“Eh, waxworks are out of date. This is the video age.”
WAXWORK (1988) is an American movie, but it’s the debut of English writer/director Anthony Hickox, the son of legendary editor Anne V. Coates (LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, OUT OF SIGHT) and director Douglas Hickox (who directed one of my favorite Vincent Prince movies, THEATRE OF BLOOD).
My first association for the younger Hickox is always HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH, but WAXWORK is what put him on the horror/cult movie map. A very small, light dot on the map, but it’s on there if you squint. WAXWORK is not quite an anthology, but it’s an odd mix of different types of movies, using the characters in a wax museum as excuses to visit different dated horror subgenres.
College students China (Michelle Johnson, BEAKS: THE MOVIE) and Sarah (Deborah Foreman, REAL GENIUS) notice a wax museum in a residential area (“Kind of a weird place to have a waxwork” – I like how this movie acts like “waxwork” is a totally normal word everybody knows and uses casually.) A strange man (David Warner, TRON) appears and invites them to return at midnight with no more than six people for “a private showing.” So they convinced their friends Gemma (Clare Carey, ZOMBIE HIGH), James (Eric Brown, Mama’s Family), Tony (Dana Ashbrook, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART II) and Mark (Zach Galligan, who had only done GREMLINS and NOTHING LASTS FOREVER) to come with them. (read the rest of this shit…)
POISON IVY was a movie, then a franchise, and a genre, and an American institution. I don’t know if it was the first erotic thriller that could be described as “teenage FATAL ATTRACTION,” but I do think it kicked off many more of them, likely influencing movies like THE CRUSH, THE BABYSITTER, DEVIL IN THE FLESH and SWIMFAN, and evolving into WILD THINGS and CRUEL INTENTIONS and their DTV sequels. POISON IVY mostly spread its metaphorical itchy rash of underage femme fatalery by growing in clusters on late night cable and in the suspense/thriller section of video stores, but before that it had a very limited theatrical release on May 8, 1992.
Sara Gilbert (four seasons into Roseanne) made her movie debut starring as Sylvie “Coop” Cooper, protagonist and narrator-via-journal-entries. She’s a private school kid who sees herself as an outcast whose very rich parents don’t understand her. She wears Doc Martens, a tie-dyed yin yang shirt, and has an Egyptian eye design shaved discreetly under her hair. She smokes cigarillos, including in bed. She claims to have no friends*. She tells needless lies, like that she’s adopted, and that she’s half Black, and that she tried to commit suicide. Also she plays piano, loves her dog Fred (who she says doesn’t like any other humans), and teaches reading to inner city kids two days a week. A messed up kid but a good kid. (read the rest of this shit…)
We all live on the planet Earth, we all know Steven Spielberg’s E.T. – THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL is a great fucking movie. I don’t have to tell you that. I was gonna point you to what I wrote about it in 2002 in case I did, but it turns out that was mostly a collection of jokes about walkie talkies and the dog shitting all over the place if he had run all the way into the space ship. So maybe try googling “is e.t. good” or something. I don’t know. You can figure it out.
Like anybody I’ve loved that pudgy little rascal since he first introduced himself to us in 1982, but I’ve managed to be pretty disciplined about waiting years between viewings so I don’t wear it out. I think last time was when it came out on Blu-Ray (six years ago), with at most one DVD viewing between that and when the special edition played in theaters (sixteen years ago).
But on Tuesday I saw it in the 70mm Film Festival that the Cinerama has here in Seattle every year, and I wanted to share a few new thoughts. (read the rest of this shit…)
Just before a race of alien energy-beings called the Drej blow up the Earth, Errol Flynn looking scientist hero Sam Tucker tosses his towheaded son Cale on an evacuation shuttle with Tone Lōc and goes off to fly a ship called the Titan on a mission to save the human race. He gives the boy a ring and it’s obvious to the audience that it will be the key to saving humanity but jesus christ dude make it clear to the kid! All he says is “Take this. As long as you wear it, there’s hope.” it’s a god damn miracle that he still has it when we pick up 15 years later. What in the hell were you thinking you god damn idiot, don’t be subtle about this shit.
So, grown up Cale (Matt Damon, THE DEPARTED) is some kind of space-iron-worker, a roughneck working class dude from Colorado, gettin it done on the outsides of ships and stuff, but he still has the same dumb ’90s boy band haircut from childhood. Since most humans are dead he’s a minority living among a bunch of creatures who eat food that he thinks is gross. So when a square-jawed Earthling captain and contemporary of his father named Korso (Bill Pullman, CASPER) comes to find him, you can see why he eventually agrees to join him on a mission to find the Titan. (read the rest of this shit…)
FIRESTARTER is a classic tale of ’80s style supernatural paranoia. An innocent father and daughter are on the run from menacing agents of a secret government entity nicknamed “The Shop.” A university experiment with hallucinogens in the ’70s gave dad (David Keith, WHITE OF THE EYE) and now-deceased mom (Heather Locklear, MONEY TALKS) psychic powers, which have passed on to daughter Charlie (Drew Barrymore in her next movie after E.T.). She can sense things, sometimes move things, but her trademark is fire. When she gets angry at people things get hot. Mom and dad had been trying to teach her to keep it under control, with mixed success. You really gotta recognize what a difficult parenting challenge this would be even if The Man wasn’t out to get them.
So now it’s Take Your Daughter On the Lam Day. They’re hitchhiking, scrounging up change, using Jedi mind tricks. She’s already used to lying to people and using fake names. It reminds me of Starman (TV show), or The Golden Years, like this a Stephen King creation and also using The Shop as the antagonists. Through no fault of their own this family are considered dangerous, and the government wants to either use them as weapons or kill them. Neither seems appealing to them.
This kill-them-for-safety-purposes policy is obviously fascist and heartless, but it’s based in a reasonable fear that if this little girl can blow up cars with her mind what will she be able to do if she grows up? And will she do it? (read the rest of this shit…)
“Those who cannot remember [BATMAN FOREVER] are condemned to repeat it.” –George Santayana, The Life of Reason, 1905
You guys wanna see a hit summer blockbuster that was well received at the time, but has since been disavowed like a discredited ideology? The summer of 1995 gives you BATMAN FOREVER.
Just six years earlier Tim Burton had smashed open the zeitgeist with BATMAN, which had been used as somewhat of a reference point for would-be blockbusters since, clearly influencing at least the scoring and marketing of DICK TRACY, DARKMAN, THE ROCKETEER and THE SHADOW, for example. But Burton’s second one, BATMAN RETURNS (1992) was weirder, more personal, and therefore less enthusiastically received by the public. That made the studio weary about plans for a Burton-directed part 3, and they parted ways. Burton is credited as an executive producer on FOREVER, but apparently his only role was to give the new director his blessing and meet with screenwriters Lee & Janet Scott Batchler once to discuss the importance of duality in Batman characters.
Joel Schumacher was a weird but not controversial choice for a replacement. People remembered THE LOST BOYS, FALLING DOWN and maybe FLATLINERS as good movies. And he did THE CLIENT – you know, those John Grisham court room thrillers were a big deal in the ’90s, for some reason. I wonder what happened to that whole genre. Anyway, a 1993 Entertainment Weekly article said “Hiring Schumacher to direct the summer-of-’95 release is seen by insiders as an attempt by Warner Bros. to get the Batman movies back on track” because “Warner doesn’t want a repeat of the macabre 1992 sequel, BATMAN RETURNS, which frightened small children and angered many parents.” It goes on to quote an anonymous “source close to the project” as saying they didn’t want Burton to direct because “he’s too dark and odd for them.”
Yeah, because Schumacher made a real normal movie. No oddness to see here. Just a couple of bros in shiny plastic muscles driving a car up the side of a building. Don’t worry about it, fellas. (read the rest of this shit…)
You know how it is. You have low self-esteem, or you have to move alot so you don’t do good in school, or you do do good in school but people pick on you, or you get kicked out of school, or you don’t get along with your parents, or you don’t have any parents. But then you find out about breakdancing or karate or illegal street racing or lambada (the forbidden dance) or civil war re-enacting or vegetarianism or whatever. Your eyes are opened to an exciting new world, you meet colorful new friends and rivals, you work real hard and train and almost give up but you have to prove something to somebody or to yourself or to both, so you go to the big tournament or championship or whatever. Well, Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut WHIP IT is about a girl finding herself through roller derby, and I was hoping it would be a little smarter version of that type of story. A generic plot that manipulates you in an obvious but enjoyable way, and that pays tribute to a sport I happen to enjoy. Like, say, DRUMLINE with girls on rollerskates. Or BRING IT ON with tattoos. That’s all I was hoping for, but WHIP IT turns out to be way better than I was hoping. (read the rest of this shit…)
Usually even if I see a movie like this I wouldn’t review it. Because you know, light-hearted romantic comedy is not my area of expertise. But if a movie critic is a bear then FEVER PITCH is a big pile of fish slathered in a barrel of honey, and I think you know why. Because it’s easy as shit to write baseball puns and metaphors. It’s fuckin tee-ball for the hack headline writers of the world. Sometimes they wonder how the fuck they gonna come up with a pun for a movie headline, but with a baseball movie you hit control-A for “strikes out,” control-B for “swings for the fences.”
Actually I don’t think either of those is true, FEVER PITCH is more like a double or a triple or maybe a real good double play. They never use defensive plays in metaphors but double plays are obviously important, also triple plays but those don’t happen enough to be a common phrase. I don’t think there is such a thing as a quadruple play but it would be cool though. Anyway this is a cute romantic comedy deal but what makes it worth mentioning is (read the rest of this shit…)
E.T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL: THE SPECIAL EDITION: FOR THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY: THE MOVIE
This is one of those things where they take an old movie that was very popular, and then they change it, because they think the only way anybody would want to see a movie they loved on the big screen again would be if somebody just completely fucked with it and tried to ruin it. They did the same thing with the Star Trek pictures, and the exorcist (see below) and Night of the Living Dead on video (I’m still staying away from that one).
This goes into the Star Trek category where the individual who made it (Steve Spielberg) gets old, forgets everything that made him vital when he was young, and decides to change things, but claims it’s actually perfectionism. The most infamous thing here is that he wanted no guns in the movie at all. Which is kind of weird for a movie where the main characters get chased by a mob of cops. So there they are, a bunch of fuckin cops and government spooks, running around all holding a walkie talkie with their trigger fingers poised to, I don’t know, hit the little beeper button that you use for Morse code. (read the rest of this shit…)
This week friends ol’ Vern has a few things he has to get off his chest. A little bitchin and moanin is what I gotta do. So let me run through a few of these points about how, you know, everything is all a bunch of horse shit, etc.
First off, last Tuesday was Halloween. And I want to know why you motherfuckers decided it was cancelled. I’m driving along at 7:45 pm, it’s been dark for more than hour and I don’t see a jack o’lantern, I don’t see a trick or treater. I don’t even see those little fuckers smashing my pumpkins. All I see is churches and schools with signs that say “Harvest Festival. Games and Food. October 31st.” (read the rest of this shit…)
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