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.

30 September 2008

Southern Comfort

Director: Walter Hill
Writers: Michael Kan, Walter Hill, David Giler
Released: 1981
Cast: Keith Carradine, Powers Boothe, Fred Ward, Franklyn Seales
, TK Carter, Lewis Smith, Les Lannom, Peter Coyote

NIKKI says:
And again I am horrified at the thought there are movies like this out there, in existence for more than 20 years, that I have overlooked, passed by, or not ever even heard of.

I wasn't hugely into this one. I was intrigued by the story -- National Guardsmen head onto a remote bayou for a training exercise and end up hunted by locals -- but something made me think it would be more like a River Kwai-type story than this crazy haunted-woods scenario. And then as it began, I was less than impressed with Peter Coyote assuming the commander role and yelling at his charges. All the standard war-movie stuff came out -- the ball-busters versus the rulebook followers, cheeky gun-toters versus straight soldiers. Here we go, I thought...

And then Peter Coyote gets shot in the head! And it all begins, and it's just sensational. It's tense, realistic, suspenseful, and while those characetrs are all rather standard, they're not exactly cookie-cutter and each was believable and sympathetic in his own way.

I really enjoyed the subtle horrors in this one, the cat-and-mouse goings on, and the film's structure, with tension building and building then exploding at the end. It was just a well made film, with some amazing performances. I haven't been that into Keith Carradine for ages. And Powers Boothe wasn't even really a bad guy, but just had me frightened all the way through. This powder-keg thing he had going on...

Anyway, loved it. Want more like it.


STEVE says:
Never having been the biggest Walter Hill fan, I didn't expect much from this one. The tagline, "Not since Deliverance..." promised nothing much more than a rip-off of another movie I really wasn't the biggest fan of in the first place.

Well. Once again I walk away red-faced. And it wasn't just a matter of exceeding my low expectations, either. Southern Comfort was good. Better even than I remember Deliverance being, but now I want to go back and have another look at that one.

And while I'm at it, maybe I'm wrong about The Warriors, too.


"Caaaaan Yooouuu Diiiiig Iiiiit?"


29 September 2008

Smart People

Director: Noam Murro
Writer: Mark Poirier
Released: 2008
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Haden Church, Ellen Page

NIKKI says: How does Hollywood let an audience know characters are smart? By having them use big or obscure words. Dennis Quaid knows the meaning of the word "eft" -- he must be a genius.

I'm really starting to hate Hollywood's idea of the "smart person". Seems those of us who might be book-schooled a bit more than the rest of the world also need to be repressed and smart-assy, and entirely unable to have any fun.

Take this movie... Dennis Quaid is the smartest professor in the world and he just snaps at the lower class, and thinks he's just so above everyone. His daughter is the same way -- super-smart, and a super-bitch, mean to people for no reason because life is too short to deal with, well, anyone else. Even Sarah Jessica Parker gets the treatment here -- she's smart, too, and a doctor no less, and you can tell from her limp hair, make-up-less face, and desire to sneak a cigarette when she's upset that she's also horribly repressed.

Who does it take to come into the fold and make everyone's lives happy again? A dope-smoking sponge, without any education whatsoever. If only life were so simple.

I found myself surprised at many turns in the story, which I put down to poor development. I didn't get a sense of why Sarah Jessica and Dennis Quaid even had their affair. I didn't get what prompted Juno to kiss Ned. And just for the life of me I don't understand the drama at the end when Sarah Jessica thinks she's pregnant. Why did she suddenly become a cruel bitch? She went into the affair knowing this man was utterly self-involved. So, why am I shocked when she finds out he's still that way later on?

No, the more I think about it, the less this worked for me. It's another one of those Squid and the Whale type movies where we're supposed to think all involved are on a higher plain but they just go around acting like assholes for no real, deep reasons.


28 September 2008

The Left Handed Gun

Director: Arthur Penn
Writer: Leslie Stevens
Released: 1958
Cast: Paul Newman, Lita Milan, John Dehner, James Best

27 September 2008

Silent Running

Director: Douglas Trumbull
Writers: Deric Washburn, Michael Cimino, Steven Bochco
Released: 1972
Cast: Bruce Dern, Cliff Potts, Ron Rifkin, Jesse Vint

26 September 2008


Director: Ben Stiller
Writer: Drake Sather, Ben Stiller, John Hamburg
Released: 2001
Cast: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Christine Taylor, Will Ferrell, Jon Voight, Milla Jovovich, Jerry Stiller, David Duchovny

NIKKI says: Here are my Top 25 Best Lines from Zoolander, the greatest movie ever... (because getting only 10 was impossible).
25. Do you mind if I call you Matil?

24. I'm a hand model, mama. A finger jockey. We think differently than the face and body boys... we're a different breed.

23. Obey my dog!

22. I knew I was a joke Meekus, I just didn't get it right away!

21. Not as much as I'm worried about Gretel.

20. There was a moment last night, when she was sandwiched between the two Finnish dwarves and the Maori tribesmen, where I thought, "Wow, I could really spend the rest of my life with this woman".

19. Put a cork in it, Zane!

18. I'm sorry that good-looking people like us made you throw up and feel bad about yourself.

17. Sting would be another person who's a hero. The music he's created over the years, I don't really listen to it, but the fact that he's making it, I respect that.

16. What's the dealio, yo?

15. So I'm rappelling down Mount Vesuvius when suddenly I slip, and I start to fall. Just falling, ahh ahh, I'll never forget the terror. When suddenly I realize "Holy shit, Hansel, haven't you been smoking Peyote for six straight days, and couldn't some of this maybe be in your head?"

14. Damnit Derek, I'm a coal miner, not a professional film and television actor.

13. Nice comeback!

12. Orange Mocha Frappuccino!

11. How do you live!?

10. They're break-dance fighting!

9. But why male-models?

8. I'm not an ambi-turner.

7. Mer-man! Mer-MAN!

6. Do you understand that the world does not revolve around you and your do whatever it takes, ruin as many people's lives, so long as you can make a name for yourself as an investigatory journalist, no matter how many friends you lose or people you leave dead and bloodied along the way, just so long so you can make a name for yourself as an investigatory journalist, no matter how many friends you lose or people you leave dead and bloodied and dying along the way?

5. Listen to your friend Billy Zane.

4. I can dereLICK my own balls, thank you very much.

3. I'm more interested in what bark is made out of on a tree.

2. What is this? A center for ants? How can we be expected to teach children to learn how to read... if they can't even fit inside the building?

1. A eugoogalizor, one who speaks at funerals. Or did you think I'd be too stupid to know what a eugoogoly was?

STEVE says: Zoolander was the first movie I saw after moving to Australia. A friend in the States, JB, had been telling me how funny it was, but I hadn't been sold. Just kind of nodded my head as he was telling me about Jon Voight and the whole male model thing. Really didn't sound like it was my kind of movie.

So I get off the plane, Nikki and I spend a few days in Melbourne, and for whatever reason we decided to see Zoolander. Two minutes in, I could see what JB had been on about.

Tonight marked the 9th time we've seen Zoolander, and it somehow still manages to be exactly as funny as it was then - with an added twist: I found myself laughing even before the jokes occurred, anticipating the humour and not being able to wait. I don't think that's ever happened to me before.


25 September 2008


Director: Sydney Pollack
Writers: Murray Schisgal, Larry Gelbart
Released: 1982
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman, Bill Murray, Charles Durning

NIKKI says: I need someone to explain to me the infatuation the world seems to have with this movie! I had never seen it -- something about Dustin Hoffman in that horrible outfit just turned me off. I own it on video, but had never actually sat down to watch it. You know, I've seen so many clips from award shows and film retrospective programs that I felt like I'd seen it anyway.

Well, I was in the mood for old school comedy, and I went with this. Oh my god, I cannot believe how bad the film is. Worse, I can't get over how revered it is in the film world. An American Comedy Classic, this is supposed to be. But it's not -- it's a badly plotted, poorly developed, unrealistic, sexist waste of two hours. And what's worse is that is postures itself as the complete opposite.

It might be easy to fall back on, "it was the time", but I just don't see how this movie with a man parading as a woman on a TV set full of sexist males and showing them how to stand up for themselves can rightly call itself female empowerment film in an age where we had Norma Rae and Silkwood. It's offensive that we need this MAN to stand up for women on the set -- and that the man is himself an insufferable jerk. He was a jerk in the beginning and I don't really think he changed all that much at the end. And it was never fully realised as far as why he fell in love with Jessica Lange, other than the shape of her ass. She was sweet, but he was dressed as an old woman the whole time they were together. And then she just goes off with him at the end? She doesn't even know him! And what she does know is that he's a massive liar who took extreme advantage of her.

And the relationship between Lange and Tootsie was so hokey and unrealistic. I've got girlfriends, really close ones that I've shared some fairly intimate moments with -- but never, ever, ever have I licked cake mix off their fingers. Any girl I'd do that to, I'd be fucking later. You know? The movie's idea of female connection is devastatingly misguided.

Oh, so much I hated about this. Hoffman's apparently convincing outfit was probably the most bothersome thing. He looks like man in drag. The voice, the walk -- it's just ridiculous and not at all funny. This is not an American Comedy Classic. It's not a female empowerment film. It probably meant well, but it just went about everything the wrong way. What does Michael learn in the end? What lesson did he really learn? And how was I supposed to feel sympathy for him when the one character he was developed as connecting with (Teri Garr) he treated like stupid child? He just fucked her to get out of an embarrassing situation and then she fell for him and then she was the ditz he had to avoid. Where's the female empowerment there?

That's it -- I'm done with this one. Terrible film. Embarrassing.


STEVE says:
Watching Tootsie again for the first time in decades was like running in to an old high school friend, only to learn that he's a dick - and worse, always has been.

I remembered liking this movie! I hated the implication that Hoffman hooks up with Jessica Lange in the end (I wanted him to get together with Teri Garr), but remembered it fondly as a classic. Looking at it now, I can see just how simplistic and condescending it is.

Tootsie is supposed to be a female-empowerment flick, but using a man dressed as a woman to empower females seems kind of backwards. Reminds me of a quote from Twin Peaks: "Using a stuffed animal to represent an endangered species as an ecological protest constitutes the supreme incongruity." And that's what's going on here. I cannot understand the accolades this film received - indeed, still receives. It's ridiculous and embarrassing.


24 September 2008

100 Feet

Director: Eric Red
Writer: Eric Red
Released: 2008
Cast: Famke Janssen, Bobby Cannavale, Ed Westwick, Michael Paré

NIKKI says: Here's a story... about 14 years ago, I was reading a magazine that featured a large advertisement for Kevin Costner's movie, Wyatt Earp. I looked at the cast list and right after the title, was the name JEFF FAHEY. Now, at this time, I was mildly obsessed with the Lawnmover Man. I know, I know... but I was 15. (Incidentally, Jeff Fahey was 42!)

So, if Jeff's name is right after the title in the poster credits, I felt safe to assume his role would be quite large. I went to this movie in Melbourne on, I believe, opening night. I sat, and waited... and kept waiting... and waited some more. Two hours later, Jeff Fahey shows up for about eight minutes.

I realised later, that his name was only first because the cast was listed on the poster alphabetically.

Why is all of this important? Because 100 Feet promised me some Michael Pare, with whom I am infatuated only slightly less than Jeff Fahey. But Michael Pare was not in this movie. A CGI version of him with cartoon blood all over his face WAS in this movie. Why did they get him to be in this if they weren't going to even have him say anything or do anything? Surely I'm not the only one who who thinks more of Michael Pare than as good for a CGI ghost with no lines. ESPECIALLY when he is credited as "and Michael Pare" -- that's the special credit, for special actors, isn't it? So, clearly Eric Red thought he was worth getting.

Maybe it was some kind of ironic joke? Like getting Val Kilmer to stand in the background in True Romance completely out of focus? Whatever it was, it was LAME.

And so was this movie. Interesting premise, entirely ruined by bad writing, poor direction, and the worst special effects since The Lawnmower Man. At least in that movie, we got to watch Fahey without his shirt on!! Mowing the lawn... with that orange hair... and those pants...


23 September 2008

Dead & Buried

Director: Gary Sherman
Writer: Ron Shusett, Dan O'Bannon
Released: 1981
Cast: James Farentino, Jack Albertson, Melody Anderson, Lisa Blount, Robert Englund, Christopher Allport

22 September 2008

American Zombie

Director: Grace Lee
Writers: Grace Lee, Rebecca Sonnenshine
Released: 2007
Cast: Grace Lee, John Solomon, Austin Basis, John Durbin, Suzy Nakamura, Al Vicente, Jane Edith Wilson

NIKKI says: Something made me think I'd hate it. Possibly the bad taste in my mouth left by Brutal Massacre, that other recent horror mockumentary we watched. I expected another one-note movie, with a little joke stretched long.

I was mistaken, thankfully. This was a really good movie, which took it's premise -- that zombies exist in daily American life and here's your chance to see just how they interact and assimilate -- and injected it with intensity and drama. This is not a comedy. It's a dramatic portrayal of fringe communities struggling for recognition. Sure, elements of it are lighthearted, but you'd be fooled to think of this as some kind of throwaway addition to the ZombieFilmRevolution. Interesting minds are at work here. This is a multi-layered piece that looks at the documentarians as much as it does its studied subjects. It questions motives for each, and through this viewer/viewee keyhole, we get to see the zombies from a range of sides. We see them as maligned and desiring respect, we see the potential for their exploitation, and we see changes in them depending on what the filmmakers offer (introspection and compassion vs. the need for discovery and full lifestyle disclosure).

It's very clever how the film sets things up to show us these things. The structure was brilliant, and I am so thankful the filmmakers resisted pop culture pandering and stereotypes and really managed to present new kinds of zombies and zombie life.

Enjoyed it immensely.


21 September 2008

Days of Wine and Roses

Director: Blake Edwards
Writer: JP Miller
Released: 1962
Cast: Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick, Charles Bickford, Jack Klugman

NIKKI says:
You know, the humour wasn't lost on me that I watched this movie with a hangover. In the beginning, too, I understood the lure of alcohol for these people; the use of it as a means of escape, of obtaining highs, of freeing oneself of inhibitions and fears. Life looks more fun when all of those things come together. And bourbon just tastes so good.

But like all seedy relationships, all is not what it seems. There is a downside. And this movie is about that downside. So much so that it's somewhat of an advertisement for Alcoholics Anonymous, and an absolute smear campaign against alcohol in general. When the film shifts from a story about two people losing control to this other thing involving long monologues about the dangers of alcohol and what it can do to people it loses much of its appeal. Perhaps it's the era, but subtle this film is not.

It's a pity, too, because everything else is right where it needs to be. The acting is especially brilliant. Jack Lemmon just mesmerises me. I don't know how he does it. The transitions here from happy-go-lucky workman to violent drunk to crazed DT-sufferer to sober father are really something to see. He is a fascinating performer. His energy kept me going through the preachier parts of the movie.

I was disappointed in the end, leaving Lee Remick with the scarlet letter firmly stuck to her of woman to drag Jack down. Is the film about the dangers of alcohol, or women? There's even a point in this film where a link is made between women and addictive personalities, and that spun me out a bit. The movie goes all PC, and then just pulls right back and goes, nope, Lee Remick can stay on the downward path -- dirty femme-ale. Well...

So, I'm glad I watched it. It's truly one of the best acted films I've seen. But, really, it's far too preachy and simplistic to really feel like a true comment on alcoholism. The Lost Weekend is the movie for that.


20 September 2008

My Bodyguard

Director: Tony Bill
Writer: Alan Ormsby
Released: 1980
Cast: Chris Makepeace, Adam Baldwin, Matt Dillon, Martin Mull, Ruth Gordon

19 September 2008

Masters of Horror

Directors: Mike Mendez, Dave Parker
Writers: Curtis Bowden, Mike Mendez, Dave Parker, Gary Shenk
Released: 2002
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Dario Argento, John Carpenter, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg, Tobe Hooper, John Landis, George A. Romero, Guillermo del Toro

18 September 2008

The Incredible Hulk

Director: Louis Leterrier
Writer: Zak Penn
Released: 2008
Cast: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt, Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell

17 September 2008

Rails & Ties

Director: Alison Eastwood
Writer: Micky Levy
Released: 2007
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Marcia Gay Harden, Miles Heizer, Marin Hinkle

Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills

Directors: Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky
Released: 1996
Cast: Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, Jessie Miskelly, John Mark Byers

16 September 2008

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

Director: Joseph Zito
Writer: Barney Cohen
Released: 1984
Cast: Kimberly Beck, Erich Anderson, Corey Feldman, Barbara Howard, Peter Barton, Lawrence Monoson, Joan Freeman, Crispin Glover, Alan Hayes, Judie Aronson, Camilla More, Carey More

15 September 2008

Get Smart

Director: Peter Segal
Writers: Tom J. Astle, Matt Ember
Released: 2008
Cast: Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin, Terence Stamp

14 September 2008

Paradise Alley

Director: Sylvester Stallone
Writer: Sylvester Stallone
Released: 1978
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Lee Canalito, Armand Assante, Frank McRae, Anne Archer, Kevin Conway

STEVE says: What a load of crap this was! It looks like the Oscar nom for Rocky went right to Stallone's head because Paradise Alley was nothing if not a vanity project.

The synopsis on the back of the DVD packet reads thus: "Smooth-talking Cosmo sees his beef-cake brother Victor as their ticket out of the slums, and with brother Lenny, and embittered war veteran, convinces the big-fisted Victor to compete in a series of bone-crunching wrestling matches. But their rapid rise to success is halted when local gangster Stitch puts up his malicioius and dangerous wrestler Frankie the Thumper to fight Victor in a 22-round winner-take-all bout." While all of that does indeed happen in the movie, it's only in the last half. The first half is full of Stallone acting like a fucking numbwit asshole, exploiting Vic's size and strength, and Lenny's ability to handle the big guy. Sure, it sets us up for the whole wrestling scenario, but this should be the first 20 minutes, not the first 54.

There were some interesting bits: the relationship between Vic and Lenny had a very "Of Mice and Men" feel to it; Lenny's history with the woman Cosmo has been wooing (if his primative advances can be seen as such); Cosmo's own relationship with a prostitute; and the story of Big Glory, the "pro" wrestler at Paradise Alley. But most - if not all - of this development is wasted in the transition from Act II to Act III. Lenny is suddenly no longer the sensitive fellow he'd been set up as, turning literally from one scene to the next into a sleazy shyster; Cosmo just as inexplicably starts showing concern for Vic; the story of Big Glory is dropped, as are the plotlines involving Lenny and Cosmo's respective girlfriends.

The direction was no better than the script, with most of the characters acting like silly, cartoonish stereotypes, while the few real characters get lost in the shuffle. It would have been so much better had Stallone not shoved Cosmo in our faces, telling the story of the brothers, instead of how the brother's story is impacted by Cosmo.


13 September 2008

George Lucas in Love

Director: Joe Nussbaum
Writers: Joe Nussbaum, Daniel Shere
Released: 1999
Cast: Martin Hynes, Lisa Jakub

STEVE says: I took this 9-minute short to a friend's house a few months back because I thought he'd get a kick out of it. He'd seen Family Guy's Blue Harvest episode and the Robot Chicken Star Wars Special (had turned me on to both, in fact), so I wanted to reciprocate by sharing one of my favorite Star Wars themed shorts.


He had no time for a "fan-boy" movie, he told me (although he's got the entire Kevin Smith catalog, so I don't know what to make of that), and quickly turned my attention to the new Gnarls Barkley video, which I apparently had to see.

It's a shame he missed out because this is one of the better Star Wars shorts out there, along with Troops, Trooper Clerks, and possibly Thumb Wars. What's different about George Lucas in Love - and what makes it so great - is that it's not a parody. It doesn't make fun of the Star Wars universe or Lucas (well, maybe a little bit with Lucas), but uses Lucas' USC days as a backdrop for a greater story, one of a writer who's run out of ideas, and how true love inspires him to write his greatest work ever. And if that sounds suspiciously like the synopsis for Shakespeare in Love, well-spotted.

Familiar characters fill the campus at USC; prototypes for Han and Chewie, C-3PO and R2, Ben Kenobi, Yoda and Jabba the Hutt all make fleeting appearances, and it's fun to see how they fit in to young Lucas' life.

What makes this movie most remarkable is Martin Hynes' portrayal of Lucas. Nerdy and awkward, almost as if he's channeling Woody Allen, Hynes nails Lucas without making him into a punchline.

There are some issues, of course. The girl Lucas falls in love with is named Marion - the only reference to Raiders of the Lost Ark, and quite out of place among all the Star Wars characters. If, as it turns out, they're actually brother and sister (somehow kept apart all these years by a woman they both recognize as their mother), why not just have her named Leia. Or Leah. Or Leigh, something. And the lame reference to Howard the Duck I could have done without.

All that aside, though, I rate this one pretty high. Too bad it's longer than my friend's attention span. Maybe if there were some dick jokes...


12 September 2008

Monkey Puzzle

Director: Mark Forstmann
Writers: Stephen Davis, Mark Forstmann
Released: 2008
Cast: Ben Geurens, Ryan Johnson, Ella Scott Lynch, Socratis Otto, Billie Rose Pritchard

STEVE says: Yeah, I didn't get it. It started off okay, with four friends - one a secret couple and the other a match-up - heading off into the woods to find the rarest of rare trees. They stop off to buy some weed and end up inadvertently inviting the connection along on their quest. Not the cheeriest of characters, this guy, so tension builds from the outset.

Tempers flare a la The Blair Witch Project sans the supernatural elements, friendships are tested and relationships strained. Then... well, then I don't know what happened, but Monkey Puzzle started to disappoint.

Maybe it's because we were expecting some sort of horror thriller like Welcome to the Jungle, or a man-vs-nature tale like The Ruins, I don't know. What we weren't expecting was a study in existentialism with a fatalistic ending. Not that I'm against studies in existentialism with fatalistic endings (note to self: re-watch Dellamorte Dellamore), but this one kind of snuck up on me.

It wasn't a bad movie by any means. It just wasn't what I was geared up for at the time.


11 September 2008

Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist

Director: Paul Schrader
Writers: William Wisher, Caleb Carr
Released: 2005
Cast: Stellan Skarsgård, Gabriel Mann, Clara Bellar, Billy Crawford, Ralph Brown

About Last Night...

Director: Edward Zwick
Writers: Tim Kazurinsky, Denise DeClue
Released: 1986
Cast: Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, James Belushi, Elizabeth Perkins

10 September 2008

Sexy Beast

Director: Jonathan Glazer
Writer: Louis Mellis, David Scinto
Released: 2000
Cast: Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley, Ian McShane, Amanda Redman,

STEVE says: Any movie that opens with a song by The Stranglers is going to get a high mark in my book. And that's good news for Sexy Beast. Not that it was a bad movie, it just didn't live up to the hype.

I realized as we started watching it that I knew nothing at all about the movie except that Ben Kingsley was in it. It's been around for eight years and all I've heard was how phenomenal Kingsley was. At what? Well, just being Kingsley, apparently. And he was, certainly. But his Kingsleyness detracted from the rest of the movie. I didn't even know Ray Winstone was in the movie, much less starred in it, such was the Kingsley-mania.

Once you get past that, the movie itself is pretty good, albeit not much more than a neo-noir thriller, a twist on the old "one-last-heist" scenario. I find myself wishing Kingsley hadn't been anywhere near it, as he overshadowed the plot - which I would have otherwise quite dug - altogether. And that's something "Peaches" can't begin to make up for.


09 September 2008

Drillbit Taylor

Director: Steven Brill
Writers: Kristofor Brown, Seth Rogan
Released: 2008
Cast: Nate Hartley, Troy Gentile, Ian Roberts, Owen Wilson

08 September 2008

Night of the Creeps

Director: Fred Dekker
Writer: Fred Dekker
Released: 1986
Cast: Jason Lively, Steve Marshall, Jill Whitlow, Tom Atkins, Allan Kayser

07 September 2008

21, dir. Robert Luketic (2008)

STEVE says:
So far this year we've had no luck with poker-cheat movies. From Lucky You to Shade, they've been boring, lame, and predictable. I don't know why we'd think a movie about blackjack cheats would be any different, but for some reason we did, and it wasn't, and we're the wiser for it. Or so we tell ourselves. It makes it easier to get through the day.

Our young hero, Ben Campbell (played by Jim Sturgess, who is so boring I was convinced he was actually Tobey Maguire) is interviewing to get into Harvard Med. While most kids grow up wanting to be cops or astronauts or something, Ben's dream as a kid was to grow up and go to Harvard. So he's not exactly career oriented. He wanted to grow up and go to school. The dean, nice guy, lets him down easy, tells him that many kids have the desire to go to Harvard, but what he's looking for is "dazzle".

That point right there, the "dazzle" bit, is where the movie let itself down. It tries to dazzle us with glitzy shots of Vegas and clever card-cheats, fails to offer anything other than the standard Vegas card-cheat story.

Ben gets involved in a card-counting ring, run by his math professor, Mickey Rosa (Kevin Spacey doing Kevin Spacey), because he needs $300,000 to pay for Harvard in case he doesn't get the free ride he's banking on. Under Spacey's wing, Ben starts winning a lot of money, squirreling it away above the ceiling in his dorm. "We don't gamble," Spacey tells him. "We count cards." Of course Ben gets caught up in the lifestyle and starts gambling, loses it all, gets Spacey pissed at him, Laurence Fishburne out to kill him, he turns his back on his nerdy friends, but it all comes out okay in the end when Ben gets the free ride to Harvard based solely on the "dazzle" inherent in the standard card-cheat story we just watched.

Using Mr. Blonde's theory of deduction ("Either they're dead, or they're not, or the cops got 'em, or they don't."), this movie was about as easy to read as the instructions on a shampoo bottle; you don't bother reading them because how many times do you have to read "wash, rinse, repeat" before the outcome becomes inevitable.

21 reckons it's doing something different, but it's not. I've seen Vegas, and I've seen card-cheats. What else y'got?


06 September 2008

What Happens in Vegas, dir. Tom Vaughan (2008)

NIKKI says:
It was an impulse buy, like getting a Freddo at the supermarket. You don't need a Freddo, you had no intention of buying a Freddo, but when you see it there in its shiny Crunchie-flavour-emblazoned wrapper, suddenly you've just got to have a Freddo.

What Happens in Vegas was just sitting on the counter, looking like candy. So we did it. I think the conversation went like this:

Me: "What Happens in Vegas"
Steve: "Absolutely not. But okay."

See, he was feeling it. Sugar-craving.

UH... I guess I'd better talk about the movie. Well, it was everything I expected and so much more. Predictable, tacky, slapstick-y, unrealistic, over-the-top, and entirely un-romantic. Still, I had a few hearty laughs, courtesy of Rob Corddry and Zach Galifianakis as the weird best friends.

Let's look at each of these issues individually shall we?

PREDICTABLE: Obviously, they fall in love. But this was worse. Not only did they hook up at the end, but they did so at the very place we expected, with speeches to give each other that Steve and I practically mimed along with them. I understand there are only seven stories, but you can individualise them a little, can't you? Cameron and Ashton were such carbon copies of every other romantic comedy duo that their journeys here are laid out from the start. The movie is just a by-the-numbers path to that lighthouse.

TACKY: Cameron doesn't want to eat popcorn that's flavoured with the sweat of Ashton's ball sack. That's her worst line since "I swallowed your cum!" in Vanilla Sky. And as funny as it was to see Ashton peeing in the sink, well... Ashton pees in the sink. This is the depth of these characters. I hate you because you stink and leave the toilet seat up, not because you show any sort of human complexity whatsoever.

SLAPSTICK-Y: The couple argues by throwing tomatoes at each other. They have an all-out Three Stooges-like war through NYC, pushing each other around and slipping over. It's meant to be really funny, only it isn't. And Cameron falls all over the place, which was cute when she was younger. Now, at, like, 40 or however close to that she is, kinda looks odd and pathetic.

UNREALISTIC AND OVER-THE-TOP: A judge forces the two to make something of a drunken wedding in Vegas or they lose their money? It was a drunken wedding in Vegas, why should they be expected to care at all about each other? Why not agree to separate and split the money? And then they go on to fight and bicker for the time they have to pretend to love each other where they should have just agreed to live together in some kind of harmony until the end of the agreed upon period and just split the money then. So many people read this script, and still, it got made. Boggles the mind.

ENTIRELY UN-ROMANTIC: Young and spunky Ashton works in a role like this. Older, sinewy Cameron does not. Kate Hudson maybe -- someone fresh, who should be in that phase of her career where she's falling down for a man. Cameron is way past it. And her face is so tanned that any freshness left there has disappeared behind years of Malibu-roasting. I didn't see this couple as anything but conveniently thrown together for name value. They thought we wouldn't notice Cameron being six years older than Ashton when he's married to someone nearly 15 years older than himself in "real" life. Sorry, filmmakers -- it was just as weird.

So, there you have it. A play-by-play of this film's faults. Now, to conclude, the funniest line in the movie:

Zach: "Do you even know how to drive an automatic?"

Ninety minutes of lame for that? It's like the unnecessary but exciting candy bar amid all the boring weekly groceries.


05 September 2008

Impact Point, dir. Hayley Cloake (2008)

NIKKI says:
For a crappy TV movie about stalkers of professional volley ball players starring Brian Austin Green, this actually wasn't that bad. I mean, it was bad, but it wasn't lame bad, just slightly silly bad. We watched it because we were both tired and wrecked from a particularly horrible day. We didn't even want zombies to kick back to -- we wanted something worse. Steve wanted hard bodies, I wanted BAG who I have been enjoying since seeing him in the Terminator show. So, it was a fair trade-off. I think.

Well, BAG was good. He deserves better roles, though. Only, surprisingly, this was actually written sort of well for this sort of film. The development was actually quite good, and the twists were okay, too. Maybe we were just tired and hazy from the day? But I actually think this was an A-grade B-grade film. Has that happened before?

I'm not going to worry too much about discussing the plot, it's all very simple -- stalker at volleyball finals. Who is BAG really? Is he the reporter wanting to interview the pretty lead player? Or is he something more sinister? No wait! Is he something more sinister still!?

And who will win the volleyball?!?! And will David Silver finally deflower Donna Martin?!? Wait a minute... I joke, Brian Austin Green, because I love.


04 September 2008

Brutal Massacre, dir. Stevan Mena (2007)

NIKKI says:

It tried very hard, but it didn't quite pull off the Spinal Tap-style mocking of the horror film director giving his career one final push. The movie is a mockumentary about Harry Penderecki, who has made a string of shoddy horror films, one of which was a huge success. He hasn't had a success for a while and is back to the drawing board making Brutal Massacre, in the hopes he will be re-crowned a horror king.

But, as we all know, low-budget filmmaking comes with a range of headaches and issues. And those are made worse when the cast and crew are downright amateurs. Even the director, in this case, doesn't seem to know what he's doing. This is where the film falls down. There are so many cliches and obvious jokes that we've seen before in these sorts of films. And the comedy is far too broad with inane gags that make the characters look stupid and therfore hard to root for or really care about. And when you look at Spinal Tap, which is the touchstone for these sorts of enterprises, you absolutely adore each and every member of the band for their idiosyncracies and stupidities because of an earnestness built around them. They are developed so well, whereas the characters here are really just playing off stereotype -- naive director, dumb blonde cast members, bored casting agents, bossy ADs, bitchy producers, etc.

A few highlights, though, include every single line Brian O'Halloran speaks because I love him. And the only true Leatherface, Gunnar Hansen, as a crazy former property owner saying "motherfucker" a lot. Hilarious.

Otherwise, the film just did not know where its humour was, and became a jumbled mess of potentially interesting ideas.


03 September 2008

How She Move, dir. Ian Igbal Rashid (2008)

NIKKI says:
And here we are again. Steve goes out for the night, and I sit down with a dance movie. They're everywhere lately. I'm barely keeping up.

So, this one has exactly the same story as all the others -- girl has something to prove to herself, her family, and those around her because of the struggles she's endured and continues to endure. And how best to do it? By dancing her ass off. If only life were so simple.

This stands apart, however, for two reasons. First, the dancing is hardcore stepping, which I don't think I've seen in one of these before. Maybe Stomp the Yard? But, still, this dancing looked and felt different. Whereas in Stomp the Yard it was about creating unity, here is seemed to be about releasing aggression. Dunno, a subtle difference? Not that I know the first thing about the intricacies of step dancing... anyway, that's how it felt to me.

Secondly, this one dealt with some fairly hefty issues like heroin abuse, and the family breakdown surrounding that. I felt early on in the film that it had something personal to say. It felt like more than a standard build to a big step-freak-out at the end. I mean, it was that, but it tried to be something else, too. I got right into Rayanne's struggle for acceptance. It might have had much to do with the lead actress being so good, and seeming so much deeper than the usual perky Step Up girls.

For me, this was a cut above as far these movies go, and while I don't understand stepping at all, I loved watching these bodies just flick and flip and pulse. How do they do that? WHY do they do that? It doesn't look like dancing. Sometimes it looks like self-exorcism. Which may just be what it is. That's where the release ideas comes in, I guess. It's most apparent when the dancers work alone, but in groups, when they're all doing the same pulsing, pumping moves, they look fucking sensational. The cheoreographers are amazing, and the dancers are just -- I can't even describe it. The timing, the discipline, the body-control -- stepping should be in the Olympics.

So, yeah... let's see if Feel the Noise can top this in a few weeks.


Steve did not view.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers, dir. Don Siegel (1956)