I don’t know how I fit in so many danged movies this week, but I did. Yikes. And I still managed to do quite a bit. Weird. Capping things off with a Neveldine/Taylor triple-shot. Oh, Crank Yeah!
A Free Soul: An unpredictable young woman with a taste for danger upsets her stuffy family when she gets involved with a bad boy. Conspicuous consumption of alcohol is once again at the root of everyone’s trouble, turning good folks into devils. What those young socialites get up to when they spend too much time in the city. Clark Gable is kind of awesome as the a-hole crook our lady is fancy for. Booze, man. Booze.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island: Full of Rocky goodness, this family friendly movie is actually packed with some pretty good action and a fairly clever script. I love this kind of movie, and this one is a surprisingly good entry. Though I enjoyed the first film more than it probably deserved, I felt like this one earned it more. And, if like me, you know the Rock is all kinds of awesome, you should enjoy it.
Three on a Match: Three young women who attended public school together grow up in different worlds, only to come together again through happenstance. As is often the case with movies of this era, drinking leads people astray, as a married woman takes up with a petty criminal. Lots of naughty behavior later, and unlikely folks are stepping up to the plate, while others descend to the very depths. Humphrey Bogart has an early turn as a semi-competent thug. One of my favorite bits was Bogart’s little ‘she’s on coke’ gesture. Nasty business.
Female: Giving them the vote? Letting them smoke? For shame. Now they’re running businesses and all hell is breaking loose. Our leading lady chews up men and spits them out with little thought. She’s a slave driving ice queen at work and a fiery sex-pot at her lavish home. That is, until she meets a real man, and doesn’t know quite how to act. Her clumsy attempts to woo him are rather amusing. Of course, eventually she learns that being a happy woman means giving up work and becoming a mother. Ugh. Still, it’s a pretty funny movie, even if the message is rather…um, well, old school.
Blazing Stewardesses: If you ever find yourself working on a research paper about the nature of humor, you can cite this film as what humor isn’t.
Black Cobra Woman: “You know it’s fun, and…and it’s educational.” Look, Laura Gemser is a gorgeous woman, and she seems to have a clothing allergy. That’s groovy. But, no matter how many filters you put on it, and no matter how much drum music you play, a naked woman dancing with a snake is nowhere near as erotic as my primitive man-brain wants it to be. Snakes are reptiles. What do reptiles spend most of their lives doing? That’s right; NOTHING. Not much of a dance partner. The dvd looks like it was recorded from a ratty VHS that had been sitting in the sun too long. Snake loving Jack Palance seems to be having fun, but when didn’t he? And heck, if I was older than dirt and looked like rawhide stretched over a killer robot, I’d be glad to be teamed with a beautiful young woman too; no matter how icky it might look to anyone watching. It’s poorly dubbed, poorly edited, and poorly paced. But Gemser sure takes her clothes off a lot.
Casablanca: It may be cliché to say, but this really is one of the best danged movies of all time. The cast, the look, the crackerjack dialog. Bogart switches from cold to sloppy to brutal and back again faster than lightening. He is the quintessential tough guy, with just one gap in his armor. Claude Rains is fantastic as the prowling hound dog of a policeman, always looking out for a young lady in trouble. And of course, Conrad Veidt makes for a deadly smooth Nazi. Like the more popular Shakespeare plays, the dialog has become so classic, it is part of our common culture, from “Maybe not today” to “We’ll always have Paris” it bristles with familiar lines, even for those who haven’t seen it yet. And, as someone who has loved the film since childhood, I can attest that with life, love, loss and all those experiences that come with getting older, the film takes on new meaning and power. Though I don’t think I actually have a ‘favorite film’ I still feel quite comfortable using this as my go-to answer when people ask.
The Arena: Women in Prison meets Sword and Sandals, in this genre mix-up featuring the leads of Black Momma, White Momma, together again. Most of the standard gladiator tropes are used, with the slight alterations needed for female fighters. Pam Grier’s rather impressive figure, along with that of her co-stars, makes frequent appearances. Plenty of bad dubbing and some odd editing. But, fairly entertaining. And worth it for Grier fans, for sure.
American Psycho: The faceless uniformity and soullessness of 80s Wall Street culture is personified in Patrick Bateman, who has taste and panache, and a thirst for blood. Grimly humorous and frequently clever. Filled with great lines and memorable speeches (about Genesis and Whitney Huston, of course). Not for everyone, what with the murder, the sex, and running around naked (except for sneakers), covered in blood and wielding a chainsaw, and the like.
Sin City: Like panels of the comic splashed on the screen in lurid black & white, with the occasional dash of color, Sin City is a fun homage to the hard boiled novels and noir films of yesteryear (and a swell adaptation of writer/co-director Frank Miller’s graphic novels). Brutal, violent, testosterone infused, and wild. The acting is as stylized as the visuals; the characters larger than life. It’s a heck of a ride.
Night Nurse: “I’m Nick…the chauffeur.” *POW!* The seedy world of medicine, corruption, criminals, cover-ups, and bad medicine is exposed in this tale of a young woman of honor and courage fighting the system. There’s also a bit of a romance. And Clark Gable is absolutely loathsome. The finale is kinda crazy, man. It’s funny, because he’s dead!
Thou Shalt Not: Sex, Sin and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood: When people remember the ‘good old days’ they’re never remembering reality. And movies embody this so well. Before a bunch of holy rollers got their magic underwear in a bunch and decided that freedom of speech should only be for their own brand of hate (mostly anti-Semitism), movies were pretty raw, sometimes shockingly frank, often quite clever, and very entertaining. This brief but fairly informative documentary gives a glimpse into the era before a small percentage of Americans decided they should be able to tell the rest of us what we could and could not watch (sound familiar?). Plenty of clips and interviews. It was a brief moment in Hollywood history, but so vibrant and energetic. There is an argument to be made, that the censorship of the Code forced filmmakers to be more clever and creative. And, I’d say that’s true. But I don’t think it makes the restrictions OK. Like so many social movements to come out of or gain strength in the mid 30s and 40s, Code enforcement is a black mark on what America should be. The ‘good old days’ my butt.
Crank: Did The Transporter strike you as too subtle? Too restrained? Well, Crank is the movie for you. Watch the beast Statham as he wages a one man crime spree in his attempt to get his hands on the guy who poisoned him. Popping drugs, energy drinks, electricity, and uh, other things, he moves through the world as though it wasn’t there. This is not a deep, or meaningful film. It’s almost completely gratuitous, and revels in the ridiculousness. Grab on and enjoy the ride.
Crank 2: High Voltage: They turned Crank to 11 with this shockingly over the top follow-up to one of the most whacked out, nutty movies I’ve seen. High Voltage pushes things far beyond reason and so far beyond anything resembling good taste. Not for the easily offended or those who wish to over analyze or rationalize. If you enjoy extreme madness, this is a masterpiece in crazy. And while you’re at it, get your own station wagon!
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance: After the awful first film, with all it’s many problems, I certainly didn’t have any interest in a sequel. But then the Crank boys, Neveldine and Taylor got their hands on it, and everything changed. It doesn’t quite ignore the first film, but it is certainly a break from it, style-wise and quality-wise. Far less CGI for one thing. And when it’s used, it’s used well. Real people doing real stunts with real vehicles. Nice. The story is fine. The actors all do their thing. Nic Cage is typically bugnuts, though slightly restrained in comparison to some recent madness.
Hell Comes to Frogtown: Acting! OK, so yeah, watching these folks read dialog is a bit awkward. But, it’s a fun, goofy as hell movie. Rowdy Roddy Piper battles frog-faced mutants and saves his seed for needy women in this low budget apocalypse. It’s kind of funny, and has a few clever bits. But the time and money were obviously lacking. Still, worth a watch if you like some 80s weird.
I also got a chance to sit down and watch a few more episodes of Primeval, which is still and interesting show, but a bit frustrating. I really, really want it to be better than it is.
In my continuing adventure in actually reading graphic novels, I read and reviewed a good Star Trek volume, and the wacky intro to The Myth of 8-Opus. And I posted the next page in my webcomic.