I Canít Stop Watching (Mostly Bad) Movies!

December and November 1998:
December 31: Mouse Hunt (1997, 97 minutes): Whoo-hoo! And how was your New Yearís Eve?! Well, we kicked off our new goal Ė to watch every movie Christopher Walken is in (why? why not) - with this feature. Itís a low-humor short, stretched out to 90 minutes. Walken plays an exterminator in what is a total rip-off of Bill Murrayís genius gopher-killing role in Caddyshack. The film has an odd retro look (though itís set in contemporary times) thatís intriguing, and some of the mouse-cam shots are fun, but it was pretty lame.

December 30: The Killing of Sister George (1968, 138 minutes): From a play, the once shocking shocking story of an aging lesbian actress who gets drunk and abusive with Susannah York and Coral Browne. If I was an aging lesbian, Iíd be mortally offended, but that aside, much of the film is an over-the-top hoot. Our tweedy, boozy gal, Beryl Reid, plays as if to the furtherest balconies, and lemme tell, on film, sheís right in your face!

December 30: Paper Moon (1973, 101 minutes): I saw this movie when it came out. My mother pointed out at the time, I was the same age as the star, Tatum OíNeal. Whatever that meant, and I was probably envious, itís a relief to know I turned out so much better than Ms. OíNeal. Undoubtedly, the best thing she or her dad, Ryan OíNeal ever did, this is great film still. Snappy, cyinca yet sentimental, perfect sets and costumes, Madeline Kahnís hilarious turn as Miss Trixie Delight, and P.J. Johnson as her maid. A great road film, not bogged down with dumb romances or stupid cop chases.

December 29: Days of Heaven (1978, 95 minutes): I always get this film confused with Heavenís Gate (screening soon!) Ė and both films do trade in the turn-of-the-century exploited immigrants farming out west theme. This film is beautiful shot, great use of extreme close-ups and big wide shots, and fabulous light. Plot is a simpler love triangle, with a curious end. Richard Gere is miscast, but he has this perfect 1978 haircut.

December 29: The Glass Web (1953, 81 minutes): Standard thriller about a killing and frame-up. What makes this film a bit more fun is the use of the live TV studio set up. It must have been quite the thrill in 1953, for viewer to see "behind the scenes" of TV.

December 28: Ishtar (1987, 107 minutes): Of course, we love big budget flops here! and this was one of them. (I looked up the numbers, cost $40 million, took in $14, pretty par for a lot of films these days!) So, itís a sort of a musical, Hope-Crosby Middle East road movie spy spoof starring Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman. They play two untalented schlubs who want to be singer-songwriters. These scenes are actually quite funny, and you can se where the film should have gone, i.e. stayed in New York, not gone off the rails in endless location shooting in Morocco. And, casting two unknown actors instead of the insanely-famous Beatty and Hoffman would have helped. Viewer is conscious of their star wattage. The "songs" they write (actually tiny Paul Williams and Elaine May creations) are hilarious, as is their creative methodology. Much better turf to mine than spy spoofs.

December 27: The Fifth Element (1997, 127 minutes): Itís appalling that movies like this - dumb eye candy - must cost more than the GNP of small countries, and then be so lame. Youíve seen these near-future, explosions-in-outer-space so many times, itís just this time the costumes are by Jean-Paul Gaultier. Big whoop.

December 26: Gattaca (1997, 112 minutes): With explosions so popular, these sorts of quiet drama sci-fi movies seem rare. Set in the near-future, itís micro not macro. The crux here is the creation and preservation of a genetically perfect race, and the emphasis on existing science and procedure - DNA, genetic coding, on-the-job drug testing - is deliciously unnerving. I was rooting for what I thought was an inevitable homo-erotic we-are-one relationship, between Ethan Hawke and cutie boy, Jude Law, but no luck.

December 26: Down in the Delta (1998, 111 minutes): Drew another review turn. Itís essentially a 1970s very special Hallmark TV presentation about a messed up single welfare mom, Alfre Woodard (whoís always good) who gets her act together down in the Mississippi countryside, with a big doses of family values thrown in. Inoffensive, but very surface. Full reviewhere.

December 25: Scrooged (1988, 101 minutes): The beginning of this updated A Christmas Carol, set in the sleazy upper-offices of a TV network are hilarious, but then the film turns sentimental and maudlin. Puhleez. As if TV plus Xmas, doesnít deserve full-on skewering.

December 25: Take Her Sheís Mine (1963, 98 minutes): Xmas evening, me and some pals went to a neighborís house. Other folks were there and everybody was munching food and watching this film. We fell right in, cackling and poking fun at this scary tale of Jimmy Stewartís unhealthy obsession with his daughter, Sandra Deeís sex life. One neighbor, a stranger to me, busting a gut, said "Is this what you do? Go from house to house making fun of bad movies on TV?" Well, yes. If people let me in the door.

December 22: Fetishes (1996, 84 minutes): A Nick Broomfield documentary made for HBO. I enjoyed his chasing Margaret Thatcher film, also the Aileeen Wournos one, despite his irritating habit of sticking himself all in it. Surprisingly, in this pretty dull docu about a fancy S-and-M club in NYC, he stays behind the camera, and seems genuinely weirded out and amazed that people like to be tied up and whipped. Uh? I was a bit mystified by his "whoa" take on it, like a 40-year old hip man in England has never heard of spanking or rubber fetishes? I mean, I saw all this on Monty Python when I was a kid.

December 8: Youíve Got Mail (1998, 120 minutes): Oy. I saw a sneak peak of it, got the review duty. Lemme sum it up succinctly: Itís as if you made a third generation copy of Sleepless in Seattle and crossed out that title, and above it in crayon, you wrote "Youíve Got Mail." Further details to follow. (P.S. Meg Ryan has Man Hands!) Full review here.

December 6: Ruby (1992, 111 minutes): Iím no Kennedy-conspiracist-theorist, so beats me if this tale of the few weeks prior to when Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby shot Oswald are true, or believed to be true, or total bunkum. Lately, Iíve taken to looking for the dumbest attribution in the credits (like assistants who then have other assistants.) This film had a credit for Sherilyn Fennís massage therapist. What?! Like she got hurt "acting"?

December 5: L.A. Confidential (1997, 136 minutes): I liked it much. Was warned to pay attention, so I kept up with the plot. Am puzzled though, on how on earth did Kim Basinger get an Oscar for this? She wore a gown, said about 3 things. If there was any greater depth to her performance, I must have been looking at her hair or something, and missed it.

December 4: Black Angel (1946, 80 minutes): B-movie-ish little mystery from a Cornell Woolrich novel. I like that Dan Duryea, heís got a naturally tormented look. The kind of guy they tell you never to get involved withÖ

December 4: Breast Men (1997, 90 minutes): An HBO flick about the two Texas doctors who invented breast implants. A funny film. Based on reality, though the credits said the tale was "augmented." Some plot twists had me really itching to get to the library and see which parts were true. Like the film implies the two parted ways - over money sure, but also over SIZE! Like one doctor wanted to do classy, discreet augmentations; the other wanted to boldly jumpstart the sub-profession of supplying strippers with basketball size boobs. Great Business Arguments You Never Hear About.

November 26: Happiness (1998, 139 minutes): Went out to the movies again. I really enjoyed this film - a black and strange comedy about a dozen or so interlinked people, and their various empty lives. Hard to know who to recommend it to, I can see how many people would hate this movie. Well, I laughed and laughed and laughed.

November 25: Things to Do in Denver When Youíre Dead (1995, 114 minutes): Pretty dumb, Tarantino-lite, crime gone wrong film. A self-conscious script that seemed filled with made up tough guy slang. Those who dig Christopher Walkenís nutty supporting roles will want to at least see this new twist on his schtick. Treat Williams (where does he disappear to?) does a great whacked out role. He could be our next Walken.

November 21: Ride the Pink Horse (1947, 101 minutes): Nice moody, yet taut, thriller set during a New Mexican carnival.

November 21: Saturn 3 (1980, 88 minutes): Kirk Douglas in space! And heís trapped there with Farrah Fawcett and Harvey Keitel (in ponytail and leather pants!) Madre mia. Not only is Douglas shirtless a lot, in one scene heís naked! Eeeek. Stupid plot, but the clothes are worth tuning in for. Who knew space travel would be like Marin County 1977? Watch this, then read Martin Amisí very funny novel, Money, which is somewhat based on his involvement with Saturn 3. He wrote the howler script, but he gives with the Kirk and Farrah gossip in the book (Lorne Guyland and Butch Beausoleil, respectively.)

November 20: Breathless (1983, 105 minutes): Wow! Zowee! Iíll ponder it, but this may be Richard Gereís worst performance yet! You just want to roll around in it! Heís plays a sassy drifter neíer-do-well type in this pointless and inexplicable update of Godardís arthouse staple, Breathless. Gere chews and vomits scenery at will, does a kind of a one man karoake schtick with old Jerry Lee Lewis tunes, just generally sets his career back ten years. See, Gere, like other "actors" of his ilk, just donít get it. Theyíre decent at one or two sorts of roles - Gere is perfect for those lightweight sleek gray-morals jobbies like American Gigolo or Primal Fear. He ainít no bad boy greaser, and nobody wants him to free Tibet. Just wear the hell out of the $3000 suit, already. Itís better money than the rest of us make.

November 19: The Game (1997, 128 minutes): Michael Douglas is back in his soulless Mega-Yuppie gets a life lesson vehicle. Is somebody trying to kill him, or is he in some very expensive Yuppie paint-ball game? An entertaining ride, with an abrupt and dumb end.

November 18: Extreme Measures (1996, 118 minutes): Whoo-hoo! Hugh Grant just needs to stink up a few more turkeys like this and he can join the beautiful-but-dumb, I-just-love-their-bad-movies club (Keanu Reeves and Richard Gere are good company.) Grant, doing his hem-haw-shy-boy-English thing, is an earnest young doctor who discovers that Bad Things are happening at his inner-city hospital. Gene Hackman phones in an older doctor role and Sarah Jessica Parker has frankly never looked worse! (Viewerís note: this would be a great double-bill with Playing God.)

November 18: When We Were Kings (1996, 84 minutes): Iím not into boxing, but Iím really into the peripherals of it and the various fictional versions of the sweet science. This documentary is a fascinating document of the 1976 Ali-Foreman fight in Zaire. Ali, at the top of his game, especially with the media. The kick-start of Don King. Race, politics, money, media, music, religion. A captivating 84 minutes. More of a social piece than a sports film. (Spike Lee is interviewed at one point in the film and expresses regret that todayís youth are unaware of the many social roles Ali played, how large his impact was. Indeed, I was thinking watching this film - which due to money problems took 20 years to reach the screen - that those who only know Ali as a shaky guy they bring out at functions and George Foreman as that muffler pitchman, would be well served to watch this film.)

November 17: Shall We Dance (1996, 135 minutes): A sweet comedy, really, about a bored Japanese steady family man accountant who tentatively takes up, then falls under the spell of, ball room dancing. Thereís an hilarious character, one of his office mates. Iíll say no more.

November 16: Touch of Evil (1958, 111 minutes): Went out, and saw the newly restored, re-cut version. In the dark ages of rep houses, I used to see this film every time it came Ďround. It was usually double-billed with The Lady from Shanghai, a nice double feature, little Orson, big Orson. A favorite film of mine in any form.

November 15: Repo Man (1983, 94 minutes): Hey, this film still holds up pretty good! These things are still weird: the pine tree air fresheners, "plates of shrimp", "Dianetics", grim L.A. suburbs, alien crash-landings, Harry Dean Stanton.

November 14: Playing God (1997, 94 minutes): That David Duchovny better stop whining about X-Files, and just collect his rent. This Duchovny star-vehicle is an utter howler! Really, like a Miami Vice episode, but strung together worse and more woodenly acted! Believe. First, we got olí One-Note mumble drone, Duchovny, now believe that heís "a synthetic heroin addict." The movie makes a big deal about the synthetic heroin angle, is this some kind of class thing? Then we got Timothy Hutton (Hey, didnít he used to be somebody?!) doing the Gary Oldman eccentric druglord spin. A chick with gigantic lips, goofy drug addicts, guns, brawls, car chases in the L.A. River basin. Oh and the plot? Duchovny is an ex-doc who gets hired by Hutton to be his own personal crime-doctor. The best scene is where Hutton posits this arrangement to Duchovny and for NO REASON AT ALL, the scene is shot through some weird skewed prism lens. Uh?!! I loved it.

November 12: The Star Chamber (1983, 129 minutes): Pretty boring, this tale of a secret group of avenging angel judges. The set-up takes forever. Plot holes you could drive through.

November 9: The Full Monty (1997, 91 minutes): Ok, so Iím the last person on earth to see it. Everyone knows about it, how it ends, etc. I dug it, and luckily I saw it just in time to fullyÖuhÖappreciateÖthat bizarre news clip this week of Prince Charles re-creating the dole office Donna Summer dance sequence. Frankly, Yeltsin rocks out harder.

November 4: Eveís Bayou (1997, 109 minutes): Trouble down on the bayouÖ Gently moody film of a middle-class black family living on the edge of the bayou in 1960 or so (great clothes in this film!) I guess none of those people who demanded more decent black female movies after that dreck, Waiting to Exhale, ever went to see and support this, a smart and well-acted film. Kinda came and went, but itís on cable now.

November 2: High School High (1996, 86 minutes): Yuck, this is the kind of bad movie that gives bad movies a bad name. Part parody of earnest-teacher-in-the-hood movies, part earnest-teacher-in-the-hood. A mess, not funny, and not meaningful. Not one laugh, but the words "starring Jon Lovitz" should have been a big tip off. My bad.

November 2: This Boyís Life (1993, 115 minutes): I guess itís entertainment, but this movie is like being trapped in some oneís living room, while grinding family dysfunction just unspools endlessly. DeNiro is the bad step-dad, kinda of a one-note performance from him, heís just a monster, you never know why nor his is behavior mitigated by anything. Sure, such complete assholes exist in real-life (and film is based on author Tobias Wolfeís life) but they make less interesting screen roles. Leonardo DiCaprio is good in this, as theyíve all said.

November 1: Body Snatcher (1993, 87 minutes): Yet another update of the 50s classic, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This version suffers from (1) murky orangey cinematography, (2) zombie like performances from the-not-yet-pod people, (3) shifting the setting from a lively small town to a military base (What?! People already are pods at military bases, thatís the whole point of the uniformity of military life! How about some contrast?!) and (4) emphasis on really gross effects rather than beefing up the suspense.

November 1: A Stolen Life (1946, 107 minutes): What they used to call "a Bette Davis vehicle." Slightly slow melodrama that doesnít just feature Davis in every scene, but features Davis in two roles, on screen together, bitch-fighting with herself.

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