Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus

First, a word about The Asylum, a movie studio/distributor that produces low-budget, direct-to-video movies. The Asylum was organized in 1997 by three cinema executives. It took the trio a while to discover their niche: knockoff films that hit the rental shelves at the same time as the knockoffees from which they are knocked off. For example, The Asylum released “De Vinci’s Treasure” at the same time as Columbia Pictures’ “The Da Vinci Code.”  “Almighty Thor” arrived  with “Thor.” The Asylum is responsible for the excellent “Snakes on a Train.” An Asylum movie budget is low, well under a million dollars; the movie is produced in less than four months. No Asylum movie has ever lost money.

Wrt the creature-vs-creature movies, what is the relationship of The Asylum movies to the Roger Corman movies? Can you knock off a knockoff? Or do the creature movies of these two Hollywood low-budget production moneymakers represent some sort of evolutionary sybiosis? Please find out and report back.

So anyway, Mega Shark is back. Meggie is a favorite around here after he or she ate a 707 and the Golden Gate Bridge in Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus. In that movie, Meggie might have been supposed to have perished in the end, at the tentacles of the giant octopus. Yet here he or she is, overacting for us once again, as directed by Christopher Ray, who is 34 and has been working in the business for a long time already, now with four titles under his belt as director; son of Fred Olen Ray, who himself has directed many a classic, including “Bikini Jones and the Temple of Eros,” “Housewives from Another World,” and “Bikini Time Machine.” Fred is an officer at Retromedia, Synthetic Film Works, and Firebird International in North Hollywood. Point me to a directory, with dirt, that summarizes the activity of these various great B-movie companies. But no. Exploitation films come in so many flavors and have such a glorious history that I’ll settle for one comforting fact: drive-in movies and grind houses are gone, but the DVD player, streaming video, digital video equipment, and cinema software make exploitation more alive, vibrant, and pervasive than ever.

Warning. Warning. Warning. The DVD, or mine at least, contains no commentary track. You’ve got to sit there and watch the movie qua movie, like it or not.

Is The Asylum going soft? Crocosaurus merely steps on her first victim, doesn’t eat him. But wait. She is definitely grinning. The first hint that this is a feel-good movie, a possible monster love fest.

Note to self: I’m not here to rag on MSVC. For example, that hat on the Indiana Jones wannabe? To me it looks new. Still has its brown fuzz. That’s the sort of detail I’m not going to go on about.

And welcome back Meggie! You’ve learned to do barrel rolls, like a dolphin at Marine Park. Reader, before you scoff at the notion of a shark doing a barrel roll, check this out… Aww, nevermind, it’s not there anymore. Anyway, I think that Meggie is just frolicking, happy to find a Navy destroyer to play with. Sure, they’re firing anti-aircraft shells off his dorsal fin, but that’s just a tickle. Watch out, Meggie, or you’ll accidentally sink your new friends, killing off a good-looking babe in the process!  (Don’t worry. The boat doesn’t really sink. It’s the Lane Victory, tied up at Pier 94 in San Pedro. Available for weddings, reunions, summer cruises, and making cheap movies.)

Another light-spirited actor in the movie: Jaleel White. He’s made a career of being a good-natured  guy, on TV shows such as  Full House (1987), Family Matters (1989), Step by Step (1991) and Meego (1997). Here he is Dr. SomebodyOrOther, a scientist who can repel or attract sharks by making the sound of a “dying fish.” Whatever you do, don’t make that sound at home if you live by the beach; it’s a little like the moaning during orgasm, which might explain some of those cases of coitus interruptus selachimorphaus reported in coastside cities. <- Writing something like this is what happens to you when you watch low-budget movies.

Sure, at one point it looks like shark and croc are fighting, but there’s fighting and then there’s love-tussling. Riddle me this: why are they always biting each other’s tail? Why, with all the biting, does neither creature get hurt? Why do I have bite marks all over my buttocks, which cost me $400 plus the hotel room for a night?

Before I forget: congratulations to the Bronson Caves in Griffith Park. This is the 5,000th movie to use them, here standing in for a coal mine in the Congo, where ten extras or so shovel and pick till Crocie shows up and sends them running off to Palm Avenue in Burbank to collect their paychecks for the day. Or down to the South Coast Botanic Gardens in Palos Verdes (take the 110), for a couple of pick-up shots while not bumping into all the other crews there already.

Note: Meggie jumped the shark multiple times in Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus. Will he do so again? Let’s find out. Sinking the Lane Victory doesn’t count. I’m convinced that was an accident. Swallowing a sub, though, perhaps that was a little thoughtless of him, or her.

My favorite line in the movie: “They’ve got to stop hitting the shark! He’s got a nuclear submarine inside him.”

If you’re wondering about star Gary Stretch’s nose, he used to be a prizefighter. He obviously got poked in the snoot more than once. He also dated Raquel Welch when he was younger than her two kids. She was 57 at the time. He goes through the movie with something wrong with his face. Makeup? A skin condition? He has also been in some decent movies, but such is Hollywood. Joan Crawford played Dr. Brockton in Trog.

One of the fun things about watching B-minus movies is listening to the line readings in them. The young woman at the beginning of MSVC commits some real head-scratchers before she gets eaten.Perhaps she has a speech impediment; ditto Gary Stretch. If they’re doing it on purpose, it proves that a little acting training can be a dangerous thing.

Sonje mentions the moment when the doctor is running through the ship being attacked by Meggie and passing bodies lying dead for no reason. I liked the moment when he stepped into a room, picked up a wet suit to put on, and, as the shark destroys the boat, delicately pushes the room’s door shut, to change in privacy.

A few movie facts:

– There are saltwater crocs, so it’s ok for Crocie to spend all that time in the ocean.

– For an excellent croc movie, I recommend Rogue (2007).

– While the crew was shooting on the beach at Leo Carrillo State Park, some pelicans flew by. Production value!

– The babe-osaurus  in the movie is Sarah Lieving. She doesn’t do the I’m-worried Anna Torv thing or the goofy Anna Paquin thing. She’s real serious, but without the burn of Lena Headey or the brains of Angelina Jolie. She’s got by-God white teeth, though, and she worked in one movie as a stunt driver. And she’s living the dream.

– I can’t remember if Meggie is a boy or a girl, or if we even know. He/she is referred to variously as “he” and “she” in the script.

– Something I’d like to check: budget and box office for this Asylum effort vs the same for Corman’s Dinocroc vs Supergator.

– There are a lot, and I mean a lot, of CGI helicopters, no doubt checked out of The Asylum helicopter locker.

– A lot of time and thought and budget is spent on croc eggs. Shark wanting to eat the eggs; croc wanting to protect the eggs. I’m thinking that there is a pro-life or pro-choice message hidden here, but I’m not sure what it is.

– No animals were hurt during the making of this movie, not counting whatever happened to Gary Stretch’s face.

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Collected Dailies 12

The Lost Future (2010) – Worthy SyFy TV effort, filmed in South Africa. The sound recording makes the dialog seem dubbed, but the movie is something to watch on your iPhone, so that’s ok. Sean Bean doesn’t have the stone face of the usual hero, but that’s because he can act.

***

Sons of Anarchy (Season 3) – Richard Thompson’s “Dad’s Going to Kill Me” plays throughout the final scene of the premiere. Dynamite.

***

3 Women (1977) – A reminder of the greatness that was 70s cinema. But where is Shelley Duvall’s Oscar nomination? A role for the ages.

***

The Warrior’s Way (2011) – Korean cinema has been great for westerns. Dong-gun Jang is great in the Eastwood role, substituting sword for gun. Perfect role for Kate Bosworth. Sngmoo Lee directs.  Filmed in New Zeland, also serving the genre well.

***

Tamara Drewe (2010) – Gemma Arterton, back from being Queen of Persia, joins an entertaining cast of English locals in an old-fashioned country comedy.

***

Children’s Hospital (Season 1) – Six episodes, five minutes each. Packs a lot that is funny into that thirty minutes. Ditto Season 2.

***

Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown (2011) – Michael Jai White and four worthy youngsters perform some well-filmed MMA. A little sex, a little soap. Pretty good genre flick.

***

Fringe (Season Three) – Did not disappoint. I mourned the loss of Lost, but I needn’t have. Multiple universes, multiple futures, time travel, mysterious beings, soap. It’s all here.

***

Ironclad (2011) – Good historical drama about the defense of Rochester Castle after King John turned his back on the Magna Carta. Paul Giamatti does a swell King John, earning his check with a couple of worthy monologs. Brian Cox is a mighty warrior, believe it or not. At least until Paul whacks off his hands and feet. Jonathan English was working on a small budget here, but he made me believe. At one point he turns five horses into an army; ah, the magic of digital… The tagline is “Heavy metal goes medieval,” which suggests that English wasn’t served well by the Marketing department. The movie is a serious effort, including Charles Dance and Derek Jacobi in the cast. The Danes are played by Czechs and Hungarians. The suffering Templar is James Purefoy.

***

The Last Kung Fu Monk (2010) – Heart’s in the right place. I’m walking away from the wisecracks. Probably plays better with its Mandarin and Cantonese dubs.

***

Bridesmaids (2011) – Interesting to watch episodes of 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, and this movie, comparing the work of Fey, Pohler, and Wiig. Three sisters.

***

Stake Land (2010) – Zombieland meets Winter’s Bone. One of my top five zombie movies.

***

X-Men: First Class (2011) – Having been present during the Cuban missile crisis, I can report that I don’t remember any panic buying or heading for the hills or other such activities. The primary mood was one of anxious resignation. Definitely put a crimp in the world series, in which the Yankees beat the Giants in game 7 ten days before the resolution of the crisis.

***

Tracker (2010) – I’ve seen some comparisons to Seraphim Falls (2006), which I liked but can’t remember the ending of. Neeson vs Brosan. It kept me guessing till the end. This one is just as scenic but more plot heavy, with some complicated moral juggling between Maori, Hottentot, Boer, and the British Empire. Ray Winstone is totally believable as a Boer, and then in the included interviews, he’s this colloquial Hackney character. I guess that’s why they call it acting. I remember liking Michelle Yeoh in something – Crouching Tiger maybe – as a down-to-earth martial artist, and then watching her glammed up in a post interview and thinking, hey, what happened to Michelle?

***

Barney’s Version (2010) – Barney is required to look across the room and instantly fall in love with the woman he sees.  Rosamund Pike makes it seem reasonable to me, though not to she with whom I was watching.

***

With the amazing “The World As I Found It” and to some extent “Quicksilver,” I forget that I’m reading fiction.

***

Kill the Irishman (2011) – Cleveland in the ’70s, back when Cleveland meant something. Now it ranks 45th in population in the U.S.

***

Small Town Murder Songs (2010) – And swell songs they are. A movie about redemption. Good to see that somebody still believes in it.

***

13 Assassins (2010) – Excellent genre movie, that, while entertaining us, reminds us that humans have evolved way too rapidly, which is why we’ll end up extinct at some point, having all killed each other off… Part way through the movie, one of the assassins says, “Only 130 [of the enemy] left.” It didn’t occur to me at the time that he was actually saying, “Ten bad guys per assassin left at this point.” Then, each assassin proceeded to kill many more than ten, so I guess his count was off.

***

Night of the Demons (2010) – Seven demons so bad they’re kicked out of hell. Still, while they do manage to kill off a bunch of kids (of the thirty- and forty-something variety), they can’t quite finish the job, with that one spunky young woman surviving, with a swagger…

***

Zatôichi monogatari  (TV series, 1974-1979) – If you’re a fan of the manyZatôichi movies and can lay your hands on this new DVD collection of the TV series, do so.

***

Fringe (Season 3) – Promising beginning, with two of everybody. Could get very complicated, and I hope that it does.

 ***

Blitz (2011) – One more chance for me to try and remember how Jason Statham’s last name is spelled. A well-made movie that reminds us why it’s important to have violent, rogue cops on the force beating and killing evil doers who evade convicton by the criminal justice system, or never get that far once Jason gets his hands on them. I spent the movie marvelling at how much the bad guy reminded me of the guy who gets elected mayor in The Wire and holy cow, it’s him. Statham’s police boss tells him to cool it a while or he’ll be fired and Statham replies, “This [beating and killing] is what I know how to do.”

***

Super (2011) – Entertaining but not for everyone, as there is an unmistakable whiff of snuff porn present in it. Good to see Gregg Henry working, and Rooker, of course. Everyone involved is swell.

***

Cypher (2002) – Not quite the same ride, the second time around, but still fun. I’ll watch anything with Lucy Liu’s slightly crossed eyes in it.

***

Outsourced (2006) – American guy goes to work in India, is initially clueless. I wonder how I’d make out, spending my days as I do with as many India-born  workers as Euro-Americans. Ditto for China.

***

Your Highness (2011) – Undistinguished low comedy, with some laughs. In a recent column about some other movie, David Denby commented that CGI, in the future, will help deliver movies to us in a shape that we can’t even imagine now. I thought of that as I watched Your Highness. Regardless of the movie’s content, the landscapes and effects kept catching my eye and tickling my imagination.

 ***

Gunless (2010) – Slings and Arrows being my all-time favorite series, I was delighted to discover that its star Paul Gross was cast as The Montana Kid in this Canadian oater. Too bad his wife Martha Burns wasn’t in it too. That would have been perfect. Hurrah for Canadian movies.

***

The Beaver (2011) – This is how I picture Martin Riggs ending up.

***

Dinner for Schmucks (2010) – Add this to the list of movies I skipped for a while because of the savage reviews, but ended up liking… Athough now that I review the NYT and Ebert, I find that they both liked it too.

***

Viewing on the plane (I like those little seatback screens): Hanna, Paul, Fast Five, Thor, Win Win, Diamonds Are Forever, The Expendables, episodes of Community, Justified, Eastbound and Down, and Big Bang Theory. And others that I was too groggy to remember. A consolation of really long flights, along with the cup-o-noodles and free beer and wine that Cathy serves.

***

Cinderella (1950) – It’s been a while. That duet at the ball recalls the 40s and is still pretty great.

***

True Blood (Season 2) – David Thomson in his massive book of biographies has an entry for Anna Paquin, stating that her work in True Blood is, I don’t know, the greatest acting of the decade or something like that. I sat staring at that entry for a while. The man was jonesing when he wrote it, must have been, but it caused me to try out Season 2 again and this time I’m totally hooked.

***

The Politician’s Wife (1995) – Three-part BBC mini-series. If you like political drama with some kinky sex thrown in, this is on top of the top of the heap. Don’t miss it. Strangely, IMDB buries Juliet Stevenson below the fold. She is the star of the show.

***

Moon (2009) – Still excellent the second time. May Duncan Jones not be corrupted by the big budget for his third effort.

***

Source Code (2011) – Spoiler. Plus a few words in case your eyes keeping moving but you really don’t want it spoiled. The real loser in this script is poor old Sean Fentress. First he gets blown up and then, when he survives, he’s been replaced by Mr. Stevens. Kudos to Frédérick De Grandpré, who plays a reflection in a mirror and a train window.

***

Anton Chekhov’s The Duel (2010) – Anger, hysteria, great scenery, and of course, a duel.

***

The Pretender (Season 1) – Formula 90s series. Super-guy can be a doctor, jet pilot, race-car drive, etc., etc., and uses his powers to right wrongs, one wrong at a time. I was entertained… In fact, I’m finding it hard to stop watching.

***

Parks and Recreation (Season 2) – Watched a couple of episodes. Made me laugh. Will watch more.

***

Arthur (2011) – Watched some of it. Quality goofiness. Greta Gerwig delivers some strange line readings. If I ever have the movie around again, I want to go back and replay some of them, to figure out what she was trying to do. Mumblecore star finds herself confronting Russell Brand, Jennifer Garner, Helen Mirren, etc.

***

Limitless (2011) – Fun. What’s new in Limitless? Needing a drug badly and obtaining it by licking up blood from an exsanguinating man, from the linoleum.

***

I was in the library today and just happened to see David Thomson’s book “Have You Seen…” on the shelf. I checked it out. The book comprises 1,000 pages, each page containing the author’s thoughts about a particular movie. It’s an unbelievable performance and makes me want to write one-page reviews like his (without the intellectual content, I’m afraid). Note to self: try this with a current or recent movie that I’ve seen. Some fellow movie bloggers do this already. Taken together with Thomson’s gigantic volume of biographical sketches of those who make movies, which I also checked out the other day, one is in possession of some large percentage of all movie knowledge. The trick is to move that data and those pensees from betwixt the covers of the books, into the brain. I happen to be watching Limitless (2011) but don’t have the pills that Bradley Cooper has.

***

 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010) – David Thomson, along with many other critics, designates the late 60s/early 70s as the last golden age of movies. Watching Harry Potter, with all its imaginative inventiveness and technical expertise, next to Cable Hogue, reminds me that there is something ineffable about those old movies that I don’t often find in movies today.

***

The Balland of Cable Hogue (1970) – Looks like Robards did Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) and came back for this reprise with Peckinpah. It goes in my “How have I missed this movie for the past 40 years?” bin. I love westerns. Peckinpah was my Tarantino back in the day. Maybe I saw Cable Hogue and forgot it, but it’s too good for that.

***

You Never Can Tell (1977) – Settle back and enjoy. Shaw comedy of errors first staged in 1897… Act 2. Seven at table in the restaurant, plus the waiter. Where can you find extended scenes with dialog like this today? Fie on the quick cut. Drama is dead. Just watch a couple of Tony winners if you don’t believe me… No, not dead, just sadly wanting. It’s like American male soccer. All the best athletes sign up for pro careers in football, hockey, basketball, and baseball. I presume that potential playrights are doing the same sort of thing in the entertainment business.

***

The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief (2006) – Documentary about clubs in Osaka where young women pay young men (hosts) to drink with them, play with them, romance them, etc. Not something that you’d find in the U.S., to put it mildly… Turns out, the only women who can afford the full treatment when they come in – and some of them have been coming in for four or five years – are sex workers looking for fun and company.

***

The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) – I’ve listened to a number of Connelly books on tape, including several of the Mick Haller numbers. Clever plotting. This is a worthy screen adaptation. McConaughey usually strikes me as a little goofy, but likable.

***

Gunfight at La Mesa (2010) – I watched more than an hour of this one, just because it wears its heart on its sleeve and because it was filmed in southern New Mexico. Small, amateurish, subject to critical abuse of all sorts for its myriad goofs and bad acting, I, like the guy at DVD Verdict, in spite of all that, wish the makers well. Keep trying! But don’t show us the Rio Grande and tell us that we’re in Arizona.

***

Hobo with a Shotgun (2011) – God bless Rutger Hauer. It’s been a while, but he’s finally found himself in another classic.

***

Insidious (2010) – Fun horror. Interesting to watch Lin Shaye and Barbara Hershey acting side by side. They’re both well into their 60s, Lin with her normal face, Barbara with that generic lift that has removed her individuality completely (or tell me that I’m wrong).

***

Breaking Bad (Season 3) – Series like this one are clinics in plotting. It’s fun to speculate in advance about the twists.

***

Choose Me (1984) – A movie that makes me want to write.

***

The Man of Destiny (1981) – A young Simon Callow as Napolean. My 11th Shaw play. I’ll be sad to finish all of the plays that have been committed to film. Then the only way to see a new one will be to track down some obscure stage performance. Nothing wrong with that, if I could find one… Callow does a rousing job. Thirty years later, he has had an estimable career, but maybe not as glorious a one as this performance might have predicted.

***

Chungking Express (1994) – Finally I watch it. The Criterion edition. A lot to like.

***

Cedar Rapids (2011) – Congenial, life-affirming humor. Made me laugh.

***

Unknown (2011) – Liam Neeson, up against Johnny Depp in The Tourist (2010). Which of the two plots is sillier? Hard to decide.

 ***

Scary Movie 3 (2003) – When I want to laugh and not think, I return to a Zucker movie that I’ve seen. They are dependable that way, for me.

 ***

Breaking Bad, Season 3 – At one point my spouse asked me why I was laughing. Thinking about it, the show is sort of a comedy… It makes Albuquerque seem a lot more interesting that I ever found it… Have they given Danny Trejo two cameos now, and killed him off in both?

***

Scary Movie 4 (2006) – Picked it up thinking that it was Scream 4 (2011), but that’s ok. Made me laugh again the second time.

***

Arms and the Man (1989) – Helena Bonham Carter at 23 wiggles her brows in the service of her art. Early Shaw.

***
The Adjustment Bureau (2011) – The producer sits in his office and the door bursts open. In rushes an agent waving a piece of paper. “I’ve found another Philip K. Dick story, and Damon is available!”

***
Devil in a Blue Dress (1995) – Holds up nicely. Cheadle still great as the homicidal Mouse. Too bad it did poorly at the box office; no more Mosely books onscreen. It was the first film that Washington’s Munday Lane company helped finance. They rounded up a lot of 40s automobiles for this one; that and the way they dressed a four-block neighborhood, plus the star salaries, account for most of the $50 million (in 1995) budge.

***

The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009) – Several “I’d watch him in anything” stars, and I enjoyed watching them in this.

***

Battle Los Angeles (2011) – I watched long enough to get a look at an alien. The aliens could learn something from the Taliban or the Viet Cong.

***

Sherlock (2010) – BBC. Three episodes in the first season. Totally entertaining. Sherlock with a cell phone, computer, and a Doctor Watson just back from combat in Afghanistan. Can’t wait for next season.

***

Mrs. Harris (2005) – Annette Bening and Ben Kingsley, a most entertaining couple. As the movie began, showing the beginning and end of their relationship, I expected the usual arc from happiness to unhappiness. In this case, the details of the arc were more unexpected and more entertaining than usual.

***

Bomber (2009) – Film Movement never disappoints me. Good road movie (Holland and Germany) for the older demo.

***

Le Mans (1971) – I had forgotten Le Mans, mistaking it for Grand Prix (1966). If you want to experience Formula 1 racing and the 24 Hours at Le Mans, this is the film for you. Almost a documentary. Makes me want to revisit Grand Prix, which I remember as awful soapy, and Winning (1969), which I remember liking a lot. Newman had that long racing career and Winning fit right in.

***

Just Go with It (2011) – I like Adam Sandler. In this one, he’s a plastic surgeon and Jennifer Aniston is his assistant. Someone asks him if she’s had work done and he says no, she’s just naturally beautiful. However, she doesn’t look quite real in her closeups. Just heavy makeup?

***

Midnight Run (1988) – Holds up on all counts. Who would have guessed, watching it, that Charles Grodin was about to go way right wing. Took a look at his wiki but can’t tell where his head is at these days.

***

The Verdict (1982) –  Boy, this movie and Bachelor Party seem so old. Were the early 80s that long ago? Anyway, The Verdict holds up. Newman, Warden, Mason, O’Shea, Rampling, Lumet, Mamet. Wow.

***

Bachelor Party (1984) –  Hanks is 28, but seems younger. Clunky but considered a classic? and it made me laugh, which is sufficient. Loaded with actors who never went anywhere.

***

True Grit (2010) – An honorable western, reminding me how much I enjoyed the book by Portis, and his The Dog of the South as well.

Dinocroc Vs. Supergator (2010)

“Dino” and “Super.” Do they have sex? They’re different species. You don’t see crocs and gators hooking up that much, but you know why? Because in the animal documentaries, they’re living in different neighborhoods and in the zoo, they’re kept apart – rather cruelly, I think.

But down in the sewers, where all those flushed-down crocs and gators and turtles and goldfish live, gators and crocs are liable to hook up all the time. So why not in this movie? Because we don’t want to lose the kid demo with an R rating? I saw one of those flicks make over in the Valley, where the guy was dressed up in a gator suit with a hole cut in it, if you know what I mean, and the girl wore a Little Mermaid costume. Perverse. But fun, because they had a SpongeBob stud running around in the background chasing his starfish buddy and then they… but that’s a different movie. Here, the scientists tell us that gators and crocs are mortal enemies. Hey, men and women are mortal enemies. Ask my wife ha ha. But you confront a red-blooded dude croc with a hot female gator and watch the fireworks. “Mommy, Daddy, are you fighting? Daddy, are you hurting Mommy? What’s all that moanin?”

But are this supergator and this dinocroc the same sex? What the heck difference does that make? Let’s move on.

Oops! Hold on! Wait a minute! What am I thinking? We’re not talking gator/croc love, that thing is a dinogator. It walks on its two hind legs, like a T-Rex. This guy is not going to toss some mud-lovin croc babe who crawls around on all fours! Fergeddaboutit. Plus, up on those two legs, Dinogator does seem to mince.

Roger Corman’s name is slathered all over the DVD box. It’s like he’s become a sort of Betty Crocker of B movies. The man is 86 but his money is still good. He produced, or was involved in the production of, Dinocroc (2004),  Supergator (2007),  Sharktopus (2010), Dinoshark (2010),  and the upcoming, wait for it, Piranhaconda (2011). Make sure that you catch the earlier flicks for the full backstory on our protagonists. As for Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus (2009) and Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus (2010), Corman wasn’t involved in those embarrassing knock-offs.

Jim Wynorski (“Jay Andrews”), the director of myriad exploitation movies, actually shows up in this one. As far as I know, it’s his only appearance on film. He was set to shoot a scene and the Hawaiian local he had for the job simply couldn’t say his lines. Wynorski had to step around the camera into the shot and do it for him. You probably know Wynorski from his hits, such as Busty Coeds vs. Lusty Cheerleaders (2011) and The Hills Have Thighs (2010). He made this film for Corman on spec; they sold it to the SyFy Channel with no deal in advance. Corman didn’t get to the top of the mountain without guessing right most the time, as he did here.

And a moment of silence for David Carradine, who had quite a few unreleased movies in the can when he accidentally killed himself. I’m assuming that he’s still alive in these posthumous movies. Decrepit but alive. Kids, if you like to strangle yourself while masturbating, be sure to do your homework in advance.

The movie was shot in exotic Kaua’i and the Pasadena arboretum. There is one reason to watch it: turn on the Corman/Wynorski commentary and listen to them respond to questions from Perry Martin. Learn something about location shooting, casting, funding, and other aspects of low-budget movie-making, while in the background a gaggle of actors make a paycheck and the two stars eat a lot more than is good for them, without much chewing.

Choose Me (1984)

Watched Choose Me again the other night. Still love it.

Alan Rudolph wrote and directed it. How I think it happened:

Alan is sitting in a bar in Hollywood, waiting for someone like me to show up and drink with him and talk shop. He draws a diagram on a bar napkin. Three men, say, and three women. Each man hooks up with a woman, then they switch around a couple of times, the couples. It happens mostly in a bar like the one Alan is sitting in. The rest of it happens in a house like his house. A Hollywood house with a classic 40s vibe. Alan is going upbeat, technicolor noir. Everybody smokes. If the cigarette still has length, stick it in the corner of the mouth; smoke it down to the fingernails.

There will be a deep ambiguity at the core of the movie, Alan decides, right up front. That’s key. Gravitas and the comic. The hero, the main guy, the lead – perfect for Keith Carradine, he was great in Nashville, Keith with his hair slicked back, what a mug – is either a crazy liar or a f**king hero – I’ll never say which for sure, Alan thinks. First the audience will assume crazy, then hero, then crazy, then hero, then… at the end, we’ll take thirty seconds to rub their collective nose in the ambiguity, so they’ll all go Who wrote that?

The other actors, Patrick Bauchau makes a good bad guy with his accent, John Larroquette makes a good schmoe. The women? Can’t get Sarandon, so cast Leslie Ann Warren as the first lead, and Genevieve Bujold as the second, and Rae Dawn Chong as the young one.

Now I just need Keith to “interact” with each of the women, and the bad guy deals with them too, but he only yells at them or cuffs them onscreen, doesn’t get to smooch them or worse. The schmoe interacts with the lead woman, but only so he can go all hangdog on her for the rest of the movie. Poor man’s Greek chorus, him and Rae Dawn.

Done plotting. No, wait. Keith and the bad guy have to fight at least once.

Now, the direction:

All six actors are reading my lines. I want those lines to stay mine, not become theirs, so they all have to do their readings word-by-word. First audience reaction to this? That none of the actors can act. But nah, that can’t be right, they’ll think. Rae Dawn gets dumped on by the critics sometimes, but the rest are blue-ribbon. It can’t be them. It must be the director pulling the strings. It must be that the movie is like a play, or a musical, or something. Those upbeat-noir colors. That street set. The coincidences. That guy noodling with his saxaphone all the way through. Teddy Pendergrass treating the movie like his own private music video.

And boom, Alan is done, just as I walk up and tell him that I’ll have what he’s having.

Only, I’m not complaining because Alan is a very smart dude and he throws a lot of style up there onto the screen, provides a smooth, hip trip. Plus, I’ve always had a thing for Bujold.

“I can’t believe you forgot…”

You know how a podcast will do a “Top 5,” and then the phone call comes in with the guy saying, “Hey, dudes, I can’t believe you forgot “Marley and Me,” or whatever? And you’d like to call in too but you can’t think of a good movie that they forgot in their list? Well, here’s a list that you can use, of movies nobody has seen, so they can’t argue with you, along with the reasons why the movies are important.

1. Range Feud (1931) (Western) – John Smith, NYT: “Keep this kid John Wayne up on his horse with his mouth shut, and someday he’ll be a big star.”

2. Fast and Loose (1930) (Comedy) – Mike Smith, NYT: “This gal Carole Lombard has a real big future, if she’ll only stop flying in those newfangled aeroplanes.”

3. Sing You Sinners (1938) (Musical) – Francois Smith, NYT: “This kid Donald O’Connor obviously has a musical bug up his butt. He had me dancing on the walls.”

4. Swamp Water  (1941) (Noir) –  Muhammad Smith, NYT: “This young man Dana Andrews acts like he’s been drinking the swamp water. Destined for greatness if he can keep it down.”

5. The Singing Princess (1949) (Family) – Ang Poo Smith, NYT: “Forget Stefano Sibaldi, Germana Calderini, Giulio Panicali, Olinto Cristina, Mario Besesti, Giovanna Scotto, Renata Marini, Lauro Gazzolo, Maria Saccenti, Beatrice Preziosa, Carlo Romano, Sakella Rio, Luisa Malagrida, F. Delle Fornaci, and Giulio Fioravanti, all billed in front of her. It’s this kid Julie Andrew’s voice that tells me she is headed for stardom and that puts the look on my face that my wife must never see.”

6. Bloody Mama (1970) (Drama) – John Galt Smith, NYT: “This kid playing Lloyd Barker? Put him in a taxicab or a pair of boxing gloves and I’d pay to see what he’d do next, the little focker.”

Collected Dailies 11

I find that an hour of Sons of Anarchy followed by an hour from a Shaw play such as Heartbreak House, makes for fun viewing. The contrast emphasizes the strong points of both.

***

Bright Star (2009) – There is a moment in this beautifully made film that was just perfect for me. I hope to revisit it. On my not-worthy side, Ben Whishaw kept reminding me of a young Johnny Carson.

***

Fast & Furious (2009) – I like this franchise. Number 4 is an honest effort. So was number 3. I’m glad to see that number 5 is being so well received.

***

I Love You Phillip Morris (2009) – Acting school is now in session.

***

 Drive Angry (2011) – It’s why I watch movies.

***

To Die For (1995) – When this movie came out, I glanced at the reviews and gathered that it was a serious movie about a woman who killed herself, probably courtesy of an eating disorder, in her attempt to reach the top of the TV news business. A podcast set me straight the other day, and I finally watched this topnotch black comedy.

***

 One False Move (1992) – How did I miss this class movie? Bill Pullman takes the Timmy Olyphant Justification role, same voice, just fine, years before acquiring those three wives and settling down in a series with them. This is Billy Bob Thornton five years before Sling Blade. I forget who his dialog coach was, but I could have got those line readings out of him better. I wonder if Angelina ever saw him in this one… He married his co-star (Cynda Williams) shortly after the movie wrapped… Texas grows some extra hills as the Texas scenes were shot in California.

***

The Rite (2011) – Worthy film for exorcism lovers. At the end of the movie, when the young priest must amp it up to cast out a devil, we have a good example of shouting versus having-a-big-voice. A Geigud or Olivier or even Hopkins, the shoutee here, could scare the devil out of an oak tree with a couple of good roars blowing straight up from their fundament. Colin O’Donoghue has the priestly genes ok, but not, or not yet, the true exorcist’s lungs and voicebox.

***

The Mechanic (2011) – Comparing this one to The Mechanic (1972): in the early 70s, the hero is flawed, suffers, and dies; in 2010, the hero is the thunking heart of a potential franchise, dude. You’d be crazy to kill him. If you did make that mistake, as they did in Crank (2006), fergeddabout it. Bring him back anyway in Crank 2 (2009), with no apologies.

***

The Town (2010) – Affleck channels early De Niro in a film rooted not in Charlestown but in Hollywood.

***

 MILF (2010) – Before you deride these actors, remember that if you were called on to star in a movie tomorrow, you wouldn’t do half as well as they do, probably. Plus, at least half of them have had their teeth whitened.

***

The Tourist (2010) – Two things about the movie: (1) The viewer’s wonderment at the ending. Really? Two big stars? Big budget? And you’re going here? See my Life in Hollywood posts for an explanation of the scriptwriting business. (2) Angelina Jolie. It’s just about looking at her. It’s fun. She’s like a Star Trek alien of some kind, but in a good way.

***

The Next Three Days (2010) – Brian Dennehy gives a class in how to keep all eyes on you even when you have absolutely nothing to do in a scene. Elizabeth Banks tries out this and that; some of it works.

***

Fish Tank (2009) – Good looks at Barking, Tower Hamlets, Dagenham, Havering, Tilbury, and Stanford le Hope, all on the east side of London. Doesn’t make me want to live there, though.

***

Fringe (Season 2) – There is a term, which I forget, for standalone episodes thrown into a series that has a through line. BSG would do this from time to time. I usually find these episodes annoying, and in Fringe they abound, at least up to Episode 8 of the second season, at which point things get back on track (that’s where I am now). Someone on a podcast mentioned the patience shown by the network wrt to this dilly-dallying, and I decided to keep watching through the seemingly detached Episodes 6 and 7 at this promise of things to come. The main story, or what little of it has been revealed, has finally returned and I’m interested in it… Ulp. Episode 9, back to the standalone. Episode 10, back to the through story… 11, back to standalone. The series is more standalone than through. But every once in a while they throw in a few moments of the mysterious central character played by, yes, Leonard Nimoy. Hard to leave when he’s hovering around… Oh, never mind. It’s almost all standalone. But sort of entertaining.

***

The Good Guy (2009) – The bad guys are Ebert and the NYT, who suggested that this movie was worth watching. It features (1) that sinking feeling you get when you suddenly realize where the plot is going; you’ve been there before, many times, (2) the female protagonist suffers from Meg-Ryan-helicopter-pilot syndrome: she’s a wet noodle who is supposed to be on her way to directorship of a big-city department; no way. The movie also fails that test, the name of which I’ve forgotten: (1) It has two or more women in it, check, (2) They talk to each other, check, (3) They talk about something besides men, nope.
***

Legion (2009) – Seems like I’ve seen Dennis Quaid in so many movies that I’ve liked. Catch him in Savior (1998) for the rare movie in which he never smiles, or grins that grin of his; although he doesn’t smile much in this one, either… Question: while Michael and Gabriel are fist-fighting to determine the fate of the world, what are the other two archangels, Uriel and Raphael, doing?

***

Ocean’s 12 (2004) – Rewatching with the spouse. I find the Ocean movies eminently rewatchable.

***

Heartbreak House (1977) – Eighth Shaw play in my marathon.

***
Sports Night
(1998) – Laugh track. The first chuckle, I thought it was a cast member. Maybe Sorkin himself. Next chuckle, disbelief. Then a cast member read a benign line that was followed by a guffaw from the track. So I watched maybe two minutes of Season One. Not bad, except for the track.

***

Grown Ups (2010) –  I’ll add this to the list of movies that got horrible reviews but I liked anyway. Not unusual when Adam Sandler is involved. And I did quit partway through, just because I had other stuff to watch. Ditto Police Academy (1984). The Green Hornet (2011) Seth Rogen slimming down. How often does that happen? Plus, Admiral Adama in retirement. The big-screen extravaganza at the end somewhat lessened by viewing on letterboxed PC on stomach in bed.

***
Secretariat (2010) – Written by the Sports Movie Screenwriting Robot with it’s originality chip removed, the film still engaged me in the race scenes, especially the last one. Though there is an unfortunate moment in one of the first races where the film is speeded up to make the horses run faster. That was just embarassing.

 ***

Rabbit Hole (2010) – Nice. Screenplay by the author of the play. Might have been best not to watch it in parallel with Mrs. Warren’s Profession, though. Shaw is tough to be compared to.

***

Mrs. Warren’s Profession (1960) – Mother and daughter discuss at length the moral and social imperatives that cause one to choose prostitution and the other engineering. My seventh Shaw play and just as engrossing as the other six… Shaw drops a rare bombshell plot twist at the end of Act 2 in this one.

***

The Special Relationship (2010) – I’ve always thought that Hope Davis sort of looks like Hilary Clinton. Through all of Season 2 of In Treatment, there Hilary was, with her therapist. Now Hope  gets to actually play Hilary and they’ve made her look less like her. Strange.

***

Sons of Anarchy – Wife of the club president enters menopause. Now that’s a biker show.

***
Conviction
(2010) – The spouse liked it. I got a little bored although, paradoxically, Hillary Swank and Sam Rockwell were never boring.

***

Fair Game (2010) – Eight years of Bush and his minions. I’m sure glad that they’re gone. There is a school of thought that the Civil War was caused mainly because of a failure of the government to solve the political problems between North and South in the ’50s. Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan come in for a lot of blame. I wonder how the Bush administration would have handled that challenge.

***

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) –  A worthy addition to the “Drift” subgenre of racing movies. Unanswered question: How is Vin Diesel ever going to get that huge muscle car to drift at the end of the movie?… We learn here that you can get by perfectly well in Tokyo, going to high school, working, etc., without speaking a word of Japanese.

***

The Train (1964) – If you want to watch old steam engines puff around and derail and get bombed, this is your movie. Ditto if you want Burt Lancaster in his prime, doing plenty of his own stunts. Probably couldn’t afford to make a movie like this today, outside of the Thomas shorts.

***

Medicine for Melancholy (2008) – Indie movie. African-American mumblecore vibe. The medicine is to hang out with a good-looking, articulate, passionate stranger in San Francisco for twenty-four hours or so. Wears off shortly after the stranger leaves?

***

In all the movies, they hold the flashlight overhand. I probably never have. I’m thinking that the next time, I’m gonna do it, even if it’s a little tiny single-AAA battery guy.

***

Local Hero (1983) – Haven’t watched it in years. Still great.

***

Mrs Warren’s Profession (BBC Play of the Month) – Seventh in my Shaw marathon. Begins, like so many Shaw plays, with a long scene introducing the four principal characters while we observers sit back and enjoy the dialog.

***

Stone (2010) – I haven’t looked into it, but this seems like the project of someone who has had some success and can now make any movie that he/she wants. At any rate, a labor of love. It’s a meditation, with stars, unlike most dramas out there.

***

Chantrapas (2010) – My second visit to a film festival, this one the San Francisco International. Chantrapas was two hours spent mostly in the Republic of Georgia, or whatever they’re calling it these days. I liked the movie and I liked the festival venue and atmosphere. The writer/director of the movie, Otar Iosseliani, a very European-seeming curmudgeon, came out before and after the movie for Q&A, which itself was worth the price of admission.

Back in the day, bel canto became all the rage in St. Petersburg, and the Italians set up a school to teach it. When a child came to try out, the Italians, not speaking Russian (and the Russians not speaking Italian), would say, in French, either “Chantra” or “Chantrapas.” That is, “You can sing” or “You can’t sing.” “Chantrapas” became a synonym for “failure.” After Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, and sundry other notables were deemed chantrapas, the word came to mean, not a failure, but someone out of the ordinary. The movie Chantrapas chronicles the movie-making adventures of a young Georgian chantrapas, in his native land and in France. It’s a comedy, but since it deals with the Georgian Communist bureaucracy, it’s not always easy to tell when it’s kidding. Nobody gets shot, but everybody drinks constantly and smokes their brains out. It’s worse than Mad Men that way, if that’s possible.

***

Today’s love letter to Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. The reason I liked Lost so much was that from week to week, anything could happen. Surprises in every show. the Terminator TV series started out with a T888 chasing Sarah and her son and I wondered how that chase could possibly stretch over two seasons. I wasn’t reckoning on other T888-like bad-guy robots who didn’t agree with the T888s, or the liquid metal versions, bad but somehow ambivalent, or the good robots continually evolving, or multiple futures, which seem to keep changing, or present-day soap. The writers are given a blank slate and are invited to create something interesting, and they do.

***

The Girl Who Played with Fire (2009) – Had to go back and read the Wiki plot summary of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009). Was reminded how, when the whole serial killer thing was revealed, I realized that that movie was strong cheese disguised at first by its Swedish vibe. This time around, I picked up the cheesiness even before the gratuitous lesbian sex on the rug. I assume that there was a rug under them. Meanwhile, that whole Wiki thing: it’s like humans as ants, building an anthill. Creepy… And having finished TGWPWF, yes, cheesy, way cheesy.

***

The Major and the Minor (1942)  – I first saw this on TV as a kid staying home from school sick in the 50s. Thought it was awfully romantic. Now, watching the first third or so, I immediately pick up that sort of strange Wilder vibe that is present in various of his movies, to me at least. Rogers is in her thirties and looks it, playing eleven. A lot of suspension of disbelief necessary; otherwise, Ray Milland is just plain nuts… But now, the vibe recedes. But Ginger at the prom, playing a kid only by elevating her voice a little, that’s a stretch. Also, Ginger doesn’t look quite like I remember her, he says, without getting specific. She looks a little older than her true age, in fact… Diana Lynn was only 15 in the movie, so her kid-hood worked better… After the movie was over, I checked the vibe left in my head. Yep. A little strange, a little creepy. Maybe just a little German. Billy Wilder had the creepy gene.

***

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles -The first season ended abruptly, to the shock of the actors, after 9 episodes. For Season 2, we get 22 episodes and after the first four, I’m already mourning the cancellation of the show after two seasons. Oh, well. 18 more to enjoy. There’s a lot of plot room when you can send somebody back from future when things get slow, good guy or bad guy, T888 or liquid metal. Throw in the FBI and a giant evil corporation and high-school romance and road trips and Sarah Connor and her possible love interests and the teen babe robot pretending to be Arnold, with commentaries, and how could this thing get scotched so soon? It’s an outrage.

***

Cairo Time (2009) – Doesn’t make me want to go to Cairo, but I am going to look up the depth of the Nile. I jog every day next to water that ripples like the Nile, when the tide’s in. Then the tide goes out, exposing miles of mud flats and revealing that the water is only about six inches deep… Hmm. Average depth 35 feet. That’s deep.

***

The King’s Speech (2010) – Deserved the Oscar more than The Silence of the Lambs (1991), I thought. The Silence of the Lambs. How did that happen? And why were the lambs silent? What was that about? And why was it so cool that Hopkins ate people? And why does the poster have a moth over Jodie Foster’s mouth? Where’s the lambs?

***

The Switch (2010) – I didn’t quite make it to the end of this one, so remind me. When the mismatched pair in a rom com finally link up at the end, has the one (or the both) who is wacky, eccentric, gruff, or whatever, become less so – has become more normal – or does the other member of the couple just accept him or her for what he or she is? In the recent one with the morning news show and perky news showess, Harrison Ford transforms himself from a mean old bear to a teddy. Which is more unlikly, a complete character transformation at the end or acceptance of a flake into a romantic relationship by a non-flake?

***

Mademoiselle Chambon (2009) – Just watch Brief Encounter again.