Monday, January 30, 2006

Movie Mon. - I Repeat: Don't Say I Didn't Warn You

While I still haven’t come up with an official rating system for my movie reviews, recent discussions with some blog monkeys have convinced me that I need to end each mini-review with some sort of concrete statement on whether I liked the movie or not; otherwise, any positives I say about a film seem to get drowned out by my discussion of a film’s flaws. Let’s see how well it works

Underworld: Evolution: As usual, the sequel pales in comparison to the original; the overly convoluted plot seemed like little more than an excuse to stage big, bloody battles. Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing, but here I found even the battle scenes to be under par. There were some cool things here and there; I especially liked the inventive way Marcus was able to utilize his wings as weapons. Overall, I think if you liked the original, this one is probably worth a rental.

Street Trash: Low budget horror flick that tries for a Repo Man feel, but falls far short of that mark. Didn't care for this one at all.

Matewan: Very well done John Sayles film about the battle to establish a coal mining union in Matewan, West Virginia in the 1920s. The usual Sayles players are here: Chris Cooper, Mary McDonnell, David Straithairn, and Gordon Clapp (best known as Greg Medavoy on NYPD Blue), plus James Earl Jones. I’m a usually a pretty big Sayles fan, and this movie shows off his usual gift for engaging dialogue and captivating characterization, with the added bonus of an interesting historical setting. My only complaint is that the villainous company men are played way over the top, although, since the film is being told from the P.O.V. of one of the survivors of the Matewan Massacre who had lots of exposure to the characters in question, it can be forgiven; still, the near-maniacal fervor of the ad guys was pretty jarring when compared to the excellent characterization of the rest of the cast. One of my favorite scenes in the movie was when the young preacher took advantage of the bad guys’ Godless heathen natures to sneak in messages during his sermon; watching it made me wonder how many people who saw the movie realized that he had actually changed the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife to get his point across. . . Highly recommend this one.

Three O'Clock High: 80s high school film that I've seen at the video store countless times over the years but never have seen until now; I have a feeling if I'd seen it back when it first came out, it would hold a special place of honor in my heart along with Ferris Bueller, Better Off Dead, Breakfast Club and the like. Story revolves around a slightly nerdy student who accidentally ticks off the new kid in school, who has a reputation of mutilating anyone who so much as touches him. The bully gives him an ultimatum: at 3:00, they fight, and any attempts to run or weasel out of it will only make it worse. Of course, the bulk of the movie is spent with the kid (a term I use loosely, since the actor was in his late 20s when he filmed this, and looked it) trying to run and/or weasel out of it, and failing miserably. One thing I really enjoyed about the film was the fact that the bully is not portrayed as two-dimensional, but neither is he sentimentalized; hidden depths are viewed, but not at the expense of his menace. I also liked the fact that the nerd and his sister had a positive relationship, a rarity in 80s high school films in my experience. Bonus points came from small roles for a younger, thinner Jeffrey Tambor, and a younger, thinner, and, if you can believe it, balder Mitch Pileggi. A fun movie for children of the 80s.

Aristocrats: Warning: if you are easily offended, avoid this movie at all costs. In simplest terms, this is a documentary about the world's dirtiest joke, which has been circulating among comedians for countless years; the beginning and end of the joke are basically the same every time, with the middle being comprised of the sickest, grossest, most offensive acts the joke-teller can think of. The film features some of the biggest names in comedy not only telling their versions of the joke, but also talking about the nature of the joke itself. If you can get past the depravity of it all (and trust me, some of the versions are depraved), it's really a fascinating study of the joke-telling process; like several of the comedians interviewed said, how someone tells the joke tells a lot about the person. But if you watch it and come away feeling dirty inside, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Maniac Cop: Low budget thriller that I've been curious about for ages, since it was actually able to spawn a couple of sequels. The movie started off pretty well, diving right into the killer story, but once they moved away from mindless violence and tried to have a plot, it floundered; sad, but true. Too much dependence on people acting like morons to advance the “plot” for my taste; not even the presence of Bruce “King of the B-Movies” Campbell can do much to redeem this one.