Monthly Archive for January, 2012

Dorky Dog #2

Bang! Episode 2 — Dorky Dog Segment
Circa 1988:

Troll 2

Troll 2 (1/31/12) Netflix (1990 **) Directed by Claudio Fragasso, written by Rossella Drudi and Fragasso, starring Michael Stephenson, George Hardy, Margo Prey and Robert Ormsby. Young Joshua Waits and his family (and Joshua’s dead grandpa) do a house-swap in Nilbog, and faster than you can say “Hi, I’m Gene Freak,” they run into inhuman bloodthirsty vegetarians! Not exactly a cinematic masterpiece, Troll 2 was the focus of the documentary Best Worst Film (2009), which I watched and reviewed recently. And so you can understand why I immediately bumped this film — which got a jaw-dropping 0% on Rotten Tomatoes — to the top of my Netflix queue. Don’t worry, no Trolls were harmed in the making of this film, nor did any actually appear. (If you’re confused, just spell the name of the town backwards, if you haven’t already.) The dialogue was, I’m guessing, largely first draft, “placeholder” dialogue, meaning it was so exposition-laden and on-the-nose I nearly got a nosebleed. The best way I could describe it would be as what a beginning screenwriter would get if he or she asked the internet to translate his script from English into Italian… and then back again. Something was clearly lost in the translation. Look, I get why this is a cult classic. But while I can see why some (especially teens and young adults) might find this film fascinating, it never quite got under my skin. Maybe it’s a generational thing. Sure I laughed out loud a few times at the atrocious writing and acting, but I remained generally under-impressed, even as kitsch. In other words, if I need a “midnight movie” fix, I’ll stick with The Rocky Horror Picture Show and reruns of MST3K.

Eye of the Gods

Eye of the Gods (1/30/12) Graphic Novel (2009 ***) Written and illustrated by Gerimi Burleigh. Set in the near future, comic book artist Sean Black (who is coincidentally both black and bald…) goes under the knife for the new NuEyz procedure and ends up with crazy mad remote viewing skillz. A little background: I met this book’s artist/writer Gerimi Burleigh in Karl Gnass’ Draped Figure and Costume drawing class at the Animation Guild in North Hollywood. I’d overheard him talking with another student about the graphic novel he’d self-published. And so I bought a copy, which he graciously autographed, and gave it a read. I was impressed. Thought not quite on par with the polished graphic novels produced by the big publishers, the characters and story were quite engaging. The book had plenty of paranoia-fueled action, with space left over for a little sex too. I have little doubt (especially after seeing his artwork in class) that Gerimi’s next project will be even stronger, and I very much look forward to watching for his future projects.

Gone Baby Gone

Gone Baby Gone (1/30/12) Netflix (2007 ***1/2) Directed by Ben Affleck, based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris. When a 3-year-old is taken in the middle of the night, missing persons investigator Patrick Kenzie promises her drugged-out, white-trash mama he’ll bring her home. My first reaction to this film was probably the same as most people: “Holy shit! Ben Affleck is a pretty good director!” He certainly demonstrated his directing chops with this film. From a storytelling standpoint, I particularly appreciated how awesome Casey Affleck’s main character was: Patrick Kenzie’s fearlessness, even in the face of “crapping-your-pants” danger, was a breath of fresh air. Uh… so to speak. He was also a guy with a resolute moral code worthy of the old West, something you don’t often find in modern films.

Dorky Dog Episode #1 of 6

This is a test to see if I can embed videos in my blog. Will it work? Sure would be nice.

After the Thin Man

After the Thin Man (1/29/12) DVD (1936 ****) Directed by W.S. Van Dyke, starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, James Stewart and Sam Levene. Nick and Nora barely get back to their San Francisco home following their New York “Thin Man” adventure when Nora’s overacting cousin asks for help finding her missing Lothario husband. It’s such a delight to watch the “Thin Man” films all over again, and this, the second in the series, is possibly the best of the lot. I think the filmmakers learned a big lesson from the overly-plotted first film: While there were still plenty of “whodunnit” twists and turns, the spotlight remained focused brightly on Depression-era America’s favorite high-functioning alcoholic couple, Nick and Nora Charles. And their dog Asta, too, of course. By the way, if you’re a fan of Jimmy Stewart (and who isn’t?), After the Thin Man features one of his more amusing early performances.

Burn After Reading

Burn After Reading (1/28/12) FXM (2008 **) Written and directed by Ethan and Joel Coen, starring Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, George Clooney, John Malkovich and Tilda Swinton. Embittered ex-secret agent Osborne Cox writes his tell-all memoir, which subsequently falls into the hands of a couple of gym employees. Let me be frank: I expected much, much more from the Coen Brothers. A star-studded cast couldn’t help this movie’s story, which included a conclusion (don’t worry, no spoilers ahead) that was as unsatisfying as they come. The film’s only saving grace was — and this wasn’t enough for me to recommend it — interesting performances by Clooney, Malkovich and especially Brad Pitt.

Lover Come Back

Lover Come Back (1/28/12) TCM (1961 **) Directed by Delbert Mann, starring Rock Hudson, Doris Day and Tony Randall. In this misnamed, supposed light-hearted comedy, a smarmy ad executive named Jerry Webster deliberately assumes a false identity to get frigid Madison Avenue competitor Carol Templeton into the sack. It’s been decades since I last watched a light-hearted Doris Day / Rock Hudson (or James Garner) rom-com romp. I was flabbergasted by how offensive this one was from a feminist perspective, and I don’t even really consider myself that enlightened! I can can only imagine Gloria Steinem’s head exploding while watching it in its initial release. Not only that, but Doris Day’s acting range in the film was limited to the narrow band of the emotional spectrum between “consternation” and “fuming.” Though I hate everything this film stood for, I’m generously giving it 2 stars because… well, it was slightly more watchable than Manos: The Hands of Fate and it also featured very representative early-1960s interior design.

Salt and Pepper

Salt and Pepper (1/27/12) TCM (1968 **1/2) Directed by Richard Donner, screenplay by Michael Pertwee, starring Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford. A dead call girl / government agent named Mai Ling is just the beginning of this high spy adventure set in swinging, shagadelic London, baby! Obviously conceived as a potential franchise that actually had a sequel (One More Time, directed by Jerry Lewis!), this upbeat film was undoubtedly on the list of films that inspired Mike Meyers to create Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery. Even though Salt and Pepper would make wonderful MST3K fodder, it wasn’t a terrible film, but it didn’t quite work, either. “Rat pack” members Sammy D (“Charles Salt”) and Peter L (“Christopher Pepper”) were fun to watch punching, kicking, shooting and generally cavorting, and they had a pretty good onscreen chemistry. Unfortunately quite a lot of the scripted humor fell flat and the plot (which involved nuclear missiles and an overthrow of the British government) was sometimes confusing. I also can’t help but wonder if the sex and drug references were a little too overt for 1968 audiences. Either that or they weren’t overt enough.

Best Worst Movie

Best Worst Movie (1/26/12) Netflix (2009 ***) Written and directed by Michael Stephenson, featuring George Hardy, Michael Stephenson and Darren Ewing. Nearly 20 years after its release in 1990, Troll 2 is the gift that kept on giving. The heart and focus of this documentary was George Hardy, a practicing dentist whose “claim to fame” is that he played the Dad in Troll 2. The documentary was written and directed by the grown-up child actor who starred in the original film, and Stephenson did a commendable job with material that was obviously very close to his heart. I wasn’t entirely comfortable, however, with his editorial choices related to the obviously mentally-troubled actress Margo Prey, who had played Diana Waits, the mother in Troll 2. That criticism aside, Best Worst Movie was an interesting look at the making of (and the limits of) a cult phenomenon, and I was intrigued just enough to put Troll 2 next on my Netflix queue. Still, the best part of this film by far was the effusive, upbeat dentist George Hardy himself, though toward the end of the documentary even he seemed to be running a bit low on gas.