Archive for the ‘Rock!’ Category

This Must Be The Place

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Sean Penn is Cheyenne, the improbably heterosexual love child of Robert Smith and Boy George. He lives in a luxurious bungalow on a surprisingly modest cul-de-sac in suburban Dublin, Ireland. In his spare time—when he’s not delivering odd bits of wisdom in a halting, childlike voice—he hangs out at the mall with his best friend Mary, an embittered teenage punk, and has sex with his wife Jane, played by Lesbian Frances McDormand In A Tracksuit.

But something is wrong! Cheyenne’s life is incomplete. You see, Cheyenne is not a Real Artist. He’s simply a pop idol, someone who made a lot of money in the 80s, retired early, and discovered that his life felt empty. So, it’s now Cheyenne’s mission in life to fix everyone else’s problems. Mary’s being courted by a dweeb with with bad teeth and a nametag, and Cheyenne must convince her to quell her natural instinct to avoid so that they can fall in love and fulfill their destiny together. There’s also the question of the parents of a teenage boy who committed suicide in response to one of Cheyenne’s songs, who hate Cheyenne despite his well-intentioned visits to their son’s grave. Also, Cheyenne’s estranged and departed father, while interned at Auschwitz during WWII, was tortured at the hands of an escaped Nazi war criminal who Cheyenne must now hunt down somewhere in the Midwest of the United States. Oh, and Mary’s brother is missing, and her mother sits around all day chain-smoking with a haunted look on her face…

To be honest I had some trouble following all of these subplots. But, fear not, because in the end all will be revealed or something! Sean Penn makes Cheyenne—a character whose main strength seems to be a certain stony composure in the face of a script that can’t stop trying—into a genuinely likeable character. And the soundtrack, which consists almost exclusively of multiple sappy neofolk covers of the same Talking Heads song, will delight those who weren’t around to hear the original. The cinematography is thoughtful and elegant. Just don’t ask too many questions about what’s actually going on.

 

The Wiz

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Funky Fresh, Munchkin Style
Starring: Diana Ross, Nipsy Russell, Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor

This is such an awesome movie; I can’t believe that more people don’t remember it. I have vivid recollections of watching this on Showtime when I was a kid (back then there was a box that sat on the TV, and you had to press a button to get Showtime…) The songs are disturbingly catchy and I can still hum them today. It’s also a blast seeing Michael Jackson with a real nose and everything!

This is a retelling of The Wizard of Oz with an All-Afro-American cast. There’s a buttload of 70’s stars like Diana Ross, Lena Horne, Richard Pryor, and Mabel King. And the greatest surprise of all… this movie was co-written by Cheesemaster Joel Schumacher, responsible for bringing such corny classics as Flatliners, The Lost Boys, Batman Forever, St Elmo’s Fire, and (brace yourself) THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING WOMAN into the world!!! Unbelievable!

I actually thought this movie was a very clever adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s book. The action takes place in a psychedelic, decaying New York– one that’s full of corruption, drugs, and violence. There are some priceless moments of cheese in this masterpiece, such as:

  • When Dorothy gets spit into Oz by the cyclone, she crashes through a huge “OZ” neon sign.
  • The munchkins are actually taggers who get turned into graffiti by the Wicked Witch of the East (Dorothy kills her when the neon sign lands on her.) They do an Alvin Aileyesque street dance number.
  • When Dorothy & Co. encounter the Cowardly Lion outside the Public Library (he’s one of the two stone lions) the signs in the crosswalk say “DON’T EASE.”
  • Our heroes go down into the subway, where they’re attacked by man-eating trashcans and a psychotic panhandler.
  • Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West, sits atop a giant toilet.
  • The Wicked Witch of the West’s evil Flying Monkeys are really a tough biker gang.
  • (I want a giant camera costume like the guy in the Emerald City!)

Our heroes have to “Ease on Down the Road” to the Emerald city, along the way encountering urban perils like drug use, muggers, slavery, and expressionist dance. They also have to endure the Tin Man’s (Nipsy Russell) occasional hysterical outbursts of “Teeny, Teeny!” while projectile tears squirt out of his face. When they eventually make it to the Emerald City, it’s a huge Studio 54-esque discotheque where the partygoers all dress in the same color, changing outfits every time the Great and Powerful Oz decides to change the lights. Every time the lights change, they have to sing a song about how great that color is. Uhm, right! It’s like the band Chic got together with Martha Stewart or something.

Filled with music co-written by Ashford and Simpson, Luther Vandross, and Quincy Jones, this movie is sure to make any self-respecting gen-X-er yearn for his or her childhood. And Diana Ross plays the part of Dorothy to spectacular dramatic effect, have periodic outbursts of face-twisting agony. In the words of my roommate Jed, “That’s why they call her a Diva, darling.” But what’s with that dress? Violet is definitely not her color.

What are you waiting for, a house to fall on you? Ease on down to the video store and rent The Wiz. Do it now! You’ve got to be seen, in Green! You’ve got to be dead, in Red! You’ve got the be rad, in Plaid…

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.

Death Drug

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Hey, man, you’re whacked!
Starring: Philip Michael Thomas, Rosalind Cash, Vernee Watson-Johnson

No, they didn’t actually say this in the film, but I was sorely tempted to yell it at Scooter while we were watching “Death Drug.” This is the story of Mr. Tubbs from Miami Vice battling the drug WHACK– not the same as our good friend Crack, as PMT explains in this film’s intro, but similar (being part of a broader class known as the “ack” drugs.) This was the weirdest part of this tape– even though PMT made this film in 1978, way ahead of his Miami Vice days, the rental version was spliced together with some 80’s footage, in a sad attempt to capitalize on the TV show. This made for some really weird shifts in continuity– in the movie PMT is a jazz musician, but in his music video he’s a new-wave rocker. In the movie he dies undiscovered and penniless– but two minutes later on the news, he’s a major celebrity and his death is a national scandal. They obviously added this footage on purpose… you’d think they’d at least try to make it fit somehow.

You gotta love the boy, though. In the intro he goes on about how sometimes an actor is handed a role which really challenges him to look deep into himself… how sometimes a role is more than just a job! This dude was gearing up for the Academy Awards banquet! PMT was obviously having a deeply personal looking-into-himself experience, because he only has about three lines in the entire movie. His main job is to run around hitting things during the drug flashback scenes.

Anyway, if you haven’t already guessed, PMT plays a starving musician / plumber (I can’t remember what his character’s name was, and the IMDB is no help, so I’m going to keep calling him “PMT”) who suddenly hits the big time one night in a club. Unfortunately, evil whack dealers are also on hand to give PMT his first taste of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. For a while, PMT thinks he’s on top of the world, until the drug starts to take over, and he lashes out at his band, his producer, and his pregnant wife (qualifying this film as a cheesy tearjerker.)

Rosalind Cash (from The Omega Man) is also in this movie, and she’s becoming one of my favorite actresses. PMT’s wife runs into her at the community center and confides that he’s using the whack. Dr. Rosalind takes her to the clinic to see the whack detox ward– a horrifying place full of wailing, moaning whack victims who do things like thrash around on gurneys and have convulsions in whirlpool bathtubs.

In the final scene, PMT’s wife brings their five-year-old son to visit daddy’s grave, and while she’s busy having a hysterically poignant crying fit, the tot wanders off to the far end of the cemetery… where, behind the fence, lurks the same whack dealer who gave PMT his first hit! And, as if the cheese couldn’t get any thicker than this… there’s a largely pointless outro featuring PMT harping on about drugs, etc. etc. This boy can’t stop mugging for the camera!

Normally I would recommend seeing most films in the theater if you can… but this rental tape is really something special. I really don’t know what else to say. Words fail me!

Easy Rider

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

Here’s a plot synopsis- two guys drive around the country on choppers. They do a lot of drugs. We see the countryside fly by as Baby Boomer music pours forth. Um, what more can I say? I understand now. I understand, man! This is a movie that shaped a generation, man! Now I know why my parents are such freaks! Groovy!

I discovered my new goal in life, though! I will make a road movie about two people travelling through the country in a Ford Festiva in search of the Cortland Dairy Parade. They’ll stop and sample the cheese curd in local roadside stands. It’ll be called Cheesy Rider! “Whoa. Don’t bogart that cheddar, man!”

Grease

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
OK, Grease is the word, but what does it have to do with the movie?
Starring: Olivia Newton-John, John Travolta, Stockard Channing

From the opening scene on a beach where star-crossed lovers frolic in the waves to a cheesy rendition of “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing”, to the end where they drive off into the clouds in a Greased-lightening powered “pussy wagon,” this film is packed with more cheese than the state of Wisconsin. Haven’t you always wanted to see a nostalgic look at the ’50s, as perceived in the ’70s? It’s kind of like a long episode of Happy Days, only with more gratuitous scenes involving The Hustle. Be sure to get the 20th Anniversary Edition, which features the cast members endlessly rambling on about the social importance of this film.

We follow the senior year of summer lovers Sandy (Newton-John) and Danny (Travolta), as they race cars, and try to forget that they’re hopelessly devoted to each other. You see, in a fit of macho-ness, Danny dissed Sandy at a football game. He feels terrible that he lost her, yet his desire to uphold his tough image keeps him from sharing his true feelings. Alas, Sandy takes this to mean that he doesn’t care. But it was never meant to be. Sandy is a goody-two-shoes proper virginal kinda girl, and Danny is a tough greaser type who spends his spare time souping up old cars so that they run like “greased lightning” and then racing them against hoods from rival gangs.

Basically, that’s the movie. Except for the musical numbers. Don’t forget them! Don’t miss “Beauty School Dropout,” where Frankie Avalon gets to prance around amongst a chorus line of beauty scholars with giant stacks of metallic rollers on their heads. Dr Who aliens watch out! Their head gear would put the lowest budget British sci-fi series to shame! And don’t miss “Greased Lightning,” the homoerotic ode to car repair, as Danny and friends prance about in sparkly Devo-esque shop suits, crooning about their fantasy “fuel injection cutoffs and chrome plated rods oh yeah.”

I think this movie shaped a generation. This was not my generation, however, so I really don’t understand the appeal. I have met people who can recall the first time they saw this film, who their date was, and what they were wearing. It’s sort of scary. I mean, the basic moral of this Baby Boomer nostalgia trip is that things will all work out if only you dress like a disco slut. Chang chang, changetty chang choo-bop.

ABBA Gold: The Songs

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Agnetha, Benny, Anni-Frid, Bjorn

Until I rented this tape, I, like many other young Americans of my age, had never fully experienced the concept of ABBA. I own the ABBA Gold CD; I’ve sat and stalwartly refused to dance to “Dancing Queen” at many a nightclub, and yet I really had no idea exactly how cheesy and annoying ABBA could be. Let me say that the results were outstanding.

If you’re already an ABBA fan, you’ll enjoy watching the evolution of Agnetha’s eyeshadow from huge, geometric blue triangles to elongated blue streaks. You’ll also enjoy watching Anni-Frid’s various stanges of permanent wave.

If you’re not an ABBA fan, then this tape may actually change your mind. ABBA’s producers pull every trick out of the late-70’s hat, including gratuitous use of blue screen, soft focus filters, and sudden zooms and close-ups! The sets are a hoot too! I especially like ABBA in ski-wear, singing “Fernando” in front of a 15 foot high blue-screened snowman. How touching!

Ace of Bass have been called “The New ABBA!” As if! Show me one giant snowman in any Ace of Bass video.

Footloose

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Kevin Bacon, John Lithgow, Lori Singer

Footloose (Kevin Bacon, John Lithgow, Lori Singer) 3.5 cheeses 1984 Rock n Roll Imagine a town where nobody has heard of the band The Police. Nobody rocks, rolls, dances, or does anything fun at all. The main past time is playing ‘chicken’ on tractors. When Ren McCormack (Bacon) moves to town from Chicago, he is quite dissatisfied with the quality of his life. He wants to dance! Unfortunately, the strict religious nature of the town forbids it. Ren takes to jamming out to his incredibly powered car stereo in abandoned warehouses for fun. Then things get complicated when he falls for the daughter (Singer) of the minister (Lithgow.) Eventually they all kick off their Sunday shoes and cut loose. This is a must-see for anyone who has experienced the 80’s. I didn’t see it until just recently, and boy do I feel like I betrayed my Generation! I asked for the soundtrack for my birthday, but never got it (boo hoo,) but I can still sing all of the cheesy yet great pop anthems from the film.

The Bodyguard

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Kevin Costner, Whitney Houston

Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston make the World’s Most Unbelievable Couple in a movie (I think they received an Oscar nomination for this fact) in this tale of love, betrayal, and Rock n’ Roll.

Frank Farmer (Costner) is a former government security guard who now designs security systems for people. He has his work cut out for him when he is assigned to guard Rachel Marron, (Whitney Houston, who has a tough role, playing) a rock star. It doesn’t take long before they start doin’ it, and Frank learns that someone is out to kill Rachel. The assignment becomes personal as Frank realizes that he must fight for his true love!

But wait, can he solve the crime? He is still carrying the guilty weight of having let President Reagan get shot (I think I would have considered it a merit badge had I been the bodyguard there!) ! So he quits the assignment and then goes back on it, just to prove himself. But who is behind the death threats? Could it be Rachel’s jealous sister? A psycho? You’ll just have to watch, and endure the soundtrack yourself!

Satisfaction

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Justine Bateman, Liam Neeson, Julia Roberts

Justine Bateman is Jennie Lee, the valedictorian of her high school class, with two things on her mind- to rock and to roll. She also wants to have fun. She and her oddball friends have a band called Mystery, and are determined to rock their way to the top.

They steal a van from their gangland enemy and drive to another town where they break into Martin Falcon (Liam Neeson) an aging burnout songwriter suffering from writer’s block’s house. They are auditioning for a summer-long gig at Falcon’s club, and of course knock the audience dead with their vapid pop hits. Jennie has an affair with Martin, and lo! she is his muse! He can write again!

Meanwhile, internal problems are almost forcing the band to split up– Billie (Britta Phillips) can’t seem to just say “no.” Daryle (Julia Roberts) gets back together with her high school fiance for a 24-hour long booty marathon in the back of the stolen van, and Mooch (Trini Alvarado) can’t seem to stop being sarcastic all of the time. But they persevere through thick and thin, until the end of the movie when mysteriously, Mystery breaks up. This is a fun goofy film to watch with lots of friends and a large bag of junior mints.

Perfect

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Richard Simmons wishes he saw this much action!
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, John Travolta, Laraine Newman, Jann Wenner

When Rolling Stone bad-boy reporter Adam Lawrence (Travolta) decides to do a steamy exposee on California health clubs, revealing them to be the torried cesspolls of cheap sex and drugs that they are, he didn’t count on meeting sexy Slimnastics (no, I’m not making that up!) instructor Jessie (Curtis,) a headstrong young woman with a controversial past. At first, the two can’t stand each other, but after a few pulsating, gyrating, sweaty Slimnastic workouts, they fall madly in love. As Jessie explains, “This next phase exercises the most important muscle group… it should last from 15 to 20 minutes.”

Uhm, ok, whatever! This film was actually pretty OK, yet I don’t feel compelled to go into details. Jessie has a deep-seated mistrust of reporters, centered around the affair she had with her instructor, back when she was a pre-olympic teenage Slimnastic wunderkind. The tabloids picked the story up, ruining her career as well as her faith in humanity. Will Adam Do The Right Thing, and write a cheery, upbeat article about the benefits of bone-shaking, pulsing, pounding, hot, sweaty, passionate Slimnastic exercise, or will he write a trashy exposee about Linda (Newman,) the health-club diva who just wants to become “perfect,” with the occasional gang-bang thrown in for fun?

Starring Jann Wenner, real-life publisher of Rolling Stone as Mark Roth, sweaty misanthropic fake-life publisher of Rolling Stone, and Laraine Newman of SNL fame as beach blanket bimbo Linda, this movie is sure to please with its graphic depictions of life on the edge with the bean-sprout set. Don’t miss the disturbingly androgynous exerchamp at his big AerobiContest ’85 (again, not making it up) debut! Try not to gag during the big Travolta exerscene.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers, Marcia McBroom

This is the story of the Kelly Effect, a small-town rockin’ girl band that just wants to make it in the City of Fallen Angels, LA. The band’s frontwoman, Kelly, has a long-lost Aunt in LA with a $1,000,000 inheritance that Kelly might just get a cut of, if she plays her cards right, so the girls load up their beach van, and set out for stardom with their manager, (and boyfriend of Kelly,) the Jewishly cute Harris Allsworth.

Once they get to LA, the band gets discovered by Warholesque record producer Ronnie “Z-Man” Barzell, who talks like something out of a high school production of Hamlet. (This was actually really annoying and I almost gave the movie one green cheese just because of it.) He renames the band “The Carrie Nation” and they skyrocket to fame. Soon Kelly’s sleeping with playboy Lance Rocke, who’s even more determined than she to get a cut of the family inheritance. Kelly bats her eyelashes and looks all innocent and tries to seduce Aunt Susan’s lawyer, while Aunt Susan totally laps it all up and frets about whether to give Kelly a third or a half of the money.

There’s an attempted suicide, and for a while you think the movie’s about to end. But wait, there’s more! Up to this point, the film’s been fairly predictable, but now we have heartfelt, sobbing confessions (with sympathetic organ music) and magical walks through sylvan fields, and soft-focus camera lenses, and all sorts of cheesy stuff. Now you think the movie really will end, but wait, there’s still a psychotic killing spree that involves Nazi butlers and fake boobs! Yes, you read correctly! (I won’t go into details. Keep in mind that this film’s screenplay was written by Roger Ebert.)

The moral of the story? Well, just like The Carrie Nation’s hit single, “Look on Up (at the Bottom)” the higher their careers soared, the lower their souls sank. This is a nice 1960’s-style trash movie with a cute moral ending!

This is a fun corny movie that features big hairdo’s, polyester suits, homosexuality, decapitation, and psychedelic rockers The Strawberry Alarm Clock. The Carrie Nation is much better, though! Just wait till they lip-sync their way into your hearts!

Purple Rain

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Prince, Apollonia Kotero

The film is obviously a must for fans of The Once and Future Price (aka the artist formerly known as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince”) but I’ll admit that Scooter and I rented it just to flesh out our new “Rock ‘n Roll” genre. Still, Purple Rain was a nice cheesy flick.

This movie is all about “The Kid,” a hot young Minneapolis rocker. He has the bike, he has the clothes, he has the hairdo, he even has the Lesbian band mates, but he hasn’t got the Girl. That’s Apollonia, a negatively talented young star-not-to-be who comes into town and insinuates herself into the local show biz scene with her ingratiating charms. Yes, she’s a totally transparent sycophant, yet she captures the moody heart of The Kid. Maybe it’s because she obeys his every whim, like for instance jumping naked into a lake in the middle of Fall. It might also be her big, bouncy hair.

But all is not peachy for the Kid. There’s a long, drawn-out subplot involving his dad, a failed musician who likes to beat up his mom. The Kid gets to cry a lot and deal with his blossoming masculinity in a touching way.

Basically, though, despite his troubled home life, Prince basically comes off as a big self-absorbed jerk throughout this film. Who else would decorate his room with huge blow-ups of his own face? Who else would masturbate on-stage in the middle of a performance? Who else would not allow his girlfriend to sing in his band, then turn around a dis her when she gets a gig somewhere else?

In the end, however, we come to the touching conclusion that the Kid’s personality problems stem from his own father, who only beats his wife because he, too was a self-absorbed hot young star who burnt up too fast and never made it big.

I must say though, I can’t pretend not to like The Artist Formerly Known as Talented’s great 80’s hits! When Doves Cry was one of my favorite songs when I was nine years old, and it’s still pretty kick-ass today. Since the movie was basically made to promote Prince’s album (written and directed by Prince’s manager, for cryin’ out loud) there are many scenes of Prince onstage with his band. It’s also a hoot hearing The Time’s Jungle Love, a song I had almost forgotten about. At least, as 80’s pop-star career vehicles go, Purple Rain is about two thousand times more entertaining than Who’s That Girl?!

That Thing You Do

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Tom Everett Scott, Tom Hanks, Liv Tyler

This is a happy movie. people are usually very happy in it. There is no conflict to speak of, and no bad words or nudity. I’m not saying that a movie has to have violence and swearing in order to be good, I’m just telling you this to illustrate how happy and wholesome it all is.

We follow the careers of a group of small-town boys who have a hit song. Guess what it’s called? “That Thing You do.” Since I’m not a baby boomer, and have no pleasant, fuzzy, nostalgic memories of the 1960s, this film didn’t do anything for me. The music was vaguely annoying and the happy slice of life in a simpler era, was just, well, annoying. But then, Tom Hanks always gets under my skin.

If you like feel-good movies that do nothing but make you feel good, this is one for you. If you like movies with plot and that make some kind of a point, skip this one!

Xanadu

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Olivia Newton-John

I have a vivid memory of this movie from my childhood. There was a bomb threat at my Middle School, and the teachers herded us all into the auditorium and made us watch Xanadu while the police scoured the building for devices. While I can’t make any promises about my memory, I can promise you that this movie will leave you with some vivid memories of your own.

The missing 10th Muse of Disco Dancing (brilliantly acted by Down-Under Dazzler Olivia Newton-John) descends from Mt. Olympus (which looks a lot like TRON) to help a lowly poster artist and his dried-up Big Band friend (Gene Kelley) open a Swing Dancing / Boogie Woogie Rock ‘n Roll dance club. Needless to say, this is all a lot easier for our heroes than you might expect.

I can’t really turn the full force of my Krustee approval on this movie, because there are some very, very boring dance numbers in the middle. But if you rent it at home, you at least have the luxury of fast forward, and if you stick it out till the very end, I can promise you that there is a very special surprise waiting that will warm the cockles for years to come.