If Lucy Fell (1996, directed by Eric Schaeffer)


Lucy (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Joe (Eric Schaeffer) are two platonic best friends and roommates.  They have a pact.  If they don’t find true love by the time Lucy turns 30, they’ll hold hands while jumping off of the Brooklyn Bridge.  Now, Lucy’s 30th birthday is rapidly approaching and Lucy still hasn’t found the right man!  Meanwhile, Joe is obsessed with Jane (Elle MacPherson) but he hasn’t had sex in five years!  It looks like Lucy and Joe are going to have to commit suicide.  They made a pact, after all and single New Yorkers don’t break pacts.  Fortunately, things start to look up when Joe finally talks to Jane and Lucy meets a weirdo artist named Bwick (Ben Stiller).  Or could Lucy and Joe are actually meant to be together?

If Lucy Fell was briefly a big deal in 1996 because it featured both supermodel Elle MacPherson and Ben Stiller.  (It’s easy to forget how popular Ben Stiller was in the mid-90s.)  Once the film came out, people discovered that it was actually about the bland characters played by Sarah Jessica Parker and Eric Schaeffer and the film bombed at the box office.  Though it may be forgotten today, If Lucy Fell is still the epitome of the type of independent romantic comedy that a lot of directors made in the 90s.  Take a plot line that probably wouldn’t have made it beyond the table read if it was an episode of Friends (it’s interesting to note that both MacPherson and Stiller later made guest appearances on that sitcom), toss in some “alternative” music, and beg someone with a well-known name to take a supporting role.  The film is also interesting as an example of how a generally unappealing actor can play the lead in a romantic comedy and get to make out with both Elle MacPherson and Sarah Jessica Parker.  Just write and direct the film and then cast yourself in the lead role.  Congratulations to Eric Schaeffer for figuring it all out.

I’ve been feeling nostalgic for the 90s.  I guess everyone eventually feels nostalgic for the decade in which they grew up.  But nostalgia can be a harsh taskmaster and it’s important to remember that not all 90s independent films were Pulp Fiction and Fargo.  Quite a few of them were If Lucy Fell.  Ben Stiller has some funny moments, though they’re so cartoonish that they seem like they belong in a different film.  Elle MacPherson is beautiful, even if her character never makes sense.  Sarah Jessica Parker seems like she deserves better than everything the film offered to her.  Eric Schaeffer is dull but at least he got along with the director.  12 year-old Scarlett Johansson has a small role.  If Lucy Fell was a film that could only have been made in 1996 and it was forgotten by 1997.

A Movie A Day #341: Hot Pursuit (1987, directed by Steven Lisberger)


When high school student Dan Bartlett (John Cusack) is late arriving at the airport, he finds himself watching as the plane taking his girlfriend (Wendy Gazelle) and her parents (Monte Markham and Shelley Fabares) to the Caribbean takes off without him.  Dan catches the next available flight and tries to track down his girlfriend and her family.  Helping him out is a Ganja-smoking islander (Keith David) and a crusty sea captain (Robert Loggia).  Complicating matters is that Dan’s girlfriend has been kidnapped by pirates (Jerry Stiller and his son, Ben)!

John Cusack got his start appearing in dopey 80s teen comedies and Hot Pursuit shows why he eventually declared that he would never appear in another one.  Hot Pursuit relies on the idiot plot.  If everyone in the movie didn’t act like an idiot, there wouldn’t be much of a movie.  Cusack seems bored in his role, only waking up towards the end of the movie when he gets to pick up a machine gun and blow away the pirates’ hideout.  (Cusack even gets to do a Rambo-style yell while riddling the building with bullets.)  This was Ben Stiller’s film debut and he has a few funny scenes.  The movie probably would have worked better if Stiller and Cusack had switched roles.

One final note; Hot Pursuit was produced by Pierre David, who also produced several of David Cronenberg’s early films.  It’s probably not a coincidence that Wendy Gazzelle’s character is named Lori Cronenberg.

Film Review: Permanent Midnight (dir by David Veloz)


Meh.  Who cares?

That was largely my reaction to watching the 1998 film, Permanent Midnight.  In this film, Ben Stiller plays Jerry Stahl, a real-life screenwriter who had a fairly successful career going in the 80s and early 90s.  He came out to Los Angeles looking to be a serious writer but, instead, he ended up writing for silly puppet show and getting addicted to heroin.  He also married a British television executive named Sandra (Elizabeth Hurley), so that Sandra could get her green card.  When the star of a show that he writes for tells him to kick his habit or lose his job, Jerry ends up smoking crack cocaine with a new dealer (Peter Greene).  When Sandra tells him that she’s pregnant, Jerry responds by shooting up in the bedroom.  When he’s trusted to spend the day taking care of his baby daughter, he drives her around the seediest sections of Los Angeles while he searches for his drug dealer.  As the baby cries beside him, Jerry shoots heroin into his jugular.  Jerry ends up unemployable and abandoned by every friend that he had.  He works at a fast food restaurant, or at least he does until he meets another recovering addict (Maria Bello).  She’s the one to whom he tells his story, in between sex and bouts of impotence.  In the end, what’s left for Jerry Stahl to do but write a book and then a movie about his life as a junkie?

It’s a harrowing story and I guess Stahl deserves some credit for writing the screenplay for a movie that doesn’t exactly make him look good.  However, Permanent Midnight runs into the same problem that afflicts most movies about drug addiction.  With very few exceptions, drug addicts are just not that interesting.  The only thing more boring than watching someone shoot up is then having to listen to that person explain why he shoots up.  (Trainspotting is the obvious exception but Trainspotting benefits from Danny Boyle’s frenetic direction, Ewan McGregor’s explosively charismatic lead performance, a witty script, and a killer soundtrack.  These are things that Permanent Midnight lacks.)  The film attempts to build up some sympathy for Stahl by telling us about his difficult childhood, his father’s suicide, and his mother’s instability but, in the end, Jerry is a junkie who shoots up in front of his baby.  Regardless of how crappy his childhood was, it’s hard to care about whether or not he ever gets his shit together.  Mostly, you just want someone to step in and make sure he never gets near that baby again.

Permanent Midnight makes another mistake, one that is all too common when it comes to films about troubled artists.  It continually tells us that Jerry is a talented and important writer without ever showing us any evidence of that fact.  We’re supposed to feel bad that Jerry is stuck working on a sitcom called Mr. Chompers but, at no point, does the film really convince us that he deserves anything better.  Everyone says that Jerry is talented but we don’t really get to see any evidence of that fact.  It’s hard not to feel that maybe Jerry should just be happy that, unlike the majority of writers in Los Angeles, he actually has a steady job.

(Jerry does get one good line, when he appears on The Maury Povich Show to promote his book and says, “People always ask, ‘What’s the worst thing heroin drove you to do?’  I always answer, ‘showing up on Maury.'”)

Of course, for most people, the main appeal of seeing Permanent Midnight will be the chance to see Ben Stiller shooting up heroin while soaked in withdrawal sweat.  Stiller gives a serious performance, good enough that you regret that his acting career now seems to mostly consist of starring in bad movies and making cameos in even worse ones.  There’s actually a lot of familiar faces in Permanent Midnight: Elizabeth Hurley, Maria Bello, Fred Willard, Owen Wilson, Sandra Oh, Janeane Garofalo, Andy Dick, and others.  They all give good enough performance but ultimately, this is aimless and ultimately rather frustrating movie.

4 Shots From 4 Films: The Star, The Oscar, In & Out, Tropic Thunder


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films is all about letting the visuals do the talking.

4 Shots From 4 Films

The Star (1952, dir by Stuart Heisler)

The Star (1952, dir by Stuart Heisler)

The Oscar (1966, dir by Russell Rouse)

The Oscar (1966, dir by Russell Rouse)

In & Out (1997, dir by Frank Oz)

In & Out (1997, dir by Frank Oz)

Tropic Thunder (2008, dir by Ben Stiller)

Tropic Thunder (2008, dir by Ben Stiller)

A Movie A Day #25: Next of Kin (1989, directed by John Irvin)


next-of-kinTruman Gates (Patrick Swayze) may have been raised in Appalachia but, now that he lives in Chicago, he’s left the old ways behind.  He has a job working as a cop and his wife (Helen Hunt) is pregnant with their first child.  When Truman’s younger brother, Gerald (Bill Paxton), shows up in town and asks for Truman’s help, Truman gets him a job as a truck driver.  But, on his first night on the job, Gerald’s truck is hijacked by a Sicilian mobster named Joey Rosellini (Adam Baldwin) and Gerald is killed.  Truman’s older brother, Briar (Liam Neeson), soon comes to Chicago and declares a blood feud on the mob.

Of the many action films that Patrick Swayze made between Dirty Dancing and Ghost, Roadhouse may be the best known but Next of Kin is the best.  Next of Kin spends as much examining the family dynamics of Rosellini’s family as it does with Truman’s, suggesting that there is not much of a difference between the two groups.  There’s even a scene where Joey’s uncle (played by Andreas Katsulas) tells Joey that the Sicily was the Appalachia of Italty.  Next of Kin also has a better supporting cast than most of the films that Swayze made during this period.  Along with Paxton and Neeson, the hillbillies are represented by actors like Ted Levine and Michael J. Pollard while Ben Stiller has an early role as Joey’s cousin.  Patrick Swayze gives one of his better performances as Truman but the entire movie is stolen by Liam Neeson, who is a surprisingly believable hillbilly.

2016 In Review: Lisa Picks The 16 Worst Films of 2016!


Well, here’s the time that I know we’ve all been waiting for!  It’s time for me to reveal my picks for the 16 worst films of 2016!

(Why 2016?  Because Lisa doesn’t do odd numbers!)

Now, I should make clear that these are my picks.  They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the other writers here at Through The Shattered Lens.  In fact, I know that a few of them most definitely do not!

What type of year was 2016?  It was a pretty bad one.  There weren’t many memorable films released but there was a lot of mediocrity and disappointment.  Do you know why 2016 was so bad?  I think it’s because, if you add up 2 plus 1 plus 6, you end up with 9, an odd number.  For that same reason, 2017 is going to be much better.  If you add up 2 plus 1 plus 7, you end up with 10, which is an even number that can be cleanly divided.

So fear not!  2017 is going to be a great year!

For now, however, here are my picks for the 16 worst films of 2016!

the-girl-on-the-train

16. The Girl on the Train (dir by Tate Taylor)

15. The Fifth Wave (dir by J Blakeson)

14. Alice Through the Looking Glass (dir by James Bobin)

13. Jane Got A Gun (dir by Gavin O’Connor)

12. Mother’s Day (dir by Garry Marshall)

11. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (dir by Burr Steers)

10. The Sea of Trees (dir by Gus Van Sant)

9. Money Monster (dir by Jodie Foster)

8. Me Before You (dir by Thea Sharrock)

7. Independence Day: Resurgence (dir by Roland Emmerich)

6. Zoolander 2 (dir by Ben Stiller)

5. The Purge: Election Year (dir by James DeMonaco)

4. Paradox (dir by Michael Hurst)

3. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (dir by Zack Snyder)

2. Yoga Hosers (dir by Kevin Smith)

And finally, the worst film of 2016 … drum roll please ….

  1. HARDCORE HENRY! (dir by Ilya Naishuller)

Seriously, Hardcore Henry is one of the few films that I have ever had to walk out on.  I literally got physically ill while watching the film, largely due to the nonstop shaky cam.  Seriously — when your film’s selling point is a technique that literally induces nausea, you’re going to have some problems.  Now, before anyone leaves any angry comments, I did make it a point to go back and watch the rest of Hardcore Henry before making out this list.  Not only does Hardcore Henry feature a nausea-inducing gimmick but it’s also a rather uninspired and dull action film.

Hardcore_(2015_film)

(Feel free to also check out my picks for 2010, 2011, 2012, 20132014, and 2015!)

Agree?  Disagree?  Leave a comment and let us know!  And if you disagree, please let me know what movie you think was worse than Hardcore Henry!

Tomorrow, I will be posting my 10 favorite songs of 2016!

Previous Entries In The Best of 2016:

  1. TFG’s 2016 Comics Year In Review : Top Tens, Worsts, And Everything In Between
  2. Anime of the Year: 2016
  3. 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I Saw In 2016
  4. 2016 in Review: The Best of SyFy
  5. 2016 in Review: The Best of Lifetime

 

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #31: Black and White (dir by James Toback)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by the end of Wednesday, December 7th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

black_and_white_black_white-681253575-large

On November 15th, I recorded the 1999 melodrama, Black and White, off of Encore.

Black and White is a film that I’ve seen several times and I’ve always meant to review it.  It’s an attempt to explore the state of race, rap, crime, and sex in the late 20th century.  It’s also a James Toback film, which means that it contains all of the stuff that appears in every James Toback film: a threesome in the park, improvised dialogue, cameos from famous people playing themselves, an obsession with college basketball games, casual sexism, and a lot of talk about why you should never send “a little boy to do a man’s job.”  By his own admission, the white Toback is obsessed with the black experience but, when you watch a James Toback film, you get the feeling that his entire knowledge of African-American culture comes from watching other movies.

In short, Black and White is probably one of the silliest and most misjudged films that I’ve ever seen.  In fact, it’s so misjudged that it’s compulsively watchable.  Though I’m always hesitant to casually toss around the term “guilty pleasure,” that’s exactly what Black and White is.

Black and White tells several different stories, some of which are connected and some of which are not.  Sam Donager (Brooke Shields) is an independent filmmaker who is attempting to make a documentary about white people who try to act black.  Her husband, Terry (Robert Downey, Jr.), is gay and hits on every man (and boy) that he sees.  Sam and Terry start following around a group of privileged white kids who are obsessed with rap music.  Sam asks them if they want to be black.  They say that they’re going through a phase.

One of the kids is named Wren and he’s played by Elijah Wood.  He doesn’t really do much but every time he shows up in the film, you go, “It’s Elijah Wood!”  And then there’s Marty King (Eddie Kaye Thomas) who is the son of the Manhattan District Attorney (Joe Pantoliano).  Marty’s older brother is Will (William Lee Scott) ,who is some sort of low-level criminal.  And finally, the unofficial leader of the kids is Charlie (Bijou Phillips) and she gets to give a long monologue explaining the various uses of the n-word.

(Their teacher, incidentally, is played by Jared Leto.  If you’ve ever wanted to listen to Jared Leto lecture about the relationship between Othello and Iago, this is the film to see.  That said, the whole Othello and Iago lecture is just kinda randomly tossed in and doesn’t really pay off.)

Charlie is one of the many girlfriends of Rich Bower (Power), who is not only an up-and-coming rap producer but he’s also the head of a criminal organization.  (There’s a lengthy and kinda pointless scene where he and his associates demand money from a club manager played by Scott Caan.)  Rich is also friends with Mike Tyson.  Tyson plays himself and he gets to deliver an entire monologue about how Rich should never send a boy to do a man’s job.

But we’re not done!  Rich’s cousin is Dean Carter (Allan Houston), a college basketball player.  Dean is dating an anthropology graduate student (Claudia Schiffer, giving a hilariously terrible performance) who is obsessed with fertility symbols.  Dean is also being blackmailed by a corrupt cop named Mark Clear.  Guess who plays Mark Clear?

BEN FREAKING STILLER!

Needless to say, Ben Stiller is massively miscast.  He delivers he lines in his trademark comedic fashion, which makes it next to impossible to take him seriously as any sort of threat.  He also has a backstory that is needlessly complex but at least it allows him to say, “I’m Saul of Fucking Tarsus!”

Anyway, almost the entire film was improvised, which is one of those things that probably seemed like a good idea at the time.  A few of the actors do well with the improvisation.  Stiller may be miscast but at least he can come up with stuff to say.  Robert Downey, Jr.’s character may seem out-of-place but again, Downey knows how to keep things interesting.  But the rest of the cast seems to be a bit stranded so we end up with a lot of lengthy scenes of characters struggling to make some sort of sense of Toback’s storyline.

It’s obvious that James Toback felt that this film had something important to say but, instead of any insight, it can only offer up the occasionally strange-as-Hell scene.

Like this scene, for instance, in which Mike Tyson literally attempts to kill Robert Downey, Jr:

Or this weird little scene between Ben Stiller and Joe Pantoliano, which is dominated by Stiller’s odd delivery of his lines:

Or the closing montage, which is actually rather well-put together and makes great use of Michael Fredo’s Free:

Sadly, the video above ends before it gets to the part where we see Claudia Schiffer on a date with Mike Tyson, telling him about fertility symbols.

Anyway, Black and White is one of those films that wants to say something despite not being sure what.  Again, it may ultimately be rather silly but it’s still compulsively watchable.

(For the record, Marla Maples — who also appeared in Maximum Overdrive and was married to future President Donald Trump when this movie was made — has a cameo as a character named Muffy.  We live in a strange fucking world, don’t we?)

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #16: Zoolander 2 (dir by Ben Stiller)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by Wednesday, November 30th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

zoolander_2_poster

On October 14th, I recorded Zoolander 2 off of Epix.

A sequel to the 2001 cult hit, Zoolander 2 came out earlier this year and got absolutely terrible reviews and quickly vanished from theaters.  Watching the film last night, I could understand why it got such terrible reviews.  Zoolander 2 is not only a terrible movie but it’s also a rather bland one.  Somehow, the blandness is even more offensive than the badness.

Zoolander 2 opens with Justin Bieber getting assassinated and Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) being forced to come out of retirement and discover why pop stars are being targeted.  And, of course, Zoolander can’t do it without the help of Hansel (Owen Wilson)!  Penelope Cruz is in the film as well, playing  Zoolander’s handler and essentially being wasted in a role that could have been played by anyone.

Oh!  And Will Ferrell returns as well.  Ferrell gives a performance that essentially shouts out to the world, “Fuck you, I’m Will Ferrell and no one is going to tell Will Ferrell to tone his shit down!”

Actually, I think everyone in the world is in Zoolander 2.  This is one of those films that is full of cameos from people who probably thought a silly comedy would be good for their image.  For instance, there’s a huge number of journalists who show up playing themselves.  Matt Lauer shows up and I get the feeling that we’re supposed to be happy about that.  There was a reason why people cheered when the sharks ate him in Sharknado 3.

You know who else shows up as himself?  Billy Zane!  And Billy Zane has exactly the right type of attitude for a film like this.  He shows up and he mocks the whole enterprise by giving the Billy Zaniest performance of Billy Zane’s career.  For that matter, Kiefer Sutherland also shows up as himself.  I’m not really sure what Kiefer was doing in the film but he makes sure to deliver all of his lines in that sexy growl of his.  Kiefer knows what we want to hear.

You may notice that I’m not talking about the plot of Zoolander 2.  That’s largely because I couldn’t follow the plot.  This is an incredibly complicated film but it’s not complicated in a funny way.  Instead, it’s complicated in a way that suggests that the film was made up on the spot.  It’s as if the cast said, “We’re all funny!  Just turn on the camera and we’ll make it work!”

The problem with Zoolander 2 is obvious.  The first film pretty much exhausted the comic possibilities of making a spy film about shallow and stupid models.  Don’t get me wrong — the first film did a good job but it’s not like it left any material untapped.  But I would ask you to indulge me as I imagine an alternate reality.

Consider this: Terrence Malick was reportedly a huge fun of Zoolander.

Let’s take just a minute to imagine a world in which Ben Stiller asked Terrence Malick to write and direct Zoolander 2.  And let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that Malick agreed!

Just think about it — 4 hours of Zoolander and Hansel staring up at the sky and thinking about nature.  “What is this thing that causes the heart of man to beat?” Zoolander asks.  “Are we nature or has nature become us?” Hansel replies.

That would have been a fun film!

Insomnia File No. 17: The Suburbans (dir by Donal Lardner Ward)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

sub

Last night, if you were still awake at 3:45 in the morning, you could have turned over to Starz and watched the 1999 comedy, The Suburbans!

And, in all probability, you would have fallen asleep before it was over.

This film tells the story of four guys who used to be in a band.  The name of the band was The Suburbans and, in 1980, they had a hit with a song called … wait … what the Hell was that song called?  See, this is an example of how slapdash The Suburbans was.  The whole point of the film is that they had a hit song but the movie goes off in some many different and random tangents that I can’t even remember what the name of this very important song was.  All I remember is that the song didn’t really sound like it would ever be a hit (no, not even in the 80s) and that the four guys really didn’t seem like they would ever be rock stars.

Anyway, The Suburbans only had that one hit and now, nearly twenty years later, all the band members are leading conventional lives in the suburbs.  Oddly, they all appear to live in the same suburb and they’re all still best friends.  Craig Bierko is the former lead guitarist, who is now a doctor of some sort.  Will Ferrell (yes, that Will Ferrell) is the former bass player who now works with computers.  Tony Guma is the overweight drummer who is at the center of a lot of scenes, presumably because Guma co-wrote the script.  Donal Lardner Ward is the former lead singer.  Along with starring in the film, Ward also directed it.  That might explain why, despite not being a very interesting character, everyone in the film is portrayed as being in love with him.

The Suburbans briefly reunite to play at Ferrell’s wedding.  A music executive (Jennifer Love Hewitt) happens to be at the wedding.  It turns out that she used to love The Suburbans and their one hit!  (The problem is that Jennifer Love Hewitt was only 20 when this film was made, which means that, when the Suburbans were famous, she would have only been a year old.)  She arranges for The Suburbans to reunite for a pay-per-view special and…

…and then a lot of stuff happens.  And I do mean a lot of stuff.  But what’s odd is none of that stuff adds up to anything.  Ward’s girlfriend (played by Amy Brenneman) is briefly threatened by Hewitt but, fear not — Donal Lardner Ward is the world’s greatest guy!  Occasionally, one member of the Suburbans might argue with another member of the Suburbans but fear not — they’re all great guys!

What’s funny is that, after spending 81 minutes with these characters and listening to their oppressively relentless quippy dialogue, you still don’t feel like you know a damn thing about any of them.  You never even find out how The Suburbans first got together or what inspired them to write their one hit in the first place.  Nor do you find out why they broke up.  They’re just sort of there and we’re supposed to care.

I guess I should mention that Ben and Jerry Stiller are both in the film.  They play Hewitt’s bosses and it’s painful to watch both of them.  Apparently, the director just said, “Ben, say something funny!” and the result was an endless scene of Ben Stiller saying whatever popped into his head.

(I should also probably mention that J.J. Abrams produced this movie.  Yes, that J.J. Abrams…)

If you track down the Suburbans on DVD, you’ll notice that the cover art is pretty much centered around Jennifer Love Hewitt and Will Ferrell.  What’s funny is that neither Hewitt nor Ferrel really get to do much in the movie.  (That said, Ferrell’s performance is enjoyably odd, even if it does feel totally out of the place.)  The entire movie is centered around Tony Guma and Donal Lardner Ward.  After all, they wrote and directed the damn thing.  So, I guess if you’re a Tony Guma fan, The Suburbans is the movie for you!

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger