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Out of all the movies I have seen which have been dubbed "worst" movie
of all time, Troll 2 (1990) is by far the most fun. While Plan 9 From
Outer Space (1959) has its charm and The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)
has its mercifully short run time, Troll 2 has everything going for it
if it wanted to be a parody of 1980's creature features. Everything
about it is brimming with cheesiness and over the top goofiness, from
the acting, the special effects and even the story itself.
Troll 2 begins with a family poised to swap houses with a family from a faraway town called Nilbog, so they can get in some vacation time. Joshua (Michael Stephenson) is still reeling from the recent death of his grandfather and sees his ghost constantly. Meanwhile Holly (Connie Young) the older sister, is trying to have some fun with her boyfriend (Jason Wright) but keeps getting interrupted by his interchangeable trio of friends. When the family travels to Nilbog, with the teenage boys following behind in a camper, Joshua picks up on some ominous signs in and around their new vacation home and discovers there are goblins trying to eat them.
The principle unintended laughter is directed towards the lackluster special effects by D. Christopher Salmon and Co. many times during the movie the goblins that appear on the screen look like little people frocked with dirty sheets and topped off with paper mache masks. Not to be outdone however, Actress Deborah Reed chews the scenery like a starving child on a cracker as the goblin queen. Every facial expression and emotion is carried through her off-kilter eyebrow movements and phony Eastern European accent and played to those in the cheap seats. There was more ham in her performance than a bologna sandwich.
Every other actor fails spectacularly to bring any life out of their characters though it didn't help that they were propped by a horrid script written by Claudio Fragasso and Rossella Drudi. The dialogue was ridiculously stilted and there were enough plot holes to strain spaghetti through the celluloid. Yet despite the filmmaker's blatant incompetence not once was I bored watching Troll 2.
In fact I would rather watch Troll 2 again then sit through the original and tangentially related prequel Troll (1986). That movie made the fatal mistake of being boring and forgetful while Troll 2 is an entertaining train wreck of biblical proportions from start to finish.
Those curious to see Troll 2 need not be worried by its unseemly reputation. There is no need for a Mystery Theater 3000 (1988-1999) dubbing since the hilarity is up-close and holds your attention. A must watch for film buffs and a fun filled Saturday Z-Movie night for the rest of us. Just make sure no one you invite to your Troll party is a vegetarian.
Now I'm a Charlie Chaplin man myself but while The Tramp has an
innocent naivety that can be admired, Keaton has Chaplin beat when it
comes to sheer physicality. The man was an unstoppable force; able to
take collapsing debris, speeding trains and harsh pratfalls with the
same stone face that has become his trademark.
Buster Keaton plays Johnnie an locomotive engineer eager to fight for the south in the Civil War but can't because of his important job tending to The General, his beloved steam-engine. But when Union spies steal it to disrupt Southern train-lines, its up to dear old Johnnie to bring it back. He also must rescue his sweet Annabelle Lee (Marion Mack) who has wondered into the mix. It's a simple story that requires little setup or explanation but does require enough stunt work to make Jackie Chan think twice.
Just like in Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928) and Sherlock Jr. (1924), Buster Keaton shows absolute fearlessness in the face of overwhelming odds both in the story and in front of a camera that doesn't give him a break. The camera-work is pretty elaborate if you keep in mind the movie was made in 1928. My only real beef with The General is its run time. Don't get me wrong, 107 minutes goes by pretty swiftly when you're already a convert to the Order of Keaton. Still Sherlock Jr. was only 45 minutes long, used stunts of varying complexity and honestly, had a more engaging story.
According to legend, during the premiere of 2001, Rock Hudson walked
out of the screening yelling "Will someone tell me what the hell this
movie is about?" Today I feel his frustration. Is the movie a marvel?
Yes. Is this film ambitious? Yes. In the words of Bernardo Bertolucci a
film "made in poetry instead of prose?" Yes. An entertaining film?
Well...define entertaining. For while those on its wavelength would
certainly benefit from having watched what is still regarded as not
just a gold standard in science fiction but the ONLY standard in
science fiction, others not inclined to watch ten minutes of
flickering, tunneled lights shouldn't bother. My unbiased mind tells me
I have just watched something near perfect, yet my biased, more
affecting senses yen for something a little more emotionally rewarding.
I honestly find 2001: A Space Odyseey to be prosaic. Stifled from the movie's top-heavy ambitions and need for perfection that it cannot register on an emotional level; at least not to me. It justifies itself by sending a message about technological society and how one day we will move beyond the tools we use to a higher form of consciousness.
It's a message worth postulating and the midriff of the film properly highlights the movie's motif of said tools used for mutually assured destruction versus self-discovery but can't we encompass these themes into a tighter package? Then again I suppose if the film's point was introduced in familiar wrapping it would be easily digestible but also easily forgettable.
Stanley Kubrick's work as a whole just doesn't hold much sway with me. His earlier work like The Killing (1956), Paths of Glory (1957) and Spartacus (1960) are to me, the perfect balance between intellectually stimulating and emotionally satisfying. Dr. Strangelove (1964), A Clockwork Orange (1971) Full Metal Jacket (1987) have their moments if only for their macabre sense of humor but 2001 along with Barry Lyndon (1975) and Eyes Wide Shut (1999) remain in my eyes, Kubrick at his most aloof.
I must admit, I've had my reservations about this film for a very long
time. First, I've been aware for a while that La Dolce Vita doesn't
have typical story structure. Not altogether a bad thing but whenever
that's the case, the film ends up being polarizing; I either love it or
hate it and Fellini has not had a good track record with me I'm sorry
to say. Thus far I have seen La Strada (1954) which I loved, Satyricon
(1969) which I loathed, 8 1/2 (1963) which I found supremely overrated
and Nights of Cabiria (1957) which was so-so. If La Dolce Vita was
going to impress it needed to gear towards Fellini's neo-realist
tenancies and less towards his vulgar costume filled meta-art.
Yea, not so much. I appreciate the material and what it attempted to do (namely make an incitement of flaccid modern bourgeois culture) but each episodic scene became less and less convincing. The movie follows a passive paparazzo who woos his fair share of women while covering a series of subjects and attending multiple parties. The translation of the title means "the good life" probably mocking the mistaken notion that this guy has it all.
While doing some research on the production of La Dolce Vita, I came across a common interpretation of the events in the film. Seven vignettes to represent the seven deadly sins or seven sacraments punctuated by a prelude and an epilogue. I'm not sure about this interpretation and neither was Ebert when he reviewed it in 1997; saying that breaking it down that way would treat the film like a crossword puzzle.
Nearly every scene involves basically the same sin only with an increasingly unhappy protagonist passively waltzing in and out of drama. The tone is all over the place, the symbolism is at times prominent yet unclear and with no one to really root for the movie listlessly meanders along until it listlessly ends. For my money Vittorio De Sica is my personal pick for best Italian director. Even his derivative Sophia Loren sex comedies have higher entertainment value than La Dolce Vita. But hey, if Fellini's your brand of tea then bully for you.
Out of morbid curiosity I sat down and watched Madagascar 3: Europe's
Most Wanted (2012). I had only seen the first Madagascar (2005) which I
didn't like at all. The animation was awkward, the story just wasn't
that interesting, the characters were annoying and the primary lessons
was "don't eat your friends." This time around it seemed the makers
wanted their public to gleefully swallow more absurd notions than a
vegetarian lion. Hippos and giraffes can apparently fall in love; as
can bears and lemurs, lions and cheetahs. Whatever floats your boat I
The plot revolves around the same four animals, Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett-Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer). This time the film starts in Africa as they await the arrival of the penguins (animals who also left the zoo from the first movie) to take them back to the zoo.
Apparently in the movie I didn't see Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008), the penguins had created a crude aircraft that could fly to Monte Carlo but didn't bring the main characters for some unknown reason. Fearing they were abandoned, the four, along with their lemur compatriots, make their arduous journey to Monte Carlo, which meant they would have had to walk through the thick jungles of central Africa then trek across the world's largest desert, then swim the width of the Mediterranean. But hey why focus on that when with one screen dissolve they're there! Convenient.
The foursome manage to sneak into a Monte Carlo casino where the penguins and their monkey friends are winning it big. Things get hairy. The fuzz is called and we are introduced to our main villain Captain DuBois (Frances McDormand) a psychotic, seemingly unstoppable animal control agent. From there the movie just throws everything including the kitchen sink at you in fast procession. A nuclear reactor, a flying machine, an Edith Piaf song that can cure broken bones, a flying circus with a new glut of characters is introduced Jesus movie! Can't you slow down enough to explain anything? Now don't be thinking I have a lack of imagination here because I don't personally believe a hippo can fit through an air-duct. All I'm saying is if you want to violate the laws of physics that much you should keep it consistent. Why don't the animals simply swim to New York? Why don't they use the nuclear reactor they just happen to have to go back in time before they ever left? Why not break into the CERN Hadron collider in Geneva and make their particle mass resemble that of an electron then travel to New York near the speed of light? They're in the neighborhood after all.
In conclusion, just don't waste your time with Europe's Most Wanted. If you have kids and care about their future, don't expose them to this dreck. If you do, you might as well get used to raising a child who thinks all complex problems can be solved by acrobatics and a Katy Perry song.
The concept for The Last Starfighter (1984) is so stupidly simple, I
can imagine the writer pitching the idea to producers resulting in a
bidding war. The story follows a teen named Alex (Lance Guest) who
after beating an all-time record on an arcade game gets a chance to do
it all for real. It's nice to think every time you win a video game
there might be someone out there looking for your exact qualifications
for kicking ass and taking names.
One thing I immediately noticed during the movie was the presence of The Music Man (1962) himself Robert Preston as Alex's recruiter Centauri. When he is first introduced you can barely make out his face but his voice, at least to me, is unmistakable. His speech has a rhythmic pattern to it that resembles an amiable used car salesman. I honestly hoped he would start rambling the words to "Ya Got Trouble" as a form of fan service to me and me alone. It also didn't help that he was sporting a beige suit with a red bow tie.
Overall The Last Starfighter is a pleasant if forgetful flick. As a stand alone it's an okay movie though as a Star Wars (1977) clone with WarGames (1983) undertones it pales in comparison. I would recommend instead of watching The Last Starfighter, going home and hugging your Star Wars collection. If you don't have one, get one and watch them again. Especially if you have the original cuts.
For those not familiar with the rules of the Official Twilight drinking
game they are as follows.
Take a shot/sip when... 1. Someone says the word vampire or wolf or any variation including "newborns". 2. Whenever someone sparkles. 3. When the father appears in police uniform. 4. Whenever someone is brooding. 5. Whenever an obnoxious hipster indie song is being played in the background. 6. Whenever someone doesn't have his shirt on. 7. Whenever someone gives an unrealistically generous gift, does a foolishly gallant act or otherwise bends the rules of common sense for Bella.
Drink the rest of the bottle when... 1. Someone unattractive or out of shape is on screen. 2. Something in a scene makes you feel anything other than sleepiness or the need to plant your face in your hands.
Thus I delved into the world of Breaking Dawn Part 1. In this film, Edward and Bella take the plunge so she can become a vampire like she's always wanted. Jacob pisses and moans, and Bella has unprotected sex while still human resulting in her mutant baby trying to eat its way out of her womb. You know, true love and all that good stuff.
My roommate, whose expertise on Twilight I value as much as one reasonably can, filled in some of the holes that went unexplained or glossed over in the flick. Why can't they just turn her into a vampire while pregnant? Because it would kill the baby. Why is the act of sex with a vampire while human potentially deadly? Because their skins as hard as diamonds and they're super strong. How can these vampires live for eons amassing enough money to afford a private island off the coast of Brazil without the IRS at least knowing about it? And for that matter why would vampires want a vacation home in sunny Rio anyway? Just shut up and watch the movie!
My roommate did bring up an interesting notion that was not explained in the movie nor, she believes, explained in the book. How can they even have sex? Vampires have no pulse so they have no blood actually coursing through their veins. It only stands to reason that Edward can't get his little Dracula to stand at attention. So Bella is waiting to be turned, just so she can have human carnal knowledge of a cold corpse with a flaccid iditarod. Perhaps if you're being turned into a bloodsucker while you're performing (its been known to happen in vampire movies) then you'd have a fully erect projectile for always and forever but that would be a very inconvenient case of rigamortis. You'd never be able to wear mesh shorts, birds would always want to perch on you and all your vampire friends would always call you Vlad the Impaler. But on the positive side you'd actually achieve every pubescent boy's deep seeded fantasy; you could use you're dingus as a weapon!
Of course its all fun and games until someone gets pregnant. That's why its important kids, to make and keep important commitments to your loved ones. In this case, commit to spending the rest of eternity with a manipulative Gothic horror monster before getting jiggy with it or else be forced to drink O- slurpees while your ribcage and spine breaks from the force of your bloodthirsty monster child. By the way, the baby's name is Renesmee a mix of Bella's mother's name and the punchline of a cruel practical joke. The newborn is also imprinted by Jacob which is a way for a werewolf to leave his marking that disappointingly doesn't involve rising his hind legs.
In the end, Breaking Dawn Part 1 is a vapid, stupid, glacierly paced movie with very little going for it other than the welcome sight of Bella withering away. So its a substantial improvement from the rest of the series. I actually look forward to the next and hopefully final chapter in the franchise. Maybe if I get liquored up before the premiere (or during), I would only remember the good parts, like the credits.
Aside from Young Frankenstein (1974), I have never actually seen a
movie based on the titular doctor. I have never seen the 1931 Boris
Karloff version nor Andy Warhol's 1973 adaptation. In fact, I have
never even read the novel. Yet the mythos of the character is so
ingrained in our culture that the story is known by almost all. Dr.
Frankenstein, a gifted but brash scientist digs up an assemblage of
body parts and reanimates them to create a monster he regrets.
In this adaptation, The story is told by Dr. Frankenstein (Kenneth Branagh) to Captain Walton (Aidan Quinn), a man looking to make a name for himself by reaching the North Pole. Frankenstein's major impetus for creating life after death stems from the death of his mother giving birth to his younger brother and his major love interest is his adopted sister Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter). My guess is family is important to him.
While in medical school he befriends a young medical student named Henry (Tom Hulce) and professor Waldman (John Cleese) with similar fascinations with "alternative medicine". Waldman warns Frankenstein not to venture further down the rabbit-hole but of course he does and nearly dies of exhaustion attempting to bring his experiments to reality. Once the monster (Robert De Niro) is brought to life, the doctor balks at his experiment and immediately regrets everything he has worked for. The monster however wonders away carrying with it the doctor's journal so naturally the only logical thing to do would be to just forget all about it.
Naturally, as with virtually all movies, the bad guy gets his just desserts and we all learn an important lesson on the folly of scientific exploration and achievement. You heard me, the folly of scientific exploration; because progress is an incredible evil that must be stopped or else risk unleashing horrible monsters that will inherit the earth. Its not like Frankenstein could have done a few things differently like have a protocol for destroying the monster then studying it to find where he went wrong. Or failing that he could have always locked the door to make sure his monster doesn't escape.
Not that anything really went wrong to begin with. The monster was capable of cognitive thought and motor skills, could speak, read, write and play the flute. It didn't perform "Puttin' On the Ritz" but had the song been around in the 1700's I bet he could sing it. Additionally, at the beginning of his second life, he was capable of kindness, mercy, and sympathy. The only bad thing about the monster was his ugly mug. For that reason the good doctor gave up on his project, lamented over what a terrible thing he has done and collapsed sobbing on his pillow like a girl who wasn't asked to the prom. Question: You made your creature out of random decaying body parts, did you expect it to look like Megan Fox? The rest of the story follows the monster who wonders around for a while before he begins to plot his revenge against the doctor with relentless flair. Frankenstein meanwhile gets caught up in period-piece melodrama complete with lavish sets, high society gatherings and Ian Holm. Eventually things turn tragic then just plain gory and at the end of the tale, Captain Walton turns his ship around so he may live to be brazen another day.
To be fair the main message of Frankenstein has been around for ages. The Matrix and Terminator imagine worlds where our hubris creates machines that take over the world. A much better (and underrated) adaptation of the story, Splice (2009) involves a similar creation who is begotten by two impertinent scientists who look to achieve practical purposes like curing disease.
Conquering death does have its practical purposes I guess but hypothesizing "in order to cure death we must create life," is like saying in order to stop war we need to build better weapons. Furthermore the psychology of the creature and the scientists involved are important factors in the decision making processes in Splice. Frankenstein leaves many of those nuances unexplored leaving you with a good looking movie that seems too frazzled to be impacting.
Forty years after Mario Monicelli's Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958),
Guy Ritchie surprised the world with his freshman feature length effort
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998). Both feature a cast of
relative unknowns making eager but unsuccessful attempts at petty
crime. But while Big Deal grounds its farcical elements with post-war
Italian neo-realism, Lock, Stock is played largely for laughs and told
with an infectious sense of film-school-reject style.
The principle foursome in Lock, Stock have a foolproof plan to make a handsome profit. Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher, Jason Statham each pass on scrounged savings to their ringer Eddy (Nick Moran). Eddy then takes part in an illegal poker game featuring some of East London's most notorious gangsters. = Profits. What they don't count on however is the host of the card game Hatchet Harry (P.H. Moriarty) cheating and putting the boys in over their heads. Now it's either come up with £100,000 or end up taking a swim in the Thames.
There are side stories involving drugs, stolen antiques and a psychopath with a "cute cuddly thing" going on, all of which converge in flashes of confusion and absolute chaos. It was like watching an extended version of the last twenty minutes of The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) inter-spliced with Tom and Jerry shorts resulting in an ending that would make the cast of Seinfeld (1989-1998) proud. The rich irony of the situations created by Guy Ritchie (who also wrote the script) and the galvanizing moments of fate never lose their luster even after repeated viewings.
While Ritchie was born in Hatfield, Hertfordshire he no doubt wrote what he knew when he ascribed the bungling protagonists and their equally shortsighted foils. They are characters that you might bump into on the mean streets of East End complete with Cockney accents and colorful idioms. In the DVD extra bonus features there is even a Cockney to English dictionary that translates certain phrases like North=Mouth and Geezer=slightly older fellow. But lest you be too busy for the bonus features, at one point in the film subtitles appear for bit to help non-Cockneys understand the comedy. In the words of Professor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady (1964) "There even are places where English completely disappears; in America they haven't used it for years." Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels makes for perfect rental fodder. It's breezy, funny, full of character and style while never slumping into moments of boredom. To Jason Statham fans, this movie is a must since not only did he explode onto the scene with this film, he shows he can actually act. To Guy Ritchie fans who no doubt have already seen Lock, Stock and prefer the more popular Snatch. (2000) I still would recommend giving this one another shot even if its sans a Brad Pitt. You never know what little details (or idioms) you might pick up.
"5 billion people will die from a deadly virus in 1997...the survivors
will abandon the surface of the planet...once again the animals will
rule the world." Thus with these words, Twelve Monkeys (1995) begins
its opening credits. It's an ominous prologue for an ambiguous yet
amazing movie brought into the world by writers David and Janet Peoples
and molded into a tangible and indelible entity by director Terry
Gilliam. Yet to say Twelve Monkeys is a tale about a dystopian future
would be an understatement.
Twelve Monkeys begins with our hero James Cole (Bruce Willis) waking up from a reoccurring dream, seemingly placed in a prison of sorts against his will. His is to be volunteered for a mission on the surface of the earth. He is then informed by a group of scientists that they have the ability to time travel and can go back to the events preceding the deadly virus that wipes out most of humanity. They want him to go back and gather information on a group of radicals known as the Army of the Twelve Monkeys; perhaps bring back a sample of the virus in its original form before it mutated. Thus Cole goes through quite an odyssey bouncing back and forth through time to connect the dots.
The film co-stars Madeleine Stowe and Brad Pitt who along with Willis bring their incredible acting abilities to the table. Much hubbub has been made about Pitts performance as the comically deranged Jeffrey Goines and by all means he certainly deserved his supporting actor nomination. However Willis's frailty and uneasy confusion is a real sight to see when you consider that no one besides Gilliam and M. Night Shymalans has thought to put him in anything other than pulpy action thrillers. His character is our assumed surrogate for our feelings and as his mind slowly breaks apart before us we start to mistrust his judgment and even his sanity. They say that the insane don't know they're insane. From their perspective everything they see or do is rational and normal. But in Cole's case, he looses his grip on reality when he declares himself insane.
By the midpoint of the film Madeleine Stowe's character psychologist Kathryn Railly becomes our sympathetic inference but near the end we even start to lose her in the ether. Insanity is a very relative term and while giving its audience a very stylistic yet conceivable image of apocalypse, Twelve Monkeys forces us not only to question the rational of the characters but our own sanity as well. It's a theme that director Terry Gilliam has explored in nearly all of his films, the nature of insanity within our society. While his earlier films such as Time Bandits (1981) and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) had a much more hopeful viewpoint on delusion, his later films, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), Tideland (2005) and Twelve Monkeys are much more fatalistic.
Fatalistic yet brilliantly envisaged. For like Gilliam's magnum opus Brazil (1985), Twelve Monkeys can be interpreted in multiple ways. In the film, Cole speaks while watching Vertigo (1958), "The movie never changes, it can't change but every time you see it, it seems different because you're different." During test screenings, Twelve Monkeys got mixed marks echoing Cole's sentiment. Is Twelve Monkeys an easily defined genre movie? No. Can it be seen as a time-travel picture? No. Can I conclusively confirm the film is about insanity at all? No. Yet it works and works well.
I close my review with part of a Persian poem that I think captures the depth and enigmatical aura of Terry Gilliam's triumph:
Yesterday This Day's Madness did prepare; To-morrow's Silence, Triumph, or Despair: Drink! for you know not whence you came, nor why: Drink! for you know not why you go, nor where. -74th Quatrain of the Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam
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