Sunday, July 5, 2015

Meet the Applegates (Michael Lehmann, 1990)

Over the past year, I've seen the stocking tops of rock legend Deborah Harry (Drop Dead Rock), Star Trek: DS9 actress Nana Visitor (The Spirit), Dame Helen Mirren (The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover) and Brat Pack-adjacent cutie-pie Jami Gertz (Less Than Zero). Well, you can add another stocking top glimpse to my ever-growing list. No, not Stockard Channing. What's that? Cami Cooper? Uh-uh, not her either. At around the midway point in Meet the Applegates, the best satire about a family of giant praying mantis' living in suburban Ohio to come out in 1990, and, not to mention, the third best "Meet" movie from the period (Meet the Hollowheads is #1, while Meet the Feebles comes in at #2), we get to see the tops of Dabney Coleman's stockings. You heard right. I said, Dabney Coleman. I'll give you a few seconds to adjust your genitals, as they no doubt changed shape the moment I said Dabney Coleman's name in correlation with stocking tops. Are you good? Great. While I was already sold on this movie way before he even makes his first appearance, Dabney Coleman in drag pretty much solidified its standing as a substantial work of art.

Taking place in the same small town Ohio universe that birthed Heathers and Welcome Home Roxy Carmichael, Meet the Applegates... Actually, now that I think about it, Meet the Applegates could be seen as a sequel to Heathers. Sure, the script lacks Daniel "Fuck Me Gently With a Chainsaw" Waters' trademark snarky dialogue. It does, however, boast other less important  Heather alumni, such as writer-director Michael Lehmann, tubby southern dandy Glenn Shadix, three out of the four producers (including Denise Di Novi), and Mark Bringelson and Chuck Lafont (the cops from the "oh, man, I can't believe they were fags" scene). So, you see, it's got a lot more going for it than Dabney Coleman in drag.

If that wasn't enough... (Yeah, yeah. Not only does Dabney Coleman appear in drag, but he plays a praying mantis disguised as Dabney Coleman dressed in drag.) I was going to say, Susan Barnes (Repo Man) puts on a kooky sweater clinic in this movie. But you're kind of right. There are actually multiple levels going on with Dabney Coleman's character.

Let's see if I can break it down: Dabney Coleman plays Aunt Bea, the queen of a species of large praying mantises who live in the Amazon rainforest. In order to pass as human, Aunt Bea uses the body of a man who looks like Dabney Coleman. And since Aunt Bea is still a female praying mantis underneath her Dabney Coleman costume, she instinctively wears women's clothing.

Not to toot my own horn, but that has got to be the greatest Dabney Coleman/Aunt Bea break down ever.

The reason Aunt Bea is trying to pass as human is because the forest her species of praying mantis (the "Brazilian Cocorada bug") calls home is being threatened by deforestation. And since they can't strike back at humanity looking like praying mantises (though, I can't see why not), they decide instead to go undercover. And this is where the Applegates come in.

Sent on a mission to destroy a nuclear power plant in suburban Ohio, the Applegates,  Dick Applegate (Ed Begley Jr.), Jane Applegate (Stockard Channing), Sally Applegate (Cami Cooper) and Johnny Applegate (Robert Jayne, a.k.a. Bobby Jacoby), pretend to be an average American family.

In-between keeping Aunt Bea informed of their progress and maintaining the illusion that they're normal, the Applegate's struggle to resist the many temptations that humans face on a daily basis.

The first to succumb to temptation is Sally, who causes Vince Samson (Adam Biesk - Corey Halfrick from My So-Called Life), a high school football player, to pop a chubby when she walks by in red shorts. Now, it should be noted that while Sally is interested in Vince (and his erect penis), she clearly didn't want him to rape her on a trampoline.  No, that's definitely not what she intended. As a result of this rape, Sally's gets pregnant. However, instead of calling the police, Sally elects to rap him up in a cocoon and hide his anesthetized corpse in her bedroom closet.

In today's world, rape and high school football go hand in hand. But back in 1990, rape was frowned upon. In other words, this was a big deal back then. Or maybe it wasn't. I remember it being illegal, that's for sure.

You could apply the same logic almost every temptation subplot. Take Bobby's dilemma, for example. If you were to see a movie or a TV show made today that featured a teenage boy smoking pot, you would probably shrug your shoulders. But back in 1990, smoking pot was a no-no. As you might expect, the sight of a fresh-faced Bobby–who befriends Kevin and Kenny (Philip Arthur Ross and Steven Robert Ross), a couple of stoners/headbangers in matching denim vests–smoking weed out of a bong sent shock waves across the square, Just Say No-saturated landscape that was 1990.

Since I'm on a role, I might as well bring up Jane's temptation, which is, credit card debt. While browsing the local dumpsters for groceries (remember, they're praying mantises, not people), Jane makes friends with Opel Withers (Susan Barnes), the stylish wife of Dick's boss. When Opel takes Jane clothes shopping, she is surprised to learn that Jane doesn't have a credit card. Well, you can pretty much guess what happens next. (Jane gets a credit card?) And not only that... (She accumulates a massive credit card bill?) Well, yeah.

Anyway, like rape and marijuana usage, credit card debt is now seen as an everyday part of life. In fact, if you're not a pot smoking rapist in debt, the government views you with suspicion.

Should I mention Dick's temptation? What the hell. It's basically sex. The temptation for a man to mount the milfy hips of a shapely co-worker in a sexual manner  has always been around, so, this subplot lacks the bite of the others. Nonetheless, I found Savannah Smith Boucher's "milfy hips" to be sublime and would mount them in a New York minute... if she wanted me to. Remember kids. Rape is against the law. Oh, and Miss Boucher, in case you're wondering, plays "Dottie," Dick's sultry secretary.

While not really a temptation, per se, I thought the film's pro-environmental message to be a tad ahead of its time. Most folks don't know this, but the only people who were genuinely interested protecting the environment back in 1990 were Sting and, ironically, Ed Begley Jr., so, to see a relatively mainstream Hollywood movie imply that cutting down the rainforest could have a negative effect on the planet's ecosystem was quite daring.

If I didn't know any better, I think, judging by what I've written so far, that this film is trying to tell us something. Sure, it might have failed miserably at stopping the rise of rape culture, and its stance on drugs might seem outdated in today's pro-legalization climate, but Meet the Applegates was on the cutting edge when it came to saving the planet.

Messages aside, the film is actually funny in places. The biggest laugh comes when Jane stumbles across Dick watching television in the middle of the afternoon, and Dick says, "I thought I'd take the afternoon off to watch some curling." I don't know if Dick knows this, but watching curling is the least normal thing an American can do.

As the Applegate's start to run out of places to hide all the people they've "kidnapped" (each family member ends up cocooning someone in a sack made out of fibrous material), things begin to spiral out of control. It doesn't help matters that Dick's hooked on milf pussy, Jane's become a shopaholic, Johnny's a drug addict and Sally's a pregnant lesbian. If only there was a way for humanity and nature to coexist with one another. According to this film, coexistence is possible. But that dream has long since died. Well, that was a depressing thought. To cheer myself up, I'm going to put on my winklepickers and dance to The Sisters of Mercy... in the dark. "Black. Black planet. Black. Black world." Oh, yeah... that's the stuff.

Special thanks to Stacie for recommending this movie.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Dogs in Space (Richard Lowenstein, 1986)

"Shove it, brother, just keep walking!" - Michael Hutchence. Since this movie opens with an Iggy Pop quote about eating dog food, it only makes sense to begin my review with a quote from Michael Hutchence himself. Now, some of you might be thinking, "I don't remember hearing those lyrics on "Never Tear Us Apart." Well, that's because the line is taken from a song that appears on INXS' debut album. You see, before the band starting making safe, non-threatening pop rock, they were scrappy as fuck. However, just before releasing KICK, their mega-selling, chart-topping album in the autumn of 1987, Michael Hutchence got reacquainted with his scrap-adjacent roots by starring in Dogs in Space, the punk movie to end all punk movies. (It can't be that be that punk, can it?) Um, yeah, it can. Well, for starters, it's Australian. And there's nothing more punk than Australia. I mean, look where it is on the map. Plus, they have winter in the summer. How punk is that? I rest my case. Aussie punk cred aside, the film earns its place in the pantheon of great punk movies by shirking the living shit out of traditional storytelling. Oh, sure, words are kind of said and stuff sort of happens. But for the most part, things transpire organically. And I liked that.

It's true, every once and while, the film, directed by Richard Lowenstein (director of numerous INXS music videos), would come close to having a plot. Nevertheless, these flirtations don't last very long. In order to nip them in the bud for good, the film would simply have Michael Hutchence roll around on the floor mumbling incoherent nonsense. And, if we're lucky, his rolling escapades would usually lead to him clawing at Saskia Post's nylon-adorned legs.

Claw at those sexy, hose-ensnared stems, you gorgeous motherfucker. Claw at them!

I'm sorry, it's just that this film is replete with hot punk chicks in jet black hosiery.

You would be forgiven if you thought the crowd lined up on the street in the opening scene were all auditioning to be extras in the next Mad Max movie. But they're not. It's 1978 and all of Melbourne's youth are waiting in line for David Bowie tickets (Heaven is hell and heaven is waiting). Well, almost all of Melbourne's youth. A skinhead in platform shoes pulls up in a car, gets out and asks Sam (Michael Hutchence) if he's from "Planet Poofta" or "Planet Stupida"? Confused by the question, Sam simply hides underneath his many blankets. Since Sam is in no shape to fight the skinhead, it's up to Anna (Saskia Post), Sam's leggy ladyfriend, to deal with him.

The sight of the wispy blonde getting pushed around by this colossal prat causes the rest of the crowd to turn on the skinhead, and so begins Dogs in Space, the punk movie to end all punk movies. (You already said that.) I know, but it needs to be said again, as it makes all other so-called "punk movies" seem, well, less punk.

In the next scene we get our first glimpse of the house. Now, I'm not sure if the house is still there, but if it is, it should be hallowed ground for punks, new wavers, goths, wasteoids, dweebies, dickheads or anyone who digs things that are cool. Anyway, this particular house is going to be the scene of many wild parties. And it's also where the punk/new wave band, Dogs in Space (Sam's band), rehearse.

Awoken by the Dogs in Space theme song, the aptly titled, "Dogs in Space," is Lucio (Tony Helou), an engineering student who lives in the house. Studying for an important exam, Lucio spends most of his time in his room. But he does party every now and then. In a classic scene, the Volkswagen Beetle he's driving crashes with about six punk chicks inside. But don't worry, they simply push the Beetle back on its wheels and carry on to the party, a rowdy shindig featuring the way out sounds of Whirlywirld; their song "Win Lose," by the way, is probably my favourite song on the soundtrack.

What I liked about the Lucio character is that he provided the outsider perspective. The same goes for Deanna Bond, who is credited simply as "The Girl." A teenage runaway, "The Girl" can usually be found staring at the punks, freaks and "bloody sex maniacs" with a childlike sense of wonder. And I'm not surprised her sense of wonder was so childlike, she can't be older than sixteen. That being said, you would boast a look of childlike wonder as well if you saw a dishevelled Michael Hutchence playfully flinging warm dog food at a leggy blonde in the vicinity of a poster advocating independence for East Timor; which finally happened in 2002 (the poster worked... eventually).

It just dawned on me, Michael Hutchence wasn't just clawing at Saskia Post's hose-ensnared stems for erotic purposes, he was trying to gather up the bits of dog food that had landed on her. Eww/Yum.

Other than the subplot about Lucio's exam and the stuff  with "The Girl," the only other plot line involves Tim (Nique Needles) and his wonky synthesizer. You gotta feel for the guy. I mean, if Michael Hutchence's Sam thinks you're a fuck up, you must be doing something wrong.

After his homemade synthesizer conks out during a gig (one featuring The Primitive Calculators), Sam informs Tim that's he's no longer a member of the Dogs in Space. Unlike most movies, though, this scene transpires with a carefree nonchalance. Sure, Tim didn't seem all that thrilled to hear that's he been kicked out of the band, but I think even he realized his days were numbered. Oh, and instead of smashing shit, Tim simply sulks while watching Marie Hoy and Friends perform "Shivers."

While part of me admires the lifestyle depicted in this movie, I have to admit, I wouldn't want to live next-door. I've had neighbours who leave their garbage lying everywhere (we're talking soiled diapers and used condoms), so, I know what's like to live next to scum (Cheech and Chong with a touch of Gummo). However, this particular brand of scum are making the world a more interesting place to live. So, leave these kids alone. The movie they star in rules.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Scenes from the Goldmine (Marc Rocco, 1987)

Do we really need another movie to tell us that the music industry is full of assholes? Since I'm the only one here at the moment, I'll go ahead and answer that question myself. No, we do not. We do, however, need more movies that star the amazing Catherine Mary Stewart, an actress who you might know from Night of the Comet, Nightflyers, Dudes, etc... Oh, and The Apple! (God, how could I forget The Apple?) And Scenes from the Goldmine provides us with more C.M.S. than all those other movies combined. (Even more than The Apple?) Oh, you better believe it. This film is the ultimate C.M.S. experience. Sure, it's premise is basically this: The music industry sucks. But nothing is gonna stop me from enjoying the sight of Catherine Mary Stewart playing keyboards in winklepicklers alongside... (Wait a second. Did you just say, winklepickers?) Yeah, so? (How are you so calm right now?) Trust me, I'm not calm. In fact, my mind is racing like a cocaine-fueled tornado. When the camera zooms in on Catherine's multi-buckle winklepickers while her band was jamming at a local bar at their rehearsal space, I had to stop watching for a minute, as my psyche suddenly found itself inundated with pure, pointy-footed pleasure.

As far as I'm concerned, there's no other type of footwear on the planet that brings me more joy than winklepickers. Okay, creepers make me smile as well. But when it comes right down to it, I'm a winklepicker man through and through. Always have been, always will be.

Of course, I own pair of winklepickers myself. Unfortunately, due to financial constraints, I could only afford a pair of winklepickers that sport two buckles. Don't feel too sorry for me, my two buckle winklepickers and I have had some pretty good times together. It's just that I feel that I could have had an even better time if my winklepickers had more buckles.

Anyway, what caused me to react so intensely to the sight of Catherine Mary Stewart's winklepickers was the fact that they had [are you sitting down?] six(!) buckles (that's a total of twelve all-together). When I would dream about owning a pair of winklepickers that had more than two buckles, I would usually stop at four buckles. So, as you might expect, the sight of C.M.S. wearing a pair with six... (Yeah, yeah, you like pointy, goth-friendly footwear.) You don't understand, they're very important to me.

Besides, I'm sure everyone would rather listen to me bather on and on about winklepickers, than listen to me describe the plot of this toothless jab at the music industry. Yes, people who work for record labels are terrible human beings. We get it.

While it's true, the film, written and directed by Marc Rocco, does cover a lot of familiar territory, it does have a few nice twists here and there. The biggest one being that Niles Dresden (Cameron Dye) of Niles Dresden and The Pieces is just as big of a phoney as the music execs.

To an outsider, the red flags should have started waving immediately. But I guess Debi DiAngelo (Catherine Mary Stewart) was too awestruck by Niles' mega-mullet to think clearly. I mean, the way Niles and the boys, Dennis Lameraux (Timothy B. Schmidt) on bass, and Kenny Bond (John Ford Coley) on drums, fired Stephanie (Pamela Springsteen), their previous keyboard player, should have sent alarm bells ringing in Debi's head. But like I said, his mega-mullet is pretty persuasive.

I know, how can an overgrown clump of hair cause someone to lose touch with reality? It's simple, really, the clump in question is flowing from the back of the head attached to Cameron Dye (Valley Girl), a man whose sharp bone structure could moisten even the most obdurate of panties.

Of course, I don't mean to imply that Debi's new wave panties are soaking wet after successfully auditioning to be the band's new keyboard player. I'm just saying her judgment must have been hampered somewhat. As the quote that opens the film says, "A good girl falls for a wild one every time."

Now that Debi is a fully-fledged member of the Pieces, Harry (Steve Railsback, Lifeforce), the band's manager and Niles' brother, get them a gig at a local club, where Manny Ricci (Joe Pantoliano), an artists and repertoire man for Rush Records, will apparently be in attendance.

Even though the song they play, "Listen To My Heartbeat," is a non-threatening slab of banal mid-80s pop rock if I ever heard one, the band still manages to impress Manny, who tells them to basically keep at it.

After having dinner with her drug addict brother and her disapproving parents (her father, played by Alex Rocco, doesn't like the fact that his daughter is performing at clubs with names like, "The Lingerie"), Debi hangs out at the beach with Dana (Jewel Shepard), her best friend/roommate. It wasn't until near the end of the movie that I realized that Debi's pal was played by Jewel Shepard. I blame the director for this, as he seemed to like to shoot everyone, except for the two leads, from afar; the same goes for Lee Ving, who plays an eccentric music video director.

Taking Manny's advice to keep at it, Niles and the Pieces perform "I Was Just Asking" at their rehearsal space. On top of being my favourite song in the movie, this is the sequence where we first see Catherine Mary Stewart in her six buckle winkpicklers.

In a weird twist, Catherine's winklepickers get more close-ups than both Jewel Shepard and Lee Ving combined.

Speaking of weird twists, the decision to feature three bands performing covers of "Twist and Shout" during Niles and Debi's club crawl courtship sequence was the film's most interesting from a stylistic point of view. Of course, the version I liked the most was the robo-synth one by James House's Roberto Roberto.

Now, I don't want to say too much about what happens after Niles and Debi eventually become a couple. Though, I will say this, Debi should have never shown Niles her giant binder of songs. Seriously, that was a bad decision (you'll see why). But I like said earlier, it's hard to say no to a fully-mulleted Cameron Dye... he's a wild one.

Even though you'd be probably better off watching Ladies and Gentlemen... The Fabulous Stains, Breaking Glass, or even Eddie and the Cruisers, if you're a fan of Catherine Mary Stewart (who does all her own singing), music movies, winklepickers and zebra print, you should probably check this film out. If you can find it (there's hardly any information about this film on the interweb).

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Spirit (Michael Schultz, 1987)

First things first, you gotta love slits. (Don't you mean tits?) What do you think I am, a baby cow? No, I said, slits! Ugh. Slightly annoyed that I found myself sitting in front of some kind of viewing screen, one that just happened to be playing the 1987 TV movie version of The Spirit, I hunkered down for what I expected to be yet another glorified episode of Murder, She Wrote. Now, granted, I've never seen Murder, She Wrote  (not a single episode). Nevertheless, it's the first thing I thought of when the film got underway. As you've probably already figured out, The Spirit isn't like any episode of Murder, She Wrote that I've ever seen. And I'm not just saying that because I haven't seen Murder, She Wrote. Just to be sure, I did a quick search and I couldn't find any links between The Spirit and Murder, She Wrote. Of course, most of my searches involved perusing my exhaustive network of resources related to sanitary belts and raised toilet seats (people with limited mobility need to poo too), and, for some strange not even close to being tragic reason, I flipped through the latest edition of the Farmer's Almanac. But still, I couldn't find any substantial connection whatsoever.

While all that's fine and good. Let's get back to the topic at hand, shall we? (Slits?) That's right, Timmy. Slits.

Historians will likely debate for years to come about whether or not my decision to watch the 1987 TV movie version of The Spirit based solely on the rumour that we get see the tops of Nana Visitor's tan stockings was worth the time and effort.

Well, I can say, without a hint of hesitation, that it was totally worth the time and effort. And I'm not just saying that because we get to see the tops of Laura Robinson's stockings as well.

The manner in which we get a glimpse of the tops of Nana Visitor's stockings is the stuff of stocking top legend. (Stocking tops have legends?) Of course they do.

This may sound a tad out of character, but I can't remember the movie review where I talked at great length about "makeshift slits." It might come to me, but right now I'm drawing a blank (Edit: Death Walks at Midnight). Anyway, the slit that causes the tops of Nana Visitor's stockings to be revealed is makeshift in nature. But since there was already a slit in place, I'm trying to figure out a way to describe its implementation in a manner that makes sense.

After giving it much thought (of course, some might say, too much thought), I've decided to use the term, slit addendum.

Being a fashionable woman near the end of the twentieth century, Nana Visitor's character likes to wear skirts that boast slits. Not only are they pleasing to look at, but slits allow the wearer to move more freely (and they make kicking perverts in the dick a breeze). However, when the slit grows larger as a direct result of outside forces beyond the wearers control, there's a good chance certain articles of clothing, one's that are designed to remain hidden, could be exposed. You're probably thinking to yourself, so what if "certain articles of clothing" are exposed. In most cases, yes, it's no big deal. But there's nothing trivial about stocking tops. In other words, society as a whole is at risk of being destroyed.

What I mean is, don't expect anything to get done when the tops of Nana Visitor's stockings are not being sheepishly sheltered by a funnel-like swath of rough yet smooth to the touch fabric.

Actually, that's not entirely true. You see, when Sam Jones, a.k.a. The Spirit, sees the tops of Nana Visitor's stockings, he not only gets things done, he manages to bust up an elaborate forgery ring, investigate his friend's murder, befriend a little kid, nearly get dipped in a vat of acid, create a new identity and turn his crypt into a swanky bachelor pad.

If that's wasn't enough, the elaborate forgery ring is lead by the never not leggy P'Gell Roxton (Laura Robinson). Seriously, how anyone can think straight in the presence of such legginess is beyond me.

Which makes you wonder about The Spirit's commitment to heterosexuality. I mean, watching the rugged go-getter  repeatedly go out of his way to avoid having sexual relations with Ellen Dolan (Nana Visitor), the police commissioner's daughter, and seductive super-villain P'Gell Roxton, seemed kinda odd. Or maybe his love of fighting crime is so steadfast, that he doesn't have time for the ladies. It's the only logical explanation I can come up with at the moment.

In case you haven't figured it out yet, Sam Jones (Flash Gordon and My Chauffeur) plays Denny Colt, a cop who is investigating the murder of a writer (Philip Baker Hall). Using his police skills, Denny concludes that Simon Teasdale (Daniel Davis), the pompous curator of the Roxton Museum, was the one responsible for the dastardly deed. Unfortunately, Denny is shot just as he's about to make an arrest. Since no one finds his body (the gunshot causes him to fall into ocean), everyone assumes Denny is dead. Figuring that a man with no name can fight crime more effectively, Denny takes advantage of his untimely death by donning a mask and becoming... The Spirit.

Ahhh, I can't believe I went so long without mentioning the tops of Nana Visitor's stockings. Sorry about that. But, yeah, that's basically the plot.

Obviously, this film was supposed to lead to more, either a television show or more TV movies. Nonetheless, I enjoyed its light-heartened tone. More in tune with the Batman television show from the 1960s (Adam West is Batman), you'll never mistake The Spirit for any of the ultra-serious comic book movies that are being made nowadays. For one thing, it's mildly amusing. And get this, it's sexy. Yes, the extended sequence where Nana Visitor tries in vain to keep the tops of her stockings shielded from view is one of the main reasons this film is sexy. But the film's sexy vibe is actually quite consistent throughout its spry running time. And that's the main reason you should watch this film.

Did anyone else find it ironic that Nana Visitor tried desperately to lesson the impact of her slit addendum, while Laura Robinson seemed to flaunt the excessive nature of her slit(s) with a shameless brand of au-slit-dacity?

Oh, and bondage fans will want to check out the scene where "The Spirit" and Ellen Dolan are tied up (the latter is placed in an iron maiden). It's very kinky... for late '80s network television.