April 25th, 2008

STAGEFRIGHT (1987) **

 

An escaped lunatic (and former actor) dons an owl mask and hides inside a theater where he picks off a troupe of actors one by one in this gory, but unremarkable slasher flick that plays like a cross between Phantom of the Paradise, A Chorus Line, and Friday the 13th.  The killer dispatches his victims in a variety of ways.  There’s a needle to the neck, a pickaxe to the mouth, a drill to the stomach, an axe to the chest, a chainsaw to the sternum and heads, arms and torsos get lopped off during the maniac’s killing spree.

 

This unoriginal slasher flick comes with a pedigree:  it was directed by Michele Soavi, the man who directed the classic Cemetery Man, it was written by the Grim Reaper himself; George Eastman, and was produced by the legendary exploitation guru Joe D’Amato.  Unfortunately their considerable talents couldn’t turn Stage Fright into something approaching a good film. 

 

While the murders are stylishly done and are pretty gory, the erratic pacing ruins the show.  I mean the psycho goes from killing nobody for a half an hour to killing six people in a span of five minutes, then nothing again.  Had Soavi spaced out the kills evenly throughout the film, Stage Fright may have rocked.  The part where the killer created a “scene” using the corpses of his victims was a nice touch, though.

 

And for a movie written and directed by actors, the acting in this flick pretty much sucks.  Only Italian exploitation genre vet John (The Gates of Hell) Morghen manages to leave an impression as the bitter, practical joking gay dancer.

 

AKA:  Bloody Bird.  AKA:  Deliria.  AKA:  Sound Stage Massacre. 

BABY MAMA (2008) ** ½

Saturday Night Live vets Amy Poehler and Tina Fey star in this comedy-drama that gives new meaning to the term Baby “Formula”.  Fey plays a successful but infertile businesswoman who hires a white trash chick (Poehler) to conceive a child for her.  When Poehler breaks up with her loser boyfriend (Dax Shepard), she moves in with Fey and the sitcom level hijinx ensue. 

 

Baby Mama gets some laughs, but for the most part, if you’ve seen the previews you’ve pretty much seen the movie.  Everything you probably laughed at during the preview is here:  Fey childproofs the toilet so Poehler pisses in the sink.  Poehler inquires about spraying Pam up in her business to help the birthing process.  And so on and so on.

 

What isn’t in the preview is the fact that it turns into a schmaltzy Kramer vs. Kramer Lifetime Movie of the Week about ¾ of the way through, which makes things kinda tough if you’re a dude who just wants to see a funny flick without worrying about courtroom proceedings, DNA tests and unfit mothers.  The mountain of clichés prevents what could’ve been quite a funny movie and turns it into pure D grade WE Channel baloney.  I guarantee you nine months after seeing it, you’ll forget all about it.

 

The solid supporting cast (which includes Sigourney Weaver and Greg Kinnear) helps keep things afloat and Steve Martin is pretty funny as Fey’s ponytailed health nut boss.  Even though Martin gets the most laughs, it’s Poehler who gets the best line of the movie.  While in the delivery process she screams, “It feels like I’m shitting a knife!”

SHINE A LIGHT (2008) ****

 

Well, if you’ve been waiting for a Rolling Stones concert movie as good as Gimme Shelter, this one comes pretty close.  The ads simply read:  “Stones.  Scorsese.”  That’s pretty much all you need to know.  I’ll hit the highlights anyway.

 

The set list:  All the classics are here.  Satisfaction, Brown Sugar, Start Me Up, Jumping Jack Flash and Sympathy for the Devil.  Some Girls is the album most covered (four songs:  Shattered, Some Girls, Just My Imagination, and Far Away Eyes) with Exile on Main Street coming in a close second (Tumblin’ Dice, All Down the Line, and Loving Cup).

 

The guests:  Usually nothing stops the Stones dead in their tracks like guest artists.  (If you’ve ever heard Dave Matthews butcher Memory Motel, you know what I’m talking about.)  Thankfully, the guests are pretty good.  Jack White duets with Mick on Loving Cup while Buddy Guy helps out on Champagne and Reefer, but it’s Christina Aguilera who steals the show on Live With Me.  You may be grossed out by Mick dry humping a pregnant Christina, but it’s okay because their duet kicks ass.

 

The good:  Keith says eight intelligible words.

 

The bad:  The lyric, “Black girls just wanna get fucked all night” is missing from Some Girls.  I guess this was done to secure a PG-13 rating, but Mick was somehow able to slip in multiple F-Bombs in other songs, so I don’t understand what the deal was.

 

No matter though.  All I’m gonna say is that The Stones played She Was Hot.  That alone is worth four stars in my book anyday.

 

Martin Scorsese gets the best line of the movie when he says, “We can’t burn Mick Jagger!”

 

Shine a Light features enough awesome rock n’ roll goodness to dethrone Doomsday from the Number 2 spot on The Video Vacuum Top Ten of 2008, placing it just under the current king, Rambo.