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Movies N-P

Per un pugno di dollari (1964) aka Fistful of Dollars, Play it to the Bone (1999) , Python (2000)

more reviews to follow....

Play It to the Bone (1999)

Almost ruined my day

I'm not going to mince words on this one. This Godawful movie made me not wish for my rental fee back as much as the 100 minutes of my life I had wasted watching it back.

I rented it because the set-up sounded kind of interesting and--OK, I'm lying, I rented it because of Antonio Banderas . Woody Harrelson can also pretty sexy (though not as easy on the eyes). I also like Lolita Davidovich. And movies set in Vegas.

I remember a lot of buzz around the time the film opened about how Davidovitch only got the role because she was involved with the director, which makes me mad. The part was well-written (the only female in the movie who wasn't a stereotype)-she plays a sexy, gutsy, tough, intelligent lady who knows she is in charge and knows what she wants. She (OK, and getting to watch Banderas) was the only reason I didn't just rewind this movie halfway through and return it without even watching the rest. What happens to her in one of the final scenes of the movie is so depressing and infuriating that it ruined any enjoyment I had gotten out of watching her character kick butt and take charge during the entire movie.

The only other main female character, played by Lucy Liu, is only there for...well, I don't know what she was in ther for, now that I think of it, except maybe the filmmakers worried that since Davidovich was over 30 so she wouldn't hold the male audience's attention (wrong, by the way). You know the Norm McDonald movie "Dirty Work"? Well, I swear to God that Liu's character and the character in Dirty Work billed as the Saigon whore who bites off Chris Farley's nose are interchangeable. Asain women were probably not especially overjoyed seeing the stereotype of the loudmouthed, sleazy, bitchy dragon lady yet again, especially by such a generally well-respected (well, until "Charlie's Angels" comes out) actress.

Also, was there even a screenwriter for this film, or did they improvise most of it as they went along? The end fight scenes are well-filmed and hold your attention (except when characters start having bizarre halluciations that have no bearing whatsoever on the character or plot and seem to have just been added to toss in a little T&A...I notice Jimmy Woods and Drew Carey make cameos as themselves, so maybe the filmmakers tossed the nude shots in as a little perk for them).

After awhile, though, I couldn't stand watching the two good-looking actors beat each other bloody in graphic detail (even though Harrelson's nose already looks like it is pressed against a window...sorry Woody). The acting is good, but couldn't save this terrible movie. It didn't entertain me, which is all I really look for in a movie (though I woke up a little seeing Banderas and Harrelson in a full-body shower room scene, but it was too late).

This also has the dubious distinction in my book of being the only movie I've seen set in Las Vegas that made me NOT want to hop on a plane and rush down to Sin City.

"Play it to the Bone" is one of the few movies where I was in a perfectly fine mood when I started watching it, but after it was over, I was crabby and gloomy.

Grade: F+

Python (2000)

Completely atrocious

This movie was absolutely uncalled for. For maybe the first 5 minutes of this thing-until they got to the "se7en" ripoff credit sequence (by now, when you see a movie with this type of credit sequence, that's a sign right there that there's a 99% chance that the movie is going to suck), which is intercut inexplicably with shots of a guy mountain biking-I thought it might qualify as a guilty pleasure. Then by the tiime Jenny McCarthy showed up, I realized it was just really, really bad.

I saw this less than 24 hours ago but my mind is already blocking most of it out. I think I rented this because I was looking for something dumb and lightweight. Well I got those two, I just forgot that it should be dumb, lightweight, but also entertaining. I haven't looked at the credits too closely, but the movie is so wildly uneven it looks like about 10 different directors and editors slapped it together, none of them ever co-ordinating at all with the other, and that half of them were just maybe random people-no, grade schoolers- whom they stopped on the street and handed a movie camera and asked them if they felt like taking over for a couple days, and the other half went out and spent all their paycheck on drugs. Actually I think it was both, the 10 different directors spent all their money on drugs, then handed the camera to some random kid on the street, a different one every day, because they were too stoned to talk or stand up.

A bad CGI python terrorizes a small town. that's about it on the plot. Not that this would be a problem, if the movie were decent. Anaconda had a pretty simple plot, and I liked it-it was trashy but at least fun. Casper Van Dien and Robert Englund (who I thought would have made enough money now to retire, but he must have either lost it all, has a bad agent, is kind of bored, or just just doing this as a favor to someone to try to be nice) play two scientists or snake experts or something like that who both spend all their screen time trying to upstage one another. Van Dien has a halfass mustache, which I think was supposed to make him look older or smarter, but it just looks bad. The CGI python doesn't seem very interested in eating people, either, just mangling them , chasing them around, or spitting venom on them. I guess it wasn't very hungry (though it does eat a shower curtain at one point) or just cranky. Needless to say, I was on the snake's side and wanted it to kill all of the characters. The only positive thing I can think of to say is at least this movie didn't try to pretend to be anything other than it was, and had a couple slightly amusing parts-well, maybe one. I think.

The scenes with Jenny McCarthy made me realize why she doesn't get much acting work. They made her look so terrible I thought it was just another actress that looked like her, until she really started mugging it up. I still wasn't positive till I saw the credits. Her and this heinous actor who play a real estate salesman ham it up and overact so stupendously and inexcuseably in their scenes that it was way past the point of being as amusing as they thought they were.

The dialogue is pretty terrible, and has the kind of insulting over-explaining the obvious, such as Van Dien picking up a giant shed piece of snakeskin with a stick and then muttering, 'It shed its skin." We would have got that without the explanation, but thank you. Half of it seemed adlibbed. Did this movie even HAVE a screenwriter, in fact? The bottom line is that the constant patting-themselves-on-the-back smugness of "hey, look how funny and noncomformist and wild we think we're being!'" that the film oozes gets old within minutes and ruins any sort of fun or enjoyment you might have while sitting through it.

They must have blown their whole budget on Englund and McCarthy, because as I said, the effects were terrible. The CGI itself was acceptable in parts, but then it would be really badly superimposed on what what obviously just the actors being filmed pretending to see and react to a something that would be added later. The lighting didn't even match. It looked like the snake was rearing up in front of a movie screen that needed cleaning.

Anyway, this was just terrible and stupid in a bad way. I actually felt sorry for most of the actors. Even Caspar Van Dien looks embarassed, for God's sake. If you want a guilty pleasure, you can do soooo much better. Try Wild Things, Nowhere, an episode of Melrose Place, or Lake Placid. Caling this movie a guilty pleasure gives other genuine guilty pleasures a bad name.

Grade: D-

Per un pugno di dollari aka Fistful of Dollars (1964)

Get three coffins mistake, four coffins.

We rented this because the trailer was so impressive (see dialogue above). Before watching it, I read a short review that said it was "the epitome of spaghetti westerns." Man, I just love that term and the ring it has to it: Spaghetti Western.

I will admit, right off the bat, a couple of things. First, I've only seen maybe half a dozen of the classic ones. Second, that I kind of have trouble following the exact plot of most SW's (though this could also be due to the fact that, when a character is explaining crucial plot points, they have such a thick accent and talk so fast that I have to hit rewind--this probably has something to do with the dialogue dubbing). Also, Clint Eastwood never has too much dialogue, and he's usually one of the few who isn't dubbed and and is actually clearly understandable.

However, as far as the plot points go, you get the idea. CE plays the proverbial Stranger in Town, who Has a Score to Settle. He gets called "Gringo" a lot. This is not the kind of guy who comes to town just kinda to kick back and relax, or hang out because he's on vacation. He doesn't take kindly to characters who shoot an unarmed man (especialy in the back), or kill an innocent -especially a child, because he seems to have a soft spot somewhere in that hardened soul of his for kids--and his creed usually makes the wrong people, aka the Bad Guys mad. The aforementioned wrong people usually being a corrupt authority figure such as a sheriff, or the kind of Lowdown Dirty Gang that would kill a baby or a woman for money/gold, or just for kicks

You either like this kind of movie or you don't. No middle of the road. It is , however, possible to develop a taste for this kind of movie-I can say this because it happened to me. Maybe it was just that I developed that taste for it like you do for red wine, or maybe just that one realizes that you really enjoy a killer opening scene, the cool credits with the Morricone score, or hearing dialogue like, "Kill them like dogs!" or "Bring him in alive...I want him alive!".

Maybe I developed a taste for seeing these movies while watching the way there's a build up when the Man With No Name enters (usually by showing a shot of his boots, or his shadow), or someone being shot on a balcony and then crashing through the railing and plummeting a few stories to the dust below, or seeing something (or someone) getting spectacularly blown up or set on fire, or scenes where even though they take place at night, it seems to be 110 degrees-there isn't one character's face that isn't shining or dripping sweat. Maybe I just get a kick out of some charcter saying something along the lines of, "Please don't shoot, OK? I'll give you whate--"BLAMMO! Maybe it's the extras that are missing key teeth and have pitted skin and look like they actually realy are career criminals,. Or, almost best of all, you love moments where a character either jeers at or beats up CE and you think/say, "OK, he's dead" or 'that guy just signed his own death warrant.", and youcan't wait for the moment when the character is riddled with bullets by CE.

Other than the fact that I had slight trouble following the plot (maybe it was so simple that I was reading too much into it), it's hard to find much negative to say about Fistful of Dollars. Some of the dubbing isn't so great- there's a child whose voice doesn't match at all, and is obviously an adult just talking in a whiny annoying voice. I also get the sneaking suspicion that the movie didn't exactly have the ASCPA's seal of approval. One actress in particular had obvious mid-60's eye-makeup that looked pretty dated, though this wasn't necesarily a negative point for me.

This movie didn't have a high budget, but you would never know it from watching it.

I know I'm not exacty a ground-breaker in saying this, but If Clint Eastwood hadn't been born, someone would have had to invent him. I have to give credit where credit is due.He's at the height of his style here. Let's run down some of his features:

-sleeps in the same clothes he wears in the daytime.

-he almost never takes his hat off.

-has a cigarello clamped between his teeth half the time.

-has two facial expression-angry and pissed.

- has almost no change of expression in his face at all when he plugs someone full of lead.

-Women love him, but of course, he's a Ramblin' Guy and can't settle down.

-He could probably look cool riding a unicycle, and never shows fear-he could be tied up, about to be set on fire, and pushed off a cliff and still look mean.

Let's face it-his style as the Man with No Name his often been imitated and emulated, but no-one even comes close to touching him. They don't make 'em like this anymore, and it's too bad. With the execption of Sam Raimi's brilliant and underrated 'The Quick and the Dead (which I saw prior to seeing this movie, and then realized how obvious it the infuence FOD had on Raimi), you don't see movies like this any more.

Movies where someone rides by on a burro with a sign stuck to their back that says "Adios Amigo" , or where characters seem to be wearing Man-tan. As I was saying before, if 'You've Got Mail" or "Forrest Gump" is your kind of movie, this probably isn't for you. But if you want to see the epitome of the Spaghetti Western, you need to see this movie. A note on the DVD- not too much in the way of extras, but the original trailer included ("my mistake, four coffins") makes up for it. At the end, the trailer says confidently, 'The first movie of it's kind...and it won't be the last." . Thank God for that. Best watched when eating Itiallian food, or drinking tequila, or both of the above.

Grade: A

Ike and Tina Turner- The Best of Musicladen Live (looks to be about 1970)

The Ikettes Have it Goin' ON!

If you're an Ike and Tina (or just a Tina) fan, this is well worth the price. There's lots of stuff that most people would probably think looks "dated" from the late 60's/early 70's, like trippy-looking backgrounds and backscreen effects, but it looks great if you are a fan of that look-really fun to watch. The highlights are probably "Acid Queen" (with Tina wearing a dazzling, eye-popping outfit that proves she has the best body in rock and roll, if not the entire world), "Get Back", "Proud Mary" and a really great version of "Honky Tonk Woman". As always, Tina really cuts loose on stage with a result that makes your jaw drop, but the Ikettes are also espcially impressive, especially during the latter number. Ike Turner claims he designed the whole 'look' of the Ikettes including their micro-mini costumes (if you're wondering how they could dance in them, the ultra-short dresses had little hotpants built in...though I notice all the band members standing behind them all have permanent huge smiles on their faces) and all their dance moves (though they had to have serious talent to pull it off, plus looks that could stop traffic), and if so he deserves credit for it-to watch them dance, perfectly choreographed, with their hair flying everywhere on the beat and moves that would throw even the most healthy people's backs out in about 2 seconds-they are truly a force of nature. You have to see it to believe it! I can't recommend the video enough if you're a fan-and if you aren't, buy it and see what all the fuss is about.

Grade A+ (and that's just for Tina's legs)

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