Monday, February 28, 2011

Freakonomics: Terrible Movies #67

A well-shot and informative, but ultimately unsatisfying and average documentary focusing on the examination of how we examine things. I think. Actually, I'm not really certain what the point of this documentary was. That's the problem with films presented in several vignettes, some are better than others. Is it economics? Is it sociology? Is it an unfocused and rambling? Is it entertaining? Yes, except the entertaining part. On Netflix Instant Streaming.

Kings of Pastry: Terrible Movies #66

OK, maybe terrible is a little excessive. When you only have the choice of good or bad, there isn't a lot of wiggle room.

I can tell that the filmmakers attempted to focus on the people and not the food. However, these incredibly talented culinary artists struggled to create masterpieces in sugar and flour, and lingering over the beautiful desserts for a few moments instead of a few cursory shots at the end of the film would have been nice. An episode of Food Network Challenge has the same "nerve-wracking suspense and drama" described above, and it's in Hi-Def. Overall, an average documentary, and in the world of the Meilleur Ouvrier de France, average just doesn't cut it. On Netflix Instant Streaming.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oscar Recap

Anne Hathaway was quite a trooper tonight. She really seemed to enjoy herself and had a real passion for the show. Sadly, it just wasn't very entertaining. Gotta love the Melissa Leo "F" bomb though.

Still, I'm pretty pleased with my 50% success rate. I had absolutely no clue on the short subjects. I also underestimated the power of Alice In Wonderland. Not having seen The Fighter really hurt me in the Supporting Actor categories. And I was torn over the Best Score; The Social Network and Inception both had incredible scores, and never thought the stodgy old Academy would give it to Nine Inch Nails. But I totally knew Inception would clean up in the technical categories, and figured that Best Picture and Director would have to go to The King's Speech.

House: Terrible Movies #65

Warning: This film review contains spoilers.

I would like to give this film a positive review. I don't think I can.

Schoolgirls visit a white-haired aunt and her white cat in a haunted house. Stuff happens. Girls say things like "Only a witch cat can close a door.", and "Chocolate, candy, bread, love and dreams." People spontaneously break into song. Everyone is unusually happy, like a Doublemint Gum ad from Hell. You just know the movie's going to jump the rails, and boy, does it. Here's the rundown: Decapitated human head in a well. Flaming log kung-fu. Death by watermelon. Death by piano. Death by mattress with lightning bolts. Death by clock. Bloody geisha. Dancing severed body parts. Dressers that spurt blood. Cat flinging. Dune buggy. Jazz fusion.

Whatever the filmmakers attempted to do, they succeeded. I'm assuming they wanted to create an unreal, schizophrenic, and off-putting psychedelic and avant-garde horror movie experience. You get that. It's breathlessly edited, and everything but the kitchen sink is thrown at the screen in hopes something sticks. It often doesn't. You never connect with the characters, who are named Gorgeous, Melody, etc., in an attempt to fill in the blanks on their personalities. It's like Sid and Marty Krofft producing Days Of Our Lives in Japan aboard the Yellow Submarine with the Iron Chef. On crack. I watched it on DVD, but you probably shouldn't.

UPDATE: You can now watch this film at Hulu.

Dark Side Of The Moon: Terrible Movies #64

So, after I face-palmed my forehead around the one hour mark of this movie, and remarked aloud that when astronauts are battling Satan aboard the Space Shuttle that was lost in the Bermuda Triangle floating above the dark side of the moon, it was very forward thinking of them to bring along automatic weapons and waterproof flashlights, because those things are readily needed in space and are often effective when trying to destroy a demonic spirit who exits through his victims bodies by way of a huge bloody wound in their chests shaped like a triangle, my wife wryly said, "You just don't understand space." That may be true. This movie is so nondescript, boring and dumb that I think I sprained my brain and can no longer do simple math. On Netflix Instant Streaming.

Oscar Predictions

I have not seen all the Academy Award nominated films. In several categories, I merely picked them at random. Honestly, the likelihood of Inception winning as many as I said here is very unlikely, but one can only hope. I'd like to do better than pure chance.

Best Picture: The King's Speech
Best Actor: Colin Firth
Best Actress: Natalie Portman
Best Supporting Actor: Mark Rufffalo
Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams
Best Director: Tom Hooper
Best Screenplay: Inception
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Social Network
Best Animated Film: Toy Story 3
Best Foreign Film: Biutiful
Best Cinematography: Inception
Best Editing: Social Network
Best Art Direction: Inception
Best Costumes: Tempest
Best Makeup: Wolfman
Best Score: Inception
Best Song: Toy Story 3
Best Sound Mixing: Inception
Sound Editing: Inception
Visual Effects: Inception
Best Documentary: Restrepo
Documentary Short Subject: Warriors Of Quigang
Best Animated Short: Let's Pollute
Best Live Action Short: Na Weve

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Foreign Correspondent: A Good One #25

A criminal escapes through a sea of open umbrellas. The image of the tattered sail of a Dutch windmill is mirrored later in the image of a damaged wing of an airplane. A reporter clad only in a dressing gown touches the neon sign atop the Hotel Europe's roof causing it to now spell HOT EUROPE. A man plummets from the top of Cathedral Tower. To describe more would give away too much, but these are just a few of the memorable images found in Alfred Hitchcock's other Academy Award nominated film for Best Picture of 1941. Unfairly forgotten when compared to the Best Picture-winning Rebecca, it's still suspenseful and thrilling. On Netflix Instant Streaming.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Fake: A Good One #24

I was pleasantly surprised by this one. While it has a pretty obvious script, it's saved by lovely noirish cinematography reminiscent of Carol Reed's The Third Man and an affable performance by the lead actor reminiscent of Joseph Cotten's in Carol Reed's The Third Man. Maybe I should watch Carol Reed's The Third Man, too. I have the Criterion DVD, and it's sitting right over there. On Netflix Instant Streaming.

Sasquatch: The Legend Of Bigfoot: Terrible Movies #63

The film opens with foreboding music over wild animal footage. A puma emerges from the forest. A wolf stands in a glen. A bear ambles out of the woods. A moose drinks from a stream. Suddenly, there's a POV shot as the camera crashes through the brush to symbolize the threat of the still unseen Sasquatch. Then the puma retreats to the forest. The wolf runs away. The bear ambles back into the woods. The moose saunters off. An eagle flies through the sky. Then you see the shadow of the Sasquatch while the foreboding music churns on and the credits roll.

This has gone on for five minutes.

Then we get narration while various Bigfoot related newspaper articles fly at the screen with increasing speed, computers are shown doing sundry Bigfoot calculations, and bearded guys (who evidently are not Sasquatch) point at maps. Without warning, a completely different narrator starts narrating in a Shatner-esque style over different scenes of Canada describing the members of the Sasquatch hunting team. We see a Native American guy, and we know this because he's wearing a wig and a headband. Then an old and grizzled bearded prospector type guy (who I'm also assuming is not Sasquatch) yells at a mule.

We are now ten minutes into this film.

Is this a drama? Is this a comedy? Is this scripted? Is this a documentary? Is this Mutual Of Omaha's Wild Kingdom? Is this an episode of In Search Of: Sasquatch? There's no Leonard Nimoy, so I doubt it. Anyway, I don't know, and I'm starting not to care. Whatever this is, it's a made-for-TV nightmare and I can't wake up.

Avoid at all cost, especially if you are concerned about animal welfare; as there is a scene with a fight between a badger and a wolf, two bears pull out their fur, horses are submerged, a puma is thrown, a raccoon is verbally threatened, and a badger (A different one? I can't tell.) is paddled with a saucepan. Features multiples uses of the words fellers, critters, varmints and dog-gone, several flashbacks around a crudely lit campfire, and very few Sasquatches. On Netflix Instant Streaming.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dr. Heckle And Mr. Hype: Terrible Movies #62

A monstrous looking podiatrist undergoes a Robert Lewis Stevenson transformation in reverse and comedy ensues, I guess. Oliver Reed mugs in bad make-up and you can actually see what's left of his career at this point completely implode. I realize the plot involves a podiatrist (Don't you remember? I just told you.), but this film seems almost as foot obsessed as Quentin Tarantino. Entirely laugh-free and packed with too many WTF moments to list here. Features lines of dialogue like, "The pucker will pass.", "My mother always said to wash your feet twice a day and see a podiatrist twice a year.", "Nothing to offend the undertaker except maybe a little diarrhea.", and "She's dead and I'm still a virgin.", which seems kind of funny here in print but is oddly not humorous in execution. On Netflix Instant Streaming.

Phantom From Space: Terrible Movies #61

Oh boy, here we go. Here's the plot: An alien lands on Earth, causes interference of some sort, and kills people. Now that that's over with, here are the problems: 4 and 1/2 minutes of narration over stock military footage, woody station wagons with gigantic television antennas on top, amateurish camera work, wooden and stagey acting, excessive theremin, awkward blocking, inexplicable camera zooms, clumsy editing during dialogue, garish day-for-night shots, lack of convincing science, excessive use of pallets, actors struggling to hit their marks, an overall "first take" feel, obvious screenplay, abundant Brylcreem, confusing sense of locale (is a house built next to a tunnel?), awful special effects (I can see the strings!), overly waxy floors causing everyone to run gingerly or slip on the same set of stairs (even the dog!), and finally, a glowing invisible nude alien with continuity defying nipples. On Netflix Instant Streaming.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Wizards Of The Demon Sword: Terrible Movies #60

People often ask me, "Stabford, what's the name of that movie starring Lyle Waggoner from The Carol Burnett Show, and there's swords and sandals and whatnot, and stop-motion dinosaurs, and the continuity editor missed that horse in the left-hand side of the frame with the gigantic snot-rocket dangling out of its nose? That was a really crappy movie." And I usually reply, "Lyle Waggoner was in a movie?" On Netflix Instant Streaming

Time Barbarians: Terrible Movies #59

People who exercise way to much run through someone's backyard with swords, loincloths and shag haircuts to triumphant synthesizer music while someone videotapes it. It's supposed to be the past, but with all the unnecessary smoke machine effects, it's hard to tell. Someone in a golden bra says, "Thieves grow from every tree and every stream", and even she seems surprised by that. Sword fights occur, someone else says "Thine", and chicks bathe topless in a stream. Months seem to go by, and yet this movie never seems to end. An eternity later, the "time" part of the movie finally kicks in, and somehow a barbarian travels to modern day Los Angeles and purchases acid washed jeans. He saves a female reporter, she interviews him, and they seem to fall in love. You can tell they truly love one another because there's a flashback montage to cheesy synthesizer music and a clown figurine is sitting on the coffee table in the shot. Some other stuff happens, but you don't care that much. Thankfully, a few decades later it ends, and you promise to never do it again. On Netflix Instant Streaming.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: A Good One #23

It's my new favorite.

On pay-per-view

Quest For The Mighty Sword: Terrible Movies #58

I have a lot of questions I need answered about this movie. First things first. I'm not going to ask why the titles shake ever so slightly during the credits, or why the first two minutes of the movie seem to be repeated under the credits, or if the special effects department bought the masks used in the movie from the makers of the film Troll 2, or who the hell takes a baby to a beheading, or if this movie contains anything that seems like it resembles a story, or if it's a continuation of a previous story and if so why, or if this is even a movie or if it's an instructional video on how not to make a movie, or how many people in this movie are named Ator, or why the camera is always at crotch level, or why the soundtrack sounds like it was made for an antiquated video game involving crows, or if the film editor is actually drunk, or why there is suddenly a minute of stock volcano footage for very little reason, or why the hell I'm watching it.

The main question I have is what's up with the lead actor's hair? Is it a two-foot long braided toupee? Why is it crimped? Why is it so blond and whispy? Is this movie just a commercial for a new product called Rogaine For Men: Beyond Thunderdome? I need answers. On Netflix Instant Streaming.

The Faceless Monster: Terrible Movies #57

I often wonder how mad scientists get the victims of their torture and revenge schemes from one elaborate set-up to another, especially when this barely convincing torture generally takes place in a dimly lit Gothic mansion. Do they stumble around in the dark? Does anyone fall over chaise lounges or gargoyle statues? This candle-lit mansion doesn't have electric light, but said mad scientists can somehow electrocute a couple as they recover from their whipping injuries on a brass bed, which somehow seems unlikely. And to further confuse things, this mansion only seems to have one elderly maid working there, so you have to wonder if there are any struggles or attempts to escape, and if so, couldn't they just knock her down and leave? The logistics of this would be interesting to see, but unfortunately, this movie isn't going to be interesting. You do get some pipe organ music composed by Ennio Morricone, but there's not much of it. You also get Barbara Steele in a dual role, neither of which are very good, and both roles seem to need the same gauzy nightgown. People say and do things that don't seem to make much sense, and dialogue consists of "Do you know how long it takes to die of pain?" and "That chair is bizarre and could be dangerous." On Netflix Instant Streaming

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Who Is Harry Nilsson?: A Good One #22

While flawed by being overlong and occasionally fawning, overall an illuminating insight into the late Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, and completely redeemed by tons of gorgeous music. Check it out. On Netflix Instant Streaming.

Dorm: Terrible Movies #56

Overlong and melodramatic, this Thai coming-of-age ghost story has some gem-like moments in it, but you have to slog through a lot of cliche to get to them. I would chalk up some of these problems with cliche to a need for aggressive editing, some to cultural differences (the musical interlude in the middle of the film seemed to me to be corny and tacked on; but maybe like Bollywood films, Thai audiences enjoy this and I'm not the audience the film-makers are trying to reach), some to budgetary constraints, and some to the horror genre itself. However, it was nice to look at, was generally well acted by the young cast, and had a couple of jolts, but that could have been the bombastic score talking. I also enjoyed the theme that cropped up several times of holding your breath, which seemed refreshing and unusual. On Netflix Instant Streaming.

League Of Ordinary Gentlemen: Terrible Movies #56

It would be easy to mock bowling. It was seen as uncool, and in all fairness this film was made prior to the resurgence of companies like Lucky Strike who are successfully making bowling seem cool again.

Why am I calling this film terrible? It's not due to lack of skill on the part of the film-makers. It looks and acts like most documentaries. Real-life people are interviewed, and we see them doing the things that the film-makers think we will find interesting, and the film-makers attempt to illuminate us and make us feel connected to these people. Usually through subtle (or, in this case, not-so-subtle) imagery; for instance, shots of factories, or clothing emblazoned with flags, are meant to make you feel a particular way. Interviews are conducted, in this case America, Family, or History is mentioned again and again, and experts are brought in to back up and forward some sort or agenda. This documentary film doesn't vary from the standard.

An expert is interviewed who states that intellectual elitism based in Hollywood is responsible for the downfall of bowling, which was once the most watched televised sporting event, and sometime later the owner of the PBA is shown screaming (or speaking motivationally, take your pick) at a crowd of bowling enthusiasts, and saying that the segmentation of the television viewing audience as the downfall of bowling, that bowling was 'boring America to death', and this is a huge obstacle to overcome. And they show clips from the Farrelly Brothers film Kingpin to further their agenda, that this film has skewered and destroyed the image of bowling, and then sometime later show historical clips of mustachioed and mulleted bowlers in action that look suspiciously like the film that lampoons them.

But I feel the expert and the film-makers misses a point, that what is popular is rarely and not necessarily cool. So I would say what makes this film a failure is a lack of unifying message and a cast of unlikeable personalities, but it's still an interesting insider's look at a struggling sport. On Netflix Instant Streaming.

Winter's Bone: A Good One #21

A curious infant extends a finger and gently rings a bell. Children hold tiny chicks in scraps of flannel. An oil slick drifts lazily on the surface of a pond. When told to be quiet, a child instantly sneezes. A perfectly timed teardrop.

It's intricate details like this that elevate this taut independent thriller into the realm of greatness, however, you cannot discount authentic performances from locals and extras, an Oscar nominated turn by newcomer Jennifer Lawrence, a wonderfully gritty screenplay, and beautiful cinematography that was shot on location in rural Missouri. Bleak and leisurely-paced, gripping and thoroughly entertaining, and looks far more expensive than your run-of-the-mill independent feature. On pay-per-view.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Monster That Challenged The World: Terrible Movies #55

WARNING: This quiz contains spoilers!

When being attacked by an overgrown escargot, which of the following weapons and modes of defense would you choose to save your life and the lives of your loved ones cowering in a laboratory storeroom? Would you choose:

A) Weakly throwing a half-filled beaker
B) Partially covering the 15 foot mollusk in fire-extinguishing powder when you could easily have pummeled it to death with it, or;
C) Hacking it to bits with the conveniently placed fireman's axe hanging on the wall
within arm's reach.

I'll give you a few moments to choose.

OK. If you chose C, this would probably have shortened the movie by at least a good five minutes instead of ending abruptly with very few answers as to whether the planet was going to be overrun by an expensive French appetizer. If you chose A or B, then you probably starred in this boring film.

On Netflix Instant Streaming.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Apple: Terrible Movies #50 Part Two: Electric Boogaloo

Watched The Apple again. It was even worse the second time. I may never get over it. So you can better appreciate what I'm trying to put into words, here's a video from the movie, with a brief appearance by Finola Hughes on a moped.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Shades Of Gray: Terrible Movies #54

Ineffective continuity editing that doesn't ensure coherent storyline and punny intertitles mars a potentially humorous biographical documentary about Gray Barker, an allegedly less -than-truthful pulp writer in the early 1950's the documentary filmmakers attribute to be the father of many urban legends; including flying saucers, The Mothman, men in black, and the Philadelphia Experiment. Even when it was understood that the interviewees were recounting Gray Barker's many novels and articles about paranormal events, I was sometimes confused as to who the statically shot colorful cast of characters were talking about. Maybe that was the point. On Netflix Instant Streaming.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Superman/Shazam!: The Return Of Black Adam: A Good One #20

A collection of animated shorts with a anime feel, the first is an updated Captain Marvel origin story where Supes and the Big Red Cheese spend about 20 minutes whomping on Black Adam. The second is an eerie although slight Spectre story in a Grindhouse style. The third is an average Green Arrow story. I don't care for the new Green Arrow costume, and if Black Canary's not wearing the fishnet tights then it really isn't Black Canary now is it? She's worn them for nearly 70 years, so why the hell should she stop now? And the fourth is a grim Jonah Hex story. I never much cared for Jonah Hex, but this one was ok. An average attempt overall (Justice League: A New Frontier is very good and you should check it out for it's Silver Age look), but it's nice to see animated adventures of lesser seen characters. Not recommended for small children due to violence, some racy language, a little blood, and some corpses. But then again, comic books really haven't been for children since the early 1970's. On Netflix Instant Streaming.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cape Canaveral Monsters: Terrible Movies #53

A man and a woman are on the beach. He's smoking a pipe while a lonesome oboe plays because that's not unusual at all and seems to set up some kind of absurd pipe smoking on the beach kind of mood. Two lights shine off in the distance. These strange lights seem threatening, and it may be because of the piccolo. The couple gets in their car, and a moment later it crashes. You can tell it crashed because of the standard car crash sound effects and the violent shaking of the camera. The man loses an arm in the crash, and the woman nonchalantly remarks that she can sew it back on at the spaceship which we never see. Cue opening credits. Rockets explode, people in lab coats twiddle knobs in a scientific manner, and dogs are upset. A drippy severed arm gets some much needed screen time. Huge plot holes are as abundant as goofy facial scars and stock NASA footage. Things that don't need to be explained are explained in great detail, while some stuff that needs a good explaining gets blown off. Is it day? Is it night? No one knows. This film is a jumbled incoherent mess, completely monster free, and one of the worst movies I've seen in almost a week and a half. On Netflix Instant Streaming.

The Social Network: A Good One #20

I should have waited. The Social Network is an excellent film, albeit far less showy than Inception, and I should have waited a while before watching it. Everything about The Social Network was just great; it was gripping, well acted, exceedingly well written, and wonderfully shot, but no one floated and a city didn't get turned into a cube. How can you compete with that? I guess we'll see when the Oscars are handed out in March, but I feel that The King's Speech (which I have not seen yet) will probably do a lot of sweeping that evening. I watched it on pay-per-view, but I would rather have Blu-Rayed it.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Inception: A Good One #19

A remarkably complex action thriller that was original, tense, suspenseful, and very thrilling. It was also beautifully filmed and well acted, has an incredibly insistent and effective score, is filled with groundbreaking special effects, and has a rich screenplay that must have weighed 5 pounds. Nominated for 8 well-deserved Academy Awards including Best Picture, Score, Screenplay, Art Direction, Cinematography, and Visual Effects. Excellent from beginning to end. I watched it on pay-per-view, although I probably will be watching it a second time on Blu-Ray.

RIP Tura Satana

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Island: Terrible Movies #53

DISCLAIMER: I only watched 45 minutes of this movie.

When I started this foolish exercise, I said aloud to the Family Deathrage, "I'm going to watch as many bad movies as I can. If I start it, I'm going to finish it. And I'll review every one." It was idealistic, and in all honesty, I haven't done a great job with that. I have started a few movies and not finished them (for instance, a documentary on Audubon, which was lovely to look at but a little dry), turned off a few only a couple of moments in (Monster In The Closet which is a Troma film and I felt at the time could have been nearly review-proof), and watched a couple of movies at the gym. The gym located within Deathrage Towers has what is known as Cardio Theatre. Initially, I thought this was a killer idea. Then the realization struck me...movies are played here for humans to sweat to and not be overly offended by. Not to mention when I'm rolling my eyes at the stupidity displayed on the screen I could fall off the elliptical and kill myself in the dark and no one would notice. So I watched 45 minutes of The Last Song starring Miley Cyrus (dreck) and Extraordinary Measures starring Brendan Fraser (also dreck, but well-meaning dreck).

So today I watched the last 45 minutes of The Island. Things exploded, gigantic signs fell off skyscrapers with people hanging from them, helicopters blew up, CGI was used within an inch of its life, and physics was disregarded. Dialogue consisted of "Let's go!". Products were placed strategically by the fine people at American Express, Cadillac, and Ben and Jerry's. Using the very finest cameras money can buy, it was as lovely as a commercial featuring any of those fine advertisers and just as vapid. Now playing at my gym, but avoid it like exercise if you can.

The Lady Vanishes: A Good One #18

I had no intention of watching or reviewing this film. I've seen it so many times. But I was just killing time before bed, it was late, and I didn't want to invest in a full length movie. Plus, the artwork on Netflix screamed cut-out bin, and considering the film is in the public domain, there's no telling what print you'll get, and I was curious. The print is crisp, beautiful and crystalline, and I ended up watching the whole thing again. I believe it's his first masterpiece and gets better with each viewing. It's funny and political and nuanced and suspenseful and thrilling. Do I have to spell out the plot for you? OK, boy and girl meet in a crowded European hotel after an avalanche. Intrigue happens. Look, if I say more I'll spill it all, so just watch it, and watch it at least twice.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Edge of Fury: Terrible Movies #52

A psychopath walks along a beach, gleefully strangles his hat, then breaks into a cottage. A few seconds later, he attempts to rent the cottage with $7, then decides he doesn't have enough money to catch a train and asks the guy who owns the cottage for a buck back. He then awkwardly talks 3 women into living at the cottage, so he can more easily creep on them as they sunbathe. Other than excessive narration, inappropriate music for the action onscreen, and the occasional boom shadow, nothing much happens. Boring and seems weeks longer than a 78 minute runtime. On Netflix Instant Streaming.

Kevin Smith: Too Fat For 40: A Good One #17

Another in Kevin Smith's series of Q and A's. As usual, he's informative, long-winded, sweaty, vulgar, affable and funny. He's not breaking any new cinematic ground, but if you liked An Evening With Kevin Smith you'll like this one. On Netflix Instant Streaming.

The Runaways: A Good One #16

A well shot rock music bio-pic featuring tons of great music by Suzi Quatro, David Bowie, The Stooges, Sex Pistols, The Runaways and Joan Jett. I think she can be pretty hit or miss but Kristen Stewart gives a very convincing performance as Joan Jett. Michael Shannon is also intriguing as the polarizing impresario Kim Fowley. On Netflix Instant Streaming.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Sorry, I've been busy. Upgraded my internet service, so hopefully streaming movies will be even faster. Maybe I'll even watch something from 2010. I'll review The Runaways, Edge Of Fury, and Kevin Smith: Too Fat For 40 soon.