Monday, June 20, 2011

A Night At The Opera

So, I'm thinking the people who think this is the best Marx Brothers movie, maybe they've only seen the state room scene.
'Cause, don't get me wrong, it was good and the parts that had the Marxes in them were funny. But then there were all the scenes where a shrill soprano and a voice swallowing tenor sing for, like, an hour.
The scene in Groucho's hotel where they have breakfast and then Chico and Harpo have to hide from the police was probably my favorite.
You know, Marx Brothers movies are pretty much impossible to review. They're all basically the same review: I like the parts where the Marxes do things and the extraneous characters bore me. The end.

End of line.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Alice In Wonderland

Tim Burton and I broke up after Sweeney Todd. I tried to be nice about it, even saw it in the theaters four times trying to convince myself I liked it. After the fourth time, though, we had a huge fight and I said some very, very hurtful and insulting things (all of which I still think were justified).
Tim Burton, of course, did not respond because he was a figment of my imagination at the time (the real Tim Burton being unavailable due to the fact that we've never met and he was probably busy that day), but we agreed that I was simply too opinionated and he was simply too stagnant and repetitive (he has, like, three movies that he just makes over and over). I told him I was keeping the Sleepy Hollow and we went our seperate ways.
For years I'd clench my teeth at the mere mention of his name, but we're back on speaking terms of the polite but not necessarily friendly variety. I watched his Alice In Wonderland because I feel I don't have the right to complain about a movie I've never seen.
This is a movie whose previews I loudly, openly and shamelessly booed in theaters. You see, the main reason Tim Burton and I parted ways was that we realized we only got along when he was adapting things I didn't care about. For instance, The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow is a story I tried to read on more than one occasion but was never able to finish. Sleepy Hollow is, by far, Tim Burton's best movie. However, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street is one of my top five favorite musicals and Tim Burton (who claims it's the only musical he likes) only got one thing right: the gore. His movie has buckets and buckets of blood (yay!), less than adequate performances from everybody but Pirelli and Toby (as my friend Michelle put it: "It's really sad when the best actors in your movie are Borat and an eleven year old boy.") and twelve tons of missing the point. But I won't get into that. I'm not reviewing that movie.
So I went into Alice In Wonderland expecting to absolutely hate it. Instead I didn't hate it. I didn't like it, exactly. My reaction is complex and confused, and a good chunk of my problem could have been resolved by giving the movie a proper name: Return To Wonderland would have been more accurate.
The movie begins with Alice going to a garden party at which some snooty guy is going to propose to her (Alice is, like, eighteen in this version). The audience is supposed to know Alice is "different" (read "better") than the people around her because she thinks corsets are stupid and she's not interested in fitting into their society. Yawn. Like I've never heard that from every stupid movie ever; let's move on. (We also know Alice is a Tim Burton heroine because she looks as if she just spent the last two hours throwing up.)
Anyway, Alice runs away from her proposal to follow a white rabbit down a hole and she lands in Underland (it turns out "Wonderland" was her childish mispronunciation. You can't see it, but I'm rolling my eyes right now), where the Red Queen has used her Jabberwocky and her Crispin Glover to take over power from her sister the White Queen. It's been told that on the Frabjous Day, Alice with use the Vorpal Sword to kill the Jabberwocky.
Okay, fuck this! Explaining anything from Jabberwocky takes everything that's magical away from the poem. I don't want to see some dumbass filmmakers' interpretations of what a frumious bandersnatch is. I don't want vorpal blade to mean anything. And I'm motherfucking sick of jabberwockys just being dragons. Quit trying to ruin a brilliant poem by trying to make it mean something. Stop perverting it to suit your needs. Whoever wrote this screenplay can bite me.
Alice spends the whole movie insisting she's not the Alice they're looking for and then bossing them around because it's her dream so she's in charge. (I don't like Alice in this movie.)
And why can't the White Queen kill the Jabberwocky herself? Because "my vows make me unable to hurt any living creature." I'm pretty sure she's related to Glinda from The Wizard Of Oz. "I want this person out of the way without getting my hands dirty; time to get an unsuspecting little girl to do my dirty work for me." They're like mobsters. "Good Witch" my ass.
Anyway, so Alice teams up with the Mad Hatter and all the animals in Wonderland to find the sword and defeat the Red Queen.
And at some point midway through the movie my teeth unclenched, my blood stopped boiling and I managed to just enjoy myself. Something happened at maybe forty five minutes in that made me just stop caring about all the stupid things that were annoying me and just be entertained. I liked that quite a lot.
It didn't last, though. Around the time Alice rode the bandersnactch back to the White Queen's palace, I started getting mad again and stayed mad for the rest of the movie (except for the execution scene; that was pretty good). And I tried. I tried really hard to let go, to not be mad, to just enjoy the movie. "Remember how good you felt fifteen minutes ago when you thought it wasn't bad? Remember?" I pleaded, but it didn't work. Whatever the movie did to offend me was enough for me to declare war on Freedonia. (It called me an upstart?) (In this case "declare war on Freedonia" means "scowl for the rest of the movie.")
I really hated the White Queen, Alice bugged the snot out of me, the Red Queen was awful, the Mad Hatter was trying too hard to be weird (also, he was occasionally Scottish; either be Scottish or don't, dude), the Doormouse was a bitch, the March Hare made me tense (I really didn't like how he was animated) ... I liked most of the other characters, though. The Cheshire Cat was very cool.
So, I don't know. It needed more of whatever was going right in the middle to make me stop being angry about the unlikeable characters and the attempts at de-magic-izing a great poem.

End of line.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Bible ... In The Beginning

Yesterday at Amoeba I talked some guy into buying volume one of The Prisoner. I hope he likes it. He decided he wanted to recommend something to me, too, and The Bible ... In The Beginning was what he came up with (after suggesting a few things I'd already seen).
Holy crap, this movie is long! It's one of those sweeping Dino De Launrentiis epics that is three hours long that I've heard so much about but never actually seen before now.
Parts of it lost me; I only really understood the segments based on Bible stories with which I was already familiar (due mainly to cultural osmosis since I was raised pretty religionless). I took notes while I was watching the movie and I figured the easiest way to review the movie would be simply to share my notes and elaborate if need be. Here goes:

"Guns And Religion: Now More Than Ever" - Oh yeah, on the way to Amoeba yesterday I got cut off by a truck with a bumper sticker that said that. It pissed me off for a multitude of reasons and I'm still trying to figure out what religion the guy is; I can't think of any pro-gun religions. (Also, when he cut me off I yelled "Jesus Christ!" After I read his bumper sticker I added "I oughta shoot you." See, 'cause it's funny 'cause ... meh. Forget it.)
Why do people still believe this but not ancient Roman / Greek gods? - Isn't it all kinda the same thing?
Don't eat from the Tree Of Knowledge "lest you die" - Intelligence kills. I feel like that explains a lot, at least in terms of overly religious politicians.
That apple is gold.
Is that a different Adam?
- At a certain point Michael Parks looks totally different and I can't figure out why. He's the only Adam credited, though, so I guess it's still him.
"Be fruitful and multiply" then "your punishment is bearing children." - Wait, how can you punish Eve for eating the apple by making her have kids when you already told her to multiply?
Cain and Abel's offerings = God's a dick - "Abel, your offering is bountiful and made of animals. This pleases me. ... Cain, your offering is just as honest but it's paltry and made of grapes. Therefore I hate you." Fuck you too, God!
Cain invented murder and lying?
Revenge is okay and encouraged = God's a dick
- First God hates Cain for making a paltry sacrifice, then God hates Cain for inventing murder, then God says whoever kills Cain will be blessed seven times over or something like that. Way to have double standards, you jerk? Why the hell do you hate Cain so fucking much?
Where did Cain's wife come from? - Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain killed Abel and eventually went off and got a wife and had some kids. Where'd that wife come from? She wasn't one of Adam and Eve's kids, but Adam and Eve were the only people on Earth. Who's this mystery wife? Where did she come from?
In fact, where did all these scads of people come from? - Suddenly the world is heavily populated. When the crap did that happen?
I like Noah. He seems nice.
God plays favorites a lot.
I've never seen a version where Noah had a whole family before.
Cubits must be huge!
AMINALS! ... I'm having an Elmyra moment.
Great, now I have The Unicorn running through my head.
This animal job is impossible.
- So God tells Noah to build an ark and put two of each kind of animal on it so that they'll all survive the flood. First of all, what's going to stop the carnivores from killing all the other animals? Well, the movie kind of cleared that up with Noah saying they have some sort of magic animal wisdom that tells them what the situation is so the're being good and not killing anybody. Okay, fine. That doesn't change the fact that none of these animals' natural habitat is "on a giganamous boat with every other kind of animal in the world." No amount of magical animal wisdom is going to save them from the fact that penguins belong in the antarctic or hippos needing bodies of water to splash about in. And what about fish and aquatic mammals and such? They obviously didn't get brought into the ark since the flooding can't hurt them any. So are they ridiculously overpopulated now since they all got to live, rather than just two of them?
It must've been smelly. Maybe Noah was anosmic?
Why do Bible characters only ever have sons?
- Adam and Eve had sons, Noah had a bunch of sons, Jacob had a bunch of sons, Abraham had two sons (even though everyone thinks Ishmael doesn't count for some reason). That doesn't generally happen. And if all anybody ever had were sons, where do all their wives come from?
"The glory of Nimrod shines beyond the sun." Hahaha!
I understood the first two stories but now I'm lost.
George C. Scott! I love that guy!
What is going on now? George C. Scott is leading an expedition and he wants to have a kid? So God told him to kill a bunch of livestock?
George C. Scott gets all the ladies.
First she wanted him to sleep with her maid, now she regrets it.
The maid's name is Hagar? She's an unfunny viking comic strip?
Poor Ishmael. His dad's playing favorites with a kid who doesn't exist.
I'm lost again.
Ooh, smiting!
Smite! Smite! Smite!
How long have I been watching this movie?
Okay, now it's Sodom and Gomorroah?
- When I was a kid, I thought Sodom And Gomorrah were people. And I probably thought they solved mysteries on television in the 1980s (along with Jake And The Fat Man, Simon And Simon, Cagney And Lacey, McMillan And Wife and Starsky And Hutch).
Salt! Salt! Salt!
Dude, that was, like, an atomic blast. I didn't know they had atomic blasts in Biblical times.
Abraham just got a sarcastic slow clap for his wife having a baby.
"Hey Abraham, kill your son! ... Just kidding!" = God's a dick
- Seriously, what is with this guy? These Bible stories are not putting me on God's side. Did Satan write these stories? "This'll get people worshipping me instead." (Good thing I don't believe in Hell or I'd probably end up there for that one.)
That kid is never going to trust you ever again, George C. Scott.

That was the last note. It was a good enough movie while I was watching it, but I don't think I'll bother sitting through it again. Except maybe the Noah's Ark segment. I like that story (plot holes and all) and I loved seeing all the animals.

End of line.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I Need That Record! The Death (Or Possible Survival) Od Independent Record Stores

I Need That Record! is a documentary about why record stores are dying and how the music industry has changed over the past several decades. It mainly focuses on people who owned record stores (Electric Records and Trash American Style (both of which were in Connecticut, I believe) in particular) and what they're up to since losing their businesses.
I've always considered the death of record and video stores as the biggest sign that the world is ending, and I have been crying steadily for the past half hour. I don't like the place the world is becoming but I'm trapped in it.
It was a good documentary but it's also quite heartbreaking and I think I may have been better off not watching it. I'm very sad now.
On the other hand, I'm the one who put I Need That Record! in the Movie Lottery bucket, and when that piece of paper came out I said "I am going to cry." So I guess it's my own damn fault.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Scanners are psychic people who can use their powers for good or for awesome. Or for evil. Or for exploding heads. Cameron Vail has just found out he's a scanner and Doctor Paul Ruth wants to use him to find an evil scanner named Darryl Revok. The doctor (I just can't bring myself to call him Doctor Ruth) thinks Revok is putting together a group of evil scanners hellbent on taking over the world, the jerk. In his quest to find Revok, Cameron meets a good scanner named Kim Oberst and she helps him to solve the mystery of the stuff that's happening. (Ain't I eloquent?)
I don't know how I feel about Scanners. I liked it, I suppose. David Cronenberg is a fine director and his movies tend to have good plots as well as good gore, so I really can't complain there. I guess my problem with the movie is my inability to understand why various characters do what they do. A lot of the movie made me feel like Cameron was about to turn to the dark side, but I also feel like there was never a proper explanation of what and why the dark side is. I understood various characters' alliances for the most part but ... I don't know. The climactic scene conveniently had a villainous monologue that tried to explain things but it came out backwards. I wasn't having trouble following the plot until that scene. Suddenly I'm supposed to think differently of certain characters without much rhyme or reason (I can't explain further than that without giving away a major twist), at least none that was adequate enough for my taste. I think I'd like to watch it again and see if I can figure out some things.
It's kind of too bad that Scanners is best known as "that movie where that guy's head explodes." It's definitely a cool shot and worth the price of admission, but the movie itself is good, too. The head explosion happens within the first fifteen minutes and the movie doesn't have a huge burst of gore like that again, although the climactic scene does get pretty gross. This was actually my second attempt (first successful one) at watching Scanners. The first time I saw it the shock of seeing Patrick McGoohan older and beardy (I'd only ever seen him in The Prisoner at that point) and the fact that the head explosion was over and done with so quickly made me lose interest early on. That and I guess the plot bored me (I think I've grown more patient with slow moving movies since then).
Now, though, I can honestly say I liked Scanners quite a bit. I think. I'll have to try and figure out the plot snarls before I can say for certain.

End of line.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Inside The Marx Brothers

Inside The Marx Brothers is a short documentary which is, thankfully, about the Marx Brothers' movies and other works (and not about their innards).
It doesn't go particularly in depth into anything and focuses more on Groucho than any of the other brothers (which is kinda frustrating for a girl who's always liked Harpo best) but it's interesting and entertaining.
There are a lot of old clips from various television programs and trailers for their movies and behind the scenes photos.
The part I really geeked out over, though, was near the end when they played a clip of one of the audio tapes Harpo made while he was writing Harpo Speaks.
I heard Harpo speak. For reals. That makes me very happy.
And now I kinda wish I owned every Marx Brothers movie so I could watch them all. Even Humorisk (which doesn't exist anymore because Groucho hated it and had every copy destroyed). Even the ones from after Zeppo left (Zeppo's my second favorite Marx Brother). Even Love Happy (which I've heard is terrible). This is the sort of mood that happens when a compulsive collector feels nostalgic.
I grew up watching Marx Brothers movies. I'm sad there'll never be a comedy team like them again.

End of line.


You know what kind of movies give me a good, good feeling? Farcical movies with ensemble casts. Especially if they're murder mysteries or take place in the first half of the twentieth century (bonus points for both!). Oscar isn't a murder mystery, but three out of four is a home run as far as I'm concerned.
Snaps Provolone's dad has passed away and his dying wish was that Snaps give up his mobster life and go straight. The day he begins his life as an honest man, though, everything comes crashing down at once. Without giving too much away the plot involves Snaps' two daughters (only one of whom is his), a pregnancy, three fiances, two tailors, three black leather duffel bags, four bankers, a police officer determined to find out what Snaps is up to, a thieving accountant and an Irish maid.
This is officially my favorite Sylvester Stallone movie. All those Rockys and Rambos can go to hell. I had no idea how funny the guy is; he's got great timing. Everybody in the cast does, really. The cast is mostly made up of every familiar-looking mook guy who was acting in the 1990s. And they're all hilarious.
It's interesting to me that John Landis is considered one of the Masters Of Horror when I can only name one horror movie he directed (An American Werewolf In London). I suppose The Twilight Zone movie kind of counts, but his segment is more horriffic because of what happened during shooting than what's on the screen (and the less said about that, the better). I can name quite a few comedies he's directed, though, and he's great with it. I don't remember much of Animal House but it's considered a classic by many, and I can say without question Oscar is hilarious.
What I really like about it is that a lot of the jokes are played over the top (Marisa Tomei's childish tantrums for instance) but just as much of the comedy is treated completely naturally, like this is just how people talk. The lines would be funny if the actors punched it but it's actually funnier when they almost toss the lines aside as if obviously that's what anyone would say in this situation. It's the same bit of praise I had for Russell Brand in the Arthur remake; it's funnier when you pretend it isn't.
Oscar is a lot of fun and totally worth seeing. I'm not sure why I don't hear about it more often. It deserves more recognition.

End of line.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Prowler

In 1945 Rosemary broke up with her soldier boyfriend in a letter. Then at her college's graduation dance Rosemary and her new boyfriend were pitchforked to death, which caused the college to not have another graduation dance for thirty five years. The year they bring it back, though, a bunch of people get killed (some by pitchfork).
The Prowler is fast paced, the blood is copious and the plot is simple. I liked it quite a lot. Maybe there were fewer deaths than some slasher movies have, but to include more kills would have made the movie longer than it needed to be. I appreciate its conciseness, if for no other reason than I have to get up at five o'clock in the morning tomorrow and should be getting to bed around now.
The Prowler = good watchin'. Highly recommended. Good night!

End of line.

Casino Royale

I haven't watched a James Bond movie in years. The last one I saw was You Only Live Twice and I was maybe ten or eleven at the time, so it's been over a decade. Much like how I feel about Star Wars, I'm glad James Bond movies are a thing and I'm a fan of their existence but not really of the movies themselves. I don't want to watch them but I'm glad they're there.
That being said, the Casino Royale I just watched is likely not the version you're thinking of. Of course I'm not a mind reader and I don't know who you are so it could very well be exactly the one you're thinking of. It's certainly not the new Casino Royale, though, and it's not the comedy starring David Niven.
This was, as far as I know, the first onscreen version of James Bond. It was an episode of the television show Climax! and good ol' Jimmy Bond was played by American actor Barry Nelson (who I'm going to start telling people is my favorite James Bond, just to be contrary).
The reason I watched the movie (the reason I heard of the movie and, according to IMDB, the reason Barry Nelson took the role) is Peter Lorre, who plays the villain. I love Peter Lorre.
The movie's pretty straightforward: a Soviet spy gambled away all of his country's money and now he has to win it back. Jimmy Bond has to play against him and make sure he doesn't get that money. Thrown into the mix is Bond's ex-girlfriend who works for the Soviets (or does she?) and ... actually, that's about it.
There's almost no action (a few poorly-thrown stage punches, a couple offscreen gunshots and it's implied that Peter Lorre pulls out a couple of Bond's toenails with pliers) and a lot of talking. And a rather long scene of Bond and the villain playing baccarat.
It was entertaining enough, a good way to spend about an hour, but it was nothing like what society's general consensus of how James Bond goes. I'm cool with that, though. In fact, it makes me very happy that the first James Bond movie was a poorly-received television episode with a schlumpy American of a Bond (well, maybe not schlumpy but he's definitely not suave nor badass) and almost no action.

End of line.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The New York Ripper

This is the most straightforward Lucio Fulci movie I've ever seen. It's a lot like any number of "cops chasing serial killers" thrillers, except way bloodier. And, because it's Fulci, there are scenes that come off as creepier than you'd expect them to. The hand gag in the first scene and the phone booth, for instance.
The New York Ripper is about a murderer wandering around New York (clearly), murdering women and quacking. I have seen a lot of movie reference guides and magazine articles that make fun of the duck voice but I found it genuinely unsettling.
I've seen four other Lucio Fulci movies (The Beyond, City Of The Living Dead, Don't Torture A Duckling and Lizard In A Woman's Skin) and this is the first one I had no trouble following. I think it may also have the saddest ending of the five, but it's been so long since I've seen a few of those others (I barely remember Lizard In A Woman's Skin at all) so I could be wrong.
A lot of people hate this movie (and, I guess, all of Fulci's work) because they find it sexist. I don't think that's really true. The killer might be sexist but it's perfectly clear we're not supposed to be taking the killer's side (what with the fact that the killer is, you know, killing people and all).
And blaming the existence of naked ladies and gratuitous sex scenes doesn't work as a valid argument as far as I'm concerned either, if for no other reason than New York Ripper was made in the early '80s. Most movies back then had pointless sex and nudity (and over the top violence) because filmmakers were still on a bit of a "no more Hayes Code" high (not as much as in the '70s, but it's still there). Maybe as an Italian Fulci didn't have Hayes Code problems but he was still making and trying to get people to see his movies in a time where other filmmakers were throwing off their Hayes Code shackles by showing audiences as many naked ladies they could convince to show up on screen.
Maybe I'm reading too much into it, I don't know. I'm just saying what it seems like to me. (It could also just be that I'm difficult to offend. Who knows?)
Overall it's a really cool thriller. Good plot twists, lots of creepy moments, a good tenacious cop guy, a quirky villain and a professor who has to explaini the killer's psychosis (which is maybe kinda corny but a lot of thrillers like to do that). And then there are gallons of blood to keep the horror fans happy.
You've done a fine job, Mr. Fulci.

End of line.