Monday, August 27, 2012

Martha Marcy May Marlene

As you might imagine from the title, this movie is fractured in more ways than one. The young girl who plays the title character has so many roles with different identities throughout the movie that it's surprising she can keep them all straight in her head...or rather, it's not surprising that she CAN'T keep them all straight in her head, except maybe to her sister and brother in law, who seem unable or unwilling to admit that there's something obviously wrong with her that's not entirely her fault and that she needs help and that they should maybe be a little more forgiving of her eccentricities and not sulk and pout because she's not normal and she's disrupting their structured little lives. In case it isn't obvious, I don't much like the sister and her husband in this movie.

This movie isn't concerned with telling the audience much, instead allowing us to figure everything out on our own, and while it's nice to be treated like an adult who is capable of figuring a plot out myself, instead of a dumbass who must have information spoon fed to me because I can't figure out a plot twist on my own, the mental legwork it takes to piece together the plot of this movie does get exhausting, especially since the plot that must be pieced together is so harrowing. Martha is a young girl who runs away at the beginning of the movie from what we soon learn is a controlling cult with strict expectations for her behavior. We see Martha running away and hiding in the woods and making her way into town, we see a man come up to her in a diner and try to coerce her to come back with him in his truck, we see her using a payphone to call someone who is obviously related to her and sounds worried about her, we see her waiting outside the diner as time passes, we see a car stop to pick her up and we learn that the person she called was her sister who hasn't seen her in two years and has no idea where she's been. Everything we see comes in flashes from Martha's perspective and pieces of the past from her memory, which is very disorienting, because even Martha herself isn't sure exactly what's happening around her all the time.

Eventually we learn, through a series of flashbacks, the story of how Martha came to live with the cult in their secluded farmhouse, and what happened there to change her into the shadow of a woman we see today. We see that she exhibits signs of being traumatized, but that she's unsure if what happened to her was good or bad, right or wrong, we only knew that eventually she seemed to want to escape, but she's not sure how to communicate this to her sister, who is frightened by Martha's strange behavior, while her husband is increasingly more and more pissed off that his life is being torn apart by this young woman he doesn't even know. So Martha doesn't know how to talk about what happened to her, she doesn't know how to act, her sister doesn't know how to reach out to her, but she feels compelled to reach out because she's family, which leaves her feeling trapped and pulled between her sister and her husband, and it's all a big, muddled mess which is difficult to watch.

I should mention, too, that this movie doesn't *do* closure, so it might piss people off for that reason alone. It pissed me off at first, and I declared that I didn't like the movie, but after letting it sit awhile, I liked the movie better in hindsight than I did while watching it. The movie definitely has a lot going for it. Elizabeth Olson, John Hawkes, Hugh Dancy, and the rest of the cast give great performances. Everything is all very engaging as it sucks you into the story, which might piss you off in itself simply because the story is frustrating and frightening and often unfulfilling. This movie certainly isn't for everyone, but it was definitely compelling and worth a watch for me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


When I was about 8 years old, I was hanging out at one of my cousins' houses one night (which happened a lot since my family was big and really close, so we cousins were more like brothers and sisters when we were little) and the adults put this movie in, let up watch up until the point where the baby brother gets kidnapped, and then they made us go to bed (like I was ever going to sleep again after THAT shit). I never wound up watching the rest of this movie until last week, and I'm glad I finally got to see it.

Far From Home

This is actually a really good movie that I'd never heard about before this movie challenge, and it's annoying and puzzling to me, because the movie has a bunch of well-known character actors and actresses in a serviceable plot with some cool twists and turns and I just don't get why some movies get blathered all over while movies like this slip by the wayside. It seriously pisses me off (almost as much as that damn movie poster pisses me off, because it gives away WAAAYYY too much of the plot for my liking...hello genuises in the marketing department, it's called a "twist ending," not a "we already telegraphed the twist on the poster" ending). I'm happy to have this space to inform people about movies like this one, which deserve a second look.

In this movie, Drew Barrymore plays a sullen almost-14 year old girl who is supposed to be on a road trip connecting with her estranged father, but she's mostly pining for home and wishing he weren't such a clueless dipwad. I feel justified in making that assertion, because seriously, he does some of the dumbest things I've ever seen a character do in a movie, including getting them stranded in the middle of nowhere in a town where everyone seems creepy and violent and angry all the time and all the local gas stations are out of gas so there's nothing to do but wait for the delivery truck to come (I'm not sure this was a believable premise even back in 1986, and you mean to tell me he NEVER noticed they were running low on gas until it was too late and they ran out? Really?)

Once the father and daughter are stranded, they wind up renting a trailer in a trailer park owned by a creepy, abusive, angry lady who is one of the worst parents in history, and the daughter catches the eyes of not one but two creepy local boys. the dad should be protecting her from these guys, but he's too busy shacking up with a woman he meets at the trailer park who is also stranded, so his young teen daughter is left to roam free and get menaced and maybe dragged off and murdered while father of the year isn't paying attention. This movie is like an instruction manual for what NOT to do as a parent.

Despite the dimbulb moves of the main characters, I enjoyed this movie and I enjoyed seeing so many character actors and actresses (hello Richard Masur, and Anthony Rapp, and Jennifer Tilly!) and the story was cool and twisty, and even though I figured out what was going on pretty early in the movie, there were still some nasty surprises in store for me. Definitely a fun watch.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Oliver & Company

People always give me weird looks when I tell them this is my favorite Disney movie. It's more obscure than it deserves to be, and people don't seem to think it's as awesome as I do, but it's been love at first sight ever since I first saw this movie when I was about nine. First of all, I've always been obsessed with Charles Dickens and his stories of the haves and the have-nots and how these groups intersect and interact in society. We grew up pretty dirt poor when I was a kid, so these kinds of stories always seemed relatable even if Dickens was writing about times in the distant past and a kind of poverty I never knew. "Oliver Twist" is a pretty depressing story in a lot of ways, but it still resonated with me enough for me to like almost every story even remotely related to it.

Being a Disney movie, this version changes many aspects of the story (the most obvious being, well, the characters are stray cats and dogs instead of orphaned kids) but the sense that these are the outcasts of society is still pretty strong with me. I relate pretty strongly to animals anyway (I kid you not, when I picked up my kitty from the animal shelter I had to suppress tears the whole time and I wanted to take all the animals with me...seeing them abandoned there broke my heart). This movie opens with a scene that never fails to make me cry. Oliver is a stray little kitten who is in a box on a street corner with his brothers and sisters eagerly awaiting someone to come by and take him home. The look of happiness and hope in his eyes every time someone looks into the box, and then the let-down after someone chooses one of the other kittens and leaves Oliver behind, is heartening. Oliver keeps a smile on his face though, always hopeful, until late that night when all the other kittens have been chosen and he's abandoned and alone in the rain...seriously, it cuts me to the bone every single time. The lyrics to the song that plays over this scene get to me, too:

"How could anyone stay starry-eyed when it's raining cats and dogs outside and the rain is saying 'now you're on your own?' So, Oliver, don't be scared, though yesterday no one cared, they're getting your place prepared where you want to be. Keep your dream alive - dreaming is still how the strong survive - once upon a time in New York City."

Not to get all melodramatic here, but Lord do I EVER relate to that. It's hard getting back up and trying and trying and trying again just to get kicked back down over and over and over again. Sometimes I repeat these lines to myself, that dreaming is still how the strong survive, and it helps. It helps me keep going. So it's good, and it touches me, and I don't care if it's a kid's movie, it's more inspiring than most of the sermons I've ever heard in my life. So there.

So Oliver keeps fighting to survive, and finds friends (though at first, they don't seem that friendly...Dodger the dog, voiced by Billy Joel, is very much a "don't let yourself get attached to anyone" kind of guy) and the gang of friends he eventually finds are all stray dogs who work for Fagin, who in this version of the story is much more loving than he is in other versions. Here he's not just exploiting and using the gang, he actually loves them, and they love him. When Fagin is down and depressed about not having the money to pay off his creditors, the dogs cuddle with him and bring his slippers and share their dog biscuits with him in an effort to cheer him up, and it's sweet and touching. I really love it.

Of course, this being a Disney movie, there are more twists and turns coming, and a little girl who will love Oliver and give him a forever home, and if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go hug my adopted shelter kitty and give her some treats now. Yes, I'm a sap. I blame the movie.

The Gate

This is a movie I got to watch when I was younger, not in my kidlet years but in my teens, and then I've watched it a few more times over the years, so I thought I had a pretty good handle on what it was about. A kid with an active imagination discovers that a hole in his backyard where workmen tore out an old tree is actually a gate to hell and if he doesn't find a way to stop it, demons are going to use the gate to crawl into the world and take it over. That's what the movie is about, but I guess I forgot how cool it is. Young Stephen Dorff is a lot of fun to watch as he fumbles his way around, and his friendship with his best friend as well as his relationship with his sister (antagonistic at times but loving underneath) ring true and make the movie more intriguing. The special effects aren't very special, but I expected that, and they're not so bad that they detract from the fun of watching kids fend off some monsters (which would have been so awesome if I could have done it as a kid). this movie takes me back to the fun of trying to solve mysteries and fight imaginary evils in my childhood, so for all the fun memories it brings back, the movie is a keeper for me.

A Fish Called Wanda

I really wanted to see this movie when I was a kid. I was always intrigued by movies and books with odd titles, and this one was enough to catch my attention. Seeing it today, I think it's probably better I didn't watch this when I was a kid. It's pretty sexual, which is neither here nor there, but it's something that would probably have gone over my head when I was a kid, and I might have thought the movie was boring back then and written it off because I didn't get its subtle humor (or even its unsubtle humor). Plus it was just a real treat getting to see the movie for the first time today and being pleasantly surprised at how much fun it was. It had me laughing out loud a lot more than I ever would have expected. Definitely a lot of fun watching the most crooked crooks in the world pull off a heist and then proceed to turn on each other so often I'm surprised they didn't get dizzy. Pure fun from beginning to end.

Troll 2

Now, I saw the original "Troll" a few years ago, and I remember a few people telling me that the sequel was better, so I was mildly interested in checking this movie out. you have to understand that "better" is a relative term, since the original "Troll" was such a huge pile of shit that it would be hard for anything to be worse than that, so indeed, this movie is better, and it was a ton of fun to watch (I laughed my ass off more than once) but I can't in good conscience recommend it to people like a normal movie. It's not "good" in any way that will be meaningful to much of the moviegoing public.

During the opening sequence, I was mocking the young actor playing the little boy who is the hero of this movie, thinking he was a terrible actor, but the joke was on me, because he's actually the BEST actor of the bunch here, and everyone else is so terrible and wooden that you'll soon be begging for the little boy to be in MORE scenes. Not only that, the script is so horrendously bad, it almost seems like most of the lines were written as jokes, like the screenwriters got drunk and high one night and wrote the script as a prank, but the filmmakers weren't smart enough to realize this, so they kept the script as written (I don't think I saw an editor in the end credits, and if he was there, he's probably been drug out into the street and shot long ago for his conduct in this movie).

There's more wrong with this movie than just the dialogue, too. Seriously, the premise of this movie isn't even remotely believable. A young boy's grandfather died, but the boy keeps seeing his grandfather appearing to tell him stories that warn him of Goblins, but the grandfather never bothers to speak in a straight sentence and say "look, goblins exist and they're coming after you, here's what to do to protect yourself." No, the useless ghost sits around telling stories and doesn't bother to speak up in any helpful manner until ti's too late and several people have died (but they were all annoying, so we don't care much). Lazy worthless ghost. And since when do farming families from small towns switch lives with families in big cities for a week for no apparent reason? Maybe for a reality show, but this movie was made long before the dawn of reality TV. And what family is going to encourage their teenage daughter to bring her boyfriend along with her on a family vacation? "Here honey, you and Billy have fun having sex all night! Here, use mommy and daddy's bed!" It's just absurd on every level. These characters never act like real people. I would have thought this was awesome when I was ten years old, but I'm a little old for these kinds of shenanigans nowadays.

And yet I had fun with this movie. It was too much fun laughing along at all the horrible crap happening onscreen, and if I had a ten year old, I'd watch this movie with my kid so we could laugh along together. That's the biggest endorsement I can give. those with a smidgen of maturity and common sense should probably stay away from this movie.

Fatal Attraction

I never watched this movie before last night. Of course, when I was a kid I heard about it, since it caused quite a stir when it came out (Adrian Lyne likes causing a stir with his movies) but I didn't want to see it much, which is probably for the best, since this movie definitely isn't for kids. It's about a man who has a nice life with a nice wife and a nice family who meets an attractive woman at a party for his work and has a whirlwind affair with her one weekend while his wife is away. that's the thing about this guy, he's not even trapped in a bad marriage, he enjoys his life, he just gets bored one weekend, and since there isn't anything good on TV, he figures, "why not fuck around on my wife?" In case you can't tell, I have a hard time mustering up much sympathy for him (especially since the woman he cheats with looks like a raving lunatic to me right from the start, and if he'd listened to me yelling through the screen at him, he'd never have had the affair in the first place).

But alas, he DOES have the affair, and the woman he cheats with turns out to be a tad unstable (like the passengers on The titanic got a tad wet) and when the normal guy wants to go back to his normal life, the woman doesn't want to let him go, and things start getting worse and worse and worse until everything falls apart. The movie is actually good, which I wasn't expecting. Usually when people blather on raving about a movie, I wind up not ,liking it and being annoyed with them, but everyone was right about this one. It's seductive and sexy and menacing and creepy and disturbing. I knew what was going to happen to that rabbit right from the very beginning of the movie, and I still cringed at that scene. The movie hasn't lost any of its power over the years. hell, people have blathered every twist in the movie to me, so I knew every thing that was going to happen, and I still sat on the edge of my seat. Well played, Adrian Lyne, well played.

House II: The Second Story

Hee hee hee, "the second story," hee hee hee. Ok, I am a ten year old at heart, and that's probably why I had fun with this movie, even though it's pretty stupid. It's a step down from the original movie, which actually tried to be scary, whereas this one is just plain weird and disjointed and hokey and it doesn't make much sense, but it's still a lot of fun to watch. More of an adventure movie (think Indiana Jones on crack) than a horror movie, but still worth checking out for fans of the original.


This movie cover, with its disembodied hand ringing the doorbell and its tagline "Ding dong, you're dead" made a vivid impact on my childhood. I really wanted to see the movie back then. turns out, after viewing it last night, it might have been ok for me to watch it since it's definitely hokey horror comedy made with more fun in mind than scares (though the ending sequence was pretty freaky). I enjoyed myself a lot.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Hot Tub Time Machine

I wasn't really sure if I was going to like this movie or not. I love John Cusack, and I'm beginning to like Craig Duke more and more, but the premise of this movie is one of those that is so ridiculous it could either be really awesome or really fucking stupid, and I wasn't sure which way this movie would go. A group of friends who've stayed in touch over the years are becoming over-the-hill bitter older men who aren't happy with how their lives have gone since their glory days in high school and college. John Cusack's recently divorced, Clark Duke is his live-in nephew who is singularly unimpressed with his uncle and his uncle's friends, Craig Robinson is still married but his marriage is in trouble and his life isn't what he dreamed it could be, and Rob Corrdry...well he's just a mess all around.

After Corrdry's character has a failed suicide attempt, the three friends decide to go back to the ski resort where they spent some of the best times of their lives in hopes of rekindling their friendship, but a malfunctioning hot tub magically sends them back into the past to one of the most pivotal nights of their lives. Back in 1986, they have to carefully relive the events of that day and night in order to ensure that nothing changes, because if they fail, Clark Duke's character might cease to exist entirely.

It sounds really silly written down like that, but most time-travel movies have weird premises like that, and it's best to just go with the flow and not think too much about them as long as the filmmakers manage to make the story fun, and this story was a lot of fun. I laughed out loud more than once, which is saying a lot for me, because I'm very picky when it comes to comedies. It was fun watching these men relive this night in their lives, and fun to watch them squabbling and bickering and conversing like old friends. the actors had a lot of chemistry, which helped sell the somewhat silly story. Craig Duke has a big personality which can stick out like a sore thumb and overshadow other actors at times, so it's nice to see that in this movie, everyone here is able to rise to the challenge and make the relationships between the characters believable so nothing seems forced or annoying. I had a blast with this movie, and I'm stoked that I liked it as much as I did.

Take Me Home Tonight

I have to give this movie mad props, because after it started, and even for the first like, hour or so of the movie I was thinking "Oh good, the worst movie ever made, I'm glad I had nothing better to do with my day." It wasn't even that there was anything horrendously wrong with the movie, it was just flat and bland and not very interesting...kind of like Topher Grace's character in the movie. He graduated high school, went to MIT and got a degree, and now works in a video store and lives with his parents, squandering his considerable brains and talents. His sister is a great writer who is dating and planning to move in with a bland, dipshit guy from her hometown who doesn't really respect her talent and just kind of doesn't take her seriously in general. It's pretty clear that she's settling, Everything seems to come to a head when the hottest girl from high school shows back up in town and Topher Grace realizes he could pretend to have an awesome job and actually maybe have a shot with her this time around.

It doesn't sound like anything groundbreaking, right? That's the problem, I think, we've all heard this story before. In fact I was thinking "Oh great, post-college disillusionment...I already learned this lesson yesterday with "St. Elmo's Fire," and had more fun learning it, and even if I wanted to learn this same lesson in a movie starring Topher Grace, I could just watch "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton" again and be done with it," but once "Take Me home tonight" finally gets going, it managed to suck me in and keep my interest, and by the end, I was cheering it on. I'm glad I finally got into the movie too, because there's a lot to like here. topher grace is kind of bland, but he's likable enough, and I really love Anna Faris, especially in this movie. The music is a lot of fun, and the movie is a nice throwback to 80s movies that manages to carry its "lesson" without beating us over the head with it, so I had fun with this movie.

New Year's Evil

I love slasher movies, and this is one of the few that I haven't seen before, so I was eager to check it out. Of course it's not great or anything, but it was a fun slasher, so I enjoyed myself.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

This is one of those movies that horror fans fawn all over and blather on about how good it is. I've learned to be leery of such things, because a lot of the time I don't like whatever movies they're praising, but this is one movie that lives up to the hype. Henry is creepy and unsettling, and even years after it was made, it still manages to have an impact on me (and I've seen everything). All the "found footage" movies we see nowadays seem to indicate that horror fans enjoy watching movies shot with a handheld camera, but those filmmakers who think it's easy to make such films should watch this movie and see how it's supposed to be done. If your movie sucks ass, it's not going to suck less just because you threw in some handheld camera footage. People still talk about this movie today because it's GOOD, not because of its technique.

Ok, climbing off soapbox now. But this movie is worth checking out, so you should watch it and see what all the hype is about.

The Care Bears Movie

This is a movie I missed out on watching when I was a kid, and I wish I would have kept right on missing it. Seriously, it's terrible. I like a lot of kids movies, but this one is ridiculous. The songs are all horrible, none of the cast can sing, the story is stupid and makes no sense, and I wanted to fast forward even though the movie isn't even two hours long. Apart from a cute opening and closing sequence where an older man is telling some kids in an orphanage a story, the movie drags and drags incessantly. Ugh, what a waste of time. There are some good kids movies out there, but this ain't one of 'em.

Cry for the Strangers

This movie is based on a John Saul novel. For those of you who don't know who that is, let me explain my experience with John Saul's books (which might help you understand why I enjoyed this movie, in spite of its many flaws). When I was a kid, I used to read John Saul novels voraciously. He's a trashy, pulpy horror writer, and of course I used to eat that stuff up in my early teens, but John Saul's books are noteworthy because my mom actually forbade me to read them after a few years, because they always put me in an awful mood and I'd be in a funk for days after reading one. Part of the reason for this pissy attitude is that his books are so dark. He sets up these main characters that seem like nice people and then systematically destroys their worlds and their lives for 400 pages until the book ends with everyone dead or crippled or broken and all of them damned to hell. Fun times! The other reason for this funky mood the books caused in me was that his plots were so damn frustrating. He'd set up this interesting premise, something spooky going on in a small town that might be connected to an ancient evil, and then he'd keep hinting and hinting and hinting at it throughout the book, but he'd never really explain what was going on, so when they book ended you knew just about as much as you did when it began, but now everyone you'd cared about for 400 pages was dead. It was a crappy feeling.

I know more about John Saul now then I did back when I was younger. For instance, when I was a kid I used to tell my mom that John Saul's books HAD to be written by more than one person, because the plots seemed so disjointed from one chapter to the next and the characters would act out of turn so often to advance the plot that there's no way one author wouldn't be able to keep his own character's motivations straight for long enough to finish one 400 page book. My mom looked at me like I was out of my mind whenever I said that, though. Well I now know that John Saul's books are written collaboratively by two different men, so score one point for 13 year old me figuring that out just by reading them (I was very perceptive back then, I guess). I also know that not all of his books are as disjointed, and his later books are more cohesive and not as frustrating as his earlier books, though still very dark and Gothic and depressing.

This movie is from one of his earlier books, and it doesn't seem to be very well known. It was hard for me to hunt down a movie poster to use in this blog to show you what the movie looked like, and I'm sure the movie frustrated audiences as much as his books used to frustrate me, so the movie must have faded into obscurity fairly quickly, but for fans who recognize John Saul's work, this movie has his signature all over it. I've never read the book upon which this story was based, but it's classic John Saul: a young boy sleepwalking during a thunderstorm wanders out of his grandparent's old house and onto the beach where he sees Indians dancing around a fire performing some kind of ritual. The next morning when he wakes up, he can't find his grandparents, so he wanders onto the beach and sees that they are dead, buried up to their necks in the sand and drowned with the tide.

The boy represses all these events, and years later when he's an adult and a psychiatrist and his wife come to rent the grandparent's old house from him, he allows them to move in. Not all is well in the small town, however. The new tenants soon learn that whenever it storms in the sleepy little town, something evil comes with the storm, and the next morning, someone from the town is found dead, just like the little boy's grandparents from years ago. Another young boy in the town is sleepwalking during the storms with no memory of what happens or where he goes when he leaves his house, and his parents take him to the new psychiatrist to try and figure out what is happening to their son and to their town. The psychiatrist tries to discover what's going on, creepy events ensue, but even after the movie ends, nothing is really resolved in a satisfying manner. Welcome to the world of John Saul.

The frustrating thing about this movie is that in a lot of ways, it works. The setting is eerie and fraught with opportunities to creep us out, the child actors are very good at what they do, the adult actors aren't half bad (even though their characters have to make a lot of boneheaded moves that have you questioning their intelligence at every turn). What works can't really redeem what doesn't work, however. The story is jumbled and it seems to have a lot of creepy elements thrown in for absolutely no reason (what do the Indians dancing around the fire really have to do with anything, anyway? It could have been anyone performing a ritual, but he had to drag Indians out of their natural homeland and onto the beach to further confuse matters) and it's pretty annoying how the movie ends and everyone acts like it's over even though the kids are still acting very creepy and things are obviously unresolved. The movie is a great setup with a big letdown, just like I remember from reading John Saul's books when I was younger, and I wish it were better, but it still held my interest enough to make me glad I checked it out. I even want to read the book now. I'm a glutton for punishment, I guess. Someone should probably call my mom and tell her to forbid me to read the book so I don't wind up depressed and angry for a few days.

St. Elmo's Fire

This is one of those movies that brings back memories because I was actually allowed to watch it when I was a kid. It was mostly by accident. When I was about 9 years old, I came downstairs one morning at 7 AM to get a drink of water, and my mom was just putting this movie into the VCR, and I took an inordinate amount of time to get a drink, and after 15 minutes, my mom realized I was still standing in the hallway watching the movie, and I thought she was going to tell me to go back upstairs to my room (because I didn't understand much, but I understood enough of what was happening onscreen to realize that this was a movie she probably didn't want me to watch) but she let me come sit on the couch and she watched it with me.

I didn't understand much about the movie back then, but I understood that as messed up as these seven people were, they were really good friends and they really cared about each other and they would drop everything else in their lives to help each other out if one of them was in trouble, and that stuck with me, even years later. I watched the movie again in college and I probably picked up on a lot more of what was going on, but it wasn't until I watched the movie AFTER college that I REALLY understood it, I think.

What it's like to be caught in-between being a college student and being a "real adult" (whatever THAT is) and how hard it can be to leave college days behind, especially when they were your "glory days" when you thought you had everything figured out. When Demi Moore says "I never thought I'd be this TIRED at 22," I FEEL it now in a way I didn't when I watched the movie when I was younger. This will probably always be one of my favorite movies because it explores friendship and love and independence and freedom and identity and growing up and moving on in a way I've never seen any other movie do (and I've seen a LOT of movies).

Like Crazy

I took a break from the 80s festival to watch this movie. It got a lot of buzz for being a romantic little independent gem when it came out, and I can see why. It's got two college students meeting and falling in love at record speed, and of course we all know they're heading for a crash that neither of them sees because they're so infatuated with each other. It's heartbreaking to watch. The movie is definitely longer than it needs to be, and it doesn't actually END, it just stops, practically in mid-sentence, but it's still worth checking out for the acting alone.

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

This is one of those movies I'd never heard of before because I lived on the moon under a rock during the 80s. It's everything I like in a feel-good movie though, dancing, romance, friends, music, and fun. A girl wants to audition for a spot on her favorite dance TV show, but her strict father won't let her do it so she sneaks off to audition behind his back and ends up falling for the boy who becomes her dance partner. The movie was a lot of fun to watch (check out how young Helen Hunt and Sarah Jessica Parker and Shannen Doherty were back then!)

Weird Science

This is one of those 80s movies I've never seen that I've actually never wanted to see because it looked hideously stupid, but I decided to give it a chance...and it was as stupid as I always thought it would be. Bleh. Two "ugly nerds" (who actually aren't bad looking, though they're both total jerkoffs which I suspect has more to do with why girls don't like them than their looks, not that they're perceptive enough to realize this) decide to use computers and "science" to create a woman, who then becomes "real" and is beautiful and smart and sophisticated, and she parties with them and tries to teach them to let loose and be brave and stand up to the one guy's older brother who is a toolbag of epic proportionss. It's all silly and ridiculous and dated, and I didn't like it one bit. Definitely one slice of the 80s that I could have done without revisiting.

Magnum P.I. season 1 Pilot Episode: "Don't Eat the Snow in Hawaii"

I used to watch this show when I was a kid and I loved every episode. I remembered John Magnum as a guy who hung around with his friends and solved mysteries and partied a lot. I didn't pick up then on how melancholy he could be, when memories of Vietnam took over his life, like in this pilot episode when one of his old army buddies is murdered whilst ostensibly smuggling cocaine into the US. Of course Magnum knows his friend would never do that, and of course no one believes him, so Magnum has to prove his friend's innocence without getting himself killed in the process. It's a good episode and a good introduction to the character, and it's a lot deeper than I gave it credit for back when I didn't understand the subtext.

Friday, August 3, 2012

"Murder, She Wrote" Pilot Episode: The Murder of Sherlock Holmes

This was a premier movie event on TV when I was a kid, and this was the first movie I've watched today that I actually got to see when I was a kid (albeit in reruns). I remember watching "Murder, she Wrote" on Sunday nights with my mom, and we both loved it. this is the pilot episode of that long-running TV series, which appeared as a two-hour TV movie event trying to launch a series (and it was successful in that regard, since the series went on for many years after that and was pretty popular). It's not rocket science or anything, it's a silly series in the "cozy mystery" sub-subgenre about an elderly lady who writes murder mysteries and just happens to have a habit of solving the real-life ones that seem to follow her around (my mom and I used to joke that it wasn't a great idea to befriend Jessica Fletcher, the main character, because most of her friends had a habit of winding up either dead or suspected of murder at some point). The show might not have been the greatest, and it''s melodramatic and cheesy at times, but it''s still a lot of fun to watch today, and this pilot episode was as much fun as I remembered. Here we get to meet the main character, see how her mystery writing career got its start, and watch her solve her first real-life murder mystery. I had a lot of fun reliving the past with this episode and I'm glad it's still just as much fun to watch Jessica Fletcher solve mysteries as it was when I was a kid.


Today's theme seems to be "movies I wanted to watch when I was a kid but my mom wouldn't let me." I grew up seeing the cover of this movie in video stores and staring at it longingly, wanting to see what the two evil looking parents depicted on the cover were up to, and why their poor son was so afraid of them, but alas, it was not to be. As I got older, my desire to watch this dissipated, because come on, it looks pretty cheesy, right? I added it to my list of movies to watch for this 80s challenge, but I started it today and I admit I wasn't expecting much.

I must say, I was happily surprised. First off, this movie is billed as a comedy (albeit a dark one) but don't let that fool you into expecting a lot of laughs. This movie is very off-kilter and disorienting and downright strange, but it's definitely more creepy and funny. The movie is so whacked out because it's told from the perspective of a little boy who's pretty whacked out, and who can blame him? He lives in the stuffy 1950s, and his parents are very stiff and straight-laced and strict with him (particularly his father, who doesn't seem to like him very much, though his mother seems loving, if not a tad bewildered by her son's strange behavior) and he doesn't really have any friends except for another girl at his new school who seems to be even stranger than he is. His parents moved him to a new town for reasons he doesn't understand, they seem to be hiding a lot of strange secrets, he's seen strange things that he's blocked out in his mind, and to top it all off, he suspects his parents of doing some unthinkable things he can't bring himself to speak out loud, even when a concerned guidance counselor at school pushes him to let it all out. It's hard to blame him for being scared. After all, if he really looks into his parent's strange activities, what will he find?

I'm kind of glad I didn't see this movie when I was a kid (that seems to be a running theme of today's movies as well) because I had my share of family secrets and creepiness when I was a kid, and I honestly think this movie would have bothered me even more back then (not that it was any picnic now...the whole experience really got under my skin). I expected this movie to be really silly, but it wasn't, it was weird and eerie, and Randy Quaid does a great job playing the menacing father here. I knew he was a good actor, especially in roles that are slightly off-center, but I didn't expect him to be this creepy. This movie was definitely worth a watch (and maybe another, and another, and another...)

Thursday, August 2, 2012


This is another movie I really wanted to see when I was a kid. I loved cop movies, I loved robots, and look! Here was a lovely combination of the two. Of course my mom vetoed the idea of me watching it, and as controversy swirled around this movie getting an "X" rating for violence until it was toned down, I can't really blame her for that. Mostly, I held off seeing this because I figured the special effects would look really ridiculous now that I'm in my thirties, and the only reason I actually watched the movie was to see how the violence measured up to other really violent movies I'd seen.

First of all, while some of the stop-motion effects in this movie look cheesetastic now over 20 years later, to reduce the movie to a collection of outdated special effects is to do it a great injustice. The fact is, this is a really cool movie, and it's held up unbelievably well over the years. The movie tries something different right from the beginning, eschewing a lengthy explanation through title cards or something equally boring, instead choosing to throw us right into this dystopian future society with flashes of news footage our only introduction to this brave new world. In the future, life is gritty and dirty and criminals are tearing cities apart and blowing away cops right in broad daylight, and a corporation called OCP (yeah, yeah, I know, subtle) is in control, trying to utilize technology to create a super cop who will be able to stem the tide of this crime wave.

This movie takes another risk in that we get to know RoboCop before he's "robo" but we don't get to know him well, we get but a glimpse into his life before a gang of ruthless criminals exact gory revenge on him, and all we really know about him is that he's a private person, he loves his family, and he loves being a cop. It turns out that is enough for me, since I really felt for this guy (and just so you know, I don't use the word "gory" lightly here, this movie is really really REALLY nasty in some parts, and I can totally see glimmers of that X rating still lurking around the edges of this "hard R" feature). I pretty much wanted to jump into the movie and kill all the criminals myself, that's how despicable they are, and the corruption that allowed them to elude capture for so long really got under my skin. The movie had me wincing at the gore, yelling at the bad guys, and cheering RoboCop on all the way, and I enjoyed it a hell of a lot more than I ever thought I would.

The Nesting

This is one of those movies I've wanted to see for years. When I was a kid, we had this direct to video feature called "Haunted Hollywood" or something like that, and it had clips from lots of different horror movies, and I watched it over and over when I was a kid because my mom wouldn't let me watch the movies themselves so seeing the clips was the next best thing for me. The clip shown from "The Nesting" was a great one. I won't spoil it, but for everyone who's seen "The Nesting," it's the part of the movie with the guy in the water and the arms. That was an awesome image when I was a kid. It haunted my dreams and thoughts every time I went swimming or wading in a pond. Based on that one clip alone, I've been obsessed with getting to see this movie someday for years now. I was worried that it would suck and thus thwart my expectations.

So did it disappoint me? The movie certainly has pacing problems. At 1 hour and 43 minutes, it's overlong and there are entire sequences that could have been cut out to make this a stronger movie. There's one scene where the dipshit main character stands in a room turning in circles for five minutes while various lines of dialogue repeat in her head. Dude, I was so pissed I wanted to fast forward the damn thing. The movie does have its charms, though. The main setting is creepy, the plot is spooky enough (when it isn't stepping on its own toes and taking too damn long to get to the point) and the lead actress isn't bad. I started out hating her, but she grew on me as the movie progressed (mostly because she either directly or indirectly caused the deaths of a bunch of people and she never seemed to broken up about it and no one seemed in any hurry to notify the police).

I can see why my mom never wanted me to watch this movie. It's pretty rapetastic, and I swear almost every male character in the film tries to rape someone at least once, not to mention most of them killed at least one person, too, and they didn't seem too bothered by this, either. what a bunch of reprobates. The sleazy nature of the characters adds another unsettling layer to the movie, and I dug it. I like it when things aren't always black and white. The movie has some serious flaws, but I have to admit, I did enjoy watching it, and after all these years, it was worth the wait.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Ok, I'll be honest, I have wanted to watch this movie since I first saw the poster when I was like, six years old, because I wanted to see little monsters crawling out of the toilet and killing people (I was a disturbed child). Honestly, you probably have to be six years old to truly enjoy this schlocky crap anyway. Little did I know back then that the fake puppet-looking creatures only crawl out of a toilet once, and the rest of the movie is about a 40 year old guy with bad hair who is supposed to be the 25 year old descendant of a really stupid looking guy (also with really bad hair...must run in the family) who uses his magic powers to summon puppet creatures to do his bidding, which doesn't seem to be all that bad since the creatures don't do much but lurk around in the shadows and growl at people. They do bite the people and tear at their flesh a bit, but


The people all magically come back to life at the end of the movie, so it's not a big deal. Perfect horror movie for kids who don't know any better. This movie is really terrible, but it was still kind of fun to watch it and make fun of it.

Hard Lessons: The George McKenna Story

I'd never heard of this movie before, but it starred Denzel Washington (who grew a mustache for the role so he wouldn't look twelve years old...ok, I have no proof of that but it FEELS true) so I checked it out. I love inspiring teacher movies, so I thought I would like this, and I was right. This is an "inspiring principal" story more than an inspiring teacher story, but it's a good movie and had me tearing up at the end. Watch out for Richard Masur as a jerkface teacher in the school.