Wednesday, March 30, 2011

10 Best: 70's Science Fiction

I've never been an avid SF reader.  I have been getting more and more into it of late but I'm still not completely enthralled by the genre.  I have, however, always loved SF movies.  There hasn't been very many good ones lately, Hollywood for some reason decided that we only needed SF movies where a whole bunch of shit explodes.  None of them really have any science in them.  They're just action movies with aliens. There have been a few quality small films, Primer, Time Crimes to name a couple that rank among some of my favorite all time.  My favorite period for SF movies is definitely the seventies, even though it's kind of the birth of the big budget action SF without any science supporting its plot.  Here are the ten best Science Fiction movies from the 1970's: 

10. The Man Who Fell to Earth

9. Sleeper

8, Logan's Run

7. Invasion of the Body Snatchers

6. Silent Running

5. Close Encounters of the Third Kind

 4. A Clockwork Orange

 3. Star Wars

2. Alien

1. Solaris

Tuesday, March 29, 2011




Limitless is close, but there were just too many issues with the plot for me to recommend it wholeheartedly.  It isn't without its merits though.  Bradley Cooper plays Eddie Morra, a struggling writer.  As we meet Eddie his narration asks us if we have ever seen anyone without a drug or alcohol  problem that looks like this.  And by "this" he must mean an extremely handsome man with piercing blue eyes who needs a hair cut and a clean shirt.  (He also then proceeds to detail his issues with drugs and alcohol in montage form but whatever.)  He chances upon his ex brother in law in the street and agrees to have a drink with him for old times sake.  This ex brother in law, whose name is, oddly, Vern, offers him a pill that he claims will make you use your entire brain.  Initially, Eddie tries to act like he's not interested.  Of course, he's going to take it, that's what the movie is about.
So he takes it.  When he goes back to his shit hole apartment the landlords wife confronts him about his past due rent.  Like most landlords, Eddie's landlord has a smoking hot twenty something Asian wife and boy, is she pissed.  She goes off on Eddie for not paying his rent for the past few months but Eddie, because he took the pill, can tell that she's really mad about something else.  By just glancing at a corner of her book he can tell she is in law school and surmises that she is having problems with a class.  He helps her write a paper and then bangs her.  Then he goes home and cleans the filth pit he's been living and writes a huge chunk of his book.  This pill is fucking awesome.
It wears off the next day and he wakes up with his hair uncombed again.  He pulls a pop-in on his ex brother in law and it's a bad time, somebody beat him up.  For some reason, Eddie then goes to get himself some breakfast.  He returns and Vern has been murdered.  Eddie calls the cops and for some reason walks around the apartment with a golf club.  He finds the pills that the murderer was unable to locate and hides them from the police.  
Eddie starts popping the pills on the reg and pretty soon he is banging chicks all over the place, winning tons of money gambling and playing the stock market.  He also drives really fast in a cool car.  This is apparently what you do when you are the smartest person in the history of the universe.  Soon he comes to the attention of Carl Van Loon, some sort of financial tycoon, played by Robert De Niro.  Carl wants Eddie to work for him, help him with some giant merger and make a ton of money.  Sounds great, everything is going wonderful.  That is until Eddie begins loosing time.  Loosing so much time that he apparently murders a model in a hotel room.  Don't worry about that though.  It isn't mentioned again.
Most of the rest of the movie is sort of a shell game with the remaining pills.  They're here, they're there, they're all over the place.  More people get murdered, you sort of find out that Eddie might die if he keeps taking the pills, maybe, and he finds a way to beat De Niro out of something I didn't even realize they were fighting over.  I wish De Niro had been better in this movie but he felt extremely one dimensional.  His character had no weight, no heft.  The movie should have been a battle of wits between the two.  But it wasn't and never will be so I'm not going to harp on it.  By the end every loose thread is tied up but it feels too perfectly done.  Eddie has decided to run for Senator despite the fact that we know he has been questioned by the police about five different homicides.  There is no way that gets swept under the rug in today's political climate.  But that's just one of the few questions I had by the end of the movie.
The one I couldn't get over is this:  At the very beginning, Eddie claims to have a four digit IQ.  First, that's not measurable.  Second, if you were that smart I don't think there is any way that you could possibly relate to any other human.  I don't doubt someone with an astoundingly high IQ could do some of the things that Eddie does in the movie but I do think every personal relationship he has would completely crumble.  What use would he have for other people?  I could go on and on with these types of questions, which sort of made them movie enjoyable since I saw it with Sean and we actually had points to discuss.  A marked improvement over Battle Los Angeles which was the last move we saw together.  Limitless also has some really clever visual effects that looked crisp and sharp.  The pacing was good which is something virtually no mainstream movie seems to be able to handle.  Bradley Cooper has pretty tremendous screen presence.  He kind of reminds me of a more intelligent Matthew McConaughey.  It was a better movie than most of the soulless slop that's getting put out these days but that's about all I'm willing to concede.

What the Fuck?: Jennifer Garner as Miss Marple

Here, read this.  What the fuck, right?  How in the hell am I supposed to get over this?  Miss Marple is an old woman.  That's the whole premise.  The entire premise.  She's an old woman who uses that fact to gain leverage over unwitting criminals who underestimate her abilities due to her age.  You can't change the fundamental reason for her existence as a creation.  Way to go Disney, this is a pure dick move.  There are plenty of actresses old enough to play this role.  I mean, I'd take mid-50's.  Why even call it Miss Marple?  Who would they be making this for?  People who are into Jennifer Garner and people who enjoy Miss Marple have got to be fairly mutually exclusive.  How about you just make a mystery show about a soccer mom with a mannish frame?  You know who would be perfect for that?  Well, Sigourney Weaver, but if she doesn't want it how about Jennifer Garner?  Let's do it, somebody get Ben Affleck to green light it. This is what Miss Marple looks like.

If she were still alive, I bet Agatha Christie would go on one of her eleven day disappearing benders.  And Jennifer Garner might end up poisoned.

Movies That Scared Me When I Was A Kid

It's no secret that I was an infamous coward during my younger years. It amazes me that I grew up to have a fascination with horror and the supernatural, considering I used to go well out of my way to avoid being scared. I had family members, slightly older friends, and babysitters, who all loved scary movies, so I was over and over put in the position in which I'd happen to be around when such a movie was playing. Sometimes, I'd flee for for the safety of my bedroom. Other times, curiosity got the better of me and I'd settle down to a series of images that were sure to reappear to me as soon as my head hit the pillow.

The Fog

I think the title alone was enough to scare me with this one. I was at my aunt's house. She and my sister watched it in broad daylight. It wasn't too long before I packed it up and went to play Legos in my cousin's bedroom. I rewatched it not all that long ago and it's pretty tame. It's a decent film, but it's power to scare me has dissipated.

The Exorcist

This one was legendary for it's scariness. It terrified every kid on the block. I saw this one in bits and pieces, because my young heart couldn't handle prolonged exposure to this parade of horrors. I didn't see it straight through until well into my adulthood. The impression it had left on the young me had kept me away from renting it for years.


I cashed in my chips pretty early one night when this was playing on HBO. My mom, sister, and stepfather were riveted. I think I even begged them to watch something else at one point. They wouldn't. I opted for an early bedtime, which was a big mistake. I could hear every bit of the movie loud and clear and the terrors that my imagination cooked up must have been far worse than anything that could have been on the screen.

Only they weren't. I did summon the courage and watch it while I was still young. It scared the crap out of me.

The Elephant Man

This was in heavy rotation on HBO when I was a kid. Christ, it scared me. The dreary black and white, that ragged mask, and John Merrick's humanity under his tragic form. It scarred me. I knew he was human in spite of his disfigurement and that just made it all the worse. I had no real reason to fear him. But at night, for weeks and weeks, maybe months and months, I was certain he was waiting at the foot of my bed to pop up and scare me. "I am not an animal," he would assure me as he waved his arms in the darkness.

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure

This just wasn't fair. Pulling that freaky-as-hell scare scene in the middle of a comedy. I didn't expect it. The change in tone, the subtle cues, none of it was enough to prepare me for the punch to the gut that was Large Marge. I felt my head melt and my heart pop up through its gooey remains. My friends at school all seemed to laugh it off, but I couldn't. I harbored a secret. Large Marge scared the hell out of me.

I saw it over and over in my mind when I tried to sleep. It seemed so cruel. All the while I had been petting this fluffy, friendly dog and without warning it bites off a finger. To this day I dread the smash-cut, pop-out scares in modern horror movies. And I blame Large Marge for it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Trailers for Movies that Look Good

13 Assassins

The Bang Bang Club




So I did it, I saw Rango.  It was pretty good.  Not great.  I have to say it was probably the best computer animation that I've ever seen.  I am, however, not that into computer animation so I wouldn't say I loved it.  It was kind of funny, the action scenes were kind of exciting but the story was pretty blah.  I know it was kind of a riff on Chinatown but I could just watch Chinatown.  The creatures were cool looking with the exception of Rango who looked like a fucking idiot.  Also, why does the female lizard have a full head of curly hair?  I guess we'll never know.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch

Have you ever seen that Sprite commercial at the beginning of a movie before the trailers come on?  The one where there is a table full of ethnically diverse, supposed screen writers having a tough time coming up with some sort of script while sitting on the back lot of some giant film studio? The Asian guy takes a drink of Sprite and envisions a bunch of people flying through the air, a cheerleader, some other people, and they're just yelling or firing guns or some shit, you can't really tell what's happening because it's just aggressive noise and you were trying to read a book before the movie started, but, anyway, they're free falling, there's all kind of noise, they're yelling or someone is yelling and maybe something is transforming into something else even more annoying than it already was and they collide and turn into Sprite just before impact.  It's supposed to be some kind of big finale and the Asian guy is like, "Hey guys listen to this." as if all of those images we were just subjected to will form the basis of the movie that he is going to write because Sprite told him to.  Have you ever seen that commercial?  I hope so.  And I hope you were intrigued because they made that movie.  And it is called Sucker Punch.  It was horrible.

Netflix Dare: Ghost Fever

What an atrocity.  Seriously.  I mean, I've seen plenty of bad movies but this plumbs depths I didn't think existed.  Watch the trailer.  Sherman Hemsley stars as a police detective in only the vaguest sense.  He and his partner, some Puerto Rican guy (we know because he mentions it at least four times) are, for some reason, asked to serve an eviction notice to whoever lives in some old plantation that is supposed to be haunted.  Beforehand we are introduced to two ghosts, one of whom is played by Hemsley in white face.  The other ghost is apparently the son of the Hemsley ghost's former master.
Once Hemsley and the other cop show up at the plantation the two ghosts attempt to thwart their efforts in serving the eviction notice.  We do not know why.  Soon, though, we are introduced to one of the ghost's granddaughters who are apparently living out some sort of Grey Gardens fantasy.  For some reason there is also a woman described as a witch living there as well.
There are some slight, and I mean slight, hi jinks that involve the ghosts and the cops but then matters are complicated, I mean confused, by the apparent existence of a ghost that we can't see.  So there are multiple ghosts working independent of each trying to stop these inept cops from serving an eviction notice.
Every single joke is ill conceived, some of them offensive.  There is a scene where the cops find a torture dungeon that was apparently used to torture the slaves of the ghost that we cannot see, who was the master of the ghost that Hemsley is playing.  We can only assume that these ghosts tortured each other in some sort of weird sex game while they were living.  It's the only conclusion.  There is also a "gag" where the granddaughters and witch serve Hemsley's character chitlins, grits and watermelon for dinner.
The cops attempt numerous times to leave but then some how the Puerto Rican one ends up in a bathtub with one of the granddaughters and Hemsley ends up laying in a bed in old timey pajamas, replete with night cap, while the other granddaughter plays the saxophone.  Does that sentence sound crazy?  Well try watching it on film.  After these scenes a dance number ensues.  You might think I am making this shit up.  I'm not.  Hemsley and the Puerto Rican guy do some insanely lame tap dancing.  The ghost we can't see attempts to match their moves but the cops sight the fact that no one can see what he's doing.  He subsequently wraps himself in a sheet and becomes a sort of mummy-esque being that wears sun glasses and a top hat.  It then proceeds to fucking break dance.  He hits all the moves.  He pops and locks, then top rocks and does floor work.  It was like Michael "Boogaloo Shrimp" Chambers was wrapped up in there.  I only wish he'd done the smurf.  Hemsley and the Puerto Rican guy beat it though, they do some sort of dance that they obviously must have spent time choreographing down at the station.  The mummy ghost then explodes.
After this happens, the witch comes back and says it's time for the seance.  Seance?  What the fuck?  We're already dealing with a shit load of ghosts, right?  Well now we are going to deal with fucking vampires because the ghost that we couldn't see and was then a mummy is now a vampire.  He informs our "heroes" that he is going to turn them into zombies in order to hunt grave yards.  Why would they hunt grave yards the guys ask.  To get more zombies the vampire tells him.  What?  I don't know.  And I watched it.
So they end up killing the vampire, Hemsley crosses his arms to form a crucifix to menace him while the Puerto Rican guy stabs him with a tree branch.  Then the girls tell them they can't leave the mansion because they'll get all old and shit.  That is unless they take ectoplasm pills.
You would think that this movie might be over at this point.  But it isn't.  You know why?  I bet you couldn't guess in a million years.  There is no possible way you could ever even contemplate what happens next so I'm going to tell you.  The Puerto Rican guy fights Joe Frazier in some kind of boxing match.  I can't believe I just typed that sentence.  Joe Frazier looks out of shape and slovenly in the ring.  He isn't convincing at all and he's the best thing in the movie.  At one point the ringside announcer says:  To be honest folks, I can't believe it's gone on this long.  Which is weird because I was thinking the exact same thing about the movie.  The ghosts we can see help the Puerto Rican guy beat Joe Frazier.  And I'd ask why but I got tired of asking this movie why about two minutes into the film.  The movie does have a happy ending though, the cops die in a car accident.

Lauren's take:  I don't get this movie.  What was that scene with the Mummy about?  That was like the kind of Halloween costume you come up with at the last minute.  I can't pay attention to this.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Netflix Dare: Top Dog

When I agreed to a participate in the Netflix Dare, a new feature in which we Movie Goer bloggers dare each other to stream a less-than-spectacular movie and write about it, nothing could have prepared me for my first challenge. I got a text message. It read "I dare you to watch Top Dog." It was like a sucker punch to the gut. All the color went out of everything. I had avoided this turd all my life and all of a sudden I was supposed to sit myself down and subject myself to 91 minutes of its awfulness. I knew that if I put it off for even a second I would never summon the strength I needed to watch it. So, like the brave swimmer that dives into an icy pool before testing the water, I started it right away.

I don't know what I was afraid of. There's a lot to like about TOP DOG. First of all, the cool font used in the opening credits. It wastes no time in preparing you for the fun that is about to be had.

See what I mean? Other highlights include an assailant in a clown mask inexplicably doing a forward flip before firing a shotgun at Chuck Norris, white supremacists who look like long-haired Eurotrash dudes from any other 80’s action movie, group fight scenes so poorly choreographed that there is a cut after each punch, a delightful montage of Reno the dog modeling a series of hats and sunglasses, and even the old chestnut of Chuck Norris defusing a bomb and not knowing whether to pull the red or blue wire.

What’s not to like about top dog? Chuck Norris. The only man I’ll give a pass to for having an antagonistic relationship with a dog is Charles Grodin. And Chuck Norris is no Charles Grodin. The plot is ridiculous. Norris does little to no actual police work. The enemy is a group of white supremacists looking to unite racists all over the country, led by a man named Kohler. There is a meeting at the police station during which one of Chuck's fellow officer offers a little background information on the villain. And I quote:

“Kohler’s been on the scene for every racist attack across the world. Africa, Europe, Asia. He loves this stuff.”

The story goes on. Reno the dog, much to Chuck's chagrin, is a well-loved and exemplary officer, who lends a hand by dropping wooden crates on top of baddies or pushing them off rooftops. Though little that happens onscreen offers any evidence of this, we assume he is busy working on the case of the white supremacists. He is not quite sure when or where they will attack. While gardening with his mother, she mentions that, if she were going to launch a racist attack, she would do it tomorrow. Why tomorrow? Well, tomorrow is Hitler's birthday. It seems that Chuck's mom has done a great deal of hypothetical thinking about when she would launch a racist attack.

Now that he has the where, Chuck needs the when. Fortunately, the dog's police handler suddenly remembers that, oh yeah, the Coalition for Racial Unity is having some sort of opening or celebration in about half an hour. Does this seem like a likely target for the racists? You bet your ponytail, submachine gun, and shiny blazer it does.

Thankfully Norris and Reno get there in time to save the day. I don't quite even remember the very end, though I watched it just last night. It seems that Norris would want to adopt Reno as his own, or at least learn to love his canine charms, but I don't recall anything of this sort happening. What a jerk. A jerk with a shitty beard. A jerk with a shitty beard who, for some reason, seems to hate wearing shirts that have collars.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

10 Best: Danny Trejo

 Danny Trejo is someone whose face you knew long before you figured out his name.  It's an iconic face but not necessarily an iconic career.  But that's not what we're judging Danny Trejo on.  The very fact that he exists is enough to cheer about.  The fact that he has 27 credits in 2010 alone is something to be happy about.  Even if the only one you saw was Machete.  Even if the only one you've heard of is Machete.  He is a straight to video demon.  And I laud him for it.  Why?  Because he's a working actor.  If you watch Champion the documentary about his life and realize what might have and probably would've been had he not steered into the straight and narrow you get an even better appreciation for his career.  These are the 10 best movies he's been in, he hasn't always had the biggest role in them but just his presence is enough:

 10. Anaconda

9. Con Air

 8. Spy Kids

 7. Anchorman

6. Desperado


 5. Sherrybaby

4. Smiley Face

3. Machete

2. Animal Factory

1. Mi Vida Loca

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

10 Best: Philip Seymour Hoffman

 Whenever that silly game is played where you suggest the actor or actress that might play you in a movie, I always pick Philip Seymour Hoffman.  We don't necessarily look anything alike but we have similar builds and I'm pretty sure he could manage a fairly skillful performance of a mildly depressed, shabbily dressed, vaguely out of shape bookstore manager/movie blogger.  If I loose any more hair or get dramatically uglier I'm going to have to start going with Paul Giamatti.
While going through all of Hoffman's movies I was kind of struck by how few really good movies he has done.  I'm not really in love with all of the movies on this list.  For the most part, Hoffman is in pretty good movies.  They're all pretty good.  You like some more than others but you can understand why he'd be in the ones he's in.  Save a few duds in his early career (Patch Adams?  This is probably one of the worst movies I've sat all the way through but at least he's the bad guy.  Honestly, Snatch Adams, the porn parody, has more realistic performances).  He's one of those actors where you think he's always good even if the movie isn't.  That isn't quite true but everyone lays a few eggs.  He is a pretty good barometer actor.  Here are his ten best:

10. Almost Famous

9. State and Main

8. The 25th Hour

7. The Talented Mr. Ripley

6. Doubt

5. Synechdoche, New York

4. Capote

3. Happiness

2. The Big Lebowski

1. Boogie Nights