Archive for the ‘2000 Maniacs!’ Category

Things to catch up on . . .

May 12, 2007

Ok, you’re thinking, I’ve added the RSS feed of this site to my reader, but you never ever update the thing, so why should I keep it? It’s a good question, really, and I don’t blame you for wondering. The best blogs update not only every day, but many times a day.

One thing that prevents me from doing so is laziness. I admit it – I just don’t have the energy to do it. Then there’s the fact that for the most part I put movie reviews on this blog, and watching movies takes time. And then there’s the fact that when the weather turns nice – usually May in the Washington area – I don’t watch as many movies anyway.

Plus, when I do go to the movies, I go alone, and I don’t have anyone encuraging me to go (with them or not). It’s all on me, and frankly I’m not always very good at persuading myself.

Anyway! Enough of the half-assed excuses, right? Let me get you caught up on some movies I’ve recently seen through the wonderful gift of Netflix.

The Body Snatcher (1945): Based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s eponymous short story, this is about a doctor (Henry Daniell) who uses newly buried corpses for medical experiments. Then the supply begins to dry up, so the doctor’s supplier (Boris Karloff) kills people to ensure his income. Produced by the inestimable Val Lewton, The Body Snatcher is soaked in turn-of-the-century London atmopshere, with stark black-and-white photography and mood lighting to send chills down the spine. Karloff is sensational, and it’s one of his all-time best. Bela Lugosi shows up as well. ***1/2

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) The movie-musical version of George M. Cohan’s life is highly entertaining, of course. Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of it. There’s singing and dancing and stuff, because Cohan was a bigshot singer/dancer/playwright back in the day. Well, as long as “the day” was 60-70 years ago, but still, it’s a timeless flick of pomp and patriotism. Or jingoism, depending. Cringe moment, though, when the Cohan family dresses in blackface. Even with that, it’s a classic. ***1/2

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) Captain Nathan Brittles (John Wayne) is retiring from the US Cavalry, but he’s gonna help his troop against them darn Indians one last time before he goes. Unluckily for him, though, there’s a wagon o’ womenfolk who need to tag along for the purposes of the plot. Can Nathan scout out the evil Indians while protecting the frail, helpless women? I love the sensibilities of the old movies. You try getting a manly man movie like this made in this day and age. I’m sure it could be done, but the Indians would be a lot more benevolent and open to compromise – if we even saw them. And there’d be one uppity girl who stood up to Nathan, who’d be played by Kevin Costner. ***1/2

Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964) Yes, the exclamation mark is part of the title – I didn’t add it. This is from infamous bad-movie auteur Herschell Gordon Lewis, and it’s about this funky town in the Deep South that lures Yankee tourists in order to slaughter them in meaningful and varied ways, all on the centennial of the town’s razing and pillaging by a stampeding Union army during the Civil War. So they get these six disparate people (well, all lily white, of course, none of those troublesome black folk) and tell ’em they’re the guests of honor for the centennial, and then they kill the heck out of them. Sounds interesting, at least from a horror standpoint, but it’s technically terrible; sometimes the dialog is virtually inaudible, the camera shots are awkward, the pacing is nonexistant, and so on. Not terribly gruesome, either, and there’s no acting to speak of. Bad, bad movie. *

Jackass: The Movie (2002) and Jackass Number Two (2006) I’m combining these two because they’re basically the same movie. It’s not as if Two was more intense or wacky than One. The movies aren’t going to win any conservative, uptight people over, of course. If these stunts aren’t your cup of tea, you won’t get into the movie, and if they are, you won’t be overwowed, a word I just coined. Me, I like the stunts where the guys do things to themselves, but I’m not a big fan of the sketches in which they humiliate or mess with innocent people. There are some funny scenes, to be sure, and any time you shoot someone into the air strapped to a rocket, you got a winner. But overall, the movies didn’t do too much for me. ** for both.

On the Town (1949) Another sprightly MGM musical, this one about three sailors on leave in the Big Apple for 24 hours. What shenanigans will they find? Not many, as it turns out, because this is a musical from the forties. It’s not as if they’ll wander from whorehouse to bar and back for the day. No, one of them (Frank Sinatra) is a nerdy tourist doof, while his pals (Gene Kelly and Jules Munshin) want to find girls. Girls to go to dinner with, not shack up with. The forties were so quaint. Anyway, Kelly sees a poster in a subway with a pinup, and he wants to find that girl in particular, and soon the boys are searching New York with the help of a wisecracking female cabbie. High comedy. As musicals go, it’s a real treat – I mean, you get to hear Kelly and Sinatra sing, so that’s something. ***1/2

The Night Listener (2006) Robin Williams is a gay late-night talk-show host who is contacted by a teenager who recently wrote a book about his traumatic past. But then questions arise about the boy’s identity – is he real, or is he a clever ploy by the boy’s adoptive mother (Toni Collette) to hype the book? And it’s based on a true story, apparently. Sandra Oh and Joe Morton costar and do a lot with the little screen time they get, but this is Williams’ show, and he’s really quite good. For all of the times in which he’s played a maudlin, sappy character, this one makes up for ’em. ***

For Your Consideration (2006) Christopher Guest, who excels in improv-style behind-the-scenes type movies, turns in somewhat subdued product this time, about the making of a feel-good family film called Home for Purim. Before you know it, there’s Oscar buzz on the Interwebnet about the elder leading lady (Catherine O’Hara), then about the elder leading man (Harry Shearer). Then the studio wants to broaden the appeal of the movie so it’s not a Jewish movie, and there’s cattiness, and unctuous agents and producers, and it all culimates with the announcement of the Oscar nominations. It’s mostly good, with the leads doing a fine job as always, but it’s missing some of the soul of Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman. It might be that there’s too much focus on the characters of O’Hara and Shearer, but the whole thing just feels a little too antiseptic. **1/2

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