Tag Archives: movies

Some Movies That Fucked Me Up a Little

17 Feb

I have the honor of being a Younger Brother. Moreso, my sibling is an Older Brother, not an Older Sister, which has deep ramifications. My childhood was full of farting contests and instruction on masturbation and being made to feel like an insignificant worm, while an Older Sister might have simply made me feel like an insignificant worm and left it at that. One dubious benefit of having an Older Brother is that I got to hear music and watch movies that, at the time, I was probably too young to fully comprehend. My particular Older Brother was a big fan of the horror genre, which is why, when my age was still in single digits, I saw a lot of movies that kind of fucked me up.

When A Stranger Calls, 1979, color

Of all the movies I watched at grade-school age that I shouldn’t have–A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Sleepaway Camp–When A Stranger Calls is arguably the least scary from an objective viewpoint. However, it made a big impact on me because it was the first horror movie I ever saw. It may have been the very first time my parents went out for the evening and left my brother in charge, but it was certainly during one of these initial expressions of parental trust that I saw the movie, which ultimately led to me not sleeping for two weeks. The plot to When A Stranger Calls is the same as that campfire story about the prank caller who ends up have called from inside the house all along, a trite, old yarn that I had never heard before seeing the film. I can recall a scene depicting a bloody guy in a bathtub that I don’t believe is actually in the movie. Though I was terrified of When A Stranger Calls and had lingering nightmares because of it, I don’t think I ever explained as much to my parents. I guess I thought they’d be pissed off if they knew my brother let me watch it.

Phantasm, 1979, color

My brother was able to traumatize two family members with this film: my mother first, when she took him to see it in the theater and then never took him to see another horror movie again for as long as he lived. Then again, much later, when he and I watched it one evening that my parents were out. The plot, as I understood at age nine, is about a horrifying tall man that scares the shit out of everyone just through his sheer existence. There are also little Jawas that kidnap people and send them to another dimension through a portal hidden within a mausoleum, but what I mainly remember is the Tall Man, played by Angus Scrimm. How good is that name? Angus Scrimm. With a name like that, you’re either going to be a bagpipe player, or someone that scares the pants off of little kids without much effort. But there’s no way you could be both.

The Last House On the Left, 1972, color

I’m closing in on forty years old at the time of this writing, and I still don’t think I’m old enough to watch this movie. Arguably one of the most disturbing theatrical releases in history, Last House On the Left is about two thrill-seeking teenage girls who go to a rock concert only to get raped and murdered. Parents of one of the teens take their opportunity to enact (a sort of convoluted) revenge when the killers show up at their doorstep due to car trouble. I saw this movie when I was nine years old. The song that plays over the closing credits is one of my favorite songs of all time–a kind of freewheeling country tune that basically outlines the plot of the movie. If you’ve got a strong stomach, I recommend you watch this movie because it’s definitely an interesting juxtaposition of gore, psychological horror, and slapstick comedy–yes, you read that right, slapstick comedy. However, if you’re a nine year-old boy who pisses himself when highly anxious, then you should put this flick on the back burner and watch something more tame like House.

Who the Fuck Decided Ryan Reynolds Would Be a Good Hal Jordan in the Green Lantern Movie?!

17 Feb

I know what you’re thinking. “Who the hell are Ryan Reynolds, Hal Jordan, and Green Lantern?” If you’re part of the one percent of the world that cares about comic book superheroes and their characterization in other media, then you might be thinking, “Here we go again, another vitriolic blog about how untalented Ryan Reynolds is and how unfit he is to wear the emerald ring of the Green Lantern.” If that’s you, I’m picturing you wearing a plastic viking helmet and a tight Camel cigarettes t-shirt from 1992 while sipping a 64 oz. Slurpee from 7-11. Just so you know.

This is not another essay about how Ryan Reynolds is a talentless hack who isn’t fit to wear Green Lantern’s domino mask. I mean, Ryan Reynolds is a talentless hack, but that isn’t why he’s poorly suited for the role. It’s not like I expected Harrison Ford to get it, there’s no point in using a good actor for a role that consists mainly of feigning astonishment at the cgi objects your magic ring will create in post-production. No, my problem isn’t with Ryan Reynolds being Green Lantern at all, it’s with his being Hal Jordan. Because anyone that knows anything about Green Lantern would say that Ryan Reynolds would make a better Guy Gardner.

It’s not exactly common knowledge that there’s more than one Green Lantern. There are dozens, in fact, each belonging to the Green Lantern Corps, an interstellar police force that keeps people from parking spaceships in the wrong dimension or something. Space is divided into sectors, and each sector has one Green Lantern to patrol it, except (of course) whatever sector contains Earth. For some reason, our sector requires several Green Lanterns to patrol it, Hal Jordan being only the first (well, second really…but I’m not going to get into that bullshit again). There’s also John Stewart, a rare Black superhero that doesn’t have the word “Black” in his name, and there’s a relatively new Green Lantern named Kyle Rayner, who is a cartoonist or something. There was even a chick Green Lantern named Jade and a leprechaun Green Lantern who served for a special issue called Ganthet’s Tale.

You really have to wonder why unemployment is so high when the Green Lantern Corps is hiring left and right. Who isn’t a member of this goddamned space clique? Anyway, yet another Earthling member is named Guy Gardner. He’s kind of the hard ass of the Green Lantern Gang, he’s got red hair (and is therefore a fiery, temperamental Irish lad) and wears a leather jacket and generally clashes with authority. He’s kind of a wry prankster with a violent streak, which is exactly the kind of role Ryan Reynolds was born to play! He’d be like Van Wilder meets George Lutz from The Amityville Horror. His brand of quipping douchebag would fit the role nicely.

Why there are so many fucking Green Lanterns patrolling Earth is really beyond me. The Justice League cartoon switched over to John Stewart as their primary Green Lantern because the producers knew that his being Black is the only thing that makes the character remotely interesting. With this summer’s movie we’ve got a mediocre actor portraying a fairly boring white dude. I hope there’s a lot of space boob in this movie.

If You Don’t Watch These Movies, You’re Racist

15 Feb

Fifth Avenue was slow in adopting hip-hop, but once ad agencies and marketing departments realized there were Big Buck$ in that beat, they took to it like gangbusters. Today, it’s hard to imagine a jingle or pop song without the familiar boom, snare, boom boom, snare, a beat that backs many forms of modern music, from country to country western. T-shirts emblazoned with logos and designs are common fare for the Wal-Mart rack, while graffiti seems to grow and grow worldwide. Hip-hop is a culture that has intermingled with so many mainstream cultures that it’s become the undercurrent to our daily lives. It’s hard to imagine a time that hip-hop wasn’t ever present in our society.

But such a time did exist, and relatively speaking it wasn’t that long ago. Hip-hop didn’t get absorbed into popular culture until Bill Clinton’s second term, though it had, by then, made significant inroads. When I was a little kid, hip-hop didn’t even exist, at least not in my cloistered world. I didn’t hear a rap song until radio station Z100 played “Jam On It” by Newcleus around 1985. In fact, rap music and hip-hop culture had to be presented to much of America, white or otherwise, before it took hold and spread like wildfire. The following four movies were earnest attempts at doing just that.

Style Wars, 1984
Of the four movies presented in this essay, Style Wars can be said to be the most “real,” in that it is a documentary instead of a fictionalized account of hip-hop culture. Originally planned as a documentary about break dancing, producers Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant began concentrating more on graffiti and rapping as the fad of break dancing started to die down (this film, along with Flashdance, helped revive it for a little while in the mid-eighties). You don’t have to be a fan of hip-hop to enjoy this engaging and well-made documentary, so quotable that some of my friends and I can speak solely in Style Wars language. We greet each other with “Gigolo! What you know?!” and describe a weekend plan as “everybody getting united at the bench, 149th Street, Grand Concourse.” This is probably my second favorite movie of all time after The Human Tornado.

Wild Style, 1983
This movie has been called an addendum to Style Wars, and it may be, at that. Featuring everyone in the hip-hop scene that wasn’t in Style Wars, Wild Style is a kind of Romeo and Juliet story about a graffiti writing couple’s struggle between staying true to the underground or blowing up and becoming minor celebrities among Lower East Side phonies. Or something like that. It’s an indie film at its most indie, which means it’s short on plot and technical ability, but it is long on actual footage of rap parties and writing graffiti in train yards. It’s rather touching that this movie attempted to be a crossover film to the mainstream by including Patti Astor in a miniature role. Wild Style is so bumbling, it’s adorable, and that’s besides the fact that Lady Pink is an 80s cutie throughout the movie.

Krush Groove, 1985
A fictionalized account of record label Def Jam’s early days, Krush Groove is different from the previous two movies I mentioned in that it doesn’t bother with many other elements of hip-hop besides the rapping and deejaying. Blair Underwood stars as Russell Simmons, and Russell Simmons stars as a nightclub promoter, and that’s just about the only thing coherent in the film. There’s a whole story about how Simmons’ acts get poached by another label and then the meat heads from House Party 2 beat the snot out of him for a while, but you can content yourself with watching a teenage LL Cool J in his big screen debut, as well as Fat Boys gluttonous montage “All You Can Eat,” a worthwhile reason to watch the movie by itself.

Beat Street, 1984
This would be the White Devil of the four movies presented here, being that it had the biggest budget and was distributed by MGM. Featuring Rae Dawn Chong and practically no one else worth mentioning, Beat Street is a kind of amalgam of the other three movies, featuring the most interesting elements of each film and discarding the personality. Oddly enough, though it’s the most mainstream of these four movies, it has some of the best scenes of urban blight of any of them, including a main character living as a squatter with his family, something which was a reality for many more New Yorkers during the 1970s than were Adidas sneakers. Of the four movies, this is probably the most watchable, but it’s the least interesting from a contextual perspective. Watch it only after watching the others, but don’t watch them all in the same day. You’ll probably want to go out and break dance after such a marathon.

Motherfucking Dolemite

1 Feb

There are few entertainers as diverse and eccentric as Rudy Ray Moore, aka Dolemite. Rudy began as an R&B singer, but after a favorable reception while performing for his fellow servicemen in the Army, he developed a strong comedy routine, mainly based around raunchy one-liners and put downs. X-rated material kept him off television, but Moore developed a strong following, particularly in Black clubs around the country. He released around thirty albums combining music and filthy jokes which were wildly popular. One of his common routines was that his dick was somehow so mind-blowing, women would spontaneously shit when he slid it inside them.

Moore was also an accomplished actor, and was featured in about twenty movies, starring in most of them. Most of his recent features bear no scrutiny, but he was featured in the Insane Clown Posse’s movie Big Money Hustlas as Dolemite for was was the first time in twenty years. Then Moore shit in the Dolemite franchise by making real shitfests like Shaolin Dolemite. Really, when enjoying Dolemite–and you will enjoy Dolemite, I guarantee it–there are three movies to view. The Dolemite Trilogy, I call it, and it is as follows:

1. The Human Tornado, 1976
Mainstream America was introduced to the character of Dolemite in the 1975 movie Dolemite, a fairly serviceable Blaxploitation film about a pimp who gets set up and enacts his revenge. It’s a pretty kick-ass movie, but it doesn’t hold a candle to its sequel, The Human Tornado. The film isn’t easy to describe, the plot is about how Dolemite, while running from a racist cop’s homicide prosecution, saved his friend and club owner Queen Bee from slavery at the hands of a rival club owner, and also rescued her dancers from a torture chamber in Pasadena. That sentence doesn’t do the movie justice, however, really the movie has something for everyone: comedy, action, drama, sex, dancing, music, and even a Brazilian guy with nunchucks. The kung fu fighting is really something to behold, and the soundtrack is absolutely awesome. In fact, Landspeed records re-released it recently, so be sure to pick it up if you like dirty funk music.

2. Petey Wheatstraw, the Devil’s Son-in-Law, 1977
During a vicious lightning storm, a severely pregnant woman gives birth first to a watermelon, and then to a nine year-old boy who attacks the delivering doctor and then pounces on his own father for “stabbing me in my sleep.” And that’s all before the opening credits. Petey Wheatstraw, the Devil’s Son-in-Law is a more plot-heavy movie than The Human Tornado, and follows a similar structure to most three-act plays. Petey Wheatstraw makes a deal with Satan to best the rival comic team of Leroy & Skillet, and then tricks the devil who wants Petey to marry his hideous, demonic daughter. The real devil here is in the details (har har), as Moore showcases some of his best comedy as well as the talents of other Black comics in his circuit. FYI, this soundtrack is pretty fabulous as well.

3. Disco Godfather, 1979
I seem to recall this movie was called The Avenging Disco Godfather when I first saw it around twenty years ago (sigh), but all internet evidence points to the contrary. In any case, Disco Godfather is definitely the most esoteric of The Dolemite Trilogy, and has the most experimental camera work and what could pass for special effects of the three films. It’s about a retired cop who tears up the disco club and the streets, cleaning house of the prolific PCP dealers that got his nephew hooked. Or something like that. All I remember is the last scene, where Rudy Ray Moore is forced to take PCP via a gas mask and endures the longest, most surreal hallucination scene in any movie. It’s worth sitting through for that payoff alone. And the soundtrack? Surprise, it’s fantastic!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 Is Okay

31 Jan

When I was in junior high school, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fever was just beginning. I was a fan of the original independent, black and white comic book by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, and collected the first four trade editions. The crude drawing, violence, and obvious X-Men parody spoke to my restless, half-assed pubescence. Around 1988, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles exploded into the mainstream with a new cartoon series and toy line aimed at much smaller children. Like any good teenager, I summarily rejected the whole franchise and moved on to stealing beer from my father and writing on walls with spray paint.

So I never saw the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, and also missed its sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze. You can’t really blame me, I was sixteen when it came out. If I’d gone to see it, I probably would have spent the whole time in the back of the theater clumsily trying to finger some girl through her stretch pants. The movie featured Vanilla Ice, at the time my mortal enemy in a valorous, single-minded crusade to save hip-hop. And on top of that, it was the mutant turtles with the differently-colored eye masks, not the cool ones with all red eye masks from the original comics (which were in black and white, but the covers were colored.) It never occurred to me to watch this obvious kid’s movie when more dramatic fare like Juice and Jurassic Park was in the theaters.

It was on cable the other day, so I figured I’d give Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze a shot. You know what? It wasn’t half bad. To be sure, it was pandering claptrap, largely designed to sell more Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys and bedsheets. But if we accept that as a given, then it can be seen as a pretty good bit of pandering claptrap, well-paced and reasonably interesting with some awesome acrobatics that people do entirely ensconced in some very uncomfortable-looking foam rubber costumes.

The plot is not really consequential: an old villain thought dead returns to fuck the turtles up, and they rebuke him while also uncovering their own mutant origins. Hint: it has something to do with the ooze. More impressive are the stunts, some really good high-flying choreography done by people in bulky rubber suits. With shells on the back, to boot! Really, it must be seen to be believed. I vaguely recall the movie reviews making a big deal of the stunts when this film came out, and with good reason. Even the animatronic turtle faces didn’t look too weird. I mean, once you’ve accepted that we should befriend mutated animals, we can forgive the fact that they look a little like Teddy Ruxpin when they talk.

The one weird plot point in the movie, and it isn’t as much a detraction as it is confusing, is the introduction of the kid pictured above. I don’t remember his name, but he was a pizza delivery kid who also knew kung-fu that got needlessly mixed up in the turtles’ shit. I guess he was there so kids would have someone to identify with, but his existence in the film was superfluous and mildly annoying. Even with this weird addition to the cast, the movie was quite enjoyable. I wouldn’t go out of my way or pay anything extra to see it, but if you’re even slightly curious, fear not: you won’t be completely bored.

And you know, it’s been a long time, I no longer give a shit about protecting whatever values I wanted to impose on hip-hop or being a purist about anything. Age gives me that luxury. Here’s Vanilla Ice’s song from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze. Honestly, it’s kind of dope.

Tron: Legacy Is a Piece of Shit

31 Jan

I was surprised at the rumors about Disney allowing the original Tron DVD to go out of print before Tron: Legacy debuted because they were afraid that people would see the original and not be enticed to watch the sequel. I saw Tron in the theater and it made a major impression on me, the film was groundbreaking for digital special effects and I thought the story was satisfying, if in a completely predictable Disney way. Sure, the haphazard and meaningless use of computer terms throughout the script is silly and the end is pretty underwhelming, but the movie is nothing to be ashamed of. Like anything, Tron needs to be appreciated in historical context. It’s not providing an Avatar-level experience but it’s a damn sight better than The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Surprise! This video game was awesome.

I was very excited for the release of Tron: Legacy for the same reason as most people: nostalgia. I hoped Tron: Legacy would be like Tron but with kick-ass Speed Racer-style special effects. I expected the story to be simple, and corny, with clearly-defined heroes and villains and a generic happy ending. And if they’d delivered that, I probably would have enjoyed every minute of my two-hour experience. As it is, I want to take the $17.50 I spent on ONE ticket and cram it up the Tron team’s collective asshole. Sideways.

I am not alone in this opinion. You can find plenty of Cheetos chompers deriding this movie from the safety of their blogs. Most of the kudos go to the soundtrack, composed by Daft Punk. I’m not a great fan of Daft Punk, but they did a pretty good job with the soundtrack. It compliments action on the screen, which is pretty much all you want out of a movie soundtrack. Except for the one gratuitous scene at the End of Line dance club–I am not making that up–the music doesn’t overpower the movie which is essential. However, if the best thing you can say about a movie is that its soundtrack is good, chances are that implies that the movie sucks.

Now is the time on Sprockets when we dance.
My negative opinion of Tron: Legacy can be boiled down to three problems. One: the story is overly complicated and generally blows. I understand that the suits at Disney are probably salivating into their ejaculating penises over the idea of successfully franchising this dormant property, but let’s write one movie at a time, okay? Maybe tie up the loose ends from the first movie before creating this vast new world of commercial possibilities. To describe the plot would be to insult both of our intelligences, but let’s say that it involves a maligned group of indigenous digital creatures who are nearly destroyed on the computer plane except for…yeah, let’s not even bother. To its credit, the good guys are obviously good and the bad guys are ludicrously sniveling, a hallmark of Disney plotting.
My second problem with Tron: Legacy is that the special effects are good, but shit: they could have been better. The original Tron did its best to simulate a computer world using cutting-edge technology at the time, which provided a kind of pseudo-depth but no real texture or round edges. Tron: Legacy takes the incredible graphic capabilities of today’s special effects wizards and does pretty much the same thing. Yeah, there are lots of crazy angles and the spaces seem much more massive, but it’s really not a lot better than today’s best HD video games or even Superbowl commercial graphics. Here was an opportunity to rethink the whole franchise, and the movie still ends with a cgi bridge disappearing beneath the characters’ day-glo feet.

But my biggest problem with Tron: Legacy, the one that dwarfs my other two gripes so as to render them completely insignificant, is cgi Jeff Bridges. Who the fuck cleared cgi Jeff Bridges? The movie’s plot revolves around Tron’s original protagonist, played by Jeff Bridges, having created a computer program called CLU that would do his bidding in the computer world while Jeff toked righteous bud in the third dimension. And because the movie’s screenplay writers are sadists who want to drive the special effects department unnecessarily insane, CLU looks like Jeff Bridges also. Not the current, well-worn Jeff Bridges but young Jeff Bridges from around the time of the original movie. So whenever we see CLU in this movie, and it’s a goddamned lot let me tell you, we have to fucking look at a ridiculous cgi mask of young Jeff Bridges, which looks more like Freddy Kreuger had reasonably successful plastic surgery. This aspect of the movie is so stupid and absolutely not necessary that it ruined the whole thing for me. Why does CLU have to look like young Jeff Bridges? Why make things hard on yourself? CLU could have looked like Leonardo DiCaprio, or Tobey Maguire, or even a cuddly plush robot dragon for crying out loud, but instead you had to make it look like a plasticine Jeff Bridges that makes you wince just peeking at it. Ridiculous. Save that shit for Christmas TV specials and sci-fi alien pornography.

%d bloggers like this: