At the Mountains of Movie Madness — Week Three
Last year, I took part in an experiment in recommendations. When a friend recommends something to me, 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 Three – The Good, The Bad and The Cage
Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (Bob Clark, 1973)
Recommended by Christopher Lloyd I’ve seen a ton of horror movies, but I don’t think I’ve seen enough bad horror movies. This one is a typical “cabin-in-the-woods” kind of movie in which a bunch of younger people decide that evoking evil spells will probably work out in their favor. Movies like “The Evil Dead” played upon this trope to great effect, but to appreciate a film like that, I think I need to see more of these. This isn’t a great movie. At all. Every character is bland except for the head of this gang who is insane (not in a good way) but definitely memorable. It’s too much of a tease with too many fakeouts, but it’s obvious why a movie like this will inspire new filmmakers.
Counter-Recommendation: The Cabin in the Woods (Duh)
Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (Ngai Choi Lam, 1991)
Once upon a time, Ricky goes into a prison. THEN IT ALL GOES NUTS. So many films try to be awesome and so few actually achieve it. This kung fu movie with a “Crank” mentality films it as straight as possible (aside from the warden’s kid). It’s a simple Western story structure of a hero who has to overcome villainous threats in a small town. What makes this stand out is that every beat is filled with creative madness. A typical training sequence is a lot more interesting when Ricky becomes stronger by karate-chopping gravestones thrown at him. Why just have a fight when you can have a fight that includes punching through people’s chests? From beginning to end, this was so much fun to watch.
Counter-Recommendation: Shoot ‘Em Up
Tyrannosaur (Paddy Constantine, 2011)
I’ve often said that there are only 15 British actors, and it’s clear that Olivia Colman is one of them. She’s been great on “Doctor Who,” “Green Wing,” “Peep Show” and “Twenty Twelve,” and I’m looking forward to seeing her on “Rev” when I have the chance. Her sweetness is what makes her so funny and likable. In “Tyrannosaur,” that sweetness is used for intense drama. A troubled man stumbles into her shop and wrecks her Christian beliefs. They form the only real friendship either of them has, but it’s not enough to make their lives any better. Brilliant, real and an insanely good performance from Colman.
Counter-Recommendation: Red Riding 1974
Rumor Has It (Rob Reiner, 2005)
What if your family was from “The Graduate”? How crazy would that be? Right? Right? Actually aside from a few jokes about it during reunions, it probably wouldn’t be that big of a deal, yet Jennifer Aniston thinks it’s insanely important even though it’s not. This could help her discover who she is, which it did: She’s a bland empty character. It would be cool if this movie moved the characters forward or further explored the ones we know so well, but it’s just one character filling in the minute gaps of her family tree for 90 minutes. There’s no story, no motivation for any of the few things that actually happen and a complete waste of good actors. Also, I think the movie is pro-cheating.
Counter-Recommendation: Dick, a much better “sequel”/silly-comedy follow-up to a beloved Dustin Hoffman movie.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor, 2012)
This is the one of many “revenge recommendations” on this list. He knew I would have to watch the first one to get to this probably terrible movie. Unfortunately, he was right. Now the first “Ghost Rider” is a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad movie with lazy storytelling from beginning to end. So in comparison, this isn’t so bad even if it still has Nicolas Cage acting like an idiot. (He lost his “gee-shucks” Southern accent from the first one.) However, this has characters acting like real people, commenting on the ridiculousness of the movie’s narrative. The effects are a lot better and the plot is more compelling than the typical superhero movie where everyone stalls until fighting the big bad at the end. The new directors actually bring some style to this franchise, which is fun and ridiculous. It’s still religious/prophecy silliness. Thus the curse of the Ghost Rider, I guess.
Counter-Recommendation: The TV series “Reaper”
Repo Man (Alex Cox, 1984)
I’ve always believed that there are two types of people in the world: People who like the first half of “Jaws” more or the second half. (Note: There is no category for people who don’t like “Jaws” because let’s be serious here.) In my mind, there is an obvious right answer. I don’t have the arrogant confidence to say the same thing for “Repo Man,” but there are two definite halves to this movie as well. I loved the first half, and then when it got into the science fiction of the second half, I missed the weird reality of the first half. Alex Cox built this degenerate disgusting world in which I was completely entertained by hearing random people’s stories as they repossessed random cars. I honestly didn’t need a plot; the characters and world were enough. I don’t dislike the rest, but they already sold me on something else.
Counter-Recommendations: The Parking Lot Movie and Night on Earth
Next week I’m so inspired by “Ghost Rider,” I’ll watch another movie about an idiot motorcyclist. I’ll also watch a movie about a cowboy without any horses, and I’ll get straight-up possessed.
Also, if you followed my clues from last week, you may be wondering where “Lenny” is in this week’s article. That’s an excellent question that I won’t answer!