16 December 2006

Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-o-Rama

With a title like this we expected eighty minutes of gratuitous boobies and day-glo spandex. Instead we ninety minutes of terribly lit puns and a jive-talking goblin trapped in a senior league trophy. That's right, a jive talking goblin. At least George "Buck" Flower character acted his way through that mumbling janitor role to save the day. He's like the Homeless Man's M Emmett Walsh he is!

28 November 2006


You don't like music as much as the Highland Cinema does. Okay, maybe if your name's Heavy Duty you do, but including that crew is cheating.

We checked this Afro-Punk out the other night after we saw an article about it in Punk Planet and after we added the Bad Brains' ROIR to the library. The fact that this DV-cam doc is pretty decent and will ensure that you'll immediately involve yourself in a never-ending conversation about race and ethnicity in America is noteworthy, but what's really important is that alongside that epic discussion we paced around talkin' 'bout punk rock, metalcore, Necro, Cage, karate kids, Eritrea/Somalia, intensity in ten cities, Rocky George, Rollins' bands, aging, scenes, hip-hop performance, record sales, the music industry, Megadeth posters, rock and the pop narcotic, parenting skills, manTooth broads, Randall modules, fuzz pedals, women's pants, and Joel RL Phelps the Downer Trio until the wee goddamn hours of the morning. Honest.

And you thought we only liked movies.

27 November 2006

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Sorry, but I'm tired of this unnecessarily stylized post-Tarantino Get Shorty junk. The story itself is good enough for this Guy Ritchie world, but why drag it down with smarmy obliterate-the-fourth-wall narration and overly chummy back-and-forth rapport? Hipster tricks like the wink-wink Sam Spade noirisms turned this thing into watchable if not memorable Saturday afternoon on Showtime fare when it certainly could have been more.

But we still think Val Kilmer's cool.

26 November 2006

Match Point

You guys remember how Ewen Bremner absolutely killed it in julien donkey-boy? That one scene where he's on the phone with Chloe Sevigny and they pretend he's talking to his deceased mother...wow. Dogme95's finest moment. So many great performances in that film and so full of choice reviewer fodder, but we could never understand why none of those guys ever talked about that scene where Julien dons Nazi garb and talks about Hitler. They went on and on about Korine's exploitation/empowerment of the differently-abled and went overboard trying to form a schizophrenic narrative out of it all, but we can't remember any real mention of that basement scene. Weird.

Oh, Match Point. Yeah. The best SERIOUS one since Interiors. Actually we'll amend that to say, "The best SERIOUS one since ever." And that capitalization ain't no joke. Unlike some other heartbreaking Allen dramas there's no comic relief anywhere. No nebbishes. No Dixieland score. No foibles, no "bends/breaks" supporting characters, and no suede elbow-patched psychoanalytic banter. The Woods turned out quite the well-crafted flick, one that's cold and reserved and yet completely understandable, a feat we found all the more remarkable considering the sheer assholery of the main character. Don't cheat on someone, especially if that someone is your wife who loves you. Even with Scarlett Johansson.

Hey, speaking of assholes, here's another thing we don't understand. How is it possible that we like Harry Block but can't stand Alvy Singer? Everyone says, "I love Annie Hall," but when we gave it a second, third, and even a fourth chance it always failed to charm us. Our rational mind says Singer's only a kinda-jerk and Block's the hostile sonofabitch, but damnit if our irrational mind feels for the latter way more than the former. Strange, huh?

We also can't figure out why we never ever made it to the Cineplex to see Match Point. It played there for, like, six months and we saw Melinda and Melinda opening week!

25 November 2006

Casualties of War

Heavy-handed and obvious. Yeah, yeah, War Is Hell, Viet Nam Ruined Everything. We know. Marginally better than what may be the worst of Ho Chi Minh flicks, but only in terms of real actors, directing, and set design rather than in terms of Highland Cinema talkin' 'n chompin' enjoyment.

For my money I'd rather watch Mikey J chew the dramatic scenery in that two-parter Family Ties where his buddy dies in a wreck (here's a refresher) 'cause we had one heckuva hard time stifling "Doc!" outbursts during this flick. And why did The Pennster insist on B-movie channeling Bobby D anyway? At least we had dark horse supporting players Big John C and Johnny Legs to keep our trivia knowledge in the black.

The Michael J, Turkey Sandos, and Sierra Nevs Film Fest has officially come to a close...although it has been awhile since we've seen The Hard Way.

22 November 2006

Midnight Madness

As soon as we saw that scene where these cats head out to a Pabst brewery we walked right out the door and straight outside and down to the P-Deuce 'cause we didn't have any PBR in the entire house! Man, am I ever embarrassed to tell you guys that. I hope you can forgive us. At least take comfort in knowing we rectified the problem ASAP. It won't happen again.

This Midnight Madness, she is a movie that so predates the Highland Cinema that she ain't even a part of the El Moro Cinema, the Sixth Street Cinema, or the Victorville Cinema. A movie that goes so far back for our second-in-command that it's probably part of the, I dunno, Santa Maria Cinema or something. All I'll say is that I've been hearing about this flick for darn near 15 years and it was about time it got a spin around here. To get the real scoop read the super-sweet comment that will be posted below since nothing I'll say will do this movie justice in the eyes of the Timmons brothers.

For now know that this thing has motherfucking Eddie Deezen! Remember how he was in Punky Brewster? And a million fucking other movies? Everything from your Rhonda Shear-hosted Up All Night Classics to that Sesame Street movie and that cereal commercial. And, shit, the IMDB just told me he was in Laserblast! He plays a guy named Froggy! That's, like, so many Highland Cinema related references that I don't even want to explain them all.

19 November 2006

Class of 1984

Originally part of our proposed "Michael J Fox Meets Turkey Sandwiches and Sierra Nevadas Thanksgiving '06 Film Festival," but since other Thursday activities came our way we had to pop this one in early. And, holy shit, Mark L Lester made this?!?! Yes, that Mark L Lester, the guy who not only lensed Commando and Armed and Dangerous, but who also directed an all-time Highland Cinema classic you know as Showdown in Little Tokyo. Can't believe we missed that piece of info. Showdown is such signature Highlander stuff it's a wonder we haven't run through this guy's oeuvre already.

Class of '84 is standard Blackboard Jungle/Lean on Me fare where I Want to Change the World teacher finds that the World Changes Me (err...Him). The tough guys deal coke in the graffiti-laden bathrooms (OJ tags! No, really!), dress like windblown Suburbia punksters, and go so far as to rape Teach's wife right before the big school band concert. Pretty boring stuff actually, but the 2 AM TBS vibe, the pudgy Mikey J, and gratuitous Roddy McDowell kept us entertained and gave us much to yak about during the runtime. You may be tempted to change the channel at hour one's close, but stick around for the bloody finale where the bearded teach who looks like a character from every '80s late-night tv flick lights a dude on fire and slices up another on a tablesaw. And dig that bloody-face, wish-we-saw-a-protuding-eyeball hanging scene right before the end credits. Too cool!

Can you believe Roger Ebert loves this movie? Get well soon, Big Rog, you just gained some serious Cinema cred.

12 November 2006

The Russian Specialist

Dude, I totally have to buy that Dolph t-shirt.

The Vice Guide to Travel

David Cross is a preachy, smarmy, unfunny douchebag. Fuck him.

Fortunately he's just in that one extra.

The Vice Guide review on aQuarius is better than the actual flick. Read it, use your imagination, and it will save you mucho disappointment! Then enjoy the ViceLand website. If you're me you'll find that it fits your sensibility if not your lifestyle. It's like the Rotten Library became a magazine.

07 November 2006

Little Dieter Needs to Fly

Fuck it, Werner Herzog's good. That scene where Dieter Dengler talks about seeing his friend's head sliced off in the jungle will bring a mortal man to tears. I was asleep at the wheel for a few days and cursed myself for allowing this flick to show up at the doorstep, but my low expectations were erased within the first ten minutes. Dengler got shot down in Laos, escaped from a P.O.W. camp, and revisited the jungle thirty years later to tell you his story. True stuff filtered through a prism so Herzogian that the only thing that could make it moreso would be if Werner himself was onscreen. A great flick and a tale so good they decided to film it again.

06 November 2006

To Live and Die in L.A.

Willem Dafoe and John Turturro in the same scene. Take that, Heat!

Okay, this was another lame screening at the Highland Cinema. In spite of the fact he insisted Wang Chung score this flick, Billy Friedkin is still a favorite of ours. He could do no wrong for a good coupla years, but, man, did he ever lose it. Not as bad as the Copes, but still...

We also gotta give props to Billy L. Petersen. Talk about a shoulda-been go-to guy for them 1980s cop roles. So good in that movie that was later remade into a revisionist Lechter flick, but then...The Contender?!?!? Hmmm...quite the familiar arc. I'm sensing a trend here. Watch out, everyone else from this movie: you will start oh so cool and end oh so lame! At least Steve James left our sad and beautiful world before he turned into a shell of his former self. Rest in peace, my brother.

31 October 2006

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation

Renee Zellweger looks hot in them corrective spectacles and Matt McC steals the show as a hollerin' motorized remote control leg crazyman.

This flick left us in a bit of a bind as it was nowhere near cool enough to justify us hanging up our once-forgotten TCM: The NG poster in our hallowed halls. What's a cinema to do?

30 October 2006

Oz: The Complete Sixth Season

HBO's worst show (well, make that second worst), but the only one we've wanted to watch the whole way through. Oz hooked us a few years ago: it was the dawn of 2003 and the combination of our nascently-undergraduated philosophical leanings and the show's apparent Panopticism, beastly Hobbesian social contracts, and slap slap slap u around brutality made for a perfect fit. How could we ignore the voice-of-God narration, the overwhelming presence of "that guy"s, and those horrible performances from Rick Fox and Evan Seinfeld? How could we look away as the once well-to-do attorney became the bitch of the Aryan Brotherhood? Or when that CO gets his eyeballs stabbed out? Or when Luke Perry gets sealed up Edgar Allen Poe style? Ah yes, so many Oz memories, each more ridiculous and improbable than the last.

We're not entirely sure why we stuck it out all these years, but we suspect it has something to do with Dean Winters, the actor who probably got the job 'cause his brother's a head writer. Winters held his own and somehow lasted through all six seasons as scheming Irish-American thug Ryan O'Reilly, a guy responsible for killing half of the dudes we saw die. Thing is, Winters never broke character and never let the asinine scripts impede his scene-chewing performances, a feat all the more remarkable considering the local dinner theater performance of his real-life brother as his on-screen brain-damaged inmate brother. Yeesh. But it's because of actors like him, that dude who played the wheelchair guy, and that other fella who played the strikingly stupid inmate who hound-dogged the cellblock director that Oz kept us around. Also the guest appearances from Peter Criss and Pepa!

Okay, but in Season Six, you ask, what happened? Beats us, we watched this like three weeks ago. All we can remember is that a bunch of main characters get offed, that old dude falls in love with Patti LuPone, and that other old dude punches out the parole board when they deny him his right to artificially inseminate his children's tv show host wife. We found it way stupid that Beecher got paroled and sent back to the pen on a set up drug bust, but way cool when he got set up to kill Schillinger and then wound up pushing Keller to his death. We'd hoped this season would end with everyone dying, but instead we saw a handful of lifetime characters get shipped to a new prison right before the credits. As long as we never get a reunion episode...

Hey, anyone remember Cos, the hilarious MadTV parody? No? Good.

29 October 2006

My Best Fiend -- Klaus Kinski

The best part about them Herzog films is the director's commentary, and this one's got the commentary built in! We're sending it straight to the top of the charts.

23 October 2006

Return of the Secaucus 7

I already said most everything I want to say about John Sayles way back here. The abbreviated version is the guy's fucking great. Secaucus has been on the back-burner for the past few years -- I can't say I was all that intrigued by a directorial debut, especially one involving a group of post-activist thirty year-olds hanging out and talking. Zzzzzz. But then last week as I finished reading Sayles on Sayles, I figured it was time. And I'm glad I made the decision 'cause I still can't believe how enjoyable and well-done this movie turned out to be. Sayles has gotten better behind the scenes, but he's had that typewritten skill and talent all along -- the flick may start boring, but by the end you "get" (errr..."understand"?) all the characters, even the ones who only show up for ten minutes. The Sayles even turns in a role and somehow manages to out-act the mighty Straithairn!

Okay, so obviously the screenplay and performances are great, but I really couldn't help but find myself in sheer awe of the back-and-forth scene where Mark Arnott's character chops kindling. It's probably the Herzog on Herzog talking, but it is an image more poetic, revealing, and well-placed than anything anyone could have imagined. A true thing of simple cinematic beauty.

15 October 2006


At the end of this movie this dude bones a happening chick, then fears for his bits n pieces, and then watches his lady birth a full-grown man. And that's not even the strangest part of the movie! Seriously, this one's full of weird fuckers, lactating menopausal ladies, dudes who really like "spooning," and lots o' other stuff we'd probably appreciate more if we were Japanese. Or if we had cool Jim Jarmusch hair. Or if we could spell "Jodorowsky" without looking it up in the Wiki. I don't get Gozu. I don't get Takashi Miike. But Ichi the Killer's still in the queue! Hey, I don't know why either!

10 October 2006

Lady Vengeance

Our least favorite Chan-wook Park/Park Chan-wook outing. I'm supposed to have sympathy for Lady Vengeance but I neither cared about her nor her predicament. Not once. And I should've! She was blackmailed into confessing to one of the worst of crimes (child murder). She's out to exact revenge on the sleazebag responsible (schoolteacher). There's women in prison doing things prisons are most famous for. All my favorite stuff. Problem is, there's no passion, no sadness, no bloodlust...no fucking feeling in any of this movie. Seriously, I "whatever'd" it through this whole thing, something made even more lame since crying kindergarteners should ruin my week and sweet ladies turned bad should ruin my pants.

Spoiling either of the preceding revenge flicks this dude put out would've made me feel guilty, but this one? Who cares? I already sorta-spoiled it for you anyway. Finale: serial child kidnapper tortured and killed (mostly offscreen... = ( ...) by abductees' parents. Oh, and Lady V loves her adolescent daughter whom she hasn't seen since infancy. Cue pretend snowfall. Cue credits. Cue the Cinema removing other Park flicks from our acquisitions list.

04 October 2006

Inside Man

The Cinema's first Spike Lee joint and we'll be damned if it ain't the best one since, I dunno, Clockers! Sure, we liked Bamboozled more than the next guy (though we suspect it was the Union Jack talking more than our own gray matter...explanation upon request), but this Inside Man, she is full of the twists and the turns. Such a wonderful Mamet Jr script! Such witty dialogues and exchanges! They are both corny and clever at the same time. And the plot? The stuff of the suspense-building it is. Rest assured you 40 Acres devotees, you're still getting some trademark Spike, but the stuff you expect to see like the often too-loud and nearly distracting score, the heavy-handed scene or two about....racial relations (?!?!?!?!), the brief trolley cam, and the washed-out film stock show up a whole lot less than what Mo' Better accustomed ya to. Inside Man is a neat bank robbery caper if you can you believe it. The kind of flick the studios didn't have to give to Spike but did anyway. Hopefully he made those suits some cash 'cause the world is so desperately waiting for that Girl 6 sequel.

Go Knicks!

01 October 2006

Another Woman

More of the serious from Woody Allen. I had nothing interesting to say when I watched it and that was days ago!

27 September 2006


They told me this was a "Chekhovian drama," but I didn't see nuclear wessels anywhere.

I did see a lot of Woody Allen mid-80s Interiors tropes and eighty minutes of unrequited, idealized love, longing, and sadness. Essentially a filmic play, September only hit me during its first half and let me down big-time on the back nine. Lots of commendable performances from Sam Waterston, Dianne Weist (not annoying), and Mia Farrow (wow, even she's not annoy...well, no wait, yeah she still is...), but a story that plods along a little too much without really turning into anything.

Still some great camerawork from Allan Konigsberg's main lensman and great performances from an old couple who starred with Norm MacDonald in two different movies! Don't believe me? Look! Now look here!


It's too bad this came out right before the "Behind the Scenes of a Jungle Epic" docs were in vogue 'cause, man, we're certain this would be one helluva making-of. That Billy Friedkin, he is a class-A nutjob, and any time you trek to them lands that time forgot you know there's a catastrophe or two in the works. Sorcerer isn't nearly as bad as its reputation, but it's strictly cable-tv fare. I mean, really, a '70s thriller with Roy Scheider?!?! How come Turner hasn't already shoved this down our throats? This flick should start at five after the hour at least once a week. Probably hasn't since it's the only picture about highly volatile explosives with zero suspense.

26 September 2006

Sympathy for Mr Vengeance

Now this is more like it. Another Korean classic from our favorite Korean director. Sympathy is good ol' violent O. Henry digitally enhanced color fun that goes a little something like:

Deaf-mute tries some back alley surgery to save his sister but when he wakes up naked, bleeding, and without the organ he needs to save her, it's time for Plan B. A tragic black/bleak comedy of errors ensues as he innocently kidnaps a cute little girl, and executive dad tries to find the folks that nabbed his flesh and blood. (Let it be known that while the Highland Cinema hates American children, we think those foreign kids are so darn adorable! And such good actors!) Don't let my witticisms fool you, this ain't one of those haha funny or funny haha pictures, it's chock full o' pathos, platelets, and pain. But that irony is too much to ignore. There's fights, there's tears, there's groans.

And not one but two scenes of a retarded Asian duder throwing rocks in a river.

I'd like to say more, but this guy did it for me. I'll leave you with: Tartan Asia Extreme has been good to us so far, let's hope they keep it that way.

25 September 2006

The Piano Teacher

Let's call this the return of In My Skin. The Piano Teacher started as a tale of sexual repression and ended as a tale of a sado-maso fantasy gone awry. I didn't dig it at all which came as a bit of a surprise since "Cannes accolades" plus "disturbing" equal serious Highland Cinema interest. Still had me a-wincin' during such uncomfortable scenes as the discarded tissue bouquet and the razor blade nick, but the whole thing felt cold, distant, and way too emotionless to be entertaining or engrossing. I think that was the point. The emotionless part, not the boring part. Still didn't do much.

You'll be glad to know that I felt quite the studious one pulling out my long-neglected copy of Bonds of Love once the end credits started rolling. Many Hegelian Freudisms to be found in this flick and many self-inflicted pats on the back for recognizing them!

20 September 2006

The Last Detail

More Jack, more Towne, more...Quaid?!?! Yes, Randy "the Helper's just fine by itself" Quaid was really on fire during the early '70s: Oscar nods and Golden Globe nominations for two completely different flicks! Who knew?

For the first reel or so The Last Detail insisted on playing us this John Philip Souza marchin' band score, and that bleating, blaring drummer boy mess had us thinking a college bowl kickoff was around the corner. It drove us crazy and came real close to ruining the entire tone of this flick, but fortunately we held on 'cause right around the thirty or forty minute mark we got this great extended alcohol sequence, a sequence so great and true to life it renewed our faith in both Hal Ashby and humanity in general. Big Jack, Quaid, and that other guy in their hotel room, knee-deep in Olympias, bobbing and weaving as they tell stories that don't go anywhere and talk shit to one another. It's the kind of thing that really took us back. All the way to last week! Jack's character has to ruin the whole thing right at the end when he gets all mean and tries to fight a bro. That had us relatin' to stuff too, but not a good times kinda way. Oh well.

I'll be frank with ya and tell you guys that I enjoyed this more than Chinatown. A better movie? Of course not, but The Last Detail really came through right at the end when you realize all those scenes about Greyhound washroom brawls, hometown sidetrips, and chanting cults amounted to something greater than themselves. End credits roll and you understood everything you just watched. Good stuff. Not a true classic, but worth a view. Dig it!

18 September 2006


Roman Polanski! Robert Evans! Jack Nicholson! Faye Dunaway!

Whoa, Robert Townsend?!?!

Oh no, wait a minute....Robert Towne. Okay...well....still good!

Too bad they squandered the talents of the uber-cool James Hong. Not even his best movie with "China" in the title.

17 September 2006


Dude, this was fucking dumb. I know you heard me laughing aloud, but still....this was really goddamn stupid.

But have you guys seen Happiness? No? It's an uncomfortable one full of mucho sadness, pain, and, uh, stickiness, but there's this opening five minutes where Jon Lovitz gets dumped just as he's about to give his special lady this engraved silver ashtray thingy and it's just fucking amazing. No joke, that shit is way close to Alec-Baldwin-in-Glengarry-Glen-Ross amazing, and certainly better than Ben-Affleck-playing-Alec-Baldwin-in-Glengarry-Glen-Ross-in-Boiler-Room amazing. You'd never know it, but underneath those sandwich ads and "that's the ticket!" catchphrases the Lovitz is a real deal actor.

In Benchwarmers he drives the Batmobile and has a robot butler.

See, I told you. Fucking dumb.

14 September 2006


We fucking dig David Cronenberg around here. And what's not to like? You can't tell me you're not dying to see Debbie Harry's nipples, James Woods make out with a tv screen, or a ridiculously cool stomach vagina that'll gape for Betamax cartridges and make a guy's hand explode.

We're calling Videodrome Big Dave's signature release 'cause even if it ain't his most effective or his best, it's a perfect meld of his '70s-era horror glop and current-era identity politics: technology/representations of reality dictate YOU and your perception of actual reality.

And then some dude's innards make a gurgling, bubbling, chunky mess on the floor.

Keep in mind the "New Flesh" reiterations and "neural floodgates" dialogue are almost too clumsy to be forgiven and the heavy-handedness of the Cathode Ray Mission is too much like Rocky IV-esque binary moralizing. Fortunately the rest of the thing is a well-realized Our Media, Ourselves treatise that combines all the essential elements of the Cronenberg Secrets of the Ooze trifecta: icy cold machinery, engorged sex organs, and ever-changing existence. The makings of a typically fantastic Crones experience!

We're unconditionally telling you to see this 'cause even though it's a kick-ass picture, it's more importantly a kick-ass example of the Highland Cinema as Joe Bob Briggs, PhD. Just as Night of the Living Dead's graphic zombifications recreated the horror industry, "Videodrome"'s sexual snuff clips recreate Max Renn.

Check out this Commodore 64 trailer which is nothing like the movie.

13 September 2006


It's time for the Highland Cinema to nerd it up a little bit and profess our love for Futurama. Television's shining (half-)hour? You bet. Sixty years of TV and I don't think it's ever gotten better than this. Too bad it's just like Fox to getcha into some show and then change the airtimes all around till you don't know which end is up. Faster than you can say "Herman's Head" your show's gone the way of The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer and you're stuck watching this.

I guess it's still better than when Fox had us watching this.

So every now and again when Final Jeopardy's over and we're sitting here waiting for the new set of reels to show up at the front door, we fire up the lobby VCR and pop in some Futurama. Maybe we should get a life, but we think these SLP recorded tapes are worth their weight in gold. The Cinema can't be zombies, beat-downs, and forced erudition all the time, but it'll be a cold day in hell before we take five from being all about references. And Futurama? References in spades, my friends, in spades.

Alright, enough of that. Time to get back to business. We allowed ourselves one television post and this is it, so don't get your hopes up for some Parker Lewis musings.

(Damn! That idea's not half bad. Oh well.)

11 September 2006


Irreversible is even more disturbing and depraved than I Stand Alone, and way more fucking genius. This thing is another one to put at the top of your "must NOT see" list thanks to an opening sequence of basement bondage club glimpses, hateful dialogues, and brutal face annihilation at the hands of a fire extinguisher's blunt end. This is some serious shit, shit that gets all the more serious a few sequences later when Gaspar Noe subjects us to ten nearly-impossible-to-endure minutes involving Monica Belluci that make me realize I misplaced my Straw Dogs reference in that last post. If you don't already know, you don't want to.

Irreversible is nothing if not shocking, disorienting, and...necessarily cinematic! I sincerely don't think I'll ever see anything as nauseatingly perfect as this picture's opening thirty minutes -- a thirty minutes filled with barely-contained judgment-lapsed blind rage, barely-lit sexual deviance, horrific violence, and swirling, swooping, upside-down, falling-down drunk camera work. Amazing, moreso considering the eventual development and the plain-stated poignancy of the relationship between characters Alex, Marcus, and also-ran former boyfriend Pierre. You'll ask yourself if you're even watching the same movie. Staggering.

And still not for you.

08 September 2006

I Stand Alone

I've sat here for over a week trying to come up with a decent write-up for this picture; it's proven to be a difficult task the likes of which few have seen. I Stand Alone is rage and hostility, misogyny and racism, narration and Genealogy of Morals. I don't even know what to say about the thing except that it most definitely isn't for you. Alienated like Taxi Driver and graphic like Bad Lieutenant, only more fucking real. This guy isn't a mass murderer just yet, but by the end of this one you know he's only inches away. Filmmaker Gaspar Noe treats us to a bleak and desolate character study and gives us a final fifteen minutes that are initially blunt and violent and then disturbingly insinuating, all the more so considering the "protagonist"'s sense of his own liberation through this impending actualization of his desires. Whoa, and not "whoa" in the Love Object sense. Don't ask.

In spite of it all, I Stand Alone is a real movie. It's steeped in venomous inner monologues and peppered with blunt force trauma, but within it all is a shocking tale of morality, justice, and probably early 1980s Franco-politics. Noe is a force to be reckoned with, a director who'll out-Straw Dogs Abel Ferrara and still have you reaching for your upper-division philosophy notes. He's already thesis-fodder, but once he has a body of work longer than two features and some shorts, he'll really be a iconoclastic grad student magnet.

But it's still not for you.

06 September 2006

Mean Streets

Marty's "for all intents and purposes" debut gets a CRAP. Waffle Factor=3 for acting talents of Harvey Keitel and Bobby DeNiro, who prove to have been swell actors even before they were stars.

Maybe we should've seen Scorsese's other noteworthy sorta debut instead. At least that one had Barbara Hershey.

And Bernie Casey!

Y'know we really should've just watched this. Better guitar solos!

03 September 2006

In My Skin

Youngish corporate woman slices her leg up real bad at a party, doesn't feel a thing, and then feels compelled toward cutting. Whatever. I was mistakenly under the impression that this would be really good and it wasn't even passably good. Plods along like a movie that means something, but never told us why she liked to prick herself with steak knives or made us empathize with her addiction. Esther's inability to feel pain requires her to create a visual and corporeal representation, maybe? Maybe not. Sicinski momentarily compared it to American Psycho in terms of the desensitizing nature of corporate politics. That's intriguing, but when left to the film itself it's not something of which I was entirely convinced.

Oh well. Someday I'll forget all about this one and it won't make a difference whatsoever. During the last ten to fifteen minutes In My Skin was a tad shocking and graphic, but the rest wasn't too bad...although I'll admit we're a rather poor yardstick for that kind of thing.

If we were willing to dish out extra points it'd be for the fact Marina de Van wrote, directed, and starred. That's pretty cool!

02 September 2006

GWAR -- lots o' stuff

Good friend and proud owner of the Nekromantik series Anti-Michael made a guest appearance at the Cinema a few days ago, and you know when something like that happens you'll be ankle-deep in Keystone Light cans and Skulhedface box covers faster than you can say "remember that time...?"

Yes, we do love the Gwar around here, especially this week when these intergalactic space monsters hit us with a brand new record. Over the years the Cinema's library has amassed a collection of Gwar releases the likes of which you will seldom see, a collection of videos that really don't make that much sense even to us and we've seen 'em way too many times. What they do offer is plenty of off-color jokes, foam rubber, power chords, and low-budget Chroma-Key. Gwar takes on their early 90s obscenity lawsuit in Phallus in Wonderland (nominated for a Grammy!) and some tale about selling out and maybe censorship (again) in Skulhedface. For our money, we like the War Party tour flick the best since it works the best as background fodder and was a gift that came directly from the Slave Pit.

We'd love to tell you more, but you know that you'll be a-watchin' at least one of these when you step through our doors. Until then...

27 August 2006

Moscow on the Hudson

In Soviet Russia country defects from you.

Zing! Patent office, here I come! Lines like that will change the world they will. Don't steal my material.

Eh, this movie sucks, but it sucks in a very KCAL-9 Cocktail kind of way (simplistic Hollywood swill that's kinda charming). It's jingoistically offensive (CCC of P = hella lame, US of A = supercool!) and you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone onscreen who isn't a caricature. Just look at that goddamn poster right there! Can you tell this came out in 1984?

Director Paul Maz hits you over the head with his cornball patriotism for an hour and forty, and right when you think he's done with it all he throws you the lamest scene yet. I thought Robin Williams all drunk and beaten up, disillusioned with the American Dream signaled a turn away from sappy indoor bullstuff, but then BAM! a montage of late night coffee shop immigrants reciting the Pledge of Allegiance proved me wrong. Good grief. You could hear the Cinema cringe and roll its eyes three towns over. I didn't think I'd see something more idiotic than that Keystone Kops inspired scene of KGB agents chasing Robin around Bloomingdale's, but I guess that's what happens when you assume.

At least Big Robs wasn't annoying or smug and arrogant like he is in everything else. And Maria Conchita! Why, she's a KTLA/Superstation staple and perhaps our favorite Arnold co-star. Check her out in a scene the powers-that-be will cut from basic cable. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the Family Matters grandma, obligatory Yakov, and uncredited Udo Kier -- that guy just keeps showing up at the Cinema and we don't even invite him.

26 August 2006

Breaking the Waves

Man, if this isn't the most intense story we've ever come across. Extreme Calvinist devotion and dedication to the sacred vows of holy matrimony, all told through the lens of sexualized power relations. The box cover synopsis feels a bit misleading -- while the story does concern a wife's entrance into promiscuity in order to appease her newly-paralyzed spouse, the film is far more an Old Testament tale of isolated religious faith (a faith of both God and Man) than it is a sordid collage of stranger-lovin'. Lars von Trier's proto-Dogme realism makes things uncomfortable, but the film never feels exploitive, graphic, or manipulative, something I can't say for the only other von Trier joint we've seen (cue horribly depressing conclusion, cue uncontrollable sobbing).

I like how Breaking the Waves has my gray matter tied up in knots, but I ultimately think it's a bit of a failure. It's not Lars' fault, it'd be a Sisyphusian task for anyone to filmically realize the sheer gravity of this story. I will concede that the final twenty minutes are superbly effective and nearly make up for the shortcomings of the preceding 120.

Had Helena stayed on board we'd have had a completely different movie, and perhaps a better one. Emily Watson brought the provincial innocence like you can't believe, but I think Bess needed more of the crazy.

20 August 2006

Matchstick Men

It's Saturday, it's 2 pm, you're watching HBO.

This movie'd be nothing without Nick Cage and Alison Lohman. Had the studio given this flick to some schlock director instead of a name like Ridley Scott, we'd have ended up with forgettable garbage instead of something that's actually pretty good and really well done. It's still not a great movie (reasonably lighthearted Hollywood caper stuff), but the interaction between these two actors is so A-plus money amazing that it's a shame I woke up thinking about this rather than this. Cage and Lohman's father-daughter chemistry is the reason you should queue this; once you see it you too will be taken aback by the astonishing collision of nervous tics and excitable adolescence. It's truly the stuff of a four-star classic, my friends. Too bad the rest of the movie only gets ya chuckling and grinning -- no lasting or profound emotions will shuffle through your noggin this time. But, hey, it's not like fun's a bad thing.

And...cue end credits.

Wanna get a sandwich?

17 August 2006

The New World

I hear-tell that this here Terrence Malick is some sort of philosophical genius. I totally dig that, don't you know, but it's a tad unfortunate since it means that if watching this movie wasn't already hard enough, I've still got to write about the darn thing. And with dasein scholars in the room I'll have to watch what I say and how I say it. You know those philosophy types, they have to determine what the meaning of "is" is. Me? I haven't even read Being and Nothingness! (Although I do know Satre is smarter than this guy.)

We'll leave ontology out of this for now, and instead I'll assure you that every single goddamn shot for the entire two hour run time is both undeniably gorgeous and unpretentiously contemplative. The New World is so visually striking you'll feel bad your living room set's only 20 inches. I did. And how 'bout those twenty minutes where brooding-eyebrows Farrell and fawn-ing Q'Orianka Kilcher fall in love? Among the greatest performances captured on film, and I'll stand on Renee Jeanne Falconetti's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that. We had some real emotions welling up inside us during some of those scenes what with all the red lips, fingertips, and silent stares. So good you'll want a ladyfriend by your side. Maybe two.

But the forty-five Xian Bale minutes are boring.

Still recommended, but we issue our official "all parts, no sum" caveat.

15 August 2006

Requiem for a Dream

Is there a Golden Globe for most difficult montage? Tonight's thoughts also included:

Ellen Burstyn: acting!

Jennifer Connelly: beautiful

Keith David: Navy ads will never be the same

Darren Aronofsky: likes them crane shots

Marlon Wayans: good? w. t. f?

Drugs are bad, m'kay.

14 August 2006

The Last Picture Show


This movie is fantastic. Stop what you're doing and put it at the top of your queue.

Great imagery, expertly executed diegetic sound, and uniformly great acting, much of it by actors you didn't think were that good in the first place. Big Pete Bogs is the real deal, and it's a crying shame that it took us so long to see this. I can't say enough good things about this movie other than it convinced us that much more that Imperial Cruisers sounded the death knell of the motion picture industry.

Also: Cybill Shepherd!

She's a good actress too.

13 August 2006

First Blood

Call this Rambo and you'll find yourself at the receiving end of the Cinema's fists of fury.

If you ask me, Johnny should've shot himself in that last scene like the good lord intended. Thankfully no one did ask me and now this, this, and this are part of our cultural history.

You should also know that Dan Hill's end-credits tune totally sucks out loud. I'm not sure I want to live in a world where I find myself wishing Frank was on the mic, but for a good two minutes that's where I was. Almost ruined a perfect UPN Sunday afternoon.

10 August 2006

Jonathan Richman -- Take Me to the Plaza

Man, do I ever dig this Jonathan Richman. Normally the Cinema is doom, gloom, and mayhem, but Jonathan never fails to get me smilin' and sighin' with his super-sweet tales of romance, neon signs, and New England. So sappy, so corny, so unbelievably great.

Nothing else to say.

Who wants a hug?

07 August 2006

The Making of Taxi Driver

Be sure and watch this when NetFlix delivers your copy. The darn thing's like an hour and a half long. Cinematographers and actors will tell you everything you read here, and then a little bit more.

If I played the guy that got my hand shot off you can bet I'd have that pic of me smoking with a knife jabbed thru my palm hanging right there in the living room. Sort of lame they interview Peter Boyle on the Raymond set. And why the hell is Albert Brooks in sunglasses? What a douche. Almost has me rethinking my position on Defending Your Life.

I just wanted to write another post. I don't plan write-ups for all the extras.

01 August 2006

The Wicker Man

I like this and this, but wasn't too hot on this. Sporadically an enjoyable mystery, but the collision between old- and new-world faiths was completely lost on us. What the hell do I know about moon-dancing or Jesus? That said, the finale was surprisingly more effective what with its naked depictions of blind faith.

The powers that be sent us the truncated and probably lamer print. I was upset when that happened with this flick, but this time I don't feel cheated. Maybe the remake is good.

31 July 2006


Part of our Hall of Fame and the probably the Best of 1995. Famously denied a nomination. The world mourned.

R Crumb comes off as really funny and personable, and he is quite the snappy dresser. The critics surmised that art is therapy, but the social constructivist within me submits to you the proposition that interaction is therapy.

30 July 2006

Taxi Driver

The other night at the weekly Heavy Duty/DivideByZero/Highland Cinema summit meeting I initiated a content and form discussion. I'm sure you're aware that it wasn't a landmark discussion, and it was more about content and form rather than content versus form. The whole thing came to mind earlier in the day when my current Chan Marshall enthusiasm started me thinking about artistic interpretation and appreciation. YouTube has this "Nude As the News" clip that I've watched a number of times this past week or two. You can check it if you want:

You don't have to watch the whole thing -- it's a 1996 Cat Power performance from a UK television program. I like it quite a bit as it illustrates the only consistently good thing about Chan (her voice) and also showcases her occasional talent for writing a good song.

Problem was, I didn't know what this tune was about. I wasn't paying attention to the lyrics at all. When I finally looked them up on the internets they didn't hit me in the gut like I'd hoped they would have. I started wondering whether or not that even mattered. From where should my appreciation derive? Is performance enough? I should probably get it, right? Am I doing this the wrong way?

Okay, so after we watched Taxi Driver I found myself (as usual) on the Crap/Not Crap Electrical forum where some guy wrote:

"First movie to ever make me feel like I was not crazy for feeling alienated and pissed off all the time. Top 5 all time.


I first thought this was completely ridiculous. Travis Bickle should definitely make you feel like you're not crazy, but he sure as hell shouldn't make you feel that way because you identify with his alienation and hostility. He's clinically insane and dangerous. You angsty young men out there in the audience, your bodies full of piss and vinegar, your heads full of literate cynicism and hyperbolic disgust, you may think you are starting to relate to Travis thanks to his abject loneliness and inability with the fairer sex, but please for the love of God stop right there. He's a threat to society. He saved an eleventeen year old whore, but he was hellbent on killing a senator! For no reason. Well, no good reason. I hardly think misdirected sexual frustration is a valid motive for murder.

But then I realized that what's great about Taxi Driver is Marty's ability to subject us to a deplorable character while somehow keeping us from wallowing in said character's delusion and aggressively downward spiral. There's nothing noble or commendable about this guy and yet the movie is so expertly done that you sometimes catch yourself thinking of Travis as strange rather than as a candidate for Bellevue. There's certainly some whoa moments, but they are often understated and non-exploitive. I can't empathize with you if you honestly relate to DeNiro's character, but there's a certain level of frustration, anger, and fear present in this movie that you might find yourself thinking in a manner inconsistent with your rational mind. Taxi Driver is so good that it might make you think it's speaking for you even when the actual events taking place are entirely at odds with your moral compass. Bicks is an anti-hero in the true sense of the hyphenated term, but since the movie never stops being about him and his perceptions it doesn't necessarily debase or belittle him. Taxi Driver is uncomfortable, but I don't think it's pitiful or pathetic until you think about it later.

The point of all this was that my concern about whether or not I was misinterpreting "Nude As the News" seemed to go along with my reaction that the above Albini-fan had misread Scorsese. Upon closer inspection, I really don't think that either is a blatant case of a wrong interpretation. Sure, both could benefit from a more refined analysis, but what's most important about all of this, and what ultimately transpired from our NW Blogspot summit meeting, is that emotional response is the only thing that matters. All I knew was that voice, it made me cry. And that unnamed poster (who is most likely referring to a younger version of himself), all he knew was that Taxi Driver made him feel less alone in this cruel world in which we live. Both are entirely appropriate responses, and are furthermore ones that certainly aren't at odds with the artists' intents. So who cares? And why did I write so many paragraphs on it all? You should watch this movie. Even if you've already seen it 'cause it's really fucking good. Travis Bickle is lonely and pissed-off and alienated and you'll know that right off the bat. Hell, identify with it if you want. Chances are you're a smart cookie (you found to this page, after all!) and you'll get it soon if not now. So stop worrying. Hey, time for South Park. Later!

Congratulations! You have just read the first ever Highland Cinema "blog" post!

27 July 2006

Capturing the Friedmans

Had Andrew Jarecki come to the Cinema for advice we'd have told him:

"Hammer home the absurdity of the McMartinesque accusations instead of making us hate the Friedman sons for the way they yelled and screamed at their poor mother."

He didn't ask us. This is still a worthwhile doc, but there's more to the case that what you see here. Just ask Debbie Nathan.

Ghost Dog

Forest Whitaker lives by a code. And kills for wiseguys. I sure wish he hadn't shot that fella who knew all the words to "Cold Lampin'." There's already too few of us in this sad and beautiful world.

Jarmusch movies are mostly the same: Good!

Forest Whitaker is a fave too...the sheer fact he did this overrides the sheer fact he did this.

26 July 2006

Talons of the Eagle

Dr Pepper, Cool Ranch Doritos, Billy Blanks. The Holy Trinity of the Highland Cinema. Sure, we've upgraded a little, but little else has changed.

Yes, readers, it was eleven years ago that the seedlings of the Cinema first sprouted when a teenaged Highland Cinema board of directors stumbled upon the two greatest films of all time. One starred the most punchline-worthy of superstar siblings, the other featured Billy Blanks, trainer to the stars, ass-kicker of lesser stars, and the only man who can combine a serious lack of acting chops with a serious aircraft carrier-styled flattop. We've seen the Blanks rock some dudes with multiple kicks, machine gun punches, and double blasts. We've seen him take on pissant martial arts stars, sidle up next to super hot babes, wear way-too-skimpy muscle tees, and throw down with Don "The Dragon"Wilson. Hell, we've even seen his real-life "kicking machine" bro fight the Dragon. In a movie with Steve Garvey, if you can believe that! And remember that time Billy trained Shannon Tweed at Crunch Fitness? Of course you don't. Fuck yeah, we're old school, dammit, and this was all before TAE-BO so take your informercial jokes elsewhere.

The point is that Blanks is the fucking man and when I sat there scrolling through the list of Billy's cinematic achievements I stopped here. Talons of the Eagle? Must've slipped through the cracks. Holy shit! Also stars James Hong! Priscilla Barnes! Matthias (S)Hues! All of our favorites of years past. And present. Who doesn't fucking love Big Trouble? Or Three's Company? Or TC 2000? Here we are, legitimate adults and every single one of us here at the Cinema thinks hands down that Talons of the Eagle is the best movie in celluloid history. There's a theme song at the end credits! You see that picture up there? It's the fucking Eagle's Claw! Imagine you're hearing DVDA sing rawked up shit. Soooo good. Dude, these guys drive through a fireball! Blanks slices a guy's throat! That kind of shit never happens in these B-movies. A few necks get snapped, but you never see a karate dude work a blade through a jugular. But it happened here, and you know you're watching some serious shit.

You don't care about the plot, right? Oh, really? Blanks and Jalal Merhi are undercover cops out to get James Hong. The end. Lots of fighting and some stripper boobies.

We can die happy.

Wait, bitchin' sidenote!!! You know this is the Cinema's favorite band, but these guys are a close second. They were already closing in a battle royale with some space beasts, but once we found out they watched Showdown before every show the race got that much closer. Stay tuned.

24 July 2006

Comedians of Comedy

How awesome is it that Brian Posehn got excited about buying candy? That guy can come to the Highland Cinema anytime. Our concession stand is here for you, buddy! And what's more is that this Posehn cat is goddamn hilarious. He has a Death Angel t-shirt! Remember when we saw them? He even makes a side-splitting "Straight Outta Cockpit" joke when they talk about Northwest Airlines. Hey, didn't we have that same conversation last night? Krusty Kuffs! Bleeps and creeps! George Lucas in a Greedo mask!

There. You've just watched the entire movie. Not amazing, but better than my original vitriolic draft would have led you to believe. Your enjoyment depends on how funny you find bear catch-phrases, arrested development, and hanging out. Hey, three for three for the Cinema. That stuff's gold, Jerry. Gold. We don't really dig on the comic books, though. Well, not most comic books anyway.

I walked away thinking that I should have been treated to a much better movie, but also that Maria Bamford has some serious fucking balls to do that act for the past fifteen years. I'm sure she was a favorite at the Sheboygan Giggle Hut.