Trees Lounge (1996) Review

Trees Lounge (1996)

Directed & Written by Steve Buscemi

Starring: Steve Buscemi, Chloë Sevigny, Mark Boone Junior, Anthony LaPaglia, Elizabeth Bracco, Eszter Balint, Carol Kane, Daniel Baldwin, Mimi Rogers, Debi Mazar, Seymour Cassel, Bianca Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
Tommy is an unemployed mechanic who spends most of his time in a bar (Trees Lounge) in a small blue collar town. He seems to always be thinking, “If only X then I could stop drinking”.

My Opinion:

Really liked this Steve Buscemi movie (which is on Pluto TV in the U.K., FYI). Confession: I have sort of a weird crush on Steve Buscemi. I always enjoy his quirky characters and, hey, I think his cameos in Adam Sandler’s movies are hilarious. Yeah! I’m not ashamed! Plus, he seems like a nice guy in real life which is great since so many celebrities seem like fucking assholes & I can’t stand the majority of them as people. So it was great seeing a younger Buscemi as the lead character in this 1996 film (which he also wrote & directed).

This is one of those very “indie” films that is more about the characters than the plot, so it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s the kind of thing I like when the characters are interesting or at least entertaining. It’s about Buscemi’s alcoholic character, Tommy, who hangs out at his local dive bar (Trees Lounge) while drinking his life away. He’s lost his girlfriend & his job & he’s wandering aimlessly through life. We get to see a bit of the also aimless lives of some other regulars at Trees Lounge as well as some of Tommy’s friends & family (including his real life brother playing his brother). It’s also a very New York indie, so I enjoyed that despite never having actually been to New York. It’s always just as much a “character” as any of the actors are when a film is set in NYC.

It was also great seeing so many known names in this (including a small role for Samuel L. Jackson). Enjoyed Carol Kane as the Trees Lounge bartender & the bar’s quirky regulars and I wanted to hang out with Buscemi in the ice cream truck. Check out this cast (from Wikipedia): Steve Buscemi, Chloë Sevigny, Mark Boone Junior, Anthony LaPaglia, Elizabeth Bracco, Eszter Balint, Carol Kane, Daniel Baldwin, Mimi Rogers, Debi Mazar, Seymour Cassel, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Buscemi.

Good stuff! Too bad Buscemi made no more films. I’d happily watch more movies like this one. I’ve just added Trees Lounge to my list of My Top Ten Steve Buscemi Movies. I’ve put it at ten, knocking out The Big Lebowski. Never been big on that film…

My Rating: 7.5/10

John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998) Review

Vampires (1998)

Directed by John Carpenter

Based on Vampire$ by John Steakley

Starring: James Woods, Daniel Baldwin, Sheryl Lee, Thomas Ian Griffith, Maximilian Schell

Music by John Carpenter

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
James Woods stars as Jack Crow, the leader of a team of vampire hunters. After his parents were bitten by vampires, Crow was raised by the Catholic Church to become their “master slayer”. The plot is centered on Crow’s efforts to prevent a centuries-old cross from falling into the hands of Jan Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith), the first and most powerful of all vampires.

My Opinion:

I watched this a couple of weeks ago but had no intention of reviewing it yet since I’ve been saving up to do a John Carpenter Week (or two) on my blog at some point. Well, damn – I didn’t make it to see Ouija: Origin Of Evil to review it as part of my Mike Flanagan Week so I was left short of one horror film to review this month. Is anyone interested in helping to do guest reviews for a John Carpenter Week if I ever get off my ass & do that?? This blog thing is so dead lately that I haven’t felt very motivated to put posts together… I’m cutting back massively once October is over!

I did a list of My Top Ten John Carpenter Movies HERE without having yet seen a few of his biggest films. In preparation for a John Carpenter Week & to be able to update my Top Ten, I’ve since watched these: Prince Of Darkness, Dark Star, Escape From New York, and Vampires. One of those is awesome and will be high on an updated Top Ten, one is okay, and two are pretty sucky.

Vampires is one of the pretty sucky ones but it was less sucky than I was expecting. In fact, as I had low expectations thinking that most people hated it for some reason, I ended up liking it a bit more than Prince Of Darkness. I must be missing something with Prince Of Darkness – I thought it was very badly dated. Vampires is far from good but I did get some enjoyment from it and, shockingly, I probably liked Daniel Baldwin’s character the most in this thing. A Baldwin! WTF?! I’m not sure it’s a good thing to have a Baldwin be your favorite character in a movie. I think I just liked the fact that he was quite nice (eventually) to the poor hooker (Sheryl Lee) after she got bitten by the main vampire dude. I liked Lee’s character as well and the psychic link she ended up having with the main vampire was a good plot device. I don’t think I’ve ever really seen Lee in anything before (I never saw Twin Peaks).

Speaking of nice & not nice, I think the main reason I didn’t like this movie as much as I’d hoped was because of James Woods and his complete asshole of a character. Hmm – Yes, I entirely blame James Woods for this movie not living up to its potential. He doesn’t have the “star power”. He doesn’t have the cool factor, the attitude, the charisma… Can you imagine this movie instead starring Carpenter’s favorite, Kurt Russell?? Russell had all those things in Carpenter’s films. He was a stud. He could get away with being kind of a jerk because he had that same sort of lovable rogue thing going on as Han Solo. Woods doesn’t have that. Sorry! I think I’m just not a Woods fan. Don’t tell him!!!

Oh, I also liked that priest dude in the above picture. He was another one, along with the prostitute, who was treated like complete shit by Woods for no reason. Okay, okay – Woods’ parents were killed by vampires so I suppose he holds a grudge but, sheesh! No need to be so damn grumpy. Sorry – I need to let this go. I’m sounding as grumpy as him! At least I liked three of the characters, which helped make up for Woods and for the rather bland vampires. Vampires are meant to be cool, sexy & menacing. The vampires in Vampires are so dull compared to those in some of the all-time great vampire classics. Like The Lost Boys! Did I just lose my argument? Lol. Don’t care – The Lost Boys rules. 😉

Summary:

Erm. I dunno. I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about Vampires. It has some good points but the good points don’t fully make up for the fact that both the lead vampire hunter & the lead vampire are such weak characters. They’re the two most important roles so this obviously lets the movie down. However, I did enjoy the likable lesser characters as well as some fairly original vampire hunting (like the way the hunters dragged the vampires out into the sun). It also had a decent level of fun gore that I could stomach (I hate too much gore). Vampires is just a rather uneven movie and not one that I can either fully praise nor fully criticize. I’ve definitely seen worse vampire movies but I’ve also see many FAR better ones. It won’t be making a Top Ten Vampire Movies list of mine but maybe I’d give it a small honorable mention. Guess I need to make that list now. Maybe next October – I think I better watch some Hammer Horror first!

My Rating: 6/10

**I’ve just realized that I have a bit of a vampire theme going on with this & with my review of the pointless 2011 remake of Fright Night on Wednesday. Woohoo! I’ll pretend that I planned that… 🙂