Thursday, February 10, 2011

The True Confessions of a Film Freak: First Edition

For anyone that knows me well, they know I'm a movie junkie.  I like them all, from great movies like Casablanca to films that are pretty much universally considered to be tripe.  Freddie Got Fingered comes to mind there.  I like long movies, short movies, documentaries, and everything in between.  As I was mentioning in my previous entry, I'm a regular listener to a weekly podcast called The Film Vault on ACE Broadcasting.  This ought to be required listening for anyone into the cinema.  On each show, the two hosts, Anderson Cowan and Brian Bishop spend a segment discussing the last few films each of them have watched in the previous week.  This often leads to some frank discussion of each others tastes, and frequently involves some bustin' balls.  Always good stuff.  So I figured I'd bare my movie loving soul for ya'll on a weekly basis.  I'll confess a few movies that I've watched in the last week.  This will typically include two or three features, a documentary, and a segment on a basic cable standard, and I'll sprinkle my opinions on each.  I'm not going to pretend to be highbrow.  But hopefully, I can point you in the direction of some decent movies, or some horrible movies if you need a laugh.  Oh yeah, there will be a spoiler or two, but only on the older flicks.  Here we go!

The Features:
Starring:  Michael Keaton, Joe Piscopo, Maureen Stapleton, Marilu Henner, Peter Boyle

What the hell happened to Michael Keaton?  That guy was all over the place between Night Shift in 1982 and Batman Returns in 1992.  It was an incredible body of re-watchable work in a ten-year span, many of which I'll be profiling in this space.  And then, really nothing of note save for the occasional cameo here or there.  Damn shame if you ask me.  Dude was every bit as comfortable playing an over-the-top role (Beetlejuice) as he was as a straight man (Hunt Stevenson in Gung Ho).  He could even play a stone-cold psychopath (Carter Hayes in Pacific Heights).  He had great range.  

Johnny Dangerously features Keaton as a mobbed up guy with a heart of gold in a sendup of 30's gangster flicks.  He takes up crime as a young boy as a means to pay for his mother's comically expensive surgeries.  Joe Piscopo (who made Keaton's post '92 workload look like Bruce Willis') plays his rival in the gang, Danny Vermin.  Great fucking name.  Maybe the best sounding internet handle after Jackie Treehorn.  This flick throws out sight-gag after sight-gag and wacky hijinks ensue.

This came up on the HBO comedy channel at around 1:30 AM the other night, and that might be the best time to see it, in a sleep-deprived haze.  I must have seen this movie a hundred times growing up.  It was one of my old man's faves.  His favorite character being that of evil nightclub owner Roman Maronie, played by another 80's character staple, Richard Dimitri.  Maronie unsuccessfully attempts to murder the leader of Johnny's gang and commits wholesale slaughter on the english language as shown here:

Fargin Iceholes!  Goddamn hilarious.  Bottom line, if you like stuff like Airplane!, give this a shot.

Starring:  Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, William Katt (The Greatest American Hero!), Nancy Allen, and an if-you-blink-you-miss-him John Travolta

Yeesh!  Carrie was goddamn creepy the first time I saw it when I was twelve, and it still gives me the chills to this day.  This story of a teenage misfit with telekinetic abilities taking out the frustrations of a shitty home-life on her tormentors by ruthlessly massacring them on prom night will freak you out.  Jesus, the first time I ever saw the very last scene I nearly pissed myself, and it still gives me the douchechills!  

Director Brian De Palma's set design did a great job of making ordinary, benevolent things look strangely menacing.  The creepy-assed St. Sebastian statue in Carrie's prayer closet is a good example.  LOOK AT IT'S FUCKING GLOWING EYES!  But he really gets his money's worth out of his sound designer who combined popular soft-rock songs of that era with creepy sounding organ music, and enough squeaks, screams, and bangs to create an almost Hitchcockian atmosphere. 

I don't know whether to pray for forgiveness or run away screaming like a kid with a skinned knee and shit
 But the real standout star in my opinion was Carrie's psychotic, religious fundamentalist madre, played by Piper Laurie, who, sadly ended up doing mostly TV Movie of the week work after this.  She had several awesome monologues in this movie.  Just absolutely chewing scenery in an unreal performance.  Here's my personal favorite:  
I LIKED IT!  IIIIII LIKED IT!!!  What a whackaloon!  See this one if you haven't already.  IFC's been playing it at night every few days lately.

 My feature Doc of the week:

Directed by:  Josh Fox

GasLand popped up on HBO last summer the day I got back from a vacation to see the Yankees in Phoenix.  It begins with the filmmaker, Josh Fox receiving a letter from an energy company offering a few bucks to drill for natural gas on his land.  The most popular natural gas extraction method is known as hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" in which a highly pressured mixture of water and volatile chemicals is injected deep into the ground to break up shale rock formations and release the gas.  

Not sure what that would do to his land, he set off across the country to see how this method of natural gas extraction is affecting the people who made the decision to allow the drilling rigs on their land.  I know you guys want an example.  Here ya go:
Here's the thing.  These gas rigs are absolutely dotting the landscape all over the place these days.  Where Saudi Arabia and "The-Iraq" have the world's largest petroleum deposits, the United States is pretty much the exact same way with natural gas.  So there's tons of jobs at stake, and a glimmer of hope for energy independence.  But for fucks sake, people's water shouldn't be lighting on fire.  This flick was a real eye-opener, and it was recently nominated for an Academy Award.  It's damn good.  And it kinda freaked me out considering my hometown is virtually surrounded by huge natural gas fields.

And now, a short review of a short:

Moth:  Hot actress burns a J, hoovers three rails, and pops a handful of pills.  Trips out in a bathtub and sees wolves and shit.  Kinda sucked.

This Week's Basic Cable Standard:

Starring:  Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, Thomas Ian Griffith, Martin Kove, Robyn Lively, Sean Kanan

Karate Kid 3!  While the first Karate Kid movie is an undeniable watershed moment of my formative years, the brand got a bit watered down as the years went by.  But this one might be one of the most re-watchable of any of the multitude of unnecessary sequels to early 80's flicks that were released in the latter part of that decade.  Simply because the plot is beyond ridiculous.  

Millionaire industrialist asshole takes time away from doing whatever it is that millionaire industrialist assholes do to assist his old buddy from Vietnam's attempt to ruin the life of a high-school karate champion and resurrect their evil dojo franchise.  After about twelve beers that actually seems to make sense.  Sober however, it fails miserably.

What makes this flick enjoyable are the little things you notice when you watch it for the 563rd time.  It also benefits from a small amount of research.  I'm fascinated by the fact that Ralph Macchio, the aforementioned Karate Kid, was actually a year older than Thomas Ian Griffith, playing Terry Silver, said billionaire industrialist asshole.  Daniel-San was supposedly a senior in high school in this movie.  This means Terry Silver was up to his asshole in the muck in in Southeast Asia, mowing down the North Vietnamese with John Kreese AS A ZYGOTE during the height of the Vietnam war.

Robyn Lively puts up with a lot as Jessica, replacing the iconically yummy Elisabeth Shue from the first film, as Daniel-San's apparent love interest.  I say apparent because he seems much more interested in hanging out with a 65-year-old maintenance man than with her,  Describing Mr. Miyagi as "my partner and best friend."  But hey, Miyagi has the ability to massage a body part back to life.  The jokes write themselves.  This movie might be joining Top Gun as two of the most sneakily homoerotic movies ever made.

It's a great testimony as to how much of an unlikeable douchebag Daniel-San was, that in three movies spanning the course of a year, three different groups of people on two different continents took time out of their busy lives to fuck with him.  Is it any wonder that people are making homemade cuts of these flicks, casting the Cobra Kai in a more sympathetic light?  They were obviously just misunderstood.  STRIKE FIRST!  STRIKE HARD!  NO MERCY!

This flick had a great run on basic cable throughout the 90's.  TNT, USA, and TBS were literally built on the backs of films like this, Road House, Rocky IV, and Beastmaster 2.  And now it's popping up again on Encore or HBO 8, The Ocho.  It still passes the remote control test.


  1. Watched Gas Land recently. Very intriguing flick for sure. Carrie... love it. Always have. Piper Laurie sort of gave me a weird witchlike woody for some reason. Johnny Dangerously... haven't seen it in ages. Karate Kid III... makes you wonder how in the hell Ralph got past any screen test for anything, even in the 80s. I love the 3 KK movies and Crossroads and know them by heart, but damn he painful. Robyn Lively did need a little crotch karate though, if you know what I'm saying. She was a nurse on Doogie Howser, M.D. for the record.

  2. Throughout most of 'Kid 3, Macchio wore the same look on his face that Michael Madsen had in Species 2. That look of, "you want to pay me how much to do this?"