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Love and Other Disasters

No "Love" here... just "DISASTER!"
Ugh. I had the misfortune of renting this DVD and couldn't even get through more than the first 20 minutes of it before deciding it was an utter piece of crap, turning it off, and immediately ejecting it from my player. And I am usually the type of person who always finishes watching a movie. But with this one, I just couldn't bear to give it one more second of my time. I first became suspect that this film was going to be tedious when these words that described the main character--Emily Jackson, portrayed by Brittany Murphy (preciously nicknamed "Jacks")--came on the screen in the very beginning: "Jacks works at U.K. Vogue, and though technically British, speaks in a cross between an English and American accent that suggests a childhood spent in America." What was this, I wondered--some sort of disclaimer?!?!? I bet Keanu Reeves wished he'd had this sort of statement to excuse his awful performance as an Englishman in 1992's 'Bram Stoker's Dracula' or better yet... when Kevin Costner sadly attempted his infamous now-you-hear-it-now-you-don't British accent in 1991's 'Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.' I couldn't help but be wary and with good reason: her hybrid accent sucked anyway. Anyway, like I said--I couldn't even get through the first 20 minutes. It was absolutely excruciating to watch Ms. Murphy's blatant ripoff of Audrey Hepburn-as-Holly Golightly in the modern world. It's been sooooo DONE before, Sweetie. And done way better, for that matter (see Parker Posey in 1995's 'Party Girl' for a way superior and much more likable performance). And the plot? Merely seeming like just another version of Jane Austen's 'Emma.' Done, done, done. Tired, tired, tired. Plus, she is just trying waaaaaay too hard. Already, the dialogue lacked any true wit or originality and I didn't care one bit about the one-dimensional and dull characters. Plus, if I had to watch Brittany screw up her dumb-looking face into one more unattractive facial expression in her pathetic attempt to adorably(?!?!) EMOTE, I was going to roll my eyes up into the back of my head so far that I was afraid they wouldn't come back down to their normal position. Please do yourself a huge favor: avoid this waste of time at all costs. No "Love" here, folks... merely one big "DISASTER."

The Cutting Edge: Going for the Gold

Non-plausibility made for a poor "sequel"
I too watched this lame movie today and was sooooo amazed that whoever made this piece of crap actually had the gall to expect that the fans of the original movie could get past the fact that the girl in this movie was waaaay too old to be the daughter of Doug and Kate. And although it would be way too much to hope that D.B. Sweeney and Moira Kelly could reprise their original roles, the actors that DID end up portraying them in this movie look WAY TOO OLD as well! 14 years wouldn't age the characters THAT much!?!?! Thanks SO MUCH to the IMDb poster "coulombe" for your comment that describes in specific detail the glaring chronological facts vs. discrepanices of this poor flick. I couldn't believe that his/her comment and my comment seem to so far be the ONLY user comments that point out these gross chronological errors (in fact, "coulombe" should just copy and paste his/her whole comment into the "Goofs" section of this movie... if he/she doesn't, I'm thinking of doing so!!!). I can't believe anyone who would applaud this piece of trash that tries to purport itself as great family fare. And the review of poster "Lu-21" from the Philappines sounds like he/she got paid by the movie's producers to write all the positive stuff he/she did. I just don't get how someone could be so duped otherwise. On top of the movie's storyline being a poor copy of the original's plot, I just can't stomach the absurd suspension of disbelief that these types of movie makers expect us to buy just because they want to capitalize with these inferior "sequels." It insults the integrity of the viewer. I guess the movie's makers were simply hoping that any fans of the original movie wouldn't tune in and that they could capture an audience of teenage girls who wouldn't know any better. Well, I for one, am disgusted. This movie is hardly a "companion piece"--it should just be tossed into the bin of other straight-to-video or made-for-TV sequels to be FORGOTTEN. It's unfortunate too... I agree with "coulombe" in his/her observation that it would have been a way more buy-able story premise if portrayed at the next Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Sad, sad, sad! Dumb, dumb, DUMB! Don't waste your time!!!

Raising Victor Vargas

These young actors hold a lot of promise...
I rented this movie after recently seeing Victor Rasuk brilliantly portray the famously brash and ego-driven skateboarder, Tony Alva, in the very entertaining 'Lords of Dogtown.' I was so taken with his performance as well as those of the other young male actors in that film, that I've embarked on a mission to watch previous films they have starred in. I saw Gus Van Sant's 'Elephant' for John Robinson and next on the list is Emile Hirsch in 'The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys.' I am convinced that as these young men get older, they will be INCREDIBLE actors. I see in them a potential similar to that of a forever young River Phoenix who, tragically, never got to fulfill that full potential.

I am, so far, most impressed with Vistor Rasuk's acting. I think he's really genuine and that quality truly shines in his performance in 'Raising Victor Vargas.' In fact, the intense chemistry between Rasuk and the other players (including what I assume is his own real-life brother, Silvestre Rasuk, playing his brother Nino in the film since they share the same last name and look SO MUCH alike!) is what really made this film so enjoyable for me. I loved the progression of his character--all swaggering in the beginning and then towards the end, his vulnerability is gradually and touchingly revealed to the audience. Also, I thought the interaction between him and the female object of his romantic pursuit, played by Judy Marte (who, like Rasuk, has the same first name of her character), was very convincing, endearing, and sometimes adorably comical. I was totally rooting for these two characters to get together! Her resistance and his persistence is very fun to watch unfold.

I watched the movie with a girlfriend who was getting so disgusted with all of Victor's "playah"-type come-on's and gestures. "Ewwwww! I've known guys like him! They're so GROSS!" she cried out at one point. Now, I personally didn't perceive the character of Victor as being "gross." I thought he ACTED like a jerk sometimes, but he wasn't A JERK himself... DEFINITELY not like those creeps who would shout obscene cat-calls at and accost poor Judy on the street. I replied to my friend: "I don't think Victor's 'gross'... he's just troubled." He's dealing with many pressures as a young Latin male in today's world: feeling compelled to play that obnoxious "macho" role that, due to heavy social stigma, he believes will validate his manhood; dealing with a challenging home life/living situation/family relationships; and heavy guilt over his sexual exploits that stems from a strict Catholic upbringing, to name a few. Throughout the film, he is battling all these issues in a fight to just be HIMSELF and be true to his feelings.

You actually get the sense that everyone--not just Victor--is playing a certain "role" in the story... putting up some kind of front with their personality and behavior in order to protect themselves and cling to some sense of what they think is normal. Judy pretends to be tough and man-hating on the outside when she really just wants to meet a boy who understands and respects her. Victor's little sister--Vicki--puts up a tough front, being hostile and teasing with Victor, when she really just wants to be loved romantically and escapes her pain by hanging out on the couch all day watching bad TV. Victor's younger brother Nino puts on a show for his grandmother in being the good little Catholic boy, playing beautiful musical ditties on the piano in order to appease her while he is actually deeply ashamed on because he's started to secretly masturbate in the bathroom on a regular basis... a perfectly NORMAL thing for pubescent young men to do. The grandmother, as well-intentioned as she is, hides behind her devout Catholic faith in order to mask any true understanding and acceptance of REAL emotional and physical changes taking place with her teenage grandchildren. They're growing up fast in a gritty environment, discovering their sexuality, dealing with immense peer pressure, etc. Seeing all three of the kids forced to share one bedroom really makes you feel sorry for them. It's like they have nothing that is truly their OWN yet.

Even Judy's best friend, Melonie, has a psychological wall of resistance in place with Victor's friend who romantically pursues HER. She doesn't trust him from the very beginning but slowly, in spite of herself, she starts warming up to him.

In my view, this film is all about the stripping away of layers... disarming the defensive mechanisms that we all have in place as human beings so that we can get in touch with our own TRUE self or that of someone else. The director has done a poignant job of depicting these kids in an unfiltered yet beautiful light and in turn, these promising young actors pull it off with amazing results. Especially Mr. Rasuk. I hope to see him in many more films. I don't really understand all the harsh criticisms people have of this movie--I thought it was a beautifully simple story with life lessons that can be understood and appreciated across ethnic, racial, and cultural lines. To me, a VERY meaningful film!

La casa sperduta nel parco

They just don't make 'em like this anymore...
First of all, let me say that I am just beginning to get my 'Italian Horror' cinema education so I'm still getting used to the unique aspects of the genre. This is my first Ruggero Deodato film (Next on my list to view is his 'Cannibal Holocaust' film). So far, vintage Italian horror has an obviously different tone indeed from vintage and especially new American horror in the way that there's an unnerving sense as one is watching (if you haven't seen the particular film before or many in the genre, like me!) that they're really going to push the envelope. Naw... make that TOTALLY cross the line with depicting extremely explicit violence and gore, breaking many American film taboos. I find many recent American horror films to have a tongue-and-cheek feel to them, making the blood and gore into an almost circus-like show. Villains are comical, shooting off these one-liners as they slay victims or vice versa. Plus, in Italian films, the action is usually accompanied by this bizarre dialogue and/or THAT CRAZY MUSIC. I gotta say, the two songs they use in this movie, especially the disco one, as cheesy-bad as they are, have been haunting me ever since. However, 'House on the Edge of the Park' didn't quite live up to my anxious expectation. I WAS very nervous and fearful throughout the first half of the film in not knowing what to expect after psycho Alex (David Hess) and his friend hit the party. But, surprisingly, it wasn't TOO horrible... not like I had expected anyway. First of all, there wasn't as much violent rape depiction as I thought there would be. I thought there would be women assaulted left and right. But I guess there's only so much harm two hoodlums can do. Aside from the rape at the beginning of the film, the two other sex scenes shown looked downright consensual(!)... even titillating. Lots of female nudity in this one, guys. Yet the scene with Alex and Cindy and his straight razor WAS pretty unsettling. The idea of being randomly sliced at with a razor definitely gives me the Hobie-jeebies. But most creepy to me was the was how the rest of the part guests just stood by and watched this happen to their friend for as long as they did. I thought the blond guy (Tom) was such a wimp! In fact, through most of the scenes at the house, the victimized guests all seem so passive, pretty much just allowing Alex and Ricky do what they wanted to do. To me, they just didn't seem scared or freaked out enough in the beginning when bad stuff started to happen. But I guess that is, again, all part of that unique "tone" with Italian horror that is so disarming.

Perhaps the MOST interesting to me on the unrated DVD that I watched (the 'Shriek Show' edition) were the extras that include an interview with "David Hess and Family." First of all, the interview is filmed very informally at what looks like the Hess home. I have no idea who the interviewer is, but his questions are heard on camera, which is very unusual. Amusingly, some of the interviewer's questions are somewhat pointless and tactless, in my opinion. This is especially evident when the interviewer tries to touch on the subject of David Hess' wife, Karoline Mardeck, also being in the film. Mr. Hess quickly shuts him down and in a somewhat menacing tone tells him something to the effect of, "I thought I told you we weren't going to talk about that..." Weird! After the David Hess interview, when his wife Karoline is being interviewed by herself, the interviewer tries to again bring up the subject of her being in the film and she just looks away uncomfortably saying "I don't want to talk about it." Well, it's no wonder. Karoline Mardeck plays the girl that David Hess' character Alex rapes and kills in her car in the beginning of the film! Her name is Susan in the credits but I'm pretty sure I never heard her name uttered in the film. It's funny, because David Hess casually and openly discusses his relationship and interaction with the other actors in the film, but when it comes to talking about his wife's role in the film, he understandably becomes guarded. It's very awkward how they BOTH become so dismissive about it, like trying to deny it happened. But in a way, I have to say that I respect Mr. Hess for not wanting to talk about this degrading role his wife played in order to protect her/their privacy. I'm not sure if they were married at the time it was filmed, but in listening to Karoline recall during her interview how/when she and David met, it was on a plane to NYC in 1975 so it seems like they at least had been in some type of relationship for several years before this movie was filmed. In any case, I'm sure that's the LAST thing any married couple would want to talk about--how one sexually brutalized the other on film for all posterity. Amid all the sexploitation and violence surrounding this film, that was a humanizing aspect that comforted me in a strange way. What I also got from the interview is that David Hess, although strange, is a pretty deep and real guy with some interesting insights into the characters he's played and the movies he's made. Plus, the fact that he's had a fairly successful career as a musician (even composing songs for his other notorious horror flick, 'Last House on the Left') makes him even more intriguing as an actor and person.

As for 'House on the Edge of the Park,' I only recommend if you are a fan of the Italian horror genre, sexploitation films, and of course, David A. Hess.

Roller Boogie

It delivered the "B" movie cheese factor I craved! And that was it...
I was positively giddy when this flick came on T.V. yesterday afternoon because it wasn't something that I would actually go out and rent, wasting precious time and money. I have a morbid curiosity about stinker movies and I had heard about this one's notorious stinkiness for a while now. It was just the laugh I needed to cheer me up on a cloudy, gloomy day: the plot was ludicrous, the cast's wardrobe was just as gloriously tacky as expected, the skating was decent (but in the context... so silly!), and the script was absolutely ridiculous! Plus I loved the heavy-handed use of clichés used to hit the audience over the head, "Hey, in case you haven't figured it out yet, these people are RICH" when showing Terry Barkley (Linda Blair) and her family: 1.) her 1920's(?) era car--Hey, I know the Beverly Hills rich bitches of today drive Beemers and such, but back in the late 70's, it had to be kind of the same situation with similar model cars driven. Why would Terry's rich daddy want his precious little girl driving around L.A. in such an impractical and most likely unsafe fossil of a car! 2.) The Barkley household's princess phones--another impractical device. 3.) Terry's typical "poor little rich girl"/"my mommy and daddy don't care about me" issues.

Other gleeful love/hate moments of sheer comedy: the opening sequence where the Roller Boogie "gang" is rolling though the streets to a Cher song (an obvious effort to get the audience pumped up and lured into the "magic" of the film... it only had me and my boyfriend rolling in laughter), the roller boogie guy with the radio strapped to his shoulder and the HUGE headphones on ALL the time, the one mobster heavy who always wore that awful-looking plaid jacket in every scene he's in (isn't that what ALL mob heavies wear???), Bobby James' lone tribute skate routine to the rink's owner Jammer that was supposed to get the audience all emotional(?!?), the shirt that he wore during this scene with his sequined "BJ" monogram on it (sooooo cheesy!), the chase scene when Bobby and Terry are skating for their lives from the mobsters and they jump over the car (can you say, WIPEOUT??? I mean, their neat little landing without any stumbling whatsover was sooooo unbelievably funny!), plus too many more to mention.

I gotta mention here that I'm even a HUGE fan of 'Xanadu,' another roller skating movie from the same time. But that movie had the redeeming factor of more charismatic actors, better plot, much better soundtrack, and awesome costumes and stage sets. It also had a dreamy, hopeful, and inspirational feel that 'Roller Boogie' never even came CLOSE to achieving. I just can't see how ANYBODY could have written the script for, acted in, or directed this classic piece of crap with a straight face. But it DID deliver the cheese factor I was craving. Thanks for the laughs, 'Roller Boogie!' May you live on as an undisputed masterpiece of bad cinema... a deliciously cringe-inducing time capsule of that age.

24 Hour Party People

"Madchester" in the Heyday... Wish I Had Been There!
Okay, first of all... you should NOT see this movie unless you understand the full impact of how Manchester, England's 1980's -1990's live music scene influenced the rave/dance/D.J. culture as we know it today. You should NOT see this movie if you have never heard of at least one of the following artists: Joy Division, New Order, or Happy Mondays. You just won't appreciate it. Plus, you have to have SOME understanding of the subtle Brit "humour," behavior, and dialogue throughout. Of course, much of that content is so inextricably tied to the musical and cultural references of that time that it's hard to overlook. If you pass the above criteria, then you will surely conclude that 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE is sheer genius... an astute and clever observation of a particular musical history in a particular location. However, the series of events in this one location during this time period would deeply influence people all over the world for years to come.

I love the passion behind this story. One man, Tony Wilson, and his vision: friends and musicians all wrapped up in an inspired and inebriated state of bliss and exploration, pursuing a common goal of good times, good times. Oh yeah, and if they make history as well... cool! The 21st century music industry seems to be mainly consumed with the capital gain derived from manufactured acts. This film is here to remind us of a time and a place when music meant something more. Something that couldn't merely be owned! Tony Wilson's Factory Records label was founded on this pure premise. The scene in the film where the London Records executive tries to buy out Factory Records makes such a poetically deep statement in regards to the corporate state of the music industry today. Artists own the music. That's the way it should be. Musicians should thank God for the Tony Wilsons of the world. He's a self-sacrificial character who gave all of himself for the MUSIC and the magic it created. He wasn't solely in it for the profit. Wow.

The unabashed spirit of the worldwide rave culture owes so much to Tony Wilson and his club, the Hacienda, in Manchester. It's truly inspiring to watch the metamorphosis on film of the at first dismally attended club grow into the widely influential and groundbreaking acid house explosion of the late 80's/early 90's. It was "the beautification of the beat," as Tony Wilson boldly states in his narrative. What a brilliant statement!!!

The blossoming of the moody late 70's/early 80's Manchester music scene to the fizzy and upbeat dance/rave scene that began in the late 80's is, in my opinion, ever so parallel to the transformation of the darker Joy Division to the luminescent quality of New Order. It was a rebirth of something totally new. Being a longtime fan of New Order, I always thought that it was so inspiring how despite the suicide of Joy Division's tormented lead singer Ian Curtis, the members of the group were able to pick up the pieces and move forward in an entirely new and positive direction. It wasn't that the latter group was better than the predecessor. It was just so admirable that in being so dedicated to their music, they were able to create another entity that was just as beautiful yet so different; a phoenix rising from the ashes.

Hooray for 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE and its lovingly told tale of one man's passion for the music and the power it held! May we all appreciate the legacy it has left. A must-see for fans of britpop, dance, and electronic music. Oh yeah... the soundtrack kicks ass too!

Feed the Kitty

I absolutely ADORE this cartoon! My favorite WB cartoon of all time...
I had the unexpected treat of seeing this short animated masterpiece on the big screen several years ago while at one of Spike & Mike's Festivals of Animation in San Francisco. All of a sudden, in the middle of the repertoire of recently made amateur and obscure animated shorts, the 40's/50's era Warner Brothers'/Looney Tunes cartoon short intro flashed on the screen. I could immediately sense the surprised hushes and confused murmurs of most of the audience members because vintage "mainstream" shorts weren't the usual fare for these shows. However, the surprised and confused reactions gradually turned into joyful enthusiasm as I and the rest of the audience members finally recognized which particular vintage Looney Tunes short this was... 'Feed the Kitty.' Sure, a lot of us probably didn't remember it merely by the title as it showed on the screen, but as soon as I saw the beloved slobbery bulldog (Marc Anthony) I knew!!! (-: I was also overjoyed that I could see this on a big screen in all its original theatrical glory of the era in which it was created. This gem is utterly timeless! I know that most everyone in that audience that night at the animation fest, along with myself, were instantly transported back to the time when they first saw this cartoon and how much it touched them then. I myself am a huge lover of kitties ever since childhood so when I first saw this cartoon on T.V. as a young child, I know it must have made me laugh tremendously and melted my heart then. Seeing it at the fest was so wonderful because I believe that it was the first time I'd seen it since I was a child in the 70's and I'd nearly forgotten about it up until that point. But ever since seeing it again that night, it definitely re-captivated me. It's such a charming, adorable, and hilarious feature for all ages. That dog's facial expressions are priceless! I'll never forget this one. It's for all ages. Chuck Jones R.I.P... what a genius!

Before Sunrise

Very charming film... please be patient with it!
When I saw this movie in the theater when it came out in 1995 via a free advanced screening, I was totally enchanted and would have gladly paid to see it. I was sorry when I talked to many people afterwards who had also seen it and who were totally disappointed with it and how it ended. I, on the other hand, felt completely the opposite. I was totally satisfied with the outcome and everything else. People I talked to said there was too much talking! Plus they were unhappy because they felt that the ending left you wondering about the fate of the two characters. I found these observations to be absurd and to also be painful evidence of how the majority of the American movie-going public seems to have a tendency to want easy-to-follow stories in films with not too much complex and intelligent dialogue lest they get confused. They also like to be spoon-fed tidy endings--happy OR sad. This disgusts me. Nobody wants to be challenged anymore??? And as for the ending (and I don't want to be a spoiler), I am totally content because I know in my heart that these two characters WILL see each other again. It's all about your own personal faith in romance and destiny. It's a very personal film that doesn't speak to all people. But it certainly spoke to me. Give it a chance! Be patient with it! Richard Linklater has crafted a very lovely film with a beautiful story set against the beautiful background of the city of Vienna. Watching it makes you feel as if you yourself are strolling through the city streets along with the characters. As if you yourself were tripping through Europe on a Eurail pass. It's very intimate. Plus, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy do an exquisite job of bringing the complex script to life. They must have improvised during some parts and it works well. They have a great chemistry in their roles. Their awkwardness as strangers getting to know each other in the beginning is very believable and you can truly feel the romance and bonding develop between them as the movie progresses. I get the feeling that this was a very personal work for Mr. Linklater and I deeply respect him for getting this film made. It definitely touched me and I hope it touches others just as much. Bravo for romance!!!

Happy Together

'Breakfast at Tiffany's' Deja Vu
I shudder to think I rented this movie years and years ago when it first came out on video a couple years before I had the chance to see the film 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' (one of my all time romantic comedy faves!) for the first time. At that time (in my 20 year-old naivete) I summed up 'Happy Together' as cute and entertaining... not altogether a total waste of my time. Now, years later, having just caught it on late night cable for the second time ever, and AFTER experiencing 'Breakfast at Tiffany's,' I now realize how much of a blatant plot rip-off of that movie THIS movie is!

Helen Slater's 'Alex' is sooooo the reincarnate of Audrey Hepburn's 'Holly Golightly,' but done in such an painfully cute-sy and over-acted way. Patrick Dempsey's 'Chris' is a far less sexy and less witty 'Paul Varjak.' Instead of the New York City setting, it's a college campus in L.A. (but throughout the film, the characters do allude to a desire to live in N.Y.C.). Instead of apartment building neighbors, they're dorm roommates. Alex is also an aspiring actress (like Holly) and Chris is even a writer (like Paul!). You also see Alex going out with all these unsuitable suitors while Chris pines for her just like in 'Tiffany's.' Alex even exclaims a couple times in the film, "You don't know ME!" which so resembles the tone of Holly's stubborn desire of "not wanting to be put in a cage," as Paul points out to her towards the end of the film. The female protagonists of both films are these "free spirits" who are actually terrified of leaving their "fishbowls" of existence.

How important is this realization of similarities between these two films? Not very. But it least makes ME realize yet again (disgustedly) that way too many basic plot lines are recycled in Hollywood. That's all!

So if you're in the mood for pure derivative fluff, 'Happy Together" is for you. Plus, Helen Slater's late 80's wardrobe is sure a hoot to behold...

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