At the Mountains of Movie Madness — Week Two
Last year I took part in an experiment in recommendations. When a friend recommends me something, I typically remember it, but I also get to it when I get to it. So I spent one month last year sampling every TV show people recommended to me. I found that to be a blast, so I’m stupid enough to do it again this summer, but this time with movies.
Since so many movies were recommended, I’m not going to be able to get this done in a month. Every Tuesday, I’ll write about which ones I’ve watched and what I thought about them. The only rule to the recommendation was that they had to pick a film I haven’t seen. Some used that to pick great movies they know I haven’t watched yet and some used that to pick movies that look so awful they know I wouldn’t watch it. Either way, I’m watching them now.
Week Two — It Gets Awkward
Madagascar (Eric Darnell & Tom McGrath, 2005)
I typically like to ignore Dreamworks. Their films rarely impress me because their stories are so basic, the voice talent is unimaginative and the scripts are filled with so many pop-culture gags that don’t fit with the characters. What do you know? “Madagascar” is a similar mess. Having domesticated zoo animals sent to Africa is actually a great premise …that is never explored in this movie. This is more about Alex the Lion being a complete jerk to all of his friends, a powerful theme that you shouldn’t be yourself especially if you’re a carnivore, and an obnoxious trend in which all of the characters put their face really close to the screen. I laughed once when the chimp said he was going to throw poo at Tom Wolfe. The rest was tedious. Good work again, Josh!
Counter-Recommendation for Josh: Flirting With Disaster
Pirates (Joone, 2005)
Recommended by Robbie Mehling
I said I would review anything that was recommended. Oh, boy. “Pirates” is the most expensive porno ever made at its time, with a budget of $1 million. IMDB says there are more than 300 effects shots in a film shot on the actual HMS Bounty. There are two versions of this film, the XXX one and another re-edited into an R-rated romp available through Blockbuster and Netflix. Yet despite all this, it’s still a Pinocchio. It wants to be a real movie, but it’s impossible to critique it as one.
The plot is surprisingly not porn-y. It’s not something dumb like “There’s a pirate on the loose who keeps having sex!” It’s about a pirate who kidnaps a guy with an important legacy that will help him find treasure and the bumbling pirate hunter posed to take him down. That’s just stale, not erotic! This would just be a silly lame movie with awful acting, but the sex adds a new level of confusion. For example, the first scene is actually about characterization and romance. (By the way, this whole movie is all about love and romance, not degradation or disrespect. Honestly.) The newly married couple is awkward around each other and worried whether they even find each other attractive. But then their sex scene does not reflect that this is either partner’s first time in bed with someone. The breast implants also add character contradictions and period-piece anachronisms.
So it’s hard to judge this as a regular movie because it’s lame, and it’s difficult to judge this as a porn because that’s not too great in that area, either. What’s left is an amazingly ambitious movie that really wants to be a real boy. Did I mention there’s even a score to this movie? Like a decent one. This is just bizarre.
Counter-Recommendation for Robbie: Zack and Miri Make a Porno
The Night They Raided Minsky’s (William Friedkin, 1968)
Recommended by Alan Gordon
OK. Let’s move from the awkwardness of the porn to this ’60s comedy about…the first ever strip tease. This is just getting silly. On the bright side, this movie is awesome. This is exactly what I was hoping for out of this marathon: a great movie that I’ve never heard of before. This is one of those crazy 1960s comedies that almost has too much style. The editing choices are sporadic, and that’s part of its charm. Elliott Gould owns a ragtag burlesque theatre that houses Jason Robards as a BFC quick-witted playboy comedian. Robards is at odds with his comedy partner when a new naïve French Amish girl wants to become a dancer and they both have a thing for her. There are so many great lines in this movie that I wish I was taking notes.
Counter-Recommendation for Alan: Sex and the Single Girl
Forbidden Zone (Richard Elfman, 1982)
Recommended by Ian Shepherd
I guess if there’s one genre of film I don’t really get into it’s the wacko movies. These are the crazy midnight movies in which nothing makes sense and there’s a guessing game about which drugs the director is on. I like weirdness like “Childrens Hospital,” but not Tim and Eric. Maybe it’s because this weirdness is so emotionally based. I can’t judge the story of “Forbidden Zone,” in which a suburban girl falls into the sixth dimension in her basement and now must get away from Queen Doris. It’s all just madness — a student can’t give the pledge because he keeps clucking like a chicken, the sixth-dimension Princess is always topless, there’s a singing Danny Elfman Satan. So did I have fun? A bit. It’s very watchable and silly even if the film can’t keep the insanity up for the full 73 minutes.
Counter-Recommendation for Ian: The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra
Red Eye (Wes Craven, 2005)
Recommended by Molly Raker
Scarecrow: “I’ve been watching you for eight weeks. I know everything about you: what you drink, what you do, how you work, your family situation, everything. Now that you’re on a plane WHICH I KNOW YOU’RE SCARED OF, I’m going to reveal my entire plan and demand that you switch this guy’s room so I can kill him easier.”
Mean Girl: “What?”
Mean Girl: “You did all of this work and threatened my father just to get me to change one of the rooms at my hotel?”
Scarecrow: “Yes! BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!”
Mean Girl: “Why didn’t you just call me, say you were working with that guy and you want a room change?”
Mean Girl: “Or even just skip me all together. Get the easiest hacker to switch rooms. Or my employees are pretty stupid. Just pretend to be the guy and tell her you want to switch rooms. You obviously know your way around the hotel if you tampered the room already.”
Scarecrow: “Shows what you know! We have a rocket launcher that we’re just going to aim at the room! BWHWAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!”
Mean Girl: “Just aim it at the different room, you idiot! How will that even be accurate? Forget it, AIR MARSHAL! THIS GUY IS THREATENING TO KILL ME!”
Scarecrow: “Air what? Aghahhahhahahah” (He was tazed)
Counter-Recommendation for Molly: Air Force One
Get Carter (Mike Hodges, 1971)
Recommended by Ed / Matt Leer
You know who’s cool? Michael Caine. If you’re thinking, “Yeah, I never really thought about it, but Alfred is pretty cool,” shut it. Caine is always one of the go-to actors to automatically add sophistication to a character, but I like it when he’s a bloody badass. “Get Carter” showcases all that’s cool about Caine. Talking cool in a suit, smashing a car window into a guy’s head … he is even cool during phone sex. The rest of the film is just as slick as he is as a gangster trying to figure out who murdered his brother. A great watch.
Counter-Recommendation for Ed / Matt Leer: The Long Good Friday
Next week, I’ll finally get around to an acclaimed British film from last year, finally watch what Joe Gideon was editing for so long and figure out how a ghost can ride anything. Shouldn’t it just fall through?