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Solid Concept for a mov...wait, is that Freakin' Johnny Ramone?!?!?

Well, not really. I mean the name of the movie is Stranded, right?

The basic concept of the movie is solid. It is like Apollo 13 or Morooned before that but now we are on Mars. The fish out of water drama. The shipwreck in space and all that.

The opening bit with the news cast is a warning to the viewer. The pacing of this movie is gonna be outlandishly slow, weird and emotionless. And those credits?? Man, anyone remember the opening wooshing credits of Superman - I mean, on and on and on. Some graphic designer just got a new Mac or something and just wanted to keep going and going and going. Enough.

All and all, very student film like thus far, but lets get into the story already.

As has been noted, the overdub was a train wreck and very distracting. Money issue I suppose. On set dialog must have either not happened or not been of any quality to be able to use, so lets dub the whole thing. OK, but when you are watching a dubbed movie that makes you think Godzilla the whole time you might want to work on matching up the mouth movements with the recorded dialog.Just a suggestion.

The blonde character Susana was the terrible. If I understand correctly she is the "Luna" that directed the movie as well (although she uses her real name for the acting credit). Luna, like Cher, Madonna or Prince...I guess. Maybe she is a good singer. Perhaps she needed to "hire" herself at the last minute or something or it was a money saving thing. This is LOW budget after all, so I'll give her the benefit of doubt on that move but lets not put ourselves in an acting role again, 'k.

Vincent Gallo just isn't my cup of tea. Can't, won't, not even a little bit...whatever. But OK, I understand...because he is Mr. Independent film hero to many so I guess Luna is included on that list. Her homage to the independent film spirit or she digs creepy grease balls, not sure which. I live with her choice. Namaste Luna.

Joaquim de Almeida is a real actor. Sir, what are you doing here? Does not compute...error, error....

"Just a moment...just a moment...I've just picked up a fault in the AE-35 unit. It's going to go a hundred percent failure within 72 hours."

Sorry, wrong movie.

But seriously, just a moment....

Is the guy up in orbit that they are talking that freaking Johnny Ramone as in The Ramones??? Love the Ramones and still... OK, I'm officially confused now. It isn't nice to talk about the departed, but that had to be the most bizarre bit of casting I have seen for some time. I mean, Johnny Ramone is in orbit around Mars and you're wondering why the shuttle crashed? Not that I am blaming, but still. That was some belly laughs I had when I'm listening to that Queens accent talking to those other astronuts on the Martian surface. What is his line? "Look, I gotta get going. It's a long way back home." Um, OK...could you hang out for a few minutes and see if there is something you could do since we are all go die 'n some junk???

I can't talk about the other actors in this movie. They just were not very good and I don't understand the hows or whys of them showing up in this.


People have them. The characters in this movie don't. Look, most likely you are all gonna die so some sign of this fact might be in order. The dialog is all very Dunder Mifflin. Speaking of which, I have had more animated and emotion filled conversations with people about adding paper to the copier, so I can't really relate all that well with these people. I don't get it.

Considering everything, the movie looks pretty good by which I mean the effects are fine. They aren't really important though as this is a human drama kinda thing but at least they don't distract. Pretty good considering this movie is almost a decade old and this is a no budget film. The directing, staging and pace of the film are criminal.

See Sam Rockwell in Duncan Jones' Moon (2009) for a good example of the way a no budget human drama oriented science fiction movie should been done. Stranded is a curiosity piece that most people won't be able to sit through.

Monster House

Rental for you kids if they are over 10, but nothing more.
The movie uses motion capture, which I just could not get into. Does it want to look like Claymation? Does it want to be but CGI? The look of the film isn't bad, but I didn't appreciate it. The dark edge of the storyline wants to be like a Tim Burton movie but failed to capture my imagination. The music wants to be Danny Elfman but comes off as imitation. No Pixar magic. No Spielberg or Zemeckis spark (although they are the Executive Producers). Not suitable for my seven year old son. I give the writers credit for keeping out the Shrek/pop culture type references (which have become all to common), but I just had too many problems with the story that I found its other faults distracting. People don't talk about how Nightmare Before Christmas doesn't make sense, which of course it doesn't. But all I keep thinking during this film was 'this storyline too doesn't make sense'. Because the storyline is not very engaging, I didn't suspend disbelief and found the whole plot just odd. Do I care about the "monster in this movie" like I cared about the say monsters in Monsters, Inc? No. We find out about the history/story of this monster in a 2 minute flash back, otherwise this monster has no personality, nothing to care about. The monster here is not an engaging character--it just the scary bogeyman (bogeywoman?) screaming, yelling and shaking its arms. Not a terrible movie, just not very good. And who is this movie for exactly? I think that it will have a problem finding an audience and I think the producers are aware of this. Why else would you release a movie that takes place on Halloween in the middle of summer? So, it can be out on DVD by the time Halloween rolls around and hopefully make up the low box office take I predict will occur in its release this summer. Rental for you kids if they are over 10, but nothing more.

Curious George

"...a reminder of what a CHILDREN'S animated movie is supposed to be like"
Wow, what a rare treat. A children's animated movie the is completely and totally suitable for children of all ages. I am not easily offended by movies for adults, but as a parent I am simply amazed at how much children's entertainment is really NOT fit children. Cat in the Hat, also from Ron Howard and Imagine, was rude and crass. I am embarrassed when my six year old repeats lines from the movie like the whole dirty hoe thing and all that. This movie is a very gentle and kind movie. No double meanings, no sexually explicate or pop culture references to keep adults interested. A favorite children's book, that with any luck, will be a favorite children's movie. I have a feeling that this film may not be a box office success, yet I still think that it will have a very long life for many years to come on DVD and cable because it is such a great entertaining movie for kids. The Jack Johnson music is perfect. The animated style is wonderful. It is not the all-new and important CGI animation, but a traditionally animated film that uses the old styles that have all but been abandoned in feature films This is the best Disney animated movie that I have seen in the past decade. Well, of course this film isn't made by Disney, but this is the type of film that they should be making, even if only occasionally, as a reminder of what a CHILDREN'S animated movie is supposed to be like. In a way, the film is even sweeter than the stories from which it is based. I really can't find anything wrong with this film for children and as a parent, I was much happier to watch it than Garfield or Shark Tales (both of which I sleep through).


Baby, it's cold outside!
***Spoilers!!*** Specific plots points are discussed herein!!

An ice age sneaks up on North America akin to a bad cold front. Our hero is LAPD bad boy Robert Drake, played by Grant Show of `Melrose Place' fame. Grant Show's IMDB bio starts off `Never really considered acting a profession.' Really? The writing is along the same lines as the acting. There is this racial tension between this cop and Kelvin the black guy that has clearly been written by middle class dudes as white as the snow. Speaking of race, the Hispanic sidekick of our LAPD hero is named Zapata. What, that's like the only Mexican name they could come up with? Viva Zapata! Or not in this case since the mysterious Dr. Kistler shows up and shoots Zapata 10 minutes into the film. So we got t he black dude ex- con and a dead Mexican cop sidekick named Zapata so we are pretty much covered on racial diversity thing in LA right? Lets move on.

Dr. Kistler must be uber important since a submarine is all preset to come take him to someplace warmer. So important that he drives a 1978 Volvo and has three sheets of paper in his brief case. It's an email print out that says meet the submarine in Malibu and a color Xerox of the earth and that days shooting schedule. They had $3.00 for props I guess.

Not as lucky as the good doctor, the President is back at the White House standing in front of a picture of Washington crossing the Delaware. An aid says they have to leave DC now or they will die if they stay in the capital so the president waxes on about Washington's surprise Christmas Eve attack of the British. What does this have to do with this story? Nothing, other than it was cold then too apparently. Speaking of cold, are hero Robert Drake wears jeans, tennis shoes and a leather jacket. Clearly he's an LA native, but c'mon.

Dr. Kistler, the cop with his son, girlfriend, ex-wife, her husband and ex-con Kelvin track across LA to meet up with the sub. Thankfully the LAPD has this giant snow mobile tracker although it doesn't run very well. There is this side story where they pull the broken down snow tracker into a bank and meet this rich couple. A rich couple in the bank. Get it? The rich guy tells this story about his father who donated money to a hospital and had a wing named after him, but when they went there during this freak cold so the wife could have a baby the hospital turns them away due to lack of space. The rich guy is glad that his money wasn't wasted on such philanthropic pursuits and that it is here, in cash, at the bank so they can make a fire with it. This is symbolic for something I'm sure. Don't donate your money to good causes or screenplay writing classes maybe? Oh god, the frostbite is entering my brain.

Eventually our band of Angelinos makes it to the sub prescheduled to pick up Dr. Kistler in Malibu. Dr. Kistler was killed a couple scenes ago, so someone else pretends to be him. Who notices right? 'I left my driver's license back at the lab with my briefcase with three sheets of paper in it.' This doctor is so important the sub is here for him but no one knows who he is or what he looks like. `I'm doctor so and so,' someone else from the group says and that's that.

Once they scam their way onto the sub, they have to convince the captain to allow them to go back and pick up our main hero Robert Drake who got shot in the leg a mile back. There is a emotional scene, `we aren't leaving without this boys father blah, blah, blah.' Without reflecting on the hundreds of millions of Americans already turned in popsicles, the captain says OK, you can have the snowmobiles for...whatever cliché .45 minutes, and then we are leaving with or without you. The sub is waiting 45 minutes surfaced to see if the get any new instructions. Like what, go pick up Dr. Kevorkian next? We already found previously in the film there is no government or chain of command so who they waiting to hear from is beside the point because you're thinking too much kind viewer. 45 minutes, then they are leaving -GOT IT! Hurry! Hurry! Oh dear sweet Lord, please don't leave our hero Robert Drake die with that copy of Dante's Inferno in the broken down snow tracker. Get this- Dante's Inferno -cuz hell can not only be hot, but also really cold and icy LIKE IN THIS MOVIE! Do you get it? Should I explain it again?

Do they make it back to the sub in time? Who cares? The most memorable line is from Dr. Kistler in the bank scene, `But I need another blanket, I'm cold!' Me too doc, I've just flat lined from watching this silly mess.

La vita è bella

A true auteur piece...Of course, that doesn't make it a good film
General views of film expressed herein. No specific plot points are discussed.

I respect that Mr. Benigni got his film made the way that he wanted. A true auteur piece in having secured financing for this film that he wrote, directed and stared in. Of course, that doesn't make it a good film. Frankly, I have little respect for LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL and all the attention that it received. The only entertaining thing to come out of this film for me was Ray Romano (I think) on SNL doing a take off of Roberto Benigni at the Academy Awards. I think that he accurately portrayed him as the annoying starved for attention court jester that he is.

If I were Nicoletta Braschi's Dora in LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL I would have had Roberto Benigni's Guido arrested and a restraining order placed against him early on in the story. His character goes on the top of my list of bothersome people portraying even more irritating characters. It is mind-boggling that American audiences embraced this actor that they had so clearly rejected five years prior in THE SON OF THE PINK PANTHER that featured Benigni as the same yuck-it-up persona (albeit with a French accent).

A great Italian film with a lovable child character (that also plays very well to American audiences) is CINEMA PARADISIO. SCHELIEDLER'S LIST is a "wholly unforgettable" movie about the "triumph of the human spirit in the wake of the Holocaust." A real life story of a war torn family is the incredible and ironic EUROPA, EUROPA (HITLERJUNGE SALOMON). It's the story of a Jewish boy separated from his family and taken in by Germans only to become a Nazi youth. Comedy is clearly an element that CAN be included in stories of human drama; the 1962 Czech film THE SHOP ON MAIN STREET (OBCHOD NA KORZE) is a thoughtful film that succeeds in every way that Benigni's LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL fails. LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL is along the lines of TV's Hogan's Heroes but much less entertaining.

If you ever had any doubts about what went on in Nazi Concentration Camps, the French documentary NIGHT AND FOG (NUIT ET BROUILLARD) will shock you back to reality. The images of dead humans stockpiled and bulldozed into a ditches should give you something to think about after you get past the sight of human skin hides being used for Nazi lampshades. Whoever said reality is much scary than fiction wasn't kidding. This infamous film from 1955 shot on the site of Auschwitz is only 30 minutes long, but it is the LONGEST half hour of film you will ever see. Those who want to rewrite or white wash Holocaust history are clearly deluded in the face of reality.

While the financial success of LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL did NOT spawn a rush a Holocaust inspired comedies, there was at least one film that must have been helped by its success. JAKOB THE LIAR is a Robin Williams vanity piece; an Americanized remake of the Academy Award nominated East German film and well regarded book of the same title. It is a film that ultimately fails in the same way LIFE does with the caveat that Williams' performance is surprisingly restrained.

The success of LIFE did get Benigni the backing he needed to make his next tour de force, a live action version of PINOCCHIO. The film turned out to be Italy's most expensive film ever made but was a major flop in the US. Benigni's popularity has, for the most part, since faded out of the American consciousness.

Call Me: The Rise and Fall of Heidi Fleiss

Heidi has the same problems that most of us can relate to!
**Spoiler Warning! ** While the title pretty much spells out this movie, please be advised that specific plots points are discussed herein.

`Call Me: The Rise and Fall of Heidi Fleiss' is a story that involves my two favorite things: sex and cash. Now, according to some, that may make me morally challenged, but c'mon, we've all gotta work. USA Cable Network's Heidi makes it seem like a good cash business in this retelling of the infamous Hollywood Madame's story.

This incarnation of Heidi Fleiss is played by the fabulous what's her name from HBO's `The Sopranos.' What can you say about her performance? She almost looks like Heidi Fleiss, she memorized her lines real good and in theory that Sopranos gig gives her, and by default this movie, some street cred.

`Call Me' is not some rerun episode of `Cops.' `Cops' can do a real good job at putting a downer on anyone's sex for cash fascination. Here though, Heidi's girls aren't a bunch of frightening crack whores from the depths of the local trailer parks offering `Johns' a half- and-half for twenty bucks. Twenty bucks? Wait a minute here! Heidi's girls, -er, I mean ladies, have all their teeth, thank you, and the yellowing of the skin from Hepatitis has not begun to show. In Heidi's world, sex for cash means $5,000 a night. And as Heidi says in the movie, `That's per girl. Plus a little spending money for shopping. And I'm gonna need money for their plane tickets too if you want them in Vegas tonight.' `Leave 'em happy.' Isn't that what B.T. Barnum or Samuel Goldwyn said? Or was it `Keep 'em wanting more?' Well whatever, you get the idea.

This movie really put me in the fabulous world that is Heidi Fleiss. Just imagine the days sitting around the pool at Heidi's house sipping cocktails up in the Hollywood Hills, while `Girl's Just Wanna Have Fun' plays over and over again on the radio. Need to go to the doctor-wink, wink-no problem. Heidi's father Dr. Paul Fleiss (who is played here by Saul Rubinek who'll you will recognize from somewhere, but won't really care enough to put you finger on it) is a sweet pediatrician with a little office over in Silver Lake. He's like your own little dr. grandpa. He'll hook you up. Give him a freebie and tell him Heidi sent you.

Speaking of drugs, I don't approve of all the coke (lower `c', not the brand name cola) that goes on in this movie. Maybe its because this is a made for cable movie and they wanted to push the envelope, but all this coke snorting has got to go. Geezus Heidi you're givin' me a headache! Sure it keeps you skinny so you could eat whatever you want.hey wait a minute. stay what ever I all night.sleep all day. Hey, since when did I become such a Puritan?

What really makes this story so heartwarming is that Heidi has the same problems that most of us can relate to. She's too young. She has WAY too much cash. She has all the business she wants. She's all coked out. She forgets to pay off the police. Did you pay the phone bill? Yeah. The mortgage? Umm..yes. Cash payment to the police? Oh, sweet mother of God.I forgot! It seems Heidi learned so much from here previous employer, Madame Alex, but in the end she forgot the most important lesson of them all. Pay off the cops! Throw the LAPD a bone now and then and no one gets hurt.

In regards to Heidi's previous employer, Madame Alex, she is NOT the kind of Madame that you'd wanna turn tricks for. She is old and ugly. Yuck! She is fat and doesn't get out of bed. And that smell.holly merde! I understand why all the girls left her for fun loving, albeit coked out, Heidi Fleiss. To make matters worse, Madame Alex has some vague Germanic accent and calls Heidi a `little Jew *itch' when she gets made at her. Think of Nurse Diesel from `High Anxiety' and you've got Madame Alex.

I give the first part of `Call Me: The Rise and Fall of Heidi Fleiss FOUR STARS. Tivo past the rest of the jail, court, loses everything and rehab part unless getting bummed out is your thing. I'm going back to Heidi's pool, where Juanita the house keeper is more than glad to freshen up whatever you're drinking. Here's my idea: Let's pretend she never got busted and turn it into a weekly series with special guest star ala `The Love Boat' and `Fantasy Island' Ms. Fleiss. Madame Heidi, you can `Call Me' anytime. I am already a BIG fan!

Le grand bleu

It co-stars Jean Reno, who could fart and I'd think its great!
The Big Blue (aka Le Grand Bleu) is a strange one.

Filmed in Europe in both English and French with American and French actors, it was well received in France but fell on its face commercially in the US. There is a FRENCH version. `Cut,' says our director Luc Besson, `OK Action, this time now in ENGLISH.' There are literally TWO versions of the same movie. Because they had this English language version in the can, along with a American female lead in Rosanna Arquette, it got a big commercial US release.

The male lead is played by Jean-Marc Barr who is a hot looking French dude who never really to made another big English language film. They dig him in France and you can see why here. It co-stars Jean Reno, who could fart and I'd think its great (Ok maybe not so great in Godzilla and Rollerball). The problem with the film is just the subject matter is goofy to ignorant Americans like me; championship free diving. What? Guys who go down in the water without scuba gear. I mean go really, really deep straight down in the water while holding their breath. Do people really do this as a sport? They do and in its way it is engaging and exciting, but odd to an American audience.

Still, the movie is beautifully shot with great music and creates an odd mix or serenity and frustration. Arquette is a fish out of water, but that's the point. Reno is obnoxious, but that's the point. Barr is more Dolphin than human, but guess what, that's the point. It is a great movie in my opinion, but how they thought this would play in Peoria is beyond comprehension. It was made during the New Wave of the 80's, but it has it roots far more in the French New Wave of the 50's. If you liked François Truffaut's The 400 Blows, you'll dig this flick.


When I saw it in 1982 in the movie they let us keep the 3-D glasses!
When director Charles Bans (Beach Babes 2: Cave Girl Island) recruited writers Alan J. Adler (Behemoth, the Sea Monster) & Frank Levering to collaborate on "the intelligent 3-D science fiction film of the 80's" it's a safe bet neither the maverick auteur nor the great science fiction writers knew they would virtually redefine the parameters of the modern cinema experience. A daring experiment in unconventional narrative inspired by a true story! In keeping with the director's underlying theme of dehumanization by technology, the notorious, omniscient man made creature has more warmth and personality than the humans it supposedly is serving. This theme, in part, is what makes Parasite a film like no other, though dated now it has proven optimistic compared to reality. Still, the film is timelessly provocative in its pioneering exploration of inner- and outer-space consciousness. With spectacular, painstakingly authentic special effects that have stood the test of time, Parasite is nothing less than a cinematic milestone--puzzling, provocative, and perfect. When I saw it in 1982 they let us keep the 3-D glasses!

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