I’ll be heading to Florida later this week and work has been extraordinarily busy lately, so this weekend was my last chance to watch movies for quite some time. Fortunately, I squeezed in quite a few films, including a baseball movie, a cameo-riddled musical acid trip comedy, and a surrealist buddy comedy with an ominous title. This is the movie weekend that was.
The Babe (1992)
Believe it or not, as a diehard baseball fan, I’d never actually seen this film from start to finish. And that’s a good thing, because The Babe was a perfect example of how NOT to write a baseball screenplay. The inaccuracies are almost hilarious and you don’t even need to be a baseball fan to identify them.
Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars
John Dies at the End (2012)
The ominous title seemed a little imposing given that my name is John. Fortunately, I survived. Whether or not the titular John survives, I shan’t say. You’ll have to watch to find out. It’s impossible to describe this movie without creating some sort of patchwork quilt of influences. “It’s like if Shaun of the Dead and Naked Lunch had a baby. No, wait… it’s like squishing together The Matrix and Evil Dead… with a monster made out of the meat in a freezer.” You could play that game all day long with John Dies at the End. It’s a horror/sci-fi/surrealist buddy comedy from Don Coscarelli, the same director who gave the world Bubba Ho-Tep. It’s currently at 60% on Rotten Tomatoes and it’s easy to see why. It’s the kind of film you’ll either love or hate. Personally, I loved it. It takes a little while to hit its stride, but it’s an absolute blast once you get there.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The Sadist (1963)
Thanks to an awesome tip from FilmFather, I DVR’ed The Sadist off of TCM late Friday night. Because of the era when it was made, it feels hokey at times. But there’s no denying the influence, serving as a forerunner for any number of other serial killer films. In this particular case, it’s loosely based off on the murderous run of Charles Starkweather, and it certainly took a lot of chances for the era- namely revolving around the killer’s menacing acts. Some might even call them… SADISTIC!
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Story Ever Sold (2011)
I’ve been a fan of Morgan Spurlock ever since his 2004 documentary, Super Size Me. And while I felt that 2008’s Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? was a bit of a miss, The Greatest Story Ever Sold returns to what Spurlock does best. Specifically, he takes a comical but informative look, from a very plain-folks point of view, at a diverse topic. In this case, it’s corporate branding and Hollywood. The concept alone is genius. Spurlock approached several corporations to affiliate themselves with his movie, which just happened to be a movie about corporations branding themselves in movies (ergo the title). Along the way, Spurlock provides interviews with a disparate crew that includes Ralph Nader, Donald Trump, Quentin Tarantino, Brett Ratner, and Noam Chomsky, and takes viewers behind the scenes in meetings with various corporations and movie marketers to illustrate the process.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I watched this as part of the A.V. Club’s Best Films of the 90s list. Movies like this are precisely why I don’t consider myself a film critic in any way. I can appreciate a lot of what went in to making the film and even some of the themes. I’d be lying if I said I thought it was poorly made, or a bad film. On the contrary, it’s quite well-made. But I found it impossible to ignore how utterly repulsed I was by the majority of the characters and their lifestyle. It runs so counter to everything I believe in that I couldn’t put my annoyances away. I realize that a lot of their behavior is intended for humor but it just didn’t work for me.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars (mostly a reflection of my own personal attitudes and not on the quality of the film)
I first heard about Head, featuring the Monkees, when I put together the list of films that influenced Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. I really had no idea what to expect. As it turns out, it’s a boiling stew of acid-infused 60s pop culture references, reminiscent in many ways of Putney Swope (1969) and The Groove Tube (1974). Like those other two films, Head takes satirical counter-culture aim at pop culture. Unlike the other two, it comes with a strong musical element (it is, after all, a vehicle created for the Monkees). It’s really quite something, possessing no linear narrative and a series of bizarre and humorous sequences. The opening and closing sequences alone are worth your time. I strongly recommend it, as well as Putney Swope and The Groove Tube, if you’re into the whole 60s counter-culture vibe like I am.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
If you grew up any time during the video game era, after the late 70s, you will most likely love this movie. It possesses just the right amount of nostalgia without allowing it to bog down a very sweet story. The litmus test is whether or not kids will like it as much as adults, and I assure you that my nephew would have gone bananas for this film if he had opted to go see it. He didn’t want to see it during its theatrical run, for some reason explainable only by a 5-year old’s logic, but I’m sure I’ll be showing it to him somewhere down the line.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars