November 12th, 2014

STOP MAKING SENSE (1984) *** ½

Stop Making Sense is a unique and fun concert movie that cleverly succeeds in being more than just a concert movie. If you’re a Talking Heads fan, there is no reason for me to try to sell you on it. You’ve probably already seen it.

The band plays some of the best songs they ever did. Just seeing them perform “Heaven”, “Life During Wartime”, “Girlfriend is Better”, and “Burning Down the House” is pretty awesome, but the whole conceptual aspect of the concert is rather inventive and novel. The concert begins with front man David Byrne coming out on stage alone and tearing into “Psycho Killer” accompanied only by a boom box. For each subsequent number, a new member of the band is added, until about halfway into the show, there is a veritable army of side musicians. It’s fun just to watch everything evolve almost organically on stage.

As with most concert films; there are a few middling numbers. (I could’ve done without the part where Byrne leaves the stage so The Tom Tom Club could do “Genius of Love”.) However, Byrne’s tireless enthusiasm and showmanship is really something to watch. There’s also a bit involving Byrne wearing a big suit that shows his gift for comic timing. If you want a good cardio workout, try doing his dance moves along with him throughout the performance. I’m sure you’ll call it quits by about the fifth song.

BIG HERO 6 (2014) ****

Not since Bambi has a scene in a Disney movie tugged at our heartstrings with such intensity. I’m not going to spoil it for you. In fact, I don’t want to spoil much of anything about Big Hero 6 for you. It’s better if you go in cold and let it work its charms on you. Just prepare to walk away misty-eyed from this one.

The story is taken from a Marvel manga comic book I had never heard of. (I’m not into the whole manga thing.) The Disney animators take what could’ve been just your basic superhero movie and infuse it with their own particular brand of magic and in the process; they’ve made one of the best comic book movies in recent memory.

The flick follows the confines of an origin story very closely. There is the tragic loss of a loved one that sets the hero on his path, there is the formation of a superhero team, and the confrontation of the villain who is closely linked to our hero’s past. What is amazing about Big Hero 6 is that it takes all of these genre touchstones and embraces them. It does not set out to reinvent the wheel, but to create a wheel that wheel-lovers will be positively giddy about.

At its core, it’s a story about a boy and his robot. Baymax, if you’ve seen the previews, looks like a giant airbag. Despite his basic programming he still manages to say the right thing at the right time, which makes him loveable. He also gets a couple of Chaplin-esque comedic moments that revolve around getting his cumbersome figure around tight corners. He’s easily the best Disney character since Wall-E.

I’m sure Big Hero 6 will win you over. The ending really packs an emotional wallop, something 99% of most comic book movies (or kids’ movies for that matter) can’t boast. Even if you are suffering from superhero burnout, you’ll definitely want to check it out. It’s one of the best movies of the year.

THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS (1974) ****

The Centerfold Girls is a great, surprising, and nasty ‘70s exploitation movie. You can’t get much more ’70s than Andrew Prine, Aldo Ray, and Tiffany Bolling in one movie. It has a terrific set-up, an irresistible hook, and several unexpected plot twists. Plus, it also features an amazing amount of nudity. Seriously, a nubile female takes her top off practically every time they enter and/or exit a scene. It’s truly a sight to behold.

Prine plays a puritanical serial killer who is picking off nude models featured in a men’s magazine. That’s really just the broad strokes though. There’s a lot more to The Centerfold Girls than meets the eye.

This could’ve been the usual stalk ‘em and slash ‘em routine. The cool thing about The Centerfold Girls is that it’s told as an anthology movie. Each half-hour tale follows three different victims of Prine’s lunacy. Each tale contains its own peculiar set of circumstances around the crime. The first story plays almost like Last House on the Left. The second feels like a Russ Meyer version of an Agatha Christie novel. The final segment (featuring Bolling) is pretty much the most straightforward, but it features a cool chase finale through a burnt out forest.

Andrew Prine is at his all-time best playing the killer. Dressed in all black and living in a house decorated in all white, he is quite menacing and gets several great scenes where he makes creepy phone calls to his victims. Aldo Ray is quite good as a Good Samartian-turned-pervert. Tiffany Bolling has some nice moments too as the spunky Final Girl.

Some will be put off by the rampant sleaze found throughout the picture. However, fans of exploitation and grindhouse cinema will be impressed by the pull-no-punches, take-no-prisoners attitude the filmmakers adopted. The Centerfold Girls is definitely one for the books.

AKA: Girl Hunter.