by Louis Fowler
Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here, on the IndyBlog.
I try to give all genres a fair shake, I really do. From the classiest foreign films to the scummiest indie offerings, I try to cover a wide spectrum of cinema, so it was in the interest of keeping an open mind that I viewed Love and Other Drugs, a diseased pustule of a movie that no pharmaceutical balm will ever relieve. The sans-charisma Jake Gyllenhaal is Jamie, a womanizing rep for Pfizer who hits the big time when Viagra is introduced to an erectionless public. Around this time he meets a pasty, stage-one Parkinson's “free spirit” named Maggie, played by a mostly naked Anne Hathaway. The two meet, have some sex, cry, fight, have some sex, eat Chinese food, have sex and have sex. In that order. It's the most inane courtship ever captured on celluloid, made excruciatingly unbearable by the leads. The credits won't even have rolled by the time you're looking for powerful narcotics to make it through. Be strong!
Life in a women’s prison can be hell. But don’t take my word for it. Sugar State Women’s Prison Warden Buckner fills us all in quite nicely (and über-campy) when she tells a new inmate, Valerie March, that “life in this compound can be pretty damn hard unless you have friends — I'm talking about beatings, gang rape, dysentery.” March is an award-winning investigative reporter, posing as a hooker to uncover all the corruption and dirty doings in the low-down Florida prison. Director Cody Jarrett’s ’70s Women-in-Prison exploitation tribute Sugar Boxx, is a rollicking, massively fun, dead-on throwback to classics like The Big Bird Cage and Black Mama White Mama. Jarrett doesn’t miss a beat, cashing in on every lovable WiP cliché: the Sapphic catfights that are erotically violent, the Soul Sister anti-Whitey sentiment, the sweaty Southern pig cops, and, best of all, machete-laden revenge finale. As far as these neo-Grindhouse movies go, Sugar Boxx is totally worth a night in the hole.
I remember director John Waters once talking about how the makers of Mommy Dearest went into production on the movie thinking they were going to make a campy, midnight cult film, complete with ready-made wire-hanger props. It failed, as Waters points out, because the studios don’t make cult films — the audiences do. And that’s what troubles me so much about this current trend of take-home “bad” movies like The Room and, now, Birdemic. There has been a total push to turn Birdemic into the next big cult sensation, but it seems hollow. The movie itself, about a young couple running from birds that have turned on man, is spectacularly bad, from the overly cheesy special effects to the nonstop audio drop-outs. It elicits a chuckle, sure, but the spirit of the movie rings hollow: There is no way director James Nguyen released this except as a joke, and when the makers are in on the joke, it just ain’t funny any longer.