innocent_man: (bunk)
Drop Dead Fred is a movie I only own because Domino's Pizza did a promotion, like, a decade ago where you got a terrible movie with their terrible pizza. I've never touched it until now. I wish I had ordered Papa John's instead.

Anyway, the movie is about Lizzie (Phoebe Cates, the girl from Gremlins), an emotionally abused woman on the verge of divorce to her cheating husband (Tim Matheson in a mullet) and bullied by her terrible mother (Marsha Mason). After losing her car, her job and what shreds of her dignity remain all in one day (she loses her job as a court reporter, by the way, because her car is stolen and she's too stupid to call someone collect at the courthouse and report this, oh and I'm pretty sure if you're a court reporter a judge can't just fire you on the spot, because I'm sure you belong to a union STUPID MOVIE), she moves back in with her mother (at mom's insistence) and discovers the box in which her childhood imaginary friend, the titular Drop Dead Fred (Rik Mayall, aka Lord Flashheart from Blackadder) was imprisoned.

Whew. It only get stupider.

Fred proceeds to wreck her life. But see, before we go any further, here's why this movie is terrible. Fred is, supposedly, an imaginary friend. But he does things in the real world. He tracks dog shit on a rug. He breaks things, he moves Lizzie's body. He writes her a note, which her mother is also able to read, which cements that he is a real, physical presence. He sinks a woman's house boat (Carrie Fisher - the woman, not the boat), and then said woman flips out and attacks a chair where Lizzie tells her Fred is sitting.

The movie improves incrementally if you view Fred as a World of Darkness-esque spirit of chaos, but that doesn't help the other issues. Issues like, Lizzie's childhood buddy (Ron Eldard) who falls in love with Lizzie after she acts crazy (and not, like, quirky-crazy, schizophrenic). Her father walks out on them when Lizzie is a little girl, in protest of her terrible mother sealing Fred up in a box, but we never see him again. Her shrink tells her to take these pills, which "deactivate" the part of the brain that deals with "imaginary friend syndrome."

ARRRRRGH. The script is so amazingly bad, lazy and insulting that it's a wonder anyone, especially Fisher (who should know better) signed on. Mayall, who is capable of being funny, just yells and acts horrible throughout. There is not one redeeming person in the movie, and nothing about it is fun to watch.

So glad it's off the list. Now I can look forward to never seeing it again.

My Grade: F
Rewatch Value: IINSIAIFWT

Next up: Drop Dead Gorgeous
innocent_man: (beast)
Don't Look in the Basement!, also called The Forgotten, is a drive-in movie horror flick from 1973. Set at a sanitarium with far too little staff, it follows the patients of Dr. Stephens (Michael Harvey). He encourages them to act out their obsessions in some wibbly attempt to get them to confront them. This works out OK for some of them; Danny (Jessie Kirby) is just a walking trollface, and just wants to get up in everyone's business, but Judge (Gene Ross) starts off the movie whacking a log with an ax (under Dr. Stephen's direction), and then turns the ax on him while he's distract with another staff member (Jessie Lee Fulton) trying to resign.

So the next day, a new nurse (Rosie Holotik) shows up for work, and the only amazing thing is that she stays. The doors have no locks, the inmates have surprising access to sharp objects, and the first night she's there someone cuts out Old Mrs. Callingham's (Rhea MacAdams) tongue. All along, Sam (Bill McGhee), a large, sweet and childlike fellow, says he's been talking to Dr. Stephens and passes along messages.

The movie is gory and actually pretty creepy. It hasn't aged well effects-wise, but the final half hour where Nurse Charlotte (having learned that her supposed boss, Dr. Masters (Annabelle Weenick) is really an inmate and she's the only "sane" person here) finds the inmates truly going round the bend and indulging in their violent fantasies, is nicely atmospheric. The movie ends with Charlotte escaping and running, and Sam, having witnessed the others kill Dr. Masters, slaughtering all of them and then sitting down to a popsicle...and then weeping as he realizes what he's done. The end credits show everyone's picture, but they used the pictures of them dead and blooded, which, again, was a nice choice in establishing the "GAH" factor.

That said, it's not a movie I think I feel the need to watch again. I'm sure there are better examples of the genre.

My grade: C-
Rewatch Value: IINISAIFWT

Next up: Down with Love
innocent_man: (bi)
Alexander is a myth-ish telling of the life of Alexander the Great, directed by Oliver Stone, which means the movie has a big slice of WTF.

Alexander (Colin Farrel) is born into a truly fucked up family, with Angelina Jolie as his mother and one-eyed Val Kilmer as his father. He grows up with his mother literally telling him he's the son of Zeus, and his dad being all drunk and rapey. Aristole (Christopher Plummer) is his mentor, who tries to keep him realistic, but he winds up watching his father get murdered, maybe with his mother's help, and then undertakes a campaign into Persia and proceeds to conquer the world, marries a Babylonian princess, doesn't have kids, makes out with some men along the way, and finally gets spear by a dude on an elephant, survives that, drinks some poisoned (?) wine, and dies. Finally.

Like I said, it's a Stone film, so it goes on a lot longer than it should have. The cast is good, the acting is good, the dialog isn't horrible, but the movie is endless, non-chronological, and not all that interesting. It kind of tries to be epic and it kind of tries to be Braveheart, but it winds up be just kind of unpleasant and interminable. Weird camera work toward the end as he's dying, and some wibbling about the difference between myth and reality and comparisons between Alexander and Achilles and Prometheus that never really go anywhere.

Basically, we could have left this one in Oklahoma and I'd have been just as happy. But Michelle figured maybe we'd get to see Colin Farrel make out with Jared Leto, and that's an ambition worth pursuing, I suppose.

My grade: D
Rewatch Value: IINSIAIFWT

Next up: Beastmaster
innocent_man: (Default)
Christmas Evil is one of several "Santa-as-slasher" movies from the 80s. The more famous one is Silent Night, Deadly Night, but this one came first, released, apparently, under the title You Better Watch Out. In it, Brandon Maggert (Fiona Apple's father, fer chrissakes) plays Harry Stradling, who goes a little bonkers as a boy watching his mother and father (dressed as Santa) getting kinky. The implication is that he wasn't quite right to begin with.

But anyway, as an adult he suffers a nervous breakdown and kills a few people dressed as Santa Claus. The issue, here, is that Christmas Evil isn't a slasher movie. It actually has more in common with Taxi Driver than Halloween. Harry Stradling isn't really a serial killer, he's an out-and-out mental case. He spies on the kids in the neighborhood and writes down their behavior in a Good or Bad book, and then delivers toys (which he makes himself) or a sack of dirt accordingly. He saves his real wrath for the adults who take advantage of him, but he really isn't thinking this through. He just wants to be Santa and be loved for it, but when that weird fantasy comes into conflict with reality, people get hurt.

The movie is fucked up, but it's not fucked up in the same way that other slasher movies are. The cinematography is kind of amateurish, but the score is nicely creepy and jarring places, and Maggert's performance ranges nicely from pathetic to maudlin to holy-shit creepy.

The movie wasn't at all what I was expecting, but it was a much better film than I thought, and I can't believe I'm saying that. That said, I don't have any particular desire to see it again. It's an interesting movie and it's apparently developed something of a cult following, but eh. There are better slasher flicks, and if I want to see a man's descent into madness, I'll watch Taxi Driver again.

My Grade: B-
Rewatch Value: Low to IINSIAIFWT

Next up: A Christmas Story
innocent_man: (moon)
A Chorus Line is based on the stage musical of the same name. Unlike Chicago, however, this one didn't transition well to screen.

I saw A Chorus Line in Toledo some years back, and I really enjoyed it. It's the story of an audition for a Broadway musical, and all the folks that are trying to get into the chorus. It's not about the leads, just the folks who will be background dancers. But once the pool of potentials has been whittled down from a couple hundred to only sixteen (with eight parts to cast), the director (Michael Douglas, in the film) tells them he wants to know about them. Instead of acting, they need to just communicate.

And what we get then is reflections, songs and confessions from these folks, starting out just performing and trying like hell to be chipper and memorable, but eventually giving way to real emotion. In the midst of all of this we have Cassie (played by Alyson Reed), the director's ex, who's back to try and get a job.

Now, in the stage, this plotline is present and important, but it doesn't take over the show. Zach (the director) comes and talks to Cassie while the others are learning a routine (and that's where we get her song, "The Music and the Mirror"), but she doesn't show up late and try to stop the whole process. And of course there aren't any bloody flashbacks.

Chicago worked as a movie, as did Little Shop of Horrors (we'll get to the L's) because it respected the source material. It cut things that needed to be cut to fit the concept of the movie, but it didn't add whole subplots. Ditto Little Shop (the ending was changed pretty severely, but I think that worked and I'll get to that when it's relevant. Probably 2013 at this rate). But here, songs were changed (seriously, what the shit was that "Surprise" bullshit that Richie sings?) or omitted, and we get 30 extra minutes of screen time devoted to the boring-ass subplot of Cassie/Zach romance, while the much better dialog from the show is going on onstage and being ignored.

Plus, the singing just sounds whiny and there's too goddamn much synth, because this was the 80s. Mmph. I'm gonna go buy the Broadway soundtrack and cleanse my palate.

My grade: D+
Rewatch Value: IINSIAIFWT

Next up: A Christmas Carol
innocent_man: (Default)
Blackmail is an early (like, 1929) Alfred Hitchcock film, based on a ply. Lonely girl's cop boyfriend ditches her on their date, she hooks up with a sensitive artist and unwisely goes up to his place, he rapes her (it's implied, though obviously not shown), she stabs him and leaves him. The "blackmail" bit comes when the dude who was looking for the artist (who is apparently a shifty character) sees the girl coming out of his apartment, puts two and two together, and tries to blackmail the boyfriend.

The movie is...well, it's really only useful as a way to see Hitchcock before he became Hitchcock. The opening 20 minutes of the movie don't need to be there. The exciting bits are while the girl is in the apartment, but after that, it's kind of plodding. And then the resolution is the blackmailer getting told, "Fuck off, you're a suspect in the murder, so we're just going to let you take the fall". He runs, climbs the British Museum, falls and dies.

Some nifty camera work, especially for the time, and some good facial expression acting from Anna Ondra (who plays the girl). But beyond that, I can't say I'm looking forward to watching my other old Hitchcock films, if they're like this.

My grade: D
Rewatch value: IINSIAIFWT

Next up: Blade
innocent_man: (drama)
Beaches was Heather's movie when she was 12. It's 80s as all hell and it shows, oh my sweet lord. Shoulder pads! Big hair! Bette Midler!

In brief: Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey meet as children, spend their lives writing each other letters and occasionally visiting and being friends. Milder marries for money and position and ambition for stardom, Hershey marries a nice young lawyer in her tax bracket, they both get divorced, Hershey gets pregnant, has daughter, gets viral myopathy and dies. Oy.

OK, I think much of the love for this movie has to be nostalgia. Better Midler, I think, shouldn't act. I like her singing, but when she tries to come off as a real person she fails miserably (I rather liked her in Ruthless People, though). Barbara Hershey, OK, not bad, but then the script is just kind of flimsy and maudlin and treacle. The music's good, though.

And then at the end, we get "The Wind Beneath My Wings," which out of context is a nifty song that you hope gets dedicated to you, but in context shows what a selfish and rather terrible person Midler's character is. I don't think their friendship is dysfunctional, but I do think that the movie jumps around so much (their letters go from "girls are 11" to "girls are in college" with nothing in between, and Hershey's daughter goes from newborn to six in one jump cut) that I can't help but feel that something important was missing.

Anyway, it's very much a chick flick. It's not the worst one I've ever seen, but it's far from the best. I think that since I'm seeing it now, without the experience of seeing it when it came out and it had a chance of being somewhat contemporary, I just can't see it as anything special.

My grade: C+ (for the music)
Rewatch value: IINSIAIFWT

Next up: Beauty and the Beast
innocent_man: (squirrel)
Bambi is a Disney cartoon released in 1942. You all know one thing about it: Bambi's mom gets shot by a hunter, in a scene that made everyone wail. And, according to legend, basically caused an explosion in the deer population because no hunter wanted to explain to his kids why he was going out to kill Bambi's mom. (I sort of doubt it.)

The movie is pretty, I'll give it that. It's a great example of the animation of the time, it's gorgeous, etc. The voice acting is OK. Personally I think that adult Bambi, Thumper and Flower had voices that didn't fit their characters, but what do I know.

Where I really get bored is the story, such as it is. Bambi is born, inexplicably called a "prince," he makes friends with a rabbit and a skunk, his mom gets shot, he humps a doe, there's a fire, humans are the bad guys, renewal, roll credits. There's very little in the way of dialog or story, it's basically a year in the life of this buck. And I guess that has its own merit, but I also think it hasn't aged especially well (particularly held up to The Lion King).

Anyway, it feels more like a rejected Fantasia suite than a feature film. And because it's got some bad associations bound up with it (neither Sarah nor Teagan would watch it with me because of Bambi's mom), I'm comfortable giving it my lowest possible rewatch value rating.

My grade: C
Rewatch value: IINSIAIFWT

Next up: BASEKetball
innocent_man: (bi)
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective was Jim Carrey's big break. Yeah, I know, In Living Color, but really, I remember this movie from when it was huge.

I don't think I ever saw it in theaters, but I know I saw it on video largely because it was such a phenomenon. And then I bought it at Video Connection for, like, five bucks, because it's mindless and funny.

It's interesting now as a snapshot into the comedy of the 90s. Carrey doesn't get to just be all rubberfaced and pop around talking with his butt anymore. His star fell in a few years, and honestly I'm OK with that. I don't think this movie's aged especially well, really. There's a lot of homophobia, a lot of not especially well thought-out plot points, and a lot of really lazy dialog.

Look, it is possible to make dumb comedy in which you care about the characters. It is possible to do slapstick in such a way that it's internally consistent and makes as much as it needs to. Ventura doesn't do it. It falls back on cheap sight gags and Carrey being loud. And watching Sean Young trying to out-overact Jim Carrey is just painful. Actually, Sarah and I decided that a good drinking game would be to take a shot whenever an actor looks embarrassed to be in the movie.

And then there's the whole "Carrey finds out he kissed a man and then burns his clothes in a clear parody of response to rape." Any movie in which a summary can legitimately include the term "parody of response to rape" raises questions, IMO.

My grade: D
Rewatch value: 10 years ago I'd have said medium-low, now I say, IINSIAIFWT. (If I Never See It Again I'm Fine With That. Remember that rating, it'll come up again.)

Next in the list: The Addams Family

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