Non-Stop, The Spectacular Now & Used Cars Movie Reviews

Hope you all had a nice weekend! I have three more mini-reviews for you. This time we have a movie I was expecting to love but didnt, one I expected to like but hated, and one big ‘ol MEH movie. Let’s begin…

Non-Stop (2014)

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

Starring: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery, Nate Parker, Jason Butler Harner, Anson Mount

My Opinion:

This is the big ‘ol pile of MEH. I always fall behind on reviewing movies I watch at home but tend to keep on top of the ones I actually go to see. Well, I went to this one in the cinema (theatER!) last year but couldn’t summon up enough enthusiasm to review it. Liam Neeson is doing his Taken role again. I don’t know how he ended up being so typecast but I’m not too bothered as he was never exactly a favorite of mine anyway. At least that annoying Maggie Grace isn’t in this.

The plot is… okay, I guess, but it’s not helped by some lame acting and some laughably predictable moments. I mean, this is the basic plot on Wikipedia: Neeson is a U.S. Air Marshal on a flight to London when he “receives text messages on his secure phone stating that someone on the plane will die every 20 minutes unless $150 million is transferred into a specific bank account.” That actually sounds quite exciting, doesnt it?! It does! That’s why I went to it even though I can live without most popcorn action movies. I remember I was in the mood for a braindead action movie when I went to this, though, so I had some fun with it despite it being pretty damn ridiculous.

I was reminded when getting that plot synopsis that Neeson plays an alcoholic Air Marshal. Because he’s TROUBLED & has ISSUES to overcome, people! This is why the passengers aren’t sure if they can trust him when he starts acting like a raving lunatic! lol. I kind of forgot just how silly this one was. I didn’t totally hate it or anything. If you want a simple action movie where you won’t have to think & you like Liam Neeson being all Liam Neeson-y, give this a watch in your comfy living room.

My Rating: 5.5/10

The Spectacular Now (2013)

Directed by James Ponsoldt

Based on The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

Starring: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kyle Chandler

My Opinion:

I was desperate to see this movie when I heard about it but then it never came out in the UK and, much to my annoyance, I wasn’t able to see it for ages. All I kept hearing was that it was this generation’s Say Anything. Naturally, being my age, I adore Say Anything so I was like “I must see this Spectacular Now movie!!!”.

Umm… I guess I can see the Say Anything comparisons. If Lloyd Dobler (the sweetest, most perfect boyfriend in the history of film) had instead been a selfish, alcoholic prick. Yeah… the only thing this movie has in common with Say Anything is a role-reversal of the one-sided love story (Diane Court clearly doesn’t love you, Lloyd. But every female my age does, at least!). πŸ˜‰

I suppose my expectations were too high for this movie after the Say Anything comparisons. I’ve not read the (I’m assuming YA) book this is based on – maybe it does a better job with Miles Teller’s character? I guess calling him a “prick” wasn’t totally fair – his character is just aimless & he has issues that lead to him drinking too much but he’s not exactly outright horrible to Shailene Woodley’s character. Wait, no – he really is kind of a prick. He clearly likes her but she’s crazy about him and he’s too self-absorbed to care about any negative impact his actions may have on her. It felt like he was just using her so it was very hard to like him. I think I just expected to like & care about the characters a bit more. This may be partly down to Teller, who I just can’t make myself like (even after Whiplash).

Woodley was good – this is the type of role that suits her way more than the one in Divergent. But her character is such a pushover, which was a little disappointing. I liked seeing Brie Larson, who I really liked in 21 Jump Street & Short Term 12, in a small role plus Jennifer Jason Leigh (eXistenZ!). But, if this is the current generation’s definition of a love story, then young people need to lighten up & watch a proper romance film. The Spectacular Now was far too dramatic and, unlike Say Anything, had no fun moments despite the heartache. On its own, not being compared to other movies, it’s certainly not a bad film. Don’t let my disappointment keep you from watching it if you’re interested – I know I just hyped it up in my mind too much. Just remember that it’s very much a “drama” if you decide to watch it and that you may not like Teller’s character.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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Used Cars (1980)

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Starring: Kurt Russell, Jack Warden, Gerrit Graham, Deborah Harmon

This was on Netflix so I gave it a watch since I like Kurt Russell, Robert Zemeckis, and, of course, the Eighties. I figured it couldn’t go wrong with those three things and maybe I’d get a few little laughs out of it. I hated it! I know that movies from my beloved decade haven’t all aged well and some can contain jokes that are seen as un-PC today. That sort of thing doesn’t usually bother me as I grew up with it but this movie just went a little too far with the cruel humor and outdated sexism.

First of all, (this isn’t really a spoiler as it’s obvious this is what’s going to happen) the only character who doesn’t come across as a selfish jerk (Jack Warden) dies and it turns a bit into Weekend At Bernie’s with some of the antics with this poor guy’s dead body (never mind the fact that he was essentially MURDERED for his crappy little car dealership. by his twin brother, no less!). I know death can occasionally be humorous in certain black comedies (Heathers rules) but this one didn’t sit right with me in a silly 80’s comedy. Kurt Russell & Gerrit Graham, who work for this guy and his dealership, do show a little sorrow but their main goal is to save their own jobs at whatever cost. It’s hard to care about them at first as they’re very hard to like but the movie redeems itself a tiny bit when the only female character who isn’t there just to be a pair of tits shows up (more about her later) but they’re cruel & do use her at first (luckily, they instead work with her by the end – the second half of this movie is much better than the first).

As for the women in Used Cars, they were treated no better than Warden’s dead body. I’m not a girl who’s going to demand that women be in every movie ever (two of my favorite movies, The Shawshank Redemption & Stand By Me, don’t even have any women in them) but I expect female characters to be treated with the same respect as the male characters. Deborah Harmon is the only important female character and she’s fine but she’s also seen as quite helpless & needing Kurt Russell to come to the rescue since she can’t run a car dealership on her own (what do women know about cars?! actually, I admit that I know nothing about cars). I’m glad they work with her, though, (after cruelly lying to her about something important and of course sleeping with her) and as I said, the movie redeems itself a little in the second half. 

Hey – can I just go off topic & mention that I immediately recognized Deborah Harmon from the TV show Just The Ten Of Us? Am I the only one in the world who watched that short-lived Growing Pains spin-off?? I loved it! It had THREE Nightmare On Elm Street girls in it (THE Heather Langenkamp wanting to be a nun, the girl who turns into a bug, and “girl on bus” in Nightmare 2 – Yes, I discovered the “girl on bus” connection years later when the Internet came around). But back to this shitty Used Cars movie…

I know guys like boobs and there are loads of naked women in movies. I didn’t get that annoyed at the lead male characters in this sleeping around and using strippers to sell their cars. However, I found the very looooong scene where the male stars predictably expose a woman to a TV audience (without her approval) then actually zoom in on her breasts to be a step too far. And it went on for what felt like forever while she did nothing but scream like an idiot. Then, to top it all off, Graham’s character ends it by actually “honking” her boob. Seriously. He may have even made a honking sound effect (I’d check to verify but can’t be bothered). Umm. No. Unless you’re in a relationship with us, never ever “honk” our boobs. Plus Harmon’s character’s boobs get groped by a stranger for no apparent reason toward the end of the film. WTF? Gotta love the 1980s, I guess… I suppose I was more offended than I would have been watching something like Porky’s as you expect that sort of thing from that decade’s sex comedies and I didn’t realize beforehand that Used Cars would be like that.

Oops – this mini-review ended up being fairly long. I do go on a bit when I’m annoyed! Only watch this if you really love movies from the Eighties and you get excited by seeing people like Wendie Jo Sperber in a very small role. Yay! Wendie Jo Sperber! Luckily she went on to be in the much much much (much) better Zemeckis film Back To The Future. That movie is perfection – what the hell happened with Used Cars?! Ugh.

My Rating: 4.5/10 (it gets an extra half a point for Wendie Jo)

Phantom Of The Paradise (1974) Review

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Phantom Of The Paradise (1974)

Directed by Brian De Palma

Starring:
Paul Williams
William Finley
Jessica Harper
Gerrit Graham

Running time: 91 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A disfigured composer sells his soul for the woman he loves so that she will perform his music. However, an evil record tycoon betrays him and steals his music to open his rock palace, The Paradise.

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My Opinion:

This movie started getting a bunch of attention this year for its 40th anniversary and I’d never even heard of it before then. When I read reviews and saw that it was some weird sort of “rock opera horror” directed by Brian De Palma and starring the great Rainbow Connection Paul Williams and that it, basically, may be responsible for giving us DAFT PUNK… Well, I had to see it! I can’t believe I’d never even heard of this now-cult-classic before. Apparently, though, it was a major flop at the time everywhere other than Paris and for some reason Winnipeg, where they worship this film and have organized Phantompalooza. I’m not sure why the movie is suddenly getting so much attention but I suppose that it’s probably down to Thomas Bangalter and Guy Manuel de Homem-Christo (Daft Punk) declaring their love for it when collaborating with Paul Williams for their Random Access Memories album. Having watched it now, it’s obvious what a huge influence it had on them. Check out William Finley as the Phantom in the title:

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I finally saw this movie a couple of months ago and I still can’t quite decide if it’s a brilliant masterpiece or a big pile of shit. What a way to start a review, huh?! Maybe it’s just brilliantly horrible. Horribly brilliant? Either way, although I just called this a possible pile of shit, I’ll be giving it a 7.5/10 rating (so you can stop reading & just yell at me now, Brian). πŸ˜‰ I sort of feel the same way about this movie as I did about David Bowie’s The Man Who Fell To Earth. I know that, in a lot of ways, that movie was “bad” but I couldn’t help but be fascinated with it and it’s certainly one of the most memorable movies I’ve watched in the last couple of years and one I seem to come back to a lot when reviewing other movies that I liked yet can’t fully explain why. Phantom Of The Paradise was the same for me and totally worth being the only full price Blu-ray I’ve purchased for myself in ages, even if I WAS thinking to myself “what the fuck?!” the entire time I was watching it.

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Phantom Of The Paradise is a combination of The Phantom Of The Opera (obviously), Faust, and The Picture Of Dorian Gray. I’m not sure why it never achieved the success of two other similar films that both came out a year later – Tommy and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It certainly feels a lot more ambitious than either of those, which I suppose may have been the problem? There’s a lot going on in Phantom and it maybe tries to be too many things at once. The other two aren’t really any less strange than Phantom, though. Unfortunately, the biggest problem may just be that the songs aren’t as good. Sorry, Paul Williams! I think you’re awesome and I love what you did with Daft Punk and Rainbow Connection is my favorite Muppets song. But, unlike in Tommy or Rocky Horror, there’s nothing really memorable in this when it comes to the music other than maybe the main ballad which is pretty but not exactly catchy like Time Warp or even Pinball Wizard.

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I suppose I was a little upset that I was left unsure of how I felt about this movie once it finished as I’d hyped it up in my mind to possibly be some kind of undiscovered gem that I’d absolutely love. Well, there ARE things I really liked about it. Images such as the one above are what helped to convince me to watch this. The band is known as The Undeads, which is their third and best incarnation in the film as they keep changing their style to suit whatever record producer Swan (Paul Williams) thinks the public wants. This is in contrast to composer Winslow Leach, played by William Finley, who cares only about the music itself instead of fame and who (obviously) ends up the “Phantom” of the film. Paul Williams’ Swan is an evil & greedy record producer and owner of “The Paradise” concert hall. Williams is great as some sort of satanic little brother to David Cassidy. Check him out:

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The best thing about this film is the main story between Williams’ Swan & Finley’s The Phantom. I loved the cause of The Phantom’s disfigurement and, of course, THE scene that is clearly the one that turned those lightbulbs on above Daft Punk’s heads. (Slight spoiler but not really if you know Phantom Of The Opera): The Phantom’s vocal chords have been destroyed along with his face so he not only needs to wear the strange silver helmet but also must use an electronic voice-box to talk (and sing). I wish I could find a clip of the scene to share here but can only find some images:

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I should also give a quick mention to Jessica Harper, of Suspiria fame, who plays The Phantom’s muse Γ  la The Phantom Of The Opera and Gerrit Graham as a camp glam rocker. Both were really good in two fairly big roles and the below shower scene was pretty cool:

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Summary:

I know this review was far longer than my usual reviews but if I’ve talked at least ONE person into checking out this movie, I’ll be very happy. Is it good? Is it shit? I’m honestly still not sure. I’ve said it a few times recently but these are the types of films that actually make me want to run a movie blog. I’ll always watch & review loads of mainstream films but they rarely excite me in the same sort of way that the more “unusual” or artistic films do. I’d rather watch something extremely memorable like this than just another cookie cutter film made with a profit in mind. The main theme (of many) in Phantom Of The Paradise is timeless – art over profit. We need more Phantoms in this world but, unfortunately, there will always be more Swans.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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You know I have to end this with Touch, the Daft Punk/Paul Williams collaboration on Random Access Memories: πŸ™‚

National Lampoon’s Class Reunion (1982) Guest Review

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This guest review for the John Hughes Blogathon comes from Brian of Hard Ticket To Home Video. Thanks for being a part of this blogathon, Brian! Let’s hear his thoughts on National Lampoon’s Class Reunion. πŸ™‚

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National Lampoon’s Class Reunion (1982)

**spoilers throughout**

Starring: Gerrit Graham, Stephen Furst, Miriam Flynn, Zane Buzby, Fred McCarren, Blackie Dammett

Directed by: Michael Miller (Danielle Steel’s A Perfect Stranger; Danielle Steel’s Heartbeat; Danielle Steel’s Daddy; Danielle Steel’s Palomino; World’s Deadliest Volcanoes)

Written by: John Hughes (Baby’s Day Out; Curly Sue; Dutch; Dennis the Menace; Flubber)

Synopsis: It’s 10-year reunion time at Lizzie Borden High, but the merriment turns deadly as one psycho classmate terrorizes the Class of ’72 in his frenzy for revenge!

Best part: The one time my throat made a slight chuckling noise was when Egon, the vampire classmate (only so they could shoehorn in some random vampire jokes), was putting the moves on a woman, and she told him it was that time of the month, and he turned to the camera and licked his chops. Very stupid, but it’s still the funniest thing that happens in this dumb movie.

Worst part: It’s great to see Anne Ramsey in a fight scene, but there was really no reason at all for Walter to murder the old lunch lady, especially when he doesn’t murder anyone else after that (unless he murdered the adulterous couple, I don’t know, they’re never mentioned again). I know he’s nuts, but he’s really shitty at getting revenge on his classmates.

Best line: Hubert Downs: [Walter is threatening to stab Meredith] “Walter, can we see her naked before you kill her?”

Nudity: One slide of bare boobs.

Worst part: Blackie Dammett plays the killer, Walter Baylor. Blackie’s real name is John Kiedis, and he’s the father of Anthony Kiedis, lead singer of Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Overall: This is one I’ve been meaning to watch for the “What Were We Thinking?” section of our website because I recall watching this several times as a kid and loving it. I don’t know why. I probably thought the killer’s mask was neat-looking. Watching it now, this movie is just dull and stupid. I know it’s supposed to be an outrageous spoof comedy, but even outrageous spoof comedies need to make sense. For example, the killer padlocks the front doors (one chain, one padlock) and none of the dozens of people can find a way to break one padlock, or one wooden door. Later on, Gary (the class zero) gets an axe from the wood shop, and manages to break the door down with it, but not until much later. Nobody thought to just go grab the axe right from the beginning? Then in a later scene, the devil-possessed woman shoots fire out of her mouth and blasts a hole in the wall. She couldn’t have done that to the front door? And it goes on and on. Characters are forgotten about, the killer has some sort of perfect human mask-making machine, etc.

Anyway, since this is the second National Lampoon movie and came out a few years after the classic Animal House, people must have been SORELY disappointed in this, especially if they saw Stephen Furst and the words “Class Reunion” and thought it may have been a reunion of the Animal House guys. This movie is probably only slightly better than the National Lampoon dregs they crap out today.

So what’s positive? The sets aren’t bad I guess. There’s kind of a Clue vibe going on throughout, except Clue is good. In Class Reunion, 98% of the jokes are flatter than Silly Putty after Kevin Smith sat on it. But it has a good cast. Gerrit Graham is a legend, that goes without saying, and Stephen Furst makes a great slimeball, and Zane Buzby is a pretty underrated, freaky-looking actress. I suppose if you have to have a totally random devil-possessed girl in your movie she’s an excellent casting choice.

But overall, this movie is just boring and a bit of a chore to sit through in parts. It’s not completely unwatchable, but it’s not really worth watching. John Hughes stated that he regretted how this movie turned out, and it’s easy to understand why. Fortunately, his next screenwriting effort was much better (Vacation) and eventually he would write Baby’s Day Out, which some consider to be the finest film ever released to cinemas.

Score: 4 handjobs from your twin sister (out of 10)

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**Over at Hard Ticket To Home Video, they’re running the hilarious “You Dumb Kids” in which people write about movie misconceptions they had as a kid. You can read my (rather embarrassing) entry HERE. Thanks for letting me join in & embarrass myself, guys! πŸ™‚