Monthly Archives: September 2012

Humperdinck! Humperdinck! Humperdinck!

I had a movie to review for you guys. It was very much “meh” worthy what with its convoluted story, bad writing, so-so acting, and reckless disregard for the laws of space and time. But no worries. I’ll deliver that one next week. This week, I’m going to celebrate a film that is in my Top 5 of favorite movies. [Aside: I don’t know about you, but I can never answer the “what is your favorite movie” question without giving some sort of essay-length answer that satisfies neither the requestor nor me. So instead, I keep a top 5 that allows for regular movie rotations.]

This week’s blog entry shall celebrate what I consider to be the most quotable movie this side of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The movie I speak of has something for everyone: “Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…”

It’s The Princess Bride, and it just turned 25!!!  [Insert Kermit the Frog freak out here]  That’s right, my little R.O.U.Ses! The greatest fairy tale of all time just had a milestone anniversary, and I wanted to take part in the celebration.  So walk with me into (or out of) the Fire Swamp as I gush and swoon over this, my Top 5 favorite film of all time. Here’s the trailer, and I have no idea why there is smooth jazz playing in the background. Makes no sense.

TPB came out in 1987. I don’t remember seeing it in theaters, but I do remember watching it on video. I must have been in 5th or 6th grade at the time. It’s not important. What’s important was that I totally fell in love with that movie. I cheered for Westley and Buttercup. I booed Prince Humperdinck and Count Rugen.  And how can I go on without mentioning the hilarious band of outlaws: ringleader Vizzini; Inigo Montoya, the Spanish swordfighter who seeks to avenge his father’s death; and the late, great Andre the Giant as the strong and lovable Fezzik? He is the Brute Squad!

At some point in high school, I had recorded TPB off of Showtime or HBO or some channel. It was one of the movies my friends and I would put into heavy rotation at sleepovers or for movie nights at each other’s houses.  At one point, I lent my beloved VHS recording to a friend of mine who kept it for almost two years. Those were cold and painful years without my movie, and let the record show that I never let him borrow a movie from me ever again.

By the time I went to college, TPB and I had taken a bit of a breather. I spent more and more time with other, newer movies while TPB remained sitting on the shelf with an ever-growing layer of dust on its worn-out VHS cover. It wasn’t until 2001 when the Special Edition DVD was released, that I replaced that old VHS tape. And that’s also when TPB once again, became a movie night mainstay. It’s been 11 years, and I still have that DVD. When it’s not in use, it rests in the place of honor on the top shelf of my DVD tower next to Lord of the Rings and Star Wars.

As I mentioned earlier, TPB has so many good lines.  I’ll just list a few of my favorites for you below, and you can toss me a comment if I’ve missed any that you love.

  • “Inconceivable!”
  • “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous of which is ‘never get involved in a land war in Asia.”
  • “True love is the greatest thing in the world. Except for a nice MLT: a mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe. They’re so perky, I love that.”
  • “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
  • “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
  • “No more rhymes now, I mean it! (Anybody want a peanut?)”
  • “As you wish”  [duh!]
  • “Drop. Your. Sword.”
  •  “My brains, his steel, and your strength against sixty men, and you think a little head-jiggle is supposed to make me happy?”

You might find it strange that I’m able to recount my entire history with this one movie. I can honestly say that there is no other movie on my shelf whose history I can remember any clearer. The Princess Bride is just one of those movies that’s always there for you. You can go years without watching it, but once the story begins, it’s like visiting an old friend. Like Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz, The Princess Bride never seems dated. Anyways, I just wanted to profess my love for a movie that I’ve always enjoyed and I hope some of you feel the same way. Actually, I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like the movie, and only a few people who have never even seen it. I won’t be loaning them my copy though. I’m not that crazy.

PS: Here’s what’s more crazy. I haven’t even discussed the Cliffs of Insanity or how cool Cary Elwes was as Westley or how much I adore the Impressive Clergyman. I haven’t gone over the benefits of building an immunity to iocane powder or how ingenious the whole Dread Pirate Roberts scheme is. There’s been no mention of Peter Falk as the Grandfather or little Fred Savage as the Grandson. I left out all the sword fighting! That’s a whole other blog entry on its own. But that’s a story for another day.

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Seven Questions for the Movie Gods

1.     Looper opens next weekend. Why oh why did they mess up Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s face so that he could look more like Bruce Willis? With all the prosthetics and makeup, he still doesn’t look like Willis except for the intense “squint” expression.  Now it’s just distracting.

2.     When will someone make a movie where Matthew McConaughey and Josh Lucas play brothers? These too actually favor one another. Even their voices / speech patterns are similar.

3.     Did anyone else think that Source Code was sort of kind of like Twelve Monkeys meets Groundhog Day only not nearly as good as either?

4.     In Stand By Me does little Wil Wheaton really grow up to be Richard Dreyfuss? Really?? [Thanks to my good friend Zelda Ripley for inspiring this one]

5.     Will Luc Besson ever make the sequel to Leon: The Professional where Natalie Portman reprises her role as Matilda?

6.     Will romantic comedies ever return to the good old days like when we had Meg Ryan, or are we stuck with the Katherine Heigl / Gary Marshall era of rom-com? [Note: I’m not saying Meg Ryan has to star in the movie, but you have to admit the films she headlined in the 80s and 90s were pretty good. I’m just asking for better quality romantic comedies should the genre continue.]

7.     Coincidence or Conspiracy? In Sneakers Robert Redford’s character is named Martin Bishop. In Spy Game, Brad Pitt plays Redford’s protoge. His name is Tom Bishop. I always thought there was something there, but maybe it’s nothing.

And Then There Were Aliens

In Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, a group of people are lured to an island by a mysterious host. The guests are then picked off one by one, and no one knows who the murderer is. Next to Murder on the Orient Express, it’s one of Christie’s most famous works.

This week’s cinematic endeavor is really similar to And Then There Were None—sort of. You have to squint and be really flexible with the term “similar.” If you make it that far, you too will see that Terminal Invasion has “classic” potential written all over it—not. I kid!!! It’s not a classic at all, but it did make me think of the Christie work.

Terminal Invasion is a movie that I really hesitated in reviewing. It should have been a no-brainer. After all, it hits almost all of my “meh movie” criteria. The problem is that Bruce Campbell is the star of the movie, and I am a card-carrying Bruce Campbell fangirl. How can I objectively review any movie with him in it? That was my main worry. Would my admiration of Bruce block my reasoning brain cells from seeing the turkey that the movie could potentially be? As it turns out, I’m able to separate Church of Bruce from the State of the Movie. All is well.

TI takes place at the world’s most inconvenient and tiny airport. I think it might be patterned after Tom Nevers Field Airport from TV’s Wings. I half expected Tony Shalhoub to wander into a scene. There is a nasty blizzard, and a small group of passengers and airport personnel are trapped in the itty-bitty lounge.

You get all kinds here. First of all, there’s Cathy the spunky feminist pilot. She’s a by-the-book type which means that no, she won’t fly the plane in a blizzard, and it doesn’t matter how much money you offer her. Cathy is instantly likable since her first scenes show her handling snobby passengers such as the wealthy David Higgins (who I’ve been calling “Armani” in my notes), and the bickering Phillips couple—Sarah and Andrew. There’s also Gloria the old lady airport um…lady. Del the TSA Agent and Darian the wise-cracking passenger round out the airport folks. Also, there are two very bratty and creepy children running about. Where are their parents??!!!!

Lastly, I mention Bruce. Bruce plays a convict named Jack. Jack was being transported when the police vehicle slid across the road and landed in a ditch. The two cops and Jack all got to wander to the nearest building which happened to be Tiny Airport. The cops want to keep Jack at the airport until a relief vehicle can arrive to continue his transport to the next prison cell.

Using the old “I’ve got to take a leak” trick, Jack dupes the cops into taking off his cuffs so he can take care of his business. While Jack tries to pee, a priest exits one of the stalls and washes his hands. But I’m telling you here and now that there was no soap usage. Ew. Then, preacher man totally picks up one of the cops and tosses him about the room. I did not see that coming. Or maybe I did. After all, he didn’t use soap. We can’t trust anything about this man. Preacher man kills the two cops, and starts heading towards Jack. Preacher Man is an alien!!!!! We get to see his shifty alien eyes. They are very creepy. They kind of blink from regular eyes to a sideways slide of black. Not normal.

Jack is able to kill the alien. However, alien guy’s body melts into goo, so it looks as if Jack has killed the cops himself. This isn’t going to go over well with the folks out in the lounge area. Jack must be some kind of hardened criminal, because he takes it all in stride, and Bruce Campbell is just so cool when he’s playing a meanie. He holds the passenger group at gunpoint and explains that he needs a flight to Canada.

Oh, I forgot to mention that there’s this blond lady in the group. She’s sobbing over the dead cops and does a lot of overacting in general. She calls Jack an animal (Yeah, he is!) and then starts hyperventilating. She’s really very annoying, so it’s a wonderful thing when, during a struggle between Jack and Del the TSA guy that the gun goes off and Blondie eats a bullet. But does this kill her right away? Nope. She is an alien!!!

Blondie the alien really just looks like she’s slept in her car. Her hair is suddenly wild, and she starts snarling at Bruce before he shoots her dead—for reals this time. Part of me kept waiting for him to utter some lines from Army of Darkness but alas…

So here’s the dilemma: There are aliens in the airport. The aliens look like regular people, but are clearly intent on doing harm. Also, the group is stranded and can’t leave. What to do? What I love is how quickly everyone rolls with the alien concept. There isn’t a single naysayer in the bunch trying to find a more “rational” explanation. Nope. Someone says alien, and everyone else agrees. It’s kind of refreshing.

Pilot Cathy immediately starts calling the shots, or as she so politely puts it, “I am the Alpha Female, people. What I say goes.” Ha! Cathy suggests that whatever the group does, they have to do it together and also keep an eye out since any one of them could be an alien. I love the immediate trust/distrust.

One thing the group agrees on immediately is that despite the bad weather, they have to get out of the airport. Del suggests that in order to figure out who is alien and who isn’t they each take a ride through the carry-on x-ray machine. This works fine for a brief period. We learn that the Phillips’ are not aliens. Also, Del checks out fine. Alas, tiny, old Gloria turns into a giant alien creature and we see her transform on the view-screen. What’s funny is that somehow she sets off the alarm system on the x-ray machine. Is there a setting for that? Del peers into the machine like a fool, and is snatched inside. There’s a cool view-screen play-by-play of their struggle. Neither survives.

Anyways, after the x-ray disaster, our survivors decide to ignore their earlier plan and split into groups. Super… Armani, Darian, Sarah and Andrew hang out in the lounge. Armani and Darian bond over snack foods. Meanwhile Sarah chooses this to be the time to discuss with Andrew the current state of their marriage? Really?

Cathy remembers the bratty little kids and goes off to find them. Why she thinks they’ll be in the scary basement-looking hangar is beyond me, but there they are. Meanwhile, Jack learns from Sarah that those kids don’t belong to anyone that they know of. I bet you can put two and two together on this one. Jack runs to save Cathy.

Creepy little boy and girl have alien eyes!!! Run for your lives!!! I knew it! The little boy is the scariest. He’s got red hair and very pale skin. He grins like Damian, and when he starts to morph into alien form, he’s even creepier. Eek!!! Jack and Cathy manage to escape the evil children, but that’s okay. The kids can just kill off the group hanging out in the lounge—and that’s just what they set out to do.

The rest of the movie is mostly Jack and Cathy being the smart ones by outrunning and outwitting the aliens. The others seem better suited at being hunted by the evil alien children. I won’t say who else lives or dies. I don’t want to give away the whole thing. Sheesh!

Oddly enough, the movie started to slow down for me around the time everyone was running away from aliens. The psychological drama of who could be an alien was actually, pretty interesting. Once folks are crawling through ventilation ducts and blocking entryways, the movie lost a little something.

I know! I’ll talk about the aliens. For most of the movie the aliens are in people form. But after a while, they change into full-on alien form. They are flesh-colored with longish limbs. They are also really slimy and very toothy. They kept reminding me of the alien assassin that shows up in The Last Starfighter. You remember—he’s the one who showed up to kill Alex but was thwarted by Robert Preston. Man, I love that movie. I’m putting it in as soon as I finish writing this. Back to subject. Yes. So picture the Xandoxan from The Last Starfighter and then make his head more cone-shaped and make his mouth bigger. Also move his eyes from the sides, more up to like regular peoples. They are practically twins. Scary.

Bruce Campbell: It was interesting seeing him play an anti-hero. I mean, in the Evil Dead movies, Ash would rather be someplace else obviously, but I’ve never thought of him as anti. He’s just the hero. For most of this movie, Bruce seems to be PMSing a little bit. He comes across as bored and cranky. He’s also kind of cold-hearted at times.  He has a plan to get out of the country and will do whatever is necessary to achieve that. However, because this is Bruce as the lead, he’s also the hero. He has no problem fighting the aliens. It’s not much of an action role, but he’s so the alpha male in the group. Armani is like a very distant second. Way distant. Bruce also has the best line in the entire movie. The arch-villain (whom I won’t reveal) seems to think he/she knows that Bruce will leave the other survivors to their doom so he can escape to Canada. And that’s when we get this line: “You don’t know Jack.” ha ha…Cheesy yet effective because his character’s name is Jack. *snort*

So looky there, kids! I was able to do it. Terminal Invasion is not the greatest of films. It has the strange honor of slowing down when the action speeds up. It’s also fairly easy to figure out who is and who isn’t an alien. For that reason, the plot gets very predictable, and I kind of wanted the aliens to hurry up their hunting of the humans so we could get to the end. Chase Masterson who played Cathy the pilot was okay in her role. She wasn’t super memorable, but she held her own in scenes with Mr. Campbell.

And Bruce…he’s the man.

Dance Party in the Shaman Cave

Back in the 90s, Sean Connery was in a cool movie called Medicine Man. He played a scientist who was searching for a cancer cure in the South American rainforest. He had gone slightly native, and it was funny to see him all calm and collected opposite Lorraine Bracco’s very New Yorker character.  The rainforest shots are lovely, and the movie is fun and exciting.  So why am I bringing it up? I have no idea. After watching this week’s movie, I found myself really wanting to toss Medicine Man on the queue. I’m just sharing.

This week’s movie goes by one of two titles depending on where you search. Netflix has it listed as Lost Treasure of the Maya which makes sense since the movie is about the search for a lost Mayan treasure. IMDB says the movie is titled No Bad Days which in my opinion, is a horrible title.  For this review, we are sticking with Lost Treasure of the Maya.

LTOTM opens with a caption telling me it’s 1240 a.d. in the Yucatan Peninsula. There are really nice shots of jungle, but our nature retrospective is cut short when a Mayan dude carrying a satchel goes sprinting through the forest. He’s being chased by a bunch of dudes who looked like they just ended their shift working for Rainbow Brite. One guy is painted red, another yellow, etc. At first, I thought this might have been some cut footage from Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto but I was wrong.

The painted men chase Satchel Man all through the jungle and even into a pool of water at the base of a short cliff. I have to say, the cinematography in this is pretty solid. Even the shots of the men swimming underwater is so well-lit and so clear. The pool of water leads into a series of underground caves. Satchel manages to lose Red man, and he takes the time to pull out what looks like a green mask thingy (distant relation to the idol from Raiders of the Lost Ark?) and hide it. As he swims away from the caves, he’s caught by the Rainbow brigade and is killed. All that running and swimming and hiding and more swimming was all for naught—or was it?

As movie intros go, that one was actually pretty intense. Without any characters speaking for any background information, I found myself already invested.

During “Present Day” a young American woman named Alexis arrives in Cancun. Her archaeologist sister has gone missing, and no one seems to be searching for her. We know that the sister was on the verge of a great discovery, but that’s the last anyone heard. Alexis seems like a smart girl, but she can get a little shrill and annoying like when she’s shouting in English at the Mexican cop and seems offended when he doesn’t speak her language. Lucky for Alexis, almost every other character she encounters is fluent in English.

Our hero in this movie is a guy named Nico. Nico is sort of like a local Magnum PI only not. Nico has some mysterious past he doesn’t like to talk about, and that’s fine. When it’s brought up, I felt it was too forced. Most of the time, Nico likes to be good-looking, drunk and lazy. He’s got a bartender buddy who, per his job description, knows all and always gives sage advice. Here’s how we meet our illustrious hero without a last name:

Alexis and Nico meet while he’s recovering from an afternoon bender of girly drinks (the kind with the fruit on the top) and drunken beach wandering. It would seem that Alexis’s strategy for finding her sister is to ask every single person in Cancun whether or not they’ve seen her. It’s a thorough plan but not very time-sensitive. Nico is resting in a chair. He’s got his shades on and he looks very comfy. Alexis keeps talking to him before she realizes that he’s asleep. Heh.

Now I’m going to talk about our villains. I wish they had been a little more formidable. Michael Madsen of the groovy Kill Bill movies plays Lester. He’s supposedly a collector of Mayan treasures who moonlights  as an antiquities mob boss. Sure.  We are repeatedly told throughout the movie that Lester is dangerous and that Alexis’s search is stirring up trouble and attention. Um ok…

Lester is after that Mayan mask that was hidden away all those years ago, and the sister has been kidnapped by Javier to help find it. Most of the scenes with Lester involve him on the phone with his chief enforcer Javier having the following conversation:

  • Lester: “Have you found it yet?”
  • Javier: “No, but we’re very close.”
  • Lester at this point utters some kind of threat about what will happen if he doesn’t find it.
  • Javier repeats assurances that they will find the mask soon.

This is a good time to point out that characters in this movie buy into the whole end of the world 2012 theory. It’s brought up many times even though it has nothing to do with the central plot of the film. I’m not sure why. Maybe the filmmakers through that concept would make it more marketable with distributors. Who knows. Anyways, just mentioning it. The topic is a running debate between Nico and Alexis throughout the movie all the way to a kind of cheesy epilogue we could have done without.

Anyways, since I actually enjoyed this movie, I’m not going to share many more plot spoilers. But, I will point out some more things I really enjoyed.

  1. Cool supporting characters. Okay, so the villains were sucky. But the Wise Bartender was a pretty sly dude, and there’s a shaman friend of Alexis’s sister who can throw an awesome vision quest dance party.
  2. Nico. The character is really funny when he’s not trying to be serious. I liked him as  a sort of reluctant hero. There’s a good scene when he’s waking up from his visit to the Shaman’s cave and he sees his face in the mirror—he’s covered in tribal paint. It made me laugh.
  3. There’s a really good scene where Nico is questioning a member of the sister’s dig team (one that wasn’t kidnapped) about why she’s gone missing. The team member tells a wholesome story about going to church and his kids and being threatened by some man, but the footage shows a completely different, but true story where we see the team member get crazy drunk in a bar and then volunteer info to one of Javier’s men.
  4. The action sequences are pretty exciting and are shot really well. Again, the production value for this movie was really good.

And just to be fair, here are two things I really didn’t enjoy or understand:

  1. There is a scene with Lester on his boat. He has two members of the dig team with him and he keeps asking them where the mask is. Neither one knows, but that’s not good enough. Lester is about to shoot one of them when a boat approaches with great fanfare and many expensive crane shots. Actor Keith David is driving the boat. I’m not sure of the name of his character. This is his only scene in the movie, and yet he got top billing. From boat to boat, Lester and Mr. David chit-chat about various threats Lester could be making towards the dig team guys. Then, once that’s done, Mr. David, sails onwards to other adventures. There was no point to that scene at all!!!!!! None! Why was it there?  I just don’t understand why that was there.
  2. During one scene, Nico and Alexis are running from Javier’s men in the very same jungle we saw in the introduction. At one point Alexis is hiding near a tree. That’s when we get gratuitous giant spider footage. The offending arachnid is literally crawling up Alexis’s leg and there’s one in her hair too. I know the scene was called for since it ultimately flushes her out of hiding, but come on!! No one needed to see that!

Right, so as I’ve already said, I actually enjoyed Lost Treasure of the Maya. It wasn’t a super-duper movie, but if it came on TV, I might consider watching it again. That’s saying a lot. Of course, I was watching Troop Beverly Hills the other night, so please form your own opinions.

If you do watch the movie, and realize it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, you can play a little game called Find the Product Placement. I’ll give you a hint. There are 2 very tight closeups of Pepsi products early in the movie. These are followed by at least 4 Tecate beer placements. The beer shots aren’t quite as obvious as the Pepsi ones, but they were easy to spot and you can make out name of the beer each time.  By the end of the movie, you might even be a little thirsty for Pepsi or Mexican beer. That means it’s working.