Here’s the new trailer for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood!

I’m having a lot of mixed feelings right now, everyone.

Last night, my DVR overheated and I not only burned my thumb unplugging it but I’ve also probably lost the 265 things that I had recorded on there, including every episode of Twin Peaks: The Return.  I called our provider about it and they are sending over a new DVR, which should arrive in two days.  Personally, I was hoping they would say, “We’ll get someone out to your house immediately” but no.

So, that really sucks.  However, as annoyed as I am by all that, I’m still happy because we have a new trailer for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and it looks really, really good!  As I sit here writing this, I’m waiting to here what type of reception the film got when it premiered on Cannes today.  For now, though, enjoy the new trailer!  Tarantino has said that the film takes place over three separate days in Hollywood and the trailer features Leonardo DiCaprio (as Rick Dalton) returning to Hollywood, Brad Pitt (as Dalton’s stunt double) apparently meeting the Manson Family, and Margot Robbie (as Sharon Tate) watching herself in the Wrecking Crew.  Among the huge supporting cast, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, Dakota Fanning, Luke Perry, Margaret Qualley, and Al Pacino are specifically highlighted.

How exactly Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, which is being advertised as being a bit of a swinging comedy, will deal with the horrific reality of Charles Manson is something that I’ve been wondering around ever since the project was first announced.  Is Brad Pitt maybe going to kill him, just as Eli Roth killed Hitler at the end of Inglourious Basterds?  We’ll find out soon!

For now, here’s the trailer:

6 Good Films That Were Not Nominated For Best Picture: The 1990s

Continuing our look at good films that were not nominated for best picture, here are 6 films from the 1990s.

Dazed and Confused (1993, dir by Richard Linklater)

 An ensemble cast that was full of future stars, including future Oscar winners Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck.  A killer soundtrack.  A script full of quotable lines.  Dazed and Confused seemed like it had everything necessary to score a Best Picture nomination and perhaps it would have if the film had been set in Los Angeles instead of the suburbs of Atlanta.  Unfortunately, Richard Linklater’s classic was overlooked.

Casino (1995, dir by Martin Scorsese)

Martin Scorsese’s epic gangster film had all the glitz of Vegas and Joe Pesci to boot!  Despite being one Scorsese’s best, the Academy largely overlooked it, giving a nomination to Sharon Stone and otherwise ignoring the film.

Normal Life (1996, dir by John McNaughton)

Life, love, crime, and death in the suburbs!  John McNaughton’s sadly overlooked film featured award-worthy performances from both Ashley Judd and Luke Perry and it definitely deserves to be better-known.  Unfortunately, the Academy overlooked this poignant true crime masterpiece.

Boogie Nights (1997, dir by Paul Thomas Anderson)

Paul Thomas Anderson first made a splash with this look at the porn industry in the 70s and 80s.  Along the way, he made Mark Wahlberg a star and briefly rejuvenated the career of Burt Reynolds.  Though both Reynolds and Julianne Moore received nominations, the film itself went unnominated.  Oh well.  At least Dirk Diggler got to keep his award for best newcomer.

Rushmore (1998, dir by Wes Anderson)

Though the film was nominated for its screenplay, the Wes Anderson classic missed out on best picture  Even more surprisingly, Bill Murray was not nominated for his funny yet sad performance.  Murray would have to wait until 2003’s Lost In Translation to receive his first nomination.  Meanwhile, a Wes Anderson film would not be nominated for best picture until Grand Budapest Hotel achieved the honor in 2015.  (That same year, Boyhood became the first Richard Linklater film to be nominated.)

10 Things I Hate About You (1999, dir by Gil Junger)

This wonderful take on Shakespeare not only introduced the world to Heath Ledger but it also proved that a teen comedy need not be stupid or misogynistic.  Because it was viewed as being a genre film (and a comedy to boot!), it didn’t get any love from the Academy but it continues to be loved by film watchers like me!

Up next, in an hour or so, the 2000s!

Horror Film Review: Buffy the Vampire (dir by Fran Rubel Kuzui)

Watching this movie was such a strange experience.

Now, of course, I say that as someone who grew up watching and loving the television version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Back when Buffy was on TV, I was always aware that the character had first been introduced in a movie but every thing I read about Buffy said that the movie wasn’t worth watching.  It was a part of the official Buffy mythology that Joss Whedon was so unhappy with what was done to his original script that he pretty much ignored the film when he created the show.

So, yes, the 1992 movie version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer showed how Buffy first learned that she was a slayer, how she fought a bunch of vampires in Los Angeles, and how her first watcher met his end.  But still, Joss Whedon was always quick to say that the film should not be considered canonical.  Whenever anyone on the TV show mentioned anything from Buffy’s past, they were referencing Joss Whedon’s original script as opposed to the film that was eventually adapted from that script.  (For instance, on the tv series, everyone knew that Buffy’s previous school burned down.  That was from Whedon’s script.  However, 20th Century Fox balked at making a film about a cheerleader who burns down her school so, at the end of the film version, the school is still standing and romance is in the air.)  In short, the film existed but it really didn’t matter.  In fact, to be honest, it almost felt like watching the movie would somehow be a betrayal of everything that made the televisions series special.

Myself, I didn’t bother to watch the film version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer until several years after the television series was canceled and, as I said at the start of the review, it was a strange experience.  The movie is full of hints of what would make the television series so memorable but none of them are really explored.  Yes, Buffy (played here by Kristy Swanson) has to balance being a teenager with being a vampire slayer but, in the film, it turns out to be surprisingly easy to do.  Buffy is just as happy to be a vampire slayer as she is to be a cheerleader.  In fact, one of the strange things about the film is just how quickly and easily Buffy accepts the idea that there are vampires feeding on her classmates and that it’s her duty to destroy them.  Buffy’s watcher is played by Donald Sutherland and the main vampire is played by Rutger Hauer, two veteran actors who could have played these roles in their sleep and who appear to do so for much of the film.  As for Buffy’s love interest, he’s a sensitive rebel named Oliver Pike (Luke Perry).  On the one hand, it’s fun to see the reversal of traditional gender roles, with Oliver frequently helpless and needing to be saved by Buffy.  On the other hand, Perry and Swanson have next to no chemistry so it’s a bit difficult to really get wrapped up in their relationship.

I know I keep coming back to this but watching the movie version of Buffy is a strange experience.  It’s not bad but it’s just not Buffy.  It’s like some sort of weird, mirror universe version of Buffy, where Buffy starts her slaying career as a senior in high school and she never really has to deal with being an outcast or anything like that.  (One gets the feeling that the movie’s Buffy wouldn’t have much to do with the Scooby Gang.  Nor would she have ever have fallen for Angel.)  Kristy Swanson gives a good performance as the film version of Buffy, though the character is not allowed to display any of the nuance or the quick wit that made the television version a role model for us all.  Again it’s not that Buffy the movie is terrible or anything like that.  It’s just not our Buffy!

Back to School Part II #26: Terminal Bliss (dir by Jordan Alan)


There’s been a long-standing rumor floating around the internet that, before she became a star, Sandra Bullock appeared in the 1992’s Terminal Bliss, a film about decadent, upper class teenagers.  Well, having watched the film on YouTube, I can tell you that, unless she’s an extra, Sandra Bullock is not in the film.

That said, she does have a connection to Terminal Bliss.  In 1987, when a 17 year-old aspiring director named Jordan Alan was attempting to raise the money for his film debut, he shot a few scenes and put together a promotional trailer for his unmade film.  Sandra Bullock does appear in that trailer.  Watch it below:

On the strength of the trailer, Alan was able to raise 3 million to make his movie.  (Charmingly, Alan has written that he raised the money while “playing hooky.”)  Alan shot the film in 1989 and there was even some news coverage about this teenager making his directorial debut.

As for the film itself, it appears that it wasn’t released until 1992, presumably to capitalize on the performance of Luke Perry, who, at that time, was starring on Beverly Hills 90210.  According to Wikipedia, the film was not particularly embraced by critics, nor did it do much at the box office.  It’s never been released on DVD or Blu-ray.

The only reason I knew about Terminal Bliss is because I like to collect those old Screen World Annuals and I came across Terminal Bliss in the back of the 1992 edition.  The name immediately caught my attention, largely because I once used the phrase “terminal bliss” in a poem and was rather unfairly criticized by a creative writing professor who felt I was “trying too hard.”

John Willis's Screenworld Annual (It may say 1993 on the cover but it actually covered the film released in 1992)

John Willis’s Screenworld Annual (It may say 1993 on the cover but it actually covered the film released in 1992)

However, Terminal Bliss is not an easy film to track down.  As I mentioned earlier, I finally found the movie on YouTube but it was the French-language version.  Though I do speak French (though, admittedly, with a Texas accent), I would hardly call myself fluent and, as I watched Terminal Bliss, I came to realize just how rusty my French has gotten.  (I’m definitely going to have to brush up on it, if I end up fleeing to Canada after the presidential election.)  Fortunately, I was able to follow the film enough to review it.

Terminal Bliss tells the story of two teenage friends.  They’re both rich.  They’re both neglected by their parents.  At the start of the film, they both seek escape through drugs.  Alex (Timothy Owen) is the one who often hides his sensitivity behind a wall of cynicism.  John (Luke Perry) is the charming and sociopathic one, the one who lives his entire life seeking to satisfy his own urges.  When he finds out that Alex has a crush on Stevie (Estee Chandler), John responds by introducing Stevie to cocaine and getting her pregnant.  When Stevie has an abortion, an angry Alex checks into drug rehab.  When Alex comes out of rehab, he’s still as angry and as cynical as he ever was.  He continues to hang out with his friends, the most recognizable of which is a drug dealer played by Alexis Arquette.  Alex also continues to be friends with John, despite the fact that John seems to be getting more and more out-of-control in his behavior.  Alex refuses to intervene, saying that John is responsible for his own decisions.  After John rapes Stevie’s sister, he invites Stevie and Alex to join him out at his family’s lake house.  When, over the course of the weekend, John drowns, Alex can only coldly watch.  Why help?  As Alex sees it, John would probably be happier dead anyway…

So, yeah, Terminal Bliss is not exactly a cheerful movie.  In fact, it’s such a dark and borderline nihilistic film that it reminded me of the type of stories that I used to write when I was 17 years old.  Terminal Bliss has “teen trying to be edgy” written all over it but you know what?  That actually works to the film’s advantage.  This is a film about teenagers that was actually made by a teenager and, while it may not be a perfect movie, it is a pretty good example of what the world looks like when you’re 19 and trying to be a cynic.  Say what you will about the film’s storyline, there’s an honesty to its outlook.  Only when you’re 19 would you have the guts to make a commercial movie that was this relentlessly bleak.  That bleakness sets Terminal Bliss apart from a lot of other films that I’ve reviewed for this series.

Because I was watching a dubbed version, I’m not going to try to judge the performances.  But I will say that I really liked the look of Terminal Bliss.  Jordan Alan — who, according to his Wikipedia page, is still working as an independent filmmaker — creates and maintains an almost oppressive atmosphere of ennui.  This is a film that often seems to take place in the shadows and even the liveliest of scenes (a party, a wedding reception) seem to be overcast.  When, at the start of the film, we see Timothy Owen and Luke Perry’s shadowy forms, playing lacrosse on a sunny morning, we’re put right into the proper existential mood.  When the camera focuses on Owen’s often passive face, we feel as if we are looking straight into the heart of ennui.

So, Terminal Bliss does not feature Sandra Bullock but it’s still an interesting artifact of the time in which it was made.

Following The Amazon Prime Recommendation Worm #1

I know everyone has been dying for me to do another one of those movie roundup things I used to do. And by everyone, I mean no one. Well, this is gonna be sort of like that again. Late last year I decided to conduct a little experiment. On Amazon Prime you can go to a section marked “Customers Also Watched”. In there is exactly what you think. I thought it might be interesting to pick a movie, then when I finish it, take the first recommendation in that section and keep repeating this until I run out of recommendations. Basically traversing a probabilistic graph like an ant algorithm except there may be no end point and since it’s just me, there’s no convergence on a path. It’s just me following the probabilistic graph generated by what other customers picked to watch after they watched something else. I started on December 18th, 2015. Since I can’t always get around to doing full reviews of things, I thought it would be fun to give you occasional updates with little reviews of each of these films. And boy are there some strange ones. This is going to be a big one with 34 films I’ve watched so far. I’ll try to do these in shorter amounts in the future. We’ll see how long I can keep this up. I will keep poster art out here because of the enormous number of films in this one. Here we go!

  1. Seduction: The Cruel Woman (1985, dir. Monika Treut & Elfi Mikesch) – Last year I watched a film called Female Misbehavior (1992) by Monika Treut. She is a German director who, at least in the 1980s, made really bizarre arty sex movies. This was no exception. While I did enjoy Female Misbehavior quite a bit, this was just weird. But kind of weird in a good way. It follows a woman who runs a place that caters to people’s fetishes. That’s really it. There’s not much to say in retrospect except to make sure you are in that experimental arty mood if you are going to sit down and watch this. If you are, then you could possibly enjoy it. I kind of did.
  2. Satan’s Slave (1976, dir. Norman J. Warren) – This one just wasn’t any good. It was a 1970s British horror film that reminded me of the awful Virgin Witch (1972). It was just plain boring. A girl goes and stays in a house with family and gets caught up in a cult. Or at least that’s the plot summary. It’s just boring stuff that tries to build an atmosphere and has a few “scary” sequences. Not worth your time.
  3. Cruel Passion (1977, dir. Chris Boger) – This in an adaptation of the Marquis de Sade’s Justine. Unfortunately, it’s almost as boring as actually reading the original book. The general story is about a girl who is cast out and goes from place to place being taken advantage of sexually. So wait, that means Lars Von Trier got Dogville from Justine and Nymphomaniac from Anita: Swedish Nymphet (1973). Interesting. Far more interesting than this lousy sexploitation movie. She really doesn’t do a whole lot of wandering. She really isn’t taken advantage of that much either. At least it knew how to end itself properly. By that I mean it had her killed off. You are better off with Justine de Sade from 1972 instead.
  4. Her and She and Him (1970, dir. Max Pécas) – This is one of those movies put out by Audubon Films. They brought a lot of foreign sex related films to the U.S. and dubbed them. This was one of them. It’s actually pretty offensive. A naive exchange student from Sweden shows up in Paris and winds up in a screwed up lesbian relationship with an older woman. Meanwhile, a young man is in a messed up gay relationship. Both the lesbian and the gay guy are portrayed as damaged or just plain weird. Of course the two young people end up together and say some stupid things to imply that being straight is normal, but we should still feel sorry for the homosexuals. Do I even have to say skip this one? Oh, except there is one funny goof in this movie. The young girl goes down on the older lady who is standing in a well lit room. Yet, her lower half must be in a different place cause it’s like nighttime down there.
  5. Virgin Machine (1988, dir. Monika Treut) – This movie is about a German woman who becomes fascinated by sexual things outside the perceived “norms”. As a result, she ultimately winds up in San Francisco. It’s arty for sure, but you can still kind of follow along here. There is the scene where the male impersonator simulates ejaculation with a beer bottle. However, the only thing really worth seeing here are the few scenes with Susie Sexpert/Susie Bright. I didn’t know who she was, but she’s apparently well known in my neck of the woods. You can find her online. She has been known as the “Pauline Kael of Porn”. People probably know her best as playing Jesse in the Wachowski’s movie Bound (1996) as well as being a technical advisor on the film. The few scenes with her are rather interesting. I could have watched a whole movie where the lead character just talked to her. Too bad she doesn’t.
  6. The Immoral One (1980, dir. Claude Mulot) – My advice here is to simply not watch it on Amazon Prime. They edited it heavily. Shouldn’t surprise me I guess since it’s made by the director of the porn film Pussy Talk (1975). It’s about a woman who is in a car accident that recovers from her amnesia by listening to audio tapes. It’s just a thin excuse to show her as a call girl going to her clients. Unfortunately, the second anything starts it just cuts away to the next non-sex scene. It’s really abrupt like you’ve just come to the end of a Godfrey Ho movie. And it’s a real shame to cause the lead actress is very pretty and the movie is well shot. The sex scenes are probably very well done, but you won’t see them on Amazon Prime. Too bad. Also, a little strange considering I believe Her and She and Him had hardcore penetration in one scene. Whatever.
  7. Sexus (1965, dir. José Bénazéraf) – Oh, god! This was terrible. It’s one of those movies where seriously nothing happens. I think Michael Snow’s Wavelength (1967) had more action than this. A girl gets kidnapped and she kind of falls in love with her captors and things fall apart. It’s the worst kind of foreign arthouse garbage. Just stay away from this thing. I really can’t stand Godard. I’m really not even a fan of his first film Breathless. Take Breathless and remove anything enjoyable about it and make it about a kidnapping. That’s this movie.
  8. The Lickerish Quartet (1970, dir. Radley Metzger) – I like my review on Letterboxd: “That was an artsy and pretentious mess.” Yes, it is. It’s about two older people and young man who watch porn films together. Then they go to a carnival and bring a woman back who they think was in a movie they watched. What follows is a film really wanting to be something akin to Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad (1961). A lot of arty stuff and a lot of stuff that just screams: “You wouldn’t understand if I told you” nonsense. It even tries to get really meta about it all at the end. Don’t bother with this. Go watch Last Year at Marienbad instead. It’s wonderful!
  9. Sweet Ecstasy (1962, dir.Max Pécas) – Back to Max again. This time he brought along Elke Sommer to be in a film that wants to be something akin to Antonioni’s films with Monica Vitti. Except it’s stupid bad foreign upper class stuff that you saw a lot during this period. My biggest problem with this movie, other than that it sucked, is the burning boat scene. There’s a part where the adult children are on a boat having some sort of auction where they have Elke Sommer tied up. The boat catches on fire and they all flee onto lifeboats. They then realize they left Elke behind and rescue her. Afterwards, they try to punish the guy who accidentally set the boat on fire. They make him do stupid childish things. It’s dumb. But what pisses me off is that while people are fleeing the room where Elke is we can clearly see her tied, not gagged, but not screaming for help. Sorry, but once you see it, then you just keep yelling at the screen that it was your own damn fault for letting them tie you up and then saying nothing as the room burned. Regardless, more worthless foreign stuff.
  10. The Curious Female (1970, dir. Paul Rapp) – It took ten of these, but I finally hit one I would recommend. This movie takes place in the future where apparently a master computer rules over everything. However, instead of making everyone “moral”, it makes them all orgy bisexual loving folks. Some of them gather in a place where they can watch old movies that show how people used to live. It’s certainly is weird. They only watch two films. The first is a silent movie where a vacuum salesman shows up and gets screwed by the lady of the house. Then they watch some movie called The Three Virgins. That makes up the rest of the film. It cutting between the film and the folks in the room watching it, who by the way, are also actors within the film they are watching. The Three Virgins thing revolves around a computer dating business and what happens when a guy comes in looking for a virgin. There’s only two things I really want to mention here. One, is the black lesbian character named Pearl. I watched several lesbian movies directed by women at the beginning of last year from the past 10 years or so and this was a much better character. The movies I watched were like Loving Annabelle (2006) or Bloomington (2010). They quickly turned into basically softcore porn, tried to make lesbianism as forbidden as possible, and just wouldn’t stop to let us actually get to know them a little. Pearl is just a girl who figures out that she’s still a virgin at her age because she likes girls instead. That’s it! We get to know her a bit and she just discovers that about herself. Nice, simple, and positive. Then there’s the extremely over the top gay guy who comes into the computer dating place. He’s an odd duck. He’s every stereotype you can think of, but at the same time he stands up for himself and doesn’t take anyone’s crap. He’s interesting. Oh, also we find out that 13 year old girls are taken to the “elderly gentleman” to lose their virginity in the future. Yes, just the girls. It never says where the guys are taken though and they obviously don’t keep their virginity in the future either. I recommend this one.
  11. Days of Sin and Nights of Nymphomania (1963, dir. Poul Nyrup) – This is just an odd sit. It’s a Danish movie that was again brought over by Audubon Films which means more sex stuff. It’s basically a house party with mostly naked women doing whatever it is they were doing in front of the camera. But then near the end it just seems to turn on a dime into a heist movie that ends with a guy killing a girl, I think, and getting arrested. Some of the stuff with the girls is kind of pretty, but there’s just no reason to subject yourself to this.
  12. Chain Gang Women (1971, dir. Lee Frost) – Spoiler alert! There are no chain gang women in chain gang women. It goes for awhile like a gritty look at men on a chain gang before finally letting a couple of them escape. Then they run into two women. One is attached to one of the guys, but the other rapes her. Then they run into a very young girl who is married to a much older man. They sort of take advantage, sort of go to rescue her, but the old man kills them both and keeps the girl. Just a pointless sexploitation film with a title as accurate as 1,000 Convicts And A Woman.
  13. Savage Abduction (1973, dir. John Lawrence) – This one actually goes under three titles: The Bloody Slaying of Sarah Ridelander, Cycle Psycho, and Savage Abduction. Well, Sarah Ridelander is killed at the beginning, but that death is hardly important enough to be called a “Bloody Slaying” or be in the title. Cycle Psycho at least alludes to the fact that a motorcycle gang is in this, but they are hardly psychos. Strangely, Savage Abduction is the most accurate title. The movie is about a crazy guy who blackmails another guy into getting two young girls for him. He does this because he murders the man’s wife at his request. A motorcycle gang with the word “savage” in their names do the abducting. And by abducting I mean simply pick up two stupid young girls who thought hitching a ride with random motorcyclists was a good idea. The rest of the film is just killing time till it decides it has enough minutes in the runtime to have what little climax it has in store for the audience play out. After Savage Island (1985), I’m beginning to think Fred and Ben Savage are the only good things with “savage” in them.
  14. The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (1967, dir. Harald Reinl) – More like dangle Christopher Lee in our face, take him away, then bring him back for the end. This was pretty bad. Most of the movie you follow two guys and two girls on their way to some castle. The girls basically overreact in fear to everything. However, the guys underreact to everything just running towards the obvious danger. What a waste of time. Making it in the first place, and then me watching it.
  15. Sacred Flesh (2000, dir. Nigel Wingrove) – Wanna watch nuns have sex with each other while the Mother Superior argues with Mary Magdalene? No? Neither did I. This is just nunsploitation that tries to give itself some meaning with the Mother Superior/Mary Magdalene stuff. If I want something in that vein, then that’s what Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971) is for. Seriously, go watch it now. It even looks like it’s available on Amazon now. In the past you had to track down a copy online because the film was being sat on by the studio to a ridiculous degree. Skip Sacred Flesh.
  16. Primitive London (1965, dir. Arnold L. Miller) – And by Primitive London, they mean heavy cynicism and a bunch of stripping. It’s a Mondo movie. Nothing ridiculous like the pond scene from Brutes and Savages (1978) or anything like that. The most interesting things are probably the stripper running from club to club to make money and when they talk to Mods and Rockers. Can’t think of a good stripper movie to recommend really, but as for Mods and Rockers, see Quadrophenia (1979) for the Mods and Rocker (1972) for the Rockers. I’m not sure if it’s become easier to find Rocker now years after I tracked down a copy, but it’s worth it. If memory serves, the movie is easy to find, but English subtitles for the German aren’t. Still worth it. This movie is okay. Nothing to seek out.
  17. The Wild Women of Wongo (1958, dir. James L. Wolcott) – There’s a hell of a title for what is a really boring movie. I know I say boring a lot, but that’s because I never took the SATs. Yeah, sure, that’s a good enough excuse for me. I could explain the plot, but there’s no point. It’s just a 1950s primitive exploitation film that is just some nonsense some people thought up to have some attractive women run around in small outfits and that’s it. No reason to watch this at all.
  18. Bad Girls From Mars (1990, dir. Fred Olen Ray) – Ah, good old Fred Olen Ray. This film tries to be meta about the production of a movie because it’s cheap and that way it doesn’t have to build many sets until it settles on an ending that was already tired even before Sleepaway Camp (1983). And I haven’t even seen that movie yet. I’ll get to it eventually along with Fatal Games (1984), but it’s just a slight twist on the ending of Friday the 13th (1980) because Girls Nite Out (1982) already proved that having it be the mother again was done for. I know I’m getting to be a broken record here, but no. Skip it!
  19. The Nude Set (1957, dir. Pierre Foucaud) – Also called The Fast Set and Mademoiselle Strip-tease. Just a whole lot of stripping. Another primitive exploitation film from overseas. These movies are such a waste of time. I can’t even tell you how unbearable some of them are. However, there is something weird that happens near the end of this film. Up until it happens, the movie is just about a girl and some friends visiting strip clubs. Then seemingly out of nowhere a dream sequence happens that looks like it’s straight out of Fred and Ginger 1930s musical. No joke. And it isn’t even clear that it’s a dream at first either. Then the movie just crashes into it’s ending. Onward! Unfortunately, it’s to more stripping.
  20. Lap Dancing (1995, dir. Mike Sedan) – Think this might have been rushed into production to capitalize on Showgirls (1995)? You’re probably right. Especially when one of the guys even bares a resemblance to Kyle MacLachlan. It’s not good, but at least it didn’t hinge it’s success entirely on a single performance that didn’t hold up like Verhoeven’s film did. As you can tell, I’m not one of those revisionist critics who wants to turn Showgirls and Starship Troopers (1997) into misunderstood masterpieces. They’re both garbage. At least Starship Troopers is entertaining garbage and you can tell yourself Verhoeven was trying to make the whole film like it was a piece of propaganda from the fascist regime within the film. However, you’re better off exploring other Verhoeven films such as Soldier of Orange (1977) or Turkish Delight (1971) that he made before coming to the states. Even Black Book (2006) with its spaghetti western archetypes is more worth your time. As for Lap Dancing, it’s kind of bi-polar. Most of the time it’s just stripping, but then it will suddenly go into full on sentimental mode complete with sad music. It’s about a girl who comes to Hollywood looking for fame and ends up at a strip club that looks like the night club from Atom Egoyan’s Exotica (1994). Or at least it did for me. Skip! And apparently, I can’t stop referencing other movies. I think it’s a disease.
  21. From The Head (2011, dir. George Griffith) – Want to see a film that will probably make my gems list at the end of 2016 now? See From The Head. It’s an indie film that takes place entirely inside the men’s restroom at a strip club. The main character is a bathroom attendant. People come in and go out delivering there bits (literally and figuratively). It does start to drag a bit, but it still pulls through. I like when they had the women’s restroom break and the ladies just used the men’s and neither the guys nor the girls really seemed to care one bit about using the same bathroom. As they shouldn’t. But then they take that away by having their bathroom fixed. Honestly, I think it needed that to liven things up more, but like I said, it still pulls through. The lead, played by the director, is interesting, and it’s a job I don’t think I’ve ever seen given the attention of a full movie. Worth seeing.
  22. Las Vegas Story (2015, dir. Byron Q.) – There really isn’t anything to say about this. A lady with kids is a prostitute in Las Vegas and we just see her go about her stuff as she moves towards trying to open a male escort business. That’s really it. The only thing I remember of interest is that apparently a girl playing the slots was acting too suspicious as a prostitute on the casino floor to the lead actress by simply playing the slots, but later she and a friend will just go right up to a lady at a bar to try and sell her on buying an escort from them. Didn’t get that. This is one of those that I can’t recommend, but I can see other people getting more out of this than I did.
  23. Birthday (2009, dir. James Harkness) – This on the other hand. I can’t see getting anything out of this rambling nonsense. It’s one of those movies that feels like you are sitting in a college liberal arts class where people who have no idea what they are talking about say things they think are profound in the hopes somebody will be impressed. The only difference is it’s a brothel with David Lynch lighting and the prostitutes are the ones talking. Yep. Boring as it sounds. I love when people call something like this a meditation on something. I’m sorry, but I’ve seen that done. This isn’t it.
  24. The Case Of Unfaithful Klara (2009, dir. Roberto Faenza) – A guy hires a private investigator to follow around his girlfriend. The guy basically strings him along under the pretense of protecting his client from being hurt which has ties to his own personal life. Nope! Nope! Nope! Boring! I didn’t care about any of this.
  25. Extase (2009, dir. Cheyenne Carron) – Speaking of not caring about any of this. I didn’t care about this either. It’s once again people yacking in a room with artsy shots and sets. This time it has to do with God. Wow! What a surprise there. This is just one of those short indie arty modeled on good foreign films films that I think is made by a director to simply try things out and hopefully go on to make something better, less derivative, more coherent, and original. However, her other films look like they are just taking the sex and religion thing and running with it. Next!
  26. A Swedish Midsummer Sex Comedy (2009, dir. Ian McCrudden) – Oh, boy! You mean I get to watch several storylines between several people play out at a party where Luke Perry is brought in so people will go see the movie and the characters keep switching from Swedish to English and back? Wow! Don’t sign me up. This is one of those movies that you would have expected Hugh Grant to be in back in the early 1990s like Four Weddings And A Funeral (1994). People have some issues, they come out at a party, and things resolve. I don’t know what to say about this movie except that it’s so not worth your time.
  27. Camembert Rose (2009, dir. Barnabás Tóth) – It’s an indie coming of age story from Hungary that’s reasonably good. Nothing amazing here. A kid who wants to see the world has a bit of a nutty dad who still loves the hell out of him. He leaves and goes somewhere else for awhile, then returns home. Not great, but I kind of enjoyed this one.
  28. Please, Please Me! (2009, dir. Emmanuel Mouret) – Wanna see a modern day French director desperately try to make his own Jacques Tati film and fail? I know you don’t, so skip this. It has a stupid beginning and a stupid ending with mostly a party sequence in between that acts like a really lame and childish version of the restaurant scene from Tati’s Playtime (1967). Just go watch a Tati film instead. There’s no reason to settle for this.
  29. Strange Fits Of Passion (1999, dir. Elise McCredie) – I’ve heard the mermaids singing, and they are trying to tell us to stay away from Strange Fits Of Passion. It’s about a girl who you will spend the entire film screaming at to please let her get laid already so she can calm down. She even has two gay friends who can see her festering and having the female equivalent of blue balls, but do nothing about it. I wanted to step into the film and punch them in the crotch. I know very few people will get the reference at the beginning of this, so go watch the movie I’ve Heard The Mermaids Singing (1987) instead of this movie. So much indie! So much indie! My head is going to explode and dancing suns are going to pop out!
  30. Summer Vacation (2012, dir. Tal Granit & Sharon Maymon) – Luckily, the next film was not only a short, but decent too. It’s from Israel and is about a family who is on vacation when the father runs into a former male lover. Not sure if he’s supposed to be gay or bi, but it doesn’t matter. It’s a nice little film that shows the father’s struggle. Nothing more, nothing less.
  31. Cold Blooded (2007, dir. Sylvie Verheyde) – Back to France for more indie. This movie is supposed to be about a messed up girl and a former soldier, but it’s mainly about the soldier. The stuff with her wasn’t really anything I thought was worthwhile. I could have really just done with a movie about the soldier dealing not only with his past, but his present demons. The lead actor kind of made me think of a French Benicio Del Toro. A definite skip, but I liked the actor and wouldn’t mind seeing him in something else.
  32. Enthralled (2014, dir. Chip Tsao) – This is when Amazon Prime launched me into Asia and I’m still stuck there. This comes to us from Hong Kong. It’s supposed to be about some guys who were friends as kids, then we see them as adults, but if I hadn’t read the plot summary then I wouldn’t have made the connection. As for the dialog and the message, it felt like they kept taking a brick and bashing it into my head to drive home its points. The only thing noteworthy here is that a guy sleeps with both the mother and her son.
  33. Desire (2002, dir. Eung-soo Kim) – Wanna watch a movie about lifeless, soulless, and loveless characters made by a director in love with Zhangke Jia, Robert Bresson, and Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman? If you said yes, then what the hell is wrong with you? This is one of those movies I thought was going to kill me. The only film I can think of that it really reminded me of was Bresson’s The Devil, Probably (1977), but that’s probably just because everything happens with such lifeless acting that Bresson was known for. Heck maybe Marguerite Duras’ India Song (1975) is a more appropriate film to think of based on Desire. I didn’t like either of those movies and they are still better options than Desire. It’s just several people who walk through a series of loveless stuff and empty moments that aren’t what anyone would call life.
  34. Origin Of Monogamy (2013, dir. Min Kyeol) – Sticking with South Korea like Desire, this one was actually not in IMDb at the time. Amazon Prime seems to have a lot of Korean cinema in it, but the titles are alternate and usually not in IMDb. Oh, and of course they don’t subtitle the credits. Heck, even a Korean director quote tweeted me on Twitter, then went on to say that Amazon Prime basically makes Korean cinema more accessible outside of South Korea than it is within the country itself. As for this movie, oh god! The movie begins with a therapist seeing a doctor who tests people for deadly diseases such as AIDS. During the session it comes out that she is manipulating results to make it look like certain men have AIDS which causes them to kill themselves. I’m sure there was more stuff I was supposed to pick up on, but I got stuck on that and that it seemed all the Korean girls wore way too much makeup and lipstick combined with really short dresses. I believe it ends with her deliberately infecting a guy with AIDS so that he will be stuck marrying her. It ends with them in front of a grave stone dressed for a wedding with him looking half dead. I guess that’s where this title comes from. It also goes under the title Sins Of A Marriage.

I got through it! I promise I will try to do this in smaller chunks in the future. Should be interesting to see how long Amazon Prime is going to keep me in South Korea adding these unIMDBd movies into their database.

Hallmark Review: Love in Paradise (2016, dir. Sean McNamara)


I have to admit I was scared going into this. Based on the plot summary it sounded like it was going to be Strawberry Summer Retread: A Country Wedding, Part II. Strawberry Summer was the epic disaster that I can’t possibly summarize and A Country Wedding was about 90 minutes of snide, stupid, ignorant, and redneck dialogue that made both of the characters look like hicks. Also, this movie was directed by the man who keeps bringing us Baby Geniuses sequels and directed 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain (1998). So you can imagine my trepidation going into this movie. But how bad could it be? I mean I like Luke Perry. Well, it turned to out to reasonably good. It has it’s problems, but it’s not bad at all.

First things first though. With this movie, and Jesse Stone: Lost In Paradise, Luke Perry is yet another of the Beverly Hills, 90210 crowd to make their way to Hallmark:

James Eckhouse in Second Chances
Jason Priestley in Expecting A Miracle
Jennie Garth in The Last Cowboy
Shannon Doherty in Growing The Big One
Tori Spelling in Family Plan

Those are just the ones I have reviewed. However, I’m pretty sure we haven’t seen Gabrielle Carteris, Joe E. Tata, Carol Potter, or Brian Austin Green yet. Ian Ziering is busy fighting sharks. And yes, I am aware that Tiffani Thiessen was in Northpole, but I haven’t seen it so it doesn’t count. Same goes for those other Luke Perry Hallmark movies as well.

But back to this movie. It opens up with Luke in front of a green screen, then we get the title card, before it cuts back to this.


I know his character’s name is Avery Ford, but I don’t care. He is Dylan McKay to me now and always. So Dylan here is an aging star of westerns called Aim To Please. And look! They were made by the same people who worked on this film.


Notice that includes Luke Perry himself as a producer. Dylan isn’t a happy man. He doesn’t like hocking beans. Now we meet Heather (Emmanuelle Vaugier) and her father Casey (Tom Butler).


Turns out Casey is a fan of Dylan’s work as a western star. Also, it turns out the hotel/ranch is in Montana. And by Montana, they mean Agassiz, British Columbia, Canada. Well, at least for these shots.



I have to assume the main set is also in the area, but I couldn’t pin it down. They also do a reasonably good job with the license plates too. I think all the major cars in the movie have Montana plates on them.


So, how is Dylan going to end up in the country you ask? Nearly the same way as in Strawberry Summer. The hotel is in trouble and she figures since her father is a bit of a celebrity cowboy it might be mutually beneficial for her and Dylan if he pays a PR visit. But unlike Strawberry Summer, the first words out of Dylan’s mouth are that she could be a crazy person like Kathy Bates in Misery.


I don’t care that he goes anyways. I am just grateful this movie acknowledged that fact. Strawberry Summer just glosses over that she is an obsessed fan who uses her personal connections to lure a celebrity to her small town because she believes she can fix him. Thank you Luke Perry, Tippi Dobrofsky, and Neal Dobrofsky for writing that into this film.

After landing, Dylan buys some boots because you know, he’s just an actor, not a real cowboy. That’s where a problem with this film is. Also, it’s a little wishy washy about it. She kind of acts like the girl in A Country Wedding even commenting on his obviously new and not really his boots. In her case though, it’s not that she’s being a jackass and more that for some reason she doesn’t know what acting is. If Anthony Hopkins had shown up in town, then would she have been expecting him to be a cannibal? The wishy washy part is that basically nobody else thinks that way. Certainly not the father who makes it very clear he knew he wasn’t a real cowboy. He’s an actor who plays one in movies. Movies that happen to make him happy when he watches them.

Well, they go through the standard city slicker in the country bit. Yes, that includes this nonsense.


But what’s nice is that this tapers off within the first 30 minutes or so of the movie. The rest of the time is Dylan, Heather, and Casey just getting to know each other and themselves better. Dylan already knew he wasn’t super happy with where he was in his life, but it won’t mean that he just up and stops acting. That’s one of the really nice things about this movie. He finishes the film with a much more moderate and realistic response to his time with Heather and Casey. Heather gets to know Dylan and generally begins to appreciate what her father sees in him. Up till then she didn’t watch his movies. They don’t take that as far as I would have liked, but it’s quite implied that she understands his acting has brought her dad happiness. As for the dad, it’s a win win situation for him. He gets to hang out with his favorite actor and his daughter is happy as she grows closer to Dylan. At least as close as most Hallmark romances do before just having them end up together.

There is a little subplot with a guy who wants to do something by buying her place, but I really don’t know why they even bothered with it. It barely comes into play.

However, there are two things to notice in this movie.


In that scene the guy who wants to buy up the place shows up to harass Heather. Luke Perry goes right into classic Dylan McKay for that moment. You know, those scenes when he would walk right over and tell someone to back off if they were bothering one of his friends. It’s suddenly Beverly Hills, 90210 for that moment and she might as well be Kelly.

The other thing.


That is Matt Frewer as the local doctor, and that scene is a major missed opportunity. Do you see it? Let me change the line: Name is Marion, but people call me Max. Boom! A John Wayne reference, which was done that way in One Starry Christmas, plus a reference to Matt Frewer as Max Headroom. Too bad.

Ultimately what do you have with Love in Paradise? You have Strawberry Summer and A Country Wedding put into a blender and mixed by screenwriters who knew what they were doing. It works. There are cliches they could have left out, and moments they could have shot for something more meaningful, but it’s Hallmark. I will gladly praise the ones that really rise above, but I’m not going to come down on this one hard for it’s flaws. I recommend it.

Hallmark Review: Jesse Stone: Lost In Paradise (2015, dir. Robert Harmon)


Well, it’s been 5 years since I last watched a Jesse Stone movie. That was Jesse Stone: No Remorse (2010). I remember that one being quite awful. This one isn’t. I hope this is a sign that Hallmark is pivoting when it comes to the material in their films. Yes, it’s just an average detective story, but it looks, feels, and uses much more adult material. Thank goodness! At times I feel like I’m watching Hallmark: The Heart Of Infantile Adults network. Yes, Jesse bitches a little bit about cellphones in this, but I buy that as part of his character, not as something put in to pander to people who don’t like cellphones. In fact, he really doesn’t complain about cellphones in general, but about texting.


The first question on your mind is probably whether you can jump into the series with this film. Yes, but you will feel like you have been dropped into a moving current. You really won’t be lost, but it seems to very much pick up where it left off. In this case, Jesse Stone (Tom Selleck) is working in Paradise, Massachusetts. The movie revolves around an unsolved killing that has been attributed to a man known as the Boston Ripper, played by Luke Perry. But it’s still an open case cause they really can’t quite pin it on him even though they have put him behind bars for three similar murders. Stone is curious to figure it out.


There’s also this subplot involving this girl that Stone finds on the street and helps out. It might have ties to earlier material, but the only tie to the material in this movie I noticed is that helping her is like preventing a possible future victim of someone like the Boston Ripper.


There’s honestly not much else to say. The case is somewhat interesting, but the movie really isn’t about the case in particular. It’s like the title suggests, Jesse Stone is lost in the metaphorical paradise and lives in the literal town of Paradise. It’s about a transitory period in his life. Heck, they even put up this title card at the start just in case you don’t pick up on that.


If you’re used to the usual Hallmark mystery movies, then this isn’t one of them. It’s a welcome change. Nothing special, but I recommend it.

Embracing the Melodrama #44: Normal Life (dir by John McNaughton)

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Out of all the sin-in-the-suburbs films that I’ve watched recently, 1996’s Normal Life is one of the best.  Judging from the lack of reviews of this film online, it also appears to be one of the least known.  So, allow me to rectify that by telling you a little about Normal Life.

In Normal Life, Luke Perry plays Chris Anderson, a seemingly naive police officer.  From the minute that we first see Chris, it’s obvious that he’s a cop.  With his thinning hair, his anonymous mustache, and his deliberately calm and controlled manner, there’s no way that Chris could be anything else.

One night, Chris goes out to a bar and sees Pam (Ashley Judd) getting into a fight with her date and cutting her hand.  Chris, playing the hero, bandages it and then asks her for a dance.  For him, it’s love at first sight.  Soon, Chris is taking Pam on dates to the shooting range and, before you know it, they’re married.  Pam, it soon becomes obvious, is emotionally unstable.  She deals with disagreements by threatening to kill herself and trashing the apartment that she shares with Chris.  She makes little secret of how little respect she has for Chris’s family and she often goes out of her way to embarrass him.  However, Chris will never leave her because he’s in love with the idea of being the only one who can save her.  And, even though Pam may not admit it, she wants to be saved.  Chris gives her stability while Pam gives Chris a taste of excitement that his life would otherwise lack.

Unfortunately, even after Chris loses his job, Pam continues to spend money extravagantly.  Soon, in order to support his wife, Chris starts to utilize his law enforcement experience by robbing banks.  Now that they finally have money, they are able to move to a perfect house in the suburbs and Chris is able to pursue his lifelong dream of opening and running a small used bookstore.

However, Pam eventually discovers that Chris is a bank robber and soon decides that she wants to rob a bank with him.  Chris knows that it’s a mistake to involve the unpredictable Pam but, as the film makes clear, he will always chose her happiness over everything else…

Normal Life was directed by John McNaughton, who also directed the seminal serial killer film Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.  And while Normal Life is a far less disturbing film than Henry, it does utilize a similar technique of emphasizing just how banal Chris’s suburban lifestyle really is.  When Chris isn’t robbing banks or dealing with his suicidal wife, he’s essentially a rather boring guy who is perfectly happy to spend his days running his little bookstore.  The best scenes in the film are the ones where Chris simply walks to the doorway of his house, the placid calmness of the suburbs providing a strong contrast to what we know is going on inside that house and inside Chris’s head.

Of the two lead performers, Ashley Judd has the showier role and she does give a fantastically brave performance, providing an honest and sympathetic portrayal as a character who is not always pleasant to watch.  Luke Perry, however, is even better.  Whereas Judd is playing a character who is literally incapable of hiding her emotions, Perry has to play a character who keeps all of his emotions hidden.  Judd’s performance is almost totally external while Perry’s performance is largely internal and, when those two techniques come together, it tells us all we need to know about why Chris and Pam are fated to be together.

Normal Life is a film that you need to see.  And you can watch it below!