teens. There is a substantial amount of interview footage, though Martinez and Hosoi seem to be the most willing and most open about their past. It isn't really a film for skate fans as the documentary spends most of its time going into great detail about each of the skater's descent into addiction. It presents little about skateboarding itself, but instead focuses on the personalities, and gets a bit too overzealous.
What kind of impact this will have on the young viewers the filmmakers hope to reach (this being freely distributed to high schools) is unclear. Many are probably aware of Hosoi and Adams, and possibly Bruce Logan because of the continued existence of the Logan company. But, why Martinez is chosen is puzzling, especially when Dave Hacket and Jeff Grosso, both pro-skaters from Hosoi's era, fell into the same trap, but were not included. Chances are younger viewers would heed the lessons of their more recent idols.
Neon Maniacs (1986)
Warrants the MST3K Touch. (spoilers)
'Neon Maniacs' reminds me of Rick Sloans awful 80s horror movie, 'Hobgoblins'. The former is not quite as bad, and hence never really popped up on any Worst Of Lists, but it is that kind of 1980s dubious horror in that, despite the urgency of the situation (hideous monsters who "live so that others may die"), the characters carry on like it's just any other day. And this happens right from the start in 'Neon Maniacs,' where the music and opening credits are more appropriate for a sappy drama than something where a park massacre occurs not more than five minutes into the movie.
The Neon Maniacs are these demonic creatures that look like a Mad Max rip off. Kind of post-apocalyptic, though it's not clear where they come from or whether there is any purpose for being there. Their idiosyncrasies sound like something out of 'Gremlins.' They don't like water. They only come out at night. They live under the Golden Gate Bridge. That's pretty much all anyone can tell about them.
Ditched by her oversexed friends in the park on her birthday, one teenager, Natalie, is lucky enough to narrowly survive the killing spree. Of course, the cops, who don't conduct any sort of crime scene investigation and are led by a detective who looks like a Jake and the Fat Man reject, and well, the rest of the neighborhood think that either the kids went missing or Natalie had something to with their death.
Meanwhile, the Neon Maniacs, forced to disappear into the night when the cops showed up and rescued Natalie that night, aren't about to accept a loss and call it a day, they take pride in their undefeated record! So they follow her around the streets of San Francisco, which definitely ruins at least one date, but thankfully puts a halt on a pretty cheesy school dance (yeah, they even find time to do normal teenage stuff!).
Enter the pseudo-heroic shy, fashion-victim soft-rocking boyfriend and a horror movie fan that is the only one who really investigates what is going on (Natalie spends a lot of time by the swimming pool when she's not going ga-ga for the boyfriend), and someone finally realizes that, oh yeah, there's these things and they're wreaking havoc on our city. Of course, even this is fleeting and it looked like Neon Maniacs might have been left open for a sequel. Luckily, that never happened since there were already enough bad 80s horror movies by 1986.
Regardless of the filmmakers never having explained the origin or purpose of the band of villains they call Neon Maniacs, nor even that the movie operates on the nauseatingly unoriginal plot of their teenage prey left to their own vices to figure out how to stop them. Even with these, a horror movie, even a dated one like this, can be entertaining. But when you combine it with the fact that half the time, it doesn't seem like anyone's reacting like their are psychotic weapon welding monsters running around the neighborhood, there's no reason to care about what goes on on-screen. It would've been perfect material for an MST3K episode.
Rescue Me (1992)
Benelovent Kidnapper Caper (spoilers)
It may be an obvious disclaimer, but don't expect much from this kidnapper caper. There's plenty to make this an unconvincing story, but I'm sure that viewers will mostly be interested in its nostalgic factor, particularly since it's young stars include pre-fame Stephen Dorff and 80s mischief comedy regular, Ami Dolenz. Dorff plays Fraser, a smart, shy teen who is smitten with the untouchable bubbly blonde cheerleader, Ginny Grafton. Of course, he goes to great lengths to play hero when she is kidnapped by two bumbling drug dealers when Ginny and her obnoxious jock boyfriend (Danny Nucci) inadvertently interfere in the deal. A young, rugged looking Michael Dudikoff plays Mac, who was on the receiving end of this failed drug deal and is blackmailed by Fraser, who happened to be hiding in the trees waiting to photograph his dreamgirl skinny dipping at the lake, but instead, caught Mac, the kidnappers, and Ginny on film instead.
Fraser blackmails Mac into helping him rescuing Ginny, but the film breaks from the thrills of the chase with incessant father-figure bonding between Fraser and misunderstood Mac as well as Fraser's hopeless quest (a little late in his years) to get a girl to like him. In particular, Ginny - who seems caught up in her own world to even give much care to the fact that she's been held for ransom by Rowdy (Peter Deluise) and Kurt (William Lucking). Fraser's sensitivity seems to overtake much of the film, and aside from a few humorous moments between the dufus kidnapping duo, the rest of the movie becomes irritating, so concentrated on Fraser's desperation.
If they had a written a decent story and stuck to the whole caper aspect of the movie, this might've been a pretty decent (though likely still obscure) story.
Black Books (2000)
The Wonderful Genius of Dylan Moran.
Dylan Moran plays one of the greatest sitcom characters Bernard Black - an unkempt irritable chain-smoking-and-drinking bibliophile who owns Black Books, a bookstore. He takes the same approach to the value of books and despise for superficial customer desires as Jasper Fforde does in his novels about literary detectives. Bernard's constant companionship is, on the one hand, flat mate and coworker Manny (Bill Bailey). Lovable and slightly oafish, he is Bernard's polar opposite. And among them both, is neutral Fran (Tasmin Greig). It's a rather ordinary setting with not so glamorous characters who all seem to share some kind of amusing social awkwardness.
Consumers of American television should break from the confines of poorly written sitcoms to indulge the refreshingly situational Brit-coms. Among the best of them are 'The Mighty Boosh,' 'Garth Merenghi's Darkplace' and this -- 'Black Books.' Running only three seasons, it had the unique quality of hitting it's prime at the start of the first episode before somewhat running out of situational humor by the final six episodes. The dialog is its shining quality, and perhaps the best of it were those episodes co-written by Dylan Moran and Graham Lineham.
Snapping, crackling and popping for your entertainment.
If Thrasher Magazine's Hall of Meat were videotaped incidents instead of stationary pictures of the aftermath, they'd be... well, they'd be viral video on the Internet, which is where Mtv seems to get much of it's material for the latest in morbid entertainment (and probably a good lesson in ways of taking care of yourself when on a board, bike or skate).
The show is fairly standard MTV material - it starts out with a pretty stern disclaimer followed by the "extreme" montage opening credits, full of nasty falls and hook scream-core. Jacoby Shaddix (of Papa Roach) is your typical loud, animated all-American host in stereotypical garb and body decoration (including eye makeup!) and serves up plenty of fodder for the numerous spoofs on the show that now circulate the Internet. He tends to be the more annoying element of the show, but if you have the stomach (or are prepared to get desensitized) for a lot of the cringe-worthy snap, crackling and popping of body parts upon impact many a young athlete (if you formally define all of these activities as sports) face at some point, it can be entertaining.
It's MTV playing the cheap in order to add another show to its list of music-less fare, and entertaining as it may be, the twenty or so episodes (as of this writing) add very little variation.The setup is usually the same - five people are selected each week to recreate their harrowing events of utter pain, usually something that comes after telling how long they've been doing that sport, what they were doing that day, and then the mess that followed the third or fourth decent attempt of a trick. It's usually followed by pictures of emergency-room side shredded faces or X-rays of hardware in bones followed by at least 10 replays of the fall.
It's better taken in moderation, and not just because some of those disgusting body kinks caught on tape are sometimes too horrific to watch on the first try.
Life of Ryan (2007)
Pretty white people with problems.
At age 13, skateboarder Ryan Sheckler was a novelty when he beat Eric Koston on the street course at X-Games. But at age 18, he's a just another painfully dull teenage celebrity. The relationship with his parents appears to exist purely as business deals and his friends look like a carefully selected entourage of trust fund babies. Skateboarding, in fact, has become an aside. Assuring audiences that he's trying to live life as the normal teenager despite circumstances (a stupid comment to make once releases are signed to allow the superficial voyeurism to begin with), Life of Ryan is your typically scripted "unscripted" Reality-TV show where otherwise idiotic teenage drama is milked for all its worth. Even Ryan's friends (including fellow skateboarders) look increasingly bored of the nauseating discussion of girlfriends and divorce. It's all Ryan all the time.
Fresh Horses (1988)
Lost in Translation? (spoilers)
Screenwriter Larry Kreton adapts Fresh Horses, originally a play, for the big screen. Perhaps it was the desire to recreate something via casting decisions with the Pretty in Pink duo, McCarthy and Ringwald re-teaming for similar roles, or just in the failure of this particular play to translate so neatly to film, but something was missing that makes Fresh Horses instantly forgettable.
McCarthy never seems to offer much emotion, even in the roles intended to be more romantic. He's just the inert character with some pre-determined purpose that has to be filled for two hours or so. Here, he plays Matt Larkin, the college preppy who breaks off his engagement when he falls for the mostly unsympathetic Jewel (Ringwald, written to be an almost complete dimwit), a girl who is essentially his opposite and fits the "broken home" stereotype that he feels obliged to rescue. Of course, despite urgings from his best friend Tipton (Ben Stiller in a role probably better suited for Paul Rieser) to quit playing it safe all the time and live a little, his friends are suspicious of Matt's new love interest.
The movie might disappoint those looking for something similar to McCarthy and Ringwald's previous romantic pairing in Pretty in Pink, since there is so little sincerity and direction. And, neither of the leads are particularly likable - from beginning to end, Matt can't seem to decide for himself what he wants or has the guts to act on it; and Ringwald's character, too, is at times so ignorant and so shady. It doesn't exactly make for a particularly interesting love story.
The Android Affair (1995)
Do Androids Dream of Naked Women? (spoilers)
Based on Issac Assimov's science fiction tale, The Android Affair is the story of a state-of-the-art medical teaching facility where surgeons learn to perfect their craft by practicing on androids. One surgeon is assigned to an android (Griffin Dunne) with a heart problem. But the android, more interested in the world beyond the testing facility, convinces the surgeon to help him escape so that, at least for a day, he can see the world outside.
So it kind of starts out like the typical story of the Android who wants to explore human feelings and emotions, and exhibits at least some capability of doing so. But the remainder of the movie is a fairly ridiculous cat-and-mouse thriller where the head of the medical school (Ossie Davis)sends his goons to track down the surgeon and android when he learns of their escape. As the surgeon will soon learn, the android is much more than just a life-like robot with a heart problem. The second half of the movie, where the bulk of the action occurs, becomes fairly ridiculous mostly because the action feels pretty unbelievable and the dialog gets fairly sappy. But for a cheap, c-grade science fiction production, it isn't the worst thing that's ever been made.