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Taming of the Shrew

A battle of the stars...
...and only one makes it. I won't dwell on the plot, as it's known by 99 44/100% of the world's population. I just felt I had to put in my two cents and defend Mary Pickford. I was very eager to see her in a talkie, and this DVD turned up in my local video store. I immediately snatched it up with my little hands and dashed up to the register. "Am I dreaming?" I thought. "Have a finally gotten a Mary Pickford talkie?!?" I wasn't dreaming, fortunately, and I made it home with my purchase. My opinion, for what it's worth, follows below.

I knew that this film's reputation hasn't quite survived the passing years; neither has Mary Pickford's, for that matter. So few of Mary's films are available and this one does bring down the average a bit. Getting down to brass tacks--Mary Pickford is pretty awful in this picture, but I do think it's helpful to put her performance in perspective. While I did enjoy the film, and I always enjoy Mary's performances, the one word that kept coming to mind while I watched this is UNCOMFORTABLE. She seemed incredibly apprehensive, as though she'd never seen the script. (That might be due to improvising, though...she could have known Doug was going to give her a hard time!) Her marriage to Doug was steadily heading towards the rocks, and it does show. Mary seems aware that Doug has the picture in both hands and is running away with it, but she doesn't seem to know what to do about it. The bigger, louder and bolder he gets the more tight and restrained she becomes.

All this is unfortunate, because Mary could play a hellcat, and did on several occasions. Check out her performance in "M'Liss," when she, armed with a slingshot, addresses Thomas Meighan with "I'll pump ya full of rocks" and you don't doubt for one minute that she will. The main difference between Mary's previous good little devils (like M'Liss, "Little Annie Rooney," and Mavis in "Heart O' The Hills") and Katherine is of course sound. Stage training or no, Mary's voice isn't cut out for constant screeching. To add to the problem, Mary interestingly enough sounds like a little boy. Jarring? Absolutely. Not such a major issue though, because Doug has practically all of the lines in the movie. That is a relief of sorts, because while he's going through the required histrionics Mary is free to use body language, with which she was undoubtedly more comfortable. A good example of this would be the scene in which the smug, praying Petrucio prevents a weary Kate from eating. No one could call Mary's comedic timing in that scene inadequate. Silent yes, but never inadequate.

Mary's performance aside, this is a great Shakespeare movie for people who don't like Shakespeare (like me). There are so many silent-era gags in it that there isn't room for the Bard. Witness the wedding scene, which revolves around a man trying to dispose of an apple core. I imagine this movie gives English teachers fits.

Granted, this movie has shortcomings, but it will entertain you, and isn't that what movies are for?

Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend

Perfect entry in a great series.
I suck at video games. Really, I'm godawful at them, but I play them constantly. However, I beat this game and that's one of the reasons I love it so much. As everybody and his grandma knows, the Tomb Raider franchise was rapidly heading down the drain and Angel of Darkness had the distinct odor of sewage about it. (I liked it, but it is pretty darn terrible.) Gone are the days of precision positioning for jumps, and welcome to the new era of "That's close enough; I guess I'll grab it." There were several occasions where my jumps were way off but Lara obliged me anyway. The emphasis in this game is on making the action look good, and not difficult to pull off. This results in a game that anyone can play--a game that many people consider way too easy. I must concur--if I can beat it anyone can. The lesser difficulty is all but forgotten though, when you send Lara jumping and swinging across a room without stopping once. "Damn," you say to yourself, "that was COOL!" Speaking of COOL!, Lara may be practically superhuman but she still has that damned Breath Bar. Purists of the series were glad to see that the Angel of Darkness Grip Bar is nowhere to be found--if you want to hang Lara off a ledge and go eat lunch, she'll wait patiently until you get back.

I have both the Xbox360 and Xbox versions of the game (and I'm getting the 'Cube version as soon as it hits the shelves) and I can honestly say they both look stunning. Lara's character model is practically identical in both versions, but the backgrounds are where the main difference is. The 360 version has a lot more polish to it, with some fantastic lighting effects, but the Xbox version actually features some details the 360 doesn't. For instance, when Lara pulls herself out of the water, she drips. No dripping in the 360 version, but she does get shinier. (Anyone remember the Shiny Everything Period on the original Xbox? Even rocks shimmered in pitch black darkness.) Also, there are several moments when Lara is covered in dirt and bruised after sustaining damage, but the 360 version doesn't show that. Maybe I just didn't get damaged enough, but I never noticed any cosmetic changes on the 360.

Ah, cosmetic changes--Lara looks pretty darn good for umpteen thousand polygons stuck together. She's more muscular and athletic looking, and those breasts are a little less "at attention" than previous outings. In fact, Lara Croft has undergone a dramatic personality change as well, in that she actually has one now. Big thank you to whoever called Keeley Hawes and said, "I know it's not your usual thing but would you be interested in doing some voicework?" She is PERFECT in the role, and I'm not exaggerating. Our new Lara has a sense of humor, and even a little sarcasm. (Favorite line: when she loses communication with Zip and Alister she mutters "All those satellites and computers just to perfect the art of talking to oneself." Not only is that hilarious, but she sounds so irritated when she says it! Now THERE is a globetrotting archaeologist that would be fun to talk to.) That's not to say that she's all sunshine and giggles, because the end of the game actually features some pretty intense acting, and Miss Hawes handles it wonderfully. Lara's intensity is actually a little frightening, but it's what the story calls for.

The story--this game explains why Lara does what she does. She is actually searching for someone that was taken from her when she was a little girl. It seemed that the person (no spoilers here!) died, but perhaps there's another explanation. Lara is determined to find out, and as things progress she discovers an artifact of immense power and a myth with branches that span the globe. (Sound epic? It is!) The journey takes Lara everywhere, from Bolivia to Kazakhstan. It's also nice to note that she actually dresses for cold climates now, as opposed to braving them in that little tank top and those trademark shorts of hers. As if you can concentrate on flinging yourself from one icy precipice to another when you're freezing your butt off! As per usual, I shall end this review with griping and whining--not much though, because as I stated earlier, I LOVE THIS GAME. The camera presents problems, because it frequently shows the most aesthetic view and not the most practical one. The motorcycle sequences are a little tedious, but Zip's cheering makes them more bearable. The game is incredibly short--it took me several hours to complete it, but I was replaying levels like mad. Lara's house can be finished in one sitting with a little patience, so there's no need to visit it more than once. Last and least, the game ends quite abruptly and you'll feel left hanging like you wouldn't believe. In fact, I had no idea the game was over until the credits started to roll--that's how abrupt it is. That's a very minor complaint, though, because it just shows us that another game is in the works.

In closing, the game reinvents and reinvigorates a beloved franchise and it does it beautifully. Let me finish with this statement--IF THE NEXT GAME IS A WEAK TIE-IN TO ANOTHER GODAWFUL FILM WITH ANGELINA JOLIE I WILL MURDERIZE SOMEBODY! I'm sorry for the drama but I've heard the rumor and it scares me.


Adventures in Syberia...Mammoths on parade.
...and that's just me! Actually, this video game is absolutely stunning in what I guess one would call set design. Visually it's a treat. For purists out there, I didn't play the PC version--I played the Xbox port.

The story is simple, in theory--New York lawyer Kate Walker is sent to Valadilene, a small town in the French Alps, to help close the sale on a toy company. Once she arrives, she learns that the owner of the company, and that Anna Voralberg, whose signature she was to obtain, has recently died. Anna was the owner of the famed Voralberg Factory, which made automatons. Not robots, mind you, but automatons. Due to financial difficulties she is forced to sell her toy company to a large commercial entity. The town is understandably upset, as their cherished automatons will lose their handmade charm. As the player finds out, the automatons aren't just toys--some of them can be much more. Unfortunately for Kate, the sale of the factory veers off into difficult territory when she reads through some of Anna's papers and discovers that Anna had a younger brother, and that he would be the sole heir of the factory and in charge of selling it. From there, Kate is sent on a hunt for Hans Voralberg, a genius inventor but rather simple-minded otherwise. Kate learns of an accident in Hans' life, where he was injured trying to reach a mammoth doll hidden in a cave. (Get used to the mammoth doll--you'll see it quite a bit, and if you decide to play Syberia II you'll see it even more. Hans loves the thing, apparently.) Rather than remain completely objective about the whole thing, she becomes emotionally involved. What had started out as a business trip becomes an adventure, and as Kate makes her way through Europe she changes her values, her priorities, and even her outlook on life. If a studio made a movie with that exact plot, I'd shell out my hard-earned money to see it. Fortunately for us, Hollywood hasn't screwed it up, and we can experience Kate's adventures with her in the comfort of our own homes.

Right from the get-go, I think we are supposed to contrast Kate Walker with all the other game "heroines" out there. After careful evaluation, you realize that she's different from all of them. A more realistic person, in some ways, yet still quite different. She's a game character that could be considered a sort of role model--she sets herself a goal and she sticks with it, despite all the setbacks put in front of her. What's more, she grows as a person as the game progresses. Many people can identify with her for yet another reason--she's in a relationship that just isn't working and she's afraid to say anything about it. So, she's not like Lara, BloodRayne, Jill Valentine, or even Samus Aran, but as a character she holds up very well. That's good, because you're stuck with her for the duration of the game. As far as the realism goes, she looks like someone you might see at the mall. She doesn't have 52 double Ds, huge machine guns, or a laser cannon for an arm, but she can still get the job done. Only con--physically she's a wuss. She won't lift anything unless she has to, and God forbid she should get her feet wet.

The graphics are a stand out, but they aren't exactly 3-dimensional. Really, the graphics are a pro and a con. In the pro department, the game is beautiful, with snowy mountains, clear streams, hedge mazes (relax, you don't have to go through it), and wait until you see the train station! As for the con--I spent half an hour in one area wandering about because I couldn't see the door. It's not that I'm that goofy, it's that the door was impossible to see. With the point-and-click adventure genre, you go from one screen to another. (An icon usually points this out to you.) With this game you have to hit just the right part of the scenery to trigger a scene transition. If you don't hit the right part, you won't realize that the street is four blocks longer, or that there's another room in the attic, or that you're supposed to go through two trees rather than just run past them. It can be incredibly frustrating, and I actually had to resort to using internet strategy guides just for finding doors. I felt stupid, but it wasn't entirely my fault. I don't think it was, at least. (The sequel has this same issue, as well.) I suppose that I should play more games of this sort, and then I'd get used to examining every square inch of everything.

Voice acting is important in games of this sort because of the emphasis on storytelling. No one wants to hear a story from someone who sounds like Donald Duck, and you won't have that problem here. Great voice acting in English, and I'm going to try to play through again in French! Kudos to Sharon Mann, who voices Kate Walker. She realizes the importance of emotion, but she also knows not to go too far. She also uses different tones depending on who Kate is speaking to--for children she uses a warmer, softer tone, while she can be quite smart-assed to adults. (Can't blame her really--she deals with a motley sort.) All in all, a wonderful game, priced to move, but completely lacking replayability. For an original story that's told well, this is your best bet. (Side gripe--Syberia and Syberia II should be sold together. This game ends rather abruptly, and the sequel picks up right where the original left off. I'm not saying it should be one game because you'd go mad, but I do think both games are required to get the most out of the story.)

Jennifer's Shadow

Jennifer and her shadow both need more practice...
...cause they're both pretty lousy. I think the best part of the movie is the horrendously imperial picture of Faye Dunaway at the top of the stairs. She looks like she could very easily step out of that picture, rip someone to bloody pieces, and calmly re-enter the portrait looking as if nothing had happened. Now, you know a movie's in trouble when part of the set furnishings manages to attract your attention.

I admit, I paid $30 for the DVD just so I could see Faye Dunaway in a contemporary horror movie. I know what you're thinking--30 bucks right down into a gaping black hole. And you would be absolutely correct. This movie sucks. There, it's right out in the open. I was expecting some actual scares, and I waited and waited and waited. None came. The raven (probably a crow in makeup) didn't scare me, seeing small pieces of internal organs didn't scare me, and even Faye didn't scare me. I'm not that brave, I know, so it must be the movie itself that is the trouble. What's more, Jennifer wasn't scared either. Her internal organs were literally falling apart and she seemed more peeved than anything. Her life was rapidly coming to a close and she's worried about attaining more money. Honey, you can't take money where you're going!!! "I need money," she continually says, completely ignoring the fact that her lungs have collapsed and ceased to function.

Meanwhile, I spent the whole blasted movie wondering what was up with the grandmother (Faye). I was suspicious at first, Faye playing a grandmother and all, and I was still suspicious at the end. There is another relative living in the house that Jennifer and Mary Ellen the Grandmother-From-Hell are forced to share temporarily, and I'm guessing she is of the same generation as said grandmother. Here's the weird part--the relative looks like she's just endured her eight hundredth birthday party. Mary Ellen looks like she's just gotten a face-lift from a renowned surgeon. Face-lifts can't work miracles, but I think Faye's appearance is important to the rice-paper plot. SPOILER!!! It seems that the family is plagued by an illness that affects bad acting...sorry, my little joke. Seriously though, there's all illness that causes their organs to fail and ultimately disintegrate. Yuck, huh? Interestingly enough, Mary Ellen is still alive and all her organs are intact. How did she avoid the Family Curse? Something's up with her, obviously.

Another reason for mourning the loss of my thirty dollars--this movie features one of my all-time movie pet peeves. I refer to the double ending. This movie ends twice. I absolutely hate it when that happens, and in this movie it feels like the director shot the ending, didn't like it, and forget to remove it during editing. I guess it's supposed to be scary, but it is only if you're a film editor.

There is one perk to this debacle, though, and it's one of the reasons I bought the DVD. The "filmmaker" commentary features Faye Dunaway, and I wanted to see how she acted when she didn't have lines to recite. Guess what--the movie sucked so bad I wasn't able to sit through it again. Drat.

Torch Song

"I can't help being...a snarky reviewer..."
Okay, so that's not how Joan's big song goes, but nevertheless. I am going to do some snarking because this movie deserves it. I am guessing Joan Crawford made this movie because she missed MGM and wanted to take a last look. Or maybe she thought it was actually decent. I'm hoping for the former and praying it's not the latter.

See, this movie is terrible. Really, honest to God terrible. The plot--bitch goddess Jenny Stewart crushes people beneath her feet on a regular basis, but she is actually quite vulnerable ON THE INSIDE. (Yeah, one of those.) However, one day she comes across Tye Graham (played by Michael Wilding, who pronounces "Graham" as "Grimm"--rather appropriate) when he is hired to replace her burned-out rehearsal pianist. He's blind due to an accident, and she is unable to believe that a blind man can read music and play the piano. They clash immediately, as is to be expected, until the relationship sort of blossoms into something else. Okay, I can live with that. But, damn, the things that happen along with the way are intolerable!!! I am not even going to get started on the blackface number, which is obscenely awful. I will, however, elaborate on some of the little things.

First--why is Gig Young in this movie? He's Jenny's boyfriend-kinda-sorta, but he cheats on her on a regular basis, and she's incapable of feeling anyhow. I guess the filmmakers realized his utter lack of importance, because he disappears halfway through. Gee, darn. He apparently attached himself to her so he could steal money from her. ("Next time you go out without Jenny, don't sign her name to the checks," Joan says testily. I must confess I get a kick of out her lines like that, because my name happens to be Jenny. I wish I could boss people around like that!) So basically Gig Young is there, and then he isn't. Fine. Whatever. If my memory serves me, Gig Young is most famous for committing suicide rather than any movies he made, but that's beside the point. This movie didn't help his outlook on life, it would seem. Didn't mine, either.

Second--Joan, who could be quite attractive, has somehow ended up with orange hair. Maybe it looked good in black and white, but it don't here, that's for sure. I can only hope it wasn't her decision, or that she was in some alcohol-induced stupor when she had it done. Or maybe the hairdresser was incompetent, because I ended up with orange hair for that exact reason one time. Whatever the reason, she looks ghastly. Especially during the blackface number I've vowed not to think about again.

Third--the color of everything else is a little too garish for my liking as well. I am thinking, as some of you have probably guessed, of the chartreuse bathrobe Joan wears midway through the movie. What the heck is that thing? Underneath she's wearing some stylish white pajamas, why not show them off? Joan's makeup (not the blackface, the regular stuff) also struck me as a little off--in the scene where she tries to adjust the clock with her eyes closed her face is a full three shades lighter than her chest. That's not really a big deal, since that happens in real life more often that not, but it's still jarring to see it on screen.

I've totally trashed this movie, and that isn't entirely fair. You'll notice, perhaps, that I've given it a four. Those four stars come from two scenes in the movie in which Joan actually rises above the material and does a good job. The first of the two scenes comes when Jenny attempts some everyday tasks as a blind person--she tries to set the clock, as I mentioned earlier, and she also tries to make a phone call. She fails miserably at both tasks, and realizes she's taken sight for granted. I think she does very well with the scene mainly because of how she reacts to her failure--she's appalled. I get the feeling that Joan herself would have been appalled at such a failure as well. (Incidentally, I thought she was quite convincing in her "Night Gallery" segment.) The second scene is when she goes to see her mother, the only friend she's got. "Friend" is a word to be used loosely there--her mother's a leech just like Gig Young was. However, I think Marjorie Rambeau, a well-known stage actress in the 'teens, is quite likable and even sympathetic. In this scene Jenny comes to her mother asking for romantic advice about Tye. She's bothered because she's in love with a man who doesn't know what she looks like, but her mother recalls a connection that Jenny and Tye had before the injury that left him blind. That leads to the cranking up of the old Victrola for a listen to one of Jenny's records. Jenny listens and sings along. I love that scene because it's strange. As everyone mentioned, Joan's singing is dubbed by India Adams. (I actually think Joan mentioned that in "Conversations with Joan Crawford." Wherever it was mentioned, Joan was quite peeved about not getting to sing her songs.) What's strange is this--the record is India Adams singing in a higher-to-be-interpreted-as-younger voice, but Joan Crawford is singing along in her own voice. They're obviously two different people. Did MGM think no one would notice? I did.

At any rate, those two scenes don't redeem the movie, so I'm afraid I can't heartily recommend it. Better stay away unless you're inebriated and need a good laugh.

Seed of Chucky

Yeah, it's dumb, but so what?
First off, I've never seen a Chucky movie before this one. The only contact I had with the series period was wondering how the hell Ronny Yu went from "Bride with White Hair" to "Bride of Chucky." That's quite a leap. For some reason, though, I felt strangely compelled to see this movie. Not just to see it, but also to pay twenty bucks for it. I don't regret it.

I think this movie's main flaw is a lack of consistency. Yeah, I know it's a puppet slasher movie, but consistency would still be helpful. For instance, the first part of the movie features an hilarious, slutty, fame-hungry Jennifer Tilly. I think the first 20 minutes of the movie feature some damned funny moments, from the isn't-the-fake-head-realistic scene to her awful portrayal of the Virgin Mary. The movie stays funny for a good while, and you might even laugh at the whole turkey baster thing. Then the Jennifer Tilly character goes veering off in another direction--from MTV-award worthy to Oscar-worthy, and the change hurts the movie. I think it does, at least. I went from laughing to major discomfort and it only took two seconds. The painfully shallow Jennifer became the desperate Jennifer, a woman who only wants her children to be safe. It's fine to have more than one genre in a movie, but make the transition a little smoother, hmm? It's like skateboarding into a wall--really fun, and then painfully and abruptly not fun at all. Even her screaming isn't funny in this part of the movie. It's terrified and anguished; before it was just silly. To make matters worse, by the last 15 minutes of the movie, she's another Jennifer entirely. A green-eyed, Tiffany-toting weirdo with two weirdo kids. So, all told, this movie has four Jennifer Tillys. (Gina Gershon would be thrilled, wouldn't she?) However, I would definitely watch this again (as well I should, since I paid for the thing) just to watch Jennifer Tilly be idiotic. Her performance is admirable, from the shameless putdowns to the blatant ass-kissing. Who else but Tiffany would think Jennifer has the voice of an angel? One of the best scenes in the movie occurs when Jennifer, her assistant Joan, and Tiffany are all on the phone. Tiffany is eavesdropping on another extension when she decides to participate in the conversation. This causes some great confusion--"Why are saying these things, Jennifer?" "I'm not saying anything! Why are you making fun of me? I don't sound like that!!!" And it goes on for what seems like years, so the laughs go on and on. Then you're laughing until someone gets eviscerated and the movie hurtles off in another direction. Oh well.

Big acting kudos to little Glen also. It's sad to say, but Glen is the most expressive actor I've seen in a long time, and he's plastic. It's rather difficult to watch--I had to keep reminding myself he was a puppet. He's that impressive. He needs to get over the pants-wetting though, because that got real old real quick. (Freaky colored-urine, too, he may need a checkup.) Chucky was realistic enough, and Tiffany looks like a trailer park nightmare on crack. No big deal though, because she knows she has a problem and she's trying to overcome it! I was also glad to see John Waters being tacky as always. I watched his departure scene and thought, "Hey, they're burning the trash! Tee hee!" But he is great, and he gets the best line in the movie--"A masturbating midget?" Aptly put, Mr. Waters.

Great entertainment value in this, so I definitely recommend it to anyone with 100 minutes to waste. And, to give you more bang for you buck,the DVD has a commentary track, for those of you eager to hear the voice of an angel...of sorts.

A Foreign Affair

Surprisingly good natured...
I got this movie on video when the second half of the Marlene Dietrich collection came out. (Anybody remember VHS? Ah, the good old days.) A friend had recorded it for me, but the sound was all garbled. I enjoyed the parts I understood, and when it came out on video I had to have it.

There are so many enjoyable moments in this movie. Congresswoman Frost gets one of the best masquerading as "Gretchen Gesundheit," only to cause her newfound companions to gleefully remark "We're fraternizing with a sneeze!" Heck, she gets all the best moments. Jean Arthur, an actress I never cared for due to her high irritating factor ("Shane," anyone?), does wonders portraying an irritating person. Phoebe Frost is so stalwart and dull it's remarkable she even breathes. When she finally lets her hair down it's painfully funny. I refer of course to her performance of "The Iowa Song." Erika (Marlene, of course) forces her to perform the song in front of everyone at the cabaret, hoping to mortify her into leaving. Phoebe instead gives it the old college try, and to watch her at the end of the song is amazing. She's terrible, but she's completely forgotten that little fact. She looks so thrilled to be there, singing the praises of her native land, and everyone else is so thrilled they feel compelled to sing along. It's one of the funniest things I've ever seen. We're also treated to a quick cut to Marlene, who's clapping her hands and puffing her cigarette like a freight train. Another great scene is Phoebe displaying her new dress to Captain Pringle. She found it hanging on the handlebars of a bicycle and it looked devastating. On her it looks, as she aptly puts it, "like a circus tent in mourning for an elephant that has died." How someone so humorless as her can come up with things like that I'll never know. (Billy Wilder must have been a great lunch companion!) There is one strange thing about this movie, though, and here it is. Why would Marlene Dietrich and Jean Arthur fight over John Lund, and even more puzzling, how in the hell could Marlene lose? It's unbelievable! According to legend, Marlene had quite a bit of animosity towards Jean Arthur, and on screen she sure acts like it. Erika insults or mocks every little thing about Phoebe, down to the ribbons ("shoelaces") in her hair. She even says she has a face like "a kitchen floor." Erika might lower herself that far (having no dignity left), but Marlene? Never. Not to mention playing a Nazi sympathizer. Why, we even see her whispering into Hitler's ear! The look of horror and surprise on Captain Pringle's face when he sees that is priceless. He's talking about how she couldn't have been that important, and he looks up to see her chatting with the Fuhrer. I imagine if Marlene Dietrich had gotten that close to Hitler she would have killed him, and maybe gotten away with it.

In all fairness, Marlene gets some memorable moments as well, such as when she bitches about her springy mattress. Pointing out a spring, she mutters "That one is the worst." And who can ever forget her surprisingly tolerable rendition of "Black Market"? Better yet, who can forget how, during "Illusions," she reaches back and puts her cigarette in Frederick Hollander's mouth WITHOUT EVEN LOOKING AT HIM? I can just see some other less elegant actress gouging him in the eye with it.

I also admire this movie for showing what Germans must have actually been like after the war, instead of focusing on Nazi atrocities like other films are prone to doing. This movie says that the Nazi Party wasn't Germany, at least not all of it, and definitely seeing the Germans living in the ruins of their formal lives drives the point home.

The Lady Is Willing

The Reviewer is Willing.
I watched this (after going through heck to get the video) because I wanted to see Marlene Dietrich do something different. I'd seen "The Blue Angel" and all the other big Dietrich movies, but I'd gotten the idea that this one stood out from the rest. Well, yes, in a way.

Lili Marlene plays Elizabeth Madden, a popular musical comedy star and a complete moron. (That's where this differs from her other movies, I think--I don't recall her being so blasted ignorant in anything else.) SPOILERS AHEAD!!! We are talking about a woman who steals a baby because she's so cute, decides to keep it, and somehow fails to realize the baby is actually a boy. She names him Joanna. Her reasoning behind the mistake is this--everybody knows that girls wear pink and boys wear blue. The baby was in pink, therefore the baby was a girl. I had a hard time believing Marlene as such a NAIVE person, especially when it came to children and reproduction. Elizabeth is a darling person (I know that sounds silly, but she is), but she isn't Marlene and Marlene doesn't seem to be able to manage the deception. If you can get past that, then this can actually be a delightful little movie. Elizabeth is very earnest, caring, and generous, as evidenced by her list of "friends" that she gives all her money to. Because of that, she can't legally adopt. Her job isn't very stable, apparently, and she doesn't have much money in the bank. In walks pediatrician Corey McBain (lovable Fred MacMurray), who inadvertently provides an answer. Then comes the whole marriage of convenience (she gets her baby, he gets part of her apartment and money to study some disease in rabbits), and whoops! They fall in love. Gee, who didn't see that one coming? All in all, this movie's okay. Not great, but it's a nice viewing. If you're expecting belly laughs, you won't get them from this. (There were many other funnier movies that came out around this time: "The Lady Eve," "The Palm Beach Story," "Sullivan's Travels," etc.) Of course, what can you say about a movie whose claim to fame is the star being clumsy and breaking her ankle?

The Witches

What a piece of unbelievable weirdness...
And the movie's odd, too. What a fun romp through Satanic small-town England, huh? What icky people live there! What a horrid place to be stuck in, but teacher Gwen Mayfield doesn't mind. It's a step up from where she's been, though...

This movie starts out with a scene in Africa, and we see schoolteacher Gwen Mayfield and her two assistants attempting to escape from something. (This is the scene where Joan Fontaine, as Miss Mayfield, begins sucking her cheeks in. Get used to it, because she does it for the entire duration of the movie.) The something, as the assistants hesitantly explain is a soul-eating something. Miss Mayfield seriously doubts it--"Nothing can eat your soul," she says in a British accent. (Side note: Why did Joan Fontaine have an English accent when sister Olivia de Havilland didn't?) Sure enough, a garishly-colored feather duster appears, an obvious omen of soul-eating. The assistants beat feet and escape, while Miss Mayfield sucks her cheeks in and waits for whatever is coming. The soul-eater (a guy in a huge mask and fake fingernails) crashes through the door, Miss Mayfield freaks, and we are transported like movie magic to England. Here's where the movie picks up.

It seems that there is a school in this tiny town of Heddaby, and they are looking to replace the head teacher, who died or something equally unpleasant. The "preacher" and town big guy Alan Bax wants Miss Mayfield to run the school, because her work in Africa might be interesting to the kiddies. More like terrifying, but hey. Alan's creepy sister Stephanie is a famous article writer, and Miss Mayfield is familiar with her writing on...wait for it...witchcraft!!! Who knew? Stephanie and Miss Mayfield hit it off right away, and everything seems to be normal. But wait...

...there are two children (ha!) in Miss Mayfield's class that seem to be troublemakers--Ronnie and Linda. They're too thick to stir, actually, and it just bothers the heck out of everybody in the village. They townspeople, for some reason, aren't bothered by the fact that Linda could easily pass for 25. The Baxes aren't involved yet, but Linda's grandmother, Granny Rigg, believes the union is a mistake. SPOILER!!! She's such a firm believer in this that she apparently runs Linda's arm through the "mangle." Does that sound painful or what! I don't know what a mangle is but I bet it stung. At this point in the movie, we discover that Granny Rigg's cat is some sort of familiar that she uses to spy on Miss Mayfield. It seems there's some huge thing seething beneath the surface of the village, but Miss Mayfield can't quite figure it out. She notices that people act strange (her co-worker explains that by saying they've been inbreeding for centuries), and when Ronnie falls into a coma she's positive something is amiss. Even better, her past seems to be coming back to haunt her, as she gets weirded out by another garishly-colored feather duster. The feather duster, combined with several town mishaps and a sheep-trampling, cause Miss Mayfield to have a nervous breakdown. Again. I can sympathize, though. Getting trampled by sheep is unnerving.

Miss Mayfield then is committed to a nursing home, with no memories of why she's there or what had been going on in Heddaby, or even what had happened in Africa. Her sanity comes back just as quickly as it had left, and she realizes that witches are afoot in England. Again. Linda's in danger, Ronnie's in danger, heck, everybody's in danger. She dashes back to Heddaby and the comforting home of the Baxes. Stephanie seems genuinely concerned, and she believes all the accusations Miss Mayfield makes. One thing leads to another, and Stephanie reveals herself to be a egomaniacal lunatic intent on using her superbrain to better mankind. Miss Mayfield is horrified, and even more so when she learns what part poor virgin Linda is to play in this. (See, that's why everyone was upset about her seeing Ronnie--she had to remain "pure." Isn't that sick? I can't believe she was a virgin, myself.) All of these happenings lead us to one of the worst scenes in movie history--the Ritual. "Ritual" as in disgusting, sexless, muddy orgy. That's right--a sexless orgy. They slather oil all over each other, they wear ragged clothes, they beat on bones and dance around, but they don't have any sex. Not to mention the fact that their dancing seems more like a large group of people having synchronized seizures. It's up to Miss Mayfield to clear their heads and return order to Heddaby. I had no faith in her whatsoever, but that's just me.

If you like kooky 60s horror movies FROM ENGLAND then this is for you. If you want your 60s horror movies to be art, like "Psycho," then pass over this one.

The Damned Don't Cry

Damned Good Review
(Part of this could POSSIBLY be considered plot-spoiling.) This is one of Joan Crawford's lost movies, or at least it was until it got released on DVD. I had never seen any part of it until the DVD release, but I had heard from various sources that it was in fact terrible. Pardon me, but I beg to differ. This is a stunning movie that manages to keep you entertained from start to finish, and isn't that what movies are for?

Joan Crawford plays Ethel Whitehead and her other persona, Lorna Hansen Forbes. The change is to better aid the gang she's gotten involved with, and I imagine she enjoys her taste of the good life. (Why the heck did she cut her hair, though? She looked much better to start with!) Unfortunately, the taste goes sour pretty darn quick, leave Ethel/Lorna in a spot. It also leads to the best scene in the movie, where she gets the crap slapped out of her. That is what makes this movie stand out for me--for once Joan isn't dishing it out, she's taking it. Granted, it's aesthetically pleasing violence that leaves her looking just as stylish as before, but still. I knew Joan Crawford was a marvelous slapper, but she's an even better slappee.

For me, there are several moments that make this movie great. The first is the scene that illustrates Ethel's acceptance of her "escort" job. (However, I can see how this scene would look ridiculous to a lot of people. Joan is a smidge too old to be doing what she's doing, but once you get past that it's great.) Ethel gives her partner her cut, which isn't nearly enough, and receives a tirade in return. She listens but for a moment, then turns around a walks off. When the partner continues, Ethel says "Ah, shut up." One of the best line deliveries Joan ever did, in my opinion. I think this part of the movie is a throwback to Joan's shopgirl movies. I can see an older Sadie McKee acting the same way. Even better, the scene reveals quite well just how ignorant Ethel is, but also how quickly she learns. When Martin explains to her that he's a CPA, she obviously has no idea what he's talking about. Once he straightens her out, she immediately uses it against someone. So, while she started out a step down, she used it to go an extra step up. It's wonderful stuff to watch.

Another well-done scene is the second, the scene in which we are introduced to Ethel Whitehead. It's very brief, with Ethel debating over whether or not to buy her son a bike, but very effective. Joan's acting is incredible here as well, and for some reason she looks much younger as a tired housewife than she does as a wealthy socialite.

I will gripe about something though. (Can't have a review where I don't complain, you know.) I disliked the character of George Castleman intensely. (Question to other film watchers--George lives in the Governors Mansion, and we're told that the Governor has ordered the meeting, but is George the governor? I don't think so, but it sure is implied. Somebody help me out with this.) George sucks, actually. Does he love Ethel? He says so, but why put her in such horrid situations? Why force her onto Nick Prenta when he has to know what will happen? My idea of love isn't shoving someone into the great gaping maw of death, which is what he seems to be doing. That's a minor gripe, though, and George is intended to be an a-hole, but still.

Another gripe, this one about the DVD. I haven't sat through Vincent Sherman's commentary, and I don't plan to. For Pete's sake, the man made tons of movies, he's two hundred years old, and all he can talk about is sleeping with Joan Crawford. If that's his only claim to fame he's a little bit sad. I have never seen the mention of his name with her's attached. I have never seen him speaking without mentioning their affair. MOVE ON, MAN!!! Everybody else slept with Joan Crawford too. He needs to rearrange his priorities. But, casual moviegoer, don't let that disturb your movie experience. A great movie--definitely one to be watched.

Only the Lonely

"What if it's a rapist dressed like Elmer Fudd?"
I AM A HUGE MAUREEN O'HARA FAN. There--I've said it, and now you'll know why this review will be biased.

It was a few years back, late '90s, and I had just seen "McLintock!" over at my grandparents house. My grandfather was a huge John Wayne fan, and he watched the movie constantly. I love the Duke too, but I was amazed at Ms. O'Hara, who played his bitch of a wife. Not only was she gorgeous, but she could also beat the snot out of just about anybody (even the Duke himself) and look good doing it. That's a quality I wish I had, so I was quite taken with her. At any rate, I also managed to see "The Christmas Box" on TV, and I was a bona fide fan. While larking through Wal-Mart, I saw this movie--"Only the Lonely." It was a bargain video, only about $7, so I was all over it.

The plot has been discussed at length--John Candy (Danny) falls in love with Ally Sheedy, only mom Maureen doesn't think it's an appropriate match. One of the jarring highlights of this movie comes when Mom From Hell meets Girlfriend From Funeral Home--she sees her, turns to John Candy and says, very matter-of-factly, "Where are her breasts?" What a Mom thing to say--it even manages to make YOU feel uncomfortable. Like it's YOUR mother and you're anticipating how the evening will turn out. Makes me squirm just thinking about it. Not surprisingly, the dinner doesn't go so well--how could it when you're dining with Medusa? Seriously though, Maureen O'Hara's character quite frequently seems to be a HORRIBLE person with no regards for the feelings of others. She's callous, arrogant, and impatient, yet I would love to meet her. An example of her temperament comes early in the movie. She's having coffee with Danny, and she's telling him how healthy she is and how well she can see. All the while she's pouring orange juice into her coffee. When this is pointed out to her, she exclaims, "Damned cartons! They're all decorated the same." Total, prompt, upfront denial of her inadequacy. It isn't her fault, it's the carton maker's lack of imagination that is the problem.

The summary quote is my favorite line from the movie, and I've learned to mimic Maureen O'Hara's delivery of it quite well. When Danny tells her he can't help with the trick-or-treaters because he has a date, this is her retort. It just sounds hilarious when you hear it. The Halloween conversation between John Candy and Maureen O'Hara is, I think, the best in the movie. She paints herself as a poor helpless old lady, only we know better. John Candy's character, Danny, has a tendency to imagine his mother stuck in fatal situations (can ya blame him?), and his overactive imagination causes the friction in his relationship with Ally Sheedy. It also provides some amusingly goofy sequences where accidents that wouldn't happen to anyone happen to Maureen. (POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD.) She falls through a manhole AND gets murdered by a trick-or-treating homicidal maniac. Each time her dying words illustrate her selflessness (which of course she doesn't have)--after the manhole incident, she says "I hope you enjoyed your baseball game, Danny." Who can guilt you into submission better than your mother? This is a great movie to watch with your family, because it just might make everyone feel better about their mothers. After all, you could have Danny's.

Dao jian xiao

What the heck?!?
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD. Tai Seng is a distributor of Asian movies, and they do a great job of making sure that Hong Kong action films find a wider audience. Sometimes, with a movie like "The Bride with White Hair," they go all out and subtitle it intelligently, dub it into English, and generally make sure you can understand it. Sometimes they don't bother. This is one of those times. I have seen this movie three times and I still have no idea what it's about. There are several reasons for this--first, it's a PRETTY darn convoluted plot. Second, it's subtitled in PRETTY bad English. Third, the subtitles are PRETTY hard to read. There are two sets of subtitles, English and Chinese, and both are white. Problem is, Andy Lau wears white the whole movie. Therefore, when he is speaking, you have white on white and no idea of what he's saying. Nevertheless, I will try to describe what I saw.

This is a fairly dull movie starring Andy Lau (is he in every movie made over there or what?) and Brigitte Lin (who should be in every movie made over there). According to the back of the DVD box, Andy Lau plays Smiling Sam, but he is rarely called that. Brigitte Lin, we are told, is "Samurai," but is NEVER called that. Brigitte Lin amazingly enough furnishes my first gripe of the movie. Her character is called Ming Jian in the movie, and he happens to be a man. No problem, she did that kind of thing all the time. However, I hate it when a man overdubs her voice--it's freaky. The words follow her mouth well, but it's just plain weird. (It also bothered me in "Swordman II," in all fairness. I am not just being hard on this movie.) My second gripe is, as mentioned earlier, not being able to understand a thing about what's happening. Apparently, there is some large fitness tournament where three kung fu masters are going to compete for the "best in the world" title. The three competitors are Smiling Sam (or whatever), Ming Jian, and Elvis Tsui's character (I don't recall hearing him called "Big Knife," and I didn't see it in any subtitles either. He does carry a large sword, though.) Unfortunately, somebody gets killed and Smiling Sam is implicated. I don't know who gets killed, because I couldn't tell, but the plot thickens when it is revealed that Sam had an affair with Somebody's wife. (You see what I mean about not knowing what's going on.) The Somebody is high up on the bureaucratic ladder, and demands that Sam be captured and killed. (Bear in mind that this is approximately thirty minutes into the movie, and while Brigitte Lin's character is mentioned many times, he doesn't show up. It's annoying to have a huge star in a movie when they just don't get any screen time.) Elvis Tsui is tapped to capture Sam. Sam hides (in a rather clever place), and it is soon revealed that Sam has been set up by person or persons unknown, and he is determined to reveal the lying creep. All of a sudden Ming Jian, a very influential person, shows up and vouches for Sam's credibility and swears he didn't do anything wrong. He does this by laying his family's reputation on the line.

Somewhere in all this are two princesses from a mountain tribe, or some such, and a shag carpet wearing weirdo who is apparently in cahoots with Ming Jian's wife (?). SPOILER HERE!!! As it happens, Ming Jian's wife, who totes a baby around the whole movie, is the one that has framed Sam. Not only that, she has stolen Sam's friend and hidden her someplace. She has all this to make Ming Jian the martial arts champion of the world, so you can't really hate her too much. No, wait. You can. This female character, whose name escapes me, is the nastiest, rottenest, bitchiest woman I've seen in one of these movies. She's horrible. She manages to avoid getting in fights by holding her baby as a human shield, which is despicable in itself. Then, to divert attention to breastfeeds it (which the other reviewer so tantalizingly mentions, ha ha), which of course causes everyone to literally "look the other way." All of this is unnecessary, because she can kill people with her hair. Yep, that's right. She strangles people to death with her long black tresses. (Brigitte Lin did that twice, only with long white tresses. Someone in Hong Kong must be running out of ideas...) She also rips a man's face off, and writes directions to Sam's friend on it. She entrusts this to the prince, who nervously crams it into a box. Ming Jian is understandably startled, and in protecting Sam inadvertently kills Wild Hair Woman. Bummer, dude. Finally, one thing leads to another and Sam and Ming Jian are pitted against each other in the martial arts duel of the century. Or not, however you want to look at it. The duel is nifty, since neither one wants to kill the other, but you have to sit through so much junk to get to it that most people won't make it. I stayed close to the TV assuming that Brigitte would show up any minute, only she rarely did. Most people are going to watch this for her, and it isn't worth it.


An over the top laugh fest...
...and that's just my review. (Just my little joke.) I had this movie on video originally, and then I managed to pick up the super-duper limited edition special DVD with two versions of the movie. (It was marked somewhere around fifty dollars, but I paid fifteen instead. SuperDiscount!) Oh, it was funnier on DVD. Digitally uproarious. I just want to start off by saying that Faye Dunaway is a blessed comedy genius. I laughed so hard my face hurt. More than once, even. So was so fabulous I'm just going to review her. Mostly.

Our Lady of the Neurosis plays Selena, a witch bent on ruling the world. She's a bona fide witch, as in noun and not adjective. She has "magical powers" which she uses mostly to embarrass people, and she might be able to concentrate her talents if she finds the proper trinket. The movie details her tribulations with such a trinket, and Supergirl shows up every now and then. Mainly though, Selena seems preoccupied with nabbing a hunky landscaper she saw while driving around. (Seriously.) Her efforts in getting him and keeping him are so FREAKING funny it's painful. When he seems to be straying a coconut plummets out of the sky and hits him in the head. Is this what Selena does with her time? Yes, indeed--what do you expect from a woman that lives in a dilapidated funhouse? Later in the movie she mentions being able to "make the sky rain coconuts with pinpoint accuracy" but not being able to make people fall in love. Think for a moment about how funny the sky raining coconuts is. Then think about doing it with pinpoint accuracy. I'm giggling already. When the doorbell rings she mutters, "If that's the goddamn Jehovah's Witnesses again..." What an idiotic thing to say, but just enjoy it! She then has a devastating conversation with her ex-boyfriend, who ends up looking considerably different than he did when he first showed up.

So basically we have a woman who wants to sleep with a gardener and rule the world, only she's a moron and can't seem to do either. See how funny that is? Witness her goofy exchange with Bianca, her henchwoman. "You want me to find out who she is?" earns a reply of "I'M NOT ASKING YOU, I'M TELLING YOU." What?!? You can't help but feel sorry for poor Selena, who actually says things like "Wet your whistle?" Her demands are so laughable, not in what she's demanding but how she's asking for it. The movie starts going to heck when her incompetence starts to be replaced with competence. That's not the goofball we had grown accustomed to. In short, Selena is a evil woman that everyone would like to get to know. It doesn't seem possible, but it is. Now, THERE is somebody I would like to have a conversation with. Assuming of course she doesn't conk me on the cranium with a coconut.

Mommie Dearest

My two cents, not counting inflation.
I am a huge Joan Crawford fan, as everyone should be, and I guess I felt I had to say something about this movie. First off, it in no way changed my opinion of Joan Crawford or even my opinion of Faye Dunaway. Neither actress was ruined during the making of this movie, but both were considerably tarnished. Lord knows Faye Dunaway got a boost from this movie, even if it wasn't the kind of boost she had hoped for.

As I mentioned earlier, I am a huge Joan Crawford fan. I am also a follower of Faye Dunaway's career, so this movie should be a delight. Ha. Upon reading Ms. Dunaway's autobiography, "Looking for Gatsby," one can gain a little insight into her take on the movie. As I understood it, she had hoped (along with one of the umpteen producers) that the film would depict a struggle between a bratty rich girl and an unhappy poor girl. It ends up that way, only reversed. Ms. Dunaway had pictured Joan herself as the poor girl desperate for love and attention. Wouldn't that have made a better film? An actual film and not a travesty of just about every emotion available to human beings? Back to the backstory--it seems that Christina Crawford's then husband was also one of the producers, and the rich girl--poor girl scenario got shot down.

I agree wholeheartedly with everyone who has mentioned the insanely quotable dialogue. I have found occasion to actually quote this movie in average every-day conversation. It's right up there with "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane"--I am somewhat ashamed of this, but I can recite that whole movie, and could even describe the action if blindfolded. "Mommie Dearest" is just like that--you see it once and it sears into your brain to torture you for all of eternity. (I've got Crawforditis--I keep overdoing everything!) I have some huge bones to pick with this epic though, and I'm not doing to detail differences from the book's material as I haven't read the book. I wasn't there either, so I won't try to influence anyone's opinion on what actually happened. Anyway, here are my complaints. First, Joan Crawford made somewhere around eighty films, covering a span of over fifty years. This movie mentions TWO. One, "The Ice Follies of 1939" is mentioned only to give us an idea of the year and to see Faye Dunaway on ice skates. The second is "Mildred Pierce," and it would be difficult to depict Joan Crawford winning an Oscar without mentioning the film for which she won it. WHERE ARE THE REST OF THE MOVIES? It seems Joan didn't have time for movie-making what with all the hysterical freak-outs she possibly experienced every two minutes. Joan Crawford without any movies isn't Joan Crawford to me.

Also, there were several things that seemed pointless--a petulant Christina not eating the beef given her seemed stupid to me. I didn't feel bad for her, but I thought "Joan" was acting silly as well. As for children being whipped, even with clothes hangers, that used to go on all the time and still does. That doesn't make it right, but it doesn't make Christina special either. Another gripe--the endless wait at the beginning of the movie to see "Joan Crawford." (One wonders if the director was attempting an homage to "A Woman's Face," where the audience eagerly waits to see how gorgeous Joan has become, even though everyone knows what she looks like anyway. It doesn't dull the impact at all, though.) I almost fell off my chair at the visual revelation the movie provides, but not in a good way. It was more of a "Damn, that's awful" moment. Two of the most important characters, Greg and Carol Ann, are fictional. Since a huge chunk of Joan's animosity is directed at them, it's sort of odd that the two people never even existed. How can you show animosity when there's no recipient? My last gripe is really unimportant, but I dislike the rehearsal of "Mildred Pierce." Rather than act out the scene, Faye Dunaway does an impression of Joan Crawford doing the scene. That bothers me--did Joan have everything nailed this early in the production of the movie? I would have liked to see a different interpretation of the scene. As for the "Mommie Dearest" take on it, we are supposed to be horrified that Joan actually slaps Carol Ann in the face. I recall hearing that Joan actually slapped Ann Blyth in the actual movie, but Ann Blyth had to slap Joan as well. Dozens of people got slapped by Joan Crawford, and I've seen La Crawford herself get smacked. (No one did that nifty backhand like her, though, huh? She'd backhand somebody, and then come around for seconds before they recovered. Dang, that's the coolest slap around.) The acting out of "Mildred Pierce" is unfortunately an example of a prevalent theme of this movie. In several scenes, Faye Dunaway opts to depict a Joan Crawford CHARACTER rather than Joan herself. I don't think that's her fault, as an actress usually doesn't construct a character from the ground up on her own. Who can watch the rose cutting/annihilate sequence and not see the Lucy Harbin character from "Strait Jacket"? As it stands, most the moments have little to no impact and you won't feel sorry for the characters, just for the actors playing them.

Incidentally, I've known people to be horrified when I attempted to explain the hilarity this movie provides. "How can you laugh at child abuse?" they would fume. "Just watch the movie," I replied every time. Every time the person would come back to me and say "That's the funniest movie I've even seen." So see, it is good for something, and that's what I gave it a seven.

Jade Empire

"KOTOR"-Free Review
I have never played "Knights of the Old Republic" so you won't find any comparisons to that game here. However, you will read the opinion of a pretty satisfied gamer.

First off--I love anything Chinese, be it food, films, or pseudo-Chinese video games. This is pseudo-Chinese in that it takes famous Hong Kong cinematic elements such as kung-fu and interesting character names yet for some reason shies away from actual Chinese culture. I have heard people complain about that, but it doesn't really bother me. I get a kick out of people calling themselves things like "Sun Li the Glorious Strategist" and being serious about it.

Pros (and there are several, in my opinion): The game is beautifully designed--the environments are often stunning and the character models look great. (Side track--doesn't Wu the Lotus Blossom look kinda Michelle Yeoh-like? Or is it just me?) Even the bad guys look marvelous. The demon-type villains are frightening yet wonderful to look at. Another pro is the nifty ability to stick your nose into everybody's business. In fact, you're practically required to. If you see someone crying, you just might earn some money by asking him or her why, and then settling their problems for them. You can take one of two routes in most of the situations. You can follow "The Way of the Open Palm" (which is what I'm doing, former Girl-Scout that I am) or you can be wicked and follow "The Way of the Closed Fist." Both are pretty self-explanatory and in the game it's almost painfully easy to distinguish which response goes with which path. I haven't yet ventured into evil, but it seems that choosing the other path could actually make for some pretty big gameplay differences. Another customizable feature is the conversation skill. You can choose to intimidate, charm, or just be intuitive. It's always fun to see how the person you're talking to reacts. And it gets better--bad guys react to different voice tones than good guys, which is expected.

The combat is touted as the central aspect of the game, since kung-fu has revealed itself to Americans has an art form. (Many people refer to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" when talking about this game--it isn't that dull.) There are oodles of different styles to choose and they each fall under different headings--magic, martial arts, support, or weapons-based. It is essential to swap styles mid-fight, so consequently you can orchestrate some pretty showy fights with multiple stances. If you swap styles at the right time, you can dish out some serious damage. However, if your opponent is invulnerable to that style, you will accomplish nothing. Therefore, it's always good to try all styles on everything to see what hurts it most. You can swipe at ghosts with your sword 'til the cows come home but you won't make a dent in their health bars. You have to change styles and see what sends 'em reeling.

There is some great voice acting in this game as well. (Kim Mai Guest makes her appearance in it--she's in TONS of video games.) I think all of it is pretty good, as it usually fits the character, I didn't notice any repetition, and the dialogue is well-written. (And the characters words come very close to matching their lips.) I have noticed several laugh-out loud moments, usually when my character chose the wrong conversation style (I tried intuition and it didn't work).

The last pro--the Dragonfly minigame. It's a beautiful yet simple top-down shooter. You just shoot enemy flyers as they make elegant patterns around the screen.

Cons--Why does everyone insist on scratching his or her head when speaking with you? Is something going around? Every time you gain a follower they start the head-scratching. I guess it's a gesture to add realism, but nobody itches that much. Second (and this is a matter of opinion, it doesn't bother me), there is a gargantuan amount of dialogue, and lots of it is unskippable. The plot is very important to the game, and how are you going to move it along without saying anything? Taking on all the side quests adds a huge amount of dialogue, especially if you keep saying the wrong things. One con that seriously irritated me, but I can see why it's there. Everyone else talks on endlessly, but your character doesn't speak. I guess it's because four hundred times more recording would have been required to come up with all the answers your character can make. I just felt kind of distant from everyone else. (Actually, your character will yet out style changes during fights, but that's the only time you'll hear them.) The second-to-last con, and it's enough to annoy anybody, are the frequent load times. Quest fulfillments take ages. Your character can sprint through the whole game until you run into one of those load times. I don't guess it's too annoying, but I was afraid I'd forget who I was headed to see and what we were supposed to discuss. Last con, and it's inconsequential--The fake language created for the game. Only certain people speak it, and it seems to be pretty random. For instance, two people are having a conversation when you walk up. Speaking to one, you find that she speaks English. Chatting to the other reveals that they don't. What were they speaking in before you showed up? (Personally, I think the fake language could have been eschewed in favor of Mandarin Chinese. It has a fantasy sound to it and the developers could have saved some time--it was created ages ago.) All in all, a game easily recommended to almost anybody.

Dung Fong Bat Bai: Fung wan joi hei

Mindbending action, cross-dressing, extreme violence...
...and that's just in this review!!! Seriously though, this movie is warped. There wasn't a minute where I wasn't completed floored at something or other.

I watched this after watching "Swordman II." I am a huge Brigitte Lin fan, and this movie was made to capitalize on the success of her character, the freaky Master Asia the Invincible. (That is the most pompous name any character has endured. Catchy though, ain't it?) Master Asia, as we learned from "Swordman II," is a man that has become a woman (sort of) as a side effect from studying a sacred martial arts scroll. Pro--Asia can decimate whole armies by making simple hand gestures. Con--Serious gender-bending. You're never really sure what Asia is. He looks and sounds like a woman, but acts like both depending on the situation. For example, in "Swordman II" he developed an unfortunate crush on Jet Li's character. In this film, we are treated to a confusing sex scene. I must elaborate on this one, because it deserves the attention. Bear with me.

Snow, a former lover of Asia's, has decided to carry on the tradition by dressing up as Asia and killing people. One night she/he decides to sleep with a concubine that we would assume is a woman. So that's two women--something is missing. This isn't the sort of thing shown in this type of movie, so you automatically wonder what's up. This movie must have some ulterior motive in showing two women making love. Anyway, they start by indulging in some opium to heighten the mood, I suppose, and all of a sudden we are whooshed (for lack of a better word) into a flashback. Now we have Snow and some person kissing. There is no warning that there's been a time shift--it just happens. The other person is Asia himself of course, played by Brigitte Lin. So, if you're keeping score, that a sex scene with three women. One is a woman pretending to be a man, one is a man pretending to be a woman, and one is a man that is becoming a woman. Confused? Good--you'll be in that bewildered state for the rest of the movie.

This movie defines the phrase "over the top." You know you're in for a wild ride when people start using cannons as hand-held weapons. (The guy just picks it up and fires it off, just like a regular cannon, only he's holding it like a battering ram. That would knock the bewhickers out of any normal person, you know.) Another great sequence is the ninja that hides by holding a fake moon up in front of the real one and hiding behind it. Upon his being discovered, a pigeon flies out of his mouth. Brigitte Lin enters one scene riding a swordfish, sings a song while disguised as a lethal gambling prostitute in a Japanese camp and later appears as a samurai dressed in red. Sewing needles are common weaponry to those endowed with supernatural wonderfulness, and people are used as bloody marionettes. (Devil May Cry, anyone?) This movie is everywhere all the time. I was constantly floored by the sheer insanity of it. Add a large volume of blood and the needle on the weirdo meter goes wild.

In short, I enjoyed this movie, simply because of its marvelous ability to entertain. You may not be awed by the scenery, or moved by the plot, but you should be entertained.

Duet ming ga yan

Melodrama and Mishaps.
This movie is so delightfully dramatic. It is relentless in its attempt to make you feel some emotion or other. I found myself wishing it would perk up just a little, instead of being MacBeth all over the place.

Now, for my interpretation of the plot. It's a fairly simple one. Sang has a tendency to gamble, but no talent for it. Once he becomes so entangled in debt he can't get out by normal means, he convinces his wife May to embezzle funds from her boss. That is the first thing we see in the movie--May attempting to match her boss's signature. Even this early in the film, you can cut the drama with a knife. May signs the name over and over again, beads of sweat appearing on her forehead. A close-up of the clock is shown.

She continues writing his name. Suddenly, a woman bursts in, saying "I saw everything!" Fortunately, she's referring to another incident, but May very nearly has a massive coronary. At this point the drama is slightly deflated by the incomprehensible subtitles. The woman, a friend and coworker of May's, is referring to something that recently happened--their boss came on to another coworker, and was shot down. The friend is greatly amused, saying the boss loves to "shake" but won't get anywhere. She then, according to the subtitles, says something about kissing the wax lips. I can't even begin to guess at what she is actually saying. I am sure it was a lovely speech and all, but I didn't get a word of it. Not one word.

At any rate, May succeeds in forging the signature, and becomes even more nerve-wracked during her visit to the bank. She is told to wait (as frequently happens when banking) and she's afraid that she's been discovered. Actually, it's just unusual to withdraw such a large amount of money all at once. May doesn't think of that, apparently. As it happens, the banker has mistaken her for someone else, so he gives her the go-ahead. By this time I was afraid May wasn't going to make it. She doesn't have the makings of a criminal mind. She is obviously doing something she shouldn't be--the look on her face is evidence of that. Finally when she gets outside and delivers the money to the good-for-nothing Sang, she breaks down and admits she's terrified. Well, who knew?

Sang promptly takes the money to his debtor, but there's no way he can reimburse May's company for it in the time it takes for their bank statement to arrive. If the money doesn't show up, May will be in serious trouble. (May would be in trouble. Not Sang. I wonder if he thought about that? Also--wouldn't May's company see a humongous withdrawal, followed by an equally humongous deposit? Wouldn't they wonder about that?) At any rate, they decide to visit Sang's "rich" uncle to ask for some money. Surprisingly, the rich uncle asks them for money--he's looking for people to invest in his farm. Sang is depressed by this point, and further angered by his uncle. On the ferry ride home, Sang gets a little tipsy and hangs his legs off the end of the boat. May is horribly seasick, but worried about Sang, so she wobbles to him and asks him to come back with her. In trying to help him, May falls off the boat into the ocean. Sang catches her arm and holds on to her while she begs him not to let go. During this short moment, it occurs to Sang that maybe May is the cause of his problems. She stole the money, so it could be interpreted as her fault. Furthermore, she serves as a reminder to him what a failure he is. It would be nice to eliminate that reminder. So, thinking of his best interests, he lets go and she sinks into the water.

That's the first section of the movie described as well as I could manage. Giving away the rest of the movie would count as a spoiler, so I won't do that. (Has anyone noticed that on the back of these Hong Kong movies the little description tells you EVERYTHING? The whole plot is right there, in garbled English. No stone is left unturned. I guess they're afraid we won't figure out.) Basically, Sang races up the corporate ladder without May holding him back with those dratted morals of hers. He meets another woman that he fancies very much--she's filthy rich, and he could get used to that. He has lost all feeling for anything connected to his "former" life. His son is treated horribly--he is left alone for lengthy periods of time, he has to fend for himself where food is concerned, and Sang beats him frequently. One night, however, a mysterious "lady in black" appears (the movie shows us who she is, but no one is the movie knows until later). She can't speak, but she seems to care very much for the little boy. When he tries to prepare his own dinner and screws up, she obviously feels for him and she wishes she could help him. She can't be seen, because her face is disfigured. (I never did figure out why.) As the rest of the movie progresses, the Lady in Black goes through a transformation to become her old self again, and this time she's mad. The somewhat violence sequence towards the end of the movie is her attempt at revenge.

All in all, a nice little Hong Kong melodrama, with a great performance by Brigitte Lin. No big surprise there, though.

Fei Ying

No stuntwomen were harmed in the writing of this review.
Michelle Yeoh is apparently trying to kill herself, or at least damage something. The woman will do anything, regardless of how potentially painful it can be. This movie is a little bit tamer than other things I've seen her do, but still. She induces flinching. (I loved watching my mother's face when I made her watch Supercop--the scene where Michelle hung off the side of a van, only to fall off and crash through Jackie Chan's windshield caused Mom some anxiety. I of course piped up, "Michelle Yeoh does all of her own stunts. Jackie Chan isn't the only one.")

Anyway, this movie is about Lulu Wong, a hugely famous woman--she's famous because she's rich, apparently. (What's nifty about Michelle Yeoh playing Lulu is that you can see Michelle being stylish. She isn't usually--it's also interesting that Lulu seems to be MUCH younger than Michelle actually is. Good acting there, Michelle!) Lulu wears all white, and has all kinds of wigs and different hairdos. She knows everyone, everyone loves her, she's perfect. That's her main identity. When criminals strike, she dons a silver mask, a silver suit, a silver jacket, and dashes to the scene on a silver BMW motorcycle. (Gorgeous bike.) Silver Hawk is an appropriate name, as you can see. She has little silver blade things, like Batman's batarangs, or whatever they were called, but she only uses those to disarm people. Once they're empty-handed she starts the a**kicking. The first scene of the movie is the best--the movie starts off with Michelle (I'm assuming it's The Stuntwoman herself) jumping over the Great Wall of China on her bike in pursuit of some poachers. The cinematography here is marvelous. Once she catches them she beats them mercilessly, but it looks beautiful. It doesn't seem like wire-work, but if it isn't then Michelle Yeoh isn't affected by gravity. She does an incredible kick on several of the poor criminals--she runs up the front of a van, then does some sort of pinwheeling roundhouse kick in midair. All of this is in slow-motion, and I actually think real-time would have been more effective. Once the crooks are in a heap on the ground, Silver Hawk reveals her disappointment. "Give me ten more minutes," she asks. Five? Two? By this time the criminals have tied themselves up and completely surrendered. See, Lulu has to put herself in danger to get excited, but since she's such a great fighter she's never really in a perilous situation. (When I said excited, I didn't mean that this is a porno movie. I mean that some people ride roller coasters, others fight crime.)

After that great opening sequence, we're treated to a plot. Professor Ho Chung (one of Lulu's love interests) has developed a completely idiotic artificial intelligence chip that supposedly increases the wearer's standard of living. We see it tested on a young lady--a holographic English butler appears and informs her that she is 48 days pregnant. A co-worker of hers confirms this, yelling, "That's incredible! We only found out yesterday.!" I found myself wondering if the transparent English butler had Tact 2000, a program few people seem to possess. What if the lady didn't want everyone to know she was pregnant? Could the AI detect that, or will it just humiliate everyone endlessly? The guinea pig doesn't seem to mind, she just smiles. An assistant brings her a drink, and the butler explains that the AI taps into your most primitive impulses, in this case thirst. (That amused me--what would it do if someone had a certain other primitive impulse?!?) Finally, it demands that she do some prenatal exercises. She doesn't want to, but the butler isn't taking no for an answer. Finally, the demonstration is concluded. When Professor Chung asks Lulu what she thought, she tells him flat out that she doesn't like it. I don't blame her--she isn't fond of people telling her what to do. HOWEVER... ...enter Alexander Wolfe, a nut with an English accent. He is very fond of telling people what to do, via secret subliminal messaging, preferably. This new device seems to be perfect for his plan, so he sends MICHAEL JAI WHITE to kidnap the professor. (Don't send a Spawn to do a kung-fu master's job.) Once that's done, Wolfe reveals his silly plan--he is going to place the chip into millions of cell phones, and at a certain time he will play the aforementioned subliminal messages. A technology mogul's daughter is kidnapped also, so that Wolfe can force the mogul to place the chips into a new phone model. He does, and Lulu (remember her?) wonders why. She decides to take matters into her own silver-gloved hands.

As it happens, the new police superintendent used to be a friend of Lulu's, and even more coincidentally, he despises Silver Hawk. How can they work together, you ask? Not very well, is how. He has no idea that Lulu and Silver Hawk are the same person, even though anyone with at least one sense could figure it out. (Silver Hawk looks like Lulu, she sounds like her, she might even smell like her, I'm not sure. You get my point.) So, while they have to save the world they also have to contend with each other. The superintendent, Rich Man, is more interested in arresting Silver Hawk than anything else, especially when she humiliates him in front of some teenagers. (He dressed himself in drag, so maybe he shouldn't be so hard on her.) Eventually it comes to the point where Rich Man has to knuckle under and just deal with it.

This was a good action movie, with several nifty fights and some funny parts. I had a couple of gripes, though, and I might as well vent. First--Michelle didn't get to do all the cool stuff the bad guys go to do. For instance, when Silver Hawk first runs into Alexander Wolfe, his minions bounce around and fly through the air using huge rubber bands. It looks incredibly fun, but Michelle is grounded. She has to run around getting kicked in the face. By the time she gets her leg up to kick back, the person has already flown away. It's just that she could have done wonders with that. This same problem pops up in the last fight with Wolfe's goons. They zoom around on rollerblades with hockey sticks. Not Michelle. She has to hit them as they fly by. Again. It could be that Michelle Yeoh didn't want to do these things. That's okay. If for some reason behind the scenes they just decided that she wouldn't do it, that's not okay. She is Silver Hawk--she should fly. Second--this movie falls prey to another problem that's rampant in Michelle Yeoh's films. She's absent for long stretches at a time. Eventually, you get wrapped up in something else and then she pops up again just when you least expected her. That happened in "Royal Warriors," "Supercop," "Supercop 2," "Butterfly and Sword," and gosh, even "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon." I don't want to sit there wondering what happened to her. Did her character die, or just get fed up? Maybe if I had an explanation of why this is done. I realize that Michelle Yeoh gets injured frequently, and that's understandable. Is that the deal? Do they have to shoot around her? Someone fill me in, please. I guess I'm used to Brigitte Lin's films--there is rarely a moment where she doesn't appear. Even if one pops up the filmmaker makes darn sure that you'll think about her. Someone please give Michelle Yeoh the same courtesy.

Xin liu xing hu die jian

Flying Ant and Letter Opener.
I am sorry, I just can't get over the title of this movie. Apparently "Butterfly" is the name of a character, Joey Wang, but who is "Sword"? Why call someone "Sword"? I just don't get it. In all fairness to the movie, I've only watched it once and quite possibly wasn't paying enough attention.

On to the reviewing. I didn't really care for this film, for a few reasons. First, NOT ENOUGH MICHELLE YEOH. What scenes she had were incredible, but there just weren't enough of them. Second, ditto Donnie Yen. He's unbelievable, but only when the filmmakers let him do something. There is a bit of a love story, where he loves Michelle and she loves the guy I thought was her brother but wasn't. Tony Leung Chiu Wai (isn't there another guy with the same name?) and Joey Wang were the only people that loved each other. They didn't go around pining after everyone else. Confused? That's a minor problem with this, but who cares about the story when people are flying through the air, decapitating evil kung fu masters using only a volleyball? (Shaolin Volleyball, anyone?)

This film is essentially a bunch of fight scenes strung together. Most films in this genre are, and the fights in this one are way better than average. I don't suppose it's a film you'd want to make your children watch, as blood does gush liberally throughout most of the movie. Oh, and let's not forget the bad guy who continues to fight AFTER HIS HEAD HAS BEEN RIPPED OFF--now that's determination. You begin to get exasperated, wondering what it will take to just kill the man. Or at least hurt him. (I get the same exasperated feeling when video games hit you with constantly respawning bad guys. How are you supposed to win when your opponents refuse to expire?!?) I don't mind headless villains and blood gushing, especially when it's this attractive. Gore isn't usually eye candy, but Hong Kong just has a knack for this kind of thing. Donnie Yen does some great sword fighting with only one arm, but then he does great fighting all the time. (See "Dragon Inn" if you don't believe me.) I also happen to think that he's handsome, so maybe I'm prejudiced.

Highlight of the movie--Michelle Yeoh's entrance. I am a huge fan of hers, and it's nice to see her get such lavish treatment. She is carried in in one of those carts they use in Asia; I forget what they're called. Palonquins? At any rate, purple ribbons (seriously) fly through the air and attach to trees, leaving the cart suspended. Michelle Yeoh then flies out in a shower of gold glitter. (I guess they borrowed the gold glitter from Mothra, courtesy of Toho. They're big on gold glitter, for some reason.) Anyway, it's visually dazzling, and it also helps to soften the blow when you realize that her character is a huge jerk. I hated her so much it wasn't funny. I was beginning to feel sorry for Joey Wang, and that's saying something. She bothers me, usually, but she was okay in this movie. Her character was a little bit odd, with a habit of talking to a doll when no one else was around, but nevertheless. She wasn't as rotten as Michelle Yeoh's character. Here's an example of Michelle's character's rudeness. (Forgive me for using real names--it's very difficult for me to remember characters' names, for some reason.) Joey is "engaged" to Michelle's brother-figure Tony. When Joey learns she's pregnant, she makes some sort of dessert and rushes off to inform Michelle, and even give her something to eat. Not only does Michelle slam the food, she also asks if the baby is Tony's. That's just insulting. It seems that Michelle can destroy all sorts of tangible foes, but the green-eyed monster is beyond her capabilities. She surrenders completely to it. Not an admirable quality.

Isn't that Michelle singing the end credits song? I'm almost positive it is. She should have done a duet with Donnie Yen, if he is musically inclined. They'd make a formidable couple. The Iron Monkey and Supercop.

Jing hun ji

Review of Confusion.
You know, I just absolutely loved this film. Seriously I did. My local Suncoast video store made a fortunate mistake when they stocked this in their martial arts section. There are no butt-kicking femmes fatales in this--everyone uses weapons. At any rate, I was browsing through the kung-fu flicks (I also picked up "Butterfly and Sword,") when this film caught my eye. Specifically, Brigitte Lin caught my eye, and I love her movies. She's credited in this as Lin Ching Hsia though, FYI. Joey Wang also caught my eye, but I wasn't very happy with that. She creeps me out, for some reason. I saw her in "The East is Red" and I couldn't figure out if she was a beautiful woman or a beautiful man. Now she just bothers me.

The plot is CONTRIVED--Lin, a lawyer (played by Brigitte Lin), receives a blackmail note from an unidentified individual. I am not actually sure what she is being blackmailed for. The person blackmailing her needs money, and that's fine, but what did Lin do that's so awful? The blackmail note is Chinese characters glued to a piece of paper, and the DVD people decided not to subtitle signs and things. Nevertheless, someone is demanding money from Lin, and at the same time her company is falling apart seemingly do to her lack of interest. She is planning on moving to Canada, and she dwells on that a bit. As it turns out, her secretary May (Pauline Wong, I guess) is terrified at the prospect of the job-hunting in store for her when Lin leaves. Lin to me seems very unfeeling about that, or possibly unaware. I spent most of the film amazed that Lin got to be such a hotshot lawyer, as she's not very intelligent or even ambitious. She convinces her stockbroker (whom she believes to be the blackmailer) to sell all her stock for cash, which the stockbroker then delivers to her house.

At the same time, another plot branch is growing. Queenie, May's roommate, has a sister, Cat, that is getting out of prison. (Both sisters are played very well by Joey Wang.) When Queenie picks up Cat she takes her to a restaurant as a "welcome home" kind of thing. Cat notices a man outside, and bolts out of the restaurant. Queenie follows her, only to be accosted by the same man. He beats her and demands that she pay him the money she owes him. She is terrified, and asks if he has her confused with someone else. He doesn't know it, but he does--he's got the wrong sister. Queenie confronts Cat with this, but decides to do the goodwill thing and get the money. May enters the picture, and explains to Queenie that Lin has oodles of money in a drawer in her house. (Remember that Lin sold all her stock--that's where the money came from.)

From here on every plot device imaginable is used. There is a continual thunderstorm that flashes almost constantly, a corpse in the basement, money in a cabinet, a gun in an upstairs bedroom, a knife in someone's pantyhose, and cyanide cuisine on the dining room table. The poisoned dinner scene is wonderfully funny, and could be more so had they carried it a little further. Lin knows that someone is going to bump her off, so she's afraid to even touch the food. Finally, in order to escape, she feigns nausea and dashes to the bathroom. Once inside she contemplates escaping through a window, but that doesn't work. Finally she opens the medicine cabinet and grabs an eyebrow pencil to write a help note. Check out the face Brigitte makes when the pencil breaks! Fortunately the above-mentioned knife is in her pantyhose, so she sharpens the pencil. What's funny is how her character seems to react to things. There are three people with reason to kill her, and she spends most of the film asking these people to do things for her. Once she catches on to the plot, she acts inconvenienced more than frightened. When her eyebrow pencil breaks, she seems to be thinking, "Well, that's one more wonderful thing to happen today" as opposed to "Oh God, what I am going to do?" Once she adjusts herself though, everyone's in for a heck of a ride--literally. The car scene at the end does cause some nerve-tightening.

All in all this is a great entertaining movie. It was interesting to see Brigitte in a contemporary movie rather than a blood-and-guts period action movie. (She looks much more tall and slender without all those robes and sashes on. I did miss seeing her slaughter roomfuls of people with sewing needles, like she did as Asia the Invincible, but you can't have everything.) Kudos to everyone involved for making this so fun to watch. (As a side note, the producer was Tsui Hark, but how can one tell? This isn't his usual kind of thing, in my opinion.) 12 out of 10. Go Brigitte!!!

The Blair Bitch Project

The Blair Bitch Review, starring Nasty Sarcasm!
This is one of the funniest movies I've seen in ages. The only problem with it is the short running time--somewhere around twenty minutes.

There's really no need to synopsize--this is a spoof of "The Blair Witch Project," and it stars Linda Blair. That's the first joke, as Linda demonstrates in the first few minutes. As Heather, the gal with the globe(s), she tells the camera that she and her crew plan to study the Blair Witch. She follows this statement with a sort of puzzled look, and then promptly shakes it off. Then, she heads outside to meet up with her cameraman, Josh, whom she later declares a "f**king stoner." Next comes Mike, the sound guy, and he's a bit too glum for Heather. She calls him the "Baron von Grumpmeister" and has the camera shoved into her face for her trouble.

After all this nonsense, they finally reach Jerkittsville, where Heather tells us the gist of the legend. Here Linda Blair delivers an hilarious monologue about dead babies. Yes, this film mentions dead babies, and yes, it is funny. Eventually, they reach the woods, where Heather whips out her globe (rather than a map) and a running joke starts. When she doesn't have the camera, Mike and Josh film what they want rather than what they're supposed to. In this case, viewers are treated to an extreme close-up of Linda Blair's chest. Later it's her backside. Like in the movie being spoofed, Heather sees symbols of death everywhere--first a pine cone, which she freaks out over, and then an electric chair that she can't seem to get anyone's attention about. Later she sees a giant man-bat thing hanging in a tree, but she just doesn't mention it.

I detail all this to show how wonderfully idiotic this movie is. I left out the really funny stuff, which just goes to show how much fun you'll have watching this movie. Big thanks to Linda Blair for making a fool of herself yet again ("Repossessed" was her first venture into the Hilariously Stupid), but no big thanks for making this movie difficult to get. Go to and see what happens. Try to get this movie, 'cause you'll love it! (If you don't, then something is WRONG with you.)

Stranger in Our House

I will take it easy on this movie...
...because why kick it when it's down.

The packaging for this movie is HORRIBLY misleading, as several other reviewers mentioned. I knew what I was in for when I bought it, but I love the thought of someone buying the DVD, getting it home, and seeing those oh-so-70s credits with the name LINDA BLAIR first and foremost. Talk about a nasty surprise. "Gee, this movie is like, old." Also delightfully misleading is the idiotic description on the back of the box. We are told that Linda Blair is fighting a demonic possession. What, again?!? For the third time?!? Needless to say, she isn't fighting Pazuzu here, just her bitchy cousin Julia.

Julia is the central character in this debacle--all the action pivots around her. Since her parents were killed in an car accident (the sequence during the credits--talk about crappy driving), she moves in with her Aunt and Uncle. I don't remember their names, so they will be Aunt and Uncle. Julia acts oddly, but everyone assumes it's because her parents died and she is having difficulty coping. Julia's cousin Rachel (Linda Blair), on the other hand, is no assumer. She believes, right off, that Julia is freaky. A few things tip Rachel off: Julia is from Boston, but she sounds like an extra from "Deliverance," she's tired a lot, she seems a little too interested in incest and she keeps a phallic symbol in her dresser. Weird, huh? Rachel really begins to wonder when her beloved horse starts going kooky and tries to kill her. Of course, no one else suspects anything about Julia, and Rachel is forced to whine at anything that can't run away from her. Oh, she is a whiner. I wished this was in 3-D so I could at least attempt to kill her. Finally, Rachel decides that Julia is a witch and something must be done. By this time in the film, you just wish Rachel would shut up, But no. Rachel cooks up a plan and we are forced to sit through it.

Obviously, this movie isn't much to write home about. The DVD features a commentary with Wes Craven (who surprisingly has a sense of humor) and the movie's producer, whose name escapes me. Right off, Mr. Craven tells us this was Linda Blair's first film after being in trouble with the police. Do tell, I thought, but he doesn't. Linda must've been a ring-tailed tooter, being in trouble with the police while still practically a toddler. (She looks four in this film. She isn't of course, but it's still perturbing.) I turned off the commentary for the rest of the movie, so I don't know if he gave an explanation for Linda's ridiculous hairdo or what. It needs an explanation, that's for sure.

I think what this movie needed is a musical number. That would have perked things up a bit.


Read! Read! My Darling!
Pardon my rotten punctuation there, but that's how movies are. They make their own rules.

I have to agree with all the other reviewers of this film--it's terribly funny. My only gripe with the film isn't specifically the film. I just recently bought the DVD (I already had the video), and on the back Donald Sutherland's character is called "bumbling." Um, no. He's retarded. That just bugged the you-know-what out of me. Little things like that bother me.

Anyhoo, this was a nifty little hag film with a nifty little hag. I love Tallulah Bankhead, and I think part of the fun in this film comes from seeing bourbon-drinking, cocaine-snorting Tallulah read from the Bible and denounce the color red. If you have enough background on Tallulah (which is essential to enjoying this film--read her book), you can sit there and think things like, "Okay, here's the woman who refused to wear underwear while turning cartwheels ON STAGE and now she won't let anyone wear lipstick? Crazy!!!"

Tallulah's Mrs. Trefoile is the fanatic of the title (although I know this film as "Die! Die! My Darling!"), and she has long since crossed over into Looney Land. In her previous, sin-ridden life she was an actress, as we learn from her scrapbooks, but her religious husband plucked her from the flames of Heck and saved her immortal soul. (In her previous life she apparently starred in "The Little Foxes"--that's what the picture shown is from.) She is forever indebted to him for this, but did he neglect to teach her the Ten Commandments? She breaks several of them without hesitation, but salt in food offends her? What planet is she on?

I did have another slight problem with the film--Tallulah's distinct(ly hilarious) voice. I have yet to understand half of what she says in the movie, and I'm listening! I haven't blacked out or anything. Her voice started out as slightly hoarse and quite deep, only now age and emphysema have turned it into a sound no special effects person could duplicate. In her first scene, where she meets Stefanie with and F Powers, I can't understand a word she says. The "Milk!" line is painfully clear, but everything else sounds garbled. She mentions having a problem with the new rector at the church she attends, and I'm darned if I know what the problem is. I hear wet, clicking noises when she talks. Maybe it's me--next time I watch it I will turn on subtitles (if the DVD has them, that is). It's somewhat entertaining to hear several seconds of nonsense followed by a booming "ANNA!" That is one of two similarities to "Sunset Boulevard." This may be in my mind, but her "ANNA" seems very close to Norma Desmond's "MAX." Also, the many pictures of Mrs. Trefoile's notable years that are strewn about remind me of the many pictures of Norma Desmond's notable years, strewn about her mansion. A third similarity is the idea of a central female character rotting away while life goes on around her. Both Mrs. Trefoile and Norma are insane, but in different ways. I would much rather deal with Norma than Bible-Thumper, hands down.

Supporting cast (including Stefanie Powers) is fine, no complaints there. Except--there is a moment when Yootha Joyce seems dubbed, like she put the line in later, but I can't see why. Not a big problem. I didn't like "Alan" at all, so boo to whoever played him.

4 out of 5 stars--rating may change when I finally figure out what Tallulah's ranting about.

Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch

Everyone wants a Cabbage Patch Review for Christmas...
I enjoy this movie immensely. You don't have to think, you can just sit and laugh, or cry, or whatever it makes you feel like doing. I laugh, simply because I am not a teary person.

This film stars Pauline Lord as Mrs. Wiggs, a woman who lives in a quaint almost-slum. If my memory serves me correctly, Pauline Lord was an established Broadway actress who played this role on the stage. She has it down pat, that's for sure. The main problem I had with her performance, and it's a small problem, is that she tends to be a little too soft-spoken. Seeing as my copy isn't very good quality, there were long stretches when her mouth was moving and I didn't hear anything. Then I turned up the volume on my TV--problem solved. Honestly, I thought she did a marvelous job...she defines the word "heartwarming." That sounds ridiculous, I know, but I just love her in this. I've never seen her in anything else, so perhaps this was one of those "Bring the Broadway star to relive her greatest triumph" things, like Shirley Booth.

The best thing about this little movie, at least in my opinion, is ZaSu Pitts. She was a great dramatic actress until sound came in, when her singsong monotone undermined her ability. It's displayed to good advantage here. Her first line in the movie is an example. She says something along the lines of "Animals just seem to run out from under me like chickens from under a hen." The way she says it just kills me. I feel bad for her though, losing her star status simply because she sounded like a bored tea kettle. Fortunately, though, one element of her silent screen acting remains. The character she plays, Miss Hazy (whom Mrs. Wiggs introduces to everyone as the maiden lady from next door), is a very flighty, nervous person, as spinsters are rumored to be. When she goes through her "book of sweethearts" and gets caught, her hands flutter about like panicked butterflies. She's being awkward in an extremely graceful way--it's difficult to explain. Miss Hazy finally gets her wish when her husband arrives, in the portly form of W.C. Fields. (Does "W.C." stand for "water closet," you think?) She probably regrets wishing, one has to think.

The children in the film are suitably saccharine, but Virginia Weidler (from "The Philadelphia Story") is as obnoxious as kids come. She taunts Miss Hazy by holding her breath, saying "I'll turn black in the face!" The other children were played by people I didn't recognize. Billy, one of the two boys, is the "man" of the family, and acts as such. He isn't above showing emotion though, as he cries with the best of them. Also of note is the awfully sway-backed horse Billy is given. That animal looked as though he'd had a rough life, but Mrs. Wiggs has a magic touch. The scene where they revive the almost dead horse is amusing, with Mrs. Wiggs telling the children to cheer for him but warning them against "overyelling." If they yell too loudly, they might tip him over and then they'd never get him up again. Once he's finally on his feet, Mrs. Wiggs and Miss Hazy hold him up until they're sure he can stand upright.

All in all, a cute little movie. That's the word for it--cute. If you don't like sweet little greeting cards from yesteryear, then this isn't your thing.

Dead Sleep

I wrote this while sleeping...can you tell?
Actually, I was almost half awake...almost.

First, the basics. This is an Australian movie, made in 1990, and it stars Linda Blair and several people you've never seen before or since. The plot involves a doctor who indulges in malpractice for reasons that aren't disclosed, and the nurse who stops him and becomes a hero(ine).

Now, the nitpicking. This is a silly movie, and I had several bones to pick. First--judging by this film, only topless women develop mental illness. A vast majority of the nuts in this film are women, and for some reason they aren't allowed to wear clothes. The men wear pajama-like things, but the women just bare it all. I'm not really clear on why that is--all I can figure is that the director wanted to look at boobs. Makes sense, I guess.

Second--who wrote this?!? I know it was in the credits, but who watches credits? Periodically it seems like a moderately good TV movie, and then it just sinks like a rock. Example--when Linda Blair's personified conscience (she's some kind of muckraker, I suppose) gets angry at Linda, she lets loose with the "f-word" and just generally tells poor Linda off. Since projectile vomiting isn't an option, Linda has to defend herself with words. The words the screenwriter gave her are "For someone with no credentials you sure are --pause-- obnoxious." EXCUSE ME? I thought it was terribly funny, but is it supposed to be? The pause made it even better--Linda Blair is a marvelous pauser. Still, what could have been a great dramatic moment falls flat on its butt.

Third--all the people were people you would never want to meet. Ever. The head nurse is a twit, the head doctor (the bad guy) is a twit, Linda Blair comes near twit-ness occasionally, and the muckraker is certainly aggravating. How can you feel for these people when they're such creeps? I believe you're only supposed to like Ms. Blair--that's how it seems to me. I feel sorry for her, being the only protagonist in a movie full of jerks. Correction--in a stupid movie full of jerks.

Now, I can't be too hard on this movie, because I'm a Linda Blair fan and I wouldn't want people to think all of her movies suck. (Some don't, you know.) There were some good moments--when Linda's roommate gets all over her for not having a job, she gives her the Linda Blair P***ed-Off Look, which is priceless. It's just a mean stare, but it packs a wallop. I also enjoyed hearing simplified medical jargon--"The eyes are discolored, which indicates kidney failure" kind of stuff. I even liked the end of the movie, where Linda and Doctor Meanie get in a catfight. I was glad to see her dadgum fingernails make it into a scene. Every time I see her in movies she's got extremely long talons, but they don't seem to serve any purpose. They do here, lemme tell ya. (Example--"Airport 1975," where you get a close up of these long, purple fingernails, only to see them attached to the fingers of a chubby-faced girl. It's startling.)

Overall rating--2 out of 5 stars. Linda Blair, if you ever read this, PLEASE DO A COMEDY SO WE DON'T HAVE TO WATCH YOU SUFFER.

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