I Watch A Lot Of TV & Movies: Nic Cage, Downton Abbey, Stand-Up & More

I’m trying out a new format for these I Watch A Lot Of ____  posts. The problem with using the posters is that I feel like I need to fill in all the space on the right hand side, but I don’t always have that much to say. So, I’m going to go with showing a trailer and then giving my thoughts. Hope it works out. Let me know if one format works better than another for you.

Snake Eyes (1998)

On the Nic Cage scale of craziness, Brian De Palma’s Snake Eyes lands in a nice sweet spot. He’s playing an eccentric cop who’s trying to figure out who shot a government official while attending a boxing match in Atlantic City. He’s also trying to help his pal Gary Sinese and the bodacious looking Carla Gugino, but this is the type of movie where no one is what they seem and everyone has ulterior motives. The story itself is the kind of thing you wouldn’t be surprised to see as an episode of your favorite procedural show, but De Palma does some fun stuff, putting his own spin on it by playing with perspective, showing scenes from different angles and even doing some nice camera work like showing an entire scene from a boxer’s perspective and then moving out of it to reveal him in a mirror. Where’d the camera go?! Those tricks plus the performances make it worth a watch.

Return To Horror High (1987)

To be completely honest, I was doing some work while watching Return To Horror High, so I missed a lot of details. At first I thought it was a legit sequel to a movie called Horror High thanks to the title and the premise that posits a film crew is making a movie at the exact location that an actual slasher struck. But that’s all in the fiction of the movie. By the way, I thought of this while watching Scream 3, I’m actually surprised the Hollywood version of Hollywood is more callous than actual Hollywood when it comes to these kinds of things. I mean, it’s not like there’s been a fictional Columbine movie shot in the school. Anyway, the film is super confusing because it bounced between the movie we’re watching and the movie they’re making. And then there’s an ending that I missed the set up to but completely bewildered me. SPOILER Was the whole thing a setup? Why? You might have heard of this movie for being an early appearance of George Clooney who plays an actor wanting to go off and get super famous (but everyone laughs at him, which is funny) as well as an appearance by Maureen McCormick of Brady Bunch fame. She’s way over the top, but is still cute and adorable.

Janeane Garofalo: If You Will (2010)

Janeane Garofalo is one of those stand-ups that I feel like I’ve known about as long as I’ve known about stand-up comedy. She was very popular in the early days of Comedy Central and I’ve fallowed her career to some extent since then, though I wouldn’t say I’m a super fan because I don’t necessarily actively seek out her stuff. A week or two back I listened to an episode of WTF with her and then noticed that this stand-up special was on the NetBox (lots of good stand-up on Instant) and gave it a watch. I assumed it was going to be much more political than it actually was because of how passionate she was on certain issues when talking to Marc Maron. She definitely gets into some of that stuff, but she makes sure to keep it funny and joke based, which made this a really enjoyable hour of stand-up. Even if you don’t think you like her comedy, give this one a look.

Norm MacDonald: Me Doing Stand-Up (2011)

I loved Norm MacDonald on Saturday Night Live and that love easily transferred over to his movie Dirty Work, but not much past that. So, I was excited to watch this stand-up and it was another solid hour. It starts off pretty dark with his thoughts on death, but they’re both honest and funny, so you can’t go wrong there in book. Gets a little filthy (okay, a lot filthy) at the end, but it made for great background while I was working. This is a great way of listening to stand-up without having to buy records.

Skyline (2010)

I added Skyline to my NetBox queue when I first saw it on there, but I moved it to the top after listening to the How Did This Get Made? episode focusing on it. I actually expected it to be a lot worse than it turned out to be. Yeah, there are problems with the script and editing, but I didn’t find it nearly as ridiculous as those guys did, though maybe I was primed for a lot more than anything could have lived up to. I actually give the filmmakers a lot of credit for putting together such a good looking movie by basically shooting in one guy’s apartment and doing a few set pieces. All that being said, I don’t think it’s a great movie by any means. A good effort with great effects, but it certainly has its problems.

Downton Abbey Season One (2010)

There is no reason on paper that I should like Downton Abbey. It’s based in an era and place (1920s England) that I’m not super duper interested in. It’s based on a class structure that enrages the part of me still susceptible to rage. And, it’s packed with the kind of scheming you only usually find in soap operas (I assume). However, this show is so amazingly well written and the characters are so well put together that I can’t help but get absorbed. The key, I think, is that, the writers give almost every main character an interesting bit of business, but without shoehorning them in. Plus, how can you not love Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess? By the way, I still have no idea what it means to be a count or an earl and yet it has not impeded me whatsoever. All you need to know is that it’s very important to Robert Crawley who might be the best, most awesome dude in the history of television. How long until the second season hits NetBox?

Trespass (2011)

Trespass is not only another Nic Cage movie, but also one that I watched because it was going to be covered on How Did This Get Made? so it’s double related! This is the first HDTGM? movie that I actually watched in preparation for the podcast and it worked out a lot better than my experience with Skyline. It helped that the movie starts off as one thing and keeps changing with every lie and nearly everything that every character says is a lie. It’s ridiculous on so many levels that it’s almost hard to keep track. Cage looks bonkers with his hair and glasses, the pace keeps changing (first they have 20 minutes to get in and out then they spend hours there) and nearly all of the robbers are idiotic drug addicts or psychos making them one of the worst possible crews around to pull of a diamond heist. Even with how bad the movie is, I’m shocked it wasn’t in theaters. Between the big stars and director Joel Schumacher who must have some cred left, right? Maybe not. That’s a lot of supposed star power with very little faith from the studio. In fact, this movie holds the record for least amount of time between it’s opening release (on only 10 screens) and coming out on DVD. Also, it only made $16,816 in its short time in theaters. Wow.

Quick Movie Review: D.C. Cab (1983)

Wow, how is this movie not up there with other 80s icon movies like Beverly Hills Cop and Fletch? Well, possibly because it’s not a tight script like those movies. Many, I love those two flicks. Anyway, DC Cab might suffer from less good plot, but it benefits from starring Mr. T, Adam Bladwin (Jane from Firefly), Gary Busey, Bill Maher and Paul Rodriguez. The idea is that Baldwin’s dad was a cabbie but he died, so Baldwin came to DC to learn how to be a cabbie with the ensemble cast. Like Car Wash, another movie involving Joel Schumacker (he wrote the story for this one and directed) DC Cab features a bunch of blue collar dudes just trying to make a living and be generally alright people while putting up with all the bullshit that comes from doing those kinds of jobs.

In the end, the movie turns out to be a weird kind of ransom story with Baldwin and some jaded rich children getting kidnapped and his fellow cabbies rallying to save him (and the kids presumably).

I added this movie to my queue for two reasons. The first being that I remembered this poster/cover from the old VHS days of video rental and the second being that it stars my namesake Mr. T. Okay, so he’s not my namesake, but I did get the chance to interview the guy once while at Wizard and it was a truly amazing experience (look for the full transcript coming soon). He’s kind of a bit player in the movie, but he does his usual schtick. The real surprise here was Busey who I didn’t even know was in the flick but acted exactly as you might expect him to. I had a great time watching this flick last night and would recommend anyone to do the same on Netflix’s instant watch, but the movie expires today. Maybe this will be like one of those Starz movies that “deletes” and then reappears right away, but I would recommend this for any 80s action/comedy fans who don’t mind watching a little nonsense before seeing Mr. T rough some dudes up.

Can You Believe Joel Schumacher Wrote Car Wash?

That’s right folks, the man behind Batman & Robin, Falling Down, Number 23, Phone Booth, Bad Company and a bunch of other movies, wrote the 1976 movie Car Wash, about one day’s work in a California car wash. Think of it as an Empire Records-type, one day glimpse at the relationships, drama and regular work that goes into keeping a place running.

I was flipping through my Netflix online queue Friday night and decided on Car Wash because it wasn’t very long AND George Carlin and Richard Pryor were emblazoned on the cover. I kind of figured this was one of those occurrences where somewhat unknown actors who would go on to be famous were in the movie or they didn’t have big parts, but were still featured because they were names, thus garnering them the box art. I’m not sure which was the case, but Pryor has one scene (though he shows up in a picture on a wall) and Carlin plays a cab driver trying to get paid.

The real focus of the story lands on all the guys working in the car wash and the owner. There are a few familiar faces in the group. SNL’s Garrett Morris is there as is a young Bill Duke (Mac in Predator) playing the angry black man. Also, Otis Day who kinda plays himself in Animal House is there as Lloyd, half of the Lloyd and Floyd singing team with high hopes. Lorrain Gray even makes an appearance as the mother of a boy who can’t stop puking. I recognized her but couldn’t place it, but thanks to IMDb, I now know that she played Ellen Brody in Jaws. Connections to SNL, Animal House, Predator and Jaws? How can you go wrong?

The thing about Car Wash is that there’s a lot going on. The car wash employs a TON of people, all of whom seem to have a side story (one guys’ having trouble with his lady, the other’s parole officer shows up, another’s trying to get with a girl who works nearby), plus you’ve got various customers, the owner of the car wash and a subplot about a mad bomber. But even with all that it feels like a complete movie. There isn’t much in the way of resolution at the end of the movie, but I kind of like that. This is just one day out of many in their lives. Maybe things will change tomorrow, but they probably won’t. It’s kind of fun to think about where things would have gone the next day. It’s a nice slice of life.

One character I do want to point out for my fellow geeks is TC. He’s the guy trying to get the girl of his dreams to pay attention to him. He’s also trying to win concert tickets on the radio (something I tried and succeeded at a time or two in high school). Also, also, he’s created a superhero called The Fly that he wears on his T-shirt. I think he created it. TC compares him
to Superman, which is fun. Now that I think about it, TC might be the main character, but it really is hard to say because of ensemble cast.

So, yeah, Schumaker wrote this and The Wiz! Go figure. It’s worth checking out if you’ve got an hour and a half and want to see a lot of familiar faces, plus a guy that looks like one of the Black Eyed Peas.

Halloween Scene: Manly Movie Night 10-17-08

2008-10-19
4:26:11 pm

About three years ago my friends and colleagues at Wizard decided to get together and watch three “manly” movies hooting, hollering, drinking and making jokes the entire time. For a more complete history check out Sean T. Collins’ blog post about what we’ve dubbed Manly Movie Mamajama.

About a month ago we started exchanging E-mails about a Halloween-themed MMM and finally decided on a line up consisting of The Lost Boys, Slumber Party Massacre II (which I take full responsibility for adding to the line-up) and Dead Alive. So, Friday night we gathered together in manly fashion eating pizza and chili (some of us simultaneously) and drinking beer and Red Bull. I’d actually seen all three movies before, but it’s always a new experience watching them with these guys.

We started with Lost Boys (1987) directed by Joel Schumacher and starring Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman and Kiefer Sutherland. There’s a lot going on in this movie and I’m not sure how much of it was actually intended. As Rickey pointed out, it really seems like brothers Jason Patric and Corey Haim are in a budding romance. There’s also the hilarity of the clothing throughout the flick. Between Haim’s crazy jackets/robes and Sutherland’s gang of mulleted biker vampires. Did this ever look tough? Ah, it was a different, simpler time.

Anyway, for those of you who haven’t seen it Lost Boys is about a pair of brothers and their mom who move in with their grandpa in the town of Santa Carla, CA which looks like Coney Island on crazy pills (but sadly lacking The Warriors). Well, it turns out that Santa Carla has a bit of a vampire problem and may or may not be the murder capital of the world, depending on how much stock you put into billboard graffiti. As Jason Patric gets wrapped up in Sutherland’s vampire gnag (which also includes Bill from the Bill and Ted movies), Haim meets the Frog Brothers, one of which is Feldman with seems to be doing his best Stallone impression throughout the movie. Their parents own a comic book store (probably the most disorganized store of all time). One of my favorite not-funny-on-purpose lines comes when Haim explains why two Superman comics shouldn’t be right next to each other (Lori Lemaris hasn’t even been introduced yet). How about because they’re no less than 100 issues apart from each other. Oh, also their parents look dead. Just saying. Anyway, the Frog Bros. are vampire hunters.

Anyway, you can imagine where things go from there. Sean Collins made the point that, in the 80s kids progressed from Goonies to Monster Squad to Lost Boys. Now, I had never actually heard of Monster Squad as a kid and I didn’t see Lost Boys until Rickey and I lived together, but these three films definitely share a spirit that you can’t find in movies aimed at kids anymore. Heck half the stars of this R-rated movie probably couldn’t legally see it when it premiered. Awesome!

But, really, you should check it out. There’s some pretty good effects and the last battle in the mom’s house is pretty great. Plus it’s good for a lot of laughs, both intentional and unintentional.

So, after Lost Boys we popped the VHS copy of Slumber Party Massacre II (1987) that I bought off of Amazon for just this occasion for about $6. It’s one of, if not THE most ridiculous movies (horror or otherwise) I’ve seen ever. As I explained to the group before we started, the first SPM movie had a random mental patient killing high school kids at a slumber party with a drill. This movie stars Crystal Bernard (the cute, blonde girl from Wings) as the sister of the survivor from the first flick. She’s in a band with three of her friends. One of the girls’ parents’ decided it would be a good idea to allow the girls to head up to their new condo (which are treated with the same sense of “newness” that malls were treated with in Dawn of the Dead) for the weekend.

Crystal keeps having crazy visions about a rockabilly dude with an Elvis haircut dressed in leather and rocking what looks like a BC Rich designed drill-tar. Well, as you can imagine, she keeps getting freaked out by various visions (the zit one is my favorite, worth the $6 I paid for this junk) but her friends just think she’s crazy until the dude comes to real life and starts killing her friends and their visiting boyfriends. What?!

From there it’s your average kids running away from a slasher movie, but with a lot more dancing as the Driller Killer busts some moves at random intervals and sings crazy songs. Seriously, if you love bad slasher movies, check this one out. Though I’m not sure if any of my MMM colleagues would agree with that sentiment. General consensus was that it was in the least liked films in MMM history down there with Steel Dawn and King Kong Lives (which I also found hilarious).

Unfortunately, I started coming down with a pretty bad cold that I’m still dealing with today, so I bounced out before the end of Dead Alive, though I’m not sure how much longer anyone else watched it. I would recommend skipping to the last 30 minutes, but make sure to view the zombie sex scene. It’s hilarious. Anyway, for my full Dead Alive/Braindead review, click here. As always, I had a great time at the MMM (even with getting sick) and I highly recommend starting up your own.