Tag Archives: 2.5 Star Movies

The Captive (2014)

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All in all, “The Captive” is a pretty lame movie. It incorporates a ‘ripped from the headlines’ story with an admittedly good performance from Ryan Reynolds (who’s obviously trying to shed his ‘pretty boy’ image, with some success, but that doesn’t make this movie good,) but ultimately proves to be an unthrilling film that fails to be realistic or compelling.

Most of the fault seems to be with Kevin Durand, who plays a mustachioed pedo freak which such cartoonish abandon that one can only sigh and weep for the direction this movie takes. Durand’s Mika (but I’ll call him pedostache, mm-kay?) kidnaps young Cass (played by Peyton Kennedy as a child and Alexia Fast as a teen) from under poor Reynolds’ nose and does unspeakable things to her.

Reynolds, her dad, is blamed by his grieving wife (Mirielle Enos) for leaving Cass in the car for just a minute as he went into the pie shop to get dessert for his the three of them. Luckily, police officers specializing in child abduction and sexual abuse Nicole  (Rosario Dawson) and Jeffrey (Scott Speedman) are on the case.

It’s every parents worst nightmare, and great fodder for a thrilling, terrifying crime story, but something is missing. And it’s a shame that, with Reynolds performing so admirably, the central villains performance often lowers the film to ridiculousness.

Mika is an ever-so-slightly effeminate deviant with a pencil-thin pedostache, bleached buck teeth, a habit of crossing and uncrossing his legs constantly, and a penchant for opera, in other words, a live-action cartoon character who is impossible to take seriously in a film that is otherwise for all intents and purposes, earnest.

What the film doesn’t realize is that pedophiles look like regular people. They look like the kindly old man halfway down the block, the big bearish uncle who used to placate you with sweets and hug you a little too tightly. To portray an offender as a John Waters-esque creep is to do a disservice to reality. And Durand’s overly zesty performance doesn’t help.

Let me tell you about the ending. Obviously, **spoilers. Read at your own risk. Cass, who looks thirteen like Dame Maggie Smith looks twenty-five, is freed, and the baddie is smote. She returns to her regular life almost immediately, and the film closes on her ice-skating with a happy grin on her face. After years of Tina (Enos) psychologically abusing Matthew (Reynolds) and blaming him for their daughter’s’ disappearance, it seems like the duo will automatically get back together.

Aw, how Kodak. Bring out the camera, folks! Smile! Except all I can say is, really?!! Not only does the film completely fail to mention that Cass will be scarred for life and saying she will have trouble adjusting is a massive understatement, the revelation of Matthew and Tina hooking up at the end seems completely false. Their daughter is back, suddenly everything is swell! Never mind that the whole family has been completely through the ringer and will probably be deeply damaged for the rest of their lives. **end of spoilers

It would have been interesting to see Reynolds play the bad guy like he (sorta) did in “The Voices” (the “Voices” anti-hero wasn’t a pedo though, just a nice old fashioned serial killer.) To see Ryan Reynolds play a perv would be so totally different that I would kind of have to applaud it. As least “The Voices” felt like a unique experience. “The Captive” feels like a nighttime crime show that you half-watch while occupying yourself elsewhere. A really bad crime show. Ryan Reynolds, I don’t think this movie is the best way to further your career.  Although, I must admit, playing alongside Durand did make you look damn good.

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The Winning Season (2009)

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Remember in “Fight Club” when Edward Norton says that when suffering from insomnia, “Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy”? Yeah, this film is kind of like that. It’s a movie shamelessly derivative of a another movie which is derivative of yet another movie. And here comes the bombshell.

I don’t like sports movies. Now you ask, why would someone who doesn’t like sports movies watch a film directly centered around girls’ basketball? Why, Sam Rockwell, of course, who can be charming and likable even in the most mediocre motion picture.

But for many a Sam Rockwell, there’s a Emma Roberts waiting to bungle up the movie. I just don’t like her in anything. To be fair, though, this time the fault isn’t Emma’s. It’s the script, which plays on every ‘inspirational sports movie’ trope known to man, and does it with the shameless belief that it will move you to tears, endear itself to you, and make you write a glowing review totally different from the one I’m writing now.

The plot is utterly familiar even if you know nothing going in– underachieving alcoholic loser and basketball-playing has-been Bill (Sam Rockwell) is working as a dishwasher when his old friend Terry urges him to coach Girls’ Basketball. The foul-mouthed, half-heartedly sexist Bill is convinced that girls playing basketball is a superfluous pastime, but he reluctantly agrees so he can quit his dishwashing job.

Right off the bat you wonder– what makes Terry think that Bill is up for coaching a bunch of high school girls? Why because he couldn’t find anyone else, of course. No one else? But I digress. Bill is a slovenly pig, a miserable knob who eats chicken fingers off of his customer’s plates and, initially at least, fails to show the girls one ounce of respect while coaching.

But you know off the bat (because this is this type of movie) that Bill will tag his ragtag team of losers and make them winners, inspiring the girls, and maybe, learning to face up to his inadequacies in the process. And of course Bill is the deadbeat father of a neglected teenage daughter (Shana Dowdeswell) and a disapproving ex-wife (Jessica Hecht) who has found Mr. Perfect and now takes every opportunity to passive-aggressively make Bill feel like shit.

As Bill gets embroiled in the girls’ individual dramas, he comes to the well-worn revelation that no, these girls don’t have game, but they have heart, and he can really make something out of their team. Even as Bill mans up and becomes a supportive coach, he isn’t really a very likable protagonist. I think it’s because he lacks any kind of substantial depth. Even his character is nothing more than a tired trope.

And does the director of this film think it’s dramatically satisfying to watch the entire basketball team haul the inebriated Bill into his apartment? It’s a fucking disgrace. If you get so drunk while coaching that you have to be carried like a baby by a bunch of 17-year-old girls, well, maybe you shouldn’t be a coach. It was shameful to watch, frankly.

Then we have the ‘big finale’ where Bill breaks into the  stadium where the climactic game is being held in full costume after being laid off and told to stay away from the team. I wonder if it was really worth it to run away from the police in a cape,  a wig, and full body paint as opposed to, y’know, waiting it out and taking the girls out for Shoney’s afterward.

Despite the film’s flaws (and boy, are they many,) most of the girls give charming performances (including Rooney Mara in a pre- Dragon Tattoo role) and Emma Roberts (as the pragmatic Abbie) isn’t as insufferable as usual. Let me put it this way- if you like basketball and cheesy, feel-good movies, you might like this, so don’t cross it off your to-see list yet.  I guess I’m the wrong audience for this movie. All I know is that Sam Rockwell can do better, and has.

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The Story of Luke (2012)

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Let’s cut to the chase here- most films dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorders are pretty much crap, and despite a effective performance from Lou Taylor Pucci, this movie is basically no exception. “The Story of Luke” is a movie where characters behave in a highly unlikely way to aid the development of the plot. Most of the characters are not just abrasive, they’re downright mean. They constantly antagonize Luke and call him a retard, before having a road to Damascus and realizing how much the kid needs their friendship and support.

The main character, Luke, has been looked after by his grandparents since his mom dumped him on them when he was four. Luke has Autism, and his predictable routine is suddenly changed when his Grandma dies and his somewhat foul-mouthed Grandfather (Kenneth Welsh) begins deteriorating health-wise. Luke is sent to live with his Uncle Paul (Cary Elwes, As you Wish) and Aunt Cindy (Kristen Bauer van Straten of “True Blood” fame) and their bratty kids. Aunt Cindy is pretty much a major-league C-U-N-T.

She doesn’t want Luke there and she makes absolutely no effort to hide her anger at his arrival or her disgust at his limitations. However, the duo bond of over discussion of Cindy’s sexual frustrations (inappropriate?) and alcohol (!) In an attempt to court a woman named Maria (Sabryn Rock, I’ve never seen her before but she is gorgeous) and her lovely breasts- uh, disabled people enthusing about sex, never awkward, especially when it’s handled in a facepalm-worthy way such as this- Luke attempts to get a job.

Although he succeeds in entering a training program for people with disabilities, Luke is paired with the world’s worst supervisor. Enter Zach (Seth Green,) a total whack who berates Luke constantly, slams him against the wall, and tells him he was put on this earth for people to pity and condescend to. If Zach were NT (neurotypical) he would be considered nothing more than a bully, but since he’s on the Autistic Spectrum the film pairs him up with Luke as a an unlikely ally.

I truly believe that disabled people should be treated like sexual beings, but here’s what I don’t like. Handicapped peoples’ sexuality being portrayed as ‘cute’ and willfully awkward. As in, ‘aw, he’s thinking about boobies just like a normal person, isn’t that sweet?’

Here’s a short list of unbelievable events in this movie.

. Everyone constantly mistreating Luke and ‘stage-whispering’ about his disability as loud as they can (did you hear a retarded man is coming to live with the so-and-so’s?!! Poor dear!)

. The guy at the employment office asking Luke if he can multiply big numbers. I know this is supposed to be a commentary on “Rain Man”-esque misconceptions about Autism, but please! Calling the way this scene was presented over-the-top is an understatement.

. The cousin’s girlfriend immediately flirting with the bewildered Luke after he catches them making out and asking him to ‘pass her her bra’ provocatively.

And last, but not least…

. Uncle Paul telling Luke that he and Aunt Cindy ‘made love’ for the first time in over a year. I know this is supposed to fill us up with an ‘aw everything is going to be all right between them’ , warm ‘n fuzzy feeling, but in what likelihood would a man be telling his Autistic nephew that he got some trim last night?

I like Luke. It’s easy to like Luke. But as likable as Luke is, you can’t deny that the script is simply flimsy. The film takes the endearing Luke, and puts him in a universe that’s a little more ruthless and strident than it needs to be  Most of the characters feel neither fleshed-out nor authentic. I thought indie movies were supposed to feel more real than the soulless mainstream, not less?

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Starry Eyes (2014)

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Anxious, vulnerable aspiring actress Sarah (Alex Essoe) dreams of being a star, but her latest acting opportunity may cost her more than she ever thought possible in “Starry Eyes,” a disappointedly so-so and often mediocre and  (I’ll say it) downright silly low-budget horror flick. Isn’t it funny how potentially decent horror films often fall to piece during the last twenty or so minutes? There’s a delicate balance between bringing the film to a terrifying climactic crescendo and overplaying your hand, and thus, ending up with a just plain goofy finishing product.

I’ll give “Starry Eyes” Brownie points for effort. There’s some good supporting cast members, including Marc Senter, Amanda Fuller (both of  which  were featured in Simon Rumley’s suspense thriller “Red, White, & Blue”) and Pat Healy (star of “Cheap Thrills.”) Alex Essoe gives a convincing performance as Sarah, and her everygirl and even somewhat plain looks lend her credibility as a naïve girl who doesn’t recognize the ultimate evil until it’s too late.

However, the final few scenes emphasis on gore, brazen lack of subtlety, and endless clichéd sequences of Sarah’s hair and teeth falling out as she succumbs to the beast’s will prove to be not only underwhelming, but also a deal-breaker for someone trying to find the next great indie horror film. Too bad, because the first portion of the movie is suspenseful and genuinely creepy- what will this misguided waif do for fame? By the end, though, I just couldn’t possibly take the whole enterprise seriously.

It doesn’t help that Sarah herself wore out her likability early on. It’s obvious she finds her job at a sleazy burger joint Big Taters degrading and below her, but she seems totally willing to do anything, no matter how humiliating it was and how much it compromised her physical and sexual health, to get a big role. Get her ass looked at by her loser boss (Pat Healy?) So, like, totally degrading! Blow a dirty old man who might just be the devil (Louis Dezsaren?) Worth it. Success requires sacrifice, as you may know, but Sarah’s propensity for bad decisions makes her a infuriating heroine.

Honestly,  Sarah’s roommate Tracy (Amanda Fuller) seemed like a lot more likable character and far more worthy of spending 90 minutes on. Not to mention the sinister old fart Sarah went down on was overacting in every single scene he was in. Which is a shame, because his minion (Maria Olsen) gave a genuinely unnerving performance worthy of good back-up.

I would be completely willing to reconsider my rating if the finishing product hadn’t fallen apart as bad as it did. What filmmaker don’t realize is that subtlety can work for horror just as well as it works for drama. You don’t need bombastic gore and total stylistic abandon to make a spooky movie. I hope the duo made this movie (Dennis Widmyer, Kevin Kolsch) remember that next time the decide to make a horror film.

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Into the Woods (2014)

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From the opening scene (and song,) I had a sneaking feeling that “Into the Woods” wasn’t going to work for me. The musical sequences in this film are ponderous and transitionally awkward, while the plot lacks cohesion. And while I appreciated the fact that dark elements from the original fairy tales that “Into the Woods” portrays are upheld in this reimagining, I’m still not sold on a extremely pedo Johnny Depp ambling around as the ‘big bad wolf’ stalking a prepubescent Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) singing about deliciously plump little girl flesh. I know the original tale has some predatory and not exactly savory implications, but puh-leeze! Did Johnny Depp think this role of all things would give his flaccid career a jumpstart?

In this unevenly written attempt to mesh multiple classic fairy tales, ‘Baker’ (James Corden) and ‘Baker’s Wife’ (Emily Blunt) (Nice to know they put so much thought into the lead protagonists” names eh? 😛 ) want to conceive a child desperately, and a witch (played by Meryl Streep) materializes in their bakery one day to say that the reason that Baker is shooting blanks is because of a curse that befell Corden’s father (Simon Russell Beale) before him. The witch proceeds to info them that they need to obtain four magic artifacts in order to break the curse. First. a cow as white as milk, which belongs to a bubble-headed boy named Jack (Daniel Huttlestone.)

Second a cape as red as blood (see if you can figure that one out.) The other two, I will leave you to find out for yourself should you decide to watch the movie. Only when the couple have acquired the magic objects can they bear a child. And when the lives of various fairy tale characters intersect in the woods, nothing will ever be the same.

First of all, I cannot believe that Meryl Streep got nominated for an academy award. I mean, she’s not bad. ‘Not bad.’ She’s certainly not award material. As it become kosher to hand Streep an Oscar every time she goes to get her car keys (no offense to Mrs. Streep, who is talented as well as nontraditionally beautiful.) She just didn’t rock my world here. The entire cast was less than spectacular, though Corden comes off best as a well-intentioned buffoon.

The real problem, however, was the plotting. Big things seem to lead to more big things with little cohesive connection. The storyline is pretty convoluted (though not, to be fair, as convoluted as the later years of “Lost.”) In other words, I knew what was happening,  it just didn’t flow well. The climactic fight scene was a joke- a few stones are slung and a massive villainess who should have been epic wordlessly drops to her demise. Several major deaths also prove to be majorly underwhelming. One character simply gets pushed to the ground (or it seemed to me) and is dead in the next scene. Why? It’s a plot contrivance, that’s why.

There are moments of magic, but they’re few and far between in this rather silly movie. If you like fractured fairy-tales, watch “The Princess Bride,” “Shrek,” or the very entertaining TV series “Once Upon a Time.” While “Into the Woods” might enthrall some, I found it to be a disappointing misfire.

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The Boondock Saints (1999)

“The Boondock Saints” is an extremely over-hyped vigilante thriller that contains no depth beyond its initial macho revenge fantasy, but, despite moments of painful camp, doesn’t have the sense to go all the way as a comedy. It would better serve as a satire on America’s obsession with Machismo posturing and the view that violence is the best way to solve problems than the self-important bloodbath it becomes.

I’m not adverse to revenge movies, even extreme ones. “Taxi Driver” featured Travis Bickle blowing away pimps and thugs, but it was more of a character study than a vigilante movie. “God Bless America” trivialized violence, but it was a satire, and a good one at that. “Dead Man’s Shoes” was a powerful statement on the consequences of violence.

I don’t have any problem with violence in the media at all, except when it is portrayed as an easy way to solve real-life problems. People, I cannot stress this hard enough — there are consequences to violent retaliation and vigilante justice.

If this movie had taken a closer look at the psychological effects of murder on the perpetrators, it might have earned an extra star. But Connor and Murphy MacManus (Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus) treat their new vocation like a new video game.

Now that I’m done beating you over the head with my Liberal values, let’s talk shop.  “The Boondock Saints” is the story of the McManus twins, two Irish-Catholic brothers who, after killing two Russian mobsters in self-defense, take it as a calling from God to clean the scum out of their crime-filled Boston home town, one criminal at a time.

The way they go about this is utterly unbelievable- they just purchase a bunch of guns and knives and off they go, blasting away thugs like they came straight out of “Duke Nuke’m.” There’s no depth to the McManus boys here — they don’t have a thought in their heads other than the initial need for justice in their crime-filled city.

The only character with any depth is Paul Schmeck (Willem Defoe), an arrogant but brilliant gay cop who hates and fears his fellow homosexuals, even as they find themselves in his bed. I fear this happens far too often, when “straight guys” find the need for man-love, but still aren’t willing to take on the stigma of being gay.

Initially, Schmeck wants nothing more to catch the McManus brothers, who the sympathetic masses have dubbed the “Saints.” But as the Russian Mobsters start dropping like flies, Schmeck starts to believe that maybe the “Saints” aren’t so detrimental after all. This could be an interesting revelation, except for the way it’s done, which is just silly.

Along with Schmeck’s arrogant brilliance and the brother’s gleeful responses to the bloodletting, a lot of hyperkinetic fight scenes proceed. I just didn’t buy our protagonists as badasses, and I’m not a fan of stylized violence unless it is directed by one man: Tarantino. The Russian characters were extremely stereotypical and one of them, Boris, had the corniest lines.

I know I’m going to offend a lot of people with this review, but “The Boondock Saints” wasn’t my cup of tea. Many people may really like it, but I felt it was a simplistic, shallow, and meaningless excursion into something we’ve all felt like doing (vigilantism), but without the courage of its convictions to make us care about it’s characters. And don’t even get me started about a cross-dressing Defoe passing as a woman. Just… don’t.

Suspicion (1941)

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I’m not the biggest fan of Alfred Hitchcock. There. Now that I’ve spilled my dirty little secret (and turned in my film buff card,) let’s get this show on the road. Of the few Hitchcock movies I’ve seen, “Suspicion” was the most outdated, watered down, and completely exasperating. The protagonist, a bookish woman (Jean Fontaine) facing spinsterhood who marries good-for-nothing playboy Cary Grant, is a completely ineffectual Mary Sue.

Now, I’m not going to cry sexism (this is 1941, after all) but it’s both annoying and eyeroll-inducing when this particular damsel in distress who’s written to be an intelligent, competent woman vacillates between lovesick euphoria and the abyss of despair. The plot revolves around Lina (Fontaine) suspecting Grant of murder.

This suspicion is exacerbated by the inopportune death of Grant’s none-too-bright business partner Beaky (Nigel Bruce) right after he and Grant close a deal. I suppose Beaky in all his ineptitude is supposed to be comic relief, before he ‘meets with an accident,’ so to speak.

Grant’s character, Johnny, is a smug jackass that repeatedly calls Lina ‘Monkeyface’. She loves this ‘term of endearment’, and coyly sidesteps courtship for a while only to fall head over heels in love with him seemingly seconds later. If a guy called me ‘monkeyface,’ I can tell you he’d be smart to keep his hand cupped over his crown jewels because I know where I’d be embedding the pointy part of my shoe. However harsh my rant might sound, the portrayal of the main character isn’t the biggest problem I have with this film.

But that ending, Man! I know the censors changed it from a less wishy-washy conclusion that was included in the original script and the book on which it was based (though to be honest, the book’s ending sounded pretty lame too.) But in fear of offending 1941 audience’s delicate sensitivities, the censors slapped this with the biggest cop-out I’ve seen in a long time.

I sat through the not-so-great motion picture in order to get to the good part, which was watching Lina sack up to face her odious hubby. All that build-up, and… dang! I was disappointed, massively disappointed, to see that they took the utterly boring way out.

Cary Grant and Jean Fontaine did good jobs bringing this rather flat film to life, I suppose, but their competent performances are not enough to save what is, for me, a sub par Hitchcock excursion into so-so suspense. I heard they might be redoing this, and despite my aversion to remakes, I might like to see the results.

I was thinking while watching this movie that if they took the general premise of “Suspicion” (not necessarily a remake per se,) changed the ending and  added a really kick-ass heroine (or at least a heroine with some common sense,) they might have something here. Oh well. Hitchcock can be good, and I will continue to watch his movies in hopes of finding one I really ‘click’ with.

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Front of the Class (2008)

There are undeniably touching moments in “Front of the Class,” but from the ‘Ah-Gee’ musical score to the sappy voice-over, the periods in between are more frustrating then inspiring.

The effectiveness are the story is very subjective- if you like Hallmark Hall of Fame television movies and unabashed tearjerkers, you will find a lot to love in this story of a young man living with Tourette’s Syndrome while struggling to achieve his dream of becoming a teacher.

If not… well, you may be a hard-hearted cynic like yours truly. Have you ever felt like a robot? Like you weren’t capable, or even deserving of, empathy? I watched this movie in a sparse classroom of four students (besides myself,) and by the end credits all four (and the teacher) were weeping and disheveled.

And me…? As for myself, the movie hadn’t squeezed a single tear out of me. But before I could snarl and say “Bah-Humbug,” the teacher turned on the lights and began raving about what an amazing film it was. What was I supposed to say? Could I say anything?

I guess the whole thing was a bit too calculated for my taste. Or maybe I just don’t have empathy for nice, clean-cut white Americans. Or Something. Nevertheless, the experience left me feeling confused and alienated.

At the age of six, Brad Cohen (played by Dominic Scott Kay as a child and James Wolk as an adult) starts to experience mysterious tics- grunts, yelps, and sounds that puzzle his teachers and his family. His classmates, on the other hand, laugh and poke fun at his strange behavior.

However, most heart-wrenching for Brad is the frustration and embarrassment of Brad’s father, Norman (Treat Williams.) Although Brad’s dad and teachers are convinced that he’s a toublemaker, Brad’s mom Ellen (Patricia Heaton) loves him and is determined to find the source of his problems, which lies in the fateful diagnosis of Tourette’s Syndrome, a neurological disorder which causes tics and twitches against the sufferer’s will.

After experiencing the support of a childhood principal (Mike Pniewski,) Brad grows up with a dream to teach… a dream he never lets go of, through crushing rejections and devastating failures. Will he succeed? If you don’t know the answer to this, apparently you’re not familiar with this type of movie.

Anyway, the stand-out performance here is Dominic Scott Kay as the young Brad Cohen, who wins our sympathy as good kid struggling with events outside his control. Patricia Heaton is also very good as his devoted mother, while James Wolk is decent (if a bit too overly earnest) as the grown Brad.

Although the portrayal of Tourette’s is realistic and may appeal to sufferers of the condition looking for support, the so-so script weighs the movie down in a way even the decent cast can’t make up for. The movie is just too sentimental for it’s own good. Which is a shame, because there are some good things on display here.

“Front of the Class” is the kind of movie that might be worth watching if it comes on Hallmark, but isn’t worth your time or money to buy or rent IMO. If you have Tourette’s it might offer more to you than it did to me. In that case, or if you like Hallmark tearjerkers, ignore this review and have a good cry on me. Otherwise, you may want to skip this one. Just sayin’.

Cry-Baby (1990)

Admittedly, “Cry-Baby” is a very silly movie, and that silliness may not appeal to everyone. I for one found myself consistently bored by the campy goings-on, and found little to like about delinquent greaser ‘Cry-Baby’ (Johnny Depp) and his redneck family, when the movie insists we cheer on their successes and ‘gee-whiz’ at their failures.

It’s 1960’s Baltimore, and prim, perfect Allison (Amy Locane) has it all- social status, wealth, and a dapper boyfriend (Stephen Mailer.) But, gee, the ‘Drapes’ from the wrong side of the tracks seem to be having more fun, and Allison is doomed to be a ‘Square,’ destined for a life of courteousness and decency.  Or is she?

Everything changes when Allison meets Wade ‘Cry-Baby’ Walker (Depp,) a singing, dancing, rocking Drape bad boy who wins her heart. But a series of rivalries and misunderstandings strive to keep Cry-Baby and Allison apart. There will be a lot of music and a lot of fights before a customary happy ending, and for me they couldn’t get there fast enough.

I’ll be honest with you, folks… the acting here is mediocre, and Johnny Depp as ‘Cry-Baby’ is unexpectedly terrible. The only stand-outs here are Stephen Mailer as Baldwin, Allison’s boyfriend with puppy-dog eyes and a black, black heart, and Polly Bergen, as Allison’s well-meaning but clueless grandma. The rest are forgettable.

Also, there are a load of stereotypes in this movie, all of them attempts at satiric humor and achieving none. Authority figures are the dunces and ‘bad guys’ of the movie, while promiscuous teenagers and thieves are the ones we should look up to.

The movie throws around stereotypes of typically corrupt cops and stupid Christians, while the responsible adults were so ‘square’ that one can only roll their eyes and wonder if director John Waters has the mentality of a goth teen whining to his dear diary about the hypocrisy of grown-ups. Like, they say one thing and mean another. Burn!

In the end, we are caught between the self-conscious morals of the ‘Squares’ and the wild unpredictability and grit of the ‘Drapes,’ from Cry-Baby’s nutty stolen hubcap-selling Aunt Ramona (Susan Tyrrell) to the thuggish girl uncharitably called ‘Hatchet-Face’ (Kim McGuire.)

But guess what? None of the characters are particularly appealing to me. And maybe next time, John Waters will keep his shallow Goth-kid observations about the inherent dishonesty of adults and the dangers of being square to himself. Burn, indeed.
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Labyrinth (1986)

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Beware, 80’s kids- I am here to pick apart your childhood classic. There is so much wrong with this movie, I don’t even know where to begin. Mind, there are moments of creative genius at play too, and the puppetry aspect of the film is, well… quite cool, even for a cynic like me. But it’s pretty sad when puppets outshine Jennifer Connelly’s Godawful acting and David Bowie’s mannered affectations as Jareth, the codpiece-donning goblin king (what the Hell people? This is a kid’s movie, is there really room for a villain with his pants stuffed so as to  make his dick look big?)

Sarah (Connelly,) a bratty adolescent deep in the throes of puberty-induced teen angst, calls on the goblin horde from her favorite book to take her perpetually crying baby brother Toby (Toby Froud) away when she is forced to babysit him one stormy night. Much to her chagrin, the goblins, who are- unbeknownst to her- very real- take Toby away to the Goblin King (David Bowie)’s castle. Spurred on by regret and concern for her brother’s well-being (and for the allowance cut she will most certainly receive if her father (Christopher Malcolm) and step-mother (Shelley Thompson,) like, totally come home to find their son gone,) Sarah is taken to a magical land where she much brave the labyrinth- and Jareth’s cunning charms- in order to save her brother.

This seems like mostly a vehicle for musician David Bowie (Bowie sports lip gloss and awful hair, and, for no particular reason at all, bursts into song in several instances,) and I’ve heard rumors that Bowie regrets the project to some extent. I can see why. Allegedly the movie is a fantastical portrayal of the labyrinthine trials of puberty, and the connections are all too obvious. Connelly (who was better off going ass to ass in “Requiem for a Dream,”) can’t act to save her life poor dear.

She hems, haws, and blinks vacuously, but to be fair, the damage isn’t entirely her fault- the scriptwriter gives ‘Sarah’ the most inane lines imaginable. Moreover, unlike fantasy stories like “Harry Potter,” the ‘great evil’ (I.e. Jareth) that Sarah fights doesn’t seem that sinister at all. Weird and gay, yes. Sinister, no. Sure, Jareth wants to turn Sarah’s baby brother into a goblin and the sexual tension between him and Sarah seems Borderline pedo, but he fails as a truly malevolent or interesting presence. When Sarah meets up with him for the big confrontation, he spends half of the time singing (!) and the other half being humbled in the presence of her womanly power.

It’s bad when the most threatening presence in a film that strives to be epic fantasy is a stench-emitting, farting bog. That said, the puppets are wonderful. My personal favorite, Didymous the mace-wielding Chihuahua, was a steady mix of cute and cool. It was just so easy. Pit Sarah against any legit fantasy villain- Voldemort, Sauron, the baddies from Gaiman’s “Neverwhere”- and she would crumble like the inconsequential schoolgirl she is. Jareth’s main powers consist of looking fabulous and talking you to death, with an extra helping of ‘blah.’

“Labyrinth” leaves me conflicted in that I want the movie studios to bring puppetry back and use it on a better movie, My review is unfair in that the film didn’t have a part in my childhood, and fair for the exact same reason. Sentimentality can muddle your perception of the way things are. And “Labyrinth,” my friends, is no classic. You are free to leave comments championing your nondescript piece of whimsy. if you wish. It’s all the same to me. The puppets, the sets, some of the creative elements were awesome, sod all the rest.

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