Just like the book, plus a bunch of good actors (hello, Jennifer Lawrence and Woody Harrelson), minus all depth or feeling, and with the worst camerawork I’ve seen in years. Ross made Pleasantville and his DP shot all the latter-day Clint Eastwood pictures, so what happened here? The soundtrack is nice, anyway.

Oh look, netflix streaming has a whole bunch of James Bond movies. I never watched them consistently, saw a couple all the way through and a bunch more in fragments on cable. So this is an attempt to figure out which Bond is which, and which movies were halfway decent.

Thunderball (1965)
Sean Connery is not-so-excitingly rescued by a helicopter, yells some exposition that I didn’t quite catch. Underwater harpoon battle! Black team vs. orange team, heavy casualties. Everyone except Bond is wearing pants. The movie harpoons a shark, booo. I hope the movie ate that shark. Bond catches up with grey-haired eyepatched Largo (Adolfo Celi of Diabolik and The Phantom of Liberty) aboard the Disco Volante – aha – slaps him around while the boat accelerates to Benny Hill speed. He escapes with a girl named Domino (Claudine Auger of A Bay of Blood), who also has no pants. They ditch the Peter Lorre-like fellow who helped rescue her, and escape into a bluescreen sky. Director Terence Young’s third Bond movie – he’d later make Wait Until Dark.

You Only Live Twice (1967)
Connery fails to escape Donald “Dr. Evil” Pleasence by shooting a guy with his cigarette. Lots of men (ninjas, according to IMDB) fight in different-colored outfits. Bond knocks an unpunchable tough guy into a pirahna pool and pushes the button that makes a spacecraft on TV blow up. Pleasence blows the whole base, but every single person escapes anyway, and the same planes drop the same lifeboats as in the last movie. Bond ends up in one with a girl named Kissy (Mie Hama of What’s Up Tiger Lily).

Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Jill St. John (of Tashlin & Lewis flick Who’s Minding The Store?) is making a mockery of clothing in her purple/red flag swimsuit. Connery does acrobatics in a suit, while helicopters explode into optical stills. Baddy Blofeld (Charles Gray of the Rocky Horror movies) enters a toy submarine held by a Bond-controlled crane. Connery gleefully wrecking-balls the toy into the control tower until the whole derrick explodes. Nice finale featuring one waiter on fire and another exploding mid-air.

Live and Let Die (1973)
Heroin dealer Yaphet Kotto (of Bone, Alien and the show Homicide) has stolen Roger Moore’s inflation gun, shows off all his silly bad-guy toys (a monorail, waterproof heroin canisters) then threatens Bond and Jane “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” Seymour with death by shark. Every movie so far has featured watery deaths. In the most WTF moment of any movie so far, Bond shoves a compressed-air pellet into Yaphet’s head, turning him into a balloon. The last-minute assassination-attempt is back, and Moore tosses a metal-claw-handed Julius Harris (of Black Caesar) out his train window.

The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
The great Christopher Lee (year after The Wicker Man) is TMWTGG, but Moore shoots him dead before he’s got any lines – shame. Nice scene, all rotating mirrors and neon triangles. Criminals used to put such style into their lairs. Britt Ekland (also of Wicker Man) tosses a guy into subzero liquid (another watery death), then triggers self-destruct with her ass, the least competent of any bond girl so far. He and the girl sail away in an ancient Chinese ship, pausing to dispose of an angry Hervé Villechaize (soon after Greaser’s Palace). These last three were directed by Guy Hamilton, who’d go on to make Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
A boat is blowing up – more water, and oh look, more sharks. Moore is aboard the evil aquatic base, shoots boring Curd Jurgens (star of both a Blue Angel remake and a Threepenny Opera remake), sics Jaws on a shark (a funny joke in the mid-1970’s) and escapes with lovely enemy spy Barbara Bach – codename Triple X, another joke. It all seems rather inert, the least-exciting Bond finale I’ve seen despite Jaws and explosions.

Moonraker (1979)
Oh god, laser gun battles. Moore ejects Michael Lonsdale (!) into space then watches some Star Wars models out the window. Jaws is in love with a girl with pigtails and it’s sweet. He even gets dialogue, helps Bond and Lois Chiles (of Broadcast News) into a shuttle where they play high-stakes space invaders then celebrate with zero-G sex. These last two and You Only Live Twice were directed by Lewis Gilbert, who helmed some thrillers in the 50’s and more recently an Aidan Quinn ghost story.

For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Moore is in a decidedly low-tech mountain hideout, with a full team for once. Punch-out in a church, people thrown through stained glass windows, and another one of those tough guys who just smiles when Bond punches him in the gut. It’s all for some Texas Instruments-looking device which Bond hurls off a cliff so the Russians won’t get it. Not nearly as exciting as the others, with an unsexy PG version of the gag ending from the last few, then a dubbed macaw to close it out. John Glen, editor of the last couple Bond films, is promoted to director and takes the series through License to Kill.

Octopussy (1983)
Hooray for gypsies, acrobats, dancers and sad clowns. This makes up for the drab brownness of the last movie. The title character (Maud Adams, returning from Golden Gun) has a gun and Bond is nowhere to be found. Oh here he is, in a hot air balloon of course. Some Goldeneye-(the video game)-style first-person machine-gunning. Bond on horseback chases down the Afghani/Indian villains’ plane and just rides around on top of it. Louis Jordan (star of Letter from an Unknown Woman) flies his plane into a cliff after Bond and the girl jump to safety. They’ve toned down the sexy ending even further – this is getting out of hand.

Never Say Never Again (1983)
Weird, a non-canonical Bond film from a rival studio, a remake of Thunderball from the director of The Empire Strikes Back featuring the return of Sean Connery. Never having cared about the 007 series, this is not something I ever suspected existed. Connery has a jetpack! He and partner Bernie Casey (of Cleopatra Jones and The Man Who Fell To Earth) scuba into a paper-mache fortress where Max von Sydow reigns, a less-iconic Largo. Bond, as in the original, can be easily recognized as the one without pants. An underwater battle ensues, with worse lighting, much less harpooning, and slightly more Kim Basinger than before. In the would-be sexy postscript scene, Bond dumps Rowan Atkinson into a swimming pool – so, less Benny Hill, more Mr. Bean.

A View to a Kill (1985)
Opens with a disclaimer about baddie Chris Walken’s character name “Zorin” – I wonder what prompted that. Anyway, very excited to see Grace Jones with new wave hair helping out Roger Moore. She explodes while a slick blonde Walken watches from above, as does the proper blonde love interest (Tanya Roberts of The Beastmaster and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. Bond dangles from a zeppelin line as Walken tries to shake him loose in the city, accompanied by corny dialogue. Punch-out atop the Golden Gate bridge features lots of bluescreen backdrops, Chris Walken with an axe, and an angry old man with a cartoon stick of dynamite. Postscript involves a camera-equipped robot, chuckling Russians and somehow an even less sexy finale than the Rowan Atkinson one. Come on now, 1980’s.

The Living Daylights (1987)
Roger has been retired to a closet at MGM, and was never heard from again. Tim Dalton is flying a plane around with Maryam d’Abo (of Shootfighter), blowing up a bridge while Arabs wage war below. Hmm, they drive out of a crashing plane in a jeep. Warfare afficionado MITCHELL is blasting away at Bond – thought I remembered him as a good guy in the later ones. Mitchell is dead, so never mind. Ash liked all the whistling in this one.

A comedy with grating performances and no jokes. One of the central points of the movie is this crude American cartoonist who is only appreciated by Parisian intellectuals, possibly in reference to Resnais influence Jerry Lewis. But Resnais (and writer Jules Feiffer, who critically also adapted Robert Altman’s failed live-action cartoon Popeye) make an unfunny movie about an unlikeable artist – perhaps a movie only French intellectuals could love.

Joey, Lena, Gerard:

Opens (after the multilingual credits) with a lovely process shot of a plane in the clouds, then follows with young Elsie speaking to herself, alternating between unconvincing French and unconvincing English, and seeing visions of poorly-animated cartoon cats. With a name like Laura Benson, shouldn’t her English be fine? Turns out she’s just not a good actress.

Two years later Joey, a blustery Walter-Matthauish guy with large teeth (played by Adolph Green, writer of the song “New York, New York”) who also sees cartoon cats arrives in Paris with his suffering girlfriend/assistant Lena. He ignores her, hates Paris, wants to see his daughter Elsie, but ends up meeting Elsie’s idol, famous Flaubert scholar Gerard Depardieu, going to his house (followed, belatedly, by Elsie) and hooking up with Gerard’s mom Isabelle (Micheline Presle of Rivette’s The Nun, American Guerrilla in the Philippines), while Lena wanders dejected in the background. A cartoon costume party ensues (with prominent Popeye and Olive Oyl characters), revealing that Alain Resnais has no particular talent for big madcap comic action sequences. It should be over, but we’re inexplicably treated to five more minutes of extremely grating loud complaints from Joey, a couple of undeserved reconciliation scenes, and a possible new love interest for Elsie as she returns to the U.S. leaving Joey to torment people in France.

I was hopeful. I’ve heard this was Resnais’s worst film, but figured a huge fan such as myself should still find plenty to appreciate. Sure it started terribly, but it got increasingly bearable, peaking with a nice looking father/daughter scene in a secret room at Gerard’s house (above). But then it quickly ramped back up from there, and I was left weary and annoyed by the end.

Geraldine Chaplin, sailing safely above it all:

Netflix Streaming has got a bunch more movies I would never pay to rent, but which I might watch for free if I was sick or something. I’m sick today, so here goes.

Prince of Persia (2010, Mike Newell)
I see ropes and swords and Lord of the Rings fire-sculptures, and holy crap is that Ben Kingsley?? Donnie Darko has a fake british accent, and he just let his girlfriend fall into the pit of hell before unleashing a crazy amount of ‘splosions and triggering a muted montage of flashback snippets. Then Donnie, who long ago became less cool than his big sister Maggie Darko, discovers that the movie was just a dream he saw in the handle of his magic dagger. All I remember from the video game is that your little man had a more human-like gait than was usual for video games, and it was incredibly hard to avoid falling into pits. As I type this, Donnie is telling a beardy fellow to “listen to your heart.” So it’s safe to say the movie isn’t much like the game, except when the girl fell into that pit.

The Men Who Stare At Goats (2009, Grant Heslov)
“Larry’s dead,” are the first words I hear… guess I won’t be seeing Kevin Spacey. Still holding out hope for Stephen Root, though. Oh wait, there’s Spacey now, wtf. Directed by an actor who played “guy in big suit” in Bug. There’s an LSD prank then all the army base’s goats and prisoners are set free. I’m not detecting much comedy in this comedy, so I guess it got dark and turned into a drama halfway through. Jeff Bridges and George Clooney escape in a chopper, Ewan provides poignant, anti-corporate-media voiceover, and it ends on a dud of a joke. Glad I didn’t sit through the rest of this.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009, Niels Oplev)
A pierced punk rock girl (a “rebellious computer hacker” according to the Netflix description) talking with her mama seems sad. Later, some blond woman is talking about being raped by her dad, cue spazzy flashback with bland music. Punk girl visits hospitalized boyfriend, drops off secret financial records, he writes an article causing a mogul to commit suicide, and punk girl steals a lot of money and escapes to a tropical paradise. Whole thing seems anticlimactic and unengaging. But I guess if The Da Vinci Code can be a huge success, so can this. Still, at least Da Vinci had a big ending (the codex is shattered! Amelie is Jesus’s daughter!) to justify all the dreary exposition. This one wasn’t even exciting enough for me to check out the last ten minutes of the sequels.

Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl (2009, Nishimura & Tomomatsu)
Dubbing!! The fakest CGI ever. Oh, this is one of those direct-to-video Japanese teen movies full of awful music where everyone wears school uniforms. It’s not even as good as Tokyo Gore Police (they share a director). “When you gave me that chocolate, I had no idea how you really felt about me” should not be one of the final lines of a movie with this title. Oh, and Vampire Girl decisively wins.

Factotum (2005, Bent Hamer)
Hooray, Lili Taylor! Long takes + poorly furnished rooms = gritty realism. Poor Charlie Bukowski is having money issues and lady issues. Matt Dillon gets life advice from “Old Black Man” (according to the credits) in the unemployment office, finally gets one of his stories published. I don’t find Dillon’s poetic voiceover very compelling. From the dude who made Kitchen Stories.

Ondine (2009, Neil Jordan)
She is telling fisherman Colin Farrell that she’s not a magical water creature, but just a girl who almost drowned while escaping from something or other. Uh oh, some fellows with pistols and strong accents. What is happening? Colin and the girl live, are getting married at the end. Jordan made a bunch of movies that always look somewhat intriguing but not quite essential.

The Day The Earth Stopped (2008, C. Thomas Howell)
If you start watching a movie ten minutes before the closing credits, the hero and villain are always in the middle of some revelatory exposition scene. All movies are the same. Should you really entrust the remake rights of The Day The Earth Stood Still to one of the teen actors from Red Dawn? Earth starts shaking (I’d hardly say it is standing still) and sepia-toned CGI versions of major world monuments (and a ferris wheel) are falling rapidly towards the camera. I was excited that Judd Nelson is in this, but I’d gotten him confused with Judge Reinhold – who is Judd Nelson? There is yelling and guns and terrible camerawork, then something really stupid happens and I guess the aliens don’t destroy Earth. Shame.

2012 (2009, Roland Emmerich)
Here’s a movie that isn’t afraid to let the world end, or to cast Oliver Platt! I don’t see world monuments crumbling, just a big Titanicky iceberg adventure (Roland must’ve had some ice left over from The Day After Tomorrow) with people yelling and swimming through tunnels to close or open portals and machinery. Oh, surviving mankind lives on arks now, and Africa turns out to be the future, or the home of the our civilization or something.

Salt (2010, Phillip Noyce)
Another movie with a third-billed Chiwetel Ejiofor, and more awful camerawork – only this time it’s awful in a big-budget extreme-cutting sense, not the give-an-idiot-a-camera awfulness of The Day The Earth Stopped. Ooh, the president is down. A. Jolie, handcuffed in FBI custody, still manages to kill Liev Schreiber, whoever he is. The backstory exposition comes a couple minutes late in this movie, then noble Chiwetel lets Jolie escape to kill again. From the writer of Equilibrium (and Ultraviolet, yuck) and director of Rabbit Proof Fence (and Sliver).

Red Dragon (2002, Brett Ratner)
Emily Watson is in a super intense burning-house scene, then a big fake explosion knocks down Ed Norton. This movie marked the end of my needing to see everything Norton was in (Keeping the Faith and The Score had already lowered expectations). Ed’s in the William Petersen role (WP’s on a cop show now). After he and Raiff Fiennes shoot each other to death, we see ol’ Hopkins (in the Brian Cox role) writing letters, and oh Ed isn’t dead actually, and it ends with a cheese-headed transition into an early scene from Silence of the Lambs. Doesn’t look bad, really, but as with all Ratner movies it is not to be taken seriously.

While Soderbergh’s studio movies with George Clooney and Matt Damon have been humming along at a regular pace, he’s been inconsistent with his smaller, more personal movies: Bubble and Girlfriend Experience were kind of crappy, no fun to watch, but Che was overwhelming. So yeah, Katy and I are glad we didn’t save this one for a hot date movie, since it was neither hot nor very good. A couple of unappealing actors play a story that doesn’t seem to matter, told in random-ass chronology with camerawork alternating between intriguing, decent and appalling.

Bored-looking “bona fide porn star” (as Netflix proclaims her) Sasha Grey (of Grand Theft Anal 11, Meet the Fuckers 7 and Fox Holes) is a professional escort, dating muscle-bound personal trainer Chris Santos. She is into astrology, takes notes on her encounters read to us in voiceover. He is considering going on a trip to Vegas with his work buddies. The only two scenes I liked were when he somewhat awkwardly requests a promotion from his boss and when she reads a negative review of her services online.

From the writers of Ocean’s 13, surprisingly. In fact I’m half-surprised that it had writers at all. At least it was short.

Welcome to a special SHOCKtober edition of The Last Ten Minutes, in which I find horror movies on Netflix streaming which I may have actually been tempted to watch (because I am stupid and will watch any trash some days), and remove that temptation by seeing how they end.

Howling VII: New Moon Rising (1995, Clive Turner)
A made-for-TV inspector is clumsily explaining the entire movie to priest John with copious flashback scenes. Ted (played by the director, who was also a producer on Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace) is a longhair biker rebel suspected of killing all the townsfolk, but the inspector is saying it wasn’t Ted. Later, a girl named Cheryl is even more clumsily explaining to Ted that she’s the werewolf. Does the whole movie consist of long explanations by terrible actors? Oh no, here’s a heinous morphing effect, then the townsfolk shoot the Cheryl-wolf to bits, and a county band plays us out, first apologizing to Ted that the whole town thought he was a werewolf. The music was the best part, all extended guitar solos, doing its own thing in a way reminiscent of Rollergator. This is the last Howling movie to date, though I’m sure they’ll remake the original any day now, since they’ve already done Pirahna.

Ghost Ship (2002, Steve Beck)
Cool music. First words I heard: “Murphy’s dead.” Shit, Murphy was Gabriel Byrne, and he’s the only reason I’m watching this – not for Julianna Margulies, beach-blonde Ron “Deep Impact” Eldard or a possessed-by-evil Desmond Harrington. Yay, blondie shoots the evil guy… but evil cannot be killed with a shotgun, as proven by a dodgy computer morph. Boat explodes, Julianna escapes, but a metal song indicates the evil is still alive. Director Steve Beck (13 Ghosts remake) went on to make… nothing. Good.

Day of the Dead Remake (2008, Steve Miner)
A room full of attractive young people led by Mena Suvari (Stuck) are in a bunker. Wow, the zombies can dodge bullets in this one. “He’s smarter than the others.” Oops, Nick Cannon got eaten. Makeup budget must have been low because whenever they show zombies, the camera goes all freakity flop. A zombie shot a zombie, and the kids rig a giant flamethrower that infernoes the whole place except for their little room. Whatever, looks bad all over. From the director of House and Lake Placid and the writer of Final Destination.

Shrooms (2007, Paddy Breathnach)
Lindsey Haun, I suppose, prowls a spooky house with an axe. Now they’re in a forest. I know from the netflix description that they all took killer shrooms so maybe nothing that is happening is really happening. Ah indeed, in the hospital Haun realizes that she was the killer all along. She took shrooms and killed all her friends! Haute twist.

Machine Girl (2008, Noboru Iguchi)
Hoo, some silly-ass special effects. Serious-looking schoolgirl Ami with machine-gun arm and her friend Miki with chainsaw foot kill yakuzas in the woods. Ami is badly bloodied by ninja lady with steel drill bra, then bisects the heads of the baddies. Naturally from the writer/director of RoboGeisha.

American Psycho 2 (2002, Morgan Freeman)
Netflix say: “Patrick Bateman is dead, but his evil legacy continues with Rachael Newman, the only victim who managed to escape Bateman’s grasp. Rachael will get rid of anyone who threatens her chances of becoming teaching assistant to the infamous Dr. Daniels.” Hmm, Mila Kunis is telling William Shatner (via answering machine) that she loves him. In flashback, she steals some girl’s identity and talks to herself all the time. I think this is supposed to be a comedy. I wonder if Bret Easton Ellis got paid for this. She kills herself in a car… or does she!!… followed by a news montage, then the infamous Daniels (dude from a couple vampire TV series) giving a lecture and she shows up. Looks stupid, but it might’ve been less stupid if it hadn’t pretended to be an American Psycho sequel. Freeman is sadly not the great sad-voiced actor but some nobody with the same name, and the writers of this movie fortunately never worked again.

The Signal (2007, Bruckner/Bush/Gentry)
Bad guy is beating up good guy. IMDB calls it “A horror film told in three parts, from three perspectives,” so I guess this is the last ten minutes of the third perspective. Everyone’s face is awfully bloody. Bad guy, with a voice like Patton Oswalt’s, is having an argument with his wife-in-a-coma, then both guys have identity crises and Patton punches through one of many TVs showing “the signal,” electrocuting himself to death. Then I think there’s a fake epilogue but I don’t get it. I thought this one would actually be cool (I dig the premise) but the ending looks somewhat worse than Ghost Ship.

Subspecies (1991, Ted Nicolaou)
Two girls (the Demi Moore one and the Catatonic Blonde) break free from prison but oops, Catatonic Blonde is a vampire. The evil vampire (Radu?) is a terrible ham, and what’s with his fake plastic fingers? Ooh, a shotgun-toting vampire hunter and a quick spot of stop-motion. Your standard swordfight ensues, along with a falling chandelier and some beheadings and everyone’s a vampire in the end. I think the bad guy has been in some Lars Von Trier movies, and I’m not sure who the vampire hunter was but he looked like a wannabe-Toulon. I also checked out the first couple minutes because I ain’t watching Subspecies without seeing Angus Scrimm in a Ludwig Von wig. Looks better than most of the Puppet Master movies, if that’s saying anything.

Subspecies 2: Your Sister is a Vampire (1993, Ted Nicolaou)
Michelle “daughter of Kirk” Shatner has come to fetch another girl from the castle. An old man sloooowly tries to stab a vampire, and his lack of haste is repaid by getting stabbed by a puppet. Evil vampire Radu is alive again and hammier than ever, until he’s stabbed repeatedly by the imprisoned girl amongst some sub-Evil Dead (sub-Subspecies, for that matter) puppet creatures. The original looked grudgingly watchable, but obviously sequels yield diminishing returns. Nicolaou, who helmed the ridiculous TerrorVision, would make two more Subspecies sequels then Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys, all for the sinister Charles Band and his Full Moon Pictures.

The Astro-Zombies (1968, Ted V. Mikels)
Ted V. Mikels is maybe the only filmmaker I’ve ever met, but the only movie of his I’d seen was on Mystery Science Theater. Yay, John Carradine! He and crony William Bagdad (The Black Sheik in Head) are working on astro-zombie (read: dudes staggering around wearing rubber skull masks) brain transplants when Tura Satana and some actor from Agent for H.A.R.M. interrupt. The sound, lighting and editing are uproariously bad. Oh, I learned that bullets cannot stop a machete-wielding astro-zombie. Some people in suits tell us the moral of the story, and all was quiet for thirty-four years until Mikels and Satana made a sequel.

Here are three that’ve been hanging about for the last couple months because I haven’t felt like watching any more awful movies lately.

Seven Pounds (2008, Gabriele Muccino)
After flashing-back to the time he killed his wife and six other people because he wouldn’t stop looking at his cellphone, Will Smith lowers himself into a bathtub full of ice and jellyfish. I think he died and donated his heart to Rosario Dawson, because she wakes up seeming all sad then goes and hugs Woody Harrelson in the park. Seeing all these people cry makes me wanna cry. The director made The Pursuit of Happyness which would probably also make me wanna cry, and the writer once did an episode of Sabrina The Teenage Witch.

Blindness (2008, Fernando Meirelles)
I wasn’t expecting this jaunty Thomas Newman-sounding music (it’s not by him), nor this confused, fuzzy montage-looking filmmaking – hmmm, it’s from the guy who made City of God, so maybe I should’ve. This movie would seem to call for more straightforward direction, like Seven Pounds, which looked totally reasonable, but maybe Meirelles doesn’t know how to be straightforward. Anyway, Julianne Moore leads everyone to her house, Danny Glover has an eyepatch and tells some girl he loves her, and then Yusuke Iseya (who ruled as the white clan leader in Sukiyaki Western Django) can see again and everyone is glad. Just like the book, but blurrier.

Swing Vote (2008, Josh Stern)
Montage: two cute girls (Costner’s girlfriend[?] Paula Patton of Mirrors, and daughter Madeline Carroll of Resident Evil: Extinction) are reading mail to scruffy Kevin Costner in front of a whiteboard while media types are gathered outside his trailer. Arianna Huffington has some awkward dialogue, then there’s a Texas debate between Kelsey Grammer and Dennis Hopper staged just for Costner, but then why is Costner doing all the talking? Why, it’s a big patriotic speech to America, in which he declares himself an enemy of America for being a crappy citizen all his life. Hopper didn’t get to say a single word, and we don’t see who Costner votes for – booo! Director Stern previously wrote an Amityville sequel and directed an absolutely star-studded fantasy movie I’ve never heard of called Neverwas.

Now that I’ve seen some exciting, excellent/horrible Argento movies from his peak period (Suspiria, Inferno) and some depressing, horrible/horrible movies from his more recent period (Giallo, Pelts), it’s safe to say I never need to watch these three all the way through (although I’m still undecided on Mother of Tears), so here’s The Last Ten Minutes of them:

Do You Like Hitchcock? (2005, Dario Argento)
First thing I see is a black-gloved hand. First thing I hear is an unconvincingly delivered line. It’s an Argento movie, all right. Looks like I’ve stumbled into a crap remake of Rear Window. Police chase the black-gloved girl onto the rooftop, where she falls, hanging Vertigo-style from the gutter while the crippled Giulio (Elio Germano of musical Nine) watches across the alley. But a minute later everyone is friends? So there was no killer? Down on the street a shopping cart lady puts on a wig. Huh? Anyway, months later, Giulio watches a hot nude girl across the alley and enters a confusing flashback montage. One of the girls was Elisabetta Rocchetti, who later appeared in something called Last House in the Woods (oh Italian movie industry, how you amuse me).

The Card Player (2004, Dario Argento)
“I’m sorry, I had to kill him,” says a dude with a cellphone (and disappointingly, no long mustache to twirl) who has tied a girl to the train tracks. He cranks up a CD of funky electro music and lies on the tracks with her playing cards on his laptop, while she taunts him instead of smashing the computer into his face like it seems like she should do. He gets run over by a train, and she shoots out his car stereo, mercifully stopping the electro music. Someone in the movie was Liam Cunningham of Wind That Shakes The Barley – hopefully not the card-playing killer, because that guy was terrible.

Phantom of the Opera (1998, Dario Argento)
Oh no, it’s a period piece. Asia Argento is pretty convincing as an opera star until a sewer troll interrupts the performance and handsome Julian Sands (Warlock himself – the description says he’d not physically disfigured in this one, but was “raised by telepathic rats”) sweeps Asia away. It is very dark, and a man with a funny mustache stumbles upon an enclave of dead bodies. Long-haired hero Andrea di Stefano (star of a Marco Bellocchio movie) shoots Julian and escapes the bloodthirsty search party (wasn’t he part of the search party), as Asia screams in horror (she’s good at that sort of thing). This looks a ton better than the last two movies, though it has the lowest rating. Maybe that’s from people thinking they were getting the Joel Schumacher version. The rat-squealing sound effects over the finale got my birds very excited.

First Snow (2006, Mark Fergus)
This dude Vince says he still considers Guy Pearce his best friend, but says that Guy has fucked up and pulls out a gun. Vince goes off with a long, tortured speech then tries to kill them both but only manages himself. Guy Pearce is sad, flashes back to a pretty girl in a cowboy hat as it starts to snow. The writers/director worked on Children of Men and Iron Man, so I suppose this should’ve been good. Didn’t look awful, but I’m not saying I wanna see 90 more minutes of it.

Noise (2007, Henry Bean)
Tim Robbins’ car is making a ton of noise and William Hurt is angry, then he makes it stop, then start again, then he has some kind of noise-epiphany as judge Chuck Cooper smashes his car with a golf club. A Baldwin tackles the judge, who is arrested under suspicious of being Tim Robbins’ anti-noise vigilante. A way unrealistic court scene follows, in which Tim helps Chuck win in order to set precedent that noise can be considered assault and battery. High on his success, Tim considers joining a pimply militant in blowing up city eyesores but chooses not to. He smashes cars Michael Jackson-style as the credits roll. Overall the movie looks pretty fun, if kinda silly. From the writer of Basic Instinct 2.

Lakeview Terrace (2008, Neil LaBute)
Controversially interracial couple Patrick “Little Children” Wilson and Kerry “Last King of Scotland” Washington come home to a mess of a house, then dude goes out back to thank Samuel L. Jackson for helping him for a break-in. But Jackson knows that Wilson knows that Jackson knew the guys who broke in, and now Jackson’s on the attack. Much punching and many gunshots ensue. I wish Samuel L. had the integrity I always imagine he had. Ugh, his character name is Abel. Cops shoot Sam a bunch, the couple turns out semi-okay and family values are protected. Besides rogue cop Abel, the rest of the LAPD force is portrayed as remarkably restrained and competent. Follow-up to The Wicker Man by Neil LaBute’s doppelganger – the one who killed the real Neil and replaced him in 2000, halfway through production of Nurse Betty.

Obsessed (2009, Steve Shill)
Beyonce catches Ali Lartner (Resident Evil 3) in bed surrounded by rose petals, presumable waiting for Idris “Stringer Bell” Elba. Girlfight ensues! So which one of these girls is “obsessed”? I think it’s Lartner, who plays it weirdly affectless. Generic thriller music, fight scene, camerawork and everything. Lartner is killed by a falling chandelier and family values are protected. Idris Elba comes home just in time for the credits, dammit, the only reason I watched this was to see him.

It’s Alive (2008, Josef Rusnak)
Thought I’d peep tha remake since I recently saw the original and more recently saw Splice. Oh it’s the ol’ flashlight-into-the-camera trick from X-Files. This is taking place in a very dark house, not a sewer – the movie probably couldn’t afford a sewer. Father Frank (TV’s James Murray) catches the baby (how? we don’t know) in a trash can and creeps off to a very dark outdoor area, then unwisely opens the can and gets savaged by the baby (played by an out-of-context CG effect). Motherly Bijou Phillips (of Hostel II, here with the horror-in-joke character name Lenore Harker) catches up with them and takes the baby into a burning house where they both perish… or DO they?? Hmmm, no cops – the movie probably couldn’t afford cops. That seemed longer than ten minutes.

Simon Says (2006, William Dear)
Key phrase from the description: “Simon and Stanley (both played by Crispin Glover), backwoods twin brothers with a fondness for booby traps.” That’s all you needed to tell me! Helpless Stanley is being groped by some girl – but he’s got a knife!! She’s got a bigger knife! Did he just headbutt a corpse? Now he’s screaming with a fake southern accent in the woods, wounded and toting a scythe. Could this be the end of Crispin Glover? Yep, got a knife in the skull by a girl who I assume is Margo Harshman (good name). Where’s the twin brother? Maybe there never was one. Oh Crispy is still alive and gets the girl, twist ending. They said “you forgot to say simon says” about four times. I missed the epilogue bit since someone knocked on the door, but I saw a bunch of mirrors and I’m guessing there was never a twin brother, which is disappointing. William Dear, also the writer, once made Harry and the Hendersons.

“We live in a democracy. You can’t just take a little baby gator.”

Thanks heaps to the White Elephant Blogathon for making me watch this.

Original announcement
List of reviews
My pick was The Gate (link is dead)


“Scott Shaw Presents…”

Shaw is behind fifty direct-to-video movies that sounds awesome but are almost certainly not: Samurai Vampire Bikers from Hell, Lingerie Kickboxer, Max Hell Frog Warrior and more.

“A film by Donald G. Jackson…”

Jackson also voices the gator. IMDB says he died in 2003, but he is so productive, he continued making movies through 2009.

“Roller
Gator”

Hmmm, the title is on two lines, so is it “Roller Gator” or “Rollergator”? Since the director is partying in b-movie heaven with Ed Wood and Dennis Hopper, we may never know for sure. Aspect ratio is unknown as well – I’m watching a 4:3 frame inside a widescreen window, thanks to Amazon.

Roller (not pictured: gator)

Supposedly Joe Estevez (who has previously explored these themes in Legend of the Roller Blade Seven, Gator King, and Return of the Roller Blade Seven) is running an amusement park, but I’m pretty sure the filmmakers just paid admission (or hopped the fence – I wouldn’t put it past them) and shot Joe shouting dialogue to himself on what looks like a late-80’s camcorder.

Suddenly a ninja is playing loud acoustic guitar while a girl frolics on the beach. Or is that a rifle the ninja is holding? Then who is playing the guitar? Enter the grating voice of the Rollergator, shouting from a cave near the frolicking girl. Oh, special-effects be damned, the gator is just gonna be a hand puppet.

“You’re an alligator. You’re a purple alligator. But you’re purple, and you can talk”. Immediate references to Barney and the electric boogaloo follow. One thing I can say for the alligator puppet – it’s a better actor than this girl (played by Sandra Shuker, also of: nothing), who is apparently going to be our protagonist. I’m not seeing how this even qualifies as a movie. It wouldn’t make the cut at Mystery Science Theater 3000 (on which I’ve seen two previous Joe Estevez flicks: Werewolf and Soultaker) for lack of any qualities whatsoever.

Joe Estevez, also of Lethal Orbit, Fatal Justice and Murder-in-Law, with gator:

Finally the movie kicks it up, with a drum track, some rollerblading, and dutch angles on the ninja.

I wanted to get a motion capture of this scene – after narrowly escaping the least-competent “ninja” ever, the girl rocks slowly on a coin-op ride for 2-year-olds, leaning on the gator exactly like it’s a stuffed animal (which it is) and looking just depressed.

Also, I can no longer make out her dialogue over the guitar music, not that I’m complaining. I think they might’ve left the guitarist in charge of the movie’s final sound mix. Back to Joe Estevez (of Horrorween, Killa Zombies and Caesar and Otto’s Summer Camp Massacre), who talks to his nephew Reggie about locating the gator, which Joe thinks will draw customers to his park, and I just noticed Joe’s cute little ponytail.

Speaking of the amusement park, they get a lot of mileage out of simply filming stuff there: rides, games, displays. Saves money on sets, production design and story, I suppose – although not on talent, since sometimes Joe Estevez (of Hercules in Hollywood, Las Vegas Psycho and The Rockville Slayer) and Reggie are shown joylessly sitting on the rides. The credits claim production design by Sergio Kurosawa, a name that I’m positive was made-up since I didn’t notice any production design. Effects (and I didn’t see any of those either) by Tom Irvin, whose IMDB trivia page tells a heartwarming story of how Clive Barker’s Lord of Illusions helped reunite him with his estranged father. I’m glad that movie served a purpose besides wasting my time.

This facial expression will be referenced later:

The gator is trying to hide from a “crooked carnival owner”, so they go straight to a carnival, agree to talk to carnival worker Reggie’s boss, then act surprised when it turns out to be crooked carnival owner Chi Chi (Joe Estevez of Necronaut, Zombiegeddon and Crimes of the Chupacabra). Oh shit, Joe is having a heart attack! Wait, is this in the script, or is it really happening? Oh he’s okay. Contract negotiations break down and PJ leaves with the gator, taking him to her completely unfurnished apartment. Again with the production design.

Enter the mythical Swamp Farmer (played by mythical Ed Wood actor Conrad Brooks, also of Beast of Yucca Flats, Curse of the Queerwolf and F.A.R.T.: The Movie), who wanders the urban swamp chattering to himself.

Note: lens hood visible in upper-left corner:

There isn’t even an attempt at action – everyone just saunters around, even the supposed ninja, although she does have some high-kicking nunchuck moves. Oh wait, this isn’t the ninja, its the “karate instructor” – my mistake. Her motivation: “I’m gonna return [the gator] to Mr. Dennis, who’s gonna turn him over to the police.” Is Mr. Dennis supposed to be Joe Estevez (of Koreatown, Mexican American and Spanish Fly)? I thought his name was Chi Chi. Chi Chi Dennis? Oh, now the karate lady has turned on her boss and joined PJ and the gator. That was easy.

Our team is joined by another rollerblading girl, this one with a slingshot, who says things like “this is so fly!” The ensuing chase scene is the most exciting bit of the movie so far, seeming to move at more of a light jog than the usual aimless, depressed stroll – I credit the blaring surf guitar on the soundtrack for energizing things. Back at the office, Joe Estevez (of PrimeMates, No Dogs Allowed and Toad Warrior) is not amused that the karate instructor has defected.

Is the cameraman three feet tall? There are telephone lines in every shot:

After a painfully long conversation between slingshot gal and a “friend of pj” who turns out to be the ninja in disguise (or is it out of disguise), the ninja gets away with a decoy backpack and Slingshot tries her best to come up with an appropriate facial expression. Joe Estevez (of Pacino Is Missing, Not Another B Movie and 14 Ways to Wear Lipstick) has an uncomfortable chat with the ninja, then the gator & girl discuss how to find the Swamp Farmer (have I mentioned him lately? Looks like he’s now roaming around abandoned movie sets). A tearful reunion between Farmer and Gator follows.

Finally, after an attempt at a beautiful sunset coda (it’s daylight again a minute later), Joe Estevez (of Green Diggity Dog, Motorcycle Cheering Mommas and Blood Slaves of the Vampire Wolf) has somehow received the “curse of the gator.”

A piss-poor movie which even makes Curse of the Puppet Master look good by comparison. Hardly anyone seems to be trying at all, and the attempts at comedy, drama, entertainment and “rap” music are laughable (except the comedy – that’d be unlaughable).

Rollergator theme song by Elizabeth Mehr (whose band Baby Alive won some MTV award in 1994, claimed she “would like to enlighten the world, and hopefully bring change, peace, and unity through music”) and performed by Magic Man (google suggests this could be a 2009 French electronica duo, a hit rock song by Heart, a Billy Zane movie, or a member of the United States Men’s National soccer team – each seems equally likely).

Fortunately, this dark prophecy has not yet come to pass: