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Nothing Really Matters (2008)
I saw this film this morning, and aside from the ending, I walked out feeling fairly positive about it. However my wife was ENRAGED by it, making for an interesting drive home. She made a pretty good case for her opinion, which why I'm rating this a 5- right down the middle.
I was hoping for a dark comedy...it's no secret this is about a suicidal person, but I had heard it had comedic elements. And it did...however, they had little to do with the actual story. Told in flashback, the main character, the agoraphobic Leo, explains what has brought him to the brink of suicide. So why is he recounting the story of meeting his "first 'Emo'". The scene is entertaining and funny, and yet an inconsequential event in his life. It's great for the audience, but why would he be turning it over in his mind at the brink of suicide? There are several other funny or touching sequences, all highlights, and all completely out of place.
Another character which leads to a major turning point in the film is barely developed at all. Leo's landlord is painted as a ridiculous caricature, but later becomes an important influence on him, delivering a moving speech. I didn't have a problem with that twist (my wife did), but it still doesn't explain why Leo invites this buffoon to an intimate dinner party earlier.
And finally, there's the "shocking" secret that has been tormenting Leo. Unfortunately, it's completely ridiculous, and is shot in a way that destroys any impact. Without giving any spoilers, there is a detail in the flashback that just seems like the filmmakers way of cranking up the shock value, but it just seemed silly to me. Quick cutaways without too much detail would have probably been far more disturbing in the hands of the right filmmaker.
From there, it's a quick downhill slide into the dumbest plot device since the glasses of water in "Signs", and a "happy" ending that I hope was forced on the filmmaker. Cutting to black 3 minutes early would have resulted in a far more depressing film, but one I would be more willing to forgive.
The lead actress is solid from beginning to end, and I hope to see more of her. The gentleman who plays Leo is fantastic in the comedic scenes, but falters in the more intense material. I liked Leo, which made me WANT to like this film, but it's just too much of a mess in hindsight. I wonder if there's room on USA's slate for a 1 hour comedy/drama about a quirky agoraphobic genius...maybe after "Monk". Leo is a great character in search of a good film.
Quasi at the Quackadero (1976)
Confusion amongst the comments
First of all, the music in Quasi was by Al Dodge and Robert Armstrong, who have no connection to Oingo Boingo. However, Danny Elfman did do the soundtrack to Sally's film "Face Like A Frog", which included the Mystic Knights Of The Oingo Boingo song "Don't Go In The Basement" (Actually, even here there's confusion...not sure if it's an old MKotOB song, or a new Elfman song, but it's credited simply to "Mystic Knights") Second, there is no "Ego Trip" scene in this, though it does sound like something that WOULD be in it. This may be from another of Sally's films...I have not seen them all.
Whoever said that the "same guy" (Sally's a she!) must have done some Sesame St cartoons is correct...though most of the ones I've been able to find are from the late 80's and aren't familiar to me. I assumed she was responsible for some of the trippy 70's ones.
I first saw Quasi on PBS late one night in the 80's. I was excited to see it pop up on Youtube recently...posted by Sally herself along with some other works. She also sells DVDs of them.
2 flicks in one
I just saw this for the first time in 10 or 15 years...maybe close to 20. In some ways, it was better than I remembered...in other, it was MUCH worse.
First of all, there's the music. It's just plain awful. There are only 5 songs in the movie, most of them used more than once. The opening song is shrieked by a chorus of annoying children, and the disco-y title track is performed by Rick Dees. It doesn't get any worse than that. Even the background music is terrible, with much of it repeating the themes of the other nauseating tunes. We also get some truly lame slapstick, mostly in the opening credits.
On the other hand, Bill Murray is spot on brilliant as usual...you have to wonder if he ad-libbed the whole thing, or if the writers just gave him all the funny lines. Or maybe he's just that great- turning a weak script into comic genius. The best part are his surreal PA announcements. ("Lobsters...get out of here...you're a menace!")
You also get a lot more character development than you have any right to expect in a movie like this. At least half the characters seem like real people...and mostly real people you would like to have around. Even "Spaz" gets to do a more than any other Eddie Deezen-type character ever did, and when he gets the girl, it's plausible. (She's not absurdly hot, but he doesn't automatically pair up with one of the nerd girls- see "Revenge Of The Nerds" for examples of both cinematic phenomenons.)
And when the plot seems clichéd...well, ya gotta wonder if it wasn't a cliché yet when they made this. While it wasn't the first summer camp movie- ya gotta go back at least to "The Parent Trap"- it's certainly the movie that made it it's own genre. In fact, I was surprised that there was no Talent Show scene..."Wet Hot American Summer" spoofed the summer-camp genre so perfectly, I just assumed everything in it came straight out of Meatballs. (I also half-expected Jon Cryer to pull up in a convertible with a chimp, thanks to "Mr. Show's" epic camp-olympiad spoof "Monk Academy")
Anyway, this one seems to be vanishing a little as far as the late-70's/early 80's comedies- it's not a cable staple anymore, and certainly doesn't have the cult following of Caddyshack or Animal House. I was pleased to catch it on Showtime today- and in High Definition at that! Sure, it's pretty awful in spots, but you could do a lot worse in a 70's/80's teen comedy. And again, Murray is a genius.
V for Vendetta (2005)
Should be required viewing.
This is supposed to take place 20-30 years in the future, but it could easily be two or three. I love the fact that the filmmakers didn't load it down with bogus sci-fi-futureworld nonsense...in fact I wish they hadn't mentioned any years at all, but an event in 2015 is referenced. This is a powerful warning to all about the road we're heading down, and hopefully will become a call to action if things ever get this bad.
From a film-making point of view, I'm sure I could pick a few things apart, and that's the only reason I knocked a star off. But the message is too important to miss over some quibbles. I'm astounded that a first time director pulled something off this good...he's one to watch.
One more thing...I've never read the graphic novel, and would have never heard of it before if it hadn't been mentioned in a Pop Will Eat Itself song. I understand many (including the author) have complained that the film strayed too far from the book. Well, it's quite clear the film has been updated to reflect the current political climate-and therein lies it's power. I doubt I would have been this enthusiastic about a parable about Margret Thatcher. I'm sure there would still be a strong message, but this is very much a film for 2006, not 1986. I can't say whether the spirit of the original is intact, but it doesn't take anything away from the fact that this is an amazing film.
Thank goodness we still have the freedoms to get something this potentially "dangerous" into wide release.
Did they pull a "Fantasia 2000" with this?
A note about the release date on this...IMDb says it was 1984 and contains no clips later than 1975.
However, I just saw this on Monsters HD, and the copyright date was 1997. Moreover, the closing credits appear to list the various movies included. It is all in Japansese, except the word "VS" in almost every title, and the copyrights- 1984 through 1995.
About halfway through the 90 minute running time, the movie appears to end, with a brief set of Japanese credits. The music then restarts, and a 3-D computer animated title appears, clearly not from 1984. There was no translation on any of the titles, aside from "Godzilla Fantasia" at the very start.
My guess is that the original film was 45 minutes, and that a sequel was done quite some time later with the same music. The video/film quality of the second half was MUCH better than the first, and only the first half had any B&W footage.
Bad Boy Bubby (1993)
There's not much I can say that hasn't been said, but here are a couple of points that haven't been touched on... First, I rarely cry at supposedly "sad" movies. (You know, the "mom has cancer" variety.) But I often cry for joyful scenes in movies. BBB had a few joy inducing moments...his first encounter with the Salvation Army singers wrung a few tears from me. But (and I'm trying to avoid spoilers here),I have NEVER sobbed as much as when Bubby returned home and curled up on the floor next to the (SPOILER EDIT). That is simply the saddest image I have ever seen on film. It's the moment I realized what a great film this was, but I think it goes unnoticed in a film full of "shock".
Second, I worked for five years in a group home for the handicapped. One of my clients was a quadriplegic with even more problems than Rachel. Those scenes were particularly affecting for me, as I know the feeling of not being to understand anything more than a cry of pain or laughter.
Urgh! A Music War (1981)
Must see for hardcore new wave fans
As everyone has already mentioned, you get over 30 performances, and at least half of them are classics. There are a few gems in the ones you've never heard of, and at least 5 or 10 you'll be wishing you had it on DVD so you could hit skip.
The highlights- Oingo Boingo does "Ain't This The Life" from their first EP. The song itself is kinda rare (unavailable on CD except for their live Farewell album), and I've never seen Elfman so manic. (Coked-up?) Wall Of Voodoo does "Back In Flesh" and gets a tiny skit as well. Gary Numan does "Down In The Park" while driving a neon tank. Devo does the always great "Uncontrollable Urge". XTC performs- well I can't remember, but it's rare enough just seeing them perform. Dead Kennedy's whip through "Bleed For Me", complete with typical Jello Biafra opening rant. Joan Jett SMOKES "Bad Reputation". Surf Punks do an amusing "My Beach". Lux Interior of the Cramps wears a nearly-criminal pair of leather pants and deep throats a microphone during- I forget what song, but it's good. Klaus Nomi is, well Klaus Nomi- you may hate it, but it sure isn't boring. And of the bands you've never heard of, you'll never forget Skafish's "Sign Of The Cross".
There are also good performances by Echo & The Bunnymen, OMD, The Police, Gang Of Four, X, Go-Go's, Magazine and a few others, but they never really stood out to me. I thought Pere Ubu's performance was substandard- I'm not a big fan, but I saw them once in the early 90's and they were great. Most of the unknown bands are just kind of dull, a few prove why they're unknown, like Athletico Spizz (or something like that- the one with the Silly String.) This is hard to find, but there are a lot of rental copies still floating around out there. I think it was on CBS/Fox video, so I don't know why it hasn't been put out on DVD.
Forbidden Zone (1980)
How could I have never seen this?
This is part of my Scarecrow Video Guide inspired movie-trek, after "Jerry & Tom".
As a rabid Oingo Boingo fan, I'm not sure why I had never seen this until now. Of course, it was hard to find until recently. I even managed 2 different large video stores in the 90s, and never saw a copy. But still, I had seen the band 4 times (a high number for someone living outside California), and had been somewhat active in bootleg trading- thanks to stumbling across their infamous 1976 Gong Show appearance and managing to get it on VHS. (It's common now, thanks to multiple GSN runs.) I even have a demo version of the theme song. But I had never seen the film before a week ago.
Of course, the Mystic Knights don't make their appearance until near the end, and most of the music isn't even original Elfman compositions. But it's still a key part of the OB legacy.
Can a non-fan appreciate it? As a film, it's a beyond-low budget piece of nonsense. More of a piece of performance art than a film, it's like a semi-pornographic Betty Boop cartoon brought to life and fed a bunch of LSD. The performances are awful, even from Oscar nominee Susan Tyrell. But Marie Pascale Elfman exudes a silly charm ("Hot damn...the sixth dimension!"), if you can make out what she's saying. And Herve Villechaize is a bit funnier than I expected. Of course, Danny Elfman as Satan was the highlight for me, but it's an all-too-brief segment. Instead of more Satan, we get endless scenes of old men dry humping everything they see- funny once, but annoying 6 times.
FZ has a reputation as a "shock" movie, but 25 years later, the only real shock is the racist material. I suppose the black-face scenes (maybe there was only one) could be a nod to the 20's and 30's cartoons on which the style is based. But the black pimps and gang members in the back of the classroom are out of place and unnecessary (although I did giggle at one of the gags.)
I'm giving it a reluctant 6 out of 10 just 'cause I'm an OB fanatic. Lower that score if you don't know what a Tender Lumpling is, and raise it if you have a high tolerance for excessive silliness.
Next on the movie trek- "Getting Any?"
Jerry and Tom (1998)
Decent Black comedy, but...
This is part of my Scarecrow Video Guide inspired movie-trek, following "Steven Soderbergh's Schizopolis".
"Jerry & Tom" is a fun little black comedy, but it reminded me a little too much of another fun little black comedy..."Coldblooded", starring Jason Priestly & Peter Riegert. (Oddly, Riegert shows up here in a similar role. And, as of now, both films have a 6.7 on IMDb.). I'm not sure which one is lesser known, but they both have something to offer.
"Jerry & Tom" is the "better" film, if only by virtue of the performances. Joe Mantegna is always good, and Sam Rockwell can't lose, IMHO. But nothing much happens here. "Coldblooded" was more fun, as I recall. (It's been at least 7 years since I saw it.) I could tell 10 minutes in that "Jerry & Tom" was based on a play. It's basically a series of conversations, some brilliantly funny, centered around a group of hit men. It would be a great play, but as a film it's a little lacking. There's an amazing series of creative transitions to show time passages (the story takes place over 10 years), and some hilarious flashbacks. But the scenes in between are incredibly slow.
Still, it's hard to fault a film with great actors reading great lines. Aside from Mantegna and Rockwell, Charles Durning is predictably excellent, and William H. Macy shines in a brief role.
Perhaps these two films would make a good double feature. Watch "Jerry & Tom" first and savor it, then have a few drinks and enjoy "Coldblooded".
Next on the trek- "Forbidden Zone"!
Admire it for getting released
This is part of my Scarecrow Video Guide inspired movie-trek, following "The Specials." I've always been a hypocrite Soderbergh fan. I claim to be a bit of a movie snob, but really I think of Soderbergh as a guy who makes really great "Hollywood" flicks. Kind of the anti-Michael Bay. "Out Of Sight" is probably in my top 50 of all time. But I've always ignored most of his artier flicks, probably because I watched "Kafka" in college and didn't care much for it.
Well, this is as out-there as Soderburgh gets...or nearly anyone. It looks like a student film, but it was actually made right before he started his commercial streak with "Out Of Sight". Any description is probably pointless- suffice to say it's a film about communication that goes out of it's way to NOT communicate with it's audience. It would all come off so absurdly pretentious if it wasn't for Soderbergh's hilarious opening and closing statements. ("Anything you don't understand is your own fault") In hindsight, it almost seems like a parody of pretentious student films, and you can enjoy it on that level. But there is a point here, even though it doesn't come remotely close to clear.
Most importantly, it's pretty dang funny. There's enough silly stuff to appreciate, even if you don't "get it". Soderburgh himself is a deadpan riot in a dual role (or is it? You decide!) But "Nameless Numberhead Guy" steals the show.
"Schizopolis" isn't the weirdest film I've ever seen- that honor would probably go to "du-beat-E-o". But it's probably the best ratio of weird-to-watchable. Even if you're completely lost, you'll find something to like if you like film. But If you like Michael Bay, best skip it.
Next up is "Jerry & Tom"