Monday, April 10, 2006

Movie Mon. - You're One Sly Banana!

To make up for such a belated posting, today's reviews are just chock full o' fun facts!

Last week, a blurb about Stephen Gould's novel Jumper being adapted to the big screen caught my interest since a portion of the novel takes place in my old stomping grounds of Stillwater, OK. It took only a few minutes worth of research to discover that the Stillwater scenes have been excised from the screenplay, which I pretty much expected. However, the situation brought up memories of a film I'd seen during my Freshman year of college which was actually filmed on the OSU campus; it had been years since I'd seen the b-grade flick, so I put it at the top of my queue to answer the question of "Is this is as cheesy as I remember it?" The answer? You betcha.

All-American Murder
: So many laughable things in this movie, it's hard to pick which ones to talk about. Let's just set aside for one moment the sheer ludicrous nature of the plot ("bad boy" is framed for the murder of the most popular girl at his new college but is then allowed to roam around doing his own investigations thanks to the whims of hot-shot policed detective Christopher Walken) or the continual idiocy demonstrated by our erstwhile hero; those aren't enough to set apart from your run-of-the-mill Z-grade horror film. No, most of the mock-worthy scenes involved some horribly edited acts of violence; I think my favorite was the killer snake scene, where it's impossible to tell if the thing is supposed to be killing through venom or constriction, although the "killer burns own face even though the torch was pointed somewhere else entirely" sequence was a close second. And then there was the way they tried to pass the second floor patio outside the Student Union off as the "bell tower"; you don't get much more low-budget than that. But the thing which has stuck in my mind all of these years was the main character's tendency to work food into almost any situation: "The whole salami." "You're one sick peanut." "Of course it's my knife, you sausage." And, my favorite, "You're one sly banana." When a group of us first watched this back in the dorms, we fastened upon the food fetish insults as a prime target of mockery. Fun Fact: High point of the film comes around the 5 minute mark, when the dean of the college is walking with a group across the front of Edmon Low Library and announces "And down this way you'll see Parker Hall," a line which elicited cheers in the Parker lobby during our initial viewing back in the day.

Memoirs of a Geisha: Period piece about a young girl's struggles to become a prominent geisha and buy back her freedom. Had a hard time staying interested for the first hour or so, but once they moved into Suyuri's contest, I was hooked. The decision to have Asian-born actors speaking English throughout was, in my opinion, not the best idea; too often their accents made it difficult to understand the dialogue and I finally had to turn on the subtitles anyway to make sure I knew what they were saying. Fun Fact: the film was banned in China due to controversy over Chinese actresses (such as star Ziyi Zhang) playing Japanese geishas.

Sordid Live: From the author of Daddy's Dyin', Who's Got the Will? comes another film about a dysfunctional Southern Baptist family in Texas gathering because of the death of a loved one. This time out it's momma who died, after tripping over the wooden legs of her lover (Beau Bridges) in a darkened hotel room. Cast also includes Delta Burke as Beau Bridges’ jilted wife; Olivia Newton John as the hard living singer who palled around with the deceased; and Beth “Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion” Grant as the level-headed sister of the deceased having to put up with the antics of her crazy relations. This one's a lot more risqué than Daddy's Dyin', but I also found it to be funnier. Most of the best scenes revolved around the institutionalized sibling known as Brother-Boy (played by veteran character actor Leslie Jordan) who not only compulsively cross-dresses, but at one time believed himself to be Tammy Wynette. Fun Fact: This turned out to be the source of a sound clip they used to use on The Edge all the time; I always recognized Beth Grant's distinctive voice, but never knew where exactly the following line came from: "Take two of these, and you'll feel a lot better in the morning." Fun Fact: some of the lines about Delta Burke’s character had to be changed after she lost quite a bit of weight before filming began.

Just Friends: Romantic comedy starring Ryan Reynolds as a former high school outcast who has undergone a complete physical and social transformation and returns home for the first time in 10 years only to find himself falling back into his old status when he tries to woo his best friend from high school(Amy Smart), who is also being wooed by another outcast-turned-cool-cat from their high school days (Chris Klein). All too often the film was dragged down by its overly contrived plot devices and character complications; the whole ice skating sequence drove me crazy. Luckily, the film is also buoyed by the performances of Reynolds, who consistently amuses me in whatever he's in; the always hilarious Anna Faris (Scary Movie) as a psycho Britney Spears style pop star obsessed with music exec Reynolds; and Chris Marquette (Joan of Arcadia) as Reynolds younger horn-dog brother, a character so far removed from his portrayal of Adam on JoA that it was sometimes jarring. I'm giving this one a cautiously positive review; I enjoyed the enjoyable parts more than I disliked the dislikable parts. Fun Fact: The alternate ending had Anna Faris’s character learning a life lesson from the whole experience; personally, I much preferred the “she’s still a psycho” ending of the theatrical version.

Bee Season: Here's the Netflix blurb:

Competing for the approval of her parents -- a professor of Jewish mysticism (Richard Gere) and a dedicated scientist (Juliette Binoche) -- 11-year-old Eliza Naumann (Flora Cross) is used to appearing ordinary. But winning the school spelling bee could be her chance to make an impression -- and convince her father that she's destined for greatness
Trust me, that doesn't even scratch the surface of what this film is about, as Eliza's father becomes convinced that Eliza's gift is a direct connection to God, her brother rebels by diving into other religions, and her mother's behavior veers into the bizarre, uncovering a long-buried secret. So far from what I expected when I rented it, and yet I still enjoyed it. I actually liked Richard Gere in this, which is a rare occurrence indeed; I can count on one hand the number of films I've liked him in. Unfortunately, while I liked him, I think that likeability makes some of the actions of the other characters a little harder to fathom. Probably my favorite parts of the film were the spelling bee sequences, as Eliza falls into her spelling trance and begins to conjure visual representations of whatever she's spelling, so that "cumulus" creates a vision of clouds, "dandelion" a vision of a giant puffball, etc. The ending isn't as clear as it could have been in terms of why characters do what they do, but the nebulous ending does not negate my enjoyment of the overall film. Fun fact: while based on a novel by Myla Goldberg, the screenplay itself was written by Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal, mother of Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Inexchange: Extremely low-budget horror film about a nerd pushed to his breaking point by the ridicule of his peers. There was something oddly compelling about this film, but danged on if I could tell you what it was; the acting wasn't that great, the script was mediocre at best, and the quality of the video stock used wasn't all that great. And yet, somehow, the film kept my interest throughout; I think part of it was the fact that, unlike a lot of movies, you could actually believe that the nerd was a nerd, and not just some movie-star nerding it up for a part. Which isn't to say that I actually enjoyed the film; instead, let’s say that I didn't despise it. For die-hard horror buffs only, and most of the more hard-core gorehounds will be bummed out by the sub-par death scenes. Fun Fact: I have no Fun Facts about this film.


coronela said...

when are you going to watch "city of god"? or did i somehow manage to miss it?

Flunky lover said...

You haven't seen City of God? You've seen every other movie made but not this gem?
On another note. I just watched Downfall which is a German movie based on a couple of books written by people who witnessed the last days of Hitler. It's easy to tell whose stories were told because they are the only people in the movie with a soul. I have never seen so much disregard for human life including one's own. There was a lot of suicide in the movie. The worst was the mother who killed her 6 children because a future in a country without national socialism was no future at all.

Cap'n Neurotic said...

In my defense, I took City of God out of my queue after Coronela offered to loan it to me, after which many many moons went by before we actually managed to make the exchange. Of course, since I actually got the DVD a few weeks back I've been so busy trying to keep up with everything else that's going on, I haven't managed to sit down and watch it. But soon, soon.

As for Downfall, I thought it was extremely well done, fascinating and depressing at the same time.

zparker said...

Sorry you didn't care for the film that much. Maybe the reason you felt it was compelling though could be answered by a second or third viewing. I was attempting to add some depth to a genre that these days play out mostly on the surface. Thanks for watching anyway.

Cap'n Neurotic said...

You know, I write down all of these thoughts about movies and TV shows and the like, and I never think that the writers/directors/stars/etc. might actually read them.

I appreciate the fact that Mr. Parker took my negative comments with grace, instead of resorting to the trollish behavior typical of all too many Internet denizens.