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Archive for April, 2008

Please, sir, can I have some more? (Trailer below is all in Russian, no subtitles, but it’s worth the looksey. I promise. Pretty please, click on it and take a look.)

Okay, first of all, if you know anything about me you know that I have this crazy, odd affinity for Russians and Russia in general, so I’m totally ready to pony up for a theater ticket to see Admiral Kolchak, even though I had no idea who Admiral Kolchak actually was until I Wikipedia’d him (warning, here be SPOILERS, ’cause, you know.) Sue me, a lot of my Russian history knowledge, which is woefully limited, is pretty much from 1917 onwards.

Secondly, this movie has Konstantin freakin’ Khabensky in it, so I’m double there. If I could put two of me in the movie theater, I would. Like a lot of people here in America, I had no idea who Khabensky was; actually, here in America I can’t recall the last time a real Russian film was actually hyped up over here. I learned of Khabensky through the Watch movies; Night Watch and Day Watch, which if memory serves me right, are two of the most successful movies in Russian film history. (Also, I must admit, my Russian film viewing is woefully limited as well. You’d think for someone who’s a growing Russophiliac, I’d have some idea of Russian film but…no.)

Thirdly, I dig war/action movies like whoa.

On a more shallow note, Khabensky’s really, really ridiculously good-looking (to me, personally) so I’m triple there. Shallow? Sad? Reaching a new low? Perhaps. Let’s face it; I like to look at pretty things, mmkay?

Am I there? I’m there. I’m so there.

Here in America, it’ll be released as Admiral, I believe, but the only release date that’s listed via IMDB is a November ’08 release for Russia. Come on, Russian film industry! Hook a poor girl up.

Also, I have no idea what they’re saying in the trailer nor what the words say. Cyrillic alphabet makes my head go boom.

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Guys, I have to make a terrible confession. Have you wondered all these years why Nicolas Cage has a film career? It’s me, people, it’s all me. I’m the sole moviegoer keeping Cage in business. It’s sad to admit, but my name is Caitlin and I’m addicted to bad Nicolas Cage action flicks. (Right now, Fletch over at Blog Cabins is probably booking a plane ticket to come beat me senseless.)

John Travolta plays Sean Archer, a determined, hardworking FBI agent determined to bring down the vicious criminal that killed his son, a certain Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage). After finally bringing him down, the FBI discovers that there’s still one last dastardly plot Castor has dreamed up that he’s already set in motion and there’s only one ridiculously outlandish way to save the day. Sean Archer must have his face switched with Castor Troy. Insult to injury, I should think, but of course! Sean Archer is a total Boy Scout, so he has to do the right thing — at the further expense of everything he holds dear and true. What a hero, right?

There’s really no other way to describe this movie than absurdly over the top. Castor’s brother is named Pollux (haha, get it?); Nicolas Cage starts out the movie by planting some sort of crazy bomb in a convention center dressed as a priest of all things and carrying gold plated guns; the prison in this movie is something you have to see to believe. It’s a quasi-futuristic place with robotic, magnetic boots that control the prison population that’s located on an oil rig looking place in the middle of the ocean. So…yeah. It looks like a fun place to spend an eternity and a half, right? Kinda bleak, kinda depressing, kinda isolated. It’s party city up there.

Meanwhile, while Sean’s taken Castor’s place in prison to get information out of the neurotic, nerdy Pollux, the real Castor wakes up without a face, which would probably really ruin anyone’s day. Pissing off the psycho nutjob and taking his face? Not a good idea. So Castor goes…a little nutso and takes Sean Archer’s face, leading to a nice little switcheroo that screws everyone up. Well, not until after he gets a new face lasered on and kills everyone remotely involved with the face-transplanting.

There’s a reason Nic Cage excels at playing neurotic and/or insane, psychotic characters. I personally speculate that Mr. Cage might be a little cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, if you catch my drift, but I could be wrong. So when you throw old NIcolas a curveball — say, playing a straightlaced, normal guy that’s out of his league — he doesn’t know what else to do with it than ridiculously, shamefully overplay it. Here? He doesn’t disappoint.

The scene where Archer wakes up with Castor’s face is nearly priceless. You’d better not be drinking anything while watching it or whatever liquid you’re imbibing is going straight up your nose. Cage has a completely unbelievable freak-out attack that’s beyond description, complete with stupid facial mugging, some of the most forced, fake crying I’ve ever heard, and ridiculous cries of “Eff you, eff you!” thrown at his superiors as he breaks a mirror. It’s like angst overload, Nicolas Cage style which basically means Cage plays it like a thirteen year old girl would play it. Academy Award winner right there, folks.

Cage quite simply can’t play it straight to save his life. When you’re making John Travolta, king of the unintentionally comic overacting, look downright Oscar-worthy, it’s pretty bad. Travolta does play a rather despicable bad guy. I love watching Travolta play bad dudes because he hams it up just enough instead of taking the Cage route, which is kind of like watching a monkey on speed chase a banana for hours on end.

The rest of the film is devoted to the two taking bizarre, strange means to get their respective faces back, culminating in a final battle of good versus evil with the trademark John Woo hallmarks splashed in.

So…after having gone through all the bad, why do I like this movie so darn much?

To tell you the truth, I’m really not quite sure. Perhaps it’s the scene where Nicolas Cage dances around as a priest and sings with a kid’s choir after planting a bomb that will destroy Los Angeles; perhaps it’s just the general feeling of “it’s so bad it becomes awesome” that pervades the movie; perhaps it’s the random Joe Bob Briggs cameo (Aww, Joe Bob! I miss Monstervision on TNT!).

Even if it wasn’t intended to be what it is, Face/Off’s a cheesy action flick that for some odd reason, never gets old. It stays awesomely bad and is just as funny the first time as the last time you see it.

After years of having seen it, even Nicolas Cage’s vamping doesn’t get old — and that’s saying something.

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Oh God, don’t watch this movie unless you’re prepared to cry — especially if you’re a guy.

Ted Kramer is a career-minded businessman who’s obsessed with promotions and “bringing home the bacon”, while Joanne Kramer is an unsatisfied housewife who feels like her life is going nowhere. The film starts on “one of the five biggest days of [Ted’s] life”, where he is informed he’s landed a large account at his firm and comes home to find Joanne leaving.

Ted’s ill-equipped to take care of their son Billy and Joanne refuses to take him along with her, saying that Billy is “better off without [her]”. So with a heavy workload, no understanding of how to take care of a kid and little patience, Ted is left on his own to figure out how to raise a child and why, exactly, his marriage failed. Along the way, he discovers he enjoys being a father more than he ever realized, loses his job as a result and decides to be the best dad he can be. And then Joanne rolls back into town, determined to have primary of custody of Billy because she’s his mother.

Kramer vs. Kramer is an interesting film because at a time when American culture was shifting wildly, the film explores the traditional viewpoints of parenthood evolving. The beginning depicts the typical American family of the ’50’s and ’60’s and pretty much asks the question, “What do you do when everything changes and falls apart?” There’s no script and no Cliff’s Notes for parenting, certainly not when a situation like the one in the film arises, and a family has to adapt as best it can.

Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep turn in fantastic performances and the film gives equal weight to both Ted and Joanne’s point of view, but in the end it’s difficult to sympathize with the flighty, unstable Joanne.

Hoffman in particular is stunning, making you feel for Ted even when he’s at his most unlikeable, something that’s extremely difficult to do. Streep gives a lot of depth, character and soul to a character that’s easily written off by any other actress.

It’s emotionally trying but well worth the effort to sit down and view.

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Sometimes, you can look back at an actor’s resume and you may think, “Ooh!” Conversely, you may think, “…Ewww.” Most of the time, though, it’s a strange mix of the two where you end up wondering, “How did [Insert Actor Here] end up in that piece of crap?”

Gary Oldman is by all accounts an established, respected actor but my word, has he been in some terrible dreck. Let’s break it down, shall we?

Name: Leonard (?!) Gary Oldman

Hobbies: Perfecting accents, since he uses a new one in almost every film; scenery chewing; stealing movies out from other actor’s feet; being almost criminally underrated by a lot of critics and The Academy; being the “thinking girl’s Brad Pitt”.

What He’s Best Known For: Playing psychopaths, freaks and other malcontents of society; he’s the guy producers keep on speed dial for when you have that crazy whack-job character you haven’t cast yet.

THE GOOD

Léon/The Professional — Oldman starred in an excellent film about a hitman who befriends a small girl after her parents are brutally murdered. Of course Oldman plays the psychotic cop Stansfield, who has such classic lines like, “I like these little calm moments before the storm. It reminds me of Beethoven. Can you hear it? It’s like when you put your head to the grass and you can hear the growin’ and the insects. Do you like Beethoven?”

Yeah. Psycho, right? He’s also a big pill-muncher. Seriously, there’s a lot of good acting in this one (Jean Reno and Natalie Portman) but Oldman pulls the rug out from under all of them. Good movie, too.

The Fifth Elemnt — Here we see Oldman costumed by Jean-Paul Gaultier as the thickly Southern accented villain; he overcomes having a massive piece of Plexi-glass glued to his poor head to become actually pretty freaky. Zorg’s not a nice character, but Oldman gives the character a lot of depth where there could’ve been none.


Sid & Nancy
— He gave Sid Vicious some sort of emotion instead of just portraying him as the snarly punk we all knew; more people my age can now identify Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious than Sid Vicious as Sid Vicious, I think. He and Chloe Webb did a great job as Sid and Nancy.

THE BAD

Air Force One — Okay, I love Air Force One, but I can firmly admit it’s a bad movie. Gary’s rockin’ it as a maniacal Russian extremist who hijacks Air Force One with the President on board. It’s a pretty bad action movie, but Oldman is good — as usual — while putting on another crazy accent. Harrison Ford started his decline right about here, which is sad, but true. Seriously, everyone in this movie is not so good save for Oldman. And that includes Glenn Close as the Vice-President.

The Scarlet Letter — if your movie is so terrible, so awful, that I can’t appreciate Gary Oldman in it, you’ve screwed up royally. Thanks a lot, Demi Moore. There aren’t words in the English language to describe the suck of The Scarlet Letter.

Immortal Beloved — Gary had a pretty good role in Immortal Beloved, which tells the story of Ludwig von Beethoven and an old friend’s quest to find his “immortal beloved”, who is listed in his will after Beethoven’s death. While Oldman does a spectacular job…the rest of the movie just falls flat. If I want to turn off the movie even though Gary Oldman’s in it, you’ve got problems.

THE UGLY

Hannibal – Oh my god, this movie blows. The book sucked; the movie was worse. Gary Oldman plays the psychotic, insane Mason Verger who’s hellbent on seeking his (oddly elaborate) revenge upon Hannibal Lecter. Lecter’s the one responsible for making him look like Pumpkinhead, so understandably, Verger’s a little upset. Oldman does a good job even under 18 pounds of prosthetics, but I’m glad you can’t recognize him in this film. Really glad.

Lost In Space — A travesty of filmmaking. I like this movie in a “so bad it’s good” kinda way, but let’s face it; it’s atrocious and the TV show wasn’t even that good. For having an all-star cast, it fails spectacularly, probably just because everything about it is just bad. Even Oldman look like he’s phoning it in for the paycheck; it has one of the worst plots I’ve ever seen (time travel? giant spiders? …the hell?) and generally manages to make William Hurt, Mimi Rogers and Gary Oldman look bad.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula — Francis Ford Coppola, what were you thinking? Keanu Reeves? Winona Ryder? The filmmakers had a stroke of genius casting Oldman as what else – the tormented Dracula – but this movie sucks hard. Keanu Reeves looks like he’s constantly looking around as if to say, “Am I really in this movie?” Winona Ryder looks stoned. And Gary? He kind of totters around being his badass self, outfitted in his top hat while his harem of female vampires writhe around back in Transylvania. What a hot mess of a movie.

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There’s some important lessons to be learned from The Blob.

A meteorite crashes on Earth and some hobo out in the woods finds the Jell-O oozing forth from the piping hot space rock. A chain of events ensues where in a little puddle of goo eventually absorbs everything it can, growing larger and larger…

This film also marked the film debut of one Mr. Steve McQueen.

There’s a few things The Blob teaches us. I like to think of them as common sense instructions in case of a meteorite from space crashing in your back yard.

#1: DON’T POKE THINGS — ESPECIALLY THINGS FROM OUTER SPACE — WITH A STICK

So, Mr. Hobo From The Woods ventures out into his front yard, sees the strawberry Jell-O pouring out of the little rock and promptly pokes it with a stick. Blobbiness oozes up the stick and on to his arm, eventually eating him whole even after a doctor tries to intervene. On a personal note: If I saw a gelatinous mass pouring out of a rock that crashed from the sky, my instinct would not be to think, “Hmm, I think I’ll pick up a stick and give it the old poke-poke”, but rather, “Run away! RUN AWAY!” That could just be me, though.

#2: FOR GOD’S SAKE, GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF, (WO)MAN

The town doctor begins to realize something strange might… you know… be up when The Blob begins to munch on Mr. Hobo From The Woods’ arm and take over the rest of his body. He calls in his trusty nurse, Kate, who discovers that — gasp — the Blob has eaten poor old Mr. Hobo and is sitting on the floor all…blob-like. Immediately, she begins to freak out way, way more than one person should and while the doctor implores her to stay calm and “stay still”, she proceeds to act like a caged bobcat and freak the hell out. Good job, Nurse Kate, ’cause that’s what gets you eaten.

(And the poor old doctor.)

#3: PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR SURROUNDINGS, LOUDMOUTH

After Steve McQueen witnesses the absorption of the doctor, he runs and tells the cops who pretty much just mock him endlessly and/or are consistently convinced that old Steve’s trying to pull a fast one on ’em. While the cops are busy reluctantly searching the doc’s office, the Blob moseys itself on over to some random mechanic’s shop. As one guy works under the car, he runs his mouth incessantly about anything and everything, which means he’s not paying attention when the Blob gets all blobby up behind him and totally eats his head.

#4: THE KIDS AREN’T ALRIGHT…SO SHUT UP AND LISTEN

God, adults are stupid, aren’t they? No matter how many times badass Steve McQueen tells the adults in town that there’s a MONSTER! FROM SPACE! AND IT’S GOING TO EAT EVERYONE!… all the adults do is laugh and/or act furiously angry, like, “You’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’, young man!”

Even after 40 people disappear, the adults in town are all standing around as if they’re going, “You crazy kids are just pulling one big prank on us! Geez Louise, will ya cut it out already!”

Maybe you should pay attention to that whole “monster” speech, adults.

#5: KNOWING HOW TO OPERATE A FIRE EXTINGUISHER IS IMPORTANT

If there’s one weakness that an enormous gob of goo from outer space has, it’s totally CO2. That’s right; that stuff you find in everyday fire extinguishers is downright toxic to The Blob because it’s cold. Somehow, the townspeople dredge up about 8,000 fire extinguishers to spray on The Blob, but every single townsperson seems to have a very good grasp of how fire extinguishers work. I guess they received top notch training in fire safety at the local elementary school?

#6: THE GOVERNMENT WILL TAKE CARE OF EVERYTHING

The end is tidily wrapped up with the townspeople valiantly hosing down the Blob with CO2 while the local police chief calls in the Air Force to somehow magically airlift The Blob to whereabouts unknown. Apparently, the Air Force comes up with the brilliant idea to drop this thing at one of the poles, as we’re shown a final shot of what looks like one of those Mercury space capsules dropping into an icy wasteland. Sure, it looks like a Mercury capsule, but it’s actually The Blob, duh.

_____________________________

You know, I really loved The Blob. It was cheesy; it was campy; but it was was made in such earnestness that you can’t help but really like it. Steve McQueen actually does a pretty good job, given the script and low budget, and it’s your typical ’50’s drive-in fare. If I ever could open a drive-in theater, my grand opening would see The Blob and The Tingler screened back to back.

I was shocked to discover I’d seen the ’80’s version of The Blob but not the original; I think it’s safe to say the original is far, far better.

(Sheesh, I’m really starting to love me some Steve McQueen, man.)

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If you look up at the top of 1,416 and Counting, you’ll see a brand new tab.  See it?   It’s up there with The Best Picture Project and ‘What is 1,416 and Counting?’.   That’s the new location for Reader’s Choice.   You have until May 5th to vote on the next ten movies, which are…

  • Kickboxer
  • Unforgiven
  • Touchez Pas Au Grisbi
  • Lars and the Real Girl
  • Night of the Comet
  • Cemetery Man
  • Trading Places
  • 30 Days of Night
  • Vertigo
  • Rio Bravo

Just click the tab up top and click on the LINK for the movie you want reviewed.   It will update the poll accordingly.

Also, I’ve got some kickin’ rad reviews of Youngblood, Atonement, and Kramer vs. Kramer as well as some old gems, so keep comin’ round, folks.

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#1433: Basket Case

What’s in the basket, huh?

Why, I’m so glad you asked! It’s only my horrifically deformed, now-unattached Siamese twin! Careful, now, he bites!

Basket Case is the story of two brothers, and it sure as hell is not a “feel-good” kind of story. Duane and Belial are Siamese twins, who are forced apart by their father who’s horrified that he’s got freakishly attached twins, one of whom (Belial) looks like Slimer from Ghostbusters got covered in that years-old gum you find under movie theater seats. Anyways, the doctors separate the two and wrap good old Belial in a Hefty bag and toss him to the curb. (Nothing says “sanitary” like a Hefty bag.) Oooh, burn!

Except Belial’s not dead, and now he’s one pissed little twin. Since Belial seems incapable of doing anything but being murderously wrathful and making noises that sound like, “mrawagh”, he hooks back up with Duane and together, the two are determined to exact their revenge on the doctors who detached them. They shack up in a seedy New York hotel where Duane carts Belial around in an enormous wicker basket with a padlock on it. Charming, non? Yeah, it’s just clothes in that basket, folks, nothing mean and nasty.

Basket Case was probably made for about $5.00 and it shows. The acting is tremendously awful; the special effects are of the laughable kind. Even Belial is obviously a latex puppet, and his modus operandi of killing people appears to be facial lacerations. How one dies of facial lacerations, I don’t know, but everytime someone dies, the viewer’s treated to a nice, long, Strawberry Quik coated close-up of the victim’s face with…facial lacerations.

The brothers systematically begin to exterminate the doctors who made them two instead of one, when Duane has a pang of conscience and begins to try a normal life outside of you know, killing people and lacerating their faces with his hideously deformed twin brother. Needless to say, Belial is less than thrilled. Belial MAD! Belial SMASH! Well, not smash so much, but he does begin to act out.

Duane’s got his eye on this sweet little receptionist. It should be noted that the hotel (and I use that word loosely) where Duane lives is populated by people who are 100% looney tunes, so he’s kind of living in an insane asylum. With prostitutes. Even with crackheads and nutsos living around him, the neighbors kinda begin to suspect something’s up when people start to see things in their rooms. Belial totally tries to get it on with the prostitute down the hall — ick — -and fails; then Belial goes after Duane’s little receptionist friend, and that doesn’t go over too well.

Ultimately, I enjoyed this movie. Why? Because the director, the crew, the actors, seem to know they’re in on one big joke. No one’s out to make a movie to change the world; they’re out to make a bad, schlocky horror movie that you can curl up on your couch with and giggle at the crap killing scenes and laugh at with your friends. They succeeded, so well played, filmmakers of Basket Case.

There’s actually several sequels to this film, and while I’m not running out anytime soon to Netflix them or anything like that, if they’re made in the same spirit as Basket Case, I’d be willing to give ’em a watch.

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