A Moment of Insight: Money Talks

moneytalks

As a person who watched Money Talks in the year 2014, I can safely say that no one has watched this entire movie. I had definitely only ever seen maybe fifteen minutes in the middle. I figured it for a hilarious biracial buddy movie in the vein of Rush Hour, only with less martial arts and comedically dicey ethnic misunderstandings and a lot of Charlie Sheen pretending to act. There’s so much more murder than you would expect, though, and everything happens so quickly that you never actually understand why everyone’s so upset. Chris Tucker breaks out of jail and nabs some diamonds from an ambiguously European convict, and somehow only disgraced reporter Charlie Sheen can help him? It’s as if someone tried to stuff a bunch of sort-of jokes into The Fugitive. Charlie Sheen, of course, is both the one-armed man and Tommy Lee Jones in that scenario. Chris Tucker should work on something with Harrison Ford. I would like to see Chris Tucker cast in every movie in some capacity. What I’m trying to say is, a whole lot of people get shot or blown up in Money Talks and I can’t believe it but the reason is “diamonds.”

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My Demon Lover

MDL cover

My Demon Lover / 1987
85 minutes
Dir.: Charlie Loventhal
Starring: Scott Valentine, Michele Little, Arnold Johnson

Movies that cram in as many genres as possible are the best. What could be more special than a movie that wants to cover so much ground? And what could be more fascinating than watching that fail? Enter My Demon Lover, a romantic comedy with an OUTRAGEOUS twist: its main character Kaz (the attractive male lead played by attractive male human Scott Valentine) is secretly a hideous monster. Even TWISTIER? His grotesque features only show themselves when he is sexually aroused. But he still believes in LOVE, goddammit, and he’s seeking it out the only way he knows how: groping women on the street.

My Demon Lover is a massive failure, but not because of the wild concept – this is obviously a great idea for a movie. It’s the execution. There’s a fun way to do the classic “man-turns-into-ugly-beast-when-horny” trope and there’s My Demon Lover’s way, which makes Kaz out to be a sexual deviant and serial killer for half its runtime. The movie could be amusing and cute; instead the inconceivably vulnerable Denny (the attractive female lead played by attractive female human Michele Little) always appears so desperate that it comes off unsettling and cruel.

The film opens with Denny’s boyfriend Chip dumping her via burglary, leaving her with nothing but garbage and a tin of tuna (but no can opener – HA!). “I could’ve made it work…I can make anything work,” she says to her man-eater Sassy Hispanic Friend, who probably has a name, but whatever. From the opening montage, you can tell this movie is meant to be A Real New York-style Rom-Com! – cute, with a little bit of artistic edge, but super cute – but Denny’s weakness and submissiveness is more suited to a Lifetime Original Movie about a chronically abused girlfriend holding on to unrealistic ideals of love who just doesn’t understand that before a person can be happy in relationships, she must be happy…with herself.

So, when Denny chases down Chip’s van shouting, “I think this relationship isn’t working!” it’s not cute, it’s depressing. When she blames herself and makes excuses for Chip, who, she explains, left her because he didn’t want to come to her birthday party, you’re not on her side, and you’ve already thrown your VCR out the window. HEY but look at her kooky outfits!!!

Kooky!!!

Kooky!!!

Cut to Kaz, busking in a subway car, apparently homeless, coated in a fine layer of sexy movie-grime and dressed like a reject from a Hall & Oates-themed Sears catalog photo shoot. He plays the saxophone, perhaps a metaphor for the yearning that drives him, or maybe just a funny instrument for a guy in a surprisingly well-lit New York City subway car to be playing at the beginning of a movie about a gnarly sex monster.

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Dead Heat

Dead-Heat
Dead Heat
/ 1988
84 minutes
Dir.: Mark Goldblatt
Starring: Treat Williams, Joe Piscopo, Lindsay Frost, Darren McGavin, Vincent Price

Scary movies are great because what happens in them doesn’t matter. Even at their worst, when you leave the theatre shaking and every little sound makes you jump and you have nightmares for a week, you’re aware they will fade into memory and nothing in your life will change. This is a strength as much as it’s a weakness. The greatest dramas and comedies put characters in situations that viewers see themselves in and ask people to think about how they would handle them. But horror movies are rated on different scales, like how many people died, how gruesome were the deaths, how insane and/or relentless was the villain. And already everyone knows what to do if you’re approached by Leatherface: run.

Since I’m deeply rooted in reality yet emotionally weak, the scary movies that really get to me have heavy psychological themes. Alien is one of the only films that can still scare me, but not because the aliens still freak me out. (Though I did have a phase during which I was TERRIFIED of extraterrestrial life, UFOs, “The X-Files,” and, by extension, Mitch Pileggi.) It’s Ripley’s loneliness and helplessness that frighten me the most. Recently, I saw The Conjuring. The fact that it’s based on “true events” is meant to get under your skin right off the bat, but it’s not the thought of vengeful spirits and witch-curses that bothers me. No, I just have a general fear of home invasion. You can haunt me or whatever, but don’t barge into my house uninvited, alright?

 *

How does that relate to Dead Heat, a movie about a murdered cop who’s been reanimated and is out to solve the mystery of his own death? Vaguely, at best. It’s primarily comedic, but has all the makings of an old school sci-fi thriller, a screwball buddy comedy, a low-budget action movie, and a makeup-heavy horror flick. Though they’re never frightening, its attempts at horror work, in part because a lot of its jokes really land. If it wasn’t funny, the “scary” parts would stand out for being dumb and jarring, rather than for offering a change of pace.

Most shitty movies are shitty because they have no idea what they want to be, but Dead Heat is totally self-aware. The story is uncomplicated, the two main characters are great together, the effects (by Steve Johnson, a protégé of Rick Baker who worked on An American Werewolf in London and Videodrome, now launching his own company with Dead Heat) are gross and excellent. As the murder is investigated, a strange and elaborate conspiracy headed up by Darren McGavin (The Old Man in A Christmas Story) and Vincent Price is uncovered. If it was any longer than 84 minutes, it would collapse into itself. Thankfully, it’s perfect.

dead heat

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No Secrets

NO SECRETS
No Secrets
/ 1991
92 minutes
Dir: Dezso Magyar
Starring: Adam Coleman Howard, Amy Locane, Heather Fairfield, Traci Lind

Do you remember Adam Coleman Howard? He is and shall forever be best known for his debut role as Joshua Greer, James Remar’s rambunctious murdering manchild sidekick in Quiet Cool. Three years passed before he returned to the big screen in Slaves of New York, a Merchant/Ivory production in which he plays a mustachioed artist and asshole boyfriend/manchild opposite hat designer Bernadette Peters. His next movie was 1990’s Pacific Palisades, in which he most likely plays the same role, but this time with ’80s character actor Anne Curry and future Bond girl Sophie Marceau.

I say “most likely” because there aren’t clips of it online. This is shit you can’t even find on THE INTERNET. The same was true of 1991’s No SecretsNo Secrets is a movie about three sixteen-year-old girls who invite ACH’s enigmatic and buff character, Manny Corea, into their cabin. (I made that spelling up; it might be Correa, Korea, Cuhreeuh, who knows it doesn’t matter.) For the girls, this results in much seduction, mistrust, and personal growth. Viewers, however, may experience feelings varying from deathly boredom to madness.

But unless you have your VCR handy, you won’t be able to see for yourself. This movie never made it off VHS, stamped UNWORTHY OF TRANSFER by RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video and tossed carelessly aside. How many others met the same fate, relics of technology left to rot in someone’s collection until thrown up on Amazon or eBay for a fraction of their true worth? What will be lost in the transition from DVD to Blu-Ray? What gems may never be discovered?

Fortunately, No Secrets is no gem. It’s one of only three movies produced by a long-defunct company called Curb Communications, and was co-produced by a gentleman named John Hardy, in need of a swift cool-down after working on Steven Soderbergh’s breakthrough, Sex, Lies, and Videotape. (Or, he saw the magic of Adam Coleman Howard, and knew he needed to hitch his wagon to that star right quick! Both seem possible.) No Secrets opened just weeks ahead of Madonna: Truth or Dare and Hudson Hawk in summer 1991. “Surely,” one wise producer must’ve surmised, “this taut thriller, the English-language film debut of a Hungarian writer/director about three teenagers and Ann Landers’ grandson will hold its own against a documentary featuring the world’s biggest pop star and that dude from MOONLIGHTING. (Raucous, arrogant laughter.)” Hollywood seems like a magical place. [ACH really is the grandson of Eppie Lederer, writer of “Ask Ann Landers.”]

No Secrets is a stupid, stupid movie. It’s aiming for this eerie River’s Edge-esque sexy thriller/morality tale area, but fails so miserably that as you watch it, you literally feel the time slipping from your life like sand between your fingers. It has no spooky David Lynch-ian allure; it’s not the intense erotic thriller about three girls testing the bonds of friendship it thinks it is; it’s certainly not the dark, complex romance about self-discovery that it has the potential to be. It’s nothing. But this nothingness is not entirely bleak, for there was Adam Coleman Howard, and lo, he was good.

*

The plot of the movie: three longtime girlfriends – they’re all from Brentwood, CA, which is made clear because it shows they’re all well-off and of good familial standing, not that this actually matters – have been drifting apart, but were talked into spending “spring vacation” together at the family cabin of Claire, the dowdiest of the girlfriends. They dress like their personalities, so it’s easy to keep them straight. Red sweater blonde hair Jen is SEXY but INSECURE. Leather jacket and sort-of-dreadlocks Sam is CONFIDENT and COOL but also INSECURE. Khaki-to-the-bone Claire is REALLY DOWDY. And Adam Coleman Howard is Manny, the wildcard stranger who had been squatting in the cabin. He evades detection and fakes a bicycle accident out front, so the girls foolishly invite him in and allow him to stay. “I’ll show you a week you’ll never forget,” he promises, of course. One by one, they all fall for him, then reject his mysterious wiles, and I guess probably learn something meaningful. Despite some close calls, no virginities are lost.

No virginities were harmed in the making of this film.

No virginities were harmed in the making of this film.

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A Moment of Insight: Wayne’s World

What else was going to happen in Crucial Taunt’s music video? I’m sure Benjamin, as the director for some reason, had a lengthy and elaborate shoot planned. I’m seeing more misty shots of the band playing, some redemption for the sleeping snake, a brief arc in which we think a wild animal is chasing the band but it turns out to just be more “rocker” types looking to have a jungle-party, exotic women in bikinis playing with exotic birds, and so many waterfalls. And that’s all in addition to the generous amount of wailing and boob-related footage that they’d already shot. All told, it was probably going to be a pretty expensive undertaking. To hazard a guess, probably $5,000,000? Wayne really screwed things up for Benjamin here*.

*Depending on which of Wayne’s realities you believe we live in.

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A Moment of Insight: Jim Carrey


Civilizations of the future will look back on the career of Jim Carrey, and they will think, “What the fuck is going on here?” Then, subsequently, “Never since has there been a greater master of the physical comedies.”

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A Moment of Insight: The Mask

Movies don’t pump out the catchphrases like they used to, and that’s a goddamn shame. The Mask is a shining example of this practice perhaps just years, if not mere hours, before it entered its death throes. Example:

SMOKING.
SOMEBODY, STOP ME.
THAT IS A SPICY MEAT-BALL.
IT IS PARTY TIME.

Classics, all of them. I wonder if it was hard to write a script in which one character must speak entirely in punchlines. Luckily, the premise resonates with anybody who has ever held a mask in his hands and felt immediately compelled to press it to his face.

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