Calling Bullshit on the new Mad Max

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Mad Max Fury Road is exactly the Mad Max sort of movie we’ve all been waiting to see, minus the exposition, characterization, and sense of unpredictability that made the Mad Max films good to begin with. The latest installment is a fun, action packed ride to watch for sure, but at the end of the day, that is all that it is.

I was fortunate enough to see this with my people, late at night, we are dressed the same, as if we were on our way to our favorite low key coffee shop or pub right after the showing. Our reactions were all about the same as well…”Yeah, I don’t know about that.”

Worth seeing yeah, worth ten dollars, nope. The action is spectacular, and director George Miller deserves some credit for having that much game left at his age.  In the end, I am left disappointing enough to not even want to bother seeing the new Terminator or Star Wars. Loud glossy goop and nothing of any substance to offer for further viewing pleasure.Snowpiercer was a better Mad Max movie than this.  Sure, Fury Road will be around and out there forever, so why bother making the effort now when you can see The Badadook, What We Do in the Shadows, or It Follows and make the event a time to remember and pass along to others.

The Babysitters

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After an ride home turns into an evening of spontaneous exploration with an older man( John Leguizamo), over achieving high schooler Shirley (Katherine Waterston) tricks out her babysitting service to provide teen call girls to suburban dads. As with any extended level of crime participation, not everything goes as planned, although nothing truly seedy or dark happens either.

Not that there is anything wrong with that, it just seems like with this type of story line, for no one to really get hurt in the end, for there not to be any sort of payoff one way or the other for the quickly deteriorating display of morals, for it to be neither a sexploitation nor a sex comedy, the product on display leaves a lot to be desired. Where some movies will make up for there lack of character depth and unresolved plot lines by giving us the filthy goods, The Babysitters grossly under delivers in every way possible . The idea of a small army of middle aged men raping high schoolers without consequence raises questions of serious storytelling credibility.

There are some high points, especially if your name is John Leguizamo. After shooting wrapped, Mr. Leguizamo may as well have just shot himself in the head, because even with his top dollar, he’s never going to kiss a finer body than the one owned by Katherine Waterson. I wouldn’t trade her extended scene where she walks around in a shirt you can practically see through for any other nude scene in the world of cinema.

A significantly more graphic and plotted out version of this tale as a weekly one hour drama could very well be the type of thing to be the next big hit for an A&E, Showtime, or HBO. This version of The Babysitters however, is just plain bland.

One of Them There Fancy Art Movies

upstream-color-2-580A man and a woman struggle to assemble the fragments of their wrecked lives and ruined identities as they form a new relationship with each other in Shane Carruth’s delightfully paced Upstream Color.

You’re average indie film auteur likes to create a tone of building dread that sometimes escalates into full blown insanity. The dread and insanity in Upstream Color is how the story opens up, and then along the way it blossoms into a relationship between two people who have been through so much anguish, that the viewer can practically feel it.The pixilicious Amy Seimetz plays the female lead and Shane Carruth himself plays her apprehensive love interest. In addition to directing and playing the male lead, Carruth is also writer, cinematographer, editor, and produced a score that is well worth owning. The tangents offered up between start and finish add a sense of wonder and awe, and in the hands of an idiot could easily slip into self indulgent.

Perhaps just a little bit more was expected of Shane Carruth’s follow up to his mind warping sci-fi debut, 2004’s Primer. Perhaps a more interesting story would have been that of the drugs or the people behind the drugs that have shattered the lives of our main characters. What we’re asked to accept as a consolation prize is just short of magnificent. Upstream Color has a way of resonating as if the best is yet to come from Shane Carruth. He could very well have one of those moments in pop culture that just a few art house directors have managed to grasp.

Eight long years have passed since Primer, and it may have been worth the wait. I might just spend the rest of the summer watching this movie, or at least pondering my own version of it in my head.

Werewolves on Wheels Doesn’t Have Time to be Good Because it’s too Busy Being Great

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Werewolves on Wheels does not feature any actual factual werewolves riding a motorcycle, let’s just get that out of the way right now. However, this forgotten gem from 1971 is fun from start to finish, for it’s pace, cleverness, and unintended laughs. These bikers are not of the murderous racketeering variety, they’re just in it for kicks, man. Whilst partying a little too rowdy at an off the main road and assumed abandoned monastery, the local monks do their thing to freak the gang out and send them on their way. Soon thereafter, the good vibes are replaced with bad vibes, and although not every member want to hear it, the time is nearing to put the partying aside and make some tough decisions.

You’re not likely to recognize a single face or credit associated with this movie. The biggest name involved here would be singer songwriter Barry McGuire of Eve of Destruction fame. Here he plays a substantial role and provides a very listenable soundtrack. This movie wasn’t so much shot on film as it was chiseled onto to gravel. The lighting is as muted as a bad water color painting, sometimes, and I would have to think it is by accident, this works in the favor of  the story’s presentation due to what could be generously referred to as a limited budget.

Still, there is a lot of fun to be had here, you got quality nude dancing, implied Santanism, groovy tunes, and not just werewolves, but, quite possibly, the worst looking werewolf you’re ever likely to see. It’s as if someone went to a barber shop, swept up whatever hair was laying around on the floor, and scotch taped to to the actor’s face.

No one would ever confuse this movie with art, but it will get you off on a goofy Saturday night.

The Fabulous Stains Now on Netflix

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Corrine “Third Degree” Burns (Diane Lane) and her all-girl punk band The Stains ( featuring a surprisingly chubby Laura Dern ) are given a chance to tour backing up a young English punk band The Looters (featuring Paul Cook and Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols,Paul Simonen of The Clash, and a surprisingly thin Ray Winstone) and an old washed up heavy metal band The Metal Corpses. They’re driven from one dingy show to the next by affable Rastafarian, Lawnboy, on a bus which on a good day might be held together with duct tape.

When the Stains new song ‘I’m a waste of time’ ends up garnering more attention than the veteran bands that took them in, everyone wants a piece of their next move. A next move that may be hard to come by from three girls with such limited life experience.

This isn’t an Oscar winner by any means, but it does have a certain charm to it. The performances seem to come off without a sense of self awareness. Seeing three punk legends just after the crash of punk mix it up with several up and coming actors, well that’s a god damn piece of time right there. Without revealing any spoilers, several social trends are conspicuously revealed before they actually took place in our real world. You may notice some similarities between The Stains and 2010’s The Runaways, but outside of Michael Shannon’s fun performance, The Runaways is just a bright, shiny, forgettable movie. The Stains display of culture and character will stick with you even though the pace and visual imagery may not be up 21st century standards.

Ladies and Gentlemen The Fabulous Stains had a very limited release in 1982 and has never been available on vhs or dvd due to so many reasons, that the amount of questionable tit on display is probably the least of the studio’s worries. Viewing this has been hit or miss, receiving brief play on late night cable and art house/ film festival revivals. All of that and the right word of mouth has only added to it’s cult status.

You can have a Super Bowl party if you want, but it’d be a whole lot cooler if set your projector to The Fabulous Stains.

Tree Of Life Trips Over It’s Own Dick

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Terrence Malick has made himself some films, yes he has, yes he has.  His film making range lies somewhere in between unintentional masterpiece and reluctant masterpiece. With Tree of Life, the jig is up, much like a drug addict mishandling their compulsive lies. Not only does Malick try to make a masterpiece, he seems pretty intent on projecting the fact that he is trying to make a masterpiece.

Anyone who’s honest with himself will tell you that Malick’s previous film, 2005’s The New World, had a certain waft about it. It wasn’t a total misfire but there was certainly just a little something not quite right about it. I think the end product of The New World is something that Malick should have taken a step back from during editing, if not the writing of it, maybe reassess and tighten up the story he was trying to tell.

In Tree of Life, Terrence Malick is able to both capture the world of a young man growing up, and present it to us in a way that is both original for film and familiar to the soul. The bulk of the movie takes place in the 1950’s, a time that I have no experience with, and yet the scenarios, actions, and the way that the main character of the young boy see’s the world feel so familiar.

Tree of Life wanders, but it wanders in such a way that it doesn’t frustrate the viewer in the moment, because you know you’re in the  hands of a great storyteller. The frustration sets in sometime after the end credits roll and you ask yourself… why were those pieces put together?

Somewhere in Tree of Life, there is a wonderful film, it’s just that the product Malick has delivered to us is less than the some of its excellent parts.