Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dawn of the Dead

This is the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake. It's terrible. Don't watch it. Sarah Polley deserves a better movie to be her default credit on IMDB.

See, this is a rotten movie that's not rotten in a new way. In fact, it's rotten in all the same old ways. Plus, I saw the version on the Sci-Fi channel, which means one character's dialogue was almost completely muted.

Incidentally, this was directed by Zack Snyder, who went on to do 300 and Watchmen. I hope he's gotten better. Or at least more interesting. Because this was full of random closeups and slow-motion shots of shotgun shells bouncing off the ground. Feh.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Cincinnati Kid

I wanted this to be a much better movie. It's got Steve McQueen, Edward G. Robinson, Ann-Margret, Tuesday Weld, Rip Torn, Cab Calloway, Joan Blondell -- it's just a ridiculously good cast. Oh! And Karl Malden, too. I love all those people! And I don't mind poker movies, either. But it didn't really cohere for me.

I think one problem I had was the realism. Not in the poker. I don't expect realism in poker scenes. But what's with the guys constantly spurning the advances of absurdly hot women? Tuesday Weld gets pushed away by Steve McQueen. Some very attractive woman (who's probably a prostitute) gets rejected by Rip Torn, who presumably already paid her to be naked in his bed in the first place. And Ann-Margret, who's just about as sexy a woman as you're likely to fine anywhere, gets rejected by both Steve McQueen and Karl Malden. If you ask me, Karl Malden has no business rejecting the amorous advances of a 1965-era Ann-Margret.

Don't get me wrong; the movie mostly works. Steve McQueen is very cool, Edward G. Robinson is a killer, and so on. But there were scenes (like the cockfighting scene) that just bored me.

The DVD has two special features that are both very dated. One is dated in a cool way: it's a 1965 featurette in which Joan Blondell learns to deal cards from a professional magician. It was quite enjoyable. The other one really dates the DVD, because it's commentary on the poker scenes from Phil Gordon... and Dave Foley. You might guess that this means that the DVD came out during their run of hosting "Celebrity Poker Showdown". And you'd be right! So if you enjoyed their schtick there (Gordon is kind of boring but knowledgeable, Foley is obviously drunk), here it is again.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Never Too Young to Die

I realize I say I watch a lot of bad movies, and it's understandable if you don't necessarily believe me. You might think that some of the movies I watch might not be as bad as I say. On the other hand, you might wonder why, if these movies are so bad, I watch them.

Here's my philosophy: I think that anyone who watches only "good" movies is missing out on "awesome" movies. If you allow yourself to be constrained by standard conceptions of quality and competency, you're not giving yourself the chance to see truly visionary movies. Also, you miss out on terrible movies that are terrible in completely crazy ways. It is to this latter category that this movie belongs.

Okay, so it stars John Stamos, and it's 1986 so it's the year before "Full House". He plays Lance Stargrove (his theme song features '80s backup singers screaming "STAAAAARGROOOOVE!" from time to time), a college gymnast with a rich, mysterious father. His roommate is an Asian guy who randomly comes up with James Bondian gadgets even before the plot gets going. Unfortunately, he comes off less like Q and more like The Donger. The poofy yellow shirts with black suspenders don't help.

Lance (STAAAARGROOOOVE)'s father, George Lazenby (still technically a James Bond, although not much of one) dies in the line of some secret agenty stuff, and that means that Lance inherits an old farm, which is full of guns, secret rooms, and Vanity. You remember Vanity, right? She was like Appollonia, but slightly earlier. Or later. I forget which. My point is that she was one of those girls that Prince was always trying to promote. And here she's a hottie secret agent who shoots people and hangs out in a crazy biker bar where everyone rides their motorcycles right up to the bar inside the building and also has unicorn heads on the front of their cycles. And the motorcycles are these absurdly undersized things, like Yamaha 250s and like that.

Oh! And I left out the best part. The bad guy is Gene Simmons, overacting enormously. He's playing a hermaphrodite (...or something) named Velvet Van Ragnar, and there are times when it seems like he's trying to play Dr. Frank N. Furter. And those are his subtle moments. The scene where he tries to seduce John Stamos (!) is especially crazy. But not as crazy as this:



Okay, did you see that outfit he was wearing? It was originally made for Lynda Carter! She wore it in this number where she pretended to be singing with Kiss:



Again: That's a costume that Lynda Carter wore because it was kind of Kiss-like. And then Gene Simmons wore it. Not a copy; that's the actual Lynda Carter dress, although I assume they had to let it out a bit.

Anyway, here's another scene from Never Too Young to Die. People who don't watch bad movies are missing out on stuff like this!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Arsenic and Old Lace

Normally, I get antsy when I have to watch Cary Grant being frantic and flustered (like in Bringing Up Baby). I much prefer him when he's suave and in-control (like in His Girl Friday). But even though a lot of this movie is composed of him being pop-eyed and shooting goofy looks at the camera, I still enjoy it a lot.

For one thing, he's got good reason to be freaking out. The stakes get raised frequently and crazy things continue to happen. For another, the crazy things are themselves entertaining. It's Peter Lorre again! And I think he actually gets away clean, which is always nice.

Also, I think the aunts are great. I know it's an easy gag to have nice old ladies cheerfully talking about killing people, but they're really good at it!

The Mask of Dimitrios

Hey, Peter Lorre gets to play the lead in a movie! And he even gets to be the suave detective, instead of Mr. Moto. Well sort of suave. He's got a cigarette lighter in one scene, anyway.

This is fairly good mid-forties film noir, although I got impatient during some of the flashback scenes. The present day has Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre threatening each other and we're stuck in a flashback watching other people? That's crazy, man! I want more Lorre.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

This was the second movie at the drive-in double feature (the first one was Journey to the Center of the Earth, which is just below this one, because I write these in the reverse order from the way you read them), and it was much worse. It's surprising how different two pulpy Brendan Fraser movies can be, really.

Basically, I disliked almost everything in this movie. The only thing I approved of was the way the characters seemed to have remembered the previous movies. A lot of times, you have a scene where people say "What? The mummy has come to life? Inconceivable! That's completely impossible, even though I've seen it happen several times before!" That happened fairly frequently in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where people were always saying things like "Oh, sure that guy cast a love spell on the student body. A likely story!" even though supernatural things were happening all the time. Mummy 3 avoids that. As soon as the Dragon Emperor starts coming to life, everyone is snapping into action and firing guns and so on. Good for them!

Unfortunately, things break down pretty much immediately so we have a pointless chase and the always-welcome sight of archaeologists destroying priceless artifacts. And there's a comic relief yak that's only in their for three stupid throwaway jokes.

I should mention that even bad movies are better at the drive-in, because it's fun to shout things at the screen and know that no one can hear you. Except the other people in your car, and they're probably shouting things too.

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Ah, now this is the kind of movie they made drive-in theaters for! And it's just lucky for me that there's still one within driving distance, because that's where I got to see it.

Is it a "good" movie? Well, probably not. For one thing, there's a 3-D version, which means from time to time, something will fly at the camera for no real reason. The yo-yo scene in particular just exists so that people in the audience will jump in their seats. Except if you see it in a non-3-D setting, in which case you giggle and shout "3-D!" See, that's one of the advantages of watching a movie in your car; you're allowed to shout things if you want.

Actually, though, I enjoyed Journey to the Center of the Earth a lot. They didn't let the heartwarming family reunion stuff get in the way of the fun, and they wrapped up that stuff up pretty early. And the woman got to save the guys at least as much as she got saved. In fact, the scene where she shows up at the last second rowing a boat made from half a dinosaur skull is pretty kickass. I also liked the fact that the kid grabbed some valuable jewels and wasn't punished for it. In fact, they came in pretty handy! And Brendan Fraser handled his role pretty well. He doesn't look old enough to be a professor, but I guess it's possible.

I probably would have liked it better if the Jules Verne novel hadn't been an explicit part of the plot. But it was still quite enjoyable.

Blazing Saddles

Up until last night, I'd never seen Blazing Saddles. And I don't want any guff about it, either. I suppose you've seen every movie ever made.

Anyway, I thought it was... okay. It certainly has laughs in it. But it didn't quite live up to the advance word, which was "greatest movie ever". My primary complaint is that Bart's character is a complete cypher. I never got any sense of how he felt about being sheriff for a town full of jerks. He never even seemed that bothered about getting hanged. He just took whatever silliness the plot presented and did what he was supposed to.

I know, complaining about character motivation in a movie most famous for its legendary Fart Scene is a little off the point. But it just kind of bugged me. Strangely, I didn't much mind the way the movie completely falls apart at the end, possibly because I love Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which has a rotten ending too.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Be Kind Rewind

You know how sometimes a movie's advertising campaign will give away every detail of the plot? Well, this movie's campaign revealed every detail of the middle part of the movie. The actual plot was left completely alone, but the whole deal with Jack Black and Mos Def recreating movies? Man, we saw the heck out of that. The poster features them and nothing else.

And to be fair, it is my favorite part of the movie. I think it looks like a lot of fun to take a random movie and have one day to shoot it by any means necessary. I'd be totally up for some sort of competition of that sort, you know? Anyway, the actual plot of the movie appears to have something to do with a neighborhood being uprooted, but there's not much of an ending to that. And there's also a video store that's apparently having trouble adapting from VHS to DVD, but it looks like a really tiny video store. Charming, sure, but the lack of DVDs is not its main problem. I would say that the main difficulty comes from the fact that the've only got about forty movies and no customers. Apparently they've never made twenty dollars in a day before.

Jack Black is fine in this. He's not as high-energy as he can sometimes be, but I'd still like to see him do a whole movie without scatting. I was pretending at one point that he was playing the same character as in High Fidelity. Remember when he was a supporting actor? Wasn't that nice?