Friday, July 26, 2002

Eight Legged Freaks (2002)

Giant leaping spiders eating everything, Kari Wurher wielding a shotgun, spiders exploding into goop and Scarlett Johannson in a towel -- now THIS is my idea of a dumb-fun summer movie! (Even if the Evil Capitalist Goon doesn't die.)

Grade: B

Thursday, July 25, 2002

Herschell Gordon Lewis "Month" continues with The Gruesome Twosome (1967)

One of seven (!) films HG directed in 1967, this one gets closest to what makes the "Blood Trilogy" such a hoot: goofy, over-the-top gore, inconsequential plot, hysterical dialogue and brow-furrowingly bizarre bursts of humor. In particular, there's a long sequence set in a drive-in which alternates between two couples in a car and clips from the on-screen movie... and the movie clips are one of the damndest things anyone's ever dreamed up, a parody of art films where an unseen woman tries to proclaim her love to an unseen man whilst the unseen man proclaims his love for food on a picnic table. That's worth the price of a rental right there. The insane granny is pretty amusing too, making pseudo-philisophical proclamations and then consulting her pet stuffed leopard (!!) as to their veracity. (By the end of the film, I was hollering "Right, Napoleon????" and cackling like a lunatic every time anyone so much as finished a sentence.) The main character in the film, unfortunately, is an annoying, nosy twit going out with a monumentally insensitve prick. So whenever the film goes back to them (which is way too often), it gets dreary. But you shouldn't miss the side business (or the goofy gore) for anything.

Grade: C+
Land Raiders (1969)

Surprisingly tough-minded Western, and also surprisingly good considering its mediocre reputation. Nice use of parallelism and cross-cutting. Telly Savalas is just super-cool, in my opinion. It's a B-Western through and through, but you could do much worse.

Grade: B
Vampires: Los Muertos (2002)

If you saw John Carpenter's Vampires and found yourself thinking, "You know, James Woods is neat and all, but this movie would be SO much cooler if that were Jon Bon Jovi up there"... well, here you go. Enjoy, fuckos. The rest of us will steer clear, thanks. Nice to see Diego Luna (from Y Tu Mama Tambien) getting some Hollywood work, though. Natasha Gregson Wagner is now on my short list of actresses who can ruin any film just by being in it -- her lack of talent is breathtaking.

Grade: D+
Kill, Baby... Kill! (1966)

Acclaimed ghost story is oft-cited as one of the crowning acheivements in Italian director Mario Bava's career. It's atmospheric and well-shot... but then, what Bava film isn't? The problem with this is that, despite Bava's bag of cinematographic tricks, this thing's pretty damn inert. It just sort of lies there when it should be, I dunno, scaring the hell out of me. There's one cool scene where the hero can't leave a room, but beyond that it's thumb-twiddling hokum all around.

Grade: C
New Best Friend (2002)

Okay, I'll admit it -- I rented this only because I knew there was a possibility that I might see Dominique Swain's boobies. I can happily report that, in that capacity, I was not disappointed. (Let's hear it for gratuitous lesbian scenes!) But damn. I suppose the rest of this film counts as doing penance for my venal, sinful thoughts. It can't even muster up the idiotic, reptile-brain entertainment of The In Crowd. A film that isn't even as good as The In Crowd -- I think that tells you all you need to know. (Still... let's hear it again for gratuitous lesbian scenes!)

Grade: D+

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

The Man Who Cried (2001)

Rather than a proper review, I have decided to illustrate the depth of my feelings for this film by giving you a detailed account of my activities during the film's running time. Enjoy this peek into my very exciting life!

0:00 (start) -- Watched opening credits roll.
0:01 -- Got bored.
0:05 -- Reminded by presence of Christina Ricci of a connect-the-stars challenge I had set for myself the other night: Denzel Washington to Ricci in two steps. Started mulling that over.
0:23 -- Got frustrated by my inability to figure out the connection, consulted my VideoHound guide.
0:24 -- Nearly kicked myself when I realized the answer: Denzel Washington was in He Got Game with John Turturro, who starred with Christina Ricci in... The Man Who Cried.
0:29 -- Saw Harry Dean Stanton in a small role. Rejoiced.
0:30 -- Got bored again, picked up Drew Carey's book Dirty Jokes and Beer and began to reread the "Dirty Jokes" section.
0:45 -- Still reading.
0:52 -- Sex scene with Christina Ricci and Johnny Depp. No nudity.
1:16 -- Reached the "101 Big-Dick Jokes" chapter. Decided that would be way more interesting than the film I was only sorta paying attention to anyway and turned off the DVD.

Grade: none
When Strangers Appear (2001)

Occasionally effective and thrilling but muddled like Ronald Reagan's memory.

Grade: C
The DSL is FIXED!

Reign of Fire (2002)

Look, I know summer films aren't really supposed to be logical or anything, but there's only so much stretching that one's disbelief can do. And if you can get to the point where you can accept [SPOILER WARNING, Y'ALL] that an animal species can become dominant and number in the thousands with no more than one male in the entire population, and in fact seems to be genetically engineered to never ever breed another male, not even if the first male should somehow die (not even if he should die of old age!).... well, then you get the summer movie that you deserve. Looks nice, but geez.

Grade: C

Monday, July 22, 2002

That's right, motherfuckers... I'M BACK! In a sense, at least... still haven't fixed my DSL problem *grumble grumble*, but I do have a working dial-up connection. So that's something. And Jesus, do I have a backlog to work off. Problem is, it's mostly films I wasn't too enthused about to begin with and really couldn't give a flying shit about right now. So I'll likely be off my game for a bit. Bear with me.

But before we get to old dumb crap, let's have something new, shall we?

Road to Perdition (2002)

A fine film, indeed -- beautifully crafted, well-directed, well-acted, well-shot... well-done in most every department, really. With the incredible wealth of talent in front of and behind the camera, did anyone expect anything different to occur? But come on everyone... let's hold the hossanahs in check a bit. It's a good film, but it wants to be a great film so badly that it tears a back muscle and has to crawl around on the ground while waiting for someone to help it up and get it to the nearest mattress for rest and recuperation. (I think I may have stretched that metaphor a bit further than it was supposed to go.) What's missing from this otherwise-flawless film is a sense of importance or grandeur, a kind of epic scope. That's not to say they don't try to force it, but the film is essentially a small and intimate story. When a small story is artificially inflated to seem important, it can result in (among other things) an exaggerated sense of audience manipulation. Or, to be blunt, it's as plain and unwieldy a button-pushing piece of entertainment as any of Spielberg's less impressive efforts, especially in terms of the film's central father-son relationship. Jude Law and Tom Hanks (who makes for a surprisingly good curmudgeon) manage to keep the treacle at bay for as long as they can, but they can't do anything about the ho-hum coda. (Thomas Newman's score, which alternately rips off his own score from American Beauty and the lousier impulses of John Williams, doesn't really help.) Okay, now that I've vented.... it's still way better than most summer movies and probably most movies in general. It's just not as good as it thinks it is.

Grade: B
Herschell Gordon Lewis "Month" continues with Something Weird (1967)

Out of all the films he coulda picked, Mike Vraney named his video company after THIS? I'm afraid all the comments I have about this one come in the form of cheap shots about the title and how it could be made more appropriate (e.g. Something Endless, Something Dreadful, Something Really Fucking Stupid). No insight today. Delivery tomorrow. Come back then.

Grade: D
Extramarital (1997)

Not the best film to watch after the semi-entertainment of Blowback -- it's a drama with no dramatic value, a thriller with no thrills, a whodunnit where it's baldy obvious who done it and a titty flick with precious few tits. It's really the kind of film you have on while you're reading or doing homework or something, background noise which you can check on every fifteen minutes or so to ascertain that something might still be happening. Traci Lords proves for the umpteenth time that she can't summon up any emotions when there's no dick in her cooch, but it is rather amusing to see her in the world's first softcore scene that, thanks to Traci's post-porn stance on nudity, provides no clear shots of the female's happy bits. Jeff Fahey's Southern-fried accent is pretty amusing, though.

Grade: D-
Blowback (1999)

Fairly generic suspenser about a grisly serial killer. Mario van Peebles does his thing, James Remar does his thing (quite well, I might add), everybody gets paid and goes home. There is, however, the occasional spark of wit and/or energy. So at least someone was thinking while making this. So that makes it better than average, if not good enough to actually like.

Grade: C+

Thursday, July 04, 2002

Hey, it's Steve here. My computer is still residing in the Nowheresville of Viral Hell, but I'm over at a friend of my mother's place right now and she was nice enough to let me use her laptop. Thanks to Ms. Sekwa for posting those reviews. (I fixed the links for ya.)

Men in Black II (2002)

It has occurred to me that director Barry Sonnenfeld, for some odd reason, can only make a good film every other time at bat. Here, as a followup to his ebulliently funny (and criminally underrated) Big Trouble, he's decided to helm a film that is just as lazy and transparent as his last collaboration with Will Smith -- except, unlike the godawful Wild Wild West, MiBII occasionally remembers that it's supposed to be funny. There's one genuinely hysterical moment (David Cross's exit scene) plus a couple of small chuckles interspersed throughout. But really, it's such a rip-off -- an attempt to reproduce the success of the first film without that film's maniacal sense of invention, lightning-round pacing or knowing use of the under-reaction. In its place, we get wholesale dumbness, obvious "satirical" jabs (Michael Jackson proves he's a good sport with his self-deprecating cameo, but it's such an easy joke) and lousy performances by more or less everyone. Will Smith, in particular, mugs like crazy but can't summon up anything even remotely as inspired as his explanation of why he shot little Tiffany; on the other end of the spectrum, Lara Flynn Boyle barely shows up, letting her Wonderbra and some SFX fingers do all her work. The biggest problem, however, is that this thing feels like a rush job. Pacing is nonexistent, characters drop out without explanation (Johnny Knoxville, what happened to you?), a crowd-pleasing love story is given about ten seconds of development before being advanced as the film's emotional swivelpoint (the first film barely bothered with any sort of emotional fakery) and padding and repetition have to be employed just to get the film to 80-odd minutes plus credits. Put it all together, and what does it spell? P-I-E-C-E-O-F-S-H-I-T. Better luck next time, Barry.

Grade: C-

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

NOTE FROM JENNY SEKWA, THE WORLD'S MOST ASTUTE GUEST REVIEWER:

If you think Steve got MY dander up with his first review of Deer Hunter, just picture him experiencing computer difficulties and being unable to post some of those FASCINATING Herschell Gordon Lewis reviews. WHOOOOOOOOO BOYEEEEEEEEE - he's probably one ornery motherfucker right about now. I'd say his dander is wayyyy up. Master Carlson asked me to post some reviews for him as he is currently unable to do so himself. Being the sensitive, sympathetic, good friend that I am, I laughed my ass off and told him to piss off. Allright, I'm just doin comedy with you guys! With no further ado, I give you - REVIEWS FROM STEVE!!!

**********

Sorry for the long-ass delay, folks. But my computer is more or less fucked right now. So bear with me, 'cause I'm pissed and frustrated. The reviews will probably be less insightful than y'all are used to. And, needless to say, HG Lewis Month is gonna continue far beyond one month.

The Bourne Identity (2002)

Not exactly transcendent or distinguished or anything (it's a genre film and nothing more), but it's damn entertaining all the same. Has one of the most accomplished jump scenes in recent memory -- all the more impressive because the scene was included in the trailer and it STILL got me to leap five feet straight up.

Grade: B

Bandits (2001)

Musta been a fire sale at the Irritating Quirk Store or something.

Grade: D

HG Lewis Month continues, Part 1: The Wizard of Gore (1970)

More or less the ultimate Lewis film -- so cheesy, crass, gore-splattered, stoopid and all-together awful that it damn near approaches genius. Some films, you talk back to; this film, I had a running conversation with.

Grade: B

HG Lewis Month continues, Part 2: Scum of the Earth! (1963)

A lesser achievement from Lewis; quite amusing in spots (Mal Arnold is awesome and that's all there is to it) but kinda dull even at 70 minutes. Awfully timid, too, especially for a guy who came up in the nudie-cutie circuit.

Grade: C

The Defilers (1965)

Not an HG Lewis film, but it's from Lewis's "Blood Trilogy" producer David Friedman, it's generally credited with being the first mainstream "roughie" film... and Jesus Christ, it sucks. When a film's director calls a film pathetic (as R. Lee Frost did in the latest issue of Shock Cinema), you know you've got a dog in your hands. At least we get to see Linda Cochran (the Southern temptress in Two Thousand Maniacs!) in the all-together. So I guess that's something.

Grade: D-


PS from Jenny: Coincidentally, I just saw The Bourne Identity last night, ya know, just to take a break from the 150 degree heat - holy shit it's HOT, and I have to say - my jaw almost dropped when I read his review because I had the exact same thoughts, right down to the jump scene he refers to. I hate to admit it, but sometimes Steve Carlson is a brilliant reviewer.

PPS from Jenny: Apologies to Mr. Carlson, for my inability to link the movies to IMDB as he does . What do you think I am, some computer nerd? I have NO stinkin clue how to link the movies, you cranky bastard! Sheesh.

Hurry back soon!