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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

All Hear This!

It was on a sunny day back in 1982 when I rode my ten-speed (this was before the days of the “Mountain Bike”) down to Edwards Cinema West in the lovely city of Westminster, California to watch some of my then already “old” heroes from Saturday Night Live and SCTV who were appearing in a film called “It Came From Hollywood.” It was a documentary of sorts, which chronicled some of the most notorious Hollywood B-movies of the past, narrated by the likes of Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, John Candy, and Cheech and Chong.

One of the films featured was “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” directed by the now infamous Edward D. Wood Jr., who many folks now know from the Johnny Depp/Tim Burton classic “Ed Wood.” I made it a mission to see this dreadful film as soon as I could. In those days VCRs were relatively new, a little more expensive, and not everyone had one – and Blockbuster Video was but a gleam in some entrepreneur’s eye – through hard work and determination I managed to catch it on one of those late-night shows. I expected to see a shining example of how not to make a movie – and I got that – but I got so much more. The movie is not just completely inept and misguided, but features a lack of storytelling ability that is to this day unmatched in a theatrical release. The darndest thing was…it was truly one of the most entertaining films I had ever seen! It became one of the most-watched movies in my collection. Over the years, friends would gather, cocktails would be poured, sooner or later someone would say, “you ever seen Plan 9?” And it was ON, baby.

It was the first film I had ever seen that was truly so bad, it was good. It was an anti-classic, great for all the wrong reasons. Quotes from true Hollywood classics like “Here’s looking at you, kid,” and “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” had been joined by nuggets like, “Where is Bucky! And what has he hay-ad!” and “Bitch are you for ree-yal!” Over the years these types of films have carved themselves a unique niche in filmgeekdom – Xanadu, Showgirls, Roadhouse, Gymkata, anything starring Rudy Ray Moore – and I recently was seized with an idea: A FILM FESTIVAL. It’s one thing to enjoy these abominations on your couch with some Chinese take-out, it’s another thing entirely to see them with an audience. That’s right, enough cyber-sophistry, it’s time to venture out of your parents’ garage, give You-Tube a rest, and see some of these fantastic steaming turds on the big screen where they belong. Wait! I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, straining upon the start! But it’s not till next month. The first “So Bad It’s Good” Film Festival will debut at the New Beverly on January 30th. You will have already broken those New Year’s resolutions, so what the hell? Come down and enjoy some cinematic atrocities with the Masked Movie Snobs, have a cocktail or two down the street, and come rub elbows with the incognito internet icons you’ve grown to barely pay attention to over the last few years. And if you’ve already seen Plan 9, well, bring a few folks who haven’t seen it yet. Spread the joy, that’s what the movies are all about. Along with Plan 9, we will be screening the accidentally hilarious and most amazing musical misfire "The Apple." This one is quickly taking on cult-favorite status so get it on it some of that.

Trust me, this is an evening not to be missed. There should be some fun and prizes as well, so pencil us in for Tuesday January 30th, won’t you? Look for the New Beverly’s schedule online. There’s even a myspace site devoted to the screening: myspace.com/sbigfilmfest

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

CASINO ROYALE


Welly welly well. Who’d have thought it would take so long to breathe some life back into the James Bond series? And who’d have thought the director of such an enterprise would be Martin Campbell, a guy whose films I’ve rarely been mildly excited about? I tell you it’s happened. Surely for the last decade (some would say three) the series had been on life support, occasionally kicked in the pants with a new leading man or shocked awake with the burgeoning CGI effects of the 90’s, which quickly deteriorated into an “Am I watching a video game?” kind of experience….well, Casino Royale is about to pull the plug on that nonsense. The producers have definitely gotten back on track, maybe going back to the original Ian Fleming novel of the same name was really what was needed.

I’ve never read any of Fleming’s novels, but I do know that Hollywood did soften Bond up a bit. After Connery’s Bond shoots an assailant in cold blood in Dr. No, that was the last we’d see of any grit for quite a while. Campbell’s Casino Royale seems to be calling upon that brutality for a little inspiration. The fight sequences are stripped down and messy, the killing is sloppy, and the newly-crowned Bond, Daniel Craig, has a face that is weathered and hardened and conveys brilliantly the hardness of heart and mind that is needed for a man to kill as easily as Bond does. Craig at least “looks” like he can do the stuff James Bond does, and it helps. Bond fans who grew up with Roger Moore and his successors might find some of it a little shocking, but it will all work out in the end.

I must say I was a bit worried after the fairly prosaic credit sequence and much anticipated but highly forgettable Chris Cornell song was through, but I sat tight, and the story reeled me in. I hadn’t been that into a Bond film since I was a wee lad. And I’m, well, not a wee lad any longer. Dare I say I’m already looking forward to the next one, and I must also say it is mostly due to the new Bond himself -- Daniel Craig. He might have been born to play the part. Lucky bastard...

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Lady in the Water

Written and Directed
by M. Night Shyamalan

Starring Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard,
Bob Balaban, and M. Night Shyamalan




Well, the M. Night Shyamalan backlash is now in full swing. It gained footing with The Village and now seems to be out of control. Can I tell you all something? Lady in the Water is not a bad movie. The plebs have really missed the boat here. Shyamalan's biggest mistake with this one, I think, is overestimating the audience's intelligence. I forget which big movie mogul of the past said something to the effect that one moviegoer might be a moron, but collectively they are a genius...well things have changed I'm afraid. Yeah, you got Mil all pissed off on this one. Have I insulted the average movie watcher enough yet? Oh, how about this...get off your friggin' cell phone and open up that noisy box of candy BEFORE the movie starts, and get your damned foot off the back of my chair, jackhole! You are NOT in your damned house!

There...breathe...breathe.

All right, where does one begin? The story of Lady in the Water centers around an apartment manager named Cleveland Heep (Giamatti) who discovers a strange woman (Bryce Howard) in the pool, turns out she's a sea nymph from "The Blue World" and she's come to make contact with someone in the apartment complex before she leaves to go home. Now there are some baddies that do not want her to succeed so she ends up needing help from the folks in the complex. Now this story, on its surface, may or may not be enough to sustain a two hour movie, but luckily that's not really what the movie is about. Here's your first clue: the Sea Nymph's name is "Story." Now when you hear something like that, you gotta start looking under the hood for what's really going on. It's all about text and subtext, connotation and denotation. The best stories are all ice bergs with most of the "business" hidden under the surface. That's what is going on here. I don't just want to explain everything, that's not what movie reviews are for. I just want to say, look deeper.

A recurring theme through Shyamalan's work is "finding one's place in the world" I think all of his films have carried an element of that, and some have focused on it. This one is no exception, but it's played out in the form of a bedtime story. In this case it becomes, how does the storyteller use the characters to help the 'story'. The movie is ALL ABOUT STORIES, and the importance of stories and myths to us humans. Shyamalan even plays a large role in the film, which apparently has pissed off the knuckledraggers because they can't get past the fact that he is the filmmaker. All right, maybe he's not the best actor in the world, but he's not terrible, and the role he's cast himself in plays right into the movie's theme. Look, I'm just asking you to put some thought into this one...please? Is that too much to ask?

Feel free to give some feedback on this one, huh? I'm out.....

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

MANILOW music and passion


I didn’t really warm up to Barry Manilow till about 5 years ago, sure I grew up in the 70s and his music, along with Neil Diamond and many others, served as a background score for my childhood, but it was always considered to be a bit on the cheesy side. It’s only now in my adult years that I can appreciate the masterful melodies and lyrics of both of these cats.

I recently got a chance to view Barry Manilow’s latest DVD release MANILOW: Music and Passion Live From Las Vegas. Well, I have to say, the cheese factor was in full effect. The DVD itself really plays like an infomercial advertising the Vegas show, which is rife with Vegas glitz—medleys, film clips—Barry does a duet with his younger self at one point, which unfortunately serves to remind us just how long ago those days were. He’s obviously aging, the voice is not quite what it was; of course, the man can’t help that, but he does not seem to be embracing it like others have—Mick Jagger comes to mind, Bob Dylan perhaps. Shot mostly with a vanity-cam in diffuse lighting, you can see that the surgery has left a mark. But it’s still Barry Friggin Manilow, and the man deserves his props for creating some very beautiful and classic songs that I still love to listen to, and still enjoyed as the show unfolded.

The Vegas show itself is really a hodge-podge of yesteryear, sure to please the hardcore fans, I might get out there one day, you never know, but there is an underlying melancholy to the whole thing. If Barry Manilow has come out with any decent new music, it has surely escaped my notice, in contrast, the latest Neil Diamond release knocked my socks off.

I put less blame on the man himself than the producers and designers of the DVD and the style of the DVD production—what they chose as additional footage, backstage stuff, ecstatic audience members who are obviously rehearsed—none of which was too terribly interesting. There was one genuine moment where his voice gave out during a show, and he talks about how he and the audience dealt with it, but that aside, I would much prefer to see this extremely talented artist in the hands of a Rick Rubin (producer of Neil Diamond’s last album) for instance, because I am sure there is still some oil to be struck there. I just did not see much of it on this particular DVD.

Overall, I’d have to say the show looks like a nice stroll down memory lane, Vegas-style, and at least he’s still performing at a pretty high level. Those Vegas shows are pretty grueling, not sure if I’d be able to do it. So…Mr. Rubin, if you are listening…next stop, Barry Manilow.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

And the loser is....

For some reason known only in the darkest recesses of my mind, I was excited when El Bicho offered me the opportunity to cover the 2006 Razzie awards. The Razzies have been the anti-Oscars, celebrating the worst in cinema for the last 26 years. Now I have been known to have an affectation for bad movies now and then, but the folks at the Razzies really have taken it to the extreme. This year’s ceremony was held at LA’s famous Ivar Theater on Saturday night…on Oscar Eve. And yours truly was there.

“Top” honors were handed out to the Worst Film of the year “Dirty Love” starring Worst Actress winner Jenny McCarthy, and SNL veteran Rob Schneider took the Worst Actor award for is fine work in “Deuce Bigelo: European Gigolo.”

The show started off with a musical number spoofing RENT’s “Season Of Love” show stopper ensemble piece. “Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes, how do you measure, measure a year”…our female and gay male readers (okay, and breeders like Mil Peliculas who like musicals) would find that one pretty amusing. Deliberately sung off-key at times, it recapped this year’s film fare with some funny results…but frankly, I was ready to go home after that. No surprise guests (like last year’s appearance of Halle Berry to pick up her Razzie) graced the hallowed halls this time around. And not one celebrity was there to offer their writing or comedy skills to warm up the evening. I mean, where was Gary Coleman for crap’s sake? The cast of characters were mainly a bunch of wannabe actors and actresses looking to pad their resumes. Probably the hottest celeb there was the Channel 9 news chick…who stayed as far away from me as possible…bitch.

The press folks were crammed into the balcony and had to look over each other’s shoulders the whole time, and the result is I never really grabbed any photos of anything remotely interesting.

Good thing is I made it home with plenty of time to pop in my DVD of “Valley Girl” that I had rented from Blockbuster Online. Never seen that one before…not bad. Where was I? Oh, yeah, you might want to check the Razzie website for more information. But for my money, bad films, just like good ones, need to stand the test of time. Bad films like “Dirty Love” are bad, but who cares? Now, bad films that are “so bad they are good” are something else entirely. Only after a bad movie has lasted for decades can it truly be worth your time—those are called “anti-classics.” Good for all the wrong reasons. Probably the most famous one being “Plan 9 From Outer Space” -- a heroically entertaining movie because of its egregious ineptitude. Those kinds of films really grow on you because the filmmakers really thought they were making something important, and missed the mark so horribly that it becomes endearing.

We at maskedmoviesnobs.com hope to be able to honor these types of films soon with a film festival dedicated to them…keep reading for more information on that….