Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Parking Lot Movie (2010)


IMDB Link:
The Parking Lot Movie

Directed By:
Meghan Eckman


Summing It Up:
This documentary is about a paid-parking lot in Charlottesville, Virginia and the people who have worked there over the years.


Quick Thoughts: 
I was looking for something interesting on Netflix Instant the other night, and I came across The Parking Lot Movie under the "New Additions" section. To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect, but seeing as the film was only a little over an hour long, I figured what the hell, I'll give it a shot. Ultimately, I'm glad that I did.
While the subject matter might sound a little boring, and maybe even a bit weird, at first, the film is actually very engaging. Anyone who has worked in a niche job in today's service-oriented society probably already knows that you meet a lot of strange and interesting people while doing it. Some of them are your co-workers, and some of them are the customers. This documentary does a great job at summing the experience up.

Now, I've never worked at a parking lot, but I washed dishes for several years, and then I worked retail for almost 10 years, so I was able to relate to the idea of people working a job that has nothing to do with their creative or professional interests; one that is usually only temporary, but for some, becomes a way of life. I can also relate to the idea of having to deal with crazy and/or rude people who look down on what you do for a living and aren't afraid to treat you like crap because of it.

The Parking Lot Movie does a great job capturing these things, and it also makes you feel a strange kind of bond with the people who have worked at the lot over the years. You get to see some candid exchanges between the employees and the customers, and you get several glimpses into the lives of the main characters, finding out the role that the job has played in their lives.

This is a bit inspirational in some ways, as we get to hear the people talk about how they are happy with their place in life. However, it's also a bit sad at times, because we realize that, in some cases, these people really aren't happy with what they do; mostly because of the way they are treated. There's definitely some pent up anger there, and while we do see them acting upon some it (kicking cars, yelling, talking shit), it's pretty obvious that some of the employees carry a lot of emotional baggage with them, and under the surface, there is a frustration with society.

In the end, this is one of the more interesting documentaries that I've seen recently. It's certainly not my favorite (that honor still goes to The King Of Kong), but I can definitely recommend it to you all; especially since it's a quick watch via Netflix.


Verdict:

3 1/2 out of 5



Saturday, February 5, 2011

Just One Of The Guys (1985)


IMDB Link:
Just One Of The Guys

Directed By:
Lisa Gottlieb


Summing It Up:
After not being taken seriously - and getting passed up for a potential job - because of her gender, an aspiring high school journalist decides to pose as a boy to prove that she really does have what it takes.


Quick Thoughts: 
This is another film that I grew up watching as a kid, so even though it's probably been a good fifteen years or so since I last watched it, I knew pretty much exactly what I was in for. Just One Of The Guys may be over twenty-five years old, but the subtext of the film - and, more importantly, the laughs - are just as relevant today as they were when the film was made. In fact, I think that I probably enjoyed the film even more while watching it as a 30-year-old than I did when I was younger.

Part of this is because, while the film essentially poses a teen sex comedy of sorts, there is a lot of intelligence and heart behind it. For what, on the surface, appears to be a lighthearted film, Just One Of The Guys really does give a fair amount of consideration to the role that gender plays in our society. And, while I like to believe that things have gotten more progressive over the years, I have to admit that many of its trappings still hold true in some fashion today.

One thing that really surprised me about the film, though, was the level of sexuality in it. For being a PG-13 movie, there seemed to be a large amount of nudity scattered throughout it. If you are familiar with the film, you know at least one of the scenes that I am referring to, in which we get a very good look at a pair of breasts. However, there are also Playboy magazines and centerfolds all over the place as well, and you can clearly see full-frontal female nudity in several scenes. In fact, I feel almost positive that, were this film to be released with today's standards, it probably would have gotten an R-rating.

This is one thing that I really don't understand. After all, we live in a world where violence and sex crimes are openly discussed on television each day, and we have PG-13 films where people are blowing up buildings and shooting people in plain view. But, for some reason, the ratings board deems it inappropriate to show a pair of breasts or let us hear the F-Bomb more than once; unless the film is R-rated, at least.

Anyhow, all of that aside, I can easily recommend Just One Of The Guys. It's worth at least a watch on Netflix, and I'd even go so far as to say that it's worth a blind buy. Unless you hate the 80s. Or boobs. Or William Zabka. Or puppies.

You get the idea.

Verdict:

3 1/2 out of 5





Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hatchet II (2010)


IMDB Link:
Hatchet II

Directed By:
Adam Green


Summing It Up:
This sequel picks up right where the first Hatchet left off, with Marybeth barely escaping from Victor Crowley. You think that she would be happy just to be in one piece, but instead, she decides to go back for revenge and to try and recover the bodies of her father and brother; and she's bringing a gang of people with her.


Quick Thoughts: 
It's safe to say that I'm a big fan of Adam Green's Hatchet. I've seen the film numerous times, and I own it on both DVD and Blu-ray. I also know that it's a film that has divided a good chunk of the horror community. Simply put, some folks love it, and others just plan old don't like it. Their reasons vary, and while some of their gripes are reasonable, I've always thought that the film was a fun homage to the gory slashers of the 80s. This is why, when I heard that Green was giving the film a sequel, I was very stoked.

It also helped that Green promised that Hatchet II would have all of the excesses that made the first film so fun (practical gore, nudity, etc.); only in a much larger quantity. In fact, by the time the film got its very limited (and now infamous) theatrical run this past Fall, I was practically frothing at the mouth to see it. I was looking forward to it so much that I almost drove to Canada to check it out. Needless to say, I never got the chance, as the film ended up getting dropped and heading quickly to DVD/Blu-ray, with a brief VOD run as well.

That being said, when my Blu-ray finally arrived in the mailbox this past Monday, I couldn't wait to pop it in. Unfortunately, due to a crazy storm that caused me to have to work over 50 hours this week, I had to put it off for a few days, but it was first on my list to watch when I did get a minute. This leads to the question of whether or not the film was worth the wait and the hype. My answer: Yes and No.

You see, from a graphic violence standpoint, the film definitely delivers. The kills are plentiful, gory, and pretty inventive. It also squeezes in some decent nudity as well; though there was much less of it than I thought there would be from the way that I heard people discussing it. There's also a boatload of Green's humor in the film too, and most of it hits the right marks. So, with all of that going for it, what can I possibly complain about? Well, there are a few things...

For one, I really wasn't a huge fan of the extremely digital look of the film. I really dug the 35mm look of the first Hatchet, and that is missing here. Instead, the image is very clean and a bit too bright. Seeing as Green had knocked it out of the park with the amazing Frozen right before doing this film, I guess that I was hoping that Hatchet II would look a lot better than its predecessor. I know that for most, this is probably a small complaint, but it was something that I noticed almost immediately.

I also thought that the mythology that was added to Crowley was a bit over-complicated and far fetched; even for a film of this type. To be honest, I just wanted to see carnage on the screen, and I think that I really could care less about understanding Crowley's motives and existence. For me, the brief explanation in the first film was enough. Again, not a fun-killer, but it definitely slowed things down for me.

Also, maybe it's just me, but I couldn't figure out why Danielle Harris (Marybeth) has one of her eyebrows cocked for pretty much the entire film. Seriously, she looks weird, and it's a bit distracting...

Anyway, in the end, though, I did enjoy the film quite a lot. I might not have fallen in love with it like I was hoping to, but part of that may be my own fault for getting so damn excited for it. I will definitely watch it again, though, and I'm wondering if a second viewing (maybe back-to-back with the first?) will help me to appreciate it more. I caught a lot of cameos (Joe Lynch, Mike Mendez, Dave Parker, and Lloyd Kaufman, to name a few), film references  (a famous line from The Thing and a mention of the killer from Behind The Mask, for example), and plenty of references to Green's other films (look for Emma Bell as Parker O'Neil from Frozen) during the first time through, so maybe I will spot even more of them with another go 'round.

So do I recommend the film? Well, that depends... If you didn't like the first Hatchet, then I don't think that you will find anything here that will change your mind, so I would probably say to skip it (unless you feel the need to give it a shot anyway). However, if you liked the first film, then I think you will like this one. Hell, you may even love it. I know that a lot of folks did, and like I said, I may just be being too damn picky about things. Even so, I've seen many films that weren't even a fraction as fun as Hatchet II, so I can't really complain.


Verdict:

3 1/2 out of 5



Sunday, January 30, 2011

Moving Violations (1985)


IMDB Link:
Moving Violations

Directed By:
Neal Isreal


Summing It Up:
A group of social misfits with a history of bad driving and traffic violations find themselves in a court-ordered traffic school. If they don't pass the class,  they will not get their impounded cars back, and that seems to be the likely outcome, given the hard-ass traffic cops who have been assigned as their teachers and the scheming judge who sent them there.


Quick Thoughts: 
I'm going to be honest, Moving Violations is far from being a great film. At its best, it's a shining example of the formulaic excesses of 80s comedy. However, since it is a movie that I watched over and over again while growing up, it has a fond place in my heart.

That being said, I was very happy to find that it was recently added to Netflix Instant. You see, I had been wanting to watch it again for some time now, but given that the VHS copy that I taped off of HBO all those years ago has long since worn out, and Anchor Bay's DVD of the film has been out of print for several years, it hasn't been possible. Luckily, it was as fun as I remembered it.

Another film I grew up with was Police Academy, and it just so happens that Neal Isreal directed that as well. As such, you shouldn't be shocked to find that the similarities between the two films run rampant, with the main exception being that Police Academy was rated R, while Violations is PG-13. So, what's missing from this one? Well, aside from an increased number of F-Bombs and boobs, not very much. You still have the asshole cops with an authority problem, the lovable weirdos under their tutelage, a conspiracy from above to fail the class, goofy romance, and a metric fuck-ton of smart-ass one liners (mostly courtesy of John Murray, brother of Bill Murray) and politically incorrect humor.

Plus, there's a lot of sex jokes in this film. And early turns from Fred Willard, Jennifer Tilly, and James Keach don't hurt. Still, the centerpiece of the whole thing is the over-the-top performance from the aforementioned John Murray, who does his best to ape the cocky sarcasm that his brother turned in one year prior in Ghostbusters. That alone is worth the price of admission.

They just don't make films like this anymore... and is that a bad thing? Well, probably not. But still, that doesn't mean Moving Violations isn't worth your time. Re-watching this film today is like an adult finding an old time capsule that they buried in their backyard. One that's filled with things that they loved as a child. Upon opening it, they not only experience a great deal of nostalgia, but they also find some value that they didn't realize these things had when they were young.

Definitely recommended, and I hope someone reissues this one on DVD and/or Blu-ray soon, as I'd love to re-add it to my collection for good.


Verdict:

3 1/2 out of 5


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Weeds: Season 6 (2010)


IMDB Link:
Weeds

Directed By:
Various


Summing It Up:
The sixth season of Weeds finds the Botwin family on the run from the police and FBI, as well as the Mexican politicians and thugs that they double crossed in their most recent misadventures. Desperate to escape to a "normal" life, they assume fake identities and attempt to leave the country.


Quick Thoughts: 
I didn't start watching Weeds until after Season 6 had begun airing on television. However, I caught up in just a couple of weeks, via Netflix Instant, because the show sucked me in. By the time that I got to the end of Season 5, I was definitely a fan, and I couldn't wait to watch Season 6.

With that said, I dug into Season 6 almost immediately. However, I only made it a few episodes in initially, mostly because I found that the season seemed to be losing steam quickly. After about five episodes, I kind of lost interest, and I moved on to some other things.

Well, I eventually decided that I should give the remainder of the season a shot, and I am honestly glad that I did because things did pick up very quickly once I started watching again. The family's misadventures in drug dealing, murder, and all sorts of other illegal things amused me once again, and the show gained some much needed direction during the last half of the season.

The result of this is that, if you found yourself unimpressed by the beginning of this season and stopped watching, you should dig it back up and give it a shot. I did, and I feel that it was very much worth it. For those who have yet to even check the show out, I think you should definitely do so.


Verdict:

4 out of 5



Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Outcast (2010)


IMDB Link:
Outcast

Directed By:
Colm McCarthy


Summing It Up:
Outcast tells the story of a young girl and a mysterious drifter who fall in love with one another. However, as they become closer, a beast begins killing those around them and a man with magical powers, whose intentions are unknown, begins closing in...


Quick Thoughts: 
If you want my full thoughts on the film and Momentum's Region 2 DVD release, then you should head over to The Blood Sprayer and check out my review (that link will take you directly to it). However, the gist of it is that Outcast features a concept that is very original, but it is flawed because it tries to tackle too much at once and manages to come up a bit short.

I really enjoyed the look and tone of the film, but the Director's attempt to build mystery and suspense overcomplicated the subject matter and, at times, made it hard to follow. Luckily, things pull together more towards the end, but the payoff is a bit too little and it comes too late. Does that kill the film? No, it doesn't, but it certainly keeps it from living up to the promise that it initially has.

Still, I have to give TV-Turned-Film Director Colm McCarthy credit for trying. Though the film is definitely uneven, it manages a lot on it's obviously small budget. Maybe it's just the growing pains that come from shifting to a longer format, or maybe the film was just overambitious... My guess is that Outcast's problems are a result of a little bit of both these things.

Still, regardless of its faults, I enjoyed the movie at least enough to stick with it. It's worth a watch, but in the end, it is far from spectacular.

If you're looking for the DVD, you can pick it up from Amazon UK.


Verdict:

3 out of 5




Sunday, January 23, 2011

Summer School (1987)


IMDB Link:
Summer School

Directed By:
Carl Reiner


Summing It Up:
After the normal summer school teacher wins the lottery and runs off, a care-free gym teacher finds himself stuck teaching Remedial English to a group of social misfits.


Quick Thoughts: 
Summer School has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid, so it's safe to say that I highly enjoyed rewatching it as an adult. Part of it is due to the nostalgia of it, part of it is because I now understand even more of the humor, and part is just because it's plain old fun.

Director Carl Reiner (The Jerk) does an excellent job taking what could have been just another cheesy 80s comedy and turning it into something much more. Sure, it has all of the trappings of the 80s - bad hair, bad fashion,  a sidekick dog, Kirstie Alley - but it also has a well-meaning heart and some damn funny scenes as well. Mark Harmon is very likable as the bumbling teacher, and the cast of students (including a young, and pregnant, Shawnee Smith) are all equally fun to watch. However, it's safe to say that, for me, the characters of Chainsaw and Dave steal the show (the scenes with their pranks are epic).

If you're a lover of 80s comedy, and you haven't seen Summer School, then you should do so immediately. Or, as Chainsaw and Dave would say, "I give this two big thumbs up!"


Verdict:

4 out of 5