December 30, 2009

Rock Star (2001)

Rock Star should be believed as it is based on the true story of the lead singer of a cover band who gets a chance to be the lead singer of the band his cover band is covering - got it? But Mark Wahlberg's character is unbelievable, and Jennifer Aniston is just to good to believe. The movie is also bland, having left only a glimmer of sex and drugs from the requisite formula of sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

December 27, 2009

Girls Just Want To Have Fun (1985)

Robert Hazard should be ashamed for allowing his song Girls Just Want to Have Fun to be made into a movie about a girl who wants to win the Dance TV dance contest (a la Hairspray). Cyndi Lauper should be proud that she did not allow her version of the song to be used in the Girls Just Want To Have Fun movie. Sarah Jessica Parker should be glad she was a teenager and not responsible for her own actions.


December 25, 2009

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

Not much exciting going on in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three despite the thriller label. Sure it's about the hijacking of a New York subway train but you already know who the villains are, the cops (almost) never leave the station, and the film is as stagnant as the subway car that never moves. Most interesting though is the very end; too bad they didn't start there and move backwards.

December 23, 2009

Baby Boom (1987)

Baby Boom is one of the 80s remaining treasures. Diane Keaton is wonderful as the advertising executive who finds herself the parent to an absolutely adorable little girl and she carries this huge box office hit (as well as two babies playing the one). It's simplistic and endearing and almost a throwback to the idealistic flicks of Frank Capra - but not quite.

December 21, 2009

He's Just Not That Into You (2009)

Ginifer Godwin (so good in Big Love) is so annoying and the denouement of her story line with Justin Long so unbelievable that everything that might be good about He's Just Not That Into You pales in comparison. Jennifer Aniston and Ben Affleck are fine, Scarlett Johanssen and Bradley Cooper are hot, Drew Barrymore and Jennifer Connelly are depressed and the gays are in as the second bananas but this Sex and the City knock-off hasn't anything more worth discussing - except that Kris Kristofferson plays Aniston's father here, Marlo Thomas played Aniston's mother in Friends and the two actors starred together in 1984's The Lost Honor of Kathryn Beck. In the end this chick flick fails to click.

December 18, 2009

The Road (2009)

The Road is a dick flick as the bond between father and son is portrayed in this post-apocalyptic road movie. Unfortunately, we don't actually see any real post-apocalyptic cannibalism which makes the flick anti-climactic. We do hear talk, talk, talk and we do see Viggo Mortenson and boy running away from cannibalistic confrontation after cannibalistic confrontation in this adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel; must be a dramar but it was still anti-climactic.

December 17, 2009

Martyrs (2008)

Martyrs is not essentially a horror film but a dramatic film with scenes of such horrifying violence that I had to stop and watch the last half of the film the next day. It's a mesmerizing and very difficult viewing with a fascinating payoff that is almost existentialist (maybe). Many will not be able to stomach it but those who do will be rewarded intellectually and viscerally.

December 16, 2009

The Trouble With Angels (1966)

When I was young, watching The Trouble With Angels was an emotional maelstrom; from I've got the most scathingly brilliant idea to Mary's final brilliant idea, I was always a crying mess. Now I'm an adult and the whole religious indoctrination thing comes into play (and is really annoying) so although I'm not as emotionally debilitated as before, Rosalind Russell and Hayley Mills (and Marge Redmond and Gypsy Rose Lee and June Harding and Mary Wickes and...) are still a hoot. And what's not to love about a film directed by Ida Lupino?

December 15, 2009

Dark Victory (1976)

Elizabeth Montgomery is a wonderful actress but not so much in Dark Victory, a made for television version of the 1939 Bette Davis weeper. The morning show producer she plays is harsh, cold and self-centered, and it's hard to imagine anyone falling in love with her - which is the core of the story. Despite a good performance from Anthony Hopkins, this victory is way too long and should have been left in the dark (although Elizabeth's smile in the final frame lights up the screen).

December 14, 2009

Taken (2008)

The most interesting thing about Taken is how the writer managed to find a new nationality (Albanians) to be the terrorists. The story (which plays dangerously close to Hardcore, the George C. Scott film from 1980) is about an annoyingly entitled girl, kidnapped into the sex trade, and her father who kills anyone to get her back. No spoilers there and no surprises as you watch; you know exactly how this calculated film will end when you read the poster.

December 10, 2009

All of Me (1984)

The 1984 comedy All of Me is unbelievably ho-hum and not intrinsically funny. Steve Martin is excellent and Lily Tomlin is...well...Lily Tomlin so the movie holds some interest but its no silk purse. To this day it remains a mystery to me how this movie became a huge box office hit.

December 8, 2009

Near Dark (1987)

With all the vampiric blood-sucking in current entertainment, it's nice that Near Dark never mentions the word. They are simply serial killers. Kudos to writer/director Kathryn Bigelow because it's an intelligent film for anyone but especially for fans of Bill Paxton, Adrian Pasdar, Lance Henrikson and the little girl from Beaches (no, not Blossom).

December 5, 2009

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a courtroom drama with horrific flashbacks; it's cerebrially horrific. It's also highly watchable. Laura Linney is excellent as a lawyer defending priest Tom Wilkinson against murder charges for his exorcism of Jennifer Carpenter in all her demoned-out glory.

December 4, 2009

Precious (2009)

No horror film has made me gasp like Precious. No romantic comedy has made me feel as joyous as Precious. Precious is of great value.

December 3, 2009

High Society (1956)

High Society is nothing more than Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly play acting the much better The Philadelphia Story. It's a musical but that is pushing it as the mostly trite Cole Porter tunes seem haphazardly thrown in. The saving grace is the swinging presence of maestro Louis Armstrong and his band, and the classy presence of maestra Celeste Holm who looks phenomenal and manages to create an actual character.

December 1, 2009

The Gathering (2002)

An interesting myth about the Catholic Church (aren't they all?) is mingled with a well-known fact about the Catholic Church to create The Gathering, a watchable film about the beginnings of the Catholic Church. It's not particularly thrilling but it does maintain interest as Christina Ricci bounces around the English town of Ashby Wake trying to figure out why she is in a tee shirt seeing visions. It's benign.

November 30, 2009

Splinter (2008)

Splinter might be a very short, B-movie but it delivers the tension as a creepy, pointy thing invades a bunch of people who have locked themselves in an isolated gas station for safety. The actors (Paulo Costanzo, Jill Wagner, Shea Wigham) are uniformly good but the script does veer into the ridiculous and plagiaristic territory that B-movies often do. The best aspect, though, is that the special effects are NOT created using CGI!

November 27, 2009

P.S. I Love You (2007)

P.S. I Love You is a story about loss and recovery that has it all. There's an intriguing story with a funny and touching script (that does have some minor issues), a stellar cast (Hilary Swank, Gerard Butler, Lisa Kudrow, Gina Gershon, Kathy Bates, Harry Connick Jr., Nellie McKay), phenomenal music (the CD is worth owning) and directorial pedigree (writer/director Richard LaGravenese of Living Out Loud). Don't pass this off as just some chick flick - although you should prepare yourself for a tear or two...or three.

November 26, 2009

Adrift (2008)

Director Hans Horn has done a good job of conveying feelings of claustrophobia in what is essentially a huge space. But although the ocean is terrifying in Adrift (also known as Open Water 2), the script has a few ridiculous plot points and you don't have to be a rocket scientist to guess who dies at the end in the beginning. Still, character development helped and ultimately I think this one did a better job than its ersatz predecessor Open Water.

November 25, 2009

100 Films and a Funeral (2007)

100 Films and a Funeral is a dry yet interesting documentary about PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, an independent film company (part of Polygram Records) that soared in the 90s and crashed in the almost 00s. After producing films such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Fargo and Trainspotting PFE went off the mark with dreck such as Poseidon and imploded. This story does much to explain the difference between film as an art and film as a business.

November 23, 2009

Leviathan (1989)

I know, let's make Alien again but put it 16,000 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean and instead of having the monster rip OUT of your belly, let's have it rip INTO your belly. We'll hire some solid B-list actors (like Peter Weller, Meg Foster, Ernie Hudson, Richard Crenna), create a relatively creepy shapeshifting monster, and end it almost like they ended The Poseidon Adventure. We'll call it Leviathan but make sure we don't show too much of the monster; we have to save money to make money.

November 21, 2009

2012 (2009)

Click for my thoughts on 2012. It's a movie directed by Roland Emmerich. I needed more than three lines to get it off my chest.

November 19, 2009

The Curse of the Cat People (1944)

The Curse of the Cat People is a sequel in actors and title to the 1942 film Cat People. The real story concerns the imaginary friend of a 10 year old girl (beautifully played by Ann Carter) who just happens to be Simone SImon, the cat lady of the first film. Elizabeth Russell (seemingly producer Val Lewton's muse) has a bigger (and different) role this go round but again it's more fantastical Dr. Seuss than horror and certainly not a real sequel.

November 17, 2009

Cat People (1942)

The classic horror film Cat People is really less classic horror and more black and white mood piece than its reputation would have you believe. It's poetic to watch the shadows and light but the film's interest is more historical than horror. Simone SImon is mesmerizingly good and Elizabeth Russell has a memorably brief scene but you might pass on this if you're not a film student.

November 15, 2009

The Bride Work Black (1968)

Director Francois Truffaut's fascination with Alfred Hitchcock reached its apex with The Bride Wore Black, a Hitchcockian tale with no suspense starring Jean Moreau (of the Betty Davis face) as the woman denied her walk down the aisle. You almost know what's going on when she dons the darkside threads to dish out a cool style of revenge but the story keeps unfolding anyway to an inevitable conclusion. It's not the best Hitchcock homage that's been filmed but the cinematography of the French locations is breathtakingly real and Moreau's Pierre Cardin clothing is loud and proud.

November 3, 2009

Manhunter (1986)

Five years before the onslaught of The Silence of the Lambs there was Manhunter - what can only be described as the sword and spear version of the former. And that's a good thing. It's cerebral and not very gory but the tension created by director Michael Mann and excellent performances from William Peterson, Tom Noonan and Joan Allen (among many) bring it on home.

October 25, 2009

Night Must Fall (1937)

What is the deal with Night Must Fall? It's supposed to be a thrilling murder mystery of yore but the murderer is revealed (for all intents and purposes) early on so there is no mystery. I guess people like the photography and maybe at one time it had chills but now, although a pleasure to watch Rosalind, Russell, Robert Montgomery and Dame Mae Whitty, it's a little stage bound and traditionally British.

October 20, 2009

Curse of the Forty-Niner (2002)

Karen Black can do no wrong when it comes to acting but when it comes to choosing the films in which she acts, well that's another story and Miner's Massacre (aka Curse of the Forty-Niner) tells it. How the producer managed to get her, John Phillip Law, Richard Lynch and Jeff Conaway for this laughable story of a dead miner protecting his gold claim is beyond comprehension. I guess times are hard everywhere.

October 19, 2009

Death Becomes Her (1992)

Sorry Goldie Hawn, Meryl Streep and Bruce Willis but taste trumps talent in Death Becomes Her - bad taste that is. The comedy is SO not funny and the story is SO not, even in its fantastical elements, interesting to watch. The special effects are good and the ladies might have had a fun time making the film because of it but, that alone doesn't mean this one is worth the time it took to finish.

October 13, 2009

Drop Dead Diva Season One (2009)

I just love Drop Dead Diva. Brooke Elliot carries the show as the plain Jane who wakes up with a supermodel's soul although she does get able support from the rest of the cast (including Margaret Cho) and guest stars (Liza Minnelli and Delta Burke as sisters?) It's a guilty pleasure but it's a pleasure.

October 10, 2009

Carver (2008)

Carver is derived from every other horror film in which five people are tortured and (possibly?) killed by one (or more) back country bumpkins. The actual reels filmed by the bumpkins as the horror takes place adds a twist but not enough of one to make the movie more interesting. Another twist is the addition of fecal matter which doesn't make the movie more interesting either.

October 9, 2009

District 9 (2009)

What is the deal about District 9 (produced by Peter Jackson for that worth)? It was sometimes mildly enervating but ultimately not very appealing. I left the theatre twenty five minutes into it I was that bored.

October 6, 2009

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997)

I love Romy and Michele's High School Reunion. Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow are blonde and blonder in this adaptation of a play I saw in Los Angeles in 1989 with Lisa Kudrow. It's funny and light, has Janeane Garofalo, Alan Cumming and Camryn Manheim in addition to the titulars, and the 80s music is to die for.

October 2, 2009

Daughter of the Mind (1969)

Seances and sleeper spies (that's what they called them in the 60s) are at the heart of Daughter of the Mind, an ABC Movie of the Week which I had remembered fondly. Watching it low these forty years later, I was pleasantly surprised to see Gene Tierney in this story of a man (Ray Milland) who is being visited by the ghost of his dead daughter - the ubiquitous Pamelyn Ferdin. Not as scary as I had remembered, it does have an element of interest although the denouement was something I figured out way before the 90 minutes were up.

October 1, 2009

Bonnie & Clyde: The True Story (1992)

The made-for-television Bonnie & Cyde: The True Story might have the facts correct but it doesn't have the glamour and excitement of its more famous large screen forebear. Betty Buckley steals the show as Bonnie's mother and Tracey Needham as Bonnie is fine (once you lose the memory of Faye Dunaway) but Dana Ashbrook as Clyde seems like he popped off the stage of an 'N Sync concert. Although the first half keeps interest it loses steam towards the end when the most exciting part, their death, is relegated to offscreen status.

September 27, 2009

Small Sacrifices (1989)

Even at her best, it is difficult to separate Farrah Fawcett, the icon, from Farrah Fawcett, the actress, but, despite this conundrum, the first fair-haired angel is mesmerizing in Small Sacrifices, based on the true story of Diane Downs who shot three of her children in the hopes of gaining the love of a man. Emily Perkins (a personal favorite due to her appearances in the Ginger Snaps trilogy) and John Shea as her daughter and the prosecuting attorney (respectively) are Fawcett's equal in this intelligently scripted and well-directed television miniseries (that is currently out of print but sending me an email will get you a free copy). Small Sacrifices is three hours long so get your bathroom and kitchen desires out of the way as it is so riveting your ass won't leave the chair.

September 25, 2009

The More the Merrier (1943)

You can't go wrong with a picture starring Jean Arthur but The More The Merrier adds the handsomely hunky Joel McCrea and the obligingly ornery Charles Coburn to create an adult (pre-Three's Company) comedy about roommates and love. The classic George Stevens directed the picture (about a housing shortage in World War II era Washington, DC) which, despite its age, still works. Watch for the rooftop scene and the scene where Jean and Joel walk home from their first date - if only they made movies this naively erotic and oddly romantic today!

September 23, 2009

Idiocracy (2006)

Yes, Idiocracy is a screamingly funny movie about two people who wake up five hundred years into the future and find the U.S. of A. peopled (and run) by idiots but it's also prescient. Compare Joe Wilson's recent outburst in the hallowed halls of Congress to this film's House of Representin' or, compare Judge Judy and The Jerry Springer Show to this film's courtroom scene or, compare the health care reform fight to this film's takeover of the F.D.A., and you get a clear picture of where our country is headed. Writer/director Mike Judge pulled it off with great assistance from Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph, arguably the best thing about the movie.

September 20, 2009

The Golem (1920)

If the story told in The Golem moved any slower it would be running backwards. Despite its reputation as a horror classic and pre-cursor to James Whale's 1931 film Frankenstein, Paul Wegener's (director and monster) film is overwrought, overacted and seemingly anti-Semitic - not surprising as it is, after all, a German silent film. The most interesting things about the film (whose story of reanimation is steeped in Jewish folklore) are its expressionistic sets, the cinematography by Karl Papa Freund, and the similarities it holds with the real time horror classic Pumpkinhead - yes, I wrote Pumpkinhead.

September 19, 2009

Easy Living (1937)

Easy Living is a genuinely daffy, Preston Sturges-written, Mitchell Leisen-directed laugh riot. Jean Arthur as the girl who gets bonked on the head by a sable (or is it kilonsky?) fur coat (starting a chain of events that leads to a stock market meltdown) demonstrates why she is one of the greatest actresses in Hollywood history. Edward Arnold and Ray Milland round out the triumverate exquisitely in this screwball classic that finally gave auteur Sturges enough clout to direct the next screenplay he wrote and Hollywood was never the same.

September 9, 2009

Children of the Night (1991)

Had I ever seen Buffy, The Vampire Slayer I might think Children of the Night is quite like it: a different take on the vampire legend, well made, decent acting and interesting enough to keep you watching. It's also got Karen Black which is a plus. Although it teeters on camp I was surprised at how much I actually enjoyed it - even the poster has camp...I mean, class.

September 8, 2009

Quarantine (2008)

From the first shot of cutsie reporter Jennifer Carpenter to the next shot of the here-to-fore unseen television news camera man you realize that Quarantine (the remake of [REC] a nail-biting Spanish horror film in which for one, the camera man is never seen) has been homogenized; the former is a problem, the latter not so much. The rest of the movie is almost a scene by scene (as I recall) copy of the original with this unappealing woman at the center and a story that bypasses the religious issues of the original to appease a larger American audience. This is commerce, not art - go with [REC].

September 7, 2009

Michael Clayton (2007)

Michael Clayton is an excellently creepy drama about corporate greed with a smartly written, complex story and characters. George Clooney has probably never been better and Tilda Swinton deservedly won an Oscar for her role. The only downside was the unwelcome (but admittedly small) supporting performance from Michael O' Keefe; ironically the second actor in the movie to play a romantic interest to Jackie in the situation comedy Roseanne with Clooney being the first.

September 6, 2009

Troop Beverly Hills (1989)

A red-headed Shelley Long is the pampered leader of a bunch of pampered Wilderness Girls in Troop Beverly Hills, an obvious but nonetheless fun fish out of water comedy that seems to have taken on cult status; it came almost two years before the first episode of Beverly Hills 90210. There are no real laugh out loud moments and Long's character is just a jump away from Diane in Cheers but somehow it works - maybe its the outlandish Beverly Hills clothing that Phyllis Nefler wears or watching her Do The Freddie in high heels or getting soused on Evian water. Betty Thomas and Mary Gross add to the tension (or lack thereof) as the villains, and the Cookie Time rap is classic in a family B-movie sort of way.

September 5, 2009

Vantage Point (2008)

Everyone in Vantage Point is trying really hard to make this an important movie but in the end it spends too much time literally rewinding and rehashing the same story from a different camera angle. Ridiculous plot elements (like overweight Forrest Whitaker keeping up with, and recording, the Secret Service as they chase the bad guys or Dennis Quaid emerging unscathed from a horrendous car crash) add to the overall mediocrity of this Run, Lola, Run (which it kind of, maybe, resembles) knock-off. Ultimately, the movie lacks any complexity and the ending is a lot of Hollywood nothing.