August 22nd, 2009

ZABRISKIE POINT (1970) *

My wife got this off Netflix.  I thought since it was from Michelangelo Antonioni, the director of Blow-Up, it might be okay.  Then again, I thought I’d like Blow-Up too and I didn’t.  Anyway, what else are you going to do on a rainy Saturday afternoon?  Had I known it was going to be about dirty hippies, I may have just slept in instead.

 

The “plot” centers around this hippie college student who wants to be a “revolutionary” so he buys a gun at a pawn shop and shoots a cop during a student demonstration.  He then steals a pink airplane and flies out to the desert.  Along the way, he sees a hot chick driving in a car so he swoops down and does a lot of reckless stunts to impress her.  (How he could tell she was hot from so far away is anybody’s guess.)  Anyway, she falls in love with him and they have sex at Zabriskie Point while covered in gypsum.  After painting his plane a bunch of stupid hippie colors, he decides to fly back to school to face the music and is promptly shot dead on arrival on the runway.  The ditzy chick then goes off to a cool house in the desert with her boss.  She splits though and watches the house blow up (like 17 times) before TV’s, refrigerators, lawn furniture, and racks of clothing blow up in slow motion. 

 

Which raises the question, “Shouldn’t have Antonioni called this movie ‘Blow-Up’ too?”

 

What makes the movie especially hard to take is the constant Pink Floyd music.  I’ve never taken any drugs in my life, but you must have to take a shitload for their music to be any good.  That makes them the perfect people to do the soundtrack for this movie because you’d have to take about 700 hits of Blue Sunshine before this movie made a lick of sense.  The equally overrated (and massively drugged out) Grateful Dead also appeared on the soundtrack and irritated the fuck out of me.  The only good song they played was “You Got the Silver” by The Rolling Stones.  This song choice typifies Antonioni’s contempt for his audience.  Why else would you get a Rolling Stones song sung by Keith Richards for your movie?  Although I personally like the song, how hard would it have been to get some Mick sung tunes on the soundtrack?

 

I guess the scene where the house blew up 17 times was pretty cool but what the fuck was up with the TV’s, refrigerators, lawn furniture, and clothing blowing up?  Only Antonioni knows for sure.  It smells like a bunch of artsy fartsy hippie crap to me. 

 

They should’ve called it Zabriskie Pointless.

UNDEFEATABLE (1993) ***

What the Hell has happened to the Ultimate Fighting Championship?  I hadn’t watched UFC in a long time (I remember watching the very first UFC on Pay Per View back when I was in high school), but I caught some of it the other day and things have changed a lot since my day.  And not for the better. 

 

Now when the UFC first started out it featured lots of different fighters from different fighting disciplines going up against guys who had radically different fighting styles.  Today’s UFC fighters all participate in Mixed Martial Arts (or “MMA”) which is a blend of all the different fighting techniques.  Basically, what that means is that everybody essentially has the same fighting style.  My question is:  Where’s the fun in that?

 

What made those old UFC’s so cool was seeing the differently trained disciplines going head to head.  Who would win; the boxer or the wrestler?  The kickboxer or the aikido expert?  That’s what made the matches so much fun to watch.  Now that everyone just uses the same style, it takes the fun out of it.  What’s the point of being “The Ultimate Fighting Champion” when your fighting style is exactly the same as the next guy?

 

Excuse me for the rant but I only bring it up because I just watched Undefeatable.  This movie knows that when you watch a low budget kickboxing movie from the 90’s you want to see some different fighting techniques.  Undefeatable features a guy who does “Eagle Claw” (he even wears a Freddy Kruger type glove), a chap who specializes in streetfighting, and a dude who wears football pads and tackles people.  Granted, none of these forms of combat would be permissible in the UFC Octagon, but at least their techniques are radically different.  (OK, the streetfighter guy maybe, but his technique is really non-descript because he just kicks and punches a lot.)

 

Undefeatable is all about how Cynthia Rothrock has to put her sister through college by participating in an underground fighting circuit.  Meanwhile there’s a heavily mulletted fighter named “Stingray” (Don Niam) who gets so mad his wife left him that he becomes a serial killer.  Now every time he sees a chick that remotely resembles his wife he flips out, chains her up, rips out her eyes, stuffs the body in a Port-A-Potty, and keeps the eyeballs in his goldfish tank.  In short, this Stingray guy is straight up nuts.  When Rothrock’s sister becomes Stingray’s latest victim, she teams up with this cop who knows Kung Fu to take down the karate chopping killer.   

 

Undefeatable was directed by Godfrey Ho, the man who helmed all those crazy ass Richard Harrison Ninja movies.  If you’ve seen any of those flicks, you may know the level of insanity that awaits you.  Undefeatable is pretty bat shit insane.  I’m not saying it reaches the ludicrous heights of Street Fighter:  The Legend of Chun-Li or anything (there are way too many scenes with the bland detective that prevents the movie from really cutting loose), but it’s good for a hoot and a holler.

 

How crazy is this movie?  Well, let’s talk about how all of the competitors in the underground fights all have 3 to 5 man entourages that all wear matching outfits.  The streetfighter’s fans all wear denim, Rothrock’s pals all dress like an Oriental version of Sha-Na-Na, and the football dude’s people wear jerseys and letter jackets.  The final fight also had me in stitches.  I don’t want to ruin it for you, but I’ll just say that the killer gets what’s coming to him.  If that’s not enough, then ask yourself when’s the last time you saw a kickboxing mother-obsessed serial killer rip out women’s eyeballs and store them in a fish tank? 

 

I’ve never watched too many Cynthia Rothrock movies but after checking out Undefeatable, maybe I should.  She’s a better actress than I thought (she’s effective in the scene where she I.D.’s her sister’s eyeless body in the morgue) and is a tip-top Kung Fu honey.  The movie really belongs to Don Niam.  With his bulging eyes and perfectly coiffed mullet, he makes Stingray one of the most… uh… unique serial killers in film history.  He could definitely mop the floor with any of those newfangled UFC guys any day.

 

On a personal level, I have to say that I liked Undefeatable because it was filmed in my home state of Maryland.  It may have been lensed over the bridge in P.G. County but that didn’t stop me from enjoying hearing all the Baltimore accents.  It’s easily the best shot-in-Maryland-in-the-early-90’s kickboxing movie ever made.

 

(Special Note:  This review goes out to my pal Ryan Kenner who brought this movie to my attention.)

VACANCY (2007) *

(Special Note:  This review goes out to Caitlyn at www.onlygoodmovies.com.  She used my Nashville review for her list of 75 Comedy Films to See Before You Die.  If she makes a list of Horror Films to Avoid While You Live, I hope she includes this review for Vacancy.)

 

Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale are two stupid white people who stupidly get off the interstate and get lost on a back road.  Then they stupidly stop at a deserted gas station and let the creepy mechanic guy purposefully fuck up their car so it can break down a mile later.  Then they stupidly check into a rundown motel that just so happens to be right next door to the deserted gas station where they stupidly rent a gross room from the overly suspicious night clerk.  Then they stupidly watch some complimentary snuff movies that had been left in the room and ever-so-slowly realize that they are the new stars of the next snuff video.

 

I have seen some stupid white people in my time but Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale play two of the stupidest white people to ever grace a horror movie.  Damn, these people are stupid.  If that had been me in the Snuff Movie Motel, this movie would’ve only been twenty minutes long instead of 85.

 

TOP TEN WAYS MITCH IS SMARTER THAN LUKE WILSON IN VACANCY:

 

1)       I wouldn’t get off the interstate.  And if I did, my GPS would get me to wherever the fuck I needed to go and I wouldn’t have to fool with no map.

 

2)       I wouldn’t stop at no ominous looking gas station and let some stranger fiddle under the hood of my perfectly functional automobile. 

 

3)       I wouldn’t stay at a sleazy Bates Motel rip-off.  (I’m a HoJo man myself.) 

 

4)       If I did stay at said motel (and that’s a huge muthafuckin’ if), I’d be out of there as soon as I realized it was Snuff Movie Central.  (As much as I like being in movies, I’m not THAT desperate for IMDB acting credits.) 

 

5)       If I did stay at the hotel, I’d make damn sure to smash every single one of the hidden cameras in the room so the haggard-looking desk clerk with the massive video surveillance set-up couldn’t spy on my every move. 

 

6)       I would actually flag down the nearest cop and let him know what was going down instead of waiting till the last possible second until he gets a knife in the back. 

 

7)       If I was married to Kate Beckinsale, I’d jump her bones like all the time instead of yell at her. 

 

8)       I wouldn’t fuck around with the underground tunnels; I’d stay up in the ventilation shaft John McClane style and get the drop on those Snuff Movie making mofo’s. 

 

9)       If I did get my hands on a getaway car, I’d use it to actually getaway. 

 

10)   Umm… see 7.   

 

It should be noted that this movie was directed by a guy named Nimrod Antal.  I’d say that’s fitting considering how dumb Luke and Kate are in this movie.  I know I shouldn’t hate on them.  I should direct all my rage at Nimrod.  I just can’t bring myself to hate him either though.  After all, he’s just living up to his name. 

 

Bottom Line:  Vacancy is a movie made by a Nimrod for nimrods.