December 31, 2012

FKMG's 2012 Movie Awards


Every website and blog dedicated to movies trucks out their annual year-end lists, so why should FKMG be any different? We tried to do something a little different than the usual best and worst, especially since we spend most of our time on this site living in the past. At any rate, here's our 2012 year-end wrap up of the good, the bad and the ugly...

WORST TREND, PART 1: Adapting single novels into two or three separate movies to milk maximum profits from gullible suckers obviously happy to pay twice the price for a single story. Gone with the Wind was over a thousand pages long. No one had trouble adapting that into one movie.

WORST TREND, PART 2: Re-releasing old movies in 3-D. I can (sort of) understand why Pixar's done it few times, but...The Phantom Menace? Really, George, you can't polish a turd.

WORST TREND, PART 3: 3-D in general.

BEST AUDIENCE-ROUSING SCENE: Hulk beats the living shit out of Loki in The Avengers. What a puny god.

BEST WTF? ENDING: The Dark Knight Rises. Did Batman/Bruce Wayne really escape that nuclear blast at the end of the movie, or did Christopher Nolan just create the biggest film fuck-up of all time? He's not saying...and I wouldn't either.

FOR CHRISSAKES, JUST DO ANOTHER MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE MOVIE!: Tom Cruise in Rock of Ages and Jack Reacher.

BEST MOVIE THAT LEAVES ABSOLUTELY ZERO ROOM FOR A SEQUEL: The Cabin in the Woods. Anyone coming up with a follow-up to this one is either a story genius or greedy as hell.

MOVIES THAT WERE BETTER THAN THEY HAD A RIGHT TO BE: Ted, The Amazing Spider-Man, Wreck-It Ralph, 21 Jump Street.

PLEASE STOP!: Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler, Gerard Butler, Kristen Stewart, any teen pop star contemplating a 3-D concert movie, Tyler Perry, Robert DeNiro (at least stop agreeing to do films before reading the script), Ben Stiller, Uwe Boll (of course), Oliver Stone, Tim Burton, Sacha Baron Cohen.

BEST MOVIE NEWS: 1. Disney buys LucasFilm and immediately announces a new Star Wars trilogy. 2. They will not be made by George Lucas. 3. They've already hired Lawrence Kasdan (who co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back) to work on the script for the first one.

SADDEST MOVIE NEWS: 1. The Aurora shooting during the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. 2. Charles Durning, one of the all-time great character actors, passed away on Christmas Eve. 3. Spike Lee continues to be a self-righteous dick, condemning Django Unchained without actually having seen it.

JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN DOESN'T MEAN YOU SHOULD: Peter Jackson shot The Hobbit in 3-D at 48 frames per second, making it like an episode of General Hospital.

BEST PROOF THAT NOT EVERY BRAND NAME SHOULD BECOME A MOVIE: Battleship, John Carter, The Lorax, The Three Stooges.

BEST FAMILY MOVIE THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN HUGE: Rise of the Guardians

BEST SEQUEL NOBODY ASKED FOR: Resident Evil: Retribution. More of the same, but what the hell...it was fun, and what were you expecting anyway? You don't go to McDonald's for steak & lobster, do you?

WORST SEQUEL NOBODY ASKED FOR: Paranormal Activity 4. Yet another once-decent idea run into the ground. Speaking of which...

ENOUGH ALREADY!, PART 1: Found-footage movies.

ENOUGH ALREADY!, PART 2: Reboots. What a stupid term. Just because you're starting over before the corpse of the last franchise entry is even cold doesn't mean it isn't a remake. Speaking of which...

QUIT WHILE YOU'RE AHEAD, PART 1: There's already talk of Warner Bros. rebooting Batman yet again, starting with DC's Justice League. Please...don't.

QUIT WHILE YOU'RE AHEAD, PART 2: Dear Mr. Ackroyd...no one gives a damn about Ghostbusters 3 if you don't have Bill Murray. Didn't Blues Brothers 2000 teach you anything?

UH...OKAY...THANKS, I GUESS: Men in Black III, Taken 2, The Expendables 2, Titanic 3-D, American Reunion, Ice Age: Continental Draft, Madagascar 3, The Bourne Legacy, Wrath of the Titans.

MOST BLATANT CASH GRAB: Peter Jackson milking three movies out of The Hobbit...a 300 page novel.

BEST GEEK DEBATE: (Tie) 1. Who should be the next Batman? 2. Who should direct Star Wars Episode VII? I actually have the answer to the first one...nobody should be the next Batman.

BEST PROOF THAT SOME MOVIEGOERS WILL DO WHATEVER HOLLYWOOD TELLS THEM: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Breaking Dawn Part 2.
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BEST PROOF THAT NOT EVERY MOVIEGOER WILL DO WHATEVER HOLLYWOOD TELLS THEM: Total Recall, Red Dawn.

BEST COMEDY: Breaking Dawn Part 2

BEST ZOMBIE MOVIE: Breaking Dawn Part 2

BEST MOVIE WITH THE MOST PLOT HOLES: Prometheus

BEST EXAMPLE NOT ALL MOVIES AIMED AT TEENS ARE STUPID: The Hunger Games

BEST BRUCE WILLIS MOVIE (OUT OF THE DOZEN HE DOES EVERY YEAR): Looper

BEST MOVIEGOERS: Those who go to midnight premieres in order to be the very first to see a film. Their dedication thins the crowd for those who prefer to see it at a more reasonable hour.

WORST MOVIEGOERS: 1. Those who unconsciously narrate what they're watching. 2. Those who bring children to R-rated movies. 3. Any asshole who still whips out their cell phone at any time in the theater, even if the film hasn't started yet.

BIGGEST ASSHOLES: The NRA, who claim movies and video games empower nutjobs to go on killing sprees, not the arsenals stashed in their homes.

BEST TRAILER FOR A 2013 MOVIE: World War Z...Brad Pitt vs. zombies. Even though it doesn't appear to be too faithful to Max Brooks' novel, this looks all kinds of awesome.

BEST SPECIAL EFFECTS: With all due respect to The Hobbit, The Avengers, Life of Pi and Cloud Atlas, the effects in Ted were the most convincing; we really felt like we were watching a pot-smoking stuffed bear.

BEST GRATUITOUSLY VIOLENT MOVIE: Dredd 3-D

BEST SIGN THAT EVERYONE IS FINALLY SICK OF ADAM SANDLER: That's My Boy

BEST UPDATE OF A MOVIE WE CAN'T WAIT TO SEE: The fan-shot photo of Tom Hardy as Max in Mad Max: Fury Road.

MOST WELCOME RETURN: Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall, Robert Zemeckis' first live-action movie in over a decade (Flight).

LEAST WELCOME RETURN: Barbra Streisand in The Guilt Trip, Mel Gibson in Get the Gringo, Billy Crystal in Parental Guidance.

BEST MOVIE ALMOST NO ONE WATCHED: Killing Them Softly

BEST MOVIE EVERYONE FEELS OBLIGATED TO SEE BECAUSE IT'LL PROBABLY BE NOMINATED FOR A BILLION OSCARS: Lincoln

COME ON, PLEASE BE FUNNY AGAIN!: Bill Murray

YOU WERE FUNNY ONCE...ON TV: Kevin James

BEST CAMEO: Cillian Murphy in The Dark Knight Rises.

ACTOR MOST-LIKELY TO HAVE A RESPECTABLE CAREER NOW THAT THE TWILIGHT SAGA IS OVER: Robert Pattinson

WE ALREADY KNEW YOU COULD ACT, BUT WOW, YOU'RE KIND OF A HOTTIE, TOO: Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises.

WE THOUGHT YOU WERE AN ASSHOLE, BUT IT TURNS OUT YOU'RE AWESOME: Christian Bale shows up at the bedsides of those injured in the Aurora shooting at the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises.

WHO KNEW?: Having directed one good movie (Gone Baby Gone) and two great ones (The Town, Argo), looks like we were all wrong about Ben Affleck. The prospect of him directing The Stand now sounds pretty cool.

December 30, 2012

THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE: A Dullard's New Year


Starring Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Carol Lynley, Roddy McDowall, Stella Stevens, Shelly Winters, Jack Albertson, Leslie Nielson. Directed by Ronald Neame. (1972, 117 min).

New Year's Eve used to be a big deal. Well, not-so-much a big deal as an excuse to get completely shitfaced and engage in the type of douchebag behavior I would never dream of any other time unless it was a college road trip or bachelor party. Back then, New Year's Eve was one of the best days of the year, meaning New Year's Day ended up being one of the worst, though not quite as bad as those poor souls onboard the SS Poseidon.

After I met Francie (my future wife), I still celebrated the new year with similar hubris, and even though I'd still wake up with dry heaves and a pounding skull, at least I no longer had to try and remember the name of the person I woke up next to.

In the years after Francie and I got married, the novelty of going out and partying on New Year's Eve slowly began to wear off. At first it was because we couldn't find anyone to watch our kids, but eventually it was because we'd rather spend that time with them. When my oldest daughter, Natalie, was around nine or ten, me and her started ringing in the new year by watching SyFy's annual Twilight Zone marathon (Francie was usually in bed by then...it's been several years since she was even awake at the stroke of midnight).

But, alas, Natalie has outgrown TV nights with Dad, and Lucy (my youngest) is more into zombie flicks and Spongebob Squarepants than classic Rod Serling. So of late, I've spent the turning of the new year alone.

Well, not quite alone. I've since started my own little tradition of watching The Poseidon Adventure on New Year's Eve.

This movie was the real start of the 70's disaster movie trend, laying the blueprint which would be followed by subsequent films: a brief set-up, then the big crisis, followed by various Hollywood stars forced to deal with the dilemma, half of whom will die. While 1970's Airport had some elements of the disaster formula, the main focus was on various characters and subplots. Not so with The Poseidon Adventure, which skips most of the formalities and gets down to the business of killing people. The real stars of the movie are the special effects team and set designers; the film looks great, and while the effects may seem a bit quaint in the wake of Titanic, they are still pretty impressive.

Don't tell me how to act...I was in The French
fucking Connection
!
The story is a simple one: On New Year's Eve during her final voyage, the SS Poseidon is hit by a massive tidal wave which capsizes the ship. Most of the passengers are in the ballroom celebrating the new year, and when the wave hits, they are tossed about like rag dolls, falling through glass, getting squashed by tables, pianos, dinner carts, etc. The few survivors, led by Reverend Frank Scott (Gene Hackman), must now make their way through the capsized ship to reach the hull and hope for a rescue before it sinks for good. It ain't a great film (if you don't agree, you haven't seen it lately), but if you can get through the laughably bad first thirty minutes, The Poseidon Adventure offers a guilty good time, with such destructive thrills as underwater explosions, passengers getting pummeled by torrents of water, and Shelley Winters' dress hiking up to reveal her massive underpants (during which time you’ll want to gouge your eyes out).

The movie also introduces several elements to the disaster formula that would become standard in later films: the character who exists solely to contradict every idea the hero has; the Oscar-baiting song interlude; the “company man” whose obsession with the bottom-dollar threatens everyone; dozens of extras whose collectively stupid behavior in the face of danger kills them all; the couple who falls in love (or rekindles their love) just before one of them dies; the totally obnoxious kid you wish would die but almost never does.

Just to show you how dull my New Year's celebrations have become, I don't simply pop The Poseidon Adventure into my Blu-Ray player and kick back; I wait until exactly 11:35:19 PM on New Year's Eve. I've timed it so when the clock strikes midnight in my living room, it's midnight on the Poseidon, because it happens 24 minutes and 41 seconds after the movie starts (right when the disaster hits). While my neighbors are outside lighting firecrackers or banging pots & pans, I'm watching an ensemble cast experiencing a much worse New Year's Day than I am.

Sure, there are more exciting ways to ring in the new year. Thirty years & twenty pounds ago, if someone showed me how my future-self celebrated this holiday, I'd be laughing my ass off, shaking my head and screaming "No fucking way." But hey, for a middle-aged movie geek like me it's fun, and at least I don't wake up in a strange place with a twisting hangover and wondering if I should find a drug store on the way home to take care of that insatiable itch in my groin.

And if you think this sounds like a dull way to spend New Year's Eve, I'll have you know this old party animal might just liven things up this year by watching the remake, Poseidon, instead. In that one, midnight strikes exactly 14 minutes and 23 seconds into the movie, and it's Fergie who does the countdown (I'll bet she ain't visiting your house this year). Not only that, I wouldn't be subjected yet-again to Ms. Winters' gelatinous underpants.

December 27, 2012

EVENT HORIZON and a Tale of Two Bowlers


Starring Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan, Joely Richardson, Richard T. Jones, Jason Isaacs, Sean Pertwee. Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. (1997, 95 min).

After my dad retired, he decided to dedicate much of his spare time to bowling, a game he’s always loved.

Back in his younger days, he was good enough to participate in regional tournaments throughout the northwest (in fact, I think that's how he first met my mother). Like a lot of us, though, the game eventually had to take a back seat to bigger responsibilities. His beloved bag & ball sat in the back of his closet most of the time, only taken out on those rare occasions when bowling was part of his kids’ birthday plans. But now, comfortably retired with both kids out of the house, he’s re-embraced the game with state-of-the-art equipment (including a wrist-brace that looks like a sci-fi weapon) and a serious commitment to improving his skills. And, damn, he's good. The guy can make the ball hang at the edge of the gutter forever before it hooks to blast through all ten pins like a weed whacker. More often than not, his scores are in the 200s, and there was even one time not too long ago when he missed a perfect game by only one strike.

I enjoy bowling too. The difference is I suck. A good game for me means breaking 100 or at least avoiding a gutter ball. I’m clumsy, have no form, can’t put any spin on the ball and often fall on my ass during my release (much to the amusement of those I‘m bowling with). Still, there are rare occasions when I play well enough to convince myself I’m pretty good. Hell, there was one family outing when I threw enough strikes and spares to actually beat my dad (which must have killed him, since everyone knows he’s the best bowler in the family). But honestly, I have no fucking idea what I did to rack up such a score. It was just luck, of course, because Dad got his groove back for the second game that night and slaughtered everyone by over a hundred pins.

I guess you could call my dad the Ridley Scott of the bowling world. Even though he’ll never be Dick Weber, Dad’s skills are obvious to anyone watching. Similarly, Scott’s a very good director, and even though he’s no Spielberg, he’s made enough great movies that when he makes bad ones (like A Good Year, G.I. Jane and Robin Hood) we don’t reassess his abilities. So, if my dad is bowling’s Ridley Scott, that must make me the sport’s Paul W.S. Anderson.

Paul W.S. Anderson is, for the most part, a shitty director who makes shitty movies, a lot of them based on video games. He’s never had an original idea of his own, and most of the tricks in his bag he ripped off from better directors. He’s probably most-famous for the Resident Evil franchise (directing three of them), diluted zombie movies for undemanding mallrats. Those movies play like the video games they are based on. In fact, most of Anderson's movies play like video games. For the most part, he's shown no growth or improvement as a filmmaker (just like my bowling game). Each new film is no better or worse than his others...except one.

Anderson's third film, Event Horizon, is his equivalent to my single awesome bowling round, and Citizen-fucking-Kane compared to all of the other movies on his resume. It’s also one of his only films that isn’t a remake, video game adaptation or based on a comic book. That’s not saying it’s monumentally original; Event Horizon draws a ton of obvious inspiration from other films, Alien and The Shining in particular. But since when has originality really mattered? After all, nobody cared that Speed was simply Die Hard on a bus.

"Look...I drew boobies."
The year is 2047 and the crew of the rescue ship, Lewis & Clark, are assigned to venture out to Neptune to investigate the sudden reappearance of the Event Horizon, a ship built to create its own black holes in order to travel faster than light, but inexplicably disappeared seven years earlier. Accompanying the crew is the ship’s designer, Martin Weir (Sam Neill), who’s obsessed with finding out where it’s traveled. None of the other crew, especially Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne) care about all that...they just want to rescue any survivors and get the hell back home. There are no survivors, however, and the ship itself, having returned from a dimension beyond anyone’s rational imagination (presumably Hell), now seems to be a living, evil entity that wants to take the Lewis & Clark crew back to where it returned from.

Storywise, Event Horizon is somewhat simplistic, disjointed and ambiguous, but what it sometimes lacks in narrative it more than makes up for in tone. This is a deliberately paced, creepy-ass movie that establishes a feeling of dread in the very first scene and maintains it throughout. This is also arguably the first movie since the original Alien that makes space seem like a shitty place to be, especially since the crew of the Lewis & Clark have traveled way too far into the outer reaches of our solar system for their own good. And unlike every other Anderson film, there’s a lot of attention paid to the characters themselves. We learn enough about each one that, when something horrible does happen to them, their fate has more impact.

In addition, the movie simply looks scary. In terms of establishing a mood, it may be the best looking sci-fi/horror movie since Alien. The Event Horizon itself is an ominously creepy ship and becomes character in its own right, just like the Overlook Hotel in The Shining.

Sure, there are plenty of the usual horror tricks (false scares, gratuitous gore, and a little too much exposition at the end), but you could place such accusations on most horror movies. My point is Event Horizon may not be a classic, but it is the one movie where Paul W.S. Anderson displayed skills as a true filmmaker to create something dark, moody and foreboding without dumbing things down for the video game crowd. Like my awesome bowling round where I beat my dad, he hasn’t done anything worth a shit since, meaning Event Horizon was either a happy accident, or he just stopped giving a damn once the Resident Evil movies inflated his bank account. Personally, I’d like to think it’s the former, because even now, whenever I go bowling, I aspire to reach the same glory as that one time I beat my dad, the game’s Ridley Scott. I like to think I still have another great game in me, even if I have no idea how to achieve it.

Maybe Paul W.S. Anderson does too.

December 21, 2012

2012 and the Problem with Expiration Dates


Starring John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton, Danny Glover, Woody Harrelson. Directed by Roland Emmerich. 2009, 158 min).

Today is December 21, 2012. The end of days according to the Mayan calendar. Of course, we're still here. No solar flare erupted to heat up Earth's core; no cataclysmic tidal waves; no super-volcanic eruptions. I haven't watched the news yet today, but I'm pretty certain L.A.didn't slide into the sea either.

I'm glad we're all still here, mainly because season three of The Walking Dead isn't over yet. On the down side, though, it looks like I'll have to retract the letter of resignation I submitted to my boss, which may not be easy since it consisted of only two words: suck and it.

Despite the plethora of doomsday documentaries popping up on the History Channel over the past few weeks (maybe it should be called the We're History Channel), I don't think too many folks spent sleepless nights worried about 12/21/12. If that were true, most of us would have spent yesterday crapping ourselves on an hourly basis. Doomsday years have come and gone over the centuries, and I'm looking forward to the next predicted one. Personally, I'm putting my money of 2036, when there's a giant asteroid out there which has the remote possibility of hitting us (really, look it up). We love watching ourselves die as a species, and director Roland Emmerich has made a decent living showing us our possible extinction.

But as entertainment, the end of the world is always fun.  My personal favorite of his is The Day After Tomorrow, which may play fast and loose with science, but comes across as at-least being plausible.

But that was just a warm-up for 2012, arguably the mother of all disaster movies. It's spectacular depiction of our global demise reaches orgasmic levels every fifteen minutes or so, making Armageddon look like a Saturday night, SyFy channel cheesefest. It's also the funniest disaster movie since Twilight. Only a movie like this would have a limo driver/failed author (John Cusack) repeatedly out-run volcanic eruptions, catastrophic quakes and save his family to safety by steering a sports car from the rear of a crashing plane. Only a movie like this would have us believe entire continents could shift halfway around the world in just a few short days. Only a movie like this would let Woody Harrelson steal the entire movie right out from under everyone else's noses.

Its title and timing couldn't have been more perfect. Playing off the hype and speculation surrounding the Mayan calendar (which was becoming part of the public consciousness back in 2009), 2012 was ingeniously marketed, even though the title really has nothing to do with the story at all. The movie could have taken place during any year. It is obvious 2012 was intended to be relevant back when its title date was still the possible future.

One of the few positives of the impending apocalypse.
The problem is time always marches on, and this ominously-titled epic has passed its expiration date. This possible future is now our past. I understand why the makers of 2012 did what they did, but at the same time, part of me wonders why they gave it such a short expiration date. Maybe they knew their movie was nothing more than easily digestible crap and never created to stand the test of time. And that's fine, I guess, but it has me wondering why any filmmaker feels the need to set their speculative sci-fi during a specific year.

For example, when Stanley Kurick collaborated with Arthur C. Clarke to write 2001: A Space Odyssey, is there any real reason an actual date needed to be incorporated into the story? 2001 came and went and we, as a species, still haven't managed to travel beyond the moon. The movie was based on Clarke’s story, "The Sentinel," a timeless title that, if the film was named as such, newbies watching it wouldn’t think of it as a product of its time. Think about any film depicting a specific year in the future...does knowing the year make it better? And when that future date comes and goes, doesn't it - even a little bit - make said-film sort-of a relic, regardless of how awesome it is?

Alas, there's something just a little bit sad when any future depicted in a film eventually becomes the distant past. It makes me ominously aware of just how fast time really passes. The urban hellhole of Escape from New York was set in the distant future of 1997...sixteen years ago. Hell, I still fondly remember seeing it in 1981 like it was yesterday. On a related note...still more expiration dates of modern classics are fast approaching, such as Soylent Green (2022), Back to the Future II (2015) and Blade Runner (2019).

So, considering the whole Mayan calendar angle has nothing to do with the events in 2012, I’m still surprised the filmmakers would place an early expiration date on a film which must have cost more cash than every disaster movie ever made. Why not let the future be more ambiguous? Why not make sure your movie seems timely and relevant several years later?

As it stands, 2012 is still fun, still as unintentionally funny as ever. But as of now, on 12/21/12, the movie is now part of our collective past. From today on forward, anyone seeing it for the first time will look at it the way I first watched movies like Forbidden Planet, which showed mankind first-venturing into space “in the later half of the 21st Century.”

December 17, 2012

LAW ABIDING CITIZEN: An Awesomely Epic Fail


Starrring Jamie Foxx, Gerard Butler, Bruce McGill, Colm Meaney, Regina Hall, Leslie Bibb. Directed by F. Gary Gray. (2009, 108 min).

I should probably start by saying I really liked Law Abiding Citizen. No, it ain’t a great film, but it may be my favorite guilty pleasure since Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man. It is without-a-doubt the best revenge fantasy I’ve ever seen.

But the problem is I don't think it was meant to be a revenge fantasy. For me, the movie is rousing for reasons its makers probably didn't intend.

Gerard Butler plays Clyde Shelton, a family man who’s the victim of a home invasion, and brutally stabbed before seeing his wife and daughter violently murdered. The perps are eventually caught, but the one who did all of the raping and killing cuts a deal with District Attorney Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) for a commuted sentence, which sends his hapless accomplice to death row. Right from the get-go, Rice comes across as an ambitious & cocky lawyer who’s more concerned about his conviction percentage than true justice, or the happiness of his own family.

Fast forward ten years, and Shelton begins knocking off everyone associated with the case in a variety of creatively outlandish ways. Even after he willingly surrenders to authorities, the slaughter continues. Rice and the police try their best to thwart him, but Shelton is continually one step ahead. He must have some kind of psychic talent to always know exactly when and where his next targets will be, long before they even get there. For example, there must be at least a few dozen cemeteries in the tiny burg of Philadelphia, but Sheldon knows exactly where his most recent victim will be buried so he can kill his next target. And how exactly does he manage to get-hold of a judge's cell phone in order to install the explosive that tears half her head off? Then there's the ridiculous revelation which explains how Shelton managed to kill all these folks while in prison. But we're not supposed to get hung-up on lapses in logic, and for the most part, I didn't. That's not the problem with the movie anyway. I enjoy wonderfully-dumb cat & mouse thrillers as much as the next guy.

"Yeah, I made some shitty movies, too.
But I've still got an Oscar on my shelf."
The problem is, after the brutal opening scene where Shelton's family is killed and justice is not served, we totally sympathize with him. But later, the movie does an about-face and tries really hard to establish him as the villain, a super-intelligent cross between Hannibal Lecter and John Kramer. By this time, however, it's too late...I've already chosen sides. Unlike other movie villains we root for because their evil is so entertaining, I just can't bring myself to see Shelton as the bad guy at all. He watched his family raped and murdered, was betrayed by his lawyer (the movie's hero) and his assailant got off practically scott free. Fuckin' A, he's gonna want revenge.

When Shelton starts his vengeance, I loved seeing his victims get what they deserved. Maybe it's the husband and father in me, but I'd want to dismember the asshole to took away my family, I'd want to get even with everyone who got him off the hook, and I'd sure as hell want to torment the lawyer who was supposed to give me justice. And I'd probably be crazy enough not to care about any collateral damage I caused. Most of all, I'd want to get away with it and spend the rest of my life content in the knowledge that I avenged my family by making the right people suffer. So yeah, the whole time, I rooted for Shelton the way we all rooted for Rocky Balboa to knock out Apollo Creed.

Maybe I would have seen it differently if the Nick Rice character was at least likable, but he's arrogant, somewhat indifferent to Shelton's pain and seems more concerned with his job than his own family. After Shelton mails a video to Rice's house showing the slow torture of his first victim, which is first viewed by his daughter, all Rice does (over the phone) is instruct his terrified wife to tell the girl it was just a horror movie. I don't know about you, but if a super-intelligent psycho was able to find my family that easily, I'd have dropped everything and ran home to get them the hell out of the house.

There simply isn't much effort made to make me care about Rice. And just because Shelton's revenge is brutal doesn't mean it's necessarily wrong, especially since it's the movie's 'hero' who let him down in the first place. At the climax, there's a twist which is obviously intended to be an audience-rousing gotcha, but all I wanted was for Shelton to finish the job he set-out to do. For me, he is every bit the hero that Paul Kersey was in Death Wish...only with better weapons.

I dunno...is it me? Am I the one who's wired wrong, or did the makers of Law Abiding Citizen epically fail by making its victim and villain the same guy? I guess it doesn't matter, since I'm probably over-analyzing a movie that shouldn't be scrutinized too deeply to begin with. It kicks-ass anyway, and if I'm cheering for the wrong guy, so be it.

December 9, 2012

PROM NIGHT (1980) and the Affliction of Hindsight


Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen, Anne-Marie Martin, Casey Stevens, Robert A. Silverman, Michael Tough, Antoinette Bower. Directed by Paul Lynch. (1980, 90 min).

Have you ever looked back at your life at some seemingly insignificant moment and wondered how things would have turned out if you had simply said or done something different, for better or worse? Yeah, me too.

Have you ever thought about a girl you may have dated once or twice as a teenager, and briefly pondered what would have happened if you had ended up falling in love back then? Yeah, me too.

And when recalling those times, was there ever a girl who was so mature, sweet and unbelievably hot that, even though she agreed to go out with you, deep down inside, you knew she was way out of your league? Yeah, me too.

And that date ended up being the only one because your so-called charm failed to impress her in any way whatsoever (and, in fact, the date ends earlier than you planned)? Yeah, me too.

And today, a tiny part of you likes to imagine this charming, drop-dead gorgeous girl ending up being a crack whore, donating plasma to buy cigarettes and feeding her six kids with food stamps, just so you can feel better about yourself after blowing your chance all those years ago? Yeah, me too.

For me, that girl was Linda, who I met during my summer job walking greyhounds before races. At least, I think Linda was her name...it's been over thirty years, and it ain't like I've been pining for her ever since. But 1980's Prom Night still vividly sticks in my memory because that was the movie I took her to, and Linda was, without-a-doubt, the prettiest girl who ever agreed to go out with me during high school. It's also the one date I remember not going well at all. With hindsight (an affliction which develops around the same time as pattern baldness, and just about as welcome), I can understand why we were doomed after one date, and it was all my fault. I was overzealous and had a misguided sense of what would impress this girl.

I must have been really excited for this date because I showed up way too early and ended up sitting on her living room sofa watching a Battlestar Galactica rerun while she got ready. She finally emerged from the bedroom a half-hour later, dressed pretty damn sophisticated for a 17 year old, and God, was she beautiful! Have you ever watched a NASCAR race, and during the National Anthem, seen the goofy-looking, good-ole-boy drivers standing next to their smokin’ hot trophy wives and wondered how the hell they ever hooked up? That’s the best analogy I can think of for how inadequate I suddenly felt sitting there in blue jeans and my letterman jacket. I could have sworn I told her this was just pizza and a movie, but she was dressed like we had reservations at a five-star bistro.

Anyway, Linda was ready, but suddenly I wasn’t because I’d gotten sucked into the Galactica episode and asked if we could stay until it was over. It would mean we’d have to catch the movie at a later time, but I was in no hurry. It never occurred to me she didn’t want to sit through the show. While I took up space on her sofa, Linda went into the kitchen and called one of her friends. During a commercial, I threw a glance back at her. She looked bored.

So I gave in, feeling a bit self conscious after allowing my inner geek to show (yeah, I was one of the few who actually liked the original Battlestar Galactica, cheesy as it was), which I usually kept as well-hidden as the Playboys under my mattress. But I put on a great front and tried look like I couldn’t care less whether or not Starbuck and his new Cylon ally escaped that remote planet alive, and off we went before I could see how things turned out.

When Linda asked where we were going, I excitedly told her we were heading to the Rose Moyer Theater to see Prom Night. Most of the time, a teen slasher flick was a good choice for a date, even those as predictable and derivative as this one. They’re are aimed at people our age, don’t require much brain power to enjoy and there was always the possibility of making out in-between axe killings. But I could tell by Linda's blank stare that Prom Night wasn't what she had in-mind. She simply nodded and said, "Okay."

On the way, I drove fast. Not because I was in a hurry, but for some reason, I had it in my head that driving fast was cool, and I really wanted Linda to think I was cool. Maybe I was trying to compensate for previously letting my inner-geek escape by showing her my rebellious side. That is, until Linda politely asked me to slow down. Feeling suddenly stupid, I humbly let off the gas and we puttered the rest of the way to the theater.

I tried to engage in some small talk during the drive, but it seemed awkward & forced, and all my attempts at humor totally bombed. Everything in my arsenal that usually went over great with other dates wasn't working. With pesky hindsight rearing its ugly head again, we obviously didn't have much in common; Linda was far more mature than me or any girl I'd dated before. But I was still so blown away by this perfect female specimen sitting next to me that I kept plugging away, desperately looking for some common ground. I was almost relieved once we got to the theater, bought tickets and settled into our seats. For the next 90 minutes at least, nothing stupid or asinine would fly from my mouth.

Or so I thought.

Along with the usual trailers, there was a short public service ad, about a young woman's menstrual cycle if I remember correctly. Because the subject involved female genitalia, the ad instigated a lot of laughter from the audience, including me. I can't speak for the other yahoos in the theater, but the sheer inappropriate randomness of this ad struck me as funny.

“Oh man,” I remember giggling out loud. “That’s hilarious!”

“No it’s not,” Linda replied, not-at-all amused by the laughter and probably speaking on behalf of everyone else of her gender in the auditorium. “It’s embarrassing.”

I suddenly wanted to crawl into a hole and die. Way to let your maturity show, Dave!

"Hey...you feel a draft in here?"
Finally (thank Christ), the movie started, and even if you've never seen Prom Night, you've probably seen Prom Night. It's yet-another in a long line of cookie-cutter slasher movies which spewed into theaters in the wake of Halloween and Friday the 13th. Though not the worst of its ilk, there isn't a hell of a lot to distinguish it either, other than its cast, which includes Leslie Nielsen before Airplane! made him relevant again, and Jamie Lee Curtis, once again playing a the world's oldest high school senior (as pretty-much the same character as in Halloween). As usual, several teenagers are killed off one-by-one by an unseen-until-the-end loony as revenge for a childhood prank that resulted in a kid's death. Unless this is the first slasher movie you've ever seen, there are absolutely no surprises (unless you count the unfortunate girl whose throat is slashed right after she just actually said no to having sex, a scene which looks like it was humiliating for the actress). I can only imagine what Linda was thinking...probably that I should have chosen Ordinary People, playing in the theater next door.

Although it inspired several in-name-only sequels, Prom Night was one of those movies most folks probably forgot roughly ten minutes after leaving the theater. Except for me, of course. No, the movie itself didn't resonate much, but the whole time, I was well-aware that Linda was decidedly not enjoying the movie or my company. She was just marking time until the end credits rolled, when she (very politely) asked if I would take her home. So that's what I did, before we had a chance to share a pizza. She gave me an obligatory peck on the cheek before climbing from the car. Soon after, I was back in my bedroom listening to Rush on my headphones before it was even eleven o'clock.

Aside from one or two  follow-up phone calls that went nowhere, that was it for me and Linda. I had my shot and blew it, and Prom Night stands as a reminder. I’m about 90% certain she eventually hooked up with a Mitt Romney-looking stockbroker, got married, had 2.5 angelic kids and now spends her weekends redesigning her living room. Probably not the crack-whore I sometimes like to imagine she became as payback for being unimpressed with me.

And, nice as she was, I don't really miss Linda or anything. And, no, I don't hope she's a crack-whore (being a hopeless, lonely Valium addict would suffice). This is simply one of those times we have all experienced, when just a small part of us wouldn’t mind having a shot at a do-over.

November 29, 2012

Lucy's Scary Movie Round-Up


Once again, it's time for my Friday night horror buddy, Lucy Anderson, to offer her insightful opinion of several films we've recently watched together during our traditional weekly Horrorfests. 


Halloween (1978)
Lucy says: "It's surprising!"

Halloween III: Season of the Witch 
Lucy says: "It's stupid." (no argument here)

Pulse 
Lucy says: "It's scary and awesome." (She enjoyed it more than Dad did)

Dead Alive 
Lucy says: "It's gross and funny and people get kicked in the balls."

Dawn of the Dead (1978) 
Lucy says: "It's too weird." (she liked the remake a lot better)

The Car
 
Lucy says: "It was funny and it makes you wonder why the Devil would drive a car."

Christine
 
Lucy says: "It was too weird and over dramatic."

The Ring
 
Lucy says: "It's so scary that I almost died of scaredness, but Insidious is still better."

Prometheus
 
Lucy says: "It's pretty cool." (Dad agrees)

November 28, 2012

TWILIGHT'S LAST GLEAMING: The Stars Have Finally Aligned

Starring Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Charles Durning, Paul Winfield, Burt Young, Joseph Cotten, Melvyn Douglas, Richard Jaeckel, Gerald S. O'Loughlin. Directed by Robert Aldrich. (1977, 146 min).

This was a milestone day for me. I finally got a copy of 1977's Twilight's Last Gleaming on Blu-Ray. Okay, so it ain’t like I conquered Mt. Everest, but I’ve been looking to own this goddamn thing for years. This is a big deal because now I finally own every single movie I ever loved growing up (just in time for DVDs and Blu-Rays to go the way of the Dodo...oh, the irony). From here on out, all that's left for me to collect is new stuff that happens to be worth watching more than once...which occurs less and less as I get older.

Right now, I know a lot of you are saying, "What the hell is Twilight's Last Gleaming?" I know because when I learned it was finally available on disc, I sped over to Best Buy and asked one of their resident geniuses if it was in stock. Unfortunately, she appeared stunned there was something with twilight in the title that wasn’t about Edward and Bella. I probably should have realized that before I wasted the gas to go there; Best Buy - and most other stores, for that matter - is pretty worthless these days to any die-hard movie fan. For the most part, unless a movie is universally considered a classic, if you‘re looking for anything more than twenty years old, you’re shit out of luck.

Like a lot of movies I loved growing up, Twilight's Last Gleaming is one of those obscure, forgotten relics few people have ever heard of, and even fewer have actually seen. Burt Lancaster plays disgraced (and slightly unhinged) Air Force officer Lawrence Dell, who, along with two thugs, escape from a military prison, infiltrate a missile silo and take control of its arsenal. Then Dell threatens to launch its missiles at the Soviet Union unless the powers-that-be in Washington make-public the real reason the U.S. continued to wage war in Vietnam long after it was declared unwinnable. Dell also wants a hostage - the President of the United States - to ensure his demands are met. The movie's premise is somewhat outrageous (one prays taking over a missile complex isn't quite this easy), but it's a conspiracy-theorist's wet dream, and that's part of what makes it fun. It's the kind of paranoid movie that could only have been made in the 70s, post-Watergate, when our overall faith in the government was at an all-time low. We start off thinking Dell is the film's villain, but by the end, it's the White House advisors surrounding the president (most of whom would rather see their Commander-in-Chief die than reveal their secrets) we grow to despise. What's kind of ironic about this one, considering our tendency to use presidents as de facto symbols of everything wrong or right about certain eras, is that this president (played by Charles Durning, who is terrific) is probably the second-most sympathetic character. In the end, he actually begins to feel empathy for Dell, and is painfully aware he can no longer trust those around him.

Even for a conspiracy thriller, this is dark stuff. By the final reel, the viewer is pretty certain things will not end well...and they don't. This movie definitely has a sobering anti-government agenda that wasn't prevalent in the novel it’s loosely based on (Walter Wager’s Viper Three), which was totally lost on me as a kid, when I first watched it on HBO a couple of years later. It must have been lost on a lot of people, because Twilight's Last Gleaming sorta came-and-went in theaters back in '77, when interests turned to more light-hearted fare like Star Wars and Smokey and the Bandit. With Luke Skywalker saving the Rebellion from the clutches of the galactic empire, or Burt Reynolds making sure a truckload of illegal beer makes it to its destination, who the hell wanted to be reminded of the horror that was Vietnam, much-less an awful theory why the war was so painfully dragged out?

"Mom...I'm kinda busy right now."

Again, any agenda the movie had was lost on me at the time. I simply loved it because there was a possibility the world could end, and back then, when the threat of nuclear annihilation was one of the more realistic doomsday scenarios scaring the shit out of people, Twilight’s Last Gleaming was especially fascinating.

The movie stuck with me for a long time, but apparently few others. Over the years, despite its big cast of well-known actors, it became a forgotten relic from another era. Hell, it even stopped showing up on cable after awhile, and when such stores as Suncoast began popping up in malls across the country, seemingly teaming with VHS tapes of every movie ever made, Twilight’s Last Gleaming was never among them. Sure, you could special-order it...for ninety bucks. I’m sorry, there’s never been a single movie worth paying ninety bucks of my hard-earned cash for.

But my parents’ hard-earned cash? Well, that was different, so I put it on my Christmas list, not realistically thinking they’d actually buy it for me. So imagine my surprise when they did. My God, I was ecstatic, and to this day, I think it was one of my all-time favorite Christmas surprises. I treasured that thing, the shining beacon in my VHS collection. That is, until my VCR ate the tape a few months later. Of all the shit in my collection, that fucking machine chose to dine on the one tape I couldn’t replace! Why the hell couldn’t it have munched on the Sister Act video my grandmother thought to buy me that same Christmas?

Over the years, I eventually managed to acquire DVDs of most of the movies I grew up on, even the more obscure titles. All except one, which wasn‘t available anywhere...not even online (unless I wanted one imported from Portugal, where it was titled O Ultimo Brilho No Crepuscolo). Some guy  did manage to post Twilight’s Last Gleaming in its entirety on YouTube last year (bless his copyright-infringing heart), and I was able to watch it once before it was removed. But the picture was terrible and sitting in my office watching it on my tiny computer screen isn’t the same as owning it.

Then it was officially released on disc a couple of weeks ago. I usually know the street dates for most movies I'm interested in well in advance. This time I had no idea. I simply had stopped looking for it, and the assholes at Best Buy or Target sure as hell didn’t have it on their shelves. I only found out because I was Googling for Twilight’s Last Gleaming pictures to use for one of these blog entries, where ironically, I was going to piss and moan about the movie’s unavailability.

And the stars must have aligned themselves that night, because I had also just purchased my first HD Blu-Ray player the day before. I know Blu-Ray was a big deal a few years ago, and the picture quality was awesome, and people like me were supposed to develop big red boners for it, but being able to see Kevin Costner’s pockmarks didn’t seem worth the expense. The only reason I broke down and bought one the other day is because my old DVD player finally crapped out. Anyway, what better way to break in my new toy than popping in a movie I’d been waiting to own for 30 years?

Of course, I had to order it from Amazon, and wait at the mailbox for two whole days before it arrived, but the clouds parted and the angels sang when I ripped open the package and beheld its wonderfully cheesy cover. Twilight’s Last Gleaming is finally mine...all mine.

All is now right with the world, even if someone like General Dell blows it up tomorrow.

November 14, 2012

JACKASS THE MOVIE: Another Modest Proposal


Starring Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Chris Pontius, Steve-O, Ryan Dunn, Dave England, Jason "Wee Man" Acuna, Preston Lacy, Ehren McGhehey. Directed by Jeff Tremaine. (2002, 87 min).

I would not presume to waste time discussing the artistic merits of Jackass, even though this movie (if you can even call it that) made me laugh harder than any other in recent memory. It also has the dubious distinction of being the only movie ever that made me physically gag, and I'm not easily sickened by what I see on screen. So no, the last thing Jackass would ever be mistaken for is art.

I will, however, waste time discussing its social merits, and why Jackass: The Movie should be considered one of the most important movies released so far this century. If we'd only take time to look beyond its visual grotesquery, the potential positive impact this film could have on our society is enormous.

Jackass, of course, started as a show on MTV, each episode consisting of little more than a bunch of guys filming themselves performing stupid, dangerous, painful and often disgusting stunts. Of course, it was a huge hit with teenagers who weren't even alive when MTV actually stood for Music Television. And of course, even though the show always began and ended with a warning that the stunts should never be attempted by viewers, many of them were attemtped, resulting in cases of severe injury or death. And of course, that made a lot of older folks angry (most notably Senator Joseph Lieberman), who clamored for MTV to take responsibility and pull it off the air. The network eventually did cancel it after less than three seasons, despite the fact it was their most popular show.

The short-sightedness of both Jackass detractors and its network's knee-jerk reaction to yank the show threatened cast a dark shadow over our entire society for decades to come.

Wouldn't we have been better off if it had stayed on the air, and shown as often as possible? Short of euthanasia, has anyone else come up with a more effective way to cleanse the gene pool than the creators of Jackass? Think about it...for every dumbass douche bag who tries and fails to imitate what they watch on TV, that’s one less dumbass douche bag able to spawn future dumbass douche bags. That would eventually result in fewer dumbass douche bags wasting oxygen that could be put to better use in the lungs of someone with a cancer cure, fewer dumbass douche bags behind the wheels of automobiles who could potentially kill the guy who develops a clean-burning alternative fuel, fewer dumbass douche bags eating the food that could nourish the guy with a solution to world hunger.

Without all these douche bags, as a society, we could become collectively more intelligent, perhaps someday  evolving into the cerebral beings we envy in 2001: A Space Odyssey. But such a society will never happen as long as we continue to stand in the way of folks clamoring to shove a lit bottle rocket up their ass.

With the release of Jackass: The Movie (which is funnier - and nastier - than the series ever was), there may be hope for us yet. The original series may only live on in reruns, but with every new Jackass movie, we are offered an increasing variety of methods through which to cull the herd.

With a nod (and an apology) to Jonathan Swift, I humbly propose we nurture the inner-jackass in our youth. If, like Senator Lieberman claims, most young people are impressionable idiots willing to imitate whatever they see on TV, then let them. Maybe Jackass: The Movie should be federally-mandated viewing in all middle schools (roughly the age when some develop the idea that acting as painfully stupid as possible is somehow cool). Those who appear impressed by what they see in the film would then be allotted a shopping cart filled with lighters, fireworks, beer, a dangerous animal or two, mousetraps, vials of bodily fluids, skateboards and other various objects which, if they tried real hard, could fit up their asses. Let these kids legally drop out of school at age fourteen to pursue their destiny (they aren't likely to get much out of To Kill a Mockingbird during their freshman year anyway).

Everyone else would move on to high school, secure with the knowledge of being part of a brighter future, a collectively-smarter society with the capability to find a cure for AIDS, venture to other worlds, or at the very least, explain how guys like Senator Lieberman ever got elected to public office. Within just a few generations, we could be totally cleansed of that portion of the population whose last words are usually, “Hey, watch this.”

When you think of it in those terms, doesn’t it make sense for a copy of Jackass: The Movie to be in every home right now? Sure, some of us might lose a beloved child or two, but to quote a pointy-eared fellow,  much wiser than me, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” If you think otherwise, you are being selfish and not looking out for what’s best for your species as a whole. How dare you.

November 11, 2012

HARLEY DAVIDSON AND THE MARLBORO MAN: Who Invited These Dorks?



Starring Mickey Rourke, Don Johnson, Chelsea Field, Daniel Baldwin, Tom Sizemore, Vanessa Williams, Giancarlo Esposito, Tia Carrere. Directed by Simon Wincer. (1991, 98 min).

I was talking to a fellow film buff at work the other day. During our breaks, we often discuss movies we love or hate, or debate the merits of others we don't agree on. He’s put-off by the fact I hated Blade Runner, while I am stunned he didn’t like Inception.

This particular day, the subject of guilty pleasures came up, and I mentioned that awesomely bad cinema suppository, Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man. He scoffed, which I find interesting considering his favorite John Carpenter movie is Big Trouble in Little China, and both movies are whacked-out, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink exercises in stupidity.

I guess the main difference between the two is Big Trouble is stupid on purpose, while Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man’s isn’t. At least I don’t think it is. Still, I love this movie.

This is one of those things where you repeatedly find yourself staring slack-jawed at the screen, incredulously saying, what the hell were they thinking? It’s one of the dumbest, most blatantly-pandering and shallow movies any major studio wasted millions to make. Aside from an admittedly great title (probably created  before a word of the screenplay was written), Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man is similar to that dorky, awkward guy we all knew in high school who tries real hard to fit in with the popular kids by speaking and dressing the part, but fails miserably because he’s actually pretty clueless.

Try to think of someone you’ve known in your life you would define as cool. What is it that makes them cool? Is it the way the look, the way they act, the way they speak? Is it the overall vibe they give off, which tells others “This is how I roll...who gives a damn if you follow me or not”? I think we’d all agree that truly cool people never feel compelled to constantly remind others how cool they’re acting.

One gets the impression that the makers of Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man were high school dorks as well. They’ve seen other movies with cool characters, cool dialogue, a cool plot, but had no idea what made them cool. They simply thought, “bikers are cool, cowboys are cool, gunfights are cool, sexy girls are cool, our title is cool...put ’em all together and we can’t lose!”

Well, they did lose, because Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man is so busy reminding us of how cool it is that it’s compulsively watchable because of how uncool it is...

First, there’s Mickey Rourke and Don Johnson, looking like two-fifths of the Village People. I can't help but think these two actors had a lot of say in how they looked, as if this was how they pictured themselves in real life. But back in 1991, Rourke had gone from being the coolest dude in Diner to soft-core nastiness in 9 1/2 Weeks and Wild Orchid. In those films, he looked perpetually-sweaty, probably reeked of Old Spice and enjoyed shoving cucumbers up women's asses. And in this movie, he looks like he hasn’t showered in a month.

For most of us, Johnson stopped being cool roughly 10 minutes after Miami Vice was canceled. In Johnson’s defense, although never a great actor, he does give the best performance in this movie, mainly because he’s the only one who seems aware of how fucking stupid it is. Still, these are the coolest guys the producers could get?

Second, the movie takes place in the near future for no reason whatsoever! Released in 1991, the events in Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man take place in 1996. Aside from the inflated gas prices shown on a service station sign (which we’ve since-passed in the real world), the year is 100% irrelevant to the story. This is undoubtedly the most WTF aspect of the entire movie.

Third, nearly every bit of dialogue uttered by Harley (Rourke) or Marlboro (Johnson) consists of cliched sound-bites you might see on the bumper sticker of some douchebag’s pick-up truck (“Better to be dead and cool, than alive and uncool”) along with the prerequisite naked lady mudflaps. These guys endlessly philosophize with each other about how awesomely cool it is to be themselves, yet we get the feeling they are trying more to impress us than each other. 

Fourth, even though these two guys are more-or-less shiftless bums, women repeatedly throw themselves at them because all women love guys with no discernable future, so long as they look good straddling a Harley.
"Don't ever ask us to sing 'YMCA' again."

Fifth is the story itself. The bar where Harley and Marlboro used to hang out is facing foreclosure. The reasonable solution? Rob an armored car, of course, which gets them into hot water with a mob of drug-dealing killers, hilariously portrayed as non-emotive, slick-haired henchmen all sporting bullet-proof trenchcoats (and standing out from the crowd like Waldo at a nudist colony). Cool, huh? But not as cool as Harley and Marlboro, who take on this army (led by Tom Sizemore) without expressing even an iota of fear...that would interfere with their wisecracks during the numerous loud, violent gunfights.

The whole movie simply reeks of superficial cool, made by people who think they know what they’re doing. One gets the impression that the very word ‘cool’ was scrawled on a banner on the wall during script development meetings...no matter what, this movie has got to be cool.

These blatantly feeble attempts to turn its two main characters into instant icons make Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man wonderfully entertaining, but it’s simply not a movie anyone with a shred of dignity will ever fess-up and admit they enjoyed. But it is fun. What’s great about a film like this is that you can view it as a camp classic made with a nudge and wink (and there are several moments when you are convinced the movie is supposed to be a joke). Or, if you are one of those folks who take everything seriously, it’s one of the worst films of all time.

But most likely, you’ll watch incredulously, hypnotized by its ham-fisted shallowness, unable to look away...kind of like that high school dork trying to make an impression by crashing a weekend keg party he wasn’t  invited to and getting totally hammered for the first time, thinking he’s finally fitting in, when in reality he’s just making an ass of himself. Everyone else at the party is laughing at him, not with him. After he passes out, they’ll take a Sharpie and draw penises all over his face.

We get the feeling everyone involved with Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man were trying way, way too hard to fit in. Their effort is entertaining, but not how they intended. Ultimately, they are so out-of-touch that they're the butt of the joke. If that isn’t a guilty pleasure, then I don’t know what is.

November 6, 2012

DAYLIGHT: Too Much Mr. Nice Guy



Starring Sylvester Stallone, Amy Brenneman, Viggo Mortensen, Dan Hedaya, Jay O. sanders, Karen Young, Claire Bloom, Barry Newman. Directed by Rob Cohen. (1996, 115 min)

I sort of missed the Sylvester Stallone of the 80s, when he gave up all pretenses of acting and commenced blowing people away, when his characters (like Rambo and Cobra) were indestructible sociopaths. Those movies are stupid, to be sure, but a lot of jingoistic fun. Stallone was Hollywood’s version of our subconscious Id, making Dirty Harry look like a spokesperson for civil rights. I’m glad he’s since returned to killing without mercy lately in his recent movies.

But back then, the 80’s Stallone was replaced by one who seemed hell-bent on playing “nice” guys. In subsequent action movies like Daylight, so much care is put into making sure Stallone is likable that he ends up being the kind of pussy that kids taunt during recess, simply because they know he won’t retaliate.

Daylight is another entry in the disaster movie revival of the 90s, sort of a cross between The Poseidon Adventure and Cliffhanger. Stallone plays Kit Latura, a disgraced Emergency Medical Services expert, now working as a cab driver (essentially the same character he played in Cliffhanger). When an explosion traps several annoying characters inside an underwater commuter tunnel, Latura springs into action to help save them. Of course, all his former colleagues are there; of course, his superiors hate him; of course, they poo-poo his ideas for saving the people inside, even though they come up with no good suggestions of their own.

"Goddammit, who flushed all that toilet paper?
Anyway, Latura manages to infiltrate the tunnel to reach the survivors, and most of them remember the tragedy which disgraced him (I didn't know local EMS fuck-ups were worldwide news). Even though time is running out, and the water level is rising, these ungrateful assholes verbally berate Latura every five minutes. But because this is the “nice” Stallone, he just stands there and takes it like I did during my divorce from my first wife. The Stallone of the 80s would have kicked the shit out of them and told them to find their own fucking way out (even in The Poseidon Adventure, Gene Hackman stopped putting up with Ernest Borgnine’s shit after awhile).

Despite the fact the character of Latura is pretty much a kiss-ass wimp when it comes to confrontation, he is selflessly heroic and reasonably well-acted by Stallone (well, at least he doesn’t suck). And Daylight is actually one of the better disaster movies of the 90s, with a plot lifted right out of the 70s and above-average special effects. The initial collapse which traps most of the cast is pretty cool, with a shitload of violent explosions that barbecue poor saps as they sit behind the wheels of their cars. There’s even some honest-to-God suspense to be had as the tunnel slowly caves in, while Latura does what he can to buy them more time. Of course, unlike Hackman in The Poseidon Adventure, we’re always 100% certain Stallone will survive to redeem himself, even though he does so by saving a lot of folks who probably deserve to drown.

November 5, 2012

THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW: Wes Craven, The Matchmaker


Starring Bill Pullman, Cathy Tyson, Paul Winfield. Directed by Wes Craven. (1988, 98 min.)

I have fond memories of this one, even though it's one of Wes Craven's shittiest movies. And considering the guy has made a lot of shitty movies, that's saying something. He's not a bad filmmaker, but he is extremely overrated.

Craven is like a MLB power hitter who manages to make the highlight reel on ESPN by knocking a game-winning, grand-slam homerun out of the park, but we never see his previous walks and strikeouts. If the occasional well-timed homerun is all you're really famous for, then maybe you ain't such an awesome ballplayer after all. Still, fans may love you enough that you might think you're more important to your team than you really are.

As a filmmaker, Craven has hit a few out of the park as well. Though it's a little overpraised, 1984's A Nightmare on Elm Street was so huge it saved a studio and had folks dropping Craven's name among horror's big guns, like Carpenter and Romero. But really, Craven hadn't done shit until then. Anyone arguing in support of Craven's first film, The Last House on the Left, either hasn't watched it lately or has a fucked up idea of entertainment.


Craven also directed Scream, arguably the first slasher movie since Halloween most legitimate critics liked, mainly because it was a straight-faced satire. As with most horror film franchises, Scream 2, Scream 3 and Scre4m naturally followed. All were directed by Craven, and because of the self-aware nature of them, he actually became somewhat respected in Hollywood on a level Carpenter & Romero never were.

But the thing is, he also made a slew of dated, schlocky shit nobody remembers or talks about (Swamp Thing, Deadly Friend, Shocker, The People Under the Stairs, The Hills Have Eyes II, Cursed, Vampire in Brooklyn, etc.); you know, the strikeouts in between homeruns. There's also been a few truly good Craven movies nobody talks about either, which could be considered RBIs (Wes Craven's New Nightmare & Red Eye, which, in my humble opinion, are his two best).

Then there are the 'foul balls.' Those misguided swings that, while technically considered strikes, at least got a piece of the ball. These would be the Craven movies where he a got the bug up his ass to take himself seriously. His lone attempt at straight drama, Music from the Heart, is the most obvious foul ball (like a decent hitter facing a superior pitcher from a different division).

Which leads us to 1988's The Serpent and the Rainbow, a foul ball in more ways than one. First, it was Craven's attempt at a 'serious' horror film, one which should not have been lumped in with the slice & dice flicks he was renowned for, but his name was used to market it to the same teenagers who made A Nightmare on Elm Street a hit. Second, and more importantly, The Serpent and the Rainbow is the most boring movie Wes Craven ever made. Until this one, no matter what Craven's overly ambitious intentions were, at least his other movies moved.

The Serpent and the Rainbow, based on Wade Davis' non-fiction book about an ethnobotanist's adventures in zombification, is a turgid, slow-moving affair, so wrapped up in its own pretention that it forgets horror movies are supposed to be entertaining. This movie had to be an unpleasant surprise for Craven fans at the time, and although I wasn't necessarily a Craven fan, I liked A Nightmare on Elm Street enough to give this one a shot, especially since I was dating at the time.

This was in 1988, about a year since my divorce from my first wife. The reason for my divorce was irreconcilable differences, which, roughly translated, meant we got married way too young. Anyway, after four rough years, I was a free man for the first time since high school, but hadn’t matured a hell of a lot since then. So I more-or-less nailed anything that moved, mostly without involving the ritualistic courting required for any long-term relationship. Eventually, though, I met a girl I actually liked beyond her physical attributes. This meant, of course, if I wanted any chance with her, we’d have to go on an actual date, not just get hammered in a bar and sleep together.

I had two problems with this. First, even though I was 23 at the time, my definition of a date was the same as when I was 17, buying pizza and going to a horror movie. Second, I was in the process of flunking out of college, with no personal income to speak of; most of my discretionary cash came from shoplifting VHS movies and selling them to a pawn shop. Still, this girl seemed impressed enough to take a chance and go out with me (but since I had no car - just a skateboard - she had to drive).

A few days prior to our date, I managed to steal enough videos to afford a movie and dinner at Red Robin afterwards. In my state of stunted adolescence, I chose the only horror movie playing at the time, Wes Craven’s The Serpent and the Rainbow. Chicks dig horror movies, right?



Bill Pullman is forced to rewatch Independence Day.


That may or may not have been true, but I wouldn’t have known it from The Serpent and the Rainbow, which was more like a long-ass travelogue than a horror film. Yeah, there were a few cool scenes (one involving spiders, the one creature most likely to make me piss myself), but nothing like the cheap thrills I hoped my date would enjoy. The movie ended up being a dull, unintentionally-funny, badly-acted snoozefest, made by a guy who obviously wanted to be taken seriously as a filmmaker, but didn’t yet know how.

And thank God. It gave me and my date a lot to talk about during dinner afterwards. I still wasn’t used to going back into the dating game; before we went out, I was pretty nervous, praying there wouldn’t be any dreaded stretches of uncomfortable silence where we struggled to engage in small talk. Thanks to the pretentious shit that was The Serpent and the Rainbow, I didn’t need to worry; we had a lot of fun at the movie’s expense, something I do not think would have happened if we watched a good film.

We both laughed a lot that night and had a great time, and I eventually ended up marrying this girl, even after she informed me she doesn’t like horror movies at all. 

So maybe I have Wes Craven to thank for my current marriage, now going on 24 years. Who knows...if The Serpent and the Rainbow was actually a good movie on par with The Exorcist, me and Francie might have been forced to create phony conversation about other subjects during dinner, then gone our separate ways. But because Serpent sucked hard, we had a lot of fun stuff to talk about on that first date, and we got a feel for each other’s sense of humor, not to mention our quirks and interests.

Now that I think about it, maybe The Serpent and the Rainbow, despite how shitty it is, is another homerun...just one that’s hit during Spring Training, when it only matters to those watching that game at that time. Such a homerun may not matter to most fans, just like horror films don’t matter to my wife, or most Wes Craven films don’t matter to me. But at one moment in my life, this one mattered.


October 23, 2012

COBRA: How Not To Eat Pizza


Starring Sylvester Stallone, Brigitte Nielsen, Reni Santoni, Andrew Robinson, Brian Thompson, Art LaFluer. Directed by George P. Cosmatos. (1986, 87 min).

This movie tortures me. It's either the one of the cleverest movies of all time or one of the dumbest.

I’ve watched Cobra several times over the years since it came out in '86. I’ll probably watch the damn thing several more times just trying to figure it out, because I’m convinced Mr. Stallone is trying to mess with my head.

Marion Corbretti (Stallone) is the baddest member of the Zombie Squad, L.A. cops who handle the jobs no one else wants (I didn’t know cops were allowed to pick their cases). We first meet Cobretti (aka ‘Cobra’) when he’s called in to deal with a shotgun-toting psycho who's blowing away customers at a supermarket. Cobra roars up in a nitro-feuled, Titanic-sized hot rod. Decked-out in a skin-tight black T-shirt, even tighter jeans, boots, sculpted hair, mirrored shades, leather gloves and a toothpick in his jaw, Cobra makes Duke Nukem look like Justin Long. He strolls into the darkened store, finds his quarry, pops open a beer, takes a drink, tosses out a casual one-liner (“You're the disease...I'm the cure”) and blows the guy away. At no time does he remove his sunglasses.

It's at this point I'm wondering if this is supposed to be a comedy, because the whole scene is pretty damned funny, which actually makes sense when you consider Cobra began life as Sylvester Stallone’s rewrite of Beverly Hills Cop back when he was originally offered the role. Anyway, even though he saves the day, Cobra is berated by a dumbass reporter for killing the man, never mind that the perp already slaughtered several innocent people.

After another productive day of blowing folks away, Cobra retreats to his Malibu apartment. This is where the movie really gets weird. First, he turns on the TV so it can inform us of the movie's plot...a string of random axe-killings. While he's watching TV and cleaning his gun, Cobra takes a slice of leftover pizza from his freezer and uses a pair of scissors to cut off a little triangle for himself...still wearing his gloves. Then he eats it frozen.

I've occasionally seen folks use a knife and fork to eat pizza, which is somewhat anal-retentive to begin with...but scissors? Raise your hand if you've ever thought a slice of pizza was so unmanageable you felt the need to cut it into smaller pieces. And even if you are OCD, would scissors ever come-to-mind as the perfect tool for the job?

Surely, Cobra must be a comedy, because this is the most random, off the wall and downright weird scene I've ever witnessed in an action movie. And, yes, it's funny as hell.

Then the killings start. People are stalked and slaughtered by a group of axe-wielding lunatics, apparently doing this to create their own New World. They are led by a perpetually-sweaty guy called the Night Slasher (Brian Thompson), whose nostrils flare so huge you could park your car in them, and whose eyes threaten to pop out of his skull like an overly-excited Pomeranian. We're also treated to several backlit scenes of this cult ceremoniously raising their axes over their heads and clanking them together.

Okay...maybe Cobra is still a comedy...just a black comedy.

Then this cult makes a mistake. They leave a living witness to one of their killings, a fashion model named Ingrid, played by Brigitte Nielsen (who was Stallone's girlfriend at the time). We know she's a model by the hilarious photo shoot where she poses seductively among robots which look like there were constructed from shit kids find in the garage. Speaking of Ms. Nielsen, even though I always thought she looked like a man in drag (especially in recent years), I gotta admit Cobra is one movie where she doesn't look half bad (though he thespian skills are still all bad).

"Dude...how's my hair?"

Fearing the Night Slasher will come after her, Cobra and his thankless partner, Tony (Reni Santoni), are assigned to protect her. The two also fight over her hospital food in yet-another WTF scene (there are actually a lot of strange scenes related to food). Tony reassures Ingrid that no one is better than Cobra at catching psychos, yet the audience never actually gets to witness this supposed talent. In fact, Cobra does no real detective work throughout the entire movie. Most of the time, he's running away from these psychos with Ingrid & Tony in-tow, occasionally riddling them with bullets when they get too close.

Speaking of which, the Night Slasher's cult army must consist of the biggest dumbasses to ever walk the Earth, as exemplified during a scene in which they are chasing Cobra & Ingrid on motorcycles. Cobra's in the bed of a pick-up, spraying machine gun fire at his pursuers, who drop like flies as they are gunned down. Do the others make any attempt to avoid dying? No. They keep coming (not even swerving out of the way), only to be gunned down themselves. It's like my annual battle with ants in my kitchen. It doesn't matter how many ants I dispatch with spray, traps or the good-old-fashioned fist, the other ants don't get the message and keep on coming.

Surely this must be a comedy...right?

But it's not all mayhem. Halfway through, there's the get-to-know-you scene where Cobra comments on the amount of ketchup Ingrid put on her fries (yet another random food scene), followed by a romantic interlude where Ingrid has the hots for Cobra. When she tries to get close, he warns her, “Not a lot of people like the way I live.” I don't know if this statement is supposed to signify his dedication to his job, his 'rebellious loner' status or his penchant for using office supplies to cut his food. I guess it doesn't matter, because Cobra and Ingrid end up doing doing the nasty anyway.

Anyway, by the end, after all the violent heroics, bloodshed, corny dialogue and the concluding scene where Cobra & Ingrid ride off into the sunset on a Harley to yet-another synthesized 80's tune, I'm still left with this quandary: Is this supposed to be a an ironic black comedy, or the most cynical vanity project in Sylvester Stallone's entire filmography? This very question might make Cobra one of his most watchable movies.

Even after all these years, long after I finally understood the final scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey, I'm still tortured by why Marion Cobretti feels the need to use scissors to cut his pizza.

October 14, 2012

Highly-Debatable Lists: Top 25 Magic Movie Numbers

Of course, anyone who grew up in the 70s knows that 3 is the magic number. But in Hollywood, there are many more. This is FKMG's highly-debatable list of the most important, commonly-recurring and/or trivial numbers everyone needs to know about the movies.

Click here for FKMG's Top 25 Magic Movie Numbers

October 11, 2012

6 DISNEY Classics Featuring Lines From Other Movies


“Now here’s two words for you…shut the fuck up.”

“Ever seen a grown man naked?”

“If I were the man I was five years ago, I’d take a flamethrower to this place!”

“I’ma get medieval on yo ass!”

“I knew it…I’m surrounded by assholes.”

“When there’s no more room in Hell…the dead will WALK THE EARTH!”