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Archive for March, 2009

#1530: The Blob (1988)

I’m not going to lie.   The original is much better.

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The original is fun ’50’ sci-fi with that added zing of Cold War paranoia.   The remake is not.

The Blob remake is the same old story:  a small town, some good-lookin’ teenagers and a hobo in the woods who makes a discovery that changes his life for the worse.

vlcsnap-1355938I know Kevin Dillon with a mullet on a motorcycle should satisfy my eighties cheese cravings, but if I want mullets and motorcycles?   I’m rockin’ out to The Lost Boys, thank you very much.

Kevin Dillon is the bad boy in town.  He’s the kind of kids the parents bitch and moan about being “serious trouble” although mainly he just seems to drink and ride his motorcycle in a fashion that violates the town’s noise ordinance.   Paul is a local high school football player who has a crush on Meg, a popular cheerleader, and the night he chooses to take her out on a date is the night The Blob falls to Earth in a meteor.

The unlucky town is introduced to The Blob via the aforementioned poor hobo, who gets Strawberry Jell-O on his hand and wanders out into the road and literally intersects with Paul,  Meg and Brian (mulleted Kevin Dillon).

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Since matters are that two of them are fine upstanding citizens and one just wants to make growly noises on his motorcycle (and also may have been coerced into going to the hospital with them), Mr. Hobo is piled into the back of Paul’s car and offloaded at the town hospital, which houses the most unsympathetic nursing staff ever.    It’s not long until Paul realizes that something very bad is happening to Mr. Now Neglected Hobo, but it’s too late for him.

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A Few Things

So, I believe the Worst Movies Ever are officially over.   To those of you whose films I did not review – my apologies, but Netflix did not stock them.  I still have them in my queue for the future, if and when they become available.

Rest assured, I’m using the next few days to refresh my memory on all the shit you guys threw my way in order to declare a winner and some runners up.   Just so you know where that’s going.

Now, I have an enormous stack of movies to review, a screener movie, and some other miscellaneous stuff.   And I’ve been obsessively perusing movie news but goddamn, it is slow out there right now.   The last news story I read was James Cameron’s way over budget on Avatar.   This is only news if you didn’t know that James Cameron goes over budget on every damn movie he makes.   It’s that kind of slow-like-molasses time for movies in general on the internet, which makes me bored.   Jesus.   But…even with stuff to do and things to look up and news to not care about…

For some random reason, I had to sit down and rewatch The Usual Suspects because it does not get much better than Gabriel Byrne as Dean Keaton, yes?

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If only Keaton hadn’t run afoul of Keyser Soze, eh?  Sigh.

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#1529: Grace

I have been waiting for Grace for a long time.

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I had heard wonderful things about Grace for a while and when I realized it was screening at AFI Dallas this week, I snapped up three tickets for the night of my birthday.   Two of my friends and I went and while I managed to embarrass myself in front of the director and Jordan Ladd (you can read about that at the end of this), Grace was phenomenal.

As you can guess from the poster, Grace is a horror movie but it’s one of the rare ones that I think can transcend the label.    Madeline Matheson (Jordan Ladd) is a woman who’s interested in things outside the mainstream:   she eats a vegan diet, relies on homeopathic medicine and watches slaughterhouse documentaries while cooking.   “It’s like a vegan horror movie,” she says to her friend of said documentaries.  Her husband is a nice guy named Michael who has a domineering mother, the kind of lady who scolds her husband constantly and lectures Madeline on the right way to do things while insulting her cooking.    Vivian, the mother-in-law, is mortified when Madeline informs her that she will be having her baby with a midwife…and not in a hospital.

Everything about baby Grace’s arrival is unnatural:   Michael and Madeline used fertility treatments for years to conceive, only to stop the treatments and almost a year later, Madeline gets pregnant.   A freak health problem leads Madeline to the hospital, only to have a terrible car accident on the way home.  Michael is killed and Grace, it appears, is dead in utero. Madeline makes the difficult choice of finishing out her pregnancy and giving birth to Grace.   When she does give birth, Grace miraculously revives and begins breathing and crying.   Madeline views it as a miracle.   The midwife’s assistants are scared.   No one can explain how Grace is alive.

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I borrowed this from Cinematical. Uh...don't sue me. Please. Thanks.

Just like her arrival in the world, Grace is no ordinary baby.   She attracts swarms of flies.   Madeline can barely nurse her as Grace vomits everything right back up.  What should be a sweet mother-daughter bonding moment at bathtime turns into a nightmare as Grace breaks out in a rash and begins bleeding.   Grace is a normal looking baby with some abnormal problems, but Madeline’s distrust of modern medicine develops into downright fear.  Afraid of doctors and modern medicine, Madeline refuses to take her to the hospital.   She views Grace as “special”, Madeline’s own little miracle, and won’t hear of any doctors being involved.

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It’s a movie about time-traveling, mutated turtles well versed in martial arts.   They have a rat for a sensei and Elias Koteas, who carries the disease known as “If-I’m-in-a-movie-it-will-suckitis”, as a friend.   They travel to feudal Japan and help restore peace to a region of the country.   They deal in bad action scenes, bad hair and bad jokes.tmntiii

I feel like I just strapped on some jelly sandals with some clashing day-glo clothes, teased my hair and went out in public…and promptly hit on someone.   Does that make sense?   Do I care?

Watching this gives you the distinct feeling of uncomfortable nostalgia mixed with the discomfort of feeling like someone was hitting the crack pipe pretty hard during the conceptual stage of this.

I just watched a sequel to a freakin’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.   I thought it ended badly with Vanilla Ice rapping about kinesthetically-gifted giant reptilians in Part II, but um… no.

And if you’ll excuse me, I have a bottle that’s calling my name.

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When one of my friends found out I was doing Moonraker, he said (and I paraphrase):  “I love James Bond but I don’t even own that piece of shit, Caitlin”.   Praise, indeed!

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The nominators for this one were the sisters Pookie and Schnookie, who have long James Bond marathons and enjoy such things as Murder, She Wrote and quilting, so you know we get along well.   I was warned in advance that this was awful.  I believe there were some admonishments about how none of Bond’s quips even make sense given the situation at hand, but nothing, really, can truly prepare you for the cataclysmic ineptitude that is Moonraker.

There’s no real use in summarizing the plot since every James Bond movie has the same plot for the most part.  In this one, Bond must stop the villain Hugo Drax from doing something villanous involving outer space.   He must battle Hugo Drax’s feared henchman Jaws and Bond’s contractually obligated to have sex with a couple of pretty girls who have vaguely pornographic names, too.   In theory, it’s hard to completely fuck up the premise of Bond.   He uses some gadgets, drives a cool car, gets laid and bests the baddie.   If you’ve seen one…

Moonraker, however, is in a league of its own due ot the fact that nearly every aspect of it is shitty.   Hugo Drax, the villain, is so bland that I didn’t even bother to take a screencap of him.  His dullard henchman is more interesting than he is.

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Jaws is a simple fellow who likes to bite things with his metal teeth, stand around being intimdating and generally walking around with a big smirk on his face.   That, ladies and gentlemen, is the mark of a great Bond villain.

Oh, except for the fact that Jaws turns “good” in the end…for love.

The man just runs around and bites things and is a strong freak, okay?   That’s all he does, right up until the very end.    How memorable.

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God, this thing wears thin fast.

Just My Luck involves Ashley (Lindsay Lohan), a fashionable Manhattan career girl who has everything go her way and Jake, a guy who does something involving music and who seems to be perenially cursed with awful luck.   When the two inadvertently cross paths at a masquerade party and kiss, they switch luck .  This leads Ashley to take up a desperate hunt for Jake as she gets fired, goes to prison, and  nearly electrocutes herself in the few short hours after they switch luck.

The concept of “luck-switching” is boring enough, but to stretch it out for hours is maddening.   I swear that the word “luck” has to be repeated enough time for it to be drilled into your brain with a Pavlovian response indicating pain.   Not only is it boring and tedious, but the general overall feel of the film doesn’t even feel romantic – and it’s supposed to be a romantic comedy, for goodness sakes.

Lindsay Lohan does not do her best here.   She’s mechanical and robotic at times, something which is odd considering the fact that she ought to be holding her own and then some.   Given the subject matter, this is Lohan’s previous bread-and-butter; a family-friendly comedy with a bit of romance and quirk.  In some regards, this is charted, simple territory for her. Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen and Freaky Friday were similar roles in Lohan’s repertoire.   The performance she gave in Mean Girls indicates she’s far better than what she gives here, which is supposed to be a lucky but unappreciative career girl who learns the true meaning of being grateful for what you have.   Lohan, however, can’t even sell you that Ashley is appreciative for her luck, let alone capable of giving it all up for twoo-wuv.

Let’s hope Chris Pine isn’t as instantly forgettable in Star Trek as he is here.

There are some “what-if” premises that just can’t be stretched into a feature length movie without being exhausting and full of mediocrity and tedium for the viewer.   Just My Luck started out as one of those premises.

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Nothing like celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with some stereotypical, unrealistic, Lucky Charms-accented Irishmen, eh?

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The Boondock Saints takes place in South Boston, where a pair of Irish immigrant twins, Connor and Murphy McManus (played by Sean Patrick Flannery and Norman Reedus) are living in near squalor, attending church faithfully and working in a meatpacking plant.   A twist of fate lands them in a situation where they realize that they have a chance to take out society’s trash and act accordingly, believing it to be a mission from God.   Special Agent Paul Smecker of the FBI is hunting the killers, believing them to be mixed up in a mafia war.   The McManus brothers have a friend, Rocco, who’s a ne’er-do-well package boy for the Italian mob that begins to help them after he does nothing but royally screw himself all the way through the film.  All storylines intertwine at the end, depicting a hyper-stylized version of what happens when you take “justice” into your own hands.

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Let’s get it out of the way first:  I never understood the hardcore Boondock Saints fans.   I love the movie but mainly because it’s an over-the-top epic; entertaining, yes, but completely absurd.   I lived with this guy in my dorm in college who used to draw the twins’  “VERITAS” and “AEQUITAS” tattoos on his hand, who took the film so seriously that it was almost hilarious.   He also looked like a velociraptor, but that’s a story for another time.   Anyways, there are a lot of people who love this movie as if it is the Holy Gospel of Irish Saintly Men Killing People.   You won’t find that here.

Take for instance, Connor and Murphy McManus.   These twins are devoutly Catholic, sport any number of religious tattoos and work in a meatpacking plant.   Yet they also speak eight thousand languages, are well versed in fighting, guns and killing folks, and generally seem to be perfect.  They’re also your stereotypical hard-drinking Irishmen.

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When Agent Smecker shows up, it’s because the McManus brothers have killed two Russian mob guys who attacked them in their home.   He’s paired with three of the most brainless Boston cops ever, to the point of being unbeliveable.  Detective Greenlee, pictured above, theorizes that the mob guys were smushed to death walking home from St. Patrick’s Day celebrations by a “huge fuckin’ guy”.  If Detective Greenlee is representative of the Boston Police Force, then there must be a slew of families in Boston who have been told their family members were stomped to death by the Jolly Green Giant, smothered by the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man and assaulted by the Tooth Fairy.   Smecker promptly schools the detectives and continues to brow-beat and deride them throughout the entire movie.

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The only way this could get more cliché is if these two had donuts stuck in their claws.   Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Willem Dafoe remains the prime reason to see this movie.   Willem Dafoe as Agent Smecker is an eccentric nutso.   Dafoe swallows every scene up, masticates it and spits it back out at the audience.   It’s hard to notice anything else on screen, which is why I think so many people are disappointed he’s not coming back for the sequel.

Dafoe’s Puccini-listening FBI agent who’s barely holding on to his sanity throughout the investigation reaches his prime point at the most audacious, ostentatious part of the whole shebang.   The McManus brothers and their bumbling friend Rocco go after a made man who’s a “sick fuck”, only to be confronted by a hired gun named Il Duce.   The Italian mob has hired Il Duce to dispose of the pesky Saints and the two sides do their damndest to blow each other away right in the middle of suburbia.

The suburban firefight is probably the most memorable part of the movie save for one scene, primarily because Willem Dafoe goes completely fucking crazy.

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Watching the utter magic, no, the beauty of a crazed Willem Dafoe conducting a fake orchestra while he loses his everloving mind with the violence in the background is grade A stuff.

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It’s not as magical, however, as watching Willem Dafoe dress in drag and seduce mafia dudes to go in and rescue the Saints, who have been captured by the mafia guys.

When Il Duce is released from prison solely to tackle the Saints, his release is anything but subtle:

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Hello there, Billy Connolly.

A cage?

What’s perverse is the ending.    Il Duce turns out to be the twins’ long lost father; the three then team up with the Boston police department to take matters into their own hands and make sure a mafia don is punished ‘properly’ since it appears he will be acquitted at trial.   They, of course, cannot take a quiet approach.   They execute him in full view of the public at his trial.

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The Boondock Saints is not an understated film.   It’s loud, obnoxious and requires a tremendous sense of disbelief in many ways to buy it at all.   It’s through mainly Flannery, Reedus and Dafoe’s charm and quirk that the movie sails through, something the sequel may be lacking in since Dafoe won’t be there to manage the lion’s weight on his shoulders.    I don’t think that you would have had The Boondock Saints without the influence of Tarantino hanging spectral-like over the film.

For all that, the film is an enormous amount of fun, in its own way – overblown accents and gratuitous violence and all.   I’ll be shocked if the sequel can measure up to the original, but you never know.

(And if you’re looking for further stuff on the making of the movie, you can watch this awesome documentary called Overnight, which is about the writer/director’s meltdown through pre-production, shooting and post-production.   Strange stuff.)

Oh, and speaking of gratuitous…

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

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