Action Jackson (1988, directed by Craig R. Baxley)


Jericho Jackson (Carl Weathers) is the tough Detroit cop who everyone calls “Action” because I guess Jericho was just too normal a name.  He’s a legend in the department and on the streets of the Motor City.  “Some people say his mother was molested by Bigfoot,” one patrolman says but the truth is simpler.  Jackson was a high school football star before he went to Harvard Law and got his degree.  He could have been an attorney but he decided to become a cop instead.

Unfortunately, Action Jackson is currently Desk Duty Jackson.  When he arrested Sean Dellaplane, the pervert son of auto manufacturer Peter Dellaplane (Craig T. Nelson), Jackson “nearly ripped off the boy’s arm.”  (“He had a spare!” Jackson snarls.)  Everyone says that, since his son’s arrest and his marriage to the beautiful Patrice (Sharon Stone), Peter Dellaplane has turned over a new leaf and is now an honest businessman.  Action Jackson doesn’t buy it.  In fact, he suspects that Dellaplane is responsible for the brutal murder of a union rep.

Though he may be married, Dellaplane still has a mistress.  Sydney Ash (Vanity) is a heroin-addicted singer.  After Dellaplane watches her sing a song, Sydney tells him, “I was expecting a standing ovation.”  “You’re getting one,” Dellaplane replies.  Jackson knows the best way to get to Dellaplane is to get his hands on Sydney.  He better hurry because Action Jackson has been framed for a murder that he didn’t commit and now he’s got every cop and criminal in Detroit after him.

A lot of people will tell you that Action Jackson is a bad movie but I like it.  It’s a tribute to the classic blaxploitation films of the 70s and though the violence may be excessive, it’s all played tongue-in-cheek.  Carl Weathers first suggested the movie to Joel Silver while the two of them were filming Predator and, from the start, Action Jackson is proud to be a B-movie.  There’s no subtext or deeper meaning involved, beyond Action Jackson cleaning up the streets.  Taking it seriously would be a crime.  This is probably the only film where you will ever be able to see Apollo Creed and the dad from Poltergeist face off in hand-to-hand combat.  Of course, whenever Craig T. Nelson throws a punch or a kick, the scene cuts away to disguise the fact that a stuntman is doing most of the work but even that becomes fun to watch for.  Some B-movie have a visible boom mic.  Action Jackson has a stuntman disguised to look like Craig T. Nelson from behind.

If I do have a complaint, it’s that the script is heavy on the one-liners, which makes sense as this film was made shortly after Schwarzenegger revolutionized action film dialogue with “I’ll be back.”  Unfortunately, Weathers wasn’t as good at handling one-liners as Arnie and Bruce Willis were.  As anyone who has seen the first four Rockys can tell you, Carl Weathers was an actor who could create art from a monologue of non-stop trash talk.  As I watched the film, I kept wishing that Action Jackson would do some Apollo Creed-level trash-talking whenever he was fighting the bad guys.  Maybe if he had, there would have been an Action Jackson 2.

Review: Predator 2 (dir. by Stephen Hopkins)


Predator 2

Like any successful genre film, Predator would remain in the consciousness of filmgoers during the late 80’s. The film was that popular and successful. This also meant that the studio who produced and released the film were more than happy to try and replicate what made them a lot of money.  So, a sequel was quickly greenlit within the halls of 20th Century Fox.

Yet, despite the success the first film was able to garner despite some major production problems, this time around luck wasn’t with Predator 2. The follow-up film would have different production issues than the first but they would affect the film in the long run.

First off, John McTiernan wouldn’t be on-board to direct the sequel. His back-to-back successes with Predator and Die Hard has suddenly made him a coveted action director. His schedule would keep him from directing Predator 2 as his slate was already full with The Hunt for Red October being his next film. In comes Stephen Hopkins to helm the sequel.

Yet, the biggest blow to the production would be not being able to get Arnold Schwarzenegger to return in the role of Dutch, the sole survivor of the elite rescue team from the first film. As with most stars and sequels, this time it would be over a salary dispute that would keep Arnold from returning so in comes Danny Glover to take on the sequel’s lead role.

Now, Danny Glover has more than pulled his own action film weight with two Lethal Weapon films already under his belt, but in terms of on-screen charisma he would be a major downgrade from the presence Schwarzenegger provided the first film. But Glover was more than game to take on the role of Lt. Harrigan of the LAPD as the setting for the sequel moves from the steaming jungle canopy of Central America to the blistering asphalt and concrete jungle of gang-ridden Los Angeles.

This change in location made for an interesting take as it helped establish some world building that showed these Predators have visited Earth many times in the past and not just in the faraway jungles but more towards areas and places rife with conflict. We learn that it hunts those who have survived the conflicts of the area they’re in. Only the strongest for these extraplanetary hunters.

Unlike, the original film, Predator 2 fails in not having a cast of characters that the audience could empathize and root for. This follow-up is mostly about action and even more gore than the first. Even the opening sequence tries to one-up the jungle shooting scene from the first film, yet instead of shock and awe the sequence just seems loud and busy,

Predator 2 suffers from a lot of that as the film feels more than just a tad bit bloated. The Thomas brothers (Jim and John) who wrote the original film return for the sequel but were unable to capture lightning in a bottle a second time around. Where the first film was very minimalist in it’s narrative and plot, the sequel goes for the throw everything in but the kitchen sink approach. We have warring drug gangs, inept police leadership, secretive government agencies with their own agendas.

What does work with Predator 2 and has made it into a cult classic as years passed was the very worldbuilding I mentioned earlier. We learn a bit more of this predator-hunter. While some comes as exposition from Gary Busey’s special agent role Peter Keyes, the rest comes from just seeing the new look of this particular Predator courtesy of special effects master Stan Winston.

The biggest joy for fans of the films comes in an all-too-brief scene showcasing the trophy case of the Predator inside it’s spacecraft. Within this trophy case are the skulls of the prey it’s hunted and killed. One skull in particular would ignite the imagination of scifi action fans worldwide. It’s a skull of a xenomorph from the Alien franchise. It made fans wonder if the two films were part of a larger tapestry. Both properties were owned by 20th Century Fox, so there was a chance and hope that the two meanest and baddest alien creatures on film would crossover together.

It would be many, many years before such a team-up would happen. Even when it finally did fans of the franchises would be let down with what they get after waiting for over a decade.

Predator 2 could be seen as trying to make lightning hit the same patch twice or it could be seen as a quick cash grab by a studio seeing a potential franchise. Both are true and without its two biggest stars, Arnold Schwarzenegger and John McTiernan, returning to reprise their roles for the sequel the film was already behind the eight-ball before filming began.

While the follow-up had some interesting new ideas that helped round out the Predator as one of film’s greatest onscreen villains, it also failed to capitalize on those ideas in a creative way. There’s some good in Predator 2, but way too much baggage and too much bad to have it live up to the success and popularity of the original.

Music Video Of The Day: The Night We Called It A Day, performed by Bob Dylan (2015, dir by Nash Edgerton)


This song, of course, has been around even longer than Bob Dylan.  It was originally published in 1941.  Frank Sinatra’s first ever solo recording was a performance of this song and he would later record two more versions of it, in 1947 and 1957.

The Bob Dylan version appeared on Dylan’s 36th studio album, Shadows in the Night.  (Shadows in the Night consists of covers of songs that Sinatra originally made famous.)  Dylan performed this song on the second-t0-last episode of Late Show with David Letterman.  Even though my musical taste usually runs the gamut from EDM to More EDM, I’ve always liked Bob Dylan.  David Letterman, on the other hand, I’m a bit less impressed with.  (Is he ever going to shave off that stupid beard?)

This nicely melancholy video feels like a throw back to the gangster films of the 30s.  Helping to create that retro atmosphere is the casting of Robert Davi, an actor who would have fit right in with Cagney, Bogart, and Edward G. Robinson.  Interestingly enough, Davi is also known as a skilled interpreter of Sinatra.

(He also once wished me a happy birthday, which was a nice of him.)

Enjoy!

A Mardi Gras Film Review: Mardi Gras For The Devil (dir by David A. Prior)


A maniac is holding New Orleans hostage!  He’s committed a series of savage, Satanically-influenced homicides and the police cannot seem to even slow him down!  The entire city is terrified!

Well, actually … New Orleans doesn’t seem to be scared at all.  In fact, no one in this movie seems to be all that disturbed by all of the brutal murders that are happening around them.  Some people would probably say that’s because this film takes place during Mardi Gras and everyone’s too drunk to notice.  Why worry about being murdered when all you have to do to get a bunch of cheap beads is flash a boob?  Add to that, this is New Orleans.  New Orleans is a very forgiving city.

Anyway, regardless of whether people care or not, there’s a Satanic murderer prowling through the city.  Who is the killer?  Could he possibly be that guy who always dresses in black, who has a perfectly trimmed beard, and who is always throwing back his head and laughing before doing something evil?  The guy’s name is Bishop and he’s played by everyone’s favorite Canadian character actor, Michael Ironside.  As far as Michael Ironside villains are concerned, Bishop is pretty frightening though he’s nowhere near as a frightening as Darryl Revok.  I mean, he does a lot of evil stuff but he doesn’t actually make anyone’s head explode.

Detective Mike Turner (Robert Davi) is obsessed with stopping Bishop.  Unfortunately, Detective Turner doesn’t appear to be very good at his job.  I mean, everyone he knows he keeps getting seriously injured.  His first partner dies.  His second partner gets run over by a bus.  His ex-wife (Lesley-Anne Down) ends up trapped in a pool.  His girlfriend (Lydie Denier) ends up getting tied up in a barn while a time bomb ticks down across from her.  Fortunately, a few of these people do manage to survive.  Turner may not be a very good cop but, fortunately, Bishop isn’t that good of a serial killer.

It soon becomes apparent that Bishop has a motive for all of his murders, one that goes beyond the usual serial killer weirdness.  It turns out that Bishop’s murders are actually sacrifices and he has given his soul to Satan.  Giving your soul to the devil apparently gives you the power to do whatever the script needs you to do at any particular moment in the movie.  Fortunately, it also leaves you with a weakness that can be exploited whenever the movie decides to come to an end.

Am I saying that Mardi Gras For the Devil makes no sense?  I most definitely am!  However, that’s actually the film’s charm.  The film was made with so little concern for continuity and narrative logic that it plays out like a fever dream.  The cast is surprisingly good for a film like this, which means that everyone delivers the strangest of lines with the utmost sincerity.  Michael Ironside plays his role without a hint of subtlety, which is exactly the type of bad guy that a film like this requires.  Meanwhile, Robert Davi brings a weary cynicism to his role.  You can just hear him thinking, “Satanic serial killers?  I’m too old for this shit.”  Combine that with a fiery ending that doesn’t even try to make sense and you have a movie that, perhaps through no intention of the film’s director, manages to create and sustain a very surreal atmosphere.  The film may not be any good but it’s hard to look away from.

Though the film takes place at Mardi Gras and was released, in some countries, as both Mardi Gras For The Devil and Mardi Gras Nightmare, it actually has very little do with Mardi Gras.  The opening scenes were shot during a Mardi Gras parade but that’s about it.  The film was also released under the title Night Trap, which is a woefully generic title.  You can find the movie on YouTube.

A Movie A Day #336: The Bronx Bull (2017, directed by Martin Guigui)


New York in the 1930s.  Jake LaMotta (Morean Aria) is a tough street kid who is pushed into fighting by his abusive father (Paul Sorvino) and who is taught how to box by a sympathetic priest (Ray Wise).  When Jake finally escapes from his Hellish home life, it is so he can pursue a career as a professional boxer.  Ironically, the same violent nature that nearly destroyed him as a youth will now be the key to his future success.

In the late 60s, a middle-aged Jake LaMotta (William Forsythe) testifies before a government panel that is investigating that influence of the Mafia in professional boxing.  LaMotta testifies that, during his professional career, he did take a dive in one of his most famous matches.  LaMotta goes on to pursue an entertainment career which, despite starring in Cauliflower Ears with Jane Russell, never amounts too much.  He drinks too much, fights too much, and gets into arguments with a ghost (Robert Davi).  He also gets married several times, to women played by everyone from Penelope Ann Miller to Alicia Witt.  The movie ends with Jake happily walking down a snowy street and a title card announcing that Jake is now 95 years old and married to his seventh wife.  (The real Jake LaMotta died on September, 9 months after the release of The Bronx Bull.)

The Bronx Bull is a largely pointless movie about the later life of the antisocial boxer who was previously immortalized in Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull.  In fact, The Bronx Bull was originally announced and went into production as Raging Bull II.  Then the producers of the original Raging Bull found out, filed a lawsuit, and the film became The Bronx Bull.  Because of the lawsuit, The Bronx Bull could cover every aspect of Jake’s life, except for what was already covered in Raging Bull.  In fact, Scorsese’s film (which undoubtedly had a huge impact on LaMotta’s later life) is not even mentioned in The Bronx Bull.

William Forsythe does what he can with the role but, for the most part, Jake just seems to be a lout with anger issues.  With a cast that includes everyone from Tom Sizemore to Cloris Leachman to Bruce Davison, the movie is full of familiar faces but none of them get too much of a chance to make an impression.  Joe Mantegna comes the closest, playing Jake’s best friend.  The Bronx Bull was not only shot on the cheap but it looks even cheaper, with studio backlots unconvincingly filling in for 1930s Bronx.  The film’s director, Martin Guigui, occasionally tries to throw in a Scorsesesque camera movement and there are a few black-and-white flashbacks but, for the most part, this is the mockbuster version of Raging Bull.

Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: Guilty Pleasure No. 33: In the Mix (dir by Ron Underwood)


Back in January, I had to get a new cable box.  Sadly, when the boxes were switched, I lost everything that I had saved on the DVR.  Over a hundred movies and TV shows were wiped away!  However, I did not let this get me down.  Instead, I decided to take advantage of the fact that I now had a lot more free space by literally recording anything that looked the least bit interesting.

Well, the day of reckoning has finally arrived.  It is now March 21st and the DVR is nearly full.  So, for the next few weeks, I am going to clean out my DVR and review what I watch!  Now, I can’t say how long this is going to take.  In the past, I’ve always given myself unrealistic deadlines.  So, this time, I’m not giving myself a time limit.  Instead, I’m just going to start watching what I’ve got recorded and hope that I’m done by 2018.  We’ll see how it goes.

Anyway, I started things off by watching the 2005 mafia romance film, In the Mix.

I recorded In The Mix off of Starz on March 16th.  I did this despite the fact that I’ve actually seen In The Mix quite a few times.  In The Mix, which is technically a beyond terrible movie, is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine.  It’s a bit like From Justin To Kelly or On The Line.  Even though all my instincts as a movie snob tell me not to do it, I can’t help but watch it.

In the Mix stars Usher as Darrell, the hottest DJ in New York.  Every woman wants him and every man wants to be him.  However, all Usher wants to do is hang out with the family of the local mob boss.  It turns out that Don Frank (Chazz Palminteri) was friends with Darrell’s father and Darrell is now friends with Frank’s son, Frankie Jr. (Anthony Fazio).  Frank hires Darrell to DJ his daughter’s birthday party.

(Frankie, Jr. is a white kid who wants to be black.  Personally, I think there’s probably an interesting story in the idea of the son of an old-fashioned Italian mafia don who idolizes — or appropriates, depending on how you look at it — black culture but Frankie, Jr.’s characterization pretty much starts and ends with him saying, “Yo.”)

At the party, Darrell quickly falls in love with Frank’s daughter, Dolly (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and Dolly likes him too.  Especially after he takes a bullet that was intended for her father.  While Darrell is recuperating at the mansion, Frank tells Dolly that she can’t go outside unless she has a bodyguard.  Dolly says that’s fine as long as the bodyguard is Darrell.

And you know what that means!  It’s time for a makeover montage as Darrell gets a whole new wardrobe!  Yay!

Anyway, the plot is about as predictable as the casting of Kevin Hart as Usher’s comedic sidekick and Robert Davi as a sinister gangster.  Dolly and Darrell fall in love but you already knew that was going to happen.  You also probably already guessed that Dolly already has a boring boyfriend named Chad (Geoff Stults) and that Darrell has a crazy ex-girlfriend named Cherise (K.D. Aubert).  And, of course, Frank is not initially happy with the idea of Dolly leaving her rich lawyer boyfriend so that she can be with Darrell.  However, Darrell eventually gets a chance to prove himself by rescuing Dolly from some rival gangsters and he’s welcomed into the crime family.  Of course, he gets shot a second time.  “If the ghetto’s so dangerous,” he says as he lies on the ground, “how come I keep getting shot by white people?”  Everyone has a good laugh as they wait for the ambulance.  That’s the type of movie that In The Mix is.

As I watched In The Mix, I realized that it was actually a lot worse than I remembered and yet, I still enjoyed it.  Why?  To be honest, it all comes down to Usher and Emmauelle Chriqui, both of whom look really, really good and who have enough chemistry that they can overcome an amazingly clunky script.  You reallydo believe that the two of them actually are into each other and you hope that things will work out for them because they’re such a ludicrously attractive couple.  In The Mix is an incredibly shallow and silly movie but the stars both look good when they kiss and, ultimately, that’s what a movie like this is all about.

That said, in the future, I probably won’t bother to set the DVR for it again.

Previous Guilty Pleasures

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class
  19. Tart
  20. King Kong vs. Godzilla
  21. Hawk the Slayer
  22. Battle Beyond the Stars
  23. Meridian
  24. Walk of Shame
  25. From Justin To Kelly
  26. Project Greenlight
  27. Sex Decoy: Love Stings
  28. Swimfan
  29. On the Line
  30. Wolfen
  31. Hail Caesar!
  32. It’s So Cold In The D

A Movie A Day #41: No Contest (1995, directed by Paul Lynch)


8348-no-contest-0-230-0-345-cropUnder the direction of their leaders, Oz (Andrew “Dice” Cay) and his second-in-command, Ice (Roddy Piper), a diverse group of terrorists have taken the Miss Galaxy contest hostage.  If they don’t receive a ransom of diamonds, they will kill the Miss Galaxy contestants, including the daughter of a powerful senator.  What the terrorists didn’t count on was that the show would be hosted by actress and kick boxer Sharon Bell (Shannon Tweed).  Now, it’s up to Sharon to sneak through a locked-down hotel, killing the terrorists one-by-one.  Her only help comes from a battle-scarred but supportive security officer (Robert Davi) locked outside of the hotel.

No Contest is so much of a rip-off of Die Hard that it almost qualifies as a remake.  (It is probably not a coincidence that Robert Davi appears in both movies.)  Despite being such a blatant rip-off, No Contest is redeemed by the combination of Andrew “Dice” Clay’s Broolyn-accented villainy and a surprisingly convincing performance from Shannon Tweed.  Toss in Roddy Piper and Robert Davi and the end result is one entertaining direct-to-video thriller.

Shannon Tweed’s best film?  No contest.  It’s No Contest.

vlcsnap-2011-08-02-15h19m14s75

A Movie A Day #26: The Taking of Beverly Hills (1991, directed by Sidney J. Furie)


After a toxic chemical spill, Beverly Hills is evacuated.  While its citizens wait in a hotel, their mansions and valuables are guarded by the police and agents of the EPA.  Or so they think.  It turns out that the chemical spill was faked and that both the police and the government agents are in on it.  While the town’s deserted, they’re going to rob everyone blind.  The scheme’s mastermind is Bat Masterson (Robert Davi), the owner of L.A. Rams.  What Masterson doesn’t realize is that one citizen of Beverly Hills stayed behind, his own quarterback, Boomer Hayes (Ken Wahl).  Teaming up with Ed Kelvin (Matt Frewer), the last honest cop in town, Boomer sets out to protect Beverly Hills.

It’s just a dumb as it sounds.  In fact, of the many Die Hard ripoffs that came out in the late 80s and the early 90s, The Taking of Beverly Hills is probably the dumbest, which also makes it one of the most entertaining.  Boomer, who has an impressive mullet, can only speak in football analogies, constantly assuring Ed that it’s only the first down and that they can turn things around after halftime.  When Boomer gets serious, he says, “It’s time to play offense.”  One of the stranger things about The Taking of Beverly Hills is that, unlike working class hero John McClane, Boomer is not an outsider.  He’s in Beverly Hills because he’s rich.  The Taking of Beverly Hills is basically about one rich guy trying to keep another rich guy from robbing a bunch of other rich people.  It’s Die Hard if Hart Bochner had been the hero instead of Bruce Willis.

Keep an eye out for Lee Ving, lead singer of Fear, playing one of the corrupt cops and an uncredited Pamela Anderson cast as a cheerleader.  And keep your ears open for songs like Epic by Faith No More because their presence on the soundtrack (and the associated rights issue) is the reason was this stupidly entertaining movie will probably never get a DVD/Blu-ray release in the United States.

It has been released in Germany, where it was retitled Boomer after the lead character.

It has been released in Germany, where it was retitled Boomer after the lead character.

 

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #90: Showgirls (dir by Paul Verhoeven)


ShowgirlsWell, this is it!

Showgirls in the 1995 film that, 20 years after it was first released, is still held up as the standard by which all subsequent bad films are judged.  The story behind the production is legendary.  Screenwriter Joe Ezsterhas was paid a then-record sum to write a script that ripped off All About Eve and featured lines like, “Come back when you’ve fucked some of that baby fat off,” and “You’re the only who can get my tits poppin’ right!”  (And let’s not forget the heroine’s oft-repeated catch phrase, “It doesn’t suck.”)  A major studio specifically hired Paul Verhoeven with the understanding that he was going to give them an NC-17 rated film.  And finally, the lead role was given to Elizabeth Berkley, an actress whose previous experience amounted to co-starring on Saved By The Bell.

(And, let’s be honest, the only reason Jessie Spano was a tolerable character was because she wasn’t Screech.)

Berkley plays Nomi Malone, a sociopath who wants to be a star.  She hitchhikes her way to Las Vegas where, as is destined to happen to anyone who shows up in Vegas or New York with a clunky suitcase, she is promptly robbed of all of her possessions.  “Fuck!  Fuck!  Fuck!  Fuck!” she yells, showing off the very expensive dialogue that was written for her by Joe Ezsterhas.  Eventually, Nomi starts to take her frustration out on a random car.  The car, it turns out, belongs to sweet-natured Molly (Gina Revara), who is a seamstress for a tacky Vegas show called Goddess.  

(Seriously, Goddess makes Satan’s Alley from Staying Alive look like a work of quiet genius.)

Soon, Nomi is living in Molly’s trailer and working as a stripper at the Cheetah Club.  The Cheetah Club is owned by Al, who is amazingly sleazy but who is also played by Robert Davi.  Robert Davi is one of those actors who knows how to make terrible dialogue interesting and it’s instructive to watch him perform opposite Elizabeth Berkley and the rest of the cast.  Whereas the majority of the cast  always seems to be desperately trying to convince themselves that their dialogue is somehow better than it actually is, Davi knows exactly what he’s saying.  Watching his performance, it’s obvious that Davi understood that he was appearing in a bad film so he figured that he might as well enjoy himself.

The same can be said of Gina Gershon, who plays Cristal Connors, the star of Goddess.  Sexually voracious Cristal is basically a male fantasy of what it means to be bisexual.  Cristal hires Nomi to give a lapdance to her sleazy boyfriend, Zack (Kyle MacLachlan, giving a good performance despite having to spend the entire film with hair in his eyes) and then arranges for her to be cast in the chorus of Goddess.  There’s absolutely nothing subtle about Gershon’s performance and that’s why it’s perfect for Showgirls.  It’s been argued that Showgirls is essentially meant to be a huge in-joke and, out of the huge cast, only Gershon, Davi, and occasionally MacLachlan seem to be in on it.

Certainly, it’s apparent that nobody bothered to tell Elizabeth Berkley.  Berkley gives a performance of such nonstop (and misdirected) intensity that you end up feeling sorry for her.  She’s just trying so hard and she really does seem to think that she can somehow make Nomi into a believable character.  And it’s actually a bit unfair that Elizabeth is always going to be associated with this film because I doubt any actress could have given a good performance in a role as inconsistently written as Nomi.  One second, Nomi is a wide-eyed innocent who is excited about living in Las Vegas.  The next second, she’s screaming, “FUCK OFF!” and threatening strangers with a switch blade.  She may be a survivor (and I imagine that’s why we’re supposed to root for her) but she’s also humorless, angry, and apparently clinically insane.

Hilariously, we’re also continually told, by literally everyone else in the movie, that she’s a great dancer, despite the fact that we see absolutely no evidence of this fact.  Check out this scene below, where Nomi dances with a lot of enthusiasm and little else.

Once Nomi is cast in Goddess, she promptly sets out to steal both the starring role and Zack from Cristal.  Nomi’s cunning plan, incidentally, amounts to fucking Zack in his pool and shoving Cristal down a flight of stairs.  Nomi’s finally a star but when a Satanic rock star named Andrew Carver (William Shockley) comes to town, Nomi is confronted with the sordid truth about Las Vegas and, because this long film has to end at some point, Nomi must decide whether to take a stand or…

Well, you can guess the rest.

(Incidentally, I like to assume that Andrew Carver was meant to be a distant cousin of the great short story writer Raymond Carver.)

There seems to be two schools of thought when it comes to Showgirls.

Some critics claim to Showgirls is just crap.  They say that it’s a terrible film with bad dialogue, bad acting, and terrible direction.  These critics view Joe Eszterhas as being the villain of this tale, a misogynist who conned the studios into paying two million dollars for a terrible script.

And then other critics claim that Showgirls is crappy on purpose.  They claim that Verhoeven meant for the film to be a satire of both American culture and Hollywood showbiz dramas.  For these critics, Verhoeven used Eszterhas’s terrible script and Elizabeth Berkley’s inexperience to craft a subversive masterpiece.

Myself, I fall somewhere in between.  Based on Verhoeven’s other films — Starship Troopers comes immediately to mind — I think his intent with Showgirls probably was meant to be satirical and subversive.  But, at the same time, I would argue that Verhoeven’s intent doesn’t change the fact that Showgirls is a surprisingly boring film.  For all the sex and the nudity and the opulent costumes and sets and all of the over-the-top dialogue, Showgirls is never really that interesting of a film.  It barely even manages to reach the level of being so-bad-that-it’s-good.  Instead,  it’s slow, it’s draggy, and — satiric or not — the bad performance, the bad dialogue, and the nonstop misogyny get a bit grating after a few minutes.

Of course, that’s why you should never watch Showgirls alone.  Showgirls is a film that you have to watch as a part of a group of friends so that you can all laugh together and shout out snarky comments.  The first time I ever saw Showgirls was at a party and it was a lot of fun.  But, for this review, I rewatched the film on Netflix and I was surprised by how much of a chore it was to sit through the entire running time.  This is one of those films — like Birdemic and The Room — that you have to watch with a group.  You watch for the experience, not the film.

Have you seen The Iceman?


The Iceman, a gangster biopic that stars the amazing Michael Shannon, came and went earlier this year.  It got respectful, if not rave, reviews but it certainly didn’t get the attention that it deserved.  That’s a shame because The Iceman is one of the best films of 2013.

Directed by Ariel Vromen, The Iceman tells the true story of Richard Kuklinski (Shannon), a Mafia contract killer who claimed to have killed anywhere from 100 to 250 people over the course of his three decade long career.  At the same time that Kuklinski was murdering the equivalent of the population of a small rural community, he was also living a double life as a suburban family man.  When he was finally arrested in 1986, neither his wife nor his daughters had any idea that he was a killer.  After being sentence to spend the rest of his life in prison, Kuklinski gave countless interviews (and was the subject of a creepy documentary that still shows up on HBO occasionally) until he finally died, under mysterious circumstances, in 2006.

When Kuklinski is first seen in the Iceman, it’s the 50s and he’s flirting with Deborah (Winona Ryder).  When another man speaks to Deborah, Kuklinski reacts by casually following the man outside and killing him.  Kuklisnki goes on to marry Deborah before he eventually meets crime boss Roy DeMeo (Ray Liotta) and is recruited to kill for a living.  It’s a good arrangement for Kuklinski because it turns out that killing is the only thing he’s good at and his marriage to Deborah allows him to tell himself that he’s just a blue collar family man doing his job.

As opposed to other cinematic sociopaths, Kuklinski is no glib charmer.  Instead, as the film repeatedly demonstrates, he is a remorseless killer who feels neither shame nor joy as a result of his actions.  Much like the character played by Michael Rooker in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Kuklinski is not defined by what hides behind his blank expression but by the fact that there’s nothing to hide because nothing’s there.

Even Kuklinski’s love for his family is, in one particularly harrowing sequence, revealed to be hollow and false.  As becomes apparent, the only thing that keeps Kuklinski from taking out his homicidal impulses on his family is the fact that there’s a never-ending supply of Mafia lowlifes who need to be executed.  Kuklinski and his associates exist in a moral vacuum and friendship and family life are ultimately a disguise as opposed to a reality.

If this makes The Iceman sound like a rather dark film, that’s because it is.  And yet, the film is never less than watchable.  It helps that Ariel Vromen gets excellent performances from his entire cast.  Both Winona Ryder and Ray Liotta are perfectly cast.  Robert Davi shows up as a mobster and James Franco has a very effective cameo as one of Kuklinski’s victims.  Stephen Dorff plays Kuklinski’s brother, who is serving a life sentence because, unlike his brother, he never figured out a way to turn his dark impulses into a business.  Best of all,  Chris Evans plays an especially sleazy hitman who drives an ice cream truck in his spare time.  When Evans first shows up, he seems almost like a comical character but, as the film progresses, Evans’ performance becomes more and more sinister until eventually, he’s calmly talking about killing his own children.  For those of us who have been conditioned to associate Chris Evans with the clean-cut Capt. America, it’s a revelation of a performance.

However, the film is truly dominated by Michael Shannon.  It’s not easy to make an empty character compelling but Shannon does so.  Shannon is such a charismatic performer that you want to like him when he first appears on screen.  As The Iceman plays out, you keep finding yourself hoping that Kuklinski will reveal some shred of human decency.  You find yourself studying Shannon’s rigid stance and cold eyes and hoping to find some evidence of compassion.  The genius of Shannon’s performance is that he makes Richard Kuklinski a fascinating character even as he slowly reveals just how hollow he actually is.

Is Michael Shannon the best American actor working today?  That was a question that filmgoers were forced to ask after seeing Shannon’s performance in 2011’s Take Shelter.  It’s a question that they should ask again after seeing his performance in The Iceman.  Without Shannon’s performance, The Iceman would be just another gangster film.  However, thanks to Shannon, it’s one of the best films of the year so far.