Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Don't Let Anyone Say I Have Taste

Virgin Viewings for the Month of June

TROLL (1986)
directed by: John Carl Buechler
written by: Ed Naha

How odd that the irrelevant sequel to John Carl Buechler's irrelevant movie Troll has far surpassed it -- even with its lack of trolls or anything resembling a good movie. And yet I would never argue against that film's success. It's still in theatrical release due to a rabid cult following singing its praise and insurmountable weakness. Accordingly I have much love for its high-octane story of an innocent family exchange program and the anti-vegetarian hotbed of Nilbog (that's Goblin spelled backwards for you respectable types, or those of you living under a bridge). But it should come as no surprise that this, its predecessor, is in name only. Troll 2's chlorophyll buffets and triumph-by-bologna brilliance is in no way tied to this story of an apartment complex run afoul by witches, wizards and woodland trolls. The only thing in common is the sensation of being on bad shrooms -- of which this one has cast in a supporting role.

A little girl crosses paths with a troll in the laundry room of her family's new apartment building. Possessing her body with the aid of a mystical ring, the trolls infiltrate the complex and wage war to win back their magical realm. Along for the fantasy is Julia Louis Dreyfus as a an actress turned forest nymph, and Sonny Bono as a player turned... some cheap makeup effect.

Director Buechler (Friday the 13th, Part VII: The New Blood) creates an inoffensive fantasy filled with practical (and practically all unappealing) visual effects. It's charming in the way of many mid-80's films of its ilk -- an all nonsense romp that aims to be childlike and excessive in equal measure. It's like the dollar bin version of Gremlins, whereas Troll 2 would feel more at home in the discount bin of a 98 cent store. Troll will be discovered for years to come with the success of Troll 2, only to leave fans disappointed when they realize that Buechler was far too aware of the film he was trying to make. Even if the best thing it has to offer is Sonny Bono turning to mold, it makes Troll 2 look far worse by comparison. And in the same weird way, infinitely better.

directed and written by: Earl Barton

The smallest class ever goes on a trip across California to see the majestic sights, embrace the native culture, and flee rapist bikers in the exploitation flick Trip with the Teacher. If you've done your homework, there's not much here you haven't seen in the grindhouse cannon, but the same pleasures and disgust to be found here as in flicks like I Spit On Your Grave. Throw caution to the wind (as well as your knowledge of pace and editing) and hop on the bus!

Four schoolgirls tag along with their teacher, with a course load consisting largely of the finding out who's the bigger slut. Along for the ride is (short)bus driver Martin, and two maniacal bikers with a need for speed and sex with minors. It's a fun afternoon of waving from the bus (and murdering gas station attendants) before the bus breaks down and our pretty pupils are left to rely on the help of the devious duo, Pete and Al -- as well as another stray biker who unwittingly joins the fold. The doom-struck stars have aligned... or is that alined?

A brief lesson in spelling?

Marvin the bus driver is also struck -- unfortunately it's by a motorcycle at top speed. To cover their tracks, Pete and Al turn the road trip into a crash course on torture and sexual degradation. The teacher Miss Tenney uses her mental strength to try and free the girls, while the students have their own unique approach. The primary slut's gung-ho method is to fuck the psychopaths into leaving her alone, while the more chaste students decide just to make a run for it. Miss Tenney unintentionally gives her girls a rounded education, but who'll live long enough to graduate?

If you can bear all the rape and interminably lengthy shots, Trip with the Teacher is an amusing detour. The delight is in the dated, anti-stylistic bumbling, funky music cues, editing flubs and shoddy T&A. The latter of which seems almost too tame given the exploitative aim of the "script." Even if it's about schoolgirls, this film has anything but class. It's nasty to be sure, but then it doesn't always rub your face in it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Town That Dreaded Retro Posters!

(Road Games)

"Animal... Vegetable... Or MURDER?"

Oh, it's just Jamie Lee Curtis fashionably impeding traffic.

(The Alternative)

"As sensitive as it is provocative..."

Let's hope there's an alternative for
these porcelain doll fetishists and
the world's last remaining collectible figurine.


"Killing is his passion,
Money is his motive."

Exposing himself to sunsets is just his hobby.

(The Ladies Club)

"The rapists who attack these women are
about to have their lives permanently altered."

Official Ladies Club Meeting:
When: After midnight (vengeance permitting)
Where: A dark alley
BYO: Side dish and castration device (to share)

(The Jesus Trip)

"Waco's bunch rode hard and fast to meet their fate...
and Sister Anna rode with them!"

There's nothing easy about this easy rider!
She's headed for heaven like hell on wheels!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Rich People Spoiling Themselves... and the City

Samantha makes a "Lawrence of My Labia" joke. Check.

As Carrie and Big sit at home, snuggling close to watch black and white classics like It Happened One Night, I'm reminded of the fact that 80 years from now I'll be longing for the same simple delights: a film where the subtlety of an exposed leg during a cross-country fling exuded all the sexuality and cinematic sparkle lacking when a character fellates a hookah, and riding a camel becomes obvious punning of someone's camel toe.

A film like Sex and the City 2 shouldn't be treated with the scathing reviews it's getting perhaps (such as the one you're currently reading), when it so aggressively thrusts its superfluous extremes in our faces. We're told by the marketing that this franchise is merely an excuse for women to get together and hang with their cinematic girlfriends. Go shopping without leaving the theatre, cruise men too hot to meet in public, and relish in the daily drama. We're supposed to relate to this fabulous foursome, but it's really hard to emotionally connect with a piece of clothing. Fun to look at, good for a night out, but so easy to hang back in our closet and forget about. And I've absolutely no desire to wear it a second time.

We are living in a material world and she is a material girl.

Our dire economic woes are a narrative excuse for these characters to splurge and spend innocuous amounts of money in other countries. So why is this massively popular, escapist entertainment acknowledging the strife of the American people, all the while making excessive consumerism its central draw. Does a third world country need to go broke so I can see cute handbags on a thirty foot screen? The fifteen dollar ticket price seems to coincide. I'm bitter and penniless as I watch these women spend their annoyingly endless incomes with reckless abandon. They buy thousands of dollars worth of cute, over-dramatized dresses to ride camels across the Abu Dhabi desert. Who are these women trying so desperately to impress? More importantly, why is anyone impressed?

Any vulgarity comes less from the stale innuendos than it does from the lack of awareness in these characters. Where once this series had massive heart, wit and style, there's a giant cardboard landscape tacked with glitter. As the celeb cameos come fast and furious, the fantastical flights of fancy a constant, it exposes the hollow core of these films. Such a great ensemble, admittedly opulent design, once sharp and savvy writing (Michael Patrick King needs a comeback Valerie Cherish style) has been traded for lavish consumerism and a shred of plot here and there. This isn't so much a movie as a gaudy catalogue of things you don't need and can't afford. For a film that's purely light fluff, it's as bulky and awkward as one of Carrie's eye-searing hats.

Robin Leach recommends scaling it back.

I'd be sold on the spectacle if it were tied to some emotional restraint. Simply put: Stop shrieking, Charlotte! Your child won't stop screaming with good reason: it's genetic. Stop overcompensating, Samantha! If you're a strong, sexy, independent woman who can have any man she wants, you probably don't need to deep throat whatever's in your vicinity to snag a man who already bought you dinner. Stop being a know-it-all, Miranda! Just because you quit your job doesn't mean you're now a Wikipedia entry on fucking everything. As for Carrie, she pretty much stays true to her character. Falling into old patterns of deceit, fear of being boring (if she only knew), and running from relationships right at the point when real feelings start to translate.

Even the admirable attempts at female empowerment are consistently undermined by the fixation on finding ways to show off their tits in designer gowns in a country that views it with disrespect. No self-respecting American woman would argue the limitations of a country that forces women to eat french fries from behind a veil, but it's a hideous thought that behind these burkas are the same vain, materialistic women and Dior labels. Please ask your Muslim girlfriend if she's a Carrie, a Miranda, a Charlotte or a Samantha. A love for excess and fashion shouldn't be on par with having a voice, and when it comes to Carrie's neurotic prattling and Charlotte's judgmental breakdowns, there are times when a vow of silence should be honored. The vitriolic New Yorker reviews in the film are about the only shred of self-awareness offered up.

So what to take from the overpriced popcorn drama that is Sex and the City 2? What once was seminal series about strong women and stronger cocktails is now just another manufactured label. And all women, as this movie will tell you, are obsessed with labels. A certain level of excess was always part of the series, but I always sensed the creators were more invested in emotions than in promoting the new iPhone. Until these women officially become The Golden Girls they were inspired by -- trading in their platforms for polyester -- we can expect more generic tourist pamphlets for the mega rich. What's left then? The men, ironically. Gorgeous bodies, winning smiles, and a whole lot of subtle sex appeal (Samantha's new Danish man, Max Ryan, is worth her incessant raving about hot flashes). As just another of the film's superfluous visual delights, at least they're not hidden by labels. Or clothing for that matter.