aUTHOR: Parca Mortem
[Section in contruction. be patient,
my bizarre lover]
A through D
2001: A Space Odyssey See Kubrick section
Directed and Written by: Peter Greenaway.
Starring: John Standing (The Eagle has Landed, Mrs Dalloway), Matthew Delamere (Shadowlands), Vivian Wu (The Pillow Book, A Bright Shining Lie, Heaven & Earth), Toni Colette (The Sixth Sense, Velvet Goldmine, Clockwatchers), Amanda Plummer (Pulp Fiction, So I Married an Axe Murderer), Polly Walker (Emma, Patriot Games), Annie Shizuka Inoh, Kirina Mano, and others.
I caught the US premiere of this one at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. Now, if you've seen one Peter Greenaway film (except, perhaps, for The Falls) you probably now how most will turn out: an odd sexual fantasy/examination where several taboos are broken, men are shown to believe to be powerful but be really at the mercy of women, and a lot of numbers and lists are involved. This is not an exception. The plot goes something like this: an old rich man (Standing) who owns several casinos is distraught when his wife suddenly dies. He never really cared for her, yet depended on her. His son (Delamere, who looks like an odd mix between Matthew Broderick and Brendan Fraser), who operates the chain of gambling parlors in Japan, flies over to his mansion to console him. In doing so, they get to discover each other a bit more. It turns out that both are heavy narcisists, particularly the son, Storey, who is also sex-obsessed. One night, to console his father, Storey sleeps in the same bed as him, hugging him, only that naked (the only way he likes to sleep). Storey then takes his father, Philip, to the movies, where they watch Fellini's 8½, while they very loudly discuss sex and other aspects of life. While watching the film over and over again, Philip wonders how did Fellini get all those beautiful women in his film, and if the only reason he did the film was to get in bed with all of them. All of the events result in discussion of Philip's sex life, which had been very boring, and strictly monogamous. Then Storey takes Philip to Japan, where, to pay off debts, a group of Japanese men surrender a young attractive woman named Simato (Inoh) who had been gambling like crazy in their parlors. Storey takes her in as a sort of personal hooker, but, following an earthquake that Storey had conjured and disspelled (unexplicably), Philip, Simato, and Storey have a 3-way. Then another night, while at a kabuki play, they pick up a young geisha (Mano) who was distressed because she didn't feel woman-like. Suddenly father and son start collecting a group of women to live with them at their mansion in Italy and satisfy their diverse pleasures. They wind up collecting: a woman with a neck brace who loved a horse way too much; a woman who had children all the time just because she enjoyed it; a nymphomaniac; a hard working androgenous woman whom Philip transforms into a nun-like being (which she develops beyond the limit); a woman whom knew them from a long time ago who dressed in the deceased wife's hats and which may be trying to poison them; their extremely efficient secretary from Japan (Wu); and a 1/2 woman, which I will leave you to figure out who or what it is (its revealed in the ending). Add to that a horse, a pig, and the housekeepers. Of course, as things progress, things get stranger, Philip becomes a sex-maniac, Storey becomes rather jealous of his father, and eventually it all gets out of wack and the women carry their roles too far, and it all breaks down.
Pardon me if I cannot remember all of the names or which actress played which character. In fact, you probably will not either. Heck, the characters themselves had trouble remembering which was which (a self-spoof by Greenaway). Not that it really matters, though. Greenaway was more interested in sexual confusion, so I guess that was his way of confusing us. Greenaway also adds some other peculiar touches to the film. For example, it is broken down into 4 acts, at the beginning of which are displayed scene descriptions (as those in a script) which are not on the screen long enough for anyone to be able to read more than half of it. And a lot of numbers are displayed here and there, particularly the number 8 ½.
However, beyond being extremely odd, the film is not that entertaining. Its first 30-40 minutes are, but then it begins to fall down. Still, there are odd shots here and there that make you chuckle, and the dialogue is so screwed up that most of the time it is hilarious. But it all boils down to just being an odd sexual fantasy with not much to offer. And personally, I was turned off by the son-father incest themes and images, and the multiple times that John Standing was completely naked and the cameraman made sure that it would capture all of him, including his penis. In a lot of scenes people were nude just for the sake of being nude, not even for erotic purposes. And you just get tired of the whole exercise. Quite frankly, most of the latter part reminded me of European soft-core porno comedy series from the 80s, only without the eroticism. The only things that will keep you awake are the odd characters, the odd dialogue, and the odd twists. Not really worth your time.
Bizarreness level: 8 shots out of 10.
Rating: 5 or 6 out of 10.
The Acid House
Directed by: Paul McGuigan
Written by: Irvin Welsh (trainspotting)
Starring: Ewen Brimner (Spud in trainspotting), Maurice Roëves (Judge Dredd, Last of the Mohicans), Stephen McCole (Rushmore, Postmortem), Kevin McKidd (Tommy in trainspotting; Hideous Kinky), Arlene Cockburn (The Governess), among others
Genre: Comedy / Short stories
Duration: 1 hr. 46 mins.
Availability: It's making a short run through US theatres at the moment (first week of October 1999).
Here's a scottish film that attempts to be in the same vein as trainspotting. Heck, it's written by Irvin Welsh and has two of the stars of the original (oddly enough, Plunket & MacLeane, which stars fellow trainspotters Robert Carlyle and Johnny Lee Miller, was released in the US the same week). Freshman director McGuigan even rips off much of Danny Boyle's style. Heck, it even got marketed comparing it to trainspotting. The problems here are that, in the first place, it doesn't flow as well nor have as much energy nor depth as trainspotting, so so much for the comparisons. But, comparisons aside, this has the flaw that most films that involve short stories have: they feel like just a group aborted or trimmed down full length movies packed together for no reason, or just a collection of episodes from a premium cable TV series. Every one of these three stories could have gotten at least another half hour placed into them. The first segment felt too short in the climactic part, after a lengthy setup (reminding me of the first segment in Creepshow 2). The second segment ended rather inconclusively; you wanted at least a small peek into what would happen next, or felt like if it was only the first half of a larger story. The third segment (the best, by far) is the one that wraps everything neatly, but is so enjoyable that it feels like it ended too soon, that the concept could have been exploited more.
On the other hand, these were interesting stories that keep your attention. They don't make you laugh out loud much (except for the third segment) but do leave you with a smile throughout the entire film. So let's go on to the stories, shall we? (by the way, for all of you who can't make out the scottish accent and slang, the US print has subtitles in 90% of the film)
The Granton Star Cause is the story of Boab (McCole), a zit-faced 23-year old lazy fellow, whom in one strange day gets kicked out of his football (soccer for Americans) team, gets kicked out of his home by his horny parents, gets dumped by his girlfriend, gets sent to jail for an hour for attacking a phone (and subsequently gets beaten and abused by a guard), and gets fired from his job. So, just as any other male would, Boab heads to a bar to soak down his troubles. And there is where Boab finds God. Yes, you read that right. However, Boab does not get enlightened by a passage in someone's sacred text, nor has a vision of an angel or a saint or a virgin, nor makes a retrospection on his life. Nope. Boab very literally finds God, an old drunk bastard at the bar (Roëves), who's sick of talking to people that are whining about the problems in the world, or philosophers debating him on his own existence, and just stopped caring about the world he created. He's repulsed by Boab, and tells him that he's nothing more than a parasite, and who furthermore did not do anything to the people that caused him all his problems. So God transforms Boab into a fly, in a strange adaptation of Kafka's Metamorphosis. Boab then proceeds to spy upon those that caused him problems, and exacts revenge on some of them by making them sick. However, things don't exactly work out when he visits his parents while they're having some VERY kinky bisexual sex (fans of scottish stand up comedian Alex Howden may get a kick out of this). I won't dwell into more, but this does have some interesting moments and amusing twists, and the whole bar scene with God is very clever. It does feel, as I mentioned before, rather shortened at the end. For bonus points, look for Irvin Welsh in a cameo at the very beginning.
A Soft Touch is the story of Johnny (McKidd), a poor young lad who happens to let people push him around. His problems involve his slutty wife, Catriona, who let's just say that most of the people at their wedding were thankful they Johnny was wedding her as she was pregnant at they all feared that they were the father. Catriona is just a bitch in every sense of the word, who does nothing all day except watch television, while Johnny does it all, and threatens to have her brother beat him up if he ever touches her. One day a new neighbor moves into the apartment above theirs, a prick named Larry (bass player Garry McCormack of punk band The Exploited). Johnny at first allies with Larry, as he sees him as an opportunity to have a protective friend who will help him get back at Catriona. Catriona however undermines him as she begins a very blatant hardcore affair with Larry. Larry even proceeds to steal Johnny's TV, VCR, and stereo, and even makes a hole through Johnny's ceiling in order to pass an extension cord through there and steal Johnny's electricity. Johnny finally snaps one day annd claims what is his own, while leaving the two to rot, and attempts to start a new life. But it isn't easy... This segment may have some comedic points, but is more of a drama, which touches you but leaves a strange, dark ending, and feels rather incomplete...
The best segment by far is the third one, The Acid House. This one involves an acid head hooligan by the name of Coco (Bremner, in a rather different preformance than his one as the nerdy Spud in trainspotting). Coco just shouts jibberish all day, much to the annoyance of his girlfriend Kristin (Cockburn), who is trying to convince him to settle down and get married. One night Coco gets a bad acid trip, and starts hallucinating big time, in some electronica-backed scenes that feel like a nightmarish electronica video. Suddenly, lightining strikes him, at the same time that it strikes an ambulance where a young upper middle class mother is giving birth. Consequently, Coco switches minds with the baby. So while Coco's body gets sent to the hospital, where the doctors are convinced that acid has damaged his brain and reverted him to a baby-like stage, the baby is, well, rather odd (and I don't just mean the strange shape of the animatronic baby that was built for this). Let's just say that it can talk, swear, standup, and enjoys breast feeding a little bit too much. Coco takes advantage of the marital problems of the baby's parents (the father is a new age geek who's obsessed with parent meetings and the psychological constructs around the raising of the child) to exploit the mother to do what he wants. Meanwhile, Kristin takes advantage of the seemingly retarded Coco to try to create a new person who will suit her needs. All of this leads to hilarious situations, until the obligatory end scene of any body-switching movie, only without anyone learning any moral lessons.
If you are wondering how the stories are connected, well, Roëves appears as different characters in all three. And the third segment makes a hilarious reference to the first one. And it all involves young people in the not so nice parts of Edinburgh (although the city is not presented as dull as usual), and its all filmed in a similar style (with of course some scenes meant to shock or disturb some members of the audience, and some sex scenes in the style of Boyle). Nothing else though to string these along, and if you are expecting drug hallucinations, only the third segment has some. Despite these and the aforementioned flaws of the film, it is enjoyable, and will keep you entertained with its black comedy and fresh spirit. I guess those of you who love any indie comedy (regardless of quality) will drool over this one, but the rest of you will find it as a good time killer or beer movie, though nothing much beyond that.
Bizarreness level: 6 shots out of 10.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Altered States See Ken Russell section
Amazon Women on the Moon
Bizarreness level: 6 shots out of 10.
Rating: 8 out of 10.
Bizarreness level: 6 shots out of 10.
Rating: 9 out of 10.
Bizarreness level: 4 shots out of 10.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather trilogy, The Conversation, Jack, Peggy Sue Got Married)
Starring: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Lawrence Fishbourne, Frederic Forrest, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Harisson Ford, among others.
Written by: John Milius and Coppola.
Just try to make out a single word that Brando is saying... (other than "the horror... the horror....)
To explain this film, I must have you pretend the following: that you were an angel assigned by God to go down to Hell, throughout all of Dante's circles, and kill the Fallen Angel. Now, this Hell is actually the Viet Nam war, and you are a captain that have partially lost your sanity, and is unable to fit in to society. And the "god" you serve is actually a messy institution that is geared by an all-powerful force of political nonsense and paranoia. The Fallen Angel is a colonel who used to have the brightest track record by far in the army, and then went bonkers in the jungle, after taking action into his own hands, and eventually forming a cult of sorts. So now you must travel on a boat through the rivers of this hell, accompanied only by a champion surfer, a 17-year old black rock fan, a captain who is the only ones abiding by the rules and a sense of decency, and a overly anxious tough guy who is an aspiring chef, and try to survive the ride.
This is the plot of Apocalypse Now. However, it is not what it is about. It's about the insanity that the Viet Nam war was. We get to see the hell created by this contagious insanity, which is becoming larger due to inefficiency and politics, and who knows what else. Francis Ford Coppola films this in hallucinogenic quality, which goes from black comedy into absolute nightmare, as everyone loses their mind, which merely fits into the insane environment they are in. A very powerful film, although that feel like it is missing something (unless you watch the Redux version - see next review), particularly a bridge into the final act. A modern cinema classic (often referenced) which you should not miss.
Just as interesting as the film is the story behind it. It started out as a pro-war screenplay, which eventually was to be directed by George Lucas. Lucas instead decided to do some sci-fi/adventure movie, so he turned the project over to his buddy and partner, Coppola, whom eventually took over the project, after many rejections. He fashioned it after the novel Hearts of Darkness, although he couldn't come up with an ending - so he eventually ripped off a student film by fellow student and Corman colleague Jack Hill (director of Switchblade Sisters, Spider-Baby, Coffy, and The Big Bird Cage) and some other sources for the third act. It was produced by his indie studio, although heavy financing had to come in from various sources, who took control of the film eventually, as it became at the time one of the most expensive films ever. It took nearly one year to shoot, during which Harvey Keitel would be the originally cast lead actor, Coppola would have constant nightmares, break down and nearly lose his marriage, Sheen broke down several times, and sets had to be constructed over and over again in the Phillippines, with a hurricane adding further damage. Sheen actually had a stroke of some sort, which was filmed, and included in the first scene. He improvised most of the first scene while blotto drunk (the mirror smashing was not in the script) and then had the crew sing "Amazing Grace" to bring him back to normal. The bomb effects were so realistic that actors and extras had to act like if they were actually at war. Marlon Brando only had a few pages of dialogue, so Coppola asked him to improvise things, and he read out of all sorts of bizarre choice books. Brando also gained a lot of weight during those 3 years, so he had to be shot in the shadows for many scenes. Dennis Hopper was tripping on acid and who knows what else for his scenes, adding the extra bizarre touch. It took nearly 3 years to release. The movie was presented incomplete at Cannes and won the Golden Palm. And a lot was cut out of the final film, including scenes that had expensive sets, which were responsible for a lot of the high budget. And much, much more happened.
Bizarreness level: 7 shots out of 10.
Rating: 9 out of 10.
Apocalypse Now Redux (2001)
FF Coppola was able to get back all the footage that had been cut out of the film, and re-inserts it here. Additionally, the film and sound are digitally remastered, and the soundtrack beefed up. The result is that we get a longer, but far better film, which is just as bizarre, but flows far better. Included in it are the crucial 20 minutes of film at the French plantation; the scene where Willard steals one of Kilgore's surfboards (and Kilgore's subsequent search for it); the long scene where the soldiers encounter a barely inhabited military post on an island on a rainy day, where they encounter the Playboy bunnies, whom they have sex with in exchange of fuel for their helicopter; the scene where Chef radios in the airstrike; a slightly extended intro scene, and probably a few more things. Very worthwhile.
Bizarrenes level: 7 shots out of 10.
Rating: 10 out of 10.
Directed by: Peter Jackson (Dead-Alive, Meet the Feebles, Lost Silver, Heavenly Creatures, The Frighteners, and the upcoming adaptation of The Lord of the Rings trilogy).
I know that Peter Jackson has a large following. But for some reason, I don't enjoy his films as much other people. They have great ideas and good jokes, yet something in the visual style and odd editing leaves me a funny taste in my mouth, as if I was returning from the doctor's office after some dental procedure that required anesthesia. Don't ask me why. He's not a bad filmmaker by any means, and I appreciate his talent. Still...
Anyway, this is his first movie, and is the movie of his that I have enjoyed the most. It is absolutely wild. It involves some special task force attacking some zombies that are possessed by aliens, who are part of a intergalactic fast-food corporation. A lot of gore ensues, as does blue alien vomit (which all the zombies drink from a ceremonial bowl), exploding sheep, severed body parts, falling brain parts, and a guy who drives a a small car that has cardboard cut-outs of The Beatles in the windshield as a form of cover (played by Jackson himself). It's as hilarious as it sounds, and as senseless as it sounds. No plot whatsoever. A no-nonsense nonsensical film, fueled with the spirit of a college film (probably because it was shot over 5 years on 16mm, no budget, and Jackson was in charge most of the technical work, helped by his buddies). Worth hunting down in cult video stores for a beer-fueled night.
Bizarreness level: 7 shots out of 10.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Well, the French seemed to like the ending!
- Ethan Coen, Austin, TX, 1998
Bizarreness level: 7 shots out of 10.
Rating: 9 out of 10.
Directed, Written, and Produced by: Edmund Elias Merhige (Shadow of the Vampire)
Starring: Nobody you've ever seen in anything else.
Availability: Cult video stores.
Want to talk about pretentious nonsense that gets passed off as great art? Here’s the film that should be among the prime examples that you use. Begotten is the type of film that when you read or hear about it, it sounds great, but when you actually watch it, you start falling asleep, and when you wake up and rewind the film, you realized that you didn’t miss anything. You know a film is in trouble when the only reason people think it is great is due to the ending credits. I’ve watched this film several times and still have no idea what is going on, if anything at all. It really looks like if director/writer/producer Merhige just put together little clips and ideas from aborted film school projects from one of those classes taught by a guy who took the wrong acids in the 60s where you only get to watch silent films and David Lynch flicks. The end result is not only a film that does not make sense, but that is so boring and empty that you don’t even care to attempt to decipher it. There are a lot of images, but they are not interesting, funny, intriguing, horrifying, or impressive in any way, but instead very fucking boring, and sometimes you don’t know if there is an image at all, or if a button on your remote control was accidentaly hit and you had switched to a blank channel. Here’s how the film goes:
There is no dialogue, nor any sounds from the characters or anything going on in the film, but there are plenty of sounds of other things, mostly crickets chirping and some little tunes that seem left out from a creepy horror flick. Everything is shot in black and white, with a very unfocused and grainy picture, which added to special lighting and film editing leads to an effect that from time to time makes all bright colors indiscernible from the light and all dark colors indiscernible from the shadows and other darkness, which sometimes makes you wonder if there is anything at all on the screen. For the first ten minutes, we get to watch a guy who looks like Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre apparently disemboweling himself, or something like that. Actually, the guy is just sitting there in the alley, playing with what I guess is an intestine, repeatedly picking at it with a razorblade. Then the guy just dies. Suddenly, from under the blanketed chair that he was sitting on crawls out a woman, who walks out of the alley and proceeds to frolic around a lake, and then just stand around something rather while she touches herself, including her pubic hairs (which we get a close-up shot of). Then there are several fast shots of different unrelated images, including a very fast shot of what I believe was a fetus.
After all of the above (which is only the first 15 minutes of the film), suddenly the woman disappears, and we get shots of a coffin lying vertically in four different areas of a pasture. Next thing we now, suddenly there’s this nearly naked skinny bald guy lying on a field of some sort, hyperventilating with a look of extreme agony on his face. Then these faceless people dressed in robes and straw hats (I think) stare at him, pick him up, and drag him somewhere else on the field. There they proceed to apparently poke him with sticks. We get a whole hour of these robed people doing some sort of action to the guy, although we aren’t sure what. I think it includes him being stabbed by forks and possibly eaten by people, but I’m not sure. It also includes their tying a rope around his neck and dragging him, while he bleeds. Ordinarily, I would take this as being part of an incredibly cool film (hey, I'm all for films about people disembowling themselves and getting beated repeatedly!) but here it is VERY fucking dull. To add to the confusion, all of this gets continuously cut by shots off stormy clouds, sunrises, sunsets, more stormy clouds, more sunrises, more sunsets, more stormy clouds, more sunrises, more sunsets, and shots of vegetation perhaps (many times you have to guess what is being filmed). And of course, there are the sounds of the crickets and the ominous music. Then without warning, the film ends. Here’s the part that suddenly makes the film supposedly great, as the credits roll and the first character is credited as being called “God killing himself”, the woman as “Mother Earth”, and the bald guy as “The Son of Earth/Flesh on Bone”. No explanation as to what the robed people were, as they are billed as “All other creatures”, which were performed by “The Theatreofmaterial” (sic). Maybe they were nuns...
Now, excuse me, but it is not enough to have a character credited as "God killing himself" to make a film great. In that case, all that Paul Verhoven had to do with Showgirls to win the Oscar was credit Elizabeth Berkely as "God stripping all the time while saying boring and cheesy lines and fucking Kyle McLaughlan twice". Yeah, yeah, I know this is supposed to be a religious/ecological pseudo-philosophical symbolic statement, but you can just change around the names of the characters a make up an allegory of the fall of Communism, the rise of the young over their parents, the effects of alcohol, and many, many other things. And I believe that it is illegal to name a character in your film "Mother Earth" (unless you are doing a Smurfs movie) under the penalty of being whacked to death by angry mobs. Hey, wait a minute, I get it! The film is about the director looking into the future after the film is released, and how he is beaten up by the people who spent money on this crap, with the intro scene being his suicide (the Lawrence of Arabia touch)! [Actually, in the theatres that this was screened, reportedly most of the audience walked out, with a few who survived the whole experience that now tell other people about the film and how it is their favorite, in order to appear cool at parties. Oh yeah, and critics liked it too.]
Actually, my greatest amazement in the film also came from the ending credits. Not from the above ones, but instead from one for a person credited as a story consultant. You mean there actually was a story? Where?
Bizarreness level: 10 shots out of 10.
Rating: 2 out of 10.
Being John Malkovich
Directed by: Spike Jonze (the videos of Beastie Boy's Sabotage, Sure Shot, and Intergalactic, Weezer's Buddy Holly, Daft Punk's Da Funk, Pharcyde's reversed Drop, Fatboy Slim's Praise You, and many, many more; also played Conrad in Three Kings)
Starring: John Cussack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener (Living in Oblivion, Your Friends and Neighbors, Out of Sight, Nic Cage's wife in 8mm), John Malkovich (duh; In the Line of Fire, Of Mice and Men, Empire of the Sun, Dangerous Liaisons, Con Air, etc.), Orson Bean (the voice of Bilbo and Frodo in the animated Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies; also recurring character in the soporific Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman), and Mary Kay Place (The Big Chill, Pecker, New York,New York), among others.
Cameos: Charlie Sheen, Brad Pitt, and Sean Penn.
Written and Exec. Produced by: Charlie Kaufman (I don't know him either)
Duration: 1 hour 52 mins.
Availability: Now on video everywhere.
Once in a while we read these stories in the news about a group of known actors and actresses who work for near nothing, completely change their appearance (even destroy their image if necessary), and overall go out of their way to star in the latest film by some director recognized as one of the greats. However, this is the only case I recall that pampered actors do that for the director who only has several Mtv videos on his resume, and who, oddest of all, is married to Sofia "I ruined TheGodfather III" Coppola. But that is only the beginning to how odd and unusual this film is.
The reason that the actors went out of their way is that this is a fresh and hilarious film. This unusual story starts out with a puppeteer (you read that right) named Craig Schwartz (played very well by a nearly unrecognizable John Cussack, in the first real streak from his regular performances). He kicks ass in his profession, and is completely dedicated to it. Of course, he hardly ever gets any money from it, and parents who interpret his plays as obscene regularly punch him in the face. Eventually one day, this nerdy character, prompted by his even more nerdy wife, goes out and gets a real job. Due to his amazing abilities with his hands (something unfortunately downplayed save in the beginning), he gets a job in a filing company. Of course, it is not set in a regular place. The offices are located at floor # 7 1/2 of a building. You read that right, half a floor. That means that the workers have to walk around hunched and ducking through doors. The company's hilarious training film explains that it is due to midgets wanting a place where to work where they wouldn't feel so short. Anyway, that's only the beginning of the oddities of the workplace. The boss is a 100+ years old man who may be friendly, but also is incredibly horny (Bean). He's also convinced that he has a speech impediment, due to his alternatively titled receptionist, a hearing impaired woman who's a specialist in speech therapy, and who is the object of his desires. Anyway, it's at the workplace that Craig develops a strong attraction for a fellow co-worker, the sexy Maxine (Keener). However, she doesn't share the feelings. She's a mean, viscious, greedy, exploitative, manipulative, power-hungry bitch, who knows what she's worth in the mating game, and doesn't lower her standards one bit. That doesn't stop Craig from obsessing with her, however. Furthermore, Craig starts feeling unhappy in his married life. His wife is a woman who's not very attractive, never dresses up well, is rather nerdy and introverted, loves animals too much (they have a chimp, a dog, and some parrots loose in the house), and is missing a couple of screws. Surprisingly, she's played by Cameron Diaz, who is completely unrecognizable, and made to look as unattractive as possible (sorry to dissappoint you, guys, but congrats to her), but acts (and overacts) the role perfectly.
So this is when the real plot action starts, almost 30 minutes into the film. One day Craig discovers a door in the wall behind a filing cabinet. The door is barely large enough for someone to crawl through it, so Craig is intrigued. When he crawls through it, he finds himself in a muddy tunnel. Suddenly the door closes behind him, and a force sucks him into the end of the tunnel. Suddenly, Craig is seeing everything through the eyes of great actor John Malkovich (played by himself, in another great performance - no joke), not to mention feeling everything too. Malkovich doesn't even notice. 15 minutes later, Craig falls from the sky and lands with a thud next to the New Jersey turnpike. Of course, he's amazed by this discovery. So he tells two people about it: Maxine, and later, his wife Lotte. Maxine of course transforms it into a business, charging people $200 to be John Malkovich for 15 minutes (their 15 minutes of fame). Meanwhile Lotte gets inside of Malkovich once and adores how it feels to be a man, sexually, and starts contemplating transexualism. Things get more complicated when Maxine decides to start dating Malkovich, and winds up in bed with him while Lotte is inside of him. So now both Craig and Lotte are sexually obsessed with Maxine. Maxine rejects the first one, while she is attracted to the latter, but only if she's inside the body of Malkovich. Craig gets sexually frustrated and angry and winds up locking Lotte in an animal cage and pretending he's Lotte inside Malkovich when Maxine is with him.
Eventually Malkovich starts to notice that something is wrong, and finds out. However, before he can do anything about it, Craig learns how to control his body, just like a puppet, and remain inside without ever getting flushed out to the NJ turnpike. Maxine realizes this, but doesn't care, because now she has a shot at fame and fortune. So she convinces Craig to control Malkovich forever, and marry her, which he does. Craig, as Malkovich, quits the profession of acting and transforms Malkovich into the David Copperfield of puppeteers. This is not, however, without Lotte escaping and encountering the secret behind the tunnel into Malkovich, and the people who created it for their own purposes, who are not happy... Beyond that I should not tell you more...
Of course, this doesn't play as simple as the above description. It's filled with one hilarious moment after another. Witness Craig and Lotte get high and both try to seduce Maxine at the same time! Witness John Malkovich wandering into the planet of the Malkoviches (one of the most hilarious things I've seen all year, if not the most), "something nobody should ever be allowed to see"! Watch a bunch of people falling with a thud from thin air into a mudhole next to the NJ turnpike! Witness a chimp remember the day his family was captured (drama, subtitles, and all) and decide to help out a human! Witness John Malkovich as a geek, a woman, himself, and much more! See how Malkovich does bone-crunching acrobatics while being operated just as a puppet! Witness Charlie Sheen in (most unbelievable of all) a hilarious cameo! All of this, not to mention a lot of people who recognize Malkovich but don't remember what he was in, and insist he was in some role that he wasn't, as well as a parody of all these overglorified star biographies that play on TV constantly, not to mention a twisted ending, and much more...
Jonze has a very good touch in directing this film, both in operating the cast to his will, and in his own carefully and beautifully constructed audiovisual style, which may leep without warning into the land of insanity at any moment. This movie doesn't feel like anything else out there right now. Jonze is no longer just a talent to watch for in music videos, but one for watching out for future films. He's headed to interesting places... The script as well is fresh, funny, witty, demented, filled with good lines, and a good satire of many things. The actors all do a fine job, as I mentioned earlier, as well. The only negative part that I can find in the film is that it does tend to get slow at times (although never any less funny), and the good twisted ending fuels mixed emotions (you don't know if to laugh, feel sorry, or be horrified, which may be good in one sense but uncomfortable in many others). I recommend this one...
Some additional history/trivia on this flick: 1) the scenes of Malkovich at award shows were improvised, guerilla filmmaking style. Jonze wandered into award shows (particularly the Mtv Movie Awards) with his handheld camera, while Diaz would create a commotion about Malkovich, a moment in which Malkovich would wander in and do his thing, before security guards wisked him away. 2) Keener was actually 6 months pregnant in the last part of the film. That's no fake belly... Bizarre tidbits that fit well with this flick...
Bizarreness level: 8 shots out of 10.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Brain Dead (NOTE: NOT the film
a.k.a. "Dead Alive")
Directed by: Adam Simon (Carnosaur, The Typewriter,
the Rifle & the Movie Camera)
Starring: Bill Pullman (Independence Day, Spaceballs, Lost Highway, Lake Placid) and Bill Paxton (Twister, A Simple Plan, Aliens, Apollo 13) - you knew these two were going to be united one day. Also in there is George Kennedy (Ed in the Naked Gun trilogy; Patroni in all the Airport films; The Dirty Dozen, Cool Hand Luke, Bolero).
Written by: Simon and Charles Beaumont (Queen of Outer Space, The Masque of Red Death and other Corman "adaptations" of Poe, The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao)
One of my favorite experiences in bizarre cinema. Please check out this film and give it the credit it deserves. A neurologist (Pullman) is assigned to treat a man who is crucial for the interests of a company. Then one day as he's carrying a brain, a car hits him. All sense of reality is lost from then, and a nightmare begins. A very odd exploration of what is reality. Not to be missed.
Bizarreness level: 10 shots out of 10
Rating: 8 out of 10.
Brazil See Gilliam section.
Bringing Out the Dead
Directed by: Martin Scorcese
Written by: Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull; also dir. of Light Sleeper and Affliction), based on the novel by Joe Connelly.
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette (Stigmata, Beyond Rangoon, Lost Highway, Nightmare on Elm Stree 3), Ving Rhames (Mission: Impossible, Striptease, Out of Sight, Entrapment, Pulp Fiction), John Goodman, Tom Sizemore (Strange Days, Saving Private Ryan), Marc Anthony (yeah, the salsa singer), among others...
Genre: Drama/Black Comedy/Horror
Duration: 2 hours 14 mins.
Availability: Playing in theatres right now.
Ever worked in a stressful job? How about a stressful job all throughout the night, where you constantly encounter bizarre characters? As anyone who's done the latter can tell you (myself included) it is a hell of sorts. You can't even go to sleep immediately after working, because all the images replay in your mind during your sleep. You have to unwind for a couple of hours at least. You start with you morale high, and the morale gets shot down within 20 minutes of your first day. One month in and you're apathetic, spiteful, and desperate to quit. You are not you again. And your co-workers as the other working people you interact with become strange beings as well, which does not help you. So, welcome to a film about one of the most stressful nightjobs possible: ambulance paramedic! To make it worse, set in the ugliest areas of NYC!
This is a dark, twisted film without a straight forward plot while it explores its characters in their daily lives (like most Scorcese flicks), which will make you afraid of paramedics. Nicholas Cage fits in the role perfectly, as Frank, a paramedic who's under too much stress in a horrible world (some of the darker spots of NY in the early 90s), hasn't saved a life in a long while, and is haunted by the ghost of one particular girl he wasn't able to save. His face becomes more zombified every second, while he keeps on trying to get fired and his mind takes a trip to lalaland. The hospital where he delivers patients to is a mess (it's called the "Mercy" but they called it "Misery"), where patients scream untreated, doctors refuse to treat some people and treat everyone badly in general, a nurse insults and refuses to treat drug addicts (but loves to treat a recurring drunk; just to show you the double-mindedness of society regarding substance abuse), and a guard striaght out of a blaxploitation movie keeps desperate friends and family members from bursting in to see how their loved ones are being treated. Frank just wants to get fired, and keeps on asking to get fired, but is ignored by his boss.
His partners aren't much help. One night his partner is Larry (Goodman), a guy who keeps on changing his mind about everything (yet is always hungry), and who is just is sick with the job. The next night he gets Marcus (an excellent Ving Rhames, who brings in part of his Don King performance), a born again man who attributes God for anything good that happens (you have to just see this hilarious scene where Frank resucitates an OD'd junkie, while Marcus takes the junkies friends into a circle of prayer, a sort of revival ritual). Marcus doesn't share Frank's views nor his deterioration. Of course, Marcus also is trying to hit on one of the dispatchers, and as well is fond of hookers. And while Frank wants to quit, Marcus wants to keep on going through the night, eventually leading to some crazy events, including a car accident. The third night Frank gets psycho Tom (Sizemore) who likes beating up people, insulting patients, and ranting on too many things. Of course, by then Frank doesn't care. He already broke down, and he drugs himself, which leads to him not exactly seeing things right. Somewhere along that night he reaches his own forms of redemption, tying up all the subplots...
Oh yeah, there are several subplots. First off, there's a young woman
named Mary (Arquette) whose estranged father dies but comes back, and is
left in ER hell, being constantly revived. Mary, a rather normal character
but an ex-junkie, keeps on trying to find out what is happening with her
father, while keeping a check on her mother. Frank starts to look after
her, becoming a guardian angel of sorts, and a strange, low-key romance
starts to develop among them in the process (doesn't that happen to all
of Arquette's characters?). Meanwhile, Frank feels that Mary's father speaks
to him telepathically whenever he's next to him, asking him to kill him...
Also in the mix is a lunatic by the name of Noel (a surprisingly good and
unrecognizable Marc Anthony), a guy who the paramedics hate because they
wind up picking him up every night, for some reason or another.
Frank seems to be the only one who somehow cares for him, as Noel runs in and out of ER, and even attempts suicide, which
Frank prevents by promising to kill him in ER, taking him for a ride for part of the remainder of the night (THAT particular
sequence is hilarious; "If you let that go I swear I will not kill you"). There's also a drug dealer involved, who sees himself
as somesort of savior who helps people relax, although if I say anything about him I'd be giving away some of the better (and
creepiest) parts of the movie. And, of course, there are all the incidents that go on in the streets, with Frank & co. picking
them up, from young gangsters who've just been shot, to an adolescent Puerto Rican couple who are having twins (despite the
father's desperate claims that they are both virgins), and many other incidents, many of which are related to a type of heroin
mix called Red Death...
Of course, Scorcese doesn't film this one easily. There's odd cinematography at most times (with the camera going upside down or sideways as the ambulance roars away), not to mention the constant use of white light illumination that glows around the characters bodies' (similar to what Oliver Stone sometimes uses, not to mention David Lynch in Lost Highway, and others). This added to scenes that seem straight out of Jacob's Ladder... Heck, one sequence was shot with the characters doing their actions in reverse, and it was reversed so it would play straight (and ultimately odd)! And, as I mentioned, the plot is not linear. Like in most of Scorcese's work, we get to appreciate the life of a character and his experiences, not to mention his breakdowns, instead of following some formulaic plot. And Scorcese will not spare us of bizarre images of New York, some that will creep you out...
As well, Scorcese looks into the medical profession straight into the eye (or should I say "barrell of the gun"?). The modern view of doctors and health professionals as saviors; the coldness and apathy that members of the health profession have to have to not go insane (doctors commit suicide 3 times as more than regular people; about as many doctors kill themselves a year as medical students graduate from Harvard); the artificial prolongation of life, regardless of the quality of life, thanks to technological breakthroughs; and more of the darker sides of the contemporary health profession are depicted (had Scorcese targeted HMOs the picture would be complete). I do not ever want to have a heart attack and get picked up by THESE paramedics...
All in all, an interesting film, worth your while, although a large sector of you won't "get it"...
Bizarreness level: 6 shots out of 10.
Rating: 9 out of 10.
The Butcher Boy
Directed by: Neil Jordan (Interview With the Vampire, The Crying Game)
Starring: Eamonn Owens (Angela's Ashes, The General), Stephen Rea, Aisling O'Sullivan (The War Zone), Fiona Shaw (My Left Foot, The Avengers, the upcoming first Harry Potter movie), Alan Boyle, Sinead O'Connor, Brendan Gleeson.
Written by: Neil Jordan and Patrick McCabe, based on the novel of the latter.
Another one of those narrated tales about how nice, awful, and overall bittesweet it was to be growing up as a poor child with an alcoholic father. The difference is that this time the child is a self-centered bully, who is misunderstood by all, spends a lot of time in his fantasy world, and is mistreated (sometimes rightfully so) by every adult. Things get progressively worse for him as his parents pass away, his best friend is sent to a far away boarding school, he gets sent away to a sort of religious juvenile prison, starts to have religious visions (including of the Virgin Mary talking explitives, played by Sinead O'Connor), and starts to mistrust even the nice people around him. Eventually he murders the local annoying gossip-prone woman whom he had sworn as his enemy, and whom he blames for everything that has happened to him.
This twisted little film is something like a cross between Angela's Ashes and A Clockwork Orange. But it is never a pleasant experience. It's hard to feel sorry for any of the characters. At times you feel repulsed by all, and wish the movie would end quickly. At other times it is an effective black comedy/drama, but it lacks a savage wit. Neil Jordan's visual style gives us some interesting moments, but nothing that impressive either. Overall, it is an interesting film, well made, with a lot of bizarre scenes and a bizarre screenplay, but it results in a major headache. In other words, you may not enjoy this movie at all. But if you're a fan of cult cinema, which is probably the reason you've read so far into this webpage, then you will probably like it. Just not thaaat much...
Bizarreness level: 7 out of 10.
Rating: 7 out of 10.
Cannibal! The Musical
Directed by: Trey Parker (South Park, Orgazmo)
Availability: actually, for some bizarre reason this flick tends to be more easily found at Blockbuster than cult video rentals.
One of the most hilarious movies of the 90s. How can you turn down a musical by the creators of South Park and That's My Bush!, distributed by Troma, where somebody offers Alfred Packer fudge? Yep, this movie actually features the line "Fudge, Packer?" early on. Heck, it's first few minutes are a very violent gore film - and you are already laughing yourself to near anoxia (which has been proven by the George W. Bush as not being an impediment for running for office - so you can laugh without worrying about your political career). Jokes about bestiality (not seen in a musical since Oklahoma!) are at the center of the story, which is extremely loosely based on the adventures of the real Alfred Packer; in fact, it is as accurate a portrayal of those events as Cheech and Chong's The Corsican Brothers was of the William Howard Taft presidency.
Basically, Trey Parker (under the name Juan Schwartz - a take on John Schwartze, the alias the real Packer hid under) plays Alfred Packer, the good-hearted fella who sang about the day being as warm as a baked potato, who really loved his horse - I mean really loved his horse. He gets to lead an expedition of gold miners through the Rocky Mountains in the late 19th century, searching for a better life. A band of punk illegal fur-trappers (with fabolous singing voices) also takes an interest in Packer's horse, so one day Pakcer wakes up and the horse is not there. He leads the gang of moronic miners through the trial he thinks the horse took, and he makes the mistake of trying to walk around the Colorado river, so eventually the gang gets lost, and it snows. Predating O Brother Where Art Thou?, they encounter a cyclops: a large guy with an eye-patch - which squirts blood. As the morale of the gang breaks down, one of them decides to sing a happy song called Oh Let's Build a Snowman!, dance included, which leads to another miner losing his sanity and killing the singer. Since they're starving, they decide to eat him. Eventually one of the miners eats everyone except Packer, whom Packer kills in a ridiculously never-ending struggle. Packer finds the nearest town, but when the snow melts he's arrested for murder and cannibalism. There he meets a female reporter, who falls in love with him, and tries to help him. It all leads to a hilarious finale.
If you've seen Orgazmo, you know what style this movie is shot
in. However, it is better than that NC-17 movie about the porn industry
with not one single naked woman. This is a delicious comedy, a satire
that really bites, a movie that you can truely sink your teeth into.
This is the movie Chocolat wanted to be. Seriously, you can't
go wrong with a bunch of whiny miners discussing homosexuality while they
are forced to share sheets in pairs while they lie naked. No, no,
this is not a movie about cowboys eating pudding while exploring their
sexuality, but it comes close. In all true seriousness, I literally
laughed from beginning to end during this movie, which is far more than
what can be said for the latest Eddie Murphy-starring special-effects-filled
Disney sequel to a remake with a budget large enough to make Kabul look
like NYC. Do yourself a favor and go rent this. You won't regret
Bizarreness level: 6 shots out of 10.
Rating: 9 out of 10.
Cecil B. DeMented
Directed by: John Waters
Starring: Stephen Dorff (Blade, City of Industry, Blood & Wine, SFW, The Gate), Melanie Griffith, Alica Witt (Cybill, Twin Peaks, Urban Legends, Four Rooms, the little girl in Dune), Eric M. Barry, Maggie Gyllenhaal (Homegrown), Adrian Grenier (Drive Me Crazy, The Adventures of Sebastian Cole), Ricky Lake, Kevin Nealon (SNL, Hiller and Diller) among others.
Availability: Video and DVD.
A good parody of the indie & grindhouse cinema vs. moral majority/soccer moms/corporate/PG Hollywood, poking fun at caricatures of both sides.
Bizarreness level: 5 shots out of 10
Rating: 7 out of 10
Cemetary Man (Dellamorte Dellamore)
Directed by: Michele Soavi (The Church, The Sect, Dario Argento's protegee)
Starring: Rupert Evert (My Best Friend's Wedding, An Ideal Husband, The Next Best Thing, Inspector Gadget 1999)
Not only the only good zombie film done in the 90s, but one of the 100 best films of the 90s, period.
Bizarreness level: 7 shots out of 10.
Rating: 9 out of 10.
Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian
Dog, El Perro del Hortelano, Un Perro Andaluz)
Directed by: Luis Buñuel (The Discreet Charm of the
Bourgeoisie, The Exterminating Angel, Viridiana)
Written by: Buñuel and Salvador Dalí (yes, the surrealist painter)
Availability: Cult video stores (usually on the same tape as the dull documentary A Land Without Bread), film school archives, DVD stores.
Some people have been complaining that I have been dealing too much with current bizarre films and not giving enough coverage or credit to the original masters of the bizarre. In particular, I've been asked to include a section for Luis Buñuel. Well, the reason that I haven't done a page for Buñuel is that I don't really care for his work. The man was always ahead of his time in a technical sense. However, he repeated himself too much (constant attacks to the Church and the higher class can be fascinating but tire after a while), made films that were too similar to other films he had done before, wasn't consistent (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is fun but Nazarin is a bore, for example), and at times would become an unfocused pseudo-artist who hinted at doing good things that he would never fulfill (take Nazarín, again). However, I'll give him credit where credit is due. So, on to the review of Un Chien Andalou.
This is what is considered by most to be the father of all bizarre films. A 16-minute black & white silent short, in which director Buñuel set out to "not place a single image which would make any rational sense or follow any logic". So you get what would seem like any other old silent film, except for the fact that it starts out with an eyeball being sliced while clouds cut through the moon, and goes on with a killer with ants on his hands, a man groping breasts that become undressed from time to time and turn into an ass, the chopped off head of a mule, someone dragging a piano and a priest, a disembodied hand, and people doing a lot of nonsensical rituals. No plot, no point, no complete meaning.
Even though the technical details and the effects are next to zero compared with current movie technology, they're pretty impressive for the time the film was made. However, it still looks like any other old silent quirky comedy film, only that extremely perverted. You have to laugh, as if it were a parody of the films of the time. In fact, if you mute the stupid music that the French added nearly 4 decades later, the movie stops being a charming little comedy and becomes downright creepy.
Buñuel's purpose was to shock audiences, by letting them absorb images that would be otherwise create a sort of horror or repulsion, but that are presented in a manner that makes it all easy to swallow. The audience would be shocked that they were able to absorb somethings as morally dubious as this, and would have to question the root of their values. Or something along the lines. Other critics and film historians say that it was a parody of the then obliged Freudian subtext placed in every surreal film made back in the day. Everything had to have some meaning in those films; here, nothing has a meaning. However, the effect intended for modern audiences is unknown, but it causes an odd fascination, for all the wrong reasons and due to the time in which it was done. It's something like discovering that your great-grandfather was a pot-smoking cross-dresser who made porno films.
[in case you're wondering: the eye that was sliced belonged to either a cow or a donkey, those were real dead donkeys, and Dali stole the hand of a corpse for the disembodied hand]
Bizarreness level: 10 shots out of 10
Rating: can't really rate this
City of the Lost Children (La
Cité des Enfants Perdus)
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Alien: Resurrection, Delicatessen) and Marc Caro (Delicatessen)
You won't be able to enjoy a classic Disney movie after watching this. In fact, you will be scared.
Bizarreness level: 9 shots out of 10.
Rating: 8 out of 10.
A Clockwork Orange See Kubrick section.
Crash See Cronenberg section.
Directed by: Sam Raimi (the Evil Dead trilogy, A Simple Plan, Darkman, The Quick and the Dead)
Written by: Raimi and the Coen bros. (Fargo, Miller's Crossing, Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski, etc.)
Starring: Reed Birney (From the Earth to the Moon, Another World), Sheree J. Wilson (Fraternity Vacation, Walker, Texas Ranger, Dallas), Paul Smith (Bluto in Popeye, the Beast Rabban in Dune; also in Maverick, Red Sonja, Gor, The Deadly Mantis, Haunted Honeymoon), Brion James (Gen. Munro in The 5th Element; Blade Runner, 48 Hours, Cabin Boy), Louise Lasser (Bananas, Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex, Happiness), and Bruce Campbell (the Evil Dead trilogy, Maniac Cop, Congo, etc.), among others.
Duration: 1 hr. 23 mins.
Availability: Cult video stores.
Since fans of Raimi are now whining about Raimi's involvement in Kevin Costner's latest nausea-inducing baseball flick (pardon the redundancy) For Love of the Game, claiming that he's ruining a perfect career, let's take a look at a rather unknow flick where Raimi failed as well, and did not do so alone. Nope, for this one he teamed with the guy who helped him edit The Evil Dead and his brother, two young scriptwriters that 11 years later would be receiving an Oscar for the script for Fargo. Yep, I'm talking about none other than Joel and Ethan Coen, or the Super Coen Bros., as some call them. And, as many of you out there perhaps know, these 3 guys later on teamed up to do the popular The Hudsucker Proxy. So I guess that for Raimi and Coen fans, this is a nearly irresistable lure. Of course, as most fish find out eventually, lures tend to be kind of painful. This is not an exception. A surprising failure, also allegedly titled The XYZ Murders and Broken Hearts and Noses...
Nobody has ever been able to sit through this one at one try. At only 83 minutes, it feels as if it goes on forever... One would expect a witty comedy with visual styling from the pairing of Raimi and the Coens, right? Instead what results is something that for the most part is a bore. Raimi attempts to spoof all the old bad formulaic Hollywood crime, film noir, comedy, thriller, horror, and romance movies (including the slapstick, the music, the shots, plot contriviences, dance contests, overacting, suffering females, 'gee-wiz' good guys, and idiotic macho studs with 'style'), while at the same time attempting to do a live action version of an old cartoon. Problem is, the film is almost as bad as what it is spoofing. You see, most of the film, instead of pointing out what is wrong with certain bad cliche, just uses that cliche. And hey, it doesn't have to do with what it is satirizing, as good parodies have been made on the same material, such as Silent Movie, Johnny Dangerously, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. Here somehow it falls flat. There are many moments that SHOULD make you laugh, but don't. And the whole cartoonish feel mostly gives you a headache. I wanted to laugh when a guy survived a several-stories-high fall and then got runnover by a truck, but couldn't (and I've laughed at a similar gag in Naked Gun 2 1/2). Hey, remember that Joe Dante-directed sequence in the Twilight Zone movie about the kid that did nightmarish things with old cartoons? I thought that the kid was loose around here many times.
The plot? In 1930s or so Detroit (although there are mixes of era elements), a 'gee-wiz' nerd named Vic (Birney) falls for a confused egotistical dame named Helen (Wilson), who still loves her loathsome ex-lover, Renaldo "The Heel" (Campbell). He asks her out on a date that turns out to be a failure. Meanwhile, a guy who works for an alarm company sketches a plan to get rich by having his boss murdered, and hires to psychotic exterminators named Faron Crush and Arthur Coddish (Smith and James), who kill people with a large portable high-powered electric shocker. Of course, that turns out into a mess, and while the two evil exterminators/hitmen try to coverup the murder, they wind up chasing a couple of witnesses from the building across the street, and hiding from the police. Circumstances would have it that that is the same building where Vic and Helen live, and just when their relationship is starting to work, suddenly the two psychos cross their paths... All done in using 1920s-50s Hollywood formulas and style...
Not all is bad, though. There are some ingenious moments, and the editing and sets are admirable (you can admire that the people in the film died trying). The casting is good (it's no coincidence that 2 soap opera actors get the overacted leads, and that Blutto plays the fat bad guy who punches everyone, or that Campbell plays the arrogant stud). Bruce Campbell adds some good humor as the local asshole/lothario, and there is a typical Coenesque plot regarding a murder plan gone wrong. Also a there are a couple of good jokes using the Coen's dark humor (watch out for the little kid in the elevator, who steals the show). Stylish camerawork, all in all...
You may want to check this surreal lame "comedy" out, now that you know of its existence, but I seriously urge you not to (disregard the cover of the box that compares it to Airplane! as well). You'll probably think higher of Raimi and the Coens if you don't. And if you do NEED to watch this, I advise you not to do it when you need cheering up or entertainment, or when you are looking for a cool bizarre flick to watch on a weekend evening over a couple of beers. Try it out when you are in your "heck I'm curious, anything goes, let's kill some time" mood...
Bizarreness level: 8 shots out of 10.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Dance With the Devil (a.k.a.
(1999, although originally made in 1997)
Directed by: Alex De la Iglesia (Day of the Beast, Accion
Starring: Rosie Perez, Javier Bardem, James Gandolfini, Harley Cross (better known as the 10 year old incarnation of The Fly II), Aimee Graham (Heather's sister), Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Alex Cox, Santiago Segura (the long-haired guy in all of De la Iglesia's films).
Written by: De la Iglesia, Jorge Guerricaechevarria (co-writer of all of De La Iglesia's films and Live Flesh), David Trueba (La Niña de tus Ojos, Two Much), and Barry Gifford (Wild at Heart, Lost Highway), based on Gifford's novel, losely based on a true story.
Duration: 2 hrs, 6 minutes (unrated: add 10 minutes).
Genre: Action/Dark Comedy/Suspense
Availability: Just about any video store, at the moment.
The plot of this Spanish/Mexican/American movie is... I have no idea. Basically, Rosie Perez is Perdita Durango, a Mexican-American femme fatale (with a LOT of emphasis on the fatale) who drifts from one side of the border to the other, looking for trouble. She meets this buffed up Mexican named Romeo (Bardem) who at first seems like any other testosterone crazed loser who wants to sleep with anyone and impress them with muscles and claims of money and really cheap lines. But it turns out that he's actually a warlock, who holds shows for tourists where he kills some random person. He's also a minor part of a drug trafficking ring. Perdita just loves that he's a killer and a criminal, and they get it on. Just out of kicks, one day they decide to kidnap a young couple, to eventually kill them, after torturing them. They drive around for quite a while, play sexual games with the couple, shout at them a lot, play mind games with them, try to kill one of them, recapture them after a failed escape attempt, and them make up their minds whether they actually have grown fond of the 18-year olds or not. Meanwhile, they have to deal with greedy drug dealers and the cops that are after them. One cop named Dumas (Gandolfini) obsessively tries to hunt Romeo down, in either side of the border. And for a brief while the father of the kidnapped girl goes searching for her. It all leads to a bloody showdown.
As always, one has to deal with Rosie Perez's odd way of talking (it's hard to understand her in either English OR Mexican Spanish). Bardem is a strong macho character that you hate at times and are rooting for at the other times. The young couple is mostly annoying (not surprisingly, both of them appeared in Shriek if You Know What I Did Last Halloween). The film has a rather erotic air to it, but although a lot of sex happens, there's not much nudity (then again, I've only been able to watch the rated version). As in all of De la Iglesia's films, all the characters are amoral, a lot of violence goes on for no reason, and there's a lot of bizarre happenstance. However, this is nowhere near as fun as his previous two films, particularly the great Day of the Beast. By the way, the title has nothing to with the devil; it's half of a quote from Tim Burton's Batman. The movie does try to be something like the Chicano version of Natural Born Killers or Wild at Heart (not surprisingly, the latter is by the same author), but doesn't really succeed. It also seems to go on forever at a certain point. But, it does have some few lunatic moments that are worth it. Just don't expect this to be a pleasant ride...
Bizarreness level: 5 shots out of 10.
Rating: 5 out of 10.
Dead Ringers See Cronenberg section
The Devils See Ken Russell section
The Doom Generation
Directed and written by: Gregg Araki (Nowhere, The Living End, Splendor)
Starring: Rose McGowan (Scream, Jawbreaker, Lewis & Clarke & George), James Duval (Independence Day, Go, Gone in 60 Seconds, The Clown at Midnight), Johnathon Schaech (Splendor, After Sex, Hush, That Thing You Do!, Houdini).
Cameos: David Nguyen (21 Jump Street), Margaret Cho, Perry Farrell, Skinny Puppy, Parker Posey, Nicky Katt, Amanda Bearse (Married... With Children), Heidi Fleiss, Christopher Night (The Brady Bunch), among others.
A quick note to the people who have been asking me this a lot: The Araki Teen Apocalypse Trilogy consists of The Living End, this film, and Nowhere. As for Araki's other films, Totally Fucked Up may star James Duval, but it is just a pseudo-documentary on nihilistic homosexual teenagers (and a quite boring one at that), and Splendor is a hilarious screwball romantic comedy.
Bizarreness level: 9 shots out of 10.
Rating: 8 out of 10.
Directed and Written by: Richard Kelly
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal (Bubble Boy), James Duval (The Doom Generation, Nowhere, Independence Day, Gone in 60 Seconds), Jena Malone (Life as a House, Cheaters, Stepmom), Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze, Noah Wyle, Beth Grant (Rock Star, Speed, Lawn Dogs, the teacher who got killed in Child's Play 2), Patience Cleveland (one of the nuns in Psycho III), Holmes Osborne (a guy who appears in bit roles in many comedies, teen flicks, and dead serious indie dramas), Mary McDonnell (Dances With Wolves, Sneakers, Independence Day), among others.
Genre: Drama/Black Comedy
Duration: 1 hr 52 minutes.
A strange, haunting film about... I'm still not quite sure what it is about. It's set in October 1988 in anonymous suburbia, and deals with an emotionally disturbed adolescent who may or may not be having psychotic hallucinations, in which a guy named Frank who wears a skull mask with bunny ears appears to him and tells him about the world being about to end. This leads to sleepwalking episodes in which he carries out acts of vandalism against those repressive elements in pseudo-"family values" 80s America which he is interacting with at school. As well, he starts investigating the possibility of time travel, and starts seeing some sort of invisible projections of ourselves - our soul? our hearts? our minds? - which he calls 'vessels' (to picture them, remember the first CGI liquid matter effects used in The Abyss). In between those, back in reality, he deals with his reasonable, kind, but misunderstanding parents; he befriends and falls in love with a troubled girl; he goes to therapy sessions, where his therapist decides to try hypnosis on him, with odd effects; and he uses his smarts to speak out against the aforementioned backward thinking at his school, while trying to gain more knowledge from the few smart (young) teachers. Some of the moments in the real world are marked by very surreal moments, such as when a plane engine crashes through his room, or when his father nearly runs over a strange old woman. All the elements seem to connect towards the ending, where it appears that some elements of the story have been playing out of synch.
Richard Kelly treats his material seriously, sometimes even bordering on the edge of horror, with solemn music, shadowy figures, a predomination of black and blue tones, and people with despair in their faces. Donnie and his girlfriend even go to a screening of The Evil Dead. Yet there is a lot of humor spread out, some of it nostalgic of the late 80s, and as should be obvious by now, some dark humor as well. Patrick Swayze appears in an odd role as a motivational speaker with the emptiest ideas possible (one wonders if he felt that if Tom Cruise could get nominated for that role, so could he), which of course appeal to the birdbrains running his school. Drew Barrymore gets to show that she can act in a mature, serious role, meaning that we'll be seeing her around when her looks are all gone. Bizarre indie regular James Duval plays Frank under the costume, and for once, he doesn't come off as a complete airhead. In fact, he's unrecognizable. Surprisingly, Dennis Hopper is nowhere to be seen - oh wait! It's a bizarre teen movie set in the 80s, not made in the 80s! Never mind.
Despite the potential for silliness, this movie comes off very well, and somehow disturbing, through its haunting beauty. I don't know what to make of the ending, not only in what it means or regarding what really happened, but also if we are supposed to feel sad or happy. It feels like a reverse It's a Wonderful Life. I cannot comment more without spoiling it, though. Supposedly it directly takes elements of Harvey and The Last Temptation of Christ. Basically, this is one to think about for a long while after the movie is over. And that does not mean for one second that this is not thoroughly enjoyable.
Bizarreness level: 7 shots out of 10
Rating: 8 or 9 out of 10.
Dracula vs Frankenstein
Directed by: Al Adamson (I Spit on Your Corpse, Satan's
Sadists, Hospital of Terror, Cinderella 2000, Brain
of Blood, Blood of Ghastly Horror, Horror of the Blood Monsters,
Samurai, Death Dimension, etc.)
Starring: Zandor Vorkov (an ex-stock broker), John Bloom (an accountant with roles in other Adamson films and The Hills Have Eyes Part 2), J. Carrol Naish (who actually had a small role in House of Frankenstein half-way through his extensive film and TV career), Lon Chaney Jr., Regina Carrol (star of half of Adamson's films, as she was his wife), Anthony Eisley (The Wasp Woman, The Navy vs. the Sea Monsters, The Mummy and the Curse of the Jackals, The Doll Squad, The Mighy Gorga, Lolita al Desnudo - not the greatest-reading resume), Angelo Rossitton (Freaks, Barretta, Mesa of Lost Women, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome), Russ Tamblyn (The Haunting, West Side Story, Twin Peaks, Cimarron, High School Confidential, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Ghost Dog, and many atrocious films, most recently Attack of the 60-foot Centerfold and Cabin Boy and Fred Olen Ray stuff), Jim Davis (actor of Dallas and many westerns - and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter), Greydon Clark (director of many bad films), Anne Morell
Written by: William Pugsley (never wrote anything else - fortunately) and Samuel L. Sherman (who also produced, and had some technical role in many Adamson films, and stuff like Midnight)
Duration: About 1 hr 30 minutes.
Availability: cult video stores, occasional midnight showings on local channels during Halloween
This movie could feature in a cable access channel at 3:00 a.m. after shows like Cock Talk and those bizarre features that tell you that "2001 is a white male's fantasy", and you wouldn't be surprised. In fact, you would be surprised when you read some of the cast names and realize that it is NOT a made-for-local-cable-access movie. Yes, Lon Chaney Jr is in this, in his last movie ever. Unfortunately, he doesn't play either lead role, which are ursurped respectively by the geek who calls himself Zandor Vorkoff (real name: Roger Engel) and one of the many large guys named John Bloom (no, not the Joe Bob Briggs one, unfortunately - now THAT would be fun; it's the guy from The Hills Have Eyes Part II and one of the large aliens from Star Trek VI) in pathetic make-up and costumes. Chaney instead plays a mentally defective large guy who chops up hippies with his axe (similar to Rush Limbaugh), so as to provide the last descendant of Frankenstein (Naish) the bodies for his experiments. Frankenstein is a guy in a wheelchair who lives underneath a lame carnival attraction (what look like the leftovers of the set for The Man With the Golden Gun), for reasons never made clear. As his other assistant, he has another old horror actor: Angelo Rossito, better known as one of the midgets from Freaks. Dr. Frankenstein, who goes by the name of Durea, wheels in at the end of the "scary" show, which he narrates, to attempt to further scare the customers. Did I mention that the assistant are named Groto and Grazbo, respectively? Too bad that Chaney didn't retire after Spider Baby.
The most exciting, creative, and well-directed scene in this entire mess by Al Adamson is the opening credits sequence. You know a movie is in trouble when someone has to say that. Then again, what else did you expect from an idea that not even Universal Studios in their "let's stuff as many monsters into one movie as possible" era or Hammer in their "anything goes" era decided to do. Still, either studio might have made it interesting. But not the director of Horror of the Blood Monsters and Psycho-a-go-go, no. His idea of creativity involves inserting clueless hippies, bikers, a lame acid trip, a musical number, stock footage of 70s protests, a magic ring that shoots rays like flying saucers did in the 50s (i.e. freezing the frame and scratching the film), and his wife in the lead role. Not to mention: FRANKENSTEIN'S LABORATORY IS AT THE BOTTOM OF A LAME CARNIVAL ATTRACTION.
It is worth noting that, beating Mel Brooks' masterpiece Young Frakenstein by a couple of years, some of the equipment used in this movie is from the original James Whale Frankenstein. Apparently Forrest J. Ackerman helped contact the right people to get this stuff. What a waste.
The plot? Dracula visits Dr. Frakenstein, as he wants him to perfect a never-ending supply of blood, or something like that. In return, Frankenstein gets - well, that's never clear. Dracula dug up the "original" Frankenstein monster, and gives it to the new doctor to be revived - for reasons unknown, but plot-convenient. Dracula's voice has echo and sounds distant, as if he were speaking from a megaphone. My guess is that Adamson watched Dr Phibes while making this, and thought that the voice gimmick would help the geeky-looking ex-accountant with a goatee sound scary. It doesn't. it makes him sound like a host of really bad videos on a cable access channel.
Back to the plot. A singer and some hippies looking into one of Chaney's victims (and thus now one of Frankenstein's revived hippies) get involved in the mess, despite their defective detective skills. Almost all die, but never soon enough. Only at the very end to Dracula and Frankenstein fight, and the motive is not too clear. One of them wins almost too easily after a brief fight, but winds up dying anyway. What, did you expect these screenwriters to come up with something better? You should hear the dialogue in this thing! Dr. Frankenstein always tries to sound philosophical, but nothing he says ever makes sense. Samples: "all illusions look real or they wouldn't be illusions", "they have yet to face the greatest illusion: the illusion of reality." Then there's the hippies. The hero (who wears a poncho all the time, despite looking like he's never been near the Andes), to the damsel in distress he just rescued: "If you've got a fireplace, burn some wood in it. It'll be a lot better than running loose on the streets." And no, that's not out of context. Wait - now I'm not sure if it was the clueless cop who said that. Whatever. It doesn't make a difference.
Some say this was meant as a comedy originally. I doubt it. However, it is a comedy now! Particularly if you consider the people involved. Aside from the already mentioned celebrities, just like in Adamson's Satan's Sadists, we get Russ Tamblyn as the Hispanic biker (as always!) - although somebody forgot to place the names of the other actors who played bikers in the credits. Forrest J. Ackerman puts in a cameo as a rival of Frankenstein. Regular cowboy Jim Davis plays the cop. And Adamson's succesor, Greydon Clark (director/writer/producer of Satan's Cheerleaders, Black Shampoo, Wacko, Joysticks, Uninvited), has a small role as a hippie, where he gets to tell a girl that there's a protest that they have to go to, and when asked what it's about, says the immortal line: "I don't know. But I'll bet it's fun!" Will the laughter ever end?
The perfect movie to rent when you want to play MST3K (that and From Hell it Came). Absolute trash.
Bizarreness level: 7 shots out of 10.
Rating: 1 out of 10.
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