Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Breakfast with Michael Douglas

“Prepare to die of delight!”

Who the fuck wouldn’t want to wake up to Michael Douglas making you breakfast on Thanksgiving morning?  Part of what I love about this scene is that I can’t tell if he actually kinda knows how to cook or if he has no goddamn clue what he’s doing.  Mike hams this one up big time with his over the shoulder egg shell tossing and midair French toast flipping ‘n shit.  It’s so precious. 

This is from Don’t Say a Word and is the most memorable part of the film.  It’s another Thanksgiving movie taking place almost entirely on the day of.  Thanksgiving pictures are rare enough to begin with but even fewer take place on the actual holiday.  Unfortunately this thriller from Gary Fleder (Kiss the Girls, Homefront) is terrible.  I don’t have the energy to give it a full review so here’s the gist: the plot makes no sense whatsoever and all of the characters, except Mike’s, are poorly written and developed.  It’s a little fun, especially in the beginning when you have no idea what’s going on, but as things develop it gets quite bad.  The ending is almost laughably appalling, almost.

But whatever, this one very brief scene is a nice moment.  Hope no one kidnaps your loved one tomorrow forcing you to pry information out of a demented young woman’s mind.  When would you have time to eat turkey and stuffing and all that shit?  That would really put a damper on the day.  Well anyway, happy Thanksgiving everyone!      

Monday, November 24, 2014

Son in Law

To say Pauly Shore just kind of happened is sort of insulting to the man because he had worked for a bunch of years in stand up and had his own show on MTV before launching into movies.  But at the same time even if you had been following him since his show, for which he got some national exposure, it still must’ve been surprising to suddenly see him in Encino Man two years later.  And then from that sidekick role it also must’ve been pretty weird to see him star in his very own vehicle just one year after that.  This was before the internet we all know today so to shoot that quickly to stardom basically the old fashioned way is a little crazy.

And so we have Son in Law, arguably Pauly Shore’s biggest break.  The story involves Midwesterner Rebecca (Carla Gugino (Snake Eyes, The Watchmen)) going off to college in the totally wild and rambunctious state of California.  Unfortunately she doesn’t adapt well and when her favorite horse doll gets sat on and broken she decides to call it quits.  Crawl (Pauly Shore) steps in to save the day though and persuades Rebecca to stay.  He teaches her how to relax and be a free spirit and in return she invites him to her family’s farm in South Dakota for Thanksgiving dinner.

*Side Note: Now you know why I’m talking about this one, it’s a Thanksgiving movie.  There are so few movies that highlight this holiday which is kind of a shame.  I’m glad it hasn’t been commercialized to death like Christmas or, to a lesser extent, Halloween but I wouldn’t mind seeing more pictures use Thanksgiving as a setting.  It’s just a great unpretentious holiday.  Anyway…

There are a couple of things that don’t add up from this setup.  First, this is a movie college.  The halls are overflowing with people trying to get to their room or their class, there are naked people just strolling around, there seems to be a party happening all the time in the dorms, there are kegs of beer being drank openly in the dorms, every inch of the rooms are decorated with all sorts of wacky crap and etc.  This college never has and never will exist in real life.

The next problem is the timeline.  Rebecca wants to drop out on Halloween which means she’s been there about two months.  Then Crawl intervenes and turns her whole life around by Thanksgiving.  That’s only about three weeks.  This girl completely changes her attitude and look (including buying all new clothes, cutting and dying her hair and getting a tattoo) in an extremely short period of time.  It’s not impossible but it’s such a tough sell considering how downhearted she was.  She’s not even remotely the same person and from the info we’re given drugs aren’t a factor in this dramatic change.

Ok fine, so then they go to the farm and the fish out of water story continues except Crawl is now the fish.  He shocks these very reserved farmers with his loud wardrobe, loud mouth and ADD behavior.  The guy has such a hard time focusing on any one thing and constantly makes these annoying sounds.  He’s a child, an obnoxious, boisterous, but well intentioned child.

The title comes from Rebecca’s old boyfriend (who didn’t go to college and stayed in South Dakota) wanting to propose to her but Rebecca asks Crawl to do something about it.  Crawl’s solution is to announce that Rebecca is already engaged…to him (Crawl).  They decide to keep up the front until the holiday is over and it’s time to go back to school.  But I don’t see the point of adding this into the plot.  The fish out of water thing along with the finding-your-true-self thing was enough really.  The fake engagement does end up figuring into the story, which I’ll give credit for, but they could’ve easily not had that angle in there.  Rebecca could find out any number of ways that her old boyfriend is a cheating asshole and that she can be true to both her Midwestern roots as well as her newly adopted Pauly Shore/surfer dude lifestyle.

You might’ve noticed I didn’t mention that Rebecca eventually realizes she loves Crawl.  It’s because that incredibly typical element to these types of pictures doesn’t happen.  Instead Rebecca and Crawl continue to lie to their family about the engagement all the way through to the end.  There’s no kiss or confirmation that the two main characters fell in love with each other.  They only mildly hint at it throughout the film.  That’s such a risky move and one that probably didn’t pay off with the audience.  I gotta admit it’s different though.                

Before I wrap this up I want to point out how terrible the boyfriend’s plot is to make Rebecca run back into his arms.  First thing he does is drug the chick he’s currently banging (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen (Saved by the Bell)) and Crawl.  Then he makes it look like the two had sex by, uh, throwing a blanket over them with their clothes still on?  Whatever, then Rebecca finds them and gets upset.  This is such a bullshit plan because, aside from the despicable act of drugging innocent people, he didn’t stage the scene correctly and didn’t ensure that Rebecca would catch them together.  She accidentally sees them in the barn so any number of people in the vicinity could’ve made the initial find.  And finally this scumbag boyfriend character proposes to Rebecca literally minutes after she finds Crawl with another woman.  He had to have thought in his head “this is the perfect moment to ask for her hand in marriage”.  What a fucking psycho.

So how does Son in Law stack up?  As far as the comedy goes it’s not funny pretty much at all.  The weird thing is that there aren’t a lot of actual jokes.  The filmmakers relied almost completely on Pauly Shore’s Weasel character to say things in a kooky way, dress outrageously (which means like a late 60’s/early 70’s rocker guy, so not that crazy), get in unusual situations (like stick this guy on a farm in the middle of nowhere) and overall clash with every other person in the movie.  It’s all a personality and not your typical setup and payoff routine.  In five minutes you’ve seen everything this character has to offer so to hang with him for ninety is a bit trying.

There’s also the classic lead-gregarious-character-brings-others-around-him-out-of-their-shell arc.  Crawl takes these stuffy, boring and complacent Midwestern folks and makes them realize that they can be carefree, fun loving and hip just like him.  Like Rebecca, her family turns their attitudes and values around practically overnight.  It’s more unbelievable than when Rebecca went through the same transformation.  There’s a strange side to this version of the trope though.  The family picks up Crawl’s behavior but Crawl doesn’t appear to pick up much of the family’s in return.  I think the only thing he learns is that farming is harder than he thought?  But even still he sucks at it on day one and then all of a sudden becomes good on day two.  So there isn’t much of a struggle there.  I dunno, another thing the filmmakers oddly left out.

This isn’t the worst picture ever and Pauly Shore isn’t the worst comedian ever either but I wouldn’t recommend it.  Even as a 90’s relic it’s a tough one.  Unless you’re really starving for a Thanksgiving movie don’t bother.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th

Just like Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy this one goes through the making of every Friday the 13th including the TV series and the 2009 remake.  Even though I don’t think the Fridays are quite as entertaining as the Nightmares there’s still plenty of outstanding filmmaking and horror insight to soak up.  We’re told how the hockey mask came about, we find out what the different actors brought to the role of Jason and how the whole damn thing started to begin with (they wanted to make a ripoff of Halloween).

I really like these comprehensive docs because when you examine all of the installments back to back it paints an extremely interesting picture.  My favorite parts are hearing the different director’s approaches and where they wanted to take the series.  Every film has its own frame of mind and it’s great to hear them explain the decisions they made and how they feel about it now looking back.

I would love to see more of these type of all-inclusive documentaries.  Of course the other big one in horror would be the Halloweens.  But what about action?  There could be Lethal Weapon, Dirty Harry, Die Hard and, eventually, The Fast and the Furious ones.  I know I would eat that shit right up and I’m sure a lot of you out there would too.

One last thing I feel I have to mention is that this movie is six and a half hours long.  But if you take it in bite sized pieces it goes down easy.      

Monday, November 10, 2014

Harefooted Halloween: The Witches

What I Liked: The first half is pretty dark, especially for a kids movie.

All of the makeup effects look great even though they can get kinda cartoony at times.

Anjelica Huston (The Addams Family) gives an over the top performance as the Grand High Witch that’s damn fun to watch.  She has a spooky witch look to her to begin with so the casting was spot on for this role.

The supporting players are excellent.  Bruno’s father was particularly entertaining.  The guy is such a dick with his constant complaining and arrogant attitude.  I could watch a whole film of just him and the Grand High Witch sharing awkward scenes together.

What I Didn’t Like: Unfortunately the second half really turns on the kid movie-ness with cute mice animatronics and general shenanigans.

This may seem kinda mean but the lead kid who plays Luke is not a very good actor.  He’s better when he doesn’t say anything because I do think his facial expressions are good.  However, he’s…uhh…sorta terrible with his dialogue.

The makeup and costume job they did for the Grand High Witch looks outstanding but we only get it for one scene.  It would’ve made sense to have her come back into her natural gruesome form at the end for the finale.  But they didn’t do that which leads to the next problem…

*Spoiler on this last point* There’s no final battle.  I guess it’s just how the book went (this was based off Roald Dahl’s book of the same name) but it doesn’t work very well, at least in film form.  The thing ends kind of unsatisfactorily with one of the supporting characters killing the Grand High Witch in her tiny rat form.  That’s bullshit.  Luke’s grandmother should’ve fought her.  She would’ve settled a decades old score by getting payback for the pinky the witch took from her (that’s another problem, albeit a minor one, we never learn how the grandmother lost her pinky to a witch).  I’m sure budgetary restraints plus an effort to follow the book prevented a bigger and more fitting ending from materializing.

Overall Impression: I remember this being kinda creepy when it came out and all these years later a bunch of that creepiness remains.  The first half is really good and surprisingly dark. 

I love that they start by telling us how witches work in this movie’s universe.  They throw in a lot of great details but some of them don’t even come into play, like that witches have no toes.  Really though, the atmosphere is well set.

The bravado of this picture is kind of astounding if you step back for a minute and think about it.  I mean one thing they do is kill off the parents after introducing them at the beginning of the film (that’s not a spoiler by the way).  That’s one of the ballsiest moves I’ve ever seen in a kids movie.  Usually if the parents are dead then they died before the movie starts and they totally could’ve done that here.  But no.  They wanted you see them alive and well and then kill them off a minute later.

There’s also the Grand High Witch’s maniacal plot of killing off every child in England.  She doesn’t merely want to murder more children than the year before, she wants to exterminate them.  This notion along with how the Grand High Witch rallies the crowd with sweeping speaking power and the eastern European accent and well…she’s Hitler essentially.  I wonder if that was how Dahl wrote the character or if that’s what they intentionally went with for the film or if it was unintentional or what.  And I really don’t think this is a stretch.  This character is clearly modeled after Hitler.  Again, kinda dark for a kids movie if you ask me.

If you also throw in shit like the kids convulse while they turn into mice and the Grand High Witch pushes a baby carriage down a hill potentially to its death just to lure out Luke from hiding then you got a pretty tilted production.

It’s no surprise that this wasn’t a hit and that it remains somewhat obscure to this day.  It doesn’t get romanticized like other non-hits from the same era like The Monster Squad or Near Dark.  Instead this one got quietly swept under the carpet.

Look, The Witches is no masterpiece but the first half alone is worth checking out for its eerie and somewhat unconventional setup.  If you’re looking for something that isn’t very scary but at the same time has a bit of a nasty edge then this just might be the ticket.  

Friday, November 7, 2014

Harefooted Halloween: Hellbound: Hellraiser II

What I Liked: The story is off the fucking wall.  This picks up right where the first installment left off so now the daughter is the focus and has to escape the clutches of Pinhead and his gang.  And the plot really doesn’t waiver from that.  Like, they tried for a minute to have your conventional romance in here between the daughter and some guy but then they said “fuck it” and went to hell instead.

This may be a strange thing to bring up but the acting is much improved over the original.  The characters feel more settled and like this is how they were supposed to be all along.

Just like the first one, incredible makeup effects.  The design for Dr. Channard is especially crazy with that giant arm thing attached to his head and those tentacles shooting out of his hands and jeez.  Whoever came up with that was on some heavy shit.

What I Didn’t Like: The biggest problem I have is that they recap the first film way too much.  The opening is the last fifteen minutes of the first film condensed.  And then later they do the same thing and summarize the other hour and fifteen mins.  There wasn’t a need to do that.  You’re making a sequel guys.  People seeing this have seen the first one and if they haven’t well then that’s their problem.

Overall Impression: This is one whacked out fuckin’ film.  It’s a trippy journey to hell that doesn’t let up once things start rolling (which is pretty quick).

All of these bizarre images flood the screen like a baby with its mouth sewn shut, a mental patient that sees imaginary maggots crawling all over his skin, a woman slipping out of her skin and all sorts of other shit.  If you want weird, they got some nice weird for ya.

But what makes this work so well is that it does all of the things a sequel should.  The main character grows and becomes stronger and wiser, the villain is more threatening than the first, the stakes are higher, new engaging characters are introduced, we actually get to see someone transform into a Cenobite and get to see a whole bunch of the Cenobite’s world.  It ticks all the right boxes.

This is just as good (or maybe even better) than the first.  Once you slip into that nightmare you don’t escape.  Like the original they keep the focus where you want it.  There aren’t unnecessary subplots or awkward lulls in the middle of the movie.  This is pretty much all meat folks.

Now this is not for everyone.  If you liked the first Hellraiser then you should definitely check out the two sequels (Hellraiser III is also very good, but I wouldn’t recommend venturing beyond that because shit goes way down hill).  It’s possible number two here might be the best of the litter.

I love that these movies actually live up their namesakes and raise some goddamn hell.  Good work.  See it.