Sunday, May 13, 2012

Frankenhooker (1990)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (5.7).
If you see one movie this year, it should be Frankenhooker.
— Bill Murray, fresh off Ghostbusters II
Considering there's a scene with exploding prostitutes, [Frankenhooker is] amazingly gore-free.
TVTropes page

Frankenhooker.  As soon as you hear the name, you already know the premise.  Only two questions remain: how is the plot going to arrive at that scene — don't look at me like that, you know the one I'm talking about — and how amusing will the movie be along the way?  This movie has its faults, but also its charms.  On the minus side: even at 85 minutes the plot is thin and padded, there's this weird out-of-nowhere bit with trepanning to erase moral qualms relieve headaches (a WTF even for a movie built on WTF), and the out-of-nowhere final scene is somewhere between a Twilight Zone twist and a shaggy dog story.  On the plus side: the lead actors deliver appropriately hammy but endearing performances, Louise Lasser pops up out of nowhere to steal a scene, and I had shockingly few problems with this film's portrayal of gender (well, grading on a curve).  Score: solid 3 stars out of 4.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

They Live (1988)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (7.1).

It's hard to overestimate the weak-but-broad cultural reach of John Carpenter's sci-fi horror/satire about aliens enslaving humans with consumerist subliminal propaganda.  The film is pretty shallow: it's about class strife in the era of Wall Street and Reaganomics, essentially a story about a violent hero getting involved in a Marxist uprising by the oppressed proletariat overthrowing a ruling class of alien conquerors disguised as the human bourgeoisie.  The shallowness makes it accessible, which is the very reason its imagery has been appropriated far and wide, particularly in culture-jamming art and anti-consumerism but also in more surprising places.  Anyway, regarding the film as a film, I feel this is a surprisingly weak Carpenter entry for its era; it followed both The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China, both of which were great movies that bespoke a growing talent.  Some of the problem is budget: this film was made on $3 million and it shows.  Sadly, I think some of it is writing as well; there's a reason Carpenter is better known as a director than as a screenwriter.  That said, a "surprisingly weak Carpenter entry" is nothing to sneeze at, supposing it's not Dark Star.  Score: 3 stars out of 4 (includes one bonus star for cultural significance).

Aside: I find it frankly rather concerning that the film is so eager to depersonalize the real-world upper class fictional aliens to the point that kill-on-sight is the correct response.  You can't change the world by decrying your opponents as evil commie mutant traitors and calling for their heads.  You, your allies, and your opponents are all humans (or, in this case, movie aliens with suspiciously human-like drives and emotions), which means your minds are all made of the same inner workings: you and your allies are just as corruptible as your opponents, therefore violent overthrow grants a temporary reprieve at best (viz. Tsarists, Bolsheviks, Stalin).  I won't delve any deeper into that, as it's an essay or two by itself.

Repo Man (1984)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (6.8).

I'm really not sure what to make of this comedy.  On one hand, it has some great dialogue moments ("[scared] Let's go do those crimes", "[stunned] Yeah... let's go get sushi, and not pay" -- the famous one about tense situations was ruined for me by excessive quoting).  On the other hand, this movie is a rising crescendo of nonsensical surrealism with religious and sci-fi elements that never makes a coherent point or even attempts to justify its own existence.  It sort of fingerpaints a satire of LA in the 80s, but it seems too lazy to actually target anything in particular, except to take some friendly jabs at punk rock culture.  I suspect the movie is a continuous in-joke about stuff I'm missing.  Score: 2 stars out of 4, although Your Mileage May Vary if you're in on the in-joke.