Saturday, 21 February 2009

The Cheap-Arse Film Review #21- "FEAR CITY." (RIP WOOLWORTHS PT.1)








PRICE: £1.00




I never stole any of the penny sweets from Woolworths. I was afraid I'd get caught, even though my friends walked out of there with pocketfuls of fizzy cola bottles and sherbert bubbles without anyone noticing. There was even a theory that they let you steal up to a certain amount so that it encouraged you to go inside and make the place look busy, although I don't buy that, because they eventually did away with the Pick N'Mix, and I think even sited one of the reasons for doing so as it wasn't profitable anymore because of all the thieving bastards nicking everything. I hope you're all proud of yourselves for spoiling a good thing we could all probably still enjoy today.

After that, I never really had much of a reason to set foot in Woolworths again. I'd walk around it sometimes just to get myself out of the cold whilst waiting for a bus, and I'd go in there for a drink from time-to-time as they were forever doing two-for-one offers on bottles (not even cans, bottles) of Coke and Oasis (well, I suppose you couldn't do offers on cans there...). On the lead-up to Christmas I'd venture in to see if there was anything decent to buy, toys for my little cousins and the like, but I'd often leave empty-handed as the selection was woefully anemic, or I knew for a fact that I could pick something up cheaper than they were offering. But it was, in a strange way, comforting to know it was there if you needed it. It'd gone through dozens of makeovers throughout the years, but it was still the same place I'd stood outside trading WWF stickers with my friends. I know it's silly to have affection for a faceless corporate entity, but I had affection for Woolworths.

And then I heard all the branches across the country were closing down.

I won't say I was heartbroken, because that would be over-egging the pudding, but I was taken by surprise, and at first dismissed it as rubbish, little more than a pre-Christmas publicity stunt to pull in punters. But as the days went on and my local created a crude sign displaying how long they had left, I knew I was wrong. And I suddenly became determained to buy something there, specifically a movie to review here. I thought it'd be no problem, as they were absolutely determained to get rid of their remaining stock and were moving things on at prices that can only be described as unhinged (I have friends, not even one friend, but friends, who bought multiple complete "Rock Band" sets with the intention of selling them on and making a massive profit). I already had it planned out in my head, that I'd make a big deal of whatever movie I found and make it part of a "Goodbye Woolworths" event.

So, could I find anything?

Could I buggery.

It was amazing. People were running around with armfuls of stuff, and I couldn't find so much as one movie for a quid or less. It was like this was the one place they were trying desperately to still make something approaching a decent profit. Over two days I went to four different Woolworths, and both times came out with diddly-squat. I was disppointed, but what else could I do but shrug my shoulders and say that it obviously wasn't meant to be? So I moved on, reluctantly.

Then a couple of weeks ago something interesting happened. Over the time I've been doing this, I've picked up quite alot of movies, and since I can only do one a week most of the time, this has led to an impressive backlogue that I have stored in a box on my wardrobe. I bought them with the intention of reviewing them in the order they were picked up, but as time went on I abandoned that and now just review whatever I feel like that particular week. It's good to have in emergencies, incase I don't find anything that's really excited me whilst out on the prowl, which is exactly what brought me to look through it in the first place. That's when I found them. Two movies marked with the distinctive price sticker of Woolworths. Then it all came flooding back. I had bought DVDs there, when a friend of mine was in the bookies and I was standing around bored. I went to the Woolworths across the road from where we were to kill time, not expecting to find anything, and bought the first two I stumbled across. Then I put them in the box and forgot about them.

So this is it. The two films I'm going to be covering over the next two weeks are the last two things I bought from Woolworths. And even though I'm not going to let this fact colour or influence this review in any way, I hope I keep them. I really do.

To be honest though, things aren't looking good for this one, as it's directed by Abel Ferrara (confession time- I'd been a bit lax in my research, to the point that I hadn't even read the plot description on the back of the box until I went to watch it, and only found out he directed this when "Directed by Abel Ferrara" came up on the screen). I'm not the biggest fan of his work. I've not seen everything he's done, but I think I've seen enough to know we're not meant for each other, to me most of it either being over-the-top to the point that there should be a Loony Tunes logo shown at the beginning, or ludicrously pretentious. I've felt this way ever since I watched "Driller Killer" back in my teens, when me and my mate were briefly obsessed with Video Nasties and made it our mission to watch them all. If I'm honest, I don't remember much of this movie off the top of my head. I can only remember one kill, that being of a homeless guy with (duh) a drill. There must have been more than that. There must have been. But the two strongest memories I have are of some angry hippy ranting about somethng that seemed to go on for the entire movie, and two naked women making out, which is... great, I suppose, but it's not why I wanted to watch a movie called "Driller Killer." I was hoping to see lots of people get killed with a drill. The only film of his that I've enjoyed up to this point is "Bad Lieutenant," but even there, like with "There Will Be Blood" to a lesser degree, I'm not sure I'd even like that one were in not for Harvey Keitel giving the performance of several careers in the central role.

The opening credits role over a montage of urban city life and stippers doing their thing. I'm not going to go into too much detail about the strippers or their routines, because to be honest I've seen so much naked female flesh over the last few films that I'm sort or brested out and was hoping not to see any in this. The font used in the credit is weird, as it's made to look like red slash marks, which I would associate more with a horror flick (another confession- until I read the back of the box, for some reason I assumed this was a low-budget Sci-Fi movie. I have no decent explaination as to why). It makes more sense when you get into the meat of the plot though. The song playing over the top, "New York Doll," by Joe Delia and David Johansen, is also pretty good in a trashy eighties way, even if I think it sounds alot like a slowed down version of "Rebel Yell," by Billy Idol.

Following this, we meet Matt Rossi (Tom Berenger) and Nicky Parzeno (Jack Scalia), as they enter a strip club, not before they stop to say hello to one of the girls on the way out. We quickly find out alot about these two during their conversation with the club's owner inside- that they run an agency that provides the local nudey bars of New York City with girls, that Jack used to date Loretta (Melenie Griffith), the girl that's performing there tonight, and judging by the forlorn look on his face as he watches her dance, isn't what you call happy about it being over. The owner of this club is awesome, a small, bald man with a mustache who steals almost every scene he's in through a combination of cracking lines (here for example, he tells the guys he'd "give my only nut," to be able to pay them the money he owes them, before offering them a drink when they agree to extend his loan time, describing what they're about to partake in as, "milk from your mother-in-law's tit")and a voice so gravelly it may be made of pure Cancer.

On the stage, Loretta continues her routine in front of an enthusiastic audience. I've never been to a strip club, and I don't really have any interest in going to one, either. I mean, think about it- you're in a room full of beautiful, virtually naked women, all of whom are giving you the eye and making you feel like you might actually be the irresistable stud you pretend to be when you're down the pub with your mates lying about how great your lovelife is... and you can't touch any of them, not even so much as brush elbows with them, without being beaten to a bloody pulp. If you asked me to guess what the level of Hell I'm sure to be cast down into would be like, that would be pretty close. Melenie Griffith the way she is in this movie might be enough to tempt me through the doors though (to a club or to Hell). I'd forgot just how beautiful a woman she was. And no, I'm not going to be cruel and say something like, "what happened?" Because we all know what happened- she got old. And you can blame people for alot of things, but you can't blame them for getting old. Time does indeed make fools of us all. Sadly though, it was her looks that people were hiring her for, and when they went away, so did the offers. I'm trying to think who could be the Melenie Griffith of my generation. For some reason I keep coming back to Orlando Bloom.

Following her perfomance, she goes to her dressing room, where she's met by a pretty Hispanic lady who is very obviously presented to us as her girlfriend, and the person she left Rossi to be with, and I've got to say, for an Abel Ferrara movie, this is handled in a very subtle and non-sensationalistic manner. Infact, I'm tempted to say it actually swings the other way (or should that be... both ways?)(I'm so sorry...), by being needlessly coy. We never see them in bed together, nor do we see them kiss. Infact, the only instance of physical contact between them in the whole movie happens in this scene, when the woman puts her hands on Loretta's shoulders. This of course happens at the exact moment that Rossi decides to go to her dressing room to give her a Birthday present, which he decides isn't a good idea after a little spying. He then professes his desire to beat up his exes new girlfriend in the car with Nicky. Actually, the dirct quote is, "I'd like to kick her ass all the way down to (audio incomprehensible due to Berenger being so mumbly)," and as he doesn't really specify who he's talking about, he could easily be talking about Loretta. Either way, it's a classy statement to make (sarcasm, Internet). Nicky cheers him up with a few well-placed Italian jokes, and this is the first time I noticed that Tom Berenger looks angry even when he's laughing.

In between the scenes described above, we cut away briefly to see the woman Nicky said hello to outside the club being wrestled into an alley by a guy and attacked with a pair of scissors, although we don't really know what he did to her until Rossi and Nicky come to visit her the next morning, when she tearfully recalls the attack and reveals the guy had cut off two of her fingers. Again, we don't see the event itself, we see the guy go to do it, and then cut back to the hospital where she throws her arms around Nicky, revealing her heavily bandaged hands. This is, again, remarkably restrained for an Abel Ferrara movie, and you know what? It works. This scene is actually rather disturbing and affecting. I found myself feeling for this woman, because the focus is more on the effect the attack had on her more than graphic violence. I have, however, been told that I shouldn't be too quick to praise Ferrara for this, as like almost all of his movies, this one was apparently edited heavily following its showing to various ratings boards, so for all I know there's a director's cut out there where the killer picks up her fingers and sticks them up his nose.

After this, the movie tries to add a little depth to Rossi's character by showing us through flashback the defining moment of his life, that being when he accidently killed a man in the ring during his time as a boxer. Over the course of three flashbacks we find out more and more about what happened- in the first we just see Rossi pound this poor kid into so much meat, in the second we see him telling his corner that it's obvious the other guy's done and that the ref should stop the fight, only for his corner man to tell him to shut up and not expect the referee to do his job for him, and finally in the third, after the kid hits the ground, Rossi goes after the ref, screaming, "WHY DIDN'T YOU STOP THE FIGHT?!" It's a legitimate question, because the other guy was getting totally destroyed, but it's no worse than anything you'd see in a "Rocky" movie, and the ref never stopped anything in those, either. Plus, here's an idea, if he knew he was that out of it, why didn't Rossi just stop hitting him violently in the head? Work the fucking body! You'll still win, and your chances of killing a man go down substancially. So yeah, these scenes are alright, but they're not exactly "Raging Bull," and later they're used as an excuse for Rossi (and the filmmakers) to do some truy dumb things.

Rossi then visits a club he and Nicky provide with girls to pick up that week's pay, only to be questioned, in a very harsh and confrontational manner, by Detective Al Wheeler, played by Billy Dee (BILLY DEE! BILLY DEE!) Williams, who suspects he knows more about the attack than he's letting on. Now, I don't want to risk bringing down the wrath of the "Star Wars" fanboys upon me by saying this, and God bless Billy Dee (BILLY DEE! BILLY DEE!) Williams, but... he's not very good in this movie. At all. And he's at his absolute worst in this scene, all stilted delivery and shouting for the sake of it. It could easily be the fault of the director he's working with, since I doubt Ferrara has ever told an actor to turn it down a notch in his life. I'll also give him a little credit and say that he's never as bad again as he is here, but he's still not great, and it doesn't help that, as the movie goes on, you realise the character he's playing is completely ineffective and pointless. You seriously could edit out all his scenes and the movie would still make sense. I'm noticing this as a pattern with alot of the films I'm covering lately. It's also never really explained why he hates Rossi so much. He mentions something about the kind of people he associates with, which we later finds out hints to his mob ties, but Rossi himself doesn't seem to have his fingers in any illegal pies. The closest we get is a brief scene outside where Wheeler tells his partner that the main thing he hates about Rossi is that he's arrogant, which I think is supposed to be a joke, as his character is easily the most up-himself in the whole movie. Oh, and he also has a habit of throwing around Italian racial slurs, which is as obvious and transparant an attempt at being subversive and shocking as you're ever going to see. "OH MY GOD! THE BLACK MAN IS RACIST!"

Following another performance from Loretta, she returns to her dressing room to find Rossi, who had been in the crowd just a second ago, picking stuff up off her dresser and just... looking at them. Yes, that's not at all creepy and obsessive behaviour. He offers her a ride home, which she turns down as she's supposed to be picking up her girlfriend from the club she's working at that night, only to have Rossi tell her to let her find her own way home. So, your obviously-obsessed ex-boyfriend wants you to get in his car with him, and also clearly doesn't give care about any plans you've made with the person you're dating. Ladies reading this, put yourself in this situation. What would you do? Well, if you're Loretta, you'd get in his car. They make a little small-talk, Rossi asking her if she's still off "The Junk," her saying she is, that sort of thing, before they get down to it and start talking about what went wrong in their relationship. "Don't you understand," she says, "I'm afraid of going to bed wih you again. I loved you too much. You should have talked to me more." Not an unreasonable thing to say (well, other than saying you're afraid of sleeping with someone again, which just leaves the door open for all kinds of jokes), but when Rossi says he had trouble finding the words, she says, "Sometimes there aren't any." Okay, WAT? Didn't she just say she wanted him to talk more? And now she's saying she sometimes there are no words? I'm not going mad here am I, that's a totally mixed signal, isn't it? Christ, no wonder they're not together anymore, it must have been like dating The Riddler. And then she starts to cry! You brought it up!

Once Loretta is dropped of, we cut to her girlfriend doing her routine at a club. Se had previously stated that this place caters totally to Hispanic guys, and that's a perfect description of the crowd watching her... except for one lone, blonde white guy, watching her with what can only be described as a murderous smirk on his face. You don't stick out at all, do you sunshine? He's the killer, obviously, and the girl finds herself attacked whilst waiting for a train in a scene that's the polar opposite of the first one. There's blood everywhere, and the camera lingers on it in all it's detail. There's also the first hint of what is later told to us, that the killer knows martial arts. Sadly this hint comes in the form of him waving his arms around slowly like I used to when I'd play "Karate Kid," with my friends growing up. He leaves her to die on the platform, and then we cut back to his apartment/training facility, to see him writing in a book (which is later revealed to have the words "Fear City" professionally stenciled on the front in a font similar to that of the opening credits. I would have loved to have seen a scene of him going into a stationers and askng for that), and hearing what he's writing in voiceover. His motives are never completely revealed, which I don't have too big a problem with. However, what I do have a problem with is that the ones that are hinted at are just so stock and cliche- generic indignant religious rage and a desire to purify the world through violence. This has just been so run into the ground by now that it's what wriers come up with when they don't really feel like trying, and I'd imagine it was at least getting that way by 1984.

After being harassed (and there's really no other word for it) by Wheeler and his partner again, Nicky and Rossi return to the club from the beginning of the movie, where Loretta, obviously cut up (no pun intended) by what happened to her girlfriend, can't bring herself to perform. And, if I'm honest, I think she should feel at least a little bit guilty, because what happened is at least partially her fault. And thinking about it... why would she need a lift from Rossi if she was going to pick up her girlfriend? This isn't me making a mistake, she didn't say she'd "meet" her or anything like that, she said she'd "pick her up," which implies to me that she has her own car. So what happened to that? Did she just leave it at the club? This is literally just this second dawning on me. Anyway, Rossi goes to see her and says they'll get another girl there and give her the night off, which she initially says isn't nesessary, only to break down again when she goes to get changed. The whole time this was happening, I couldn't get that Bloodhound Gang song out of my head. You know the one, "A Lapdance is Always Better when the Stripper is Crying." I'm a terrible, terrible person. Nicky writes off the debt the club's owner owes them (what happened to the other girl?), and once back at their office, he pulls out a gun and says they should find the guy and deal with him themselves. Rossi makes no bones about the fact that he doesn't think that's a good idea, which causes Nicky to question whether or not he has it in him anymore and Rossi to have a spasm. Nicky apologises, Rossi accepts, saying they've been friends too long, and that seems to be the end of that. A little more backstory is given to Rossi when we later see Nicky lying on the floor of his bathroom looking through a scrapbook of Rossi's old fight clippings, revealing that the kid he killed fell into a coma first, which doesn't make much sense to me, because in one of the flashbacks it looks like the doctor proclaims the kid dead on the spot. This movie has real trouble keeping it's stories straight.

Rossi meets up with one of his mob contacts (who looks alot like Robert Duvall's slightly pudgier brother), and is told that they suspect the attacks are being carried out at the request of Goldstein, Rossi and Nicky's competition when it comes to providing clubs with dancing girls. Rossi outright asks if his people are looking to put out a hit on Goldstein, to which the guy replies, "You're not afraid of the sight of blod are you?" Jesus Christ, this poor guy, having his masculinity questioned twice in what I can only assume is a matter of hours because he'd rather not kill anybody ever again. Obviously thinking, "Fuck this," Rossi goes back to the office, finds Nicky's gun, and confronts Goldstein, who protests his innocence in a convincing enough way for Rossi to let him go, even though he backs away with his hand in his pocket as though holding a gun before doing so. I love stuff like this, it's movie logic that makes people act in ways that no real person ever would. "Eh, I think he's telling the truth, but I'm gonna make him think I'm gonna shoot him for a little bit longer." He then throws the gun into the river. Congratulations, you've just left yourself defenseless in the face of a madman who's killing your friends and is very likely to have you on his agenda at some point. I also don't think it was his to throw away.

Following a brief scene of the killer training with Nunchucks (which is fairly impressive and at least shows they're not totally chancing it by claiming this guy has some kind of training), Nicky is shown asking his girlfriend, who I presume is also a dancer, not to go to work anymore out of fear for what's happening. She knocks that talk on the head, saying it wouldn't look good if the bosses girlfriends suddenly had the right to pick and choose when she worked. "You know how much I love you, Rube?" he asks her, before kissing her. At first I thought this meant she was a total goner, but unless I wasn't paying attention, I think she makes it through to the other end of this. She does arm herself with mace though, and I suppose the main reason for this scene existing is to show how on-edge everybody has become.

Rossi and Loretta come out of the hospital from visiting Loretta's girlfriend and both spark up cigarettes (ah, the eighties...). Loretta says it looks like she's gettng better, to which Rossi says, "Sure," in a manner that sounds like he really doesn't give a fuck if she lives or dies. He then asks her if she wants to do something, and she says okay. Well, glad to see her being so distraught over the condition of her girlfriend hasn't stopped her being willing to accept the offer of a date from an ex. They walk along the river, where he finally gives her her Birthday present, a spinning necklace that says, "I love you." At least he's not being coy about his intentions. They kiss, end up back at her place (where Griffith somehow makes a Wifebeater vest one of the sexiest things I have seen any woman wear ever), and they have sex. I feel so sorry for Loretta's girlfriend, I really do.

There's another attack, and this time the killer actually manages to kill someone, which is good because I was starting to feel weird calling him "the killer," when a more accurate description of him would have been "the maimer" up until this point. He's seen watching a girl going to work in a cab, and when she returns, she hears someone behind her in her apartment block. This spooks her, and she runs to her apartment, looking through her door's peephole to see that it was, infact, an old man. She breathes a sigh of relief, and... OH SHIT HE'S IN HER APARTMENT! And Ferrara can't resist bathing this scene in red light. Yes Abel, we get it, he's about to kill her. The local press are now interested, the mob is spooked, offering Rossi two guys to help him look after his girls (which he at first turns down, because he's clearly doing such a good job on his own), Rossi has a strangely unrelated flashbach to when he was a shoeshine boy and saw two mobsters get killed (the casting of the kid in this scene is amazing, I have to point out, because he looks so much like Berenger I'm tempted to just assume it's his son or something), and Loretta shows up to visit her girlfriend just as she dies, after the doctors take all of five seconds to give up trying to revive her. And then she starts crying again! Sweetheart, you left her to walk home whilst you got a ride with Rossi (even though its been established that you must have a car), leaving her to be attacked, then you spent last night getting it on with someone whilst she lay in hospital slowly dying! You are officially the worst girlfriend ever. At least she has the decency to feel so guilty about it all that she gets straight back on "The Junk," (and I mean straight back on, the next scene is of her walking down an alley and picking some unspecified drug up off a sleazy dealer), and pretty much now disappears from the film until about the last ten minutes.

And now onto... a scene I'm not going to dignify with a recap. It involves a booing crowd, an annoyed club owner making an angry phone call, a wooden horse, and a woman being crucified for daring not to look like Melenie Griffith. It took me a while to figure out why this bothered me so much, because I'm far from a politically-correct guy and usually find humour in the cruelest things, plus I'm sure the actress knew what she was getting herself into and was just happy to have a paying gig, but I think I've figured it out. I think it's because this scene doesn't really have any baring on the plot whatsoever. It exists only for the reasons of making fun of this woman. And that's bullshit. Moving on. The killer strikes again (this time using NUNCHUCKS!), and for once the police seem to be doing something useful, like I don't know, doing proper investigating. The cops in the movie really are morons. In a previous scene, Wheeler finally realises (after two women have already been attacked), that not only do these incidents not fit the profile of anything the mob is likely to do, but the fact that Rossi and Nicky are still alive would suggest that they're not the main targets. Well done you. And their suspicions are confirmed when the girl found dead turns out to be one of Goldstein's, and as such now they decide they've got to work quickly before the mob decides to take business into its own hands.




... Ahem... Goldstein and the guys work out a deal to make sure their people are looked after, and then set about trying to find the killer. They think they've hit paydirt when Nicky sees a knife in the inside jacket pocket of a huge guy, and has one of his girls coax him into the kitchen, where he's set upon by three men including Rossi, who goes all Incredible Hulk on him and keeps smashing the shit out of him until they discover plane tickets in his pocket the say he's only flown in that morning, and also that he's an arcitect. An arcitect? This guy has be be the largest arcitect I've ever seen. What is he on the weekends, a wrestler? Anyway, during this, another girl is killed, this time with a samurai sword. I know I've gone on about how I find Ferrara's cartoonish violence to be tedious, but in this case I would've liked to have seen more for no other reason than I suspect there would have been a beheading. And beheadings are always awesome.

So one man would appear to have brought New York's topless scene to its knees (in a manner it's not used to, at least)- clubs are empty, girls are refusing to work, the agency is on the verge of going out of business. On top of all that, wheeler decides that now would be the perfect time to keep his little vendetta against Rossi alive by arresting him for assaulting the arcitect. Okay, so assault is a terrible crime, especially when one of the men involved usd to be a boxer and is destroying a man with his bare hands, but with the city gripped by a serial killer, you really would think this wouldn't be as big of a concern. But nope, Wheeler hates Rossi, so he arrests him and beats the shit out of him whilst he's tied to a chair. Who's the bad guy in this film again?

Hilariously, whilst this is going on, the killer strikes again, this time going after Ruby, who fights back and manages to get away just as Nicky shows up to pick her up, and take a pounding and be put in the hospital. There two things here I'm going to mention- 1) has anybody else noticed that the killer really isn't very good at hiding what he's about to do? I mean, yes, the first time he attacked someone, he took them to an alley, and another killing took place in someone's apartment, but other than that all the killing have taken place completely out in the open, and he's not tried to blend into the scenery. I mean, didn't somebody notice a guy walking around hlding a fucking sword in one of the previous scenes. And 2) after he's fought off Nicky, he runs away, and the way he runs is... words can't do it justice. I rewound the DVD three times, and each time I watched it, I laughed harder. It's the funniest thing in the film, and it's made all the funnier by the fact that the actor playing this role is taking the part deathly seriously, so I suspect it was a concious decision on his part to run like that. God I wish I could find pictures or footage of this to show to you. You'll just have to take my word for it.

So now, Rossi has finally had enough. After a brief pep-talk from a gangster, and visiting a church, he makes the decision that he's going to find this guy and deal with him once and for all. He goes back to his place and... starts boxing in front of a mirror? And then we cut back to the killer doing his Martial Arts training? Oh my God, this is a sports training montage. They're playing this up like it's boxing vs. martial arts, east vs. west (with two white guys, obviously). This is either going to rule, or it's going to totally suck. One thing I do quite like about this is that they make it obvious that Rossi doesn't find him that night, but rather it takes several weeks, asshots of him walking the streets dring both the day and night are intercut with shots of Nicky recovering in hospital and Loretta becoming more and more baked. After the motage, Rossi calls Loretta to tell her he loves her, which leads to her wanting more Junk. She gets beaten up by her dealer for not having any money, then manages to talk one of her stripper friends into lending her the money as long as she'll use it to go straight home, which she says she will. Because you can always trust an addict with your money, can't you folks? Griffith, it's worth mentioning, comes across as far too bright-eyes and clear-headed to be believable as a strung-out junkie. She goes back to her dealer, only to find him hanging from a noose, then is attacked by the killer herself. She gets away for a second using Mace (HIS ONE WEAKNESS!), but quickly finds herself in trouble again and it looks brief, until... HERE COMES ROSSI! Siloetted by the light behind him as though he were some kind of superhero, I should add. And now, here comes what the entire film has been building towards, the titanic tussle between good and evil, and... it totally sucks. It's so slow and unexciting. Rossi eventually wins the day, killing another man with his bare hands (um... yay?), then the police show up, including Wheeler. He looks at Rossi all stern and asks him if he's some kind of hero, Rossi says no, which causes Wheeler to smile and say, "You just might be." OH FUCKING COME ON! You dragged him across the coals for beating up a guy not too long ago, and now there's an actual corpse lying on the ground, suddenly you're his friend? Fuck off. Thank God this is over. At least we get to hear that cool song from the beginning again.

There were some things that I liked about this. The acting, while not awad winning, mostly isn't bad, with the obvious exceptions of Griffith and Billy Dee (BILLY DEE! BILLY DEE!)(SOMEBODY HELP ME! I CAN'T STOP!) Williams. I also managed to watch it almost totally in one sitting, which may not sound like that big a compliment, but the fact is, some of the films I watch are so bad, I have to pause them and go do something else just so I can mentally prepare myself for watching any more. I've had 90 minute films it's taken me over four hours to watch in the past. So the fact that I watched this pretty much from beginning to end must mean I found it at the very least watchable. But in the end, this movie is just too silly. And I don't have a problem with silly, but this is the bad kind of silly, the kind of silly that thinks it's being really serious. I get the feeling Ferrara thought this movie was a gritty expose of the seedy underbelly of New York, when the reality is, it's a film about a kung-fu serial killer knocking off a bunch of strippers. It's at best generic and at worst completely unoriginal and uninspiring. It's the kind of film you'd find on at five in the moring whilst drunk, and decide to keep flicking on the off chance of finding something better on.


Well, there's one of the two remaining remnants of my childhood cast aside. Lets hope the film next week fairs better. Maybe it will. Maybe.

Until next week, I'm The Cheap-Arse Film Critic, and I don't need no stripper telling me how to live!

Monday, 16 February 2009

The Cheap-Arse Film Review #20- "CHEERLEADER MASSACRE."










AHA! Bet you thought I was joking at the end of the last review, didn't you? This'll learn ya.

I'm just going to come out and say something that will probably end up getting my bloke license revoked- I've never understood the the whole appeal of the cheerleader's uniform, and actually find some men's obsession with it to be a bit... creepy (I sometimes imagine the kind of fanmail Hayden Panettiere must recieve and shudder). Maybe it's because I'm British, and as such didn't grow up with it the same way my American brothers did. To be honest I'm not that into the whole dressing up thing in general. On the days that the planets align themselves in such a way that a woman finds herself struck down with temperary insanity and thinks sleeping with me might be a decent way to spend an evening, I'm more interested in getting her out of her clothes, not convincing her to put more on. But to each their own, I suppose.

I picked this up at the same time as "Code 46" and "Vampire Killer Barbys." I think I may have picked this one up first, before spotting "Code" and getting all excited. Those of you that've been reading this from the beginning will know that a movie with a title like that was always going to hit my buttons. It sounds like good, honest, trashy fun, the kind of movie you watch in your car at some run-down drive-in with your girl sitting next to you, her face buried in your shoulder during the scary bits. Whilst researching into it a bit though, I found out that it's got a little bit of history to it, and is part of quite an interesting bloodline, being the third sequel to 1982's "The Slumber Party Massacre," (teenagers, crazy killer, power tools, you know the drill)(heh, "drill") and the first one to do away with the "Slumber Party" part of the equations. The first two sequels also have the distinction of being co-produced by legendary/infamous (delete as applicable) B-Movie creator Roger Corman, which makes me want to see them more than I do the original. I've already watched the forth in the series, may as well work my way backwards. Corman isn't on hand here sadly/thankfully, the only noteworthy member of the production crew being director Jim Wynorski, whose work includes such presumed classics as "The Breastford Wives," "The Lusty Busty Babe-A-Que," "The Davinci Coed," (GENIUS) and "Busty Cops 1 & 2."

That should tip you off that this too is, I suppose, technically an erotic horror movie. I say technically because, if you think about it, almost every slasher flick ever made could be called an erotic horror movie, what with most of them featuring (supposedly) teenaged flesh exposed and rubbing itself against other (supposed) tennaged flesh. Infact, it became such a cliche that director Geoffrey Wright decided to subvert the openly conservative nature of these sorts of movies with 2000's "Cherry Falls," which presented to movie fans what he believed was this genres first liberal killer, as he only preyed on people who weren't indulging in these activities (and if you've not seen this movie yet, you really, really should. Words can't do justice to it, believe me).

Oh, and one last thing- on the front of the box are positive quote about the movie, one complimenting it for featuring, "hot, and I mean HOT babes!" from something called Biggoria. I tried Googling it to see what I'd find, and got no joy. Never mind, it was probably what I thought it was anyway, and even if it's wasn't, I'd rather go on believing that it was.

We open with two people, a man and a woman, camping out in the forest. I think they're supposed to be teenagers, but you know how these things are. The dude seriously looks like he could easily be in his thirties. They're lying side-by-side in their sleeping bags, all cosy and lovey-dovey, when (GASP!) they hear a noise outside. The woman tells the guy to go outside and see what it was, only for him to basically say, "You must be fucking joking." I found myself wanting to cheer at that. How many times have see seen people in these kinds of movies be told to go into the dark tunnel of death, and they just do it? The fact that this dude would rather stay in the tent with his girlfriend is a refreshing change of pace. Of course if he doesn't go outside there's no movie, so in the end she grinds him down with a mixture of questioning his masculinity and showing him her boobs (first nipple sighting: 0:59). He goes outside, sees nothing, but decides it'd be funny to go back into the tent and fuck with her by saying he's seen a bear and they need to get out of there. She's intially pissed off with him, but eventually forgives him as they start kissing and caressing each other, with her breathing, "I hate you... you're an asshole...". I bet this is what sex was like between Madonna and Guy Ritchie towards the end. There's another noise, and once again the guy goes out there to have a look. I really wouldn't have left the tent this time. Anyway, he gets killed, and then the killer turns his attention to the woman, not before doing the old, "using-the-knife-to-cut-open-the-tent" trick. She runs, she screams, she trips, she dies. Cue the opening credits, which for reasons I'm still trying to figure out happen over a spotlight and two angel statues.

Even though I was only just over four minutes into it, I have to say, at this point I was pleasently surprised.
The only real complaint I had was, in the previous flicks, the killer used drills and things to take out his victims, whereas the killer here just used a knife and a big pointy stick. I mean, yes, staggeringly unoriginal it may have been, but I've seen worse acting, it looks like it's being shot by someone who knows what a camera is, and the writing even managed to subtly poke fun at the stupidity of a classic horror cliche without descending into sub-"Scream" parody. I sat there and thought to myself, "If the rest of it's like this, it might not be too bad." There's a name for what I'm about to experience here. Well, actually there isn't, but I'm about to give it one. I call it the "Halloween: Resurrection Disorder." And the reason I call it that is, when I went to see that particular movie in cinemas (I know...), I had the lowest expectations it's possible to have and still agree to see something. I mean, it had Busta Rhymes in it, for Christ sake. And then the pre-credits sequence, the first fifteen minutes, were phenomenal. I'm not exaggerating. They were tense, well shot, and featured a masterful recon to the last movie that not only gave a good reason for why Jason would still be alive after getting his head cut off, but actually made you slap you palm to your forehead and say, "OF COURSE!" It added a layer to the previous film's ending that made you want to go back and rewatch it. I was hyped, convinced this film was going to rule, against all odds. And then the rest of it, and I mean everything, was utter shit. I was so angry. How could they do that to me? How could they essentially tack a fantastic short movie on the front of this piece of trash? Why couldn't they have just presented me with crap from start-to-finish like I was expecting? Why did they have to get my hopes up?

It wasn't quite that case here. I still wasn't expcting anything that great, but now I was expecting something at the very least competent. And did they give me that?

Let's see, shall we?

We meet the aforementioned Cheerleaders next. We know that's who they are because they're practising a cheer. This is the only routine they do in the entire movie, and that may be a good thing, because to my untrained eye at least, they don't seem to be very good. Their timing's all off and they look a little like they're making it up as they'e going along, which there's a very good chance is the case, thinking about it. They all have names, but I'm not going to use them, because they barely do themselves, and they do nothing character-wise to distinguish themselves from each other, which is more the fault of the writing, to be fair. The only one who's a bit more memorable is the Emo-ish one with jet black hair that looks like she walked off the set of a My Chemical Romance video. They finish and start wooping it up, before their teacher/coach/whatever Ms. Hendricks, tells them to hit the showers and get ready to get on the bus, which is leaving in fifteen minutes. Ms. Hendricks appears to be the same age as the girls she's teaching, incidently. There's a bit of a tiff between Ms. Hendricks and the head of the squad, with her being told that if she's late for practice one more time the Emo Chick will replace her, then they head towards the showers spouting mid-ninties catchphrases like they have strings in their backs that have all been pulled at the same time. "For sure!" "As if!" "Whatever!" Save me.

Then we're in the showers, as the camera man slowly pans up one of the girl's bodies from behind as she washes herself, curiously without soap, because that would run the risk of obscruing things. Then he does it again to another girl. There is no talking whilst this is going on. Eventually they do start talking, something about some dude one of the girls is going to hook up with and his tiny cock, but none of this has any baring on the plot whatsoever, it's just there to try and make this scene look a little bit less what it is, which is, "Look at the pretty ladies." We then cut from this to some hard-hitting drama, as one of the other girls and Emo Chick start talking about a girl called Marissa, and how they miss her and how it's been a year since what happened happened. Anniversaries are always a bad thing in slasher movies, have you noticed that. It's always a year after this or five years after that that shit starts to hit the fan. So I'm guessing at this point that this girl's death is going to have a major baring on the plot. This is telegraphed by the rest of the girls, having listened into this little exchange from the shadows (that is to say... from behind something), proclaiming it not good, before asking aloud where another member of their squad was today, with someone saying she'd gone camping with her boyfriend over the weekend. IT HAS BEGUN!

Following a brief scene where Ms. Hendrick's catches two guys (in the spirit of fairness and equality I'm not going to bother remembering their names, either) about to start smoking and convinces them to help load up the van, we're back in the changing room, where ominous music is playing as the camera is all shaky and handheld. I wonder, is someone about to die? As it turns out, yes they are, as the lights go out and the girl is stalked before eventually being caught. My favurite part is where a shower spontaniously comes on and the girl just looks at it in horror. "OH NO, NOT THE SHOWER!" I half expected her to somehow end up under it so her top goes see-thru. She's eventually caught, and we don't get to see her death, although later one of the girls comes into the toilet, uses her hairdryer and has a whole conversation with her as she's sitting in a stall bleeding to death. We're later told that her throat was cut and she'd been gutted, which makes no sense, because the other girl looks under the stall to see she's there before asking if it's alright to use her hairdryer (not waiting for an answer, it's worth mentioning), and the blood doesn't start dripping down until after she's looked away. She's been there like that for a while too, so surely by now there'd be blood everywhere. Also the blood looks so fake it's unbelievable. It might just be my set-up, but on my TV it reads almost purple.

In between these two scenes we see the two guys who'd been asked to help show up just as the last thing had been loaded in by Buzzy, who's played by the movie's only credited writer (i.e. The one with the least amount of sense), Lenny Juliano, who I think is credited as either Leonard Johnson or Lunk Johnson, depending on where you watch this. Normally I'd skip commenting on this, because it's such a trivial scene, but I wanted to make mention of it because Buzzy is the most memorable character in this movie. He's nothing special, just a quirky horndog, and Juliano doesn't turn in that great a performance (not that he should feel bad, because nobody does), but since all the other characters are so bland, he grabs your attention more than he usually would. It's almost as if the writer saved the best part for himself (Hush your mouth! As if any writer would ever do that!). So congratulations Mr. Juliano, you're the best thing in "Cheerleader Massacre." Also, when they guys are told there's nothing for them to do, they pile into the back of the van, which struck me as strange, because Ms. Hendrick told them to help, she said nothing about them tagging along.

The girls miss the bus, so they have to ride up to wherever it is they're going in the equipment van with Buzzy and the boys. They briefly wonder where the girl who's been gutted is, before deciding she must have got on the bus and move on with their lives. The van pulls away as the kids light up their cigarette/joint (I like how they were afraid of getting caught smoking only minutes ago, but now think nothing of sparking up in a confined space with that very same teacher), and then we're taken to the police station where one of the deputies recieves a call telling them that Jeremiah McPherson, an escaped killer, is seemingly on his way to their area, leaving a trail of dead bodies behind him. She then talks to the sherrif about what she's just been told, they talk about roadblocks, and then they head out together. Wow, that was boring. Hope there aren't too many more scens like that. Then there's another killing when a woman jogging is ordered home by her mother who's just heard about the killings, only to fall to her death when the rope bridge she's on whilst trying to take some kind of shortcut gets, um, cut. So a boring death follows a boring scene of exposition. They last few minutes have certainly been boring.

And then we're back at the police station! Well, it's a different station, with different characters, but as was said before, everyone in this movie is so bland with the exception of Buzzy, they may as well all be played by the same person. There's more talk about McPherson, and yes, it's still boring. It's all static one shots and no music, which I suppose would be fine if you're trying to make a gritty, realistic cop drama, but this is a movie called "Cheerleader Massacre." They try and liven things up after this by finally revealing what McPherson looks like. At this point we've been led to believe that he's responsible for all the killings, and the fact that we've not seen his face had me believing that there must have been something special about his appearence, like he'd been disfigured or something. But then we see him running through the woods and see that he's... an old white guy with a beard. So they either went to all that trouble for no apparent reason, or they just spectacularly telegraphed that he's not the only killer. Which one are you willing to put your money on?

So, we finally come back to the cheerleaders. You know, the ones in the title? I wouldn't blame you for forgetting. They start prattling mindlessly, with The Girl That Misses Marissa Who Died One Year Ago Today and Emo Chick discussing how much they love the snow, and how they'd like to have a cabin out in the mountains with, amongst other things, a fake bearskin rug and, "BRAD FUCKING PITT!" The guys in the back start making fun of this quitely, and I'm sure this is almost entirely improvised, because either they're really good actors, or they're really struggling to come up with things to say, the perfect examlple of this being, "Fake bearskin rug... I'll show 'em a rug... face down...". I chuckled, but I was more chuckling at them trying to think on the fly than I was anything they said. They then encounter one of the previously-mentioned roadblocks, and also one of the most monotone and bored sounding cops I've ever heard. This guy sounds like he's rather be anywhere else in the would than here right now. With their progress stopped dead and the prospect of driving all night looming, they decide to take a shortcut to get to where they need to go. I don't know why they weren't going that way anyway if it's a shortcut, but never mind.

We're back with the boring cops next, this time out in the field as they investigate the scene of the killings from the start. I was hoping a change of location would liven these scenes up a bit, but I was wrong. They just go on-and-on about footprints and forensics and how they've not arrived yet and I still don't care. All this is, is flagrant padding. There's no need for this scene to exist, the movie would work perfectly well without it. The only bit of semi-useful information we get is that McPherson would seem to be heading in the same direction as the cheerleaders, but even there, we didn't need to be told that. Oh, and there's a stale doughnuts joke. Because cops love doughnuts, don't they? And we're still not done with this! We get more exposition about McPherson, talking about how he was put away for killing eleven people twenty years ago. They then conclude that he may be heading to Monty Coltrane's place, since he was the sheriff that put him away back then, and decide to drive down there to check on him. Gee, I can't wait until they get there! I bet there'll be even more talking!

And it's the next fucking scene! We don't even get a cutaway back to the cheerleaders to break things up, we just see a fade of the cop's truck driving down a country road, then they outside Monty's place! And now they're drinking coffee and talking about Monty's bad leg! What is going on here! Where are the cheeleaders? Where is the massacre? WHY ARE THERE SO MANY OLD MEN WITH BEARD ON MY TELEVISION?! Again, we do get one bit of semi-important information when the sheriff is told about the dead body on the toilet, ad when he tells Monty about the wounds she suffered, he says that doesn't sound like McPherson's style. They're really not trying to hide the fact that there's more than one killer anymore, are they? They gave up on that rather quickly. MORE POLICE WORK!!! This time the girl who discovered the gutted cheerleader is being interviewed by another cop. Actually this scene isn't too bad, if only for the girl responding to being asked if she'd had any grudges or ex-boyfriends who'd be out to get her with, "GRUDGE?! HER INTESTINES WERE ON THE BATHROOM FLOOR AND HER THROAT WAS CUT! DOES THAT SOUND LIKE A LOVER'S QUARREL TO YOU!?" Best line of the screenplay, right there. But still, say it with me folks, THIS SCENE HAS NO REASON TO EXIST. The actress is also terrible, watching her trying to cry and attempt to emote when saying about how tomorrow was the Gutless Wonder's Birthday is embarrassing.

Oh look, the cheerleaders! And they're still in that van! And they're now as tired of it as I am, complaing about how long this is taking. Finally, the inevitable happens and the van runs out of gas, leaving them stranded up in the snowy hills. Is it going to get vaguely exciting now? Are they going to get picked off one-by-one as they try to hike their way back to civilisation? We're not going to find out just yet, because (you guessed it) it's back to the fucking police station for more filler, this time with them going through his file and realising that all his past victims were in their fourties. Okay, we get it, he's not the one killing the teenagers. I'm starting to wonder why he's even in this movie. There's finally a little bit of excitement when The bored cop from the roadblock and his female partner are both killed by McPherson (with his bare hands!), who then makes off in their cop car, but this is very brief and I get the feeling it's the most thrilling thing we're going to see for a while.

This is the point where things get a little weird, for me at least. The sheriff and his deputy visit the house of Linda, the lone survivor of McPherson's rampage twenty years ago. Now, as I've said before, I've not seen any of the prior movies, but in my research I discovered the killer from the first movie was called Russ Thorne, not Jeremiah McPherson. And it's just been established that McPherson only killed older people during his last reign of terror, so why are they now saying he tried to kill teenagers with a drill? This is just blatant fan service, inserted into the movie with a logic-be-damned mentality. With that said, I like the idea of this, and I think it's cool that they got back Brinke Stevens to reprise her role, even if I can't figure out if her strange, disconnected delivery is a stylistic choice or just the extent of her talents. And the flashback we're given is awesome, because it's actually a clip taken from the first movie, which is a nice touch, although it exposes this one totally, because it looks better (it was recorded on actual film, whereas this movie seems to have been done straight on tape, giving it the kind of look you usually associate with American day-time soap operas), and manages to be more exciting than this movie has been in 35 minutes, with a crazy man slashing at a woman's arm with a drill.

With fans of the series sufficiently blown, we find the cheerleaders and company still walking through the snow. They're starting to get worried, before they stuble across this pretty cool house in the middle of nowhere and, finding nobody home, decide to just caually break in. Buzzy looks around and proclaims that nobody's lived her "in a long time," which is funny, because when they look around the kitchen later, they find enough food to last, they say, a couple of days, including a fully-stocked fridge. It was at this point I realised the movie wasn't really trying anymore. Buzzy heads out to check on the propane and the power (the scenes of him doing this are unintentionally hilarious due to the fact that heavy wind sound effects are playing and he's acting like he's walking through a gale, yet the trees and bushes behind him aren't even slightly moving), whilst everyone else splits up to look for a phone which, once found, predictably doesn't work. So they're trapped their, but at least the power works, there's heat, and they've found a game's room, so they decide to hunker down until the storm passes and, dare I say it... have a slumber party.

And then, just when the film looks like its about to deliver what it says it wil in the title, just when the lambs have been set up for their inevitable slaughter... back to the fucking cops. This time the sheriff is played a recording of what we presume in McPherson making a threat. It's not just any threat though, oh no. This threat is made in verse.

"Once around is never enough,
I'll kill more than my share, it isn't that tough,
This time the bodies will stack up,
'Cause just like you pigs I'm calling my back-up."

A lyrcal masterpiece, I'm sure you'll agree. Geniuses that they are, they deduce that the "back-up" mentioned might mean that he's not working alone, only for the sheriff to poo-poo the idea because, "that lunatic always works alone." Always? He went on one killing spree twenty years ago! I mean yes, if you're going to be technical about it, he has always worked alone, but come on now.

Following a brief return to the house in the woods to thrillingly see the girls arrange sleeping arrangements, we get more policing, this time with the police talking to the principle of the school about the missing cheerleaders, with the sheriff deciding to go up into the hills and try to find them himself. One man in a "blizzard," against a psychotic killer? Sounds reasonable to me. Back with the sub-plot that's supposed to be the main plot, a mysterious black-gloved hand turns out the lights on the girls, who barely seem to notice. Hell of a way to build up tension. Instead, they decide to tell ghost stories, with Buzzy offering to go first as Ms. Hendrick announces that she's off to take a shower (more on this in a bit...). His story starts out as standard stuff, with two women walking through the snow, get told of a killer that's on the loose, find a girl hanging over a log with amnesia, find a deserted cabin ("Just like us!" one of the girls chimes in for anybody at home who hasn't worked that out yet), start a fire and get changed into some "nice warm clothes," which are actually scimpy pajamas that look like they offer as much protecting from the elements as they would just going naked, they hear a knock at the door, reason that a deranged killer wouldn't just knock at the door (because it's easy to predict what the insane might do), open it to see a man holding an axe, they scream, and then...

... suddenly all three girls are unstairs in the hottub, rubbing, kissing and pouring chocolate sauce on each other. And this goes on for over two minutes. Okay then. The thing that got me was, when the chocolate sauce got involved, obviously lots of it got in the water, which set my OCD off something fierce. Just the thought of having to sit there in it, when it's al brown and cloudy, and undoubtably smells all watered down, makes me feel physically ill. I must be the only man in the world who watched this scene and paid more attention to the water than the women.

The girls of course call bullshit on Buzzy's story and tell him to get his mind out of the gutter. HA! A move like this suddenly getting all indignant over sexual matters! That's a good one, especially when you take into account the next scene, which is Ms. Hendrick taking off her clothes in order to get in the shower. That's it, that's all it is. And inbetween the next couple of scenes, we cut back to her just to watch her wash herself. Now, I'm not going to stand here and be all self-righteous and pretend that I don't like looking at images of the naked female form, because I'd be lying. However, even within the context of this movie, these little cut-aways are jaw-droppingly gratuitous. Let's compare them to te other nude scenes there've been up to this point- the one with the woman showing her boyfriend her boobs in the tent. Alright, that's fine. She's supposed to be going out with him, and girlfriends show their boyfriends their breasts. Sometimes. If you're lucky. The scene of the girls in the shower... okay, that was pretty gratuitous, but at least there was dialogue there! At least there was a tiny bit of effort made. And the previous scene with the chocolate sauce, well, that was a visual representation of a story being told by a pervert. It was supposed to be absurd. The only reason this exists is to show footage of a woman soaping up her arse!


... I forgot why I had a problem with this. Moving swiftly on.

The inbetween scenes are in stark contrast to each other too, with one being Monty and McPherson finally meeting up and having their titanic tussle, and one of the cheerleaders coming onto one of the guys. This is this entire film in microcosm- it can't decide if it wants to be a horny slasher romp, or a serious police drama about an escaped maniac starring two old men with beards. And so begins the build to the final showdown, with Monty being shot by a rifle (which all the girls here), only to somehow survive and get off a shot of his own (which the girls think sounds closer than the last, which is impossible considering neither man had moved from the area of he original shot). Buzzy gets sent out to see what's going down, only to get distracted by the two humping teens that he spies through the window. I'll at least say it's a pretty decent little sex scene. They even start going at it doggystyle, which I'm always shocked to see in anything that's not full-on porn, because ratings boards don't usually like this posiion, because they associate it almost totally with... a sex act that makes them uncomfortable (and alot of other people too, I'm sure)(*rimshot*)(literally)(okay, I'll stop now). Of course Buzzy bites the dust whilst watching this, his blood (which still looks laughable) splattering on the window as the two inside achieve orgasm. Visual symbolism, folks.

Still, at least now it's actually something close to a slasher, which it's supposed to have been all along, and now we get the most awesome moment in the movie, which is when they hear a knock on the door and, expecting it to be Buzzy and the other guy the sent out after him, open it to find THE HEADLESS BODY OF THE OTHER DUDE STANDING THERE WITH BLOOD SHOOTING OUT OF HIS NECK LIKE A SPRINKLER AND HIS ARM LOCKED IN PLACE LIKE HE'S GIVING A BLACK POWER SALUTE!!! I mean, think about that for a second- his headless body must have marched up to the house, knocked on the door, stood there for a few seconds, the collapsed when the door was finally opened. That's exacyly the kind of brain-dead insanity I thought I was letting myself in for with this. The shit has now hit the fan, and cheerleader start getting picked off one-by-one. I'm going to skip alot of this, because it's all fairly generic stuff, and reveal who the second killer was working with McPherson- it was (DUN-DUN-DUUUUN!) The Emo Chick! Actually, we never really know for sure if they're working together, as she never mentions him, so maybe it's just a case of two two killers running around independant of each other. And what was her motivation? She's secretly a lesbian, and during a party a party one year ago, she was caught kissing Marissa (see, it all ties in!), who promply ran off and died in a car crash that seemed occur for no apparent reason other than to have her dead. And their way of dealing with her, this slight woman armed with only one gun? BLOW UP THE FUCKING HOUSE USING THE GAS OVEN AND A BOTTLE OF VODKA WITH A RURNING RAG IN IT! Overkill worthy of a Schwarzenegger movie right there, and again, exactly the kind of movie I thought I was buying.

So the story would appear to bo over, the girls are giving their stories to the police, and Monty, who was savagely beaten by Ms. Hendricks when she mistook him for the killer, is in an ambulance ready to be taken to hospital. Everything appears to be tied up... except... where's McPherson?

He's driving the ambulance, isn't he? and amongst all that carnage, he's foundthe time to shave. To be continued? Christ I hope not.

I hated this movie, butI didn't hate it for the reasons I was expecting to ate it. I was expecting to hate it because it would be all seedy and amateurish and just a bad example of low-bdget horror filmmaking, like "Camp Blood" was all the way back in review #2. But I ended up hating it because, for te most part, it was... boring. More boring than a movie called "Cheerleader Massacre" has any right being.
It tries to make up for this bu going absolutely apeshit with the sex and deaths in the last half-an-hour or so, but by then it's too little, too late. I called it filler before, but I genuinely believe that this movie could have been told in a more concise ad focussed manner had they been removed. Problem s the movie movie would have been about 40 minutes then. Not that I'd be complaining.



Oh, and one last thing- all you guys whofind the sight of a woman in a cheerleader's uniform alluring?

The never wear any.

Until next week, I'm The Cheap-Arse Film Critic, and there's a formula to it, A VERY SIMPLE FORMULA! EVERYONE'S A SUSPECT!

Saturday, 7 February 2009

The Cheap-Arse Film Review #19- "DOWN WITH LOVE." (VALENTINE'S WEEK SPECIAL)









PRICE: 50p


Um... yes, well... I was in two minds about reviewing a romantic comedy this week, for the very reason I eventually decided to do it. I just thought might seem a bit predictable and tacky leading up to Valentine's Day. I mean, Christmas reviews are one thing, but for some reason I thought this might be taking it too far. I got over this eventually for three reasons- 1) the pun of the title just proved too much for me to resist, as you can plainly see, 2) I've not done a romantic comedy during this enterprise, so I thought this would be as good an excuse as any to finally get round to one, and 3) I specifically wanted to cover this romantic comedy, because being totally honest, I've already seen a bit of it. And when say "a bit," I mean a bit, five minutes at the most. It was one of the movies showing during a flight to Florida I was on several years ago. There were literally no other films on worth watching, so I put it on in the hope that it would at least prove a decent distraction. Then I put my head back, closed my eyes to rest them for what I thought was a moment, only to open them again and find we were landing. I managed to sleep through an entire flight and several showing of the same movie. That could be a better review of this than I could ever write.

I suppose another reason I didn't want to do anything Valentine's Day-related was because for a very long time I was one of those arseholes who hated that particular day and made damn-well sure everybody knew about it. My hatred came in two distinct phases over the years- the first one was your bog-standard, Emo, "OH WOE IS ME I HAVE NOBODY TO LOVE ME!" kind of thing through my early-to-mid teens, where I'd spend the entire day alone in my room listening to sad music (Christ, just typing this is just making me wish I could go back in time and give my younger self a good hiding...) and cursing anyone and everyone who had somebody. The second phase was slightly more complex, inasmuch as it was built around me telling people that I had no problem with Valentine's Day anymore. And then telling them over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, to the point that it's obvious that I did still have a problem, and was trying so fucking hard to convince everyone, myself included, that I didn't. Oh, and I'd also throw in this long speech about how Valentine's Day is just a holiday created by the card companies to make money and anyody who celebrated it was an idiot. So as well as failing at deluding everyone, I was now implying that I thought I was somehow smarter and more enlightened than them, just because I didn't have anybody to buy a card for (WHERE'S THAT FUCKING TIME MACHINE?!). There are days when I look back, remember how I was and am amazed, absolutely amazed, that I have friends. Nowadays, I just shrug my sholders and go, "eh." If you're with someone, great, buy them a card, take them out to dinner, go all-out. If you're not, big deal. Just treat it like another day and don't sweat it. Just don't be how I was, don't go out of your way to make people feel bad about not being single in a passive-aggresive manner, because trust me, they'll all secretly hate you for it.

So anyway, onto the movie. I've noticed recently online that there's bee a real flare-up in hostility towards romantic comedies. It started around the time the "Sex & The City" movie was released. Now, I'm not going to defend or demonize that movie, because I've not seen it. And I'm also not going to say I didn't make any jokes about it or it's actresses leading up to it's release, because I did. I mean come on, they wrote themselves and were fairly obvious (and if we've learned nothing else today, it's that I can't resist an obvious joke). But there's a difference between making fun of a movie, and outright stating you think it shouldn't exist, which is what I saw more than a few people suggesting. They were absolutely outraged that this movie was coming out, and even implied that this somehow tarnished the very history of cinema itself. At first I just thought it was The Internet being The Internet, this sullen, pale creature prone to hyperbole that still thinks girls have cooties. But then I started to notice a real ground-swell of hatred towards all movies that had females as their intended audience, with whole films being denounced as shit just because some dude's girlfriend wanted to see it.

I have a theory about this. I have a theory about a great many things. For instance, I have a theory that Jason Statham is the only living example of what all mankind will one day evolve into. My theory regarding what I was just talking about though, is that because it's become percieved (rightly or wrongly) by alot of men that television has become gradually more aimed at women, they've started to see cinema (rightly or wrongly) as the last form of visual entertainment that's mostly theirs, and see anything not aimed at them as evidence that this is now slipping away from them, too. The "Sex & The City," movie must have really pushed a few buttons if I'm right, because here we have a (grrr...) movie aimed at women, based on a (GRRR!) TV show aimed at women. My favourite thing of all though was when it beat the new "Indiana Jones" movie at the box office and I had to watch a whole sub-section of people hate it even more because it dared to beat the mighty Indy, whilst also hating Indy because they were always going to hate it anyway. Hilarious.

Not many movies manage to be clever or raise a wry smile with the production company logo at the beginning, but this one does, as they use the vintage 20 Century Fox logo from the sixties instead of the more flashy modern one. I should explain that this is done because this movie is a nostalgia piece, not only set in the sixties, but also filmed in the style of movies from that era, so the logo, along with us being informed that this is a "CinemaScope" picture, helps to add to the immersion. We're then dragged straight back out again by the title sequence, which is a load of animated bangs and whistles too spastic for me to go into in any great detal here. On the plus side, there's a really good swing-tune playing over the top, also called "Down With Love," which I assumed was written especially for this until I saw there's also a version by Judy Garland in there, performed by Michael Buble (or as my uncle likes to call him, "Mickey Bubble") and Holly Palmer. But the animation looks too modern to fit in with the stylistic theme they're going for. If you're going to make a nostalgia piece, you have to commit to it 100%, you can't half-arse it even slightly, which unfortunately is what I think they did here.

Following this, we're treated to a very lovely aerial shot of New York City. And this isn't me just assuming all American cities are New York City like I usually do, we're actually told in voice-over (by a man who somehow manages to pull off a period voice), that this is New York City, "The time: now, 1962! And there's no time or place like it! If you've gotta dream, this is the place to make that dream come true! That's why the souring populaion of hopeful dreamers has just reached eight million people! Oh, make that eight million... and one!" It at that point that Renee Zellweger, wearing a pink jacket and frankly terrifying hat emerges from the crowd with a smile on her face. After a few mildly amusing visual gags involving some Ban The Bomb protestors getting scared by a backfiring car, and Barbara Novak (Zellweger's character, I should probably point out) being unable to get in an elevator, we discover that she's written a book called, "Down With Love," detailing how she believes love is little more than a distraction preventing women from achieving their true potential. She meets up with her editor, a fabulous, chain-smoking woman by the name of Vikki Hiller (Sarah Paulson, who, if like me, you recongnised from her role in "Serenity" where she plays a hologram that's on-screen for less than five minutes, I think you'll agree we should all probably go outside and get some fresh air together), and then explains the concept of her book to the old men on "The Lion's Den," which I'm assuming is the board of directors. There's some good, rapid-fire dialogue here based around all the director's being identified by their initials ("O.K.'s can't make it, he's down with T.B." "Oh what a shame, is it serious?" "No, they're just having breakfast."), plus the air of casual sexism from that time is hamered home when the entire board asks Vikki to make them coffee, although I don't think this is the most sexist thing in this scene, I think that belongs to Barbara stating that in her book, she encourages women to fight off carnal urges so that they can eventually experience sex like men by... eating lots of chocolate. I know there's actually science backing that up, but come on now. I also think the board, who are all fusty old men let's not forget, take being told that they're little more than an annoyance that needs to be done away with a little too well. But still, as a fan of economic character development, I like this scene, because in under ten minutes we already know the motivation for and inhabit the head-space of one of our main characters. We also get a funny introduction to what will be the conflict of this film when one of the board members tells Barbara that she may have been able to pull this off in Maine, where all the men are gentlemen, but she'll have trouble doing the same in Manhatten, where he say, "The men are devious! They're dangerous! They'll be coming at you from every angle (Lord does this looks siniser written down...)! When you're watching you're front, they'll attack from your rear (I ain't touching that one)(well... you know what I mean)! And when you're protecting your rear, They'll drop out of the sky!" Which leads us to...

... a shot of a helicoptor! Genius! And who should be in that helicoptor but the fantastically named Catcher Block (Ewan McGregor), flanked by at least three beautiful women, who exits the 'coptor by climbing down the dropladder whilst it's still airbourne and landing on the roof of a buliding. That's how I want to arrive at my next school reunion, I've just decided. McGregor is also the perfect guy to cast in this role, a charming, dashing sort with a voice that causes bras to unhook themselves, not to mention that he's also handsome and has a boyish glint in his eye that you just know is going to be there even when he's in his sixties. I should think he's a bastard, but I also get the impression he's a right laugh and would be fun to have a pint with, so I can't.

As it turns out, Catcher is the star reporter for Know Magazine ("The Magazine For Men In The KNOW"), and would appear to be a constant headache for the magazine's owner, Peter McMannus (David Hyde Pierce, who's basically playing Niles here, as he often does, but he's so good at it and I enjoy watching him work so much that I forgive him), the son of it's creator, who's therapist says resents Catcher because he's "A self-made man, as opposed to the son of a self-made man." He fires Catcher for not delivering his story on hidden Nazis like he was supposed to the day before, only for Catcher to reveal that he was somehow able to mix business with pleasure and find Nazis hidden in Florida helping NASA put America on The Moon. So he gets to bed three showgirls, discover secret Nazis working within his own government, and then convince one of said showgirls to type up the story for him? With all dur respect to Danial Craig, why wasn't Ewan McGregor cast as James Bond again? It's also here that you realise just how good this movie is with it's handling of verbal humour, when Catcher's secretary listens into he and Peter discussing socks, only for it to sound like they're discussing... something that sounds like "socks" ("What would you say is the average length for most men?" "How would I know? D'you think I spend all my time in the locker room or the club looking around making a comparative study?" "Let me see your again... we can measure, I'll get a ruler." "Better make it a yard stick!").

In a cab leaving the publishers, Barbara is furious that the board has no intention of promoting her book. So I guess they weren't too pleased after all. God, Renee Zellweger's cute when she's angry. I feel weird talking about the looks of the women in a film that's all about gender roles and sexism, but I just spent an entire paragraph going on about how great Ewan McGregor is, so I think everything evens itself out. Sarah Paulson's a vision in this movie as well, which I think might be the point, to have these two gorgeous women, one incredibly handsome man and, um, David Hyde Pierce, strut through this movie looking incredible so that the sometimes barbed subject matter can slip down unnoticed. A spoonful of sugar and all that. Vikki tells Barbara not to worry as she has a plan based around her desire to get publicity from as many places as possible, including places she'll mostly be seen by men, meaning an interview with... Know Magazine! Say, I wonder who will be put in charge of this story? Actually, they don't even bother dragging that little "mystery" out, as Vikki says she's arranged for Catcher to write the story mere seconds later, only for us to cut to another cab to see Catcher refusing to do it, saying he has no interest in interviewing "a New England, man-hating, spinster librarian." Well, when you put it like that, it doesn't sound like such an attractive prospect. Peter practically begs him to do it, as he was asked to set up the story by Vikki, who he really likes. When Catcher tells him to get someone else to do it, Peter responds, "The best thing I have to offer a woman is the best thing you have to offer a woman... you." I had to rewind this scene back twice to get the meaning of that line, which either means it's confusing, or devilishly clever. I'll be kind and go with the second option.

After Vikki takes Barbara to her new apartment (which is so sixties-ish I feel ashamed of describing my bedroom as such just because I've painted the walls orange), she recieves a call from Catcher, who has of course changed his mind. They arrange to meet up at The Mahogoney Lounge, where Catcher and Peter already are. Of course things can't go according to plan, that wouldn't be anywhere near screwball enough, so they don't- whilst Peter has excused himself, Catcher sneaks off with a British flight attendant called Gwendolyn (Jeri Ryan... yes, Trekkies, Seven-Of-Nine is in this), explaining to Barbara by telephone that he had to leave when, "a little english foxhound came in and started nuzzling me." I'm not entering into the minefeild that is refering to women as dogs (although the script does, by having Barbara ask Catcher how "the bitch" is now), all I'll say is they arrange to meet up at dinner instead, where he promptly flakes out on her again, this time with a "French Poodle that isn't ready to go in yet." Barbara gives him a little bit of advice, that being that is he "puts a little twig in her bottom, she'll remember why she went out with you in the first place."


... Can I have a moment, please?



... Okay, I'm good.

Catcher's ruse is eventually discovered when Barbara overhears the two flight attentants realising they've both been had (figuratively and literally, I suppose) by Catcher, just when he calls to cancel again, this time over breakfast. To be honest, the fact that Barbara was taken in by this at all makes me think less of her character, and also doesn't really make sense when something is revealed later in the movie, but I am, as ever, getting ahead of myself. So Catcher tries to sell her another line of canine-based bullshit, and she in not so many words tells him to fuck off, before storming out of the restaurant with Vikki and leaving Peter looking like he's about to kill himself.

Barbara is taken to a bookshop to discover that they have only one copy of her book on sale. She and Vikki decide they need to get more publicity for the book so more copies will be brought in (didn't they already know they needed to do this? Was getting in Know Magazine the only plan they had?), so they make the only logical decision that can be made, namely trying to get it on The Ed Sullivan show. I love movie logic. Actually I'll give them credit, they realise how silly a notion this is by having Barbara ask how exactly they get a book on a talk show, a problem Vikki solves by having Judy Garland appear, singing the title song from the opening credits. This is straying dangerously close to Meta Outta Nowhere, folks... Of course, their plan is a total success, and now the book is selling like hotcakes, seemingly all over the world (there are cutaways to places such as Britain, China and Russia, which seem to be represented by the same shop front redecorated to look just stereotypical enough to leave you in no doubt as to where you're supposed to be).

With the success of her book, Barbara becomes something of a celebrity, and Catcher finally gets a good look at her thanks to a cardboard cut out. Realising she's not the unattractive spinster he thought she was, he now finds himself desperate to meet her, getting Peter to attempt to set up the interview again, only for her to gleefully keep turning him down, then taking it one step further by describing Catcher on live television as a man who "changes women as often as he changes shirts," ruining his lovelife and, essentially, his life. So finally, over half-an-hour into the film, we get the major drive of the plot going, which is that Catcher is now motivated to expose Barbara as a sham by getting her to fall in love with him, agree to marry him, and writing about it for the magazine. He seems to have made this decision at the right time, because Barbara is now at the place where, as she puts it, she can't even get picked up by a taxi driver, instead spending her nights at home alone eating chocolate. I know I've written this before, but I really can relate to this.

From here you realise how clever the movie's been with it's plotting, because Catcher uses his contacts to find out where Babara goes and what she does on a daily basis, making sure that he'll be in her local dry-cleaners at the same time she is. When she's standing next to him, at first I wondered why she wasn't freaking out and yelling at him, but then you remember that they've never physically met, they've just spoken on the phone, and as such Barbara has no idea what Catcher looks like (or so we think...), which allows him to assume the identity of Major Zip Martin, Astronaut, and catch her interest by pretending he has no idea who she is. McGregor's southern American accent is terrible, but I think that might be intentional, even though the one he attempted in "Big Fish" wasn't much better, and that definitely wasn't intentional.

Barbara takes the bait hook, line and sinker, and is soon inviting him back to her place so that they can "get to know each other," to see "what they have in common... and what they have that's different." I'm actually amazed at how dirty this movie is. We're just under fourty minutes in and the main female lead is so out-of-her-mind horny that she's practically throwing herself at someone she's just met (not to mention that there's been at least one obvious anal sex gag). "Zip" turns her down, saying that he couldn't get to know her "All-The Way Better" until he's got to know her enough in the first place, leading to her asking him out for a drink, using her urges against her and tricking her into taking him out on a date.

We briefly re-enter the Peter/Vikki subplot when Catcher, spotting Vikki having a seemingly disasterous date with a football player (and after making a few droll "passes" puns), encourages Peter to go over to her on the basis that she doesn't hate him yet, but she will when he publishes the Novak story. I'll say that nobody plays "lovably pathetic," like David Hyde Pierce, as he demonstrates by at first strutting over to Vikki all cool, before it melts away and he ends up asking her, "Are you in love with that football player?" in a manner that makes him sound like he's about to cry. She tells him she's not, because it turns out the guy was only interested in her professionally, wanting to slip her his manuscript and not his tongue. "The men who resent my success won't give me the time of day, and the men who respect it won't give me the time of night," she complains, causing Peter to tell her he'll respect and resent her all day and all night long, which as pick-up lines go is at least original. And oddly, it works, which seems a little abrupt and out of left-field, but at the same time heart-warming. I guess secretly we all want the average-at-best looking guy to succeed with somebody way out of their league. It gives us all hope.

So Barbara and "Zip" start dating, as illustrated by one of those old-time montages that includes shots of them walking through the dark as neon signs float around. This is probably the most authentic nostalgia imagery in the film, but it's difficult to take seriously at this point because it's been parodied so mercilessly in so many different places. I had one from "The Simpsons" playing through my head the whole time I was watching it. But at the very least it does an effective job of showing that they're growing closer with minimum effort and time. And in a nice twist, it would appear that Catcher is the one falling in love, as the next thing we see is him staring lovingly at some photo booth pictures of the two of them. This doesn't cause him to take his head out of the game, though, as he has a private investigator go to Maine and dig around in Barbara's past, believing that a man must have really hurt her to cause her to believe the things she now does.

In the meantime, Peter is spazzing out preparing a meal for Vikki that'll be good enough so he can make his "big move," calling Catcher to his apartment to try his sauce (MINDS. GUTTER. OUT.). Catcher is confused as to why he's putting all this effort in, and also why he's waited this long to make a move, as most "Down With Love" girls are, ahem, open to a move being made after the first date. Peter's response? "These "Down With Love" girls may be used to having sex like a man, but I'm not." I've decided, I love this character. There was a time when I would have related to him enough to have his poster up on my wall. They also address Catcher's situation with Barbara, Peter claiming that Catcher's claim that he's trying to get her to not want to have sex with him as an excuse to hide that he really likes spending time with her.

We then have the funniest and lewdest moment in the film, that makes genius use of the splt-screen effect they've been using sparringly throughout. We see both Barbara and "Zip" talking on the phone, every so often something will happen to make it appear like they're doing... things to each other, such as "Zip" turning to the side and undoing his towel just as Barbara has got down on her hands and knees to pick somehing up. I don't think I have to explain what it looks like they're doing. There's also a bit, once the split has switched to a verical line, where she's lying on her front and he decided to start doing some sit-ups (as you do when you're on the phone), so that his head disappears into her groinal area. I'm not going to lie, they're obvious sight gags, and we've seen variations of them a mllion times before, such as in the "Austin Powers" movies, but here they feel a little bit cleverer, as they're used to visually represent the sexual frustration the pair are feeling. He invites her round "his" place to eat a meal "he's" cooked, which it turns out is actually Peter's place and is the meal Peter cooked, as Catcher has offered him the chance to use his apartment for the night in an attempt to really impress Vikki. "So, you'd like to come?" He asks her. "Oh... yes... yes..." she answers. He's doing push-ups on top of her by this point. Then he thanks her for being so flexible, and they both start smoking a cigarette. Amazing.

The meal goes well, with "Zip" continuing his masterful teasing, leaning in close, talking about how, as an astronaut, he sometimes wished he had something hot to sink his teeth into, before casually walking away. Smooth operator, this guy. She compliments "his" house, saying it's refreshing to find a place not loaded up with every gadget custom-made to try and get a woman in the sack. This is of course the exact moment we cut back to Peter in Catcher's real apartment, where everything is operated by little switches, confusing the shit out of him, leading to him pressing the wrong button and basically attacking Vikki with an electronic sofa bed. That thing does look cool. ALl things considered, he recovers from this well, but then drops the ball by saying he must have drunk too much Sherry whilst cooking. This impresses Vikki, as she says no man has ever cooked for her before, and that she's famished. OH NO! BUT THE MEAL IS OVER AT HIS REAL APARTMENT, AND CATCHER IS ABOUT TO SERVE IT TO BARBARA! WHATEVER SHALL HE DO?! Well, actually, things don't go as crazy as I was expecting. I was expecting him to run back to his apartment and demand the meal he cooked be returned to him, but instead he just says he was cookng for Catcher's apartment for him. Bit of a missed opertunity there I feel, but it's more than made up for by Peter seemingly setting the house to "Attack Mode," where once again the sofa bed turns hostile and the record player starts spitting albums at them. It's like a kinder, fluffier version of "Poltergist."

Back at Peter's apartment, things seem to be going better for "Zip and Barbara, as the meal has been eaten, their shoes have been kicked off, and we here them talking in a vaguely sexual manner as low saxophone music plays in the background. He asks if he's got it in the, "right spot," to which she responds in a breathy voice, "Almost..." They're going to be arm-wrestling, aren't they? As it turns out, she's looking through a telescope up at the stars. That's a new one. Watching her looking at the stars, looking all adorable, Catcher's resolve seems to be fading, even though she still seems to have enough control over hers. Rededicating hiself, he finally says the words that she's been waiting for him to say for a long time, that being that he's ready to go to bed, to which she hastily agrees... only for him to then start calling her a taxi. HA! PSYCHE! As it turns out, it backfires in a spectacular way, as Barbara now decides that she can't be with "Zip," because she's starting to develop feelings for him, leaving Catcher with no choice but to plant one right on her lips, as the grandious music swells. Along with other things I assume (what is wrong with me during this review? I swear I've come down with Double Entendre's Syndrome or something...). She then agrees, weakly, to give him one more chance, before picking up the nearest bowl containing chocolate and making off with it.

Catcher later returns to his apartment to find an infestation has taken place, not of rats, but rather of something worse- Beatniks. God, one of them's got an acoustic guitar. Where's John Belushi when you need him? Catcher finds Peter sitting in his bar cross-legged like some white, thin, beret-and-sunglases-wearing Buddah, and not unreasonably asks him what's going on. Peter explains that he took Vikki uptown to a coffee-house, and when the place got raided he just moved the party back to Catcher's apartment. Far from being annoyed, Catcher seems very amused by the whole thing. Seriously, for all his flaws, he seems like a pretty cool friend. And his mood improves even more when he spies a woman walking around wearing her hair like a T-Shirt. "After being grounded for 24 days, the Astronaut is ready to blast off," he announces. I've figured out what the dialogue in this movie reminds me of- a "Carry On" film. A smarter-than-average "Carry On" film, but a "Carry On" film all the same.

And then, OH NO, BARBARA IS HERE! I was wondering when they were going to get to the reveal, I think there's only just over half an hour left of runtime left. Turns out Vikki invited her, and instructs her to "throw your coat on the bed and join in the bash." So she heads to THE SAME BEDROOM CATCHER HEADED TO WITH BEATNIK HAIR BRA WOMAN! They're fumbling around on the bed, but because it's dark, she cant immediately see who it is, and due to her being an enlightened 20th century "Down With Love" woman, she's not all that shocked by what she finds, just tossing her coat on the bed saying, "Catch!"

To which Catcher responds, "Yes?"

Wadda maroon.

She leaves in disgust, with Catcher... "Zip"... whoever in hot pursuit. To be honest I would have at least asked why this supposedly southern man just spoke to me in a Scottish accent before I got out of there. Amazingly, he manages to somehow win her back over with tales of being called to the apartment by... himself to do a NASA cover story, only to then be drugged by some wacky-tobbacy and seduced. Still doesn't explain the Scottish accent, pal. His thinking-on-the-fly skills are commendable, though. Tiring of pussy-footing around, and also probably of hearing Barbara talk about how much of a snake Catcher/he is, he finally tells her that he loves her. And how's this for a loophole- Barbara tells him that she has absolutely no rules against men falling in love with her. Atta girl. Sticking the knife in, he says it's possible for him to make heartfelt, passionate love to her whilst she has meaningless sex with him, which she very reluctantly agrees with. This gets a proud salute from the doorman. Me as well.

Things don't stay on a high for long, though, as Vikki ends up getting fired by T.B. due to the fact that Barbara's book has ruined his relatioship with his mistress. The next scene is her sitting in Barbara's apartment with all her stuff next to her in a cardboard box, where they both finally admit that neither of them are truly "Down With Love" girls anymore, having both fallen in love with the respective men in their lives. A mirroring scene with the guys sets the scene for what will surely be the home-stretch of the movie, with both of them having their make-or-break nights at the same time. Following a mildly tittilating scene (that probably would have been absolutely scandalous in the sixties, like much of this movie would have, come to think of it) of Barbara getting ready for the night, and a thankfully much less tittilating one of Catcher getting ready (both soundtracked by two different versions of "Fly Me To The Moon," which I thought was a nice touch), they meet up and go back to Catcher's apartment.

At the same time, Peter and Vikki are having their night out at a Chinese restaurant, with him looking so guilty about what's going down tonight that you'd think he killed a man. Actually, why hasn't anyone ever casted David Hyde Pierce as a serial killer? I'd totally buy him as one, and I mean that as a compliment. We then finally get the big screwball moment, with Vikki telling his she knows why he's so guilty. I thought I knew where this was going, that he'd accidently spill the beans to her over conversation and she'd be all appalled and run off to save her friends, but as it turns out she believes he's gay and secretly in love with Catcher, based on him cooking for him and the fact that he has a picture of Catcher's parents in "his" apartment. It's a little bit of a stretch, but I guess it might not have been for the sixties. It does throw into question why she's so willing to marry him, though. I mean, who would willingly want to enter into a loveless, sexless marriage? She then goes all META OUTTA NOWHERE by saying she originally convinced herself that he switched pads with Catcher to impress her like in some "zany sex comedy," which leads to Peter blurting out that he did and then reveal the real reason he's so guilty. So in the end we reached the destination I was expecting, but we got there via a slightly different route. Well done for switching things up a little bit.

I'm a little bit sad in the knowledge that Barbara and "Zip's" fun is about to be broken up, because they seem to be having a whale of a time. They even use that funky sofa-bed properly, which makes me want one even more than I did before. His plan's working out too, as he's getting her to say all the things he wanted her to, and getting them on record too, when OH NO! HERE COMES SEVEN-OF-NINE AGAIN! She bursts in, finds him and Barbara at it, drops his name a few times so that there'd be no doubting in Barbara's mind that this is Catcher Block she's with, and then promply leaves. She may as well have been wearing a sign that said, "PLOT DEVICE" around her neck. Catcher stands revealed, gloats about his victory...

... and this is where things get... screwy. I'm not going to attempt to describe what happened next, I'm going to let Barbara's words do that for me...

"I'm not gonna storm out of here, Catch. And I'm not gonna admit that you got Barbara Novak to fall in love... because I'm not Barbara Novak. There is no Barbara Novak. And I didn't fall in love with Zip Martin, I fell in love with Catcher Block. And that was a year ago, when for three-and-a-half weeks I worked as your secretary. I don't expect you to remember me, I wasn't a blonde then, but you did ask me out, and it broke my heart to say no, but I loved you too much. I couldn't bare to become just another notch in your bedpost. With your dating habits I knew even if I was lucky enough to get a regular spot on your rotating schedule, I would never have your undivided attention long enough for you to fall in love with me. I knew I had to do something, to set myself apart. I knew I had to quit my job as your secretary, and write an international bestseller controversial enough to get the attention of a New York publisher, as well as Know Magazine, but insignificant enough that if I went unseen, Know Magazine's star journalist would refuse to do a cover story about it. I knew that every time we were supposed to meet, you'd get distracted by one of your many girlfriends and stand me up, and this would give me a reason to fight with you over the phone, and declare that I wouldn't meet with you for 100 years. And then all I would have to do was be patient, and wait the two or three weeks it would take everyone in The World to buy a copy of my bestseller, and then I would begin to get the publicity I would need for you to 1) see what I look like, and 2) see me denounce you in public as the worst kind of man. I knew that this would make you want to get even by writing one of your exposes, and in order to do that, you would have to go undercover, assume a false identity, and would pretent to be the kind of man who would make the kind of girl I was pretending to be fall in love. I knew since I was pretending to be a girl who'd have sex on the first date, you'd have to pretend to be a man who wouldn't have sex for several dates, and in doing so, we would go out on lots of dates, to all the best places and all the hit shows, until finally, one night, you would take me back to your place, you'd pretend it was someone elses, in order to get all the evidence you needed to write your expose. By seducing me. Until I said I love you. But saying "I love you" was also my plan. I just wanted to tell you the truth so that when you heard me say "I love you" you'd know that I knew who you were and you'd know who I was. And you, the great Catcher Block would know, that you'd been beaten at your own game. By me, Nancy Brown, your former secretary, and I would have once and for all set myself apart from all the other girls you've known. All those other girls that you've never really cared about, by making myself someone, like the one person you really loved and admired above all others- you. And when you realised you had finally met your match, I would have at last gained the respect that would make you wanna marry me first, and seduce me later. I just wanted you to hear all this from me before you hear it from you private eye."

I... I don't know what... to say. So, the entire film, the book, the battle of the sexes, the empowering women and making them realise they can do more with their live all that was a plan to... get a man to notice her?

There's not a big enough WAT in The World for all this. I mean, go back and read that again. Read it a couple of time, I'm not going anywhere. According to that, she planned... everything. She's a Bond villian. No, she's more than that, she's practically a... God. I honestly don't know how I feel about this, it's either genius operating on a level few can comprehend, myself included, or total, balls-out, writing-on-the-walls-with-your-own-shit insanity. And Catcher's reaction to all this is the same as mine, he's just staring at her with a look of complete open-mouthed confusion. I'll say one thing though, that little monologue showed what a good actress Renee Zellweger can be. Not only did she say all that with a completely straight face, but she managed to instill it with real convictions. There were moments when she looked and sounded like she was about to cry.

And get this- IT WORKED! He professes he's fallen in love with her, and wants to marry her, very possibly this second. However, Ms. Seven-Of-Nine-Plot-Device, who I can only think was listening in at the door the whole time, rushes in and starts gushing over Barbara (I should probably call her Nancy now, but I can't be bothered), telling her how much she's changed her life for the better, and she realises that she can't marry Catcher, as she would be letting down the millions of women she's become an inspiration to. So her greatest creation has become a curse she must now live with. All very shakesperian. Plus, she now claims out of nowhere that she doesn't really want what Catcher can offer har and has truly become a "Down With Love" girl.

So both our male leads or on the outs with the women in their lives, and dealing with it differently- Catcher trying to win back Barbara's affection with gifts, including Peter's telescope which he tells Catcher wasn't his to give, and Peter not knowing where he stands with Vikki, but not being able to turn her down everytime she shows up at his apartment, leaving him crying and feeling used. Peter tries to get Catcher to go back to his old ways, but he just doesn't have it in him anymore. Then Peter tells him something that changes his whole attitude to everything that's gone down- that thanks to him, Barbara has created a world full of women who act just like him, inspiring him to write an expose on himself, as well as the man falling in love has made him become. Surely this has to be enough, right? This is officially now the longest review I've ever written.

Nope. As it turns out, Know Magazine has be ground to a sand-still by all their secretaries leaving to gow work for Barbara at her Magazine, the imaginatively title Now Magazine ("The Magazine For Women In The Now").It wouldseem like she's well and truly won, and Catcher is shit out of luck. Except he has one more trick up his sleeve- he goes to her building and applies for a job as one of her secretaries. They exchange some more tricky dialogue, this time constantly using the words "now" and "know" without tripping up, which I'm frankly in awe of, and finally, finally wins her affections by convincing her that he's changed. He also gets her to reveal her teleportaton powers, as somehow she's in the elevator waiting for him. There's too more scenes during the credits, one a cute little epilogue to the Vikki/Peter subplot where they both agree to get married as long as they can continue their respective careers, and Catcher and Barbara doing a song-and-dance routine to publicise their new book, "Here's To Love."

Going into this, I was a little bit unconvinced that they'd be able to pull off a film that looks and feel like a sixties production, and in truth they don't really. It's absolutely gorgeous to look at (I'd go so far as to say it's one of the few romantic comedies that might be worth picking up on Blu-Ray), and the costume, make-up and hair are all incredible, but it feels just a bit too slick. And the tone really doesn't fit with what they're going for. I'm not a fan of judging old movies by the standards and attitudes of today, because most of them are like that elderly relative that shows up at family reunions- yes, he may say things that sound a little bit shocking every now and again, but he's from another time, he really doesn't know better. So making a movie that's an exercize in nostalgia and then applying modern sensibilities to it can run the risk of rendering the whole thing meaningless. Thankfully, and in many ways bafflingly, this hasn't happened here. It's a little too knowing and a lot too dirty-minded, but in many ways that just adds to the fun of it. And that's the best way to describe this movie- fun. The script's fun, the concept's fun, and the cast seem to be having the time of their lives. It's a movie with a big grin on it's face the whole way through, and male or female, if you don't get at least a little bit of a kick out of some of it, you're probably not mch fun to be around.



This is actually something of a landmark, the first time I've kept two movies in a row. I hope I'm not going soft. A horror movies featuring some cheerleaders next week, I feel.

Until next week, I'm The Cheap-Arse Film Critic, and I'm not a smart man, but I know what love is.

(also, I'm very proud of myself for going through this whole review without once using the word, "Romcom")(except here)(which doesn't count)(because I say so)