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Slogan: Some Wise Guys Aren’t So Smart.
Why are they still making parodies of The Godfather? Because Dom DeLuise can’t stop doing his mumbly Brando impression? Here the portly cookbook author plays the “Oddfather” to Rodney Dangerfield’s “Rodfather,” which is as insightful as the satire gets. But this is a Kevin McDonald vehicle. Perhaps the most interesting member of the Kids in the Hall troupe, McDonald has seen his pals go on to legitimate careers while he must share the screen with Lou Ferrigno. And Joey Buttafuoco (wildly overplaying the role of “Joey Buttafuoco”). And a duck. Oh, I wanted to like this movie. I mean, Rodney! Dom! A duck! Yes, I did laugh a few times at McDonald’s plucky desperation. But as my special friend “J” observed, “It’s just random.” Here’s a random act of kindness: EJECT.
LAND OF THE FREE
Slogan: One Nation, Under God, Under Fire, Under Siege
“I think we need to analyze the semiotics of this thing,” suggested my pseudonymous friend “Lucy.” “Between the four of us we should be able to understand this.” True, we were stumped. I mean, when you have William Shatner as a politician-slash-leader-of-a-murderous-right-wing-terrorist-organization (could happen), why spend so much time blowing up cars? And buses? Just let the man act, dammit! Yes, there is a fight scene right out of the Star Trek episode “Arena,” but mostly we are forced to watch beefy galoot Jeff Speakman run around looking, I guess, concerned. “This guy doesn’t know how to be an action hero,” said my pseudonymous friend “Lucy.” But later she noted, “He’s finally had the sense to kill people. This whole movie, he’s just been beating up people and throwing them.” “This is too much plot to deal with,” said my lawyer friend Jeff. We finally had to rewind to solve the mystery of the “unexplained lovers.” “I guess I was looking for a taut political thriller,” sighed my lawyer friend Jeff. Look elsewhere. EJECT.
TERMINAL JUSTICE: CYBERTECH P.D.
Slogan: The Name of the Game Is Danger.
This “A Rick King Film” is set in the distant future of 2002, a future where, noted my lawyer friend Jeff, “all advances have been in the realm of vice.” Indeed, there are pheromone-seeking toy helicopters, and evil businessman Chris Sarandon has a plan to clone sex slaves. (“Who’d want to stop him?” asked my lawyer friend Jeff.) The technique involves “chromosplicing.” The big name and face on the box belong to Lorenzo Lamas, and serious thesps Sarandon and Peter Coyote are here, but the surprise attraction is Kari Salin, née Wuhrer (for more on the ex-videotrix’s name games, see http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Hills/1404/). Kari is the No. 1 virtual-reality sex star (“I happen to be damn proud of my body,” she says, convincingly), who gets involved with semi-bionic cop Lamas for no reason other than he looks like Fabio. The cybertech elements are equally interesting and stupid. Make that interestingly stupid. OK, they’re stupid. “So are we gonna get to, you know, see anything?” asked my lawyer friend Jeff at the outset. Well, a bit. But later Jeff complained, “I wasn’t sure whose butt I was looking at.” A serious flaw; still, my pseudonymous friend “Lucy” was heard to say, “This is a good movie.” Sure, why not? PLAY.
HOUSE OF PANCAKES
“This is arty,” said my pseudonymous friend “Lucy.” Yes, it is in black and white. And the sound is nearly inaudible. Pancakes is the “film debut” of writer-director Onur Tukel, whose prior credit was “storyboard artist” on This World, Then the Fireworks, reviewed harshly in these pages some time ago. Although the box promised “a hilarious Gex X [sic] spin on the classic screw-ball [sic] comedy,” the reality proved strained and amateurish. Tukel should not abandon his pencils just yet. EJECT.
Slogan: Cross Over…
And so my pseudonymous friend “Lucy” and I switched to this Roger Corman-produced effort about Quad-rena, a bug being from space who comes to Earth to save her planet from three-eyed chrome-domes who wear all white. Naturally, Quad-rena assumes the full-figured form of Athena Massey. “You’re right, this is a much better movie,” said “Lucy,” adding, “Wowso much action before they even have the titles!” Part of that action involves rays shooting out of Quad-rena’s eyes and frying people, always a welcome plot device. And, when contacting her home planet, Quad-rena speaks only in rhyme. But when she meets human doctor Steven Bauer she says things like, “I overtook her body, but now she possesses me.” I’ll let “Lucy,” who rarely ventures into the DTV oeuvre, continue the summary: “She’s got a short fuse!” “Oh-oh, she’s having a human moment.” “Whoashe’s killing people left and right!” “She looks good in these gypsy outfits.” “What’s going on? I can’t understand it.” Don’t worryit’s all explained in “Quad-rena’s Song” at the end credits. PLAY.
Slogan: Let Your Spirits Soar.
The film opens quoting a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke. There is a Windham Hill CD offer for retailers. In a very WASP-y 1965 New England, a woman is imprisoned by convention, her loving husband who just doesn’t get it, and metal leg braces due to MS. Enter a sensitive, Bob Dylan-quoting young student. In other words, even though this is “A Film by Howard Goldberg,” it’s one serious chick flick. The women sigh and cry. The men cry, too. “When I was 27, I left my body for the first time,” goes the first line of the movie. Brew some General Foods International Coffee (Suisse Mocha, perhaps?), send the men away, and astral-project to your heart’s content. PAUSE.
THE BAD PACK
Slogan: Bad to the Bone
No astral projecting here! The cover to this video is exactly the same as the poster for Con Air, except the A-list actors’ faces have been replaced with the faces of Robert Davi, Roddy Piper, and the guy from The Viking Sagas. But the Con Air-style art has no relation to the story. So this is not a Con Air rip-off. It is an “homage” to The Magnificent Seven, The Dirty Dozen, The Wild Bunch, and any other handful-of-sturdy-men-against-unforgivable-odds movies. In this case, mysterious mercenary Davi and his buddies take on a right-wing militia terrorizing a Mexican border town. Davi, so excellent in Die Hard and License to Kill, has been pumping some iron. “He’s, like, a real actor,” noted my professional actor friend Paul. “What’s he doing in this shitty stuff?” Acting like a martial artist, blowing up things, looking bad to the bone, picking up a paycheck. And because they didn’t give Roddy enough to do, I say, EJECT.
Slogan: Natural Selection Is a Killer.
Has it been 10 years since Pamela Gidley’s bravura turn as the title character in the unjustly neglected classic Cherry 2000? We expected (hoped) for more from the saucy blonde. Much more. Tragically, Pamela has only been seen in strange bit parts and downbeat roles. Now she returns in “A Tim Boxell Film,” and while there are hints of the old spark, Ms. Gidley is ill-served by Boxell and his cheap, red-herring style of storytelling. Between stalking POV shots ripped from Evil Dead, we learn that “Something’s messing with the natural order.” Which is all that explains the menace: super-evolving killer geckos. Yes, the “soft-skinned, insect-eating lizards with a short, stout body, a large head, weak limbs, and suction pads on their feet.” And what the heck they’re doing in the snowy, wooded mountains must be inferred from the line “Goddamn gene-splicers!” (Chromosplicers?) The lizard-killing effects are particularly gruesome, and while there is a man on fire, let’s hope this is an aberration in Pamela’s career. EJECT.
Next month: Like Father, Like Son
BULK ERASE: Don’t get this tape near your VCR.
EJECT: Major time-waster.
PAUSE: Worth part of your time.
FREEZE-FRAME: Some scenes suggested for mature audiences.
PLAY: OK, but not necessarily synonymous with “good.”