The Halfway House

halfway_house.jpgrating-1.0Mary Woronov must have hit on hard times to be in this schlock. I mean, Night Of The Comets was a relatively decent movie and odd satire, and she deserves credit for her role in that. And she was in several other cult classics, like Death Race 2000, but none of those films diminished her like this piece of shit.

Playing a villainous nun, Woronov doesn't figure as prominently in the action as some, the principals in this softcore tardfest.

Giving a credit to and claiming "inspiration" from H.P. Lovecraft, this film pisses all over his memory with a tale of disappearing girls leading back to a mysterious halfway house for wayward women. A woman with a missing sister consults with the police, who treat her like an idiot and refuse to do anything about it, just like police do in real life. A more receptive police detective agrees to help her on the sly, after boning her, in what I assume is supposed to be a comedic scene.

The woman goes undercover in the suspicious Catholic halfway house as a druggie hooker, trying to clean herself up, and is immediately initiated in the system of abuse, gangs, and tight control by the sexually sadistic priest that runs the house and his nun cohort. The aforementioned nun is running a cult out of the house, intent on feeding the flesh of young runaways and whores to some Elder God wannabe that looks like it was made out of rubber and paper mache. The nun spins tales of runaway women to the priest, who spanks girls in retribution, while she feeds their naked and writing bodies to the oversized Cthulhu puppet. In the interim, there is lesbian sex and vaginal rape with a greased-up Virgin Mary icon. The woman reports secretly back to the detective, people die, and, in the end, the forces of good kind of win.

If this sounds like a wonderous laugh-fest to you, let me tell you it is not. Though somewhat humorous at times, the dialogue is mostly pointless, the small-minded idea is dragged out far too long, and the very weak pretense for the whole ordeal is strained past its breaking point.

When they finally bring up the Necronomicon in this lark, as a viewer you are forced to groan with an intensity that seperates your spirit from your body, at which point you're carried by the out-of-body experience  to a poverty-stricken tenement to witness a child being beaten to death by his own uncaring father, all just to have something better to watch than this movie.

The upside? Cute girls and tits. That's about it. And you can easily find better and more satisfying on the internet in three minutes.

All in all, if horror movie slumlord Kenneth J. Hall makes another film, as viewers we should do the right thing and take the law into our own hands.

Think of the children.

imdb   amazon

Last Holiday

last_holiday.jpgrating-3.0This movie was surprisingly not all that bad. Definitely better than The Holiday, which is only one word off, but drastically inferior in every way.

Last Holiday plays like many other movies you've seen or imagined. You have the mousy woman, played by Queen Latifah, who has never really lived. After an accidental blow to the head at work while being wooed by the man of her dreams, LL Cool J, she is taken off to her second-rate HMO doctor to be completely checked out.

Her check-up finds her with several inoperable tumors and only weeks to live. Faced with her impending doom, she quits her job, takes her life savings, and leaves the country to live her dream life for her last few weeks.

So she's off to humorous adventures of mistaken identity as she lives the posh life in a European ski resort and indulges in the cooking of her favorite chef, showing him her skills and even joining in as his associate. She finally starts toward her dream of being a chef as her life supposedly draws to a close.

Of course, this being a comedy, we know that it's not going to just end like that. And it manages to avoid many cliches in getting there. For example, the dream man isn't wooed and just suddenly notices the woman that's been in front of his eyes for so long. Instead, the dream man comes after her, as he finally works up the courage to act on his desires.

The supporting cast manages to be interesting and amusing, with Gerard Depardieu as the resort's famous chef, Timothy Hutton as a scummy industrialist, Alicia Witt as his put-upon belle du jour, and Giancarlo Esposito as a Senator. They're all impressed and confused by Queen's well-dressed, high-living character, believing her to be rich, then a spy there to interfere with their business.

Of course, everything works out, everyone is happy, and everyone's life is bettered. It's an unrealistic and overly happy ending, but it's all in good fun and it's a fairly lively and enjoyable comedy.

imdb   amazon

Knocked Up

knocked_up.jpgrating-4.0Comparisons will inevitably be made between Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. This is fair, given the shared direction and writing by Judd Apatow and the appearance of Seth Rogan, brought to worldwide attention with his bawdy turn in Virgin.

Rogan is given room to shine in this film, taking his slacker jackass charisma to its highest level in this tale of "boy meets girl; boy sleeps with girl; boy joins girl in unwanted preganancy."

While Virgin was hilarious and easily one of the most important reinventions of the film comedy in many years, it was a simplistic and played on hyperbole. Knocked Up is funnier and intensely more enjoyable because of the reality of the film, playing more on the innate comedy of the characters instead of the sillyness and stereotypes of Virgin. And there is a certain very real humanity at the heart of the tale, taking both darker and lighter turns than were accomplished in the previous film, but making them all the more enjoyable. Real human character turns provide the movie was a pathos generally lacking in comedy. The romantic comedy genre works hard to try to capture the level of emotion, humor, and human understanding that this movie possesses and usually fails brilliantly.

The fact that Apatow has managed to wring so much heart and wit from the film must come as a surprise to many, who feel that vulgarity, comedy, and true human understanding are not compatible themes in a film. Films can usually aspire to the happy ending, but rarely does that ending feel real or more than just a movie gimmick. Despite the unlikliness, a certain reality exists at this movie's core and allows us all a happy ending that is more than just wish fullfilment or fantasy.

The writing is, of course, tight, the direction is understated perfection, allowing the story center stage, and the acting is hilarious but real. Rarely is there a movie that combines all the aspect of a good comedy so well and so satisfyingly.

imdb   amazon


transformers.jpgrating-2.0My girlfriend groaned as the voiceover that opened the movie started. It was a pile of semi-retarded backstory delivered by the Optimus Prime voice actor, who also worked in other 80's cartoons, leading me to imagine it ending with his voice proclaiming that Earth required the defense of Voltron: Defender of the Universe! But it was not so. Inside, I too was groaning.

Thankfully, the movie chased the awful bit of setup with an attack on a military base, setting up a film that would attempt to add a dark realism to the cartoonish nature of the Transformers. I say "attempt", because ultimately it was a failure.

The intrigue of the military attack and the infection of its systems by alien computer code initially meldly nicely with the tale of a young man who purchases his first car, only to find that there is much more than... Well, I'm not delivering that cloying bullshit catchphrase. It was stupid on the cartoon, it was stupid in the movie, and it would be stupid here.

The slow revelation that his precious new car was actually an alien robot was nicely played out and, at last, it felt like a Transfomers film might be more than a semi-retarded reliving of an 80's cartoon on film.

Oh, if only it had stayed that way. New Tranformers arrive and we are suddenly and violenty exposed to Optimus Prime speaking. Dear god, how I wish they'd never spoken, as that was the moment the movie turned from a well-thought-out but somewhat cheesy action-adventure film into a movie written by a particularly dim-witted 9-year-old.

The plot at the core of the movie was patently absurd and everything it touched was diminished by its ineptitude. All the humans, who seemed to be in a better-written movie of their own, were suddenly dragged down to the debased, cartoonish, and abhorently stupid level of their CGI counterparts. The Transformers became objects of comedy instead of fear and it had slapstick moments as giant robots tried to hide from a teenager's parents, the whole thing reeking with an ignorance that only Michael Bay can bring to a movie.

And what can I say about Michael Bay, a man so well known for his jingoistic, over-the-top, horseshit extravaganzas of braindead "entertainment" that no self-respecting individual can really enjoy and still maintain their dignity? He does his same old schtick here, digging deep for yet another glossy crane shot of military this or long auto-rig shot of that. It's all style, devoid of even the slightest substance. In fact, I may be substantially dumber from watching this movie.

Things blow up real good, which seems to be the only criteria most people care about. I won't say it wasn't fun to watch, but it wasn't fun to think about and it was an intense groaner. As idiotic plot point was heaped onto silly retardation, I had to hold in my cries of "Oh, for fuck's sake!" It was all I could do to maintain focus on what was happening and not beat my head in over the perversely awful dialogue given to the giant robots, all seemingly culled from the original 80's episodes.

Everything about the story was, without doubt, terrible and written for children. The atmosphere, language, and level of violence, destruction, and havoc were written for teenagers. It's two completely incompatable films packed into one, working in a reasonable way unless one thinks too much about it. Which I did, fairly often.

In the end, the good guys win over the freedom-hating aliens who want to destroy all human life just because, the motive of any good Michael Bay villain. The goverment and the good Transformers work to save us all from the evil of bad people and the formerly well-thought-of actors appearing in the film lose a good portion of their acting credibility.

My girlfriend left the theater really having enjoyed it, but I had to wonder if I had. Can you really love a trainwreck just because it kept you entertained? Or, ultimately, was it just fluff that will melt away and leave me nothing?

imdb   amazon

Hot Fuzz

hot_fuzz.jpgrating-4.0Hot Fuzz managed to succeed on a level that Shaun Of The Dead never did. Many fans will see this as blasphemy, but, sorry, just because you're a zombie-obsessed shut-in doesn't mean that your opinion matters.

While several of the tropes of the zombie movie were given their loving nudge by Wright and Pegg in Shaun, it was for the most part just a setting for a cute slacker love story.

Hot Fuzz is a much more full-bodied recreation of the style being ribbed, showing much love but jumping in neck-deep into the world of the action film, still giving touches of horror though the gory tale of murders gone awry in a small, sleepy town. But it is focused on the hard-nosed and experienced cop, out of his element, bringing law and order to a seemingly idyllic small town, all cottages and smiling yokels.

Of course, there is the sloppy sidekick, learning the hard way the meaning of what it is to be a cop. But, while it plays off all those conventions, it manages to buck so many more and changes everytime you think you've got it pinned down. It even manages to keep the gun violence non-existant, a shock for an action film of this kind, and keeps its mirroring of American action violence to a minimum.

Aside from the fun but, mostly bloodless, action, the movie does a fine job of providing character performances, particularly from Timothy Dalton, chewing scenery with aplomb in a role meant for just that.

And, of course, there's the most important part: the comedy. It is very funny. Much funnier than Shaun ever hoped to be. It keeps you rolling with laughter for hours and is entirely pleasing, without feeling overdone or malnourished in its length. It's just the comedic ride that one really requires but is so rarely offered.

Easily Pegg and Wright's best work, Hot Fuzz is a hard film for them to beat, hitting every mark fairly perfectly, while leaving the audience wanting a bit more. Though it makes you wonder what territory they'll choose to go to next.

imdb   amazon