If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Yes, that's right, I actually sat through a movie called "Cougars, Inc". I mean, sure, if it had been some sort of training film, I probably would have shelled out 30 smackers or so for tips and techniques (who doesn't love a MILF, I ask you?), but no, "Cougars, Inc" title is a misnomer: it's actually an indie dramedy. Perhaps not putting Denise Richards front and center, who thankfully is but a minor character here, would put this not-nearly-as-bad-as-it-looks movie into the hands of viewers who might actually enjoy its minor pleasures. I'll say right now that the crowd diving in for the crazy boobs and booze-ups film that it markets itself as are going to be disappointed. Kyle Gallner plays Sam Lowell, a troubled but smart kid who has been kicked out of a series of private schools, but what he really wants is to settle into a normal routine. This is aided by his new school's headmaster (Jim Belushi) who is that unicorn of schoolmasters only seen in film: the ex-rock star, pot smoking, good advice giving, best friend kind of guy, and he focuses on helping Sam get out of his habit of falling into bad situations. But the bad luck just keeps coming...just after starting to settle in with a group of new friends, and a potential new girlfriend (Sarah Highland), he finds out his ex-Playmate mom can't afford his tuition anymore. An all-night romp with a grateful older woman (Kathryn Morris) who leaves him a sympathy check for 500 dollars gives him the idea: horny prime-of-their-life High School seniors....unsatisfied 40-something rich hotties...what could possibly go wrong with setting up a male prostitution ring? Eventually "Cougars, Inc" gets into the moral implications and the impracticality of keeping such a thing going for long, and it even manages to do both intelligently, although I'll say that Belushi's is written so calm as to be unnaturally superhuman. But the real problem here is that it never manages to be terrible funny or titillating. Perhaps it's smarter and more down to earth than its marketing would imply, but try as he might, Gallner's strong performance isn't enough to carry this type of movie all by itself. Passably entertaining.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Cougars, Inc. [Blu-ray]
FIGHTING MAD/MOVING VIOLATION (DVD)
REVENGA! The latest entry in SHOUT! Factory's Roger Corman re-releases focuses on just that, with two slices of seventies cinematic score-settling satisfaction. In "Fighting Mad" Peter Fonda plays the prodigal son, returning to his small farming town which is in the way of a scheming developer. So evil is this guy that he bulldozes family cemeteries and drives church busses off the road just for fun. But Fonda is having none of it. He's an all but unstoppable font of manly virtues once he gets going. The only thing that ever so much as slows him down at any point is when one villainous crony repeatedly punches him in the balls...but only for a moment. I love and miss the time when Hollywood would make movies about macho but just proletariats who eventually see that the only way to deal with the out of control excesses and corruption of some capitalists is to pick up a bow and arrow and start shooting every muthafucker in sight. The second feature, "Moving Violation" I didn't get to watch as of this writing, but stars Stephen McHattie as a drifter who, when not skinny dipping with a local hottie waitress (back in the 70's, drifters got all the hot trim) gets harassed by the local sheriff, who eventually sets him up as a patsy for the murder of his deputy. As you might imagine from the title, lots of car chases ensue. Sounds like more dated gold. If you haven't been picking up these two-fers yet, (and seriously, what's keeping you?) this seems like good a place as any to start.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Fighting Mad / Moving Violation [Double Feature]
THE ILLUSIONIST (Blu-Ray and DVD)
Every year at the Oscars, the Academy likes to slide in at least one dark horse runner for the Best Animated Feature award that will eventually lose to Pixar. This year, the well-deserved entry was the French film "The Illusionist", directed by Sylvain Chomet whose last film, "The Triplets of Belleville" also shared this honor. While I've heard some contend angrily that the French entry deserved the top spot over Pixar's "Toy Story 3", I can't help but question if these challengers had actually seen both films. It's hard to fault "The Illusionist" for its stunning and original animation design. Certainly I'll see anything by Chomet at this point and will expect great things. But it's story, based on an unproduced script by the French legendary actor and mime Jacques Tati, all the way back in 1956, is a simple and melancholy tale about the end of childhood's sense of wonder...both in an individual sense, and more importantly, a society's. The story is about a stage magician who is having more and more trouble finding paying work against more popular current entertainment like rock bands. While performing a small gig in Scotland, he ends up with a young female waif of a girl who believes his magic to be real. As they go together from town to town, scrabbling for the meagre opportunities for him to perform his craft, the girl begins to become an adult, as the magician starts to realize that there is no place in the world for him anymore. The story was reportedly originally intended by writer Tati to be an attempt to reconcile with a child he abandoned, so I suppose it's no wonder that the father-daughter dynamic is one of self-sacrifice, but that doesn't make it any less heart-breaking to watch. "The Illusionist" manages to be very good but not quite great, at least in terms of its story, but the animation alone is more than worth owning this austere, sweet, and eccentric film for.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY The Illusionist (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)