By: Reaper Rick
Welcome back, movie fans, to Reaper Rick’s Movie Reviews. I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year right off the bat (albeit a month or so late), and hope you all have your popcorn ready, ‘cause we’ve got a lot to cover this issue.
Before I get into the ‘Name’ reviews I wanted to touch on an older release that I just happened to catch on the tube recently, but it warrants a mention here. The Men Who Stare At Goats is from 2009 and starred George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, and Kevin Spacey. If you have not seen this movie it is definitely worth a rental. I found it outrageously funny, but everyone knows I have a twisted sense of humor.
Ewan plays a reporter who decides to go to Iraq after his love life falters, where he meets a somewhat demented Clooney, who, back in the 1970s was a member of an elite, top secret army group that used paranormal powers to remote view our enemies, become invisible, walk through walls, and kill people with their minds. They practiced their killing techniques by staring at goats, hence the name of the movie. The movie is based on a book of the same name, which is supposed to be fiction, but we all know that the army has tried many unusual and highly suspect schemes to get one over on our enemies—in this case the commie Russians.
Ewan and George set out through the hostile deserts of Iraq in search of a secret hideout where the Army has possibly started up the paranormal research program once again. Without giving too much of the plot away, let me just say that The Men Who Stare At Goats is a funny movie and a great popcorn flick. For a wonderful cast and lots of humor, I give this movie Three and a Half Howls of Pleasure .
And, since I already mentioned my ‘twisted’ sense of humor, I ran across another movie recently which I will just bet few, if any of you, have ever even heard of, let alone seen. The movie is called Ed and His Dead Mother from 1993 and stars Steve Buscemi (currently a Golden Globe winner for HBO’s Boardwalk Empire), Ned Beatty, John Glover, and Jon Gries. Right up front let me say that this is a Dark Horror Comedy and is an exceedingly odd movie.
The movie opens in black and white, the reason for which I still do not understand, and Ed is on trial for killing his mother. He professes his innocence, however, by explaining that she was already dead when he cut her head off. Flashback to three months previously and the movie is now in color (perhaps it is a takeoff from The Wizard of Oz or something). Ed (Steve Buscemi) misses his dead mother and wishes he could have her back. He runs a family-owned Hardware Store, and one day an unusual salesman comes into the store.
Mr. Paddle works for a company called ‘Happy People Limited’ and offers to reanimate Ed’s mother—for a price. Ed received a $60,000 insurance payment after his mother died, and ‘Happy People Limited’ is somehow aware of his monetary windfall and plans to relieve him of a large chunk of it. So, for only $1,000 (to start with) they will bring his mother back from the dead. After only a few seconds of contemplation, Ed writes out a check and two nights later his mother shows up at his front door, apparently as good as new.
Ned Beatty is Ed’s uncle (and the dead mother’s brother) who lives with Ed. Imagine the uncle’s surprise when he gets up the next morning to find his dead sister in the refrigerator peeling potatoes. Yes, I said she is in the fridge peeling potatoes. All seems normal (?) enough, except the uncle finds this entire situation somewhat unsettling and wants Ed to put her back in the ground. Later that day the mother collapses and is found unconscious by Ed. He wants to take her to the doctor, but she is after all dead, so what can a doctor do for her?
Fortunately Mr. Paddle shows up with a solution. Ed must feed her a special formula every night to keep her…well, reanimated, and this will only cost him $349.99 (it is on Sale). It turns out the box of ‘formula’ consists of live cockroaches, and Ed must not feed her more than two every night. The next morning Ed comes downstairs to find the kitchen repainted and that his mother has baked a few hundred pies. He then discovers that she ate the entire box of cockroaches during the night and is now so energized she hungers for flesh, but initially her cravings are only for the neighborhood pets. However, she soon begins to crave human flesh and finally Ed decides he must end this nightmare.
Enter once again Mr. Paddle, who sells Ed the solution to his problem. He must decapitate his mother and bury her head and body in different parts of the cemetery just after midnight. He manages to dispose of her head, but the police discover her body in his car and thus we return to his trial.
Now, I obviously left a lot of the plot twists out of this review, as I didn’t want to spoil it for any who may wish to rent the flick. Aside from some minor blood splatter, there are a few brief scenes of nudity in the movie, just in case that may bother some viewers. This movie had a budget of over a million dollars and from what I could find, it only took in about $670 on its opening weekend, with a total of only about $2,000 during the entire American screening. That is incredibly Bad for any movie. It is full of inconsistencies, poor acting (with the exception of Buscemi, Beatty, and John Glover who plays Mr. Paddle), odd, unexplained twists and turns, and poor dialog. It is so bad that it may well turn into a cult classic if enough people pick up on it. But, it is also so bad that it is extremely funny, even where it was not supposed to be. So, this is a tough film to rate. It was a terrible movie, but I enjoyed it quite a lot, much as you might enjoy watching Plan 9 from Outer Space over and over again.
As a movie production for general release, I give Ed and His Dead Mother a mere One and a Half Howls of Pleasure and that due only to the few talented actors it has in it. But, as a funny, sick, twisted, off-the-wall popcorn flick, I give it Three Howls of Pleasure, because it is so bad it’s good. This is a movie Ed Wood might have made if he was still alive twenty years ago. If you want to see a terribly funny (emphasis on the ‘terrible’ part), really dark comedy, I recommend it as a weekend rental.
Another movie many may not be familiar with is Green Street Hooligans from 2005. This movie starred Elijah Wood (LOTR Trilogy), Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) and Claire Forlani. Wood, fresh from his stint in the Shire has enrolled in Harvard, but is expelled due to a phony drug scandal brought about by his roommate. Wood travels to England to live with his married sister for a while and get a new perspective on life, and what he discovers there changes his life forever. The brother-in-law’s brother, Pete (Hunnam) is the leader of a football ‘Firm’ called the Green Street Elite. These Firm members are also known as Hooligans in England, but in the U.S. would simply be called gang members. The Firm meets before each football match (and don’t call it Soccer in England) to have some fun and get really drunk, then attend the game where they usually cause some minor to major mischief, and after the game frequently meet up with the rival team’s Firm and beat the crap out of each other.
Wood has never even been in a fight before, let alone a 20-30 person melee where participates often have their heads stomped on and most everyone leaves bloodied and badly bruised. Still, he manages to fit into the group by using his mind rather than his brawn to help ‘his’ Firm come out on top in a few major battles. His only real problem is that his new buddies absolutely despise journalists and Wood was a former journalism major at school, a fact that he must keep secret from them.
But, one of the Firm members finds out about his secret, spills the beans and Wood is ostracized and literally beaten out of the gang. A major fight with a long time rival Firm brings Wood back into action at the last minute to save his sister and her son before he returns to the States.
Green Street Hooligans is not a movie for everyone, but if you enjoy hard to understand English accents and lots of bloody street brawls this might be a film to rent. It’s a great popcorn flick and I give it Three and a Half Howls of Pleasure .
Moving along, I was quite excited when I found out that director Tim Burton was going to do a remake of Alice in Wonderland, and I was not disappointed when I finally got to see the movie. Burton’s films are always somewhat twisted and are usually ‘dark,’ to say the least. Therefore you either love his movies or you dislike them, sometimes intensely.
Alice in Wonderland was one of the first books I ever read as a child and I have always loved the story. Tim Burton took a children’s book and turned it into an adult-themed movie, and as an adult I enjoyed his somewhat darker vision of the story. This movie may not be suited for children under ten or twelve years old, but Disney still has the animated version of Alice in Wonderland for them to watch.
Johnny Depp stars as the Mad Hatter, and while not technically as ‘Mad’ as the original hatter, he has moments of dementia which fit in well with the story. Burton managed to tweak this production from the original by bringing Alice back as a nineteen year old girl who believes her visions of a childhood Wonderland were all merely nightmares. He also incorporates characters from Lewis Carroll’s sequel Through the Looking Glass into this movie.
When Alice (Mia Wasikowska) falls down another rabbit hole and returns to ‘Underland,’ she thinks she is merely dreaming again and refuses to help fulfill her destiny by killing the fearsome Jabberwocky, thus freeing Underland from the tyrannical rule of the Red Queen, who is played by Helena Bonham Carter.
During the course of this movie Alice is slowly convinced that she is indeed the champion whom the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) requires, and looking a bit like Joan of Arc in her gleaming armor, she eventually battles and slays the dreaded Jabberwocky. The fight scene is really well done, and the Jabberwocky itself is an amazing representation.
Obviously there is quite a bit of CGI in this movie (after all, when was the last time you saw a live talking rabbit, a spotted Bandersnatch, or a real Jabberwocky?), but if you love the story itself, then the CGI effects are barely noticeable—in fact they are amazing. I often wondered what it would be like to visit Wonderland (or Underland) and Tim Burton brought it alive in this adaptation. For taking a wonderful story and turning it into a marvelous movie, I give Tim Burton and Alice in Wonderland Four and a Half Mighty Howls of Pleasure .
All right, then. Actor Bruce Willis (aka Bruno) was born in Germany in 1955 and was then raised in New Jersey, but fortunately no one has held that against him. After high school Willis went to New York to become an actor, where he waited tables and tended bar until he was discovered by a producer who needed an actor to tend bar in a movie. The rest is history.
But, let me talk about his latest movie, Red. This one stars (along with Bruce) Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, and Morgan Freeman. Willis is a retired CIA operative—one of the best and most lethal they ever produced. His file is marked with a big word, RED, across the front of it. This stands for, Retired; Extremely Dangerous.
For some time Willis has carried on a phone relationship with a girl at the Government office from which his retirement checks originate. After many months of phone…communication, they agree to meet in her home town. Then, for no apparent reason a hit squad suddenly descends on Bruce’s home and tries to take him out. Bruce decides someone is out to get him and tracks down members of his old team in case he needs backup, and to warn them of possible danger as well. He also stops by his “girlfriend’s” apartment, since she may also be in danger. She turns out to be a reluctant companion.
Once the team is all together again they discover they are all on a hit list, and attempt to discover why. The answer leads them to one of the top officials in our Government, and to a cover up which may leave them all dead.
This movie has lots of action, and is, at the same time, very funny—sometimes outrageously so. The twists and turns will keep you guessing most of the time, but you occasionally do know what’s coming. Even so, Red is a fast-paced, shoot-‘em up dramatic flick with lots of comedy. This must be one of Bruce’s best films.
I give Red Four Big Howls of Pleasure and recommend it highly .
And that’s it for me this issue—I’ll see you next time.