Monday, April 07, 2008

They don't make 'em like they used to

As Lucy mentioned on her blog, I was sick as a dog with a brief recurrence of the flu on Saturday. I came home early from work, snuggled up under my blankie on the couch, turned on the Bette Davis marathon on TCM, and crashed. I felt less ill but completely wiped by bedtime, and I got a decent night's sleep, thanks to my old pal NyQuil. Being sick Saturday meant I didn't get to see Stop Loss with Lucy, but I felt loads better when I woke up Sunday morning and decided to take in not one, not two, but three movies. I am nothing if not ambitious.

The first of the three was the new release, The Ruins. I mentioned a few days ago that I read and enjoyed the book. The movie was an altogether different experience, in large part because bizarre and not entirely understandable liberties had been taken with the source material. For instance (I'm about to give spoilers here, so jump down a paragraph or two if that sort of thing bothers you; however, it will soon become clear that I am not in any way recommending this particular movie, so maybe you won't care), the filmmakers obviously thought there was one character too many, so they killed off the one they'd pegged as extraneous right near the beginning. Not a big deal under some circumstances, but in this case the character (we'll call him Pablo) had a lot to do before he died in the book. Thus, Pablo's storyline was given to a character named, oh, let's say, Mathias; sadly, Mathias' storyline and his fairly interesting character traits were more or less jettisoned. Then, because Mathias and Pablo weren't around to do the things they did in the book's version of events, some of their actions had to be shifted to other characters. It might not have bothered me so much if I hadn't read the book, but it really screwed with my expectations that Stacy had to play out Eric's storyline, and Eric died Mathias' death, and Amy survived instead of being choked to death by a killer plant. Yes, you read that right: an ancient, sentient vine is the monster in this movie. Rather than looking like a cheesy CG effect, it looks like a cheesy refugee from Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room. A living, thinking plant seemed eerie in the novel, but seeing the thing on screen made me think that some set designer found a slew of plastic vines on sale and picked them up for a song. Oh, by the way: the still I chose from the movie? Not in the finished picture.

I had to turn to the distant past to find any moviegoing satisfaction last night. Norman and I caught the "Tough Broads" double feature at the Egyptian's 10th annual noir film festival, and boy, did we pick a doozy of a night. First up was a completely unknown-to-me flick called Wicked Woman. The star of this cinematic treasure was Beverly Michaels, a gorgeous, 6-foot, 1-inch tall platinum blonde with not much acting ability but attitude to spare. Her character rolls into town on a bus, finds a room in a cheap boardinghouse, immediately figures out how to manipulate the runty, smitten bachelor across the hall, and soon thereafter lands a waitressing job in a local bar, where she takes up with the married bartender. Illicit sex, public drunkenness, a kitchen fire, and a violent, knock-down fight just add to the fun. It's all deliriously, deliciously seedy, and the male faction of the Egyptian's audience (about 90% of the folks there) enjoyed it especially, with lots of hoots and loud laughter. No one, however, enjoyed himself more than Norman, who seemed to be in thrall to the movie -- or, more precisely, to Beverly Michaels. Seriously, he seemed almost beside himself with giddy joy. I have never heard a man giggle with such rapture. Wicked Woman sported an over-the-top theme song by the same title, and I'm positive Norman has spent every free moment he's had today scouring the internet for a version to download.

Wicked Woman was followed by the entertaining but pale-in-comparison Story of Molly X, which billed itself as a women behind bars movie but was really a paean to prisoner re-education. Whatever. The whole set-up took far too long and the behind-bars portion was a little too pretty to sit easily with me. The movie does sport the fabulous lead actress June Havoc, however, who looks like she could beat up any gal (or guy, for that matter) who tries to give her trouble. For me, the biggest laugh occurred when June and a criminal cohort are caught in a seedy apartment as they try to escape through a window. "If you're not hiding anything, why were you trying to sneak down the fire escape?" demands the arresting officer.

"We're eccentric!" barks June.

Take a look at the Egyptian's lineup of noir for the next couple of weeks. I'm still trying to figure out exactly which other double features to see, but I'll definitely be attending the Edward G. Robinson double feature on the 18th -- maybe I'll see you there.

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