Lisa Recommends Fool For Love (dir by Robert Altman)


As the day draws to a close, I’m going to recommend one final film.

It’s not, by any means, a perfect film.  In fact, it’s pretty damn imperfect.  It’s a film that occasionally tries too hard to be profound.  It’s based on a play and it never quite escapes its theatrical origins.  What was undoubtedly exciting on the stage, drags a bit on the screen.  It’s a fairly obscure film.  I just happened to catch it on This TV a month ago and the main reason that I watched it was because of the cast.

But no matter!  I still think you should watch this film if you get a chance.

The name of that film is Fool For Love.

First released in 1985 and based on a play by Sam Shepard, Fool For Love takes place over the course of one long night at a motel in the Southwest.  Staying at the motel is May (Kim Basinger), who is hoping to escape from her past.  Not eager to allow her to escape is her former lover, Eddie (Sam Shepard).  An aging cowboy, Eddie shows up at the motel and tries to convince May to return with him to his ranch.  As they argue, clues are dropped to the terrible secret that haunts their past.  Martin (Randy Quaid), a buffoonish but well-meaning “gentleman caller,” shows up to take May on a date and finds himself sucked into the drama between her and Eddie.

Meanwhile, on the edge of every scene, there’s the Old Man (Harry Dean Stanton).  The Old Man watches Eddie and May and offers up his own frequently sarcastic commentary.  It becomes obvious that he not only knows about the secret in their past but that he’s determined that they not get together.  Is the Old Man really there or is he just a figment of everyone’s imagination or is he something else all together?

As I said earlier, the film never quite escapes its theatrical origins.  As well, while Shepard and Kim Basinger both give authentic and charismatic performance, they don’t quite have the right romantic chemistry to really convince us that Eddie would chase May all the way to that isolated motel.  It’s hard not to feel that if May had been played by Shepard’s then-partner Jessica Lange or his Right Stuff co-star, Barbara Hershey, the film would have worked better.

And yet, even if it never comes together as a whole, Fool For Love is a film that should be seen just for its display of individual talent.  Of the film’s five main creative forces, only Kim Basinger is still with us.  Director Robert Altman died in 2006 while Sam Shepard and Harry Dean Stanton both passed away in 2017.  While Randy Quaid is still alive, it’s doubtful he’ll ever again get the type of roles that earlier established him as one of America’s best character actors.  Whenever I read another snarky article about Quaid hiding out in Vermont and ranting about the “star whackers,” I can’t help but sadly think about the perfect performances that Quaid used to regularly give in imperfect films like this one.

So, definitely track down Fool For Love.  Watch it and pay a little tribute to all of the wonderful talent that we’ve lost over the last 10 or so years.  Watch it for Robert Altman’s ability to turn kitsch into art.  Watch it for the rugged individualism of Sam Shepard and the once-empathetic eccentricity of Randy Quaid.  Watch it for Harry Dean Stanton, the legendary actor who, more than any other performer, seemed to epitomize the southwest and Americana.

Watch it and spare a little thought for all of them.

Lisa’s Week In Review: 6/18/18 — 6/24/18


Another brutally hot week comes to a close!

I ended up taking a break from twitter this week.  That’s something I do whenever people start to get on my nerves.  On Wednesday, at 5, I announced that I would return in 24 hours and then I stayed away until Friday.  Those 24 hours easily became 48.  And while it may not have made people any more civil, being away from all of that negative crap certainly did me a world of good!

We’re almost halfway through 2018.  I may be alone in this but, with the exception of that month when I was battling the world’s worst allergies, my year’s been pretty good so far.  Let’s hope that trend continues.

Movies I Watched:

  1. Against All Odds (1984)
  2. Annihilation (2018)
  3. Battle For The Planet of the Apes (1973)
  4. Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
  5. Courageous (2011)
  6. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)
  7. Dangerous Seduction (2018)
  8. The Day The Fish Came Out (1967)
  9. Deceiver (1997)
  10. Did I Kill My Mother? (2018)
  11. Escape From The Planet of the Apes (1971)
  12. Gimme Shelter (1970)
  13. I Killed My BFF: The Preacher’s Daughter (2018)
  14. Lethal Admirer (2018)
  15. Liquid Sky (1982)
  16. Night Watch (1973)
  17. Planet of the Apes (1968)
  18. Prescription For Danger (2018)
  19. Punchline (1988)
  20. Tracks (1976)
  21. Unforgettable (1996)
  22. A Wrinkle In Time (2018)
  23. The Wrong Daughter (2018)
  24. Zydereen on Neptune (1955)

Television Shows I Watched:

  1. Alias Grace
  2. The Bachelorette
  3. Degrassi
  4. GLOW
  5. Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours To Hell and Back
  6. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia
  7. King of the Hill
  8. Masterchef
  9. The Portrait
  10. The Proposal
  11. Saved By The Bell — The Jessie’s Song episode!
  12. We Speak Dance
  13. Westworld

Books I Read:

  1. Colonel Sun (1968) by Kingsley Amis
  2. Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched The World (2008) by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter
  3. The PGA Tour: A Look Behind The Scenes (2003) by Dick Durrance II
  4. To Catch A Cat (2000) by Marian Babson
  5. Wicked Abyss (2017) by Kresley Cole

Music To Which I Listened

  1. Ali Tamposi
  2. Avicii
  3. Bloc Party
  4. Britney Spears
  5. Calvin Harris
  6. Cedric Gervais
  7. The Chemical Brothers
  8. Die Antwoord
  9. DJ Snake
  10. Drake
  11. George Maple
  12. Howard Jones
  13. Jakalope
  14. Jake Bugg
  15. Kedr Livanskiy
  16. Mick Jagger
  17. Panic! at the Disco
  18. Phil Collins
  19. The Rolling Stones
  20. R3HAB
  21. Skrillex
  22. Swedish House Mafia
  23. Taylor Swift
  24. Underworld

Links From Last Week

  1. On Sleeping Lisa, I shared a dream about the Alamo Drafthouse!
  2. On SyFy Designs, I both paid tribute to Koko the Gorilla and wrote about my latest twitter break.
  3. On her photography site, Erin shared a picture of the sun shining in!
  4. Have you ever wanted a Pennywise key chain?  Read out about them on Horrorpedia!
  5. From John Coyote: Big Sur Meditation!
  6. From John Rieber: Is This The WORST Song Of All Time? “Baby, I’m-A Not Kidding”! Toast This Stale Bread!

Links From The Site

  1. Erin presented even more covers from Paul Rader!
  2. Gary reviews Boys’ Night Out, Libeled Lady, Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex But We’re Afraid To Ask, and Noir!  He also paid tribute to Maria Rohm!
  3. Ryan reviewed Land of the Sons and Solo! He also shared his week reading round-up!
  4. I wished the great Daria Nicolodi a happy birthday!

Want to see what I did last week?  Click here!

Here’s The Trailer For Leave No Trace!


This trailer dropped last week but, somehow, I missed it until today.

Leave No Trace appears to be yet another film about an irresponsible and/or unconventional father raising his daughter in the woods.  On the negative side, this is literally my least favorite genre of film.  After sitting through both Captain Fantastic and The Glass Castle, I’ve pretty much reached my limit as far as screwed-up cinematic fathers are concerned.

On the plus side, however, is the fact that the father is played by Ben Foster and he seems like the type of actor who could actually do something interesting with the role.  Also, the film is directed by Debra Granik, who did such a great job with Winter’s Bone.

So, perhaps against my better judgment, I will give this one a shot.

Here’s the trailer:

Here’s The Trailer For The Night Eats The World!


Somehow, I failed to share this trailer for The Night Eats The World when it was released earlier this week.

So, I’m sharing it now!

Now, this does look like it’s yet another zombie movie.  I love zombies but I’m afraid the whole living dead genre is getting a bit over exposed.  I mean, everyone is making zombie jokes now.  Even insurance companies make jokes about zombie apocalypse insurance.  Zombies were never supposed to go mainstream.

That said, this trailer is actually pretty effective.  So, who knows?  Maybe The Night Eats The World will live up to all of that potentially deadly hype.

We’ll see!

Catching-Up With Two Courtroom Dramas: Suspect and 12 Angry Men


As a part of my continuing effort to get caught up with reviewing all of the movies that I’ve seen this year, here’s two courtroom dramas that I recently caught on This TV.

  • Suspect
  • Released in 1987
  • Directed by Peter Yates
  • Starring Cher, Dennis Quaid, Liam Neeson, John Mahoney, Joe Mantegna, Philip Bosco, Fred Melamed, Bernie McInerney, Bill Cobbs, Richard Gant, Jim Walton, Michael Beach, Ralph Cosham, Djanet Sears 

Suspect is a hilariously dumb movie.  How dumb is it?  Let me count the ways.

First off, Cher plays a highly successful if rather stressed public defender.  And don’t get me wrong.  It’s not that Cher is a bad actress or anything.  She’s actually pretty good when she’s playing Cher.  But, in this movie, she’s playing someone who managed to graduate from law school and pass the DC bar.

Secondly, Cher is assigned to defend a homeless man when he’s accused of murdering a clerk who works for the Justice Department.  The homeless man is deaf and mute, which isn’t funny.  What is funny is when he gets a shave and a shower and he’s magically revealed to be a rather handsome and fresh-faced Liam Neeson.  Liam doesn’t give a bad performance in the role.  In fact, he probably gives the best performance in the film.  But still, it’s hard to escape the fact that he’s Liam Neeson and he basically looks like he just arrived for a weekend at Cannes.

Third, during the trial, one of the jurors (Dennis Quaid) decides to investigate the case on his own.  Cher even helps him do it, which is the type of thing that would get a real-life attorney disbarred.  However, I guess Cher thinks that it’s worth the risk.  I guess that’s the power of Dennis Quaid’s smile.

Fourth, the prosecuting attorney is played by Joe Mantegna and he gives such a good performance that you find yourself hoping that he wins the case.

Fifth, while it’s true that real-life attorneys are rarely as slick or well-dressed as they are portrayed in the movies, one would think that Cher would at least take off her leather jacket before cross-examining a witness.

Sixth, it’s not a spoiler to tell you that the homeless man is innocent.  We know he’s innocent from the minute that we see he’s Liam Neeson.  Liam only kills who people deserve it.  The real murderer is revealed at the end of the film and it turns out to be the last person you would suspect, mostly because we haven’t been given any reason to suspect him.  The ending is less of a twist and more an extended middle finger to any viewer actually trying to solve the damn mystery.

I usually enjoy a good courtroom drama but bad courtroom dramas put me to sleep.  Guess which one Suspect was.

 

  • 12 Angry Men
  • Released 1997
  • Directed by John Frankenheimer
  • Starring Courtney B. Vance, Ossie Davis, George C. Scott, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Dorian Harewood, James Gandolfini, Tony Danza, Jack Lemmon, Hume Cronyn, Mykelti Williamson, Edward James Olmos, William Petersen, Mary McDonnell, Tyrees Allen, Douglas Spain

The 12 Angry Men are back!

Well, no, not actually.  This is a remake of the classic 1957 film and it was produced for Showtime.  It’s updated in that not all of the jurors are white and bigoted Juror #10 (Mykelti Williamson) is now a member of the Nation of Islam.  Otherwise, it’s the same script, with Juror #8 (Jack Lemmon) trying to convince the other jurors not to send a young man to Death Row while Juror #3 (George C. Scott) deals with his family issues.

I really wanted to like this production, as it had a strong cast and a strong director and it was a remake of one of my favorite films.  Unfortunately, the remake just didn’t work for me.  As good an actor as Jack Lemmon was, he just didn’t project the same moral authority as Henry Fonda did the original.  If Fonda seemed to be the voice of truth and integrity, Lemmon just came across like an old man who had too much time on his hands.  Without Fonda’s moral certitude, 12 Angry Men simply becomes a story about how 12 men acquitted a boy of murder because they assumed that a woman would be too vain to wear her glasses to court.  The brilliance of the original is that it keeps you from dwelling on the fact that the accused was probably guilty.  The remake, however, feels like almost an argument for abandoning the jury system.

Film Review: Unforgettable (dir by John Dahl)


You have to give the makers of the 1996 film, Unforgettable, some credit.  It takes a certain amount of courage to give your movie a title like Unforgettable.  You’re practically asking some snarky critic to comment on the fact that she can’t remember your movie.

Well, I’ll resist the temptation because I can remember enough about this movie to review it.  I saw it a few days ago on This TV and, at first, I was excited because it was a Ray Liotta movie.  Ray Liotta is an entertaining and likable actor who, nowadays, only seems to get cast in small, tough guy roles.  Nowadays, a typical Liotta role seems to be something like the character he played in Killing Me Softly.  He showed up.  He was tough.  He got killed for no good reason.  So, whenever you come across a film in which Liotta gets to do something more than just get shot, you kind of have an obligation to watch.

In Unforgettable, Liotta plays Dr. David Krane, who is haunted by the unsolved murder of his wife.  Fortunately (or perhaps, unfortunately), Dr. Martha Briggs (Linda Fiorentino) has developed a formula that can be used to transfer memories from one person to another.  All you have to do is extract some spinal fluid!  Or something like that.  It doesn’t make any sense to me and I have to admit that I kinda suspect that the science might not actually check out.

Anyway, Dr. Krane is all like, “I want to inject myself with my dead wife’s spinal fluid so I can experience her final moments!”

And Dr. Briggs is all like, “But this could kill you because there’s all these vaguely defined side effects!”

But Dr. Krane does it anyway and he discovers that his wife was murdered by a lowlife criminal named Eddie Dutton (Kim Coates)!  So, Dr. Krane chases Eddie all ocer the city and it’s interesting to see that a doctor can apparently keep up with a career criminal.  I mean, you would think that Eddie’s experience with being chased and Krane’s inexperience with chasing would give Eddie an advantage.  Anyway, regardless, it doesn’t matter because Eddie is eventually gunned down by the police and Dr. Krane is fired from his job.

Hmmm … well, that was quick.  I guess the movie’s over…

No, not quite!  It turns out that someone hired Eddie to kill Dr. Krane’s wife!  And it turns out that person was a cop!  But which cop!?  Well, there’s only two cops in the film who actually have any lines so it has to be one of them.  And one of the cops is so unlikable that it’s obvious from the start that he’s a red herring.  So, I guess that means the actual murderer is the one that you’ll suspect from the first moment he shows up.

(For the record, the two cops are played by Christopher McDonald and Peter Coyote.  I won’t reveal which one is unlikable and which one is a murderer but seriously, you’ve already guessed, haven’t you?)

Anyway, it’s all pretty stupid and a waste of everyone involved.  Ray Liotta is likable and sympathetic but the film gets bogged down with trying to convince us that crimes can be solved through spinal fluid.  It’s a dumb premise that the movie takes way too seriously and it never quite works.

Still, I hope that someone will give Ray Liotta another good role at some point in the future.  He deserves better than supporting roles and Chantix commercials.

Book Review: Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff by Sean Penn


The debut novel of actor Sean Penn, Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff basically reads as if it was written by someone who read the first thirty pages of Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 and then thought, “I could do this!  How difficult can it be!?”  When the book first came out, several critics declared it to be the worst novel ever written but I don’t know if I’d go that far.  It may very well be the worst novel of 2018 but it’s not really memorable enough to deserve the grand title of worst ever.

It’s very much a debut novel, which is to say that there’s no plot, all of the characters have cutesy names, and it’s absurdly overwritten.  Penn really goes out of his way to let you know that he owns a thesaurus.  Making it somehow even more annoying is his habit of using footnotes to explain any word or acronym that he suspects that we, being mere readers, will not be able to understand.

As far as I can tell, each chapter is about whatever Penn was upset about on the day that he wrote it.  The first half of the novel is all about Bob Honey making money selling plumbing equipment to Jehovah’s Witnesses and murdering old people because old people take up too much space.  Though the entire book takes place in Honey’s mind, we’re never quite sure who Bob Honey is because Sean Penn himself doesn’t seem to know.  Penn came up with a silly name and a stupid career and some random quirks and then I presume he forced his friends to read the first few chapters.

“Did you like it?” Penn asked.

“Uhmmm…” his friends replied, “It’s …. uhmmm … interesting….”

“I know!  It really is!”

The second half of the book was written after Trump was elected President because Bob Honey suddenly goes from being apolitical and ennui-stricken to suddenly being really pissed off that the country has been taken over by “The Landlord.”  Suddenly, Bob Honey is a woke assassin and you get the feeling that if Hillary Clinton had won, Penn never wouldn’t have had any idea how to finish the book.  However, since Trump won, the book ends with a lengthy poem in which Penn mentions every political cause that he cares about, along with letting us know that he’s skeptical about #MeToo.  Thanks for sharing, Sean.

It’s a strange book because, on the one hand, Penn seems desperate to let us all know how woke and anti-Trump he is but, at the same time, it’s hard to read Bob Honey and not come away with the impression that Sean Penn really doesn’t like, trust, or respect women.  Every woman who appears in the book is either ridiculed for being simple-minded or portrayed as being inherently evil.  Honey is obsessed with his ex-wife, who drives an ice cream truck, for some reason.  I kept expecting some sort of scene between Bob and his ex-wife but no.  Instead, Honey just sees her truck and then let’s us know that everything’s basically her fault.  It appears that the only reason she’s in the book is so Sean Penn can yell, “Ice cream truck!  YOU GET IT!?  ICE CREAM TRUCK!  SYMBOLISM, YOU RED  STATE PHILISTINES!”  There is only one vaguely positive female character in the book but she’s only present in flashbacks and Penn spends more time talking about her vagina than her personality.  Plus, she’s described as being hairless because … reasons, I guess.  The book comes across as if Penn wrote it in between jerking off to his whore/madonna complex.

As I said, there’s really no plot.  Bob Honey gets annoyed.  A reporter bothers Bob Honey.  Bob Honey thinks about how much he hates women.  Bob Honey goes to Baghdad during the Iraq War.  Bob Honey goes to New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina.  Basically, it’s a tour of places and things that Sean Penn has never experienced but which he has probably considered making a movie about.

(And, to give credit where credit is due, the books reads like something Uwe Boll would have vomited onto the screen.)

Here’s the thing: if you wrote this book, you wouldn’t be able to get it published and people would probably take your obsession with finding a hairless lover as evidence that you should be on a sex offenders list.  Because Sean Penn is Sean Penn, he gets his book published and then gets to appears on talk shows to defend the stupid thing.  If you’re a real writer (as opposed to someone who just woke up one day and said, “I’m going to write a book!”) and that doesn’t leave you outraged, then you’re not paying attention.  Because as bad as Bob Honey is, Sean Penn’s second novel will probably be published as well.  While you’re working hard on a fourth rewrite, Sean Penn will be appearing on Colbert and promoting Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff Part 2.

A lot of people have held up Bob Honey as evidence of Sean Penn’s stupidity.  I don’t think he’s so much stupid as he’s just insecure.  A common theme when it comes to anything that Sean Penn does appears to be a desire to be known as more than just a good actor.  As a result, Penn directs overwrought movies that take themselves too seriously.  (I mean, I liked Into the Wild but, even while watching that film, it seemed like a minor miracle that Penn restrained his instinct toward pretension just enough not to blow it.)  He goes on talk shows and insists that, despite all evidence to the contrary, Hugo Chavez was a great guy and people in Venezuela are really, really happy.  He takes it upon himself to let Oscar viewers know that “Jude Law is one of our finest actors” and he sends angry, profane notes to the creators of South Park.  And, of course, he ends up writing books like Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff.  “Look, world,” Penn seems to be shouting with all of this, “I’m complicated!  There’s more to me than you think!”

And you have to wonder: why not just take joy in being really, really good at what you actually can do?  Sean Penn’s performance in Milk probably did more for the cause of human rights than any book he could ever write or speech he could ever give.  And yet, apparently, that’s not enough.

We need good actors who are willing to give performances in films that might otherwise not get made without a “name” in the cast.

We don’t need a sequel to Bob Honey.

Hopefully, Sean Penn will rediscover his love of acting before writing one.

Film Review: Tracks (1977, dir by Henry Jaglom)


The 1977 film, Tracks, opens somewhere in America.

Jack Falen (Dennis Hopper) sits on a bench, waiting for a train.  He’s wearing a military uniform.  He claims that he’s a 1st sergeant.  He claims that he’s just returned from Vietnam.  He’s traveling with a flag-draped coffin.  He says that the coffin contains the remains of his best friend from Nam.  Jack is accompanying the coffin back to his friend’s hometown.  Jack says that he’s going to make sure that his friend gets a proper burial.

From the minute we meet Jack, we get the feeling that there’s something off about him.  He’s a little bit too quick to smile and, when he laughs, it’s the guttural sound of someone who has learned how to show joy by watching other people but who has perhaps never felt it himself.  Sometimes, he’s quiet.  Sometimes, he is loquacious and verbose.  When he does speak, he rarely looks anyone in the eyes.  Jack is jumpy, as if he’s constantly afraid that he’s about to be exposed as a liar.

Soon, Jack is riding a train across the country.  While the rest of the passengers look out the windows and takes in the American landscape, Jack nervously wanders around the train.  He gets involved in a regular chess game.  He befriends a mysterious man named Mark (Dean Stockwell).  He starts a tentative relationship with a student named Stephanie (Taryn Power).  He tells anyone who will listen that he’s traveling with the body of his best friend.  When a black Korean war vet complains that Jack is acting like he’s the only person who lost a friend in a war, an offended Jack replies that his friend was black.

Jack sees things.  When he sees that the other passengers are assaulting Stepanie, he pulls out a small gun and aims it at the back of the train, just to suddenly realize that Stephanie is sitting unbothered at the back of the train.  While we know that Jack was hallucinating the attack on Stephanie, we still wonder if he really pulled out that gun.  If he did, no one else seems to have noticed.

Sometimes, the passengers say things to Jack that don’t seem to make any sense, leaving Jack staring at them in confusion.  Other times, Jack sees dark figures walking through the train.  At night, he wanders around naked.  Jack spends the trip watching the other passengers with a slightly dazed look on his face.  He plays chess with a man who later insists that he’s never played chess with Jack.  Sometimes, he thinks that he and Stephanie are outside of the train.  When Mark approaches Jack and asks for help, Jack explains that he can’t help anyone.  While a soundtrack of old World War II propaganda songs thunders in the background, Jack struggles to keep track of what’s real and what isn’t.

And so does the audience.  As we watch, it occurs to us that Jack’s stories about Vietnam don’t really seem to add up.  Add to that, we never actually saw Jack board the train.  Instead, we saw him sitting on a bench and waiting for the train.  We’re left to wonder if the train’s real or if the whole movie is just a figment of Jack’s damaged imagination.  And what about the coffin?  Tracks is full of unanswered questions but, in the film’s incendiary final moments, we do learn the truth about that coffin … maybe.

Henry Jaglom has been making independent films for several decades now.  Tracks is one of his better films, if just because Jaglom’s loose, seemingly improvised style actually works well at communicating Jack’s own struggle to keep up with what’s really happening and what he’s imagining.  As deceptively random as the film’s collections of scenes may appear, it’s all anchored by Dennis Hopper’s wonderfully unhinged performance.  Hopper brings a method actor’s intensity to Jack’s struggle to not only keep straight what’s real and what isn’t but also to keep his fellow passengers from understanding that he’s deeply unbalanced.  This film was made during Hopper’s drug-fueled lost years and he plays Jack like a man who is desperately trying to keep the world from seeing that he’s in the throes of withdrawal.  Unlike Hopper, Jack’s addiction isn’t to drugs.  Instead, Jack’s addicted to war, or at the very least his obsession with war.  (By the end of the movie, you have your doubts about whether Jack’s ever been to Vietnam or not.)  The use of World War II propaganda songs on the soundtrack may occasionally get annoying but they actually play up the contrast between our often simplistic view of war and the far more complex reality.

If nothing else, I would recommend Tracks for Hopper’s performance.  As well, since he co-stars with Dean Stockwell, it’s easy to imagine Tracks as being a bit of a prequel to Blue Velvet.  Who’s to say that Jack Falen didn’t change his name to Frank Booth?