Archive for the ‘Mean Mothers’ Category

Mother’s Boys

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Was Jude crazy, or was she driven crazy by her husband’s eyebrows?
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Joanne Walley-Kilmer, Peter Gallagher, Vanessa Redgrave

It’s the story, of a man named Robert, who was raising two huge eyebrows of his own… they were four men, living all together, but they were all alone! Till the one day when the fellow met this lady, and they knew that it was much more than a hunch, then his ex-wife returned and tried to kill her…

No, seriously, this is the story of Jude (Curtis,) a deadbeat mom who returns to her workaholic architect husband (Gallagher) and three Aryan children after three years of drunken, sociopathic absence. By this point, husband Robert is dating Cally (Kilmer,) the assistant principal of the kids’ school. Jude “wants her family back” and is out for revenge! She sets out upon a convoluted plan to eject Cally and get Robert back into her pants. Her plan backfires, however, when stuff goes wrong, and children are injured, and… stuff.

Jude and Robert’s three children, Ben, Michael and Kes are the ones caught up in this dysfunctional family struggle. We can disregard Ben and Michael, since the former is only useful for one scene involving a killer juice glass, and the latter has about three seconds of dialogue in total. Kes is the real star here. (OK, “Kes” is a character is Star Trek Voyager, and “Cally” is a character in the British show Blake’s 7. So, were the filmmakers big sci-fi geeks or something? Or am I just the geeky one? How often do you hear the names “Kes” and “Cally,” anyway?) Jude manages to brainwash the kids against Cally by driving home the point that she’s their Real Mom, and also by buying them Nintendo Game Boys and letting them drive her BMW convertible. Everyone in this movie is mega-rich. Whatever Jude was doing during her three years of absence, it wasn’t lying drunken in the gutter somewhere. Maybe she’s the CEO of Asolut Vodka or something.

Anyway… Jude and Kes hatch out a plan to “scare” Cally a little bit, which basically means kill her. Along the way, Grandma (Redgrave) gets hospitalized, Robert’s huge menacing eyebrows get mussed up, and Ben gets impaled on a Tall Drink of Water. And yes! This movie ends with a car-balanced-on-cliff scene! Don’t miss the Amazing Gravity-Defying Volvo held in place by a single dead tree, in a spectacular Death-Defying climax!

The Shanghai Gesture

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
The Golden Age of Hairdos
Starring: Ona Munson, Walter Huston, Victor Mature, Gene Tierney

What is The Shanghai Gesture? Is that like the Brooklyn Salute? Anyway, this sinful story takes place in Shanghai, the East’s City of Pleasure. Our tale revolves around Mother Gin Sling, an Asiatic Empress of Pleasure (totally played by a white lady, by the way,) who owns Shanghai’s sleaziest, and most decadent casino. In Mother Gin Sling’s casino, fortunes are lost, promises are broken, and damsels are deflowered. Also, hair is done. That is to say, Mother Gin Sling’s hairdo’s are some of the most elaborate known to man. It takes a lot of Yin-Yang to keep Mother supplied with giant curly sparkly things to stick into her hair.

Anyway, Mother Gin Sling’s casino is in peril. A wealthy white businessman wants to buy up all the properties on the block and knock them over. Meanwhile, Mother’s henchman, the playboy Doctor Omar, has picked up Poppy Jones, a mysterious and naive young lady who recently has started frequenting the casino. Soon Poppy is racking up a huge tab at the casino, and her losing streak is unstoppable. But who is she, and where did she get that diamond necklace?

The movie culminates in a dinner party at Mother’s home– thrown in honor of Sir Guy Charteris, the white developer. Sparks fly as Mother fights to save her casino. But what is her mysterious connection to Sir Guy’s past? And what is her even more mysterious connection to Poppy?

A great campy film noir with some gratuitous overacting for good measure.

The Nanny

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Bette Davis, Wendy Craig, Jill Bennett, William Dix

It’s not exactly a Mean Mother Movie, because it’s the Nanny, not the mother who is mean (the mother is just irritating.) But I think that Mean Caregivers are a nice subcategory of the Mean Mother genre. This is the tale of the torment of one caregiver’s psyche manifesting itself in her conscious. But we won’t find that out until later.

“Nanny” (Bette Davis) has devoted her life to caring for Virgie (Craig) and her sister Pen (Bennett). Now they’re all grown up, and have kids and problems of their own. For example, Virgie spends much of her time being on the brink of a nervous breakdown, and Pen has heart trouble that causes her to fan herself and make weird gagging noises before dramatically taking pills that miraculously cure her fits before she even swallows them down. Virgie is married to the archetypal Husband- he’s the strong, silent type who mildly disapproves of everything, believes in harsh discipline, and is away on business a lot.

Virgie and Husband have a 12-year old son named Joey. Joey has been in reform school for two years for allegedly killing his little sister Susy. In school, Joey enjoys such antics as pretending to hang himself in order to startle the matron who looks after him. From the school’s headmaster, we learn that little Joey has “developed an irrational hatred of middle aged women.” Why is this? Does it have anything to do with the fact that Joey is a real brat to Nanny? Or is it more to do with the fact that his lower lip is now permanently stuck out in an act of perpetual defiance?

As the family re-adjusts to having Joey home, Joey gets more and more bratty. He won’t eat, and won’t sleep. He’s convinced that Nanny killed Susy, and is out to get him as well. He doesn’t actually tell anyone that Nanny is a homicidal maniac, he just continues to act out in his distrust by giving everyone attitude. As this poster-family of dysfunction slowly gets more and more at each others’ throats, even the sweet and loving Nanny begins to lose composure. She tries to poison Virgie and frame Joey. She also won’t hand Pen her pills when she’s having a heart problem, causing her to dramatically die, nicely curled up in bed.

So what really happened to Susy? I won’t reveal that anticlimactic tidbit. It turns out that all of Nanny’s bad deeds were a direct result of a powerful guilt that her subconscious is harboring. You see, Nanny has an illegitimate daughter whom she abandoned. The daughter just bled to death from a botched abortion, the attempt to purge Nanny’s illegitimate grandchild. It was the guilt that made her attempt to smother with a pillow, and then drown Joey… I probably would have just tried to smother him because he was a brat, but that’s another story… In any case, this film is full of gratuitous overacting, plot details that make you go “hmmm?” and corny dialogue. If you like tales of psychology gone awry, this is the one for you!

The Nanny

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
I caaaaaaaaaaaaaaahn’t!
Starring: Bette Davis, Wendy Craig, Jill Bennett, William Dix

Hm. As Scooter asked me while watching this film, “so, was Bette Davis ever young?” I think maybe she was… like in the nineteen-twenties. Bette stars as– what? a creepy old lady?! No way!!!

OK, the main players here include:

Nanny, the creepy old lady who moves around robotically and refuses to inflect no matter how upset she gets. Bette’s voice in the movie kind of reminded me of the Texas Instruments TI99/4A, a talking computer that I thought was way cool when I was in third grade.

Joey, a troubled youth. He’s been sent away to live at a school for toffee-nosed little British snotheads somewhere in the country. He gets to yell at things a lot. Joey hates the Nanny, which causes much hand-wringing and looks of staunch British shock from his family.

Susy, a dead baby.

Virgie, (?! Is her middle name Mary?) the mom. She doesn’t know why, but she’s absolutely dreading Joey’s return from boarding school. Every fiber of her being is chock full of dread and misgiving. She simply can’t accompany her husband to the school to pick him up. “I caaaahn’t!” she wails. “I caaahn’t I caaahn’t I caaaaaaaaaaaahn’t!”

and Aunt Pet, (She has a sister named Vic and another named CBM) Virgie’s hypochondriac sister with a heart condition, who lives in perpetual threat of sudden, plot-twisting expiration.

So back to Susy, the dead baby. She drowned in her bathwater some time ago for mysterious reasons. (She had to die– she was too cute!) Everyone thinks that Joey accidentally pushed her into the bath, which is why he has such a chip on his shoulder. But we know better! Why does Joey refuse to eat anything that Nanny prepares for him? Why does he bolt the door whenever he takes a bath? Why does Virgie suddenly become ill on the night that Joey’s dad is called away unexpectedly to business in India? Why are all the members of Joey’s family so hideously unattractive? Only Joey knows the secrets!

But who could suspect poor old lovable Nanny, with her fake English accent, of so heinous a crime? After all, she was also Pet and Virgie’s dear old Nanny before she was Joey’s. And with those rosy cheeks and darling sunken eyes… she’s the very model of innocence!

I won’t give away the surprise ending! I caaaaaahn’t! In fact, I’m still not clear as to whether there was an ending… the film did end, I remember that. This is one that will tax the limits of your imagination!

Light of Day

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
You’ve got quite a ‘tude, man!
Starring: Joan Jett, Michael J. Fox, Gena Rowlands

“You’ve got quite a ‘tude, man. You should start a band and call it The Attitude.”

Yes, it’s Joan Jett, in all her macho badass self, telling off Michael J. Fox. I actually liked this film a lot, although it was a little bit draggy. Joan stars as Patti, a lower-middle-class suburban girl who just wants to rock! She’s the lead signer of the Barbusters, a local band made up of her two best friends and her brother Joe (Fox.) Patti also has an illegitimate kid, Benji, who’s caught in the crossroads of an intergenerational family dispute! It’s too bad this movie was made in ’87, before the Therapy Revolution!

It’s all because of Patti’s mom Jeanette (Rowlands,) who disapproves of Patti’s hardrockin’ lifestyle and thinks that she’s neglecting her kid. Rowlands plays the part to appropriately creepy effect, forcing Patti to say prayers to Jesus and other family-values things. Patti has a major problem with religion– every time someone mentions church she has a major cow! Hmmm… could this have something to do with the secret identity of Benji’s father?!

Patti gets to wear strapless tops and spike her hair and make long dramatic speeches about the power of Rock ‘n Roll. Benji gets to wander around and act cute and innocent, at one point helping Joe to write a rock song in what must be one of the sappiest moments of modern cinema. Joe gets to be the responsible older brother who keeps the family together. And Trent Reznor… he gets to be the leader of an unnamed New Wave band who opens for the Barbusters… in this way he represents the death of Rock, ushering in a new era of unprecedented cheese. I won’t argue with that!

As I said before, I actually enjoyed this movie for real and was rather touched by its dramatically cheese-laden ending. Hey, I’m not made of stone! It takes a medical crisis of made-for-TV proportions to pull this family back together. I was sniffing already! Plus the Barbusters play some fairly decent tunes, written by Bruce Springsteen. A good one to watch with a few brewskis and some old yearbooks.

End of Days

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Byrne, Robin Tunney

The plot is simple: Arnold Schwarzenegger, a disgruntled alcoholic former cop, saves the world from a Satanic prophesy by wielding large weapons. What more can I say? The cheese is laid on thick in this high predictability factor action thriller. Lots of stuff blows up, and there is lots of blood. There are a couple of priceless Moments of Cheese. Here they are, in order of decreasing cheesiness:

1. Satan jumps into Gabriel Byrnes’s body and compliments a passing punk on his “Satan Rules” T-shirt.

2. Satan offers Arnold his dead wife and daughter back in exchange for information that will speed along the end of the word. The following dialogue ensues: Satan: What is it that you want? Arnold: I want you to GO TO HELLLLL!

3. We discover that in dreams, symbols often appear mixed up or backwards, thus “666” actually means “999” as in…1999!! *gasp!*

4. A former priest is found dead (crucified to the ceiling of his hospital room, actually), with words carved into his body. “Christ in New York?” the investigators try to read… no, wait! The main character’s name is Christine York! Ah, the levels of cheese movie makers will stoop to!

Yes, it’s moments like these that make our jobs (or rather our geeky past times) worthwhile! All of these moments occur on what will arguably be the cheesiest day in history– December 31st 1999. On that day Satan will come to earth to do the wild thing with Christine York (Robin Tunney) between 11:30 and midnight on December 31st 1999 (eastern standard time). Thus he will bring about the “End Of Days.”

Enter Christine. Christine is a local Manhattan woman prone to visions and anxiety disorders, who just happened to be born during the “eye of God” phase of the moon. Because of this, she has a birthmark shaped like a Black Sabbath album cover on her arm, and the doctors in the hospital where she was born forced her to drink the blood of a live rattlesnake when she was a few minutes old. It was all prophesized before, that’s why a bunch of priests wearing Sacred Heart necklaces from Dollar Depot are trying to kill Christine. By killing Christine, they will stop Satan from gettin’ booty from her, and thus keep the world going for a little while longer (until of course Sen. John McCain gets elected president of the US, when we’ll find out the true meaning of the term “End of Days”).

Meanwhile, Satan (Gabriel Byrne) takes over the bodies of all sorts of dead people, turning them into one big chanting mass of evil. But hey, it’s the end of the 1990s. It’s not exactly the end of the millennium, as any geek worth his price in RAM will tell you, but it’s close enough for a party. Every Times Square-bound party animal can pass for an undead minion of Satan on New Year’s Eve. Even Christine’s own step mother is in on the Satanic conspiracy, as she’s been waiting since Christine was born for this moment (that qualifies her as a ‘Mean Caregiver’ for the Mean Mother category). As everyone prepares for Satan’s ritual wedding and consummation with Christine (they even have a skimpy black dress in just her size waiting for her), in bursts Arnold, ready to save the day (and the world). He discovers that bullets and missiles only delay Satan a little bit, but in typical Arnold fashion, he continues to use them anyway.

This film is a must for anyone afflicted with millennium hysteria, or for anyone who loves a good cheesy romp through the subway systems in NYC. I’ll bet you never knew that people get the stigmata and are crucified on a daily basis down there, did you?

The Magic Flute

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Pa pa pa papapapap papapa Papageno!
Starring: Josef Köstlinger, Håkon Hagegård, Ulrik Cold, Irma Urrila

What kind of monsters could sit there and make fun of Mozart’s magnum opus, The Magic Flute? What kind of monsters could rank on the masterpieces of Ingmar Bergman? Scooter and Krustee can! I love Bergman films, and I like a good Mozart opera as much as anyone, but really, operas are about the cheesiest form of entertainment around! Take corny improbable plots and repetitive music, and there you have it!

I went into this movie thinking, what can I say about it? It’s the filming of a staged production of the Magic Flute. But it also has that special Bergman touch. For example, during the overture, the camera focuses on a little red haired girl in the audience. She’s staring at some point ahead; we think it’s the stage. She doesn’t fidget or squirm. She sits perfectly still. We see a lot of this little audience member throughout the film. We get to memorize every hair on her head, every pore on her angelic little face and every innocent minute facial gesture on her face as she absorbs this opera. She doesn’t want to be at home playing with Barbies, torturing her little sister or watching TV. She likes opera! Maybe it’s Swedish thing.

Just as we think the overture is coming to a close, surprise, there’s more! There’s that darn little red haired girl again! But then we get to see more people in the audience. The audience is actually a gathering of the United Nations– it’s full men in afros, and women with bindis. There are people from every corner of the globe there! Mozart can unite these diverse people as they sit and stare at this cheese fest …in Swedish no less! (it was translated from its original Italian or German or whatever into Swedish.)

Our opera opens with Tamino, our hero, trying to slay a dragon Unfortunately, he’s very un-heroically getting his butt whooped. He sings a song asking God to save him from this dragon. Three young maidens come along and flog the dragon to death with a stick, while Tamino lies there unconscious. It turns out that the maidens were working for the Queen of the Night, who wants to enlist brave Tamino’s help in rescuing her daughter who was abducted by the powerful Sarastro.

Tamino runs into Papageno, whose main occupation is to be jolly, chase women, play the pan pipes and catch birds. They team up and set off to rescue the princess. The three maidens give them a magic flute and a set of magic bells to help them conquer whatever hardships they encounter. Tamino and Papageno split up to look for the princess.

Papageno finds Pamina, the princess, and rescues her from the evil clutches of The Moor. I didn’t recognize him as being such, seeing as he was played by a regular white guy, but whatever. Pamina rejoices at being freed from the Moor, and falls in love with Tamino, even though he didn’t really do anything. Three little blonde haired boys that look like Hanson keep appearing in a hot air balloon and sing pep talks at them but also don’t divulge any useful information that would help them achieve their goals.

Eventually we realize that Sarastro is actually a nice benevolent guy who’s in charge of a cult of super holy people who revere him as a god. It’s actually the Queen of Night who’s bad. And Sarastro is Pamina’s father! The Queen is annoyed at him, and commands Pamina to kill her father. Torn between loyalty to each parent, Pamina sings about the woes of being in the center of a messy custody battle. Sarastro invites Tamino to become the next cult leader after he retires. Tamino first must endure walking through a cave filled with fire and weird naked demons doing interpretive dances inside. He triumphs over this task by playing the magic flute, and thus the fire doesn’t touch him. Sounds like cheating to me! I mean, all of the other cult members survived this ordeal without the use of magic or woodwind instruments! Bur anyway, the Hanson boys in the balloon appear again and everyone lives happily ever after. And then we see that little red haired girl again…

Hush

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Jessica Lange, Gwyneth Paltrow

I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into with this one. It was “rent 3 get a free sci-fi tape” night at the local video store, and we had 3 picked out, one of them being a sci-fi flick. So I grabbed “Hush” and ran. “What sort of film is this?” I asked myself as I fast-forwarded throught the previews on the tape… If you had any doubts as to the genre of this movie, they were spelled out during the opening credit sequence. The main theme was a slightly ethereal musicbox rendition of “Hush Little Baby” while we see a toy carousel spin around. Rule of Movies #23: music box music means either a) horror movie and/or b) some kid is going to die. I think this film was going for the ‘horror’ option, although a dead kid might have livened up the plot a bit.

We should make a separate category for Mean Mothers! This was a Mean Mother film, expounding on all of the overprotective neurotic mother stereotypes out there. We have Helen (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Jackson (Jonathan Schaech), a lovey-dovey couple. They go to Kilronan, Jackson’s ancestral horse farm/estate for a visit to Jackson’s mom, Martha (Jessica Lange.) Mom turns out to be a strictly weird Catholic with a penchant for tidying up… and more. She eventually sabotages Helen’s diphragm and Helen gets pregnant, which means that now she must marry Jackson.

It gets weirder when Jackson’s grandmother shows up uninvited to Jackson’s and Helen’s wedding and starts dissing Martha. What’s up? Why does Martha keep telling lies about everyone? She’s up to something… But wait! There’s more! Jackson’s father died “accidentally” when a large nail extracting tool somehow accidentally smashed his sternum during a fall. Jackson always thought he was responsible for his father’s “accidental” fall… but was he?

Helen and Jackson move from their yuppie lifestyles in NYC to the farm with Martha. Martha has serious abandonment issues, and decides to feed Helen a strawberry tart laced with some drug used to induce labor in horses. Helen goes into labor and Martha decides to grab the baby and shoot Helen up with morphine “more than a drop of this will kill you!” Martha cackles evilly as she fills the horse syringe up all the way with the drug…

But, as predicted, this movie ends happily, if anticlimactically. Jackson undergoes a serious spur-of-the-moment personality transplant in the last scene and forcefully declares “Shut up!” to his mom, in a heart-wrencing scene, as he suddenly figures out that his whole life has been a lie. And then the happy couple + baby walk away and the movie ends. “What? That’s it?!?” you exclaim to yourself. But yes, that’s it.

This film has many memorable moments. The parable between Helen giving birth and the Jesus birth story is priceless, if almost completely unfounded. Plus, we get gratuitous shots of Martha religiously going to Confession. But wait! In the last scene, the camera goes to the Priest’s side of the confessional, and… it’s… empty! Dum dum. There are also a few powerful exclamations of the word “bitch!” and many predictable plot points. Many Rules of Movie Making apply here, see if you can count them all. I forgot another one: Rule of Movies #10: when a female tosses her cookies it means she’s pregnant. Rule #89: Nuns are always Irish (the Irish nun in this film, Sister O’Shaugnassy was played by the very Irish actress Kaiulani Lee). I could go on and on…

Mommie Dearest

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Faye Dunaway

This is the movie that made thousands of people question their motives for using wire clothes hangers. See the film if you haven’t already, and you will too!

It’s the tragic tale of Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway), the famous 1930s cleanliness-obsessed movie actress and her adopted daughter Christina. She has an adopted son Christopher too, but he doesn’t come into the picture much. Thank goodness they didn’t both get the nickname Chris!

Anyway, Joan’s just a little bit strange, so if you don’t have the stomach for Mean Mother movies, this one is not for you. Or, if your own mother is a real freak, Joan will undoubtedly top her, so this movie may make you feel better about your own familial situation. I have luminous teenage memories of my mother coming home at 3:00 am from a trip and screeching because the house was not clean enough and furiously vacuuming. However, nothing will top the famous Wire Hanger scene, or the Hacking Up Rosebushes scene, or basically the whole film. At least your mother didn’t send you to a convent for your high school years after you were caught innocently making out with some guy in a hay barn.

Your mother may be a neat freak, but she probably can’t hold a candle to Joan. Joan scrubs her arms and face furiously with a stiff brush and soap… before taking a shower. She also bitches out the cleaning lady for not scrubbing underneath a potted plant. The best line of the film, as she’s finishing up the bitching, “Oh Helga, it’s not you I’m mad at. It’s the dirt.”

Don’t miss the spectacularly non-happy ending. You’ll start thanking whatever creator you choose to believe in that Joan Crawford didn’t adopt you too!

Mommy

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Patricia McCormack

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a Mommy who would stick up for you? A Mommy who would kill the teacher who gave you a B-? Little Jessica-Anne loves her Mommy, and her Mommy loves… blood!

This movie stars the chick from the Bad Seed as a Tipper Gore -esque PTA mom who goes around bumping off important people like the middle school janitor (watch the movie to see how pointless this really is!) She gets to pop into the frame suddenly, accompanied by loud orchestra hits. It’s no accident that Patricia McCormack also played little Rhoda Penmark– in one scene, we hear “Au Claire de la Lune” just as she’s about to bump somebody off. Nice try guys!

It’s so much fun to listen to Jessica-Ann’s overly naive narration and sentimental ramblings. She wanders around dorkily rationalizing her Mommy’s psychotic behavior in the face of exaggerated plot devices. There’s also a sarcastic hard-boiled Columbo look-alike cop who gets to stumble around a lot and look perpetually out of breath and sweaty. We’re set up to think that he’s going to figure everything out, but he’s basically just a big weenie.

This movie seemed a little long, but judged against other bad movies of its caliber, it’s pretty action-packed. You’re guaranteed at least one thing to make fun of in every scene. Though it tries to be the sequel to The Bad Seed, in terms of awfulness it far surpasses the original.

I’m giving Mommy two cheese whizzes because I’m hoping that the makers of this film weren’t being entirely serious. But maybe I’m too generous. Anyway, there’s apparently a sequel, the redundantly named Mommy II: Mommy’s Day, but I haven’t yet found it on video. That will be a happy day.

Trivia: You may recognize Jessica-Ann’s dead teacher as the voice of Star Trek’s computer, Majel Barrett.

Santa Sangre

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

OK, OK, this isn’t actually a bad movie. It’s a really good move. I love this movie.

It tells the tale of Fenix, a lusty mental patient with a darkly stained childhood in the world’s worst circus, who is one day rescued by his armless mother, a fallen cult leader who worships the raped and mutilated Santa Sangre. The two hastily re-package themselves as a variety act; while Concha relates a highly paraphrased Book of Genesis, Fenix stands behind and provides the arms. Everything is ducky for the winsome couple until Concha develops a taste for blood and physical control of Fenix’s hands.

The sheer breadth of Fenix’s saga defies any description; every scene is described in excruciating detail, right down to the last cocaine-snorting retarded mental patient. Every scene of this gem is so relentlessly schmaltzy that you may find yourself physically exhausted by the very end.