I Can’t Stop Watching (Mostly Bad) Movies!

January-February 2000!
February 20: Dawn of the Dead (1978, 126 minutes): A worthy successor to the ur-flesh eating classic, Night of the Living Dead. Who knew a zombie movie – no wait, a zombie movie SEQUEL! – could be so entertaining, and so smart? At times funny, scary, disgusting, the brilliant heart of this film is the utopia of the suburban shopping mall. (That that mall is the Monroeville Mall is a delicious bonus for local viewers, though in today’s corporately-sensitive climate, one can hardly imagine retailers lining up to have human leg bones gnawed right in front of their actual store. It’s one of the great teasers of this film – did the mall really know how gross this film was gonna be?) The plucky survivors hole up in the abandoned mall with all its attendant conveniences and retail luxuries. It’s almost like a childhood fantasy – living in a department store – but reality is just outside the bolted glass doors – hundreds of crazed zombies/shoppers, who are both funny and creepy, and really want to get in.

February 21: The Wild Party (1975, 95 minutes): Curious early James Ivory (as in tony Merchant-Ivory) film based on the scandalous 1928 Joseph March free-verse poem. The decadent setting has been shifted from the New York theater set to early 1930s Hollywood where silent film comedian, Jolly Grimm (James Coco), is helplessly watching his career gurgle down the toilet in one bad evening. “Outrageous” scenes of orgies and drug use seem quaint by today’s standards. An uneven film that is in places entertaining, tedious, and affecting – Coco plays the depressed clown well.

February 22: Spare Me (1993, 90 minutes): Billed as the world’s only “bowling film noir”, this ultra-low-budget follows a retro-ish dude who’s been kicked off the Pro Tour, and suffers from Bowler’s Block (an inability to throw the ball at all.) He goes looking for his long-lost dad and gets tangled up with some pretty nefarious bowling characters.

February 23: King Kong Lives (1986, 105 minutes): As if King Kong ’76 wasn’t a big enough bomb, the DeLaurentis team spat out this bizarre sequel. Kong didn’t die when he was shot off the top of World Trade Center. He’s in a coma, on life support, and needs a heart operation. Fortunately, a giant female ape is discovered in Borneo, and transported to the U.S.A. to be Kong’s plasma donor. So, lucky Kong gets open-heart surgery with giant construction equipment overseen by big-monkey-cardiologist, Linda Hamilton. An hour later, he gets a whiff of Lady Kong and breaks out of the lab. He takes one look at Lady Kong’s big hairy breasts, and whammo! suddenly our young lovers are on the run in the mountains. At first they have the same problems as most newlyweds – Kong like snakes; Lady Kong doesn’t. Kong wants sex; Lady Kong just wants to cuddle. The big trouble starts when the military comes after them, guns blazing. A narrative of jaw-dropping idiocy capped by the final scene, where Kong, after squashing a square-dance festival, learns to be a caring new dad.

February 25: Go (1999, 103 minutes): Director Doug Liman moves from the finger-poppin’ talk-fest of his previous film, Swingers, into the hurly-burly, jump-cut nightscapes of Los Angeles and Las Vegas with Go, a fast-paced, sharply-written crime-caper comedy. Beginning at a supermarket check-out, Go spins out three separate stories – an amateur drug deal gone bad, an outrageous trip to Las Vegas, and two TV actors cooperating with the police on a sting – which eventually interlock to form one narrative. A large ensemble cast includes the super Sarah Polley, Taye Diggs, Jay Mohr, and TV-teen-throbs Katie Homes and Scott Wolf. Crime capers are a dusty genre, but Go is fresh, lively, funny and full of surprises.

February 28: Rosemary’s Baby (1968, 136 minutes): A genuinely creepy thriller from Roman Polanski about possible devil worship and satantic insemination. The quiet, contemplative, yet at times fevered, tone of the film belies the uneasiness that builds: Are the next-door neighbors into the Pentagram? Is Mia Farrow’s husband, John Cassavetes, just an arrogant actor or has he crossed over to the dark side? Could it just be that Mia Farrow is plain nuts, suffering only from emotional stress during her difficult pregnancy? (Farrow’s fragile ethereal beauty is perfectly played here.) Polanski wisely keeps all such questions afloat, leaving the viewer deliciously confused in this still effective film.

February 29: Them! (1954, 94 minutes): The ur-giant-ant flick, and a grim reminder that one messes with the deep secrets of nature at one’s peril. Gigantic ants are loose in the New Mexico desert, their monstrous size and ferocity mutations caused by radioactive fallout from nearby atomic bomb test explosions. An attack team is quickly rounded up, with the usual military forces but also two renowned entomologists – the avuncular Edmund Gwenn and the stiletto-heeled Joan Weldon. Their analysis gives this movie heft, since precise knowledge of ant behavior is critical to tracking and destroying the big bugs. A fast-paced, intelligent bad-bug thriller with a legitimate cautionary tone, Them! leaves its own legacy but also spawned endless silly marauding insect flicks.

February 29: Brian’s Song (1970, 73 minutes): This sports weepie is based on the true story of two Chicago Bears players – Gayle Sayers (Billy Dee Williams) and Brian Piccolo (James Caan) – and the tests put on their friendship by competition, racism and ultimately, untimely death. It’s heavy on the schmaltzy melodrama (some of you may already being humming the Michel Legrand theme song now and getting a little misty) but even the toughest linebacker will be moved by a few scenes. The film benefits from Williams’ unusually under-stated performance, rendering his two key speeches – telling the team Caan is dying and accepting an award in Caan’s honor – emotionally powerful. What doesn’t hold up so well in this film is the dated, self-congratulatory tone of “white man and black man are friends, imagine that!”

February 29: The Naked Jungle (1954, 95 minutes): Filmed in lush, febrile Technicolor, this killer ant movie takes a long time to get to the insect mayhem. Long before the viewer spots a single ant, there’s lots of heaving bosom melodrama as South American coffee plantation owner, Charlton Heston, spars with his mail-order bride, Eleanor Parker. A drunken Heston, mortified by his virginity, breaks up furniture rather than submit to the more experienced, longings of his lusty bride, a recent widow. As the ant crisis impends (these are standard size ants, but they can chew a man down to the bone in a few moments), Heston finally quenches his repressed passion, and takes on the ants with his chest bared and manhood restored.

February 18: King Kong (1976, 134 minutes): Plodding remake of the 1933 classic. Lots of screaming from ditzy Jessica Lange as the big monkey’s love interest. In another memorable piece of casting, Charles Grodin plays a petroleum company executive/explorer. Later he inexplicably morphs into a sideshow barker. The giant ape looks pretty real considering what a mess most of this movie is. Two moments do propel it into the esteemed Great Bad Movie Canon – In between screams, Jessica Lange asks the big ape what his sign is! "I bet you’re an Aries, right?" and King Kong makes his New York City debut wearing a gigantic gas pump costume.

February 17: The Thomas Crown Affair (1999, 109 minutes): A glossy remake of the 1968 Steve McQueen movie, this latest Thomas Crown Affair is filled with all the beauty money can buy – million-dollar Renoir paintings, marbled foyers, Caribbean homes, sleek suits and pretty people like Pierce Brosnan (Thomas Crown, arbitrager and art thief) and Rene Russo (Catherine Banning, insurance investigator.) Even New York City cop, Denis Leary, is neat and well-mannered. Part romantic comedy, part art-heist caper, Brosnan and Russo circle each other in a high-stakes game of who’s-got-the-painting, matching wits and falling into mad love. The love narrative feels forced and silly, but the heist sequences, however ridiculous, are quite entertaining.

February 13: Vision Quest (1985, 105 minutes): Standard coming-of-age sensitive-teenage boy flick. Check off all the boxes – wacky buddy, distant dad, medical school dreams, can’t see that nice high school girl who loves him, and of course, the sexy older woman who just happens to move into his house. The fresh gimmick is that the kid, Matthew Modine, is a top high school wrestler. The real kind of wrestling. Lots of scenes of sweaty teenage boys grappling. The inevitable climatic wrestling match is tricky to follow, unless you know how to score sport-wrestling. Not that it really matters. There’s zero doubt that the kid will prevail. The Journey soundtrack tells us so.

February 11: Blast from the Past (1999, 111 minutes): Enjoyable comedic fantasy about a family that shuts themselves away in a bomb shelter in the early 60s. When the son goes above ground in the late 90s, he is ill-prepared for modern life. Or is he? The 50s ranch house recreated underground is marvel of set design. Hunky Brendan Fraser is good as the grown up kid, but Christopher Walken steals all scenes as the nutty mad scientist dad.

February 10: Wild Wild West (1999, 107 minutes): A tedious 19th century western action-fantasy piece. James West (Will Smith) and Artemus Gordon (Kevin Kline) are mis-matched lawmen (West likes to throw punches; Gordon prefers to dress as a woman) who wage a protracted battle with an evil genius, Dr. Arliss Loveless. Loveless, (Kenneth Branagh borrowing an accent from Bill Clinton) is a legless racist, intent on overtaking the country with a 60-foot high mechanical spider. Yes, really, a big metal spider. Salma Hayek co-stars as a pair of admired breasts, so the viewer understands that West and Gordon are the manliest of men, and not, in fact, falling for each other. Multiple plot holes are patched up with fall-flat jokes and anachronistic dialogue. The sets are sure sumptuous, but then they just remind one how much money was wasted on this wild wild mess.

February 8: Prefontaine (1997, 107 minutes): One of two simultaneously released biopics about hotshot 70s runner Steve Prefontaine. I haven’t screened the other yet, but I suspect this is the lower budget one. Shots from the Munich Olympic stadium look like a high school track. Stars mostly TV actors - Jared Leto as Prefontaine, Ed O’Neill as his coach. But, whoever did the clothes and hair got it right, hurrah! First half of the movie casts Prefontaine as a self-centered jerk. Second half is much more sympathetic and redeems him. A small sentimental package that works pretty well.

February 8: Fallen (1998, 124 minutes): I guessed every single plot twist in this tale of a good cop, Denzel Washington, who confronts a devil virus. OK, not an actual devil, just a "fallen angle" but given all the evil and killing going on, that seems a matter of theological semantics. This fallen creature spirit hops from person to person via touch, rendering that host human momentarily evil. (Here’s a clue - when the devil’s inside, these hosts all burst out singing an old Stones tune.)

February 7: She’s So Lovely (1997, 107 minutes): Pretty unwatchable. Annoying people overacting. Like the Jerry Springer show but without the humor.

February 7: Rodeo Girl (1980, 100 minutes): A surprising TV movie that takes a strong female empowerment stance and doesn’t yield. Katharine Ross is the wife of a rodeo star. She does a little polite barrel racing herself, but wants to move up to the tough side of rodeo - steer roping and wild bronco riding. When she’s asked to join up with Candy Clark on the Professional Women’s Rodeo circuit, her husband says, "No. Who’s gonna cook my breakfast?" Ross says, "You are." and heads out on the road for rodeo fun. The road scenes are great, as these under-funded women share busted-up vans, cheese sandwiches and motels rooms just so they can ride the rodeo circuit. A TV movie with a dinky budget unfortunately, because I’d have liked to see more actual footage from the "all-girl rodeos" (as they are referred to in the film.) Based on the true story of rodeo champ, Sue Pirtle.

February 6: Bang the Drum Slowly (1973, 97 minutes) Star major league pitcher looks out for simple-mnded catcher (a wispy young Robert DeNiro) who is dying of cancer. Weird very outdated approach to dying, as in "Sssssh don't tell" and "Be nice to him, he's dying." Pretty plodding, really, though it starts to gel near the end as the guy’s illness rallies the team. Keep your hankie ready for the final game, you’ll probably need it.

February 6: Good Will Hunting (1997, 126 minutes): I liked this more than I thought I would. See, I’m no big fan of the Matt Damon and Ben Affleck show, but this worked. (I still can’t stand Minnie Driver. Which one of these frat boys dumped her after this flick anyhow?) It burns my bacon that when films take place in cities with distinct regional accents - Boston, Chicago, Picksburgh, Minneapolis etc - none of the so-called actors ever bother to speak that way. (Accents are either none, or one of the two acting school faves - tough guy Noo Yawk and good ol’ boy South). This film was a pleasant exception to that rule.

February 5: 8mm (1999, 123 minutes): A violent update on Hardcore. Similar set-up – moral guy Nicholas Cage goes to L.A. seeking the fate of a teen runaway who may have been killed in a porn snuff film. He tumbles into the same morass as Scott in Hardcore(though Cage has an engaging guide in Joaquin Phoenix). Big studio films are so woefully thin on thought. I don’t whether it’s intended irony or plain oversight, that while we’re asked to be horrified at the violent porn films, our hero, Cage, savagely kills half-a-dozen people on screen for our entertainment pleasure.

February 5: Orgazmo (1997, 94 minutes): The premise is the funniest thing about this turkey from South Park co-creator, Trey Parker. A Mormon missionary in Hollywood agrees to star in a porn film so he can raise the massive sum it takes to get married at the Temple in Salt Lake City. Beyond that pitch, the film falls flat. Or should I say, "limp"? If those loser guys in high school who drew boobs on everything made a film, it might look like this. Points added for featuring actual porn stars. Points deducted for stealing the gag "stunt cock" from 1976’s The First Nudie Musical. A running gag about the other South Park guy, Matt Stone, wanting to touch Parker’s ass may deserve scrutiny from future film historians.

February 5: Hoodlum (1997, 130 minutes): Another fake-o set. Where is the real grimness of Depression Era Harlem? (And please fire the production person who during a scene clearly labeled "December 1934" runs a radio broadcast of a Yankees baseball game!) Hoodlum portrays attempts by loose-cannon gangster Dutch Schultz (Tim Roth, doing his best manic Gary Oldham) to take-over the highly profitable numbers racket in Harlem protected by "Bumpy" Johnson (Laurence Fishburne). There’s a lot of effort expended to prove that the numbers racket was the best hope people had for money and that it was a black-owned business that deserved credit for its entrepreneurial strength. That’s a parlor argument for others, but suffice to say plenty of people get killed in defense of this "good thing." Great opening credits, the last five minutes are riveting, but bulk of the film never catches fire.

February 4: Exotica (1994, 103 minutes): You know you’re in the realm of the Canadian Art Film when the sultry beauty dressed as a school girl strips languidly to a gloomy Leonard Cohen song. The Exotica strip club is the intersection of a tax man, an enigmatic stripper, a sulky deejay, an exotic bird breeder, and a pregnant strip club owner. Interesting film, though all very dark and close, except for the key sequence that is hyper-bright. Shot in small, out-of-order and out-of-context pieces, the film causes the viewer to draw assumptions, many of them false, before delivering the last few pieces that complete the puzzle and unite the players.

February 4: Fat Man and Little Boy (1989, 126 minutes): A biographical take on the development of the atom bomb, this film follows the uneasy relationship of the project-manager, Army General Groves (Paul Newman) and the brilliant lead scientist, J. Robert Oppenheimer (Dwight Schultz). Since the historical outcome is well-known (they do build the bomb on time and it does work), the film lacks any narrative oomph. (A romantic sub-plot with John Cusack and Laura Dern seems cut-n-pasted in from the 1980s.) After flailing about for 75 minutes or so, the film attempts unsuccessfully to get inside Oppenhemier and expose his growing ambivalence to the project when pure science turns to war machine, but the script is too scattershot and Schultz is a flat-line. For a sobering look at Oppenhemier’s life, the 1981 documentary, Day After Trinity: Oppenheimer and the Atomic Bomb (occasionally screened on TV) is far superior.

February 4: Never Been Kissed (1999, 107 minutes): Drew Barrymore is Josie Keller, a former high school loser, now a shy copy editor at a Chicago newspaper who pines to be a reporter. Poof! Her fairy godmother-crusty old publisher sends her "undercover" at a local high school with instructions to be popular this time and to ferret out the "truth" of adolescence. The truth is painfully thin: It’s fantastic to be popular in high school, no matter how you achieve it, but once you’re an adult, you’ll realize that being popular in high school isn’t that important. Such wisdom! Drew operates in full giggly-cute-sweet mode, which make this movie a must-see for her fans. Otherwise, Never Been Kissed is a fluffy film featuring good-looking teens in tight clothes, highly unlikely scenarios and a groaner ending, ludicrous even by romantic comedy standards.

February 3: Virus (1999, 100 minutes): A Russian research vessel in the South Seas gets infected with some electrical-based virus from outer space that turns all the crew members into freakish industrial-art-type insect-robots. And now some grungy nautical tub, helmed by Canadian canned-ham Donald Sutherland, and staffed with a standard movie "diversity" (Cuban, Pacific Islander, African-American, a white guy, a Baldwin and a woman), bangs into this machine-bug boat. Their first mistake – turning the power back on! Uh oh!

January 31: Combination Platter (1993, 85 minutes): Quiet and engaging little film about an illegal Chinese immigrant in Brooklyn. Not much plot, he’d like to get a green card, but that’s pretty tough. Mostly a series of small vignettes with the ensemble cast all working or eating at a Chinese restaurant. Filmed at the director’s parents’ restaurant after hours.

January 30: A Cool Dry Place (1999, 105 minutes): Vince Vaughn plays a young lawyer in a small Kansas town, trying to raise his 5-year-old son alone, after his wife (Monica Potter) left without notice two years prior. He takes dumb hit-and-run cases, coaches high school basketball, meets a cute veterinarian’s assistant (the squeaky-voiced Joey Lauren Adams), and dreams of returning to a big city law firm. Enter the estranged wife, who now fancies a relationship with the boy. A Cool Dry Place is a pedestrian male melodrama, minus any suspense or plot twists. Most scenes play out in slow motion, and the few mildly dramatic moments leave the viewer feeling icky, as if inadvertently roped into this passive-aggressive child custody battle.

January 28: Disturbing Behavior (1998, 83 minutes): Huh. All the bad kids at school are turning into Pat Boones, that is, Boone clones with a hair-trigger violent streak. Another retread of Invasion of the Body Snatchers Goes to High School. Concept done with more wit in The Faculty.

January 28: Eruption (1997, 90 minutes): The freedom fighters of San Pedro (random South American dictatorship) battle the evil El Presidente (F. Murray Abraham!) and a giant volcano. No worries here. Abraham is a canned ham opponent, and the volcano is comprised entirely of stock footage from another time, another country. A Roger Corman-produced quickie, the best plot device is that the angry volcano literally represents the people’s will, erupting when needed to defeat the military.

January 27: A Thin Line Between Love and Hate (1996, 108 minutes): Yeah, so the old song goes, but there’s a big fat line between funny and not funny. This is a most unfunny comedy. Like no laughs. Martin Lawrence is just terrible in it - what gives? I could speculate that he was going through one of his "difficult" life periods but…? Whitney Houston’s stooge Bobby Brown is an equally nothing co-star. Part Fatal Attraction, part ha-ha homeys - all stink.

January 27: Malicious (1995, 100 minutes): Just what would Molly Ringwald do to be loved by us again? How ‘bout boink like a mink and go topless a lot in this note-for-note Fatal Attraction rip-off? If you been fantasizing since 1985 about Miss Ringwald naked, your wait is over.

January 27: She-Devil (1989, 99 minutes): A less complex movie version of Fay Weldon’s far superior novel of revenge. Roseanne Barr is fairly sympathetic as the nobody suburban wife abandoned for the rich and glamorous Meryl Streep. Amusing to watch Meryl get taken apart, but the movie lacks tension and the bitter twists of the novel.

January 25: Choose Me (1984, 106 minutes): Oh, so very dated. Early 80s, all that neon decor, all those single bars and sleeping around. All that talk talk talk about relationships.

January 24: The Tingler (1959, 82 minutes): A great wacky horror concept, that fear is a living organism that lives in the spine. Mad scientist Vincent Price sets out to isolate it. First order of research, take some LSD and get freaked out. A second LSD freak-out sequence has very effective color-highlighting in this black-and-white cheapie.

January 23: Waco: The Rules of Engagement (1997, 120 minutes): Provocative documentary shifting over the ashes and videotapes of the Waco mess. Lots of clips from the Congressional follow-up investigations that dragged on for months and were only sporadically reported on in the news.

January 21: True Romance (1993, 116 minutes): From a Tarantino script, this crime thriller is stuffed with good and bad actors, and is mostly weak. Feels very dated, very 90s already. Worth screening for a couple funny sequences like the final deal/shoot-out and my fave, the great mano-a-mano trash talk scene that Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken share.

January 20: The Last Ride (1994, 100 minutes): Another of those iconic tough guy roles Mickey Rourke loves to roll around in. This time he’s a rodeo rider, fresh out of the pen, lookin’ to collect his horse and trailer, and get back to bustin’ broncos. Instead he runs smack dab into watch-me-work! misfit-on-the-run Lori Singer. Lots of gorgeous Montana scenery is marred by Rourke’s method mumbling, Singer’s frequent nude scenes, and a dumb lovers-on-the-lam plot. Cameo musical appearance by Lucinda Williams.

January 15: Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962, 132 minutes): Campy but dark classic, two aging sister actresses trapped in hell together. Joan Crawford plays it pretty straight, but Bette Davis has a field day prancing about as decrepit child star, Baby Jane.

January 15: A Simple Plan (1998, 120 minutes): Deep in the snowy Minnesota woods, two brothers and a buddy find a downed small plane. Inside, the only occupant is dead, and there’s a sack containing over four million dollars. Naturally, they take the bag of money. Sure, wouldn’t you, this quiet, chilling film asks, but then what? A thoughtful thriller from horror-film director Sam Raimi, A Simple Plan traces the inevitable downward spiral into distrust, greed, guilt and murder that the secret windfall creates. Billy Bob Thornton is super as the simple-minded brother ill-equipped to handle great moral dilemmas. Bill Paxton, the "smart" brother, and Bridget Fonda, his pregnant wife, transcend their blandness to provide horrifying portraits of how quickly ordinary folks can abandon their common sense and their morals.

January 13: The Adventures of Ford Fairlane (1990, 96 minutes): Wow, I couldn’t stop laughing AT this ridiculous vanity piece from remember him? Andrew "Dice" Clay. "Ford Fairlane, rock and roll detective." How can you not start guffawing? You’ll scream with laughter every time Dice barks out one of his catch phrases – all unprintable here. Lots of other people went down on this ship - Priscilla Presley, Lauren Holly, Wayne Newton, Gilbert Gottfried, the guys from Motley Crue…

January 10: Exorcist III (1990, 110 minutes): A mess. Starts out simply enough – we’re in Georgetown, the famous Exorcist steps, some people die mysteriously in or near churches. Enter George C. Scott – and the whole plot goes to hell, but frankly not fast enough. And speaking of crazy, you won’t believe the demented freeform ramblings from George C. Scott about how he can’t bathe because his mother-in-law is keeping live carp in his bathtub.

January 10: Dr. Dolittle (1998, 85 minutes): A contemporary update on an old favorite, Eddie Murphy is the good doctor who has the peculiar ability to talk to animals. Murphy plays it pretty straight, generously letting the huge cast of beasties get the best lines, some of which are quite amusing. Dozens of celebrities provide the animal voices; you’ll have fun guessing.

January 9: Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999, 96 minutes): Here’s the personal computer revolution, as created by two important and idiosyncratic power-geeks, Apple’s Steve Jobs (Noah Wylie) and Microsoft’s Bill Gates (Anthony Michael Hall). (Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Joey Slotnick) is cast here as befuddled "good guy.") The mythic start-up years of the Apple and Microsoft companies play like Revenge of the Nerds out-takes. Gates can’t roller disco; Jobs attends meetings barefooted; but, they’ll soon rule the world! The movie squanders time establishing the men as youthful visionaries and glosses over what became the Big Battle – Macintosh vs. Microsoft Windows. Did Gates steal Apple’s best ideas about graphic user interfaces? (The film stays neutral by painting both men as tantrum-throwing, scheming jerks.) It takes a talented filmmaker to bring corporate struggles and software development minutia to life as gripping entertainment. Unfortunately, Pirates is only a made-for-cable-TV movie with cheap sets, sketchy details and one-dimensional characterizations.

January 9: The Manhattan Project (1986, 117 minutes): An Oedipal twist on atom bomb making! Super smart teen, Christopher Collet, gets irked at his mom’s new boyfriend, John Lithgow, a plutonium refiner. So, the kid breaks into Lithgow’s super secret lab, steals weapons-grade plutonium (replacing it with Prell shampoo!), and builds his own A-bomb out of old phones and other junk. The lad does so ostensibly to show the town that this plutonium facility exists, but really, the "Look mom, my bomb is better than his!" psycho-sexual subtext is painfully obvious.

January 8: Sphere (1998, 133 minutes): There is something worse than being trapped miles undersea in a giant metal laboratory pod. What if you were trapped there with Sharon Stone Serious Actress and Dustin Hoffman Whiny Guy? Then, what if you were also under attack by a Giant Squid?! This underwater thriller is way too long, has few real scares and a dumb cosmic loophole ending.

January 6: Inventing the Abbotts (1997, 110 minutes): Pretty boring movie about 1950s small town and assorted teen and adult love affairs. Liv Tyler’s somnambulant delivery is really starting to irk me.

January 6: Heavenly Creatures (1994, 99 minutes): New Zealand director, Peter Jackson, best known for his gore-and-gimmick-laden horror flicks, here turns his over-the-top imagination onto the true tale of two teenage girls who committed a murder in the mid-1950s. (In the truth is more bizarre than fiction department, one of the girls turned out to be currently popular murder mystery novelist, Anne Perry.) Jackson’s dizzying camera work and two great actress (Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey) really bring to life the too-intense, hysterical friendship the two girls share. An unsettling but captivating and dreamlike film.

January 6: Trinity and Beyond: The Atom Bomb Movie (1995, 92 minutes): Straightforward chronological account of the atom bomb’s brief public appearances – from the Trinity test explosion in 1945 through the test ban treaty in the early 60s. The film is comprised of recently declassified military footage of increasingly bigger and weirder test explosions in the 40s and 50s. The military sets up all sorts of scenarios and objects (mannequins in mobile homes, pigs in trenches, submarines suspended by barges, pine forests transplanted the Nevada desert) to observe what happens when a massive A-bomb is detonated near them. All captured on film, the destruction is horrifying, but also surreally gorgeous to see the unimaginable power of atomic weapons.

January 4: 9 ½ Weeks (1986, 114 minutes): Halfway through this, in yet another scene where the sleek, blank Mickey Rourke character forces the Kim Basinger sex kitten into another round of humiliation - crawl on the floor, bark like a dog, smear this food on your breasts -- I realized what a marvelous post-modern moment was being served up. Is this not the Kim Basinger actress story, as she submits her bare tits and ass to us again and again desperate for our love and approval. Film is mostly boring, salvaged by a few sublime Bad Movie Moments.

January 3: Homeboy (1988, 118 minutes): Mickey Rourke lurches and mumbles his way through this pretty incomprehensible character study of a down-and-out boxer who dresses like a cowboy. (Evidently Rourke took up real life boxing to "get into" this film. Later, he blocked its release because it didn’t run out the way he wanted.) Christopher Walken saves the day. His shiny-suited philosophical petty con man schtick is the only spark in this New Jersey seaside drudge. He even sings a few bars at the strip club, bless his heart.

January 1: Hooper (1978, 100 minutes): Slim plot about an aging Hollywood stunt man. Vintage Burt Reynolds. Full of buddies (Terry Bradshaw, Sally Fields, Brian Keith), muscle cars, rowdy good ol’ boy behavior.

January 1: Rushmore (1998, 120 minutes): An engaging and crafty film, it works because there is something vaguely off-putting about the plucky young hero. And at long last, a role for Bill Murray that embraces his peculiar crusty but melancholy charms.

January 1: Jawbreaker (1999, 90 minutes): A film clearly intended to be a black comedy that just doesn’t work. The popular but mean girls in high school accidentally kill a pal. Covering up the crime means transforming the school nerd into one of them. No sting, no wit. Lots of tight clothing though and Marilyn Manson has a cameo appearance as a school-girl chasin’ freak.

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