Las Chicas del Cable
Like Water for Chocolate
Kijowska in Czerwony Pajak (2015) in 720p
Lowe in Beautiful Kate (2009) in 1080hd
Darmody, also in Beautiful Kate
Ladd and others in Club Dread (2004) in 1080hd
A laid-back singer named Coconut Pete runs his own island version of Club Med off the coast of Costa Rica, and somebody is killing all his staff. There are several red herring sub-plots in which various people seem in turn to be the killer, then there are several gruesome and kinda funny deaths, and then somebody with no motivation confesses. It turns out that all the people who had a motive were sane people like the rest of us, people who may have had jealousies and problems, but would not act violently on those feelings. The actual killer, on the other hand, was just plain nuts.
I think it was supposed to be funny that the only guy with no motivation turned out to be the killer. If it was supposed to be, it missed the mark.
Like most of the rest of the jokes in the film.
In fact, some of this film is so unfunny as to be downright annoying, but that isn't what kept the film from being successful. The problem is that the plot took itself seriously. Club Dread is the follow-up effort from the comedy troupe that created Super Troopers. They are talented at lowbrow comedy. They should have gone for a Scary Movie vibe - a wacky genre parody making fun of slasher movies. Instead they went for a Scream vibe - an attempt to make a real slasher movie, with comedy layered in. By working too hard on the scares and gore, they got distracted from the strengths of the writers/performers who are, underneath their mandatory new millennium naughty sex talk, traditional genre satirists like the cast of SCTV, as opposed to scare-and-gore guys like Tobe Hooper.
Bill Paxton is pretty funny as Coconut Pete, a fictional version of Jimmy Buffett. He talks like Buffett, sings like him, and lives like him. His album titles are all slight twists on Buffett album titles, although ol' Pete doesn't remember making most of them because, hey, those were the 70s, dude. Pete is a laid-back guy unless you mention the one thing he hates - the REAL Jimmy Buffett, who stole Pete's best song PinaColadaBurg, changed it a little, and made it famous as Margaritaville!
While I don't think it's a good film, and it's not worth going out of your way to see, I found it an easy enough watch. Paxton is good; there are lots of jokes, and some of them work; and the nudity is good, especially a gymnastic scene performed by the diminutive Jordan Ladd (Cheryl's daughter) and a body double.
Most people were less enthusiastic than I. About 2/3 of reviewers panned Club Dread, and it was a miserable failure at the box office, capping off below five million dollars, despite appearing on 1800 screens across the country.
Hyser in Just One Of The Guys (1985) in 1080hd
A high school senior girl feels that she has been denied a
chance to win a journalism contest simply because she is a
girl. Therefore, following the official logic of movie
students, she transfers to another school, changes her
hair and clothing, and re-submits her article as a guy.
She finds that being a guy isn't as cool as it seems,
especially when she is pursued by a horny girl, and falls
in love with a guy who thinks she's another guy.
It isn't any better than it sounds, but it isn't any worse either. Although it fails to rise to the level of the best films youthploitation films of the era, it is a cute enough film which mines some easy laughs with weird minor characters and predictable situations. It never raises itself to a level of either great truth-seeking or great comedy, and I didn't really get absorbed in it, but neither did I feel an urge to grab the remote, mostly because Joyce Hyser is quite believable and sympathetic as Teri/Terry.
The mid 80s were the Golden Age of school-oriented youthploitation comedies and light "triumph of the underdog" dramas. The 1983-87 era produced Revenge of the Nerds, Risky Business, Better off Dead, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, One Crazy Summer, The Karate Kid, and Back to School, as well as a slew of minor films like this one. This genre made stars of John Cusack, Tom Cruise and Matthew Broderick.
The youthploitation films of that era have many common elements:
Selena Gomez nip-slip. Not new, but an upgrade in
Cara Delevingne, just being her weird self for GQ UK
A nice still of Penelope Cruz in Elegy
What surprised me is that it is adapted from a novel by Philip Roth. Not that Roth is incapable of refinement. He's a brilliant guy whose work is multi-faceted. But one does not normally associate him with the kind of meditative politesse that characterizes this film. His work has a kind of primal, brutal, sexual energy that drives all of his literary alter egos into impolite, obsessive rhapsodies about lust. I would never have recognized Elegy as a Roth adaptation.
I haven't read the source novel, called "The Dying Animal" (as I just found out), but I assume it was too complex and included too much first person narration to allow for a simple, literal adaptation, and that the screenwriter needed to find a way to focus it. As you know, many different kinds of movies can come out of a complex book, depending on the screenwriter's focus. Consider, for example, the two adaptations of Lolita: Kubrick's snarky wallow in the book's sleazy comedy and glorious wordplay; and Adrian Lyne's somber, sad portrayal of a man making an ill-fated and inappropriate attempt to recreate something beautiful and poignant that he lost in childhood and could never regain. There's one very sad movie and one very funny one there, yet both of them are quite accurate reflections of different facets of an opalescent book.
I guess what I'm saying here is that there are probably many different ways one might interpret Roth's book. In this case, the screenwriter and the director seem to have created the Masterpiece Theater version of the book by downplaying Roth's carnality and earthy language while elevating the role of his obsessive self-analysis.
Ben Kingsley plays an elderly literature professor who is basically retired except for a prestigious sinecure which requires him to teach only one class per year. He uses his minor fame and major charm to seduce one co-ed per year, and has set his current sights on a Cuban-American beauty named Consuela. After dazzling her with his depth, which is the orchestration he uses to waltz her into bed, he finds that his relationship with her is not like those with his previous conquests. There is much more than mere lust. At his advanced age, after having created a personal philosophy that rejects the concept of romantic love, he finds himself enslaved to it. Then he must, as must we all, revise his philosophy to conform to his circumstances. This proves difficult. He is inept at love. He is jealous, possessive, and uneasy. Although it is clear that he and Consuela love one another, the professor cannot bring himself to meet her family, and she finally drops him from her life after he offers some particularly flimsy lies about why he missed a family event he had promised to attend. As is his wont, he deals with his pain by adjusting his personal philosophy yet again, accommodating his circumstances to the belief that the young woman was bound to drop him sooner or later anyway, because she's bound to begin to notice the inherent liabilities in loving a man 35 years older than she. We feel some empathy for the lonely old man he is becoming, but no sympathy, for we can see that he has created his own loneliness.
That part of the film moves with a deliberate pace and a lifelessness that seems totally uncharacteristic of Philip Roth, but the story takes a final twist in which the professor strives to redeem himself. Although overwhelmed by his sense of loss, he honors his promise not to call Consuela again, and he offers himself fully when she calls him some years later with an urgent message. Through a too-convenient plot twist, Consuela becomes older than he, in the sense of closer to death, and this seems to be the shock he needs to shake off his solipsism and attempt a true intimate relationship in which he can sometimes place another's needs above his own. He seems to be succeeding as the film ends. Maybe.
The film offers some interesting insights along the way. Roth is an acute observer, and some of his observations are held intact here, either in the film's narration, or in some dialogues between the Kingsley character and another elderly scholar, a poet with a Pulitzer, as played very effectively by Dennis Hopper. Many insights rang true with me. The professor notes, for example, that unfamiliar 20-year-old women look just as appealing when a man is 60 as when he is 20, while unfamiliar 60-year-old women look just as old as they ever did, making it difficult to reconcile an old man's desires with his capabilities. This fact of life can be a source of both tragedy and comedy.
Dennis Hopper was a revelation in his secondary role. He spent his entire career playing movie archetypes rather than real human beings, and it surprised me to see just how good he was at simple, credible situations and sensible, intelligent conversations. He had no trouble convincing me that he was an esteemed poet. He should have shown this side of himself years earlier, or perhaps I should say that somebody should have given him a chance to show this side. I liked Hopper's scenes immensely, but he didn't really get much of a chance to develop the character. In fact, the character was really just an exposition device, used to give Kingsley somebody to talk to so he wouldn't always be narrating in voice-over. Other characters remained similarly undefined, like the professor's son, whose life must have supplied an important sub-plot in the book, but who seems like a trivial, virtually unnecessary character in the movie.
Overall, the movie didn't really work for me. I found it oh-too-precious, too slow, and utterly lacking in both passion and warmth. Many critics disagreed strongly. Roger Ebert gave it three stars. James Berardinelli topped that at three and a half, and Owen Gleiberman of EW dished out the full four-star monty, saying "There's a poetic irony to the idea that it took a female filmmaker to finally do justice to Philip Roth on screen." I don't agree with what he's saying there. At least I don't think I do. If he means it took a woman to make the first good movie based on a Roth book, I have to concede that it is a legitimate argument, but if he means the woman captured the true essence of Roth ... well, I think I've already expressed my feelings about that. I don't think any Roth book has been described as "precious, slow, and lacking in passion."
Elegy is like one of those "prestige dramas" that inevitably get rushed to the theaters in the last week of December to establish Oscar eligibility. By their inherent nature, prestige dramas have a tiny audience. In this case, the audience consists of those who really have a need to wallow in melancholy reflections about aging and dying, and the differences between those two ominous participles. If you do feel that need, the film offers a somber, thoughtful, articulate overview of those topics.