Thursday, April 28, 2011

Boys Often Make Passes At Girls Who Break Glasses

One of my (many) guilty pleasures is the subgenre I like to call Slick Pretty People Thrillers. You know the type. Typically late ‘90s PG13 rated sagas that often pit the easily corruptible poor against the perfeclty dressed (and only ever suggestively undressed) rich. Everybdy’s fashion comes from the closet racks of Gossip Girl before any Gossip Girls were wearing Victoria's Secret diapers.
Hence 2000’s Gossip, a glossy NYC univeristy (but not NYU) based tale starring such attractive future stars as James Marsden, Kate Hudson, Norman Reedus, Lena Headey, and...Edward James Olmos.

Quick Plot: A trio of mismatched college friends gets inspired by communications professor Eric Bogosian to do their final project on how rumors spread. Smart and sensible Jones (Headly) decides to aim their attack at the rich blond prude Naomi (a pre-Almost Famous and therefore, almost famous Hudson), telling the school that the infamous good girl had sex with forever ‘90s teen Joshua Pacey Jackson. With the help of chiseled rich boy Derrick (Marsden) and the shy artist Travis (Reedus) the team quickly set their plan into action.

Silly spoiled young people with no sense of compassion. Don’t you know making up stories will lead to rape accusations, police investigations, tragic suicides, friendship ripples and broken glasses?
Hollah that, broken glasses. I counted at least three moments wherin a character dropped or threw their beverage with smashing results. I think there’s more such shots of these than uses of “Noooooooooooooooo!” in Gangland.

So if you’re a broken glass fetishist, this one’s for you. As for the rest, Gossip isn’t quite as bad-to-good as I expected (or let’s be honest, hoped). The actors all commit admirably like the fresh young things they once were (and in Marsden’s perennial youth, are), and the overall plotting feels both believable and elevated to the ‘this can happen, but only to gorgeous people with great hair’ kind of way. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t go quite as far with its sleaze factor, ultimately feeling more like a star-studded Law and Order episode than anything else. 
High Points
Boy, these youngins sure are pretty!

Low Points
There’s no real likable character in the bunch. Though Headey’s Jones opens the film with narration that’s supposed to make us think she’s moral, her decisions are rarely that much better than Derrick’s. Travis doesn’t ever seem strong enough to root for and hence, who are we supposed to care about again?

Lessons Learned
Occasionally in an academic environment we try to think about the world we live in
Telling folks that your dad is Mick Jagger won’t get you chicks, but it will get you a free round of fancy martinis
Gossip is bad, mmkay?

The only reason I watched Gossip is because it was streaming on Netflix until April. April hath passed, and I can’t really see any reason to obtain the disc--providing, of course, that the slow motion of dropping of glasses doesn’t make you feel tingly--but if it puts itself in front of your face on cable or Instant Watch, eh. The people are pretty. And that is that.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Prom Night, Prom Night, First Crown I Smash Tonight

Prom Night, for all its Leslie Nielsenness and Jamie Lee Curtis disco, is not a very good film. Its 1986 followup, however, has achieved a farily positive reputation, at least based on the cool cats in my movie nerd circle (most of whom, I assume, spent their senior prom home watching parts 3 & 4 while I spilled chicken all over my puffy sun orange gown while closing the night out with ‘N Sync’s Bye Bye Bye).
Time to put those nerds to the test. Otherwise, there will be wedgies.
Quick Plot: In 1957, slutty prom queen Mary Lou dies just before being crowned in front of her gawking classmates, among them her piece-on-the-side badboy lover (turned priest as an adult) and cuckolded rich boyfriend who unleashes a deadly stinkbomb and later, grows into a sexy bespectacled Michael Ironside.

Flashing forward thirty years, the Ironside is now the high school principal whose son is dating good girl Vicki, a big-haired, doe-eyed blond who for whatever reason (that somehow involves the desecration of a prom crown), ends up occasionally possessed by the flaky ghost of Mary Lou. Along the way, artistic puffy pants wearing students get strangled by prom capes, dopy fathers get kissed by their teenaged daughters, and hairspray is wildly abused by men and women with equal opportunity. The ‘80s were indeed a time for pioneers.

I thought I’d have more to say about Prom Night II, but really, it’s the kind of slightly self-aware ‘80s slasher that speaks for itself. High school students are stereotyped and killed in adorably silly styles. A good girl plays dirty in ways that would make Hannah Montana raise her eyebrows (and then take notes). The effects are gooey and gorgeous and at the end of the day, the nerds prevail.
High Points
Any film that culminates in an epic prom scene featuring crushed blue velvet AND lasers is automatically going to get at least four stars from my galaxy

Low Points
Honestly, there’s not much to NOT *like* about the movie, but I suppose one could just want the whole story to take a few steps further towards trashiness

Lessons Learned
Tutti Fruiti is a REALLY long song
Stink bombs + satin = bad times

The potato is rich in AM, FM, and carbohydrates
In order to avoid overloading your bedroom with its equestrian theme, balance those posters of stallions and carousel horses with classier fare, like Picasso’s Guernica

Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II is a darn good party film, one busting with ridiculous ‘80s style--and I’m not just talking about crimped hair and mismatched earrings. It’s a goofy bowl of punch that won’t come near scaring you, but it probably beats any high school dance you ever attended.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I've Got a Golden Tick-Um, Spellcaster?

I have no memory of putting 1992’s The Spellcaster on my Netflix queue, but apparently, it happened and I watched it. The following review is proof of such.

Quick Plot: A pair of fresh-faced Ohioan siblings win the chance to compete in an MTV sponsored contest wherein they, plus five detestable young people people get to spend the weekend in an Italian castle with a pop star to find a check for $1 million dollars.
Yes, at this point, your mouth should be watering for an Everlasting Gobstopper.
Essentially, The Spellcaster is an early ‘90s remake of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, with a few major modifications:

Willy Wonka = Diablo, played by Adam Ant as a demonic Brit who secretly dreams of being a VJ (not to be confused with a DJ, come on people)
Slugworth = The Madonna-esque rock chick from Dolls playing a Madonna-esque rock chick

Lifetime supply of chocolate = $1 million
Veruca Salt = Ivy Crane from Passions (or if you’d like, the mom-in-peril of Rumplestiltskin) as a hot pink leotard wearing California tease with an odd habit of luring men into showers, having them wash her back, and then dismissing them with a polite ‘thank you’
Agustus Gloop = Frank, the token fat guy whose main character quirk is the fact that he eats a lot and gets turned into a pig (cause, you know, he’s fat)

Charlie Bucket = A young and blond Gail O’Grady who does one better by not daring to steal fizzy lifting drinks
Mike Teevee = a British female hunter in riding pants
Oompa Loompas = Diablo’s collection of living antiques, including a killer chair

...and so on. Much like Ghoulies and other minor VHS rentals of its time, The Spellcaster is all about pretty (well, by 1992 standards) people stuck in a giant haunted house for an evening of practical effects-based mayhem. The blood is fairly minimal and visuals more than laughable by today’s standards, but the film has a playful spirit about it that makes the action and dialogue quite smile-worthy for a lazy afternoon. 
High Points
Between a pig transformation, glowstick snake strangulation, and woman-eating chair feast, there sure are some enjoyable death scenes to be found

Low Points
I suppose I could take fault with the fact that the characters are essentially walking stereotypes (Horny Italian Guy, Good Girl, Her Brother, French Skank, Blond Bitch Who Disrespects Books, Aggressive Huntress...okay, the last one’s new). In truth, I found that aspect rather amusing
Lessons Learned
There ain’t no such thing as winners in Cleveland
Like so much else in Italy, policeman pants are exceedingly sexy
Italian men are well aware that they are greasy and always want to come (you know, for walks)

As the great Fear No Evil taught us, when in doubt, toss in zombies

Winning Line
“It’s the police, and I don’t see Sting”
When said with utter seriousness, these words are kind of golden

The Spellcaster is streaming on Netflix, which is precisely where it should be. The film is  a typical grilled American cheese sandwich, not overly nourishing but tasty enough for lunchtime satisfaction. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hippoty Hoppoty Homicide!

As some of you know and others don't care about, I spent the last year or so contributing to Pop Syndicate, a recently deceased website that lost all its past content (and writers). The following article appeared in 2009 and since you can't find it anywhere else in InterWorld, I'm rerunning it here. Apologies for the deja vu.

Controversial, religious, or rainy, Easter weekend is more than just an excuse to gorge yourself on Cadbury Creme Eggs. Namely, it’s a time to watch seasonal horror movies! A few recommendations:
Critters 2: The Main Course

One of the few genre films specifically set during Easter and for a very good reason: critters hatch from eggs, and what better way to feast upon an idyllic small town than by Trojan horse-plowing your way into the homes and baskets of tasty locals?
Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter

And on the third day, Jesus kick some undead ass. According to this affectionally campy musical/action/horror/wrestling romp, Christ will sing, dance, and spin kick through sunglass-wearing gangs of blood drinkers, especially if the monsters are on the prowl to purge the world of its lesbian population. It’s as silly as its title suggests (note that I haven’t even mentioned the luchador sidekick or voice-of-god speaking through an ice cream sundae) but this low budget oddity is a surprisingly good time and way more fun than Sunday mass. If your ears are feeling fancy, check out Episode 14 of the Girls On Film Podcast for our gushings.
Night of the Lepus

I often take issues with fear snobs sneering at the threat of killer dolls, but I’ll confidently eat my Easter bonnet to say bunnies are not, never were, and can never be scary. Perhaps the best proof is offered in this infamous flop(fy eared) 1972 monster flick, in which giant rabbits wreak havoc on mankind and Janet Leigh. It’s adorable.
Fear No Evil

I usually recommend this 1981 entry into the antichrist subgenre for its see-it-to-believe-it death by dodgeball, but to be timely, we could also cite the subplot passion play for the perfect Easter Sunday (or Good Friday) viewing. A smiling actor playing an actor playing Jesus (and fittingly voiced by the director in one of the best cameos since Hitchcock) gets more than church community adoration when Satan’s teenage son accepts his legacy at the town’s annual celebration. Needless to say, next time you subject yourself to theatrical crucifixion, it’s best to ask for a stunt double. (Read my original review here)
Black Sheep

Zombies moan. Body snatchers shriek. Asian ghost girls make strange clicking sounds. But only genetically altered New Zealand lambs bleat, as this 2006 horror comedy proudly proves. While I’ve always been a tad reluctant to chow down on the lamb chops my grandmother made on Easter (particularly when cardboard sheep were smiling in decoration form around the kitchen), the man-eating mammals here remove any guilt I have dishing out seconds.
Fatal Attraction

In keeping with the theme, one could easily argue that Glen Close’s golden perm bears a striking resemblance to Lampchop herself. Plus, a bunny stew served by an obsessive murderess is the perfect Easter dinner, particularly for psychopaths in need of solid protein for another night of stalking.

Okay, so there’s no Mega Spider vs. Giant Bunny action here, but the main threat in this likable 1990 creature features is a nest of hidden eggs. What’s more festive than that?
Did I pass over any of your favorites? (See what I did there, Pass-ov--never mind) . Bad punning or not, add or your own and have a great Peeps-At-Half-Price Monday!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Well, it's a lot better than The Roommate...

Ah, freshman orientation, a stressful week filled with forced bonding exercises that I imagine are repeated upon entrance into hell. My first week at an upstate university (where from I transfered the following year) included a book club discussion of the assigned summer reading titled Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together In the Cafeteria? I kid you not, it was as friend-making an experience as you’re imagining right now.

Thusly do we get Red Hook, a New York-based horror film set during that first week of class registration, mess hall meeting, and closet-space imperialism.
Quick Plot: As a young girl, Jenny witnesses the brutal slaying of her older sister at the hands of a man disguised as a cop. Flash forward ten years or so as Jenny leaves the green of North Carolina to enroll in The University of New York City, which I assume is the lesser little sister (how appropriate) companion school to Felicity’s alma mater.

Turns out, everyone that attends UNC is pretty much a terrible terrible person. Jenny’s roommate is a squeaky-voiced musical theater major who spells doom the minute she tacks down her Mama Mia poster. The RA is an immature prankster, but you’d be an asshole too if your floor consisted of the incredibly awful newspaper-centered overachiever, the sullen lesbian, man-using slut, used man jock, and so on. Despite everyone being inexplicably mean to her, Jenny manages to uncover a potential boyfriend in Tim, the sweet guy New Yorker who, whaddya know, ALSO lost an older sibling as a child.

Isn’t it sweet?
You know what’s sweeter? Having your first date end with a shooting in a deli wherein the prospective robber gets his head blown off an arm’s reach away from you. That’s totally the stuff you can’t wait to tell your grandkids.
Moving on...
After a prolonged orientation to our characters’ orientation, the grabbag gang takes on a city-wide scavenger hunt in the hopes of scoring White Stripes tickets (or jobs at either The New Yorker or the school newspaper, it’s unclear). Before long, our lovably unlovable freshmen start splitting up and hitting some of New York’s hot spots, annoying tired cashiers at the now defunct Two Boots Pizza & Video and not-at-all busy employees of The New York Times. Thankfully, they’re also getting slaughtered.

Red Hook is a fairly by the numbers slasher made a tad more interesting by its aggressive insistence on being a 21st century New York movie. Look, it’s Columbus Circle! And wow, Angela is totally auditioning for Spring Awakening! Those kinds of nods only really matter if you, like many of the characters, have just moved to New York and therefore a) know the landmarks and b) are still green enough to be impressed by them. 

As for the rest of the film, it unfolds as you’d expect, with characters being gutted just when they think they’re safe and a few different “it’s THAT person!” end teases. Then it’s over and your life continues as it did before.
High Points
Um. It’s odd. I’ve certainly seen worse things than Red Hook, but I’m stumped to call upon any specific aspect that felt special about this film. Perhaps the final line, which has a nice and depressing vibe to it
Low Points
Any movie that teases me with a top-billed Terence Mann and then gives the first Javert a mere three brief scenes has earned my red hook

Lessons Learned
Having sex in the middle of Central Park on a sunny September day is apparently really easy
Real blood bleeds
With enough time and tears, a lesbian will totally change what kind of woman she’s attracted to
When filling out your college housing application, don't forget to make a special note that you're allergic to theater majors

Red Hook is incredibly mediocre, but hey, I still got through it. I can’t recommend a viewing, but as a quick stream on Netflix when you’re halfway occupied with reading a magazine or pairing off your orphaned socks following your most recent laundry, it’s not necessarily a painful experience. Some of the acting and editing is horrid, but the main performances at least push through and’s a movie. Not a good one per say, but you know, it starts and stuff happens and then it’s over. Sometimes that’s enough.