December 27th, 2010

A DIVA’S CHRISTMAS CAROL (2000) ***

Ah yes… A Diva’s Christmas Carol.  If ever there was a guilty pleasure Christmas movie, it’s this one.  I mean you all know my movie-watching tastes.  You know it’s not in my DNA to like this sort of flick.  The funny thing is though; A Diva’s Christmas Carol actually has more wit and genuine holiday cheer in it than a hundred other Christmas Carol knockoffs you’ll see this month.

 

Eboneeza Scrooge (Vanessa L. Williams) is a top-selling R & B diva who bosses her staff around and pinches pennies like a motherfucker.  She used to be part of a Destiny’s Child style trio (named “Desire”), but she went Beyonce on their ass in search of fame and fortune.  Of course, on Christmas, she gets haunted by the ghost of her dead band mate (Chili from TLC) who warns her she’ll be visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past (Kathy Griffin), Present (Duran Duran’s John Taylor), and Future.  Predictably, she sees the error of her ways, learns to care, regains her Christmas spirit, and all that shit.

 

I really like A Diva’s Christmas Carol because of it’s clever twists on the Dickens’ classic.  I think my favorite part was that the Ghost of Christmas Future was nothing more than a VH1 Behind the Music special that showed what would happen if Eboneeza didn’t change her ways.  And speaking of Eboneeza, I liked the way they played with the familiar characters’ names.  Even though her name was Eboneeza, they just called her “Ebony” for short, which I thought was pretty funny.  Then there’s the Jacob Marley character who is now a female named “Marley Jacobs”. 

 

Marley actually gets the best moments of the movie when she confronts Ebony about her miserly ways.  To prove she’s a real ghost, she rips off her own head and pulls her face off to let Ebony know that there are “no facials in the afterlife”.  I’m sure Charles Dickens himself would approve of that particular rewrite.

 

You guys are probably thinking it’s April Fools and not Christmas but I’m telling you, this one is pretty funny.  Do yourself a favor and don’t be such a Scrooge and check it out.  You’ll be glad you did.

SPOOK BUSTERS (1946) ***

Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, and the rest of the Bowery Boys graduate from Exterminating School and get their first job killing bugs at an old mansion.  The house is in fact a hiding place for a mad scientist and his henchman.  Predictably, he wants to put Huntz’s brain into his pet gorilla and it’s up to Leo and the Boys to stop him.

 

Spook Busters is a virtual remake of two other Bowery Boys movies, Ghosts on the Loose and Spooks Run Wild.  (The only difference is that the Boys are trying to kill bugs at the house and not redecorate it.)   Oddly enough, the plot’s over-familiarity kinda works in the movie’s favor.  I have to admit that I’m a sucker for the old Fake-Ghosts-in-a-Haunted-House bit, so Spook Busters went down pretty smoothly for me.  Some of you out there who have a lower tolerance for movies about haunted houses with secret passageways, guys hiding inside of paintings, and men in monkey suits will probably want to steer clear of it.

 

It also helps that the gags are pretty funny.  I think the funniest part is when Gorcey meets his friend’s French wife and tries to speak French to her.  He also gets the best line of the movie when he first enters the dilapidated house and says, “It looks like an undertaker’s rumpus room!”

WOODCHIPPER MASSACRE (1988) *

Based on the title alone, you’d think this would be a classic.  However, Woodchipper Massacre is just a shitty shot on video horror comedy.  The first part of the film is the tip-off that this is going to suck.  It’s nothing more than five minutes of somebody chopping up wood and putting it into the woodchipper.  It’s as if the “filmmakers” thought the audience wouldn’t know what a woodchipper was and put a How-To safety video before the start of the movie.

 

After that, the flick becomes a $1.50 remake of Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.  Three annoying brats are being babysat by their bitchy aunt who constantly yells and screams at them.  When the ginger-headed kid gets a hunting knife in the mail, she disapproves and tries to take it from him.  Long story short, the aunt winds up falling on the knife and dies.  The kids, fearing the police, shove her into the woodchipper to dispose of the body.  Then her foul-mouthed nutjob son shows up to the house and tries to blackmail the kids.  Pretty soon, he too becomes fodder for their trusty woodchipper.

 

To call the acting “amateurish” would be giving it too much credit.  None of these kids could cut it at their grade school Christmas play, let alone a horror movie.  The so-called “comedy” portions are sub-sitcom level and are more grating than anything.  To make matters worse, the gore is nonexistent.  You’d think if you’d call a movie Woodchipper “Massacre”, you’d kill a helluva lot more than two people.  That’s not much of a massacre if you ask me.

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY (1999) ***

I’m not the world’s biggest football fan but I’m usually up for a good football movie.  And that’s exactly what Any Given Sunday is:  A good football movie.  Nothing more, nothing less. 

 

Al Pacino stars as the coach for the fictional Miami Sharks who is under pressure to win from the bitchy owner (Cameron Diaz).  When the team’s legendary quarterback (Dennis Quaid) goes on the injured list, a cocky third-stringer (Jamie Foxx) steps in and steals his thunder.  Pretty quickly, success goes to his head and he starts acting like a complete douche nozzle.

 

I think the message of Any Given Sunday is all wrong.  It’s like director Oliver Stone is trying to say that television ruined football forever.  This is complete bullshit because as we all know, we tune into the Super Bowl not because of the game, but for the commercials. 

 

There are other flaws here.  The flick is too long and the narrative is too disjointed for it to really work.  And even as sports movies go, Any Given Sunday is curiously low on dramatics.  In fact, I’ve had more drama playing a game of Madden than what’s in this flick. 

 

Whatever it’s faults are, Any Given Sunday remains immensely entertaining thanks to the amazing cast.  Pacino does a fine job and Quaid is perfect as the aging quarterback.  I think my favorite duo though was James Woods and Matthew Modine as the bickering team doctors.  I also dug Aaron Eckhart as the offensive coordinator, Ann-Margret as Diaz’s boozy mother; and it was fun seeing football vets Jim Brown and Lawrence Taylor too.

 

Unfortunately, this is the movie when Jamie Foxx started thinking he was a serious actor.  He’s not horrible or anything but he just doesn’t have the charisma needed to stand out in the crowd.  It’s also the flick where he started thinking that he was a singer too as he sings a pretty awful rap song.  (Although admittedly, it’s awful on purpose… I think.)

 

Special Note:  This brings me to the end of my Oliver Stone DVD box set.  Since I’ve highly enjoyed reviewing all of his movies, I’m going to add his other films to my Netflix Queue.  I look forward to watching all of them, particularly his first film, Seizure.

CRAZY GIRLS UNDERCOVER (2008) * ½

After the death of Andy Sidaris, there has been a noticeable lack of Skinamax Tits n’ Guns movies.  I think Crazy Girls Undercover is someone’s idea of trying to bring about a renaissance in the genre.  Too bad it sucks.  The sad thing is Crazy Girls Undercover could’ve worked. 

 

The premise is certainly sound enough:  A former CIA agent uses a Vegas nudie review as a front for his various covert operations.  All of the girls in the show (the “Crazy Girls” of the title) make up his team of undercover agents.  Basically, it’s nothing more than a cheap version of Charlie’s Angels; except you know, there’s five of them and they show their tits.

 

And the plot isn’t too bad either.  It revolves around the Crazy Girls trying to separate an Arab card shark from him for his money so he can no longer finance a terrorist network.  Basically, it’s nothing more than a cheap version of Casino Royale; except instead of James Bond, it’s five girls who show their tits.

 

The thing that totally derails the movie is it’s tone.  It’s way too serious and is in desperate need of some tongue in cheek humor.  In addition, the movie’s pretty dull whenever the girls aren’t blowing something up or getting naked.  And while the gals get naked quite often, the flick mostly offers dressing room nudity and not a lot of hot and heavy Skinamax sex scenes.  That is to say, these Crazy Girls don’t spend too much time under the covers.

THE NOOSE HANGS HIGH (1948) ** ½

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello star as a pair of window washers who are mistaken for bagmen by some gangsters.  When they lose $50,000 marked for a gambling debt, the mobster gives them 48 hours to recover the lost loot.  Desperate, the duo bet all their money on a long shot horse in hopes of a huge cash out.

 

The Noose Hangs High was the first picture Bud and Lou did away from their home at Universal.  Although it was made for an independent studio, Eagle-Lion the film still has good production values; something a lot of their non-Universal productions lacked.  The flick gets off on the wrong foot with a positively unfunny subplot about Lou having a toothache.  He gets into a lot of sub-par sitcom nonsense like tying the tooth to a dog and going to see a nearsighted dentist; none of which elicits many laughs.  

 

The film has a couple more dead spots like this, but fans of the duo will enjoy it because they do a lot of their patented routines.  There’s a good scene where Lou bets a mobster that he “isn’t here” that’s pretty funny.  The team also does their “Mustard” and “10 Year Old Girl” routines during a long dinner scene that provides some of the biggest laughs of the movie.  So stay with it through the slow parts because you’ll ultimately be rewarded with a not-bad entry in the team’s career.  (Their next film was their best, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.)