Monday, March 31, 2008

Surf's Up

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Surf's Up isn't a great animated film like Ratatouille, but it's a lot better and funnier than I would have guessed, given that it didn't seem to make much of an impact last year. It's probably the funniest cartoon since the Spongebob movie (although not its equal) and I thought the animation was pretty cool, especially the way it tries to imitate documentary style camera work. Neat. And there's also a lot of cool wave visuals, as this is one of those zen-of-surfing type movies, and the last shot is actually kinda beautiful. I guess this one didn't catch on as much with the kiddies, but I liked it a lot more than I liked any of the Shrek pictures.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

This one is an indie drama about an Irish street musician who forms a relationship with a Czech immigrant, and they write music together while never quite becoming a couple. So it's maybe a little like if you crossed Music and Lyrics with Before Sunrise.

I like low key movies like this, that never push the drama too hard and plays things a little closer to real life. It's just a nice, quiet, insightful movie with some good charm and humor, and a touching ending.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Shenan and I have both been meaning to watch this one for a long time, as we both like Hitchcock and I hadn't seen it and it's her favorite of his. It turns out she was right, this is a pretty good one.

It pulls a neat trick that I like in horror/thriller movies, where for a while it's lighthearted and is actually a pretty good comedy before slowly morphing into a drama and then into a full-on suspense film. I dig the genre bait-and-switch, and I like to imagine from time to time somebody watches this movie, or Disturbia or From Dusk Til Dawn or Audition and doesn't have any idea where it's heading. Shit, I kind of wish I could watch one of these movies without knowing that there was a big genre shift in store.

We all know that Cary Grant is one of the most charming actors ever, but Hitchcock was great at using him to play characters whose natural charm masks something dark inside. Suspicion isn't a masterpiece like Notorious, but Grant is used to similar effect in both and damn if they aren't two of his best performances. I love a good Bringing Up Baby or My Favorite Wife where he's just really funny and charming, but his best roles are always when he's some kind of secret bastard.

Who Saw Her Die?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I do enjoy a good giallo. I saw this one a while back with my uncle and my brother, where we kind of made fun of it even though it's actually a decent one. I ended up with my own copy, and popped it on while relaxing on Thursday night, as a way to hole up in my room and maybe relax my brain a little after watching Persona. This one is no Deep Red... hell, it ain't even a Case of the Bloody Iris, but it's an entertaining one, and it stars worst James Bond ever George Lazenby. IMDB audaciously claims that he lost 35 lbs for this role... I have no idea why that would be necessary, but I'd like to think this guy was pulling crazy weight loss/gain shit years before DeNiro tried it, only he did it for Italian b-movies.

A few things I've picked up about Italian horror flicks:

- Most protagonists are American or British dudes who are living in (or just happen to be in) Italy. Apparently, intrigue doesn't happen to the native Italians.

- If a priest shows up in the movie, 9 times out of 10 he will be the killer.

-If a priest shows up and is not the killer, he will die a violent death.

- If the killer appears to be a woman, most of the time he will turn out to be a transvestite. (Who Saw Her Die goes the extra mile and makes the killer a transvestite priest).

- If there is a little girl in a major role, for some reason she always has red hair, and all children, boy or girl, will have their voices dubbed by an adult woman.

This one looks good, but isn't a visually stylish as my favorite giallos. Much of the entertainment comes from the weird details that director Aldo Lado (silly name!) throws in. Like when the main character is investigating his daughter's death, and he's asking this one dude questions, and they suddenly both start playing ping pong during the heated exchange. Or when the main character appears to be getting stalked by a man on crutches.

It's got the requisite violence (not too gory, but good stuff like when a guy gets lit on fire and falls out a window and they show it like 5 times) and more than its share of naked ladies. It strikes a nice balance between classy and trashy (although doesn't make it an extreme dichotomy, like in an Argento flick). I enjoy this one, and also Lado's Short Night of Glass Dolls, which I've thought would make a good remake and I should watch again soon. Supposedly, his Night Train Murders is really trashy and I'm a little curious to see that one because these other two are relatively well made genre entries. Maybe after my K2K, I'll do an Italian Horror Movie-a-thon and check that one out.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Thursday, March 27, 2008

My K2K wouldn't be a true kommittment without throwing some Ingmar Bergman in there. I have, in the past, greatly enjoyed Wild Strawberries and also I had seen The Seventh Seal which, um, I'm not really sure what I think of it, but it's an interesting movie.

Persona is a film I've meant to see for along time, mainly because of its influence on my favorite Robert Altman movie, 3 Women. And the influence here is pretty obvious, what with two women who live together and slowly seem to somehow merge or switch personalities.

I like this kind of movie, that is strange and enigmatic, where the literal meaning isn't always clear. Where image and atmosphere take precedence over logic or story. I'm not sure what this movie "means," and this isn't my favorite film of its kind, but it's a good one, with a lot of imagery to ponder. There's even a couple parts where the film breaks down, and random, bizarre images (like people and weird costumes and a penis) quickly flash on the screen. I know that's kind of the definitive "art film" stereotype that would be used if one were to make a parody of this kind of movie, but I suspect that this was a relatively early use of this concept.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Vantage Point

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I was getting a strong DePalma-esque vibe from the trailers of this one, so I had been curious to see it. Something about the visual style, I guess, plus the use of shifting perspectives and one character seeming to have a double. I thought it looked a bit like if DePalma did a Tom Clancy movie.

No dice. If anything, the visual style recalls a more colorful version of Paul Greengrass's style in the Bourne movies. A little less shaky, but similar.

This was not a very good movie. The gimmick is that the movie keeps rewinding every 10 minutes or so to show you the events from a different character's perspective. I keep hearing it compared to Rashomon, but that's not correct. In Rashomon, everybody told completely different stories, here we just see the exact same story from different perspectives.

As a result of this gimmick, the movie doesn't really even build a proper pace or narrative tempo until the last 20 minutes or so, because the action keeps getting interrupted. And a lot of moments and information are repeated, making a lot of the movie boring and redundant. I mean, we see the president (actually, his double) shot about 5 times, and each time it's played as a shock... it kind of gets old after a while.

It's only near the end when all the plots converge that the movie holds any interest... one way or another, this wouldn't have been a great thriller, but I think it could have been a better one if they just cut back and forth between all the stories instead of showing them one at a time. There would have been more rhythm and tension.

The best part of this movie is Forrest Whittaker, not so much because he's good in this movie but because in his maybe 10-15 minutes of screen time they attempt to make him a fleshed-out, full blown dramatic character with an arc and everything. This leads to an amusingly awkward moment at the end for him, when he (bless his heart) gives it his all in terribly written dramatic/emotional climax. It's fun to see a great actor try so earnestly with bad material. I love you, Ghost Dog. Also, there is an entertainingly overstated scene where he tries to save a little girl from an oncoming car.

I wish there had been more ridiculous moments like that. There are some ridiculous plot developments, but they are not ridiculous enough to be fun, and exactly ridiculous enough to be stupid. If someone had (like I had wished) just pushed this a little harder into over-the-top DePalma territory, this could have been more entertaining. Or even if it sucked, it could have been an interesting failure like Raising Cain. As it is, it's a very mediocre action thriller with maybe a handful of good moments.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I popped this on to my queue a while back, for my K2K, as it was an oldie with a neat sounding plot and it starred most beautiful woman ever Ingrid Bergman and the awesome Joseph Cotton. It came up, to my dismay, as a "Very Long Wait" on Netflix, now it just says unavailable. By happy coincidence, this turned out to be on TCM right after this happened, so I Tivoed it. God damn, I love TCM and my parents' Comcast fake-Tivo.

This is a pretty good, slow-burn type of thriller (noir, perhaps? It has a lot of shadows and fog) with a good cast and visual style. It is also is apparently the first screen appearance of Angela Lansbury, and it's really weird seeing her as a not-old person.

If I have one complaint, it's that the mystery is apparent from the beginning. I think for a while we're supposed to wonder if Bergman is losing her mind, but I found it clear from the get-go that Charles Boyer's character was simply trying to make her think that she's going mad. This diminishes some of the suspense the movie works at building. His performance isn't ambiguous enough, it's always clear that he's the villain.

Boyer gets top billing... I am entirely unfamiliar with this fellow, and I'm pretty sure Bergman has a bigger role than him, but he's good in it as Bergman's manipulative, con man husband. So I'm not opposed to seeing more of him in the future, but I'd still rather there be more Cotton and less Boyer.

Joseph Cotton is the fucking man. I wish he was my Uncle Charlie.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Monday, March 24, 2008

Since I just watched the first two parts of Sergio Leone's "Dollars Trilogy," I figured it was high time to pull out my old copy of his old west masterpiece, which I hadn't seen in a good 4 or 5 years.

Is this my favorite Western of all time? Quite possibly. Clint's Unforgiven would be a strong contender. Maybe Howard Hawks' El Dorado? I'd have to see it again.

I'm going to do some Leone follow up soon by watching his 3hr 45 minute Once Upon a Time in America, hopefully this weekend. I suppose the next logical step should have been to watch Once Upon a Time in the West, but I've seen it before and honestly wasn't a huge fan. It had its moments, and maybe one day I should give it another shot, but right now I think the 10 hours or so I will have dedicated to Leone over the past few weeks is Kommittment enough.

For me, GB&U is the perfect culmination of Leone's high energy, over-the-top, almost satirical style, perfectly melded with an epic scope and some moments of surprising beauty and that lyricism I like so much. For me, Once Upon a Time in the West got a little bogged down in it's more serious ambitions, and doesn't provide enough entertainment (although the moments of payoff are pretty good). GB&U strikes the perfect balance between Leone's unique sense of action and adventure with some more serious or poetic moments.

I never put much thought into the title, other than the obvious fact that it refers to the three leads. This time, I wondered if maybe it's a little ironic. Because Clint Eastwood's character isn't really a good guy when we meet him, despite what his title says during his introduction. He's just as amoral, violent, manipulative and greedy as the other characters, going after all that money. It's just that Lee Van Cleef is a little worse, and Eli Wallach isn't very good looking. They are all bad people.

I thought maybe Leone had his tongue in his cheek to a certain extent, trying to maybe make a cynical point about human nature. Because for a while, Clint is really only "the good" because he's a little cooler and better looking than the others, and because he's Clint fucking Eastwood and he's the main character. But then later, he has some moments that suggest some redemption, or at least a sense of humanity that the others are lacking. Like that little moment he has where he gives the smoke to the dying Confederate soldier. And then he does spare Eli Wallach at the end and let him keep his share of the money (although only after seriously fucking with the guy first).

As great as Clint and Van Cleef are, I suspect that most would agree with me that Eli Wallach's character Tuco is the best. Yeah, he's an amoral, hot tempered asshole, but he's just as badass as the others, he's way funnier, and he has to take a lot more shit than the others do. It's like how Daffy Duck is way better than that smug prick Bugs Bunny. OK, Daffy's a bastard, but he suffers a lot more abuse, so our sympathy is with him.

This is a great movie all the way through, but the last 20 minutes or so, once they reach the graveyard, are perfect. I can think of few films with a climax this awesome, and it's still astonishing how well Leone really build the suspense and draws things out until the final payoff. Great movie.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Nines

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Ryan Reynolds fits into that elusive category of actors that I like that almost never do any good movies. Not that I think he's a young De Niro or anything, but I like his presence, I think he has potential, but he mostly just shows up in movies that suck and require him to give every line his trademark sarcasm. I think he could be a pretty good leading man movie star if he'd just get in some better movies.

Well, The Nines is better than his usual fare, and it's probably his best performance so far, but the movie is more of an entertaining failure. It's an ambitious movie, which tries to mix mindbending sci-fi/fantasy with comedy, drama, Hollywood satire, mystery and even throws in a musical number. It's the directorial debut of John August (the guy who writes all the Tim Burton movies now) and it's a fun watch at times, but a lot of it misses the mark, and the big ending/reveal fails to tie everything together in a satisfying manner. August has some amusing ideas for his reality-shifting, plot-twisting story, but it feels too intellectual or planned. These kind of stories work better when someone like David Lynch of Philip K. Dick helms it, when it doesn't feel like an arbitrary "insert weird scene here" vibe and instead feels more organically created.

This is a Donnie Darko or Vanilla Sky kind of movie, but not on their level. It's definitely better than Southland Tales, but is only a mild pleasure. Don't avoid it if you get a chance to see it, but it's not worth seeking out.

Batman: the Movie

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The 60's Batman, not the Tim Burton Batman. This made me laugh pretty hard, but I was also pretty trashed at the time, so I'm not sure how much I trust my opinion.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The House By the Cemetery

Saturday, March 22, 2008

There's something about Lucio Fulci. He made a lot of cheap, violent Italian horror films that were poorly written, poorly acted and poorly edited. They often had gruesome but unconvincing special effects, and a good amount of unintended comedy. The stories had a lot of exposition, but even after repeat viewings don't seem to make any logical sense. Yet there are a few, especially the three in a row he did with Catriona MacColl in the lead roll, that are effectively weird and nightmarish in a way that few horror films are.

The House by the Cemetery
is one of my favorite Fulci's. It's not a good movie in many senses, and some of it is downright laughable. But the awkward dubbing, the bad dialogue, the nonsensical plot, the disjointed editing, and the cheapness somehow mingle very well with the violence, atmosphere and especially Fulci's dreamlike, soft-focus visual style to create an unsettling feeling, like a bad dream.

I have this weird idea to sort of pull a Down With Love on Fulci and try to make a film that tries to perfectly copy his style. Just do a mishmash of his plots and ideas (it would definitely have to be about a gateway to hell), dub all the dialogue and try to approximate his look. This wouldn't be some Lost Skeleton of Cadavra thing where I would intentionally make it bad, or some Grindhouse thing where I cheat and make a bigger budget movie, but a genuine attempt to try and duplicate his style.

Shenan had never seen this before, and picked up a $3 used copy. Well done. I still haven't found a reasonably priced copy of The Beyond, but I did just get City of the Living Dead at an acceptable price and will have to watch it some time soon. Maybe I won't have enough time now trying to keep this blog going, but I wouldn't like to start working on my Fulci script some time in the near future, at least just for shits and giggles.

Bonnie and Clyde

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I've had this in from Netflix for close to two weeks, which for me is an eternity, because I wanted to watch it with Shenan and hadn't found the time.

This is right up her alley, as she tends to very much enjoy the young lovers on the lam type movies. She digs Wild at Heart and Natural Born Killers and Badlands and stuff like that, and so do I, and this was a very good one.

Gene Hackman has a supporting role, and godamn, didn't this guy ever look young? Seriously, I just watched The French Connection a while back and the guy looked like he was in his 50's, and this one is four years earlier and he looked just as old. And then he looks almost exactly the same 30 years later in Unforgiven. Patrick and I thought maybe he had made a pact with the devil to stay young forever, only he didn't do it until he was old and now that's what he looks like forever. Eternally in his 50s.

Hard Eight

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I went to Harrisonburg this weekend, and Patrick was in the mood to watch this. I hadn't seen it in a number of years. Funny, that this one and Boogie Nights are easily my favorite P. T. Anderson movies, and they are his first two. As his career has gone along he's expanded himself, tried new things, even improved in certain ways, but I still prefer the style he was going for early on. Hard Eight was even better than I remembered, and for me really emphasized how much more I like this than I do Magnolia.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Doing some follow up on our Price is Right Double Feature from back in December, Andy and I watched another movie where Vincent Price kills off a group of people one-by-one in very strange ways. This movie looks great, with a lot of flashy colors and weird, ornate sets. And it contains a lot of weird details, like the fact that Price is some sort of zombie-man can only speak through a microphone attached to a hole in his throat. And he has this weird wind-up jazz band that play songs for him. And he kills people in odd, animal-themed ways. There's also a nice sense of goofy dark humor, and Joseph Cotton plays a major role. Not a great horror movie, but an enjoyable strange one.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Werckmeister Harmonies

Tuesday, March 19, 2008

I don't understand this movie, but I'm glad I saw it.

My quest has brought me now to the films of Bela Tarr. Lest ye doubt the seriousness of my Kommittment to Klassiks, this is a 2 1/2 hour Hungarian film consisting of only 39 shots, filmed in black and white, containing many long, silent shots of people walking for several minutes at a time. I think watching this makes up for Hell of the Living Dead and whatever is the next shitty Italian horror film I watch instead of watching a good movie.

Bela Tarr's style was apparently very influential on Gus Van Sant's recent crop of films. And judging from some of the long shots through unruly mobs in a crumbling city, I wouldn't be surprised if Alfonso Cuaron saw this before he did Children of Men.

Well, this is a long, slow and often confounding movie, about a mysterious circus that rolls into town with the corpse of a giant whale as its main attraction. The circus's other attraction, a disfigured man seen only in shadow named The Prince, begins amassing a small army and causing dissent in town, until the town descends into complete chaos. For a while it's seems soooooo prototypical foriegn art film-y that if you shoved it a little further in the right direction it could be almost parody. But by the end we get a full scale riot, a tank rolling around and even a helicopter chase, and it starts to feel like no other movie I've ever seen.

The film creates a somber, eerie mood throughout, but there are moments of strange humor and unexpected beauty. I can't for the life of me tell you what it "meant" or anything like that, but I do know that it was interesting and unique in a way that few movies are.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Monday, March 18, 2008

OK, so there's a group of guys with psychic powers who meet out in the woods for a hunting trip every year, and they run into some sort of weird alien invasion where the aliens impregnate you with a virus and the new alien shoots out of your ass (after making you fart a lot) and it turns out that they got their psychic powers from a retarded kid when they were teenagers and there are extended flashbacks of this and then about 1/3 of the way into the movie a bunch of military guys lead by Morgan Freeman show up to fight the aliens which leads to a bunch of action scenes that don't have much to do with anything, and then one of the psychic guys' body is taken over by an alien with a british accent so he hides in a warehouse that exists only in his own mind and...

...This movie is a work of lunacy, and this is maybe my 3rd or 4th time seeing it and I still can't believe this much money was spent on a movie this strange. Definitely worth your time if you like this sort of stuff.

Stalag 17

Monday, March 17, 2008

Well, I typically enjoy Billy Wilder a lot, but I wasn't as hot on this one. It's a comedy/drama set in a WWII POW camp, and it suffers from my typical old-tymey movie complaint: the comedy isn't funny enough. Which, actually, is pretty weird because Wilder has made some pretty funny movies. So I dunno. I enjoyed a lot of the more typical POW movie aspects, but a lot of the humor and runing jokes just didn't tickle me as much as they should have, making the movie kind of boring at times.

It wasn't bad, and actually I even kinda liked a lot of it, but it's just not one of the better klassiks I've watched so far. Oh well.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Saw IV

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Andy's back in town, and he hadn't seen this yet.

I wonder if Darren Lynn Bousman realizes how fun and silly the Saw sequels are. I mean, the movies seem rather humorless and grim, like they are trying to be serious thrillers. But it's their absurdity (in plot, in violence and in visual style) that make them so much fun. I'm curious if Bousman thinks these work as serious thrillers, or if he's trying to make them over-the-top fun.

Talk to Me

Sunday, March 16, 2008

This is a good but predictable biopic with a top-notch cast. Shenan's pick. I liked it, but I think Roger Ebert hyped it up too much for me.

Knock Off

Friday, March 14, 2008
"Holy Shit, Did That Really Happen?!" Sober Re-Watching: Saturday, March 15, 2008

I still am having a little trouble believing that this movie exists. Patrick and I watched this while rather intoxicated on Friday night, and I actually had to re-watch it on Saturday morning to convince myself that it was for real.

This is either one of the worst action films ever, or it's a brilliant, subversive work of absurdist humor masked as an action movie. I'm not sure which. All I know is that it was described by renowned internet film critic Vern as surrealism, and he wasn't kidding.

It's about knockoff designer clothing that has been fitted with tiny, button sized bombs to kill the wearer. It stars Jean Claude Van Damme as a fashion designer caught up in the intrigue, and Rob Schneider plays his sidekick/undercover CIA agent. Paul Sorvino is the villain. There is a scene where the camera travels through the wall an into a secret chamber of surveillence people, into the back of their monitor, close up into the circuity to the image (which we see in reverse) and out the screen and right up to the eyes of the man watching. There is another scene where we see a foot going into a shoe shot from the POV of the foot.

This is maybe the strangest, silliest action movie ever made, and holy shit am I glad I paid $3 for it because I will definitely watch it again. And now I want to see Van Damme's Double Team, made by the same director as this.

OK, this movie is pretty crazy, but it never tops the opening action scene. Van Damme runs around Hong Kong carrying Rob Schneider in a rickshaw in some sort of charity race. One of their opponents is some weird, deformed little person who likes to talk shit in Chinese. At one point, a car almost hits JCVD, but he jumps in the air (still holding the rickshaw) and runs across the side of the car. Later, he runs so fast that his knockoff sneakers explode, which is shown to the audience in extreme closeup of the tearing rubber. Also, Rob Schneider steals an eel from a market and begins whipping Van Damme in the ass with it to make him go faster. An eel. I swear, this could be a Salvador Dali painting.

The movie doesn't maintain this level of ludicrousness for its entire running time, but it still has a lot of moments. If you have any interests in weird, cult movies, this one gets a high recommendation.

Friday, March 14, 2008

For a Few Dollars More

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I can see that the Dollars trilogy is not unlike the Bourne series, with each entry being a marked improvement over the last. Sometimes I think of movies like this as "test run" films, experimenting with an idea or style before later perfecting it. For example, Gus Van Sant's Gerry being a test run for his Elephant and Last Days. Or Argento's The Bird with the Crystal Plumage being a test run for Deep Red (and, um, pretty much all of his movies). Or David Lynch's Lost Highway being a test run for Mulholland Drive (and then subsequently blowing the engine out on Inland Empire). This happens with actors and writers, too, but I find it most fun when applied to the auteur theory.

So For a Few Dollars More is a notable step up from A Fistful of Dollars, and in turn The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is another huge step up, to the realm of masterpiece.

What surprised me here is I assumed Lee Van Cleef was going to be the bad guy, but he's not, and actually just as much the main character as Clint Eastwood. In fact, he has a little back story, unlike Clint, and more motivation for his actions. So in some ways, he's maybe even more important. The two have a good chemistry here, and this helps underline one of the short comings of the first movie: he doesn't have a kickass partner. He has an amusing sidekick of sorts who doesn't do much, but the movies are a lot more entertaining when he has a Lee Van Cleef or an Eli Wallach to bounce off of.

The Lady From Shanghai

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Film noir, Orson Welles style. And a pretty good one at that. I caught Welles' The Stranger a while back and really dug it... and may have liked this one even more. The plot is rather implausible at times, but entertainingly convoluted. The acting is good, and I greatly enjoy Welles' ornate visual style, especially in the climax.

Also, props for the cold-blooded ending, Welles. Makes up for your distracting fake Irish accent.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

12 Angry Men

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I had watched the end of 12 Angry Men a few years back, I believe with my old roommate Tim. Been meaning to see the whole thing for a long time.

This is a well-made, well-acted, very entertaining movie, but hot damn is it heavy-handed and preachy. I mean, they don't even bother to give the opposite point of view a single argument that isn't obviously flawed, there are these constant "oh snap" moments that defy plausibility just to make a point, and Henry Fonda's character is so perfect that he's actually dressed in all white, like he's a fucking angel come down from the heavens to save us poor morons. I mean, this is an entertaining movie and I completely agree with the point it's trying to make, but sheesh. It's best to just ignore all the preachiness and superiority and go with the flow.

I like this movie, but I'm not sure I would consider it a klassik myself.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Fresh off the heels of Rendition, I watched another much maligned 2007 political film that starts with "Re," Brian DePalma's Redacted. Much like Rendition, I thought the film was a failure as a political statement, and I didn't much like it. Unlike Rendition, however, I have a certain admiration for its style and audacity.

A lot of why this movie fails comes down to the writing, which I think supplies a lot of bad dialogue and unconvincing behavior from the characters. DePalma essentially lifts the plot from his Casualties of War and applies it the Iraq war, which makes sense because I think DePalma sees Iraq as Vietnam Part 2. But by focusing on the rape/murder of a little Iraqi girl by drunk soldiers not following orders, I don't think his movie works as a critique of the war. Maybe he means it as a microcosm of the larger situation, but that doesn't come across. Instead, he fails to tie the actions of the (cartoonishly evil) soldiers to any greater policy failure. It's the first movie I've seen that actually seems anti-soldier rather than anti-war, which I think is the exact opposite of how most of us feel.

Still, DePalma is one ballsy filmmaker, and if you're a fan this is one you should see, even though you won't like it. The movie pretends to be made up of documentary footage; some made by the soldiers themselves, some made by the terrorists, clips from the news, You Tube videos, and in the film's most audacious, DePalma-style flair, a slow-paced documentary narrated in French with subtitles in multiple languages. I don't think this media saturated approach quite works, but at least he's trying to make some points about the failure of media to tell the full truth or depict more than one side of reality. (Funny then that he doesn't seem to do anything to critique his own film.) Further complicating things is the ending, which purports to be real photos of dead Iraqi civilians, but clearly contains staged photos and moments from the film. I don't much like your movie, DePalma, but I have to give you credit for making it provocative.

Anyways, this style does give him a way to try out some of his favorite themes in a new context, for example shifting points of view, or killing off a character you assumed was the lead. This is not a good movie, it's unconvincing, misguided and almost unwatchably bad by the end, but DePalma's nuts are as big as ever, and I will always respect him for that.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Rio Bravo

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I recently picked this one up for cheap at CD Cellar, which is where most of my income is going these days. I really need to stop shopping there.

Rio Bravo is a classic Howard Hawks/John Wayne collaboration (Bad Boys 2 Soundtrack style). It has been a few years since I'd seen it.

Well, I don't like this one quite as much as El Dorado, the remake that Wayne and Hawks made a few years later (for me, Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson are no match for Robert Mitchum and James Caan), but that's not to say that this isn't one hell of an entertaining flick. My main gripe is that Hawks does a great job of setting up a hopeless situation for the heroes, but then he cops out with a lighthearted ending where none of the good guys die. I mean, you expect them to come out on top, but to disregard 2 hours and 10 minutes of suspense with 10 minutes of goofy action and throwaway one liners is a big disappointment. Not that you want a grim ending, that would be wrong too.

Anyways, good times.

A Fistful of Dollars

Monday, March 10, 2008

I'm a little embarrassed that I had never seen this before, considering how much I dig The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Anyways, turns out this is a good movie, though not nearly the masterpiece that TGTBATU is. Which isn't much of a surprise. There's still a lot of classic moments, a lot of nice visual touches and a great final shootout, but it's a little slow and talky in places. Too much uninteresting plot.

I also have For a Few Dollars More Tivoed, and I plan on checking it out soon.


Sunday, March 9, 2008

I didn't have much interest in seeing this, but my dad rented and asked me to watch it with him.

Just like the reviews indicated, this isn't a very good movie. As a thriller, it's good looking but uninvolving. As a serious piece of art dealing with topical issues, it's pretty much a disaster. I mean, even the premise is fucked. It seems to think that the whole torture debate comes down to "it's wrong to torture innocent people." Well, no shit sherlock. Everybody agrees with that, that's not the argument. As someone personally opposed to the United States condoning torture, I argue that we shouldn't torture the guilty people either. Dipshit.

The movie has this whole self-serious, Oscar-grab vibe to it that rubbed me the wrong way. Especially the actors, who all overact in that brooding, serious, "I'm just a humble actor, pay no heed to me, but hey maybe I deserve an award for this" sort of way. Except Reese Witherspoon, who actually gets to go into some full-on overacting hysterics once or twice.

Skip this one.

Hell of the Living Dead

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Kommitted to Klassiks indeed, Dan. Yeesh.

Anyways, this is a cheap-o Italian zombie flick by Bruno Mattei, the fellow that did Rats: Night of Terror, which Andy and I watched during our big marathon day back in December. I said then that I suspected Mattei had "the touch" for making hilariously, entertainly bad horror films, and that Rats only fell a few inches short of being a good example of a fun/bad movie. I was hoping Hell of the Living Dead would be his classic.

Well, sorry to say that even though there were some classic moments, it actually wasn't as good/bad (or do I mean bad/good? I'm confusing myself) as Rats was. It starts as an obvious Dawn of the Dead ripoff (even flat out stealing large chunks of that film's score) but then for whatever reason the locale changes to the jungle. My guess is that these movies are set in the jungle so often because the filmmakers can't decide if they want it to be a cannibal movie or a zombie and decide if they go to the jungle, they can figure it out halfway through shooting. Anyways, this locale leads for some choice racism where the all white heroes mow down hordes of black zombies.

There's some other good stuff here; bad dialogue, phony looking but still kinda cool gore, awkwardly long shots, etc. I especially loved the part where the cutie heroine has to go speak with a local tribe, so she goes topless and covers herself in weird paints. That is an A+ for effort in the catagory of gratuitous female nudity. High five Mattei. Then, we see a series of shots of her standing alone in the woods, staring off screen, cut with stock footage of African tribesman to make it look like she's looking at them. Priceless.

Still, though, far from a classic, and I regret watching it by myself and not with others. I'm not sure if I will check out another Mattei film again, but I do appreciate that so far he seems like Umberto Lenzi without the rampant misogyny. So, we'll see.

Undead or Alive

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Back when I was in high school, I had an idea for a zombie western. It was going to be called The Quick and the Undead. It was going to be about Billy the Kid's gang running afoul of a zombie plague. It would be really violent, and there would be zombie cowboys and zombie horses and all that shit. At the end, Billy would get bit and ride off into the sunset slowly turning into a zombie, like some sort of zombified take on Shane. I actually believe I wrote an outline at some point. It wasn't a very unique idea, but somebody actually went and really did make a zombie western called The Quick and the Undead. I refuse to see it because of my close ties to the name.

Well, I mention all that because I don't have much to say about Undead or Alive, which is a zombie western comedy (billed as a "zombedy") . It's not particularly funny, it's forgettable and it stars Chris Kattan, but it's not painful or boring either. Just bland.

Saw IV

Saturday, March 8, 2008

I put this on at about 1 Saturday night after Shenan fell asleep. It's shorter than I remember, considering that it has enough plot for about 5 movies. But that's what I dig about these movies. Although I thought the first Saw was an effective thriller, there is nothing remotely scary about the sequels. Instead, I enjoy the over-the-top violence and the insanely complex, ridiculous stories. I know I've brought this up a few times here, but the ending of this one, where it turns out that all the events were happening concurrently with part 3, is something special. It's that kind of extra effort in craziness that brings me out to these movies every year. And lord knows I'll be first in line for Saw V.

Side thought: I'm still tickled that "It's a Trap" is the tagline for this movie.

High Sierra

Friday, March 7, 2008

This is a reasonably entertaining early Humphrey Bogart movie, made just before he got big, co-written by the great John Huston. It's a tough guy crime movie with a few unfortunate cheesy elements (like the cute dog) and an offensive black stereotype (seems like all the old Bogart/Huston movies had some un-PC element, be it racism, homophobia, sexism, etc.), and a really bad ending that drags on for too long. Still, worth a watch if you like these kinds of movies for the stuff that does work, especially Bogart's performance.

Fellini Satyricon

Friday, March 7, 2008

I get off on this kind of movie.

This is a later Fellini film, and it is a bizarre, surreal, free adaptation of an old Roman book that only survived in fragments. Fellini loved the fragmented nature of the book so much that he decided to leave that element in, so every now and then the story skips forward and the characters are in a completely different situation with no explanation as to how they got there. That's fine with me, as the story wouldn't have made sense either way.

This is a full-on flying freak flag type of movie, completely off the rails and jam packed with insane imagery. Every shot is like a grotesque, ornate painting. It's not much like any other movie you've seen.... the closest comparison I can think of is Holy Mountain, although that's not quite right. There's just some similar imagery.

Anyway, if you're like me and you like movies that go for broke and fly completely off the handle, leaving logic or coherence miles behind and just try to pack in as much visual, cinematic insanity as possible, then by all means see this one. It's as good as they get.

A Man For All Seasons

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Police Academy penance continues.

This was a top-notch costume drama from the 60's. Although I think photographing elaborate costumes and sets is a good enough reason to make a movie, I'm not inherently a fan of the genre. It's gotta really stand out with a compelling story and good acting to impress me, which this one did.

Anyway, the most entertaining (and surprising ) part of the film for me was Robert Shaw's performance. My limited knowledge of his career was that he always played gruff/tough guys in movies. Here, he plays the king of England, and it's a Idi Amin type of petulant child performance where he goes from funny and affable to terrifying in the blink of an eye. It's an awesome performance, and completely different from his work in Jaws.

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

OK, I'm back on track with my K2K here, checking out a John Ford / John Wayne western. I had previously enjoyed The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, although didn't quite love them the way I had been lead to expect. Maybe they were hyped up too much for me. I know Ford is considered one of the greats, so I've been meaning to check out more of his stuff. I hadn't heard of this one, but it was the one with the highest recommendation on Netflix.

Well, I'll be honest. I didn't much enjoy this movie. It is visually wonderful/poetic, which I very much enjoy in westerns. But everything else pretty much sucked. Except for Wayne, the acting was painful, the dialogue was corny, it contained a lot of cringe-inducing unfunny humor (like the worst parts of The Searchers) and was just fucking boring. I could barely pay attention.

I don't know, I'd like to think that maybe this was more my problem than the movie's, and that I'd like it more if I saw it again. But I'm not sure I'd bother to give it another shot.

The Perfect Witness

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Um, ok. You got me. I know I said I was going to be more dedicated to klassiks this week to make up for the Police Academy marathon, and I will. I promise. But Shenan rented this. What was I going to do?

Anyway, this is a horror film that reminded me of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, not only in subject matter but also in how I respected the movie's serious treatment of the material but didn't much like the movie itself.

It's a well made movie, with some strong lead performances, especially by American Beauty's Wes Bentley. But it's got some serious script problems, especially with the dialogue, and I think the story goes off the rails in the last act and becomes a boring mess.

The movie looks good and creates the right atmosphere, but never really builds up any tension, dread or excitement. Still, I appreciate it's seriousness. The premise of someone making a documentary about a serial killer is getting to be cliche now (Behind the Mask, The Last Horror Movie, Poughkeepsie Tapes), but I like that this one is just a fiction film and not a mockumentary.

Any ways, didn't work for me, but showed some promise. Maybe next time, guys.

Singing in the Rain

Monday, March 3, 2008

I knew I owed the movie gods some penance after the Police Academy weekend, so I Kommitted myself to Klassik-watching for this week, and to help kick that off before my Netflix arrived, I tivoed Singing in the Rain and A Man for All Seasons.

Any ways, good times with this one. I’m not the biggest fan of musicals per se, but I had a lot of fun watching Singing in the Rain. I think I’m softening in my old age, because this shit would have been too corny for me ten years ago. But now I found myself genuinely enjoying it, on its intended level. Singing and dancing and colorful nonsense can be fun for me now, dammit. Who would have thought?

“Exuberant” is the proper word for this one… it’s just so fucking giddy and energized and eager to please that it breaks through all your defenses. It’s not a movie that I would say I loved, but I liked it a lot and can definitely understand why it’s a klassik.

Balls of Fury

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Well, this was the weekend of fucking awful movies, wasn’t it? In addition to the PA series, we also watched Troll 2 and House of the Dead. (I was about to add Demons to that list… but seriously, it’s a great fucking movie). I didn’t blog about them because we basically talked right over them, but still. Not showing much Kommitment to Klassiks.

My dad Netflixed this one. It was worse than I imagined. I don’t understand how Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon made this. I love The State. I love Reno 911, even the movie. Yet, somehow they are made by the same guys who wrote Taxi and The Pacifier. I always figured they were just sellouts on those projects, and I hoped that Balls of Fury would be up to snuff with their best stuff, despite its heinous trailer. No such luck. I’m not sure there was a real laugh in this entire movie.

Not much to say here, except one thing I would like to put out there as a message to all comic filmmakers. Guys, I love Christopher Walken too. But things aren’t immediately funny just because he says them. I know he talks in a funny way, and yeah it can be great. But like most actors, he needs some actual material to get a laugh. It used to be that I’d smile every time Walken popped up in a random comedic role, because even though he was more of a weirdo dramatic actor there was something about his energy that added some spice to a comedy. However now, after The Wedding Crashers and Envy and this, his prescence in a comedy is just a sign of desperation on the part of the filmmakers. They need an unfunny role to seem funny, so they throw in Walken. It needs to be stopped before it tarnishes this man’s reputation forever.

The 1st Ever "Hightower is Tall!" Police Academy Awards

Best Movie: Citizens On Patrol

Worst Movie: City Under Siege

Most Heinous and Misanthropic: Mission to Moscow

Movie For "The Fans":
Back in Training

Best Character Who Made it Through the Whole Series: Lassard

Best Short-Term Character: Zed

Worst Character: Not-Mahoney (honorable mention: Sweet Chuck)

Worst Love Interest: Whoever the fuck was in part 3

Best Love Interest: Kim Cattrall (only on a technicality, since they are all bad)

Most Inexplicable Scene: 4's Skateboard Montage! (honorable mention: 7's flipping Russians)

Best Cameo: Tony Hawk in 4!

Best Running Joke: Bobcat Goildthwait acts like he's in a different movie than everyone else.

Worst Running Joke: Hooks gets mad.

Character Who Should Have Been in More of the Movies: None (honorable mention: nudity/tits)

Character Who Should Have Been in Fewer: Mauser. 2 was too many.

Most Unwelcome Return: Clumsy Guy

Most Welcome Return: Bad guy with Vassar shirt

Ninja Award: Citizens On Patrol (it had ninjas!)

and finally...

Award For Being Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach: Police Academy 4: Citizens On Patrol

Goodnight folks!

Police Academy 7: Mission to Moscow

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Life is a lot like the Police Academy series. I mean, not literally. We aren't all a bunch of wacky cops defined by one and only one character trait. I mean that life is like Police Academy in a broader sense. They're both long and often inexplicable, and people seem to suddenly disappear for no reason, only to reappear some time later. Well, ok, life's not really too much like that, but we're coming to the end of my writeup of the marathon, and I'm feeling a little sentimental. Thought I'd wax philosophical.

Here we are, finally at the end of this winding, rocky road called "life." The first 6 movies were made pretty much one after another, i.e. 6 movies were made in 6 years. Police Academy 7: Mission to Moscow was made 5 years after part 6. It was the last one made. I guess that makes it the swan song.

Police Academy 7: Is It Over Yet?

We went into this one with our souls completely crushed, but I'm happy to say it's not nearly as terrible as part 6. More along the average terribleness of the series. Only this one was a little weirder and more interesting than some of the others. And I'll give it this: it was the most competently directed and edited. It didn't look like a total piece of shit. And shucks, compared to 6... both are pieces of shit, but part 6 was like a piece of shit that somehow made it into your Cheerios, and this is just a piece of shit you found on your front porch. Not as traumatizing.

Staying positive for a moment, this movie features Christopher Lee and Ron Perlman in small roles, clearly the 2 best actors ever to appear in the series. I mean, they are both terrible in this, but it's nice to see them. How you doing, guys? Also, Claire Forlani is in this, and you may have noticed that she is hot.

Tackleberry is back, and so are Callahan, Harris, Lassard and Jones. Gone are Hightower, Hooks, Clumsy Guy (thank the Lord!), Proctor (Aww!) and Not-Mahoney. The absence of Not-Mahoney is interesting, because instead of finally giving Tackleberry or Lassard their due and make them the lead, they introduce a new bland white guy to take the reigns. Shenan named him "I Can't Believe It's Not Mahoney." And now that I think of it, "I Can't Believe it's Not Not-Mahoney" would have been even better. But we've already committed. Stay the course, I always say. Mission (to Moscow) Accomplished.

Anyways, this new Mahoney substitute may actually be the least funny of the 3 (if such a thing is calculable), but also the most interesting. See, although the movie seems to think he's a likable hero, he's actually a bitter, manipulative, misanthropic, narcissistic bastard. Like when Claire Forlani, who is assigned to show him around Moscow, asks for a transfer, he goes to her boss and talks shit about her to get her pulled off of the better assignment. So of course then they end up falling in love. Only in the movies, man.

Oh right, I don't know if you could tell from the title, but they go to Moscow in this one, to stop an evil video game from being released by the Russian Mafia to... oh heck, like you care about the story. At least the new location sets up some jokes, unlike when they went to Miami. Most notably, a lot of jokes are made about all Russians being incredible acrobats.

"Huh?" you may be thinking. Well, I wasn't aware of it either, but apparently it must be some racist Russian joke that they all are acrobats. Because things will happen like the gang will be told that Russians are inside a room painting, and they open the door and the painters are all doing backflips and twirls as they paint.

Yeah, that's right, the surrealism is back, and I for one appreciated it. Once again, it's the frequent inexplicable touches that end up being the best moments. Like this weird, David Lynch-esque identity swap scene where the gang is suddenly the staff at a lounge club, including Callahan singing a sexy soft jazz number. It's because they are all undercover, but it isn't well setup and comes out of the blue.

Even better is, at one point, Jones is trying to break into a safe, and what he does is make lock clicking noises with his mouth, and then the safe answers. They go back and forth until the safe opens. So apparently he speaks the language of locks. Again, it's just too bad Bunuel didn't live to see this movie.

My favorite inexplicable scene has got to be the ballet scene. The gang is at a big ballet performance when, with absolutely no explanation as to how, Tackleberry and Harris end up on stage dressed as the dancers. Full costume, with makeup. It's like the filmmakers couldn't think of a reason to explain how they got there, but that it was too golden of a comic opportunity to pass up.

Well, our notes got pretty messy at this point, as we had been drinking for almost 12 hours. Apparently the slidewhistle edit returned at some point. Also, I see here that Patrick wrote "inappropriate sound effect usage." I can't recall that at all, so maybe he can interject to remind me.

At long last, our moment of victory.

And that about wraps it up for the series. When the movie ended, we were pretty jubilant. Not so much because we enjoyed 7, but because it was finally over.

OK, I know I didn't make this ordeal sound too bad. And at times, it wasn't. To their credit, most of the movies went by pretty fast and easy, like candy circus peanuts.

But also like circus peanuts, they start to make you feel sick and worn down after a while. We started this marathon at around 10am that Saturday morning, and it didn't end until after 10pm. Breaks were minimal. That's 12 hours dedicated to Police Academy in one form or another, be it watching them, talking about them, thinking about them. And now I've spent another 6 hours or something writing these posts. It's dedication, but it goes beyond dedication. It's a little insane, yes, but goes beyond insanity. What it really is, is courage. True, deep, simple, courageous American courage.

I submit this to you, brave reader, my log of Patrick's and my journey to the heart of darkness. We have tread where no men have gone before, and come out the other side. With these posts, we aim to educate and perhaps even save lives.

BUT WAIT! Up next, we present the 1st Ever "Hightower is Tall!" Police Academy Awards!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Police Academy 6: City Under Siege

Saturday, March 1, 2008

I can barely muster up the energy to talk about this movie. Police Academy 6 isn't just bad, it's aggressively dreary. It awakened an existential dread in me. None of the Police Academy movies are funny, but this is the only one that made me feel kinda sad.

You know what's a better movie than Police Academy 6: City Under Siege?
Under Siege 2: Dark Territory

Sigh. Where to begin? The funniest thing about this movie is entirely accidental. It is the fact that it was directed by a man named Peter Bonerz. I shit you not. Laugh it up, because it's a funny as this shit gets. Take note of the "z" at the end of his name; appreciate that nuance. Consider that Peter is also a term for penis, as if his name is trying to specify that it's not just any old boner, but a boner involving a penis. Please, savor this. Roll the Bonerz around your palette, because it's the best you're gonna get.

Not-Mahoney is back, again pretending to be the main character even though he doesn't do anything and probably has equal screen time as the other characters. And now it's just kind of sad. At least Steve Guttenberg was kind of a star, so pretending he was the hero made sense. I can't figure out why they don't just make one of the other characters the lead, like Hightower or Lassard, except I guess they felt they no one would want to watch it unless the hero was a generic looking, young-ish white guy.

Tackleberry still loves guns, Hooks still occasionally yells at someone, Harris is still an asshole, yadda yadda yadda. We expected that. What we didn't expect was, that after a 2 film absence, they would bring back Clumsy Guy. He triumphantly marches into the film, accidentally sets off some fireworks in the police station (I'm still unclear how that happened) and then proceeds to maybe stumble over something once or twice in the movie. I don't know. They bring him back, then don't use him much.

Wait, no. I'm still angry about this. What the fuck? Why bring this asshole back. Were the rabid Acadamaniacs frothing at the mouth for his return? Was there a write-in campaign to the studio begging to put him in the new movie? Who exactly was it that thought "Boy, parts 4 and 5 were not very good movies, and I feel the only way to rectify this in part 6 is to bring back that guy who was barely in the series and accidentally broke stuff a few times." I want to punch the asshole who came up with that idea right in his asshole nose.

Hightower is back, and still tall and strong. What a fucking career this guy had. He starred in 6 movies that didn't even require him to act, all they required was that he look like himself. Lucky bastard. And they actually kind of throw in a variation for his character this time... he has to fight a tall, strong villain. I guess there could be potential here, but it just leads to an awkward scene where they fight by hugging each other really tight and their powers cancel each other out and they can't hurt one another. Then the bad guy makes a knock knock joke, and Hightower gets mad and says, "Fighting is one thing, but bad jokes is where I draw the line! " and suddenly that gives him strength to kick his ass.

Hightower, I got a question for you, man. If a bad joke is all it takes to whip you into a murderous frenzy, then why hadn't you killed the entire cast at this point?

This one turns out to be even more plot heavy than the last one. There's even a mysterious criminal mastermind that the crew has to unmask. There's so much plot that the finale is essentially the cast standing around spouting expository exclamations for 5 minutes. And I will give this movie credit here, because it calls attention to its own worthlessness: Lassard falls asleep in the middle of the long winded explanation. It actually made me laugh, and I only had to wait 80 minutes to get there.

This is not only the worst fucking movie in the whole series, it's on my short list for worst fucking comedy ever made. It goes beyond the unfunniness of the other films and becomes a miserable, soul sucking experience. It's a joyless, lifeless experience, devoid of any energy or sense of fun. You watch the movie, and you feel like no one wanted to be there, not the actors, not the director, not anybody. Even the look of the film is dank, dark and muted. Most of the scenes take place at night or in dimly lit locations. And it didn't help that we watched it on a shitty VHS copy.

We were supposed to be making a "6" but it got cut off, and we were miserable, so it looks more like we're being forced at gunpoint to make a porno.

I thought part 5 was bad? Fuck that. I would watch it twice in a row before I watched this again. During our roundup we decided... that we didn't want to be doing this any more. But that wasn't an option. So we just prayed that the 5 years in between the productions this one and the final film were a time of change. Preferrably, none of these awful fucking characters would return, and it would in no way be anything like this movie, in fact wouldn't it be great if Police Academy 7 turned out to actually be Terminator 2? That would be great. But if it had to actually be a real Police Academy movie, we figured they should make Hooks the main character. Because fuck it.

So how did part 7 turn out? Tune in next time...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach

Saturday, March 1, 2008

There is one thing, and one thing alone, that I will compliment about Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach: Sweet Chuck is finally gone. Praise God, they finally got rid of the obnoxious little fucker.

Patrick's idea to continue the torture motif was to do a titty twister.
Problem is, we both look way too into it.

In the early posts, you may have noticed that I made this big deal of how awful this whole experience was, yet I mention that we are still feeling upbeat and positive after each movie. Well, part 5 is where this changed. This movie is a slow, awkward blackhole of comedy where jokes are sucked in and never escape. Our once festive mood was brought to a halt.

Weirdly enough, I remembered this one pretty well. I think it must have always been on HBO when I was little, because I'm pretty sure I saw it 2 or 3 times already.

So, we have most of the major players back, except now Mahoney is gone. Instead of Mahoney, about 20 minutes into the movie we meet a guy of about the same physical description who gets into Mahoney-esque antics, has a love interest, and in true Mahoney tradition has a small role that the movie likes to pretend is the lead. Patrick and I nicknamed him Not-Mahoney.

Actually, if anyone really feels like the lead this time, it's Lassard. This should be a good thing, as Lassard is clearly the most likable character in the whole series. Not in Assignment Miami Beach, though. Here, they play Lassard as so stupid that Patrick and I were convinced he had Alzheimer's. He gets kidnapped by bad guys at a police convention, but for some reason he's convinced that it's all some sort of staged performance. Even after they tie him to a chair in their apartment. It's like a Man Who Knew Too Little situation, but even less funny.

The most amusing part of this movie (albiet, unintentionally so) for me was the fact Rene Auberjonois plays the villain. You probably don't recognize the name, but he was in a bunch of Robert Altman movies back in the 70's. Including McCabe & Ms. Miller, which Roger Ebert called a perfect movie. And only 15 years later, he was in a Police Academy movie. I imagine between every take he was thinking "Jesus, Rene. A decade ago you were a frequent collaborator with one of the most critically respected directors of all time. And now you're doing a farting-in-an-elevator scene in a movie even Steve fucking Guttenberg wouldn't show up for. Siiiighhhhhh.... think of the paycheck. The paycheck is your motivation."

OK, so all the cops go to Miami to attend a police convention. I assume this is a move of desperation on the part of the filmmakers, trying to add some false sense of freshness to the series by relocation. So it's a little fascinating that they don't take advantage of the new surroundings to provide any new humor. Outside of some local color, and a Jaws parody (which didn't take place in Florida, btw), it's just the same group of characters making the exact same jokes.

It also dawned on us that this movie was possibly the inspiration for Reno 911: Miami. I had figured it was a Miami Vice or CSI: Miami joke the Reno folks were going for, but now I'm not so sure. Both movies are about a group of zany cops going to a police convention in Miami... it makes Reno 911 seem even funnier in retrospect.

Doing a little analysis, I think Patrick and I determined the main flaw with this movie. Unlike the prior four films, this one wasn't a plotless mess with a story that only kicks in during the finale. Instead, there's this whole awful, unfunny plot about Lassard picking up a criminal's luggage filled with stolen diamonds, and the bad guys trying to get it back and eventually kidnapping him. The other movies were awful and filled with unfunny jokes, but part 5 is that plus an awful, unfunny plot that dominates every moment. It was the awful, unfunny glue that filled in the cracks of neutrality that the other movies possessed. By having a "stronger" story, it just meant more awfulness to go around.

Wow. I don't even know where to go from here. This movie was a dead zone. It was bad, and flat, and boring. I thought the physical challenge was bad, but this was worse. This is where I stopped having fun and started wondering when the day was going to be over.

I know we look like we're having fun here, but it's only because of the Stockholm Syndrome.
This movie abducted and tortured us for 90 minutes.

In our wrapup, we decided that Not-Mahoney was just as shitty as real Mahoney. We bemoaned the lack of surrealism, and agreed that these movies are better plotless. Also, we noted "Hooks? Seriously?!" That's right, you may have noticed that I haven't mentioned Hooks in a while. You may have thought she left. But no. It's been 5 movies, she only gets like 5 minutes of screen time in each harping the same lame joke, yet they kept her around.

My only consolation was that it couldn't get worse. This had to be the worst movie in the series, no way around it. Turns out, we had no idea how bad it would get...

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Intermission: The Physical Challenge

We knew this wouldn't be a true endurance test unless we added a physical challenge. So, after Citizens On Patrol we went out front of my house, still filled with gin, Wendy's, and Bud Light, and resolved to run around my block as fast as we could.

Well, I should have guessed this, but this was a terrible fucking idea, and not even very funny. Patrick didn't have too much trouble other than complaining of tasting "gin and cheeseburger vomit" in his mouth, but I think one of my fucking lungs collapsed. Below, the challenge in pictures:

Here we are counting down to the run. For some reason, Patrick put on one of my mother's coats.

Shenan considers anything below 70 degrees to be intolerably cold, so she was not very happy with me making her wait outside for 5 minutes.

Hallelujah! Patrick prays to the heavens after beating me around the block by like 8 god damned hours. I didn't care so much that he made me look bad; at this point I was just hoping that I wouldn't vomit any blood.

You should click on this one to get a better look at my face. I don't believe I had run further than 20 feet at any given time during the past 10 years or so, so this pretty much murdered me. I think I burst into tears right after Shenan snapped this photo.

I kind of look like I'm desperately trying to flag down a helicopter or something, but I'm actually falling backwards onto my dad's car as my legs give out from under me. Patrick, meanwhile, is telling me he thinks he's going to vomit. Serves him right for running so much faster than me.

I thought this whole physical challenge thing was going to be a funny addition to the marathon. Instead, I spent the rest of the day with that expression on my face, which looks like it was skeeving Patrick out. I would also like to note that, judging from this picture, the run actually made me fatter.

And with that horrible idea out of the way, we followed through on a even worse idea: Watching Police Academy 5...

Police Academy 4: Citizens On Patrol

Saturday, March 1, 2008

I'm going to come right out and say it. Police Academy 4 is the best entry in the series. I enjoyed it so much that I actually gave it a 2 out of 5 on Netflix instead of a 1 out of 5 like all the others. I actually laughed a few times at this one and didn't have a bad time, and it wasn't just because I was pretty drunk and full of Wendy's at this point.

Now, I know calling it the best Police Academy movie doesn't exactly sound like a compliment. It's sort of like saying that someone is the most polite rapist you've ever met.

Get it? Citizens On Patrol? The acronym is C.O.P.!

Things got off to a fucking great start. Citizens On Patrol turned out to have it's own theme. And not just any theme, but a rap music theme, where they rap about the movie you're about to watch. And not only that, but Jones-himself Michael Winslow is doing the rapping. Holy shit does this get you psyched up to watch a new Police Academy movie. I don't know why they didn't all have awesome theme songs.

We couldn't help but rock out to that shit.

So we got most of our major players back doing exactly the same bullshit they did in the last three movies. Clumsy Guy is gone and I was still hoping dead. Mauser has mysteriously vanished, with Harris (the asshole with the cane) suddenly taking his place. And with no explanation as to how or why, Harris has inherited Proctor as his asshole underling. Although none of the bad guys were funny in any of these movies, Harris and Proctor are the best, so this can been seen as an unexpected improvement.

The plot of part 4 is exactly the same as parts 1 and 3, only the movie tries to pretend like it isn't. Here, the Police Academy starts a new program called Citizens on Patrol, where ordinary citizens are trained by the cops. Anyone is allowed in, which brings in a cavalcade of looney characters that... wait a minute! This is essentially the same movie they've already made twice. Only they keep pushing this C.O.P. thing like it's a clever new idea.

Bobcat is back again as Zed, and here is where he really comes into his own. Either genuis scribe Gene Quintano finally learned how to write for his character, or they let Bobcat improvise, because his array of nonsequitors in this movie are the best thing in the entire series. We actually laughed about 8 minutes in when he explained that he prefers to wear his "normal, human clothes" when he goes out in public to make people feel at ease.

OK, that doesn't sound funny, but it was. You had to be there. Also I was drunk.

It turns out a young David Spade is in this movie, inexplicably cast as a cool, skateboarding teenager who joins the C.O.P. program. This leads to one of the best parts of the movie. Some asshole cops harass him about his skateboarding. He insists that he wasn't skateboarding. When the cops leave, he turns to one of his skater buddies sand says "This is skateboarding!" and suddenly the movie launches into a 5 minute music montage of the skateboarders skating around town doing tricks. It has nothing to do with the rest of the movie (his skateboarding doesn't even get mentioned again), but it contains the most stylish camera work in the whole film, and one of the skaters turns out to be a young Tony Hawk! Holy shit!

There's some other accidentally entertaining stuff in this movie, as well as some shockingly non-unentertaining elements. Like when a title card announces "Meanwhile, in London..." out of the blue, or when some of the cops chase bad guys onto a pirate ship and ninjas attack them! Where did the pirate ship come from? Why were there ninjas on it? I don't know and I don't fucking care, it rocks.

I think it was somewhere around here that my girlfriend stole my notes and added her comment "girlfriend still dating Dan... it's a Police Academy miracle!" Har har.

The final action scene (which in true series fashion comes out of nowhere in the last 15 minutes) is actually kind of cool. There's a big chase involving biplanes and hot air balloons, and fucking Mahoney actually jumps from one plane onto another, like something out of a James Bond movie. Even better, Tackleberry goes Keanu-Reeves-in-Point-Break and gets so mad that he jumps out of a plane... but one ups Keanu by jumping onto a hot air balloon and scaling down the side. It's a legitimately entertaining sequence.

Speaking of Mahoney, this was Guttenberg's final Police Academy film, and they give him a very special exit. After the big action scene, he abandons his post and flies away in a giant Police Academy hot air balloon with a young Sharon Stone, presumably to live a life of fucking her brains out while no longer being a cop. That's right, it only took 4 movies, but Mahoney is finally the badass, pussyhound rebel that he was supposed to be.

In our wrap-up, besides the obvious plea of no more Sweet Chuck, we just wanted the rest of the films to be like this. More surrealism and nonsequitors. More needless montages. More Zed. And, we thought, Tackleberry and Hightower have been around for 4 movies now and have been given jack shit to do but rehash their one joke each... let's give them their due.

OK, so the movie is still mostly unfunny, and there's yet another Blue Oyster joke that is just a rehash of the first Blue Oyster joke without kicking it up a notch, and there's actually a scene where a fat guy sits on a bench and it breaks and launches the other occupant through the air... but fuck it! We were charged after this one! And drunk! Very drunk!

That's Patrick holding up four fingers.
He's not doing a fish impression.

We could not have had more energy, or have been more excited. That is, until we did our physical challenge...

Friday, March 7, 2008

Police Academy 3: Back in Training

Saturday, March 1, 2008

At this point, after the mediocrity of part 2, I was hoping that part 3 would at least be shitty in a non-boring way. And, actually, I kinda got my wish. Kinda.

I think I look like a child molester in this one.
And Patrick looks like my biggest fan.

Gene Quintano. Remember the name, because as scribe of parts 3 and 4, I am convinced that he is the best writer in the series. Back in Training, while still a terrible film, is superior to Their First Assignment in almost every conceivable way. First, and I cannot stress this enough, it actually takes place at a police academy. Thank you, Mr. Quintano! Apparently it was too much fucking effort for whoever wrote part 2 (they suck so much I won't even look up their name) to actually work a police academy in the plot. I think maybe even the title was Quintano's way of saying "fuck you" to the premise of part 2.

So, to recap, if Police Academy was essentially Stripes in a Police Academy, then the sequels would be Stripes in a Police Academy 2: Stripes Not in a Police Academy and Stripes in a Police Academy 3: Stripes in a Police Academy 2. I think that should clear up any confusion and answer any of your questions.

I suspect that Quintano was a genuine fan of the series (or at least took his job seriously) because he brings back most of the characters from part 1 and the new ones from part 2, and retains elements of both films. It has a sort of hyper series-continuity like Ocean's 13 or Saw III that really makes it feel like a film done for the fans. Although I would never characterize myself as a fan of these movies, the nerd in me does appreciate this kind of shit.

So not only do Mauser and Proctor return, but so do the asshole underlings from part 1! I mean, I totally hate those dicks and they aren't funny, but isn't it cool to see them all in the same movie? It reminds you that there were other movies, you know, "hey look that's the guy from etc etc." The major characters are back, but so are folks like Callahan and real Lassard (for some reason his brother was in part 2). Clumsy guy comes back and is terrible again, but in another weird fan shout-out, he has a scene that mirrors his first scene in part one. In part one, his wife tried to stop him from leaving for the academy and she jumped on the roof of the car while he's driving. Here, he does the same thing while she's driving. This time though, she sort of crashes the car and he goes flying off, you don't see him again for the rest of the film and I was hoping maybe he died. (When he didn't show up in part 4 I got really excited, but it wasn't to be...)

In fact, Quintano loves Police Academy so much that he pretty much just rehashes the entire plot of the first movie. It's just about a group of wacky recruits, with the old recruits now as instructors. And all the new recruits are basically just carbon copies of older PA characters. This is the real missed opportunity here... the new recruits could have added some fresh energy to the series. Instead, they are completely forgettable and I don't even think show up in any of the sequels.

Quintano (I'm pretty much going to attribute every artistic choice in this film to him) really strains to work Bobcat Goldthwait back into the movie. So for no discernible reason, his character Zed is now reformed and joins the force. He's still a weirdo, which is good, but for some fucking reason that asshole Quintano pairs him up with Sweet Chuck. ARG! Fucking Sweet Chuck! The Zed/Sweet Chuck combo must have tested well with audiences because they spend the whole movie together, preventing Zed from having any moments of transcendent out-of-place-ness.

In Mandatory Mahoney News (he is the main character, so I feel obligated to bring him up), his role still feels like little more than a cameo that everyone pretends is the lead. I like to imagine Steve Guttenburg had nothing but seething rage for the series, but was also a big sellout (Mahoney style, exactly why he's perfect for the role) and couldn't turn down the money. I imagine him staring at the check they cut for him, blind with rage, smashing shit in his apartment, maybe masturbating in anger... I don't know, that's just what I imagine. Forget I mentioned it. Any way, I guess Mahoney feels a little less like a bumbling moron in this one and slightly more like the free spirit he was supposed to be in the first one. He actually chases some poon this time, which is a plus. He's still a fucking sellout pig, though.

Another good series reference is when a random hobo bad guy from part one shows up for no reason, still wearing the same Vassar T-Shirt he had before. Again, a little moment just for fans. There's another Blue Oyster joke, which I was really hoping they would drop, but I'll give Quintano credit for kicking it up a notch this time. Not only does he contrive a way for Proctor to stumble into the gay bar, but he contrives a way for him to be naked while he does so. Check and mate, Quintano, my friend.

Either in this one or maybe part 2, they introduce the fact that Jones is some sort of kung-fu master, and he does this cool thing where he talks but moves his mouth in such a manner that makes it look like he's being dubbed. Even better, though, is that he apparently has super powers. While fighting, he just starts flying through the air or doing flips and jumps that are physically impossible. No explaination is given for his powers, which is exactly how we love it.

Judging from our notes, we had our first laugh 1 hour and 5 minutes in. I honestly do not recall what that was.

This one, again, has no real plot until the final 15 minutes or so. Wait, actually, it's better than that. For 90% of the movie, the plot (sort of) revolves around the possible closing down of the police academy. They have to contend with a rival academy, and the loser will be shut down. So you get all hyped up for some sort of 80's summer camp movie conclusion where the good cops face off with the bad cops, probably in an athletic competition. You know, and they will totally get their asses kicked at first, and maybe the bad cops will be cheaters, but then the cop cops will use their one personality trait to win, or they will also cheat but in a funny way so that it's excused. But instead, in the last 10 minutes they throw that out the window and have an out-of-the-blue jet-ski themed action scene. It has such a disregard for everything that came before that I wanted to applaud.

Police Academy 3: Owned.

For our wrap up, I think we mainly agreed that Sweet Chuck had to go NOW. We would not be so lucky. (That sort of became the mantra of this whole experiment). We thought the out-of-the-blue ending was pretty hilariously bad, so we wanted that to stay. We wanted more superpowers for Jones, and more weirdness and surrealism in general. Heading into part 4, I thought maybe the series was hitting it's stride...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Continuing with the Abu Ghraib imagery,
we commence viewing our second film of the day.

Let me start off my Police Academy 2 post by saying something positive: there were naked female titties. Even though it's a PG-13, watered down, teenager-ified sequel, they work in some brief nudity. Kudos to the filmmakers.

Now, the clearest sign that this movie is an artistically bankrupt, cash-grab sequel is the title. Why the fuck is the movie called Police Academy 2 when it has absolutely nothing to do with a police academy? The characters from the first movie are now simply cops. They do not work at the police academy. They do not go to the police academy. I think there is exactly one scene that takes place at the police academy, which I guess excuses the title if you want to be generous. But it's like if Star Wars was titled The Mos Eisley Cantina.

There is a completely different director and different writers on this one, and I got the unmistakable impression watching Their First Assignment that the filmmakers were not really familiar with the first film. Instead of the characters being a group of (theoretically) lovable misfits and ragamuffins, they are just complete morons this time. Like when they start a shootout in an antique shop when there are no bad guys present. And they don't do it for fun, they do it because all the cops somehow mistake each other for criminals. It's the first sign of the series descent from being an R rated sex comedy to literally becoming a children's cartoon.

Plus, they abandon a whole bunch of characters from the original (most notably Lassard and the asshole with the cane and the one with the large tits), and add a bunch of new (and though it seemed impossible) less funny characters. Instead of bringing back Harris, the asshole with the cane, and his underlings as the villains, there's some new asshole named Mauser. And I gotta say... he just doesn't fit the part. You take one look at the actor who played Harris, and you know he's a douchebag. This Mauser fellow, he looks like he could be your favorite uncle. On the upside, Mauser's asshole underling Proctor is a way better asshole underling than the asshole underlings of part 1.

So fucking sellout Mahoney is back again, still a sellout trying to be bestest best cop he can be. Only it turns out he's a pretty shitty cop, pulling a bunch of lame-ass buffoonery like the aforementioned shootout. Hightower is still strong and tall (no more jokes based around his blackness, though), Hooks is still mousy and Tackleberry still likes guns.

And clumsy guy is back (Patrick's prayers were answered!) and gets the 2nd most inexplicable scene in the whole film. Early on, we see him get out of his cruiser at a gas station and walk towards the attendant. He's sort of hopping around and making a weird face, and we weren't really sure what the actor was trying to convey except maybe he had to vomit? Anyway, he explains that he has to use the restroom, but the guy won't give him the key. So it looks like they are setting up some sort of pee joke with clumsy guy, like I don't know maybe he really has to go but things keep preventing him and he pisses himself. Or he pisses all over the attendant.

OK, not a great joke, but I'm not being paid to write a Police Academy movie like the writers were. Point is, good or bad, I'd actually write a joke here. Not the writers of Their First Assignment, apparently, because clumsy guy asks again nicely and is given the key. And that's it, it's never referenced again, it doesn't lead to another joke and the following scene has nothing to do with it. So either the writers were avant-garde, anti-comedy geniuses, or this is the most pointless scene in film history.

A running trend we noticed in the first 4 films is that 90% of each movie is a plotless series of scenes featuring the major characters, and then suddenly some sort of crisis happens during the last 15 minutes and we're supposed to give a shit. Their First Assignment's structure is especially jarring in how Mahoney barely seems to feature in the film, then is suddenly thrust into the spotlight during the finale. My guess is that Steve Guttenberg didn't much feel like being in the sequel but couldn't turn down the money, so they gave him as little a part as possible while still trying to pretend that he's the lead. (This will be an ongoing trend with lead characters in the series, even after Guttenberg's departure). I don't really recall this, but Patrick noted that it was a better directed movie but more awkwardly paced. I think the "better directed" comment comes from the lack of slidewhistle edits.

Bobcat Goldthwait enters the series here as a bizarre gangleader, and he's pretty terrible in the film. But (spoiler warning here) his terrible, unfunny character slowly becomes the best part of the series over the next 2 movies. Here, he mostly just says off-the-wall nonsequitors. It doesn't work, but by part 4 they finally get a handle on Goldthwait's weird style, where he acts almost as if he is another movie entirely. It's not funny this time, but it does lead to one transcedant moment of purest cinema where he offers someone a light, and his hand spoantaneously bursts into flame and he waves it in front of their face. I can't even figure out what the filmmakers were going for... my best guess is that it was some sort of Airplane-esque wacky visual joke that completely fails. But it's so odd that it becomes a truly surreal moment in the film.

It's Lynchian. Bunuel would have loved it.

By far the worst part of this film is a character named Sweet Chuck. (Well, apparently that's his name. I don't recall anyone ever referring to him by name, but this is what the credits said). He's this little, nebbish, anal shop owner who gets picked on by the evil gangs. You know how I said how all the characters in these movies are defined by one trait, and then all the "jokes" are simply references to that trait? Well, Sweet Chuck's one "joke" doesn't even have to do with a trait. He gets repeatedly attacked by Bobcat Goldthwait's gang and, um, doesn't like it. It really makes him upset when he gets beat up or mugged. Like everyone on Earth. That's where all the "humor" comes from.

Oh, and even though this is a dickless, sexless, PG-13 affair, the gay panic is back. Not only gay panic, but the Blue Oyster comes back. Yup, somebody accidentally stumbles in and is immediatly assaulted by a cadre of gay stereotypes. Because that is what gays do. The Police Academy series is the most accurate portrayal of homosexuals on film.

This may technically be a worse film than part 1, but it's just so slight and forgettable and fast that it hardly inspires any feelings in me. We never had to rewind, because the movie is so simple and light that it's impossible not to follow with ease. It didn't even have the wit to insult my intelligence. It just sucked.

In our wrapup, Patrick and I begged that Sweet Chuck not return (we called him "shop owner" because we had no idea what his name was). Oh lord, if only that prophecy had come true. We wished Kim Cattral and Leslie Easterbrook would return to just add some sex appeal. But I think mostly we hoped the next film wouldn't be so bland. A marathon of Police Academy 2's would be boring but easy... like eating unsalted rice crackers all day.

This was all the enthusiasm we could muster at the end of part 2. Note my completely soul-less attempt at making a funny face. A very fitting tribute to the film itself.
Although, I guess Patrick does look angry.
Or maybe just constipated.