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.
Swollen-lipped Brit-actress Gemma Arterton is the latest ingénue that Hollywood is trying to shove down our collective post-Megan Fox throats, starring recently in the hits Quantum of Solace, Clash of the Titans and Prince of Persia. Given that illustrious filmography, she probably won't be around much longer, which only makes The Disappearance of Alice Creed an infuriating movie to watch. Don't get me wrong: This is the skeleton of a great movie, a scuzzy British kidnapping caper filled with unexpected tri-sexual twists and turns. But, Arterton, as the kidnappee, doesn't have the dramatic chops to play anything more convincing that the requisite sex object in the aforementioned blockbusters, and watching her desperately try to emote here is like being in the middle of a cruel joke on the poor girl. And that's one joke I don't want to be in on.
Having not seen it in over 20 years, I completely forgot how fun and charming and good-natured Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is. I was smiling the whole way through — it's just a happy movie that freely flows from one scene to another, filled with imagination that never seems like the product of a toy company marketing committee, the way so many kiddie flicks do today. When you look at the pedigree behind Chitty, it's easy to see why it's become a true classic: starring Dick Van Dyke and Benny Hill, a screenplay written by Roald Dahl based on the novel by Ian Fleming and featuring music and songs from Richard and Robert Sherman, the amount of talent here is an unfathomable dream-team of creativity that was determined to make films guaranteed to stand the test of time, to be passed on as a cinematic family heirloom for years to come. Turn the key and take Chitty Chitty Bang Bang out for a spin.
As much as I despise the now-cliched dysfunctional family Christmas comedy that seems to have proliferated in the past decade, Coopers' Christmas really separates itself from the pack by maintaining a really funny, very lewd old-school 1970s National Lampoon-vibe that bests even the Chevy Chase classic Christmas Vacation that officially held that banner. On Christmas, in 1985, suburban dad Gord surprises his family with a “barely used” VHS Camcorder, with the youngest Cooper kid filming all the hilarious goings-on as dad gets drunk on scotch, the sullen older brother trying to kill himself by drinking floor-cleaner and watching as mom is seduced by a sleazy uncle. Starring The Daily Show's Jason Jones and Samantha Bee — whoever they are — Coopers' Christmas is the perfect holiday movie, just make sure you put the kids to bed first.
From Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, the hacks behind Epic Movie, Disaster Movie, Meet the Spartans, etc., comes their latest opus, a failed gag-a-minute parody of the Twilight franchise called, predictably enough, Vampires Suck. Am I being too hard on this already? It's not very good, but it's still better than the bloodsucker-lite romance novels they're based on; then, of course, what isn't? As neurotic every-girl Becca, Jenn Proske does a dead-on brutal impersonation of the affected twitchy histrionics of Kristen Stewart, and there's a rather hilarious “It's Raining Men” joke ... but other than that, this is nothing more than an obvious poverty row quick-buck cash-in on the Twilight phenomenon, taking advantage of Twi-hards who're desperate for any type of pseudo-vampire entertainment, no matter how mentally deficient. Eh...they deserve each other.
The full title of Harpoon is actually Harpoon: The Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre, which is the best movie title of the year, hands down. If only the actual film itself were as good. Billed as the first splatter horror film from Iceland, with a screenplay written by Björk collaborator Sjón, it's an Icelandic take on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with white-neck ex-whalers turning to human meat for their daily sustenance. While the horror part is OK, the real interesting thing about Harpoon is its decidedly unexpected pro-whaling stance, showing how the killing of the industry has left not only people unemployed, but turned Iceland into nothing more than another tourist spot. There's also quite a few jabs at Greenpeace libs, which is actually hilarious. Maybe this would have worked better as a social satire instead of a deadly serious horror movie?