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A Robert Altman film..."you know, for the kids"
13 September 2005
By far the most wacked-out teen comedy of all time, this bizarre Robert Altman nugget was adapted from a single issue of National Lampoon magazine, the 1982 "Utterly Monstrous, Mind-Roasting Summer of O.C. and Stiggs" special. The plot is simple: O.C. and Stiggs are two bored, horny, Arizona high schoolers who find immense satisfaction in tormenting the Schwab family (the patriarch is fabulously portrayed by Altman regular Paul Dooley). Over summer vacation, they canoe to Mexico, buy a machine gun from Dennis Hopper, organize a King Sunny Ade concert, and try to woo Cynthia Nixon. There's no sentimentality in this film whatsoever. The two leads are unlikable, homophobic morons, but it still adds up into a remarkably funny endeavor. If you're not in the mood for something with a profound statement to make and enjoy laughing at bizarre non-sequiturs, give this film a try.
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It's, err, an experience...
11 August 2005
Mind-imploding cinematic disaster from Twentieth-Century Fox pairs archival World War II footage and Fox films from (primarily) the same period along with "choice" Beatles covers. It's sort of like THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT! gone terribly wrong. Did people think that this film would have some sort of educational purpose? Maybe a Fox executive thought this would fill in the void for Beatles fans desperate for the band to reunite? Some of the stock footage is quite interesting, like Japanese-American owned businesses disguising their ethnicity and footage of James Stewart enlisting. So too is a look at some of the fictitious films Fox made in response to the war (in one clip, a woman hears news of Pearl Harbor on the radio and says, "Oh, it must be Orson Welles!"). But most of the music is pretty awful, and cuing "The Fool on the Hill" and "Nowhere Man" with Hitler and Mussolini respectively can't take the place of a scholarly exploration of the subject.
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Privilege (1967)
Sadly neglected prime slice of English film-making
8 June 2005
Peter Watkins-directed mockumentary about a pop star whose fame is engineered by the government. Paul Jones gives a wonderful performance as Steven Shorter, possibly the most famous man in Great Britain. We watch his daily exploits as he's followed by a documentary crew that also narrates. Although Shorter is clearly in the vein of a "mod" from the mid-1960's, the film has aged quite well. The original songs are great ("Privilege(Set Me Free)" was covered by Patti Smith in 1978) and the scenes of Shorter leading a fascist-like rally are still eerie (perhaps an influence on the film PINK FLOYD THE WALL?). Another great scene deals with Shorter being conscripted into writing a Catholic rock song, which anticipates how the organized Christianity of today tries to use rock as a way of converting people. Definitely worth watching. Hopefully it will finally get a proper home video release.
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hilarious but also very touching
14 April 2005
I had heard of the band Half Japanese before seeing this film in the out-of-print Spin Alternative Record Guide, but nothing written about them could prepare me for this amazing documentary. Picture this: two brothers from Ohio get the bug to start a band. Neither Jad or David Fair has any clue as to how to play their instruments, but in 1980, they ink a deal to release a three-LP debut box set from an English label. Over the next ten years, Half Japanese earns enormous accolades, especially among other musicians, ironically. I can't think of how anybody could possibly watch this film all the way through and not come to endear Jad Fair. The best scenes are the interviews with Jad and David's parents ("Our house is the birthplace of punk rock") and a staged interlude where the two brothers explain where why they started writing songs about ghosts and dead pirates. You owe it to yourself to see this movie.
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One of the finest films of the decade thus far
2 March 2005
one of the most unfairly maligned films ever made. Tom Green's style of humor is gross and infantile, but I've always loved it. He just loves to offend the morals of the common man, and watch people reach their breaking points; this, essentially is the whole purpose of this film, but with we the audience being the target.

What's really great about this movie is the depth of the world Green's character Gordy lives in. Everything he comes across, including animals, becomes a toy of destruction and sickness. But the results are often hilarious. This film has no boundaries to speak of. It's like an Impressionist painting blown up to real-life.

There's many wonderful scenes, but the one that stands out for me takes place in a restaurant towards the center of the film. It's a wonderful jab at conformity and is executed with almost balletic precision.
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good, but could have been much better
14 February 2005
The first film to be adapted from a Martin Amis novel, this cute film stars Dexter Fletcher as Charles Highway, a super-suave young man studying for his Oxford entrance exams. At a nightclub, he spots Rachel Noyce, played by Ione Skye, and he spends the majority of the film trying to pry her away from her beau. The main problem with this film is that Highway is played too much like Ferris Bueller-he even monologues directly to the camera. The novel's very bleak ending was toned down a bit, and the title is a little misleading, as all of his "female papers" are actually composed on a computer in the film. Jonathan Pryce is hilarious in his fleeting scenes.
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a near-flawless adaptation
12 January 2005
The first of two Jim Thompson adaptations released in 1990 (the other being the more well-known GRIFTERS), AFTER DARK has all of Thompson's hallmarks: dangerous women, the confidence game, and characters that are either not as dim as others suspect them of being, or not as harmless.

Jason Patric is superb as a former boxer disqualified from the sport for life due to an incident in the ring (director James Foley uses RAGING BULL-esquire sequences to flesh out the back story) and the too-little-seen Rachel Ward also delivers a great performance. But Bruce Dern is the film's secret weapon: his sweet-talking grifter Uncle Bud subtly commands each of his scenes.

there's almost no comic relief in this film, so watch it prepared to be sucked into the void.
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Miracle Mile (1988)
Totally enthralling
5 January 2005
Brilliant, highly overlooked gem starring Anthony Edwards as a swing trombonist who discovers that Southern California is going to be decimated by nuclear missiles. It predates NICK OF TIME with its innovative use of real-time (although there are a few minor shortcuts here and there). It manages to be terrifying in its urgency and hilarious with the way various characters react to the impending catastrophe. It's all the more impressive given its modest $3 million budget. If it has any faults, it's that the relationship between Anthony Edwards and Mare Winningham seems forced (watch the trailer for glimpses of a number of excised scenes). Oh, and that Tangerine Dream score is very sweet.
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I.K.U. (2000)
Embarrassing waste of time
31 October 2004
This film got a bit of attention in the press when it was the first porn to ever be screened at Sundance. It was hyped as "erotic entertainment of the future"; an adult film made with a geek sensibility. Ultimately, it comes across as being pretentious, boring, and most importantly, completely devoid of sexual heat. There's supposedly a plot involving the evil operator of a virtual reality habitat that provides sex for anyone that "jacks in" (pun intended). But, you have to read the supplemental material on the DVD to get a sense of it. It's an embarrassingly cheap looking future, littered with BLADE RUNNER references and knock-off Wendy Carlos music ( cued when sub-par dance music from the mid-90's isn't being played). The sex scenes involving penis to vagina contact are all blurred; understandable for a Japanese release, completely unacceptable for a U.S. DVD. Don't even bother renting this movie.
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Kamikaze 89 (1982)
A bizarre journey into the far, far future
4 October 2004
1989, to be precise. As imagined by Germans in 1982. Germany has become the world's foremost economic superpower, suicide is a thing of the past, and everyone does drugs, except there are no nasty side effects anymore. An overweight Rainer Werner Fassbinder mostly scowls his way through a quest to find out who's behind a series of murders that may be linked to a new resistance group. Or something like that. The plot seems secondary to the outrageous costumes (Fassbinder wears leopard tights throughout the whole film) and scenarios (like a police discotheque where you can shoot on firing ranges). It's an ugly film, and a stupid one, too, but it is perversely fascinating, and worth watching once, if only to impress your friends.
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Freaked (1993)
Best, most original comedy I've seen in ages
30 September 2004
It's a very punk rock sort of film, not unlike something Alex Cox would cook up. This film is essentially an environmentally-themed comedy along the lines of THE APPLEGATES, only this movie is about toxic chemicals and not deforestation (and there is a nice bit about styrofoam). But watching this film made me a bit sad as well, because I realized that Hollywood isn't going to give people the carte blanche needed to realize unique projects like this again during this age of endless remakes and sequels to films nobody liked in the first place.

The digital effects, although over 11 years old as I write this, still look great, and the make-up, especially close to the end, is very inspired, and resembles a live-action Basil Wolverton cartoon. I am eagerly anticipating the DVD, as well as watching Alex Winter's follow-up film, FEVER.
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Strangely affecting
27 September 2004
After watching this film, I wondered if Anthony Newley thought that this would be his sole chance to direct a major film (which turned out to be true), so he decided togo on a binge with every idea he had at that point . It's in equal parts a mockumentary, a musical, and an homage to Tex Avery cartoons. Newley is the ringleader, Hieronymus Merkin, and he invites us to watch his carnal accomplishments and rise as a singer.

This movie features some fascinating production and costume design, and the beach sets are very unique. The jokes often hit sour notes, but the enthusiasm is contagious. I mean, really, what's better than seeing Joan Collins portray a character named " Polyester Poontang"? If you ever come across this movie, give it a chance.

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"Die you bastard!"
5 September 2004
Highly amusing adolescent "Ghostbusters" with wonderfully corny digital effects (even for the mid-90's, the stuff here looks outdated). Inspired by the Japanese urban legend of "Hanako", a girl that supposedly committed suicide in a school lavatory stall, this film deals with a band of kids that venture inside of the haunted wing of their school that has been closed for ages. If you have an open mind, and are willing to not take this film very seriously, you'll be immensely satisfied. I've only seen a second or third generation VHS that I got from a local video store. If there's a clean DVD out there, I'd love to know about it.
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Hilarious and Surreal
16 August 2004
Based on Kurt Vonnegut's off-Broadway play, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, WANDA JUNE,

is essentially about Susannah York's character Penelope Ryan and the

men that dominate her life, including a phenomenal Rod Steiger as ultra-

macho big game hunter Harold. The story also occasionally jumps to

heaven (yes, really), where Wanda June, the victim of a drunk driving

incident, plays shuffleboard for all eternity. This excellent film has

sadly never been available on video or DVD. I've only seen it on a

bootleg DVD made from a TBS broadcast in the late 80's (with some of

the language censored).
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Ringu (1998)
Dull and pointless
9 August 2004
Sad excuse for a horror film that deals with a "possessed" video tape that kills people soon after they watch it. It's illogical, boring, and has no real comment to make. As other people have said, it bears a similarity to the far superior movie VIDEODROME. I've never seen the American, Korean, or Japanese TV remakes and I don't particularly want to. I'm a big fan of Asian cinema, but I have yet to be truly terrified by an Asian horror film. Maybe it's because I'm more a fan of TWILIGHT ZONE-like stories that question our morals and the way we live our lives.
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Like a David Lynch film (no, that's not a good thing)
15 April 2004
This p***-poor excuse for an animated film has almost no discernible plot or characters you can make heads or tails or out (pun intended). It's supposed to be some sort of tongue-in-cheek comment on 21st century life, but your guess as to what it means is as good as mine. On top of that, the obviously computerized portions look amateurish. The sole bright spot is a pretty hummable soundtrack. Avoid this pretentious, silly mess of a film.

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Wildly original and very funny
31 March 2004
Second film from cult director Michael Lehmann follows exploits of a beetle family that migrates to Ohio under the guise of Disneyeana leftovers. While there, each family member falls under the spell of human idiocy which jeopardizes their plan to create another Chernobyl. Very witty throughout, and the ecological message doesn't become preachy (remember when there were more films that dealt with deforestation like "Ferngully"?). Stockard Channing in particular is a hoot. Ending is definitely a bit on the soft side, but this is still a very good film...
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Gift (1993 Video)
very interesting video
22 February 2004
During the early 90's, Jane's Addiction/Porno for Pyros vocalist Perry Farrell and his then-wife Casey Niccoli worked on a cinematic project that would feature his band Jane's Addiction and also explore their own relationship. Although the movie definitely has a "made for video" look to it, the contents within are pretty interesting. There's documentary footage of Jane's Addiction's phenomenal live shows, and of Perry and Casey getting married in a Santeria ceremony. The fictional footage of Casey dying of a heroin overdose is very disturbing, considering that she and Perry, not to mention Eric Avery and Dave Navarro, all had problems with narcotics. Watch out for Harry Perry, a Venice Beach musician who plays a wicked guitar while rollerskating in a turban.
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I wish films these days were this fun and inventive
22 February 2004
Richard Lester's spellbinding look at mid-60's England told from the perspective of three mods. Blatantly un-PC and defiantly unique, this film is a brilliant burst of happiness. Rita Tushingham is the quintessential British actress: cheeky, uninhibited, and always one step ahead of her male counterparts. Go watch this film!
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Whipped (2000)
hilarious look at the way men really operate
21 February 2004
"Whipped" is the story of a couple of average guys who ritualistically get together and discuss their latest hangups with women. I watched this film with very low expectations, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I got into it. Amanda Peet is the angle this movie was sold on, but I didn't think she was as interesting as the guys themselves, whose late-night conversations are absolutely brilliant. Definitely see this movie.
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good movie for people with good senses of humor
21 February 2004
I saw this wonderful movie during its theatrical release, and everyone in the small theatre, including myself and my mother, loved just about every scene. Watch it with an open mind and you'll be very pleased. Joe Pesci, Kristy Swanson, and especially Ernestine Mercer, are absolutely hilarious. Even David Spade doesn't completely suck! Nice surreal touches as well.
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as dry and predictable as a real lounge act
7 October 2003
This film is little more than a soap opera crossed with by-the-numbers "feel good movie" trappings (like the precocious girl who's more mature than the grown-ups and the dog that occupies a big screen time slice). It's a needlessly long movie as well, and this is also a major detriment. All in all, if you're looking for an enjoyable two hours, don't pick this title up.
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No gratuitous songs, no kid-friendly voices, and no pop-culture references. I love it!
26 September 2003
Beginning, as all films really should, with John Huston narration, which fills us in on the titular object, Disney's "Black Cauldron" was a noble experiment that mostly clicks. In the 1980's, there was a glut of films aimed for child audiences that were not patronizing, like "Twice Upon a Time", "Rock & Rule" and "Pogo for President", and "Cauldron" sought to do the same thing. "Black Cauldron" is a strange, paranoid film that's definitely unnerving at times. An almost unrecognizable John Hurt voices the Horned King, easily one of the greatest cinematic villains ever. I am familiar with the Chronicles of Prydain, and while some major characters don't appear, those that do stick closely to what Lloyd Alexander originally intended for them.As a stand-alone film, it's very entertaining and re-watchable. Go check out the DVD, which is unfortunately not the long dreamt-of "director's cut" of the film, which is still in the Disney vaults for the time being.
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Had to stop it halfway through
8 September 2003
More ludicrous, unoriginal swill in the Tarantino vein. Crooked sergeant Oldman moonlights as a hitman until (shocker!) his luck runs out. Hasn't aged well at all, and the dialogue is terrible. Lots o' boobs and butts, of course. It's hard to believe that the screenplay was the subject of numerous tug-of-wars in the early 90's.
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Valley Girl (1983)
A comedy with few laughs
14 August 2003
I was very disappointed when I saw this film for the first time recently. I'd seen the trailer a number of times at a local art house theatre that showed it in a midnight movie slot, and I was intrigued by it. But, besides the immortal soundtrack, this movie really doesn't have much going for it. Nic Cage mostly stands around looking like a doofus (which he does in a number of other roles), while the other actors try to make the best of a dull script. Go for THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN or THE SURE THING instead.
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