Saturday, October 22, 2011

Clyde’s Movie Palace: The Hills Have Eyes (2006)




Michael Bailey Smith
Tom Bower
Aaron Stanford
Kathleen Quinlan
Vinessa Shaw
Directed by Alexandre Aja

Back in the fifties and sixties a good percentage of the prehistoric animals, mutants, gargantuan insects, giant colossal men and zombies that inhabited the movie theaters were brought to you courtesy of some healthy doses of radiation. In those days, we were continuously setting off nuclear warheads in the Nevada Desert so that we could be absolutely positively sure that our nuclear weapons would obliterate everything in their path just like they were supposed to. Those that weren’t tested were spit polished, shine and set on top of the nearest nuclear missile, you know, just in case. I’m not sure why or when we finally decided not to test any more nuclear weapons above ground, but I think maybe President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev watched a joint screening of The Giant Gila Monster along with  Beginning of the End and it scared the hell out of them. I’m not sure if it actually made the world much safer, but it did mean that the writers of horror films would have to come up with some other scientific explanation to explain away their mutant creatures out to feast on mankind.

For a while they turned to chemical waste products and that seemed to do the trick. Chemical waste in the water supply, in the sewers, being poured into the ground or leaking out of a barrel on the back of a pickup truck always seemed to do the trick. We were soon treated with mutants, walking dead, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, all cause by glowing green neon chemical waste products. Every once in a while they would bring the old radiation poisoning bugaboo back to science fictions as Roland Emmerich did with Godzilla, but I’m not sure if that counts because it was a remake and you don’t mess around with the origins of a classic Japanese Lizardsaurus . So you’re probably asking by now what all of this has to do with The Hills Have Eyes. Think of it this way, you’re getting a movie review, a history lesson, and a film history lesson for the low low price of just one mouse click, so quit your damn complaining.


Leave it to Wes Craven though, to decide to improve on one of his old films by producing a remake of his 1977 film, The Hills Have Eyes. This time around he hired Alexandre Aja to not only adapt Craven’s old screenplay, but to direct it as well. All Craven had to do was sit and count the money.


While the opening credits of Hills are being splashed up on the screen, we get picture after picture after picture of nuclear explosions followed by huge mushroom clouds taking place during the age of nuclear testing in the New Mexico Desert. Along with that we get glimpses of paper clippings from the newspapers telling us about a few hundred missing tourists. I always wonder about these missing tourists. I guess the search and rescue department of New Mexico is every bit as lame as the one in West Virginia. They too had a rash of unexplained tourists that disappeared in the almost heaven state in the film Wrong Turn. I thought I had walked into a screening of that film for a moment instead of this one.

“Now wait a minute,” you’re telling yourself, “didn’t you just say a couple of paragraphs ago that the nuclear tests took place in the Nevada Desert, not New Mexico?” Yep, that’s what I said alright. In fact, there was only one nuclear test in the state of New Mexico, that being the first nuclear test ever. The rest that took place in the Continental U.S. took place in Nevada. However, filmmakers being what they are, they’ve never been known to let little things like history and geography deter them, especially when they’re making a film that nobody’s going to remember a month after having seen it until AMC or some other  lame horror network drags it out for their annual Halloween crapfest.

A Look at the makeup effects for The Hills Have Eyes.


Interspersed with the shots of nuclear explosions, we also get some pictures of deformed humans, just so we know for sure that radiation can still screw you up like nobody’s business. We’re also given the hint that some inhabitants of the New Mexico Desert, didn’t exactly clear out when they had the chance because becoming a mutant in the desert was more preferable than taking an extended vacation in Albuquerque. So by the time the credits have ended, you know precisely what the film is about, and that Craven and Aja come from the school of filmmakers that believe you shouldn’t be bothered with letting the screenplay fill you in on the details.


When the film finally does get underway, it opens at a dirty filthy run down gas station that appears to have been abandoned out in the middle of nowhere with gas pumps that look as if the last car that filled up was an Edsel. If you’ve been to enough of these films you already know the routine though. The gas station is actually in full working order, and the guy who runs it will be the same creepy, rotted teeth, unshaven, ghoul (Tom Bower) who hasn’t bathed since 1977. You also know that within seconds, the unsuspecting Brady Bunch Family will pull up to get gas because they decided to take a detour into the middle of no man’s land. I guess they preferred the New Mexico desert instead of a quick trip to Disneyland.

For our purposes, the Brady Bunch consists of Papa Bob Carter (Ted Levine), Mama Ethel Carter (Kathleen Quinlan), daughter Lynn (Vinessa Shaw), her husband Doug (Aaron Stanford), their infant, and the Carter’s other two teenage kids Bobby (Dan Byrd) and Brenda (Emilie de Ravin).

Papa Bob is an ex-police chief and staunch NRA carrying member of the Repugnican Party who intends to open his own detective business as soon as he’s finished collecting Gila Monsters and cactus out in the desert. As if trying to fend off radiated mutants weren’t going to be enough, son-in-law Doug just has to be a wimpy Democrat in order to make the film politically relevant, and so that Douggie can later discover his Repugnican Manhood and then join the National Rifle Association.

We also know that besides the greasy guy at the gas station there are other inhabitants lurking around while Papa Bob is filling up. We see them hiding in the shadows, taking a sweater out of the car, and running by the outhouse when Bobby Jr. is taking a leak. And to make sure we don’t miss them, Director Aja has the sound editor crank the volume up a couple of decibels just so we’re sure that they’re there.

It  goes without saying that the Greasy Gas Station Owner is going to tell Repugnican Bob about a shortcut,  that he is going to take it, and that they are going to break down and be stranded for the rest of the movie. Of course, just as if you were in  in the mountains of West Virginia in Wrong Turn, there is no signals for your cell phone to latch onto out in the desert either.

It’s not long before Repugnican Bob decides to hike back to the creepy gas station while Democrat Doug heads in the other direction for his own date with the Dalai Llama, and son Bobby Jr. goes chasing after his pet dogs that ran off because having hung around with the Carters for a while, these canines decided that making a run for Santa Fe was preferable to being stuck in the desert with Ward and June Cleaver.


Don’t worry though, because Director Aja is not in any hurry to have his movie get from point A to point B too quickly. We get a long scene of Democrat Doug trekking through the desert where after what seems like a year and a half he comes across a passel full of vehicles from all the missing tourists we saw in the newspaper clippings during the credits. But is Democrat Doug awed by this site? Does he think it’s a little weird for all these recreational vehicles to be abandoned in a giant crater? Nope, he just grabs a fishing pole and heads back to the trailer in order that it can be used as a prop later in the film. So besides being pacifist Democrat Doug, he is now stupid pacifist Democrat Doug.

Eventually you know that all hell is going to break lose. Repugnican Bob makes a return trip to the stranded camper, but not in the way he would have liked to. Marshmallow, anyone?

The mutant ninja people begin raping, pillaging, blasting away and eating the heads off of parakeets. They also decide to kidnap Democrat Doug and his wife Lynn’s infant, forcing Doug to forget his peace loving ways in order to save his child before the baby becomes the Grand Slam Breakfast at the local Denny’s.

When the film finally does get going, it is extremely violent, vicious, savage, and unrelenting. Yes, that will unnerve you a bit, but you could add this type of brutality to any film and it would make you squirm. However, the plot holes are enormous and there is never any real suspense. How can there be when the filmmakers decide to hit you over the head with too many details before we even get to the Directed by sign, and then can’t come up with anything cleverer than the creepy guy at the gas station that seems to be airlifted from one horror film to another to open the film with. Granted this is a remake, but if you’re going to remake a film, any film, it might behoove you to try and do something original. It doesn’t help any that before the mayhem even commences, we are treated to so much obnoxious behavior by the Carter family, we almost root for the mutants to do away with them as quickly as possible.


 

I suppose you could say that Democrat Doug’s conversion from pacifist to someone who when pushed to the limit will take what ever violent steps are necessary to redeem himself, delude himself, stupidfy himself, and become hard core Repugnicon-man, is some kind of morality lesson. But it’s a lesson that’s been given many times and in a far more believable film than this tripe. One need look no further than Sam Peckinpaugh’s excellent Straw Dog’s for that tale, and I hope that wherever Sam is, he will forgive me for mentioning his name in a review of a clunker such as this.

Still, I’ll let the film get by with a D+  just because of its intensity at times, but unfortunately with Craven standing over his shoulder, hoping they can have a Hills Have Eyes II (would that be a remake of the original Hills Have Eyes II which was a sequel to the original Hills Have Eyes?), Aja felt it necessary to tack on the obligatory sequel setting ending in the very last two seconds of the film.  So I can’t help myself but to  lower your already dismal score to the precipice of total failure with a hearty D-, and only because I have to have somewhere to go with your inevitable sequel.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Clyde’s Movie Palace: Halloween (1978)

Halloween (1978)
Written
by

John Carpenter & Debra Hill
Original Music
by

John Carpenter
Directed
by

John Carpenter
Starring
Donald Pleasance     Jamie Lee Curtis
Nancy Loomis     P.J. Soles
Charles Cypers      Kyle Richards
Brian Andrews     Nancy Stephens

Nick Castle    Will Sandin  Tony Moran
as
Michael Myers

It can be very difficult to review a classic film held in high esteem by just about everybody. If it’s a film you really love, you may have a tendency to go on and on like a gushing school boy declaring your love as if you’re Vili Fualaau longing for Mary Kay Letourneau.


On the other hand, maybe you don’t quite see what the big deal is and decide to offer up maybe just a teensy weensy little speck of criticism, thus handing your own ass over on a silver platter to all the fan boys out there just waiting to burn you at the stake.

What does all this have to do with John Carpenter’s Halloween? Maybe something, maybe nothing. It’s just that there are some movies where every thing that can be said about them has already been said, in a book, in a documentary, or written as commentary on every film discussion board worth its salt that proliferates the internet. The original Halloween is no exception.

In case you’re one of the ½ or 1 percent of the population who doesn’t know the story here’s the gist of it.

A very young boy, Michael Myers, (Will Sandin) comes home on Halloween just as his teenage sister (Sandy Johnson) is preparing to do the bump and grind with her boyfriend (David Kyle). (How young is Michael? We’ll get to that, just bear with me.) Or maybe he was always at home just hiding in the shadows until the pumpkin credits finally fade out.

In the amount of time it takes for sis and her sex starved young lover to go upstairs, hop into the bed, then hop out of the bed, and for the boyfriend to kiss and run, Young Mr. Myers takes a knife from the kitchen cabinet, heads upstairs, slips on his clown mask and lovingly greets sis by stabbing the shit out of her. (How long was it before he went upstairs and how old was he that he was able to overpower his sister so easily? We’ll get to that, just bear with me.)

He then heads back downstairs to greet Mom Myers and Pop Myers, who rip his mask off so we can see his blank cold deadly stare as the camera pulls backwards until we fade out. (What is Ma and Pa Kettle’s reaction to their son standing there with a bloody kitchen knife? We’ll get to that, just bear with me.)

Flash forward fifteen years minus one day later. Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) and Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) are headed to the State Hospital to pick up Michael for a hearing required by law that will determine if he’s now sane enough to be set free. But Mikey, being of not so sound mind and inhabited by the spirits of Richard Speck, John Wayne Gacy, and Jeffrey Dahmer, knows his chances of being set free to walk the streets of Illinois are roughly equivalent to that of having angels fly out of his ass. So he decides to head out on his own in the same automobile that Loomis and the nurse had arrived in.

Having been locked up for fifteen years, how did Michael learn to drive? Well, funny you should ask because someone else asks Loomis the same question. And although he has no explanation it’s a pretty good come back just the same:

Dr. Terence Wynn: Now, for God's sake, he can't even drive a car!
Dr. Sam Loomis: He was doing very well last night! Maybe someone around here gave him lessons!

Dr. Loomis, having taken care of The Honorable Michael Myers for the past 15 years, is pretty damn sure he’s headed back to Haddonfield, the All-American City that spawned him in the first place, to practice his craft a little further. Understandable when you consider the fact that he has so little other skills beyond stealing state issued automobiles.

He commences to stalking the babysitter’s club, whose members are a Laurie Strode (
Jamie Lee Curtis), Annie Brackett (Nancy Kyes (Loomis), and Lynda van der Klok (P.J. Soles).  Technically only two of them are doing any babysitting on this particular night, but who knows what Lynda is up to the rest of the week. What skills other skills could she possibly have besides drinking beer, making out with her boyfriend, drinking more beer, and making out with here boyfriend some more. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t hire her as a babysitter either.  I guess Laurie is our go to girl.

While Mikey is stealthily sneaking around his old neighborhood haunts by driving the stolen state vehicle up and down the streets as if he’s just back from Daytona, Dr. Loomis heads to Haddonfield to track him down, hopefully before Michael has a chance to brush up on his jack-o.lantern carving skills using Laurie, Annie, and Lynda as models.

And that’s about it. If you’ve seen the film, you know the rest of the story. If you haven’t you wouldn’t want me going into the rest of the gory details. So if you haven’t watched,  you may want to stop reading right now and then come back later for our group discussion, consisting of me, more me, and mostly me, when you have something not so worthwhile to add.

I was watching the film for the umpteenth time a couple of nights ago, and it was a struggle to make it through the first twenty minutes or so. Maybe I was just tired. Perhaps I had seen it so many times that the thrill was long gone. I’m not sure. So while I watched, in between dozing off, I began to become irritated with some of the havoc caused by Mr. Michael Myer’s reunion with his Hometown of Haddonfield.

For instance, my recent review of The Best Little Whorehouse came to mind and the lyrics of the Charles Durning song stuck in my head:

“Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep, now they see me now they don't-
I've come and gone and, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step,
Cut a little swathe and lead the people on”

The above verse would pop into my head every time Sir Michael Myers would step in and out of the shadows. Look! He’s outside the school window! Oh crap, no he’s not. Look! He’s behind the shrubbery! Oh damn, no he’s not. Look! He’s mingling with my bed sheets! Oh hell, no he’s not. Look! The bogeyman is standing next to the baby-sitter's house! Oh heck, no he’s not.

It would seem Myers can move pretty damn fast when he has a mind to be. He only seems to slow down when he’s getting ready to stick a butcher knife into your gut or cut an extra airway into your windpipe. In that case he comes at his victims with all the speed, subtlety, and grace of Boris Karloff running from the villagers in Frankenstein.  And you know how that ended. Yep, you guessed it: endless Frankenstein sequels, remakes and rip offs, just like it did with this film. But then again, you could just blame the whole mess on Mary Shelley.

And then there’s this. At 3 minutes and 15 seconds into the movie, Judith Myers (Michael sister. She does have a name lest we forget) heads upstairs with her unnamed boyfriend (who doesn’t have a name lest we forget) to do the nasty. At 4 minutes and and 30 seconds, with no cuts and the camera never straying from young Michael’s point of view, the boyfriend is already coming down the stairs putting his shirt on. That’s what I call a quickie! Hell, why even bother with the trip upstairs to the bedroom when you’re that fast? This lad was so fast he must be an embarrassment to teenage boys all over the planet! This guy is so fast, he makes Roadrunner look like he’s standing stationary. This guy is so fast, that if he had run against Secretariat in the Belmont, Secretariat would have been looking at this boy’s ass fifty lengths from the finish line. This guy is.....oh never mind. You get my point.

 

Then there’s the fact that Michael is only six years old when he carves up dear old sis. We know this to be true because later in the movie Dr. Loomis talks about him having been six when he started treating him.

Now I don’t know about you but even at sixteen years old, if some six year old pint sized little shit comes at me with a knife, he may get one whack at it and then that little fucker is going to be flying across the room and out a second story window. And I don’t care if Judith is just a horny teenage girl with a fast boyfriend. Look how many stabs it took Norman Bates to put the hammer down on Marion Crane.

Yeah I know, easy for me to say. I’m not the one being hacked and maybe that first whack was right on target severing her spinal chord, thus incapacitating her. You know, the proverbial lucky shot. Anything’s possible. Frankly, I just think he was pissed because the boyfriend did some nasty things with that clown mask in the 1 minute and 15 seconds he was up in the bedroom. I’d be pissed too but I still wouldn’t hack my sister up.

And what was the deal with those parents? I mean, they see the bloody knife in his hands and the look on his face and all they can do is say, “Michael!” and then stand there like a couple of clueless dolts waiting for the scene to fade out. I mean, I half expected them to say, “What do you have to say for yourself Beaver and what did you do with Wally?”

And if you’re like me and have seen this movie endless times, don’t you get just the least bit irritated when a certain someone drops that knife towards the end of the movie? I know you do. Don’t lie.

And then the dumb ass turns around and does it again.

I originally saw Halloween at a drive-in with my girlfriend, soon to be wife, soon to be ex-wife in South Point Ohio many summers ago. And the fact that I’ve seen it so many times since and know the details as well as I do is actually a testament to it’s staying power. I’m no longer scared when I watch it, and I’m sure much of today’s audiences are so jaded by the torture porn of films like Hostel and Saw that they would hardly understand what the fuss is all about especially considering how bloodless Halloween is by comparison.

But yet, I viewed it with my youngest son last Halloween, and many of the scenes made him jump, so I guess having the bogeyman come out when you least expect it and say boo still gets the job done, and this film did it better than most films, especially when you consider it’s miniscule budget of $300,000 which even in 1978 dollars was a mere pittance. The film went on to gross over fifty million dollars upon it’s release.

Ebert and Siskel explain the difference between a good horror movie like Halloween, and the endless bad number of imitators and rip offs.


The reason the film works is not because we watch a serial killer on a prowl, it’s because director/writer John Carpenter and co-writer producer Debra Hill puts us in the house and makes us the victim as much as his cast of hapless teenagers. Is Michael in the kitchen or isn’t he? Is he behind the bushes or isn’t he? Is he mingling with the drying clothes or isn’t he? Just as Laurie is unsure of her own senses, we become doubtful of ours as well. Is what we are seeing in her imagination, or is it the Boogeyman, able to fade in and out as he pleases?

There is one scene in this film that I am in awe of to this day. At one point Laurie is standing next to a darkened room. Michael seems to appear out nothingness in the darkness and we begin to question whether or not we had seen him there all along, or even if he had been there all along. But our attention is so focused on Laurie that we can never be sure. And it happens every time I watch this movie.

Likewise, when in the living room of the house across the street, we know just as Laurie does that Michael has gotten in through an open window. We can hear him breathing, somewhere nearby, but like Laurie, we never know exactly where he is lurking. And remember, before Halloween, indestructible human killers were a rare thing unless they were man made monsters stitched together in a laboratory.

The casting of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie was either a stroke of luck or genius, depending on how you look at this. She’s young, fresh, and brings just the right feel to a character that is supposed to be naive and innocent, unlike Lynda and Annie who are as horny as Michael’s sister was years ago. Or if you insist, a goody two shoe. Come to think of it, I think Lynda’s boyfriend was almost as fast on the draw. It would have been a helluva shoot out to see how can....never mind that

.


Donald Pleasence brings a certain amount of over the top scenery chewing gravitas to the character of Dr. Loomis, making the character unforgettable in an odd sort of way. I guess. If you mention Donald Pleasence to someone they’ll always think of his role in the Halloween Movies, or in my case, I think of him as Dr. Loomis this film, as Blofeld in You Only Live Twice, or as Dr. Michaels in Fantastic Voyage where he was unceremoniously devoured by a white corpuscle.

There is another actor in this film that I haven’t mentioned. Much in the way that Jaws would have been a different film without John Williams menacing shark theme, Carpenter’s score for this film works to perfection in it’s ominous simplicity. It’s serves to enhance the relentlessness of Michael Myers, much in the same way that William’s shark score let us know someone was about to become fish bait.

John Carpenters Music adds another dimension to Halloween. This suite though, is from the sequel but uses the same cinematic themes from the first film.

Both Carpenter and Debra Hill would go on to do many more films. In Carpenter’s case, at least three of his films are on my list of favorites, those being Escape from New York,   The Thing,  and Starman,  proving that he was more than capable of extending himself beyond one single genre.

Hill would serve as a producer and writer on many films, and work with Carpenter on several more of his. At the time of her death from cancer in 2005 she was working with Oliver Stone on the film World Trade Center.  She would not live to see Halloween inducted into the National Film Registry in 2006, and that makes me sad. One of Debra’s other films that she worked on as a producer, Adventures in Babysitting is certainly a candidate for a review on this blog.

It was easy for me to have a little fun at the expense of Halloween, but there is no denying it’s impact on horror films and the craftsmanship that went into it. And sure, some of the things in the initial twenty minutes don’t stand up to scrutiny but who cares. It’s a horror film, it’s not suppose to, and when it finally gets down to business it succeeds on every level leaving me no choice but to grant it a Clyde score of an A.. This closing moment, one of the greatest and most memorable two lines ever spoken in any horror film, is worth the A by itself. Not to mention that it’s the best possible way to close out this review. Happy Halloween, y’all. Stay safe.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Amazon Adds More Content For Free Streaming with Amazon Prime

Amazon has announced that they will be adding some more Fox and PBS shows to their free instant streaming.  It appears they are the ones who may eventually be giving Netflix a run for their money.  After all they are cheaper.  At $79 a year, that’s less than $7 dollars a month plus you get the bonus of two day free shipping with everything you buy.  In my case, I buy a lot and have had nothing but satisfaction with Amazon.  In fact, everybody in this household now heads to Amazon to shop before even thinking about heading out to the department stores or malls.

I still have both streaming services, but I don’t know how long that will last.  When Amazon Prime comes up for renewal, I will probably dump Netflix streaming and just do some discs with them.  As it is now I have access to more movies than I could ever possibly watch.  There are all kinds of devices out there that stream Amazon.  I have three even without my computers:  A Roku Player, A Sony Blu-ray player, and my Vizio Blu-ray which cost me only $88 dollars and I couldn’t be happier with it.  And oh yeah, if you want to watch a more recent movie you can rent it from Amazon as well or buy a digital copy that you won’t have to store and will always be available to watch.  You can do that without even having Prime, as long as you have an Amazon account.  Anyway, here’s the Amazon announcement.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Day in the Life: 10 months and 40 doctors later-We know what ails you.

We're doing the doctor bit today--twice. First the Neurology guy, then later today the regular HCP office. They have Faux News on the TV and you know how much I hate that crap.


I didn't sleep worth a damn last night so I'm probably going to be grouchy.

Update: Made it into the examine room at 9:20 for a 9:00 appointment. Not too awful bad.


Update II: I've now been in this examining room longer than I was in the waiting room. Time 9:50 PM

Update III: The news is all bad. This may have to wait until I get home. Carnac sees surgery in my future.


Update IV:
  Better Late than never.  There's one thing about being stuck in a doctor's office for hours.  It's hell on your IPhone battery while you try to keep yourself occupied.  That examining room that you see.  I ended up sitting there waiting until almost noon, for some stuff they could have finished up with by no later than nine thirty.


So why write about my medical stuff?  Health care in this country has reached an abysmal state, and it shows in our ranking, somewhere around 38th in the world I think.  Rather piss poor, and now I know why.  Funny how some politicians (and you know which ones) continue to talk about the US health care being the best in the world when it's not even close.  And if you're unlucky to have insurance as tens of millions of people in this country are, you're basically just shit out of luck.  I know.  I've been in that situation before, for a good percentage of my life.

If you've been following this caper along in my other posts, you pretty much know how piecemeal HMO coverage is by now. You have to wait for approval on just about every little procedure.  And that's about where I stand right now with the one big caveat:  After six months of shuffling around from specialist to specialist, I now know what my main problems is even if  I don't fully understand it.


It has to do with the vertebrate in my neck are compressing against the nerves in my spinal cord.  Quite a bit actually, as the Doctor Genius showed me on my MRI pictures that I had taken about a week ago, which if they had taken them months ago it would have saved me a lot of trouble.  What it amounts to is that they have to fix it, because if they don't I could end up paralyzed or worse.  Or so they say.


But before any of that happens my regular HCP has to do my surgical preliminaries:  blood samples and all that crap.  But, because I've had a persistent case of laryngitis off and on, I have to go to another specialist for that before they can begin getting me ready for surgery.  You know, just to make sure it isn't cancer causing my voice to come and go like a yo-yo.  Take my word for it though, it isn't cancer.  I've had this laryngitis problem before.  For about two or three years as a matter of fact and it was a lot worse than it is now.  But they have to do what they have to do.


The worse part of this is going to be wearing a neck brace.  But even that has to be approved. Hope it takes a long time.  The bad part:  I have to wear even before surgery which tells me that what my doctor says is true.   Even those I have spoken to have never had to wear the brace before the operation.  Still, some are advising me not to have it.  I wish I knew more.  I was too stunned when he told me to ask about more specific details.


Anyway, I'm still going to write about this and we'll see how it develops.  Hopefully I can get back to working on more pleasant blog stuff.


Sorry about the time it took me to update this post. Not like anybody's going to read it anyway.  I laid down in the bed and looked for something on Netflix to watch but I fell asleep making a selection.  That's how tired I was.  Oh well, watching Scarecrow and Mrs. King on Amazon as I write this.  Better than nothing, but kind of hokey.  I didn't remember the show being this hokey.  All four season are available for free with Amazon Prime though and it isn't on Netflix.  I only mention that show so that I can stick an Amazon ad on here..lol.   Catch you later.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Clyde’s Movie Palace: Norbit (2007)

 

Starring
Eddie Murphy
Thandie Newton
Terry Crews
Clifton Powell
Mighty Rasta
Cuba Gooding Jr.

Directed by Brian Robbins
Makeup Effects by Rick Baker

I once  posted the Ten Worst Reviewed Movies from the first half of 2007.    I had just reviewed The Reaping a few days before that list appeared.  The Reaping had earned a prominent spot at number 4 on the list with a 7% approval rating right ahead (or behind if you want to luck at it that way) of Norbit which was in the rarified air of 9 per cent.   But as the old saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. For instance my brother can’t understand why I and so many others absolutely abhor From Justin to Kelly. A movie I once reviewed for IMDB, and having sold my only copy after writing it, I doubt I’ll be able to revisit that experience.  Not that I wante to.  It’s kind of like getting an Ebola virus, finding a cure, then asking for the disease again just to be sure the cure worked.

Although my final grade for The Reaping  was a D+ because I had to lower the grade on a technicality, the actual review for most of the movie was a C+.   But still, I believe my C+ would count as a totally negative review at RT. So in essence, a film could get an awful lot of C+’s  from critics, but they would still be counted as being negative overall. So while I’m sure that there will be those who believe The Reaping was one of the worst movies of the year, I probably wouldn’t be one of them.

So when it came time for me to view Norbit, a film which I had read nothing but awful things about, there was still a chance that at the worst, it could really be an average film that I might like somewhat. It could be that Norbit no more deserved to be worst movie number five than The Reaping deserved to be number four. And after watching Norbit, I can say in all honesty that not only did it not deserve to be number five, it should be on a list by itself, in a class all by itself. In other words, Rotten Tomatoes should make a new list of those films most resembling a pile of shit and place Norbit in the number one position all by itself. Was it really that bad? No, it was worse than that but I have no other adjectives that I can use without being booted off blogger for setting a new low in obscene words and a new high in number of times used. Ladies and Gentlemen, there is a new entry on my all time worst list and thy name is Norbit.

I don’t know how or why Eddie Murphy picks his material, but maybe he knows what he’s doing and I just don’t know what I’m viewing. After all, Norbit did gross close to 35 million on its opening weekend and was just five million shy of a hundred million over all before it finally got kicked out of theaters. And there have been some awfully bad movies that have become pretty big hits. But 51 percent voted for Bush years ago so I guess you can chalk Norbit’s success up to the fact that some peoples trash is everybody else’s misery.

And the thing of it is, Norbit wastes no time in letting you know that despite its brisk hour and forty minute running time you are in for a very long night.

The film opens with Eddie Murphy as Norbit narrating the story of his early childhood. He is musing as to why his parents might have left him at an orphanage and how they might have picked the best orphanage they could possibly find. As the narration continues, we watch as a car speeds down the road, swings into the parking lot of what looks to be a Chinese restaurant, and tosses a package out the window that bounces across the pavement. The package turns out to be the infant, Norbit. I don’t know about you, but I find it very difficult see the fun in tossing a baby out of a car window, even if I had known beforehand that it’s the main character of a film that is going to cause me an evening of misery and stomach indigestion.

 


As it turns out, the Chinese Restaurant is a combination Restaurant/Orphanage where the kids work and the kids play. It is run by a Mr. Wong (Played by Eddie Murphy. Make-up by Rick Baker) who promptly tells the infant that he’s black and he’s ugly so that’s two strikes against him. And Mr. Wong is supposed to be one of the more lovable characters.

Seconds later with the narration continuing, the credits still going on, and Norbert telling us about their pets at the orphanage, we see him several years later petting a duck while Mr. Wong prepares a meal nearby. Mr. Wong picks up the duck, chops it’s head off and gives Norbit the head to play with. That’ll have you rolling in the aisles, won’t it?



Right after that we get another scene of the orphan kids carrying a wooden whale across the lot while Mr. Wong uses it for target practice by throwing a harpoon at it, just missing Norbit’s head. It was at this point that I came close to taking the movie out because I don’t care who you are or what the movie is about. Child abuse is not funny. But having said I would review it, I grudgingly stuck with it.


With Norbit still narrating and the credits fading in and out we finally get a few seconds of relief from the crude and the cruel as Norbit tells us about his friendship with Kate (played here by China Anderson, Played as an adult by Thandie Newton). But even this thirty seconds of story can’t escape the crude stupidity (it is not humor, and if you think it is go away) as we see the two of them at about age six sitting side by side on the toilet  holding hands and Norbit tells us they even get to poopie together.


But soon, Kate is adopted and Norbit is not. When Norbit turns nine we finally meet Rasputia (played at age 9 by Lindsey Sims-Lewis, age 17 by Yves Lola St. Vill, and as an adult by Eddie Murphy, makeup by Rick Baker). She saves Norbit from being pounded by a couple of schoolyard bullies but afterwards proceeds to make Norbit her bitch. So for the next hour and thirty five minutes we are subjected to witnessing how many different ways Rasputia and her brothers can abuse Norbit and everybody else in the movie as well, and those in the audience unfortunate enough to bare  witness to  this crap.

Norbit and Rasputia grow up, and as they head to the altar the opening credits have finally run their course. Yep, you read that right so you know it is going to be a long long way to the finish line.

Laugh as you watch Rasputia’ s brothers shake down everybody in town for some money including picking one old guy up and dumping his head in spaghetti sauce.


Go into hysterics not once but four different times as you watch Rasputia smash Norbit into the bed.


You’ll shed tears of laughter as you watch Rasputia run down an old lady’s puppy with her car! Get a belly laugh as Rasputia smashes into the mail man! Feel the mirth as Rasputia fights with kids in a giant air mattress ride! Your sides will be splitting as you watch scene after scene of Rasputia hogging the queen size bed from Norbit! By now you should have the idea and if you really want to punish someone that you hate, than I suggest you rent the film tie them to a chair and make them watch it. In between the abuse, you will get more fat jokes and more fat stunts and more ridicule of overweight people than you ever thought possible to squeeze into one single movie.

I’m sure you are thinking that there has to be a plot in here of some kind. In a movie like this that isn’t necessarily so but we do get one even if it isn’t much. Kate, she being the long lost love of Norbit’s potty training, returns to town just as she is about to be married to Deion Hughes (Cuba Gooding Jr.). Her idea is to take over the Chinese Restaurant/Orphanage from Mr. Wong and make it a better place for the kids. At the same time, Rasputia’s Brothers want to get their hands on the orphanage so that they can turn it into a strip joint called the Nipplopolous. (Yes, it means exactly what it looks like it means.) And of course Norbit is still in love with Kate, and although she won’t admit it Kate is still in love with him even though they were about five or six when they parted. I guess that’s the effect having to poopie together will have on your love life. So can Norbit escape the clutches of Rasputia, win Kate over, and save the orphanage before you grab the movie out of the DVD player smash it into pieces and mail it back to Netflix so that no other customers will become a victim of senseless torture? Only you can answer that.

It’s hard to believe that years ago Eddie Murphy once starred in films that I liked. As a matter of fact, Trading Places is one of my favorite comedies of all times even if I still don’t know exactly what was happening on the trading floor. I actually liked the first Beverly Hills Cop movie, although the same certainly can’t be said for any of the sequels. And I liked the turn he did with Nick Nolte in 48 Hours. When Eddie plays an animated donkey or a dragon, he’s off the charts. But other than that there is nothing else that he has done recently other than his co-starring role in Dream Girls that has entertained me. At least most of the family films such as Daddy Day Care and Haunted Mansion can be tolerated somewhat if your kids like them. But as far as I’m concerned, there is not one second of redeeming value in Norbit for your Grandparents, you, your kids, or even your pet rat if you have one. You would have thought Murphy would have gotten over any hang-ups he has about overweight people after the two Nutty Professor Movies, but I guess not since he has broadened his psychosis and horizons by ridiculing overweight females as well. He’s an equal opportunity offender. 

Maybe he thought Rick Baker’s makeup effects would hide him from this disaster.  They did not.


There was a lot of talk going around that the previews for Norbit may have cost Murphy the Oscar for Dream Girls. I couldn’t understand why anybody would not vote for someone just because they made a bad movie. It didn’t seem fair somehow. Now having watched it, I can understand why.


Somebody had to be punished for this mess and since Murphy was Producer, writer, and played three roles in it, he was as good of a candidate as any and paybacks are hell. Murphy should have taken a tip from Cuba Gooding. First you win the Oscar and then you start making the crappy and worthless movies like this one. As Roger Ebert might say, “I hated, hated, hated, hated, hated, hated, hated, hated every single crappy frame of this movie one hundred times over.” So how do you rate a movie like this? My lowest grade has always been an F, but even that is too good for this. So since I can’t give you an F, I have no choice but to institute an entirely new award just for movies like this one. Congratulations for being the first recipient of the Poo Poo On You - Movie Award. It is well deserved.  (Clyde note:  This was in fact the first film I gave this award to.  Although I have been moving the films from the old blog in the order listed, they are not in the order originally  posted due to the fact that during a change in the template the format went haywire and each article had to be fixed and reposted at that time in the order of repair.)

A Day in the Life: Random Thoughts

When I was writing political crap, I used to write some quick thoughts about recent political happenings from the four corners of the earth.  I think I called it Around the World with Clyde or some idiotic sounding name.  So after having spent the week writing movie reviews and having polished up some of the old ones while hauling them over from the my soon to be deleted other blog, I thought I would take it easy for a moment and just write some of my thoughts on anything that comes to mind.  Let’s get busy.

The Let’s Get busy bit that I used here and on my Netflix reviews comes to you courtesy of the old Arsenio Hall show.  I began wondering whatever happened to him because at one time he was such a hot commodity. 

He showed up on George Lopez’s show as a guest, before it was canceled. 

He was once in consideration to host the crap game show Deal or no Deal, but lost out to Howie Mandel for that privilege.  Lost out?  He should consider himself lucky to have missed that gig. 

He has hosted a show called The World’s Funniest Moments on myNetworkTV.  I’ve never seen the show, I’m not even sure I get that network on our Craphouse Cable.  But for my money, video clip shows cloned from World’s Funniest Home Videos wore out their welcome with me a long time ago.  So has the original. 

He’s been a guest on Jay Leno as well, which is funny considering he once proclaimed he was going to “kick Jay Leno’s ass.”  So it’s nice to see he’s not impoverished and living on some street corner. 

I seldom watch talk shows anymore.  The guests are usually nothing more than celebrities trying to sell their next movie, book, or television show.  But now you know what happened to Arsenio and so do I.

My latest DVD/Purchase is a show from the seventies called Medical Center.  It starred Chad Everett and Tyne Daly’s dad James Daly.  As a matter of fact, I made the purchase just a few moments ago when Amazon so generously dropped the price down about ten dollars.  The thing to remember about Amazon is that some prices go up and down like schizophrenic yoyo.  Don’t blink or you may miss it.  I’ve put stuff in my shopping cart to mull over whether I really want to make the purchase, then come back a short time later to find the price all jacked up.  

I almost bought Medical Center from the Warner’s Archive Store for a couple of dollars less but by the time shipping, handling, and tax was added, then the price was jacked up quite a bit easily making Amazon the better value.

Bricks and Mortar stores claim Amazon has a huge advantage because they don’t charge tax.  That may be true, but if they think that Amazon charging tax is going to make customers suddenly ditch Amazon and head out to the shopping center, they are badly mistaken.  Here’s my opinion as to why that would be even when they do start charging taxes after having shopped there for about the past four years: 

1.  Amazon prices are often cheaper, regardless of tax. 
2.  If you buy a lot and have Amazon prime, you pay no shipping and handling and get two day delivery on most items.  Without Amazon prime, if you buy more than $25, there is still no shipping and handling fees but you get it regular ground shipping. 
3.  If you have Amazon Prime, you can get an item over night for $3.99.   For two day air, the Warner Archive wanted $10.00 which is just idiotic.
4.  As far as I’m concerned, Amazon customer service has been exemplary.  I’ve had no problem with item returns at all.  You simply print up a return label, and ship the article back.  It costs you nothing.  I’ve had to do that twice in two years, and once for something that was my own fault.

So I paid $41.79 at Amazon, I’ll get the item on Wednesday.  I would have paid $45.54 at the Warner store, and would have received it whenever via ground. 

I’ll be honest enough to say that last year I did drop Amazon Prime because I figured I could wait out the extra shipping time.  But I reinstated it when they added the free streaming movies, which made it a better value than Netflix, especially after Netflix jacked up their prices. 

And yeah, they need work with their streaming interface, and the selection isn’t as large, but it is growing steadily and actually growing at a pace faster than Netflix streaming did in it’s early days.  And besides, I found I really missed the free shipping and two day delivery when the order doesn’t total twenty five dollars.  Just a few days ago I bought a DVD for about $2.98.  And it cost me no more than that.  That’s better than the bargain bin at Wal-mart.

I’m sure you’ll say this post has something to do with the Amazon ads posted all over the blog.  No, it doesn’t.  I’ve had those ads previously on Clyde’s Movie Palace, the blog I’m in the process of integrating into this one.  I had those posted for three years.  Recently, Amazon closed all the California accounts and settled up  all outstanding balances. My settlement was just over $7 dollars for those three years, which almost paid for my Top Gun on blu-ray, but not quite.  When they sent me an email saying I was getting it, I’d just about forgotten I even had those ads.  So why am I  bothering with the ads again? 

Well, $7 dollars is still better than no dollars.  And once you put them up, they really don’t require much maintenance.  As for the wish list near the bottom of the right hand column, that’s there for family members to find easily.  I became tired of them asking me to send it to them last Christmas, especially since it was always changing depending on what I bought or finding something I wanted more and what I thought were real possibilities.  And besides, how the hell else am I going to get them to read this blog, something they seem to regard as pure poison. So Merry Christmas to you all.

About a week and a half ago I pre-ordered The Donna Reed Show, The Complete Fourth Season.  These are the Lost Episodes, that weren’t seen when the series ran on Nick at Nite.  When I ordered, the price was $39 dollars and has dropped down to under $30 as of this writing.  (Which is another thing about Amazon.  When you pre-order you always get the lowest price from the time you order until the item ships.  But this little article isn’t about Amazon.)

I already own seasons one, two, and three, and for a long time it looked as if we were not going to get season four.  So this made me extremely happy.

I’m sure the biggest percentage of those who read this will shrug their shoulders when I mention The Donna Reed Show and this DVD release.  But it is important, and it’s important in a lot of ways.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m also big on Classic Television.  I hope to write a lot of articles regarding that hobby but they will have to wait until I get the other blog articles transferred over here.  By then I should have more time.

What I’m afraid of is that we are going to lose our television heritage.  Even more than films, I believe that most television programs are a microcosm of the world in which we lived at a certain point in time.  They are a part of our history, and in a way are a recorded time capsule.   Yet, while much is being done to preserve our motion picture history, the majority of our television history is being ignored, except by those of us who are old enough to appreciate it for what it was.

Think about it.  If someone hadn’t been willing to put together these episodes of this show, they would have probably been lost forever.  And if there are to be more released, it will probably be dependent on how well these sell.  We hear about one society after another working for film preservation, yet I know of no effort to preserve our television heritage unless more than a few pennies in profit can be squeezed out of bringing these shows back to life.  But this is just the tip of an iceberg, and part of a longer article I really have to be writing.  Maybe a series of articles.

If you visited this blog before I began re-working it, you probably saw a long list of feeds in the margins.  Most had to do with entertainment sites, some with political sites, and others concerning consumer affairs.  I debated a long time before taking them down, but after studying the situation, I found out that most of them had the same exact stories and it was all very repetitious, not to mention how much they slowed the page down when it was trying to load.  I had all of these same sites in my Google reader and when I would go to read the articles, there was seldom very little difference between most of them or the headlined stories. 

So I decided it was all pretty useless information, just as posting the same news bits on here would be.  I made up my mind there would be no copying and pasting news articles unless I knew for sure it was very fresh information, (the Netflix/Qwikster story broke and I was on top of it by accident which is why I posted it), or if I had something to say about the story other than one or two sentences.  So my advice is if you want to read all that stuff, use an RSS reader.  Most of it is boring useless crap anyway. 

But on the other hand, I’m still pasting links on my Clyde Stuff Facebook page in the hopes that someone will respond and there will be a half way decent follow up or discussion of whatever it is I posted about.  And if by chance you go there, try hitting the like button for me.  There is no prize, this is not Digital Bits, and it is not DVD verdict.    This is just me writing my fool ass off.  But maybe someday.  But feel free to post and comment as long as you keep it in bounds.

I’m a skeptic sometimes when it comes to new gadgets.  I for one thought that blu-ray players were not that big of a deal and repeatedly said I wouldn’t buy one.  But when the prices came way down they made them so that you could stream Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon I caved and bought one.  Yeah, I know I could have bought a Roku but for a top of the line Roku Player, the price difference just wasn’t that prohibitive.  I did eventually buy a Roku for one of the other rooms.

But having experienced the format,  I can now say that for many movies, the difference is remarkable, especially when a studio ends up cleaning up older films so that the picture is like it’s brand new.  My son bought me Casablanca on Blu-ray, and it was as if they had developed the movie off of a fresh negative.  Likewise, some others have just blown me away like Gone With The Wind, How The West Was Won, Ben-Hur, Quo-Vadis, and most of all The Sound of Music.

One problem though is that for some damn reason, my laptop that has a blu-ray play player in it won’t play them.  Even after installing software to enable you to do so.  It just won’t recognize the discs, so it would be impossible for me to do a few screen captures for a review unless I use my web cam as I did on this article for The Big Bird Cage.  Come to think of it, I should do another one of those.  I had a lot of fun writing that.

I hope to get back to doing a lot of reading sometime before I’m placed in the furnace and my ashes dumped into some pretty urn. Between work, this blog, and dealing with pain on a day to day basis, I haven’t had the time. I do have one large book back in the bedroom I intend to read soon, just before I review the movie version of that same book. And no, I won’t say what it is but it’s an older book and movie. I can tell you for sure it isn’t Harry Potter though.

And so I was also a skeptic about the Kindle, until I my son bought one.  Now, I want one.  Sure you can read books on your laptop, desktop, or your I-pad, but it’s not even close to the same experience as reading the printed page.  The Kindle comes as close to that as you possibly can get electronically.  I can’t compare it to the Nook, because I haven’t seen one of those, but if you want to send me one, I’ll check it out and let you know.

And finally, if you look in the right hand margin you’ll see a list of my most popular posts.  Of course, a bunch of dirty old bastards searching endlessly for Jenni and Dex porn have made the Jennifer Ringsley article number one.  Right beneath it however is my review of the 1973 version of Walking Tall.  I was kind of perplexed about that at first but not any more.  People aren’t looking to read my review about Walking Tall, they want to buy it. Some of them may be vendors hoping to pick up a cheap copy for resale at an exorbitant price.

The problem is that for whatever reason, the movie is out of print again, and the prices on Amazon have skyrocketed and are climbing on a daily basis.  The lowest price for a used disc is $40 but a new unopened copy will put you back $60 dollars or more.  Why is it out of print?  I don’t know.  Ask Paramount.  I think they have the rights.  I don’t know how well the movie sold, or what their plans are.  Maybe they will sell the rights to Amazon or Netflix for streaming, which might put a dent in the DVD price, but not much of one because streaming is still not the same as owning  it. 

I have three copies of this film.  The first time I bought it was part of a three disc set that included all three original movies.  And the quality was abysmal to say the least.  I think it was issued by Rhino.  Yet, this crappy quality three disc box set is selling for $85 dollars right now at Amazon by outside sellers.  But I won’t be selling mine.  Not because I cherish it that much, but it is the only copies of the other two films that I have should I decide to revisit that franchise, something that is a distinct possibility. 

When Paramount finally reissued the film in widescreen with good picture quality, I for one was eternally grateful.  But somehow my disc came up missing here in the house and I had to repurchase it.  Eventually the other disc showed up which is how I ended up with two of them.  The original one I bought was only played once I think, so I guess I could list it as like new and sell it.

But I won’t.  Posting ads for Amazon all over the place is one thing, getting into actually having to sell them is another story altogether.  Maybe if I were healthy and retired and had hours to kill, I could manage it.  What I can’t figure out is why any one would pay these prices?  Well, hell yes I can.

Way back when, Disney had issued a copy of The Little Mermaid on DVD for a limited time.  This was a bare bones edition released when DVD’s were in their infancy.  By the time I bought a DVD player, it had been out of print for a quite a while.  So I got caught up in an auction for one on Ebay.  I really wanted the disc, and ended up paying fifty dollars for a brand new unopened copy.  Afterwards I kind of regretted it and later Disney reissued the movie as a special edition just like they always do, which meant that the value of the copy I had went into the dumpster.  So even to this day I kind of regret having bought it.

Still, I don’t know what the odds are of Walking Talk getting another reprieve on disc.  It would be cool to see a blu-ray issue of the set with some special features and commentary by some of the cast, even if I didn’t particularly care for the sequels.  I would say that’s a long shot though.  I don’t know if the film has a large enough following for penny pinching Paramount to believe it merits that.

But that’s the gamble you take if you buy it.  If it is reissued, than you lose.  If it never sees the light of day again, then you win.  So if you want to spend that kind of money, be my guest.  Since you’ll be buying from an outside seller, it doesn’t affect me one way or the other in regards to Amazon.  Catch you later!