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2007/03/30

Twelve Inches of Meat Covered in Creamy White Mayonnaise

You know that commercial that ends with a woman in a business suit declaring that a Quiznos sub has "a lot of meat. And that's what real women want"? I don't know what it is, but something about her brings out the inner-misogynist in me. Every time I see it, I want to smack the woman upside the head. I don't normally mind when women in commercials act like nymphs -- I love when the Overstock.com lady talks about "the O". But something about the way the Quiznos chick says it repulses me. Maybe it's her tone of voice, which says, "I'm a superficial bitch whose life centers around satisfying my sexual urges like a thirteen year old boy." Or maybe it's the way she caveats her statement with "real women" like any woman who doesn't crave a giant throbbing cock isn't a true woman. But I think it's the way she looks like she stepped out of a Valtrex commercial -- you know, the one where yuppie scum talk about how Valtrex has saved them the embarrassment of explaining to their partners, "By the way I gave you a special present last night."
Daddy Would've Gotten Us Uzis, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Kill the Incredibly Mixed-Up Zombies Who Weren't Crazy but Simply Didn't Give a Fuck

The '80s were easily the nadir of Hollywood movies. Just look at the "great" directors to come out of the decade -- Ron Howard (okay, Apollo 13 was pretty good, but beyond that he's as bad as Ed Wood), John Hughes (maker of propagandistic light comedies the preach adherence to a strict caste system, and that even a bat-shit crazy girl can get a date with a football star -- which all girls should want -- if she just combs her hair and puts on make-up), and Rob Reiner (he did indeed make the best movies of the '80s, which is all the more reason to question the decade's worth). The "classics" of the era -- On Golden Pond, Chariots of Fire, The Color Purple -- are either ponderously dull or have maudlin cranked to 11. And don't get me started on the films children of the '80s remember fondly with nostalgia -- Willow, Transformers, The Last Starfighter.. Once you elliminate Bill Murray comedies, John Carpenter films, The Empire Strikes Back, and even-numbered Star Trek films, there's not much left.

The best films of the decade were B-movies -- Dragonslayer, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension, Return of the Living Dead, Re-Animator -- that weren't trying to be good and thsu rise above badness.

A great example of this is Night of the Comet, which recently made its (long anticipated) DVD debut. This is a movie that is dumber than dumb -- and knows it and revels in its own stupidity. As the movie begins, a comet is approaching Earth -- a comet with a preposterously long period of 65 million years. Though several characters point out that its last fly-by coincides with the Cretaceous die-off, no one finds it worrying. Well, except for some crazed scientists who whole up in an underground lab straight out of Day of the Dead. Which is lucky for them, because everyone exposed to the comet's light turns to an orange powder (mmm, Tang, drink of astronauts), and those only partially exposed become extremely dehyrated and turn into zombies. Unfortunately for the scientists, they left the airducts open and recieved enough MacGuffin radiation that they begin slowly turning into zombies.

The heroes of the story are a couple of valley girls, sisters (Catherine Mary "Alex Rogan I love you wherever you are" Stewart and Kelli Maroney) , who, for various plot contrivances, happened to spend the night inside. They hear a local radio station is still on the air, so they head to the studio only to discover the whole operation is automated. But they to meet up with another survivor, Robert Beltran (the wooden Indian from Star Trek: Voyager). They pick up some guns to fight off the zombies (the girls' father was some kind of commando who trained them to be female John Connors in case of an apocalypse. They head to the local mall where they fight some more zombies and eventually get kidnapped by the scientists-who-aren't-quite-yet-zombies who want the girls' blood for its anti-zombie antibodies -- or something. To be honest, the last half hour of the film doesn't make a lot of sense. But it doesn't have to. The joy of the film is the way everyone involved knows it's stupid and enjoys it anyway. Instead of a movie that should be on MST3k, the result is a movie with a sense of humor like MST3k.

We get great scenes like when the boss mall zombie holds Kelli Maroney hostage and Catherine Mary Stewart retaliates by grabbing a zombie as her own hostage.

The boss zombie looks on amused and tells Stewart, "I can't let you hold one of my men hostage."

"Well, let my sister go then," Stewart responds.

"No, you don't understand. I can't let you hold one of my men hostage," the boss zombie says again and shoots his man. "I'm not crazy," he explains, "I just don't give a fuck."

Forget John McLane and Rambo, that's what the Reagan era was all about -- chicks with guns fighting zombies and mad scientists who have no regard for public safety.

Really. Those were different times.

2007/03/20

Dueling Leias







I don't think Melissa Joan Hart beats Kristen Bell as Princess Leia, but she ain't bad.

Is there anything funnier than washed up SNL comedians appearing drunk on local TV talkshows? I think not.

Dreams Do Come True



Kristen Bell as Princess Leia in a metal bikini. 'Nuff said.

2007/03/15

The Crimes of Dr. Henry Jones, Jr.

A discussion of plot holes in rec.arts.movies.past-films has turned to Raiders of the Lost Ark. Great movie though it is, the plot is more riddled with holes than Dillinger's corpse -- why was a division of Nazi troops running around unmolested in a British protectorate; how did Indy survive while clinging to the hull of a sub (even if it didn't submerge, the crew should've spotted him from the conning tower); how did Indy and Marion get off the Nazi island with the Ark; and why did Indy have a two-man plane waiting just over the hill from the Hovito temple at the beginning.

That last one raises some interesting questions about Dr. Jones' character.

First, let's consider what we know of him. He's supposedly an accredited archaeologist, but in Temple of Doom a character accuses him of being a grave robber, and notes that several countries have kicked him out and threatened dire punishments if he ever returns. Nothing we see in the movies disproves the accusations. In fact, Jones' archaeological techniques match Belloq's description of the Nazis' -- of using "a bulldozer to find a china cup". Dr. Jones has no interest in learning about ancient cultures -- he just wants to find the loot, even if he destroys whole structures in the process.

The film's also show us that he's quite a lothario -- we see him with three women over the course of four years, two of whom he definitely slept with (making him extremely promiscuous by the standards of the time). His classes attract a large number of female students who gaze at him with googly eyes. Near the beginning of Raiders we see a girl in one of his classes with "I love you" painted on her eye lids, which disconcerts Dr. Jones in the middle of his lecture. Upon first viewing we assume he's caught off guard by a student having a crush on him, but that seems unlikely in retrospect. And then consider what we learn about his relationship with Marion later in the film:

MARION: You son-of-a-bitch! You know what you did to me, to my life? This is your handiwork.

INDY: I never meant to hurt you.

MARION: I was a child!

INDY: You knew what you were doing.

MARION: I was in love.

INDY: I guess that depends on your definition.

MARION: It was wrong. You knew it.
Dr. Jones is clearly a sexual Neanderthal who seduces women and tosses them aside once he's had his fun. So when viewing the classroom scene we must ask ourselves, does the student simply have a crush, or is there more to it. Perhaps she's another notch on Jones' headboard, and he's disconcerted because she can't take the hint the he's done with her.

This might also explain why in Raiders Indy is teaching at a California college, but by The Last Crusade he's in New York. Perhaps his college grew tired of his peccadilloes and gave him the boot. Or alternatively, maybe they grew tired of him skiving off classes without any notice to head to South America on a treasure hunting expedition.

Which brings us back to the initial question -- what was that plane doing there, just over the hill from the Hovito temple? We know Jones didn't fly there since (A) we see him and his companions trekking through the jungle a lot farther than the distance from the plane, and (B) the plane only had room for Jones and the pilot. So that means Jones had to know the location of the temple in advance and told the pilot where to meet him, and that he had no intention of taking his companions along after he got the idol. The obvious conclusion to draw is that he knew in advance that the area was filled with booby traps and wanted companions along to use as catspaws to trigger them. If any of his men survived the temple, they'd be left for a Hovito stewpot.

In light of these facts, we must also reconsider the actions of Alfred Molina's character, Satipo, who betrayed Jones in the temple. To a viewer who accepts Spielberg's manipulative telling of the story, Satipo is a rat bastard who betrayed Jones. But obviously he twigged to Jones' plan and decided to beat him to the punch.

Thankfully there was a reputable archaeologist on the scene, who, though he failed to save poor Satipo, stopped Jones from stealing the Hopito's rightful property and heritage. If Belloq hadn't been foolish enough to take a Nazi grant for his expedition, he'd be the hero of the movie. As it is, the only thing Jones has going for him is that he hates Nazis, which isn't a particularly high bar.

NEXT WEEK: E.T.: friendly alien, or advance scout for an invasion fleet?

2007/03/12

Picture If You Will...

...Bladerunner remade as a live action anime by the Wachowski Brothers. In Korean. That is, in essence, Natural City, a movie about cops, cyborgs, and wire-fu.

Although visually stunning, like other Matrix knock-offs (Equilibrium, I'm looking at you) there's something lacking in the writing. I never thought I'd be craving lines like, "I know kung-fu," and "Dodge this," but that is indeed better than the dialogue (or at least subtitles) in Natural City, which crosses into, "As you know, Bob," territory several times, with characters explaining basics of cyborg technology, which they should all be familiar with, several times in the same scene.

But the real problem with the film is characterization. The plot differs from Blade Runner in one key aspect -- R, a cop charged with hunting down rogue cyborgs, is in love with a cyborg sex-doll named Ria, who is near the end of her 3-year lifetime. To save her, he is harvesting AI chips from the cyborgs he terminates -- which in the opening scene of the movie gets several of his comrades maimed and killed. Now to justify this sort of disregard for human life, Ria needs to be something special, otherwise R just comes across as a psychotic asshole.

Well, the way the movie portrays it, he is a psychotic asshole. Ria has less personality than a popsicle stick, making it impossible to care about her plight. Worse, there's a fortune-telling hooker who falls in love with R who is several orders of magnitude more sympathetic, and R ends up endangering her life to save Ria. One could view R as an anti-hero or even out-right villain, but that only helps a bit -- even bad guys should have better taste in women.

The character in the Edward James Olmos role, Noma, is much more sympathetic, but the fact that R's supposed to be his best friend never seems believable. R disrespects him repeatedly, puts their coworkers in danger, and comes just short of outright betrayal. Their relationship is similar to Tetsuo and Kaneda in Akira -- if you removed all the scenes establishing the friendship between Tetsuo and Kaneda in the beginning.

But the comparison to Akira does highlight the film's one strong suit -- its visual design looks like anime come to life. Despite a much smaller budget, it looks a lot more impressive than any of the Matrix films and is arguably as good as the Star Wars prequels despite a more limited scope. But what does it matter when, like Star Wars and the Matrix sequels there's no story to support the effects?
Free at Last

John Inman, familiar to anyone who's ever watched PBS as Mr. Humphries, the ... effete sales clerk at Grace Bros. Department store, has died.
The Music Anachronism

I recently saw Sophia Coppola's Marie Antoinette for the first time. While not as good as Lost in Translation, it's still far superior to anything mainstream Hollywood put out last year (or the year before, or, for that matter, any time this century). I love the film's central conceit, to portray Antoinette as though she's an upper-middle class American teenager (the scenes with Antoinette and Madame du Barry could be straight out of Bring it On or Mean Girls if not for the corsets and Versailles backdrop). The concept has been used in comedies before, but this is the first time I've encountered it in a serious drama, and I don't know why. It allows the filmmaker to comment on the historical setting through a modern prism and at the same time suggest parallels between the past and present. But most critics I've read seem to think that this is simply a shallow treatment of the subject, instead of the shallowness being the point.

The biggest criticism I've seen leveled against the film is the use of anachronistic music, including songs by Gang of Four, Bow Wow Wow, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, and New Order. These criticisms miss the point, however, since Coppola's musical choices are meant to contextualize the characters in a way that period-appropriate music can't do for modern audiences. But ignoring that, I wonder why it is that anachronistic pop music is frowned upon in period pictures, but if Coppola had hired Howard Shore or James Horner no one would bat an eye. It's not as if a modern orchestral composition is appropriate for pre-revoluationary France; an accurate score for the film would consist of Mozart, Haydn and their contemporaries. But no one complains when Jane Austen adaptations don't use such music. Or that Vangelis is inappropriate Alexander, or Alex North for Spartacus, or Bernard Hermann for Jason and the Argonauts, and yet their compositions are just as anachronistic as anything Coppola chose for Marie Antoinette. But for most people any orchestral composition is "classical" music and appropriate for a film set more than a hundred years ago, whereas pop-music can never be removed from its context.