Confessions of a Shopaholic

It’s rare to see a movie that has no redeeming qualities, but here it is in last year’s “Confessions of a Shopaholic.”

 

I can admit, with only a small amount of shame, that I’m a big fan of the books the movie is based on. Yes, they’re chick lit with a lot of the clichs of the format, but they’re fun and Sophie Kinsella has a good sense of humor and a light tough with both humorous and touching scenarios.

 

Unfortunately, none of that made it in to the movie.

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Zathura

In my short time as a film critic, I have discovered one thing that seems to remain constant; no matter how I feel about them, children’s films are the hardest to write about.

I haven’t figured out the why yet, but for some reason, good, bad or just mediocre, the words don’t fly for me like they normally do. But, one way or another, my thought on “Zathura: A Space Adventure” will be written. God help us all.

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Alien Trespass

I’ll admit it; despite its flaws, I enjoyed “Alien Trespass,” the straight-to-DVD film from director R.W. Goodwin.

The fake backstory of the film was enough to get me to want to watch it; at the height of his popularity, M. Eric McCormack (“grandfather” of actor Eric McCormack) made “Alien Trespass,” but after a falling out with the studio, all copies of the film were destroyed and lost forever. Until now – a copy has resurfaced and the “grandchildren” of the makers have healed some old wounds and for our enjoyment, comes a forgotten treasure of ’50s sci-fi.

In a small California town, during a meteor shower, an erratic UFO crashes into a bluff. When scientist Ted Lewis (McCormack) goes to investigate, an alien snatches his body and begins walking around, being weird and attracting all sorts of attention from his fellow townfolk. Of course, while he’s off exploring and searching, the baddie alien is running amok and killing people. Not-Ted (otherwise known as Urp) keeps looking for the alien, but even with the help of plucky waitress Tammy (Jenni Baird), can he succeed and save humanity from imminent destruction???

To add to the gimmickry, the real filmmakers made the film only with materials and procedures available at that time. No CGI for these folks; that spaceship looks likes a model spaceship. That fake alien looks like a cheesy fake alien (although it moves pretty well).

I can admit, there’s not much there that’s original or surprising, but it is fun. It’s not a satire of those old monster movies; it’s a loving homage and it perfectly captures the goofy thrills and styles of that era. If you go in for those kind of pictures, by all means, see “Alien Trespass.” If you don’t, best look elsewhere.

“Alien Trespass” (2009)

Directed by R.W. Goodwin

Written by Steven P. Fisher

Starring: Eric McCormack (Ted Lewis/Urp)

Jenni Baird (Tammy)

Stardust Memories

Yes, dear readers, it finally happened; I saw a movie with the word ‘star’ in it, and it was not science fiction.

Shocker, but on with the show.

In “Stardust Memories,” writer and director Woody Allen puts his super-famous heart on his sleeve for all to see, and it’s an ugly site to behold.

Allen plays Sandy Bates, a comedy director who is trying to move in a more serious direction, to the consternation of studio-heads and fans everywhere. Constantly, he’s told that his “early, funny” films are the best things he’s ever done, so he shouldn’t do anything else.

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Starman

What a delightful little find.

“Starman” is another early ’80s sci-fi flick, like “The Last Starfighter,” that isn’t a great movie, but it is a pretty good one.

The film opens in space; we of planet Earth have sent out a satellite loaded with language primers and an invitation for intelligent life to come visit us. Well, one traveling spaceman (Jeff Bridges) decides to take us up on the offer, but when he’s coming in for a landing, his ship is diverted; instead of landing in Arizona (poor guy), he finds himself in the backwoods of Wisconsin.

He stumbles upon one Jenny Hayden (Karen Allen), a woman who is still struggling to deal with the accidental death of her husband Scott (also Bridges). The Starman sifts through her house before stumbling upon some of Scott’s DNA and takes his form to better adapt to Earth-living.

But, he’s still got an appointment to keep, so he forces Jenny to give him a lift to Arizona, and from there, a basic sci-fi setup turns into an unlikely road trip movie, complete with some government baddies on their tail.

What happens next isn’t surprising, but what director John Carpenter manages to do is. Jenny is no dummy; she continually tries to escape, using direct and subtle means. Of course, she comes to realize that this alien, for all his other-ness and power, is just a baby who needs her to help him. Yes, it’s a love story, every story is a love story, but while it’s a rushed, it feels real.

Bridges received an Oscar nomination for his role, and he, like Allen, completely sells his character. When he first regenerates, he walks like a man using his muscles for the first time; he stumbles through language like a child does; he even uses his powers like a kid, over the top but effective. Just like Jenny, we grow to love this creature that wants nothing more than to see the best of our species.

Not bad for B-movie. It’s definitely worth checking out.

“Starman” (1984)

Directed by John Carpenter

Written by Bruce A. Evans, Raynold and Dean Riesner

Starring: Jeff Bridges (Starman)

Jenny (Karen Allen)

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Through the years, I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with “Star Trek.” I’ve been through periods where I obsessively watch episodes EVERY SINGLE DAY for months, and then not watch anything related to it for years. And so on; I’m a geek, and one with hyper-focus, and by now that’s probably no secret to anyone reading this.

I also go through periods of watching the movies, and while I’ve seen most of them, I’ve made a point of skipping 1 and 5, universally recognized as the worst in the bunch. But I’m taking the plunge. I’ve seen the good, now it’s time to embrace the bad.

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Folks, I’m going to cop to a new level of geekery here; since I was a kid, I have loved “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” the game, the text-based adventure game. Thanks to my dad, and his impromptu Christmas gift of an Infocom boxed set of games to my sister and me, I played that game for years. In fact, it took my 10 years to figure out how to get off the Heart of Gold, and I’ve loved that game ever since. (On a side note, I’ve read the books, but I didn’t find them as joyous as the game.)

So a few years ago, when I heard my game was coming to the big screen, I was pretty stoked, until I read some lukewarm reviews and saw some lackluster commercials and talked myself out of seeing it.

But three years later, I decided to give the movie a chance, and well, it’s a shame that the film is only half as much fun as the game.

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The Panic in Needle Park

Yes folks, I’m back from my mini-vacation and ready for some reviewing. So, to get back in the swing of things, here’s my take on Jerry Schatzberg’s “The Panic in Needle Park (1971).”

First, a definition: the ‘panic’ in the title refers to when the supply of heroin dries up, and the junkies are forced to go to extremes for a fix. Into this picture come Bobby (Al Pacino) and Helen (Kitty Winn), two aimless souls caught up in the whirlwind junkie scene.

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Napoleon Dynamite

And I thought “Rocket Science” was bad. Compared to “Napoleon Dynamite,” Jared Hess’ 2003 film, “Science” is “The Seventh Seal” of independent comedies.

Yeah, that’s how pissed off I was while watching “Napoleon;” after an innovative and downright clever opening credits sequence (seriously, its far superior to the actual movie), we meet Napoleon (Jon Heder), a somnambulatory loser living in Smalltown, Idaho; he has no friends, no goals, nothing to look forward to (and by a cruel twist of fate, neither do we).

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