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One of the worst efforts ever
A truly depressing piece of dreck, this live action version of the Christmas classic fails on so many levels it's almost funny. (And those are the only laughs you'll get out of this.) It's a shame the movie studios all closed down their TV movie units in the 80s because TV movies need all the help they can get.
All those modern, "hip" touches are rife with jokes that soar over the kid's heads, but sadly not the adults. The humor is, befitting the times, crude and boorish and the story is lame. Bad acting, contrived sentimental situations and flat photography all contribute to a bad time had by all. The heads at NBC must have been high on cough syrup to even think this looked like it would be any good.
Shove this one in the vault and never let it see the light of day again.
La chatte à deux têtes (2002)
This film runs on for much too long and is not for the faint of heart. I'm not referring to some of the sexual acts between the men but the half naked or fully naked transvestites who caused my skin to creep. The goings on at this theatre become repetitive and despite some touches about contemporary French society, it remains a movie that doesn't really have a point. "Weird things can happen in a porno theatre"; I think we already knew that. This was hardly an expose of "Peyton Place" type proportions. The lives of the three people talking outside the theatre was interesting but even those characters really weren't developed enough and basically boiled down to an older man lusting after a young straight guy. If you overlook this film, trust me, you'll lead a long and happy life and not feel you've missed anything.
When Boys Fly (2002)
Valley of the Dudes
Everybody has an opinion about the whole Circuit Party craze, but often the films about the subject are basically made by a bunch of apologists. Apparently, none of these guys are able to really find community unless it's accompanied by drugs and sex. Oh, and being white and having a great body doesn't hurt either. This documentary (which at times seems a bit forced) aspires to be hard hitting, but it's yet another version of "Valley of the Dolls."
This documentary is mercifully short and concise. I am ambivalent about some of the characters. People like Brandon seem like a nice guy, but the documentary strives to make him look like an outsider when, with his looks and body, he's already rather clearly an object of desire. (All the forced shots of him eating alone while gazing upon the gay guys at another table and of him painting in a field are supposed to emphasize his "outside looking in" status but end up looking artificial. We KNOW the camera is there, and we know he is the subject so it's hardly a revealing shot of some candid moments.) His conversion to the circuit scene happens rather quickly although he does come across to me as the smartest of the group.
The less said about Jon and Todd the better. The filmmakers telegraphed the denouement of their relationship so far in advance that we knew exactly what would happen. How each man handled what happened was the real surprise. I found myself hoping Jon is doing well.
And then there's Tone, whom we are supposed to see as the tragic character, but instead he's incredibly annoying. Nothing about him seems real, every moment he is mugging for the camera (there is a scene with him trying to be funny while eating an apple that comes off as bizarre and very forced.) Tone is really nothing more than a real life Neely O'Hara, at least as the film wants us to believe. I wouldn't doubt that he got into a wig pulling fight with Susan Hayward in the lavatory.
No need to see this and Circuit, see one or the other. This documentary really has nothing new to say.
Final Examination (2003)
Artisan really cheats with this movie by labelling it as a thriller/horror. As many have stated, it's just soft-soft core. The acting is abysmal, the story goes nowhere, the deaths are clumsily choreographed and well, all in all, it's a big pile of nothing. From the car chase scenes in the opening, it's apparent that this film had some sort of budget but it's never properly used. The women who are supposed to be the hot ones are rather nasty about the face, they are completely made of plastic and couldn't act their way out of a paper bag. Neither can the two leads, Huff and Wuhrer. Huff has a wooden delivery and doesn't even seem to want to kiss the women he has scenes with (and who would want to? He could get plastic poisoning) and Wuhrer's voice is almost completely shot. She can't even pronounce some words as they are out of her range. (Listen for her phone conversation when she can't say the word "suicide.")
This is a terrible movie. It has no redeeming values and deserves to gather dust on a shelf. If you want a great sorority girls thriller, rent Black Christmas instead.
Danny in the Sky (2001)
To market this as a gay film is insulting. The main character is not gay. There is nothing in Danny's behavior that marks him for gay. He pursues women the entire movie, finally ending up with one of the most annoying women in the movie. One wants to knock that ever-present camera right out of her hands.
The movie itself is so-so. None of the characters are especially likable and the bitter dad looks almost as hunky as his onscreen son.
This movie is a world of men who dress in ridiculous effete clothing and try and act studly. not really worth more than a look at the main character who is truly beautiful.
Une robe d'été (1996)
Yet another film that tries to be edgy but only reinforces the whole "heterosexuality is more normal and desirable than being gay." I love the films that are "gay-themed" but seem to always have to include scenes of gay guys having sex with women. This seems to be a European thing, the whole "we are so much more liberated." Feh.
The main character is not a particularly likable kid, his annoyance at the beginning with his friend's singing and dancing seems extremely out of proportion. Most guys would be very, very happy to have a man as gorgeous as Sebastien Charles dancing in front of them. But of course this is only so we can get him to go to the beach and have his little fling. The gay side of the film is stereotyped with shallowness and unhappiness. The straight fling results in a sappy score and Summer of '42 like musings. (And to those who find this film "romantic" ... what's so romantic about running off and having sex with somebody you've just met? Does their being straight make it that much more romantic?)
This is not a great short. It's backwards and somewhere along the self-loathing of Tennessee Williams. Throw it on the trash heap.
The Real Cancun (2003)
This movie (and I use the term loosely) is utterly pointless. Instead of an entertaining romp, the filmmakers have given us the longest parental advisory of all time. I am sure the families of these kids are pretty darn embarrassed (especially the parents of the twins Brittany and Roxanne ... I wouldn't be surprised if their folks took them out of college and forced them into a convent.) The situations are contrived and don't even seem real (guy comes to spring break in his glasses and never having touched alcohol and does one shot, and blammy! He's a man for the ages.) There is a young women named Sky who is very dull and only gives long "what are you talking about?" looks while we endure the most boring flirtation of all time. There are the cookie-cutter blonde girls whom you can't even tell apart who only seem interested in sex and wear cheap eye shadow (and one of them actually says, "I thought you were different.") The guys are supposed to be studly, but are just wretched (one of them clearly tweezes and shapes his eyebrows) and don't get me started on the guy who is an aspiring model; he comes across as one of the most disgusting of them all. Instead of being light-hearted, this is a depressing movie to be avoided at all costs.
The Haunting (1963)
Terror pure and simple
A friend and I watched this on Halloween night when I was 24. I was terrified to turn out the light for the next three weeks. Part of me wonders why I should have been so scared, after all in "The Haunting" you never see a ghost, there is no blood and gore, no demons lurk waiting to scare you. And that's precisely why the movie is so scary. Robert Wise uses camera angles, sound effects and music to create one of the most terrifying movies of all time. The actors are all great. Julie Harris turns in a great performance as the narcissistic Eleanor, who feels the house is talking to her. Claire Bloom is radiant as the charismatic Theo, and Russ Tamblyn is fun as the token skeptic in the group.
One of the most terrifying scenes in the film is the infamous scene when Eleanor and Theo are trapped in their rooms listening to the loud knocking at the door and are too terrified to move. It's a very frightening scene and one that will make you lock your door every night.
Watch this one alone, in the dark if you want a truly nightmarish time.
All That Heaven Allows (1955)
Far from Heaven
From the opening shots of a small (presumably a New England setting, although I am not sure where this was actually filmed) town during fall, to the bright blue car that pulls up to Jane Wyamn's home, to Agnes Morehead's head turning shade of lipstick, you know that "All That Heaven Allows" is firmly rooted in the 1950s. It's nice to see Douglas Sirk getting the critical appreciation he deserves (most recently with the full length Sirk homage "Far from Heaven".) This film is gorgeously photographed (pay attention to the scene where Wyman and daughter confer in the light of the stained glass window) and well told. While this film can hardly be called a "hard hitting" look at 1950s society at first glance, the more you watch it, the more the subversiveness comes through. One of the most telling moments is the conversation between Jane Wyman and the wife of Rock Hudson's friend who talks about realizing how caught up she and her husband were in material trappings and how they opted out of that lifestyle. This conversation (and indeed this film) is just as resonant and important today where materialism is rampant and the longings underneath the surface are never explored.
Rock Hudson is fine as Jane Wyman's landscaper/love interest. He's an incredibly good-looking man and is the recipient of one the film's funniest lines when Wyman asks him "Would you prefer I was a man?" Of course, this line is only funny in hindsight now that we know what we do about Hudson's life. Agnes Morehead (pre-Endora) is also very good as Wyman's best friend.
As somebody who was only familiar with Jane Wyman from her work as the devious Angela Channing on "Falcon Crest" (a role she truly must have relished), it is nice to see her playing much more sympathetic characters in her heyday. The eeriest thing is that despite a few wrinkles as she got older, Wyman always looked the same. Wyman is very good in this film as she vascillates between the financial stability of the upper crust and the emotional satisfaction of life with Hudson. I highly recommend this film, and cant say enough good things about it. If you're not a fan of soap opera melodrama, you may want to stay away, but it's your loss as this is a gorgeous film that deserves the respect years of scrutiny have given it.
Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Underappreciated and overlooked
Right from the stunning (hand drawn!) opening sweep of a verdant riverbank on a lazy summer's day, "Alice in Wonderland" is one of the most beautifully animated of the Disney films of the 1950s. Unfortunately, this film has always been one of the most maligned in the Disney canon.
Many books on the subject of Disney's animated films will often only devote a paragraph or two to the film, and in that short paragraph it will invariably mention how "Alice" was a financial flop, how Walt Disney himself wasn't very fond of it, how it's a chilly film. I don't find this film chilly, I find it refreshingly free of sentiment or cliche that can often weigh down other Disney films.
To start with, we have Alice. Unlike Cinderella or Snow White, Alice has a lot of personality. Who among us hasn't been very frustrated that Cinderella just took all the abuse from her stepmother and sisters and was powerless? Alice, on the other hand, is not one of the "shy little violets" and operates on more than just one emotion; she gets mad, befuddled, disgusted, amused, angry and, best of all, she stands up to adults (how odd for the 50's) and tells them when they are being ridiculous. This film has a subversiveness that may have been unintentional in showing how the world of adults, with its rules and logic, can be purely nonsense and that a child can be the only sane person in the lot. (To be fair, this sentiment is in keeping with Lewis Carroll's original books.)
Alice is beautifully voiced by Kathryn Beaumont (who did a similarly excellent job as the voice of Wendy in "Peter Pan" a few years after.) The real appeal of Alice here is that unlike many other Disney heroines,Kathryn Beaumont was a young girl when she recorded the voice and therefore, Alice looks and sounds like a girl of a certain age. Contrast that to Mary Costa's voice and the animated figure of Sleeping Beauty who looks as if she could be a 1950s pinup model despite only being 16.
The story itself is a wild trip through an ever shifting dreamscape most notable for the wild color schemes that anticipate the 1960's motifs. This is not implying that "Alice in Wonderland" is one big drug reference; it is not. Many people who worked on this film have commented that it felt like the film was getting away from them, that the characters took on lives of their own. This is evident as the film just gets wilder and wilder as it goes on with the introductions of the most bizarre and colorful characters Disney ever brought to life.
The only real flaws in the film include a scene when Alice breaks down and berates herself for never following her own advice, this moment stops the film cold in the middle of what has been a non-stop thrill ride. The extremely abrupt ending of the film is a very strange choice. I think even an extra 20-30 seconds between Alice and her sister at the conclusion of the film would have made the film a little stronger.
Bumping Heads (2002)
I was looking forward to this short as I had really enjoyed Brian Sloan's "I Think I Do" from 1997. Unfortunately, this story really doesn't go anywhere and isn't that great. First off, the appeal of the character played by Gabrych eludes me. He's not particularly charming or appealing, just rather shallow and dumb. As a result, Craig Chester's character looks even more ridiculous for pining over somebody so vacuous. And there's the matter of why Chester was going to throw a punch.
It's too bad that society is trained to think that people like Gabrych's character are so cute and desirable, when it's Chester who, with the nice mature look and handsomely lined face (god, I hope he doesn't get offended by that) who really should be the object of desire.
I hope this short doesn't get turned into a feature because it's nowhere near enjoyable enough for that treatment.