Execrable: Devil in the Flesh

Devil in the Flesh (1998)

Directed by Steve Cohen
Written by Kurt Anderson, Richard Brandes, Michael Michaud, Kelly Carlin, Robert McCall, Steve Cohen
Produced by Kurt Anderson, Richard Brandes, Marc Forby, Alicia Reilly Larson, Betsy Mackey, Robert E. Baruc, John Fremes
Starring Rose McGowan, Alex McArthur, Peg Shirley, Phil Morris, Robert Silver, J.C. Brandy, Sherrie Rose, Ryan Bittle, Julia Nickson, Krissy Carlson, Schultz, Wendy Robie, Philip Boyd, Milton James

Synopsis

Logophilic police detectives (Morris, Silver) conduct an inquirendo into a possible arson that killed her mother and teacher while a sultry student (McGowan) chafes at residency with her abusive, overbearing, fundamentalist grandmother (Shirley), and attendance at a new high school where her crush on a handsome teacher (McArthur) turns erotomaniacal. Corpses accrue.

Script

Their residual capitalization on the sleeper’s success of Poison Ivy and its sequels (themselves variations on Fatal Attraction‘s scenario) isn’t without wit, but Anderson and Brandes should’ve held their four screenwriters to one standard of black humor, and weeded this flick’s shooting script of some badly barbed lines.

Editing

Michael Thibault’s final cut would be unexceptionable but for excessive and successive dissolves, and some intolerably interpolated whoosh cuts, none of which evoke fond nostalgia for the ’90s.

Histrionics

Her bitchy chill was honed for years in compulsive trash like The Doom Generation and Lewis & Clark & George, and McGowan’s as fetchingly flirty here as in any of her other vehicles, if less interesting than certain co-stars. Morris and Silver play their cross-quizzing inspectors with pleasantly understated comic timing, and Faheyish McArthur emanates charisma as the object of her sensual seductress. Oddly, not too much of this this devil’s flesh is on display, despite McGowan’s penchant for onscreen nudity. Sherrie Rose is instead twice in the buff during sexy scenes with McArthur, and while her figure is easy on the eyes, the absence of McGowan’s gymnomania may have disappointed purchasers of this video.

Score

From their first of many collaborations, Michael Burns’s and Steve Gurevitch’s music tugs the ear, unlike the tones-by-numbers that they’ve since been turning out for scores of Lifetime’s features.

Highlights

Darling schnauzer Schultz charms as the pet of Shirley’s loathsome beldame. Whether this satisfies is largely incident to its audience’s sexual orientation; McGowan was so stunning in her prime that she’s sure to transfix anyone tending to the slightest interest in the fairer sex.

Flaws

Painfully lame quips during and after several homicides (two of which are frankly justifiable) aren’t meliorated by McGowan’s cutesy delivery.

Conclusion

For McGowan’s longsuffering, remaining fans — who might’ve noticed that she’s only half this crazy in reality — this is essential viewing. Addicts of Johnson/Shadowland’s sordid crime dramas may deplore this as extreme, but it’s likely a touch too tame for aficionados of erotic thrillers.

Execrable: Contamination

Contamination (A.K.A. Alien Contamination) (1980)

Directed by Luigi Cozzi
Written by Luigi Cozzi, Erich Tomek
Produced by Claudio Mancini, Ugo Valenti, Karl Spiehs
Starring Louise Marleau, Marino Masé, Ian McCulloch, Siegfried Rauch, Gisela Hahn, Carlo De Mejo, Carlo Monni, Mike Morris, Brigitte Wagner

Synopsis

Intercepted en route to New York City, a freighter contains a crew of corses, and gooey, thermoreactive eggs filled with bacterial silicon that induces the internal explosion of any organism it splatters. They’re tracked by the colonel (Marleau) of a clandestine governmental agency to a Colombian coffee plantation and exporter, where she’s headed with a police detective (Masé) and former astronaut (McCulloch) to exterminate their source.

Script

Apparently enthralled by Alien, Cozzi (ill-)conceived his first draft of this script as a sequel to the classic horror, then revised it in accordance with budgetary limitations. This schlocky, successful ride on those long coattails is less irksome for its derivation than his insufferably immature trio, who are as emotionally incontinent as addled adolescents.

Direction

Besides some excessive close-ups and zooms thereto, Cozzi’s direction is fair. He’s credited once again under his preposterous pseudonym, Lewis Coates.

Cinematography

Giuseppe Pinori’s photography is similarly satisfactory.

Editing

Perhaps once or twice a smidge too sudden, neither can any other complaint be lodged against Nino Baragli’s theatrical cut.

Histrionics

As simply scripted, everyone plays their puerile parts broadly or blandly, but only the leads rankle. Late Masé’s spunk is gratingly unfunny, McCulloch’s querulousness miffingly melodramatic. Marleau has all the allure and presence of a dead fish; Cozzi wrote her part for luscious Caroline Munro, which is why everyone’s so taken with this frump.

Score

Some quirky riffs by Goblin are expectedly catchy, though hardly their best work.

Highlights

Opening aerial shots of NYC focusing on the Chrysler Building, World Trade Towers and Statue of Liberty are directly arresting. In slow motion, fulminations of eggs, then polluted people entertain. A climactic confrontation with the picture’s final boss, a massive, slimy, cyclopic extraterrestrial, and his thrall (Rauch) is gruesomely goofy to behold.

Flaws

Who can fathom the measure of Marleau’s colonel?! She’s sanctioned to command strike forces domestically, but not abroad. The stipulations by which she performs her mission furnish incentive, but make no sense. Her hunt for the alien scourge is intrepid until she’s locked in a bathroom with one of its eggs, whereupon she panics like a halfwit rather than forcing open its visibly flimsy door. In one inexplicable scene, Masé avows his enduring affection and yearning for Marleau, but they’ve known each other for three days. When he finally stops whining and seizes the day, McCulloch’s hero is a relief from his annoying allies.

Conclusion

It’s not scary in the slightest, but this Italo-German production is too irritating to view without an expert riff.

Instead, watch Lily C.A.T..

Execrable: Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice

Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1992)

Directed by David Price
Written by A. L. Katz, Gilbert Adler
Produced by Scott A. Stone, David G. Stanley, Bill Froehlich, Lawrence Mortorff
Starring Terence Knox, Paul Scherrer, Ryan Bollman, Christie Clark, Rosalind Allen, Ned Romero, Ed Grady, John Bennes, Wallace Merck, Joe Inscoe, Kellie Bennett, Robert C. Treveiler, Leon Pridgen, Marty Terry, Ted Travelstead, Sean Bridgers, Aubrey Dollar, Kristy Angell, David Hains

Synopsis

Mass murder in an agrarian, Nebraskan town that was clearly committed by a syncretic cult composed of minors attracts the professional attention of a tabloid’s lunky reporter (Knox), who investigates several succeeding deaths and other local intrigues in a nearby community where the unmistakably sinister kids have been transferred and welcomed by its obtuse residents. His snottily hostile teenage son (Scherrer) accompanies him to pad the duration of this garbage by romancing a fetching blond townie (Clark).

Script

Genre hacks Katz and Adler contemporaneously co-scripted episodes of Freddy’s Nightmares and Tales from the Crypt, but their screenplay for this sequel to the middling adaptation of Stephen King’s short story doesn’t even meet the low standards of those series. Amorous interludes, messy invultuation, and an underplot concerning environmental crime were interjected into their rehash of King’s physitheistic creeper because they haven’t the imagination to elaborate on his concepts or craft a compelling story. Every character is a stock archetype or rural stereotype who utter shopworn, schmaltzy dialogue suited to diurnal soap operas. Very little is so mortifying as coddled boomers raised in an immanently neurotic Abrahamic faith who slavishly satirize the toothless faithful of another.

Direction

His zooms and crane shots are the most wearyingly routine images in Price’s dull presentation. He couldn’t even execute the movie’s sole jump scare competently.

Cinematography

Notwithstanding noctilucence that’s absurdly overlit, Levie Isaacks’s colorful photography is easy on the eyes, and one of this movie’s few assets.

Editing

Persistently poor comic timing should be imputed to Price and his cast, but Barry Zetlin cut the prosaic footage at his disposal as well as anyone could expect.

Histrionics

Most of these actors either woodenly recite or gnaw the very fabric of spacetime to enact Katz’s and Adler’s simplistic characters. Clark and Allen are tolerable, but haven’t much to do other than posture prettily and shriek when imperiled.

Score

Daniel Licht’s assemblage of choral and orchestral clichés serves the same function as ambient music without any soothing effect. His minatory variation of London Bridge is Falling Down sung by brats is exquisitely abashing.

Flaws

Every tritely slain victim could easily escape if they’d a survival instinct or average IQ. Purblind provincials unwittingly waiting to die aren’t terribly interesting either. Dismal digital effects that have aged horribly are twice implemented. Sweaty sex shammed by Allen and pudgily misshapen Knox is starkly sickening, even more vile than the coitus between Joe Don Baker and Linda Evans in Mitchell. Demonic possession and talentlessness cause Bollman’s heresiarch to speak with a peculiarly peeving cadence.

Conclusion

This is the very lowest grade of sequel: unfunny, vapid, gutless, hokey, tired, tedious trash contextualized in a faintly subversive pretense. Avoid it.

Execrable: Filth

Filth (2013)
Directed by Jon S. Baird
Written by Irvine Welsh, Jon S. Baird
Produced by Mark Amin, Christian Angermayer, Jon S. Baird, Will Clarke, Stephen Mao, Ken Marshall, James McAvoy, Jens Meurer, Celine Rattray, Trudie Styler, Jessica Ask, Christopher Billows, Alexander Denk, Alex Francis, Benoit Roland, Berry van Zwieten, Sean Wheelan, Tyler Boehm, Rachel Dargavel, Jona Wirbeleit, Alexander O’Neal, Guy Avshalom, Tony Bolton, Jane Bruce, Charles E. Bush Jr., Mohammed Hans Dastmaltchi, Karin G. Dietrich, Ralph S. Dietrich, Stephan Giger, Stefan Haller, Marc Hansell, Jon Harris, Robin Houcken, Steven Istock, Zygi Kamasa, Pierre Lorinet, Benjamin Melkman, Nick Meyer, Matt Petzny, Yasin Qureshi, Marc Schaberg, Judy Tossell, Jean Pierre Valentini, Irvine Welsh, Paul Andrew Williams
Starring James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, Eddie Marsan, Imogen Poots, Brian McCardie, Emun Elliott, Gary Lewis, John Sessions, Shauna Macdonald, Jim Broadbent, Joanne Froggatt, Kate Dickie, Martin Compston, Iain De Caestecker, Shirley Henderson, Joy McAvoy, Jordan Young, Pollyanna McIntosh, Bobby Rainsbury
Akin to his American obverse Chuck Palahniuk, Irvine Welsh fares best when concocting humorous metaphysical mishaps and exploiting memorably crude conceits; when either delve too deeply into existential excogitation, their immanent immaturity issues as mundanely as the most formulaic romantic comedies. Trainspotting and The Acid House are audaciously appealing for their attention to Welsh’s fantastical degeneracy (notwithstanding the former’s maximal overestimation); the same can be said for only a few moments in this adaptation of his eponymous novel, which ebbs from goatish mischievousness into cloying moralization and introspective angst-by-numbers, affirming once again the propensity of Anglos to misrepresent masochism as moral play, and glamorize vice as a self-serving pretense of expiation. If he weren’t so preoccupied with pranks and gossip intended to undermine his constabulary’s other inspectors (Bell, Poots, McCardie, Elliott, Lewis) and invalidate their eligibility for a coveted promotion, a coked, boozing, madly misanthropic detective (McAvoy) might attend to the case of a Japanese tourist murdered by a thuggish gang (Compston, De Caestecker, McAvoy, Young). Instead, multiple addictions exacerbate his haunted, schizoid psyche until he desolates what’s left of his life and mars those of associates and acquaintances before committing suicide. The End!
Perhaps the best filmic evidence that GenX have become as obstinately ossified as Boomers is the junk constituting this pic’s rancid rubric, which was scarcely tolerable when Britain’s film industry was first infected with Tarantinism in the mid-’90s. Baird hoarily regurgitates by rote the obligatory, introductory strut in slow motion and abounding, artless exposition in pestiferously prolix narration and presentational shots. Just as wearying to watch and hear are edgy vitriol delivered by a supporting cast who overplay their one-dimensional roles like teenagers at drama camp, sluttishly overripe wives (Macdonald, Dickie, Henderson) among those, hallucinatory episodes where Broadbent and McAvoy retread unamusing references to A Clockwork Orange, Clint Mansell’s niminy-piminy music, and McAvoy’s fatuous breaches of the fourth wall. Filth was a domestic hit where a preponderance of ignorance and political correctness have lowered the popular threshold of transgression, so its moderate violence, harrassment, drinking, snorting, sexism, racism, homophobia, transvestism, erotic asphyxiation and disloyalty aroused Scottish critics and viewers to acclamation and animadversion unknown to other markets. Nothing sates the immoral appetites of a softened society as decadent froth with a syrupy center.

Instead, watch Bad Lieutenant or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Execrable: Tip Top

Tip Top (2013)
Directed by Serge Bozon
Written by James Tucker, Axelle Ropert, Serge Bozon, Odile Barski
Produced by Jesus Gonzalez-Elvira, Philippe Martin, Nicolas Steil. David Thion
Starring Isabelle Huppert, Sandrine Kiberlain, Francois Damiens, Karole Rocher, Saïda Bekkouche, Allain Naron, Aymen Saïdi, Elie Lison, Francois Négret, Samy Naceri, Youssef Tiberkanine, Brahim Waabach, Patrick Pais, Jean-Marc Hermance

  • Who murdered a police department’s informant in a suburb of one among several Villenueves?
  • Why are the fetishistic detectives (Huppert, Kiberlain) assigned by their internal affairs division to investigate his murder so trifling, insecure and verbosely incapable?
  • Why is the inspector (Damiens) to whom the slain snitch reported such a unsightly, equally insufferable jerkoff?
  • Why are his informants noticeable numbskulls?
  • Is sadomasochistic foreplay between Huppert’s busybody and her husband (Naceri) actually intended to amuse or arouse?
  • Might anyone have bothered to previse Bozon’s sister and DP Céline that she wouldn’t be lensing her drab, often blued photography in 2002?
  • Has anyone mentioned to Bozon that his simplistic script and style result in preciously stagy enactments of twee drollery and buffoonery that aren’t remotely laughable?
  • Likewise, how are the only tolerable actors (Rocher, Lison, Naron) of his ostensive comedy foils who’ve nearly nothing of interest to do?
  • Why is this transposition of a British novel so preoccupied with France’s Algerian diaspora and Algeria’s civil unrest when Bozon has nothing funny or perceptive to relate concerning either?
  • Can Huppert salvage but one of his scenes?
  • Why is one of France’s finest actresses periodically lapping up drops of poorly-rendered CG blood running from the bridge to the tip of her nose?
  • Conversely, why is gaunt, gangling, gawky, graceless Kiberlain still a leading lady?
  • Could Bozon possibly decelerate his picture’s plodding pace, so that it resembles Godfrey Reggio’s pompous pap?
  • Does its anticlimax signify anything?
  • Is this what now passes for Gallic humor?

The only truthful answer to these and all other queries pertaining to Bozon’s wantonly unfunny, unsexy, uninteresting, garrulous, cutesy crime comedy is: French cinema is now nearly as dumb, ugly, and self-congratulatory as Hollywood, and witless actors of the Fifth Republic occasionally make valueless movies, too.

Execrable: Clouds of Sils Maria

Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)
Written and directed by Olivier Assayas
Produced by Charles Gillibert, Karl Baumgartner, Thanassis Karathanos, Jean-Louis Porchet, Olivier Père, Gérard Ruey, Antoun Sehnaoui, Martin Hampel, Maja Wieser Benedetti, Sylvie Barthet
Starring Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloë Grace Moretz, Lars Eidinger, Hanns Zischler, Johnny Flynn, Angela Winkler, Brady Corbet, Aljoscha Stadelmann, Ricardia Bramley

Lies and bombast:

“Any doubts about Kristen Stewart’s true acting potential are extinguished thanks to her surprisingly nuanced and mesmerizing performance in Clouds of Sils Maria.”

–Michael D. Reid, Times Colonist

“…this is a straight character piece, made dynamic by Binoche and Stewart’s powerhouse performances…”

–Chris Bumbray, JoBlo.com

“Stewart gives a striking performance in Clouds. Her character Val, a personal assistant and rock of Gibraltar to Juliette Binoche’s film and stage star Maria, is self-assured, crafty, honest, perceptive and even a little bit warm. It’s a 180 from the dead-behind-the-eyes Bella Swan, yet there’s the same flat delivery and crossed-arm presence. Here it radiates confidence, not Edward vs. Jacob indecision. Most of the film is just Stewart and Binoche in conversation, and Stewart more than holds her own.”

–Jordan Hoffman, Vanity Fair

“The relationship here is quite beautifully drawn, with Stewart again demonstrating what a terrific performer she can be away from the shadow of Twilight. She’s sharp and limber; she’s a match for Binoche.”

–Xan Brooks, The Guardian

“Binoche works in a more animated register, which makes Stewart’s habitual low-keyed style, which can border on the monotone, function as effectively underplayed contrast.”

–Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

“Stewart became the first American female actor ever to win a César for her performance. It’s deserved. She’s a revelation, reminding us that her talent has been eclipsed by Twilight for far too long.”

–Radheyan Simonpillai, NOW Toronto

“Ultimately, Stewart is the one who actually embodies what Binoche’s character most fears, countering the older actress’ more studied technique with the same spontaneous, agitated energy that makes her the most compellingly watchable American actress of her generation.”

–Peter Debruge, Variety

“Stewart is surprisingly self-assured as both a punching bag and launching pad for Binoche’s tour de force.”

–Diego Semerene, Slant

“Stewart is also at her best and convincingly conveys an important quality which so far has rather eluded her, a keen intelligence.”

–David Noh, Film Journal International

“…(Kristen Stewart, a deadpan revelation)…”

–David Ehrlich, Time Out

“This is the film that fulfills whatever promise Kristen Stewart has shown for more than a decade. […] As one-half of a dynamite acting duo in Clouds of Sils Maria, Stewart finally merits all the attention thrown her way. […] Stewart’s strength here is being the kind of actress we always suspected she could be.”

–Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News

“If the juxtaposition of “fascinating” and “Kristen Stewart” stopped you cold, this is the film that should, by rights, warm you up to her. […] Binoche, Stewart, and Moretz can disappear into their roles and at the same time stand outside them – a Buddhist ideal.”

–David Edelstein, Vulture

“Kristen Stewart is cool perfection as her assistant, giving as good as she gets despite the power imbalance in their relationship.”

–Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly

“A meditation on fame, acting, aging, and acceptance, Clouds is a multilayered rapture on the subject of woman, performing. Not only does the film demand repeat viewings, it rewards them.”

–Ty Burr, Boston Globe

Whether they were bribed by one or more of this movie’s numerous producers or distributors (one hopes that Les Films du Losange wouldn’t stoop to such iniquity) to disseminate fawning, fatuous falsehoods, or with venal idiocy convinced themselves that their blurbs above are at all accurate, the panegyrical deluge of these hacks ultimately amounts to nullity, much like Assayas’s overrated pap.

In her youth, an actress (Binoche) rose to prominence on stage, then screen in the role of a callously cavalier demoiselle seducing an established, married mother and inheritor of a troubled company, whose suicide eventuates when she’s unavoidably jilted. Decades later, a successful theatrical director (Eidinger) revives this play immediate to its author’s sudden demise, and invites the quondam ingenue — now frampold, flush with fame and fortune, and freshly divorced with her capable but trendily philistine adjunct (Stewart) in tow — to assume its tragic senior lead opposite a notoriously wayward Hollywood star (Moretz). Scene after scene of sophomoric, excruciatingly expository dialogue as amateurish as Stewart’s, Moretz’s and Flynn’s performances reflect just how incompetently Assayas scripted this mess and directed his cast. Binoche is palatable when she isn’t overburdened with leaden lines, yet heinously hammy in others. She affects a peevingly puerile swagger whenever her splenetic superstar’s tipsy, bobbing her noggin like Sam Waterston in an episode of Law & Order, perhaps to counterbalance the void with whom she’s paired. Again, every paid critic who lauded this movie is dishonest or deluded, because slouching, plankish, unbrushed, occasionally uptalking, stupidly tattooed Kristin Stewart cannot act, which is why she’s still monotonously reciting and volleying lines that she clearly struggles to recall. Nonetheless, she’s not so embarrassing as Moretz, whose clownish physiognomy consorts with her gushingly callow delivery, especially in confabulation with her boyfriend, a novelist gaumlessly enacted by Flynn with an inanimacy to rival or exceed Stewart’s. Eidinger represents his sensitive, dramaturgic visionary with a smooth virtuosity shared by Zischler as an aging actor whose personal and professional past is thornily entangled with Binoche’s, largely because they haven’t anything abashing to say. Assayas’s story and all who inhabit it are easily outshone by his and DP Yorick Le Saux’s majestic, wintery then vernal Alpine panoramas, and particularly therethrough the Maloja Snake, a magnificent climatic phenomenon of clouds creeping low and sinuate through the Maloja Pass.

Not too many years ago, Assayas was still parading talented leading ladies in unexceptional vehicles (Irma Vep, Clean, Boarding Gate). Wading into conceptual depths once occupied by heavyweights (Bergman, Mankiewicz, Truffault, Cassavetes) with adequate technique and thoughtful characterizations, his wretchedly corny, jejune verbiage reveal the limits of his intuition and intellect, and how poorly he interprets and contrives psychology. Insights only glint when Binoche’s histrion and Stewart’s subaltern grapple in labored, private rehearsals at and while hiking about its late dramatist’s chalet in pastoral municipality Sils Maria. One scene from a ridiculous space opera that they view in theater starring Moretz’s wild child drolly parodies mindless genre fare, but when Stewart subsequently agonizes to defend the movie’s thematic legitimacy to bibulous Binoche’s rident despite, they play off one other ticklingly, as they ought’ve throughout. Glutted with trashy scandals, ungainly and often reiterated oral histories for the benefit of a presumably obtuse and unmindful audience, hungover Stewart’s roadside disgorgement, and comparisons and contrasts of enduring erudite forms and an increasingly, rightly unpopular popular culture, this movie’s repeatedly distracted from its burden: how the interrelations of its characters mirror and affect facets of their professional roles, fictional and otherwise. Assayas treats of commonplace and promising themes fleetingly, or as inconclusively as so many of his fizzled discussions. Although it’s filmed well, this pic’s transitional pace is disrupted by its interstitial cuts, dissolves and fades, all as clumsily mistimed as its soundtrack’s bathetic application of beautifully dulcet, familiar movements by Pachelbel, Spohr and Handel.

All of the shills, favors and accolades paid can’t redeem this pabulum’s monetary losses (on a relatively small budget) and half-baked insipidity, however such artifices are manifest: its nomination for the Palme d’Or at Cannes; Stewart’s unduly awarded César (which only underscores its cultural irrelevance at this point); Chanel’s subvention in exchange for the conspicuity of their raiment, finery, maquillage and logo therein; prompt issuance of the Criterion Collection’s DVD and Blu-ray editions; simpleminded and superabundant reviews containing varieties of witlessly hyphenated terms prepended with “meta-.” All of this merely confirms that this cynically marketed product presented as filmic art has failed thoroughly as both.

Instead, watch All About Eve, Day for Night, Opening Night, or Sex is Comedy.

Execrable: The Diary of a Teenage Girl

The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015)
Directed by Marielle Heller
Written by Phoebe Gloeckner, Marielle Heller
Produced by Miranda Bailey, Anne Carey, Bert Hamelinck, Madeline Samit, Debbie Brubaker, Corentin De Saedeleer, Shani Geva, Amanda Marshall, Amy Nauiokas, Michael Sagol, Jorma Taccone
Starring Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Kristen Wiig, Madeleine Waters, Abby Wait, Austin Lyon, Christopher Meloni, Margarita Levieva, Carson Mell, John Parsons, Quinn Nagle
In a fraction of the time trifled to view this plodding drama (adapted from one among umpteen interchangeable graphic bildungsromans authored and illustrated by introspective nudnicks), one could instead dive headfirst into a wading pool to experience a comparable depth and discomfort suffered. A homely, naive, adolescent cartoonist (Powley) in 1976 San Francisco doodles ceaselessly, idolizes Aline Kominsky, languishes in self-absorbed insecurity, and thrills to initial trysts with the sordid boyfriend (Skarsgård) of her sluttish, alcoholic single mother (Wiig), then a cute classmate (Lyon) unprepared for her lasciviousness. Successive clichés compose the bulk of Gloeckner’s quasi-autobiographical pablum: teenage defloration with an adult, animated sketches conveying immediate passions, a miff with responsibly uncool dad (Meloni), Mom’s coked-up capers and dancing wassails, a midnight screening of Rocky Horror, sapphic and whorish dalliances with skanky friends (Waters, Levieva), a fanciful acid trip, and that requisite assertion of feminine independence, which has for decades empowered and enkindled privileged white women the world over to irreparably wreck their lives. Mustachioed Skarsgård and ginchy Wiig lend odious believability to their roles as the sort of unseemly couple with whom anyone’s boomer parents might’ve made acquaintance, but Powley and some of her coetaneous co-stars too often diverge from naturalism to overact. Passable production design by Jonah Markowitz benefits from exteriors shot on location in San Fran, Carmen Grande’s largely hideous, accurate costumery and Emily K. Rolph’s nostalgically tacky appointments. However, Susan Alegria’s set decoration spoils each interior’s realism with a surplusage of the latter, arranged as characteristically millennial clutter uncommon in middle-class households of the shaggy ’70s. Everything in this unfunny, unsexy story has been done exhaustively before with a proficiency and profundity to which tasteless Gloeckner and Heller merely aspire, but if nothing else, it’s a fine reminder first of how tired the illogic, postures, dysfunction and repercussions of the sexual revolution and its creaky counterculture have become, and second just how effortlessly one can separate visionary rips (like Crumb or Kominsky) from commonplace degenerates, most of whom are as noisily boring as they’re portrayed here.

Instead, watch Slums of Beverly Hills.

Execrable: Liquid Sky

Liquid Sky (1982)
Directed by Slava Tsukerman
Written by Slava Tsukerman, Nina V. Kerova, Anne Carlisle
Produced by Slava Tsukerman, Nina V. Kerova, Robert Field
Starring Anne Carlisle, Paula E. Sheppard, Susan Doukas, Otto von Wernherr, Bob Brady, Elaine C. Grove, Stanley Knapp, Jack Adalist, Lloyd Ziff, Roy MacArthur, Sara Carlisle
Squalid tommyrot ensues after a little flying saucer lights upon the roof of a tiny penthouse occupied by a fashion model (Carlisle) and a performance artist (Sheppard), and proceeds to terminate numerous sleazeballs therein by harvesting their endorphins during orgasms or narcotic highs. Tsukerman’s script, direction, production and editing are aggravatingly amateurish, but the Soviet expatriate’s slipshod execution slipped the attention of gaumless hipsters, junkies and critics whose patronage made this stupid, slapdash sci-fi the most successful independent feature of 1983. Lenna Rashkovsky-Kaleva’s, Marcel Fiévé’s and Chris Evans’s imaginative makeup, flashy costumes fashioned by Marina Levikova, Yuri Neyman’s and Oleg Chichilnitsky’s briefly intriguing special effects and a few amusing moments can’t at all compensate for how poorly this picture was shot, cut, scored and performed. Carlisle woodenly created dual male and female roles as though to stress her absence of charisma as either, but she isn’t a tenth as nettlesome as Sheppard, who plays her pretentiously pettish poet with the condescending comportment of a villainess from a children’s cartoon. Despite their heroin chic, Tsukerman’s one-dimensional characters — inspired by his superficial conception of NYC’s new wave — are as crudely unsophisticated as his style. His movie’s consequently edgy in the tiresome manner of huffy teenagers transported in their mom’s minivan to a performance by Nine Inch Nails, KMFDM or Type O Negative, circa 1996. Fatuous whenever it’s supposed to be clever, this is unique in the worst way, for the ingenuity of so many unappealingly bad ideas. Eschew it for the sake of precious time and forbearance.

Instead, watch I Come in Peace.

Mediocre: Holidays

Holidays (2016)
Directed by Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer; Gary Shore; Nicholas McCarthy; Sarah Adina Smith; Anthony Scott Burns; Kevin Smith; Scott Stewart; Adam Egypt Mortimer
Written by Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer; Gary Shore; Nicholas McCarthy; Sarah Adina Smith; Anthony Scott Burns; Kevin Smith; Scott Stewart; Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer
Produced by Tim Connors, Kyle Franke, John Hegeman, Adam Egypt Mortimer, Louise Shore, Aram Tertzakian, Dwjuan F. Fox, Brian James Fitzpatrick, Spencer Jezewski, Gabriela Revilla Lugo, Olivia Roush, Georg Kallert, Rob Schroeder, Peter J. Nieves; Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer, Jon D. Wagner, Adam Goldworm; Jonathan Loughran, Gary Shore; Stephanie Paris; Jonako Donley; Nicholas Bechard; Joshua Bachove, Jordan Monsanto, Kevin Smith; Amanda Mortimer, Jaime Gallagher, Jason Hampton, Sharmila Sahni; James Avery, Andrew Barrer, Nate Bolotin, Roger Coleman, Gabriel Ferrari, Will Rowbotham, Nick Spicer
Starring Madeleine Coghlan, Savannah Kennick, Rick Peters; Ruth Bradley, Isolt McCaffrey; Ava Acres, Petra Wright, Mark Steger; Sophie Traub, Aleksa Palladino, Jennifer Lafleur, Sheila Vand, Sonja Kinski; Jocelin Donahue, Michael Gross; Harley Morenstein, Harley Quinn Smith, Ashley Greene, Olivia Roush; Seth Green, Clare Grant, Kalos Cluff; Lorenza Izzo, Andrew Bowen, Megan Duffy
The best among this octad of shorts set during popular holidays are amusing or arresting, and the worst will leave one wondering how much sway and resources were wasted to insure their inclusion. Both a homely teenager (Coghlan) and her pretty, popular bully (Kennick) long for the affection and attention of their handsome swim coach (Peters); as Valentine’s Day and a talent show organized by the bitchy blond to raise money for his coronary surgery approach, her harried victim dementedly devises a way to kill two birds with one rock. After a one-night stand during St. Patrick’s Day, a childless teacher (Bradley) finds that her creepy, newly-enrolled student (McCaffrey) is inexplicably aware of her gravidity, but an anguine offspring isn’t what she’d expected. A trepid little girl (Acres) terrfied by sacred and secular legendry is scarcely stanched by her single mother (Wright) on the eve of Easter, and a nocturnal encounter with a stigmatic, leporine monster (Steger) confirms that her fears are not merely justified, but consubstantial. One young woman (Traub) is cursed to conceive — regardless of contraception — for her every copulation; following nearly a score of abortions, her physician (Lafleur) refers her to a woman (Palladino) who conducts ceremonies to promote fertility in the high desert, and meditates to celebrate Mother’s Day by cultivating hew latest attendee… Recorded by her dad (Gross) on the Father’s Day when he vanished decades before, an audiocassette’s program guides a lonely schoolteacher (Donahue) back to the littoral locus where it happened, and possibly to his fate. Rather than let the camgirls (Smith, Greene, Roush) in his employ out to party for Halloween, a perverted, pigtailed pimp (Morenstein) tries to rape one of them and falls afoul of their revenge. By theft and criminal negligence on Christmas Eve, a gutless father (Green) procures for his son (Cluff) immersive VR glasses that rely on online information to personalize each wearer’s entertainment. He’s commoved and contrite to discover that they also channel mnemonic data, but soon learns that he’s not the worst malefactor in his household. Seeking another date after he murders his first (Duffy), an awkward, hypersensitive, homicidal maniac meets a lonely lady (Izzo) on New Year’s Eve, but may not live to regret that they’ve too much in common. First, the worst: like all of his output, Smith’s segment is obnoxiously overacted, shoddily shot and cut, aggressively unfunny and pointless save as an excuse to grant both his annoying daughter and fellow epulose parasite Morenstein more undeserved screen credits. That a man with over twenty years of professional experience still produces movies this amateurish is astonishing. Better yet tiresome, Kölsch and Widmyer’s cordial contribution is well crafted but perfectly predictable, for which Kennick’s porky performance seems less an homage to De Palma than to Tarantino. Neither has (S. A.) Smith any surprises in her hoary ode to unbid maternity. Mortimer’s handling of Kölsch and Widmyer’s second script is equally mediocre though much more lively, gorily ringing in a new year. A cut above these, McCarthy’s syncretic reconception of the messiah is just clever enough to deserve a viewing. His sillier, superior, serpentine synthesis of Irish and Norse folklore results in Shore’s pompadoured black comedy, one of St. Patty’s few filmic lampoons. Eminently photogenic Donahue’s once again a believable unfortunate in Burns’ genuinely original, recursive vignette, in deserted settings of which he cumulates tremendous suspense with fine composition and his star’s potent presence, regrettably squandered on a silly climax undermining a conclusion that might’ve been chilling. Stewart’s penultimate comedy is probably the best of these, working a fun scenario and Green’s terrific comic knack for hilarious results. Promotional materials touted this anthology as “subversive” at the honed edge of X-treme marketing, but there’s little here that one could consider genuine subversion, itself a fait accompli imputable to commerce. At this late date, the jest in a few of these is but an afterthought. A salient absence of Jewish and Muslim holidays further explodes any lingering pretense of authentic audacity. Those few palatable portions do not a tasty cake make, the most significant slice of which oughtn’t have been intrusted to the moronic, perennially feckless celebrity.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Tales from the Crypt.

Execrable: Battle Royale II: Requiem

Battle Royale II: Requiem (2003)
Directed by Kenta & Kinji Fukasaku
Written by Kenta Fukasaku, Norio Kida
Produced by Kenta Fukasaku, Kimio Kataoka, Shigeyuki Endo, Hikaru Kawase, Masumi Okada
Starring Tatsuya Fujiwara, Ai Maeda, Shugo Oshinari, Ayana Sakai, Haruka Suenaga, Yuma Ishigaki, Riki Takeuchi, Miyuki Kanbe, Masaya Kikawada, Yoko Maki, Maki Hamada, Yuki Ito, Michiho Matsumoto, Natsuki Kato, Aja, Seiichi Ebina, Ayumi Hanada, Mika Kikuchi, Takeru Shibaki, Gou Ryugawa, Chisato Miyao, Kenji Harada, Yuuko Morimoto, Ryoji Fujihira, Shoko Sato, Yasutake Yuboku, Aiko Moriuchi, Kayo Nayuki, Kouta Yamada, Musashi Kubota, Minami Kanazawa, Kazuki Yamamoto, Makoto Sakamoto, Asuka Ishii, Takeshi Kitano

“The conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerilla wins if he does not lose.”

–Henry Kissinger, The Vietnam Negotiations

Is any entertainment of every medium so apt to failure or destined for disappointment as the common sequel? Whether so or not, Fukasaku’s satirically slaughterous classic deserved far better than his son’s cornball chaos of diminished impact, political pretensions and execrable enactment. Two skyscrapers felled by terrorists prompt the Japanese government to temporize, so a class of twoscore and twain is conscripted from a school for delinquents to storm the offending cell’s insular compound and assassinate its jefe (Fujiwara), one of the preceding pic’s surviving twosome. Alas, Kinji Fukasaku expired after shooting a few scenes, and as Kenta lacks the clairvoyance, scrupulous eye and decades of experience evidenced in his father’s best productions, this blatant mistake presents its audience with violence as prosaic and drama as overheated as that of any vehicle starring Steven Segal or Jean-Claude van Damme unintended for theatrical release. Every fifteen to twenty minutes, corny confrontations, maudlin monologues or needlessly expositive flashbacks punctuate the mingy plot to worsen a plodding pace, and combat wherein hammy hysterics abound is nearly as dreary as intervals during which the principals merely mope about. Unlike this forgettable fodder, more than half of the first flick’s fatal, photogenic freshmen were memorably individual for their esprit, and this contradistinction’s as attributable to poor performances as deficient characterization. Sullenly stoic Maeda plays the daughter of Takeshi Kitano’s dead pedagogue without a trace of her junior sister’s charm, Fujiwara’s too cute to be believed as a hardened terrorist, and while the overt delivery twitched and snarled by clamant rebel Oshinari and glowering teacher Takeuchi are amusing while the students are geared, it’s at best tiresome thenceforth. Kitano, Aki Maeda and Sonny Chiba are wasted in cameos, as is one clever idea: with the inducted yet raucous students numbered in yoked pairs, the lethality of their explosive collars is extended; detonations are avoided by obedience and constant progress, but now also the compliance, proximity and survival of either partner. Naturally, this escalated threat is literally defused rather than exploited early in the second act, after which mushy melodrama and trite, insurrectionary postures dominate an hour’s longueur. Politically, this denunciation of American imperium is tenable, and identification of its protagonists with Al-Qaida daringly provocative for a major motion picture produced in the early aughts, but Fujiwara’s preachments betray this particular anti-imperialist creed as no more sensible or sophisticated than a T-shirt printed with Che Guevara’s portrait, worn by a pampered Ivy Leaguer endowed with a fulsome trust fund. Likewise, anti-American sentiment isn’t terribly convincing in an overwrought, overscored movie replete with doleful schmalz, cheap CG and hideous chromatic filters; Fukasaku’s flop rails against the United States’ foreign policy, yet mimics so many of Hollywood’s worst trends. The bracing pace, striking suspense, black hilarity, sociosexual insights, devastating tragedies and slick style of its predecessor is all but forgotten in this unmitigated clunker, perhaps the longest 134 minutes in cinematic history. Even if he’d stepped into his father’s shoes without stumbling, Fukasaku couldn’t overcome the verity that sinks his foray: adolescent war against adults is as stupid a concept as a planet where apes evolve from men.
Instead, watch Wedlock/Deadlock, Cyber City Oedo 808 or Battle Royale.