March 16th, 2009

BUG (1975) * ½

An earthquake in a small town awakens a species of prehistoric cockroaches that crawl to the surface looking for sustenance.  But these are no ordinary cockroaches.  Uh-uh; no sir.  These bad boys can shoot fire out of their ass and blow up cars, set bushes on fire, and even cook a kitty cat’s head.  70’s movie staple Bradford (Moon of the Wolf) Dillman stars as the professor who studies the bugs and doesn’t even blink when they start to turn the town’s population (all six of them) into Baked Alaskas.  It doesn’t even faze him when the bugs crawl into his wife’s wig and sets her head on fire because dammit, HE’S GOT WORK TO DO!  (He doesn’t even realize it her birthday when the bugs turn her into a walking Molotov cocktail.)  


In fact, Dillman is so out of whack in this movie that he tries to SAVE THE BUGS FROM EXTINCTION after they blow up his wife!  What a fucking idiot!  Of course, Bradford crossbreeds the bugs with some other kind of insect, which turns them into super strong highly intelligent cockroaches that can arrange their bodies around as if they were part of a Busby Berkeley musical to spell out words like “WE LIVE”.  In the end the firebugs mutate even further and turn giant sized (yes you can see the strings) and eventually turn on poor Bradford.


Bug was the last film from famed producer and gimmickmeister William (House on Haunted Hill) Castle and it’s certainly not the best send-off he could’ve asked for.  No matter how promising the prospect of exploding bugs seems, I assure you that this dreck is just about as sucky as your average Sci-Fi Channel Original.  Director Jeannot (Supergirl) Szwarc stages the bug attack scenes fairly well (like the bug-in-the-earlobe gag), but they are ultimately too few and far between for Bug to be any good.  You can at least get a kick out of seeing the familiar looking Brady Bunch set being used as Dillman’s house during the bug-out sequences.


Although Dillman gives a pretty intense performance here, his character is just way too unlikable to be called a “hero”.  I mean its one thing to forget your wife’s birthday, but when the bugs that you are studying escape and cause her to EXPLODE INTO FLAMES, well… that’s just cold!  Patty (The Bad Seed) McCormack also turns up as a victim of the combustible cockroaches.


Special Note:  I think everybody needs to congratulate me for not saying the obvious “This movie BUGGED me!” pun, which I was super-tempted to use.


Things I Liked About This Movie:


  • Director Dario Argento’s inventive camerawork; namely the shot from inside a guitar.


  • The atmospheric chase through a topiary maze.


  • A dead cat hanging from a noose.


  • The gratuitously gay detective.


  • The cool scene where a girl falls down a flight of stairs and her knife lands on top of her.


  • The decapitations.


  • The bathtub fuck scene.


  • The almost poetic slow-motion automobile accident death scene.


Things That Irked the Living Shit Out of Me:


  • The stupid faux-acid rock music.


  • Just about all the acting.


  • The constipated pacing.


  • The way that Argento mounted the murder sequences--none of them were very suspenseful and they were all build-up and no payoff.


  • The kills were all bloodless.


  • The gimmick of photographing the retina of a dead person’s eye to see the last thing they saw before they died.  Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?  Too bad nothing was ever really done with it.  (Besides explaining the film’s title that is.)


Things I Did While Watching the Movie Because I Started to Get Distracted and Bored:


  • Ate breakfast.


  • Checked my email.


  • Talked to my brother on the phone. 


  • Started a load of laundry.


  • Took a dump.


Things I Still Need to Do Today:


  • Fold laundry.


  • Take a shower.


  • Sweep the kitchen.


  • Grab some lunch.


  • Walk the dog.


Funny how the “Things I Still Need to Do Today” section seems like it’ll be a lot more fun than the prospect of ever watching Four Flies on Grey Velvet again.


AKA:  Four Patches on Grey Velvet.  AKA:  Four Velvet Flies.

JCVD (2008) **

After months of hearing the hype surrounding this movie, I popped in JCVD hoping that this would finally be the flick that would resuscitate Jean Claude Van Damme’s ailing career and rescue him from the exile of Direct-to-DVD action flicks.  What I got was a wildly uneven and oddball movie that probably would’ve played better as a Saturday Night Live skit.  Still, I have enormous respect for JCVD (the man, not the movie) for really putting himself out there and trying something new.


The premise has Jean Claude Van Damme playing Jean Claude Van Damme (albeit a slightly exaggerated version).  His career is in the toilet, he’s flat broke, and he just lost custody of his daughter.  He moves back to his home of Brussels and tries to make a fresh start when he inadvertently winds up in the middle of a hostage situation.  The police are idiots and think he’s the mastermind behind the crime because the robbers always force him to talk on the phone to the hostage negotiator.  Eventually after a lot of sitting around, JCVD finally does something semi-heroic and stops the bad guys.


On paper, the movie sound like it’s going to be The Player Meets Dog Day Afternoon.  The problem is that the hostage plot is kinda lame (it wouldn’t cut it in one of JCVD’s Direct-to-DVD movies) and runs at odds with the film’s more surrealistic touches.  I appreciate the fact that Van Damme is trying to branch out and try something different but the story is just too slight and low key to make much of an impact.  Although I enjoyed a lot of the good-natured jabs at Van Damme’s career, the film really lacks the consistent sardonic wit needed to sustain the movie’s 97 minute running time.  Also, there’s hardly any “real” action in the flick and in reality, JCVD roundhouse kicks only one guy.  The incredibly stupid Funny Games style ending doesn’t do the movie any favors either.


There is some stuff here though that will make this a must see for Van Damme fans.  Like the excellent opening scene in which Van Damme Kung Fus and blows away dozens of extras for his latest movie.  What’s especially impressive about this scene is that it’s all done in one take.  Then there’s the scene where Van Damme floats out of the “real” movie and gives a touching six minute monologue to the audience.  At one point he even apologizes about the quality of the movie!  Man, why didn’t he do that for Maximum Risk?


The real surprise here though is that the man can actually act.  Speaking in his native tongue, Van Damme expresses more emotion and heart in one monologue than he did in his entire career.  While the movie may not be one of his best (Heck, it’s not even as good as such middle-of-the-road Van Damme flicks like Double Team.  Hey, remember the scene in Double Team in the Coliseum where Mickey Rourke stepped on a land mine and then the tiger pounced on him and he took his foot off the mine so he and the tiger could blow up together and die as one?  That shit was awesome.), I do hope at least that directors will start noticing Van Damme for his acting chops after seeing him in this film.


Van Damme’s “reel” director gets the best line of the movie when he says, “Just because he brought John Woo to America doesn’t mean he can sandpaper my dick!”


It’s pretty hard to get a guy to watch a movie that has either the word “Wedding” or “Married” in the title, but since it was directed by Jonathan Demme, the dude who did Silence of the Lambs, I figured I’d give it a shot.  During the opening credits, I spied the names Fab Five Freddy and Roger Corman in the cast.  With a cast like that, what’s not to like right?  Unfortunately, their roles must’ve been measured in milliseconds because I don’t remember seeing them at all.


What I do remember seeing is druggie Anne Hathaway constantly bitching and moaning and her sister Rachel flapping her gums non-stop about God knows what for almost two hours.  These two fight and bicker and yell and get into more drama (Anne’s in rehab, Anne killed her kid brother in a car accident a long time ago, Anne bitches about no being the Maid of Honor, etc.) than a year’s worth of Lifetime Originals.  It’s enough to make you want to puke.


What’s worse is that Demme films everything with annoying handheld cameras that jiggle up and down all the time.  (The scene where Anne has to take a piss test being the sole exception.)  Seriously dude, it’s a wedding movie, not fucking Cloverfield.  Also, Demme has an irritating habit of filming everything in real time.  I can kinda/sorta understand that when it comes to some of the wedding shit, but what about the scene that centers on a contest where people try to load a dishwasher in under two minutes?  What the fuck is up with that?  On the plus side, Anne is pretty good (she didn’t deserve the Oscar nomination though) and I liked the scene where she got into a fistfight with her mother (Debra Winger).


Corman gave Demme his start by letting him direct Caged Heat.  Rachel Getting Married is certainly no Caged Heat, I’ll tell you that.  My, how the mighty have fallen.