Psychos in Love

(USA 1987)

“A well hung hard man is good fun.”

— Girl in Toilet

“I guess that I thought that me being both a manicurist and a psychotic killer would turn a guy off.”

— Dianne

“I hate grapes! I can’t stand grapes! I loathe grapes! All kinds of grapes. I hate purple grapes. I hate green grapes. I hate grapes with seeds. I hate grapes without seeds. I hate them peeled and non-peeled. I hate grapes in bunches, one at a time, or in groups of twos and threes. I fucking hate grapes!”

— Joe

Hmmm. The first warning came from Aaron when Gorman Bechard’s Psychos in Love started to play, and I quote, “I don’t think this is supposed to be a good movie.” Well, there’s an understatement!

What sounded like a bizarre winner — two serial killers who find love over mutual hatred for grapes and mankind — turned out to be a dud. Sure, the weirdness and the DIY aspect of this movie are cool. Angela Nicholas emits a weird Molly Ringwald gone bad vibe that’s truly funny.

However, the whole plot is one dumb joke repeated over and over. It doesn’t go anywhere. Now that I reread the premise, I’m not at all surprised that this is so bad. Gory, cheap, boring, and stupid, this is an hour and a half that I’ll never get back. My only consolation is that I was half crocked when I watched it.

With Carmine Capobianco, Patti Chambers, Carla Bragoli, Carrie Gordon, Debi Thibeault, Cecelia Wilde, Robert Suttile, Lum Chang Pang, Danny Noyes, Herb Klinger, Wally Gribauskas, Peach Gribauskas, Ed Powers, Frank Christopher

Production: Beyond Infinity

Distribution: Media Blasters, Generic Films

88 minutes
Not rated

(DVD purchase) F

http://www.psychosinlove.com

It [It: Chapter One]

(USA 2017)

I’ve started a few Stephen King novels during my life, but I’ve never finished reading any of them. I have, however, seen enough movies based on his books to know what I’m getting into.

It is director Andy Muschietti’s take on King’s 1986 novel, which incidentally came out on my 16th birthday. Scary. It tells the story of a group of bullied junior high outcasts who go after a deranged clown named Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) one summer, the Summer of 1989, after he kills stuttering Bill Denbrough’s (Jaeden Lieberher) little brother, Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott), the fall before.

Pennywise lives in the sewer of their small town (Derry, Maine) and resurfaces every 27 years to prey on children through their worst fears.

The screenplay, written by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman, is only part of the book — presumably to allow for a sequel. It starts out well enough in the same sweet nostalgic way as, oh, Stand by Me. Muschietti gets deatils of the time period mostly right: the Cure and New Kids on the Block were big in ’89 (even though the former’s “Six Different Ways” was two albums and a compilation earlier), and the reference to Molly Ringwald fits. He goes full on Steven Spielberg, however, about halfway through, turning It into The Goonies with the kids’ “losers club” and all the action switching to a dark cavernous underground sewer. This is to say, It gets cheesy after awhile.

The kids are all decent actors, and they keep It moving along. Sadly, though, there aren’t any real surprises here. More creepy and icky than outright frightening, Muschietti relies greatly on special effects; they’re good and a lot of work went into them, but they get tiresome after awhile. Plus, some editing would’ve been a good idea; It is too long.

As It is, it’s not a stinker. However, I wasn’t moved by It, either. It is a big budget Hollywood movie aiming to be a blockbuster, and that’s It.

With Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Beverly Marsh, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Nicholas Hamilton, Jake Sim, Logan Thompson, Owen Teague, Stephen Bogaert, Stuart Hughes, Geoffrey Pounsett, Pip Dwyer, Elizabeth Saunders, Ari Cohen, Anthony Ulc, Javier Botet, Katie Lunman, Carter Musselman, Tatum Lee

Production: New Line Cinema, Ratpac-Dune Entertainment, Vertigo Entertainment, Lin Pictures, KatzSmith Productions

Distribution: Warner Brothers

135 minutes
Rated R

(ArcLight) C

http://itthemovie.com

Blue Velvet

(USA 1986)

Who hasn’t seen Blue Velvet? Even though David Lynch was already established by the time it came out, it’s the film that introduced me to him. I saw it once or twice in late high school or early college, definitely on VHS. The River’s Edge was the only comparison I had, and that was a weird film but…not on the same level. I found Blue Velvet totally watchable because it’s very dark, very sexual, very fucking weird, and very voyeuristic.

That was then, this is now: Blue Velvet is still all of those things, but I don’t remember it having the sense of humor it does. It’s curiously funny. It marks the start of Lynch’s style as we know it: not just surreal (he had already done Eraserhead), but macabre and perverted underneath the innocuous and mundane premise. Lynch sets up his narrative in pieces that refer back and forth, like a moving puzzle. It’s brilliant, and it’s a formula that’s served him well.

Blue Velvet starts with a severed ear on the ground, bugs crawling all over it. A local college kid turned stalker (Kyle MacLachlan) proves a bit too curious when his minor obsession with a night club singer (Isabella Rossellini) leads him into a sadomasochistic nightmare that neither he nor we viewers can turn away from. The whole bizarre and sordid story goes full circle back to where it started: that ear. 

Dennis Hopper as Frank, the gas-huffing sociopath who ends every sentence with the F-word, colors the mood here. None of it would work, though, without Rossellini’s vulnerability, which is crucial. 

Lynch considered Molly Ringwald instead of Laura Dern and Val Kilmer instead of MacLachlan. Thank goodness it happened how it did; what a different film Blue Velvet would have been. For a movie that relies so heavily on nuance, that could’ve ruined Lynch’s career. It didn’t. 

With Hope Lange, Dean Stockwell, George Dickerson, Priscilla Pointer, Frances Bay, Jack Harvey, Ken Stovitz, Brad Dourif, Jack Nance, J. Michael Hunter, Dick Green, Fred Pickler, Philip Markert, Leonard Watkins, Moses Gibson, Selden Smith, Peter Carew, Jon Jon Snipes, Angelo Badalamenti, Jean Pierre Viale, Donald Moore, A. Michelle Depland, Michelle Sasse, Katie Reid, Sparky

Production: De Laurentiis Entertainment Group

Distribution: De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, 20th Century Fox (UK), Transmundo Films (Argentina), AMLF (France), Concorde Film (Netherlands), Concorde Filmverleih (West Germany), Finnkino (Finland), Hoyts Distribution (Australia), Shochiku-Fuji Company (Japan)

120 minutes
Rated R

(Music Box) B+

David Lynch: A Complete Retrospective

King Cobra

(USA 2016)

Well now, Justin Kelly’s King Cobra looks like a film with some serious bang: it depicts the salacious, sensational, and supposedly true story of tres popular real-life gay porn actor Sean Lockhart b/k/a Brent Corrigan’s messy entry into the porn industry. Packing loads of scandal and suspense, it comes with a denouncement of sorts from Lockhart himself (https://www.google.com/amp/www.gaystarnews.com/article/brent-corrigan-condemns-gay-drama-king-cobra-bastardising-story-life/amp/?client=safari). Oh, and the money shot: a wad of bona fide Hollywood stars all in on the action. Hot yet? Not so fast, Jack: if there’s one thing I’ve learned from many an opportunity to view gay porn, it’s that looks are deceiving and the movies rarely live up to their promise. Assessing King Cobra therefore demands some deeper probing to get to the bottom of it.

Taken from Andrew E. Stoner and Peter A. Conway’s true crime exposé Cobra Killer: Gay Porn, Murder, and the Manhunt to Bring the Killers to Justice, Kelly’s screenplay gets into the real 2007 murder of Bryan Kocis, the owner and operator of Cobra Video, a real gay porn production company. As such, it makes sense that Kelly doesn’t focus on Corrigan as much as he does on Stephen (Christian Slater), a thinly fictionalized version of Kocis. A forty-something professional photographer turned producer of twink skin flicks, Stephen “discovers” Lockhart (Garrett Clayton) and signs him to make videos in a room of his suburban home in Dallas Township, Pennsylvania. Lockhart becomes Brent Corrigan, a name he plucks from the phone book, and proves to be an internet superstar as a bareback bottom. Things are strained—Stephen is clearly smitten with Lockhart, who moves in with him and does menial chores like yard work and scrubbing toilets around the house shirtless when he’s not shooting porn. Plus, Stephen is doughy and creepy. Lockhart realizes he’s being exploited and sees his potential to make a lot more money on his own. The shit hits the fan when he walks away from his contract with Cobra only to find that he can’t use his porn name because Stephen trademarked it.

Enter psychotic couple Harlow (Keegan Allen), a porn actor and rent boy, and his intense, overbearing boyfriend, Joe Kerekes (James Franco), owner of Viper Boyz, a smaller porn production company. Kerekes is a half million dollars in debt thanks to their ridiculously expensive lifestyle, which is starting to disintegrate. He’s got an idea for a sure moneymaker: Harlow and Corrigan together in a porn. They meet Lockhart, who wants to work with them but can’t use his lucrative name. Desperate to make it happen, they come up with a way to solve Lockhart’s dilemma: get rid of Stephen.

Although I didn’t love it, King Cobra is not terrible. In fact, it’s a noticeable improvement over Kelly’s first film, last year’s I Am Michael (https://moviebloke.wordpress.com/2015/10/24/i-am-michael/). That said, it still suffers from the same deficiencies. If anything, it feels underdeveloped. The two subplots—the storyline with Stephen and Lockhart, and the one with Joe and Harlow—take too long to intersect; when they do, King Cobra devolves into a gay slasher flick. Ho hum. Molly Ringwald and Alicia Silverstone are okay in their roles as Stephen’s sister and Lockhart’s mother, respectively. However, their characters are superfluous and don’t fit into the story—it’s as though they’re dropped in just to give the actors a part in the film so their names can be included on the poster. Oh yeah: another film with Franco playing a gay guy, only this time he gets his butt plowed. Big wow. For a film about the gay porn industry, King Cobra is shy about nudity; it comes off as sanitized cable soft core lite. It’s not even the whole true story; Rolling Stone ran a story about the murder of Kocis in a September 2007 issue: http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/death-of-a-porn-king-20070920. Kelly takes some generous artistic license, leaving out parts of what happened (and thus arousing the real Lockhart’s ire).

Kelly’s script is so overboard on gay clichés that it rings hollow. Just as he did in I Am Michael, he again gives superficial treatment to his characters here and doesn’t quite get into their heads, leaving them flat—though he does a better job with Stephen and to a somewhat lesser degree Lockhart. Kelly seems drawn to the dark side of the gays, and I won’t fault him for that. However, his way of portraying this dark side is amateurish and uninformed, recalling films like Cruising and Basic Instinct. Having seen the only two films he’s made, I have to wonder whether he knows any gay people.

I’ll end this on a positive note: Clayton is the real star of this picture. He plays Lockhart as a diva hustler, one with an agenda that no one is getting in the way of. He’s pouty, arrogant, bitchy, so stuck on himself, and unapologetic about it all. He’s brilliant! The scene where a makeup artist touches up his butt says it all.

92 minutes
Not rated

(Home via iTunes) C-

http://www.ifcfilms.com/films/king-cobra

http://gowatchit.com/microsite/4274?gwi_origin=tracking_link&gwi_origin_context=microsite#upcoming_theaters-11402

Sixteen Candles

(USA 1984)

“I can’t believe this. They fucking forgot my birthday!”

—Samantha

It’s not a good day for Samantha (Molly Ringwald). Her entire family, including both sets of grandparents, totally forget her birthday—her “sweet sixteen,” no less. Everyone is focused on her older sister, Ginny (Blanche Baker), who is getting married to oily bohunk Rudy (John Kapelos) tomorrow. A sex questionnaire she fills out and thinks she passes to her friend Randy (Liane Curtis) during class is missing—and she admitted in it that she’d gladly lose her v-card to dreamboat senior Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling). Jake doesn’t know she exists—or so she believes. A freshman geek who calls himself “Farmer Ted” (Anthony Michael Hall) puts the moves on her while taking the bus home. Her grandfather Fred (Max Showalter) calls her boobs tiny while her grandmother Helen (Carole Cook) grabs them because “they’re so perky.” She’s coerced into taking a Chinese exchange student, Long Duk Dong (Gedde Watanabe), to a dance that evening—where she runs into Jake and Farmer Ted, the latter of whom ends up with her underpants. To top it off, she has to sleep on the couch because her grandparents are using her bedroom.

I’m a sucker for teen movies, maybe because deep inside I’m still a teen or wish I still was. Either way, I love John Hughes’s Sixteen Candles for all its goofiness, crude humor, and heart. Ringwald owns Samantha, a different and very Gen X kind of heroine: she’s angsty, gutsy, and fun. Plus, she has substance. Samantha liberally uses the F word, yet she wants all that stupid old shit like letters and sodas. She’s totally relatable—in fact, she reminds me of a dear friend (I’m talking to you, Michelle) in this film. I want the Bow Wow Wow and Culture Club posters on her bedroom walls. Likewise, Hall owns Farmer Ted, a different and very Gen X kind of dork: he’s got personality, and he dreams big. Things works out for him in the end, I guess.

One of the best scenes is an exchange between Samantha and Farmer Ted in a parked car inside a shop classroom. In typical Hughes fashion, the two talk and discover that they’re not so alien. I love what’s pretty much Jami Gertz’s only lines, indignantly and drunkenly slurred at a party to a guy off camera while she catches on a banister a string of pearls around her neck: “I’m sorry, I don’t do that!” When her drunk friend next to her mumbles that she does, Gertz snickers, “I know!” Seeing a baby John Cusack as a nerd (this was only his second appearance in a film) is special. The wedding is awesome, but the final scene in which Samantha finally gets Jake still sends chills up my spine—“If You Were Here” by Thompson Twins plays while car after car drives away, ultimately revealing him standing there across the street from the church. It’s downright magical.

Sixteen Candles has its dubious elements—Long Duk Dong smacks of racism, the word “faggot” is a bit too casually pervasive, and the appearance of Farmer Ted taking advantage of Caroline (Haviland Morris) when she’s passed out is creepy despite portraying it in a relatively innocent and humorous light. I can’t help but wonder whether these flaws detract from the film when viewing it through the lens of the present. I hope not—Sixteen Candles is a classic fairy tale that never gets old for me.

93 minutes
Rated PG

(Home via iTunes) B+

The Breakfast Club

(USA 1985)

“You see us as you want to see us, in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Does that answer your question?”

—The Breakfast Club

I’ve seen The Breakfast Club too many times to track—so many times, in fact, I can practically recite every line in order. What’s most interesting to me is personal: how volatile my view of this film has been through the years. Seeing it as a teenager in its day, I found it incredibly deep. John Hughes nailed high school social politics better than anyone, and he did it with humor and panache. I was taken aback at how accurately The Breakfast Club depicted my own adolescent perceptions, attitudes, frustrations, fears, and dreams. Seeing it in my 20s and 30s, however, I found it trite—moreso the older I got. Still, I adored its juvenile but sharp and totally quotable lines. Flipping through channels on a recent school night, I noticed that AMC was airing it—in like, five minutes. I hadn’t seen it in awhile, and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to find out what impression it would leave on me now.

The Breakfast Club is an achievement. More like a play than a movie and decidedly minimalist in plot and execution—five characters in search of an exit—it’s unlike anything else Hughes did. The plot is simple: five high school students (Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy, and newcomer Judd Nelson) from different backgrounds—and more importantly, different cliques—are forced to spend a day together in close quarters for a Saturday detention. Alien and hostile toward each other, they ultimately bond over silly and not so silly stuff. Not much happens, really—there’s a hallway run that ends with Bender (Nelson) shooting hoops for a scholarsheeeeeeeeep—but that’s okay; the drama comes from the personalities of the characters and the friction and attraction between them. Unlike the plot, the statement here is anything but simple: Hughes says a boatload about stereotypes, peer pressure, conformity, rules, family, and social mores—and how we all trap others and ourselves underneath them. In a way that sort of presages Douglas Coupland’s Generation X: Tales of an Accelerated Culture, Hughes turns the “American Dream” on its head: all of these characters simultaneously embody and reject the ideal. Whether he’s hopeful for the future or not, he sees that these kids and this generation do not operate like those who came before it.

What makes The Breakfast Club work is its great ensemble cast. Even the shallow treatment of the adults (Paul Gleason as Principal Vernon and John Kapelos as janitor Carl) doesn’t take away from the film. It’s totally believable: after a deep exchange, I can’t help but think that everyone goes back to what they were doing before. Come Monday, maybe Bender dates Claire, maybe Andy dates Allison, and maybe everyone is nice to Brian—but I doubt it. A major theme here is that everyone is full of shit—even the good guys. The Breakfast Club is rooted in its time and culture (i.e., it’s very ’80s and very white middle class American), but it hits something universal. It’s also totally entertaining: it opens with a Bowie quote, has a classic theme song—”Don’t You (Forget about Me)” by Simple Minds—and is jam packed with snarky lines. What’s not to love?

A word about AMC: like a lot of cable stations, it censors “bad” words. I’m not a fan of that, but obviously it won’t stop me from watching something. That said, AMC could’ve done a better job editing here. The dubbing is horrible; apparently no attempt was made to find replacement words that even remotely match the characters mouths. Ditto for the voiceovers. The censoring often relies not on the word but the context. For example, AMC has an aversion to the word “dick” only when it refers to a penis—not when it refers to a jerk. It doesn’t like “asshole,” but “ass” is okay. It hates all forms of “shit,” replacing it with variations like “it’s the pits,” “eat slaw,” and “hogwash” (for “bullshit”). I recommend sticking with the uncut edition—foul language has a place here and something crucial is lost without it: realness.

In 2016, the United States Library of Congress deemed The Breakfast Club “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry (https://www.loc.gov/programs/national-film-preservation-board/film-registry/complete-national-film-registry-listing/).

97 minutes
Rated R

(AMC) A

 

Pretty in Pink

(USA 1986)

Being a full-fledged child of the Eighties—I entered the decade at 9 years old and came out of it at 19—John Hughes spoke to me. Naturally, his teen movies (before he started aiming for Millennials with drivel like Home Alone and Curly Sue) hold a special place in my heart. It seems strange then that even though I played the soundtrack so many times I had to replace it twice, I never saw Pretty in Pink from start to finish. So, when a theater near me screened it to commemorate the 30th anniversary, I thought, “fuckin’ A, why not?”

Andie Walsh (Molly Ringwald) is a poor girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Her mother abandoned her and her father (Harry Dean Stanton), who’s lost in sorrow because of it. Andie attends an apparently elite high school mainly for “richies”—poor girl slang for “rich kids.” Prom is looming, and no one has asked Andie, something she laments to her boss (Annie Potts) at the record store where she works. One of the aforementioned “richies”—Blane (Andrew McCarthy)—suddenly takes an interest in Andie, sparking jealousy and resistance from Duckie (John Cryer), Andie’s buddy since childhood, and Steff (James Spader), Blane’s best friend. Things get ugly when Blane asks Andie to be his date to the prom—uglier than that homemade dress she wears to it.

Hughes went for something a little more dramatic and maybe mature than what he had done up to this point. Nice try, but no cigar: Pretty in Pink doesn’t totally suck, but it’s not one of his better movies. The acting is good, particularly the scenes with Ringwald and Potts. However, the plot—poor girl meets rich boy—was a cliché even at the time. Hughes himself explored the idea of class and social hierarchy many times before in more interesting and thoughtful ways. The writing lacks the punch of, say, Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club. The characters, even Duckie, are colorful but hollow compared to other Hughes films. I found it hard to relate to any of them. Even the alternate ending—Andie ends up with Duckie—is no improvement.

Perhaps its worst flaw is that Pretty in Pink is not one bit fun—it lacks the wit that marks a John Hughes films from this period. The subject matter is heavy, and there’s too much going on that weighs down the story—the business, for example, with Andie’s missing mother and having to coach her father back into reality coupled with the hate she and Blane face from their respective friends give Pretty in Pink a dour vibe. There’s a palpable cynicism that doesn’t work because it comes off as bitter. On top of that, there’s far less comic relief from the sidelines—Potts does her job here, but Cryer is more annoying than funny. Sure, there are some nice moments and a few good lines, but that’s it. Hughes hadn’t lost his touch—Ferris Bueller’s Day Off came out later the same year—but Pretty in Pink is a drag.

All that said, no movie from the Eighties is complete without a soundtrack—and Pretty in Pink was a great one. When my music vocabulary was culled from pop radio and MTV, it introduced me to stuff I otherwise would have missed. I still listen to it today; in fact, I’m going to put it on now.

(AMC River East) C-

The Danish Girl

(USA/UK 2015)

On paper, The Danish Girl has everything going for it: a sensationalist plot with real-life characters, weighty and timely subject matter, pretty scenery, nifty period clothes, a love story, and a nice dose of tragedy. Visually, it’s a beautiful film: cinematographer Danny Cohen gives it the soft, muted look of an impressionist painting; the interiors are as alluring as the exterior shots. The setting—the early 20th Century art scene in Copenhagen and Paris—evokes a sense of glamor and romance. The acting is okay for the most part, but Alicia Vikander is outstanding. Still, the sum here is no greater than its parts.

Based on David Ebershoff’s novel based on the life of Dutch artist Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne), the first known person to undergo sex reassignment surgery, and his wife, Gerda Gottlieb (Vikander), The Danish Girl is a good story even if it isn’t historically accurate. One day, Gottlieb asks Wegener to stand in for her model so she can finish a painting; she gives him a pair of panty hose, and he is immediately cozy in them. Thus begins Wegener’s road to becoming “Lili,” as christened by the couple’s friend, Ulla (Amber Heard). Lili becomes Gottlieb’s muse, showing up in her paintings. They sell. Lili accompanies Gottlieb to a ball as Wegener’s “cousin,” and everyone is fooled. Wasn’t that easy, isn’t she pretty in pink?

The Danish Girl is fictionalized, and as a result liberties are taken for time constraints, continuity, and drama. I get that. Nonetheless, this film doesn’t come off as genuine because it oversimplifies and sanitizes the issues it seems to want to bring to light and then gives them superficial treatment. Lili’s transition is too quick, and her adjustment—touched on but not explored—is seamless for today let alone 1926. Redmayne’s portrayal of Lili is silly: he bats his eyelashes and caresses his frocks with all the campy drama Johnny Depp mustered up wearing an angora sweater in Ed Wood. Lili looks like Molly Ringwald, right down to her stylish scarves—the real Lili looked like Oscar Wilde in a dress. Wegener and Gottlieb were more complicated and had a more complex and unconventional relationship. The truth here is so condensed and whitewashed that this might as well be a fairy tale.

The Danish Girl might make you cry, but it’s just not convincing even within the confines of a two-hour film. Too bad, because it could’ve been much more.

(ArcLight) C-

http://www.focusfeatures.com/the_danish_girl