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Legally Blonde (2001)
Just made my Bottom 10
This is actually one of the worst movies I have ever seen. I am shocked. An actual 1 out of 10 - how is this even possible?
This came out when I was in high school, and since I was an angsty teen I had no interest in seeing it. Since then, I believe I have become quite a bit more open-minded, and over the years I have become a pretty colossal fan of Reese Witherspoon and the majority of her filmography. So, after having this praised by a few adult friends in the last couple of years, I thought I would give it a watch.
How did this get greenlit? It features some of the most atrocious writing I have ever encountered. Not a single line or sequence that is legitimately humorous (aside from one shot of a chihuahua all set up in a salon chair). All jokes either fall flat or are full cringe - some actually don't even make sense. There is hardly any real conflict, at least none that follow logic (and this is no surreal film). The characters are like parodies of characters that don't function well even as parodies, all either depthless or going overboard with the camp, like someone trying to make camp but not understanding what makes good camp work. Even the directing is means for continuous eye rolls - like a 13 year old wanted to make a ripoff of Clueless/Heathers/Jawbreaker but only took the cheesiest elements of each and then twisted them to make them bad. It's a very hard movie to get through - I had to fight with myself not to turn it off. The dialogue is so asinine it makes your brain want to shut down. The point of the movie is supposed to be showing that a spoiled blonde perceived as dumb can actually excel just as legitimately as anyone, yet she only gets accepted into Harvard Law because she is wearing a bikini in her audition tape and a bunch of horny old men decide they want her there, suggestively for that reason. As the movie continues, it attempts to portray the idea that she is "getting smarter" as teachers slowly become more "impressed" with her "offerings" during debates in class, yet the actual dialogue and writing shows little to no signs of her actually getting smarter. A majority of her passing statements would never, ever fly in almost any form of school.
What a painful, painful film. Though it doesn't actually taint her credibility, this movie is the only true stain in the legendary Reese Witherspoon's legacy. I mean, why would you watch this when you could watch Election? One of the greatest dark comedies of all time, also extremely campy but doing it right, still full of wild high school/college age insanity, and featuring Reese's greatest character/performance of her career?
Maniac Cop (1988)
Quintessential 80's schlock
Well, that was a lot of heckin' fun. B-movies don't get much better than this.
I'd been meaning to watch this my entire life, but upon the recent announcement of Nicolas Winding Refn's upcoming reimagining of Maniac Cop as an HBO series, I was finally pushed to do so. I guess you could say it was more of a TRADITIONAL film than I expected, in the way that it played out, but that wasn't a bad thing. The movie doesn't beat around the bush - it moves quickly, all killer no filler - deaths occur frequently, detectives mysteriously solve things out of thin air, and the dialogue is pretty thoroughly laughable and always either poorly executed or over acted, all of it extremely amusing - thanks to a script by the KING of the B-movie, the legend Larry Cohen. This is a far more watchable and enjoyable film then director William Lustig's monstrous 1980 grisly cult classic, Maniac. I mean, how often do you get to see 80's Bruce Campbell outside of the Evil Dead movies?! His presence adds a lot to this! Plus, Tom Atkins - the ultimate "determined dad" of 80's horror - gotta love him. And most importantly, ROBERT Z'DAR - what a colossal cult legend. Every time I see his face (which is very large) I feel like I have been reborn. I have a feeling this is the role of his lifetime - but I have a bit more Z'dar yet to explore...
I'm gonna check out 2 and 3 next, and I'm SUPER stoked to see what Refn does with his remake. I'm assuming it's gonna be wayyyyyyyyy different from his recent Too Old To Die Young series, which was one of the most ambitious and bizarre television series I have ever seen. I am assuming he will make it less challenging and easier to swallow - only time will tell.
If you feel like you still don't have a great understanding of what a "B movie" is, Maniac Cop is the epitome - I recommend watching it!
Un couteau dans le coeur (2018)
Flawlessly executed, brilliant combination of things!
Wow! It's almost as if this movie was made specifically to cater to my tastes! This movie came onto my radar when it's incredible music score by M83 went up on Spotify. It instantly became one of my favorite albums of 2019, which is a great feat for a score. I read a bunch of mediocre reviews so I didn't rush to see it, but wow, were those reviewers wrong.
It's as if Dario Argento produced and directed (at his peak), brought in Asia Argento and John Cameron Mitchell to write, and together they created this beautiful spiritual love-letter to William Friedkin's CRUISING. The movie has a WICKED sense of humor and tons of memorable sequences that never hold back on the intensity or the photographic grace. Vanessa Paradis is striking and intriguing as the lead, and a bit of an anti-hero. The killer and the way he kills is truly frightening. He will not be forgotten. And the wonderful music adds so much - M83's psychedelic disco-synth score sits somewhere in the realm of Patrick Cowley crossed with Jean-Michel Jarre's breakthrough "Les Granges Brulees". Other non-M83 tracks by artists such as Malaria! fit in seamlessly.
I truly loved this movie and was greatly surprised by how well-crafted, thoroughly amusing, and how "it's own" it managed to be. One of my favorites of 2019 (yes, I see it was originally released in 2018 but it got released in 2019 in the U.S. so I'm counting it as 2019).
Todd Phillips just graduated to the big leagues
Looking at this from a business perspective...the career move that director Todd Phillips made was brilliant. It was a brilliant move but I wasn't totally certain it would make for a brilliant film - I wasn't sure if he had it in him. As he's stated in recent interviews, he hit a point where he felt he could no longer make crude comedies for an American audience, which is what he's been known for (The Hangover trilogy, Old School, etc), and I feel that completely. So where do you go from there? Considering comic book movies are one of the only types of movies that get large production budgets in 2019, he takes an iconic comic book character, takes one of the most intense and interesting A-list actors we have working, and instead of making another carbon-copy, commercialistic, and fully forgettable CGI-fest full of fart jokes and giant robots getting knocked over, he makes a movie with some actual psychological depth! What a way to work around this troubled system! One must generally adapt in order to capitalize.
As far as the film itself, I knew Phillips and Phoenix would create something entertaining, but I could not have expected the sheer masterpiece they pulled off. From every angle... the writing, the directing, the editing, the photography, the pacing - it's all impeccable and I am beyond impressed. There's not a dull moment and every single scene plays an important role in the tension-building and the unfolding of every little plot element. And, of course, the acting... this could be very well be the greatest performance of Joaquin Phoenix's career, which is a colossal statement considering his mountain of phenomenal films, and the fact that he might be my #1 of this era. Literally every shot where Phoenix is on the screen disperses an outpour of complex emotions - never just one, always a smorgasbord, like when you've eaten half an eighth of mushrooms and they've just begun kicking in, and you feel entirely overwhelmed. There were more psychological twists than I was expecting and they had me pretty stirred up as they piled atop each other.
As far as all the negative press around this movie, I find it all almost entirely off base and misdirected. Sarcastic comments like "Finally, a movie for angry white men who can't get everything they want"... as if there has never been any other films about any psychopaths, maniacs, criminals, or serial killers who also happen to be white men, which have been praised endlessly for decades? Simultaneously we have oodles of people praising shows like MINDHUNTER, with no negative press, while JOKER is getting attacked. They are both about the same thing...psychotic serial killers. That's what this is... an intricate character study about a blossoming psychopath and killer, which also happens to include a multitude of themes that can be aligned with societal obstacles we are currently facing in reality. Yes, you put yourself in the villain's shoes, and you feel fractions of the pain that villain is feeling, but the point is not to GLORIFY or CELEBRATE such darkness, but rather to wallow in it just long enough to feel disrupted then get the hell out of there and go back to your normalcy. JOKER has a lot of heart, a lot of blood pumping through it's veins, and a working brain too - it's actually the most human movie I have seen this year, with the most depth.
I could say a lot more, but I will wrap up instead. I had a smile plastered across my face for 75% of this movie, as I was constantly blown away by either some element of what I was seeing. The other 25% I was scared, sad, or excited - but I was never bored. Not for a second. Every MOMENT was stimulating, and meticulously crafted. This is actually one of the only truly masterful movies I have EVER seen based off of a comic book character - not only is it special in that sense, but it's also boosted Todd Phillips to the league of legendary filmmakers. I'm curious to see if this is a chance one-off, or if Phillips will carry on as a dramatic filmmaker, after going above and beyond with this one. 10 out of 10, in my opinion.
Day of the Woman (1978)
Strengths and weaknesses, controversial for a reason
I am honestly kind of surprised by the lack of reviews in the 4-6 out of 10 range. To me, that's exactly the range this movie belongs in.
First of all, I'd heard of how controversial this film was since I was in high school (around the year 2000) but never quite had the urge to seek it out considering it was commonly described as being mostly just rape, I suppose. Finally, in 2019, I felt it was the right time - and, it lived up to it's legend, in the sense that the majority of the movie really was just one long, extended rape scene. 2/3 of the film basically revolves around that, I'd say. I definitely haven't seen that in any other movie, ever, which does give this film it's own identity. But, as one would assume, it's not pleasant. It's also not impressive in the sense of realism, or in any sort of artful manner. So, instead, you're just choosing to watch an hour of gritty, artless, trash film rape. Since this is the majority of the film, this is what loses it the most points. I seriously doubt I will ever watch it again.
I think the movie is a bit long for what it is. If it were hyper-realistic, the grueling pace would make more sense, but since the acting is schlocky, it would have made more sense to move things along quickly. I really think this film would have served a lot better as a 80-85 minute feature rather than a 100+ minute one. Those 15 minutes of cuts could make a world of difference.
The complete lack of soundtrack also gives the film a lot of it's own unique character. While a haunting score is generally one of my favorite elements of vintage horror, I ended up admiring this movie's complete lack of one. The sound of the motorboat coming really does become I Spit On Your Grave's "theme song", and it's pretty effective in that regard.
On the plus side, Camille Keaton really does bring a lot to the role. This was a very brave performance on her part and the shift from battered victim to sly vengeance seeker is actually believable and satisfying. Though the final act wasn't enough to redeem the movie much as a whole, I did find the acts of vengeance to be quite satisfying and memorable in comparison to a lot of forgettable horror deaths throughout history. I also enjoyed the cinematography for the most part - as often stated, it has a very real element of amateurism and also voyeurism to it, which adds a lot to the gritty surrealism of it. All the distant, out-on-the-water shots really did create quite a bit of an out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere ambiance.
This is a controversial cult classic for a reason. If you're a fan of gore, exploitation, or movies that push things as far as they can go, then yes you should absolutely see this. If not, don't even think about it!
Talk Radio (1988)
Intense - plain and simple
I was directed to seeing this film upon some hype centered around it's star Eric Bogosian appearing in the upcoming Safdie Brothers film, Uncut Gems. As someone who currently sees the Safdie's as two of the most promising and thrilling filmmakers working, each and every one of their casting choices intrigues me. A few friends suggested this film, and as soon as I saw it was by Oliver Stone, I jumped on watching it.
Simply put, it is a relentless viewing experience. Bogosian is a complete prick, who is intelligent but has his head stuck so far up his own ego-centric ass, there seems to be no turning back. He plays this role with flying colors, well enough that, considering he also co-wrote this film, it really feels like there is a part of this character in him in reality.
The film barely leaves the radio studios and it doesn't need to. It starts with hard-hitting dialogue and concepts, and holds it tone throughout, only getting increasingly heavy. You will see a lot of familiar faces in this, like Alec Baldwin, who are all perfect in their roles, but it is the endless assault of Bogosian rudeness that really makes the entire film what it is, and due to the effectiveness of that, it is worthy of legacy.
People like to compare this to Oliver Stone's other films and be like "oh, it's good but not as good as this movie of his and that movie of his". Well, I don't think that's a worthwhile thing to do with this movie! This movie really is a monster of it's own and it's not comparable to much else. Cult classic status worthy, certainly.
The Fanatic (2019)
Not quite a cult CLASSIC...but it will find it's audience
I will elaborate on my review headline first. While this film doesn't have quite what it takes to score the term CLASSIC, it does have "cult fanbase" written all over it. It belongs in the cult-B section, which my all means, I'm still totally down with.
While you will probably find yourself laughing at Travolta's "performance", it is my opinion that it's not his acting that's laughable but rather the writing, the character itself, and your own disbelief that you seeing the legend in a role so far out from what we're all used to. But, his acting performance is locked in - some scenes it doesn't hit so hard, which is more so mostly due to ridiculous dialogue or scenarios, but, when the scene is right, and he is allowed to bring it, he really brings it. I did not expect to have any sort of legitimate emotional response to this movie, but much to my surprise, I found myself quite emotionally disrupted at a certain point - that's when this film elevated from a 6 to a 7 in my eyes. Durst, Travolta, and Sawa (the dream team?) managed to tug at my heart strings.
The movie is FULL of "questions"... some would call them plot-holes, but... isn't that what makes movies like this one so much fun? There is so much to analyze afterwards! I think the primary question is... why is Moose's best friend friends with him at all? The movie is also full of brimming overacting, the epitome of it really. Jacob Grodnik really takes the toxic to the furthest tier... he deserves some recognition. And, honestly, it's always great to see Devon Sawa - he really, truly gives an intense and believable delivery throughout this entire movie - he adds so much life and personality to it, it's wonderful.
On top of that, the movie is shot and edited quite tastefully!
The downsides... the movie could use "an ending", LOL. And though I enjoy a lot of the campy dialogue, a lot of it..."doesn't hit right". LOL. This movie requires suspension of disbelief and a desire to watch something that does not follow the rules of reality. If you can do that - it's quite fun! Much better than the reviews are giving it discredit for! Fans of B-movies, do not miss this!
Behold! The nightmarish environment of...HOPKINS, MINNESOTA!
Sadly, this is one of the worst Argento movies I have seen (I would only consider The Mother of Tears worse), which is really sad considering it features Asia Argento as one of the leads (who I have always been drawn to, though the truth is, most movies she's in are pretty bad) and the ENTIRE movie is shot in the Twin Cities and the suburbs in which I grew up. After all these years, I had no idea there was a movie from the Italian surrealist horror maestro that takes place IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD WHERE I GREW UP, DURING THE ERA WHEN I WAS THERE. It's very surreal to take in what is typically presented as this horrific supernatural sort of vibe when the environment is literally, like, a yard I would have been playing with friends in, in 1993. And with blaring, super-intense Pino Dinaggio orchestrations running over it! Like, you go from watching these extravagant otherworldly settings in his movies like Suspiria and Inferno, then you pop in TRAUMA, and it's like... ok the weirdness is here in the absurdity of the writing and the acting, but I'm pretty sure I've been on that street like 100 times like on my way to tee-ball practice. I just wasn't able to get immersed in the world the movie was presenting at all because I kept being taken back to my childhood... but I suppose maybe that's my own problem? I don't think so - because a good movie would suck you in, regardless.
Lead actor Christopher Rydell puts in one of the worst performances in a dramatic film that I have literally ever seen. He really brings the movie from what could have been a 6 or 7 to a 3 or 4. Piper Laurie (Twin Peaks) is pretty good in this but stated she could tell the movie was going to be so bad during the production that she never even bothered to watch it. Brad Dourif was awesome as always but is only in 2 scenes. The movie's strongest suit is watching Asia Argento try to be a lead actress for the first time, under the direction of her own father - there is an innocence and naivety to the non-acting of her acting style that is very endearing. The music is awesome, especially the theme song "Ruby Rain" with some really pretty vocals, although the music is way too high quality for the movie itself - so it feels out of place. Even the gore fails to deliver - none of the murders are really on par with any of Argento's classic stuff. And, of course, the development of the "story" makes just about ZERO sense, but we all expect that from Argento! Sometimes that's a strength, but not here!
One of Argento's worst! I do not recommend! But, it's ok Dario...we love you regardless <3
A pill that's easy to swallow but difficult to enjoy
My primary thought is that I'm happy someone made a film that shines a spotlight on a very serious problem currently becoming more common amongst sex workers. As a sex worker myself, I am exposed to the perspectives and activities of a wide array of sex workers on a daily basis. I have observed an increasing amount of sex workers who feel validated in their decisions to become con-artists, bragging proudly about robbing their own clients. While I'm happy that this is starting to be discussed in the mainstream media, that doesn't mean it's a pleasant thing to observe. It's tragic that in an era when sex work does seem to be getting to a place where it's more openly accepted, we have unabashed behavior like this which is going to make people second guess any progress we may have established thus far - it's heavily counterproductive. Overall, the movie mostly just made me feel frustrated, sad, and worried for the future - but it was the correlation to reality that I couldn't get off of my mind. I wasn't very enveloped in the world of the film itself - mostly just reminded of my worries regarding the industry and the way it's pupils and society will carry on being effected by on another from here on out.
As a film alone, it was okay. The performances were sufficient but nothing that stood out, which is more a result of the writing. Uninteresting characters caught up in uninteresting events. Overall, the plot FEELS like it should be entertaining, but the movie is a bit redundant - once you get into the thick of it, you're basically watching a repetitive cycle with not much movement to it. And as it goes on, you kind of like the characters less and less, with no real conflicting energies - so it kind of just gets worse as it goes. The movie could have use some cutting - there's not enough depth or complexity to it to validate a nearly 2 hour run time, unfortunately.
The movie did have a handful of very amusing moments, but it was not enough to redeem the thing as a whole. It's not a bad movie, but it's also not a good movie...
Wanted to love it and I really, really didn't (at all)
Very promising plot which I believed would be extremely difficult to make a stinker of a movie out of, but somehow Paul Schrader did it. Disjointed pacing, zero likable characters, most notably the lead George C. Scott, who somehow manages to build a wall around his character which actually causes you dislike him much more than you empathize with him or feel for him. The fact that he beats the women he involves himself with so casually, and treats and talks about porn actors as if they were cockroaches, is just a cherry on top of his character's unappealing vibes. Not only do you not want him to find his daughter at all, but you really just want him to get off the screen and stay off of the screen, but of course, he is in almost ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of the film's sequences. Most importantly though, the movie is just hardly entertaining... you'd think diving into such a seedy "underbelly" you'd meet some really enticing characters or end up in some really gripping situations. Well, you don't really. There are a couple entertaining sequences towards the end of the film but it's not nearly enough to redeem the viewing.
Why watch this when you can watch CRUISING? That movie does everything right... and THEN SOME. There's nothing like it.
At least it's better than The Canyons...
Too Old to Die Young (2019)
Perhaps the most ambitious, challenging, bizarre series I've ever seen
This is going to be very difficult to summarize properly.
Refn is a madman. It seems that he truly doesn't care how difficult his series is to get through, and once you get far enough into it, you start to admire that. Does it feel like each scene is designed to entertain the viewer? No. Not at all, and it takes a lot of getting used to.
I found Episode 1 challenging but by the time it was over, it had me extremely excited for the rest of the series, then I found Episode 2, 3, and 4 absolutely miserable. But, now, looking back, I find myself wondering...were they as bad as they felt to me upon my first viewing, or had I simply not yet become accustomed to Refn's fully unique approach to series programming? I actually told myself I was gonna stop watching after Episode 5, but then Episode 5 was bold enough that it re-piqued my interest, then I found Episode 6 and 7 absolutely masterful and I was locked into finishing the series. I would actually say that Episodes 6 and 7 are two of the greatest things Refn has ever done (along with Bronson and Drive, I suppose) - everything that makes him an innovative force in filmmaking are really firing off full fledged in these episodes. And, if I hadn't battled through the dreadfully boring lead-up episodes prior, I don't think these episodes would have been nearly as rewarding. Though this series does not offer a traditionally linear story, even upon completion, Too Old To Die Young IS a cohesive experience, which is not worthwhile unless you give it all 13 hours.
You may find yourself angered at first - why are these slow panning shots of environments with basically nothing happening lasting 3-5 minutes long? At first, I felt that even in a sense of world-building, they were not effective. I did not feel that they were building any atmosphere or tension - however, by the time I got about halfway through the series, I found myself addicted to the show's slow burn. It moves with a nightmarish sludge, comparable only to the likes of David Lynch's LOST HIGHWAY, and such. Though Lynch and his Twin Peaks, primarily, are the only truly comparable things that I can think of, Too Old To Die Young still maintains it's own unique vibe that is fully a beast of it's own, actually quite far off from anything Lynch did - the only way they are comparable is in their dreamlike pace, their brooding sense of dread, and their utter bizarreness.
With all challenging aspects put aside, what the series really obviously offers as it's greatest strengths are it's stunning photography, sets, and lighting, another lush and masterful synth music score from today's maestro, Cliff Martinez, who I swear just keeps getting better and better, and some truly gripping, perhaps even legendary, acting performances.
First of all, Billy Baldwin, coming out of left field and putting in one of the most jilting, revolting, creepiest performances I have seen in some time. I was quite surprised and completely astonished. This man deserves much more work, and even some awards in my opinion. Cristina Rodlo, whom I had never heard of - absolutely breathtaking with her presence - convincingly terrifying in her almost inhuman role, which requires a bit of suspension of disbelief - in the end, her character and her haunting performance the most memorable thing about this entire series - and it must be mentioned that she is utterly gorgeous, stunning beyond belief. Augusto Aguilera also leaves serious mental marks as the orphaned drug lord - much like Rodlo as Yuritza, he manages to be so beautiful looking yet so simultaneously terrifying just underneath his discomforting calmness, consistently. All three of these characters are legendary. Miles Teller is also tastefully casted, as his character is never quite likable, always disquieting, and always keeps you guessing - a vibe that Teller is quite made for. Nell Tiger Free and Babs Olusanmokun also make lasting impressions - I will not be forgetting them after this viewing.
Overall, I'm pretty certain I'm going to consider myself a pretty big huge fan of this series for a lifetime, but it's one of those things that I will not be recommending to most people. I truly don't think that the majority of individuals will have the patience for it, nor will they understand what's to appreciate about it in the end, but if you let it creep it's way into you, if you admire true innovation in art & media, and if you have a taste for the darker side of surrealism, Too Old To Die Young may very well be worth your eternal brain space.
Thank you, Nicolas Winding Refn, for giving series programming something truly different for a change. Thank you very much.
The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)
An instant classic! The most touching movie of 2019!
Do yourselves a favor and see THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON. Simply put, it's one of the most touching movies I have seen in years. Definitely one of my favorites of 2019. This one's gonna be a cult classic, no question. It already is.
Obviously Zack Gottsagen steals the show. Shia LeBouf puts in another legendary performance - add the notch, he's one of my favorite actors working this decade (I think Joaquin Phoenix might be the ONLY person I'd put above him right now). Dakota Johnson puts in the best performance I have ever seen her give - I felt it. We get wildly amusing small character roles from Bruce Dern, Thomas Hayden Church, Jake The Snake Roberts, Mick Foley, Yelawolf, and more.
On top of the brilliantly heartfelt writing & acting, and effective directing - there is also a lot of stuff that is shot really beautifully!
All killer, no filler. I could watch this over and over again. See it - if you have a heart, you will love it. 10 out of 10.
Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
The girls wander in nothingness, as does the film
Mildly enchanting. The photography is absolutely breathtaking. Beautifully photographed through and through. The music was also absurdly beautiful and powerful - I was under the impression while watching that it was a fully original score by David Appleyard, but it turns out that most of it is classical tunes pulled from other composers. The cast is rather appealing, but no one character is truly enticing, they are all somewhat vapid. The strongest element of the film is in it's visual presentation - it truly feels like witnessing an exquisite painting in motion, but sadly, the film's content itself is primarily uneventful and thus primarily unfulfilling. One of the most inconclusive films I have seen in quite some time. I understand that people perceive the magic with this film to be that type of Lovecraftian concept of "what matters is what is not witnessed", but it doesn't work for me so well in this case. I like the idea of it but it just doesn't deliver much. In my opinion, an open-ended mystery should leave you shuffling through a multitude of possibilities - but this one gives you none to consider.
A well-intended tale of melancholy that's sadly quite boring
Beautifully shot, earnestly acted, effectively melancholy, with a plot that's pretty refreshing, featuring a handful of really strong scenes... but unfortunately as a whole the movie still manages to be quite boring to sit through.
Beyond Dream's Door (1989)
Far Beneath A Dream's Caliber
This movie at no point comes even close to capturing the mood or ambiance of anything dreamlike. I was hoping for either some trippy psychological concepts or at least some stimulating visuals, BUT it delivers neither. The bad acting is not bad enough to make the movie worthwhile, most of the effects are way too cheap looking to make an impression, and the story makes too little sense to be entertaining. Quite challenging to get through and offers no redeeming values aside from a few laughable moments of awkward acting, dialogue, and editing. Not really worth a $1 bargain bin purchase in my opinion.
Brilliant opportunity to make a legendary cult classic...wasted
I was 9 years old when Junior came out in 1994. Kindergarten Cop, Terminator 2, and Total Recall were 3 of my favorite movies. I was very intrigued and excited that a movie about Arnold Schwarzenegger being pregnant was coming out.
I didn't make it to the theater for it, but I rented it as soon as it hit VHS. I don't think I understood why, but I did not like the movie. I found it to be boring, and very disappointing, as a 9 year old. I never rented it again...I never revisited it, until now, 25 years later.
Noting it's impressively low 4.6 out of 10 on IMDb, I had to see what this was all about.
Let me tell you, it lives up to that score. First off, the actual comedy is dreadfully absent. There are almost ZERO laughs in the entire movie. They try to hit hard with straightforward comedy towards the beginning of the film but every attempt falls embarrassingly flat. The rest primarily plays out like a strict drama film but you can't take ANY of it seriously or feel anything for the characters...because it's a movie about Arnold Schwarzenegger having a baby.... Clearly, this film should have been laugh-focused, and it's really not...at all. Danny DeVito helps carry the movie nicely but his character doesn't really offer much in general. Emma Thompson acts with such intense emotional resonance that she almost feels out of place, a serious talent trapped in an abysmal disaster. Considering it's nearly a 2 hour movie, it's kind of shocking how unmemorable nearly every scene in the entire film is, aside from surface level moments like Arnold stating "I'm pregnant" in his signature accented monotone, which could all be conglomerated into a 3.5 minute sketch for something like SNL which, sadly, would have served better.
The only real strength of the film is the fact that it got green lit and was made at all. It's a serious freak show of a high budget production that showcases a brief era in which Hollywood was willing to take serious risks by funding just about any absurd script as long as it had the right name on it. This couldn't have been made any time other than the late 80's or 90's. Hard to believe the man responsible for the masterpiece known as Kindergarten Cop could flop so hard with this one!
Who needs a plot?
There was only one movie last year that left me with such mixed feelings and that was the Suspiria re-imagining. Prior to that, and now this, I can't remember the last time I felt so 50/50 on a film. These are rare cases.
I imagine this will be the most polarizing film of 2019 - to me, I feel like it's designed to be.
First, the positive: It's very hard not to be entertained by the acting chops of both Brad Pitt and The Nardo. They bring it as hard as they always do, and their characters offer just enough to separate themselves from the rest of these guys' back catalogue. These two manage to take what is basically "not a movie", carry it, and keep it thoroughly entertaining. Pitt's character was my favorite, and just got better and better as the movie played out. Tarantino clearly put a lot of thought into the set pieces and design, and some of the editing, to really transport back to that 1969 vibe - it's effective and usually a lot of fun. All Spahn Ranch-affiliated characters were the most exciting part of the film, specifically one prolonged sequence that occurs at the ranch itself. That was just about the ONLY scene in the movie that provided any real tension or "purpose". Finally, some things occur in the final act that are undeniably satisfying and electrically entertaining - this scores the film a bit of redemption, but 10 minutes cannot save a 160 minute experience alone.
Then, the not so positive: first and foremost, there is no plot. Yeah, an aging actor is insecure that his career is starting to tank... but, most scenes have little to nothing to do with that, and there is literally no other conflict in the entire movie. And it's not some surrealist, abstract, atmosphere-driven experience...it's just meandering, throughout. Still entertaining the whole time, just...meandering. Next, Margot Robbie may as well not be in the movie at all. She has maybe 5 or 6 lines, across maybe 4 scenes, and her longest scenes are, in my opinion, some of the most purposeless and ineffective scenes in the entire movie (her watching her own movies in a theater, alone, for a long time?). Kind of a bummer when you have someone as talented and beautiful as Margot Robbie, playing someone as legendary as Sharon Tate, and you get just about nothing from it. Next, there is NO reason for this movie to be 160 minutes long. We don't need 3-minute establishing shots, watching people drive cars from one place to another, as the intro to EVERY scene, especially when what we're prefacing are scenes like Brad Pitt getting up on the roof to fix an antenna in real time... for no reason. It reminded me of the panning shots of San Fransisco in The Room or of the creek in A Talking Cat?! - you could cut out a solid half hour of establishing shots and unnecessary long shots and you'd still have the exact same (plotless) movie. I could go on.
I certainly consider myself a huge Tarantino fan. The Hateful Eight was the first movie of his that I did not enjoy. This was an odd one, and overall I would say that I liked it, but I can't imagine having this script and being like "okay! That's it!" - we have all the money, all the power, and all the A-listers to do WHATEVER we want with this movie, but THIS is what we're gonna do! Perhaps though, that is exactly what's going to make this special in the long run.
Ari Aster just solidified his place as one of the new masters of horror
Hereditary was no accident. Ari Aster is a visionary filmmaker and he's just proven that and surpassed himself with Midsommar.
It is the 4th of July today and this movie was released yesterday - this is not only my favorite film of 2019 thus far, but one of the greatest horror films of this CENTURY, at this point.
I grew up on 70's, 80's, and 90's horror. I perceive contemporary horror to be, for the most part, brainless, regurgitated, formulaic garbage. Midsommar is a rare gem for the genre, in this day and age. It journey's far, far out from the played-out possessions in haunted houses that make up 90% of the U.S. genre output. It is a breath of fresh, multi-colored air in a chamber full of suffocating ghosts. Within the first 24 hours of Midsommar's release, I saw a multitude of people post "I loved it, but...it's not really a horror movie". After viewing, this made me LOL pretty hard. I can't figure out what people would be perceiving this as if not horror. This is one of the GREATEST horror movies I have ever seen. It is pure and utter horror... it's just...a UNIQUE horror film, something we rarely receive nowadays. This seems like further proof that people have been so conditioned to the brainless formula of contemporary horror that anything that falls outside of it's own cliches is then perceived as "not belonging in the genre". That's actually horrific, in itself, if you ask me.
With Hereditary as it's predecessor and a very promising trailer as it's backbone, I was chilled to the core of my soul just 5 minutes into the film. I knew I was in for something very special. Florence Pugh puts in a revolutionary performance and goes on to carry this film 10x better than a grip of A-listers ever would stand a chance of doing. Simply put, the movie delivers from all angles... cinematography, acting, writing, atmosphere, environments, set pieces, wardrobe, pacing, casting, sound design, sound editing, concepts, scares, violence, mystery - it ALL hits right on the money, and it's FULL of surprises. There is not a dull moment on this utterly terrifying ride. The film has no weaknesses.
Though aesthetically there are only a few films that come off as comparable (like The Wicker Man, for example), I perceive this movie as a beautiful monster completely of it's own. There is only one other movie that I found it's eerie tone reminiscent of for moments at a time, and that's Kubrick's EYES WIDE SHUT. In fact, Aster's work as a whole, especially after viewing Midsommar, is now reaching a Kubrickian caliber of craft. It's that immaculate of a creation. I was teary eyed during the finale and it wasn't even a plot-based sadness - I was simply tearing up because I'd just witnessed such a visionary masterpiece, and I was in love with it.
I don't want to say much more, but I will say that Ari Aster is a new savior to the genre, and thus, to film. I imagine I will be seeing this in the theater more than once. I...have to. I can't believe he pulled this off. It's...just...phenomenal. It's legendary. Thank you Ari Aster, and thank you to everyone involved. You came when we needed you most.
What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)
One of the most depressing movies I've ever seen
Viewing this for the first time, in 2019, as a 34 year old, who was a 90's kid that grew up in the Midwest but now lives in Los Angeles, I can say that for me this was one of the most depressing movies I've ever seen. I'd seen bits and pieces of it as a kid as it was constantly on cable TV, but I never watched it through, and now I understand why.
Not only does the movie project severe melancholy in a traditional manner, through it's story, characters, and tone, but also now through it's representation of a long lost era in American film and simpler life on this planet. Towards the beginning of the film, you may find yourself reflecting upon earlier stages of your life as I did, when the pre-Internet world functioned in an entirely different manner. "Going outside to play" was the standard for kids, but in a sense, it was for adults too. As the movie begins, you may find yourself missing the "ancient" world and the archaic sort of way that we functioned and communicated just 25 years ago. You may have thoughts like "Wow, maybe I should move to a small town, to get away from all this". Then, you get 30-60 minutes into the movie, and you start to realize, it is certainly no better there. In fact, it's much, much worse. These characters are prisoners to their own upbringing. It just gets harder and harder to watch as you feel the weight of each of these character's existence getting heavier throughout the film.
Our lead Depp plays an older brother so weighed down by his unfortunate family ties that he himself doesn't even have the chance to have a personality. He comes off as nice at first but eventually it reveals itself as cowardice. He's nice to look at but the character hardly allows him to do much acting. He is not a likable protagonist, and this makes the movie really rough. DiCaprio gives a stellar performance as the mentally handicapped younger brother Arnie but according to the doctors, he will die any day now. Adding to the roughness. It was nice to see some early roles by John C. Reilly, Crispin Glover, Juliette Lewis, etc - but there is no true relief from anyone in this film. The score is also reminiscent of what you would hear in your head when you're looking at old pictures of your dead grandma and grandpa - also rough. There's not much to do in the town of Endora - in fact, there's nothing to do at all. This leads to people betraying their family members in a multitude of ways. You want to like them, but you can't. It's all heavy, it's all dark, it's all sad.
In the beginning, the film made me miss the days of feature films which were supported and developed with scripts that are arguably about nothing. Yes, things happen in this film, but overall, it's just a bunch of sad people in the middle of nowhere (small town Iowa) who don't have the opportunity to really do anything with their lives - and we are watching them rot slowly, or in some characters cases, rather quickly.
Not only did this movie remind me why the current film industry depresses the heck out of me (movies with psychological value on a sincere, personal level rarely get real budgets anymore - it's all heartless, commercial franchise vomit) but it also hit me like a hammer in the face in a purely existential sense - a heavy reminder that life is miserable, most people are terrible, and we are all doomed. Glad I watched it but I'll probably never watch it again.
Her Smell (2018)
One of the greatest interpretations of bad behavior enabled by success, ever
Wow. HER SMELL was a fantastic film, as I had a strong feeling it would be. Top 4 of 2019 for me so far, for sure (it's June now). Overall, it's one of the greatest interpretations of how success and continuous attention from outside sources enables absolutely wretched behavior, in often cases, to the point of pure evil. In 2015, the trailer for director Alex Ross Perry's QUEEN OF EARTH rubbed me so right I took my ass to the Laemmle to give it a chance. I came out not only as a big fan of the movie, but it also showed me that Elisabeth Moss was (and still is) quite possibly one of the most powerful newish actresses working. HER SMELL took the intensity of what she did in Queen of Earth and UPPED it by 5-10x. This is, in my opinion, her most impressive performance, and the finest acting performance of the year thus far. She is a MANIAC. The entire cast was chosen very tastefully - everyone killed it. The unfamiliar ones made a strong impression on me. This was the most effective role I've seen for Cara Delevingne thus far, an eager tomboyish youth. Ashley Benson is always welcomed warmly, believably naive and thus charming. I was really happy to see Eric Stoltz get so much screen time too - where has he been all these years? Dan Stevens (my boy from The Guest) - also fantastic! I've read several reviews about how "nothing happens in this film" but you literally get to witness the entire last half of a musician's career - only the most intense moments, and it's a complete riot. I could be wrong but I get the feeling that Perry is a Gaspar Noe fan like most of the rest of us film nerds - there was definitely a bit of an Irreversible-like approach to the cinematography in moments, and it really adds to the dread. This is a bit of an emotional masterwork, really. I'll just leave it at that. Don't sleep on it. Moss deserves accolades, and Perry should be a known name.
High Life (2018)
A glorious visionary exercise in meditation & existentialism
I'm not following the very popular perspective that this movie does not "accomplish what it sets out to do" or that it's somewhat aimless. This is what sci-fi is all about, in my opinion...rather than facing familiar themes and tropes, this film challenges you with left field ideas that absolutely require suspension of disbelief - if you are unable to let go of reality, there is a good chance you will not be able to enjoy this visionary wonder.
If you can't tell by the trailer, the movie is an absolute visual feast. Every shot, set piece, costume, and light feels meticulously and creatively placed. Every shot is beautiful, if not occasionally striking in the opposite sense. The primary cast all delivered in their respective roles: Pattinson effectively channeling the ex-criminal who seems to have found some sort of peace within his very bleak fate, Mia Goth is completely volatile and unpredictable while maintaining some charm within her mystery, Juliette Binoche was quite hypnotic while effectively slowly eating away at your psyche.
A lot of people complain that the film is "too slow" or "nothing happens". I don't understand what people expect from a movie about a small group of people that are stuck in a small spacecraft for what is intended to be the rest of their lives. Of course it's going to be "slow" - there's only so much you can do up there. That's the challenge for the viewer, to feel a bit of what it's like for the characters to go through that experience! That's the idea! With that being said, there ARE a handful of very intense scenes that I was not expecting whatsoever! My jaw certainly dropped a couple of times and I will never forget those sequences.
All that aside, I was COMPLETELY intrigued through almost every single sequence in the entire movie. There was always something to be learned or something that takes a bit of time to understand, always something to exercise the brain and keep the viewer trying determine things, or solve puzzles, in a sense. This is the most impressive element of good sci-fi in my opinion - if you have to option to get creative with ideas, then DO IT! Claire Denis DOES! This was my first impression of her work and just based off of this work alone, I certainly consider myself a fan now.
Though there were some scenarios and concepts I didn't take anything from personally, there were also a lot in which I did. Everything translated to me into purely existential thoughts, and yes, they are very bleak - but, we are living in an era that many see as incredibly bleak. We are nearing a revolutionary switch which we have never faced before, and it's terrifying to almost everyone. What a fantastic time for a film like this to come out. Bravo.
The ultimate conglomeration of all that is Noe
It is incredible that by taking all the boldest signature elements of his other films and ramming them all into one movie, while ceasing to do much experimentation and instead just delivering a no-holds-barred assault of everything that makes a Gaspar Noe movie what it is, he has crafted what I perceive to be his most accessible film and what many may see as his best (for me, it's my 2nd favorite right behind Enter The Void - but unlike the atmospheric spiritual journey that ETV brings a viewer on, Climax is "all killer, no filler").
As far as I know, this is the world's first true TECHNO-HORROR film. Full-on techno culture crossed with full-on psychological horror. It's completely one-of-a-kind. I had a massive smile painted on my face through the majority of the film. This made me feel so much more than Luca Guadagnino's recent Suspiria remake, especially through it's incredible dance sequences - I couldn't help but groove in my seat during the majority of them. The soundtrack was fully up my alley, from Dopplereffekt to Legowelt to Aphex Twin to Giorgio Moroder - all the best in techno/electro. The diversity of the ensemble cast was impossible not to admire - so much personality to take in. The cinematography was absurdly impressive as always with Noe, functioning like you're watching through the eyes of a wandering ghost or almost another voiceless character in the room, effectively making you feel like the majority of the film is happening in ONE shot, without cutting.
If you're a fan of film as an art form, or simply put, really INTENSE movies - you NEED to go see this ASAP, in the theater. This is a theater movie, not a watch-at-home movie! I will absolutely be seeing it a second time in the theater!
Avoid this movie if you can't handle relentless psychological horror. Though it made me incredibly happy, this is the kind of movie that could trigger a certain claustrophobia for those who suffer from certain anxieties.
It's MINDBLOWING! Noe has done it again. I can't say any more!
Lords of Chaos (2018)
Wanted to like this movie but I really did not at all.
First of all, the inconsistent tone is a bummer. For the first 20 minutes, it feels like a black metal Detroit Rock City (I love that movie) and it's a lot of fun. Then, the majority of the movie shifts to what attempts to be a lot more serious, but really only exists as an extremely redundant and empty display of only the most surface level elements of black metal origins, while completely lacking any sort of depth, character development, or creativity. The lack of nuance was actually mind-numbing... I don't know how you could write a script this vapid and feel okay with it.
I would call the writing abominable. There is a complete lack of persona due to this, and most of the characters are hardly given enough to form personalities with, aside from Varg. The performances are also primarily wooden and empty as a damn trash can after the garbage man came. Culkin is a lot of fun to look at when he's done up that way, but his performance fails to deliver any sort of emotional resonance when it feels like under the circumstances it should contain some. Varg's character is effectively despicable as the events that occur leave you with no other choice, but Emery Cohan's portrayal is not sellable. There had to have been a bit more evil he could have pulled from something deep within him. When any of these dudes try to deliver lines like "HAIL SATAN" or "Let's burn the churches. All of them" it all sounds like a complete joke, a mockery. They're supposed to mean it! There were only two solid performances in the film, and that was coming from Sky Ferreira who seems to just be acting as she would in reality, but it works well - it's charming and feels sincere, and from this Scandinavian journalist dude.
There were two strong scenes towards the end of the movie but it wasn't enough to save the movie: a sequence where the aforementioned journalist is interviewing Varg about the church burning and murders, which works very well in a dryly comedic sense.... and of course, a rather violent finale... RATHER violent, which is the only scene that does manage to conjure up a bit of sadness and/or chills-through-brutality. These scenes were well done, but the rest of the movie did not sit well with me.
Soundtrack is mostly unfitting and overly pretty considering the subject matter. It really should have just been strict black metal - there's NO reason for it not to be. Editing and pacing is typical Jonas Ackerlund tomfoolery - calm down and tell us a story please. This is the main reason why I disliked SPUN, regardless of the fact that it's about tweakers... it still doesn't make for an enjoyable viewing.
This movie would have fared way better as either a strict comedy, or a full-on drama that stayed true to the morbid tone of everything black metal has always been about. The hybrid does not work in this case. I think it goes without saying that it would have benefitted from some Norse accents as well! UFFDA.
A Talking Cat!?! (2013)
Took me to a realm I will never forget
I received this as a gift a few years ago and didn't get to watching it until last night. I have to say, I liked it a lot more than I expected.
From the first shot following the opening credits, I knew I recognized the place. When I saw the obscure tree stump with the red heels on it, it clicked for me. I've fornicated in this house before multiple times, in front of a camera. It's the same house I had the shoot I refer back to most frequently (referenced in my novel Warship Satan, available on Amazon - you can read far more about it in there), the one where the new starlet started crying mid scene because the shoot took a lot longer than she was expecting and now she was missing her recently deceased grandfather's funeral. This was most certainly that same XXX shoot house.
That detail aside, it was impossible to ignore the (possibly subconsciously placed?) sexual tension in every single dialogue exchange. Literally every conversation felt like it was about to lead to a crossfade into someone either orally copulating another person or taking another from behind. It felt so undeniably like a cheap adult film in which the sex was simply replaced with shots of a talking cat. Therefore, it was not so shocking to discover afterwards that the director was actually a gay porn director directing family films under another pseudonym (also obvious through his choice of casting for the sons and the way he directs them and holds certain shots on them - you'll see what I mean - Daniel Dannas holds some ICONIC facial expressions!). It not only validated my feelings but gave the whole movie a very specific characteristic that actually added to it's potential legendary status.
Another element I rather enjoyed was the fact that Eric Roberts' (LOL) voiceover for the cat's voice was SO low quality... it sounded as if he recorded it in a small bathroom on a microphone that was somehow of worse quality than the on-board microphones that come on most contemporary laptops, after a few cocktails. I picture him lying down in a bathrobe, putting in zero effort. It's great.
The cast cohesively had a certain charm in their complete lack of talent. They worked well together in the sense that they were all equivalent and never even came close to making a single conversation believable in any sense. This, of course, can be equally accredited to the absurd writing.
The cherry on top was the endless bookend shots between literally every single scene, comparable to the shots of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco landscapes used in The Room. In this case, they were rather pretty shots of I assume Latigo Canyon on the outskirts of Malibu (which is where the house is), and then a couple random ones of a large creek and what appears to be an island somewhere? I honestly loved this element of the film. It was a needed breath of air after each brain-bending dose of dialogue and acting from another planet. It was the yin to this film's yang.
This is a one-of-a-kind experience that is CLEARLY not for everyone, but for those who are open to it, will take you to another realm which you will not soon forget. Yes, it's in a category with some of the worst films I have ever seen, and that's why it's fantastic in it's own special way. I would most certainly do screenings if I owned a theater.
87-93 story with a 98-2003 arc and contemporary sheen
So, I went to the theater and saw SERENITY tonight. Was it absurd? Yes. Did I kind of love it? Yes. It's totally over the top: the characters, the acting, the dialogue, the concepts. Everything about it. Jason Clarke annihilated it as an absolutely despicable man. Anne Hathaway was viciously seductive. And McConaughey was full McConaughey - because of his ability to completely sell things, I do believe this movie will go down as a bit of a cult classic. It mostly felt like a movie that would have been made between 1987 and 1993, along the lines of Basic Instinct, 9 1/2 Weeks, Fatal Attraction, maybe a little Falling Down. But then, even more so, Wild Things. Overly dramatic and mostly unpredictable with sudden surges of seduction. Then, it gets even more absurd and turns into something more along the lines of Vanilla Sky... or even a little Truman Show. Much like this movie, the last movie I watched was Velvet Buzzsaw, another film which most people and critics are TEARING APART, because it creates it's own world and requires a suspension of disbelief. For some reason, the average person can't seem to find anything to appreciate in most offerings of surrealism or the abstract and I'll never quite understand it. Personally, I felt like this movie probably came from a very personal place for the writer/director. I laughed at it's absurdity, I was intrigued, I was tense, and it made me feel emotional things as well. Also, it's beautifully shot, in a beautiful setting! I was thoroughly impressed and fully back this bold, creative, ambitious film. I don't think I would change a thing about it.