Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Glitter - A Sparkle and Butterfly Explosion!

Movie: Glitter
My Rating: 1 star

Oh brother!  Could Mariah Carey be any less self-aware?  You know how uncomfortable you get when you witness a friend of yours very earnestly making a complete jackass of themselves?  Well, that was my experience throughout this whole movie.  Poor Mariah.  She’s just up there on the screen doing the best she can do with her limited acting skills.  And, she’s trying really really hard.  The worst part of all is that she totally thinks she’s nailing it, too.  The poor thing!  You can tell she thinks that she’s looking super fly in her little 90s outfits and pigtails.  This movie really is an amazing relic from the vaults if you think you have the stomach for all the butterflies and sparkle.
This movie is just your standard vehicle for a starlet to show off her singing skills.  (Not that Mariah really counts as being a “starlet” in this movie.  She’s totally a full-grown woman).  But, this film follows the standard formula you’ve come to know and love.  Our heroine comes from humble beginnings, and works her way to the top through hard work, and a few “totally unplanned” karaoke sessions that dazzle the studio executives who don’t take her seriously.  
Maria wears tons of really cute, little outfits while she’s doing all of this, too.  There are a lot of overalls involved.  (This movie was made in the 90s after all).  Of course, Mariah has to show that she’s still the same humble girl as always, even after finding some success.  Her clothes just get a little swankier.  These things could be written for anyone.  In fact, this one reminded me an awful lot of Britney Spears’ Crossroads.  Although, Mariah Carey definitely wants to present herself as the victim in this story, with all the greedy studio executives and producers grasping for a piece of her.  They all have dollar signs ringing up in their eyes once they hear that magical voice.

This movie is ridiculous, but it isn’t completely without its charms.  Sure, Mariah Carey is the silliest lady ever.  But, she actually does have a very lovely voice.  And, this movie does contain a little bit of humor, both intentional and un-.  Padma Lakshmi makes a pretty hilarious cameo as Sylk, the gorgeous, but bitchy, and completely tone-deaf pop star.  Her outfit alone is pretty magical.  And, the way Max Beesley’s music producer character, “Julian Dice”, wears his silky shirt open to the navel, is pretty exotic, too.  But, sometimes it’s unclear whether the comedy is purposeful or not.  In that instance, it’s a little too close to tell.  
But, this movie really is good for plenty of laughs, and you’ll probably enjoy it if you decide to watch it.  I think this is definitely one of those movies that is so terrible that you absolutely need to check it out for yourself.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Irony of Fate (or Enjoy Your Bath) - Mother Russia Beckons

Movie: The Irony of Fate, or "Enjoy Your Bath"
My Rating: 4 stars

This is one of those old movies that you read about once a year in nostalgic newspaper pieces about New Year's traditions from around the world.  And, if you keep hearing about a certain movie for long enough, eventually you just have to check it out for yourself.  Apparently it is quite a tradition in Russia to watch this 2-part movie for New Year's.  It is quite a long movie, clocking in at about 192 minutes total.  So, your typical Russian watches the first half on New Year's Eve, and then the other half on New Year's Day.  Now, I’m not sure if this bit is intentional or not, but the basic story is based on the comedic consequences of drinking too much.  So, it really is quite appropriate that viewers get to watch the hero of this story create a drunken mess in part one, on the first night.  Then they get to see him deal with the fallout the next day in part two, while they’re nursing their own vodka-induced hangovers.
Now, both my father and I were interested in this movie, so we decided to rent it and watch it together. We had been warned that this was a very long movie, but neither of us had any idea of what we were getting ourselves into.  Netflix has this movie advertised as running for 92 minutes and neither of us thought that that could be right since people are always complaining about how tedious it is. Well it turns out that there is a misprint on the Netflix site and the actual running time is 192 minutes. That's 3 1/3 hours. That's a really long movie.  Especially since it is one of those corny movies from the 70's that features many gratuitous musical numbers.  I can't take much of that in one sitting. Fortunately, there is an intermission scheduled right into the movie, which serves as a nice stopping point for a lengthy dinner break.
This is actually quite a funny and interesting movie if you can stand to watch the main characters inexplicably burst into song at regular intervals.  This Russian movie is essentially poking fun at its own communist past. The main character, Yevgeny, is recently engaged and is celebrating with his friends at one of those notorious Moscow banyas on New Years Eve—you know, the kind where you get rollicking drunk and beat your friends with leafy branches.  Needless to say, all parties involved emerge more than a little inebriated.  So in the hurry to rush a member of the party to the airport, no one can remember just which of them is supposed to be on the flight.  Yevgeny is the default, so they load him on the plane to Leningrad.  Now here's the fun part: since the whole country has been centrally planned, every city is identical from street names, to city layout, to apartment buildings, and even to apartment keys. So upon arriving in Leningrad, Yevgeny directs a cab driver to take him to his street and address, and enters an apartment building that is identical to his and his key even lets him in. Of course, this leads him to an apartment that is inhabited by a beautiful (and single) young teacher. Hilarity (and love) ensues.

This movie is a fun, old classic.  And, it’ll teach you a thing or two about Russian culture and tastes, and hospitality.  You’ll get to see the kind of music they liked to play at parties, and all those cold, mayonnaise-based salads they like to eat.  Sure, this movie lasts a little too long.  Just when you think it is about time for it to be ending, up pops another problem or two.  It’s torture.  And just when you are getting sick of the story droning on in that manner, they worsen it by throwing in a little song and dance. It is really quite dreadful. But, if you split up the viewing as intended, it’s really a lot more bearable.  And, this really is the sort of movie that you have to see.  It's an interesting little snippet from history. Plus it’s fun to see that the Russians can have a sense of humor about their country’s past.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Beer Fest - More Tits and Booze from Broken Lizard

Movie: Beerfest
My Rating: 2 stars

Ugh!  This movie is pretty gross.  It’s another raunchy offering from the boys in the Broken Lizard comedy troupe.  You know these guys.  They’re the ones responsible for other little gems like Super Troopers, and Club Dread.  And, just about all of their comedy is based on the sheer volume of booze, tits, and dicks they can cram into one story line.  It’s pretty simple stuff—just your standard potty humor.  But, I’ll be honest.  I really only watched this movie so I’d have a decent excuse to pull out these old Halloween pictures of myself in a little German boy’s suit.  It’s been hard to find the right venue to bust out this little outfit a second time, so I guess I’m not complaining.
The story doesn’t even really matter in a movie like this.  The whole thing is really just an excuse to make a lot of rude jokes about all the various bodily functions one might make while drinking tons of beer.  But, I guess I might as well tell you about it.  While on a trip to Germany during Oktoberfest to sprinkle their late grandfather’s ashes, brothers Todd and Jan discover Beerfest—an underground Olympics of drinking games.  They’ve got it all—quarters, pong, chugging, the memory game, and all the other ones you might have played in college that I’m not quite remembering right now.  These American boys would love to participate in the fun, but all the other national teams—the Germans, the Irish, the Australians—all but laugh these brothers out of the room.  But, their national pride won’t let them stand for this kind of insult.  Determined to make a solid run at the championship, our heroes put together a crack team of seasoned drinkers, and begin their year of training.  Needless to say, the antics get pretty foul almost immediately.  Just let your imagination run wild.

This is a pretty disgusting movie.  It’s not that I’m offended by that kind of material.  In fact I quite enjoy my fair share of filth in moderation.  But, I’m not really a fan of movies that rely on cheap barf and wiener jokes for all their laughs.  I’d like even a little bit of clever writing mixed in, just for a bit of variety.  But, this movie is pretty much just all bro humor with no remorse.  I didn’t enjoy this movie very much, but that isn’t to say that you shouldn’t go out and see it if any part of my description piques your interest.  The Broken Lizard troupe really knows their target audience, and they cater to their particular tastes pretty thoroughly.  So, you have my permission to knock yourself out.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Coal Miner's Daughter - A Classic Biopic

Movie: Coal Miner’s Daughter
My Rating: 3 stars

Now here’s a classic movie that I finally got around to watching.  There are tons of movies like this just floating around out there—movies that I know about purely by reputation, but ones that I’ve never actually gotten around to watching myself.  But, I managed to check this one off my list this weekend.  This movie is, of course, the famous biopic that stars Sissy Spacek as country music singer, Loretta Lynn.  And, I found this movie to be much more interesting than I thought it’d be.
I actually hadn’t known very much about Loretta Lynn when I sat down to watch this movie.  I only knew her reputation as a famous, old-timey, country music singer.  But, I don’t think I’d ever even heard one of her songs before.  This is a standard rags-to-riches story that starts in a small, coal-mining town in Appalachia, and ends up under the spotlight at the Grand Ole Opry.  The change is really quite dramatic, especially knowing that his is based on a true story about a real person. 
Those coal-mining towns in Kentucky look really bleak.  There didn’t seem to be much opportunity for making any extra money or having a comfortable life.  And, it seemed like having a carefree childhood was something of a luxury in that part of the country.  Loretta Lynn got married and started having babies at thirteen years old!  The idea is kind of horrifying.  Thirteen-year-olds are such babies!  Tommy Lee Jones plays Loretta’s husband, Doolittle Lynn.  I hadn’t realized that he was in this film.  And, I thought it was pretty fun to see him playing this part—especially since he already looks like an old man when the movie was made back in 1980.  It may just be the weathered, craggy face of a man who’s done lots of outdoor work, but he was certainly too old to be marrying a little schoolgirl (not that Loretta was necessarily going to school at that age). 

I love all the costumes in this movie—especially all of Loretta’s frilly stage dresses.  They’re pretty outrageous with all the ruffles and lace.  They certainly don’t look like anything a grown woman should be wearing.  But, I guess that’s 60s fashion for you.  This movie is definitely worth checking out.  First of all, it’s a classic film, so it’s worth knowing about.  But really, the story is just a fascinating slice of Americana.  So, I’d definitely recommend this film to you guys.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Drop Dead Gorgeous - Small-town Pageantry

Movie: Drop Dead Gorgeous
My Rating: 3 stars

Well, here’s another fun, old classic from the 90s.  It’s a delightfully dark mockumentary about the perils of the teen beauty pageant circuit starring Kirsten Dunst, Denise Richards, and Kirstie Alley.  The movie addresses tough issues like jealousy, poverty, and what it means to be a good American.  And, it also touches on all the casual racism, sexism, and religious bigotry you see in small, Midwest towns in America.  It’s pretty cutting material.  Although some of actors did seem to be approaching the racist scenes with a little too much gusto for my comfort.  Oh well.
This movie is also pretty special for the horrific 90s outfits and hairstyles it features.  (Although, I don’t think those elements were supposed to be so funny at the time the movie was made).  Another thing I didn’t notice when I watched this movie the first time was all the actresses that went on to be pretty famous.  Of course I remembered the three leading ladies.  But I completely forgot about all the other famous actors in supporting roles, like Amy Adams, Brittany Murphy, Ellen Barkin, Allison Janney, and Will Sasso.  The movie is full of great performances.  The story centers around the run-up to the Miss Teen Princess America Pageant.  And, all the girls in town are pretty excited to participate.  But, the playing field isn’t exactly equal since Becky Ann Leeman (Denise Richards), and her mother Gladys (Kirstie Alley) are trying to throw the odds in their favor.  They’re pouring a lot of money into the pageant, and when that isn’t enough, we’re pretty sure they’re responsible for bumping off some of the other contestants.  And, things are starting to look pretty dire for little Amber Atkins (Kirsten Dunst), the favorite to win the pageant.

The comedy and satire in this movie isn’t very subtle.  The writers pretty much hit us over the head with all the stereotypes about how uncultured and backward these small, Midwestern towns are supposed to be.  But that being said, some of the jokes are still pretty funny (except, of course, for some of the really aggressively racist ones. Yikes!).  The pageant judges are pretty hilarious with how poorly suited they are for the job—an uptight librarian type, a hardware store manager, and a full-on pervert.  And, Will Sasso is always pure gold as the town simpleton.  There’s plenty to enjoy in this film as long as you aren’t easily offended.  I wouldn’t necessarily make this movie atop priority to see, but I think you’ll probably enjoy it when you get around to it.