October 3rd, 2008

POSTAL (2008) * ½

Uwe Boll is (in)famous for making hilarious movies based on video games.  Postal marks the first time that he set out to make an INTENTIONAL comedy based on a video game.  The problem is that Boll is a heck of a lot funnier when he isn’t trying to be. 


Zack Ward (also in Boll’s Bloodrayne 2:  Deliverance) stars as Postal Dude, a guy who gets so fed up working at his factory job and putting up with his promiscuous Jabba the Hutt sized trailer trash wife that he goes along with a scam hatched by his uncle (Dave Foley) to steal a truckload of “Krotchey” dolls (think Tickle Me Elmo but shaped like a penis) and sell them on Ebay.  What the duo doesn’t know is that the Taliban is also scheming to get their hands on the dolls so they can fill them with bird flu and wipe out America. 


Boll’s humor is all over the map but on the rare occasion when he hits the funny bone, it’s usually pretty good.  There is a funny scene early in the film in a welfare office where Ward grabs a number and waits in line.  Then a gunman opens fire and kills a lot of people and Ward scurries around stealing the dead people’s numbers so he’ll move to the front of the line. 


If Boll had used this scene as an example on how to do black comedy right, things would’ve been okay.  Unfortunately, Boll just thinks that people getting shot with automatic weapons is automatically funny.  It isn’t, particularly the scenes where a bunch of innocent children get gunned down.  Also the film runs at a massive 100 minutes and that doesn’t help much either, especially when most of the good material is weighted towards the first half hour. 


While most of Postal is tasteless, crude, or just straight up unfunny, it does feature a lot of shit that I’ve never seen in a film before.  How about Verne Troyer getting raped by monkeys?  Betcha never seen that before.  And you know the phrase “She’s so fat that if you want to fuck her you have to roll her in flour and look for the wet spot”?  Well in Postal we actually get to SEE it happen.  I’ve always HEARD about it but I’ve never seen it.  And this flick will probably go down in history as the only movie in which Dave Foley shows his penis while he takes a massive shit on camera.  It also features the world’s first (and probably last) 9/11 “joke”.


A lot of the movie is just plain dumb but it ain't the worst thing that Uwe has done.  At least Boll is smart enough to have a scene in which he parodies himself and laments, “I HATE video games!”  If anything Postal offers up an opportunity to see Boll’s nuts get blown off, so if you’ve always wanted to see that, you might have to give it a look see.


Osama Bin Laden’s second in command gets the best line in the movie when he says, “The time has come to place our swords into the genitals of the infidels!"


A lot of directors have stolen from Alfred Hitchcock over the years (heck, Brian DePalma has made an entire career out of it) but I believe this was the first time someone wore their inspiration so proudly on their sleeve.  (The title itself not so subtly spoofs The Man Who Knew Too Much, a story that Hitchcock had already filmed TWICE.)  With The Girl Who Knew Too Much, director Mario (Black Sunday) Bava tailored his already impressive cinematic style to fit a story that even Hitch would have been tempted to film. 


Nora (Letecia Roman) is a beautiful girl visiting her aunt in Rome.  When she passes away suddenly, it rattles Nora into a state of shock that isn’t helped much when she witnesses a murder shortly thereafter.  Of course, no one believes her but John Saxon tries to help her find the killer, mostly because she looks hot as Hell. 


The early scenes work the best where Mario slowly ratchets up the tension.  He bathes the opening sequences with the usual Bava atmosphere but gives things a bigger-than-life feel the way that Hitchcock always did so well.  Bava doesn’t directly lift from Hitchcock per se; rather he echoes familiar feeling scenes from Hitch’s repertoire and gives them a new twist.  (The airport scene is reminiscent of North by Northwest.)  The film also has a dark tongue in cheek sense of humor that the Master would have enjoyed and there’s a pretty funny running gag where Roman sneaks up on who she thinks is the killer and beats him up and every time it turns out to be Saxon.  (At one point she even ends up breaking his finger.)


That’s not to say it’s a perfect film.  Far from it in fact.  The problem is that Bava plays all his cards too soon.  The first 25 minutes or so of this flick is quite memorable and very tense but once the love interest enters the picture, the pacing gets particularly pokey.  After the strong opening, Bava eases off on the suspense and unfortunately is never able to recapture the magic of the early scenes.  Not only does Nora’s plight grow a little tiresome after awhile, but her character does too.  While beautiful, Roman just doesn’t have the acting chops necessary to carry a film like this one.  Good thing Saxon is around to keep you entertained. 

While he’s not at his best, Bava still packs on the atmosphere and crafts a pretty fun, if uneven, little chiller.  Even minor entries in Bava’s oeuvre are worth a look in my book, so if you’re a Bava fan AND a Hitchcock fan to boot, you really owe it to yourself to check it out.   


Mondo Cane co-director Franco Prosperi also served as assistant director.


AKA:  The Evil Eye.

CANNIBALS (1980) ** ½

(Special Note:  A lot of times when I prepare my reviews, I make a few quick notes while watching the film and afterwards I’ll glance over the notes and work them into the review.  But just looking at these notes I took while watching Cannibals, well… they speak for themselves.  Without any further ado I present to you my thoughts on Cannibals in its rawest, purest form.  Enjoy.)


Jess Franco directed this movie.  9 times out of 10 he directs shit but sometimes that 1 movie turns out to be something like Sadomania or Faceless. 


Are you serious with this dubbing?  The boat captain sounds like Forrest Gump after drinking a case of Schlitz.


So the cannibals swim across the ocean and climb aboard the boat and they don’t even get wet!?!  (Well I guess if Michael Caine can do it in Jaws the Revenge, these bozos can too.)


How come all of the cannibals’ make-up makes it look like they just joined the KISS Army?


Why do all the cannibals have 70’s sideburns?


Excellent slow motion gut ripping/intestine gnawing scene.


Not so excellent arm amputation scene.


How come all the cannibals speak a bunch of gibberish but can enunciate “White Goddess” perfectly?


Are you serious with this dubbing?  That nurse sounds like Scarlett O’Hara on helium. 


This movie is kinda like an inverse Fugitive but instead of a doctor looking for the one-armed man who killed his wife; it’s a one-armed doctor looking for the cannibals who killed his wife. 


The Cannibal Chief looks like Keith Richards… on a good day.


The cannibals’ body paint makes it look like their nipples have eyebrows!


That White Goddess chick grew up to be one fine ass broad.  Hey wait, how did she get those fake eyelashes out in the middle of the jungle?


Whoa, Jess Franco is in this movie too?  Is it just me or does he look and sound exactly like Droopy?


The country the cannibal tribe lives in sounds like it’s called “My Lobby”.  This dude keeps asking “Where’s My Lobby?”  I’m to the point of telling him, “Just get in the elevator and press ‘G’!”


Every time this flick gets slow, out comes that White Goddess chick wearing nothing but a loin cloth.  Respect. 


Where did they get that skeleton, K-Mart?


How many scenes of people wandering around endless through a jungle can one movie take?


Finally, another slow motion cannibal chow down scene.  Now that is what I call eating a woman out!


You ever notice in all these cannibal movies how the cannibals always CHEW on the guts but never SWALLOW them?  Why is that?


Well, Cannibals is certainly far from the worst Franco movie I’ve ever seen; not a ringing endorsement to be sure.  Still, it’s got plenty of titties and enough slow motion cannibal smorgasbord scenes to make any Franco and/or cannibal movie fan want to spend 90 minutes of their Friday evening on. 


AKA:  Barbarian Goddess.  AKA:  White Cannibal Queen.  AKA:  Mondo Cannibal.


Tom Wilkinson babbling on about God knows what.  Tilda Swinton locked in a bathroom stall smelling her armpit.  George Clooney looking goofily at a bunch of horses.  That’s the first ten minutes of Michael Clayton.  Are you drawn into this movie yet?  Didn’t think so.  Sad thing is folks, that’s about as compelling as it gets.


Clooney plays Michael Clayton, a “fixer” for this law firm who goes around and cleans up other people’s messes.  Remember Harvey Keitel’s character in Pulp Fiction?  This is what Michael Clayton does except on a more lawyerly scale.  Actually he doesn’t do Jack Shit.  When a client gets into a jam, he calls Michael Clayton and Michael Clayton rushes over to his house to tell them… “You need to call a lawyer!”


What.  The.  Fuck.


So basically the guy could’ve just looked in the Yellow Pages and it would’ve saved Michael Clayton a tank of gas.  The movie only gets stupider from there.


This Michael Clayton guy is a fuck up.  He COULD have been a great lawyer but chooses to be a “janitor” instead.  He’s divorced, has a kid he’s got to see on weekends, a junkie brother, AND he has a gambling debt the size of the national deficit. 


Anyway, enough about him.  The plot has Tom Wilkinson going absolutely bat shit insane and taking off all of his clothes during a deposition.  The firm doesn’t like that so they call in Michael Clayton to do some damage control.  Since the firm is about to merge with some big ass conglomerate ran by Swinton, she wants everything peachy keen and doesn’t need a loose cannon sexagenarian Chippendale lawyer mucking up the works.  To soothe the stockholders’ minds, she gets these two Cloak and Dagger dipshits to kill old off Crazy Tom and then go after… you guessed it Michael Clayton. 


Thank God his weird predilection for staring dumbly at horses saves his neck. 


I don’t know what the fuck was up with this movie.  The plot was thin.  What plot there was got dragged down by an insurmountable amount of lawyer doubletalk and attorney gobbledygook.  Seriously, it was like you had to have passed the bar in order to understand what most of these assholes were saying.  In fact there was so little plot in the flick that they had to cram in so much of Clayton’s various familial problems to inflate the running time to two hours so it could qualify for Oscars.  It’s a bad sign in a movie when you get more caught up with your main character’s gambling problem and not all the stuff where people are trying to kill him.     


Furthermore there wasn’t a single likable performance in the whole film.  Clooney was in full on Smug Prick Mode and at all times looked as if he was constipated and couldn’t quite pull the trigger when it came to pinching off a loaf.  Swinton did her British Ice Cunt Routine and amazingly snagged an Oscar for it.  I don’t know how when her best scene involved her locked in a bathroom stall and frantically sniffing her pits, but I guess that’s how the Academy rolls these days.  And don’t get me started on Wilkinson’s annoying self-righteous shtick either. 


And come on people, what the fuck was with that whole random ass horse staring bit?  I mean Michael Clayton narrowly survived a car bomb just because he decided to get out of his car and stare at some horses on the side of the road.  I’ve seen better excuses of people barely escaping death in serials from the 1930’s for Christ’s sake. 


The flick does at least look classy and shit and everything has a nice and shiny sheen to it.  Too bad it’s as vacuous as Michael Clayton himself. 


Clooney and Swinton later re-teamed for the equally abominable Burn After Reading.