Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

31 August 2008

The Fisher King, dir. Terry Gilliam (1991)

The Onion Movie, dir. XXX (2008)

NIKKI says:
One word: Cockpuncher. What's with all my favourite jokes lately featuring the word "cock"? I blame Frisky Dingo. And Will Ferrell.

Beautiful timing with this one. I was in the mood to just sit and laugh at something ridiculous, and this turned out to be perfect for that. I actually thought it had a plot, but it turned out to be sketches loosely tied together to make sort-of connections. This turned out to be a good thing, too, as with my scattered head these days, five minute segments were just what I needed.

So, the ultra-loose plot involves old news anchor Norm Archer fed up with the corporate sponsorship of the news. It's all very Network, and a bit like Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, so the politics of the situation is a bit tired. Still, The Onion is funny enough that even though the jokes are old (Britney Spears' is really singing about sex, for instance), they're still funny. Norm tries to make do, but he eventually cracks and goes off at TV Land while on air.

I have to say, I was probably expecting the satire to be a bit more biting, but this felt like a strung-together series of greatest Onion hits, like the Internet outage that increased productivity all over the US; the bank robber who wanted a job instead of money, the "Area Man" with the missing socks. I guess, though, the Onion's job isn't hit my brain, but just to make me laugh at the ineptitude of the entire universe. And it does that again with this movie.

And Michael Bolton is in it.


30 August 2008

Friday the 13th Part II, dir. Steve Miner (1981)

NIKKI says:
It was a toss-up, but I think after watching Friday 1 and 2 back to back, Amy Steel has stepped out as the best Jason Girl. Man, she kicks some ass. And I know Adrienne King has the greatest villain-kill in cinematic history, but there's just something about her that screams innocence and naivete, whereas Amy has guts. And she has to actually kill big and scary Jason, not his aging mum. So, Amy wins.

I still love Part 2. I don't know if I like it more than the first one, because Mrs. Voorhees' head on the table, though, freaky and weird is not nearly as icky as the woman herself faking saving Alice in the first one only to throw her to the ground in the dirt paddock thing like the two of them are mud-wrestlers. Still, number two has some cool characters, fun situations, and no-one is running around in a headdress. Though Stu Charno comes close with his creepy monster outfit and speer.

There are some major plot issues with this one, too. Jason lies in wait for people that he can never know are actually going to go where he is waiting. Also, Amy, at the bar, comes up with the whole scenario for why Jason is out killing in the woods, but as far she knows it's all just a myth and the boy died at 12. How did she figure it all out with absolutely nothing to go on? Her child psychology course can't be that good.

Whatever it's faults, though, it's a good sequel. It and part one are awesome. Everything that follows is complete shite. And I still think Jason should have kept the hessian sack. It's just scarier.


29 August 2008

Friday the 13th, dir. Sean S. Cunningham (1980)

NIKKI says:
Steve asked me while we were watching this: "Do we like it because it's good, or because of what it represents?"

It's a hard question to answer, because the truth is hard to admit. Yeah, it's not a great movie. People are underdeveloped, the timing is all over the place, the scares are few and far between, there's a problem with the logic of the killer stalking some and not others to no real end. But it's Top Five in the list of horror history-makers and genre-definers (with Texas Chain Saw, The Howling, Elm Street, and Halloween) and you can't fault that, regardless of how ultimately crap it kind of is.

Still, it's a fucking cool movie and way fun to revisit. I reckon I've seen it more than most other movies in the collection. I've definitely seen it more than any of those other classics I mentioned. Why? Is it Kevin Bacon in the tiny blue togs? Possibly. But I just think it's the most accessible, the easiest to escape to. Chain Saw creeps me out and makes me ill; Elm Street shits me with its cartoonishness at times, Halloween is too serious, and The Howling doesn't feature kids, so it wasn't so easy to relate to.

Friday just does the simplest thing -- takes some nice kids, puts them in paradise, and starts offing them one by one. It's not that complicated. And then it goes and twists at the end to feature one of the awesomest killers ever in film. It's like a good song -- you can just keep going back because it's familiar, it's fun, and you can chill out to it.

My only complaint? Too many A-cups. What's with all the tiny boobs? Were they trying to save on bikini material? Thank god we get Marta Kober in Part 2, or the early Friday series might have been entirely boobless.


28 August 2008

Inside Monkey Zetterland, dir. Jefery Levy (1992)

NIKKI says:
About 15 years I'd waited to see this movie. An absurd comedy starring Martha Plimpton was pretty much how I remembered hearing about it. When it finally came in the mail, I was slightly excited. So, how annoying that it turned out to be terrible. I can see what the guy was trying to do -- kind of -- but it just didn't work. It was one of those quirky dramas about young people trying to get by in the world -- maybe -- and they're just discovering art and poetry and light in the world.

But it can't be anything great, these sorts of flicks, when the writers themselves are just discovering all those things, too. I bet if the writer had set pen to paper today, he'd have something far more interesting to say.

Still, I had an element of fun, only because watching Martha Plimpton takes me back to the several years in my early teens when I was convinced I was a lesbian. What is it about this woman that did that to me? Her, Sherilyn Fenn and Madchen Amick -- they just don't make chicks like that anymore.


27 August 2008

The Last Winter, dir. Larry Fessenden (2006)

NIKKI says:
The trailer looked really good. And anything with Ron Perlman's not going to be a total loss. It's another case, though, of something starting out really good, and just falling apart as the story goes on because they're got this really cool idea that is kinda just that. Story of my life, so I know how they feel. But still. They have the money and the stars -- they should come up with the good endings.

So James LeGros, who I forgot was so fucking cool, is this scientist/reporter guy and he makes this discovery that sour gases have leaked up through the floor of the Arctic where an oil company is making exploratory roads because, I think, they want to set their business there. Well, big Ron is the leader of that group and he doesn't like no namby-pamby enviro dude coming along to tell him that Arctic is melting even if there is pelting rains during the night.

So, conflict arises. Meanwhile, the younger folks on the dig are going a little bit nuts. So, what's happening? A mysterious video shows up of a big creature attacking one of the workers and all hell breaks loose. So, it's a matter, then, of people going mad and getting killed while the smart ones figure out how to get free of the tundra and get help.

It's a good little story ad it kept me interested, but, ultimately, the tension and the scares are left hanging on a pretty boring conclusion.


Rushmore, dir. Wes Anderson (1998)

26 August 2008

Desert's Edge, dir. Rob Lowe (1997)

NIKKI says:
Rob Lowe's debut as a writer and director was not all that great for me. I wanted to like it, because I really like Rob, and he appears to me to be quite smart and informed. But he's clearly not a writer -- or at least at this point in his career he wasn't. But I suppose I don't expect him to be for any other reason that he elected to pick up a pen and write something. He might have given it to Aaron Sorkin or someone to go over because there are a lot of character inconsistencies and character-related plot issues, and the ultimate message left me way cold, especially after seeing what Robert Harmon did with China Lake with a similar setting and running time.

Still, I guess props to Rob for having a hearty go. I just didn't see anything in it that made me want to see more.

The gist is this: You've got a known violent guy and a wannabe actress travelling together as to a photo shoot involving guns. Much of the film is taken up with car ride to the location where the girl alters her personality about five times in order, I assume, for the audience to see the different sides of the guy, played with regular over-the-top-ish-ness by Matt Frewer. One minute the girl wants to blow him, the next she hates his guts and thinks he's a creepy old man, and then she's happy to pose around on the rocks for him pointing a gun at her head. So, who is she and why do I care about her? And he's an asshole, so why do I care about him?

The gun goes off, and Frewer must pick up the pieces. All this time, he's been talking to his lawyer about the situation, and we see flashbacks from all perspectives, even though the whole story is one long flashback of his, so that causes issues.

Ugh -- there's a story in there, but no one really knows what it is. Least of all, it would seem, the one who should -- the writer.


Cast a Deadly Spell, dir. Martin Campbell (1991)

Scarlet Street, dir. Fritz Lang (1945)

25 August 2008

Black Christmas, dir. Glen Morgan (2006)

NIKKI says:
Sigh. Someone eats an eyeball in this movie. It's fucking gross. That's so all I want to say about this movie, and even that was forced.

It's just another pointless remake that does nothing to enhance the story, further the genre, or make us want at all to look at its predecessor. It's just a sorry excuse for some bullshit writing, some bullshit effects, and some bullshit storytelling that could not have been less effective had the dialogue all been dubbed by chirping geese.

My god, Lacey Chabert. Go talk to the Playboy editors -- there's legitimate work out there.

Fucking hell.

But I have only myself to blame.


24 August 2008

Sex and Breakfast, dir. Miles Brandman (2007)

NIKKI says:
Well, this was a surprise. I was expecting a titillating story of young people and their ultra-standard sex lives. In other words, a movie I would not at all have picked up had Eliza Dushku not been in it.

Points again for Eliza, because this was an interesting meditation on what happens when the sex lives of pretty young people gets a bit on the boring side. And nothing that happens is really all that standard. Clearly, the writer has a bit of real-time experience with this because the dialogue and the situations felt genuine.

The movie is basically about two young couples. One is suffering from basic sexual boredom. Eliza says at one point, "I don't want us to become masturbators." In the other couple, the girl can't come with Macaulay Culkin, so they're looking for some adventure, too. Both couples end up trying out group sex therapy, which is kind of extreme, but both have their reasons -- excitement, adventure, something different.

But what will the ramifications be? Is it ever just sex? Can couples share and still be happy? What does it mean to share? What does it mean to consider sharing in the first place? All these questions come up, and the paths the couples and the movie take are not quite as expected. It was also good to see young couples going through these things rather than just boring old ones.

I really enjoyed it. I thought it was very smart, quite funny, and it finally allowed me to see Macaulay Culkin as possibly a good adult actor. Who knew?


Sleeping Dogs Lie, dir. Bobcat Goldthwaite (2006)

NIKKI says:
I still can't believe they went there. What has happened in Bobcat's life that brings him to this space? To writing and directing a film about a girl with a very weird sexual secret involving, well, going down on a pet dog? And how on Earth did the whole thing turn out to be so not awful?

It wasn't awesome, but it was definitely successful on certain levels. The movie is well-written, funny, and clever. The characters are likable and easy to relate to, and the drama is affecting, even after a shaky start involving some stereotypically annoying parents and other family members. The notion of letting a partner in on your deepest, darkest secrets is interesting. Amy lets us know she once blew her dog in a moment of teenage experimentation and craziness. She wants so badly to tell her fiance, just to have it out there, so that no secrets lay between them.

Of course, I'm thinking not everything needs to be disclosed and that revealing this is going to be a massive error. It is, and the relationship struggles.

So, what does it mean to be "completely honest" with a partner? I'm of the opinion that honesty is good, but full disclosure? Utterly unnecessary, especially concerning the things you did before you and your partner were together. If you're asked, sure, you can tell. If you feel like discussing, why not? Because I also think judgement is a bad thing, so if your partner can't handle the fact that you stripped for a football team when you were 16 or something like that, then that's their issue. Still, bestiality is something again and I agreed with the boyfriend that it was hard to look past. Full disclosure? You'd have to be mad, right?

But Amy needs to reveal, and her life falls apart. So, are we the product of our past choices? And what does it really mean to keep secrets? The movie does well to explore those themes, and while it was amusing and heartfelt, it was ultimately a bit easy as far as the wrap-up went. Amy decides not to disclose to her next partner and life goes on. But in order to not tell, she ends up lying, and there's a whole new kettle of worms right there.


23 August 2008

The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, dir. Asia Argento (2004)

NIKKI says:
I said to Steve after this one -- if we're going to continue to support Asia through all these bizarre aspects of her career, she's gonna have to start giving something back. But then, I don't think it's entirely her fault that this one runs off the rails as much as it does. Perhaps she thought she was making a true-to-life film about JT LeRoy's terrible upbringing. For all she knew, and the rest of the world, LeRoy's story was true. It came out a while back that it was all bogus. JT LeRoy was really Laura Albert. And watching it with that knowledge, it's very hard to relate or sympathise with any of what goes on.

And I have just discovered that Asia was not angry with Leroy when she discovered the hoax. She is quoted: "If the literary world wanted to believe Leroy was real, it's not Laura Albert's fault. She just wanted to have her novel published."

Isn't that like saying, it's okay to perjure yourself for your own ends? Why does Laura Albert get to suck out my sympathies with these horrendous lies about this poor, neglected child just so she can be a published writer? I'm shocked an artist like Asia, who must know what it means to strive for truth and authenticity in one's art, could simply overlook Albert's deception.

And that makes the movie less of an accomplishment for me. So here's the story of these fake people doing awful things. Why do I care? By the end, Steve and I were picking out the next level of pain for the kid -- Well, now he's been abused, he'll have to get into drugs... Now, he's done drugs, he'll have to shoot someone... It was just blow-by-blow every sob story you've ever heard rolled into one big one. Snooze. 

All that aside, Asia's style is tremendous. I can forgive her only because she is such an artist. Her blending of styles, her attention to detail (the images of Americana seen throughout the film are effective), her ability to fully immerse herself in a character. She is incredibly skilled. But, man, what a waste of all that this story was. The story was so awful, the characters so stupid, the situations so standard, that even the artistry could not redeem it.


STEVE says:
The controversy of the JT LeRoy/Laura Albert thing was lost on me, I'll admit. I don't follow the literary world that closely, and what news I get is generally filtered through Nikki. I remember when this all went on, all the Oprah controversy, and I remember being mildly annoyed by it, but not enough to make a federal case out of it.

This movie, though, is something else. I don't care if it's true or not, or how many people in the film and publishing worlds were duped by the whole thing. What bothered me was how poorly constructed the story was. Cliche after cliche heaped one upon the other does not make a story. 

I mean if you're going to make something up, at least make it believable.


Riot-On!, dir. Kim Finn (2004)

NIKKI says:
There are some things that go in the world I just don't need to know. One of those things involves the media company Riot Entertainment's sharing around of a porno featuring members of staff. Apparently, it's not weird at all for orgies to take place during work hours, or for people to film those orgies and release them on DVD. Am I shocked the business went under?

God, to live in Finland, where office Christmas parties could get you pregnant.

So, this company that has no technology, no money, no business prospects aside from a handful of ideas manages to create the facade of prosperity on fumble into $21 million dollars from Nokia to develop mobile phone games. This movie is about how the company did that, and how eventually it all fell apart. It's a fascinating story that makes you wonder how the world manages to turn they way it does if this kind of stuff goes on.

The movie itself is really funny, and clever, and the cartoon sequences are great and give it a style all its own. It fell apart for me in the last half because I already had the gist of the story and the fall out wasn't have as thrilling as the build up. Still an enjoyable movie that makes me kind of cringe now every time I open my phone.


22 August 2008

Someone to Watch Over Me, dir. Ridley Scott (1987)

STEVE says:
More and more, I'm convinced by this project that I've lived with some sort of bizarre Total Recall implanted memory for the first 30-odd years of my life. I had seen Someone to Watch Over Me before, and I remembered it as being a good movie, a suspenseful neo-noir with a dash of sex... Sadly, none of that was to be the case this time around.

In my memory, Mimi Rogers witnesses a murder and Tom Berenger is assigned to protect her. During the course of this, the murderer makes several attempts on her life, as she and Berenger become romantically linked, therefore compromising his ability to protect her. In the broadest sense, that's pretty much what happens. But I remembered nothing about Berenger having a wife and kid, nothing about the underdevelopment of the Berenger/Rogers relationship, and nothing about the drawn out stretches of "drama" between the attempts on Rogers' life. I did remember the final confrontation between Berenger and the killer taking place at a swanky indoor pool, but it turns out that was the inciting incident where Rogers witnesses the killer killing her friend, and Berenger wasn't yet involved, so only half points for remembering that.

Had this been a Movie of the Week, or some direct-to-video thing, it might not have been so bad. Replace Berenger with Michael Nouri (or, you know, not), up the skin quotient, and you got yourself a Cinemax fave. But this is a Ridley Scott movie. This followed Legend, Blade Runner, Alien and The Duellists. Why would he lower himself to this level of late-night melodrama? Sad, really.


NIKKI says:
Amen to all that. It was just lame, and it felt like it was going to be from the opening few minutes. It all felt really Andrew Stevens-y. I was like Steve -- this is Ridley Scott? Is it because people were just so coked up in the '80s? It made very little sense, and the character development was just so poor as to be non-existent. I kinda spent the last two thirds just waiting for it all to be over with. And I'm sorry but whoever cast Mimi Rogers as this irresistible, beautiful femme fatale was doing more coke than anyone else because anyone of sound mind can see Lorraine Bracco is far hotter.


20 August 2008

Semi-Pro, dir. Kent Alterman (2008)

NIKKI says:
I know it's wrong and it goes against every single artistic philosophy I have ever adopted in my entire life, but I love when Will Ferrell shouts swears. It's the funniest thing ever.

But... this movie was way dumb. One of the worst Will Ferrell movies ever. It's just some stupid reason to get him in a wig and make him sing. But it was so fucking funny because he just kept saying things in that voice that just cracks me the hell up. Some samples:

"I, Jackie Moon, will wrestle a bear."

"Well, we are going to light firecrackers."

"The free throw is probably the best facet of my game."

"I just got back from an orgy. I'm exhausted. I mean, my weiner say to me: Jackie, I've had enough ... of this orgy. Put me back in your underwear."

You know none of that is in the script. It's just Will Ferrell making shit up. I couldn't help it, though. I just laughed. I laughed every single time the song played and Will Ferrell sang the line, "Are you ready to lick me sexy". I tried so hard not to.

Is there some kind of support group I can go to?


Steve did not view.

House of Wax, dir. Andre De Toth (1953)

19 August 2008

Grace is Gone, dir. James C. Strouse (2007)

NIKKI says:
John Cusack is one of those actors I think of as "reliable". It's a lame expression, I know, but in his case it really works. He rarely makes a bad movie. He's probably the reason I was ready to just outright buy that damn Martian Child movie without having seen it. Martians and John Cusack? How could you go wrong?

Well, this was another solid movie from him. He plays a guy who's wife dies while on duty in what one assumes is Iraq or Afghanistan. Unable to face the reality of losing his wife and breaking the news to his daughters, he decides to bundle them up and take them on a trip to an adventure playground in Florida. This means several days of driving, and so the movie is basically the series of adventures the family gets up to while on the road.

It's heartbreaking and sad, and John Cusack does so well that pulled-back-emotions thing. He looks ready to burst into tears right the way through this movie. I do have one gripe: I felt that as much as this was the dad's story, it was also the daughter's, in that 12-year-old Heidi seemed to know much more than she was letting on as the road trip progressed. She was fitting pieces together, and that seemed to parallel her developing maturity in other areas -- looking at boys, trying out smoking, wandering around by herself in the middle of the night to think. I thought her little discoveries were going to culminate in some sort of confrontation with Cusack, but that didn't happen and I think it ruined it a little bit for me -- what did her developing knowledge really mean in the end?

It was sweet and sad, and I did enjoy it.


STEVE says:
The lack of confrontation is my main problem with this movie. I think it could have really been something great, but turned out to be rather middle-of-the-road on all accounts.

Grace dies in the war, see? Her husband, Cusack, a die-hard Republican, never waivers in his support of the war or the President, and that's okay. That's not my issue. Though, since Cusack himself has been vocal about his anti-war feelings, it did come as something of a surprise.

So Cusack doesn't know how to tell his daughters that their mom is dead. And here's our conflict. Okay so far. But come midpoint, this conflict should be reversed. Heidi should have figured out what was going by this point, but she did not. Instead, the reversal is Cusack and Heidi finally having a heart-to-heart about boys, life, smoking and whatnot. Erm... okay. But later, Cusack, speaking to Grace through their answering machine (one of the film's few interesting ideas), says that he doesn't know how to talk to these girls. Not how to tell them she's dead, specifically, but how to talk to them in general.

When he finally does tell them about Grace, it's very sad and very moving, but there's nothing about the war. Grace may as well have died in a plane crash or a car smash or a drive-by shooting for all the impact the war had on the movie. It's really kind of exploitative and demeaning to the soldiers.


17 August 2008

Hancock, dir. Peter Berg (2008)

STEVE says:
I thought this was going to be a lot lighter than it turned out to be. The trailer would have had be believe that it was a comedy, but it was far from it in the end.

It's a tale of the Reluctant Hero - in this case, the Reluctant Superhero - who eventually embraces his role and ends up saving the day. Plenty of room for hilarious hijinx here, especially with Will Smith. I'm expecting something like Men in Black with a cape. But the humour was spent in Act 1, and it quickly became a tale of redemption and unrequited love between - apparently - gods. Not what I signed up for, but it still managed to grab my attention and hold on to it for the duration.


16 August 2008

Dead of Night, dir. Bob Clark (1974)

STEVE says: Oh. My. GOD!

I only found out this movie existed a couple weeks ago, and I am stunned - stunned! - that it's not more well-known because it is one of the best Zombie movies I've ever seen.

Before he gave us the Porky's series, Bob Clark was a hell of a horror filmmaker. I'd seen Black Christmas and Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things, and - though vastly different in theme and tone - thought they were both great. But neither of these even hints at how good Clark was, or could have been had he continued with horror instead of going for teen exploitation.

Dead of Night sees Andy killed in Vietnam in the opening scene. Back at home, his family receives the news but his mother is unwilling to accept it. So much so that she literally wills Andy back to life. When he returns home, however, he's withdrawn and antisocial, spending most of his time in his room, on a rocking chair, staring out the window. It's on the list of Creepiest Things I've Ever Seen. Instead of eating flesh like Romero's Zombies, Andy needs injections of blood to keep him from rotting - which might make you want to call it a vampire movie, but since Andy's not affected by daylight or crosses or garlic - at least it's never brought up - vampirism can be ruled safely out. Besides, who would equate the trauma of the Vietnam war to vampirism? Doesn't work. Zombism, now that's something else. Andy has been to hell and back in a very literal sense, and his family don't know how to deal with him. That's how I like my metaphor served, my friends.


15 August 2008

He Was a Quiet Man, dir. Frank A. Cappello (2007)

NIKKI says:
Oh, it started out okay, but then I just didn't care. The premise is great -- a man, Bob, decides he can take no more of his depressing, stifling, degrading work environment and plan to go postal. Only the day he finally goes to do it, someone else does it first. Instead of doing the killing, he ends up doing the saving and becomes somewhat of a hero to his colleagues and doors finally begin to open.

Not only that, but he becomes involved with a woman, an attractive women who's life he saved. She is paralysed and in a wheelchair and Bob takes to looking after her, and developing a relationship with her. But Bob the man who almost shot up his workplace has not been entirely eradicated by this new hero-persona, and so complications continue.

As far as a meditation of who we are and how we're affected by environment and self-delusion, it's fairly good. But it gets bogged down in parts, and I wasn't very compassionate towards Elisha Cuthbert's paralysed co-worker character. I felt that instead of Bob authentically feeling weighed down by his past issues, he was forced to confront them because this new world wasn't so different from the old one. 

I don't know, by the end, I just didn't really care. I'd recommend watching Office Space instead.


STEVE says:
Yeah, I didn't really "get" this one.

It started off okay, with Slater at his desk, muttering to about his idiot co-workers, while trying to load a gun - talk about grabbing the audience's attention in the first couple of minutes, this movie does it in the first frame. But then it just got all weird.

We were too much inside this guy's head, with the exploding building that didn't really, with the talking fish. Too much with the fantasy life for me. The only part that really worked was when (through the "magic" of CGI) we go inside Bob's head and see him in a wheelchair, and his previously-wheelchair-bound girlfriend dancing around before him, beckoning him to join her. Heavy-handed, sure (she's helping him break his emotional paralysis, get it?), but it was the only bit of fantasy that seemed like it fit. All the rest was like it was from another movie.


14 August 2008

A Nightmare on Elm Street, dir. Wes Craven (1984)

STEVE says:
Billy Bob Thornton is to take on the role of Freddy Kruger in the Nightmare remake. News of the remake was disturbing enough, but Billy Bob Thornton? That's so wrong, I don't even want to go into why.

Well, alright. Arguments can be made that he's too old - he's only eight years younger than Robert Englund, anyway - but that's less of a concern for me. On the Nightmare commentary, Wes Craven says he wanted to cast someone older, but that Englund was just right for the part. So even though Englund was only 37, I get the idea that Kruger is supposed to be much older. (And how can you really tell under all that latex?)

No, my problem with Thornton is, he's just too well-known. Robert Englund had been a working actor for 10 years when he first donned the glove, but I only knew him because I was a rabid V fan. He was a no-name, like Gunner Hansen, Warrington Gillette and Nick Castle were when they originated Leatherface, Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers. You didn't know what to expect because you didn't know who he was or what he was capable of. He was an enigma.

But Thornton comes with baggage. The hayseed accent. The whole Angelina Jolie thing. Bad Santa. I wonder how long it's going to take for an image of Freddy Kruger with Karl Childers face Photoshopped over Englund's to appear online. 

I've got some problems with the original - like it contradicts its premise halfway through when Kruger starts killing people in the real world instead of just their dreams; like Nancy's setting up a series of elaborate, Kevin McAllister type booby-traps in the time it takes John Saxon to climb a set of stairs; like the blow-up doll that stands in for Ronee Blakley when she's pulled through the tiny window in the final scene - but it still works on so many levels, I'm willing to overlook those problems. The remake is going to have to be fairly fucking impressive in order for me to overlook Mr. Woodcock.


13 August 2008

Within the Woods, dir. Sam Raimi (1978)

STEVE says:
This is the one everyone talks about as a prequel to The Evil Dead.

It ain't.

Within the Woods was shot in 1978 in an effort to raise money to make a feature, which would turn out to be The Evil Dead. It's basically a show-reel. But for all that, it's still mighty impressive.

Plot-wise, it's not too far off what would eventually become The Evil Dead. Four college students spending a weekend in a cabin in the woods run afoul of the spirit of an Indian Medicine Man. Bruce Campbell gets possessed here, instead of Ellen Sandweiss, wreaking havoc on his pals, and Sandweiss plays the part Campbell would end up playing in the feature; not specifically Ash (the actors all use their real names here), but the role of the "hero".

There are bits and pieces (literally) that would be used later in both The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II, and you can see Raimi's directorial style already well-developed. Too bad it's from a crappy 30-year-old VHS tape. If you could actually see what was going on half the time, it might find a cult status all its own.


Nikki did not view.

Union Square, dir. Stephen Szklarski (2003)

NIKKI says:
Not the happiest way to spend a Wednesday morning. I sat down to watch this because I've had it hanging around for so long, but I kept putting it off because a film about strung out users in NYC is something you really need to be in the mood for, and when is that ever likely to happen? So, I just went for it.

I was enlightened briefly about how users score, how they survive on the streets, the various things they go through. The details within that information is what really did it for me, though. I felt I was really getting to the meat of the matter when Cheyenne talked about the woman who gave her $60 and her daughter, or watching Danny run out of a family member's apartment with books and CDs that he stole to sell. I also felt very fly-on-the-wall between Mike and Cheyenne as their relationship took a turn. Those moments, the insights that came not from stories of addiction or panhandling or abuse, but from these real people. That was good. Otherwise, I felt the film generalised a lot, and attempted to show this downside of street life and addiction rather than focusing on these people and their individual experiences.

It tried to do that -- you can hear the interviewer asking more probing questions, but it's just not as interesting to hear how James got away with a drug conviction when a bag fell out of his pocket than it is to hear him talk about why he's on drugs, how he made the choices he did, and what he plans to do about it. I only came to know James in the special features, listening to his mum talk about finding out he was on the street.

So, perhaps the film was supposed to be more about the street and what it sees rather than what the people on it really go through. I learned about the people, but I felt I could have learned so much more. So Ron goes up to a guy's apartment and receives oral sex for money -- he tells us that matter-of-factly and I'm wondering if I'm supposed to be shocked or appalled? I was just wondering how he felt in those times, really and truly felt? Because everyone's got shit in their lives, everyone makes sacrifices and compromises, and non-users have some pretty horrendous stories of survival, too. What makes Ron's story, that it's based around heroine addiction, any different? I wanted the film to make those connections and I don't feel it did.

I did feel a lot for Cheyenne, and I was thrilled to see her clean and reunited with her daughter in the follow-up film in the special features. When she talked about Mike and how she just wanted to be taken care of, the way she put it was really interesting. She said it was time she was taken care of, and I really felt for her then.

Overall, an interesting look inside this world; a courageous film, a necessary film. But not nearly as introspective as I had hoped.


Steve did not view.

12 August 2008

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, dir. Danny Cannon (1998)

STEVE says:
This one sucked from the title on down. I'm wondering if "Last Summer" here refers to the events of the original summer, or the summer that followed. If it's to be taken literally, then "Last Summer" refers to the events that made up the bulk of the original film, and therefore "Still" doesn't really apply because it's a different incident altogether.

However, if it's referring to the events of the original summer, then this movie should be called I Still Know What You Did Two Summers Ago, which is really a mouthful. Still, "Still" doesn't work there, either because, what, you may have forgotten about being run over by four teens and left for dead? I'm thinking probably not.

Here, again, the killer does away with a bunch of people who had nothing to do with his plan for revenge, but does manage to set up an elaborate trap to kill Freddie Prinze which involves a mannequin, another rain slicker and a crashed BMW, yet decides - for reasons passing understanding - not to kill Prinze but his friend instead, and leaves Prinze on the side of the road, unconscious, to be revived and come back in the third act to save the day.

Amazing. Jaw-droppingly idiotic.


Nikki did not view.

I Know What You Did Last Summer, dir. Jim Gillespie (1997)

STEVE says:
Couple days ago we watched an episode of VH1's Super Secret Movie Rules featuring Slashers. While it tried to go through the "rules" of a slasher film - Sluts Must Die, Loners are Goners, etc. (most of which were covered in Scream, anyway) - it didn't work for me because it went movie by movie instead of rule by rule. You bring up one rule, you can talk about eight, ten movies and how each handled it. Instead, they focused on one movie and how it handled a specific rule. Kind of backwards, but no one asked me.

However, since the movies were presented in chronological order, we got to see an overview of the evolution of the Slasher flick, from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in 1974 to "the beginning of the end for the horror film" (as Joe Bob Briggs put it) with Scream in 1997 to the complete travesty that is the Scary Movie series in the present. It was kinda fascinating.

One of the movies covered in the chronology was, of course, I Know What You Did Last Summer. I saw it in the theatre, and I remembered not hating it. But once again, memory has used me hard and left me bleeding.

There's s plenty to hate about this movie. Kevin Williamson's script, for starters. It's not uber-smart like Dawson's Creek, and it's not clever like Scream. In fact, it's the opposite of both - ultra-dumb and derivative. How many times can the Killer predict where each of our Teen Stars is going to be in order to jump out at them? A lot, it seems. He can also pack a dead body and about a thousand crabs in the back of J. Love's car, and when she runs off for help, remove the body and the crabs in a matter of minutes - in broad daylight. Niiiice! There's also the matter of the Killer wearing this rain slicker all the way through the film, right up to the end where he pops out in Average Joe Wear because we're supposed to not know it's him. It should be noted, too, that Ryan Phillippe is just plain awful as the asshole boyfriend who's first instinct in a crisis is to yell incomprehensibly and grab people by the throat. Not that that's Williamson's fault, I guess, I'm just saying.

I'm left wondering what the moral of the story is, here. These four kids are involved in a hit-and-run, are stalked and killed (along with at least two people who had nothing to do with the hit-and-run whatsoever, but whatever), and don't cop to it in the end, anyway. Where's the acceptance of responsibility? I'm pretty sure that goes against one of the rules, yeah?


NIKKI says:
Wow, does it take me back. To the days of Dawson's Creek and Party of Five and afternoon-long talks on the phone with Deb about Dawson's Creek and Party of Five. Those were the days, too, when Love Hewitt's tight shirt was the height of contemporary sexy. Compared to 10 years later, she may as well be Amish in this.

So, that's about all this movie is needed for today. A flashback to times gone by. To new horror and Love on the music charts. The movie is not at all frightening -- it never really was. And it does very little to advance what appeared at the time to be an advancing genre. At least in a direction away from the norm pre-Scream. But as Kevin Williamson's follow-up to Scream, this needed to be far better than it was. 

I thought Williamson was up on horror, as demonstrated by Scream. But when you look at this, he appears to know very little. People die who needn't, there's very little suspense, and the killer, unlike Jason or Michael, alters his MO when it suits the mood. Faceless black slickered ghoul one minute, nice old man with no black slicker the next, for instance. It just didn't come together well enough to be any kind of memorable piece.

Still nostalgia value gives it a place in our collection. That and Love is hard to throw away. 


11 August 2008

Agency, dir. George Kaczender (1980)

NIKKI says:
At work yesterday, we got this delivery of about 200 of the worst and weirdest DVDs ever. Things like Adam and Evil and Concrete Cowboy. Most of them star people you've never heard of, the DVD cover art is so dodgy, and we're selling them for about four bucks.

Obviously, though, even in a pile of trash like that, Steve and I will find something worth watching. In fact, I bought five. One was Agency, a thriller starring Robert Mitchum and Lee Majors about an ad agency's secret plan to place subliminal imagery in soda and snack commercials in order to influence public political opinion. It's a dastardly idea and it's up to ad-man Majors to figure the plot out and get to the bottom of it.

The movie was full-on '70s cheese, but it was earnest and witty, and I actually thought it was quite good. I would have liked to have seen more on the imagery and less of Majors and Valerie Perrine getting chased around, but that's a small issue. It's one of those movies about technology from a time when the world was only just figuring out how to harness and make use of machines in the best and worst ways, and like Alvin Toffler books, I can always get into that.


10 August 2008

Unfinished Sky, dir. Peter Duncan (2007)

NIKKI says:
There's nothing I love more than a good Australian movie. There have been quite a few this year, and Unfinished Sky is definitely among them, if the not the best of the lot. It's been a long time since I've seen a film so wracked with aggression that was also as erotic and emotional as this one. I was worn out by the end, as emotionally ragged as the main characters. The film is so clever and so well-written that as inevitable as much of the story is, it still grips as each revelation is made.

So, it's a remake of a Dutch film called The Polish Bride, which also starred Monic Hendrickx from this version. A sheep farmer, John, in Queensland is going about his solemn day when a woman in a yellow raincoat stumbles towards his house and falls down in the field meters from the front verandah. She's been beaten pretty severely and so he takes her in and cleans her up, resisting an impulse to call an ambulance or the police. He discovers that the woman, Tahmeena, is an illegal Afghani worker hired as cleaner in a local hotel. Her employers are looking for her, and not all seems right. So John keeps her, fixes her up, and attempts to learn about her.

Slowly, but surely, the pair develop feelings for each other. John makes it his mission to seek out Tahmeena's family and get her back to where she needs to be without intervention from anyone else. He must hide her, which arouses suspicion, but he's so far out in the middle of nowhere, he keeps his secret well. And then Tahmeena makes a discovery of her own, and suddenly the mystery surrounding John begins to unravel. We suddenly find out why he reacted so badly when Tahmeena tried to help him finish his massive blue-sky puzzle. (The thematic underpinnings of that puzzle -- oh, makes me want to cry thinking about it.)

These two are so damaged and alone that their coming together, so well-paced and drawn out, is shattering. The writing is exemplary; it's all about looks and touches, and just feels so authentic. There's a scene in which John finds a hair clip and ties Tahmeena's hair back before dinner. He's not doing it on purpose, but the way he sweeps up her hair and clips the little silver thing on is just so sensual. This film is noteworthy especially for the smallest things, the tiniest moments and expressions saying so much.

It was just a great movie. I hope it sweeps the AFIs this year. It deserves to.


09 August 2008

Zombie Strippers, dir. Jay Lee (2008)

NIKKI says: That title alone means there was no way we weren't going to watch it. Zombies and strippers? Someone's been reading our dream journals again!

But how shit was it? Amazingly so. I'll admit to enjoying Jenna Jameson sashaying about covered in blood, but I can't really find anything else to praise about this. A few good bodies, maybe, but most of them were very worked-on. Hmm... but then, what can you do with zombie strippers to make it any good at all?

Here's what this one did: a zombie-bitten soldier stumbles into a strip club and bites Jenna during the second of her dances (she does about five in all). Jenna then dances while zombified and steals a dude to take out the back for a lap dance of a very special kind. The patrons love the zombie strippers and start ignoring the non-zombie strippers. The boss of the club sees his opportunity and kind of revels in all his ladies turning into the undead. Of course, the soldier's party comes to claim him and end up having to sweep the club of it's moral filth!

So, a loose plot wrapped around a lot of soft-core dancing, and even some fun with ping-pong balls (and a billiard ball -- how does Jenna do it, why does she do it?). If the chicks were less plastic, I might have been able to ignore the bad plotting. It had some crazy moments, some funny bits, and a really good effect of a stripper snapping a guys head in half by opening his mouth to wide. Otherwise, it was lame.


STEVE says: Hang on - Zombies and strippers? That's two great tastes that taste great together! How did it go so wrong?

Too much stripping, that's how. Never thought that could be a problem, but yes. The first half of the movie is heavy on the Strippers, light on the Zombies.

What's wrong with that?, I hear you ask. Well, I don't want to watch a video of someone stripping. Stripping is meant to be live and, pardon the imagery, in-your-face. Video is fine for full-on porn. It's what video was invented for. But watching these women strip on TV is about as enticing as disrobing a Barbie doll. Sure, there's nudity - but what are you going to do with it?

There's a lot of philosophy thrown about at random, some war metaphors, fake boobs and bad CGI effects. (Although the practical effects were pretty cool.) Nothing I haven't seen done before, and done better.

On the up-side, I never knew Robert Englund could be so funny. As a card-carrying member of the NRA, Englund pulls out a cache of guns when the Zombie onslaught finally gets under way, and admits he has no idea how to fire any of them. "Well, um... Something about the safety being off. Saw that in a movie." When he's later disarmed by an awkward swipe from a Zombie Stripper, he giggles like a nervous little girl and says, "Do I suck, or what?" Ironically, he's the only thing about Zombie Strippers that doesn't.


08 August 2008

Chaos Theory, dir. Marcos Siega (2007)

NIKKI says:
I loved the concept of this one, about living life by chance, ignoring structure and safety and just letting chaos take over. And it's really well done here. The script is good, if a little unfinished, and the light-hearted nature of the film lets us enjoy experiencing what Ryan Reynolds is experiencing even though it's tearing him apart and might do to us too if we considered the effects of structured living in our lives. Ugh -- scary thought.

So, Ryan plays an efficiency expert who lives for list-making. Every moment of his day is set out, every minor and major choice in life planned in advance. One day, his wife decides to put a stop to it all and sets his clock forward. Only she sets it backwards by mistake so instead of giving him more time, she's taken time away, and this throws Ryan's life into chaos. He misses his boat, doesn't get to work on time, meets a woman and flirts with her, walks away from the woman and ends up crashing his car into another woman about to give birth. Circumstances turn so that his wife finds out all of this, and she boots him out. But the entire night of weirdness sets him on a path to discovery about his own life and how things in it are not as he thought. 

It's a bit tragic what he goes through, but it's all for a good reason. The movie asks all those standard questions -- who are we, what is love, what is trust -- and it does it so matter-of-factly that you've got to respect it for not wallowing where it could wallow. Life, according to the movie, really does just happen, and we have no control whatsoever.

Ryan Reynolds is so my favourite actor right now, too. Can we get him in everything?


STEVE says:
Reynolds is becoming the new Hugh Grant, the go-to guy for romantic comedies. This one was good. I liked the premise, but it was pretty clear that Stuart Townsend was doing to have a bigger part than it seems at first. Timothy Hutton Syndrome strikes again.

The deal is, after a series of mishaps (outlined above), Reynolds helps a pregnant woman get to the hospital. His wife, Emily Mortimer, finds out about this and immediately jumps to conclusions, so Reynolds has to get a blood test to prove the baby isn't his. Turns out, he has an extra X chromosome, which means he's been sterile since birth. Yet there's this seven-year-old daughter at home...

Exactly. The accuser becomes the accused.  Turns out, though, Mortimer and Townsend were together the week before she began her whirlwind romance with Reynolds, so there was no cheating involved. So what's all this talk of "forgiving her", then? She didn't lie about the child's paternity - she didn't know. But that's about the only thing that bugged me. That and the bookends which seemed only to add another ten minutes to the running time and absolutely nothing to the story in general. Overall, quite good.


Inland Empire, dir. David Lynch (2006)

STEVE says:
Never one for straightforward storytelling, David Lynch seems to have abandoned the concept altogether and just filmed a stream of consciousness nightmare of random, increasingly bizarre images that culminate in a final act of violence that resolves nothing.

And what the hell was up with the bunnies?

I've always liked Lynch. Even if I didn't particularly enjoy one of his movies (Wild at Heart and Lost Highway, for example), I could appreciate Lynch as a storyteller. But with Inland Empire, he seems to want to keep the audience at arm's length, to the point of alienating them altogether. It took an hour for anything in Inland Empire to grab my interest, and as soon as it did, Lynch shifted gears and moved away. Well, fuck you, too.

Lynch has stated previously that he hates it when a mystery is solved. My advice to him would be to Stop Making Mysteries.


07 August 2008

Moonstruck, dir. Norman Jewison (1987)

NIKKI says:
Another experience reminiscent of Heartburn -- a movie I remember really enjoying but on revisit didn't really understand. I realise it's about families and love and the choices we make, but I didn't really feel connected to anyone. I knew why Cher didn't want to marry Danny Aiello, but I didn't really know what led her into bed with Nicolas Cage? Maybe I missed something? I know it's just supposed to be a cute little movie about people driven by need and contemplating their time left and how best to spend it and all that, but I just didn't get it. I especially hated the end when all was just okay after everyone had cheated on everyone else.

I read some reviews after watching this and people talk about how light and fluffy the movie is and now Italian it is and how it represents a lost New York. Well, I don't know if such harsh themes can be treated so lightly, maybe? Or am I just a huge cynic?


06 August 2008

Destination Anywhere, dir. Mark Pellington (1997)

NIKKI says:
This was a great revisit for the night. It's still got the same kick it had when it came out. I was a bit infatuated with it when it was released. I'd never seen anything like it before -- a short film based on an album, starring the artist, and all that. It's a gorgeous piece of work, artistically stunning and really kinda powerful in its way.

It looks so good because of Mark Pellington who shoots dirty backstreets like they're the entrance to a child's birthday party. The grit and grime of Chelsea nights is in full view, but it's colourful and vibrant. Pellington did the same thing in Bruce's "Lonesome Day" video, making the ripped up, black heart of Asbury Park a rainbow again. I don't know how he does it, but especially here it adds a strange contrast to the work; these awful things going on with this backdrop of colour.

The gist is this: Jon and Janey are falling apart following the hit and run death of their little daughter. He runs off on benders leaving her alone to work long hours and drink herself insane. The movie begins with Jon returning home after one of those benders. We come to know straight away why he runs away -- Janey is draining, killing her pain and taking it all out on everyone else. Jon runs again. He gets advice from his friends, and winds up on yet another night away involving drink and strippers. He's killing the pain in his way, and we know it's not working. So, the movie is about how these two reconnect. 

Meanwhile, a baby is dumped in the trash. Janey works at the hospital where the baby is being kept. And she makes a decision to finally be free of her pain that is tragic and horrifying, but strangely perfect for this couple.

It's a heavy film, full of lost-soul imagery and death, and it offers redemption to its characters in difficult ways. I think it's really brave. Jon and Demi are just so great, too.


Shaun of the Dead, dir. Edgar Wright (2004)

04 August 2008

Heartburn, dir. Mike Nichols (1986)

STEVE says:
There's something to be said for not revisiting movies you reckon are really good.

I saw this years ago, like when it first came out on vhs, and I remembered it as being this heart-wrenching portrait of a storybook-romance-gone-bad. Turns out, it's nothing more than Nora Ephron slinging shit at Carl Bernstein for an hour and a half.

Streep and Nicholson - as Rachel and Mark - meet at a wedding, which is just too poetic not to be clever. She's told flat out by several friends that he's single. Famously single. He's made a career of it. Mark is to single as Bill Gates is to Microsoft. So we're clear: Mark Enjoys Sleeping Around.

Fifteen minutes later, they're married. Another 10 minutes, they have a two-year-old and another baby on the way, Mark's making late-night runs for "socks", and it's all downhill from there. The bulk of the film is about the relationship falling apart, but we never actually got to see it build, so why should we care?

Mark is given the short end, here, played as the no-good philandering husband who cheats because, you know, That's What Men Do. I'm not excusing his infidelity, but surely there was a reason for it beyond this one-dimensional stereotype, yeah? I'm just saying.


NIKKI says:
I'm with Steve here in that I remember this one being so much better. I enjoyed the book years ago, and remember seeing the movie before that. My only real memory of it was Nora Ephron's "character" being a bit of a cow. I just felt that she didn't know how to get out of her own way and enjoy life. She seemed to blame much on "men", in general, rather than just her man. That wasn't explored too fully here, but Jack did cheat on her and we never really got a sense of why he made that choice. That was the main issue with this movie -- it was all her point of view, and fair enough if the movie is about her, but we're going to be better informed about the decisions she makes if we know a bit about his.

Very disappointed.