Cinemax Friday: The Rowdy Girls (2000, directed by Steve Nevius)


When I started watching The Rowdy Girls, I had high hopes for it because it was a western starring two of my favorite actresses, Shannon Tweed and the late Julie Strain.

Unfortunately, that hope vanished as soon as I saw the words “Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz presents.”  Yes, The Rowdy Girls is a Troma film and it begins with the dreaded Troma skyline.  Even among connoisseurs of crappy films, the Troma logo is often considered to be troubled.  Lloyd Kaufman may be one of the most likable and interesting people working in the indie film world and he deserves credit for being a pioneer of sorts but he and his company are also famous for distributing films that are often so bad as to be nearly unwatchable.

Rowdy Girls takes place in 1886.  Shannon Tweed, Julie Strain, and Deanna Brooks play three different but often unclothed women who all end up on the same stagecoach.  Tweed plays Velvet McKeznie, a prostitute who is disguised as a nun because she’s just ripped off one of her clients.  Brooks plays Sarah Foster, who is trying to escape from an arranged marriage.  And finally, Julie Strain plays Mick, the ruthless girlfriend of the outlaw Billy Poke (Daniel Murray), who is about to hold up the stagecoach, kill the local sheriff, and take everyone hostage.  Fortunately, the dead sheriff’s brother is close by so he sets off in pursuit of the outlaws and their hostages.  Throughout it all, a minstrel (Mark Adams) wanders through the film, playing a guitar and singing songs about the women and the old west.  The film also uses old school title cards to inform us of certain plot developments, which would make more sense if the rest of the film was shot in any way like a silent western.

The Rowdy Girls is a cheap Troma production through-and-through but, when compared to some of the other films that Troma has forced on the world, it’s not that bad.  It’s a cheap and abysmally-paced film but, at the same time, it also features Shannon Tweed dressed like a nun and Julie Strain playing an evil, whip wielding outlaw.  This is not a film for anyone looking for a serious or believable western but fans of Shannon Tweed and Julie Strain will get their money’s worth.  Tweed even gets to do a little bit of serious acting, when Velvet explains to Sarah why she’s pretending to be a nun.  As always, Tweed proves herself to be better than her material.

 

Ranking The Films of Quentin Tarantino


Since Today is Quentin Tarantino’s 57th birthday, I figured this would be a good time to rank the ten films that he’s directed so far!

Please note that I have not included things like Natural Born Killers, True Romance, Four Rooms, Sin City, or those episodes of CSI and ER on the list below.  These are just the feature films that Tarantino has directed.

So, without further ado, for worst to best, here are the ten film of Quentin Tarantino:

10) The Hateful Eight (2015)

The Hateful Eight is one of those films that people either seem to love or hate.  I personally think that it’s the one Tarantino film in which QT truly stepped over the line and became a parody of himself.  From the punishing run time to the lengthy “chapters” that went nowhere to the overwritten dialogue that read more like someone trying to write like Tarantino than Tarantino himself, The Hateful Eight is my least favorite of his films.  For me, the final straw was when — after already having forced audiences to endure two and half hours of this film — Tarantino stopped the action completely for a totally unnecessary flashback that apparently only existed so Tarantino could work in a Zoe Bell cameo.

9) Death Proof (2007)

Oh, Death Proof.  I really liked Death Proof the first time that I saw it but whenever I’ve tried to rewatch it, it’s been a struggle to get through it.  Yes, Kurt Russell is great as Stuntman Mike and, unlike her previously mentioned cameo in The Hateful Eight, Zoe Bell is a welcome addition to Death Proof‘s ensemble.  But oh my God, why doesn’t the film just start in Tennessee?  Why do we have to suffer through all of that crap in Austin?

8) Kill Bill: Volume One (2003)

Now, it may seem like I’m ranking the first volume of Kill Bill fairly low on the list but you have to understand that, as far as I’m concerned, Tarantino has only made two bad films.  Kill Bill: Volume One is an exciting thriller and it not only features Uma Thurman at her best but it also has some of the best and most energetic fight scenes of all time.  If Kill Bill: Volume One seems ranked low, it’s just because it has some truly tough competition to deal with.

 

7) Jackie Brown (1997)

The first time I saw Jackie Brown, I thought it was a bit too slow and I guess I didn’t really “get” it.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to better appreciate this surprisingly low-key and rather sad film.  Jackie Brown features Tarantino in the type of contemplative mood that he wouldn’t really return to until making Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.

6) Pulp Fiction (1994)

One of the most influential films ever made, Pulp Fiction was not only the first of Tarantino’s first film to be nominated for an Oscar but it was also his first film to truly establish that his filmography takes place in its own separate, pop culture-centered universe.  If there’s anything that’s keeping Pulp Fiction from being listed higher, it’s the painfully self-indulgent taxi cab conversation between Bruce Willis and Angela Jones and Quentin Tarantino’s own terrible cameo as Jimmy, the casually racist homeowner.  That said, this is still one of the most — if not the most — essential film for the 90s.  If you want to understand that decade, you have to watch Pulp Fiction.

5) Django Unchained (2012)

Despite the fact that it features one of Leonardo Di Caprio’s worst performances (I know I’m the only one who thinks that), Django Unchained is still Tarantino at his most provocative and angry.  After decades of Hollywood films that attempts to explain away the history and legacy of slavery or that suggested that racism could easily be overcome, Tarantino and Django stepped up to say, “Fuck that.”  While the film received a lot of attention for its violence, I think it revealed that Tarantino is an artist with a conscience.  When Christoph Waltz speaks against the evils of slavery, it’s obvious that he’s speaking for Tarantino as well.  In much the same fashion of 12 Years A Slave (which would come out a year later), Django Unchained doesn’t flinch away from showing the horrors of slavery.

4) Inglourious Basterds (2009)

With Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino showed how art could be used to fix history’s mistakes.  In reality, many of the leaders of Nazi Germany escaped justice by committing suicide.  In Inglourious Basterds, they get blown away by a group of Jewish soldiers.  The film itself features some of Tarantino’s best set pieces and one of his best casts.  Despite the film’s length, this is also one of the few Tarantino films where there’s not a single scene that you can look at and say, “Well, that could have been cut.”  For once, every minute of the run time is needed to tell the film’s story.  Christoph Waltz became the first actor to win an Oscar for appearing in a Tarantino film.

3) Kill Bill: Volume Two (2004)

The Kill Bill saga concludes in grand fashion in Kill Bill: Volume Two.  For all of the fights and the violence, this film is more about accepting the consequences of your actions.  Uma Thurman and David Carradine give great performances but the heart of the film belongs to poor Michael Madsen, sitting in his trailer and waiting for justice to come and get him.  The scene where Thurman digs herself out of her grave is a justifiable classic and the final confrontation between Carradine and Thurman is Tarantino at his best.

2) Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Tarantino’s debut film is still one of the most exciting and, in it’s way, funniest crime films ever made.  Every line is quotable.  Every performance is perfect.  Every song on the soundtrack is perfectly selected.  Who can forget Harvey Keitel’s incoherent scream of pain as he realizes that he’s been betrayed?  Personally, I just hope Mr. Pink escaped with the diamonds.

 

1) Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)

Tarantino’s latest film is also his best, a love letter to the movies and the actors whose legacies live on in his own films.  For all the criticism that the film took for Margot Robbie’s lack of dialogue, her performance as Sharon Tate is the perfect epitome of everyone’s fantasy of what Hollywood was like in the years before the Manson murders made everyone lock their doors.  Leonardo Di Caprio and Brad Pitt are perfectly cast as Rick and Cliff and the film’s finale may be bloody but, at the same time, it corrected history in much the same way that Inglorious Basterds did.  By the end of the film, Rick Dalton knows that he’ll probably never be as big of a star as he could have been but at least he’s made some new friends.  He’s been accepted, in much the same way that a somewhat dorky former Hollywood video store clerk was eventually accepted by a film industry that, at first, wasn’t sure what to make of him.

Happy birthday, Quentin Tarantino!

18 Days of Paranoia #14: The Organization (dir by Don Medford)


Sidney Poitier played Detective Virgil Tibbs for the third and final time in the 1970 film, The Organization.

This time, Virgil is investigating a murder at an office building in San Francisco.  It’s a very odd murder, in that an executive was shot, a security guard was bludgeoned, and even though it looks like there was a robbery taking place, nothing appears to have actually been stolen.  Since neither the company nor the executive were believed to be involved in anything shady, Virgil finds himself perplexed as to why any of this has happened at all.

Fortunately, the local urban revolutionaries are here to help!  They contact Virgil and Virgil reluctantly agrees to meet with the group, which is made up of the usual collection of angry 1970s activists — i.e., a dissident preacher, a reformed drug dealer, a guy who won’t stop yelling, and a woman who is obviously going to be killed before the movie is over.  The revolutionaries explain that they were the ones who broke into the office but they also say that they didn’t kill anyone.  Instead, they broke into the office because they wanted the police to investigate the break-in and discover that the company was a front for a bunch of drug dealers.  “The Organization” is flooding poor and minority neighborhoods with heroin and the revolutionaries want to stop them.  In fact, the revolutionaries have stolen four million dollars worth of heroin.  Now, they want Virgil to help them.

Even though Virgil is sympathetic to the revolutionaries, he’s still a cop and he can’t get directly involved with illegal activities.  Instead, he agrees to not arrest the revolutionaries and to continue his investigation, in the hope of bringing down the Organization.  It’s not going to be easy, of course.  There’s evidence that the Organization may even have agents inside the San Francisco police department.

As far as the Virgil Tibbs movies are concerned, The Organization is slightly better than They Call Me Mister Tibbs! but it’s nowhere near as good as the one that started it all, In The Heat of the Night.  Probably the biggest flaw with The Organization is that Virgil has to share the spotlight with the revolutionaries.  With the exception of Raul Julia (who plays a former drug dealer named Juan), none of the revolutionaries are particularly memorable characters and their plan for taking down The Organization is so unnecessarily convoluted that it’s hard to believe that Virgil would go along with it.

On the plus side, The Organization works fairly well as a conspiracy thriller.  It does manage to create a consistent atmosphere of unease and mistrust.  This is one of those films where people are constantly getting shot by unseen gunmen mere minutes after getting arrested and the fact that even cool and in-control Virgil Tibbs can’t save them does a lot towards creating a nice sense of paranoia.  The films end on perhaps the most downbeat note of all of the Virgil Tibbs movies, suggesting that, in the end, everything we’ve just watched was for nothing.


Other Entries In The 18 Days Of Paranoia:

  1. The Flight That Disappeared
  2. The Humanity Bureau
  3. The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover
  4. The Falcon and the Snowman
  5. New World Order
  6. Scandal Sheet
  7. Cuban Rebel Girls
  8. The French Connection II
  9. Blunt: The Fourth Man 
  10. The Quiller Memorandum
  11. Betrayed
  12. Best Seller
  13. They Call Me Mister Tibbs