The first, or maybe second, third or even fourth Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday of every month Nathan Rabin writes about three DVD premieres for Dispatches From Direct-To-DVD Purgatory. Today's entry features boobies, brooding and drugged-up instacult weirdness
Blonde And Blonder: Creepy human Barbies/sentient sex dolls Pamela Anderson and Denise Richards had the misfortune to be born in the wrong era. If they'd come of age in the fifties or sixties they could have collaborated with Frank Tashlin or Russ Meyer, two iconoclastic filmmakers who understood intuitively how to make the most out of the actresses' unique, um, talents. And by "unique talents" I of course mean "cartoonishly over-sized fake tits".
Alas, the buxom twosome had the misfortune of working with Supermodel In The Rain Forest: Costa Rica auteur Dean Hamilton on Blonde And Blonder, a slapdash aggregation of half-assed action, labored farce and hoary dumb blonde jokes that were antiquated during vaudeville's birth and now seem downright prehistoric. A master class in how to fuck up a can't miss premise, the film casts Anderson and Richards as a pair of borderline cognitively disabled stewardesses who get mistaken for a legendary catsuit-clad lipstick lesbian hit-woman and her eager young protégé in both the ways of amour and homicide.
What follows plays like an amateur, gender-switched remake of Dumb And Dumber graced with appearances from Chris Farley's brothers and a flatulent turtle puppet. On the one hand, Blonde And Blonder is incompetently written, directed and acted, devoid of laughs, paced like a funeral dirge and an absolute chore to sit through. On the hand: boobies! Yet even as soft-core T&A; Blonde And Blonder is a spectacular failure. This is some seriously rancid cheescake: Richards and Anderson both look beat-up and old. It's almost as if serial romances with notorious hard-partying playboys isn't the fountain of youth after all. Yet it is unwise to underestimate the power of boobage: according to IMDB a sequel is due out next year. On the plus side it leaves the franchise nowhere to go but up.
Just How Bad Is It?: Oh sweet blessed merciful Lord in Heaven is it god-awful.
The Great New Wonderful: The screener for The Great New Wonderful has been sitting on my desk at home for close to a year, constantly beckoning me to give it a spin yet lying dormant and unused until earlier this week. It's a curiously muted, strangely compelling post-9/11 ensemble comedy-drama directed by Danny Leiner, whose work in Dude, Where's My Car and Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle make him a somewhat unlikely choice to helm a project about matters arguably more sober and substantive than dudes finding their car or hitting up White Castle for some munchies.
Maggie Gyllenhaal heads up huge, phenomenal cast (Stephen Colbert, Jim Gaffigan, Olympia Dukkakis, Will Arnett, Judy Greer and Tony Shalhoub just for starters) as a tightly-wound perfectionist who runs her custom-cake business with a gravity and sense of purpose befitting a Mossad secret mission. In interlocking stories each a slightly different shade of melancholy, Shalhoub plays weird mind games with office drone Gaffigan, Dukkakis reconnects with an old acquaintance whose irrepressible lust for life throws her loveless marriage into sharp relief and Greer and husband Thomas McCarthy try to figure out their inscrutable little hellion of a son.
For its first two acts, the film is Woody Allen light: a droll, intermittently funny comedy of manners blessed with some indelible moments and fine performances. In a particularly powerful scene Gyllenhaal tries to maintain her dignity and self-respect while a client yammers away mindlessly on the phone, oblivious to the painstaking care she puts into every facet of her presentation. In its third act the film takes a turn towards the morose and pretentious. It devolves into yet another Crash-style meditation on grief and inter-connectedness in which a soulful montage set to "Everybody Hurts" threatens to break out at any time.
The Great New Wonderful doesn't quite have the gravity or substance to support this shift towards the solemn and elegiac but I was never bored. As long as you come in with low enough expectations you won't be disappointed. All that, plus Stephen Colbert describing a child as "a selfish, incorrigible monster with a heart made out of shit and splinters".
Just How Bad Is It?: Not bad at all, not bad at all
Weirdsville: I was incredibly wary of Weirdsville going in. For starters, it's got a title that seems entirely too satisfied with its own oddball wackiness and a plot that piles on the cult-movie clichés: Satanism, little people, heroin, pot, dead bodies, heists gone wrong, drug dealers and colorful crooks. Those ubiquitous elements are to cccccrazy cult movies what meet-cutes and mad climactic dashes to the airport are to romantic comedies.
I similarly wasn't overly excited by the participation of cult filmmaker Allan Moyle, who directed both Empire Records and the ridiculously overrated Pump Up The Volume. All I really remember about Pump Up The Volume is the incredibly realistic scene where Samantha Mathis tracks down pirate-radio subversive and tells him, by way of greeting, "Hey I dig your subversive pirate radio shenanigoats. Incidentally here are my breasts (doffs top)". Then again I saw the film for the first and only time when I was thirteen so it makes sense that that's all I'd remember.
So I was pleasantly surprised by Weirdsville's shaggy affability. Scott Speedman and Wes Bentley star as lovable heroin addicts who run into trouble when they stumble unto a murder committed by a group of yuppie Satan-worshippers. Speedman and Bentley plunge deeper and deeper into a surreal after-midnight world of angry midget renaissance re-enactors, a Satanic hippy with an icicle lodged in his brain (played by Matt "Max Headroom" Frewer no less) and low-level criminals.
Moyle gives the film a dreamy, over-saturated look and Bentley and Speedman have a nice, laconic chemistry. Weirdsville shares with other into-the-night films a liberating sense of nighttime as a universe unto itself where the rules and regulations that govern the daytime simply don't exist. Don't let the stridently wacky title or plot scare you away: Weirdsville is the rare instant cult film that's actually worthy of a minor cult.
Just How Bad Is It?: If you are in the right frame of mind it's not bad at all