Monday, June 30, 2014

Load Up the Calamine Lotion

Poison Ivy is one of those much-referenced ‘90s sexy thrillers that I’m guessing less people have seen than used as a punchline. I do not tolerate such hijinks.

Quick Plot: Darlene Connor--er, Sylvia Cooper--is a lonely teenager making minor attempts to revolt against her wealthy, recovering alcoholic dad (Tom Skerritt and later, Tom Skerritt's butt) and beautiful but dying mother (Cheryl Ladd). To her surprise, the socially awkward Sylvia befriends the blond, beautiful, and rebellious new girl on a scholarship named (sorta) Ivy.

They each buy one half of a best friend necklace, help each other with their homework, and team up to win the big science fair competition.

Wait, that must have been the R-rated editions. Let me change the settings on this DVD.


While she begins with the lovable smile of Drew Barrymore, it only takes a month or so for Ivy to draw our her inner Crush-era Alicia Silverstone (pre-chewing up food and spitting it in her baby's mouth, naturally).

Directed by The Rage: Carrie 2's Katt Shea, Poison Ivy is certainly a film of its early '90s time period, most notably in its smoldering saxophone infused score. The film was fairly infamous and went on to spawn three sequels, all (as far as I can tell from quick synopses) with the same basic formula of a mystery hot chick befriending a wallflower and overtaking her life. We've seen it before and I can't imagine living in a world where we won't see it again.

That being said, I was surprised at how much fun I had with Poison Ivy. Barrymore, an actress I've always found to be likable but limited, manages some of her best work with Ivy, conveying a trashy sweetness in early scenes and carefully transitioning to her sexy inner sociopath. Sarah Gilbert was always the best thing on Roseanne (and considering the talents of Laurie Metcalf and John Goodman, that says a lot) so it's no surprise to see her nail a similarly alienated teen. 

Also, this film is SLEAZY. I'm talking "Tom Skerritt orally pleasing an underage Drew Barrymore on the bed that this dying wife is sleeping on" sleazy. Maybe I should have saved that bit for the--

High Points
I mean, this film has Tom Skerritt orally pleasing an underage Drew Barrymore on the bed that this dying wife is sleeping on. You can't say the film doesn't go for it

Low Points
It's not necessarily the film's fault that since its debut 22 years ago, Lifetime has produced dozens and dozens of movies with the exact same premise and beats

Lessons Learned
TMJ almost killed Burt Reynolds

You can’t put 200 people on the sidewalk just cause you don’t like an editorial

When in doubt, never forget the powers of a sexy saxophone score

Poison Ivy is a Long Wait on Netflix, leading me to believe it's out of print (oddly enough, the same goes for Shea's The Rage). While this isn't the kind of movie you need to start eBaying madly, I do certainly recommend a watch if it crosses your screen. Particularly if you’re in the mood for true and utter sleaze.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Ladies & Gentlemen, The Face Blindness Movie

Faces In the Crowd required the work of four separate film studios.

Four separate studios who each have their own elaborately graphic designed logo.

Naturally, I expect greatness.

Quick Plot: Anna is your typical impossibly beautiful kindergarten teacher living with her handsome but dull boyfriend Bryce. After a regular girls' night out with a BFF that includes Lori Grimes (aka Sarah Wayne Callies, showing she can be way more fun than grating) sporting spectacularly weird red hair, Anna witnesses popular serial killer Tearjerk Jack (yes, it's a dumb name but that's just the beginning) finishing off his latest victim near a completely empty bridge. Just as she catches a glimpse of his mug, Anna tumbles off said empty bridge only to awaken in a hospital with face blindness.

There's some much longer medical term for it, but let's face it: this is the face blindness movie, just as Jack was the aging disease movie and Shame was the sex addiction movie.

We keep things real simple around here.

Face blindness, in case you didn't know, is an extremely rare condition in which the sufferer cannot remember faces once the people wearing them leave his or her sight of vision. This is exceptionally sad if you're Milla Jovovich and you cannot see just how impossibly beautiful a kindergarten teacher you are.

Also, it's incredibly inconvenient if you're a kindergarten teacher and can't tell your students apart.

It's even more inconvenient if you're the only witness to a brutal crime committed by a man man who just keeps a'killin'.

Enter the police force, represented here by two men because that's all police forces in big cities that might be New York if New York had a yellow 4 subway line and a dangerous amount of rollerbladers generally need. Detective Sam is played by Julian McMahon with a vital goatee and even more vital inconsistent not-British accent. The only other person of note in the entire police department is a psychologist who keeps appearing at chance moments and is, you know, totally not supposed to be the only character you suspect of actually being the real killer.


Did I mention that, for really no reason, there are A LOT of rollerbladers in this film?

Written and directed by Julien Magnat, Faces In the Crowd is supremely entertaining. As proven by her enthusiasm in the Resident Evil canon, Milla Jovovich is always the actress you should cast when you need some magnetism in a lousy script. She seems to be both trying to give a genuine performance but also conveying the understanding that yes, this is indeed a dreadful script. 

Lessons Learned
Contrary to popular opinion, no, it does not get tiring being a slut

Faces are the barcode of the human race

Everyone knows everyone on Koel Island

Never wait for backup in Not-New York City, unless you have at least a half hour to ward off a killer and die of a gunshot wound

Kindergarten teachers in Not-New York City prefer to use professional headshots for their Facebook profile pictures

The Winning Line
SPOILERs follow, so beware:

"I love you!"
"No, you don't. You'll find someone else." (cough cough, die)
Most passive aggressive final words ever? Even if they ARE delivered by a man who just made himself a makeshift goatee out of blood to break through his sorta girlfriend's face blindness (I'm so not kidding), that conversation is hilarious

Whew boy. Faces In the Crowd is not incompetent as a film. Jovovovich takes things seriously while still demonstrating a sense of humor in her performance, and the sleek urban (but seriously, not) landscape looks good on camera. Of course, it's everything from the adorably PG-rated hobo (they even call him a hobo!) to the soft focus sex scene that makes Faces In the Crowd such an unintentionally entertaining film. The script seems to be written by a middle school student who just finished reading her first mystery novel, and folks, that's not necessarily a bad thing. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Why I Love: Pee Ell Ell

It is, you might say, quite silly that a grown woman of 32 would find so much enjoyment in an ABC Family teen drama based on a popular series of YA novels. Granted, the popularity of Pretty Little Liars--henceforth to be known as PLL--is nothing shocking, as anyone who might have rolled their eyes at its proud (and true) claim to be 'the most tweeted show of all time!' can attest. 

These kids with their hashtags and hashbrowns and corned beef hash, amiright?

Anyway, I am (wo)man enough to admit that my week got a little brighter when I discovered Season 5 (or half season 2.5? Soooo many mysteries abound in Rosewood) has debuted. The excitement of learning how the show will continue to wrestle with/not actually address the morality of a teacher dating a student, what kind of blandly handsome yet shockingly inept policeman it will introduce, and answer the question of just how much white wine Laura Leighton can drink without reddening to her hair color will keep me entertained throughout the summer.

Need more reasons to watch? Try these:
The Show Is Literally Produced With An Addictive Additive
I've often said that the 'chunk chunk' (or 'dun dun', depending on your interpretation) gavel sound effect used on any Law & Order had to include cocaine. No, I don't know how that's actually possible, but you have to admit that it's either supernatural or illegal how hooked you are once you hear that transitional noise. Likewise, even when you're bored watching (cough cough) PLL, you almost always find your heart beating a little faster during any episode's final scene, usually one that involves some masked mystery man/woman/suburban army stabbing a doll to seriously intense music. 

This leads us to the next reason, namely...

Guys, this show almost always has dolls, often in the form of creepy effigies of its main quartet and more often than not, super awesome like this:

Or this...

Even the Barbie-esque this...

You get the point. The show has dolls. They're occasionally unsettling and yet equally adorable. 

Best Coming Out Story Ever
Here's where I step away from the snark to say, without irony, that PLL handled a teenage character coming to terms with her (not straight) sexuality with more finesse and sensitivity than any other show that I've ever seen (a bow and shout out to Buffy, which took up this challenge gamely but still felt restricted by its time). In its first season, the character of Emily Fields (played by the 'she's so pretty I hate her' Shay Mitchell) cautiously came to accept herself as a lesbian in a believable storyline that never felt forced or movie-of-the-week.

Pretty Little Outfits
How the hell these girls, all of whom have boyfriends, extracurricular activities, and a network of genius stalkers find time to deep condition their hair and coordinate such intense ensembles is beyond me. But hey, if the end results include as many animal prints mismatched with other animal prints as evidenced by the stylings of Aria Montgomery, it's all worth it.

LOOK! It's--
Meg Foster! 

And the creepily ageless Kendra Dee Vampry Slay-rr!

And Mike Horton!

Wait. Is that Alex Mack?

Sassy grandmother Betty Buckley

And when in doubt, cameo by Mrs. Garrett

Female Characters That Don't Rely On A 'Thing'
With four female leads, it's easy to take a guess at what your characters represent. Surely there must be one slut (the Samantha/Blanche), one prude (Charlotte/Rose), one practical grump (Miranda/Sophia) and the one who ties them all together (Carrie/Dorothy)? Aren't all female quartets composed of the same parts? The beauty of PLL, and I say this WITHOUT sarcasm, is that each of the four girls ISN'T a stereotype. Sure, they were originally conceived in broad strokes: Spencer is the intense overachiever, Emily the athlete, Hanna the ditz with a shopping addiction and Aria the artsy one who unites them all with her arrival after spending a year in Iceland (it's a thing). But even by the end of its first season, it's clear that these girls and to a more uneven degree, the actresses who play them, are much more layered than that. Aria likes to draw and write, but those are just her hobbies. Emily is less the champion swimmer than a young woman who slowly comes into her own as she deals with her sexuality, complicated relationship with her parents, and overall confidence. Spencer is intense and awesome. Best of all is Hanna, a character that could have easily been the dumb blonde but emerges--with the genuine best actress Ashley Benson--as the most interesting presence on the show. 

Halloween Done Right
If you're going to do a Halloween episode, you best DO a Halloween episode. Give me teenage girls referencing classic fiction and cult cinema, give me terror trains-- actual Terror Trains. Like Roseanne and The Simpsons, PLL understands that the most important holiday of the year comes on October 31st...even if it airs some time in January.

Homage This
Aforementioned Halloween episodes are always nodding towards some classics (wink at the John Carpenter staging in Season 2 and the complete Terror Train parody of Season 3), but even regular episodes have incorporated some classic cinema in pretty neat ways. Hitchcock abounds throughout the series, though the end of its second season pays up with glorious taxidermied results. More recently, Season 4 took an entire episode and made it '40s style noir, filming in gorgeous black and white, sticking to rotary phones, and turning its 'teenage' cast into fast talking, hats-and-gloves wearing dames.

So there. I've said it. I love Pretty Little Liars. Judge as you wish. Or just start streaming the entire series on Netflix and see how far YOU get before realizing addiction is not always a bad thing. 

Did I mention this stuff?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Are We There Yet? The Super Sweaty Italian Edition

Sometimes you just need a little sleaze for your morning commute.

Sometimes Netflix Instant is better than coffee.

Even sleazy coffee.
(Obviously, Google Image Search is incredibly literal when it comes to sleazy coffee)

Quick Plot: A band of nogoodniks rob a factory of its workers' wages (which is seriously NOT COOL) but run into some police trouble on their way out of the parking garage. To ease their escape, they kidnap an attractive young woman named Maria and quickly ditch their escape vehicle for one with a full gas tank and, a little less conveniently, a driver hellbent on getting his sick but tranquilized son to the hospital. 

Can we say road trip?

Before you can argue the rules of I Spy, let's pause to introduce our villains:

The leader, most levelheaded, and somewhat sweaty Doc

Blade, the stabby and fairly sweaty one 

And 32, a man who oozes so much perspiration that he might very well be a supervillain named Dehydration

Although '32' is fun in itself, once you do the metric conversion.

Also, he's played by George Eastman, aka Gigi Montefiori, aka George Histman, Luigi Montefiori, aka (in this movie) Gabriele Duma, aka the Sultan of Sweat and Inappropriate Glee

Unless in Italy circa 1974, it was normal for a grown man to enjoy making a terrified woman pee under a long skirt in the middle of nowhere.

We've all been there, right?

Primarily filmed in 1974, Rabid Dogs hit some financial skids and remained unfinished and unreleased until 1997, with Alfredo Leone and Lamberto Bava adding some scenes for completion Either I'm not that observant or I was just REALLY into the movie, because never once did I find myself noticing anything odd. 

Well, odder than George Eastman's maniacally dubbed cackling.

This is, lest you be worried, a sleazy, sweaty, trashy, and darn fun little slice of '70s Italy. It will not change your life for any reason, but it will give you 90 solid minutes of colorful villains doing terrible things with extreme volume. A satisfying twist brings it all together and at the end of the day, you can live forever knowing you'll never experience a road trip quite as painful as one that puts you smack center of highly perspiring Italian men in a station wagon without air conditioning.

Lessons Learned
Snoring implies that you are sleeping

One of the hidden benefits of a leather car interior is that it's ideal for sharpening your blade

The first thing you do with a lot of money is screw some broad with big boobs

Just a suggestion: before committing a violent burglary, make sure you've checked that your getaway car has a full gas tank

Anyone with an love of Italian style sleaze will find little to not like in Rabid Dogs. It's a seedy, sweaty little film packed with memorable villains, ridiculous dialogue, and surprisingly satisfying twists. Stream it today with a few extra absorbent paper towels by your side.