This is something I started on my old short-lived Netflix Fiend blog awhile back — quick reviews of a few flicks. Since we’re struggling to get back up to speed on Cheese Magnet, I figured I’d revive the concept here, and post my original columns to start things off.
Survival Quest — Director Don Coscarelli (Bubba Ho-Tep) followed up Phantasm II with this previously tough-to-find little movie. A group of adventure-seekers head into the woods (courtesy of bush pilot Reggie Bannister), where Lance Henriksen takes them on the titular quest, teaching them life lessons along with how to eat pine cones and dirt. Meanwhile, a group of survivalists are on a collision course with our heroes, resulting in bloodshed and a test of their survival skills they never conceived of. Survival Quest is a very entertaining flick, featuring a likeable cast that includes youngsters Catherine Keener (Being John Malkovich), Dermot Mulroney, and Paul Provenza. While Coscarelli is mostly known as a horror director, he’s worked in a variety of genres and his movies all share a sweet-natured approach even to the most horrific material. This one is definitely worth seeing, as is Coscarelli’s excellent kids’ movie, Kenny and Co. — which, made shortly before Phantasm, is almost a dry-run for that movie, although it’s certainly not a horror flick by any stretch of the imagination. Apes: *** Bourbon: ***
Confessions of a Superhero — This documentary about the folks who dress up in costumes and pose for photos with tourists outside the Chinese Theater in Hollywood is just the right kind of depressing. Focusing on Christopher Dennis (Superman), Maxwell Allen (Batman), Jennifer Wenger (Wonder Woman), and Joseph McQueen (the Hulk), Confessions skates along my favorite part of Hollywood — the seedier underbelly, inhabited by the people I know best: the men and women who cling to the dream of cinema success even when it seems completely impossible to reach. It’s hard not to root for these guys even when they’re at their craziest, and believe me, there’s plenty of crazy on display here. I think my favorite moment is after Maxwell Allen talks about his incredible martial arts skills, then we see him in a class fumbling wildly to keep up with everyone. And one valuable lesson learned: do not stiff Batman on the tip. Apes: **** Bourbon: **
South of Heaven, West of Hell — I don’t know what possessed the person who greenlit writer/director/star Dwight Yoakum’s whacked-out western, but I’m sure as hell glad it happened. I loved Yoakum in Billy Bob Thornton’s Sling Blade and enjoyed his cartoonish performance in Crank, and now that I’ve seen his one-and-only directorial effort, I wish someone would let him step behind the camera again. Yoakum plays Valentine Casey, the Sheriff of a small, quiet Arizona town, whose life goes to hell when his shady past — in the form of his foster family of over-the-top outlaws — arrives, shooting the place up. Eventually Casey and his sidekick U.S. Christmas (a cowpoke in a skirt) are forced to confront the family and Casey’s mysterious background. The movie seems to have garnered almost universally bad reviews, but I never listen to those assholes anyway. Sure, the flick is a little clunky overall, but it delivers a ton of oddball moments, ranging from the goofily sweet to the brutally violent. And how can you pass up a cast that includes Luke Askew, Bo Hopkins, Peter Fonda, Bridget Fonda, Bud Cort, Joe Unger (a grizzled actor who should be a freakin’ star), Vince Vaughn, Billy Bob Thornton, Eastwood regular Matt Clark, Warren Zevon, and Paul Reubens (a.k.a. Pee-Wee Herman — as a vicious outlaw!)? I’m gonna buck the trend here and recommend the heck out of this one. Apes: **** Bourbon: *****
For more funky movie reviews, check out my book Unsafe On Any Screen: