Sunday, December 30, 2007


Slogan: The Right Kind of Strange
"How many syllables, Mario?" Cognoscenti recognize that line from the classic film Putney Swope by Robert Downey Sr. It seemed a classic in 1969. Since then, the director has given the world absolutely nothing of note except Robert Downey Jr., which rather adds insult to injury. Dad is listed as director and Junior writes and acts wildly in this discombobulated tale of a pool cleaner (Alyssa Milano) with a dysfunctional family who meets other dysfunctional people, most of whom own pools. "This is really poorly written," said my friend Patty as Alyssa Milano climbed into the shower in the first two minutes. "What the hell is going on?" asked Sean, passing by the TV room while Malcolm McDowell did a Burgess Meredith impression. "Is this method acting?" Patty wanted to know as Downey Jr. writhed. "He's even drooling!" "I don't understand," said Ginger. "It looks like a good movie." And indeed, the color is quite appealing. "How could it be so awful?" wailed Ginger. "All the things I like are here," Patty admitted. "Horse-riding, rigs." "Oh, wait, there's some acting happening," Ginger interjected. "Alyssa Milano is very distressed here," noted Elissa. And so was I, until, surprise of surprises -- Chuck Barris appeared. The retired game-show mogul looks fantastic for a man who sold his soul to the devil. Here's a random selection from Barris' 1984 "unauthorized" autobiography, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind: "'Why you?' Lucy Sue Glopp had asked while spreading Borden's canned whipped cream on my pecker. 'Why do YOU want to host "The Gong Show"?' We were lying naked atop my massive four-poster bed. 'Greed,' I answered, my arms clasped behind my head. 'Pure and simple greed.'" Who knows why Chuck chose this film to return to show business? Who knows why this film was made, or what it means? But let's not be entirely negative. As Patty noted: "Nice accordion." EJECT.

Slogan: Not Your Typical Girl Shoots Boy Movie
"I think Tony Danza is a fine actor," Elissa said on her way out the door before the tape could start. Indeed, if Tony had been able to deliver lines like, "Why is Beth dead in the closet?!" on his sitcom, I would have watched. Alyssa Milano's former dad plays a gun runner with a heart, a gangster who dusts, in this "A James Bruce Film" that is not at all obvious. In addition to Louise Fletcher ("Interesting caftan," Patty observed), a deliciously slutty Amy Locane, and the usual Michael Madsen, we are treated to the unexpected Todd Bridges and Moon (formerly Unit) Zappa! The henchmen say things like, "You have to learn to manage your anger," and women chew gum and fire guns at the same time. "That was a good laugh," said Patty. Yes it was. PLAY.

Surrender Cinema
Slogan: Take the Ultimate Pleasure Trip.
"This one's only 80 minutes," Patty keenly pointed out. "We're watching this one." In the first scene, the actors disrobed, after this exchange. He: "I thought we were going to keep this relationship...professional." She: "It's just that I have so much energy from the time machine." "Is this an instruction video?" Ginger asked, before catching on. "Oh, I see," she said. "They're going to have sex in other eras." Yes, that seemed to be the 80-minute recipe. So, we stopped the tape and switched to Beauty Investigator instead. But as the lovely Jacqueline Lovell instructed at the start of Time Machine: For more information, JPEGs, MPEGS, and AVIs, log on to FREEZE-FRAME.

Tai Seng
Slogan: Two Undercover Cops on a Mission of Revenge!
"They kicked each other in the face at the same time," observed Patty. "Interesting." Yes, indeed, a chick-fight-ˆ-trois between a pair of lady Hong Kong cops and a Japanese hit woman is always interesting. Before that, the gals go undercover as "hostesses, not prostitutes," a distinction perhaps too subtle for Western minds, though we are reminded that "big in the chest doesn't mean small in the head." We are also told that these ladies are "trained to fight, not seduce," and fight they do, because this is more socky than sexy. "Let me get this straight," Patty wanted to know, "A couple of strange ladies sit you down and you immediately start confessing all the secrets of the crime lord?" For these strange ladies in their Carnaby Street fashions, you better believe it! And I give extra credit for this screen credit: "Special Effect: Bobby." PLAY.

Slogan: He Swore to Protect and Serve -- Then He Broke ALL the Rules.
Fred "The Hammer" Williamson is the baddest of the badass blaxploitation badasses. It's fun to watch him swagger, even when he's walking around in his BVDs, which he does regularly in this movie, produced by, um, Fred Williamson. As Dakota Smith, he's an alcoholic cop living in a shelter who really wants to change. So, perhaps, does Fred, because there are as many AA meetings as explosions. But change he will, because we hear Jada Pointer singing, "Hey, Dakota! I know you can make it, yes you can-can, yes you can." Martial arts co-star Cynthia Rothrock is a dear friend of a dear friend. I've never met her, but I must say her new breasts are flattering -- though I'm sad she felt it necessary to buy them. Sadder, she doesn't have much to do except fill out her uniform. Hammer, don't hurt me: EJECT.

Detour Pictures
Slogan: See & Believe!...Maybe
This is less a film than a dissertation right out of the Neal Postman canon. Television is dangerous, one character tells the Tom Hanks-ian star, "because it sucks the truth of life out of the individual and replaces it with insignificant pulp." This film replaces camera movement, lighting, and multiple, interesting sets with none of the above, adding only an extraterrestrial booking agent, an Elvis imitator who sings only obscure Elvis songs, and a stand-up comic whose act consists of an excellent deconstruction of The Andy Griffith Show. A bit ponderous, but there's a lesson to be learned here. I don't know what it is, but I appreciate the effort. PAUSE.

Slogan: Kick Some Alien Butt!
I invited my young neighbors Rashad, 11, Kiya, 7, and little Sharte, 5, over for an evening of pizza and "A Film by Manny Coto." Originally, the draw was Domino's, but something about kid star Joseph Mazzello climbing into a robot suit from space and making a mess of things had the kids paying more attention to the screen than the pepperoni. Good, more for me. For sure, Joey has a certain Ringwaldian quality that makes him a face to watch. And actual money was spent on this project, and spent well. Little Sharte alternated between hiding behind the couch pillows when the monsters were loose and bouncing up and down laughing as Robot Joey wrecked several houses. "Yeah, it was cool," said Rashad. "I would recommend it for other kids." So would I. PLAY.

YOU'RE ON YOUR OWN: The man at United Film Distributors said that it wasn't cost-effective to make any more screening copies available of his films Prey of the Jaguar, Skeletons, and Firestorm. Also unavailable or unlocatable: The Dreaded, Dark Carnival, Dark Angels, Bleeding Hearts, Enemy, Boundaries, Illicit Confessions, Desires of Innocence, Prison Heat, Sweet Evil, Underground, Death by Love, Highjacking Hollywood, and, most cruelly, Bikini Med School. But don't weep too hard -- got a boatload of Dolph Lundgren and some fresh Julie Strain.

Next: God bless America!

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