Saturday, 16 August 2014

DryChris's Bignormous Bargain Bin Billiteration Blitz

Yee-haw! Welcome to another blog where instead of giving a bunch of different works a more in-depth look, I simply just throw them all into one pile and talk about them for a bit. This time we've gone back to the movie world, but instead of going for the top shelf, I've settled on the bottom of the barrel at the bargain bin. And I do mean that in a literal sense not in a "holy shit these films are awful" sense...though there are a few stinkers here and there. The great thing about this whole shindig is that I don't have to feel too bad because so little came out of my pocket to bring me the experience. That is unless I find something really bad. Which I don't think I did. I hope. I really do. Let's just dive in already.

Vampire In Brooklyn AKA Blacula In Da Hood...Wait That Was Blacula...So Blacula With Eddie Murphy

Well I'll give him this...he does look like a lady-killer.

Eddie Murphy. The guy's fallen  on some really shitty times. As his star starts to fall, Charlie's rises with all the TV attention he's getting. But we do know that Eddie had his good times, which most people seem to say were around the times of Beverly Hills Cop. Personally, my favorite work from Eddie was none other than The Nutty Professor remake he did. To me, that really highlighted his comedic abilities and it also allowed me to see Dave Chappelle being thrown into a piano. Which wasn't something I was wanting to see but after that movie, I wanted to see that happen more often. Coincidentally, this film was made a year it should be good...right? I mean he didn't suck in the 90s did he?

Well at least it isn't Pluto Nash...or Norbit...or The Nutty Professor II...or...hold on let me just get the list.
In this horror-comedy made by Wes Craven, Eddie plays as Maximillien, a vampire who is set on finding his significant other who is a NYPD detective played by the saucy Angela Bassett. With the help of a streetwise cat named Julius (Kadeem Hardison), he finds himself reaching closer to her honey. At the same time though, his bloodlust causes ruckus in the streets which complicates the relationsh-wait am I watching Blacula again? It is pretty accurate to say that there a lot of similarities between this and the original black vampire's debut but to the defense of this film it doesn't take the exploitation path as much. There is certainly some ludicrous moments, but they're mostly played for laughs. For example, at one point Maximillien disguises himself as a preacher, which allows for Eddie to do some of his hilarious overacting. John Witherspoon also comes by to remind me that I loved him in The Boondocks. Along with that, the film is able to take itself seriously and provide some great editing. It does take the concept of the "vampire love" in a different direction that I quite enjoyed. If it were a more serious piece it would have certainly been received a lot better. That is something that really surprised me, just how many people hated this film. I wouldn't go so far to say that they are completely wrong and that this is Eddie's magnum opus but you can't tell me with a straight face that this should be lumped with his other failures. Okay, maybe you can (you're entitled to your own opinion bla bla bla), but I think you give it way too little credit. It was aware of what it was and it took advantage of it. It spread out the humor with the drama and it looks superb to boot. Perhaps people just expected a gut buster like Beverly Hi-nope I still don't get this hate at all. 

Stonebrook AKA Seth Green Meets The Mob-ish And Becomes Keyser Soze vewy vewy quiet...I'm hunting nerds...uhuhuhuhuhuhuh

Seth Green is quite an interesting character in the entertainment world. He's done a great deal of film work, although let's be honest with ourselves...we only really know him as either the son of Dr. Evil in Austin Powers or as Joker in the Mass Effect series or as Chris Griffin in Family Guy or as "that dude who made Robot Chicken". On the one hand, it is a bit unfair when you see that the guy is a relatively decent actor, but on the other hand, he's sort of made it comfortable having the focus of his career be on television than it being on film. Regardless, when you spot him in a film it certainly is a sight. I still find it weird when I saw him with his silly glasses in It. And considering that he was wearing some silly glasses on the cover of this, you can see why the pocket change flew away suddenly. 

The plot is basically that a country boy by the name of Erik (played by a dispensable pretty boy actor, Brad Rowe. Seriously, his IMDb page ain't nothing to bat an eye at) finds himself accepted to Stonebrook, a prestigious university which happens to have a family member/friend type thing there too. He finds himself under some financial troubles as he tries to stay in school but with the help of his roomate, Cornelius (Seth Green), the two find a way to scam themselves into some serious cash. They try to get some more cash in a game of pool but fail up until they meet Tali (played by half-Van Damme, half-that sensei asshole from Karate Kid, all better actor, Stanley Kamel) a crime boss type thing who offers them some jobs that get them some money. Along the way, Erik falls in love with the daughter of Tali (which he doesn't figure out later) and then gets into one hell of a sticky situation when he gets deeper into the problem.

Stonebrook is quite a film. Half of it was like a colorful college flick and the other half was a more serious actiony film. The pacing is pretty awful but the acting's serviceable. I really enjoyed seeing Stanley Kamel with his reserved acting style and Seth Green was very good as this conman-like character. You really don't feel much attachment to the characters though and there's very little energy that jolts you as the events unfurl. It's relatively low-key for a film that involves scamming, and not in a way that benefits the film. It tries to pull off some neat ideas with the editing and what it throws at you but it tends to fall flat with how its executed. Their best part was pretty much ripped from The Usual Suspects and it really didn't make sense. In fact a good chunk of things didn't make sense, especially when the tone shifted. It's a film that has some substance in it, but said substance is not enough weight to make the film work. I don't think it's awful, it's just a good idea halfheartedly done. I can't say it's much to talk about, and the lack of a Wikipedia page seems to agree with me. 

Unsavory Characters AKA Film Noir Cliches 101

I could get a more professional looking cover for a nickel

If my top blog is anything to go by, I'm a big fan of film noir. I love a lot of what it offer, what with such things as a sensual lounge singer, a grizzly fedora-wearing cynic, out-of-nowhere punches, lines like "the boss wants to see you", "the boss don't like to be kept waiting" and "long time no see", cigar chomping, lots o' liquor, scotch on the rocks, cigarettes, tobacco lit by matches, male character uses Zippo-esque lighter to light a female character's smoke,  complicated semi-sexual relationships, male character is seduced by a woman to engage in subterfuge, said subterfuge goes wrong for the male character, femme fatale, lots of deceit, gangsters, wise-asses and so much more. Unsavory Characters looked to fit that bill in all it's low-budget goodness, and by the premise, it was certainly going to deliver something to look forward to. 

The movie starts with some hard-boiled fellow getting caught up in some troubles over in Havana. You can tell he's in Latin America because everyone calls him a gringo. In any case it seems to be a pretty typical film noir as it hits all the notes I've said above but then it cuts in the middle as we see that a writer has been pitching what he has for the editor and finds himself stuck in a writer's block. Being that when you see a writer in a movie, they always have writer's block and always have to go on some adventure to continue making their story, the writer ends up going to the places he writes about to finally have something complete. Along the way he meets a girl who he gets friendly with and finds that she has a jealous ex (yet another staple of the film noir, everybody's gotta be jealous). What follows is a life-imitates-art ride of such proportions that it's hard to tell whether you should laugh or take it seriously. 

And I mean that in the best way possible because there is so much this movie does wrong but right at the same time. It has an obnoxious but excellent jazz soundtrack, somewhat stilted and cliche dialogue yet with a lot of dashes of intrigue and bizarre originality, decent acting that occasionally gets cheesy at the right times and clumsy at the wrong times, a nude scene which is relatively unnecessarily but tactful too, shirtless men because why not, a discount Joe Pesci for a brief moment and an insane hobo for no reason in a scene to boot. There are some parts like the ex gets knocked out but then managed to come back into the car because it's a crazy twist. Along with that he assaults the guy in broad daylight too. There's also a scene where the female lead throws money onto a bed and then grabs it with her mouth acting like a cat. While there is certainly an air of the low-budget quality, there are rare moments of sloppy dubbing (but when they happen they're a delight) and some really good cinematography for the budget. I wanted to see what happened but I don't know if it was because I was dying to know what happened or dying of laughter. It's mixed up but it somehow manages to be focused in the end. With a better crew it certainly would have been a stellar send-up to the old style of film noir, but what is given does the same. It just takes the good and the bad of those times with it. 

Good Chemistry AKA Buying With My Eyes

If this was any more intense, Liam Nesson would be shitting his pants

One of the reasons that a bargain bin DVD can be purchased aside from a cheap way to get entertainment is because they have a cover that catches attention, thus making the one who views it have to know what the hell the story is all about. And no more is it apparent with this selection. I mean it's a car on fire, a shot to hell sign and the title scrunched up with a really sleek, thin font. And Chemistry is in red. Plus, this was right around the time Breaking Bad started...actually, it was before Breaking Bad! Some intense shit has to be going down with this. Right from popping in the DVD I notice not only that it has the FBI warning, making this semi-official, but the clip it shows at the start is a dude firing a bunch of times, which is the opening of this film. There is also, as you'd expect, some shots of chemical diagrams because you can't just use the word chemistry without that.Now, I have no doubt there's going to be some crazy shit going on in this film, but the introduction really lends itself to make the film a lot more pretentious than it should be. Still, one can't be so hasty with judgement, especially with something so awesome as a DVD with such a rad cover. At least that's what I thought until it kept going.

The dialogue is shaky, it's very much trying to be an intense story but it's not coming through. One part can be blamed by how the writing is throwing tons of exposition at us, which isn't so bad except it's ill-timed. You get information about a character's doings too early to really do anything with it or care about it either. Another comes from the weak acting, with a blonde whose emotional shifts are as smooth as a crocodile on sandpaper and an aggressive asshat who's a complete bore with his over-the-top acting. By far the worst is the protagonist. I really hate the main character and his absolutely stilted narration. He is the synecdoche of this film, as his part represents the whole of the awful quality of the film that is bestowed before us. As for that "good chemistry"? It's pretty damn lame. If you thought Hollywood movies were rushed with relationships, you have not seen a damn thing. The soundtrack is also an incredible bore. The most surprising thing of it all is that this is happening in the first few fucking minutes of this film! I can't think positive about it, and I can't care for all that's going on. Sure it's needlessly dark and that could try to strike a cord with me, but it doesn't. I just can't find myself giving the slightest of fucks. Well, it's not surprising that I would have been duped. How duped I'd be was something completely different. At the very least I chose something with a moderately interesting concept. That being a high school chemistry teacher being forced to work for a drug ring. But fucking hell, this movie ruins it so badly. Nothing feels properly established, nothing makes sense, it's just darkness and disappointment. It's pretty much a worse version of The Counselor. And the ending is even more insulting. After all that nonsense, it tries to end on some hackneyed positive note. Gah, I can't take much more of this film.

Four Eyed Monsters AKA The International Sensation You've Never Heard Of

Is that artsy or what?!

To finish this off, I give you Four Eyed Monsters. The DVD comes with the soundtrack, the movie and 13 episodes, but I'm just gonna focus on the film. The funny thing about this film came from how it boasted as being this "award-winning project (which) has engaged millions around the world who have followed this real couples story". Considering that I have never heard of this production nor have I heard anyone else talk about it, I find it very odd to see that written on the back. Unless it's like Arrested Development or a foot fetish club where there actually is a base for it but if you're not a part of it you would never know just how big it really is. Still, the quick search on this film did give me some relatively decent results so it might not be so bad after all. And it's enough that I could steal the premise of the movie word for word from Wikipedia like so:

A shy videographer (Arin) and an uninspired artist working as a waitress (Susan) meet on the Internet and spark a relationship. Fed up with the usual dating game, the two decide to not communicate verbally, only through artistic means to see if they can make it work.

Man, I really have to commend myself for getting movies with somewhat interesting premises...anyways, you probably want to know if this so-called world-renowned picture is all that it's cracked up to be. The answer is a intrigued "Of course". The opening has this build-up to the vision that single people have when they're not with a soulmate. It goes frantic with both characters, with the male character mirroring his pessimism and sexual frustration and the female character having a more finer touch, showing her passion for being an artist and a repression of her craft from her tedious day job. The film has a very dream like editing style to it which to some may be considered obnoxiously indie, but I think it's done with a greater finesse. It's experimental with it's shots and tackling the premise, making it more like glimpses into the lives of each of the characters rather than a more cohesive narrative. A part of me desperately just wants to dismiss it as if it were hipster trash with its excessively strange editing, soundtrack, concept and dialogue, but I think it tackles the idea of love between the two of them in a heartfelt expression of twisted artistry...and by heartfelt I mean it not only in the actual sense but in the metaphorical sense that you can feel the heart exposed throughout this movie. It works more as a moving art gallery as it does a film. Even if it's pretentious (which I don't think it is), it's one that isolates itself, it doesn't try to annoy someone else with its concepts. It comes from a more sincere source. At the very least, I see it taking some bold risks...maybe some that have been taken before but it spins it in a refreshing work. It's an engaging look into a different kind of a relationship. 

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