Where not to go for coffee in Manhattan: M. Rohrs’ House of Fine Teas & Coffees

M. Rohrs' House of Fine Teas & Coffees

 

M. Rohrs’ House of Fine Teas & Cof­fees has a com­plete and utter con­tempt of their pay­ing cus­tomers, and has lost my busi­ness, for­ever. Yes­ter­day after­noon, they kicked out myself and every other sin­gle cus­tomer, cit­ing a new pol­icy that accused us all of “loi­ter­ing.” I am not mak­ing this up.

M. Rohrs is one of the last remain­ing cof­fee houses on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. As oth­ers have noted on Yelp, they rou­tinely invent new poli­cies, such as chang­ing the terms of cus­tomer loy­alty cards (in fact, I think they sim­ply rescinded them alto­gether at one point). Until the very recent past, any cus­tomers that wished to sit down after 7PM must have ordered at least $10 from the menu. That pol­icy was not entirely unrea­son­able, but it was unfea­si­ble. M. Rohrs is not a restau­rant, and it is actu­ally dif­fi­cult to spend more than $10 at a cof­fee house. But as of yes­ter­day at least, that require­ment has now expanded to all hours, every day. It’s also worth not­ing that the new pol­icy did not seem to spec­ify a dol­lar amount, so I sup­pose they can arbi­trar­ily eject any­body they deem to have spent too little.

Here’s what hap­pened yes­ter­day after­noon at about 4-5PM: I bought a cof­fee and muf­fin, tipped, and sat down. About 10 min­utes later, the vol­ume of the music sud­denly got VERY LOUD (painfully, dis­tract­ingly so) for no appar­ent rea­son. Then one of their employ­ees vis­ited every cus­tomer in turn and pre­sented us with a long-worded sign explain­ing their new seat­ing pol­icy, which used the word “loi­ter” sev­eral times. I don’t think this employee speaks Eng­lish as a first lan­guage, so there was no oppor­tu­nity to dis­cuss it with him, even if the music had not been deaf­en­ing. He was not apolo­getic. Every sin­gle cus­tomer in the store at that time had only pur­chased cof­fee and pas­tries, so we all had to leave. There were only about a half-dozen cus­tomers at the time, so the man­age­ment can’t claim that we were hog­ging seats from hypo­thet­i­cal meal-eating cus­tomers (of which there were none). If the new pol­icy had been posted up front when I placed my order, I did not see it.

I used to like to go to M. Rohrs occa­sion­ally, some­times for a sand­wich or some­times just cof­fee. I would usu­ally sit and work or just read for about an hour or two, which I don’t think is unrea­son­able at any cof­fee shop, Star­bucks not excluded. All the other neg­a­tive com­ments on Yelp are true; the ser­vice is often rude and neglect­ful (I once had them com­pletely for­get to make my sand­wich — but at least they apol­o­gized), and they charge for wire­less access and for elec­tric­ity. Worse is their atti­tude; it would be one thing to sim­ply charge peo­ple to plug in their lap­tops, but the signs plas­tered about the place couch it in terms of “theft of util­i­ties,” essen­tially accus­ing cus­tomers of crim­i­nal behav­ior. After the clos­ing of the vastly supe­rior cof­fee shop DTUT a few years ago, M. Rohrs is pretty much the only place of its type in the neigh­bor­hood, so I used to patron­ize it any­way. No more.

The word “loi­ter­ing,” as any lit­er­ate per­son should know, has crim­i­nal con­no­ta­tions, and I sus­pect the man­age­ment of M. Rohrs knows this. I deeply, deeply resent being called a “loi­terer” despite hav­ing paid (and tipped!) for cof­fee and a pas­try. Upon leav­ing for the last time, I only regret­ted not demand­ing my tip back.

Per­haps they intend to tran­si­tion away from being a cof­fee house into a restau­rant with a take-out cof­fee bar. If so, they will have to hire more staff, improve the speed and accu­racy of their ser­vice, toss out the couches, and stop accus­ing their pay­ing cus­tomers of crim­i­nal behav­ior. Good luck with that. If any­one asso­ci­ated with the estab­lish­ment hap­pens to read this, I invite you to please com­ment below. I would love to hear your jus­ti­fi­ca­tions. I signed up for Yelp for the sole pur­pose of post­ing a copy of this review, and I sin­cerely hope lots of poten­tial cus­tomers read it.

So that you know where not to go get your cof­fee, M. Rohrs’ House of Fine Teas & Cof­fees is located in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, at 310 East 86th Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenues.

The Spirit

The Spirit movie poster

 

At last, finally another entry to The Dork Report’s hal­lowed pan­theon of zero-star unholy cin­ema atroc­i­ties. Frank Miller’s The Spirit is far more than just merely bad. Like the most infa­mous movie dis­as­ter of all, Ed Wood’s Plan Nine From Outer Space (read The Dork Report appre­ci­a­tion), it veers wildly from stun­ning weird­ness to unin­ten­tional hilar­ity, inter­spersed with fre­quent stretches of insuf­fer­able bore­dom. But what truly lands The Spirit among the rar­i­fied com­pany of true cin­e­matic crimes against human­ity is that it is the insane and unhinged prod­uct of a uniquely obsessed auteur mind. The only dif­fer­ence is, Miller was handed a great deal more money and resources than Wood ever man­aged to wrangle.

Not that he didn’t have to work for it. Miller is one of the best-known (and most ripped-off) rock stars to grad­u­ate from the sweat­shop that is the comic book indus­try. He has writ­ten and/or illus­trated some of the best-selling and most influ­en­tial series of comics’ mod­ern age, includ­ing Wolver­ine, Dare­devil, Ronin, Elek­tra: Assas­sin, Sin City, and 300. Much of this work has long been ruth­lessly pil­laged for raw mate­r­ial for Hollywood’s lever­ag­ing of comic book intel­lec­tual prop­er­ties. The unmatched one-two punch of his 1980s Bat­man graphic nov­els Year One (with David Maz­zuc­chelli) and The Dark Knight, together with Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke, became the basis for Tim Burton’s Bat­man (1989). That first major comics-to-movie block­buster not only bor­rowed Miller’s par­tic­u­lar inter­pre­ta­tion of the char­ac­ter (itself a highly dis­tilled ver­sion of its sur­pris­ingly dark his­tory), but also his over­all visual style (going to far as to visu­ally quote indi­vid­ual panels).

Gabriel Macht in The Spirit“I’m gonna kill you all kinds of dead.”

Over a decade later, Mark Steven Johnson’s Dare­devil (2003) unfor­tu­nately fum­bled Miller’s most famous orig­i­nal char­ac­ter, the Greek ninja assas­sin Elek­tra. But Miller was soon to cease being merely some­one from whom Hol­ly­wood stole paid homage. In 2005, Miller jumped media bar­ri­ers to co-direct a fea­ture film adap­ta­tion of his orig­i­nal graphic novel Sin City with Robert Rodriguez. The two crafted an exact­ingly faith­ful recre­ation of the book, essen­tially treat­ing the orig­i­nal comics as sto­ry­boards. Miller’s pro­file only rose as Zack Sny­der pulled a sim­i­lar stunt with Miller’s 1998 graphic novel 300, pro­duc­ing an even big­ger (and slightly con­tro­ver­sial) smash hit.

Credit to Miller for absorb­ing count­less lessons from the sea­soned indie mav­er­ick Rodriguez, enough to helm an entire fea­ture on his own. The Spirit’s visu­als are often extra­or­di­nar­ily beau­ti­ful, exploit­ing the thin bar­rier between ani­ma­tion and live action blurred ever since the largely green-screened Star Wars: The Phan­tom Men­ace (George Lucas, 1999) and Sky Cap­tain and the World of Tomor­row (Kerry Con­ran, 2004). Like Sin City, nearly every shot is highly processed to effect a styl­ized evo­ca­tion of noir lit­er­a­ture and movies.

But together with Miller’s sig­na­ture brand of stark, chiaroscuro images and pur­ple, pulpy noir dia­logue, it doesn’t look or sound any­thing like the real osten­si­ble real source mate­r­ial, Will Eisner’s orig­i­nal Spirit comics. The leg­endary Eis­ner is con­sid­ered the inven­tor of the graphic novel. The DVD edi­tion includes a must-see bonus fea­ture: “Miller on Miller,” in which Miller talks of him as a teacher, and took many of his apho­risms as lessons, includ­ing the essen­tial sen­su­al­ity of ink­ing (which Miller took rather lit­er­ally). Eis­ner (and oth­ers such as Neal Adams) may have inspired Miller in the first place, but Miller’s ver­sion of The Spirit in Chucks and cape-like trench­coat more closely resem­bles his own cre­ations, espe­cially Dwight from Sin City (Clive Owen in the film) or Dare­devil as he appears in the 1990 graphic novel Elek­tra Lives Again.

This Dork Reporter read Miller’s comics as a kid, and cer­tainly never expected the guy would one day be a bank­able force in Hol­ly­wood. Look­ing back­wards, it’s plain he hasn’t changed much. His obses­sions and pre­oc­cu­pa­tions are now only ampli­fied and enhanced: his mod­ern comics (and now movies) are mostly com­prised of homo­erotic bone-crunching acro­batic fights (if the entirety of 300 isn’t proof enough, might I refer you to Daredevil’s bat­tle with the naked, big-dicked Bulls­eye in Elek­tra Lives Again), volup­tuous femmes fatale (no skinny waifs for him), and pulp fic­tion and film noir-inspired odes to his beloved New York City. Also on the DVD, Miller expounds on all his favorite talk­ing points, from his detailed knowl­edge of comics his­tory, his love for New York City, and his hatred of cen­sor­ship (he’s famously prone to cas­ti­gate the comics indus­try for weakly cen­sor­ing itself instead of fight­ing back against — or even ignor­ing — Con­gres­sional pres­sure in the 1950s).

Scarlett Johansson in The Spirit“I’ve known some pretty strange women in my time but this one, she’s got the final word on strange.”

I’m not famil­iar with Eisner’s orig­i­nal Spirit comics, which appeared as inserts in 1940s Sun­day news­pa­pers. But from what I under­stand, Miller took a great deal of lib­er­ties beyond jet­ti­son­ing Eisner’s col­or­ful visual style in favor of his own Sin City look. Miller adds a meta­phys­i­cal aspect miss­ing in the orig­i­nal, mak­ing The Spirit and his neme­sis The Octo­pus both inde­struc­tible and quick-healing (per­haps inspired by the char­ac­ter Wolver­ine, to which Miller had a hand in pop­u­lar­iz­ing in the early 1980s). The pres­ence of Samuel L. Jack­son can’t help but rec­ol­lect M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreak­able, an infi­nitely more sub­tle exam­i­na­tion of the super­hero archetype.

The action is set in an unnamed fan­tasy urban land­scape like that of Alex Proyas’ Dark City (1998) and David Fincher’s Se7en (1995): filthy, sur­rounded by water, soaked by con­stant pre­cip­i­ta­tion and fog, and in per­pet­ual night until the sun finally rises at the end. Miller’s script con­spic­u­ously avoids men­tion­ing the year, but the auto­mo­biles and fash­ions are clearly of the 1940s while the char­ac­ters employ the cell phones and inter­net of the 2000s. This is Miller’s home.

The Spirit sports an unusu­ally eclec­tic cast, with the unknown Gabriel Macht in the epony­mous role with much better-known stars Jack­son and Scar­lett Johans­son in sup­port­ing roles. The per­for­mances range from the dis­tracted (Sarah Paul­son as a good girl besot­ted with The Spirit) to the bor­der­line lunatic (hi, Sam!). One can hardly blame the actors, for surely they were at the mercy of the screen­play and Miller’s rookie coach­ing. Stana Katic is enter­tain­ing as Mor­gen­stern, a gosh-golly gee-whiz rookie cop that goose-steps from scene to scene like a sexy robot. ScarJo rocks horn­rimmed glasses like no bad girl before her, but it’s just plain uncom­fort­able to see her in Nazi fetish­wear and jackboots.

The Octo­pus is a mad sci­en­tist con­duct­ing all sorts of med­ical atroc­i­ties in the name of mutat­ing him­self to god­like pow­ers. He deems one of his mis­fired exper­i­ments as “just plain damn weird,” a phrase apro­pos of the movie itself. It’s oddly slap­stick, and often out­right silly. Unex­pect­edly, it’s much less vio­lent, or rather, gory, than 300 or Sin City. It’s also slightly more play­ful in nar­ra­tive terms; the Spirit’s noirish voiceover often brazenly breaks the fourth wall by speak­ing directly to the camera.

And finally, some trivia gleaned from the credits:

  • This comic geek thought I rec­og­nized a con­tri­bu­tion by fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tor Geof Dar­row (Hard Boiled and Big Guy & Rusty the Boy Robot), and I was proved cor­rect in the end credits.
  • The end cred­its them­selves, designed by Miller, are stunning.
  • Miller is also cred­ited for the sto­ry­boards, which must be some­thing to see.
  • Miller cameos as a decapi­ti­ated cop, the head of whom The Octo­pus wields as a weapon. He also appears in Sin City, Dare­devil and Robo­Cop 2, for which he wrote the screenplay.

Offi­cial movie site: www.mycityscreams.com

Buy the DVD and the book The Spirit: The Movie Visual Com­pan­ion from Ama­zon and kick back a few pen­nies to The Dork Report.

Menace II Society

Menace II Society movie poster

 

Let me just come out and say it: I utterly and totally loathed Men­ace II Soci­ety. The Dork Report’s 1/2 star rat­ing is reserved for true cin­e­matic crimes against human­ity, movies that I think the world would have been a bet­ter place had they not been made (zero stars are for those rare and spe­cial cases, beyond the pale, where bad trans­mutes into good, like the per­versely enjoy­able Plan 9 From Outer Space — read The Dork Report review). Of course, I’m a rel­a­tively priv­i­leged white boy from sub­ur­bia, so it’s going to be tricky for me to explain my pas­sion­ately neg­a­tive reac­tion to a movie about African Amer­i­cans trapped in racist, drug-infested Watts, South Cen­tral Los Ange­les. The cheap way out would be to claim I’m not the tar­get audi­ence, but that itself would be a kind of racist copout.

Menace II Society

The best way to explain how I feel about this movie is to com­pare it to two of the best works of fic­tion I’ve ever seen: Do the Right Thing (1989) and The Wire (2002–08). Men­ace II Soci­ety opens with stock footage of 1965 Watts riots, and then fast-forwards to Watts in 1993. It’s a cheap and crass stab at social rel­e­vance that only movies like Spike Lee’s mas­ter­piece Do the Right Thing have earned. I don’t know how much fac­tual or bio­graph­i­cal truth is in Men­ace II Soci­ety, but every­thing that fol­lows strikes me as exploita­tion; which is to say, the worst, most sen­sa­tion­al­ized depic­tions of drug cul­ture dra­ma­tized to scare the bejeezus out of sup­pos­edly civ­i­lized cin­ema goers. Do the Right Thing pre­sented one of the most com­plex views of racial ten­sion ever seen in the movies, but Men­ace II Soci­ety is a mere low­lights reel of relent­less vio­lence and deprav­ity that seemed to me to be racist itself. Caine (Tyrin Turner), O-Dog (Larenze Tate), and Tat (Samuel L. Jack­son), not a sin­gle char­ac­ter can speak a sin­gle sen­tence with­out at least three n-words and two f-bombs.

The Wire is one of the only TV series to approach the level of lit­er­a­ture, and like Do the Right Thing it counts race among its many deep themes. Many of its char­ac­ters are also under­priv­i­leged African Amer­i­cans on the wrong side of the law. But not once did I ever sense The Wire was exploita­tive or sen­sa­tion­al­is­tic in any way. Men­ace II Soci­ety barely deserves to be men­tioned in the same para­graph as The Wire, but I did note a very sim­i­lar scene in both: in the sec­ond sea­son of The Wire, Bodie and Sham­rock take a rare road trip out of Bal­ti­more and, unable to find any hip-hop on the radio, instead find them­selves lis­ten­ing to NPR’s A Prairie Home Com­pan­ion in baf­fled silence. Like­wise, the best scene in Men­ace II Soci­ety is of an African Amer­i­can fam­ily at home on Christ­mas Eve watch­ing It’s a Won­der­ful Life, and utterly unable to relate to or derive any plea­sure from it.

Menace II Society

Men­ace II Soci­ety (1993, New Line Cin­ema) is the debut film from twin broth­ers Albert and Allen Hughes, who would later go on to direct From Hell (2001), and com­pletely miss the point of the source mate­r­ial: Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s graphic novel. In direct con­trast to John Singleton’s sim­ply, clas­si­cally shot Boyz n the Hood (read The Dork Report review), Men­ace II Soci­ety is a slickly pol­ished pro­duc­tion (which, I believe, only con­tributes to its glam­or­iza­tion of the thug gangsta lifestyle). But it’s a clumsy film in other ways, with ter­ri­ble voiceover nar­ra­tion stu­pidly telling instead of show­ing. But it pays off in the end with the real­iza­tion of the only inter­est­ing device of the film: it’s nar­rated by a dead man.


Buy any of these fine prod­ucts from Ama­zon and kick back a few pen­nies to The Dork Report:

 

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

 

What was I think­ing when I rented this turd? Oh yeah, that Tal­ladega Nights: The Bal­lad of Ricky Bobby might be a funny, enter­tain­ing diver­sion. One can’t always watch grim tales of abor­tion in Com­mu­nist Roma­nia or the death of a small town’s entire gen­er­a­tion of chil­dren. I had long since tired of Will Fer­rell, once a trea­sure on the Sat­ur­day Night Live cast, but long since devolved into a movie fac­tory that pro­duces mostly crass­ness for crass­ness’ sake. But I had heard Tal­ladega Nights also fea­tured good turns from Molly Shan­non, Amy Adams, and Sasha Baron Cohen, and I had also recently enjoyed John C. Reilly in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (read The Dork Report review). All fail to amuse here.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky BobbyI tried and failed to find a still from the movie includ­ing Amy Adams, so you’ll have to set­tle for line dancing

The ensem­ble obvi­ously impro­vised whole chunks of the movie, but not really to its ben­e­fit. I counted only two bits that made me laugh: Bobby extem­po­rizes the com­mer­cial endorse­ment “If you don’t chew Big Red, *BLEEP* you!” (a line so aggres­sively stu­pid I laughed on impulse), and later, his poncy French rival Jean Girard (Cohen) reveals his cor­po­rate spon­sor, Per­rier. These two gags should make it clear that although Talledega Nights is not the first com­edy to par­ody extreme prod­uct place­ment, it does drive it to a hereto­fore unex­plored new level of absur­dity. Finally, it dis­penses with its rel­a­tive sub­tleties alto­gether and sim­ply cuts to an actual Applebee’s commercial.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky BobbyBorat meets Bubba

Offi­cial movie site: www.sonypictures.com/movies/talladeganights

Buy the DVD from Ama­zon and kick back a few pen­nies to The Dork Report.

AVP:R — Aliens vs. Predator — Requiem

Aliens vs. Predator - Requiem

 

Rid­ley Scott’s orig­i­nal Alien is one of the most effec­tive and influ­en­tial hor­ror films ever made, and a per­sonal favorite of this Dork Reporter, who makes no apolo­gies. Its art direc­tion and visual aes­thetic were so far ahead of their time that pretty much only the hair­cuts have dated, but the real keys to its longevity are its brains and depth of sub­stance. No doubt there have since been dozens of dis­ser­ta­tions on its gen­der themes and often overtly sex­u­al­ized imagery designed by bio­me­chan­i­cal artist H.R. Giger. Once you real­ize the por­tal to the crashed space­craft is a giant vagina and the Alien’s head is an erect penis, you will never be able to un-see it.

But Alien’s most unfor­tu­nate legacy is that it has for­ever melded the sci­ence fic­tion and hor­ror gen­res in movie­go­ers expec­ta­tions. Aside from the odd excep­tions to the rule rang­ing from the parable-for-all-ages E.T. to the gut-wrenching social cri­tique Chil­dren of Men, we now can’t have a hor­ror film with­out a rub­bery alien or a sci-fi film with­out evis­cer­a­tions and gore.

Worst of all, the Alien fran­chise has been cursed with dimin­ish­ing returns. Prob­a­bly but not nec­es­sar­ily by design, James Cameron’s vapid sequel Aliens com­pletely drained the core themes and sub­texts from the orig­i­nal in favor of the mere spec­ta­cle of space­ships and bul­lets. Sub­se­quent sequels achieved the rare feats of being by far the worst films of two extra­or­di­nar­ily tal­ented direc­tors: David Fincher’s com­pro­mised Alien3 (the only install­ment with the tra­di­tional numeral in the title) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s bizarre-but-not-in-a-good-way Alien: Res­ur­rec­tion.

Part of the prob­lem is that there can be only a lim­ited set of vari­a­tions on the core premise. The orig­i­nal Alien found the right recipe on its first try: lone but nearly invin­ci­ble crea­ture vs. unarmed bunch of humans in claus­tro­pho­bic envi­ron­ment = teh awe­some. Most sequels mul­ti­plied the num­ber of aliens only to find that their col­lec­tive dra­matic impact was less­ened when all it took was a futur­is­tic Colo­nial Space Marine’s rifle to dis­patch one.

Aliens vs. Predator - RequiemNope, I just see two dudes in rub­ber suits

Mean­while, the less ambi­tious Preda­tor fran­chise man­aged to only rack up a mea­ger two install­ments. Per­haps their lesser appeal is attrib­ut­able to what the Alien films got right; the “aliens” are not intel­li­gent mem­bers of a soci­ety like the Preda­tors, whose entire cul­ture is based upton the con­cept of hunt­ing for sport. Aliens are instinc­tual beasts that live to eat and (espe­cially) to breed, so sav­age and ani­mal­is­tic that their species doesn’t even have a name.

The two spent prop­er­ties found a new life together in the unholy crossover mar­riage “Alien vs. Preda­tor” that began as comics and video games. Inevitably, they found their way back to cin­e­mas as Hol­ly­wood attempted to reboot the cash flow with the first Alien vs. Preda­tor film in 2004. But this “new” series has already run out of vari­a­tions on the core premise in only its sec­ond installment.

Believe it or not, AVP:R is the first Alien film set not only in the present day, but also actu­ally on Earth. This time around we have a sin­gle Preda­tor vs mul­ti­ple aliens, with a vari­ety of help­less human bystanders caught in the cross­fire. Basi­cally, the Preda­tors screw up and acci­den­tally seed Earth with a batch of aliens they had intended to breed as hunt­ing stock. A lone Preda­tor, per­haps fan­cy­ing him­self a sort of space age Mr. Fixit, attempts to white­wash his col­leagues’ mess. He’s no sym­pa­thetic hero, how­ever, for he doesn’t hes­i­tate to take the pelt of a human as a tro­phy when the oppor­tu­nity arises.

To go back to the afore­men­tioned vari­ety of help­less human bystanders: any decent screen­writer or pro­ducer (or, hell, any­one who’s seen a cou­ple of movies) should have real­ized that there are three prob­lems with this sce­nario: “vari­ety,” “help­less,” and “bystanders.” The huge cast of human char­ac­ters all remain under­de­vel­oped. The lamest thread involves a bunch of so-called teenagers, obvi­ously writ­ten by a screen­writer that was never actu­ally a teenager. The only rec­og­niz­able face (to this Dork Reporter, at least) is Reiko Aylesworth from 24, mis­cast as an Army sol­dier on leave. Her only pur­poses in the story seem to be to instruct the audi­ence that guns work bet­ter if you shout while shoot­ing, and to have some­one on hand who might plau­si­bly know how to fly a helicopter.

Aliens vs. Predator - RequiemMandible with care

AVP:R is so divorced from the six prior Alien films that there are only two ten­u­ous con­ti­nu­ity threads to link them. A Mrs. Yutani appears, pre­sum­ably of the Weyland-Yutani cor­po­ra­tion that, in the future, has the secret agenda of locat­ing more aliens as it strip mines the galaxy for fos­sil fuels. But per­haps the one true link to the orig­i­nal Alien film from 1979 is a sequence involv­ing a chick strip­ping down to her skivvies. In the orig­i­nal, the truly badass Rip­ley (Sigour­ney Weaver) deservedly kicks back her heels and gets ready for a suspended-animation nap in her undies, but here all we get is a bland “hot­tie” strip­ping for her unlikely dweeb crush (an inci­dence of nerd wish-fulfillment that speaks vol­umes as to the matu­rity and life expe­ri­ences of the filmmakers).

What should have been another major screen­writ­ing red flag is the hugely unsat­is­fy­ing end­ing. When the Preda­tor, the clos­est thing the film has to a hero or pro­tag­o­nist, finally closes in on his prey, they go at it look­ing for all the world like two pro wrestlers in rub­ber suits. And then imme­di­ately… they’re both oblit­er­ated by a nuke. A small hand­ful of the humans are only barely proac­tive and man­age to sur­vive untrau­ma­tized despite hav­ing watched all their fam­i­lies and loved ones killed.

So why do I keep pun­ish­ing myself by watch­ing each Alien sequel? I don’t ever again expect some­thing as mul­ti­lay­ered as the orig­i­nal Alien, but I do keep think­ing that these kinds of movies are sup­posed to be at best enter­tain­ing and at worst a lit­tle fun, and yet they always turn out tor­tur­ously awful. AVP:R’s best qual­ity is its brisk 86 minute run­ning time, even in its unrated extended DVD cut.


Offi­cial movie site: www.avp-r.com

Buy the DVD from Ama­zon and kick back a few pen­nies to The Dork Report.

The Lady in the Water

The Lady in the Water movie poster

 

I don’t know where to start with this one. I’ve been a M. Night Shya­malan fan from the very begin­ning, even when the role was bet­ter described as apol­o­gist. Even to a fan, nearly every film comes with a “yeah, but…” dis­claimer: The Sixth Sense is an excel­lent piece of slight-of-hand with some gen­uine emo­tion, but let down by an extended mon­tage at the end recap­ping events recon­tex­tu­al­ized by the already-clear Big Plot Reveal. Unbreak­able, my per­sonal favorite, is a remark­ably mature char­ac­ter piece on a real-world Super­man, but whose comic-book ori­gins prob­a­bly alien­ated a main­stream audi­ence that wants its comic book movies clearly sign­posted by gar­ish cos­tumes and action set pieces. Signs is a per­fectly crafted sci-fi thriller that dou­bles as a wildly funny com­edy (an inten­tional one, I should be clear… more on that later), but the deli­cious sus­pense is nearly ruined in the end by the film­mak­ers’ over­con­fi­dence in their shoddy CGI alien.

The Shya­malan back­lash started as soon as The Sixth Sense, per­haps in direct cor­re­la­tion with its box office take, with peo­ple falling over them­selves claim­ing to have detected the Big Plot Reveal well ahead of time. But with The Vil­lage, the time for fans’ dither­ing began: if not nearly as bad as its crit­i­cal recep­tion, it was a dis­ap­point­ment. A promis­ing scernario sat­i­riz­ing the con­tem­po­rary sit­u­a­tion in Bush’s color-coded police state is sti­fled by a lack of humor unchar­ac­ter­is­tic for the direc­tor, not to men­tion an under­whelm­ing twist end­ing with­out the emo­tional punch of The Sixth Sense.

The clas­sic Shya­malan film is a schemat­icly con­structed jig­saw, which in itself is a great plea­sure. But in The Lady in the Water, the tail wags the dog to an even greater degree than The Vil­lage. Humor­less, pre­ten­tious, and forehead-slappingly… well, sorry for the cheap shot… stu­pid.

Plan 9 From Outer Space

Plan 9 From Outer Space movie poster

 

Glo­ri­ous! A mas­ter­piece! Three cheers for Edward D. Wood, Jr.: writer, direc­tor, edi­tor, and gen­uine auteur! Don’t let the no-stars rat­ing fool you; this was so much more fun than The Wind in the Wil­lows.

If only all bad movies were this bad. Seri­ously, it’s impos­si­ble to con­sciously make a cult film by expen­sively camp­ing it up (as Tim Bur­ton tried with Mars Attacks) or play­ing it straight (read Esquire nail exactly how Snakes on a Plane is mis­con­ceived). And I don’t mean to dump on Tim Bur­ton; not coin­ci­den­tally his epony­mous Ed Wood is one of my all-time favorite movies, and I think one of Burton’s best. I do, how­ever, mean to dump on Snakes on a Plane.

The Wind in the Willows (Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride)

The Wind in the Willows movie poster

 

What’s this? Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride? A film writ­ten and directed by Terry Jones? I didn’t know he made any­thing after Erik the Viking. Wait, and it stars Jones & Eric Idle? With cameos by John Cleese and Michael Palin? Why, it’s prac­ti­cally a Monty Python movie… the only two miss­ing are Gra­ham Chap­man, because he’s dead, prob­a­bly, and Terry Gilliam, because he’s… Amer­i­can, per­haps. How could I pos­si­bly never have heard about this movie?

OK, let’s take a closer look at the DVD box. Released by Dis­ney? Hm, that’s not nec­es­sar­ily a good sign. How about a quick web search. Wait, the orig­i­nal title was The Wind in the Wil­lows? Why did Dis­ney change it for home video? Did it not get a the­atri­cal release? (A user com­ment on IMDB indi­cates Dis­ney went straight to video with a dif­fer­ent title)

Now let’s start play­ing it. Jones was never the visual styl­ist in the Python films (that was left to the other Terry). Wil­lows looks kind of expen­sive, yet kind of cheap at the same time. Where’s Steve Coogan? He got first billing, but I don’t see him any­where. Hey, there’s Eric Idle, with a silly rub­ber tail! Oh no, he’s not going to start singing a song, is he? Oh god, it’s a musical…

Ninety min­utes later, my brains are drib­bling out of my nos­trils. This has got to be one of the worst movies ever made. Steve Coogan is prac­ti­cally unrec­og­niz­able (that’s him as The Mole). The great Stephen Fry shows up for a few blus­tery lines of dia­logue but fails to ele­vate things. Terry Jones looks ridicu­lous in green face paint and a fat suit (I hope) that I sup­pose is meant to read as “toad.” And sure enough, it was only a mat­ter of time, he winds up in drag.