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Gilmore Girls (2000)
As a possessor of testicles, I know I'm not the intended audience for this show. My beef with it is that my wife fills up our DVR with this tripe every day (it re-runs daily syndicated on ABC Family) and it's inevitably playing when she catches up on it every evening. I avoid watching it, but sort of like a gristly accident, I am drawn to the spectacle of vapid characters running their mouths nonstop without ever seeming to pause for oxygen.
As best I can tell, the show revolves around Lauren Graham's character Loralai, who is etched in the mold of other femme-faves "Ally McBeal" and certain seasons of "Rachel" from friends - you know, sweet, attractive, yet somehow never seeming to meet the right man, or whipping up drama in the relationships she does manage to forge.
Loralai's daughter Rori is a great pal to her mom - and she should be, they're practically the same age, She's a bit of a prick tease, pitting former "just friends" interests against newer beaus.
There's a guy, Luke, who runs a diner. He's a bad boy because he wears his cap backwards and always has about 3 days of stubble. He likes Loralai, and therefore endures a lot of her crap, although his incentive for doing so is far from clear.
Rori's father is Loralai's effeminate ex/occasionally current husband (Christopher?) who appears every so often, prompting Loralai to talk even more non-stop, as if she needed a reason. Usually it's about money, which he has, and she doesn't.
There's also Loralai's meddling parents. The mom is the least likable matronly character since Eudora on "Bewitched." The dad does his best Mr. Belvedere impression.
Put all these wonderful characters together and have them spout off on money issues or disappointment or some other topic, and listen to them deliver a script that sounds as if the writers were paid by the word. My wife enjoys that formula, and judging by the favorable rating here, many other women do too.
I think most guys will agree that Gilmore Girls belongs on the only TV in Hell - a 19" Zenith that shows only The View, Drop Dead Diva, and Gilmore Girls.
What they show on your in-flight movie to Hell
I think I heard about this movie on Slate.com's periodic posting of "The Worst Cinematic Crap of All-Time." It reminded me of the movies that served as fodder for "Mystery Science Theater 3000." On the always-unproductive day before Christmas Vacation, I found it on the internet and showed part of it to my 6th grade class, without telling them anything about what they were about to view.
At first the sixth graders were happy not to have to do actual work. The campiness of the stock-footage Caribou and the horrid elf songs and even more horrid kazoo singing were lost on them, but soon confusion and irritation set in. When I paused it after about 10 minutes to ask them what they thought of it, I got questions like "Why are Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer in it?" "Why would the elf use a hammer to make a stuffed animal?" "Why is Santa so skinny?" "Where is the Ice Cream Bunny?" They were impressed by the kid jumping off the roof with the patio umbrella parachute, though.
I explained that these were all good questions, and that I didn't have an answer for any of them, but that they were watching what was widely considered to be the worst kids' movie of all time. Thanks to the beauty of streaming video, I was able to show them the remaining 80(!) or so minutes of this crap in about ten minutes, by skipping to various scenes and adding my own narration of what they were seeing.
The sixth graders' reactions: *The attempts to free the sleigh using barnyard animals were amusing, but mostly confusing. *The horse-on-a-rail ride at Pirate World looks like a lot of fun. *The sets for Thumbalina are uproariously horrid. *It's really random to have a completely different movie inside of another movie. *Why did Santa go to all that trouble if the sleigh could just disappear on its own? They mostly enjoyed it because it was better than taking a spelling test and sixth graders love making fun of stuff.
Why does this movie suck so much? Sure, the movie has terrible songs, a completely ridiculous "plot," an unrelated movie that is 2/3 of the total run time grafted into the middle of it, it serves as an advertisement for a defunct theme park in central Florida, and it looks like it was filmed on a weekend with about a budget of $300, but the real reason it sucks is because of the EDITING.
My gripe isn't even that it's obvious that only one camera was used to film this, so nearly every scene is shot from a distance. It's that every scene is about 5 times longer than it has to be! Overly-long footage of kids running, Santa fanning himself and staring at the sun, and walking, walking, walking! The worst is the "daring rescue" in the fire truck. It is literally five minutes (I timed it!) of driving at about 5 mph, with the only interesting thing happening when the dog stops to drink from a puddle in front of the truck and almost gets run over.
It's fairly easy to find part or all of S&TICB on the internet, but remember, your only reason for watching it should be to avoid taking a spelling test or because you like making fun of things.
The Road (2009)
The Feel-Bad Movie of the Year! And it's Magnificent!
There are post-apocalyptic movies where homosexual biker gangs fight over the last of the gasoline in vehicles that get 12 mpg. There are post-apocalyptic movies where delivering the mail takes on supreme importance. There are post-apocalyptic movies where (choose one: aliens/comets/weather) have destroyed everything in sight, and it's up to a small group of photogenic lead actors with perfect teeth and 4 days' worth of stubble to take a stand.
Refreshingly, "The Road" takes a detour from these tired clichés, and portrays the End Of Life As We Know It in an entirely believable way: scrawny, filthy, homeless people scavenge the wasteland for their next meal, trying not to become food themselves. The reason for their predicament is only loosely hinted at, and it's unclear the characters themselves even know what happened. This vagueness only elevates the movie.
One of the credits at the end of this movie was for "Proesthetic Teeth," so you know attention has been paid to detail, and the movie is about 55% more enjoyable as a result. The characters look as if dentists haven't been around for 10 years. Beards are long and scraggly. Grime is ever-present. In the age of CGI backgrounds, it is also noteworthy that this movie used real disasters as backdrops for the scenes: Charred stands of timber on Mt. St. Helens in Washington, two actual shipwrecks off the Oregon coast, (one boat is definitely the Peter Iredale, the other one looks a lot like the New Carissa) and what had to be sections of New Orleans never rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina.
The adaption is faithful to the book. Unlike McCarthy's previous big screen adaptation "No Country For Old Men," The changes in the sequence are minor and the omissions seem purely to keep the running time manageable and probably to avoid an NC-17 rating. (I agree that the movie didn't need to include the scene in the book when the father and son come upon the abandoned campfire... ) "The Road" belongs in the same family of movies as "Million Dollar Baby," "Boys Don't Cry," and a similar-in-many-ways post-apocalyptic movie "Testament" because they are certainly depressing to watch, but they are also incredibly well-made movies that are worth seeing, if you enjoy that sort of thing. It isn't for everyone. It might be one of the worst movies to take a date to.
My suggestion: see "The Road" when you are already in a bad mood or feeling sad about something. You won't necessarily feel happy afterward, but you'll feel slightly better by appreciating things you have previously taken for granted, like "food" and "shoes" and "not being cannibalized."
17 Again (2009)
Most hilarious basketball scenes since "Teen Wolf"
I had no intention of watching this movie when it was featured on my return flight, but the girl next to me watched it on her digi-player before the airline projected it, and it looked at least worth plugging in my headphones for. I wasn't disappointed.
The plot, as I understood it: 1989 Zac Efron, sporting a hairstyle that NOBODY wore back then, is playing in The Big Game. For some reason, judging by the dimensions of the court, they are playing in a junior high school gym. The coach exerts zero discipline over his team of all-white, 5'10" players, and they are allowed to mingle with and even smooch girls DURING the pre-game huddle.
Zac's girlfriend chooses the biggest moment of his life to that point to drop the news that she is pregnant (although because this is a "family friendly movie, the audience is left to infer that.) Zac decides to quit basketball before the game starts to be there for his baby, even though it won't be born for approximately another 8 months. 20 years later, he is miserable at home and at work, so the moral, as always, is "Always abandon your baby's mother. Your life will suck otherwise." Matthew Perry was cast to portray Zac Effron 20 years in the future, a curious choice, since Luke Perry probably looks more like Zac Effron. I can only conclude that obvious choice for this role Rob Lowe was (a) not available or (b) uncomfortable starring in a movie with his real-life bastard son.
The "trading places" plot hasn't been seen in thousands of movies, but probably at least hundreds of them. It's compelling because who doesn't wish he could go back in time with wisdom and right past wrongs? Anyway, it isn't worth summarizing this movie because this is one of those movies you've seen even if you haven't.
A few quirks are worth pointing out though: Matthew Perry's life was screwed because he got his high school girlfriend pregnant when he was a senior, but 20 years later, his daughter is a senior in high school? Did she repeat a few grades?
The principal in this movie is the same actress who portrays Michael Scott's Girlfriend on "The Office" playing the EXACT SAME ROLE in this movie, as the hot authority figure who is given to incredible lapses in judgment and falling for dorks when she could get any man she desires. How pigeonholed is that actress?
Up 6 with 1:19 to go, The Hayden Warriors' opts against any kind of clock-eating 4-corners offense. The Warriors counter by not intentionally fouling to stop the clock, or maybe that was the plan but the players were all smooching their girlfriends when the coach drew up that play. Not to be outdone, the opponent's coach doesn't call timeout after when the game is slipping away from him. It's as if we're watching action from the old "Double Dribble" game on the original Nintendo.
As part of the "Happy Ending Everything Turns Out OK" resolution, Chandler Bing is hired to take over for the coach at Hayden High. Apparently in California, you don't need to be a licensed teacher to hold a head coaching position as you do in most other states. Then again, maybe working as a Pharmaceudical Sales Rep for 16 years, Chandler has access to P.E.D.s that will give his team the edge.
I recommend this movie if you can see it for free. There are worse selections if you are hurtling through the sky at 34,000 feet. It's also suitable if you're trapped at a multi-generational family event (such as the weekend after Thanksgiving)and you need entertainment that's guaranteed not to offend anyone.
The Malibu Bikini Shop (1986)
Not sexy, not funny.
"Malibu" Bikini Shop is a Sex Comedy that manages to be neither comedic nor sexy. Well, maybe a little bit sexy. But the scenes of Barbara Horan in the hot tub are hardly worth enduring terrible music, embarrassing fashions (sadly, the bikinis are some of the biggest violators) a thin, implausible, wholly predictable plot, and characters that are all one dimensional caricatures. This isn't even a "so bad it's good" kind of bad. It's more of a "sixth graders write better than this" bad and "how the hell can a movie about girls wearing bikinis be so unenjoyably" bad. Imagine an Elvis movie and the depth of plot those had, only instead of Elvis you have a pair of B-cups thrown in every 18 minutes or so and you have a pretty good idea of what you're in for with Bikini shop.
I realize this isn't exactly Masterpiece Theater, but if you want to see skin (which is why 99% of people would even consider watching this) it would be so much more efficient to just look at a Playboy or even an episode of Rock of Love. The girls in this movie, while young and fit, are saddled with horrendous wardrobes and situations. Visually, none of them really rate higher than about a 7 out of 10.
If you're still reading this review, you may be a Trekkie interested in Bruce Greenwood's early work and you're on the fence about if it's worth the time. Be warned: are you prepared for Bruce in a belly shirt? I advise having your thumb locked and ready on the ff/scan button. Life is too short to waste watching trash like this, and when I write "trash," I don't mean in a morally reprehensible way. I mean in a lazy, lowest common denominator kind of way.
Bonus points to anyone who figures out why "Malibu" is sometimes attached to this title when the movie hints that it takes place in Santa Monica.
Wendy and Lucy (2008)
Sadness in stark simplicity
Minimalism exists in all art forms, whether it's a painting of a simple geometric shape, a song using only a few repeated notes, or a film that is about a young woman trying to find her dog. Some viewers will miss the point of this and not enjoy the film. While it's true that there is very little background on the main character, the run time is short, and there is not a lot action, these are not the right questions. With minimalism, the question seems to be "How well can you express something with very limited resources?" The answer, as it pertains to "Wendy and Lucy," is phenomenally and heartwrenchingly well.
The storyline "A young homeless woman on her way from Indiana to Alaska loses her dog while passing through Oregon. She spends the rest of the movie trying to find it," could be the plot for a sappy Disney or Hallmark Channel movie. The genius of this movie is how remarkably un-sappy it comes across. Michelle Williams' portrayal of Wendy, a young member of the invisible underclass of society, left this well-fed and comfortably housed viewer thinking "Wow. I have no idea if this is what it's like to be homeless, but it absolutely could be." She catches a break in her search for Lucy and the movie ends in an unexpected way. Days later, I'm still wrestling with whether or not I agree with what she did, and if I would have done the same thing in her situation. Good films make you ask these sorts of questions.
Michelle Williams as Wendy is straightforward and sympathetic. Some reviewers complained that her unknown background or poor decisions make it difficult to like her. Others were turned off by the lack of affect the character possesses. I disagree. Wendy is deserving of sympathy if for no other reason than she is actively trying to improve her life by finding a job. When she needs money, she collects cans for the deposit. Even when she needs money a phone call, she offers the security guard change from her car seat for quarters rather than merely asking for money. Her decision to steal the dog food inevitably separates her from Lucy, but are those who would condemn her come across like the "Real Hero" teenage clerk who catches her. It's easy to condemn stealing in all instances - but life, as this movie so wonderfully illustrates, is comprised of nuanced shades of grey rather than the black and white we'd like it to be.
I was drawn to this movie after hearing about it on the Slate.com critic's "Best of 2008" list. Then I read that it was filmed in Portland, my home city, and my interest grew. When I read that it was filmed in North Portland, my old neighborhood, my anticipation ratcheted up to the level of "must see it in the theater." As it turned out, a good deal of this movie was filmed two blocks from where I used to live. Big deal, you say? I mention it only to note that the distraction of recognizing scenery and landmarks was probably the only thing that kept me from breaking down and sobbing at this painful exhibition of a young woman's life that must be spot-on for far too many people, and I'm not one who cries at many movies.
The only quibbles I have with "Wendy & Lucy" are the notion that it is set in a small Oregon town. Would a small town have a security guard outside a drug store, and a sizable homeless population? North Portland (specifically Lombard St. between I-5 and Portsmouth - the site of most of the locations) does have a yesteryear feel to it, but it is certainly not a "small town." Locals will also puzzle over why she went 15 miles south to Wilsonville on her way to Alaska and why she went to court in Washington county for an offense committed in Multnomah county, but these are minute gaffs that are probably present in every single movie due to the constraints of securing filming locations.
This film is highly recommended, but it absolutely is NOT the "Feel Good Movie of The Year." Also, with a run time of only 80 minutes, you may find yourself sad AND wondering what to do with the rest of the evening besides getting that sorrowful tune she hums out of your head.
The Dark Knight (2008)
Too many explosions, not enough Batman
Two hours after leaving the theater, I'm still not sure if I enjoyed The Dark Knight. It avoided coming across as overblown crap like the later "original "Batman movies did with Val Kilmer and George Clooney, so that was good. Heath Ledger as The Joker was entertaining to look at. I for one didn't miss the corny jokes that his character traditionally cracks. The make-up on Aaron Eckhart was superbly done and probably warranted a PG-13 rating in its own right.
Still, it felt more like a Die Hard movie without all the wisecracking: too many explosions, too much implausibility. It seems silly to pay money to see a movie about a billionaire who dresses up as a bat to defeat criminals and then complain that certain parts of it aren't believable, but the implausibility was too hard to ignore.
A lot of other reviewers have done an excellent job of cataloging the unbelievable moments, such as the suit that is vulnerable to dog bites but breaks falls from high buildings and The Joker being able to kill a guy with a pencil. For me, it was the larger problem of The Joker explaining that he likes creating chaos to strike fear in the hearts of "the planners" or something to that effect. It sounds like something a madman would say, and what is scarier than a madman who acts at random? The problem is, almost all of the Joker's evil deeds required an incredible amount of detailed planning and anticipating how the law enforcement would react, not to mention the amount of cooperation it would have taken to set up all the bombs in the buildings and boats.
That glaring contradiction made it a Not Quite Good film for me. Plus, even though it was really long, it seemed like Batman didn't do much except for get bitten by dogs and ride around on a crazy motorcycle that was part Transformer and part Tote Goat or some other contraption hunters use to haul dead animals back to camp. I think I managed to block out the part where the cell phones make Batman's eyes light up like he's in God mode in Doom II. That was just plain ridiculous. One other hang-up: it was hard not to think of No Country For Old Men every time there was a coin flip. Let's just say if you had to take a shot every time there was a coin flip, you'd be passed out with 30 minutes of movie left.
It wasn't a bad movie, especially factoring in that this is like the 6th Batman movie made in the last 20 years (how many other movies that are the 6th of anything could be considered remotely watchable?) Still, with all the hype, I thought that visually it would be on par with the Gothic look of Tim Burton's Batman. It wasn't.
My suggestion: see it in the theater, but make sure you aren't the one paying for your ticket (as I wasn't.) Your enjoyment of it will increase roughly 300% if you see it for free. Just don't give it ten stars on IMDb. It's not one of the 100 greatest movies or even 250 greatest movies. It's not even the greatest Batman movie.
Should be required viewing in film school for what doesn't work
If I had a cool fake last name and a semi-successful pseudo-metal band in the 90s, maybe I would be approached to direct a "retelling" of a horror classic to make a ton of money for the studio.
If I was, I would keep in mind all the elements that made Halloween '78 so popular and leave them exactly how they were, such as prolonged steady-cam shots to give the sense that of The Shape's point of view, a minimal but chilling soundtrack to add to the tension, a brave heroine who isn't a helpless idiot, and keeping the antagonist off screen for at least the first half of the movie to build the tension. This was the formula for all the "great" horror and suspense movies, such as Psycho, The Exorcist, Jaws, and the first Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street movies, and I would keep true to it in my Halloween remake.
The only things I would fix in my retelling would be little things that my larger budget would certainly allow. I would make the sets of Haddonfield, Illinois in October look less like Southern California in April. My actresses portraying teen-agers would not be in their late 20s or early 30s, and I would eliminate small holes in the plot like the opening scene of Michael's sister making out with her boyfriend upstairs for only 40 seconds before he leaves, and the sheriff responding to a break-in at the hardware store during normal business hours (usually, burglar alarms don't sound during shoplifting.) I would also pick a year that my remake was supposed to take place and stick to it. I wouldn't confuse the audience by having people with sort of retro fashions and hairstyles driving pristine cars from the 60s and 70s and kids on stingray bikes that haven't been seen in 25 years, but at the same time modern police cars and cell phones.
I understand Rob Zombie's temptation to answer questions that all of us have had about Michael Myers, such as why is he so intent on killing people and why does he insist on wearing a mask? The problem is, in answering the questions and telling about Michael's background, Michael becomes more human and therefore less scary. Even Zombie's choice of explanation is suspect. The audience expects a tormented kid from a crappy home to turn out disturbed, but a bad kid from a seemingly normal home seems a lot scarier, since it could happen to anyone. (Halloween '78 got this part right as well.) Not everything in this movie is completely inferior to the original, hence my rating of 4 stars. The sets look thousands times better than the original. The actresses seem more believable as teenagers than in the original, and we get to see a lot more of them. The new scene of Michael ripping up floorboards in his old house to get his mask and knife was pretty cool, too.
As for the rest of the movie, it is an interesting study in what truly comes across as suspenseful on a screen. Is a powerful, 6'8" antagonist scarier than one who appears and vanishes into the shadows? (probably not.) Does gratuitous gore and language actually distract from the suspense? (yes.) Does the inclusion of well known rock-songs for more than 5 seconds at a time really kill the mood? (absolutely, and it also interferes with the classic soundtrack. This was also a problem in Halloween 2.) Are dizzying, quick, MTV jump cuts scarrier than long, steady shots? (see for yourself and decide.) In a way, Rob Zombie had an impossible task of making a sequel (even if it was called remake or retelling) when everyone already knew about Michael and what was going to happen, thereby removing almost all of the suspense. However, that doesn't excuse leaving out the opening title sequence with a simple black background, pulsating theme music, and the off center, poorly-carved Jack O Lantern giving a sense of foreboding. I am almost certain there was a fantastic, eerie version of the classic 5/8 theme played on an out-of-tune honky tonk piano that was played in a trailer for Halloween '07. It would have worked perfectly for such an opening sequence, but sadly, it was omitted for the actual movie.
Don't expect a lot from this movie (like being scared or entertained) but if you watch it to study what truly works in horror movies and what doesn't, it is worthwhile viewing. When it comes to horror, less is more, since nothing is more powerful than the viewer's imagination.
Remember that, Rob.
Now THAT'S how you get revenge!
First things first: Oldboy isn't a movie for everyone. It probably isn't even a movie for most people. It likely would rate as one of the worst date movies of all time, and it isn't something you could comfortably watch with your parents. Children definitely shouldn't see this, nor should anyone without a high tolerance for cringe-inducing torture scenes.
Whom does that leave? People who aren't all that squeamish who place a premium on original presentations of ancient plots, in this case, Revenge. It is a foreign film, but I attributed the weirdness to originality rather than any cultural differences. Finally, I detest implausible movies. While the events in this movie seem highly improbable, I never felt like I was being jerked around by the director.
The plot in brief: After being imprisoned for 15 years without knowing why or by whom, Dae-su is let out just as abruptly. In a typical movie, he would meet a cute girl and the two of them would follow clues to track down the antagonist for the big showdown.
Here, he actually learns the identity of his captor fairly early on, but when he is given the opportunity to deal out his revenge that he's fantasized about for the past 15 years, he realizes he can't do it without learning the truth about why he was imprisoned, and so his captor remains untouched.
For the rest of the movie, Dae-su and the girl he's fallen for, Mi-do, eventually do piece together the truth, with the emphasis on why he was released rather than why he was imprisoned.
A lot of other comments have made reference to Count of Monte Cristo or Fight Club, but the movie I was reminded most of was Se7en, right down to the use of a box.
One last thing I liked about this movie is that it had one of the most believable one-on-many fight scenes in all of cinema. For once, the bad guys didn't fight the hero one at a time. At least, most of the time they didn't.
Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Twelve Modern-Day Reactions As I Watched This Film:
If you're like me, you watched this movie knowing only that it is the only X-Rated film to win an Oscar for best picture and that a lot of cinema buffs consider it to be somewhere from "pretty good" to "a masterpiece." Keeping in mind this movie is older than I am, here are my reactions to this film after seeing it:
1) Hey! It's that song that's on the Oldies station from time to time.
2) Wow, John Voight really DOES look like Angelina Jolie.
3) Damn! I can't get that episode of Seinfeld out of my head where George buys a car thinking it belonged to John Voight.
4) Did Lou Reed write "Walk On The Wild Side" after seeing this movie?
5) That Kramer vs. Kramer guy has to be 5'4" at most! I heard he was short, but he looks like a jockey next to John Voight.
6) I guess the MPAA had been around for like, 2 years when this film received an X rating, and taking the X rating literally (and before realizing that it hadn't yet become associated exclusively with porn), I guess this isn't really a film you'd necessarily want kids to see, but HOLY HELL! Viewed 40 years later, this sure seems like when censors used to freak out about the "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" line in "Gone With The Wind."
7) What rating would the Die Hard movies get if they were released in the 60s?
8) How come John Voight is living in squalor but he is always clean shaven and Ratso isn't?
9) Why do I keep thinking this movie is called "Drugstore Cowboy?"
10) I kind of like how this director uses a lot of allusion to explain Joe Buck's motivation rather than having the character tell a story.
11) What the hell was up with that party?
12)What a depressing ending! It was realistic, and we all know what kind of emotion that means.
There you have it. Was it worthy of an X rating then? Probably not. Does it stand up over time? For the most part. Loneliness makes people do weird things in any era. That part hasn't changed a bit. The whole premise of a naive Texan moving to New York to become a gigolo seems a little far fetched today. Is it a good movie? You betcha. Just don't watch it with people who are easily saddened. It's kind of a downer.