Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

MACHETE KILLS (2013)
I keep inexplicably waiting for Robert Rodriguez's talent to come back, but at this point... It's too bad, because just from the plot alone, this seems like a movie I would enjoy the hell out of. The first half is basically Escape from New York, and the second half is like a demented version of Moonraker. But where I found the first Machete disappointing, this one is like watching Robert Rodriguez masturbate. All of his favorite tropes are here, but without the commitment or the wit that marked his earlier films. It wants to be a gonzo action flick, but without any sense of self-awareness to make it truly enjoyable. The main joke is that Machete is an indestructible badass... unless the plot requires otherwise. Meh. I always love Danny Trejo and Tom Savini, but the only actors who really get the tone here are Sofia Vergara, Demian Bichir, Mel Gibson and (returning from the first flick) Michelle Rodriguez. Everything else is stunt casting or eye candy. Too bad. **1/2

Boy, you can tell this movie just didn't work for me, because every other bad movie I saw this week, I enjoyed.

C.H.U.D. (1984)
Underground-dwelling homeless people mutate into bloodthirsty monsters when the government dumps radioactive waste under Manhattan. This gets the poker-faced earnestness right; it has no pretensions to being something like Jaws, but it gets the tone you have to strike for this kind of horror flick. A fun relic of that time period when everyone kept saying that New York was going to be a war zone in the near future. I especially liked Daniel Stern and Christopher Curry as the street reverend and cop trying to make the authorities see reason. ***

THE STUFF (1985)
Larry Cohen's movie about liquid ooze rising from the center of the Earth that gets marketed as a food and begins to control our minds... and the former FBI man who is hired to commit corporate espionage on behalf of the ice cream companies. Not the setup I'd have expected for a horror movie, but then this movie is a lot more funny and satirical than I expected. I love that the Stuff is never really explained at all; Cohen is much more interested in his main character, played by Michael Moriarty almost as a joke, like he's just there to test how far he can push his performance before it breaks any of the movie's seriousness. Goes off the rails a little during a military interlude, but a fun movie. ***

THE INITIATION (1984)
Beautiful Daphne Zuniga in her first movie as a college student pledging a sorority who is plagued by a recurring nightmare. Her teacher (James Read, a year away from North and South) thinks her nightmare might be a repressed memory. It pretends to be a psychological thriller about the mind, but really it's a slasher movie, and most of the movie takes place in a mall after hours while the sorority girls try to simultaneously pull an initiation prank and get laid, and a murderer stalks them. Dopey, over-the-top, 1984-syle silly fun. ***

GRUMPY CAT'S WORST CHRISTMAS EVER (2014)
Wow, even websites that don't do things like review Lifetime movies really went out of their way to bash this one. I get it, it's not hip to like or even hate-watch a movie based on an internet meme. I don't know, I thought it was funny. I mean, yeah, it was stupid, but I thought it was in on the joke, and I like the smartass way it deconstructed itself. And I like Grumpy Cat, and Aubrey Plaza was funny as Grumpy's voice. It had a bit of a Muppet sensibility to it. Not for everyone, obviously, as are most of the things I dig, it seems, but I really enjoyed it. ***1/2

MY FAVORITE BLONDE (1942)
Another spy caper for Bob Hope to get mixed up in. I love these Hope movies, they're like Looney Tunes cartoons. ***1/2

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